Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hot Water is Now a Beach

A few weeks ago I wrote about wanting to replace my traditional drip coffee maker with just water pot since I now use the very awesome Aeropress Coffee Maker. Being that my coffee maker had a auto-on timer, I was looking for an electric kettle that had that feature as well and in addition to the ability to program the temperature wanted (something a coffee maker doesn’t have). I found one at Bed, Bath & Beyond that cost $250! (see my blog post “You Want How Much Money Just To Make Hot Water?!”)

I had pretty much reached the point of deciding that a coffee maker was going to be the best (read, only) way to go if I wanted to be able to arrive downstairs on early weekday mornings and have hot water already available to make my requisite cup of coffee. I wasn’t finding electric kettles that had a programmable timer feature without also have price tag of $130-$250 (I mean, come on - does it go out and pick the damn tea leaves for you too?)

Well, thank the coffee gods for While searching for something completely unrelated to hot water or coffee a couple of weekends ago, I found, on my wish list no less, a listing for the Hamilton Beach 40996 Programmable Kettle.  Listed for a retail price of $49.99, it was only $37.40 with free shipping on Amazon. I took a closer look, as my first glance at it (when I had initially placed it on my wishlist) I hadn’t noticed how “programmable” it was. I was quite pleased to find that it was what I was looking for; it has programmable temperature (including presets and the ability to set custom temperatures), and it has a clock and the ability to set it to turn itself on at a set time. Like a programmable coffee pot, it also has an auto-off feature (only 1 hr compared to 2 hrs on most coffee makers, unfortunately, but still a nice safety feature; it will also turn itself off if it detects that the pot is dry).

I’ve had the Hamilton Beach 40996 Programmable Kettle for a week now, and I have to say that I really like it. It takes up considerably less counter space than the coffeepot did and now that I have control over the temperature, I can say that using this in conjunction with my Aeropress Coffee Maker makes a better cup of coffee than using a standard coffee pot or just using hot water from the coffeepot with the Aeropress. Some reviewers complained that it quit working after only a couple of months, so hopefully I won’t run into that problem and chalk those comments up to being the rare defective unit (there were a lot more 5-star ratings than there were 1-star reviews).

It is true that I could have bought another coffee pot for about half as much and the Hamilton Beach 40996 Programmable Kettle, but these days even the coffee pots that have the programmable features I prefer were ranging in the $40-$50 range, so I’m OK with having paid as much for the kettle as I did. Shipping was pretty quick too, especially considering that I paid the low low price of FREE (ordered it on a Saturday night, had it in hand by the following Friday).

So, if you’re looking to make a great cup of coffee, pick up an Aeropress Coffee Maker and a Hamilton Beach 40996 Programmable Kettle; that’s my 2¢ anyway.

~ JC

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Re-Browsing FireFox

I have been a pretty die hard fan of Google’s Chrome browser for several years now. I loved that it automatically synchronized my bookmarks and add-ons between devices simply by logging into my Google account. Also, when it first came out, it seemed to be much faster than FireFox and Internet Explorer (really, what isn’t faster than Internet Explorer?) Recently, though, Chrome has really seemed to slow down. Sometimes I have to reload a page several times by almost hammering on the F5 key before it will come up. My first inclination was that maybe the Wi-Fi signal in my living room was not very strong (the AT&T Wireless Gateway is upstairs, after all). But when this started occurring even when I took the laptop upstairs and plugged in the ethernet cable, I then started wondering if something was up with the PC itself, so naturally I rebooted (several times).

Yesterday, for shits-’n-giggles, I decided to spend time using FireFox instead of Chrome just to see if there would be a difference…. and there was. So, I exported all of my bookmarks from Chrome and imported them into FireFox. I’ve been using just FF for several hours now and it, so far, is proving to be more reliable and loading pages correctly and quickly compared to Chrome.

That’s not the only reason I’m considering fully switching back to FireFox though. Until my recent smartphone upgrade, I did not have access to Chrome Mobile, and honestly never really gave FireFox Mobile much of a look. Now, though, I find myself really preferring FireFox Mobile simply because it supports add-ons, which Chrome Mobile does not. That may not seem like that big of a deal, but since I use LastPass password manager, if I need to log into, say, my banking site on the go to see if a payment or deposit has cleared yet, having to open the LastPass app, copy the password, and then paste it into the browser can become cumbersome while having the add-on in my mobile browser like I do the desktop version is much more convenient. I will admit, Chrome Mobile seems a bit more user friendly in terms of its interface, but that lack of add-on support is kind of killing it for me.

Synchronization was Chrome’s biggest advantage for my decision to keep using it, but I discovered this morning that FireFox has that now too (ok, granted, it probably has for awhile and I just never noticed it because it has been so long since I regularly used it). The sync is pretty seamless. I set up the FireFox Sync account on my primary PC (namely my laptop) and then was able to connect the mobile versions on both my phone and my tablet (which is a rooted and flashed Nook Tablet, in case you’re interested). Not only does the FireFox Sync service synchronize my bookmarks, but also my add-ons, preferences, and history; it will even sync my tabs and passwords if I choose to do so.

There you have it. Sorry Google, but Chrome has started failing me, so I’m going back to FireFox; at least for awhile to see how things go.

~ JC