Apple's Broken Parental Controls

12 Nov, 2017

What's a nice way to give a kid a limited amount of spending freedom, and letting them buy some things without being able to decimate your credit card? iTunes Voucher -- seems reasonable right?

So... redeeming voucher... Enter Apple ID password. Okay. Use camera to enter code. That's helpful. Please enter your credit card security code. Wait, what? Sigh. Fine.

Hand iPad back to kid. "Right, you can buy something now."

"How about this one?"

"Nooo that's too expensive. Find another one."

"What about this?"

"Yes okay, that works. You can click this Buy button here."

"Pa??" iPad thrust back into your hands.

Enter Apple ID password

Sigh. Okay. Why the heck did I bother to add a nice long, secure password for his account?

Ask for your parent's approval. Click Ask... time passes... Nothing happened. Huh? Click Buy again.

Enter Apple ID password.

WTH? Just did that! For. The. Same. Game.

Ask for your parent's approval (they can also authorise on this device). Yes, but that defeats the purpose. The whole point was to let the kid buy a few things himself. Click Ask.

A message arrives on my phone: Your iDevice-obsessed post-toddler wants to purchase lego-something-or-other-game. Are you sure he's not already spending too much time on devices already? Woohoo, finally got the request! Unlock phone. Wait, WTH! Where's the authorisation dialog gone? Settings > Parental controls? Nope nothing there. Search > Parental Controls. Nothing there either. Sigh. Back to the kid's device again. Click Buy... again.

Enter Apple ID password

Whatever. Stupid long passwords.

Ask for your parent's approval. Stab Ask. Kid now looking at you strangely because you're starting to mutter rude words under your breath.

A message arrives on my phone: Your iDevice-obsessed post-toddler wants to purchase lego-something-or-other-game. Yes I know. It's me not the kid -- how's a child supposed to figure this out? Touch the dialog correctly this time.

A message arrives on the kid's iPad: The bossy parental unit has authorised your purchase. Excellent. Hand back device to kid.

"Pa??" iPad thrust back into my hands.

What's the problem now? Oh, the buy button has turned into a get link. Only it doesn't look like a link at all. It's just the text GET. WTH? Where are the UI standards? Isn't this supposed to be a button??

Your purchase is downloading. Finally. Mutter mutter Apple mutter.

...5 mins passes...

"Pa?? I'm bored with this game. Can I try this one?"

"Fine, okay". Click Buy.

Enter Apple ID password

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.

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Angry, from Disney's Inside Out


Pro Alternatives

31 Dec, 2016

After something like 10 or more years completely ensconced in the Apple ecosystem, and now finding the price tag on the new MacBook Pros hard to justify, I'm looking around at alternatives. Before Apple, there was 7 - 8 (only occasionally fustrating) years of Linux in various flavours, so it makes sense to investigate linux-on-a-laptop options again. Looking at the Dell offerings though, it's clear they could learn from Apple's example -- at least in terms of pricing and consistency.

To start with, a higher spec'd MacBook Pro, from the US website:

Apple US (small image)

So that's £2,267 (at time of writing) for a 15" screen, i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB solid state disk.

And for comparison, here's the same thing from the Apple UK and Apple NZ stores:

Apple UK (small image) Apple NZ (small image)

The NZ price is roughly £2,637. Apart from the fact that the US price is a few hundred pounds cheaper, they're roughly consistent (in both price, and what you get for your money). VAT (in the UK) and GST (in NZ) probably account for, at least part of, the price variation.

However, compare this with Dell's Precision series laptops. The Precision 15 5000 series (again with 15" screen, i7 processor and 512GB SSD) installed with Ubuntu Linux, comes in at a much more reasonable £1,483:

Dell US (small image)

The advantage of the Dell is that you can get a second 1TB HDD installed and the price is still less than the MacBook Pro (£1,558).

However, on the UK website, you can't order the additional hard drive, but the price is, at least, consistent (even if their website doesn't make it immediately obvious that you can order an i7 processor):

Dell - no HDD

Dell UK (small image)

However, compare with Dell NZ:

Dell NZ (small image)

That's £4,095, give or take a few pence. A price variation I can only see justified, if Dell haven't figured out international shipping, and are flying the laptop into the country in a business class seat. In addition, not only do the websites vary slightly in each country, but the configuration options vary as well. In the US you can get the additional HDD, in the UK and NZ you cannot (perhaps some different regulations applying to the ex-US models, and the additional HDD doesn't fit?). In the UK, you can get a single 1x16GB memory unit installed, in the US and NZ stores you cannot.

Conclusions? Apple: too expensive for a higher spec. Dell: either obscenely expensive, or inconsistent specifications, depending on which country I happen to be in (not to forget that if I want a bit of future proofing, it's difficult to be confident in the options). Other alternatives? A System76 Oryx Pro perhaps?

Update: Dell really is a bit of a mess. The NZ price for the XPS 15 (with ultra high def display) is only about £200 more than the UK price, but once again the configuration options look to be different between countries. Also with the XPS series, you don't have any option but to pay the Windows tax.