Changed Up My Windows Phone Start Screen

One of the best features about Windows Phone 8 is the start screen.  Live Tiles alone make the start screen more functional than anything you will find in iOS.  I can look at my screen and instantly see all types of info, whether it’s the current weather, upcoming calendar events, etc.  I like to change up the tiles on my phone every once and a while based on the usage.

Currently I have my family group at the top which keeps all my family contacts all together.  I can see the latest updates such as Twitter and Facebook updates from my family, which is very useful to those who have kids.  Messaging and e-mail are also at the top as they are frequently used.  Weather Live Tile and Xbox Music are below that.

I have been very happy with Windows Phone, and definitely recommend it.  This is from a Lumia 920.

Surface Type Cover Makes the Difference

I received my Surface RT as a Christmas gift, and although I still need to write about my experience with it, I can say it’s a great device and I enjoy using it.  Mine came with the Touch Cover which I have been using, but today I went out and finally purchased the Type Cover, and what a difference this makes.  The Touch Cover isn’t bad, it’s just fine if you don’t do much typing or just use it for short updates like Twitter or Facebook posts.  I like to do much more than that, and I have been using my Surface more and more for writing blog posts and articles.  The Touch cover just didn’t work for mefor fast and accurate typing.

At $129 I was a bit hesitant and held off for a while.  I still think it’s a bit steep for a keyboard, but with some help from some Best Buy Reward certificates I was able to get it down to a more attractive price.  After using it for just a few hours, I am happy I invested in it.  It’s a bit thicker than the Touch Cover, but really doesn’t add much bulk when closed and the build quality seems high.  The keys are solid and smooth, and I’m able to type just as fast on this as my desktop keyboard.

If you do lots of typing on your Surface, than the Type Cover is what I recommend.  People who do light typing will most likely be fine with the Touch Cover, but if you’re not sure then visit a Microsoft retailer and try them out for yourself.

2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 12,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 20 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Lumia 920 – Best Smartphone I Have Owned

Before I left on vacation I went and bought myself a late birthday present which was the Nokia Lumia 920 smartphone running Windows Phone 8.  It was a decision between the iPhone 5 and the Lumia 920.  I’ve mostly used iPhones over the past few years, but I did have a Windows Phone 7 device as well.  I liked it, but too many quirks made me return to the iPhone.

I’ve been watching closely the progress of Windows Phone 8, and between that and the hardware from Nokia, I decided to take another plunge into Windows Phone.  I’m certainly glad I did.

Lumia 920

Most of the quirks I had with Windows Phone 7 were resolved in WP8, and the hardware side is so much better than the iPhone at half the price (on contract).  The device is bigger than the iPhone with a beautiful 4.5” display.  Some reviewers like to point out the 920 is “big”, but that’s a plus in my book as the larger screen area is much easier on the eyes.

I’ll go into Windows Phone 8 in another article, but it’s no problem for me to say this is much better than the stale iOS platform.  Live Tiles are a great feature, integration with Office and SkyDrive is done right, and overall it’s a smooth experience.

I’ve only had it a short time, so I’ll keep writing about it, but if you are in the market for a new smartphone, give this one a look.


Samsung Focus on eBay

I’m selling my used Samsung Focus on eBay. It runs Windows Phone 7 and would make a great dev phone or replacement.

Never Trade-In Electronics to Amazon [Updated with Amazon Response]

Please read to the bottom where I updated with Amazon’s customer response.

I’m not happy with Amazon at all today. We have an iPad 2 and a new iPad in our household which left the original iPad useless.  After “shopping” around I found the best route would be just to trade it in, and after looking at several options Amazon was offering the most money for it.  I was quoted $240 for excellent condition, and I around $216 for a “good” condition.  This was a 1st generation iPad 32GB wi-fi in excellent condition.  This was in the original box, with accessories, and not a scratch on it.  It was always in a case and cleaned regularly. It met the requirements perfectly:

  • Item is in perfect working condition
  • The original manufacturer packagingand all original accessories are intact
  • There is no visible wear or personalization (markings or engraving)
  • Suitable for presenting as a gift

The next category was “good” which they will assign it to items with minimal signs of use.  I figured even if they nitpicked about something it would fit into this category and around $216 was still better than what I would end up with if I was to sell it on eBay.  Yeah…so much for that. I packed the iPad up and shipped it off.  It was received and even though they say you will receive confirmation and payment within 2 business days, it ended up being about a week.  I sent an e-mail off to customer service just to inquire and they gave the usual canned response that it will be processed soon.  About 20 minutes later I received the payment e-mail, and to my surprise it was only for $127 as the condition was downgraded to “acceptable”.  Looking further they said it had “minor cracks or dents”.  Pure BS.

amazon trade-inThe mistake I made was choosing not to have it returned if it wasn’t in the like new condition.  I opted for that because as I said before, the worst I figured it could have been was in good condition and a bit of decrease in price wouldn’t be a big deal.  As you see, a price of $127 is ridiculous.

These are the images I took as I was packing it:

The iPad was nearly flawless and should not have been downgraded to “acceptable”.  They either rushed the processing just to get it done, or lied about the condition.  Either way, there doesn’t seem to be any way to have it looked at again.  I’d really like to see what “scratches and dents” they supposedly found.

Needless to say, I will never trade-in electronics – and probably anything else – to Amazon.  I’m a regular customer and Prime member, and I might also have to reconsider that as well.

Update [October 18th]:

I also sent this blog post to Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.  My intent was only to express my experience as I thought it was unfair that there wasn’t a way to challenge the determination of what is acceptable.  Less than a day later I received an e-mail from a member of their Executive Custom Relations team explaining that they will investigate my issue and get back to me within a week.  Just that lone made me happy knowing someone at Amazon was looking into my experience.

After just a few days I received a response back that the item was checked and had a dent in the back.  I still deny this as I detailed above, so I can only guess it was dented when they unpacked it.  Regardless, Amazon apologized for my experience and offered some promotional credits as a goodwill gesture.

I appreciate the response Amazon gave and have turned an unhappy customer into a happy one again.  Great customer service like this is what makes me purchase from Amazon.  Although I still say be cautious when trading in, be sure to elect to have the items returned to you if you don’t agree with their pricing conditions.  Even though I had a rough experience, I would still give them another shot at trade-ins in the future just for their great customer service.


Upgrading the M&P15 Handguard with UAG Rails

I finally started the upgrades on my Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport rifle.  I’ve been wanting to do it for a while, but kept pushing it off so I wanted to get it done so I can move on to other projects.  This is an awesome AR in both performance and price, but it was time to put some accessories on it and I started off with replacing the plastic handguard with a picatinny aluminum rail from UAG.  I went with the UAG because pretty much all the reviews were positive and for just $40 they were a great deal.

Installing them took about 15 minutes or so, and I didn’t need a special tool to get the handguards off.  It takes a bit of effort and a couple of tries, but once you get the delta ring pushed down you just pry the handguards apart with a screwdriver and they are off.  The new ones go on and are secured with a few screws.

I haven’t decided yet on what accessories such as lights, grips, lasers, etc. I’m going to add.  I’m just going to add one or two and see what works and what doesn’t.

M&P15 handguard rail

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