All I want for Christmas…

Money-Gift-PoundsAs Christmas approaches, the pile of gift catalogues on my desk grows as I search for interesting and exciting presents for everyone on my list. However most of my nieces and nephews, being tricky teens, just ask for money, which on the one hand is nice and easy, but on the other, a little bit dull. I tend to feel that even a gift voucher shows a little more thought.

FlybikeSome quick research into the UK gift voucher market revealed that I’m not alone in that thought, with the total spend on vouchers in 2013 reaching £5 billion – that’s about the same size as the perfume market. It’s not just ‘book tokens’ anymore – I’ve bought Westfield vouchers, Comedy Club vouchers, or the hot favourite for my dare-devil nephew, a voucher to take you for a day ‘fly-biking’ – it looks awesome!

I find the hardest group to buy gifts for are the older generation who seem to have everything they could possibly want or need. Last year the siblings clubbed together to buy an iPad for my father, but he hardly uses it – mostly because he is a bit scared of pressing the wrong button and deleting everything! VoucherWith that in mind, Fingertips has come up with the perfect solution – we’ve launched our own gift vouchers. They make an ideal present for a friend or family member who needs a bit of a guiding hand with their home technology. You can buy vouchers for one, two or three hours with a Tipster, by which time even the most low-tech person will be able to send emails, download apps to their iPad, or catch up with Strictly on the BBC iPlayer. Order yours by calling us on 020 8994 7773, or come to find us at the Chiswick PopUp tomorrow at the Barley Mow Centre in Chiswick.

Please note that we can only make home visits to customers in London, so if your Mum lives in Scotland or Southampton, I’m afraid we won’t be able to help her.

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!

 

 

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:

Open SETTINGS, go to GENERAL

Go to RESTRICTIONS

Tap ENABLE RESTRICTIONS

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

Open SETTINGS

Under USER CONTROLS select SET OR CHANGE PIN.

Enter your PIN or set one if necessary

Choose USE PIN FOR PURCHASES

That’s it!

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

 

 

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.

iCloud

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.

The perfect night in

With the winter nights at their longest, it’s the perfect time of year to stay in and watch a movie. These days all you need to watch the latest releases is a broadband connection and a tiny set-top box.

Apple TVIf you have an Apple iPad or iPhone, then the obvious choice is the Apple TV. This little black box costs £99 and connects to the Internet by wi-fi. Movies from Apple are a little bit pricey, but there is a good selection and you only pay for what you watch. There are also other TV services such as Netflix available on a subscription basis.

Roku screenIf you’re not an Apple person, then a better option might be Roku. These set-top boxes start at £50 and, in addition to Netflix and BBC iPlayer, offer Sky Movies for £9 a month with the Sky Sports channels on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Both Apple and Roku also let you play your own music, photos and home movies on your TV from your phone or tablet. However, if that sounds like a feature you’ll never use, then the best deal of all is Sky’s own Now TV box. This is actually last year’s Roku box with a few features stripped out. Unlike its rivals it’s not full HD, but it only costs £10, so you could have an Apple TV and a Now TV for the ultimate Now TVchoice of movies.

All of these options only stream content from the Internet. If you want to record your own programmes then you’ll need a bigger, more expensive set-top box such as YouView, which also gives you access to BT Sport.

Happy viewing!

Tops Tips 6 – Apple’s control centre

So which of you iPad and iPhone owners are using their Control Centre?

We thought so.

So, with a bit of downtime coming up later this month, we thought it would be useful to give you some top tips on how to use it.

The Control Centre is one of iOS7’s best features. It’s like the right click of your computer mouse: one swipe (even from a locked screen) and you are presented with a menu of everything you need most often.

Whatever screen you are in, you get to it the same way: just place your finger at the bottom middle of the screen – directly above the home button if your device is upright – and swipe upwards to reveal a screen that looks like this:photo-5

The Control Centre saves searching through endless menus to find what you need – here are a few of our favourite functions:

Airplane mode – turns off access to the outside world – including wi-fi and Bluetooth. Top tip: if your network is struggling, you can reset it by tapping the airplane mode to off and then on again.

Wi-fi – useful for saving battery life if you’re not in a wi-fi zone.

Bluetooth – connect to your car stereo or Bluetooth speakers. Switch off to save battery life.

Music controls – so you can pause, skip or simply see which track is playing without going to your music app.

iPhone control centre2AirPlay – the AirPlay icon appears when you have access to another AirPlay device – like an Apple TV or an AirPlay accessible speaker – switch it on and you can stream music or send photos or movies to your TV or speakers.

Timer – set it for anything up to 24 hours – use it to remind you to baste the turkey.

Camera – the one we use most often, this opens the camera straight away, so you can grab that action shot before it’s too late.

There are other functions you can access from the Control Centre which you may find useful – why not test the Do Not Disturb switch after your Christmas lunch?

 

Happy New Mac

or should that be PC on earth?

mac vs pcWith the festive season upon us, the question we are being asked is, should we buy an Apple Mac or a PC.

Ask this question of a computer person and you’re likely to get a black and white answer: it’s all a bit tribal. Mac fans will quote “once you’ve gone Mac, you’ll never go back”. PC and Windows fans see Mac as being a bit limited and a triumph of style over substance.

Of course the real answer is that both have their merits and your choice depends on what you need the computer for and how much you can afford.

ipad and iphoneIf you’re new to computers, and you want something simple to set up and use, a Mac is ideal, especially if you’ve already got iPhones or iPads in your house. It’s easy to learn the systems and Apple send out regular updates to keep your computer current. And everything will play nicely together.

Similarly, if you need to sort out a mass of photos, movies and music, a Mac comes with pre-installed, lifestyle-focused software made by Apple (iLife), and it all works perfectly, straight out of the box.

On the other hand, most of us grew up using a PC and if that’s what you’re used to, there are lots of great options, at a wide range of prices. If all you want is something to browse the Internet and send a few emails, you can pick up a PC for around £250. However, you’ll need to add extra for some bundled software (like Microsoft Office at around £70) and anti-virus software is recommended too – and that’s where it can start to get a bit Vaiocomplicated.

If you quite like the complication and you prefer to have the freedom to choose your own software then you’re a PC person.

It would be easy to sit on the fence, but that doesn’t really help anyone. So we’d say that if you’re after a cheap option with the minimum amount of fuss, go for an entry-level PC. Or choose a powerful PC if you have high-end computing requirements, such as our Kodak photo scanner that only runs with Windows. For everything in between, we would recommend a Mac.