Tuesday, May 24, 2016

LYFT And Their Shameless Caltrain Marketing

So maybe you've heard or not, but the heated competition between Uber and Lyft sounds pretty crazy. But from what I can tell, Uber has this fight, hands down.

But historically speaking, Uber apparently or allegedly got down and dirty at times when competing with Lyft in the early days. Now I don't know about what went down during those earlier times, but I can tell you this:

As a rider of Caltrain in the Bay Area, some of my Twitter feeds are getting pummeled by Lyft. In a shameless fashion.

One morning I did a search on Twitter for Caltrain tweets and more than half my feed was full of Lyft ads referencing Caltrain. After I had a conversation with the official Caltrain feed, the Caltrainer announced that the various posts from Lyft were spam bots.

So a blocking I will go!

On that day, I blocked two different Lyft Twitter accounts.

Maybe a week later I started getting more Lyft spam in my Twitter feed and saw that they started a few more new spam bot Twitter feeds.

Today, I found my feed besieged by a few more Lyft spam Twitter accounts.

On Twitter, I've marked as spam and blocked the following accounts, so far:

Lyft Dashboard - @LyftDash
Steve ‏- @cheapo7
Free Lyft Rides - @10FreeLyftRides
Lyft ‏- @lyftoffer
the dealzer - @thedealzer
test pageSocial - @testpagesocial1

Then there's what happened today.

We had a suicide take place on the tracks... and within the hour Lyft was spotted at the closest Caltrain station handing out flyers to "Lyft to work and save time," in what seemed to be a shameless moment to take advantage of the obviously sad situation.

If anything, Lyft has convinced me exactly who to not ever use for my ride-sharing needs. Period.

I don't support ghoulish, creepy or spam-riddled marketing ploys.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

CALTRAIN's Communications, The Good and The Sadly Bad

Over the last several months I have noticed an improvement in how Caltrain in the Bay Area communicates with its riders during unscheduled events.

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A few months ago when riding the train, there were times my train would come to a complete stop, or slow to 10mph in a 75mph zone. And the ridership was never told one damn thing.

But as time went on, things seemed to improve as the conductors started to pass out information on why we were crawling. (Broken UP signal intersections.)

And they are getting slightly more chatty in general.

But today a new wrinkle slammed into the communication efforts by Caltrain that just seemed unacceptable.

This morning (Mon, 5-23-16) another person stepped out in front of a Northbound train in Burlingame, forcing the train to stop.

I found this information out because I had learned a long time ago that surfing Twitter for the term "caltrain" brought up more information that was pertinent to my travels than anything else.

And it was on Twitter that I followed the travesty that comes from a suicide on the Caltrain tracks.

Caltrain and a few other Twitter users helped the transition of information flow about nicely, so for those on social media, the information was out there.

But sadly, despite at least 30% of my train's compliment of riders looking to switch trains at Tamien and San Jose to head into San Francisco, not one word was delivered to the passengers via either the conductors on the trains or by the electronic signs at the stations.

Google's PICASA Is Going Away

Google's Picasa is going away and maybe you should be aware of that for when the time comes and you are heavily invested in the process from over the years.


Add Picasa to the long list of other Google products that have gone by the wayside at the behest of Google itself.

Back in February Google announced the slice and dice of Picasa.

They reported that in March of 2016 the desktop application will no longer be supported. I'm fine with that, I hated how the app tried to categorize all images on your computer and would not give you the option to turn that off.

But what will be happening is that Picasa will be transitioning to a new platform or name, Google Photos.  Or in other words, it's possible that since no one took to Google Photos, this is how they're forcing for folks into it.

Any how, they're retiring Picasa and consolidating into Google Photos.

They do recognize how many folks have kept up their Picasa albums and said they were taking the time to make this change happen in the best way possible, so there's that.

What they have done is mostly already done.  What was in your Picasa Albums is already over under http://photos.google.com/ .

But if you had tags, captions or comments, those didn't go in the transition, at least from what I gather. And that's what Google is working on.

The changes were scheduled to start rolling out on May 1st... so brace yourself.

Though to be honest, since they've transitioned Blogger over to using Picasa images some years ago, I have to wonder how they'll handle those transitions?  We'll see.

Here's the blurb on the transition:

Moving on from picasa

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Recalls From Sam's Club, Walmart And a Deadly One From Polaris

Alltrade Tools Recalls Ratcheting Tie Downs Due to Injury Hazard; Sold Exclusively at Sam’s Club

The ratchet handle can fail during use, releasing the secured load, posing an injury hazard to consumers.

Contact: Alltrade Tools at 800-994-4343 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. PT Monday through Friday or online at www.alltradetools.com and click on Recall for more information.

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Polaris Recalls RZR Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles Due to Fire Hazard; Severe Burn Injuries, One Death Reported.

The recalled ROVs can catch fire while consumers are driving, posing fire and burn hazards to drivers and passengers.

Contact: Polaris at 800-POLARIS or 800-765-2747 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. CT Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT Saturday and Sunday or online at www.polaris.com and click on “Off-Road Safety Recalls” on the main page of the Polaris website.

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YTL International Recalls Drywall Lifts Due to Injury Hazard.

The drywall lifts can fail during use causing the load of drywall to fall onto the lift operator, posing an injury hazard. (Yea, that sounds like no fun.)

Contact: YTL International toll-free at 888-723-6534 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. PT Monday through Friday, or online at www.ytlinternational.com and click on RECALL for more information.

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Walmart Recalls 1.2 million Rival Electric Water Kettles Due to Burn and Shock Hazards.

The heating element can fail and rupture, posing burn and shock hazards to the user.

Contact: Walmart at 800-925-6278 between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. CT Saturday, or noon and 6 p.m. Sunday; or visit the company’s website at www.Walmart.com and click “Product Recalls.” Consumers can also  visit  http://walmartstores.com/contactus/feedback.aspx.

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Monday, May 2, 2016



Check out these recalls below and see if they impact your day-to-day use!

Coleman Recalls Flashlights Due to Fire Hazard   

Product: Coleman® CTAC Lithium-Ion Flashlights

The lithium-ion batteries can overheat, posing a fire hazard to consumers.

Contact: Coleman at 800-835-3278 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, email at consumerservice@coleman.com or online at www.coleman.com and click on “Safety Information” under the “Customer Support” tab at the bottom of the page and then click on “CTAC Lithium-Ion Flashlight Recall” for more information. 

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Fisher-Price Recalls Infant Cradle Swings Due to Fall Hazard

When the seat peg is not fully engaged the seat can fall unexpectedly, posing a risk of injury to the child.

Contact: Fisher-Price at 800-432-5437 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or online at www.service.mattel.com and click on Recalls & Safety Alerts for more information.

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IKEA Recalls Children’s Bat Cape Costumes Due to Strangulation Hazard

Product: Children’s LATTJO Bat Cape Costumes

The fabric hook and loop fastener at the neck of the bat cape can fail to detach readily during use.

Contact: IKEA toll-free at 888-966-4532 anytime or online at www.ikea-usa.com  and click on Press Room at the bottom of the page, then Product Recalls for more information.

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Ivanka Trump Scarves Recalled by GBG Accessories Group Due to Violation of Federal Flammability Standard.

Contact: GBG Accessories Group toll-free at 888-771-9047 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or via email at IvankaTrumpRecall@globalbrandsgroup.com for more information.

Monday, April 25, 2016

CALTRAIN Pro Tips From A Rider

CALTRAIN Pro Tips From A Rider

Today I thought I'd chat about different ways to interact with Caltrain (On the Peninsula in the Bay Area) and trying to help or improve your Caltrain experience, based off my own in-train experiences.

Here I talk about apps to use for figuring out what train you need, how to figure out how to find live reports about delays, or just how to make the train ride a little more comfortable and safer.

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So you ride the Bay Area's Caltrain system. Whether it be part-time or regularly, there are some things you can do to help your experience.

Now admittedly, if something goes horribly wrong on your transit, like one of a dozen annual suicides, you can expect massive delays in every direction to accommodate the suicide investigation, period. And there's nothing you can do about it.

Aside from that and a train break down here and there, Caltrain can be a pretty consistent performer.
But there are ways to be more willing to accept issues with Caltrain. Or at least be prepared for them!


Be prepared

Always have something to read. Period.

To be safe, make it something that can be read offline, considering that there are huge blind spots in Verizon's coverage along the tracks. (Looking at coverage maps, it seems T-Mobile has much better coverage than Verizon up and down the Peninsula.)

Also, bring a bottle of water. Just in case.  I've been in two to three hour delays and it is nice to have it instead of wanting it.


Caltrain Schedules and Apps

Thursday, April 21, 2016

About Verizon's Cloud Backup, That Pesky Warning Message, And Your Google History

How to stop Verizon Cloud and its Wifi Backup Error Messages

Did You Know That Verizon's Cloud Backup Starts Automatically For You? Here's How To Stop That Backup Canceled Message associated with it? At least on my Android-based Samsung S6.

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I don't know if you are aware, but Verizon's Cloud Backup service starts backing things up for you, whether you've asked for it or not. And for me, I just discovered that I've already used 4 of my 5 available gigs of backup data storage. And I didn't even know I had that!

I didn't even know I had 5 gigs of backup space.  How I found this out was pretty interesting.

Yesterday I started getting these pop up messages saying "Warning Backup Canceled, no Wifi connection," on my phone.

And this pop up started popping up like weeds in a weed garden. Every time I even looked at my phone, this pop up, well, popped up!!!

After a bit of research I discovered that either the Verizon Backup Assistant or the Verizon Cloud app (Just "Cloud") was responsible for this awesome message.

On my phone, the "Backup Assistant" is my "Cloud" app.

Just to stop the messages, I went into my "App Manager" and hit "Force Stop" on "Cloud."  That took care of the messages.But to be honest, I don't care about my data getting backed up to anywhere. Hell, I did not even know it was getting backed up.

So after a little bit more research, here is what I found, and what I did:

I found my "Cloud" app, which for me on my Android-based Samsung S6, was in a Verizon desktop folder. Or under "Apps" and in your very first screen on the far left (once you scrolled there), there's a Verizon Folder with Cloud in it.

I opened "Cloud."

Once I got past all the splash screen notices and offers to 'back up my data' by declining all of it, I stopped the back ups that wanted to start.

Then I went to its home screen, selected the system menu in the upper left of the screen, and chose "settings."

It was here that I unchecked the following from being backed up:


And, well, everything there.

But this turned out to be a redundant act. Though to be honest, since I don't trust apps, I would have done this any way.


It's Here That We Can Stop Cloud Back Ups and "Back Up Warning Notices."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016



Dang, there are two Black Diamond recalls out, a product sold just at Home Depot, another Ikea recall, along with Panasonic and Toshiba battery issue recalls.

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Black Diamond Recalls to Inspect Carabiners Due to Fall Hazard

The carabiner can unexpectedly open and allow the rope to become detached, posing a risk of injury or death to climbers from a fall.

Sold at: Eastern Mountain Sports, The Gear Coop, Hansen Mountaineering, REI and other locations.

Contact: Black Diamond at 800-755-5552 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. MT Monday through Friday or online at http://blackdiamondequipment.com and click on “Recall for Inspection: Carabiner & Quickdraws” for more information on inspecting the product. Consumers can also email the firm at warranty@bdel.com.


Black Diamond Recalls Nylon Runners Due to Fall Hazard

A nylon runner with a tape splice (two cut ends joined by masking tape) will fail in normal use, posing a risk of death or injury due to a fall.

Contact: Black Diamond at 800-775-5552 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. MT Monday through Friday or online at http://blackdiamondequipment.com and click on “Recall for Inspection: Nylon Runners” for more information. Consumers can also email the firm at warranty@bdel.com.


Additional Injuries Prompt Reannouncement of Fiskars Recall of Bypass Lopper Shears Due to Laceration Hazard; Sold Exclusively at Home Depot

FiskarsÃ’ 32-Inch Bypass Lopper Shears because The lopper handles can break when attempting to cut branches.

Contact: Fiskars toll-free at 855-544-0151 anytime or visit Fiskars’ website at www2.fiskars.com and click on “Product Notifications” for more information.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Android GOOGLE OS Update To MARSHMALLOW Brings SPAM To Your Phone

My Samsung s6 just got a Google OS system update.

These were the initial events after that:

It was my Google OS that was updated, to G920VVRU4CPC2, referred to as Android 6, cutesy code name of Marshmallow.

The update took a while and took some battery power with it. So if you see your phone updating, plug it in. Mine took about an hour.

With the phone in a stand-down mode, (screen off, not being used) something is now draining my battery at approximately 5% per hour.

My auto-play when I plug in my headphones is now off.

My "OK Google" function seems to have stopped working.

My screen brightness seems different, like almost less responsive.

The functionality of my camera has been altered.  Now when I take an image, I get asked if I want to post that image to some local (to my location) web page/group or what have you. WTF Google? I don't want to participate in this social game world of yours.

I'm badgered daily by Vudu movie offers in my notification bar now. WTF Google??? WTF?

Now when you hook up the USB cable, instead of just being a charging cable that you can also move data with, you have to choose one of a few options if you want to do more than just charge your phone. WTF?  My initial observations show that these different modes can be a little restrictive. And despite picking an option, the next time you hook up your phone to a USB cable, you have to repeat selecting the mode of which the phone connects.

What a wonderful update Google.

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After the initial observations and a few hard reboots,

"OK Google" works.

I think I killed the daily ad pop ups, and along with it, my 5% an hour battery drain.

My plug and play is working again.

I started killing alert messages from various apps and I have not seen the Vudu bs since then. But I cannot figure out which app it was. I think I killed the Google app system message option.

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All in all, my phone is working fine. I've started manually updating the apps I feel more more important to me, leaving the rest behind. (I have my app updates set to manual. I don't trust unmanned updates!)

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Weather Radios, GE Lights, Target Mugs, And More Recalls

Weasther Radios, GE Lights, Target Mugs, And More Recalls

Ambient Weather Expands Recall of Weather Radios Due to Fire Hazard

The weather radio can overheat when plugged into an AC power outlet, posing a fire hazard.

Contact: Ambient Weather toll-free at 877-413-8800 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. MT or online at www.ambientweather.com and click on Customer Service, then Recall Information for more information.

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GE Lighting Recalls High-Intensity LED Replacement Lamps Due to Impact Hazard

The lamp can separate from its base and fall onto consumers below, posing an impact hazard.

Contact: GE Lighting at 800-338-4999 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, email lightingconcerns@ge.com, or online at www.gelighting.com and click on Product Recall at the bottom of the page for more information.

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Illume Recalls Valentine’s Day-Themed Ceramic Mugs Due to Fire Hazard; Sold Exclusively at Target Stores

“Love Today” ceramic coffee mugs were mislabeled as microwave safe. If microwaved, the metallic print on the mug can spark, posing a fire hazard.

Contact: Illume toll-free at 888-245-5863 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT Monday through Friday or online at www.illumecandles.com, and click on the “Recall Information” button for more information.

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