Alex Kaloostian

Apple Certified Master Trainer | Systems Integrator | Video Editor | Motion Graphics Artist


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Using iTunes without a credit card – redux!

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about a little trick to set up iTunes without a credit card. For some reason, it became one of my most popular posts, and still gets hits. But Apple has made a lot of improvements to the iTunes store since then, and now there are many more ways to do it. Continue reading

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Streaming media around your house

This past spring, I guest blogged at Funkyspacemonkey.com, and never linked to it here! I wrote a semi-in-depth article about converting media, sorting it in iTunes, and streaming music & video around your house with Airport and iPads. Here it is.

Part 1: Music, audio formats, metadata & lyrics

Part 2: Video, Handbrake, batch processing & Subler

Part 3: Home Sharing, AirPlay & streaming music

Part 4: AppleTV, Remote app & streaming video


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Locking down your iPad for kids is now even easier with Guided Access

I wrote a post last year about Locking down your kids’ iPad with Restrictions, and it turned out to be a big hit with The Google; still is. Well guess what, since I wrote that, Apple updated iOS to version 6 and introduced a really cool, but not well-known new feature called Guided Access. It’s a great new way to lock down your iPad, if you want to place it in a public place, or give it to a child or someone with special needs. Teachers of autistic kids already are going wild for it, but you can use it on your own iPad as well. Here’s how.

Guided Access can be found under the Accessibility section of the General settings:
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Turn it on, and you’ll be asked to enter a 4-number passcode. This can be the same, or different than the passcode you set for Restrictions, and for locking your iPad. It may make sense to use the same passcode you use for restrictions; but it wouldn’t make sense at all to use the same code that you lock your iPad with: you want people to unlock the iPad and use it, you just don’t want them to disable Guided Access!
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Now, Guided Access is set up. It still isn’t enabled, but now you can enable it any time you like. Here’s how. First, open an app you want to “lock” someone into. My son loves watching videos on YouTube, but I don’t want him clicking on anything else. So let’s use the new YouTube app. Open the app, go to the page you want, then triple-tap the home button. A dialog will pop up, allowing you to enable Guided Access, or invert the screen. Tap Guided Access, of course.
Screen Shot 2013-01-01 at 5.18.11 PM

Now the fun begins. When Guided Access is enabled, the home button is disabled: you won’t be able to click or double-click, only triple-click. And most kids don’t have the knowledge to try that, or the dexterity to do it. Even if they do, they won;t be able to disable without the passcode.

In addition to disabling the home button, you can disable motion, so the screen won’t rotate, disable ALL touch to the screen, or just disable certain parts of the screen. If my son is watching a movie, I’ll disable the entire screen, so he can’t tap anywhere.
Screen Shot 2013-01-01 at 5.18.16 PM

But, if he is browsing YouTube, I’ll want him to be able to click on other videos, just not leave the app. So I can disable parts of the screen, just by drawing a circle around them with my finger!
Screen Shot 2013-01-01 at 5.19.04 PM

And don’t worry if your drawing is sloppy, you can refine the area by dragging the boundaries of the box that is created. As you can see, you can disable several parts of the screen at once:
Screen Shot 2013-01-01 at 5.18.51 PM

Now tap Start on the top-right corner, and you’re all set! The iPad won’t respond to any touch in the areas you indicated, or the home button. To disable, triple-click the home button again, enter the passcode, and you’ll be able to change settings, resume, or end Guided Access.


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How do I use Find My iPhone and Find My Friends?

A lot of people have probably heard the news stories about criminals caught red-handed with stolen iPads and iPhones. Here’s one, and here’s another. But it amazes me that so many people still aren’t using it, and don’t know how. It’s really easy, and if more people use it, maybe criminals will start realizing its a bad idea to try stealing iDevices.

 

Its really easy to set up, but you’ll need an iCloud account. At this point a lot of people roll their eyes, but iCloud is good, really! Its not like Apple’s previous attempts at an online service. Many of you may say you have no need for another mail account, calendar syncing, file syncing, you use Exchange, or DropBox. Thats fine- iCloud is free. Even if you only use it for  Find My iPhone and nothing else, it’s still worth it, I think.

So if you haven’t already, go to icloud.com and set up an account. Okay, now, moving on.

Click on the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad, then the iCloud setting, and log in. Once you’re logged in, turn on whatever services you want, or not, but make sure you turn on Find My iPhone.

  

That’s it! Now, lets see how to track your device if it gets lost. To do this on another iDevice, download the free Find My iPhone app, or on any Mac or PC desktop, go to icloud.com and log in. Log in with your iCloud account, and it will show you all of your registered devices on a map.

  

You can also display a message on screen (reward if found!), play a sound, even if your phone is on silent, and you can even remote lock or wipe, like Bluetooth devices. If your device can’t be found, it will keep trying indefinitely, and send you an email when it IS found.

Starting with Lion, Macs can be tracked now, as well. Just log into the iCloud system preference, and turn on Find My Mac. You can track, lock, and wipe, same as your iDevice.

Some people have told me they use Find My iPhone to track their kids or spouses, whether with their consent or not. Obviously, Find My iPhone could present privacy issues, but if you’re worried about being tracked, don’t give people your iCloud password!. Or set up your kids under your iCloud account, so they can’t turn it off. “You can have an iPhone for your birthday, but only if you allow us to keep tabs on you.”

What if you WANT to be tracked, but you don’t want to give out your account? What if you’re meeting up with someone for dinner and you don’t know where they are? Check out the Find My Friends app, also free. This is more like an opt-in version of Find My iPhone, where you can invite friends and they can allow themselves to be tracked by you, permanently, or they can turn it off later. You can even set up events that will auto-expire.

  


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Setting up an iTunes account without a credit card

**Update!** Hey you, did you come here from Google or another search engine? This article is a bit out of date. Go read the new & improved story.

Are you thinking of setting up a Mac or an iPad for a child, but you’re worried about your credit card getting maxed out with Farmville charges and Angry Birds sequels? Well, just don’t input an AppleID… ohh yeah, you HAVE to to run your apps. Well, sign up for an iTunes store account without a credit card, shouldn’t that be easy? Let’s see what happens if we go through the iTunes music store, or the web, or any of the other myriad ways Apple gives us for creating an AppleID…

Okay, so far, so good. Now, I’ll just enter a username and password, answer some security questions, and…

Hmm, I HAVE to click Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover of PayPal. Last I checked, those are ALL payment methods, right? So why can’t I just skip this or click none? Turns out, you can! You just have to know a trick.

The Trick!

Okay, so there is ONE way to create an iTunes account without adding payment info. Skip the web, skip the music store, skip Apple’s web site. On your Mac or PC, launch iTunes, click the App Store link at the top, and find a free app. Any app will do. I’m a fan of PBS Kids Video, my son loves it.

Okay, so try to download a free app. It will require you to log in. Click the Create AppleID button, fill out an email account and password* and answer some security questions. And when you get to the last page, here’s what you’ll see:

Now we’re talking! Click none, and you’re good to go. You now have an Apple Store ID with no payment attached. You can download and run all the free apps you want, but if you want to buy a paid app, you can but a gift card, enter the code, and you’ll be limited to that credit. No chance of your kid going off the rails and building the greatest collection of Pokemon, or whatever kids do these days. Grumble grumble, get off my lawn.

*So what should you use for an email account? Well, you could go over to Yahoo or Gmail or Hotm*snicker* sorry, I thought I could get through that. You COULD go over to Yahoo or Gmail and set up another account for your child, but then things are going to get crazy. Here’s a cool trick you can do with Gmail: Gmail lets you create as many aliases as you want, just add a plus after your existing address.

This is a great way to set up filters, spam traps, and accounts for your kids, among other things. My address is alex.kaloostian@gmail.com (oh come on, like you couldn’t have guessed that). If I want to sign up for a company’s email list but I think they’re sketchy and might sell my identity, I can set up, for example, alex.kaloostian+nedslivebait@gmail.com and any email to that address will go to my main address.

So, just set up an address for your kid that goes to your main address. One less account and password to remember and you’ll receive anything they would have received. Oh, and don’t bother; that bait shop address isn’t real. And sorry if this post got a little long and pithy, I’ve been watching an Aaron Sorkin show while I type this.


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Locking down your child’s iPad with Restrictions

Okay, you’ve decided you want to give an iPad to your kids, but you want to keep them (and your credit card) safe. There are some steps you should take, and the first one should probably be Restrictions.

Click on the Settings app on your iPad, and click General, then Restrictions. You’ll be asked to ender a 4-digit password. This does not have to be the same as your Passcode lock. I know its a bit consuming, so here’s the deal: You can set a passcode lock in the General settings that will be required anytime you wake up your iPad. WIthout the passcode lock, you can’t do ANYthing on your iPad, it’s locked down. The Passcode Lock can be 4 numbers or a long alphanumeric password. I don’t recommend setting a passcode lock, because its annoying, its confusing for kids, and they hopefully don’t have any private data to worry about.

But the Restrictions passcode is a separate passcode, just for turning restrictions on and off. This one can only be 4 numbers, and it is required to turn Restrictions on. Otherwise, restrictions wouldn’t be very useful if your kids could just shut them off, right? The Restrictions passcode could be the same as the Passcode lock, but it shouldn’t be, because if you sent a Passcode lock at all, you’ll want your kids to know it so they can turn on their iPad, but you WONT want them to know your Restrictions passcode. Got it?

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Is an iPad practical for a 2 year old?

An iPad for a two year old??

When I tell people my 2-year old has an iPad, I get a range of responses, but they are seldom positive. They range from “Wow, I’m jealous!” To “Why the hell did you get your baby an iPad? SPOILED!” I’d like a chance to convince you that this isn’t a crazy idea at all.

Its a learning toy

This is a V-tech V-reader toy. I hear it’s pretty popular. Its $60, plus cartridges are $20 each. You could easily go over $100 or even $200 just with this one product. And there are countless others like it- Speak-n-Spells, e-readers, and faux laptops for kids to learn with. The Leapfrog Leapster is even more popular, according to Amazon and Toys R Us, and it’s $120 for a unit and a couple games.

The iPad has TENS OF THOUSANDS of learning apps and games, and they’re all about $2-$5. Many are free. And it’s not going to get outgrown, or obsolete, just download newer games as they get older.

Its a movie player.

My wife’s family is in PA, we live in MA. So there are a lot of 5-hour car rides. Anyone with a small child knows what they’re like strapped in a carseat for 5 hours. DVD entertainment systems in cars and minivans are becoming popular, for good reason. But an overhead DVD system for a Dodge Grand Caravan costs $1395. For a Toyota Sienna, it’s $2495. That gives you two screens with DVD players, and 2 pairs of wireless headphones. Only have 1 kid? Too bad, you’re paying for 2. (Why are you getting a minivan anyway?)

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Tricking myself into being awesome

I’ve been trying to keep a low profile on this blog, and only post articles of relevancy, of substance. I don’t want to flood people with meaningless stuff- that’s what the rest of the web is for. But I’ve also been at a loss for good content, and perhaps neglecting you more than I should.

I’ve been inspired by Chris Strom’s blog post on Lifehacker, 366 Days, or How I Tricked Myself Into Being Awesome. In one year, Chris wrote three books on topics he had not even been an expert in. If he can do that, I should be able to write TWO books on things I DO know, right?

So over the next few weeks I’m going to do my best to post more here. Not every day, but I am making a commitment of at least 3 posts a week, on 2 topics, and hopefully at the end of the year I’ll be able to collect all that stuff together into some sort of e-book.

The topics are something I hope many of you will find useful, and I’ll tag them so you can follow or ignore them at your choice. The topics will be Learning The Mac Command Line and iPads For Kids.

Even more than usual, I will be hoping all of you will comment, feedback and ask questions so that this can be a living, evolving project. Wish me luck!