Product Review: Meep! Tablet

Two words: Epic Fail

Nutshell version: the Meep! tablet by Oregon Scientific is an unmitigated piece of crap.

A better option would be buying some off-brand tablet you’ve never heard of, running an older version of Android on an outdated processor, on sale from some outlet online. Really, you’ll be happier.

Or let them play Tetris on your old flip phone you haven’t yet recycled. It’ll keep them just as occupied.

A brief rundown:

  • Battery life: none. My old, dead 3rd gen iPod has more battery life.
  • Parental controls: none. Registration portal is unreachable most of the time, and when it is, it’s non-functional.
  • Apps: basic, pre-installed, freebie games. You can enable the Google Play App Store—if you could register the unit on the Parental Portal (see above). Most of the other features—like text chat—are also hobbled until you can enable it.
  • Customer Support: none. Their customer support phone number, like their parent portal, is also unreachable. If you do manage to get through, expect to be disconnected while waiting for someone to pick up.
  • Screen: soft plastic. If you’re old enough to remember Space Fidgets [], those liquid crystal-filled disks that changed colors when you ran your finger over the back, you’ll recognize the color distortion around your finger as you jab it into the unresponsive screen. If you drag your finger around it leaves trails. The laptop I’m writing this on has a more rigid screen. (And in case no one told you, never poke your LCD screen.)

Opening the box, following the Quick Start guide, the first step is setting up Wi-Fi. That’s a no-brainer—no issues.

Step 2, according to the instructions, is connecting to their Parental Portal. But first, you need to perform two system updates. That it requires system updates right out of the box is (almost) to be expected—most computers do. But you can’t do anything with it apart from playing the pre-installed games until you do. Did I mention we purchased this as an Xmas present? Because that’s what every kid who’s just opened presents wants to do—wait for updates to install.

It doesn’t come with any games you can’t find (near equivalents of) in the App Store. Considering its biggest selling point is complete parental control of content, some might consider it odd three of the games intended for school-aged children involve shooting, and one blowing things up.

Most of the features are hobbled, until you can register a parental account through their portal. Only you can’t register through their portal, because it’s non-functional—even when it’s reachable. (And for two days now it has been consistently unreachable.) The portal doesn’t work with most browsers, including—get this—the tablet itself! That’s right, their tablet can’t access its own portal.

They claim this is by design. (I did get a reply to my initial irate e-mail.) They say this is to keep the kids from accessing the parental controls. Because any kid who could get past the password wouldn’t be able to get onto their parent’s computer, right? Or their iPad. Because they have an Apple iOS app for parental control—of their Android tablet. (No, they’ve yet to develop an Android app to control their custom Android interface.)

They do not explain why they only let Google Chrome or Apple Safari access their site. They claim it’s because their site uses HTML5 (ooh, you mean like most other modern websites?), and doesn’t function (well) with “some older browsers.” Instead of letting the user be responsible for their own experience, or simply upgrading their Internet Explorer or Firefox, the browser check on the front page won’t let any other browsers in. The three HTML5-compatible browsers I have on my phone didn’t work.

Oh, but that’s assuming you can get onto their site. In their reply they claim their site is “undergoing some maintenance.” During Xmas. No, it’s not completely overloaded by every parent who bought one trying to register it at the same time. They decided to bring their developers in, over a holiday, when a bunch of kids might all be opening them at the same time, to do “maintenance.” Right.

So when you do get onto the site, you watch the little video that shows you all of the things you’re about to do. Then, assuming you don’t want to see it every time you visit, you check the box that says, “Don’t show this again.” And that disables the login screen on the following page. What the check box should say is, “Don’t show me this, or any other of that other fancy-pants HTML5 code, including the login screen, again. Ever.” So you go get another computer and try again. You go to create a new account and enter the serial number and… that’s it. The portal doesn’t go any further. The buttons do nothing. Must be that “maintenance.”

I put the thing down around 1 AM with what looked like ⅔ of battery left. The next morning it was dead. We plugged it in to charge overnight. I unplugged it at 8 AM, set up Wi-Fi again, then turned the screen off and set it down. By lunch time we picked it up again, and it was dead again. Seriously. It was off and it didn’t last 5 hours.

I won’t take (too much) issue with the forward-facing camera, as most other child-oriented tablets don’t have a rear-facing camera, so, y’know, the kid can actually take pictures with it. Except the camera quality is crap, too. In anything other than bright sunlight the pictures are too dark, and they’re extremely jagged and pixelated. The camera in your old flip phone has better resolution.

I’ve convinced my kid to give it up so he can get a better one (a feat in itself). This is going back in the box and back to the store.

Published in: on December 27, 2012 at 10:10 am  Comments (2)  
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Get around to celebrating National Procrastination Week

I heard about it this morning, and am just now getting around to posting it, so while you’ve got a day or two left, you might as well make the most of waiting ’til the last minute.

Because I know you were waiting almost all week to have a reason to put off everything you have to do.

(via Lifehacker) []

Published in: on March 4, 2010 at 8:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

They’re not called, “Friendly, Snuggly Whales”

Just what part of “killer” in “killer whale” do people fail to grasp?

Yes, other cultures call them things like “orcas,” but someone at some point thought of calling them, not “spotted whales,” not “cow whales,” “Oreo whales” or even “penguin whales,” but saw sufficient reason to give them the name, “killer.”

I just heard that this is the third time this particular whale was involved in a human death.

Now, I would not advocate that any particular intelligent mammal’s life is more sacred than any other, nor would I necessarily mock the death of an intelligent mammal (or its trainer), but at some point you have to recognize the natural order of things.

Roy Horn and I both have cats in our homes. The difference is, I’m not terribly worried if mine is having a bad day. Something with sharp teeth doesn’t have to be much bigger than a cat for me to keep my distance. Bigger than me with sharp teeth? I’m staying over here.

Some people believe they’ve got a sacred book that gives them dominion over all life on this planet. Most of the other life on this planet hasn’t read that book–they’re watching YouTube clips of “When Animals Attack.”

Published in: on February 25, 2010 at 3:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Best. Gay Marriage. Quote. Evar.

“One woman and one man might have been OK in your grandmother’s day,
but who wants to marry your grandmother? Not even your grandfather!”

Groucho Marx in Animal Crackers

Published in: on February 23, 2010 at 10:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Walmart’s raping of the disadvantaged continues

For those of you who haven’t seen the TV ads yet (which curiously show a nebulously interracial couple), Walmart is getting into the check cashing business.

Don’t have check cashing establishments around your home? You probably live in an area that’s doing OK. They’re a staple of neighborhoods that aren’t doing so well, financially, along with stores that sell liquor, menthol cigarettes and cheap comestibles barely deserving the term “food.”

If you have a check that’s made out to you, say, your paycheck, they’ll cash it–for a fee. Seems reasonable enough. Walmart offers a “discount” service of “only” $3 for a check up to $1000; $6 for checks up to $5000.

But why would you need to cash it? Why couldn’t you just deposit it into your bank account? Banks cash checks for free–assuming you’ve got cash in your account to cover it. Assuming you’ve got a bank account.

It’s yet another instance of being charged a fee for not having enough money.

Most banks expect a minimum deposit–they charge fees if you fall below the minimum. If those fees are higher than the $3/check, or up to $12/month (or more) Walmart is charging, then saving money means, well, not saving your money.

Not that saving your money is Walmart’s aim–the ad shows you all the things you can buy, like mp3 players and computers, presumingly from them, with the “up to $200 per year” you could “save.”

And who are these people, the ones who cannot afford to stockpile even one paycheck in a bank? I was one of them. Not for financial reasons, though–I didn’t have any ID–I couldn’t prove, to the satisfaction of a bank, who I was. Curiously, the rules at the check cashing stores were different. Mediocre, even questionable identification was sufficient to turn a check into cash, but insufficient for saving it in your own name.

These are also Walmart’s own employees, most of whom are part-time, at their management’s preference.

Assuming a biweekly paycheck at double minimum wage, full-time, after taxes you’re still likely to come in under the $1,000 check to meet the $3 price. To restate that, after two weeks of full-time work, you’re taking home less than $1000, which is a crime in itself. After 26 paychecks, throw in your tax refund check and you’re paying $85. If you work for Walmart, that’s paying your money back to your employer for the privilege of them paying you.

That’s assuming you don’t get an employee discount.

Published in: on February 15, 2010 at 3:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Beaten Census

though technically (barely) legal, it’s intentionally deceptive. What’s your opinion of intentionally deceptive fund raisers?

Would you give them money, even if you agree in principle, when you know they’re disingenuous?

What’s your opinion of the people who are intentionally deceptive to get your money? Are they likely to be deceitful in other areas?

clipped from

RNC ‘census’ mailer draws fire
Calling itself the “Congressional District Census,” the letter comes in an envelope starkly printed with the words, “DO NOT DESTROY OFFICIAL DOCUMENT” and describes itself, on the outside of the envelope, as a “census document.”

Even some who have been involved with the program, however, acknowledged that it walks the line.

“Of course, duping people is the point. … That’s one of the reasons why it works so well,” said one Republican operative familiar with the program, who said it’s among the RNC’s most lucrative fundraising initiatives. “They will likely mail millions this year [with] incredible targeting.”

the same mailing in 2000, during that year’s census, and Maloney and Clay asked the postmaster general to open an investigation into whether the mailings violate the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act
  blog it
Published in: on February 6, 2010 at 9:36 am  Leave a Comment  

I won’t suffer, so you must

explain to me again why the entity you manage isn’t doing as well as it should, and I’m the one who has to take the income hit
clipped from
take to the streets and demand adequate funding for our children’s education instead of Wall Street bailouts and wars,
economic hard times are precisely when workers need – and are motivated – to fight hardest in order to avoid being victimized and forced to bear the entire burden.
workers in the private sector should demand that the company open its books and let the workers’ representatives determine for themselves how much the company is taking in, and where the money is going.
Public sector workers who are asked to “share the pain” should demand that the money used to bail out Wall Street bankers and bomb civilian women and children
be used instead to pay government workers decent wages to deliver public services.
strong enough to force the bosses to share the benefits of the post-World War II economic boom with US workers, raising their standard of living to the highest in the world.
The lessons of the militant labor union struggles of the prewar era must be relearned, and soon.
  blog it
Published in: on January 4, 2010 at 4:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

I deserve health care, you don’t

that’s a paraphrase, but given comments from a certain drug-addicted blowhard, an accurate sentiment
clipped from
Limbaugh Lauds (Socialist) Medical Care in Hawaii
I received no special treatment.”
in Hawaii, no one gets special treatment, because everyone can get it.
all Members of Congress that have a medical office paid for by taxpayers
Dick Cheney who had socialist pacemakers implanted paid for by the government, and George W who had a government-paid socialist colonoscopy while in office.
Members of Congress over 65 get single-payer socialist medical care from Medicare.
since 1974.
the costs of everything
the highest in the nation,
health care premiums in Hawaii,
are nearly the lowest and their costs per medicare beneficiary are the lowest in the nation.
Rush does not live in Hawaii and so his costs are not covered
having that “socialist” system for more than 3 decades has not reduced the quality of the care he received.
Rush appears to have survived his encounter with socialist medical care.

If Hawaii-style medical care is good enough for Rush Limbaugh, it is good enough for me.

  blog it
Published in: on January 4, 2010 at 11:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Who says we need reform?

Wife’s premiums went up 55%, co-pays doubled, have 10% “co-insurance”, deductible doubled. Now paying $6k/yr for $8k max payout.

Luckily we’re not required to have ins. Wait, what? Well, at least we’ll have public health care. Oh, about that…

clipped from

Meet your new health insurance company overlords

we still end up with a system that’s based on private insurers that have no incentive whatsoever to control their costs
A system based on private insurers won’t control costs because private insurers barely compete against each other.
you’d think the insurance industry would be subject to the antitrust laws
the Senate bill still keeps Big Insurance safe from competition by preserving its privileged exemption from the antitrust laws.
From the start, opponents of the public option have wanted to portray it as big government preying upon the market, and private insurers as the embodiment of the market. But it’s just the reverse. Private insurers are exempt from competition.
Without some mechanism forcing private insurers to compete, we’re going to end up with a national healthcare system that’s controlled by a handful of very large corporations accountable neither to American voters nor to the market.
  blog it
Published in: on December 11, 2009 at 10:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Well just pound me in the ass and call me fish

Homemade shiv not included.

Seriously. Is this what you want your kids playing with (rated T, 13+)?

I sometimes think the various “Dope Wars” and “Mafia” games on Facebook, and certainly the likes of “Grand Theft Auto” are in bad taste (scoring points for engaging in criminal activity), but is this any better? I don’t know if they’re related to all the other “tycoon” games out there (Railway Tycoon, et al.) but this is going too far.

Or is it?

From the game description: “Private prisons have become the new growth industry.” Unfortunately, that’s true. And herein is the underlying problem. The description goes on: “You will construct and run an efficient rehabilitation facility with nothing but money on your mind.” [emphasis added]

You are clearly not concerned with “rehabilitation” when there’s “nothing but money on your mind.”

News flash, folks: this is not a game – this is currently going on in this country in the real world. The US ranks 1st in the world in per capita prison population. That is, we put more of our citizens behind bars than any other modern nation. Why? Because we’re inherently so bad? Because we’re so much better than the rest of the world at fighting crime? Or because it’s in the financial interests of a select few?

We’re building prisons at a frightening rate – and still the ones we have are grossly overcrowded. We have a drug policy that puts teens in the hole until they’re middle aged for having the audacity to get high. I could go on. I’ll only mention tangentially the conspiracy theory about the plans to lock up large segments of the US population – like we did to the Japanese American citizens during the onset of WWII – during an imminently anticipated “civil unrest.” Good thing we don’t protest any more.


Published in: on December 8, 2009 at 2:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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