WGHubris on July 13th, 2015

Soylent is a shake mix developed by some tech guys and initially funded via a Kickstarter program. After some difficulties and delays, the company finally seems up and running in a such a way that the formula both works, and can now be ordered without weeks of delay. I went ahead and tried out Soylent and was pleasantly surprised. Now, I’m using Soylent for losing weight, even though, strictly speaking, that isn’t really what it is about.

soylent bags

What Is Soylent?

Using Soylent for weight loss is pretty easy because of how the product was developed and shipped. First off, Soylent is a joke name based upon the 1960s Charlton Heston movie titled, Soylent Green. If you are into old sci-fi, give it a watch. If not, read a summary that includes the ending, and you’re in on the joke.

Soylent is a shake mix that seeks to replace regular meals. As I write this, the company is on version 1.4 of Soylent. The main improvement is that earlier versions of Soylent required you to mix in some liquid oil. This was a mess, and a pain. As of version 1.4, the bottles of oil are no longer necessary. It’s all incorporated instead. Each bag of mix contains enough for four 500 calorie shakes. That works out to 2,000 calories per day, which is a number from the FDA.

Right about now, is when someone complains about the idea of Soylent replacing food. They’ll say something about micro-nutrients, or macrobiotics, or something about culture and human nature. Here is the deal. If you are typically eating a hand roasted kale and quinoa salad that you harvested with your 88-year old grandmother from a garden tended by nine generations of your family, then by all means, keep doing that. If, like me, you frequently look up and notice it’s already 1:30 pm and if you don’t eat you’re going to get a headache and feel crappy, but have neither the time nor desire to make anything, so you microwave the first can or frozen meal you find, then Soylent isn’t going to give you any less nutrition or human significance.

How To Lose Weight With Soylent

Soylent can make losing weight easy.

Normally, you would have to check the label for how many calories are in that bagel. Then, you have to remember to count the butter. Even if you do remember to count the butter, you need to make sure you got the right portion of butter to get the number right. Then, all through the day, you have to remember things like cream and sugar, a slightly bigger portion of chicken breast, and so on. Even if you get the number of calories right, you still might not lose weight if you aren’t getting enough protein, or the right kind of fat, and so on. Getting all of your food to add up to the right amount of nutrition, and kind of nutrition, while also getting the calories right, can be hard.

So, the genius about losing weight with Soylent is that it finally can eliminate all of the little mistakes you make that normally sabotage diets. The Atkins diet worked for so many people for the same reason. Soylent may be the first practical way to get pretty much exactly 1,500 calories per day. You either make one full pitcher and drink 3/4 of it each day, or you use a scoop and make your shakes 500 calories at a time. That’s it.

Now, the bad news is that Soylent is not magic. It won’t make you crave hot wings any less. If won’t make you fuller, or less hungry at bedtime (if that happens to you). But, the difference is that if you have the willpower, you have a guaranteed way to make sure you are getting the right numbers. With most diets, even if you have the willpower, you might still accidentally be getting it wrong.

Tips for Dieting With Soylent

Dieting and losing weight sucks, even with Soylent. These tips can make it less painful.

  1. Drink water – Lots of it. Seriously, you get a lot of water from the food you eat. You aren’t eating food anymore, so you’ll need to replace that water. Drinking water also helps you feel fuller.
  2. Flavors – Soylent isn’t flavored. That’s good. Flavor usually adds calories, or artificial sweeteners. Your mouth will get bored. Use flavored drinks without calories. (There is some evidence that diet sodas are problematic, so limit those when you can.) Coffee (black only) and tea (no added sweeteners) are good choices. Load up on caffeine free herbal teas like the Celestial Seasonings ones so that you can drink them in the evening when your snacking desires hit.
  3. Space – Depending upon who you are, 1,500 calories might be too few. Good. Keep it that way, then you have a little space for a beer, or one Hersey’s kiss, or whatever.
  4. Reality – You aren’t going to eat nothing but shakes for 6 weeks. (Well, maybe you can. If so, go for it.) Throw in a meal every now and then. Make it a good one. There are plenty of healthy cookbooks and recipes out there. Having a good, tasty meal, every few days is better than trying to get back into The Matrix because you miss the taste of food so much.

Finally, a word of caution. Soylent probably isn’t the way to lose weight if you weight 380 lbs. Soylent is really more for the 10 or 20 pound crowd. Always check with your doctor if anything seems out of sorts.

Also, realize that nothing works for everyone. For some reason, Soylent does a number on my wife’s digestive system, so she can’t really drink it. If that happens to you, try some probiotics. But, the reality is, if you are kind of a sensitive eater in the first place, you might be sensitive to this too.

 

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WGHubris on April 27th, 2015

Long-time readers here know that there is no real love loss between me and the cell phone industry servicing the Denver, Colorado area. I’m currently with Sprint, who finally got usable 4G here in Denver about two to three years after it would have been reasonable. Even now, I drop back to 3G a lot and not just in the boonies either. I drop to 3G in the middle of downtown Denver in several places. Even worse, the switch between 4G and 3G is seldom elegant resulting in having to turn on and off Airplane Mode to reset the radio signal.

denver google fi nexus 6

I’ve looked into other wireless companies in Denver, but they are grossly overpriced. The fact of the matter is that I average less then 3 phone calls per day, I use WiFi for most all of my data, but when I do need wireless data, I can use a lot all at once, and I need it to be fast and reliable. I’m stuck with doubling my cell phone bill with Verizon in Denver, AT&T in Denver, or T-Mobile, for something I don’t use often enough, or sitting on an inferior, frequently slow and unreliable network. So, I just suffer along with Sprint.

Project Fi Denver

Google may just have an answer to my (lots of people, actually) dilemma of having to choose between overpaying for good data networks, or using crummy data networks.

Google’s Fi Basics plan starts at $20 per month. That gives you all of your phone calls and texting. It also, unlike most cell phone plans, gives you Wi-Fi tethering for no additional monthly charge. As you all know, the true scam in cell phone bills is all the add-on charges that seem like things that should be included. Google doesn’t seem to be using the “gotcha” model of profitability.

Next up is data. There is where it usually turns into a horror show. Choose a reasonably priced, but very limited data package, or a high-priced data package with way more data than you will probably ever use.

With Google Fi, data is $10 per GB. The really great part though is that you get a credit for unused data. So, if you put yourself on a 5 GB plan but you only use 3 GB, you get a $20 credit for the unused data. In other words, I don’t have to waste money during my low data usage months to ensure that I have the data I need in high use months. This is gold.

Even better, it’s just flat out cheaper.

The reason I’m still on the crummy Sprint network is that years ago I go in on a SERO plan that was $30 per month for 500 minutes of calls plus unlimited texting and data. In the years since, they made me pay an extra $10 per month for a 4G phone, and before that, another $10 per month for a “premium phone”. Still, it’s literally $50 per month for voice and data. I can’t come close to touching that with another carrier.

But, with Google Fi, I can get $50 easily. It’s just $20 for Google Fi Basics, and then $30 per data. The great news is that most months, it won’t even cost that because I won’t use a full 3 GB of data.

This is what I’ve been hoping for, a technology company pushing the agenda on cell phone networks, not the carriers, who clearly are content to just ride their quadopoly to their target earnings per share. I’d rather hoped when things got so bad with AT&T that Apple would just say enough and acquire a carrier, but I guess Google will make the move here.

Google isn’t building a new cell network (yet) but, they have done something almost as good. They have contracted to use BOTH Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks. Then, the idea is, that your phone will switch, automatically, and seamlessly, to whichever one works best where you happen to be standing. And, unlike the carriers, Google is happy to let you use this connectivity via your phone, your laptop, your tablet, or whatever else, all at the same price.

The problem with the traditional carriers is that there is always a minimum fee to entry. For example, I can get data for my iPad added on to my Sprint plan, but it costs another $20 a month for MINIMUM data. With the Google Fi, I can tether my iPad to my phone (for free, it’s an extra monthly charge for tethering on carriers) and then just keep paying the $10 per GB. So, my iPad could use wireless for just $5, if I only ended up using 500 MB of data, instead of $20 minimum.

Google Fi Phone

The only potential downside is that you must use a specific cell phone for Google Fi, the Nexus 6. However, there is a lot of upside to this as well. First, cell phones from all manufacturers are notorious for being loaded with bloatware. My Samsung Galaxy 4 has dozens of Samsung apps I can’t delete, plus even more Sprint apps I can’t delete. But, the Nexus 6 direct from Google, on Google’s network uses pure Android. Also, they’ll let you pay for it monthly, and with the money you save on your plan, it’s like getting it for free!

Double bonus: The screen is cracked on my Galaxy 4, and while I WAS eligible for a new phone with a 2-year contract in April, Sprint went ahead and changed that to 24-months from 20-months IN MARCH, without grandfathering anyone. Long story short, if Sprint hadn’t screwed me over this month, I would probably already be locked into a 2-year contract with my new phone, but now I’ll wait with cracked screen to see if I can get in on this instead.

Yea, Karma!

Of course, something like this doesn’t launch all at once and you have to ask for an invite. Looks like Google Fi in Denver is ready. Google says that invites will be based on when you submitted them, and the area you are in, and if the network is ready. Hopefully, there are way less of us in Denver trying to get in than in places like San Francisco and New York, so maybe I won’t have to wait too long.

Anyway, I check the Denver area, and apparently my zip code qualifies, so I’ve already requested an invite to the new Google Fi. Now, I just have to wait up to 30 days and hope that it works well. Bold first generation projects like this often come with bugs. Fortunately, with no cell phone carriers in the way blocking updates and the like, those bugs should be short-lived.

 

 

 

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WGHubris on March 13th, 2015

GM makes an electric car called the Chevy Volt. Unlike a Tesla, for example, the Volt is fairly low-priced. It also differs from electric cars in that does have a gasoline motor. However, unlike hybrid cars, it doesn’t use gasoline to power the engine. Rather, gasoline is used to generate electricity. In other words, the car always runs on a electricity, but it has an on-board gas-powered electric generator to power the electric motor when necessary.

The battery basically lasts 38 miles, which means you can go back and forth to work, or school or whatever without ever needing gas. In this way, the car becomes more like your cell phone. Charge it overnight, use it during the day, plug it in at night when you get home. Whenever you do go somewhere the gas engine allows for approximately 340 miles on a full tank of gas.

Check out my Credit Sesame review, or my review of Credit Karma.

In a lot of ways, this really is the best of both worlds. Mostly you drive an electric car, but if you ever need to go far, or can’t recharge for whatever reason, there is always a gas station around that you can use to keep going.

GM Volt Recall

GM is issuing a recall for the Chevy Volt. If you are wondering what is wrong with the cars, that is the interesting part. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the cars. There are no parts that need replaced, no service that needs done to make sure the car drives safe, no repair of any kind.

chevy volt electric car recall

Instead, because the Volt is an electric car, it is silent when you park it. In other words, it sounds like it is off. Now, for some reason, car makers seem to think that electric cars shouldn’t use keys to turn it on and off. The Volt is no exception. Instead, you push a little blue button.

And, here is where the “problem” comes in. It seems that in some cases, drivers forget to turn the car off. Again, when parked, it is silent because the generator isn’t running. It does have the little ding sound when you open the door without turning it off, but if you’ve ever left your lights on, or your keys in the ignition of a regular car, you know that sometimes, you can be distracted enough to not notice.

With the Volt, the issue is that while the car is still on, it is still using the battery. Eventually, it will drain, and the car will engage the gas-powered electric generator to keep the car running. If your garage is connected to your house, or it is just an enclosed enough space, running the generator builds up exhaust gases. GM is apparently “aware” of two cases where this has caused some sort of injury.

So, the recall is nothing more than a software update that will limit the amount of time the car can be left in the on position after the driver exits. The car will basically turn itself off rather than run the gas generator all night.

In other words, GM is recalling a car because some people can’t seem to use it right.

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WGHubris on January 26th, 2015

Well, I finally went and did it. After years of threatening, and always finding a reason to back down, I’m finally cutting the cord on cable. For years, the difficulty in cutting the cord was that the duopoly in Denver, Comcast and Centurylink made the option of buying just internet service without cable, or without a phone line so expensive, that it just didn’t make sense.

Just today, for example, when I called Comcast, the first internet only offer was actually internet plus local channels plus HBO for $69.95 /mo. + tax. That’s way better than the $165 I’m paying right now, but of course, there is an additional $10 for a cable modem, so it’s really $79.95 per month plus tax.

cutting the cord cable denverBut, recently, CenturyLink stopped requiring a phone line (and phone line charges) for internet connectivity. The result?

I am getting the “up to” 40 Mbps package of internet service for $37.94 + tax, for at least the next 12 months. That rate includes the $7.99 per month for a modem. Theoretically, with either Comcast or CenturyLink I could buy a modem and lose the lease fee, but until I know where I am staying, that isn’t worth it.

CenturyLink Internet in Denver

CenturyLink advertises that they have up to 1 Gig speeds in Denver, but apparently not at my address. That’s OK. I was going for cheap today, not necessarily super high-speed. I’m sure I won’t get the full 40 Mbps, but according to DSLReports.com, I’m only getting 18 Mbps of the 50 Mbps I’m subscribed to on Comcast now, so I don’t think I’ll be too worried if I get even half of the 40 Mbps. The very big difference is in upload speed, so we’ll see how that goes.

Next up is deciding what streaming or movie services I want to subscribe to. I’m pretty sure I’ll get Amazon Prime for $99 per month. I like both the non-monthly expense, plus all of the “other” stuff we get, especially free 2-day shipping. I’ll be using that to order a Mohu Leaf HDTV over-the-air antenna. Where I live in Denver, according to the various websites that measure strength and distance of over air signals, I’ll be able to get the usual CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, and PBS without an amplified antenna, so that should be good.

The trick now is the DVR part of the equation. Tivo is still in business making DVRs, but it wants $15 per month for me to use it. No thanks. Another company called Moxi makes a box, with no monthly DVR fee, but it wants $500 for it. No thanks again.

This sounds like a job for the internet. I’m guessing a small PC with the right card, a big hard drive, a DVD burner, and a antenna card can be had for less than all of those other options. Sure, I’ll have to set my recordings manually, but that that seems worth the $15 per month savings over the Tivo box.

I’ll keep updating here as I figure out which is best for getting TV shows for kids and what not as I figure it out. In the meantime, wish me luck. I just saved over $100 per month by cutting the cable cord. The great news is that even if this doesn’t work out, I’ll be able to go back to Comcast as a “new” customer in a year or two and get an actual deal on my pricing instead of being taking advantage of as a long-time customer instead.

 

 

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WGHubris on January 23rd, 2015

There is a reason that cable companies, cell phone companies, and other telecom companies are constantly ranked lowest in customer satisfaction. The entire business model of the industry is to deceive customers while locking them in so that they cannot “vote with their feet” and leave the service easily for a competitor. It wouldn’t matter if there was plenty of competition, but industry lobbyists spend millions of dollars every year to ensure that never happens.

Today, for those of us in Colorado, the choice is between Comcast and CenturyLink, neither of which conjures up images of satisfied customers and exceptional value. It’s no wonder so many people end up just cutting the cord instead.

Comcast High-Cost

I know that for many Americans, TV is an important part of their life. I know plenty of people who talk about all manner of TV shows and programs that they watch religiously. I’m just not that guy, and neither is my family.

Currently, I watch The Big Bang Theory, and then either Denver Broncos or Colorado Buffaloes football. Depending upon the week, I might watch one or two other games, college or pro, but that’s really about it.

This isn’t a new thing for me either. I didn’t watch Breaking Bad. I only watched the first season of Walking Dead. I haven’t had HBO in decades. I watch Doctor Who, but don’t really like the new Doctor, and frankly, I’m not much of a fan of Clara either. In other words, I should probably just drop TV altogether.

The only reason I haven’t so far is football games, and the kids. My kids don’t watch much TV either. Honestly, I don’t know where they would find the time. They go to school until 3:30, don’t get home until around 4:00. We eat dinner at 5:00 ish, and they go to bed around 8:00 pm. I mean, we’re lucky to cram in one 30 minute episode of anything. Lately, they like Curious George (PBS) and Paw Patrol (Nickelodeon). We most definitely do not watch TV live almost ever. Our schedule just doesn’t fit around the TV station schedule, so the DVR is a requirement as well.

Which brings me to $165 cable and internet bill. Yikes!

I don’t need a home phone. We have cell phones, and frankly hardly use them. I think my plan still offers just 500 minutes, and I never come close to using them all. I DO need internet. I run a business from home, so Internet is a requirement. But, $165 for internet and a little bit of TV seems like such a waste.

I called to see what I could do for a lower price, and basically, I can save like $15 per month if I sign a two-year contract. No thanks.

I can get internet only for something like $78.

What makes this all so infuriating is the common tactic of offering an actual deal that’s worth having in big print ads I get in the mail or see on TV. But, of course, that’s for new customers only. That’s a shame, because $99 per month seems like something I could live with.

CenturyLink Prices

So the only other place I can get high-speed internet is CenturyLink. They are the phone company, so they are dying to sell me a phone line, but like I said, I don’t need one.

So, they have a Double Bundle. DirectTV and 12 Mbps internet for 1 year with a 12 month contract for $54.94. Sold!

centurylink cheaper than comcast

Only, CenturyLink is a telecom company and those companies insist that dishonesty is the best policy.

To actually USE my $54.94 bundle, I’ll need literally $34.99 for the modem (can’t use the internet without it) the TV receivers (can’t use the TV signal without it, and 2 room minimum), and then $15 more because the receivers are “advanced.” That last charge is particularly dishonest because there is no way to use “basic” receivers.

In all fairness, this isn’t all on CenturyLink, DirecTV is no more honest than Comcast or a cell phone company, so some of those are their “add-on” charges.

Still, $89 + tax is a less than $150. As an added bonus, after I haven’t been a Comcast customer for a while, I’ll qualify for their new customer deals, which means I might get a decent price out of them again some day.

And so it goes.

 

 

 

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WGHubris on December 17th, 2014

Once upon a time, like just one year ago, all cell phone plans and wireless service companies were basically doing the same thing, offering the same pricing, and saying that they had the best service. This quad-opoly of the big 4 cell phone companies was broken by the desperation of T-Mobile, after the government refused to allow AT&T to buy the smaller company. With new pricing and plans, T-Mobile nudged, ever so slightly, the cell phone market. Now, things are a bit different at the different wireless carriers. Which cell phone company has the best deal might now depend on what it is exactly that you do with your mobile phone, which is why I’m looking into each company’s new offerings now.

Keep in mind that cell phone costs are busting many people’s budgets these days, so it’s important to focus on both monthly cost, and overall cost.

AT&T Cell Phone Plans and Service

I’m starting with AT&T because every time I complain about Sprint on Twitter, the AT&T customer care accounts show up asking that I take a look at AT&T. Okay, I will. (Actually, earlier this year I looked at T-Mobile free switch offering, but things have changed even in the last six months. See, competition is good.)

So, part of the disruption T-Mobile caused was breaking from the model where your cell phone company basically gave you a free phone in exchange for locking you into a 2-year contract. This way, your cell phone company could give you terrible service, and there was basically nothing you could do about it, because it was too expensive to switch carriers. This, is why I’m still on Sprint despite knowing that at least 2 of the other carriers in Denver would offer me much better coverage and much higher speeds.

AT&T has followed suit by offering something called AT&T Next. One of the things that didn’t make sense for me about T-Mobile’s offer was that the carrier’s incentive in locking you into a contract was that it would make more profit on you over those years to make up for giving you a free phone. Well, T-Mobile took away the free phone, but didn’t give you a lower rate. AT&T Next seems to at least give you some of the benefit of buying your own phone in the form of a lower bill.

The AT&T Next plans come in different flavors. So, for example, if you wanted to get the Nexus 6, there is an AT&T 24 plan, an AT&T 18 plan, and an AT&T 12 plan, all corresponding to how long you will be making payments on your new device. The numbers, however, do not correspond to how long you make payments. Rather, that is when you can trade-in your phone and upgrade. So, for example, the Next 6 phone seems to have 20 months of payments for the AT&T Next 12 plan. After the 12 months, you can trade-in your device, and the remaining 8 payments would be waived. However, your device must be in good physical and fully functional condition to trade it in, so no more upgrading for free to get rid of that broken screen.

Of course, the longer the term, the lower the monthly payment. Unlike normal loans, like a mortgage, there is no interest charged, which means you do not pay any more or less overall no matter which term you choose. The difference is that you could upgrade, or leave the carrier faster by paying it offer more quickly.

In this example, the 24 plan has a price of $22.77 per month, while the 12 plan has a payment of  $34.15 per month. Basically, this is just the price of the phone divided by the number of months, because there is no interest being charged.

AT&T Next Service Discount

In exchange for paying for your own cell phone with monthly payments, AT&T Next offers you a discount on your service. Of course, wireless companies love the fine print, so you’ll have to dig and read carefully to find out what your exact discount is. Keep in mind that the bold number on the front page says UP TO $25 per month.

att next monthly savings

My read, as of this writing, is that you get a $25 discount only if you have a data plan of 10 GB or higher. You get a $15 discount on plans with less than 10 GB. (If you had a pre-existing contract with AT&T, there are different rules.)

Now, here is where it gets weird. Depending upon sales, specials, and rebates, and so on, the best deal can be pretty murky.

So, here with a 2-year contract, you could get the Nexus for $249.99 with the instant savings for the contract. If you do the Next plan, you don’t get that instant savings, you pay $22.77 * 30 = $683.

The math then, is a $25 discount * 30 months = $750, but you pay $683 for the phone instead of $249.99, or $433.01 more.

If you only got a $15 discount for 30 months = $450.

But, if there were a special where they offered the Nexus 6 for say $99, then you would not be coming out ahead for making the payments.

What Does AT&T Cost?

OK, enough hypothetical math. Let’s figure out what AT&T costs for someone like me who might want to switch. I haven’t researched cell phone heavily, so I’m just going to use the Galaxy S5 as the example, because I currently have a Galaxy S4, and that’s the next one up.

Before we begin, let’s just get something straight. Yes, I know cell phone companies are bald-faced liars when it comes to their cell phone plans and they will add dozens of dollars worth of phony fees and taxes to the final bill. In an effort to be a slimy as possible, there is virtually no way for someone to figure out what those phony fees will be until you sign up.  So, for the comparison below, we just have to make the assumption that all the garbage charges on the cell phone bills will be relatively equivalent.

So, a Samsung Galaxy S5 from AT&T, on 12/17/2014, is $199.99 with a 2-year contract. Plus, you have to pay a $40 activation charge for a 2-year contract, so it’s $239.99 all in. The monthly payment would be $140 per month for a 10 GB plan, and $80 for a 3 GB plan.

With the AT&T Next 24 plan, it costs $21.67 for the phone. If I kept the phone for 24 months, that’s a total of $520.08. If I kept it for 30 months, that’s $650.10.

The plan cost is $115 per month for the 10GB plan, but when add back in the $21.67 for the phone, that makes the monthly payment $136.67. So in other words, on this particular phone, I would come out ahead by $3.43 per month.

If you got something like a 3 GB plan, then the cost is $65 per month (only $15 discount.) If I kept the phone for 24 months, my plan savings is $360. If I kept it for all 30 months, the savings is $450. However, the monthly bill is actually higher, at $86.67 per month, versus $80 per month with the two year contract.

Here is how the totals look:

 

*includes phone purchase price and $40 activation fee

The Deal Phone Purchase* Monthly Phone Payment Total Monthly Bill Total for 24 months* Total for 30 months*
2-year Contract 10 GB $239.99 $0 $140.00 $3,599.99 $4,439.99
AT&T Next 24 10 GB $0 $21.67 $136.67 $3,280.08 $4,100.10
2-year Contract 3 GB $239.99 $0 $80.00 $2,159.99 $2,639.99
AT&T Next 24 3 GB $0 $21.67 $86.67 $2,080.08 $2,600.10

So, what does it all add up to?

Basically, the difference between a 2-year contract and an AT&T Next plan isn’t much. What you really need to do is determine what the right amount of data is for you. Check your current wireless bill and see if there is a number on there. Then, check a few different months to make sure you know what you usually use. Then, buy the smallest data plan you can. Don’t get sucked into 10 GB just because you get a bigger monthly discount, because while there isn’t too much difference between the 2-year contract and the AT& Next options, there is a very big difference in overall costs between a 10 GB plan and a 3 GB plan. Paying for 10 GB to get a “bigger discount” when you never actually use more than 3 GB will be a costly financial mistake.

How does this compare to other cell phone companies? That will have to wait for later.

But, for now, I won’t be switching anytime soon. I’ve got a grandfathered plan with Sprint that cost me about the same amount as the 10 GB plan on AT&T, except it’s for unlimited data, and it’s for two lines.

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WGHubris on December 11th, 2014

By now, you probably know that connecting to the internet over a public WiFi hotspot or other public wireless network can expose your browsing to various snooping efforts. In particular, such unencrypted open wireless networks allow others on the network to see things like usernames and passwords when logging into various websites or other services unless those specific sites are themselves encrypted. For example, connecting to Google Mail automatically starts an HTTPS connection that secure your email and username and password. However, watching to ensure that every website is encrypted before using it is a tiresome and error prone proposition. Also, any websites or blogs that you personally own won’t have SSL encryption unless you paid extra for that service and set it up yourself.

angry-computer-user.jpgThe better solution is to use a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, service. There are several free VPN services out there, however, they can be slow and many times they limit the amount of data use can consume on a monthly, or daily basis. For a little money, you can usually subscribe to a faster, unlimited VPN service. You get your own unique username and password and can often select a connection that is faster for you.

Public WiFi Blocks VPN Services

As it turns out, many public wireless services blog various services, ports, or websites. Depending upon your VPN service, this may affect your ability to use the VPN you pay for in order to protect your network connections.

The Denver Public Library for example was preventing the VPN service I use from connecting. I could tell it was trying to work, but by following along with the logs, it wasn’t allowing the connection through.

There are various UDP and TCP ports that most programs and network connection can use. The Denver Public Library WiFi was blocking all of my connections over UDP. Fortunately, it finally worked across TCP and port 443.

So, if you are using the Denver Public Library wireless network and can’t get it to allow your VPN software client to connect, try going into your settings and picking TCP and port 443. That finally worked for me.

 

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