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.

All Hallow’s Eve

It’s coming up fast.  Trick-or-Treating…haunting season is upon us.  I’ve watched a few scary movies–including Stephen King’s IT–to get in the mood, and remind me of what all the creepy clown crap is about.  Silliness is all.  At least it’s a distraction from this presidential election mess… now THAT is scary!

Kevin stopped trick-or-treating a couple years ago, so we have no more kids to walk through the neighborhood begging for candy.  Kinda sad, actually.  I really enjoy seeing everyone in costumes, out walking around, having a good time.  Especially Christmas Lane in Kenosha.

These days, with no more kids to take out trick-or-treating 🙁 I like to take Socks out, in-costume, and walk through Christmas Lane during trick-or-treating, just to enjoy seeing the costumes and decorations all around.  Since we live only a few blocks from there now, it’s an easy walk for us.  So that’s what Socks and I will be doing this year, on Halloween, 5pm-6pm.  Trick-or-treating is 4-6, but I get off work at 4, so I can’t get there until 5pm.  It’s sad it’s only 2 hours now.  I remember it being a much longer period of time most other years, going well into the night.  But with all of the safety concerns with kids out in the dark, they probably feel it’s much safer this way.  But I just don’t see why they can’t have it start a few hours earlier, so it’s longer, and still have it end at 6pm, when it starts getting dark… Maybe there’s not enough people home from work to hand out candy if it was earlier…?

New Toy

The Moto 360 smartwatch recently dropped another $100, which puts it at $149 now. We paid $300 for Kevin’s at Christmastime, so it’s actually a decent price right now, considering its features. I also had a $20 coupon for Best Buy, which was close to expiring, so for $130, I couldn’t resist.

Let’s get the worst thing out of the way right away: The battery life SUCKS. Just getting in an 8-hour shift at work without the watch dying is rare. It does only take 1 hour to fully charge from dead though, even using any wireless Qi charger, but it’s still a hassle. If it could somehow charge within a 2-foot range while still attached to my wrist, now THAT would be awesome… But I usually have to take it off and set it on top of my Qi pad for an hour to charge it up at work. Hey, at least it’s wireless!

The only other thing wrong with this watch is the “flat tire”. This is a small flat section at the bottom of the otherwise-perfectly-circular display. I have heard that this area is there to hold various sensors that the watch uses, so it’s necessary, but does tend to take away from the “perfect circle” display somewhat, and also hides useful information from watchfaces that take advantage of this area for displaying information. Several round-display smartwatches have since been released without this “flat tire” though, so one wonders whether they found a workaround for whatever sensors Motorola needed to put in that spot. Those watches currently cost a lot more than the Moto 360 right now though, so it’s a trade-off. Save $150, but get a flat tire…? I’ll take it!

But aside from those two things, I love the watch! It uses Android Wear, which is the universal software connection between pretty much every smartwatch and Android. This apparently opens up options for just about everything you could imagine, depending on what a developer wants to use it for. First, and foremost, is telling time. Yes, it tells time like a REAL watch. And if that’s all you want it to do, you might just be able to get decent battery life out of it as well! You can simply turn off all notifications and other features, find a simple watchface with only the most basic of animations (like just moving hands on an analog watchface) and the battery will probably last quite some time. I might have to try that some time, just to test this theory. But right now, I’m still playing…too many knobs and dials to try out…gotta play, gotta tinker.

Every option for telling time is available, even if you don’t see it in whatever watchface developer’s interface or app you’re using. Developers will only provide the features THEY want to, make their interface either easy to use or very difficult, and/or even make you pay for their watchface and/or design interface to make your own watchface. So, obviously, your experience with the watch may vary greatly. For myself, I like to try out everything, then I’ll eventually settle on a few apps or watchfaces I like the most and just use those. But then there’s always new stuff coming out, so I try those as well, hoping to find better things along the way. Being a geek, this is normal for me though.

Basic interfaces allow options for time, date, battery levels for the watch AND your phone, weather, etc., and some developers will also use nice animations, include calendar events, etc., but at the expense of battery life. Apps are another option altogether. Certain apps can be “installed” on the watch, though I’m pretty sure these are just tiny “stubs” or “mini versions” of actual applications that are primarily installed on your Android device, then simply feed data to your watch as needed. If an app installed on your android device is Android Wear-compatible, it is automatically installed on your watch and appears in the Apps list when you swipe right-to-left on the watch. One of these that showed up for me, surprisingly, Ingress! This is the MMO GPS game played worldwide that I play regularly (Resistance – Blue team). On the watch, when active, it alerts me to when portals are in range, and even allows me to hack the portals from my watch! This is neat, but after some use I find that it’s pretty limited and pretty much just a novelty. Your options are pretty limited, and–just as Ingress does on your phone–it’s a real battery juice sucker! Try hacking on your watch for an hour and you’re watch is DEAD, believe me!

Basically, the experience you have with the watch and how much you like it is going to come down to the quality of the developers and the apps and options they provide. For example, there’s an amazing app available called “Tip Calculator” for calculating restaurant tips, which you would think requires a calculator-type interface with all the number keys. This app manages to work flawlessly with only the slightest learning curve, has no “keyboard” at all, but only a few numbers (which are controls as well) in its center and a circular dial around the outside circle. It works great, doing exactly what it’s supposed to very quickly for you. It’s perfect for a round watchface. I hope more developers take a lesson from this one. The design is awesome, both in appearance and functionality!

There’s certainly no shortage of watchfaces for Android Wear. There are literally thousands out there to choose from, or you can just use one of the hundreds of different interfaces and design your own! There are so many good ones that I can’t even settle on just one and keep it that way, like Kevin does with his “Chicago Bears” themed watchface. I have a few different “Google Fit” watchfaces that show me my daily stats, including a constant view of my heart rate, my steps done today, and calories burned etc., and both my watch’s & phone’s battery levels as well as and “ambient” display that shows today’s weather forecast and temperature trend through the day. Another of my favorites is a “Military” watchface with no less than 6 different screens of details to flip between, and instant color-changing of them with a simple button push.

Basically, I’m happy with it. I consider it a geek toy, and it’s perfect for that. It tickles my wrist whenever I get any type of message, e-mail or text, and I can preview a bit of it or even read the entire message most of the time right on the watch. It helps me keep my phone in my pocket more often so I’m less distracted, and the automatic tracking of my steps and heart rate is just a health-monitoring bonus I could use. During my walks it constantly shows me my walking details and displays the music I’m listening to on my headset while I’m walking. And right now it’s analyzing my daily routine and it’s supposed to come up with a plan to help me stay (or in my case, “get”) fit based on my schedule. It should be interesting seeing how it progresses. It says it’ll take a couple weeks of gathering data.

Swimming Silliness

When we go somewhere or do something, I often pull out my phone and just start taking random shots, bursts, and different photo types just to experiment with the options.  While swimming at Woody’s with Kevin and Sandy recently, I took several bursts.  Google did it’s magic later on and sent me these five gems.  Give them time to load, they’re all animated:

Wind up.2gifFrom the shallow end
SwimmingBall throwA drop in the bucket

Blankth Wedding Anniversary

This is a bit embarrassing, but I forgot how many years Sandy and I have been married. Not a surprise for me, with my CRS always coming into play, but I had to get it straight before Monday, July 20th…our Anniversary! I checked the web, and actually found this little gem. I didn’t even remember I had posted it! Again, not a surprise:


In case that link some day no longer works, here’s what it says:

Jimmy G. Trottier – Class of ’81
Sandra Irene Wegmann – Class of ’77

Sandy and I met when we were set up for a date by my (Jim’s) sister Penny Brackney (Trottier) – also a Tremper alumni. Actually we met a few days prior to that first date, because I (Jim) couldn’t wait to meet her after we talked on the phone a few times. The rest, as they say, is history. We’ve been happily married ever since, and we now have a wonderful 2-year-old baby. Sandy worked for 21 years as a Nurse’s Aide at Washington Manor Nursing Home in Kenosha, and quit almost a year ago to accept a position at the company I work for, CirQon Technologies, where we manufacture ceramic circuit boards for such things as cellular telephones and medical devices. She is currently a QC Inspector, and I’m working a dual job as a Chemical Lab Technician and an IT

I was hoping I at least had the sense to post my wedding date there, but no such luck. Back to my searching…

I checked my photos, hoping that at some point I had gotten around to scanning all of our old wedding photos in. Those would surely include a date and time somewhere. Nope, haven’t scanned them in yet.

I could spend $20 to get an uncertified copy of our wedding license… probably too late to get it back in time….

I found our ancestry file, thanks to Wayne Wilson, but it didn’t have our wedding date logged in it. Darn.

I found several family member obituaries…sad, but that didn’t help. We seem to document death better than marriage I guess…

Now what?

Here’s the clues I have:
Kevin was born in February 1998, and we were married before we had him.
I met Matt when he was 6 years old and he was born in March, 1989, so I probably met him (and therefore Sandy) in 1995. I just can’t remember how long we knew each other before we got married. I know it wasn’t long before I ASKED her to marry me… So was it 95, 96, or 97? Agh! The mystery continues…

That all occurred last week. Last night, on the evening of our anniversary, I finally asked Sandy: “So, HOW many years has it been??” I was shocked to find that she, too, wasn’t exactly 100% sure, but her math is probably better than mine. She said she always remembers that we were married almost 2 years when we had Kevin. Kevin was born in 1998. Doing the math, this means we’ve been married for 19 years. Whew! I guess as long as we’re both in agreement, that’s all that matters. The “Whew” is because I’m relieved it’s not our 20th yet… I really can’t afford a Platinum anniversary gift this year! Now I’ve been forewarned!

Lastly, this is probably as good a place as any to post an awesome sign we saw at an art festival last weekend. It said

“When a woman answers you by saying “What?” it doesn’t necessarily mean she didn’t hear you. It means she’s giving you a chance to change your answer.”