Posts filed under ‘Tech’

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 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 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

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

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:



  • 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.


  • 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!).



  • 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.


  • 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

Intelligent life found in Cincinnati

Who needs SETI?  I just found proof of alien lifeforms hovering over Cincinnati, OH.

(don’t forget to view “Satellite” mode, and zoom in)

July 14, 2009 at 6:31 PM Leave a comment

Free TV episodes are great… but sometimes you get what you pay for.

I’ve been watching television shows online for as long as networks have gotten a clue to start offering them.  In the past several years I’ve encountered networks that wanted to make things difficult (ie downloading special software/plug-ins for their “superior” media player).  But in the end it was just a simple download, maybe a browser re-start, and the show would play just fine.  That is until today.

Of course the claim for these “indispensable” downloads is that it provides the best picture, though I never saw an advantage over standard plug-ins.  I suppose their idea of a “better viewing experience” is the ability of their enhanced media software to embed impossible-to-avoid ads.  Which is understandable, because they need to make money somehow to keep it free for the user.

But when this enhanced software is so convoluted that it doesn’t work, nobody wins.

Which leads me to today.  I’ve watched shows on as recently as a few weeks ago, and it worked just fine.  Long story short, I tried 3 different browsers (firefox, safari, IE) on 2 different machines (PC, Mac) and everyone of them resulted in the same thing: a blank gray page.  Any required plug-ins were downloaded and installed, even restarted the browsers and the computers.  Still didn’t work.

So I watched hulu. ABC_LandingPage_WITHBETA

Bottom Line: I’m not the type to be beaten (especially when it comes to technology), so I went back to and scrolled down a bit and saw the “New Full Episode Player BETA.”  The beta option was beneath the default player and in a smaller font size, with a note claiming that I am one of the first in America to see it (which is better than the alternative of no one in America seeing anything on the standard player).  The beta played just fine.  Note to ABC developers: spare America the frustration and make the beta the default.

July 13, 2009 at 10:26 PM Leave a comment

Blaming AT&T Is Easy, But Not Always Right

I’m the first to call out a company that I think is defrauding, screwing over, or simply practicing douche tactics.  Complaining is my favorite.

But the recent online lynch mob going after AT&T over the inflated cost for existing iPhone 3G customers to upgrade to an iPhone 3G S are baseless.  Though it looks good on the surface to cry “unfair”, the complaint is ultimately unfounded.

The primary argument being offered up at Twitition is that “AT&T should give existing customers the same rate for the new iPhone 3Gs that they do for new customers. New customers or not, another 2-year contract is being made.

A cursory glance at the statement makes sense.  But unfortunately the math is, for lack of a better word, “fuzzy.”  If I got an iPhone 3G 11 months ago (which I did) and signed a 2-year contract, then I have only fulfilled 1 year of my 2-year agreement (with me so far?).  If AT&T gives me a new subsidized iPhone 3G S now and gives me a new 2-year contract (as the argument above states), then they just lost out on 1 year of trying to make up for subsidizing the cost of my previous iPhone 3G.  AT&T will NOT add 2 years onto your existing 2 years (that would result in a 4-year contract which is not allowed).

Basically, if you got a subsidized iPhone 3G, you did so in exchange for a 2-year service agreement so AT&T can actually turn a profit (to re-invest in such crazy things as building a bigger and faster network).  Another fun fact that seems to be getting overlooked, is there are 3 pricing options:

  1. New and Qualifying
  2. Early Upgrade (those who bought the iPhone 3G in the last year)
  3. No Contract/Commitment

So even if you’ve only fulfilled 1 year of your 2-year contract, you can still get the new iPhone 3G S for a slightly less subsidized (no contract) price.

Bottom line: This is what cell phone companies do to provide cheaper hardware.  All carriers, not just AT&T.  And all phones, not just the iPhone.  Otherwise everyone would still be paying the much higher, unsubsidized cost of the original iPhone.  I’m fine with keeping my iPhone 3G until next year when I will be eligible for the subsidized rate on an even better iPhone.  And if I change my mind and realize I desperately need video, voice control, etc; then at least I took the time to understand why I’m being asked to pay a premium to upgrade.

June 11, 2009 at 11:56 PM Leave a comment

The Bittersweet Woe of an Early Adopter

Sigh.  I’m so torn and conflicted.  I want to be happy that Apple has announced lower prices and/or better specs at WWDC, but that would mean deriving pleasure from getting a “less good” deal.  And I’m no masochist.

MacBook: I bought my aluminum macbook just 4 months ago.  So today’s announcement basically means I could have gotten a 15″ (rather than 13″) better quality screen, longer battery life, a slightly faster processor, along with firewire and the SD card slot for the same price.

At least Snow Leopard will only be a $29 upgrade, but not until September.

iPhone: Well at least the Palm Pre had a good 2-day run as “the iPhone killer” (though that term is laughable).  The new iPhone 3G S and its improvements (better camera, video, voice control, etc) absolutely ensures there won’t be any “iPhone killers” any time soon.  The bad news for me of course, is the same 8GB iPhone I paid $199 for is now only $99.  But I can honestly say the extra $100 was well worth having the previous 11 months of ownership.

Bottom line: Better hardware for cheaper prices forever, my financial well-being fornever.

June 8, 2009 at 5:14 PM 1 comment

An iPhone user’s completely (un)biased review of a Palm Pre

The Palm Pre launched today at Sprint stores across the country (to little fanfare I might add).  Actually, let me first say that I really didn’t intend this review to be biased.  I bought into the Pre hype since being announced at CES and have been looking forward to its release ever since.

So after managing to pull myself away from Sims 3 for a bit, I hit up the local Sprint store.  Despite seeing many tweets about long lines, my closest store was no busier than I’d expect it to be on any other Saturday afternoon.  And obviously nothing compared to an iPhone release.  My thoughts after playing with the Pre for about 15 minutes:

  1. It is definitely the best attempt to catch up to the iPhone so far (yes, I’m referring to you BlackBerry and LG).
  2. It still falls short.

I love my iPhone.  But with that said, there are well-documented areas where the iPhone disappoints (camera quality, MMS, keyboard, cut & paste, video).  Luckily, most of these issues will likely be added/resolved with the new iPhone hardware and/or in the new iPhone 3.0 OS.  So it goes without saying that the Pre (as of 2 days before Apple’s new iPhone announcement) contains some features that are better than the iPhone.  But for the most part these “features” are trivial or actually sub-par.

For example, the flyer I was handed at the Sprint store points out that the Pre has “linked contacts” and “layered calendars”, and the iPhone doesn’t (I believe that may actually be listed under the definition of “trivial” in many dictionaries).  As for sub-par, the biggest LMFAO moment I had today was reading the claim by Sprint or Palm (not sure which company thought up the drivel printed on this flyer) that the Pre has a “Superior User Interface” to the iPhone.  Wow.  Tip: you might want to actually play around with an iPhone before making such a laughable claim.

It really wasn’t my intention to rip on the Pre.  I truly had high hopes for it.  Competition in R&D and producing sleeker and more useful features is great and will only benefit consumers.  But the Pre isn’t it.  My very first impression was it is sluggish to respond and not intuitive to use (hence “superior user interface” being the most blatantly fabricated sales pitch I’ve read in a while).  And no, I didn’t forget about the Pre’s slideout keyboard.  Though it is easy to forget, considering how small and pointless it is. I’ll be happy to out-type any Pre owner using my iPhone’s touch screen keyboard.

With all this negativity, I should end on a positive note.  I definitely liked the Pre’s use of Apple’s multi-touch.

Bottom line: If a keyboard and emailing are the priority in your mobile life, then stick with BlackBerry.  If not, and you are stuck with Sprint as your carrier, then by all means go for the Pre.  Otherwise…

June 6, 2009 at 2:53 PM 1 comment

@cincysteve tweet tweet

July 2020