Category Archives: Rave

Plug: Exotac FreeKey System

I’m not quite sure how I stumbled on the Exotac FreeKey key ring, I think it was a related link to something else I was buying on the Amazon a while ago.  At first, it looks like your everyday wire key ring, but upon closer inspection, its actually flat metal.  There’s also a permanent bend in the rings that allows you lever open the ring for adding or subtracting the sub-rings easily without using your fingernails as you would normally.

I’ve been carrying this ring around for a few months now and find it great.  Its super light and the bigger than normal main ring allows my keys lay flat in my pocket.  Now that I’ve started running again, I take just my house key with me (and leave the balance of my keys at home to lighten the load), so I’m adding and subtracting rings on a daily basis with zero hassles.

Totally worth the $7, check it out.

Review: Brother MFC-J475DW

When departing the house, I offloaded our 10 year old Brother MFC465CN copier/printer/fax via craigslist.  I wanted it gone quick, so I used the magic keyword, FREE! It worked fine, and I had a big box of spare ink cartridges, but it was redundant with a new printer Sandy had  in California.

Even though Sandy’s Canon MFC was 9 years newer, it paled in comparison to the trusty Brother.  It was slow, first page out took a minute or more, it was crazy loud and could not feed photo paper other than a single sheet at time.  After one session of trying to print out a few snap shots, I had enough.

I saw that the Best Buy down the street had roughly the 2015 edition of the Brother machine we used to have, the MFC-J475DW for a penny pinching $49, and swooped over to pick one up.  Its feature list is pretty impressive for the money:

  • Wifi (and wired networking)
  • AirPrint
  • Duplex printing

I was a little disappointed when I unboxed it and noted that the build quality was not nearly as nice as the old one.  But, the features and performance make up for that shortcoming.

Setup was pretty straightforward;  just type in the access point name and password, and that’s about it.  OSX on the computer side didn’t have the printer in its database, so I had to download the latest driver package, but the process was no more complicated than that.

Compared to that Canon MFC, the Brother is lightning fast.   Time to start printing is under 10 seconds for most prints.  Finishing the page only takes under 10 seconds.  The duplexer also works very reliably.  In a couple dozen prints, there have been no jams.  Its also delightfully quiet;  much quieter than both the Canon and the older Brother.

Printer quality isn’t super great for text, but not terrible either.  Not 100% black and just a little fuzzy.  Photo quality is a lot better than the older Brother.  No discernible scan lines, and colors are bright.  Didn’t have to manually brighten photos before printing to get the to look good on paper.

I haven’t had much occasion to use the scanner yet, but the 2 times I tried it the quality looked fine and it was pretty speedy.   With the older Brother, I gave up on the scanner pretty much.  The quality was fine, but it super slow.  I eventually just resorted to using the Scanner Pro iOS app instead.

One minor quibble is that the paper tray doesn’t have separate slots for everyday paper and photo paper.  Come to think of it, I don’t miss that much because I don’t print photos that often and when I did on the old printer, I always left the photo part of the tray enabled and fouled things up when needing to print regular stuff.  So, no great loss.

So, for a $50, the Brother MFC-J475DW is a whole lot of printer and looking forward to another 10 years of reliable printing.

Way more useful that I would have guessed.

Oscillating Multifunction Power Tool.

I needed to trim the shake siding around a window I recently installed to get the trim to fit (the new window was slightly larger than the old one.)  I picked up the tool thinking it might work.  Turns out it was just what I needed.  I was able to zip off 1/2″ around the perimeter of the window through a few layers of shingle and fiberboard insulation in about 30 minutes.  Very impressive for a $20 investment.

FiOS Still Rocks

Recently my DVR has been acting up.  Its been working 100% fine, but I’ve been hearing the tell tale signs of hard drive or fan failure.  Last night, in the middle of the night, it was the white noise was loud enough to wake me up (I was in bed, the DVR is downstairs!)  I unplugged it and went back to sleep.

In the morning, I plugged back in and it booted up fine.  But, when I checked the DVR, poof, all the shows and schedule of items to be recorded was gone.  Oh well, its not if a hard drive is gonna die, but when.  Gonna take a while to recover our catalog of the kids favorites, but that’s life, I guess.

So, about 8AM, I fired up my computer, logged into the Verizon customer site, and was pleasantly surprised that some one actually answering chat support early on Saturday morning.  I gave them the details and one of the first things they did was apologize for the hassle.  Yeah, its a token gesture, but it was refreshing to hear.

After confirming that I had already done the normal trouble shooting steps (power cycling, onboard diagnostics, etc.)  The tech said, yeah, it sounds like its done for.  Before I could ask where I could swap the box locally, he said that he already made arrangements to send us out a replacement box (second day UPS.)  They also gave me a case number and told me how to call the billing department and get credit for the missed service until the new box arrived.

I was so impressed I didn’t mind the minor upsale attempts to get me to upgrade to a box with more storage space or upgrade my internet bandwidth.

Switching to FiOS for TV and internet is something I have yet to regret.  Rock solid reliability and awesome support (this is the first time I’ve had to tap their support in the 3 years that I’ve been with them.)  Can’t recommend them enough.

Sprint Shocker

Was unhappy when I opened my Sprint bill this month it was about $35 to high.  Didn’t take long to figure out that the overage was on my line.  Hmm, why I am being charged for Casual Data Usage?  Last I knew, I had all you can eat data via the Power Vision feature.  Hmm, no line item for that.  I went back to last months bill and saw it was missing their too.  (I just missed it because my Casual Data Usage total was just about the same as the normal Power Vision charge.)

Shoot, I’ll bet they messed up my account when temporarily changed the phone on my line a while back.  Even though you’d think that changing phones shouldn’t make any changes to your plan features, it seems they always muck something up.  With a big sigh, I dialed up Sprint customer support (after not being able to find chat based support on their website anymore.)

I made my case and was put on hold for a few minutes.  They asked when I did the phone juggling and reiterated that changing phones shouldn’t change any plan features.   They found that time frame in my account and noted that Power Vision was already off the account at that point.  They said it was removed when I added some features to other phones in my family plan.  After saying that must have been an error, they asked if I wanted added back in.  I said yep, and they put me on hold again.

After a little wait, they came back and said I was all set and that they credited me back the difference between the Casual Data Usage and Power Vision charge.  Wow, I’m pretty pleased that I didn’t have to ask.  Good deal!

Cell Phone Redemption

After puttering around the house for a while and doing my requisite time at the gym, I figured it was time for some more fun at the cell phone store.  Guessing that the mall store would be overrun with teenyboppers, I headed to the other standalone Sprint location in town (well, Fairmont.)

Pleasantly surprised that even though there were a bunch of cars in the parking lot shared with a few other stores, there wasn’t a sole in the Sprint store.  I head up the counter and I remade my case.  My cat busted my phone, it works ok, except it doesn’t ring, I don’t have insurance, and I really don’t want to pay full retail for another phone.

The guy started by saying he’d take a look at the phone, but wasn’t sure he’d be able to do anything.  He asked how old the phone was and I said less than a year.  He then said that the best thing to is probably to try to get Palm to do a warranty replacement.  I told him I was trying to see if anybody in town could do anything for me before going that route.  That and being so close to the 1 year timeout on the warranty, I’m pretty sure that they’d find a way to screw me.

I said, well, while I’m here can you at least take a crack at it?  He said, yeah it’d cost me $15 to open it up, even if he couldn’t fix it.  I said sure, guessing that it was probably something easy to fix after getting the phone open.  He said give him and hour and fifteen minutes and stop back in.  I ducked out and killed the time with aimless wandering in Lowes and Walmart locations nearby.

An hour and fifteen minutes later, I stroll back in.  He said, good news and ducked into the back room.  On his way back into the showroom I could already hear the blink blink blinks of him stepping through the menus to preview the ringer to show me everything was working.  Sweet.  So, I said how much do I owe ya, he said its $15.  Cool.

So, to help mitigate further calamities, do you have any Centro cases?  He had a nice gel jacket and picked it.  After ringing me out, he promptly moved my number from the backup phone back to the repaired phone.

All in all, I’m pretty happy.  My phone works again, and I didn’t drop a whole lot of money to make it happen.  I think Sprint Fairmont just became my new default location for when I need to deal with them in person.