Monday, October 27, 2014

Ah... the complications of computers!

A few days ago, an app asked for permission to be added to my computer.  It looked genuine and seemed to come from Chrome... Well, it didn't.  All of a sudden, I had pop-ups all over the place.  Ugh!

I looked all over and did a little google searching (amidst pop-ups) to try and figure out how to get rid of them. I checked my chrome settings, my internet settings, and ran an anti-virus scan.

Nada.  Still Pop-Ups!

So, I went into Norton AntiVirus and went to support.  On the Norton website, I was prompted to download the Norton Power Eraser and uninstall unwanted programs.  It found it!  It was an adware/malware program called Stormwatch.  Nope.  I don't want it.  I really don't want it!  A click of a button and it was gone.  Yay!  No more pop-ups.  It was the stormwatch ad that was able to override google Chrome's setting to block pop-up ads.

Then, today...

Flash Player opened a tab on me asking for me to update the outdated of their player on my program... hmmm...  So, first, I googled what they were asking to include...  It was something by conduit that would change my homepage.  Didn't sound good.  So, I declined it.  Then, another app that was being included came up... Stormwatch... Stormwatch!!!  Nope.  Definitely don't want it.  Then two more came up after I declined the others.  I closed the whole tab and didn't do the update.  Hopefully, if my flash player really needs to be updated down the line, the company will actually just sent out an update for-- flash player!

I wanted to share this story to let everyone know about what these updates are trying to sneak onto your computer.  I knew that a lot of programs try to sneak McAfee onto your computer (Adobe being one of them) which is bad.  If you download a second anti-virus program onto your computer and you already have one, they will fight against each other, slow down your computer and potentially cause it to freeze up.

I am no longer going to just say yes to a program update.  I always opt for the notify me option before my computer updates itself or programs update themselves instead of giving blanket permission..

Post Script...

It's been a few weeks since this has happened and I've had to be vigilant.  I learned that what looked like the flash player update was not from them.  It was just a very good imitation.  It has popped up again since then and I've had to erase unwanted programs.  I have to be very careful about where I search and click on the internet.  My husband and I've made the decision to switch me to a mac the next time my computer breaks.  We had such a horrible experience with my children's Dell laptop and my Dell desktop is finicky.  For now, I'm thankful we have computers that work, but I'm very aware that technology does not just make our lives easier.  It also makes it more stressful in many ways.  I prefer tangible books.  I'm going to stick with them as much and as long as I can!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Clorox Disinfecting Wipes and Kitchen Counters

This morning as I watched a television program online, I saw two commercials for Clorox Disinfecting Wipes.  Both commercials were focused on cleaning up from raw fish or chicken.

Save money!  Don't buy them.  Just use white vinegar.  Pour a bit of it on your counter and wipe it all over the contaminated area with a paper towel.

Much, much cheaper option! :)

Thoughts on Coffee, Starbucks, and Dunkin Donuts

We like Starbucks.  We've gone there many times over the past ten years.  So, of course years ago, we got "gold cards".  The refillable cards that turn into gold cards with your name on them when you've earned a certain number of points in a year.  

This past week, I realized that my account wouldn't tell me how many points I had.  I contacted customer service so that I could access the card online and sort things out... No help.  Then, I tried to call and ended up on hold for over half an hour.  I left the phone on speakerphone while doing other things.  Then, I hung up.  My time is compressed these days and I knew I didn't have the energy or time to figure this out beyond what I'd tried.  I'd tried.  

I talked with my husband about it and we thought about the pros and cons of the Starbucks rewards system.  The question we found ourselves asking was, is it worth it?  How does it benefit us?  What affect do the cards have on us?

Really, these cards are a genius marketing ploy that get people (including us) to spend more money at Starbucks.  You load your card.  Then, you spend from your card and it doesn't feel like you're spending as much.  It's easier to justify stopping and getting a cup of coffee.  There's lots of psychological effects, I'm sure.  

When we took a closer look, we realized that the benefits weren't really that much for us.  What it did was make us feel like we should choose Starbucks over going somewhere else that we would have enjoyed too--that may have been closer to home (save money on gas) or different (local ice cream for a snack).  

Credit cards do that too--when someone has a Kohl's card or JCPenney's card, we're more tempted to shop at that store. See this article HERE.  Interestingly, the article focuses very little on that con, but on others instead.  I realize that the idea to not have store cards is very counter-cultural right now.

It's also counter cultural not to have a store rewards card/refillable debit card. Although, I found this great post HERE that summarized the conclusions I came to.  The gold card is really a gold cage.  So, my husband and I've decided to use up what's left on our cards and move on--without regret.  We'll still go there when we want to, but that's the key--when we want to.  When we want to go to Dunkin Donuts or an ice cream spot, that's what we're going to do instead!

As a side note, the one tip I have for Starbucks users who have kids--- I order a Venti frappuccino for my kids and ask them to split it 3 ways (which they've never minded doing).  It saves us a lot!  1 large drink instead of 3 talls saves about $5.50.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Love this Idea!

I don't have much time these day to look around the internet for ideas.  But, my oldest daughter is getting ready for her 11th birthday and we started looking around for game ideas.  We found this one and I love it! So, I wanted to share a link here.

http://thingswevehandeddown.blogspot.com/2013/05/toss-talk-ball.html

Obviously, I'm going to skip the Justin Beiber question at the bottom and a few others like the favorite boy at school question, but it's a great list and there's plenty of questions to choose from.

This ball has huge potential at other birthdays and get togethers in our house.  I'm excited to have it around once I get a ball from the store and use our Sharpie markers to write the questions!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Doll Bed

The new American Girl doll catalog arrived in the mail yesterday.  My oldest daughter loves the bed in the book.  I was curious, so I looked at the price...

ay ay ay!  $175.  Not doable.  So, I began searching the web for an alternative--one that would be more affordable and I found this...

http://ana-white.com/2012/12/plans/kid039s-kit-doll-bed

I've printed off the plans and look forward to trying to make two with the kids!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Listening

I was telling my girls that I love to talk to people because I care and I love hearing people's stories, but I have to admit that I also do love the little things that I learn from people.

Last week, I listened as a friend remarked that she always filled her glass half full of water before adding sweet tea from a bottle.  I felt my brain go, "Hmmm..."  And since we had almost a full bottle in our fridge this week after having friends for dinner last week, I experimented.  I filled my glass half full of ice and then filled that half with water.  Then, I added sweet green tea to fill the glass.  It tasted just fine!  And I have to admit that I felt better about having less caffeine and sugar in the process.  I did buy Tradewinds Tea because it was made with sugar instead of Arizona Iced Tea's comparable version made with high fructose corn syrup.  It was pretty good!

The same friend and I were talking on the phone a few weeks ago about high school math.  Her husband teaches their children math at that level.  She shared his sentiment that any solid high school math book will work.  I asked whether he had ever needed a teacher's edition.  She answered that he hadn't and that all high school texts have the answers to the odd problems in the back of the book.  I had completely forgotten this!  In school, teachers always assigned the even problems because they didn't want us to cheat on our homework.  BUT, as a homeschooler the answers are handy if my child's honest.  They will keep me from needing a separate answer key!  Yay!  I am glad that I will get to save money on high school math and just purchase a public school text!

Little things... but they're little things I'm glad to know!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Appliance Warranties

Every time we buy a new appliance or piece of technology, we face that question, "Should be a warranty?"  In the past, we bought a warranty on the washing machine we bought and the refrigerator we bought when we moved into this house.

I've gotten pretty disillusioned with warranties the past few years.  Often the cost is on you to return to the manufacturer.  When we had a television go bad on us from Costco, it was a bear to get someone out to inspect the television.  The verdict ended up being that it was unfixable.  I think it took several months to get it resolved and get a check from the company so we could get a replacement television.

But, some companies have figured this out and they now offer warranties that they tout as "no deductible" and of great benefit.

Two years ago, we did decide to buy a 5 yr warranty on our side by side Samsung refrigerator.  The warranty cost $250, but because the refrigerator would be expensive to replace since it was a counter-depth fridge, we thought it was worth it.  This is one of those rare occasions when it was.

Two weeks ago, I called HH Gregg because the LED panel that shows the temperature/ice/water controls wasn't working properly.  The man asked all sorts of crazy questions (that were meant to deduce if the malfunctioning was my fault or not).  It wasn't my fault.  It was a glitch.  We hadn't done anything to it.  It was covered.  But, at the same time I asked about one of my refrigerator shelves that showed several cracks on the sides of it.  Verdict?  Not covered.  The new shelf, thankfully, only cost $61, including tax, and I was able to swap out the new and old shelves myself.

The cost of the new part and installation would have been about $500.  So we did get our money's worth this time.  But, most of the time breakage (statistically) happens right after the warranty runs out.

Last year, the computer in my oven went out.  I wish, wish, wish that I had just had it fixed instead of replacing the oven.  The oven barely fits in its spot and I dread the new one ever having to get replaced.  The repair would have cost $400.  I don't feel like I made the right choice on that one.  

We don't have a warranty on our television because the warranty would have cost half of the television price.  

Warranties are tough.  You gamble when you buy a warranty.  Will it break?  Or won't it? Will it break before the warranty runs out?  I once read that statistically, warranties are designed to run out right before an item is statistically likely to break!  What a discouraging thing to read!

I'm learning that with some appliances it's wise to get a warranty and some it's not.  I wish there was a way to know, but I think it has more to do with knowing how much it would cost to replace the appliance if something breaks on it, whether you could replace the appliance if you need to, how much repairs typically cost (and how likely they are to be needed), and how long you'll have to wait for it to be repaired.  

The LED panel on my refrigerator thankfully didn't affect its ability to dispense ice and water and monitor the temperature.  I did have to wait 2 weeks for the part and the repair after the initial visit.  A friend of mine had her washing machine fixed and it took 6 weeks for it to get repaired.  No matter how you cut it, it's crummy when an appliance breaks and we depend on it every day!  Repair time doesn't diminish if you have a warranty, the warranty just diminishes the cost.