Posted in Freedom Friday

Black Friday Deals

By the time you read this, I’m hoping it will have snowed. At least that is what the weather channel says. Putting it into perspective, I’m writing this a week in advance with the thought that Americans will have celebrated Thanksgiving the day before and it is currently Black Friday. Happy Thanksgiving weekend, y’all.

Black Friday
Black Friday

For today’s Freedom Friday, let’s have a look at shopping on Black Friday. Is it worth it?

In recent years, Canada has played host to Black Friday deals offered to Americans. That’s how I had purchased my new laptop last year. I managed to pick up one of those fancy IPS touch screen laptops. It’s a beautiful machine, fully loaded and made to last. Only, you wouldn’t have found me lining up in front of the store. Shortly after midnight, when the online specials had gone live, so did the thrifty shoppers with their clickers. I was one of them. I’d saved $200 on that deal alone. The next weeks leading up to Christmas, that same laptop had gone back up to the regular price.

Worth it? Definitely.

In 2010, as part of a promotional deal, an unknown site was raffling off several Apple iPod touch at half-price. To give you an idea how it worked, a shopper had to click an “I want one” button, fill in their credit card details in the form, and submit. The site had only 70 devices available, displaying also the amount of shoppers wanting one. The odds? 1,200 to 70. You guessed it. I won the chance to purchase the device at half-price. I saved $160. At the time, it was the best Christmas ever.

Christmas Shopping
Christmas Shopping

I’m also a finicky buyer when it comes to headphones. My ears are important to me, and how I feed them is equally important. Being a Tinnitus sufferer—that’s ringing in the ears to all you folks who are wondering—I make sure when I purchase headphones or earbuds that they are of the highest quality. Anyway, one year I’d wandered into the Best Buy in town to see what deals they had to offer in the audio department. I wasn’t expecting much. I figured everyone had already picked over the spoil. But to my surprise I found a top-of-the-line pair of Sennheiser earbuds stuck behind the cheapies stock on the shelf. I’m assuming someone had placed them there for safekeeping until such a time when they could come back and purchase them. Total savings for that purchase was $200.

There are other deals. Like the $250 my kid saved last year for his very first laptop, the $75 for my first Apple iPod classic in 2007, and the $90 for my second Apple iPod classic in 2009.

Adding it all up makes for quite a chunk of change. Is Black Friday worth it? I don’t know. You do the math and tell me what you think?

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

Do you shop on Black Friday? What did you pick up that made the day special?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

My iPod classic

I’m not sure how much interest this post will garner, especially knowing that some folks are not too keen on Apple these days. But I’ll write it from my perspective in order for you to understand where I’m coming from. This is my Freedom Friday post about my iPod classic.

My iPod classic
My iPod classic

First off, this is not an ad campaign for Apple. Nor is it a way for me to gain a following from all the audiophiles out there. Even more so, nor is it a plea for Apple to listen to its customers. I leave that fight to the activists, of which I’m in no way a part of.

Last month, Apple quietly discontinued the iPod classic, the company’s former highest capacity portable media device.

Yes, I did shed a figurative tear, in spite of the fact I saw it coming for a while now.

Let me make one thing clear. I don’t consider myself a die-hard Apple fan. I say this with the knowledge I’ve never stood in line for one of their products or sat in front of the computer waiting for the next iOS release. I’m one of those guys who buys stuff, regardless of company, for what that stuff represents in technological progress. If that stuff works and does what I want it to do, I will raise the praises no matter what anyone says to me.

Okay, now with that out of the way, my big confession is I love my iPod classic. I do. You’re reading those words from a guy who’s been around. I used to listen to music on vinyl, which, by the way, sounds amazing. I progressed to purchasing my very first Sony Walkman with its ability to carry a whole album on cassette tape. I then moved on to my first MP3 player called the RioVolt, a CD-based MP3 player featuring hundreds of songs at my auditory disposal. From there I graduated to an Apple shuffle—the original “white stick” version. I couldn’t believe I could finally carry a few more hundred songs with me.

Then the Apple iPod classic came. In 2007, I’d spent $350. I still can’t believe I’d spend that much for a device. Then again, for my RioVolt I’d spent $200 in the early 2000’s, so it goes without saying that if a device is worth it, I’ll buy it. That player lasted me a couple of years before it became obsolete.

My classic? It’s still going strong.

What do I love about it? Everything. I’m serious about this. Its ability to fit my entire song library, which is extensive, has me carrying my entire music collection with room to boot. That feature alone has me at the word go.

I’m also an avid playlist creator. I have over a hundred playlists for almost every mood I can think of. I even have playlists to remember specific events in my life. I’m a playlist maniac! The sweetest thing about the iPod classic is that it allows Smart Playlists to work as intended with Live Updating.

For all of you who are not familiar of the feature, Live Updating simply allows a playlist to populate dynamically without much interference from me. That means if I have a playlist with the criteria of picking rock songs I haven’t heard in the past two weeks, the playlist will rotate my library to do just that. Once a song finishes, the iPod classic kicks the song off the list and a new one then appears in its place. Live Updating is that amazing. The thing is it doesn’t work on the iPhone or any of the newest iPods. It does work on the iPod classic, and that’s all that matters to me.

The other great feature about my iPod classic is its ability to create Genius playlists on the fly. Let’s say I’m listening to a song I really love, I click on the center button, choose the Genius feature, and the iPod classic quickly creates a playlist with all the songs that work well with the song I’m listening to. The perfect mix. The feature works so well that I sometimes save the generated playlist for later use.

The iPod classic click wheel
The iPod classic click wheel

Last but the most important feature the iPod classic has that no other Apple device currently possesses is the click wheel. I suppose Apple thought this archaic functionality belonged in the past and decided music listeners didn’t need it. In reality, it’s the most useful feature for us folks who listen to music non-stop.

How does it work? If I slide my finger on the click wheel left, I’m turning the volume down. Go right, I’m turning it up. If I press the bottom of the wheel, I’m pausing the song. If I press right, it skips to the next song and vice versa when pressing left. The kicker? I can do it all without looking at the device. Try that with an iPhone where you have to look at the screen to perform the simple function of pausing the song.

Like I said, I love my iPod classic. I love it so much I bought two—the original 2007 and the 2009 versions. Both of them are still going strong. The 2007 version I have hooked up to a docking station in our bedroom where I turn on the music before going to bed. Although some may wonder how I can prepare for sleep if I have Blink 182 blasting on the speakers. Trust me—I sleep right through the night without any trouble. The 2009 version is with me all the time, cranking out the tunes.

Anyway, enough of my rambling.

The biggest drawback of the iPod classic is that it has a hard drive to hold its music. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple turns around one day to release another version of the device featuring a big fat solid-state drive.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What devices do you own? Are you someone who sports an attachment with a device?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Games I Play

Sit back and relax, this is not going to be a serious Freedom Friday. If anything, I’m hoping by the time you’ve finished reading this post, you’ll head over to whichever store you like to get your games and try out some of the ones I’m going to list here.

By the title, you should have guessed I play many games on my devices. I say devices because I have several. I have a newer generation iPod touch and a Nexus 7 from a couple of years ago this Christmas. Both are great, but both have their respective stores where I download apps. For the iPod, I get my games from Apple’s App Store. For the Nexus 7, I take advantage of Google Play Store. Both are great and virtually all the games I download are available in both stores.

One thing I won’t comment about is the differences between the stores, devices and games between iOS and Android. Everyone has a preference as do I, but the purpose of this post is to give you an idea what I play.

On that note, I play a lot of games. I’m always with a device in my hand doing something with it and some of the games I play are some of the most popular games on the planet. Does that make me popular? I don’t think so. Yet, I can’t help myself when I indulge in a good game that keeps me entertained for hours.

Makes you wonder when I have the time to write. That’s another story. Nevertheless, here are some of my favorite games for devices currently on the market.

FarmVille 2: Country Escape
FarmVille 2: Country Escape

FarmVille 2: Country Escape—This is such a great game. It truly is. I play it every weekend and whenever I get a chance to add to the farm’s development. Here’s how it works. You’re in charge of a farm, you add livestock to it, machines to make things from the produce of the livestock, and you rise through the levels by fulfilling orders. There are orders on a board from the barn, quick sells from the silo, a plane that comes in across the road with orders from faraway lands, and orders from other cool places in your farm. Then there are the recipes like making cakes, granola bars, juices, soups, and all sorts of other delightful edibles. The general idea is to grow the farm and build a healthy economy where you gain experience to rise up the levels to buy even cooler items to play with. I’ve been playing this game for ages and it’s great. I play it offline, but you can also connect with your friends on Facebook to ask for a helping hand. The gameplay is balanced, graphics are beautiful and the economics behind the game top-notch. It’s a great game for light playing while waiting around for folks.

Candy Crush Saga
Candy Crush Saga

Candy Crush Saga—Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know this game? Almost everyone I know plays this game. It’s addictive, fun and challenging. I wouldn’t recommend it for folks who want to finish the game overnight, it’s impossible to do. The way the game works is matching candies on a board three, four and five in a roll. If you match four, a special candy appears to rid whole rows of candy at a time. If you match five, another special candy appears that will give you the ability to rid the board of any candy with which you swap. I’ve said this, and I’ll say it again—it’s addictive. The artwork looks great, gameplay is exciting and levels get progressively harder. Music is interesting as well.

Angry Birds
Angry Birds

Angry Birds—I can’t believe this game has been around for so long, but it has, years apparently. The goal of the game is loading a slingshot of one bird and flicking it toward a collapsible object made of various materials. Like Candy Crush, the levels get progressively harder, and in some instances, you want to toss your device against the wall. Yes, that’s my gratuitous violence sentence to keep you entertained that much longer. What I like about this game the most is the physics engine behind the awesome cartoon animations. So many times, I think I have beaten the level only to find there is one thing I didn’t kill or break because what I hit does not fall down. And as frustrating as that sounds, I keep coming back for more. That’s the mark of a truly great game.

Your turn, these games keep me entertained during my downtimes. I’m sure you have your own collection, too.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What games do you like playing? What is your preferred device?