For the last fifteen years, I have been a one television family. That’s plenty for me, and the TV I have is enormous. But lately I got an elliptical trainer, and instead of sitting on my sofa watching The Daily Show and NBC News every night, I could be exercising. As it is, I am always looking for something to keep me entertained (distracted) while I am exercising and so far have been working through episodes of The West Wing, watching them on my computer screen, which is in the same room as the elliptical. But that’s just more TV to watch, so it would be good if I could combine exercise with TV I’m going to watch anyway. While I record shows on my Dish Network 722k VIP DVR, there is no way to copy those to the computer, so I have been thinking maybe I could get another TV. Prices on HDTV’s have come way, way down. This Christmas I have seen 51-inch TV’s for $400 and a 24-inch TV for $150. I was at Fry’s this past week getting a new hard drive and some anti-virus software and looked around at their TV’s. It seemed like most of the smaller ones (30 inches and less) were 720p instead of the higher resolution 1080p, but the 24-inch one on sale is 1080p (however the $400 51-inch TV was 720p, probably one reason it was so cheap).
The remotes drawer
For Christmas, Mom gave me a Mr. Beer homebrew kit. I had noticed these in a couple of advertisements and was a little intrigued, so it was a good idea for a gift. I have thought it would be neat to make my own beer, but you can buy pretty good beer in the store, plus the equipment and ingredients are expensive because you can’t just go to the grocery store and buy hops and malting barley. You end up going to a specialty store which means it will be expensive. Plus most beer-making equipment has you make 5 gallons at a time and I probably don’t drink 5 gallons of beer in a year.
Recently, I bought a 500GB Buffalo Stealth portable hard drive, and then quickly tore into it to extract the actual drive. Then I was able to successfully copy over my notebook computer’s files and upgrade the notebook’s hard drive. Afterwards I put the notebook’s original 250GB hard drive back in the Buffalo case (though I haven’t reformatted it yet, so it isn’t real useful; but I’m thinking now it would be safe to reformat).
But my old desktop’s hard drive is still pretty full. Fry’s had a special on a 1 TB Western Digital external drive (“external” or “desktop” drives have 3.5-inch desktop size hard drives in them and are usually powered from the wall, while “portable” drives usually have a notebook-size drive in them and are powered by USB; really both types are external as well as portable) for only $58. The nice thing about an external drive is that I can use it to extend my Dish Network DVR (up to 2 TB drives will work, but they have to have their own power source). However, the desktop’s drive is only 160 GB, which doesn’t add much capacity to the 500 GB DVR and isn’t all that useful as an external drive either.
Starting next year, the sun will supply about a third of the power used by my house. I have always liked the idea of installing solar panels on the roof and making my own power. I looked for a while at installing a solar water heater, but the water heater system was going to cost thousands of dollars for the panels, pump, heat exchanger, and a plus-size water tank, which would never allow me to recoup the investment since my hot water bill is only about $10 a month. There is a house in the neighborhood with solar panels for power. I looked into that too and I have a south-facing piece of roof that would be good for soaking up the rays. But again, it’s not just the expensive panels to buy and install, but then you have to have voltage regulators that will turn the power into AC and send excess power back to the grid while letting the grid supply power when the sun isn’t shining or demand exceeds the solar supply. Even if I divide the installation costs over a long period and I include federal grants that cover 30% of installation, I don’t think I could ever make a system economical.
I got a new 500 GB hard drive. Since the 250 GB hard drive on my notebook computer was kind of full, I thought it might be good to take the hard drive out of the portable and put in my notebook, then take the old notebook drive and put it back in the portable case. The basic idea would be I could move all the files over to the new drive, then put the new drive in the computer, boot up and I would have exactly the same thing except with more space (I’ll call this Option 1). But there are some wrinkles. First, I have a lot of junk on the drive and the computer acts up from time to time. Since the notebook is five years old, it might be worthwhile to reformat and start over. The existing drive has a RESTORE partition that can be used to reformat the C: drive and restore the notebook to exactly the same setup as the first day I got it (Option 2). That would still mean installing all of my software, moving over my pictures and other documents, and downloading a ton of windows and other updates. But the advantage is the computer should run a lot better that way. The downside is how do I do a restore from the old drive to the new drive? Or could I move the restore partition over to the new drive as a new RESTORE partition? Option 3 is to just use the Windows Vista disk that came with the computer and start a new Windows installation after putting the blank hard drive into my notebook, and rebuild the system from scratch, which would be even more trouble than the restore option.
I keep track of five internet domain names, one of which is for my personal website, igirder.com. They are all registered at GoDaddy, which is horrible with its salacious ads, and constant attempts to make you upsize for additional services, but it is cheap. I can usually renew the domain registration for $7-8 per year using different discount codes available on the internet. If you get a new domain, they are really cheap, but they are not as likely to give you a good deal once you are there and just need to renew the domain.
I heard about there being coyotes in the neighborhood a couple of years ago and there are reports on the local bulletin board from time to time, along with missing cats, which seems to be the biggest problem they cause. They only come out at night. So tonight I was walking the dogs and I heard something rustling in the leaves. The dogs stopped to look and I saw a loose dog. I shined my flashlight over there and it was obviously a coyote. Not too far away was another one, a little smaller, maybe walking with a limp. Both were smaller than my dogs, plus with me and the flashlight I think we were pretty intimidating. But they didn’t run away, getting as close as maybe 50 feet. I think they were on their way and were kind of in the way. So we turned the corner and they started walking past us on the other side of the street. The smaller one headed into the backyard of a house, but then came back down to the sidewalk to join the other one. Surprisingly, although my dogs were watching them closely, they didn’t bark or even whimper which Austin does when he wants to bark at another dog. I kept the flashlight on the coyotes a lot, but they would still look in my direction, their eyes lighting up yellow. Eventually they moved pretty well beyond us, so I took the dogs over to where they had been so they could sniff around. People get up in arms about coyotes in the neighborhood, but honestly I’m not seeing a problem, and the only thing they do is kill cats which should be inside anyway.
I have had some money building up and didn’t want to invest it in stocks given the upcoming downfall of civilization (and that the stock market had done pretty well already and might be due for some turbulence). With less than $20,000 left to pay on my mortgage, I thought I could maybe pay it off instead of dragging it out until August 2014. I called Bank of America on Tuesday to find out what I needed to do. They said I could do it that day over the phone! I said I couldn’t quite do that because the money wasn’t in my checking account (also Bank of America) yet. They said they could mail me a pay off statement and I could mail in certified funds, but I figured I would just sell some mutual funds and put the money in the checking account and call them back when it cleared.
Yesterday I got a call on my cell phone from a restricted number. Sometimes I don’t answer those calls, but maybe I was bored, so I answered anyway. It was someone from a company that said they were doing a poll for NBC and the Wall Street Journal. I was suspicious and asked how I knew they were doing this (they can’t really prove they are legitimate), how they picked my number (randomly selected phone number), and how long the poll would take (7 minutes). What is interesting is that I get very, very few telemarketing calls because the phone isn’t even in my name officially. And I try not to give out the number (usually I give companies my old land line number).
Anyway, they proceeded to ask me demographic questions like my race, whether I had any other phones, my age, plus a bunch of questions about whether I had voted in the past, if I had voted early, and how likely I was to vote on Tuesday (definitely). They also asked me general opinion questions on what I thought of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. They asked me which one I thought could get things done if elected and I said neither. I just don’t think it’s possible right now. They also asked who I had voted for in 2008 and who I would vote for this year. At the end they asked me for my initials “for verification” and I gave them TC as the most likely answer, though they might have the answer as EC, JC, or DC depending on how they got the number and what name is listed.
Today I saw an article about NBC and Wall Street Journal’s final election poll of the year, surveying 1,475 likely voters, including 443 cell phone only respondents (me). Obama has a slight edge of 48% to 47% compared to the last poll which was tied at 47%, but the margin of error is 2.55%.
I think it is interesting that some people are saying the polls aren’t accurate because they are calling people on land lines and hardly anyone has those. But they called me on a cell phone, so I think they have it worked out.
I got the 32 GB Nexus 7 today from J&R Electronics. I had been tracking the package online and I knew it would show up this morning with the mail. It came in a bigger box than I thought, but the box inside was smaller, about the size of a big paperback book. Good unpacking experience with a black cardboard box inside a sleeve with bright colors on a charcoal background. Not many pack-ins: just a small AC adapter and a micro-USB cord which is used with the AC adapter or to connect to a computer. It came with about a 50% charge and they recommended charging it right away. Very small instruction book and warranty info included as well.
I found a web page with 23 “essential tweaks” for the Nexus 7 and did a few of them including unlock the automatic screen rotation, set a special swipe gesture to unlock the device when it is turned on, signed up for Google Plus, downloaded the entire Google Map of metro Atlanta (62 MB), set up owner information in case I misplace it and someone wants to return it to me (also stuck a label on the back with my name and phone number), and turned off the keyboard sounds.