Archive for August 2011

DEAL: Gateway Core i5 Laptop for $449

image Now be advised, I consider Gateway (owned by ACER) along with HP, Toshiba, ASUS and others to be 2nd tier compared to the cream of the crop, who these days is Dell and Lenovo.  That being said, this is a great price for a laptop with this kind of power and this kind of storage – that’s why I’m telling you about it.

Best Buy has this Gateway laptop with an i5 processor, 500GB hard drive, 720p HD display, built-in webcam, HDMI port, gigabit Ethernet network port and wireless-n connectivity.

For the price, this is a great deal.  It comes with a one year warranty, and if it doesn’t break in the first couple of months you’re probably ok.

Gateway isn’t the same company you may be thinking of from 10 years ago, but it’s not a horrible company or I wouldn’t be telling you about this deal (just try to find the last time I recommended an HP laptop.)

Here’s the link to Best Buy’s page:

Watching TV Over the Internet

image Eventually, this is where most people will be.  Right now it’s about 5% (mostly geeks) who are doing it.  But if you want to see how far you can go with TV via the Internet, the Wall Street Journal has an article that looks at three set top boxes that connect to both the Internet and your TV.  Right now, there is NO option that will fully replace your cable, satellite or fiber optic (Verizon’s FIOS or AT&T’s UVerse) as far as selection – they will only get here kicking and screaming. Many prime time shows can be seen the next day or at worse, maybe 2 weeks later.  Sports however can be different.  Most live sports are NOT available over the Internet.  Getting your local channels with an antenna is your best chance so far for sports and shows like the Academy Awards.

Here’s the link to the WSJ article:

How Fast Can You Type?

imageWaaaaay back when I was in junior-high school (called middle-school here in Texas) we didn’t have personal computers.  When we typed, we typed on typewriters.  They even had a course in typing (which I took) and I finished typing 32 words per minute (which I felt good about at the time.)

Now you can take a typing test online to see how fast you type (I just took it and I did 44 words per minutes – who says you slow down with age?) 

So the site is  When you go there, you can choose how long you want the test to take and what the topic is you’re typing about.

Here’s the link to the site – go have fun and see how well you do:

Spam of the Week – PayPal Phishing

imageThis week’s SPAM OF THE WEEK is a phishing attempt to get you to open an attachment.  You received an email that says an email address (that of course you’ve never heard of) has been added to your PayPal account.  This is meant to scare you into wanting to protect your account and get you to open the attachment.  The attachment is a form only asking for your name, contact info, birthdate, s-s-n and credit card info.  What could they possibly do with any of that information?

First, anytime you get a message that something is wrong with one of your accounts, if you believe it’s legitimate go DIRECTLY to the web site in your web browser, DO NOT use a link in the email to get to the site.   Bad guys are out there – don’t get fooled by them!


“Dear Paypal Customer,
       You have added [email protected] as a new email address for your Paypal account.
       If you did not authorize this change, check with family members and others who may have
       access to your account first. If you still feel that an unauthorized person has changed
       your email, submit the form attached to your email in order to keep your original email
       and restore your Paypal account.
       If you are using Internet Explorer please allow ActiveX for scripts to perform all data transfers
       Thank you for using Paypal !”

Does Using Facebook Encourage Your Teen to Abuse Drugs and Alcohol?

image The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University says it does.  Not only that, they say it “constitutes child abuse”.

Personally, I think they’re going a little overboard, but their point is that with today’s social networking sites like MySpace (who still uses that) and Facebook is it easy for kids to see pictures of their friends who are passed out drunk or using drugs.  According to the study (that they sponsored) half of the teens who used social networking sites have seen pictures of other teens drinking, passed out or using drugs.

I’m always skeptical of studies and the article is PC magazine also mentions the comments of some who question the study.  I DO believe parents have a role in knowing what their children are doing online and frankly, in life in general.  If you don’t know who your children’s friends are in the real world then you CERTAINLY don’t know who their friends on the Internet.

Here’s the link to the PC Magazine article:

Get a LOT of Money Back if You Bought an HP Touchpad Tablet

imageHP announced this last week that is was going to sell off it’s consumer computer division and shut down its WebOS division (the company it bought a year ago that makes Palm phones.)  The HP Touchpad Tablet that just came out in the last couple of months is one of the casualties.  As a result there is basically a fire sale of all Touchpad Tablets in the stores – only $99.  So if you bought one you can try going back to your retailer or contact HP about getting a refund of the difference from what you paid.  DON’T go out and buy one at this price unless you’re feeling geeky AND are hoping that someone will someday figure out how to put Android on it.  WebOS is an operating system that’s not compatible with iPad or Android apps, so the few apps that exist for it are all you’re likely to ever get.

If you’re in the market for a tablet, even though I’m a total fan of Android phones, the iPad is still the single best choice in the tablet category.  The Android tablets with the latest version of its operating system called “Ice Cream Sandwich” will be out in a couple of months and maybe things will change, but until then, stick with the iPad.

Keep Your Laptop (and your lap) Cool

imageIf you have a laptop keeping it cool is one of the best ways to ensure its longevity (not dropping it onto a tile floor is another way.)  Actually, heat is a computer’s greatest enemy, along with an open cup of coffee sitting next to the keyboard.  Keeping your computer cool when it’s sitting on a desk will not only help prolong its life, it will protect your desk, and if you’ve ever actually used your laptop in your lap you KNOW how hot these things can get.  Laptops run coolest when air can circulate beneath them, setting them on a blanket or pillow only prevents airflow and can contribute to overheating.  Mashable has a short article reviewing 10 different cooling solutions for your laptop.  So if your laptop runs hot along the bottom, or your cooling fan seems to always be blowing at high speed, check this out:

The PERFECT Back-to-School Item for Your Sleepy Student Who Won’t Wake Up

imageDo you have to scream and shake the bed to get your school bound child up in the morning?  Well, now you can have the alarm clock do it for you.  A company called Sonic Alert that specializes in hearing related solutions has created a product called the “Sonic Bomb”.  Not only does the Sonic Bomb have a LOUD 113db alarm (adjustable) and bright blinking lights, it also comes with their “Super Shaker” bed vibrating unit that while it won’t make you fall out of bed, will certainly let you know it’s time to get up.  It’s only $43 and available direct from Sonic Alert.  So if your “sleepy head” child just doesn’t want to wake up, plant a bomb (a Sonic Bomb) in their bedroom.  Here’s the link to Sonic Alert’s site:

DEAL: Epson Wireless All-in-One Printer $99.99

imageOffice Depot has the Epson WorkForce 635 on sale for half-off.  This is an excellent wireless printer, scanner, copier and fax machine.  It also does double-sided printing to save paper.  Being wireless you can 1) put it anywhere there is an electrical outlet since it doesn’t have to be next to your computer and 2) all the computers in your home or office can print to it, both Mac and Windows.  This printer has a 250 sheet capacity, so you won’t be loading it with paper so often and a 2.5” screen that you can actually preview photos from a memory card on before printing.

School is about to start and this deal ends tomorrow, so if you need a printer, head out to Office Depot or go online a pick this one up.  Here’s the link to the Office Depot page:

DEAL: Wireless Laser Printer Only $45

imageNewegg has the Samsung ML-1865w Workgroup Laser Printer on sale for $49.99 ($70 off).  At checkout add the coupon code EMCKBJD85 and get another $5 off.  This is a GREAT way to save on the cost of black ink for your ink jet printer, toner for a laser printer is much cheaper per page and will quickly pay for itself.  Use your ink jet printer for color printing, and the laser for black and white and pocket the money you’ll save.  This printer is also wireless so you’ll be able to print to it from all your computers anywhere in the house or office.  So if you do much black and white printer, snatch up this deal.  Here’s the link (and don’t forget the promo code at checkout):

Happy Birthday to the IBM PC

imageIn 1981, a new Ford Mustang cost $6,500, gas was $1.25 a gallon and the shuttle Columbia made its first flight. Oh yeah, this little company called IBM rolled out its first personal computer.  It came with 16K (that’s kilobytes, not megabytes or gigabytes) of memory, a 5 1/4” floppy (and I do mean floppy) disc, you could buy an external expansion kit that allowed you to connect a 10 megabyte hard drive to it.  It sold THEN for $3,005 (remember, that’s WITHOUT a hard drive.)  In today’s dollars that would be $7,462.

So go buy a cake, put a candle in it and celebrate the fact that you didn’t have to pay over $7,000 for your computer.  If you’d like to see the very first television commercial for the IBM PC, follow this link:

Get Your Google Plus Invite

imageI have 150 Google+ invites to give away.  Just use this link to create your Google+ account are you’re off and running.  Then you can invite your friends to join, create your social circles and begin to really enjoy Google+.  Here’s the link:

Walmart Shutting Down its online .mp3 Store

imageWalmart has announced that it is shutting down its .mp3 store.  In late 2007 eliminate its DRM (Digital Rights Management) copy protection on mp3 downloads.  What that means is that if you downloaded a .mp3 file without DRM, then you’re good and the file will continue to play on anything you want.  If your .mp3 files were downloaded WITH Walmart’s DRM then in order to play the song, it must first be authenticated by a Walmart server that you have permission to play the song. 

At some point Walmart will shut down its DRM servers (this just demonstrates the whole problem with copy protection used by the music and movie industry) and your DRM encoded music will no longer play.

So what can you do?  If you downloaded music from Walmart in 2007 or earlier, you should burn those songs to a CD.  Once you have it on a CD, then you can re-encode back to .mp3 without the copy protection and you’ll always have access to those songs.

Lady Gaga found dead in hotel room? Beware Facebook clickjacking scam

imageThat’s right – Lady Gaga is alive and well all you little monsters, so DON’T you click on it and follow the link.  If you follow the link what will happen is that it will do what is known as a “clickjack” – you think you’re clicking on one thing but it’s really something else.  If you follow the link and attempt to play the video, you’re actually “liking” the post and therefore sending it to all your friends on Facebook.  That’s how these things spread.  It’s also not know if there is malware being sent to your computer, so just be careful and REMOVE the post from your wall (you can just click on the faint “x” on the right of the post.)

Don’t Panic (yet) About Facial Recognition

imageIf you’ve use the facial recognition in Google’s Picasa for your photos, you know how cool and surprisingly accurate it can be – just tell it that this one photo is of “John” and suddenly it picks out 50 photos of John.  Pretty amazing indeed.  When Facebook announced that it was going to use facial recognition to help tag your friend in photos, there was a loud but brief outcry and now it’s no longer mentioned much.  People just figured that being tagged in photos that only your friends saw was no big deal.

I can tell you as someone who has worked with databases for years, that there just might be reason to rethink the whole facial recognition thing.

So let’s start with Facebook.  Either with your permission or else being identified by a friend – Facebook probably has the image of your face associated with your name.  Now, if you haven’t given them permission to use it, then you might feel secure, but there’s a good chance they still have your face associated with your name.

A lot of people have poor or no security to speak of set up with Facebook, and as a result it is available to the world.  The world has LOTS of other databases to work with.  If information from one database (like Facebooks) can be related to data in another database, then the combined information becomes even more valuable.  If your Facebook information has your photo, name, city where you live and maybe your high school, that could easily be associated with information from say or that would include your entire resume and business associates, or maybe, where now they can associate your photo to your age and sexual orientation.  With your name and home address, it’s not hard using public records databases to figure out how expensive your home is and how much you would need to make to pay for it.

My point is that even though one source may not have a very complete “picture” of you (no pun intended) it’s not hard to combine common information from several databases to create a more complete profile of you.

So what can you do?  Well, for starters when a site asks for my birthdate, I use the year I graduated from high school – they only need to know you’re over 13 or 18 as the case may be.  Secondly, when they ask for something like your mother’s maiden name – LIE!  Why tell them (or anyone else) the truth.  Make up a phony name for her maiden name, and use it instead.  It will never match with “official” records and keep you just a little more secure.

Remember, just because a site says it will keep your information confidential doesn’t mean they won’t get hacked and the information leaked anyway.  Just keep in mind that ANYTHING you input on a website could possibly become public and combined with information you’ve given to other sites.  Maintaining your privacy is up to you.

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