Tag: Amazon


2022 Week 27 – Odd One Out

There were several large protests in downtown Indianapolis last weekend and even more this past week. All were regarding the Roe vs. Wade reversal, and all were peaceful, which s a lot better than the mess we had downtown a while back. I’ve grown up in a conservative household and have always considered myself a conservative, but as I get older, I start seeing myself siding with some liberal issues. I think I’m a Centrist, and I’m OK with that. As an example, I’m Pro 2nd Amendment as well as Pro-Choice when it comes to women’s reproductive rights. I’m not a fan of Big Government, but I also understand the need for subsidies, where needed, for the greater good. I’m a proud American, and I appreciate the freedom we have to exercise our right to protest and use our vote to produce change peacefully. I’ve left a long career with a very conservative (politically and financially) privately owned company and moved to a more liberal, not-for-profit organization. Within the first month, I opened my eyes to some things I would have never noticed before. It will be a wild ride, and I’m looking forward to growing my understanding of the “other side.”

people rallying on street
Photo by Rosemary Ketchum on Pexels.com

I had to get a new phone when I left my last employer, so I upgraded from an iPhone 12 Pro to a 13 Pro. I haven’t had to pay for a cell phone for 20+ years & was a little surprised at the cost of a non-enterprise line and phone! I decided to purchase the iPhone 13 Pro outright to give me flexibility should I want to upgrade at a future time and trade this unit in for credit. You get a surprisingly decent amount of money for used Apple products when you trade them back into Apple.

The 13 Pro has slightly better battery life, a better camera, and screen than the 12, but that’s about it. I had been upgrading my work phone every two years and was on the “Even Cycle” of phones (8/10/12) vs. the “Odd Cycle” (9/11/13). The Even cycle of iPhones always seems to have the most significant technological leaps, with a rumor that the iPhone 14 will switch from Lightning to USB-C for its power connector. Of course, Apple could remove the connector altogether and be a true wireless phone.

Luckily I get a decent stipend from the new job to cover the cost of my cell phone, but it’s nothing like having it provided for free as an employee perk. I find myself being much more careful with this $1200 device than I was when it was standard issue equipment as part of the job. I’ve also never been one to use a screen protector, but after finding what looks like a small scratch on the screen of my new phone, I ordered some tempered glass screen protectors from Amazon. We’ll see if they make a difference or not.

pexels-photo-9667337.jpeg
Photo by Caleb Oquendo on Pexels.com

And finally… CNBC had an interesting YouTube video about Amazon. It’s a combination of several pieces, so there is some redundancy, but it does a good job explaining what happens when you return an item to the shopping behemoth.


2021 Week 50 – Kindle Upgrade

I’ve been an Amazon Kindle user ever since V2 was released in 2009. That version had a keyboard and built-in cellular modem that allowed you to transfer data and download books anywhere, anytime.

Amazon Kindle V2 in 2009

The Kindle e-reader does one thing and, in my opinion, does it very well. It provides a distraction-free reading experience. OK, two things, you can carry a huge number of books with you at any time. This is handy when you want to read a couple of books at the same time, depending on mood and energy. It makes no noise, it has no pop-up messages, and it’s already ready to pick up where you left off in your last reading session.

I eventually upgraded to a newer version and then another. The low $100-125 price and ever-increasing screen resolutions and lighting options made the upgrades worth it. We lost the cellular modem years ago, but with WiFi being so accessible, it’s something you really don’t miss. I typically like to read in the evenings where it helps me unwind. On occasion, I can use my phone to finish a chapter or launch the Audible version of a book where it syncs with the text copy for easy switching between the two.

My last Paperwhite was starting to get a little sluggish, and I realized after 5-years of ownership I was no longer getting updates with some of the newer software features. After doing a little research, I found that I could trade my old unit in for a new one and get a 20% discount as well as a few dollars for the unit I was turning in.

2021 Kindle Paperwhite

The 2021 Kindle Paperwhite (as reviewed by Wired) is the best Kindle e-reader to date. The screen is larger, and the screen resolution looks like you’re reading a paper book. Backlight options include a warmth mode that tints the screen to ease eye fatigue at night. It’s all automatic based on the sunrise/sunset in your area. You don’t really notice the screen color until you turn it off.

Now that it’s getting cold out, and dark early, I’m spending a lot more time reading in the evening, and I’m really enjoying this upgrade.


I wrote about the Grammarly app in Week 42, and I’m happy to say after the 90-day initial trial, I renewed for another year. It’s been beneficial in my personal and professional life. You might have noticed some improvements in the blog posts too. I was missing some necessary punctuation in my writing. Some obvious (bad editing) and some not so obvious. They just released a new Desktop app for the Mac that allows it to work in ANY application. It was previously limited to its own app outside MS Office apps. Now it works right inside my email program and makes editing on the fly much smoother. At $150 a year, it’s not cheap but, if written communication is an important part of your life, it’s worth checking out to see if it can be helpful to you.

And finally… The limited series show “True Story” on Netflix was a surprise hit. Kevin Hart was excellent in his role, and the story moved very quickly through the seven episodes. Each episode is only 30-minutes, so it’s a pretty quick watch & easy to binge on a rainy day.

That’s it for thie week. Christmas is less than 2-weeks away! I should probably start shopping or something…

2021 Week 45 – Tech Upgrades & Tacos

I’ve been absolutely loving the new iPad Pro since I purchased it a few months ago. In fact, It’s my primary computing device when I’m home. Paired with a Lap Desk from Amazon, I can crank out all kinds of work and keep up with my reading from the comfort of my couch (while watching Soccer & Football).

The Apple Watch Series 7 arrived last Monday & I’m thrilled with the upgrade from the Series 4 I was using. Apple offered a $100 trade-in, and my company provides an annual fitness reimbursement of $60 for wearable devices, which brought the overall price of the device down to something a lot more reasonable.

Speaking of reasonable, Amazon just released the new Kindle Paperwhite for $139. I have an original one from 2012 that has gotten very sluggish (and stopped receiving software updates). I was able to get 25% off the price of the new Kindle if I traded my old one in. I think this trade-in option is something I’m going to start looking for when upgrading electronic devices. Otherwise, these old units end up taking space on the shelf with no benefit to anyone.

In local food news, Chris’ Ice Cream (and Tacos) has relocated across 86th Street from its old location, just east of Total Wine and next door to Subway. They haven’t put a permanent sign up yet, so it’s a little hard to find. I had lunch with a former colleague the other day, and the food is just as good as it was before at the old location. The new site isn’t any larger than the old one, so I think the relocation might have been landlord or rent-related. Either way, this is a great little hole-in-the-wall with some excellent Mexican food.

And finally, this video is a few years old, but it’s hilarious. There is NO WAY I would ever try Noodling, but it sure was fun watching these guys do it. Have a great week, and we’ll see you next time!

2021 Week 4 – Sushi in Fortville?

I can’t remember how I found out about this place but I finally got over to Fortville to check out Bonsai Fortville. I was there right after they opened at 11 and sadly was the only one there, but more people arrived when I was leaving. Talked to the owner a bit and found out they opened last November. They have a nice variety of rolls and I tried the Mexican roll (special that day) and the KFC roll with fried chicken. Both were very good and I’d order either one again.

Mexican roll (left) and KFC roll (right)

Besides Sushi Fortville has quite a few quality restaurants worth checking out:

  • Cortona’s Italian Cuisine & Wine Bar
  • Los Maguelles Mexican
  • Taxman Fortville
  • FoxGardin Kitchen & Ale

You really can’t go wrong with any of these and if you’re looking for something a little different it’s worth a little drive east on Pendleton Pike (US 36).

The New York Times had a great write up on Geocaching a few weeks ago. My son and I ended up visiting every county in Indiana to complete a Geocaching mission a few years ago. It was a lot of fun to do and quite a rewarding task once we completed it. The scenery and terrain around Indiana is a lot more varied than people give it credit for.

Watched the first season of “Upload” on Amazon Prime. It’s a very interesting (SyFy) look at a future where your spirit gets uploaded to the cloud and you can still communicate with people back on earth. Writing and acting were very well done and I’m already looking forward to Season 2!

POTUS 45 is out and POTUS 46 has been sworn in. There was a lot of talk about more protests at various capital buildings around the country but it doesn’t look like anything actually materialized. The Indiana State Capital building actually closed down for a few days up to and including the inauguration. As of today (Thursday) Downton has returned to the Pandemic “normal” we’ve all gotten used to.

Hot Dish Casserole Recipe – This is a good one. We all probably have our own version of a tater-tot Casserole but I think this one is my favorite one. Don’t skimp on the pepper jack cheese which adds some nice spice. This reheats well and I even vacuum sealed several pieces and put them in the deep freeze for a quick weeknight meal.

Finally, I rediscovered this amazing Bluegrass cover band

Cutting the Cord on Cable TV (Week 2)

 

Part 1 can be found here

So we’re ending week 2 of the Cord Cutting Experiment and I’ll have to say it’s been mostly OK so far.  I’m still missing the DVR a little because all my favorite shows were available in one place and ready to watch when I was.

Having said that by using a DVR I was not taking advantage of all the online programming that’s available out there.  You can still “Time Shift” but you have to find the content in various applications and services vs. it being grouped together.  You also have some limitations with shows only being available for a limited time (kind of like the storage space limitation on a DVR).

107-2313_BK_BI tried a few iOS apps that help track shows and remind you when the are on.  That’s nice to be able to do but you have to remember the shows are available the day after online in most cases.

I’ve also had some reception related issues with one of the local stations (ABC).  The signal bounces all over the place from 35-90%.  I repositioned the OTA Antenna this weekend and that made a big difference.

I’ve found some good online resources and talked to friends and co-workers about this experiment and have found a lot of people are cheating a little by using someone else’s (usually parents or relatives) cable tv account login to access online content.  This gets you over some of the content limitations of going strictly non-cable.  In fact, a lot of the AppleTV apps require a cable TV subscription login before they will even work!

I upgraded my Hulu Subscription the other night to the higher tier that all but eliminates commercials. I tried living with them for a week and it was driving me crazy.  It’s worth another $4 in my opinion.

So in the end I went from $120 a month to less than $20.  The $100 savings is worth it so far and I’m going to give this some more time before making a final decision on the overall experience.  So far it’s still very positive!

I’ve gotten some great feedback on this subject and I look forward to more!  Feel free to leave your questions and comments in the space below.

Cutting the Cord on Cable TV (Week 1)

I came home the other day and my DVR was acting odd.  Only a few shows remained & they were all marked for deletion.  A quick check of available space confirmed my suspicions…  The hard drive was dying and taking all of my saved content with it.

I work with a bunch of “Millennials” and none of them subscribe to cable TV.  The number one reason seems to be cost.  I’ve toyed around with the idea of becoming a “cord cutter” but hadn’t made the move yet.  This was a perfect time to give it a shot.  A quick call to the cable company saved me $120 a month in cable subscription fees and started me on this journey.

51bQI0nhcpL._SY450_I purchased the new Apple TV released last week (future review topic for sure), and a new Over The Air (OTA) antenna for local channels.  After some initial setup I was ready to roll.

The Apple TV allows me to access Netflix ($7.99 a month) and Hulu (also $7.99 a month) so for $16 I’m getting more content than I could ever consume.  My Internet cost is reimbursed by my employer so this is working out to be a good deal.

The $60 OTA antenna I purchased from Amazon works amazingly well and pulls in all the local channels along with a bunch of sub-channels that I’ll never turn on.  This setup will cover the major sporting events I want to watch as well as some Prime Time shows I watch on occasion.

The only thing I’m missing so far are the DVR capabilities and NFL RedZone.  I’m learning that most network shows are available for streaming on Hulu the day after they air so if I miss it live I can usually find it online.

I’m still in the first week but so far so good.  I’ll report back in a few weeks and let you know how it’s going and if I’m still happy with the decision to ditch Cable TV.

Have you cut the cord?  Are you thinking about?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Part 2 of this article can be found here.

The Amazon Kindle

I’ll be the first one to admit it… I don’t read for fun nearly as much as I should (or want to).

When Amazon launched the first Kindle in late 2007, I really didn’t take notice.  By the time Generation 2 came out in early 2009 I knew I had to have one.  I was traveling weekly for work and found myself with more downtime in the evening than I normally had when I was at home.  Being limited to a book or magazine in my suitcase was not the preferred option as my preference for subject material changes quite frequently.  It’s not unusual for me to have several books/magazines going at one time.

The clincher for me was the “Whispersync” technology that keeps all of your various reading material synchronized between devices.  By devices I mean not only the Kindle but your PC, Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, Android and iPod Touch.  This feature allows you to purchase and share kindle content among the various electronic devices you use every day.  A prefect example of this in use was when my wife wanted to read a book on the Kindle.  I was able to grab the laptop and continue reading my own book that I had been working on previously.

Whispersync is the feature that pushed me over the edge from “want to need” and convinced me to purchase a Kindle sight unseen.  They were not available in the traditional brick and mortar stores until recently so I read enough positive reviews that I took the plunge.

The Kindle display uses Electronic Ink which is amazing.  After spending all day working on a computer it’s actually refreshing to stare at the Kindle screen.  It looks like ink on paper and works perfectly inside and out.  There is a slight “flash” as the page refreshes as you turn the digital page.  It’s noticeable at first but you end up not even noticing it after a while.  The Kindle only uses power when it’s refreshing the screen or communicating wirelessly.  When it’s “off” there’s actually pictures (screen savers) on the screen.

Speaking of communicating wirelessly, the Gen 2 version I own has a built in AT&T 3G data card in it.  It’s free to use for the life of the device and allows for the wireless sync as well as some basic web browsing via the built in browser.

Battery life with the 3G radio disabled is measured in weeks (2-3), even with daily reading sessions of an hour or more.  With the 3G turned on your battery life drops to 4-5 days.

The new Generation 3 devices have an even better display and a lower cost from the previous generations.  I could go on and on about what a great device the Kindle is.  It only does one thing but it does it very well.

My Kindle – Finale

Continued from part 2

Back in December I started writing about the new amazon Kindle eBook reader I purchased.  It’s been about 6 weeks and I thought I would do a follow-up post.

Although I have not had as much time to read as I would have liked, I’ve spent considerable time with the Kindle in a lot of different environments.  My favorite place to read is the comfy leather chair in my living room illuminated by a 40w bulb in the Pharmacy Floor Lamp.

When not curling up with the Kindle at home I’ve done some reading while riding in a car, enjoying a quiet lunch at the cafe near the office and in my second home, the hotel.  The Kindle performed well everywhere and the wireless connectivity never missed a beat.

By making use of the ample storage in the Kindle I always have something available to read.  Fiction, history, newspapers and technical manuals have all found their place on the device.  I currently have around 200 titles loaded and I’m not even close to making a dent in the memory.

If you are looking for some classic reading you can’t go wrong with Project Gutenberg.  All of the titles here are public domain (free).  You get what you pay for though as several titles I have obtained from here had some typo & formatting issues.  Overall it’s a great place to pickup some good reading materials.

Another tool I have found for the Kindle (and just about every other eReader out there) is a software application called Calibre.  Calibre is an eBook Management tool that allows you to catalog, edit and convert electronic documentation into the format needed for your particular eBook reader.  You can use Calibre to upload and download books to/from your devcice as well.  it’s an OUTSTANDING piece of software that the developer, Kovid Goyal, offers for FREE!  If you like the software you are encouraged to make a donation to help with future development.

I hope this brief 3-part review of the Kindle gives you additional information on this amazing piece of technology.  If you love to read you’ll love the Kindle!

My Kindle – Part 2

Continued from Part 1

Ended up going out of town the day the Kindle was delivered.  Did not get to check it out until last night. I hate it when UPS doesn’t match their delivery to my schedule (ha)!

First impressions:

  • Small
  • Light
  • Thin
  • Solid

This thing is a LOT smaller than I expected.  The screen size is about the same as a small paperback book.  Once you start using it you forget about the screen size.  The display is truly amazing!  Packaging was very minimal (green). and the unit was already hooked to by Amazon account when I powered it on!

I had my doubts about how much better the eInk technology would be when compared to any other computer screen.  The best way i can describe it is like this; Analog TV vs. HDTV.  There’s a huge difference between what you are reading on the screen right now and the quality of the text on the Kindle.

One of the great features of this device is the ability to download samples of books before you buy them.  You get a chapter or two delivered instantly to the device and you have the option of purchasing the book to continue reading.

There can be conversion issues with documents.  I purchased the 9/11 Commission Report for $0.99 and after a couple of hours reading the formatting errors are driving me nuts.  Mainly the lack of space between sentences and missing hyphens.  This is a by-product of PDF conversion to Kindle format.  I’ve seen this with other forms of electronic books.

The seamless integration to your Amazon account makes purchasing content on-the-fly as simple (or dangerous) as pushing a button.  I have quite a backlog of books I want to read so the get-it-now feature is going to be hard to resist!

I’m going to log some time using the Kindle and publish a third and final post/review in a few weeks.

Part 3

My Kindle – Part 1

The Amazon Kindle 2 is a second generation eBook reader that uses the latest in eInk technology.  With a built-in cellular modem, storage for 1500 books, and support for PDF, MP3 and Audible files this marvel of technology seems to have it all.

After numerous recommendations and a lot of research I finally broke down and ordered  my Kindle last Thursday night.  Because of the holiday season, I ended up getting 2-day shipping included in the $259 price!

While I won’t actually get my hands on the Kindle until tomorrow I thought I would share what I have learned so far.  Believe it or not, there’s more to the kindle experience than just the physical reading device!

The “back end” of the Kindle system relies on a cellular connection from AT&T (they used to use Sprint but ended the relationship earlier this year).   Dubbed “Whispernet” the EDGE/GSM wireless modem allows the Kindle to be used without a computer.  Books, and periodicals can be downloaded any time the modem has a signal.  Amazon claims a mere 60-seconds to download an averaged sized book.

Whispernet is also used to synchronize bookmarks, notes and overall progress of your reading.  Amazon has made a stand-alone application available for the PC and iPhone.  Mac and Blackberry support “coming soon”.  These stand alone applications allow you to pick up where you left off on the Kindle.  Read a few more pages on your PC or iPhone and your progress is synced to the Kindle the next time you access it.

The ability to preview books is another feature that I think I’ll be using a lot.  I already have several previews set to download once I get the Kindle tomorrow and activate it with Amazon.

[Part 2]

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