Reviewing iPhone OS 3.0 on my iPhone 3G

iPhone 3G running OS 3.0
iPhone 3G running OS 3.0

I have already discussed my experience upgrading to the new iPhone 3.0 OS. Now, I’d like to talk about the improvements Apple made in OS 3.0.

Back in January 2009, I wanted to upgrade my 2.5G phone to a 3G phone. As part of my switch, I looked for the best carriers and 3G phones. I eventually concluded that the iPhone 3G was in the best available 3G phone. In my iPhone 3G review, I commented that Apple’s lack of bluetooth functionality, support for voice dialing, and the exclusion of copy/paste were all functions that Apple got wrong with the iPhone 3G. Even with these feature limitations, I still came to the conclusion that the iPhone 3G was the best device on the market at the time.

In March 2009, Apple announced major feature updates to the iPhone OS that would fix the three things that I said Apple got wrong. Additionally, Apple added MMS, tethering, and searching to the list of features added to the iPhone. At the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in early June the iPhone 3G-S was announced. As expected, the 3G-s would have better hardware, more memory, improved camera, and push notification. Besides those expected upgrades, additional features like video recording, turn by turn navigation developed by Tom-Tom, and more integration with Apple’s MobileMe service by allowing subscribers to “Find” through iPhone and to remotely delete any data on the device if it is stolen.

Those are some really interesting features to bring to the consumers’ reach because previously if you wanted the ability to remotely delete data you would have to own a blackberry or other enterprise class type device. Even then, you wouldn’t be able to remotely delete data yourself, you would have to call the company help desk for that. Apple also took one step closer to gaining business adoption of their device by supporting full disk encryption in OS.

In my iPhone 3G device review, I listed the things that “Apple Got Wrong” first, then discussed the things they “got right”. So for this article, I’m reversing the order and discussing things they “got right” first and then talking about where Apple missed the mark. My thoughts on what Apple got “right” and “wrong” will be from the perspective of a user running the iPhone 3G and not the newer iPhone 3G-s.

What Apple Got Right with OS 3.0:
1. Finally stereo bluetooth support! This was one of my major gripes. I have tried this feature out already. It rocks. The one thing I quickly realized though is that if you are listening to music over blue tooth, you must use the blue tooth headset’s volume controls to turn up or down the volume. I am lucky that my blue tooth headset has a good range of volume control. Some headsets may only have 3-4 ranges of volume.

Besides stereo bluetooth, according to the iPhone blog, the following other features were added regarding bluetooth support:

– Peer to Peer. This is a big one, folks, but it’s a little strange. You can share files and talk to other apps over Bluetooth. This means you’ll be able to do multiplayer games, for example, or ‘beam’ your contact card from one iPhone to another. Or heck, play a trombone duet. No pairing is required, either. Discovery of other iPhones happens with Apple’s Bonjour ZeroConf autodiscovery protocols
– Control Accessories. In addition to the dock accessory control, you can now control Bluetooth accessories from within an app. The example from the event was a glucose meter, but the possibilities are honestly endless.
-Tops on my Bluetooth list: Bluetooth keyboard support. Technically, you will be able to do with with iPhone 3.0. The weird issue there, however, is that this keyboard support would have to happen on an app-by-app basis instead of happening device-wide. That, friends, is a bit of a bummer.”

I have not been able to verify any of these other features as I don’t use them much. I’m not sure how well bluetooth file and contact transfer between non-iPhone devices will work.

2. Push notification. This seems like a no brainer. Before the 3.0 update, you would actually have to run an application in order for you to receive updates from that particular app. The problem with this was you could only run one app at a time. Therefore if you wanted the latest news you would have open your news app every time you wanted to check for updates. With the 3.0 update, if the application supports push notification, it will notify you if there are any updates.

I see this feature especially useful for email, news, and social networking apps like facebook. I have a feeling that developers are working fast behind the scenes to get their apps updated.

3. Copy / Paste functionality. I personally don’t find myself using copy/paste on my phone that much. Copy/paste was available on my last phone and I didn’t use it much there either. I think what is cool about this feature is that it is available system wide to any application. No additional development is needed within apps to take advantage of thisw feature. While I may not use this feature that much, I can see how it might be useful to other people.

4. Landscape virtual keyboard layout. If you are in the “Messages” or Email, you can turn your phone from portrait to landscape. The keyboard will be repositioned for you to type on a larger keyboard. I think this is one of those nice to have features, but it’s not make or break for most people. I am disappointed that Safari does not appear to have a landscape keyboard available. (Note to Apple: Please add in a landscape keyboard in Safari.)

5. MMS is supported! I admit, I am not the hugest text message user out there. But it would be cool from time to time to be able to take a picture with my phone and send it to someone. I might see something really cool and want to share that right away. I haven’t sent a MMS message yet because the AT&T network doesn’t “support” this yet. More on this in the things Apple got “wrong”.

6. Tethering. Again, I haven’t tried this one out…as you guessed it – it’s not supported by the AT&T network yet, but Apple says you can tether the iPhone to a computer and connect to the 3G network. I don’t actually see myself as using this service, although it would be cool to have on a long road trip. Also, I have read that estimated pricing for unlimited data and tethering will be $70.00 per month. That’s not cheap.

7. Updates to included applications. Apple improved the stock, weather, and safari apps. I am not going to go into too much detail here, but if you’re interested check out the entire walk through of the 3.0 update.

After reading my list of what Apple got right, you might be thinking to yourself, “Everything is perfect!” Unfortunately, now that Apple has gotten most of the basics right, there are still several major huge issues that need to be addressed.

What Apple Got Wrong:

1. Bluetooth support. You might be scratching your head with the inclusion of this on the list saying “but wait?!?! you said it was something they got right”. There are several things that need to be added to the iPhone’s bluetooth support. First, voice activated dialing over bluetooth. I still have not found confirmation that this is support in the 3.0 update. Secondly, I should be able to skip ahead to another track from the bluetooth headset. So far that isn’t possible, so even though I am able to listen to music over bluetooth, I still need to interact with the phone in order to skip ahead to a different track.

2. Voice activated dialing. If I owned the new iPhone 3G-s, I would have definitely called this something that they got right. I was extremely disappointed to find out that Apple did not support voice activated dialing with the iPhone 3G. This is something that would seem to be able to get done via a software update. Shame on Apple for doing this, but this feature alone will not convince me to pay $599 (I am not eligible for upgrade pricing to AT&T) for a 3G-s phone.

3. Failure to have all launch features available. I’m not sure here who’s more to blame if maybe this one should go to AT&T instead of Apple. I am disappointed that if I wanted to tether or send a MMS message I would have to use some hacks in order for these features to be available. I haven’t researched them yet, but this isn’t something I want to spend a bunch of time figuring out. (Note to Apple and AT&T: In the future, please have all launch features available especially in one of your biggest markets – the U.S.)

4. Screwing the iPod Touch users (again). Apple certainly has found a way to generate some revenue with these updates. First, thank you for letting iPhone users have a free download. It is probably mandated by the carrier agreement with AT&T. Now for the shady part. It turns out the second generation iPod Touch does have bluetooth hardware inside it! Now in order for you to take advantage, it appears Apple wants you to pay another $10 for this privilege. That’s pretty down right shady and sneaky way to re-tax your users.

Verdict: The negatives aside Apple has advanced its iPhone platform ahead plus MMS and tethering will eventually be available from AT&T. Apple will need to continually remain vigilant from the threats RIM, Microsoft, and Palm pose. It is my belief that they will do this through major software updates and less on the hardware side. I think what you are going to see in the coming months and years is the idea of software advancing features less about adding new hardware. This 3.0 update is the beginning of that trend.

The 3.0 OS update has given me new features on my iPhone 3G. I don’t have any plan to update to the iPhone 3G-s. If I do upgrade to a new iPhone, it will be at the end of my contract. In the end, this update was worth the wait and addressed some of my original complaints in my review of the iPhone 3G.


Major Announcement – Site Changes!

I am pleased to announce that I am in the process of moving the site to a web hosted solution. I have decided to use for hosting services. This change to a hosted solution will let me design a better site, give me a place to integrate my travel photos, and let me make use of wordpress plugins. I am hoping the process of updating DNS servers is painless and does not cause any problems. I look forward to being able to improve the site design and continue focusing on content.

My Experience Upgrading the iPhone 3G to iPhone OS 3.0

At Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference, it was announced that iPhone OS 3.0 would be available on June 17.

When June 17 finally came, I was excited to try out the new iPhone OS! I plugged my iPhone into my computer and set off to start the update process. The first thing I realized was that I needed to upgrade to iTunes 8.2. Ugh! I hate upgrading iTunes because it is a pain the ass. After about 20 minutes, iTunes is finally updated! Woohoo…I can finally start downloading the iPhone upgrade! Uh-oh..I keep watching my download…it’s going very slowly and keeps timing out. Hmmm…I’m never going to get this downloaded.

Something I should mention is that after the iTunes upgrade, the application told me to restart my computer. I still can’t figure out why after all these years I still have to restart a PC after I upgrade an application. It’s completely ridiculous. Anyways, I restarted my laptop and re-opened iTunes to start the download again. Ahhhh the download is finally moving! After about 45 minutes to download the 230MB update, I was finally ready to watch the upgrade install. Little did I know…

After the download completed, the upgrade process started. It started by backing up the device. What I didn’t realize is how long it would take. First off, while the backup was being completed there was a screen on the phone that said “Synchronization in Process” and other than that, the progress indicator within iTunes wasn’t very helpful in that it did not list a percent complete which would have been more helpful or at least gave me confidence that the upgrade wasn’t freezing up. The other thing that I didn’t notice was that every time I hit the slider to access the phone, I was actually canceling the backup process. When I finally read the screen a little closer, I came to this realization and said oops!

After I figured out not to leave the “Synchronization in Progress” screen, I began to wonder why the backup was taking so long. So I started google searching to see if any other users were reporting backups taking a long time to complete while upgrading to OS 3.0. Eventually, I found this C-Net article which described backups on the iPhone as taking a long time to complete. Now that I knew backups would take a long time to complete, I left my computer with the upgrade in progress for 30 minutes. I came back and waited an additional 15 minutes. After this 45 minute delay, the OS was finally being installed!

I noticed a series of reboots with the iPhone 3G. This process took about 5 – 7 minutes in total. Finally, a screen came up in iTunes that said the update was complete. Whew! I finally survived the upgrade process and didn’t brick the device. Unfortunately, by the time the upgrade finished it was 11pm at night and I needed to get some sleep. Playing with the new OS would have to wait until another day.

Notes to Apple:
1. If I access my phone during the upgrade, give me the ability to pause the upgrade and pick up where I left off.
2. Please speed up the backup process on the device (Maybe this has improved with the 3G-s)
3. Please let me update iTunes only and not require me to download iTunes and Quicktime through the software update

From Nomadic Matt – “Don’t Have (Travel) Regrets

I saw and shared this on my google reader, but for those who don’t use google reader, I wanted to get this link out there and share it. Matt talks about his regret of not studying abroad in college. One of the reasons he cites is fear of “missing” things going on at home. Years later he still regrets not spending a semester abroad in another country, even though he has been traveling almost non-stop since 2006! He comes to the conclusion that when you return home from your time abroad that things pick up right where you left off.

One of the other things Matt indirectly brings up is the idea of having regrets. I think the quote by Mark Twain sums it up best for me:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Don’t wait until later to do something you want to do. Make your best efforts to pursue those goals now.

I know several people going back to school right now. I hope that they consider spending a semester abroad as part of their graduate studies.

Don’t Have (Travel) Regrets | Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site.

News Link – A 15,000 dollar tax credit for buying a house after all??

I saw this link on one of the message boards I frequent. Apparently the Senate wants to increase the home buyer tax credit to 15,000 and remove the income and first time buyer restrictions.  Originally, when the stimulus bill was being considered in Congress, the first time home buyer tax credit was $15,000 in the Senate version and nothing in the House version. Through negotiations, the tax credit was watered down to $8,000 with certain restrictions.

Now apparently to encourage even more home buying the Senate would like to increase this tax credit back to the original $15,000! You got to love the government for trying. Personally, no tax credit is going to completely solve the problem with people losing their jobs, unable to meet their monthly obligations, and unable to easily get approved for financing.

This is definitely one to watch though.

Senators Want Homebuyer Tax Credit to Rise to $15,000 (Update2) –

Twin Cities Restaurant Review – Enjoy Restaurant in Apple Valley, MN

On Saturday, June 13, A friend and myself at a restaurant called Enjoy. I admit I am a city person so I probably would have never gone to this restaurant myself, but my friend insisted on driving somewhere and she had one of those 2 for 1 entertainment coupons. The biggest selling point was the happy hour on tap beers for $2.00. So who was I to argue with not having to drive, being able to save some money, and getting cheap on tap beer? Plus it had been awhile since I had caught up with my friend. So the situation was pretty hard to argue with.

Location:Enjoy is located in Apple Valley, one of the southern suburbs in the twin cities metro. It is off of Cedar Avenue, but if I was driving there I would have had to google maps it to figure out how to get there. I am sure it is convenient for those who live in Apple Valley and south metro.

Pre-Restaurant Experience: We weren’t actually planning on going to Enjoy to start out with. I can’t remember the name of the other place, but when my friend called to see how busy the first place was, the person who answered the phone did not sound too happy to take a reservation. So a few minutes later, my friend decided to cancel our reservation and call Enjoy. Enjoy gladly took our reservation and indicated they weren’t overly crowded for a Saturday night. Restaurant managers and staff – let this be a lesson that when you answer the phone be sure to act pleasant as it could affect your potential customer’s perception of the restaurant even before they step foot in the door.

In Restaurant Experience: My friend and I arrived while happy hour was still going on. This was definitely a major plus in my book. The restaurant does have an outdoor patio which there were some people eating at. Since it was getting, we decided to eat at the bar area where there was plenty of room. If you look on Enjoy’s website, the bar area is the only area that is not pictured, but it is nice and relaxing and fits the whole casual dining atmosphere.

We were promptly seated and I immediately began flipping through the selection of on-tap beers which included Fat Tire, Guinness, and Harp. Originally, I was going to order a fat tire on tap, but I changed my mind at the last minute and went with a black and tan. This was definitely a wiser move because it let me re-discover black and tans!

After a round of drinks and thumbing through Enjoy’s menu, we were ready to order. I ordered a 10oz. Prime Rib (queen prime rib) which came with 2 sides and my friend ordered a chicken dish. Our friend was delivered fairly quickly. One thing I do want to comment on is the number choices you have to pick from for sides. There are 11 sides including baked potatoes, grilled asparagus, sauteed mushrooms, steamed green beans, creamy hash browns, sweet potato fries, garlic mashed potatoes, macaroni & cheese, steamed broccoli, whipped sweet potatoes, and creamed spinach. This is certainly enough to satisfy anyone’s desire to eat healthy or a little unhealthy. I went with the mac and cheese and the steamed green beans. I certainly did not regret these choices either.

Even though I ordered the smaller prime rib, I found it to be very filling. In fact, I could not finish it all. This was partially due to the fact the sides I choose were decent portions and the beers I drank while waiting also filled me up. I enjoyed eating the prime rib and found it made no problems in the way it was prepared. By the time we were done eating our meals, we were extremely full and did not have any room for desert.

Paying the bill: Between my friend and I our bill was about $40 with tip. This included 2 entrees and 3 beers. Definitely not bad for a casual dining place in the suburbs of the twin cities. Also having the 2 for 1 coupon helped. Our dinner would have been less without the drinks but it is hard to pass up $2.00 on tap beer.

Verdict: While I can not say that I will be a regular at Enjoy dining, I had a really positive experience. Everything from the cheap beer, food, and service were good. Understanding that there are many restaurants in the twin cities metro, Enjoy would be one to consider if you lived in the south metro and especially if you have an entertainment coupon. If I lived in the area and had out of town guests and needed a high quality, “safe” restaurant pick, Enjoy would be a good bet to go with.

Note: I apologize for the lack of photos. I did not have my regular camera on me and my iPhone does not do very well in low light situations. I will try to take photos of the food I order at various restaurants on a more regular basis.

China Trip Update 2 – Booking my Hostels and choosing my seats on the Northwest Airlines

My previous update on my trip to China discussed why I wanted to go to China and receiving my Chinese visa.Now that it has been a few weeks I wanted to provide an update on my activities to prepare for the trip. So far to date, I’ve done some research into sites to visit, but I also wanted to take care of a couple logistical details including booking hostels and choosing my airline seats.

Booking my hostels…For the truly adventurous, some might advise you to wait until you get to China to find accommodations, however, I’m a realist. Maybe if I was staying in China for 6 weeks or longer would I do something like that, but I am only there for two short weeks. I don’t want to waste any of my time while I am in China finding a place to stay.

As a side note, I also considered couch surfing, but I decided that this trip was not the right time to do that. I may just try to meet up with a few couch surfer hosts in their city though. Probably the next time I go to China, I will try couch surfing out as I think it would be an awesome experience.

In my past trips to New Zealand and India, I have used to read reviews and book hostels. Unfortunately, Hostelworld charges a booking fee. They probably charge this booking fee to recoup the costs of running their site and while that’s understandable, I’d prefer not to pay a booking fee which was why I was excited when I found a new hostel site called Hostelbooker has pretty much the same line up of hostels as Hostelworld. There may have been one or two different hostels listed on Hostelworld, but there wasn’t enough of a difference to make me think twice about using Hostelbooker. The main savings I saw was the fact there was not a $2.00 booking fee. This may seem a bit cheap to haggle over a booking fee, but I tend to think most people would prefer knowing a site that doesn’t charge such a fee.

I read many reviews of hostels in Beijing, Shanghai, and Xian covering things like safety, cleanliness, service, and fun at the hostel. I am pretty easy going myself and probably could not have made a mistake with picking any of the hostels listed. Here are the hostels I selected:

Shanghai Blue Mountain Youth Hostel
Dates: August 30, 2009 – September 3, 2009

(September 3, 2009 – I will catch a night train to Xi’an that arrives on September 4, 2009)

Xiangzimen International Youth Hostel
Dates: September 4, 2009 – September 5, 2009

(September 5, 2009 – I will catch a night train to Beijing that arrives on September 6, 2009)

Haina Hostel
Dates: September 6, 2009 – September 11, 2009

(September 6, 2009 – I will catch a night train to Shanghai that arrives on September 12, 2009)

Le Tour Shanghai Youth Hostel
Dates: September 12 – September 13, 2009

September 13 – Head home!

Certainly, if you have any comments about these hostels (hopefully I did not go wrong) or you will be these hostels yourself, feel free to leave a comment.

Choosing my airline seat…Usually, when you choose a seat on an international flight, you are dreading that economy seat. I’m actually very excited to be flying in business class on a Northwest Airlines 747 jet. While I’ve flown on a 747 jet before, this will be my first time in business class. Before everyone thinks I have a ton of $$$ and can actually afford a business class seat, I used frequent flyer miles to obtain this seat. I plan on enjoying and relaxing on my flights to and from China. In order to aid in my seat selection in the business class cabin, I consulted threads in flyertalk’s Northwest Worldperks forum. I eventually went with exit rows on the upper deck of the 747. Needless to say, I’m excited to be finally trying the 747 upper deck. This could be my only chance as many airlines are retiring these jumbo jets because of their operating costs. Let me know if you are on a DTW-PVG flight on Aug 29. If so, we can hang out at the DTW airport. Feel free to leave a comment if you’ve experienced business class service on a NWA 747.

As the day of the departure gets closer, I am definitely getting more excited for the trip. I have already started making a list to pack even though I will only be gone for 2 weeks. In future trip updates, I’ll discuss some of the activities that I have planned.

The Idiots that run Delta

I was talking with a friend today. He is headed over to Nairobi, Kenya and had his flights booked on Delta. Recently, Delta had to cancel their Atlanta to Nairobi flight because they were not granted permission by the U.S. government to operate it. This forced Delta to rebook passengers via other cities like Amsterdam or London-Heathrow.

My friend logs into his account and see that his flight had been changed. He was actually kind of expecting it due to a link I sent him a few days ago stating the cancellation of the Nairobi flight. What he was not expecting was to be re-routed via Brussels!! Delta in its “wisdom” decided it would be great to re-route him ORD – ATL – BRU (Brussels) – BJM (in Burundi) – NBO! This absolutely boggled both my friend’s and my minds. To give a little background, there are standard protocols airlines typically follow when re-routing passengers including:

1. Re-route through a major hub in the region.
2. Re-route on partner airlines
3. Take the most direct routing

Delta missed the mark on all three of these items. First, Brussels is not a major hub for Delta or the Skyteam Alliance, which Delta is a member of. Second, by re-routing through Brussels, my friend was being booked on Brussels Airways, an airline that is not a partner of Delta. Third and probably the most important, ORD-ATL-BRU-BJM-NBO was not the most direct routing. A more direct routing would be ORD-AMS-NBO. I am not sure if this points to a large problem with Delta’s IT systems because you’d think the computer would be smart enough to book through your major hubs, choose appropriate airlines, and use the most direct routing if seats are available. Of course, when I found this out, I immediately said “what the hell” and told him he would have to call Delta/NWA.

Now as a side note, one of the primary reasons my friend booked the flight originally was to obtain 10,000 bonus miles for flying through Africa on Delta’s new route. Unfortunately, Delta wasn’t granted permission to operate the Nairobi route. So when my friend called in to get the proper re-routing, he asked for his promotion miles as well. Of course, NWA said since the route was no longer valid that the promotion didn’t apply and that the offer on their website had been updated to reflect this.

Turns out this wasn’t as accurate as NWA said it was. If you go here, you will notice the qualifying routes have been updated. But if you look in the terms and conditions, you will notice under rule number 2:

“Qualifying travel must be after registration and by August 31, 2009. Your itinerary must include travel on the Northwest Airlines or Delta Air Lines operated flights (Los Angeles – Sydney, Los Angeles – Sao Paulo, or Atlanta – Nairobi). Travel must be on a paid published fare. Bonus Miles will only be awarded for travel that includes one of the specified nonstop flights. One-way travel will qualify for half the Bonus Miles for the specific fare class. Routes can not be combined. A maximum of 15,000 Bonus Miles will be credited for each roundtrip ticket purchased and flown during the promotional period.

* 15,000 Bonus Miles will be awarded after roundtrip travel in NW BusinessElite (J/C/Z), DL Business Elite (J/C/D/S/I) class.
* 10,000 Bonus Miles will be awarded after roundtrip travel in NW Coach (Y/B/M/H/Q/V/L/T/K), DL Economy (Y/B/M/H/Q/K/L/U/T) class.”

The things that make you go “Hmmmm”. Looks like NWA forgot to update their terms and conditions because Atlanta – Nairobi is still listed! My friend has a screen shot of this. I am going to help him write a letter to NWA to get those bonus miles. Plus I think that he should get some form of compensation for having to spend time calling in for a simple re-routing that should have been done correctly in the first place.

I’ve said in the prior posts that I am burning all of my NWA/Delta miles. When NWA was a stand alone company, it had one of the best IT systems in the industry. With its merger with Delta, I think that competitive advantage has been lost. There are many broken things on NWA and Delta’s websites. Again, a situation like this just helps validate my reasons to burn the rest of my NWA/Delta miles.

View from the bike – some trail users lack a general awareness of their environment

I decided that I had to sound off on what I have determined to be people’s lack of awareness on the bike paths and trails in Minneapolis. I was hoping it would not come to this and I realize most people are not like what I will end up describing, but this is both concerning and frustrating especially as an individual who is aware of others that share our fine trails together. With this post, I call on all trail users to be more aware…

Ever since I have started riding a bike in late April, I have noticed an alarming trend – one where people are not aware of their surroundings and others around them. At first, I thought this awareness factor would get better as the weather warmed up. I thought maybe it was something with the weather. Finally though, especially on my last two bike rides, I have come to the conclusion that there is a certain subset of individuals that are not paying attention to anything but themselves when they are walking around the lake or on the bike paths. Let me discuss a few examples.

The I can’t read the signs bike rider… There are a number of signs painted on the trail that indicates the trail is one way in certain spots. Yet, I have seen more people in my last two rides blatantly riding the wrong way on the trail. To those folks, I say wake up! If I am speeding down the trail going the right way and trying to pass another biker on their left and someone is riding the wrong way, if we collide, one of us (probably me) is going to be injured. I would prefer to avoid this.

The next type of persons are the groups of riders/roller bladers who take both sides of the path… I realize everyone likes biking with their friends around the lake. I’m all for that. What I’d like those people who ride/roller blade very very slowly to understand is that people want to get through. When I yell, “On your left!”, it is because I want to get through. Another thing, when I yell “On your left!”, it is not a great idea to stop in the middle of the trail while riders are trying to pass you. If you’re going to stop, pull off the trail and let people use the trail. Be proactive…try to sense when a person is approaching you and proactively move to the right.

The final type and probably most concerning are those people who don’t look when they cross a trail…” I realize many of the people in this category are young kids which is why when I approach an aware with a lot of young kids I slow way down. On my ride on Friday around Lake Nokomis, I was near the main beach where there were a lot of kids crossing the bike trail. I was going real slow because the kids were not paying attention. I would get their attention and they would divert their path around my bike. I can understand kids not having the foresight to look for a biker when they are crossing the path, but how about adults. On this same ride, I ran into 2-3 adults trying to cross the path not realizing they were about to get run over by me. This is the part that intrigues me.

I realize as a biker that I need to be as aware as possible because I don’t want to injure myself. What would help is if fellow trail users would be equally aware meaning don’t stop in the middle of the path, stay on the right if you’re biking or rollerblading slowly, and look before you cross. If trail users are more aware of their environment, they can remain safe and injury free. So far I have been lucky and had no biking related accidents, I would like for this to continue.

Feel free to sound off in the comments if you have noticed additional things about trail users not being aware of their surroundings or have suggestions on how to remedy this problem.

Developing a secondary strategy for Credit Card Rewards Points

In previous posts about credit rewards strategies, I’ve talked about how to develop a rewards strategy, discussed why I use the Starwoods American Express and Schwab Visa as my primary cards, and talked a little bit about how I’ve earned extra SPG points buyingcoins from the U.S. Mint. Now it’s time to talk about secondary strategies for earning rewards points.

So you understand your goals and spend profile and you’ve picked a card that matches these two things, but you are thinking, “There are so many rewards programs”, you begin to wonder if you can take advantage of a few more programs. The answer is a resounding Yes! Let’s talk about secondary strategies for a minute. The way I view secondary rewards programs where it can either help contribute to an overall goal such as travel or you obtain one time bonus for things like gift cards or cash back. In other words, the credit cards that are part of your secondary strategy should include those cards with sign up bonuses. Let’s discuss a couple of examples.

I recently signed up for the American Express Rewards Plus Gold card and the Business Gold Delta Skymiles card. Both of these cards had sign up bonuses if I spend a certain amount of $ within the first 3 months of getting the card. My intentions are to fulfill the spend requirements for the sign up bonuses by ordering coins from the U.S. Mint. This way I do not have to divert any of my real spending away from my Starwords American Express card to earn those valuable SPG points.

The specific bonuses offered by the two American express cards were 30,000 skymiles and 15,000 membership rewards points. Now, in prior posts, I have alluded to the fact I am in the process of dumping all my NWA/Delta frequent flyer miles due to the massive devaluing of the program. These 30,000 miles will help me get close to having a 120,000 remaining miles to use on award travel. If I am lucky and search diligently enough, I will be able to find a perk saver business class award ticket to Asia.

In regards to the gold card and the reason for getting that, I currently have about 135,000 membership rewards points. Amex membership rewards points are similar to SPG points in that they can be converted to miles in frequent flyer programs. Additionally, if I so choose, I could convert the points to SPG points at a 3 Amex points to 1 SPG point redemption ratio. So with these 15,000 membership rewards points, I have the possibility of another 5,000 SPG points. I’m still in the process of determining if a conversion is the right way to go on this. I’ve also read that converting to Air Canda miles is another step in the right direction because of their generous award ticket policies of 2 stop-overs with one going across the Atlantic Ocean and the other going in the direction of the Pacific Ocean. My decision on which program to convert to will depend on how many SPG points I have at the end when I am trying to book my round-the-world trip and how I decide to book the travel (a bunch of one way award flights or one massive ticket).

If you can not tell, my primary goal for rewards points is travel. These two cards help me towards that goal even though after I fulfill the spend requirements for the bonus points, I will not use them again. In fact, I will probably cancel the Delta Gold Card. Additionally, I will my business Amex gold card. The reason I hold on to an Amex gold card is because I want to keep the membership rewards points and not have to spend them. So on a yearly basis, I find another Amex gold card with a sign up bonus and free annual fee the first year and I can continue to keep my membership rewards points.

Your primary goal may be cash back or you may come across an offer for an amazon giftcard or just a random $250 cashback that may have nothing to do with your primary goal at all! Maybe you have planned a big purchase at and could use that amazon giftcard or cashback. My suggestion is do not shy away from those opportunities. I recently applied for a chase sapphire preferred card. The bonus points being offered was 25,000 after the first purchase. I don’t even have any ties to any chase reward program, but I figured I could make use of those 25,000 points some how! This is what I mean by take advantage the opportunities. Of course if Chase approves me, I will get the bonus points, figure out the best use for them and close the card 3-11 months later. You can do a similar thing with Citi thank you points – apply for those cards that offer thank you point bonuses, cancel them in 3-6 months, apply for a different card with a thank you point bonus, and continue this process. I have even read of people applying for the same card a year or so later and getting the sign up bonus again!

Now, I will add a couple of caveats here. I caution you against applying for a large number of cards if you’re looking to get approved for a loan in the near future. Also, make sure you understand the terms for getting bonus points and if there are any annual fees involved. Typically, it is best to look for cards that are at least fee free the first year. Additionally, you do a need a decent credit score of 720+ to fully execute this strategy. These are just a couple of additional points to keep in mind.

There are many rewards points programs and credit card offers out there. Developing a secondary strategy that is geared towards your primary goal can help you realize your goal even quicker. Additionally, if you find one of those really good offers like $250 cash back or a $250 giftcard, jump on it! Sometimes it doesn’t matter if the offer helps you towards your primary goal or not if it is really good!

Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments for your primary and secondary rewards earning strategies.