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Tag: Star Trek Into Darkness

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.

6:10am-
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.

6:30am-
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.

6:35am-
PING!
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.

6:40am-
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.

6:45am-
Rayovac deal on Amazon expires in cart.

6:50am-
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.

KHAAAAAN!!

7:00am-
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.
Right?

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
9:00pm-
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)

Deal?

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.
Click.

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.
Exhale.
Pace yourself.

Then you may find your Tech Zen.

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

Does Your High Speed Internet Plan Need a Little Boost?

Those blinking lights on your broadband modem are a soothing reminder your home Internet service is up and running. Whether you’ve got enough bandwidth to handle your family’s needs is another question entirely!

Those blinking lights on your broadband modem are a soothing reminder your home Internet service is up and running. Whether you’ve got enough bandwidth to handle your family’s needs is another question entirely!

SCENE 1:
Fade up from black to a moving star field.
In the distance, we see the ship.
Dissolve to a wide shot of the bridge.
The door whisks open.

Captain Barrett walks in.
He does a quick survey.
All the glowing lights seem to be blinking correctly.
He sits down in the captain’s chair and…

Stop!!!

This is the kind of daydreaming that happens when you’re counting the days until you can finally get to see Star Trek Into Darkness.

Let’s try this again…

I walk into my home office, pet my cat Filbert, who’s always waiting for me, and then sit down in my black swivel chair from IKEA.

Boot up my trusty iMac.
Look at my Optimum Online broadband modem.
Everything seems fine.
I begin happily typing away.

They say ignorance is bliss…

We Need More Dilithium Crystals!
My wife enters our office and walks up behind me.
I sense a disturbance in the Force.
(oops, wrong universe)
(but with J.J. Abrams at the helm of both franchises, does that really matter anymore?)

My Jedi Master speaks.
(Actually, Yoga)
“Hey, how fast is our Internet connection?”

I look up.
(I should know the answer.)

“I’m not really sure. But it seems to be working okay, right?”
(inferior response)

“The IT guy at work says we need at least 30 Mbps download speed.”
(megabits per second)

My wife’s job sometimes requires her to use powerful web publishing tools early in the morning or late at night from home.
So our Internet bandwidth download speeds have to be beefy enough for her software to work.

So I quickly go to speedtest.net to double check.

It’s clocks in at only 18 Mbps.

Red Alert!!

The IT guy is in the doghouse.
(and I’m not talking about the friendly IT expert at work!)

Upgrading Optimum Online
So I call Cablevision’s Optimum Online tech support to complain about our obviously slow Internet connection.

My complaint is short lived, because I quickly find out our current Internet plan is only designed to provide a download speed of 15 Mbps.

Cablevision was actually exceeding its service level commitment.
Shame on them!

So now what?

Was there a higher level of service I could buy?
(of course)

It’s Optimum Online Boost Plus, and for $14.95 more a month, you get up to 50 Mbps for downloads.
And the upload speed improves from 2 Mbps to 8 Mbps.
(Upload speeds are always designed to be slower.)

This tier also comes with web hosting features and additional mailboxes, but for now, the pure, raw speed was all I cared about.

So I gave the order and made it so.
(translation: I upgraded to the new Warp Factor 8 plan.)

Problem solved?
Yes…
Though I have to admit, I was cranky to be shelling out even more to Cablevision as a triple play customer.
(TV, Internet and phone)

The Internet piece alone was $49.95/month.
(with $5 multi-product discount)
(New customers get the first year for $29.95.)

Now, I’m dropping $65/month for my faster Internet connection.

I’ll remind myself that’s the price of a cup of coffee a day and move on…
(and who doesn’t need their cup of Joe?!)

One Size Doesn’t Fit All
So I had restored my family’s tech harmony, but my Optimum upgrade got me thinking about my family’s growing Internet needs…

Once upon a time, one broadband plan was enough…set it and forget it.
15 Mbps?
Sounded good to me.
I thought we were covered.
And I never thought of us as heavy data users…

  • Stream a movie on Apple TV
  • Maybe a little Netflix on my Roku box
  • Some Bob the Builder cartoons on my laptop in the mornings for my three- year-old on Hulu Plus

But the explosion of streaming, online gaming, and social media for all of us has created an ever-growing demand on the broadband pipe.

The Internet Innovation Alliance, a coalition of business and non-profit organizations, has put together a fun little video the kids might enjoy that demonstrates this Internet data explosion.

The Relative Size of Internet Data

So you can see how it makes sense that high speed Internet service tiering would necessarily evolve to keep pace.

Have I Got a Deal for You!
The good news is every service provider is ready to sell you higher data speeds at home to accommodate your growing bandwidth needs.

  • Comcast’s Xfinity Internet service gives you up to 20 Mbps
    Their upgraded Extreme 50 service offers you up to 50 Mbps
  • Time Warner Cable has a whopping six Internet plans ranging from an itty-bitty 1 Mbps to their ‘Ultimate’ plan with 50Mbps
  • Then, there’s AT&T’s High Speed DSL(Digital Subscriber Line)
    Their U-verse High Speed Internet has 5 plans ranging from 3-24 Mbps.
  • Verizon’s Fiber FiOS plans range from
    15 Mbps to 300 Mbps download (Quantum)
    (and 5-65 Mbps upload!)
    That’s crazy fast!
    (and expensive…over $200/month!)
  • And not to be totally outdone, Cablevision has it’s own ‘Uber’ plan:
    Optimum Online Ultra
    Up to 101 Mbps

How Much Bandwidth Do You Really Need?
So how much speed is fast enough?
The bad news is there is no simple answer.

It’s all about what you’re doing online and then doing the math.

  • Apple TV – 8 Mbps for a 1080p HD movie stream
  • Netflix – 5 Mbps for 720p HD viewing
    and 7 Mbps for their ‘Super HD quality’ (1080p)
  • Hulu Plus – 3 Mbps for HD viewing
    (Basic Hulu doesn’t offer HD)
  • Skype Video- 1.5Mbps

It starts to add up pretty quickly!

Is 15 Mbps Enough?
You’re probably saying to yourself, “I can only do so much damage on my own!”
So 15 Mbps should cover it, right?

That’s true if you’re the only one online.

Families quickly turn the equation upside down, because the real data drain occurs when the usage is ‘cumulative.’

Ask Big Brother
Our government happens to agree with this simple logic.
Yes, believe it or not, the United States of America has an official opinion about all of this!
Keeping up with the times, The FCC has published its own
Broadband Service Consumer’s Guide.

Here are a few of its key points:

  • 1-2 Mbps is enough for email, web surfing and basic streaming video
    (whatever ‘basic’ streaming means)
  • 6-15 Mbps is enough to add either HD streaming, video conferencing, or online gaming
  • More than 15 Mbps is needed if you go with two of the above three data hungry activities
  • Basic web browsing doesn’t improve much after 10Mbps

Fascinating
So it all boils down to this:

  • If you’re on your own, 15 Mbps will probably cover you.
  • If you’ve got company at home, simultaneously sucking from your broadband spigot, it’s time to upgrade!

Or shall we say, you’ll need a little ‘boost.’

You may continue to dream about the day you’ll cut your cable cord, but your high speed Internet is already securely hardwired into your life.

It’s not going anywhere…

Resistance is futile.

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