Archive for the 'purchases' Category



08
Nov
08

Pumpkin 2008 and the Arduino Project

I guess this is becoming somewhat of a tradition.  Last year for Halloween, I carved the Pirates logo into my pumpkin.  This year, I decided to spend less time on the carving and more time on the lighting:

After the break, I have some info on the Arduino project and how I got involved.

Continue reading ‘Pumpkin 2008 and the Arduino Project’

08
Sep
08

Ridiculous AT&T Commercials

Over the last few months, AT&T has aired a series of commercials trying to convince the American public that they should use AT&T as their wireless carriers so they can avoid having “no bars” in Belgium, Finland, France, Spain, and, presumably, by extension, Europe in general (and Hong Kong). When I first saw these ads, I couldn’t help wonder how effective these ads could be given that the average American doesn’t go to Europe very often. Any person who decides to go with AT&T on the off chance they wind up in Europe and want to use their American cell phone there has just made a very foolish decision.

Continue reading ‘Ridiculous AT&T Commercials’

29
Aug
08

Another project complete

I had been having trouble figuring out where I could fit exercise into my routine. The problem is that I’m lazy and unless I make exercise really easy to work into my schedule, I won’t do it. I had tried a set of workout tapes we have but working out with Elizabeth around is really difficult. Plus, she has a routine of watching a show on TV starting at 7am, so if I wanted to use the TV without her around, I needed to wrap it up before 7am. The tapes are about 35 minutes and by the time you factor in a few minutes for me to wake up and get dressed I’d basically need to wake up at 6am, which just isn’t going to happen. However, I have an exercise bike and I like reading news websites in the morning, so I thought I could combine the two. After some planning, some purchases, and a lot of sweat (Really. It was really hot in our apartment.) I have a finished product.

Continue reading ‘Another project complete’

15
Aug
08

iPod upgrade

I got my iPod Mini in early 2004 and it’s been pretty solid since, though its relatively small storage capacity has been a source of frustration from time to time.  In the last year, however, the battery life really tanked.  Not only did it not play for long after being charged, but if I charged it up on Friday and didn’t use it all weekend, it would be totally dead on Monday morning.  That got pretty annoying.  So, I had been thinking about buying a new iPod.  I wanted something that had good battery life and large enough capacity to store almost my entire music catalog with some room to spare.  However, I didn’t like the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on a new iPod when my current iPod still basically worked.  So I decided to upgrade my Mini. Continue reading ‘iPod upgrade’

26
Jul
08

What a long, strange (online) trip it’s been

Those of you who know me may have noticed that sometimes I say one thing followed by something seemingly totally unrelated. However, if you were to ask me, I could tell you the entire train of thought that took me from the first statement to the second. I had a similar experience today online. First thing: the Pirates traded Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the Yankees. Second thing: an article about the wedding of a girl I went to high school with.

Continue reading ‘What a long, strange (online) trip it’s been’

26
Jun
08

Electronics going belly-up

My receiver/amplifier has been acting strange for the last few months.  Sometimes, if it’s been on for awhile, the sound just cuts out completely and we have to turn it off and then back on in order to fix the problem.  Sometimes, it seems like the volume just randomly changes, though I can’t tell if that problem is related to the receiver or the crappiness of MIT cable (which has been out all week!).  So, a replacement is in our future but I’ve been holding off because once I graduate we’ll have more money with which to buy a proper A/V setup and I don’t want to buy something now only to find that it won’t work with the other components we plan to upgrade.

To exacerbate our A/V woes, this morning I awoke to the annoying news that our DVD player wasn’t working.  Heather thought she had just pressed some button or something and that maybe I could fix it easily.  I fiddled with it for awhile and I’m now pretty sure that it’s busted.  Bear in mind, this isn’t some cheap $50 no-name DVD player.  This is a $200+ Sony 5-disc changer.  We got it in 2003 as an anniversary present, so I suppose it’s had a good run.  It replaced a Sony 5-disc CD changer which had gone belly-up for the 2nd time (my parents had paid for repairs on it after it died the first time).  Looking back, I think my CD player had an initial life of about 5 years, which was stretched another 2-3 years with the repair.  So, maybe 5 years is a reasonable life expectancy for one of these things.  I don’t know.

Anyway, I looked into getting it repaired.  Rather than having me bring it in somewhere to get a quote, they told me I could just get a replacement.  I give them my busted one and they give me a new or refurbished one and it costs me about $105.  That seemed reasonable.  Then I decided to look at what that $105 would buy me if I bought new.  It turns out that Sony has a single disc HD (1080p) upconverting DVD player with component and HDMI outputs for $80 or a 1080p upconverting 5-disc changer (also with component and HDMI outs) for $130.  So, for $25 less than the replacement cost, I can get a single-disc upconverting player and for $25 over the replacement cost, I can get an upconverting 5-disc changer with HD outs.  I’m pretty sure I’m not going to pay for the replacement.  I just have to decide if it’s worth $50 to get the 5-disc changer.  In any case, I hate the idea of this thing just going into a landfill.  So, I may see if I can just give it back to Sony so they can refurbish it and give it to someone else.  If they won’t take it, I’ll try to give it away at MIT.  Perhaps someone here can fix it, or, failing that, use some of the components that still work for some awesome project that may get them arrested at gunpoint at the airport.

19
Jun
08

A note for those looking for Wii Fit

In about mid-May, I decided to buy Wii Fit for my wife for her birthday.  She had indicated that she wanted to be pretty aggressive in trying to lose her baby weight and from what I had read about it, Wii Fit seemed like a good way to kick start and keep track of weight loss progress, so it seemed like a good, um, fit.  However, I knew it would be tough to find.  I thought about going out to try to find it on launch day (May 21st), but that was my daughter’s birthday and we had a whole day of activities planned.  The following day it was sold out everywhere.  Furthermore, the more I read about it online, the more it became clear that it wouldn’t be easy to find.  I had looked on Walmart.com and used their inventory reports to see availability at brick and mortar stores and while they sometimes reported that they had units in stock, when I called, they inevitably told me that they had just sold their last unit.  Plus, the nearest Walmart is not very near, so this wasn’t a great solution.

On Monday, I decided to step up my game.  I did some more digging online and I found the following two sites: WiiTracker.com and WiiAlerts.com.  These two sites have scripts that trawl all the main retailers and can report their inventory status nearly in real time.  WiiAlerts allows you to enter your cellphone number so that when a product is in stock, you can get a text message telling you so.  It paid off for me this morning.  I got a message shortly after I got up telling me that Circuit City had Wii Fit in stock.  I quickly ordered it and about half an hour ago, I got a shipping confirmation from them.  So, if you’re interested in getting Wii Fit without having to pay extra on sites like eBay or Craigslist, check out the two sites above.  They worked for me!  (Queue cheesy smile and thumbs-up gesture.)

17
May
08

Music news

I think it’s been a while since I’ve written anything about music. That’s not entirely surprising, though, since I didn’t really have anything to write about. Last night, however, I got a new album: Reinventing the Wheel by Andy Gullahorn. I’ve known about him for quite some time since he’s a good friend and frequent collaborator of Andrew Peterson. However, I had never really listened to any of his stuff until the last few days. For some reason, I decided to check out Jill Phillips, who is Andy Gullahorn’s wife and her site led me to his, which I have enjoyed (for its humor content) since the days when he still used Microsoft Word to create it (which is actually not that long ago). Anyway, I found the Youtube ad (which is pretty funny) he created to promote his new album and I got interested in hearing more of his stuff. So, I listened to some of his stuff on his MySpace page and to the 30-second clips of his songs on iTunes.

Finally, I just bought the album.  I don’t regret it. I’ve listened to it the whole way through a few times and I really like it. There are a few stand-out songs on it, either because I really like the music (“Original Cliche”, “Nobody Wants to Work”), or because the subject matter resonates with me (“That Guy”, “More of a Man”). Overall, it’s a solid album. He is a very talented guitarist and a capable singer. Although much of his website and his commercial is very silly, his songs are pretty sober (except for “Roast Beef”, which is about his friend, Andrew Osenga, losing one of his toes to his lawnmower).  Well, I would say that the themes in the songs are sober, but the way in which they’re presented is sometimes silly.  I think I would liken it to a good serious movie – some humorous elements are interspersed in order to prevent the movie from becoming totally morose.

In any case, many of the songs are thought-provoking, so I feel like the album is intellectually and/or spiritually satisfying as well as musically satisfying.  He’s a Christian and some of the songs have Christian themes, but I would say that this album is generally more accessible to non-Christians than Andrew Peterson’s albums.  In fact, probably only 3 (out of 11) songs have explicitly Christian themes (“Desperate Man”, “That Guy”,”Holy Ground”).  He sings about his family a lot (“How Precious Life Is”, “Desperate Man”, “Alright Here”, “More of a Man”,”Enough Time”, “Give It Time”) , which resonates strongly with me but might not be so powerful to single folks or those with no kids.  If you’re intrigued by my assessment of it, check out his stuff on his MySpace page and listen to it for yourself.

03
May
08

More excited than I should be

After 5 years of using my laptop, I finally got a replacement for the little red pointing stick on my IBM laptop.  They come in packs of 6 – two each of three different styles.  The excitement I feel about such a small, cheap item is surprising.

26
Apr
08

Microsoft Ultimate Steal

A few days ago I ordered Microsoft Office 2007 Ultimate edition online for $59.95.  I know what you’re thinking: “I can’t believe he ordered something from one of those sketchy ‘legal softw@re sales’ spam emails that I always get.”  Don’t worry – I didn’t.

I ordered it from this site, which is a promotion run by Microsoft to put Office in the hands of students at a bargain price.  In order to qualify, you need to have an email address ending in “.edu”.  Additionally, you’re supposed to be registered for at least a 50% class load, however they don’t ask for proof of this upfront.  Rather, they say that someone may contact you later and ask for that proof.  If you can’t supply it, you’ll have to pay the full price for the software, which is $679.  Ouch.  I legitimately meet both criteria, so it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up.

Getting Office is a huge expense, even if you get it pre-installed on a new computer, so this kind of offer is really helpful and will obviate the need for me to get a copy when we hopefully upgrade our desktop computer sometime in the next year.  Plus, it will be useful right now since we’ve been using a combination of Microsoft Works (which is terrible) and my old copy of Office 97, which is missing a bunch of useful features.

If any of you, my readers, qualify for the offer or if you know people who do, I should tell you that the offer ends on April 30th at 11:59pm.  The base price of $59.95 gets you the software as a download, which is accessible online for 30 days.  For $5.95 extra, you can get online access to the installation file(s) for 2 years.  Or, for $12.95 extra, they will send you the installation DVD (there’s no additional charge for shipping).  I choose the latter option because I just like having physical media.

So, if you’re still using Microsoft Works or Office 97 (like I was) or if you use OpenOffice and hate it (like I do) then get moving and take advantage of this offer before it ends.




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