Wired is Celebrating 25 Years

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Introduction

Wired’s 25th celebration was a weekend long festival held in San Francisco, with everything from behind-the-scene tours, cool and cutting edge gadgets, talks with technology leaders and even a robot petting zoo!

Today, Monday is perhaps the most interesting day of all. Wired’s all day summit today is currently in progress with the biggest of the big industry leaders.

  • Anna Wintour
  • Sundar Pichai
  • Marc Benioff
  • Susan Wojcicki
  • Jack Dorse 

and more.

You can check out the full day’s schedule here.

Here’s some links to help follow and find out more about Wired’s 25th anniversary celebration:

Watch Wired’s 25th Anniversary Live Event here

If you missed it, this page will also have video blurbs and full length videos covering many of the speakers

Wired's 25th Anniversary Event

The Most Read Wired.com Stories of the Past 5 Years

Wired's Most Read in the Last 5 Years

The Original Wired Manifesto with a ‘25 Years of Wired‘ video

Where it All Began Images from Wired’s Early Days

and last

Wired’s Official Wired25 Event Website

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Tablo’s ‘Cord Cutter’s Dream Package’ Contest Ends Today

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Enter Tablo’s Contest to Win This Amazing Cord Cutter’s Dream Setup

Tablo is a Company That Makes the Best OTA DVR

After probably more than a year of research we finally ‘cut the cord’ last year and have never looked back. OTA means  Other the Air’ DVR…that you use with an antenna instead of cable or satellite dish. The amount of money we’re saving is a ridiculous amount! The Tablo always works and is as easy as Roku’s are to setup. That means SUPER EASY.

Don’t take my word for it just do a little research on OTA DVR’s and you’ll see what I’m talking about. But maybe enter the contest first…because I don’t know what time zone they are in!

If you live in a metropolitan area the Muhu antenna would probably be great for you, we did a rooftop one because we are more rural. I’ve not researched the Roku TV much…but when I did last there were highs and lows depending upon the model.

Link to the Contest

All In All I Think This Package is AMAZING

Which is why ai wanted to share this contest with friends and family. But it ends tonight…so you need to enter quickly if you’re interested. From what I can tell you enter by giving them your email address for an email subscription to their cord cutting news. And then improve your chances by sharing this to social media.

FYI I entered too! Wish they gave you credit for sharing this in blog posts! Oh well I still wanted to share it anyway because we love ours so much and I’d love to get one for the boys!

More Links

Link to Part 1.5 of my Cord Cutting Series : Our Hardware

Link to my YouTube Video on how to use Roku’s voice search feature

Sorry if there are any typos…I did this fast because I just learned of it and it ENDS TODAY! Also, if you visit my Youtube channel PLEASE SUBSCRIBE!!! I’ll explain later why that’s so important right now!

Comments

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Apple HomePod Is Finally Available for Preorder Today

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Introduction

I opened Apple’s ios app yesterday for Apple Store and discovered that HomePod is finally available! Apparently Apple announced this 2 days ago, but since I’d not run across it anywhere I figured it’s still big news…right?

Apple HomePod Order Today

What’s HomePod?

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock the last few months HomePod is Apple’s very late, highly anticipated entry into the home AI market. It’s a market that Amazon essentially owns right now with their extremely broad line of Echo devices. Echo’s biggest claim to fame is their popular AI assistant named Alexa. Below is a chart showing Amazon’s main product line of Echo devices…along with pricing.

The reason pricing is important is because like all things Apple, HomePod costs more than the competition. But before I get into pricing, I should add that although the screenshot above makes it look like there are only 5 Echo devices on the market currently…that is far from the reality.

Amazon just keeps cranking out more devices…and with each new introduction I think to myself…really…who would use that? Only to find myself actually considering buying it a few months later!

No one Can Argue That Amazon Came Up With a Really Great Concept!

Echo’s Main Competition is Google Home

The first Echo device became available for purchase publicly in June 2015. For a long time…meaning over 2 years…Echo stood all alone in this market, which allowed Amazon to command a huge lead! Now other companies, recognizing they sort of missed the bandwagon are trying to play catchup.

Google was the first with Google Home. Google Home came out in September 2017.

Google Home was First Sold a Full 2 Years & 3 Months After Amazon’s Echo Was Launched!

Even though such a huge amount of time had elapsed, when Google finally entered the market, with Google Home priced at $129, it placed Google Home squarely in the #2 position (mainly because no other competitors had entered the market.) At the time Echo was launched which was Amazon’s first and main Echo device, it was being sold for $179. This was despite earlier news reports saying it would retail for $199. But even that price didn’t last long! The original Echo’s price has jumped all around because that’s what Amazon does. You’d be hard pressed to come up with a ‘standard’ price for Echo. However, around the time that Google Home came out, Echo was priced at $129…which is why of course Google Home was also priced at $129.

 Google Home

While both products were, and still are, very similar…many reviewers thought that Google Home is better at answering questions…and Echo is better at playing music and doing everything else. But that hasn’t been our experience. Ours has been very disappointing when it comes to true AI capabilities. In our experience neither has been great! We bought Google Home believing that since Google’s strength lie in finding answers online…so would Google Homes. But our Google Home routinely answers us with “Sorry, I can’t help with that yet” more often than not.

Unfortunately historically Alexa is no better at answering our questions. ‘Her’ standard reply was always “I don’t have an opinion on that or I can’t help with that.” Although I just did try it again and Alexa has improved a lot in this regard. Now ‘her’ standard answer is “This might answer your question.” Then she goes on to provide some information which at least 50% of the time is really helpful! So in a side by side comparison right now, I would have to say that Alexa and Echo wins! Business Insider’s Ben Gilbert wrote a review of Google Home right after it came out. He was really excited to get it being a devoted Google fan. But his review was pretty awful. Google Home failed to do any of the things he needed it to do…things like connect to his Google Calendar for example…so ultimately he returned it.

Google Home Sells Accessory Magnetic Bases Ranging in Price from $20-40 Which Help Make it the More Attractive of the 2 Devices

https://store.google.com/config/google_home_base

YouTube a video of Google Home Max $399

Google Home is Available in 3 Sizes Now

Regular $129

Mini $50

Max $399

Samsung's AI Engine Bixby

Other Competition

When Echo devices were first announced they were billed as smart speakers, but today they do so much more. While Samsung is rumored to be building a competing product using Bixby, their AI voice assistance utility, no one has any news on when that might be available or even if it is really happening. I was somewhat surprised to learn that Microsoft had released a competing product called Invoke last October, because I’d never heard anything about it. However, they did and reception was pretty good. You can read about it in this Lifehacker article.

In checking out Microsoft Invoke for this post I discovered that Microsoft has recently decreased their price substantially by knocking $100 off of their $199 price tag. So, right now at least, you can pick up an Invoke for $99!

Microsoft's Invoke

More About Amazon’s Alexa Devices

While Amazon’s competitors have all been playing catchup, Amazon just keeps improving their main products with better, more robust features and with expanding the whole line of Alexa enabled devices too. They currently have Echo Show and Echo Spot…which both have touch enabled screens for viewing content and their long-awaited Echo Look device.

Echo Line

Echo Look has only been available to Prime members by invitation. This limited sales state has existed for almost 8 months now. It just so happens that we do have Amazon Prime and I really wanted Echo Look. 

I lobbied for an invite for some time and was finally successful! I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed…I’m thrilled with Echo Look. It’s a camera enabled device that helps me pack my clothing for trips as well as helps me shop when I bring home outfits that I try on in front of Look’s camera. It’s super easy to use and has already saved me a ton of time packing. Now it’s helping a lot in the shopping realm too!

Not one to rest on their laurels, Amazon just keeps the new device launches coming. You can read about some of their newest devices in this Digital Trends article. The handwriting on the wall is very clear…Amazon is building an entire ecosystem around Alexa…and they’re doing it the right way! Each and every new device they release has experienced great reception by the public.

Apple's HomePod

What About HomePod?

Right now it’s anyone’s guess how Apple’s new HomePod will compete in this market. The Verge wrote an interesting article the day HomePod was announced for sale (two days ago.) In it they conclude that while Apple has a long way to go to catch up to Amazon and Google, and their features sound lackluster, Apple has this way of taking dire circumstances like this and turning them around. They point out that the iPod faced very similar circumstances when it entered the market…and we all know how that worked out!

So, even though it doesn’t sound like HomePod will be much of a contender, don’t count them out just yet. In just a few hours we’ll know for sure as the first users start reporting to the world how well HomePod really works. For its $349 price…it really needs to be amazing imo. Even Microsoft’s Invoke, billed as the most expensive smart speaker to date, at $199…was priced considerably less than HomePod at its introduction.

How to Preorder HomePod

Order HomePod Today

You can order HomePod using this link.

See Tech Specs for HomePod.

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Will a Skincare or Cosmetic Product Cause Acne?

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Acne & Probiotics

I recently entered my 60’s and also recently experienced really awful acne. That’s a long story for another day but in my quest to solve this problem I learned that many dermatologists are now prescribing probiotics for their acne patients. After spending some time researching which probiotics would be best for me to take I learned that my past use of antibiotics to control acne was probably one of the key reasons why my acne is so awful now.

I’d quit taking an antibiotic that I’d been taking for 40+ years to control acne. Apparently there’s a rebound effect that causes acne to become much more severe when the antibiotics which controlled it are stopped abruptly. I already knew that taking probiotics was good for antibiotic related side effects, but learning that they were also very good for actually controlling acne too was new information. This knowledge has been a bit of a break through for the world of medicine and for me.

Consequently I’ve begun taking a boatload of probiotics and I think they’re helping. If anyone is interested in what I ordered, I purchased them all from Amazon and I’d be happy to provide information about the specific probiotics I’m taking.

My Probiotics Research

While I was researching probiotics I learned about a newish company that customizes probiotics for individuals based upon ‘gut’ samples you send them. The company is thryve.

My son had begun their program to address different health concerns. I decided to wait and see what kind of results he had before making a decision about whether or not to try that option too. While reading up on thryv I read a few blog posts they wrote on Medium and in this post which mentioned a few companies who are actually using probiotics in their skin care lines. This unique approach should warrant its own additional research,

What Is Comedogenic?

The word comedogenic basically means…to cause acne. If you want to make sure that any new skins care products or cosmetic products that you buy won’t aggravate your acne problem, you should make sure that you buy products that are non-comedogenic. Any good skincare or cosmetic product line should list all of the ingredients that are contained in their product. Having this information at your disposal is critical in determining if a product will cause your acne to flare up.

In the past determining whether or not a specific product was comedogenic was a really cumbersome task. I’d write down the full list of ingredients and then one by one I’d Google each of them trying to find articles that discussed this specific aspect about the product under consideration. It never really dawned on me until today that I could also email the product’s manufacturer…which you’ll see below is what I did try out today. We’ll see if I get a response to my 2 inquiries.

A Better Way to Discover the Comedogenic Properties of a Product

Before I get into the better method…here’s a little more background on what transpired today which led to my decision to write this post. Using the article above’s links, I visited the websites of each of the 3 companies mentioned that carry product lines which include probiotics as ingredients. 2 of the three companies sell their skincare products on a retail basis. Both recommend their products for acne sufferers. However of the 2 the Nerd skincare line is the only one designed specifically for people with acne. Fighting acne is their sole goal in life. They have this cute video which describes why.

When I viewed their video using the YouTube app on my iPad there were other recommended videos in the queue for me too. One of them was a longer negative video review that discusses why the relatively expensive ($300) Nerd skincare line didn’t work for her. Below is that video.

https://youtu.be/cOzMcTckcH4

I was really surprised to see in the video’s comments that a viewer had learned Nerd’s facial cleanser includes a highly comedogenic ingredient…Myristic Acid. I Googled that ingredient myself…and sure enough it’s highly comedogenic!

I was pretty shocked to see that so I emailed Nerd asking them if it was true and if so why.

Comedogenic is a Relative Term

I’d forgotten that some ingredients are more and some are less comedogenic. So just knowing if they are comedogenic is only half the battle…knowing how comedogenic they are is important too. Below is a chart that shows what the different levels of comedogenic are.

The 3rd company thryv’s article mentioned is a company called Tula. Tula sells skin care products that are supposed to be extra healthy for your skin because they include probiotics in their ingredients. While they don’t have a line for acne per se, they have a line for oily skin. Using their ‘Contact is’ page I also emailed them to ask if any of their ingredients were comedogenic because my old method for determining this is so tedious. I was thinking someone should come up with a website where you could copy all of the ingredients that are in a product into a little box and they would check for you…and thinking maybe I’d even try to do that myself. So I Googled comedogenic checker and lo and behold discovered that someone has created a site for that.

The Online Comedogenic Checker

This website I arrived at is a little confusing…which is another reason I’m writing this list. There are a ton of ads and at first glance I didn’t think it would do what I wanted it to…but I was wrong.

The website is actually called acnemantra.com but they call themselves Skingredients Online. After a little bit of a description and a bunch of ads you’ll find a little box to paste in a list of ingredients into. When you paste in the ingredient list it’s important to make sure that each ingredient is separated by a comma.

Below is a cleaned up version of acnemantra.com’s website using ios Safari’s Reader View:

Notice at the bottom of the above screenshot…there’s a little text box? That’s where you paste the list of ingredients into. After doing that you’ll need to answer the math problem in the Captcha to make sure you’re a human and then you’ll see a nice printout of any comedogenic ingredients along with some helpful information about what that means.

The next 2 screenshots shows how I copied the ingredients from Tula and what the results were.

I Was Shocked to Learn That 4 Ingredients for Tula’s Cleaner are Comedogenic

What I learned was that just because a company claims their products are good for acne sufferers doesn’t mane that they really are! I thought I knew a lot about acne and was using my considerable knowledge to get products that were proven to be helpful…but then I’ve always relied upon the reviews I’ve read at their site as being accurate and honest…and now I realize I have to check out every detail much more thoroughly than I have been.

That’s probably why I love Amazon so much…because you really can rely upon their customer reviews. And it’s also why I’ve begun writing reviews on Amazon too. At this end of this post I’ll include a link to the one product I found at Amazon that has helped my acne more than any other…that gives a lot more detail about how acne has impacted my life recently. But before I do that there’s more information from Skingredients website I want to share.

More Information From Skingredients

Skingredients supplies more information about what the different levels of comedogenic mean and also how their tool works in various browsers in the screenshot below.

I discovered that they also have an Android app which you can find out more about here and in the 2 screenshots below.

The one thing I would caution you on is their app seemed to have a lot of crashing problems. It appears looking at the reviews that they fixed it…but the reviews didn’t necessarily back that up.

I Signed Up for an Email Subscription for Both Skincare Line’s to Get a Discount Promo Code

I did that before I discovered that both products have comedogenic ingredients in them…so now I need to remember to go and unsubscribe! And because I feel a like I’ve been deceived I decided to include screenshots of what their promo codes are too. So that if someone else wanted to save money by ordering from them, they could without having to subscribe to annoying emails so the screenshots below are for their promo codes.

A Bit of Information About The One Product That I’ve Found That Helps My Acne A Lot

The one product I’ve found, that I purchased from Amazon that helps my acne more than anything else I’ve tried is the Neutrogena Light Therapy Mask. But the mask has some problems too…which is why I wrote a really long review talking about the pluses and minuses of it.

I’m an Amazon Associate, which means that if you follow a link to Amazon.com and then make a purchase within 24 hours, I will receive a small percentage of what you pay to Amazon (but your price will stay exactly the same.) Also, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this product for anyone else…both because of its inherent problems and because it doesn’t work well from for everyone. It does work amazingly well for me. So I thought I should include it since I’m taking about acne problems and products here. But it also means that I have to remove my review of it at Amazon…because they are very strict about not including a link to anything that you may have written a review for. Because they feel it’s double recommending in a way. So I’m including my whole very long review here too…and remember it doesn’t necessarily work for all people!

My Review of the Neutrogena Light Therapy Mask

44 of 50 people found the following review helpful

Welcome to Neutrogena’s Beta Test Program

May 12, 2017

Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

This review is from: Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Treatment Mask (Health and Beauty)

I’m downgrading my review for about the 5th time. I arrived at my recent opinion accidentally when I received the 1st replacement mask. I began using the new mask but it failed 1/2 way thru it’s 2nd use…so I took the activator I was in the process of returning and tried it and WOW! it worked beautifully for about 10 sessions.

After 2 months of my testing and my use of the mask it’s become obvious to me that I’m beta-testing the mask. I’m a beta tester for several software products and a few hardware devices. What that means is that a product is almost good enough to be sold but there are a few minor problems left. Our role as beta testers is simply to use the product repeatedly and then send the developer a record of any problems that we encountered along with what the conditions were when they arose if possible.

Why We Are Beta Testers for Neutrogena’s Mask

This mask is still in its ‘beta test’ phase of life…because it’s not working correcly most of the time. Our reviews of the problems we experience with it are the reports that are sent to Neutrogena that tell them what they need to keep working on to improve it further.

In addition to my accidental discovery described above, my evidence that we, the general public are its testers was arrived at by my reading all of the very old reviews here on Amazon.

What a I learned was that when the masks were 1st sold many of them didn’t work at all. People wrote a lot of really negative reviews. Overtime the masks have gotten better. Now they work more often than not, right out f he box…but they only operate a their best level sporadically.

I’ve owned 6 masks and they all exhibit the fluctuating power problem. I’ve actually purchased even more, and sent them as gifts but I haven’t followed up to see if any recipients have even tried them out yet.

If My Theory is Correct Why are There Some Great Reviews with No Problems?

I’m guessing that any review to the contrary means that the Mask was used for less severe cases which didn’t require that the mask to maintain consistent, full power for a long duration of time (i.e. 30 days.)

I think it would be easy with a mild case of acne to not even notice the power fluctuations. In my case my acne fell in the medium severe level when I began using the mask…possibly even borderline severe…but I’ve seen cases that are much worse than mine so I hesitate to label mine as severe. My acne seemed to be slightly treatment resistant in general. Maybe that’s because I’d taken oral antibiotics to repress it my entire adult life?

What I’ve Learned | My Advice for Buying & Using the Masks Effectively

The technology that these masks employ works really well for clearing up acne…amazingly well in fact…but Neutrogena’s technology hasn’t been perfected yet…because if the power fluctuation problems.

I’ve personally used 5 or 6 masks in the last few months. Every single mask is the same. The power of the lights fluctuates. If you have acne that’s severe enough to need to use this daily for more than a week or so, my best advice would be to buy several of them and when one starts to decrease in power switch to it to a different activator.

The simple act of swapping 2 of the activators between the same 2 masks can make 2 defective units work again…but this too is sporadic. After a while that combination will stop working too and another switch is required. Having three or four masks on hand (or maybe just having several activators but I didn’t think to try that and I already had the masks) increases the possible number of combinations that you’ll need to keep using this daily at full power.

For me, the mask seems to only be effective on my acne when it’s at full power.

My Results

After 1 month of continued daily use my acne is gone…but it took 4-6 masks to make that happen and the real elapsed time was almost 2 months because repeatedly I had to await the receipt of a new mask when mine would quite working after a few uses.

How I Can Tell the Power is Fluctuating

1. When functioning at full power the mask grows warmer overtime

2. If I open my eyes and look out at something at full power, something like a book or the TV, the lights are so bright that it’s hard to see anything well.

3. If my eyes are closed during full power the ‘images’ I see are usually a field of solid bright orange or once in a great while a power surge appears as very, very bright white. I don have a good sense of what I see when it’s not at full power other than the bright orange is gone. Maybe I’ll see red, black, yellow, or other colors, but the way I can tell is lower power is that whatever color I see, it feels less intense and it’s not orange. But usually fall asleep with it on.

4. It’s now immediately obviously to me now when I first turn it on if it’s at full power or not. If it isn’t, I’m stuck so I usually complete most of the session anyway.

5. I tried having my husband photograph me wearing the mask no hat full power and at low power, but there’s no photographic evidence of the fluctuations.

6. If I take the mask off and look at the inside of it and it’s lights (which is bad for your eyes so I avoid doing this) both my husband and I can readily see that the lights are either ‘less’ bright or ‘more’ bright.

7. Oftentimes the power fluctuates several times within one session which is how I justify to myself that wearing it for close on the full duration may be useful and not a complete waste of my time. But if the majority of the session was at a lower power I’ll usually repeat it again with a different mask/activator combination.

More About #4 Above:

So that I don’t waste that session on the Activator, I tried immediately switching the ‘on’ activator to a different mask but that doesn’t work because you need to restart the activator. So I try to arrange a pairing that I haven’t already used before turning the mask on. This problem probably provides me with half of my rationale for why I believe hacking the activator is OK…the other half is Neutrogena’s manner of addressing all he problems (described below.)

My Regime for Great Skin | What Worked for Me in +- 30 Days

My advice if you have medium-severe resistant acne (which was my situation) and you really want it to clear it up ASAP, is to spend about $100, and get 4 masks & use my activator swapping technique and then spend another $100-150 to get 3-5 good forms of oral acidophilus probiotics.

Use the mask once daily (even twice a day at first when at your worst) and take 4-5 good probiotic supplements spread out if possible throughout the day. Also I used Neutrogena’s Oil Free Stress Control Triple Action Toner daily 1x or more times on the worst areas. I also used Tazorac, which is a prescription strength Retina product daily…but I was using that all along and long before my massive acne event occurred. So I don think Tazorac made much of a difference. But there are some good OTC products that do about the same thing, which is something you’d need to research if you were interested.

My Main Point in a Nutshell

If I had to do this all over again I’d prefer spending around $250 all at once upfront and in around 30 days or less my acne would have been completely gone. I wouldn’t have had to waste tons if of time researching alternatives to keep my progression moving forward or at least not going backwards while I returned masks and awaited new ones. I spent a l more time and money researching alternative light therapy products to use while I waited for the new masks to arrive.

More About the Probiotics:

One thing I’m certain helped me a lot is taking massive doses of acidophilus. I discovered that this was a recent scientific discovery and that many dermatologists are now prescribing them for use in treating acne. I researched this idea and learned that it’s not all that easy to get your gut bacteria realigned and that you need to take a lot of good quality acidophilus types of supplements.

So then I read a bunch of articles on that subject and found 4-5 of the best ones that were recommended which I could also order on Amazon and I began taking about 5 per day. 2 months later the areas that I wasn’t treating with the light therapy have also cleared up completely…I believe this is due to the probiotics as well as using the Neutrogena Toner mentioned above in My Regime.

My Maintenance Program:

I continue using the mask 2-3 times per week to make sure I don’t have a recurrence. I slowed down the acidophilus as some ran out but then after 2 weeks of being completely clear some new small blemishes appeared so I just reordered the probiotics I ran out of.

About Mask Returns:

Contact Neutrogena at 1 (800) 582-4048. If the mask is defective and you haven’t hacked it they should provide you with a refund check and send you a return envelope to mail back the defective mask.

Amazon allows returns if you stay within their guidelines. I forget what those are (maybe 15 days for this?) but that should be on the product page somewhere…if not call Amazon and find out before you buy it. They returned some defective units for me…but I had to do it soon enough to be within that time period.

——-

Below is My Most Recent Older Review…I’m leaving this in because there’s lots more information not covered above.

3 Stars

Why I Downgraded My Review from Great to Just Good

I’m downgrading my 1st extremely positive review for the 2nd time because my 2nd mask just failed after its third use.

I’m 60 and I have had medium to severe cystic acne since my teens. I’ve seen dermatologists my entire life and been on medications to control my acne. I’ve taken everything from 3 courses of Accutane, most of the antibiotics, Spironolactone and use prescription Retina products. For one reason or another I can no longer take any of these and stopped taking my most recent antibiotic in December of 2016. As other reviewers have written, it seems like when you’ve suppressed acne with medications for long periods of time, once you quit the medication your acne returns more virulent than ever. It took a few months before the acne returned but when it did my outbreaks have been some of the worst I’ve ever experienced.

I didn’t believe that this mask could help me because of the severity of my symptoms. So I was ecstatic when I showed marked improvement after just one treatment. I was certain it would clear me up entirely in about a week, and I still believe that it would have had it continued to function.

I began using it twice a day. The effects were positive and cumulative. Best was that I didn’t experience any negative side effects. But on about day 4 my Mask’s lights seemed less bright. I continued using it anyway however in the hopes that it was still effective. It wasn’t. I emailed Neutrogena and was waiting for a reply which finally came about 5 days later.

If you’re serious about banishing acne, don’t rely on just one mask…they are just too unreliable and could fail like mine did…twice, at any time.

I’m ordering 2 more masks to hopefully have one functioning and a backup. When my 1st one failed, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out alternatives to use while I awaited Neutrogena’s reply to the failure of my 1st mask. I’d ordered some other light therapy devices from Amazon that began arriving, to supplement the faltering power of the Neutrogena Mask which I continued to use it at what seemed like about 50% power. Ultimately I realized that 50% power wasn’t enough for it to work.

Thank goodness I found 2 other standout fill in devices because going even 1 day without a light treatment causes my acne to regress. I wrote reviews of them you can find at my profile since every time I try to share them here my review doesn’t update.

I’ve read all the reviews and overall the mask appears to successfully treat 80-90% of Amazon customers. For me, the mask works exceedingly well…when it’s actually functioning at full capacity. The main reason I’m taking away a star is because there’s a very high failure rate for the masks. Also I’m frustrated how long it’s taken for Neutrogena to respond to my problems. Sadly it appears that around 50% of these units end up failing…if not more. I think that the mask was released before it was really ready…based upon what I read of the very early reviews where a lot of people received masks that wouldn’t even power on. Now it appears that problem is resolved but about 1/2 of users experience lowered functionality within a few uses.

Pros and Con’s of the Mask for Me

* I like that for me it’s comfortable, relaxing, and extremely effective…when it works.

* I wish the mask covered more of my chin because that’s where most of my problems are. I end up sort of holding it while pushing it up a bit to hit more of this area.

* The inside eye protection is nice but I’m not 100% sure how well it protects. Based on other reviewers information, long term blue light exposure can lead to macular degeneration so I plan on being much more careful when my new mask arrives.

* The failure rate of the mask is too high. In reading reviews it seems like about 50% of customers either receive one that doesn’t work at all or that fails after a few uses like me.

* The way they handle the defective units is cumbersome. They should just send you a new one, but instead they seem much more concerned about retrieving the broken one than in their customers’ getting replacements in a timely manner. They are sending me a return label or envelope and a check to buy a new one.

* The cost of refill activators is a definite con but hacking it is the counter balance. There are tons of YouTube videos to guide me. It looks easy and only requires the use of a soldering kit ($15 on Amazon.) The videos are so detailed I think I could handle it.

Details Regarding How Neutrogena Handled my Problems

Their convoluted and slow procedures for addressing problems with these masks gave me my justification for thinking that hacking the activator is OK. But the high failure rate of my masks really made this a nonissue for me to date.

I was going to buy another activator before my mask stopped working well but my attempts to do that were frustrating so I gave up. Recycling the ‘spent’ activators is a service Neutrogena offers, but finding information about it isn’t easy. I found the information by Googling ‘recycle neutrogena light therapy.’

I came up with a way to use it with my glasses so I can wear it watching TV. The inner glasses protect your eyes and I’ve taped an old pair of my prescription glasses to the outside which you can see in the attached photo.

One Word of Warning About Mask Use

Even though there’s built-in eye protection I’ve learned that blue led lights are bad for eyes and can lead to macular degeneration. Since we have that amongst elderly relatives already, I try now to keep my eyes closed while using the mask…despite the act that left my jury-rigged glasses in place.

Hacking Neutrogena’s Light Therapy Mask

There are some great videos I found at YouTube that show how to modify Neutrogena’s Mask so you don’t need to keep buying new activator units for it. Below is the best video I found. I also made a screen by screen tutorial for myself to actually Follow when hacking the Mask, which I’m not including just because this post ended up so long. But if anyone would like me to include them, just let me know in the comments section which you can find by scrolling down towards the bottom of the page and looking for the little box.

Hacking the Activator Video

Top Reason Most US Passport Applications Are Rejected or Returned

Fav airplane cloud shot
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No One Told Us 2 Important Things…until it was almost too late

I Just Spent the Better Part of a Week Figuring Out How to Renew My Passport in Time for Christmas Travel

When I discovered that you could mail in your application after completing it online, I decided to take complete control of the project and add DIY photos too…which ended up being the most time-consuming aspect.I sealed up my packet with all its components and my check for $215…and gave it to my husband to Fed Ex to them quickly. In the process of creating all of the content I’d included in my packet I made a 2nd copy of everything to keep filed away for future reference…or in the unlikely event that my application wasn’t processed due to some error I’d made.

Boy, am I glad I made that backup copy! I almost had to use it today…the same day I’m sending my original packet.

Our passports

2 Things They Don’t Tell You Anywhere

To say that I’m a detail oriented person would be an understatement…and that’s a good trait to have when it comes to renewing your passport. I spent a day just reviewing all of the literature the State Department (I think) publishes about how to renew your passport. I carefully analyzed all of the photos they accepted and denied…and I watched a few hours worth of YouTube videos on how to take and create an acceptable passport photo. So I’m certain that I didn’t read anywhere either in the online guides or in the 5 or so pages of instructions that are included along with your application when you print out the final copy.I only just learned of these 2 requirements after a frantic phone call from my husband who was at the post office trying to send my applications from there in an expedited way.

Airport chairs can look cool

#1 Requirement:

You can’t send something by Fed Ex to a PO box number…which is what the State Department uses for their mailing address. FYI, there are different mailing addresses depending upon where you live and whether or not you want yours expedited (which is also a $60 up charge.) The only way you can send it is via the Post Office…which didn’t end up being a bad thing, because that’s where he learned of Requirement #2.

#2 Requirement

Only Sign Your Signature Using Black Ink!

That’s right! I almost used a pen with brown ink but ended up switching pens right before I added my signature. But I wasn’t sure when my husband called exactly what color ink cartridge I had in the fountain pen I used to sign it. I had to go find the actual pen and check it. The woman working at the post office who helped my husband mail my packet told him that the #1 reason why people’s applications are returned is due to their signing their name in the wrong color ink! Had mine not been in black…which was at least a 50% probability…I would have needed to use my backup copy. So my top tip is:

Print 2 Copies When Your Print Out Your Completed Application PDF

Some Other Links I Found Most Helpful

Official FAQ’S for the Passport Application Process

Official Starting Page for the Online/Mail-in Passport Renewal Process

Official Photo Composition Template

Official Photo Requirements FAQ’s

This last link is probably the greatest tool I used…it gives you plenty of examples of acceptable and unacceptable photos and tells you what’s wrong with the unacceptable ones. It’s a little tricky to find which is the whole reason I decided to add this ‘Link’ section.

Photo Examples Tool

How to Use the Tool

The Example's Photo Tool is Awesome!

Tips information is shown in the middle section

Some of the examples are funny

Links to My other Travel Tips Posts:

Don’t use Public WiFi’s When You Travel Unless Your Protected with a Firewall: My Tiny Firewall Review

Secrets for Avoiding Airport Lines

Quick Steps to Share iCloud Photos

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These Screenshots Show the Steps to Share iCloud Photos

I’ve grouped them into categories by Tasks. Each section is divided by the faint grey line shown below.


Navigate to Shared Albums on iCloud

Below: 1st Tap on Shared on the bottom menu

 

Below: Tap on Sharing to get to the All Album’s view.

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Below: Once you’re at the place where all your shared iCloud photo albums are displayed you can go on to Share an album with someone or add photos to an album.

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 Adding Photos to a Shared Album

Below: To add a new photo to this album 1st tap on the album to open it and the scroll down to the bottom or the last image in the album. You’ll see a grey square with a + sign in it. Tap on the + sign and then use the bottom Photo menu to navigate to where the images are that you want to add. Most often they are in your Camera Roll…(I know it’s an antiquated term, but it’s more descriptive!) So tap on Albums on the bottom right and then on Photo’s in the top left. See the next screenshot.

Below: This time instead of tapping on Shared as shown below…tap on Albums…to get to your Camera Roll or Photo’s Album on your device.


Sharing an Album

Below: Tap on People and then Invite People.

Below: Begin typing in someone’s name…and Apple will start to list contacts that are similar. You will need to have a person entered into your contacts before you can share this way. The only way to share an album without first adding someone as a contact would be to set the album to Public (which allows you to copy a link to the album) and then copy that link and email it or text it to someone the usual way…outside of the Photo’s app.

But let’s assume the person is a contact…then just select the right one.For most people you’ll see them show up here twice. Once with an email address and one email with a phone #. Select how you’d like them to receive your invitation by choosing between these. If you want to make darn sure they get the invite…chose both.

More Details About Sharing

Below:

  • Turning Subscriber’s Can Post ‘On or Off’ dictates whether or not people you invited to share with can also upload photos to this album.
  • Turning on Public Website allows you to have Apple create a link that you can copy and paste and use for sharing or keep it in a note or something. While the album isPublic‘ and theoretically that means anyone could see it…in practice really only the people who you send the link to will see it.  So,  you don’t need to worry in most cases that making it public will allow lots of uninvited people to see your album.  That ‘s because:

No one else in the world will even know of its existence!  Therefore no one would ever know that they should even try to see it. Once you’ve turned this on…tap on Share and then Copy so that you’ve copied the link onto your invisible clipboard, and have it for pasting somewhere else. If you don’t see the Copy menu item, see the following screenshot.

  • You can receive a notification every time someone adds something to the album.
  • You can delete the album…sometimes Delete isn’t visible at first and you need to swipe upwards on this whole section to get it too appear.

Below: To reveal the Copy menu option tap on the 3 dots and look in the list for Copy. You can change the order by just st dragging Copy up higher on the list.


How to Edit the Name of a Shared iCloud Photo Album

Above: 1st tap on Edit

Below: After the Red -‘s to appear….tap on the Album’s name once to select it, and then again to position the cursor where you want to change it. Or you can just X out the whole title and enter a new one.


How to Rearrange the Order of Photos Within a Shared Album

From what I can tell, this can’t be done. The only way I’ve been able to do it is by downloading certain images that need rearranging and then re-uploading them into the correct order…and then going back to delete all the duplicates. This is a cumbersome process because you can only work with them at the end of the album. So if there are a lot of images in the middle of the album it can get quite cumbersome. I’m still using ios 10 on the device I’m writing this on…if I notice any improvements on ios 11 I’ll update this.

Great Tools to Monitor Hurricanes Using ios

Photo credit: Forsaken Fotos via Visual Hunt / CC BY
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Featured Image Credit: Forsaken Fotos via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Introduction

I have people I care about who’ve been involved in each of the devastating hurricanes recently beginning with Harvey. Slowly overtime I’ve built up a small collection of useful tools for getting first hand information that I decided to share. In addition, currently in the ios App Store if you look under the ‘Featured’ section you’ll find a helpful listing of apps Apple deems useful to people who are anticipating that a hurricane will cross their path. So without further adieu…

Finding Recommended Apps from Apple’s ios App Store

It’s very easy to find the app collection that Apple has designated useful during this years hurricane season. Just open the App Store on any ios device and tap on the Featured category on the bottom menu. When you do so you’ll immediately see this collection of apps on the top line of recommended apps.

ios apps for hurricanes

Weather Tools

Windy App   Free

Provides wind and waves forecast by Windyty, SE

Tap or click on each image below to enlarge it:

Windy’s Browser Alternative

Both tools are the same and pretty amazing…well I can only speak for the ios app really, which is pretty amazing. Not only can you see great visuals for wind speeds but you can see forecasts by 3-5 different forecasting services and determine 28 different variables for locations you zero in on. You can also save the locations you’re interested in tracking and even have customized weather alerts for those locations sent to yourself.

WNYC Hurricane Tracking Map

This browser based tool lets you see exactly where hurricanes are at any given moment in time.

An example using WYNC in Safari to find Irma's current location

An example using WYNC in Safari to find Irma’s current location

Hurricane App by American Red Cross   Free

Communication

FireChat App   Free

A description for FireChat's features in the app store

A description for FireChat’s features in the app store

FireChat is an amazing instant messaging tool if/when it works for communications during disasters. It allows users to create their own mesh networks based solely on Bluetooth without needing to use WiFi or cellular networks. Bluetooth generally works at distances of up to about 300 feet or 100 meters.

The technology is complex and I don’t begin to understand it, but through the use of people who’ve joined a group network, it’s even able to connect greater distance if someone in the smaller network has WiFi connectivity. But all this is predicated upon if it works at all. When it does it’s supposed to be amazing…when it doesn’t it’s apparently useless. Here’s a link to FireChat’s website to learn more.

FireChat's Website

FireChat’s Website

If FireChat doesn’t work for you a website calling themselves Gecko and Fly wrote a helpful article about 4 others that utilize the Bluetooth mesh networking technology too. I could be wrong, but I believe that FireChat was the first to offer this cutting edge technology.

This video describes how FireChat works:

Live Streamed Video

Aside from YouTube, there’s another live streaming website that I’ve found to be invaluable during this most recent set of hurricanes. It’s an app called Periscope that is owned by Twitter. I’m sharing this with a bit of trepidation after a friend tried it based upon my recommendation and immediately encountered porn. Personally, I’ve never encountered porn on Periscope…but then I’ve only used it a few times. When I did I only sought hurricane footage…ideally live streamed videos of the weather’s impact in areas where someone I was worried about resides.

You need to either setup an account with Periscope or login through Twitter. Because I think my search method is pretty safe I’ll describe it. The way that I use Periscope is to look on the bottom menu for a globe icon. I tap on that to pull up a map of North America and then drag the map around using pinch and zoom gestures until I find a livestream I want to view. You can identify active live streams by looking for the red circles. If there are no red circles, then I look for blue circles. Those are very recent live streams. In hurricane areas that are just beginning to be hit, you can usually find a few people who are broadcasting right before and during the early portions of the hurricane. But once it’s progressed the area may lose power in which case these live streams usually end.

Periscope App Free

Live Video Streaming Around the World by Twitter, Inc.

Features of Twitter's Periscope App

Features of Twitter’s Periscope App

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