Archive for January 2009

Yellow Pages

January 16, 2009

Back in the 60’s the phone book used to have two sections. A white pages for residential numbers and a yellow pages for commercial numbers. As the population grew so did the phone book until soon we had an entire book devoted to yellow pages.

Today we find vendors and phone numbers for friends over the internet. We don’t need no stinkin phone books. They just take up counter space. Besides, I don’t have enough room in my SUV to store the darn things. The books are hard to use and close to worthless. The yellow book has gotten to be a low cost advertising rag with coupons in the back for stuff I don’t need.

Besides, if I don’t know a person well enough to have his phone number I probably don’t need to talk to him in the first place.

So, when the new phone book was delivered to our front porch in its large plastic bag with the substantial handles, we escorted the thing out the back door for garbage pickup. Got there just in time for the recycling truck to grab the thing. How interesting. Maybe they will turn it into next years phone book or maybe something useful, like roofing shingles.

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Computer Problems

January 10, 2009

I rescued a 1.6ghz Athlon about three years ago. It had a burned up power supply connector on the motherboard. The connector was toasted due to the failure of a third party cooling fan. Fan motor shorted and pulled enough current to fry the connector.

The connector was replace with one salvaged from a defunct ATX motherboard and we were in business with a new computer.

For years I had been using hard drive trays. Long ago I invested in a hard drive tray system and installed it into all the computers I used on a regular basis. With a tray system you can remove the hard drive without opening the computer case. It is an easy way to change out, upgrade, secure, and play with various operating systems and have fun in general.

Well, the drive tray system had been in use for over ten years which was probably five years too long. The connectors started to get flakey. I even replaced some of them with new cables but problems just seemed to grow as time went on. Eventually the new, rescued, computer required rescuing from the hard drive tray system.

After I junked the tray system the athlon began performing as it was supposed to and I was finally able to turn it into a very reliable PVR running WindowsXP+SP2.

Its got a Hauppague TV tuner card which does mpeg2 with on-board hardware, 2gig of ram memory, SATA controller running a 250gig hard drive, IDE controller running 80gig-60gig-and DVD burner, video card with TV out (s-video) to run a seperate TV in the den, on-board100mhz ethernet, and usb and firewire ports.

This PC is finally a true media machine allowing recording off-air (has a digital conversion box but also has a digital TV tuner running into one USB port), and off cable. Every bit as good as a TIVO for quality but not quite the same control. Should have bought a TIVO in the first place and saved some money.

Oh well, it has finally become a reliable system and it is paid for.

Main lesson learned on this PC is don’t play around with removable hardware and use new cables when installing drives especially onto an old machine.

Saving

January 7, 2009

You could go bankrupt taking advantage of all the ‘savings’ offered by those companies who have nothing better to do than advertise impossibly good deals on TV and radio.

But wait, thats not all. No, it is not all by a long shot. Promises of 50 percent off, buy one- get one free, and $500 savings on insurance are meaningless without knowing what it will actually cost you.

You might well wonder 50 percent off what? Ever notice they do not tell you the price? That is so you can’t compare it with offers from the competition. The buy one – get one free scam is even more insidious. Mainly because the second item is usually not needed or wanted. You end up paying a premium for something you don’t need.

Insurance companies that offer you $500 savings without disclosing their rates are pure scam artists. How can you trust them to insure you when they try to scam you with deceptive advertising?

just remember you can save 100 percent by not doing business with these scamers. Now that is a real savings.

LED Flashlight Deal

January 7, 2009

I recently had need of some computer related hardware and found that, as usual, the Geeks were offering what I needed at a very reasonable price. They were also offering an LED flashlight marked down from $5 to $3.50. I could use a decent flashlight and the price was attractive so I ordered the flashlight as well.

As I suspected the flashlight was made in China. That was okay by me but the foul smelling rubber sleeve on the body of the flashlight was not something I could live with at any price. No wonder the thing had been marked down in price. Had I found the thing in a store in person, they would have had to pay me to dispose of this toxic waste.

I will have to admit that the flashlight worked well. It was just its foul odor that was objectionable.

After a couple of days I finally found that I could cut off and discard the rubber grip without any trouble. That got rid of the smell and now I have a perfectly usable flashlight.

It provided an intense beam of solid white light and runs off three AAA batteries. I have no idea as to battery life but after having used it for about two weeks the batteries still seem strong.

One other interesting note. This flashlight contains 20 high intensity white LEDs. Even on the surplus market these devices sell for a pretty penny. Last time I checked the best deal on high intensity white LEDs was three for a dollar. At that rate the LEDs in that $3.50 flashlight are worth around $7. So if you are in need of some good LEDs for a DIY project, you might consider buying a $3.50 flashlight and saving some money.

USB cables

January 6, 2009

I’m not sure what USB actually stands for. I’m pretty sure it is not even close to the off color words I have made up for it. It all began when I bought a USB TV tuner for my computer. The thing was under $50 and does digital as well as analog off air reception. It came with a USB extension cable which came in handy because all my computers were designed by idiots that put the USB connectors on the back of the computer cabinet.

I was not overly impressed with the TV tuner device. It worked but I did not trust it to keep working so I put it aside and moved the extension cable to the computer in the ‘radio’ room. That machine also had its USB connectors in the back.

Recently I tried to use that cable with a memory stick to transfer some files. That computer runs Debian and has never failed to recognize the memory stick but this time it would not work. At first I thought it was the memory device. It was a recent acquisition. My wife got it as a free promotional give away at a new Staples opening. I did not expect much but it turns out that the problem was with the USB cable.

As usual problems are always caused by the things you would least expect.

Guess I need to try the TV tuner again now that I have a good cable. How opportune. Just in time for the February switch to digital.