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Showing posts from 2012

My Thoughts on Windows 8

I have to say I've been pretty excited by Windows 8.  I've been using it for about 6 months now and, although it's quite different, it's got a lot going for it.  I like it so much that I upgraded our two computers (one desktop and one laptop) to Windows 8 the weekend it was officially released.  After all of this, I thought I would blog about what I think of it.  First of all, although I think it's great, I don't think it's perfect.  There are some things that are annoying.  But first, I want to talk about the things that I like.

The New Start Screen I hear a lot of people complaining that Microsoft ruined Windows 8 by taking out the start menu.  I really don't get that.  They simply expanded it to include the whole screen.  Then they added live tiles that give you updates without even requiring that you open the application.  It's pretty cool stuff.

It's also easy to customize.  I've set up an account for my kids and only put tiles up for …

My Thoughts on the Second Presidential Debate

I just finished watching the second Presidential Debate and I have to say that I'm disappointed.  Not with the contenders - they both went at it with gusto and I would probably call it a narrow win by Romney (but I'm a Romney fan so that may not be entirely objective).  I guess I'm disappointed with the whole political process.  The debate seemed to focus more on showing up the other guy, on spinning the other's words to make them look bad.  No thought was given to intent, only interpretation.  For example, Romney stated that the President had cut oil and gas leases on government land by 14% (I'm getting the number from memory so it may be wrong).  The President shot back that no, he didn't cut them, oil and gas production is up.  Romney shoots back that the number of leases is down.  The President says he did not cut leases by 14%.  Romney asks how much he cut them by.  The President says, "OK, here's what happened..."

Here's my problem.  Th…

6 Months with my Windows Phone - Still A Fan

There's been a lot of smart phone hype over the last couple of weeks.  A LOT of hype.  There are new Android phones, new Windows phones, and of course, new Apple phones.  Seeing all of the new phones with their new features (except for the broken maps feature on the iPhone) makes me want one.  I can't help it, I love new techie things.

So this post is a little self-therapy.  Something to help me appreciate what I have instead of longing for something I don't.

It's been close to 6 months since I got my Windows Phone and I still love it!  I did an initial review of the phone back in April and it hasn't disappointed me since.  I use the calendars to keep track of my personal and my work schedules.  I also get to peek in on my wife's schedule so that I don't double book her for something.  Honestly, I don't know how I got along without just the calendars.  Seeing what's going on with the family, the reminders for appointments, and the feeling that my l…

When Government Gets Out of Balance

I had a thought hit me the other day.  Have you ever seen that movie, I Robot?  The premise is simple, people built robots to make their lives easier.  As robots began to do more and more things, more and more people started using and, in some cases, depending on them.  The robots are controlled by a central computer that uploads updates, etc. to them.  Well, at a certain point, the central computer decides that humans are not capable of taking care of themselves and turns the robots from servants of humanity to their masters.  Now it's the robots who make the decisions, set the schedules and determine what's right and wrong - of course, it's all in the name of protecting humans from each other.  After all, if you're not allowed to make your own choices, there's no crime, no violence, no bickering ... no freedom.

So here we are with a modern government that has some of the same attributes as that central computer.  Government (at least in this country) was formed b…

Video Services

A long time ago, I cut my cable.  I bought a pair of rabbit ears and, within 3 months, I was ahead financially and I found that I really didn't miss it.  Then, a few years ago, I subscribed to Netflix (this is when I realized that I was spending about $15.00 per month renting movies and I could get more movies for less money through Netflix).  Soon after that, I found that I wasn't really buying movies any more.  If I wanted to watch a movie, I'd just have it mailed to me.  Then Netflix introduced streaming video and I found myself watching TV series without any commercials and the kids loved all of the kids stuff on there.  I was getting a lot of entertainment for an excellent price.

Then came along some competitors.  Hulu came out with recent and current TV shows and Amazon started their instant video where you get free movies and TV shows (with a Prime membership) and the option to purchase or rent most others.  Well, over the past month or so, I've had the opportun…

Pick Your Poison

Sometimes people ask me for my advice on technology.  What kind of computer to get, should they get a tablet, what smartphone is the best, etc.  As I have tried to answer both honestly and personally (I don't recommend the same thing every time) I have found that it all comes down to ecosystems.  While most gadgets will interact with most other ecosystems, they work the best (and with the fewest headaches) when they're in their own.

For example, when you buy an iPhone, you're not just buying a phone, you are taking a step into the Apple ecosystem.  iTunes will be used to move music and applications onto and off of your phone.  You will be able to purchase music and TV shows and movies through iTunes.  Is that what you want?  I was recently asked about whether a couple should get iPhones or Android phones.  I asked, "Do you own any Apple products?"  They owned a couple of iPods.  Then I asked, "Do you like the iTunes environment?"  They said they were fi…

SkyDrive - The Perfect Backup Solution?

Sometimes I worry about my data.  I have documents, music, and pictures (lots and lots of pictures) that would be difficult to impossible to replace if destroyed.  Not only that, but I'm spoiled too - I want to be able to edit my documents where ever I happen to be - home, work, vacation, whatever.  Until yesterday, that was nearly impossible (without a lot of effort), but now it's not.  Why?  SkyDrive.

SkyDrive is a service from Microsoft that allows you to synchronize anything in your SkyDrive folder on your desktop with 7GB (or more if you're willing to pay) of online storage AND any other desktop you configure.  There's a great article on it here.

The way it works is simple.  You sign up for a Windows Live account (which you will use to access your stored data) and download the SkyDrive client for your desktop.  During setup is will ask you to log in to your live account.  Once it's set up, you will get a SkyDrive folder on your computer.  Now any document you…

My First Week With a Windows Phone

As you are probably aware, I suffer from a malady called gadget lust.  Whenever cool new tech things come out, I find myself really wanting one.  I go through several iterations of justification and, usually, it turns out that I don't need it and I wouldn't really use it very much if I got it.  So, I have to say a tearful goodbye and get over it.  However, sometimes, it turns out that the return on investment is justified.

Recently my wife's phone died.  Coincidentally, her two year contract with T-Mobile was just about up as well (which means we could get a subsidized phone).  So it was time to look for a new phone.  I cruised around the T-Mobile site to see what was available - plan-wise as well as phone-wise.  I found that combining my prepaid and her individual account into a family account would actually cost a little bit less that what we were paying now (since I started managing projects, I use a lot more minutes on my phone).  Then I found that we could get smartp…

My New Windows Phone Can't Sync to Google! - Resolved

My wife and I finally took the plunge and got ourselves smartphones.  We got matching Lumia 710 Windows Phones from T-Mobile

They're really cool!

I love the interface, the live tiles, and other features.

I did run into one issue though.  I couldn't sync my Google account (gmail, calendar, and contacts).  This was really frustrating!  It was so bad that I was considering returning the phone.  After all, I do all of my email and calendar in Google.

Fortunately, I found a resolution on the Nokia forums.  Basically, Google makes you pass a captcha test (you know - "type in these letters" sort of test) to log on from a new device.  Well, with Windows Phone, it signs in automatically so there's no option for doing the captcha.  No captcha means no access and you get the following error:

"m.google.com is currently unavailable. Try again later."
and the error code 85010017.


Well, to fix it, you have to have Google suspend captcha verification.  Simply log int…

Why I Support Mitt Romney

Let's face it - we're not doing as well as we could right now.  Government is spending way more than it has and the long term outlook isn't good (in my opinion).  So, why do I think Mitt Romney has what it takes to pull us out of this funk?  I'll tell you - he's a fixer.

Mitt made his fortune looking for how to improve companies.  Lower their expenses, improve their processes, help executives work toward a common goal, etc.  The goal in turning around a company is to make it run more efficiently than its competitors - that way it can charge its customers less and still make more.  He's so good at this that he's made millions doing it.

What if we applied that to government.  I mean what does everybody complain about government?  It's big and bloated right?  So here we have an expert at trimming things down.  Keep the same or better service, just do it for less money.  Government saves money which means the taxpayer (us) saves money which means the defici…

Control Your Money - The Dangers of Penny Auctions

OK, I have to say this.  I've been seeing a lot of ads for these penny auction sites.  You know, the "get a brand new big screen TV ($800 retail) for $23.96" sites.  They make it sound so easy to get things so cheap - like it's too good to be true.  Well it is.

Here's how it works:  you pay to get bids.  The price usually comes out at about $0.60 per bid (you buy them in lots of 100 or so).  The bids only go up in one penny increments.  So that TV that sold for $23.96 required 2,396 bids.  At $0.60 per bid, that's $1,437.60 the site made on the TV (plus the $23.96 you paid for it).  Somebody's making out like a bandit, but it's not you.

Basically, these sites are gambling sites.  You pay money for a chance to "win" stuff.  However, just like all gambling places, the house always wins - even if you win the auction.  If you lose, well you're just out a few bucks - just like playing the slot machines.

So, here's my view of penny auctio…

My eReader: The Kobo Touch

As you may know, I suffer from a malady called Gadget Lust.  I try to keep it under control and make sure when I purchase a gadget and have the means and I will actually use it.  Well, I love reading so it wasn't hard to justify an eReader although it did take some time to save up for it (I do have a strict budget you know).

Initially I wantedI a Kindle.  In fact, I've wanted a Kindle ever since they came out.  The whole eInk concept is amazing and I do get eye strain from regular monitors.  Unfortunately, I have since learned that they are limited to Amazon's store and little else (yes there are tools for getting other ebooks but they're not supported natively).  This put a real damper on things since I prefer to check books out of the library vs purchasing them, although, if they are really good then I might just purchase them.  The other thing I've become hooked on is the touch interface.  The Kindle currently does not have a touch interface and doesn't sup…

Control Your Money - An Easy Way To Save

I'm always on the lookout for new ways to save money.  I recently ran across a great article about the fundamentals of saving money.  It's called How To Save Money.  It was a good article.  Nothing new (for me anyway) but worthwhile stuff.

What struck me (and inspired this post) was a question posted in the discussion section.  A person simply posted:  "I need an easy way to save".  Don't we all!  My first thought was, too bad for you - there is no easy way to save.  Then, I thought about it.  Perhaps there is...

The problem is that saving money depends very heavily on how you spend money.  Each person is different.  Each person has a different definition of what is easy.  About 10 years ago, I cut my cable.  At the time, I would have called that moderately to extremely difficult.  Now I would call it easy.  It has saved me a lot of money and I don't miss 300 channels of nothing on.

So, back to the question.  What's an easy way to save?  I think the real…

Control Your Money - Saving Money Takes Time

One of my problems with money is that I want to save a lot - all the time.  Unfortunately, life has taught me that it doesn't work like that.  For every person that touts getting rich by doing "this one simple thing", there are hundreds - if not thousands - that failed at the same thing.  What's the moral here?  Don't expect to grab a few tips on saving money and end up with piles of cash at the end of the month.  It takes time and the piles tend to be smaller than you imagine.

In fact, I would say that learning to effectively save money is like getting in shape.  In the beginning, it hurts a lot and you don't see much result from your effort.  The key to success is to stick with it.  You have to be frugal every day.  You have to be on the lookout for ways to economize.  As time passes, your dedication begins to pay off.  You start to see success.  Your debt starts shrinking faster.  Your savings slowly increases.  You don't stress so much about unexpect…

Control Your Money - Control Your Wants!

A little while ago, I wrote about Gadget Lust - that is, wanting to get the latest and greatest gadgets.  It sometimes seems to cause a constant battle in my head between wanting a cool new toy and knowing that it's not practical or, in some cases, not even very useful.

A recent event caused the conflict to flare up again.  The retailer Staples issued a coupon for $100 off any tablet in stock.  Ooohh - could I afford one now?  I went to the website and looked at what was available.  Then I started looking up reviews to see which ones were the best.  The more I looked into it, the more I wanted one.  I started justifying why I needed to get one and had myself pretty much convinced that I deserved it.  Then something happened.  I don't remember exactly when I had the realization - either while talking with my wife, or studying my scriptures, or some combination of the two, but I realized that a huge portion of my desire for a tablet had come from allowing myself to obsess about…

Being Optimistic

It really is a wonderful time to be alive.  Sometimes we let our cares and responsibilities get in the way of appreciating that.  But here we are with the wonders of technology, a peaceful society (well, mostly peaceful), and indoor plumbing!  We live better now than kings did a few hundred years ago.  Pretty amazing.

A wise man once said, "We cannot control the things that happen to us, but we can control our attitude."  I don't know why I put that in quotes because it's probably not even close to what the actual quote is, but the gist is the same.  I can't stop work from being busy, or the bills from coming in, or the kids from being - well, kids.  But I can stop work from being stressful, or the bills from being depressing, or the kids from being frustrating.  That's where attitude comes in.

A negative attitude makes bad things worse.  A positive attitude can make bad things better (or at least not so bad) and helps to focus on the good things.

I choose t…