Friday, March 31, 2017

A word about Crocs

Crocs, one of my favorite shoe brands. Not the "clogs"...hate them. But, luckily, Crocs has a vast collection of styles.
Better yet, they are made in such a way that my back, tender as it is, does best in them.
But, I'm not here to tell you how much I enjoy them, but to tell you what I've learned from my latest shopping trip.
While in Maine and driving through the shopping area of Kittery, I spotted a Crocs store. Wow...nothing but Crocs!!! This being an outlet area, the shoes were also all at great sale prices.
Bins and bins of shoes.
While going through the bins and trying on numerous pairs, I chatted with the gal in charge since I was the only shopper there on an awful rainy day. When she asked what size I was looking for I mentioned that I wasn't really sure because it turns out that I've purchased them in two different sizes before. At that point she told me that she herself buys in 3 sizes. Wow...how could that be I wondered.
She told me that the sizes all depends on where exactly the shoes are made. Seems the company has them made in numerous different countries, all of which have varied reasons for the size difference...right down to the weather in that country!!! Who knew!!
I then mentioned that even though the sales were pretty good at the store, I've actually purchased for less at the online Crocs site.
This didn't surprise her
at all and admitted that they often sell for much less. She agreed that this is putting shops out of business and feels that this is the end goal.
Problem with this?? Yes.
As she explained about the sizes and countries, she said that when buying them online, you do not know where they come from...so if there is one country that makes your size consistently right for you, you won't be sure that you'll get one from there. Could be the same size but not fit at all.
After hearing this I had to agree that buying in person where you could try them on was indeed the best way to get the right fit.
After spending far too much time here and finally picking out two new pairs, I was quite impress to see this sales person actually check online for the ones I picked out to see if I could actually purchase them at a lower price from the site. Wow...nice customer service.
I purchased both pairs from her!
Crocs....don't go putting your shops out of business. I, for one, loved being able to try them on.
If you do end up becoming "only" online...please do your customers a favor..."list the country" for where each pair is made, and make sure those are the one's you send in the order.
See...that won't be half as easy as you think.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Set those "alerts"

Having personally discovered how valuable credit cards alerts are I would certainly advise everyone who has this option available...use it.
When you go online to your credit card accounts you should see numerous options there for personal setting.
Two of the most important are:
Set alert for purchase where card is not present
Set alert for purchase over $__ amount

For me, having both of these set, I was alerted to a purchase made not only over the $ amount I had set, but that the card was also not present at purchase, meaning it was done online. For this reason, even if one of those alerts had not been triggered the other one would have caught it.
Turns out someone at a local store had snagged a pic of our credit card numbers during a purchase and later, airline tickets were bought online. Within the hour I had the fraud division of the card company on the job and the charges removed.
Had I not had these alerts set I'm afraid to think what might have happened. Surely we would not have had such speed in getting anyone on the job.

Yes, when you set these alerts you will get emailed for every online purchase you make. I know, you've got more than enough emails, but this is one email that is probably more important than most of what you already receive. I would rather get the notification and delete it because all is well than not get it and find a debit or credit card being drained.
As for the "dollar amount" setting...set it low. Not so low that you'll get alerted for stopping for gas, but even at a $100 amount you'll be happy you did. Many fraud cases are those of someone making many smaller amount purchases with the card in order to not raise a flag. With the lower amount you know they'll cross that line.

Keep an eye on your card at all times when making a purchase. Yes, some are sneaky as in our case with the camera/phone just out of sight by the register and the clerk acting distracted, but that's the rare case. Mostly, if you can "see" the card as you purchase, you're good. The other times such as in a restaurant where they walk off with it, you just need to have faith....or...have your alerts set!!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Reality augmented

Back from the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) for just over a week now, I can say that I accomplished seeing some of the specific types of new and great ideas & products I had hoped to see.

One of these things had been "virtual reality", but, while I enjoyed getting some time with VR, I hadn't even heard of what really left me speechless. Augmented reality. AR wasn't even on my radar, but Wow, it left an impact.
Before this day I hadn't even heard of augmented reality, let alone see it. In fact, I almost walked right by this booth at the show. I mean, all that was there was a book on a table and a phone propped up in front of it.
Still not sure what made me look other than the idea that there must be more than met the eye since everything else around me was larger than life.
I was right.
The person tending the display motioned to me to look into the phone screen after they demonstrated that the dinosaur book laying there was indeed a simple book.
As I watched the person turn the page, through the screen on the phone (as if the screen were simply a piece of clear glass) I saw movement.
The person picked up the phone and tilted it and I watched as the dinosaurs suddenly came alive.
Without any visible aid, the pterodactyl on the page sat up, spread it's wings, and suddenly began to fly. Yes, fly, right off the book!!! The person holding the phone simply followed along watching it as it flew. A thing of note...everything behind the flying pterodactyl was exactly what I was looking at. The entire room in real time. Eventually the pterodactyl flew back onto the page.
Yes, I was still completely at a lack for words.

I was shown a couple more pages where dinosaurs suddenly started walking around the page and off the edges.
In the last page I watched even as a couple of trees stood off the surface of the page and the dinosaur started eating from them.
Taking the camera at the end of the short third video, I put it around to the back of the phone screen to show that there was indeed nothing but a flat book opened to the dino page.

All I can say is, as fun as some of the virtual reality was, there is something to be said for all this amazing fun and mind blowing visual to be going on in front of you without the aid of all those big heavy headsets and eye gear.
It's a bonus to see these things happening in front of you without the weight of all that gear as well as the ability to still look around at your surroundings and not be enclosed in a dark world all you own.
Given the choice, right now, this has my vote.
I imagine at some point there may be a combo VR & AR in our future!





Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A moment about prescriptions

While I was about to continue with more posting about the CES, today gave me pause and I felt the need to take a moment and say a brief word about prescriptions, and the issues of getting refills without breaking the bank.
Before I tell you about today specifically, let me take a moment to bring you up to date on what I've been through with this issue. I'll keep it short, but pay attention, you may find a few tips to save you some money.
I've been taking synthroid (not the generic form) for many years now. There was a time when I went through my husbands health care provider, but they seemed to only pay a few dollars on the cost and would not fill my entire 90 day prescription all at once. I was forced to fill it every 30 days. I let this go for a while and discovered over time that AAA would cover just as much if I use them. Didn't seem right that my auto card would pay as much (several dollars) on my meds.
Well...I decided to go ahead and say "give me my full 90 days and I'll pay it myself". Figured since I was barely saving anything at all, I may as well get the full amount and not keep going back and forth. To my surprise, leaving the middle man out of it and paying myself, the price was lowered!!!
Yes, they up the price for the health coverage which is almost non-existent, and it turns out I can pay less without it.
Well...that's the way it went for some time, until this past year when I noticed the price continuing to go up. It went up so high in large amounts that I was getting quite concerned. I mean, this is a medication I have no option but to take.
So, here we are at the events of today. The health coverage that my husband gets through his work had changed to a new provider at the beginning of this year. Since I now needed a refill on this med I called the new provider to inquire on what, if any, my coverage would be if I went through them.
It was his response that made me nearly fall off my chair. He quoted me a price per refill that was more than 3 times the price I've already been paying!! Really?? I admit I laughed out loud when he said this.
I explained that I've already been paying less than a third of that, out of pocket, and found it hard to believe that with their "coverage" I'd be paying sooo much more!  His response, "well, it may not be that much, but it "could" be that price". What??  I said again that I couldn't believe I'd be charged that much, and again, he said "well, it could be that much".
I mean really, am I supposed to roll the dice and see just how much I'm charged at the end?? I couldn't get any more direct answer than that. Wow.
So, I did what any good consumer would do.
I went online to "Good Rx" and found a coupon. Most pharmacies would honor them even for another pharmacy. I then took that coupon to my pharmacy along with my bottle to refill (out of pocket), and in 15 mins. I had my refill.
The cost to me? $270 LESS than I was being told by the health provider. In fact, even $50 less than I'd been paying without that coupon.
So, health care coverage or online coupon??
I can tell you what I've chosen. Now, it's up to you. Ask questions and be informed.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Behind the Scenes at CES

I'm just back from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas.
While I had originally intended to write here "during" the show, I found that the whole thing was so incredibly vast, that it was all I could do to find time to see what I could see. I also misled myself thinking that I could actually do everything I needed to on one of two tablets I took with me instead of taking my laptop. Not true. While one table decided to act up and not play fair, the other simply didn't have the functionality I needed to work. So, here we are.
I arrived in Vegas with my daughter (who is the one actually in the industry, and my key to going) several days ahead of the show. This gave me an insight into the work and structure of the "building of the CES".

So very much goes into all those amazing displays that look inviting and effortless by the start of the show. In actuality, there are people and machines scrambling everywhere and into all hours for days on end to make it happen. Thankfully, the booth that we had to get set up for Robotic Trends was rather small and simple in comparison and even that took a couple of days. The devil is always in the details!!
Yes, I will go into giving you pictures, thoughts, and write-ups on what I saw there, but thought you just might enjoy starting with what most people never see...some behind the scene shots of the making of the show.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Lenovo - small but significant "opps"

I recently purchased a new laptop for my husband who also had an old one on its' last leg.
Since this was going to be a work machine and he certainly wasn't as concerned with "looks" the way I was, the new laptop purchased was a Lenovo Ideapad 110.
Nice machine, enough bells & whistles, and a price tag that made it more than attractive!
Well...it's working just fine for him. Loaded in the programs he needed and the remote desktop he works with and everything seems just fine. In fact, this is one of the few remaining laptops with a built-in dvd. Goes to show you, you can still build a nice thin lightweight machine and not have to leave this useful feature out.
Now the one "tiny", but oh so troubling little misstep from Lenovo.
Since when do you take it upon yourself to alter the lineup of keyboard keys??!!
Lenovo...what were you thinking???

The public has been using a standard Qwerty keyboard layout for decades. Why would you mess with this and change the placement of one of your "shift" keys??
This is something that comes into being an issue rather quickly...like the first time you start to type!
The "right shift" key is actually an extra space over from where any other keyboard has it. In its' place is the "arrow up" key. Really? Why?

I know this is only one tiny negative, but trust me. Next time you're typing, pretend that your "up" key is the right shift key. Bet you understand after that.
We're keeping it and he is learning to deal with it mostly because at the office, he plugs in another remote keyboard to it.
So, only one small problem...but very significant one.



Friday, December 2, 2016

Asus Q504 Laptop

I replaced my beloved Sony Vaio several months ago when she finally got to the point of not being able to be depended on to run for much longer.
I honestly didn't want to get to that point, but something needed to be done. Best to start the hunt for a new one while I could still use the Sony and not go out buying one in a panic the day she actually died.
The hunt lasted for weeks...so I'm glad she did too!
I'm not one for a purchase without lots and lots of research. I was exhausted by the time I found the chosen one, Asus Q504.  Being an artist, I needed beauty as well as brains.
I've had this machine for several months now and really have very little to complain about.
It is Windows 10, Intel i5, 12GB ram and 1T hard drive. Yes, I know there are better specs on other machines, but this was perfect when trying to stay on a budget. Let's face it, you can always get bigger & better if money is no object.
The body is brushed aluminium with beautiful chrome hinges.
I will not go into anything about Win 10 because that honestly has nothing to do with the machine. That would simply be the operating system...and ALL the machines have it.

Pros:
The screen display is full HD and simply beautiful. Being an artist, as I mentioned earlier, this is important to me. I need to bring up digital images of my work and need a great visual for this.
The speakers...these must be the best speakers I've seen yet on any laptop. The sound is full and not tinny and the volume is so good that much of the time I need to keep the level down to 60%, and that's plenty loud enough even for music.
Battery life, about 5 hrs. depending on usage. This may not be enough for some, but for me it's good.
Keypad is good. Nice response and separate number pad. I love using a wireless mouse, so I rarely use the track-pad. There's comfortable wrist space as well.
So far I've been able to use it for hours without any real heating up. That's a plus since my last machine would get quite heated in a short time.
There is a "touch" screen, and while I have very little use for that, it works well.
Back-lit keyboard. Didn't think I'd care about that, but it's nice.
Cons:
No CD/DVD drive. Oh well. At first I had said I would not buy one without, but this machine answered all my needs except for that...so I bought an external one. I do wish that the companies would go back to including them since they honestly are handy and take up little space. My husband has a very nice low profile Lenovo which includes the dvd. Still nice and thin, so it can be done.
It has 12 GB ram, but honestly, that's something that doesn't really seem to make a serious difference from, let's say, 8GB. Like most things, getting a tiny bit more isn't really worth it if it's going to cost much more.
One item I'm getting used to, but it can annoy, is the "numbers lock". Every time you boot the machine up, the number lock is on...even if it wasn't when you shut it down. It'll be fine and stay the way you leave it if you simply wake the machine from sleep mode, but upon a restart/boot up, it's back to lock position. Minor issue, but there.

One item with this machine is both a Pro & Con. It has the ability to convert to a tablet.
While this sounds nice, a 15 1/2" machine makes for a "big" tablet. Not comfortable to use that way, so it would only be useful in particular situations. One "con" with the process of making the tablet switch is that there seems to be a glitch in the system with knowing when to turn off the physical keyboard. Seems that as you fold the laptop into position, it will engage and disengage the keyboard at random points. Since I don't like using a laptop of this size as a tablet anyway, not a problem for me. For others, this could be a problem.

Bottom line, this machine has much more than your basic laptop. Great quality as well as good looks.
The pluses are far more than the minuses which are few, and really one can be considered a minus depending on how you use your computer.
I'm personally very happy with this choice after several months of use and hope to be feeling the same, years from now.