Wired is Celebrating 25 Years



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 great25 Years of Wiredvideo

Where it All Began Images from Wired’s Early Days

and last

Wired’s Official Wired25 Event Website


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

Abstract photo

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 set up. 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!


Please scroll down past my bio to leave comments.

Apple HomePod Is Finally Available for Preorder Today

Art glass


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.

image 858

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


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.

Tech SpecsComments

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Will a Skincare or Cosmetic Product Cause Acne?


Update November 15, 2018

My Own Acne Update & One Important Tool

Since writing this one year ago I’ve learned so much and as a result my horrible acne has improved considerably…almost to the point where I can say I’ve mastered controlling it…all on my own, and without prescription drugs.

I intend to write several posts which cover in detail all that I’ve learned, with before and after photos,  but I wanted to add one thing here that I think is important enough to include before I get around to doing that.

The site I discuss further down the page for discovering which ingredients if any, might be contributing to your acne problem was a spammy or ad-filled one. I’ve since found a much better, more reliable site for checking the ingredients of any skincare or cosmetic product to see if comedogenes are included. In fact, I’ve found this site to be so helpful that nothing touches my face until I’ve deemed it ‘comedeogene free‘ using this ingredient checker.

The site is  Skin Salvation.  The fastest way I find it is by Googling the words ‘skin salvation comedogenic‘.  If you scroll down about a page and a half you find the section shown in the screenshot below.  Just enter your list of ingredients into the blank box. When you do that you’ll be shown something like the next screenshot. Any ingredient which is flagged is highlighted in yellow…it’s comedogenicness is shown in the rating immediately below that.

Comedogenic ingredient checker

Interpret Your Results

Interpreting the Rating

The screenshot below provides some information about interpreting the results, but basically any ingredient that is flagged with the rating of 3-5 is definitely comedogenic and shouldn’t be used. I take a green star sticker and put it on all products that pass this test.

Interpreting your results

Original Post

November 2017

Acne & Probiotics

I recently entered my 60’s and also recently began to experience really awful acne. The multiple reasons responsible for this occurrence are a long story for another day, but in my quest to solve this problem I learned that many dermatologists are now prescribing probiotics for acne patients as a means toward improving or completely resolving their acne symptoms!

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. Although it wasn’t always the same antobiotic, my use had been pretty constant…with only a few brief periods of respite (during which I took something else like

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 Thryve 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,

Thyrv probiotic site

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.


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 Thryve’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 us’ 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 of the Skincare Lines 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 All Beta Testers for Neutrogena’s Mask

This mask is still in its ‘beta test’ phase of life…because it’s not working correctly 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   + or –  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

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


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.

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.


 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


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


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


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


If you’d like to read other’s comments, (assuming there are any,) leave a comment yourself, or ask a question, please do so by scrolling down.

Secrets for Avoiding Airport Lines


Secrets for Avoiding Airport Lines

Airport ticketing

Airport Program for Avoiding Long Lines

The CBP (US Customs and Border Protection) along with the TSA (Travel Security Administration) offer an amazing program for Americans who fly which can save those who enroll both time and money.

It’s called GOES or the Global Online Enrollment System. The program is relatively new, and easy to enroll in. It can help save time during departures by allowing participants to use a much shorter VIP Line for security during departures, or for customs upon arrivals, for both domestic and international flights.

 Passport & GOES

Who Can Apply?

US natural born citizens or lawful permanent residents with no prior or pending criminal record are eligible.

In addition citizens of Mexico (who are not current Sentri Members) the Netherlands and the Republic of Korea may apply if they are members of the Fast Low Risk Universal Crossing (FLUX) or Smart Entry Service (SES) respectively. Also Canadian citizens who are members of Nexus have GOES benefits automatically, but are not eligible to join otherwise.

Other countries who have bilateral trusted traveler arrangements with CBP may also be eligible depending on the type of Visa they hold. Children may also enroll. Minor children 18 years or younger are required to have parental or legal guardianship permission.

Common Misconceptions

We held several misconceptions about the GOES program’s benefits, which is why we didn’t apply sooner. We discovered that the misconceptions are widespread, so I’m listing them here to help readers save time in determining the usefulness of the program for themselves.

  • The program is administered by TSA (actually it’s the United States CBP), but the TSA has partnered with them to offer an expedited TSA security program that automatically applies to you if you’re enrolled in the GOES System.
  • This program only benefits international travelers (the TSA PreCheck Program is the partner program which is for domestic travel (it’s offered through a cooperative affiliation with airlines FF Programs, the TSA and the CBP).
  • You need to travel to a major metropolitan airport for a personal interview. Approx 44 sites are listed at the main CBP Information website. Of these 33 are shown in the US as Enrollment Sites. However, when processing your online application, a different list of 33 sites shows up for scheduling the interview. I will provide links to both lists, so that you can determine if you will need to travel just for the interview.
  • Children aren’t eligible for GOES. Children in fact, are eligible, and can apply as long as they have the written approval of a parent.
 GOES Information

What is GOES?

Global Entry is a risk-based approach to facilitate the U.S. entry of pre-approved travelers. Applicants may not qualify for Global Entry participation if they:

* Provide false or incomplete information on the application;

* Have been convicted of any criminal offense or have pending criminal charges, including outstanding warrants;

* Have been found in violation of any customs, immigration, or agriculture regulations or laws in any country;

* Are subjects of an investigation by any federal, state, or local law enforcement agency;

* Are inadmissible to the U.S. under immigration regulation, including applicants with approved waivers of inadmissibility or parole documentation; or if they

* Cannot satisfy CBP of their low-risk status or meet other program requirements

Source: http://www.globalentry.gov

How Much Does it Cost?

There is a $100 fee that is paid when you submit your application using the online enrollment system. Once approved your term is for five years, at which time, you can renew, again online, through an expedited application process.

The Process to Enroll

Immediately following this section will be click-able links for you to use to get to the right place online to enroll and complete an application. The process is very simple. You navigate to the GOES site and setup an online account for each individual who is applying. After the account is setup, you are provided links within the CBP’s system to begin the application process. This can be accomplished in one sitting, and the information you will need in advance is your passport and your driver’s license.

When you enter your information online, there is one confusing section which makes it sound like you will need to provide additional information to prove your citizenship. But this information doesn’t apply to natural born citizens; all you need to enter is your complete passport and driver’s license information. When the application is complete you are put into a pending approval category. There are help screens along the way to guide, and you are told to remember your login information and check back at this site periodically to find out if you’re pending status has been updated. It took about a week for our applications to be moved into the category that allows you to setup an interview (called conditional approval).

Once you are in this category, you must schedule your interview within 30 days, which is why it’s important to check back at the site frequently.

I recommend checking back every few days, and when your approved, scheduling your interview as soon as possible afterwords. Again, within the online system, you click on a link that brings you to the available sites to schedule an interview. This was one of the aspects that was initially very confusing for us. We reviewed the information on sites available to us, and there was no local office listed as an enrollment center for us. Which is why we delayed applying for so long. We intended to submit our application when we knew we’d be traveling to one of the locations listed. As it turned out, the list for interviews was different than the one shown for enrollment centers, and there was a local interview site for us which made the whole process much simpler.

Advantages of becoming a ‘Trusted Traveler’ in the Global Entry Network

We mistakenly assumed that the Global Entry Network was only advantageous if you were traveling internationally.

  1. Expedited passage through US Custom and Immigrations upon arriving in the US at the conclusion of international travel. You avoid the lines for both points in the return immigration process, the first passport check line, and the second declarations of customs line. The time savings you gain can make the difference in whether or not you make your connections to flights back home, and in fact could have saved us the cost of additional flights on our most recent international trip.
  2. Expedited passage through TSA security whenever you’re flying somewhere. You are allowed into a VIP line that is much shorter and where you do not need to remove your shoes, belt, jacket, laptop, and 3-1-1 bag. One caveat here applies: shortly after we joined, we weren’t expedited on a flight, and didn’t realize airlines could routinely ‘randomly select’ passengers to ‘temporarily remove from VIP status’! We now know to get our boarding passes before we leave for the airport and check them to make sure our VIP status is intact!
  3. Entry into other Countries expedited entry programs like SmartGate, which offers streamlined entry for US citizens into Australia, Privium Program at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Korea’s Smart Entry Service.
More GOES DetailThe

The Interview

The interview is conducted by United States CBP agents in an office setting, and its an individual interview. My husband and I were able to schedule our interview for the same time so that we could go together. You are required to bring the letter you printed out after scheduling the interview online, as well as your passport and drivers license.

The agent asked as general questions about our travels, and both agents were friendly and helpful…not at all intimidating. They use your documentation to research the background information that was gathered on you on a monitor, then ask you to place each hand on a glass topped little machine that scans your fingerprints. After the fingerprints are processed, they put a little sticker in your passport that identifies you to US Customs officials, and give you some documentation to carry with you when you travel that explains what to do to take advantage of your trusted status.

The picture above to the right shows a little card you can carry with you that explains how to use the kiosks for customs declarations when your traveling internationally.

Additional Helpful Links

Here are a few more links that may help to better explain various aspects of the CBP’s Trusted Traveler System


Please leave your comments here.

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Two Unscrupulous Websites to Avoid:  Ava’s Flowers & Trustpilot 

Tulips by Mitul Jhaven

Why Ava’s Flowers & Trust Pilot are 2 Online Sites Consumers Should Avoid

This post discusses two online businesses I encountered  recently that operate deceptively and who’s business practices aren’t focused on building customer satisfaction. The sites I warn against using are:

  • Trust Pilot – This is a Business That Purports to Operate a Consumer Review Website 
  • Ava’s Flowers – Their Website Represents Them as a Local Florist That’s Conveniently Well Situated in Every Single City, Town & Village in the USA

Photo credit: caratello via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC


Rarely do I have occasion to write such a negative post. In fact it pains me to do so. Who wants to expend energy on negativity?

What vsatips & vsatrends are all about…

The focus of my websites has always been on sharing amazing things I’ve discovered and have slowly grown to depend on because they continue being amazing. Or, I write about tips for using tools or resources that I love. Last I like to share ideas on how to accomplish challenging tasks using technology or occasionally I write about something that doesn’t fall into any one of those usual groups but that I just ran across and thought was cool enough to want to share.

What vsatips & vsatrends are not usually about is…

Writing about businesses or companies who’s poor practices garner so many customer complaints they appear to be intentionally ripping off their customers. Or, that their treatment of customers is so poor that claims of harassment aren’t infrequent. Their sole business is serving customers yet it appears they are failing monumentally and at every perceptible level. Yet their failure’s seem to not be negatively impacting their bottom line. Quite the opposite in fact appears to be the case. They appear to be financially healthy and quite possibly even flourishing. Which leads to the inevitable perception that their business practices must be balancing precariously upon a very fine line between appropriate and borderline criminal behavior.

The Sequence of Events Leading Up to My Writing These Profoundly Negative Reviews of Ava’s Flowers & Trust Pilot

Sending Mother’s Day Flowers has Become a Time-Honored Tradition

Mother’s Day this year presented some high’s and some lows for me. Included among the highs were:

  • I was the proud and happy recipient of flowers from my son’s
  • This was a first since they’ve both recently entered young adulthood.
  • Talking to them both on Mother’s Day caused me to recognize that they’ve both completely crossed that invisible line which leaves childhood fully behind and which opens up new doors for relationship bonding and exciting new avenues to explore

Some of the lows were:

  • The biggest low was that they were unwittingly scammed by a website calling themselves Ava’s Flowers.
  • Ava’s was supposed deliver a beautiful flower arrangement on Mother’s Day…instead they delivered a sorry arrangement of half browned out flowers not on Mother’s Day, but a day earlier.
  • While most florists would own up to their errors and correct them, Ava’s never even returned any of the 4 calls I made in which I left messages explaining what the problems were.
  • After discussing the problems with my son’s, which was something I’d hoped to avoid, I discovered that they were misled by Ava’s website into believing that Ava’s was a local florist.
  • Spending a lot of time on Mother’s Day and subsequent days trying to reach a resolution to the problem
Ava's & Trust Pilot's Coalition - If you do a Google Search for Ava's Flowers Reviews you'll find that there are hundreds of negative reviews out there...the only ones that seem to be positive are Trust Pilots.

Ava’s & Trustpilot’s Coalition – If you do a Google Search for Ava’s Flowers Reviews you’ll find that there are hundreds of negative reviews out there…the only ones that seem to be positive are Trust Pilots.

Ava’s Flowers is Scam Website Tricking Innocents Into Believing That They are ‘Local’

My son’s put forth some time and effort into selecting who and where they’d choose to do business for their 1st flower delivery. After reviewing the multitude of choices they selected Ava’s because they were local. Not just to my metropolitan area but to my actual suburb too. It appears that Ava’s has gone to great lengths to present their services online as local…no matter where in the USA you may reside.

I’m not quite sure how Ava’s pulls this off, but you can visit their website and see for yourself, which leads to my warning:

Buyer’s Beware of Ava’s Flower’s

Ava’s Flower’s is not a local florist. Not unless you’re from Mahwah, New Jersey. 

According to a recent local Better Business Bureau report…Ava’s Flower’s is not a reputable business. The BBB has amassed a huge number of complaints about Ava’s.

They’ve received so many complaints in fact that they published a report about Avas. You can read the BBB’s PDF report regarding Ava’s Flower’s here.


But is Deceiving Consumers into Thinking Ava’s Flowers is Local Their Only Crime?

Sadly, no. if that were the case I wouldn’t feel compelled to be spending this beautiful spring Saturday indoors writing this negative blog post. The flowers that were delivered were substandard…over half of them were brown, broken and dying. After getting over my initial shock that my boys even thought to honor me on Mother’s Day in such a kind and loving way, I called the delivery phone number left on the little delivery card. There was nothing but a number to call.

That call led to me spending the rest of Mother’s Day trying to figure out how to remedy the situation so I could happily report back to my boys that the flowers were AMAZING and HOW MUCH I loved and appreciated them. My calls…4 of them in total weren’t returned. The only form of communication I ever received back from Ava’s Flowers was a ‘cease and desist’ order from Trust Pilot.

The Evidence Stacked Against Ava’s Flowers

ConsumerAffairs.com Lists their top 456 complaints about Ava’s Flowers on their website. If you’d like to read them on a PDF I’ve copied around the first 40 onto a PDF document you can download here.

ReviewsTalk.com is apparently a REAL review site. I say that because I found a review there which explained to me a lot about how Ava’s operates and what their true business practices are. I’ve placed a red box around the enlightening section in the screenshot below:

An online petition was signed by 411 supporters at change.org asking the City of New York to investigate all the negative complaints against Ava’s or the alias they use in NY New City Florists.

The Trustworthiness of Trustpilot’s Reviews is Questionable at Best

In case you’ve never heard of them (don’t feel bad, I hadn’t either) Trustpilot is a website purporting to be a review site for consumers. It was Trustpilot’s site that I choose…or really, that chose me as my place to register my unhappiness given the abysmal flowers I’d received from Ava’s. I say ‘chose me‘ because I searched for reviews of Ava’s and Trustpilot was the only review site alternative appearing in my search results. So I created a user account at Trustpilot purely so I could write my negative review for Ava’s Flowers.


What I discovered after receiving 4 almost immediate upvotes for my review was that within hours of my posting it…Trustpilot was contacted by Ava’s Flowers and told to unpublish my review…probably along with thousands of others I suspect…until I could prove my claim. Which I’ve spent the last few weeks attempting to do.

Restoring My Trustpilot Review Proved to Be a Time Consuming & Ultimate Utter Failure

Why, you might wonder? If Trustpilot wants to protect consumers, why would they side with the large businesses that their user base is generally writing about? That’s a great question (and one I also wondered about.) It’s one that’s been answered several times in the following articles:

Companies from Hell | Are Trustpilot Reviews Reliable?

The Guardian’s Fake Reviews Plague Consumer Websites

BBC New’s Navigating the Potentially Murky World of Online Reviews

Tech CR unch’es Trustpilot Raises $4.5m To Scale Up Trust Ratings For Shopping

David Naylor’s Google How Can You Trust Trust Pilot?

It was this third link, while reading through the comments section, that I got the answer to my question in the form of

Trustpilot’s Business Model

Rachael dale’s comment:  “Everyone knows TrustPilot business models – Trustpilot takes money from businesses to show fake positive reviews about other companies, ‘ John Lewis ‘ for instance pays a monthly fee for Trustpilot’s fake reviews and they earn a monthly fee from John lewis. Would they want to piss off John Lewis by showing bad reviews from them? No they would only want to show positive reviews about them. So they put fake reviews for such companies.'”

“If you notice there’s a pattern. After every 1 bad review there are 5 fake positive ones (only for websites they take a monthly fee for the rest its just a string of bad reviews) so as to bury a negative one on a pile of good ones so that people think OHH it does not matter they have one bad one but 5 positives.”

So in the end conclusion it’s all Lies on the Trustpilot website!

Lest you think I’m not being thorough in my research regarding Trustpilot…let me put your fears to rest. No, I’m not basing my opinion upon a handful of negative online articles. Quite the contrary in fact…I’ve spent far too much time researching this topic and fear overwhelming my readers with tons of useless data that you’d need to slog through in order to arrive at any useful kernels of wisdom.

Below PlanetMaketing ‘s comparison confirms what we’ve already learned and adds a bit of new information about Trustpilot’s business practices.

PlanetMarketing’s 2015 Comparison of 3 Reviews Websites as Business Alternatives Doesn’t Recommend Trustpilot (refer to the screenshot below)

What’s a little scary to me is how huge Trust Pilot actually is…granted this was found at their own website!

In fact, if their advertising is to be believed, the web building engine I use for vsatrends, WordPress.com is a client! Which makes me think that most of their clientele are garnered using ‘threat based’ motivation versus positive.

Some of Trust Pilot's Business Clients

Above:  Some of Trust Pilot’s Business Clients

But their business model does seem to be the guiding force behind their representation of consumer’s reviews. When you first arrive at Trustpilot’s site as a new consumer you’re met with the screenshot below…which is actually a constantly changing update of their most recent reviews. I watched it for a while to see if there were ever an instance of negative reviews outweighing positive ones in numbers…but never encountered that phenomenon.

In fact I’ve compiled so much compelling evidence proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that both Ava’s Flowers and Trustpilot are websites that consumers should try to veer completely clear of in order to remain safe online, that I’m adding an Additional Resource section below for anyone who might be interested in additional information.

Fear of Identity Theft is Just One Reason Why Consumer’s Should Steer Clear of Trustpilot

The following screenshot is taken from Wikipedia’s article on Trustpilot.

Florists are The Perfect Business Partner for Fake Online Review Websites

Why do I say that? Because it dawned on me as I’ve been researching and writing this, that florists provide a product which their customer’s generally don’t have a lot of recourse for when the florist fails to deliver. One big reason is because the recipient isn’t generally the purchaser. Therefore websites like Trustpilot which consider a purchase Receipt as the gold standard for proof when one of their business clients objects to a consumer’s negative review, can easily unpublish the unhappy person’s review…which is exactly what occurred in my case. What evidence can a flower recipient really provide to one of the big review scammers?

In my case the ‘proof’ I provided to Trustpilot when requested included:

  1. Several photographs of the actual Flowers which could be verified with EXIF and META data because I left that information intact
  2. The paper documentation I received along with the flowers, which included a ‘typed’ Mother’s Day message from my sons, my address, the date of delivery (which was the wrong date…they were supposed to be delivered on Mother’s Day but were actually delivered a day earlier.)
  3. The New Jersey Better Business Bureau’s report of Ava’s poor customer relations (included in the resource section at the end.)

But none of my evidence was proof enough for Trustpilot. I’ve also included all of my email correspondence with Trustpilot in the Additional Resources at the end of this post.

So Ava’s sells a product in which they mislead consumer’s into believing will be provided locally that they have absolutely no motivation to actually provide…because the recipient has no means of recourse if they don’t deliver. I’m learning that most of the big review sites operate with business models like Trustpilot’s, so their motivation is purely to please the businesses they have as clients or to present the most advantageous picture possible to potential new clients.

It’s no wonder then that almost all of the florist reviews that you see online are positive bordering upon glowing.

The UK’s Register article Is iFlorist the greatest website in the universe, ever?

I don't have a green thumb but my back yard flowers are far better than Ava's

I don’t have a green thumb but my back yard flowers are far better than Ava’s!

Additional Resources

A PDF showing pages and pages of negative reviews of Ava’s Flowers on Trustpilot specifically surrounding the date for Mother’s Day 2017

It wasn’t easy now that I understand Trustpilot’s leanings towards always displaying deceptively positive reviews at the consumer’s expense…but I finally figured out how to use their website to see the ‘true’ reviews of a business. Which is how I was able to find all the negative ones contained in this PDF.


Please feel free to leave me any comments below.

Who Among Us Hates Apple’s Newest News App?

Letter Collage

Dear Apple, Please Do Away With the News App & Give Us a Weather App In its Place

Sincerely, Apple Users’ of the world

You can more of ‘My Open Letter to Apple’ towards the bottom of this post.

Apple's New's App Promises More Than it Delivers

Apple’s New’s App Promises More Than it Delivers

The Bad News About Apple’s Newest New’s App

I just deleted Apple’s newest New’s App. It’s buggy and awful like it’s predecessors. This for me beg’s a bigger question…why can’t Apple get it right with a News type of app? My followup question is of course…shouldn’t they should just give up on the concept of a News app completely?

My most recent frustration emanates from my research today looking for things for our new kitchen. As I was searching for things using Safari, in at least three instances I’ve been forced into using the News app instead of being able to read the article on Safari. The problem with this is twofold. First I have to read the article in iPhone mode which means portrait mode on my iPad and it’s just an unattractive, awkward and an old method of doing things. Second and the bigger problem is that once I’m in the news app I can’t do anything with the content from there. I can’t share it with anyone, I can’t save a photograph from within an article…in fact the only thing that I can do is to copy the entire textual content of the article and paste it into something else which is usually NOT what I want.

Apple has been trying to find a way to serve us our news and our magazine subscription content almost from the iPad’s inception in 2010. They’ve failed abysmally with every attempt. In fact, their failures are of such an epic proportion that when a new iteration of this appears I don’t even bother opening it. I’ve taken in recent years to always quickly moving it into a folder I keep which houses all the unused Apple apps that I can’t delete.

The Good News About Apple’s New’s App

Just so I don’t sound like I’m totally hating here, there is one good aspect about the app…sometimes. When is does work it can be incredibly nice looking…very Flipboardesque (which is probably why Flipboard is more than bothered by it…see the screenshot below.)

My Google search results for 'Apple's terrible New's App'

My Google search results for ‘Apple’s terrible New’s App’

The other good news is that as of ios 10, Apple finally has given users’ a way to delete ‘core’ apps. Deleting an Apple app is just like deleting any other. Long press on it until it wiggles and then tap on the X.

No X Means PhotoBooth Can't Be Deleted

No X Means PhotoBooth Can’t Be Deleted

Incidentally, I just realized that not all of Apple’s core apps can really be deleted. Photo Booth cannot be deleted. I’m not sure why this is, and I’d say it was a oversite if not for the fact that the app doesn’t appear in the list of apps under General – Settings – Storage, which would be another method of deleting it. So for now the widely disliked Photo Booth app poses a unique and puzzling exception.

Who Among My Reader’s Thinks Apple Should Cut Their Losses & Abandon the Idea of News App Completely?

Personally I get my news using other methods…and I’m presently writing a post about that. So I’ve never had need of an Apple app for this purpose. Am I unique? I tend to think not, but maybe I’m wrong. Please let me know in the comments section at the bottom if I am.

My Theory Why Apple Will Never Abandon the New’s App

The only reason I can think of explaining why Apple continues year after year to try and force the issue of a New’s app, is this. Because Apple is motivated by profit incentives, and their New’s app offers profit potential. I think that Apple must be earning a percentage for each of the subscriptions to magazines and news services that are offered through the app. Am I wrong? Frankly I don’t know if I’m right or not. I would be interested in getting to know the truth…but I suspect I am right.

What Should Apple Use to Replace the Doomed News App?

I’m so glad you asked me that question, because the answer has been upsetting me moderately for a while now.

Apple actually has produced quite a few useful apps that they’ve chosen to not make available on to the millions of iPad users around the world. Why they’ve taken this stance is anyone’s guess! I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why Apple wouldn’t want iPad users to have use of such handy tools as calculators or weather reports!

Does Anyone Really Know Why Apple Thinks iPad Users Don’t Need Useful Tools Like Calculators or Weather Reports?

If someone does know, I’d be grateful if you’d clue me in! Because right now, this blatant misconception really irks me! How arrogant must Apple executives be for them to think that they know us and our needs better than we know ourselves!  That’s the only kind of thinking for me that’s plausible enough to lead Apple executives to their blanket assumption that their denial of the usage of their ‘stock‘ or ‘core‘ apps by iPad users isn’t just OK, but something we need! This leads me to pose the question…

Who in bloody #@!! does Apple think they are that they can judge my needs better than I can?

The answer to that question lies at the very heart of the major difference between Android and Apple users  worldwide. Apple has chosen to use what’s oftentimes referred to as a ‘sand boxed‘ approach for managing their users.

Apple’s ‘Sand Boxing’ Practices are Meant To Protect Users…Sadly, In This Instance Apple Actually Harms Their Users Instead

You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘sand boxing’ before. It’s been bandied about for years, but you may not have entirely understood what it means.

Think of it like this:

Imagine a sand box like the square wooden ones most of my peers from the Baby Boom generation grew up with. Within the protective wood-frame structure that corrals all the sand keeping it from spilling out onto the nicely manicured lawn surrounding it, where we kids used to sit and play… sometimes for hours on end.

Now, in my illustration let’s replace those kids with millions of Apple’s iPhone and iPad users. Let’s replace the wooden frame with an invisible barrier, similar to a firewall,  that keeps users inside safe and all the bad stuff out. Once you’ve done that, you should be able to visualize what is meant by Apple’s restrictive sand boxing practices which grossly limits user privileges.

So you can see now how Apple’s sand box effect is intended to protect users…and in many instances it does. In fact it’s worked so well that user’s of Apple devices generally don’t need to worry too much about viruses or malware. Apple’s sand boxing has protected us…but it restricts us too…sometimes unnecessarily. Many would argue always unnecessarily.

I suspect Apple’s stance would be that anyone is welcome to find free versions of apps similar to the ones that they restrict use of by only allowing iPhone usage. While that is true it’s exactly part of the harm I was referring to above. It can take hours upon hours of my valuable time trying to find acceptable replacements that both work and don’t overtax my iPad’s battery with incessantly running ads bordering on malware in the background.

So their answer seems to connote a form of tunnel vision on their part in which they are only half recognizing the full situation they’ve placed users in.

While yes, there are many, many apps available in the app  which replicate Apple’s stock ones, finding a good one is onerous at best, and  downright frustrating at worst. Even if I do find acceptable replacements for apps which should have been included in the first place. Every year or two I’ll need to revisit the task of finding a new calculator or weather app, among others again. Why? Because each September when a new ios is released, every app developer must update their app in order to have run well under the new ios.

Some app developers do undertake that task. But many more don’t after the first few years. I suspect that many app builders have had a rude awakening the first time that this occurred and they took on the updating task begrudgingly. But then after a few years time passed they decided that the tangible gains received from their efforts just weren’t worth the added cost in time and labor…so for all practical purposes they abandon their apps. But not completely. They leave their apps in the App Store available to any sucker who might be dumb enough to buy them without reading user reviews’ first. So they may continue to earn marginal profits for several more years. But the apps themselves really don’t work well anymore.

That’s why I’m forced every couple of years into taking on the onerous task of reexamining the entire App Store for certain basic tools that I need like a calculator. That task wouldn’t be so onerous if Apple would dedicate their resources towards fixing the App Store, because everyone who’s ever searched for an app knows that the App Store is broken and has been almost from day one. Naturally Apple executives know this too. In fact that’s the reason why a few years back when Tim Cook announced that Phil Schiller would be taking the App Store under his wing, Apple users around the world rejoiced!

Sadly, our high expectations were dashed when Phil too either abandoned the project of failed in his efforts to remedy the situation. Many, many angry and frustrated customers have loudly and publicly proclaimed their utter disgust at the whole situation. Lest you doubt my assessment of this what follows is evidence. The screenshot below is a note in my Apple Note’s app where I’ve listed links to some of the top websites that write about a variety of Apple’s and product news…in this case they’ve all writtenOpen Letters to Apple imploring them to fix the App Store.


Here’s the thing…

I don’t really want to think in this negative manner because I really, really love my Apple devices, which you’d see if you read my very long but completely heartfelt and utterly enthusiast review of the new iPad 5. In it I blatantly proclaim my belief that this new iPad is the best one Apple has ever made. I literally gush about all of it’s amazing features, and almost state outright that everyone in the world should own one of these…almost.

Getting back to my ‘here’s the thing’ statement…frankly I feel I’ve been boxed into a corner here. There are no other plausible explanations available to me to explain Apple executive’s actions that I can think of. It comes down to arrogance or tunnel vision regarding your customer’s needs.

The apps already exist, so Apple  doesn’t  need to expend any of their own resources to provide them to us.

Furthermore, they would be helping users more than it might seem on the surface. Not only would they be providing some real value to their customer base in terms of providing them with better life and productivity tools. But they’d significantly be improving everyone’s productivity by removing a set of onerous tasks that keep resurfacing annually when a new ios is released which we are eventually forced to update to.
Go to the Top

So I’ve decided to include my own ‘Open Letter’ to Apple:

My Open Letter to Apple Requesting Stock Apps Be Made Available to iPad Users

Dear Apple, can you please allow me to use the iPhone apps shown below on my iPad too? Personally I know I would benefit greatly by having any or all of these iPhone apps on my iPad.

While your thinking about my request, why not also think about getting rid of the News app entirely?

Below is a list of some the app’s you could replace the News App with:

  • How about the Weather app?
  • How about the Calculator app?
  • How about the Stocks & Bond’s app?
  • How about the Health app?
  • How about the Activity app?
  • How about the Wallet app?
  • How about the Watch app?
  • How about the Compass or the Level app?

And my personal favorite…

  • How about a video screen recording app?

This video screen recording app would allow people to take a video of what’s happening on their iPad or iPhone’s screen. This would prove to be infinitely more useful to me and to millions of other users around the world than the News app currently is.

To my readers: For some unknown reason, Apple has for many years taken an active stance against allowing a screen recording app to be made available in the App Store. This has resulted in a never-ending and revolving scenario in which someone sneaks these capabilities into an app that’s approved for sale. News of this is leaked around the world and thousands if not millions of users download the app and begin using it. 

Apple must be monitoring those same networks in which this news is shared so that in a few short days the app,is removed  for the App Store. Worse yet is that any video footage shot using the app is apparently rendered unusable by Apple’s revocation of a certificate of trust that was attached to the app.

Back to my open letter to Apple: Your actions in not allowing any good apps for this purpose to remain available on the app store has forced users to side load buggy solutions instead.

I, myself have never been fortunate or quick enough to actually obtain one of these apps during the brief time it was available via the App Store. So I’ve resorted to the side loading alternative, and let me state for the record…this is a horrible solution, which may end up damaging the iPad used to side load it at best and places all of my personal identity information at risk in a worst case scenario. 

So Apple, please, if you can’t do that, can you at least explain to me and to the millions of other users out there who so desperately need this tool too, why not? What your thinking is behind this self- imposed ban?

Thank You,



Some of Apple’s Apps In-house Developed Apps That are Available in the App Store

It's interesting that Apple doesn't allow reviews on many stock apps

It’s interesting to note that oftentimes Apple doesn’t allow reviewers to write reviews of many of their own stock apps…I discovered this when I wondered what reviewers had to say about the News App.


Please let me know below if you share my frustration with Apple corporation and their choice to dictate in a ‘micro-management’ sort of way, who can and can’t benefit from using their apps?