Help Fight Cancer and Win a Griffin Elan Form Graphite iPhone Case

It’s been a long time since we’ve run a contest here at Randomn3ss, this one not only has a unique prize for all you iPhone owners out there, the cause and benefit is far greater.  This contest will also be run in a slightly different fashion, hopefully easier to enter for everyone.

The prize is a Griffin Elan Form Graphite iPhone 3G Case, possibly one of the nicest, most modern cases I’ve seen for the iPhone with a similar to carbon fiber look on the back.

griffin-elan-form-graphite-for-iphone

Not only is the Elan Form one of the most attractive cases, it’s one of the most functional.  Griffin, a company that constantly puts out products that impress, included the EasyDock function into the case.  The lower 1/3rd of the case slides off allowing you to properly dock your 3G iPhone into nearly any device without an adapter.   A shatter-proof polycarbonate inner shell protects your beloved iPhone while a static peel screen guards the touch-screen.  They even include a cleaning cloth!  At $35 retail, this is worth every cent to protect the spendy investment of an iPhone.

The Contest

Starting right now, the contest is open to anyone in the USA (sorry everyone else, shipping / customs becomes a pain) and will run through midnight EST on May 31st, 2009.  To enter the contest, make a donation on my behalf to the Livestrong Challenge I’m riding my bike in this August, read why I’m doing it and click the link to donate here.  You will receive one entry into the contest for every $5 you donate, no limit.  For example, if you donate $25 you will receive five entries.  On June 1st I will tally up all the entries and draw one at random, please make sure you use a valid email when you donate, as that is how I will contact you.  All donations go directly to the Livestrong Foundation, no money will go to me and all donations are tax deductible.

Warranty Woes

Call me unlucky.  My late father used to say that if  there were one hundred items on a shelf, and one was defective, then he was surely going to pick that one.  I seem to have inherited that wonderful trait. Although some of the warranties were honored with either a repair, an exchange, or a complete refund, that does still not negate the fact that i’ve the worst luck in consumer history!

Here’s a small list of the many items that I have had to warranty, exchange, or attempt to get a refund on in the last year.

Elliptical Exercise Machine

Last year I purchased an Elliptical from a company through Amazon.  The unit came in about a week.  Within 20 minutes of my wife exercising on it, it made a clicking noise, then a horrendous grinding sound, and finally, before she got off the machine, it started spitting pieces of plastic from the spinning wheel.

Result:  We put it out with the trash.  It cost an extra few dollars for trash removal that month.

Elliptical Exercise Machine #2

Two months ago, we decided to get the same machine.  It had to be an isolated incident right?  Within 10 minutes of assembly, you guessed it, the same clicking noise.  No, my wife does NOT exceed the weight limit of the machine if that’s what you’re thinking.

I immediately got on the phone to the company.  The representative listened as my wife operated the elliptical, and she said  “oh I thought we took care of that problem!”  I explained that we had purchased the same machine last year, and it did the same thing, in just as little time.

Result:  The representative said I would receive another machine within a week.  I tracked the package and saw that indeed it was on its way.  I came home after work and on my porch was a new elliptical machine.  My wife and I were pleased with the prompt replacement.

Two days later, we came home and there is another Elliptical on my porch.  Now I had three ellipticals, two in boxes in my living room, and one assembled that didn’t work and headed for the trash.

I checked the tracking, and noticed that the package was resheduled to be delivered the following week.  What?  That would make FOUR ellipticals!  I called the same representative again and explained the issue.  She canceled the package in transit, sent a call tag to UPS to pickup a damaged item, the first one, and was to issue a calltag for the extra machine.

I still have a broken Elliptical machine and one in a box in my living room, total failure of a company to do anything right.

Coleman Queen Airbed

This was purchased at WalMart last summer.  Within a couple of weeks the mattress didn’t hold air.  No wonder it comes with a patch kit!  I brought it to WalMart to exchange it.  After every customer service employee attempted to figure out a solution, a manager was called over.  I was told that there is a 14 day return policy.  I looked at the receipt.  No such policy there.  I was told it was posted with the mattresses.  I bought it from an endcap with sale items, not in the sports department.  The employee from sports told the manager, in my presence, that yes, there was an endcap a couple weeks before, and that NO, there was NOT a copy of the policy posted with them.  The manager stuck to his guns.  No refund. I said all I wanted was an exchange.  He said no exchanges either.

Result:  I contacted Coleman directly.  They would issue a refund in a couple of weeks if I sent a copy of the receipt, and cut the valve out of the mattress and mail it to them.  I did.  I called about the check four weeks later.  I would have the check in a couple of weeks.  The refund came as promised a few weeks after my follow up call.  Yes, I still shop at WalMart.

Parents Magazine Rubber Blocks

We bought a package of safe rubber blocks for our son.  Two days later, and maybe three minutes of playing with them, a one inch circle on one side of the block came off. Easily small enough for a seven month old to choke on or swallow.

I researched the company and called customer service.  I explained, and was assured I would receive a replacement set in a week.  I was assured this was not a known issue, but they did know that it would not happen again.

I called three weeks later.  I called again the next day, and the next, and the next.  Finally, after hearing that the woman who answers for this small company was away from her desk, I left a message.  I stated how I had the Consumer Affairs Department, the Better Business Bureau local to the company, and that I would pursue these outlets if the woman did not come to her desk in short time to reply to my calls.

Result:  I had a return voicemail within a few hours.  The blocks were back ordered, so the company was waiting for a delivery.  I would have the replacement blocks in a week or so.  They did arrive, but only after feverish follow up.

Apple iPhone

I bought the first generation iPhone two weeks before the 3G came out.  I think it was last May.  Six months later in November, the ringer on/off toggle switch did not toggle anymore.  It just flopped around sort of inside the phone case.  I scheduled an appointment at the Genius Bar at the local Apple Store to get the problem fixed.

Result:  Easiest warranty repair ever!  The man at the Genius Bar asked if I had backed up my data recently, popped out my Sim card, popped it in a new iPhone, and within three minutes I was all set.  I walked out with a brand new iPhone.

Apple iPhone #2

Wednesday, after having about all I could take with the home button working intermittently, I made an appointment at the Genius Bar again.  I started to explain how the button was intermittent, and was interrupted with the same question.  Did I backup my data?  I said I had that morning.

Result:  New iPhone #3 in less than three minutes.  I may have a PC, but I love Apple’s Warranty and Exchange Policy. I am seriously thinking of getting a MacBook next time, but that won’t be any time soon since I just bought this here laptop, but that’s another story.

Sidebar: Unfortunately I backed my phone up to a computer that the next day would bite the dust in more ways than one, so I now have an iPhone with it’s date intact, but a new laptop that won’t sync to it unless I get that backup file on the new laptop.  Who knew?

XBox 360

I was one of the lucky thirteen people to get an XBox 360 in the KMart raffle at midnight the night it was released.  There were over 200 people there, and we each got a ticket.  People were selling their tickets for $20 to $50 for a CHANCE to buy one!  At number thirteen, my number was chosen!  What luck.  There were only about four or five games released that night.  I bought three, the remote, and an extra controller.

Result:  Ever hear of the Red Ring of Death?  KMart saw me the next day.  The games are not returnable.  Can’t I get a break?

Motorola Razr

I bought a pink Razr cell phone for my wife on her birthday from eBay.  The battery cover was a different color.  The battery didn’t hold a charge.  Here we go again.  I DID purchase a SquareTrade Warranty with this item, which I don’t usually do.  I contacted the company I bought the phone from.  They are a Power Seller on eBay.  Great feedback.  I could see why, as they sent me another battery and battery cover.

I also contacted SquareTrade when the phone started to have issues within a couple of months.  I was told to contact Motorola, so I did.  Motorola said to contact the seller, so I did.  The seller said that I got the SquareTrade warranty, so contact SquareTrade.  Geesh!

Result. My wife still uses the phone.  It works.  She has two batteries that hold a charge for a couple of hours each.  At least the battery cover color now matches.

Not all purchases go this way for me, but I have never heard of another person having such terrible luck.  Some purchases have been great, such as the Toshiba Satellite Laptop that lasted me for several years, or the Toyota Camry that ran like a top until someone decided to T-Bone me while going to a Novell class.

As you can see, I don’t usually purchase the extended warranty when I make purchases, but when I do there are a few rules I follow when deciding.

Item Price to Extended Warranty Price Ratio

I know companies have worked on this ratio extensively to make the price acceptable to the widest range of consumers, but there are times when the warranty price is much too close to a complete product replacement.  This is especially true for electronics.

For example, a 5.1 Surround Sound set from Wal-Mart.  I bought the basic DuraBrand set which was drastically reduced in price.  The set was normally around $99.  It was reduced to $39.  The warranty option was still based on the regular retail price of up to $99, so to add the warranty would have cost me $19 at the time.  50% of what the product cost me.  No deal.

Likelihood of the Item Becoming Faulty

I have purchased warranties on my wifes engagement ring and both our wedding rings.  Good idea too because one of my wifes diamonds became loose.  If we did not have the warranty option, we would have had to pay several hundred dollars for a loose diamond, as well as to have it set.  The warranty was not much at all, so under the Price to Warranty Ratio, it was a good buy.

It’s a good idea to get extended warranties on jewelery with rare gemstones that can become loose or fall out.

Warranty Coverage – Repair or Replacement

This is of great importance.  Mail-in service does not interest me in the least.  Dell has such a plan.  I don’t know about you, but i’m not willing to mail in a computer for a repair.  Especially when I could most likely buy the part for less than the postage

Replacement coverage is where I give the option some great thought.  As seen above, I have the Apple iPhone.  I am on my third phone, and have spent all of 10 minutes with a representative getting replacements.  My warranty is up on June 2nd.  For $60 I can add another year of coverage, and I can buy this coverage all the way up to that day.  For me this is a definate no-brainer.  I will most likely in June be buying the new iPhone, and will have a shiny new original iPhone to give to my wife to replace her Motorola Razr.

Warrantying Company

If a warranty is covered by a third party, I never buy it.  If you have ever had to deal with a middle man when it comes to a repair, you know where I am coming from.  The same goes for Authorized Repair Centers.

I had a Kenwood In-Dash Stereo that needed repair once.  I brought it to an authorized service center.  It was to take two weeks.  Two weeks later, I went to pick it up.  I was informed that since they were very busy they had not even diagnosed it yet.  I could still see the stereo with the check-in tag sitting o the shelf.  I brushed off the dust and took it home.  I bought a Clarion Pro Audio later that afternoon.

Authorized repair centers usually do not cover just the product you purchased.  In the case I just mentioned, it was a television and electronic repair center.  For their own service they charged a much higher rate than they would be paid for the warranty repair wich is most likely a flat rate plus parts, so my item under warranty was not a priority.

And the best advice I can give, whether you purchase a warranty or not is to always, always, always save your receipt and paperwork.  I have a filing cabinet for all of my important papers.  In this cabinet are folders with manuals to all products I buy that have a manufacturers warranty, with the purchase receipt either inside the manual or stapled to the cover.

This way when there is an issue, which as you can see with my luck there often is, it is just a matter of opening the folder and finding the products paperwork.

Apple AppleCare Website As long as your Apple product is still under the manufacturer warranty, you can add an AppleCare extended warranty.  Apple warranties are a bit pricey, but after using their warranty first-hand more than once, I am sold.  Great buy if you have an Apple product.

SquareTrade The great thing about SquareTrade is that you can warranty nearly any item, new, used, or refurbished that is purchased through eBay, and for low rates.

The Best Buy 2 year warranty for my new laptop was $79.99.  Through SquareTrade, it costs $59.99 for 3 years.

Consumer Affairs To find the Consumer Affairs Department local to you, just do a search with the locality and “consumer affairs”.  Here you can lodge a complaint about a company, just as you can with the BBB, but Consumer Affairs is a division of government.  If all else fails, a simple mention of this department to a retailer may get their attention.

Better Business Bureau

Pretty much a middle man when it comes to issues between consumers and companies. The Better Business Bureau is a great tool to lodge a complaint, or check a company’s reputation locally before you do business with them.  Businesses do listen to these complaints usually, as you can easily see by doing a local search for a company you might know.  Most issues are resolved in a timely manner.

Griffin Powerdock multiple iPod / iPhone charging base

This is a guest post by Sarah of Living Vegan on her experiences with the new Griffin Powerdock multiple base charger for iPods and iPhones.

The Griffin PowerDock is for charging nearly every version iPod and iPhone and claims to eliminate family wars over power cables;  and it does just that. The PowerDock is available with two or four Apple Universal power docks; I opted for the quad model since my husband and I both have multiple i-Products and am quite pleased. Included with the base are 12 dock adapters to properly hold and support the various versions of iPods and both generations of iPhones for charging.

The option to plug in four i-Products at once has simplified and organized my life. I like clean lines in my home and try to eliminate clutter as much as possible. Being of the opinion that less is more, I am not always quick to purchase new ‘gadgets’ but the PowerDock fits into my minimalist mentality. It eliminates the untidiness of multiple cords, plugs, and power blocks coming out of every outlet. Until now, those cords were necessary to ensure that my iPhone and iPod would be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Since the base accommodates four products at once, I am able to plug in my iPhone, my husband’s iPhone, and both of our iPods at the same time. There are no more spousal arguments over whose phone deserves to be charged more than the other. It also eliminates the internal battle of deciding which is more important to charge first, my phone (so I can receive business calls) or my iPod (so I can watch the latest episode of Dexter while I run on the treadmill). With the PowerDock those marital arguments and existential struggles are all abolished.

From an aesthetic perspective, not only does the PowerDock eliminate clutter, the brushed aluminum exterior will fit into any modern living space. The dock itself is very sturdy, with a non-slip bottom that will keep it securely on your countertop or desk. The cord is long enough to reach a hidden outlet and since there is a power block built into the base, there is no need to plug it into a surge protector which further reduces the need for extraneous wires and cords.

Another feature that struck me was the environmentally friendly packaging. The base came in a small reinforced cardboard box with the instruction manual printed on the inner lid, thus eliminating the unnecessary extra packaging and papers that normally accompany the purchase of a new electronic item. Since the packing materials consisted of just the box, it was completely recyclable.

I have only one caveat, in my older (late 1800s) home, the power drawn from four i-Products charging at once draws a lot of current from a single outlet making it difficult to run anything else from that outlet while the iPhones and iPods are charging.

I strongly recommend this product to anyone with more than one iPhone or iPod in their home.  It reduces clutter, is visually applealing, and extremely convenient for charging multiple iPhones and iPods at the same time.

Things that have improved over time: Griffin iTrip Auto Universal Plus

I can still remember the joy of getting my first iPod nearly five years ago, a 4th generation photo iPod, 40gb in size.  It was great, albeit one problem, listening to it in a car was almost impossible.  Sure they made tape adapters but who had a tape deck in their car anymore?  Surely not me!  Along came a company who filled the need I had by selling the iTrip, a small device that plugged into my iPod, and along with some software played the music in my car stereo.  It was the first generation one and the software was a big buggy, but it worked well enough that I enjoyed it up until the point my iPod was stolen.  I still have the original iTrip somewhere floating around, a relic of this company who has really started to fill needs that I seem to have.

Newly announced from Griffin Technology is the iTrip Auto Universal Plus, taking the concept of the original iPod specific iTrip one step further.  This new device works through your cars cigarette lighter and features SmartScan technology to find the vacant FM station to broadcast music through, no software needs to be loading onto your device.  It’s called Universal because there is no limitation on what audio devices this will work with, so it’s 100% compatible with:

  • iPod
  • Zune
  • iPhone
  • Portable CD Player
  • Walkman (seriously)
  • Any other MP3 Player

Possibly the most ingenious innovations with this device is the Plus ability to flip the back off the power adapter and plug in a USB cable, allowing you to charge your device (iPods, Zunes, etc. that are normally charged by USB).  This means you use the standard cable that came with your device to charge it, while it’s playing in your car!

Buy the iTrip Auto Universal Plus through Amazon.

Powered by DailyMile!

Last month I was happy to announce that DailyMile had gone public, and I have been using it as an early Beta tester to track miles and workouts, which in turn helped me to meet and exceed some of my goals.  At the same time, Kelly and Ben, the amazing co-owners of DailyMile held a contest giving away a 1gb iPod shuffle, I won!

It arrived almost two weeks ago, but this is the first chance I’ve had to take a quality photo and write the article.  Check out the engraving!  I was planning on buying one anyway for running outside when Pennsylvania thaws out, so I couldn’t be happier when it was announced I had won!

Thank you Kelly and Ben for such an amazing site and community, and the personalized shuffle!  Start tracking your miles now at www.dailymile.com and add me as a friend, try to catch my mileage!

Hava gets SociableTV & iPhone client

Huge new updates announced for the Hava, the device that plays your local TV stations to your computer that I reviewed last month.  These should be out by Q2 this year and look pretty amazing.

SociableTV is a social web portal site that lets HAVA owners share their live TV viewing experience (e.g. sporting events) with multiple friends. Monsoon’s technology enables friends to watch and experience live television as if they are sitting on the sofa next to each other – without having to download anything.

Best part is, no additional cost!

In more amazing news, iPhone / iTunes users get a client and full integration if you are using a DVR as well.

The HAVA Player for iPhone allows HAVA customers to view and control their home television and services, including satellite and TiVo, from anywhere in the world.

An on-screen remote lets viewers change channels, browse a program guide, pause, view recorded shows and more with virtually any TV source, including cable, satellite receiver, or DVR, in real time via the iPhone touch screen interface. The HAVA Player for iPhone provides the same television place-shifting experience offered by Monsoon’s PC, Windows Mobile and S60 Symbian mobile players.

Monsoon has also added the capability for users to export their HAVA DVR recordings to iTunes to watch their recorded content on their iPod and iPhone, enabling HAVA owners to take their recorded television content with them on airplanes or other places where a connection can be lost.

Look for these new features in Q2 and keep an eye on Monsoon Multimedia’s website.

NO NO NO! Christmas light privileges should be taken away from this person

Twitter user @insomnic sent out a tweet a few minutes ago with a link that makes me want to kill people.  OK not really kill them, but this person should have their Christmas light privileges should be taken away from them.  Before I share the link, let me explain what this most annoying holiday site is,

three Christmas webcams for a live view of over 20,000 Christmas lights and also CONTROL them – heck, you can even inflate (or deflate) the giant Elmo, Frosty, Santa, and Homer Simpson – D’OH!

Because that’s not enough, you also will have to put up with a Santa cursor that you can change the size of, I suggest trying Hulk’in mode. Best yet, you can send text messages to change views and control things. This is truely insane, and possibly one of the worst laid out web pages I’ve ever seen.  Graphic designers and web monkeys, please be prepare your barf bags.

Now, please enjoy Alek’s CONTROLLABLE Christmas Lights.

What would possess someone to do this?  A love of crispy fried chicken and charity.  Alek is competing in the Controllable Christmas Lights for Celiac Disease contest put on by KFC.  So there is a good cause here, but it still makes me want to curl up in a ball under my desk and cry with fear like a little girl.

At about the same time, Twitter user @scpi showed me this:

[googlevideo]http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8290192083117426204[/googlevideo]

Seems the creator of these lights is Carson Williams, internet fame brought him so much attention he started his own business, Cosnar Lights, where him and his wife do custom Christmas light installations.

Interactive LED Coffee Table

From today’s earlier article about fwdfwdfwd, this is something that Kevin was talking about in the diggnation podcast, and I found the link on the second page and the inner-geek in me wants this.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkmpIXd9Q90[/youtube]

The table is built by none other than Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, the same people that made bristlebots more than 2 years ago.  For just under $2,000 you can get one of your very own from Because We Can.

Griffin RoadTrip with SmartScan hands-on review

This is a guest post / article by Becky Stone.

Impressive. That is all I can say about the Griffin RoadTrip with SmartScan. I have used similar products previously to play music from my iPod to my car radio but after purchasing an iPod Touch, nothing was on the market to support it. I am not the type to have wires hanging all over the car like a booby-trap so I refused to give up the wireless feature; going the FM transmitter route was the only acceptable way for me. Also, the wireless feature needed to have a secure arm to hold the weight of the iPod Touch because I shouldn’t have to worry it falling over out of my reach while driving. While searching for these needs, it was necessary for me to be pricing conscious.

Griffin’s RoadTrip with SmartScan offers me a wireless connection with a strong arm but flexible to hold the weight. It is the latest technology where it actually scans for a clear channel for me without shuffling through the stations. A command on the RoadTrip itself is to find three clear choices with the SmartCcan. I can then pick one of the three by pushing the corresponding button then go to the radio and find the station.

The first station I pick from is a failure because of too much static and so is the second. However, scanning one more time and the RoadTrip gave me three new stations to choose a winner and I finally found a radio station with clear reception. Reception varies depending where you are in the country and how many radio stations are available. The website instructions that came with are simple and straight forward, telling me it’s a breeze to setup and it really is! It’s best to set up radio choices and adjusting the arm before leaving your driveway and is not recommended to setup while driving to your next destination.

Some unexpected features I came across while using to set up the RoadTrip:

  • Swivel Rotation Scroll through music by looking at album covers or playing/watching music videos (not recommended while driving).

  • Digital Display Displays what station you’re on at all times and navigates through all options on the RoadTrip.
  • Station Presets By presetting your favorite three clear station opportunities allows more time to focus on the road and less time trying to find a clear station.
  • Charger The RoadTrip plugs into a cigarette lighter and charges the iPod while using it in the car; so you can pick up and go on a full charge.

All in all, a great product. The RoadTrip delivers on all the features it brags about and is very user friendly. I would be curious to see how it does on long destination trips. I know that the clear station would change frequently so you’re station preset feature wouldn’t come in handy at all. But it is something you could deal with to listen to your favorite songs for your entire ride to and from home.

Griffin Technology RoadTrip with Smartscan official product page.
If you are interested in writing a guest post, please use the Contact page.

Hava Titanium HD plays your local TV programs almost anywhere

You want one of these.  It’s that simple.  If you watch TV on any kind of regular basis the Hava Titanium HD TV device is a godsend.  A product of Monsoon Multimedia, the Hava lets you wirelessly stream television content via your home network and watch from anywhere with a broadband internet connection, including cell phones.

So why do you want one? Same reasons I do.  I pay for cable TV at home and have a really nice 42″ plasma hung on the wall in my living room.  I’ve made the choice to not put a TV in my bedroom but now and again I wouldn’t mind watching TV there.  The Hava plugs into your home network and either your cable box or your television and rebroadcasts your TV stations onto a computer, cell phone, etc.   With the Hava, I can stream TV from my plasma (it doesn’t need to be turned on) to my Macbook while laying in bed and watch the same channels as if I was sitting on my couch in the living room.

Likewise, I could flip through the 130 channels from my cable provider while on my lunch hour at work, on my Macbook using my works Wi-Fi connection.  This is a great product for business people who spend lots of time in random hotel rooms (that have Wi-Fi) but crappy television options.  You can even stream to some cell phones!

Hava Titanium aso function as a PVR. You can record, pause, fast forward, and rewind live TV right on your computer. Recorded shows are stored on your PC’s hard drive, or on an external USB drive (sold separately). After you’ve recorded shows, you can burn them onto DVD for archiving or viewing during those instances when you don’t have an Internet connection.

Earlier this week I received one of these in the mail.  This weekend it will be hooked up and put through it’s paces for a follow-up article sometime early next week.