Google Reader – Why the Fuss?

RSSThe major organizational tool to date has been Google Reader, which has the main functionality of organizing your feeds into folders, and servicing up those feeds either on screen through its reader, or through a variety of applications and websites who like their way of formatting the feeds for you. Some websites and applications have built their business solely on reading and synchronizing with Google Reader. I can’t imagine that those websites and tools will remain.

One of my favorite tools was FeedDemon. Unfortunately the developer will stop further development on the tool. It will continue to work, but will no longer sync with Google Reader.

So how do we find new tools that work for us? How do we find those that allows us to store and organize our feeds from our favorite blogs, and present it to us in a pleasant format? Is it possible we can find one that synchronizes feeds we’ve already read between tablet and desktop, so that when we move between the two we’re not wasting time re-reading articles?

Fortunately there are some tools both old and new that will allow us to continue to efficiently move through hundreds of articles quickly. I will explore those in the next post.

Internet and Technology Shift

Times are a’changin’ …and fast!   Since the beginning of the internet and the personal computer  before that, applications were software that was ball-and-chained to the desktop.

Now with the recent advent of mobile apps on phones and tablets, the scene is changing very rapidly. This is a time of fresh movement for technology. Right now it’s all about apps. They need to look good, be simple to use and have great features. They must sync with your browser extension or desktop software, between all devices and across all platforms.  It’s an exciting time with many new apps being released daily.

Unfortunately, the movement means the old sometimes gets let go, even if the old is still being clung to by the masses.  One such old technology is Google Reader. Google announced today that its popular RSS aggregator will get the axe in July.  I am so sorry to see this extremely useful tool go.  The current is washing away not only the smaller pebbles but also some of the larger rocks.  Don’t be surprised to see more programs, applications and services be washed away into the ocean where 300-baud modems float.

Netflix Price Changes

A Netflix envelope picture taken by BlueMint.

Image via Wikipedia

Doesn’t it always happen? You feel you’ve discovered the bargain of the century, and many other people discover it when you do.  The bargain becomes not such a great bargain any longer because…the price of your great find suddenly goes up! People want more money in their pockets for something they were doing perfectly ok with charging before.

This great bargain is Netflix. For those of us who have had to cut the over-$100 cable tv prices from their budget, Netflix’ $7.99 for streaming has been a lifesaver. We can still watch some things on television (albeit not live tv). For me and my husband, it’s old Westerns like The Virginian and Wagon Train. For my son and me, it’s cartoons, and some anime. My husband loves the funky Chinese martial arts films (Netflix has tons), and there’s a ton of anime I think you could never get through if you watched 24 hours a day for a year. We’ve watched quite a few fascinating documentaries and there’ve been a couple of “Oh, I’ve always wanted to see this” type of movies.

Ever since we recently signed up, we feel like we’re part of one of the best-kept secrets. We have been telling friends to sign up, and when they come over to hang out and they see Netflix, they want it too.

http://twitter.com/#!/BrennndaM/status/91097633657069569

However, the great deal is blown. Got a letter from Netflix – their prices are pretty much doubling, if you subscribe to streaming + DVD rentals.   I understand that the company is growing, blah blah. With all those millions of subscribers, each paying minimum $10 a month, they certainly cannot be suffering. It’s not like they’re showing brand new content.  There’s always some lame excuse when it comes to large price increases, where greed is the reason but they’re too shy to admit that.

Anyway our letter says:

Dear *Our Family  🙂 *

We are separating unlimited DVDs by mail and unlimited streaming into two separate plans to better reflect the costs of each. Now our members have a choice: a streaming only plan, a DVD only plan, or both.

Your current $9.99 a month membership for unlimited streaming and unlimited DVDs will be split into 2 distinct plans:

   Plan 1: Unlimited Streaming (no DVDs) for $7.99 a month
   Plan 2: Unlimited DVDs, 1 out at-a-time (no streaming) for $7.99 a month

Your price for getting both of these plans will be $15.98 a month ($7.99 + $7.99). You don’t need to do anything to continue your memberships for both unlimited streaming and unlimited DVDs.

These prices will start for charges on or after September 1, 2011.

You can easily change or cancel your unlimited streaming plan, unlimited DVD plan, or both, by going to the Plan Change page in Your Account.

We realize you have many choices for home entertainment, and we thank you for your business. As always, if you have questions, please feel free to call us at 1-888-357-1516.

–The Netflix Team

We like having the option of getting a DVD once in awhile – not everything is on streaming. Heck not everything is on Netflix! We take forever to watch the DVD that we do get each month. So this is the part of the package that unfortunately we will drop. It’s not worth it to us, especially since the DVD plan leaves a lot to be desired in the selection that’s there.

http://twitter.com/#!/LoisinaMonster/status/91109847898144768

Regardless, the streaming $7.99 is still a good deal for us. We can’t be too picky. We’ll be watching everything in our current DVD queue that we can before September, then will be cutting off the DVD portion of the service. I wish we could keep the service, honestly. Netflix would make the extra $2 off us monthly if they left it alone. However, we’ve re-evaluated everything in the past few years when it comes to our spending, and I will gladly put that $2 toward our grocery bill, and won’t be giving them the $7.99 they want instead.

Lessee…$2 a month saved a month will get me:

  • Canned cat food enough for two weeks of dinners for Echo
  • A can of frozen orange juice for my son for a couple of days of drinking (plus change left over!)
  • A good Lindt chocolate bar (change leftover!) for when I’m really craving chocolate
  • A full carton of eggs – lasts us longer than a week!

I’m sure you can think of tons of things that you could get for $2 saved, let alone $7.99. I won’t let companies dictate to me anymore how much I pay to them for what are really life extras. You raise your prices, and you risk losing my business, some or all. I don’t freaking care anymore. We can do without everything but food, water, shelter and a few clothes on our backs. If companies are not realizing that many people feel as I do, these companies are at risk of having only the clothes on their backs as well.

Even with the changes, I still feel like @BrennndaM above where she can survive without cable because of Netflix. However, that happy feeling of being in love with this service is now gone.

Related articles

Sum…sum…Summertime!

When the weather gets warmer we get busy! I’ve not had the time to post here so much. I hope you are doing well!  Here’s some of what I’ve been up to recently:

House/Garden

  • Raised bed gardening – built them, filled them, planted and now have stuff growing! Picked lettuce and sugar snap peas already. Have tons of tomatoes coming!
  • Trying to widen the driveway. I’ve not done any work on this this year, but have gone to the masonary a couple of times with my husband to look at brick, etc. Time consuming.
  • Taking care of my lavender and herb garden.
  • Painted the deck and cleaned up
  • Had a yard sale last weekend – exhausting!

Gaming – Yes you have to make time for some gaming!

  • Was playing Runes of Magic and Allods Online when Sony’s EverQuest 2x was down. It’s back up now and I’m so into it I can’t get back to the others! My sister joined and we’re having fun decorating our EQ2 houses and questing in Butcherblock Mountains. 🙂 Maybe I’ll make a post on my characters some time.

Family and Pets

  • My mom was in the hospital these past few weeks – she had pneumonia. She’s ok now but it scared us all for awhile.
  • Today I worked out some computer help in exchange for tutoring for my son for Algebra II (something he had troubles with this year). She’s going to help him with that and some SAT prep, for as long as we can pay for it. She’s the one that suggested the bartering and I was happy about that. She needs some help with this program she’s installed and I’ll help figure it out and train her to use it so she can decide if she wants to buy it. My hours there in exchange for the tutoring she’ll give him. When I run out of hours, we have a bit of money from recycling metal that we can use for the tutoring, probably once a week this summer for him until school starts. Unfortunately I doubt we’ll be able to continue it once school starts but we’ll see. One step at a time.
  • Kitty – our kitty cat was REALLY sick last month and the month before. I thought he was going to die. But the vet down the street got him back on track and he slowly recovered over time. We’re very happy. He still has fleas though. UGH. Not as bad as last year. Frontline is helping but we haven’t been able to keep that on schedule due to financial constraints.
  • Finches – I had three left of what was once a 14-finch flock. Gave half to a friend, then the seven we had slowly died (old age, couple of accidents, etc.) The crippled girl we had (she was so cute!) died of old age about three weeks ago. Finches are social birds – the more the better. All I have left is a girl and a boy. The girl mourned her dead friend for almost two weeks. She barely came out to eat, and just tucked her head in her feathers for days on end. The boy called her and also comforted her. She finally broke out of it and is ok again, but I thought I’d lose her too. I would love to adopt some more, but my son and husband don’t want the birds anymore. They take up a lot of space, are messy, etc. But I love them and want more.  They’re sweet, not a lot of work and are fun to watch and they talk with me! The boy sings to me when I come in the room sometimes, too.
  • Looking to switch my husband’s job into something he can do himself. Looked into festivals but was thwarted at every turn. It’s so difficult to break into. Looking into vending from a cart or mobile unit now, but having problems figuring out how to get the money to do that. Thinking of selling the truck. *sigh* It seems so silly, if we’d have not gotten the truck in the first place we’d have had some money before. Now that we have the truck paid off, it seems foolish to sell it for partial the amount of money we put into it.

Techie Stuff

  • BlackBerry PlayBook – my husband is playing with this thing more than me! Until they release some more productive apps, I only pick it up to read the news, check if they have any new productive apps, update the software, and watch some videos sometimes when I don’t feel like being on the computer. I tease him that it’s his now. He does use it way more than me – mostly for Facebook. Barf.
  • Building a computer – my son needs a new computer. He’s using my old ABS machine (7 years old at least!) and still working well. It just can’t handle recent games, and is just having problems doing much at all. It’s time for that good ol’ machine to be converted to a media pc or storage system or something. So we’re planning on building a new system. It’s cheaper, and it’ll be a project from which my son can learn something.

 

 

 

I’m a Winner

The New BlackBerry PlayBook

Yesterday I found out I won one of 10 new BlackBerry PlayBooks from the RIM folks:

and the other 5:

We had to write up to 10 haiku, via Twitter, to @BlackBerry with a #PlayBookHaiku hashtag in the tweet. The haiku had to follow the 5-7-5- rule, and have either BlackBerry or PlayBook in the poem.

I love writing haiku so it was really a fun and quick little contest for me, and I knew I had a good chance of winning one of the PlayBooks. I realized I had an even better chance when I looked at PAGES of #PlayBookHaiku entries. Either they didn’t follow the 5-7-5 rule (what the heck is a haiku?!), their entries were kind of stupid: “Hey I wanna win a Blackberry”, or they wrote haiku without the word BlackBerry or PlayBook in the poem. Sometimes these contests are all about following the rules.

The BlackBerry folks sent me a DM saying they’ll post the winning entries on their blog sometime next week. I can’t wait to see which of mine was picked, and to read the other folks’ winning entries.

Here are all 10 of mine. I’ll edit this post next week and mark the entry that was the winning one. Don’t steal them for your entries for the next #PlayBookHaiku contest – make up your own original ones, ok? And don’t laugh too hard – some are so silly.

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

Sit back and relax
Under the pink sakura
enjoy your PlayBook

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

I open the box –
“New toy” excitement brimming!
PlayBook from RIM.

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

BlackBerry PlayBook
Winter, spring, summer and fall
Four seasons for love.           <——-If anyone has watched Avatar: The Last Airbender – you’ll know the “Four Seasons” song.

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

Pink, gently floating
A cherry blossom petal
Lands on my PlayBook

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

Frog jumps into pond
A splash of water!
Protect my PlayBook      <— reminiscent of Basho’s famous frog jumping into pond haiku

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

You call me a geek
As I hold my new PlayBook.
Call me what you want.

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

News. Mail. Games. Books. Apps.
It all comes together now.
My life. My PlayBook. <<– Looks like this one was the winner; they mentioned they loved it in the Congrats letter they sent with the PlayBook

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

Relaxing morning –
French pastry, a cup of tea
and the new PlayBook

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

Hand-cradled PlayBook,
Oh BlackBerry BlackBerry
How I do love thee.

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

Sleek black PlayBook
the newest BlackBerry crack
should be wearing shades

╰⊰⊹✿ ✿⊹⊱╮

Saving Money, Cutting Back: How We’re Faring

First, I have to say, no amount of financial loss and continued tightening in my family can compare with the losses that this week’s Sendai earthquake and tsunami have brought to the families of the people who have lost their homes, livelihoods, and lives. I have been watching BBC news nearly non-stop since. Even though I’m physically here in the US, my mind has been in Japan.  Thoughts and prayers for the Japanese people.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Old-style rabbit ear antenna, Best Buy, $10

This has been our first week without cable tv.  I don’t think I’ve been without access to cable since the mid-80’s when I was in NEED of having MTV. Since then I’ve grown past MTV and into using TV as a tool for learning and for enjoying particular shows with my family members. Only lately did I start getting into some of the prime-time shows, having the tv playing more than cartoons on Boomerang or Cartoon Network. or gardening shows, or Westerns.

Psycological Aspects

This week, even though we have Netflix, I started craving certain aspects of tv. We’d watch a couple of things on Netflix then turn off the tv. I started missing the non-stop entertainment playing in the background while I used my computer or did household chores. Then I realized another thing I was missing – commercials. :O Who’d ever say such a crazy thing! I’d always fast-forward past the commercials, but now I was missing them? I must have gotten used to the mix of shows+commercials, and now I was going through withdrawal.

In the meantime, I missed several shows that played this week, namely The Event, Hot in Cleveland, The Big Bang Theory, and my regular Saturday night Britcoms. I am not happy about missing my britcoms and I can’t find them streaming online anywhere. Grr.

Solutions

I’ve been able to find most everything of favorite series online, minus the britcoms online. At first I thought I’d have to go to all the network sites, and watch the episodes of each show I missed. I’d done that to catch up on the first few episodes of The Event, which my sister recommended I watch.

Here’s a list of some of the things I’m working on and testing to replace nearly all my cable tv, a lot of which is just free shows that the cable companies charge you to view. Cable companies very much need to rethink their cable fees. I don’t hate them, I just can’t pay their prices any longer.

* Rabbit Ears – I bought a pair of $10 rabbit ears from Best Buy yesterday. I was SO curious what stations I could get without cable. It was extremely easy to hook up – nothing to it. I had an immediate flashback to the 60’s as I pulled up on the antenna, trying to get reception. A really weird thing but I was amazed at the high definition reception of my 6 channels. Unless I turn the rabbit ears in another direction and then I get 11 channels.  Most of the channels are stuff I don’t watch, but I will get network stations (minus ABC which I can’t seem to pick up) plus PBS, and 24/7 news plus local news. For $10 it’s great. I may look into better antennas later (better reception, more channels) and will post again on that if I do.

* Boxee – absolutely great application. Download to your desktop and view shows. Reminders for new shows. Superior interface.  This app is a must. Problems: won’t play Hulu stuff (or does but there’s no sound). Hulu won’t allow Boxee to play stuff you can find on Hulu.

* Hulu – I haven’t checked out Hulu Plus yet and don’t know what it entails, but I’ve been able to play the missed episode of Hot in Cleveland. I’m sure I can find more on there but I’m a little overwhelmed by all the other options right now; will sift through Hulu more this week.

* Web page of links – Can’t find everything on Boxee or Hulu?  There are a bunch of sites that have things to watch that will keep one entertained for a long time. I’ll be making a webpage for myself with the links to what I like. All organized, and I won’t have to search and dig through Google to find a series I want to watch. 30 Sites to Watch Free TV and Movies Online – a very helpful start. Add to it your own favorites  (I like Martha Stewart and Veria.com videos), list on a webpage, and you’ll have an easily accessible list of what you watch regularly. Save our links on PBWorks, Pen.io, any free site, or to your own paid-for website. I think I’m going to do mine on Pen.io – you can create any page name you want, and don’t have to login to it to access the information – just type the url and you’re there.

All this may not be as easy as having cable, but it’s fun to see how much you can do yet still cut back.

Day Two: Netflix

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

We’ve crossed into the second day using Netflix, with no cable. My husband loves action/adventure movies and has been watching Jackie Chan, Jet Li and other such movies. I think he’s going to get a good bit out of this Netflix genre.

Additionally, we got him a  $14.99/month sub to FoxSoccer.tv today so he can watch the English leagues play. That was our biggest problem cutting cable: finding him a way to watch some games.  The FoxSoccer sub + Netflix won’t even nearly approach the amount we were spending for cable. He’s happy now – he saw two games today.

He said “What about you?” though to me…I can’t seem to find my British comedy (I get the urge to watch 3-4 shows at least once a week). I’ve looked online today and haven’t yet found some of the older Britcoms streaming. We did find some Westerns online, and Netflix has Wagon Train and Gunsmoke to keep us busy for quite some time. But since I’m having problems finding these, and also having problems finding Mike and Molly episodes (I can only find one), $#*! My Dad Says (can’t find any online episodes – I’m scared! I HAVE to watch that!) and a few others, I might be out of luck until they come out on DVD. I can do without Mike and Molly actually (half of the show is sweet, the other half is awful crass). I think it’s just an adjustment I’ll go through. Plus, in the future I’m sure there’ll be a lot of the recent stuff streaming and/or we’ll be able to buy low priced subscriptions to things – ala carte personalized tv for cheaper than today’s cable prices.

I’ve been lucky to find quite a few Westerns here and there – all but The Virginian (one of my husband’s favorites). So we’re going to have to do without that. Maybe it will show up on Netflix one day. Or I can wait for the Borders’ 40% off seasonal coupons and buy him a season or two. Not sure if I want to do that unless I’ll be sure he’ll watch them multiple times though.

We did do something fun too – we hooked up the HDMI cable from my laptop to the tv – wow was that a great picture! He watched his Arsenal vs. Barcelona game that way, but until I can get the proper audio cable, the sound comes through my computer.  We’ll be able to watch our online Westerns on the tv together now. Woot!

Netflix Positives:

* Streaming is great – immediate and as gratifying as tv

* There are quite a few things to watch

* A lot of the stuff on there is good

* Simple interface. As with everything, I had to teach my husband how to use it (he claims he’s “techless”) 😀 and the teaching went fast. I like a lot of buttons and features and widgets and gizmos. It’s too simple and  there’s no fun in it for me. But for him it’s beyond perfectly easy.

* Price is great for the amount of things you can watch

Netflix Negatives:

* Can’t find nearly everything you want to watch

* A lot of the stuff you can find to watch is not streaming and still has to be sent via DVD. How hard is it to just stream it all? You’ll have me for life, folks, if you stream it all

* Can’t search actors

* Can’t search genres (like Westerns) and then pull up a list

* Have to know the names of what you want to watch to search them

* New releases are pretty old movies!

* A lot of the stuff on there is junk – ugh

More to come on our experiences with cutting cable and other expenses.