Thursday, July 3, 2008

iPhone Data Prices - This is insane!

It's been a while since the last time I posted. I've been busy, but I'm taking time out of my busy schedule to talk about something so insane it's simply unbelievable.

As per AT&T's website, they will now be charging $30/month for data on the iPhone 2.0. That alone upsets me because they lured people in to buy the iPhone by charging only $20 for data and now it's being upped by $10. But I can live with that. The truth is that iPhone users use the most data on AT&T's network than just about anyone else, simply because iPhone's browser is so good, and there's built-in YouTube video watching. Also the Google Maps can do quite a number on the data usage used every month.

But here's the kicker. AT&T will now charge you an additional $15 a month to use your iPhone with an Exchange Server! Are you kidding me? An exchange server uses a maximum of a few MB's per month of overhead over the regular e-mail size. And for that they're charging and extra $15? So I can have my e-mails forwaded to a GMail account and get that on my iPhone for $30 a month, but if I choose not to forward them and use my exchange server I will now be paying $45 per month. Even knowing the fact that with an exchange server it syncs contacts and calendar entries also, I can still guarantee you that the non-exchange server users will be using more data than the business users who have an exchange server.

It's about time someone opened a new cell service providor that charges fair rates. I say, bring down the price of unlimited everything and you'll have a lot more users. People want to know that they don't have to worry about going over. If there's an unlimited EVERYTHING plan (minutes, data, text, videos etc.) for $80 a month, thousands of people would immediately switch to that plan. Stop nickle-and-diming people already. Enough is enough.

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Blackberry: Quit Competing with Apple

For the last year I've been reading how Apple is taking over market share from Blackberry and RIM's gotta do something to rectify this. To that I yell and scream - "What the heck are you talking about?" Blackberry's Curve and Apple's iPhone are two very different devices. One is a multimedia powerhouse with amazing sound, graphics and videos built right into the device, and the other is an office powerhouse, with the most reliable push e-mail known to mankind.

If I was a 20-something guy who took the train to work each day (and wanted to listen to music or watch a TV show on the way), enjoyed having the latest and coolest in technology, and received under 30 e-mails a day, I would get the iPhone. But if I was that same 20-something guy with a good job, sending and receiving lots of e-mails/texts every day, and wanted one of the most stable phones on the market, I would get the Blackberry Curve. In my opinion there's absolutely no competition here.

Now I know that there are many people who want a mix of both, but the bottom line remains. If you rely on e-mail, get the Blackberry. If you want the 'Chic' factor, go with the iPhone. And if you do get the iPhone, good luck typing on it.

Lastly a note to RIM and Apple: RIM, please don't make a touchscreen Blackberry. There's absolutely no reason for it. Stick to making solid phones with full keyboards that have long batteries and never need to be rebooted. Give us 3G and built-in Wi-Fi in the next version of the Blackberry and that'll be the icing on the cake. And Apple, you screwed up. There was no reason not to have 3G, working MMS, or push-e-mail in iPhone version 1. You lost my respect by running to put a phone out on the market without it being complete - and charging a fortune for it. You have one good thing going for you - iPhone's Safari browser. All I can say to that is "WOW!"

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Apple Store Checkout Process

Have you shopped at an Apple store recently? I love the place. Firstly, there are almost always more employees in the store than customers, which means if you have a question, there are 10 people who would be willing to help you. And, they are all very knowledgable with the items they sell. But what struck me the most was their amazing checkout process. If you are paying by credit card, simply walk over to an associate with the item(s) you want in your hand and tell him you are ready to checkout. He will pull a PDA out of his pocket, scan the items, swipe your credit card with the swiper attached to the PDA, and - here's the kicker - offer to e-mail you the receipt. That's what really amazed me. An e-mail receipt! That's a genius idea! No longer do I have to save receipts in a shoe box and hope they don't get lost. Now, if I ever need to return that item, I don't even need to print out the receipt at home; I can just pull it up on the screen at the store.

Apple's products may be expensive, but they are good. And the store layout and features are absolutely amazing.

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Google continues to Amaze me

Today I went online to get directions to a zoo near my house, and to my amazement, Google Maps gave me 2 options: Drive There, or Take Public Transportation. How amazing is that? It showed me where I needed to walk to (and how long that walk would take) to get to the Bus Station, which bus to take, when to get off and transfer, etc. I love Google.

Check it out at Google Transit.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

AOL Bloatware: When will the madness stop?

Have you seen a computer recently with AOL installed on it? Or rather, have you tried uninstalling it? I've come across many computers with AOL installed on them. There must be 2 or 3 different icons in the tray referencing AOL, and another couple of system services that also load with windows. Things like "Connection Manager" and "AOL Dialer". What the heck are these things? Who needs them? I'll decide when I want to start AOL. I don't need it monitoring my internet connection to see when I have one and when I don't. And don't even get me started on the AOL Spyware Protection. It pops up with the same 2 things every time. And every time I delete them, a day later they're back. I don't want it on my computer. I use SpyBot S&D and some other programs to take care of my spyware. I don't want AOL doing it - especially when chances are that their own program and website is spying on me to monitor what I do online.

So I go to uninstall the software from the Control Panel. The darn program has so much attached to it that it needs to scan my computer top to bottom for AOL installations. I came back 15 minutes later and it was still scanning. Finally I asked it to uninstall every file that had any relationship whatsoever with AOL, and after I rebooted I still had some stuff on there like the AOL toolbar in IE.

I went to AOL's website to see how big the download is for the software (I couldn't tell since they use one of these small installers that goes and downloads more from the web), and I noticed that AOL 9.1 requires a whopping 460MB of free space on your computer to install. Also, there is a new thing called AOL Desktop. Apparently they want to take control over your entire desktop with widgets that are always open and its own mini browser with a revolutionary feature called 'tabs' (!) so you can browse multiple sites at once. Who would've thought!?

I could go on and on. Please do yourself and the world a favor and NEVER USE AOL.

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Forward AOL mail to any e-mail address using GMail

AOL has been on my list of "The Worst Companies" for many years. Let's start with AOL Mail. Even people who pay for their AOL service (is there anyone out there who does) can't forward their mail. Forwarding? Such a simple thing and AOL doesn't allow it? That's right! You know why? Because AOL knows very clearly that sites like GMail are now dominating the free e-mail market and everyone wants their e-mails forwarded to finally get rid of AOL. But as long as AOL denies forwarding, they'll keep their small market share in the e-mail world.

But I'm gonna show you how to get your e-mail forwarded. Simply use...a GMail account! Here's how:

  1. Start by creating a free GMail account at
  2. Once you are in your new inbox, click Settings at the top right of the screen.
  3. Click Accounts
  4. Under 'Get Mail from other accounts' click 'Add another mail account'.
  5. Type your AOL e-mail address and click Next Step.
  6. Type your password and leave the POP settings the way they are (the standard settings should work fine for you).
  7. Choose the other options such as 'Leave mail on server' which will place everything in the Old Mail folder on AOL once GMail gets it. If you leave this unchecked, you will no longer have any mail in AOL. Click 'Add Account'.
  8. If you want all of your current AOL mail forwarded to your new e-mail address, then immediately go to the 'Fowarding and POP/IMAP' tab on top.
  9. In 'Forwarding', type your e-mail address into the box and choose whether to keep GMails copy or not. Click 'Save Settings'.
GMail will now retrieve all of your e-mail from your AOL account and forward it to the address of your choice. If you only want new AOL e-mail forwarded, give GMail time to retrieve all the current messages before doing step 8 and 9. BTW, steps 8 and 9 are only if you are only using this GMail account only to forward to another account. If you actually use this GMail account and you want the e-mails in this inbox, then you don't need to do the forwarding.

Next I'll talk about the AOL Bloatware.

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5 AM E-mails? No thank you

This morning I woke up and turned on my phone as usual. Only this morning was a little different. I had 5 new e-mails waiting for me from legitimate companies that I normally want to receive e-mail from, like the Dell Deals, Windows Mobile Newsletter etc. It was quite early when I woke and I looked at the time the e-mails were sent. Most of them were sent between 4 and 5 AM. How ridiculous is that? I know they want you to see the e-mail first thing in the morning, but they have to start realizing that in todays day and age, many people have BlackBerry's and other devices where they get their e-mail. And many of those people have jobs that require them to leave their phone on in case of emergency. So these people are getting woken up 2-3 times a night from the notifications going off about the new e-mails. How hard would it be to send me the e-mail at 9 AM, or at 7 PM?

This is starting to piss me off. I now consider any legitimate e-mails which come anytime between 10 PM and 6 AM to be SPAM!

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What's with the sign-in cookies?

Sometimes you just wonder who decides on certain things. I am the only - I repeat, only - person that uses my computer. It is in my locked office, inside of my locked house, with a burglar alarm. So why does my sign-in cookie for eBay expire every day? Or why do I have to log into PayPal 15 times a day when I want to see my transactions? Same thing goes for my cellular account, and some of my e-mail accounts. Why can't there just be a way to say "Listen here, website of choice, I want to sign in once and only once, and be able to browse my account until I click 'Logout.' And if that means that I remain logged in for 7 weeks, then so be it!?"

I wonder if there is a program out there that will manipulate the cookie and allow me to accomplish this. That would be awesome.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

eBay's Ridiculous Forgotton Password Process

Yes, I know that this week is eBay strike week, but I had to log in to take care of something. I decided I wanted to change my password, which I did. It then brought me to a login screen to log back in to eBay with the new password, which I tried, but it failed to recognize my password. Of course I tried the old password and that didn't work either. I clicked the "I forgot my password" link and it took me to a page asking me the answers to my security questions. I answered them, and moments later I received an e-mail asking me to click the link to reset my password. I click the link and see the following screen:

I entered my User ID and clicked continue, expecting to be allowed to reset my password, but instead I was prompted to login! How ironic.

I went through eBay and did the live chat and got connected to Katen who asked me one more time around to go through the same process, and guess what? The same thing happened!

Sometimes you just wonder with these companies if they can ever do anything right.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

AT&T and Verizon Announce Unlimited Calling for $99.99

Verizon and AT&T (formerly Cingular) both announced this week the release of a new, $99.99 Unlimited Calling plan. Before this change, the $99.99 plan from both carriers gave you approximately 2,000 minutes, and if you wanted more minutes there were even higher plans up to $199.99/month. For those of us who talk a lot on our cell phones, this is a very good deal which was previously only available as a promotion through 3rd party resellers such as Boost Mobile.

A few differences I've noticed between the 2 carriers:

If you'd like to add unlimited text and internet to your plan, with Verizon it is a total of $149.99, and with AT&T it's $15 cheaper at $134.99. UPDATE: After further reviewing the matter, I've confirmed that Verizon's price is $139.99 for unlimited everything (even data) on a regular phone, and $149.99 for unlimited everything for a blackberry or PDA/smartphone. AT&T's price is $134.99 for unlimited everything (even data) on a regular phone, and $149.99 for unlimited everything for a blackberry or PDA/smartphone. See comments for more details.

Both carriers allow you to switch to this plan with no contract extension, however with AT&T the deal is even sweeter. Their
press release states as follows:

Existing customers can choose unlimited calling without extending their contract. New customers have the option of a month-to-month, 12 or 24 month contract.

The sentence above in bold clearly states that new customers can walk into a store or go online, sign up for this plan (presumably there will be a standard $36 activation fee), and walk away without signing a contract. If you try getting it and they refuse, just point them to their own press release. They couldn't have written it any clearer.

As far as Sprint and T-Mobile are concerned,
Gizmodo is reporting that T-Mobile is also offering the $99.99 unlimited voice and messaging plan, however I don't see that on their website. Gizmodo is also reporting that Sprint may be undercutting the competition and coming out with a $60 or $80 unlimited plan. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
UPDATE: Sprint announced a $99.99 unlimited EVERYTHING plan. That's correct, unlimited talk, txt, picture, push-to-talk, TV, and web. As they put it - "The other guys just give you talk, we give you the whole shebang". Check it out at

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

USB Safely Remove

I've been using this program for a few days now and I'm very happy with it. I constantly have USB keys and external hard drives plugged into my laptop, and frankly, using Windows built-in Safely Remove Hardware can get annoying. This program allows you a one-click option to safely remove a device, and if the device is in use, the software will tell you which process is holding the file, and which file it is. Check out the screenshots for more details. The software is normally $20, but this week only (until Feb. 16th) it's available for free from the developer using the link below.

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My Vista Re-installation - A long journey

This past week was a hectic one. I'm finally finished reinstalling Windows Vista on my computer. I initially had a not-so-legit version of Vista running on my computer, and with that version, I would not be able to install Service Pack 1. I decided that a reformat was long overdue (I usually format every 6 months and it's been over a year since the last one), and I was gonna take the plunge.

My journey started with obtaining a Dell version of Windows Vista Ultimate so that once installed, my copy of Windows would be legit. The thing was I only had a Dell Vista Home Premium CD. That problem was quickly fixed by my friend (Thanks P), by replacing the pid.txt file in the \SOURCES directory with a Dell Vista Ultimate pid.txt file we found. Ok, so now I had a Dell Ultimate CD, but it's annoying to install Vista and then install SP1 on top of it. I wanted to slipstream SP1 into a DVD that I could have for the future. Here came the second problem...Microsoft does not allow slipstreaming SP1 into the Vista installation media. And here's where Google comes into the clutch - as usual. I found a very nice guide describing how to reverse engineer SP1 into a Vista installation. Excellent. Now that that was done, I tested it and it worked beautifully.

But as we all know, Vista comes with a ton of programs, services, and system utilities that I don't need - and I especially hate the number of things running in the background constantly. A few things I can think of off the top of my head are: UAC, Security Center, System Restore, Superfetch etc. Lucky for me, I found vLite which helped me create an installation of Vista which was much smaller and lightweight than the original. I ended up getting my Vista installation files down to 966MB, a drop too big to fit on a CD, so I started wondering if I could install Vista from a USB key. Of course, if there's a will there's a way, and I found this guide describing the very simple steps how to accomplish this.

Once my installation was on the USB key, I rebooted and simply selected "Removable Device" from my boot menu, and I was instantly in the Windows Vista Setup screen. The installation took about 16 minutes from start to finish, which is awesome considering with the full version of Vista it takes MUCH longer.

After installing the drivers for my system, and my essential programs (AVG, Mozy, SpyBot S&D, AvantBrowser, Foxit PDF, RoboForm, TeamViewer, uTorrent and WinRAR) along with Office 2007, I was very surprised to see that my computer was running much more efficient. On my old Vista installation I had constant HD activity, and on the new installation there was almost none. I would attribute that to the removal of SuperFetch from the Vista installation. But in general, thanks to vLite, my computer is running much faster.

It took a long time, and many test installations in a Virtual Machine, but in the end, it was worth it to have a quick-booting, quick-running version of Windows.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Best 2008 Super Bowl Commercials

I had originally intended to have a write-up with a short paragraph of what I thought of each commercial this year during the Super Bowl. But as the night went on I realized how pathetic they all were. There were a few that stood out though, and those are the ones I wanted to mention. If available I will try to link to the commercial if it's available online.

And there you have it - in my opinion, the best Super Bowl commercials of 2008.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

eBay's new Final Value Fees (FVF) and Insertion Fees

An open letter to eBay:

Hello eBay,

Today I received an e-mail from you with the subject - "Important seller pricing changes". In it, you write "You asked, we listened. We're reducing Insertion Fees and adjusting Final Value Fees to lower your up-front cost to sell on eBay." Wow, I thought; that's so nice. eBay is making so much money, they finally realized that they're charging too much commission and fees, and decided to lower it so that their users will be happier. So I clicked on the link to learn more, and noticed that when you say that you are "adjusting" the Final Value Fees, it actually means that you are "increasing" them. But of course you can't write that in the e-mail, it would be bad marketing.

I decided to open an Excel spreadsheet and see how exactly this would affect your sellers. Imagine my surprise when I realized that in every situation (where an item sells for above $1.30), whether it be an auction style listing or a Buy It Now, in the end, you - eBay - end up with more of our money. Let's see how this works:

Will ya look at that! eBay wins every time. But that's with Buy It Now auctions. Let's take a look at what happens with regular auctions:

Wow eBay, you're making even more money when I use the auction format! So again, let me ask you... When you say "You asked, we listened", what exactly did we ask - for you to take more of our money? I don't recall asking for that. I'm pretty sure if I ask the other thousands of sellers on eBay they would also tell me that they never asked for such a thing.

I would like to finish off by saying that I still like eBay, and I will continue to come to eBay to buy and sell. But if you start seeing serious eBay sellers moving to Amazon, don't be surprised. And next time you want to raise your rates, be honest; don't make us think we're gaining when we're really losing.

Thank you. Have a wonderful day.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Annoying iPod BUG with no-album songs

About a year ago I began noticing that some of my songs on my iPod are not listed when I go to Music > Artists > Artist-Name. It happens when you have many songs, and some of them have a certain album tag, and the others have no album tag. Once you have songs from more than one album, it'll show All >, as the first entry and you can find all the songs, but if the albumed songs are from one album, it won't show the other songs. I researched this problem and people are saying here, and here, that it's actually a feature so that you don't need to click on the album name which would mean going through another screen. But hello? What about the songs with no album? I figured this would be fixed with a new firmware, but it hasn't yet. The only workaround I found is to search through iTunes and add an album name of "Unknown" to any no-album songs, but that's ridiculous.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Why I Like Vista

Tonight, while taking a long drive with a friend of mine, I asked him to give me and idea for something to blog about. Initially he said "Treo vs. Palm", and then decided against it since it's been written about many times. Maybe I'll have my own say on that in a future column. He then thought of a "Vista Sucks" column, but that too has been blogged about many times. But while he was saying that, I realized that I actually like Vista, and that has NOT been blogged about too often. After all, who likes Vista? So here is my blog post, dedicated to Why I Like Vista.

To be brutally honest, I initially liked Vista because I was one of the first to have it when it was still in Beta. That sort of forced me to like it. When everyone saw it on my computer and ooh'd and ahh'd at the beautiful OS, I HAD to tell them it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. But after a while Vista started to piss me off. File copying was excruciatingly slow, and to create a new folder in the Program Files directory took 4 UAC prompts. But I got used to it, and now with Vista SP1, many issues have been fixed, including the 2 annoyances mentioned above.

I think the main reason people dislike Vista, is because when it first came out there were many hardware devices and software that were not compatible with the new OS. This caused everyone to say "why should I upgrade if nothing is compatible?". But that's not true anymore. Everything (or at least almost everything) including software and hardware, are now fully compatible. People were also complaining about the UAC prompts; to that I say, just turn it off! Most importantly, Microsoft screwed up with Windows XP. Why? Because it was a really good and stable operating system, and people had no need to switch.

But if you take a deep look at Vista, especially now that SP1 is out, it really is much cooler and more stable, and at the very least, the same as XP. It's definitely nicer. It's definitely more user friendly (the search box in the start menu is awesome, if only poeple actually knew what it could be used for). And, the kicker is that if poeple would leave UAC on, I would get a lot less tech support calls.

There is one thing that makes me wish I was still using XP, and that is the way MS redesigned the networking on Vista. It's an IT nightmare. If anyone at Microsoft is reading this, please, I beg of you, bring back the old Windows XP network apps that allow us to see our IP address in 1 double-click instead of 4. And allow us to have separate icons in the tray for the different networks we may be connecting to. Believe it or not, I actually want to know if I'm connected wirelessly, or hard-wired, and I want to know when my computer is aquiring an IP address. Thank you.

Bottom line people, stop complaining. I'm not saying you should spend money and upgrade, but if you buy a new computer, just get Vista. In a few years from now you'll thank me.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cingular's "Courtesy Credit" Policy

Today, my friend got his first bill in the mail for his new Cingular/AT&T cell phone plan. I noticed on the bill that aside from the usual $36 activation fee, there was an additional $36 fee for no apparent reason. My friend asked me to call and complain for him, so I called Cingular Business Customer Care and got connected with Matthew. Off-topic for a second...Matthew was in middle of training. There was a supervisor sitting next to him telling him what to say the whole time. Now why would they have someone in training answering calls for Business Support? Put him in regular consumer support for a few months before promoting him!

Anyway, after he finally realized that the extra $36 was a mistake and credited it back to me, I mentioned that I want an additional "Courtesy Credit" for wasting 20 minutes of my precious time dealing with this issue. His response outraged me - "Sir, the maximum courtesy credit I can place on your account is $25, and you will be unable to get another credit for 12 months!" How ridiculous is that?

After he placed the credit on my account, I promptly asked for the cancellations department. I rest my case.

Ads By Google:

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

TeamViewer - Excellent Program

Every now and then I come across a piece of software that's simple to use, and is really good at what it's meant for. TeamViewer (TV) is one of those programs. TV basically allows you to remote control your friends computer - for free. I used to use UltraVNC SingleClick, which required me to open ports on my router, and always know what my external IP address is. With TV, the process couldn't be easier. No matter where you are, no matter who's computer you're on, no matter what type of firewall you or the other party are behind, you simply head over to and click on "Start Full Version" (1.04MB). Tell your friend to go to the same website, but he should click "Start Customer Module" (792KB). Once he runs the program, he gives you an 8 digit ID code, and a 4 digit password, which you type into the software on your end, and KABOOM, you're in.

There's a host of features available with this software. For example, you can run TV as a system service, which means you can always access your own computers from a remote location. Another really cool feature, is that you can easily change who is remote controlling and who is presenting during a session with a single click. Of course the standard features include RC4 security, file transfer, and no installation necessary for either side.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

What does T9 have against food?

T9 is the predictive text application for sending text messages/e-mails from your cell phone. I recently discovered that it may have a hatred towards certain foods. For example, on my phone and many others I've tried, the T9 dictionary does not have the words "bagel" or "pretzel". Isn't that strange? The T9 dictionary has almost every regular word you can think of, but I guess it assumes you're never gonna ask your friend to grab you a bagel with tuna from the local bagel store. Try it on your phone - see what happens.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I love Target -- and I hate gas stations

When was the last time you've been to Target? That place is amazing. I don't know how they do it. The credit card transactions in Target are way faster than any other store in the country - by far. Not only that, but they make returns so simple. I was in there today to return 2 items totalling about $40, and I'm not exagerating when I say that I was at the customer service counter for less than 25 seconds. Target should open a gas station, which gets me to my next subject...

Why does it take so darn long from when you swipe your card at the pump until you can begin your fill-up? Did you know that in most gas stations, after you swipe, it beeps in the store, and they have to manually approve the transaction before you can start pumping? What's the deal with that? Now if Target had a gas station, that would be awesome! Before you could get the pump into your car you could already start filling up. I would go to a Target gas station even if it was 10% more expensive.

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