Stevenator65’s Weblog

Technology, Commentary, Opinions, Reviews and Fun Happenings.

Edit Photos Like a Pro, I Mean a Talented Amateur

I would love to not only take great photos, but to also be able to Photoshop them into excellent photos.  But I know my limitations.  I can’t afford Photoshop, and don’t have the expertise to use it like a pro if I had it.  So I end up using one of several image editing programs, endlessly changing and rechanging settings until I get a muddy mess. 

Today I found a great app that does the work for me.  Check this out:

On the right is my “before” photo, and on the left is the “after” photo.

ScreenShot048

While neither photo will win a prize, the one on the left is sharper, clearer and better lit.  It’s a free solution and I did it in less than a minute!  How?  Read on to find out…

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October 27, 2008 Posted by | Reviews, Software | Leave a comment

Thanks XM Radio…For Nothing

xmradio

In November 2005 I prepaid for one year of XM Satellite service.  After the year expired I stopped using it because it didn’t fulfill my needs.  I thought that was the end of it.  I was wrong.  Today I received a letter from XM telling me my subscription is about to expire.  What?  So I called them  and found they billed me for 23 months of service I didn’t use.  They said no less than six times, “I’m sorry to hear you’re unhappy”, yet would not refund any part of the money.  I was told that I agreed to be billed monthly per their terms of service.  Oops, my bad.  I didn’t read their TERMS OF SERVICE.  I’m not an attorney, and that is a heck of a lot of information.  Do you regularly read Terms of Service? 

Well, I just did.  After 20 minutes of reading, I finally found the section that said I agreed to continue their service:

xmterms

That was like finding a needle in a haystack.  You may call me a moron for not noticing the bill on my credit card, and I am.  But my wife pays the bills and she didn’t know the status of my XM.  So I take the blame.  I just lost 23 months of $13 payments, or about $300.  I feel like a total ass.  Thanks XM!

Do you agree with XM’s policy of automatically renewing service without specifically asking permission?

Do you read Terms of Service for every service you sign up for?

October 25, 2008 Posted by | Opinions | Leave a comment

The Keyboard Challenge

 

What good is a portable device if you have no effective means of inputting data?  Manufacturers have come up with creative ideas for interacting with our devices.  I’ve divided them up into three basic categories.  The first, pictured below left, is the candybar keyboard as illustrated by the Blackberry Curve.  Our next challenger is the two-handed keyboard shown on the Sprint PPC6700.  Finally, the iPhone uses a software keyboard. 

The challenge:  Which category provides the most effective means of interacting with your device?

BlackBerry_Curve Sprint_ppc6700 iphone

Read on to find out…

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October 16, 2008 Posted by | Opinions, Reviews, Utilities | Leave a comment

Circuit City 1 Price Promise…Thanks

1onepice

Circuit City has announced that they’ll have a website with one price that will be the same as their store prices.  So, you ask, what’s so novel about that?

According to the Consumerist, “The state attorney general’s office has started an investigation into whether Best Buy maintains a secret intranet site that may have been used by some salesmen to deny customers discounts that appear on the company’s public Internet site.”

That’s right, Best Buy’s website has a lower price than their stores’, and when you are in their stores and try to access their website to prove to the salesman that the price is wrong, you find a matching Best Buy website with the same prices as their stores.  That’s because they have two websites.

The Consumerist went on to say, “Regardless of current legality, we think maintaining an identical website with different prices is a deceptive practice and should be investigated. The State’s Attorney will also be investigating other chain stores to see if the practice is common. Are there any Consumerist readers who would like to take it upon themselves to document these practices in other stores, or at Best Buy? Photos would be helpful.”

So that brings us back to Circuit City.  Here’s what they had to say:

“One Price Promise assures Circuit City shoppers that they will be treated fairly and equally regardless of how they shop with us,” said Jeff Maynard, vice president, marketing at Circuit City Stores, Inc. in a press release. “Customers have been telling us how important this is to them, and we want to give them a strong and competitive value proposition when making purchases.”

“We plan to let consumers know about One Price Promise in a big way,” added Maynard. “We are launching an aggressive national advertising campaign that includes print, broadcast, Internet and in-store marketing tools, and we believe this message of consistency, simplicity and transparency will resonate strongly with consumers in today’s world.”

Gee, should we give Circuit City kudos for not trying to bait and switch us?

October 16, 2008 Posted by | internet, Opinions | Leave a comment

Banned Ikea Mattress Commercial

This one is exciting.  Thanks SweetZ.

October 13, 2008 Posted by | Humor, video | Leave a comment

I Predict Lower Gas Prices…Maybe

From GasBuddy.com here is a chart of gas prices in the US over the last 6 years:

6yearGas

Here is a chart of oil prices over the last 8 years:

5YrOilPrices

As of this writing oil is at $81.19/barrel, but this chart stops on 9/30/08, where oil was at $100.64/barrel.  I wanted to see the correlation between gas and oil prices.  It seems like oil is dropping rapidly, but gas is only sluggishly moving down.  The blue gas prices in the chart represent the US national average.  Here’s a summary chart I made.  It’s not very exact.  I rounded the numbers as closely as I could.

  Average Gas Price Average Oil Price
Oct 02 $1.40 $27.00
Oct 03 $1.45 $30.00
Oct 04 $2.00 $45.00
Oct 05 $3.00 $60.00
Oct 06 $2.53 $70.00
Oct 07 $2.75 $80.00
July 08 $4.10 $150.00
Oct 08 $3.10 $80.00

 

When oil was $80.00/barrel in October ’07, gas was about $2.75/gallon.  Right now it’s at $3.10, so I predict a drop.  On the other hand, the oil industry always seems to come up with excuses for keeping the price high.  A couple months ago they said that though demand was low, the refineries didn’t refine enough oil, so supply was also low, thus keeping the price of gas up.  CoughBullCoughShit.

OPEC is due to have an “emergency” meeting on November 18 to talk about cutting production, “to ensure that oil market fundamentals are kept in balance and market stability is maintained.”  I think by market stability they mean they want to keep the prices high.

I could be wrong about the market stability thing, but also in the article is this quote, ‘On Thursday, the head of Libya’s national oil company, Shukri Ghanem, called on oil producing nations Thursday to cut output to “protect their interest (and) stop the loss of income.”‘

The Shukster (author’s note:  my spellcheck wanted me to change Shukster to Huckster.  Ironic, huh?) was more blunt about the whole affair.

The nations that make up OPEC are greedy; that is no surprise.  That greed may work against them.  Even if they all agree to cut production, worldwide demand has decreased.  Further, OPEC members have, in the past, ignored limits and upped production to get a bigger piece of the pie.  Once one member crosses the line, they all tend to do so.  I think they’ve laughed at us long enough. 

If we pay $2.75/gallon or less as compared to $4.10/gallon, and there are two drivers in the average family, each of whom averages 15000 miles per year, and assuming the average car gets 20 miles per gallon (I just made that up), so each family uses 1500 hundred gallons of gas per year, then we’ll save tons of money.   1500 gallons x $4.10/gallon = $6150/year in gas expenditures.  1500 gallons x $2.75/gallon = $4125.00.  The lower price would yield a savings of $2025.00 per family, or $607,500,000 total for our country of 300,000,000 people.  Now that’s a nice stimulus package.

Note: After I wrote this I found a great article on Consumerist that is very much related to mine.  It’s great reading.

October 13, 2008 Posted by | Opinions | Leave a comment

Great Deals at EBay and Overstock.com?

CanonSD1100

I’m searching for a Canon SD1100 is for my wife.  She wants a quality ultracompact that is easy to use.  I went to the Canon website and found the retail price to be $199.99 (see screenshot below).

ScreenShot008

I figured with a bit of searching perhaps I could do better.  I tried Overstock.com:

ScreenShot009

Overstock had it for $261.99!  Ouch.  The funny thing is, they’re supposed to be an outlet for overstocked merchandise so A) why is the price so high and B) why do they have an outlet store on their website, aren’t THEY the outlet?

I then tried Ebay.  I chose the Buy It Now option and arranged them from lowest to highest price.  The lowest was a used camera:

ScreenShot010

The least expensive new camera is the second one, which goes for $175.99 shipped.  Not a bad deal, but I decided to keep searching.  BestBuy has it on sale for $169.99 with in-store pickup.  Finally I tried Newegg.  They had it for $169.99 with free shipping as their regular price.

It pays to search.  I’m really surprised at how many places were over the retail price!  Ebay showed 280 results for the camera, with the vast majority at or over the retail price.  Even without the economy being so bad a little extra effort can yield great savings.  Don’t believe the hype of places like Overstock, always check Newegg first.

October 2, 2008 Posted by | Opinions, Steals and Deals | Leave a comment