Wednesday, March 27, 2013

CNET's TechTracker Advises When Software Updates Are Available

Are you still looking for the computer to make things easier instead of harder and more time consuming? CNET's TechTracker FREE application that helps keep the software on your computer up to date. No more searching, no more manually checking for updates. Just get an e-mail from TechTracker and that's it.

How this works--
TechTracker does an initial scan of your PC for software that it has in it's database and alerts you when a newer version is available and provides a link to upgrade. TechTracker accomplishes this by utilizing the vast catalog of downloadable software CNET has. 
Windows 8 does the same for Windows 8 apps but we're still a bit away from this for previous legacy or Windows 7 apps.
My vision disability makes it very difficult to read web page so I avoid searching for software updates because pages are just so difficult to read. Now I don't have to work hard at all.
  • Receive notifications and easily install your latest software upgrades
  • Customize how often TechTracker scans for updates
  • See product information and ratings before upgrading software

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How to find Discount Android App for smart phones and tabets

Like the Apple App Store, the Google Play Store (formerly known as the Android Marketplace) has apps that are discounted, sometimes to FREE. How to discover these discounts is the trick.

Unlike the Apple App Store, you can get Android apps from more than Google Play. You can also get apps from as Amazon has it's Kindle Fire, and Android tablet, so they sell apps on too. Check out Amazon's FREE App of the day app

Then browse * Amazon's App Store. Look at the menu at the left, scroll all the way to the bottom and notice you can search for apps with 10% off or more, 25% off, 50% off or more than 70% off!
Visit the Lifehacker web site for Android (and iOS) deals and recommendations. Lifehacker has daily updates and some pretty good reviews.
I've tried a few Androids apps that are dedicated to helping you find great apps and when they might be on sale. These apps let you search the Google Play store by category or name of the app. You can then put an app on a "watch list" so you can be notified if or when the app's price changes. Sometimes the price goes up.

My favorite app here is AppSales. AppSales first screen shows the most popular apps with discounts. You can limit the list by a category of your choice. Or you can browse for apps and choose to put them on your "Watch List". Now you will get a notification when something changes for this app. AppSales is FREE.
AppSales opening screen showing discounted apps
AppSales screen showing the apps I've put on the "Watch List"

I got a little jaded with AppSales as the next app I tried, AppWatcher FREE is simply an app that allows one to search for apps and that's about it. More features were available if you paid the $0.99. I stopped here. Then I didn't want to try other apps especially since many had a cost. Not a big cost of course but why pay when you can get for FREE as they say.
* If your device says it cannot install an app from an "unknown source", don't fret. There is a option in the Security section of Settings called Unknown Sources. Check this box to allow apps form unknown sources and you'll be good to go.

Have fun. If you have an app that you like, tell me about it so we can all enjoy.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How To Find Discounts for iPad and iPhone Apps

The iTunes App Store is the place to purchase or get Free apps for iPhones and iPads. However, can you get discounts on apps? You can but iTunes is not really designed to help you find discounted apps. But there are a few apps that are really good for shopping and discovering if, and when, apps are discounted... sometimes discounted to FREE.

There are a variety of apps for this but I use two; App Shopper from Normalkid LLC and App Price Drop from Apple Sliced. They are very similar but subtle differences mean I can't rely on one to do everything.

App Price Drops is really good at showing apps that have discounts right now. I can scroll though all apps that have a discount. The Sort By: option, at the upper left of the screen, allows me to see the most popular apps with discounts, or I can see all apps that are now Free or all discounted apps. I love finding Free apps. The Show: option let's me only see iPad apps if I want. I can narrow the list down even more bu using the Category: option at the upper right and look only at the category of apps that interest me.

NOTE: Universal means that the same app works on the iPhone or iPad and uses the screen appropriately for each. iPhone apps work on the iPad but they still look like iPhone apps on the big screen and don't use the terrific resolution on the iPad screen.


App Price Drop is really good at what it does and it's FREE too.


App Shopper, to me, has a few more features that I like a lot. First, like the iTunes store, I can see the most popular apps overall or within categories. I frequently start looking at the Top 200 Paid, Free or Grossing apps to see if anything new has emerged to please the crowds. I don't automatically purchase or get new or highly reviewed apps. I'll typically put an app into Wish List which is a check box at the upper right when reading about the app. I can either Buy the app immediately, choose Want it which puts it into my Wish List or choose that I already own the app. What is really good is that a notification is sent (if notifications are left on when you install App Shopper) when any Wish List app has a price change. Sometimes discounted apps go back to their regular price so be ready. There is even a "What's New" option to show apps new to the App Store or apps that were recently updated.


App Price Drop has a similar notification approach where you can set an Alert for any app you wish. Alerts is an option at the bottom of the screen when looking at an app.


App Shopper is also FREE.

NOTE: When confirming App Shopper, I saw that it is no longer available in the App Store. App Shopper's web site confirms this and it is a temporary situation due to a conflict with some rules Apple created for iOS 6.

Below are more shopping apps in the iTunes App Store.



Have fun using these apps to find the best Free and discounted apps available for your iPhone or iPad.


Update: App Shopper has returned to the iTunes App Store.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Parental Controls for Smart Phones and Tablets

We've all thought about parental controls for our TVs and computers but what about those smart phones and tablets kids are using these days. iPads, Kindle Fires, Nexus 7, and the wide range of smart phones like the iPhone and Android phones. All of these are basically computers with access to the web and all of its power to search out information on many subjects. Yes, even those subjects we want to shield our kids from until they are ready and it's we who will know when they are ready...right?

I must admit that my kids are full grown adults now but I have grand kids and my kids might not be aware what their kids are doing with their smart phones and tablets. Even 2 year olds are darn good at turning on their tablet, touching their app and enjoying a cartoon or movie. I'm not saying a 2 year will visit sites or search for words that you don't want them to but knowing how to keep them smart and honest is prudent.
Parental Controls should provide the following.
  • Show only the apps approved by parents.
  • Allow certain numbers to be called from their phone.
  • Block the ability to spend money on music or apps without parental consent.
  • Block the ability to search for certain categories of words based on age or content.
  • Block the ability to go to web sites based on age or content.
  • Block the ability to view YouTube videos based on age or content.
  • Put a time limit on the use of the device.
  • Provide a report or view of sites visited, words searched, sites or words blocked and why they were blocked.
  • Provide a parental consent to allow any of the above if the parent chooses.
  • If a device is shared amongst family members, allow for different or no controls based on the person.
  • Ability to track the location of a smart phone via it's GPS signal

The iPad/iPhone as well as Android provide a certain level of parental controls. One might say these controls don't go far enough and that is why many apps are available. Costs vary according to the sophistication of the app, the number of devices covered, etc.

The Apple iPa's parental controls consist of a variety of restrictions as Apple puts it. You can set restrictions on the following apps:
  • Safari web browser
  • Camera and apps that use the camera
  • Face Time
  • iTunes Store
  • iBookstore
  • Siri

You can also restrict:
  • Installing Apps. This includes the ability to stop a child from spending money on apps.
  • Deleting Apps. In other words the little x doesn't appear on the app icons when you're customizing the Home screen.
  • Explicit Language: Siiri attempts to help out by beeping if it recognizes an improper word.
  • In-App purchases. Another help to avoid the ability for a child to spend money.
  • Content restrictions. You can Tap Ratings For, then select a country from the list. Then set restrictions for music and podcasts, books, etc.
Below is the iTunes Parental Controls setup. Not bad but limited when compared to some of the dedicated Parental Control apps.
To see the complete list of iPad Restrictions go the the iPad User Guide which is found in Safari, select Bookmarks and going to the bottom of the list.

There is a large number of parental control apps and I found it a bit difficult to narrow it down to a few as the features vary along with the prices. As usual, you can choose the features you need and then the price you wish to pay. Some have annual subscriptions so the overall price can be quite high. However, these apps are the ones that are feature rich and who but you decides how much your child's safety is worth--certainly not me.

Now let's discuss parental control features that go further for protecting your children.
  • Block word searches for certain words.
  • Block access to unapproved web sites. Unapproved web sites determined by categories or specific ones.
  • Block more than just the web. Blocking You Tube for example.
  • Web or e-mailed reports showing what was viewed, blocked and why.
  • Provide filtering by person if the device is shared.

The controls are more restrictive along with flexibility for the parent. So let's see how we can get an app that provides for some of these parental controls.
I found a few for Apple, Android as well as the PC.
Mobicip is a very good looking app that provides virtually all of the items I mentioned above.
After creating an account, set up users, you install a new browser called Safe Browser. You then disable Safari, You Tube and the App Store. At this point you use Safe Browser's filtering capabilities to control what can and cannot be viewed in the browser. Safe Browser looks and feels just like Safari except for its parental control features. You can access Mobicip directly on the web to see sites that were viewed by user, any that were blocked and why they were blocked. Even get a report e-mailed to you on a weekly or monthly basis.
Free. Additional features that most will want-Annual Subscription of $9.99 per year per device.
For iOS and Android.
McGruff is another good app.
Free, Full Control-$0.99 and Full Family Control:Gold Update-$9.99.
Works on iPhone and iPad. It is extremly flexible too. There is the ability to control viewing by site categories of Age, Content, etc. Even control the amount of time one can browse the web. There are even parental controls on You Tube. Have the device send a Summary or Detailed list of sites viewed and words searched. Install the app, apply a password and go. If the device is shared, have unique controls for individuals.
Both of these apps add a new browser to replace Safari. The new browser has more features for parental controls. You would then disable Safari on the iPad.

For Android tablets like the Kindle Fire or Galaxy Tab as wells as Android smart phones.

Kids Place is a full featured parental controls app that works on Android tablets and smart phones alike. Kids Place appears to have good features to keep a child from spending money on apps, music, etc. It even allows you to put restrictions on phone calls and texts. It misses some of the features I listed above so look closely and decide for yourself if Kids Place has what it takes to meet your needs. Kids Place is FREE.

Purchase a license for each Android smart phone or tablet. I could not discover the price on their site. Not good.
Reviews are at both ends of the spectrum...good and bad, nothing in between.

This apps goes another step further by allowing you to track your child's whereabouts by secretly using the GPS in their smart phone.
FREE There are quite of few of these and reviews seem to be mixed on many. Using a phone tracker might sound a bit "over the line" for many. I mention these however because you need a choice. If you get a call from your child's school saying they did not arrive as expected, knowing you had a phone tracker app on their cell phone might be a comfort.
Available for iPhone/iPad or Android
Below is a list of apps and articles to review to help make a decision. These is enough flexibility in features along with price to get you to the app that will make you feel comfortable with technology in your child's hands.
The Vancouver Sun. CuriousDad. The Problem with iPad parental controls. August 30, 2012

By Daniel Nations

A blog talking about Mamabear.
Parental Controls for the PC
By Brian Posey of Tech Republic. May 1, 2012.
December 20th, 2012 by Daniel P. Howley, LAPTOP Staff Writer
PC Magazine
By Sara Yin. July 27, 2012
$19.99 per year
Net Nanny for Android
$19.99 per year
AVG Family Safety for iPhone, iPad or PC
$19.99 per year
$3.68 to buy
$4.95 to buy
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