Topic: Giggles Baby - My Animal Friends with Parental Controls

The problem that occurs when trying to run Giggles Baby - My Animal Friends (MAF) in Mac OS X using a managed account with parental controls and Simple Finder enabled have been documented in other threads elsewhere in the forum. I spent hours today trying to figure out exactly what was going on and find a way to get the program to work, but was ultimately unsuccessful. (The fact that the program must be re-installed to get it to work again after hanging is what caused the debugging process to take so long. Argh!)

I wanted to document what I learned so it's available to other folks.

In those other threads, the Leveractive team recommends moving the MAF application to the Shared user folder after installation. In my experience, this didn't solve the problem.

The specific configuration that causes MAF to hang on launch is this: a managed account using parental controls with (this is critical) the "only allow selected applications" checkbox checked. (The Simple Finder setting is irrelevant. The problem does not arise if the "only allow selected applications" checkbox is unchecked, whether or not Simple Finder is enabled.)

So, right away, one solution would be to just uncheck the "only allow selected applications" checkbox. You can still use Simple Finder, and the MAF application will work fine. But in my case (and I suspect others as well), my managed account is for small children and I've set it up without a password, so I want to limit the applications that can be run by the account.

(EDIT - SECTION REMOVED HERE BY ADMIN AS IT WAS PROPRIETARY INTERNAL PROGRAM INFORMATION...HACKING INTO OUR PROGRAMS AND POSTING INFORMATION ABOUT THEM WILL BE DELETED BY ADMIN)

This is all quite unfortunate because MAF is otherwise an excellent program, and there's nothing else out there quite like it. And of course the very nature of the program is such that people would naturally like to install it on locked-down, managed accounts with no passwords set up for small children. Given that this problem has been documented in these forums for going on 9 months, and the MAF program is still being actively sold, I really wish the developer would step up and fix this problem once and for all. But until then, as far as I can discover, there's no way to run the program successfully on a managed account with the "only allow selected applications" checkbox checked.

My best guess at this point is that the program is getting hung up on its serial number check -- perhaps there's another, secret, helper application that is launched by the main MAF program to check that the serial number has been entered? If so, then maybe the system is preventing this secret helper application from launching and that's what is causing the hang.

My 18 month old and 3 and a half year old daughters love this program. It's too bad I can't get it to run in what would be the most natural account configuration for them.

My advice to future parents who are trying to get this to work is as follows:

Option 1: Set up a managed account that uses the Simple Finder but make sure the "only allow selected application" checkbox is unchecked. (You can still select applications from the list to make sure they show up in the Simple Finder's application folder and limit the application choices presented to your children.) If you do this, though, you'll either need to set a password for the account or take the risk of having a no-password account on your computer that can run any program. In some environments, this might be acceptable.

Option 2: (The one I chose) Install Giggles Baby - MAF on another account and switch to that account when one of your kids wants to run the program. It's a very imperfect workaround, but in my case it works because it is the 18 month old who mostly uses the application, and she can't log into the managed account and run it on her own anyway. So for the times where she wants to use it, I sit her on my lap and launch the program from my account.

But of course, by far the best option is Option 3, for the developer to release a new version that fixes this. :-)

Best,
Joe Bezdek

P.S. One additional tip for the parents out there: after installing and running the program for the first time on the managed account (do so after temporarily disabling the parental controls), I recommend moving the program to the ~/Applications folder. (If it doesn't already exist, create it.) This creates a local Applications folder that only the account that installed the MAF application can see. This prevents the program from accidentally being launched by an account other than the one that installed it. Launching it from another account, of course, for some bizarre reason, will not only hang the MAF application, but will cause it to hang on all future launches, even if launched by the account that installed it. (You have to delete and re-install the program to get it to work again.)

Re: Giggles Baby - My Animal Friends with Parental Controls

Hi,

I certainly appreciate all of your efforts in finding a solution to your specific issue.

I think that it is important to understand the purpose of the program to begin with when discussing this. The purpose of the program is for the PARENT to have something on THEIR system, and account, that they can run for their little ones that locks out the system and lets them touch any key at all. It is not intended as a child-only program that lives in a child-only environment.

We discourage using the program in any way as a "babysitter". The program should always be used by both the parent and child at the same time, to spend some time together and learn to play on the computer in an interactive and entertaining way. Because of this, there really never should be a time when the child is left to their own devices to operate the computer on their own. Also keep in mind that very few 10 month olds (meaning none) are going to be doing this. So having a separate child account on the computer for most of our users is a bit unrealistic and unnecessary.

The program is intended to be installed in the parent's full permission account. That's basically as clear as I can be about the matter. So if you're trying to install the program under different types of accounts and different types of configurations that it is not intended to be installed into, and you're having problems, that is really not something that I would support, encourage, or offer technical advise on.

As far as what the developer should or should not do to "fix" the program, these programs were all developed by myself - one person, one-person company. So there is no large team of developers somewhere working on these issues daily. As explained above, the intention of the program is not to run in the environment you're trying to get it to run in and there just isn't the time or bandwidth unfortunately to change the programs to work in all environments and all computer conditions.

Believe me, if it was something I could easily do and provide to you, I'd be happy to do it. But it's not. Just getting a program to do a COMPLETE system lockout on a Mac is a wonder-trick to begin with, believe me. To also be able to do it and still handle subtleties and oddities of different levels of protected accounts would be a lot of work and ultimately wasted time as that is not the intention of the programs in the first place, as explained above.

I really really do appreciate that you like the program and have been willing to dedicate so much of your time to trying to get it to work in the exact environment that you want. And I really appreciate your kind words about the program. I do hope that you continue to use the program with your little ones and continue to have fun with it.

Best Regards,
Tim Leverett

Have a great day!

[b]Customer Service & Support
Giggles Computer Funtime For Baby™[/b]

Re: Giggles Baby - My Animal Friends with Parental Controls

Just as another side note: a lot of what you're reporting is not a problem for other people. You are definitely having some other issues on your machine that most others do not.

The program always only works under the account that it was installed into, another intentional function of the program and installation process. You will never be able to run the program from a different account than the one it was installed into.

Your "P.S." advise is dangerous and people should use caution when listening to it - I would delete that comment of yours normally, but I will leave it there in this case as I'm answering it here. All accounts will always have an "Applications" folder - advising people to try and create one, when it already exists, will be confusing and could cause problems, such as someone accidentally deleting their existing one or items within their existing one. You should not make any adjustments to your Applications directory, other than installing programs into it.

Moving the program around is not recommended. The installer places it in the correct location and it should remain where it is installed. The only other advise I've given on that matter is in previous posts regarding possibly placing it in the Shared folder when trying to run from a limited account, which does work for the other people that have tried it, contrary to your claim that it does not work.

And you do not have to delete and reinstall the program if you try launching it from another account, as you've indicated. Simply restart your computer and you should be all set (restarting is different than switching user accounts or just logging in/out). It will continue to launch from the account it was installed into, as it should. If you're experiencing anything different than that, than you're having computer-specific problems on your machine caused by something other than these programs.

Have a great day!

[b]Customer Service & Support
Giggles Computer Funtime For Baby™[/b]

Re: Giggles Baby - My Animal Friends with Parental Controls

Hi Tim. I appreciate your thorough reply. I also didn't realize that you were the only programmer for the Giggles Baby products. That makes the programs all the more impressive. Bravo!

Your reply nicely explained the official point-of-view on this issue. It helped me understand where you (i.e., Leveractive) is coming from. There were a few specific things I wanted to respond to:

Giggles Support wrote:

I think that it is important to understand the purpose of the program to begin with when discussing this. The purpose of the program is for the PARENT to have something on THEIR system, and account, that they can run for their little ones that locks out the system and lets them touch any key at all. It is not intended as a child-only program that lives in a child-only environment.

This makes a lot of sense to me and helps explain why the program is designed the way it is. With my 18 month old, most (if not all) of the time I sit her on my lap while she uses the program, so my experience dovetails nicely with your stated intention.

I will only note, however, that while you may have designed the program with younger children (6-18 months?) in mind, my 3 year old is still fascinated with it and likes to use it. (My guess is my 3 year old is not the only one.) And 3 year olds, of course, like to be independent. It's mostly for her benefit that I'm trying to set up the managed account with parental controls. For these older kids, it would be helpful if the program ran in the more managed account environment.

Giggles Support wrote:

Just as another side note: a lot of what you're reporting is not a problem for other people. You are definitely having some other issues on your machine that most others do not.

That may be. As far as I know, however, I am running a completely generic managed account with parental controls enabled.

Giggles Support wrote:

Your "P.S." advise is dangerous and people should use caution when listening to it...All accounts will always have an "Applications" folder - advising people to try and create one, when it already exists, will be confusing and could cause problems...

I realize I should have been more clear as, indeed, this advice can be confusing to readers who aren't familiar with Mac OS X.

The main Applications folder in Mac OS X is located at the top level of the file directory at /Applications. This is where all default applications are installed and all users of the computer can see applications in this directory. As you say, people really shouldn't do much to this folder except to add applications to it.

But each user account can have a local Applications folder. This folder does not exist by default but can be created in the user's top-level directory. So if my account is "joe", I can create an Applications folder at /Users/joe/Applications. This is a fully-supported Applications folder by Mac OS X and contains applications that _only_that_user_ can see and use.

In the case of Giggles MAF, given that there will be a hang if another user accidentally runs the program, it makes some sense to install the application in a local Applications folder. That way, only the account that installed it can see it and run it.

Giggles Support wrote:

Moving the program around is not recommended. The installer places it in the correct location and it should remain where it is installed. The only other advise I've given on that matter is in previous posts regarding possibly placing it in the Shared folder when trying to run from a limited account, which does work for the other people that have tried it, contrary to your claim that it does not work.

The Leopard install script I am using installs the program on the Desktop, which is why I moved it into an Applications folder. And as for those who have successfully used the Shared folder, I only said it didn't work for me under the specific account configuration settings I mentioned. I'm pleased it does indeed work for others.

Giggles Support wrote:

And you do not have to delete and reinstall the program if you try launching it from another account, as you've indicated. Simply restart your computer and you should be all set...

That's good to know for future reference. Although given how many programs are continuously running on my Mac (iTunes, iPhoto, etc.), it actually ends up being slightly more convenient to just re-install the program than to restart the Mac entirely.

Giggles Support wrote:

Believe me, if it was something I could easily do and provide to you, I'd be happy to do it. But it's not. Just getting a program to do a COMPLETE system lockout on a Mac is a wonder-trick to begin with, believe me. To also be able to do it and still handle subtleties and oddities of different levels of protected accounts would be a lot of work and ultimately wasted time as that is not the intention of the programs in the first place, as explained above.

For what it's worth, should you ever decide to go in this direction, I offer my services as an experienced and tech-savvy Mac-using parent to serve as a beta tester.

Thanks again for such a great program. My daughters and I thank you.

Best,
Joe

Re: Giggles Baby - My Animal Friends with Parental Controls

You're right about older children still enjoying the programs. I've found that most children are using the programs still up to ages 5 and 6 even, especially the My Musical World program.

Thanks very much for your nice and thoughtful comments, it is appreciated.

Keep having fun!

Have a great day!

[b]Customer Service & Support
Giggles Computer Funtime For Baby™[/b]