Friday, June 28, 2013

DealDash Is The Penny Auction Alternative

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of DealDash. All opinions are 100% mine. 

Tired of getting sniped at the last minute on auction sites? Tired of using penny auction sites that promise big savings but seldom deliver? Well, it's time you check out this video review of DealDash. Deal Dash is the best of all those new penny auction sites you see popping up lately. You sign up in order to purchase bids. Each bid costs $0.60 and raises the auction cost by $0.01. This fee makes the massive 95% off savings possible! The auction clock restarts from a maximum of 30 seconds every time someone bids. If no new bids are placed before the clock runs out, the last bidder wins.

It gets even better, though. DealDash also offers Free Shipping with every item sold on its site, so you can be assured that you won't have the price inflated on you via shipping costs. Go check Deal Dash out and see what you can win today!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Aereo: Live TV on the Internet.

My brother, JohnMac, a resident of Atlanta wrote this review of Aereo which allows you to watch local tv stations over the Internet. It's not available in the Chicago area yet.

So, a few months ago, I read an article about  If you haven’t heard about them, Aereo provides you with the opportunity to watch your local tv stations over the web.  Aereo does this by providing each subscriber with access to their own individual antenna so as not to run afoul of the copyright police. 

Once I heard that they were coming to Atlanta, I pre-registered on the site a few months ago, then forgot all about it.  Today, I received my email to start watching in advance of the official 07/01/2013 launch date.

Creating an Account:
Signing up was easy.  If you happen to be a viewer in the Boston, New York or Atlanta area, you can create an account on Aereo’s website.   You can either use one of your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.), or you can create an account directly with Aereo.
Sign up took about 30 seconds. After that, I was ready to start watching.

User Experience:

Web Interface:
I chose to watch Aereo on Google Chrome.  The interface is clean, if a little confusing to new users.  Instead of taking you straight to the guide upon login, Aero takes you to the featured tab, which shows upcoming shows which I didn’t find very useful.  I mean, I want to watch live tv, and I want to watch it now.  But, no worries, just click on the “Guide” tab and you get a nice view of your local stations in grid format. You can scroll to the right to see programs that are on later in the day. You then have the option to click on this show in order to record.
I did not test the Iphone/Ipad app, Appletv or Roku apps. Curiously, Aereo is not available on Android. Hopefully, that changes in the near future.

Watching Live Tv:
 Chose a channel or show to watch and double click.  After about a 2-3 second delay, your program starts the buffering/play process.   Basic controls within the in-browser player include Stop, record, replay, skip as well as the standard volume control and full screen toggles.  In addition, you can tweet and Facebook share what you are watching via dedicated player buttons for either social network.  Live tv is a nice feature, but it’s not the killer app.

Picture Quality:
Picture quality on the High setting is good. Playback is smooth with very little noticeable stuttering, pausing, or buffering. Some compression artifacting is noticeable, but this is expected as they need to be able to stream the signal over the internet. Picture quality remained constant throughout my viewing test.

DVR Functionality:
Recording a show can be done with one click of the record button.  I tested this while watching a live tv show, then attempted playback.
To watch a recorded show, simply click on the “Recordings”  tab on Aereo’s website, find your recorded show and watch.  Again, playback of the recorded show was smooth with no perceptible slowdown or buffering.
Aereo gives you 20 hours of recording space on their online dvr.  While smaller than a typical cable or satellite dvr, this is more than enough recording time for me as I intend to use this as a backup to my Directv account.

Overall Impressions:
Aereo is really doing internet-based tv right.  They are a cord cutters dream.  Cost of this service is very affordable at $8.00 per month, selection is very good and the dvr functionality is a big plus.  I think I have finally found my backup to satellite TV. I’m not prepared to give up DirecTv just yet, but Aereo is getting me closer to that point.

  • Ease of use
  • Competitive pricing
  • Near HD quality
  • Selection of channels - - It gives me some local channels that DirecTv doesn’t carry in the Atlanta market
  • Online dvr functionality with up to 20 hours of recording time
  • Some compression artificating
  • Limited to 3 markets at the moment.
  • No Android option

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sears Home Improvement Calls Me

I've been do a lot of re-modeling on my house over the last year, so I guess it should come as no surprise that my phone number eventually ended up on a bunch of home improvement telemarketing lists. Some call center for Sears Home Improvement called me recently and while I would love to get a good deal on a kitchen remodel, I am not going to discuss it over the phone so I can get hustled.  Instead, I went into my hillbilly voice and accused the lady of working for the NSA and wanting to eavesdrop on my phone conversations.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Minecraft PE Egg Throwing Bug

It would appear that there's yet another crippling bug lurking around in the latest release of Minecraft Pocket Edition. While playing Minecraft PE 0.7.1 via local multiplayer (over wi-fi) if one of the players throws an egg, the host player's device will freeze. I've been able to replicate this error several times over the last week and it occurs 100% of the time. Throwing an egg during a normal one-player survival game does not cause the error.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Snyder Three Wheeled Car

While tooling around in Indiana this weekend, Jason and I happened upon a car dealership that was selling three wheeled cars. These things are rated like motorcycles and the model in the video I shot happens to be a 600cc 2-cylinder cheese grater on wheels. Since it's basically a motorcycle in disguise, the Snyder and similar cars are exempt from certain safety regulations such as air bags, side impact beams and lap belts. I'm told that the Snyder gets about 70 mpg and has a top speed of 70 mph. And, yes, it's 100% street legal.

If you're thinking about purchasing this pimp mobile, the one in this video was being sold for $5,9995. I was told that list price tends to be around $7,899.95

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

French Press Coffee

I consider myself a minor coffee snob, and having the perfect cup of coffee at Spitfire in New Orleans made me want to up my game. I had been told several times that preparing coffee via french press was one of the best ways to extract full flavor coffee.

How To Make Coffee With A French Press

A french press is a kettle-like device used for brewing coffee. Basically, you put your coffee into the pot, add hot water, mix it like Kool-Aid, then use the plunger to press the grounds down to the bottom and out of the liquid. There are a lot of factors that go into maximizing your french press coffee experience. The most important of which is starting off with good, whole bean coffee. Grind your coffee down into a coarse grind so that it is easier for the french press to filter out. Make sure your water temperature is about 200 degrees before you pour it into the french press. Once you've poured your water, stir it with a wooden spoon or a chopstick, put the top on your french press and then let it sit for about three minutes. Once the coffee is done sitting, push the plunder down slowly but firmly. Now, you're ready to pour some coffee.

It was my father who first introduced me to coffee, so, when I visited him this past weekend, I was excited to brew him some coffee using my brand new Mr. Coffee french press. I ground up some of his favorite coffee and prepared it for him. I'm sorry to say that he wasn't impressed. He said that he didn't notice any difference between brewing the coffee via french press and brewing it in a typical coffee maker. And, to be honest, I don't notice much of a difference either. To me, coffee prepared with a french press tastes a little bolder, but it's not significant enough to knock me off my feet.

Maybe I'm doing something wrong. Maybe the quality of the beans I'm selecting isn't up to snuff, or maybe I need to let the coffee sit longer before plunging it. But, there exists a significant possibility that the emperor has no clothes here. Still, even if there's not much of a flavor difference between brewing via coffee maker and brewing via french press, the fact is, brewing with a french press is still a very cool and "showy" way to make coffee.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4 Review

I've said goodbye to my Motorola Droid Bionic late last week. While it was still in great working condition, I found that it was just too slow for my current needs. The 4.1 update on the Droid Bionic really seemed to bog the poor phone down. It was time for a new phone, so I went with the Samsung Galaxy S4.

To be honest, there aren't a lot of features on the Samsung Galaxy S4 that you won't find on comparable smart phones. What initially attracted me to the Samsung Galaxy S4 is its 5 inch display that boasts full HD resolution. It's pretty sad that my smartphone screen has better color rendition that my current computer monitors. And the screen performs really well in the sunlight, which is new to me, after having struggled pointlessly with various iterations of Motorola screens in the past.

The Samsung Galaxy S4, along with 16GB on board also has removable storage (64 GB available via micro-SD card) which you won't find on the HTC One. I've gone on about removable storage before, and whether or not that's an important feature to you is a matter of personal preference. For me, removable storage is an absolute must/

I find the Samsung Galaxy S4 to be very lightweight. Almost TOO lightweight. There's a lot of plastic on this phone which initially troubled me, especially when I discovered how cheap the back cover felt. Aren't most higher-end smart phones made of metal these days? The Samsung Galaxy S4 feels so light, I was worried I would accidentally tear it. Slapping an Otterbox on it has given the device enough heft for me to feel comfortable carrying the phone around.

The camera on the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a 13 megapixel shooter with an f/2.2 aperture. The camera on the HTC One goes in a different direction, focusing on having larger pixels on the sensor. Shutterbugs who are more dedicated to the art than I am will no doubt compare and contrast the cameras on both phones, so you'll have to find a more in-depth analysis elsewhere. All I can say is, I'm satisfied with the color depth and the definition offered by the camera on the Samsung Galaxy S4. And you will be too. Especially if you're just taking normal pictures.

There are a number of other bells and whistles that are offered on the phone, such as an IR port, smart scroll, Near Field Communication and screen mirroring, but I doubt that their inclusion alone would be enough to say people into buying the phone. Bottom line here is, The Samsung Galaxy S4 is a solid phone that, while it does have a few disadvantages, it's likely a purchase you'll be satisfied with should you decide to take the plunge.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

Minecraft Pocket Edition 0.7.0 Bugs

The long awaited Minecraft Pocket Edition 0.7.0 update finally found its way to my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 yesterday. I could hardly wait to play with fire, make some buckets, and harvest some eggs (or make cakes with them). The problem is, Micraft 0.7.0 has so many bugs that it's unplayable. One of the first bugs I noticed was that there's an issue with the animation behind eating. It's not a game breaker, though. Nor is the fact that the dyes are all mis-named. No, the game breaking bug in Minecraft 0.7.0 is the furnace. You can put an item in to be cooked, but cannot add fuel. And, once you add something to the furnace, you can't pull it back out. This, of course, means that you can't smelt iron ingots to make the buckets that have just been added in the 0.7.0 update.

Johan Bernhardsson, the current lead developer on Minecraft Pocket Edition tweeted recently that he has fixed the armor and the furnace bugs. I'm hoping that these bugs get submitted soon, and Mineraft PE 0.7.1 comes out asap, as Minecraft 0.7.0 is practically unplayable.

UPDATE: 0.7.1 came out a few hours later and seems to have fixed the furnace and armor bugs. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Around The French Quarter

I did a lot of walking around New Orleans, much to the detriment of my feet and knees. I feel that walking around a city allows me to tap into the vibe that makes that city hum. And New Orleans always hums a sweet tune. Here are a number of pictures I took while walking around the city.


Around The French Quarter, a set on Flickr.

Monday, June 3, 2013

St. Louis Cemetery #1

I have visited both St Louis Cemetery #1 and #2 on several occasions. This was my first trip to St. Louis Cemetery #1 which is near the City Park and Museum of Modern Art in Mid-City. If you're in the French Quarter, it's a good three miles away. I took a cab up to it from the Bourbon Orleans hotel which cost me about $12.

What I like about this cemetery is that it is very large and has a great mix of old and modern burials. You'll find tombs from the mid-1800s right next to tombs containing recent burials. It's a very safe place to walk around, often filled with tourist groups.

You'll find a photostream of some of the pictures I took around St. Louis Cemetery #1, so have a look and see for yourself the beauty of this city of the dead.

IMG_0456IMG_0400IMG_0401IMG_0404 - CopyIMG_0409IMG_0402 - Copy

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Few Final Words On New Orleans

I've got a number of bullet points on my latest trip to New Orleans that I wanted to talk about. These observations are all minor and I didn't think they could be fleshed out enough to make individual posts out of them, but I wanted to talk about these things anyway.

  • The Homeless in the French Quarter: It's pretty apparent that there is a sizable homeless population in the French Quarter. On this trip alone, I've seen the homeless crapping directly on the street, pissing in doorways and digging through trash. I have never been directly asked for money by any of them during any of my four trips to New Orleans. However, while bringing some leftovers from the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen on Decatur back to my room at the Bourbon Orleans hotel, I was asked by no less than four people to surrender my food. Most were polite, one was borderline belligerent. The homeless problem is a daunting issue in any major city, but, in New Orleans, the trend seems to be to legislate the symptoms (making begging illegal, etc) rather than legislating the actual causes of homelessness. 

  • Coffee Shops: Cafe Du Monde is great and you should visit it, buy a cafe au lait and some beignets. If you're truly a coffee lover, though, make sure you visit some of the smaller coffee houses in the area. Spitfire Coffee is new to the French Quarter and is doing some excellent stuff with beans and flavor extraction. Getting your coffee hand brewed is worth the wait. I just wish they had seating available so I could sit down and enjoy the coffee in a ceramic mug rather than a paper cup. Royal Blend is also worth a mention as they provide good coffee and a beautiful courtyard in which to enjoy it. 

  • Souvenirs: I brought a few alligator heads back with me. The souvenir shops will charge you around $30 for a decent sized alligator head. I was able to get them for around $14 from vendors at the French Market on Decatur. And I think you'll find that the French Market will offer souvenirs cheaper than the tourist shops. They just don't have the variety that the shops do. So, be smart. Shop around. 

  • Bringing Coffee Home: You love Cafe Du Monde coffee and you want to bring some home with you. That's cool. But, they come in these round tins that cost upwards of $11. They're a nightmare to pack and having them shipped home is pretty costly. If you absolutely need to bring coffee home with you, then buy it in vaccum packed bricks from one of the local markets for $6 instead. The bricks are easier to pack. I lined the bottom of my luggage with them and was still able to get it closed. I know that the Rouses Market on Royal sells them, so check there if you're in the French Quarter looking to buy coffee.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I Still Hate Flying

I figured that flying first class from New Orleans to Dallas would ease my fear of flying. And, it did. I liked being able to fall asleep in a relatively comfortable chair while having access to a decent snack and a few free bloody marys. I was relaxed.

My  layover in Dallas kept getting extended, as flights to Illinois were getting delayed due to weather.  So, I sat there, letting my imagination run away with me concerning all the crazy worst case scenarios that could happen to a plane flying in a storm. Two gate changes and three hours later, it was finally time to get on the plane and I found that I had been placed on a rickety aircraft that seated three per row. The thing sounded like my grandfather's old Impala as it flew, clanging around with a bunch of ominous sounds.

If the constant turbulence wasn't enough, I soon discovered that we were going to land in Illinois in the middle of a thunderstorm. That sort of thing apparently happens all the time, but I had never experienced it before, so I was incredibly nervous. On our first attempt to land, a strong wind gust came along and forced the pilot to abandon the attempt. We were able to land after making a second pass.

I was freaked out enough to drive away from the airport without thinking much about the effect the storm had been having on the roads. I drove right through the thing. It got so bad that visibility was reduced to near zero. I had to pull off the highway and sit an an Arby's for 30 minutes while the storm passed.

So, I'm home. I'm safe. And I hate flying now even more than I did in the past even though there's no logical reason for it.

We're Landing In THIS???