Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tablet Tribulations

The HP TouchPad Fire Sale 
It seems like a time to reassess my mobile computing needs.  I have a three year old HP Touchpad, which I bought around the August 2011 HP fire sale.  I knew when I acquired the 9.7" tablet that it was “turning into a torpedo” as HP had abandoned WebOS and had a limited array of applications.  All that being said, it could be useful for awiley Thrifty Techie.  Consider that it was a great value for money, as the Touchpad's clearance price was one third of the original MSRP.  The size of the display was great.  Moreover, it had the ability to simultaneously run built upon the  elegant WebOS architecture. Although the app store was small, it included enough software to be quite useful-- so size isn't everything in an apps store.

Even to this day, the Touchpad is my go to device to make use of times when I am otherwise disposed. It is great for web browsing and playing games.  Aside from surfing to YouTube, I haven’t watched many videos on the device, though the XGA screen size is great for the immersive video experience.  The Touchstone charging station also makes it into a great digital picture frame and a good travel accessory.

But realistically, the Touchpad is long in the tooth, along with a stillborn O/S and a dwindling cost conscious counterintutive fan base for support.  While I could continue to muddle along with relying upon a HP Touchpad, it is the content creation criteria which causes me to look elsewhere.  I have a full sized bluetooth keyboard which can be paired with the charging stand to be a laptop substitute, however the three piece ensemble is not sleek mobility.  In addition, since my office productivity software (Corel Word Perfect and Microsoft Office) was not available on WebOS, I found that I was rarely using the word processing capability. When covering events, I found myself live “tweeting” more and then piecing together articles on a laptop. Some streaming websites can not be displayed on the Touchpad and peripheral devices (and tethering applications) can be perilous.

Original Amazon Kindle
I have been a long time enthusiast about the Amazon Kindle, particularly the E-Ink devices.  "Striker" the affection nickname for my  Generation 2 device  with 3G Whispernet, which has served me well since 2010.  But the battery longevity is dwindling.   While batteries for the Kindle can be acquired, I am leery about installing it myself and I can not readily convince computer geeks to do it for me.

The easy answer would be to upgrade but that is not the right answer for me.  I inherited a Kindle Generation 3 with WiFi, which is better for reading but I can not use it for internet access to text based web sites without WiFi as can be done with a Gen 2 reader.

Upgrading to a Kindle Paperwhite has drawbacks.  Now even the 3G Paperwhite only allows access to Wikipedia and the Amazon site, so I wonder why would people pay the extra $50?  Moreover, Amazon has eliminated the headphone option on their E-Ink devices along with the Text to Speech ability.  That was a deal breaker for me. There are times when I want to consume the written word, but I can’t have my eyes on the screen.  But this “read to me” capability exists in two forms for the Kindle Fire.

As a consumer reward, I was able to get my eager hands on a Kindle Fire 2.  It is the perfect size to slip into an over-sized pocket or into a briefcase.  It is a great content consuming device.  I have read books on it and utilized the text-to-speech synthesis.  I have watched some videos on it.  While the 7" screen does not give the immersive experience, the 1220x800 resolution is quite sharp.  I have listened to streaming radio on it.  Of course, I’ve played Angry Birds and other pastime games.  Despite having a few different bluetooth keyboards which could be paired with the Kindle Fire 2, the  7" screen along with the available applications fails to  make it into a productivity device. And one of the supplemental cases which combines a bluetooth keyboard with a case makes the tablet seem bulky, which defeats the purpose of mobile computing. While I definitely anticipate using the Kindle Fire HD 2, its use will likely be as a supplemental reader and a visual content consuming device.

My digital discernment is that I should have a content creation mobile device.  Even though  smartphones are getting bigger displays, I do not think that such Phablets (phone tablets), lend themselves to prolonged productivity in mobile computing.   I am not looking for a laptop replacement as I already have a Windows 7 laptop, which suits my needs and runs software which will not work in a tablet environment.  Thus I want something in between a laptop and a tablet-- a laplet.

The Toshiba Thrive 10.1" display  Android tablet laying around the household could have been a suitable solution as it allows for a dock to connect a USB keyboard and/or mouse.  However, it  is my spouse’s pride and joy thus it is unavailable to me.  So I find myself drawn to an ultraportable tablet for content creation  which is sleeker than a laptop with more mobile battery power.

By keying into content creation, it eliminates other popular mobile tablets, such as the Apple iPad and the Nexus 7.  Conceivably, I could consider an Apple Macbook Air but as a Thrifty-Techie who has never entered the Apple universe,  cost and conversion challenges would rule it out.

Then there is the ASUS Transformer series, which has a 10.1" screen which can have up to a 1920x1200 screen.  The price point becomes a consideration as it rivals laptop price without giving a hard drive, a DVD drive, or many standard USB ports.  And to the chagrin of some discriminating mobile computing shoppers, ASUS has shifted their software from Android to Windows 8.1 thus it is unappealing.  Although I would not want to be stuck with Windows 8.1 on a PC or laptop per se, due to legacy software and not optimizing the touch screen User Interface (UI), I remain open to Windows 8.1 for a tablet.

These criteria leave room for the Microsoft Surface RT.  The 10.6" 16x9 screen is large enough for immersive video viewing, but is also a good size for productivity without becoming unwieldy.  The draw of the Surface RT is to have a complimentary full suite of Office 2013 RT available (the O/S upgrade includes Windows 8.1. and Outlook).  But as an Ultraportable tablet to optimize productivity, it requires the keyboard cover.

The original price point for the Surface 32 RT was $499 with a $119 add on for the keyboard (or $699 for the 64GB with keyboard bundled)  which put it in the iPad price point, which was overpriced for the market.  But as Microsoft took a write off in 2013 on the Surface RT and is rolling out the success tablet Surface 2 and Surface 3 Pro, there are great deals on manufacturer refurbished Surface RT units.  When one can have a 64 GB unit for 1/3rd of the original MSRP through popular auction sites, it is worth considering by the Thrifty Techie.

Bill Murray on Reading Online

Bill Murray

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Surveying the Surfeit of Cheap Tablets

[This article originally ran on in anticipation of Black Friday but has been updated for the Summer of 2014.  While the prices may have passed, the advise for analyzing features is golden]

As Black Friday and Cyber Monday approaches, many merchants are highlighting inexpensive tablet computers as doorbusters or loss leaders to gin up overall Christmas holiday sales.  But before making impulse electronics purchases, it is wise to consider how you would use a tablet in mobile computing.  

It used to be that tablets were the ideal media consumption device. Tablets with 7" to 10" screens allow an individual to have an almost immersive view of videos.  Applications (a.k.a. apps) generally provided shortcuts which facilitated internet interactions.  Some tablets like the Nook and the Kindle were more e-ink reading devices which could have proto-tablet functions (checking e-mail, Wikipedia, and text based websites).  But Amazon’s Kindle Fire sought to be a loss leader which was a shopping portal doubling as an entertainment device.   Samsung’s strong showing with its Galaxy Tablets as well as the “phablet” Note series sought to tie tablets to cellular carriers.

Discern what are your mobile computing needs.  If you want a communications device with a larger screen (and you don’t mind carrying a 5.5" device in a pocket or a purse), then a “phablet” like the Samsung Note may be the best choice for you.  Many retailers will be offering enticing prices for such hybrid phone/tablets, but be prepared to be locked into a cellular carrier for a year or two.  If you want to keep having the latest and greatest devices, look into the early upgrade programs from major cellular carriers. 

Tablets sales used to be driven by Apple’s i-Pad, which came out in 2010.  The i-Pad still wins 29.6% of the tablet market while asking for a premium price that is rarely discounted.  While this writer is not purposely not part of the Apple cult, if one feels compelled to buy an Apple for its reputation of ease of use, enticing design or to keep up with the Jones’, then buy an i-Pad and sleep in on Black Friday.

As an electronics consumer, I like to get the most bang for my buck with tables and not be limited by a vertical monopoly manufacturer.   Currently I own a couple of Amazon Kindles and a WebOS HP Touchpad.  I love to read on an e-ink device like the Kindle.  Unfortunately, my Kindle 2 (with the slow but unrestricted 3G coverage) is losing its charge and computer geeks are reluctant to change out the battery.  While the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite provides even better e-ink resolution, the newer model has dropped the headphones option and the text-to-speech feature.  For my purposes. the text-to-speech ability is important for times which I want to enjoy books but can not have my eyes on the screen.  But text-to-speech is included in the Kindle Fires.

Regarding my HP Touchpad, I knew that it was a dead-end from the moment I acquired it in the HP fire-sale in the August 2011.  But WebOs is an elegant operating system and the HP Touchpad had upscale features.  Two years later, it is running fine and should be serviceable for the foreseeable future.  Alas, there are not many new WebOs applications available.  In order to use some hotspots, there are apps that are necessary and I am reluctant to make it a dual booting Android tablet.  So between an ailing e-reader and a red headed stepchild tablet, I have my eye out on the surfeit of cheap tablets.

 Some have tried to take advantage of the slow demise of the Barnes and Noble Nook by using the SD card as an Android boot.  It can work, but realize that the Nooks OS takes up nearly 3/4ths of an 8 GB e-reader.  The 16 GB Nook HD tablets (list $150) offer more storage.  But there are serious questions to the long term viability of the Nook.  So it may only be good for reconfigured use or as a stuck in time tablet. 

Having owned several Kindles over the past four years, I am entrenched in Amazon’s e-reader market.  The Amazon Kindle Fire HD has achieved around 5% market share, but it should suffice for my own  supplemental tablet/ infotainment needs.  Although a 16 GB Kindle Fire HD (list  now $169) has a 7" screen is markedly smaller than the 9.7" HP Touchpad screen, it is a more manageable size for e-reading functions.  Moreover, my mobile computing needs have not been as video oriented.  The Kindle Fire HD has Bluetooth, which should allow a wireless keyboard for productivity.  The Kindle Fire HD  does allow for hotspot connection hence  buying a 4G version is costly and unnecessary.  

For those interested in getting Black Friday bargains for the Amazon Fire, be aware that the discounts will be for the Fire HD (2nd generation) not the newer Fire HDX.

If one can live without using a tablet as a camera or a phone or having the “Mayday” feature, the HD will have most of the improvements of Kindle Fire OS 3.0 “Mojito “ (a forked version of Android).   Many of the cut rate Kindle Fires are 8 GB (which should leave around 6 GB for internal storage along with the cloud).

While most mobile computing people look to tablets as a media consumption device, some industrious individuals want to have a tablet that is a  quasi laptop without the bulk or balking at the price of a MacBook Air (list $999).  When Microsoft entered the tablet market, it tried to appeal to such customers with the Microsoft Surface RT.  The price point of the Microsoft  Surface 2  (list $449) rivals that of the i-Pad (list $499), but Microsoft throws in fully functioning version of Office and 200 GB of SkyDrive storage and plenty of cloud storage, features which generally cost extra elsewhere.

The 10.6" touch screen of the Microsoft Surface makes full use of Metro interface, but if one wishes to run old programs, it is necessary to buy a Microsoft Surface Pro (original MSRP at  $899 but Surface Pro 3 now lists at $799), which is much pricier.   The big tiles on the start screen are customizable and offer updated embedded information.  The Surface RT allows multitasking.  

The body of the Microsoft Surface RT includes a built in kick stand.  The Surface RT has micro SDSX ports allowing users to add memory.  The magnetic Touch Cover is ordinarily a $119 add on which both protects the screen and can be used as a keyboard.  While the Windows Apps store is not as robust as the Android or i-store, they claim that plenty of apps are free. 

If you have Surface appeal, it  was possible to find a Surface RT for under $200 during Black Friday sales and for similar prices on Ebay.   Invest in the cover as the keyboard cover is key, otherwise it is just an overpriced tablet running an apps limited version of Windows 8.1.

There will be plenty of Black Friday sales on Android tablets.   If Android tablets have an appeal, determine which version of OS the hardware has, as earlier versions of Android  (prior to 4.0“Jelly Bean”) are not optimized to tablet proportions. Also be aware of how much storage is on the tablet.  A $40 tablet that only boasts 4GB will barely hold one movie.  That might be good enough for kinderspiel but would quickly be condemned to the land of misfit toys for most other tablet users. 

This holiday shopping season it may be easy to acquire a tablet but take the time to choose the right tablet for you. Consumers who are content to pay premium prices for an entertainment consumption device which is touted to work out of the box should opt for an i-Pad. Busy businessmen may want the Microsoft Surface to be able to do Office work while surfing the web on their tablets.  Those who want an all in one mobile communications device should consider a “phablet” like the Samsung Galaxy Note.  Avid readers who want the functionality of a tablet should lean towards the Amazon Kindle Fire.  And there are a variety of inexpensive Android tablets which may motivate impulse shoppers.

h/t: BFAds

Choosing Cellular Competition–A Sweet Young Ting or a Virgin Mobile?

Cellular telephony allows us to always be in touch telephonically, to act as a digital music player, to have a camera and video cam at the ready, as well as potentially carrying around a computer in the deceptive disguise  of a smart-phone.  Some foolish souls will risk life and limb to keep their cell phones. But these ordinary conveniences come at a cost.  Today, a sizable major portion of Americans household budgets are dedicated to communication costs.  People become so caught up at the prospect of a shiny new telephonic toy that they lose sight of the monthly costs associated with this privilege.  

Recently, I wrote "A Cellular Call for Change” to consider how the mobile telephony industry in America is on the cusp of shifting away from highly subsidized handsets with expensive iron clad two year contracts to more of a BYOD marketplace which offers lower rates if you foot the bill for your phone.  The article urged the savvy consumer to know yourself and investigate thoroughly. 

Well, I took my own advice.  I dug deep into a spreadsheet about my household’s cell-phone usage while doing an intense analysis of cellular providers plans and quirks.  The results were somewhat surprising.

My household has been with Sprint for nearly six years.  We are well out of contract with our current smart-phones (a HTC Evo and a Samsung Epic) but we have been happy with the service, aside from the cost.  Since our handsets are in excellent condition, there is neither a need nor desire to upgrade phones, especially in return for a costly 24 month contract. 

Even though we were initially sold on Sprint because of the 7PM Nights and Weekends, a hard nosed analysis of usage showed the most of the minutes used stemmed from free Mobile-to-Mobile calling.  Yet including the Anytime, Nights and Weekends as well as Mobile-to-Mobile minutes, we never broke the 1000 minute total threshold (and one of the handsets consistently used most of the minutes).  Our texts were under 1000 total.  Data was the variable.  While it was nice to have the certainty of Unlimited Minutes, my household was not a data hog. There were a few times over the course of the year when we used 3 Gig of data a month between the phones, most months hovered just over 2 Gigs combined.  There were few months when mobile data usage was above 3 Gig and one month at 4 Gig.  

Most of our time is in the District of Calamity (sic) or Between the Beltways.  But much of our travel takes us to southwestern Virginia where cellular service can be persnickety, and 4G coverage is virtually non-existent. Our experience is that Sprint Network voice and data in the destination area is good for us without paying the high fees for Verizon’s stellar coverage.  

One would think that cellular companies would be keen on keeping their customers, especially those customers who are not servicing a subsidized phone anymore. Both Verizon and ATT have churn rates below 1%, while Sprint has a 1.69% churn and T-Moblile sports an ugly 2.10% rate. But such competitive spirit was not shown by our current carrier, as a couple of calls to Sprint’s Customer Service proved otherwise.

These Sprint Customer Service Reps were supposed to be staffing a retention line.  But other than being thanked for our long time loyalty and being reminded of a current rate, we were not given any incentives to stay.  Since we did not need a new low cost phone in exchange for a two year contract, they could do nothing for us. It is infuriating to pay a $10 a month surcharge per handset for smart- phones well after these extra costs were long since covered.  Worse yet, the CSRs gave conflicting and incorrect information while running down their Mobile Virtual Network Operator or MVNO competition (including Boost and Virgin Mobile which Sprint owns)..  The  CSR insisted that we could only save $30 a month by switching to a MVNO despite my research that we could save nearly thrice that amount. 

My research led me to two potential choices–a sweet young Ting (sic) or a Virgin Mobile. is a  MVNO owned by Tucows which operates off of the CDMA Sprint Network. While Ting has only been offering prepaid cellular service since February 2012, their parent company Tucows has been around since 1994 which gives it some credence of stability.  Ting’s distinctive feature is use what you pay for billing.   

Ting's pricing is given in tiers from XS to XXL for voice, texting and data and consumers can mix and match on a monthly basis.  If one estimates too high for any given service, Ting will credit the customer for the next month.  Ting does not charge for hotspots, which is a hot point for switching from Sprint which charges $29.99 per line for the privilege.  One other welcomed feature from Ting is a Customer Service line which operates during extended weekday business hours based in Canada, so a customer can understand what is being said to them, eh?  Ting does not subsidize handsets, but allows for BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices).

Ting seems to charge full freight on the new cell phones that they sell (even compared to other prepaid cellular services), but they have links for getting refurbished handsets as well as allowing one to BYOD.  While many all you can eat cellular consumers could have if they were charged based on usage, it seems that Ting has slightly higher rates for add-on data.  For instance, if a consumer exceeds 3Gig of Data, more data is charged at $22 a Gig.  If a consumer watches lots of mobile video or has cut the phone cord at the house, an unlimited plan may be a better way to go. 

For our household's purposes, the other cellular player is Virgin Mobile.  Virgin Mobile is a quasi-MVNO which is owned by Sprint and is their mid-ranged prepaid cellular service.  Virgin Mobile does not have the sexiest and newest smart-phones but their plans are quite attractively priced.   Virgin Mobile rates have three tiers.  
For $55 a month, one can have unlimited voice, texting and data.   The $45 a month plan has 1200 Voice  minutes, unlimited Texting and Data A $35 a month plan has 300 Voice minutes, unlimited Texing and Data.

The caveat to unlimited data is 2.5 Gig at up to 4G speed, then a consumer is throttled back to 3G speed until the next billing period. If a consumer uses a Virgin Mobile hotspot, it is an additional $15 a month.  Although it is damn near impossible to speak to a human being through Virgin Mobile’s toll free number, the cyber telephone tree can yield information as well as the website.  Moreover, bills can be paid at plethora of locations, including 7-11 along with the web. 

While there has been conflicting information, Virgin Mobile does allow some Sprint CDMA devices to be ported to their MVNO.   Not all phones can be used thru Virgin Mobile as hotspots, so 4G Wimax phones are fine but the new to Sprint 4G LTE handsets can not be used in such a profligate way. 

Practically speaking, switching to Virgin Mobile does requiring replacing one handset and separate billing for each line.  At this time, Virgin Mobile is offering the Samsung Victory– a mid ranged Galaxy class handset with 4G LTE capabilities– at a reasonable rate.

Although I can conjure scenarios in which opting for Ting would save slightly more money than Virgin Mobile and offer free hotspots.  But for those out of pocket times when mobile data is key, a cost effective tactic would be to use a no to low cost external hotspot from FreedomPop.  It takes two for that plan to work and that may be too confusing to implement.  So the lowest priced option might not be the best way for my household.

Since most of the heavy mobile data usage would be in areas which only have 3G data coverage, it would not matter if the 4G was throttled back.  The hotspot could be turned on for the months when significant time is spent at the rural locale.

So as it stands, Virgin (Mobile) comes out on top in the head to head cellular competition against Ting.   Either way, it will cut our cell phone bill in half. The costs incurred to switch to Virgin Mobile to buy a new handset would be recouped in two months of savings viz-a-viz Sprint.  But I’ll still hold onto my old HTC Evo, as a backup and in case I switch again to a BYOD MVNO. 

Thomas Sowell once opined that “There are no such thing as solutions, but only trade offs.”  So to make the right choice, a savvy consumer should run the numbers themselves, determine if their carrier gives good reception where the phone will be used the most and determine how he will use cellular service.  If you are just texting, Ting charges $9 a month with 1000 texts or an SMS happy user $17 a month for 4000 texts. 

Virgin Mobile hypnotically suggests that one should "retrain your brain."  Some might find all of the choices confusing and headache inducing.  But think about all of the aspirin one can easily afford from your monthly cell phone savings! 

Who is this Thrifty Techie?

Perhaps I can be considered a rara avis by technology standards.  I relish technologies, but resist getting the latest and greatest.  I have consistently opted for lesser popular products which better met my needs.

Corel WordPerfect
When it comes to word processors, most people immediately think of Microsoft Word.  While I am certainly proficient at Word, my preference has been Corel WordPerfect since the show codes (alt-F3) option avoids many formatting quandaries that vex complex Word documents.  Moreover, since WordPerfect is the second rank in sales, so they seem to try harder at pricing. 

As for computers, I have almost always been a Microsoft user (but I got my start on “Trash-80s” and  I vaguely remember  CMS OS).  I have loaded a flavor of Linux on a desktop but I have not be inspired to play with it, since software tinkering is not a desired hobby of mine.

This technical preamble serves to stipulate that I have never owned an Apple product.  No Macs, no iPods, no iPhones and no iPads.  When I tried out the  Apple LISA  in the early 1980s, I was not totally enchanted by the GUI interface, yet I appreciate howsome may be swayed by having  having an easy to use screen.  I thrice tried installing iTunes on a PC but found that the software tried to take over the CPU so I uninstalled it. From a bottom line perspective, Apple products tend to cost much more than their counterparts because it is a vertically integrated company so they charge a premium for sleek designs “which just work". For iPods, Apple took over 70% of the market

For digital music players, I started with Rio but was quite happy using Creative Labs products.  What I appreciated about many of the Creative Lab designs was an ability to switch out lithium-ion batteries, which is a feature which Apple products consistently lack.  For the Zen Vision M mp3 player, I liked the added features, like a microphone and an FM tuner which the more expensive yet more popular iPods eschewed.  Even though my devices are still in good shape, Creative stopped supporting them, so it is challenging to conveniently transfer tracks to and from newer computers.  Since iTunes seemed more like malware to me on a PC, I was not hooked into the habit of purchasing from the iTunes Store.

I was somewhat of an early adopter to DVRs.  But instead of getting the TIVO subscription service, I had Replay TV (the DVR which Hollywood eventually sued into bankruptcy for its ability to skip commercials.   This was a great service until the satellite provider offered inexpensive DVRs as part of the package.  It is surprising that TIVO still exists as a subscription service today,
but it seems that they offer more sophisticated data mining of viewing habits and allow for automatic recording nowadays.

HDTV greatly interested me as a consumer.  But when it was first becoming commercially available, it was quite expensive and confusing.  So I opted to get trained and sell televisions as a side job for a couple of weeks to better understand the marketplace.  Most people either chose Plasmas or LCD TVs but I found that DLPs was more cost effective and had a better product for my situation.  It has given me a larger Big Screen TV at a lower initial cost. I am not distressed that Mitsubishi has gotten out of the DLP TV consumer market since it has served my purposes and simple servicing (lightbulb replacement) can be self-installed.

When I first got a smartphone, I chose the Palm because I liked the potential synergy between the Palm Pilot PDA and a cellphone.   The Palm Centro was a brick design but had a great tactile keyboard.  I was tempted to get a Palm Pre but I observed that people had problems with the sliding keyboard design. So I advanced onto Android phones.  Still I had high hopes for the WebOS, which looked like an elegant operating system.  So much so, HP paid $1.2 billionfor Palm, seemingly just to get WebOS.

When tablets first came out, they started at $600 which was way too much for a Thrifty Techie. So I was happy to get my HP Touchpad at 1/3 of the price.  HP tried pricing their WebOS tablet the same price-point as iPods so few sold.  After 10 weeks of stagnant sales, HP decided to withdraw from the tablet marketplace and had a fire sales.  Although logistics prevented me from buying a bottom of the barrel price, I was happy with what I paid.  I knew that the OS was stillborn, but believed that it had enough apps to be useful.  I termed that HP Touchpad tablet purchase as “turning into a torpedo”.  Three years later, I am happily using the tablet.  There are some challenges with not having new apps, but it still suits my purposes for quite a while.

I have  been a longtime ebook reader enthusiast.  I got in when the $300 price point was cut in half via refurbishments. At the time, Sony, Kobo (via Borders), the Nook (via Barnes and Noble) and Kindle (via Amazon) were the choices.   Aside from assessing the ebook hardware,  ebook reader purchasers must really also include what merchant from whom you want to be locked into buying.  I chose Amazon and never regretted it.  Their customer service, particularly for the Kindle, has been fantastic.  I have perhaps a thousand books but have only really purchased a score of them since Kindle readers often have promos available.    With the Kindle, some great features are constantly added yet some desirable features have been discontinued on certain models (switching batteries, adding external memory, unbridled Whispernet, text-to-speech) so upgrading is not always an easy choice.

It is interesting that several technology providers which I chose had brief market lives.  But with the rapidity of change in technology and the planned obsolescence, one should not plan that any particular technology to be forever viable, no matter how well kept it is.

What this techno retrospective has demonstrated is that this Thrifty Techie thinks outside of the box when choosing technology based upon his utility analysis.  This Thifty Techie is an inveterate bargain hunter but who knows that the lowest price is not always the best bargain.  By assessing features and pairing them with desired abilities, he can determine when it is better to hold onto a gadget or appreciate that one is sinking good money after bad on an item.  

May the help you discern what is the best choice for you.

Why Thrifty-Techie?

We live in a time where technology can overwhelm us.  Perhaps 15% of the population are early adopters, who relish paying top dollar to get a shiny new techno toy which is supposedly the latest and greatest. The most devoted to this cult will camp out for days to be amongst the first in line to get a newly released gadget.  There are plenty of places where these gadget geeks can satisfy their techno lust.

Toward the other end of the technology spectrum, there are people could jocularly be referred to as  neo-Luddites who do not consider technology a priority and may be a hinderance to living well.  Yet  few people  actually live without gadgets. Their lack of understanding and interest in technology sometimes traps them into a modus operendi which is both expensive and inefficient.

While I appreciate the onslaught of new technology, I want to find solutions which give the most bang for the buck.  The Thrifty-Techie hopes to highlight technologies which could save a consumer significant cash while meeting their needs. 

However,  the most frugal choice may not be the thriftiest choice, especially in the technological arena. Gadgets which are supposed to enhance the quality of our lives are often underutilized or become a vexing source of frustration.  It may be a better match to pay a convenience tax for an easy to use gadget rather than being penny wise and pound foolish.  The Thrifty-Techie hopes to help match the non-techie to the best choice for them.

Although it is easy to relegate the meaning of thrifty to cost consciousness, it also encompasses "using resources carefully and not wastefully".  Thus, along with the reviews of thrifty products and services, and suggestions on how to more fully utilize devices and software, there may be some reflections  on the ethics associated with technology and the appropriate use of devices.

Sting composed the lyrics to the Police album “The Ghost in the Machine” (1981) to explore Arthur Koestler’s comparative psychological theory that man is becoming more machine-like, which interferes with our primordial sensibilities.  Although our society thrives on technology, we need to find ways to leverage these techno tools to enhance the quality of individuals, lest we find ourselves with "Too Much Information".

I have often wanted to help people choose the best technology for them.  Unfortunately, verbally communicating this wisdom can overwhelm the decision maker so written conveyance may be more effective.  The Thrifty-Techie aspires to prevent information overload so as to maximize the utility of our technology while minimizing the frustration associated with these gadgets.  Perhaps it can serve as an technology entrepot where ideas are exchanged.