making a change

A year ago at this time I wrote that I was happy with Frontier Communications because at the end of my two year term I got a lower rate and more channels. This year that’s not the case.

What turned out to be a two-year term was only one year. When I asked them for some kind of rate accommodation I was told nothing was possible. That was it. It was time for a change.

I had been thinking about changing to Spectrum for a while. They have the Dodgers on TV and they have the Weather Channel. Frontier has neither. This, and Frontier’s inflexibility with respect to our rate, prompted me to make the change.

We did drop to a lower tier of service without the movie channels, but on the streaming side we have Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and movie services via our Roku.

We don’t get Cooking Channel, but we have Food Network. And I have Genius Kitchen on the Roku, which comes from the Food Network folks. I don’t get Decades with its Dick Cavett reruns, but I still have PBS Create.

Our savings is $60 a month. That doesn’t take into account the rate when our Frontier $30 a month loyalty discount was to expire.

And most importantly we get the Dodgers. We get to have the Dodgers on TV. That goes for a lot. We’re going to thoroughly enjoy that.


protecting my data

I have always taken care to back up the data on my desktop PC. At one point I had a third-party product which I really liked to back up my data to an external drive. But it just stopped working one day. So I moved to the built-in backup on Windows 7. That worked well. It kept working even when I moved to Windows 10. Until it stopped working. I decided to use the Windows 10 built-in backup. That worked nicely, and I liked the fact it backed up files throughout the day rather than in one session in the evening.

There was only one problem. The Windows 10 backup doesn’t tell you when it stops working. I checked on my backups in early December and discovered that it hadn’t done a backup since mid-November. What? That doesn’t work.

CarboniteMy intent was to find a third-party product I could use to back up to my external drive, simply to avoid paying yet another subscription fee. When I posed the question to my editorial freelancer’s email group, a member pointed out that it was a good idea to have offsite backup in the case of natural disasters. He noted that his parents had lost everything in the Santa Rosa fires. As this response came just as fires were raging across Southern California the point was not lost on me. He recommended the Carbonite service and others seconded his recommendation.

I checked out Carbonite. It’s $60 a year for unlimited storage when you have a single computer. I went for it. I found it easy to use and as far as I can tell it seems to be solid and reliable.

It gives me a level of comfort to know that my data is safe and recoverable.


an easy way to scan a document

Dropbox appI have long had the need to scan documents for various reasons. I’ve always used one of our all-in-one (printer, scanner, fax) devices, using the flat bed and letting the light bar do it’s thing. It was slow, tedious, and time-consuming.

It turns out that my Dropbox iPhone app, which I installed primarily to move photos from my iPhone to my desktop computer, has a neat scan function. You simply center the document, hold your phone still, and the app draws a boundary around the page and scans the document. It creates a respectable PDF file which you can sync to your desktop computer or send to whomever you wish. It’s much quicker and less tedious than using the all-in-one flatbed.

It works well. How cool is that?


NPR comes through again

Book ConciergeA few years back National Public Radio came up with an amazing innovation to allow book lovers to browse the best books of the year. Rather than simply present a list of their picks for the year’s best books, it developed NPR’s Book Concierge.

And now they have released their 2017 Book Concierge. Such a delight! NPR compiled what it considered to be the best books of the year and then labeled each book with one or more categories. Categories include things like Staff Picks, Biography & Memoir, Historical Fiction, etc.

What is great is that you can mix and match categories. So, for example, you can select Eye-Opening Reads and Historical Fiction to get the books that are tagged as both. Or you could select Biography & Memoir along with Seriously Great Writing.

It’s a lot of fun and a great way to select the next book you want to read. If you’re a book lover you’ll want to check it out.


iPod strangeness

iPodFor many years now I have listened to lectures from The Great Courses on my iPod when taking my walk while I tracked my progress using the fitness app on my iPhone. However, the last time I transferred a new course from iTunes on my computer to my ancient iPod the audio was full of chirps and scratches, even though the sound on my computer was clean. I tried a number of different methods to get clean sound, but without success.

As an alternative I downloaded the Great Course app to my iPhone. With our new and improved data plan, there were no concerns about my streaming the course as did my walks. It has worked out well. I only need to take one device on my walks and the sound quality is great.

Meanwhile I downloaded a music .mp3 file, imported it into iTunes, and transferred it to my iPod. The sound was perfectly clean.

I don’t understand.


our Roku

Terry and I knew that we were going to have to shell out for the CBS All Access streaming service after watching the one and only episode of Star Trek: Discovery broadcast on CBS television. Sitting at my computer to watch the show did not seem like an appealing idea. Ultimately we decided to buy a Roku device to plug into our smart TV. The problem is that Roku supports a lot of streaming services, so restraint is required.

Roku packageCBS All Access is a given.  In addition to Star Trek we can watch Stephen Colbert on demand, which is really cool. He is, after all, a favorite of those who can’t stand that guy with orange hair who lives in the White House, and I openly cast my lot with that group.

Then there’s Hulu which seductively offered a free one month trial. We’re keeping it. I have gone back to season one of The Mindy Project, and I am hooked. We can watch previous seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm and new episodes of Saturday Night Live as well.

The base Roku service offers movies from Fandango at a $1.99 and up rental rate. There’s quite a catalog there.

I guess we’ve been sucked into the world of streaming TV.


Amazon comes through

Amazon Gift CardMy wife knows what to get me for my birthday. This year Terry gave me an Amazon gift card for my birthday back in August. That always works.

But when I went to redeem the gift card several weeks later I ran into problems. I pulled up the tape to get the redeem code and half of the redeem code came up with the tape. That doesn’t work. I submitted a support request to Amazon. They responded saying that they couldn’t find the gift card and to please submit an image of the card. I submitted what you see here. They responded saying that they had updated my account with the gift card balance. And indeed they had.

Thank you, Amazon. All’s well that ends well.