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Product Placement Fail (Back Pain Revisited)

Having scoliosis has been a boon for my activity level the majority of my life as even the slightest wrong move sends my sciatic nerve blazing in pain and surrounding lower back muscles seizing up as my body tries to immobilize the affected area.  A few years ago, I ended up pulling my back out by catching my daughter in my arms as she jumped precariously off the back of my car (always the adventurer, she).  As the pain got worse and my back got tighter, I dragged myself to Wal-Mart for some Doans because that was the only thing that has ever helped my back pain when simple heat application and stretching would not loosen it up.  Making it to the pharmacy, I stood there helpless and shaking my head to find the coveted back pain medicine on the bottom shelf where I had no hope of bending over to reach and retrieve it due to my lower back being locked up (though that didn’t stop me from trying in pain vain).  Finally, some kind person did wander by and, realizing my predicament, was nice enough to assist.  I mentioned this obvious oversight in product placement to the cashier who just kind of laughed.

For the past couple months, I have been working a job that requires heavy lifting – which incidentally was not mentioned in the interview – and frankly, it’s done my back in.  The past week, I have been experiencing pretty intense nerve pain throughout my lower back and legs and finally come Friday, my back became stiff enough that I got sharp pains trying to do even simple bending (such as getting up from a chair or lying down in bed).  Again, no heating pad or pain pill is working.  My neighbor C. gave me a Soma, which I took hoping it would relax the muscles enough to at least leave me pain-free for a couple hours but it did not help.  This time I headed to CVS for my Doans, thinking to myself, “History cannot repeat itself.”  Sure enough…

Thankfully, my daughter was with me this time and she automatically dove down to get the boxes of Doans (luckily marked buy-one-get-one-free) that were once again on the bottom shelf.  I actually complained to the cashier on this one too, saying Wal-Mart does this too but I expect such an oversight from them, not from CVS.  She agreed with me, she apologized and said she would bring it up to the manager.  Think about it… someone with back pain is going to have trouble bending over. If they’re going to a pharmacy to buy some back pain pills and those pills are on the very bottom shelf – isn’t that a little cruel?  It reflects poor planning at the least and I can’t believe that two separate stores would fail to see this logic when creating their stock layout.

Generic Review of the Acer Iconia A500

So I scored an Acer Iconia A500 for a couple weeks to give a test drive. This is my first time using a tablet PC and there are pros and cons.

The first con is the price, although for the technology, it’s understandable. This unit, the 16GB version, has an MSRP of $579 – way out of my price league. A comparable iPad runs around $400. With as many tablets that have invaded the market over the past year, competition should be enough at this point to start dropping prices substantially, though it hasn’t worked out that way.

Most basic Android apps available from the Marketplace are available in free versions and will cover your basic computing needs however, a fully-functioning word processor is going to run you up to $15. Most apps however are in the $3-$5 range. 

Because the Android Honeycomb is a relatively new type OS, many of the apps on the market for this device are still very buggy.  You’ll see a lot of reports of force-closes, freezing and not starting. I’ve had these issues on a few downloads already, including the “How Stuff Works” podcast app (which works flawlessly on my 4th Gen iPod).

The twin cameras on this unit were a good idea following suit of the iPod’s front and rear cameras, however the quality on the user-facing camera is only 2MP. Even the most generic cell phone has better image quality. The forward camera is a 5MP, just barely surpassing that of the iPod Touch. 

The plus on the Iconia’s cameras is the pre-loaded range of photo-taking options, as well as the on-board flash. The user can select from many different environmental modes and special effects before shooting the photo, then upload directly to Google’s Picassa web albums.

The battery life has been a big plus. With normal usage, I have been running this unit for two days on its first full charge, which took about 4 hours initially.  You’ll be able to take this tablet on the go and not have to worry about bringing a charger unless you’re doing some heavy gaming or movie watching.

The honeycomb layout itself is very easy to organize and is a neat alternative to the usual Windows desktop, allowing essentially 5 desktops which are flipped through with just the swipe of a finger. The living wallpapers available also bring a futuristic look and experience to the main screens. The graphics quality on this tab is absolutely stunning and the sound is loud and clear, quickly adjustable via a rocker button on the top of the unit.

Another plus is the unit’s USB port and SD card slot, which supports memory expansion of up to 32 Gigs. You’ll need to download a free file manager however, as the base software does not include one.

In all, with the right application downloads, this tab can almost replace your existing laptop for general usage, but I would still wait til the price drops before committing to a purchase.

(Written on the Acer Iconia A500 using the free WordPress app.)