Monday, February 3, 2014

Don’t feel bad, Broncos fans – the 2014 Super Bowl appearance was par for the course


I’ve been a Denver Broncos fan since way on back in 1977. Why? I always watched football with my dad and I wanted a team of my own to root for while doing it.

I suspect that a lot of people became Broncos fans in 1977 because that was the famed Cinderella year in which the Broncos beat all expectations and made it to the Super Bowl. You had a team with no significant NFL playoff history that got great all of the sudden. You had Craig Morton – the former Cowboys quarterback who was cast off in favor of Roger Staubach – was one of those guys you just had to pull for. He was nearing the end of his career and everyone likes to see the underdog defy expectations, right? You also had the Orange Crush defense that was getting games won for the team.

Yes, 1977 was a great season for the Broncos. Well, it turned sour during the 1978 Super Bowl when the Dallas Cowboys easily handled Denver and won 27-10.

That first Super Bowl appearance set Broncos fans up for more disappointment. There was the 39-20 Super Bowl loss against the Giants in 1987. That was followed by the 42-10 drubbing Denver took from Washington in the 1988 Super Bowl. And, who could forget about the embarrassing 55-10 loss to the 49ers in 1990?

Denver redeemed itself somewhat in 1998 when Denver finally won a Super Bowl by beating the Packers 31-24. Denver followed that victory by crushing the Falcons 34-19 in the 1999 Super Bowl.

Since then, well Denver’s had some great seasons but it wasn’t until the 2014 Super Bowl when the Broncos played yet again for a national championship. The result? A 43-8 loss against the Seahawks in a game where nothing went right for Denver (the Broncos fumbled the first snap of the game, resulting in a safety).

So, the Broncos have a dismal Super Bowl record of 2-5. No, this year’s Super Bowl loss was nothing new for the Broncos, was it?

Because putting photos on canvas is cool

One of the best family photos we took was one that was put on canvas so it has that “fine art” vibe to it. The thing looks great and has been a decent conversation piece over the years.

Here’s the problem with that photo, however – it cost and arm and a leg. We went to a professional photographer and had to pay for the photo session. After that cost, we had to spend additional money to get a big old frame photo that we could stick on our wall.

But, what if you have a good photograph around already that you’d like printed on canvas? Can you get that done without paying a lot of cash? Yes you can thanks to the friendly folks at Photo 4 Canvas (click the link for more information or play the above video for even more information).

Just click the link and you’ll find a site that can help you get the canvas treatment you want at a cost you can afford. In short, you submit your photo and they’ll handle the rest.

Ah, but the company is more helpful than that. If you have a low resolution photo that won’t look good when printed, you’ll know before you choose to buy a print. Oh, and the company will even email you a print before going to press so you’ll know exactly how it will look. That service is free of charge, too.

Looking for more bargains online? Well, there are a couple of other sites to check out. The first is Snap Car Rentals which offers more cars than you can shake a stick at for prices you won’t mind paying. That company is based in New Zealand.

Another New Zealand based company worth having a look at is Viventium Home Loans. What’s that? A company that can save you thousands on a home loan. Mortgages are expensive anyway, so why not do what you can to save some major money on one? Click on the link to check out the site and see how that company can help you.

Remember all that chatter in the 1990s about an “Internet revolution?” A lot of that was advanced by companies that sold dog food and such on the Internet. Thank goodness, in the 21st century, online retailers have learned what items people want when they shop on the Internet and how to make things convenient for their markets.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Yeah, my netbook is still useful


Back in 2009, my wife picked up a Compaq Mini 110c for me. While that 10.1” netbook with its low-power and underpowered Intel Atom CPU is about as trendy as a pet rock these days, I still use the thing like crazy.

Why? It’s a lot easier to lug around than my 17” laptop and is pretty darned convenient. I don’t always need the power of my big ol’ laptop with its four-core CPU and 8 gigabytes of RAM, so the Compaq is great for traveling, surfing on the Internet and a heck of a lot of other things.

Anyone looking for a cheap, portable computer could do a lot worse than a Mini 110c (or just about any netbook, for that matter). Those are so out of favor that it’s not hard to pick one up on eBay for about $100, but you’ll need to do a little work to make it the truly useful machine it can be.

Here we go:

* Dump Windows. Most netbooks came with Windows XP or Windows 7 Starter. They both suck for netbooks because those underpowered netbooks simply struggle with Windows when it comes to handling complex tasks.

A lightweight Linux distro is a much better choice for a netbook. I’m a fan of Linux Mint with the Xfce desktop, but your mileage may vary. A couple of the many great things about Linux is that the distros are free, so you can try out as many as you like until you find one that suits you.

* Max out that RAM. My Compaq came standard with 1 gigabyte of ram, but will support up to 2 gigabytes. I spent about $40 on that upgrade and the speed boost was well worth it.

* Get a six-cell battery. My Compaq came with a three-cell battery that was quite small and only lasted about three hours with regular use. Doubling up to a six-cell battery cost about $20. That’s another worthwhile investment.

So, you can spend around $100 for a netbook, drop another $60 or so for some upgrades, spend some time learning Linux and you’ll have yourself a great, general purpose computer.

Having said all of that, let me put in a plug or two for the Compaq/HP Mini 110 series. The track pads are weird (buttons on the sides of the track pad rather than on the bottom as God intended), but the keyboards are great. Also, I’ve worked on a few netbooks over the years for friends and have learned one thing – the Mini 110 is easier than most to actually open and work on when things go wrong. That’s worth a lot for those of us who value a cheap computer that is easy to fix with cheap parts.

Oh, one more thing – forget about the models with a 16 gigabyte solid state drive. Go for the 160 gigabyte standard hard drive. You’ll be glad you did.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Business is changing, so you should, too

I well remember something changing in Arkansas a few years ago – a businessman wanting to stay competitive needed to learn how to reach out to the increasing Latino market.

That was a dramatic shift in this state, but a larger one is shaping up now. Economies are now more global, so reaching out to markets in expanding areas such as India is as critical now as reaching the Latino family down the road was a couple of decades ago.

So, what can a businessman do? He could could hire a bunch of interpreters and translators to deal with all of the customers and all of their languages in big old India, or he could outsource that job to a company that is based in that continent, responds quickly to requests and charges reasonable fees?

Which one sounds more efficient to you?

That’s right – hiring interpreters and translators in India is the more cost effective way to go, isn’t it? Click one of the aforementioned links to get going.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

QuickPic and a bunch of shoes

2014-01-14 19.00.52

See that shoe over there to the right? Like it? I had about 19,000 copies of that hogging up 12GB of space on my HTC One. Considering the phone only has 32GB on board, that was a problem.

A couple of months ago my wife was out shopping for shoes, see, when she found a pair that I might like. So, she snapped a picture of the dandy shoe to the right and texted it to me. She also sent along a photo of another shoe that I liked better so I asked her to get me a pair of those.

Apparently, my phone really liked the gray shoe as it saved 19,000 copies of it somewhere on my phone. The stock, Android Gallery app was no help in tracking down the rogue photo, but the free QuickPic app was able to find it (and all the copies of it) in a hidden folder called “Encore” for some reason. It took about 10 minutes to delete the “shoe copy” photos, but it was easy enough to do that with QuickPic and I freed up a ton of space, to boot (pun intended).

The point? Get QuickPic as such apps are sadly necessary when it comes to dealing with the quirks of Android. I’m glad the app is free as I’d hate to have to buy something to correct a problem that should never have happened in the first place.

Damned if I don’t miss my iPhone.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I absolutely hate Windows 8


There’s no getting around it – Microsoft’s decision to make a uniform operating system for phones, tablets and computers stinks. While Windows 8 may work fine for a tablet or a phone, it’s a counter-intuitive piece of crap on a computer.

The bad thing about Windows 8 is that it has become standard equipment on new computers. Well, you could grab an Apple Macintosh or try a Linux distro (Linux Mint is a particularly good one, by the way), but there are a lot of us who have been using Windows for years and have grown accustomed to it. Honestly, one of the best operating systems I’ve used is Windows XP and Windows 7 was on its way to being a great OS until Microsoft decided it needed a modern user interface.

Apparently, “modern” is code for “a confusing bunch of icons thrown all over the screen like a monkey flings poop at a wall.” The “monkey poop throw” description may be accurate, but it’s hard to work that description into a marketing campaign, isn’t it?

Over the past year, I’ve bought two computers loaded with Windows 8 – one for my office and a laptop for use at home. Rather than dealing with Windows 8 and its moronic interface, I took a simpler route – I grabbed a copy of Classic Shell and like the heck out of it.

Why? Classic Shell is a free download that takes but a few minutes to install and doesn’t throw a bunch of spam and other garbage all over my computer. What you see is what you get – an interface that can be configured to look like Windows 7, XP or even 98 (assuming you didn’t learn to hate Windows 98 after dealing with that buggy piece of trash). Instead of a screen full of goofy, flashing icons, you get a start button and a traditional desk top. It’s just the thing for those of us who are more interested in getting some work done than trying to figure out a new, weird operating system that makes no sense in a “keyboard and mouse” environment.

Give Classic Shell a shot if you hate Microsoft’s latest foray into strangeness. While you’re at it, make sure to configure “Default Programs” from your control panel so that “old” Windows apps are used to open media instead of those new, bad Windows 8 apps.

So, what’s the best way to deal with Windows 8? Find ways to get rid of the new interface and go for something that is actually intuitive and easy to use.

Can you lower your utility bills and be more comfortable?


Here in scenic Arkansas, utility bills can cost a heck of a lot of money during the hot, humid days that seem to start around April and end sometime in late September. Why? This are of the world is tolerable with good air conditioning and hard to take without it. People run their air conditioners hard in the summer because, frankly, one can suffer in a hurry without them.

There are similar problems in some parts of the world, of course, with frigid winters. Regardless of where you happen to live, the chances are good your utility bills are high for several months a year as you struggle to keep your home comfortable.

Wouldn’t it be great, though, if you could stay comfortable and still save money on utility bills? That’s all very possible through a home energy audit – a process through which a professional analyzes your home and suggest way to make it more energy efficient.

In addition to the money savings, an audit can help you on resale value of your home through the wonder of home improvement marketing. Real estate markets are still very competitive, so everyone’s looking for something that’ll make their homes more attractive to buyers than other similar ones in the area. Offering a potential buyer some energy savings can be quite attractive.

Ready to start saving money? Click one of the aforementioned links and find out how that is possible.

Need help with Oracle?


Here’s a bit of trivia – what’s the second largest software company in the world? That would be Oracle Corporation, which is second only to Microsoft.

Oracle has been around since the mid-1970s and is perhaps best known for its extremely reliable and flexible database management systems. Oracle makes great stuff that has met the information storage and management needs of corporations for years, but it can be difficult to set up and use.

In fact, a good number of businesses finding it necessary to implement Oracle software and/or hardware also find they need a little help through Oracle consulting services. Having Oracle dba support services on hand can, indeed, make the transition to dealing with Oracle’s complex and powerful products a little less daunting.

Ready to jump into the wide, wonderful world of Oracle but need a little help? Click one of the aforementioned links and help will be on its way.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Come on, eBay


Over the past decade or so, I’ve had a lot of dealings with eBay. I’ve bought a lot of items and have sold a lot on the Internet’s largest auction site and have managed to compile a 100 percent user rating after 289 completed transactions.

My experience with eBay has largely been pleasant. I’ve bought a lot of items that just aren’t much sold around here (mainly vintage video games) and have sold quite a few items I had lying around that turned out to be worth a buck or two. In short, I’ve been a fan of eBay for years and love the notion that the site caters to those of us who might collect things that are out of the ordinary and hard to find locally.

Over the past couple of months, however, my eBay experiences have been less than pleasant. Perhaps I’m snakebit and unlucky at times, but things seem to be going wrong over there.

Let me explain. Back at the first of December, my son kept hinting that he’d love to have the Xbox 360 that’s been in our living room since 2009 back in his room. I figured that request was reasonable, so I decided to pick up an Xbox 360 Elite for the living room and give him the faithful, old 360 that’s entertained us for a few years. So, I used the “buy it now” feature on eBay and picked up one for a good price.

The seller said he didn’t have it anymore, cancelled the transaction and refunded my money. Fine. I bought another 360 Elite and the same thing happened – the seller didn’t have the item anymore so he cancelled the transaction and refunded my money. The third time proved to be a charm and I was able to finally get someone to take my cash and send me a 360 Elite.

Two weeks ago, I bought a Sega Genesis game for a few dollars and that transaction was cancelled, too. Why? Of course, the seller no longer had the item. Around the same time, I sold the Samsung Galaxy S4 on eBay for $420 and the buyer didn’t pay me. I contacted the buyer and agreed to give him another week to pay. I opened a “non-paying buyer” ticket on eBay last night since I’ve not gotten my money.

Here’s the main problem I’ve had with all of these cancelled transactions – they were all with people who had high user ratings on eBay. It would seem the site’s attempts to self-police its users has fallen short. It’s irritating to buy items and find out later they are no longer available and it’s infuriating to see an auction go a week, end and then have to deal with a buyer that doesn’t have the cash to complete the deal.

One of the things that has made eBay so effective over the years is that transactions tend to go smoothly. Buyers and sellers close transactions with little trouble. Should the day arrive when that is no longer the case, then what use is eBay?

My situation may be unusual, but I hope the folks at eBay are doing what they can to make sure that buyers and sellers both will hold up their ends of transactions.

Looking to boost your Web presence?


Ah, the Internet can be a rough and tumble place, can’t it? You can have the snazziest site in the world, but that won’t matter one whit if no one bothers to visit.

How can you attract those visitors? By ranking highly in search engines, of course. How can you rank higher than your competitors and sites that are similar in scope to yours? By a little discipline called “search engine optimized” – making sure that relevant terms are on your site that attract the visitors you want.

You can work on improving your SEO yourself, of course, but wouldn’t it be more efficient to hire someone who knows what they are doing to accomplish that goal for you? To that end, you need a good SEO reseller. Click on the aforementioned link to find one of the better SEO reseller programs out there – HubShout.

That bunch has been around for awhile and was founded by people who have experience with such heavy hitters as AT&T, Ford, Coca-Cola and Verizon (perhaps you’ve heard of those little companies). Click the link and put HubShout to work for you.

Looking for Calgary real estate?


If you’ve every been a home buyer or seller looking for some good real estate information on the Internet, you’ve undoubtedly run across a disturbing fact – a lot of real estate sites are downright terrible.

Sloppy design. Confusing search engines. Awful and out-of-date advice. All of that is out there as there are more than a few real estate companies that view Internet sites as minor parts of an overall marketing strategy.

If you’re looking for Calgary real estate, you’re in luck – click the aforementioned link and you’ll find a site put up by a company that understands a lot of people search the Internet for real estate information and treat those potential customers seriously. Instead of a simple list of Calgary real estate agents and the typical “call us today!” junk, you’ll get some tools that are actually useful.

Give it a shot. You can thank me later.