Reviews, Technology

iExplorer – An iTunes Alternative

I’ve been with Apple a while now, and there is one piece I software I continually hear people complain about…iTunes. One of the major gripes I’m heard is that it tells you “My way or the highway”. It doesn’t allow the honest bloke on the street to recover music from an iPod (whose computer has died). Another thing, what if you just needed a couple of PDFs or pictures from one App and you didn’t want to use the clumsy iTunes root? Well this software is the answer to that problem.

Another cool thing? Backing up your notes. Sometimes you want an offline copy of your notes from the Notes App on the iPad. This app will go and save all your notes as RTF (Rich Text Format) files. Once you have those you can always upload them, or back them up wherever you wish.

It gets into the nooks and crannies. Every now and again you will download an eReader, note taker, download manager, organiser, photo organiser…in other words something that will collect bits and pieces for you. If you were to use iTunes for the first time, it doesn’t give you a simple way of retrieving that info. Here, this app displays everything in a tree-structure and Shazam you can crawl into each and every app and extract your crucial information.


Here's an exmaple of all the different services this App provides.

Here’s an exmaple of all the different services this App provides.

Behold the Tree Structure! Here's an example of ripping photos off an iPad. Pretty nifty!

Behold the Tree Structure! Here’s an example of ripping photos off an iPad. Pretty nifty!

This a good example of saving your music collection. One client of mine had their largest collection of music stored on their iPad, and they needed it rescued.

This a good example of saving your music collection. One client of mine had their largest collection of music stored on their iPad, and they needed it rescued.




What the F**k is my Password?

Previously in my blog I’ve spoken about how to manage your passwords better (with the iPad App OneSafe). It’s about time I get down to the nitty-gritty and tell you how to create a password. It’s actually pretty confusing at first. This will be a guide to help smooth things out.

Many websites require a password to log on whether it’s email, banking, Facebook, Twitter, A blog, or Deviant Art. The problem is not the amount of passwords (i.e. some people figure “well, it’ll just be easier if I use the same password for everything.”), but many websites have different password requirements. So I’ve decided I’m going to give a course on…


Passwords For Absolute Beginners (and Occasional Morons).

I’ll answer the following questions:
– Why do I need a password?
– What is a secure password?
– How an I keep my passwords safe?
– Is it wise to keep all my passwords the same?
– How I retrieve my lost password?
– Is there an easy way for me to remember all of my passwords?

How secure is a password?
That depends on the person creating it. The general rule of thumb is the following:
– Length: 8-16 characters
– No more than three consecutive letters and/or numbers.
– The letters should be a combination of upper and lowercase.
– A strong password should also contain special characters (e.g. $, &, @, £, etc)

How do I go about making one that I can remember?
I always say to different clients that if you make a jumbled up one, that is more secure. It’s harder to remember but there are ways of training your brain to remember a specific password. For example I put a nice complex password as the lock screen on my iPad, that way every time I pick it up and start using it, I’m forced to punch it in.

Many people decide that they are going to use something easy like a pet’s name, their physical address, or their initials combined with their date of birth. Do not do this for any reason. You will be extremely vulnerable and might end up getting hacked. An intelligent person could always look you up in the phone book, and scribble down you address. (The odds are some slug-like couch potato will be sucking your funds into a lucrative off-shore account.)

So here are some password suggestions. The following person is purely fictitious.

Name: Charlotte Smith
Address: 12 Hillside Road
Pet: Shadow

Bad Password Examples

Better Password Examples
Ch4rl0tte (the vowels have been replaced by numbers, except for the ‘e’)
shaDow211967 (this is the strongest password, due to the inclusion of more than two numbers.)

How can I tell if my password is strong enough?
Usually we want password(s) to make some kind of logical sense. The strongest one’s don’t really. If it takes you a few extra minutes to stop and think about it, a hacker’s time trying to crack it would exponentially increase.

Now the easy part…go and Google the words “password generator” (without quotes) you will find some excellent tools to help you. I have such an app on my iPad (thank’s to Wolfram). I’ve included a few Wolfram screenshots for those iPad junkies who feel the urge to get a new app.

Here are the results:

ASCII-based Passwords (i.e. letters, numbers, special curse words, the works)


You may have to be a little autistic to remember some of these. So allow me to wrestle with some settings and provide something easier on the eye. (On a side note…the reason these passwords are immensely strong, is some of them include two or more special characters such as +Ol30>{Z and {1h)FSE< ).

Alphanumeric Passwords (i.e. No Special Characters)


First thing you might shout out is…Why does having no special characters make it a stronger password? A password with an asterisk or ampersand is technically weaker, however, doing it the way I have above is even stronger than my hastily thrown together Ch4rl0tte.

Another reason why passwords without special characters are important, is simply because not all websites support it. For example, if you are part of a dating website, or a local forum, chances are the developers haven’t allowed for special characters in the passwords. I remember being a little cheesed off when a while ago I’d put together a secure password (with special characters), and then when I set up my Internet banking it rejected it. Grrr… I had to come up with a different password, which ended up being more secure for me, rather ironically.


If only a smattering of the above mentioned made sense, here is a little summary.

Things to Remember
Don’t take time creating your own password. Use an online password generator.
Keep you passwords different between accounts. You can always download a good program to store your passwords.
Type one of two complex ones regularly. Set it as you computer login password, or your iPad (or whichever tablet you prefer).

Feel free to leave a comment if anything didn’t make sense 😀




Keep your information hacker-free

I recently mentioned that I cut all ties with my social networks. During this process I realized that I need to beef my own personal security. I may not be a billionaire with a dozen off-shore investments, however, like anyone I’ve still got money in the bank. Having this said…It’s an absolute must that you have multiple passwords.

From time to time I set up Apple IDs for people (i.e. an account with iTunes online, that allows you to purchase Apps, Books, Music, etc). Often I get asked…”Well, can I just use the same password for my email and Apple ID?” My reply is sure you can, but that not very safe or clever. Rather spend some extra time one the Internet and invest in an App that remembers your passwords for you. An App I discovered on the App Store that does this very well is called oneSafe

It’s super user-friendly, and the extra bonus is you can add your Social Networking passwords (including various other accounts) to it such as Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Gmail, Pinterest, WordPress, and so the list continues. If you don’t have extra Benjamins lying around then you will most likely find a program for your computer that does a similar thing. The key thing to google is “eWallet” (minus the quotation marks). I found this useful App myself simply by typing in “remember passwords” (again without those beautiful quotes).

When I google something I always start out with a broad term, and sift through extra pages until I find exactly the thing I’m looking for. Sometimes the app you need isn’t always lurking in the first pages, and you need to punch a couple rounds into your trackpad to get to it. I’ve also included an excerpt from a fascinating article which also gives good advice on password protection. Click the link below if you want to read the full thing. Otherwise, good luck out there hopefully this will making you feel a little more safe. 😀

Until Apple fixes its porous iCloud security, here are some things you can do to protect yourself:

1. Make sure that you have a strong iCloud/Apple ID password. (Here’s how to change it).
Use unique passwords to protect different accounts (I recommend 1Password for this). If you’re using the same password for your online banking as your webmail account you’re asking to be hacked. At a minimum, use tiered passwords: a superstrong one for anything financial, another one for your email and a third for everything else.
2. Use a throwaway email address (that’s not linked to anything) for forms and retail-related spam. The less personal information that’s in it, the better.
3. Enable two-step verification on your Google account and protect it. Don’t use your primary email address for every retailer and web form that asks for it. (See #3 above.)
4. Buy a domain name, host it with an ISP you trust and set up email accounts on that domain for your high security/financial accounts. Use email accounts you control (not webmail) for high security applications and for password recovery.
5. Use different credit cards for Amazon and your Apple ID.
6. Back up your most important data to physical media that you control. Ideally two copies on-site and one off-site (at work, your parent’s or a friend’s house).

Click here to read the rest of the article.


Technology, Thoughts

Pulling the plug on ignorance

How do you explain the internet to someone? Or even something as simple as email? It’s been so engrained in our culture and our lives, to actually step back and look at the milestones is a sobering effect.

A few weeks back I was dealing with a lady of 77 years of age, let’s call her Margret. Her family was intent on getting her an iPad. The reason being she lives in a small old age home and needs to contact her family via Skype. Obviously a few people in the family are tech-savvy, and managed to gather together enough money to buy her one. I thought it was a great token of kindness, because now not only can she Skype (i.e. call her family abroad) but also she has access to tons of applications and data at her fingertips (on the internet).

So I activated her iPad and showed her how it all worked, and while I was setting up her Apple ID, the first thing that I asked her was, “What is your email address?” She gave me a blank look. I explained that her for an account of any kind we’d need an email address to get her account going. I told her that she would be able to write letters to her family instantly, that’s the best explanation I could give without overwhelming her further.

I felt sorry for her, and the way technology frightened her. It’s really a marvelous thing once you get your head around the basics of the iPad. Due to various circumstances, she was probably given the opportunity to learn (how to operate a computer) but felt too scared and inferior, and shied away from the opportunity. Now her family had dosed her with a bucket of water by thrusting an iPad in her hands.

This leads me to two topics :

  • Why are we so afraid to learn?
  • Technology is the key liberator of our time.
The Fear of Learning

When we start to learn it pushes out right out of our comfort zone into the realm of ignorance. Most of the time if you want to learn…you have to be receptive and be prepared to listen. Many people hate that feeling of vulnerability, and feel insecure (sometimes evening getting angry).

One of the better qualities in a teacher is patience. This is something that has poisoned many of us against certain subjects, since we had one cantankerous and moody teacher and scowled and berated us when asking a dumb question.

Learning is also a process of stumbling.

A wise old woman, who is a homeopath put it to me in this gentle way, “I’d rather die a failure than never having tried.” Progressing in life is simply trying new things. To get better at something (i.e. more skillful), you simply have to try. you may not succeed straight away, but that’s ok. Do a little bit at a time. Once in a while we will stumble and fall. Make mistakes, maybe even injure ourselves…but then like my good friend said at least we won’t be dying a failure.

Once you’ve tried enough times, you explore on impulse.

Learning (as a teacher and pupil is a exciting and intoxicating feeling), once you’ve got the hang of the initial trying, you will goad yourself into finding new avenues. My father (who is a seasoned, and powerful educator) put it to me this way. “Learning is just about being curious.” You don’t have to be reading an entire library of books, or have ten degrees behind your name. Just get excited and your curiosity will teach you to explore and gain a deeper understanding.

Wrestling with the wires

The more I work in IT (either by myself, or by helping others), I’ve come to realize that it’s more than a skill. It’s a language and a tool, if you don’t embrace it immediately, soon it will fall away “like sand through your fingers”. If that didn’t make sense, allow me to use another example.

If you’re having a casual days with a few friends, then suddenly someone asks you “Hey let’s go to that pub I told you about?” The only catch being there are five people (including yourself), yet only two motorbikes to get you there. Now you’re stuck. Well, unless you’ve an wild caveman living in isolation…technology will always be this functional tool we require to alleviate the logistics we encounter.

Getting in a car the first few times, is darn nerve wracking. Once you’ve got the knack of it, you wonder how you managed without it. This is the dilemma I faced a while back with Margret. I had to rewind my thinking only a decade or two, so she could understand the advantages of embrace this digital beast we all face.

I’m glad that she tried, otherwise she would just be a failure, a figure, a statistic even. Perhaps embracing the depths of the unknown, and wrestling with it…will be the greatest challenge us homo sapiens face?

Reviews, Technology

Apple Loses Control of It’s Core

Recently I bumped into a client who said to me “Don’t you hate what the AppStore (i.e. the iTunes Store) is doing to customers?” What he meant was that recently both the release of Final Cut Pro X and the new Lion OSX (10.7), were only possible if you surrendered to the App Store and first bought it there.

I understand what the AppStore has done for developers, in the sense it’s opened a pandora’s box of opportunity to provide customer with Exactly the software they require. You need to look no further than the fluidity the iPad has to offer. I saw online the other day someone has developed an app and a ‘periscope’ sort of stand, which turns the iPad into a TelePrompTer for news-readers.

Apple (for me, and most likely others share this same view) is about user-centric software and access. The whole idea behind the ‘i’ naming convention (e.g. iPad, iPod, iPhone, iMac, etc) is a symbol and promise of user empowerment. The one single letter that is used to start sentences, write love songs, and dismiss theories; the same character stands at the front of these big names in technology.

You just need to look at the ease of the user interface, the integrated search at your fingertips (Spotlight), and so forth to see the previously Apple is about the user more than I is about the software. Then the AppStore comes along, and starts dictating that they be the only portal for purchasing software.

The AppStore is very efficient and reliable, I have no complaints with the workings of it, although if they start dictating that every user needs to download a 3-4GB file for the new OS, I start to get a little nervous. Firstly people in countries with low bandwidth will suffer, and secondly the AppStore has become a sort of policeman for those entrepreneurs.

Well, that’s my impression thus far. Will Apple continue to strict us, as is gains more and more loyal supporters?