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How the US Air Force Wasted $1 Billion on a Failed Software Plan

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5967081/how-the-us-air-force-wasted-1-billion-on-a-failed-software-plan

How the US Air Force Wasted $1 Billion on a Failed Software PlanThe US Military makes its fair share of mistakes when it comes to technology—but over the weekend, the New York Times revealed that even upgrading a single software system can go horribly wrong for it.

The New York Times describes the situation:

Last month, [the Air Force] canceled a six-year-old modernization effort that had eaten up more than $1 billion. When the Air Force realized that it would cost another $1 billion just to achieve one-quarter of the capabilities originally planned – and that even then the system would not be fully ready before 2020 – it decided to decamp.

You might expect the project to be exotic and experimental. If that were there case, the expense and failure might be understandable, if not desirable. But in fact the project was the implementation of commercial off-the-shelf software. Known as the Expeditionary Combat Support System, the plan was to improve the management of logistics using software from Oracle. Four years of development—and over $1 billion dollars—later, and neither Oracle nor the Air Force have anything to show for their labors.

So what went wrong? According to the New York Times, the plan was scuppered by constant redesigns, poor time management and lack of accountability:

[The System] was restructured many times, including three separate times in the last three years, Ms. McGrath says. “Each time, we chunked it down, breaking it into smaller pieces, focusing on specific capabilities.” But this was not enough to save the system, she says, because program managers did not succeed in imposing the short deadlines of 18 to 24 months that the department now requires for similar projects…

[A] report cited many concerns, but the main one was a failure to meet a basic requirement for successful implementation: having “a single accountable leader” who “has the authority and willingness to exercise the authority to enforce all necessary changes to the business required for successful fielding of the software.”

If anything, we should be grateful that the Air Force decided to kill the project before it haemorrhaged more cash. If you want more detail, you should definitely read the Times piece. [New York Times]

Image by expertinfantry under Creative Commons license

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Monday, December 10th, 2012 news No Comments

Apple’s Weekend iPad Sales In Context

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-of-the-day-ipad-mini-sales-2012-11

Apple says it sold three million iPad Minis and fourth generation iPads from Friday to Sunday. For some context on how impressive those sales are we’ve charted them against shipments from other tablet makers in the third quarter, using data from IDC. As you can see, only Samsung had better sales in three months than Apple had in three days.

chart of the day, Apple's Weekend iPad Sales In Context, november 2012

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Monday, November 5th, 2012 news No Comments

American Airlines Strips Man Of Unlimited Flight Pass After Racking Up 36 Million Miles

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/american-airlines-strips-man-of-unlimited-flight-pass-after-racking-up-36-million-miles-2012-5

American Airlines airplane

Now bankrupt American Airlines used to offer an incredible — and pricey — perk. Until 2004, $500,000 could buy a lifetime first class travel ticket for any route.

But, according to The Daily Mail, one man is having it revoked after amassing 36 million miles and costing American nearly $1 million a year.

Jack Vroom (yes, that is his real, hilarious name), bought the pass in 1989 and has taken advantage ever since.

He has flown far and wide, sometimes for just a few hours. He took a trip to Milan just to grab a motorcycle exhaust and has gone to London for a quick shopping trip.

One of Mr. Vroom’s more frequent trips was to take a sheet of silver to Gudalajara, Mexico to have belt buckles made. And while his son was in college, he’d fly 2,000 miles every weekend to watch him play football.

But he also helped people. The pass came with a companion seat, so one thing he did with it was fly home AIDS victims so they could stay with their families.

American has deemed that Mr. Vroom’s use of the pass has violated the terms they set forth, which means they can revoke it.

Even with the current financial issues, American expects to continue honoring the passes held by other customers. Mr. Vroom says he believes there are 40 in the world.

 Now check out a fast private plane >

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Thursday, May 10th, 2012 news No Comments

American Airlines Strips Man Of Unlimited Flight Pass After Racking Up 36 Million Miles

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/american-airlines-strips-man-of-unlimited-flight-pass-after-racking-up-36-million-miles-2012-5

American Airlines airplane

Now bankrupt American Airlines used to offer an incredible — and pricey — perk. Until 2004, $500,000 could buy a lifetime first class travel ticket for any route.

But, according to The Daily Mail, one man is having it revoked after amassing 36 million miles and costing American nearly $1 million a year.

Jack Vroom (yes, that is his real, hilarious name), bought the pass in 1989 and has taken advantage ever since.

He has flown far and wide, sometimes for just a few hours. He took a trip to Milan just to grab a motorcycle exhaust and has gone to London for a quick shopping trip.

One of Mr. Vroom’s more frequent trips was to take a sheet of silver to Gudalajara, Mexico to have belt buckles made. And while his son was in college, he’d fly 2,000 miles every weekend to watch him play football.

But he also helped people. The pass came with a companion seat, so one thing he did with it was fly home AIDS victims so they could stay with their families.

American has deemed that Mr. Vroom’s use of the pass has violated the terms they set forth, which means they can revoke it.

Even with the current financial issues, American expects to continue honoring the passes held by other customers. Mr. Vroom says he believes there are 40 in the world.

 Now check out a fast private plane >

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Thursday, May 10th, 2012 news No Comments

Here Are The Films With The Most Number 1 Weeks At The Box Office

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/movies-with-the-most-number-1-weeks-at-the-box-office-2012-4

“The Hunger Games” finally lost its winning streak atop the box office this weekend. After spending four weeks at number one, the film lands 30th on the all-time chart for most consecutive weekends at the top spot.

However, four weeks is nothing compared to other titles who have claimed victorious at the box office for five, six and seven weeks in a row. One film blows all the others out of the water with a total of 15 consecutive weekends as the box office number one. Only one film has ever had 16 weeks at number one … and it’s not a James Cameron or Ridley Scott flick.

Compare the films with the most overall number one weeks to those with the most consecutive weeks at theaters below. 

You may be surprised what tops the charts.

chart-number-one-box-office

box-office-consecutive-weeks-number-one

Now, check out the most popular “James Bond” actor>

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Monday, April 23rd, 2012 Uncategorized No Comments

Source: http://lifehacker.com/5882209/five-best-ways-to-stream-live-tv

Five Best Ways to Stream Live TV Whether you’re looking for a way to catch the big game this weekend when you’re away from your living room, or you just like to catch live television when you’re trapped somewhere without either cable or a television, you have plenty of options to help you catch a broadcast on your mobile phone or your computer. Here’s a look at five of the best ways to tune in when you’re on the go.

Earlier in the week we asked how you tune into live television that you’re subscribed to on your mobile device or when you’re not in front of the big screen. You responded, and now we’re back to take a look at the top five, based on your nominations.

Photo by IK’s World Trip.

Five Best Ways to Stream Live TV

Orb/Orb Live

When you need to stream audio or video around the house, to your mobile device, or across the globe when you’re away from home, Orb can certainly deliver. We mentioned Orb several times, and it’s still a great way to stream your media from your computer to other devices in your home, or, if you’re willing to pay for an Orb appliance to connect to your cable box or HTPC, stream live TV or recorded TV to any other device on or off of your home network. Orb supports video up to 720p, and gives you the flexibility to watch live sports, prime time TV shows, or anything else that’s currently airing in your living room on your mobile phone, tablet, or laptop over Wi-Fi, 3G, or 4G when you can’t be in the living room to enjoy it. Pricing varies depending on whether you need hardware (between $79-$99 for the set-top box) to connect to your TV and home network, or you already have a TV tuner in your HTPC (the Orb Live and Orb Caster software are both free, but the mobile apps are $9.99.)


Five Best Ways to Stream Live TV

Slingbox

Where other live TV streaming solutions offer complexity, Slingbox offers elegant simplicity. The Slingbox from Sling Media is a set-top box that connects to your TV and your cable or satellite receiver that makes it easy for you to effectively log in to your TV at home and watch live TV on your computer or mobile device as though you were sitting in front of your TV. You can change channels, browse TV listings, and even set your home DVR to record TV that you won’t make it home in time to watch. The Slingbox comes in two flavors, the Slingbox Solo and the Slingbox Pro-HD (which predictably supports HD and additional devices connected to it) and will set you back $179.99 to $299.99 (not including extended support options). You’ll also need to drop $29.99 for the SlingPlayer app to control your Slingbox from your smartphone or tablet, but the price buys you one of the most feature-rich and hassle-free live TV streaming solutions on the market.


Five Best Ways to Stream Live TV

EyeTV

Elgato’s EyeTV line of TV tuners and live TV software were, for a long time, the only option for Mac users who were looking for an easy way to use their Macs as TV tuners or HTPCs. They’re not the only options anymore, but they’re certainly one of the best, and if you plug a TV source in to an EyeTV and then the EyeTV into your Mac via USB, you want watch live TV right there on your computer screen. Combine an EyeTV tuner or DVR with the EyeTV app on your mobile device, and you can stream live or pre-recorded TV on your mobile device when you’re out of the house. The EyeTV app will set you back $4.99 in the iTunes App Store for any iOS device, and the tuners vary in price from $99 to $199 depending on whether you need a DTV tuner, a DTV and HD tuner, a tuner with a DVR inside, or a Wi-Fi enabled tuner that can wirelessly stream TV to other devices in your home.


Five Best Ways to Stream Live TV

Vulkano Flow Box

The Vulkano Flow may not be one of the most well known set-top tuners on the market, but it’s definitely one of the most powerful. For $99.99, the Vulkano Flow is an easy to install and set up device that connects to your cable or satellite tuner, supports HD video, and your home network to allow you to wirelessly watch live TV on your iOS or Android device on your home network or when you’re away via 3G or 4G. You get complete control over your home TV, so you can switch channels, browse a built-in programming guide (that you don’t have to pay extra to view), and even connect to other video inputs like a DVR or HTPC and control that as well. Vulkano offers desktop players for Mac OS and Windows (Free), and mobile players for iOS, Android, and BlackBerry ($12.99.)


Five Best Ways to Stream Live TV

Hauppage WinTV

Hauppage is an old name in TV tuners, and the company is still going strong by offering a range of products to HTPC enthusiasts who want to build their own devices to stream, save, and watch live and recorded television and to people who would rather buy a set-top box to handle the streaming for them. Those of you who nominated the WinTV mentioned that you can easily install a WinTV tuner in your HTPC and download the WinTV application on your HTPC and iOS or Android device to stream TV from your HTPC to your device. Pricing varies depending on which tuner you’d like, whether you want HD video, and whether you want an internal or USB tuner to install at all or you’d just prefer a set-top box like the Hauppage Broadway ($199), but the WinTV Extend app you’ll need to stream from your Tuner will set you back $9.95, and the mobile apps are free (although they only support Wi-Fi.)


Now that you’ve seen the top five, it’s time to put them to an all out vote for the winner.

What’s The Best Method to Stream Live TV?

Honorable mentions this week go out to streaming TV sites like Justin.tv, which many of you said you use to stream your own TV shows to the web so you can catch them when you’re away from home, and to The NFL’s website, which many of you noted is indeed streaming the big game on their own. Finally, since we mentioned that the Department of Homeland Security had shut down FirstRowSports‘ primary domain, many of you made note of the fact that the site is still up and running on a different URL.

Have a favorite method that didn’t get the nominations needed to make the top five? Want to make a case for it, or for your favorite of the nominees above? Sound off in the comments below.

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Sunday, February 5th, 2012 Uncategorized No Comments

My Horrific Experiences With Sony Customer Support

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/my-horrific-experiences-with-sony-customer-support-2012-2


Sony laptopI have a Sony laptop computer. It is less than a year old. It was not cheap. I bought the best components, memory and hardware components options available including 3-year in home support.

A couple of months ago the monitor developed a problem (a line of dead pixels down the entire length of the screen). I knew it was a hardware failure because I run a dual monitor setup and the line did not appear on the second screen.

I ignored that problem because it was relatively minor. However a hard drive failure cannot be ignored. 

Unfortunately I experienced a hard drive failure at the beginning of January and was dead in the water. I could not boot.

Please follow this chain of events (Mac users, please try not to laugh too loudly).

My Sony Support Experience

  1. I called Sony support and told them of my problems. They told me my computer was out of warranty even though it was less than a year old and under standard warranty. I told them I had a 3 year warranty. They told me I they had no record of it but gave me another Sony phone number to call to verify my warranty.
  2. I suggested that rather than me hang up and dial Sony, that Sony should dial Sony and verify my service contract. The technical rep said that was not possible.
  3. I called the service number at Sony the tech rep gave me and that service rep verified my date of purchase as less than a year old. The service rep also gave me my 3-year in-home service contract number.
  4. I called back Sony technical support and gave them my service contract number. The technical rep said they could not find that service contact and would not help me. The tech rep told me to call back the service rep and get the right number.
  5. I called back up the service rep, and I did indeed have the right number. The service rep agreed to call the tech rep and stay on the line to verify the number. Apparently service can call technicians but not vice-versa. Some of these calls took 20 minutes.
  6. The service rep informed the technical rep of my purchase date of the service contract (less than a year old), and that it was for 3-years. At that point the tech rep agreed to help me. The service rep hung up.
  7. The tech rep then took my serial number and other information but said before he could schedule a service call he needed a copy of my receipt. I did not have a copy of my receipt. Given the Sony service rep verified my purchase date and 3 year service contract I failed to understand why I need a written receipt. As you might expect I was quite upset and talking rather loudly at this point.
  8. The service rep said he needed to know whether the computer was to be repaired under the service contract or the 1-year standard warranty. As you might imagine I did not see why any of this mattered as my date of purchase was confirmed by Sony as was my 3-year warranty.
  9. Well this mattered to the technician who demanded a receipt. The technician gave me a Sony website in which I could look up my order and get a receipt. I said “If I can go to a website on Sony and look up my order, why can’t you?”
  10. As you can probably guess from what has transpired so far, the tech rep could not do that. It was now late in the day and I had company over and a backup PC was working but without a lot of programs I frequently use and need. I waited overnight to get the receipt.
  11. The next day I attempted to get a receipt but the website URL the tech rep gave me was invalid. 
  12. Once again I called the service contract rep and that person gave me the right address. I said why don’t you look up my purchase day and get it to the tech but this time the service rep was uncooperative.
  13. I go to the Sony website and find my order. I print out my order and fax it to the tech rep. I call the tech rep number and the tech informs me he has scheduled a service call and someone would call me shortly to arrange a time within three days.
  14. I was suspicious of that claim, so the next day I called up the service rep who indeed verified the tech rep did not schedule a service call. 
  15. The service rep put in the order noting they had received my fax and that everything was in order.
  16. I was told I would get a call within 3 days. I was actually shocked to get a call the next day but the pleasant surprise quickly ended on news they had to order parts and I would get a another call within 3 days when the parts would be ready.
  17. Two days later the parts arrive and I get a call and schedule a time.
  18. The rep brings out another monitor and another hard drive. 
  19. The monitor is bad. It has a line of dead pixels in a different spot. 
  20. The tech rep installs the hard drive and leaves me with a set of install disks.
  21. One might think that the on-site technician might actually load the disks they delivered but one would be wrong. These guys are 100% without a doubt strictly hardware only. They do not load disks. Even ones they hand deliver.
  22. It is late in the evening and once again I had company. The next day I run the setup disks and get an I-O error. I cannot tell what is wrong. 
  23. I call Sony and they suspect another hard drive problem and tell me someone will call me within three days to schedule an appointment.
  24. I am screaming at the top of my lungs at this point as I have had it. The rep agrees to do nothing but schedule another call. I ask for his supervisor and an transferred to a “national customer relations specialist” NCRS.
  25. I ask the NCRS to send me a new computer. He tells me that the computer I have is no longer available. That was a direct lie because in advance (in expectation of lies) I had gone on the Sony website and could order the exact computer I already had. 
  26. I informed the NCRS that the computer was still orderable and he said he did not have the authority to do what I asked. If a national customer relations person does not have that authority, one has to wonder “Do they have ANY authority?”
  27. I asked to be transferred to his superior and was put on hold. His superior (and the NCRS refused to tell me the title of that person) would not take my call but whoever that person was did tell the NCRS that if the next delivery did not work they would pro-rate a refund.
  28. I demanded to talk to the NCRS superior but the NCRS would not comply.
  29. At that point I had had enough. I had been without my computer for 11 days and had loaded trial versions of software I use on another computer to get by, but I was still running in limited mode in a number of ways.
  30. I do an online search for computer repair for my city at 4:30 PM. The first two places did not answer the phone or had a messages they were closed. The owner of a third local repair shop in Barrington Illinois did answer the phone. He was open until 7:00PM and Barrington is only a half hour away.
  31. He agreed to look at my computer. I brought in my computer, the install DVDs Sony gave me, and an external hard drive backup I had of my computer.  He took one look at the install disks and said “this one is bad” (it had a discolored spot on the DVD). He changed the bios on my machine to boot to an external DVD drive and fortunately the external drive was able to read the install disks. It was now going on 8:00PM and the owner had stayed an hour past closing to help me but the configuration was only 70% done.
  32. The owner had to go but the next day when I called in, he had reset my drive to the original Sony state, removed all the Sony bloatware including Norton. He loaded all my personal files from an external hard drive I brought in. Above and beyond the call of duty, he found every ICON on my computer and went out and loaded trial versions of every software program I had.
  33. Now that is service. I had my Microsoft Office Key as well as keys to the other programs I use.  I had no idea how to configure my POP account at SBC on to my Microsoft Exchange account but he did that off the top of his head. By accident, I found someone (a business owner) who not only understands computers but someone who also understands the value of a customer.
  34. Five days later (two over the weekend) Sony did come by and replace my monitor. It might have been done sooner but I was out of town on Friday.

Moral of the Story

  • Have file backups. I did.
  • Don’t count on Sony
  • I have had bad experiences with Dell as well so don’t count on Dell or any other mass producer either.
  • Instead find a local computer shop that understands computers and the value of a customer.
If you live in NW Illinois, the place I found that helped me isBarringtonComputer. The owner is Richard Zatek.

By the way, I left out one interesting detail.

Barrington Computer has the ability to access a computer remotely. Zatek gave me a way to see what was happening remotely to my computer. When I checked on it at midnight (from my backup machine  at home), Zatek was also dialed into my computer and we exchanged messages right on my computer remotely using notepad, at midnight. We could see what each other was typing. That is pretty cool as well as exceptional service.

One good thing came out of this. I am pleased to have found someone who knows computers and also understands the value of a customer. Sony sure doesn’t.

 
Addendum
 
I received many emails regarding this post. Here is one from attorney “BR” who says …

Dear Mish,

I’m a big fan of your site and it is pretty much required reading for me most days. I read your account of your travails with “Big Corporate Customer service” with great empathy. I encountered a very similar experience two years ago getting a burner part replaced on my natural gas hot water heater. It took six weeks, 7 separate “house calls,” at least 15 different phone calls, and nearly being divorced before the problem was rectified. And it was a parts problem for which the company had issued a “recall,” so it wasn’t a unique or unexpected problem.

I’ve become convinced that this type of customer “service” is viewed as being a “feature” and not a “bug.” And it crosses all lines of products and services, but especially those covered by “warranties.” They are actively discouraging you from insisting on your right to the free repairs and other services for which you have already paid when you purchased your warranty. In my judgment it represents a calculated effort by corporate types to maximize the profits they obtain under extended warranty agreements. It really is a form of fraud.

Lesson learned is that while P.C. stands for piece of crap, warranties are worth even less.

Very truly yours,

BR

Addendum Two
 
I received many comments about the poor quality of consumer products. I failed to mention a possible remedy.
 
I asked the store owner if he custom built computers and he said it would not be cost-effective. After all, he still would be using components straight from China.
 
Instead he said, never buy a computer from a normal retail store or through the “consumer division” of a PC maker. Sony only has a a consumer divi! sion. HP and Dell have business divisions.
 
Unfortunately, that may not mean support will be much better, but rather the components will likely be of a higher quality. Large businesses might buy hundreds of computers or more at once. To get repeat business, the computers need to be more durable and have no built-in bloatware (trial software and other garbage).

Addendum Three
 
I received many emails like this from Mac users but here is one from a person at VMC Consulting Corporation with a email address at Microsoft.

Reading your recent “Horrific Experiences” post, I just want to make a friendly suggestion.

Next time you want the best Windows machine money can buy, get a Mac.

No kidding.

The Mac is the best Windows machine you can buy, and the support is fantastic. I don’t know where you live, but if it’s a major city, I bet there’s an Apple store nearby.

You can either use “Boot Camp” and run entirely in Windows, or you can be booted into the Mac OSX, and run Windows inside of Parallels, which is a fantastic Virtualization program.

Cheers,

David


This post originally appeared at Global Economic Trend Analysis. 

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Thursday, February 2nd, 2012 news No Comments

Android Has 47% Of The Mobile Market (GOOG, AAPL)

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/android-market-share-2011-12


android eating apple

The Android platform reaches just under half the mobile market at 47%, according to the latest numbers from comScore.

iOS is sitting pretty in second place at 28.7%, followed by BlackBerry at 16.6% and Windows Phone at 5.2%.

comScore’s numbers also reflect a growing population of smartphone users — for the 3-month period ending in November, 91.4 million people owned smartphones, up 8% from the previous 3-month period.

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Friday, December 30th, 2011 news No Comments

Use Amazon’s Price Check App and Get Up to $15 Off Your Purchases [Deals]

Source: http://lifehacker.com/5865572/use-amazons-price-check-app-and-get-up-to-15-off-your-purchases

Use Amazon's Price Check App and Get Up to $15 Off Your PurchasesiPhone/Android: This Saturday, December 10 would be a good day to go shopping. Amazon’s offering 5% off (up to $5) for select items if you barcode scan them using its Price Check app; the offer can be used three times.

To get the discount, you’ll need to check prices on a qualifying item in one of these categories: Electronics, toys, sports, music, and DVDs. After putting it in your shopping cart with the Price Check App, you’ll have 24 hours to buy it (you can do it from the Amazon website or other Amazon apps) and get the 5% discount automatically applied.

As we’ve noted before Amazon Price Check is a really versatile price checking app you can use to look up products using your voice, photos, barcodes, or old-fashioned text search.

The promotion starts at 9pm PST December 9 and runs through 11:59pm PST December 10. So go download the app by the weekend, if you haven’t already.

Price Check for iPhone and Android | in the iTunes App Store | in Android Market


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Tuesday, December 6th, 2011 news No Comments

The Best Days of the Week to Buy Big-Ticket Items Online [Buying]

Source: http://lifehacker.com/5855776/the-best-days-of-the-week-to-buy-big+ticket-items-online

The Best Days of the Week to Buy Big-Ticket Items OnlineWe’ve looked at the best times to buy throughout the year, but when shopping online prices tend to fluctuate on a day-to-day basis. Discounts, deals, and price-comparison site Extrabux calculated the statistics and figured out when certain items are cheaper during the week.

Computers are cheapest on Mondays because manufacturers apply their rebates early in the week. This means online retailers can purchase computers for less and pass the savings on to you. This is not the case with every manufacturer, but Dell and Sony are among the companies that do this with their computers.

Mondays are also cheap days for TVs (and Tuesdays aren’t bad either) not only because of the same rebate situation, but because big sales days tend to be earlier in the week. This gives retailers an opportunity to draw more buyers in, and lower prices are a good way to do that. Cameras and video games also benefit from lower prices earlier in the week for the same reasons.

Major appliances tend to be cheapest on Sundays because that’s when the majority of people are searching for them. Washers, dryers, ovens, microwaves, refrigerators, and more are all Googled like crazy at the end of the week, so online retailers adjust their prices to draw people in.

Jewelry prices drop down on Wednesdays because that’s when searches take place as well. Apparently women tend to shop online most often in the middle of the week, and since women are the target market for most jewelry we see price drops to help attract buyers.

Books are at their lowest on Saturdays, although there isn’t a solid reason why. Perhaps people read more on Saturdays, or at least thing they should be reading more when the weekend finally rolls around.

For more information on why these prices fluctuate online on certain days, plus lots of pretty graphs, check out the full post over on Extrabux.

The Cheapest Days of the Week to Shop Online | Extrabux Blog


You can follow Adam Dachis, the author of this post, on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. ¬†Twitter’s the best way to contact him, too.


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Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 news No Comments

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