Archive for April, 2011

So I’ve had my first BAD experience with Apple and the iPad and perhaps I’m a bit premature but there obviously needs to be a better solution to any problem with apps.   I recently purchased an app and it won’t run on iPad 2 although the App Store CLEARLY states that it is iPad compatible.   Well I guess it *may* run on iPad 1 but it doesn’t run on iPad 2.  The app just crashed upon start up, I wrote the developer and he claims a release will be updated next week that fixes the problem….oh joy next week…the checks in the mail….etcetera…..etcetera.

I figured I could easily get a refund but that’s where Apple has let me down.   The policy seems to be “NO REFUNDS” which I find quite distasteful and not very helpful.   I can easily accept that policy if the app worked as advertised and I simply didn’t like the features or functionality but I can’t even get the app to run!

It’s become abundantly clear that Apple needs to IMPROVE their app policy, almost every major retailer in the real world offers up to 30 days return on almost all items.    I would be happy with a 24 hour no questions asked return policy on Apps.   Heck I’ll settle for two hours of try it before you buy it but this policy is totally insane!

I guess I could develop crap applications, sucker a few thousand people at a time to buy them at $0.99 and when Apple catches on, move over to a new “company” and develop another crap app and sucker a few thousand people….rinse and repeat and rake in tens of thousands a month!

The one word of advice is to READ THE REVIEWS and if it’s anything less than 5 stars BUYER BEWARE!

I got an offer when I signed into my bank account the other day.  It was for a “free” vacation with a loan of $25,000 or more so intrigued I called up the bank about the offer.  Essentially, it is a 3 night stay at any hotel in the United States (restrictions apply) for taking a loan out of at least $25,000.   The key question to ask here is what is the loan rate….so I asked and got an answer back of 7.9% for 36 months or 6.9% for 24 months.

Let’s do the math!

Borrowing $25,000 for 36 months at 7.9% will yield monthly payments of $782.26.   So if we take $782.26 and multiply that by 36 = $28,161.23.    So if we subtract the total payments of $28,161 from the original loan amount ($25k) we get = $3,161.23.    So that “free” hotel costs $1,053.74 per night!

Borrowing $25,000 for 24 months at 6.9% will yield monthly payments of $1,118.18.   So if we take the $1,118.18 and multiply that by 24 = $26,836.36.  So if we find the delta we get $1,836.36.   If we divide that by three then we get $612.12 per night!

Certainly a 24 month loan is better than a 36 month loan for the “free” vacation but still, $612 per night is pretty expensive.   Am I going to sign up for the loan?   Actually, I may do it but with a few caveats; first I need to find out if there is an early pre-payment penalty.  The smart thing to do is get the loan, use the free vacation and pay it back immediately or within a month.   A month of interest is only $76.50 so even going out a full three months will likely result in a break even point.

Also, I intend on doing a magic trick in turning a non-dischargable debt (student loans) into dischargable debt bank signature loan.   In the event I have to file bankruptcy (for any reason), I won’t need to worry about student loan debt piling on….and that’s how you get rich slick kids.

Regular readers know that I am no big fan of charities.   The few times I have  given money I ended up regretting as these charities squander my money with mass mailing for just more requests for more money….so I finally decided to try to give money directly away to people that I knew would have a direct positive impact on someone’s life.

I first started with an amazing idea, I will allow a local church group to earn $1,500 for re-landscaping my backyard.  I would go out an buy all the plants, soil, materials, etc needed for this project and the local church group need only provide the labor.  With quite a few (needy) kids, I figured this would be a no-brainer but guess what?   After FOUR months of failed promises to appear and constant rescheduling, we finally got into mid-April and my landscape still looks like total crap.

To make matters worse, my wife decided to host Easter and invite a ton of people over to our house.  Well gee…that’s a great idea except an Easter egg hunt is an outdoor activity and my landscape looks like crap.   Well since the church group never delivered, I opted to hire kids directly to do the project.   I got word out to a couple of kids to come over this past weekend to help clear weeds and plant new plants and although there was interest, no one could commit because of other (non-paying) engagements.

I understand sports, clubs, and friends are important but if you need money and someone is offering to pay you WAY ABOVE average pay rates, then you’d think people would jump at the chance but it didn’t happen.    I could have easily gone to Home Depot to pick up 3 or 4 illegals and paid them $50 for a day of work to do it all but that is just so wrong on so many levels but I see them eager to get work on any day of the week.  When it was all said and done, my wife, kids and I spent our entire weekend planting a variety of trees, shrubs and plants for our front and backyard all by ourselves.   I obviously saved $1,500 but I really wanted to give that money to charity.   Oh well, as a reward my wife and kids will get iPads 2 as soon as I can find them in stock somewhere.    It’ll be their summer end–0f-school gifts and a birthday present for my wife – they earned it!

 

So I’ve had my iPad for about a week now and my App collection continues to grow.   While there are many Top 10 iPad lists out there, I haven’t quite yet come across the quintessential intellectual ipad app list yet.    So here are my top 10 apps for the quintessential intellectual:

1. KhanAcademy (Free) – If you have curiosity about the world, love to learn, or just plain need help understanding concepts, then this is the app for you.    From subjects like Biology, Physics, Calculus, and Chemistry to so much more, you’ll find learning lessons on just about any subject.

2. AgWine ($3.99) or AgWine Lite (Free) – No self-respecting intellectual should be without this app which provides detailed information about wine, grapes, country of origin (wines) and so much more!

3. iBooks (Free) or Kindle (Free) – I rely on iBooks and this web site http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/ to download the vast majority of free eBooks.  The Kindle app is best used for books you wish to purchase (IMHO) as the books are accessible from multiple devices as opposed to purchasing from Apple.  My current free eBook collection includes:  The Art of War, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, The Republic, The Prince, Ulysses and a few other titles.

4. OverDrive Media (Free) – Library meets iPad!   If your local city library has any eBooks, this is the app you want to use to check out books and read for free!

5. Quick Graph (Free) – Have a complex equation you want to see graphed for free?  This is your app for complicated graphing of 2D and 3D equations.

6. FlipBoard (Free) – This brilliant application will aggregate blogs, news, and pretty much any other content and the capability is only limited by your imagination.

7. World Atlas HD ($1.99) – Why not just stick with Google Earth?  Sometimes, less information is better and this app has a clean look and feel to it and provides insight into countries of the world – all of them!

8. Art ($0.99) ADS Software Group – There are plenty of  “art” applications but this is one that provides information about artists displays very nice artworks.  The SlideShow feature will keep you mesmerized for hours on end!

9. iPod (Free) – There is an icon on your iPad called iPod.   While straight forward enough, this is a gateway to podcasts which can range from Harvard and Oxford lectures to virtually any podcast on any subject which may enlighten the human being.

10.  Epicurious (Free) – While perhaps not a true  “intellectual” app, this compilation is intended to give you all the tools to bring together your good friends to have a great discussion, dinner, and wine.   Whether the conversation is around art, philosophy, academics, culture, or contemporary subjects, you’ll be set!

So I purposefully ordered a non-3G iPad that uses AT&T or Verizon for three key reasons.  First, I didn’t want to pay the ridiculous fees for internet service on ridiculous bandwidth/usage limits.  Secondly, while 3G is hot today, it will be obsolete in 12 months when 4G takes over and you’re going to wish you had 4G or 5G or 6G on your iPad but it’s not upgradeable!   Lastly, you can’t freaking share!   If I buy a few more iPads for my wife and kids am I supposed to sign up for 3G service on each one?  That’s totally stupid!

So what’s the solution?  Well my employer provides me with a Blackberry 9630 with unlimited usage and no tethering fees.  I work for a big company and they put the screws on the cell phone bidders and I pretty much have unlimited internet on my BB.   I initially tried using bluetooth to share the blackberry internet with my iPad but it just wouldn’t work.   A search on google revealed that I would need to jailbreak the iPad which was a no go for me either.

So after searching for a solution, I found one using CradlePoint Technology.   Essentially the way this works is you tether your Blackberry 9630 to the router.  The router emits WiFi on one end and pulls the internet in from the Blackberry’s 3G service.    The beauty of this solution is that it I can have up to 16 devices on the router getting internet access.   For my family that essentially means I can have 3 or 4 iPod Touch’s, 3 iPads, 2 laptops and a few other devices hooked up to it for ZERO cost!

There are a few draw backs, the range of the WiFi router is limited to about 60 feet or so but if you’re on vacation you’ll likely be together anyway so using it in a car on a long trip or hotel room or other locations is highly feasible.    I also now have to carry an extra device with me but its fairly small and portable. Lastly, sharing internet amongst two or three devices is fine for simple browsing and other tasks but don’t expect to have HD streaming from Netflix on this thing and two other people playing online games at the same time, it just not that fast yet….

And that yet is what I want to talk about, the router has upgradable firmware so it is my hope that when 4G, 5G, etc is available, the router will continue to work as speeds get better.    The cost of this router was $76.99 on Amazon and I had a $30 gift card I received for staying at a hotel recently so net cost was $46.99 tax free and shipping free!

Here’s a picture of the CradlePoint setup.

If you want 4G support in your router be sure to get version 2 of the device!   It should state in the description.     If you want to know if your blackberry model or other mobile device works with this you can click here.

And here’s a message from our sponsor 😉

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlkT7gRM0xo

Prior to getting my iPad 2, I had been researching “Top 10 iPad Apps” lists and it took a long while to find worthwhile apps so I figured I’d share that information with readers here.   Rest assured, you’re not going to find the typical crap you find on most lists.   Sorry there’s no app listed here for tracking your grocery budget or tracking coupons.  These apps will help you become better informed for making investment decisions or tools to allow you to make some money in the process.   I guess you could call these money making apps for the iPad!

1. E-trade Mobile App (Free) – By far the most elegant trading application and far much better than TDAmeritrade’s App.  Designed around a widget concept, each individual window caters to specific information (portfolio, news, quotes, etc).   I have already placed an options order on this app and it was sweet!
2. TDameritrade Mobile Trading (Free) – A pretty ugly trading application and the only reason on my iPad is because I have an account here.   TDameritrade should be ashamed of itself and develop a better app or buy eTrade.
3. CNBC RT (Free) – This is CNBC’s app and it’s a pretty sweet application that gives you most of the information you’ll typically find on CNBC including videos, quotes, news, and finance information.
4. Bloomberg (Free) – Competition is a good thing and I like Bloomberg’s app as much as CNBC’s.
5. BA  II Plus Financial Calculator ($14.99) – One of the few apps I’ve actually paid for and at $14.99, its a bit pricey considering you can buy a physical calculator for about the same price however I bought it because it is a daily staple of my life for work and school and I don’t have to worry about forgetting my calculator as I take it in and out of my bag for use.   Plus, no additional extra weight to worry about in my bag when I get on a plane.   With this app you can calculate cash flows, bond rates, interest rates, amortization, and so much more!

6. CBOE (Free) – This is the Chicago Board Options Exchange app and I’m a bit disappointed its so clunky and not user friendly.  My pet peeve is when checking options on an equity, you can’t select by strike price across calendar, your only option is calendar by strike.
7. MarketDash (Free) – Yahoo’s stock app which doesn’t seem to include options data which is very disappointing but a handy app nonetheless for charts and graphs of equities.
8. Thomson Reuters Pro (Free) – One of the best news organizations has one of the best looking apps for news out there and information is the path to money!
9. Amex (Free) – If you have a personal or corporate Amex card, you need this app!  It helps you review your accounts and manage money flows.

I just got my iPad 2 and I am totally blown away. My MacBook pro is sitting in the corner and I haven’t missed a beat. I am glad I waited for the new one because the camera is awesome.

I will follow up with another post with my top iPad apps but this device is definitely a game changer for the computing world. Just to give you an idea, I have traded stocks and options, I have calculated some net present value calculations, checked email on multiple accounts, checked my blogs, caught up on news and typed this post all on my iPad in a day alll without having to boot up a damn computer!

I am seriously thinking about learning to program apps on this platform because it is the future but we’ll see how steep the learning curve is for that!  Oh yeah, and the best part of getting my ipad was that it was tax free baby!

So I’m on a business trip working in my hotel room and I’m watching a show on TV called “Extreme Couponing” and they show person after person walking away from the grocery store with $1,200 of grocery items for $2.00 or less.

Interesting but how do they do it?  Well you won’t learn a damn thing from this useless show because they don’t show how exactly these people are doing it.   All you get is “clipping coupons from Sunday fliers” type information.

They also show people stocking up on 100 bottles of hand soap or mustard but seriously, do you really need this much soap or mustard?   I know ALL of my local grocery stores have limits on how much stuff you can buy especially with coupons so it’s not like I can walk in there with a coupon and get 100 bottles of soap for free either.

Ultimately, the show is a bit disingenuous as I tried to play the coupon game a couple of years ago when I was on “hiatus” from employment.  It didn’t work out because most of the coupons were for useless junk that I wouldn’t buy anyway even if it were free!

 

Women have long complained of being put in a position of being the “maid” in the family.  You know, lifting all those “heavy” dirty clothes putting them in a box called a washing machine, pushing a button and then transferring them to a drier and pushing another button….

Well I think men can now officially call themselves the “digital janitor” in the household.   As the proliferation of electronic devices continues to increase in our home (DVRs, iPods, laptops, desktops, cell phones, digital cameras, etc), I presume that it is also happening across other households.   With all the photos, music, documents, and other electronic junk floating around I assume that an inevitable pile of digital trash starts stacking up and that’s exactly where we are right now.

I recently installed a 7 TB array in my home to help protect all those precious digital moments and documents and we continue to pile up junk in it.   That’s not the worse part, I recently came back from another business trip and turned the TV and DVR on to see a show I had hoped to watch from a week or two ago.  What I found were countless kid and girlie shows (the wife) on the DVR that no one had bothered to clear up.   I spent the better part of half an hour deleting all the old crap.    It then occurred to me that I seem to be the digital janitor in the house always cleaning up computers of crap, deleting and purging the computers in a periodic clean up and disposing of old computer data.

Suddenly, I smell a business opportunity here for “digital janitors” whereby we come to your home and do a weekly cleaning of your DVR, iPads, iPods, Digital cameras, etc.   I am expecting my iPad 2 soon, is there an app for that?