Apr 12

Roku Streaming Stick the Best of Both Worlds

I have always been a Roku fan and I own two Roku XDS, a Roku 2 and a Roku 3. The Roku 3 is lightning fast compared to previous models and is fantastic, the included remote with headset support allows you to watch TV with earbuds at night in the bedroom without disturbing your partner for example.

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I also have a Google Chromecast and I can tell you I used it 6 times only in 6 months, I constantly go back to the Roku.  The channels, options and remote are just too easy to use and offer so many more choices than the Chromecast.

Now Roku has the Roku Streaming Stick, which has all of the features/channels of the Roku plus the direct streaming capability of the Chromecast for YouTube and Netflix.  This means the one channel missing from Roku (YouTube) is now solved with the Roku Stick as you can stream YouTube from your tablet or smartphone.  BAM, lack of YouTube channel problem solved by Roku.

The Streaming Stick doesn’t have the motion control sensor or remote with headset support, but honestly I never played games on my Roku and the headset support I rarely used.  The streaming stick has a much improved Netflix interface, it is quicker though not nearly as fast as the Roku 3 and makes a great option.

The streaming stick will only support HDMI input to the TV and either leverages 1 USB port on the TV (if it has one) to power it, or plugs into an AC adapter.

If you weren’t thrilled by the Chromecast and/or have been wanting to test the Roku I can tell you the Roku Streaming Stick is a great deal at a great price, it is about 40% less than the Roku 3 and will more than serve the purpose if you don’t need the motion controller or the headset support in the remote.

List Price: $49.99
Current Price: $45.99
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Apr 11

Google Reconsideration Request Rejected

So when all of my sites were penalized by Google for hosting unnatural links which was a consequence of accepting guest posts both directly but more likely linked to using My Blog Guest I immediately put in a nofollow plugin to auto nofollow all links, then did a sitemap and ping re-index submit followed by a reconsideration request.

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Unfortunately, a week later Google still found my site violating quality guidelines, but I was curious why the site was still not meeting Googles terms and conditions if they say nofollow isn’t a penalty.  So I am filing a 2nd reconsideration request because maybe something wasn’t indexed, or I need more information as to what is violating quality guidelines, as besides nofollowing every link in all posts, pages and comments, not sure what else they are going to find that would be in violation of ToS.

Meanwhile, has anyone else been hit by Google and did anyone succeed in getting their manual action removed recently?  I know a few bloggers who instead created entirely new sites and ported over all content putting 301 redirects on their old site as a result of the penalty, but this isn’t something I particularly want to do.

Apr 07

Review of the Star Wars R2-D2 Interactive Astromech Droid

My son had begged and pleaded for months to get a Star Wars R2-D2 Interactive Astromech Droid which responds to around 40 voice commands and plays games as well as stands about 24″ tall.  He wanted the closest thing to an interactive robot that he can do more than just press buttons or control with a remote.

So for 8 weeks my son was given a reward chart where he had to earn the prize, this included making sure he got straight A’s and B’s for the entire rest of the school year and turning in all report card money and allowance until June.  He had to eat his vegetables, and whatever else healthy we put in front of him, make his bed every morning and do his chores every two days with no reminders.

He worked his butt off every day with this incentive and when he had an incident of bad behavior we added an entire week to his time to earn as punishment which made it that much harder to earn for him.
R2 Interactive Astromech (2)

At long last the Star Wars R2-D2 Interactive Astromech Droid had arrived and unfortunately the first one we bought from Amazon was a repackage of a returned one and it was defective.  We knew right away because the packaging was messed up and not taped properly, there was a missing part and it wouldn’t respond to any voice commands.  Amazon had no problem taking it back and sending out a replacement, but my son just about burst into flames when he realized the toy he wanted was defective and had to wait 2 more days after seeing it fail to work.

This was a life lesson that some things don’t work or arrive broken and need to be returned, so it was a good lesson to learn that mistakes happen and products aren’t perfect or even orders sometime.

Amazon however is awesome, and the next day the replacement one arrived and I could tell this was brand new by the packaging.

R2 Interactive Astromech (3)

This little guy just looked awesome, had all the authentic R2-D2 sounds and responded well to my voice command while I did some testing before my son got home from school to make sure it worked and was setup for him when he came home.

R2 Interactive Astromech (5)R2 Interactive Astromech (1)R2 Interactive Astromech (4)

My son immediately loved asking it questions like “Do you remember Darth Vader” and others, and R2-D2 sometimes didn’t respond to commands well when there is noise in the room like the dogs barking and other people talking, but generally it had good voice command response.  One of the most fun modes my kids both liked was setting R2-D2 into Laser Tag mode, where you have to hide and R2-D2 will search the room looking for you to tag you with his laser.  He has a camera eye and can listen, so as you say “come and find me” he actually turns and tries to search the room looking for you.  He is really good about avoiding walls, and can adjust his course, though he has a little bit of trouble crossing between a hard floor and a carpet, he does work on carpet but not nearly as well as a nice hard floor or vinyl floor.

My son played with him many hours the first day, second day and then the batteries died.  My biggest complaint about the Star Wars R2-D2 Interactive Astromech Droid is that it requires 4 D batteries and 4 Double A batteries.  The thing should have come with a rechargeable battery pack, or something like those PowerWheels batteries so you can just plug R2-D2 into a wall and recharge him or recharge a battery pack.  It is expensive to keep having to buy a 4 pack of D cell batteries and honestly 3 months of constant use and you would be paying for the R2-D2 price in just batteries.  This toy must raise Energizer and Duracell stock prices.

After just a few days and asking my son if he still thought it was worth it, my son did share his disappointment saying “It didn’t change my life, but I like it”.  He was looking for a robot that was so interactive it had artificial intelligence, he really is looking for an android that can be more than just a simple toy.  Oliver is always constantly hoping the technology will exist soon or that he will grow up and create robots/androids that can be that advanced someday.

In the meantime, I think this toy is very fun and interactive for kids 7 and younger, older kids will probably bore of it fairly quickly.  They like to have it, but it does drain batteries fairly quickly (don’t buy the cheap generic D and Double A batteries, they last 1/4 as long as Duracell).  The interactive modes are fun, the programming movements is a little tedious but gives the kids some entry level step by step command programming via verbal commands, which is similar to verbal object oriented programming really.  It reminds me of the step increments for Lego Mindstorm except just verbal queues instead of program blocks, but only for movement like forward, backward, turns…etc.

Meanwhile for the price, it was more functional than an electronic Buzz Lightyear and robot Dinosaur that were around the same price in previous years, so if you have a little one who is looking for a robot friend the Star Wars R2-D2 Interactive Astromech Droid is not a bad choice.

List Price: $199.99
Current Price: $132.99
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Apr 05

Affiliate Lights Commissions Earning as Much as AdSense Now

Thanks to Affiliate Lights, my Blog Engage referral program is actually almost earning me as much as AdSense on all of my smaller blogs combined.  This is a great service that helps bloggers, especially newer bloggers get some exposure and media reach and Blog Engage is a service that not only provides article syndication but promotion for their articles and especially their YouTube videos so they can get a wider audience.

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The plans are reasonable and the ROI has kept me a long time customer and I consider them enough of an ROI to recommend.  Blog Engage is not only a decent way to get some exposure, networking and awareness for your blog but Affiliate Lights is also a decent way to earn recurring monthly payments from syndication customers.  For every customer that subscribes to the Blog Engage RSS Syndication service you get a % commission monthly which is recurring, get a bunch of others who learn the benefits of Blog Engage and sign up under you and this could be a good source of income to help cover expenses like your own monthly web hosting, or even have your referrals pay for your own Blog Engage RSS Syndication and more.

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You can see from my above that my Affiliate Lights income from Blog Engage basically covers some of my own blogging expenses, ironically I use it to supplement and help me experiment with more blog networking services as well as purchase gadgets and games to giveaway to readers in sweepstakes for Dragon Blogger.

The Affiliate Lights commissions really add up and help cover some expenses, it was more than enough to cover my web hosting services for my blogs for over a year.

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If you want to earn some commissions and do it while selling a service that can benefit peer bloggers, I recommend you take a look at Affiliate Lights to see what helping refer people to Blog Engage can do for you and more importantly to your peers and customers.

Mar 30

Painting at The Social Canvas

I have to say that was a good time at The Social Canvas a few weeks back where the put together local art classes and painting events where you can get together as a couple or with a group of friends and take a painting class at a local establishment.

Right now classes are typically 2 times a week at alternating locations and a different theme painting is chosen for that week.

The week my wife and I went the class was held at Iguana Mack’s restaurant where there were easels setup on tables and you get to sit (or stand if you prefer) and paint with acrylics with all painting supplies provided.  Francesca then shows you step by step how to start your painting and it is amazing to watch how everyone has a unique style and approach.

For our class we did a Van Gogh lilies painting style and you can see my wife and I painted very similar but unique versions of the same painting.

lilies painting

When you are taking a Social Canvas class you can eat, drink and be social while painting and it really was a fun time and made for a great date that my wife and I went on. If you live in the Phoenix area, or are visiting, I highly recommend you visit The Social Canvas and book a class, have some fun, meet some people or just go as a group and do something different.  They have weeknight classes or Saturday classes, and even do private parties too!

You can follow the Social Canvas on Twitter, Facebook and feel free to send them an email anytime as well at info@TheSocialCanvasAZ.com.

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