ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: Mad as Hell at Insurance Company

My car after being repaird
Looks nice, but it'll be an oven come August

This is a follow up to my original post, click here to read it.

3/21/2012 UPDATE :  After taking it to a real mechanic, it turns out that the A/C wasn’t working because there was a bad hose that had to be replaced. While they don’t believe it was caused by the accident, it means that Progressive’s grease monkeys misdiagnosed a problem TWO TIMES.  I will definitely be shopping for a new insurance provider now.

For the most part, my experience with Progressive has been fairly positive, except for a few bumps in the road: they had me send my car to the wrong repair shop, the repair shop they did send it to incorrectly diagnosed the alternator as being bad when the battery was the issue, it wasn’t ready on the day I was told it was going to be ready, and despite not being found at fault, I am out $500 for my deductible, but that’s a philosophical issue I’ll discuss some other time.

Now, call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first) but I thought part of the point of having insurance was so that your vehicle would be restored back to the state it was in before it was involved in an accident. Except for running a bit noisy due to an issue with the manifold, everything in my car had been working just fine before I had my little accident a few weeks ago. Indeed, upon getting my vehicle back, I was satisfied to find that it seemed to run as well as it did before. I also checked to see if a new battery had been installed, and yes, it had been.  I had grown suspicious after realizing that my radio presets hadn’t gone away as has been the case in the past when I have replaced batteries.

So everything was fine and dandy until I hop in my car to go somewhere on Sunday. It was warm out, about 80 degrees, so I figured I’d turn on the air conditioner to give it a test run. Air came out of the air conditioner but it was not much cooler than the air outside. I left the air conditioner on for the duration of the short trip and there wasn’t much happening. Now I’m worried, because if the battery went bad due to the accident, who’s to say that something else didn’t go wrong somewhere within all the coils, tubes and who-knows-what-else that make up the air conditioning system?

I don’t go running to Progressive just yet, though. Monday was also going to be a warm day, so I figured I’d give it another test run before calling them. I started up my car during my lunch break, at about 1 in the afternoon on another warm day and I ran it for about ten minutes with the air conditioner set to maximum. It seemed as if it was trying, but the air coming out was not cooler than the air outside. As it was a warm day, it was easy to tell that it was not working.

I now knew for sure that the air conditioner wasn’t working, so it was time to contact Progressive and get it looked at. I scheduled an appointment to drop off my car this morning and pick up a rental. The temperatures on Thursday morning were pretty cool, in the mid-60s; thus, I wasn’t entirely sure that the cool air coming into my car at the time wasn’t just the product of the outside air combined my not-quite-warmed-up car, but I was now certain that my air conditioner wasn’t working as well as it had been before.

I arrived at the claims center and let the person there know what was happening. The woman said that they were going to have someone check it out and then let me know how we were going to proceed. I said okay and waited for her to return. Not even fifteen minutes later, she came back and let me know that they were not going to look at it. Apparently I had given the impression that my air conditioner was completely out, and since the air coming out was just a little bit cool (which may have been due to the outside temperature) I was going to have to get it fixed myself. She cheerfully let me know that it probably just needed refrigerant and that any mechanic could probably fix it.

But it was WORKING JUST FINE before the accident, I said. She ignored that statement, gave me my key back, and bade me farewell.

I am not very happy with Progressive right now. I now have to take time and money to have a real mechanic check my car’s air conditioner. If he finds something wrong, I then have to convince Progressive that there was no problem with it before the accident, then drop it off, get another rental, and essentially go through the same thing I did this morning. As I type this, I am getting ready to talk to my claims rep and let them know how I feel about this development, but right now I am all but ready to dump them.

Half an hour later…

So I spoke with a second agent (the one that I’ve been working with is not in the office and I won’t hold that against her) who told me that I needed to have it looked at by a mechanic…

WELL, NO KIDDING, SHERLOCK, THAT’S WHY I TOOK IT TO YOU THIS MORNING!

Apparently, they don’t have mechanics at the claim centers. So some paper-pusher turned on my AC, felt cool air coming out (remember, it is a cool morning today) and used her 1337 paper-pusher skills to deduct that I had a Freon leak somewhere.  Aw, HELL NO.

Agent #2 is going to look into it and I now get to wait for his phone call.

Another thirty minutes later…

Agent #2 said that he was very sorry and let me know that yes, a mechanic did have a look at my car this morning  (as you can see above, I was not told that) and he was the one that said the AC was fine except for being low on Freon.  I told the guy that I was skeptical because the last shop couldn’t even properly diagnose a bad battery.  So now I need to take my car to a (hopefully competent) mechanic to look at my air conditioner.

So in the best case scenario, I get to pay to get my AC recharged with Freon, which I may have had to have done anyway.  Worst case scenario is that I get to deal with Progressive again and have their grease monkeys bang on it with giant wrenches.

I know that sounds backwards, but I think I’m going to be shopping for a new insurance company now.

RANDOM REVIEW: Acer Iconia TAB A100

The Rules of Tech Support on the Acer ICONIA TAB A100
Okay, so I couldn't help myself

So, a ten inch tablet is way too big for me, an eight inch one was just a hair too big, and so a seven-inch tablet should be just right…right? After returning my Vizio tablet, I decided to see what was available in the 7-inch space.  Neither the Kindle Fire nor the Nook Tablet had been announced at the time, so I was looking at full-featured tablets with GPS, Bluetooth, a micro-SD card slot and all those nerdy things nerdy nerds like me care for.

The Samsung Galaxy was nice, but it was also pretty darn pricey and running the phone version of Android. There was no way I was going to pay a premium for another ‘phone without the phone’ device. The Dell Streak 7 was very nice and was even supposed to get a Honeycomb update in the near future, but at the time I was looking, T-Mobile was the only place selling it.  While I didn’t mind the thought of getting a data plan, T-Mobile data service is pretty craptacular in my hometown, which was where I would really want to have that mobile data connection. The HTC Flyer was also ridonkulously overpriced, even more so than the Galaxy. Sure, it had a stylus, but as much as I miss using a stylus, I don’t miss it that much. And as I mentioned before, the cheapo ‘e-readers with Android on them’ were a no-go with their lack of access to the Android Market and barely-responsive screens.

The Acer ICONIA TAB A100 was the first 7-inch device to come with the ‘Honeycomb’ version of Android out-of-the-box. This is important because Honeycomb is written specifically for tablets and should not have that the ‘phone without the phone’ feeling the Vizio did.

HARDWARE

The A100 has a 7-inch widescreen that is nice to look at but gets washed out in sunlight like most mobile screens. The Gorilla Glass that sits atop the screen is also highly reflective (as you can tell by the photos) which can be a little distracting. I also found the touchscreen to be just a hair on the overly sensitive side when I was typing, but that may just be the keyboard software, my fat fingers, or more than likely, a little bit of both.  It is multi-touch, though, so I can zoom and out with ease.

The power button and headphone jack are on the top right of the device, pretty standard stuff there. The volume control, rotation lock switch and a MicroSD card slot are on the right side. The A100 provided an okay amount of audio, nothing earth-shattering, but then again I’ve learned to not expect decent audio out of anything smaller than a 13-inch laptop. The bottom of the device has a host of ports: Micro-HDMI, microUSB, a docking connector and a charging port. A 5MP outward facing camera with LED flash and 2MP front facing camera are also present, and a capacitative Home button lies just underneath the screen. The cameras take okay pictures, certainly ones that are good enough for throwing onto the web.  At a half-inch thick and weighing in at .92 pounds, the A100 feels comfortable in my hands with its rounded corners and sides. The casing is plastic and a bit of a fingerprint magnet, though.

Battery life is about 4-5 hours, depending on Wi-Fi and GPS usage, of course. After being able to use the Vizio tablet for almost an entire workday (9 hours), having to recharge the A100 barely after my lunch break is a bit of a letdown. Unfortunately, the A100 cannot be charged via its USB port; the included AC adapter is your only charging option, well, that or a $100 dock.  The lack of charging options only serves to make its limited battery life a bigger limitation than it should be. If the A100 could be charged via USB, I could use nearly any charger, but as it stands, there is no official Acer mobile charger available for purchase as of this writing, so I either have to find a wall socket or run out of juice.

Under the hood is the same 1GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 CPU that powers most of the other first-gen Honeycomb tablets, 1GB of memory, and 8 or 16 GB of storage, which can be supplemented via a microSD card. The A100 is fairly responsive, and doesn’t feel underpowered or sluggish.

SOFTWARE

Acer Iconia TAB A100 Home Screen
Home is where the data is

Honeycomb is a different animal than the phone versions of Android. The first thing I noticed about it was the bar that ran across the bottom of the screen, it makes it look and feel more like a PC desktop.  Honeycomb places Home and Back buttons on the bottom left of the screen, so physical buttons are not needed on Honeycomb devices at all.  A new third button brings up the last ten open apps, which comes in handy, and if you are using a phone-based app, a fourth menu button appears that takes the place of the physical “menu” button found on Android phones. Aside from the Home button just below the screen there are no physical navigation buttons to be found.

On the top left of the Home screen are a Google search button and a voice search button. The upper right corner has an Apps button that gives access to all apps and a plus sign that allows the user to add widgets and apps to the Home screen or change the wallpaper.

Having been accustomed to using Gingerbread on my phone, it took me a little doing to get accustomed to getting around Honeycomb, but once I did, I appreciated the way it worked. I do miss having physical buttons, though, the bar on the bottom of the screen that holds the soft buttons never really goes away, which I found annoying when viewing pictures or videos.

Overall, though, Honeycomb is a step forward for Android and it is quite nice once you get the hang of it, which doesn’t take too long.

APPS

The Amazon Appstore
Amazon made a better store, go figure

The A100 has access to the Android market, and unlike the Vizio, I was able to download all of the apps I needed. Some of them were optimized for tablet use, but some appeared to be phone apps that were scaled up to fill the device’s screen.  They didn’t look too bad, but the amount of empty spaces in such apps is pretty hard to ignore. I have to say that while I’m not a big fan of playing games on my phone because of the inaccuracy of my big fingers, doing so on the A100 was quite nice thanks to the increased screen size.

I also discovered the Amazon Appstore, which, I have to say, is awesome for two reasons: First off, they give away a free paid app every day.  While it is often a game of some kind, every now and then it’ll be something nicer, like a Microsoft Office app or a drawing program. The second and more important reason is that it keeps track of your downloads and synchronizes your apps across multiple Android devices. This means that when I download an app onto my phone the appstore is smart enough to ask me if I also want it on my tablet and vice versa. For the life of me, I don’t know why the Android Market can’t do this, but hopefully Google Play will take care of that.

CONCLUSION

The Acer Iconia TAB A100 is a good tablet with one flaw that may be fatal for some users. Plastic nonwithstanding, the hardware feels good, and as is often the case with mobile devices, the screen is a bit reflective and not-quite-so-good in sunlight. Micro-USB and HDMI ports are nice to have, though I haven’t really done much with them. The same also applies to the micro-SD card slot; even though I have an 8GB card installed, I use it mainly for storing media. The device’s internal 8GB has been sufficient, though I should mention that I am a pretty light app user.

Honeycomb is a step up for Android, it feels like an actual desktop environment as opposed to a ‘giant phone.’  It would be nice to not have those soft buttons following me around nearly everywhere I go, but that’s a minor quibble.  An upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich (the next version of Android) is forthcoming, so I’ll have to wait and see how that pans out.

The A100’s Achille’s heel is its limited battery life.  I’ll go as far as to say it prevents it from being a really great tablet. The 4-5 hour uptime is not even enough to even last a full workday, and the lack of additional charging options makes it feel even more limited. A mobile charging option or at least the ability to charge via USB are sorely lacking. Thus, while I have been very satisified with how well my A100 works, the fun is often cut short by being constantly tied to AC outlets, which significantly reduces the device’s portability.

While the Acer Iconia TAB A100 is a good device overall and I love the 7-inch form factor, this particular device limited by its relatively short battery life. I would call it a good ‘home tablet;’ something nice to have around the house for those moments when you want to look something up quickly, take to bed with you, or take on a trip to the coffee shop. Road warriors and those who intended to use it for extended periods of time should be leery of its lack of charging options.

That said, with the next wave of Android tablets hitting stores, you can definitely find one for much cheaper now than its original retail price of $329.  Heck, its going for $249 at the Acer Store.  It isn’t a bad device, and I am certainly enjoying mine…I just wish it had a bigger gas tank.

I give the Acer Iconia TAB A100 just barely four out of five AC Chargers.

9 Questions and Observations from Furry Fiesta 2012

Some of the observations and questions that bounced around in my head during Furry Fiesta:

“If someone were to be tarred and feathered at a furry con, would it really be punishment?”

“You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, and you don’t bring human art to a furry con.”

“I think some of these characters were born in a paint store, because THE COLORS, MAN!”

“At a furry con, the dogs have seeing eye people.”

“It is apparently possible to play the tuba while marching in a fursuit…wow.

“If human fighter pilots say ‘Fox-2” when launching missiles, do fox pilots say “Man-2?”

“Geez, the bronies can’t even catch a break here.

“I think this is that ‘world of pure imagination’ that Wonka guy sang about.”

And of course, last but not least:

“Its the same, but different!”

Finally, for no particular reason, Saturday’s Fursuit Parade: