At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: Amazon Prime

At Home with Tech – The Year in Review

How about 50 Tech Tips for my 50th post to kick off the New Year? Let’s begin!

How about 50 Tech Tips for my 50th post to kick off the New Year? Let’s begin!

We’ve covered a lot of ground this year!
And what have we learned in our quest to keep our digital gears spinning at home?
The trek is never over.
But the journey doesn’t have to be so confusing.

That said, it’s time for my year in review!
Here are my 50 tech tips to take with you into the New Year:

50 At Home with Tech Tips

What’s Your Backup Plan?
#1 – Technology is a Tool That Will Eventually Turn on You
That T-800 with your name is never far away.
So don’t get complacent.

It Got Cloudy
#2 – Happily, There’s Life After MobileMe
If you want to share your photos online, use Flickr.
For your home videos, use YouTube or Vimeo.
If you need to share some files, then go with Dropbox.

Date Night and the 42” Plasma
#3 – Without Planning, You Can’t Guarantee a Good Date Night Movie at Home
(Even with full access to Cable TV, Netflix DVDs/Streaming, Apple TV, Roku, and Blockbuster!)

My Mission for the Perfect Picture
#4 – Taking an Amazing Photo Is Often Just an Accident
Embrace your accidents! And keep taking lots of pictures. It’s free.
Statistics are in your favor.

The IT Guy is in the Doghouse
#5 – Don’t Try to Win the Battle with Older Tech
Your tech is only as strong as its weakest link.
Enough said.

Your Shoebox Vs. the Cloud
#6 – Print an Annual Photo Book of Your Life
Otherwise, your best photos will get lost in the quagmire of your photo glut.
Time is your enemy.

I Am a Road Warrior
#7 – When a Tech Door Closes, Look for a Window to Open
My cable company locked down its box, which shut off my mobile media viewing on my portable DVD player. Then, streaming cable content on my iPhone became available through services like HGO Go.
Go figure.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
#8 – Just Because You Know How to Make Someone Younger in a Photo Doesn’t Mean You Should
My digital moral code says don’t mess with someone’s CDI.
(The Core Digital Integrity of a person’s image).

Please Rate This Product…or Else
#9 – No Product Ever Gets a Perfect Score Online
You’ve got no choice but to rely on Tech Group Think.

Is it Time to Stockpile Light Bulbs?
#10 – New Tech Light Bulbs Cost $50!
Thank The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
It says incandescent bulbs aren’t cutting it anymore and need to be 25% more efficient or else.
The solution? Pricey LED Bulbs.
The new darling ‘A Bulb’ by Philips launched with a steep $50 price tag.

The Art of Inaction, Part 1
#11 – The Tao of Total Tech Caution Says Don’t Upgrade Unless You Absolutely Have To
That also means never buy the first of anything.

The Art of Inaction, Part 2
#12 – Remember the Software Update Button
When you finally upgrade to a new operating system months after the rest of the world, don’t forget to immediately check Software Update.
Otherwise, gremlins will show up!

Parental Omniscience for only $24.95
#13 – You Can Have X-ray Vision Through Your Smart Phone
An Eye-Fi wireless memory card + a Flickr Pro account, + Flickr’s iPhone app = The power to almost instantly see photos of my lad’s adventures wherever I am.

Loving the Loser Light Bulb
#14 – Don’t Spend $50 on the Lexus of New LED Bulbs
Go with the runner up bulb for $15- Philips’ AmbientLED!

Joe and the End of Your World
#15 – If Your Coffee Mug Spills Near Your Computer, Game Over
Buy the HotJo Stoneware Wide Base Travel Mug.
(It’s pear-shaped!)

Living in the Amazon and Loving It
#16 – Amazon Prime Is the Best $79 You Will Ever Spend
Amazon to the rescue…
Every day!

Taming the Evil Work BlackBerry
#17 – It’s Okay to Turn Into a Pumpkin
Choose a time to stop responding to work emails on nights and weekends.
Everyone is supposed to catch some Z’s at some point.

Cancel the Cable TV Mutiny
#18 – 50,000 Free Hot Spots Coast to Coast
The cable industry announced it will share metro Wi-Fi services throughout the nation.
Now we’re talking!

Saying “Sleep Tight from 5,000 Miles Away
#19 – When Traveling Internationally, Keep Your Smartphone Connected on the Cheap with Skype
Buy a Skype Online Number plus a $2.99/month Unlimited US and Canada plan.

The Price of Staying Connected
#20 – Skype Video Can Work on 3G (4G) If the Signal Is Strong Enough

At Home without Tech
#21 – The Digital Sisyphus Always Looms
Do you fear being at home without tech?
Fear is a great motivator. And so is a deadline.
Do your Apple software upgrades or suffer the consequences.

Laptop Time Machine
#22 – Your Laptop Really Is a Time Portal!
The tether of your social media connections remains long after you’ve moved on.
Today’s younger generation will never experience completely losing touch with old friends for decades.

Remembering MobileMe
#23 – Life Isn’t Easy. Why Should Your Virtual Existence Be Any Different?
The marketing gurus say moving your email to iCloud is so easy even a child can do it.
I say you’d better have a child around to show you how.

I Sold My Soul to the Digital Devil
#24 – Final Cut Pro X Claims to End the Era of Pesky Transcoding
Yes, FCP X will grudgingly edit your camera’s native H.264 MOV files without you first having to transcode them.

High Tide at Grand Central
#25 – My Favorite New York Minute of the Day!

Singing the Blu-ray Blues
#26 – It’s Painful, but Stick with Blu-ray Disks
Here are five reasons:
-The downloadable copy
-The extras come with extra extras
-DVD Player, Say hello to VHS Player in the attic
-Owning atoms instead of bytes

The Joy of Shopping at Midnight in your Underwear
#27 – Unless You’re Out of Toilet Paper,
Online Shopping Is the Way to Go!

Who’s got time to waste traveling to the mall, hoping they’ll have what you need and then waiting in a long line?

GPS Jane
#28 – Garmin Nuvi Loses to My iPhone During Their GPS Smackdown
(Probably still holds true even after Apple’s ‘Map-Gate’ debacle)

Going Batty Buying Movie Music
#29 – It’s Almost Impossible to Purchase the Complete Soundtrack for
“The Dark Knight Rises”
I found at least five bonus tracks available across two sales channels.
Holy Complex Marketing Scam, Batman!

Five Tips to Rescue your Best Summer Family Photos
#30 – Brutally Choose Your Best Photos and Leave the Rest Behind
The more vacation pictures you bring home to clog up your computer, the smaller the odds are you’ll actually share any of your best photos with family and friends.
Your only chance is to quickly find the few gems and forget the rest.

My iPad Doesn’t Brake for Flash
#31 – Apple’s Mobile Devices Don’t Use Adobe Flash Player
Now, Adobe has removed its Flash Player from the Google Play store, which is the beginning of the end for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook owners.

My New Area Code Twists My Tech-Dentity
#32 – Skype Online Numbers Let You Choose Your Area Code!
Now, you too can be a New Yorker without moving out of the ‘burbs…

My Laptop Battery Got Pregnant
#33 – Don’t be Surprised If the Lithium-Ion Battery In Your Old Apple Laptop Turns Into the Hulk
Mine did. After some research in the X-Files, I realized I was not alone.

I Don’t Know How to Install my Wireless IP Camera, Part 1
#34 – This Journey Can Break Anyone’s Tech Zen
I had no choice but to continue on and risk ‘tech-tastrophe.’

I Don’t Know How to Install my Wireless IP Camera, Part 2
#35 – My Winning Tech Death Match Against the Foscam
Wireless IP Camera

(model FI8910W)

Ode to iPhone 5
#36 – My 4S Contract Says It’s Not Yet Time to Upgrade
Instead, write a poem!

Epson Multifunction Printer Vs. Multi-Talented Toddler
#37 – In the Hands of Baby McGyver, the Evil Power of the Penny Will Destroy Your Printer
Time to look for a new one on sale.

All I Want is to Have my Peace of Mind and Cloud Storage
#38 – You Need a Backup Cloud Solution
For total peace of mind you should create a copy of your precious home media offsite.
I went with the CrashPlan+ Unlimited one-year plan.

How to Rescue your iPhone Voicemail
#39 – Use an Old Analog Mini Audio Plug and Audacity Software
Rerecord your messages and save your visual voicemail onto your computer as AIFF audio files.

My Cable Box Blurred my Political View
#40 – Don’t Press the “#” on Your Cablevision DVR Remote Control. Ever.
Don’t lean on it. Don’t point at it. Don’t look at it.
You’re welcome.

How to Fix Your Broken Email
#41 – Use Connection Doctor
It will tell you if you’ve got the right incoming and outgoing mail server settings.
Then listen for the happy ‘Whoosh’ or ‘Ping!’

Fighting the Digital Darkness after Hurricane Sandy
#42 – MiFi Can Repair Your Broken Tech Bubble
If your smartphone has a signal, and you’ve got some power at home,
a MiFi mobile hotspot generator will get the rest of your tech back in business.

How to Lose Your Email while Upgrading from Entourage to Outlook
#43 – Moving to Outlook for Mac 2011 Shouldn’t Be Hands-Off
After loading it, you’ve then got to copy all your email over from Entourage!
And if you’re not careful, you’ll create unwanted duplicates from your mail server and then accidentally purge your entire email archive. (like me)
Check the settings first!

I Got Lost While on Safari 6.0.2
#44 – Safari Has Received Some Significant ‘Upgrades’
Get used to the Google URL OMNIBAR.

Best Digital Cameras to Capture Your Speedy Toddler
#45 – Buy Last Year’s Canon PowerShot S100 at a Great Discount
I also got the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens to upgrade my old Canon T1i DSLR.

The Beginner’s Guide to Editing Your Camera’s Video Clips
#46 – There’s Nothing Like a Deadline to Push Your Video to Completion!
Shoot some video. Edit it. And distribute the magic. All in one day!
I took the challenge and quickly created a little finished flick from my father-and-son outing to Stepping Stones Museum.

Holiday Gift Guide for Home Tech
#47 – Nine Winning Tech Gifts for Anytime of Year!

Blinded by the UltraViolet Promise in Your New Blu-ray Movie
#48 – UltraViolet Streaming Has Replaced Free iTunes Downloads on
Blu-ray Disks

This bait-and-switch has only further destabilized my commitment to physical discs.

What Photomosaic Software is Best?
#49 – Download cf/x Photo Mosaic v 2.0 for $29.99 From the Mac App Store
Become the new family Picasso!

#50 – Keep Blog Posts Short.
(I’m working on it!)

Happy New Year!
(And I wish you much ‘Tech Clarity’ in 2013!)

The Joy of Shopping at Midnight in your Underwear

This is one need an online purchase may not satisfy. But there is plenty else to choose from after your mad dash to the 24/7 convenience store.

If a short man and a tall woman in dark suits and sunglasses walked up to you, displayed their IDs, and declared your smart phone was about to be repossessed by a secret government agency, you’d be pretty annoyed, right?

How would you survive?
Without your contacts.
Without phone numbers hard wired to your memory.
No apps. No web access. No music.
When was the last time you even used a pay phone?

But you’d get by. Somehow.
It wasn’t so long ago when smart phones didn’t exist and basic cell phones were making history at the magical rate of $1.99/minute.
(No one ever thought that was a good deal.)

The same story goes for your home computer.
Imagine some sort of futuristic “Free Your Home from the Web” initiative.
(It could happen!)
Without your main computing tool, you’d be limited, but not dead in the water. There’s always your mobile device, your work computer, or even the library (in 30 minute increments). You’d find your way back to Facebook. Don’t worry.
But what’s up with online shopping?

Once upon a time, I would get in my car and go shopping for the consumer goods I require to live my life as a red blooded American, happily engaged in our great capitalist economy.

Then online shopping was born, and I remember feeling unimpressed. Surely you still needed to go out there to hunt and gather to make sure you got what you wanted. How would you return an item if there was something wrong? The experience would have to be fraught with limitations and problems. Plus, you had to wait days to receive what you needed right now. And how many books could you possibly buy on Amazon?

Wow. There’s been quite the shopping shift over the past few years.
Today, this new shopping behavior has fused itself onto my brainstem.
It’s become an essential tool I simply cannot do without.
And I’m not alone.

So why has shopping online become so much more than another convenience?

It’s about money, of course.
Online shopping usually costs less.

For an online merchant, it’s the simple economics behind not having to pay for a brick and mortar store and salespeople.

Your local low-priced Walmart down the street isn’t closing any time soon, but your purchasing behaviors are shifting big time.

Hold the Sales Tax
And it doesn’t hurt that you usually don’t get charged state sales tax, unless the online retailer has a store in the state where you live.

You should know your tax free shopping spree may not last forever.
There’s an Internet sales tax bill in Congress that would close this loophole.
It’s called The Marketplace Fairness Act, and it’s picking up steam.

If passed, it surely will help out brick and mortar retail stores.
But it won’t cure their problem that they’ll never be the only game in town again.

Pop quiz- In the past year, how many of you have walked into a retail store, found what you were looking for, and then walked out and bought it online for less?

Exactly. It’s known as showrooming, a term that popped up when bookstores began losing business to Amazon.

Some stores with growing web sales and reduced foot traffic are rolling with the punches and transforming their physical locations into pick-up and return centers for their online cousins. Talk about the tail wagging the dog.

Tick Tock
But for me, the X-factor (not the TV show) is time, and not having enough of it.

Who’s got time to waste traveling to the mall, hoping they’ll have what you need and then waiting in a long line? That’s an hour or ninety minute commitment. Easily.

Plus, our jobs are increasingly reaching out to us 24/7 and hijacking our nights and weekends. We’re always a BlackBerry email or cell phone call away. You’re never really off the clock.

So why not just take five minutes at midnight after answering a work email and quickly click on what you need?

Yes, I understand that sometimes you have to get out there and kick the tires (showrooming or not). But for repeat purchases, to keep the staples in the cupboard, I’m happily clicking away after dinner to handle the week’s shopping needs.

That said, every online shopping experience isn’t perfect…

Out of Toilet Paper?
Sometimes you just can’t wait.
And normally, who wants to be lollygagging for days for UPS to arrive? Don’t you want it right away? That’s what used to happen when you bought something.

But waiting for days?!
Yes, this is a counter intuitive shift in our age of uber convenient digital shopping.
But unless you’re out of toilet paper, Advil, or contraceptives, you really don’t have to have it immediately.
Do you?

Shipping Costs
That’s another problem.
I’ve been to the post office. I know how much it costs to mail a package.
It doesn’t cost $17.99 to ship a toothbrush. Nor should it cost $8 to ship a $3 light bulb (or a $14 LED bulb). I think some of these shipping costs are just padding to the profit margin. For me this is the single biggest deterrent to doing a deal online.

But if you’re smart, you can avoid this trap and get your booty shipped for free (mostly).

Many websites have free shipping with minimum purchases.
And of course, there’s Amazon Prime, which gives you free two-day shipping.
(Yes that program costs you $79 year, but it’s well worth it if you’re using Amazon frequently.)

The Shopping List
I know, I know. You can’t buy everything online and have it shipped to your doorstep. That said, here are some of my favorite websites that help me keep the wheels turning in the Lester household:

Technology that’s not an Apple product

  • Amazon

Apple products

  • D’uh

Best coffee I’ve ever had


Supplies and toys for my toddler

  • (Check the pricing. Sometimes it’s too high.)
  • and of course, Amazon

Clothing for the boy


Summer clothes with advanced sun protection for the family


Cool jewelry for my wife


Great prices on photo paper


House cleaning supplies

  • And yes, Amazon

Perishable food is a whole different story, and I know there are several places you can go online such as to order food and have it delivered for an extra delivery charge. I haven’t done a lot of that yet.

The one item I can’t find online, but would immediately pay extra for shipping or delivery is Trader Joe’s Chunky Unsweetened Applesauce.
(Rules are meant to be broken sometimes.)
It’s very yummy.

So where are some of your favorite online shopping hangouts?
Please add to the list!

Living in the Amazon and Loving It

Another Amazon Prime box has arrived. It’s become a regular care package to keep the gears at home moving. Joy.

Have I mentioned how sweet I am with, and how I gladly pay them an extra $79/year to get free two-day shipping with their Amazon Prime Service?

Do you consider me impatient and extravagant?
Am I just lazy, when for thousands of years, men have hunted
(and gathered) in the wilderness, or what we now call the shopping mall?

Do you feel you can’t trust a distant and faceless company with the very personal act of delivering to you what you used to get for yourself?

I used to feel that way.
Then something happened.
I became a dad, and I lost all of my free time.

I am a very proud 21st century father of a little boy who just turned two.
(In fact, my son had his big party last Saturday.)

But I’ve got to admit that life has gotten a bit disorganized lately. I need a little help. So I like to use available hi tech tools.

Who’s Got Time for the Brick and Mortar Store?
I don’t know how parents multitasked before Y2K, but I regularly tap the power of online shopping.

In fact, I find buying our basic supplies online not a convenience but a necessity. Getting in the car to get to a store can take an hour or more.
A few clicks on Amazon, and I’m done in three minutes.

Yes, buying online took some getting used to.
It felt like I was cheating.
Not doing it the right way.
Worried it wouldn’t work.
But once I got started, I never looked back.

Life is Messy
Let’s take a look at a slice of my daily life in the jungle…
(and then we’ll discuss Amazon some more)

I used the last of the kitty litter. Looked at my watch. All the stores were already closed.

My wife reminded me we needed Bacitracin ointment for my son’s boo-boo under his chin. What I’m calling a boo-boo are actually three stitches he received at his first trip to the emergency room.
He tripped and fell at home last week, while I was standing guard.

Even though the doctor said there wouldn’t be a scar, I’m still feeling super guilty, as I was only a few feet away from the ‘incident.’
A couple days later, a colleague, who is a father with daughters tried to be helpful after hearing my story, and he suggested that scars give boys character.
(Anybody out there know the name of a good plastic surgeon?)

All this happened while my wife and I were in the middle of final preparations for our son’s birthday party.
(Yes, that shiner on his chin looked really great on his big day. The good news is all of the other toddlers at the party were jealous and commented that his stitches really gave him character.)

And had I put off getting his birthday present to the last minute? Of course.

Amazon to the Rescue
It’s now 10:30pm – I need help.
Time to sit down and boot up. Hello Amazon Prime!

First step- Cat litter.
Amazon had about twenty options, though not all were offered on the Prime plan.
(You need to pay attention to this detail as not all products fall under the Prime plan.)
I chose Arm and Hammer and clicked through.

Next was boo-boo maintenance.
Typed in ‘eye patch’ for my kid. (just kidding)
Almost immediately, the Bacitracin ointment was on its way!

Finally, the birthday present.
It was a Kettler tricycle that my wife was talking about. Here it was on Amazon. Sweet.
(Amazon often has more competitive pricing, though not always.)

11:00pm – I’ve hunted. I’ve gathered. Mission accomplished.
Order has been restored.

King of the Forest…for Another Day
This particular shopping expedition was an expensive one, because of the Kettler bike. But often, I’m just picking up little things here and there.
The beauty of Amazon Prime is you don’t have to worry about meeting minimum order amounts to get the free shipping. And it’s wicked easy to return the occasional item.

So you can buy with as much haphazard organization as life requires.
You can see how the $79 Prime fee pays for itself really quickly.
And it even has its own fledgling video streaming service that competes with Netflix. That’s a nice bonus, but it’s not really why I’m so excited about Prime.

For the past two years, I’ve had a little bet going with myself that I’ll never have to run out of the house at the last minute to buy diapers.
For me, that mini emergency represents the ultimate level of disorganization I hope to never sink beneath. (Even I have some minimum standards to meet if I am to remain king of my little forest.)
With the help of Amazon, and other online shopping sites like, I’ve been holding that line. So far…

Amazon Prime doesn’t work for everything.
(Sometimes you’ve got to get out there and squeeze the melons.)
But it comes pretty close.

%d bloggers like this: