Rethinking Cable TV: Upgrade Standard Cable to Internet TV

rethinking-cable-tv
 
When we moved two years ago we signed up with a new cable provider taking advantage of a new customer promotion that was priced very well. Sadly all good things must come to an end. Here is how we dealt with the promotion ending and embracing the emerging world of internet based cable providers mixed in with a little old fashion technology.
 
The biggest problem we face is that there is little competition and choices when it comes to buying cable and internet. The city we live in is roughly divided in half with Cox Communications to the south and Time Warner to the north. Throughout the city the old phone company ATT is still kicking around with U-verse in some areas. Sadly our neighborhood really only has one option that offers decent Internet speeds, Time Warner.
 
The next problem we encountered is cable TV equipment rental fees. It used to be that you could attach the cable to your TV and get all the basic channels. For this to work a cable company uses analog signals which are sent in the clear over the line. The drawback is that analog signals take up a lot of bandwidth and that space is shared with your internet. In order to provide faster internet speeds the analog channels were converted to digital and now required a special digital adapter or cable box to receive TV channels. Unfortunately these devices cost $5-11 dollars a month to rent. Luckily the cable company does offer an app for Roku, Android, and iOS. We used the Roku app for a bit and thought it was pretty good. Another cost saving move was to request a cable card which costed us $2 dollars a month. Combining the cable card with a Samsung cable box that we bought ourselves from Amazon provided an inexpensive avenue for getting HD channels to our main TV.

 

Rethinking Cable TV – Time to cut the cord? 

The motivating moment to reevaluate our cable TV setup was when the 2 year promotion ended. Our costs went up from ~$100 dollars a month to ~$160. It was pretty steep. We called and lowered our internet speed tier and that saved a few dollars. They even confirmed we had a never expiring $20 dollar a month discount on our TV service , but still it felt like this was too much to spend for only watching a handful of channels.
 
We worked out our requirements as getting all the major broadcast networks, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, CW, and one local independent station along with HGTV, Food Network, Disney, Nickelodeon, and possibly ESPN. We architected a solution that consists of a TV antenna in our attic for the broadcast networks and Sony Playstation Vue service for the cable channels we wanted to watch running on Amazon FireTV boxes. Of course like most households we also subscribe to Netflix and Amazon Prime. The total cost per month would pencil out at ~$110 dollars a month with $80 dollars of that being internet costs as well as some up front equipment costs at around ~$200 dollars. Yikes! internet costs are still high, but we work from home so we opted for a higher service than what we really needed at 200Mbs/20 vs 60Mbs/10 so we could save even more, about ~20 dollars a month if we dropped down another tier. Another important note is we are currently not subject to data caps.

 

TV Antenna? 

Installing the TV antenna was tricky because of the topology of our city. There are lots of canyons and hills/mountains. To further complicate the installation, ABC and CBS broadcast from a different location than the others. This makes pointing the antenna difficult as you would normally have all the broadcast towers in one spot. Luckily there are a few websites that help you orient your antenna. We used tvfool.org (antennaweb.org is another) by entering our address. The site returns the number of channels you should receive along with the size of the antenna needed. Best of all it provided a chart with the direction to point the antenna. We were able to use a compass and the chart fairly easily. 

 

Broadcast Locations

Okay so what to do about the different broadcast locations? Well one option is to get a antenna rotor which physically spins your antenna to the correct position to receive one or more channels. The drawback with that option is that if multiple TVs are trying to watch different channels that require different antenna positions someone is going to lose out on their show. So there must be another alternative and it turns out that there is: two antennas. Point one antenna toward CBS and ABC and the other toward FOX, CW, and NBC and tie the signals together with a splitter/combiner. We ended up using an RCA yagi style antenna for CBS and ABC as this type is a little more directional, meaning when you point it toward the broadcast tower it tends to “ignore” the other signals being broadcast from other locations. The other antenna we used was a Channel Master METROtenna 40. Finally you need to use the exact same length of cable connecting the antennas to the splitter/combiner. Connect RG-6 coax cable from the splitter/combiner to your TV and run a channel scan for over the air (OTA) channels.

 

Solution: Playstation Vue with Amazon’s FireTV

Our research of Playstation Vue led us to Amazon’s FireTV. The box,not the stick, is actually pretty powerful/fast/smooth and gave one of the best experiences using the Vue app. The first FireTV was picked up at the local BestBuy so that we could do the free 7 day trial. Then later on prime day we were able to pickup another device on sale, score! Finally we got a refurbished Fire Stick for the TV in the upstairs toy room. They are all currently connected using a wireless internet connection.
 
Playstation Vue TV viewing is different than traditional TV/cable boxes. Its based around favorites and what’s on now which you navigate by scrolling left and right through tiles similar to Netflix’s interface. There is a traditional channel guide, but it is somewhat out of the way in the interface. We subscribed to the basic package, called “Access Slim”. It actually turns out that they included our local NBC and CBS channels which was kind of nice and unexpected. The slim package hit all of our desired channels and some others that we like, but don’t watch constantly like Bravo, TLC, TBS, FX, and AMC. Another cool feature is the cloud DVR. We have not used this much yet, but we did not have a DVR before so we are not accustomed to relying on it. Other features of note, some channels let you rewind to the beginning of a show or stream other episodes. 

 

Our Experience

Overall the Vue TV watching experience has been pretty great. The picture quality is fine. On live events, like football games, we noticed a almost 1 minute delay between broadcast (antenna) and the Vue app. A strange quirk is that some channels don’t play commercials! Instead a screen saver’ish screen is displayed saying your program will be back shortly in eerie silence. We have to think that this will eventually change at some point to behave more like traditional TV. The other thing of note is the Vue app on the Fire Stick works,but it is slow to respond and would be frustrating to use on your main TV.
 
Alright so putting it all together here is how we use both the antenna and Vue app. On our TV we connect the coax cable into the tuner input. The FireTV connects via an HDMI cable. To go between we use the input button on the remote of the TV to select whether we want to watch broadcast TV or Vue cable channels. One downside is you as a viewer just need to know that there is something on one of the broadcast channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, etc) that you want to watch. There is no unified guide, you are on your own. On the plus side when we wanted to cancel TV service with Time Warner we had to wait on hold for about 25 minutes, but with Vue you can cancel online at anytime.
 
We have been using this setup now for about 4 months and no real deal killer complaints. We feel good about getting our monthly TV costs down and retaining the channels we liked most.
 
Rethinking Cable TV and Cutting the Cord

Have you cut cable? 

Last Minute Minecraft Gift Ideas

 We have been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card in exchange for sharing our favorite last minute Minecraft gift ideas from Best Buy. 

last-minute-minecraft-gift-ideas

We’ve been a Minecraft crazed household since early last year. And just about any wish list my son brings to me has at least one Minecraft-inspired item on it. So if you’ve started hearing about Creepers and Ghasts and other weird sounding things, you may be introduced to Minecraft soon. And you may have seen a few Minecraft-related things on your child’s list. But don’t worry! It’s not too late to pick up some last minute Minecraft gifts with the help of Best Buy

Build and explore exciting new worlds with Best Buy’s assortment of Minecraft games and collectibles. If you aren’t familiar with the awesome world of Minecraft, it is a game about placing blocks and going on adventures. Explore randomly generated worlds and build amazing things from the simplest of homes to the grandest of castles. Play in Creative Mode with unlimited resources or mine deep in Survival Mode, crafting weapons and armor to fend off dangerous mobs. Do all this alone or with friends. The games are very family-friendly and great for kids. 

And even after you’ve started playing the game, there’s still fun to be had! The toys and collectibles make great gifts for anyone already into the game. Best Buy carries a large assortment the assortment of Minecraft products – this includes an Xbox One S console bundle, additional Minecraft games and Minecraft toys and collectibles. Check out our top picks below (each of these items is on my son’s wish list)! 

Grab all of the Minecraft goodness here: http://bby.me/e7cb. And make sure to take advantage of FREE 2-day shipping to get it by Christmas or pick it up at your local Best Buy store by selecting store pick up. So convenient! 

Last Minute Minecraft Gift Ideas

minecraft-1

1. Minecraft RC Flying Ghast

At the top of my son’s list is this awesome Minecraft RC Flying Ghast. You get to bring one of the key mobs to life with this quadcopter! Using the remote control, you fly this Ghast quadcopter through the air as in the game. 

The flying Ghast can move forward and backward, left and right, and up and down. Special features include 360-degree turns, automatic landing capabilities and a stunt button take the fun to new heights! This is a great gift for any Minecraft fan. 

On sale for $20 off at $59.99! Killer deal. With free 2-day shipping, of course.

2. Minecraft Motion Movie Set

My son is really into watching YouTube videos and has been asking if he can set up his own channel. While I’m not quite ready for him to be in front of the camera, his ideas for some stop motion fun sound right up my alley! With this Minecraft Stop-Motion movie creator set you can make your own movies come to fruition. It comes with a movie stage, six different background cards, four exclusive figures and over 18 accessories to help you bring your stories to life. This Minecraft Stop-Motion movie creator lets you animate with your smartphone or tablet in just three easy steps. Pretty cool, right? 
 
Only $19.99 right now with free 2-day shipping. 
 

 

minecraft-2

3. Minecraft Minifigure Collectors Case

Minecraft Minifigs are perfect for stocking stuffers or present toppers but you need somewhere to put them all! This Minecraft Minifigure Collectors case holds up to 32 figures and allows you to display and transport all of your little guys. 

Organize and display your favorite Nether explorers in this Mattel Minecraft collector case. Flip it over to discover a Minecraft world complete with a playtime portal for entertaining creative minds. This lightweight Mattel Minecraft collector case includes six starter characters and a convenient handle that lets you easily transport up to 32 figures.

$39.99 right now with free 2 day shipping! 

4. Minecraft Card Game

Play your favorite hit video game anywhere with this Minecraft card game. Mine, craft and reserve resource cards, but watch out for TNT and Creeper cards in this game full of action and adventure. Crafting points with wood, stone, iron, diamond and gold resource cards lets you position yourself for a win in this Minecraft card game.

A great stocking stuffer at $12.99 and free 2 day shipping. 

 

minecraft-3

5. Microsoft XBox One S Minecraft Bundle

Upgrading your gaming system? You gotta check out the Xbox One S Minecraft Favorites Bundle (500GB), featuring everything you need to build, survive, and explore! Get full game downloads of Minecraft for Xbox One and Windows 10, plus thirteen fabulous, community-favorite content Packs, including Halo Mash-up and Festive Mash-up. 

Craft new Minecraft worlds together with friends on Xbox Live, the most advanced multiplayer network. And now with the new Xbox One S, you can even watch 4K Blu-ray™ movies, stream Netflix and Amazon Video in stunning 4K Ultra HD, and play a growing library of Xbox 360 games. With all the biggest blockbusters this year, there’s never been a better time to jump ahead with Xbox One.

And right now you can score this bundle for $249.99 ($50 off)!

What’s on your Minecraft fan’s gift list? 

Grab all of the Minecraft goodness here: http://bby.me/e7cb. And make sure to take advantage of FREE 2-day shipping to get it by Christmas or pick it up at your local Best Buy store by selecting store pick up.

3 Tips On Creating Passwords For Kids

This is a sponsored post featuring 3 tips on creating passwords for kids and is written by me on behalf of LastPass. All opinions are 100% mine.

3-tips-on-creating-passwords-for-kids

With the kids getting older and becoming more tech-saavy I’ve come to realize that I don’t have just my passwords to remember anymore. As I create accounts for my son and daughter on their various devices – iPad, Amazon Fire tablet, and even YouTube Kids – I’ve realized that keeping track of all of these sites and passwords has become a real chore. In an effort to reduce the clutter in my head, I’ve found an awesome solution with LastPass. 

Now I can keep track of the passwords for the sites I log into as well as the sites I log my kids into. And I don’t have to let them know when I change their passwords either. I just make sure to update LastPass! This comes in handy when one of them loses their screen time and tries to hide the device from us. Yes… it’s happened before. 

Are you ready to make your life easier? 

3-tips-on-creating-passwords-for-kids-passwords-made-easy

Source: LastPass

3 Tips On Creating Passwords For Kids

1. Get creative with your passwords – Consider using a phrase instead of a word and replacing some letters with numbers as well as symbols to help strengthen your password. Since each site should have it’s own password, change a few letters and numbers of the phrase for each site. This will create a stronger password and allow you to change each site’s password slightly using the same phrase or words. 

2. Sign up for LastPass – start writing down all of the passwords you create for the family in your LastPass account. Getting started with Last Pass is easy and even better its free, you can Get LastPass for Free here! You can manage and keep track of everything all through LastPass. 

3. Manage Your Passwords – LastPass is accessible wherever you are so you don’t have to worry about forgetting the 50 passwords you already have. You will never be without your passwords and you can now keep your passwords and life in order. But just in case, always make sure to answer the security questions on the site you’re setting your password up with so you can retrieve it in case you don’t add it to your LastPass account. You’ll also want to manage your passwords and update them every 6-12 months just in case.  

3-tips-on-creating-passwords-for-kids-lastpass-vault

Source: LastPass

With LastPass you can access things quickly and easily while reducing the frustration that comes from different passwords in different places. LastPass organizes them all in one safe place! LastPass allows for easy access to your passwords no matter where you are or what account you need to access so you can save time for more important things. 

With new accounts being created constantly you no longer have to remember them all as all your passwords are held in the LastPass vault.

Do you have to remember your kids passwords for various sites? Or do you use your own password? 

Visit Sponsors Site

What Is Pokémon Go?

What Is Pokémon Go

The entire Internet, nay the entire world, seems to be buzzing about this whole Pokémon Go thing. You probably remember Pokémon as being a card game that little kids played back in the late 90’s, which accompanied a Saturday morning cartoon of the same name. So why are adults and children alike hooked on this mobile version today… and what exactly is it?

For starters, Pokémon Go is a free mobile app. While you can use real money to buy in-game currency, you don’t have to, and the game is actually more fun if you have to use your time and energy to get further in the game (because it means you physically have to go out into the world and interact with other people to advance). I explained it to my son this way, “If you want to just sit at home and pay . money to get coins to purchase things instead of go out and find these items on your own, you’re better of playing something else. Pokémon Go isn’t for you.”

Pokemon Go map

 

How Does It Work? 

The game uses your phone’s GPS for your real-world location, drops an avatar of yourself onto a map of your area, and then shows you where to go to catch Pokémon (or “pocket monsters”). You then have to physically go to the location in order to “catch” the Pokémon. 

Your collection of little monsters is stored away in a Pokédex, where you can break them out later at your local “gym” to battle them against other, real-live people’s collections. (The players are referred to as trainers, by the way. You’ll have access to gyms, where you can battle other trainers using your collection of Pokémon, onceyou get to level five in the game. 

Time to geek out: Each Pokémon has a “CP” designation, or combat power designation. The higher the CP, the stronger it will be in battle.

When you see blue diamond markers on your map, it means a Pokéstop is nearby. These are places where you can interact with other trainers or pick up other items important to your game. When you find a blue Pokéstop close by, you can spin the center medal to reveal Pokéballs, eggs, potions and more. 

Pikachu Caught in Pokemon Go

How To Get Started

If you want to give it a try, download the app. Once you open it, you’ll be prompted to sign up with either your Google account or a Pokémon Trainer Club account. You’ll get a brief how-to tutorial before three Pokémon pop up on your map. Swipe your finger across the screen to throw a Pokéball at one of them (which captures the creature). Practice makes perfect! After this, you’ll be able to explore the app. Look for blowing leaves, which mean there are hidden Pokémon nearby. 

FYI: Highly populated areas tend to have more Pokémon and Pokéstops. 

PokemonWarning

What To Look Out For

A few warnings: The app itself warns users to be aware of their surroundings when playing the game. There are a few obvious dangers, such as paying so much attention to your phone that you walk into oncoming traffic, but there are also more troublesome crimes being reported, blaming the app. Some people have been lured into unsafe areas and robbed, with the hope that Pokémon would be at the scene of the crime. The best way to avoid criminal activity is to use common sense when playing. Don’t go to unfamiliar, isolated places at 2:00 a.m. for example… On the whole, the game is harmless fun, so don’t be scared.

These isolated incidents aside, Pokémon Go is catching on because it combines gaming, physical activity and making new friends…in the real world! When you look at it this way, it makes sense that everyone’s “gotta catch ‘em all!

Have you downloaded Pokémon Go yet? 

We’ll be sharing tips on playingPokémon Go next so stay tuned! And hopefully on your adventures you don’t get this screen…

Pokemon Go servers down

Your Questions Answered: Simmworks Family Office Hours with SpareMin

Over here on this blog we’re sharing what works and what doesn’t for our family. But sometimes not all of our stories or tips get on the blog. So in an effort to connect more with our readers and open up the lines of communication, we’ve partnered with SpareMin to share an easy way to do just that!

Your Questions Answered Simmworks Family Office Hours with SpareMin

SpareMin.com is the voice platform that connects bloggers and influencers to their readers and each other for timed calls that can be shared socially. It’s essentially a way to enjoy authentic conversations with anyone who wants to chat and learn together.

I will be doing two sessions from 9-9:30am on the first and third Thursday of each month from April through August starting Thursday, May 19th.

What’s great is that each call is 5 minutes long, so I can chat with up to 6 people each Thursday! And recordings can be made public and added onto my SpareMin profile so if you have a question that someone’s already asked, you can listen in and see what’s going on.

Simmworks Family Office Hours with SpareMin

If you want to participate, all you have to do is:

1. Put in a Talk Request to @simmworksfamily on SpareMin. Note: you will need to download the free Android or iOS app to do this.

iOS: iTunes Store — SpareMin 

Android: Google Play Store — SpareMin

2. After you put in a Talk Request, I will choose some callers for each Thursday session, and you will get a notification when I go online at 9am. If you still want to chat, just pop over and call in! I’ll leave the line open from 9:00-9:30am on the first and third Thursday of the month.

Some tips: 

  • Set up your profile or import it from Facebook or LinkedIn. Enter your handle and all the bio info. Then go into settings. You’ll need to enable notifications so you can know when someone you want a conversation with is accepting calls.
  • All calls are limited to 5 minutes each, so write down your question to give me time to answer and you to respond! You can also leave a comment below with your question, then on Thursdays I can refer to it to get more info about you! Both people will receive a countdown timer towards the end to let them know the conversation is about to wrap up.
  • Your topic can be about a question you have about San Diego, advice in the garden, a crafty question, clarification on a recipe you’re trying, or a pep talk, whatever you want! I’d even be interested in helping other bloggers learn and grow their network!
  • You’ll get a reminder once our session is set up so you know when to expect to chat.
  • All calls are recorded and can be shared via social media so other people can learn as well BUT you can let me know if you don’t want me to share your call and I can keep it private.
  • This is a great tool for private coaching or for mini-interviews that you can share on your social channels.
  • Everything is done via the app… no phone numbers!

Questions? Reach out to me on SpareMin!

You can also find out how other’s are using SpareMin:

Check out Amy’s blog post and how she uses SpareMin on Teach Mama and how Cathy over at Crafty Chica is using it as well!

Looking forward to connecting!

Last Minute Gifts For Your XBox One

review affiliate link disclaimer

I am part of the Microsoft Blogger Program and receive incentives from Microsoft to blog about its products.

Last Minute Gifts For Your XBox One

I’ll let you in on a little secret. We’re gifting our 7 year old an Xbox One for Christmas. It’s all he’s asked for all year and something we can use as a family for game nights and bonding so the investment is worth it. But just the console itself isn’t that exciting. You need games to play and accessories! Plus, you can’t beat the Microsoft quality.

Luckily we have that covered with a few of our favorite last minute gifts for your Xbox One.

Since we have both a 5 year old girl and a 7 year old boy, you’ll see the choices cover our whole family and not just one member. That’s because this gift is meant to be used for everyone, and not just the recipient. We’ll get moving with Guitar Hero Live and Just Dance and start creating and building fun worlds with Minecraft. All while relaxing and sitting back in our gamers chairs using our extra controllers!

Last Minute Gifts For Your XBox One - Minecraft

Last Minute Gifts For Your XBox One

1. Guitar Hero Live –

There’s something for all ages with Guitar Hero Live. And now it’s available for all devices, including the XBox One! As you may have seen, one of the biggest innovations of Guitar Hero Live is the ability to get recent live concert recordings, note-track the footage with the trademark Guitar Hero gameplay, and then put the video in game to be playable in just a short amount of time. In late October, one of my all time favorite bands Weezer headlined the Guitar Hero Live launch event at the YouTube Space in LA, and played a special show at the iHeartRadio Theatre in Burbank. Kicking off their set with their fresh new single “Thank Goodness for Girls,” three Weezer tracks from these performances are now playable in the game, including:

  • “Thank Goodness for Girls” (Live)
  • “Undone – The Sweater Song” (Live)
  • “Say It Ain’t So” (Live)

More key features in Guitar Hero Live include:

  • GHTV – The first 24-hour playable music video network, allowing fans to browse channels and access a constantly-updated library of official music videos and other featured content
  • GH Live – A first-person point-of-view story mode, where players take the role of rockstar during a live-action performances, as they work their way from intimate clubs to festivals featuring thousands of screaming fans
  • New Guitar – Revamped guitar controller that better mimics the playing of real world guitar notes and chords

Purchase Guitar Hero Live here

2. Minecraft –

I’ve already shared our love of Minecraft with you guys. And my son still hasn’t gotten over his obsession. Now we’re moving from the Surface Pro 3 to the Xbox One so he can create mods and do his own thing! Build with your imagination! Minecraft, one of the best-selling games on Xbox 360, is now available on Xbox One. Create and explore your very own world where the only limit is what you can imagine – just be sure to build a shelter before night comes to keep yourself safe from monsters.

Purchase Minecraft here

3. Just Dance Disney Party 2 –

For the dancer in your life, Just Dance Disney Party 2 is the perfect game for every age. Just Dance and Disney are back together, bringing the greatest dance game for the whole family with music from the hottest Disney Channel shows, in Just Dance: Disney Party 2! Dance like the stars from the most popular Disney Channel shows and movies. With a great selection of family favorite songs, fun dances, and kid-friendly gameplay, children of all ages can dance along with family and friends.

Purchase Just Dance Disney Party 2 here

4. Extra Controller –

If you’ve purchased multi player games for your Xbox One, an extra controller (or a few) is necessary. We’re starting with two controllers and might consider purchasing more if needed so the whole family can jump in on the fun.

Experience the unique intensity, precision and comfort of the Xbox One Wireless Controller. Impulse Triggers deliver fingertip vibration feedback, so you can feel every jolt and crash in high definition. Responsive thumbsticks and an enhanced D-pad provide greater accuracy. Plug any compatible headset into the standard 3.5mm stereo headset jack. Works with Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs and Tablets.

Purchase an extra XBox One controller here

5. Gamer’s Chair –

Any gamer needs a comfy chair! Complete with audio on most models, it makes gaming easier and more ergonomically friendly. While it’s not a necessity, it is a nice thing to have if you have a video game obsessed kid in the house! Plus? You’ll always know where they are!

Purchase a gamer’s chair here

Last Minute Gifts For Your XBox One - Guitar Hero Live

What’s at the top of your gamer’s Christmas list?

Microsoft Black Friday Deals

I am part of the Microsoft Blogger Program and receive incentives from Microsoft to blog about its products.

IE5A3577_background copy

I don’t know about you but I am gearing up for Black Friday! However more and more stores are letting us in on the deals early so I wanted to make sure you were in the know with what’s happening with Microsoft this year. Microsoft’s Black Friday deals that start TODAY!

My son’s wishlist includes an Xbox One this year so I’m excited to see all of the fun savings that Microsoft is offering not only on their Xbox One bundles but the Microsoft Work & Play bundle as well including Microsoft 365 home AND Xbox Live Gold plus additional perks.

You may have some of these great gifts from Microsoft on your holiday shopping list so why not purchase now and save?!

FINAL_10announce_1120

Microsoft Black Friday Deals

The Black Friday deals include:

10 Cent Content

Microsoft gives thanks for reaching 110 million Windows 10 devices by offering 1,000 pieces of 10 cent content (movies, music, games and apps) available for 10 days on the Windows 10 Universal store

  • Day one 10 cent deals include: Jurassic World, Terminator Genisys, Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 for rent, Angry Birds Star Wars, “What Do You Mean” by Justin Bieber and “All of Me” by John Legend
  • 10 cent deals begin today, Friday, Nov. 20 and run through Sunday, Nov. 29

Xbox One for $299!

  • $50 on any Xbox One holiday bundles including the Xbox One Limited Edition Halo 5: Guardians Bundle for $449
  • Xbox One Elite Bundle for $449
  • Xbox One 1TB Holiday Bundle for $349
  • Xbox One Gears of War: Ultimate Edition Bundle for $299 and the Xbox One Rise of the Tomb Raider Bundle for $349.

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL

  • FREE Display Dock with purchase at Microsoft stores
  • $39 at AT&T
  • Microsoft Lumia 640 ATT Go phone for $29.99
  • AT&T offering up to $200 off a Microsoft Surface 3 LTE with purchase of Microsoft Lumia 950 or 640XL.

Microsoft Work & Play Bundle

  • For $149, you will receive a one-year subscription to Office 365 Home, Xbox Live Gold, Skype Unlimited World, unlimited Wi-Fi, Assure Software Support, plus a $60 promotional gift card for entertainment content

Microsoft Store Savings – begins online Wednesday, Nov. 25 at 9 p.m. PT

Microsoft Edge – available on Friday, Nov. 20

  • More than 100 retailers including Macy’s, Target and Toys R’ Us will offer Cortana Coupons in the URL when browsing their site

Partner Deals

  • HP Pavilion 23-inch, All-in-One Desktop PC for $499.99 and Toshiba’s 15.6-inch Satellite Fusion laptop for $499.99 at Staples
  • HP Envy 15.6-inch Touch-screen laptop for $479.99 at Best Buy
  • Toshiba Satellite CL45 14-inch laptop for $119.99 at Office Depot
  • RCA 10.1-inch Cambio W101 V2 Windows 10 2-in-1 for $128 at Wal-Mart
  • Dell’s Alienware 15 laptop for $1,199.99 and Alienware X51 gaming desktop for $1,249.99 at Dell.com
  • Acer Aspire R13 for $1099; Acer Aspire Switch 11V for $499, The Acer Aspire R3-131T-P3BM for $299 on Acer.com

SUR15_Book_Laptop_01

All fans have to do? Check Microsoft News Center for a full run-down of Microsoft Black Friday offerings and the Windows blog for the deal of the day over the next 10 days!

What will you be adding to your shopping cart next Friday?

Great Gifts From Microsoft For The Holidays

I am part of the Microsoft Blogger Program and receive incentives from Microsoft to blog about its products.

Great-Gift-Ideas-from-Microsoft

Just in time for the holidays Microsoft has introduced a new lineup of devices that, together with Windows 10, give people the powerful, magical experiences necessary to do great things. After playing with our Surface Pro 3 all year, my husband is excited to hear all about the new Surface Pro 4, including their new and improved keyboard! And my Microsoft Band is helping me stay on track with my active lifestyle. It’s a great way to take care of any New Years Resolutions you’re making early.

If you have a tech lover on your gift giving list, you’ll have to check out these awesome Microsoft products:

5 Great Gifts from Microsoft

  • Surface Book – a do-it-all high-performance 13.5” laptop with killer built-in Pen functionality lets you write on the screen in laptop mode, or on the detachable screen that turns into a clipboard, Surface Book is built for creativity and anything else that comes its way.
  • Surface Pro 4 – elevates everything people love about Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 into the thinnest, lightest and even more powerful tablet that can replace your laptop., This 12.3” HD display performs wonders with the redesigned Surface Pen, all in a beautifully designed premium magnesium casing.
  • Microsoft Band 2 – kick off the holidays with a new fitness routine and the beautifully redesigned Microsoft Band 2 with its new curved display, making it even more comfortable to wear. It’s fully integrated with Microsoft Health to track your sleep, heartrate, GPS and other health signals, plus connects you with the latest text, email and app alerts so you can live healthier, achieve your fitness goals and stay connected on the go.
  • Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL – two new premium phones running Windows 10 that allow people to work like they do on a PC, through universal apps and Continuum.
  • Lumia 550 – new Windows 10 smartphone for people who value affordability, uncompromised quality and signature Microsoft services.
  • If that wasn’t enough, Microsoft also showcased the new Xbox One experience – a free update built on the cornerstone of Windows 10 – and Xbox One Backward Compatibility, which lets people play their Xbox 360 games on Xbox One for free with 100 games at launch and hundreds more in the months ahead.

These newest offerings were built as the ultimate hardware companions for experiencing Windows 10, the latest operating system from Microsoft, which is now powering more than 110 million devices worldwide. For deeper technical dives on all of these devices, check out Terry Myerson’s blog post, the Windows 10 Devices event site or OneNote for more info.

What’s at the top of your tech gift list this year? 

How to Create a Smart Home: DIY Home Energy Efficiency Tips

The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free. This post contains affiliate links.
home energy efficiency tips

One bill I hate to see every month is our electric bill. Not only can the amount fluctuate from month to month but I feel as if now that I’m working from home I am the sole cause of the increases to our bill. But after doing my research I feel confident in applying these home energy efficiency tips in our home to help lower our electric bill.

And this couldn’t be a better time to start thinking about energy efficiency in our homes. Especially since our cost of electricity is expected to rise greatly come Winter.

If you’re concerned about high electric bills and want to do something to make your home more energy efficient (as well as save on your monthly bill!) consider making a few simple DIY changes around the home to help conserve your electrical usage.

home energy efficiency tips weather stripping

Home Energy Efficiency Tips

1. Close up the air gaps!

Talk a walk around your house and inspect the outer perimeter of your home to find where air can get in. Using weather stripping around doors and windows, eliminate air from getting in and out.

2. Replace your light bulbs

By replacing your light bulbs to CFLs or LEDs you can save up to 75% in lighting cost. An added bonus? They last longer too!

home energy efficiency tips cfl bulbs

3. Look at your HVAC system

Your HVAC system consists of the heating/cooling equipment, the thermostat, the pipes, the filters, and the duct work found in a central forced air system. Inspect your HVAC system to make sure it’s been properly maintained. If you aren’t sure when the last time it was checked is consider contacting a certified HVAC contractor to do an inspection.

If you don’t already have a programmable thermostat I suggest picking up a Home Nest Smart Thermostat. This is the new 3rd generation version, which is thinner, sleeker in design, and allows for a bigger, crisper display than the prior 2nd generation version.

Not only can you set where the temperature should stay throughout the day and night but you can save money by having your system run only when you want it to. We like to keep our air off until it reaches 78 in the house in the summer. We normally keep the house between 75 and 78 degrees when we’re home. And the heater doesn’t kick on until it’s 65 degrees in the house. But usually the temperature is between 65-70 depending on who’s home. With the Nest there is no need to set preferences – within a week, the Nest learning thermostat starts programming itself. It learns your habits and adjusts automatically, regulating your home’s temperature based on your schedule – which can save you energy and money.


Programmable Nest Thermometer

When used with the new Netgear exclusive router (on store shelves 11/4) you’ll be able to increase or decrease the temperature whenever you need to, even if you’re upstairs! This is a brand new router that was exclusively developed between Netgear, an industry leader in the networking world, and Best Buy, to help provide consumers with an easy, all-in-one solution to support their home’s connected devices.

Best Buy makes it easy with this new high performance Wi-Fi router, which includes a Wi-Fi extender and Geek Squad Set Up and Support via phone & web, for one full year. The Geek Squad service via phone & web allows customers to call or get help 24/7 whenever they want, vs. the need to schedule an appointment. Plus they’re always so friendly and helpful when you do connect with them!

home energy efficiency tips filtertone alarm

4. Check your appliances

Appliances make up about 17% of the average home’s energy usage. Refrigerators, clothes washers and dryers are at the top of that list. Make sure that your fridge temperature is set between 38-40 degrees F and your freezer is set to 0 degrees F. Use a digital thermometer to check the temperature.

If you have appliances older than 10 years you should consider investing in a newer, more energy efficient model.

5. Test your hot water

Heating water for bathing, washing clothes, and dishes accounts for as much as 15-30% of your household energy use. And the temperature setting of the hot water heater determines the energy used to heat your water. Make sure to check your hot water temperature with a digital thermometer. The temperature should be between 120 and 130 degrees F.

Don’t forget the insulation! Hot water heaters also need to be insulated. If the shell of the heater feels warm to the touch then it should be wrapped in an insulating blanket.

If your hot water heater is 15 years old it might be time to replace it. Look for replacement tanks that have an energy factor of over .62 for gas and .93 for electric. Gas-heated tankless water heaters save about 320% on your yearly energy usage.

home energy efficiency tips digital thermometer

6. Turn off your lights and computer

By simply turning off your lights when not in use, or installing timers to turn them off for you, you can save a lot on your utility bill!

Consider solar lights for the outside of your home or in your garden. Not only will they not be using electricity but you can still feel safe knowing the lights are on outside. We love our solar powered motion censored light out in our front and back yards.

Take a walk around the house and make note of the equipment that is plugged in but not being used. Consider unplugging these devices or investing in a smart strip. Smart strips are easy and convenient to use and will shut off the power to devices that are plugged into it but not in use. You can reduce your energy output by 21$ with just one smart strip installed!

home energy efficiency tips smart strip

Incentives from your local utility, plus federal tax credits and other options, can save you thousands of dollars on your Energy Upgrade. It takes a little bit of research and some work but you, too, can reap the rewards of having an energy efficient home and feel good about saving money and conserving energy.

If you decide to do a whole house energy upgrade it’s best to start with a professional home audit. Your local utility company can provide you with a list of auditors and may even cover all or some of the cost!

How do you save on your utility bill?

Learning with Minecraft: Tips For Incorporating STEM Lessons In Everyday Life

I am part of the Microsoft Blogger Program and receive incentives from Microsoft to blog about its products.

Learning with Minecraft Tips For Incorporating STEM Lessons In Everyday Life

As I have mentioned previously, my son has quite the obsession with Minecraft right now. It all started with a few mentions of Minecraft 1-2 years ago from his cousin. He wasn’t too interested back then but learned the basics about what it actually was. We went over to one of his friend’s houses for a birthday party before the start fo summer and the kids ended up playing Minecraft after swimming for a few hours. It was then he started begging for us to download Minecraft for him to play at home.

We don’t have an updated gaming console that he could purchase a Minecraft game for so I decided to download the Minecraft Pocket Edition on our tablet to try it out. I wasn’t quite ready to give him access to our PC just yet and testing the game out on the tablet seemed like the safest idea. No connection to the internet and he got a taste for what Minecraft was all about.

Then we were invited for a pool party at the same friend’s house and again they played Minecraft. He realized that the Minecraft he was playing was severely lacking in the options the PC version provided. So I did a little more research on the game and decided he was ready to move up. And luckily a whole new version of  Minecraft was on its way called Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta.

Learning with Minecraft Tips For Incorporating STEM Lessons - Engineering

So I bit the bullet when it came out on July 29th and downloaded it onto our Surface Pro 3. Since he was used to playing the Pocket Edition on a tablet, having the full game on the Surface Pro 3 made things easy to transition. He knew exactly what he was doing and in tablet mode could easily maneuver throughout the game with ease.

One thing I love about Minecraft is that it’s a gateway into programming and engineering. From choosing what color your character’s hair is, to creating new worlds and lands by building up their villages and empires, kids are getting a hands on learning experience through gaming. And my son is eating it up!

At first I was worried he’d become “addicted” to the game and always want to play it. And in the beginning he did go a little crazy. He’d constantly ask me to log him in to play (safety first, right?). But then we roped him in and let him know that he only had a certain time he could play each day. After that was up, he could earn more time by doing a few math problems. But then after that he was done until the next day. So in addition to STEM learning, he’s also learning to utilize his time playing wisely.

Learning with Minecraft Tips For Incorporating STEM Lessons - Technology

We’ve kept him offline and for the most part he sticks with the creative mode. This means that he’s not interacting with others online yet. And he has all of the building materials he needs. He doesn’t need to search for them. At age 6 I’m not quite ready for him to be playing a game online without me being right next to him. But he’ll be ready to take on bigger responsibilities in the near future. And this is a great way to start teaching him about the online world.

As I learn more and more about Minecraft and how it can be utilized to spark inspiration in children and get them thinking about STEM topics, I consider the other possibilities of using Minecraft as a teaching tool. I even saw a Minecraft Programming class offered this summer that I would have loved to sign my son up for. I’m still considering tracking down the info again and seeing if they’ll offer an after school class or two for his school. What a great way to get kids interested in these subjects, right?

Has your child caught the Minecraft bug? Do you think it’s a positive way to increase opportunity for STEM learning?

Just like the first release of Minecraft, Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta will develop and evolve over time with the help of our feedback. Players who already have the PC edition of Minecraft can download the Windows 10 beta version free. Others can download “Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition” at a discounted price of $10 throughout the beta period. 

Players who download “Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition” during the beta phase will still have the game when it comes out of beta, and receive all future updates to the game at no additional cost. Download Minecraft beta or Minecraft Windows 10 Edition at the Windows 10 Store today.



© A Crafty Spoonful - All Rights Reserved
It is OK to use one of my photos provided a link back and/or proper credit is given. It is NOT ok to copy and paste a whole post including instructions. Please do not remove watermarks or alter images in any way. Please contact me with any questions at danielle@acraftyspoonful.com

.