Geek Tips 4 the Non-Geek

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Hard drive deal.....

Quick Action: Go to CompUSA and get a 250GB hard drive for $140 out the door....$100 after you send in the additional $40 rebate.

Right now, CompUSA has a great deal on 250GB of hard drive space for your music, videos and precious documents. The Hitachi 7200rpm 8MB buffer 250GB internal hard drive is listed at $179.99. CompUSA has a $30 instant no-paperwork rebate (gotta love those kind) and another $40 rebate. The out the door cost (without tax) is $139.99 and if you get off your lazy but and fill in the rebate paperwork and send it in, you get the drive price down to $99.99.

I picked one up yesterday and will be upgrading my ReplayTV personal video recorder. Woohoo!!!!

Ahead of the curve.....

Quick Action: If you haven't done so already, go download Firefox or Opera now and replace Microsoft's Internet Exploder as your web browser.

I have covered this topic about web browsers before. But mainstream media is also jumping on the bandwagon. Two articles recently at www.wired.com (this one on Firefox -- http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,65668,00.html , and this one on Opera -- http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,66394,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_2 )review the benefits I have been touting about these browsers. The Firefox article documents it's quick rise in popularity. That, my friends, is a good thing that people are beginning to be more concerned about security but also should be a warning sign for us as part of our security model. One of the benefits about using good software the general masses don't is that you fall below the radar for viruses, spyware, popups, hacks and other non-wanted annoyances. A piece of my security philosophy is to make yourself as small a target as possible. Let the viruses, spyware and other stuff target the most popular software packages while I contently use a lesser known, but more secure software package. It is kinda like not living in a house on Main Street where every bad guy can see you while passing by but rather living a couple of streets out of the way, perhaps on a dead end street. Just that alone lowers your visibility to the bad guys.

So anyway, keep your eye on the popularity of Firefox because that just might be the time to jump ship to a new, lower profile browser. Opera is one option and I hope to research a few more in the near future.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Update: Picasa 2.....great dig photo software improved

Quick Action: whether or not you read a previous post review of Picasa, a great digital photo software tool, go to www.picasa.com and download the new version.
 
I have been a Picasa user for quite a while now. I picked up the CD at a Comdex or CES (Consumer Electronic Show) 2 or 3 years ago. It was a great piece of software back then. Google bought them a while ago and they improved it a bit. Now, Google has upgraded features in it for the new Picasa 2 release. Features like adding captions to your photos, adding identification icons and labels, ordering online pix, uploading to blogging sites, editing with some cool new tools and (my favorite) burning backup CDs directly from the software -- a much needed and neglected task that 99% of digital photo users ignore (including you!).
 
Go to www.picasa.com to check out the new release and download it. Let me know what you think. I'm already using it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Article: Kids and the internet.....

Quick Action: If you have kids that use the internet, check out this article at http://aroundcny.com/technofile/texts/tec121904.html

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

It's about time.....

Quick Action: If you do your taxes yourself (and I would encourage you to try it), go to CompUSA and get H&R Block's TaxCut Deluxe, TaxCut State, Microsoft Money Deluxe and Microsoft's wireless keyboard/mouse combo for pennies on the dollar.

I started doing my taxes myself about 4 years ago. With the advent of personal tax software, it has become fairly easy for the average Joe (or Dan) to take care of everything and submit them. With a computer and internet connection, I can fill in the blanks and electronically submit my taxes before Groundhog Day (usually also receiving a rebate check by then). Doing my taxes myself also helped me by:

A) teaching me some of the finer points of tax preparation for the next year
B) keeping me more in tune with my financial health
C) allowing my to use this knowledge to better position myself for years to come (maximizing 401k and IRA contributions, utilizing flex spending plans, planning property and stock sales, etc)

The icing on the cake is when I can get the tax software, financial planning
software (MS Money) and cool computer hardware (wireless keyboard/mouse combo) for pennies on the dollar. Today I spent $127 for all of that. It only took me an hour to fill out all of the combined rebate forms and cut the UPCs and box tops (while I sat in front of the TV watching football). Once they hit the mail tomorrow, I will be looking forward to receiving back $110 in rebate checks. That makes all that look for $17 out of my pocket a steal. Yes, I had to do all the paperwork and, yes, I will need to keep track of the rebates (via my cool spreadsheet). But if those parameters are good for you, it is a great deal.

I encourage you to take a stab at it. For $17, even if you don't use the software, you get a decent wireless mouse/keyboard combo.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Travelling internet access.....

Quick Action: If you travel and have a laptop, go get yourself a wireless PC card even if you don't have wireless access at home.
 
Throughout many parts of the United States now, many places offer wireless internet access. I am currently driving across the country and have spotted it at such places at hotels, airports, coffee houses and restaurants. Even if you don't have or use wireless internet access at home, go and pick up a 802.11b wireless card that goes into your laptop's PC card slot (also known as a PCMCIA slot). The wireless PC card doesn't need to be one of the latest and greatest and shouldn't cost you more than $20 or $30 but it will be worth it when you come across one of those wireless access spots. I am currently blogging this post using a free "hot spot" at my hotel.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Complete slacker.....

Quick Action: Please forgive me for being a complete slacker and not updating this site with tidbits. I am in the middle of moving across country. Stuff to come soon.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Alternative browsers.....

Quick Action: Quit using the Microsoft browser Internet Exploder. Go to www.opera.com or www.mozilla.org and download either Opera or Firefox.
 
Since Microsoft long ago defeated Netscape as the people's browser of choice and integrated Internet Exploder into all Windows operating systems, Exploder has been a hot target for hackers and virus writers. And since most PC users are using Exploder, it is a big, fat target. It doesn't help that, until recently, Microsoft made it easy for the hackers and virus writers and didn't take security seriously. That being said, it seems that every other week a vulnerability is announced for the Exploder browser and patches come out only to have another hole exposed.
 
Enter the alternative browser philosophy. Instead of following all the sheeple (sheep people) and installing that Exploder target onto your PC, try flying below the radar in a better built browser. Opera and Firefox are both alternatives to Microsoft's Exploder. Following this alternative browser philosophy, I believe you will benefit in two ways. First is that you will not be using a browser that, by it's very nature being used by most PC users, is a large target. Just separating yourself from the masses diminishes your exposure to hackers and virus writers. Secondly, since these browsers came to the game only recently and don't integrate into the operating system, they are coded better and don't have the legacy problems Microsoft has with Exploder. You also get the benefit that these browsers tend to be more nimble and progressive. For example, both had tabbed browsing and integrated pop-up blockers before Exploder. Put all this together and you have some great reasons to jump ship to an alternative browser. Use the links in the Quick Action to download one (or both) and see for yourself.