30 September 2013

Tap the Cat - a special app and a special offer

If you have young children – 4-6 years - I have a very special app for you, and a very special offer. 

Tap the Cat is a fun, engaging and highly interactive iPad app that teaches key early literacy skills through touch, listening and speaking.   If you have kids and you have an iPad you know how they are drawn to it, especially for playing games.  Why not take advantage of that attraction and use it to enhance their learning?

Tap the Cat features nine activities, each reinforcing a different literacy skill – from rhyming words, to drawing and colouring, to speaking and handwriting.  With bright animations, catchy music, fun sound effects and exciting rewards, you've got the perfect learning environment!   

Tap the Cat also allows children to record and play back their own voice.  Once your child has completed all nine activities a very special feature is unlocked; their voice recordings, and their coloured-in pictures, can be used to create their own ebook .  

Tap the Cat is another brilliant app from ABC Reading Eggs – a team of educators with more than 20 years’ experience in early childhood education, who believe learning to read should be fun, motivating, and full of success.  

As soon as I bought my iPad at the end of last year two of the first apps I added to it were from ABC Reading Eggs – Spelling Games Grade 4 and Targeting Maths 3, which have since been added to with Spelling Games 6 and Targeting Maths 5.   I have tried quite a few different ‘educational’ apps for my boys and the only ones that have remained on my iPad, and that they are happy to use, are Spelling Games and Targeting Maths. 

You really can’t go wrong with any of the ABC Reading Eggs apps – and there are apps for every age from 3 to 12; take a look at the range at www.readingeggs.com.au/apps   

Tap the Cat is usually $2.99, however, from tomorrow 
– Tuesday 1st October 
Tap the Cat will be FREE for 48 hours!    

So, tomorrow morning pop over to the App Store and download Tap the Cat. 

Due to customer demand this offer has now been extended until Friday 4th October

27 September 2013

iOS7 Tips

I have been posting tips on iOS7 all week on Facebook.  These posts have generated a lot of comment and have been very popular.  I’ve collected them all here together in case you missed any of them, and added a few new ones too…..

Do you have to upgrade to iOS7?

Not yet - you can easily wait a few days or even weeks. There are sure to be a few small updates over the next week or so to iron out some minor annoyances - there's already been one update.  However, it's not something you can avoid altogether - some applications are going to start requiring the new operating system. 

Free ebooks on iOS7

Have you upgraded to iOS7? Are you still working out the changes? Or have you just bought your first iPhone or iPad and you're not sure how it works?  iTunes has FREE iOS7 guides that you can download and read in iBooks: 
iPod Touch: 

App Auto-Update

iOS 7 will now update your apps in the background whenever you are connected to a Wi-Fi (or mobile) network; without letting you know there are any updates.  While this does mean your apps will always be up to date, it also consumes data and power, and should be restricted for when you're free to plug in your iPhone or iPad to charge, or when you can connect to your home Wi-Fi.

You can turn off auto-update: Tap the Settings icon, scroll down to iTunes & App Store and turn off Automatic Downloads for Apps and Updates.

Moving wallpaper

If you slowly jiggle your iPhone or iPad you may notice the "parallax" effect of three-dimensional icons sitting on top of your wallpaper. This effect uses internal hardware to sense the direction, speed, and motion of your movements. You might like this effect (or not), but it does drain the battery, and it is there just for appearance. 

To save a bit more power on your device you can disable the "moving wallpaper" feature: head to Settings > General > Accessibility > Reduce Motion, then flick the switch in the on position.

iOS7 battery saving tip – Background App Refresh

Apps that receive constant updates, usually those that are syncing across a number of devices, are automatically refreshed in the background in iOS7 so they are always up to date – rather than receiving an update when you open that app. However this feature is very heavy on your precious battery power and it has been reported as causing some issues with logging users out of sessions on some apps so they have to log back in. 

I think that’s two good reasons to disable it: Just go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh. You can then see which of your apps are using this feature – in my case it’s Evernote, Google Maps, Pocket and Springpad. You then have the choice of disabling Background App Refresh on an app by app basis, or disabling it all together. 

Don’t worry, your apps will still be updated – it will just happen when you open that app, which is how it was in iOS6.

Turn off AirDrop except when needed

iOS7 Tip of the day:  AirDrop is a brilliant tool that allows you to share files between devices when they are in close proximity. But its use can take a heavy toll on your battery, particularly when AirDrop is always trying to ‘discover’ if there are any friends close by. 

To save your battery, you can just activate AirDrop when you need it.  To turn it off, swipe up from your home screen to bring up the Control Centre, then tap AirDrop. Select Off when you're not using it.  This is also where you choose who can 'discover' you using AirDrop.

Don't use moving 'dynamic' wallpapers

The new dynamic wallpapers do look great, especially when they move when you move your device.  However, they are another drain on your battery power.  Would you rather have bubbles floating around on your screen or have your battery last longer?  Instead go for a ‘still’ wallpaper – and there are some new ones to choose from in iOS7 – or use one of your own pictures.  Go to Settings > Wallpapers & Brightness > Choose Wallpaper > select Stills and select your background (or Camera Roll or My Photo Stream to select your own photo).

Switch off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when you don‘t need them

If you are not near or not using a Wi-Fi hotspot, or sending items to other devices using Bluetooth, these can be turned off.  Swipe up from your home screen and you’ll see the Control Centre, tap the Wi-Fi button and the Bluetooth button to off. 

Close any apps you’re not using

Double-press the Home button and all your open apps will appear as a scrolling banner across your screen.  To close one, just swipe it up.  Press the Home button again to return to normal.

24 September 2013

Techie organising with everyday items

It amazes me how inventive some people can be when they need to fix something or solve a problem.  Take a look at these brilliant ideas using everyday objects to solve techie problems.

Use a pen spring to protect charger cables

Over time, charger cables start to fray or detach with continuous usage, especially at the connector’s end. One way to keep that from happening is to use the spring from a pen. Coil it around your cable and slide it up to the point of your connector. That part will stay firm and your cables will last longer.  (I wish I’d know that one before my mouse cable snapped off from its connector!)

Use bread tags as cord holders

The next time you buy bread, don’t throw away the tab. Use it to label your cables.

Empty toilet paper rolls as cord holders

Packing a coiled up cord into a roll can not only keep it from unravelling, but also help you label it by writing what it’s for on the roll with a marker pen.  

They don’t  have to look like toilet rolls – cover them with leftover gift wrap or fabric.

More cable organisation – this time with Washi tape

Pump up the volume by placing your iPhone / iPod in a bowl 

the concave shape amplifies the music

Keep cords from getting tangled in your bag by keeping them in an eyeglasses case

You’ll find all these ideas and more on my Techie Organising board on Pinterest.

23 September 2013

Techie Mum is also on Facebook

As well as posting here on my blog, I also post a few times every day on Facebook.  

So if you don't want to miss any techie news pop over to Facebook and 'Like' Techie Mum - https://www.facebook.com/TechieMum

Send your email back in time

Why send the same old boring email when you can make it something really different?

If you only have a short message to send, or it’s a special occasion, go retro and let the Mailroom app turn your normal email into something that will really stand out. 

The Mailroom App has 21 retro-inspired templates – you just select the one you want, type your message, then send via your normal email account.  It links to your Contacts so there’s no need to look up email addresses.

Your message is sent as an attachment, and if you choose one of the more detailed templates you will have the option of reducing the size of your image so that your message isn't too large – don’t go for small (it’s too small to read clearly).  A hint:  If the size selection screen doesn't appear when you send your Mailroom message then you know it’s going to be full size.  If you don’t want your message to be too large and especially if you know your recipient is going to view the message on their computer, choose a less detailed image so that it will appear full size when it’s opened. 

Available from the App Store for $1.99 – under iPhone apps (although I use it on my iPad)

The Mailroom App is from Cartolina, who also make the beautiful Cartolina App – read my review of Cartolina App here.

19 September 2013

Video messaging with Skype

Did you know you can use Skype to create a video message to send to your Skype contacts?  It's much more fun and more personal than sending a voicemail message or an SMS.   Gather the family around your webcam and you can all get in on the recording.   

A video message is perfect for sending a birthday or Christmas message to a friend on the other side of the world – they don’t even have to be online or available when you send your message.  The message will be waiting for them the next time they open Skype.  

Just click on the plus arrow in a contact’s chat window, and select ‘Send video message…’ then follow the onscreen instructions.  Don’t worry if you stuff it up, you can record your message as many times as you need until you get it right.

If you don’t see this option on your Skype screen it just means you don't have the latest version of Skype.  Just go to www.skype.com and download the latest version.

Free unlimited video messaging is also available on the Skype app for iPhone and iPad, Android, Blackberry, and just last week for Windows Phones.

Here's how to send a video message on your phone

17 September 2013

WhyTime - an app for YOU

A few months ago I took a break from my blog.  My business, my family, my health – everything was going wrong, although, in the case of my business – it was the opposite – it was going too well!  I was exhausted, juggling too many balls at once and dropping every one of them.  That meant I wasn't spending quality time with my family, and my health was suffering from getting no more than three hours sleep a night.   I’ll bet quite a few of you know exactly what I'm talking about.  As mums, we usually look after everyone else first, and put ourselves last.   Often we forget that to look after everyone else, we need to first look after ourselves.   I decided that things had to change – I really could not continue as I was.

On the very day I decided that things had to change, Amanda from Adventures & Misadventures of a Mummypreneur emailed me about a brilliant new app.  Talk about a sign from above!  If you’re like me and want to start looking after yourself – you are going to love this…

WhyTime is a new mobile app aimed at helping us busy mums take time out from our overscheduled, overcommitted lives and prioritise our own health and wellbeing.

WhyTime aims to get you thinking about what really matters to you, and inspire you to take the time and make the changes you need – whether that is more sleep, regular me time, exercise, healthy eating or quality time with your family.

WhyTime lets you set custom reminders to prompt you during your day.  For example, I've got one that goes off at 10pm to remind me that I need to be in bed in one hour.  I also find that if I don’t stop for breaks I can easily keep working at my desk without getting up all day.  So, now I've set reminders to stop and have a glass of water, and another to remind me to stop working and stretch. 

However, the great thing about WhyTime is that it doesn't just remind you about what you want to do – it reminds you of WHY it is important to you, and what you will get out of accomplishing that task.  

WhyTime will guide you through each step of setting your reminders and creating the message you will receive with your reminder to affirm exactly what it will mean to you to do this task, or what it means if you don’t. 

You also have the option of creating your own messages if you’d rather use your own wording.  For my 10pm reminder, that I need to be in bed at 11pm, I set the message that “it will change my entire day tomorrow”.  I have always known that I should be getting more sleep, but for me, the reminder about what I’ll get out of going to bed has made all the difference in motivating me to actually do it.

The interface really is beautiful, with inspirational quotes and lovely images.  If you are lacking the motivation to make the changes you need in your life – download WhyTime.  It’s available from the App Store for $4.49, and it is worth every cent.

The lovely WhyTime music is playing on my iPad - I'm off to do some stretching!

12 September 2013

SmartOne charger winner

I received some amazing entries in my competition to win a SmartOne charger.  After reading your stories I am so glad I have a SmartOne – what disasters have befallen some of you through lack of battery power.

It took a while to sort through them all – but I do have a winner …… drum roll please…….

Congratulations to Tracy Heffernan 

Here is Tracy's winning entry:

I sold my friend's rather expensive amp on eBay on her behalf. The buyer and I arranged to meet in town the next day to hand it over. His last email said he would transfer the money via PayPal in the morning before he left home. Well, I had further to travel so I rushed out the door early without checking if the payment had come through - not to worry I thought, I will just check my account on my phone when I get to the meeting place. Halfway there my phone started that tell-tale slow 'meep meep' to let me know it was running out of charge. It's ok I thought, I'll make it. By the time I pulled off the highway it was flat. He was such a nice chap 'oh yes, I paid' he said. I handed it over with my heart thumping - I had either just done my friend a huge favour or lost her $600. I was meeting people for lunch; 'may I borrow your phone?' 'sure!' .... and my forgotten passwords are saved on MY phone.... that was a long drive home before I could check on my computer. Yes, he had paid, told you he was nice! But I will never forget that sinking feeling and I vowed to never let my phone go flat again!

Tracy has an online store and Facebook Page - Mother Baby Store.

Tracy, could you please email me at admin@techiemum.com with your address and I’ll pop your SmartOne in the mail to you. 

02 September 2013

SmartOne charger

On the weekend I travelled to Melbourne for my nephew's 21st Birthday party.  I thought I'd take advantage of the travelling time to get some work done.  The trouble was, I was only taking carry-on luggage - so no laptop bag.  This was the perfect opportunity to see if my iPad could place my laptop (I'll save that for another blog post).

The big problem is that my sister is currently renovating her home and surviving with one power board providing electricity to almost the entire house.  For me, this meant nowhere to charge my devices, except at a rare moment when there was a spare spot on the power board.  And I did have a few devices with me - iPad, Bluetooth keyboard for the iPad, two phones (work and personal) and a camera.  There is no way my phones could last the entire weekend without charging – and I was expecting to take quite a few photos.

Just last week I found a solution - I took one other device with me - A SmartOne charger.

This little device can fully charge all my devices without the need for a power point.  All you have to do is charge up the SmartOne (it takes about 3 hours to fully charge via any USB port) and when you need to charge one of your devices just connect it to your SmartOne via one of the connectors that come with it.  You don't have to carry a lot of cables if you have multiple devices either - all the connectors you’ll need are cleverly attached to each other.  The multi-plug connector includes iPhone 4, Micro USB, Mini USB and standard USB along with an iPhone 5 adapter.  So you can charge most smart phones and tablets, digital cameras, video cameras, iPods, and more. 

My SmartOne ended up getting more use on the weekend than I had planned.  First, I used it to charge my Bluetooth iPad keyboard (I actually forgot that it requires charging - not sure where I thought it got its power from!); then my sister couldn't find her iPad charger so my SmartOne gave it a power topup; one of my phones; and my camera after I decided to video the speeches at the party.  

You can use the SmartOne over and over again – just charge it up and it’s ready to go again.  Another thing I love is that while your device is charging you are not attached to a power point.  SmartOne comes in seven colours - blue, magenta, black, white, green, yellow and pink.  It is very lightweight and small so you can easily pop it in your handbag and you’ll never get caught with a flat battery again. 

SmartOne is from Smarter Charger, a 100% Australian company, based in Adelaide.  You can buy SmartOne online for just $29.95 at www.smartercharger.com.au

Now that I'm home again my SmartOne will be living in my handbag, for whenever I forget to charge my phone - which is far too often.  


Would you like a SmartOne?  I have one to give away.  All you have to do is leave me a comment below on this blog telling me of the worst situation you've been in resulting from having no charge in one of your techie devices.

Disclosure:  Smarter Charger provided me with one SmartOne that I could trial and review, and one as a giveaway for my readers.   I will never promote a product on Techie Mum that I don’t really like.

Giveaway Terms & Conditions

  •  This competition is a game of skill.
  • Submit your entry in a comment at the bottom of this post.  You don’t need a Blogger account.  Just sign in as anonymous and leave your email address.
  •  Follow Techie Mum on Facebook here – if you don’t already.
  •  This competition is open to Australian Residents only.  
  • The competition is open for one week – from 2 September 2013 to Monday 9 September 2013. 
  •  The winner will be announced on Wednesday 11 September on the Techie Mum blog, Facebook page, and Twitter. 
  • The winner will be contacted via the email address provided.  The winner has four days to reply; otherwise the prize will be redrawn.

This giveaway is now over.  Congratulations to Tracy Heffernan.