Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Apple CarPlay still has a few problems I wish they would fix

I am a big fan of Apple CarPlay ever since I purchased a compatible car. I love hands free calls and texts and being able to ask Siri if there is a game tonight. There are just a few issues I still have with it. First I wish Apple would open it up a little more to different apps. Second I wish 3rd party apps would work a little more seamlessly. Third I wish they would make a way that audio apps are automatically included.

Apple Maps have improved a lot over the years. I love that they include the speed limit now and at least in my area, the traffic seems to be quite accurate. I just like to have the choice to use other map sources. If they would allow an app like Waze to be on their system it would give me an alternate option. I like that Waze gives better updates on things like hazards and changing traffic. 

I have had a lot of trouble with apps like Pandora and iHeart Radio getting stuck and not loading properly. This often requires you to force close the app and reopen it, not something that can be done safely while driving. 

I also wish that the Overdrive app would be added to CarPlay. I love to get audiobooks from the library to listen to, but I would love it if I could start a book easily while driving. If Apple would make it so you could start whatever you were listening to on any app I would love that, because sometimes when I am listening to Pandora I get bored and want to listen to a book for a while, but there is no way that I know of to get back to the book without looking at your phone.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Decorating a Smart Home to Make it Actually Look Smart


A lot of what makes a Smart Home smart is that it has a smart decor. While this will vary a lot from person to person, I personally think it needs to be clean and uncluttered. This can be very difficult for people living in smaller spaces, but clever designs can make up for this. Minimizing clutter can also help reduce issues of robotic vacuums and floor scrubbers from getting stuck.

Another huge factor is the choice of material. Things don't need to be synthetic to look smart. In fact, I find that natural floors and counters look good. Stainless steel appliances tend to look smart, but if you can afford it, things like smart stovetops and refrigerators can really add to the feel. Unfortunately, there aren't too many options yet if you want a fridge that can automatically pour you an ice cold soda or make you a snack.

In general, if you want something to look smart you need it to look modern and sensible. It should be well lit with adjustable lighting and it should be easy to control. Everything should seamlessly fit together. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The iRobot Roomba 690 Review WiFi Connected Robotic Vacuum

Roomba 690 on charging dock

After having the iRobot Roomba 690 for about a week now I thought I would talk a little bit about it and give it a review. Overall, I have been very pleased with its ability to navigate my complex home. Unfortunately, it doesn't clean very systematically so it basically just goes until it runs into something then turns and continues cleaning. It does a pretty good job of cleaning the entire floor though. You may have to adjust a few things to make sure it doesn't get stuck. Especially, if you have tight spaces because sometimes it will think its done cleaning after bumping around there for a bit. Even though it was just stuck in a corner.

Its easy to empty the iRobot Roomba 690. The tray simply pops out the back

I empty my Roomba 690 daily into a ziplock bag which makes it easy and helps to keep the dust down. Its very easy the tray simply slides out of the back when you lift an easy to grab latch. Then you pull open the cover and dump the waste. It could be a good idea to regularly pull out the filter and tap it against the side of a dustbin to the remove built-up dirt. I am planning to regularly change the filter, but I have heard that people have been able to go a very long time by simply cleaning the filter regularly.

Emptying the iRobot Roomba 690 dust tray or bin

I also purchased an Authentic iRobot 600 Series Replenishment pack which includes new brushes and rollers as well as 3 replacement filters and a brush cleaning tool. I know many people get third-party filters for their unit, but I heard they don't always fit quite right and I wanted to have plenty of authentic filters at first. Eventually, I will probably test some third-party filters and let you know how it goes. I am not expecting to change the brushes anytime soon but it will be nice to have them in case something happens to them or they get worn out.

The iRobot 600 Series Replenishment Kit includes 3 filters new brushes and rollers and a brush cleaning tool

Whats inside the box of the iRoomba Replenishment kit.

There are a lot of complaints on Amazon about these robots not being able to find the home base. While there have been a few cases where it didn't make it back it's been pretty good at finding its home. Sometimes I block it into a certain room where I want to clean using the included virtual wall and somehow it seems to know it because when it is done it just stops instead of trying to return home. Other times when I start it at its home base it will spend a long time trying to get back and simply run out of battery before it makes it. Either way its not a big deal to simply place it back at home, since you are going to want to empty it anyway.

An empty home base charging station for iRobot Roomba 690

This Roomba is also WiFi connected. Although it may not seem like much at first it is actually pretty cool. First, it allows you to control your robot when you are away from home. Whats even better is it lets you see how long its been cleaning and how many times its detected dirt. It will even give you a notification if it gets into trouble or gets stuck. It's really a nice feature to have.

The home app shows you all of the past runs, how much time it cleaned and how many times it turned dirt detect mode on.
After the first week, the Roomba 690 is a great robotic vacuum. The Roomba does a great job cleaning floors and works well with pet hair. I really appreciate how much cleaner my home has been. It's also amazing how quiet it is so you can let it run without bothering you. I wish I would have gotten this much sooner.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Bitcoin soars past $16,000! What do I think of the cryptocurrency?

A pile of coins with a large bitcoin in the middle.
I have heard a lot about Bitcoin lately. It has soared to unbelievable heights lately and has made some people rich. The question remains is a it a good investment or even a good payment method.

Personally, I don't see it as a good investment opportunity, unless of course you bought some a while ago and you have already made a great deal of money. Although then the question would still remain as to when to sell. Even just today its dropped an enormous amount. One of the biggest problems it has is that it is riding on a lot of momentum. As people see it rise they want to buy it more and the problem with that is as it drops it could fall with similar momentum.
How bitcoin has changed during recent times
It is an interesting idea as a currency, but a problem I see is the high volatility of it. Unless you buy some Bitcoin to make a purchase and if you receive payment sell it immediately you run the risk of paying more for your purchase than you intended. It is great idea for secure payments, but I personally find Paypal more appealing for the vast majority of shopping most people do.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

iOS 11.2 bringing faster wireless charging, Apple Pay Cash and a huge list of bug fixes

iPhone X showing iMessage with Apple Pay Cash
Apple broke their normal schedule by pushing a weekend update for iOS 11.2. This was probably due to the Dec. 2nd crash bug. This update adds the much anticipated Apple Pay Cash allowing one to send or request cash using Apple Pay in the Messaging App (Although currently not active.). It also allows for faster charging at 7.5W Qi Wireless speeds if you have a compatible charger. They also included a large list of updates and bug fixes in this version visit https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208067 for a complete list.

The real question here is should you update. I give it a cautious yes. If you are a developer there was no Xcode update so you may run into some issues there. Otherwise, it seems to be a good update with very little noise related to it.


Saturday, December 2, 2017

What kind of a discount can you get on the Apple iPhone X?

iPhone X with colorful image displayed
These days with the end of most 2 year cell phone contracts and carrier financing being so common can you still get a really good deal on the iPhone X? I remember when AT&T was offering a free iPhone 6 with trade in. You won't see deals that good now on the $1000 iPhone X. There are still a few options to save money although it can depend greatly on your carrier.

Buying directly from your carrier.

T-Mobile offers up to $300 if you trade in an eligible phone.

Sprint save $350 with an 18 month lease or eligable trade in.

Verizon get up to $300 with eligible trade in.

AT&T will give 0% APR for 30 months on a new iPhone X

Since most of these offers require a trade in you may actually be better off trying to sell your old phone on Craig's list or Ebay if your phone is still worth more than $300.

Buying from a big retailer

While they don't typically offer huge discounts you have the ability to get cash back from Ebates or Swagbucks as well as buying discount gift cards from Raise. Right now there are limited stocks available online and not all carriers are available at all retailers.


The new Tesla Roadster

The new Tesla Roadster showing top speed great than 250mph, 620mile range and 1.9 sec 0-60mph

Last month Tesla announced a new Roadster and it is slated to be incredible. With 1.9s, 0-60mph acceleration and a top speed of more than 250 mph. All while being a 4 seater. It will also have an unbelievable range of 620 miles on a charge. If you want to buy one production isn't expected to begin until 2020 and you will have to put $50,000 down.
New Tesla Roadster general specifications, 4 seater, all wheel drive

So how much will one of these cost? It will be $200,000 or ($250,000 if you get a founder's edition). This is an incredible bargain because it's faster and more powerful than million dollar supercars while being all electric. It still has a beautiful design including a lightweight glass roof that can be stowed in the trunk for a convertible like experience. I personally think that is a very clever design.

The Tesla Roadster has a removable lightweight glass roof.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

How to save $20 on an Amazon Prime Membership

Save $20 on Amazon Prime with Ibotta

There aren't too many ways to save money on an Amazon Prime Membership, but one option is to sign up through Ibotta. Right now you can get a $20 Amazon Gift card if you initiate your membership in the app. If you are a student you can instead get a student membership for 50% off plus you get a 6-month free trial. It's definitely worth at least taking advantage of the 6-month free trial if you are a student with a .edu email address.
Get 50% off prime student and 6 months free


Amazon Prime has a lot of benefits including free movie and video streaming, free 2-day shipping on an enormous number of items and music streaming. There are also features like photo storage and a Kindle ebook lending program as well as early access to flash deals. If you would spend money on any of these things anyway the membership can pay for its self.

If you are not a member of Ibotta yet now is a great time to join you will get a $10 welcome bonus after you redeem your first offer sign up with promo code fooebay. You can also take advantage of cash back shopping as well as a large number of grocery rebates. Including some any brand rebates on things like milk, bread, and eggs.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Are you ready for Cyber Monday?

Check out cyber Monday deals
Are you ready for Cyber Monday? Personally, I don't expect too much better deals for Monday although it looks like there will be some good options. Especially, if you are looking for TVs both Walmart and Target are offering some pretty good discounts. They also have discounts on laptops and tablets.

Amazon will also be offering a lot of deals. Including there "Deals of the Day" and many limited time and quantity sales. I am sure they will also continue to offer great deals on Amazon Brand products. Right now you can get a Fire TV Stick for $24.99 or an Echo Dot for $29.99.

As always make good use of Google and Bing shopping to find the best deals and compare prices to ensures your getting a good price. Also don't miss out on cash back, currently Swagbucks and Ebates are offering much higher amounts for the holiday. Don't forget to pair that with Raise to get discount gift cards or use a credit card that gives cash back. Currently, Discover is giving 5% back at Amazon and Target.




Thursday, November 23, 2017

I Bought the iRobot Roomba 690

I decided I finally needed a robotic vacuum cleaner. As part of a Pre Black Friday sale, I purchased an iRobot Roomba 690 for $275 on Amazon. It's a pretty good price, and if you have a Discover It card, you can get 5% cash back this quarter. There is also the 650 version for about 25 dollars less if you don't care about wifi, they are pretty similar otherwise.

I finally decided to get one because I have a lot of pets and bad allergies and want a way to vacuum every day on schedule. I am hoping this works well for me and will keep my home consistently clean.

I still haven't received it yet, but will update you when it arrives and I have gotten to use it more. Until then this video shows a good overview of it as well as a comparison to an older version. Definitely, worth watching if you are interested in getting a robotic vacuum cleaner.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Tips to stretch your Black Friday and Cyber Monday savings even further

How to save even more money on Black Friday

If your looking to save someone this weekend there are a few steps you can take to stretch your money a little further.

1. Make sure your actually getting a good deal. 
I use honey to track prices on Amazon and on other sites it can even find promo codes for you. This helps you see whether they raised the prices just before in order to make discounts look bigger. I also like to do a search on Google shopping to see which retailers are offering the best prices.

2. Make sure you're getting cash back
Check the current cash back at Ebates and Swagbucks to make sure your getting the most money back you can.

3. Buy discount gift cards when you can
I usually buy my discount gift cards from Raise but there are many options these days. Personally, I like Raise because they give you a 1 year guarantee on purchases. You can also find some good deals on My Gift Cards Plus through Swagbucks.

4. Use a cash back credit card
Finally, this isn't for everyone and requires you to pay it off in full to make any money, but it can be a great idea to double up on cash back from a credit card when shopping. I just recently got the Discover It card which is currently giving 5% cash back at Amazon and Target. A great deal if you shop at either of those places.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Making your Swagbucks Daily Goals

Making your Swagbucks Daily Goals

It can be a real struggle to make your Swagbucks daily goals and so I thought I would talk a little bit about it. There are basically two reasons to make your daily goals gaining the bonus and maintaining the winning streak. If you maintain your winning streak you get a bonus of up to 300 SB at the beginning of next month. This requires that you hit the minimum daily goal every day that month or at least however many days it requires for the bonus you are attempting. Typically the daily goal gives you about 10% of that goal at the beginning of the next month, which can really add up to a nice bonus.

When you start off your 1st daily goal will be quite low and easy to maintain. Usually around 30 or 40 sb, but it will quickly increase to about double that. After that point pretty much everyone will have the same first daily goal. On the other hand, the second daily goal will continue to change depending on how much you earn. The goals can definitely amount a large sum of money.

Most people want to make the daily goals in order to maintain their winning streak. This way you can get an additional bonus at the beginning of next month. This can get stressful and even make you just try to do the minimum to maintain your streak. I've found a few techniques over the years and I will share a few of them.

For starters, mobile video apps are your friend. I will use these every day, especially when I am trying to maintain my streak. It's easy to get 10sb from the SBTV app and then I usually switch to the other apps SportyTV, EntertaiNow, and Lifestylz. You can reasonably get 40sb or more a day using these apps. Especially since they usually reset in the evening.

Next, I like to play games up to the limit of 10sb. This is pretty straightforward. My favorite game is Swagjump. I think ever since doodle jump I have enjoyed that style of game. Either way, it doesn't take long to make 10 sb and its pretty fun.

From here it gets a little bit trickier and less guaranteed.  I usually get something from search every day. I use both the mobile app and the desktop search many times throughout the day. I will also use the nCrave to get a few extra Swagbucks if I am close. Another tactic can be to scan the offers and find a free easy offer to fill the meter.  Sometimes it can be easier just to do a survey to finish it out.

Another option is it complete your daily to-do list. I find that on the days I complete that I am pretty much done with my first daily goal plus you get the bonus on the to-do list. This is a bit tricky because you do have to qualify for a Gold Survey, which can be quite difficult for some people. I know I usually have to attempt at least 4-5 surveys before qualifying.

Completing your Swagbucks To Do List

Once you start making all of this extra money from bonuses you have to decide what to do with it. For the first $25 gift card you get each month you can get it for 2200sb which is a great deal because your basically get $3 for free and I think pretty much anyone can find a gift card they use, I typically get Walmart cards. After that, if I have SBs leftover I either get PayPal cash or save them until next months for another discount card.

Join Swagbucks!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

What saving an extra $1 a day really means


Many people don't realize what it can mean to save a $1 a day. I have been talking a lot lately about what it takes to earn or save just that much. Now let's see what it's really worth. Much of how it will affect your life depends on what you choose to do with it. I will be running the numbers using the  www.investor.gov/ compound interest calculator. This is a great tool if you want to see what your investments will amount to. It even has an option that shows you how much to save if you have a particular goal in mind.

Lets first look at if you simply put it in a bank saving account what can it amount to. My banks saving account gives a whopping 0.1% currently. Although, over the years this does have the possibility of fluctuating. Either way, its got little chance of keeping up with inflation.

As you can see over 35 years you will have $12,996.01. At first, this doesn't sound terrible but if you assume a 3% rate of inflation it would have decreased in value by about $4,902.24 or $8,093.77. Not terrible for a $1 a day, but we are losing out on a lot of money. This may be good for short-term storage but is clearly a bad deal in the long run.

Let's look at if you take a little bit of risk. If you invest in an S&P 500 index fund based on historical performance the return is about 10%. Subtract, 3% for inflation and that amounts to a 7% return.

This is really incredible. Due to the power of compound interest, a 7% return can yield an incredible $50,462. It's really amazing what a $1 a day can do when combined with the power of compound interest.

If you want to learn how to get that extra $1 check out my post How to easily make an extra $1 a day

Apple CarPlay still has a few problems I wish they would fix

I am a big fan of Apple CarPlay ever since I purchased a compatible car. I love hands free calls and texts and being able to ask Siri if ...

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