Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Screensaver won't start in Windows XP

For several months -- perhaps as much as year -- I grew increasingly frustrated as my screensaver on my Windows XP desktop abso-friggin-lutely refused to start in any semblance of a consistent manner. At first, it seemed to have something to do with Outlook 2003. I'd turn off Outlook, and it seemed to kick in correctly when I left it idle. As it turned out, that perceived behavior was a red herring. Given that I have an LCD monitor, I was growing concerned that burn-in was inevitable. Unfortunately I simply didn't have the time to look into it. That and the fact that I primarily use my laptop put this annoyance near the bottom of my long to-do list.

Finally last weekend, I had enough. I had googled this issue half-heartedly when it first started happening, but this time google yielded immediate results. Users in several forums having similar problems had wireless USB mice like my Logitech laser mouse. The suggested solution? Shut down the computer, unplug the mouse, attach a USB to PS/2 connector, and plug it into the PS/2 mouse port. After one false start where I wasn't paying attention and plugged my Logitech webcam into the PS/2 port instead of my mouse ("Why isn't my webcam working? Durrrrrrr..."), I plugged her in, booted up, and lo and behold, it worked. My screen saver has been consistently working for the last several days with no issues whatsoever. I suspect that using the PS/2 port instead of USB will mean I'll lose nifty features like low battery warning messages from the Logitech monitoring software, but I can live with that if it prolongs the life of my monitor.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The new tv is here!

Check out that foxy box


It's thinner than Kate Moss!

Checking out a high def recording of "Heroes" before I reluctantly head back to work

Even the news looks amazing! Check out the detail on Belinda's leather jacket. It's like you can reach out and rub it. And let me tell you, I intend to as soon as the restraining order she has against me expires.

A pregnant Belinda tries to grab my man purse. No! That's my purse! Bad!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Preparing a nursery for your HDTV

The other night I looked behind my mismatched tv stand and realized that now was as good a time as any to get rid of the mass of cluttered wires behind it, have of which weren't even connected to anything. I disconnected my receiver, speakers, soon-to-be-replaced Tivo Series2, cable box, and television, and set them all aside to sort through the mess. I made a pile of trash to be thrown away, a pile of cables I need to use, and a pile of good cables that I don't need now, but would be handy to have around. Two problems resulted. First, my living room is now a cluttered mess. Second, I discovered that my 9 year old tv stand has become quite wobbly in its advanced years, and I do not trust it to hold my new LCD tv, which will be delivered early next week. So now I'm scanning craigslist for used furniture.

Regardless of my lack of entertainment-related furniture, I had to get the new Tivo Series3 configured and ready to go so the cable guy could install the CableCards today. It was the first time he'd ever configured them in a Tivo. He was a little shakey on the menus, and I had to point out to him that he'd installed the first card in the wrong slot (the slot label and the menu screen both clearly said to use the bottom slot first, but he must not have noticed that). He did just fine in the end though, and everything is now up and running smoothly. I can now record my shows in HD, but will have to wait until next week to actually watch them in HD.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The HDTV is on its way

After a final trip to Best Buy to check out the picture on a 65" Mitsubishi DLP and a couple other models, I finally realized that I would never really be happy with the picture on a DLP. Yes, I know some of you have DLP's of your own and swear by them, but I decided once and for all on Saturday that I was going with a flat panel. The viewing angle is better, you can mount it on a wall, and if I want to get a bigger tv for my living room a few years down the road, I can easily move it down to my basement or another room.

On Sunday, I did several hours of searching deals and reading and rereading reviews online and it came down to the very highly rated Sony KDL46XBR2 46" 1080p LCD or the Samsung LN-S5296D 52" 1080p LCD. Sonys run quite a bit more expensive then the Samsungs, so the 52" Sony was too far outside of my price range. Both had been extremely high on my list previously, but reading some angry posts on AVSForum about developing issues of "clouds" and uneven brightness gave me pause. However, more recent posts have had encouraging tales of people fixing the issues themselves. For those unwilling to fix it themselves, Samsung has been extremely responsive and has replaced sets with older manufacturing dates with newer ones with little pushback. Sony, on the other hand, has denied up and down the problem even existed. With all of this in mind, I decided once and for all that the Samsung was my tv.

Unfortunately there was the issue of price. When I set out on this HDTV quest, I had set a relatively firm budget of $3,000 for the set itself, which left room for other expenses like an extended warranty, Tivo Series3, HDMI cables, a power conditioner, and possibly an upconverting DVD player (I'm sitting tight on an actual high def player until the HD DVD vs Blu-Ray war is settled or prices for both come down significantly). The cheapest I could find the Samsung at a reputable online store was in the $3,400-$3,500 range. But I've always said I could justify away the The Rapture. *grin* In reviewing my financial situation, I realized that in my cautious delay on making the purchase, I had socked quite a bit more money away into my tv fund. I did some figure checking, and it added up. As a bonus, I'll still be able to pay my mortgage and can continue to avoid the all Ramen diet! Oh, and continue to save for retirement and have extra funds for a rainy day, blah blah blah. *grin*

So brace yourself. Here is the rundown. Is it polite to talk about specific dollar amounts? Eh...that's debatable, but I'm posting this in hopes that it will help others make a decision for themselves. I want them to know just what they're getting into financially, too.

I could have paid less for the television itself, but I decided to get it from newegg.com. I have purchased a lot of computer parts and equipment from them in the last 6 years, I know they are trustworthy, and they seemed to have the least outrageous prices on the extended warranty.

Samsung LN-S5296D from newegg: ~$3600
Shipping: ~$100
5 year extended in-home service/replacement warranty: ~$450
Tivo Series3 from DigitalHotBuy: ~$610
Shipping: ~$15
Geek Squad branded voltage regulating UPS from Best Buy w/ tax: ~$100
HDMI cables, two 4 foot cables: $12 (a guy I know who works for Best Buy used his employee discount to buy then--normally $60 each, or $120!!!!! Can't beat a 90% discount!!)

Total so far: ~$4887 (gulp!)

Despite having more than enough money on hand to pay this stuff off, suffice it to say that I will be taking a more miserly approach to spending until that credit card balance is zero! Just in case my hot water heater decides to crap out or my car decides to spontaneously explode in my garage.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

XBStore and XBStore.com

Lately when doing my semi-regular searches for HDTV models I've noticed a new "store" consistently popping up with the lowest prices on televisions, cameras, and other products. XBStore.com. Their prices are significantly and suspiciously lower than everyone else. For a while, I couldn't find a single word about them online. Well, it turns out there's a good reason why. A WHOIS lookup of xbstore.com reveals the domain was just registered just a couple of weeks ago to someone overseas (Spain?). And finally tonight I found this thread. The site only takes wire transfers. How. Very. Suspicious. Now I have no proof, no firsthand experience with this site, and it is within the realm of possibility that they are legit. However, my personal opinion is that all signs point to XBStore and XBStore.com being a slapdash scam site. So buyer beware. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Registrant:

XBStore Company
Calle Mayor, 40
Zaragoza, NA 50001

Domain name: XBSTORE.COM

Administrative Contact:
Melendez, Rodrigo contact@xbstore.com
Calle Mayor, 40
Zaragoza, NA 50001
+34.942940116 Fax: +34.942940116

Technical Contact:
Melendez, Rodrigo contact@xbstore.com
Calle Mayor, 40
Zaragoza, NA 50001
+34.942940116 Fax: +34.942940116

Registrar of Record: TUCOWS, INC.
Record last updated on 20-Jan-2007.
Record expires on 18-Jan-2008.
Record created on 18-Jan-2007.

Domain servers in listed order:

Domain status: clientTransferProhibited

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

iPhone is all things to all people...except me

I was jazzed that Apple finally announced its iPhone, an iPod/PDA/mobile phone combo that industry wags have drooled over for years. It's more than I had hoped for. It's form factor is miniscule. It's impossibly thin. It runs OS X, has a touch screen interface (you use your finger, so no worries about losing a stylus), has a 2 MP camera, plays movies, and songs, and on and on and on. But here is why I will not be purchasing the iPhone when it comes out. For starters, it's only available from Cingular. If it were everything I wanted in an all-in-one portable device, I would consider switching carriers, but it is not. And at $600 with a 2 year Cingular contract, that is a huge ouch in the checking account. But moreover, at 8 GB of storage, it's not there yet. I've long said that I will not purchase an iPod or iPod hybrid device unless it has at least 20 GB of solid state memory. That's solid state, as in flash. Now that the iPhone is more than a pipe dream, I will add that I will not purchase an iPod until that 20 GB version is available in the iPhone. I have enough crap to carry around and keep track of day to day. This is why I don't own an iPod or other MP3 player right now. If it doesn't fit on my wrist or in my pants pocket, I'm not taking it with me. Notably, this is probably yet another reason why I don't have children. *grin*

Monday, January 08, 2007

HDTV search update

I realize price and technology will always be changing rapidly, but I'm becoming more and more conflicted about whether to buy now or wait. The signs seem to indicate that we are sitting on the edge of a crucial turning point for both technology and price in the HDTV world. TV-related product announcements are coming pretty much hourly from CES today. Samsung is moving entirely from short-lived bulbs to LEDs rated for 20,000 hours in its rear projection displays (though I was underwhelmed with the picture on their first gen LED rear projo). Budget manufacturers are coming out with 50 to 60 inch LCDs and plasmas priced around $3,000 over the coming months. And as of last week, you can get a 47 inch 1080p display from Vizio for under $2,000. This is sure to get some of the big boys to drop prices on their products, as well.

My excitement over getting a new tv is growing, and my patience is wearing thinner, but my brain is telling me to wait it out just a little longer.