Saturday, May 26, 2012

Get Staples coupons, now

Do it now, because it takes several days to get the coupon you want.

If you install a Staples app on your iOS or Android device, you can get one coupon per day. You can save these coupons and use them later. See details here:

What I found:
  • If you use an Android device, it must have a Google account on it. Otherwise you'll get a server error instead of a coupon.
  • Fake GPS is much better than Location Spoofer. You open Google Maps, search for a Staples store, then "share this place" to Fake GPS. Very handy.
  • Once you've got the first coupon, take a photo or snap of the screen for later use. A day later, you can repeat and get the second one. Repeat.
Below is the first coupon I just got. I regret that I did not know this sooner, because what I really need now is the $50 off $299 computer, which will take several days to get at the speed of one coupon per day. This is why I wrote this article so you can start now before too late.

Get market apps without market

In my other article, I reasoned why you should never add a Google account on your phone. The downside is no market so you cannot get apps from market (now called as Google Play). This problem is now solved with a Chrome add-on: APK Downloader.

First, you need to have an Android Device ID that's bound to a Google account. If you already have a device with a Google account on it, you can find them out with an app: Device ID. If you don't have yet, you can add one, get the ID and then do a factory reset to remove the Google account from the device.

Now install Google Chrome on your computer if not yet. Right click on the Google Chrome icon, select properties, add the following line to the end of "Target:":

 --ignore-certificate-errors --allow-running-insecure-content

Note that there is a space before the "--ignore-...".

Close Chrome and open it again. Add the APK Downloader extension. When it asks for options, give the Google account name, ID and password you found out above:

Login and save setting. That's it. You no longer need to do above again.

Now open, find your app, open the app page but don't click on the "Install" link; instead, an icon of robot head with two antennas will appear on the address bar, click on it and the apk downloading will start.

Once you have the apk file, send it to your phone's SDCARD. On your phone, open a file explorer such as ES File Explorer, find the apk and click on it to install.

Seems a little lengthy, but 99% above is an one-time job. Afterward, you simply get the apk and side load it on your device. The best part is: now you can own the apk forever and you don't need to root your phone to get it. No worry that one day Google might remove the app from the store.

This is the auther's site:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Want to try HD radio?

CowBoom is selling a HD boombox for $25:

I listen to portable HD radio with headphones all the time, 7/24, like right now writing this blog at midnight. The great thing about it is steady, noise-free reception, unlike FM that you hear noise and statics even when you turn your head just a little bit. Insignia is by far the only option and, unfortunately, its products suck.

I bought my first Insignia NS-HD01 several years ago. It is actually pretty good: good sound, good reception and good battery life. Buttons are easy for changing stations. However, there is a huge problem: it crashes all the time and each time I have to push the reset button. I have to drill and enlarge the reset hole so I can use the headphone plug to push the button. What a pain in the ass!

I thought it might be a defective unit and I bought the second one on ebay. Exactly the same, it crashes as often if not even more!

They have lost presets few times and I had to re-scan channels and store them. This is fine to live with, but I think I should point it out so you know how crappy this company is.

So, I bought the new version NS-HD02. What a mistake again! The touch screen is very difficult to use. No, I was not expecting something like the iPhone. It is a PITA to change channels, so is to mute - I'd rather turn it off other than muting it. It runs hot and battery lasts only about 5 hours. Now the deal break: reception is too poor to get my favorite stations.

I want this boombox, especially at this price, but should I bother, again?

Why only Insignia is making portable HD radios? Where is Sony, Panasonic and Philips?

[update] Newer batches of NS-HD01 come with newer firmware version 04.00.14. This version no longer crashes. eBay is the best place to buy this HD radio, usually for half the price in BestBuy, i.e., about $20. You may ask the seller to check the version for you:

Power the radio on, press the M button, press the "V" button to highlight "3. Version", press the "()" button. Then you see something like this on the screen:

-= Version =-

The old version that crashes looks like this:

-= Version =-

[update] I was happy with the 04.00.14 and about to buy another one (so I can use one while charging the other), then a serious bug surfaced. This bug has happened twice now. The first time, I plugged in the USB charger and got no sound. Everything seems working fine, just no any sound. I did a reset, messed with buttons and somehow got the sound back. Last night this happened again, and no matter what I tried, no sound, I even did a factory default. I left it charged overnight and turned it on this morning, bingo, everything works fine including sound. If you google for "NS-HD01 no sound", you'll see many users have this problem.

[update] Happened again. Last night I plugged into USB to charge it, it made huge noise to headphones. I unplugged the headphones and left it overnight. This morning, it was powered off by itself. I turned it on, no audio. I turned it off, then turned it on, audio is back.

[update] The 04.00.14 unit has been losing audio too often and very hard, if possible at all, to recover. Useless junk. Back to the old 01.00.00 units, at least I can reset them when crash to continue to listen.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The best and fastest way to check weather

Just open this link in any web browser and you'll get weather instantly:

No ads, no garbage, only the info you need for now, hourly and 3-10 days. You can bookmark this link to your phone as well and get the weather anywhere you go.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Time to replace tires?

Get something quiet this time. The Hankook Optimo H727 is one of the few quiet tires and it does make my xB perfect. The Scion xB is the most ideal car I could find several years ago: roomy like a bus, 32 MPG downtown and priced firmly under $15K out door. The only imperfection is noise: significantly noisier than Corolla - more like Civic.

The H727 is rated on top by Consumer Reports and users (Tire Rack) on pretty much everything, including snow traction, with a whopping 100K mile tread warranty at very reasonable price ($72). In addition to low noise, this tire is also very comfortable, providing much softer rides than the Goodyear Eagle LS that came with the xB.

Rebates are almost always available for tires, for example, Hankook is currently offering $50 and Discount Tires $100. Rebates are often found in CostCo coupon books, but they are actually offered by manufacturers. You can always find better deals online even with shipping added (about $50) and far more choices than any local stores.

Walmart is the cheapest place to go for tire installation, $46 out of door for a set of 4, even lower than CostCo ($60). Adding up all the cost for shipping and installation, my final bank damage is $330, same as CostCo's quote for the crappy Bridgestone Insignia SE200 and $100-$300 less than other local stores for the same tires.

Now what's the pressure should I inflate tires to? This is a very simple question but full of confusing answers. There are two numbers: one on the car door and the other on the tire sidewall, which one to follow? This is Hankook's suggestion:

"Generally, the optimum inflation pressure is about 90% of the maximum level."

The H727 is marked on its sidewall as max 44 PSI, so I pump it to 39 to save gas and tire life. This is much higher than 29 on the car door. I might go lower for quieter and more comfortable rides, but the lowest I'd go would be about 3 PSI above the number on the car door, i.e., 32 PSI.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Avoid Nexus Phones

Nexus phones are sons of lost. Nobody, neither the manufacturer, the carrier, nor Google take care of them.

First, these phones are guaranteed to be buggy, because the manufacturers won't put enough attention to them. They are Google branded phones, why Samsung or HTC would care much about their quality and user experience? For example, the power switch on my Nexus One (T-Mobile) was broken after only several months. If you search for "Nexus One Power Switch", you'll see mine is not an individual case but a very common defect caused by serious design flaw. Its screen is too sensitive, I can never use it when lying down on bed.

Google is a company that has virtually no any kind of end user support. When you buy a Google product, what you can expect from them? Even if Google really wants to take care of these phones, how can? Google does not make these products. Soon after the release of Nexus One, for example, Google had to hand over the support task all back to HTC.

I, like many perfectionists, used to like to have a Nexus phone because it is pure, no add-ons like Samsung Touchwiz, HTC Sense and Moto Blur. It turns out that the Tocuhwiz and Sense are actually much better than Google's user interface; they are not "add-ons" but must to have. Just for this reason alone, I would never want a "pure" Google phone again, especially for dummies like my wife. For example, she can never figure out how to turn the GPS on or off on her Nexus S 4G, because the stupid Google Power Control widget does not have any text label for the four confusing buttons.

Another reason for Nexus phones used to be that they were supposedly to get new updates sooner. Oh dear, endless updates, one after another, also soon turn out to be very annoying and not wanted.  It is more a new problem maker than a fix. After the last update, for instance, the Nexus S 4G (Sprint) can no longer be charged fully to 100% and so far still no fix about this problem. And the worst part is: where and who we should report the problem to? Sprint, Samsung, or Google? If Google, where is the phone number or email address? You tell me.

Unlocked Nexus phones are very expensive and buggy without post-sale service. Their user interface sucks compared to Samsung and HTC and endless updates are annoying to say the least and they may add even more bugs other than offering fixes. Why you want to pay more to get such phones? If you need a unlocked GSM phone, you can buy an AT&T phone from eBay and Amazon and then buy a unlock code on eBay for few dollars to easily unlock it.