How We Are Integrating New Or Updated Technology

The past couple of months have seen some big changes in the technology in our house.  I’m not sure how it all happened but there have been some new devices and some changes.  I wish I could say that I was on the cutting edge with all of it, but it’s been more of a slow go.

Still, I’m very excited, and I thought by putting it out there, maybe I could get some tips and tricks for any readers who have any of the devices or similar type items:

  • Samsung S4 Galaxy – My former employer had provided us with cell phones.  My new employer elected not to do that so I had to get a new phone.  We already have a Sprint family plan, and although the Sprint coverage is pretty bad, it would have been an out of pocket cost of two times more to go with another carrier.  I decided to bite the bullet and go on the family plan, and was able to snag a new S4 at Best Buy for no cost a few days before Christmas.  My old phone was an S3 so I already knew the Samsung, the OS, and was very impressed.  It was a pretty seamless transition, though not without hiccups. I had my two phones and attempted to transport all of my settings, application configuration information, and files to the new device.  Although everything transferred OK, the phone itself seemed a bit buggy.  The Android versions were different, so I felt maybe something got messed up along the way.  A couple of weeks after getting it, I ended up wiping it to factory reset and starting from scratch, this time setting everything up manually.  It took about two hours from start to finish, but I have noted that it does perform better.
  • Google Nexus tablet – My wife surprised me with a new Google Nexus tablet for Christmas.  I love it.  The tablet is Google so it has the very latest version of Android.  The tablet is great, but I’ve been without one for so long that I tend to forget to use it.  Around the house, it’s great for web browsing, playing music, and playing games.  I just need to remember to grab it when I need to do those things.  I still usually reach for my phone out of habit.
  • Old tablet made ‘new’ – I bought an HP Touchpad several years ago at a pretty dirtmb-201402tablet500 cheap price.  I realized pretty quickly why I didn’t really use it that much, as it was based on the HP/Palm WebOS platform, which has since been abandoned.  Very few apps meant that it was a shiny gadget without much purpose.  Well, after seeing the new tablet and how cool it was, I pulled the HP out of the drawer and set to do something that I’ve been talking about for two years: Root the device and install Android.  I did so, and it’s actually pretty cool.  The thing is pretty heavy compared to today’s tablets, though it does have a bigger screen.  I’d like to get Netflix and I’m thinking that this would be a good tablet for watching Netflix on the go, and probably not much else.
  • New TV – We bought a new 50″ LED TV a year ago.  Imagine my disappointment when I found that it had been cracked.  I think my kids were the culprit.  Our daughter went through a phase where she was chucking toys around just because, and I’m pretty sure an errant minion (from Despicable Me) gave the TV a non-repairable crack.  The TV is still watchable, but as a primary TV, it was not something I wanted long term.  I found a deal on an off brand TV that got great reviews, and so far it works great.  My wife did have to adjust the colors on it, and I have to say she did a great job.
  • Chromecast – I got a Chromecast for Christmas.  With the stash of Android devices I noted above, we have plenty of means to control the device.  And I love it.  As of now, I primarily use it to stream stuff from YouTube.  My 4-year old son loves anything to do with dinosaurs, so we are able to find various cartoons and educational episodes that keep him delighted.  As mentioned above, I’d like to get Netflix, which is integrated into the Chromecast.  I’ve also heard that Google will be releasing the API so that third party developers can start writing streaming apps, opening up the door for more apps such as found on the Roku.  Speaking of…
  • Roku – I purchased a Roku 3, which is pretty snazzy.  After some technical difficulties getting the remote control paired with the device, I was able to start using it.  Basically, it looks pretty slick and I’ve found a list of apps that seem to have access to good free content and cheap paid content.  Part of this will be the learning curve and just figuring out how to use it.  This will just take some time.

That’s quite a bit of technology being introduced to our household in a relatively short period of time.  So far, it’s been pretty slow go as far as getting familiar with the products and maximizing their usage.  I think two things will over come this.   The first is time.  I just need time to sit down and get used to them.  The second is familiarity.  Having never had devices that stream media to a TV, you don’t have that integrated into your activities or have it click in your head to check that when looking for something to watch.  Same with tablets.  I’ve never really had one, so now that they’re there, I just don’t think of them reflexively.  That will change simply by using them and discovering what they can do.

What type of technology have you added recently and how is it going?  Any tips on any of the devices above?

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Big Brother Knows….When You’re Buying Groceries?

Recently, we stopped in at a local Kroger to get a couple of things.  While checking out, I noticed a couple of flat screen displays that appeared, at first glance, to show the results of the three digit lottery.

But, upon further inspection, it was actually a system used by the managers and cashiers to show the number of registers open, as well as the number that would need to be open 30 minutes down the road.

I talked with the cashier for a moment, and he said that they actually used a system that kept track of people entering and exiting the store, calculated the people in the store at any one time, and could use that information to predict how many cash registers should be open.

The idea is to reduce the two most frustrating experiences at the cash register.  The most frustrating to the customer is to have long lines with not enough registers open.  The most frustrating to the store is to have a whole bunch of cashiers standing around waiting for customers.

The cashier made it sound like this is a test system, but it’ll be interesting to see if it actually works and becomes the norm down the road.  I’m a little skeptical, because it reminds me too much of the system where traffic lights are controlled by cameras that detect traffic at an intersection and supposedly adjust the timing of the lights accordingly.  I’ve always felt that these disrupt the flow of traffic and always seem a few steps behind, so I’m leary of trusting this technology in the grocery store.

Still, as always, big brother is watching!

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Remember When Yahoo Ruled The Universe?

Business Insider featured a great article pointing out how Yahoo is doing great these days…at getting their butts kicked.

This article rang so true for me.

For me, when the Internet became big, Yahoo was numero uno as far as it went.

I thought I’d go back and look at all the various services that I used with Yahoo and see if I still used them or what happened.

  1. Yahoo Mail – I signed up for a Yahoo mail account some time in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s.  I had recently switched jobs and prior to that, had been using my work e-mail for most communication.  It was too much of a big hassle to send out thet ‘My e-mail address is changing’ notification when I left, so I decided to move to an e-mail that I knew would stick with me.  Today: This is still a service that I still used and is my primary personal e-mail.
  2. My Yahoo Home Page – For years, internet browsers didn’t have these things called ‘tabs’.  So, in order to pull as much information as possible, I used the My Yahoo page to give me information at a glance.  I customized various news feeds that kept me up to date, it had stock quotes that I could customize, and a whole slew of other features that I used religiously, until one day…..I didn’t.  Today: I haven’t used this feature in years.
  3. Yahoo Search – I used Yahoo for internet searches always.  I’ll never forget the day I was sitting with a co-worker and he pulled up a search engine page that was so simple it was almost laughable.  “Google,” I said, “What’s that?”  It didn’t take long until I switched over.  Today: Google gets about 99% of my searches.  Bing gets the other 1%.  That leaves Yahoo with…nothing.
  4. Yahoo Personals – Hey, I haven’t had to use an internet dating service for many years now, but back in the early part of the 2000’s (way before I met wonderful Mrs. Beagle), I jumped on the internet dating bandwagon.  I used a couple of different services, but Yahoo was my main source of finding potential matchups.  I got an e-mail a couple of years ago that they were discontinuing this service, so even if I wasn’t happily married, Yahoo would be getting exactly none of this usage.
  5. Yahoo Photos – Yahoo also had a pretty cool place to centrally store photos.  I stored a lot of various pictures over the years after I got my first digital camera (a sweet 3 mega-pixel deal that I paid handsomely for).  Eventually, other services like My Space and then Facebook made this go dormant.  Again, I got an e-mail that Yahoo was discontinuing this service, so by default, they get no traffic from me or anybody else.

There had to have been other Yahoo services that I used.  I just don’t remember them.  I do know that I don’t use them anymore. And, what’s even more telling is that I haven’t replaced any of the services that I stopped using with any other Yahoo services.  In other words, Yahoo has done very little to grow and adapt to my needs, and I’m pretty sure there are millions of other people out there that would say the exact same thing.

Any recovering Yahoo users out there with fond (or not so fond) memories?

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The First Chink In The Armor

I’ve always been somewhat of a tech geek, though you wouldn’t know it from the stuff I have in my house.  I’ve always loved following the latest trends in PCs, TVs, DVDs and blu-ray players and the like.  But, you don’t find my house littered with too much, mostly because I normally can’t justify spending the money on it.

The main PC I use is over five years old.  It was pretty top-of-the-line when I bought it, and I’ve upgraded the hard drive and memory, so it has actually held up pretty well.

Same with TVs.  We did upgrade two TVs in our house to flat screens, but they’re both pretty reasonable, one being a 19″ kitchen TV and the other being a 32″ TV in our bedroom.  Other TVs are still the plain, old tube televisions.

I’ve also resisted anything to do with tablets or e-readers.  As much as I think they’re cool, I’m not too impressed with the idea of spending the money on them that they entail, though I have noted how the Kindle has declined rapidly in price over the past couple of years.

Still, the first ‘chink’ in the armor appeared recently.  Our local newspaper has cut back to a three day a week print edition, so subscribers get access to an e-edition, which is basically a glorified and really looking PDF.  I subscribe pretty much so we get the Sunday coupon inserts, which pays for itself multiple times over.  I rarely access the e-edition, but I wanted to go back and find a book review that I remember having read a few weeks prior, but couldn’t remember the name of.  As I was browsing through the e-edition on my five year old computer, I thought:

“This would look really cool on one of those readers or tablets.”  They build the pages so that they look really cool in those type of formats.

Yikes!  It’s a chink in the armor.  Must.  Resist.  Temptation.

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