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Where are my Apps? – Backing up alternative to iCloud

4 Sep

I know many of my readers use iCloud to backup their devices.  This is great and convenient for lots of reasons, but there are limitations when it comes to your iTunes purchases.  Recently a friend of mine accidentally deleted Snappycam from her children’s device but then found she could not reinstall it as it was no longer in the App Store.  Since then I’ve received a few enquiries about this kind of thing, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts.

Why isn’t my app in the App Store?

Apple can remove apps from the App Store at any time.  In Snappycam’s case, Apple bought the company (and hopefully will incorporate this in a future iOS) but there are other reasons apps disappear, including (but not limited to):

  • Copyright disputes with other developers
  • To comply with legal rulings
  • Lack of compatibility to the latest iOS
  • Violation of Apple’s contracts
  • The developer company has ceased trading
  • The app is really, really offensive (and no, I won’t give examples, but I’m pretty sure Google can show you some)
  • The developer company no longer wishes to support that app (for various reasons)

But I OWN that app!

When it comes to iTunes, once you purchase an app it is yours for life…. in theory.  In reality, you can only download it/reinstall it while it is still available in the store.  iCloud will back up your app data (e.g. documents you make with the apps) and your purchase history, but when it comes to apps, you can only download your apps AS LONG AS THEY ARE IN THE APP STORE.  Once removed, this form of backup is no longer available.

So what to do?

The best insurance is to download the apps to a computer or hard drive.  Once you have downloaded your apps, even if they disappear from the store, you can connect your device to the computer and reinstall them.  There are two things you can do.

  • Back up your device to your computer

I always back up my device and iTunes purchases to my computer, which in turn backs up on an external drive.  You can also back up to iCloud, but I’d still recommend connecting to your computer regularly.  If you have bandwidth and data issues, it is worth mentioning that backing up this way is possible without WiFi/internet access, so could be more economical for some.

  • Automatically back up your app purchases on your computer. (Your device doesn’t need to be connected for this.)
    1. Open iTunes on your computer and select iTunes> Preferences> Store>
    2. Check Always check for available downloads
    3. Then, under Automatic Downloads, check Apps (and Music, if you’d also like to back up your music purchases.)
    4. With these options set, open iTunes on your computer (while connected to the internet) regularly, and it will automatically download any purchases.


Using these strategies has meant I’ve been able to hold on to some great apps that are no longer available.  But there are limitations.  Once an app has been pulled from the App Store, there will be no more support and no more updates.  When Apple releases a new iOS, for example, your old apps may no longer be compatible.  This won’t be a problem if you have an older device, such as the original iPad, but it is something to keep in mind if your device is newer.

Extra insurance

An external hard drive dedicated to backing up your computer is a great investment.  If you back up regularly, your data will be safe even you have a major computer disaster.  Documents and apps aside, just think of all the media (particularly personal photos and videos) we have stored on our computers these days, and imagine what would happen if your computer drive had a break down.  Backing up is a safety measure that we should all get in the habit of doing.  (As extra insurance, about once a year I copy our family photos and videos on to DVDs or flash drives and give them to the grandparents, so they can enjoy them and we’ll always have an offsite backup if a really big disaster strikes).   There are lots of different drives on the market with lots of different sizes  price points, so talk to your local suppliers and find one (or several) that work for you.



Are we there yet? Holiday car travel with iPads

23 Jun
Are we there yet? I want out of this car.

Are we there yet? I want out of this car. (Photo credit: Beverly & Pack)

Our mid-year school holidays are upon us here in Queensland, with other states due for holidays also.  My family hasn’t planned any big trips away, but last holidays we took our 6 children interstate on a 2-day journey each way.  One thing I love about long car trips is that it is a chance for my family to be together (albeit by force!) for chats, stories and songs, marvelling at the scenery we pass. I actually love the time, and my worst nightmare would be for my children to spend the entire journey with their noses in electronic devices.  That being said, I’m no Luddite and when we went on our trip, we took the iPod and our 2 iPads with us for the journey.  I thought I’d share some of the things that made life easier on the trip. Continue reading

Disabling the Home button (and other Guided Access Tricks)

31 May

Have you ever been frustrated by children clicking that oh-so-easily accessible home button and leaving the app you wanted them to be using? Have you ever wanted to disable buttons on the screen so that your child doesn’t keep going to menus, options and other screens?  Then read on, as the answer is already in your iPad settings.

Sadly, you can’t do this on the original iPad as you need iOS 6 or above.  If you have an original iPad and wish to disable the home button, you can try Bubcaps, which are protective covers for the home button.

What is Guided Access

Guided Access is a feature built into iOS 6  that allows you to temporarily disable the home button on your iPad or iPhone so an app cannot be closed, and to disable some functions in that app.  It also has options to prevent the home screen from fading, and motion control.

Setting Up

Guided access is very simple to set up and use.

  • Open your Settings> General.
  • Scroll down the right side of the screen and select Accessibility
  • Scroll down the Accessibility page and select Guided Access (under Learning)
  • Turn Guided Access on. You will need to put in a 4-digit password to use. (Don’t tell the kids!)
  • You can also choose to turn screen sleep on or off. I find it handy to leave it off (default) as sometimes my child might take a while to make a choice.

That’s it: Guided Access is ready to use.

Using Guided Access

After you open an app, press the home button 3 times to show the Guided Access screen. You can then choose to disable parts of the screen (see below) or can press the Start button at the top right to start guided access.

Disabling the Home Button

My toddler loves to read stories with me, both in “real book” and eBook formats. His big thing now is pressing buttons, so when we are sharing a story on the iPad, he can’t resist the urge to press the home button. When the story disappears, he gets upset, but still persists in tapping that oh-so-easily-accessible home button. With Guided Access on, all I have to do is open the app, tap the home button three times, and press Start. He can press that home button all he wants, but he can’t leave the app until I press it three times and enter my password.

You can use this trick to keep your children on task and out of the apps you don’t want them to use. One of my friends wanted to be sure that her children were using the iPad in their homework time for the real homework, and not playing games, so we set up Guided Access on the family iPad.  She now negotiates the app they are going to use, opens it, and then uses Guided Access to disable the home button.  Once the work is completed, Guided Access is turned off and they can have access to their other apps.

This feature might also be handy for people with motor control issues who accidentally hit the home button at inappropriate times. Guided Access means they have to deliberately tap the button in a defined way (three quick taps) plus enter that password, so no more accidental app closures.

Disabling parts of the screen

When you enter an app and turn on Guided Access, you can highlight sections of the screen to disable areas of the screen before you press Start. You do this by simply tracing around the area you want deactivated with your finger.

My toddler’s current favourite iPad storybook is The Adventures of Puppup:  Lost at the Zoo. On each page, a small home button with Puppup’s face is on either the left or right of the screen. Mr Cheeky loves to tap that button, as he has an unbridled passion for all things puppy, so he is always leaving the story and ending up on the home page again. I navigated to the first page of the story and traced my finger around that button, and the place it would appear on the other side of the page. Now, as we read the story, he can tap the cute puppy button and nothing happens. The great thing is that you only have to do this once, and the disabled areas will still be there each time you open the app. You can remove them any time.

This function works best with apps that have consistent placement of buttons, i.e. they are usually found in the same place, such as with our Puppup app. Some uses include:

  • covering up social media links or other external links.
  • keeping children in the main part of an app and on-task.
  • disabling access to mini-games and other activities.
  • disabling the “easy” levels of an activity that the child has already mastered.

Removing these areas takes seconds.  Enter the Guided Access screen and you’ll see a small x on the edge of each disabled area.  Tap that x and the disabled area will disappear.

Sadly, you can’t take screen shots of the Guided Access screens, and my camera is playing up at the moment, so I was reduced to holding my iPad up to the computer’s camera and taking some photos that way.  While I won’t win any photography awards, they should be enough to show how to create those disabled areas.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The main limitation to this feature is that the disabled areas remain disabled for all screens. An area you disable in one screen might be needed in an activity on another screen. Many years ago I used to set up “Hotspots” on computer screens (for use with switch interfaces and other alternative access devices) using ClickIt! by IntelliTools (no longer available). This program would let me create several sets of hotspots that would change as the screen changed. ClickIt! would watch a tiny section of the screen, changing the hotspot sets to match what appeared in that section. It is a bit difficult to describe in a couple of sentences, but I hope future iOS versions might use this kind of idea so that we disable specific areas on specific screens in each app.

Other Guided Access Settings

There are two other options that appear at the bottom of the Guided Access window when you start it up.

  • Touch – this is set by default to On, which means the user will be able to touch all areas of the screen except for those specifically disabled as outlined above. If you set it to Off, no areas of the screen will respond to touch. This could be useful if you are using a storybook app in Autoplay mode, or watching a video.
  • Motion – this is also set by default to On, but if you turn it off, the iPad will no longer react to motion. This could be a very handy setting where the child tends to move or shake the device.

Guided Access has a lot to offer parents when it comes to child-proofing your iOS devices, or setting them up for use with children who have special needs or very young children.  The great thing is that it is quick and easy to do.  Have a play with it and save yourself some frustration and grey hairs.

Tips and Tricks: Crashes, Freezes, and General Belligerence

30 Jun

From time to time, you might encounter a few problems while using your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. Apps may quit unexpectedly, freeze, or the device may crash. This post has some tips for recovering from those little episodes and what to do to avoid them.

Continue reading

Tips and Tricks – Battery Life in iPads and iPods

28 May
English: iPhone 3GS (left) and iPad 2

English: iPhone 3GS (left) and iPad 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the next few weeks I intend to publish a few tips to help everyone get the most out of their iPads, iPhones, and iPods.  The tips are meant for the newer users, but they are things that all users should keep in mind to get the best performance from their devices.  Today we are talking about batteries, with a few simple tips to keep your battery healthy as long as possible. Continue reading

Using your iPad with Stylus

8 May

There are lots of accessories for the various generations of iPad, but catching my eye recently were the range of styluses available.  What is a stylus?  Basically, it is a pen for your iPad or iPhone (or finger-alternative perhaps?)  There are many models available and a quick internet search will show you more than you thought.  I simply went down to electronics and entertainment section of  my local Big W store and found a nice range there.  There was a blingy stylus for the yummy mummy or glamour iPad user, one that had a real pen inside, some attached to iPad stands, and styluses in various colours.  They all work exactly the same, so I picked two of the more basic varieties, each just under $20.  Shop around and you will find similar styluses at similar or cheaper prices.  Any of these styluses will work on any touch screen device, including other Tablets and Smart Phones. Continue reading

Decisions, Decisions – Why get an iPad?

30 Apr

A friend recently asked me if she should get an eBook reader or should she pay the extra and go with an iPad.  It got me thinking about the things I do with my iPad and what I would do in her place.


My first response was to ask her if reading was all she wanted to do, and if so, maybe a dedicated eBook reader such as the Kindle or the Sony eReader might be better.  I have no experience with the latter, but my father has a Kindle and I have to admit it is very easy on the eye.  Certainly, it would be easier on the budget to go with this option.  Still, I am a keen reader and have many eBooks on my iPad, and find it really comfortable. Another thing to ask, if you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or similar, is if you can do all you want to do with Apps on that device.  All of the things I do on my iPad could be done on an iPhone or iPod touch, but the big difference for me is the screen size, and the keyboard size.  Things are much easier to read and see on an iPad than on the iPhone, and it is also easier to enter text with the larger keyboard. The third thing you need to consider is whether you need Internet access on the go, or whether a Wi-Fi only device is the go.  If you already have a smart phone that you use, then perhaps  Wi-Fi is all you need. Continue reading

Rover! Access Educational Flash material on your iPad

4 Apr

While I love my iPad, one thing I’ve found frustrating is the inability to access Flash websites. My children are allowed to access the Internet under my supervision, and the iPad is great for this as they can have the iPad wherever I am. Even a laptop doesn’t have that kind of flexibility (and I don’t want kids carrying laptops around the house). The big frustration has been their inability to access Flash sites, including one site that is part of their weekly homework.  It means relocating to another room to sit with them while they do their task, while mine remain undone just that bit longer.  (Could being a slave to their education be my excuse for a messy house?)

Rover changes all of that.  It has been designed specifically for the educational needs of teachers and K-12 students and packs a lot of features into a free app. Continue reading

Tips for Using iPads (and similar devices) with kids

13 Jan

During the time I’ve used the iPad with my children, I’ve come up with a few ideas that help keep the iPad and my sanity.

Protecting your iPad
Screen protector – The first thing you should get your device is a screen protector, which is basically a thin film of clear plastic that covers your screen and protects it from scratches. There are many out there who wish they could have known this earlier. I use a Gecko protector, but there are others on the market and you can find them at most places that sell iPads. Continue reading

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