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!

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Get "The Devlin Diary" by Christi Phillips--FREE

My First Giveaway!

My review of The “Devlin Diary” by Christi Phillips will be posted at the Pick of the Literate on June 29, 2009.

The Question and Answers for Christi Phillips, author of the “Devlin Diary” will be posted on June 30, 2009 at Pick of the Literate.

Drop by, read the review, make your comment and sit back and hope you win. Contest will begin on June 29, 2009 and end on July 6, 2009.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Technology Lament/Rant

We saw Angels and Demons, very good movie, do not expect to lie back leisurely and watch, it is an edge of your seat kind of movie. Afterward the couple we were with suggested dinner and we ended up on an outdoor patio shouting over the unnecessarily loud music and the most definitely loud children nearby. Ger proceeded to tell me how much trouble he had hooking up his new TV and then hooking digital converter boxes to his old TVs. It was far more trouble that it should have been. I treated him to the story of my hooking up my new TV.

Since I have the DVD burner/player, TIVO, external speakers with subwoofer, cable box and computer all hooked to the TV the wires and the small holes they were supposed to go through in the cabinet provided the first difficulties. After taming the wire snarl I proceeded to set up the new cable box. My old cable box would not do high definition and since that was one of the reasons I got a new TV I called Comcast to find out how to get the new box. First phone call told me I couldn’t get a new box since I was under contract on my Triple Play. Second phone call told me I could upgrade and it would be $8.00 more than my current Triple Play price. Third phone call it would be $14.00 more than my original Triple play price. (Eventually they charged me $30.00 more and I had to call and get them down to the $14 they had quoted.) I agreed to go to my local Comcast office to pick up the new box and return the old box. Now I was trying to configure the new box which went smoothly for normal TV. However I was not getting any of the HD channels. I could not get to the programming screen following any of the instructions in the manual. Finally after way too long fighting with it, due to my stubborn insistence that I am tech savvy and I should be able to figure this out, I called Comcast. The tech I spoke to told me to hold one button down on the remote and simultaneously hit another button twice and I would get the programming screen. I asked where that was in the manual and he said, “Oh, it isn’t in the manual, you just have to know it.”

I then proceeded to the programming screen and discovered after 5 more phone calls and comments like, “yeah, the manual is wrong about that, do this” on the sixth call the tech said, “we need to send somebody out.”

The tech that showed up was very nice, very professional. He took one look at the box, after I explained my problem, and said, “Where did you get that box?” I told him I had picked it up at the local office and he commented, “ Geez, they shouldn’t be giving those out anymore, we’ve had nothing but problems with that box. “ He went out to his truck, came back with a different box, hooked it up and Viola I had the high definition channels.

Now here is another situation that just shouldn’t have been that hard. If I had been given the correct HD box in the first place, I wouldn’t have needed a service call. Technology doesn’t need to be mysterious or difficult. Most frequently it is made difficult by poor business practices or lack of concern over the customer’s time and the companies’ money. I’m guessing that the service call cost Comcast at least $75.00 plus the six calls I made to tech support had to cost at least $20 per call. So by giving out a box that was known to be defective, Comcast lost roughly $200.00. I lost 5 or 6 hours of time and some more of my already dismally limited hair.

Alvin Toffler’s book, “Future Shock” was published in 1970 and his succinct definition of the title was, “too much change in too short a period of time.”
39 years later, change is certainly not slowing down. In my age group, I find that my love for technology is not shared very often. Primarily due to the implementation difficulties demonstrated by the examples above most people over 50 don’t like technological changes.

Is there a solution?

A plea to manufactures to try harder to make sure manuals are correct would help. If problems are discovered, add an insert noting the fix for the problems or direct people to a web site with a correct manual.

Pull problem products immediately. Don’t continue to distribute them knowing they are flawed.

I’m sure anyone reading this can come up with dozens of ways to make technological implementation less stressful

Why manufactures don’t implement those ideas is beyond me, this rant isn’t going to solve the problem but it does make me feel just a touch better.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sungale Digital Photo Frame


Not long ago I blogged about frying my digital photo frame. I replaced it with the Sungale ZA701 from Buy.com for $29.99 including shipping. It has since sold out and I don’t know if they will be getting more in but it was a very good value for the money. The resolution is no better than what I fried but it allowed me to put 2400 photos on a 256mb SD card and it accesses them all. It has a remote and and easy off/on on the remote which my previous frame did not have. It comes with a removable frame if you are tight for space. All in all it is an extremely good value for the price. This is not a paid blog.

Manufacturer: Sungale
Mfg Part#: ZA701
UPC: 00718103081863
Buy.com Sku: 211046819
Item#: E4YJFT

Features
Elegant wood frame to decorate your home
7" 16:9 TFT LCD display
Slide show browses your precious photos
Background music add sentiment to your memory
Inter-exchange photos between memory cards
Support all popular SD/MMC/MS memory cards
Photo zoom and rotation
Interchangeable Frames:
Built-in stereo speakers
Remote Control operation
Accessories:
Remote Control
User Manual
Quick reference guide
AC adapter

Tech Specs
Screen: 7 " 16:9 TFT LCD
Resolution: 480x234 pixels
Brightness: 250cd/m2
Contrast: 300:1
Photo file format: JPG
Memory card: SD, MMC, MS
USB CONNECTION: USB2.0 Host/Device
Power: AC 100-240V


Friday, June 19, 2009

Extend the Home Network


I have written in the past about the NetGear Powerline products. They turn your house electrical wiring into Ethernet wiring. You plug a Netgear XE103 into an electric outlet and plug an Ethernet cable from it to your router. You have now established the sending side of the equation. On the other end you need to have something to receive the Ethernet signal. The XE104 adapter plugs into a wall outlet somewhere in your home and it adds 4 Ethernet ports to your network. We all know that as wonderful as wireless Ethernet may be, there are always dreaded dead zones where for some reason wireless just doesn’t work. Usually those dead zones are areas where physically cabling for networks is darn near impossible or improbably expensive. NetGear’s Powerline products can meet that need. I particularly find the XE104 attractive as it adds 4 ports not just one. I have routers all over the house and the ability to add 4 more ports easily is highly appealing.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What is a Kindle?

Recently at dinner after sullying a beautiful day with a rather dismal golf game, the Kindle came up. Technogeeks and other tech aficionados tend to forget the bulk of the world does not have the same interests as we do. I blogged not long ago on the new Kindle with the rash assumption that everyone knows what a Kindle is and how it works. My dinner companions were happy to point out to me that many people don’t live in front of a computer. So for the folks who are not familiar with the Kindle the following is right from the Amazon web site. Incidentally Kindle is not the only game in town, Sony has a reader as well, currently on sale at Staples for $279.00.

Kindle, a electronic device for reading.
Slim: Just over 1/3 of an inch, as thin as most magazines
Lightweight: At 10.2 ounces, lighter than a typical paperback

Wireless: 3G wireless lets you download books right from your Kindle, anytime, anywhere; no monthly fees, service plans, or hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots

Books in Under 60 Seconds: Get books delivered in less than 60 seconds; no PC required

Improved Display: Reads like real paper; now boasts 16 shades of gray for clear text and even crisper images

Longer Battery Life: 25% longer battery life; read for days without recharging

More Storage: Take your library with you; holds over 1,500 books

Faster Page Turns: 20% faster page turns

Read-to-Me: With the new text-to-speech feature, Kindle can read every newspaper, magazine, blog, and book out loud to you, unless the book's rights holder made the feature unavailable

Large Selection: Over 285,000 books plus U.S. and international newspapers, magazines, and blogs available

Low Book Prices: New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases $9.99, unless marked otherwise.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

CyberWar


Sounds like the title of a science fiction story. Sadly there is far more truth than fiction. Recently I did a presentation in a 4th grade class for science week. My presentation was on computers. I provided a historical perspective with Eniac as a baseline. I didn’t feel the need to go back to Michael Angelo or the abacus development. One of the things I pointed out to the students is that their game boxes are disguised computers. Nintendo’s DS looks innocuous, just a game. However you can get to the Internet wirelessly through the DS. My point is that we have reached the ubiquitous stage of computers. Our phones, our PDA’s, our GPS, our clocks, our TVs, our toys all have the ability or potential to be online.

In essence, the way we live our lives is vulnerable to cyber attack. Some of the most tech resistant people I know still use email. There are scores of folks out there who dislike anyone in a developed nation. There are also the amoral sociopaths who enjoy showering pain and inconvenience at every opportunity.

This set of circumstances provides the motivation for governmental bodies to develop defenses for their citizens. These defenses are above and beyond the commercially available software and hardware protections used to defend against script kiddies and cyber vandals. The government protections are to protect the Internet and governmental infrastructure from targeted attacks. Those attacks are often initiated by other governments. In addition governments are funding the development of offensive cyber weapons for rehabilitation. Wow, we thought the cold war was over. Today, a dedicated, brilliant hacker in an impoverished nation too poor to afford conventional weapons let alone nuclear deterrents could fracture the Internet. The New York Times article on what the U. S. government is doing provides interesting reading.

What may make a better deterrent would be the increased cyber interplay between individuals of all nations, cultures, creeds and sexes. It is easy to accuse, accost and assault people you fear and don’t know. It is much more difficult to attack other countries if you feel like you know the people in it. Blogging, email, social sites all contribute to a greater understanding of the growing world community. The better we know our neighbors and they know us, the more difficult it will be to provide the hateful motivation to initiate attacks.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

1.6 Terabyte DVDs?

For the old timers among us, 5D used to refer to the musical group, 5th Dimensions, i.e. Monday,Monday. No longer can we assume 5D and music now we have to look at storage. If you aren’t happy with the storage capacity on your current DVD, let alone Blu-Ray, wait 5 minutes and a new technology will be out. Future Shock is no longer in the future. A new optical disc format is being developed by researchers at Melbourne Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology. They are rumored to have signed a deal with Samsung to produce their technology. Simplistically they are compounding the amount of data able to be stored on a single DVD. “Ultimately the techniques produced a 5D optical disc capable of storing 1.6 terabytes of data, the equivalent of around 340 DVD movies or 400,000 songs.” iTwire has a very understandable description of the process.

Needless to say excitement abounds in those of us geeky enough to be excited about this type of news. At the moment the big drawback is that the recording technique is slow but with commercialization on the horizon, I have no doubt that issue will be solved. Extrapolation of the technology leads the researchers to believe that the 10 Terabyte DVD is not too far away. Ahh, I remember the advent of the 64k floppy what a heady time. Why do I feel like a geezer?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

BenQ’s JoyBee Very Cool!


Coming to your family room soon is a compact easy to use, INEXPENSIVE; LCD projector that will project images up to 80” in size. One of the problems with projectors has been the need for a screen or a white wall. According to BenQ this projector is designed to allow projections on walls in colors other than white, of course a screen will give you a better picture. The other notable aspect of this projector is the use of LCD technology rather than bulb technology. In the older projectors the bulbs were very sensitive to shock and very expensive to replace when they blew. When I was selling home theater pcs, we really liked the DLP technology due it’s astounding reliability.

The JoyBee has all the connections necessary to hook up your laptop, cable box, ipod, USB flash disk, digital camera, DVD player, Xbox etc. It is tiny, only 5.35 x 2.12 x 4.72 inches. That isn’t too much bigger that a fat paperback. It has a standard tripod connection that you could use with your existing camera tripod.

This looks like a very nice unit for only $499.00. You certainly can’t get any kind of big screen for that kind of money. It certainly seems like a product to watch. This is not a paid blog.



Tech Specs
Native Resolution SVGA (858 x 600)

Projection System is DLP® technology by Texas Instruments®

Brightness is 100 ANSI lumens

Light Source it 3LED (RGB) technology

Contrast Ratio is 2000:1 (Full on/Full off)

Weight: 1.4 lbs (0.64 kg);

Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Native, 16:9 Selectable

Display Color: Full 16.7 million color palette Lens: F=2, f=17.7 mm

Zoom Ratio: Fixed Image Size: 15” to 80” Throw Ratio: 1.92

Computer Compatibility: VGA(640 x 480) to SXGA(1280 x 1024)

HDTV Compatibility: 480i, 480p, 576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i

Video Compatibility: NTSC, PAL, SECAM

Horizontal Frequency: 31-79 kHz

Vertical Scan Rate: 50-85 Hz

Input Terminals: PC:Computer: D-sub 15 pin x 1(through CEA 30pin) AV:Component Video: D-sub 15 pin (through CEA 30pin) Composite Video: RCA x 1 (through CEA 30pin) USB reader: USB Type A Audio:Audio L/R: RCA x 2 (through CEA 30pin)

Output Terminal: Audio:Stereo mini jack x 1 (for USB reader) 2 Watt Speaker x 1

Dimensions(W x H x D): 136 x 54 x 120 mm (5.35 x 2.12 x 4.72 inches)

Power Consumption: 60W

Noise level: 28 dB

On-Screen Display Language: English/ French/ German/ Italian/ Spanish/ Russian/ Traditional Chinese/ Simplified Chinese/ Japanese/ Korean/ Swedish/ Dutch/ Turkish/ Czech/ Portuguese / Thai/ Polish * The language options vary depending on regions.

Preset Modes/ Application Modes: English/ German/ Swedish/ Polish/ Czech/ Spanish/ Hungarian/ Romanian/ Traditional Chinese/ Simplified Chinese/ Japanese * The language options vary depending on regions.

Picture Modes: Brightest Mode PC Mode Movie Mode Photo Mode User Mode

Functions: Auto Keystone PC-less Auto Search Resolution Reminder High Altitude Mode Standby power consumption <1w>

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Inexpensive Portable GPS, Not Yet.


I was looking at portable GPS devices. Even though I don’t mind stopping for directions, it would be nice to have a clue where I am going. Now that I am retired I have anticipated a little more car travel. I did some research and after reading until my eyes bled, I decided to buy a cheap one and see how I liked it, then spring for a better one. Staples had a deal on their Omnitech GPS after rebates and other money games for $79.99. It has a 4.3” screen, text to speech and I figured with my $15.00 Staples cash would cost me an affordable $64.99 plus tax. I went in to Staples to see it and it was the only one on display not working. I asked the clerk and he said the screen was bad and I didn’t want it anyway, it was a piece of junk. He said he hated to sell them because he got so many back. I couldn’t decide whether to be grateful he saved me from a bad purchase or suspicious that he was trying to move me into a more expensive GPS. Since I now had a serious case of ambivalence, I didn’t buy anything.

I’m reasonably technical, 25 years in the computer business, you have to be. I do my due diligence on my purchases. I read the reviews and the bottom line on some of this stuff it is a plain old crap shoot.

I have since concluded that a unit with “free” lifetime traffic information and updates is the only route to go. The Navigon 2200T and 7200T, have free lifetime traffic without ads, as does the 8100T. The 2200T only has a 3.5” screen but is a bargain at Amazon for $119.00. I like the Navigon 7200T better due to the 4.3” screen but the price is $209.00. The Garmin Nuvi 265WT and the new Nextar Q4-LT both have free lifetime traffic info but you also get advertising which is a turn off for me.

So for those of us of the male persuasion that are not averse to stopping for directions perhaps a GPS is unnecessary. Although there are many places I don’t care to stop and ask for anything let alone directions. (Take for example a rather scary truck stop in Tennessee where the collective number of teeth in the clientel was 4. I did have a nice time in Tennessee and this is in no way a blanket condemnation of Tennessee or tooth challenged people anywhere.)

If you want a GPS you may want to luck at the Navigon units mentioned above. They seem like they are at a good price point. Me, I am probably going to wait until I can get all the features in the 7200T for the price of the 2200T.

 Money Saving Tech Tips