Sony SRS-XB2 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

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Purchased the Sony SRS-XB2 Bluetooth speaker from Best Buy for $69. I bought it for my wife to connect with her Amazon Echo Dot, or Amazon Music Unlimited from her phone, depending on which she feels like using. The item has a 4.7 out of 5-star rating on the retail site, and reviews I looked at elsewhere where praising it.

My personal use of it the last couple of days is that I got my money’s worth, and then some. However, the bass can be overwhelming if you turn on the Bass Boost, so I make sure to keep that off. Also, maybe it’s because I have it placed on a wooden nightstand, but the music sounds kind of washed out, or restrained. Like I’m listening to it from behind a wall or something. It is loud and clear, but it just lacks that “oomph” and seems to focus strictly on bringing the boom with the bass.

It is bluetooth, but it also features NFC, so you just have to touch your NFC enabled phone to it to connect the two devices. It’s splash proof, portable (with a proclaimed 12-hour battery life, which I haven’t tested), and has a built-in mic, so you can carry on phone conversations via the speaker, leaving your hands free for other tasks.

It serves its purpose and connects seamlessly with my phone (Galaxy S7 edge), my wife’s phone (iPhone 7 Plus), and the Amazon Echo Dot, all via bluetooth.

If you’re looking for a loud, bass-bumping wireless speaker to add music through your house, this isn’t a bad buy. Definitely shop around on the price, though, because regular price at Amazon is still $99, despite other sites selling it for less.

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The New WordPress Posting Format

I’d like to think I’m not alone in saying that the new posting format WordPress is trying to implement sucks. The layout is suppose to provide an improved posting experience, but what I find it to do is be confusing. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve selected to save a post as a draft so I can finish it later, only to have WordPress publish it to the blog as a finalized post. Ugh! Of course, the simpler and most likely solution is that I’m an idiot, which I haven’t ruled out. But for the record, I’m still blaming it on WordPress and their attempt to overhaul the UI on us.

So until they take away the old posting method completely, I’ll just be a lag-behind loser and continue to use what I’m most comfortable with. It’s familiar, easy on the eyes and like a nice, comfy recliner that’s been broken in to support my old, weary frame. Thanks for trying to keep it new and fresh, WordPress, but I’ll just stick with the old fashioned “bland” way of posting to my blog.

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A Year Later … iPhone to Android and Back Again

Last year, if any returning readers remember, I lost my iPhone 4S due to a swimming pool mishap. No more needs to be said, we’ll just leave it at that, mmkay? Lost and still shaken without my dear Apple product, I resorted to the quickest, cheapest replacement, which was a Samsung Galaxy S3. That’s right, I went from grieving iPhone widower to new Android owner. I was heart broken, but bound and determined to make my new relationship with this strange smartphone OS work.

The first two months were the roughest, of course. Adjusting to the new interface, learning what the OS could do for me, getting comfortable with the apps, app store and so on. Most importantly, though, I was finding myself falling in love with the large screen on the S3. It felt wrong, yet it felt so right. And so I gave in and let the Android world claim me. Customizable home screens, large displays, smooth and responsive to my touch … I learned to focus on these fantastic features while ignoring the blaring lack of a decent mp3 player for my podcasts. I let myself be lost in the simpler controls of the device and ignored the fact that I couldn’t easily transfer music or other documents to the device without going through a half dozen steps. I got over it because … because … well, to be honest, because it’s what I had.

Enter the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. I got antsy every time a new rumor about the new iPhones would surface online. I counted the months, the weeks, the days and finally the very hours until the Apple conference finally started streaming. Oh, a brand new iPhone … iPhone 6 and the first phablet of the line, the iPhone 6 Plus were finally announced! I was having guilty flashbacks to my love affair with Apple. I would leave my Android smartphone in the other room while I looked up videos and navigated the Apple website to read more, or read articles covering hands-on reports. Could this be it?

Well, if you have any doubt, I did pick up an iPhone 6. I very nearly picked up the 6 Plus, but after holding it and playing around on it, decided it was just too big for my small, fat hands. The iPhone 6, though … we are a match made in heaven. The first thing I did when I got home with my new iPhone 6 was to – of course – go through all my settings and fine tune them to what I expected out of the iOS 8 software. iCloud, Find My iPhone, Siri … oh, how I’d missed them all. And then I began downloading the apps I’d accumulated on my Android … and that’s when I realized what I’d really been missing as an Android user.

You see, Android is the professional smartphone user’s experience, I suppose. They like their customizable screens and all the tiny little controls they believe they have over the Android system. They also enjoy it because owning an Android means you’re taking a stand against mean old Apple and their money-making ways of bleeding the iSheep dry of their hard earned money. But do you know why people pay that money to Apple? All that wonderful hard earned money? Because they get what they pay for. They get the quality, they get the well designed apps, and they get the ease of use when transporting music or downloading podcasts.

Seriously, on the Samsung Galaxy S3, I went through about 6 different podcasting apps. I finally settled on the best one, which isn’t saying much of the apps I’d sorted through, and even then wasn’t truly happy. But Apple’s iPhone? Plug it in once, choose to sync it wirelessly from that point on and you’re good to go with your music, apps, movies, books, etc. Want a podcast? No problem, there’s a whole library of available podcasts, ranked, rated, sorted and just waiting for you to browse it. Having a problem? Ask Siri, she is very good and understanding some crazy stuff you whisper into her speaker.

Other apps I owned also vary greatly between Android and Apple devices. Fitbit, WordPress and others are simply beautiful and full features on the iPhone 6 and iOS 8. On Android, they function at a bare bones minimum and you absolutely love it because, well, what else have you got?

That’s not to say you shouldn’t buy an Android – I’d never be presumptuous enough to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t buy. That’s none of my business. In fact, my mom decided not to upgrade her phone, a 4S, and instead wanted to try my Galaxy S3. She loves it! What does she love? The big screen, and the fact that the speaker you talk into actually comes out to her mouth so she, and I quote, “Feels like I’m talking on a real phone!”

Android may be great for the hipsters that want to make a stand and think they’re changing the world. But for simple folk such as myself, I want something that’s comfortable, knows what I want and how to give it to me … and that just works. Give me my iPhone 6 and I’ll be happy. I’m sorry, Android, but it’s me, not you. I think we should take a break from this relationship. It’s been real. Thanks for the memories, I’ll remember them each day as I pick up my Apple iPhone 6 smart phone and use it my way.

Fitbit Flex Problem/Solution

I’ve had my Fitbit Flex for nearly 6 months now and have enjoyed using it. It’s pretty darn accurate and the information I can log in my phone as well as the much more detailed website is helpful for keeping track of what I’m doing, where I’m going and how to get there. The Fitbit Flex, however, isn’t perfect. I have found myself experiencing the same issue many folks seem to be complaining about on the internet and message boards across various communities. My Fitbit won’t charge!!

First, I’ll admit that over the last 2 1/2 weeks I haven’t even used my Fitbit Flex because I’ve been sick and haven’t even exercised and certainly haven’t stayed on track with my diet. I’ve gulped sodas like they were going out of style and eaten fast food nearly every day for the simple convenience of it all. That’s a poor excuse, of course, saying it’s convenient when in reality smacking a sandwich together in your kitchen is just as easy as driving up to a speaker, placing an order, waiting 5-10 minutes to pull up to another window, accept your order, figure out it’s wrong, take it back or say to hell with it and move on.

But I digress.

At any rate, during this 2 1/2 week hiatus, my Fitbit’s battery died. Or, perhaps it simply cut itself off, if it can do that. Either way, when I picked it up today and plopped it into the charger, nothing happened. This isn’t the first time it hasn’t charged when inserted into the poorly designed charger. In fact, I’ve had two other occasions when it’s failed to charge right up. In those cases I fiddled with it until it finally connected and charged to at least four flashing lights.

Today was different, though. No amount of fiddling or resetting seemed to be helping. There just wasn’t any life in the sucker. Some one made the random suggestion that I clean the contacts on the charger and the Fitbit Flex. A cotton swab and a bit of rubbing alcohol on the tip and I gently rubbed the ends and wiped them dry. Same to the prongs inside the charger. As soon as I plugged it back in, wham-o, we had contact! The rubbing alcohol seemed to work. I suppose the thing does get dirty with our sweaty wrists so close to the contacts, but still, it seems like the charger would be a little better designed as well. The device does not sit into the cradle very well.

Regardless of their design decisions, I’ve found a – temporary? – solution to my issue with the Fitbit Flex. If you’re having similar issues, might I suggest you try cleaning the tips as I’ve described above. Good luck, fellow traveler, and be safe.

Netgear Wi-fi Booster (WN1000RP)

Our house isn’t huge, but because of where our wi-fi setup is located, we have a weak spot at the opposite end of our house. This, of course, is where our gaming consoles are located and our bedrooms, where our son uses his iPad and I use my Surface 2. We have issues here, especially when trying to stream any media like Netflix or Youtube. Stuttering, freezing, fuzzy screens and download issues with the game consoles. I had decided that the only cure would be to call Comcast and move our entire wi-fi setup moved to the middle of the house. They’d have to come run a new wire into the center room or our house, which is a spare bedroom that will soon become the baby’s room. My wife wasn’t thrilled with having a cable modem, wi-fi router and cables installed in this room, so that option was quickly becoming null and void before it even got started.

I’d been researching wi-fi extenders/boosters as a second option. These have extremely mixed reviews. People either have horrific stories of them not working, or happy stories of everything being perfect. I was steering away from this for awhile. Last night while shopping in Target, however, I saw the Netgear Wi-fi Booster, model WN1000RP, sitting on the shelf, staring at me. I figured, what the heck, I’ll give it a try before calling Comcast out and forever scarring our future child’s room with electronic gear.

I popped the sucker open, read the mini instruction manual, plugged the little device into a wall socket, then immediately WN1000RP_3-4Rt2_440x293_3Jul13looked up Youtube videos on suggested setup procedures. EpicReviewsTech on Youtube offered a handy little video that got me hooked up and running in about 5 minutes. I chose to use the exact same network ID and password so that our devices would view it as one single network. I went to check and make sure everything looked good, had 3 steady green lights, and began testing my devices in the weak zones of our house. They work perfectly!

Signal strength runs either full “bars” or around the 60-75% range depending on the device. Tablets work best, it seems, but the gaming consoles, PS4 and 360, have the 60-75% signal strength, but they’re also enclosed in an armoire style entertainment center. Not sure if that has anything to do with it, but it works itself out in my mind, so we’re good.

I have no complaints – so far – with the Netgear Wi-fi Booster, and while it may be too early to say, I haven’t had to reset or reboot the little plug device yet (which was an issue I had read, having to constantly reboot/resync the booster.)