Halloween Fix

Last year I bought a second one of these hanging flaming baskets from Spirit Halloween. This year, I put them out again and a couple of hours into the first night the newer one failed, completely.

Unimpressed, I brought it back down and took it apart. Inside was a very cheap 120 Vac to 12 Vac board, slightly modified from the standard part with the same part number to add a 12 Vdc output to drive the fan that blows the material up to emulate flames.

Given that I couldn’t get an exact matching part to replace the one that died, and that these are only about $25 to buy new, I decided that instead of fixing it, I would improve it.

Continue reading

Bayport HOA: Too Militant?

I will admit, from the very early days the concept of an HOA has always concerned me. Not because they are inherently bad, but because their boards tend to attract people who want to control their neighbors lives. To dictate what people can and cannot do with their own homes. For the first 10 years we were in the house, the HOA was, for the most part, not acting unreasonably. Their main focus was on improving the landscaping to make it more economical to maintain, especially in light of water shortages and the rapidly increasing cost of water. Then came the parking disputes and the more militant board members.

Continue reading

AirPods: Buy Again?

I have had a set of Apple AirPods for over a year now, and used them heavily for conference calls, listening to podcasts and occasionally for music too. Having had them for a while though, and noticing that the battery life on them was dropping (especially the left one), I started wondering whether I would choose to replace them with AirPods again when they do finally fail.

Continue reading

BenefitWallet: Customer Service At Its Worst

The HR service my new employer uses, JustWorks, does not, it seems, partner with the best service companies. Our health insurance is with Aetna, and is awful by comparison with other plans. The dental and vision benefits are also through Aetna, and worse than the more common plans I’ve had previously.

All of that is nothing compared to BenefitsWallet though. JustWorks are using BenefitsWallet to provide the FSA and HSA options. They sent me information to sign up in the middle of June, and again on July 1. I was traveling however, and only got around to it trying to sign up this evening.

Continue reading

Protecting Personal Information

Do you know what personal information it is important to protect? Have you ever thought about what could happen if people manage to piece together the various bits of information about you that are stored in various databases or filing cabinets to create a more complete picture?

More specifically, most people in the US know not to share their Social Security Number with people at random. How about your driver’s license number, or state ID card number? Your passport number?

Continue reading

Jaguar I-Pace Sales

One of the electric cars that I was eagerly awaiting was Jaguar’s I-Pace. I visited a local dealer one weekend when they had one on loan to show off; I went for a test drive in it at the San Francisco car show last year. And it was great. In fact, of the three cars I had been watching from the day their concepts were announced, the Jaguar was the only one that stayed true to the concept car in my mind.

Reviewers around the world also love it, and while its lower than expected range was a disappointment, it is still over 200 miles between charges, and it is capable of 100kW charging (if you can find a charger capable of delivering that).

Yet sales, even from the start, seem to be slow. When I first asked the dealer, they didn’t expect to have any available until early 2019 for those that had not pre-ordered. Just a few weeks after launch, they called to say they did have some in stock for immediate purchase, and that has been true every time I’ve checked their website. In fact, all the dealers here have them in stock. So what is wrong?

Continue reading

Mojave

Fujitsu S1500M

I’ll admit, I am typically slow to update to the new versions of Mac OS X, mostly out of fear of what peripherals I have that might stop working completely, or require me to jump through hoops to get working again. In the case of Mojave, the risk was my venerable Fujitsu document scanner, an S1500M, which I love and since it is still working perfectly I am loath to even consider replacing (even more so since I’ve been told that newer ScanSnap devices have a faulty license manager on the software that causes headaches at every update). Back to Mojave… I checked the interwebs for information, and on the Fujitsu site I found this statement:

ScanSnap S1500/S1500M does not support macOS Mojave. There are no plans for adding support in the future since the support for ScanSnap S1500/S1500M has already ended.

Fujitsu Global Support

Not promising, and right now we enter the craziness of tax season here in the US, the scanner gets more use than at any other time of the year.

Continue reading

Scooter Shares in Alameda

I received an email over the weekend from Bird, one of the companies behind electric scooter sharing here in the SF area stating the following:

The City of Alameda will consider banning shared electric scooters at a City Council hearing on December 4th at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall! Let’s remind city leaders that Alameda residents want access to affordable, environmentally-friendly options such as Bird in their city. 

The backlash against these scooters in San Francisco came as a surprise in a city that claims to be progressive, and it was disappointing to see the city ban them, then decide to run small scale trials of them with different companies from the two who pioneered the service, and in limited numbers. To see Alameda follow this crazy, illogical path is even more depressing.

Continue reading

Uber’s Response

[This is a follow up to my earlier post about this issue.]

Over the weekend, Uber’s escalations team replied to the ongoing email thread, though the reply was basically the same as all their others. At least this one did not try to say that it was because I had explicitly opted not to use the credit, but their position is still “tough luck – we changed it, didn’t tell you and we don’t care.” Not a great bit of customer service.

Continue reading

Uber’s Amex Credits Scam

One of the benefits that comes with my American Express card is a monthly $15 Uber credit. I don’t use it often, but on our recent trip to Florida, the timing worked perfectly for us to make use of it for both our trip to the airport at the very end of September and on the return about 10 days later in early October.

It appears that during our trip Uber made a change to the way this scheme works (although at least some of their support people seem unaware of that).

Continue reading