Pod Pet Tracker, a review

Posted May 22, 2018 By Ruth

So I’ve posted before about how my dogs have an iffy recall.  We also live in the middle of a large area of forest/farm land, so if the dogs did get loose without us right behind them they could disappear easily.  So a while back I started looking at various pet locator/tracker options.

A lot of the inexpensive ones just flat out wouldn’t work for us.  They’re designed to function over bluetooth (BLE) only.  They may work well in cities where there’s tons of folks and phones to bounce signals off of, but not so much here.

So I started looking at the ones that use cell signals.  Reviews were iffy, but one that kept coming back with positive reviews was Pod Tracker.  Concern: they (and all the rest) were running on 2G signals, which many areas are phasing out.  But it quickly developed that they were building a model that ran on both 2G and 3G, as well as wireless internet signals.  Not perfect, but much better than many of the options.  They were running it as a Kickstarter, but they’d run both of their previous models on Kickstarter too, so that wasn’t a huge issue.  We signed up, two units (with two batteries each) plus two “modules” with the choice of oversized batteries.

We got an email in the early spring last year (2017) asking if we’d like to join the Beta testers program, they were having some issues with the programming of the new units and were offering early arrival of the units to folks who were willing to put up with the problems and give feedback, by doing so they’d also give us an extra few months of cell service free.  We’re both fairly tech savvy and agreed that yah, we could do that.

It became pretty obvious pretty quickly that a large portion of the problem was that they’d gone to fancy.  A huge number of the folks who buy these trackers just want to know where their animal is at that point in time.  The activity tracker and adventure settings were cool, but not the real need of most folks.  But there were other issues too.

We were being told to expect THIS behavior, and then, a month or two later, when that behavior would stop, be told that “oh, it wasn’t supposed to do that”.

Folks who were running both Pod 2’s and Pod 3’s at the same time were reporting that their Pod 2 would be working fine in an area (2G signal only), while the Pod 3 (2G and 3G signal) wouldn’t be able to get signal at all.

Physically, several of us had the battery caps (that make them waterproof) pop off our batteries.  These batteries were replaced.

The modules, in our case the extra big batteries, kept getting pushed out further and further till they stopped answering when we asked when they were going to come out.

There has been an ongoing issue where folks using Android phones are unable to connect to the tech support chat in the app.  The app just crashing when you attempt to access it or while you’re accessing it.

And so on.

There were additional issues specific to us.  While we have great 4G signal here our 2/3G signals aren’t the greatest, in addition, with so few houses in close proximity wireless signals travel far further than expected.  This resulted in A LOT of frustration with false locations for us.

One of the “features” was the ability to set a “Home Wifi” where if the Pod3 could pick up that signal then it knew that the dog was at home.  However because of the above stated signal travel problem, and the fact that the Pod is apparently far more sensitive to WIFI signals than my cell phone, it was saying that the Pod3 was at home, when in reality I was standing with it in my hand over 400 meters down the road (a point well past where my cell phone stopped getting the same Wifi signal).  Attempting to turn down the signal power on our router didn’t make a difference.  And the Home Wifi over-rode every other location setting on the Pod, if the Pod saw the Home Wifi it just stopped otherwise trying to find the location.  So I turned off the “Home Wifi” feature.  And promptly got yelled at by tech support for “repeatedly turning off and on the Home Wifi” because the system was to fragile to handle it.  Note, the “repeated off and on” was one on and one off with at least two hours in between.  However without the Home Wifi set the battery life on the Pod3’s dropped considerably due to the constant struggle to get cell signal.  Instead of 2-3 days I was getting barely 1 day.  I eventually turned back on the Home Wifi feature, deciding that the fragile system be dammed, when the dogs took off I’d just turn off the feature then in order to find them.  Signal strength away from our home improves considerably, and since the point is to find the dogs when they’re away from home I figured that we could  make that work.

Folks who were assisting with the Beta were eventually given a free year of cell service, with renewal set 1yr after we’d all received our Pods.  But frustration arose when 2017 Black Friday sales hit.  The sale for the Pod 3, for new subscribers, was a “free lifetime subscription”.  Quite a few folks contacted Pod about how did those of us who’d been dealing with all these problems get a life time sub?  Responses  varied alot.  One person was told that we’d be receiving coupons to get it (as of this time not one person in the FB group has admitted to receiving said coupon), others weren’t responded to at all.  I was personally told that they were unable to give us the free lifetime sub due to physical restrictions on the accounts.  And so on.  Folks who had to receive a replacement Pod for various reasons DID get the free lifetime sub on the new Pods, but that seems to be the limit of it.

The first week of January 2018 the battery life of Apollo’s Pod3 suddenly took a nosedive.  Instead of getting 2-3 days of life it was getting barely 24hrs, and then barely 12hrs.  Tech support first tried to blame this on various things, but then finally admitted that several other pods were having the same problem.  Then Arty’s Pod3 started randomly doing the same.  As of the time I type this review (May 2018) this battery life problem has not been fixed.  It’s definitely not specific to the battery used, all of the batteries I have on hand, including the ones with damaged caps, do it (or not do it, the problem is random, Apollo’s pod hasn’t lasted more than 24hrs on a single battery since January, but Arty’s pod will randomly last two days).

Then over the last month I suddenly noticed that several of the batteries were cracking/breaking where they connected to the Pods.  A check with tech support, and then a closer look at the Pods themselves, showed that Apollo’s pod had somehow become damaged at the rim, putting stress on the battery connections.  They sent me a replacement Pod and batteries.

The replacement Pod arrived last Friday, and Sunday I took the time to try to set it up.  Note the “try”.  When we got the original two Pods they both setup with essentially no fuss or bother despite our poor 2/3G signal problems, nor have I had any issues getting them to connect to the Home Wifi, or getting a firmware update.  Not so this time around.

First the replacement Pod didn’t want to see the cell signal at all, then, after an hour of trying, I got it connect to the cell signal but it wouldn’t connect to the app.

Part of setting up the new Pod is setting up subscription information.  Imagine my surprise when “life time free subscription” was an option on the new replacement Pod.  Yet they “can’t do that” on the original ones…..

Several hours of frustrated trying later I got it to connect to the app, but then it needed a firmware update.

It was late Monday morning before I finally got it to do the firmware update.

Then it needed a new battery, and took several repeated tries (after the battery replacement) to get it to see the cell signal again.

Then it refused to connect to the Home Wifi.  Monday afternoon was spent with both Arty’s Pod (one of our original Pod3’s) and Apollo’s replacement Pod in hand as I argued with tech support and got increasingly frustrated.

Tech support repeatedly blamed the problem on our poor cell signal, yet everything I was trying to do with the new Pod I was also trying to do with Arty’s Pod, with them side by side in my hand.  And Arty’s Pod was connecting with zero problems, while Apollo’s replacement Pod repeatedly refused to connect.

While I was chatting with tech support via the app on my iPad (see above comment about how the app won’t allow Android phones to connect to tech support, yes, that’s still a problem almost a year later), I was also chatting with some folks in both the Official Pod FB group, and the unofficial Pod FB group.  Several folks were reporting sudden problems getting their Pods to connect to the local cell signal (indicated by a solid red light on the Pod), the ones who’d reported it to Pod tech support were told it was due to a problem with their local cell service provider, yet when the local cell service provider was contacted they had no knowledge of an outage.  In one case one person was using a Pod2 that was connecting just fine, while her Pod3 was refusing to connect.

I finally informed tech support that I wanted a refund on the modules that we still hadn’t received and hadn’t even been given a firm date of arrival on yet, and closed the chat.  I received a message an hour later that the refund had been processed (a whole $21, yay).

Repeated tries finally got the replacement Pod to connect as needed.

Monday evening Pod folks posted in the Official Pod FB group that they had become aware of an issue causing cell signal problems (showing as a solid red light on the Pod) for some Pods and they were looking into it.  (Imagine that, it wasn’t a problem with the local cell signal after all……..)

I put new batteries on both Pods Monday afternoon when Apollo’s Pod had indicated it needed a new battery.  Got up Tuesday (today) morning to both Pod’s having reported low battery at some point over night.  Essentially 12hrs of battery life.  But ok, I did spend a lot of time Monday afternoon refreshing and what not.

Replace the battery in Arty’s pod.  It connected to the system no problem.

Replace the battery in Apollo’s new replacement Pod.  Solid red light.  Half an hour of trying before it finally got a solid signal.  But there’s “nothing wrong with the new Pod and it’s clearly a problem with your cell signal coverage, and if you want us to send you yet another replacement pod you’ll have to pay to send the first replacement back to us first”.  Something tells me the battery life isn’t going to be any better this time around…….

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Shadow…..

Posted May 9, 2018 By Ruth

So back in February I posted about the asshole that is Shadow.

Since then we managed to convince Trouble that the automated feeder isn’t evil, and she’s back to eating kibble out of it.

Shadow appeared to have mostly resigned himself to the fact that he wasn’t going to be able to get at that kibble, at least not most of the time (when the batteries die he gets some, but he hasn’t quite figured out the connection yet).

I thought we had this covered.

Then I had to buy a new bag of dog kibble.

Yes, my dogs are mostly raw fed, but we do keep a bag of kibble in the house for them, partially as a backup food source, partially because Arty burns calories at a rate that has to be seen to be believed and letting him supplement with kibble was easier than trying to stuff him on raw.  His kibble ball holds not quite a cup of kibble and then we put another cup of kibble in the raised dog bowl.

Other than Trouble showing puppy Apollo who was boss, by eating his kibble infront of him, we’ve never had any of the cats so much as look twice at the dog kibble.

The bag we finished was Acana, the new bag was Fromm.  The cats are fed Fromm, its a decent brand and I can get it local without worrying about shipping, or minimum orders, or the like.

Within 24hrs of putting out the first cup of Fromm kibble Shadow was stealing kibble out of both the kibble ball and the dog bowl.

 

He’s big enough that he doesn’t even really have to work at it.

Arg.

Went back to the local store, picked up a bag of something different, figuring that maybe the Fromm dog kibble was enough like their cat kibble to be tempting him.

Nope.

He’s now eating a completely different brand and shape kibble too.

To the point where he’s not even eating all of his (previously beloved) cat kibble ration!

*sigh* I guess the next step is to order a bag of Acana again and see if he still eats it…..

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I forgot

Posted May 7, 2018 By Ruth

I was going to move a trail camera to watch the garden after I set up the motion activated sprinkler, but I forgot.

Got one sprinkler set up yesterday to cover the garden.  I’ll need a second one as soon as I get plants growing, but for now one works.

Just now, as I’m putting together my morning coffee, one of the cats bolted across the back yard, from the garden towards our northern neighbor’s property.  I leaned forward to look towards the garden just in time to see the tail end of the sprinkler cycle.

I’ll take it.

Trail camera video would have been worth it though.

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Yah Know……

Posted April 29, 2018 By Ruth

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Sigh

Posted April 22, 2018 By Ruth

Yesterday morning, getting ready for work, making coffee, feeding cats…….reached across the kitchen counter to where Trouble’s food bowl sits on top of Apollo’s crate (yes, his crate is actually taller than the kitchen counters, a side effect of owning a really big dog)…….and slammed the side of my  head into the corner of the upper kitchen cabinet door that had been left open a couple inches.

Now, this was not, by any stretch, the first time I’ve done that.  I’m short enough that the cabinet doors are just above eye level on me, perfectly placed to catch me in the forehead if they get left open.  I’d actually pulled down a different upper cabinet door several months ago after I hit my head on it for the umpteenth time.  But this door was one that I didn’t usually catch, so I’d left it.

I didn’t initially think it was that bad of a hit.  Went into work like normal.  Except that by the time I got to work the side of my head was pretty sore.  By the time I’d been at work for a couple hours the whole left side of my face felt funny, and while my balance wasn’t ACTUALLY being affected it felt like it SHOULD be affected.  So I ended up leaving work early.  Get home, and it occured to me that I hadn’t put ice on the bump, and it was a definite goose egg at that point, so I dug out the ice pack, and after an hour of 15 minutes on, 15 off, the swelling had gone down some, and the side of my face felt much more normal.  In retrospect I suspect the swelling was pulling on the side of my face, and ear, resulting in the weird feelings.

Once I felt more stable I got out the step ladder and screwdriver, and pulled down the upper cabinet door that I’d hit:

These cabinets aren’t right next to the stove, so there shouldn’t be much  grease residue to cause problems, and I can live without cabinet doors.  Especially if it gives me fewer things to slam my head into.

Since I was feeling better at that point I decided I was going to take advantage of the sun making everything feel awesome warm (it was technically barely in the 40’s, with enough breeze to be chilly, but the SUN!  It was awesome, I felt bad for leaving work at that point, cause I’m sure they were slammed all afternoon), and went out to rearrange the greenhouse.  Partially so I could make space for the tomato seedlings and partially to actually check the pepper plants over.  And found that apparently I forgot to tell the peppers that we’re having a delayed spring this year:

That is a Hungarian Hot Wax Pepper, and a Cayenne Pepper, with good sized peppers on each plant!  Oh well, at least I know the greenhouse has been doing its job at keeping the plants warm!

The biggest tomato seedlings are now out in the greenhouse, some of them are over a foot tall already!  Average last frost for me is mid May, here’s hoping I can plant out not TO much later than that, or the greenhouse is going to be crazy.

Also, SPRING!!!!  While making my coffee yesterday not only did I see the Bluebird pair again, but I saw Tree Swallows!  Tree Swallows are straight up flying insect eaters, if they’re in town then it means they think it’s going to stay warm enough to have plenty for them to eat.  So cross your fingers!

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Weather

Posted April 20, 2018 By Ruth

The weather forecasters are holding firm in their prediction that next week we’re supposed to get a warm up:

 

So of course I woke up this morning to this:

 

While I’m aware that folks at various points west of me have quite a bit more snow on the ground that doesn’t make me any happier to wake up to a white yard.  I guess Father Winter is trying for one last gasp?  Or else every single weather forecaster is wrong and we’re all screwed…..

I started my tomatoes over the last couple weeks.  A few here and a few there.  Apparently the tomatoes really like the grow lights in my little grow tent:

 

I plan to move them out to the greenhouse this coming week, assuming the weather holds anyway.

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All I wanted was a hot shower……

Posted April 9, 2018 By Ruth

The new water heater install worked perfectly for a load of laundry, hand washing of a variety of dishes, and Husband’s shower.

I decide I desperately want a hot shower before bed, because sponge baths just don’t cut it, and the cold water intake pipe pops off the water heater.

I’m not sure who sent a curse my way, but you can stop now……

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General update

Posted April 9, 2018 By Ruth

I can’t decide if Mother Nature is a little moody or just outright batshit.  But I’m really looking forward to actual spring weather.  To be fair, this isn’t the first year we’ve had extreme cold and snow in April, just a couple years ago we got over 6″ of snow the first week of April, and my first spring living in this area we had snow in Mothers Day (though it didn’t stick thankfully).  But that doesn’t make me any happier about it.  I want spring.  The ground was white with snow Saturday morning when I got up.  *sigh*

Had a huge windstorm go through this past week, trees down everywhere, resulting in us losing power for almost 24hrs.  Not the end of the world, the wood burning stove kept us warm, but not fun.  I had to bring all the pepper plants in from the greenhouse because without power it wouldn’t stay warm enough overnight.  But I left the flower seedlings I started, and amazingly enough all the flower seedlings survived it.

Tomato seedlings have been started.

I have been delighted to see a pair of Bluebirds guarding a nesting box for the last couple weeks.  I spent last fall trapping as many House Sparrows as I could, and even managed to catch a few this spring, so hopefully the Bluebirds will have a fighting chance this year.

The weather has resulted in poor sales at work.  This weekend is “Spring Black Friday”, big huge sales to start off the spring season.  And it snowed off and on all weekend.  Needless to say management isn’t happy.  But such is life in Upstate NY!

I’m starting to wonder if there was a power spike when the power went out.  At some point after about noon on Friday the water heater electrocuted itself.  Originally it was just another burst pipe thanks to the recalled water pipe thats all over the house, I found it Saturday morning, and everything around it was saturated with water, but after fixing the pipe, and turning the water heater back on, the water it was putting out was scalding.  We turned it back off till we could look at it closer, and by Sunday morning it had stopped heating completely.  A closer inspection showed that the upper heating element control knob had melted.  That explained that weird smell we’d both been noticing.  We took a deep breath, put it down to life beating us over the head, and bought a new water heater.  My FIL will be installing it later this morning.  But then, while cooking supper Sunday night, my Instant Pot just quit right in the middle of cooking.  And nothing I’ve done has made it turn back on.  Checked the plug, checked the breaker, checked to be sure the outlet had power…..nothing.  And the Pot was plugged in when the power went out.  *sigh* I put in a service ticket with the IP folks, but I fully expect to be told that its out of warranty so there’s nothing to be done.

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April Fools

Posted April 1, 2018 By Ruth

I’m not much for the standard pranking that happens on April 1st.  As a kid the occasional harmless prank was fun (I managed to sneak a baggy of ice cubes into the toe of one of my mom’s shoes one year, she screamed when her toes found it), but these days it seems that the pranking just gets wilder and wilder, and more likely to get someone hurt.

However King Arthur Flour has been doing a yearly blog on April 1st that I enjoy quite a bit.  It’s easy to think of a professional kitchen as a place where everything goes right.  But sometimes things go wrong!  Click the link at the bottom of the post to see the previous years posts!

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Well “hoped” is probably the wrong term.  I LIKE cats, and I’m sure those two cats are perfectly sweet family pets.

But their life expectancy as outdoor cats is really short, and the sooner they’re gone the less I have to deal with them.  After my last post I got confirmation that not only are they intact, but someone in the neighborhood is having kittens in a couple months.  I also got confirmation that they’re spraying in/around our carport.

Then yesterday I pulled the trail camera memory cards, which I haven’t done in a couple months.

Several photos of at least one of the cats:

Which is proof of how far they’re wandering from home, since both cameras are on my back line, over 100 yards from my house.

But then I got to this video:

Now thats a fox, not a coyote, and no, that cat isn’t as big as he looks.  But really?  There are also several photos and videos of coyotes on both cameras.  How have they not taken care of this for me yet??