Time for an update?

It most certainly is. I have been away from the blog for awhile but after stumbling across some of my old posts and enjoying what I read, I decided to come back and see how this feels.

30 Years! Our high school class of 1982 president sent a message recently asking for input on how we wanted to handle a reunion. My goodness – 30 years. As my mom and I agreed, the mind does not age but the body fools us when we look in the mirror and don’t see that person we knew from back then.

Milestones: Laura’s daughter Kayla is graduating from Butler University this month. I remember the feeling of having the world in front of me, having all options open to me – and it was overwhelming. Kayla has the smarts, contacts and experience to handle what’s in front of her and I’m looking forward to helping in any way I can.

New friends: Facebook is a huge time waster, but I have recently found a group of fellow diabetes insipidus buddies that makes my visits to Facebook leaving me feeling like that time spent is more productive. What a wealth of information! Connecting with those that have many of the same experiences has been comforting. It’s also a place where I can contribute my knowledge and hopefully help others gain some understanding.

Marty with his JackBacks iPhone back.

Technology geek: Not a high-tech gadget, but combining wood with the glass and aluminum that makes up my iPhone has proven to be just the individual piece of flair I was looking for. I found JackBacks, “real wood iPhone accessories,” and ordered the Amber Bamboo wooden back. I like it. My goal was to get rid of the cover I was using, even though it was pretty minimal, to better show off the design of the phone while throwing some of my personality at it. I think I nailed it!

Finances: Always on my mind. I like to think I’m in a little better control and see some positives very soon. My hope is that I mellow out on the whole money thing but I don’t think I’m wired that way. Somebody, give me something else to worry about!

Health: I see my doctor at least four times per year and I’d like to cut that back to twice a year. To do that, I need to get back on the healthy side by exercising and eating properly. Sounds so easy, right!?

Square Credit Card Terminal for iPhone

Square Card Reader
Square Card Reader for iPhone

After a few weeks of anticipation I received my Square card reader in the mail yesterday. For a gadget freak this makes for a great day. What is Square? It’s a company, an app, and a hardware device all in one that sheds the traditional expenses and complications of acquiring and using a credit card terminal for the ease and simplicity of downloading a free app and accepting credit card payments via your iPhone.

No, this is not for everyone although I see immediate benefits for those that have the opportunity to sell their products and services but not the means to take credit card payments. Have a booth at at art fair? Collecting money from parents for kid’s soccer, baseball or football uniforms? Collecting donations? This is a super easy way to do so. Enter the amount to collect, add a note, optionally take a photo of the item, swipe the card and send an email receipt to the customer. Your money is deposited into the account of your choice weekly.

You do have to watch the expenses though. First of all, consider you may not have made that sale in the first place if you did not have the ability to collect via credit card. Then, realize 2.75% + 15 cents per transaction will be removed by Square before deposits are made. (If you collect more than $1,000 other conditions apply.)

I’m open for business and now accepting credit card payments with my Square device – anybody care to make a donation? Check it out at https://squareup.com/

Experimenting with YouTube – Cape Cod Photos

Just to see how easy it is, I posted a video to YouTube that was made from some photos I took while I was on a work trip a few years back. It didn’t use to be this easy. Really.

Oh, I did have the music 38 Special “Caught Up In You” as the background music, but upon uploading, YouTube politely (umm – no) let me know that was copyrighted material and suggested the tune that now backs the video.

Cool Tech Stuff: Gmail Themes and Dropbox

Just noticed Google Gmail now has themes (find it under settings, themes). While I appreciate the uncluttered look of the traditional Gmail, I suppose there are many users who’d like to spice it up a bit. Those over 40 should show those under 40 the ASCII theme and reminisce about how we used to see our email (see screen shot at left). Wow, we’ve come a long way.

The second tech find I’m using is called Dropbox. Find it at www.getdropbox.com. Dropbox is an online storage / synchronizing service that is simple – it just works. They say “Dropbox is the easiest way to share and store your files online.” I’m sure there is some heavy duty stuff going on behind the scenes, but the programmers have done an excellent job of making the customer interface very simple. 2GB free, 50GB for $99. I love the fact that you can access your files from any internet-connected computer. Also, sharing photos is very simple. See one of my galleries here. Cool stuff, right?

New Lamp for Television is Bright!

Quick follow up to my post regarding my television needing a new projector lamp . . .

I followed the progress of my package via UPS Tracking, and it had been placed on the truck for delivery at 6:42 a.m. so I felt confident it would be on my doorstep when I arrived home from work about 5:30 p.m. Of all the things to look forward to all day long, the anticipation – I realize it doesn’t take much to add a little excitement to my day – I was checking the UPS site as I wrapped up my day at work and found that the lamp had not yet been delivered. Bummer. Should I stay at work awhile so the package would be awaiting my arrival? Or should I race home in case the delivery required a signature? Easy. I raced home.

Still no package. Another hour expired before the rumble of the brown truck signalled the new projector lamp was here! Now that I’ve intalled it (very simple) I realize the prior lamp may have been decreasing in intensity for quite a while. Why? Because the new lamp is freaking bright! Whites are much whiter, greens are much greener and blues are much bluer! I even double-checked my picture settings to be sure they had not changed. The newly-lit screen has a much more even brightness across its full width as well. 

It’s almost like a brand new TV. I’m happy.

Learning to Live in the Dark

Last night about the time CNN was declaring Barack Obama the next President of the United States, my 4 year-old Toshiba DLP TV decided to celebrate with some fireworks of its own. With a loud “pop” the screen went black but the status lights on the front panel were speaking to me in some dot-dot-dot dash-dash-dash dot-dot-dot sequence. A power cycle continued the light show from the front panel, so I had to resort to watching the election returns via the CNN Election Central website.

According the the Toshiba owner’s manual I dug out of my filing cabinet, the projection lamp had expired. Much to my dismay, an affordable solution was found on the web – so, no new Plasma for me this Christmas. 😦
A quick search found DLP Lamps.com where I found the part I needed and placed my order. (I used Google Checkout for the first time and actually saved $5.00.) Some basic reseach found that this online retailer had excellent reviews and quick shipping. I’ll likely agree with those reviews, since I already have a UPS tracking number and the package is expected to arrive in a couple days.
So for now I’ll have to use my Slingbox via a computer to watch TV, though I’m already missing the big screen. (Photo shows the graphic remains of the broken lamp.)

Magazine Subscriptions – Renewed AutoWeek Today

AutoWeek has been reminding me for the last several months that my magazine subscription is about to expire. I’ve been a long-time customer of theirs and fully planned on renewing my subscription. After three or four mailings requesting my renewal and two issues exclaiming “this is your last issue” via a cover wrap I decided to do something. 

My normal course of action is to do some research first before paying the full price that is initially offered. First step was to pull up my account via AutoWeek.com and see if there was a renewal deal. Nope. Still $29.99 per year. I do think that’s a good value for 52 issues so I’d be willing to pay that . . . but searching and finding a better price via the Internet gives me some great sense of accomplishment. Not that I want to “stick it” to AutoWeek (I don’t), it’s really just fun to hunt down that cheaper price and then swoop in for the kill. (Hunting instinct carried out on the web?)

It’s my form of shopping, checking things out before I lay down the cash. So, after 5 minutes of Google searches, what did I pay for a year’s subscription? $9.32! Woo Hoo! If you like to hunt down deals like I do, a Google search is all it takes to save you some dough. By the way, I found this deal at www.magazinemaster.com. For whatever reason, if you go directly to their website and search for AutoWeek, you don’t get the special pricing. But when you search via Google you get a special link that includes the coupon code. Enjoy your hunt!

TV Technology Shift: Slingbox is Better

I spend a lot of time in my home office. As is typical, my home office setup includes a couple of computers, a couple of computer screens and a television. I’m finding the television is getting no love now that I watch TV on the computer screen via my Slingbox. Why? Side by side comparison shows the computer screen outshines the television in picture quality, audio and options. 

TV via Television or Computer?You see, the television is simply using the cable signal right out of the wall. I have a limited selection of channels since the signal is not going through a cable box first. (The TV is the monitor furthest to the left in the photo.)

Using the Slingbox and the computer screen, I have the full selection of channels, just as if I was sitting in my living room with the signal routing through the TiVo HD. That means I can watch the full palette of channels and anything I have stored on the TiVo as well. The Slingbox signal in my office is acquired via my wireless network, which makes the excellent quality that much more amazing. 

So, looks like there is no need to keep the television screen around. Or find another place for it – ooh, the garage!

More on the Slingbox: A Slingbox is a device connected between a cable box or TiVo and the television. It allows you to watch that signal via the internet and control it just like you were sitting in front of it. Perfect for watching television via the computer when you’re away from home.