Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

1/3/2020

Left Over Gift Cards

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

By now, I bet you’ve spent most of your “Christmas money”.

And, if you’re like me, that came in the form of a gift card, not actual cash. Honestly, I kind of prefer it to actual cash for the most part. It’s easier to spend online, for one thing, which is almost certainly where I’m going to spend that “free” money. The only problem is, virtually nothing comes to an even dollar amount when you include tax and shipping. So, then you end up with all these gift cards with just a couple bucks on them and no idea how to deal with them.
Well, here’s two ideas.
First, save those cards to use on the “free, no-obiligation” trials that still want to collect credit card information from you. Pop in that gift card, let their website validate it and then, when you use up your free month or whatever, they can’t “accidentally” charge your card. It keeps all sorts of annoying and persistent charges from making their way to your credit card. And, yes, I’ve done it and it absoultely works like a charm.
The other thing is a cool, little website called CheapFiller.com. This beauty finds stuff on Amazon that’s under $25 and has free shipping, usually via Prime. Now that Prime will ship most things that are under a dollar, you can finally use up that last sixty-seven cents on your gift card from Christmas! Honestly, this is awesome. I did it just recently to get two super cheap fresnel lenses that fit in my wallet for about $2, which finished out a gift card for me. It was great! The thing to do is search for items well under your target amount, so you can see all the cheapie, cheap options. The two things I’d warn you about is that; a) grocery items have a minimum dollar requirement and b)items may have changed price slightly between the time the site collected the info and when you go to buy it, so double-check the pricing and shipping. But, again, it worked great for me and there’s no charge to search, though I’m sure they benefit from the link. It’s pretty genius. Give it a try!

And, welcome to the new year of weird, fun links on Use Your Words!  (That’s where this post originally appeared.)

7/22/2016

Amazon Price Tool

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Our streaming-only television plans may have failed, but I’ve been enjoying the Amazon Prime membership we got for it.

There’s a part of me that’s a little terrified of Amazon, because that much power in the hands of one commercial organization is scary, but there’s another part of me that really likes the incredible variety of products they sell at amazing prices. So, while I do shop there, taking as much advantage of our Prime subscription as possible, I still think I’m right to be a little suspicious of them and vigilant. For instance, I think it’s better if I can comparison shop and make sure that Amazon really does have the best price. That’s not always easy to do. But, a new-ish set of tools on a website called CamelCamelCamel.com can help. Among other things, they have trackers that help you find the best price and watch for price drops, not to mention tools that show you the price history of a particular item. And, they have a browser add-in called The Camelizer that help you do all that right from your favorite browser. If you sign up for a free account, you can set up notifications for price changes or even set a target price notification so you can snag what your heart desires at the best price possible.
And, if you have the problem my wife and I always seem to have, and need to fill in just a couple dollars worth of something to get the free shipping, there’s the handy website FillerItem. All you need to do is hit the site, put in your minimum dollar amount and FillerItem will serve up a list of things from Amazon that will tip you over the limit. It’s pretty clever.

So, there you go, some tools to help your conspicuous consumption this weekend.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

11/3/2015

Cutting The Cable – Streaming Services

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Cutting Cable,Movies,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Streaming content changes your relationship with television programming.

Of course, so did the DVR, but this is different.
I was probably a little ahead of the curve here, because I’ve been streaming Netflix since, at least, 2007.  So, back when it was still just starting to be a thing, really, I had gotten totally comfortable with the idea of streaming content.  In fact, the first of the three services I’m going to talk about might as well be Netflix.  As it turns out, when I decided to drop cable the first time, after Hurricane Ike in September of 2008, Netflix was the only service I had.  I didn’t realize at the time that had only really been possible since January of that year, but it didn’t matter.  I bumped my subscription up to the level which allowed me to have four discs out at a time and I actually watched more content that way than any other.  Let me tell you, binge watching Lost, four episodes in an evening, really opened my eyes.  Not only was it far more understandable and easier to follow the plot of an otherwise complicated and confusing show, but it let me indulge the obsessive side of my personality to my heart’s content.  Most of the time, I prefer movies to regular serial television anyway, but this really let me dive deep into whatever show was popular.  Well, whatever show was popular last year.  At the time, there wasn’t a lot available for streaming, but that changed pretty quickly and, for several years, I got caught up on  a lot of movies I’d missed and shows that I’d come to late in their life.
Now, Netflix has changed, but I still keep them.  And, I currently have an account that allows streaming and up to two discs at a time.  I have upgraded to the Blu-ray option, though, since I’ve upgraded my home theater system to a Blu-ray system.  I do that because there are a lot of things that I might want to watch which I can’t get via streaming.  That being said, for movie content, Netflix still has some of the best options around.  Currently, a streaming-only plan is $8/month for a single screen at a time, but will go up shortly.  I have a grandfathered plan that includes streaming on up to 4 screens and two Blu-ray discs at a time which runs me about $25 /month.  I expect that will go up at the first of the year, based on some news reports I’ve seen, but I think it’s still a bargain.  (You can check the latest prices at NetflixReview, though I don’t know how often the update them.)  Until I bumped up my network speed, we had a lot of issues with buffering if either of us were doing anything else on-line, but that’s not a problem any more.  If we start to have issues again, I’ll bump us up an additional tier, though.  We haven’t done it yet because at least one of our goals here was to save money.

When I first started asking people who I knew had cut cable what they streamed, a surprising trend emerged.
It seemed like all of them had Amazon Prime.  As it turns out, besides getting free shipping on anything that’s sourced from an Amazon warehouse, Amazon Prime includes a lot of free, streaming video. They also have a lot of on-demand streaming video you can buy.  So, the old cable “pay-per-view”, basically, only streaming and with at least as wide a selection, if not larger.  It really feels like Amazon is still building their video catalog, but they do have things that I can’t find on Netflix sometimes.  They seem to have a lot more television than Netflix does for streaming, too.  And, most of their stuff seems more current.  By that I mean, Amazon has more things that aired more recently.
Also, Amazon has some content that they produced.  Of course, Netflix does, too.  I have some those in my queue, at both Amazon and Netflix, but I haven’t gotten around to watching it yet, so I don’t have any comments.  Though, I know Amazon won several Emmy Awards this year for their work.  In fact, in celebration of that, Amazon Prime was on sale some time back, and I got it then for $67/year for the first year instead of the usual $99/year.

The other streaming service I heard people mention a lot was Hulu.
Initially, I started streaming everything via my Sony home theater system and, since Hulu was one of the options available, I decided to try it.  I figured it was cheap, at $7.99/month for “limited commercials”, and they seemed to carry a lot of programming that interested me, like the SyFy Channel.  What I really like about Hulu, though, is basically two things.  One, is that it has a lot of the series I like and a ton of anime, which I love, but haven’t watched a lot of in recent years.  And, two, I can get a lot of shows that recently aired, like Agents of SHIELD, usually, the day after they aired on regular TV.  So, in some ways, Hulu has replaced a lot of what I used my DVR for in the first place.
Hulu also has a lot of more obscure shows, many from Canada, which I’ve never heard of or seen before, which can be fun.  And, the “limited commercials” are just that, limited.  On most shows, the ads are less than 30 seconds long and only show two or three times during an episode.  In some cases, like when my wife and I are watching different shows on different devices, only one of us will actually get ads that interrupt our show.  And, lately, the ad I see the most is from Hulu itself, trying to tempt me into upgrading my service to the “commercial free” level.  For an additional $4/month, I’m tempted, to be honest, but the commercials aren’t very disruptive as they are now.

All three streaming services we’re using have their own content.  So far, though, I’ve only watched original content on Amazon Prime.  Specifically, I’ve watched the first two episodes of Man In The High Castle, which is based on a book by Phillip K. Dick.  It’s been pretty good so far.  I’m also looking forward to watching Daredevil and Jessica Jones, which are both produced by Netflix and are Marvel properties.  They’ve gotten great reviews, even though the general public only has access to Daredevil so far.  Hulu’s original content is mostly comedy and doesn’t really appeal to me that much.  And, I have to admit, the original content is all just icing on the streaming cake for me.  None of the original work had any real bearing on the choices we made regarding streaming services.

All that being said, there is actually one more streaming service that I haven’t gotten yet, but plan to add; Sling TV.  They’re new, but they sound promising and they may be the only way we can replace some of my wife’s favorite programming, namely classic movies.  So far, Sling TV is the only way to get her favorite channel, Turner Classic Movies.
But, that’s going to be a post all on its own at a future date.

Hey, if you made it through all this and still have something to add about your favorite, or least favorite, streaming service, please, leave me a comment!

4/8/2014

TurboTax

Filed under: Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Another kind of weak Tools for Tuesday post, but, at least it’s better than nothing.

One reason I don’t have something better than this for you all this week is, well, taxes.  One of the many, many things I have to get accomplished with far too little time to get them all done, including the posts on my two blogs.   As I’m sure you all are aware, tax day is just around the corner and, even though I vowed to get it done early this year, I’ll be scrambling to get my tax returns filled out and submitted in time.  If not for [amazon_link id=”B00FFINOWS” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]TurboTax[/amazon_link], I’d never get it done.

Of course, the real benefit comes from using it year after year, because it will pull your information from last year, reducing the amount of data you have to enter.  And, it will show you how you did, tax-wise, this year compared to last year, which is kind of nice to know.
This year, one feature that last minute users like me may find useful is that you can actually download this from Amazon.com and not have to wait for shipping or for the morning when a store might be open.  Again, I’m already busy enough without having to try and get out to a store to buy this at the last minute.  And, speaking of last minute, using the [amazon_link id=”B00FFINOWS” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]TurboTax[/amazon_link] software, I can submit my return digitally, which means having the ability to cut it a little closer than normal with a little less worry.  (And, okay, sure, it helps that my wife made a file for all the important 2013 tax information, so I have all that in one place instead of just shoved under my keyboard all year.)  In theory, though I haven’t actually done this myself, TurboTax can interact with Quicken, which I also use, and help me to maximize my deductions and get me the biggest return.   Since one of my goals for the year is to get into better financial shape, not just for myself but for my lovely wife, too, I’ll probably look into that sometime this year, too.  Financial health is a big deal and taxes are a big part of that.

Also, if you’re an iPhone user, there’s an iPhone app that will let you know how soon you’ll get  your refund.  You can download that and plug in the information from your [amazon_link id=”B00FFINOWS” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]TurboTax[/amazon_link] submission and the app will let you know when your refund arrives.

So, maybe not the sexiest tool, but one that I find pretty useful!

8/3/2012

10 SciFi Books “Everyone” Claims To Have Read

Filed under: Art,Fun,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:17 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Okay, that may be going a bit far.

I mean, I know a lot of people who aren’t into science-fiction at all, so they may not claim to have read these books or have any interest at all.  But, they are a pretty good hit-list of interesting ideas in science-fiction.  And, I suppose that’s why the folks over at IO9 probably suggested that instead of claiming to have read these books, that you actually read them.  I’m pleased to say that I’ve read several of the books on the list, though not all, and they do make a good suggested reading list for people interested in science-fiction classics.
IO9’s list of 10 Science-Fiction Novels You Pretend to Have Read (and why you should actually read them) are:

  • [amazon_link id=”0060512806″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Crytptonomicon[/amazon_link] – by Neal Stephenson
  • [amazon_link id=”0441013597″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Dune[/amazon_link] – by Frank Herbert
  • [amazon_link id=”0140188592″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Gravity’s Rainbow[/amazon_link] – by Thomas Pynchon
  • [amazon_link id=”0553382578″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Foundation[/amazon_link] – by Issac Asimov
  • [amazon_link id=”1582344167″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell[/amazon_link] – by Susanna Clarke
  • [amazon_link id=”0452284236″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]1984[/amazon_link] – by George Orwell
  • [amazon_link id=”0486219623″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]First and Last Men and Starmaker[/amazon_link] – by Olaf Stapleton
  • [amazon_link id=”1612420133″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Long Tomorrow[/amazon_link] – by Leigh Brackett
  • [amazon_link id=”0375706682″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Dhalgren[/amazon_link] – by Samuel Delany
  • [amazon_link id=”0316066524″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Infinite Jest[/amazon_link] – by David Foster Wallace

I’m pleased to say that I’ve read a significant number of these, namely Cryptonomicon, Dune, Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and 1984.  And, The Infinite Jest is in my To Be Read pile.  I have to admit that I tried reading Foundation, but it just didn’t appeal to me.  I know his work is classic and he was a genius and all, but Asimov’s work always read like a Physics lecture to me.

In any case, there’s a bit more for your Summer reading list to go find and read instead of working on a Friday afternoon.
Enjoy!

 

7/20/2012

More Free eBooks!

Filed under: Art,Fun,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:11 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Well, at least if you’re a Kindle user.

Recently, I acquired an older Kindle from a friend who had upgraded and was in the process of shedding “extra baggage” before moving.  I’ve passed it on to the woman I’ve been seeing for the past several months.  (If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you already know this and her name.  And, if you’re not, you don’t need to know her name!)  She loves her “new-to-her” Kindle, of course, and has transferred her books from her PC Kindle app to her new device.  But, we’re both pretty cheap, so when I saw OneHundredFreeBooks.com I got excited for her.  This site, which is updated regularly, as in multiple times a day, shows you Kindle books offered on the Amazon.com US site for free.  Yes, free!
But, of course, prices change, so these books may not stay free.  The only thing the site owner promises is that they were free when he put them up for you.

So, what a great way to add to your Summer reading; free books!
And, you know, since it’s Friday, you know you aren’t really doing anything important, so you might as well go take a look at the books they have listed!

12/2/2011

HTML For Babies

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:12 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

No, seriously!

Okay, so as we approach Christmas, I tend to think of gifts for people and I’ll no doubt post about them.  Okay, so, mostly, these are things I wouldn’t mind getting, but, still, I have good taste, so you’ll enjoy them, too.
So, clearly, you can tell that I’m no web designer from the way this site looks, right?  Well, believe it or not, I used to code all the pages for this site in HTML, by hand, using nothing more than a text editor!  Okay, all you design people can stop laughing at me now, thanks.
Anyway, when I saw this book, HTML for Babies, I was delighted!  Finally, I can start training my two-year-old godson to code compliant HTML so that he’s ready to take over managing my websites by the time he’s in Middle School!  You think I’m kidding?  Then hit the link and you’ll see that, no, I’m serious.  This is a book filled with properly coded HTML and simple, positive messages perfect for any toddler learning to read.  It really is baby’s first HTML training manual!

So, go ahead and start your geek young!  The perfect stocking stuffer for your budding web developer!
(You can also buy it directly from Amazon here: [amazon_link id=”0615487661″ target=”_blank” ]HTML for Babies[/amazon_link])

8/12/2011

Extend your Kindle

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:27 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

But, sadly, not for the software Kindle apps.

Okay so these two tools I’m going to share only work for the Kindle, and mostly rely on the ability to e-mail documents to your Kindle, but SendtoReader works with a Manual Delivery option, too.  SendtoReader is a web app that lets you send any webpage to your Kindle for later perusal.  Though, as I mentioned, you need to have an actual Kindle if you want to update it without synching via a PC first.
I have to admit, I was all excited about this web app, until I went to sign up for it and discovered that the Android app on my ColorNook wasn’t able to get e-mail directly from Amazon’s on-line document delivery service.  Still, if you’re using an actual Kindle, this would be a killer app.

And, ToDo list for Kindle is, well, a to do list that you can send to, and update, on your Kindle.  So, you know, pretty much what it seems like it would be from the title.

So, there you go.  Two free web apps to get more out of your Kindle, just in time for the weekend!
Enjoy!

12/20/2010

A Truly Honest Privacy Statement

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:08 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Websites lie.

There, I said it.
Well, I wrote it.  Anyway, you and I and everyone else with half a brain know that these “free” websites are paid for in some way.  Mostly, that way is advertising.  Sometimes, that advertising involves selling personal data that they’ve collected.  Oh, c’mon, don’t act so shocked.  You know it’s true just like I do.  The big [amazon_link id=”B0001EQIFQ” target=”_blank” ]Internet Bust of 2000[/amazon_link] showed us all that companies without a good revenue model will, ultimately, fail.  And, the best revenue model of all on the Internet is selling your data to advertisers.

The thing is, wouldn’t it be nice if they just admitted that up front?
Well, Dan Tynan over at IT World has a modest proposal; The first truly honest privacy policy.

Watch out, because I may just start using this on my sites!
But, I won’t warn you ahead of time…

7/27/2009

On The Running of Contests

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Fun Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Ooo, shiny...,Personal,Red Herrings,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:16 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I’m thinking about running a contest.

I’ve been thinking about running a contest to promote another site I’ve been working on.  Now, before anyone get’s too excited, this is something that I’m just speculating on right now and wouldn’t even start for months, if I do it at all.  For whatever reason, I’ve been a little nostalgic for the old, Internet “boom” days.  Those heady days when the Internet bubble hadn’t quite burst and receptionists might be paper millionaires.  It was that culture that launched many of the websites that we all love today, like Amazon.com, along with so, so many that never made it.  There are still some remnants from those days, like ThinkGeek.com, who sold us all crazy t-shirts and junk for our desks, a way to spend those ridiculous salaries so many geeks were making at the time.  I should note, however, I was not one of those making the giant salary.  I was just a “working-class” geek who ground out networks like some kind of piece-worker who lusted after so much of that material culture.  I especially loved the imported vinyl toys that were around then and have since passed into a kind of obscure subculture that still lives on the web.  (You can find examples of what it’s become at KidRobot.com)  So, the idea I had for the contest has been influenced by all that.  Also, I’ve always been fascinated by pictures of other people’s desks and bags.  I love to see the contents of their life as bounded by the confines of an office or the bag they carry.  Of course, there’s a trick writers use to help define their characters by what they carry in their bag, or luggage.  Obviously, the idea that what one carries on a daily basis in some way defines who they are.  I know I’m not the only one, too.  There’s a Flickr group dedicated to “what’s in your bag” that I find endlessly entertaining.

So, it’s with that in mind that I started thinking about the contest.  I had in mind to put together six or twelve bags, filled with junk, as if they belonged to a designer or geek who’s life one might covet.  Perhaps someone I wanted to be once, or wish to be in the future.  Maybe just what strikes me as an interesting character or someone I would like to meet.  I’d like to include some sort of branded merchandise, whether it’s the bag or pens or something else, I’m not sure.  Ah, but that does put me in mind of another theme from that era that seems to have changed some; schwag.  This was the stuff that was passed out at the trade shows that seemed to happen every week, advertising new companies and new services and even reminding us of the old companies.  There were companies back in the day that only seemed to exist long enough to produce a month or two worth of schwag and then slip silently beneath the waves.  (In fact, I suspect I have a few t-shirts from some of them!)  At one point, there was so much schwag floating around that there was a company who did nothing but package and ship schwag to subscribers, called ValleySchwag!  They don’t exist any more, but a new company has replaced them called Startup Schwag.  In any case, a lot of us who were in IT during that time have fond memories of running about collecting the “best” schwag at conferences and trade shows, so, I’d love to include some of that sort of junk in my contest give-aways, too.

At heart, I’m a marketer.  I have a degree in Marketing and, perhaps more importantly, I grew up with an inveterate salesman.  He was always talking about sales and marketing and how integrated that all is in business at every level and, somehow, that became supersaturated into my personality.  I’m always thinking about promotion and advertising.  People always talk about getting people to read their blog or look at their photographs or whatever, but they almost never do things to make that happen.  It’s not rocket science.  All you have to do is give people something they want, something they need.  Word will travel.  Honest.  So, that’s my intention with this contest.  I’m not entirely sure how to get everything squared away, but by the time I’m ready to launch it, I will.  Until then, though, what would you all like to see in the bags?  Keep in mind that I won’t include electronics like laptops or iPods, or weapons, or cash or anything that equates to cash like gift cards.  Most importantly, no “adult” products, like porn or condoms or anything crazy like that.  (Well, okay, maybe condoms because that strikes me as funny.)

So, if you want to see something in one of the bags, or have suggestions for running a blog contest or any other related comments, leave me a comment.  Also, if you have something that you’d like to include, let me know!  We can probably work something out to let you benefit from the advertising push.  This is, incidentally, a contest I plan to run for about a year, either monthly or bi-monthly, depending.  And, no, it won’t be on this blog, but another project which I don’t want to directly link to this.  Don’t worry, though, if you’re a regular commenter or an old friend or have suggestions about this contest, I’ll be sure to let you know what the project is and when the contest starts.


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