Sunday, August 31, 2014

A trip to the Market Bistro, Latham, New York

As fate would have it, I recently had an opportunity to visit the Market Bistro by Price Chopper and found many commonalities to my recent visit to Whole Foods Market.  As follows my habit, this visit was on a Monday at around 2pm.  I thought that perhaps this would be a slower time to visit.  As it turned out, business was brisk.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sex with Indians

Lately I've had perseverating thoughts about sex with Indians; no, not in a perverted way.  I consider my interest more as an innocent curiosity.  I anticipate that this posting may appear a bit tangential so I’m providing an advance warning for readers who want to ditch while they are ahead.  At times I think the only reason I don’t carry a mental health diagnosis is because I’m foolish enough to continue to show up for work and pay bills.  Yes, in America it seems that the most diagnosed are the poor who need public assistance or the wealthy who need something to whine about on the talk show circuit.  Anyway, back to the post…

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Taming the Battery Beast on the Samsung Galaxy S3

Overall I love my new (used) Samsung Galaxy S3, but if I were to be critical of one point it would be the battery life.  My initial impression was that this device would need a daily charge to ensure that it would provide sufficient service for a business day (and I’m a very light user).  Then I encountered my day of reckoning when I knew I had to do something.  I was traveling in an area not entirely familiar to me and I had ensured that my phone had a near full charge (over 90%) before leaving the house.  At about 10:30am I was at a neighborhood lawn sale and checking for directions when I spotted that my new (used) S3 was at about 18%... what the heck?  Fortunately I had a micro USB charger in the car that I was able to use to put my phone on life support, but that was my wakeup call that I needed to take drastic action.

1.  As with all situations such as this, my first step was a Google search to troll for ideas.  Sure, I took a look at Amazon to explore buying a new battery and I may yet, but have taken other first steps before leaping to this option.  I found a particularly worthwhile discussion on  I specifically applied this intervention from drekkkkkkkkkkkkkk who relates that the procedure was obtained from his/her contact with 1-800-SAMSUNG and which also had several affirmative responses from readers who applied it:
1. Turn off phone
2. Wait 5secs
3. Hold up volume button, home button, and power button until phone cuts on
4. Let go of power button
5. When Screen comes up let go of all buttons
6. Use volume button to go down to wipe cache, use power button to select
7. Then press select reboot system
I’ll note that it took me 2-3 attempts to get the hang of it, but it certainly did no harm.

2.  Turn On Power Saving mode – This is likely a no-brainer… go to Settings – My Device.

3.  Examine the Battery in Settings.  Sounds simple and it is.  On my phone, you navigate by clicking Settings, then More and then Battery.  This will tell what is using your battery and you can take steps to shut down those apps that you don’t need.

4.  Examine recent apps and close down the ones not being used.  Identify running apps can be tricky to find at first.  Hold the home button for a couple of seconds, then when your recent apps appear, click the icon on the lower left that looks like a pie chart.  Note:  if you prefer you can simply swipe the app from your recent app list.

5.  Turn off wifi – This was not one of my early strategies and one I did not embrace until my near dead cell phone incident.  I was initially resistant as I thought “what’s the big deal?” – I want my wifi and it costs nothing for wifi so why not leave it on.  In hindsight, I think this was one of my big issues.  Sure the wifi wasn’t a big deal while in my home and hooked to my recognized home network.  But once you hit the road, I believe having the wifi on might significantly contribute to a drain on the battery.  Specifically I suspect that when the device has wifi on, the phone will continually be checking (scanning) for a recognized wifi network to operate on.  Wifi can quickly be turned off and on by swiping downward from the top of the device and clicking the wifi toggle.

6.  Turn off data – This was one of my earliest strategies (and obviously didn’t work by itself as noted by my nearly dead phone), but this strategy will take some load off the device by potential apps seeking to refresh.  I’d also add to consider disabling automatic updates and set the setting for Background data restricted.  You can disable automatic updates in the Google Play store.  The setting for restricting background data is sort of buried.  On my device you go to Settings, then Data Usage, and then click the button to the left of the home button to bring up the menu and click the checkbox to restrict the data.

Tip:  There are apps to help with this setting.  I have downloaded and am using Power Toggles and have placed a very convenient data toggle in my notification area which is also easily accessed by swiping downward from the top of the device.

7.  Clean up your screens.  Many folks are nervous about customizing their screens – do it!  Your choices may not only improve your battery conservation, but will also make your phone more useful to the stuff that you use most.  Some of the default widgets may consume battery resources which may not be worthwhile to you on a cost benefit basis.  For example, the initial setup of my device had a nice large widget on the home screen that showed the time and weather…sounds nice.  However, it takes energy for the weather data to refresh and this widget while flashy looking hogged nearly half of my home screen.  I’d much rather use that space to place shortcuts to my frequently used apps…and I can look out the window to find out about the weather.

8.  Find a good app to help you.  I use and recommend ES Task Manager which helps me look at settings and control my device in a different view.  Yes, many of the features can be found somewhere in the current Android operating system, but sometimes a different perspective helps you to see choices quicker and more efficiently than working through your Android settings.

9.  Consider turning off Location Services.  I have not yet done this, but some have remarked that this is a drain on the battery.  My reluctance to do this is that using the GPS and map is one of the more likely services that I would use while on the road.  For example I was using Google maps from my phone just last week and I noticed that the positioning worked even without accessing data.  I don’t understand this either, but I witnessed the dot (me) moving along with my position on the map and it was very helpful in guiding me to my destination.  Regardless, if you want to maximize your standby time on your phone, this can easily be turned on and off by swiping downward on your phone.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Adventures in Unlocking Samsung Galaxy S3

I remember the thrill of unlocking my first smart phone – an AT&T Go Phone – the LG Thrive.  At that time, you could purchase unlock codes commercially and do it yourself.  I had purchased my code on eBay for 99 cents and although I never changed carriers or traveled abroad, I experienced the liberating feeling of becoming unlocked.  Since that time, a court ruling has made this practice illegal and you must go through the phone’s carrier to perform an unlock.  Each carrier has different policies that they apply in their decision to unlock your device.  For those not familiar with the practice, cell phones are commonly locked to a specific carrier which makes them unusable on other networks.  The justification for this practice has its roots in the past common practice of providing an expensive flashy phone for little to no upfront cost, but carrying an obligation to subscribe to a “plan” for a specified period of time.  Of course nothing is ever free and as should be expected the actual cost of that expensive flashy phone was subsidized by the anticipated payments under the obligated plan.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Shopping for a new, used cell phone on Craig’s List

I've written my tales of woe relating to my disenchantment with AT&T.   In view of this one would wonder about my decision to move forward with purchasing a used (new to me) cell phone on Craig’s List.  I had been unhappy with my cell phone for quite some time.  It is extremely slow, frequently flashes low memory warnings, has an outdated version of Android that cannot be updated (many apps fail to download, citing an advisement that they are not compatible with my old version of Android) and my near vision has deteriorated to the point where I cannot easily read the screen.  Before my recent fall out with AT&T, I had stopped into an AT&T retail store and learned that I could purchase any AT&T phone or an unlocked GSM phone and they would be happy to provide a sim and transfer my existing plan to the new phone.  Similarly, the most likely plan that I may transition to at the end of my GoPhone service is Consumer Cellular and they use AT&T and also allow you to bring your AT&T or unlocked GSM.  Finally, whatever used phone I would purchase would have some value and I could re-sell it.  Thus, I felt I didn't have too much too loose by buying a used cell phone.

As stated in a prior post regarding Craig’s List, my first move was to get the lay of the land by watching what was being posted and what seemed to be selling and for what price.  Additionally, I also visited Mr. Dealz and other local retailers to get a feel for what the device actually felt like in my hand.  Mr. Dealz merits specific note because others at AT&T had suggested this store and I found them to be very helpful.  I would definitely recommending them out for any electronic needs in the Albany or Schenectady area.  The right size cell phone is a very personal decision.  For visibility I love those Mega and Samsung Notes, but when I really thought about practicality neither of these devices would fit in my pocket plus are extremely expensive so these devices were quickly ruled out.  After getting some initial prospects, I did some general Google searches to read some user reviews as well as to explore common issues in regards to buying used cell phones.  My greatest concern in regards to purchasing a used cell phone was the possibility of getting a phone that was not able to be activated.  This could be due to the phone being reported as stolen or due to delinquent old accounts whereby one of the major service providers has identified the phone as one they will not allow on the network.  There are online sites that assist buyers in checking ESN or IMEI numbers.  I wasn't fully comfortable with this option so in my search I would also check the seller’s willingness to meet at an AT&T retail store (which is the route that I went when I made my purchase).

I also set a budget.  My budget was around $150 with a preference to stay closer to $100.  My research seemed to point to several options.  A Samsung AT&T Samsung Galaxy Exhilarate was listed for $40 on Craig’s list and after doing the research, this looked like it would have been a great option considering my very light use of the cell phone.  Unfortunately, this listing arose during my research stage and no other listings appeared for this model.  Thus, I moved on to options that had more regular postings for used devices.

As a heavy Google user, I would have loved to score an unlocked Nexus 4 or 5.  Unfortunately, while these devices occasionally appeared on Craig’s List, the few times that they did, they appeared with a rather high price and the legitimate postings did not last long so my chances of success did not appear good.

During my search, a Nokia 520 appeared very briefly on Craig’s List for $30 (it was removed within a couple of hours).  The AT&T store had pointed out this device, but I was a bit skeptical about jumping into a Windows phone.  After reading the on-line reviews I have reconsidered.  This option may be a great choice for light cell phone users as the price is very appealing and the phone includes decent hardware for the price.  (One thing noteworthy that is missing is the front facing camera, so “selfies” would be more challenging).   This phone is available for around $50 new on Amazon so this may also appeal to those who do not want to assume the risk and ordeal of searching for a used device.

The iPhone 4s was a strong possibility.  The familiarity, simplicity and quality of Apple was a given.  I definitely would want a device that includes Siri (see also my iPad 2 to 4 post) and this was the only Siri enabled used device where offerings fell within my budget.  There were some negatives to this option.  I enjoy playing music from my current cell phone and an 8mg sized iPhone would not work well for my needs here.  (Note, iPhones are not expandable – you cannot “add” memory so what you buy is what you get).  I was also somewhat concerned about the screen size due to my eyesight.  Lastly, although not a big consideration, the 4s still uses 3g so this phone would not be able to take advantage of AT&Ts faster 4g build out.  Currently, most of the iPhone 4s listed on Craig’s List tended to range from a low of around $140 to around $250.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 was the device that stuck with me most consistently.  It received very good reviews from users.  I was able to “feel” it in my hand and I like the feel – the screen was generous so that I could see even with my bad eyes (about 4.8” compared to about 3.5” for the 4s and 4.5” for the 5s).  I had spotted a used S3 for sale at Mr. Dealz for $199 and it was not there the following week so that established a baseline price.  In Craig’s List I would consistently spot sale postings with a price range similar to that of the iPhone 4s which suggested I may be able to find one within budget.

As it turned out, I was successful.  I had spotted an AT&T S3 initially advertised at $175 then on Sunday, I notice the ad was updated to $150.  Being the bargain hunter that I am, I emailed an offer of $125 and advised that I could meet at an AT&T retail store that same day with the cash (hoping that the prompt cash would appeal to the seller and the AT&T retail store would seem to be fair mutual meeting arrangement).  As it turned out, I heard from the seller promptly and the seller related that he recently began employment with AT&T.  We arranged to meet at an AT&T store that was reasonably close for both of us.  The store transferred my GoPhone account without issue.  In the midst of the transaction, the seller inquired as to whether I would be interested in purchasing a case (new in package) for $5.  I hadn't thought of this separate transaction, but the AT&T representative strongly recommended a case and remarked, “I was going to try to sell you one…”  The quality of this case was clearly better than I would find in a $5 Below store and seemed to be the sensible thing to do so I went for it as I considered getting the phone for $125 to be a great deal.