Affordable Care Act and Kancare (Medicaid)

Back in May, my wife became unemployed and I was forced to take medical insurance from my employer due to the individual mandate. Which meant that I had to remove myself from our ACA marketplace plan and because I was the primary, we had to cancel the entire plan and start over with a new application.

Because I was the only wage earner when applying for a new marketplace plan, I could only buy insurance for my wife as I earned too little, according to to be able to buy insurance for my kids. My kids were without insurance for 3 months as the ACA website automatically passed my application onto Medicaid/Kancare and medical insurance through my employer is too expensive for the kids. My wife is now back in employment and has insurance through her employer, which hopefully has better medication coverage than marketplace insurance through Coventry Healthcare of Kansas.

So now I have to start the process all over again to get my kids medical insurance through the marketplace. Assuming I qualify for special enrollment period, which I should as I have received a letter from Kancare today saying we have been denied. 2 weeks ago, we received a letter from Kancare saying they needed more evidence of our income, this obviously has changed since applying, we now longer qualify for Kancare so we ignored the letter. Now I have to brace myself the penalty “tax” next March.

Now, to the point of this blog; the ACA has numerous flaws, in this case, blocking me from buying insurance for my kids because of my income. Instead forcing me to apply for Medicaid/Kancare through their system. For those not familiar with Kancare, the Kansas legislature elected to hand administration of the Medicaid program to “for profit” companies, Amerigroup, Sunflower and United Healthcare. Which has been failing the people of Kansas since January 2013, who would have predicted that? (sarcasm)

This issue is my kids went uninsured for months because Kancare are so fucking slow to react. We heard nothing from them until September 15, 2015, when they received our initial application June 12, 2015, that’s 3 whole months without any contact. The September 15, 2015 request for proof of income letter, which was received by us September 23, 2015 wanted the required information by September 25, 2015.

This is not our first run in with Kancare, back in mid 2014, suddenly without any notice they revoked coverage for our autistic son despite no changes in our circumstances. Which meant all his therapy sessions stopped immediately, his therapy sessions are too costly to cover out of pocket. All this is caused by the Republican house and senate at federal and state levels giving tax breaks and subsidies to billion dollar companies while simultaneously defunding government programs that millions rely on.

I know that it’s unlikely, but I truly hope that America votes in Bernie Sanders as president. The Constitution starts with “we, the people”, not “we, the corporations”, our elected government should be doing things that benefit everyday Americans instead of lining their own pockets, taking money from interests they are supposed to be regulating, which somehow is legal in the United States of America.

Credit Card Debt… And Medical Insurance…

As some of you might know, my wife was screwed over by an employer back at the end of April and found herself without employment for eight weeks which took a toll on our finances, suddenly losing half your income tends to do that! Then we had some unexpected costs such as car service and fees associated with school, clothes and registration fees and fuel costs as my wife briefly worked 2 1/2 hours away.

I made mistakes in regards to managing our finances, where I should have canceled or downgraded non-essential services, I elected to pay those bills with credit cards, which adds up very quickly. We’re not drowning in debt, but we have around $6,000 in credit card debt and can easily make the minimum payments, but the issue is that our balance is going up $150 each month because of the extortionate cost of medication, each month, we pay over $400 out of pocket on top of our insurance premiums.

Now that my wife is back in full time employment, she now has medical insurance through her employer, which starts October 1, so I attempted to cancel her insurance through the marketplace for September 30. But that wasn’t possible, apparently 2 weeks notice needs to be given, so we will have to pay for the entire month of October, which just increases my stress level as it’s more money out of our pocket!

The next challenge will be getting my kids insurance through the marketplace as adding the kids to either mine or Erin’s work insurance is too cost prohibitive. My kids have been without insurance for three months as when I applied for insurance back in May, I couldn’t add the kids to the marketplace insurance as I wasn’t making enough money alone and had to wait for Medicaid (Kancare) to send us a letter.

That letter arrived a few days ago and it said they needed more information immediately or my claim would be canceled. Which is irrelevant now anyway as we now make too much money to qualify. So at tax time when inevitably I will be “taxed” for the kids not having insurance for those three months, I will dispute it. It’s a systematic fuck up, not mine, I wasn’t even given the option to buy insurance for them!

Back to the credit card debt, I have stopped using two of my credit cards, the Discover and American Express and have been paying these down at $200 per month and living with our bank VISA card, which is the card with the slowly rising balance despite paying $500 off each month, we have to keep going back to it to pay for the aforementioned drugs that my wife needs to manage her fibromyalgia. This is basically going to be the situation until we get our tax refund, which may cover about 50% of the overall debt.

Suffice to say, if either myself or Erin becomes unemployed again, I will be immediately canceling cable TV, downgrading internet and all the other costs like the Y membership, Spotify, WWE Network, but we’ll keep Netflix and Hulu, we do need some entertainment, both those services cost less than $20.

Speaking of Credit cards, if you are looking at the American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card for the cashback reward value, DONT! We have spent $2400 on the card and they still haven’t paid out a single cent in cashback after 3 months! You’re better off looking at Discover’s “It” Card for cashback rewards!

Kim Davis: Why has this woman not been fired or jailed?

In recent days I have been seeing the story of Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis popping up all over social media and news streams and the question I ask, how is she still employed as a county clerk? She is and has been willfully disregarding a federal mandate that she issue marriage licenses to hetero and homo-sexual couples for two months hiding behind court orders and religious freedom claims.

Several courts have ruled and upheld, including the supreme court, that she MUST issue marriage licenses to all couples who qualify. Ms. Davis is being sued by two same sex couples and two hetero couples for refusing to issue a marriage license to them, but remains defiant of the constitutional change.

Another Kentucky county clerk, Casey Davis from Casey county also has been in defiance of the Supreme Court’s ruling two months ago and still has his job despite being given an ultimatum by Gov. Steve Beshear “‘Issue marriage licenses or resign”, but Mr. Davis responded “I can’t quit … I have a mortgage to pay”, the solution is simple, do the job that taxpayers, including the gay taxpayer pay you to do?

Apparently, because these clerks are elected officials, they can not simply be fired, however they can be held in contempt of a court order and be jailed, in this case for upto one year. These clerks could also be impeached and forcibly removed from office. At the simplest level, if these individuals are unable to complete their civic duties for any reason including religious belief, they should be relieved of that duty.

Mr. Davis went on CNN’s New Day and said “There is a power that is above whatever man may put on paper, and that authority is of a Godly nature, and nature itself”. And when asked if he will uphold the constitution of the United States, he made reference to the Kentucky constitution, which is of course is superseded by the Federal constitutional changes as handed down by the US Supreme Court back in June, 2015. Mr. Davis cited the Kentucky constitution, section 26 claiming that “no higher power shall interfere with what’s in our state’s constitution”, dear Mr. Davis, FEDERAL LAW SUPERSEDES STATE LAW.

Mr. Davis asserts that he and Ms. Davis, no relation are not blocking same sex marriage, “the same sex couples could go to a neighboring county to obtain a marriage license”. My response is this; you ARE blocking same sex marriage, couples, same sex or otherwise should not have to go to a neighboring county to obtain something that is a right according to the constitution of the United States of America.

This sort of bullshit is the reason I have such a deep seated contempt for religion in general. I find it incredibly intolerant, even hateful of everything from race (white supremacists often use religion as a base for their hatred) to non-traditional marriage and beyond. Religion is also hypocritical, condemning same sex marriage while endorsing 2nd, 3rd or 4th marriages, when the bible also prohibits divorce. Which is ironic as according to some Internet comments, (Mrs.) Kim Davis is on her fourth husband!

Final word; if Mr. Davis and Ms. Davis can’t perform their duty due to religious beliefs, QUIT!

Update [Sep, 2 2015, 15:21]: Columnist Dan Savage labeled Davis a “hypocrite” going onto say “This is a woman that has been divorced three times and married four times. She gave birth to twins five months after divorcing her first husband, they were fathered by her third husband, but adopted by her second husband, she is now onto her fourth husband…” – Sounds like good Christian behavior, right?

Additionally, Ms. Davis has been summoned to appear before a federal judge on Thursday to explain why she is continuing to refuse to issue marriage licenses. If she sticks to using I am refusing to issue marriage licenses on “God’s Authority”, the court should find her in contempt and throw her in jail

Update [Sep, 3 2015, 13:35]: Ms. Davis has been held in contempt of court and jailed until she is willing to issue marriage licenses. Judge David L. Bunning said “The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order. If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that’s what potentially causes problems.” And Judge Bunning is 100% correct, his hands are tied, Ms. Davis has willfully disregarded a federal court order, marriage is not a religious act, it’s a civil act.

Just to play devils advocate for a moment, the solution seems simple, make it so any qualified person in the office can sign a marriage license, then Ms. Davis or anyone else with sincerely held religious beliefs wouldn’t have to sign their name on the license. But as the law stands, Ms. Davis is 100% in the wrong, no matter how some Christians want to twist it to suit their own agendas, religion does not trump law.

Update [Sep, 8 2015, 21:53]: Judge Bunning has released Kim Davis on the proviso that she not interfere with the issuance of marriage licenses when she returns to work. Let’s say I’m skeptical about her abiding by that stipulation. Will the judge throw her back in jail if she does attempt to block the issuance of marriage licenses? Clearly Ms. Davis is unrepentant, why should we believe she will comply!

Update [Sep, 14 2015, 10:51]: Ms. Davis has returned to work, but remains defiant of Judge Bunning’s court order. Ms. Davis has removed her name and title from the marriage license, which could possibly make the license invalid, which in my view is interfering with the issuance of marriage licenses in contravention of Judge Bunning’s ruling. Ms. Davis herself made reference in a press call outside the courthouse on Monday morning that she doesn’t know if the license is valid without her name and title on it. In my view, it’s just another method to discriminate and force her religious beliefs on others.

PS: George Takei wrote an interesting article on the truth behind the 1st Amendment that religious types like to wheel out in the name of religious liberty, READ: How Kim Davis Violated the First Amendment.

Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix 2015

As predicted by most F1 pundits and fans alike, Mercedes claimed a 1 – 2 finish at Spa Francorchamps with Lewis Hamilton leading the duo home; again as expected by most, Nico Rosberg is most definitely #2 in the Mercedes camp. Meanwhile Romain Grosjean claimed the final podium position for cash-strapped Lotus, a great result for everyone back at Enstone, even with Maldonado retiring with clutch failure.

Although it didn’t go all Mercedes way, Rosberg had an issue with his clutch overheating off the start dropping him back to as far as sixth place behind Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo, Valteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel before recovering to fourth by the end of the lap. Despite his good start, Bottas found himself moving backwards, first being overtaken by Rosberg, then Vettel and Grosjean before lap 10.

Toro Rosso’s Max Vestappen once again added some excitement to the race with a spectacular overtake around the outside of Blanchimont on lap 11, completing the move on the brakes into the chicane to demote Ericsson a place. And again on the final lap, making a challenge for seventh place into Les Combes against Kimi Raikkonen, but couldn’t quite make the apex of the corner to make the move stick.

Williams had a poor race overall, I believe they went too conservative on the wing configuration which made the FW37 slower than the Red Bull, Lotus and Ferrari on the straights and fast sweeping turns. Then Williams made a bizare mistake putting 3 prime tyres and 1 option tyre on Bottas’ car in the first stop, which cost him and Williams points as the Finn served a drive-through penalty for the infraction.

Ferrari gambled with a one stop strategy while other teams ran two or three stop strategies and it almost paid off; but Vettel’s right rear tyre failed coming out of Eau Rogue onto the Kemmel Straight on the penultimate lap. This failure gifted Lotus their first podium of the season with Grosjean right there to take advantage. Vettel eventually finished the race out of the points after recovering to the pits for new tyres.

Red Bull had a mixed race, Ricciardo was looking good for fourth, which would have become third with Vettel’s issues, but his car ground to a halt with an electrical failure on the main straight. Meanwhile Red Bull choose to gamble on changing Kvyat to a brand new set of soft tyres with 14 laps remaining and the Russian finished the race in 4th place after several overtakes while also benefited from Vettel’s blowout!

Force India will be ruing missed opportunities as Nico Hulkenberg failed to take the start with power unit issues. But Perez made the best of it claiming fifth place and ran as high as second place in the first stint before being jumped by Vettel in the pit-stops and later being overtaken by the faster Lotus and Red Bull.

Jenson Button called McLaren Honda “Embarrassing” and no-one could disagree. Honda promised a big boost in performance at Spa and it failed to deliver. I believe Ron Dennis made a poor decision in reuniting with Honda who had been out of the sport for many years and bringing Honda back into F1 a year earlier than originally planned has embarrassed McLaren and Honda, Dennis has to take the blame.

After the race, Ferrari’s Vettel went on a tirade against Pirelli. Going onto say “…if this accident happens 200 meters earlier I certainly would have hit the wall.” Bottom line here is that Ferrari gambled on a one stop strategy, it didn’t work. Pirelli’s Paul Hembury said that he believes Ferrari pushed the tyre too hard.

In my view, Vettel needs to stop bleating about the safety of the tyre, grow a set of balls and go about his business. F1 is a dangerous sport and frankly F1 is at it’s safest right now, but any form of motorsport has it’s inherent dangers. If Vettel can not deal with that danger, maybe it’s time he took his leave from F1?

Overall, the race went as expected with another Mercedes 1 – 2 finish, but many would never have predicted that Lotus would be on the podium, not to say seeing “RoGro” on the podium displeased me. Most would have expected it to be Williams that were best of the rest given their normally slippery car, but today, they changed tack going for a higher downforce setup and made yet another pit-stop blunder.

2015 Belgian Grand Prix Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:23:40.387
2. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) +0:02.058
3. Romain Grosjean (Lotus) +0:37.988
4. Daniil Kvyat (Red Bull) +0:45.692
5. Sergio Perez (Force India) +0:53.997
6. Felipe Massa (Williams) +0:55.283
7. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +0:55.703
8. Max Vestappen (Toro Rosso) +0:56.076
9. Valteri Bottas (Williams) +1:01.040
10. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) +1:31.234

Back 2 School

After what seemed like an impossibly long summer with my kids at home with me while I work, they have both gone back to school. My son has started middle school while my daughter has started Kindergarten, which has allowed me a full seven hours of freedom to get out of my home office, to take photos of properties and visit the corporate office. There is only so much staring at the same four walls you can do.

However there’s some annoyances that my kids going back to school brings, such as USD259 deciding to place my children in schools seven miles apart. This has caused logistical issues as school starts and ends at the same time for both kids; I haven’t managed to clone myself, so I can’t be in two places at once.

So the solution I have come up with is; drop my son off at 7:30am at Hamilton Middle School and he’ll have to wait until 7:50am to enter school while I drive seven miles back up I-135 to drop my daughter off for 7:50am at Gordon Parks Academy. On the return journey, I pick my daughter up at 3:10pm then drive the seven miles back down I-135 to pick up my son at 3:25pm, that’s 15 minutes after school ends.

I would be happy for my son to ride the school bus, but my wife had bad experiences riding the bus during her youth and doesn’t want our son to ride the school bus because she fears he’ll have similar experiences to her. Although not ideal for me, I will drive back and forth to put her mind at ease.

The reason that our son has to attend a school so far away from our home is because the Unified School District 259 in their infinite wisdom decided to make half the neighborhood schools into magnet schools. Which parents have to apply for by the end of February every year to have a chance of being accepted.

We were not familiar with this requirement and didn’t get our application for Brooks Middle School, a school that is 3 minutes drive away in early enough. In the simplest terms neighborhood kids are being locked out of their neighborhood schools because they are being converted into magnet schools.

Yesterday, to add to my annoyance of having to drive seven miles to pick up my son, making him wait 15 minutes to be picked up. A member of staff at Gordon Parks instructed me that I HAD to walk 250ft to the crosswalk, having to cross the busy exit of the school car park where buses are exiting and 250ft back to my car. This obviously provoked a less than friendly reaction. I explained “I don’t have time for that, the school district placed my son 15 minutes drive away” and walked across the road with my daughter.

The lack of organization in the Wichita school district is astonishing, parents are given very little information about what is happening with their child’s education or even simple things like welcome packets and school websites including information such as start and end times for school.

This is why we were not aware of the requirements for attending magnet schools. Despite our son attending a magnet school at elementary level, they didn’t instruct or notify us on how the system works, should we want him to attend the same school at middle school level. We are actually considering moving our home to another school district for a better education for our children, but this is Brownback’s Kansas, so the chances are that it’ll still be a disaster because of his defunding of Kansas schools.

Update [Aug, 26 2015, 19:36]: Today we got notice that our son had been accepted into Brooks middle school, two weeks after school started. I am baffled as to how in less than 2 weeks, our son has gone from #37 on the waiting list to being accepted, maybe they read my blog? Plus, as our son expressed his like for his current school, Hamilton, we were unsure whether we should move him, but thankfully our son still wants to attend Brooks, he just wants a days notice to say goodbye to his friends.

But What Do I Know?

I pride myself on being able to work with anyone but there are two people that I find incredibly hard to work with because despite my 15 years of Internet marketing experience, they think they know better than me. From what I can see, they care more about lead stats than actual results or creating a long term strategy and running a move-in special for 2 years solid is not a good strategy for long term sustainability.

Last month these people, a regional manager and property manager, who happen to be husband and wife, wanted to run a “$99 Move-In Special”, that was not at all a $99 Move-In, the actual move in cost was $749, that’s $620 deposit + $99 rent + $30 application fee, which is far from being a $99 Move-In. They used the argument “$99 Move-In” is not the same as “$99 Moves You In”, which for me doesn’t hold water and the company compliance officer agreed with me. As a result of me checking with compliance, the manager threw his toys saying “do what you want”, he should have checked with compliance.

This month, they want to run a 10 day special offering a reduced rental rate if potential residents sign a lease by the 15th and move in by the 1st of September. I suggested a longer lead time with the lease date extended to the 21st, but they wanted to create urgency amongst potential residents. So I create some advertising highlighting the savings and special terms, but NO, they want want to highlight the rental rate and not mention the special at all. And now my head freaking hurts, it’s simply not a logical decision.

Why on Earth would you promote a special hiding the details of the freaking special? This is why I believe they are more concerned with lead stats than leasing units, in marketing, we want to generate qualified leads not random people contacting the property who more than likely won’t qualify to live there for income reasons and/or other Sec. 42 exclusions such as households comprised of full time students. And guess what… the current special is to coincide with school starting this month AND the 15th is a Saturday, a day that the office is not open… hey let’s end the special on a day we are closed. *facepalm*

Back in October 2014, I suggested their significant rental rate increase was the reason for the drop off in traffic. At that time, the regional manager “emphatically” disagreed with me claiming that the rent increase was not too rich for the area. And now, there’s a special which reduces the rental rate for a limited time. Why not simply reduce the rental rate permanently with the bonus of an all bills paid option and stop running the specials constantly, it’s not very “special” when there’s a special every month!

Historically, people who move in on specials do not become long term residents, in fact people who move in on specials often don’t see out their lease period. Even if people move in with the reduced rent special stay for 12 months, when the rent jumps back upto regular rates, a $60 jump, they will not renew. None of these specials are designed to develop long term residency, but as the title says, what do I know?

Sapphire R9 270X 4GB, Coolermaster Octane Keyboard/Mouse

After procrastinating about it for literally a year, I finally stumped up the cash and bought myself a new keyboard, mouse and graphics card to replace my basic hardware that I had been using for three years.

For the keyboard and mouse, I went with the Coolermaster Storm Octane Gaming Combo and for the graphics card I went with a Sapphire Radeon R9 270X 4GB and as consequence of the updated graphics card, I also bought a SeaSonic M12II 750 PSU to power it for a total cost of $339.97 delivered to my door.

I’ll start with the Coolermaster Storm Octane keyboard and mouse combo. The first thing I noticed was the looks, I really like the aggressive looks and angles, it’s a great match for my Coolermaster HAF-912 case. The whole package was much lighter than I expected, the mouse actually weighs next to nothing, which I thought would be an issue, but once placed on my mouse pad, I didn’t notice it’s lack of weight.

Both keyboard and mouse are LED backlight with a choice of seven colors. The keyboard is plug and play with all modes set by simple key-presses. There is a dedicated color change button, which when used in conjunction with the right FN key enables breathing mode, which is speed adjustable using right FN plus + and – next to the back space key. Brightness can be adjusted by using right FN + Page Up/Page Dn.

The mouse is a five button design with scroll wheel which feels good in the hand. In addition to the five buttons, there are two buttons on top of the mouse, one to change the DPI between 500 – 3500 and the second button controls LED color, although the front “headlight” and scroll wheel LED’s remain white.

The feel of the keyboard and mouse is surprisingly good for $50, both devices have a matt black plastic finish, which does not feel too cheap, it’s no $150 mechanical keyboard, but you don’t expect it to be for $50 with an included mouse. Key presses are a little “squishy” when reaching the end of travel, but it’s accurate and not fatiguing to use, while the mouse tracking is accurate and mouse clicks are crisp.

If I have one complaint about the Coolermaster Storm Octane Combo, it would be the lack of keyboard rake, even with the legs/feet extended, it feels too flat for my liking. I prefer a keyboard with more rake, so I might have to put something underneath the keyboard to make it more comfortable for my own use.

Moving onto the Sapphire Radeon R9 270X, It’s quiet, even under maximum load, which is a big thing for me personally as my previous card, a XFX Radeon HD 6770 was stupidly noisy while gaming. The R9 270X rarely gets past 40% fan speed, however on my particular card, there is an odd rattle on fan #2 at 56% – 59% fan speed, but as it doesn’t reach that speed while gaming/benchmarking so it’s not a problem.

The fans only ramp up to just over 1900rpm and remain almost inaudible inside my Coolermaster HAF 912 mid-tower case under my desk and not noticeable at all when gaming; while temperatures remain well under control, maxing out at 63°C even after a four hour gaming session on Metro: Last Light.

Performance wise, it’s a R9 270X, performance is as expected, I can run games such as Wolfenstein: The New Order at 45 fps using ultra settings and Metro: 2033, Last Light, Dirt Rally at 60 fps using very high settings on a 1080p screen. So performance wise, the card is more than adequate for my gaming needs.

The Sapphire R9 270X is a solid budget card at just under $200, the price per performance is good for the average gamer. If you’re expect 90 fps from every game at ultra settings, look elsewhere because the Sapphire R9 270X will not meet you needs. Bottom line, the Sapphire card is quiet and performs in line with other 270X’s, so if you’re a middle of the road gamer like myself, for $200 this is great value!

Finally, the SeaSonic M12II 750, it’s a quiet, 80 Plus Bronze fully modular power supply that just works. And it’s a Seasonic, which is always a bonus and it only cost $95, which is a little more expensive than some 750w PSU’s, but it’s better to not skimp on the thing that powers all your expensive hardware.

Overall, I’m happy with my upgrades, I don’t play games enough to justify spending $600 on a graphics card and $250 on a keyboard and mouse, so for $340 investment, I am very happy with my purchases.

System Specs:
Coolermaster HAF 912 Mid Tower Case
SeaSonic M12II 750 PSU
Asus M5A97 LE R2 Motherboard
AMD FX 8350 Black Edition CPU (4Ghz)
Coolermaster Hyper 212 EVO CPU Cooler w/ 2x Prolimatech PRO-USV14 Fans
Patriot 32GB (4x8GB) 1866Mhz RAM
Sapphire R9 270X 4GB GFX Card
Kingston HyperX 3K 128GB SSD (x2)
Coolermaster 2x 200mm Fans (Front/Top), 1x 120mm Fan (Rear)

Windows 10: Initial Impressions

I’m not sure why I did this; but I immediately updated to Windows 10 yesterday morning; something I had never done with any previous Windows versions, I usually wait six months for the major bugs to be worked out. This time I immediately made the jump on my laptop, Surface Pro 3 and desktop machine which I use for my work, maybe it’s because it was free and the Insider versions looked promising.

The upgrade process was so easy I think my technophobe father could even do it, it was literally a case of downloading the files from Windows Update or and clicking start upgrade, the process was 95% automated with some simple interaction near the end of the process.

The biggest change is the new start menu, which is a hybrid of the Windows 8 start screen with live tiles and the traditional Windows 7 style start menu. It’s a definite improvement over the Windows 8 experience, but personally I despise live tiles on a non-tablet device, so I went with installing a third party application that replaces the Windows 10 start menu with a configurable Windows 7 inspired start menu.

The second biggest change… maybe I should say addition is Cortana which in my testing works fairly well, sometimes it’ll open Bing (rather unsurprisingly) in the default browser you have set, other times it will give you a direct verbal and written response. Having a good quality microphone helps, my headset works great on my desktop, as does the built in microphone in my Surface Pro 3, but the built in microphone in my Toshiba laptop doesn’t work so well with Cortana often not understanding my words.

Now I have talked about the functionality, we also have to consider the privacy implications of using Cortana. Microsoft will collect information about your location and location history, contacts, calendar, content and communication history from messages and apps and other information on your device, please read Microsoft’s privacy statement. I have disabled Cortana after testing it’s functionality.

The interface is still a little disjointed in my view, for example when you goto options, there are sub options that still open in Windows 7 style windows. It’s infinitely more integrated than Windows 8, it doesn’t feel like two separate OS’s anymore but it’s less cohesive that I would have liked. However I do like the way that when not in tablet mode, the modern apps open up in a window on the desktop instead of taking over the screen like Windows 8, it doesn’t feel like I am flip/flopping between OS’s any more.

Another new addition is the Action Center that can be accessed by swiping in from the right or clicking the icon in the system tray. Here you will see notification from modern apps such as Mail, Twitter, Facebook, Windows Update and there are quick options for system changes, how many options you get depends on your system, my desktop generated seven icons while my Surface Pro 3 generated 13 options.

Microsoft has dropped the Internet Explorer name in Windows 10 going in a new cleaner direction with Edge, which according to MS is built from the ground up. If you really want IE11, you can still access it, Microsoft has not removed it, it’s just harder to find. Edge is a little too basic for my liking, it seems to be a more tablet friendly browser with big buttons and relatively few features compared to other browsers. Of course this might change as the young browser matures, we’ll have to wait and see how it develops.

Windows 10 comes with a raft of new modern applications to open your media files such as Groove Music and Movies & TV, which from what I can see is more a platform to sell you media than play it. I reset my defaults to Windows Media Player and Photo Viewer. Which of course is my preference, I prefer my media players/viewers to do just that and nothing more, others might like the new apps.

Speaking of media players, Windows Media Player no longer supports playback of DVD’s in Windows 10, yes I know that it was the same in Window 8/8.1, this warning is for those upgrading from Windows 7. If users of Windows 7 had Windows Media Center installed before upgrading to Windows 10, they should get a free copy of Windows DVD Player, which apparently does not work fully on all setups according to reviews from the Windows Store. If your machine does not qualify, you’ll have to pay $14.99, or alternatively, you could download VLC player for absolutely free from the same Windows Store.

For those like myself who like the speed of Windows 8/10 but want the Windows 7 experience, Start10 from Stardock is a great launch day start menu replacement and you can remove most Windows 8/10 aspects if you like. I choose to make the Windows 10 start menu available using CTRL-click. Most of the underlying Windows 7 elements are still intact under the modern interface, so in theory it’s possible to have an almost 100% Windows 7 experience. Previously I used StartIsBack on Windows 8 and 8.1.

The Surface Pro 3 experience is much the same as it was in Windows 8 on Windows 10 in tablet mode, the start screen is available, apps open full screen, although rather annoyingly auto onscreen keyboard invoking (e.g. open onscreen keyboard when touching inside an input element) on the desktop side still does not work in Windows 10, which seems ludicrous, why would Microsoft omit this basic function?

Overall I would say Windows 10 is a hit, whereas Windows 8 was a complete miss. Windows 10 is what Windows 8 should have been 3 years ago. If you have a Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 machine, I’d say make the jump, it seems stable and it’s a much improved operating system than it’s immediate predecessors and best of all (assuming you have a legit copy of Windows 7/8/8.1) it’s free until July 29, 2016.

Update [Aug, 21 2015, 9:43]: I have been noticing some minor niggles with Windows 10 on the Surface Pro 3 tablet, some applications when launched from tablet mode, notably Firefox [40.0.2] opens behind the start screen, forcing you to switch to desktop mode to see the application. Also despite turning off password when waking from sleep, often Windows 10 still presents the login screen after waking. Finally, the system runs hotter, notably when using MS Edge to play streaming videos such as YouTube.

Update [Sep, 6 2015, 1:46]: If you would like to remove all of Windows 10’s pre-installed bloatware with the exception of Edge and Cortana, please watch this video from the Tek Syndicate. However, I personally wouldn’t recommend removal of all modern apps, you’re better off picking and choosing what you want to uninstall as the Microsoft store is very difficult to get back. I had to reinstall Windows 10 over the top of the current (now, previous) install of Windows to restore store functionality + fix other issues caused by the mass purge of Microsoft bloat, thankfully, my programs and settings remained in tact.

Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix 2015

I just want to pause for a moment to remember Jules Bianchi who sadly passed away just before the Hungarian Grand Prix after a nine month battle for survival after his horrendous crash at the Japanese Grand Prix last season. F1 has no doubt lost one of it’s greatest talents, my thoughts go out to Jules’ family and friends at this difficult time. R.I.P. Jules Bianchi, I hope you are winning on the great race track in the sky!

To say the result of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a surprise is an understatement, although maybe the bigger surprise is that Mercedes were not on the podium as Sebastian Vettel took his second victory for Ferrari this season followed by the two Red Bull’s of Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo respectively.

After an aborted start because Williams’ Felipe Massa was out of position on the grid, both Ferrari’s made an amazing start from third and fifth place with Vettel leading and Raikkonen second by turn 3 as Hamilton dropped back to fourth behind team mate Rosberg before later going off track avoiding his own team mate which dropped him back to 10th place behind Massa where he stayed until lap 10.

Although Red Bull’s Ricciardo made a poor start dropping back to eighth place prior to being promoted to seventh because of Hamilton’s off track excursion, he was quick to make up places after being allowed to pass Kvyat on lap 10 to move upto fourth place by lap 13 with some spectacular dives down the inside.

Inevitably Hamilton used his superior Mercedes power to move up the field to pass Ricciardo for fourth place on lap 29 and onto Rosberg’s gearbox by lap 42. Raikkonen’s bad luck continued as he reported being down on power, which turned out to be a MGU-K failure and ultimately retirement on lap 55.

On lap 43, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg’s front wing failed in spectacular style sending carbon fiber everywhere, first bringing out the VSC and later the safety car which bunched the field up for the restart on lap 49. Rosberg took second away from the ailing Raikkonen on the restart while Ricciardo made a move on the outside of Hamilton and the Briton drifted into the Australian, Hamilton pitted for a new front wing while Ricciardo continued, Hamilton dropping out of the points with a drive through penalty.

Again, Hamilton fights his way back into the points to eventually finish the race in sixth place, ahead of team mate Rosberg who understeered into the front wing of Ricciardo after the Australian made an audacious dive down the inside, which meant a pit stop for both drivers, Rosberg with a left rear puncture and Ricciardo for a new front wing. Rosberg dropped back to 10th place after trundling around for nearly a whole lap while Ricciardo lost one place to team mate Kyvat coming back out in third.

It was a great day for McLaren with Alonso finishing in fifth place and Button in ninth, this must feel like a win for McLaren Honda after the disaster that has been 2015 so far, hopefully this is a sign of things to come. Props also go out to Max Verstappen who scored fourth place for Toro Rosso, the best finish of his young F1 career. Romain Grosjean scored six valuable points for Lotus claiming seventh place ahead of Rosberg in eighth place while Marcus Ericsson scored a single point for Sauber for 10th place.

I enjoyed the Hungarian Grand Prix, lots of excitement, even if it was created by drivers making mistakes, it’s refreshing to see a podium with no Mercedes drivers up there. Although I suspect normal service will be resumed after the mid-season break with Spa and Monza being the next two races after the break.

2015 Hungarian Grand Prix Results

1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1:46:09.985
2. Daniil Kvyat (Red Bull) +15.748s
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +25.084s
4. Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso) +44.251s
5. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +49.079s
6. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +52.025s
7. Romain Grosjean (Lotus) +58.578s
8. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) +58.876s
9. Jenson Button (McLaren) +67.028s
10. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) +69.130s

Apparently, Some People Don’t Understand Basic Contracts

I briefly wrote about issues I was having getting a client to pay for my contracted services as part of another blog article and the ensuing events have inspired me to write a full article about the issue.

First of all, I am not going to name the company involved as I have no wish to damage their reputation but the manager of the company clearly lacks business sense as she signed a contract (without reading it, possibly) and made claims against me which were not applicable according to the contract terms.

Under the service fees section of the contract it say the following:

[COMPANY NAME] agrees to pay a flat rate fee of $300 per calendar month for services as described above in the ‘Scope’ section. The standard design fee of $1000 will be pro-rated over the course of twelve (12) months at $83.33 per month which will be included in the $300 monthly flat rate fee. All monthly fees are payable in advance on the first working day of each month.

I believe this to be self explanatory, all necessary payment terms are there in black and white. So why on Earth does she think they have 30 days to pay me from the invoice date, which is a courtesy and not stipulated in the contract. I invoiced on the 20th of each month, so they had an average of 10 days to pay! The latest date I should receive payment is the 3rd day of the month according to the contract terms.

The reality of the situation is that on more than one occasion, it wasn’t until after the 10th of the month that payment was made. This is why I terminated the contract and took their website offline. The outstanding balance for the website creation was paid so I have now released the website to them.

The manager wanted me to continue working with them and suggested that I invoice earlier to get paid on time. Again, the invoice was a courtesy, not a contractual requirement. The manager went on to explain her company’s process for paying bills, which is irrelevant. A contract was signed stating payment is due on the first working day of the month, bottom line, don’t sign a contract you can not honor.

I am truly baffled why the contract was signed by the manager when they could not meet the terms of the contract, I would have been happy to renegotiate the contract to invoice 30 days in advance, but that was not mentioned once before all this blew up recently because of the regular delinquent payments.

The net result is that in all likelihood I will stop contracting altogether. If I can not rely on the income, then it’s not worth having, I can not live like that with a family to support. I’d rather have $300 less and know where I stand budget wise than have the extra cash! And frankly, I really don’t need the extra headaches.