Rants Archive

Pod 3 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…….

Update: Tuesday evening tech support sent us a message that they’d noticed folks were getting “red light-no signal” when the pod was connecting correctly, and gee I wonder if its connected……I rolled my eyes.  Wednesday morning it took three reboots of the new Pod before it would connect.  Thursday morning it only two reboots!  Improvement!  But battery life is still horrid.  Today, Thursday, it gave me a low battery notification barely 6 hours after I put on the fresh battery.

Read the damn manual

Posted May 16, 2017 By Ruth

When you buy a new piece of equipment, read the damn manual.  I don’t care if you’ve run virtually identical pieces of equipment for your entire life.  Read the damn manual.

And if you DON’T read the manual, and the piece of equipment won’t work, read the damn manual THEN.

And if you STILL haven’t read the damn manual, don’t call the store screaming about how we sold you defective merchandise, because I WILL wait you out and then walk you through the steps to start your new lawnmower properly and be delighted when you clearly feel stupid.

The fact that I sound about 14 over the phone helps with this, but still, you could avoid the whole thing by just reading your damn manual.

Ok, a bit of background.  For our wedding anniversary we bought ourselves an Instant Pot.  Not the cheapest thing ever, but I know several folks who have one and love it, and we decided to get one.  We’ve not used it as much as we’d have liked (hello stupid PIA New Year!) but I’ve had great results from almost everything we’ve tried in it.

This also means, that since I’m running mostly one handed right now and can’t lift the thing I’ve been researching recipes and options and what not instead of actually using it much.  I’ll be very likely trying yogurt in the near future (well, once I can use two hands to lift that gallon of milk with…..).

Many yogurt recipes, especially those based off of greek yogurt, call for you to strain the yogurt.  The resulting liquid is whey.  Specifically “acid” whey.  This results in alot of FB posts from people asking what to do with this whey.  The answer being use it to replace milk in many baked goods, add it to smoothies, feed it to your four legged pets…..and pour it in your garden as fertilizer.

The last suggestion results in a massive uproar EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Seems the media has made much fuss about “acid” whey.  Its ACIDIC don’t you know!  It’ll KILL THE FISH if it gets in the water ways!!!  OMG!!!!

See here, here, here, here…..even the articles that talk about what can be done to use the whey still help participate in the fear-mongering scare tactics.

Lets get a few things straight.

Acid whey has an average PH of 4.3-5.1 depending on the exact process and milk used.  This does certainly tip the side of the PH scale as acidic.

Apples have an average PH of 3.3-4.0.  Are we going to start calling apples “acid apples”?  Blueberries run 3.1-4.5.  Cooking vinegar (the stuff you buy at the grocery) runs at a PH of 2.4-2.6.  Vinegar is actually acidic enough to kill the green portion of most plants, but won’t actually kill the roots of most things.

Dumping large quantities of acid whey (or allowing large quantities to run off into waterways) does cause severe damage to waterways.  But not because its acidic.  The same damage would be caused if you dumped equal quantities of milk (PH 6.4-6.8) into the waterways, or human blood (PH 7.4), or the like.  It has to do with the introduction of large quantities of biological mass into a system not prepared to deal with it.  Folks who are serious fish tank keepers understand this concept even if they haven’t generalized it.

The small amounts of whey produced by the average home yogurt maker isn’t going to harm things if its poured into the garden.  Pouring it directly into a stream or the like might cause some damage, for the reasons stated above, but even there, in a moving water system its going to be diluted fast.  So don’t pour it into your fish pond, but the garden is fine.

If you actually pay attention to the above articles you’ll note that several of them state that farmers use it for fertilizer and the only limit on how much they use is avoiding run off of large quantities.

Its not going to kill your garden.  Well, I suppose if you poured all of your whey in the exact same spot, every day, for weeks on end and didn’t do any watering and it didn’t rain the plant in question might not be happy with you, but really….

So can we stop the fear mongering scare tactics yet??

Circus

Posted January 18, 2017 By Ruth

The news is all over Facebook.  Ringling Brothers Circus will be closing, effective of May this year.

I’ve never been to the circus.  I always kinda wanted to, but as I grow up my tolerance for crowds has dropped.  I guess now I’ll never get to.

Reading the comments on FB I noticed a couple of major things lacking.  Well, more than a couple, but two or three really stood out.

The assumption that circus = animal abuse, even though RB’s owning family successfully fought off every single charge, and in at least one case their accusers had to pay huge fines for being caught bribing people to lie.

The assumption that the animals now in the circus will have better lives.  The Ringling Bro’s elephant retirement farm can take 13 elephants.  But I can’t seem to find a reliable report that says that 13 is all that are currently touring with RB’s.  And what about the rest of the animal crew?  Elephants and big cats aren’t something you can take down to the local no kill shelter to find a new home for.  Every report I’ve seen, that I consider reliable, says that RB’s current administration really does care about their animals, so presumably there IS a plan for all the animals, but if so it hasn’t been made public.

No one at all seems to care about the circus people.  Did you know that RB’s brought in their first ever female Ringmaster in Dec?  She made her debut performance on January 12th.  Two days before RB’s announced they’d close down this May.  The general public is cheering while hundreds and hundreds of people are losing their jobs.  Jobs that many have been in their entire lives.  How likely is it that these folks are going to find employment elsewhere?  In today’s world of instant gratification the need for trained circus people isn’t going to be very large.  And I’ll note that this could have local area impact too.  This is one less event to be touring, one less event to employ local crowd control, one less event to use local property.

I find it disturbing honestly.  This is a huge win for the Animal Rights crowd.  Peta, and HSUS, and their crews.  This isn’t a good thing.  These are groups who’ve stated that they believe that we shouldn’t own cats and dogs, ever.  Who believe that milking cows, who’ve been bred to produce such large quantities of milk that if we humans DIDN’T milk them they’d die of infection, is wrong.  Who promote such stupidity as insisting that shearing a sheep of their wool causes that sheep serious harm or death.  And they just won huge.

And I’m not the only one who’s watching this with worry.

So while you’re cheering on the fact that the circus is shutting down, take a moment to think about what is actually going on.  And the repercussions thereof.

Grump Grumble…..

Posted November 18, 2016 By Ruth

I shared a “both candidates suck so I don’t care who you voted for, lets go get drunk together” meme on Facebook a couple days ago.  For the record, I don’t drink alcohol, but this election had me considering it.

A couple liberal FB friends decided that what that really meant was that I loved Trump and therefore needed to be yelled at.  The discussion didn’t go well and I’m now short (at least) two FB friends.  Or maybe that should read: The discussion went pretty well and now I don’t have to watch at least two folks whine about Trump any more.

For the record: I’m pretty sure Trump will suck as Prez and I’m just hoping he manages to do something to curb the trend to send out stuff to China, but I’m not holding my breath on that either.  However I’m really not worried about him deciding to round up minorities for re-education training either.  We didn’t get registration and concentration camps after 9/11 (when the general public might have been amenable) we’re certainly not going to get them now.  Nor am I especially worried that he’s going to start removing rights from minorities either.  Among other things the large majority of those laws are at the state level and I figure Trump’s ability to convince states as a whole to do that is pretty much non-existent.  Since most of the folks I  know who voted for Trump did so while figuratively holding their noses and with the understanding that he was going to require some close watching, yah, the fact that he won so many states doesn’t change that figuring.  I’ll also note that for all of the media’s uproar over Trump’s treatment of women the worst they could find about Trump and gays was that a guy who used to work at a business Trump owns is suing because he feels he was treated badly by his co-workers after coming out as gay.  There’s zero evidence that Trump had anything to do with it except for owning the company, and since that’s the only such suit I can find it also doesn’t exactly show that such was normal for Trump owned businesses.

Nor am I overly worried about Pence.  One, he’s the VP, and two, he’s not Cheney.  Stop wishing harm on Trump and you aren’t likely to have to deal with Pence.  Now Bannon…..but Bannon isn’t signing laws into being either, so that’s a different worry anyway.

But apparently telling people that they need to spend more effort actually learning how the government works is “name calling” and telling them not to get their panties in a twist is “offensive” and telling them that offending further their friends and neighbors who are their local home support is a really bad idea is “making fun” of them.

And the fear-mongering has really got to stop.  Yesterday I saw a headline that stated “If Trump forces Muslims to register then Jews ought to register with them cause Jews know what its like!!”.  I didn’t read the article.  But yah, thats helpfull for actually getting things done…….

In other news my work got in their first delivery of live Christmas Trees on Tuesday.  I came home from work covered in pine sap, pine needles, and swearing about my new dept head (its not going well, but I finally remembered him from my previous time of employment with the company, short form, I’m now carrying solely purple and pink pens on the sales floor and it’ll be interesting to see how long it’ll take him to notice).  Along that note: I know that the big box store with the orange aprons advertises that they carry fresh cut Christmas trees that are delivered regularly.  But the reality is (at least here in Upstate NY) that they get a couple deliveries the week before Thanksgiving and that’s it.  By the time you’re buying that live tree a week or so before Christmas that tree has been cut for over a month……

Hospital leaders in North Yorkshire said that patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above – as well as smokers – will be barred from most surgery for up to a year amid increasingly desperate measures to plug a funding black hole. The restrictions will apply to standard hip and knee operations.

The decision, described by the Royal College of Surgeons as the “most severe the modern NHS has ever seen”, led to warnings that other trusts will soon be forced to follow suit and rationing will become the norm if the current funding crisis continues.

…..The decision by Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) comes amid increasing limits across the NHS on surgery for cataracts as well as hip and knee operations.

……The restrictions echo others made by health bosses in Hertfordshire, the North West and London in the past two years, where blanket referral bans were imposed on patients on the basis of their weight.

link

Sounds exactly like the sort of health care I want to have.  Not.  And that’s without considering the various problems with the BMI index to begin with!

Idiots and wildlife

Posted August 29, 2016 By Ruth

Washington state resident Idiot2’s son was among the children Idiot1 led toward the elk. Despite safety advisories – and numerous examples of visitors getting gored by bison, mauled by bears and chased by elk – Idiot2 declared herself unafraid of the park’s wildlife. She said she was eager to see a grizzly up close.

“I want to see one right there,” Idiot2 said, pointing to a spot just feet away. “I’d throw it a cookie.”

Quoted article.  Names changed to something more appropriate.

I’d say that this is the result of city folks who’ve never spent time in real life.  But Idiot1 is quoted as calling himself an “experienced hunter” who’s “spent lots of time outdoors”, thus he was quite confident of his ability to judge the situation.  Course, his definition of “experienced” may not jive with anyone elses…….

I have no idea if these incidents are actually increasing, as discussed in the article, or if its a perception issue.  Doesn’t matter IMO.

If you’re on Facebook you may have seen a viral post back in June.  It was from a lady who was attempting to revitalize her small town school library (actually two schools sharing the building).  I don’t have a link to the original Facebook post, but you can go here and see the text.  Go read, I’ll wait.

If you follow up on the newer posts (and I recommend it) the internet responded in style.  They found themselves inundated with more books than they ever hoped to get.  So many infact that they have been able to send off duplicates to neighboring schools.

Two days ago the most recent update was posted.

The public school board wants to censor the library.  They want only “approved” books to be available to kids.

Never mind that telling a child that she’s “not allowed” to read X or Y book is the best way to ENSURE that she reads it.

Never mind that these children are very likely already exposed to those “forbidden” concepts on the TV, in the news, in music, in movies.

Never mind that its far better to teach children how to handle things than it is to try to shelter them.

And to top it off, the public school’s board wants to quadruple the rent of the charter school who’s renting the unused portion of the building.

The original post went viral and the internet responded in style.  Lets make this one go viral too, and maybe we can encourage the school board to forget this stupidity.

Normalization of deviance

Posted June 27, 2016 By Ruth

I need to find a way to send this article to my store manager.

I’m watching this happen within the store I work for over some very specific safety issues which have the potential to be very very deadly.  I suspect (am, infact, 99% sure) that the excuse is that they’re trying to give this one employee “enough rope to hang himself” so that they can fire him rather than just take away his licenses.  But they’re playing roulette with customer and employee safety as they do it.

And his stupid shit is spreading, as other new employees see him getting away with it.

And to top it off those of us who’re horrified at it are being reprimanded for “lack of respect for fellow employees” because we’re refusing to put up with said stupid shit.

Yes, there are other avenues to report unresolved safety hazards, and I (and at least one other employee) have started using it.  I just hope that no one is injured or killed in the time it takes for corporate to deal with the reports…….

Bill numbers are A06129 and S03464.  S03464 has passed in the state Senate!

Text here.  Duplicated here.  Article on it here.

The ONLY maybe good thing I can see is that because it’ll be a public list you might be able to realize you’re on it, and maybe start the process to get yourself removed, before it causes actual problems for you.  Maybe.

If they were going to stick to requiring an actual conviction for terrorist offenses I’d not mind so much.  But no, they’re also going to use the .GOV “terrorist lists” to fill out this registry.

Fuckers.

If you live in NY state please contact your Assembly person and let them know what you think!