Category Archives: General

Where can I get my own personal beach table?

Folding table image

Personal Beach Table

Every time we pull this little Personal Beach Table
out of the bag someone asks me where I got it. My wife got it at Ross, locally, but they have them on Amazon for only $16.94 and free shipping with Amazon Prime.  It’s the perfect table to accompany the Tommy Bahama Beach Chairthat everyone is buying at Costco.

You can get yours at the link below.

Straight Talk Wireless APN Settings for MMS

Straight_TalkAround September 2013 I decided to ditch AT&T for my mobile phone service and move to Straight Talk Wireless.  I love the service, especially the price.  The service is $45 for unlimited talk, texts and data.  I have not tested the limits of “unlimited”, but it works well.

One caveat is MMS.  Straight Talk has a problem setting up phones with MMS.  Apparently it’s not standard between carriers or phones.  At any rate, sometimes MMS messages have a problem.  That’s probably why you’re here.

Doing some searching, I found a link to a forum post that explained the settings to get MMS working on a Nexus 5, an Android phone.  These setting are the ones that work best for me, so I’m sharing in the hope that you find it useful.

On your phone, navigate through Settings to Mobile Networks, then to Access Point Names (APNs).  Create a new profile and call it Straight Talk.  Populate it with the following settings:

  • Name=Straight Talk
  • APN=tfdata
  • Proxy=not set
  • Port=Not set
  • Username=not set
  • Password=not set
  • Server=Not Set
  • MMSC=http://mms-tf.net
  • MMS proxy = mms3.tracfone.com
  • MMS PORT=80
  • MCC=310
  • MNC=410
  • Authentication Type=PAP
  • APN type=default,supl,mms,hipri
  • APN Protocol=IPv4
  • APN Roaming Protocol=IPv4
  • Bearer= unspecified
  • MVNO type=None

Save the settings and restart your phone.

If these settings do not work with the standard Texting app on your phone, try a replacement like Textra SMS or TextSecure.

Amazon Raising Prime Service to $99/year

It was inevitable. I received the following email today from Amazon informing me that the price of their Amazon Primewill go up from $79 to $99 per year.

Dear Russell Turley,

We are writing to provide you advance notice that the price of your Prime membership will be increasing. The annual rate will be $99 when your membership renews on August 28, 2014.

Even as fuel and transportation costs have increased, the price of Prime has remained the same for nine years. Since 2005, the number of items eligible for unlimited free Two-Day Shipping has grown from one million to over 20 million. We also added unlimited access to over 40,000 movies and TV episodes with Prime Instant Video and a selection of over 500,000 books to borrow from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

For more information about your Prime membership, visit our Prime membership page.

Sincerely,

The Amazon Prime Team

amazonprimeIn a previous post I hinted that I may not renew the service based on the classification of items as Add-Ons.  That has not been as big a problem as I envisioned then.  I now buy enough through Amazon that when I want to purchase an item designated as an Add-on, I have more in my cart that meets the requirement.  It does still bug though.  It is nice that a full five months before my service renews that I’m getting notice. Though, I would probably forget about the increase in price by then and rail about not being notified. This post should stop that.

Their reasons for increasing the cost, their increasing costs to provide the service, is reasonable.

With the increase, Amazon Prime is now $8.25 per month. If you are only using Amazon Primefor the movie and TV service, then you are now paying more than you would be for Netflix.  For breadth of shows Amazon still pales in comparison to Netflix, except in one area, new TV shows and movies.  Shows that are currently running on cable channels, like one of my favorite cancelled shows Psych, are available to purchase the day after they air on their channel.  It’s a nice feature that Netflix doesn’t offer.  If you don’t want to wait for the latest season to be available on Prime or Netflix for no additional cost, you have that option.

Streaming video aside, we subscribe and get batteries, toilet paper, etc. delivered regularly, and I am always reading some borrowed Kindle book on the Kindle or other tablet.  I’d say that I’m getting my $8.25 worth and then some every month so the increase is not causing me to jump ship.

Are you going to dump Amazon Prime because of the price increase?

Great Gifts for the Geek in Your Life

lights

People are always asking me if this tech gift or that geek gift is right for their significant other.  The one rule that I try to follow is this, “most electronics are crap”.  This is particularly true for many of the gifts that are marketed for “the geek in your life” around the holiday season.  With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of 5 Gifts that I’d love to get myself this year.


1. Roku 3 Streaming Media Player- It’s a set-top box that has the best interface of any similar device I’ve ever used.  These features are supposedly built into many Smart TVs, but the one thing they get all wrong is the interface.  Roku gets it right.  Netflix, check.  Amazon, check.  Every other streaming service, check.


2.Motorola Moto G – 16GB- The Moto G, due to be released on December 4th, is a great way to give a new Android smartphone to your luvva without chaining them to a two-year commitment.  It has much in common with its big brother Moto X, but for less than $200 it’s a stupendous deal.

3.Kindle Fire HDX 7″/ Google Nexus 7- Everyone wants a tablet, even if they don’t need one.  They are one of the hottest tech gifts period.  The reason for calling out both, rather than just the Nexus 7 is whether or not you are into Amazon Instant Video streaming.  If you’re a fan of that service then the tablet to get is the Fire, otherwise I would get the Nexus 7.  It is a quick tablet with a fabulous display.  I would also skip the 10″ version of any tablet.  They’re just too darn big.

4.Amazon Prime- If you are receiving a constant stream of purchase from Amazon, there’s a good chance that you are already an Amazon Prime member, but how about your father-in-law.  The impossible to buy for father-in-law.  He could use Prime as well.   Not only do you get free 2-day shipping on a significant percentage of items in the Amazon store, but you also get to stream all the available Instant Video choices that are included as part of the subscription.


5.Lenovo IdeaPad S400- The ultimate Christmas gift, a new laptop computer.  My recommendation is one of the Lenovo IdeaPad models.  They have plenty of power, plus they have touch screens.  That way when you reach out and interact with the computer with your finger, it will actually respond.

Now, you may be asking, where are all the Apple products?  Back at the store where they belong.  I can’t in good conscience ask anyone to buy Apple products where you get less for your money and are locked in with a company that only wants to extract every last cent it can out of the consumer.  If you are into Apple products, move on and God help you.

One last piece of advice, skip the extended warranty on your devices.  They are unnecessary most times and when/if it does become necessary to replace the device you won’t want to have it replaced with the same old many year-old tech.

The Real Eyes of Project Glass, Google-y Eyes

I don’t know if you’re up to date with the latest in wearable computing, so let me introduce you to Google Project Glass.  It’s what can best be described as a heads up display using a small projector over your right eye.  With Glass you are able to access information and display it right in front of you.  Pretty cool idea.  I am a huge fan of the book Daemon by Daniel Suarez in which individuals, in particular a character called Loki Stormbringer, access what’s called the Dark-net on similar fictional technology. It seems amazing, and based on the how it’s described in the book, it is absolutely a technology that I’d like to embrace.

But, there’s a problem that is only now being shown, Google Glass googly eyes, or just Google-y Eyes.

Google-y Eyes

Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, has been wearing Google Glass on a regular basis.  I heard that he was even at the Oscars and wearing Glass.  He’s become the spokes model for the product and I haven’t seen a picture of the guy without Glass since early 2012.  Every photograph of Brin looks like the photo on the left above.  He’s looking straight on and fabulous while donning Glass.  Now, I invite you to take a look at the image on the right of Joshua Topolsky of The Verge.  I was reading his article on Google Glass and was surprised by the photographs.  Almost every photo that shows him using Glass shows his eyes up and to the right.  There are more examples to be had at the article.  I encourage you to see and read it for yourself.

These kind of photos obviously bring to mind the movie The Jerk and it’s Opti-Grab and eye problems.  I’d love to have something like Google Glass for myself, but not at the risk of having Google-y eyes.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll wait until Google Glass is something that Loki Stormbringer would wear.

 

Why I’m Passing on Apple Products in the Future

I was recently talking to my wife about not buying any more Apple devices.  We have a few Apple computers in the house. Both of them are Mac Minis, one old G4 version, and an Intel Mini that I use as my main workstation for producing podcasts, writing, paying bills, etc.  We also have a few iOS devices in the house.  The oldest boy has a first gen iPod Touch.  The youngest has a first gen iPad, and I have a fourth gen iPod Touch.  I also had an iPhone 3G for 3 years as well, but that one is gone.

So, why no more Apple products?  In two words, planned obsolescence.

What do I mean?  My G4 Mini is useless for anything but serving up files as a network server.  It was long ago abandoned in favor of Intel based systems.  My current Intel Mini won’t run the latest version of Mac OS X.  I had purchased an iOS development course to work through at night.  I was going to attempt to learn iOS application development, but I cannot run the latest version of the development environment because the Mac Mini cannot run the latest version of OS X.  My son’s iPod Touch is stuck back on iOS 4.something.  The iPad that we purchased for my youngest son is now stuck on iOS 5.1.something.  The only device that hasn’t been left behind is my 4th gen iPod Touch.  It is still supported with the latest version of iOS, though I haven’t upgraded it yet.  I long ago sold my iPhone 3G to someone on Ebay.  After the 4.0 version of iOS came out it became obvious that I needed to get rid of the phone before it lost any more resale value.

I had been peeved at the above situations as they occurred, but time had marched on and these devices are older.  I understand that products need to get faster to enable better and more interesting applications.  I get it , but I came to this revelation when viewing an article on the new iPad Mini.  I thought to myself, “What a great thing to get the kids for Christmas”.  Right?  The article that I’m referring to over at Mobile Orchard basically states that the new iPad Mini is the best iPad yet.  I read a similar article on GDGT as well. Awesome! But, hold on.  Maybe not.  Check out the benchmarks below.

So, the new iPad Mini is just slightly faster than the year or so old iPad 2.  The current 10-ish inch iPad is over twice has fast as any other iPad produced to date, even the 6 month old “New iPad”.  We’ve already shown that Apple has no problem leaving behind its users that don’t buy the latest and greatest products that the company is producing.  So, how long before the iPad 2/Mini/”New iPad” are deemed obsolete by Apple.  One year?  By buying one of these iPad Minis you are buying two-year old tech repackaged in a smaller form, but it’s still old tech. Maybe, but I suggest that these devices are practically obsolete on purchase.

I believe the saying “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” is applicable here, except I’ve been fooled far more than twice.

Shame on me.  Apple won’t be fooling me again.

Via Mobile Orchard: REVIEW: 10 Days with the iPad Mini | Mobile Orchard

Learning to Code

Most of the new projects that I come up with usually need some sort of programming.  Often open source software can be used, but it almost always has to be tweaked in some way or another.  The skills to make those tweaks yourself can be invaluable.

Today, over on Reddit, I saw a post of resources/websites where you can learn to code.  They are tutorials, screencasts, projects or online books that the poster finds helpful.  Many different programming languages are represented.  I wanted to preserve this list for myself and others so here it is.

Mobile Podcast Web Apps

Quite a few years ago I created the mobile version of the Fat 2 Fit Radio site.  I took the main functionality from the main WordPress site and translated it using some neat tools, iWebKit and Simple Pie. The main thing that I wanted listeners to do was listen to the podcast on their iPhones. This combination of technology did exactly that. It worked so well that when it came time to create an actual iPhone app for the podcast, this same mobile interface was used as part of that app as well.  Additionally, this interface also powers the Fat 2 Fit Android application.

How about an example, you say?

Visit the following sites on your smartphone to see the interface in action.

You can use these tools for other projects as well.  Visit the links above for more information on how to use them.  For the podcaster out there that wants a simple interface for listeners to hear their shows, download Your Own Mobile Podcast Web App and see how it works for you.

If you’d like help creating a more complex web app for your podcast or business, contact me and let’s talk.

Kettlebell Challenges Updated

My site, Kettlebell Challenges, has been updated with improved functionality.  Most of the changes are behind the scenes, but many are apparent to the users.  Among the new features are these great new profile pages.  The user has the option of making the profile public or keeping it private.  From this profile page you can start new challenges and log, change or delete your kettlebell workouts.

Kettlebell Challenges Profile Page

After you complete your challenge you’ll have the option of putting a cool badge on your website like the one below.

A Sample Kettlebell Challenges Badge

This site is an ongoing effort, but it’s coming along nicely if not quickly.

Sign up and challenge yourself!

Get Off The Upgrade Train!

It is extremely costly to live on the cutting edge of technology. If you are an “early adopter”, chances are you paid top dollar for the latest device or software. The latest Android smart phones or iPhone, while not terribly expensive up front, around $200, they will cost you thousands of dollars over the next two years in data charges. Tablets, laptops, video game systems all have similar economic models associated with them. Cheap console, expensive games. Sleek laptop, non-upgradeable video card and limited memory. Likewise with software, companies that produce software are constantly creating new features and versions to get you to upgrade to the latest and greatest. And often they produce incompatibilities with older versions of software to almost guarantee an upgrade fee.

My solution for most of you reading this is to “Get off the upgrade train!” What I suggest for most individuals is treating their computer or device like a time capsule. Unless you’re working with others and sharing files back and forth, the software that you’re using right now is probably just fine. New software brings along with it higher memory, processor and space requirements that the older computer you are currently using may not be able to handle. That new OS, while cooler looking with its whiz bang widgets and it’s shiny plasticized icons, will almost certainly make your three-year old computer seem slow and antiquated. In the future there may be software that you need to run as part of your business or that will just plain make your life much easier. By all means get that software, but run it on new hardware and upgrade the whole experience.

I have an example of this from my own life. As I write this I am using a Pentium 4, 1.8Ghz system with 1GB of memory, running Windows 2000. *Gasp!* What can’t I do on this system that I can do on a newer system? Nothing. The system and the software go together, both forged in the early 21st century. I also have Office 2000 on this system. *Gasp!* It has worked perfectly well for every project that I’ve had in the last 11 years. And truthfully the features that I use today are not much different from when I started using it. How many feature do you/I actually need? I’m guessing not that many. Most people only us a small subset of their software’s capabilities anyway.

There is a time and place for upgrading though. Just today we upgraded a couple of seats to Office 2007. That’s right, a five-year old version of the Microsoft Office product. Why? First, it was what the client was using and second it was dirt cheap. How about $69.99 for Office 2007 Standard? Good deal. Not the latest and greatest. And this comes to my second point.

When you do think about upgrading your software, look for the bargains. The equivalent latest version, Microsoft Office Home and Business 2010, is currently $219.99 on Amazon. for the full disk based version. That’s a savings of $150 by buying one version behind the latest. Upgraded software and functionality without breaking the bank. Remember though, without an external catalyst, we wouldn’t be upgrading at all.  I give my 13 year-old son the same advice when he is looking at the latest first person shooter to run on his laptop.  Usually the requirements for the game are greater than what he has.  Those titles are often a third, fourth or fifth release of the game.  Well, guess what? There are multiple older version of those games, that he hasn’t played either, that are plenty playable on his system.  And, they are in the dollar bin at Fry’s.

There will be a day, in the future, that you will need to upgrade your computer.  It’s inevitable.  You could upgrade your current computer to run the next operating system or that new game, but there will come a day that you can’t do that anymore.  The technology will have changed and you can’t upgrade.  If you “Get off the upgrade train”, the money that you saved by not chasing the tail of technology will, in all likelihood , get you a long way toward buying that new piece of tech when it is time.