Awesome Little Drive

I was in need of more storage for my video files and shopped around for a new external hard drive.  My current drive was a 500 gig Smart Drive that had been very reliable. I was planning on buying another one when I came across a great deal on the Western Digital My Passport Essential SE Ultra Portable.

This is a tiny unit that uses a 2.5″ laptop hard drive.My Passport 1 tb Drive It supports the faster USB 3.0 so it’s wicked fast (but works fine on the older 2.0 interface ). But the best part is there is no power cord. The special cable handles the data transfer AND power needs. No AC outlet needed!

I’ve been using it now for about a month and have not had one hiccup. Transfer rates are excellent and it has a whole terrabyte of room for me to fill up with raw video footage of silly things.

And isn’t that what life’s all about?

Bag That Camera

I recently read an excellent review of some compact camera bags in the BMW Owners News. I realize that probably isn’t a common resource for photography gear. But the review was specifically looking at small camera bags that are well suited for use while riding a motorcycle.

The camera bags and backpacks by M-Rock, a company I’d never heard of. The review claimed the gear was well made and reasonably priced. I’d been looking for a decent camera bag and a sling bag for my video camera but was suffering sticker shock. The best known brands like Tamrac, Kata or Lowepro seemed expensive. Anyway, I ordered a couple of M-Rock bags on the article’s recommendation and have been very pleased.

Right now they’re running a special on all their gear- plus you can save another 20% if you enter the coupon code 20PC at checkout!

Tracfone Buyers Beware!

Don’t get me wrong, the Tracfone plan is the most economical way I’ve found to own a mobile phone. I consider myself a “casual user” and average about $15 per month for my cell phone service.

But I recently got sucker-punched by a problem that took me weeks to unravel. Fortunately it’s a simple matter to rectify- even easier to avoid!

The Trouble
My new LG600G was unable to send images via email or browse the web. This surprised me because my lame little Motorola was capable of sending photos via email to friends, Picasa or my Facebook page with no trouble at all. After a little digging I learned that my old phone had been on AT&T but the new one was assigned to the T-Mobile network.

Spring into Savings
Many people are not aware that Tracfone and Net 10 do not have their own network. They buy airtime from carriers then resell it to you. Depending on where you’re located one carrier may offer better coverage than another. For me, in Oklahoma, the coverage offered by T-Mobile was pretty bad. And to top it off none of the data features of my phone worked at all!

The Solution
After some wrangling with customer support at Tracfone they finally agreed to send me a new SIM card. The trick here is to insist they provide you with a SIM card for the AT&T network. I’ve included info below on using the SIM card number to identify which network your phone is using.

It’s also possible to avoid this problem altogether before you purchase a phone. The trick is to know a few of the codes used on the Tracfone packaging and website.

Codes to Remember

Model Number suffix shown on retail packaging
AT&T: P4
T-Mobile: P5

SIM Card serial numbers available from the Prepaid menu of your phone
AT&T: 890141…
T-Mobile: 890126…

Market Code shown in the URL as market= when ordering a phone online
T-Mobile: GSM5, COGSM5
Verizon, Alltel and US Cellular: CO
GSM5AT will most likely be assigned to the T-Mobile network

I hope this might help others avoid the aggravation of spotty coverage and unusable features that I have gone through!

Great Phone Unites Cell and Landlines

I went shopping for a decent cordless phone. But happily I ended up with a great deal more!

Until recently I was not aware that some cordless phones offer Bluetooth connectivity. That means you can answer a call on your cordless phone no matter whether it’s coming in on your landline or your cellular line. This isn’t a common feature, but I have discovered it’s well worth looking for.

After a little shopping around I found a handful of phones that offered this feature. Most of these phones included answering systems, DECT 6.0 technology and came with two or three additional handsets. I read reviews and researched cordless phones with Bluetooth made by Panasonic, V-Tech and AT&T. The units from V-Tech received the highest marks for quality, ease of use and reliability. I have owned their products in the past so I was already familiar with their reputation.

After some deliberation I ordered the VTech DS6321 model with three handsets.

I unboxed the set, read through the quick start and installed the batteries. My initial impression was very favorable. The handsets have a nice feel. The answering system is digital, which is pretty common nowadays, and the sound quality of incoming messages is very good. Optional ringtones can be selected for each of the handsets and an intercom feature means an end to the cross-house screaming sessions. The system is expandable up to 12 handsets.

The 6321 will “pair” two cell phones. It took about 10 minutes to set it all up and go through the pairing process (a one-time event) with both of our phones. The clarity is very good, better than using my cell phone directly. Range for the Bluetooth is about 30 feet, which I find quite acceptable. Now whenever we’re home we just sit our cell phones on the counter near the base unit of our new cordless phone set. After a few seconds it will connect so that any cell calls can be answered using one of the VTech handsets. You can also add two Bluetooth headsets into the mix, but I haven’t tried that yet.

I’ve been using the new VTech for about a month now and we love it. Be aware that you will want to adjust your cell’s voice mail feature to coordinate with the answering machine. But it’s a simple matter of setting the preferred number of rings. It’s also worth mentioning that a landline is not required!

My wife and I each have cell phones and both are paired with the cordless phone now. When a cell call comes in we just pick up the closest phone- I actually prefer talking on the cordless now!

LG600G: Good Phone with Email Trouble

I recently ordered a new LG600G cell phone and was quite happy with it. Until I snapped a photo and tried to send it.

Turned out I could no longer send or receive emails as I had done with my old Tracfone. Of course my minutes were still deducted as if I had sent a message! Calls to technical support were pretty frustrating and ended with a promised update that might take “up to 72 hours to arrive.” Not surprisingly it never arrived.

Get an LG 600G phone for $19.99 and receive double minutes for life!

After digging into the problem a little more I discovered that my phone was on T-Mobile network. That explained why I wasn’t receiving any emails- my old Tracfone was on the Cingular network and used an domain. When I sent a message to [email protected] it arrived almost instantly.

A little more research and I came across this blog post about sending mail through an SMS gateway use 36245. That spells “email” for you non-texters like me. I tried it and still couldn’t send- but when I tried 500 outbound email worked. Fortunately that lengthy and arcane procedure is not necessary for this phone. The LG has an Email Gateway setting in the menu. Here’s how to navigate to that setting:
Menu > Messages > Message Settings > Text Message > Email Gateway

Once I entered 500 here my phone was able to send email text messages. MMS messages still don’t work but hopefully this information will help other frustrated Tracfone owners!

Tracfone Wireless