FTC Disclosure

Life is complicated enough without getting into hotwater with federal agencies so: TAKE NOTE Many things I review I got at no charge in exchange for an honest review. Consider this as informing you that ALL things I review may have been gotten at no charge. Realistically about 60% but in order to keep things above board just assume that I got the stuff free. I do not collect information on my readers. If cookies or other tracking stuff is used on my blogs it is due to BLOGGER not ME. Apparently the European Union's new rules state I need to inform you if cookies are being use. If they are it isn't byu me, consider yourself INFORMED.
Words like, “sponsored,” “promotion,” “paid ad” or even just “ad” are clear ways to disclose that you’re being paid to share information and links so BE AWARE that some of what I write can be described as an AD by the government. BTW I will NEVER say a product is great, super or even acceptable if it isn't, whether I got it free or NOT!



Please check out my other blogs
Pick of the Literate 
or Azure Dwarf’s Horde
or visit my web site

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Infinity Hold by Barry B. Longyear, short review

I am a fantasy/scifi fan of long, long standing. I read it for a lot of reasons and am always treated to new surprises. The philosophic aspects of this book were outstanding. A treatise on accepting responsibility for your own actions is so needed for our current society. This was published in 1989. I would make it required reading for every 9th grader. That is an age that has the capability and a mind open enough to change themselves into something better.

Bando is a multiple time loser facing life in a future prison. In a cost saving measure, society’s decision to send all lifers to a prison planet seems financially feasible. The impact of a fresh start on a cast of miscreants of horrendous talent provides thought provoking insight as to how we might all change for the better. It is a good read with a very positive soul searching side effect.

Don’t read scifi? Open your mind, you may find it expanded.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Twas the night before the night before…

The calm before the storm, the quiet of dawn before the first attack, the wind whistling threw the wreaths, rain pouring down, snug in my cap, munching gingerbread men. Christmas is a celebration of childhood. Memories of past Christmases threaten to overwhelm my senses. My anticipation is not now for my gifts or my children’s gifts but my grandchildren’s. How that time has flown is totally beyond me. I don’t ache, puff on a pipe, wallow in ageism, in my own mind I am still cool, listen to “classic” rock and lift weights at least three times a week. How, impossibly how, can I have grandchildren? Nevertheless, I do, I dote and I am excited to watch their faces and behavior on these magical days.

There is no me in Christmas, there is only the gift of giving. The rush of pleasure when a gift scores. The astounding emotion when shouts of delight and glee accompany the opening of gifts. The fun of being there, with family can not be surpassed. The true gifts of Christmas are the feelings that you cherish for the rest of your life. May you have memories this holiday that you can cherish forever.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Samsung FlipShot-ho hum

I just got the Samsung FlipShot aka SCH-U900. If you haven’t noticed by now, I am very family oriented, specifically focused on grandchildren. I frequently lament that I don’t have my camera on me. However, I always have my phone on me. Thusly I wanted a phone with a decent camera. The FlipShot comes close.

Samsung claims it is a 3 megapixel camera with flash and zoom. The photos are not what I would consider decent from a digital camera but compared to my last phone/camera, they are much better. The phone has a slot for a micro sd memory card. I popped a 2gb card in there for saving my photos. I have not been able to find a way to default the photos to the memory card. You have to manually move them. I haven’t given up and perhaps in a software upgrade there will be a way to get them to the card without moving them manually. Getting them off of the phone is interesting. If you don’t buy Samsung’s charging/data cable, you can send them to yourself and get them on your pc that way. You can upload them to the Verizon picture place which allows you to share them but still doesn’t let you download them to your pc. You can email them to yourself or you can print them….only to their print service which is Fuji Film. So if you actually want to work on the photos yourself you really need to get the charging/data cable. Verizon wants $30.00 for the cable. I found it on http://www.wirelessemporium.com/ for $16.00 plus shipping but I found a coupon on http://www.retailmenot.com/ that got the total down to $15.29.

Loading the software onto your pc is simple enough. Then you plug the cable into your phone and into a usb port on your pc. You can actually charge your phones batter off of your pc’s usb port, which is kinda of cool. Anyway, you get a menu on your phone screen asking if you want to access your card. At that point of you agree, your phone is seen as a memory card by your pc. You can then move, copy or whatever you want as if it is merely a memory card. The whole process is much easier than pulling the micro sd card out every time you want to move photos to your pc. The memory card is in a slot under the battery cover.

The software is a bit quirky. I found once you access the micro sd card from your pc the software doesn’t seem to want you to do it again without a reboot of your computer. I notice on my laptop if it goes into sleep mode and I re-log in, the software works again.

The same cable is supposed to let you use the phone as a modem on your computer. I can find nowhere, that is NO WHERE any reference to how you are to do that. Samsung’s site is dreadful. It is not easy to search and there are discrepancies with model number, serial numbers and English syntax. Butkus on how to use the phone as a modem. Even their contact form was goofy. Very disappointing as to how to find information.

The on-screen menu on the phone is so-so. It isn’t any worse than most but certainly no better. It is not intuitive and is difficult to navigate. The music function is decent as is the built in speaker. I have not been able to get the Bluetooth head set to work with the music yet, maybe never. The setting of ringtones is cumbersome. You can select specific tones for users but it does not appear to let you do so for a group. Then they don’t seem to function properly anyway since the default ringtone you set, seems to defeat setting individual settings.
All that said, it is an ok phone. I like the camera even though blurring seems to be the only shots you can get. The phone shuts down all by itself occasionally and the guy at the local Verizon store thinks their will be a software fix out for that in January or February. All in all, a little better than my last phone.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Do you give a damn?

I awoke last night at 3:00 a.m., in tears. I dreamt of the impact our war is having on families. My tears were for parents, children and spouses who have lost a loved one. I don’t want to get into a diatribe on our current war. That is being endlessly debated with emotion, passion and sadly little reasoned thought. I want to dwell on the pain that war has brought to our society. Is there anyone who has not been touched by loss? I know too many people who have lost someone close to them. My son’s friend was one of the first to die in Afghanistan. Your children should not have to face the loss of their peers.

The local paper has being doing a series of articles on a local boy who died in the war. I suspect that those heart rending articles are what precipitated the dream or nightmare as it was. It doesn’t matter what you think about the war, the reasons, good or bad that we are in it or how we can get out. What matters is making sure that those who have sacrificed are not forgotten. Making sure that their families and loved ones know that others appreciate those sacrifices is critical. It is imperative as a society that right or wrong we honor those willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country. We are not honoring war when we care for those who died or came back impaired, we are honoring the people who give themselves for the rest of us.

You all know someone who has suffered loss; take the time to tell them that you care too. It is important; never more so than in this season. Give a little of yourself, it won’t compare to what they have given, but it may help alleviate their pain.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Put Up or Shut Up.

Instead of complaining about your latest bad experience of puchasing on the web, think about being proactive, when you buy something online and have an experience, good or bad, rate the transaction. It gives us, collectively, a much better idea where and from who to buy. The more we participate in the process the better chance we have of seeing reliable, fair vendors online.

I’ve mentioned I got a new cellular phone, once I feel comfortable with it, I will review it. In the meantime I wanted to get some accessories for it. The Verizon store charges top dollar for the accessories so I looked elsewhere. Overall the ratings of cellular phone accessories resellers are much worse than abysmal. I was amazed how many nice web sites go so poorly rated by folks who had used them. I’ve mentioned in the past the rating company I use most frequently is:
They seem to be very reliable. Website after website got too many highly dissatisfied customers. In fact, it was hard to find any site that specialized in cellular accessories that got even an average rating.

I have no theories here. I don’t know why that is the case. What attracts snake oil sales mentality to the cellular field? I placed an order yesterday with wirelessemporium.com. I will certainly let you know how it worked out. They got an 8.61 rating out of 10 but with only 9 reviews who knows how accurate it is. You bet I will be rating them but how about you helping me and yourself out by spending 30 seconds and rating your next online transaction.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Are you leaving money on the table?

How often have you gotten to the checkout area at an online store, saw the area for coupon and wished you had one? I search out many coupon sites but too many of them want to overwhelm you with spam and or offers. The only one I have found that works well is:
I have used several coupons from their site and had them work. A couple have not worked but frankly their success rate is way better than any other coupon site I have used. I ordered a data cable for my new phone from wireless emporium today and when checking out they asked for coupons. I went to retailmenot and found a coupons and saved $1.80. Sure, that isn’t an enormous sum but better in my pocket than in theirs’. So the next time you hit the checkout page and see an open form field for coupon, check out retailmenot.com and perhaps you too will save some money.

Kudos to Benq

My son’s 17” Benq LCD monitor blew out. It was in the last month of it’s three year warranty. I sent it in for warranty service after talking to their tech support. I actually got a technician on the phone with NO wait and after trying a couple of things he suggested, he emailed me an RMA (return material authorization) and I shipped it. They got it on a Friday and my son got it back on the following Tuesday. Considering the horrendous wait times I have seen on warranty service from other vendors, I was truly impressed. Benq has very aggressive pricing and even backs up their warranty. How utterly amazing!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ringtones--Do we really need them?

Ok, I got a new phone. Verizon was able to move my contacts over to the new phone but not the ring tones. Seems somewhat suspicions to me since I now have to buy the same ringtones again. Of course I could be satisfied with one of the standard ringtones that comes with the phone. Not likely though, being a boomer, I wanted a Cream ringtone and a Who ringtone. Of course I had to get my wife a Led Zeppelin ringtone. Do we need them? No, do we want them, yes. It is an expression of individualism, it makes me smile when my phone rings.

Were they easy to get? NO. In fact I wonder how many people don’t get them because it is cumbersome. To me a web site where I could just pick out the ringtones I wanted and have them downloaded to my phone would have been perfect. Every web site I found wanted a financial commitment,(most $9.99) each month. Why would I want to change my ringtone each month and why would I want to make a long term commitment. So I downloaded them for the phone from the phone. Sounds simple but when you get knocked off multiple times with “the network is busy at the moment” message it becomes an exercise in frustration. The free service that allowed me to search their ringtones kept dropping off line. I finally tried the Sony service, the Led Zeppelin selection was abysmal and they charged me $3.00 for the privilege of looking at their catalog. That is a total ripoff since I would still have had to pay for the ringtone if they had had it. I finally got what I wanted in addition I got things I didn’t want such as frustration, anger, despair and reluctant acceptance that if I wanted the specific ringtones I had to play their stupid games.

You can get what you want if you are willing to jump through the corporate hoop to get it and are stubborn enough to persist. If they made it a cleaner, simpler process, they would sell more ringtones. Certainly is obvious why the younger folk hack their ringtones and don’t pay for them. I don’t think it is the money, I think it is the aggravation factor. They are not willing to spend the time to jump threw the hoops. I am not sure they are wrong.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Micro SD Deal—Kingston Rules!

I got a new phone that takes Micro SD memory. I went shopping and discovered the prices are all over the place. Here is the best deal I found.

Not only is it a good price for a 2gb micro sd card, it includes a USB reader and is made by Kingston, one of my favorite vendors for only $25.00 and FREE shipping. Why is Kingston a favorite? Anytime I have had a warranty issue, they have politely, pleasantly and rapidly handled it. Not below my concerns on customer service. Kingston has it, so even if is was more money, it would be worth it due to the Kingston service.

So if you want to store a lot of music or photos on your phone, grab this, it can’t last long at this price.

Another ISP Stumbles

My ISP recently informed me that it was migrating servers. This was, of course, for my benefit, would provide me with a better interface, more security..yadda, yadda, yadda. I am liquidating some equipment for a client. I sent out 50 emails one Monday requesting bids on the equipment. On Thursday I began to wonder why I was getting no response when I got a call following up on an emailed offer. Since I get multiple email accounts in my Outlook I didn’t notice that I was getting NO email in from my business account. So all those emails were wasted as I was unable to get any responses. The ISP took 3 days to straighten out the receiving problem. I discovered Saturday morning I could get email in my business account but I could not send from it any more. I could do it before they “fixed” the email problem but after I could receive but not send. After another several hours we got it “all” fixed.

The following Thursday I got an email stating my site was migrated and I should check it. I did and it wasn’t working correctly. I happened to use FrontPage to create that site and my FrontPage extensions were no longer enabled. So I went out to enable them. It would not enable due to some .htaccess files that I had to track down and delete before it would enable. It said it enabled….it didn’t. After over one hour waiting online for a tech chat, I got a guy who said my FrontPage extensions were corrupt, backup my site and he would delete it and I could then upload it back up after he fixed the FrontPage extensions. I did so and the web page was partially republished. Of course I discovered then that I could receive email but not to Outlook. I had to go to their site and download a patch to allow me to receive to Outlook. Now I think it is all working but I refuse to hold my breath because that would lead to certain death.

The point I am making here, admittedly verbosely, is that why is it that people we are paying to provide us with a service can claim to be upgrading our experience and in the process providing us with loss of business and umpteen hours of reconstruction. Rather than the “Customer is always right’, it appears to be the customer isn’t even considered.

I’m mostly retired, reasonably computer literate and it took me hours to solve my issues. What about the folks who aren’t retired, don’t have the time to spare and are not quite as literate? If we are evolving into a service economy then we better start seeing some service, somewhere, PLEASE!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Never Try? You May As Well Die

Absolutely nothing to do with saving money on tech.

Too many people look over their shoulder and regret their past. Instead of looking at the past, perhaps look at today and do what is necessary to keep you from looking over your shoulder tomorrow with regret.

What haven’t you done that you wished you had? What haven’t you tried that now you can’t? Instead of postponing do it now.

Have you told someone in your life that you do truly love them? Today? Why not? What are you waiting for? Have you taken the time to call you high school buddy and say what the heck are you doing these days? Have you at least tried to help someone you don’t know just because it is the right thing to do?

Today is not the time to regret what you didn’t do yesterday.
Today is the time to do the things that stave off regret.
Today is the time to try a new dish, a new radio station, dig out an old sweater and wrap up in it, color your hair, shine your head, do what ever makes you happy. Smile at a baby, thank someone for helping you. Live your day as full as you can….and tomorrow, you can look ahead at what’s next as opposed to looking behind with regret.

Only you can make the most of yourself.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Certified Check Scam

I have some tech stuff posted on Craig’s List to sell for a client. I haven’t gotten a lot of response but 40 % of the responses offered to buy the equipment at my asking price. Now what is most interesting is that a full 50% of the offers to buy my equipment for asking price were totally fraudulent. Think about that, 50% bogus offers. Overall the bogus offers were 20% of my total responses.

Here was their deal. “Wow, want to buy your stuff immediately, I’ll send you a check for $4,000.00, you deduct $3,000.00 for your equipment and give the remaining $1,000.00 to my shipper when he picks up the equipment.” The explanation is that way he doesn’t have to do two certified checks, he can just do one and I pay the shipper. Doesn’t sound too bad and he is paying the full asking price. Here’s the kicker, the certified check will bounce. Guaranteed, it will bounce. I thought everyone knew about this scam but after explaining it to my client, he still didn’t see the problem. I called my local chief of police and he didn’t feel it was feasible to pursue the issue. I wanted to set up a sting but he noted that realistically tracking the author of the email would be difficult and statistically the author was most likely be outside of the U.S.

This is a common internet related scam that most of you who are reading this are already familiar with. My surprise was the number of people who I mentioned this to who had never heard of the scam. I related the story to a tech support guy whose surprise was that someone would trust me to not keep their cashiers check and run. He had not read one thing on the web about how many of these “cashier’s” checks are fraudulent. So in the unlikely case that you are not familiar with this scam, remember is something is too good to be true, it probably is not true.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Gift Card Rip Off, A Rant by any name.

Gift cards are an easy and often thoughtful gift. What fries me is that the retailers act as if they are doing you a favor by selling them to you. Well over 10% of gift cards are never used. That works out to about an $80 billion dollar gift to the retailers. You would think they would be more interested in selling them to you, knowing that 10% of them will never be used.

I went online last night to purchase a couple of restaurant gift cards. I got all the way to check out for an Outback gift card when they added in their fee. FEE! They were charging me a fee to buy a gift card and charging me to mail it as well. I have no objection to any business making a profit. However charging a fee and shipping on a plastic card that 10% of will never be redeemed seems WRONG.

After much searching through many restaurant sites, I found that Olive Garden is waiving shipping for the holiday. Their card can be used at the Red Lobster, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52 or any other Darden restaurant. The Olive Garden card NEVER expires and there are now zero fees. In addition, Olive Garden will sell cards at a discount, but most of us aren’t going to buy enough of them to be able to do that.

MetroMedia Restaurant Group doesn’t appear to every charge a fee or shipping. Best of all they have Bennigan’s, Bennigan’s Sport, Ponderosa, Bonanza, Steak and Ale, 29 Degrees Tavern, the Plano Tavern and the Southlake Tavern where you can use the card. No fees, no shipping and lots of places to use it. They have no dormancy fees, which some cards reduce the value for non-use, imagine that! They do expire, but then so do gift certificates. MRG cards have a minimum life of three years.

Gift cards are a nice gift, perhaps if we patronize those business that act as if they want our business and charging no fees for the privilege of spending money with them, the rest of them will start making their gift cards more attractive.

Friday, November 30, 2007

AGP Fried? Time for a new computer! NOT

The video blew on my son’s computer. He asked if he should replace the computer. After we discussed it and he weighed a new computer against a $30 video card and free labor, the choice was simple.
Best price I found on a new AGP card is at Buy.com. They have a 128mb gfx5200 for $29.00 including shipping.

I looked around on eBay and other places for a cheap AGP but this was the winner. I am gradually replacing my son’s computer piece by piece. His use is modest, he doesn’t need to buy some mammoth Vista machine and what he has is substantially better than the $399.00 discount house machines. Too many people get wrapped up in the “must have the newest, fastest, slickest machine” trap. When selling computers I often lost a sale because I tried talking someone out of buying new just for the sake of being new. Look around; there are a lot of folks tightening their belts because of the economy, mortgages, high gas prices etc. There is no shame in saving a buck. Replacing a video card is not difficult. Make sure you are grounded and static free when working on the computer. While you are in there, vacuum the dust bunnies out. Dirt on the motherboard and components acts like a good insulator. You insulate when you want to trap your heat but in a computer that is the most frequent cause of component failure, too much heat. Read the instructions, yeah, I said, “READ THE INSTRUCTIONS,” on the video card and load the drivers. You will probably need to get on line and download the most recent driver but again, not too difficult. So save some space in the land fill and keep using the computer you have, you can do it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

FREE Color Laser Printer

It’s Not Really Free.

Suspicions confirmed, they don’t really make any money on the printers, they get their money on the toner. However, a free, laser printer is still a pretty good deal if you need one. You’re going to be buying toner anyway and it is always iffy using third party stuff when you are under warranty. Generally if you use third party ink/toner and it trashes your printer it also may invalidates your warranty. Technically that is illegal and you can fight it, but who needs the hassle. Anyway check this out if you need a pretty nice color laser. READ the FINE print, you may not purchase enough toner to keep the printer free. Good luck and maybe for you it will be FREE.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Putting Up Holiday Lights Making You Crazy?

$6.99 Light Saver at ACE Hardware

What mysterious force impact’s Xmas lights as they quietly lay in their season storage box? Why does a string of lights that worked just fine when they were taken down, spontaneously destruct while safely stored? Doesn’t seem to matter if it is a name brand light set or a no-name, expensive or cheap, some bizarre electrical failure seems to occur year after year when putting up lights. Help is at hand. http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2147033&cp=&sr=1&origkw=christmas+light+tester&kw=christmas+light+tester&parentPage=search&searchId=20022359953

Ace Hardware, $6.99 and it works. It features headlight LED beam to help illuminate the working area, a built-in storage case and a beeping sound that helps locate problem. It works, it’s not perfect but it works. They also have a similar tool for $23.00 that my son finds works terrific and he claims it is better than mine. I guess when I buy the lights on 50% off and spend maybe $2.50 for a string of 100, I am resistant to spending $23 for a tool when my $6.99 one works just fine. Anything that decreases holiday frustration $23 or $7, is well worth the price, tech rules!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Just Say NO/Today’s Rant--No Technology Involved.

No, the magic word to parenting success.

If you raise a child and that child never, ever has said, "I hate you!" Then you probably haven't done a good job. Be a parent, not a buddy, pal, girl friend or companion. Be a parent, set rules and regulations, provide structure, set goals and for pity sakes don't be afraid to say, "NO!"

Dropping off my grandson for kindergarten and seeing a cute little girl classmate in jeans so tight she can barely walk and wearing high heel, knee high boots is just so WRONG. Hmm, how successful is our little Miss going to be in duck, duck, goose, musical chairs or any other mobile game. She may not be a reflection of a frustrated mother's unfulfilled aspirations; she may have wanted to dress like that. This is when the much under used word, NO, comes in handy. NO, you can't dress that way, besides being inappropriate for your age, it will prevent you from having a good time with your peers.

Watching the Halloween parade of my 3rd grade grandson, a mom came attired as catwoman. She looked great, she had the figure to carry off the costume and it certainly didn’t hide much of that figure. Was it something that she should wear to the elementary school Halloween parade? I think not! What message is she sending to her daughter and her daughter’s friends.

Same parade, a third grader told his teacher that he was a pimp. His costume sure looked the part. She asked him if he knew what that meant and he replied, “sure I sell girls.” Gotta wonder what that poor kid’s parent was thinking.

Years ago as a guidance counselor I had a 16 year old young lady who came to school braless, which was not that unusual at the time, but the sheer blouse was a little less normal than usual. At the smoke break, the bright sunshine turned that sheer blouse to transparent and said young lady provided a wealth of eye candy to all who wished to look. I called her into my office and gently suggested that the kind of attention she would get with her attire may not be exactly what she hoped. Her response was, “F.--- off,” and she stomped out of my office. Thinking I had handled that well, I fought off my depression and went back to work. The next day the same young lady stopped into my office, thrust out her chest and asked if I was satisfied. As the blouse was not sheer and it was apparent primary undergarments were in place, I responded affirmatively. She then said that she thought about what I said and maybe I was right. Nobody else had told her she was dressed inappropriately but me. One had to wonder why someone at home didn’t say NO, that is not appropriate attire.

This is not a moralistic diatribe but an appeal to parents to remember their role. The statistics on ADD, autism and other diagnosed problems are rising dramatically. That child, more than most, needs a structure they can depend on. They need stability and order in their lives to help them cope. Too many parents fear setting any rules because they want their kid to love them. True love means being the parent even when it is hard. It means setting a curfew if necessary. It means doing your job and sometimes a big part of that job is just saying NO!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Electronic Book Cool But Still Not Right

When we can buy laptop computers for $299.00 why does the Sony Reader Digital Book cost $299.00. I grant you the $299.00 computer is not a powerhouse but it sure will do a lot more than an electronic book. If we can do digital photo frames with remote, mp3 and multiple format flash readers for $50.00 why is an electronic book $299.00? I have 75 books on my PDA. The backlighting means I can read in low light or no light. It is slim and fits in my shirt pocket. It cost more than the Sony book but it also has a spreadsheet, word processor, wireless internet access, 600 songs, a couple hundred photos of my grandchildren and my calendar. Now that is good value for the money.

Who knows, maybe the electronic book is coming of age and if Sony does well there will be competition. Call me when it gets down to $50.00 and then I will jump on that bandwagon. In the meantime, my trusty PDA is my well loved Swiss army knife and I will continue to use it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Quote

I am thankful for books that fuel the fire of imagination and stir the soul!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Turkey Day Tech Thanks

12 Tech Things I am Thankful For

Oh, where to start, my digital cameras allow me to take hundreds of photos of my family, get a few good ones and not cost me a fortune to do it.

My email account that allows me to keep in contact with family and friends that I might feel I should call but never get around to it.

My Tivo which allows me to watch what I want and when I want to watch it.

My PDA which allows me to carry around the list of 3000+ books I have read so I don’t buy the same book for the third time. It also lets me carry a couple hundred family photos and 75 books I downloaded from http://www.baen.com/library/ .

My computers, upon which I labor long hours, frequently over nothing of consequence but make me feel like I am being productive.

My wireless headset that allows me to wander aimlessly about the house listening to U2 and Led Zepplin.

My MP3 powered razor that doesn’t give me razor burn.

My cell phone that allows me to make all of those incredibly important calls such as “do I need to bring home milk?” In reality it gives me peace of mind, starting way back when I had a bag phone in my car and my youngest got rear ended. I got to the scene of the accident before the cops did and I didn’t break any laws. He was ok and I was thankful for that big old bulky bag phone.

My microwave, since I am often way to impatient and hungry to really coork.

My laptop that allows me to pay my bills when I am on vacation.

The internet because I have never found a better place to learn more unnecessary things and kill more time than it. It also saves me serious bucks and lets me see parts of society and the world I would never otherwise see.

Computers and all their wonderful idiosyncratic problems that allowed me to earn a good living for 28 years and retire before all of my friends.

Give thanks every day for the things in your life that make you happy, not just tech but the more important things like the people who love and surround you.

Have a great turkey day and


Let me know what tech things you are thankful for....trust me I know all of the reasons people hate tech, after 28 years of servicing them...I think I may have heard them all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Inkjet Cartridge Dilemma

Inkjet Cartridges for Less.

I may have mentioned I am an avid grandparent. That fact leads to printing lots of photos and other assorted graphics for said grandchildren. Graphic printing is very ink intensive. I seem to run through ink like there is no tomorrow. Consequently I am always trying to find the cartridges on sale. I do not recommend nor will I use the refilling kits. As a reseller, we frequently got printers in for repair that appeared to have had small animals sacrificed in their interior. Generally speaking the problem was home refilled inkjet cartridges. Although in one instance we did find two halves of a mouse that had wondered into an Okidata 3510. So I am not a fan of home refill kits for inkjet cartridges. I had found a reseller that seemed to have the best price I could find for Epson branded inkjet cartridges. Databazzar’s prices were good and the shipping was free when over $50.00. However I had a defective cartridge and emailed their customer support to no avail. I could not even get an acknowledgment they were aware of my existence. Funny, they never had any problem running my credit card. Even if they would have just said, “sorry about that, but you have to go to Epson for that problem,” I would have been ok. Being ignored though, made me feel that if any substantial problem arose, the ignoring treatment would be even worse. Their lack of any response inspired me to look elsewhere when I needed new cartridges. It is scary to think how easy it is to drive away a paying customer.

After much web searching, some of which was on a very slow Verizon DSL account, (how did I ever survive dial up) I decided to try a cartridge re-manufacturer. There is a dirge of reviews on these folks. So one is left to gamble. I found several competitive vendors and checked them out on www.resellerratings.com I am trying supermediastore.com. They were well rated, the price was less than half of the branded cartridges and they have free shipping. I will let you know how well they do and if the ink cartridges compare favorably to the Epson name brand.

As an aside, I stumbled across this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer which talked about the problem of reseller ratings. It is good food for thought.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Free Design Software

Label Printing & More Made Easy.

Free always gets attention and seldom meets expectations when you discover what is really free. In this case, SURPRISE, free really means free and it is very cool software. Avery, the form and label people, have free software on their website. Not just templates for Microsoft, but free stand alone software. I downloaded DesignPro and used it to print out several hundred labels for my daughter. It was easy to use, had lots of flexibility and was FREE!

Avery’s site is http://www.avery.com/us/software/index.jsp

You do need to register to be able to download but I have not gotten spammed or hassled with Avery ads and I downloaded it several months ago.

So with the holiday card season upon us, this program may save your sanity clause from burn out doing labels. They also have FREE holiday templates for Microsoft software. Ho,ho, ho, Happy TD and good luck with your holiday printing.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Blogging Explained

Why I am blogging.

Getting the hang of blogging is somewhat problematic. For a guy who is seldom at a loss for words, I find myself staring at the keyboard wondering do I have anything remotely intelligent to offer today. In some ways it is like a commitment to exercise. You know it is good for you, you know it needs to be done regularly but you often have difficulty getting going. Oddly enough, I have always had a desire to “help”. Astrologically I am a Libra and if I bought into that stuff, it might explain that desire. I put nearly 30 years into the tech environment and it seems senseless to let that experience just whither away to nothing. I am cognizant that in my age group my skill set and technology interest is somewhat unusual. Those of you 20 years or more younger than me probably don’t need input on technology from a guy who text messages at about 1.5 words per minute. (I have big thumbs and these darn phone keyboards are really small.)

Anyway, I am trying to offer the use of that prolonged and continued emersion in the technological fantasy world. Yesterday at my granddaughter’s gymnastic class, one of the young mothers was asking me about digital photo frames. I gave her some information and then directed her to my blog where she could find more details. She seemed very appreciative of the information and that appreciation made me feel good. Like I said, I enjoy helping others. I am that person who stops and asks if you are ok, when your car is sitting alongside of the road with the flashers on. (Probably will get me mugged someday.)

The afore mentioned young Mom is not stupid, she isn’t technologically illiterate, she is busy. She is raising four kids, being a wife and mom and running around crazy. If she had the time, she could research the photo frames just as well as I can. The key is she doesn’t have the time.

A friend of mind embarrassedly admitted he wasn’t sure how to get the photos from his camera to his computer. A college educated, intelligent middle age guy with little interest in technology, he had a difficult time relating to the jargon in the camera manual and no techno-frame of reference to apply to the problem. He isn’t stupid but he was frustrated. I suggested a flash card reader on his computer and pretending the SD card was a floppy disc. He understood that and was satisfied with the solution.

One of the reasons younger folks often do better with technology is they aren’t afraid to push buttons, click on links and damn the torpedoes. Most folks in my age group are somewhat timid about heading down, what they see as, a path fraught with peril. Thusly they may sit at a screen on the online banking account and bleakly search for the “right” button to find their statement. Smart, savvy, mature folks can find themselves extraordinarily frustrated in no time. Maybe I can help them defuse that frustration.

Realistically I spent many, many man hours learning how to track things down on the web in the shortest period of time and how to do some things on computers with technology. These two examples benefitted from that experience.

Therefore in answer to the few folks who have read some of my blogs and asked why are your doing this:
It makes me feel good to feel I might be helping someone.
I hate the thought of my hard earned skills going un-used.
I’m retired, I have the time to do it.

Feel free to let me know what you think or what you might want to know.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Do You Miss Your Grandchildren?

The Webcam Family Connection

This post applies to any of us who travel and miss the folks at home. First you need to travel with your computer and you need a web cam. You need a web cam on your traveling computer and whoever you want to see needs one on their computer. You can use one of the instant messaging services from Google, AOL, Microsoft etc. to power up your face to face communication. If you have little folks in your life, they can be reassured when they see their grandparents on the computer. As far as I am concerned, I need to see them. Please set this up and play with it before you go away. You’ll find it much less frustrating having it work before you need it to work.

If you haven’t used instant messaging, it is similar to email but you are talking real time. You can type into a window and get a response from your remote friend instantaneously. You both have to be at your respective computers and logged into whoever’s instant messaging you are using. You can actually talk if you both have microphones and speakers attached. Even better if you both have webcams you can see each other while you talk. It is not quite as seamless as true video conferencing but it is also way cheaper than video conferencing equipment. So you can relax in sunny Naples and you can see your grandkids latest art work as they hold it up in front of their webcam. With so many of us traveling, it is a true family connection extender.

Best deal by far that I have found is at www.buy.com for a Creative Webcam. It is $29.99 with free shipping and a $25.00 rebate. You can use the rebate on two cameras so you can get one for yourself and give one to whoever you want to share the memories with. The camera has decent reviews but for $5.00 how can you not experiment with it. I hate rebates but if you are willing to explicitly follow the directions and include everything that is asked, you should get the rebate.

Little ones grow so fast, can you afford to miss them for the three months you are in Florida. Don’t miss them, see them with a webcam and instant messaging.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Photo Frame for the Technophobic

Technology for Grandma

My boys and their cousins got their grandmother a Christmas gift two years ago which she uses every day. Generally many times a day she uses it. What gift can you think of that can continue to give and give and give.

Ceiva is a brand of photo frame. www.Ceiva.com is their site. It shares many similarities with other digital photo frames but it also is somewhat unique. It can be setup by the technically savvy grandchildren to download new photos every night. After being setup, the screen is plugged into the wall and to an unused phone jack it runs without any attention. Grandchildren all over the country can upload photos to albums on Ceiva’s site and they will be automatically downloaded to Grandma’s picture frame. Now Grandma thinks it is magic but that is beside the point. This is a terrific way to keep a long distant loved one in the family loop. It does require a service fee, the best deal is $249.00 for three years. That sounds like a lot but if you have a technophobic loved one who will smile every time they see a new photo it is well worth the price.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Digital Photo Frames a Great Gift

Digital Photo Frames

Now that you have hundreds and hundreds of digital photos what do you do with them. You used to put them in photo albums that you looked at on rare occasion. There is now a solution. The digital photo frame is basically a LCD screen with a flash media drive built in. You put in your camera cards and the frame will run a slide show for you. If you have a photo screen saver on your computer then you no exactly how it works. The size ranges from little 1” keychain screens holding 60 photos for $25.00 to 17” screens with stereo speakers, mp3, fm radio, remote control and more for $399.00.

Put the frame in a well traveled spot in your home. Mine is in the kitchen. You will be amazed how often you find your self pausing in your busy day and smiling at a photo of a pet, loved one or your favorite Harley.

Shop for your frame, the prices range widely and wildly. Make sure you read the fine print too. The photo in the sale flyer may make it look like a big screen but when you get to the store, you discover it is a 3.5” screen. The frame I got is 7”. It is big enough and was substantially less money than a 10” frame. It was an early model and is restricted to seeing no more than 800 photos on the SD card. The current model has no limit to the number of photos it will see. If you put 10,000 on there it will run them in the slide show. Software that compresses the photos for screen use will allow you to put many more photos than you think possible on a 256MB SD card. (on close out at Radio Shack for $5.99.)

This 7” frame at Staples is $69.98 and $59.99 at J&R. The link is to J&R because they had a much more detailed description. Shipping is free at Staples and J&R is $6.95 for shipping. This frame looks like a good deal for a basic frame. Frankly I would just keep my eyes open for holiday sales. You should be able to score one for less than $60.00 with mp3 capability and remote as well as the photo frame features.


The gift giving season is coming. I think you could have a photo frame in every room and still want more. Watch for the bargains, check buy.com periodically. I have seem 7” frames, with remote and mp3 capability for as low as $65.00. Now there is a use for all those digital photos sitting on your computer. Try it, I know you will like it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It Only Comes On At Night

Tech Humor?

We had an eye doctor who bought a new computer. It seemed like everything was working to his satisfaction. Several weeks passed and he called to say that his computer was only working at night. We questioned him on it and he said it wouldn’t work at all in daylight but as soon as it got dark it began to work. Not wishing to doubt the Dr. one of our reps went out to check the situation. Sure enough the computer wouldn’t work. Our rep checked the outlet and it was dead. He asked the doctor if it was plugged into the same outlet all the time. It was. Then he asked the doctor if that outlet was on a wall switch. “Sure, the Dr. responded, the same one the light is on.” Mystery solved, he didn’t use the light during the day so he didn’t turn it on, which, of course, meant the outlet the computer was plugged into was dead until night fell and he turned on the light. My tech gently showed him why his computer was only working at night. True story!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Get'em While their Hot!

Digital Photo Cards

My camera and my digital photo frame both use SD (secure digital) memory cards. My first camera came with a whopping big 16 mb card. Since then I have upgraded cameras and cards several times. Currently I am using a 2GB card that rates at 938 photos at the best quality. I doubt that I will be shooting more photos than that at any one time. The older, smaller cards got relegated to my backup camera and I carry a spare with my main camera. Another use is to back up files from my laptop to the SD cards. 256mb can hold lots & lots of documents. Since I have flash card readers on most of my computers and they are built into my laptop it is simplicity itself to do the backup. I also have three to rotate photos through my digital photo frame.

Now the money saving part, Radio Shack has the 256MB SanDisk® 256MB Secure Digital™ Memory Card Model: SDSDB-256-768 Catalog #: 44-1905 for $5.99. Yup, less than 6 bucks. My guess is that when the inventory is gone, it will be gone for good since 1GB cards are normally in the $20.00 category. I got a 2gb SD card for $12.00 including freight due to a rebate and sale. So the little cards are going away. But keep in mind the little card is 256MB! Remember the 1.44MB floppy drive. There is a world of use for these little cards and I would suggest you run out and avail yourself of the deal before it disappears.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Obsessive Grandparents & other Photogs.


www.Snapfish.com is a photo sharing site. They handle both digital and film photographs. Sign up for an account for FREE. Then you can upload photos from your computer to their server and share them with anyone you wish. Note that is anyone YOU wish. The photos are only seen by your invitation. You place your photos in albums that you define. Even better is the fact that your invitation is not all encompassing. You can send out an invitation to share for one album and the next album you upload you may not want to share with the same people. You decide who gets to see the photos.

As an obsessive grandparent, I take tons of photos. I would put the best ones up on my web site under a pass worded section. Then I would email my family members to tell them when new photos were up. It was a bit labor intensive. Not horribly so but Snapfish is way easier.

Of course, they try and sell you stuff. They will do prints of your photos for $0.12 each in 4x6 size. That is competitive with the other similar services online. Their larger sizes are equally competitive. In addition they have a wealth of cool items that they will put photos on for you.

I print most of my photos on my Epson photo printer. It does a good job, particularly with Epson brand photo paper. I do it for the convenience sake since I am sure with the paper and ink cost alone I am in excess of $0.12 per photo, let alone amortize the cost of the printer which 3 years ago was over $800.00. Sure I use the printer for other stuff so I can’t really include the printer cost with the photo cost but you see where I am going. Snapfish and other similar services can print your photos cheaper than you can. That’s bad enough, what’s worse is their photos are much better than mine. I don’t know what type of printer they use and I am sure it is a combo of both printer and paper but darn it, their photos are better looking than the ones I print.

We recently had a wedding in the family. I printed out some photos immediately which justify the existence of my photo printing resources. I also uploaded the photos to Snapfish to share with both the people who were at the wedding and the ones that could not make it. Then I had prints of some especially nice photos and some blow ups done as well. They came out terrific!

Snapfish is FREE. It is easy to use. The sharing is one more way I see computers bringing us together rather than isolating us. (Another blog sometime) They are price competitive and the workmanship is very good. You may want to swallow your photographer’s pride and give them a try. I suspect you will be pleased with the results.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Nothing is ever easy, including Online Banking

The Marvels of Online Payment

Having my own business for over 30 years had a measurable impact on my vacation time. Up to the last three years I had never taken more than 5 consecutive business days off in those 30 years. I realize I have more than a smidgeon of the little red hen in me but even realizing it didn’t help. I was paranoid about taking more time off. Now that I am retired I am able to take off more often and for longer periods. This impacts paying my bills on time.

Introducing online bill payment, whoohoo what a marvel. Well, let’s just say that regardless of all of the propaganda to the contrary it is NOT seamless. Every vendor, bank, credit card etc. has their idea of how to do it. We spent literally hours and hours of time online, filling out forms, providing security information and plowing through terms and conditions. Once the bull work was done, I thought, ok we are home free. WRONG, one credit card will work through my bank’s account and another won’t. So some bills get sent to my bank and others I have to go to their web site, download the statement and then manually input the numbers to pay them. It works but hardly with the ease that marketing wants us to believe.

This morning I canceled a credit card due to the card company’s unwillingness to cancel a $39.00 late charge on a $36.38 bill. I never got the emailed statement for the month in question and since I have never been late with a payment on the credit card in over 15 years, I assumed they would take my explanation that I never got the statement and waive the penalty. WRONG, their stance was I should have gotten the email and too bad I didn’t but the late fee remains. Oddly enough I get multiple snail mail requests from this same credit card company each week telling me I am pre-approved and wouldn’t I like to have their platinum, gold, zirconium, tin plated card. Needless to say I canceled the card, interestingly enough they told me I had to go into my online account and turn on that fact that I wanted a paper statement. I specifically never wanted only an online statement; I wanted both electronic and paper statements. Mainly because I was skeptical as to their ability to do the electronic part accurately. My skepticism was well founded as they did screw up.

In addition it took over 40 minutes on the phone just to cancel the card. Now this is not a diatribe against electronic payments. I think this will work out, it enables me to get my bills and pay them when and if I travel. Noting the price of gas, that may not be as often as I hoped. This is just a cautionary tale the you should cover your behind when starting electronic banking and bill paying. Assume they will screw up and double check your records. Hopefully as this media matures, the assorted vendors will improve their online services.
So is this going to save you any money, at $0.41 per stamp, it probably saves me less than $10.00 per month. However the convenience factor when on the road is as they say, “PRICELESS.”

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Doing it yourself saves money!

A Penny Saved is as good as one Earned.

Being retired has it’s ups and downs. Some days you feel like you are on vacation and others like you are playing hooky. You spend your life working and suddenly it is ok not to be working. This blog is one way to pretend I am working; at least I have to think about what to write. The little bit of consulting and web work helps to maintain an awareness of a field in which I spent over a quarter of a century. Generating income is almost an after thought, it is primarily a ratification that what your doing has some value.

I have authored some public service books on another web site that I have up as free downloads. They are focused on preschooler’s feelings about family abuse, feelings of alienation and other such sad realities of our modern family. Anytime one is downloaded, I feel like I have helped someone.

I guess the point is that working tends to validate your existence. You’re bringing home the bacon, supporting the family, nobly toiling away to provide food for your kids. Suddenly that isn’t necessary so you need to find things that can make you feel like you are contributing to something. Volunteering time to a valuable cause helps. Sometimes that comes from earning a few bucks updating a website or saving a few bucks by purchasing wisely. Even renewing old skills and doing yourself what you have been paying to have done for the last 30 years. Retirement is fun but….it also provides much food for thought.

However since I claim to be talking about money saving tech tips, how about saving money on your car. The price of gasoline is skyrocketing. What can you do to cut the cost of your ride. It is not rocket science to put a new battery in the car. My local garage wanted $50.00 to install a new battery and another $10.00 to install a new air filter. I’m retired, my time for me is FREE. So I got my hands dirty and put in a new battery and air filter. Saved $60.00 and felt like I had accomplished something of value. One caveat, make sure you can get to your battery if you want to do it yourself, many modern cars have their batteries in the most unlikely, hard to get to without disassembling something else spots. Check your manual and save some money. It is not a real techie kind of blog but it is a money saving tip.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Practicing Safe Computing in Online Purchases

Online Purchase Protection

I’m a geek, I can’t hide it, in fact I revel in it. I love technology, learning new technology and yes, buying new technology. Much of my buying of technology occurs online. I am skeptical of online security. Daily you read of someone else’s database or web site being compromised. Up until recently I dedicated a single credit card as my online card and used only it for online purchases. Then the credit card company bumped up my credit limit significantly due to my paying the bills on time and not carrying a balance. Now the low limit credit card that I purposely kept low is now much higher than I am comfortable with for online purchases. I have ignored the opportunity to get the one time use credit card numbers as offered by many of the credit card companies. It seemed like it would be more trouble than it was worth. I finally took the time to read through the procedure and discovered I could download a software package to my computer that would allow me to fill the online form and generate a one time only credit card number for that specific purchase. 5 minutes later if I want another purchase it does it again. No hassle and no liability, not even the ubiquitous, your only responsible for the first $50.00 of fraudulent charges, statement.

So it is easy, it offers a nice level of protection which appeals to my Internet paranoia and it is FREE. Why didn’t I do this sooner. Inertia, too lazy to really read the offer, who knows but…since I have done it, I have now recommended it to my family members and now I am recommending it to you. Try it, I’ll bet one of your credit cards offers it as well. It is just one more step in practicing safe computing online in our tumultuous world of technology. And it’s FREE!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Protecting the home and business from the Internet.

Porn Protection

Funny how the right title on an article at least gets some attention. The internet has put a wealth of material at our finger tips. Obviously some of that material is unsuitable for families and in businesses can lead to liability issues. There is software that can protect your family and your business from internet horrors.

There is no question that there is content on the Internet that is not suitable for anyone sane let alone children.

Business owners must recognize that they can face liability issues if they provide unfettered internet access. A published company policy can alleviate most of that concern but be aware of the potential problem.

Parents need to have more concern. Mature adults have the ability to self filter their Internet browsing. Children often don’t. It is the parent’s responsibility to monitor the home computer. Talk to your children about what they are doing on the computer. Provide an age appropriate dialogue on what is good and bad computer use. A common use room like the family room or kitchen is the best location for a family computer. There is less likelihood that a child will intentionally seek out questionable material when scrutinized. Material they stumble on is another question. Over 25 years ago my own children were on-line, prior to the internet, playing a game. They yelled out, “ Dad, what is our sexual preference?” Guess who jumped out of his lounger and said, “What?” The server they had attached to had an adult site as well as the game site they frequented and they had inadvertently gotten to the questionable material. That was over 25 years ago, access is now substantially easier and questionable and down right negative content is readily available.

Even something as innocuous as the Nintendo DS has the ability to connect to the Internet for the purpose of trading Pok√©mon’s. That same connection ability would enable a predator to interact with a child. Parental oversight is the strongest weapon and absolutely essential for children interfacing with the Internet. Applying the common sense rules of engaging strangers in real life to the Internet is a good strategy. Kids should know that the very friendly 12 year old they meet in a chat room may not actually be 12 or a child. Don’t foster paranoia but do suggest some realistic cynicism.

Beyond the need for oversight is filtering software. If your employee or child is extremely talented, most filtering software can be circumvented but it will provide reports and protections that will not exist otherwise.

If your have a network it may be less expensive to look at the more commercial software.

Filtering software ranges widely in capabilities and pricing. A high price does not indicate that the software is substantially better than a free version. The idea is that it can prevent users from reaching identifiable adult sites. A key word here is identifiable. That is not easy with many sites changing their names and addresses on a daily basis. Filtering and blocking are a good start. There is also simply reporting software. Reporting software will track where the user has gone and enable you to bring up or print a report of all Internet activity. This is a major deterrent for the older child.

The following list of sites have FREE software that filters, blocks and reports. There are also two sites that have reviews of purchasable software. Generally software that you buy will have better documentation then the free software but the software itself may not work any better than the free version.

My kids are too old to need this so I have not applied any of the software packages noted. I do not endorse any of the software in any manner. The list is provided to help you make your own decisions on what is best for your home or business.

As far as home is concerned, the most successful tool in seeing children safe on the Internet is an informed, actively involved parent.

FREE Software
FREE Parental Control Software & Internet FilteringContent Filter, Free Parental Control Software, Adult Site Blocker and Spyware Killer.
Makes a strong emphasis that it will always be free.

K9 Web Protection - Free Internet Filter and Parental Control SoftwareProtect your children from offensive online content with K9 Web Protection by Blue Coat Systems. K9 is free filtering software for Internet parents....

Free Parental Control SoftwareFree Software for Parents. Control Internet content seen by your kids..
Seems like a good source for downloads.

Free parental control software - scan for porn and content audit ...Free Internet software to scan and audit content from your computer.
May have some religious overtones.

WRAAC.org - Internet Parental Control Tools,ParentalControl Bar is provided free of charge to the public by WRAAC.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free, effective internet control.
Looks pretty good.

Commercial Software
TopTen Reviews & Consumer Search are sites that have reviewed purchasable parental control software. Please note NONE IS FREE. That is not a bad thing, just keep it in mind.



Sunday, November 4, 2007

Bluetooth Headset Deal

Bluetooth Headset Deal

You can get a fairly well reviewed Bluetooth headset for $10.99 which is miles below the $69.00 and up average prices for these puppies. If you are in the market for the least expensive Bluetooth headset that I could find it would be the $10.99 PHILIPS VOX130 Mono Bluetooth Lapel Style Earbud Headset at Buy.com. Free shipping means no surprises like you often get from the grotesque shipping charges some of the net vendors dump on you. The down side or up depending on point of view is the Phillips is an earbud to a wire to a clip on for your garment. Upside is that only a very light earbud is in the ear. Downside is if you don’t want to clip something on your clothes.

I have had positive experiences with buy.com.

Depending on state laws where you live, you may need one of these sooner than you think.

Digital Cameras Save Grandparents Big Bucks

Digital Cameras Save Grandparents Big Bucks
Actually a digital camera can save anyone big bucks if you take lots of photos. My biggest source of photos is my grandchildren. The adage of enough typewriters and monkeys and you get Shakespeare holds true with digital cameras. If you take enough photos, eventually you will get some good ones. Digital cameras allow you to take lots and lots of photos.

I have had lots of digital cameras. My most frequent brand is Canon, due to their offering of swivel screens on some models. My knees are not what they used to be, a swivel screen allows me to hold the camera at arms length down and shoot at the level of my grandkids. Equally at a Halloween parade, it allows me to hold the camera over my head (and the people in front of me) with the screen pointing down and I can still see what I am trying to photograph. Now there are other manufacturers that have swivel screens but not many and I haven’t any experience with them. The Canon line has served me well. The A95 shown has taken a boat load of photos and held up to a lot of travel. The S5IS I just purchased was what I used to take the photos of the A95.

I worried when I got my first swivel screen as to it's durability. I have had no problems with any of them and on occasion I even slip the camera without case in my pocket. No issues yet!

The S5IS is reviewed at http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/specs/Canon/canon_s5is.asp

I find this a great site for a very detailed review. It will definitely help you find the features you are looking for in a camera. The swivel screen was my first requirement and then I wanted the most megapixels with the best optical zoom I could get and not break my financial back. I found cameras with greater megapixels and longer zooms but the Canon S5IS was the best compromise I could find that had the three features that were most important to me, swivel screen, 8 megapixels and 12X optical zoom. The A95 still works great but the 3X optical zoom just doesn’t cut it for soccer games or gymnastic class.

This photo was taken about 80 yards from the action.

I wanted something that would let me get up close and personal for both. I blurred out the faces with Paint Shop Pro from Corel which if you don't want to spend the bucks for PhotoShop is an excellent graphics package.

I got the best price I could find from a web site that was rated well by http://www.resellerratings.com/

US1camera.com was the site, price was good, delivery time was superb and the camera was as advertised.

Generic information on digital cameras.
Use the camera to get use to it. You can’t waste any money because it is digital. The best way to get used to the camera is take lots and lots of photos in varied conditions.

Read the manual.
I know that sounds so obvious but take a look at the number of manuals you have laying around that are still shrink wrapped.

Photo Transfer
Is the most frequent question I get about digital cameras. How do I get my photos out of the camera and into my computer. Most likely your camera came with a USB cable to plug into your computer and download the photos. READ THE MANUAL and it will tell you how to do it. Personally I use flash card readers to do it. I pop out whatever type memory card is in the camera, pop it into my flash card reader and move the photos that way. Works just like a cd, dvd or if you can remember back that far, a floppy disk. Flash card readers can be picked up anywhere for $10.00 or less. I got my last one on eBay for $7.00.

Photo Resolution
Many articles tell you if you are only going to be using the photos on a computer, take them at lower resolution and save the storage space. The problem with that is if later you want to do a print out you have a lousy photo. Storage space has gotten very cheap. I got a 2gb SD card for $12.00 after coupons and savings. So take the photos at the best resolution your camera will give you.

Power Hungry
I carry as spare set of batteries with me whenever I use the camera. I use NiMh batteries and recharge them. The regular alkaline seem to die rapidly in a digital camera and NiCad batteries give up the ghost too soon. I have had very good luck with the Energizer brand of rechargeable NiMh batteries. I have had mediocre results from the Lenmar brand batteries. Get a rapid charge battery recharger or you will despair over how slow the “normal” charger works. I am very happy with the Lenmar Mach1 Speedcharger Gamma that charges four 2500Mh AAs in about and hour and 20 minutes. It is $20.00 and free shipping at Vanns.com I have never purchased from Vanns but they rated well.

Printing the Photos
There are many, many photo printers on the market. Before buying one, check the prices on the consumables. The printer is the least cost item on printing photos, the ink and paper are the biggies. I use a Epson Stylus Photo 2200 that does an acceptable job with photos. The Epson paper provides the best results. I have tried the generic paper, HP paper and others but obviously Epson engineered the ink and printer to do the best on their paper. The photos are not perfect, they are good but if you want better you can use one of the online services. I have used http://www.snapfish.com/ and had good results. $0.12 per photo isn’t too bad. The best part is that after taking 200 photos I can pick out the ones I like and only get them printed as opposed to my old 35mm where I had to pay to get prints that were terrible.

If you have kids or grandkids, you are nuts if you don’t have a digital camera, you can save time, money and get lots of great photos for peanuts.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Cell Phone Magic

Cell Phone Magic
I talked to my son the other day. Big deal, “you say.” Yeah, but he was sitting on the balcony of his hotel in Shanghais China, in his bathrobe and slippers, feet up, sipping tea and admiring the rising sun over the skyline. His clarity on his Blackberry was better than his land line at home. He was halfway around the world and sounded like he was in the next room. This is remarkable, regardless of it’s normalcy today. My first recollection of phone service was a party line shared with 3 other families, one of whom had a phone hogging, chatterbox, obnoxious daughter. You answered the phone based on the number of rings. My first portable phone was smaller than a backpack but not dramatically smaller. Cell phones are one of the few things that guys brag about theirs being the smallest. Bottom line, we take the technology for granted since we are immersed in it. But take a second and consider, is this cool or what!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

PDFing for FREE

Ever wondered how to make a file a PDF. PDF stands for portable document format. Many of the downloads on the web are in this format. It doesn't seem to trigger as many blocking programs as other attachments. There are many, many vendors willing to sell you the capability of making PDF formatted files. However there is one company that will give you the program but.... it shows their name as a washout on all the files. $10.00 registers the program and gets rid of any "branding" of the files. http://www.pdf995.com/ is the link to the creator of this program. It is simple to use, when you finish your document regardless of what software you used to create the document, you simply choose pdf995 as your printer. It automatically converts the doc to a pdf. I use it daily. Very easy and very, very cheap!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The scariest thing I can think of is a hard drive crash with no backup.

Are you sure you’re Backed Up?

Today, most of us in business, have our entire business running on computers. In the event of a catastrophic failure, applications can be re-installed, hardware can be replaced but DATA that isn’t backed up is gone. Gone, as in, disappeared, never to be seen again.

Even those of us who do back up:
When was the last time you verified a backup?
When was the last time you checked to see if there is any data on your backup?
When was the last time you did a test restoration of your backup to see if it really works?

“If you haven’t verified your backup system, then you may as well not bother backing up.” And even if you do verify, you may still have other issues. The following scenarios are based on real life occurrences.

Timid Tim was instructed by his supervisor to change the backup tape every day. Tim did this until the day the Tuesday tape became stuck in the tape drive. Tim was afraid to tell his supervisor that he couldn’t get the tape out, assuming she would blame him for the problem. Tim’s solution was to make a new label identifying the tape as Wednesday and put it on the Tuesday tape. He continued this solution with a new label for each day until his supervisor noticed the thickness of the “label.” Bottom line, several weeks passed with no backup.

Rambo Ray is the guy in the office that has a solution for everything. When Ray got a tape stuck in the tape drive he took a firm grip on the tape and yanked it out. Of course Ray also pulled the head of the tape unit out and ripped the power cable out of it’s socket.
Bottom line, a new tape drive which was incompatible with the existing tapes so new tapes had to be purchased as well. A very expensive mistake and no backups for over a week.

A new employee at a local law firm inadvertently deleted 7000 files off of the server her first Friday on her new job. She immediately called our office and suggested she had done something wrong, could we fix it. One of our techs went out immediately and went to the tape backup. Upon checking the tapes, the tech discovered that the tapes were all blank. The tech quizzed the employee whose responsibility was to maintain the backup and found that for weeks an error message had been coming up when the new daily tape was inserted. That error message was never relayed to anyone who could determine what the error was. The employee said she just hit return and the message went away. She left for the night and replaced the tape the next night not realizing that nothing was backed up. Bottom line, no tape backup whatsoever for over two months. The silver lining on this was that our tech, being paranoid, had an ancillary backup from the server to a little used workstation. We were able to get this law firm back to within an hour of the deletion of the 7000 files. However, the main tape backup was worthless.

A new retail business in a new building put their office in the finished basement. The computers were on the floor. Apparently the outside grading was not sufficient to keep water out of the basement on the first major rain storm after they moved into their new quarters. The water shorted out the computers sitting on the floor. Backup was done by copying the data files from one computer to another. Both computers were dead. The new customer list and all the accounting information was gone. Bottom line they had no backup.
A law firm was informed that their file server and tape backup were in danger of eminent failure. Several letters, many phone calls and emails later the server did fail taking the tape backup with it. Our technician was able to re-configure one of their lesser used computers to carry on the duties of the server. The emergency server did not have a tape drive or sufficient drive space for the data produced by the firm. Every other night our tech went in and moved data off of the server to allow the next day’s work to be accomplished. This manual backup procedure cost several thousand dollars of labor but did protect the data. If the server had been replaced on any of the first ten warnings that it was failing, the firm could have saved thousands of dollars in labor.

Many insurance companies are now asking their clients if they have a disaster recovery program.

Do you?

A solid backup procedure is a major factor in disaster recovery. Perhaps your area is not normally bothered by tornadoes, hurricanes, earth quakes, mud slides and other natural disaster that afflict many areas of the country. Don’t try and tell the businesses along the Delaware River In Pennsylvania that there is a slim possibility of any disaster happening. Don’t tell the folks in San Diego either.

Consider the client who was saving data to the hard drive when a car took out a pole on the highway and knocked out the electric. Surge suppressors don’t do a thing when the electric goes out. They suffered a head crash on the hard drive that destroyed it, without a backup they would have been out of business.

Backup is primarily designed to save the data.
If your systems or network were washed into the sea today:
►how much time would it take to replace the equipment?
►find the applications?
►re-install the operating systems?
►set up the network?
►re-install the applications?
►and then be able to restore from the backups?
►What if your tape drive is obsolete?
►How long will it take you to find a way to restore from obsolete media of any type?
►What if your backup was in the same location that is now merrily floating out to sea?

Now is the time to start thinking about improving your backup procedures and implementing a disaster recovery program.

What if you purchased a USB hard drive and the software to backup you videos and those irreplaceable photos of your kids and you procrastinated doing it and one day the hard drive just died, how would you feel? Probably just like someone recently felt when just that happened. It took me several hours to restore the system. Then I tackled the dead hard drive. After several more hours of trying to resurrect the dead, I had to tell them the hard drive was gone and the data along with it. If I had charged them, a bill of $600.00 wouldn’t have begun to cover the labor I put in trying to get those photos back.

How valuable is the data on your home computer, only you know.

What to do?
Almost everyone has a CD or DVD burner in their home computer now. Archive all that irreplaceable data on to DVDs. Oddly enough, in spite to the fact that I backup multiple times a day, the above loss of photos, reminded me to check my photo DVDs and I discovered the last one I had burnt was 2005 and it wasn’t readable. Guess who jumped right on that! Now my photos are backed up on three hard drives and DVDs.

External hard drives are very inexpensive now, compared to the time or money needed to try and recover data. Every Sunday, Staples, Office Max and others have USB hard drives on sale.

Home networks are an easy way to backup. Copy your data to your spouse’s computer and hers to yours.

There is no, that’s NO excuse for not backing up.

2nd Copy is an inexpensive ($30) software package that can be configured to automatically copy your data to other drives. http://www.centered.com/

I sold many copies of it and use it myself. It is not infallible, you need to check and make sure what you want is really being copied but for the price, you can’t beat it. I have tried Norton Ghost and other expensive backup software solutions that haven’t worked nearly as well as 2nd Copy.

So in short, backup or shut up. You are the only one to blame if your data is gone. If that is scary, I don’t know what is?

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Memory-RAM-not senior moment type

As a certified senior citizen now I find memory more crucial. As a computer professional it has always been crucial. The deluding advertising of "Vista Ready" computers having 512 Mb of RAM is just that delusion. The lure of a low price will provide you with extraordinary frustration. It appears that Vista only sees 3 gb of RAM. The closer you can get to that the better. Now the money saving part, I carefully (obsessively) researched the price of a 2gb RAM module for my new laptop. Kingston, which I love, was $169.00. Shopping that the lowest price I found was for generic memory for $89.00. However the firm was in my state so sales tax ran that up to $95.34. I checked the company's rating on http://www.resellerratings.com/ at it was 7.42 out of 10. Another firm had a 8.95 lifetime rating, with brand name memory for $115.00. I then found a coupon on http://www.retailmenot.com/ for 15% off. So now I am down to $97.75 with a better rated company, brand name memory and free shipping. But...that's not all. After I placed my order at memorysuppliers.com their confirmation email offered me a $15.00 credit if I would post their name on my web site for 90 days, which I agreed to do. So my original price of $169.00 now cost me out of pocket $82.75, YES, less than half of what I expected. As my son says, "you have to be retired to spend that much time finding a good price." I am, and I love sharing the info. If it saves you a few bucks, great, buy a book, donate money to a charity or just go out for a bite. More to come and I do not have any financial interest in any of the web sites mentioned.

 Money Saving Tech Tips