Cell phone quandary

Ok, here comes another one of those cell phone & tech complaints. Matt’s been trying to get me to switch to his provider, which offers unlimited everything for cheap. It sounds like a great plan, and I could probably even get a good deal on new phones for Sandy, Kevin and I, but there are a few hurdles I’m very concerned about. For one thing, since Kevin recently upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy S6, he’s still making payments on it, and will be for another year or so.

Another issue is with switching to new phones. Sandy and Kevin probably wouldn’t mind, but I only see Android phones with up to 32GB of space on them. These days I need at least 64GB just so I have enough space for everything I use and a little breathing room for music and videos. I looked into the 32GB Samsung Galaxy S7, and Samsung disabled Android’s ability to install apps on the SD card for some reason, which limits app installs to just the internal 32GB space. I would have to root my phone in order to be able to do this, and that would void the warranty. Why they added this limitation, I have no idea, but it renders the phone useless to me, that’s for sure. They even added the SD card slot back to the S7 model too–the S6 doesn’t have an SD slot at all–so to me, it makes absolutely no sense. You give the users back the SD slot you took away in your previous model, then you cripple it by only disabling the ability for users to install apps on it. Brilliant.

Apple’s iPhone comes in 64GB and 128GB versions, sure, but don’t even get me started on why I won’t switch to an iPhone again. Those roots are buried deep…much too deep for me to even think about trying to dig up at this point in time. I’d rather wait for a decent Android phone to come out with more memory. I even have a few hundred dollars worth of apps I had purchased back when we were an iPod family with flip phones and each carried TWO devices around with us–one as a phone and one as a media device.

So here I sit with a higher-paying plan on a different provider with a 14GB-per-month data limit for 3 phones, two of which are 64GB Samsung Galaxy S6’s. Matt argues that if I have the unlimited data plan, maybe I wouldn’t need 64GB of space. I can stream music and video all I want, any time. That’s true. Maybe I’m old-school, but I still think it’s better–and much faster–to have as much data that you use as possible stored locally for the most efficient use of that data. This is where I’m at right now, not sure what to do next, if anything. We have managed to go over the 14GB limit a couple times, which became a big headache, but the first time the extra charges were forgiven after a lot of begging to support. These days I try to monitor our usage pretty closely so I can catch it before it gets out of hand each month. Of course, the time wasted on checking this once a day is probably worth something as well, so I need to keep that in mind as well, as I sit and wait for a better Android phone to hit the market.

Watch this. Smart, eh?

instaweather-watchfaceI have an old first-generation Moto 360 smartwatch.  I got it after the 2nd generation came out and the price dropped dramatically on this one.   When I first got it about a year ago, I had a lot of problems with the battery dying way too quickly–after only a few hours sometimes.  But this was due to both the newness (me enjoying toying with all of the features and options to see what I like the most) and to the firmware, which was a bit buggy.  These days I’m pretty happy with it.  After try out hundreds of watchfaces over the months, I’ve settled on one I like the most — Instaweather.  In particular, the “Hourly Forecast” version, which is shown in the photo.  One flick of my wrist and this screen pops on, showing me the 7-day forecast, current time & temp, each day’s high and low, and much more.  I can also click the graph to switch to different ranges of the forecast – anything from a 6-hour range to a 7-day range, or switch to a “dew point and humidity” view instead of temperature, etc.  The colored ring around the rim of the watch even shows my total daily distance goal for walking (currently 2 miles per day).

Spotify, you had me, then you lost me

Well, I’ve had it. Spotify and I were getting along just fine up until today. Then I started getting this popup message on my phone:

Syncing Error
I have over 10GB of space free on my phone–plenty of room for more music, and I just want a decent selection of my favorite music to be able to listen to anywhere, offline. I swear I only have a few dozen albums download onto my phone–definitely nowhere near what I would consider excessive. After wiping Spotify completely from my phone in frustration, I noted there was around 11GB of music that freed up, so I assume that’s how much space it consumed. I had it set to download in high quality. I think that’s ridiculous though. They have all the copy protection in place, allowing you to download seemingly unlimited music locally, and you have to check-in with Spotify at least once every 30 days to make sure your account is still valid, and the music is in a proprietary format no other media player can use. The system works. So why limit the number of downloads??? Nothing says anything at all about a limit on the amount of music you can download. You just get the error when you hit the barrier. There is no way I’m going to start juggling artists and albums to work with this limitation. I had enough of an issue just trying to get “Local Files” to let me put my personal music (the albums I couldn’t find in Spotify) into the Spotify app on my phone–which I still can’t see to find any time I try to search for a song or artist in my local files.

Well, at least I found out before my 30-day free trial was up, so it won’t end up costing me anything. I just wonder how many other users ended up paying for months or years, THEN ran into this wall! After googling the error message, I now see that the apparent limit is 3,333 songs per device or 10,000 songs total on your account. Agh.

I am not back to my old standby, which I never get rid of and always seem to end up coming back to: Subsonic – my personal music server, and DSub, a great Android client for Subsonic. No more limits on my downloads, except for free space, and all my music is mp3 and unprotected, so I can even access it with other apps that support MP3s. Once side benefit to this is that my favorite Alarm Clock (Alarm Clock Xtreme – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.alarmclock.xtreme&hl=en) now works properly again, allowing me to choose any artist or album to randomly wake up to each morning–very slowly ascending in volume, so I can turn it off before it gets too loud and wakes up the rest of the family!

Bye bye Spotify!

A week with a Nissan Versa Note

Nissan Versa NoteNo, it’s not a new cell phone. It’s the rental car I got from enterprise last week. My car is in the shop recovering from the deer I hit last week, and the shop offers a 5-day free rental, so I ended up with this Nissan. I must say, it is definitely the oddest vehicle I have ever driven, hands-down. It’s a 2015 model, so it’s brand new, with only just over 3,000 miles on it, but everything about this car is just a little “off” from the norm, or from what I expect in a car. Let me make a list of my complaints to make it easy to follow:

1. First of all, you can’t put gas in it until you find the secret gas-door release lever. Took me a while, but I found it…Under the steering column!

2. On most full-corner turns, the radio station changes. Turns out my fingers tap the radio controls on the steering wheel “just right” when turning corners. Nice.

3. No matter what I did, I could not get my Android phone properly connected to bluetooth to play music through the stereo, and USB would never work for audio either. All I got every time I tried was a “Please check USB device” error on the screen. A friend of mine tried to use the USB jack to charge his iPhone and as soon as he plugged in the USB, HIS music began playing over the stereo just fine! So it works great on Apple devices, but doesn’t work on Android. Are you sure this car isn’t a year 2000 model?? Come on, it’s 2015!

4. The windows kept fogging up on me all week… I couldn’t figure this out until the last day I had the car. In frustration I pulled over on the side of the road, put it in park, and looked REALLY hard for something I knew had to be there: Something to switch between recirculating inside air–which it HAD to be in for it to always fog up like it was doing–and feeding in fresh air. The symbols for these options were dead center on the dash, near the bottom, inset into the surface. But they weren’t buttons, and there was no lever there. When I got desperate and finally crawled down and looked UP at the underside of the dash, there it was–a level that flipped left or right–one way was recirculate, the other was fresh air. I flipped that baby to fresh air, and viola! The windows began to clear up!

5. It takes FOREVER to warm up the cabin in this car, especially just sitting in the driveway in the morning. Driving it doesn’t make it warm up much faster either though. Must be a “green” thing.

6. Every single time you start the car, the AC comes on. Whether it was off when you stopped the car last or not, it ALWAYS comes on when you start the car. No idea why. I didn’t find a setting anywhere to keep this off. Every day was in the 20’s the week I had it, so I certainly never needed the AC at all.

7. The gas guage goes from 0 to 1 – 0 is empty, 1 is full. What happened to E to F?? Does EVERYTHING have to be digital these days?? It either HAS gas (1) or it doesn’t (0). At least there’s still a “1/2” in the middle… though I’m surprised this doesn’t say “0.5”!

Personally, I’m thinking the car turns the AC on just to burn more fuel. The MILEAGE it gets seems to be pretty awesome–which is the only GOOD thing I really have to say about it, so in sticking with the theme, there’d have to be SOMETHING wrong with it getting this kind of mileage…

Android Weather Apps

weather_thumbnailHello. My name is Jim, and I’m a weather addict.  I drool for the latest and greatest weather gadgets and apps.  My Roku screensaver is an awesome weather app that gives me tons of weather information.  But the Roku app isn’t why I’m posting right now.  I found a new Android weather app that’s pretty cool. It’s called “Arcus“.  It’s very “granular” and provides weather information in very clear terms, broken down to the next hour, next 24 hours, next week, temperature and precipitation graphing, etc.  When it was mentioned on TWiG (this week in Google) they even said it will give you details such as “Rain will begin in 8 minutes.”  I haven’t seen anything THAT granular yet, but it does give me almost everything I could ask for in a weather app…except animation!  Those I get from Accuweather — another great weather app.  Both apps are available in free and paid versions, offering a few more features and faster updating in the paid versions, and no ads.  I highly recommend the paid versions.  Click on any of the thumbnails to see a few screenshots.