Amazon

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Digital TV Dilemma

The change over to digital broadcasting has been written to death. It is coming, congress has just voted not to delay it so it will happen on schedule. The myth that cable and satellite are not affected is just that, a myth. Comcast has already shifted some very important channels to all digital. (Cartoon network being a grandchild important channel) Comcast states they will be gradually changing all of their analog output to digital. What does that specifically mean to all of us cable users. It means you must have a digital tuner to get those channels that are currently digital and those they will be changing. So like all of the “over the air” folks, you will need a converter box so it is just plain old crap that if you have cable you won’t be affected by the change to digital.

Comcast offers two free digital adapters to those who currently have a digital converter box. Caution, the digital adapter is not the same as the digital converter box, it is a stupid cousin. The digital adapter allows you to see the broadcasts that Comcast has converted to digital. It does not allow you access to on demand or other features that you get with your digital converter. If you want extra digital adapters, beyond the two “free” ones, they cost $1.99 per month. If you want a digital converter beyond your one “free” one, it costs $4.99 per month. Why do you need these? Because Comcast is moving to digital just like the on air broadcasts are moving to digital.

Digital does give a better picture but so far this has been the proverbial pain in the tush. Unless I am willing to replace all my analog, tube TVs, I now need a digital adapter for each and every one, including VCR, TIVO and DVR. If you want to continue using your TIVO or VCR to record something else while you are viewing a different channel, you must have a digital adapter for it as well. Suddenly the $1.99 per adapter is adding up. Millions of customers at $1.99 per adapter is truly serious money.

The alternative is to go out and buy all digital TVs and replace all the analog tubes. That is more painful than $1.99 per month. Of course you would still need to upgrade to the digital converter to get On Demand or other nifty features. Once again, the consumer is hosed, the corporate giant wins and our elected “representatives” pander to the lobbyists.

Perhaps the best alternative is to just stopping watching TV. If you decide to do that go to my book blog Pick of the Literate for reading suggestions.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Verizon’s Wireless Commercials are Annoying

Every time I see a Verizon Wirelesss commercial, I find myself screaming at the TV, male cow excrement. I love my LG Dare phone and find Verizon service is NOT as universal as they claim. If I go out in my front yard, stand on one foot, cover my right hand with aluminum foil and point to the north star, I might be able to make or receive a call. I don’t live in some obscure, third world state, I live in suburban Pennsylvania. Verizon says I live on the wrong side of a hill, then why do their commercials pretend that there are NO wrong sides of hills for their service. If I could get reliable wireless service for my phone I would be a prime candidate for a wireless modem. I admitted to my Internet addiction in an earlier post and it would be so SWEET to be able to really log on where ever I was, instead of heaving my carcass off the lanai to go to a hot spot.

On the bright side, if I actually had reliable cellular phone connections, more people would be able to get me on the phone. Verizon, instead of just bragging about cyour great service, how about providing some!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hi, my name is Bill and I’m addicted to the Internet

I sit here, enjoying the sunshine, reveling in a relaxed environment and lusting for an internet connection. Admittedly addicted, I was fine for the first two days and when I made my way to the local hot spot and found 90 emails that made their way through my spam filter I was overwhelmed. Do I deal with that much crap every day? Apparently so as I weeded my way through things that were deemed to be significantly important to my spam filter.

Of course one email was from a client that wants a meeting. Generally when I do web sites I have an initial meeting with the client and may never see them in person again. I can update, change and add to their site from any hot spot in the world. I missed a couple of books that came up on my wish list. My other addiction is book swapping. I belong to several book swaps and feel like a little kid Christmas morning every time I go to the mail box and find a book in it. In over a year, I’ll bet I haven’t had three books come up from my wish list on BookMooch. In the two days I didn’t get to a hot spot, two books came up and since they are on a first come, first serve basis, I lost them. Thusly my first addiction, reading which predated the internet by 30 years, was impacted by my second addiction in a negative manner, I missed the damn books!

I don’t find Hot Spots of any kind fitting seamlessly into my style of writing. I like to ponder, sometimes walk around and talk to my self. That is a fast track to arrest and internment in a public place and most of them don’t play any classic rock. It always astounds me how much I miss connection when I don’t have it. I find myself feeling disconnected (duh) and out of touch. I am now going to meander my way to the hot spot, post this and lament that I probably have another 90 emails that need attention.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Saving Money in the New Year

Even if the market finally restores my 201k for 401k status, I think the economy has sensitized us all into being more cautious with our finances. AARP magazine, which I am obviously far too young to get (hah!), had a good article on things to do for the next year. Some of the following ideas came from that article.

Medical costs drive us all crazy. If you live near a Walmart or other large chain that has committed to the $4.00 prescription, you can save a bundle if your meds fall under their categories. Keep in mind that many in the medical community will negotiate fees if you can’t pay or don’t have insurance. Many would far prefer a cash payment than the nightmare of insurance submission.

Banks and credit card companies will negotiate fees. I recently canceled a card that I had used for a long time to get airline miles. Flying has become such a pain that when possible I now drive. I called to cancel the card because they had an annual fee. They offered to cancel the fee if I would keep the card. If you haven’t looked at your mortgage rate, you should. If you have been diligent in paying your mortgage, you may save some serious bucks by refinancing.

Electronics are bounced all over the place. If you can find a local retailer and even some locally managed chains they will probably negotiate a price with you. Home Depot dropped a price when I told them I could go to Sears and save $25.00.

Automotive products are being hammered. New car negotiations are obviously very flexible at this point but don’t ignore shopping or negotiating on upkeep. My dealer was $400.00 more for the SAME tires than my local garage. My local camera shop was $10.00 cheaper for the same $200.00 flash than the absolute best price I could find anywhere on the web. So look around before buying.

Contractors, at least in my area, are being very competitive to get the work. My gutter guy who is an all purpose handyman, was aggressively seeking inside work for the cold months and willing to negotiate prices.

There are many ways to save a buck, one of the hardest for many people is to ask. You don’t need to be grumpy about it, but ask if there is anything they can do on the price. You may be surprised how often someone will work with you to get the business.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Airline Luggage Rip-Off, A Possible Solution

If you haven’t taken a flight lately, you may want to keep going in that trend. Funny how quickly the airlines raised their prices, implemented surcharges and luggage up charges when oil prices were high and now that oil is as low as it has been in years, the airlines are still surcharging every thing is sight. I can’t wait for the coin operated toilets. Southwest seems to be able to make money and not nickel and dime you to death. If they are going to where you want to go, I urge you to use them and make sure their competition knows why your are doing it.

I am reluctantly flying US Air for a trip. Southwest doesn’t go there or I would be taking them. US Air wants $15.00 for your first suitcase, $25 for your second and $100.00 for your third. In my case, I don’t need a third suitcase but I sure don’t want to spend $100 for my golf bag. Well, there is a solution. Ship your stuff. I looked into shipping companies that specialize in luggage and they were worse than the airlines. I am shipping my ”second suitcase” (a cardboard box) via FedEx ground for $13.58. My golf clubs are going into a free box I got from my pro and carefully wrapped in bubble wrap to be shipped for less than $15.00. My total for my 2nd suitcase and clubs is less than $30.00 or only $5.00 more than my 2nd suitcase alone at good old US Airways.

So you can get what you want where you want it if you plan ahead and can ship your stuff. As far as US Airways goes, I will avoid them if at all possible just as I will avoid flying anyone but Southwest. I am just sick and tired of being hosed over by big business.

Friday, January 9, 2009

SATA Hard Drive Docking Station

Here is a very cool tool for your favorite computer geek. It is a hard drive docking station. It is made by ThermalTake, part number N0028US, under $40.00 including free shipping at Amazon. You pop in SATA hard drives just like you pop your PDA into it’s docking cradle. My only beef is they only make it for SATA hard drives. I think a model for ATA hard drives would make a lot of sense since many of us have ATA hard drives just laying around not being used. How cool would it be to just be able to pop in those old hard drives as easily as a CD or DVD? Alas they only support SATA but it is still something to consider. This is not a paid post however if you do decide to buy it and go through the Amazon link I will get a commission.

Specs:
2.5” & 3.5” USB SATA HDD Docking Station, Supports All 2.5” & 3.5” SATA Hard Drives up to 1.5 TB !!
Supports All 2.5” & 3.5” SATA HDDs up to 1.5TB !
Hot-Swap Capability for Rapid Multi HDDs Access & Exchange
Supports USB 2.0 Transfer Speed up to 480Mbps
Windows & Mac OS Compatible
Compact Docking Station Design maximizes Heat Dissipation & Exhaust
Windows Vista Ready !
Enclosure Interface: USB 2.0
Transfer Rate: Up to 480 Mbps (Max)
HDD Compatible: SATA I & SATA II
HDD Capacity: All 2.5” or 3.5” SATA HDD up to 1.5 TB
OS Compatible: Windows Vista / XP / 2003 / 2000 / NT / 98 / 95 Mac 10.3 and later
Material: ABS Plastic
Power Input: 100-240V / 50-60Hz / 1A ; Output: 12V / 2A
Dimension: 5.12 x 3.55 x 2.56 in. (L x W x H); 130 x 90 x 65 mm (L x W x H)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Lousy Cellular Reception?

The dreaded dead zone, I live in one. I live in an environmentally sensitive township with a distinct lack of cellular towers and an antagonistic relationship with cellular carries. This means that the phone number on my business card is totally useless unless I go stand in the yard, put one foot on the well cap and the other on a large rock, put one hand in the air and hope that I get my cell call made before my neighbors call the funny farm to haul me away. Note if you are inferring frustration with the situation your inference is dead on.

I have blogged on my LG Dare and I love the phone however it has no external antenna port and to add an antenna I have to drill the cover and void the warranty and I can’t bring myself to do that. If you have an antenna port on your phone you might want to look at the Freedom Antenna. It reviews well and is pretty reasonable. I found it at Amazon for $22.49 plus $6.75 shipping. You will need an adapter specific for your phone. Freedom Antenna has a page to look up your phone and get the correct part number for your adapter.

I will continue to bemoan my lace of cellular reception at home but if you have a phone that will take an external antenna this might be a good solution for you. This was not a paid blog.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

SSD, 2.5” of Pure Dynamic Speed

They look like tiny little hard drives but they are so much more. The new SSD drives are coming. Today’s hard drives are going to look like the fat boy at the beach compared to the SSD drives. Solid State Drives are far, far speedier and because there are no moving parts, far more reliable. Who among us can claim to have never lost data due to a hard drive failure? SSDs will not totally eliminate failure but will reduce it to the point of non-discussion. They are currently pricy. I found a 128gb SSD at NewEgg for $295.00. I found a 500gb hard drive at the same place for $65.00. Remember though, lasers were $5,000.00 not that long ago and now you can a laser printer for $99.00. SSD is here to stay and we will start to see them proliferate in something beside ipods and laptops, in the not too distant future. Imation has a couple of good white papers at this link if you want much more detail.

Update 4/6/14: 500gb SSD drive for $275 at New Egg, 250gb SSD drive at Amazon for $139.00, just FYI.
 Money Saving Tech Tips