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Aug 28

So I finally entered the digital age or so it seems. I had been eyeing the Roomba for a while now, but the exhorbitant prices ensured I never got around to getting one. Then one day as I was browsing on slickdeals I saw my calling, a Neato for less than 200 bucks. It was a deal I just could not say no to. I researched a bit and bit the bullet and ordered the Neato. And I can say life has been a lot easier since then. No more vacuuming every weekend, no more spending the prime years of your life doing the boring things in life instead of enjoying life.

This Neato device is essentially an autonomous programmable robot. It has a brush underneath and 2 large plastic wheels with great ground clearance. You can progrem the robot to clean at certain times everyday, you can also start ad-hoc cleaning or ask the robot to spot clean which means it would clean a small area. The scheduled cleans and ad hoc cleaning works great. The spot clean is a hit and a miss and might be one of the occasions where getting the old standup vacuum cleaner may make more sense. I also use the standup vacuum cleaner to clean Neato’s air filters and the nooks and crannies on the robot.

When you first turn on Neato, it moves slightly ahead and surveys the room. I believe its actually deciding which side to start on and then it moves, first it covers the corners and then it moves onto the inner room. Much less erratic than Roomba videos you may have seen on the Internet. My Neato lacks a corner brush and that’s its biggest flaw, although it tries to get the edges and corners hugging the wall, its not enough. Quite often dust and debris near the corners is not picked up by the Neato. You do need another vacuum or atleast a broom for the corners.

Also cleaning Neato is also a bit hard, the design has a flaw wherein gears on the brush get a lot of hair and debris and are hard to clean. the brush itself is hard to clean and so is the filter and the dustbox.

The Neato has a decent battery, a lot of the stock at retailers is old so you may need new batteries for your Neato as soon as you purchase it. For me it would barely cover half of my house so I contacted the company for batteries which they sent. In the video below I show you how to replace those batteries.

Now for the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good:

  • Good cleaning power
  • Good coverage of the house and obstacle detection and avoidance
  • Easy to use

The Bad:

  • Lacklustre battery life
  • Poor corner cleaning

The Ugly:

Nothing really, overall it’s a pretty decent machine

We would give it 4.5 stars out of 5.


Apr 12

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, chances are that you may have heard of this bank called Homestreet Bank, well in all probability you haven’t and neither had I. They did however offer something called a Seahawks checking account and I was intrigued. Being a hawks fan and seeing a decent bonus with the account I decided to apply. This is where things went downhill.

I had often heard about elitist banks who would turn down customers for checking or savings accounts, but never understood the concept. It makes sense to refuse credit to customers but why would you turn down someone’s deposit . This is my first experience with it. I for one have nice credit, never missed a payment, the only black mark on my credit/Chex is maybe too many recent accounts which none of the other biggies like Chase, WF, BofA etc. ever cared for.

I applied online with a large deposit and all seemed to be well, my deposit was accepted and I was asked to sign over some papers and send for a signature record. I don’t hear anything for a few days, no welcome or courtesy phone call, no other communication on email. A few days later I receive a small letter from them telling me that due to my Chex report I have been denied for the account.

Yowsa ! Apparently me not having assets makes me ineligible for having a checking account (it listed a few other reasons also, 5 if I remember correctly). Someone was making good use of their analyst position and justifying their pay check I see.

Anyway, they said my deposit would be refunded. I sent them a letter few times, it was only when I threatened a complaint with the regulators that they actually became serious about the returning money part and involved their higher ups. They claim they had refunded my money long ago.

I got my money back around 2 weeks after my initial deposit. So someone was earning sweet interest on money they didn’t want for 2 weeks. When I sent them a mail telling them that my money is with me, not even a thank you for letting them know. This after apparently their higher ups in customer service were personally looking at my request. Wow, arrogance personified.

Personally I have decided never to transact with Homestreet bank in my life and to dissuade all friends and family from doing so. Only slight problem is that none of my family and co-workers have ever heard of Homestreet bank. Oh well, job half done then !


Feb 20

 

SR-64HXA

Sony in a move that has been criticized around the Internet have released a revolutionary new product (yeah right !) , its a $155 64gb micro SD card which Sony has annotated with ‘For Premium Sound’.

I love to do reviews however I will never spend $155 on this piece of shit. The for ‘premium sound’ seems to be the only USP for this overpriced gadget. How much a micro SD can really improve the quality of sound is anyone’s guess. Every time I head ‘for premium sound’, I chuckle a little.

SR-64HXA_pkg

I remember when I was a kid, we would go to buy a TV in India, Sony’s Trinitron would be significantly more expensive than say an Akai TV, but we would buy the Sony for quality. Then a few interactions with Sony’s super duper shitty customer care in India and we promptly switched loyalties. We don’t blindly buy stuff just because its Sony. I am still a bit ashamed to say we have a Bravia. But in the US we have a Sharp Aquos LED TV. Sony should realize it cannot milk customer sentiment by launching such products at obscene price levels. During a good sale in the US, you may get a nice micro SD card for $15-20 from Amazon.

SR-64HXA_Adapter

However coming back to the point, Sony is a company with lots of legacy and the burden of being a legend. Lets hope it innovates instead of launching these products aimed at gullible people with deep pockets. The loot starts on 5th March 2015.

Also don’t snicker at this article if you bought a Bose/Dr.Dre headset, you are also a gullible person with deep pockets :)


Feb 19

One of my friends recently posted about Transferwise. As a NRI who often has to send remittance to India for various purposes, I was intrigued. For our readers I did the grunt work to find out why this service is buzzing.

So here are my findings :

Its a money transfer service which seems to be headquartered in Estonia from the founders of Skype (claim on every page). I wished to try it out to see if it supports my debit cards. After going through the process I noticed a few things. 

Their exchange rate is competitive, slightly better than Xoom but worse than RIA and Western Union.

I prepared all the details of my transfer entering the recipient’s email address and account information and on the payment information I was surprised to see the method of payment. They want you to actually wire them the money in Estonia. WTH !

Not only would the international wire cost you more money from your bank, wiring money to a third party into a non-escrow account is never a good idea. Yes, the Nigerian prince, I know your game. I also dont see checks and balances of validating who sent the money. Imagine I signup etc. and a terrorist then wires the money, perfect hawala. I wonder if the company addresses identity questions and source of wire transfer some other way. I really hope for the sake of the world that they do.

Another problem I noticed was that the company has a text box for remittance reason to India, most other companies has a list of options in drop down which I think is what it gets classified into at RBI.

Anyway, long story short, I chickened out. Its a billion dollar startup, so chances are you would be ok. However I just cannot wire money to a random bank account in Estonia. Also I fail to see how transferwise makes an iota of sense of non-Americans and NRIs and PIOs in USA. Other sites even without the crappy wire transfer are net green when I compare what value I get in terms of final INR (Indian Rupees received). So even though Transferwise showed a better exchange rate for (USD-INR), the fee made it such that western union turned out to have better overall money in INR.

If you are looking to send money to India, I would suggest using one of these 3, most of these are fee free and do not have bad exchange rates. I usually use whichever is cheapest that day.

Xoom , RIA , Western Union

Ria Logo

Western Union Logo

xoom logo

Since these are affiliate links, you get some bonus for your first transfer anywhere in the world for signing up using the above links. If you have any experiences good or bad to share while sending money using the above links whether to India or elsewhere, let us know in comments. Non Resident Indians and everyone else is welcome. Also let us know if you have any question regarding these services to transfer money to India.


Feb 18

See a Boeing 787 Dreamliner do a RTO test at the future of flight museum. I was there visiting with friends when a non-liveried Boeing 787 Dreamliner did the maneuver.


Feb 16

creditkarmatmlogo People who actively watch their credit scores closely in all probability are registered on CreditKarma.com and many of them would have noticed a drop in their credit scores and might be worried. I was recently browsing on Reddit and other personal finance sites like FatWallet and a large number of people had suddenly started asking why their scores had dropped and whether there had been any identity theft.

While you should still check for identity theft (and have monitoring on all the free sites, post on that soon), its more realistic that the change in the model has impacted your perceived score. To help you understand how drastic the change can be, for a friend the score dropped from the mid 700s to the 680s so the score drops can be significant.

If you are still not convinced, you can also get your annual free credit report from annualcreditreport.com, most states allow you to get one for each bureau once every year. You can ofcourse pay to get more or if you just applied for a credit product like a credit card you can claim adverse action and get one. Watch out for unauthorized hard pulls and new credit products which you did not apply for.

Or instead of all that, just log onto CreditKarma.com, it now shows you credit reports from both Transunion and Equifax. Experian inquiries can be seen on Creditsesame.com. Do note that while CreditKarma.com updates reports and scores every week, credit sesame is much more stingy in their approach and only update once a month.

CreditKarma.com notes  the following about the model change :

VantageScore 3.0 credit scores range from 300 to 850. The scores here are calculated by TransUnion and Equifax, respectively, meaning they may differ based on the contents of each bureau’s credit report.

The mobile application too was updated recently and is now nothing but a display portal onto the website’s pages. Its no longer a separate app. So did you see a drop in your credit karma scores post the migration ? Let us know in comments.