Archive for February 2010

Price Check

February 26, 2010

I have quit buying stuff at the local True Value store because they no longer offer true value or any value at all.

Most recently I needed a J-trap for a sink repair. I could not use the cheaper PVC type. I needed the old fashioned brass type. I went to the true value store first because it is closer. They wanted $10 for the part! I figured I could do better at Home Depot and I did. Handy Homer wanted $7 for the same part. Still more than I wanted to pay but certainly better than $10.

Today I heard that True Value stores are having a 20 percent off sale. That sounds like a good deal until you realize that their everyday prices are nearly 30 percent higher than the competition.

Home Depot would have to raise their prices by almost 10 percent to give you the same deal you would get at True Value 20 percent off sale.

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Debit Card

February 25, 2010

We don’t max out our credit cards anymore. We do not have any credit cards anymore. Now we max out out debit cards.

debit cards are great. No checks to write. No bills to pay. No credit limits because it is pay as you go so there is no interest either. No interest to pay. No interest to go up. None of the downsides you experience with credit cards because we do not use credit.

I hear that banks don’t want to loan. I will go you one better, I don’t want to borrow.

When I use the debit card I always get asked if I want cash back. I don’t understand that. I use a debit card because it is more convenient than writing checks and safer than carrying cash.

The last time I was asked if I wanted cash back, I told them SURE, how much you got, I’ll take it all. Thanks for the fact that the cashier had a sense of humor.

No I don’t want cash back if it is drawn against my account. I use a debit card so that I don’t need to carry cash.

What is so hard for these folk to understand that. The only thing I can see that would make this logical is that the bank charges plenty for cash withdrawls against a debit card. Either way, I have no reason to find out or desire to do so.

The Case for Netflix

February 16, 2010

Back in the good old days cable was a luxury. The luxury of lots of channels to choose from and not so many commercial interruptions. It came at a price. Over time that price began to escalate along with commercial interruptions. You could improve the viewing experience by subscribing to one of the premium channels. This cost extra. Usually about an additional ten dollars a month.

Premium channels were better but after you discovered they had a limited number of movies that they showed over and over and over all month long, you began to wonder if the ten dollars was a waste of money.

If you did not want to wait until the next months line-up, you could always go rent a movie at Blockbuster.

Cable business must have been good because it did not take long before there was competition from Direct-TV and Dish Network. This was good because it put a lid on cost to the consumer.

The programming was the same regardless of which of the three services you chose so there was no penalty for chosing the most cost effective.

Today we have Standard cable (Time Warner), Dish Network, Direct TV, ATT Uverse, and Fios.
Both ATT and Fios are fibre optic services that also provide high speed internet access. ATT seems to be the most reasonably priced. TimeWarner also provides internet access but at a higher unjustifiable cost.

Programming content has not improved with time. If anything it has become worse. The number and frequency of ‘paid programs’ has increased. So called paid programs are infomercials trying to sell stuff no one wants to buy. They are an insult to the viewer who is paying for programs that he expects to be entertaining.

I have also noticed that the little logos in the lower right hand corner of the screen appear to be growing in size. I really do not need a logo to remind me which station I am tuned to but I don’t begrudge the broadcasters the desire to identify themselves on the screen. I do take offense when they add notices of upcomming attractions for which I have no interest.

Then there are the popups. These are more than just annoying. It is like being spammed in real time while you are trying to enjoy a program of interest.

It is becomming more and more difficult to find programs of interest.

Before we got cable we were viewing local off air channels. Out of ten channels we had trouble finding new and interesting programming. I remember telling my wife that with cable we would just have hundreds of channels to surf and most likely would still not find new and interesting programming. The only difference would be the increased cost. I was right.

One more annoyance is the weekly required tests that Uverse seems to think are important enough to do during prime time. There is no requirement on my part to endure these nasty noisy tests.

In summary, I just do not believe in paying for a ‘service’ that insists on annoying the vewer. Sure I can turn it off but then I am still paying and now for something I am not using.

Netflix to the rescue. We first started subscribing to Netflix when they first started up. Back then it cost fifteen dollars a month ,as I recall, and it was a ‘by mail only’ service. They mailed you a DVD, you watched it and returned it in the prepaid envelope. Then they would mail out another DVD, the next selection on your want list. No late fees, no driving to a store, no waiting in line, no hassles. Not as convenient as tuning in HBO but you were not being charged for viewing the same four movies over and over and over for a month at a time.

I don’t remember when Netflix started streaming movies over the internet, but doing so turned them into a serious media service. Now you could get movies without having to wait for the mail. They still mail out DVDs, but if you have a high speed internet connection and a computer you have access to more movies than premium channels could provide in a lifetime. Netflix did all this and also dropped the subscription fee from fifteen dollars a month to ten dollars a month. I would much rather pay ten dollars for access to all the movies in the world, on demand, than pay ten dollars for a ‘premium’ service that lets me watch four movies of their choice over and over and over again.

With Netflix there are no:
1. commercials
2. annoying logos
3. disruptive testing
4. high costs
5. unreasonable charges for HD
6. popups
7. late fees
8. trips to a store
9. no equipment rental fees
10. no specal installation

All those cable anoyances suddenly dissappear as well as the high cost and scams designed to seperate you from your money.

Netflix delivers where cable dissappoints. Netflix provides interesting programs all the time. Instead of surfing channels we now surf the Netflix website.

Turns out you don’t even have to have a computer to enjoy Netflix.

Last December our old DVD player finally quit working. We found a Samsung BD-P1590 Blu-ray Disc Player on sale for under $150. Not only was this the first Blu-ray player priced under $300 that I have seen, it also has an ethernet connection allowing it to recieve Netflix and Pandora programming. Goodby set-top boxes, hello Samsung!

Yeah but what about sports and news! I am not a sports fan. I would rather watch a good movie than a game. Off the air programming is still available. Get a conversion box if you don’t have an HD TV. Or, if you have a decent computer set up, get a USB HDTV dongle. Some of these cost less than a converterbox (under $50). Check your video card. Some have a TV out connection that would let you watch the programs on your standard TV.

SPAM

February 12, 2010

At the bottom of this blog page, in the right column, is a banner identifying itself as SPAM claming 251 spam blocked.

It has been claiming that same score ever since it showed up after the last upgrade. I have no idea where it came from or why. I do suspect it is spam itself and completely worthless.

As soon as I figgure out how to delete it and any software that belongs to it, it will be gone.

I use a different program to get rid of spam. A program that does not waste space displaying worthless banners.

Thermaltake TR2 430w power supply

February 12, 2010

Some time ago my son-in-law experienced a major failure in his external hard drive storage system. He pulled the whole thing and replaced it with a new system. He boxed up the old system and let me have it. One of the external hard drive cases was a Thermaltake. I was impressed with that Thermaltake product and wondered why I had not heard of it before.

I have several desk top computers. Some of them are Dells. The other two are generic clones. All of them have had power supply problems. One Dell and both of the ATX cones have had their power supplies replaced. Unfortunately I chose to replace them with the same cheap trash that caused the failures in the first place. So when one of the ATX clones had another power supply failure I decided to upgrade to a decent power supply.

I found a Thermaltake ATX power supply priced at $33.50. It was new and the shipping was another $7.

The Thermaltake looks like it will do the job. It is about twice the weight of any of the cheap supplies, sports two temperature controlled fans and has all the multitude of cables individually laced with neatly installed cable harnessing.

Any new systems I decide to build will have a Thermaltake power supply.

No more cheap supplies. No more cases with built-in power supplies. No more bare bones kits where quality is sacrificed for price. No more Dells.

Actually, now that I have discovered Apple notebooks there will probably not be anymore cludgey clones.