Setting Time Limits on Your Kids’ Apple Devices

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Apple’s built-in parental controls on iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches leave a lot to be desired in terms of flexibility and customization. They tend to be an all-or-nothing affair (e.g. turn Safari on or off, whereas most folks would prefer something like time limits. Macworld has a nice tip for setting time limits on internet access on your kids’ iOS devices.

Two important things to note with this:

  1. The article is written with owners of Apple wireless routers in mind, but most other brands (NETGEAR, Linksys, D-Link, etc) have the same feature that assigns time limits based on a MAC address. Log into your router’s control panel and look for a setting such as “parental controls”, “restrictions”, or “time limits”.
  2. This trick will also work for other devices on a network, such as a PC, Mac, Xbox, etc. You’ll need to find the device’s MAC address, which is typically listed under “Network Settings” or “About”, depending on the device. Here are instructions for finding it in Windows, or finding it on a Mac.

iPhone 5 Review Roundup

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The early reviews of the iPhone 5 have landed. The consensus: this is the best iPhone to date in just about every way, and it remains the best smartphone on the market.

Our Take

Since we’re typically inundated with the “Which one should I get?” question immediately after an iPhone or iPad launch, here are my suggestions:

Color: The black model has black glass, a black finish on the aluminum, and a black band around the edge. If Batman had a Bat-smartphone, this would be it. The white model has white glass, a raw aluminum finish, and a silver band around the edge. Choose wisely.

Storage: If you take (and keep) tons of photos and videos without downloading them to a computer and clearing them off the phone, get a 32GB or 64GB. If you want to store several movies and TV shows along with your music, get a 32GB or 64GB. Otherwise, just get the 16GB. For the vast majority of people, 16GB is the way to go.

Carrier: I broke my AT&T contract and gave up unlimited data to switch to Verizon this time around (wish they would’ve paid me for the privilege). It made absolutely zero financial sense, but I’m through taking AT&T’s abuse. I had been holding out because of the simultaneous-voice-and-data issue, but AT&T’s coverage seems to have actually gotten worse in the last few months and it’s becoming a serious problem for business. When your commitment to clients is “Call our cell phones, we pick up”, you need your phone to actually ring when someone’s calling, and maintain a connection throughout the call. In other words, it needs to work like a phone.

Verizon’s LTE network is faster than AT&T’s and available in far more cities, and their voice coverage is second-to-none. Plus, I have a Verizon LTE iPad (which is amazing), and will be able to share a data plan between the two devices. So long, AT&T.

The Reviews

On to the reviews. I’ve pored through dozens of them, and hand-picked the best ones for your perusal. Enjoy:

John Gruber, Daring Fireball:

The iPhone 5 is really nice.

It feels great, looks great, has the best display I’ve seen at any size, runs noticeably faster, networks noticeably faster, is way thinner and lighter than any of its predecessors, takes better photos, and, in my six days of testing, gets totally decent iPhone-4S-level battery life.

But you don’t even have to turn it on to see how nice it is. Just hold it. You really have to.

David Pogue, New York Times:

At 0.3 inch, the phone is thinner than before, startlingly so — the thinnest in the world, Apple says. It’s also lighter, just under four ounces; it disappears completely in your pocket. This iPhone is so light, tall and flat, it’s well on its way to becoming a bookmark.

Jim Dalrymple, The Loop:

That has been my takeaway from the design of the iPhone 5 — small design changes that make for big user experience improvements. It’s important to remember that while the changes on the outside may be small to the naked eye, the changes on the inside are huge. Every major component of the iPhone has been changed in one way or another.

Scott Stein, CNET:

“This seems like a good time to discuss thumbs. As in, your thumb size and the iPhone 5. Going back to the iPhone 4S, I realized that the phone’s design has been perfectly aligned to allow a comfortable bridge between thumbing the Home button and stretching all the way to the top icon on the iPhone’s 3.5-inch display. That’s not entirely the case, now. I could, with some positioning, still thumb the Home button and make my way around the taller screen, but the iPhone 5′s a little more of a two-hander.”

Turn Your iPad Into A Laptop-Killer

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The Verge has an excellent roundup this week of the best keyboards and keyboard cases for your iPad.

About 9 months ago I had convinced myself I needed a full-blown laptop in order to be fully productive on the road, either on trips or on-site with a client. I was about to bite the bullet and get a MacBook Air when I came across a blog post by Harry McCracken titled, “How the iPad 2 Became My Favorite Computer”. That post saved me $1200.

I ordered the ZAGGfolio keyboard case for my iPad, just to try it out, figuring I’d end up returning it for the real thing. Nine months later, my 3rd-generation iPad is now the best laptop I’ve ever owned, thanks to a $90 accessory. No other laptop has a 10-hour battery and blazing-fast Verizon 4G internet, wakes from sleep instantly, and can be detached from its keyboard for comfortable use in one hand, just to name a few of the perks.

Today, I recommend the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. It’s thinner, more flexible, and snaps to the front of the iPad using magnetic clips instead of surrounding it in a bulky case like the ZAGGfolio.

For me, true iPad productivity requires a number of cloud services that sync my data between my all my devices. Enter something over here, and it automatically pops up over there. Here are the apps and services I use every day to be fully productive from my iPad:

  • Microsoft Office 365: Microsoft’s cloud-based Exchange service that we use ourselves and recommend for clients. It syncs my email, contacts, calendars, and reminders between all of my computers at work and home as well as my iPhone and iPad.
  • Simplenote: Keeps all my notes and to-do lists in sync and always available.
  • LogMeIn Ignition and Join.me: Allows me to log into any server or PC we manage from anywhere, thanks to Verizon 4G. If I’m out of the office and need to help a client with an issue, I can do so from my iPhone or iPad. If it’s a new client and we don’t have LogMeIn installed on his or her, I’ll start a simple screen-sharing session with Join.me to quickly jump in and have a look.
  • Dropbox: All my documents and files from my computer, everywhere I go. Lets me quickly view, save, or email any file from my iPad with just a few taps.
  • QuickOffice Pro HD: For creating and editing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. Until Microsoft decides to release an actual iPad-ready version of Office, this is the best option available.
  • 1Password: I use 1Password to create and manage complex, unique passwords for every online account I have, plus all of my sensitive info like banking, credit cards, etc. Instead of using the same password for every account, I can have random ones like “SIf9Er[Fplts~MvcM>5H”. Their excellent iPad and iPhone apps puts that data at my fingertips at all times, while keeping it encrypted and secure.
  • Blogsy: A powerful blogging app that supports all of the most popular platforms (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, etc), which allows me to post to this very site while on the go.
  • Reeder and Tweetbot: A big part of our day-to-day is keeping up with the latest news and trends in personal and business technology. Reeder syncs my Google Reader RSS feeds (see Macworld’s “Getting Started With Google Reader” guide) so I can catch up on the day’s news, and Tweetbot pulls in my Twitter timeline to fill in any gaps.
  • Instapaper: Interesting but too-long-to-read-right-now articles from Reeder and Tweetbot get sent to Instapaper for reading later. Some of these eventually end up on our blog and in our weekly email newsletter.
  • Square: Gotta get paid for all this productivity, right?

 

With this setup in place for the last nine months, I’ve come across very few instances where I truly needed a computer to get something done. Even then, they haven’t been emergencies and could easily wait until I’m back at my desk.

This is a game-changing development for the vast majority of our clients, who primarily need access to email, contacts, calendars, tasks, and their files in order to be productive. If you’re wondering why laptop PC sales are tanking, Ultrabooks are dead on arrival, and Apple has $120 billion in cash in the bank, look no further. In many cases, $730 for a 4G iPad + keyboard case will get you the best laptop you’ve ever had.

 

Cooking With the iPad: Apps & Accessories

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iPad sales have continued to shatter records, making Apple the world’s top PC maker, thanks to its incredible range of uses. It’s been a natural fit in the kitchen, where most families spend the bulk of their time, thanks to a huge accessories market and a wide selection of high-quality apps.

To get started, check out Ars Technica’s great roundup of the top cooking apps for the iPad, including Basil, Paprika, and Gilt Taste.

In order to turn your household iPad into a powerful, kitchen-ready device for cooking and entertaining, you’ll also want to check out a few key accessories:

  • Thought Out Stabile 2.0 iPad Stand: A sturdy, well-made stand is essential for the kitchen. You need to elevate your iPad off the counter so it doesn’t get dirty, angle it for comfortable use while standing, and keep it from tipping over. The Thought Out Stabile stand takes care of all of these issues. It’s made of solid steel and has a low center of gravity, so accidental bumps or nudges won’t send your iPad crashing to the floor. The viewing angle is just right for a kitchen counter and it can accommodate an iPad with or without a case.
  • Cosmonaut Stylus: Unless you don’t mind getting food all over your iPad’s screen, you’re going to need a stylus to use it once it’s in the stand. Studio Neat’s Cosmonaut is the way to go here. It happens to be my favorite overall stylus, but its size, shape, and design are perfect for the kitchen. It’s easy to grip and won’t slip out of greasy hands, and it rests comfortably on the base the Stabile stand while not in use.
  • Apple AirPort Express or Jawbone Big Jambox: Want to liven things up with your favorite music from Pandora, Spotify, Songza, or iTunes? Let your iPad handle that, too. Use an AirPort Express to turn any existing stereo system into a wireless jukebox, or get Jawbone’s Big Jambox and play them over Bluetooth wherever you are.
  • Apple TV: If you have a TV in the kitchen, you can easily turn it into an extension of your iPad by adding an Apple TV. Found a great video to guide you through a recipe, or want to share something with the people you’re entertaining? Use AirPlay to wirelessly send it from your iPad to the Apple TV.

 

Gizmodo Writer’s iCloud Account Hacked, Devices And Accounts Wiped Out

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Harrowing tale from Mat Honan, writer for the popular tech news site Gizmodo:

I realized something was wrong at about 5 p.m. on Friday. I was playing with my daughter when my iPhone suddenly powered down. I was expecting a call, so I went to plug it back in.

It then rebooted to the setup screen. This was irritating, but I wasn’t concerned. I assumed it was a software glitch. And, my phone automatically backs up every night. I just assumed it would be a pain in the ass, and nothing more. I entered my iCloud login to restore, and it wasn’t accepted. Again, I was irritated, but not alarmed.

I went to connect the iPhone to my computer and restore from that backup — which I had just happened to do the other day. When I opened my laptop, an iCal message popped up telling me that my Gmail account information was wrong. Then the screen went gray, and asked for a four-digit PIN.

I didn’t have a four-digit PIN.

By now, I knew something was very, very wrong.

The hacker, who goes by the name Phobia, pulled off a very clever trick by first taking advantage of a gaping security hole at Amazon, and then socially engineering an unsuspecting AppleCare rep and getting him or her to change Honan’s iCloud account password. Once they had control of his iCloud email, it was open season on his entire online world, including his Google/Gmail account.

Putting aside the sheer lunacy of a tech writer not having any sort of backup of his laptop, it appears there are only a couple things Mat could have done to prevent this. Namely, build a solid firewall between the email account he uses for communication, and an account used for everything else (web services, online shopping, etc). It’s a good lesson for the rest of us, but hindsight is 20/20. The real problem is Amazon and Apple either ignoring normal security procedures, or having a massively flawed system in place from the get-go.

Here are some tips for the average user to avoid this kind of disaster:

  • Get 1Password.
  • Don’t reuse the same password in multiple places. Using 1Password, create random, unique passwords for all of your accounts.
  • Protect your email account like your life depends on it (it does).
  • Better yet, set up a separate Gmail account with 2-step verification and use it for your online acccounts. Keep it secret and don’t ever send email with it. When it asks for an alternate recovery email, use your spouse’s, or set up a separate throwaway account just for that.
  • Set up a PIN or password lock on any devices where you can receive email (iPhone, iPad, laptop, etc).
  • Keep automatic, up-to-date backups of your stuff. For PCs, use CrashPlan. For Macs, use Time Machine. For iPhones and iPads, use iCloud. You’re crazy not to.
  • Don’t over-share on social media, and lock your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles down so only approved friends can view them. No need to make it easier to guess your passwords or the answers to your security questions.