What I’m Using – January 2019 Edition

I like to change up my setup and process on a regular basis. Android, iPhone, Windows, Mac, Apps & Services, etc. Here is what I am using, January 2019 Edition

Devices

Phone – iPhone Xs Max 256 Gb AT&T running iOS 12.1.2. Backup: OnePlus 2 running the latest Android OS it allows.

Work Machine – MacBook Pro 15 in 2015 Edition (no dongles required!) running macOS Mojave (Beta). Bonus: Windows 10 Enterprise Oct 2018 edition VM in Parallels.

Home Machine – Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10 Insider Edition. Have an OLD 2011 iMac that is on it’s deathbed.

Bonus: iPad Air 2 used for reading books to myself and the kids, and just playing with iPad stuff

Gaming

Nintendo Switch – playing Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Mario Tennis Aces, Mario Kart, Mario Party, as well as NES games on Nintendo Online. Looking forward to new Mario game and Metroid! I am Supernova on Nintendo Online

Playstation 4 – playing God of War, Last of Us. Just finished Red Dead Redemption 2 recently. Have Spider-man on queue for the winter! I am ScaleOvenStove on PS Network.

Xbox One – haven’t been playing much here. Unravel. Was doing the Telltale Walking Dead series, waiting for the last chapter to come out after the layoff drama. I might get Red Dead Redemption on Xbox as there is backward compatibility. I am ScaleOvenStove on Xbox live.

Other – SNES classic – been playing some SNES Zelda as well. on iOS played a little Fire Emblem Heroes but haven’t gotten much into it.

Entertainment

Apple TV 4 – this is my go to entertainment device. We have cable since we moved into our new house but I don’t watch cable, I just hook up all the apps on the Apple TV to stream. Mostly sports there.

YouTube is my main viewing channel though, I do have YouTube Premium as I hate ads!

MoviesAnywhere is also a great service as I have videos on Google Play, Amazon and iTunes, but can watch them anywhere.

Apps & Services

Home: iMessage, Gmail, Google Photos, Google Maps, Dark Sky, Nest, YouTube, Apollo (Reddit), Twitter, Apple Music. Lots more niche or specific apps, these are just the highlights.

Work: Slack, Microsoft Teams, Yammer and Outlook, OneDrive and a few others.

Notables: Deactivated Facebook and Instagram. Deleted the apps, and Snapchat app. WeChat as well. Facebook has too many privacy issues. My phone battery life and my attention span thanks me. Maybe someday I will go back.

Wishlist: Apple Music on Google Home devices. I used Google Home devices around the house, and Google Play music is OK, but their implementation on iOS is bad.

Summary

There are a bunch of different devices and services out there, I like to move things around. Going full on Android might be something soon, with a Pixel 3 or something, but iMessage is such a pull back into iOS. A little cross device and platform compatibility would really make things easier for people that aren’t tied to any platform. We can only hope one day things are better for consumers!

The State of Parental Controls going into 2019

Kids are now growing up in a digital age. Screens are part of their lives from day one. As they grow, they want to use devices and play games and do whatever everyone else is doing. I am not going to debate if this is a good or bad thing – but it is a reality. 

Major tech companies have taken notice and they have been (and still are in progress) releasing ways for parents to keep tabs on their kids’ device and screen time usage. 

Of course, the big three – Apple, Google, Microsoft – have their solutions. Also other players like Facebook, Nintendo, Sony have solutions for their products as well.

Apple

Let’s start with Apple. There are few different things Apple has had and now just recently came out with to help parents. Up until iOS 12 they had “Family” groups you could create – not so much for managing screen time, but for creating a group where family members can share purchases, location, etc.

As a parent you can set up an Apple/iCloud account for a minor and then incorporate them into your “Family”. A parent also had to set up “restrictions” in iOS settings for each device for a kid. Kids can ask permission to install apps, and parents devices get an alert to allow or deny. 

What NOT to do: I have seen too many parents just sign in as themselves and give their kids a device. Please DON’T do this! Kids can really mess up your accounts. Another thing would be just giving kid unmanaged device with no account. You lose a lot of shared benefits of having an account for your kid under your family.

With the latest release Apple came out with “Screen Time” – for users to manage their own digital wellbeing on their own devices, but this also lets parents manage screen time on kids devices under the family group. 

Screen Time - Kid Device Management

You then get a weekly report of Screen Time for your kid and can change settings etc through Screen Time on what apps are allowed, etc. 

So, what’s missing? Well – for one – some devices have TouchId or FaceId – how does a parent set that up and still get into a device physically? Up to you. For now on my family devices, no passcodes or 2 factor auth – it is just too much overhead and messy to manage with kids. 

Google

Google has something similar for managing kids devices – it is called “Family Link” – but you need to install and configure it. Similarly to Apple screen time you can manage what apps and time spent and other settings on devices. It works on Android devices so if you are running a Google Android device but your kid has an old iPad or iPhone you are out of luck. 

Google Family Link App

Recently they announced you can run Family Link on Chromebooks (ChromeOS) as well – but I have yet to get this working. It is supposed to work similarly to Android where you can manage the apps and see usage, set screen time etc.

I have found that Google support around Family Link is more responsive than other Google support I have tried to reach out to, but I still cannot get it working on my daughters Chromebook.

One thing to note as well, and maybe I can follow up on this one after I get it working – but you need to create a google account for your kid (just like Apple). If you manage it, it should be okay. But – your kid might already have a Google Account through their school district. It starts getting tricky here. You as a parent cannot “manage” that account. I think there is a way to link them. So the kid would login to your Chromebook with their kid google account, and then still be able to get to google classroom or login to chrome (google docs, etc) with the school account. Time will tell. It is messy right now.

YouTube (owned by Google) is another story. YouTube is really a cesspool of crap if you get down the rabbit hole. There have been many articles and cries for help to Google/YouTube to let parents better regulate what their kids see. YouTube STILL doesn’t let you block entire channels. This is a big miss.

Also, if you have shared devices (like an Apple TV, etc) with YouTube and you login as the adult – the kids sees your recommendations. What kids watch screw up your recommendations. Switching between accounts is not easy (Netflix does this pretty well).

YouTube Kids is an app that is made for “kids” – and is supposed to filter out junk – but it isn’t foolproof. Parents are usually going to take the easy route, and YouTube website/main app etc are going to be the go to. In my opinion – the filtering on YouTube and parental control is one of the big problems Google needs to tackle, and soon.

Google also has a bunch of features, not so much parental controls, that they are coming out for around Google Home around reading books with your kids, stories, etc. Try them out sometime if you can, they are pretty cool. With four kids in the house, reading to one of them, while one reads themselves, while the other says “Hey google, tell me a story” is a lifesaver, especially when one parent is away for an evening.

Microsoft

Microsoft has very similar setups to Apple and Google – but of course a little different. With Microsoft, you can setup an account for your child and tie it to your “family” – but you can use an existing email (so if you have a gmail or icloud from Apple or Google you can use that).

Microsoft Family Home Page

The only real devices you can manage from Microsoft are Windows devices and Xbox.

You can allow a child to login to a Windows device and restrict time and apps. One big miss here though is that you can only manage web browsing with Edge, and not other browsers. My kid uses Chrome – because they are used to it with Google Chromebooks at school, but I cannot manage their browser usage, etc. Big bummer

Managing Screen Time for Microsoft Devices

With Xbox you can manage screen time and game limits and ratings, etc. Works pretty well

Nintendo

Nintendo has an app you can download and tie it to your Nintendo switch. You can use it as parental control and set time limits and game limits etc. I don’t use it for that as I manage that pretty close directly with my kids but a nice feature of the app is it tracks play time, and that is good even to see for myself!

Nintendo Parental Control App
Nintendo Switch – Play Time

Facebook

Facebook. Not sure on this one as I deactivated my account recently and I am about to jump ship due to their creepiness, scandals, privacy issues, etc.

I did try out Facebook Messenger for Kids this summer. It lets your kid sign up just for Messenger for Kids, not Facebook. They can add their friends, but both kids parents have to allow it. Also, parents can limit usage time and also install the app on their device and see all messages, etc.

This app works well if your kid wants to message their friend from their old iPhone using iMessage – but their friend has their parents old Android device and it won’t work.

Netflix & Hulu

I mentioned it earlier, but Netflix does have a way to create a “profile” that is deemed “kids” and is pre-filtered to kids specific shows. You can set it for “little kids” or “older kids and younger”. This works fairly well in practice.

It is easy enough for kids to just change profiles though. Maybe having non kid profiles pin controlled would be a good addition? Also, we have one for “Family” that has things we might all watch together vs just Paw Patrol episodes 🙂

Profile for Kids in Netflix
Edit Profile – Kids – Netflix

Hulu has a very similar setup. Profile for kids, can see kids shows.

Choose Profile Screen on Hulu – Web
Set Programming to “Kid Friendly” – Hulu

Sony

Sony has a way to set up parental controls on Playstation. You can set up a profile for your kid – but you need an email address. You can restrict games and screen time, etc.

I have a Playstation but haven’t set these up myself as my kids don’t play on it. Yet.

Amazon

Amazon has a way to set parental controls, I really can’t speak to them as I have no real Amazon devices where you set this up – but here is a link to assist if you’ve read this far.

Summary

Okay, so there is a lot going on here. Your mileage may vary. Your family is going to be different than mine. More or less kids, different ages. Also, your tech profile won’t be the same. Different devices, platforms and operating systems.

As you can see, for the big companies, you need to set up an email address for your children and manage their profiles, and connect them to your family. Then they offer you ways to restrict time on devices and also different types of content, etc.

There are also ways some of the smaller or ancillary players let you manage children use time and parental controls. I hope you found this useful, hit me up in the comments with any questions!

Windows Phone 7 App Gap




I am pretty into tech and gadgets, all kinds, mobile too. I have an iPhone (I’ve had all since 2G), Android (had a few, Dell Streak, Atrix 4g, now a Samsung Galaxy 4G), and Windows Phone (Samsung Focus WP7). People ask me about the differences between apps and devices and OS’s. Big thing with WP7 (which the OS is great), is the “App Gap”. I went through my iPhone and looked at the important apps, minus games, I use, and if there are equivalents on WP7. I downloaded them, etc, but made a list of ones that aren’t there yet. (interesting enough, I took notes for this post on OneNote from my WP7 device)




Apps Missing

  • Cisco VPN (yes, it’s a service, but it’s not really there on WP7)
  • Disqus – has api http://disqus.com/api/docs/
  • Flipboard
  • Google Plus
  • Hipporemote
  • Intonow
  • LogMeIn
  • Mint
  • Oink
  • Pandora
  • Path
  • PayPal
  • Posterous – has api http://posterous.com/api
  • PS express
  • Skype
  • Sportacular

Apps There But Not Official or Website only

  • Instagram (instacam)
  • Untappd (website)
  • Pinterest (Pinspiration)
  • YouTube (it is native but MSFT made and mobile website wrapper)
  • Tumblr (not free 3rd party)
  • LinkedIn (3rd party app)
  • Google Voice (GoVoice, GV for Windows Phone, etc)
  • Digg (Digg7, Digg Reader, etc)
  • Dropbox (some readers, etc)
  • Google Authenticator (some 3rd party apps)
  • Google Latitude (some crappy 3rd party apps)
  • Google Reader/reeder (some crappy 3rd party apps)
  • RDP Client – some 3rd party clients
  • VNC Client – 3rd party clients
  • TFS Clients – couple 3rd party clients
  • Google Translate – some 3rd party apps, Microsoft Translator, etc

As you can see, pretty big list. Many of the 3rd party apps just don’t cut it. Even some of the apps that are there, they just don’t compare to iOS or Android. Microsoft needs to overcome this App Gap to gain and/or stay relevant, in my eyes.

Waze – Social GPS Navigation

This last week I have been using Waze on my iPhone. What is Waze? Well, it is a free “social” GPS turn by turn app. Since iOS doesn’t have built in turn by turn, it is left up to the market to fill the gap. There are the big players out there TomTom, etc but then Waze comes along. I have heard/read about them for a while now, but never got around to trying it. Pretty cool. Nice interface, and it’s social.

How is it social? Well, people can report slowdowns, accidents, police, etc and it will show up on your map as you drive. You can see other wazer’s on the map as you drive. They also gamify it by giving you points for miles and little rewards when you hit milestones, pretty cool. Works for me. The product becomes better as more people use it, and I assume as your friends or groups you are in use it more.

Check it out at waze.com Looks like they have apps for more than iOS as well.

Google Reader Changes

As anyone who uses Google Reader knows already. They have changed. They changed for the worse. Design is somewhat horrible, removed features, etc. Sharing is not there anymore. You can +1 and then Share to G+. Ability to share to an RSS feed is gone. After using Google Reader for like 4 years and reading 10k items a month, it is jarring to see things just removed. Not sure what they were thinking.

Are there alternatives? Some readers out there, yes, but most already use Google Reader for the backend. What I am looking at doing is utilizing the “Send To” functionality on a post. You can set up some default Send To’s, or a custom one. Most likely a Posterous link blog/RSS feed type thing.

Otherwise? On the Mac, iPhone, iPad – use Reeder. Not sure what “Share” does at this point in that app. On windows, stick to the browser and utilize “Send To”. You will notice it under Reader Settings, in a Send To tab. The ability to add custom send to’s is what is interesting. As long as they leave that feature in the product as well.

What are your thoughts on the changes?

Yammer: Transparency in Enterprise Project Communication

Recently I attended the Gartner Infrastructure and Operations conference in Orlando, and one of the main points they kept bringing up was “social” in the enterprise, how your IT Ops groups can use it to communicate, Yammer was at the forefront here (and SharePoint).

I have been a proponent of Yammer for some time. At work, I actually created our Yammer instance back in September 2008. Although it hasn’t taken off as I’d hoped, it has made some people think. Coming from a tech company in MN to a bike manufacturer, you can’t expect leading edge technical things to take off too fast, have to set expectations, was just kind of waiting for the right time to see how we could really use it.

Recently, on a software project we have, I was thinking on how to “up” the level of communication between team members, but also keep things transparent so everyone who wanted to could “drink from the firehose” so to speak. Tons of communication happens on IM and Email, phone, face to face. All those have their place and are needed, but they are all mediums in which people are left out.

Face to Face, usually is more personal and unless it is a huge conference or meeting, not everyone can hear or be there, and things get lost or no notes are taken. Same with phone. Email, things get saved, but people are left off and not everyone is included. Many small questions or items to communicate aren’t even sent to avoid email overload. IM is good for one on one quick questions and information sharing, but once again, it gets lost and isn’t saved for anyone else to see.

In comes Yammer. Create a group, and then say “everything to do with the project, communicate it here”, and see what happens. Well, tons of info comes pouring out. Things that were maybe a conversation or IM/Email between two people are now open for the group to see and other people can add their voice to the conversation, or just be aware of the issue. Things you might previously emailed or IM’d, throw them on Yammer. Is there really any reason any project based communication that isn’t of a personal nature can’t be there for the group?

Start using #hashtags, and you start building a knowledge repository. Upload images, files for more info.

Now, you might say, “Well I am going to get Yammer overload!” yes, that may happen. Turn it into a daily digest instead of emails on every post. Hit the site now and then throughout the day. If you really want to get someone’s attention, @ them and make sure you/they have the setting to get alerting on a @ to them, either through IM/SMS or email.

Things to watch out for? Gotta make sure you dump messages to your group, not the main feed, or you end up clogging up people’s feeds. Also, install the desktop app for a better experience.

Can using Yammer lead to more transparency on your project? I believe it can. Try it out, and see what it does for you.

I find this.. exhilarating.

Google TV

Basic review here. Setup was easy. Software ok. Browsing web is cool. If you don’t have cable you are somewhat out of luck. You need an hdmi source to do the more cool things like search and watch “TV” at the same time.

Interested in where it will go with honeycomb. As of now it’s a glorified Netflix, Amazon video, YouTube player. Comparable to Roku. I’d say apple tv beats it by a mile, especially if you’ve bought into the apple ecosystem with iOS and iTunes, etc

Blogged from my iPhone