Monday, November 28, 2016

Time Machine: PNY versus Lexar

Last Christmas and again this Christmas, I have packaged family related materials (video and pictures) onto a memory stick for the purpose of gift giving.  As such, I try to stick with low cost memory sticks as a worst-case scenario would be that even if one was defective, the content could easily be recovered from the original source.  While I haven’t encountered performance issues for this simple task, I have developed some preferences. Among them, I prefer memory sticks that are one piece, such as the type that retract.  I dislike those with a removable cover as I find I can easily misplace it and then waste time searching for it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

You've had your 8 years...

I voted for Hillary and I’m still reeling from the shock. Like many I wasn’t passionate about either candidate this time around and in the absence of enthusiasm, I completely skipped writing a political post until now for this presidential year. If there were anyone less appetizing than the candidates, it would be their supporters and their detractors. While the yellow media was highly critical of Trump, they also had a fixation with covering Trump. Every Sunday for the past couple of months, I have opened the Times Union to see the talking heads in the Perspective section ranting of the evils of Trump. While I have never felt that Trump is a “nice person” I found it highly offensive for pundits to continually lambast him with socially charged labels such as racist or sexist or xenophobe.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Return to Apple Computer after 30 years

I became a quick convert to the Apple iPad several years back. I love the way that you can quickly turn it on and find information. I still don't like the way that the device is so tightly tied to the Apple Universe, particularly iTunes and iCloud. It gets very confusing. Due to both cost and Apple's tight control, I started my smart phone history on an Android device. I probably would still be with Android except for a twist of fate a couple years back when I bought an iPhone 4S for my wife and she did not want it due to the screen size. Somewhere along the line, I gave it a try and found that I preferred it to my Samsung Galaxy S3. As related in a previous post, the Samsung has a gorgeous screen and superior hardware, but the iPhone 4S had much better battery life and was much simpler to use.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

How to price an iPad to sell on Craig’s list

In a recent post, I referenced that I had recently purchased an iPad Air 2 through Craig’s list and was hoping to sell my iPad 4 for around the same amount.  I probably was a little over optimistic in my pricing.  In the end the “upgrade” cost me about $30 which I feel was still extremely worthwhile.  The strategies used in this post can be used to help price many other electronics as well.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Equal Responsibility

We’re in the midst of preparing our final child for college.  He is a senior in high school and my wife has been busily assisting with the FAFSA (financial aid form).  One of the interesting things about FAFSA is that the student is supposed to fill it out, but of course the student is not in a position to know much of the financial information that is required.  Thus, my wife “helps”.  But this year was different... a couple weeks back my wife came downstairs after a FAFSA session and related that she went as far as she could but was stopped when it required “Selective Service Registration”… and she relates with a shiver, “that’s one thing I’m not filling for him.. I just don’t feel comfortable.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Quick Tip - Changing Push Lawnmower Oil

I'm one of those stranger birds that really enjoys mowing my lawn using a push mower.  I like the exercise and I also enjoy the sun on my skin.  While I enjoy mowing my lawn, I despise changing the oil and the maintenance of a small engine.  I'm not mechanically inclined and I sure don't like the mess of dealing with used oil.

In the "old" days, push lawnmowers tended to have a plug in the bottom of the engine.  Maybe some still do.  I learned on my new push Toro that there is no plug.  Instead, you're supposed to tip the lawnmower upside down.  Just the thought of doing that made me put off changing the oil even longer.  In the "old" days, I'd remove the plug and try to align the hole over something to catch the oil.  This didn't always work out so well; I often missed and a little oil would hit the ground or side of the container.

Well no plug, no hole so I had to move forward with dealing with the new way.  Initially, the thought occurred to me that if I couldn't line up the hole the old way, there was little chance for me to flip AND align.  But then, ahhhh... the simple solution, a bread bag and a rubber band.  I simply carefully used the rubber band to carefully attach the bag to the spout for the oil, then flip and my oil ran into the bag.  When drained I was able to easily pull the bag from the lawnmower and pour the old oil into a container, then discard the bread bag into the garbage.  All in all, it turned out much easier with less mess than the old way.  One note of caution - you probably should change the oil when the temperature is 50 degrees or higher so that the oil will flow satisfactorily.  You will see some suggestions to run the motor a little to warm up the oil.  If you do run the motor before the oil change make sure that the motor isn't so hot that it will melt your bag or you'll have a mess.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

iOS 10 Mail app missing navigation arrows

This will be a very brief post to reflect my discovery that in iOS 10 the navigation arrows appear to be missing on the iPad.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Apple Two Step

I realize it’s probably old news by now for our die hard Apple fans… IOS 10 is out.  To their credit, I think that Apple does a nice job with the updates; specifically, they overwhelming work as advertised with only minor hiccups here or there.  If you’re like me, you may regularly Google a question such as “Should I upgrade to IOS _____?”  The responses are predictable… one article saying “5 Reasons to upgrade” another maybe reading “4 Reasons why you shouldn’t upgrade…” and then there are always those that really want to confuse (or annoy) you by covering both bases… “5 reasons why you should and 3 reasons why you shouldn’t upgrade to…”  Let me make it simple for you – with any IOS upgrade, unless you are planning to soon sell the device or leave the Apple environment you should (and will) upgrade.  Over the long run, Apple and their vast store of apps will leave you little choice – you will upgrade or eventually, one day receive the dreaded, “you must have IOS xx” message when you try to download or update a chosen app.

Goodbye TripAdvisor; hello Yelp

Since the launch of my blog, I have always encouraged readers to share travel experiences through their preferred vehicle.  TripAdvisor was one of the first and it was the vehicle that I have used for many of the past years.  Given many years of devotion to TripAdvisor I was reluctant to change but a recent experience has pushed me over the edge and I have made the decision to move on to Yelp.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Crossings Park Photos - 2016

I know I’ve hit the snooze button on posting as of late –  While that $9.94 that I’ve racked up through AdSense in the past 3 years is compelling motivation, summer is my favorite time of year and there is so much more for me to do.  This year we were able to get the pool going and I’ve been busy reading while floating – I’m not planning to try typing up a post while floating.  I also continue to frequent Crossings Park of Colonie.  For this posting, I’m going to share some of my favorite pics from the Crossings for 2016.  These photos were all taken on my iPhone 4s.

On a very recent trek to Crossings Park, I encountered this toad on the path.  I was somewhat ambivalent in regards to taking the picture as I thought a toad would make for pretty boring subject matter… (yeah, I can almost hear some of you saying that if it’s boring, it would be a good fit for this blog…)  Regardless, after having the Google Photos app back it up from my iPhone, I viewed it on my iPad and found that I really appreciated the way the pattern of the toad blended nicely with the pattern of the asphalt path.

One of my favorite subjects in Crossings Park is the Heron – I refer to it as a Blue Heron, but it is entirely possible that it may be some other variation of Heron.  The Heron of Crossings Park is trickier to photograph, particularly on an iPhone 4s where your zoom is much curtailed.  Nonetheless, I have several shots from this year including one where the Heron is perched in the swamp area that is adjacent to the playground and another where the Heron is on the hunt and casting a long shadow in the water and another photo where I caught the majestic Heron in flight.

At the pond in Crossings Pond, you may find visitors navigating their miniaturized boats by remote.

On just about every warm day, you will see ducks, fish and turtles.

Hawks can be seen on occasion at Crossings Park. Often they are at considerable distance, but on this happy occasion, I was traveling southwest on the path that runs adjacent to Constantine Farm and was able to capture this close up of a hawk perched on the fence.

Cow viewing is a popular activity at Crossings Park.  The cows are at adjacent Constantine Farms… I think these cows might be part goat as they seem to really like climbing the mounds on the farm. Another favorite photo came a day or 2 after the debut of Sharknado 4… Looking off into the sky, it looks like a Cownado is ready to hit Constantine’s cows.

In experimenting with pictures, I have found that the iPhone 4s does a nice job with daytime still photos.  One of my favorites is of an Iris blooming near the swamp area (adjacent to the playground).The iris photo is now a background on my iPad.  

I have additional photos of Crossings Park from over the years posted on my Crossings Park page.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Sometimes Pizza Hut is the best choice…

A couple years back, I recalled writing, “hooray for boring” in my posting regarding a purchase of 2012 Honda Civic… yup it’s boring and so is Pizza Hut.  My dad is getting old (so am I, but as you may have figured out, he’s older than me) and for this Father’s day, I suggested we just do pizza.  Yes, I know the stereotypical picture of bonding over barbeque, but as a father myself (who is suffering from old fart syndrome) the vision of roasting over a hot grill to cook for the extended family didn’t appeal to me.  Call me Shallow Hal, but we don’t expect mom to whip up a meal on Mother’s day so I want my equal rights.  Nonetheless, I know the limits of my oppression and figured offering to pick up pizza for the gang would have to suffice.  I thought at least this would minimize my stress (yes, family gatherings can be stressful), but as sometimes happens this was not to be the case.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Improving performance by doing less

At first blush, this title may sound contradictory to many while others may speculate that the crux of this post is an emphasis of quality over quantity.  The stress level at my job has elevated as we slowly move through yet another re-org.  Often with re-orgs it is not the amount of work, it is the uncertainty.  I acknowledge that my position is atypical being a full time virtual position (as in “I work from home”).  My responsibilities include much self-driven ongoing housekeeping as well as a heavy stream of email correspondence (100 to 200 messages per day) and occasional online meetings, phone calls and instant messaging.  I have found that to effectively cope with the stress related to another re-org, I have paced myself considerably.  Surprisingly, I have found that doing less has not only reduced my stress level, it has also improved my performance and effectiveness.  Here are some general illustrations.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Important Changes to OneDrive…

…was the ominous subject line of a recent email from Microsoft.  Sure enough, it wasn’t good news and the heart of the message read as follows:
We want to inform you about some upcoming changes to OneDrive that will affect you. The amount of storage that comes with OneDrive will change from 15 GB to 5 GB. We are also discontinuing the 15 GB camera roll bonus. As a result of these changes, you will be over your OneDrive storage limit on July 27, 2016 (visit the Storage page to check your account). You can learn more at our FAQ.
Way back when, I was lulled into moving much of my data to OneDrive while they were offering a generous 15gb plus another 15gb bonus for a total of 30gb free cloud storage.  As became painfully obvious, what sounded too good to be true quickly became a thing of the past.  Even with “high speed” internet connections many are likely aware that the high speed generally reflects the download speed while the upload speed commonly is considerably slower.  In short it took considerable time to move my data to OneDrive… I had a large music collection – about 7gb there; plus last year I finished my project of converting my family VHS-C tapes to digital and stored those files there as well (around 8gb or so).  In short, I wasn’t looking forward to transferring all of these files to a new home but since this change appears inevitable I didn’t want to risk loss of cherished files so I am taking action and will reflect my experiences below.  Tip:  After converting these tapes to digital, I copied these files to memory sticks and give them out for Christmas to my wife and kids...this is a win-win-win, being a very thoughtful, personal gift, reducing the stress of Christmas shopping plus is a great backup strategy as it is very unlikely that all of these copies would be lost or destroyed.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Don’t bring your bottles here

New York has had a bottle return law for at least 30 years.  I know this due to working part time at Stewart's after being discharged from the army in 1985.  It was a pretty unsophisticated system back then; the customer brought their empties and they were often counted on the counter and then placed in the back.  Stewart's was never equipped to handle big bottle returns and we (myself and fellow employees from back in 1985) were never too happy to see a customer arrive with a massive collection of returnable bottles.

Fast forward 30 years to today and we are blessed with automated machines for bottle returns (although as far as I know, Stewart's and other smaller convenience stores typically do not have these machines).  These machines are a great improvement… when they work.  Even with automated machines there is much opportunity for improvement and this posting reflects my quick and dirty experiences returning bottles in my local stores.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Trust me; I’m a Christian

Ugghh, we’re used car shopping once again for child #2.  Between her, my wife and me, we often have 5 different opinions when it comes to picking a car so there was a glimmer of hope as my wife and I trekked off to see a low mileage Versa posted on Craig’s list.  My initial contact went smooth, excepting what sounded like a heavy Russian / Ukraine area accent making comprehension somewhat strained.  An initial meeting was set up at a neutral location and both parties arrived timely and we quickly departed on a smooth test drive.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

In Defense of Trump?

This wouldn’t be the first time that MTQ came to the side of an unsavory character; like the Duggars, I’m not a fan and would object to being labeled a Trump supporter by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact at this point, I’d estimate my chances of voting for Trump as being less than the probability that the Donald recently expressed in regards to using a nuke on Europe – neither are likely to happen.  Aside from my personal distaste, I am enjoying watching the appalled yellow media clamoring for his attention; it’s apparent that the mainstream media can barely tolerate him, but they love the ratings he brings.  This week has been particularly hard on the Donald on two fronts.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Tax Reflections 2016

1.  Encryption, Encryption, Encryption – Tax time is prime time for scam artists to steal your personal information.  Many tax payers will find that their tax information will be online.  There is a temptation to get it, save it and then email it to yourself or your trusted tax preparer… don’t do it until you have encrypted it!  Typically these documents are PDF (file extension) documents).  The most popular PDF application, Adobe Reader does not have the capacity to encrypt these documents.  In the first of what has become an annual tradition for MTQ, I recommended (and continue to recommend), PDF-XChange Viewer which is a free application that is easy to use and provides the ability to encrypt your PDF documents.  Many are now doing some or all tax preparation on an iPad or tablet.  I use FoxIt MobilePDF on my iPad to encrypt PDF documents that include personal information that I pull onto my iPad.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Full time telework – one year later

It’s been a little over a year since I transitioned to full time telework and based on the popularity of a prior posting on the topic I thought I would reflect on my experiences.  For better or for worse, our organization is a big supporter of teleworking.  I add the “for worse” part as in my work interactions I often see instances where I question whether the individual should be teleworking perhaps I may tangent some additional thoughts relating to this later, but I will begin by focusing on my experience.  I was a gradual adopter of telework – first starting a stint where I teleworked once a week and then moving to teleworking a few days each week and then finally taking the plunge about a year ago to full time telework.  Just to be clear when I am referring to telework in my instance I am referring to working from home.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Twenty Minute Shit

I received an email from a friend which related that he was leaving his government job so that I would be aware and not attempt to reach him through his work email.  This message took me by surprise on two fronts.  I was surprised to receive the message because we had not corresponded in quite some time, but I was more surprised to hear that he was leaving his government job.  According to my quick mental calculations, I estimated that he was about 3 years away from reaching the minimum retirement age at which time he would be eligible for a reduced pension.  This piqued my curiosity and in a quick follow up inquiry, he expressed that the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was a recent incident where his boss had asked him where he was for the past 20 minutes, to which he responded, “the bathroom.”  The boss continued with the interrogation and asked, “The whole time?”  My friend relates that he responded, “Yes.”  The boss then concluded with the question, “Is that going to be your break.”  In the true character that I know my friend, he responded, “If it has to be.”

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sex offenders want to steal your identity

Or so you would think… Like many others, I received a notice from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that my personal information was among the many that were compromised and as a result I was offered free credit monitoring for a limited period of time.  So like a fool, I froze my credit and accepted the free credit monitoring… the frozen credit has resulted in an inability to obtain a store credit card and as far as the free credit monitoring most of my alerts have been to let me know that there is a new sex offender in my area.  As someone who has passed the 50 year mark, there are times that I’d be flattered if someone would make a sexual advance but more to the point of this post I fail to understand the relationship between sexual offenders and identity theft.  Do sexual offenders have a greater propensity for stealing identities?  Where is that study?  I haven’t seen it and have a hard time intuitively making this type of conclusion.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Used Phones – the Samsung Galaxy S3 versus the iPhone 4S

 (Galaxy S3 on left; iPhone 4s on right).
At first blush one may wonder, “Why this post?”  Certainly there are plenty of good reviews of both.  Another first thought may be, “Is this a fair fight?”  I mean, just look at the 2 phones and the picture would suggest a David vs Goliath match up.

The reason for this post is to discuss 2 decent choices for used cell phones.  A little over a year ago, I purchased a Samsung Galaxy S3 for $125.00.  Recently, I purchased an iPhone 4S $80.00 with the expectation that it would be a nice transition for my wife who is using a “flip phone” on AT&T’s “Go Phone” service.  Given the excellent communication, honed over 20 plus years of marriage I guess it should have not been a surprise when my wife responded by saying, “just cause I say something, doesn’t mean I’m going to do it” (or words to that effect).  So what was I to do, but give the iPhone a try.  This match up came as a result of a price – both are used phones that can currently be purchased for around $80 - $125 so there is a budgetary match up.  This post is not meant to replace any of the many fine individual reviews already available; rather, it is geared to practical consumer type reflections after using both phones.