It looks like this is the year of the Box Elderbug

I’ve lived in Indian hills for over 20 years now and it seems each year seems to “feature” a different insect as the king for that year. In past years it has been millipedes, potato bugs, Stink Bugs, etc. It’s usually something harmless but still noticeable when you’re doing chores outside. A couple of months ago we found one or two of these guys in our house and lately we find one or two a day. Today I found a large number (hundreds) sunning themselves out back on my shed. Is it safe to say that I’m not the only one seeing Box Elderbugs as “King” this year?

Chick-Fil-A Rewards Best Redemption Value

*Updated April 25, 2021 to reflect current prices and points for my local Chick-Fil-A*

I *really* like Chick-Fil-A. They just seem to know how to do things right.

When their app came out I jumped on it and was very pleased that, not only was it intuitive, but also the restaurants knew what to do with the mobile order when you arrived. Something that most of the other fast-food restaurants would stumble on in the early days of using their apps (I’m looking at you McDonalds).

When the app was first introduced they offered scads of free entrees, milkshakes, etc. Plus they had plenty of “Just Because” rewards. As the app matured they must have realized how haphazard the rewards system was because they switched over to a system where you accrue points based off the number of dollars spent. They still have some “Just Because” rewards but nothing like in the first year or so.

When I looked at what I could get for my accumulated reward points I was struck with how many points my favorite salad (“Spicy Southwest Salad”, it’s awesome) required vs many of their other offerings. I figured there must be some rewards that are better than others so I whipped up a quick spreadsheet and give you the values here.

I only worked this out for my favorite items. You’ll need to get the price/points for anything else you want to check.

I am pretty sure the items with a question mark allow you to choose the LARGE size but I haven’t tested it. So far I have only redeemed my points for foodstuffs, not drinks.

Here are the best values per point for many of my favorite Chick-Fil-A items sorted from best to worst value. Prices as of April 24, 2021 at my local restaurant.

Summary: So the point values have dropped somewhat in the past couple of years. Now your best value is a Large Coke. The MEDIUM Waffle Fries and the Cookie are tied for the next best values.

Worst value is redeeming points to get the Spicy Southwest Salad (sigh) with each point being worth around two-thirds that of those for the fries.

The below chart reflects the historic point/price values of my local Chick-Fil-A as of February, 2019.

ItemPoints Cost Val/Point
Medium Waffle Fries200 $ 1.85  $ 0.00925
Cookie150 $ 1.19  $ 0.00793
Coke (lg?)250 $ 1.89  $ 0.00756
8 nuggets500 $ 3.49  $ 0.00698
Sandwich500 $ 3.39  $ 0.00678
Lemonade (lg?)350 $ 2.25  $ 0.00643
Chicken Club Sandwich950 $ 5.89  $ 0.00620
Deluxe Sandwich650 $ 3.99  $ 0.00614
Spicy Southwest Salad1500 $ 7.39  $ 0.00493
This chart is obsolete now, I’m just keeping it around for reference.

Rebuilt Web Site

You’ll find that subscriptions for tracking posts/replies as well as view counts have all been reset.

I’ve been maintaining this blog since 2005 and have made only small changes to it now and then. My goal was not to get mired in all things WordPress but rather to have my own little forum of expression.

I’ve been having more and more issues lately that my Web Host has been chronically blaming on “old and inefficient scripts”. It probably doesn’t help that my hosting plan has me sharing a virtual machine with likely hundreds if not thousands of other low-use websites.

So rather than troubleshoot 14 years worth of updates and tweaking since I *know* I’ve made some coding changes along the way that may or may not have been impactful to the efficiency of the blog functions, I elected to just lay down a fresh install of WordPress and leave the customizing to plugins.

I’m still seeing some “500” errors that miraculously go away if you refresh so I now need to collect stats and get my web host on the ball.

On the plus side I can now change my theme pretty easily to make it look a bit more modern/attractive.

Thanks for visiting!

Blackvue DR750S-2CH Overheating Issue

I have a  Blackvue DR750S-2CH that started just shutting off this spring. I’ve had the camera since August of last year and had no issues with it throughout that hot Georgia summer.
The issues started after one of the firmware updates (I forget which one), but in my garage, with the car sitting at about 85 degrees I could barely touch the camera it was so hot – and this was in parking mode. Something was making it’s CPU work overtime.
I went back and forth with BlackVue three or four times. It almost seems like they try to just keep you occupied while they test and prep the next firmware release.
Anyway, the solution was to reformat my SD card and basically install the firmware update from the SD card directly rather than pushing from the phone. I installed the 1.010 firmware update.
It’s been over two months now, through the height of summer, and I haven’t had any issues. I just went out to the garage and touched the camera and, while warm, is NOWHERE near as hot as it was when the issue was manifesting.
So there seems to be hope, at least in modestly hot regions like the SouthEast. Not sure if you desert-dwelling folks can get the same relief.
Below are the instructions I followed:
Our apologies for the inconvenience.
 Please follow the procedure below to upload the firmware again in your dashcam and see if it fixes the issue. If the issue persists, please let us know and we will provide you guidelines to pursue RMA services.
Please do the following steps to upgrade the firmware (factory reset/troubleshooting)
1. Turn off the dashcam and take out the SD card. Connect it with the computer by using the micro SD card reader.
2. After getting the backup your necessary recordings saved on the SD card, format it as FAT32[windows] / MS-DOS(FAT) [MAC] using the format tool in BlackVue PC Viewer program (please refer to the attached pics).
3. Download the latest firmware for your dashcam model from our website : https://www.blackvue.com/downloads/#1460710341510-e242903f-5343 ( <– Note: No doubt this is terribly out of date now)
4. Unzip the downloaded firmware and copy the “BlackVue” folder into the SD card.
5. Insert the SD card in the dashcam and power it up.
If the issue recurs, please let us know

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Bluetooth Pairing issues?

I have recently had the opportunity to work with a Galaxy Note 8 and found it somewhat persnickety when it comes to Bluetooth pairing.

In trying to find a solution I peeked around the internet and found several fairly intricate suggestions.

I had issues with pairing with 3 out of 4 of my attempts. For my Tesla Model X, my AquaAudio speaker and my work Jabro PRO 9465 headset the symptoms varied from both platforms seeing each other (Tesla) to the device not even showing up on the Bluetooth scan screen on the Galaxy.

In all cases, just a straight restart the phone is all it took to resolve the issue. Don’t go into the weeds.

As they say on “The IT Crowd”: Did you try turning it off and on again?

FreedomPop – Just be really careful

*** Update Feb 11, 2018 ***

OK, to their credit, FreedomPop did *not* back bill me for the previous month’s use. So I take back that claim (crossed out below).

What happened was that I missed a service that I enrolled in when I first signed up that I didn’t know to go look for. It was not obvious to me it was a thing that I needed to address. So Mea Culpa even though I think the site is laid out to promote such confusion. I knew this and did not exercise due diligence.

Using their mobile app today I tracked down the service and will disable it next month and see what comes of it.

*** End Feb 11, 2018 Update ***

I wanted a hotspot for my car so my Dashcam could be available to me whenever I wanted.

So I chose FreedomPop as an inexpensive alternative. For $20 (supposedly for Activation) I get an OK hotspot and a promo for 3GB free for the first month.

I knew I was intending to downgrade from the promo after a month so I put a credit on the account for $5 knowing they would not permit a zero balance when the time came.

So, here I am 2 days before the initial month expiry and find my credit has “expired” and I have a zero credit balance.

Apparently any credits “expire” around 30 days and you can activate them again by clicking a tiny link at the bottom if you know about it.

Then, moving on to downgrading, it took a bit of searching to find the tiny little “Downgrade” link located within the dialog that appears when you click your current plan.

I went through a series of confirmation dialogs, one of which asked if I wanted to add a $15 credit to my account, to which I answered “no”.

Finishing the downgrade process should leave me with a very reasonable free plan that gives me 500 MB included and costs 2 cents per additional MB. This is what I was looking forward to and expect I’d pay $5-$10 / month.

When I checked I found:

  1. My credits are going to expire each month so I will need to “reactivate” them each month
  2. When I downgraded my plan, it appears FreedomPop went and back-billed me for the amount I used during the trial that’s over and above the data included in the free plan. Dirty pool there.
  3. They billed me for a $15 credit even though I explicitly instructed them not to.

Ironically, this is *less* shady than my dealings with the major mobile provider I used to use for my personal mobile needs.

I’m expecting my monthly usage to be in the 700 MB range which means that my out of pocket should only be about $4-$5 which is what mobile service really *should* cost.

I’m going to try FreedomPop for a few months and see if they do anything else similarly shady. I am certainly feeling a bit uneasy. They seem to be hoping people don’t read and don’t challenge them. If they just charge me what they say they’ll charge me and stop all this *gotcha* nonsense then I’ll stick with them. The surprise costs so far are low enough that I’ll just suck it up for this start month and be happy that I ended up with a $30 hotspot (adding in the back-billed charges) which is still not a bad deal.

USPS Still looking for my (not so much) missing registered letter…

*** Updated February 25, 2018 ***

I’m thrilled to see that USPS is still hot on the trail of my missing registered letter.

If they put half as much effort into their tracking system as they did into their “assure the customer we’re doing *something*” system, the case would probably be closed by now.

*** End February 25, 2018 Update ***

I originally posted the below on facebook at the end of September 2017. When they lost my final mortgage check I asked them to find it and NOT deliver it.

Of course they subsequently delivered it a week or so after that. I found it funny that about a month ago I received an update letting me know they are still diligently looking for it.

I thought I’d post this today to track exactly how long they keep “looking” for it. Today I received ANOTHER notification that they are still on the hunt.

It’s kind of too bad their “Search” doesn’t include checking their own system to see that the letter was delivered.

 

 

Original Facebook post:

Yay? US Postal Service finally delivered my check! Only 12 days late and against my express instructions! I guess it could have been worse, it could have been food…

Now to see if the mortgage folks try to apply the Stopped-Payment check and try to give me grief over that…

Well, what’s a little challenge in your life, right? It could be a *whole* lot worse.

 

SmartThings Hub V2 and WEMO

Last month there was a pretty major update to my SmartThings Hub and, once it was done, I found that none of my WEMO switches worked with that ecosystem any more. The things still showed up in SmartThings “stuck” in the last state that it had known them to be in prior to the update. But the state would not update as the switches were cycled, nor could I control them via SmartThings any longer.

The WEMO app continued to control the switches just fine so I knew it was unlikely to be an issue with the switches.

I conferred with SmartThings’ support folks and they pointed out that WEMO integration is a SmartThings Labs initiative. Which basically means it’s not a collaboration between Belkin and SmartThings and that Belkin can change things at any time and mess things up.

The long and short of it is that I needed to remove each WEMO switch from SmartThings, then let it discover them anew and then update every routine, SmartApp and webCoRE piston that used them as well.

This was driven home a couple of weeks later when I had to shut down my SmartThings Hub for several hours and again found the WEMO devices to be unresponsive.

The same technique worked to resolve the issue this time as well.

I’m still not 100% clear on exactly what it takes to cause the issue. Whether it’s the amount of time the SmartThings Hub is offline or if there is a confluence of events that has to happen. But I thought I’d post this to help folks who might be experiencing the same “zombie” Belkin WEMO switches in their SmartThings ecosystem.

You just need to suck it up and re-do. It’s a bit painful but you’ll resolve the issue and get on with life that much faster if you just go for it.