Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Slickdeals.net - More Like Sick Deals.net

"In today's troubled economy..." I hate it when the news says stuff like that. But in today's troubled economy who couldn't use great savings on consumer items? That's what I thought. When it comes to good deals people are like drooling dogs with dollar signs in their eyes.

Or just dogs made out of money begging for more money...

Sam, my friend and source of many cool and fantastic sites, told me about two "deal" sites: Slickdeals.net and fatwallet.com.

that's Sam, he is a hardcore thug

The great thing about both sites is that they have REAL coupons and deals for REAL companies linking to those company's websites. For example, I saved $70 on a printer using a coupon from fatwallet. My wife purchased a $100 swimsuit for $13 AND paid no shipping. There are all kinds of deals and they are all through companies that you are familiar with: BestBuy, HP, Walmart, Landsend, etc.

The best of the two is Slickdeals because it is laid out a bit better than fatwallet. But who am I kidding, they are both great. So why are you still reading this - go check out the deals and come back and tell me what you think.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Boxhead - ZOMBIES!

I love this flash game. All you do is kill zombies using a vast array of weaponry from a pistol to a railgun. The game is Boxhead - there are a bunch of versions out there (just Google it or play it below). Anyway, its kind of fun to do if you have a minute to kill (pardon the pun) or need a break from the grind.

Go play the game here - I'm tired of it loading up everytime I load my blog... So annoying.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Depression Cooking

We humans love to eat. Eating is a necessity and pleasure that most of us associate with fun, emotion, and social gatherings (whether it be families gathering nightly for dinner or friends gathering over lunch). When I spent two years in a foreign country, I learned a lot about the people in that country from the food they eat and the way they eat it. Its amazing what food can tell you about a culture, even a specific time period.

Think about that wonderful Ball Park Frank

Depression Cooking: I want to introduce you all to Clara. She is 93 year-old lady making YouTube cooking videos using recipes from the depression. She provides instructions on how to make super cheap and filling foods. While she cooks she tells personal stories from the depression. I really love her recipes, thoughts, and stories. I have included a video below that I really like (it's 7:46 minutes long).

Honestly, I want to try some of these meals. It seems to me that if I eat what they ate during the depression, I will get a glimpse at what my ancestors experienced during that period and maybe learn a little about them from the food. Anyway, watch her videos and give her meals a try. That lentil soup actually looks pretty darn good!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Boost that Wi-Fi - Windsurfer

So your Wi-Fi coverage sucks in your house... Sounds like a little parabolic boost is just what the Wi-Fi doctor ordered. A parabola is that thing you studied in geometry and algebra and totally forgot about because you thought it was inapplicable to real life - well now you know it is applicable. The Windsurfer is the superhero of Wi-Fi connectivity.

The way it works is you call the Windsurfer when your Wi-Fi connectivity sucks and he descends from the heavens on his surfboard made of pure wind. He then overcomes the evil Wi-Fi Weak Signal Guy (the supervillian) and raises the Windsurfer flag of triumph.
Just make sure you hide all your valuables and children from him -
He will most certainly steal and sell off your stuff to buy weed and your children will be frightened,
or worse, idealize his lifestyle and "move to a van down by the river."
I would also lock your doors real tight so he can't get in when your aren't there... Stupid hippies.

The way it really works is you go download a little template cutout (grade school style) from the internet, print it, paste it on a manilla folder, glue some tin foil on the back, assemble the parabola, and attach it to your attenna. The final product: a goofy looking Wi-Fi router that boosts your signal and makes you feel better about life.

This is a quick rundown of the process - for more detailed info and instructions see the other video:

Here is another video by the same dude (he references it in the above video) that provides a little more detail on the concept and creation of the parabolic booster.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Benchmarking - figuring out why your computer sucks...

Benchmarking is the process of testing your computer's speed at executing certain tasks, then comparing the results of the test with results of other computers similar to yours. Whats the point? The point is figuring out where your computer is deficient and how it can be improved.

For example, lets say you notice that when you are editing a photo, your system goes at a snail's pace. Besides knowing what the obvious answer to your problem is, you can also run a benchmark. This process will identify specifically what the problem is by showing you what is making your computer slow. In this case, its most likely RAM, but in other cases, it could be your graphics card, a virus, your HDD, or some other problem that is causing you some distress. Today I want to briefly touch on benchmarking your PC or Mac (I will leave the more detailed "touch" to the dudes in the video below and only if you are REALLY interested in the process) and provide you with some simple options to benchmark your machine.

For Mac: Xbench. I will start with a benchmarker for Macs. Xbench is a staightforward application that tests the following: CPU (one core), Thread (multi-core), Memory, Quartz (graphics), OpenGL (graphics), User Interface, and the HDD. It scores each individual category then averages the scores to give you an overall result. You can then submit the test and compare your results with other computers, either of the same type or other models.

Just Xbench doin' its thang.

The test I just did scored around a 70 which compares well against other machines of the same type.

If you want to see the picture better, click on it. My computer is red. On that test
my computer scored a 71 and compares pretty well against other machines of the same type.

Looking through my results, I noticed the weakest scores came from my graphics card. Really the only area where my computer was deficient was in graphics. If I had the desire and the money, I might consider improving my graphics card to get better performance out of my computer (especially if I played a lot of computer games... which I don't). This is ESPECIALLY applicable to desktop computers that are more readily upgraded than laptops.

For PC: the concept is the same as for Mac. I could do the same process for the PC but I think you get it. For FREE benchmark software, consult Roy Longbottom... the apparent expert in the area of free PC benchmark software (I just typed "free benchmark PC" into Google and it came up with Roy Longbottom and he provides an exhaustive list of free software for benchmarking PC's - thanks Roy - Great surnamea).

The following video provides more detailed insight into what benchmarking is and how it can be used to your benefit (Warning: there are some major nerds in this video, proceed with caution - oh yeah, its like 20 minutes long too, but its informative):

Yes kids, those are REAL LIFE nerds!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Go on a Picnik... Edit your photos

Sorry for the brief hiatus. Spring break wasn't actually much of a break. Anyway,I am back with fresh posts!

I really like web-based photo editors. They are not the most sophisticated photo editing applications but they are easy to use, fast, and do small jobs quite well. They are good for adding quick effects, fixing small blemishes, and a host of other small - but important - tasks. Today's site is Picnik.
wrong kind of picnic - but that would be fun too.

Picnik may be the most polished of the web-based photo editors out there. The site looks and feels very clean (very few ads) and navigating is straight forward. Here are some of the things you can do with Picnik:
  • Edit Photos: use Picnik to auto-fix, rotate, crop, resize, sharpen, reduce red-eye, and change the exposure and colors of your pictures. These are the basic photo editing tools that pretty much all photo editors do. Picnik completes these tasks with relative ease as long as your internet connection is quick.
  • Add effects: When you edit photos, there is a seperate tab that says "Create." This tools is for adding effects to a photo to make it more interesting. The most notable of the effects is the filter tool which creates a customized look for your photo based upon various preset filters. Other effects include: font, stickers, touch up, frames. Picnik will also allow you to create your own filters (although, you need to have some programming expertise to do so).
  • Save and Share: you can save up to 5 photos at a time and share your photos automatically to Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites and to blogs as well.
  • Create Collages: Picnik allows you to create collages of your favorite pictures, a feature missing from a lot of photo editors. Its fun to do and easy to share the collages you create.
  • Scrapbook Collages: similar to the general collages, you can also make scrapbook-like fancy collages.
My Opinion: In general, I think Picnik is a great site that has a lot of good FREE freatures. The site does have a premium service that is not free but you get a lot out of the free stuff. If you really want to pay for a premium service, you probably should just buy a good photo editing program. But as for what you get for free, I like what Picnik has to offer. The only other downside is the lack of storage space provided on the site itself (Photobucket, for example, offers a lot of free space to users). To circumvent this obstacle, simply share your photos to a Facebook album (or even photo sites like Flickr) and store them there.

Anyway, thats Picnik! Go try it!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Re-Run, Shmee-Run

Don't you hate it when you sit down to watch a new episode of the Office and its a freaking re-run? Well, if its the Office, its usually not that bad because its funny even 3 and 4 times over. But its disappointing...

What's a "rerun?"

So here is a way to check and make sure that your favorite show is giving you something new this week: RerunCheck. All you do is run a search for your favorite show and it responds very simply: yes or no and the show time. Check it out.

Now if only they would make it a Firefox add-on or desktop widget!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

DivX Player - Video Player

Some of you have, no doubt, come in contact with a little error when you try to play a video file that says that your video player requires an additional plugin (codec) to play that file. DivX is that plugin.

DivX. The theme this week is video players. DivX is another free application (not open source) that pretty much plays every video format. (There is also a paid version which goes beyond playback and will actually convert video files.) DivX is very similar to VLC player so mostly everything I say about DivX is true of VLC. Some of you have, no doubt, come in contact with a little error when you try to play a video file that says that your video player requires an additional plugin (codec) to play that file. DivX is that plugin.

Coincidentally, DivX has updated its main package very recently and now is at its 7th version. So be comforted in knowing that the video player has gone through plenty of versions and is very stable. In additional to it being a video player itself, DivX also allows other video players to play files that couldn't play them before. Specifically, DivX enables Windows Media Player and Quicktime to play .avi files and other files similar to it, including DivX's own file format: .divx.

The benefits of DivX player:
  • It's a truly all-in-one player. It plays almost every movie file out there (but, it doesn't play EVERY file like VLC does)
  • The player is stylish. When you play a movie with DivX, it dims the rest of your screen to give you the "lights off" effect. It has a pretty sleek interface and just feels like a really professional application.
  • If you use a PC, DivX is even better. The player feels a lot better than Windows Media Player and its a lot lighter on the system - takes less time to load and shut down, uses less resources
In general, DivX is just a solid video player that I would suggest to anyone that routinely watches .avi and .mpeg4 specifically. However, I stand by my earlier comment that VLC Player is the best video player. DivX is a good alternative though.

Mac/PC Download here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

VLC Player - I can't believe I haven't mentioned it before

I really can't. VLC Player is a video player that basically plays every video file out there... Quite literally. It plays files from normal mpeg 4 and AVI files to VOB files (files ripped from DVD's). It is a cross platform application - available on Mac, PC, and Linux. If you are wondering what all this means: its a program that plays movie files on your computer - not DVD's, but other files that you would normally open with Windows Media Player or Quicktime.

Best of ALL: its open source and free. Amazing.

To tell you a bit about the applications popularity, the site claimes (and even boastfully displays) that it is downloaded 2.5 times per second. In total, it has been downloaded a total of 45.5 million times.

Why I use it:
  • Its FREE
  • Its Open Source
  • It plays EVERY video file I have ever come in contact with
  • It is lightweight and easy to use. This means that it opens quickly and does not use as many system resources (RAM and Battery Life) as other media players.
  • It goes fullscreen on my TV when my laptop is connected.
  • It has a cone as its icon

The cone thing may not seem to matter, but did you see what the little devil could do?

PC download here. Mac download here. Linux download here. If links are broken here.

Anyway, I love it and I hope you will love it. Its not a flashy program but who cares right - I mean use what is best, not what seems best.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Deadspin Sports Blog

Deadspin I like ESPN as much as the next guy, but sometimes I like some sports news with a twist. I stumbled on Deadspin Sports Blog somewhere in my attempt to learn more about the recent Alex Rodriguez scandal (and everyone is jumping on that news cash wagon). Anyway, Deadspin is sports news with a twist. They add a lot of humor and cynicism to the news they report. The news is all legitimate (so its not like the Onion) but it is a more cynical look at what is happening.

A good example of Deadspin's take on sport's news is a post from today: You Win, Terrorists: Minnesota Cracks Down On Unsportsmanlike Conduct. Another favorite from today is: Even Alaska Wants Nothing to Do with T.O. These news stories are the same as what you hear all the time in the mainstream sports news. The twists make otherwise routine news a little more interesting and something to chuckle at - while learning the news.

Go check out Deadspin and maybe even add it to one of your regulars.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Why aren't you using a dock?

Yeah... Why aren't you? Unless you are a Mac user, you are probably not using a "dock" because... well... you don't have one. A dock is a very simple efficiency tool that allows you to access programs, files, and folders directly from the desktop without cluttering your space with icons. A dock is built into Mac operating systems but not Windows operating systems (actually, Dell ships computers with a dock installed - but you may not have a Dell). There are quite a few options for docks, but I will just highlight two: RocketDock and ObjectDock.

RocketDock: This program is my personal favorite. The makers of RocketDock made the program completely free. You can download it here. Watch my video tutorial below to get a feel for how the program works and ways you can use it to be more efficient.

**Note** I am new at the whole video tutorial thing. They will get better as I practice more. The benefit is that I can do posts faster by just demonstrating sometimes than going through all the steps. So, be patient with me and I hope you enjoy the videos.

ObjectDock: This program is free, but only for the basic package. ObjectDock was developed by StarDock - a company that I have featured before. The program runs really smooth and has a slightly different look than RocketDock. For more info, go here. Download here. I didn't make a video tutorial becuase I have already gone through the general features of ObjectDock in another post.

Holy Bonus! It's: Windows 7 design for XP

Microsoft is coming out with Windows 7 sometime by the end of this year. It will basically be a much much better Vista (it will be more than that but I like to say stuff like that). Anyway, some people - me - are still using Windows XP (I use XP, Vista, and Windows 7 - but XP nonetheless). After using XP for what feels like thousands of years, I have gotten tired of the same old blue, silver, or green theme. Some really smart person out there decided they had enough of it too and made a new theme for Windows XP that looks almost exactly like Windows 7. Amazing!

Take a look:
I took that picture... No I didn't. But someone saw my desktop and asked
where I took that picture and I was so tempted to make something up.
I would have said: "I took it while on a trek from Alaska to Peru, which I did alone and on foot,
drinking from rivers and streams, and eating only bear meat that I hunted with a handmade bow and arrow.
I also made the camera out of grass and bear eyes."

That is just the basic desktop look. The theme literally changes everything from desktop icons to the startup screen to the way windows looks. Check it out XP users and see if you fall in love with your XP all over again.

Download Seven Remix.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sorry Everyone

I'm a little busy today - I will be back on it soon. Hang tight and enjoy this video:

Pretty sweet guitar playing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Max To

Max To: I am an anti-maxite - also a maxiphobe. These are the names given to a person that hates maximizing windows and/or is afraid of doing it. That's not true; but if it were true, it would most certainly apply to me. I just don't like it when a single window is taking up my whole screen. I much prefer having access to my desktop while I work on something. The problem is that I don't get to take advantage of the "maximize" button on a window because if I use it... my window will MAXIMIZE and I HATE THAT.

If I had a lot of money and the might of the 1950's US Military
at my disposal, I would most certainly blow up window maximizing with an atomic cannon.

The PC Solution: Max To. Max To is a brilliant little program that divides up your desktop space into however many sections you want. It works like a grid. When you have a program that you want to maximize in only one section of the desktop, you simply double click the window bar (that bar across the top) and that window snaps to the grid. Now you can maximize windows without maximizing them. Thats great!

Setup is quite easy. Just download the file and install it. Once installed and running, it bring up a space manager that will allow you to customize your grid.
If you have a really big screen, try setting up 2 main spaces. If your screen is smaller, try setting up 1 big space and 2 smaller spaces next to it. Either way, try it out and see if it is something that will help you use your space better.
Download here

Holy Bonus! It's: TwoUp

Mac Solution: TwoUp. The mac solution is a handy-dandy application called TwoUp. The program is slightly more limited than MaxTo for PC but it is still a little gem for those that hate it when one window dominates the entire screen. Here is a screen shot followed by info from their site:

In Short TwoUp allows you to quickly position a window to fill exactly half the screen (splitscreen) via the status menu bar or configurable shortcuts (hotkeys). Similar to "tiled windows" functionality available on other operating systems.

Using TwoUp
TwoUp consists of four actions which can be performed on the frontmost application window:
  • Left (move and resize window to fill the left half of the screen)
  • Right (move and resize window to fill the right half of the screen)
  • Up (move and resize window to fill the top half of the screen)
  • Down (move and resize window to fill the bottom half of the screen)
These actions can be triggered via the TwoUp menu in the Mac menu bar or via system wide shortcuts. The default shortcuts can be triggered by holding the Control+Option+Command keys while pressing an Arrow key to indicate the direction you wish the window to go. The shortcut keys can be customized in the TwoUp Preferences.

Check out TwoUp, Download Here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Be Funky

Be Funky. Express yourself. Be Funky is a fun and simple way to edit photos creatively. Simply, set up an account, upload photos, and then edit them according to your tastes. I tried it out:

Sorry ladies, he is spoken for

The site doesn't do as much as Photobucket but it does do fun "artsy" stuff to your photos. I don't like how the pictures save with a border. If you don't want the border, just crop it out using some other photo editing program... kinda lame that you have to do that extra step but at least the pictures are fun. Have fun!