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Friday, November 24, 2017

Getting a Human on the Phone

So many companies we all use today are difficult to reach by phone (cable plans, telecoms, cell phones and so forth)  This website might help us get to a "human" faster.

To get a human on the phone, you put in the name of the company you are trying to reach. And it suggests phone numbers supplied by either the company employees or other users like yourself.

Get Human website seems to offer some of these

1.     the average wait time for a human in customer service for the company you want to reach
2.     the time “right now” to get a human, often less than average, but sometimes more than average… how do they know this exact time?  I don’t know.
3.     sometimes they tell you the buttons to push on your phone to avoid the screening stuff of the automated answering systems.  Sometimes it tells you to push 1, then 5, then 5 again, then some other combination of numbers.  That yields you a quicker place in the que for a human.

I found this website looking for something else.  I was looking at Straight Talk mobile service, offered by Wal Mart,  it is currently one of the cheapest unlimited 4-G data plus unlimited voice and text ($45 a month) … no contract required.  You use their SIM card, and pre-pay or something.  They sell high end phones cheap too, they were advertising an iPhone 6 for $129 on Black Friday, quite a low price.  That would put you in the iPhone and cell phone business very cheaply.  The Straight Talk folks say they have 99.5 % coverage in the USA they lease time on other networks, I think. Customer service, via telephone, is slow, but maybe better than some companies.

I believe Straight Talk has gone unlimited since this review was written but 5 GB of data a
month is generous.  They claim “most” video you watch on your phone would be HD.   

Monday, September 18, 2017

CCleaner For Cleaning Up PC Computers

I have used this for years, and have confidence in this as a good system for removing junk stuff from a PC to make it run better, and possibly eliminate some spying stuff (certain cookies).  After years of enjoyment of this free software, they had a hack of some of their older versions.  So, if you are running one of the versions below, please upgrade to 5.34.. it is free, I just did it for all my computers this morning.

The affected versions of the software are CCleaner 5.33.6162 and CCleaner Cloud 1.07.3191.

The company is urging users to upgrade to version 5.34 or higher (which it says is available for download here).

NOTE --- I also use MalwareBytes software for cleaning my computers of virus or potential useless, or harmful stuff. I have used this software for 8 years or more, and have confidence in it. One version of it is free.

They have had 2 billion downloads, it is a serious computer accessory. 
How to install and run.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

AC Drain Line Cleaners Discussion

One of my age-old problems with various properties (rental and vacation) over many years has been gravity drains for the condensation that develops in the air-handlers of AC units.  I have had apartments get major water damage, and other damage and wet carpet in other locations. One time it collected in the ceiling and drained into some kitchen cabinets.

1.     AC condensation in summer is considerable, and gravity alone may not be enough to move it out of a residential air handler.
2.     AC air handling units have some dust and microbes in the air and these combine to clog up lazy gravity drains -- so some action has to be taken by the home owner or service man, several times a year to prevent clogging
3.     Many AC drain systems now have small electric pumps with float valves to pump the condensation out with force.  But there is still the need to get the collected water in the drain pan to move the water into the pump system.

This brings me to my present research ---  I have a stopped-up pan-to-pump line right now, and water is overflowing into my one of my storage rooms.  So, I looked into solutions, here is what I found.

1.     chlorine bleach works, but can damage glue joints in PVC pipe and smells bad, so is not advisable.
2.     White vinegar works, but has the smell problem.
3.     some websites suggested peroxide might work
4.     finally, there are some commercial products that help and have no odor or bad other problems,  Here they are:

DrainBo   non toxic for all stopped up drains  $6.15 at Home Depot
Pan Tablets  (drop one in the drain pan regularly)  Home Depot  $3,48
NU Calgon Condensate Tables  (similar to Pan Tablets I think)
AC Line  RPS Products, SCLWHCL8   $17 delivered or in big boxes 
NuLine  $32 at some sources

I believe Pan Tablets, used regularly might be the long-term answer, but for initial re-establishment of water flow, I think "AC Line RPS Products" might be the better choice.  Of course removing water and stoppages with shop-vac type machines might be necessary initially.  I will try some or all of these and post my results later.  Would love to hear your own results and products you have tried.   

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Honda CRV vehicle

I have never mentioned a vehicle on my Blog --- but, well, here goes. 

One Million youTube views !! 

I composed the thoughts below for a friend who has mentioned an interest in buying a CRV for a sort of "in town" vehicle.  I take several automotive magazines and read them cover to cover.  Overall, for resale value and real satisfaction in the compact SUV category, I think this vehicle has shown continuous improvement more than others.  Like the Volkswagen did in the 1950’s and 60’s – I think with this vehicle Honda is making improvements, not “changes” the mantra. That’s my kind of car company.

The CRV holds its value best of all such SUV’s, so it is almost a no brainer for an investment, you could always sell it if you didn’t like it.  It also now leads all competitors in gas mileage – close to 40 mpg on the road, and the all wheel drive only drops mileage a small amount.

I have ridden in an older CRV  (basic model) on long trips, it gets the job done nicely, this one should do much better still.  Is it a good value to buy a new one?  I don't know.

this is a long, but good review of the 2017 Honda CRV … but , for some reason I had search for the 2018 but this one came up instead.

I really like it… the EX model has massive storage inside, fold flat seats, foot activated power tail lift, apple car play and much more.  It is much lighter and stiffer than prior models, and with the larger motor, is probably a great drive with great resale value.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Forecasting Weather Much More Accurately

Down to the street, or ballpark.  ClimaCell uses new technology – the first since radar, many years ago.

This company is based in Israel I think, I saw it in Forbes Magazine today.  Could help construction sites better predict weather, and much more.  Airlines love it, and drone companies, and logistics companies and pro sports teams need it.

It can even tell the difference in expected precipitation amount from one street to the next.. that accurate !!  Pinpoint detail.  First new way to observe weather in 50 years.

Endoscope For Easy Everyday Use

Endoscope for viewing hard to find places. At the bottom of an acquarium, or perhaps to find a lost ring in a P-Trap under a sink, or to read that hard-to-ge- to name place on some installed mechanical device.  Or for home inspectors to see into closed up spaces where leaks might be occurring?  Or many other applications. Only $19.  It seems to work, based on early responses, and feedback on the Amazon website.  I don’t have a current application for it personally, but it shows how technology is advancing and falling in price. I think this item would have been much physically larger, and 10 X this price a few years ago.

Once  I have to find something in a sealed up wall cavity -- like a leak, or missing electrical or music wire, it might be very useful.  

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Lift Foil For Summer Sport

Lift Foil For Summer Sport

An amazing new product, see video .  Propelled by underwater wings mounted on an electric motor.

1.     cool video, even the music is great
2.     the product was complicated to produce
3.     riding time , probably under an hour per “charge”
4.     Michael Leason invented it
5.     good for lake, or river, or ocean
6.     takes a little skill , but quite “doable”, probably no more than other water sports
7.     like the black and white video of the Spruce Goose flying in one part of the video
8.     goes 25 miles per hour

The link to buy one   

Another product, tow behind by a different company:

Thursday, July 6, 2017

C.O.B. LED Chip Technology – Two New Products

Today I purchased a FlipIt by Nebo at my neighborhood Interstate Battery Store.  It is one of the most unique things I have seen in awhile.  It is a tap light, that is rather flat, and produces something like a flashlight (only wider and brighter) light when you push the rocker switch. It is powered by 3 AAA batteries, and the light is 240 lumens, which appears to be as bright as a 40 watt bulb – but in a package that is tiny by comparison.  Perfect for a closet light, under shelf light, or other location where no wiring exists.  Under stairs, in deep closets, and so forth.

First, C.O.B.  Tech :  Try this link

It is a relatively new technology for LED, but I predict it will be very popular.  I have some deep closets with shelves, and lighting up what’s in there is tough.  I have tried motion sensitive (battery powered) LED’s, but mounting them was hard, and they didn’t work well. And they were not even half as bight as the new C.O.B. FlipIt product. These new FlipIt’s will last about 3 hours on a set of batteries and they are easy to turn on and off, rather than activated by motion. My cheap motion activated lights only stayed on 15 seconds, not time to select a tool from the tool drawer, for example.

Here are links to the FlipIt COB LED products I have purchased.  First, the FlipIt flat panel with rocker (I like the feel of the rocker and the sensational brightness)  240 lumens. 

Now the link to the more conventional looking light switch. It is probably better for wall mounting, not under a shelf.  This version is only 215 lumen, each, but you get two for a bit less than the flip-switch version. Both products are sold in pairs.

As one reviewer said “I can see 100 uses for these new lights”.  I believe it.  I can see many potential applications, even in under-home crawl spaces and by air-handlers that are in such crawl spaces -- making for easier servicing.  In places like under vanities, and many other places around a home, light is often very dull or non-existent.  These might help with such applications as over "top loading" clothes washers in dark laundry rooms.

To see these in person and test them, go to your nearest Interstate Battery Store – assuming you have one of those.  They are great stores in my opinion, they have car batteries, they replace batteries in watches, and do other battery applications. Always friendly and they do good work. 

PS -- they have worked out a way to install them with velcrow (or magnet) -- building in these attachment choices.  That was a big fault of the cheaper motion sensitive units mentioned above. 

Wal-Mart Stores APP For Faster Pickup

I had order some office supplies from WM on-line for free store pickup.  The product didn’t seem to be in other stores, and the price was terrific (on-line) at WM.  I got an email to come pick up the item, and learned that if you have a WM APP on your phone, and have ordered something on line, for free pickup at the store, you can speed up the pickup by do something on the APP.  The notice email says when you are in the store parking lot (or in store, or near store) and tell the app you are “here”, they will start gathering up your special order and have it ready at the back of the store when you push your cart back there in the course of “shopping” for other stuff.

I have noticed that WM has massive number of items on line – far more than are in the store.  The website is poorly done, and information on an item might be scant (and far less than Amazon).  However I often need an item that is on the website, and much cheaper than other websites, or even in the WM store.  But usually what I want is not in the store. The WM website remembers my credit card info, so ordering is super easy, about the same or better than Amazon.  

I do shop WM for certain groceries (prices are good, brands and store brands I like) and health and beauty aid products are nicely priced there as well.  While I won’t, personally, order that much, so won’t load the app myself (yet) – I bring this to the Blog since I see this as a trend – particularly with on-line groceries and Whole Foods and Amazon teaming up.  I have family members that already order groceries on line, delivered to their home – probably with an app.  They use Shipt.  That service shops many grocery stores, not just one.  And they bring the groceries to your home within a small delivery time window, and put it on the kitchen counter top.  You can’t beat that !  Especially if you have small children and going to the store with them is a major hassle.

FOLLOW UP --- I now have been to retrieve my WM ordered product.  I was amazed.  The remodeled store has a tall orange kiosk near the front door.  It dispenses your on-line ordered package, much like the old Automat Cafeterias dispensed food in New York City in the 1950's.  This kiosk reads your bar code (you printed at home), and brings the package to you, opens the door, and hands it to you ... no humans involved (other than you).  It is wrapped as if it was going UPS, only it came to the store on a WM truck, and thus you pay no freight.  UPS is cut out of any compensation, I guess.  This kiosk even had a sofa or something in front for relaxing.  It was so easy, I can see the revolution building steam.  But, the kiosk must have cost $100,000 to build. This is sort of a hybrid between on line ordering with Prime from Amazon, and going to a store and buying the product. Future gas/convenience stores will have, they say, something similar.  You go there to get gas, and retrieve any packages you ordered on-line.  More secure than leaving them on your front porch, or in the hall if you live in an apartment building. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Is Anti-Bacterial Hand Soap Effective?

According to the FDA, liquid hand soap has dominated the market and, in recent years, has been a marketing play  People tend to believe it's more hygientic, since many brands contain antibacterial chemicals like triclosan and triclocarban.

In 2016, the FDA reached a conclusion, and banned 19 of those chemicals – starting in 2017.  Because soap companies failed to prove that they were safe for long-term use, or make soap more effective. 

(source: Sierra magazine) 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Older Version of Photoshop “Gratis”

Gratis, or without the monthly fee.  If you ever wanted to try Adobe Photoshop, yet didn’t want to pay a monthly fee, I have been told you can download the 12 years old version now.  Called Adobe Photoshop CS2.   

My contact says he has used this version for years and likes the control that it gives with adjusting lighting, file size, retouching etc., but other photo applications allow you to resize photos with fewer steps.  The other free online photo editing service that my contact says some professionals use is called GIMP  

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Anker Phone and Pad Charger Recommendation

Phone chargers are everywhere these days, and I own several different brands.  Anker is a highly popular and respected brand with some advanced features.  I just purchased this one to try it out. This model offers

1.     Two ports, I was able to charge both phone and iPad at same time, no problem
2.     It is very fast, I think faster than the chargers that come with the iPhone
3.     It has a light to tell you want it is doing, flashing is charging, steady is charged up
4.     I think it is safe to leave it plugged in all the time, but I am asking the factory
5.     It has IQ – 10 smart safety circuits inside to protect your devices
6.     It is 220 or 110 compatible, perfect for overseas travel  it makes the adjustment automatically.
7.     It has retractable plug prongs, to make it even easier to travel
8.     It is high quality construction, you can drop it or whatever, no problem (it says)
9.     Two ports is reducing some “counter clutter” for me. I had with two different chargers I had used for years in that location.  A beefier one for the iPad (came with it) and a smaller one for the iPhone (came with it).
10. It has a warranty of course.  Price is $12 – not dirt cheap, but consider what your devices cost?  Is protecting them worth $5 more than the lowest price available?

The down side

1.     It is a bit heavier than the little charger than came with the iPhone, maybe even a tiny bit heavier than the charger that came with the iPad – but it does both jobs, so, perhaps it doesn’t weigh more than both combined? 
2.     It will get a little bit warm to the touch when charging both devices , not hot or anything just a tiny bit more warm.  I think that is OK, technically.  It must have a transformer inside (as opposed to some other kind of voltage regulator)  In my earlier electronic lifetime transformers were safer than circuit boards that did the same chores – just heavier and bulkier.  This one is, of course, a tiny transformer if that’s it what it is.

PS – I use Amazon’s private label cords with my chargers, and the 6 foot one has a better quality cord and larger and better “end pieces” that stick into the devices and chargers.  But I don’t like long cords.  I ordered two, 3 foot cords, and they work, but I don’t like them as well – quality wise, as the 6 foot cord. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Panasonic FlashXpress Toaster Oven

Toaster Ovens are not exactly new or exotic.  You can buy them with convection features and or just buy them for as little as $24 sometimes.  The Panasonic FlashXpress came to my attention over and over in the many publications I read.  So I looked it up on Amazon and was surprised to see it had over 2,000 reviews (a large number for any product) and retained 4.5 stars,  a remarkable “rating” achievement. And Consumer Reports gave it a big write up as well.

So, I offer it here for your information or consideration should you ever want to buy a replacement toaster oven (or your first one).  I think they are useful, but actually don’t own one, as I feel I can’t spare the counter space or have a burning need for one.  But I have eaten food from other people’s such ovens, and it is usually great.  Now it can be fast too !

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Edison String Lights For Your Backyard Patio

Edison String Lights For Your Backyard Patio

I recently purchased this brand and type from Amazon and in the process, learned a fair amount about the topic.  I have seen them all my life, but didn’t realize how many variations there were, or how to purchase a quality set that will last. Here is the link:  The brand is AMLIGHT …

Here are some of the features

1.     the lights are 2 feet apart, many brands have lights 4 feet apart (too far for my taste) 
2.     the bulbs are visible filament Edison types, nice low light soft glow, and they shipped 18 bulbs for the 12 slots, so you have spares.  But they last many years I think.
3.     these are commercial strength strings with high quality, waterproof, sockets for the lights
4.     they can be strung end-to-end, up to 10 strings (it says one place, another place it says 2 strings?  I think 10 is more correct).
5.     each bulb has a ring above which can be used to hook it to a gazebo roof or something, or, to string a strong cable wire through to hold the lights up for long distances – they sell the cables on Amazon.  The cables are not visible in magazine photos, but probably many of the nice strings you see are really supported by the nearly invisible cables. 
6.     there are less expensive strings around, but are “home” quality not commercial, and are basically not as nice looking or nearly as long lasting, I chose the good stuff. 

I am very pleased with my first string, and have ordered two more strings to make the entire deck even more pleasant at night.  Fortunately I already had another lighting system in place from 10 years back (the old rope light idea) so I had a very handy water proof receptacle in place, so install was super easy.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Furnace Filters and Dehumidifier Thoughts

Filters are a boring topic, but most families need them, and need them every 90 days.  My house has filter grills, and I use the disposable kind of filters.  Therefore I have to put in about 5 or more filters every 90 days.  Storage isn’t a problem for me, I have a climate controlled attic in my home, but for others, signing up with Amazon for automatic delivery every 6 months or more, might be advisable.

I have found a local hardware store with good prices on filters, and they carry odd sizes.  But I prefer, when possible, a 300 micron pleated filter, usually one by Purolator or Filtrete. Sometimes purchased at WalMart, but they often don’t have my (odd) sizes. And they are very pricey there.  These days they run about $5 to $10 a filter (on line), outrageously expensive for such a mundane, high production, product. I guess shipping is a high cost, since they take up a great deal of space in a shipping van or UPS.  Even though, of course, they are light weight.

I even saw a so-called high performance filter on Amazon that was $18 for a single disposable filter in my 10 x 30 size. That’s just ridiculous.

I use a portable dehumidifier in summer, and that helps keep the air clean and nice as well.  After trying many brands (I have owned quite a few brands over the years), my current favorite is Frigidaire from Lowes or Home Depot (or on line from Amazon).  It has a lifetime filter than can be washed easily, so that helps as well.  By dropping humidity, the house feels cooler, and thus saves on Air Conditioning run times (setting a few degrees higher temp). 

My most recent purchase of the dehumidifier was from this link.

On the topic of energy savings and home comfort, I have slowly replaced most of my normal light bulbs with LED’s. Finding the right ones has been a slow Easter Egg hunt, as some brands are too expensive, some put out ugly light, and some are not as bright as the replacement.  But others are even brighter than the bulb they are supposed to replace.  Lately a great find was a WalMart branded 40 watt bulb, with warm light, and very bright, can’t really tell it from the old incandescent bulbs it replaced. The nice warm light was not yellow tinged either. And price was very low, a few dollars or less in-store, and even less in a big box of identical product containing 30 each. I found my big box of bulbs on EBay. Quite an accident to discover what I wanted there. I have fixtures that needed a total of 15 , 40 watt bulbs. This should save both heat build up and energy in summer, and energy in winter.  

Spreadshare – A New Concept

Share your exciting website finds -- for personal use, or to help you start up business or established business. By posting a spread sheet you have built with great "finds".

I have just started to look at this, but recommend you explore it if you are interested.

I suppose people submit spreadsheets that list URL's or links to a helpful website on their favorite topic – travel ?  entrepreneur? or building a “start up business”.  On their spreadsheets they have topics related with links to the appropriate web tools on those topics.

Here are two I have admired this morning… one on travel, the other on building a start-up business (possibly a web type business).

Aids for travel and related

Aids for a start up business

Here is one I found on my first drill=down look – I would bet it could benefit those with e-commerce websites, or other sites.

Please post any usefulness you find in these spreadsheet aids so others can benefit.  Thanks.  Dale

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Amazon Echo Show -- coming in June

Echo Show to be released in June.  This is Amazon Echo with a screen.

1.     The biggest news is the possibility that it will allow users (owners) to do something like Skype calls between Echo Show devices, so, it will behave something like a free video phone call. It could offer something a bit easier and different from doing the same via iPad or iPhone or Android. A substitute for FaceTime, for example.  But, unlike the phone, it would be tethered to Wi-Fi, which should make it more reliable.

2.     “With the addition of a touchscreen, Amazon said that users will be able to watch video flash briefings and YouTube, see music lyrics, check on security cameras, swipe through photos, view weather forecasts, make to-do and shopping lists, and more. Far-field voice recognition, eight microphones, beam-forming technology, and noise cancellation allow users to be heard from anywhere in the room, as well as over loud music coming from the Echo Show itself.”  (from the website link above0

3.     $230 is the projected price, I think, per advance articles.  Less than the cost of some iPad models. 

I enjoy my Echo Dot – but don’t use it properly, or nearly enough.  I find it is much like Siri --- and I have Siri with me all the time, not just in one location.

A friend of mine has a full Echo, and enjoys the music features, and a few other features.  Another friend uses the Echo to add things to his shopping list – which then appears on his phone … segregated by stores.  For examples, he could say “Alexa, add pork and beans to my shopping list at Trader Joes”.   And, next time he is in Trader Joes, he can use that app on his phone to see what is on the list ---  saves writing down, and, if your hands are not clean, it is much easier to speak what you need, than start (or add to) a paper list.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Apple Pay Revisited

Have you subscribed to Apple Pay?  Would love to hear your experience.

It is very secure, probably more so than using a credit card.  It is fairly simple to use, and I think useful for small transactions like buying a coke at McDonalds. I am going to sign up soon, but first wanted to see if it would be accepted at stores I use. So I researched some of the stores that accept it now. Fast food places, grocery stores, and a few other places would be useful, since I always use my credit card in fast food places now, to avoid carrying change in my pocket.  Here is a list of useful stores that I think might be a benefit for me.  Disney does accept Apple Pay in the parks, but I don’t often go to the parks. Wouldn't it be nice if parking meters, nationwide, accepted it?  and parking garages?  And toll booths?

A few of the Fast Food places that accept Apple Pay :

Au Bon Pain*

Coca-Cola vending
El Pollo Loco*
Firehouse Subs
Jamba Juice
Dunkin’ Donuts
Jersey Mike’s Subs
Johnny Rockets*
Panera Bread

Peet’s Coffee
White Castle

A few of -Grocery stores and drug stores that accept Apple Pay:

Shop ‘n Save
Trader Joe’s

Whole Foods Market

Gas stations that accept Apple Pay

Chevron Extra Mile
ExxonMobil (through the Speedpass+ app)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

How To Escape From A Car In Water

This New York Times story, April 2017,  you might never need, but if you do, this is valuable advice.

If your cars goes in water (and many do every year) :

1.     do not open the door
2.     the electric windows will work after it hits the water, run down the window
3.     go out the window fast  -- within 60 seconds of hitting the water
4.     put out children first, oldest child first, then younger
5.     stand on top of the car if it is floating – THEN call 911
6.     survival depends on your doing this in this order, do not call 911 from inside the car, you don’t have time.  They won’t respond fast enough.
7.     some cars, like minivans, might float for 10 minutes but most will not
8.     your chances of survival are slim if you stay in the car -- or open the door

Monday, May 1, 2017

Bannish Wi Fi Dead Zones In Your Home or Office    New story in New York Times Newspaper about Mesh devices

Banishing dead zones from your home with a mesh network is not news for some, but others are not yet aware that it is a trend and system that is better, and "here to stay", so to speak.

Mesh systems are getting more and more news stories.  Google and others have products out to solve a long standing problem. See links below.

1.     Wi Fi signals don’t penetrate brick walls and other things very well
2.     When Wi Fi signals are weak, devices might still work, but be aggravatingly slower.
3.     some Mesh Networks like Google have iPhone apps to adjust them easily
4.     Mesh systems are much more esthetic than multiple routers in a home
5.     they are now recommending Mesh system in all homes, not just large ones
6.     switching between mesh broadcasters is instant and always with the strongest one, that’s not the case with Wi-Fi “extenders” or even setting up a second router in a more distant part of a house
7.     the mesh networks automatically “hop” the signal around the home, some speed can be lost in this, but Orbi brand delivered the fastest and best results “overall” of the 3 brands tested.
8.     most users love their mesh system, I know one person who said it greatly improved coverage and performance of all the wi-fi devices in their home.

I suspect that these Mesh systems use a different frequency than Wi=Fi to send the signal with more clarity and speed through the more dense walls and distances.  Then, it re-broadcasts the Wi-Fi signal at the remote spots much more complete and stronger than the weaker Wi-Fi signal (which I think broadcasts a different, less efficient frequency). 

Here are the 3 most popular brands of these devices :

ORBI – product

Google System Meshing devices (set of 3)

EERO – the original inventor of the Mesh system, the other two above copied it quickly, probably using similar frequencies, I am not sure.