Top Tips – iOS 8

8Just when you were getting used to the features that were introduced on your iPhone or iPad last year with iOS 7 (see our earlier blog), Apple have released iOS 8 and we’re being encouraged to upgrade. I finally took the plunge with iOS 8.0.2 hoping that the early bugs have been ironed out, and there are some clever new functions. To help you through the bewildering array of new features, and point you in the direction of those that will be most useful, we’ve compiled some top tips.

BackupFirst though, I know a number of people whose device got stuck midway through the update and they had to restore it using iTunes. This is pretty easy to do and shouldn’t be a problem at all – as long as you have backed up your device before you start the upgrade. I know we’re always banging on about backing up, but it can save so much heartache if anything should go wrong. If you’re not sure how to make a back up, have a look at this Apple support page.

So, you’ve upgraded to iOS 8 and nothing much seems to have changed on the face of it. Here are some highlights – and things to watch out for:

photo search1. Photos – an excellent new search function: go to your Photos app and touch the search icon (a little magnifying glass), then type in what you are looking for – such as ‘Jan 2012’, ‘Spain’ or ‘Chiswick’ – and all the relevant photos will be shown.

If you delete a photo, it isn’t immediately removed from your phone or iPad – it goes to a ‘Recently deleted‘ folder for 30 days; from here you can either permanently delete it, or if you change your mind, you can restore it to an album.



2. Email – flag, move or delete emails with just a sideways swipe – if you just quickly swipe to the left it’ll delete straightaway, so be a bit careful with this or you’ll be hunting in your trash folder more often than you’d like.

You can set up notifications for when someone replies to an important mail: touch the flag icon at the bottom of the mail, touch ‘notify me‘ then ‘notify me again. Then as soon as you get a reply, a message will appear on your screen to let you know.

New contacts from email: if you get an email from a new contact or someone who has changed their details, a box will appear at the top of the mail when you open it, giving you the option to ignore or add to contacts – so simple!

Family sharing3. Family sharing – this is big news for Apple and should be a really useful function, especially if you have a number of iThings in your family and you want to keep track of who is buying what. Family sharing means that up to 6 people can share purchases from the iTunes store without sharing an Apple ID. Once you’ve set up who is in your family, you can share photos and calendars too. The best thing is once you enable ‘Ask to Buy‘ you will be sent a request when your children want to buy from iTunes, iBooks or the App Store. You have control because you hold the purse strings.App request

4. Messages – predictive text is the big new innovation here – your phone or iPad will ‘learn’ how you communicate with different people in both messages and emails, and provide suggestions for your next word as you type. If you find this slightly annoying, you can switch it off – go to SettingsGeneralKeyboard and slide the button next to Predictive to off (no green showing)

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 16.27.17You can also share your location using Messages now – if you’re meeting a friend and they can’t find you, just go to Details in your Messages conversation and choose ‘send  my current location‘ if you are staying still, or ‘share my location‘ if you are moving around. Your friend will receive a map and can find directions to you, or track where you are going.

5. Apple Tips – there are loads more new functions we Tipscould tell you about, but Apple probably do it best. So have a look at a new app that will have popped up on your device when you upgraded to iOS8 – imaginatively called Tips. Here you’ll find lots more information about how to get the most out of your device, and Apple will be updating it over time, so keep watching it!




Wish you were here


Wish you were here!

When was the last time you received a piece of personal mail through the letterbox? Usually the only things I get are birthday cards (once a year, obviously), or a wedding invitation (hardly ever). Aside from these, it’s thank you notes from various nieces and nephews who have been coerced by their mothers into writing to me.

But now I’ve discovered Touchnote, that makes it so easy to send a personalised card, directly from your phone. No more rummaging in the bottom of your drawer for a suitable card. No more hunting down that crinkled stamp stuck down the back of your purse, or trying to find a shop that sells stamps in the depths of Delhi.

TouchnoteTouchnote is a brilliant app that takes your photos and turns them in to a physical postcard, posts it off to your friend anywhere in the world, straight from your phone. And all for around £1.50.

To create a card, first load up your app with some credit – you pay less per card if you buy in bulk. Then open the app on your phone (it’s free for both Android and iPhone users) and touch ‘Start a postcard’.

You’ll have the option to choose a photo from your camera roll or from any other photos you may have stored on your phone. You can change the layout of the card, choose more than one photo and add a caption if you 1


Once you’re happy with this, you can go to the back of the card and write your message and add the address of the recipient. The app stores addresses you have sent cards to previously, so it becomes really easy to send something to your granny each time you go 3

My favourite feature of this is that you can create a personalised stamp for all your cards, or you can change it for each card you send – I chose my dog because I’m slightly obsessed!

photo 2


I’ve used this app for loads of different occasions – saying thanks to friends, using a photo of our time at their place, or sending a ‘traditional’ postcard to parents from holidays (they never see my Facebook photos so it’s a great way to share images from our trip). But what I like best is it’s so simple to persuade my children to send thank you notes – they don’t need to find a pen, look up from their smartphones, or worse, make that torturous 100 yard walk to the letterbox.

You can also use Touchnote on your computer and here you make greetings cards as well as postcards. Perhaps it’s something to think about for Christmas cards – after all, there’s only 15 weeks to go!

Is that a personal trainer in your pocket?

Motivated by the glorious summer weather (so far), England’s dismal World Cup performance and a record medal haul by the home countries at the Commonwealth Games, we’ve put together a list of some great apps to help turn us into gods and goddesses of fitness. And with so many of us now owning smartphones and being able to take your fitness trainer with you everywhere, there really is no excuse for being a couch potoato.

1. RunKeeper. 

Cost: Free. Available for iOS and Android.Runkeeper
What it is: An easy app to use and much favoured by one or two of the more energetic Tipsters, RunKeeper puts all your running stats (pace, distance, and time) at your fingertips in a bold format which is perfect to see “on the run.” It also organises the data into charts, so you can track your progress during your cooldown walk.

Why it’s tipped: not only does RunKeeper track your running stats, but it also keeps track of the awe-inspiring sites along your running route by letting you share snapshots with friends. Which is rather sociable. But the big attraction is that RunKeeper’s GPS can log not just runs, but also walks, bike rides, hikes, and more.

2. Noom Weight Loss Coach.

NoomCost: Free. Available for iOS and Android.

What it is: A personalised coaching app that helps you form healthy habits through daily tasks, meal logging, and exercise tracking. Log meals and workouts while the integrated pedometer counts your steps all day.

Why it’s tipped: Noom offers the encouragement and support you need to stay motivated, and even though some of it is a bit USA orientated, the daily health and wellness articles sent your way and the healthy recipes are practical and useful. Colour-coded logging teaches you which foods are really healthy (and which aren’t). The huge food database is loaded with nearly one million foods, including meals at popular restaurants and local cuisines.

3. Human.

HumanCost: Free. Available for iOS

What it is: A casual fitness app that encourages you to take on the “Daily 30”, which is exactly what it sounds like: thirty minutes of physical activity, every day, whenever and in whatever way you want. You hear about it all the time on various media – now you’ll have no excuse not to be casually fit!

Why it’s tipped: Walk, run, skip, gallop, dance, jump up and down while you’re on the phone to your mother —as long as you’re being active for more than a minute at a time, no matter what you’re doing, Human tracks your movement and lets you know when you’ve achieved your Daily 30.

4. The Walk. 

The WalkCost: £1.99 iOS (currently on offer); £2.79 Android.

What it is: we really like this, even though it’s a bit kooky! Turn a routine stroll into a thrilling adventure as this ‘gamified’ pedometer tracks minutes walked and steps taken—all while users participate in games in which they’re tasked with saving the world (by walking long distances, of course). If you’re involving the kids it makes a nice change from the usual ‘kill everyone in sight’ games.

Why it’s tipped: Before you set out, choose an episode and follow the storyline to your destination. With each step tracked, more and more clues are revealed. Users can always elect to change the story, making it more intense depending on fitness level. So it’s like playing a game AND getting fit. And playing a game…

5. Calm.

CalmCost: Free. Available for iOS and Android.

What it is: Not a traditional fitness app, maybe, but with the recent, (much overdue we think) focus on mental health, we really like this light-hearted, pretty app. Calm offers a soothing, guided meditation app for whenever you need a break—even just a short one—from your day.

Why it’s tipped: Whether you’re searching for focus, creativity, energy, confidence, or a little extra sleep, Calm offers 50 guided meditations to choose from—which you can sync with 16 soothing music tracks by meditation music master, Kip Mazuy. Plus, new content is added monthly. It gives you the perfect, tech-based reason to take a break!

Do you have a favourite fitness app? Is there something you’d like us investigate? Email us ( or post a comment here.

Water great photo!

WaterlogueAs the summer holidays get into full swing, I’m taking more and more pictures on my iPhone – but so is the rest of my family, and they’re all quite similar. So in an attempt to create something a bit different for the album, I turned to the App store and discovered Waterlogue: an app that turns my photos into watercolour paintings!

I’ve used a number of photo editing apps over the years of using a smartphone, but often found them too complicated or too limiting. The reason I like Waterlogue is because it’s extremely simple to use and the results always look great.

Here’s what you do:

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 14.11.14Choose either a photo you already have on your camera roll or in one of your photo albums, or take a new photo from within the app;

Waterlogue EffectsSelect the effect you want to create – there are around 12 styles to choose from, like Rainy, Technical or Travelogue.

Then just wait for your masterpiece to appear – it takes between 10 and 30 seconds, depending on your device – Water colour versionthe newer it is, the quicker the results will be revealed. It’s fun because you can watch the process of it being ‘drawn’ and ‘painted’. Once you’ve created your watercolour, you can share it or download it in any way you like.

Waterlogue costs £1.99 in the App store, and it will give you (and your kids, if you let them) hours of fun and some beautiful, and different, pictures of your holidays.

Pencil Camera HDUnfortunately this app is only available for iOS devices (Apple phones or iPads), so if you’ve got an Android device and you fancy being creative with your photos you’ll need to try something else. We liked Pencil Camera HD (shown on the right) and Water Color Sketch, both of which are free and easy to use. Have a look in the Google Play store to see which one you like best.

Happy snapping and let us know how you get on!



In the lap of the gods

zeusWhen it comes to internet security or computer viruses, many of us just keep our fingers crossed and assume that it’s in the lap of the gods. But there is alot you can do to protect your technology and save yourself the headache that would result if your computer were infected by a virus such as GameOver Zeus or CryptoLocker.

As I mentioned previously in the Phishing blog, there are all sorts of people who may try to infect your computer with a virus, so it’s important to install some software to prevent this. There are lots of different options for anti-virus software, some paid for, some free. Most of them are pretty good and work in much the same way, but I just want to recommend one that we’ve used on a number of computers, that’s easy to use and it’s free.

avast logoYou may not have heard of Avast, but they have been making software for over 25 years and claim to have protected over 200 million devices worldwide. Their anti-virus software is free to use (although you can pay to upgrade to have more features) and you can install it on either a Mac or a PC. Here’s how:

Click on this link  (or just type ‘Avast’ into Google) and you’ll get a page like this:

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 16.39.35Choose whether you want to download the version for Mac or PC and click on the relevant blue button.

Choose to download the free version and follow the instructions on the screen to install it on your computer.

As soon as it has downloaded it does a full scan and you’ll hopefully get a message like this:Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 17.10.49

The Avast interface (that’s the part that allows you to communicate with the software) is simple to find your way around, and most of the activity happens automatically. Avast will even tell you if one of your other computer programs needs to be updated, and lets you do it quickly and easily. To make sure you continue to have access to this free software, you need to register your details – just an email address and password – using the ‘Registration’ button under ‘Maintenance’ on the left hand side.

photo 1 If you you want some anti-virus protection for your mobile devices, a good solution is Lookout Security. Again, there are lots of options, but we like Lookout because it can be used for iOS (Apple) and Android devices, it’s free and you don’t need to change any of your settings for it to perform a regular scan of the apps on your device. Unlike many other mobile anti-virus software that send you little pop-up messages almost constantly, Lookout only sends you notification of what it’s doing while you are installing a new app, or once a week when your device is scanned. It can also help you find your phone if you are unlucky enough to lose it – be sure to switch on ‘enable signal flare’ in your settings to activate this.  Lookout can be found in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.



A sneak preview…


Yosemite National Park

If you’re anything like me, you probably thought Mavericks was a character from Top Gun and Yosemite is that park in the States with big rocks and waterfalls. But it turns out they are infact the names of Apple operating systems – the software that runs your computer – and ‘Yosemite’ is going to be launched this autumn, bringing lots of exciting new features to Macs everywhere.


This was one of the keWWDCy announcements at Apple’s developer conference this week – their annual event to tell the world of app developers what’s up their sleeve to launch later in the year. This gives the IT geeks a chance to work their magic with their games and other apps to take full advantage of all the new things Apple are doing. For the rest of us mere mortals, it just gives us a sneak peek into some quite exciting developments that will be coming to a device near you this autumn.

Here are some highlights:

  1. Apple announced they will be launching iOS 8 (a new operating system for mobile devices) and Yosemite, or OS X 10.10 – the new operating system for Macs – both in the autumn.
  2. One of our favourite developments is that these 2 new operating systems will be able to interact with each other – amazingly this hasn’t been the case until now. For example, you’ll be able to make phone calls directly from your Mac, or start writing an email on your iPad and finish it on your Mac.
  3. You’ll be able to send text messages from your iPad or Mac, and you’ll be able to include voice or other sound recordings as part of the message.
  4. family_sharing_iconFamily Sharing – lots of our customers get in a muddle with the various iThings in their homes and tangled Apple IDs; this new development will make it easy for family members to share purchased apps or tunes across devices, and to have access to shared photo libraries without the need to plug in to a computer.
  5. iCloud Drive – this is going to be an amalgam of Google Drive and iCloud, meaning that you’ll be able to do all the things iCloud currently allows you to, as well as sharing documents between your devices. You’ll even be able to share on Windows PCs too.

There are going to be lots of other, really useful new development with these new operating systems – if you want more of a preview you could go to the Apple site to find out:

BackupA final word of warning – if you are going to upgrade your operating system on your devices at any time, it’s very wise to make a backup of your content before you do…just incase anything should go wrong during the process. Check back to our earlier blog if you need help with backing up. You’ll also need to check the Apple website to see if your device is capable of upgrading – some older models won’t be.

The Cloud with a silver lining

So you’re off on holiday for half term and you want to take the entire series of Breaking Bad to watch on your iPad (just incase the weather is terrible). The problem is you’ve only got 1GB left on your iPad so you can’t fit it all on. There is a solution though – in the Cloud.

We’ve all heard the term “Cloud” computing but how can it help you watch your favourite TV shows? In essence, the Cloud gives you access to loads of content that you can’t squeeze on to your devices, by storing films, songs and files on a computer that you reach via the Internet. If you’re an Apple user, you can access your stored media through iCloud, and for Android users, Google Drive does the same.

cloudWhat makes the Cloud so great is that you don’t need to download the film you want to watch on to the computer (or iPad/iPhone/tablet); you merely need to have access to the Internet. Apple and Google provide these services for free (up to a certain amount of storage) because it encourages their customers to buy from their online stores – the iTunes store or Google Play.

If, on the other hand, you’re off on holiday and you want to watch Breaking Bad during the flight, you can download it to your iPad or computer. Then simply wipe it from the device after you’ve watched it, to free up space. Don’t forget, the purchase is always linked to your account, so you still own the programmes, and you can still stream it once you’re connected to wi-fi. Google drive

Another great thing about the Cloud is that if you were to buy a TV show on the iPad and start watching the first 24 minutes of it, but then you want to go across to another device (linked to the same account), you’ll be able to continue right from where you left off.

icloudTo use to all this clever functionality, just make sure that you have your device settings configured correctly; on an iPhone or iPad, go to the Settings menu, choose ‘iTunes & App Store’ and switch the slider to green for Music and Videos.

For Android users, go to SettingsAccountsGoogle [your username]. Then locate ‘Drive’ in the list of things your device can sync to and make sure it is ticked. That way, anything in your Google Drive account can be accessed via your phone or tablet.

Happy half term!

Something phishy?

phishingYesterday I received an email from Lloyds Bank, telling me that my account will be frozen and my funds put on hold, unless I sort out my password, that has been entered incorrectly 5 times. The email asked me to download a file that would allow me to confirm my details and so release my funds. The strange thing is that I don’t even bank with Lloyds, and I’m sure that if I did, their email address wouldn’t be ‘’.

Luckily I’d been researching for this post about phishing scams so I was aware that this is exactly the sort of email to be wary of. Anyone with an email address is liable to receive these ‘spam’ or ‘phishing’ emails, that try to plant a virus in your computer and in one way or another, take your personal data to commit identity theft. There are all sorts of different scams that try to do this, so here are some tips for what to look out for and how to avoid accidentally having your personal security breached.

  1. Be careful of emails that come from unrecognised senders, emails that ask you to confirm personal information or that aren’t personalised. Don’t let alarming messages panic you into downloading something that could be a virus.
  1. banksNever click on a link or an attachment in an email from someone you’re unsure of. An email may look as though it is from your bank or credit card company, but in reality banks will phone you or send a letter if they think there is a problem with your account. If you want to check that everything is fine with your bank account or credit card, either log in to your account on their website directly or give them a ring. They will appreciate hearing about these scams too.
  1. secure-web-site-lock-iconNever send your personal data such as bank account passwords or other financial information in an email. If you need to communicate this sort of stuff, only do it on a website that you know is secure – look for a lock icon in the browser status bar, or check that the URL (website address) starts with “https:” where ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’. Generally banking websites don’t ask you for your whole password, just selected characters from it.
  1. Don’t be fooled by “Your chance to win” scams. Lots of phishing emails now entice you to click on links that promise ‘a free iPad’ or ‘a luxury holiday for two’ – these could embed a virus into your computer that allows the scammer to follow your keystrokes to access your innermost secrets. The only winner from these emails is the crook.
  1. Make sure you’ve set up some security on your computer. There are many ways to set up firewalls, spam filters and anti-virus software – some of which are free with your computer software, others you need to pay for. But the £10 – £60 you’ll spend is well worth it when you consider what a phishing scam could cost you in both cash and hassle.

I’ll be having a look at computer security in this blog soon, so look out for that if you want more information. Or just give us a call to discuss what you need.

Don’t fall into the In App trap

bike raceKeeping the kids occupied in a restaurant or on a train journey is a lot easier now that most of us have smartphones or iPads. But increasingly there is the risk that they’ll enter a new world, upgrade their character or even buy a better weapon – any of which could land you with an unexpectedly large bill at the end of the month.

So why is this and what can you do about it?

photo copyIt’s all about in-app purchases. These are optional extras inside a game (or any app) that may include extra levels, extra items to increase a function within gameplay or you can simply pay to remove intrusive adverts that appear within the app.

Do I have to buy the ‘in-app purchases’?

No.  An in-app purchase may offer the ability to speed something up but if you’re patient, you don’t need to pay for these items.  If you don’t mind adverts popping up when you complete a level or earn the weapon you need to fight that villain – the game will continue to be free.

As a result of some recent controversy involving both Apple and Google and the ease of accidentally racking up huge bills, there are now simple ways to switch off or restrict the ability to make in-app purchases – here’s how:

photoOn the iPhone:




You’ll be asked to enter your PASSCODE ( or set one up if you haven’t already)

Now you’ll be able to turn the IN APP Purchases option to   OFF as shown.

Set PINOn Android devices:

Go to the Google PLAY STORE app

Enter the MENU



Enter your PIN or set one if necessary


That’s it!

WIth thanks to this week’s guest blogger Nick Hutson, Tipster since September 2013.



How good is the Google dongle?

images-2We often hear the phrase ‘streaming content’ – but what does it actually mean? If you catch your favourite programme via the BBC iPlayer or if you watch a YouTube video on your phone – you’re streaming content. In other words, watching something via the Internet.

But if you’re fed up with watching The Great British Bake Off via the BBC iPlayer app on your tablet or phone and want to watch it on a larger screen there are various options. Before Christmas we looked at Apple TV, Roku and Now TV boxes , and last week Google entered this market with their much-anticipated ‘Chromecast’, so we thought we’d have a look and see how it compares.

The Chromecast is a ‘dongle’ (looks like a USB stick), not a box like the others, so it tucks neatly behind your TV and it’s small enough to pop into your pocket if you’re travelling.

images-4To set up the Chromecast, just connect it to a HDMI port on your TV. It also needs a power source, which you can either get using a USB connection on the TV or use a regular power socket.

Next you need to connect to your local wi-fi network, and then you’re ready to start streaming (or ‘casting’). Chromecast doesn’t have it’s own remote, instead you can download an app (for free) to your phone or tablet, or even use the Chrome browser on your laptop.

The Chromecast is pretty good value at £30 – Roku are about to launch their ‘streaming stick’ for £50 – but the selection of content that you can stream is quite limited at the moment. It gives you access to BBC iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube, plus lots of other channels you’re unlikely to watch (unless you’re especially keen on Korean movies).

You can use Chromecast to view your own content, like videos you took on your phone, but you’ll need to install another app to your mobile device so it’s a bit fiddly. If you’re an Android user you can stream films from your Google Play account, in the same way that you can watch iTunes films through Apple TV or Sky Movies through a Roku box.

imagesSo what’s the verdict on Chromecast? If you’re an Android user with lots in your Google Play library, it’s pretty good, with great picture quality. It can’t do all the things that the competitors can – yet – but being a Google product, new apps will inevitably change that before too long. If you’re an Apple devotee, then go for Apple TV because it’ll talk nicely to all your other devices. If you really just want BBC iPlayer, Netflix and 4oD, Roku looks like the best bet – wait till April 21st for their new stick.

If you’re still wondering about the best way to smarten up your TV, get in touch and we’ll be happy to chat through the options.

This week’s blog has been written by our newest Tipster, Graeme Young.