Are Our Amazon Kids Tablets Holding Up?

Our kids have had Amazon Kids Tablets for awhile.  They’re great for long car rides or when they need some down time.  We limit their time on them.  Now the Kids Tablet isn’t the official name.  They’re actually the Amazon Fire tablet.  But we bought them both with the kids bundle.  This include a kid friendly carrying case, a warranty, and a subscription to Free Time.

I’ll start off by saying that my wife doesn’t like them. She’s used to her iPad and we even use her old one for the kids as a secondary option.  So, she makes me deal with the Amazon tablets, and I have a slightly different approach.  Overall, I don’t really care for them too much, but for the value, I like them.

Here are some thoughts on various aspects.

Hardware

The hardware has actually held up pretty well.  My daughter’s buttons for volume and power are a bit harder to manage.  Overall, though, everything else has held up well.

Battery

I will admit, you get what you pay for on battery life.  By and large, it isn’t very good.  They can use them for around three hours before having to re-charge.  What I really don’t like is that when they’re not used, they still drain battery.  Both my wife’s iPad and my Google Nexus basically stop draining battery when the screen is off.  The Amazon tablets will drain about 25% or more battery in a day, even when off.  This has made for a few frustrating occasions when the kids want to use them, but have no power.

Free Time Unlimited

Each tablet we bought gave us a year subscription to Free Time Unlimited.  This gives access to a ton of kids games and books.  This was good and bad.  The problem is that it presented every single option available.  Our kids would try to check out a whole bunch.  We ended up with storage problems many times as a result.  Plus it was hard for our kids to scroll through with so many options.

After two years the free subscriptions ran out.  Then they wanted $5 or $6 per month to continue.  No thanks.  I cancelled the subscription and the apps went away from the main screen.  However, it appeared that any app data they had was still on the device.  Not so cool.

Other Apps

It took me a while but I figured out how to get the kids set up with different apps and books.  I can actually do it all from my desktop.  I browse through the Amazon App Store, find free games or books, and ‘buy’ them.  Then I can assign them to either or both tablets.  Then I go to the app setting and grant access to who I want to have the app.  Within an hour it or so it shows up on their tablet.

There aren’t as many games as are in the Google or Apple stores, but there’s still a decent amount.  They also have a fairly decent selection of eBooks.

Storage

We have the basic tablets that have 8GB of storage.  We also bought an external SD card for more storage. This works out pretty well, except the problem is that most apps put all or most application data on the internal storage.  Even if you ‘move’ an app to external storage, it seems very little actually gets transferred.

As a result we often run out of space.  Now, Amazon integrates the ‘Cloud’ where it archives apps that haven’t been used in awhile.  This sounds great but can be very frustrating.  Essentially what happens is that each app that’s actually on the device has a checkmark.  Any app that’s been archived (or never downloaded) does not have a checkmark.

This seems pretty straightforward except that there are times when an app that they use regularly suddenly disappears.  This can be especially frustrating if we’ve taken the tablet in the car and there’s no wi-fi.  This does seem to happen when the device starts running low on storage space, which is quite regularly.

Resetting

Luckily, I’ve figured out that dealing with the storage issue is pretty simple.  All you have to do is reset the device.  Since everything is associated with my Amazon account and the individual profiles, it’s no big deal to reset the device to factory defaults and start over.  This wipes the internal storage (but not the SD card) and starts over.  As soon as I enter my Amazon credentials, it downloads the kids profile info.  Then, they can just download the apps again.  Much of the app data is stored on the cloud, so they don’t lose their progress in every game.

I’ve found that resetting the device is often the quickest method to fixing problems when it starts getting slow.  I had originally downloaded a couple of programs that were supposed to clean unused files, and while it worked to some degree, it seemed a stopgap solution.

Sticking With Them For Now

As you can tell, the Amazon Fire tablet is not as straightforward as other devices.  I know my wife would disagree, but I still think it’s good for the kids.  For a bundle that cost under $100 each, it’s been worth the trade offs.  I think as they get older, the limited content might end up being an issue.  But by that point, I’d probably trust them with a more expensive piece of equipment, where I really don’t today.

 

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Cryptocurrency Is The Next Buzz Word To Know

If you’d have asked me six months ago what cryptocurrency meant, I would have had no idea.  I probably would have ventured a guess that it had something to do with Bitcoin.  That part, as it turns out, is true.  Lucky guess on my part.

To be honest, I still don’t know much about cryptocurrency, but I know that it’s taking off.  I don’t have enough knowledge to explain what it is or what the benefits and risks are beyond a passing conversation, so this article won’t do that.

But I will tell you that it is something that people should know about.  Here’s why:

Cryptocurrency Is Digital

Everything is digital these days.  You can do everything online.  Take a picture and it’s instantly available and on the cloud.  You can converse with friends, family, or complete strangers.  If you need to buy something, you can take care of your needs all through a digitally connected device.  When you need a ride, you can get that, too.

See where I’m going with this?

Everything is available through your digital fingertips, so it sort of makes sense that a digital currency system would evolve.

Cryptocurrency Is Not Online Banking

Image courtesy of Pixabay

One thing that always confused me when I heard about Bitcoin, which is the first cryptocurrency (though there are no many more) was that I couldn’t figure out how it was different than online banking.  It turns out that it’s an entirely different thing altogether.

Your typical banking website is a platform that gives you information based on your currency that’s used.  In other words, it’s giving you information about the transactions.  The transactions themselves are using currency.  Cryptocurrency is now a real thing.

Cryptocurrency Works Because It’s Secure

In order for a currency to be a real thing that people will actually use, it has to be secure.  This holds true with the good old American dollar, for example.  Banks keep your dollars safe.  Gold that has value in proportion to the dollar is kept safely guarded.  People demand that currency itself be secure before they trust using it.

So is the case with cryptocurrency.  Since it’s digital currency, all of the security is also digital.  You won’t see a security guard keeping watch over your cryptocurrency.  The security comes from terms like blockchain and wallets, information of which I just can’t squeeze into this article.  Thankfully there are lots of resources out there, from investment articles to contacting experts such as Brock Pierce of Blockchain Capital.  If you’re really interested in taking your knowledge of cryptocurrency to the next level, there are some great resources out there.

The Bottom Line

There are a million more facts about cryptocurrency.  There’s a lot to learn about how you use it.  Or how you invest in it (just like you can invest in other currencies).  As with anything financial related, go ahead and get familiar with it before you use it or invest in it.  I’d suggest learning more now because one way or another, it looks to be making a place as part of our everyday world.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

How We’re Funding Our Anniversary Vacation

I recently mentioned that we’re going on a ten year anniversary vacation.  We’re all booked up for flights and our resort.  Since we’re staying at an all inclusive resorts, we are comfortable that we have most costs covered.  One thing with other trips is you get stuck with fees, meals, drinks, etc.  We already have that stuff covered.

But, still, we had to pay for it.  I don’t know about you, but we often fund things like this from several different sources.  That was really true with this trip.

Funding Our Anniversary Vacation

Here are the list of sources that we’re using to piece together the budget:

  • A portion of our 2016 tax refund.  We always put some toward travel, and this year we put some extra for this.
  • A portion of our annual vacation savings.  We fund our vacation savings fund throughout the year, and a little bit went to this trip for the year.
  • A portion of one of my two ‘extra’ paychecks.  We budget for two paychecks per month, but have two months where we get three.  This is often used for funding ‘special’ items and this occasion seemed fitting!
  • Reward money from four different cash back credit cards.  We have four cards that we use to maximize our category savings, and we cashed all four in to put a pile of money toward the trip.
  • Side hustle money from both me and my wife.  Extra money can often help fund some of the extras.  It seemed to fit perfectly.

The trip is going to be fun, though I am stressed as I’ve never flown international.  It’s nice to know that the money aspect won’t be causing too much stress if all goes well!

Readers, how do you fund your vacations?  Have you ever had a special occasion trip like this that you’ve saved for?  Let me know your experiences in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Checking In On My 2017 Fitness Goals

I’ve written a few times about how I have really tried to focus on better fitness this year.  I worried about our long camping trips and how that would affect me.  I’m happy to report that things are going well.  Here’s an update on my fitness goals.

Recap of My Goals And My Plan

I wanted to lose some weight and lose some body fat.  I’d spent most of 2016 gaining 0.5 to 1 pound per month, and there was no excuse for it.  I was just lazy and full of poor decisions.

I decided to commit 2017 to make better decisions.

My goals were two fold:

  1. I wanted to lose 13.5 pounds.
  2. I wanted reduce my body fat from 21% to 15%.

My plan was pretty simple:

  1. Work out more.
  2. Cut back on calories from alcohol.
  3. Eliminate all snacking at work.

Tracking Progress

Things have gone very well.  Just as I had a steady rise last year, things have moved in the right direction in a pretty steady fashion.

Here’s a quick summary on how things were at the end of each month:

  • January – Lost 4.1 pounds total.  Body fat: 19.6%
  • February – Lost 5.8 pounds total.  Body fat: 19.0%
  • March – Lost 7.8 pounds total.  Body fat: 17.4%
  • April – Lost 8.2 pounds total.  Body fat: 17.4%
  • May – Lost 9.6 pounds total.  Body fat: 17.3%
  • June – Lost 12.1 pounds total. Body fat: 16.9%
  • July (so far) – Lost 12.3 pounds total.  Body fat: 16.3%

What this represents:

  • I’ve lost 91% of the total weight I want to lose.
  • I have lost 81% of the total body fat I want to lose.
  • Finally, I’ve lost 28% of my total body fat.

Methodology: In order to smooth out the normal fluctuations, I take measurements every day, and then use a running 7-day average on both weight and body fat.

Slowing Down

Things have obviously started to slow down.  I’ve worked around this weight goal before, and I’ve always found that the last couple of pounds are the hardest.  In fact, the one time I hit it a few years ago I only got the last couple of pounds because I got food poisoning.  I’m hoping that I don’t have to rely on that this time.

I really want to get this last little bit.  Then, the real work starts.

Right now, it’s easy to keep staying motivated on my behaviors, but if I hit the goal, I have to make sure to stay motivated so that things don’t go in the wrong direction. Just like they have in the past!

This is similar to personal finance goals.  Many people work so hard for a goal (like getting out of debt) that once they hit it, they don’t have any idea what to do next.

The key is to look ahead.  I’m already looking ahead to how I can stay motivated over the next few months.  It’s not going to be easy.

Three Major Challenges Ahead

We have three things that I really have to watch out for:

  1. Our second week long camping trip – We do two trips per summer.  I got out of the last one relatively unscathed but will have to make sure I don’t fall apart on the next one.
  2. Our anniversary trip – We are going to Cancun for a few days to celebrate our ten year anniversary.  It’s at an all inclusive resort.  I’ve never been to one but I’ve heard that they’re like cruise ships, and it’s easy to indulge.
  3. Halloween – This is my Kryptonite.  Seriously.  After Halloween people bring loads of candy into the office.  And they bring the good stuff.  Hershey Bars.  Reeses Cups.  You name it.   I have never been able to resist the jar upon jar of chocolate goodness.  If I’m going to lose my work goal, this will be how it happens.  However, since by that point I’ll have 10 full months under my belt, I am confident I can make it.

So far, I’m happy with how things are going.  Now I just need to get those last steps and then make sure it doesn’t turn and go the wrong direction.

Readers, how are your goals going?  Let me know in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.