Fruit vs. Robotics

13467490375_a614990236_zSamsung Galaxy S5 vs Apple iPhone 5 by Kārlis Dambrāns on Flickr (CC-BY 2.0)

I have been the owner or user of various Apple hardware for around 8 or so years now. The first one was an iPod nano. Sure, it was small (4GB), but it was an introduction into the world of Apple hardware.

When the iPhone first came out, I wasn’t sure about it, but oddly, there was a feature that I loved about it, how it would make the numbers look correct when you entered an international number. But it wasn’t until it was mentioned to me that the iPhone was a thing of awesome that I decided to jump ahead in Apple technology. To the iPod Touch, which I still have and it still works. :)

Moving ahead to July, 2010 and I decided that it was time to get a proper mobile phone after 5-1/2 years of using various flip phones, so I bought the iPhone 3GS (a decision made on the merits of cost, since it was half the price of the iPhone 4 at that time, plus I had to pay a $125 deposit to the mobile phone company). I put tons of miles on that phone – it went with me to Michigan, almost to Canada, Australia, Hawaii and at least once down to Illinois.

I also picked up an iPad 2 in 2012 for free (thanks to my work’s rewards program!), which has been passed along to my mom for her to use. The reason? I bought myself an iPad Air earlier this year (thanks to a combination of Costco rewards and gift cards from work). :)

In 2013, I had to give up on the phone (despite it having lost the ability to make noise some months earlier and the vibration function had totally given up!). Why did I give up on the phone? There was an incident…

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I think that’s a good enough reason 😉

Well, that and the offer I got from Best Buy just about the same time – buy a new iPhone 5 online and get $50 back. I’ll just leave it here to say that the ordering of the phone and the actual retrieving of said phone were two different things. The email said that it shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes. It took more like 2 days, and two different trips to Mayfair Mall to get the new phone.

I was so shocked at how fast the phone was right out of the box! Not only was it an improvement of three generations of phones (having skipped over the 4 and 4S), I had access to the LTE Network for AT&T, which gave a speed test result of something like 2x as fast as my home wifi!

Now that my iPhone 5 (well the new iPhone 5 that I just got a couple of weekends ago due to another incident not related to dropping it on concrete…check this one out –

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Yeah, that doesn’t look right, so I googled and found out that this is related to a battery bulging problem, and Apple are replacing the phones if it’s confirmed to be the case. So, a trip to the Apple Store later and a visit to the Genius bar (which they didn’t seem too much like geniuses considering that they were having issues removing covers from iPhone 6S Plusses ;)), they told me that I would get a new phone, but I’d have to wait…on the Saturday it was ready and I picked it up. :)

The other side

So, let’s go on a parallel track; let’s say a parallel world where there were no Apple products. Such a world exists and I’ve dabbled in that world a couple of times. The first was when I was in Australia…it was a gift for my trip back to the ‘States, and the expectation was set that there were some issues with it – Wifi didn’t work, and it was very wonky, especially when it came to powering on and off. The latter was certainly true, but to all of our surprise, the wifi did work on it :) You can check out this tablet (prior to it having been upgraded to a proper version of Android) –

Unfortunately, the wonkiness of the tablet led to it falling into disuse after a short while since it would stop holding a charge, which was disappointing, because it was quite handy to me for reading at night. Its only downsides were that it was not terribly portable (mostly due to not being able to hold the charge) and that the screen wasn’t very responsive to my touching at all.

So that led me to actually go out and buy a Nextbook 7S tablet from Big Lots. This was a small improvement over the original tablet in that it did work…at first, but I still had issues with the tablet. Namely, the fact that since the touchscreen was resistive, you had to press really hard on the screen for it to respond. That is, when the screen actually would recognise your inputs as it would constantly lose its calibration, and even when pressing the calibration targets, you would have to do it numerous times to work correctly.

That was a major component of the decision to pick up the iPad since I had already had my iPhone for 2 years at that time and was accustomed to the ease of use of the Apple Products.

Where to from here?

If you read this far, you’d think that I am completely against Android products due to poor experiences with previous products. For a while, that was right, but as time has moved along, I’ve seen how things are going with Android – especially with the products from Samsung.

No doubt this is influenced by the fact that I have heard nothing but good things about Samsung phones and tablets from Snoskred (since it was her who told me about the awesomeness of the iPhone in the first place), who came to me as a surprise having bought a Galaxy phone about 2 years ago. I will note here that I was at first disappointed because of losing some communication functionality, but that was quickly resolved with a link to KakaoTalk and Google Hangouts.

So, it led me to thinking – what services or apps are there that I use which are iPhone only, and I came up with only two so far –

  1. Overcast – This has become my podcast player of choice since hearing about it on the Hello Internet podcast. The major reason that I use if is its feature called “Smart Speed” – where it will cut out the silences in a podcast. Since installation, it’s saved me somewhere over 15 hours of time in listening to podcasts. As far as I know, there isn’t anything similar on Android (though this can be compensated for by going with a faster playback, like 1.25x speed)
  2. Solebon Solitaire – This is one of the few games that I play on my iPhone right now, and it’s not available on Android. However, there are plenty of other solitaire options available on Google Play, so I’m sure that I could find one to suit me 😉 

There was a third one, the OlloClip, but as it turns out, they are making units for the Galaxy range as well – at least for the S4 and the S5

Yes, I did just get a “new” iPhone, but let’s face it…this is a phone that is using three-year-old technology. I’ve found it being quite finicky in its use lately (e.g. when I’m swiping pages, it will stick sometimes, plus I have quite a few crashes…not to mention the issues that I have with Chrome). For me, it’s about time for an upgrade…so I looked more at the options.

In comparing the iPhone 6S ($199.00 on contract–don’t get me started on these “pay as you go” plans like AT&T’s Next), the Samsung Galaxy S5 ($0) and Galaxy S6 ($129.99) objectively (i.e. not looking at the software), I get this list of advantages for the iPhone (even if you look at the 6S plus which is $100 more) –


None, really. Consider this – the base model of the S6, despite being $70 cheaper (just the same off contract…$649 for the iPhone vs $584 for the S6) has twice the storage, 1.5x the RAM, better display (1440p vs just over 720p in a similar sized frame, 1080p for the 6S plus), better camera…oh, and it’s lighter (it’s almost lighter than air! I checked one out at my local Best Buy the other day…it was quite an amazing feeling!).

There’s also the OnePlus X that’s being released this month at $249 unlocked without contract, which I like since it’s a one-and-done transaction–just buy it, activate it on the AT&T Network (even just plug the SIM card and MicroSD in and go). Bizarrely, this phone actually has an FM radio included in it which piques my interest :)

So, the real question is, with the variety of phones out there that have better specs than the iPhone, why not switch? I already use Google Music for my music, have Dropbox, Box, and multiple Google Drive accounts where I can store my photos (I don’t use iCloud’s photo stream…there was a small incident where I wound up using my data when it was uploading through my mobile hotspot) and with the exception of the two apps above (and the Olloclip), everything else that I use is available on Android…

All I’ll say is I’m watching for deals, and watch this space.. 😉

Three New Costcos!

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This week is a pretty awesome week for those of us in Wisconsin…there are three new Costco stores opening! Of the three, I can see myself shopping at one of them regularly and the other two when I am in their area and need something from there (or just want to have a look around, though the products should be about the same). For Costco, opening multiple locations in a region in a short time is not unusual. They’ve done it in Australia before, but this is the first time that more than one location is opening at one time in Wisconsin.

Actually, these will the the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Costcos opening up in Wisconsin in 2015, with the other one, which I have visited already, having opened in June of this year. This will make a total of 9 warehouses in the state – I’m sure there are more, but there hasn’t been any more rumors or information on future locations. Needless to say, I’m kind of excited 😉

What’s the big deal?

Well, this goes back about 6 years ago, when there was just one lonely Costco living anywhere in Southeastern Wisconsin. If you didn’t go to this store, you either just didn’t go, or you had two choices – go to Madison or go towards Chicago – and you’d have to get pretty close to the city to get there. :)

I don’t even remember now why I wanted to check the store out, but I did one day and when I had an opportunity to be in the vicinity of the store, I went in and checked it out. My first impression was, well, it’s a good store, but is it really necessary? The next week, I purchased a membership…thus beginning a good relationship between business and customer. You may say that I’m addicted to Costco, but that site’s been taken already 😉

Since then, I’ve been in a total of 8 Costco locations – three in Wisconsin, two in Illinois, one in Australia, and two in Hawai’i…and I’ve bought something in every single one of the stores I’ve been into (including a PS3 in my only visit to one in Illinois and a tank of gas followed by a single bottle of allergy medicine in the newest one in Wisconsin…that one was for export purposes ;)).

Everywhere I do go, I spread the “gospel” of Costco to people – whether it’s the $10 veggie tray or all of the awesome things that I get for “free” from there thanks to the money I get back from my purchases through a combination of the Executive membership I have plus my Costco American Express card (which is going away in favour of a new deal with Citibank and Visa next year). I talk about it so much, Costco is a bit of a running joke at work with those who know me well there 😉

There’s so much to love about Costco, but one of the things that is awesome is that you don’t see a single ad for Costco on TV or on the radio. Nor will you see them placing inserts into the newspaper – even on Thanksgiving when literally everyone advertises in the newspaper…even their competitors over at Wal-Mart with their Sam’s Club brand. The only advertising you will see Costco do to potential new members is sign up booths around the local area like this one (which was taken in August) –

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The Now Hiring sign has gone away, but the tent is still there. From what I read on Reddit, apparently there’s an open house the night before the opening…which may explain why they only open one store a day…move all the vendors from one location to the other :) As much as I’d love to go (had I known about it), I have to work on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, so I won’t be able to go to any of the open houses.

However, I’ll be visiting the one in the top picture on Saturday…I’m expecting it to be an absolute zoo like a normal Saturday

I will show you one thing I highly doubt these Costcos will have…since this was removed from the warehouse it was pictured in over the last 3 years (note the price of gas…$4.179/gal. or $1.104/L for regular, as of 11/1/15 it was $2.299/gal or 60.8¢/L…and at the Costco pictured below, 10c/gal cheaper!). It’s a self-checkout, a/k/a “you do the work for us without pay”

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Over to You

Have you ever shopped at Costco? If a Costco opened in your area, would you try it out? The Membership fee ($55 + tax) is refundable. :)

The Aldi Pattern

Follow me here. I promise the title will make sense later on. There’s definitely a pattern to this stuff which will be quite apparent :)

This all starts with a comment that I made over at Snoskred’s place regarding brand names for Aldi products. Apparently Aldi use the brand name of Manhattan over in Australia…of course, everyone knows Philadelphia, but do you know Happy Farms?

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Unless you shop at Aldi, you don’t. :)

And if you have an Aldi near to you, it’s well worth checking out if you’re interested in saving money – which last I checked, everyone is (I’m assuming people like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates may not be, but they are probably spendthrifts). There are stores that have very competitive prices to Aldi, but none are as prevalent as the German store.

As you can see in the picture above, the Colby Jack cheese (Happy Farms brand) is $1.89/8oz (225g +2g) – typically for name brand cheeses like Kraft, it’ll be at least a dollar more, so the savings are very clear.

How can Aldi do it? Private Labelling of products. That’s why we have things like –

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Savoritz Cheese Crackers instead of Cheez-Its (12.4oz @ Wal-Mart for $2.88). Fancy something sweet? How about these…

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Benton’s Vanilla Wafers (these are actually vanilla-creme filled wafer cookies, not to be confused with Nilla wafers, of which the Benton’s brand covers).

There are more sweets, but as you go along, there’s one pattern beginning…each category has its own brand name. Here are just a few examples in this picture of items that I have in my kitchen –

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We have the following brands in this photo –

  • Boulder – Plastic wrap and other food storage such as plastic bags
  • L’Oven Fresh – Breads from traditional sliced white to hot dog and hamburger buns
  • Lunch Mate – Literally anything you would chuck into a school or work lunch…lunch meats, fruit cups, etc.
  • Casa Mamita (little mother’s house) – Some of the Mexican range, but now there is also Puebla Linda (pretty town) in the range
  • Sweet Harvest – canned fruits in sauce
  • Reggano – Run-of-the mill pasta. Speciality pastas will fall under the Priano brand usually
  • Baker’s Choice – Puddings, cake mixes, flour, chocolate chips – all of your baking supplies :)
  • Fit&Active – This is the name that Aldi use as a catch-all for anything in their healthier range of foods (low-fat, low sodium, etc.)
  • Countryside Creamery – Butter, margarine, spreads fall
  • Happy Harvest – Canned and easy-to-prepare vegetables (the sweet corn in the picture can be made in the microwave in about 30-45 seconds and serves 1)
  • Chef’s Cupboard – Coatings for fried foods – breadcrumbs, stuffings, easy side dishes like instant mashed potatoes

Take special note of the bottom three…notice anything peculiar about them? Aldi accepts the active adoption of alliteration when assigning aliases.

Here’s some more alliteration –

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There is one other brand that deserves a quick mention, mostly because it’s one that will appear from time to time as a way to prevent homesickness for Aldi (specifically Aldi Süd, but Aldi Nord operates here too…and it’s actually the same company!)…Deutsche Kuche – this is pork Schnitzel, but they will have traditional German bratwurst, pretzels in a can, and other German goodies available from time to time….all of it made in Germany :)

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So…are there any particular brands that you like to buy, or are you more into saving money and picking up a high-quality substitute under a non-brand name?

The Bridge I Couldn’t Go On


The International Bridge in Michigan. heading over to Ontario. From Sault Sainte Marie to Sault Sainte Marie.

Why couldn’t I go on this bridge? It was 2010, and just over a year before I would receive my passport, in advance of my trip to Australia.

There is more to the story of how I got to this bridge, though even though I didn’t set foot in Canada, my phone decided it would try to jump the border!

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Right Team, Wrong City

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N932AT, painted in Milwaukee Brewers “retro” colours at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

This was in 2010. At that time, AirTran had just been purchased by Southwest, and their Boeing 717s were eventually sold off to Delta and the 737s were repainted in Southwest’s colours.

This example? According to, it’s living at Litchfield Airport outside of Phoenix, possibly waiting the call-up from Delta to work in their fleet of McDonnell-Douglas products.