Galaxy Nexus – Best Phone Ever?

Ever since I got rid of my iPhone and moved farther away from iTunes and the whole Apple ecosystem, I’ve tried quite a few different devices. Because I was funding my transition from device to device out of my own pocket, it hasn’t been a fast or cheap adventure. As an AT&T customer since the early 2000’s, I’ve fulfilled my fair share of contracts and purchased many subsidized phones. Today, I couldn’t be less interested in 2-year contracts and cheap upgrade prices. Enter the Galaxy Nexus…

iPhone users are quick to point out that while Android devices do have very similar functionality, the Android landscape is very complex. For the most part, they are correct. Here you have Google handing out a free operating system and a plethora of manufacturers waiting to destroy it. By “destroy”, I simply mean that they decide to add their own software which sits[pullquote_right]A 2-year contract carries over more than your promise to stay onboard with just cell service.[/pullquote_right]
on top of Android like a heavy fog in a city park. In most cases, this extra software adds a great deal of functionality that jives perfectly with the physical features of the phone. For the most part, the lines between Android and the add-ons are blurred, but once you pick up a Samsung device and compare it to an HTC device and then compare it again to a Motorola device, you start to feel like you’re holding three very distinct Android versions. In fact, you’re probably looking at the same version, but aren’t used to seeing the vast differences between manufacturer-skinned Android software. On top of this, you have the carriers adding their own software, network logos and other features all while blocking certain apps and hardware functions. This is simply unfair marketing.

Bloatware Abounds

For example, Google Wallet is a really sick piece of software that uses Near Field Communication (NFC) to allow you to pay for products at supporting retailers simply by choosing a digitally saved copy of your credit card information on your phone and touching the phone to the receiver at the register. This is a perfect marriage between hardware and software, but AT&T and Verizon block the app from being used on all their Android devices!! Why?! Because they are in a joint venture with T-Mobile to create a competing service called ISIS that does the same thing. The problem I have with this is what if I prefer to trust Google with my account information or maybe I like their software better…why can’t I choose what service to use? Apparently, the carriers feel that a 2-year contract carries over more than your promise to stay onboard with just cell service.

Another example of unfair marketing is how AT&T adds their versions of maps, navigation/GPS services and other software that is completely un-removable from the device. Granted, I don’t have to use them if I choose, but why can’t I remove them from MY device?! They just have to sit there taking up space. It doesn’t even end there…AT&T’s partnership with Yellow Pages has placed a permanent entry into my contacts list for the Yellow Pages directory service! It’s at the top of the list and cannot be renamed, deleted or moved.

Lastly, getting the latest Android updates are a nightmare! Because of all this extra software, the Android updates have to come down from Google, get approved and tweaked by the manufacturer, then sent over for the same process at the carriers. The entire process adds months and months onto the expected release time.  So while all the iPhone users are getting their updates on the same day, the Android users are all using different versions for a very long time.

But I digress. Wasn’t I supposed to be chatting about the Galaxy Nexus?!

Galaxy Nexus

Samsung Galaxy NexusOk, so the Galaxy Nexus is a Samsung device that is part of Google’s Nexus program. If you’re unfamiliar with it, WikiPedia has a nice spread about it, but I’ll summarize here. Google contracts with a hardware manufacturer to make a device worthy of a pure Android experience. Up until recently, this program has selected one manufacturer to make one device that is void of any software tweaks and hacks. The manufacturer is only allowed to make the hardware and cannot touch the software.

The Nexus phone came out last November and was only available on Verizon. I have to say that this single device almost made me switch to Verizon, but I stayed on AT&T due to my remaining contract. Needless to say, I was excited when I found out that Google began selling an unlocked GSM version on their website. I can’t seem to locate information on when the GSM version began selling, but I hadn’t seen it until about four months ago. The device sells for $349 + tax and comes unlocked and ready to use on any GSM carrier worldwide. I secured a 3-week old one on CraigsList for $300 tax free about a month ago.

I can’t explain it, but there is nothing like a pure Android experience on a phone! Having come from a Galaxy SII Skyrocket, which is technically a better phone spec-wise, I can say without a doubt that the Nexus is the best phone I’ve ever used. I have just two complaints. One, it’s not 4G and two, it’s stuck at 16GB with no SD card slot. However, the HSPA+ speed is very comparable to 4G considering that 4G isn’t even available in a lot of places yet and the memory issue doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.

But the best part is that there’s no carrier branding, no locks on Google Wallet and no bloatware to laugh at me as I try unsuccessfully to remove. Also, just the other day I discovered that the built-in wi-fi hotspot tethering feature is not blocked either! Normally, AT&T requires you to upgrade to a tethering data plan before they allow you to hook it to your laptop or tablet. This can set you back $60 per month and remove your unlimited data plan if you’re lucky enough to still have one…like I do. The Nexus simply allows me to turn it on, configure a wireless network and be off and running. AT&T has no way of blocking this because the Nexus is not a device that’s registered on their network. In fact, when I log into my AT&T account manager, it doesn’t even recognize what kind of phone I’m using and that pleases me to no end.

For the first time, I feel like I’m on my own terms and have not fallen victim to whatever biddings AT&T and Samsung would like me to follow. I also love the fact that I can take this phone to another country, install a locally serviced SIM card and have cell service without having to pay international roaming fees. As for those pesky software updates that never seem to come…well the Nexus updates come directly from Google so there’s no more waiting.

All of this freedom comes at a price however. Gone for me are the days of subsidized pricing (but then again, so are the contracts) and it appears my device choices are limited, but that’s ok…I was an iPhone user for many years so I’m used to it. I can’t wait for the Nexus 2.

How to cheat Google AdWords and make thousands per day!

That title is right! However, it’s very sarcastic in that I’m not going to show you how to do it any more than I’ll be exposing how it’s done. I know that doesn’t seem to make sense, but what I mean is that this article is an exposé, not a guide. The intent here is not to defame anyone specifically, but to expose a truth about things that are really happening that I don’t completely agree with. And for the record, no, I’m not bitter about not being able to perform these “tricks” myself. I’m just a blogger who actually chose the straight and narrow path of creating a website with actual content that I feel will help users—this article being one specific example.

To help illustrate where I’m going with this, we need to take a little history lesson. First I’ll explain how it used to be, then what it became and then how it is today. Let’s get to it!

Google AdWords

This wonderful service from Google is the exact opposite of AdSense. With AdSense, publishers (like me) can place ads related to content on their website(s) in hopes to make some money from publishing useful and valuable content. Take a look at the banner to the right and at the bottom of this post to see what I mean. Google AdWords is the service that actually places those ads there by allowing advertisers to buy ad space. This service also allows advertisers to buy ad space on Google search results pages (sponsored results). This article will focus mostly on that form of AdWords.
Google AdWords
Every time you search on Google, you’ll see three sponsored search results at the top and a whole list running down the right side of the page. This is a dramatic shortcut for companies and individuals to get their website placed on page 1 of the search results page, whereas without this service, they might be lost hundreds of pages into the results and probably never found by any visitors. Of course this can come at a high price as most companies are paying high dollar amounts for every click that Google sends to their site. So remember that next time you click on a sponsored link—somebody, somewhere has paid for that click.

Affiliate Marketing

In its simple form, affiliate marketing is a way where a company can have you promote their products and give you a % of the revenue as incentive. For example, every product I promote, I will get 4% of its selling price just for sending you over to the site to buy it. I do this constantly and I make no attempt to try and hide this fact. This website costs money to run and in order to offer it to you for free, I try to make what I can by promoting products and services people buy anyway. It costs them nothing to buy things through my site if they were already going to purchase it.

Anyway, with heavy amounts of traffic and lots of people to market to via an email list, you can imagine how much money could be made if people responded to links like these. And some of these affiliates pay direct commissions like say $45 to sign someone up for a credit card. When you start multiplying these numbers by hundreds or thousands of visitors, you can see how it’s “possible” to make $10,000 per day or more.

Now, mix this with Google AdWords and you have a recipe for worldwide domination! Imagine, you could spend some money promoting just an affiliate link and started receiving thousands of clicks per day. Let’s look at an example:

You have an affiliate offer that pays you $45 for every signup. You have an advertising budget of $10,000 per day. You decided to advertise your offer at $0.25 per click. This means you’re willing to spend $10,000 per day for as many 25 cent clicks you can get, which happens to equal 40,000. Google runs your ad campaign and off you go. The next day you look at your numbers. Your ad was shown over 1 million times and received 12,430 clicks. Those clicks cost you $3107.50. However, out of those 12,430 clicks, 153 people signed up for the offer you were pushing. At $45 per signup, you just made $6,885. After soaking up your losses, you made $3777.50 profit.

It’s starting to make sense why you see all over the Internet, ebooks on how to make thousands of dollars per day on Google. Well, maybe not so much anymore because Google caught on to this mayhem.

Google Cracks Down

No, Google was not against making money online and no, they weren’t out to punish the top marketers for utilizing a completely legal system to make tons of cash. What happened was that they realized that everyone was doing this and as a result, legitimate companies were being squeezed out of the sponsored results and/or having to pay much higher dollar amounts to stay on top of all the junk. Remember, it’s a bidding process and the highest bidder gets to be number 1.

What Google did back in 2009 was eliminate the ability to create ads for affiliate links through AdWords. They did this by implementing a harsher review process and most likely huge lists of unacceptable domains and websites. Their goal was to keep the search results clean by only allowing ads to be created that linked to legitimate websites offering real content, products and services.

Of course the debate was launched as to what qualifies as “real” and “valuable” to the end user, but Google’s belief is that the end user would rather be sent to a page that has unique content and important information regarding their original search. An example might be if you searched for how to make money on eBay, you probably would much rather be sent to a page that offers real help and tips for how and where to get products you can sell or techniques on how to make your listings look better instead of being sent to a one-page affiliate link that offers to sell you the super secret eBay sellers handbook for $97.

Personally, I agree. In short, you can no longer (legally according to Google’s terms, not the law) purchase ad space through the AdWords system for direct referral and affiliate links.

The Rockstar Alliance

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This is no joke…that’s their name. For the low price of $1997 plus $297 (or $197 depending on a sale or not) per month, you can have access to a software suite The Rockstar Allianceand training materials that will help you cheat the system. Now, they point out that by using this system, you’re not actually breaking any laws, so you can’t be sent to jail or anything, but you can have your AdWords account suspended or banned. It’s ok though because they will teach you how to create new accounts and show you how to keep them from getting banned. That’s good…I was worried for a second! Ok, moving on…

Before I continue, I want to say that I’m not here to blast these guys and pass judgment on what they’re doing. Personally I would only care if I was somehow losing important visitors and money because of their bogus ads. Fortunately I’m not, so feel free to form your own opinions on this. I’m not here to police anyone, but I thought I’d help inform people so they know upfront what they are getting into if they decide this is for them.

Since I’m not a paying customer of this system, I can’t explain everything that it entails, but from what I’ve seen, I can tell you the following:

They are running a cloaking service via multiple AdWords accounts and proxy servers set up all over the world. The gist of what you do is you create an ad in their system that has two URLs, the real one and the fake one. Once in their system, you then take the fake URL and build an ad around it in Google AdWords just as you would any legitimate website. When the Google bot goes to review the content, they see a legitimate link that contains real content related to your purchased keywords and your ad is approved.

However, when a user clicks on your ad (after seeing a legitimate looking URL, site description and preview image) they are redirected to the REAL URL which is the landing page for your chosen affiliate program. You know…the landing pages you see everyday that always sell something that started out at $197, then got cut to $97 and then got reduced again to $47…oh but only for a limited time, so act fast!! If those figures look familiar to you, it’s because almost every single one of those affiliate offers uses the exact same business model and pricing! I think it’s lame and unoriginal.

To most unsuspecting users, they will either signup for the offer or click the back button, so these guys probably feel like they’re not hurting anyone, but I disagree. For example, if I’m a reputable company that is spending my good hard-earned cash on trying to get people to my site, I don’t think it’s fair that I have to compete with junk sites. Google maintains this thinking and so do many others. The reason for it being unfair isn’t just about money or competition, it’s about quality. Let’s say out of the 10 sponsored links, my company is number 6 and the first 5 are junk affiliate links. A Google search is performed and the user clicks on the first link, finds out it’s junk, clicks back and clicks on the second link. He/she finds out that’s junk too and tries the third link. Feeling frustrated, he/she might try just one more and after finding out the fourth one is also a junk link, they stop clicking on sponsored links.

In this extreme example, my link never got clicked and I could have lost a customer. Of course you could also argue that because my link never got clicked, I also didn’t spend any of my advertising money, but that’s not the point. Google is trying to create an exceptional user experience for both visitors and advertisers. I find that kicking out the affiliate-only websites is a great first start.

My two cents

I’m not a hater. I didn’t try this system and fail so now I’m here to be bitter. As I said in the beginning, I’m a simple blogger running this little website and I make some small about of money doing it. Because of this, I feel like since I’m playing the game by following the rules, I don’t like when I hear that others are not. Plus, in the near future, I might be launching a business in which I will require the services of AdWords and I don’t like the idea of competing with people running these cloaking services.

The other point I always seem to gravitate toward (even when I see money-making ideas on tv) is that if these people were really making tens of thousands per day or even per month, why in the world would they come out and tell the world about how they’re doing it?! Even if you argue that they’re doing it to be charitable and to help out the “littl guy”, why would they feel the need to sell it?

I’ll tell you two facts right now. 1. If I found a way to consistently make $10,000 per day, I wouldn’t tell another human being as long as I lived. 2. Even if I decided to tell someone, I would be making so much money, I wouldn’t need to sell it.

If you’re making $300,000 per month, what would another $2,000 do for you?! At that point, it’s just pocket change. Naturally, these are my opinions and I know that greed is a powerful force, but I think you can see my point. And if you look back into the annals of time, you’ll notice that every single great money-making idea that ever appeared on tv or the Internet has failed in one way or another…bankrupting many people along the way.

All I can say is that this system does work…I saw it work and I know with the right amount of work and dedication, you can make lots of money. Nobody is arguing that. The problem I have with this system is that it’s ethically wrong and once Google finds out how to plug this loophole, the game is over. At least I’ll still be running my little site that keeps growing and growing the right way.

Kindle Fire First Look and Review

I’ve owned the Kindle Fire for about 15 hours now and I’ve gotten a pretty good grasp on how everything works so far. I took some video recordings of me playing around with it, so check out the video below. I’ll start first by saying we should all stop using the phrase “iPad killer” to describe (or potentially describe) any new tablet device that comes on the market. I say this because just like with the iPhone, Apple will always retain a specific share of the market. They have a different eco-system that connects all their devices, so it’s hard to compare new devices and software.

With that said, it should be noted that if you’re using the phrase “iPad killer” to strictly define actual specs of the hardware, then the Amazon Kindle Fire is certainly not an iPad killer. However, that’s ok! In my opinion, it was never intended to be a direct alternative to the iPad. After what I’ve seen so far, the Kindle Fire is simply an e-reader with some extra bells and whistles—and for only $199, that works perfectly.

So, let’s get to it.



Kindle Fire
The Kindle fire is tiny. On Monday, I received the Marware Kindle Fire case that I purchased and it was the first time I got to feel what I was going to be holding the next day. I find that its smaller form factor (when compared to the iPad) is much more convenient. As a male, I don’t have the luxury of carrying around a purse or a handbag to be able to throw a hefty tablet into, so being able to carry the Fire around like a tiny book was key.

The weight of the Fire is 14.6oz which feels a bit heavier than an average bottle of water. This doesn’t seem to cause the same stress pains that holding an iPad will give you after some time. The combination of size and weight also make the Fire much more manageable with one hand.

The overall look of the Fire creates a very streamlined device that only has one button—no volume rockers, no switches and no home button. The Fire has only a power button located on the bottom of the device. This might be an annoyance to those who are used to adjusting volume and locking screen rotation on an iPad. Personally, I only miss having a physical home button. While the software does provide a home button on every screen, it disappears after a while and any unknowing users who may have happened upon your device would be hardpressed to figure out how to get back to the desktop. A simple tap anywhere near the center will bring up the home button and/or any available options for the item you have opened, but still…


Kindle Fire
I’m new to Android and although I had an Android phone for a short while, I’m not too familiar with how fast this OS should run. However, the Kindle Fire does boast a OMPA 4430 dual-core ARM A9 processor that clocks in at 1GHz. This, coupled with the Android-based operating system, creates a very fast user experience when navigating through your device’s content and opening apps and books. You’ll notice a slowdown when loading graphics intensive items such as a game or a full-color magazine, but nothing to complain about too much.

When reading books, the Fire is very responsive and has hardly any lag when turning pages, performing text searches and recalling bookmarked locations. As a trial, I signed up for the Kindle Fire-only Maxim magazine to see how well a full-color digital magazine appeared and I was pleasantly surprised. This is where the speed really shows its capabilities. Because the magazine is a direct copy, page for page of digitally scanned images, it runs a bit on the slow side. But we’re not talking about full seconds here…it’s just noticeably slower than reading through a standard Kindle e-book.


One very important note to consider before buying the Fire is that it only has access to apps within the Amazon-Android app store! This is different than the regular Android app store. The differences have yet to be fully explored yet, but I noticed it when trying to find the Chase Bank mobile app. I know they make an Android version, but so far, it is nowhere to be found on the Kindle Fire. I can’t say for sure why some apps wouldn’t be available, but I thought I’d point out that fact anyway just so you understand that you may not have access to all of the Android apps you’ve come to love.

The few apps I’ve installed so far (Angry Birds Rio, eBay Mobile, Netflix and Pandora) have all performed very well. They all load very fast and have no lag when running. One complaint I have about the apps is that there are a few default apps like Comics, ESPN and IMDB that come on the Fire (but aren’t necessarily installed) in which I can’t get rid of. Any app that you personally download and install can be removed by tapping and holding the icon and then tapping on ‘Remove from device’, but these other default apps are stuck with you.


Kindle Fire
The Amazon Silk browser seriously beats Safari on iPad. With tabbed browsing and the ability to return exactly where you left off (not always the case on iPad) make this browsing experience compelling to say the least. It was also refreshing to finally open a Flash webpage on a mobile device without being devoid of content! I haven’t played around too much with the Internet yet, but Amazon claims that over time, the browser will have cached enough data into the Amazon Cloud that it will be able to load pages faster based on previous web history and trends.

In other words, if you’re going to more shopping sites than blog sites, those pages will load much faster. Also, the ability to bookmark a webpage and have it stored exactly like it appears online is a huge bonus for people who might want to continue reading a page after they’ve exited a wi-fi area.


I’ve already discovered a few minor things that have irked me a bit. I’m sure in time, some of these will get fixed with software updates, but for now, here’s what I don’t like about the Kindle Fire.

  • No physical home button – Apple got this one right for sure. I love a streamlined look, but it’s always nice to have an actual button that will always bring you back to the start.
  • No military time – This is merely a preference, but you’re not able to show the current time in military format, which is commonly used around the world.
  • Can’t change home screen image – When the screen is locked, the background image randomly changes each time, but you’re not able to change it.
  • No app notifications – iOS devices put little notifications on app icons that have updates such as a little number counting how many emails are in your inbox. The Fire doesn’t have these.
  • No app folders – All you have is a favorites list that allows to you place your most used apps on the home screen, but you can’t organize them any other way.

My two cents

I could probably go on all day with the ups and downs of this device, but I’ll end it here and summarize with this: the Kindle Fire is a wonderful device for anyone looking to purchase an e-reader that has a lot of extra features. For me, I sold my iPad because I wasn’t using it as much as I thought I would. In my case, it became a super expensive e-reader so the Kindle Fire was the perfect replacement for me. At only $199.99, you can’t go wrong. Is it an iPad killer? Certainly not, but it is a worthy competitor and it will likely steal all of the consumers that are on the fence about getting an iPad or not.

OS X Lion Review

Apple finally (and rather quietly) released OS X Lion (version 10.7) yesterday. I don’t even know the exact time because I just kept randomly checking and saw the homepage change around 10:30, bought it from the App Store and began the tedious download process. So without further ado, let’s review this bad boy. Wait, one more thing…I’m not going to possibly touch on every single change because there are so many, but I will focus on the overall experience by highlighting some key areas. In time, I may post additional reviews as I begin to use more features.


OS X Lion App StoreSince Apple has had tremendous success with the App Store due to iPhone and iPad, they have decided to add its functionality to OS X. You can now buy full desktop/laptop software and games directly from the store with your Apple ID in the same manner as purchasing an app for your mobile device. OS 10.7 was the first full operating system available through this method and while it makes it much easier to obtain by not having to wait in lines or even leave your home, I think not having an actual disc for an operating system just makes you feel naked.

Instantly, questions like “How can I ever reinstall OS X?” and “What happens if I need to boot Disk Utility?” enter your mind as you think about this fact. Fortunately, Apple has made it pretty easy to take the downloaded DMG file and create your own Lion disc. And if you don’t want to bother, it’s ok, you can still get into Disk Utility at start up through the new Recovery partition.


The download size for Lion is about 3.74 gigs, so expect to wait some time before you can install it. Even if you perform the install via your homemade disc, you are still required to be on the Internet to download “misc setup files”.

Early speculation centered around how the new digital delivery would thwart software piracy and keep people from buying a copy of Lion and then giving it to their friends. The question was whether Apple was using the App Store and subsequent Apple ID required to purchase Lion as a method of authorization. In this example, it could be assumed that if I bought Lion using my ID, created a disc and then tried to install it on my friend’s Mac, he would either have to login with his Apple ID to pay for the software or the software wouldn’t install because his computer was not mine. To accomplish this, Apple would have to collect some kind of hardware data from the purchasing computer, but by all accounts I’ve tested, this is not the case. It would appear that there are no validation checks at installation. 😉

Anyway, the installation took about 40 minutes and one restart—pretty typical for OS X. Upon startup, I was greeted with a new login window. If you have your login window displaying username and password, yours will look slightly different than this:

OS X Lion Login

First Impressions

As expected, since this is still OS X, the OS looks very similar to 10.6. Most of the features are behind the scenes so not much visual change was had with the exception of three new Dock icons: Launchpad, Mission Control and Facetime.

OS X Lion LaunchpadLaunchpad is really cool for those familiar with iPhone and iPad. It pops up all of your applications into however many screens it takes to hold them and you can sort them into folders as well. The one thing I didn’t like about it (to no fault of its own) is that it shows ALL of your “applications” which means things like uninstallers, downloaders, helper apps and things meant to serve in the background all show up as icons. I suppose you could just throw these off into their own folder, but you certainly can’t delete them because you probably need them.

OS X Lion Mission ControlMission Control allows you to see all of your running apps pulled back into a manageable space of running windows in which you could then move around to different virtual desktops to help minimize clutter and keep your productivity organized. What’s really cool about that is you can see all of your open windows without having to minimize each one to get to the furthest one back. Naturally, you can then click on any app you want to bring it forward.

OS X Lion FacetimeFacetime is the same as it is on iPhone and iPad 2. Now you can Facetime your friends from your Mac directly to an iPhone over wi-fi. I thought that was pretty cool, but since I never used Facetime on my phone, why would I start now? It’s nice to know that I have the option though. It reminds me of all those movies where the secret spy calls in to his office and video chats over his phone with a user at a computer.

OS X Lion ResumeResume is a hidden gem. This feature allows you to have multiple windows and apps running for you after you restart your computer or log off. If you think you don’t care about this feature, thing again! Imagine you’re working on a lot of stuff and your kid all of sudden needs to get into his/her account right before school to get some files. Before, you’d have to save all your work, remember where you were, close all your apps, log off and let someone else log in. With Resume, you can let the other person quickly jump into their account via Fast User Switching to get what they need and jump back into your account without moving a thing! Another example is, you’re in the middle of all your work when an update comes through and demands that you restart your computer. You no longer have to “do it later”. Resume will bring back all of your windows and work just the way you left it after a full system restart.

OS X Lion AirDropAirDrop is a new networking feature that takes the guesswork (and headache) out of networking multiple Macs. Let’s say you’re sitting in the living room and a family member is in another room. Both of you are on your Macs and now you want to share a file or two. You used to have to send these files via email or USB drive or maybe copy them to a pre-shared folder and the other person had to copy it back out. With AirDrop, all you have to do is drag those files onto the icon of the nearest Mac and it instantly appears on their machine. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

My two cents

I think I’ll end it here otherwise this page will go on and on! All-in-all, I love OS X Lion. I know I’ve only scratched the surface on new features and changes, but so far, Apple has released quite an update. If you’re wondering whether you should upgrade or not, ask yourself this: how much would you pay for the latest version of Windows? $100, $200, $300 perhaps?? OS X Lion is only $29.99. For that kind of money, it feels like you’re not even buying a full operating system, but in fact, you are.

Get it.

AT&T Mobility Features You May Not Know About

I’ve been an AT&T customer since 2006 (as Cingular) and even before that when I was with SBC Communications. Even though my service has changed hands quite a few times, one thing remained constant: the services are always changing. It’s always surprising to me when you sign up for a new plan and contract and not more than 4 months later, your plan ceases to exist. Sometimes there’s a better one available, sometimes it’s worse. Either way, you’re generally stuck in what you have and don’t have any wiggle room given the contractual obligations you must endure.

Another indelible fact about big service companies is that more often than not, new features and services come out, prices change, fees come and go, but no matter what happens, as long as you’re paying your bill they won’t tell you! Normally this doesn’t pose a problem until your bill gets higher and then you decide to go exploring. Well, that’s exactly what I did.

Messaging Unlimited

When I setup my first iPhone, I had added the unlimited text messaging feature priced at $20 per month. I knew I’d be sending thousands of texts and I had no intentions of paying $0.10 per message. For years I’ve used this feature and never bothered to look at my options…until now.AT&T Mobility Message Plans

When I logged into my account and looked at my features, I noticed three messaging plans I could choose from. The first two I already knew about: Messaging Unlimited priced at $20 per month (unlimited) and Messaging 1000 priced at $10 per month (1000 text messages). It’s the third one that threw me: Messaging Unlimited with Mobile to Any Mobile Calling priced at $20 per month.

Upon clicking on the description link, I noticed that this feature not only gave me unlimited text messaging, but also unlimited calls to and from any mobile device in the 50 United States plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands!! Considering I was already paying $20 per month, this switch was a no-brainer!! I think the funniest part about this find is that it’s actually labeled as a feature that AT&T recommends, but nobody ever called me about this. It goes back to my point that companies won’t go out of their way anymore to help you save money. We’re on our own people. Let’s see what else I can find!

AT&T Unlimited Data Plan

All you iPhone users out there remember the chaos surrounding AT&T’s announcement that they will stop offering the unlimited data plan, but did you know that you can still switch between the different versions of this plan?AT&T Mobility Data Plans

This really only makes a difference to those of us who have the iPhone Enterprise data plan enabled. Originally, the basic unlimited data plan was $30 per month, but if you wanted to connect to an enterprise server like Microsoft Exchange, you needed to upgrade to the $45 per month unlimited plan. Somehow this changed the connectivity of the service to enable Exchange support. Frankly, I don’t see how this is possible considering that the extra $15 doesn’t put any new software on your phone and data is still data. In fact, I’m pretty sure when I took my new job, I was able to connect to Exchange just fine without it. But since my company is paying my cell phone bill, they asked my to upgrade the plan.

Anyway, part of my exploration into AT&T Mobility’s features available to my account uncovered another mysterious Enterprise plan. The original one was called, Enterprise Data Plan for iPhone and priced at $45 per month (unlimited). Right below it was another plan called, Enterprise Data Bundle for iPhone – $40 and priced at $40 per month (unlimited). When viewing the descriptions of each, they both said the same thing in regards to an iPhone data plan that gives users the ability to access enterprise solutions such as Exchange. And then the third unlimited choice I had was to go back down to the original Data Plan for iPhone priced at $30 per month (unlimited).

As a grandfathered user of the unlimited data plan, I have the option to freely switch between these three plans. By changing my enterprise plan, I was able to shave $5 off my monthly bill! If you find yourself in the same boat, BE VERY CAREFUL when switching data plans—if you change your plan to one of the limited plans, you will NEVER be able to go back to unlimited! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!!

International Roaming

If you ever plan on taking your phone out of the country you might want to check to see how your plan handles roaming charges. I discovered this the hard way. I saw an extra $5 and some change charge on my bill last month and found out that it was due to a few $0.25 text messages I sent to a friend of mine in Germany. AT&T Mobility Roaming Plan OptionsWhat’s interesting about this is the only texts I remember sending were done through an app called WhatsApp that should have been relaying these messages through the Internet. Who knows, maybe I was doing something wrong, but either way, I paid for them and then quickly went into my account to look for a way to block this.

Sure enough, I found that Expanded International Roaming was enabled. What this does is allows my phone to be functional outside the U.S., but I have to pay per-minute usage that vary depending on where I am in the world. You can use AT&T’s roaming rates calculator to see how much these costs are. For Germany, it is currently $1.39 per minute! It seems as though text messages are $0.25 a pop.

What I found to be interesting is that iPhone has a feature built in that disables International roaming, but for some reason this didn’t help in my situation. Instead, I opted to change my roaming plan to International Roaming Blocked priced at $0.00 per month. This way I don’t have to worry about any crazy charges should I ever leave the country. In effect, I disabled my phone service outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

My two cents

All in all, I knocked $5 per month off my bill, removed the possibility of getting hit with International charges and best of all, added the ability to send and receive calls from ANY U.S. mobile phone without ever losing one minute of my rate plan!

What we have learned here today are a few things:

  1. Always keep an eye on your bills and look for things out of place or ways to reduce costs.
  2. Never trust that your service provider will inform you of new promotions, deals or other money-saving items.
  3. You don’t have to go to an AT&T store or even call AT&T to manage your features and rate plan. Everything can be done online at

Apple iOS 5 Features

Apple is really great at giving you things you never thought you needed. I remember thinking with iOS 4 and 4.3 came out with all their new features, that we must have everything now. The phone is awesome and what else could you really want or need?! I guess that’s the way life is with technology—just as you settle in with your new device, along comes another one to make you feel like you’re behind the curve again.

There are over 200 features with the new release of iOS 5 coming out this fall, so I won’t touch on all of them, but here are my top 5 favorites:

iOS 5 Features

iOS 5 Notification CenterNotification Center – As it is right now, whenever you’re using an app or playing a game on your device, you will be rudely interrupted if you get a text message or some other app notification. To retrieve your message, you have to exit the app and then come back to it and some apps might not return you to where you were. With Notification Center, all messages and alerts appear at the top of the app in a little information bar which you can then pull down with one swipe, reply to a text, acknowledge an alert or whatever else you need to do and then make it disappear having never to leave your app or game!

Another great feature of this is that these notifications also appear on the lock screen. They are fully functional too, so you can listen to voicemails or read texts without having to unlock your phone and access them directly. I wonder how it’ll handle privacy for those of us who don’t allow the content of text messages to appear on a locked device.

iOS 5 Quick Access CameraCamera – How can you better a camera that already has physical specs that can’t change? Oh yeah, make it available to use without having to fumble around with passcodes and icons. Such a simple solution to a really annoying problem. There’s an old saying that says “The best camera is the one you have at the moment.” and how true is that when you’re out and about and you see something you really wanted to take a picture of, but you missed it because you took your phone out and you spent 30 seconds trying to enter your passcode and then remember where you put your camera app icon?

No more worries with that one! iOS 5 allows you to access your camera right from the lock screen and what’s even better is the ability to take shots using the volume-up button! Adding to this amazing feature is the ability to use grid lines to compose a shot and then perform basic editing like redeye removal, cropping and autoexposure to clean up your photos. When using iCloud, all the photos you take are instantly sent to all of your other iCloud devices. How much better can this get?!

iOS 5 iMessageiMessage – Text messaging has replaced phone calls, but for those of you who don’t like paying for texts or maybe you’re an iPod Touch user or non-3G iPad user and you can’t use text. Or at least if you wanted to, you had to download an app for it. Well not anymore! With iMessage, you can now send texts from any 3G or wi-fi connection to and from all iOS devices and just about any other 3G text-capable device. Plus, you can now see when the other person is typing. Another neat feature is the ability to start a text conversation on your iPhone and continue it on your iPad—no more fumbling around between devices.

A couple of other cool features are the ability to track sent and received messages through tracking receipts and the universal ability to send group messages as well as photos, locations, contacts and videos to all iOS devices.

iOS 5 NewsstandNewsstand – For those of you that have digital subscriptions to magazines or newspapers, you now have a better place to get the latest issues. Before, you were probably downloading them one by one or having to use the publisher’s app to get the latest edition, but now Newsstand will organize all of you subscriptions in one central location. When a new issue comes out, it’s automatically sent to Newsstand with an image of the newest cover automatically. If you want to manage your subscriptions or purchase new ones, you can do so right from Newsstand or access the new subscription store in iTunes.

I only feel sorry for today’s paperboy!

iOS 5 RemindersReminders – There are literally tons of reminder apps out there—some are free, some you have to pay big bucks for. What I never understood is why didn’t Apple ever make their own a long time ago?? Now, we don’t have to worry about that. Reminders makes creating to–do lists super easy. You can create any number of things you need to do complete with due dates, locations and alerts. What’s really cool about the location feature is let’s say you create a grocery list and you map it to your favorite grocery store. On the off-chance that you forgot you actually made the shopping list, you might have gone shopping and didn’t remember some items, right? Not with Reminders!! With location mapping, as soon as you pull into the parking lot of that store, you are sent an alert that reminds you about your shopping list.

This app appears to be absolutely amazing; especially for someone like me who always forgets the little things.

My two cents

From what I see so far, iOS 5 is just more proof that Apple keeps delivering great features with every new update they put out. I know a lot of Droid owners will probably read this and say they’ve had features like this for a long time now, but what I love about Apple is these features are integrated into more than just one device and the they are created by Apple directly. I for one would prefer not to use third-party apps because sometimes they don’t always play well with devices.

At any rate, I can’t wait for this release and if you’re interested in seeing the complete list of features within iOS 5, check out Apple’s website.

Google's New +1 Button

Google has launched a new feature for search results called the +1 Button. It works like a recommendation button where you can click +1 on a particular website or webpage to help others know that it’s been recommended. If you’ve used sites like, you know how this process works. Basically, after you’ve read some content on a website and decided you liked it, you click the +1 Button and it helps other web users by ranking your site/content like a score card. In turn, websites and web pages with higher “votes” can potentially gain higher rankings on Google search results pages (SERPs).

Adding the +1 Button to your site

After logging into my AdSense account, I was greeted with this lovely message:
Google +1 Button AdSense message
From there, I clicked on the link that took me to the code page where I had a choice of 4 different sizes for the icon as well as some other advanced settings. I didn’t spend too much time on this page as I wanted to get the button on my site ASAP! I simply chose the standard size and left everything else the same.
Google +1 Button
The code was easy to implement. In WordPress:

  1. Open your theme editor and begin editing header.php
  2. Find the </head> tag and place the code: <script type=”text/javascript” src=””></script> right above it.
  3. Save header.php
  4. Begin editing single.php (if you want the button to appear on each post)
  5. Find the area you want the button to show up. On my site, I placed it right before the content starts so it’s at the beginning of every post.
  6. Place this code: <g:plusone></g:plusone> before <?php the_content();
  7. Save single.php

Now that you have all the code in place, go to one of your blog posts and verify that it’s showing up.

What’s Next?

Well as with any traffic-related feature on your site, all that you really can do now is wait. If the users want to vote up your content, they now have the option to do so within Google directly. If you find that you’re not getting a lot of response from this feature, try moving the button around your site to see where it works best.

The purpose of this feature is to help web users find valuable content as ranked by other web users that have already seen what you have to offer. This helps Google in their never-ending quest to filter out junk sites and sites with little to no content while pushing more valuable sites up to the top of the SERPs. Let’s just hope that this feature doesn’t get abused like so many other Google features have been in the past!

What can BlogGlue do for you?

UPDATE: BlueGlue is no longer in service. Per an email I received yesterday, the company running BlogGlue has decided to shut down the service and seek some sort of buyout. It’s possible that this service could be resurrected under a new owner, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. It was fun while it lasted! I’m leaving this article up for historical purposes, but will be removing all outgoing links. This was the email sent out to all users:

BlogGlue Closed

Original article:

Just over 1 year ago, I joined a little known website called Arkayne. I even wrote about how to drive focused traffic to your site with Arkayne being the central topic. The purpose of Arkayne was to enhance your blog’s presence by connecting the posts you create with other blog owners who write about similar topics. It was such a simple concept; one that has helped my site grow in ways I didn’t think were possible. Today, Arkayne is now BlogGlue and their concept has remained simple, but has become much more powerful.

For me, blogging isn’t about ranking high in search engines or making thousands of dollars a day selling useless information or products—it’s about sharing ideas and providing valuable information about the things I know with people who want to learn. Of course, if I made thousands of dollars doing this, that would be great, but I don’t intend to sacrifice quality for quantity. This is where BlogGlue really helps out.

BlogGlue Partnerships

The give and take process of BlogGlue starts with a recommendation. As you browse the ever-growing community of blogs, you’ll start noticing many websites that share some common interests with your site. As you click through each one, you can choose the ones you like based on how well they complement your site and submit a recommendation.

The site owners you recommended are then notified of your recommendation and have the option to review your site. If they like what they see and recommend you back, you both become partners. At that point, your blogs are linked.

The plugin

The BlogGlue plugin on your site will add Related Links at the bottom of each post. It gets these links from your partners, so it’s important not to just add every partner under the sun to increase your count. Your site, your partners’ sites and your visitors will all benefit from these partnerships.

The process works both ways as well. Your links will start appearing on partner’s sites in the same location. This is the main function of BlogGlue and it works really well! The more partners you have, the most choices the plugin will have in pulling quality content. And as you would imagine, if you don’t like a particular site’s content, simply delete them as a partner and their links will never show up again!

When writing a post, the plugin also offers some instant help with basic SEO tips. After you saved your first draft, you can click the Test Now button and see exactly what you might be missing and how you can improve the page’s optimization.

The costs

There are three service plans available.

  • Free – $0.00/month – You accept up to 5 partners, but you can have unlimited recommendations. Your site content is limited to 200 pages/posts.
  • Basic – $9.97/month – You can have up 15 partners and still have unlimited recommendations. Your site content is limited to 1000 pages/posts.
  • Unlimited – $19.97/month – You can have unlimited partners and unlimited recommendations. Your site content is limited to 5000 pages/posts.

The best part about these plans is that you can grow into them. Start out free and as you start to notice your traffic increasing, just upgrade instantly to the next plan. At some point, your site will be getting hundreds or thousands of hits a day and the unlimited plan will be needed, but you’ll likely be making money at that point!

There are no contracts, hidden fees, cancellation charges, upgrade charges, taxes, etc, etc.! What you see is what you get.

My two cents

I’ve been using BlogGlue for over a year now and I can tell you just by looking at my stats, they have helped my site grow almost 300% and the numbers continue to rise as I become partners with more and more quality blogs. Their customer support has been super gracious and exceptionally fast with any issues I’ve had and I haven’t had many…that’s for sure.

I can’t say enough great things about the operation they’re running over there. Check them out over at

Mac OS X Lion – Coming Summer 2011

Apple may have done it again! From the looks of the list below, we might have the best version of OS X yet. If you enjoy the functionality of your iPhone and/or iPad, you’re going to love some of the new features of OS X Lion. Take a look below and I promise you you’ll be as excited as I am.

This time around, Apple has taken what people love about iOS and put them into OS X. I’m still hoping that one day, OS X will make its way to the iPad and who knows, maybe this is the first step toward that dream! OS X features things like the Mac App Store, Launchpad, Mission Control and AirDrop. If you’re starting to feel like you’re about to take off into space, welcome to the club! So without further ado, let’s launch this thing! (I couldn’t resist the lame pun.)

Mac OS X Lion Features

At its core, the new OS will look very similar to previous incarnations; it’s what’s under the hood that may or may not get you excited. Today, computers seem to be all about the apps and the experience partly because of the huge success of today’s smartphones. People just want things fast and readily available at all times. OS X Lion delivers the convenience and ease-of-use that will rival that of any computer system you can buy today.

Mac App Store

Apple Mac App Store
Although you can already download this app, the new App Store for Mac works just like the one for iPhone and iPad. You can now buy full software programs without having to head to the store. No more fiddling with discs or worrying that a store my be out of stock. Simply buy the app, download it and get to work.


Mac OS X Lion Launchpad
This is the one that makes your Mac look like an iPad. With one click of this app in the dock, your screen is transformed into the desktop equivalent of iPad showcasing all of your apps in one (or more) screens. I dare you to open it up and not be tempted to start swiping your screen!

Full-screen apps

Mac OS X Lion Fullscreen apps
Take your apps to the max! No longer will you be forced to stare at the top menu bar or the dock at the bottom. You can now open your apps to the full width of your monitor. I’m not sure if having a full screen app will make you more functional, but it’s nice to know you have the option. Personally, I like having the clock in front of me so I can see how much time I’m wasting online.

Mission Control

Mac OS X Lion Mission Control
Mission Control is like Dashboard, but on crack. It allows you to pull down all of your running apps right on the screen so you can see everything that’s running on your computer. From there, you can click anything you want to re-open and you’re instantly there. What’s cool about this is that all of the windows you have open are sorted by group, so if you had 4 Safari windows and two Word documents open, you’d see two groups and each of the windows showing up inside.

Auto Save

This might be a God-send for some of you out there! I know for me, it’s going to take the headache out of creating documents. Imaging you’re pushing the battery limits on your Macbook and you’ve already completed 10 pages of your school report when all of a sudden, your battery dies! Damn. Well with Auto Save, all of your troubles are over. What’s really cool is it actually saves the current document which means it doesn’t create any copies, thus saving disk space. And if you accidentally save the wrong changes, you can always revert back to a previous version; see next feature.


Mac OS X Lion Versions
For those that use TimeMachine, you’ll be very familiar with this feature. It basically keeps track of every change you’ve made to a document allowing you to revert back to a previous version whenever you need to. When you open a document, OS X Lion will save a version of it and then continue to save versions every hour automatically.


Mac OS X Lion Resume
This is one of my favorites. Let’s say you have a bunch of windows open and you are prompted with some new updates. You’re just itching to get them installed, but then you’re greeted with a message stating that you’ll have to restart your computer. Now you have to go in and save all your documents and close everything while losing all your places online, etc, etc. Not anymore! Resume allows to restart your Mac and it comes right back on to exactly where you left off. The resume feature also works when closing and opening apps.

Mail 5

Apple Mail 5 Conversations
If there’s mail program that could get me to switch from Outlook, Mail 5 just might be the one! I’ve used Outlook for many years because of its vast amount of features and I was never really a fan of Mail, but the new Mail 5 offers the a conversations feature that brings up emails similar in fashion to how iPhone deals with text messages.


For those of us who get our Mac friends together on the weekend so we can talk about how cool our Macs are…(silence)…we can now send and receive files just by opening an app! AirDrop will automatically locate and connect with other Mac users (locally) that also have AirDrop running so you can send files without having to pull out USB drives or burned discs.

My two cents

I’m super excited about this release! Given the above features and I’m sure a whole lot more that we haven’t seen yet, I know this will be the perfect mix between the functionality of a full Mac with the ease and simplicity of an iPad. I was never a big fan of the iOS software being used on anything bigger than a phone mainly because it lacks any type of file system and it makes doing some advanced work near impossible, but Apple seems to have gotten this one right.

Of course, only time will tell if they did.

MacBook Air (2011) vs iPad 2 vs MacBook Pro

Back in November, I discussed the comparison between the MacBook Air (2010), the iPad and the MacBook Pro in terms on functionality, performance and convenience so it’s only fitting that I now update this to include the new(er) MacBook Pro and the iPad 2. Unfortunately, the MacBook Air hasn’t seen any improvements or upgrades since the new aluminum design debuted in 2010, but it still holds up.

This article also comes on the heels of the iPad 2 release. I currently own an iPad and just like I’ve done with every iPhone model, I contemplated selling it and purchasing the new one, but this time, I can’t seem to justify it. In fact, I’m on the verge of selling my iPad (again). Since we last talked about this, my plan was to:

  1. Sell my current desktop PC
  2. Sell my iPad
  3. Sell my MacBook
  4. Buy a Mac Mini to replace my desktop
  5. Buy a MacBook Air (11-inch) to replace my MacBook and iPad
  6. Keep my iPhone 4 as my extremely portable device

This is funny because it originally called for selling my iPad, but I still own it! I never follow my own advice. Anyway, let’s explore the new and upgraded devices and see what my new plan will be…as if this time will be any different. 😉

MacBook Air (2011 model)

I know I’m calling it a ‘2011 model”, but in reality, nothing has changed. There’s no word on any major Air upgrades coming down the line, but we can probably rely on the standard performance upgrades that usually occur between major updates to features or design. Apple always seems to lose focus on one or more products while they’re honed in on a new one. I think right now, it’s iPad 2 and iPhone 5. MacBook Air is currently on the backburner. At any rate, here are the models again:

2011 MacBook Air models

2011 MacBook Air models

As you can see, you still only have 2 major differences…an 11-inch screen and a 13-inch screen. After you decide what size you want, you only have two other choices to make: how big you want your hard drive to be and how much video memory you require.

iPad 2

Apple iPad 2
Apple iPad 2

Just as I described the 1st iPad, the second is still just an over-sized iPhone. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, as you might imagine, when you want to perform more specific tasks like file manipulation or writing a document, you’re going to be out of luck. The iPad is and always will be an item of convenience. It’s great to have around when you want to read the daily news, play a few games, do some email and of course web browsing, but it is no computer…not by a long shot!

On my current 1st gen iPad, I really thought I was getting somewhere when I bought the wireless keyboard in addition to the USB and SD card adapters, but I was always irritated that there was no file system. I was hoping that the iPad was going to be close to ripping an LCD screen off a MacBook and turning it into a keyboard-less computer with touch capabilities. But no, you just get iOS.

Anyway, as for the iPad 2 itself, I loved it. I don’t own one and I don’t foresee myself getting one, but I have played with a friend’s and have used it many times in the store. The thing you’ll notice first about it is how light it is. Granted, the first iPad wasn’t heavy, but you can instantly feel the difference. This is important for those of you that plan on carrying this thing around everywhere. It actually weighs less than a 3-ring binder (depending on how much paper you have in it).

Pros and Cons


  • Lightweight and small…very portable
  • Touch screen is as fluid as iPhone
  • Built-in 3G service (AT&T only)
  • Available for both AT&T and Verizon
  • 10-hour battery
  • Dual cameras
  • Dual-core A5 processor


  • iOS software – not a real OS compared to a MacBook
  • Somewhat bulky
  • No USB
  • No SD card slot

One other complaint I have is that the new Smart Covers from Apple, which are awesome, only cover the front of the iPad leaving the back to potentially get scratched.

MacBook Pro

Apple MacBook aluminum unibody (2008)

Apple MacBook aluminum unibody (2008)

My MacBook is so old now, it came out when you could actually get a MacBook and a MacBook Pro in the aluminum design! Today, they are all Pros and the regular MacBook has been resigned to the old plastic design. The MacBook Pros today have a fairly different set of features than before, so I’m thinking of trading up. Here are some of the specs:

  • LED backlit screens with option antiglare widescreen technology
  • Thunderbolt port – up to 10Gbps for digital video output
  • Up to 750Gb hard drive (SATA) or up to 512Gb (SSD)
  • Up to 8Gb DDR3 memory
  • Faster dual-core processors (2.7GHz max)
  • New Quad-core (on 15-inch and up – 2.2 GHz max)

These computers are beefy! You can view the full comparison between MacBook Pros on

After upgrading my own MacBook to its max, I have found that I don’t even use my desktop computer anymore. There was a time when I thought about purchasing a Mac Mini to account for this loss, but there’s no need when I can just plug my MacBook into my 40-inch tv and go to work. I remember when I bought my MacBook, I explicitly got the 13-inch screen because I wanted the most portable laptop you could get, but now I wish I had gotten the 17-inch so it could stay on my desk while I use a MacBook Air for my portable machine.


These three devices are, in some ways comparable and not in others, but that’s what makes them such a great team! They tend to complement each other with varying results and when you mix them with any smartphone (or iPhone especially), you’ll achieve the most well-rounded tech setup you can get. This is where most people get stumped. You start asking yourself, “Do I really need this?” or “Is this thing going to really benefit me?” It also doesn’t help when your friends already think you buy Apple products just to be cool!

The results come down to functionality, performance and convenience. For me, the decision was hard, but I believe my new tech setup will consist of the following:

  1. Sell my iPad
  2. Keep my MacBook
  3. Buy an 11-inch MacBook Air
  4. Have no desktop computer

The idea behind this is simple. Like I said, I can always use my tv as a monitor, so there’s no need to upgrade to a larger MacBook at this time. I also don’t use my iPad enough to justify it sitting on my desk (although it does look really cool) and the MacBook Air would serve as my portable device where originally my iPad would fill in. I know it’s strange to think that a 13-inch MacBook isn’t considered portable anymore, but when you blog as much as I do, it becomes tedious carrying that thing around to various places.

Lastly, I’m still waiting for 3G capabilities to be added to the MacBook Air!

UPDATE (May 4, 2011) – There’s new competition to the MacBook Air! Samsung has released the Series 9 laptop that rivals the Air in almost every way.