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Dishonesty, Deception, Trickery … it’s the way of doing Business in America

Why has America accepted these practices with an “Oh well!” attitude.

Why aren’t we outraged when Monster Cables sells an HDMI cable for $79.99 that they imply works better than a standard cable  when video expert (Scott Wilkinson) will tell you the $5.99 HDMI cable works the same. Dishonesty is everywhere. Companies will go to any length to increase their bottom line … ethics be damned. Those who choose to mislead others discover that this is not the type of corruption that sends people to prison. It is more a matter of intellectual dishonesty and lack of personal ethics. Compensation has replaced ethics as a governing principle.

dishonesty

If you have to “trick” me into buying your product through overstating its merits or altering the packaging to make it appear larger or the same size with less content you’re being dishonest … your moral values need work. The “That’s the way its done in this business” excuse just doesn’t cut it.

Deception and dishonesty are running rampant practically everywhere you go. It’s exhausting trying to sift through it all and get to the truth. This is what is considered “marketing.” It has gotten to the point that if you are honest in what you are selling, you must be some sort of “fool.” However, what is “foolish” is not to recognize that if you are being deceptive in your business dealings, so is everyone else. Therefore it simply is not intelligent to continue these practices. Everyone seems to be doing his or her very best to try and take advantage of everyone else.” Quoted from an excellent article by Elizabeth Fink .

Some of my personal observations:

Java update with the pre-checked toolbar install … Every time there’s a new java update it try’s to trick you into installing either Open Office or some toolbar by having a pre-checked box about 1/2 way through the install … anytime there is a pre-checked box to install something like this they are being dishonest. The “That’s the way its done in this business” excuse just doesn’t cut it.

“Like New” items on EBay … EBay is a good place to find items and lots of those items are used. Unfortunately many sellers  overstate the condition of the item or fail to mention material defects.  Yes …  it would have helped to know the cooling fan on that router doesn’t work. What do you mean you forgot to mention there was a 4 inch crack on the back of that antique figurine? The “That’s the way its done in this business” excuse just doesn’t cut it.

Credit card bill mailing and late charges … Credit card companies make a large profit on late payments either by charging a late fee of $30-$40 dollar or by raising the interest rate on your balance … or both. Did you think it was a coincidence that you receive your bill only 5 or 6 days before its due? The “That’s the way its done in this business” excuse just doesn’t cut it.

The towing and car rental premium on your insurance policy … That $30-$50 charge on your insurance policy premium for towing that your agent didn’t mention when quoting a price … because he gets a big commission on it. Many people already have this coverage with AAA or some other entity. The “That’s the way its done in this business” excuse just doesn’t cut it.

The guy on eBay that sells his item for $1 with shipping charges of $27.99 – I can’t think any of the carriers charge more than $5 dollars to deliver a DVD (the item was shipping 1st class mail which actually costs less than $2). EBay charges a commission based on the sale price of the item sold. If the seller is willing to cheat EBay they are probably willing to cheat you too. The “That’s the way its done in this business” excuse just doesn’t cut it.

USB cable not included or power adapter optional … Granted some printers now come with a USB cable but many still don’t and buying one at Staples or Office Depot for $15 (they are about $5 delivered on Ebay) just adds insult to injury. Battery operated electronics that sell a power adapter separately. No Thanks! The “That’s the way its done in this business” excuse just doesn’t cut it.

The tire sale … advertisement – 15″ name brand tire only $39.99. Of course when you arrive the model for your car is out of stock but there happens to be a Goodyear model available for only $15 more … and did you want that mounted, balanced, a new air valve … the total $72.99.  “Oh, by the way, I noticed your brakes pads are getting low .. we’re having a special this week”.  The “That’s the way its done in this business” excuse just doesn’t cut it.

The $19.99 Jiffy Lube oil change … No sir, the $19.99 price is only for certain models your car model costs $29.99. Did you want to replace the air cleaner too, no that’s not included … but  it’s only $9.99 more?  The “That’s the way its done in this business” excuse just doesn’t cut it.

Free download … When you search for freeware you’ll come across a lot of sites that say “Free Download” these are not for freeware but software that requires a fee … free to download? Who charges to download?  Its not free to use. Shame on them for misleading us. The “That’s the way its done in this business” excuse just doesn’t cut it.

Buying an item then wearing or using it and returning it ... Businesses aren’t the only ones cheating … I think we all know someone who has bought an item for short term use then returned it to the store for a full refund. Its even worse when they brag about it … The store has to reduce the selling price. You may as well have dipped your hand into the cash register. I hope you don’t have children you are teaching these morals to.

Indeed dishonesty, deception and cheating are all common place. “It is exhausting trying to sift through all of this deception. Nothing is easy anymore. You need to take your time and read the fine print on practically everything. You need to have received a college degree practically to be trained in deception in order to be able to see through it. It is unfair and taking advantage of the public at large. We should not continue to be so accepting of these practices.” Quoted from an excellent article by Elizabeth Fink .

Here is another story I spotted that makes my point.   From an article in the Telegraph News

Managers at Comet, Britain’s second biggest electrical store, forced staff to lie to customers to boost profits, an employment tribunal heard last week. They encouraged assistants to deceive shoppers into paying for unnecessary extras such as extended warranties, credit agreements and accessories, according to a former employee.

As a result of the allegations, Comet – whose mission statement is to aim to be the “most trusted and respected” electrical retailer – has been stung into launching an internal investigation. Gareth Sweeney, a former salesman who worked at the Comet store in Llansamlet, south Wales for 4.5 years, cataloged a series of sharp practices intended to squeeze money from customers.

Mr Sweeney, 45, told the tribunal in Cardiff that staff were told to give 40 per cent discounts to those prepared to pay for full warranties – but just 10 per cent if they refused. Customers who showed an interest in Sky television were offered just one package costing £40 a month and none of the cheaper options, he said.

Sales staff also gave false demonstrations of equipment to encourage customers to buy expensive cables, he told the tribunal. In one instance, Mr Sweeney said, they altered settings on DVD players to make it appear that a £60 cable produced a better picture than one costing £29.90, even though there was no difference.

Mr Sweeney, a father of two from Llanelli, near Swansea, also alleged that staff were encouraged to push accessories into the hands of customers even if they did not need them. Staff were also told not to use the term “store card” because it was associated with high interest rates, he said. Instead, they asked customers if they wanted to open a “store account”.

Mr Sweeney is claiming constructive dismissal after leaving his £20,000-a-year job. He told the tribunal on Friday that he resigned after being told that he faced a disciplinary hearing for not selling enough extra products. He said that sales assistants who sold more extras – called “key performance indicators” by the company – were rated higher than those who sold more goods. “I could sell £30,000 worth of items but no extras, but the celebrations would be for someone who sold lots of extras but just £2,000 worth of goods. I was bullied and pressured into selling extras,” he said.

“It was the final straw when I received a letter from a sales manager telling me to attend a disciplinary hearing because I had fallen down on my targets. “I felt as if I was being punished for being honest and decent to customers. I decided that the mis-selling of DVD connection leads amounted to deception on our part,” he said.

OK … so that is the end of my rant on dishonesty in America. My Advice to you … Steer clear of these unethical merchants and remember to treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.

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Windows 7 Beta Release … Huge Failure Friday – Back again Saturday … Apology on Monday

Update: Saturday January 10th 1:00 PM eastern time.

Site is back up .. Key acquired … all is right with the world.

Update 2: Monday January 12th 9:00 AM. Microsoft Apologizes – 2.5 million key limit removed!

“I know many of you had issues with the Windows 7 beta site of the last 24 hours,” Brandon LeBlanc, a Windows communications manager, wrote in a blog post. “As you may have noticed the download site has been up and running smoothly since this morning. That said, we apologize for the inconvenience that it caused some of you.”

Friday January 9th

OK, to start with there wasn’t a clear statement on when the Windows 7  Beta was going to be released or which website to go to to get it.

So at 9:00 AM I started watching the site http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/default.aspx . The site was not available for quite a while … and then came up with the message Windows 7 Beta available for public download the afternoon of January 9th.  Geez … they couldn’t be a little more specific … like eastern time or pacific time or zulu time?

I trudge on … checking the site every few minutes  … Noon eastern time passes, 1:00pm comes and goes … 2:00 PM slides on by … I’m getting excited now as 3:00 PM approaches .. so pacific time  … that makes sense right … NOPE – 3:00 PM passes and I’m still checking the site every few minutes … ARGHHH!

I keep plugging away and around 6:00 PM eastern time I notice a message on the web page:

Thanks for your interest in the Windows 7 Beta. The volume has been phenomenal—we’re in the process of adding more servers to handle the demand. We’re sorry for the delay and we’ll re-post the Beta as soon as we can ensure a quality download experience.

Now I assume those guy’s and gal’s at Microsoft are pretty smart .. and they have tons of servers right … and its not too hard to add servers so I decide to keep trying … because I’m been doing this since 9:00 AM this morning and I’ll be damned if I’m going to quit  to have the beta come back up an hour later and the 2.5 million keys be gone when I try again tomorrow. 7:00PM …drags by … then 8:00 slowly ticks past … What .. is the server guy on vacation? 9:00 PM and I’m starting to get a little testy … at 10:00 PM I’m burning holes  in the shape of an X in the custom Windows 7  T-shirt I made for the occasion with my cigarette. 11:00 PM … yep you guessed it still no love from Microsoft.

I mean they could have said something … like come back tomorrow at noon pacific … instead of leaving me hanging with false hope  …

I went over to Friendfeed to see what my mentors had to say .. Paul Thurrott (my favorite tech person) was strangley quiet after his initial post about the beta availability … Chris Pirillo posted about the fail and posted a link for the direct download of the beta  http://www.lockergnome.com/griffin/2009/01/09/windows-7-public-beta-direct-download-links/ . Thanks Chris, but what we really want is an official release with the key that’s good thru August and not just the 30 day “no key” beta.

Now its 2:17 AM Saturday and NO the Beta is still not there. I’m throwing in my Mahalo towel and giving up for the night!

Paul Thurrott, I know you’re a pretty laid back guy… but I truly hope to hear you rant at least a little on the next  Windows Weekly about this whole debacle.

I’ve run the PDC Beta for a while. I like it.

Yeah I know Beta 1 is free … I already have the the Beta 1 from a direct link.

My concern is there are only 2.5 million keys and from the results yesterday its apparent they will disappear quickly … that’s what caused the “traffic jam” Friday and my complaint is about Microsoft’s handling of information …

“available the afternoon of January 9th” caused part of the problem and the vague follow up of “we’ll re-post the Beta as soon as we can ensure a quality download experience” continued it.

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OfficeMax’s ElfYourself.com partners with jibjab

Read the full story: NOTE … now open for business at elfyourself.com

This Christmas, OfficeMax’s ElfYourself.com Will Get a JibJab Twist

From Tech Crunch:

“A year ago, one of the surprise holiday breakout hits on the Web was ElfYourself.com. It was a promotional viral video site created by OfficeMax that let people upload their pictures and create dancing elves that they could then send as e-cards to family and friends. ElfYourself turned out to be the fastest growing site last December, peaking at 39 million unique visitors in the U.S. (and attracting a total of 100 million unique visitors worldwide throughout the campaign).

When Greg Spiridellis, CEO of JibJab Media, saw ElfYourself, it resonated with him because JbJab is organized around a similar series of “Starring You” videos that allow people to upload their photos so that they can star in the videos, and send them as digital cards.”

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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Absentee Ballot – Be careful … you could poke your eye out with that thing!

Pencils are dangerous – Remember the warnings you got from your mother … “if you stab yourself you’ll get lead poisoning” (actually Mom … it’s not lead its graphite) and “Be careful … you could poke your eye out with that thing!”

 

I received my absentee ballot in the mail the other day and was ready to fill it out and send it in … but then I read:

WARNING: Use only a No. 2 pencil.  “

 

You’ve got to be kidding me … I haven’t even seen a pencil in years! I searched through my “junk drawers” – where I find all kinds of interesting artifacts .. but no pencils. I asked my mother who has at least 6 of everything … NOPE! I asked co-workers at the office “You got a #2 pencil?” – they had no pencils. I’m determined not to go to the store and a buy a #2 pencil.

If you have a pencil then you need a pencil sharpener too right?

Those pencil erasers always wear down or break off so you also need one of those big erasers.

What if my pencil doesn’t say the number on it … #2 is not the only pencil you know!

So why did do we start using pencils on tests and ballots … and why are we still using them?

From howthingswork.virginia.edu

“The #2-pencil requirement is mostly historical. Because modern scantron systems can use all the sophistication of image sensors and computer image analysis, they can recognize marks made with a variety of materials and they can even pick out the strongest of several marks. If they choose to ignore marks made with materials other than pencil, it’s because they’re trying to be certain that they’re recognizing only marks made intentionally by the user. Basically, these systems can “see” most of the details that you can see with your eyes and they judge the markings almost as well as a human would.

The first scantron systems, however, were far less capable. They read the pencil marks by shining light through the paper and into Lucite light guides that conveyed the transmitted light to phototubes. Whenever something blocked the light, the scantron system recorded a mark. The marks therefore had to be opaque in the range of light wavelengths that the phototubes sensed, which is mostly blue. Pencil marks were the obvious choice because the graphite in pencil lead is highly opaque across the visible light spectrum. Graphite molecules are tiny carbon sheets that are electrically conducting along the sheets. When you write on paper with a pencil, you deposit these tiny conducting sheets in layers onto the paper and the paper develops a black sheen. It’s shiny because the conducting graphite reflects some of the light waves from its surface and it’s black because it absorbs whatever light waves do manage to enter it.

A thick layer of graphite on paper is not only shiny black to reflect light, it’s also opaque to transmitted light. That’s just what the early scantron systems needed. Blue inks don’t absorb blue light (that’s why they appear blue!), so those early scantron systems couldn’t sense the presence of marks made with blue ink. Even black inks weren’t necessarily opaque enough in the visible for the scantron system to be confident that it “saw” a mark.
In contrast, modern scantron systems used reflected light to “see” marks, a change that allows scantron forms to be double-sided. They generally do recognize marks made with black ink or black toner from copiers and laser printers. I’ve pre-printed scantron forms with a laser printer and it works beautifully. But modern scantron systems ignore marks made in the color of the scantron form itself so as not to confuse imperfections in the form with marks by the user. For example, a blue scantron form marked with blue ink probably won’t be read properly by a scantron system.

As for why only #2 pencils, that’s a mechanical issue. Harder pencil leads generally don’t produce opaque marks unless you press very hard. Since the early scantron machines needed opacity, they missed too many marks made with #3 or #4 pencils. And softer pencils tend to smudge. A scantron sheet filled out using a #1 pencil on a hot, humid day under stressful circumstances will be covered with spurious blotches and the early scantron machines confused those extra blotches with real marks.

Modern scantron machines can easily recognize the faint marks made by #3 or #4 pencils and they can usually tell a deliberate mark from a #1 pencil smudge or even an imperfectly erased mark. They can also detect black ink and, when appropriate, blue ink. So the days of “be sure to use a #2 pencil” are pretty much over. The instruction lingers on nonetheless.”

About Pencils

“One pencil can write 45,000 words or draw a line 35 miles long. It can write in zero gravity, upside down or under water. The “lead” is non-toxic graphite – the wood is cedar. Mass produced in Europe since 1622, the first U.S. pencils were made in 1812. And why are 75% of all pencils yellow? During the 1800s, the best graphite came from China. Yellow is the color they associate with royalty and respect. A pencil painted yellow became know as the best pencil you could buy.”

Here is the front page of Maryland Absentee Ballot. Where it actually says ” Mark only with a #2 pencil. DO NOT ERASE.


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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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Popcorn Hour Box – PLAYS Hulu and Netflix on your TV

A brief history first … I dropped cable about 8 months ago. Since then I have been getting video from a number of sources using technology.

I have multiple pc’s on a wired gigabit network with a Dlink draft n router. I connect to a windows home server where I have 2 terabytes of storage.  On the home server I store my digital DVD and TV show collection, my 5000+ mp3’s, and bout 12 GB of photos. I also do back ups of the pc’s.

In addition to the home server I have several external usb drives with digital media, 4 replaytv’s loaded with recorded shows, a roku box for Netflix Movies and TV shows, (its rumored Roku will add Hulu and others soon) and a Netgear Digital Entertainer HD eva8000.

With the Netgear eva8000 I can play all the media on my windows Home server and any external usb drive I attach to the eva8000 directly to my HDTV with hdmi cables. The replay attaches directly to the tv and I can play any stored shows and also transfer the shows to a PC If I want.

The Netgear eva8000 is great … it cost about$300, but there is another really awesome box called the Popcorn Hour (see the video review). Its about $200 and can do all that the eva8000 can plus a whole lot more. I ordered the popcorn hour a110 about a week ago … demand is extremely high so there a a several week wait …  next shipment date is October 15th.

Chris Pirillo started a new social site called Geeks (similar in ways to facebook). So while I was waiting to get my Popcorn Hour Box I joined Geeks and started a group there called Popcorn Hour. The purpose was to get some tips from current Popcorn users and get the most out of my box when it arrived.

Well I answered a lot of my own questions while researching links to start discussions in the group. So far I have started 13 dicussions which all include detailed information, how to’s, faq’s, forums …

Rather than repeating them all here I have included a link to the Popcorn Hour Group on Geeks. If you have the Popcorn hour I encourage you to add comments on the discussion threads there. Once I receive my box I will try to do a post including the unboxing all the way through to integration with my other video devices.

So checkout the Popcorn Hour Group for all the details and enjoy watching Netflix and Hulu on your big screen TV.

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