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.

- - -

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.

- - -

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.

- - -

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.

- - -

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.

- - -

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!)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Follow or subscribe to Consumer Bits on

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.

- - -

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.

- - -

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.

- - -

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.)