Keep track with GPS

Angry birdsYou may have heard in the news this week that using GPS on your phone means that people like the CIA and Rebekah Brooks can find out more about your life than you might want them to. Apparently Angry Birds and Google maps are particularly ‘leaky apps’.

But having your GPS or ‘location services’ switched on can sometimes be a real godsend.

Find My iPad2If you’ve got an iPhone or iPad you can use your GPS to find your device if you lose it. The ‘Find my iPhone’ app allows you to pinpoint its location on a map, lock down all it’s functions and even send it a message to say ‘Call me on this number’. You simply sign in to the app using your Apple ID, switch on ‘location services’ for the app in your Settings, and your device is then traceable.

ADM2Google recently developed a similar app for Android – Android Device Manager. This does all the same things as ‘Find my iPhone’, and this week the much-needed password protection was introduced, making a big improvement to its security.

If you’re worried that the GPS function is using up too much of your battery life, only have it switched on for the apps that really need it, like maps and camera. For the rest of your apps, you can activate location services as and when you need to.



F is for Filing

How many ‘New year, new you’ articles have you seen since January 1st? New year resolutions have mostly gone out of the window by now – I fell off the wagon a week ago. But a quick look at your computer desktop or filing system may persuade you to start a new way of sorting your digital documents, music, movies and photos.

Here are some top tips for taking control of your digital world.

  1. First of all – if you share a computer, create a different account for each person that uses it. Then you are in charge of your own files and no-one else can delete your contact lists or favourite recipes. Welcome_Sceeen_Full_20060812
  2. Then, it sounds obvious, but for your documents, use the Documents folder on your computer and make new folders for every topic, such as holidays, school, work or utilities. Right clicking on your desktop is the easiest way to make a new folder. Don’t be put off by a lifetime’s backlog – just create a folder called filing to 2013 and start your new organised system off with this year’s files. You may never sort out the chaos of yesteryear, but at least you’ll be able to find the most recent tax return or school report.Documents folder
  3. When it comes to photos, it’s best to do your filing from within a programme and let it do all the organising. iPhoto on a Mac or Windows Photo Gallery are both excellent, but beware of other systems that come free with your camera or printer. They are not as good and, if you change your equipment in the future, it may be hard work moving your photos. See also for how to slim down your photo library.iPhoto 500
  4. Movies are very similar – we would suggest using iMovie on a Mac or Movie Maker on a PC – part of the Windows Essentials package – and making folders within your chosen programme. These programmes will sort your video files by date so that you can easily find what you’re looking for.Movie Maker
  5. Delete old and useless files – just like de-cluttering your house, be ruthless to free up space on your hard drive.trash
  6. When you download a file from email or the Internet, it will go to a designated folder. There is a folder called Downloads, but we change our settings so that everything is saved to the Desktop. Whatever you choose, don’t leave downloads where they land – file them or delete them. Downloads
  7. Don’t keep any files on your desktop – apart from the ones you are using at that moment. You won’t be able to find anything and it slows down your computer.Messy desktop
  8. Most importantly, back up all your files. There are lots of different ways to do this – but we’ll get to that another day.

Mistaken identity

Our household now has more Apple devices than people and when that happens it’s easy to get your iLife in a tangle. Recently my iPad was inviting me to my husband’s meetings and over Christmas my son’s iPhone photos automatically uploaded onto the family computer. Granny was a bit upset.

The secret to controlling what you share is your Apple ID.

Unlike your computer, your iPhone or iPad can only have one owner and it knows who you are by an email address that you have registered with Apple, called your Apple ID.


When your device is online it can be set to constantly send your data (your emails for this address and your diary dates, contacts, photos, videos and browser bookmarks) to Apple, who store it on their server and forward it on to any other device registered with the same Apple ID. Apple call this your iCloud account.

Where it goes wrong is when someone is using a device registered to a different person’s Apple ID. The new user may have added their own email account, but the device will still upload photos and sync diaries with the registered Apple ID.

So, unless you want to share every detail of your life, everyone should have their own Apple ID.

iTunes store

At the risk of complicating things, it’s worth pointing out that the account you have with Apple for buying music, movies and apps – your iTunes Store account – is a different thing altogether. Often you will have registered the same email address (as your Apple ID), but the two are quite independent. So if you want to you can have a single iTunes account for all the family, allowing you to educate younger generations about real music and proper movies, without receiving Facetime requests from their friends.

A new broom

How many pictures of Granny at Christmas do you really need? Or your dog doing something funny in the garden? The reality is we’ve all got too many photos and the prospect of sorting through them to work out which to keep and which to delete is so daunting that few of us bother.

PhotoSweeperBannerWe’ve recently discovered the PhotoSweeper application for Mac, which makes this seemingly huge task much easier and quicker.

PhotoSweeper looks at your iPhoto, Aperture or Adobe Lightroom photo libraries to find either exact duplicate photos or ones that are similar. It has lots of different settings that allow you to choose how it selects the pictures, and how it decides which to keep – for example you can pick partial matching based on the time the photo was taken, or the composition of the pictures. Once you’ve chosen the settings, PhotoSweeper makes a comparison of all the shots you’ve imported, and identifies groups of identical or similar pictures.

Photosweeper1You can ask it to mark the one in each group that it ‘thinks’ is the best one, and delete the rest. If you really can’t face deleting them altogether, you can save them to a different folder.

PhotoSweeper is great for times when you’ve taken loads of pictures of the family, in the hope that everyone will be smiling in at least one of them, or when you’ve imported photos from other computers and cameras and you’re not sure whether you already have them in your library.

We spent a couple of hours last week using the app and got rid of almost 1500 photos from our library of 12,000 – saving around 3GB of space. That already makes it worth the £6.99 we paid for it.