Smart TVs aren’t a Smart Buy

For the past few months I’ve been shopping around for a new TV. It’s time for an upgrade to the 32″ LCD that’s in the living room. A 46″ would be perfect for the size of the room. One of the things I’m noticing is that a good portion of TVs are now “smart TVs“. The price disparity between ‘Dumb TVs’ (aka standard TV sets) and Smart TVs isn’t very much. In fact, on sale a lot of times the smart TVs are even slightly cheaper than a regular old TV.

What is a smart TV? A smart TV is basically a TV with a WiFi connection that connects to online services like NetFlix, Amazon on Demand, Pandora, and a myriad of other services depending on the manufacturer. It’s basically a TV with apps like a phone or a tablet.

It sounds all well and good until you realize most of the interfaces are cumbersome. Everyone of the floor models I was able to test didn’t put much thought into the user interface. Compared to the Roku most were like using something out of the 90’s. Very little to no thought put into menu flow, search, etc. A lot of reviews I’ve read also mention problems along these lines.

The biggest reason a smart TV isn’t a smart buy is because now your TV is pretty much disposable. With hundreds, possibly thousands of different models in the wild a manufacturer isn’t likely to push many firmware updates, which means that when Amazon or Netflix makes changes to their API (and they will) you could loose access to these services making your whole reason for buying a smart TV pretty much moot.

Think about it: Just like cell phones the manufacturers don’t make money pushing out updates. They make money when you buy new hardware. If you want to buy a new TV every couple of years just to keep access to streaming services a Smart TV is a definite buy.

However, you can buy a regular old TV and buy a Roku box for as little as $50 and make your dumb TV a Smart TV. The difference here is Roku is a leader in the streaming player space that regularly pushes out updates even to older boxes. My original model Roku XDS still streams Netflix and Amazon Video without a problem and I can still add many (thought not all) newer channels to it. I’ve since bought the second and third generation Roku boxes all have had nice updates and improvements. The Netflix interface on my Roku 3 just blows me away but that’s a story for another time.

The bottom line is if you don’t want to be stuck with a Smart TV where many of its smart features no longer work in a few years buy a regular old TV and add a third-party streaming device.


How To: Force WHM/cPanel remote backup tool to upload files to a remote FTP location


Recently, I ordered a new VPS and had to setup backups to my remote FTP server. This time around I chose to use the default system as a opposed to the legacy system that I’m familiar with. I setup all my options yet no matter what I did the backups never transferred to my remote FTP account.  It was driving me nuts! I Googled around and found the answer. I’m posting it here.

Basically you have to find the remote location’s name in /var/cpanel/backups. This will be the name you chose for the backups location plus a unique ID and edit it’s file to add upload_system_backup: 1 to the tail end of the file. You can read the full documentation here: . I logged in via ssh and used nano to do the edit. You can also download the file via WinSCP and open it in your favorite text editor.


I don’t know whether it’s a bug or just poorly implemented but it makes no sense to me. If I define a remote backup location and have it enabled obviously I want my backups transferred there. I shouldn’t need to go through a convoluted process of editing a file from the command line.  It’s flies in the face of why people use web-based control panels like WHM.

Product Reviews

Zip Cloud / My PC Backup are Scammers!

At the prodding of a buddy of mine over the winter I signed up for an online backup service called Zip Cloud. It’s an online backup service which basically takes a copy of all your files and places them online. If your computer ever crashes you simply download all your files onto a new computer. Pretty novel concept, eh? I’ve been using online backup with Dropbox for quite a few years now.

There are lots of services out there that specialize in online backup. I personally use Dropbox, which isn’t truly an online backup service in the traditional sense but serves my purposes well. I pay $10/mo for 50GB of space and unlimited computers.

Zip Cloud offers “unlimited backup” space for $4.95/mo which sounds great until you actually sign up. The red flag was they tried to squeeze you into yearly billing. So $4.95/mo becomes $60 if you’re not careful, more on this later.

First off, you can pay quite a bit extra per month for “unlimited upload speed”. This is probably the most scammy upsell. The speed of your backup is determined by the the upload speed of your internet connection. For the most part, upload speed  is abysmal in the US. You would essentially be paying extra to remove an artificial limit placed on your account by Zip Cloud and still be waiting days for your backup to complete. My guess is support would blame your internet connection after taking the extra money.

Instantaneous backups? Yup, that’s a monthly upsell too. Every reputable service offers instantaneous backups of your files even with the introductory or free plans. What use is a backup that’s days old? Every additional computer to be backed up or sync’ed also incurred another monthly fee.

ZipCloud / My PC Backup is nickel and diming their customers. Generally, I’m okay with the upsells or “freemium” business model. However, scamming people with nonsense upsells is not okay. The ‘unlimited upload speed’ package is what turned me off right away. It’s a pity that you don’t see all this nickel and diming before you sign up.

Once I seen what was going on  I went to cancel and here are screen caps of the cancellation process.

Remember that yearly billing squeeze I mentioned earlier? Look the first option of cancellation:

Monthly Billing / Zip Cloud Cancellation






Continuing on with an offer of 20% off:

Zip Cloud Cancellation 20% Discount






No, okay how about 50% off?

Zip Cloud Cancellation / 50% off





You really want to leave? Well okay but would you stay with us to the end of your billing period so we can keep your money?

Zip Cloud Cancellation / Can we keep your money






Zip Cloud seems  pretty desperate, don’t they? Stick with reputable services like Dropbox, Mozy, and Carbonite. Skip scammers like Zip Clound / My Backup PC.

Straight Talk Phone Service

Why Cannot I Get an Android Phone from Straight Talk

Android models from Straight are only on the Sprint network as of Jan 2012 which means service is limited to areas that Sprint serves.

As an alternative consider one of the Nokia smart phonemodels. While not having all the Android flash and eye candy they’re quite capable smart phones.

Straight Talk Phone Service

What towers does Straight Talk use

Does my Straight Talk phone run on Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint? 

This is easy to figure out. Currently all phone’s who’s model number ends in “C” is a CMDA phone which means Verizon. If your model number ends in “G” it’s on AT&T. Currently (as of Jan 2012), all Andriod powered phones from Straight Talk run on Sprint.

Model number ends in:

C = Verizon
Android Phone: Sprint

Straight Talk Phone Service

Straight Talk Plans

Straight Talk has two simple plans a low price points for all their phones. Certain smart phones require the unlimited plan

Straight Talk All You Need plan: $30. This plan includes 1000 minutes of talk time, 1000 texts, 30MB of data, and free calls to 411 for 30 days.

Straight Talk Unlimited Plan: $45. This plan includes unlimited calls, text, data, and 411 calls for 30 days.

There are also 6 month and 3 month unlimited plans available at a discount for bulk buying.