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 and click on “Recall for Inspection: Carabiner & Quickdraws” for more information on inspecting the product. Consumers can also email the firm at


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 and click on “Recall for Inspection: Nylon Runners” for more information. Consumers can also email the firm at


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 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 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, or online at 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, and click on the “Recall Information” button for more information.

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Honewell's QuietSet 16 Fan Actually IS Quiet, But... (UPDATED)

Originally published 7-6-15, updated 4-3-16:  It's been my desire to find a room fan that is quiet enough so you do not have to shout over it, or have to watch TV with the volume at 75 to 90% to hear over the fan. And to date, I've not been very successful. But today, I believe I found the trick and magic combination to finding a tolerably quiet fan! No, really!!!

The other day my go to fan for quiet started making a noise that woke the dead. The motor on the thing finally gave up the ghost and it started sounding like metal sandpaper sheets grinding against each other. Apparently my days of dismantling it and adding WD-40 are probably done.

So I headed out to Target to see what they have for me and I found a few models of fans available. One was about $25-$30 and the other was around $50.

On the premise of "you get what you pay for," and dodging the "Target only" $30 fan, I looked at the $50 fan.

Iy has the Honeywell brand on it and it is called the "QuietSet." What's interesting is this fan is referred to as the "KAZ Inc Honeywell QuietSet 16"  (KAZ distributes Honeywell fans.)

Monday, March 21, 2016


Today Apple gets some mention in the recall zone because of a wall adapter, while IKEA once again hits the CPSC news with some ceiling lamp recalls.

Other recalls involve children's booties that choke, and high chairs that can tumble.

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Apple Recalls Travel Adapter Kits and Plugs Due to Risk of Electric Shock

The two-prong wall plug adapters for Australia/New Zealand/Argentina, Brazil, Continental Europe and Korea can break and expose the metal portion of the adapter, posing an electric shock risk.

Contact: Apple at 800-275-2273 any time, or online at and click on AC Wall Plug Adapter Recall Program for more information.

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BYA Sports Recalls Skyline Backyard Zipline Kits Due to Fall Hazard

A crimp in the zipline can fail allowing the cable to pull free or become slack while in use, posing a fall hazard to the user.

Contact: BYA Sports collect at 303-443-0163 from 8 a .m. to 5 p.m. MT Monday through Friday, or online at and click on the Recall Information tab for more information.

(Sold at: REI and other sporting goods stores nationwide and online at from August 2013 through July 2015 )

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Classic Characters Recalls Infant Booties Due to Choking Hazard; Sold Exclusively at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

The pompoms at the tip of the toe can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children.

Contact:  Classic Characters, Inc. toll-free at 866-274-3452 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or online at and click on “safety notice” for more information.

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Crescent Point Energy Recalls To Inspect Propane Gas Due to Fire and Burn Hazard

The recalled propane does not have sufficient levels of odorant to help alert consumers of a gas leak.  Failure to detect leaking gas can present fire, explosion and thermal burn hazards.

Contact: Crescent Point Energy toll free at 866-421-4266 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. MT, email or online at for more information.

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IKEA Recalls Ceiling Lamps Due to Laceration Hazard

The plastic retaining clips that secure the glass shades to the lamp housings can break and allow the glass shades to fall, posing a laceration hazard.

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

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Michaels Recalls Artificial Poinsettias Due to Risk of Mold Exposure

Mold can be present on the stems and bushes, posing a risk of respiratory or other infections in consumers with compromised immune systems, damaged lungs or an allergy to mold.


Michaels Recalls Holiday Paper Boxes Due to Risk of Mold Exposure

Mold can be present on the boxes, posing a risk of respiratory or other infections in consumers with compromised immune systems, damaged lungs or an allergy to mold.

Contact:  Michaels at 800-642-4235 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, or online at and click on “Product Recalls” for more information.

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Nuna Baby Essentials Recalls High Chairs Due to Fall Hazard

The arm bar can bend or detach during use, posing a fall hazard to children.

Contact: Nuna Baby Essentials toll-free at 855-686-2872 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or online at and click on “Product Recall” under the “Support” section on the sidebar of the homepage for more information.

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Product Recalls: Shower Rugs, Baby Seats, Strollers, Toy Trucks, Power Cords and More

Here's another edition of Bruce's Consumer Bits where I find the products with the most distribution and try to send you a heads up about them, just in case these dangerous products are in your homes. Especially the recalls involving infants, kids and toys are the scary ones I'd like to pass around the most.

As always, you can contact the distributors or check out the CPSC website for more recall.s


AquaRug shower rugs

The four suction cups on the underside of the rugs can fail to prevent slipping, posing a fall hazard to the user.

Contact: Tristar Products toll-free at 888-770-7125 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s website at and click on “Aqua Rug Recall” for more information.


Britax B-Safe 35 and B-Safe 35 Elite infant car seats and travel systems

The car seat carry handle can crack and break allowing the seat to fall unexpectedly, posing a risk of injury to the infant.

Contact: Britax at 800-683-2045 from 8:30 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. ET Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. ET on Friday, or by email at Consumers can also visit the firm’s website at and click on “Safety Notice” at the top right of the page.


Britax B-Ready strollers

The foam padding on the stroller’s arm bar can come off in fragments if the child bites the arm bar, posing a choking hazard.

Contact: Britax at 800-683-2045 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. ET Monday through Thursday and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. ET on Friday, by email at or online at and click on Safety Notice at the top right, or          for more information.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

SPAM Alerts

Hey, if you're sort of new to the web here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Don't answer unsolicited emails. They're info farming.

Don't freak out about internet warnings. Go check out to verify internet warnings before spreading the news.

Don't answer weird emails from your friends. They may have become infected with a spam bot and are spamming their entire address book. Call them or send them a separate email to confirm the first weird one.

Don't buy into the cheap stuff, the offers for money for you to exchange for strangers, the letters saying you had a long lost relative die, etc., etc..

And don't fall for those stupid as Facebook stunts that say resharing this will get some rich dude to share his money with you. Rich dudes do not share. They earned it and believe everyone needs to earn their keep.

If you're tempted to open a link, just delete the email. Or hover your mouse over the link to see that even though the link text might say "bob's best juicing machines," hovering your mouse over the link will show you the real link, like ""

Also, if "your bank" or other financially operated institution fires you off an email asking for your password or to follow a link to sign in, DON'T.  Go open a browser, manually go to your bank or whatever site the email says it's from, and then log in. If you have a message, it should be noted once you sign in with your legitimate website in the messages section.

Just saying.

So what sparked this? A few cute spam emails I had in my inbox today.

Background Investigation Sites Sell Your Email Addresses

The other day I talked about how after I tried a test run on an online background investigation website, I started getting spam to an ordinarily quiet email account. background investigation sites warning

Quiet meaning I only saw about 10 spam emails a month.

So I used my test email account, signed up for trying this BI site. It took a long time in an interactive session, making a show of how much data it was digging up on me, and from some of the questions it asked during the process, it seemed reasonable, like it truly was digging up info on me.

But after the "test," is when things got interesting.

Because as far as I can tell, they sell your email addresses to spammers.

Why do I say that?

Remember that quiet email address I mentioned above? After I signed up, I started averaging over 30 spam emails a day. And since Feb 2nd, just shy of one month, I now have 423 junk emails in my Gmail spam folder.

They are mostly all "hook up" spams, but hey, I'm glad I used a test email account designed for bullshit like this, or I'd be honestly pissed and I'd be doing more than just writing about it.

Any way, thought you should know.

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