Sunday, 27 November 2016

Strolling, Sales and Solar Scams

The word of the week is convoluted.

Nov 21 – You Cane Do It...!

I walked to work today for the first time in three months - and without a cane!

My girlfriend and I are going to be walking to work( and hopefully home from work as well )for the near future, as we want to not only see each other more often but also get some basic exercise too. As it happens, our morning groups coincide for at least some distance, so as long as we time it correctly we can take a stroll together at least once a day for a few minutes, which is nice.

I was just happy that I was able to walk for 15 min. at a steady pace without needing a cane, though I did wear my elastic leg brace on my right leg just to be sure I wasn't straining things overmuch. By not using a cane, I'm not twisting my body with each step, which has been causing some muscle distress in my right abdomen if I do it for too long in a day or over the course of a few days.

It's still a work in progress; I expect that I'll have to be taking things easy for at least another month before I can put any sort of more-than-normal strain on my right leg without causing my inside-leg /groin tendon any permanent damage or discomfort. I'm paying extremely close attention to what I'm doing, how I'm walking and how my leg is feeling, so uncomfortable going cane-less at this point so long as I have my brace with me and aren't walking more than about 20 min. at a stretch.

Eventually I'll be able to get back to some gentle cycling in the new year, I hope, so I can get my fitness levels back up to where they were when this all started last August. It's just being so damn long a process, slowly healing...

Nov 22 – Trek VR in 2017

Oh, the possibilities...

If I do manage to get a deal on a mid-range video card this coming weekend, one of the things I'll be able to do with it is play virtual-reality games - at some point. Probably right after I managed to get a VR headset and upgrade my computer, which would point to sometime around 2018 by my financial calendar... But at least I'll be able to bring my 'new' video card from 2016 along for the ride.

I think of all the VR games that are coming down the development pipe in the next three years, the one I really want to try the most is Star Trek: Bridge Crew, which I've mentioned already in this blog and is getting close to release currently, in mid-2017.

I suggested to my lady that part of a promo for the game could be a contest to WIN an online 'VR Bridge Session' with 3 cast members of Star Trek - how cool would that be?

Pretty damn cool, if you ask me.

Nov 23 – Rooting Around

More time spent fiddling around today...

But for a purpose: to root my OnePlus One phone, so I can take full control of things and see if I can get it to behave / stop overheating like it does daily now. If it comes down to it, I can just replace the operating system with a new ROM, of which there are at least half a dozen different variants to choose from and any one of which is as good as or better than the current default / stock ROM it comes with.

 Which is a much better option than looking to buy the latest OnePlus phone, the 3T:

That's... not a bargain, by anyone's standards.

Considering that I purchased the OnePlus One in 2014 for $475 CDN including taxes, US exchange and shipping, the price of the new 3T takes it well out of any consideration for purchase.  It's no longer a great value for the price and indeed it now falls squarely in the range of current 'flagship' phone pricing from the major manufacturers like Samsung, HTC and others. Bottom line: it's WAY beyond my budget.

But what I don't have really is time: the rooting process is not an easy or simple one, as there's a high probability of rendering my phone useless if I don't do it correctly. In addition, many of the tutorials out there require that you wipe the data on your phone completely and start fresh, which only adds to the time needed to complete the project as you have to reinstall every app that you have in order to get back to the set up that you were using before you decided to root the phone.

I’m going to mess around with the phone for the next few weeks, on and off and see how far I get in unlocking and rooting the phone. The first thing I'm doing is making sure I have a backup of all my apps, contacts, text messages and the like; it's a good thing that my photos are automatically backed up via Google Drive, so at least I don't have to worry about those.

Tick, tick, tick...

Nov 24 –  Back It Goes

Sometimes, I wonder...

As it happens, my sister's new cell phone - a ZTE Axon 32gb, bought last week - died today, for no reason. One minute she was using it just fine for SMS messages, at 50% battery and the next minute: screen's black, phone's dead. We'd had it for a total of 3 days.

Um, what?

So I did all the usual: plugged it into ZTE's charger, no go. Tried another charger: nada. Tried a plethora of Android force-you-to-work boot tricks: nope. It's dead, Jim... good thing I have a 2-week return period, and this defect surfaced when it did. I'll be returning it to Canada Computers, where I bought it for $219.00 for a refund, RMA email's been logged and all that. BUT: my sister's back to her old phone, and that's longer in the tooth than something a Neanderthal might have owned.

Now, the phone's $209 this week( and likely next, as well )on, but I'm wary of buying the same problem again, though admittedly less so with Newegg, whose return policies are pretty decent( and I'm a Premier Member, to boot ). The ZTE Axon's a great deal, with solid specs for the price, and as an unlocked phone it means that my sister's not stuck in a costly 2-year contract for a device with similar specs for twice the price.

I'll see what other deals pop up on Cyber Monday( the 28th )but I have a feeling in the end that I'll get the same model ZTE again, as it's still the best deal I've seen in Canada. No way I'm going to bother shopping for US buys, as the exchange / duty would kill any sort of savings their current sales would give.

Such is the life of the Savvy Shopper...

Nov 25 – Black Friday? Nah.

It's just another day to me today, surprisingly.

Unlike most people today, in looking through some of the various sales flyers for Canadian Black Friday this year, I was struck by my total lack of interest. I'm good enough at finding bargains and watching for sales that most everything I saw in the flyers was close were the same to the prices I'm used to paying with my frugal shopping skills, so nothing really jumped out at me as being special about the sales today.

I'm content with what I have, that it's well-maintained and serves my needs. I keep on top of what my family needs well enough that I can spend a few months looking for various things on a regular basis and that's almost always enough time to find a good deal online either new or used. It's rare that I purchase anything at full price anymore, which always happens out of necessity rather than choice. I know in general for most everything that I use( or will need ) where the best places to buy it, off-line or online, and how much it should cost. I do most of this without coupons either, which for the most part aren't worth the time, I've found.

I shed not a tear
 for Black Friday this year...

As for what I need, well... that can't be bought.

A good job, a roof over my head( lead-footed neighbors notwithstanding )friends, family, a brilliant and beautiful girlfriend... these are the things important to me, and not necessarily in that order.

All the rest, well... I'll find things as I need them, and pay what I can, when I can. I'm certainly not going to buy something just because it's on sale; those days are long, long behind me now.

Nov 26 – Shining Light on Scams

If it's too good to be true...

It's all well and good to get excited about some new product, if it fills a need in your life or otherwise looks to be a Good Thing for humanity in general.. but there's always caveats, and often times those little 'by-the-ways' get glossed over when it comes to selling people things - it's the nature of business, in a way.

Which means you should always think 'If it's too good to be true...'

Case in point: spinning solar cells - yup, they exist:

Supposedly, the design above allows for greater efficiency, as it keeps the cells cool and allows the device to maximize available sunlight by always having cells pointing at the Sun. However, a closer look at the design reveals many problems, the first and most damning of which is that assumptions have been made regarding the science behind the design, which reveal fundamental flaws - check it out.

It's a shame, because it looks cool... but that doesn't mean it'll actually work as well as the creators have projected. So: back to 'If it's too good to be true...'

Nov 27 – Pondering Prices

After spending a good part of the morning with my girlfriend, I came home and did some more research on video cards... like I haven't been doing enough the last month or so already.

Out of all the options out there, I've narrowed it down to 3 or so video cards, and I'm just now waiting to see if tomorrow's Cyber Monday sales might affect their prices - hopefully, at least one will drop in price a decent amount.

Even though I've earmarked some funds for the purchase, it's been a difficult pill to swallow that it's still going to be a couple of hundred dollars for a decent video card. The fact that the card should last me at least another 2 to 3 years is some small consolation, and since I'm choosing to go with an AMD branded device, I can purchase a second one( most likely used! )in another year or two to stretch the budget, as I've mentioned before.

It's just the initial pain of the purchase that bothers me, and so I've been diligent in searching everywhere on the Internet to find the best deal. I've even regularly hung around in some chatrooms on Twitch.TV for the last two months, as AMD has been sponsoring streamers to give away a video cards each week, but even with the odds of just a few hundred one, I've not been able to win one - darn the luck!

Such a USEFUL site...! :-)

One site that's really helped me in the last week is, which amalgamates hardware costs across all of the major online stores in Canada. It's regularly updated with sale prices, though unfortunately I discovered you have to be fast if you find a great price because everyone else is also using the website, so stock disappears quickly, sometimes a matter of minutes for the really great deals..

Which is why I will be hovering on PC Part Picker tonight after 9 PM, in the hopes of shaving another $30-50 dollars off my purchase, with a little luck.

See y'all next week!

It was a long week; each of the first three weeks of November, were short weeks for me thanks to Thanksgiving, which was really great. This was a long 5-day week, with some stressful days one after another. My upper back is a full of knots tonight, though I've managed to calm them with the judicious application of my back massager, so that's been quite helpful. This week coming should be