Friday, November 30, 2012

Samsung Transform Ultra Review

I've been wanting to upgrade to a smart phone.  My current phone, the Tracfone Samsung t404g , worked great and was good for texting, but I wanted to be able to have "emergency" internet access when I was out,  be able to move my calendar from the wall to google calendars, have GPS access, and be able to be a mobile hotspot for my tablet if needed.  I really liked having a keyboard, so I wanted one on my smart phone as well.  I didn't need a top of the line phone because I'd rather do most of my web browsing and email on my tablet.  I also wanted a phone that could fit in my pocket and had OK battery life.  I decided on the Samsung Transform Ultra with Ting as the provider.  I really like this phone.

  • fits in my pocket
  • battery life is acceptable (have to charge every other day with my light use)
  • keyboard comes in handy when my fingers refuse to type properly on the onscreen keyboard
  • alarms and calendar come in handy
  • camera does OK
  • works as a hot spot
  • netflix and angry birds run fine

  • original one I got had a broken settings button and was a little unstable, but the one I got as a replacement seems stable and works just fine (I got a refurb)
  • not the fastest processor in the world, but it gets the job done
  • screen is not high-def, I don't care, but others might
  • current version of Kindle app doesn't work well on it (hangs and hard-locks the phone), had to downgrade to an older version
  • When roaming the sms messages don't ring
Other thoughts:
  • not worth paying $200.  It's worth about $70 (the refurb price)

Don't let the long con's list give you the wrong impression.  This is a great phone for someone who doesn't need a top of the line phone. It does exactly what I need it to.

About Ting

Ting is cellular provider I'm using.  It runs on Sprint's network, but will roam for voice onto verizon.  I thought the rates were reasonable, especially since I won't use much data. I'll pay $25 a month for 500 minutes, 1000 texts, and 100mb of data.  An advantage is I can add another phone for $6 a month and it can share in the pool of minutes, texts, and data.  Because it is a pay-as-you-go plan, I had to buy my phone (Lucked out and got a refurb for $30).  If you like the idea of Ting, you can go here and get $25 off your phone.

update (1/16/2013):
I've had this phone about two months.  I still really like it for what it is: a quick way to check email, an ebook reader, a gps, and a phone.

Nexus 7 review

For my birthday, my husband surprised me with a Nexus 7.  I love this device.  I use it primarily for reading, web browsing, email, and Facebook.  I've owned an iPod touch 4th gen and the original Kindle Fire.

  •  smooth UI experience (especially with the Jelly Bean update)
  • very nice screen
  • access to the Google Play Store (the Amazon app store for kindle was smaller)
  • support for multiple users so my husband, I, and my kids can all have their own accounts
  • like the live wall papers.  I have these great tropical fish that swim around.
  • bluetooth works well and it can pair with the speaker I had laying around
  • Most websites work well, including the desktop version of (which is a site that most tablet browsers have problems with)
  • PBS streaming videos work well as does netflix
  • Stable, haven't had a hard lock yet (keeps fingers crossed, since I just called down the wrath of Murphy's law)
  • I can put app short cuts exactly where I want them.  
  • Calendar widget is very useful
  • Touch response is almost instant, I don't have to tap twice
  • Browser has this cool magnify feature that if it can't tell which link I clicked, it magnifies a little piece of the screen so I can choose, so no more wrongly clicked links.

  • don't really like the newest version of the kindle app, but that isn't the nexus's fault
  • multiple user support means you need to install apps multiple times, or rather, each account needs access to a Google play account that has a certain app purchased.  I created a new gmail account to just be for apps because I really don't want my kids having access to my mail.
  • I think there are still a few issues with multiple users, relating to memory usage, but a reboot fixes it and it doesn't happen very often
  • access to Amazon videos involves jumping through some hoops.  Installed Firefox Beta because it still supports flash (and the flash apk).  Amazon Prime videos work, but the video controls don't.
  • occasionally gets into a state where settings menus won't pop up for minutes.  Reboot fixes this. I'm not sure why it happens.  My current theory involves too many processes running.  I've installed an app killer.  Next time the problem happens, I'll be able to see if it is memory related.
Other thoughts:
  •  Battery will last all day, probably get a little over a day of web browsing, email, reading, and my kids playing games.  I charge it every night.
  • My husband likes this better than the Kindle Fire.  He didn't like the Fire's screen or laggy interface
So was the upgrade from Kindle Fire worth it?  I don't know.  It is a much nicer user experience over all.  The screen is great.  The faster processor means I'm not waiting around for anything.  My husband likes it a lot better. I'm glad I own it.  But the Kindle Fire did everything adequately.  The Nexus does everything well.

update 12-25-12:
So a few weeks ago my nexus started acting strangely. There was some kind of windowing problem where only the main window of an application would open. This affected facebook, kindle, the settings menus, and google play. I reset to factory defaults and the problem went away (although I also didn't have multiple accounts like I did before). Since the reset, it has been acting fine, so I'm not sure what the problem was.

I also got a bluetooth keyboard for Christmas. It makes typing text so much easier. My kids will be happy since I won't have to kick them off the computer every time I need to type something long.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Kindle Fire HD vs Nexus 7 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 for an upgrade

So, I'm currently wanting a new tablet.  Not that there is anything wrong with my Kindle Fire, but some of the new tablets look even cooler.  I use my Fire mostly for web, email, and reading.  I do watch an occasional Netflix or Amazon video I have downloaded.  My kids use it mostly for games (educational and not so educational).  I have not seen either of these new tablets in person yet.  My pros and cons below are based only on specs and reviews.  I'm hoping to get over to Best Buy at some point [made it, see update below] and see if they have either the Fire HD or the Nexus 7, so I can see them.

Kindle Fire HD
  • Amazon videos and apps I've paid for
  • parental controls
  • HDMI (probably would never use)
  • better WiFi (maybe)
  • no Google integration (keep have delusions of moving my calendar off the wall and onto Google Calendar)
Nexus 7
  • gps (not sure how useful this is without cellular service)
  • Google integration
  • faster processor
  • no amazon video
  • nicer screen
  • nicer user experience
  • more memory
  • camera
  • more memory (16 g)
  • microphone 
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0
  • front and rear camera
  • GPS
  • ice cream sandwich
  • overlays (little pop ups of apps that can go over things)
  • can act as remote control
  • expandable memory
  • Screen resolution (Same as original Kindle Fire)
  • price (sometimes, most places seem to be running this right at $199 which makes it comparable)
  • 8 gigs of memory
  • cameras aren't very good
Token Ipad Mini Comment
Ipad mini looks cool, but it is just so much more expensive.  IOS is a nice user experience, but I hate iTunes. I do have some iTunes videos, so I wouldn't loose those.  I do have an iPod Touch.  My understanding was that iPod apps don't work really on the iPad, so I'd have to rebuy apps.

[updated 10/30/12]
Just found out the nexus 7 is dropping in price to $199.  Now I'm really torn.  I need to decide if I'm keeping the original kindle fire or not.  If I'm not, I would get the kindle fire hd to keep the amazon video and the parental controls.  If I am keeping it, I can just load it with all the apps, movies, books that they use, turn on the limited parental control  and let them have a tablet.

[updated 11-1-12]
Went to Best Buy today and saw the Kindle Fire HD and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0.  (Woman there said Nexus 7 is not any brick and mortar stores(She was wrong, I found it at another retailer later)).   I loved the screen and volume on the Fire HD.  But otherwise, it just didn't seem that much different from my current Fire.  (I didn't try out the camera.)  I actually really liked the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0.  The interface seemed nice.  The camera had serious problems in best buy's lighting.  If it were just a little more awesome, I'd seriously consider it.

So, what to choose.  I haven't decided yet.  I'm leaning towards not upgrading this year.  My Kindle Fire's screen doesn't bug me and the speed fits my needs.  Although, who knows, I may change my mind :)  The Samsung is on sale right now at Costco for $199.

[update 11-3-12]
Went to a local retailer and saw the Nexus 7.  I really liked this device.  User experience was smooth, and I loved the feel of the screen.  I think it is my favorite of the three.  The Fire HD bothered me a tiny bit with all the adds.

For someone buying their first tablet, any of them will work.  Gamer - Nexus 7, Amazon fan / parent - Kindle Fire HD, likes a lot of media - Samsung Galaxy 2.
[Update 11-29-12] Got a Nexus 7 for my birthday. Love it. It is a fun device.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Owl and dinosaur fleece hats for Halloween

This year my daughters are being an owl and a tyrannosaurus rex.  I made these hats out of felt and fleece to go along with their costumes.
The picture doesn't show it, but the t-rex has spikes going down the back.  I think they came out pretty darn cute.

Making them is easy.

  1. Cut a rectangle of fleece.  The length should be the diameter of your child's head plus the seam allowance.  The height is the distance from the middle of your child's ear to the top of their head plus seam allowance (probably about 1/2"). For my 3 year old I had about 20" X 7" (including seam allowance)
  2. Sew a hem along the bottom of the hat (you can also do this at the end, but I'd rather sew a straight piece of cloth than a circle.
  3. fold the hat like it will be when it's finished.  Then figure out where you want your felt animal parts to go and sew them on.  The seam on these hats is down the middle of the back of the head.  On the owl, I sewed the face parts on after the hat was made, but it is much easier to do it before.
  4. fold the rectangle in half, with right side facing in.  Sew along the edge to make seam up the back of the head.  If you are doing a dinosaur, add in the spikes in the seam. (I can't explain this well, basically fold parallel to the short sides, so when fold, the rectangle will be 10" x 7")
  5. Sew across the top of the hat (the side NOT hemmed).  On the dinosaur, I didn't sew straight across. Using a disappearing marker, I drew a bump on each side for eyes and a bump in the middle for the top of Rexy's "head".  Then I sewed along this line.  On a regular hat, you will probably want to sew a curved line that starts about an inch below the top on the sides and peaks at the top, otherwise the hat will have a square look.
  6. Stick hat on your child's head and enjoy.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Awesome strawberry varieties for utah county

This year I planted two varieties of strawberries: Sparkle and Tribute.  Both did very well.  Tribute didn't start fruiting until almost July, but after that did incredible.  We'll see how they survive the winter.  They both also produced a ton of runners.  I'm looking forward to tons of fruit next year.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Chocolate mint ice cream

  • 1 c milk
  • 2 c cream
  • 1/2 c cocoa powder
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 pinch of salt
mix sugar, salt, and cocoa powder.  Mix into milk.  Stir in cream, vanilla, and peppermint.  Refrigerate 2 hrs then put in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kindle Fire vs iPod Touch 4th gen

I'm a sucker for gadgets, and I think touch screens are cool which is how I ended up with a Kindle Fire (original) and an iPod Touch.  I already had an iPod Touch, but I thought it might be nice to have a larger screen and try out android.  I also wanted to have another gadget because half the time my iPod is being used by my husband or kids.  I'm in the process of deciding which of the two devices will be my primary device and my husband will use the other one.

I know a lot of reviews compare the Fire to the iPad, but this doesn't make sense to me since really, the Fire is closer to the iPod Touch. The price point is similar on the 8 gig model of the two devices.

iPod Touch
  • better touch responsiveness
  • more apps
  • brightens/darkens screen automatically
  • buttons for volume
  • camera (but I don't use much, so this is isn't really that big of an asset)
  • microphone (same as camera)
  • light and fits in a pocket 
  • can organize apps into categories on the device
  • better parental controls
(original) Kindle Fire
  • bigger screen
  • fewer apps, although most of the apps I'm most interested in are available
  • can display Amazon videos
  • requires 2 hands to use (at least for me, my wrist starts to hurt if I use it one handed for too long)
  • flash - this means I don't need a special app for facebook or twitter, I can use the web one, also pbskids seems to work just fine
  • tabbed browsing 
  • searching the Amazon app store makes more sense than itunes to me (i.e. you can sort by price)
  • the screen is also big enough to make using web-based google calendar useful
  • can see more text at once in an e-book
both have
  • netflix
  • basic email (gmail and hotmail are painless to set up)
  • music
  • words with friends
I'll probably add more information as time goes by. I haven't decided yet which I like better.  I definitely prefer watching videos on the Fire because the screen is bigger, but in terms of portability, the ipod touch wins.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lego Friends

So thanks to KSL, I now know about Lego Friends, a line of Legos for girls.  Can I just say, Lego did their homework.  The sets are a tree house, a dog show, a horse show, a pool, etc.  I know my two daughters would actually be very interested in these sets.  The sets remind me of Play Mobile.

In the KSL article, there's some people who are upset about having a special line of Legos for girls, but I don't see the problem.  If this introduces girls to Legos and the fun of building, then Lego should go for it.  I can imagine my girls getting the sets, then getting into the regular Legos for added pieces.

I think I may have found one of my daughter's birthday presents:

or maybe this set:
Yeah, that's pretty much her dream Lego set (actually, the dog show is her dream set, but I'm not spending that much on Legos).