Category Archives: Prices

Price gougers, shopping savings, reducing spending with technology

Ouch! Greed exposed – Your $45 broadband costs your Internet Service Provider (Comcast – Time Warner) … $1.35

As quoted from “The Problem With Cable Is Television

“The operating cost of providing broadband service is low and getting lower. At Time Warner, the cost of connecting to the Internet and other direct costs of providing its high-speed data service fell to $33 million, down 18 percent. That represents just 3 percent of the revenue it collects for broadband service. But it doesn’t include the capital expenses needed to upgrade the network. Comcast reported $120 million of costs for high-speed data service, down 13 percent from a year ago. That represents 6 percent of its data revenue.”

Ok.. so If you pay $45 a month for broadband … it costs them $1.35 at Time Warner … and $2.70 at Comcast.

Lets put that in perspective … lets say it cost $1.35  to make a loaf of Wonder Bread (Of course that doesn’t include packaging upgrades) … $45 to buy it? … No more outrageous than the cost of broadband!

To add insult to financial injury they want to raise the price.

Do you think broadband users should be paying to subsidize Comcast and Time Warner Cable Television?

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Auckland secures faster-internet deal … The gothcha? It’s $135 a month

Astronomical pricing for Wi-Fi lauded as a boon by city … From the New Zealand Herald

“Auckland became the first city in the country yesterday to offer the service, which allows users, for a small charge, to connect to the internet in certain areas in and around the CBD.
The Wi-Fi project is a partnership between Auckland City Council, Wi-Fi service provider Tomizone and telecommunications company Kordia.
The service will cover seven zones of the Auckland CBD and fringe – Aotea Square, Remuera, Parnell, Karangahape Rd, Ponsonby, Viaduct Basin and Westhaven, including the marina.
Within these zones, users can access wireless internet at speeds of at least 2Mbps for $3 per hour, $6.50 per day or $30 per week. The Wi-Fi service does not require contracts – users can pay as they go, using portable log-ons.”

“For a small charge” my foot … and 2mb ain’t that fast … What an outrageous ripoff … $135 a month for 2mb Wi-Fi. I’m sure New Zealand and her people are nice but how do they expect to encourage internet usage at those prices. Can ordinary New Zealanders really afford $135 a month for internet access? The city should be setting up free wifi!

Black Friday – The Shopping Spree Online – All Week – and then Cyber Monday Sucked!

For those of you who didn’t notice last week had some pretty nice discounts  … You didn’t have to go to Walmart or BestBuy at 5am to get the deals either.

In fact you didn’t have to wait until Friday to start shopping either because most of the online stores had deals going all week that were usually better than the stuff in the advertising circulars where you had fight the crowds  only to find the 10 of that item they had were already soldout.

And while we are on the subject I can tell you … because I paid close attention … that Cyber Monday sucked. Most of the items on sale from last week were back to their regular prices … the majority of the free shipping was history.

So what deals made my week?

Well I’m been using the beta trial of windows home server on a spare pc and it expires in February so I was planning on buying the software (its $100 after Microsoft’s price drop).  I spotted a deal on slickdeals for the HP Media Smart ex470 which includes the 4 bay media smart server, a 500gb drive and windows home server for $299 … ordered last Monday. ( $549 today at newegg.com).

Speaking of Newegg.com  They had the samsung 1TB drives for $92 … no tax and free shipping . I bought 3 last Monday. They are $95 now and still have free shipping

I’ve been planning on another HDTV and spotted the Dell deal (also on Monday)  … Sharp 42″ 1080p free shipping for $799. Granted there were cheaper 42″ off brands for less .. some even 1080p but most of the decent models were $899 and up. The TV arrived on Black Friday.

I really love Newegg.com I buy tons of stuff there and never pay tax and free shipping (I only buy if its free shipping).  I also bought the Rosewill dual bay sata II enclosure for $50 (down from $60). Lets you put in two 1 tb drive as 1 big drive. I have one already and its splendid and significantly more expensive everywhere else. The cheaper duals you see there are crap .. don’t bother.

Then I bought the Western Digital HD media player for $99 … for a spare bedroom tv set … hookup a usb drive with content and plug the hdmi cable into your tv and you’re good to go. Its back up to $119 today.

I already have the popcorn hour box, netflix roku box,  and the netgear digital entertainer hd eva8000 in the main entertainment  rooms but in another bedroom with an hdtv I wanted to get a video card for the pc in there with hdmi out so the guests could watch netflix and hulu from the pc desktop on the tv. I picked this one up for $20 after $10 rebate.

So I got the hp media smart server and the drives in on Wednesday. Put 2 of the 1 tb drives in the server along with a 750 and 2 external 400’s I had laying around for a total of 4050. I put the other 1tb drive in the main pc for the time being.

I put two 750gb drives in the Rosewill dual sata II drive enclosure.

I almost forgot … Newegg had an hmdi cable for $1.99 after rebate with free shipping so I picked one of those up too.

Meanwhile back on Newegg.com they had a 5 port gigabit switch for $14.99 … got one … then slickdeals got me again with the hitachi 1tb for $80 after rebate. (rebate is over now) … and while I was thinking where am I gonna put this one … I decided to pair it with the other 1 tb from earlier and bought another Rosewill dual drive sata II enclosure ( I love those). You can never have too much storage.

If anyone spots a good dual drive enclosure for ide drives cheap  … I got a couple of 500gb’s ide internal  drives looking for a home.

Oh….oh … I almost forgot I used Microsoft Live Search cashback for all my purchases.. average cashback was 3%.

And please someone take away my credit card! OUCH!

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Wal-Mart sending pre-recorded messages to cellphones

Word of warning … never give your cellphone number to a credit card company.

Wal-Mart store credit card users received notice of an addendum to their agreement this month that is going to cost them money.

The addendum is basically saying that unless you opt-out they will send automated or pre-recorded messages to your cellphone whether it cost you money or not.

I’ve got a big problem with this. How can anything that is costing you money be an opt-out rather than an opt-in. Is that legal?

Who even reads those addendum’s.  Even worse you have to call then to opt out … that’s pretty far down on my list of things I want to do .. right next to shoving bamboo under my fingernails ?

So if you are a Wal-Mart customer with a cellphone I have a suggestion for you … go to your Wal-Mart online account now and change your cellphone number to 866-630-2763 which is the number to call to opt-out  … I guess the number for your local Wal-Mart store could be fun too.

This is the addendum they are sending!

IMPORTANT SUPPLEMENT TO YOUR ACCOUNT AGREEMENT

The following provision is being added to your account agreement:

You agree that GE Money Bank and any other owner or servicer of your account may contact you about your account using any contact information or cell phone numbers you provide (whether previously or in the future). You expressly agree to the use of any automatic telephone dialing system and/or automated or prerecorded voice when contacting you, even if you are charged for the call under your phone plan. .

The above provision will become part of your account agreement if you consent to the provision by (i) using your account more than 15 days after this notice is delivered to you or (ii) keeping your account open after January 15, 2009. If you do either of these things, we will conclude that you have consented to being contacted on your cell phone in this way. If you do not want to be contacted on your cell phone in this way, you may call us at 866-630-2763 at any time.

GEMBCell [0765J]

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News Flash – Hulu and Netflix play directly to your TV – Popcorn Hour and MediaMall Playon

Popcorn hour a110 … its a networked media tank, a NAS, A UPNP server, a samba server, a media server, a NFS server, a Bitorent client, an NZB client and an energy saver to boot.

So my Popcorn hour a110 came in last week and I’ve been having tons of fun playing with it.

I have a netgear digital entertainer hd eva8000 (about $300) which has some similar features to the popcorn hour box… that is it’s HD, you can stream movies and music and pictures from attached usb drives or network shares , watch youtube and get some internet news feeds etc. Its great but there are some major differences …

1. You have to run software from a PC
2. No internal storage
2. No Hulu and Netflix
4. No using it as a nas
5. No nzb downloads
6. No Bitorrent client
7. Not much web content

The Popcorn Hour doesn’t need to have a PC running, you can add a internal hard drive or not. You get much more functionality when you do.

You can add more than 1 usb external drive.

Without a PC you can plug in a usb drive and hook the supplied hdmi cable to your TV and watch your movies or listens to music or view pictures. Add a drive and you can install all the extra provided software ..

You get:
A universal plug and play server which will usually automatically find any shared network stuff ( like my windows home server)

A samba server so you can connect the internal drive to your PC … map the drive on your pc and use it as a NAS or just copy over movies to play directly on the popcorn hour. To connect your popcorn hour to your PC (in vista) click start and type //192.168.0.190 (or whatever ip address you popcorn is using) hit enter and you will get a login box asking for a username and password … which by default is nmt for username and 1234 for password. In xp I think its start, run and then type.

•Right click on the “share” folder. You can see one option as “Map Network Drive”. Left click on that.
•Select the drive label you want to assign to the “share” folder, and click finish.

You might also use the smb server to create a network share with your nas or windows home server. If you have a windows home server then on the popcorn hour click setup then network shares then add

Share name videos

url smb://server/videos

username any username you already set up on the server

password the password you setup on the server for the above username

You can do the same for the folders photos and music . You’ll then see those listed under source on your popcorn hour.

An NFS server … another way of connecting.

An FTP server …

A Bitorrent client … just port forward 8077 on your router to the ip of your popcorn hour (note: you should also set the popcorn hour to a static ip address in the network menu on the popcorn hour.) and drop or save torrent files to the torrent folder on the popcorn hour drive you mapped to your pc earlier. You can manage the torrent downloads from your browser. http://192.168.0.182:8883/torrent/bt.cgi

An NZB app … if you have a usenet news server account just open the .nzbget folder on your popcorn hour drive and edit nzbget.conf file in notepad and change the newsgroup section replacing server1 info with your =news server, your =user name, your =password and save the file.

# Host-name of newsserver
server1.host=news.powerusenet.com
# Port to connect to (default 119 if not specified)
server1.port=119
# Username to use for authentication
server1.username=blahblah@mail.com
# Password to use for authentication
server1.password=12345678# Maximal number of simultaneous connections to this server
server1.connections=4#

After you’re done just drop or download an nzb to the nzb folder on the popcorn hour drive and boom its downloading to the download folder … even unrar’s the files.

Has youtube and other web content and saya tv .. I was not too interested in those .. but what really struck my fancy was a separate download – mediamalls playon. You install it on your pc and it acts as a server that lets you play Hulu and Netflix directly to your TV. QUITE AWESOME!!!!!!!!

So all that stuff I tryed … except nfs and ftp. Worked perfectly .. downloaded a torrent no problem. Downloaded an nzb and unrared no problem. Watched movies from windows home server shared drive, shared drive on the pc perfect … Played some music, watched some picture slide shows also perfect.

Now the popcorn hour is not as easy to setup as the Netgear hd Entertainer eva8000 and the popcorn hour doesn’t have the fancy pictures and movies descriptions you add with tags in the Netgear either. BUT you can add them . There’s a program called my Yet another Movie Jukebox that creates a movies catalog for you automatically with details and pictures from IMDB. Of course as you probably know you the movie you search for on IMDB may be another movie with the same or similar name so there are some drawbacks to the completely automated option.

Also check out My lil Movie Jukebox and a demo of it . My lil jukebox creates its pages from a neat program call Movie Collector which is not free but I already had it so …. Its has a lot more control of the data and you not only get cover pics and imdb details and ratings, but actors links and bio’s.

So that’s where I am right now .. This ain’t a box for your granny … but if you’re halfway intelligent you can figure it out and there are lots of great links on the popcorn hour group on Geeks.

Everything works perfectly playing from the popcorn but I am still working on getting the my lil movie jukebox add on program to play the links from my windows home server share. I’ll keep you posted as I progress.

2 days later

Okay .. here is my update on getting My Lil Movie Jukebox working on the Popcorn Hour A110 using media files on the windows home server.

Before you read any further you should be aware that one of the programs required to run My Lil Movie Jukebox is Movie Collector Pro which is not freeware. If you have a lot of movies … I have 500 .. you can expect to spend several hours using the program to grab photos and data about your movies and creating links to the actual movie files where ever they reside. There are other programs that will create a jukebox and try to populate the data from imdb automatically … Personally I would rather have the correct details and the added control you get from Movie Collector.

The My Lil Movie Jukebox has an extensive details page on how to use it. You should read it . Some of the setup details were incomplete and didn’t work for me with windows home server and the export app would not let me change the play button icons … but once I got it to install correctly I would say its pretty nice.

Another note before I describe how I got it to work with windows home server … about the Movie Collector export settings … while experimenting with different paths and going back to export again I found I had to reset the file to index.htm and the template to nmt.

The main page for My Lil Movie Jukebox has all these links below … I just put them here for convenience.

Download Movie Collector Pro and choose the default install

Download the My Lil Movie Jukebox software and unzip to the movie collector templates folder in your my documents folder

Download the Irfanview program file and choose the default install.

Download the ImageMagick program and choose the default install.

How to get My Lil Movie Jukebox and Popcorn Hour NMT to work with Windows Home Server.

You should be running the NMT software samba server and the Upnp server on you Popcorn Hour. You should have the drive on your popcorn hour mapped to a drive letter on your PC.

When I tried initially the Upnp server found the server:1: windows media connect and you could browse the folders and play the files from the popcorn hour but that won’t help you with the My Lil Movie Jukebox setup.

The Network Shares in setup showed nothing. You can manually add a network share or browse and add a network share. Browsing there I could see SERVER but clicking on it brought the infamous “no content found”. You can manually add an smb share and it will add a source where you can browse your shared folders and play your files but the link it created would not work with My Little Movie Jukebox export.

The solution is …. login to your windows home server go to users and enable guest with no password. Make sure Guest has the rights for Videos, Photos and Music. After you do that go to setup and network shares and click browse .. now when you browse to SERVER you will see the shared folders. Click on Videos leave the name blank … you don’t have to use Guest as user here you can use any name and password that is setup on your whs. I used Guest no password.

Below is what the export looked like. On the Windows Home Server in Videos I have 4 folders inside the Videos folder … Favorites, TV, new, and Movies which has 2 sub folders, grade a and grade b. I have the shared folder Videos mapped as Z:\ I used all the default settings in export except I chose to show title below image, and I took out the last 4 filters. enjoy

Drive Location = Y:\
Copy Resources? = YES

My PC Location 1 = Z:\Videos\Favorites\
My NMT Location 1 = file:///opt/sybhttpd/localhost.drives/NETWORK_SHARE/SERVER:Videos/Favorites/

My PC Location 2 = Z:\Videos\Movies\grade a\
My NMT Location 2 = file:///opt/sybhttpd/localhost.drives/NETWORK_SHARE/SERVER:Videos/Movies/grade a/

My PC Location 3 = Z:\Videos\Movies\grade b\
My NMT Location 3 = file:///opt/sybhttpd/localhost.drives/NETWORK_SHARE/SERVER:Videos/Movies/grade b/

My PC Location 4 = Z:\Videos\new\
My NMT Location 4 = file:///opt/sybhttpd/localhost.drives/NETWORK_SHARE/SERVER:Videos/new/

My PC Location 5 = Z:\Videos\TV\
My NMT Location 5 = file:///opt/sybhttpd/localhost.drives/NETWORK_SHARE/SERVER:Videos/TV/

******** INDEX SECTION *************

MovieIndex = index
Movies per page = 091
Index Background = background.jpg

Movie Columns = 7
Thumbnail height = 195
Thumbnail padding = 6

Focus Text = #000000
Focus Color = #FDDB2B
Captions? = YES

Thumbnail Cleanup? = YES
Irfanview Folder = C:\Program Files\IrfanView

ImageMagick Convert = YES
ImageMagick Folder = C:\Program Files\ImageMagick-6.4.2-Q8

******** DETAILS SECTION *************

Details Background = AllBlack.jpg
Image File Ext. = png
Display Movie Back = NO
Cover Image Height = 500

Focus Text = #000000
Focus Color = #FDDB2B

Play (not selected) = play1.png
Play (selected) = play_selected1.png

IMDB rating = YES
Video format = YES

Show Seen It = NO
Show Cast Info = YES

Show Crew = YES
Show Actor Links = YES

Show Nav Top = YES
Show Nav Bottom = NO

******** ACTOR SECTION *************

Actor Background = Movies1.jpg
Copy Actors Folder = YES
Perform Actor Export = YES

Focus Text = #000000
Focus Color = #FDDB2B

Actor Movie Columns = 6
Actor Cover Height = 230

******** FILTERS SECTION *************

# Filters to Export = 16
Main Index Title = Movie Index

Filter 101 = Action Action Movies
Filter 102 = Adventure Adventure Movies
Filter 103 = Animation Animation Movies
Filter 104 = Comedy Comedies
Filter 105 = Crime Crime Movies
Filter 106 = Drama Dramas
Filter 107 = Family Family Movies
Filter 108 = Fantasy Fantasy Movies
Filter 109 = Horror Horror Movies
Filter 110 = Musical Musicals

Filter 111 = Mystery Mysteries
Filter 112 = Romance Romance / Romantic Comedies
Filter 113 = SciFi Science Fiction Movies
Filter 114 = Thriller Thrillers
Filter 115 = War War Movies
Filter 116 = Western Westerns

You can buy the a100 Popcorn Hour for $179 and the a110 for $210.

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Consumer Spending – The Winners and Losers!

What will consumers be cutting you ask? Non-essential items are the 1st to go.

When the money is tight budgets have to be cut and with 42% of the population making less than $25,000 a year these are the items to observe.

Landline Phones – Consumers with landline phones and cellular phones will cut the landline account and keep the cell. 

VOIP– Consumers with cell phones will drop those $25 a month fees for bundled cable VOIP or Vonage in favor of cell phone only or the $20 a year MagicJack VOIP or Skype.

Cell Phone PlansSprint’s SERO $30 a month plan including data and voice will look much better to those paying $60 – $100 a month

Cable TV – Consumers will move to internet video on the TV in a big way … dropping their $55 a month cable TV bill in favor of no bill. Media from the PC and the internet are going directly to the TV these days with the Popcorn Hour, Xbox, Netgear’s eva8000 Digital Entertainer, Sling and many others streaming Hulu and Netflix etc. … the internet is now a giant set of rabbit ears for your free TV.

Cable Internet – wait … before you say “HUH … nobody will be giving up broadband, but they will be giving up the $50 a month cable broadband bill with bandwidth cap in favor a $25 a month DSL bill with no cap (if they can get DSL their area). In fact more people will signup for DSL internet access just for the TV and shopping savings.

8 Cylinder Cars and Trucks – You can’t even give them away and 6 cylinders vehicles won’t fare much better. Carpooling and public transit have already seen a huge jump.  Gas mileage is now a factor in considering jobs.

Brick and mortar stores – The big box stores will do okay … online shopping will experience a massive boost because of the potential savings on tax, gas and price.  Amazon Prime membership will increase making it like a giant Costco with the convenience of home delivery at a cheaper price.  UPS and FedEx will be benefit.

Name Brand Food – Food is one of those items people can’t do without but they can change their buying habits. Many consumers won’t buy a name brand item now unless it is on sale at a price comparable to similar non brand name items. Store brands sales will increase. Luxury food items will gather dust on the shelves. Inexpensive items such as rice and pasta will fare well.

Meat – Chicken – Pork – Bacon – Ham occasionally are affordable … Beef is way too expensive – Seafood is excessively expensive.

Vegetables – Canned vegetables ok … and frozen vegetables if they are on sale – fresh vegetables are way too costly.

Grocery Items –$3.99 a gallon generic laundry detergent YES … Tide’s $15.99 a gallon laundry detergent HECK NO. In with generic toilet paper … out with Charmin (sorry Mr. Whipple).  Many products normally purchased as non food items at the grocery store will be bought at the local Dollar Tree store. (Shampoo, soap, toothpaste, baggies, aspirin, vitamins, cleaning liquids etc)

Clothing – Hello Goodwill – goodbye Macy’s.

Dining – Expect an exodus from dining out … especially for menu items over $10. McDonald’s dollar menu will thrive.

Big Stoves – No sale … existing stoves will sit unused. Energy prices will push consumers to more use of microwaves and toaster ovens.

Hot Water Heaters – A move to instant on hot water systems will bring a large energy saving. Those that do not upgrade to instant on will at least lower the thermostat to the minimum.

Window air ConditionersEnergy efficient windows units allow you to cool just the room you’re using instead of cooling the whole house with the central air. Anticipate a jump in programmable thermostats and zone systems for central units.

Tech Gadgets – The industry will thrive as consumers spend to save with technology advancements that reduce monthly bills (like cable TV and phone). Spending more time at home means more entertainment needs … benefiting PC sales, gaming, books, and software …

 

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Roku opens platform … Rumors Amazon, YouTube, and Hulu among the partners being sought.

From an article by WebTvWire:

 

“This week when Roku founder and CEO, Anthony Wood, told a packed audience at the Streaming Media West conference all about his companies plans to expand onwards and upwards.

Wired reports that Wood announced:

“We’re opening up the platform to anyone who wants to put their video service on this box,”

“We’re going to release the software developer kit, so anyone can publish any channel, and users can access web content on their TVs.”

Conclusions

Wood, speaking during his keynote to the conference, refused to give a time line for this new strategy, but he did state that the company wouldn’t be changing its business model (making money from the hardware), or altering its relationship with Netflix.

This is brilliant news for existing Roku owners as well as mainstream consumers who are looking in to buying an Internet streaming set-top box.

It will be interesting to see which content providers Roku can now sign up, with the three companies already mentioned surely the natural primary targets.”

The Roku box which does include HDMI … connects directly to your TV without any connection to your PC.  Won’t be long before we can all watch Hulu and Netflix and everything thru this simple inexpensive and easy to use TV set top box.