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Electronics

Lexar SSD at Costco

Costco is selling a 512GB Lexar Portable SSD (SL100) for $124.99. That’s an odd product since the SSD really shines as an internal drive. For an external drive, I’d rather pick-up a large capacity external hard drive than a bunch of smaller capacity SSDs.

There are quite a few listings on Amazon and eBay reselling this unit for a lot more. And all they show is the cardboard placeholder from Costco.

iPad Pro at Costco

Apple sells the 128GB iPad Pro with Wi-Fi for $949.00. Today, I spotted the iPad Pro for sale at Costco for $896.99, a savings of $52.01. On Amazon, I see it selling for $100 above Apple’s listed price from 3rd party retailers (but fulfilled by Amazon).

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FileMaker Pro 14

FileMaker alerted me that a new version was available. When I looked at the pricing webpage, I had an Adobe déjà vu moment when the prices were displayed per user per month. However, when I scrolled just past the middle of the page, FileMaker showed me the individual pricing. For FileMaker Pro 14, FileMaker charges $329 for the full download, $349 for download with CD/DVD, $196 for the upgrade download, and $216 for the upgrade download with CD/DVD.

On Amazon, the FileMaker Pro 14 Upgrade Download Mac [Download] is also $196. However, the FileMaker Pro 14 UPG Retail Box version is $177.99. I don’t understand how the retail box version could be priced lower than the download version. While the retail box version is $18 cheaper than the download, we have to factor in sales tax. My local sales tax rate is 8.75%, which will be assessed on the retail box, but not the electronic download. The final price will be $193.56 for the retail box and $196.00 for the download.

So, the electronic download costs $2.44 more, and can be downloaded instantly either from Amazon or FileMaker. Since the pricing is the same, you get to decide whether the money is split between FileMaker and Amazon, or whether FileMaker gets to keep the whole pot.

For the retail box, you save a couple bucks and get the product in a couple of days. The local government gets $15.57. Of course, the amount depends on your location. For states that do not collect sales tax, the retail box would be the counter-intuitive bargain.

TurboTax: Amazon v. Costco

With just over a week before tax day, I was asked if I had purchased TurboTax yet. Since Costco is usually quite competitive, I had taken a photo of the TurboTax kiosk a few weeks back.

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Amazon was selling TurboTax Premier for $54.99. At first glance, the price may seem to be the same. However, if you look at the footnote on the Costco price tag, it says, “Sales Tax on the pre-rebate price.” At the local Costco, a sales tax rate of 8.75% translates into a sales tax of $6.12.

On Amazon, you have two options. You can purchase TurboTax as a CD or as a download. As a CD, the sales tax will be $4.81, so you will already be saving $1.31. However, if you purchase TurboTax as a download, California will not assess any sales tax on the transaction.

Your sale of electronic data products such as software, data, digital books (eBooks), mobile applications, and digital images is generally not taxable when you transmit the data to your customer over the Internet or by modem. However, if as part of the sale you provide your customer with a printed copy of the electronically transferred information or a backup data copy on a physical storage medium such as a CD-ROM, your entire sale is usually taxable.

See Publication 109, Internet Sales.

Zojirushi NL-AAC18 Micom Rice Cooker

The Amazon Mobile iPhone App is a great way to “trust, but verify.” I spotted the Zojirushi NL-AAC18 for “sale” at 99 Ranch Market, with an enticing $30.00 off label. However, just because a product is selling for less than the MSRP, it doesn’t mean that it’s a bargain if everyone else is selling for less.

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So, I opened the Amazon Mobile app and scanned the bar code, which revealed a $217.49 price with a $50.51 savings. Not sure how these have different list prices. So much for how bricks and mortar cannot compete with Amazon.

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Verizon Jetpack MHS291VW

After using the Karma WiFi device for one afternoon, I purchased the Verizon Jetpack MHS291LVW instead. The big advantage of the Karma is the low initial cost. For those needing access to Wi-Fi once a month or even once a week for a few hours, the no commitment $14 per 1 GB Karma would probably suffice.

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However, once your usage level increases, you’re looking at $56 per 4 GB versus $50 per 4 GB on Verizon, provided your usage level remains steady month-to-month.

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The big difference though is the speed. On the Karma, I was seeing 1.34 Mbps download and 0.11 Mbps upload. The Verizon unit was a lot faster at 4.94 Mbps download and 0.93 Mbps upload, which was pretty close to my 6 Mbps AT&T DSL connection. Ookla Speedtest clocked my AT&T service at 5.07 Mbps download and 0.64 Mbps upload.

Update – August 29, 2013

I wonder if the speedtest.net numbers are valid. At one location in Palo Alto, the Verizon MiFi clocked in at 10.92 Mbps download.

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In Mountain View, speedtest.net reported the same unit achieving 27.15 Mbps download.

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Karma WiFi Review

Recently, I needed an occasional WiFi connection while away from home and work, so I started studying my options. I looked at the usual suspects; i.e., AT&T and Verizon mobile hotspots, but the monthly pricing on their websites is a bit opaque. Tethering might have been an option, if I didn’t have to surrender an unlimited data plan.

So, I borrowed a Karma social hotspot from Nicholas Moline for a trial.

Karma WiFi

The big difference between Karma and the big boys is its no commitment pay-as-you-go model. If I don’t like the experience, I won’t be saddled with a 2-year contract. Considering that the quality of the mobile WiFi service is completely location dependent, being able to move to another provider if service is not up to par is quite important. Also, for a low-power user, $14 per 1 GB (which may last days, weeks or months) offers a lower entry level than the $50/month that the major services charge.

On to the review. The device is quite compact and light. I placed a quarter on the device for reference.

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Just press the power button and away it goes. To access the network, I selected it from the available WiFi networks. It did require a Facebook account or e-mail address to register. I’m not sure if this is the smartest design because Facebook freaked out and requested account verification details . Probably accessing the internet via an out-of-state IP address that geolocated to Duluth, MN tripped up some security settings.

I ran a broadband speed test, which took some time to spit out these numbers:

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On a browser, text renders pretty quickly, while photos noticeably lag while loading. So, it isn’t awesome, but depending on your individual usage, it may be decent or event acceptable. For browsing the news or chatting with friends, I had no issue. But. if your usage is any heavier, I can see how the WiMAX connection may not be enough. MailPlane (an email application for accessing Gmail accounts) struggled as well.

Karma credited me with an initial 100MB allocation for free. During about 45 minutes of work, I burned through 30MB of data, and I was really trying to conserve bandwidth. At this rate, I might get 25 hours of usage from a 1GB allocation, which may last 1-2 months for me. For not much more, Verizon offers a existing customers a $20 plan, instead of the $50 plan, which also features a faster internet connection. I have no idea how much AT&T charges additional customers on a Family Plan. I couldn’t find the information after looking on its website.

For the occasional, budget user, the Karma probably fills the niche quite well.

Nikon D600 Price Cut

Since my initial Nikon D600 sighting at Costco, the manufacturer’s instant rebate had increased $100 to $400. The final price for the D600 kit is now $2,889.99.

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Nikon D600

Are full-frame DSLRs going mainstream? I spotted the new Nikon D600 at Costco, perhaps just in time for some Christmas shopping. For $2,989.99, the D600 package includes the camera along with two lenses: 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR and 70-300mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED.

The package also includes a Nikon DSLR/Tablet Computer Shoulder Bag, a WU-1b Wireless Mobile Adapter, and a 32GB SD Memory Card.

iRobot Roomba 595 Vacuum Cleaning Robot

I already have a vacuum cleaner. I actually like my existing vacuum cleaner. I just don’t like to vacuum. So, a strong endorsement from a friend led me an iRobot Roomba.

I spotted the iRobot Roomba 595 at Costco.

A quick check on Amazon.com told me that it was selling for much more online. So, Costco it was.

The vacuum is not quite ready out of the box. So, charge it once it gets home since it takes a few hours to be fully charged.

The center button deploys the vacuum cleaner. I only followed it around the house the first day observing its cleaning pattern, which is not how a human would vacuum. On its maiden voyage, the vacuum cleaner cleaned a few rooms and returned to its home base. So, I scheduled it to vacuum every morning.

The manual said I had to empty the vacuum every day. Initially, I was concerned with that “burden.” However, when I return at the end of each day, I actually look forward to seeing how much the vacuum has picked up. Surprisingly, the vacuum picks up quite a bit of dust each day, which leads me to believe that vacuuming weekly (or even less) doesn’t quite do the trick.