Tag Archives: technology

AT&T Amber Alert Device — Perfect for Kids

ATT AMBER ALERT GPSWe have had AT&T for years, and I love their service and customer service is amazing!   We tried out a few different devices with AT&T when we needed to communicate with our kids, but aren’t quite ready to give either of the kids cell phones yet.   They are only ages 7 and 9 as of this summer, so when we first started trying AT&T devices last year, they were only 5 and 7.  The Filip watch was nice, and fashionable, but I felt like the AT&T Amber Alert GPS device held a battery charge longer, and didn’t require wearing the watch. This made it less likely to get lost or stolen.  Amber Alert GPS is a great device for both kids and adults who may need a little extra assistance.  For us, it worked perfectly, even on the ski slopes as they took ski lessons!

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Here’s how the device works:   We had our older daughter hold on to it.  It’s a small transponder with two-way talk/alert.   You can tell when there is signal as a blue light flashes.  For ease of carrying, we took a lanyard and attached it to the transponder so it fit around her neck, or she could put it in her coat pockets while skiing. When she wants to communicate with us,  she pushes and holds down the large button (Alert button), and it rings to the assigned phone number.  There is an app/website where you can configure all of this.  So, as soon as she holds down the button for a few seconds, it calls the cell phone programmed for two-way communications.  Only one number can call into the device, and only one number is called out from the device.   I programmed my phone to have it say my daughter’s name and GPS Alert, so I could immediately see that and answer.  Then, the device acts like a speaker phone for her.  We can have a normal conversation.  Conversely, if I wanted to reach her, I’d call the phone number assigned to this GPS Device and she’d push the same button to answer and talk.   The coolest part of this device is that I can see where she is at any given time as long as it is in her possession.  I could track her movements on El Dora Ski Mountain (phone signal there is bad), but I could still track her using this device, which was awesome!  When we left her for a sleepover, I knew I could call her and say good nite, or she could call me anytime if she needed anything, but it’s not like she’d disturb others with a smart phone, plus I think 9 is still too young for a smart phone.  The only place we don’t send it is school because there are rules in school about technology.  But, if you want to use the GPS feature, you can slip it into their backpacks.  I knew when my husband was safely making it down the mountain and canyon when he took the kids skiing in his rear-wheel drive car.   The device, software, and apps for it are easy to install and use, and log in and out of.  We even tried this device for my father-in-law, but I think the kids found it more user-friendly than he did.

I highly recommend the Amber Alert GPS device for younger kids, and even though the Filip watch looks more stylish, I found the Amber Alert Device held a charge better and longer, and the voice quality and ease of use were better.   The charge is only $10 a month on your existing wireless account, and the device costs $99 to buy from AT&T (but they are out of stock right now),  so you can also get it on amazon as well through this link:

*Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this particular post, but I did win the Amber Alert GPS device at an AT&T-sponsored event a couple of years back.  I have other posts for AT&T And have previously posted about their products and services.  The opinions expressed here are my own.

 

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Do we ever look up?

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Image blurred to protect the “technologically innocent”

Do we ever look up anymore, or talk with one another? Or are our heads buried in our phones, smart devices, tablets, and readers?

Here I sit at the tire shop- my tires need replacing. I can’t replace just the one or two in trouble. I need to replace them all. The country song, “knee deep” is blaring on the radio.  One guy is eating a meal from Whole Foods and on his smart phone at the same time!  I’m engrossed in writing this blog post, another guy is watching movies and streaming Hulu with headphones on his smart phone.  The guy across from me is watching all of us on our respective devices and is laughing. He’s an older gentleman and doesn’t understand what all this technology is about.  He makes me uncomfortable because he is the only one looking for conversation, looking around, not reading or texting or streaming a movie.  Why can’t he just look down?  These are the thoughts in my head as I hum along to the song I recognize.  I keep typing this post because I love the idea … do we ever look up?  No, because it means we may need to interact.  That seems uncomfortable to me.

When did we stop interacting with one another? When did we become so crazy and addicted to technology? I was mouthing the words to “knee deep,” and this provided him an opportunity to talk with me.  A few awkward moments of conversation later, I look back down, and am relieved to be typing this post again.  Typing, on my itty bitty magical handheld device. This provides me comfort, provides me with entertainment. This passes the time for me. I look up and no one is looking up or around save for that one gentleman who has no idea what the fuss is all about.

As I write this post, another guy has now sat down with his ultrabook and began working on it. That’s 7 out of 8 of us in this repair shop with our heads down, our eyes going bad from focusing on small writing and letters. That’s 7 out of 8 of us shut out from the world, but comfortable, happy, and completely complacent in not making awkward, unnecessary conversation with one another.  Will we ever look up?  I have no idea, but it is nice to have something to do while waiting for my car to get fixed.

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How much is too much social media? This is my story & New Year’s Resolution

I have written about social media as being overwhelming for me. I recently decided that it was time to cut back on social media- way way back.  Blogging? No… heavens no!  Writing is a hobby and I really enjoy blogging and writing but I have made a firm decision based on a myriad of factors, to ween off of facebook, twitter, and even deleted my LinkedIn account.  It was time.  It is not like I am always on it but then when friends and family notice and say “Your head is always down,” you start to wonder how much social media is too much? And yes, sadly this includes E-mail and all forms of social media.

This degree should vary from person to person.  If you are checking facebook and E-mails in the middle of the night, chances are, you are an addict.  When you are posting pictures constantly or updates constantly, you may have a problem.  I love keeping in touch with friends and plan on doing so still but my goal in the first few weeks is facebook twice a week only.  Twitter updates? Not sure on this one since blogging activities are posted there but probably the same rule. I really got over-friend managing social media sites and with the recent privacy issues on facebook, twitter and the like, I am just deciding to start cut some aspects of social media out.  If I can reach the point where I can control it, I may not deactivate my account.  But honestly, I want to live with my head up and not down in a phone.  My eye sight is suffering too because of my back lit Iphone, so it was time.

These days social media is also a place of political postings, often ugly to one side or the other, and I have been guilty of this too.  Twitter and facebook have actually made me angry and by blood pressure shoot up, and worse: I have lost friends over trivial things and miscommunications.  Tone is so tough through social media and E-mail.  I really do not want to have a forum with people I like where arguments ensue.  So, this is another reason to cut back as well.  Plus, does everyone really need to know everything in my life?  Nah…. from time to time, it will be nice to catch up with those I want to catch up with, but hourly has proven to be way too much for me with all the other responsibilities I have in this short day.

I recently had to hide my Iphone or rather, had my kids hide it so if I could not find it, I could not look at it.  It helped a lot. How much do you think is too much?  How do you find that balance? 

So, here goes nothing…. my New Year’s Resolution: to reduce the amount of time I spend on social media outlets.  I will still write and I love writing.  Look for my Blog Top 10 list soon and I will be on E-mail to stay in touch and conduct business but other than that, My resolution is:  Go from “too much” to “just right”… to maybe someday, NONE at all.

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The 4-1-1 on Wireless & Data Plans

photo courtesy of East Chapel Hill Observer (ECHO) Click here to view article

So, here’s the scoop.  “Like, OMG” you will not want to miss this post and will want to bookmark it before you head out to change phones, or plans.  The different plans and services out there will make your head spin and what I went through may make you think twice about ever switching your wireless service but read on… you will not regret it.

This is your 4-1-1 – everything you ever wanted to know about the following three companies when it comes to mobile, wireless service:  AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon.  So, I ventured out in April, as if I needed another distraction in my life – at a time when I didn’t have time and things were not going well is when I decided to add more to my plate and took on changing of my wireless service.  Huge mistake!  Huge! GIANT!  It ends well, but the road was rocky and entailed some restocking fees.  All in all, it was okay and an experiment but alas, a bit inconvenient at a time when I really didn’t have extra time to throw around.

I have had AT&T since March 4, 2010- before then, I was a loyal T-mobile customer since my days with Deutsch Telekom (yes, I was stationed abroad in Germany) and when I returned state-side I went to T-mobile for my cell phone.  I had an old antiquated cell phone but I loved T-mobile and the price was right.  I had what I needed for the time in question- cell phone calling, very limited to NO texting (who texted back then? HELLO!), and some data but not really – who had the nerve to call it data back then anyway.  Before my Germany days, I was a loyal Sprint customer for several years – remember when cell phones were first introduced? Yowsers— we’ve come a long way folks since 1997, huh? In 2010, I wanted to try the new Iphone 3GS so, I took the huge leap and decided to try out Apple products even though I despised Apple and kinda still do – a little.  Okay, Okay, I was a computer science undergrad major and Mac products were not on the top of my faves list.   In any case, I did it- I switched from T-mobile to AT&T after 8 years of loyalty just for the stinking IPhone.  I have to say, I was hooked to the Iphone despite its poor battery life, expensive accessories, piss poor software known as Itunes, and general bulkiness of said phone.  Ah well — there are pros and cons but I love having the Internet and the world at my fingertips.

Despite what plan or company you choose mentioned here, keep in mind that almost all of the companies require 2-year contracts and I don’t know about you but that pisses me off a bit because contracts drive me nuts and they are binding, blah blah blah and yeah, they lock you down.  That makes me mad because I am a mind-changer (ha) but in any case, unless you want to do pay-as-you-go (my husband does it and is fine with it), you will want to know some of these features and facts before you run out and change plans.  Keep in mind as I learned, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and all the companies have pros and cons that come attached to their contracts as well.

AT&T prices for data, messages, and voice- almost looks identical to Verizon's offering

Data- AT&T had some great plans back in 2010 when I got the Iphone 3GS and I was “grandfathered in” when AT&T decided to change all its data plans and screw new customers last year.  So while I had unlimited data, (and trust me when I say 3G on the AT&T network with the Iphone is UBER FAST because I have compared it to other the networks I mention above), new AT&T customers are paying about as much as they would on Verizon – of course, both Verizon and AT&T have limited their data plans and Sprint is the only one that offers unlimited data and 4G on some pretty awesome droids which can be FREE after you enter into the 2-year agreement.  All companies including T-mobile offer the 4G network which I hear is super cool but alas, the IPhone only operates on 3G on Sprint, and Verizon.  AT&T is the only one that offers the 4G network for Iphones 4 and higher but I really do not see much of a difference for the iphone on the 4G network versus the 3G.  If you have Iphone 3GS, then you are stuck with the 3G network but trust me, when I say, I have compared all three- Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T on the 3G network and AT&T is the fastest.  You can stream movies, shows, and videos on the Iphone with no issues.  Sprint 3G works just as fast but you have to all 5 bars.  If you have less than 5 bars or try to stream movies and shows at peak hours, it will not work!  Not even a little.  In any case, as far as data goes, the cheapest is Sprint with their 100% unlimited data plans and they are reasonably priced.  Below are some snapshot of prices for data and voice plans with all three.  Keep in mind that these prices do not take into account, corporate, government, or military discounts.  Please call business care for each company to find out what the specific discounts are.  I found the most expensive service to be Verizon and no unlimited plans.  Of course, the new AT&T is comparable to Verizon in that there are no unlimited data plans any longer.  So, looking at the AT&T chart above, Verizon’s 450 minute voice plan is $39.99 and add to that either of the following data plans for Verizon’s network:  5G for $50, 2G for $30 and you could do the 75 MB plan but that is only for basic phones (not smart phones) and that runs $10.  The truth is all you really need 300 MB unless you are streaming video, etc., then you should consider 2-3Gs but anything 5G and over is a lot.  The best thing is to get a 2-3G data plan and check your usage for a couple of months to help you decide what is best for you. If you are under the old AT&T and were “grandfathered in” I would recommend not leaving AT&T because their data speeds in some instances are faster than Verizon’s even.  I would do the same for voice and messaging.

Sprint plans which are bundled with voice, data, and messaging

Voice- Of course, with any positives come some cons… for me, with AT&T while data is very fast and reliable, I do drop a lot of calls at random times and even when I report dead zones or dropped calls, it seems very predictable where the calls are dropped and I can almost tell someone on the phone with me.. “hey I am about to lose you… so I will call you back.”  I know, that is just not good but it’s Colorado.  Sprint and Verizon seem more reliable for the calls and no dropped calls but then again, the cons are higher prices (Verizon) and possibly low data speeds if you have the Iphone or Ipad.  For voice on AT&T, 450 minutes rollover + unlimited mobile to mobile and 5000 nights and weekend minutes are $39.99.  Verizon offers the same 450 mins but nights start at 9pm and there are no rollover minutes.  Messaging-wise, I have an old plan that AT&T no longer offers at 200 minutes for $5.00 and overage text messages are only 10 cents.  Unlimited text messaging like Verizon on AT&T is $20 which I find a bit steep especially if the usage by month does not reach 200 generally.  Verizon does offer 1000 text messages (which is a lot) for $10 which I think is a great deal.  I remember at one time AT&T offered 500 for $10 but all their plans have changed now.  As far as messaging, I love that Sprint offers unlimited text messaging with all their bundled plans – see below.  For $79.99 (which includes the $10 fee for smartphones) you get it all!  450 mins but anytime mobile-to-mobile minutes, plus unlimited data and messaging.  That is the best deal I have seen!  So if you are not using an Iphone or don’t care about your download speeds, Sprint’s your best value!

source: fightback.com

Overall Customer Service– I am very happy with AT&T and was sad to leave it for even a few days but Sprint had some great customer service when I dealt with them  too!  If I had more bars for Data, 3G in my office, I have no doubt Sprint would have worked out for me and my needs and their prices are just right for what they give you.  Verizon’s customer stores are always busy too but they seem more guarded with their information.  For example, when I called them and asked about corporate discounts, I got transferred like 3 times and no one could tell me what the discount was then they disconnected me “by accident”.  In the store, the Verizon guy looked up the discounts for me but then didn’t give me a brochure with all the information on it like AT&T and Sprint did.  It was all hidden and weird.  They may be the most reliable 4G network but I did not get the same touchy, feely feeling there that I got with both AT&T and Sprint.  No one explained the accessories and the discounts or all the features of the phones and droids that were on display.  Since I do not have a brochure, I could not even share it here so I am just comparing where I can and trying to point out the differences but mainly the plans for Verizon are almost identical to the new AT&T plans and just as pricey.  I know many Coloradans love Verizon because of its reliability and coverage.  That being said, the east coast friends love either Sprint or T-mobile’s coverage better, and then I have friends on the west coast who swear by AT&T so again, it depends… but once you find something right for you, don’t think the grass is greener on the other side – it isn’t and everyone doesn’t have the like the same thing and what may work for one person may not work another.

Bottom Line: When it comes to cell phones, wireless devices and smart phones and PLANS, it’s important for you to love the one you’re with!

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They really CAN see you- the dangers of Group MMS messaging texts (Updated on 8/25/2014)

Note: I am editing this post as of 8/25/2014, since I now have switched to an android and a family plan with unlimited text/talk.  But I have had a few more situations to share where group messaging turned “On” have resulted in horrible situations where people were talked about and were on the said group text.  I am urging you all to turn OFF your group messaging off.  When in doubt, keep it OFF.

You thought “reply-all” was taboo and against good netiquette, just wait ’til you my read my latest experiences with group text messaging and the dangers that can bring. People love to send text messages… they love it. It’s trendy, it’s hip, it’s the “thing”, so much so that people have dispensed completely with talking. Here writes a friend of mine, “well, just text me okay- don’t call… we can discuss it over text.” My reply – “I can’t do that dear, I have limited texts per month. I will E-mail you”

sample group message (only 4 recipients) courtesy of (CLICK PIC FOR LINK)

Well, now add to text messaging a new layer of complication – the reply-all of the text message world, known as GROUP MESSAGING. This past Easter, I learned a lot – a whole heck of a lot. I got my FIRST, yup, my first GROUP MMS Text wishing me a “Happy Easter. “ Of course, I do not mind the gesture even though I do not celebrate Easter. It was nice. But then a few minutes I got another message from a phone number I did not recognize, and then another, and then… yes, it prompted me to take a look at what just happened. Wait?! What is going on? Why am I getting texts from all these numbers I do not recognize? Well, folks, welcome to a whole new layer of breach of privacy- the Group Message feature to send texts. What prompted me to write this post was not the text message itself because if I had consented to be part of a group, I would not mind a group text because I consented to it. But this one had a lot of numbers on it and mine was right there among it and when I tried to reply to just my friend, I could not- it replied all. I asked folks to please not do a reply-all if possible because I did not have unlimited text’ing at that time. In return, one person replied with a simple “FU.” Yeah, you read that right. It didn’t get better from there. When I tried to write her again to tell her what number did that and to remove me from her list, this same person wrote me back again “F— You (yes this time he spelled it out) you cheap A$!h0le”. Lovely, now I have two texts I was charged for that basically insult me, are obscene, and are at the tip of my fingertips everywhere I go. Thanks. It’s truly a Happy Easter. As I contemplated a little further, I wondered if the sender of those texts to me, on the holiest of Christian days, went to Church earlier that day and screamed “He Is Risen!” But in any case, instead of writing back or getting even, I decided to do a post warning people about the dangers (there are a lot) of Group MMS Messaging.

Warning #1 to the SENDER of GROUP MESSAGES – My first warning and the lesson I learned from this incident applies to the sender of this group message. Unless your friends have consented to having their cell phone numbers released to a bunch of other people they don’t know, it is total lack of situational awareness (SA) and respect to do so. You should not send group messages because everyone can see everyone’s number if they have their group settings turned “on” and that is just plain rude. SENDER, go check your phone’s settings. I get into detail in Warning #4 below if you have an Iphone how to check your settings. But, please be mindful of group messages. It can be considered poor taste and bad etiquette to do this unless all parties know each other and are okay with group messages being sent out. In sum, STOP SENDING GROUP MESSAGES!  My favorite recent article is posted here:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2013/03/20/modern-mobile-etiquette-group-text-message/   

Seriously, if you hate me, keeping sending me those group messages.  Merry Christmas to you too- Sheesh!  It’s not really about the texting as much as the lack of respect you show for me when I am getting replies from your friends, most of whom are not friends of mine.

Warning #2 to the RECIPIENT OF GROUP MESSAGES- This one is for the recipient, please check your “To” line when you reply. If it states the sender’s name PLUS 19 other recipients, it goes to all 20 recipients (yes, even the one who said “FU”). For example, even though I was trying to message her directly, my messages were reverting back to the GROUP MESSAGE she sent so everyone could see my messages. Yeah, even THAT GUY! Check your settings on your Iphone or other device and turn GROUP MESSAGING OFF. This will prevent you replying to all. I have a friend today who brought up another point on this. What if your friend wrote 5 people in group messaging and one of those recipients is someone you dislike and you do a reply-all without looking at the TO line or figuring out that it is a group message? What if your reply is, “As long as Stacy does not attend, I am there.” What if Stacy receives this REPLY-ALL TEXT? Yeah, well, other than being awkward, there is no taking this back. Also keep in mind that someone may want to send a private message that only the sender would need to see like a very private matter or a health issue and now the entire list sees it. So, recipients, the responsibility is on you as well. A little SA goes a long way in ensuring your privacy as well.
Recent situation I heard about:  A mom’s group sent out a group text about a gathering and a recipient who did not have group messaging turned to the “OFF” position wrote the entire group a nasty comment about someone on the group.  Ouch! That person was in the group and saw the text.  Not cool!  Turn it off.  

courtesy of (click to see link)

Warning #3 CHANGE YOUR SETTINGS TO OFF- Finally, check your phone’s messaging settings. I know this prompted me to do so. For example, if you are an Iphone user and have IOS 5.0 or higher your settings are automatically set to send and receive group messages so go into your settings, go under messages, and change GROUP MESSAGING TO OFF. That should solve the problem of when you reply to FRIEND X who wrote everyone on her phone from sending to all those friends instead of just FRIEND X. But unless the sender and ALL the recipients on the other end have their GROUP MESSAGING turned off, sadly, you will get messages when they do their “reply all”. What a pain! So it really is everyone’s responsibility to maybe turn their group messaging feature OFF so they do not reply all and repeat the mistakes of WARNING #2 & #3.

All in all, it was a troubling situation and I was concerned. For years now, I have been troubled when someone sends family pictures or newsletters and my E-mail address is in the “TO” LINE along with 50 others. I think, wow, this is not a group I consented to and frankly my email address should be in the “Bcc” line but I just assume delete the email and delete the billion REPLY-ALLs that occur and move on. But, now my cell phone number is being shared with random people I do not know and I am supposed to be okay with that? I am supposed to sit back and let someone I do not know send me obscene text messages and be okay with it? I am not okay with it. I wrote this article because of the personal experience I had and I feel very strongly that people should exercise good, sound judgment and netiquette not just on the internet, or E-mail but also with text messaging. Because once you hit “send”, they can see you ….they can ALL see it, and you just never know when it can destroy a relationship, a good friendship or you could lose a job over it so please, please heed these warnings and readers, please add your own netiquette and warnings below. I would love to hear from you


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