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. 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!

Amazon

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Saving Money on Water Bills

Like everyone else these days, I am trying to come up with ways to save a few bucks on my everyday expenses. In my case this doesn’t save me so much money as it does aggravation. I have excessively hard water with lots of iron and impurities. I have a water softener and a neutralizer. Since I am a rural kind of guy, I have a well and septic system. In order not to overload the septic system I discharge my water treatment water on my side lawn. This leads to some really thick grass in some areas and in the low spots some mud. To me this was the aggravating factor but for you this may be the money saving incentive. If you have public water and sewer you may be able to save a few bucks by changing the cycle of your water treatment equipment.

My water guy found that my neutralizer was backwashing 4 times a week at 80 gallons per backwash. It was not set to do this but over time the pins(whatever the heck that means) had moved and changed the cycle. He changed it to 2 times per week and now I have 160 gallons less pouring out onto my lawn. However if you are paying for water and sewer instead of less mud and tall grass, you may be able to save a few bucks.

The key here is maintenance and oversight. Take a look at all of your home equipment and if it isn’t performing in a manner that you think makes sense, ask a professional to look at it. Regular maintenance keeps things running better and as in my case, may pickup the fact that a piece of equipment has gone out of spec.

Look at your furnace if you haven’t had it cleaned lately you could be pouring money out the chimney. So look around the house, you may save some bucks just by paying attention to what your household equipment is doing.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Save Money on Gas Right NOW got to Gas Buddy

If you haven’t found Gas Buddy yet, stop and do it now their site is http://www.gasbuddy.com/

Gas Buddy is effective because motorists just like you and me take the time to report the price of gas in their travels. Gas Buddy has a site you can personalize to your local area and find out what the different gas stations are charging. Then you go to the one that has the best price in your neighborhood. Keep in mind if you have to drive more that a few miles out of you way, it won’t be cost productive unless you are getting a whopping better price.

How effective is this? There are two Lukoil stations about 1.5 miles apart near me. They normally are between $0.10 and $0.20 different in price. Hey if you can save $3.00 per fill up by an extra 1.5 miles, you’d be nuts not to do it. There are two stations on an intersection about 6 miles from me that are normally $0.20 to $0.30 more per gallon that the stations a couple of miles away from them. How do they get away with that? Apparently the folks who go there due to convenience make more money than me since less than 3 miles away is a much better price.

I get no financial kickback nor do I benefit in any way by recommending Gas Buddy. However the more we patronize the better price stations, the more likely other stations will lower their price to be competitive.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Home Heating Oil—Look Out!

I talked to my home heating oil company this week. I am on the 9 month budget plan and my budget will increase $160.00 per month over last year. Yeah, that is $160.00 more per month, outrageous. My cap on the budget plan is $4.99 per gallon for heating oil. That is what my budget is based on. If home heating oil goes higher than that I am capped at the $4.99. Assuming I use no more oil than I did last year I know exactly what I will pay. If oil goes down in price, I will pay the lower price but I won’t benefit until the end of the budget and then I will get a refund. The oil company gets my money and any interest they can generate if the price goes down. I get the safety of a cap if the crazy market gets crazier and I don’t get penalized if the price goes down.

The other alternative that some of my friends are doing is the prepayment option. The lowest I have heard is $4.59 per gallon prepaid based on last years use. Based on my usage that would be about $3000.00 prepaid to lock that price. The operative word there is locked. You pay now, they get your money and if the price goes down, tsk tsk. Maybe I am too naïve to expect that some sort of reasonable market correction will bring the price down but I am willing to gamble that my budget plan is going to be less out of pocket that the prepaid plan. Particularly since I don’t want to fork over $3000.00 up front.

Now is the time to be talking to your oil company about the cold weather. Look and see what makes the most sense for you and you guys heating with natural gas, quit laughing and leave us oil burners alone.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Network Through Your Electric Outlets


Home networking can be a pain. Wireless is wonderful when it works. Hardwired networks always work faster but sometimes getting from point A to point B involves running wires through the shower or up the chimney. Face it, most of our homes were not built for ease of wiring post construction. I have had mixed results with wireless, my present Linksys wireless router works well with my Trendnet USB wireless NIC and my built in wireless in my PDA and my laptop. I get less than stellar results at my son’s home with the same equipment. Woe is me, what to do, what to do?

Networking through the electrical outlets is finally coming of age. Not only does it work, it works well. It wasn’t that long ago that we first tested this technology, back when I still owned a computer business. It was so so. Now with the advances here and those coming soon we are looking at 200 Mbps throughput now and 400 Mbps throughput in the next year. Very respectable, quicker than wireless and theoretically with frequency hopping nearly standard, hair dryers and other disruptive appliances shouldn’t be a factor. These speeds are suitable for normal networking and even streaming video. DS2, a Spanish company appears to be the leader in the field. Netgear products in the US feature the use of DS2 technology. Best of all the current technology supposedly won’t be obsolesced by the 400 Mbps equipment due out in 2009, ‘cause the new tech is supposed to be backward compatible.

So if you have a wireless network unfriendly environment and hate the though of Cat5e cable running through your shower, this may be the tech for you.

Here is a link to Netgear’s site and their tech. Take note Netgear I am open to receiving donations, compliments or whatever for pointing people in your direction. To my loyal reader or possibly readers, I am not being paid to write this blog but I would like to be, but then there are so many things I wish for, like $1.99/gallon gas that just aren’t going to happen.

Netgear link: http://www.netgear.com/Products/PowerlineNetworking/PowerlineEthernetAdapters/HDXB111.aspx

Monday, July 21, 2008

Polaris Pool Sweep Bag Replacement DIY, SAVE $20+.

This blog is not particularly technical but it is definitely money saving. I have a Polaris Pool Sweep in my pool. (a) It does a pretty good job keeping the pool clean. It uses a mesh bag (b) to capture the debris as it moves as a water pressure activated vacuum cleaner. So far no complaints, where I get aggravated is the $24.00 price tag on the replacement bags. We aren’t talking stainless steel or anything with a chip in it, we are talking a nylon mesh bag with a plastic collar. As a former business owner I am all in favor of profit but when you have a captive market that you assume has big bucks because they have an in-ground pool (hah!), there is no reason to hose (no pun intended) them over on a consumable. Anyway, now retired and needing a replacement bag I put my creative juices to the task and came up with a workable alternative.

You buy a lingerie wash bag at the dollar store for a buck. You use a stainless steel hose clamp ($3.00) or a cable tie $0.25 and you have just saved yourself $20 plus tax and shipping. (Parts C) If you have the plastic sleeve from an old bag, you can clamp on to it, otherwise just clamp onto the Polaris itself. I cut a hole in the bottom of the bag and sewed it to size with 4lb fishing line. Cutting the hole allows you to use the zipper the bag came with to empty the bag when full I added two pieces of Velcro to hold the bag upright and viola, a DYI Polaris bag. This process should work with any of their models as long as you have saved their plastic sleeve that inserts into the pool sweep itself.

It isn’t elegant but then who cares what the pool sweep looks like as long as the pool is clean. (Finished Product D) So save yourself some money and do it yourself!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cheap Home Computer w. NO Microsoft

If you are looking for a cheap home computer, this cheapo may be just what you need. It is sold at Walmart for $199.00. You need a monitor and a printer but if you are replacing an aging Dell, as a friend who called me today is, you should already have both. With the included Open Office you have one cheap system. Walmart, feel free to send me some money for this blog. (ha, like that would happen.)

The system is preinstalled with the gOS and running on the power of an 1.5GHz VIA C7-D processor, this computer lets you create your own CDs, easily transfer digital files and surf the Internet with broadband-ready 10/100 Ethernet port. Note: Monitor not included.

Here are the specs:
1.5GHz VIA C7-D processor
512MB DDR2 memory
80GB Hard Drive
DVD-ROM/CD-RW Combo Drive
Burn CDs and watch your favorite DVDs on this versatile drive

Additional Features:
Operating System: gOS V2
Expansion Slots: N/A
Communications: 10/100 Mbps Ethernet LAN (RJ-45 port)
Graphics & Audio: VIA UniChrome Pro IGP and 6-Channel Audio
Measurements (CPU): 14.65"(H) x 6.89"(W) x 15.98"(D)
Weight: 21 lbs (total)
External Ports: 6 USB 2.0 Ports (2 front, 4 back), External VGA Connector, 1 Parallel Port, 2 PS/2 Ports (Keyboard and Mouse), 1 Microphone Port, 1 Line-In Port
104-Key Multifunction Keyboard
2-Button Scroll Mouse


Additional Specifications from Cnet.
Additional Specifications
Hard Drive Size: 80 GB
System RAM: 512 MB
Operating System: gOS
Processor Type: VIA C7-D 1.5 GHz
Cache Memory Type: L2 cache Installed Size: 128 KB
RAM Installed Size: 512 MB / 2 GB (max)
Technology: DDR II SDRAM
Storage Hard Drive: 1 x 80 GB - standard - Serial ATA-150 - 7200 rpm
Operating System / Software OS Provided: GOS v2
Software: OpenOffice.org 2.3
Graphics Controller Type: Integrated
Graphics Processor / Vendor: VIA UniChrome Pro
Optical Storage Type: CD-RW / DVD-ROM combo
Read Speed: 48x (CD) / 16x (DVD)
Write Speed: 48x
Expansion / Connectivity Expansion Slots Total (Free): 1 ( 0 ) x processor ¦ 2 ( 1 ) x memory - DIMM 240-pin
Networking: Network adapter - integrated
Modem: Fax / modem
Dimensions Product Form Factor: Tower
Width: 6.7 in
Height: 13.8 in
Depth: 14 in
More Information
Model No.: TC2512
Shipping Weight (in pounds): 26.0
Product in Inches (L x W x H): 22.0 x 18.0 x 11.0
Assembled in Country of Origin:USA and/or Imported
Origin of Components: USA and/or Imported
Wal-Mart No.: 000502741

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

SubNotebooks-Oops they did it again or Déjà vu all over again!



WhooHoo subnotebooks are predicted to be big….AGAIN. Is there any recollection of the the Poqet PC, Psion palmtop computer, Newton or the Jornada. After 28 years in the computer business, I find many of the headlines Yogi Berraish. Now it is subnotebook vs. the smartphone. Which will be the winner? Reality check, it will be the first vendor to successfully morph the notebook and phone into a easily carried device that is SUPPORTED. Follow through in the computer industry is much like a bad golf swing…non existent. I have owned many incarnations of the subnotebook genre.

I currently have a Smartphone, I can access the internet, get email and take iffy 3 megpixel photos. The screen is bright and way too small to be useful. Admittedly subteens and other species with acute vision may not find it so but for those of us approaching adulthood, the screen is too small. I opted not to get the Treo since my son has had limited success with his even after several warranty replacements. Instead I got a PDA to accompany my phone.

I have a great PDA. Sadly it is a Dell but nevertheless I like it. The main reason I got it was the 2 memory slots. It has both SD and Compact flash slots which allows me to bump up the memory to realistic states. It is fairly quick, it latches onto wireless access points reasonably well, I can get my email and surf. The MS software included allows importation of Word docs and spreadsheets which are legible and very useful. The screen is very tiring trying to play scrabble. I have 75 books downloaded into it and find the back lit screen easy to use under many conditions. I also have over 600 songs and several games besides scrabble with plenty of room to add more. Admittedly after seeing the iphone screen I am dissatisfied with my screen but not grossly so. I bought the infrared keyboard since I find stylus typing tedious at best and astoundingly frustrating at worse. I suspect part of my concerns about screen size is habit. The little screen seems just that, little. If I could get a phone that would successfully do all of the things my PDA does, it would be a winner. I don’t carry the PDA with me most of the time. I always carry my phone which is about 50% smaller than the PDA.

Obviously if I am an incessant blogger, internet surfer, e-buyer ad nauseaum, I obsess over internet access. So in addition to the phone and PDA, I have a nice laptop that accompanies me whenever I expect to be away from my desk for more than a week. Unlike some addicts, I can go an entire week without major withdrawal symptoms. A few twitches, a couple of what if someone needs me moans and a serious feeling of being disconnected notwithstanding, I can do it. Regardless of how good the PDA is, it still isn’t my notebook which can do practically everything my desktop can do. In fact, if I didn’t already have 6 desktops, I would put a 21” monitor and real keyboard on the notebook and never look back. I am not good at trashing workable stuff so until all the desktops die, I will continue to use them.

Verbosely later, smart phones and subnotebooks are cool. Until they have someway of keeping the physical unit small and yet having a large display with ease of use, they will not displace notebooks. As much as I liked my Poquet Computer and my Jornada, as much as I like my phone and my PDA I don’t see them replacing my need/want for a more comfortable work tool. Conversely I love being able to carry a veritable suitcase full of books in my shirt pocket and reading in lousy lighting so I don’t see my laptop replacing my PDA.

So good luck marketing the subnotebook/smart phone controversy, it is just one more chapter in the never ending tech story.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Infrared Repeaters

Once again I am going to refer to Diamond Case Designs and once again I will reiterate I am not being paid one dime by DCD nor am I in any way financially connected to Diamond Case Designs. I do find their newsletters and their information center really interesting which may indicate that I need to get a life or maybe not.

As you may know, infrared remotes depend on line of sight to function. While babysitting my grandchildren I noticed that I had to open the cabinet under the big screen to use the remote. I thought at the time how inconvenient and it definitely impacts the whole reason for having the components out of sight. How could I use an infrared remote through the wooden door? I happened on the infrared repeaters at the Diamond Case Information center and realized I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel.

To begin place a sensing receiver somewhere in line of sight. There is a table top receiving eye and a tear drop style receiving eye. From my perspective, the tear drop style is way less obtrusive and that is the whole point of hiding the components in the first place. You mount an infrared emitter over the receiving eye of each of your components. A connecting block is mounted out of sight in with the components. It seems pretty slick. I am sure there are others out there that sell the same or similar components but the fact that Diamond Case goes out of their way to explain it, put them one up in my book. Take a look at their in depth explanation. http://diamondcase.com/Knowledge/Knowledge_HTML/Repeater.HTML
It seems like they have a pretty comprehensive solution that will undoubtedly end up as a birthday present for my son.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Health Care Travesty Prescription Plans

I know, the last three posts have not had a one word to say about money saving tips. Note the philosophic part in the Blog Banner.

Prescription plans are a rip off. I know that is hardly news to any of the majority of us who have disgustingly expensive health plans. My plan gives me three months of prescriptions for the price of two if I submit my script to the mail order branch of the insurance company. Sounds good but appearances are deceiving. Take a recent example, a generic drug that I submitted to my insurance through the mail order pharmacy provides me with 90 days supply for $40.00, not too bad, right? Well my local pharmacist, (not the one in the previous blog) tell me if she submits the script to my my insurance company they will only provide a 30 day supply at the price of $14.99. So locally it is $5.00 more than the supposedly big saving I am getting from mail order. But wait there’s more, a set of free steak knives… not really. It gets better, under her pharmacies generic drug plan, without using my insurance I can get a 90 day supply for $12.00. So the huge money I am paying for my prescription plan is giving me a negative savings of $28.00. Now I know that there is a profit being made at $12.00. Walmart, for example, is not known for it lack of a profit incentive.

What do we do? Our wonderful legislators spend so much time in bed with the insurance companies and pharmaceutical giants that it is a wonder that the D.C. vice squad has arrested them for pandering. AARP campaigns extensively for fair medical care. I am not finding blogging about the issue particularly cathartic. We must as responsible citizens badger our elected officials to get out of bed with the lobbyists and start paying attention to the people who elected them. He, it isn’t just old dudes such as myself that need prescriptions or medical care, you may too. Call your elected representative, email them, snail mail them, stop them on the street and tell them..WE MUST HAVE A FAIR AND EQUITABLE MEDICAL PLAN FOR ALL OUR CITIZENS.

I will try not to get on our economy or gas prices or other non tech related issues for the next couple of blogs. Honest!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Local Pharmacy Shoots Itself In The Foot

Small businesses and some larger ones, bitch constantly about how the big box store or the Internet is robbing them of business. They complain that it is unfair that big box stores buy in volume and get a better price than they get. They complain that the Internet reseller doesn’t have overhead, or taxes or employees or something that makes them more competitive. Bitch, bitch and more bitching and then they drive business to the Internet in droves.

My 93 year old Mom is on a walker. It used to have two larger wheels in front and two smaller wheels in the back on springs, supposedly so her weight would depress the wheels and keep her from speeding off into the night. One of the rear, spring loaded wheels broke off. It really didn’t impact the performance of her rig but if you have a Mom around, you know that didn’t make any difference. It was broken and she was going to fall, again. Since the wheel broke off on our way into our favorite breakfast joint, we were already out and about. Getting her moving is another whole story. There is a locally owned pharmacy that carries wheel chairs, walkers etc. right around the corner. So we went over to buy a new wheel. No new wheels, they stopped making them since they always broke. Instead they have skid or skis that replace the wheels. I bought two small plastic skids for $30.00. I put them on in the parking lot and Mom was happy. (happier)

When I got home, I jumped on the net and discovered the same skids, same brand for sale at myriad web sites from $11.95 to $14.95. Some had free shipping and some didn’t but the overall impact was my local pharmacy hosed me. I spent most of my life in some sort of profit making business and the quickest way to drive customers away is to grossly overcharge them. If you are a small independent you can charge more but you can’t go the route of obscene profits unless you are an oil company or insurance company.

My small local pharmacy made a good margin on my Mom’s skids. Of course they have lost my business and my extended families business as a result. I am sure they will blame it on the unfairness of the Internet.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dying Young

A friend died recently at 39, he dropped dead mowing the lawn. I’ve known him since he was a kid. His parents are my peers. He’s dead. That strikes me as preposterous. How can you drop dead at 39? At my age, they drop like flies but at 39, preposterous. Death is inevitable but expectations dictate that it is age appropriate. This kid was only a bit older than my kids. I can’t contemplate the emotional impact. I’ve got friends who have lost kids overseas in action. They are devastated but since their kids were in harm’s way intentionally, I think they were somewhat prepared for the possibility that harm would come. Dropping dead while mowing the lawn is not one of those things you expect. My heart and my condolences go out to the family and the wife. To you young immortals please recognize that you are never too young to get a physical and discover whether you are truly healthy. There is no guarantee that medical awareness will prolong your life, but your chances are better if you know what you face.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Online Backup

At one time or another we have all lost data. Period, all of us have lost a file or something important we needed. Computers and humans are fallible. Try as we may, we don’t backup often enough or well enough. Tapes break, tape drive fail, backup to the server works great unless the server crashes. These disasters occur with such frequency that most business insurance policies will give a discount for a viable off site recovery plan. The first step in a viable off site recover plan is to protect the data. Having off site hardware is moot without the data. Even the happy home computer crashes. I haven’t had a lot of hard copy photos since 1997, they are all on the computer. I have CDs and DVDs holding the photos but what if it isn’t just a computer crash, what if I live along the Mississippi? Needless to say, their must be a better option. After a great deal of research I’ve decided that the best option is a combination of reliability and affordability from a company called Intronis Technologies.

Intronis has affordable and reliable off site storage of data. I do my homework on technology and I don’t recommend anything I think is shoddy, impractical or fattening. I guess I feel that if I find it realistically affordable and practical, I don’t have any hesitancy in recommending it. Obviously a good Internet connection is necessary to make off site backup by anyone practical. Google Intronis, go to their site to get all the details. If you feel it meets your needs, then sign up and finally feel secure that your data is protected. It may get you a discount from your business insurance but it most assuredly will give you peace of mind about your data. I do NOT benefit from your signing up.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Tivo


When my sons bought me a Tivo I thought it was a less than stellar gift. I am not a couch potato (computer potato maybe) and I don’t watch much TV. Well, bad or good, I found the Tivo absolutely terrific. For those of you from the planet “what the hell is he talking about?” Tivo is a digital video recorder. It is similar to the VCR we all used to have. However it is way, way better. It allows you to search for shows and set up season passes for stuff you want to watch. A seson pass just means, it will record what ever show you want when it comes on without further intervention from you. Tivo lets you watch the shows you want when you want them. In addition if you are so inclined you can rent movies through your Tivo. There is a subscription fee involved but you can pay for a lifetime (of the unit, not you) subscription when you purchase it. There are other alternatives and Steve at Diamond Case Design can better explain those. Funny how you can fall in love with a gadget you never thought you needed.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

DSL vs Cable, is there really any comparison?

This is my first venture into paid blogging so here we go. Best Buys.com is doing a series called “Fine Print Revealed” that shines the light of comparison shopping on different products, services and technology. A comprehensive list of those articles are found here: Best Buys Comparison Reviews

One of the comparisons they feature compares DSL and Cable. Having had both experiences in a business setting, I feel I can write about it with some credibility. DSL was the first high speed internet connection we had at my office. It worked, not well but it worked. Verizon was having a hard time with fiber and copper connections and we had a very confusing and time consuming situation to get DSL. Once we had DSL and worked out the kinks it worked just fine. Since we had 12 users, DSL worked better than dial up but with that many users we didn’t see the speed we had hoped to see.

We spent some time lobbying Comcast to put a cable modem into our office. The cost at the time with their dedicated internet server was prohibitive. We finally had a cable modem put into the office due to the fact that I had rental space on my second floor that could be used for home using tenants. We actually used the cable modem for the office and it was sweet. We ran DSL and Cable Modem simultaneously for several months and then we dropped the DSL.

Today, even though I am retired, I live on the web. If I didn’t have high speed internet, I’d go nutz (nutzer?). Believe it or not, I still have friends using dial up. So to you folks who haven’t made a decision and are still confused, I recommend going to the Best Buys comparison of high speed service.

This is my commercial plug and hopefully this doesn’t tarnish my image in your eyes for trying to make a buck. Of course that assumes I have an image, that you are reading this, that you are aware of my image and that you ever had any good feelings about it one way or another which is stretching the bounds of credibility beyond belief.

Btw I do use bestbuys.com to do comparison shopping.
Thanks for your time.

Blogging Ethics-Can you be paid and be ethical?


Interesting question with an assumption you have ethics which often isn’t clearly demonstrated in many of today’s businesses. I guess it depends on what you write about and how honest you are in writing. As a retired, fixed income kind of guy, I look for things that can bring in gadget or book money without a great deal of sweat on my part. Since I am a technut and booknut, writing about that is a no brainer. Now to get paid for it would be exciting but am I hungry enough to ignore my conscience? I can answer that by the fact that I have been offered industry related jobs by former competitors since I sold my business. As enticing as some of the offers were, I declined as I had signed a non-compete agreement with the guy who bought my computer business. Several times I have been told that those agreements are impossible to enforce. That may be the case but since I agreed not to compete and I shook hands on that agreement, I “ethically” can’t ignore the agreement, regardless of it’s enforceability. Since I could be making way more money doing what I did in my computer business, if I was willing to ignore my ethics, than what I can make blogging about stuff, I feel pretty darn comfortable stating that I will write what I feel and see and not pander to the situation to increase my income. I will make sure that I mention the possibility of payment may result from the blog. Since I haven’t done this yet, I say possibility of payment since who knows if they really do pay you. I’ll let you know.
 Money Saving Tech Tips