Contract Cutters

With all the talk of cord cutters over the past several years I have got to thinking about things we shell hundreds of dollars out for without really thining about if there is an alternative.  And I realized of all of my household bills, (internet, cable, electric, gas, insurance, cell phone, etc “excluding student loans”) my cell phone bill was the highest.  AT&T was getting $150/month of my money ($1,800/yr).

When i first assessed this, there wasn’t really all that much I could do, other than switch to a lesser carrier.  Then came the family plans.  I started to run the numbers on switching and realized that it would raise my bill by about $15/mo.  So I didn’t bother.

AT&T Next and Family Plans

A bit later yet, I decided to look into not doing the full 2 year contracts.  This is great, I can have even newer and newer models all the time.  Up to this point I have unlimited data on my device and my wife has 3GB/mo.  The family plan that looked like it would suite us would be the 10GB/mo shared (and a bonus, we get internet sharing, a feature I wanted but did not want to pay for).  At the end of the day I would be losing my unlimited, my wife would have more data, we would get internet sharing, but we would be paying ~$15/mo ($165/mo | $1,980/yr).

At the time I wasn’t really interested in any of the new models of phones.  My wife’s 920 was starting to age a bit but still in good shape, but overall we had no need to change devices.  And I started to look at my pricing options.

  1. Same old contract $40/phone – $100-20% = $80/mo + 2 phones($40ea) = $160/mo
  2. NEXT $15/phone (plus $5~$50 extra per phone) – $80/mo + 2 phones($15) = $110/mo + ($10-$100) $120-$220/mo
  3. Off Contract $15/phone – $80/mo + 2 phones($15) = $110/mo

Let’s Look at the Numbers by Life of Device/Contract

My current plan is to try to make devices last 3years (or more) and spend no more than $300 on the device.  So lets look at the number.  I’ll base my NEXT off of the most comparable option the 24mo (30 installments) with cheapest iphone6

  1. Off Contract – $110/mo x 36mos + $600($300/device) = $4,560 ($760/yr per line)
  2. Same Old – $160/mo x 36mos + $2($1/device avg) = $5,762 ($960/yr per line)
  3. NEXT – $140/mo x 30mos + ($110 6 remaining) = $4,860 ($810/yr per line)

Now the next can vary a bunch because you can, instead of paying the last 6 installments, give your phone back to AT&T (if it is in perfect condition).  Also that is an iphone 5c so prices can go way up from there.  The normal contract is more expensive than NEXT here because that 3rd year you are still paying $40/device even tho you are out of contract.  Even at it’s worst this saves me $100/year.  And realistically, our devices will last more than 3 years, we don’t spend $300 on them and I can repair many things myself or we have cheap backup devices.  Since we buy used/mid range deviced I priced the 2 yr contract + NEXT with last year models/cheaper devices.  If you bump up to current models that price goes up fast.  This does assume you do not upgrade at 24 or even 30 on the NEXT plan, if you do then obviously the price will go up.

Conclusion

Of course this isn’t for everyone.  Some people are perfectly happy paying a hefty price to make sure they have the latest and greatest.  That’s not me.  Also, I am not afraid to get on ebay/cl to pick up some used devices to use for parts when need be.  In fact, when my phone breaks I usually get it fixed for free or even make money selling the spare parts.  The whole point of the article is just that, now we have much more control in how much we pay for our cell phone bill.  You can drastically lower your bill without lessening your experience by much.  I simply buy used phones or just mid tier models rather than the premium devices.  I never have been one to need the most expensive of anything and luckily my wife likes saving money more than she likes showing off what her phone can do.

Google Wants Data Not Users

In this day in age, I do not understand how people can support Google. They are easily the worst company when it comes to reasoning for it’s products. They will, and do, axe any product that does not mine enough of your personal data as it can. The will not keep a product alive because it makes them money and makes users happy if it isn’t harvesting the sufficient amount of data. Google reader is amongst the many fallen products. And it isn’t even just axing products that their users love. A lot of companies have to cut expenses that may effect users. But google does it not to save money but to harvest more personal data.

Imagine if any other product or service you use did this? Would you stay with that company? It would be like Netflix stopping it’s normal streaming of movies and shows in favor of having someone come into your house and examine your life and decide what movies/shows you would like to watch. Or forcing you to have a Netflix phone that you carry with you all the time and transmits information back to Netflix to decide what you should watch. People so blindly pledge their allegiance to google and it blows my fucking mind.

Beyond the forcing products that it thinks you want, it also uses its monopoly on search and personal info to subdue you into uses what it wants you to use. Android is now nearly 90% of the global smartphone market and that is thanks to Google making you feel that you cannot live without it. To really drive the point home, they throw their weight around to make sure there is no competition. Google has gone as far as blocking google maps and youtube from windows phone users to try to force them into Android. I don’t know about you, but I will never let a company make that choice for me. And will never support a company that uses those kinds of tactics. Google literally screws over it’s own users to try to keep Microsoft out of the mobile market. You cannot be a google user with a Windows Phone because google will make sure you can’t. That is not a company I will ever support.

Windows Phone 8.1 AT&T and Verizon Issues

Not sure if anyone else is having this issue but I thought I should throw it up here to maybe find out. The rooms in Windows Phone 8 are a great feature which my family, friends and I use quite often. We use them for easily shared calendars and pictures mostly but then also some group messaging. One of the family members in our room is on Verizon, where the rest of the room is all on AT&T. I am the only one so far to have updated to Windows Phone 8.1 via the developer preview and the one person on Verizon can no longer see my messages ‽

Verizon WP8 Room Members Can’t See AT&T WP8.1 Room Members Messages

My thought is to remove and readd one or both of us to the room (I am not the owner of the room), but if that does not work then I am kind of at a loss. Anyone else have any issues with Verizion to AT&T communication after updating to WP8.1? Would love to see if there are any other issues out there with things like this.

Royal Games Fails with Browser Detection… What Year is This

Browser Detection FAIL!!!
Candy Crush Internet Explorer

First off, you developer person fail at life for using browser detection in 2013, secondly you provide links to download flash and firefox to ‘upgrade my system’ who are you to tell me my ‘system’ needs an upgrade. My first reaction was to open Firefox, but a split second later I thought, F12 that shit. So dev tools, change user agent…. MAGIC Royal Games CAN RUN IN INTERNET EXPLORER11. I also checked with IE11 in IE10 mode and it worked their too.

Candy Crush on Internet Explorer 11 - Opera User Agent

One Simple Trick to Help Manage and Find Photos in Your Collection

So you have gotten used to having a nice digital camera or even just a better camera on your smart phone. AWESOME! But when you want to try to find that great picture you took that one weekend when you were out a year or 2 years ago you have to search through thousands or maybe tens-hundreds of thousands of pictures.

Sure you can organize your pictures into dated folders, or maybe even nest some folders by year, month, etc. but that takes time and still isn’t great. So what then? Tags.

Tags Play a Part In Many Aspects of Our Digital Lives

So why not in the massive amounts of images that we have stored on our computers? Folders are great for general separation, but tags are awesome because you can add lots of tags like ‘Halloween Party’ and you can have all of your Halloween pictures come up in one search. Ok so down to business, I’ll show you the quick and easy steps to quickly getting massive amounts of images tagged on your computer. I am using Windows atm but I am pretty sure the process is very similar on Linux and Mac.

  • Select images and right click
  • Select ‘properties’
  • Go to ‘details’ tab
  • Type your tag or tags

Step 1: Select a bunch of files and right click

Step 1:  Selecting Photos and right click
Select as many files as you want here with shift + click and/or ctrl + click. You want to select files that have something in common to tag.

Step 2: Select ‘properties’ of the highlighted photos

Step 2: Select properties from the drop down

Step 3: Go to ‘details’ tab

After you have done this a few times you will notice that there will be auto suggestions. Also if you do multiple tags they will be separated by a semi-colon.

Step 3:  Go to details tab

Step 4: Type in a relevant tag or tags

tagging-photos-step-four-adding-the-tag

When you are done with this simply click OK and you are done. You can tag hundreds of photos at a time and they are not only now easily searchable but programs can use this information to make your experience better as well.

The Cool Part, or at least one of them

Now from my Windows 8 home screen I can simply type ‘Washington dc’ and hit enter. Below is the page that comes up, and you will see that the images that I had just tagged are there.

Enhanced Search Results by Tagging Photos in Windows 8

Conclusion and additional fun

As you can see this can make for a powerful tool when you are looking for pictures of a certain place, event, person, or even if you want to quickly make a slideshow of all of your past Christmas parties. Speaking of slideshows, Windows Media Center on the Xbox 360 uses tags so you can easily show friends and family slideshows of whatever you please by simply selecting the tag that you want. Now get out there and play around with tagging your massive amounts of photos. I know someone with hundreds of GBs worth of photos that I need to show this to.

Wireless Charging Is So Close To Being Useful

Right now we are seeing wireless charging in some of our shiny new smartphones. Some people say it isn’t really wireless blah blah, it is, but it isn’t terribly useful in most situations because you do have the cord for the pad. So lets get rid of that cord.

We Should Start Seeing Difference Surfaces With Built In Wireless Charging/Power

The future of wireless charging/power is in many different surfaces. We are already starting to see cars that are equipped with wireless charging which is very useful. If it works like the JBL Nokia Speaker Dock where the NFC also initiates the BT connection to start music playback (or at least I assume that is how it works) then it will be awesome.

But how great would it also be if when we walk into work and sit down at our desks we could just set our phone down on the desktop and it would charge? Instead of having to have a wired charging pad the wires are all hidden away somewhere and the desk itself is plugged in.

Let’s Take Wireless Charging Into The Bathroom

Now lets imagine that our bathroom countertop is connected into our homes power and the whole surface is capable of wireless charging. Now you can have your toothbrush, shaver, detailer, or even wireless straighteners, curlers, etc all charged up without wires. I don’t know about you but the car and bathroom are two of the most annoying places to have multiple wires hanging around.

Wireless Charging In The Living Room

This one seems it might be a bit trickier as you likely don’t have standard built in that you put your devices on. Instead a lot of tend to put our devices on coffee tables and end tables. So maybe we have a retractable cord on our coffee table that we can plug in when we need it and have our laptop, tablet, or phone just sitting on the coffee table charging. Or if we get really extreme have our floor setup for wireless charging and the coffee table serve as a sort of pass-through that can bring it up to the level. Hopefully by that point we have wireless charging that has a longer range but still an idea.

Another Exciting Use of Wireless Power is The Kitchen

Here I am talking more about wireless power than wireless charging, which I am not sure how it works but just stick with me. Right now I have a microwave, toaster oven, Kitchenaid mixer, and coffee pot on my counter. I would love it if none of them had any cables but instead the counter top was powered up like the QI charging and these items just powered by sitting on the counter. To take this even a bit further, it would be cool if we can get maybe 1-2 foot range on the wireless power for things like hand mixers which are not in contact with the counter when they are in use. Of course these could be battery powered instead and charge on the counter but who leaves those out on the counter?

Working With The Microsoft Surface RT

There are many people that are out looking to get a ‘tablet’ so they do not have to pull out their 8lb laptop when they want to check email, surf the web, or track their daily calories. I don’t know if very many people actually use a laptop for calorie tracking but I doubt it. For all exstensive purposes I will be talking about the Surface with touch cover. It is, in my opinion the only way to go and should be sold for $499 with the cover. But at $599 with cover it is on par with or cheaper than you will spend on a similar setup with a new iPad.

The Good Things About Working With Surface RT

The form Factor: It is light, thin, and versatile.

Weighing in under 2lbs with the touch cover is a pretty impressive feat with a 10.6″ screen and several usable ports like the USB, HDMI, headphone, and microSD. Oh and there is a built in kick stand that does it’s job elegantly and hides away nicely. This baby can easily slip into my girlfriends purse, a backpack, or just be carried around and the keyboard is a nice protective cover. Granted I haven’t dropped my Surface yet so I don’t know how much protection it will offer in reality. With the touch cover you can easily use the Surface like a full fledged laptop on a flat surface like a desk, table, etc. Also with how solid the kickstand is, it is easy and comfortable to use the Surface in your lap. The lap position isn’t as versatile as a laptop because it is not as rigid as a laptop and only has one angle but it is still very usable. The 16:9 is wonderful in landscape for media and in portrait it is nice for longer websites and Nook or Kindle reading.

File System

Doing web development, I obviously deal with a lot of files. Having Skydrive nicely integrated and having a full featured, easy access file system is a great asset when developing.

The App Ecosystem

Hold on a second and let me explain. The ecosystem isn’t there just yet for everything but, being a Windows machine you can clearly see that the device has developer minded people behind it. There have already been a lot of code editor apps to hit the marketplace and this excites me. I haven’t found one that I like as much as Notepad++ just yet but I know it will be there shortly either with an update to the already impressive list of editor apps or a new one coming along.

Full Screen Browser, Multi-tasking, Charms, Gestures, Snap, and App Switcher

I lumped these together because in my use they are the bread and butter of what makes the device such a joy to use and they all basically go hand in hand. As a web developer I am obviously excited about the future of web apps. I have never been a fan of native apps, even when I was on iOS. Oops started drifting, back on. The full screen browser is just beautiful, it really just puts the web in front of you without any other junk. The multi-tasking is similar, tied in with how you switch apps it is just out of the way and just works fast and fluid. Instead of having a cluttered desktop with various sized windows stacked on top of each other things just get out of the way and are a simple flick from being front and center again. And of course if someone is chatting you up, you need to check emails, or are testing your mobile sized web work then snap is a beautiful answer to that. The gestures and charms really tie everything together. Instead of hunting around for where an app put it’s settings or other core functionality, you know they are a flick from the right away. Also a short swipe from top or bottom will bring you the other options the app brings and they will get out of your way when you are done.

Built in Remote Desktop is Second to None

Lets face it, in its infancy Windows RT does not have everything you could possibly need as far as apps go so you have to get on your desktop. But wait, instead of walking all the way up stairs and pausing your movie you can just RDP. As a bonus if you are remoting into a Windows 8 machine you even still have all of your wonderful gestures. RDP to a Windows 8 machine feels like you have full Windows 8 on your Surface RT with a bit of lag in a few areas.

The Bad Things About Developing on Surface RT

I can sum this all up in one word. Apps. While RDP is a good solution, it isn’t always the desired one. I need some Ruby on my RT for SASS, filezilla, and more browsers to test on. Sure there is browser stack but it isn’t the same.

Honest Review Of The Microsoft Surface RT After A Few Weeks With It

I’ll be the first to admit that I have gotten excited over the work that Microsoft has been doing lately so this is coming from someone with a newly found joy in using MS products. Also of note my device history:

    Mobile

  • Motorola SLVR
  • Palm Treo 680 PalmOS circa 2006 (my first smart device) – bought eBay 2007
  • Blackberry circa 2005 (don’t recall model but it sucked and so far my only downgrade ever) – bought eBay 2009
  • iPhone 3gs circa 2009 – bought AT&T 2009
  • Samsung Focus circa 2010 – bought AT&T 2010 (gave my girlfriend my iPhone)
  • HTC Titan circa 2011 – bought AT&T when the iPhone upgrade was up

    Desktop OS

  • Windows 98 flea market build – bought 2001ish
  • Windows XP custom build – bought 2003ish later to become an Ubuntu dev server in house
  • Windows XP custom build – built 2006
  • Upgraded(downgraded) to Vista on that machine with student discount in 2007 after a month switched to Ubuntu
  • Solely Ubuntu Feisty Fawn and only used Windows when I had to for class
  • Officially swore off MS and was loving Linux and my Palm Treo sometime in 2007
  • 2009 Upgraded that old machine to Windows 7 after using it in my job and actually liking it

I currently use Windows 7 and 8 on a day to day basis. Along with OSX Snow Leopard on a weeklyish basis and my Linux box is in a closet:(. With Windows 7 and WP7 coming around I started to actually become a fan of MS products. Before I used them because it was there. When I realized I had a choice, I switched to Linux. There was also some FreeBSD and CentOS installs in there but they were short lived as I preferred Ubuntu. But enough of that, on to the Surface.

Touch Cover

Enough cannot be said about the touch cover. It keeps my screen protected and provides a surface to lay my Surface on where I definitely don’t have to worry about scratches or anything. And on top of all of that it is a top notch performer when it comes to typing. I compare it to going from my Treo’s physical keyboard to the iPhone’s onscreen, although you don’t have to look at the keys like an onscreen. It is also nice that you get a lot of the typical large keyboard keys like volume, media controls, home, end, delete keys across the top as well as a couple of Windows 8 specifics like search, devices, share, and settings. The track pad works but is nothing new or exciting.

Screen

The screen as you know has a relatively low resolution but I can’t honestly say that it is any sort of hindrance, other than the amount of tiles you can have on the start screen. The picture looks great and fonts are crystal clear even when zoomed all the way in as I am right now while typing. I never thought to do this but it is actually kind of nice as it makes it extremely easy to see while typing and the screen automatically moves with the cursor when I get to the edge of the screen or start a new line. Oh hey I just found a fun feature for when I am writing these blogs. If a word is misspelled with the red squiggly under it, I can tap it and it gives me suggestions on a new spelling and it was correct. I also really like the 16:9 for a few reasons. Having a wider screen is great for when I am coding as I use the split screen but it is also great for movies and shows. When you flip it up into portrait (which I don’t do much) it is nice for Kindle books and long web pages to read.

IE10 Spell Corrector While Blogging
You can see above when a word is misspelled you can tap on it and get choices to correct it or to add it to your dictionary

Front and Rear Facing Camera on The Surface

They exist. There isn’t really anything to write about here other than they are there. They were clearly just made for video chat and they do a good job of it but you won’t want to be taking any pictures with them and not just because you look foolish. The angle on the back one is nice as my boss does fight with that a lot with his iPad and cover when trying to set it up for hands off use. (SIDE NOTE: I also just noticed that when I tap a misspelled word I have the option to ‘add to dictionary’)

Surface Ports, Kickstand, Buttons and General Physical Feel

Despite what people might say it is super nice to have a USB port on hand. You can charge your phone, plug in a mouse you have laying around, or plug in one of the 100 other USB devices you have. The headphone jack does what is expected and playing through headphones is surprisingly loud, luckily it automatically turns the volume down when you plug in. The speakers have good sound quality but are a bit quitter than I would like. I have yet to use my HDMI port but if I ever buy a cord that might change. I love the feel of the VaporMG and the kickstand is solid engineering. One thing that did surprise me is how well you can actually use this in your lap. To do so you have to have your lap fairly flat because at angles it obviously gets a bit dicey.

Software on Surface RT

Most of the software is nice but some of it is still a bit buggy. The Surface as is lacks a lot of great apps which I know is a bashers go to but at this point it can be a real turn off depending on your setup. As a web developer there isn’t a lot for me to work with on here currently but I actually find using the built in Windows RDP to be the best solution for that anyway as I don’t have to deal with file storage decisions or transfers or syncs, none of that because I am remoted into my development machine. However, I know that won’t be the case with everyone, and even I still need to setup my home VPN if I want to remote while away. The people, mail, and messaging hub can be slow and the messaging hub even failed to finish retrieving messages for me just a moment ago. Upon initial setup I even had to uninstall and reinstall these (they are a bundle) because my Facebook and Twitter stuff was stuck in limbo and wouldn’t actually sync.

Gestures, Charms, Menus, and Multitasking on the Surface RT

Like this keyboard I can’t possibly say enough but the Search Charm. One unified search for any app and the OS alike all a simple flick from the right away is brilliant and it works so well. It does take some getting used to though. Realizing that the Charms are for much more than just the OS is something that will grow on you but you will likely feel limited in a lot of apps until you realize that. One Charm that has so far been a love hate is the Device Charm. When I am listening to music and want to throw it up on the Xbox I just flick left | tap device | tap Xbox. And bam it is up on my Xbox in a few seconds. Sometimes it takes like 10-15 or so seconds which is a slight annoyance but the real problem has been with video. I can get video to work just find almost all the time but when it does mess up, like say it stops playing on the Xbox it sometimes won’t list the Xbox in my device list anymore. I have had to restart my Xbox to fix this one time. Flicking from the left to switch apps is ridiculously fast and I personally haven’t been able to force much lag unless I was switching with video and games and had a lot going on and even then we are talk 1-3 second lag.

To Wrap Things Up

I think that the Surface RT is a great product that needs more software for it. For me it has completely replaced a 17″ HP and a 10.1″ Eee PC though it couldn’t fully do this without the RDP so if RDP isn’t an option for you then you might want to look at the Yoga or MacBook Air, or wait for Surface Pro maybe. Obviously, all of those carry a bit higher price tag. Any review that just constantly rips on the Surface RT is either purely just looking for visits or bought a laptop/hybrid when they actually needed a toaster or something else completely unrelated.

AT&T Has The Worst Upgrade Page iPhone is Their Only Phone

While I have always had good luck with AT&T as a phone service and with customer service, I haven’t been able to stand their upgrade page since 2007. Ever since the iPhone has been on AT&T they make it look like it is the only phone they have. You have to hunt around the page to figure out how to find the other phones that they offer.iPhone5 Is The Only Phone on AT&T

This is what you get when you click to upgrade a device

Come on. I can’t believe how hard AT&T pushes the iPhone. They make it look to not tech savvy people that it is the only phone that you can upgrade too. Sorry for the little rant but this page annoys the crap out of me every time I see it. And I thought that after 5 years they might finally stop forcing it as the default device, but they have not. I think they made it even harder to try to find any other device actually. The iPhone 5 is great. One of the best phones but please just give people a chance.

One thing that makes it especially funny is that when they launched the first Lumia devices they said that it was going to be the biggest launch ever. Bigger than iPhone and promoted heavier. Yet we still have this page. 75% of the page is taken up by some form of iPhone and you have a couple of crappy other devices in the corner with one tiny link to get to more devices.

First Day With The Microsoft Surface RT

As it stands I have owned a Microsoft Surface RT with black touch cover for a little over 24 hours. This blog is going to be my first extensive typing with the touch cover. To boot I am typing this on my lap because one of the initial reviews that I read said it was unusable like this. I have to say that is simply wrong and laptop use is much much better than I had expected. This is going to be a pretty quick and overall review instead of being super in depth. I hope to write a more in depth review after more use.

The Good Software

The Microsoft Surface is super easy to setup and beautiful to see all of your data instantly synced up on your first login. This is of course assuming that you take advantage of the services offered by live.com, which if you do not then you should check them out. The built in apps are pretty basic but beautifully done and very fast. The app store also has a decent amount of useful free or cheap apps already which was a nice surprise. Angry Birds space, I have to say is quite fun and got me hooked unlike the others in the series. The gestures take a little bit of practice but when you get them down they become quite natural. The task switching swipe from the left is just unparalleled. Having a full on Windows machine is a small and sleek package is pretty cool. You still have the full on familiar control panel, desktop, task manager (actually improved), and of course a file manager. The new task manager is awesome on Windows 8 with a much better breakdown of what exactly is going on and where. The software keyboard is nice with the multiple configurations which work nearly perfectly for the different ways you might interact with your Surface.

The Good Hardware

I had a live account for about 6 years before I looked at what it actually had to offer. And it gets better by the day. The touch cover is super thin, comfortable, sleek, and actually a joy to type on. I use a clunky Logitech wave which has pretty hard keys so I was worried that I would not like the touch cover at all, I was wrong. I equate it to the switch from Palm Treo and Blackberry to my iPhone 3gs. The magnet on the keyboard and on the power cord are nice but the keyboard one is much better. It has already come in handy to have a usb port to charge my phone in a pinch. Surface’s lowish resolution screen still looks beautiful. I did have my doubts on that and I have yet to hold it next to a New Ipad but I think it is much less of a deterrent than I thought that it would be.

Software Fails So Far

For whatever reason the people and message hub will not sync my facebook and twitter accounts fully with my live account but it works fine with my girlfriends live account, TweetTRO doesn’t load at all, and Xbox Music has had problems on some songs. I feel like the switch to portrait/landscape is a little too sensitive sometimes. Lastly, moving tiles around on the homescreen with touch took a little bit to figure out and can feel a bit bulky when trying to move a tile from one end to the other.

Hardware Issues

The camera quality is pretty low, which I knew and didn’t really care too much about, but it could turn some people off. Also the speakers are not really all that loud but of course can be taken care of with speakers or headphones.

Overall Take Away After One Day With Surface

The hardware is extremely nice with only the camera quality being something that I could see being a deal breaker to some. The software is nice but the apps will certainly benefit from some more development. The touch cover is insanely good for typing on lap or on a solid surface.

If you are wondering, I did one type test with the 10 fingers fast test on this touch cove and got 57 words per minute with 6 errors and 55 correct words. I am not a super fast typist but I have hit as high as 89 or so on that test in the past.