Saturday, June 03, 2023

Fiskars 4-Claw Stand Up Weed Puller

 The weed situation in my yard seems to get worse every year. When I first bought the house 12 years ago, the lawn looked amazing. But in the past few years, dandelions have taken over. I tried Scott's turf builder triple action which is a granular weed and feed product. It helped a little, but chemical products are expensive and not good for the environment. I have a neighbor on one side that has his yard treated by one of those professional lawn care companies. On the other side, is a neighbor who does little to their yard other than mow once a month. Over time, dandelions from that neighbor's yard have migrated into my yard. This year I decided to see if I could make a dent in my dandelion population.

The first thing I did was got a couple of buckets, one to sit on and one to put dandelions in. I started in the backyard and used a garden trowel to dig the dandelions out by the root. The backyard wasn't as bad as the front. I wanted to start in the back so the neighbors wouldn't see me sitting on a bucket for hours on end. I managed to get the back done but broke my garden trowel in the process. The neighbor who used the professional lawn treatment, saw me pulling weeds one day and let me use his weed pulling tool. It was one with a long wooden handle. It worked well, but I was afraid I was going to break it. I looked online and found several long-handled weed pullers. After some consideration, I decided to get the Fiskars 4-Claw deluxe weed puller. They call it deluxe because they also have a 3-Claw version. I wasn't crazy about the plastic construction, but I have a Fiskars extendable power-stroke clipper that has served me well over the years.

The Fiskars weed puller is easy to use. You just center the tool over the dandelion, push down, and pull the handle toward the foot platform, and the weed come out. There is an ejection mechanism that releases the weed once it is out of the ground. I find that I still need to bend over to get the dirt off the root and try to fill the hole left behind. The handle is 39" long, which is kind of short if you are over 6 foot tall. So far it is working fine. The only problem is that it takes about an hour to clear a 5' x 10' patch of ground. I can fill a grocery bag with dandelions in just that small of an area. That should give you an idea of how bad my dandelion problem is. Some dandelions are so tough that they squeal when you pull them out. I assume that is the tap root coming loose. I have starting work on the front yard where the dandelions are the worst. The tool makes it easier, but progress is slow. Once the yard is complete, the tool will make maintaining a dandelion free yard a simple task. That's assuming the tool doesn't break on me before the job is done. You can find the Fiskars 4-Claw deluxe weed puller on Amazon for $47.53 or as low as $40 from other garden supply stores. 

Monday, January 16, 2023

The Luggage Dilemma

 Trying to save money can sometimes backfire, especially when traveling by air. My partner wanted a larger check-in bag for an upcoming trip. She was looking on Amazon and was about to spend over $100 on a new piece of luggage. I showed her several options on and she found one that she liked. I put the item on my favorites list. Toward the end of the auction there was only one bid. I placed a bid for $11 and won. With shipping and tax, the luggage was only $23.

Goodwill had listed the size as 17L x 10W x 32H. When the luggage arrived, it looked bigger than I expected. Not having taken a commercial flight in a while, I decided to look up the limits on check-in baggage size and weight. The size limit is 158cm (62 in.) and the weight limit is 50 Lbs. for most airlines. The size is calculated by adding the L + W + H. Goodwill's size description comes to 59. Unfortunately, the measurements need to be from the widest point and include the handles and wheels. Goodwill must have measured from the top, which is the narrowest point. My measurements at the bottom were 21L x 12W x 33H, which adds up to 66, which is technically over the size limit.

I tried to find the manufacturer's specifications, but I didn't have any luck. In 1993, American Tourister was acquired by Samsonite. In 2009, American Tourister was acquired by Astrum International, which also owns Samsonite. I'm not sure how old the luggage is but it must have been discontinued years ago. There are luggage manufacturers that cheat on the size. So, I searched online to see if anyone had issues with over-sized luggage. Some responses indicated that the weight limit was more important and that being a few inches over was not an issue. But more often, responses said that the limit is the limit, and you risk getting your luggage flagged as over-sized.

The penalty (fee) for checking over-sized luggage is $200 per bag, each way. That is enough to scare most travelers into compliance. You can buy a quality brand-new set of luggage with one over-size baggage fee. Which leads to the dilemma: Do we take a chance with the Goodwill luggage? It would be fine if you were traveling by car. But the risk of having your luggage flagged as over-sized is too great. No wonder no one was bidding on the larger luggage auctions. The employees that write the descriptions for Goodwill auctions often don't have a clue about the item they are describing. Items can't be returned because they are sold As Is. Even if it could be returned the shipping fee would exceed the price of the item. I may try to sell it on Ebay, save it for a future road trip, or donate it back to Goodwill.

Monday, January 02, 2023

Fire TV Stick 4K Review

Back in 2019, I was informed that my Roku 2 HD model 3000x would no longer receive software updates. I took advantage of a discount offer and upgraded to the Roku Express+. Fast forward to the end of 2022 and I was starting to become disappointed with the performance of the Express+. The internet connection would always show a poor signal, streaming video would become out of sync, and the device would warn about overheating. I have been a Roku user for quite a while at this point and was kind of in limbo about what to do next. I knew there were other options, but I wasn't sure about changing to a different streaming device.

Fortunately, someone made that decision easier by giving us an Amazon Firestick 4K device for Christmas. It may not be fair to compare a Roku device from 2019 to a Firestick from 2022, but here are the specifications of both:

Firetv Stick 4K (Model AFTMM)

  • MediaTek Quad-Core 1.7 GHz
  • 1.5 GB DDR4 RAM
  • 8 GB Storage
  • Wi-Fi 5: 802.11 b/g/n/ac
  • 4K 3840 × 2160 @ 60fps
  • Alexa Compatible
Roku Express+ (Model 3910X)

  • ARM Cortex A53 Two-Core 900 MHz
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 256 MB Storage
  • 802.11bgn single-band wireless
  • 1080p HD with up-scaling from 720p
  • No Voice controls
The specs show that the Firetv is far superior to the Roku Express in all aspects. I decided to install the Firetv in place of the Roku on our Samsung 55" UHD 4K Flat Smart TV. The installation was fairly easy except for the warning message about insufficient power from the USB port on the TV. I took a look at the power adapter, and it said 5V@1 Amp. I made sure the USB port on the TV was the same and ignored the warning message. The menu system on the Firetv feels a lot like Amazon Prime. It took about 4 hours to adjust the settings and install all of our streaming apps. By then I was starting to get used to the menu system. The main thing is that the Firetv was able to make a good connection with our 5 GHz wifi band. With the improved performance, it is more enjoyable watching streaming content. For the month of December, we used about 700 GB of data. The 100 mbps limit I set on the router is working and there is no noticeable impact to streaming quality. 

Friday, December 09, 2022

Xfinity Increases Internet Pricing


Well, it didn't take long for Xfinity to announce a 2023 price increase on Internet. Just one month after bumping the speed up on their Internet service, they are raising the price. Here are the new 2023 plans:

  • Connect:             (75 Mbps) Old $60 - New $61
  • Connect More: (200 Mbps) Old $70 - New $73
  • Fast:                 (400 Mbps) Old $80 - New $83
  • Superfast:         (800 Mbps) Old $90 - New $93
  • Gigabit:          (1000 Mbps) Old $100 - New $103
  • Gigabit Extra: (1200 Mbps) Old $110 - New $113
Performance Select (My plan) isn't on the list anymore. Since the speed is now 200 Mbps, I guess they now call it "Connect More". They seem to change the plan names every year, depending on who is in charge of their marketing department. My December 2022 statement says that the price of my plan will increase by $4, from $58 to $62. That is $11 less than the new price for the "Connect More" plan.

Another confusing thing is when you try to change your plan, the Xfinity website shows discounts for new customers. For example, the "Connect" plan has a price of $24.99 and the "Connect More" plan has a price of $39.99. The details say: "Offer ends 12/21/2022. Limited time offer. Restrictions apply. Not available in all areas. New residential customers only." Why am I being show this if I am an existing customer? The discounts last for 24 months, then increases to the full price. $62 for 200 Mbps is a good deal if that is now the price for 75 Mbps. But it wouldn't surprise me if my bill went to $73 at some point.

Just as I suspected, last month was a challenge to stay under the 1200 GB download limit. We had to reduce our video streaming time during the last few days of our billing cycle. With the 200 Mbps speed, streaming apps are using HD quality because they no longer have a slow speed to deal with. I may have to restrict the speed on the router for the smart TV. That would hopefully allow other devices to use the higher speed and we wouldn't have to worry about the monthly download limit as much.

Even the discount for paperless billing and auto-pay is changing from $10 to $5. I checked my account settings and noticed that I don't have those settings activated. I had been getting both an email and a paper copy of the bill, but I plan on changing to paperless and auto-pay for next month's bill. Hopefully, I can get the $5 discount which would bring my monthly bill down to $57.