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Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8-Inch Tablet

August 9th, 2017 No comments

I bought a new tablet over the weekend! I also bought a new water bottle, some lightning cables, and some dog repellent to replace the mace I was carrying on walks, but lets focus on the tablet, shall we?

My five year old iPad just keeps running slower and slower because as the apps are being updated to accomodate newer phones and iOS versions the device can’t keep up. It’s unfortunate because there’s nothing actually wrong with my iPad but it’s getting to the point where it’s becoming very frustrating to use. I’ve been waiting nearly a year to upgrade because I decided I wanted an iPad Mini which would be easier to handle and travel with. I was waiting for Apple to release a new version, but then they threw me for a loop when they didn’t release an updated Mini this year. Rumor has it they are phasing out the Mini completely, as are other manufacturers. Apparently that size is not as popular as I assumed.

In any case, once I learned this I almost ordered an Amazon Fire Tablet since for $50 how could you go wrong? I’m glad I did a little research first since it turns out the apps you can install on it are very limited and don’t include the Disney Tsum Tsum game I love. They don’t even have a YouTube app – you have to just use the mobile version of the site in the web browser! Plus after seeing one in action at Target I didn’t care for it. While there I spotted the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.0 which was on sale for $160. After a little deliberation I decided I’d rather spend $160 on two year old tech than $400 on the equally old iPad Mini, so I went back to Target the following day to buy one. Unfortunately they only stock the white version which I really didn’t want since I was afraid it would yellow over time. I ended up ordering a titanium one from Amazon instead for the same price which I received the following day (Sunday).

While the Android experience isn’t nearly as bad as it was five years ago when we bought an Asus tablet, I’m still not loving it. I don’t understand why developers don’t make iOS and Android versions of the same app identical. The iOS versions are easier and more intuitive so it’s frustrating using the same app on an Android device. I also don’t like how the emojis look on Android, or how the notifications work since you can’t customize them to the same level of detail as you can with iOS. Overall I’m a bit disappointed but not so much that I won’t use the tablet for its orignal intention – surfing, YouTube, and my game – so I can give my poor iPhone a rest as it’s coming up on three years and the battery life is sucking. Speaking of battery life – the new tablet only gets 8 hours before having to recharge which rather sucks.

One of the things that really bugs me, but might just be an issue with the tablet size/resolution in general, is how images render on it. For instance, thumbnails in apps like Reddit and Flixster look absolutely horrible – very low res and almost out of focus, but once you click on it and it opens the main page for the article/movie it looks fine. It’s just odd, but again, I’m not sure if the same thing would happen on an iPad Mini. I suspect not simply because there’s usually iPad specific versions of the apps, whereas with Android they just make one app that is supposed to work on all size screens but in practice really doesn’t function well.

Surprisingly, most of the people who commented on my new purchase are big Samsung fans and hate Apple. That really blows my mind. I do dislike how expensive Apple products are, but I disagree with the naysayers who claim iOS is not as user-friendly as Android. iOS is easier to use and is far superior to Android in functionality. I do not plan on buying another Android device again. Next time I’m in the market for a tablet I will be getting an iPad even if I have to compromise on the size.

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Ting – Our New Wireless Service

April 3rd, 2016 Comments off

Thursday we initiated the process of switching our wireless carrier from AT&T to Ting. I had heard about Ting awhile back but was on the fence about switching. AT&T increasing the rate on our plan and Joe losing his job pushed us to reconsider the switch.

We ordered the SIM cards from Ting a couple of weeks ago. Since they are a pay for what you use type service they don’t give you the SIMs for free. Each one was $9 plus shipping so our total was $23. I read that most carriers do not prorate your bill so I felt Thursday would be the perfect time to start the process since it was near the end of the billing cycle and it gave us time to work out any lack of service issues.

I was also concerned AT&T wouldn’t unlock my phone in a timely manner since they won’t do it until after you’ve settled your final bill including an ETF (early termination fee). We’ve been with AT&T for seven years, switching from T-Mobile which we liked simply because at the time they were the only carrier that supported the iPhone. We stayed with AT&T because I was grandfathered into their unlimited data plan, we had a discount through Joe’s employer, and because our contracts were never in sync so there was always an ETF to consider unless we waited until both phones were off contract. However, after calculating how much we’d save with Ting, not to mention the referral fee from a friend plus Ting paying a portion of your ETF back in the form of an account credit, we decided to bite the bullet.

I requested Joe’s unlock at the beginning of the week since his phone was already out of contract and it was granted in less than an hour. Thursday evening I chatted with Ting and learned that I should request Ting to port over our numbers which would automatically cancel our AT&T account. The porting process took less than a half hour (although they do warn it could take up to 24) and we decided to deal with the AT&T portion and actually putting the new SIM cards in our phones on Friday morning.

That whole process was easy for Joe’s phone, and when I logged into our Ting account I got really confused because it was showing his test text message under my phone number. Long story short – I’m a doofus. The Ting account does not update immediately and the text message I was looking at (not carefully enough, obviously) was a text that had been sent to my phone the night before. I just never got it since I hadn’t yet asked AT&T to unlock my phone or put the new SIM card in. Derp!

On top of that, I got really pissed at AT&T because when I tried logging into our account to check the final bill it said we no longer had an account. Turns out they had sent an email to Joe (as he’s the primary account holder) letting him know our logins were changed from our phone numbers to a new login they had created. Why they do this I’m not sure, but whatever.

Once I got in the account showed a zero balance even though I was expecting an ETF, so I figured why not request the unlock? Worst they could do was deny it. Unlike Joe’s unlock request, mine wasn’t being granted as quickly, or so I thought. I called AT&T to find out what my final bill was, thinking the ETF was holding things up, and the rep told me my account was paid in full and the contract satisfied. Hmmm… that’s odd because last I had checked, my contract wasn’t up until September, but who was I to argue if they were going to let me out of my contract early and not charge the ETF? I went online to request the unlock again since the first time I put my name in and Joe is the account holder. I figured that might be holding things up, but after looking closer at the emails AT&T sent me, despite their VERY misleading verbiage, my initial request had already been granted shortly after submitting it. Derp again!

Needless to say, everything was smooth sailing from there. The only challenge is for me to not use my phone mindlessly when we’re not on a wireless network, although even if I did we wouldn’t be paying HALF what AT&T was charging us, so it’s really just a challenge to see how low we can keep our monthly bill. I love how you can log into your account and the system tells you what your bill is going to be based on your usage up to that point. I’m obsessed with it!

Ting

I also love that you can set usage alerts so you’ll know when you’re getting close to jumping into a different bucket for your minutes, messages, or data. On top of that, as seen in the screenshot, you can rename your phones instead of just seeing the phone number itself. Really cool service!

I’m pretty stoked that instead of being charged $135 per month our bill will be no more than $70 (based on our previous usage on AT&T). If you’re interesting in switching to Ting too, click my referral link, set up an account so you can purchase your SIM card(s), and you’ll get a $25 credit off your first bill! (And if you happen to forgot or not see the credit come up, just give Ting the URL since it’s unique to my account and they can retroactively apply it since that’s what I did with the referral link we were given).

Added on 4/11/16 – Well son of a bitch, AT&T reps don’t know what they are talking about (shocking, NOT). I just received a bill today for my ETF. On top of that they charge taxes on it for the remaining months so my final bill, which is just fees and no actual usage, is $173.75. Ting will give me back $36.25 of that, plus I received the $25 referral credit, so I’m out $112 for terminating my contract early. However, in two months we will have made up that difference and then it will be all savings from there, so it was still a good decision.

Added on 5/16/16 – Well AT&T once again baffles me. They sent me a second bill showing the ETF and all associated fees credited off the account. I have no idea why they did that, but I’m not going to argue. Woot! Also, our first bill with Ting was $34 but cost us nothing due to the credits we had so that’s awesome. I just realized we don’t have MMS with Ting, though, so I have to use my Google Voice # if I want to send pictures to people. Considering the fact that I’m not a big texter, and the people I do message I contact through Facebook Messenger and Trillian, it doesn’t really affect me much so whatever. I have noticed the cellular signal isn’t nearly as strong at AT&T was, however, which is a bummer, but for now it’s good enough and definitely saving us money which was the whole point of the switch to begin with.

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Samsung 4K UHD TV

June 27th, 2015 Comments off

We finally decided to replace our ten and half year old 42″ Panasonic 480p plasma with a 55″ Samsung 4k Ultra High Definition TV we purchased from Costco for $1097 (before tax). We weren’t 100% sure we were ready to upgrade since the plasma’s picture is still quite good, but with Costco’s awesome return policy (90 days to try it and return it for a full refund), there was no risk in giving it a try.

New TV

What’s amazing is that we paid nearly twice that for the plasma. Honestly, though, I’m pretty bummed that plasma lost the HDTV wars even though they are a superior technology. Too bad Panasonic did nothing to promote it and allowed the inferior LCDs to win.

And while the new TV is impressive, it has its drawbacks, such as dark corners (which all LCDs/LEDs suffer from) as well as only being 60hz. But the only technology that is superior to plasma, OLED, is way too expensive right now, and will probably be out of our price range for several years. So our choice was to make due with the plasma for even longer, or make the new TV work.

The first few days with the new TV were rough and we were considering returning it. The picture was actually too crisp and life-like. I don’t want to feel like the actors are in the room with me – that’s creepy! Plus everyone’s movements were strange. We read some articles and played with the settings and now things are much better because we got rid of what is known as the soap opera effect. I could not see trying to watch anything larger than 55″, though. The room is just not big enough. As it is, it took some getting used to the screen. I felt like when you’re at the movie theater and get stuck in the first few rows and everything is overwhelming your senses.

I’m happy we were able to adjust to the new TV because it’s nice having four HDMI ports – all our devices can remain plugged in at once unlike before. Plus streaming from Amazon, Netflix and YouTube is so quick and easy. No more need for the Chromecast downstairs either. In fact, E and Joe moved the plasma into our master bedroom and we moved the LCD into E’s room and plugged the spare Chromecast in there. He loves being able to watch YouTube videos in there at night. And we love our new TV – in just nine days we watched all three seasons of Orphan Black. What a great show!

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4K TVs & Puppies

March 23rd, 2015 Comments off

Friday we headed to the mall to return a shirt I had gotten at Kohl’s recently since it had a hole in it.

We also stopped in FYE which we rarely do, but it’s fun to browse all the little pop culture figurines they sell there. It paid off too because I found some fun things on clearance that I bought for Brother # 1’s birthday next month.

This crazy looking thing is from Dumb Ways To Die.

Dumb Ways To Die Character

This is from the movie, Ted, and be warned, the things he says in NSFW!

After that we went to Payless where I bought a pair of purple gym shoes (or sneakers, if you’re not a Midwesterner). They were only $18.75 after my coupon. They are very light and breathable which will be great once it warms up and we start going for our daily evening walks again.

New Shoes

We stopped at Hobby Lobby where I ended up getting a cute bouquet of multicolored silk flowers for $4 since they were all on sale for 50% off. I’ve been getting more into silk flowers lately because they are great inexpensive way to change up the decor.

Multicolored Silk Flowers

Lastly, we stopped at Costco to pick up some staples. Fridays are the best day to visit Costco because it’s not busy but they still have the free samples. Score! We also came really close to walking out with a Samsung 4k TV.

We’ve been patiently looking at TVs for awhile now but can’t seem to pull the trigger. I love our plasma but now that Joe has been unable to fix the broken TV that was originally in our bedroom, we thought it would make sense to replace the one downstairs, move that into the bedroom, and then move the TV that’s currently in the bedroom back into the loft for gaming. I was ready to drop $1000 on the TV but after reading the Amazon reviews I’m not so sure that’s a great idea. I’m less concerned about it “only” being 60hz since nothing is broadcast in anything higher anyway, but people were complaining about how the light bleeds on the edges of the screen and even posted pictures. The thing I will say about our old outdated plasma is that the blacks are very black and I really have no complaints with the picture quality even though it’s not even 720p. But man, those 4k TVs look awesome, and owning a Samsung smart TV would be great. We could move the Chromecast upstairs, plus connect the Wii, PS3, Ouya, and Xbox 360 downstairs without having to switch HDMI ports all the time. Oh well… I’m sure we’ll find something eventually.

After dropping off our loot at home we headed south toward our old neighborhood to grab lunch at a Thai place I wanted to try. Then we killed some time by visiting the local animal shelter and looking at dogs. OMG the place smelled so bad! I’ve been to other shelters before, and this one smell-wise is the absolute worst. I do not recommend visiting it right after eating; it strongly smelled like shit and vomit and I almost puked.

The majority of the dogs there were either pitbulls or pitbull mixes. It was so depressing walking past rows and rows of kennels and seeing all the dogs get excited. They all had those pathetic puppy-dog eyes that tear at your heart strings. Eventually we came upon one kennel that housed a very large fluffy dog with the cutest face. He was very calm and friendly, licking my hand. I guessed he had to be a puppy from the way his fur looked, and sure enough he was only 10 months old. He was a beautiful Akita and St. Bernard mix. If we had a house with a yard we might have actually adopted him. I couldn’t stop going back to his kennel to pet him. Poor guy. The good news is I’m sure he’ll be adopted. I can’t imagine no one will want him. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for all the dogs there. :(

We killed more time by visiting the pet store and the local library before it was finally time to pick up E for the weekend. Joe and E wanted Dunkin Donuts iced coffee, so we hit the drive-thru before picking up a pizza we had ordered a half hour earlier. I never get anything when they go to DD, but I did try Joe’s drink and now I’m in love with the vanilla swirl iced coffee. Holy crap is it good! They recently added a bunch of ice cream flavors to their iced coffee offerings. I’m wondering how it would taste if I got it decaffeinated with almond milk to protect my sensitive stomach. I plan to try it one of these days.

Once we got home and ate dinner we let E stream YouTube videos to the Chromecast and then watched a movie.

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Loud Teenagers, Selling My iPhone, Etc.

September 29th, 2014 Comments off

Another fabulously fun weekend has come to an end. Luckily Joe didn’t have to work on Saturday so we actually had two days together.

But first we had to get through Friday night’s high school football game to see E in the marching band. It seems like every time we go to a game the crowd gets worse and worse. This time there was a teenage girl sitting next to me who kept flipping her head around so fast to look at her classmates sitting behind her that was I literally getting slapped in the face by her long ponytail! I wish I was making this up! And even though I kept moving away from her she managed to keep moving closer to me. She also elbowed me several times and kicked my water bottle onto the ground without any apology. The kids sitting behind us kept kneeing me in the back and screaming in our ears as well. By the time half-time came around I was ready to assault someone. We left the bleachers and went down by the fence to watch E’s performance before leaving. I have absolutely no desire to go to another game ever again but if we have to, I will just stand by the field instead of subject myself to the rude and obnoxious behavior of teenagers. I just can’t believe how loud and fidgety they all were! My god, it made me so anxious! I was so incredibly happy to get back to the calm solitude of our home.

Saturday started out with a trip to the doctor because Joe’s arm has been hurting him. He may have torn something lifting weights so she gave him a referral to a specialist. She also ordered some blood work and EKG because he’s 45 now and it’s been awhile since the former and I guess with his age she wanted to check his heart with the latter. We headed straight over to the hospital to get both tests out of the way since we were close and he just so happened to have been unintentionally fasting which was required of the blood tests.

Once we were done with all that we met up with a guy who was interested in buying my iPhone 4S which I had posted on Craigslist. I was initially asking for $250 when I posted it last weekend but wasn’t getting any interest because there were a ton of people selling the same phone in my area. I bumped it down to $199 and he asked if $170 was ok. Seeing as though I paid $200 and used it for three years I was fine with that. I even threw in three cases and a portable battery because they were useless to me now anyway. The guy was nice and was purchasing the phone for his niece to play games on as she’s only six years old. He was telling us how he spoils her.

It feels weird to no longer have the phone, but I’m sure I’ll get over it soon. I actually had a dream about it the other night and started feeling anxious about getting rid of it. Does this happen to anyone else where they become attached to an inanimate object? I think this is why I never ended up selling my iPhone 3GS which is now collecting dust. I pulled it out yesterday and charged it and it felt so small yet heavy! I’m actually giving it away to Brother #1 to play games on. Once I get over the weird sense of loss I will be happy to not have these useless devices sitting around the house. I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the stuff we have so anything I can find a new home for is a good thing.

After selling my phone we decided to pay Cosley Zoo a visit since I’d been itching to take some photos.

Mallard Duck

I really wish I had a longer zoom lens, though. I checked last night and Canon released a ton of new rebates but unfortunately they’re for L lenses (the big expensive white ones that typically go for $1200+). What a bummer!

On the way home we checked out the new Caputo’s grocery store that opened on Thursday. It’s now the closest grocery store to the house and technically within walking distance although I wouldn’t brave crossing the busy intersection it’s on to walk there. It’s sectioned off in an interesting way and I haven’t decided whether I like it or find it obnoxious. It was super busy which sucked but we’d probably shop there early morning (they open at 6 am every day) anyway so it shouldn’t be much of an issue. Plus it will come in handy on those occasions where I’m missing a key ingredient for dinner and don’t want to spend a fortune at Target since it’s usually produce which is way overpriced there.

Categories: Animals, Excursions, Kids, Photos, Tech Tags: