At Home with Tech

Don’t let your gadgets kill your Zen. Byte back with your inner geek!

It’s Time to Hide that Useless Wall Phone Jack

Lots of folks hang pictures over their unsightly wall phone jacks to remove the evidence of this dated tech. I figured there’s got to be a better way…  Couldn’t that wall plate serve another useful purpose?

Lots of folks hang pictures over their unsightly wall phone jacks to remove the evidence of this dated tech. I figured there’s got to be a better way… Couldn’t that wall plate serve another useful purpose?

A long time ago, in a lifetime far, far away…
There was a telephone on a wall in a kitchen.
And it worked just fine.
Then, my son was born.

When he began demonstrating mobility, I removed the telephone as part of my baby-proofing initiative. The long cord connected to its nestled handset was easily within his newly found reach.
(The Force is strong with this one.)

And so the bare silver phone jack plate remained exposed on the wall for years as parental needs focused my attentions far beyond the aesthetics of telephony display.

But I had not forgotten.
Oh, not at all…

Back to the Future
The other day, I’d endured enough.
Walking past it day after day… year after year!
I simply had to address this glaring, raw eyesore.

Actually, I didn’t mind so much how the wall plate looked.
But it was the appearance of this neglected ‘tech in-limbo.’
That’s what really got to me.

First, I had the urge just to put the silly phone back in place.
But I still didn’t want a hanging cord dangling there for my four year old to play with.
He would likely integrate it into his growing army of found objects and repurpose the magic ‘dangly’ into one of his favorite ‘treasures.’

Next, I looked around for a cordless phone solution.
Of course, a cordless phone would need some power, and there wasn’t any juice nearby.

So I started to think more creatively and expand the possibilities of what the replacement could be.

Perhaps I could attach another piece of gear that would benefit from merging with the telephone jack. I read about some tech that could be powered by the mini-voltage in the phone line… like a small LED lamp.

Eh… Pass.

Finally, I accepted the reality I really didn’t need a hard-wired phone in the kitchen anymore. Over the past few years, wireless and cordless technologies had totally replaced all the corded phones in my house…

So I figured, maybe it was just time to let go and retire the thing.
Rip Van Phone Jack would not be awakened…

Hit the Road, Jack
Not that I was so ambitious as to disassemble the jack and plate and then fill up the hole with new drywall…

While surfing around for other ideas, I found some online comments from other lazy humans who had cleverly hung picture frames over their unwanted phone plates to disguise their existence.


But that kind of Band-Aid approach wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.
I desired something more elegant.
(in a lazy kind of way)

I was looking for some sort of camouflage that could mount right onto the plate, like the phone once did.

I first began exploring the idea of attaching a simple block with hooks for keys. Someone must have thought of that, right?

…not that I could find.

Finally, I discovered an inventor who had.
But his idea had a slightly different twist…

It’s called the Telephrame, and its awkward name suggests its simple solution.
It’s a 4”x 6” mountable photo frame that attaches right onto your telephone wall plate.


The Telephrame was invented in 2011 by a Minnesota guy named Brian Roban.
It appeared to be a home-grown product, and though I didn’t find much recent press on his ‘invention,’ the Telephrame’s Facebook page still appeared to be somewhat active.

So I decided to go ahead and invest two sawbucks on his very analog but satisfying solution.

Telephrame to the Rescue
The Telephrame goes for $14.99.
But you don’t have to stop there.
Believe it or not, you can accessorize it!

I added a cork-board strip for $1.99.
(with 2 push pins… whoah!)

I didn’t go with the full-sized cork board for an additional $4.99.
(The strip was just fine, thank you very much.)

But I couldn’t help but also order the dry erase marker/eraser for an extra penny.
(What a deal!)
Apparently the Telephrame can also double as a dry erase board.
(This guy thinks of everything.)

Brian accepts PayPal… so I didn’t see a downside to investing in my very own Telephrame. I had even begun to accept its strange (though obvious) naming convention.
For $20.86 (includes shipping and handling), I was ready to go!

A Little Piece of Plastic Can Go a Long Way
Four days later, my Telephrame arrived in the mail, and I eagerly opened the box like it was my sixth birthday…

Unfortunately, my Telephrame looked rather unimpressive.
The plastic exterior was kind of cheap, and the frame’s dimensions were slightly shorter than 4” x 6.” So I had to trim my photo down a tad.
Not a great start…

But the big question is… did it work?
It took a little effort to slide the Telephrame down over the phone plate, but eventually I got it properly in place.

I took a step back…

…and Voila! It looked just fine.

Instead of the industrial blotch I’d grown so accustomed to, now I viewed a photo my son recently snapped of his favorite stuffed animal, Kitty.

I’d call that real progress!

The Telephrame Can’t Herd Sheep
So the Telephrame isn’t a home run for me due to its mediocre construction quality, but I do give it a passing grade. Especially considering there’s nothing else out there I could find that comes close to solving my problem!

The Telephrame is a step in the right direction

So Babe, you actually got the job done!

That’ll do, frame. That’ll do…

Six Tech Tips to Save You Time

Every second of your day counts.  Especially when you want to collect additional minutes to do more of what really matters.  Wait… did you hear that?  Yes… technology to the rescue!

Every second of your day counts. Especially when you want to collect additional minutes to do more of what really matters. Wait… did you hear that? Yes… technology to the rescue!

I don’t know about you, but there never seems to be enough time.
Maybe it’s simply because I’m a busy parent of a four year old.
Perhaps I should also acknowledge that maintaining a blog can be a time suck. (writer’s choice)

Time for regular TV viewing?
I barely touch the national average of 2.8 hours/day.
(according to a recent American Time Use Survey)

I’m lucky to squeeze in an episode of “Mad Men.”

But remember what Ferris Bueller said…
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Really, you do want to protect your available free time, especially those ‘quality’ moments. And thankfully, technology can help you squeeze precious minutes back into this favorite bucket of your day.

So here are six tech tips to help you focus more of your life into that happy zone:

Order Stamps Online
Why would you ever choose to waste a fraction of your existence in the post office buying stamps?
The lines are endless. It’s like Purgatory in there.
Even the stamp-dispensing square autobot will drain your life force.
Why not simply purchase your stamps from your home computer?
It’s wicked quick…

Withdraw More Cash from the ATM
Yes, there was a time before time when there wasn’t easy money on almost every corner. But today’s 24/7 access to an ATM is a mixed blessing.
Who wants to always be thinking about where the nearest one is when you need twenty bucks?

I know this idea may not appear like a fiscally responsible suggestion, but if you can control your spending urges, I think you should withdraw more cash than you think you want.

Here’s the trick:

  • Visit your favorite ‘magic money box ‘ less frequently… say once a week. Take out enough cash to get you through this interval and pledge not to return for another seven days.

Rationing the use of this tech will save you time and can prevent you from going to the well more than your budget dictates.

Shop for Your Groceries Online
I know… it goes against your hunting-gathering instincts.
And there’s a delivery fee.
But not having to go to the supermarket,
then not struggling with that damaged cart,
and not having to wait on a long line at the checkout…
Isn’t that worth a few bucks?

Avoid Greeting Card Aisles
You shouldn’t feel anymore like you have to troll for greeting cards at the local CVS or Walgreens.
You know what I mean… searching up and down that forest of disorganized generic thoughts. Finding that perfect card, only to realize there’s no matching envelope, and having to start all over again.

It’s no longer a badge of honor to say to your loved one… “I spent an hour looking for the perfect card!”
(My mom used to like to say that.)

There’s got to be a better way!
Well, of course there is…
Go to Touchnote, Paper Culture, or even Hallmark online.

These websites contain virtually all the greeting cards you could ever want.
Plus they’ll mail them for you!
Whoah…. Now that’s really a paradigm shift.

Don’t Wait On Line to Pay for Parking. Go Online!
Remember how you felt right after you missed that train, because you first had to wait online to pay for parking?
Let’s erase that recurring stomachache from your life.
Use an app and pay on your smartphone.
I use PayByPhone.

E-ZPass or Bust
All right, who here doesn’t have E-ZPass yet?
Please stand up and walk upstairs.
Now go to bed…. There’s no dinner for you.

And the rest of you should go get a good night’s sleep too!
Before you start your snooze, you should probably check in on your E-ZPass account just to make sure it’s current.
You don’t want E-ZPass to list the car you owned a decade ago.

Bonus Summertime Tech Tip
Repurpose ideas from your old blog posts to quickly generate a new list of tech tips to share.
(You hadn’t noticed?)

Now, you’ve got time to prepare to go camping with your family!

See ya…!

Buying a Counterfeit Camera Battery Can Be Dangerous

Getting a deal on a replacement battery for your camera is always nice.  Finding a price that’s too good to be true probably mean it’s a counterfeit battery.  And how bad is that?  Canon says it can lead to incendiary results.

Getting a deal on a replacement battery for your camera is always nice. Finding a price that’s too good to be true probably mean it’s a counterfeit battery. And how bad is that? Canon says it can lead to incendiary results!

I’ve been preparing for the seasonal uptick in the number of family photos I’ll be snapping over the next couple of months. And I decided to finally replace my old Canon back-up battery for my point-and-shoot camera.
(I’m still using my Canon S-100.)

My ‘NB-5L’ is three years old and can’t hold its charge anymore. After taking a few pictures powered by this aging battery, my camera starts to freak out and then shuts down rather pathetically.

That’s code for…
Get a new battery!

  • At Home with Tech Tip:
    Always carry a spare battery with your camera.
    You don’t want to run out of juice trying to capture that magic moment…

So I decided to go online and order one of these tiny, mighty power squares…

An Unclear Choice
The problem was I discovered a vast disparity in pricing options:

From Canon: $59.99

From B&H Photo: $39.95

From Amazon (sold by EXCELSHOTS): $28.95
(unclear if it’s a genuine Canon product)

From Amazon (sold by Blue Nook): $8.99
(Wasabi Power Lithium-ion replacement battery)

So should I spend $60?
Or should I pay $9?


The Blue Pill or the Red Pill?
Well, Wasabi Power’s battery certainly has the attractive price.
But I don’t really expect an inexpensive third-party battery to perform at the same level as a Canon battery.


The $29 battery from EXELSHOTS appears to be a genuine Canon product, but it’s eleven bucks cheaper than B&H Photo’s deal.
And as we all know, it’s hard to beat B&H.

So does that mean it’s a counterfeit battery?

Even though Canon puts a hologram label on their battery pack packaging, you still may have a hard time telling the difference between the real deal and a counterfeit product.

And how bad would that be?

According to Canon…. Really bad.

Danger, Will Robinson!!
Canon says it’s usually difficult to spot a counterfeit battery and…
(here comes the scary part)
…Counterfeits can destroy your camera!
(and it gets worse…)
You could be collateral damage!!

Call 1-855-46-Canon to Report the Counterfeiter
In addition to their clever video on the dangers of using counterfeit batteries, Canon’s got a number to call so you can turn in your neighbor or anyone else who’s fueling this illegal problem.

Yes, comrade…consider yourself deputized.

Look, I get that counterfeit camera accessories are bad for Canon’s bottom line.
(And so are official third-party batteries)
But counterfeits fraudulently use someone else’s logo.
And you have absolutely no idea who’s manufacturing the tech.

But how dire is all this really for the health of your camera?
And should you consider the risks as any more than a ‘Play it Safe’ marketing campaign for Canon’s own products?

Warning: Buy Genuine or Else
Canon suggests the existence of the following ‘inferior product performance’ examples when using counterfeit batteries:

  • Abnormal heat generation
  • Leakage
  • Ignition
  • Rupture
  • And other ‘malfunctions’

And the recently released results from their Anti-Counterfeit Study say that 18% of you have already unknowingly bought counterfeit consumer electronics in 2013.

So the question is…
Are you the one in five who’s been using this dangerous counterfeit gear?
And can you be sure your camera isn’t about to explode?!!

Well, buying direct from Canon would help mitigate any potential camera ‘malfunctions.’  Or purchasing from a reputable dealer like B&H Photo.

Going with Amazon is a little iffy in this situation, especially if the price is 25% cheaper.  And even with Prime, Amazon is still using a third-party dealer you don’t know.

Exploding Cameras Not Allowed Here
So I think the decision tree is pretty straightforward.
Buy from a Canon dealer you know and trust.

Will your camera self-destruct if you don’t?
And are you probably safe ignoring Canon’s marketing-drenched warnings, which are likely a well-designed mixture of propaganda and the truth?

Let me ask you another question…
Is it worth finding out just to save eleven bucks?


Hello B&H.
I’m playing it safe…



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