Monday, October 29, 2007
I prefer http://pricewatch.com/ because it usually fishes out the lowest price (which it did again in my test today). They also include the shipping costs in any comparison. The main interface lets you scan over a range of products in a category that allows you to maybe upgrade to a better model of what you are looking for, for less money in some cases. The global price comparison also lets you see where technology takes a big price leap. I usually buy the best product just before the price jump. An example of this would be a search for CPUs. I can compare Intel vs. AMD. I can then compare models. For example we see a $45 jump from a Athlon 5200 to a 5400 CPU. Oddly enough the 5600 only has a $20 jump from the 5200 which means it comes in at $20 less that the 5400. The idea here is that you get to see all the prices side by side to make a comparison.
Price watch does a good job policing its retailers. One thing to look for is a GSA contract. If a retailer has special GSA pricing they have to go through a rigorous process to get the licence and they tend to have fairly low prices to compete with other government contractors. The GSA price is a percentage below the retail price.
Today we are hunting for:
Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard - Retail at NewEgg
Original Price: $71.99 You Save: $4.00 $67.99($47.99 after $20.00 Mail-In Rebate)
All of the items below have access to the manufactures rebate.
pricegrabber.com - 68.90 - includes shipping - from ClubIt.com (I never heard of these guys and neither has CNET
pricewatch.com - 67.99 - Includes shipping from NewEgg
nextag.com - 67.84 ($8.00 shipping) - From mwave (good company, great support)
Bizrate.com - 67.84 ($8.00 shipping)- mwave again
pricescan.com - 67.99 - Includes shipping from NewEgg
pricesearch.com - not online yet
lowpriceshopper.com - brought me to multiple stores offing the product. It might be a good start if you want to find the product at a local store.
cnet.com - 68.90 - includes shipping - from ClubIt.com (I never heard of these guys and neither has CNET
Dealigg.com - Multiple prices, they include current rebates to help you find a deal that might be passed up. They also show past rebates so if you can wait these usually cycle around.
buy.com - $70.70 - shipping $9.40 - total $80.10
shopzilla.com - $63.99 - $9.95 shipping - Total $73.94
http://www.google.com/products - xpcgear.com - $66.99 shipping $9.28 - total $76.27
pricingcentral.com - waste of time
Buying DVDs Online:
Members of http://www.dvdtalk.com/ get a discount at deepdiscount whick will usually produce the best price.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
First of all you need to practice common sense when installing applications to your PC. I look at it like inviting someone into your home. The problem is its not just a house guest. The program might have the ability to severely invade your privacy or best case annoy the hell out of you.
I'm going to review 3 free products.
Revo is the only freeware that supports Vista and it appears to be the best solution that just so happens to be free.
Martau.com - free version is 2 releases old
Compatible with 32-bit editions:Windows 2000, XP
Full version: 2003, Vista - $20
Free version available at: http://www.freeware4u.com/
The program will then create a snapshot of your system before it installs the new software and an additional snapshot after install completes. It then compares the two snapshots and displays all changes in a graphical tree view, marking all registry values and/or files that have been added or changed.
Ashampoo - Magic?
They have been doing this for quite some time and for windows XP it might be the best choice for the novice. This does not support Vista.
Revo is the man
Full support with some nice added features. Vista support, and FREE.
Compatible with 32-bit editions:Windows 2000, XP, Vista
Link to a good review of Revo:
Wouldn't it be nice if life came with an uninstaller that didn't require dying.
To sum this up ITUNES is going to imbed your name and email address in the songs you pay for.
The RIAA is going to use this information to sue you when your music gets into the wrong hands.
Lets say your IPOD is stolen. I know that can't happen because there is no way you or one of your kids would ever let it out of sight. It will be your job to convince a jury that your IPOD was stolen as you face a multi million dollar law suit because your songs were shared on the internet. Even if your IPOD was stolen, you are still negiligent and as a result you will pay damages to the recording industry. Once a victim, always a victim.
If you are a ITUNES customer you may as well hand over your car keys to your alcoholic brother-in-law. Its going to cost you far less when you get sued then when the RIAA gets you in their sights. You people are like a herd of Bison crossing a river. The weak will get picked off one at a time but every once in a while a strong one gets pulled down.
We need a reform of the copyright laws to protect our privacy. Copyrights should last no more than 7 years. In other words that copyright holder should still have the sole right to make money (profit) off the content but after the content has been available to the public it should become available for not for profit public use after 7 years.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Dealing with Craigslist has become an art form. There are so many great deals on Craigslist. Like that computer that is at least 10 years old that the seller wants 50% of that $3000 dollars he bought it for in 1997. Ok thats easy enough to deal with, just skip past it. It would be nice if there was an, "Are You Insane", flag that we can apply to these posts.
What about that AlienWare laptop that guy bought 4 months ago with dual 7800 256mb SLI video and 2gig of DDR and a 1920 X 1200 wide screen display. He doesn't need it any more because he got a better one from work. (I want that job) $600. Are you drooling yet. Did you send a quick email to be the first to respond and at that price and you don't give a crap about what your wife thinks about you spending yet another $600. Then the guy post a bunch of crap about how he won't be tricked by scammers and won't ship the Laptop out of the country or to Nigeria. (I trust him now)
You might have even fired off your phone number in that email to this stranger who in this case is a criminal. Nice, now he has your email with about 10,000 other people to put on spam lists, your phone number for those telemarketers who honor the fact that your protected by that do not call list.
I traced this guy back to Wales England. He said he was local in Cary, NC. He later states that he is out of the country with a complicated money exchange and shipping process to follow.
I told him I was in England and wanted to pick it up locally to avoid the customs tax. He wanted my phone number yet again. I explained that I need to call him because I was heading back to the US in 2 days and my number will change as I go from hotel to hotel. Guess what, no return email. Good thing, I was personally tempted to go to England and kick his butt and video tape it for YouTube, that is if he didn't have a AlienWare laptop in exchange for $600.
This is how to work Craigslist:
1.)Have a separate email address from Yahoo just for craigslist that doesn't have any of your personal info with the account.
2.) When selling - expect the buyer to provide a phone number to call him. If not don't deal with him. This will weed out anyone that isn't serious.
If they ask if you still have the item and don't send a number they are likely looking to low ball you on the price or aren't really interested or they just want your email address.
3.) Don't converse much via email. Make sure your post has all the details they need and answer only if they have a valid question. In your ad make it clear what price you are will to accept. Craigslist is not like EBay. The market for items on EBay is huge compared to a local Craigslist listing. Don't expect a item to sell in 2 days. It may take 2 months for a buyer to come along. Lowering your price may not be the answer if the price is fair. I set my prices as close to the EBay sold prices as possible.
When searching EBay there is an option you can check to search for recently sold items. You are required to log in and the page will pop up. This is what you should expect to get. Remember they don't have to pay shipping so they are already getting a deal.
4.) As a buyer - Have them call you and expect to see a number come up on caller Id when they call you. If it is blocked ask for a number to call them back. This establishes their identity and they will be aware that you have a record of who they are in case the product they are selling is not as advertised and in case they are up to no good.
If you plan on buying something expensive make the transaction out in front of the police station or in a place where they won't try to rip you off. A bank parking lot is good because it gives the perception of safety. I choose the Best Buy parking lot because its always busy and everyone knows where it is. Never show your money until you have looked over the item. If its a item you need to see working, look up the neighborhood. If you want to be really safe you can look at the county tax records for the property or for an apartment you can stop in the office and ask about the renter. Most people in the apartment offices are really friendly and know their renters. Go with a friend, always. Even if they wait in the car. Lots of people deal with the public every day in their homes. Its not a big deal. Just play it smart when dealing with money.
Craigslist is just as safe as you make it. People ask about dating on Craigslist. How many of those people have had sex with a stranger? How many people went on a date with a stranger? How many have had sex without a condom? I'm not trying to be crude. When you think you know someone you really don't. Its up to you to think smarter. People have been buying and selling for centuries.
Craigslist isn't responsible for your safety, you are.
Something a friend showed me was on an EBay ad and motivated me to write this post.
++++WILL NOT SHIP OUTSIDE THE US++++ THIS WILL NEVER CHANGE+++++PLEASE DON'T ASK++++
****If you feel the need to explain to me why you think I should ship outside the US please keep it to yourself.*****
Just to clear things up
the following Countries are not located inside the US
Canada (this includes any part of Canada that is not in the US)
France (see below)
England (Unless it's to any of the remaining Beatles other than Ringo)
Russia (This includes the Russian Space station. The one in Space and any other Russian Space stations)
Australia (The Dingo's got the Baby!!!)
Any other Country besides the US (United States of America)
Special note!!!!!!..... Miami is NOT it's own country and IS inside the US!!!!!!!!
***** Finland has just been added to the Countries not inside the US********
France!!!!!!! France is also NOT inside the US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sorry for the confusion
Since people still don't understand. I will not ship ANYTHING even 1 (One, Uno) Centimeter past the US border. I don't care how close you are to it. NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!
Another special note......... It has come to my attention that there may be a Russian space station somewhere in Wisconsin. On display for all the Wisconsinians to see. I will make a special exception in this case. If anyone at this particular Russian space station would like one of my items, I will gladly ship it there.
I'm also unsure of what's going on in Vermont right now. At the present time it's still inside the US so I will ship there.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Many stations out there now have begun to cut out the middle man of torrents and other P2P applications and have started a new trend of just putting their shows on the net themselves.
I would like to say first and foremost, that this is an excellent idea, and I commend each and every television station contributing to this effort.
Now, as we all know, television is a business. The net is just another branch that those businesses have started to reach out to. And what is business without a little competition to keep it advancing? As a result we have many variations of essentially the same product out there now. I feel it is my job to let not only you, the consumer, know which is best, but also to inform the companies of what they are lacking, as well as encourage them to continue bettering their products and services. Due to the fact that not everybody has cable or satellite, I will just be mentioning the broadcast station web-TV sites for this post.
So here is your ThinkingBiggar review of "Web-TV":
First off we have CBS. It is first for two reason. #1, it is the lowest channel on my TV, and #2 they have unmatched web-TV.
- The most complete collection of shows
- Easy to navigate display
- Original content
- True full screen display
- commercials are far less obtrusive than the other sites
- Video search function
- The only real con is that the audio control is not a slider, but hey, I crank that sucker up to full anyways
- aside from that, I have experienced some problems when I go to play a new episode of a show.
Next up we have ABC. ABC's player is rather easy to use, and why they do get a point for style, I have to take that same point right back for sheer annoyance.
- Sleek and good looking
- Original content
- Search bar
- Fair amount of shows available online
- Mini video mode - I personally don't know why you would want it smaller but if you do, there you go
- SLOW, it is slow to load, the navigation is slow, I mean by the time I get to a show I want to watch i am already bored of ABC's player
- Also no audio control is rather frustrating
Now we come to NBC. While NBC has some of my favorite shows around, they could use some work in their web-player department. Not much mind, you, but some.
- Original Content
- Moderately full list of shows
- Easy to navigate
- Full Screen-ish
- You are taken out of full screen during each commercial
- Full screen is really just large with the window removed
- Switching between different shows is more of a hassle than the other players
The CW... This one just flat out hurts to look at, let alone use. Don't get me wrong, the CW has some great features, but the player itself does a number on their score.
- Ample original content
- fair number of shows
- easy to navigate
- they run an RSS feed
- Commercials pull you back down to the small player screen, making watching a pain, severely dropping their score
It is sad though, because The CW's sister station MyNetworkTV has a rather amazing player, yet no real content. So unfortunately they get no Happy Thoughts today.
Now Should The CW adopt MyNetworkTV's player, they could boost their score considerably.
Finally, Fox. Fox gets the job done with a degree of style, but not so much as it gets in the way.
- Easy to navigate
- Easy to select new shows
- Enough shows where you won't get bored
- BETA- that is right folks, FOX's player is just in beta right now which means they are still looking to improve it
- Short commercials
- Lacking in original content
- No quick select for full screen
- Lacking true full screen
So an overview,
In order of my favorites:
Tom's Hardware - If you want to make purchase decisions for yourself, this is where you start. This is site is older than AnandTech and still better. They have insider advise and great articles.
These articles are a bit easier to read and understand than AnandTech.
The site is getting too busy for my taste though. The latest charts are on the right side of the page in the middle.
Select the chart with a card you are interested in. Select the software where performance counts the most. Then make a comparison. What I like to do is look at what I have now and compare it to what I'm planning to buy. This will give you an idea of what kinds of performance gains you should see. Sometimes the latest and greatest isn't worth a small jump in performance. Sometimes you ask yourself if its worth waiting for the prices to come down to make that performance leap. If you ever have a tough choice, send me note.
PCstats.com - one of my favorites for product reviews and guides - If I need to sell a board or CPU I point my customers here.
In the GUIDES section they hand pick CPUs, GPUs (video cards), and even have a budget rig guide. I don't agree with all of the choices. I like my budget rig options better of course. Remember I live with my choices these guys I can guarantee have ultra high end status symbol rigs that they use on a daily basis. They go to a lot of effort making these picks for you. Their recommendations are a great start.
techpowerup.com - very nicely written and organized reviews. I surf through here often to read the latest articles. They cover a nice range of hardware.
HardOCP - Hard Core Gaming Meets Hard Core Hardware. I guess living in mom's basement allows you to put the rent on that super gaming rig. What I don't understand is how you can afford the hardcore gaming rig, the cost of the games, and the time to play them and still have a job. Maybe mom is the hardcore gamer.
The Tech Report - This is a sweet looking web site and has a great lineup if industry news. Whats new, great article layout and navigation, indepth detail, and nice clean comparisons and benchmarks.
CNET.COM - great price comparisons, so-so reviews. This site is popular.
I look at it more like a high end consumer reports for consumer electronics. They had some great ideas and great talent. Now the site is getting more and more difficult to navigate. In some cases you are looking at advertising thinking its objective unbiased reporting or reviews.
Many of these sites get a commission from retailer for products you buy when you link through their site. CNET has a big advantage here. It may be something for these other sites to consider.
If you help me find a product help me find the best price and you get to keep a commission for bringing me, the customer, together with the retailer.__________________________________
http://www.sharkyextreme.com/ - Great reviews and doesn't really fit being close to the bottom. Check it out and let me know what you think. Maybe we can give it a push. I have been a fan of this site for so long but I seem to get a bit more of what they do well at some of the other sites listed above. So there is nothing that sets this site appart from the rest. I never really considered sharks bottom feeders.
HardwareCentral - not much nice to say - I would rather pick through the dumpster for advise.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Here is the pitch:
I currently use HostDepartment after extensive research while looking for a web hosting provider that offered unlimited service. This provider was ranked 11 out of hundreds for up time and customer satisfaction. So you ask, why not use one of the other 10?
Simple, they don't come close to offering what Hostdepartment offers for half the price. First of all in the top 10, the margins were tight. Secondly, hostdepartment offers the greatest range of services. Non of the others offered ASP and .NET.
I used 1&1 for 3 horrifying years. They gave away the full package. Most of the time it didn't work. When it did I never found out what went wrong. Customer service was non-existent. When I did get them online or the phone they acted like they were doing me a favor.
Go Daddy is almost impossible to navigate. In one case the GoDaddy support couldn't direct me to a link to find the FTP hostname (he was trying to be helpful and friendly though). I won't manage a GoDaddy site just out of past frustration. Also much of what GoDaddy advertises HostDepartment does cheaper or free without the severe limits. From the GoDaddy ads we see that big breasts sell web hosting and it seems like the same girl in the ads designed their user interface.
So why don't I host my own web server? What's the point, Hostdepartment can do anything I need and gives me features that are too time consuming to manage on my own. If you want to do it, you may as well do it right.
Unlimited Bandwidth - I have software free for download, I don't have to worry about getting billed extra or having my site blocked. Besides, run a good sized web site and watch how much bandwidth you consume just managing it. Also they have huge pipes out to the Internet.
Unlimited Space - I host photo sites and historical software archives with no worries. You can't use this as personal file storage. Basically you can't expect to store your entire DVD collection on your site. Just about anything else I'm sure you can get away with.
Unlimited URLs - I host many websites for fun and business. My Dad, the church, my sons, and friends all have their own space to develop pages. I pay the same monthly fee. There is a $13 charge to register the URL with DNS. But after that its free for life.
7/24 Support - They provide online and by phone support and they usually are assisting me in seconds. When the problem gets technical they have support engineers working with me to solve my problem. In many cases the problems were related to my code and compatibility with the web server. They would assist me in each case to make sure I could achieve my goals. Sometimes it was a matter of pointing out bugs in my code.
The SHIFT guarantee:
excerpt from a letter sent to HostDepartment customers:
What the SHIFT Guarantee basically offers is that if you eventually decide to move to another web host, which mean we have been unsuccessful in convincing you to keep using our services, we will pay your first month hosting fee at your new web host, in CASH. Payable immediately after you sign up with your new web host via PayPal or a credit directly to your credit card account.
They have various packages that offer different levels of service. If you manage a bunch of sites for family or business you can also be your own re-seller. This is a offered as a seperate package. For your personal and your business use you can host as many sites you want. Read the fine print for details.
I did the ground work for you. I tested this service for a year with very little growing pains. Click one of the banner ads and Hostdepartment will give me a finders fee if you purchase a package. If you have questions that their support can't help you with I likely can. I have lots of friends and developers with accounts that can help me to answer your questions also.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Starbucks make some damm good coffee but they make some good money as well. I pay enough for the coffee so how about some free WiFi. Starbucks is partnered with Tmobile providing WiFi for the Insane, I mean insanely rich, I mean at insanely high prices. The only thing good for you and your wallet at Starbucks is the water (from the tap), everything else will cost you in one way or another.
When your out of town make it a bit more of an adventure. Look at it like finding that hidden treasure and try something that you don't do everyday at home. This is your opportunity.
You just add the state code like shown below for NC.
The site is easy to follow providing links to the shops offering the free service where available.
Jwire has it all.
Free Offline and Online tools:
With JiWire Hotspot Helper for Windows XP adds security, email help, and Hotspot locations that you can lookup without being connected.
Wi-Fi Hotspot finder works with XP and Mobile devices, including the IPHONE.
ToolBars and Widgets add support for the MAC and Support for SKYPE.
Here is a eweek article with more listings:
Unlike the extremely expensive tests Dr. House runs to diagnose a patients problems, Sysnternals is free. Like the MRI, SysInternals can tell you everything you ever needed to know and more. For this reason I recommend you use the link to Microsoft at the top of this page to find what you need. I watched the process evolve after Microsoft bought SysInternals. I would like to give Microsoft a "DIGITAL HIGH FIVE" not only offering these tools for free but for the great job they did on their web site presenting them to the customer.
File and Disk Utilities - Utilities for viewing and monitoring file and disk access and usage.
Networking Utilities - Networking tools that range from connection monitors to resource security analyzers.
Process Utilities -Utilities for looking under the hood to see what processes are doing and the resources they are consuming.
Security Utilities - Security configuration and management utilities, including rootkit and spyware hunting programs.
System Information - Utilities for looking at system resource usage and configuration.
Miscellaneous Utilities -A collection of diverse utilities that includes a screen saver, presentation aid, and debugging tool.
In your case I hope the patient lives.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Windows XP doesn't let you format a large hard drive in anything but NTFS
Why would you need to format a > 32GB hard drive in Windows XP with the FAT32 file system?
If you want to share files across Vitual Machines or if you want to format a stand alone multimedia player or device you can't use NTFS.
I ran into Microsoft's crippled format utility. Here is a method that allows you to format any size hard drive as FAT32 in Windows XP.
Download this utility:
I extracted this into the Windows directory so it would be in the system path. This app runs from the command prompt. If you extracted this into the WIndows directory you click the START button, RUN, then type in cmd. When a black box pops up you simply type "fat32format g:" where g: is the drive letter you are trying to format.
Friday, October 19, 2007
This is a great light weight alternative to FRAPS. FRAPS may be very well worth the price tag but if they cut the price by 50% I think they would make twice the money. For most of us CamStudio will do the job. CamStudio is best for capturing the entire screen. If your capturing video from a source such as a web cam or "video in" then this might not be the best solution.
Virtual Dub might be a better choice:
This is off the subject of video screen capture:
Check out: http://www.videohelp.com/guides?listall=1&orderby=Date
Choose the How To category to get the guide you want. Most of these guides require a fair amount of skill to follow. With these guides you can do just about anything you can do with a commercial product like InterVideo DVD Copy (my choice) but it will require much more attention and effort. Intervideo has the best quality encoding, its fast for most jobs, and the interface is very intuitive
I have tried or own most of the products tested in the link above. InterVideo DVD Copy 5 is the only way to go. If you follow the next link you will see the article that most sold me on Intervideo. http://www.dvd.box.sk/articles8.php
I will do a post on video encoding at a later time. Its an interesting and detailed topic. I touched on turning Windows Movie maker into a HD professional movie maker in a previous post. The same encoder can stream media and convert video to a web friendly size.
Fraps - Realtime Video Capture Software
If you havent used FRAPS in some time you should try it out again.
I'm a fan of FRAPS, I just wish this was affordable.
Fraps can capture audio and video up to 2560x1600 on dual-core CPUs (1152x864 single-core) at up to 100 frames per second! Remember a Hollywood movie is 24 frames / sec.
Fraps works and works well. The free version has a water mark and is limited to 30 sec clips.
The full version is $37.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Blender is the free open source 3D content creation suite, available for all major operating systems under the GNU General Public License.
More fun with blenders, but don't try this at home, at least until you have made a few margaritas.