Archive for Technology

Paribus Review

I came across Paribus last week, and while it seemed like a good deal, I was still a bit skeptical. This is a service that will track price changes for items you have bought from Amazon, Walmart, Target, Newegg, Best Buy, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Gap, Old Navy, J. Crew, Staples, Sephora, Bonobos, Zappos, Athleta, Banana Republic, Macy’s, and Piperlime. If the price goes down, and you’re eligible for a refund according to the vendor’s policies and guidelines, Paribus will get you your refund.

Now you’re thinking that sounds too good to be true. There must be a catch. Here’s the catch – Paribus keeps a percentage of your refund. It’s starts out at 25%, and it’s relatively easy to reduce that number to 10% or even 0%.

The way it works is you give it access to an email account containing email receipts from the aforementioned vendors. So if you don’t want them having access to your normal email, start a new gmail account. If you’re already receiving receipts at another address, you can forward them to your new one.

Like I’ve said before, I’ve been trying it out for a week and have been liking it so far. I have a few purchases that’ll be earning me refunds soon. The only thing I’ve been disappointed with so far, is it doesn’t recognize any digital purchases from Amazon, specifically renting or purchasing streaming videos.

If you want to try it out, here’s my referrer link –

No more GoDaddy

Tonight marks the day I’m not longer paying for their services.  I first bought a domain name through them back in 2004 or 2005 and when they came out in favor of SOPA/PIPA, that was the last straw for me.  I already wasn’t a big fan of their misogynistic commercials that seemed to be in constant competition with Hardees/Carl’s Junior.  Their backing the end of a free internet was the end of it for me.

no-godaddySince I’m a cheapskate and I don’t have money to go tossing around, I did wait until all of my contracts had ran out.  Tonight my last domain was about to expire and i got it out of there.  I feel like celebrating.



Phone decision

I’ve been spending a decent amount of time trying to figure out which phone carrier would rip me off the least and reading up on the many smart phones available on the market right now and others soon to be released.  What it really boils down to is how much money I want to spend.  At the moment I have many medical bills showing up in my mail box from the past three months and I really don’t have the extra money to drop on a phone nor to start paying for a monthly data plan.  I don’t know how much I’d actually use data anyway.  Most of my time is spent at home or work where I readily have access to wifi networks.  I also have an iPad3 with which I can do mobile things.  I’m actually quite satisfied with my current phone with the exception of the battery.  A quick search revealed I can purchase a new battery for about $5 so that’s what I did yesterday.  I got a new battery and a new hard case, mine is cracked in a few places, for $10 with shipping.  This should extend my phone’s life for a bit and save me the money I was trying to find for a new phone and data plan.

AT&T and Verizon attempt to copy T-Mobile

After T-Mobile’s announced the new plan for customers to more easily keep up with the Joneses and their new phones, AT&T and Verizon announced similar plans as well.

AT&T was the first to announce their plan called NEXT where customers could get a new phone every year if they agree to pay full price for their device over the course of 20 months.  At 12 months customers may opt to purchase a new device.  This sounds great except you basically end up paying the same for your wireless/data plan AND pay full price for your device.  Here’s an article that more eloquently explains everything.

And now Verizon has a similar plan called EDGE where you’re eligible for an upgrade every 6 months as long as you’ve paid 50% of the full price for your device.  Similar to AT&T, you end up paying for an unsubsidized phone AND the same wireless/data plan.  Here’s another article explaining things in more detail.

I really wish T-Mobile had better coverage so I could actually use my phone if I switched to them as my provider.  I also wish people would do the math on these “great deals” and decide what is really best for them in the long run.  I also wish there was some regulation of cell phone companies and cable TV/internet companies so us consumers weren’t constantly screwed with the option of pay the money or go without.

UPDATE 7/19/2013
CNET’s Ask Maggie column has a great breakdown showing the total cost of ownership.  The consumer pays more no matter what with T-Mobile screwing you the least.  Your best bet is to hold onto that phone for two years.

T-Mobile announces new phone replacement schedule

T-Mobile is truly turning the cell phone market on its head.  Earlier this year they announced no more two-year contracts and today they unveiled a new plan allowing subscribers to replace their phone every six months.  The new program is called JUMP! and costs an extra $10 a month, which includes premium cell phone insurance.  Just the insurance alone would cost you $8 a month by itself.

If you’re unfamiliar with how T-Mobile works, you can either buy a phone outright and then choose a monthly service plan, or you can pay a minimum amount on the phone and then pay around $20 a month for the next two years to pay off the phone.  This is similar to how AT&T and Verizon work, but you’re not locked in for two years, the phone may be paid off at any time and there is no penalty for leaving T-Mobile before the two years are up.  With JUMP! you can still pay the minimum amount required for a phone, and then you’ll pay $30 a month with the option to upgrade in six months.  The kicker is you’re not responsible for paying off the remainder owed on your phone when you upgrade.

So what’s the catch?  For me, it’s the fact T-Mobile still does not have adequate coverage where I live.  At best I could receive 2G data and have “acceptable” voice signal where I live.  That’s what I call unacceptable.  If i lived in a more heavily populated area like LA, NYC or Atlanta, I’d be signing up tomorrow.  For now Verizon still seems to be the best deal for me because of their data/voice coverage and the discount available to me through my employer.

Need a new phone

I’ve been avoiding the world of smart phones, or as my friend Soulman calls them, “phones,” for a while now.  I’m still rocking a slider with a full size QWERTY keyboard.  It’s great for texting and has been a decent phone until the past six months or so.  This week my phone epically failed me twice.  Occasionally my phone will lock up if I haven’t turned it off/on in a while and just blocks all incoming calls/texts.  The worst part is it acts as though nothing is wrong.  Then another day I went to bed with my phone having plenty of battery power and woke up late for work because it died in the night and did not perform its function as my alarm clock.

My first cell phone contract was with Cingular who was bought out by AT&T.  I’ve been with them ever since, but am now looking to get the best deal possible.  Out of the big three, this is what I’ve discovered this week.

T-Mobile is really shaking up the concept of a cell phone contract.  In fact, they threw it out the window.  You only pay month-to-month with no lock in, the only catch is you buy your phone un-subsidized.  While this may seem like a raw deal, you’ll realize how much money you save over time if you just do the math.  I would love to switch to T-Mobile, but unfortunately they still have the same problem they’ve had for years – cell tower coverage.  If you live in a heavily populated area or are traveling on a main road/interstate highway, you’re good, but if you branch out from those areas there’s a good chance your phone won’t work too well if at all.

Verizon boasts they have the best cell tower coverage in the country and it’s true.  They still offer 2-year contracts and have many options for unlimited talk and texting with tiers of shared data.  They’re also recognized for having some of the best customer service and customer experiences.  If you happen to have Verizon FIOS, you can get further deals by bundling your mobile, tv and home phone.

AT&T used to be the big dogs because it was the only place you could get service for your iPhone.  In the past few years that has changed and you can pretty much get any phone with any carrier.  Some of the features or settings may be different, but you can get the same hardware almost anywhere.  For single line plans AT&T tends to be the most expensive and I’m really not sure what you’re getting extra out of it.  Some bundle services similarly to Verizon, but I can’t really handle the lame DSL speeds in my area.  AT&T also offers 2-year contracts and their prices are similar to Verizon.

So which carrier is best for me?

Phones and phone accessories pretty much cost the same everywhere so that’s not a factor any more.  T-Mobile isn’t an option for me due to coverage and reception so that basically leaves it up to AT&T and Verizon. A family plan for our two phones with 4GB of shared data is basically the same price with either but Verizon does offer more options to lower our bill if 4GB is more than we need.  I currently receive a discount with my previous employer with AT&T and my current employer offers a similar discount.  My employer’s HR website says we can get a discount with Verizon as well, but Verizon’s site says it doesn’t exist.  Discounts aside, the only other factor is activation/upgrade fees.  AT&T charges $36 per line to upgrade a phone on an existing account and Verizon doesn’t charge anything extra to open a new line and purchase a phone.  So basically this comes down to if I can get a discount through my employer at Verizon.

Senator follow-up

Last week I wrote both of my US Senators, urging them to vote no on CISPA should a vote come about, after CISPA passed in the House of Representatives.  I truly see this bill as a bad thing in the same way I disliked SOPA and PIPA.  At the beginning this bill was supported by some big technology hitters, but at the moment Google seems to be the only one sort of in their corner.  Google likes the idea of a bill like CISPA, but is not behind the contents of CISPA.  Also, unshockingly, Verizon, AT&T and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association are supporting the bill.  If there’s anything I can easily complain about, it would be my cell phone and cable internet/tv providers.  I do not trust them to have a hand in telecommunication legislation.

I received a lengthy response from our newly elected senator, but am still being stonewalled by the other.  The one I haven’t heard back from happens to be a co-sponsor of the bill and I am not surprised by the lack of response.  I also don’t really agree with most of his stances on big or little issues.  In an effort to be better informed I did sign up for all email newsletters offered by my elected officials.  I realize I may need to seek other venues for particular information, but at least this way I’m being informed about what they think is important to their constituents.

The whole idea of activism is still somewhat new to me.  The first time I ever wrote a letter to my representation was around the time “Obamacare” was being introduced.  I obviously have some health issues and there were many positives in the healthcare bill for me and my family.  They’re still helping me out today and while the law is by no means perfect, I’m much better off now.  I still don’t understand most of the arguments against it because they seem to be based on misunderstandings.  It’s hard to argue with others when you can’t agree on the basic tenets of the issue.

The urge to participate all started when I began to approach 30.  I don’t know if that’s a magic number, I finally grew up, or I finally realized what was affecting me.  As a kid I remember certain men and women in different social circles who were very politically active.  It never quite made sense to me, and maybe it’s because my parents never seemed to take part.  I know see myself as someone who can make a difference even if I am just one voice.

Vote NO on CISPA

CISPA is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, and was passed in the House of Representatives today.  Its failed precursors were SOPA and PIPA which failed to become law in 2011-2012.  While the basic idea of sharing information amongst government agencies when trying to track down crime sounds great, the reality of the federal government able to look at anything you do with a computer online is quite scary.  If you are even remotely concerned about big government, freedom of speech and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure – you need to contact your senators and urge them to not vote for CISPA.  I contacted both of my senators today, one who is even a co-sponsor of the bill.  I hear many complaints about the legislative system and how our elected officials votes are bought by lobbyists.  This may be true, but if I don’t allow my voice to be heard I can’t complain about it.

If you’re not sure who your senators are, check out this web site.  If you’re not sure where your elected officials stand on this issue, the CISPA Senate Whip Count can help. Last time when our privacy was threatened, people banded together and overwhelmingly told their senators to vote no.  Please don’t stand by and assume someone else will speak for you this time.