Fitness Trackers: Fitbit vs. UP2

  We are a divided home.

Amy has a Fitbit. I have an UP2. It’s a complicated relationship in which we are both trying to learn to live with the other. And while we would love to be on the same page on this issue so we could finally put to rest the age old question of who gets the most steps per week, there are some differences in the devices that are pretty interesting.

We’ve both had our devices for about 6 months and generally speaking, we are both happy with our choice.

Amy loves her Fitbit Charge mainly because she gets phone calls and texts alerts through her band. And it has a watch with a bright visual display that gives her ultimate joy when she hits 10,000 steps. It is a bit bulky and comes in at $130.

The app is easy to use but doesn’t always play nice with others. Syncing it to Runkeeper and other apps have proven a bit cumbersome and not as clean as it should be.

Fitbits don’t like water. And should never be fed after midnight. No WATER!! Wash your hands, shower – just take it off.

Battery Life
This is a major warning to Fitbit users. Amy is on her third Fitbit because of battery life. After about a month of use, the band won’t keep a charge longer than 24 hours. The reason the company says is water damage. But that doesn’t seem to hold water – pun intended – as Amy doesn’t ever get it wet unless you are counting sweat – which an activity tracker should handle that, right? Typical life is reported to be 8 to 10 days but average ends up being about 7.

Customer Service is not a strong suit of Fitbit. It was NOT a good experience. They directed us back to where we bought the Fitbit who sent us back to Fitbit because they had a ton of them returned for the battery. We ultimately talked our local to store exchange it – twice. The last time the store told us they would not exchange it again after the 60 days unless we bought an extended warranty. We didn’t. We figured – if it dies again, we are getting a different tracker.

Her latest Fitbit has been holding a charge for over 3 months so perhaps we are out of the woods on this issue. Maybe Fitbit finally got it fixed but it doesn’t sit well with me that a company acted like this. Makes me think they knew they had a batch of bad batteries and it was cheaper to act like jerks than just deal with the problem.

Overall – Amy likes the Fitbit and doesn’t feel a need to change. At this point.

UP2 by Jawbone
There are couple of downsides to the UP2 right out of the box. First, no visual display for a clock or call/text notices. For many, this is a deal breaker before anything else. The plus side is you can get an UP2 for around $90-95.

The positives? It’s a slim look, not bulky like Fitbit. It’s comfortable and lightweight. Best news of all? It’s splash-proof.

Meaning – take a shower, wash your hands with it on. Do the dishes – whatever. They recommend not getting it fully immersed. However, I can tell you from first hand experience – it can take an immersion. Maybe not swimming but say – falling in your waders, getting a fish off the line, or washing hands in the lake – it will take it.

It’s got idle alert and you can set about a million different alarms with the app. The app rocks. It plays nice with Runkeeper and a host of other apps. Even will synch with the iPhone Health app if you forget your tracker one day and have to use your phone instead. In the app, you have the ability to compete, have teams – just like Fitbit.

Big difference? It’s got a life-coach mode that will send you hints, helps, and tips on increasing your activity, decreasing your calorie intake all custom made around the data that the band is picking up from you. It’s a great feature.

Customer Service
In short, Jawbone has been one of the best companies I’ve dealt with.

Issue 1: The band broke and tracker fell off my wrist in a trout stream in Colorado. Gone. Bye-bye. I called and asked them what – if anything – they could do. They got my details and in 7 days – I had a brand new one. No charge. One time thing, they said.

Issue 2: Band broke again, rubber cracked on it. 5 minutes on phone, sent me a new one with a return envelope for the old one. I got three follow up emails and a phone call to make sure I got the band and it was working properly.

Issue 3: Band broke, part 3. CSR on other end said – no problem. We’ve had issues with that model. Gonna send you an updated model with a new band clip that should solve the cracking problem. Send us back the old one – on their dime. Again, multiple emails and phone calls to follow up and make sure it was all working.

I love the UP2. Yes, it would be cool to have a digital display but not at the cost of the splash-proof or the slim design. And the customer service is outstanding so I’ll keep my UP2 for the moment.


Ultraviolet & Flickster, Part 2

As a dog returns to its vomit, so does a fool to folly.

This is the backstory to this saga..

Amy gets Camber the One Direction bluray for Christmas with extended scenes and a lock of hair from one of the boys in the band. She is extremely happy about this and says – ‘Dad, can you get this on my ipod?’

I see the Ultraviolet sticker and go into convulsions. Why on earth did we do this again????

Okay. Calm down. The comments from people seem to say that a lot of the initial problems are now fixed. It can’t be as bad as it was. Let’s do this.

Go to ultraviolet. Sign into my dormant account and type in code for the movie.

Get sent to Sony Pictures site that I must create an account with and enter code there before I can get movie in Ultraviolet. Why? Not sure. Seems very spammish (is that a word?).

After that I get sent to Flixster to either sign in or create new account in order to watch movie.

Wait. What happened to Ultraviolet and Sony?

I am thinking – this can’t be right. Very fishy asking for my info from 3 different sites. So I don’t mess with Flixster or Sony.

But alas, the code doesn’t work on Ultraviolet.

Deja vu all over again. So I figured – what the heck. I’ll try to use their customer service.

Dec 25 11:48 PM
I recently bought ‘1d this is us’ ultimate fan edition. It came with an ultraviolet code and after many attempts and failing…I was wondering if there was any chance you’d offer an itunes code for the same movie?

Dec 26 09:54 AM
Ultraviolet Customer Care – Jennifer V. (UltraViolet Customer Care Team)

Thank you for contacting Ultraviolet Customer Support.

UltraViolet can work with iTunes, but only if Apple chooses to participate in UltraViolet. Until then, UltraViolet content is not compatible with the iTunes library and we do not have the ability to provide any iTunes codes.

You can stream and download your UltraViolet™ movies and TV shows to compatible Android and Apple devices including the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch as well as your Mac computer or laptop and the Apple TV via mirroring from an iPad or iPhone.

This is possible through many associated media providers such as Flixster, CinemaNow and VUDU. Here are a sample of steps from the Flixster media provider. Other providers will have similar procedures.

To download to your iPhone (3GS and up), iPod Touch (2G and up), or iPad (any version):

– Verify you have the Flixster app (version 5.0 or higher) and iOS (version 4.0 or higher).
– Sign in to the Flixster or Facebook account linked to UltraViolet™ account.
– Go to the Home tab (iPhone/iPod Touch) or My Collection tab (iPad).
– Tap the movie you want to download.
– Tap the purple Download button on the next page.

After the download is complete, open the Flixster iOS mobile app,
– Select your movie, tap Watch Now and the app will default to offline viewing of the downloaded movie.

Below are links to more information on how to stream and download your UltraViolet™ digital copy to your computer (PC or Mac), or compatible iOS or Android device.

Links to instructions followed

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us. We’d like to keep the channels of communication open and look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your patience and understanding during this process,

UltraViolet Customer Care

Dec 26 12:17 PM
I think I figured it out but it still isn’t working all that great.

So I have to be signed into to Flixster AND Ultraviolet AND I have to have a different account with Sony and be signed up with them just so I can get the movie. Right?

Then after that, I can still only access my movie online? There is no offline option to watch the movie?

Dec 26 12:20 PM
Ultraviolet Customer Care – Jennifer V. (UltraViolet Customer Care Team)

What Ultraviolet does is hold the rights to your movies. When you redeem a code, the code is placed in your Ultraviolet account. Ultraviolet holds those rights and also any member info such as parental controls and information to allow members access to those rights.

Ultraviolet acts as a central hub of a circle of Media Providers.

When you create and link your media provider accounts, the Ultraviolet account tells the media provider account what movies you have the rights to access. If you redeemed movies from several media providers then you can access all of those movies from any provider of your choice. So, if you have Sony, Paramount and Universal movies, they can all be accessed from your Flixster or Vudu accounts. There are some exceptions to this, but generally that’s how it works.

Most customers find that once they have their Flixster App or the Vudu App (both free from the App Store) they don’t have to access even their provider accounts until they buy a new movie. It’s all done from the App except to redeem new titles.

If you add Members to your account those members must have their own provider accounts so that they can link them to their own profiles and not yours, giving them free access to your collection. They can also add to that collection.

I hope this explains things? Please feel free to ask as many questions as you like.

Thank you for your patience and understanding during this process,

UltraViolet Customer Care

Dec 26 12:37 PM
Thanks for the explanation. Appreciate that. But it doesn’t solve my problem.

In fact, it just accentuates what I’ve been saying.

Ultraviolet makes me – the customer – take 4 more steps than iTunes does on a movie that I – theoretically – have bought and own… As long as I’m online.

I am not seeing any advantage here over iTunes. Ultraviolet’s process of buying a movie is incredibly difficult. Why have 3 different logins to redeem a movie I’ve already bought?

And I’m not really buying the movie…it’s kinda like an extended loan as long as I’m online. Appreciate your information but My problem isn’t solved – namely. Getting this movie on my daughter’s iPod.

Thank you for your time. This was a gift but it looks like I will be buying it in iTunes. And I’ll be more careful in the future to avoid ultraviolet titles in the store.


Dec 26 12:41 PM
Ultraviolet Customer Care – Jennifer V. (UltraViolet Customer Care Team)

You can stream full-length movies on WiFi or 3G, or download them to watch offline. To access your movie library, install the Flixster app (free in the App Store) then go to the My Movies tab and log into your Flixster account. Your collection will appear on that tab. If you have not yet linked to UltraViolet, go to on a desktop or laptop browser, log in, then go to the Collection page. You’ll see the option to link to UltraViolet there.

Once the download is complete, you’ll watch it from the Flixster app. Tap on Watch Now, and the app will default to offline viewing.

Thank you for your patience and understanding during this process,

UltraViolet Customer Care

Dec 27 12:26 PM
Appreciate the explanation. At least I think I understand now.

So I have to add my daughter to my ultraviolet account, then get her a Flickster account and her own Sony account and then link those accounts to a Flickster app which I need to install on my daughter’s ipod.

I understand it. It just seems a bit more complicated than it needs to be.

Thank you for your time. I will be returning to iTunes.


The lady was nice and could at least cut and paste from the Customer Service handbook. I don’t fault her for trying to do her job given the confines she has to work in.

Having said that, once again Ultraviolet takes something that should be simple – redeeming a digital movie code – and turns it into one complicated mess. I think applying for a home loan online is easier.

Why make it so that the customer has to use 3 different interfaces to get a movie – Ultraviolet, Flickster, and then the movie production company that produces the movie? Apparently, Vudu and CinemaNow fit in that mix somehow as well. I’m sure it all makes sense especially to android users.

I freely admit that I am an Apple snob. I love my iPad, iPhones and Apple TV. The biggest reason is that Apple – for all it’s ills – makes things easier and simpler. Buy it in iTunes and all of my devices can get it and download it.

Hopefully there will not be a part 3 to this saga.

How Not To Do Customer Service – By Panasonic

We are using Apple TVs at the church a lot now – making presentations with our leaders a lot easier – just bring their iPhone or iPad and we will airplay it to a TV or a projector. As long as that projector has an HDMI input.

There is one projector in our building – the main one in the sanctuary – that doesn’t have an HDMI input. It has an DVI-D input – but no HDMI. They make adapters that can make an HDMI into an DVI-D but if the projector can’t handle HDCP (a certain protocol that only geeks understand), then the adapter is worthless. In other words – not all DVI-D inputs are the same, apparently.

So I google it.

Get the spec book online from Panasonic – can’t really find the answer for our particular model projector one way or the other.

Panasonic has this cool little link that will let you chat with one of their representatives. Below is the transcript:

Dec 11, 2013 4:16:24 PM

System: Welcome to Panasonic Chat. A transcript of this chat will be emailed to you once you disconnect.

Agent Natasha Fitzgerald says: Thank you for contacting Panasonic Solutions for Business. How can we assist you today?

Customer Grant says: I have this projector already – the PT-DW6300US. I see it has a DVI-D input – not an hdmi. I’m wanting to hook up an Apple TV to it – will it do HDCP?
Customer Grant says: I’m guessing you don’t get that question everyday… ha ha ha
Customer Grant says: you there?

[Let the record show that there was about a 5 minute wait for the above three sentences.]

Agent Natasha Fitzgerald says: This is Pre-Sales.
Agent Natasha Fitzgerald says: To better assist your technical questions, please contact our Projector Technical Support Center at 1-855-772-8324 option 3.
Agent Natasha Fitzgerald says: Is anything else that we can assist you with today?

Customer Grant says: no. I’ve tried those options and no one seems to be available. Just imagine that I’m going to buy another one but I want to know if I can hook up an Apple TV to it.

Agent Natasha Fitzgerald says: Support.
Agent Natasha Fitzgerald says: We cannot do Technical Support in the Pre-Sales Division.
Agent Natasha Fitzgerald says: Is anything else that we can assist you with today?

Customer Grant says: How is -“I want to hook up an HDMI product to this projector – can I do that?” a technical support question?
Customer Grant says: Never mind. This is pointless….later.
[Let the record show again a long, awkward pause between those two lines.]

After I ended the chat, I took their ‘customer service survey’ which didn’t bode well for them.

I went over the support side, found another chat icon for support.

Never would connect me – kept getting the “all of our CSRs are currently helping other customers” message which I think was being a bit optimistic. I finally sent an email and haven’t heard back.

Aiming to please, Panasonic.

LifeProof vs. Otterbox for the iPhone

My love of the iPhone is already well known. No real need to talk further about it except this – cases for the iPhone have been problematic.

Otterbox: bulky, not waterproof, rubber exterior skin breaks easily BUT nearly indestructible, customer service is average.

LifeProof: headphone use is problematic BUT waterproof, shockproof, and INCREDIBLE CUSTOMER SERVICE!

The Rest of The Story
Amy and I both started out with the Otterbox for our iPhone 3Gs. Overall – at the time – we were pleased with the cases except they added about 12 pounds of weight and it was like carry around a schoolbook. To call them bulky is doing a disservice to bulky.

But they were pretty much indestructible. Dropped on floor, driveway, in the road, left on top of car – didn’t seem to matter. IT WAS NOT WATERPROOF. So snow and ice and skiing – had to be a bit more protective.

When we upgraded to the 4/4s, we again initially went with the Otterbox. They had made the case a bit slimmer without compromising any of the toughness. After a few months – the rubber outside cover began to stretch and fall apart on the headphone and plug in ports. We contact Otterbox about this and they said we’d pretty much have to buy a new case. We tried to buy just the rubber cover for it off of Amazon but those ended up not working out as well.

Amy stayed with her Otterbox, I punted and went with the Lifeproof case. Immediately there are two huge advantages – it is thin and light. It is waterproof. I tested it myself with this fun adventure. Amy liked the case so much – we ended up buying her a case as well.

There is one annoyance about the LifeProof case – the headphone jack. Due to the waterproof – there is an extension that has to screw in if you are going to use the headphone jack. It’s a pain in the rear and nothing at all is FAST about it. However, it’s a small price to pay for the rest of the features of the case.

The LifeProof case claims to be shockproof. I didn’t have as much confidence in this as the Otterbox. I can’t see how a thin, light case can withhold the shock that the Otterbox does.

I don’t have any of those reservations anymore.

Cooper dropped his phone a country mile down a dam. It bounced all over the place on rocks for probably a good 150 yards. Cooper thought pretty much that was the end of the phone. Nope – not a scratch on the phone. The case on the other hand — well – it was pretty much destroyed.

So the case did what it said it would do. But here is where LifeProof went above and beyond.

A few months ago, Amy’s charge port on her case cracked. Didn’t really affect the case except we were convinced that it would still be waterproof. We contacted LifeProof about it. They asked for serial numbers and since we bought the case from them online – they sent us a new back cover to replace the charge cover. Free of charge. (We had to mail in the old case – so it cost us postage.)

With this knowledge in mind, I thought – what the heck. I’ll contact LifeProof. I’m guess they are going to tell me – “Love the fact that our product saved your phone. You can see that it was worth it. Go buy another one.” And quite honestly, I wouldn’t have blamed them for saying that and I would have gotten Cooper another LifeProof case.

Instead – I get two emails within 24 hours.

Email 1: We are going to send you a replacement case. Mail in your old case within the next 15 days.

Email 2: The original color case that you order we are out of stock. We can either mail you a different color case or we can wait until this color comes in. Which would you prefer?

That my friends is some outstanding customer service. And it’s also why we are LifeProof fans and customers.

Why Ultraviolet & Flickster Are A Complete Waste of Time

Maybe you have noticed on a few BluRay and DVD new releases an advertisement for a free digital copy of the movie thru the Ultraviolet service? Well, let me just warn you – run away. That service and process is an unmitigated disaster. If you really want a digital copy for your iTunes – buy it in iTunes. Or get handbrake and make your own copy.

Whatever you do – avoid Ultraviolet.

I’ve had 3 experiences with Ultraviolet. The first one had to do with Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows, Part 1. They advertised an iTunes digital copy came with purchase of BluRay. there wasn’t. It was only Ultraviolet and after thousands of complaints, they started giving away iTunes codes.

You’d think I’d learn. You’d be wrong.

My second experience had to do with The Dark Knight. I bought this in the middle of our move and when I finally got it unpacked – the digital copy code had expired. Let me just share the actual customer service email interaction.

Dear Ultraviolet,
I recently tried to download my digital copy of The Dark Knight and realized it had expired. I was in the middle of a move when I purchased this an was wondering if there was anyway to get another code.

Here’s the email I got back:


We have researched your issue and the Digital Copy offer for this title has expired. However, we are taking steps to reactivate the digital copy authorization code so that you can access the Digital Copy. Please check back on June 15, 2012 for an update.

Thank you for your continued support of Warner Home Video products.

WB Digital Copy Support Team

My reply…..on August 28th:

Dear Warner Bros.

I made this request on June 14th. It is August 28th. I have clicked on the links to get started in finding my original authorization code and it is just the same cycle of the same information that I originally went through on June 14th.

Warner Bros. wrote back:

Dear Digital Copy Customer:

Our records show that you previously contacted us about an expired Digital Copy offer. We have reactivated the Digital Copy title about which you inquired and you can now redeem the Digital Copy.

For Windows Media: Please follow the redemption instructions on the insert on which the original authorization code appears. If you no longer have the original insert with instructions, you can find information about getting started on the customer support web site.

For iTunes: Please respond to this email with your original authorization code as it appears on your insert. If you no longer have the original insert you can find information about getting started on the customer support web site. Manual issuance of a replacement code may take us a few days, so we appreciate your patience.

In addition, if you have technical problems with redemption, please contact customer service by replying to this e-mail or checking the customer support web site (

Thank you for your cooperation.
WB Digital Copy Support Team

Of course — none of that worked. It still showed I had an expired code. So I ended it with this email.

Dearest Warner Bros.
I went ahead and bought a non-HD digital version from iTunes. It was cheaper and less hassle than dealing with your company. I realize that you will get some money from my purchase – money that honestly I shouldn’t have had to spend again but this whole experience has soured me on your company.

I’ll pass and keep passing on your products.

Grant English

You would think after all of that I would have learned, right? I mean – what idiot goes through this again? I own a couple of iPhones, Apple TVs, iPad – what bonehead buys yet another BluRay with the Ultraviolet Symbol instead of just downloading it from iTunes? Tell me?

I will tell you.

I am that idiot.

I see The Dark Knight Rises in Best Buy and I just couldn’t NOT buy it. I get it home. I realize that it is an Ultraviolet copy. I get to their website and they tell me – “This is NOT compatible with iTunes.”

So I figure – I’ll give this another try. I upload the code to Ultraviolet. They tell me that I now need a Flickster account alon with my Ultraviolet account. Why do I need two accounts to have a digital copy? I have no idea. But I get one. I try the code again.

It doesn’t work.

If you aren’t going to be iTunes compatible, if you are going to try to fight against the beast that is iTunes, the least you could do is to make sure it works AND make it easy. They have yet to accomplish either of these tasks.

So as a fool returns – I return to the customer service black hole of UltraViolet.

I start a customer service ticket telling them my problem – can not get Dark Knight Rises to stream on Ultraviolet site or Flickster site. Left them my authorization code.

I get an email with a new authorization code. Awesome. It doesn’t work either.

I send another email asking if there is anyway to get an iTunes code since their product doesn’t work. Here’s the response.

Dear Valued Customer,

Hi there, I would like to apologize for the delay you’re experiencing. We have had an overwhelming amount of requests for iTunes codes. We are working to have this resolved. Warner Bros. will be contacting you with a resolution. Enjoy your digital media, Jessica C.

I respond back…

Enjoy my digital media? Are you trying to be funny? You mean my digital media from ultraviolet that hasn’t worked one single time from Harry Potter to Dark Knight to Dark Knight Rises? It’s been two weeks and you guys can’t figure out how to issue iTunes codes for a faulty product? And why is Warner Bros. contacting me? Is it their fault?

The next day, I get this email…

“Dear Valued Customer,
Since we haven’t heard from you on this issue, we are assuming your issue has been resolved and thank you for your continue patronage.

I respond:

This issue is not resolved. I was told to wait for a response from you. In fact, I just bought Bourne Legacy off iTunes because I saw the ultraviolet logo on the package and I can’t stand the thought of having to deal with your product anymore.

I would like a code for iTunes or at least the ability to have a file I could download to be able to put on my iPhone. Just like your product advertised but has yet to deliver. I did all the steps you’ve told me and I still have no Dark Knight Rises on my mobile devises.

I get this in reply…

Dear Valued Consumer,

Thank you for your email. We appreciate your interest in Universal Studios Home Entertainment products.

While Flixster does offer select Universal titles, we are forwarding on your behalf the request for details on iTunes compatibility to Universal Customer Support. You should receive an email from Universal with more information within 1 – 2 business days.

Thank you for your continued patronage and for taking the time to contact us.

– Flixster Customer Care for UltraViolet™

The next day I get an email from Universal – not Warner Bros. – with a code for the Bourne Legacy.

I respond:

Once again – you have gotten this all wrong. I don’t need a code for Bourne Legacy. I already bought that off iTunes and it works great. I wanted a code for the Dark Knight Returns. Do you guys even read the emails?

Ten days later, I get an email asking for an evaluation on my recent experience with Ultraviolet. Here’s what I said…

I originally put in a complaint for a non-working code for The Dark Knight Rises on December 11th. You have my acount info. I’ve got a string of 13 emails from Universal Studios who finally told me – they can’t help me. I’m back at square one. I want to be done with your company and would just like for you to issue me a iTunes credit so I can get the Dark Knight Rises in HD in iTunes so I can watch on my mobile devices. I tried the Flickster/Ultraviolet route. My code does not work – has not worked since the day I bought the BluRay. IF a customer drops $30 on a BluRay that promises streaming and mobile digital copy – you should deliver it. You haven’t. And your customer service is horrific.

I get this the next day.


Thank you for your reply. My name is John and I’ll be happy to assist you further.

I do apologize for the experience you have had. to ensure you get a satisfactory resolution to this request.

I did want to let you know I will be escalating this to my supervisor to better address your iTunes code request as we here at Ultraviolet support are not able to provide iTunes codes. He will be responding to your request.

While that is happening, (and I understand you may be finished with us) I do want to make sure you know that while UltraViolet™ titles will not show up in the iTunes library, you can stream and download your UltraViolet™ movies and TV shows to compatible Apple devices including the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch as well as your Mac computer or laptop.

[He gives me the instructions on how to download to iPhone/iPad.]

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us. We’d like to keep the channels of communication open and look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your patience and understanding during this process,

John P.
UltraViolet Customer Care

I gave this response:


Thank you for the reply.

From an end-user perspective, it is not exactly user friendly to have to go through two services – ultraviolet and flickster to use your product.

But more frustrating than that – the codes that were in my blu-ray did not work from the beginning. I was willing to live with the frustration of flickster but trying to deal with your customer service people was a nightmare. I kept getting passed around and asked has the issue been resolved, I kept saying no, it hasn’t. And then nothing.

Somehow in the middle of this mess – I got an email from universal with a free iTunes code for Bourne Legacy – which was nice – but that wasn’t the movie I was having problems with.

So more than the hassle of adding another app, dealing with another place for my media, it was the complete lack of care and communication that just completely frustrates me.

Problems are going to happen with digital media. I get that. Codes don’t always work. But it is the dealing with your co-workers that has me finished with the Ultraviolet experiment.

I don’t tell you this just to be difficult but while I am having this problem, I also had a bad download from iTunes concerning their iTunes extra content. We kept getting this unique error number. I sent a screen shot, a tech sent daily emails giving me steps to do. After about 4 tries – he said – forget it. Sorry for the hassle. Here is your money back, enjoy the movie on us. The movie worked great, it was the behind the scenes stuff but they gave it to us free.

My point is this – people – me in particular – won’t mind the hassle or glitches if they are taken care of. And that is where ultimately your company has failed every time I deal with you.

That was dated December 22nd. And that was the last I have heard from John P. or Ultraviolet or Warner Bros. or whoever else they do business as. And I still do NOT have a HD digital copy of Dark Knight Rises.

Honestly, most of this is my fault. After two experiences with Ultraviolet, I should have known better. It was clearly stated on the BluRay case of The Dark Knight Rises – not iTunes compatible. At the end of the day – despite the ridiculousness of their customer service – if I wanted my media to run on my iOs products, I should have just bought it through iTunes to start with.

And I think I’ve sufficiently learned that lesson.

/end of rant.

Apple TV (2nd Gen) vs. Roku LT vs. Online TV

We’ve dropped the cable (Uverse, technically) but I’m not sure we’re even missing it all that much. It’s been great. We hang out with each other more. Kids are reading and playing outside more. And it’s nice not having that bill at the end of the month. It wasn’t all that big of a deal. We still are able to catch most of the shows we want to see anyway, thank you, online content.

I remember those days of snowing images and tin foil around the antenna. OTA (Over-The-Air) HD is nowhere near that bad these days as long as you are in range of a local television. We get all the local channels very clear with a simple HD antennae. We don’t watch a lot of television like this – live sporting events, weather – but it’s there and “free” after you have the antenna. COST: $20-40 for HD antenna.

We have 2 Apple TVs.

The 1st Generation model is white, big, noisy, and runs hot. I got mine on ebay for $40. It also has a 40 GB hard drive you can store movies, music, photos, or television shows on through iTunes. You can watch YouTube through it but it does NOT have Vimeo or Netflix. We jailbroke it – legal – and now it can pull media off of our family iMac.

The 2nd Generation model of Apple TV is the small, black box. It pretty much is a small box of awesomeness. Netflix, Vimeo, YouTube, – all great but the coolest thing is AirPlay. If you have an iPhone or an iPad – pretty much anything you can get on your phone will “AirPlay” on the television. In the 3rd Gen model, there is a mirror mode with the iPad. We have one up at the church – what an incredible teaching tool. I can zoom up maps or pictures or video from an iPad to the whole room. $99 retail.

Roku LT
It’s pretty cool. It’s basically a clumsy Apple TV. It’s got Netflix, Pandora, and Northpoint church has a channel. And Life Church and Granger Community. Pretty awesome. It’s also got Plex and Playon that allows you to stream a lot of online TV stations and whatever else you have on you computer.

It’s cool but takes a while to setup. Have to go back and forth from computer to TV. Not well laid out but it works. $40-90 depending what model you get.

Overall, we haven’t missed it all that much.

Dear Facebook, It’s Finally Over.

It’s over.

We’ve been dancing around this issue for a while now. How many discussions and arguments have we had? To many to count. And I know I’ve said these words before but this time it’s serious.

I’m done with you, Facebook.

I’m leaving. The key is on the counter.

Don’t even ask why. You know why. And yes, we started out well – a place where I could keep parents updated on the kids and life in general. A place to catch up with students and post announcements and invite the guys over for Halo.

But then it went….pear-shaped. It got complicated. Awkward. Hurtful.

Every time we settle into a good groove, you’d change. Security settings, features, layout. In short, you became the focus of the relationship instead of a means of relationship. It’s like having another wife – I can’t keep up with all the buttons I have to push or unpush to keep you happy and safe.

And the uninvited “Wall Posts.” I get there are people that really into Twilight or politics or Pirates vs. Ninjas or Farmville. I’m happy for them — okay, honestly, I’m not happy for them. I seriously wonder about their ability to function in normal society but that isn’t the point right now. The point is – it’s my wall, not theirs. I don’t want that junk on there yet I can’t keep it off without having to constantly clicking on your website.

While we are talking about this – can you explain the logic of this? You’ll let anybody post on my wall but you won’t let me publish my blog to my own notebook anymore. What’s up with that? Petty. Very, very petty.

And you’ve devalued what a ‘friend’ is. Current friend count for me – 804. How many of these friends would stop on the side of the road to help me change a flat tire? (I know how to change a flat tire by myself – do not miss the point.) How many of them would I WANT them to stop and help me? Who would have ever thought a friend request would send me into some deep, existential debate? Are we really friends or are we just acquaintances?

You’ve forced people to be lazy and unreasonable. This isn’t totally your fault. But I can’t keep up with all these people’s lives that they seem to be living vicariously online. Partly because I have my own life that I am in the middle of. Partly because I don’t want anything to do with this voyeuristic ritual of knowing what is going on with every single person I’m connected to.

I’m tired of people putting stuff online that they would never say in person. Tired of the immaturity of trying to prove creation, evolution, truth of scripture, pro-life, pro-choice or whatever hot-button issue through links, posts, and comments. I’m tired of people dragging everybody else in the middle of their drama by posting these not-so-cryptic updates slamming someone else. I’m tired of others thinking that just because it’s on Facebook, they should have an opinion on it.

I’m tired of people asking me ‘did you see what so-so put on Facebook?’ (I didn’t. And if I did, I wouldn’t talk to you about it.) I’m tired of those people who get offended easily because they honestly think every post is a personal attack against them. (By the way, I’ve learned it’s just easier to tell them it was about them.) I’m tired of people getting unjustly upset because I am not up to speed on the drama or issues in their life that they have carefully recorded on their profile.

I’m tired of having to only ‘like’ things. Where is the unlike button? Not that it matters. I wouldn’t come back for that.

I’m tired of having to think through a post to make sure it is kind, smart, insightful, funny, non-offensive, vague enough to protect the guilty, or remotely relevant.

In short, I’m tired of you and your drama. And your unspoken expectations. And your unfulfilling, time-wasting, mind-numbing games that steal time from real life, real conversations, real relationships.

So we’re done. I’m walking away. It’s over. I hope you understand but then again it doesn’t matter if you do or not.

Real life awaits.


The iPad 2 and Ministry

Western Hills surprised/embarrassed me pretty good last week. I never like being surprised, especially on Sundays but they got me good. I had no clue what was coming. Completely and totally surprised. And a little miffed…until I saw the gifts. Then I felt like crying and crawling under the front pew. But that’s another story for another time…

I’ve had a couple of guys bug me about why the iPad is so much better than a normal laptop so this is my apologetic for it.

There are some things that no one should really try on a iPad.

1. Eat.
2. Edit a movie clip.
3. Dance.

That’s pretty much all I can think of right now. But there are some killer apps on the iPad that are pretty much going to render my time on a laptop small. Especially if you add a bluetooth keyboard.

Here is the screen shot of my front page of apps for the iPad2. Let me walk through a couple of MUST have apps for those in ministry.

Logos Bible – Logos 4 is expensive. BUT…for a teacher/communicator – worth every penny. This app lets me access ALL my resources as long as I can get internet. If I need a specific one or two — download them.

Evernote – great for travel logs, blogs, pics, video. Online, PC counterparts as well.

Pages – $10 in the app store. Worth it. It’s basically Microsoft Word on your tablet but better. Doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that the laptop app has. The glaring missing component is the export/share feature.

Dropbox + iBooks = how to teach/preach from your iPad. Put your sermon or message in a PDF form and upload it to Dropbox. When you open it in Dropbox, it will ask what app to use to open it. Pick iBooks. Now you can page turn through your notes without the keyboard popping.

By the way – if you are going to teach with the iPad —-
1. Turn off autolock.
2. Lock the orientation.
3. Put in airplane mode.

Bible (YouVersion) – great, quick, easy Bible. Be sure to download a couple of versions so that if you don’t have internet – you’ve still got the Word.

WordPress – It’s okay. It’s better than nothing if you have a wordpress blog – as I do both personally and the church’s website. So I can add a post from here if I want. I wish it had a bit more power with it.

Hootsuite – let’s you do Twitter and Facebook at same time. I used to think this was the best app for Twitter…and it is still the #2 app for that. What’s #1.

Flipboard – This is like a trip to Disney for apps. Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader, LinkedIn, and anything else you can imagine. It’s got a magazine layout, so I can ‘turn the page’ and quickly see a ton of information. I can point to where and go there OR just swipe by. I can’t even describe how incredible this app is if you are an avid reader of blogs, magazines, and the like.

I’m actually going to try to teach from my iPad this weekend. We will see how it goes.

Getting Movies on my LG Optimus S

I normally don’t talk geeky stuff on my blog but since I left my iPhone for the LG Optimus S, I’ve had to figure out a couple of things on my own with little to no help from the Geek Nation out there. It’s a great phone so far…no major complaints. No regrets leaving AT&T or the iPhone. BUT there are not as many helps for this phone as there were for the iPhone.

Consider this my contribution to the fold.

I have a LG Optimus S phone with a 16gb microSD card, class 4 speed. I’m also using a MacBook with upgraded 4gb processor. It makes the compression time a bit shorter. Handbrake is the only real program you will need for this unless you are on a PC. I’ve heard that PC’s have to take another step before getting the film into Handbrake to be compressed. I don’t know all the details to that…so mileage may vary.

This article acted as a baseline to this information. There are some cool screen shots and in an effort to save some space and time — I pretty much did everything this article tells you to do except for TWO key areas.

In short — click on the iPhone Legacy preset first then make some minor adjustments in two key areas.

AREA ONE: The article says to uncheck the “Keep Aspect Ratio” box and instead put 480×320 in the dimension boxes. This the maximum screen size for the Optimus S and for most movies and TV shows, this setting will be fine.

HOWEVER, on some movies — big, widescreen, epic films – if you do this, the film will look really funny and distorted. It’s a personal preference thing but that is just annoying. I hate watching Pan&Scan movies so I did some tweaking on this setting.

Using the Live Preview button allows you to scale your movie to exactly the look you want. As I said, some movies will look fine in 480×320 but if you want to keep the aspect ratio close without feeling like you are wasting half of the precious screen size – try using a 480×272 size. It’s not the strict aspect ratio BUT it doesn’t look warped and it uses most of the screen.

AREA TWO: The article says set the bit rate to 1500.

This is going to get a little technical so I apologize in advance…just try to hang with me because this setting is important if you are trying to find that magical place between memory and quality. That’s the trade-off we are dealing with all of these smartphones – you have a smaller screen size so we don’t need as much memory, however you don’t want your copy looking like junk either.

If you keep the 1500 bitrate speed, it will result into roughly a 1GB per hour size file. This is a large size file for a phone. I dropped it down to 1000 and saw no change in quality of the film on my phone but it resulted in a 20% smaller file size! Win!

Then I decided to really experiment with this. I dropped down to 500. I noticed a little pixelating and the blacks were kind of shadowy at points. A little annoying and not exactly what I wanted BUT the file size was a ridiculous 80% smaller. I made a small bump up to 700 bitrate speed and the quality was right back at the 1000 bitrate and only a slightly larger file size of the 500 bitrate speed. Here’s what I’m trying to say —

Bitrate Speed; size of file per hour (roughly)
1000; 1gb
700; 300mb
500; 250mb

Again, it’s a personal preference thing but most folks are going to be fine with 500 and enjoy having more room on their phone. Depending on the movie, I’ll switch between 500 and 700. 700 for action films and graphic intense movies, 500 for chick fliks and musicals of which I only do for my wife and kids, I promise I’m not lying about this.

HUGE NOTE: If you are ripping these movies to playback later on your computer or on your TV — do NOT use these settings. These things look great on a small screen…they do NOT scale up. So if you plan on showing these movies on a projector or on your home theater system — scale as high up as you can.

HUGE NOTE 2: The better your original source, the better your copy.

We now will go back to our regular scheduled programming.

The Spiritual Application of Leaving the iPhone

In case you haven’t heard – I left my iPhone & AT&T this week. I got an Android phone. It’s a shock, I know. And before all of my fellow Apple enthusiasts accuse me of infidelity, hear me out. It’s not as dark or traumatic on this side as you think it is. Of course, I’ve been humming Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you” all week long as well. It’s helped.

In all semi-seriousness, it’s been a bit embarrassing some of the conversations I’ve had. “You’re going to regret leaving the iPhone.” “There’s not another phone like it on the market.” “What will you do without AT&T’s coverage?” Perhaps be able to complete a call?

As wonderful as the 3G was two years ago, it just could not keep up with the new software. Every update just seemed to make it worse. That sleek, wonderful piece of awesomeness had become a sleek, wonderful paper weight that I could periodically make calls with. It was now slow, unresponsive, bulky and….boring.

Something had to change. A bold move was needed. Who knew that a 2-hour visit to the cell phone store would be that bold move.

That’s right. 2 hours to get a new cell phones and a new plan. They can put more technology than it took to go to the moon in my hand but it still takes the same amount of time to program it.

This is the part where we all realize that we’re not just talking about phones anymore.

I’m amazed at how quickly that sleek, wonderful piece of awesomeness called our relationship with Jesus can turn into a slow, unresponsive, bulky, boring paperweight. I’m also amazed at how long we will live with settle with this instead of doing something about it… like change.

I’m not going to lie to you – change means work. It’s inconvenient. It’s awkward at best. It can take forever. There is a large learning curve. It’s risky. It means letting go of something that is knowable and predictable and comfortable – no matter how ineffective it may be. You constantly find yourself wrestling with the question – is all of this worth it?

Is all of this worth it?

The question must be answered at some point, I just think too many of us answer it too soon. I’m ashamed at how quickly I’ll answer that question without allowing the story to unfold, to develop, to deepen. I see the rough path and start looking for the first exit. If I’d only remember the other times that I pushed through, I stayed in the saddle, kept at the journey… If I could only remember how faithful God was just yesterday…

Join us this Sunday as we investigate practical steps that we can take to help make the answer to that question “yes.”