Dishonest People Follow Up . . .So in a previous post, I mentioned my PayPal woes. I had sold something on eBay, was paid through PayPal, shipped the item, it was delivered, all was good. Then nearly 3 months after receiving the item, the buyer filed a "Charge back" with his credit card company saying he never received the item. PayPal temporarily put the funds on hold while they investigated. Well today I got an e-mail from PayPal saying since I followed all the rules, they were covering the chargeback for me. So, I'm still mildly pissed because the guy still got his goods for free. However, I'm relieved that it's not coming out of my bank account to cover it. Thanks PayPal! For future reference, if you're going to accept credit cards through PayPal, make sure you follow their Seller Protection Policy to the letter AND save any and all tracking information you get from the company you used to ship the items. I also saved the e-mails I sent to the buyer and had them as evidence as well. I'm not sure if that helped much, but the short story is, I'm not being charged.
PayPal rocks! Dishonest people suck.
Taylor Graduates Puppy Class at Petsmart!OK, it's been awhile since I've posted anything about Taylor. Well, she's alive and well and full of vim and vinegar! She's all trained up now! Tonight was graduation night at the Puyallup PetSmart and Taylor passed with flying colors! She had to do a sit stay for 30 seconds, a leave it, a come and a trick (we taught her how to shake) and she performed like a well oiled machine! Congrats puppy dog! You're well on your way to your Canine Good Citizen certification! Here are some pictures and her diploma . . . she's getting to be quite the dog!
Taylor in her cap!
Taylor Sitting Pretty!
Lost Soldiers . . . Welcome Home Boys!So let me get this out right up front. Teri does a LOT around the house, a WHOLE lot more than I do. I am appreciative of it and I don't thank her enough, so honey if/when you read this, thank you for all you do for our family, I REALLY appreciate it.
OK, that being said, Teri and I have different ways of doing things. Now again, don't take this the wrong way, that is not to say that I do it right and Teri does it wrong. I am not saying that at all. OK? Clear on that? Good. So when it comes to laundry, we do things differently. When I do laundry, I wash the clothes, rarely separating anything except the occasional red thing (I purposely don't wear red for this very reason). I pick what looks to be a good size load (usually larger than it should be as is evidenced by using a stick to beat it into the machine) throw it in the washing machine, add the detergent and fabric softener, set the setting to casual and change the temp to cold/cold.
When the wash is done, I throw everything in the dryer again on casual, low heat and press go. As soon as the dryer is done, since I have a horribly large load, I start it again. Then when THAT is finished, to keep me away from the ironing board (and third degree burns) I pull everything out right away and hang up what needs to be hung, fold what needs to be folded, and put everything away.
Teri does her thing with the laundry, sorts everything by color and fabric type, creates reasonable loads, washes things on the proper temperature, hangs what needs to be hung (even before it goes in the dryer!?) and dries everything else on the proper temperature. However, Teri does like 5 loads of laundry and piles them all up in our bonus room or bedroom and then spends countless hours on Saturday ironing, folding and putting away. Fine system, works for her, mine works for me.
There was a long time where Teri was doing nearly all the laundry (feminists revolt!). And it seemed as though everytime she would do a load of clothes, I would lose a sock. Just one. The people at Macy's were beginning to wonder what I did with all my socks because about every 3 months, I would go in and buy six more pairs of black dress socks. (No, I'm NOT kidding) In fact this week I was dreading going to Macy's yet again for another black sock run when on Sunday I could not find a pair to save my life. I actually wore two different socks, they were VERY similar, but still. So today I sorted out my sock drawer and found a couple more pairs, but I was left with about 30 odd socks. (none of which would make a very good unmatched pair) I briefly considered tying them all into a ball and giving it to Taylor. But being the pack rat I am, I stuffed them all away in a drawer away from the main sock drawer in case the odd ones should show up again.
Last year when we moved into our new home, a bunch of boxes and baskets of clothes ended up in our master bedroom closet. A couple of weeks ago, Teri pulled one of those baskets out while doing some cleaning and has been going through it ever since in the laundry room. Today as I was putting a load of towels in the dryer, I saw about six odd black socks on top of the dryer in front of this basket. AH HA! I deposited them on my dresser and this evening pulled out the odd socks from the drawer. Wouldn't you know, all the socks matched another! Then I pulled the basket down from atop the dryer and set about going through it! More Socks! And more matches! I think all tolled, I have 10 "new" pairs of socks! Eat that Macy's! I still have 15 or so odd socks carefully tucked away in the drawer waiting for their knit brethren to return home.
Welcome home boys . . . you were lost, but not forgotten!
Almost Free Bike and Cheap Cables . . .Almost Free Bike
So Steve turned me onto a blog about bicycling. It's a very fun read, the guy that writes it is much funnier than I am and should you become bored reading MY blog, you should definitely check his out. This past week he has shown the power of blogging to just about it's full extent. The blog is "Fat Cyclist". Over the past week he has:
- Started a weight loss contest in which he's offering a sweet pair of mountain bike grips to the winner. Entry fee is a minimum $10.00 donation to the Lance Armstrong "Livestrong" foundation. 39 people have entered and he's raised nearly $800.00. VERY cool.
- He wrote a letter to Travis Ott, brand manager for Fisher/Lemond bikes "selling out" to get a free Fisher Superfly mountain bike. He got a response yesterday and he's getting the bike. All be it on Travis' terms, not fatty's.
- And I think the most noble thing he's doing with his blog is fighting cancer. His wife Susan has cancer and he blogs about it. He created the Fat Cyclist cycling jersey and the Fat Cyclist Pink jersey of which Steve is a proud owner. The jerseys are produced by Twin Six and the proceeds from said jerseys go to helping Fatty and his wife in their battle and to various cancer related charities. Simply AWESOME!
OK, so in a previous post, I mentioned my new TV and new Receiver. (Just checked and the receiver is in Seattle!) Well now that I'm moving into 1080p land, all my component video connections and digital optical connection are to be replaced by the fancy HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) connection. Scott and I were at Best Buy yesterday and perusing the new Magnolia shop inside of Best Buy. They had the Monster reference series cables that I had been pondering purchasing. I looked and a 6 foot version of the M1000 cable was $219.00. I started doing the math in my head and realized for the 4 or 5 cables I needed, I was looking to spend in the neighborhood of $800.00. For cables.
When I got back home, I started doing some research on cables on AVS Forum and came across the following two articles:
HDMI Cables How do I Pick one?
Monster Cables – What’s The Difference?
Both articles seemed to say that for anything under about 12 feet, cable quality didn't matter much. A few users went on to say that they preferred Monoprice cables above Monster because they couldn't tell the difference in signal quality AND they were significantly cheaper. I looked at the prices of the Monoprice cables and could NOT believe they were as good as monster. They were MUCH and I mean MUCH less expensive. So I continued to do some research. I came across the following articles at Gizmodo:
There are two articles there, Part II and Part III. Part II does a lab test using a spectrum analyzer comparing Monster cable to of all things, Monoprice cables and one other brand. If you look through the pictures, you can see a difference between the two cables, but JUST. And at higher resolutions, etc. the Monster cables DO out perform the Monoprice cables. But those higher resolutions are not yet a standard and are unlikely to be anytime soon. For all intents and purposes, the cables both performed well. Up to 35 feet. Part III went on to do a real world test where the cables were actually hooked up between a source and a TV. The Monoprice cables performed flawlessly as did the Monster cables. When the Monoprice cable at 35 feet showed some image degredation, they swapped the cable for a different monoprice and the image degredation was gone. Conclusion, first cable was bad.
OK, so how much less expensive are the Monoprice cables? Seriously, you're not going to believe me when I tell you, so go to their site to see it for your own eyes. Yesterday the ONE six foot Monster cable was $219.00. I ordered FOUR six foot and ONE ten foot monoprice cable, shipped to my door USPS priority for . . . . ready? . . . . $41.49 . . . yes, you are reading that correctly and I did not leave out a digit. Less than forty two dollars for FIVE monoprice HDMI cables.
What's up Monster?
Building a DVD Server . . .So as you've probably figured out by now, I'm what you'd call an "early adopter". When a new technology is announced and I think it's cool, I want to be in on the beta test, or even the alpha test if I can manage it. So a god awful number of years ago, I was an early adopter of DVD technology. I had never before wanted to collect VHS (or egads! Beta) tapes, but for some reason I was enthralled with DVD's. I ran right out and bought a Sony DVD player and began collecting DVDs. As my collection grew, I gave my DVD player to my parents (they still have it and use it) and bought a 300 disc DVD changer. At some point a few years ago, I filled it. Including the TV series I have on DVD, I probably now own well over 500 DVDs. When we moved, I never bothered refilling the DVD changer as it was too much a PITA to type in all the titles of the DVDs again. So, I'm selling the DVD changer and going back to a single disc.
However, I think it would be UBER cool to have all of your DVDs on a server somewhere that you could access from your entertainment center at any time. Similarly, I have all 400 or so of my CD's ripped to my server in my home office and I can play any of them at any time from my Xbox 360 in my entertainment center. So last night I started researching what it would take to rip my DVDs into a format that could be read by the Xbox 360 and came across the following article:
Guide to Ripping DVDs To Your Xbox 360
I downloaded the necessary software and set about giving it a try with a Petsmart Crate training DVD. Using DVDShrink, I was able to create the necessary .VOB files and using VOB2MPG was able to create an MPG file. Initially when I tried watching the MPG file on my PC, it played fine and I figured I was in business. I moved it to the "My Movies" folder on my PC and went downstairs to the XBox 360. Initially my 360 could not communicate with my PC, so I went BACK upstairs and stopped and restarted the ZuneNSS service. Back downstairs and now the 360 could see the PC. (You can take the kid outta the Sys Admin position, but you can't take the Sys Admin outta the kid!) However, that particular video was not showing up. So BACK upstairs (getting my exercise all be it at midnight) and now the MPG won't even play on the PC. Strange. So I re-ripped it using DVDShrink and re-encoded it using VOB2MPG and now this version won't play either. OK, so I've got some bugs to work out.
First up: Will the 360 even play MPG files if there is not a TRUE Media Center PC behind it? This may be the catalyst I need to upgrade my PC to Vista Ultimate.
Next: If it will play MPG files, are the files encoded such that the digital audio is still intact? Or does it convert it to 2 channel PCM audio? Not worth doing if the digital encoding is gone.
Finally: How much disk space am I going to need to accomplish all of this? We know that a standard DVD holds 4.7Gb of data. So no more than 4.7Gb per movie. However, there are often multiple audio tracks, French, Chinese, Hindi (OK, I've never seen a DVD encoded in Hindi, but I'm sure they're there) that I don't need. So I can toss those. I don't need all the fancy menus or extras. But just to be on the safe side, I'm figuring about 4Gb per movie. I doubt my DVD collection will grow much over the coming years as Blu-Ray and HD-DVD will become my format of choice and those are FAR too big to rip. So I've got to have at least enough room for 500 DVD's and maybe a 20% buffer for expansion, etc. Soooooooo . . . . 500 X 4Gb = 2,000Gb or 2Tb . . . with 20% for expansion we'll round it off to 2.5Tb of storage space. YIKES.
OK, so maybe I won't rip ALL my movies . . . maybe just the TV series to start with . . . and see how much I use it. It'll still be a cool experiment. Steve? Any suggestions?
Home Theater Geek Taking Suggestions . . .OK, by my previous posts about receivers and TV's OH MY! You may have gotten the impression that I'm somewhat a home theater geek. One of my big dreams is to build a house with a dedicated home theater. A theater that's isolated from the rest of the house by much sound dampening material and construction so as not to offend those sleeping . . . next door. I like to watch movies LOUD. I like to feel explosions. I like to be right in the middle of the action. So a dedicated home theater is on my lists of gotta do's.
It won't be a huge space, probably on the order of 14 - 18 feet wide by 18 - 24 feet deep. Just enough for about 6 home theater chairs, a large 120 inch or so Stewart Film Screen, a 1080p projector and LOTS of speakers. Probably a 7.1 setup by the time I get there. When I get the option of building this "man cave", I want to do it as a theme. Teri is a huge fan of Stargate SG-1, so that's an option. It would be cool to have a double door leading into the theater surrounded by a stargate with a DHD sitting next to it. (For those of you that are not SG-1 fans, a DHD is a Dial Home Device and way too complicated to explain here) Then inside, you could have an Egyptian theme with statues of Anubis, etc. around. (Again, for non SG-1 fans, the Egyptian theme plays heavily into the SG-1 storyline) It would be pretty dang cool.
Anyway, as I was surfing around on YouTube the other night and ran across this guy's home theater. He did it as a Star Trek theme. I think he did a pretty fantastic job and the cost (not including equipment I'm assuming) wasn't all that horribly expensive considering. Have a look. Then let me know what kind of theme YOUR home theater would have.
Star Trek Themed Home Theater
I hate dishonest people . . .So a few months ago I sold some stuff on eBay. Early August in fact. It was not inexpensive stuff. With shipping to the buyer, the total was $825.00. You might believe that the real estate mogul I am, that's chump change. However, you dear reader would be . . . ahem . . .wrong. That's a lot of money to me. Anyway, the money was wired to me through PayPal and deposited into my checking account in short order. I shipped the item within a day or so of the auction closing and left positive feedback for the buyer. I e-mailed him to say the package was on the way, I had left positive feedback and would appreciate it if he did the same when the goods arrived and he inspected them. I never heard from him, but tracked the package on-line and saw that it was indeed delivered. I thought nothing more of it.
Then on Halloween, I got an e-mail from PayPal saying that a buyer was disputing a charge through their credit card company and they had placed the funds on hold until they investigated the claim. Now they haven't actually taken the funds out of my checking account yet, but I think they will unless I can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the buyer did in fact receive the goods. I freaked out when I got this notice. I really cannot afford to lose over $800 right now.
Thankfully I had not yet deleted the tracking number from my UPS account. I went back in and checked the shipment and it was indeed delivered, however it was signed for by someone in a mail room. So that worries me. I provided that information to PayPal. I also found two e-mails I had sent the buyer to verify that it was shipped and that I had also added his e-mail address to the tracking of the goods. I just faxed that information to PayPal. I really don't have any other evidence than that. The guy never left me feedback which I'm sure is part of this scam.
I guess now I have to stop accepting credit card as payment through PayPal. What a PITA, if this guy wins, he'll have gotten a fairly expensive item for free. What BS. I hope my evidence is enough to at least make his credit card company question it's legitimacy.
Keepin up with the Jones' . . .[SIGH] I'm an impulsive geek, that's one thing for sure. Once I start getting in my head that I want something, it usually won't be long before I have it. However, now that I'm married, I at least discuss it with Teri first. :-) So you'll remember a couple posts back I mentioned wanting a new TV and receiver. Specifically the WD-57833 Mitsubishi TV and the Sony STRDA-5300ES receiver. Well today I ordered a new TV and receiver from Crutchfield. I ended up not going with the Sony receiver, I went instead with a Denon receiver. Specifically the AVR-4308CI. After reading reviews, deciding on what features were really important to me, and finally convincing myself that I wanted a true pro-level receiver the 4308 sounded like the best option. So specifically for me it has:
- 4 HDMI inputs (Perfect for X-Box 360, Cable Box, an eventual Blu-Ray player and one extra for future expandability)
- Video upconversion to 1080p for legacy sources
- HD Radio tuner (I've been dying to have an HD radio tuner)
- Wireless network connectivity for easy firmwear updates and streaming music from a server
- XM Satellite Radio ready (Teri and I both have XM in the car, so it would be nice to have a third at home)
- Bazillions of other audio/video connections (see pic below)
- 2nd Zone (and actually FOUR zone) output for our whole house audio system
- PLENTY of power, like 140W per channel to really drive the home theater experience
- All the latest audio decoders like Dolby True HD, etc.
- WAY more than I care to list here!
Long story short, it will be a fantastic receiver for MANY years to come and offer the expandability to grow with my needs. Coupled with the new Mitsubishi TV, the Xbox HD-DVD player, an eventual Blu-Ray player, etc. My home theater will have never sounded or looked better!
John's Weather StationOK, so today I drug Teri kicking and screaming to Best Buy. I wanted to look at receivers and TV's . . . well they didn't have either in the flavor I wanted, so it was pretty much a wasted trip . . . almost. As we were walking along the back aisle, Teri pointed out an Oregon Scientific Weather Station. Now I've wanted a Weather Station since I bought my Dad one a few years ago. I just think they are cool. And last year when I was working in Yelm, one of my clients had one that hooked up to his PC and automatically updated his website with current weather data. NOW that's a geek toy I can seriously get behind!
So anyway, I looked at the box for this weather station and it had everything! The main station, a remote wind speed/direction indicator, a second sensor to indicate outside temperature and a rain gauge! Best of all, it connected to your PC . . . cool! There was a sign on it that read: $49.99. Now I've looked at weather stations a lot and I knew this was a GREAT deal. So I picked it up. At the register it rang up as $149.99, but the manager over rode it and took $100.00 off. When I got home I looked it up on the internet and it's suggested retail price is $219.99 and I got it for less than $50.00. Thanks for pointing it out hon!
I raced upstairs to my office and began to unpack the box. I assembled the wind speed/direction indicator and the rain gauge. I checked that they were communicating with the base station and headed outside to mount them. I placed the wind speed/direction indicator on one of the back posts of my fence, and the rain gauge is merely sitting on my patio table. I installed the software for the station and connected it to my PC. There I was looking at real time weather data for my house on my PC! My geek was on overload. So of course I had to see how to go about uploading the data to my website. Unfortunately the base version of software that comes with the station has that functionality disabled. So I looked around and downloaded a trial copy of "Virtual Weather Station". About 5 minutes later, voila! Real time weather data on my website! Pretty stinkin' cool!
I'll be evaluating the various software packages over the next month or so . . . but if you want to see what the weather is like at MY house RIGHT NOW . . . point your web browser here: http://johnhurlbut.com/weather/wx.htm
Here's a link to the weather station I have . . . it's pretty cool! Right now the indoor temperature is reading in my office . . . which can run a bit warm if the window is closed, so I think I'll get another sensor to put in the hall to give a more accurate reading of the house temperature. AND I may get the UV index sensor too . . . you'll want to know when it's safe to be out of doors in Puyallup right!
John's Weather Station - Oregon Scientific WMR-100 USB
Yep, I'm all geeked out today . . .
Lovely Time on Halloween . . .So last night our friends Brandon and Liz came over for dinner. They braved traffic on 167 and South Hill to come to dinner with us. I know our place is not the easiest to get to, nor is it convenient for most. So when people go out of their way to come by, it's extra special. Brandon and I were room mates for quite a few years and have been friends since the second grade. While we lived together, we would cook some epic meals that would leave us full and bloated for days. So when he said he'd bring the steaks down, I knew it was going to be one of those nights.
I headed out around 3PM yesterday to get the fixins for the rest of the meal. At our local Fred Meyer, I picked up a couple bags of mixed greens and baby spinach for the salad. Some baby carrots, red onion, bacon and blue cheese crumbles combined with an organic balsamic vinagrette to make the salad just right. Some Au Gratin potatos for a starch and a couple bottles of "7 Deadly Zins" for the wine. Combine that with Brandon's New York steaks with a nice Huckleberry rub and you've got yourself on hell of a meal! Oh and I added a Carrot cake for dessert.
Brandon and Liz arrived around 6 and the first bottle of wine was opened. I'd seen the wine in Mens Health earlier in the week and have recently gotten into Zinfandels. So I thought it'd be a nice compliment to the steak. I really enjoyed the wine. I'm by no means a wine snob . . . I don't know anything about throat or tannins or any of that stuff. If it tastes good to me . . . it's a good wine. This one tasted really good to me. We also got to break in our new Reidel stemless wine glasses . . . I've wanted some for awhile now and my broker and his wife got us a set of four for our wedding present. Very cool.
I started the potatos and mixing the salad while Brandon prepared the steaks (and chicken for Teri). Brandon and Liz had not yet met puppy Taylor, so while we were cooking and BSing much fun was had by all with the puppy. Within about a half an hour, dinner was ready and we all sat down to eat. AWESOME meal! Even better when shared with good friends, good conversation and good wine! I had a great time! I just wish we all lived closer together so it could be more of a regular occurance. Anyway, thanks guys! We had a great time! Next time, we'll come north!