My quest for the Chromecast

Yesterday, I visited the land of the free and the home of the brave. It was quite the adventure. I find that the only pro for cross-border shopping is having a better selection of things; the prices are about the same. This was somewhat of a last minute plan but since I was just along for the ride, I made it an objective to find a Google Chromecast since it’s not available in Canada yet,

Crossing the border both ways was actually hassle-free despite us being two young guys driving over. I think it’s normal for people to freak out since the border patrol officers have that stone face when they ask you things. It breaks for the last thing they say, which is something to the effect of, “You’re all set. Have a good one.” At least you don’t walk away with the feeling like you’re doing something wrong even though you aren’t. Anyways…

The last time I went down to the States was in like 2005. I wasn’t sure what to expect since I didn’t remember anything but, to sum it up, it was actually kind of depressing. We drove around the area just across the border and ended up passing through streets of abandoned homes while destroying the car’s suspension on the busted up road.

Our first stop was the Seneca casino. It was nothing special, especially having been to Fallsview before on the Canadian side. I prefer not walking in and immediately smelling cigarettes. We literally just walked right through to see what they had. Like 10 minutes.

We then went over to the Fashion Outlet. Like I said, there’s a better selection I guess, but the prices weren’t anything to get excited about. We went to the McDonalds down the road for lunch. I found the quality to be about the same as what I’m used to, but that’s not surprising. What’s surprising are some of the prices for things. $2 Big Macs. $5 for 20 McNuggets. It’s not surprising that obesity is an issue.

We then drove to the Walden Galleria where it would be my first attempt to get the Chromecast at the Best Buy there. It was concerning seeing the state of that Best Buy. I couldn’t tell if they were doing renovations or something, but there were empty gaps on all of the shelves and the place didn’t seem very brightly lit. I was told that a shipment was supposed to come the day before but was delayed until Thursday. If only I wasn’t leaving the country 4 hours later…

The rest of the mall was alright, nothing really that special (equivalents to Canadian stores like Game Stop = EB Games, [Name that I don’t know because it’s just scribbling] = The Bay). I think I’m the only one who says they wish Radioshack was still in Canada. They actually sell Arduinos and electronic parts to go with it. Of course, it was the only store we came across that day that had less-than-pleasant employees.

There was a Target and Price Rite in the area so we stopped to check it out. The Target was the same as I remember (the only memory I have from my 2005ish visit). I still have yet to check out a Canadian Target, but I guess it would be the same underwhelming experience. The Price Rite was actually the busiest place we visited all day. My friend bought a 3 litre bottle of cream soda for $1 as a joke. It had “Made with Artificial Flavors” in large print on the label as if it was boasting. Soft drinks usually come in 2 litres here in Canada (and usually go for more than $1) which added to the humor of it.

After that, we took a drive through downtown Buffalo. Approaching the skyline, there were sketchy people casually jaywalking. I’m not used to the sight of a quiet downtown area. No gridlock or anything, we just passed right through it, no problem. I took a few pictures heading out of Buffalo:

Buffalo 1 Buffalo 2 Buffalo 3We passed by Martin’s Fantasy Island. I had to take a picture of course:

Buffalo MFIWe went back to the Fashion Outlets area to a Walmart to check for the Chromecast. They said it sold out when it was released and it never got restocked. We headed back to Canada after that.

Once we got across, we wanted to blow some time to avoid the rush hour. We went through Fallsview Casino. I lost $5. My friend went to a slot machine and said, “Let’s see how long it takes to blow off $20”, so he placed the max bet ($3) each spin. He ended up winning $40.

I have this weird love for water fountains so I took this video of the ones at the back of the Fallsview Casino:

So that was my day. No luck in finding the Chromecast. I hope it makes it to Canada soon (By then it should have some more features, though hopefully not limited because Canada).

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Where I sit in the war of smartphones

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With Apple’s keynote tomorrow to announce some things, and with me missing it (because I’m out tomorrow, but also because it’s probably Mac-only again to view it), I thought it would be fun to weigh in on this smartphone war upon us. It seems like everyone has chosen a side: Android, Apple, Windows, or Blackberry.

The picture in this post is from the day I upgraded from my Nokia 5800 to my Samsung Galaxy S2 Skyrocket/LTE. I think it’s quite obvious which side I’m on. When I activated my first Android smartphone, I moved my email and calendar over to Google. Over time, I started to embrace the new things they were coming out with.

The only Apple product I’ve ever owned was an iPod Touch about four years ago (I can’t remember which generation, maybe third). I liked it since it was the only smart and new device I had at the time. I used it daily. While I had some good games going on it, I used it mostly for travelling with music, so since I could do that with my new phone (which was marketed as a music-focused device), I didn’t see the need to carry an additional device.

Fast forward to May 2012 when I get my new Android device. Even though the next generation of the Galaxy phone would come out literally a week or so later, the hardware has lasted over a year now. I’m rooted and running Android 4.3. There are things I’ve gotten used to on this Android phone that I take for granted while my friends with Apple devices complain about certain things (iTunes syncing, file management, etc).

One of those tech YouTubers made a good point in saying that Apple is more of a design company than a tech company. It’s so true. I mean, if you want a device that looks nice and just works, Apple is your best bet. But if you like customization (with risks depending how you go about it) and having more hardware choices, Android is waiting for you.

And while we’re at it, if you like physical keyboards, Blackberry. That’s it for that.

Now about Windows phone… I’ve always been curious about that OS. It looks smooth and fluid, but I’ve gotten used to Android’s customization and the more populated ecosystem. I’m not a huge fan of the live tiles, even though I like the Windows 8 start menu. Maybe I’ll be more interested in a few years when more apps make it into the store. Right now, it brings back memories of going into the Nokia store when I had the 5800 and seeing nothing but silly change-your-voice apps.

On the topic of Windows phones [and tablets], I can’t stand their commercials that make fun of the Apple vs Android war or comparing their products to everything else. I wish they’d take a moment to focus on their products by themselves. If they can’t sell their product like that, then they need to come up with something more eye-catching.

So that’s what I’ve got to say about smartphones. I can only wonder how this will be different 5 years from now.