Another Comcast Issue

Comcast is one of my perpetual dilemmas. One one hand, the service is pretty solid (and certainly better than anything AT&T could manage), but on the other they are such a terrible company to do business with. Then there is their telephone support, which takes appalling customer service to record breaking lows, but is contrasted by their Twitter based support team which are among the best support people I’ve ever worked with.

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Canon S120

Earlier this week I noticed that the Canon camera I had been thinking of getting, the S120, was on sale at Amazon so I ordered one. With their Prime service it arrived here quickly (actually quicker than I expected as OnTrac delivered on Saturday even though it was slated for delivery on Monday in the tracking info.

The features that drew me to this one were the Wi-Fi capability (so I can pull photos from the camera to my iPhone or Nexus 4 anywhere I am, even without a wifi based internet connection), the high speed lens (f/1.8) and the 1080p HD video. The only real negatives were the limited 5x zoom, and the relatively low pixel count compared to other similar offerings from other companies. But 12MP is still respectable, and the zoom is OK for most uses I will actually have for the camera. 

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On Demand TV

Our toddler has found a few episodes of programs that are available on Netflix that he really likes, and he keeps asking for those same episodes. As hard as we try to get him to watch different ones, he keeps asking for the same ones that he really likes. Now, granted he doesn’t get to see much TV, so not risking the limited time you are allowed TV watching a new episode that you might not like is a low risk option, but what struck me more was not that he did this as much as how his generation are growing up without the limitations of scheduled television.

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Coin – A Smart Credit Card

A few years ago, when Square launched, I was pretty negative about the hype surrounding it mostly because the continued dependency on magnetic stripe bank cards in the US mystifies me. Now I am starting to see smart card and NFC touch payment terminals appear in more and more merchants. So, I was disappointed to see Coin launch what is essentially another solution dependent on the extremely dated magnetic stripe technology.

Admittedly, all the credit cards in my wallet are still using magnetic stripes, but that is something I am seriously hoping will change soon. When I left the UK, almost 16 years ago now, smart cards were already common (locally referred to as “chip & pin”). So why are all these technology companies, not to mention the banks, still focused on magnetic stripes with all of their inherent security problems.

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Engineering Log

Experimenting with a new service called 10 Centuries that allows me to create quick blog posts via an client.

I have created a new engineering log for technical snippets hosted by this service. So, if you’re interested in more technical updates (things I am working on, as well as perhaps hints and tips related to Android, iOS or any other technology I am working with), feel free to bookmark that link.

I am also planning a refresh of this site; you’ll already see that I have moved the site from its old location to become the entire site. Don’t worry though, any links you have should still work – they will just redirect to the new location. There are more changes coming, and part of that will include having the engineering log link placed prominently on this site.

Wireless Point & Shoot

What started as being intrigued by the concept of Sony’s lens cameras, has evolved into a search for a decent quality, medium to high zoom but small camera I can throw in my laptop bag but at the same time connect to my phone to be able to share the photos online immediately.

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Cutting the Cable

Another month, another increase in our Comcast cable TV bill. One too far this time. Several months ago the bill had risen to a level where we thought it was too high for how much TV we watched & we trimmed a number of premium channel packages to reduce it to an acceptable level. Last month it was back up to that same amount even without those channels. It hadn’t jumped to that level though. Instead, it has been on a steady increase. Sometimes just a dollar or so, other times more. Always creeping up.

Meanwhile, we already had Roku boxes downstairs in the family room as well as in the master bedroom which provide us access to unlimited Netflix streaming for just $8 a month & Amazon Prime Video essentially for free since we have prime for the “Amazon Mom” program (if you never use the other elements of Prime, it would still work out at less than $8/month).

There was one wrinkle in the plan: the most common show we watched, when we had the chance to watch anything in the evenings, was House Hunters on HGTV. But we weren’t willing to pay that much for a few hours of TV each month. So, just before our trip to the UK, I called Comcast and canceled the TV service completely, and returned all the TV related hardware. But I kept the internet from them. Factoring in the increased price of “unbundled” Internet, that saves us about $110/month – over $1300/year.

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Yesterday’s discussion around the ParaShoot camera project and whether it was doing any more than rebadging a Chinese ODM’s product, available in bulk on Alibaba already, for sale here in the US or actually developing something novel lead to some thoughts on crowd funding and what they can, or should, be applied to. 

Manu Vollens (@manuvollens) proposed that crowd funding should only be used for disruptive projects:

Whether or not that applies to the ParaShoot project, I do think it is a little too restrictive on the funding model. One of the advantages of crowd funding is that in parallel with raising the money to fund your project you are also gauging the market’s demand for your project. But why should that be limited to disruptive projects?

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