CincySteve’s 12th Annual NCAA Bracket Bonanza

Welcome to Steve’s 12th annual NCAA March Madness bracket bonanza!

To fill out your bracket, you’ll need a CBS Sports user account. You can sign up for free if you don’t already have one.
First, go to the link below to either log in or sign up:
http://www.cbssports.com/

After you get logged in at cbssports.com visit the following link to log into our bracket manager to make your picks:
http://cincysteve.mayhem.cbssports.com/e

Our group bracket password is: 1234

It’s open to anyone and everyone, so invite your friends/family/co-workers. Anyone can win regardless of how much or little you follow college basketball. Let me know if you have any questions. Have your picks saved by Wednesday night (March 20) just to be safe. The deadline is Thursday morning.
There is no cost to play. Winner will get bragging rights for the year.

March 18, 2013 at 10:19 AM Leave a comment

Sticking with My iPhone 4. For Now.

My first iPhone was the 3G. I waited several hours in line the day it released. So a year later when they launched the 3GS, I was still within my contract. But I didn’t mind, because I didn’t think the upgrade was really worth paying the full non-subsidized price. I knew I’d be better off waiting another year for the 4. Of course at that time I had no idea what the 4 would entail, but I was pretty certain it would be more revolutionary than the evolutionary 3GS was.

iPhone 4

Fast forward to 4-Oct-2011, and it’s deja vu all over again. I currently have the iPhone 4 and am presented with yet another evolutionary upgrade option: the iPhone 4GS. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the 4GS (or the 3GS even). If I wasn’t under a 2 year contract and could get the fully subsidized upgrade price on the 4GS AND know that when the iPhone 5 comes out I could still upgrade to it at the fully subsidized price, then I’d be all for it. Unfortunately, the carriers don’t allow this. As it stands now, I got the iPhone 4 the day it released and won’t be eligible for a subsidized upgrade until November. And if I upgrade then, I certainly wouldn’t be in a position to upgrade to the 5 when it releases.

Paying a higher (non-subsidized) price for an iPhone 4GS just isn’t worth. I have absolutely no idea when the iPhone 5 will come out or what it will be like. But Apple’s now-standard release schedule would indicate the 5 will release next summer and be more revolutionary than the 4GS. But there are 2 factors that make me think that Apple may forgo the typical schedule and release the 5 even sooner:

  1. In the build-up to iPhone 4GS, there has been a lot of consistent speculation about an iPhone 5. This leads me to believe that the iPhone 5 is well underway in development, much more so than the 4 was when the 3GS launched.
  2. True 4G. There are so many Android smart phones taking advantage of LTE. Despite what the 4GS launch would like us to believe about HSDPA, it is merely an enhanced version of 3G. And even though many argue that LTE isn’t true 4G either, it is certainly faster than HSDPA. With Android LTE phones already in the market, Apple will need to release a competitor sooner rather than later. And next summer in my opinion is too late.

Bottom Line: If you have a 3G (or older) iPhone, or any other phone without a contract, then by all means the 4GS is a fine phone to get. But if you have an iPhone 4 and value your money, wait for the iPhone 5. Your wait might end up being shorter than you think.

October 4, 2011 at 4:04 PM Leave a comment

My iPhone Controls the World! (or at least my thermostat)

Wouldn’t it be awesome to control your thermostat from anywhere in the world? At first I was surprised that options even exist to accomplish this feat. But this quickly turned to disappointment at how few choices there actually are in the marketplace.

I found expensive units. Units that require multiple pieces of hardware. Units that seem to need a professional or a PhD to install. And units that require a monthly service fee to manage the thermostat remotely. But after a bit of digging, I was pleased to find a solution that fell into none of those categories: the Filtrete 3M-50 sold through Home Depot for just $100. Sure $100 may seem like a lot for a thermostat, but compared to the other WiFi options out there, it’s a steal.

I realize your installation experience may vary depending on the type of HVAC system in your home, but I got lucky. Because the unit requires a “C” wire for power (the WiFi is too much for batteries alone), you may find yourself in a more difficult situation. Whoever installed my previous thermostat had connected all 5 wires going from the furnace to the thermostat. But like a good number of people, my HVAC only uses 4 wires. So I was able to use the free wire as my “C” wire (as demonstrated in this helpful video by the radiothermostat people). I have to admit: if I didn’t have a free wire available, I likely would have returned the unit. So I can see this requirement being the first big hurdle that may weed out potential customers.

Filtrete 3M-50 Thermostat

Once I had the wires connected, mounting the unit was simple. I’ve read a number of complaints in the reviews at HomeDepot.com about the look of the unit, especially with the wires. But I can’t see any wires at all after putting the top face plate on. My tip here is to install the unit higher than the hole where the wires come through the wall to make sure they are taught and lay flat on top of the unit.

After the installation is the WiFi setup. Unfortunately there is no documentation provided with the unit on how to do this. I recommend going through all of their YouTube videos and the documentation on their website at http://www.radiothermostat.com/filtrete. You really want to review all the materials before you jump in, as it will likely save you the hassle of dealing with errors. I’d say this is one area where they could improve. All of the info is there online, but it really should be contained in a single location with a clear order of events.

I had no problems configuring the unit to my local network and was managing the thermostat in no time through both the Windows program and their website. I did however experience a glitch with the free iPhone app (Radio Thermostat). At first it gave an error and wouldn’t connect. I deleted and re-installed the app and re-provisioned the WiFi and it connected just fine. I confirmed that the app could control the thermostat via both WiFi and 3G.

Not to sound smug, but overall you should be somewhat proficient around the house and with computers before taking on this project. But I’m betting since you had the inclination and insight to find and finish this review, you’ll probably be okay 🙂

Being a single homeowner, I’m thrilled at the prospect of saving energy and money with my new thermostat. If I make plans after work or go out of town, I can relax knowing my air conditioner and furnace don’t have to run needlessly. The website can also be used to create and manage an endless number of programs to run. Currently, the mobile app can only change the temperature or turn the fan on or off, which isn’t too shabby for being free. But I’m hoping they will add the program features soon as well.

Bottom Line: For just $100 and a few hours of my time, I now have a new touch screen thermostat that is manageable from any computer or my iPhone. I’m not sure which is better: having this amazing capability, or the comments I get from impressed friends and family.

August 24, 2011 at 9:22 AM Leave a comment

Netflix = Blockbuster = FAIL

It’s kind of shocking how quickly Netflix has managed to go from internet darling to persona non grata.  I remember a time when everyone, including Netflix, was out to stick it to Blockbuster.  With their recent actions, it is clear Netflix simply wants to fill the big-bad-video-bully spot relinquished by Blockbuster.

Consider the following:

  • January 2010: Netflix sells out to the studios by forcing subscribers to wait a month for new releases.
  • November 2010: Netflix increases prices for DVD plans.  They justify this by including online streaming (which was already included in almost all the DVD plans already).
  • July 2011 (less than 8 months later): Netflix reneges on the previous plan change by now charging $8/month for the included streaming.

So congratulations Netflix, you are the new Blockbuster.

Bottom line: As with their flawed logic for delaying new releases, I believe the unintended (and unfortunate) outcome here will be to push more legit users to piracy. Where is the next online video company to save us from the new tyrant Netflix?

July 12, 2011 at 5:03 PM Leave a comment

CincySteve’s 10th Annual Bracket Bonanza

It’s that time of year again!

Welcome to Steve’s 10th annual NCAA March Madness bracket bonanza!

To fill out your bracket, you’ll need a CBS Sports user account.  You can sign up for free if you don’t already have one.

First, go to the link below to either log in or sign up:

http://www.cbssports.com/

After you get logged in at cbssports.com visit the following link to log into our bracket manager to make your picks:

http://cincysteve.mayhem.cbssports.com/e

Our group bracket password is: 1234

It’s open to anyone and everyone, so invite your friends/family/co-workers. Anyone can win regardless of how much/little you follow college basketball. Let me know if you have any questions. Have your picks saved by Wednesday night (March 16) just to be safe. The deadline is Thursday morning.

There is no cost to play. Winner will get bragging rights for the year.

March 13, 2011 at 5:47 PM Leave a comment

Cincinnati Rollergirls Playlist

The Cincinnati Rollergirls are awesome. I’ve enjoyed their games and was even spoiled enough to watch all the action up-close from the posh purple couch once! If you haven’t been to a game yet, what are you waiting for? And don’t forget to arrive early for tailgating and the $1 beer happy hour.

Check them out online:

http://www.cincinnatirollergirls.com/

In response to udandi to build up a little hype and have some fun for the upcoming match, I’ve put together a playlist to get you all in the mood with songs by chicks that rock or about chicks that rock:

Heart – BarracudaCincinnati Rollergirls
Bel Biv Devoe – Poison
Brooke Valentine – Girl Fight (ft Lil Jon)
Beastie Boys – Girls
Jet – Are You Gonna Be My Girl
Joan Jett – Bad Reputation
White Stripes – Fell in Love With a Girl
Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Want to Have Fun
ACDC – Girls Got Rhythm
Tom Petty – American Girl
Edwyn Collins – A Girl Like You
Nelly Furtado – Maneater

May 23, 2010 at 5:05 PM 1 comment

Why I’m not buying an iPad

The new Apple iPad released today. As lines across the country formed, I was content to catch up on some much needed sleep instead. That’s right, despite what some might call a “fanboy” status, I am not buying an iPad.  Here’s why:

  • I already own an iPad Nano. Except my “nano” can make phone calls and even has a camera! (for those dense readers, I’m referring to my iPhone).
  • I already own an iPad Pro. Except my “pro” has a full physical keyboard, built-in camera, and can do everything a desktop PC can do. (again, for those still not catching on, I’m referring to my MacBook Pro).

Bottom Line: I’m proud (and $500 richer) that my logic didn’t succumb to the all-powerful Apple marketing machine this time. Now, if only Steve Jobs would tell me the new iPhone release date, I’ve got to get that request off work submitted.

April 3, 2010 at 10:45 AM 2 comments

CincySteve’s 9th Annual Bracket Bonanza

It’s time for CincySteve’s 9th annual NCAA March Madness bracket bonanza!

http://cincysteve.mayhem.cbssports.com/e

You’ll have to sign up for a free CBS Sports user account (if you don’t already have one) to fill out your bracket

After you get logged in at cbssports.com, the group password is 1234

It’s open to anyone and everyone, and it’s free. Whether this is your first time or you play every year, anyone can win regardless of how much/little you follow college basketball. Let me know if you have any questions. I’d recommend having your picks saved by Wednesday night (March 17) just to be safe.  The deadline is Thursday morning.

March 14, 2010 at 8:21 PM Leave a comment

Foursquare vs Gowalla

The battle of location-based social media apps has begun.  The two heavyweights in my opinion are Gowalla and Foursquare (or 4sq for short).  Though Foursquare has been around for a while, it was only accessible to those in a limited number of cities until the first week of 2010.  I had been stalking it for some time hoping it would add Cincinnati to the list of cities.  So when Foursquare finally became available across the US last week, I immediately signed up and added the iPhone app.

As for Gowalla, I’ve been using it for over a month now and have continued to increase my usage over the past several weeks.  Unlike Foursquare, Gowalla hadn’t required the user to be in a limited number of cities to use it.  Though I’ve had the apps for a relatively short time, I think I’ve gotten a good feel for each.  Here’s my findings:

Foursquare

Pros:

  • By far the best thing going for Foursquare is the user submitted tips/comments for a location.  Both apps answer the question “where are you”, but this feature helps give Foursquare more substance by answering “so what?”  I was very impressed when I checked into a restaurant and immediately received a notice that one of my friends had been there and added a tip to try the tater tots and $1 burgers on Wednesdays!  The ability to immediately see recommendations (or warnings) is fantastic, and unfortunately something that Gowalla does not currently offer.  The iPhone app also provides a link to Yelp for each location.
  • Competition/Stats.  Though rather trivial, it is fun to obtain points and badges for checking into places and then “compete” against your friends.

Cons:

  • My biggest complaint about 4sq is the poor utilization (or rather enforcement) of GPS.  The iPhone app gives the ability to check into places that are quite a distance away from your physical location (Gowalla requires you to be so many meters away or you can’t check in).  Furthermore, their website provides the ability to check in anywhere in the US (whether you are actually there or not).  For an app that stresses competition through checking in and earning points/badges, I would expect 4sq to be a little stricter here.  Perhaps the issue is that not all smartphones have GPS.  In that case I would argue against watering down the app by catering to ill-equipped phones.  The primary idea here after all is location-based.  If you are not physically at a location, you shouldn’t be able to claim you are.
  • It is annoying that the iPhone app requires a user to know the physical address before they can create a new location.  While keeping a record of addresses is helpful, it could certainly be added after the fact and shouldn’t be a requirement as it is rarely common knowledge or easily available when checking in.  Again, GPS enabled phones should have no problem getting an accurate read on location. (Note: The most recent iPhone update now makes adding a physical address optional, yay!).

Gowalla

Pros:

  • The true fun of Gowalla involves discovering and “re-locating” items.  When you check into a location, you may be surprised to find a virtual item ranging from a Big Bag o’ Swag, to a Slice of Pizza, to a Muscle Car.  You can then drop those items somewhere else.  What makes this great is the history that stays with each item.  You can see all the previous owners of an item, where they got it and all the places it has been dropped along the way.  It reminds me of Where’s George.
  • Shiny!  The graphics, user interface and ease of use are brilliant.

Cons:

  • The app is only available for iPhone.  There is a mobile web version for Android users and apps are are being created for other platforms.
  • Lack of comments/tips.

Bottom Line: I’m currently using both apps to check in when I visit places.  After about a week, this has already become burdensome.  Still, I hate to commit to one or the other just yet, as I doubt this battle will end any time soon.  I think it would benefit both apps to come together and form the ultimate in location-based social media.

January 13, 2010 at 9:48 AM 1 comment

Netflix Sells Out

I heard the prediction months ago but didn’t want to believe it.  Now today the rumor has become an unfortunate fact: the bigwigs over at Netflix are a bunch of sell outs.  Netflix customers will now be forced to wait 28 days after a new Warner Bros. DVD release before it will ship out.

This new agreement is unfortunate, unacceptable and won’t work.

Unfortunate because Netflix has typically been viewed as a company that just gets it.  They provide a great service and give great customer service while doing it.  That’s why I’ve been a member for over 3 years.  They’ve now gone from “sticking it to the man” to becoming the man.

Unacceptable because I for one will not tolerate it.  The media says it is only a matter of time before Netflix reaches similar deals with the other major studios.  Of course I have older movies in my queue, but my primary reason for having Netflix is to watch the newest releases on DVD because I rarely go to movie theaters.

It won’t work.  The studios are simply doing whatever they can in the wake of declining DVD sales.  And Netflix is ignorant for getting into bed with them.  Netflix may be getting a cheaper price now by selling out, but this will only come back to bite them.  Furthermore, this new agreement will not make consumers go buy more DVDs.  If someone wants to watch a new release and can’t get it through Netflix, they’ll go to a Blockbuster store, use cable/satellite on-demand services, or watch it online.  So why would I justify paying a monthly fee to Netflix if I have to spend additional money with a 3rd party to watch the movies I really want to see?  Answer: I won’t.

Bottom line: I’ll be canceling my membership with Netflix.  And I doubt I’ll be alone.

January 6, 2010 at 5:23 PM Leave a comment

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