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"Murphy was an optimist!"

Why does Apple make this so confusing? December 25, 2012 10:04 am

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Amy, Christmas, Daily Life, Evan, Family, Gadgets, Holiday, Of Being Dad, Technology
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Goals

Situation

We have one Macbook Air in the house. My wife syncs her iPhone with iTunes on this Macbook Air. For Christmas, the 7 year old and 10 year old received iPods. Yes, I understand DRM. Rovio Entertainment would much prefer I buy Angry Birds 3 times instead of one. I have no problem with that although I do feel like the model for DRM for music fails when compared to the physical world of records and CDs.

Possible solutions

As best I can tell, there are four ways to manage multiple devices with iTunes.

  1. Individual User Accounts
  2. Multiple iTunes Libraries
  3. Management Screen
  4. Playlists

Each of these has their respective pros and cons.

Individual User Accounts

Since each user account is its own space, that means each user has their own iTunes library and sync settings for their iOS device. Easy to understand, (relatively) easy to set up, and easy to maintain–it’s a good approach!

[Source, About.com, 4 Ways to Use Multiple iPods on One Computer]

The problem with this approach is Apple doesn’t allow children under 13 to have an AppleID. So you are faced with lying and apparently Apple permanently associates the age first entered with the email address. Sharing of apps and music is difficult or impossible (DRM…and I’m okay with that).

Multiple iTunes Libraries

With this method, each person who uses the computer has their own iTunes library and sync settings. This way, you won’t get music, apps, or movies mixed across iTunes libraries (unless you want to) and won’t end up with someone else’s content on your iPod by mistake.

The downsides of this approach are that parental controls on content apply to all iTunes libraries (with user accounts, they’re different for each account) and that each user’s space is not as cleanly separate. Still, this is a good option that’s easy to set up.

[Source, About.com, 4 Ways to Use Multiple iPods on One Computer]

Although promising, this approach seems burdensome and ripe for making errors since iTunes launches the last used library by default.

Management Screen

With this approach, you choose what content from each of the tabs in the management screen you want on your device. Other people using the computer do the same thing.

The downsides of this technique include that it only allows one setting for parental control of content and it can be imprecise (for instance, you might only want some music from an artist, but if someone else adds more of that artist’s music, it could end up on your iPod).

So, even though it’s messy, this is a very easy way to manage multiple iPods.

[Source, About.com, 4 Ways to Use Multiple iPods on One Computer]

I believe this is how my wife has been managing multiple devices in the past. It does allow for sharing of certain apps and music but if a child starts syncing with a different iTunes library, your personal device will start prompting you for their password in addition to yours in certain circumstances. I am also not sure that this approach will allow the children to use Facetime, iCloud, and iMessage the way we want. Instead the 5GB of space on iCloud may end up being shared between all the devices while the iMessages intended only for my wife (nudge nudge) could inadvertently be seen by the children.

Playlists

Downsides of this approach include that everything each person adds to the iTunes library is mixed together, the same content restrictions for all users, and the possibility that your playlist could be accidentally deleted and you’d have to re-create it.

[Source, About.com, 4 Ways to Use Multiple iPods on One Computer]

I am afraid this will also have the problem noted above with Facetime, iCloud, and iMessage.

Conclusion

Apple has made this unnecessarily confusing. It’s as if Apple is adult techie centric and in no way thinking about the way a family might use their devices. For instance, the iPad does not support multiple logins or even a level of control that would allow your child to safely use the device. Cathy is constantly having to rename folders and put applications back in the correct spot because she cannot hand the iPod to the child in a locked down mode. A simple second password with attached restrictions such as "cannot view certain applications" or "cannot rename folders." With such an approach Apple could allow unlimited screen lock passwords that would allow settings for the adult, the teen, the child, or even the toddler (and yes, toddlers use iPads).

So, how do you manage multiple iDevices in your house? And with children under 13?

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Comments»

1. Dean - December 26, 2012

I ran into similar issues helping friends set up their child’s Kindle Fire. The Fire is associated with their Amazon account, so it is “Robert’s Kindle” even though the child is using it. Plus you have to have a credit card associated with it, even to download free apps. You can password protect it, but it’s the same password for the web, so she’ll end up knowing the password pretty soon. You’d think these developers would understand how these devices are bring used.

2. Andrew - December 26, 2012

dean after you add a credit/debit .you can remove the credit/debit and load with gift cards. how I work my amazon as I run purely on cash now.

3. tim - December 27, 2012

And this is why i bizrefuse to allow ianythingi in my house. No itunes here. One central music location og around 100gb. Video elsewhere. Windows media centre media player zune and winamp and vlc work fine. No drm issues. Sync what you want to android win phone or generic mp3 players. No passwords or issues. Recorded tv from media centre available to all pcs win 7 or 8.
New cds get ripped to network share. Dvds to media centre.

4. Doug McCaughan - January 6, 2013

It’s a good plan. I may have to start toying with moving that direction too. Since I haven’t had a smart phone for two months, making the transition to a droid wouldn’t be difficult.


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