Mar 27

All You Need to Know About The Android Box.

 

          Not too long ago, buying a Smart TV would have been a very expensive purchase.  Now, due to the speed with which technology is advancing, Smart TVs do not cost much more than a regular TV and have become a standard on the market.  Thanks to this, customers have easy access to televisions that support internet connectivity, allowing for the use of many content-related applications, such as Netflix or HBO GO.

          But what if we are the owners of an older television without this technology?  While Smart TVs are not as costly as they once were, buying a brand new TV when yours still has many years left in it may seem like an extravagant expense.  Is buying a new television really the only option?  Thankfully, the answer to that question is no, as there are many ways that our old TVs can gain access to Smart TV functions.

          One such option is the purchase of an Android box.  An Android box is a small media centre running the Android operating system that connects to a TV and has a wide range of uses, from surfing the web to streaming video straight to your television set. It connects to the internet via WiFi or Ethernet cable and is equipped with its own memory, which allows you to install applications and games.  With the use of these small boxes, almost any TV can become a Smart TV.

          What, exactly, can an Android box do?  Once it has been connected to the internet you are able to download and install Apps from the Google Play Store.  The available library is extensive, running the gamut from video streaming to weather information to games.  It has the ability to play high-quality material such as music, photos and 4k movies.  There are many free IPTV apps that will allow you to stop the currently watched program, as well as to record it.  Models with a Bluetooth module can connect with smart phones or tables and exchange content and files.  Many will support external drives which allow you to install more applications and record longer programs.  It is worth noting that there are also models primarily focused on game support which are often sold with a game pad instead of the usual remote control. 

          Before delving into the world of Android box apps, you need to have two basic points clear: the first is that, despite all the different Android boxes, there are few that have obtained the official Google certification.  This is important for the operation of some particularly widespread and famous apps.  For example, even if your subscription to Netflix includes streaming HD, Full HD, or 4K content, the Netflix app does not go beyond the SD resolution on non-Google certified Android TV boxes.  Furthermore, NowTV and Infinity work exclusively on Google certified devices.

          The second is that while rooting your box may be good for personalizing your android experience, numerous “official” streaming apps do not work on rooted Android TV boxes as to avoid unauthorized reproduction/recording of the contents.  Rooting your Android TV box gives you full access to the system files, allowing you to change anything you want.  It is like jailbreaking an iPhone, you can customize your device to do more advanced things and install apps that wouldn't normally be compatible with you TV box.  It can also leave your TV box more vulnerable to viruses and may void any warranty that came with it. 

          Having said all of that, the choices are nothing short of endless for apps available in the Google Play Store.  Almost all Android boxes come with the Store already installed so you can download Android apps (yes, the same ones that can be used on smart phones and tablets) simply by signing in to a Google account.  A popular app for customizing content is the Kodi player. Using APK files sourced from creators on the internet you can “jailbreak” Kodi to be as customizable as you want. There are plenty of good tutorials on places like YouTube that can help with setting up your device and getting the most out of any apps you choose.

          Now that we know what the Android box is capable of, how do we choose which one to buy?  With such a wide variety of boxes out there, all with different specs and features, it is best to figure out what is most important for you and then go from there.

          How do you want to connect your box to the internet?  Do you need it to be able to connect to other devices? You will be looking for WiFi or Bluetooth enabled devices, depending on your preference.

          Will you be downloading a lot of apps, games, or other content?  You will want to find a unit with enough storage for your needs.  Fortunately, many Android boxes have slots for additional memory cards or support external hard drives.  You will also want to make sure your Android operating system is up to date so that you wont have any issues downloading or updating newer apps.

          Are you going to be streaming in HD or 4K?  You want to make sure your device supports the resolution you need.  RAM  is responsible for the speed of your hardware operation, so the more there is the faster your box will run.  This is especially important if you're streaming higher quality programming. 

          Lastly, how much are you willing to spend on your Android box?  There are budget boxes, higher-end expensive boxes and everything in between.  Most new models start at around $100 and can run up to two or three times as much.  After deciding which features are most important to you, finding something in your price range should be relatively easy.

          Purchasing an Android box is an inexpensive and relatively easy way to enjoy Smart TV capabilities on any regular old television set.

Read More
Mar 07

The Parking Lot Retail Store

Oftentimes a public parking lot is used as a common meeting area for people completing Facebook Marketplace or Kijiji sales transactions.  You should be wary, however, of people trying to sell you things unsolicited.  If an offer seems like it is too good to be true, it probably is.

 

Just recently, a customer came into my shop holding a few pieces of jewellery, telling me that he had purchased two gold chains and a ring from a nice couple in the FreshCo parking lot.  He was hoping we would test them for him and verify their karat.  My heart sank as soon as he handed them to me.

  

Gold has very unique properties, being a soft, malleable, corrosion resistant, and ductile metal.  When you touch gold it has a certain feel to it; smooth, warming and almost velvety at times.  It's a soft yellow in colour with elements of red and copper, and pleasing to the eye with a sort of glow.

 

When I held his new jewellery in my hands, there was a hard, steel feel to the pieces.  The sound they made when they rubbed against each other was very unpleasant, like an irritating metal on metal sound, and they had a bright yellow colour that was almost offensive to the eye.  Before I even began the testing, I knew they were not real gold.

 

I have been buying and selling gold for twenty years; nine times out of ten, I can tell the difference between a gold chain and a fake just by looking at the piece.  I once had an employee who said she could smell fake gold.  I'm not sure if there is any science to back up that claim, but Bernice swore she could.  Personally, I use a standard jewellers' loupe and can usually spot colour discrepancies or defects such as pitting.  A strong earth magnet also helps with verification as gold is not magnetic.  If the jewellery passes my first few tests, I also have two different types of acid tests that will tell me what karat of gold the piece is.

 

Unfortunately, the testing confirmed what I already knew, and I had to inform John that the jewellery he had purchased in a grocery store parking lot was fake.  He was out $200 and was visibly upset. Using the next few minutes to vent, he told me the sob story he had been duped with; that the couple needed money to help their daughter but that they didn't have any cash, only their jewellery.  Too angry to take it with him, he told me to toss the fake gold in the garbage as he left the store.  I felt for the guy and thought I'd try to find a buyer for the jewellery and hopefully get John some of his money back.

 

Fast forward to about a month later and a gentleman was in buying a used saw from me.  He mentioned that he needed a chain for his son but that he didn't want to spend too much money.  I had an “ah ha!” moment and asked if he would be okay with a fake gold chain.  He said he wouldn't mind as his kid is pretty rough with his things.  I showed him the two chains that John had brought me and the gentleman ended up buying both of them for $50.

  

I called John up later that day to let him know what had happened and he was very pleased to hear from me.  He was chagrined at how gullible he had been to buy the jewellery in the first place, but happy to be getting some of his money back.  I'm still hoping to sell the ring and get him a little bit more.

 

If ever someone tries to sell you something in a parking lot, I hope you remember this cautionary tale and walk away knowing that it is probably not the great deal it seems it might be.

 

Do you have a parking lot retail store story to tell?  Share it with us!

Read More
Feb 27

5 Facebook Marketplace Buying Tips You Need To Learn Now

5 Facebook Marketplace Buying Tips You Need To Learn Now

         

          We all work hard for our money and want to find value when making a purchase.  Buying something from Wal-Mart or Best Buy is easy; the item is brand new, it comes in a box, and the chances of it working are pretty good.  With a retail store purchase, you get a receipt and there is usually some kind of warranty, but there is no bargaining for a better price.  That’s where Facebook Marketplace comes in.  Facebook Marketplace is an easy, convenient way to buy and sell items in your community.  You can browse through listings close to you and find cool things to buy and sell.  Here, there is a chance to work out a great deal on something you might not even be able to find at a big retail store anymore.  Dropped your phone and need an inexpensive replacement?  Facebook Marketplace has you covered.  However, when you buy something from Facebook Marketplace there generally is no box, no warranty, no receipt, and you don’t even know if it works.  Here are 5 buying tips that will help your purchase be a positive bargain hunting experience.

 

1.       Product

           Look at the pictures carefully, making sure they are not stock photos and that you are looking at the actual item.  Pay attention to the details showing you the true condition of the item, such as color variances or damage to corners.  Read the full description; note the details given about the condition and what accessories come with the item.  Sometimes things will not work properly unless they have the correct power adapter or the right audio/video cord.  If you feel the description is missing information you would like - such as model or size - make sure to message the seller and get the full details before agreeing to purchase the item.  You should also look at other local classified ads or Facebook pages to see what your item is selling for used and make sure you are getting the best deal possible.  EBay's completed listings page is a good source to use to find out what items are actually selling for instead of just seeing what people are trying to get for them.  Don't be afraid to ask for a receipt of purchase as some warranties are transferable.  Lastly, make sure you know how the product works and that you are given the chance to see it working before you buy it.

 

2.       Public place

          When you decide to purchase an item on Facebook Marketplace, make sure you meet in a public place.  One of the best places to meet is a shopping mall food court; there are usually lots of people around and there are counters for charging your phone or plugging in laptops where you will be able to test the product if need be another great place is a bank lobby; they have cameras and you don't have to carry cash - you can just withdraw the money you need if you decide to buy the item.  For high-end pieces, don’t be afraid to meet at your local police station for extra safety.  For phones, meeting at the phone provider's retail store so you can make sure the phone is unlocked, working, and not blacklisted is a good idea. Be careful if someone wants to meet up in a parking lot or late at night, and always trust your instincts.

 

3.        Bring a Friend

          You should never go alone when you are purchasing something off of Facebook Marketplace.  Bring a friend, sibling, or a parent with you to the meet place.  Having someone with you is not only safer but will also give you more confidence if you want to negotiate a better price.

 

4.         Paying for the Item

          The price should be negotiated and agreed on before you meet and you should bring just enough cash to buy your item.  If they ask you to email or wire the money it is probably a scam.  For a more expensive purchase, you can always meet at your bank if you don't feel comfortable carrying the cash, withdrawing what you need at that time.

 

5.          Listen to Your Gut.         

          If you believe the product price is too good to be true, you are probably right.  If the details are limited and they don’t want to meet in a public place, you should probably look for another item.  Your instincts are there for a reason; don’t be afraid to trust them.

 

          While enjoying the adrenaline rush that kicks in after finding a great second-hand deal, please don't forget that there are risks involved when buying from a private seller.  Most people, however, are just trying to get a fair price for their gently used item.  These people are friends, colleagues, and family members de-cluttering, spring cleaning, or just making room for a newer product.  By being respectful and using common sense, along with this guide, you should be able to enjoy your Facebook Marketplace experience.  Happy hunting!

 

Have you purchased something awesome from Facebook Marketplace, or maybe have a cool story about your Facebook Marketplace experience?  Share it with us!

 

Read More
Nov 28

Getting top dollar for your used items.

A question we are often asked is how can I insure I get the most for my used item?  There are a few things you can do before you even leave your house to be certain you get top dollar for your items.  

Without a doubt, one of the most important things you can do is to make sure your item is clean.  Thousands of items come through our doors; some are treasures, some not so much.  You don't want us missing your treasure because it was hidden under a layer of dust or dirt.

Next, make sure it works. There really is not a lot of value to most broken items these days, especially electronics.  In most cases it costs more to fix these items than to replace them, especially if you shop at a reputable secondhand store such as ours. It is also important that you know how your item works, so you can turn it on and demonstrate it to our staff. 

Lastly, make sure you have as many of the accessories as possible that came with the item when it was originally purchased.  This can include remotes, cables, power cords, antennas, manuals, etc.

If you follow these three easy steps, you can rest assured you will get the most for your used items.

Thanks for reading and catch us next time when we discuss the process of bringing your items into a pawnshop/secondhand store.

Read More