Other how-tos

How to get a Facebook Page vanity URL without 25 Likes

I’ve recently started a few Facebook pages for my various sites, such as my professional photography, a hobby review site I’m working on, and this site itself (, in case you weren’t paying attention).

When you create a Facebook fan page, by default it will have a URL that looks like this: Pretty ugly. It used to be that you needed 25 Likes for that page before you could use the ‘vanity URL’ option to change it to something like: Back in 2011 Facebook changed that rule to allow a vanity URL when you set up the page, with no Likes required.


I just tried to create a vanity URL for this site’s Facebook page, and it told me I needed 25 Likes. Hmm. Why? Did a bit of Googling, turns out that actually every admin only has one single ‘free pass’ to create an immediate vanity URL. After you’ve used it, you’ll need 25 Likes again.

Like I say, I’m an Admin for several Pages on Facebook. The first time I created a vanity URL using was for my photography Facebook page, using my free pass. When I earned over 25 Likes for that page I must have been granted a second free pass (or I got a ‘refund’ on it!) which I inadvertently used on a page for a different site I’m building.

So now I’ve got no free passes, which means every new vanity URL I try to set up will require 25 Likes.

The solution

In order to earn an immediate ‘free pass’ to create a vanity URL for my new Facebook page without waiting to accrue those 25 Likes I can add a new admin to my FB page. It has to be someone I know and trust and who has not yet used up their ‘vanity URL free pass’ and doesn’t want to use it themselves.

Once they’re added to the page Admins they can log in to the page and create the vanity URL straight away!

Obviously you’re going to want to have someone you trust completely do this – a family member or good friend. And, just to be sure, I’d be sitting over their shoulder while they do it! 😉

Hope this helps, thanks for reading!

Editorial Other how-tos

My essential WordPress plugins: 2014 Edition

essential wordpress pluginsI’m throwing together a new hobby website to tinker with right now, and as with all my other sites I’m building it with WordPress. I know basic HTML and CSS but WordPress really takes the pain out of making a new website, especially hobby review sites like the one I’m making.

Every time I install WordPress I find myself searching the web trying to remember what plugins I to install. Last time I made myself a list in Simplenote, and this time I’ve decided to write a post and share my favourite essential WordPress plugins with y’all.

You’re not supposed to use too many plugins on a WordPress site as each one has the capacity to increase your load time, introduce bugs or conflicts, which itself could compromise your site security. However, these are the plugins I can’t live without. See what you think:

Essential WordPress plugins – free

Essential means I absolutely would not launch a WordPress site without these. They’re all available for free from the WordPress plugin depository, available within your WordPress site from the plugins panel.

WordPress SEO by Yoast

WordPress plugin page
Plugin website

Yoast (aka Joost de Valk) is a world-renowned SEO guru, so you can trust his advice. This plugin consolidates a whole bunch of the most important SEO tricks into one, including meta descriptions for your Google search results, XML sitemaps, breadcrumbs and more.

You also get a little tool in the admin page for each bit of content on your site that allows you to specify what ‘keywords’ you’d like the content to rank for. The plugin then assesses how well your page is likely to rank for that keyword depending on how many times you’ve used the keyword in the content, if your links are appropriate, whether you’ve written enough text, if the keyword appears in your page URL, and so on.

Yoast’s tool doesn’t automatically guarantee high rankings for you – you’ve got to put the work in – but it gives you all the info you need to give yourself a massive head-start against those who don’t put the same work in.

Google Analytics for WordPress by Yoast

WordPress plugin page
Plugin website

Knowing as much as possible about your visitors is just basic webmaster stuff. However, the complexity of the Google Analytics interface makes it pretty tough to learn, especially for beginners. I don’t think I’ve looked at my GA page for any of my sites in over a year now, ever since I subscribed to the much friendlier alternative, Clicky (see below).

However, it’s the industry standard tracking tool and it’s free, so you’d be nuts to ignore it. Yoast’s plugin makes the fiddly work of adding the correct code to your sites as simple as installing the plugin and connecting it to your GA account.

Clicky by Yoast

WordPress plugin page
Plugin website

Clicky is an alternative to Google Analytics that I’ve been using for about a year now. You can track one site for free with limited features, or pay a subscription to track multiple sites with a bunch of extra features such as heat-maps. I particularly love being able to tag certain users so I can track their return visits and path through my sites.

This plugin by Yoast is similar to his GA plugin – you fill in your Clicky details and the plugin adds the Clicky tracking code to your site’s pages.

SEO Friendly Images

WordPress plugin page

The ‘alt’ and ‘title’ tags in the images on your site are very valuable SEO tools and you should set relevant tags for all your images. You can set these manually per image in the Media library, but if you’re uploading a ton of images every day, or don’t relish going through your existing images to manually add alt and title tags, this tool will do it for you based on simple rules you can set up.

Limit Login Attempts

WordPress plugin page

WordPress sites are prime targets for hackers because a staggering number of people leave the username as the default ‘admin’, and then use a terrible password. Hackerbots will spend all day long trying to break in using ‘admin’ and a password dictionary list. If you’re using ‘admin’ for your username, change it now!

Limit Login Attempts does exactly what it says. You tell it how many failed login attempts are allowed from an IP address before that IP is blocked for a certain number of hours, and have the plugin email you if too many repeated failed attempts occur.

It’s fun leaving email notifications on for a few days just to see how many automated hack attempts are made on your site, but after that just turn them off and let the plugin do it’s thing.

Bad Behavior

WordPress plugin page
Plugin website

This annoyingly-mis-spelt plugin (look, I’m British, it’s ‘behaviour’, okay? 😉 ) works well with Limit Login Attempts in that it uses a well-maintained list of known bot networks and blocks them from even accessing the login page. You’ll need to sign up for an account to get an API key but it’s free and well worth the peace of mind.


WordPress plugin page
Plugin website

The industry standard for filtering out spam comments before they even get to you, and is so good it comes pre-installed with every WordPress site. You’ll need to activate it with an API key which you can get one for free by registering on Akismet’s site, and you can use the same key with all your WordPress sites. It isn’t perfect, but you don’t want to launch a site that uses comments without Akismet activated. Trust me!

Regenerate/Force Regenerate Thumbnails

WordPress plugin page (Regenerate Thumbnails)

WordPress plugin page (Force Regenerate Thumbnails)

Regenerate Thumbnails is something you usually only need if you change theme to something that uses different image sizes. Regenerate Thumbnails uses your original uploads to regenerate new ‘thumbnails’ that will fit with your new theme’s media size requirements.

However, it also leaves behind all the original thumbs, which take up space if you don’t need them. Force Regenerate Thumbnails is an alternative plugin which will generate your new images and delete all the old ones, keeping your Media library nice and trim. Only use it if you’re sure you’re sticking with the new theme!

By the way, if you install Jetpack (see below) and use the Photon module you shouldn’t need either of these plugins as Photon will use the WordPress servers to generate whatever size of thumbnail is needed, on demand. Which is nice.

Smart 404

WordPress plugin page

I hate seeing 404 pages turn up in my visitor stats as it means a user didn’t get what they wanted and probably left my site. Smart 404 looks at what the user tried to get to, searches the site’s posts, pages, tags and categories for anything similar, and sends them there instead of the 404 page. If it can’t find anything similar then it generates a tweak-able 404 template that provides a list of suggestions to the visitor.

At the time of writing the plugin hasn’t been updated in two years, but it’s working fine on all my sites. If any up-to-date alternatives spring up, let me know!


WordPress plugin page
Plugin website is a long-running Yahoo service that reduces the file size of an image without affecting how it looks by stripping out unnecessary data, great for improving the load time of your site.

With the plugin active, all subsequent images uploaded to your site will automatically be sent to the service first before being sent back and added to the Media library as normal, without any effort on your part. You can also manually send your existing images to be smushed, either individually or in bulk.

This plugin fell into limbo for a while around 2012 but the team at WPMU DEV came to its rescue and it’s now fully functional and regularly maintained.

WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache

WordPress plugin page (W3 Total Cache)
Setup guide (W3 Total Cache)

WordPress plugin page (WP Super Cache)
Setup guide (WP Super Cache)

In very basic terms, caching speeds up the load time of your site which makes it easier to use and more attractive to Google, both of which you want. There are a variety of caching plugins out there, and arguing over which one is best is a full time occupation for various internet forum users! What I can tell you is that for most sites either of these will be absolutely fine.

Most, if not all, of my sites run W3 Total Cache these days as I found the clearest instructions for using that plugin with Amazon’s CDN. However, CDNs themselves can open up a whole can of worms, so for the most part I recommend you start off by setting up the basic caching options and seeing how much of an improvement that makes, then go from there depending on the size and popularity of your site.

A useful tip: if turning on your caching plugin immediately causes your site to break, don’t panic! It’s almost always either Javascript or CSS minify rules to blame, so start by turning off your minify settings one at a time until the site starts working again.


WordPress plugin page
Plugin website

Jetpack is an official WordPress plugin that bundles a whole bunch of useful functions into one handy package, including: publicising, short links, sharing, image caching, basic stat tracking, slideshows, backups, mailing lists, custom CSS, Google+ integration and more.

I use more powerful, dedicated plugins for many of these things, such as mailing lists and stats, but I particularly love the ‘Edit CSS’ option for themes that don’t have their own CSS panel, and the automatic publishing to LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, which takes so much of the legwork out of publicising a new post. The Photon tool also does a great job of speeding up image delivery.

Not-Quite-As-Essential WordPress plugins – free

I don’t always install these plugins, it depends what kind of site I’m making. For example, I only use the Image Metadata Cruncher on my photography sites, and some themes come with their own options for social media badges or Mailchimp signup forms. But when I need them, these are the plugins I turn to:

Mailchimp for WordPress

WordPress plugin page
Plugin website

Despite the name this isn’t the official Mailchimp plugin for WordPress, but it should be. It’s an excellent third-party plugin that makes it incredibly easy to drop signup boxes or forms into a page with a short code, and also includes the option to add a ‘sign up’ tick box to your comment and contact pages.

You can upgrade to the Pro version for more options, but I’ve been doing okay with the free version so far.

Social Media Widget

WordPress plugin page

There’s a metric ton of social media widgets out there but I just wanted one that displays nice icons in a row in my sidebar or my footer, and this does the job with optional animations to boot. Simple, lightweight, with a range of different icons to suit most tastes and the flexibility to install more. I really love that it includes Instagram, it took me ages to find one that did!

Image Metadata Cruncher

WordPress plugin page
Plugin website (don’t let the weirdly unpleasant design put you off!)

I use this plugin on my professional photography sites because it gives me full control over how EXIF and IPTC details are used by WordPress, based on the contents of those fields as edited by me in Lightroom or Photo Mechanic.

For example, by default WordPress extracts the EXIF ImageDescription and the IPTC Headline of an uploaded image and uses that to fill the Description and Title fields of the Edit Media form. Image Metadata Cruncher gives you full control over this by letting you tell WordPress which EXIF or IPTC elements to use, where.

It even lets you build up complex sentence ‘strings’ to use on your site, such as:

Photo taken with Canon 7D at ISO 800. Shutter speed was 1/125s and aperture was f/2.8.

Some awesome paid WordPress plugins

Sometimes I find the best option is a paid plugin, and I usually turn to CodeCanyon first. Here’s the two plugins I’ve bought that have been very useful across multiple sites:

Justified Image Grid

CodeCanyon plugin page
Plugin website (try out all the options in the demo!)

This. Is. Amazing. It takes all the images you’ve attached to a post, or a subset of them WordPress-gallery-style, and presents them in an elegant justified grid according to the options you set. It’s effortless and awesome and makes your image galleries look fantastic.

You can opt for one of dozens of pre-made themes (all of which look good out of the box) or delve into the incredibly powerful options to tweak almost everything, including the general size of the images, if they animate when hovered, title styling, lightbox options, and more.

I use it on my professional photography site for blog galleries and portfolio galleries, and on my photoblog for the homepage gallery.

Taqyeem (reviews)

CodeCanyon plugin page

Boasting an oddly not-very-descriptive name, this plugin is actually one of the best available for turning any theme into a review theme. You can add a review box to any post or page using admin options or a shortcode, every element of the review box is customisable using well-documented CSS options, and you can drop the overall star rating into any part of your theme with a line or two of PHP, also covered in the instructions.

That’s yer lot!

Installing the essential plugins I listed above, and setting them up right, will be sure to get your WordPress site off to the best start it can. Enjoy, and good luck!

How-Tos iOS & Mac how-tos

Fiz Brewery Management: Tips & Strategies

I do rather love a craft beer (my brewery of choice: Scotland’s BrewDog) so Fiz: The Brewery Management Game ($1.99) recently made its way onto my iPad. As a fan of both unusual craft beers and the Kairosoft classic Game Dev Story (which this very closely models itself on), this looked like it could be right up my street, a brewery management game with no infuriating IAPs. So despite having opened my new PS Vita just hours before, by the evening of Christmas Day I was several virtual months into running FizzBat, my new virtual brewery.

Pretty quickly I discovered the need to strategise, particularly after that cocky swine Blumbrau beat me in a competition to win a bigger brewery. You can’t just churn out whatever colourfully monikered beer takes your fancy and flog it to any old shop, you’ve got to actually plan for the seasons (both sports and weather) and get it into the right shops, priced to beat out the competition but still turn a profit. Um… you did research the competition, right?

So I’ve been making a mental list of Fiz Brewery tips and tricks and thought I’d share. If you’ve come up with any strategies of your own feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!

  • Pause the game – if you’ve ever played Faster Than Light (PC or Mac, superb spaceship management game) you’ll know the value of pausing constantly. The first release version of Fiz auto-pauses just once, when you finish a batch, but when you select to sell it time starts again. This behaviour might be made more sensible in a forthcoming update but for now – remember to pause All The Time! It’s easy to get distracted and forget that as you’re dilly-dallying over this IPA or that American Wheat, this tiny beer specialist or that massive supermarket, time is ticking away. Pause!
  • Always be brewing, queuing or selling – time passes constantly, and time is money! If you’ve not got a batch on the go, one enqueued, and at least one on sale, you’re doing it wrong!
  • Level up the correct skills – you should assign brew jobs based on who has the highest appropriate skill levels for each job. When staff level up make sure to spend the points on those pertinent skills, or occasionally on their Craft score. There’s no benefit to spreading points amongst their other skills if they’re not using them in their regular brew job.
  • Skill points versus Craft points – as well as Skill scores, each staff member also has a ‘Craft’ score that you be increased when staff level up. When brewing a new batch the total Craft points across your team are pooled and made available to spend on ‘Yield’, ‘Speed’ and ‘Quality’. However, if you’re planning on pouring all your Level Up points into Craft so you can spend them all on ‘Quality’ it’s worth noting that according to the developer “the way it’s set up, increasing your employee’s required stats for their job will improve their Quality better than increasing their Craft and spending that point on +Quality in the Brew Menu would.” For this reason, I’d advise focussing on getting your staff highly trained in their particular brew role before putting points into their Craft score.
  • At the start go for ‘Yield’, not ‘Quality’ – in the initial stages of the game you just need to make money to stay afloat, and the best way to do that is eke every last penny of potential profit from each batch by pouring all your craft points into ‘Yield’ and not ‘Quality’. And for the most part you can completely ignore ‘Speed’ until you’ve got a few more Craft points to play with.
  • Easy money at the Bodega – whenever you run out of money the game tosses enough ingredients your way to make a quick batch of the bog-standard lager, Grubb’s Lite, and the Bodega owner waives his stocking fee. So if you’re getting started, or you’re flat broke, brew up some Grubb’s Lite, spend the Craft points on the highest yield possible, and flog it all at the Bodega for around 15 coins for a profit of around 350-400.
  • fiz brewery strategy

  • Plan for the seasons – work out what your go-to Summer, Winter and in-between beers are and around 10 months before you’ll need them start on at least one batch to go into storage in readiness. For example, the Surf Shop – once this opens it’s an almost guaranteed summertime money maker, a boon for beginners in the early stages of the game. It’s only open for a few months from month 6 each year, and their customers really like summery lager, so make sure you have batches of Get Off My Lawn on the go from month 10. Get them into storage, then come month 6 send them to the Surf Shop, price them right and they’ll fly off the shelves over summer, netting a huge profit to pour into new beers.
  • Don’t necessarily always sell full batches – proud as you are of your 100-unit batches, the shops you sell to may not have the space to stock them, or enough customers who prefer that type of beer to buy them all within the two month shelf-life. Refer to the research and consider splitting the shipment.
  • Research! Research! Research! – there’s no two ways about it, you need to do research on your customers and your competition. I always select 50 customers (for more detailed results) over four weeks (because it’s cheapest) and I select both customers and competition the first time.
  • Buy & research new retailers in advance – unless you like spending all your profits on costly Instant Research you’ll want to research a new retailer before you’ve got a batch ready to sell there. Buy into new retailers is while batches are brewing, and run research on them immediately. Then when a batch is ready you’ll have all the relevant info about the new shop at your fingertips.
  • fiz brewery tips

  • Refresh your customer research – competitor research only needs to be done once per shop/market and updates itself monthly after that. Customer research goes out of date over time, however, so remember to occasionally run more customer research at the shops you sell to most in case customer tastes have changed significantly. Start research as soon as you buy into a new retailer, and buy into a new retailer at least a month before you’ll want to sell there.
  • Undercut the competition – if there are competing brands of a similar style at the shop you’re sending your new batch to, look at their quality and their markup. Unless your quality is significantly higher, don’t set your markup higher than theirs.
  • Make whatever the competition ISN’T selling – check to see if a beer type popular at any given shop is actually in stock from your competitors; if it’s not, get your own version in there as soon as possible while there’s no competition!
  • Don’t waste money on stiff competition – the game will warn you if you’re trying to sell in a shop that stocks competitor beers with a far higher Quality score than yours. However, as a rule if your beer Quality score is in the lower third of the range for the competition then don’t bother selling unless you’re willing to seriously undercut them (and throw away potential profit).
  • What’s the recipe for (insert beer here)? – all the recipes are randomised every time a new game is started, so you can’t just start making the best ones cribbed off a Wiki page 😉
  • Finally, don’t forget the mice! – if you find yourself with a spare moment while a batch brews, check out the brewery screen and tap the mice that run across from time to time, they’re always carrying something valuable!
iOS & Mac how-tos

Tips & Tricks to ‘fix’ iOS 7


I’ll make no secret of that fact that I love iOS 7. I just think the new layer-based interface works better and although I really enjoyed the ‘lickable’ look of iOS 6 – Corinthian leather and torn note pages aside – it was time to grow up and the glassy, minimal look really appeals to me. There’s definitely room for improvement, and I think the font choice and the wafer-thin lines in the UI icons in particular are style over usability, but it’s a cracking starting point.

Mind you, I’m someone who spends a lot of time fiddling around with tech so none of it really caught me by surprise and I’ve enjoyed playing with the new stuff, but for a lot of other users there’s a whole load of unwelcome and unexpected changes. The same complaints come up again and again so I’m putting together a list of the most common issues along with instructions to tweak the settings to ‘fix’ them. This is an ongoing project so if you have an issue not covered leave it in the comments and I’ll see if I can help.

You aren’t getting iOS 6 back – and I think that’s a good thing, long term – but you can set up iOS 7 a bit more how you like it.

Let’s get started.

How to stop iOS 7 wallpaper zooming

I covered this one in a separate post yesterday but here it is again. There’s two problems with wallpapers: parallax scrolling, and ‘zoom to fit’.

Parallax scrolling is a new feature for wallpapers in iOS 7 but to make it work the phone needs to zoom in a little on your photos so there’s a margin just off-screen all the way around that’s used to slide the wallpaper around when you tilt your phone. To disable Parallax Scrolling, turn on ‘Reduce Motion’:

  1. Open Settings from your Home screen
  2. Tap General
  3. Tap Accessibility
  4. Scroll down and tap ‘Reduce Motion: Off’
  5. Activate the ‘Reduce Motion’ feature by tapping the switch so it turns green.

The option on the Accessibility page should now read ‘Reduce Motion: On’ – and that’s it!

However, in iOS 7 there is also a ‘zoom to fit’ feature which cannot be disabled. This means if your image’s shape does not match the shape of your screen (e.g., a square Instagram photo), iOS 7 will zoom the image so there’s no black space around it.

To solve the problem use a screenshot of your desired wallpaper photo from the Photos app:

  1. Open the photo you want to use in the Photos app
  2. Tap the screen to make sure you’re seeing just the photo and none of the on-screen controls
  3. Take a screenshot by holding the Sleep and Home buttons at the same time – the screen will flash and the resulting screenshot will be saved to your Camera Roll.
  4. Select the new screenshot as a wallpaper.

This should completely solve wallpaper zoom issues!

How to make iOS 7 text easier to read

The system text in iOS 7 uses a lot of very light Helvetica and it can often be hard to read or make out. If that’s the case for you, we can give it more contrast by turning on an option in Settings that makes text look very much like it did in iOS 6:

  1. Open Settings from your Home screen
  2. Tap General
  3. Tap Accessibility
  4. Scroll down and tap ‘Increase Contrast’
  5. Tap the switch to turn it green, then return to the Accessibility menu
  6. Just above is ‘Bold text’. Tap the switch to turn it green too, and your phone will restart to apply the effect

After it restarts you should notice text is now much clearer and easier to read. Bear in mind that ‘Increase Contrast’ has the effect of darkening some backgrounds, which you may not appreciate. If so, turn of Increase Contrast.

How to ‘Swipe to delete’ in iOS 7

You used to swipe left-to-right to bring up the Delete button. In iOS 7 swipes from left-to-right trigger a new system-wide ‘back’ gesture, so to delete things you now need to swipe right-to-left.

It’s a little confusing at first, but you get used to it 🙂

How to delete individual text messages in iOS 7

So, swiping right-to-left doesn’t delete messages from the Messages screen – see the next item. This is a pretty stupid decision in my opinion, but you can still delete individual messages:

  1. Open the Messages app
  2. Open the conversation you wish to delete individual messages from
  3. Long-tap (touch and hold) on a message you want to delete from that conversation until the ‘Copy | More…’ option appears and tap on ‘More…’
  4. Now select the messages you want to delete – a blue tick appears in the circle to the left of each one. The first message you selected is already ‘checked’.
  5. When you’re ready, tap the Trashcan icon in the bottom left to delete the selected messages

How to show text message and iMessage time stamps in iOS 7

iOS 7 adds precise time stamps to all your iMessages instead of the vague and sporadic timestamps in iOS 6. To see them swipe from right to left and hold, anywhere on the screen in the Messages app.

I actually think this is a pretty dumb move – right-to-left swiping is used throughout the system to delete things, whereas in Messages it shows the timestamp and deleting is hidden away behind a menu option. I think it should be the other way around, personally.

How to show full names in iOS 7 Contacts

This is a weird decision: Apple added a new ‘first names only’ feature to Contacts, but activated it by default, which is incredibly unhelpful if loads of your friends have the same first name. Personally I know waaay too many people called ‘Nick’ for this feature to stay active. Here’s how you turn it off:

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Tap on ‘Mail, Contacts & Calendars’
  3. Scroll down to ‘Contacts’ and tap on ‘Short Name’
  4. Either turn it off by tapping the green switch, or set it up how you’d like it (Name and initial, first name only, or last name only)

How to play music from the iOS 7 lockscreen

Double-tapping the home button in iOS 7’s lockscreen doesn’t bring up the music controls any more. Don’t worry! They’ve just moved into the fantastic Control Center feature that gathers controls for the music, brightness, volume, calculator, flashlight, timer, camera, Airplane mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb and orientation lock all in one panel.

This should already be enabled by default – if it is you’ll see a short bar at the bottom of the screen under ‘slide to unlock’. Just grab that bar with your thumb and slide up – Control Center should be revealed.

If you’re not seeing that bar then perhaps Control Center is disabled – have a look in the next section for how to turn it on.

Disable iOS 7 Control Center when you’re in an app

The gesture for activating Control Center can interfere with the gestures in some apps. If you’re finding it gets in the way in an app you use, you can disable Control Center in apps so it only works on the home and lock screens:

  1. Open Settings from your Home screen
  2. Tap Control Center
  3. Next to ‘Access within apps’ tap the green switch to turn it white (off)

If for some reason you also want to disable Control Center from the lock screen you can do that here too, and this is also where you go to turn it all back on. Obviously. 😉

How to improve iOS 7 battery life

Along with existing background features that suck battery there are a whole bunch of new ones to look into. I don’t turn all of the following off, and some are much less hungry than others, but these are all known to have some impact on battery life:

  • Parallax scrolling – turn on the ‘Reduce Motion’ feature as described above to disable the wallpaper parallax effect
  • Dynamic wallpapers – Apple included wallpapers with floating bubbles that react to tilt. They're cool, but they need power so try using a static picture.
  • Background updating – apps are now allowed to constantly poll for updates in the background which allows for faster app switching and the 'live' app screens in the app-switching view. Turn it off from Settings -> General -> Background App Refresh, either globally or app-by-app.
  • Automatic app updates – apps can now install updates automatically in the background, and there's that word again. I keep this off because I like to see what's new, but it also reduces the toll on the battery. Turn it off from Settings -> iTunes & App Store -> Automatic Downloads -> Updates.
  • Location Services – this is one you might want to keep on if you want certain apps to keep working like they should (e.g. weather, maps) but you can either globally or selectively turn it off from Settings -> Privacy -> Location Services.
  • App closing – contrary to popular belief, every app that's visible in the app-switching view is NOT open and running and sucking battery. Most are put into a frozen state when you switch, with only the most recent apps continuing to 'run', and even then only certain types of process allowed by Apple. You might claw back a few percent per hour constantly closing every single app in the list, but I have never bothered with this.

How to get weather & stocks and disable the calendar in iOS 7 Notification Center

Notification Center is still activated with a swipe down from the top of the screen but it’s now split over three tabs – Today, All and Missed.

Unless you tend to have a lot of different events every day you may not really need Notification Center’s full day view. There are also options to turn the weather and stocks views on and off:

  1. Open Settings from your Home screen
  2. Tap Notification Center
  3. Set up the options how you’d like them
  • ‘Calendar Day View’ toggles the calendar view in the Today tab. I don’t need my whole day broken down like that, but that’s just me
  • For weather enable the 'Today Summary' – there's currently no way to display weather graphically like in iOS 6.
  • Under ‘Access On Lock Screen’ I disable 'Today View' because it doesn't really contain any information I need from the lock screen; usually I'm looking for missed notifications

Change the colour of iOS 7 app folders

In iOS 7 a lot of the UI takes its colour from the wallpaper you’ve chosen. For example, the buttons of the passcode screen are based on your lockscreen wallpaper. And your app folder background is based on your homescreen wallpaper, as is the new dock.

So to change the colour of your app folders, change your wallpaper!

Can you ‘tap to tweet’ from the Notification Center?

Nope, Apple have killed this one completely. Why? At first I suspected it had something to do with Twitter’s ever-more-ridiculous demands on Twitter app makers. Then I figured that maybe tweeting isn’t something that fits into the Notification Center’s remit; it’s not a notification

Either way, your best bet is to install a Twitter app and keep it in your dock. Sorry the news isn’t any better!

Can you roll back to iOS 6?

Nope, iOS updates are kind of a one-way trip and you can’t get iOS 6 back any more I’m afraid. Long live iOS 7!

You might have heard there are tricksy technical ways to do it, but there really aren’t. You can’t reinstall a backup to restore iOS 6 because backups don’t back up the OS files, only the data on your phone. And Apple’s servers have stopped authorising the last known versions of iOS 6 anyway so even if you had a copy of just the OS, iTunes wouldn’t let you install it.

Just embrace iOS 7! There’s a lot more awesome stuff happening under the hood that can’t be ‘seen’ but will really set iOS up for the future. Have a really good poke around the Settings and set it up the way you like it, you’ll get used to the rest of it before you know it.

Hope this helped, thanks for reading!

iOS & Mac how-tos

How to stop custom wallpapers ‘zooming in’ in iOS 7

UPDATE: If you’re having problems adjusting to iOS 7 check out my updated post – ‘How to ‘fix’ iOS 7′, which includes the following wallpaper zooming tip and many others including clearer text, swipe-to-delete and battery issues.

ORIGINAL POST: So iOS 7 is out, and boy oh boy is it ruining some people’s lives. Bit melodramatic perhaps, but you should see the whining about it on Twitter…

Personally I really like it – sure, there’s a couple of icons that don’t make sense (Game Center) or look clunky (Newsstand) and occasionally small system text lacks legibility (which is fixable with a setting tweak) but overall I think the clean layer-based system is just lovely and a great basis for the future.

However, it’s also fair to say a lot of things have changed just enough to leave casual users a little lost or confused and one of the biggest gripes seems to be that custom photos are being zoomed in when selected as wallpapers.

I thought I’d do my Community Help bit for the day and post some solutions to wallpaper-zooming right here. There are two issues to deal with: parallax scrolling, and none-native aspect ratio images (not the same shape as your screen). It’s very easy to fix: read on!

Solution One – parallax scrolling

The first solution deals with the slight zoom caused by the parallax effect. This is when you tilt your phone and the wallpaper and icons shift to give the impression they’re on different layers. The wallpaper needs to be zoomed a bit to create a margin offscreen so that when it moves you don’t see off the edge.

Here’s how to disable it:

  1. Open Settings from your Home screen
  2. Tap General
  3. Tap Accessibility
  4. Scroll down and tap ‘Reduce Motion: Off’
  5. Activate the ‘Reduce Motion’ feature by tapping the switch so it turns green.

Parallax scrolling is now disabled and wallpapers should not be zoomed for it. However, you may still have wallpaper zoom issues, in which case:

Solution Two – zoom to fit

If the shape of your photo does not match the shape of your screen then it will be zoomed to fit so that there is no black space around the sides. For example, if you’re using a square Instagram shot or a 4×3 photo on the long screen of the 5, 5S or 5C you’ll be seeing a lot of zoom.

There’s an easy workaround: just use a screenshot!

  1. Open the photo you want to use in the Photos app
  2. Tap the screen to make sure you’re seeing just the photo and none of the on-screen controls
  3. Take a screenshot by holding the Sleep and Home buttons at the same time – the screen will flash and the resulting screenshot will be saved to your Camera Roll.
  4. Select the new screenshot as a wallpaper.

Hope this helps! Remember folks: it’s just a phone… 😉