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Tag: Black Friday

Choosing a New iPad Air 2 Case

If you find yourself forced into an iPad upgrade, you’d better protect your investment with a cozy case. Especially if tiny hands will be using it…

If you find yourself forced into an iPad upgrade, you’d better protect your investment with a cozy case. Especially if tiny hands will be using it…

I’m still trying to come to terms with Gray Thursday destroying Thanksgiving in America. I didn’t really understand what had happened until I tried buying a new iPad Air 2 early on Black Friday.

Target, which I discovered never closed after it opened up on Thanksgiving, had been sold out of the iPad I wanted for twelve hours. I wasn’t even close!
(What ever happened to giving Americans time to enjoy their Thanksgiving dinner?!)

I felt lucky with the runner-up deal that was still available at Best Buy. I came home a nearly defeated shopping warrior.
(It wasn’t pretty.)
But then again, I had a new iPad in hand….

Time to Retire iPad 1
If you’re wondering why all the effort… it’s because I’m still using an iPad 1. Yes, the world’s original tablet still has a heartbeat at the Lester house,
(believe it or not) but it was really time for a refresh.

Mostly, I needed to buy the new iPad because even though the old one is still functioning, nothing much living in it can survive anymore. Many of the apps we use have upgraded themselves, requiring newer iOS software, which the iPad wasn’t built to digest.

Things really got bad when our favorite Disney Junior app upgraded itself, and Disney spontaneously killed off the old one residing in our iPad.

My own “Junior” had a really hard time understanding why the app didn’t work anymore.
(I simply said it was broken, but that didn’t stop him from tapping on the icon every so often and sighing wistfully…)

So I took my licking as a tardy Black Friday shopper, but I’ve successfully upgraded the Lester household back into current iPad technology.

Protect Your iPad or Else
An iPad is a significant investment, one that you’ve got to protect. My four-year-old son has been really careful using our first iPad, but you’ve got to plan for a fall or two…

I picked up AppleCare separately, even though Best Buy pushed me hard to go with the Geek Squad protection plan.

Now, it was time to give the new iPad some additional cover…

There’s an entire cottage industry of iPad cases out there to choose between.
Of course, you can go with the premium Apple offering…
Apple’s Smart Case sells for a hefty $79.

Not that I wouldn’t drop another eighty bucks to protect my overall investment. However, when I checked out a Smart Case at an Apple Store, I wasn’t entirely impressed. It was fine… but since I wasn’t convinced it was that much better than the competition, I figured I should look around a bit more.

Believe me, the resulting exercise was yet another rabbit hole into too much choice. The options range from $10 to over $100 for covers that come with their own keyboards.

But I felt I only needed something relatively basic…
I found lots of good reviews for the iPad cases that Devicewear makes.

I checked out the ‘Ridge’ that goes for $45.
(Amazon has it for $27.)

It’s got a nice ‘vegan’ leather exterior and supports the automatic sleep/wake iPad function when you open and close the cover.
I decided this case from Devicewear was a no brainer…


(Any other suggestions out there?)

iPad Air 2 Ready for the Holidays
As I write this with the sun rising on a cold Sunday morning, my boy is still valiantly sticking with the old iPad as it struggles to stream Sesame Street off of its website.

As for me, I’m happily streaming a little holiday spirit knowing that soon, he will be at home with new ‘protected’ tech.

Why a Terrible Camera Can Be the Best Gift for Your Child

Behold the premature end to my son’s first camera. Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” In the spirit of the British Bulldog, I decided it was time to get my boy another camera…

Behold the premature end to my son’s first camera. Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” In the spirit of the British Bulldog, I decided it was time to get my boy another camera…

My four-year-old boy broke his new Nikon COOLPIX S30 family camera last month after dropping it on our driveway. He was running with great enthusiasm and holding it with one hand to take a picture of the full moon. But he stumbled and his prize possession fell…

Though this ‘tough’ camera is built to handle a reasonable fall and even survive comfortably underwater, its glass lens housing shattered on impact. Yes, the interior lens was still intact, but there were shards of glass everywhere.

As ‘Junior’ and I stood over his fallen tech, I declared it a goner.
(No, I hadn’t bought insurance on the camera, and the cost to repair it would likely be more than buying another one.)

A horrible moan befitting a small Klingon clan permeated our neighborhood, and then he shuffled upstairs.

It was a terrible loss. My son cried himself to sleep that night…

He hadn’t had his Nikon for six months but had quickly become quite a budding junior photographer with it. I bought him this particular camera for his birthday, because even though it was an older model at the time,
(The S32 was already out.)
…The S30 was priced on Amazon to move…$70!

Plus, this Nikon was the real deal.
(not some crummy toy camera)
I figured for twenty bucks more, it was worth getting him a decent piece of adult tech…

The Many Downsides to the Nikon COOLPIX S30
As good a decision as I thought I was making, I’ve got to say that the S30 is quite simply the worst camera I’ve ever purchased:

  • The pictures were barely average.
  • There was a dead pixel in the middle of the sensor.
    (So you always see a little speck in the same location of most of the pictures.)
  • The audio from its recorded videos sounds like an empty Campbell’s Soup can and string was used instead of an onboard microphone.
  • And the camera’s functionality assumed you had the smarts of a four year old.  (It was really clunky.)

But my son figured out how to use it in about 10 minutes.
And he was taking pretty cool pictures up until the unfortunate ‘moon incident.’
(He actually started taking snapshots when he was two years old using my old iPhone…)

You might be asking right about now what I was expecting out of a $70 camera when the other point and shoot cameras I own cost at least twice as much.

The irony is even though it was a terrible camera… it was perfect for my son.
He just loved it.
(And its capabilities were light years ahead of any toy camera out there.)

A Life-Changing Moment
First of all, it wasn’t an obvious decision to simply reload and hand over another adult camera for my son to use. You’ve got to wonder how long a life span any camera will have in an eager child’s little hands…

But I thought back to one of my own childhood stories, when I was a few years older than my son. I desperately wanted an audio cassette recorder, and my parents didn’t think I would remain interested in this adult tech beyond a few days. I pleaded for weeks, and eventually my mother softened.

In hindsight, it was the most important gift I ever received as a child. If, for some reason, you wanted to change the path of my entire life, all you’d have to do is jump into your time machine, go to February 1970, and make sure I never received that Sound Design cassette recorder.

My career would be very different today…
(I might be the dentist my mother always wanted.)

So I decided to get my little guy another camera for the holidays.

Where’s the Choice?
Today’s market for a cheap, durable camera is well… almost non-existent.

In the sub $100 range, I think Nikon still is it with the COOLPIX S32.
(The S30 has fallen out of the ‘new camera’ sales cycle, and the S31 is only ten bucks less on Nikon’s website.)

Panasonic also has its Lumix DMC TS25,
which you can get on Amazon for $125.

Panasonic Lumix DMC TS25Even though it looks to be a better camera than the S32, spec wise, it’s got really small buttons and a different interface, which might not be as child-friendly.

It wasn’t a slam-dunk as the better choice, and it also broke my $100 rule.
So ultimately, I sided with the devil I knew vs. the devil I didn’t.

And the S32 is two generations better than the S30. That should count for something.

But the bottom line is there’s really nothing else I’ve found that’s supposed to take a licking and keep on ticking that breaks the $100 price point…

Grandson of the COOLPIX S30… the S32!
So I bought the Nikon COOLPIX S32 at Target on Black Friday for $99.99.
(on sale from $129.95)

It should work well enough; my son will know how to use the S32, and it’s even the same color as his first one.

He will be exceptionally happy.


The S32 might even prove itself to be a big improvement over its not-so-distant ancestor. The jury is still out for me, though according to, the S32 has clear improvements.

Competition for the future COOLPIX S33?
But even if the S32 performs at a higher level, there shouldn’t be only one sub-$100 camera out there in this market segment for kids and families to use…

Where are the rest of the choices?
What ever happened to good old fashioned capitalistic competition?!
(Maybe the profit margin in this camera category is too small….)

And no, I’m not going to follow the rest of the herd and buy my lad a toy camera.  I don’t think anybody who’s bought one has ever been a happy customer.
(I’ve done the research.)

So if you’re a camera manufacturer in this already over-saturated consumer market, here’s a product pitch for you in this unexplored niche:

Junior will be turning five in half a year. So will 3,999,385 other four year olds. Please come up with a decent, tough camera at the right price that they all can use.

Because I’ll probably be needing to secure another one for my son’s next birthday!
Please hurry it up…

Diary of a Frustrated Black Friday Cyber Shopper

Hitting the malls to purchase your favorite doorbusters is so yesteryear. This time, all I needed was my cup of Joe and my computer. Or so I thought…

Hitting the malls to purchase your favorite doorbusters is so yesteryear. This time, all I needed was my cup of Joe and my computer. Or so I thought…

10:00pm, Thanksgiving evening-
Go to sleep early.
(too much tryptophan)
Must be frosty for Black Friday!

6:00am, Black Friday-
Wake up. Make coffee. Sit down and boot up iMac.

Navigate to Apple’s big one-day sale.
No real discounts anywhere in sight.
Deep sigh…

This year, Apple only offered gift cards towards future Apple Store purchases… Their previous Black Friday discounts were never that great to begin with, but this ‘evolution’ was even less inspiring.

Next stop – Amazon
Review list of Lightning Sales. Nothing electrifies.

Out of frustration I did put an $11 Rayovac ‘head lamp’ into my cart.
(My old geeky REI head-mountable flashlight had stopped working recently.)
It’s useful to have one of these flashlights around when you need an extra directional light source in front of you, and you can’t hold it in your hands.

Great deal on a Blu-ray Disc of ‘Star Trek into Darkness’ for just $7.99 on Amazon.
(Complete with digital download for Road Warrior’s iPhone.)

I said to myself, “Make it so!”
But then I noticed a review warning the universe this version didn’t contain enough of the fun bonus material.

Delay purchase.

Up further research, I uncovered a raging Star Trek fan controversy a few months back when four different Blu-ray Disc versions were released to separate retailers.
This sales tactic effectively split up all the extra content outside of the movie itself.  So no one version contained it all.

And Amazon’s Blu-ray package seemed especially lacking…
So I put away my phaser and cancelled the mission.

Rayovac deal on Amazon expires in cart.

Head over to Target.
See the fans’ ‘preferred’ Star Trek Blu-ray version with more goodies.
Only $9!

After I completed my little happy dance, I took a closer look.
The online purchase button was grayed out.
You could only buy it in the store.


Little Lester wakes up.

Frustrated with all my shopping roadblocks, I put my computer to sleep and headed off to the family breakfast table…

Hunting and Gathering like our Ancestors
Later that morning, I ventured out of my cyber bubble to do a little brick and mortar shopping, and ironically found my old-school experience much more satisfying.

At Staples, I picked up a 32 GB SanDisk USB Flash Drive for just $10.
(not available online)

And I found a couple of good deals on Thomas Train Set accessories for my three year old at Toys”R”Us.
(also not online)

Yes, I know the day is called Black Friday and not Cyber Monday for a reason.
But I figured with all the cyber creep going on, there really wasn’t much of a difference anymore.

Apparently, the stores still want you to get off your tushies on Friday….
It seemed their best deals were still only available on sight.
(not on site)

Following my shopping adventure in the wild like my ancestors, I headed out to a family lunch gathering.
Additional cyber shopping would have to wait…

The Discount Gift Card Illusion
Later that night, I found one last window of opportunity to distribute some of my hard-earned money back to the Black Friday economy.

A few minutes in, I ran across what I thought was a genius idea:

  • Discount gift cards…for myself!

It was the inspired moment I’d been waiting for all day.

If I couldn’t find any online deals, why not buy discount gift cards to use at those very same stores…?

It’s like engineering your own discounted purchase.

So I checked out the usual suspects:

They claimed to offer deals up to 35% off store gift cards.
But the harsh reality was the discounts were substantially smaller for the better-known cards I was interested in.

More like 2%-9%.

Yes, that’s technically a savings, but it wasn’t enough of an incentive to keep me interested…
So I chalked up the wasted research to my ongoing education towards tech nirvana and moved on…

Canon to the Rescue
Wait! There’s a sale on the Canon PowerShot Elph 330 HS!

All along, I’ve been looking for a deal on a small pocket camera for my wife and me.

I’ve used the older Elph 300 and found it to be a fabulous little workhorse of a camera. The Elph 330 has been upgraded with a nifty 10X zoom and has been selling this year at a $179 price point..

And now I saw that Best Buy was selling it for only $129!!
(Including an 8 GB memory card and camera case)


Truthfully, I’m not sure how much of a Black Friday moment this was.
Multiple retailers were selling it at the same price point, because Canon was offering the $50 discount.

So the only real deal was how many ‘extras’ the retailers would throw in on top of the Canon mark down.

I did a little more research and noticed that Adorama had a slightly sweeter offer.
They included a larger 16 GB memory card along with the camera case.

So I took the Adorama deal.

Shopping Endorphins Released
I had finally found my Black Friday moment!
(I would not be denied my annual Black Friday endorphin surge.
Though I have to admit this time around, I had my eyes wide shut.)

Honestly, this annual ‘hunt’ is a lot of work, and I’m not sure if the payoff justified the effort this year.

What does all this say about me?

Coincidentally, The New York Times just ran a Black Friday story
talking about how retail marketers are targeting ‘self-gifters.’

The article identified this shopping group as a ‘special demographic niche’ and then identified a poster child by featuring an ‘incurable self-gifting’ man from North Carolina.

They included a photo of him happily sitting in his living room, working his laptop while his wife stood by.
As I looked at the smile on his face, his hyper-focused eyes looking for bargains…
…he actually appeared a bit maniacal.

Could that be me?

Should I be worried?
(pregnant pause)

I say, “NO!!!”

Look, we all end up buying ourselves things from time to time.
Is it so wrong to buy yourself a gift or two on Black Friday?

And isn’t that the day you’re supposed to find better prices?

Why should all this be such a surprise?

So I’m a self-gifter from time to time…
I know I’m low-hanging fruit.
I’m good with that.

The Truth is Out There
So another disappointing Black Friday has come and gone.
Yes, I bought a cheap flash drive and got a couple train deals for my son.
And, I’m relatively happy with my Canon Elph purchase.

But it’s hard for Black Friday to live up to all the hype.
Especially if you’re not heading out to the malls at 12am to stalk your ‘doorbusters.’
(This year, stores actually opened on Thursday!)

The good news is you get to avoid all that madness if you stay close to home.

And if you can distance yourself a bit, a simple truth permeates through all the holiday advertising Kool-Aid.

The act of pounding the pavement may still be the way retailers reward you on Black Friday.
But finding all your holiday shopping deals is not a one-day sprint.
It never was…

It’s more like a marathon.
You’ve got Cyber Monday,
and then most of December ahead of you.

Take a breath.
Pace yourself.

Then you may find your Tech Zen.

Good luck!
I’ll see you at the finish line.
(or somewhere close!)

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