How to Turn Off (the evil) In-App Purchases

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 6.49.05 PMAlmost two years ago, I blogged about turning off in-app purchases, after a child in the UK racked up a whopping bill of $2500.

Since many folks have recently subscribed to this blog after (probably) getting a new device for the holidays, I think it’s time to talk about this again.

First, my rant. Bluntly, I think in-app purchases are (usually) evil. It’s a model designed to get you to pay more and more just to finish whatever it is you are doing. In-app purchases often appear in games, encouraging you to acquire extra powers or lives or turns or whatevers. In the heat of the moment, many normally-sane people find themselves wracking up charges for…… well, lots of nothing.

It just seems to me that the vast majority of in-app purchases are simply designed to, uh, ‘get’ you.

If you have children using your devices, you should absolutely positively turn OFF the ability to buy these extras.

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 7.00.17 PMBut I’d like to take this a step further and suggest that all of us boomers do the same. Those in-app purchases are pretty darn sneaky (and getting sneakier all the time). They can pop up and be confusing, and you might find yourself buying something you never intended to buy at all.

I recently downloaded a well-reviewed match 3 game, a Disney product, and was flabbergasted at all the “do you want to buy an extra turn/power/etc” that the game kept throwing at me. I’d MUCH rather pay for a game, and use it cleanly without any hidden costly surprises.

Here is how to turn off your in-app purchases on your iPhone or iPad:

Go to your Settings > General > Restrictions.

To enable restrictions, you’ll have to enter a passcode. Be sure to remember this, because you will need it if you want to change it later.

Once you have enabled restrictions, just slide on down and find “In-app purchases.” Slide the switch to off (not green) and you’ll be all set.


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Can you Laugh and be Angry at the same time?

Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 9.32.38 AMI posed a question at the beginning of this post:

Can you LAUGH and yet be ANGRY at the SAME time???

The answer for me, I’ve learned, is absolutely YES.

The evidence came as I watched the video at the end of this post.

The LAUGH: It’s cleverly done. Acted well. Although the language is German, it is not necessary to know what they are saying.

The actions speak for themselves, and it’s … well…. funny!
(Thanks to Margo for sending it to me. 🙂 )


The ANGER: Gosh darn it. I really get angry, seriously bothered, when older people are portrayed (often in commercials) as complete and utter idiots when it comes to technology.

And that is simply not true. What is true is that we didn’t grow up with any of this. There were no smart phones (your phone was attached to the wall, and tethered with a cord), there was no streaming, there were no tablets. And, hard as it is to believe…. no internet.

In my house we jumped into tech with the invention of the calculator, Pong, and then the Atari 2600. Next we enjoyed the AMAZING Commodore 64. I remember my son explaining to me how he could call another computer and if it was “on” he could leave a message on a “bulletin board” and someone else, from another computer could actually read this message. Unknown to me at the time (I actually thought it was pretty useless) that was the very beginning of the internet.

When he went off to college he explained to me that he would be emailing his papers to professors. I was skeptical…. but the world was changing … and fast.

And so those of us of a certain age, who were there from the beginning, had a choice. Jump in, or go on with life as usual. Technology, at first, was a choice. And if you aged without jumping in, it is most likely overwhelming, now.

But many many many people DID jump in. I loved it all. And still do. I know of many others both personally and online who are also “up there” in years and completely comfortable with smart phones, tablets and all the other technological goodies that are available to us today.

And I firmly believe, no matter what the age, with proper instruction, anyone can master an iPhone or iPad or a Kindle. My mother, age 84, uses them all quite well.

And, not only do I believe that older people CAN use these things, I believe that they SHOULD. The technology of today can enhance a life that is slowing down. A Kindle, for example, allows aging eyes to read comfortably with larger fonts.

The original purpose of this blog truly highlights this point … breaking down the sometimes-confusing-tech-speak into very do-able bits.

I fully believe that when the young people of today are old, they will find that they will be completely comfortable with the technology that they keep up with. But when new things come along at lightning speed (and they will), they just might find themselves left behind a bit, too. (And made fun of by the youth who are being born, now.)

So, after that rant of anger ….. here comes the laugh.

Proving to me that you CAN be angry and laugh at the same time. 🙂

Dad’s New iPad

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What’s All This Fuss about Candy Crush? (I don’t get it)

Screen shot 2013-07-08 at 12.44.48 PMI am a fan of match-three games, so when I heard about the popular Candy Crush, and learned that it was free, I downloaded it (of course).

But now I’m flummoxed. I just don’t get it.

Candy Crush is a runaway smash. It seems like the whole world of computer/mobile gaming is widely enthusiastic about this “goodie”.

The numbers speak for themselves: Apparently (according to Business Insider), Candy Crush is no. 3 in the Apple App store and is the top game on Facebook. It has 44 million monthly active users. It’s played more than 600 million times a day and is bringing in an estimated $633,000 every day. Whoa! That’s some crazy numbers. 😯

The game is a simple match-3 set up, with a few twists and various goals. But it’s also a sneaky money-grabber, offering extra levels or tools at pivotal points in your game…. for $$$ of course.

The best explanation I’ve see of the addictive nature of this game can be found here.

I really don’t mind paying for a good game. I’ve bought a few match-three type games over the years that I really enjoyed. But I paid that money up front, and that $ bought me the game…. the whole game… to enjoy completely. I find this pay-as-you-play model rather disturbing. I do not like it. I think it’s a dangerous model for the consumer of such apps in that they can spend far more $ than they had ever intended to in the first place.

So I played some free Candy Crush. I’m only on level 22, but this is enough for me.

I just don’t get why it’s so appealing to so many, and why on earth they are willing to spend extra dollars every day just to gain the power, points or turns to move on to the next level. I’ve enjoyed other match-three games much more, so I’ll say it again: I just don’t get it.

$663,000 a day????  None from me.

I’m deleting it.

Candy Crushers out there? What’s the deal?

Dumping the Dreaded “Turn off Your Electronic Devices”

photo credit: Rollofunk via photopin cc

photo credit: Rollofunk via photopin cc

I am not a happy flier. I do it because I have to do it to get places. If there was an option, I’d choose it. Any “it”. But usually there is no option, so I have to fly.

It’s not just the flying that puts me off. Just getting to the gate of your plane can be quite the ordeal with new rules about luggage fees, kiosk check-ins, and crazy long security lines.

And then you crush into those airplane seats which were obviously made for a race of beings that are much smaller than the average human. No place for your knees, your elbows squished to your sides and (usually) the seat in front of you reclined so that it practically touches your nose.

Once I’m strapped in place, I want to ‘escape’! I pull out my kindle and jump into a book and do my best to forget about my budding claustrophobia, discomfort and just a touch of terror fear-of-flying.

But, just as I start to lose myself in my book, the doors close, the plane pulls away from the gate, and the announcement comes on “Please power down your electronic devices for take-off.”


Take offs and landings are both times that I especially want to forget where I am and be lost in my book. Hurtling down the runway is not my idea of a good time.

Happily, this rule may soon be changed. Hurray!!

The New York Times is reporting that by the end of the year these restrictions may be relaxed.

Apparently, the Federal Aviation Administration set up a committee last year to look at this issue since they have been under increasing pressure to either change this rule or PROVE that it matters. Lots of folks have argued for years that these devices don’t really interfere with the functioning of the plane. And now the FAA has been pushed to the point of “put up or shut up”.

Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, has now introduced legislation to make this happen. “So it’s O.K. to have iPads in the cockpit; it’s O.K. for flight attendants — and they are not in a panic — yet it’s not O.K. for the traveling public,” she said. “A flying copy of ‘War and Peace’ is more dangerous than a Kindle.” After meeting with the chairman of the F.C.C. she said “The idea that in-flight use of electronic devices for things like reading a book poses a threat to the safety of airline passengers is baseless and outdated.”

Even the pilots are using iPads, for goodness sake!

I’ll be flying again in June. The reports say the changes will be announced “by July 31”, so I’ll probably still have to turn off my Kindle for this flight.

But hopefully this will be the last time.

Get Back Your Maps Street View in iOS6: Live Street View

I sure do wish that Apple and Google could get along. They should have learned how to share the sandbox back in Kindergarten.

Google Maps was one of the things that made the iPhone so awesome. I’m grumpy, now. 😦 I didn’t know how much I’d miss Google’s Maps.

Especially Street View. I love street view. I have written about it before. It is so very helpful when traveling. Boo. 3D is pretty. But I don’t want to “fly over”. I want to walk on the street.

Apple is telling us that they are going to be improving their maps. Well, duh. If it wasn’t ready, they shouldn’t have released it. Errors are being reported across the internet.

We have come to expect Apple to make “good stuff”. We depend on them to make “good stuff”. This isn’t the “good stuff”. It’s a step backwards, and that is not very Apple.

Improving “awesome” is awesome. Improving “not ready” is a fail.

Some people don’t care. I heard a TV commentator say that he could care less about Maps, that he knows where he’s going. But those of us who have used Maps know that it is so much more than that. The traffic, the public transport, the reliability. Sigh.

Google apparently is making or has made an app but I’m guessing that Apple will drag its feet before approving it for the App Store.

So what to do?

In the meantime you can go through your browser and bring up Google maps. Click on the action arrow and you will be given an option to add it to your home screen.

This means you now have an icon to take you to Google Maps and it brings back the direction capability for public transport. Ahhhh.

But it does NOT give you Street View.

Fortunately, there is an App that does bring you Street View, and it does a very successful job of it.

It is appropriately named “Live Street View”. There is a free version that comes with ads, but for 99¢ you lose the ads and gain the ability to bookmark.

It is simple and basic. It does the job. Across the top you can tap Map or Satellite or Hybrid.

Simply tap a spot on a street and you get ….. STREET VIEW !! Hurray! And if you turn your device, it turns with you.

Live Street View is a quick and easy solution to give us back our beloved Street View, for now.

Live Street View is 99¢ in the iTunes store.

A Rant and a Rescue via Google iPhone Maps

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photo pin cc

I needed to make a quick trip to Boston for a few days. Not very familiar with the city, I did a little research-homework before I went.

After choosing my hotel, I used Google ‘street view’ and took a virtual walk around the hotel neighborhood to get my bearings.

This turned out to be amazingly important when I was lucky enough to get in the cab of someone who seemed less familiar with the city than I was (and I didn’t know much.)

I gave him the address and he just sat there. I thought he could use a little encouragement, so I started naming metro stations and other landmarks that he might recognize near the hotel.

“Ohhhhhh,” he (eventually) said, (long pause) “O.K. We’ll go and figure it out when we get there.” Hmmmm. This didn’t sound good.

photo credit: uzi978 via photo pin cc

As we left the airport area it became more evident that my personal “uh oh” radar was correct. He truly was completely baffled (was it his first day?) about where I needed to go. Really. He had no idea. No clue. He got me within a mile or so, pulled over and asked me ….. “here?”

ARGH! Fortunately our smart phones can save us from this kind of predicament (but shouldn’t have to).

From the back seat of the cab, I opened my google map app, and tapped on the little arrow so I could see my personal blue dot (the cab). I followed our progress on the map on my phone, as my driver worked his way toward my destination (with my help and direction).

As we got close to my accommodation, I began to “recognize” buildings and landmarks, and was able to point out my drop-off spot to my cab-driver. Thanks to my time spent with Google street view, I felt as though I was in a familiar neighborhood.

(You’d think the cab would be equipped with a good GPS, but I didn’t see one. And if you are going to equip your cabs with clueless drivers, a GPS is imperative.)

A little yelp-looking showed me that I am not unique in my Boston-cab experience (my return to the airport was also fraught with troubles).

And so this brings me to part 2 of my rant: Why must this be our norm?

photo credit: loic80l via photo pin cc

I don’t think this would have happened in London. I just finished watching a lovely little story (courtesy of the London Olympics) about the cabs in London. Those cab drivers have pride in their work. They spend four years studying the streets, learning the roads, the byways and the highways, the landmarks and the hotels, the restaurants and the hospitals, the obscure and the popular. They are polite, informed ambassadors who represent their city and are for many the very first impression of the city.

I have been fortunate in my life to have visited London 4 times. My cab experiences each time reflect the professionalism that was presented in that little news story.

London cab drivers made me feel welcome, cared for, and confident. They answered (invited!) every question.

Boston cab drivers made me feel vulnerable and uneasy. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the city, the cab experience was a detracting factor.

And I really don’t mean to pick on Boston. Cab experiences in NYC and other US cities have never, ever been especially pleasant.

So that’s my Rant. Perhaps others have had better experiences in Boston et al, and I’m sure there have been some rotten experiences in London. But for me the difference was dramatic.

I cheer and applaude my Rescue. Thanks to Google Map street view, and the handy dandy blue dot of our iPhone maps, I arrived at my destination in spite of my cab driver.

Truly, in today’s world, “Lost” should only be a TV show, and never ever be a predicament, again.

Poet’s Day? and How Smartphones Kill Bar-Talk

photo credit: docentjoyce via photo pin cc

Last evening we were watching a British program. As close as we are (US and UK) in every way, there are still a great many differences in language, and I love that. There are all the usual suspects, i.e. lifts (elevators), chips (french fries), crisps (potato chips), holiday (vacation), but I especially enjoy it when something new (to me) creeps in.

This brings us to POETS DAY.

That’s “Poets Day” with no apostrophe.

The context: The character in the program we were watching was gathering up his things from work and getting ready to leave for the day. He was over-the-top gleeful and reminding everyone else to get going, too, because it was “Poets Day.”

So I thought the obvious and imagined those words with an apostrophe, as in “Poet’s Day”.

But this made no sense to me… I mean, poets are lovely and all that, but why were these people so gleeful about a day in honor of poets?

There was nothing else I could glean from the context of the program, so that was that. No clues.

Now, in the not-very-long-ago past, we would have puzzled over this for days. It’s the kind of thing that shows up in bar-talk, or assorted other casual conversation. It would get tossed out, chewed around, spit out, poked, prodded and pulled through conversation. What is? What do you think? COULD IT BE?

This conversation would take all night.

But the internet has changed all that. We don’t have to puzzle. We don’t have to wonder. We just google.

At that bar (or pub), someone from the group will pull out a phone, and within seconds the matter is closed.

No speculative conversation needed. Squished. Squelched. Chatter has subtly changed, since everyone has the “right answers” in their pockets.

No doubt about it. Smart phones are changing the way we interact with each other.

Let’s return to Poets Day.

I plugged it in to google and learned:

Poets Day = (stands for): Push out early tomorrow’s Saturday.

ahhhh. Now it all makes sense. It’s a TGIF kind of thing.

p.s. there is another version, swapping “push” with another four letter P word.

I choose “push” 🙂