Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Trust and Web sites

One question even I have at times is "Should I trust this Web site?" - for example, a while back, a Web site named ClubIT.com had a nice deal on a computer part I wanted, but I hadn't really heard of them.

One of the Web sites that people trust for accurate ratings of Web sites is Reseller Ratings. It's a site that's been around in one form or another for over ten years. You can check out just about any online retailer that you haven't heard of and see their ratings.

Direct link to their store search: http://www.resellerratings.com/store/

For example, you can see some of the Web sites that people have had a lot of problems include sites like buy.com (who I've personally had some issues with myself), and some of the best stores include newegg.com (an excellent computer retailer). People have the chance to write detailed ratings detailing their positive or negative experiences. Highly recommended, and free to visit and use!

The best and worst retailers @ Reseller Ratings: http://www.resellerratings.com/topstores.pl

Monday, January 28, 2008

Emerging Technologies: Microsoft Silverlight

Adobe's Flash is a tool that allows Web site developers to create Web-based animations. Microsoft announced last year in April that they were planning to create something to compete with it, named Silverlight.

Microsoft Silverlight hasn't really taken off - I really hadn't heard much about it until recently - Microsoft has made the Web browser plug in available through Windows Update, and have announced that they are planning to redesign their entire Web site using Silverlight.

Story about Microsoft planning revision of their Web site in Silverlight

Wikipedia article on Silverlight

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cool Software: ePrompter

If you're like me, you have too many email accounts. I hate having to log in to each of them to check them, and I also hate having to have one program to alert me for new email at Yahoo! and another to alert me for new email at MSN, etc.

I found a program that solves that problem - it monitors all of my email accounts for me and alerts me when new mail arrives. It's a relatively simple interface. It even is able to check my PCCC mail for me, which some other programs have problems with. If you have two accounts on the same site (for example, I have two Comcast.net email accounts), it can check both of them as well. Definitely recommended! There were a few settings I had to change to get it to work perfectly, but this is a program that doesn't require a lot of technical expertise.

Oh, and one of the best parts, it's free software.

You can download it off their Web site:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Missing Money

There is a Web site that allows you to find money that may be owed to you.

According to their site, it can find:
* Bank accounts and safe deposit box contents
* Stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and dividends
* Uncashed checks and wages
* Insurance policies, CD's, trust funds
* Utility deposits, escrow accounts

You may wonder "is this a legitimate site?" - it seems a little shady, I agree. However, money that has not been repaid has to be reported, and this Web site is the spot where this is done in many states, including New Jersey.

However, it is 100% legitimate, and two of my friends found money that was owed to them.

How can I tell it is legitimate? Well, the state of New Jersey's official Web site links to it here and many other state Web sites do as well.

Give it a shot, you can do a search by just your first and last name:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Site Updates: Comments Enabled

I've decided after discussing this with a few people to enable comments. You will notice that for each post in January, commenting is enabled. I'd definitely like to hear from you. If you see a post of interest, feel free to comment and leave your thoughts.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Saving Money...

The problem a lot of people have with saving money is that "it's hard to do".

Well, this is true on some level. If saving money were easy, everyone would be rich, right? On some level, this is true, but on another level, realize that there are a lot of things we can do to save $1 here, $5 there, etc.

For example, PCCC students, did you know that the school has a payment plan for courses? For those of you who are paying out of pocket, you could pay it all at once, or set up a payment plan. The problem with payment plans is that they cost $35 to do...


You do your payments online. This is the best of both worlds - you save $35, while being able to put away some of the money for another month or two. Also, if you have one of those credit cards that reward you for making purchases, you can gain rewards for it.

I know $35 doesn't sound like a lot, but if you manage to save $35 here, and $10 there, and $15 over there, you end up with some real money over time.

Payment plan information

In that same vein, saving money is even easier when you have someone else giving you tips. For example, one of my favorite Web sites is the Simple Dollar. It's basically a blog with money saving tips and tricks. I've seen tips for beginners with simple money saving tips and some more advanced such as finding the right credit card or investing.

His Web site is located at the URL below:

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Hacking Airplanes

So, the Boeing 787 plane is set up so people can access the Internet while flying. Not too big of a deal, right?

Well, apparently, there is a link to the communication and navigation systems on the plane as well! Where there is a connection, there is a gateway for hacking to happen.

Link to article

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Deal of the Day

Woot.com is a Web site that does one item each day. One day, one deal, that's it. An interesting take on electronic commerce, to say the least.

I had discussed them a few years ago here - the reason I bring them up today is that they have a Roomba today - the little vacuuming robot - at a great price, with the special pet attachments.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Apple's new products

Apple announced two new products.

The first, the Time Capsule, is a pretty cool wireless backup device, so you can back up important things without having to hook up anything.

The second, which is even cooler, is the MacBook Air laptop. This is probably the thinnest laptop I've seen.

Pictures of the MacBook Air

Story about the Time Capsule and MacBook Air releases

Monday, January 14, 2008

Safety and MP3 players

Last semester, some of my classes had a discussion about the rapist in Paterson who was preying on distracted women - women on cell phones or MP3 players.

This is not only a problem in Paterson, but around the country. Taser has unveiled an interesting addition to the MP3 market - one with a Taser device (a non-lethal self defense weapon) built in. A taser with a 1 GB MP3 player, for around $73. What an interesting thought!



Friday, January 11, 2008

HD DVD may lose another studio

The largest company still committed to HD DVD, Paramount (which owns DreamWorks as well) is planning on dropping the HD DVD format. This is the sort of thing that was to be expected after Warner dropped the format. The only big name still creating HD DVDs will be Universal. Now that Warner did this, Paramount seems ready to follow, and if Paramount leaves, Universal probably will give in too.

Note that Microsoft - in their XBox 360 video game console - has also supported HD DVD. Even Microsoft doesn't always back a winner.

Once one format becomes "the standard", expect prices on Blu-Ray DVDs to fall.

Financial Times article

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hack the Geeks

Geeks.com, a technology retailer, was hacked.

The part I find most interesting is that they have a "Hacker Safe" banner on the Web site, the site is promised to be "hacker safe" by a Web site named ScanAlert:

(note this image may not work for long)

I just can't believe how hard it is to keep ahead of the hackers. Geeks.com was paying a company to test the site to see if it was hackable, and STILL got hacked and exposed customer's private information, including credit cards.


Monday, January 07, 2008

HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray

There have been two different formats for the high capacity DVD: HD DVD and Blu-Ray. The problem for most home users is that no one wants to invest money in a technology that disappears.

Apple has already decided to exclusively support Blu-Ray, and Warner (one of the big movie studios), has decided to no longer support HD DVD, throwing their support behind Blu-Ray for new releases starting later this year. A lot of analysts feel this is the death of HD-DVD, but Toshiba (the company behind HD DVD format), of course, feels that this is not a problem.

Is HD DVD dead?

Either way, this is good news for consumers, because no one wants to buy a technology that's going to become obsolete quickly.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Rent Textbooks....Save Money

A lot of times, students simply need textbooks for one semester.

There's a Web site out called Chegg that will let you "rent" a textbook, rather than buy it. They also promise to plant a tree for every book rented, which is nice and environmentally friendly.

I checked this out quickly for my CIS 106 class.

The bookstore is charging $86.75 for a new textbook and $65.25 used. A lot of that value disappears because most students do not plan on keeping the book, and they will sell it back to the bookstore for somewhere around 10% of the price.

Chegg has the book for $33.26 for a semester rental. Our semester ends a little later, so you can expand it for another 15 days (which would take you through finals) for an additional $4.99. The final cost would be $38.25. They also would pay for your shipping back, giving you a pretty decent savings.

This is a really interesting idea that I really like.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Microsoft vs. Apple, round 24

Microsoft and Apple just always seem to be at the opposite ends of battles.

This time, Microsoft's entry in to the MP3 player market, the Zune, has debuted with much lower cost than the iPod. The article I link below says that the 4 GB iPod was selling for $135, while the 30 GB Zune was selling for $134. Think about that - 7 times the storage, Microsoft supported...we're not talking something from some unknown company.

The interesting part is that last year (2006), the Zune was considered a bomb - very disappointing sales. Microsoft's strategy now seems to be to drop prices to catch up to Apple.

Who shall win? Who knows. In general though, when two big companies like this fight it out, the consumer wins because prices fall.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Windows Registry

Happy New Year!

There is a nice Web site put together by PC Tools (a company that makes, shockingly enough, PC software tools). It contains a list of how to update your system by playing with the registry. THIS IS NOT FOR BEGINNERS! However, it's a very powerful area. For example, one thing that you can't fix without messing around in the registry is how the Windows system reboots after downloading automatic updates. You have to enter your registry and change/add a value in it.