Turn any headphones into bluetooth wireless headphones for $20

There are few things as unpleasant in life as getting a headphone cable snagged on a doorknob. Or the corner of a table. Or the watch of a total stranger passing me on the sidewalk.  Because the cable runs the length of my body, from the earbuds on my head to the phone in my pants pocket, it’s way too easy for it to get caught on just about anything, and it’s a truly jarring experience every time it happens.

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A case for ad blockers?

I don’t believe in internet ad blockers.  I mean, I believe they exist, but I’m believer in advertising as a legitimate means to support content that’s provided to audiences for free.  It’s the ultimate leveling-agent, allowing anyone — rich or poor — access to information and entertainment.

And then I notice stuff like this.  Photo 1:  The normal homepage of CNET.com, as it appears right now as I type this.

Cnet Normal

Photo 2:  The same page at the same time with an ad blocker in effect.

Cnet Ad blocked

See what’s missing?

(Hint:  It’s the horrendously alarmist, fear-mongering “paid content” that has no place on a mainstream news site — let alone disguised as an actual article on that site.)

CNET, you can do better than this.  You’re only giving ammunition to people who want to decimate your primary form of revenue.

Man, Apple really didn’t want me to use their new iPhone Upgrade program…

If you follow Apple news, you’d know that in addition to announcing new iPhones a couple weeks ago, Apple also announced a new way to purchase them — an Apple-branded upgrade program where you can upgrade your phone every year and never have to pay full price for one.  The program is similar to programs that the carriers offer, where you pay a monthly installment for your phone, and after a certain amount of time, you can simply trade in your current phone for a new one, even if you haven’t paid it off yet.

The Apple plan doesn’t really save you that much money on a month-to-month basis, but it does offer other perks — Applecare is included and the phone is unlocked (so it’ll work with just about any carrier anywhere).  Those were enough of an incentive for me to give it a try, so I made an appointment for Friday at 8am at the Apple store nearest me, so I could get a phone with the plan (the upgrade program isn’t offered online).

I encountered just one problem:  Apple really didn’t want me to use the program.

Did I fail the credit check?  I don’t know.  I never even got that far.

When I made the reservation to buy the phone in person, the confirmation email made sure to say that I needed to bring my carrier info, two forms of ID with the same full name on both (credit card could be one), and my old phone (if I wanted to trade it in).  That’s all it told me I need to have.

I showed up with all items in hand, only having to wait in line for a few minutes (seriously, if you ever want to buy an Apple product in person, use their reservation system).

I entered the store and met my sales rep.  He already knew the model I had reserved and just wanted to know how I would pay for it — through my carrier, through the upgrade program, or just buy it outright.

“Through the Apple upgrade program please,” I said.

And after spending the next twenty minutes trying to enter my info to get me approved for the program, it never came close to happening.

The problem?  The address on my driver’s license didn’t match the address on my credit card, and I kept getting kicked out of the system.

I get it.  Apple is super-concerned about fraud.  But there are plenty of legit reasons for those two addresses not to match.  You could’ve moved recently.  You could prefer your bills get sent not to your home.  You could have a PO Box or a mailbox at a neighborhood postal center (which are way more secure than most home mailboxes).  You could be using a business credit card that, naturally, won’t bill to your home address.

What’s weird is that this appears to be an Apple-only rule.  Apple partners with a third-party bank to offer the “interest-free loan” for the phone (which is basically what the program is), and I could see the software that the Apple sales rep used to submit the loan application.  The app never actually asks for the address off the driver’s license.  In fact, the software specifically asks for the address from the credit card, but the sales rep was instructed that he had to use the address off the license.  For many people who’d want to use the upgrade program — people Apple would love to retain as customers — this technicality makes the program a non-starter.

Oh well.  I wound up using the upgrade program offered by my carrier.  And you know what “perk” they offer that Apple can’t?  For my next phone, I don’t have to upgrade to an iPhone.

Your move, Apple.  The iPhone 7S had better be something special, because your internal policies have kept the door wide open for me to consider other platforms.

The Apple Watch Sport band conundrum: Why doesn’t Apple want you to pair a white watch with a black band?

DSC01057

Okay, this post is for the Apple junkies out there.  If all you know about the Apple Watch is that it exists, this post probably isn’t for you.

So much has been said about the Apple Watch, I didn’t think I’d have anything new to offer by the time I got mine.  Well, I was wrong.  Apple offers a wide variety of watch sizes, colors, and band choices. But there’s one combination they really don’t want you buy, and I think I figured out know why.

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Overcast is the best podcast app out there — but I’m using Downcast anyway

I’ve been using Overcast since it first came out many, many months ago.  It’s a great app, really.  Design-wise, it’s the perfect mix of “feature-rich” and “easy-to-use.”  I love using.

But I’m switching back to Downcast.

Why?  There’s one little tiny bug with Overcast that seems to only affect me.  The app has a nasty habit of resetting the customized order of the podcasts in my playlist.

I tried deleting the app and reinstalling it fresh.  It still has the bug.

This has been going on for a few months.

I love Overcast, and I want to give it another chance, but the reason I chose Overcast in the first place is because I loved the simplicity — and the functionality — of it’s unified playlist.  (The app I had been using used a combination of filters and playlists that didn’t suit me well.)

Now that my customized-playlist-order is basically useless, I need a new podcast app.  So I’m going to try Downcast for a while.  When I previously wrote about Downcast, my chief gripe was that it was too feature-rich.  Downcast offers every possible feature you could imagine for a podcast app (and some you couldn’t), and the interface wasn’t very user-friendly or intuitive.  But if you take the time to go into the dense forest of settings and customize things the way you want it, the customizable playlists do work well.  So I’ve done that.  And even if I don’t like the interface, at least I know I don’t have to go into the settings much at all from this point forward.  The app basically runs itself.

I’ll give Overcast a chance again, but for now I’m a Downcast kinda guy.