Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Does a Smart Phone and Pandora beat Sirius Satellite Radio?

It depends.  I love Pandora.  It rekindled my love for music and expanded my taste in music.  Some of my favorite Pandora stations are Taylor Swift, Bee Gees, and Old Crow Medicine Show.  All three are genres I wouldn't listen too without being able to try them on Pandora.

I'm also a fan of Sirius, although not as much since I found Pandora.  I like Sirius' selection and love the technology--it's great to listen to the same station for hours at a time in the car without interruption.  On the boat in the middle of Lake Michigan it's a life saver.  The music selection, however, doesn't seem as broad as Pandora's.

My other favorite app is TuneIn Radio.  It boasts over 70,000 radio stations across the world.  I can use it to listen to nearly any music or talk radio station in the world.  I'm listening to folk music from Snow Hill Island, Antarctica as I type this.

When my 4+ year old Sirius receiver stopped working about the time I got my Nexus 4 with T-Mobile service and Karen her iPhone 5 with Sprint, I had a decision to make:  replace the Sirius and continue paying $150/year, or make use of the smart phones and apps.  I decided to try the smart phone and apps and bought the GOgroove FlexSMART X2 Wireless In-Car Bluetooth FM Transmitter from Amazon.  After a month...

The Good

  • Sound quality is better than Sirius.  Pandora through both the Nexus and iPhone has a richer, fuller sound.  The Sirius sounds tinny in comparison.
  • I enjoy the musical selection more than Sirius.  It's easier to find music that fits my mood, and there are no annoying DJs.
  • It doesn't use that much data.  In my first month I haven't come close to using the 2GB of data T-Mobile gives me as part of my plan.
  • It's less expensive than Sirius, even with the Pandora One subscription ($3.99/month).
The Bad
  • You're dependent on the mobile data network.  It's fine in the city.  It can be a problem in rural areas.  On a recent trips to Frankenmuth, Michigan (near Saginaw) and Bloomington, Indiana there were stretches without any music from either of our phones.  This was NEVER a problem with Sirius.
  • It didn't "just work" like the Sirius did.  Karen's phone doesn't consistently pair to the FlexSmart and you have to take the phone out of your pocket or bag to play music, a pain on a multiple stop trip.
  • If you like Sirius's programming (i.e. Saturday Night Safety Dance, Top 40 countdowns from the  '80s) you're out of luck. 
  • I had had to change radio frequencies every few miles in the city.  I've since solved the problem by using the Sirius FM Relay Kit I already had in the car. 
The Verdict

It's not a perfect replacement for Sirius, but good enough for me.  I don't mind tinkering and can live with the bad.  For Karen who likes simplicity, it's not good enough.  We'll probably get another Sirius receiver and renew our subscription.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fixing an iPhone 3's WiFi (Baking an iPhone)

This is not a technical how-to article.  This is testimonial about how information on the Internet helped me to fix a complex piece of technology.  Anyone with simple tools, manual dexterity, and the ability to follow directions can do this.
This is what my wife's iPhone 3 looks like, in pieces

I'm inherently curious.  I enjoy learning.  I want to know how things work.  I also enjoy a challenge.  When my wife's iPhone 3 lost WiFi some time ago, I had to fix it.  After experimenting with the configuration settings I determined it had to be a hardware problem.  I did some research and found it was most likely related to cracked solder and the fix was to bake it.

This guy explains why baking an iPhone 3 works and how to do it.

We weren't ready for a new phone yet, and Karen could live without WiFi, so I didn't pursue it...  Until this weekend.  Karen finally got a new iPhone 5 a few weeks ago.  My son, Emmet, wanted her old phone to use as an iPod (games and videos) but it wasn't very useful without a network connection, so I decided to fix it.  

Saturday morning was a stay at home day.  Instead of reading, watching TV, or doing something else passively, I invested an hour to see what I could do.  These instructions from iFixit gave me the information I needed to take the printed circuit board out.  20 minutes later I had the printed circuit board in the oven.

Lo and behold, 25 minutes later (7 minutes to bake, the rest to cool an reassemble), WiFi worked!

The moral of this story:  Know what questions to ask and you get the information you need to fix.

None of the software fixes worked, but there were several references to baking the phone.

I followed the directions I found (linked earlier in this article) and an hour later the problem was fixed.

There's a lot of incorrect or misleading information on the Internet, but with a little reading you'll find a general consensus and be able to triangulate the best answer for your situation.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Why a new blog?  I enjoy sharing my thoughts through writing.  My first blog was Sail Donnybrook where I write about sailing on Lake Michigan.  I write most during the boating season, which is around the corner, so expect some new articles soon.

I starting Cycling, Health, and Fitness but lost interest.  It's more fun to ride a bike and exercise than it is to write about it.  I still ride as often as I can, but not as much as I'd like.

I found Google Plus and am enjoying learning about it.  I recently got a new phone, a Google Nexus 4.  It's a fantastic device, especially when compared to the Blackberry I carried for so many years.  It's opening up a new level of enjoyment just learning about it.

More to come soon.