Saturday, April 20, 2013

How to Save Big at Best Buy

I am always surprised by how many people shop at Best Buy.  Their prices are generally higher than most online stores or even retail chains like Wal-Mart.  If you're looking to pay more Best Buy is the right place to go.

In all fairness Best Buy is getting better with their pricing in a lot of areas.  TV's, Blue Ray players, etc are competitively priced.  Here are some tips on how you can shop at Best Buy and make out like a bandit.

First don't EVER buy a cable from there.  Certainly do not let some sales man talking you into buying a "Monster" cable for your HD TV.  You'll hear things like "You just spent $1500 on a TV you want to have the best picture possible and lower priced cables may give you a poor picture." - BULLSHIT it's HD and all digital.  Which means your cable is either going to be rated to work or it wont.  Monster cables are no better than the cheap ones.  Case in point, the cheapest 6' HDMI cable I could find at Best Buy was around $25.  "Five Below" a $5 and lower store across the street sells a 6' HDMI cable for $5.  Guess what, works like a dream on my Xbox.  It's also fully rated for 3D TV.   You can also get them at a reasonable price at   However my favorite place for cables is They sell cables of all types dirt cheap.  Cat 5, HDMI cables you name it.  If you can wait a few days for shipping you can save a lot on all sorts of things from there.  Don't let some salesman convince you otherwise.  The same applies to optical and coaxial DVD connectors.  Digital transfers 1's and 0's.  

Best Buy does price matching just like Wal-Mart and most other retail chains.  What most people don't know is that Best Buy will match Amazon's pricing.  It's the only brick and mortar store I know that actually will match's prices.  I've saved, $20, $30 and even more on products by pointing out that Amazon sells it for cheaper.  Now if you have an Amazon Prime membership you can get shipping for free and get it in two days plus you dont have to pay sales tax.  That is the best savings but some things like a TV you might not want to received from UPS's fine delivery staff.  You can however go right to Best Buy and point out it's $200 cheaper on Amazon.  The only catch is you're on the hook for sales tax but hey, you can get it same day.

Another good use for Best Buy is on fixed pricing items.  These are items like a new Wii, Xbox or Playstation.  They will cost the exact same amount regardless of where you go.  That way retailers all make the same amount on the item despite which retailer you go to.  Best Buy though has a rewards program that Wal-Mart doesn't so if you do end up buying a lot of equipment you can end up getting a few perks in the way of some free cash to spend at Best Buy.  Something for free is always better than nothing.

Competition is tough these days with electronics retailers.  Information like this should give you an edge when buying new equipment.

Impossible indeed!

One Week Without A Smartphone? Impossible

Yes a week without a smartphone could be my demise.

Defiance - A Western in SciFi Disguise

When I first heard about Defiance coming out I was excited to see another new Scifi series coming out. I have been waiting for Falling Skies to start up and thought perhaps Defiance might give me a good scifi fix while I'm waiting for that to start.

So far it's been a mixed bag which generally is not the most reassuring.  The concept was somewhat exciting.  Rebellion of survivors the loner joins forces and helps the colony.  Felt just like Terra Nova when that came out and we know what sort of success that was.

The two hour pilot to me was a huge let down.  Here in the first interaction ever with the protaganist Jeb Nolan he manages to find amazing alien energy tech only to have to use it in a huge battle against an army of mechanized warriors sought on destroying Defiance.  Once he uses the energy device and blows away the bad guys he is offered the job as Sheriff which he accepts.

I am horrified that this could be the best episode all season.  They threw absolutely everything into the pilot.  Epic battles, incredible alien tech, intriguing love story and even a boxing match.  While I say that scifi fans are the biggest bunch of hypocrites around, this story does not hold up.  It's way overdone and over the top.

I'll continue watching it and I may end up eating crow if the show improves but I dont have my hopes up.   Rockne S. O'Bannon is the writer on the show and except for Farscape the rest of his shows have been utter failures.  The new V which while it could have been so cool, failed miserably.  Alien Nation was "ok" but seaquest DSV was just terrible.

I think the show is going to run out of gas quick.  I don't see this as anything but a cheezy western.  How cheesy?   The Sheriff's name is Jeb.  We just need now is Hoss, Little Joe, Adam and Ben and we'll have Bonanza all over again.

I can hope that this show improves but I don't think it will.  I should have known better with a video game that goes with the show this was all over hyped.  My guess is that in another year the game will be at GameStop for $3 and the show will end up getting cancelled.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Twitter peeking at your tweets to target ads.

Appy Geek is reporting that  Twitter will mine people's tweets to target ads.  Scanning your eMail and Tweets is starting to become the norm these days.  Google has been doing it for some time, now twitter is going to start doing it.  

There are whole army of people against this and I posted about it with the website.  I still don't see the issue with this.  If you feel your electronic information is safe you are living under a rock.  Information Security is a very false sense of security.  Hackers, employees, social engineering it all comes down to one thing.  People.  Your data is only as secure as you think it is.  

Try this social experiment. Walk into a McDonalds and sit a table next to a group who just received their food.  Wait about a minute then walk up to the counter and say "Yeah, I'm with the group over there, we were short one double cheeseburger".  See if you get one.  9/10 times you will with no questions asked. 

Your security works the same way.  I personally know that with a little dumpster diving you can grab a bank statement, and call the bank and find out all sorts of things about an account.  In fact you can even ask to have a duplicate debit card sent to you because the magnetic stripe is wearing out.  They wont deactivate the old one just ship you a new one.  I have had the bank tell me "Make sure you destroy the old one because both will work.".  Now if I was a malicious attacker I could use your debit card (The new one I requested) while you were able to use yours.  

The whole point here is that Twitter and Google are mining your data to target ads to you.  Frankly I'm ok with that.  Why?  Its better than random nonsense or tampon ad's when I have no use for them.  I dont mind seeing ads for cool gear I might be interested in.  

Microsoft though better get on the ball and register or something so they can strike fear into twitter users to use Bing. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Go glass!

Larry Page Confirms that Google Glass Runs Android

Facebook Home or Facebook Fail?

All the buzz lately in the media seems to be about Facebook Home.  Leaks from everywhere was reporting a Facebook phone.  Zuckerberg eventually announced a less than spectacular FaceBook home instead.

Below is the "Airplane" commercial that Facebook is running.  Like most car commercials this doesn't really tell you much about what Facebook Home is.  In fact this commercial was largely useless except to perhaps convey that most people ignore the stewardess to turn off their phones.


So what is Facebook home?  It's an Android home screen replacement.  There are plenty of home screen replacements and I have tried a few like Go Launcher EX.  I honestly cant find a good use for them.  Most seem to cause compatibility issues with widgets or eat CPU and battery life.  Then trying to uninstall one sometimes is a complete nightmare.

Facebook home is just another home screen replacement.  The concept is that you are such a Facebook junkie that you need to have Facebook the overwhelming application on your phone.  Which is exactly what you get.  All your google apps and widgets are shoved in the closet while Zuckerberg takes the main stage on your phone.

The big features you get with Facebook Home are:

  • Cover Feed - unlock your phone and see your facebook news feed
  • Chat Heads and Messenger - I don't get this, it claims you can chat in the background while doing other things.  Couldnt I do this already with IMO or the standalone Facebook messenger app?
  • Notifications - Facebook annoys you until you acknowledge your updates.  (I hate this feature on the web already why do I need to be annoyed on my phone too)
  • App Launcher - The ability to actually doing something productive. 
And the Google Play rating for this app?  2 stars!

Why oh why would you want this on your phone.  Don't get me wrong here I like Facebook as much as the next guy but so much that I'm willing to convert my home screen to it?  Hell no. The advertisements portray this Facebook nirvana where photos of your friends and family are sending you photos and sharing all of life's great moments. 

Lets face it, what you are really going to see on your phone most of the time will be a memes of cat's, dogs, babies and Obama. 90% of the Facebook posts I see are random garbage.  In fact I've completely removed people from my friends list because of the sheer volume of repostings that take place.  The last thing I want to do is open my phone and see a picture of some kid holding a sign that says they are the 1% of americans that eat ramen noodles while standing on their head.  

When I go to make a phone call this is the last update I want to see on my home screen:

The whole idea of your home screen is to allow you to customize it and get you access to your apps.  Facebook thinks that the only app on your phone worth anything is Facebook.  I hear people say "Finally a home screen focused on people".  If this is the type of poeple you want to focus on, then have at it.  I always thought getting to your apps easily was focusing on you.  I am sure there are are a small percentage of users who love Facebook that much but I don't know a single one.  So for me, this was a serious Facebook fail.  2 stars on the Play store with over 8K reviews seems to confirm what I already knew. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Google Downtime? "Inconceivable!" says Vizzini

If you are like Westley trying to use Google Mail you may find  it is not working.

"Inconceivable!", Vizzini said as he tried to load Gmail in his web browser.

Inigo Montoya at Google was reported saying "Hello.  My name is Inigo Montoya you crashed my server.  Prepare to die.".  Right before that he posted on the Apps Status Dashboard all the systems that are affected.

It seems though not all of this outage is affecting everyone.  My corporate and personal apps are doing just fine however its a big enough issue that Google posted it to their dashboard.

It may simply be an attack on the castle of Prince Humperdinck.  My guess though is Microsoft read my earlier Blog post and resorted to DDOS attack against Google.  Sorry guys.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

IMO Messenger - Great mobile Skype replacement

Like a lot of other Skype users the mobile app sucks.  Even on my Samsung Galaxy Note II the darn thing is slow as molasses.  I ran into IMO though which works very well and integrates all of my messaging into one app.  So far I have no complaints.  Check out IMO Messenger

Monday, April 15, 2013 Microsoft throwing stones from their glass house!

I saw a commercial today which warned me about being "scroogled" and I should visit because all of my information is going to unknown 3rd parties.

I went to the website and saw what appeared to be clear cut Microsoft propaganda.  In fact right at the bottom it says Microsoft!

So it appears that Microsoft is now stepping down to the level of politicians and mud slinging.  I find the the lowest form of competition.  I am all for someone building the better mouse trap.  I support fair competition and advertising of your products.  I even support anti-trust and competition in the marketplace.

What floors me is that Microsoft chose to use mudslinging over a better product.  Microsoft doesn't exactly keep a clean record when it comes to privacy - "Microsoft Being Investigated In The EU For Potential Privacy Violations".  That was just 4 months ago and Microsoft is now telling you that you should be aware of Google.

So what does complain about?
When you buy an Android app from the Google app store, they give the app maker your full name, email address and the neighborhood where you live. This occurs without clear warning every single time you buy an app.
Really?  So a developer is getting my Name, Email and Neighborhood.  Spammers get this from any number of sources and I don't have to have a phone to have that happen.  What makes this even more ridiculous is that I cant think of a website out there that doesn't ask for at least these three pieces of information.  Perhaps your neighborhood is somewhat privacy violating but we have already seen that Apple and Google both use tracking information on your phone.  So who has a hang up with this besides Microsoft.

Why would Microsoft a company who pioneered some of the awesome technology (like Kinect) in use today do this?  I'll tell you why.

  1. Chrome is beating IE in the marketplace and IE is going the way of the Dodo bird. 
  2. Microsoft is no longer a leader in pioneering web technologies. 
  3. Microsoft has spent millions in a search engine that nobody I know uses. 
  4. Microsoft has an inferior phone, apps store and business partnerships.
  5. Windows Phone has no chance of taking over Android and Apple in the phone space.
  6. Windows 8 is a sadistic tortue device.
And the best reason of all?  A $492 Million Dollar Loss reported in Q4.  Despite earlier in the year having the largest revenue on record Microsoft is losing money.  Why?  Competition plain and simple.  Everyone keeps chipping away at Microsoft and their revenue streams.  

Apple keeps chipping away at the desktop market and for a good reason.  The Mac has far less issues than any PC I have ever seen.  I personally think Apple is run by the underworld but I have to admit I love my Mac.  Windows 8 is "User Hostile" and I can't say that I disagree.  

Google owns the web space.  Nobody walks around saying "Just Bing it".  In fact try saying that somewhere and see how many people think you're joking around.   Google also owns the browser market.  I joke around with my fellow nerds about how the worst IT job in the world would be working on the IE Development team.  Why?  Because any web developer worth $20 or more an hour knows IE is an abomination and Chrome and Firefox are the only browsers you should bother developing in.

(Dear IE Development team - You have my pity.)

The gaming market is changing too.  More and more gamers are going back to the PC as hardware has become a lot cheaper and you don't have to upgrade every 6 months to be able to play the latest game.  So the 360 market is shrinking and I'm doubtful the Xbox 720 (or whatever they name it) will blow the doors off everyone. Sony is working on their new console and Nintendo got back in the game somewhat with the WiiU.  Plus the phone market is becoming huge for games.  In fact the OUYA is an android based console!  I can see this growing huge momentum given that most games on the Android platform are under $10.

Microsoft has lowered itself to mudslinging to save any profit they can.  What kills me is that they don't really have to.  They just have to get back to what makes any company great.  Innovation, creativity and community.  Something Microsoft has lost but Google has clearly succeeded at.  I expect to see more and more losses coming out of Microsoft until they get Steve Balmer out and someone who understands the market in.  Balmer had his time in the limelight now he just needs to pass the torch onto someone who can save Microsoft and Balmer is not it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Navy Goes Star Wars - Laser Weapon System (LaWS)

Saw on the news today that the Navy has one of these mounted on a boat now.   Very cool.  I also happened to see recently Boeing now has an electrical interference device to knock out computers and electronics with non-lethal force.  This is becoming a very cool age for technology.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Redbox Instant Review - Redbox vs. Netflix vs. Amazon vs. Xbox Video vs. Vudu

I have been renting DVD's and blue-rays for some time since Redbox came out.  I was excited to hear that Redbox was getting into the streaming market.  When I saw the price I thought to myself "How awesome I don't ever have to leave my house for DVD's again".  Sadly that is not how the service works and from where I stand it is a complete waste of time money and effort.

First here is what the Redbox Instant Website Says -




Furthermore you can "Rent/Buy" online as the website shows when you sign up.  It is some tricky marketing but in a nutshell here is what you get.

1. Crappy old movies you can stream (Even Netflix has better movies)
2. 4 Credits to use at the Kiosk ONLY
3. The "privilege" to rent current movies for about $5.99 a movie.

Whoa wait, are you telling me that I have to pay $5.99 to stream a movie after I pay $7.99 a month for the service?

Well no, not if you wanna watch a crappy old one.

So here is how this works.  All the "Instant" access gets you is access to the same thing you may already be getting on Netflix.  If you want to watch something recent you pay out the wazoo for the movie just like pay per view.  Which in my opinion very misleading.

The only benefit I saw of the free trial is 4 free DVD rentals from the Kiosk which I'll use then dump the service.

So how does this compare to all the others services out there.  I put a matrix together I hope saves some people some time on a comparison of the streaming services.

ServiceCurrent MoviesOlder MoviesDVD RentalCost
Redbox InstantYes*Yes*Yes$7.99*/$5.99 on demand
Amazon PrimeYesYes*Yes$79.99yr/$1.99-$5.99 on demand
VuduYesYesNo$.99-$7.99 on demand
Xbox VideoYesYesNo$0-$7.99 on demand

Redbox Instant clearly is trying to compete Netflix.  To me though it's clearly not worth it.  With Netflix I can rent movies and have them delivered and if I really need a new movie I can see it on Amazon Prime, Xbox Video or even stop at RedBox for the $1.

Out of all the providers I have to say that Amazon Prime is my favorite.  I can get just about everything on it.  The only thing I dont like about Amazon is that a Prime membership is required.  I use Amazon for my shopping so I have an advantage there.  Its also by far cheaper than Redbox or Netflix.  However I have found a few cases where Netflix had a movie Amazon doesn't