Wednesday, February 28, 2007

No need to remember birthdays,
or go to card stores

Founded in 1906, American Greetings is the world's largest publicly owned creator, manufacturer and distributor of "social expression products," more commonly known as greeting cards.

The company employs thousands of artists, and its cards are sold in about 125,000 stores around the world -- but you can take advantage of the artists' talents and avoid going to any of those stores, by getting custom cards online.

At you can design cards and invitations for any conceivable occasion, and print them on your own printer, have them printed and mailed for you, or send them as email -- even e-cards with video and sound.

Thousands of designs are available, and you can easily customize them, by changing typography, artwork, even all the words if you want. It's quick, easy, fun, cheap (or free), and highly recommended.

You can be reminded to send cards before specific dates, and can make e-cards in advance, that will be sent when you want.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ultimate car snow remover

I've bought, used, lost and broken tons of snow brushes. Most of them were crap.

This winter I found one that works well, does things that others don't do, and seems to be made well enough to last as long as the cars I use it on.

The model # 583-EP Pivot Head Sport TeleBroom™ comes from Mallory Industries in Canada, where they know how to deal with snow. Mallory is over 100 years old. The company's first product was a device that kept screen doors closed. Over the years, Mallory developed a line of builders' hardware, and in 1991 bought an American maker of squeegees and snow brushes.

The 583-EP is constructed of two telescoping aluminum tubes that can extend from 38 to 58 inches -- long enough for vans and SUVs. The end with the brush and squeegee is normally perpendicular to the handle, but it can be unlocked to work at whatever angle is right for cleaning you car.

The other end has a comfortable ridged-foam hand grip, plus an "unbreakable" ice scraper blade with a three-year warranty.

This is a well-thought-out and well-made tool, and I recommend it highly. Price is about $15. You can get it at car accessory stores or do a Google search for the part number. Mallory makes lots of other useful stuff for car, home and business. CLICK to see what they have.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Low-tech, low-price electric car is available now; but don't use it on the highway.

This is a preview,
not a review.

Global Electric Motorcars (GEM) is a DaimlerChrysler subsidiary in North Dakota, that makes a new type of battery-powered minicars, known as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV). The low-speed vehicle class, recently authorized by the Feds, allows GEM vehicles to be driven on public roads if they met safety criteria such as having safety belts, headlights, windshield wipers and safety glass.

GEM cars provide zero-emissions personal transportation that lets people have fun, and get work done. The cars, which resemble souped-up golf carts, are simple, and a lot less expensive than higher-tech hybrid gas/electric cars. Top speed is about 25 miles per hour. They can travel about 30 miles before their six car batteries run out of juice.

Six models of GEM vehicles are available for hauling people and stuff, and are used in cities, planned communities, college campuses, industrial complexes, airports and resorts. Prices range from $6,795 (two people) to $12,495 (six people). Truck models start at $7,995, and can go over $11,000. A wide range of options include stereo systems, heated seats, bumpers, pimped-out wheels, and even (GASP!) doors.

Annual fuel costs for an NEV driven an average of 100 miles a week will come to about $58, compared with $425.63 for a compact, gasoline-engine car that gets 27 miles per gallon. CLICK for more. (Info from GEM and The Wall Street Journal)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Worst meal of my life, so far.

Last night, exhausted after a day of miserable driving in the east coast snow storm, my wife and I entered the Bob Evans restaurant in Columbia Maryland, for what we thought would be a quick and uncomplicated meal. It was neither.

We stood by the sign that said "please wait to be seated" for nine minutes, and then selected our own table.

We were ignored by the wait staff for another 12 minutes, before we were able to beg for two glasses of water. The water was quite good, and, unfortunately, the best part of our meal.

I ordered a bowl of beef-vegetable soup, and a "steakburger" with tomato and a slice of raw onion. I specifically asked if it was possible to get the burger medium-rare, and was both surprised and pleased when the waiter answered in the affirmative. Wife ordered turkey with stuffing, baked potato, and cranberry sauce.

The waiter seemed friendly, and disappeared.

I didn't think it should take more than a couple of minutes to ladle some soup into a bowl, and when his absence passed the 10-minute mark, my wife walked up to the counter to inquire about the soup. The waiter's face went as blank as Dan Quayle in a press conference, and then he asked "when do you want it?" I would have answered "today," but wife is less sarcastic, and simply said "soon, please."

It arrived a few minutes later -- cold.

Wife's turkey was also cold, as was the potato and stuffing. Cranberry sauce, of course, should be cold -- but she didn't get any.

My burger, on the other hand, was not cold. Instead of the requested medium-rare, it was nearly incinerated -- cooked much too long to be cold. I could have asked for a replacement, but I didn't want to waste any more time, and I had no reason to expect the burger would be any better the second time.

My french fries were cold; and instead of the requested tomato and onion, I got tomato, lettuce and pickle slices.

When we saw the waiter again, I reminded him about the onion, and he responded with the same Dan Quayle expression he had when asked about the soup. He then scurried off in the direction of the kitchen.

He never came back. When I had eaten enough of my burnt burger and was ready to leave, I approached the Quayle clone at the counter. I asked for our check, told him to cancel the onion, and went to the men's room.

In the john, I discovered one of those convenient flip-down baby-diaper-changing tables mounted directly over a railing that was installed to make it easier for handicapped people to use the toilet -- making the railing useless.

When I got back to the table, I found that we were given someone else's check.

When I got to the hotel, I had diarrhea.

If any of the Bob Evans staff is reading this, please don't offer a refund or a coupon for a free meal. The only thing you have that I'd consider ingesting is your water; but I'd rather suck on a snowball than enter one of your restaurants.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

On Vacation

We'll be away for a bit of relaxation and recharging. New posts will resume on 2/26 (unless I discover something really important before then.

If you miss me, you can read all of the posts on all of my blogs.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

More status than an iPhone?
PizzaPhone automatically calls for food

BlackBerries and iPhones and diamond-studded Razrs are high-status phones in some places, but think about a bright red hot line phone that automatically calls your favorite pizza maker when you get the munchies. Can Moto match that?

PizzaPhone is the ultimate status symbol for a college dorm or fraternity, or an executive office; and it's a great "power tool" for your garage or basement. Also good for your lodge or club, the kitchen or break room at work, or anywhere hungry guys hang out. If you put it on the kitchen wall at home, it might even encourage your spouse to cook more. Or you might get hit with the phone.

Easily mounts on standard "RJ11W" wall phone jack. Works with ordinary analog phone line, or VoIP, or cable TV phone service, or in a business or institution's phone system. Powered by telephone line. No AC or battery required. Easy to program to call the pizzeria of your choice. No dial -- once the phone is programmed (by dialing into it), it will call the pizzeria by simply lifting the handset. CLICK for

Monday, February 12, 2007

HP debuts touch-screen "kitchen PC"

This is a preview, not a review.
At the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Januaryy, HP tried to establish a new PC category with an all-in-one touch-screen PC using Microsoft Windows Vista.

Featuring a 19" Hi-Def wide-screen touch-screen, remote control, and video recorder with HD and SD capability, TouchSmart provides "walk-up computing" -- the ability to quickly and easily access digital content without a keyboard or mouse.

Users finger-click on king-size graphical icons to access stored information, a family calendar, photos, music, video, or the web. You can even use a finger to scroll vertically or horizontally; and it comes with a wireless keyboard and mouse for people stuck in the 20th century. It also works as a TV, FM radio, and message center with text or recorded memos.

The HP TouchSmart PC should be in stores now, priced at about $1800. It would look great next to a Cuisinart, and eliminates the problem of spilling spaghetti sauce into your keyboard.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Cobra NavOne navigator finds favorite brands.

This is a preview, not a review.
The latest Cobra mobile navigation device, the NAV ONE 2100 offers the My Favorite Brands feature, which provides over 600 brands accessible at the touch of a button. Once you select your favorite brands from categories such as restaurants and stores, their brand icons appear on the map to show their locations. The unit was announced at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The optional traffic receiver and subscription deliver personalized traffic data for 50 major metropolitan areas throughout the United States via four color-coded levels of traffic flow information. In addition, Cobra's Compare Routes feature allows you to choose from two on-screen routing options to get you around traffic. The new device also offers an SD memory card expansion slot for future feature expansion.

Other features in Cobra's NAV ONE 2100 include an ultra-bright 3.5-inch touch-screen color display; millions of points of interest; functionality in temperatures ranging from -4 to 158 degrees Fahrenheit; and digital map data and rich content from Tele Atlas.

The NAV ONE 2100 will be available for under $350 in late Spring. The optional real-time traffic feature costs about $100, with a traffic service subscription fee of $59.99 a year.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Chrysler PT Cruiser:
a mini-minivan with style

For years, our family cars have been Chrysler Town & Country minivans. They're great for vacations with the dog, hauling lumber from Home Depot, and hauling crap to the dump.

Despite the dump truck functions, it's comfortable and luxurious, with leather seating (complete with tushy warmers), an elaborate audio-video system with Sirius, DVD player and satellite navigation, three power doors, hide-able seats, and more than enough cup holders and power outlets.

My personal car is a 1978 Fiat Spider sports car. It's a wonderful toy, but only usable from March through October, and not reliable enough for daily commuting to work.

Last year I wanted to buy a commuting vehicle, with personality, that could still haul stuff. Sometimes it would have to carry three or four people, so a mini pickup was out. Boxmobiles like the Toyota Scion XB and Honda Element had the right functionality, but they're bland, and they're kiddie cars, and my hairs are gray.

I ended up staying in the Chrysler family. The PT Cruiser made perfect sense. I can flip down seats to carry crap, and flip them up to carry people. It's comfortable, fun to drive, fast enough, economical, reliable, and holds a lot. The funky retro style gets miles of smiles, especially from the driver; and there are lots of reasonably-priced accessories for performance, utility, and bling.

You can get a 4-door hatchback, or a 2-door convertible. Base price is about 15 large, but you can easily spend 10 more. CLICK for CLICK for great accessories, enhancements and gifts at PT Boutique. CLICK for PT Cruiser Club.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Get juiced with Joost,
yet another way to watch TV on your PC

This is a preview, not a review.
Currently available in limited beta testing, Joost combines TV and the Internet by offering a TV-like experience enhanced with choice, control, flexibility, and community.

Joost is said to fill a gap in the online video entertainment arena. It uses a secure, efficient, piracy-proof Internet platform that enables premium interactive video experiences while guaranteeing copyright protection for content owners and creators.

Joost founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis also developed Skype, the Internet telephone service. They discussed the idea behind Joost even before Skype, but to make it work, they needed the combination of widespread broadband and powerful computers. In early 2006, the time was right. Gathering engineers, web gurus and media visionaries, they started work under the code name of The Venice Project, and now their work is ready for public viewing.

"People are looking for increased choice and flexibility in their TV experience, while the entertainment industry needs to retain control over their content," said Fredrik de Wahl, chief executive officer of Joost. "With Joost, we've married that consumer desire with the industry's interests."

Joost is said to be the first global TV distribution platform, bringing together advertisers, content owners and viewers in an interactive, community-driven environment. Joost is accessed with a broadband Internet connection, and according to the company, offers broadcast-quality content to viewers for free. Viewers will be able to engage in messaging with other viewers.

"We've received positive and constructive feedback from our early beta-testers and are now at a stage where we're ready to reveal our true brand," said de Wahl. "The Joost name has global appeal, embodies fun and energy, and will come to define the 'best of TV and the best of the Internet'".

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Reverse Slingbox sends video to TVs

This is a preview, not a review.
Sling Media, known for its Slingbox that enables people to placeshift their favorite TV programming to a PC, Mac or cellphone anywhere in the world, is reversing direction of the media flow with its new SlingCatcher.

Introduced at the recent International Consumer Electronics Show, SlingCatcher is designed to send video and audio to a television.

The SlingProjector application – bundled with every SlingCatcher – takes a new approach to bringing web and PC-based content to the television by enabling people to wirelessly project any web site or digital audio/video format onto their TV.

The expected primary purpose is to send web or PC-based content from a laptop or desktop to a TV. Downloaded long form content such as movies and shows are appropriate for the “lean back” nature of the home TV experience, according to Sling. Additionally, short form content such as funny videos, music services and home movies/pictures lend themselves very nicely to social gatherings around a big-screen TV.

The SlingCatcher also has the ability to download or stream content directly from the Internet and display it on a TV without the need for a PC to serve the content. Sling is currently discussing partnership opportunities with content owners to create and deliver their offerings directly to the TV via the SlingCatcher. The add-on storage capability (via a hard drive attachment) could be utilized for direct delivery of such content.

The SlingCatcher includes both standard definition and high definition AV outputs to connect to a TV, including HDMI, Component, S-Video and Composite video, as well as analog and digital audio. For network connectivity, the SlingCatcher features both integrated wireless and a standard Ethernet jack. SlingCatcher will be available by the middle of this year and the company expects the price to be under $200. SlingCatcher has competition: Apple's new iTV can send videos wirelessly from a computer to a TV like SlingCatcher, but has a 40GB hard drive to store up to 50 hours of video and costs 99 bucks more.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Under-bed TV-holder

This is a preview, not a review.
If you like your porn up-close and personal, or a modern flat-screen TV would look out of place in your French Provincial bedroom, or if you just like to show off in your bedroom, this may be for you.

The Underbed Lift from MK 1 Studio can help you hide a 50” plasma or LCD TV under a king-size bed. If your crib is merely queen-size, you can use a 42-inch TV.

If you connect a camera, you can use it as an electronic mirror. If you add a video recorder, you can use it for instant replays.

The lift needs just 8” of clearance, unfolds in under 45 seconds, and the TV can rotate to permit out-of-bed viewing.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Plantronics CS50 wireless headset:
the ultimate in freedom and voice quality

Phone makers and headset makers have designed lots of different wireless models, using radio, infra-red, and even electromagnetic induction to carry voices through the air. Some required heavy boxes on your head, or in your pocket or on your belt. Others had batteries that ran out before the end of the business day. One lost communication if you picked up a paper on your desk or turned away from your phone. Some were uncomfortable, or difficult to use. Most of them didn't sound as good as a wired headset or handset.

Now we've moved beyond all the frustration, compromises and shortcomings. The CS50 from Plantronics does everything right. It sounds better than everything else, and weighs less than an ounce.

When you’re on the phone, the information you need may not be in front of you. It may be in the next office, or down the hall. Maybe you just need to take a leak, or open a door for someone, without putting your call on hold. To keep up with business, you need to move; you need to stay in touch. You need the Plantronics CS50 wireless headset.

In a typical office environment, you can walk and talk with the CS50 up to 300 feet away from your phone -- that's the length of a football field! You can move up and down, as well as back and forth, because the CS50 has the power to punch through floors and walls. You can fully recharge the headset in less than three hours, and give it an 80% recharge in 90 minutes.

Talk time can be 8 hours -- enough for a full day's work. (I recommend putting the headset on the charger when you don't need to use it. A lunch-time charge should insure enough power to get through the day.)

  • The CS50 uses digital 900 MHz technology to deliver calls that are clear, private and completely secure, with no wireless LAN interference.
  • The CS50’s integrated IntelliStand™ makes wireless mobility as easy as answering the phone — just pick up the headset and you pick up the call. The optional (but important) HL10 handset lifter allows you to answer and hang up, even when you're away from your desk, by just tapping a button on the earpiece.
  • The CS50 is stylish and comfortable with a customizable, convertible headset that can be worn over your ear or over your head. It's secure and comfortable, all day long.
  • Controls on headset for volume, mute and call answer/end.
  • "I'M TALKING!" indicators on headset and base.
  • Up to 40 CS50 headsets can be used in one area.
  • Midi-boom, with noise canceling microphone.
  • Weighs just 26 grams -- less than one ounce!
  • Price is under $250. Available from HeadsetHouse

    UPDATE: A newer version of the CS50 is the CS55, which is the first headset in the United States to implement 1.9GHz DECT voice-dedicated wireless technology, for minimal interference to and from wireless networks and other equipment and systems.

    Thursday, February 1, 2007

    Microsoft Vista:
    the wait, the package,
    the junk, the junk food, the joy,
    the zapping of Apple,
    and the silly stuff

    I've installed lots of versions of Microsoft DOS, and lots of versions of Microsoft Windows. I did 3.0, 3.1, 3.11, 95, 98, 2000, ME and XP; probably every recent OS except Microsoft Bob.

    In ancient times, I'd have to sequentially stuff a dozen or more floppies into my PC, and I knew that when I reached about 44 minutes into the 45 minute sequence, the installation would stall, and I'd have to start all over again.

    I assumed the installation of Vista, with five years and 86 gazillion Microsoft dollars behind it, would also take about 45 minutes (at least until the first fatal error). Cynical Cousin Dave and I agreed to start the job when the little hand on the office clock tapped ten.

    There were two minor setbacks.

    I couldn't figure out how to open the super-cool new package. I got frustrated and threw it to Cynical Cousin Dave to open. (Despite his left-handedness, he's a more dexterous geek than I am.) I aimed wrong and the package hit Dave's shoulder, and it conveniently opened right up and two DVDs spilled out.

    The next problem was caused by the unexpected presence of the two discs: one labeled for 64-bit PCs and one for lowly 32-bitters. I assumed that my superduper PC with a dual-core Athlon "64" CPU would use the 64-bit Vista...but it wouldn't load.

    After I shoved in the 32-bit DVD, the installation got started. There was no stall, no unexpected crash, and much to Cynical Cousin Dave's surprise, no smoke spewed out of my hard drive.

    I let Vista check online to see if there were any updates (UPDATES? Sheesh, the software had just been released the day before, and Mr. William Henry Gates The Third wants me to check for updates? I doan need no steenkin updates.)

    Next, I had the opportunity to accept the licensing agreement, which I did, without reading it, just as with 3.0, 3.1, 3.11, 95, 98, 2000, ME and XP. I probably wouldn't have read the Bob agreement, either.

    And then, Microsoft wanted to check my compatibility. I hoped it wouldn’t be like an online dating service where people lie about height, weight and affection for things that they assume potential mates would like. Fortunately Microsoft found me to be compatible. (For $259.99 plus tax, I damn well better be considered compatible).

    At 10:18, I was informed that "potential issues were detected with installed applications." Even Microsoft’s own Windows Messenger 5.1 – which I never use and didn’t know I had – had a potential issue.) None of the apps were important enough for me to abort Vista, so I told my machine to move on.

    At 10:19, Vista started copying files, and I reached the important 50% milestone at 10:20, and hit 100% at 10:22. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

    At 10:23, I was feeling really good. My screen told me that Vista was "gathering data." Then Cynical Cousin Dave pointed out a notice on the screen that said "Your upgrade may take several hours to complete."

    I didn't think the warning applied to experienced and talented data processing wizards like me, and my drives were humming along smoothly; so my original 45-minute target still seemed reasonable. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

    At 10:35, I hit the 69% mark for file gathering, and I remained optimistic. A dual-core Athlon should be able to accomplish a lot in the remaining ten minutes.

    At 10:40, Vista was saving my settings. I was feeling really good, and aimed a "see I told you so" smile at Cynical Cousin Dave. Then the screen went blank. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

    At 10:49, (four minutes into overtime), my screen lit up again, and told me that my files were being expanded. It took just a few seconds to reach 23% expansion.

    At 10:55, I was up to 70%, and 11AM looked like a possibility. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

    At 11:00, I was told "that's all the information we need right now." (Had my compatibility testing continued without my knowledge?)

    At 11:01, Vista told me to "wait a minute while Windows prepares to start for the first time." Vista told me this with crappy white type on an ugly DOS-like black background. I was not impressed. Where were all the pretty Vista colors?

    At 11:05, I watched an army of dots crawl across my screen ................ ........... ................... ................. .................... ........................ ............ ............ .................. ......... ....... Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

    At 11:10, 11% of the upgrade had been completed. (What the hell was Vista doing during the previous hour?) Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

    At 11:15, I reached 34%. I was a half hour past my deadline, and starting to get pissed-off. I had finished reading the good magazines in my in-box, Jerry Springer was a re-run, and I had nothing to do. It wasn't much fun watching the dots crawl.

    At 11:26, I realized that the "several hours" warning might actually be right. Horrified, I looked for something to keep me busy. I swiveled my chair around, loaded paper into two printers, replaced a fading black ink cartridge, and even re-connected the USB cable for my long-dormant scanner.

    The printers and scanner sit on a cabinet whose doors have been blocked for many months by a growing pile of crap. This seemed to be the right time to start my spring cleaning. I shoved the crap pile aside and pried open the sticky cabinet doors to inspect my hidden treasures.

    My first prize was a bag of KitKat bars, surplus from Halloween 2005. They were individually hermetically sealed and deemed safe. I found two pieces of Riesens chocolate-covered caramels. They were of unknown vintage, and a little bit hard, and the brown was beginning to fade to gray... but Hungry Brother Marshall and I managed to ingest them without too much effort.

    At 11:31, I completed 43% of the upgrade. I also found a microwaveable Dinty Moore's chicken-and-rice meal, a Maruchan instant soup, three AA batteries, and an un-opened box labeled "time sensitive" which was shipped on 8/4/06. It contained some obsolete business cards. I also found some Werther's Original caramel candies, two dollar bills, an old passport, some embarrassing pictures, and my 2004 appointment book. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

    At 11:39, Vista noted it reached 50% of the upgrade. I found a box of Zwieback, a Costco statement, an obsolete Sirius channel guide, an ancient party invitation list, and a menu from Buffalo Wild Wings. The menu was the first thing that made Cynical Cousin Dave happy.

    At 11:44, the upgrade had reached an impressive 53%, and I found a directory of Connecticut hospitals, an open bag of Tostito Scoops (my favorite variety of tortilla chips), and a Simply Asia sesame teriyaki noodle bowl. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

    At 11:45, Vista hit 57%. I read that the Scoops were guaranteed fresh until 12/20/05, but I tasted them anyway. They were pretty good for an opened bag more than a year past its prime, but at the urging of Cynical Cousin Dave, I put the Scoops in the trash can.

    At 11:47, my new operating system reached an impressive 64%. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?" I found un-opened sauce pods from KFC, Taco Bell, and Arby’s; plus soy sauce and duck sauce from unknown Chinese restaurants. I took a break from my cleaning and glanced through a Vista preview magazine, and learned about applying thermal grease to a CPU. I’ve never used thermal grease before. I wonder how it compares to Arby’s Sauce. I then went back to the cabinet, and found a charger for a long-gone Moto, a broken headset, and broken sunglasses.

    At 11:51, the screen still showed 64%. I replaced a light bulb, made sure my UPS was alive, and went to the fridge for a Devil Dog. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

    At noon, two hours into the ordeal, we were still at 64%. Ignoring the warnings of Cynical Cousin Dave, I tried some Cheetos from an open bag marked “guaranteed fresh until 1/24/06.” They were still pretty crunchy, and (IMPORTANT REVELATION) old Cheetos didn’t mess my hands nearly as much as fresh Cheetos.

    At 12:02, we were way past my 45-minute estimate, but the completion percentage jumped to 73. I found a bag of dog treats. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?" Three minutes later, Vista hit an impressive 78% completion.

    At 12:08, the PC restarted all by itself. The screen was blank, and the LED on my DVD drive was flashing frantically. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

    At 12:10, I was asked to choose an operating system to start my PC. Since I had invested $259.99 plus tax, plus two hours and ten minutes of my valuable time, I chose Vista. My next decision was whether to order food from the outside, or open one of my new discoveries. I decided to play it safe, and get something freshly cooked.

    At 12:12, I had the opportunity to verify the time and date, and tell Microsoft that I would be using this PC at work, not at home. Microsoft thanked me. An ethereal turquoise screen with a white horizontal line appeared. This looked Vista-ish, and I was encouraged. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

    At 12:18, nothing on my screen had changed. I was tempted to move my mouse or press Enter, but Cynical Cousin Dave warned me not to. I checked the weather report on another PC, and decided to try to take a nap.

    At 12:24, I was still awake. Nothing had changed on my screen. I started looking through the take-out menus.

    At 12:26, I answered a wrong number call. My screen was unchanged, but I did dare to move my mouse. My screen didn’t change. I picked a menu, and read lustily about the “Big Manny Burger.”

    At 12:31, I was excited – and relieved – to see some words: “Please wait while Windows checks your performance.” Uh-Oh, am I in danger of having my compatibility canceled? Apparently I still met the standards, and I was encouraged to “Connect, Play, Have Fun.”

    At 12:42, my screen went black. I didn't connect, play or have fun, but I did hear the first Vista sound from my speakers. Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?"

    At 12:45, exactly two hours beyond my estimated completion time, my screen looked normal. Vista seemed to be alive and well, I got a pop-up message from Yahoo urging me to re-finance my mortgage. Is this what I got for my $259.99 plus tax? Cynical Cousin Dave asked "is it done yet?" I said that I thought so.

    At 1:00, we hit the three-hour mark since I first tried to open the Vista package. My screen showed that the new Windows Mail program was transferring accounts and messages from the ancient, archaic and obsolete Outlook Express (which had worked just fine). I had 18,483 messages in my deleted file, so I was prepared to wait.

    At 1:20, I could finally tell Cynical Cousin Dave that the installation was officially finished. The screen was gorgeous. Translucent windows are impressive. The WAIT hourglass has been replaced by an animated light spiral. A movie demo was amazingly crisp, with lots of possible visual enhancements to compensate for the viewing environment. A year-old graphics problem that made diagonal letters look ragged was miraculously fixed. There are a bunch of new sound effects, including some really annoying aquarium sounds. The preview of opened files was a real crowd pleaser. We could even see a miniature moving version of Jon Stewart interviewing Bill Gates at the same time we watched the full-size YouTube video. Program windows open with a zooming expansion, and zoom down to close. It feels Stark-Trekish, even though there's no whoosh sound (I'm sure someone's working on the add-on). A new feature, called just computer, replaces the old my computer. It shows the PCs on your local network, and the space on your drives, and favorite links, in one window. The "all programs" list is in alphabetical order -- about ten years overdue.

    At 1:31, after poking around, sampling, and experimenting, I checked my email for the first time in 214 minutes.

    Windows Mail has a new "Junk" file that collects evil email. The first blocked email was from Apple. Yup, Vista has some amazing technology.

    Silly Stuff:
    1. Even though Outlook Express no longer works, Vista kept a "favorite link" to it. When I clicked on it without thinking about it, I was told the item is unavailable and was asked if I wanted to remove it from the list. I did.
    2. The "all programs" list is now in alphabetical order, but with two sequences. Mine goes from Adobe through Yahoo Mail, and then starts again with Accessories, and goes down to Yahoo Messenger.