Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Last-minute reminder:
Super-easy way to make charitable donations, and maybe get a free vacation.

Last-minute reminder:
Super-easy way to make charitable donations, and maybe get a free vacation.

As the year ends, you have only a few more hours to make tax deductable donations to charity. It's not a big deal to write a couple of checks, and lots of charities accept credit card donations and have convenient websites. However, if you want to spread money around, AmEx makes it extremely easy -- and personally profitable.

The Giving Express program connects you to over a million charitable organizations! You can search for them by name, keywords, location, or use an extensive list of categories such as performing arts, education, health care, housing, human rights, disaster relief, religion and much more. The AmEx website has financial reports, mission statements, contacts, and other information regarding the organizations.

Donating online helps nonprofit organizations reduce administrative costs so that they can do more with the money. Your dollar donations are tax-deductible and you’ll receive an e-mail receipt for your records.

• Give to one or more charities and nonprofit organizations
• Donate dollars with your American Express Card
• Donate Membership Rewards points
• Set up recurring donations

When you make a donation, you'll get an immediate e-mail confirmation for each transaction. AmEx will post a detailed record of all your donations on your password-protected Giving History web page, if you need a record for an IRS audit in the future. CLICK

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

TI calculator is vital for anyone who sells stuff

Texas Instruments would probably prefer to be known for its pioneering work in transistors and integrated circuits. The company makes advanced semiconductor products that are used in cellphones, satellites, cars, computers and Hi-Def TVs. They also make an incredibly useful $25 calculator that belongs on the desks of everyone who buys and sells things.

TI's BA-20 "Profit Manager" has been made for 10 years or more in several versions, but its important special functions have remained, providing easy answers to pricing decisions for merchants.

Preprogrammed functions quickly provide cost-sell-margin solutions; enter any two variables and the third appears instantly.

If you know your cost, and desired profit margin, you tap some brainy buttons and it tells you how much to sell an item for.

If you know your cost, and the selling price, you tap some brainy buttons and it tells you what your margin is.

Less useful, if you know your selling price, and your margin, you tap some brainy buttons and it tells you what your cost might have been.

It's solar powered, has readable buttons and display digits, and does basic math, too. My oldest one even has a digital clock. Highly recommended. Available at Amazon, Staples and other office suppliers.

Monday, December 22, 2008

EnGenius long-range cordless phone

Most cordless phones can work a few hundred feet from their base. That's fine for most homes and offices, but not nearly enough for a ranch, farm, car lot, campus, warehouse or a big office building or store.

EnGenius Technologies has been marketing long-range cordless phones in the US for about a decade. EnGenius is part of Senao, a Taiwanese manufacturer of phones and wireless data equipment. Some Senao phones can go dozens of miles, but they're not legal in the US. The EnGenius phones are legal here, and can usually reach a mile or more. They have more "horsepower" than other cordlesses, and can even punch through metal walls.

The first generation EnGenius was independently tested to have a five-mile range. Unless you live in death valley, you probably won't reach that far, but coverage of 12 floors in building, 250,000 sq. ft. in a warehouse, and 3,000 acres on a farm, ranch, car lot or campus is not unusual. That's more than 130 million square feet!

EnGenius was one of the first companies to offer a cordless phone with a separate base that can be positioned for maximum range, while the handset needs just a charging cradle, but no phone jack. They were also one of the first companies to offer multi-handset cordless phone systems with handset-to-handset intercom.

EnGenius "DuraFons" are extremely rugged. They are industrial strength phones, built to be dropped and splashed. In addition to providing phone service, they also act as walkie-talkies, and provide paging from one handset to multiple handsets.

Several DuraFon systems are available, for 1, 4 or 32 lines; and up to 9, 32, or 90 handsets. A DuraFon can be connected directly to phone company dialtone, or used with another phone system. Many accessories are available, including an external range-boosting antenna. More info is at www.engenius.info.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Flashing red BatPhone can be delivered before Christmas

Now everyone can have a red phone with a flashing light like Batman.

When there’s trouble in Gotham City, Police Commissioner Gordon calls caped crusader Batman, the secret alter ego of millionaire Bruce Wayne.

At Wayne Manor, the flashing red Batphone is answered by Alfred the butler, who tells Wayne about the trouble. Then Wayne and his young ward Dick Grayson put on their superhero costumes. As Batman and Robin, they race from the Batcave in the Batmobile to battle evil-doers, or rescue citizens in distress.

Now everyone can have a bright red flashing Batphone just like a superhero. When an emergency call - or even an ordinary call - comes in, a bright red light centered in a shiny chrome ring starts flashing to attract attention.

The Batphone has classic sixties styling, with heavy-duty construction, a two-year warranty, and is made in the USA. It gets all of its power from the phone line, and doesn’t require a power cord or batteries. It can work on an ordinary home phone line, or on an "analog extension port" in a business phone system.

The phone rings when the light flashes, unless a purchaser prefers the bell to be disconnected for silent signaling, or an optional high-pitched "BatSignal" or buzzer to be installed instead of the bell. Price with the bell is $122, including "ground" shipping to all 50 states. Fast shipping for delivery by Christmas costs extra.

Order online at www.GetABatPhone.com, or call toll-free 1-888-225-3999.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Now everyone can have a flashing red phone like Batman

When there’s trouble in Gotham City, Police Commissioner Gordon calls caped crusader Batman, the secret alter ego of millionaire Bruce Wayne.

At Wayne Manor, the flashing red Batphone is answered by Alfred the butler, who tells Wayne about the trouble. Then Wayne and his young ward Dick Grayson put on their superhero costumes. As Batman and Robin, they race from the Batcave in the Batmobile to battle evil-doers, or rescue citizens in distress.

Now everyone can have a bright red flashing Batphone just like a superhero. When an emergency call - or even an ordinary call - comes in, a bright red light centered in a shiny chrome ring starts flashing to attract attention.

This new phone, developed by AbleComm, Inc., has classic sixties styling, with heavy-duty construction, and a two-year warranty. It gets all of its power from the phone line, and doesn’t require a power cord or batteries.

The phone rings when the light flashes, unless a purchaser prefers the bell to be disconnected for silent signaling, or an optional high-pitched "BatSignal" or buzzer to be installed instead of the bell. Price with the bell is $122, including shipping to all 50 states.

Order online at www.GetABatPhone.com, or call toll-free 1-888-225-3999.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Heavenly Phone can give anyone
a direct line to God.

Some clergy men and women have claimed to have a "direct line to God," and other people merely act that way. Now anyone can have a high quality communications device that implies a direct link to a Higher Power.

Imagine the reaction of visitors when the phone rings, and you answer, "This is your humble servant, how may I assist you?"

It's a great Chanukah/Kwanzaa/Christmas gift for any lay person or clergy person with a sense of humor, or buy one for yourself.

AbleComm's GodPhone is non-denominational, and suitable for rabbis, priests, pastors, chaplains, padres, preachers, ministers, cardinals, imams, monks, nuns, gurus, or any spiritual leader. You probably shouldn't give it to an atheist.

The phone is "office quality," not a toy, made in the USA, and has a seven-year warranty. The phone does not have buttons for dialing out. It will generally be used for answering calls or just as a passive prop.

It can be connected to a phone system with automatic dialing and programmed to call a specific number when the handset is lifted. You can also get an upgraded version with internal memory for automatic dialing, but as with prayers, there is no guarantee that God will answer you.

Price of the standard GodPhone is $100. The Auto-dial GodPhone costs $240. Both models get free shipping anywhere in the USA. CLICK for more info and ordering. AbleComm also manufactures the BatPhone, PizzaPhone and Presidential HotLine phone.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Great gift idea: Pizzaphone automatically calls for food

An exciting alternative to the traditional ties and wrench sets that often appear at this time of year, the PizzaPhone® is a unique gift for Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas or almost any day. It can be easily programmed to call a favorite pizzeria, and the number is dialed as soon as the handset is lifted.

If another restaurant becomes the new favorite, it takes just a few seconds to re-program the phone’s memory. A manually-dialed PizzaPhone is also available.
The PizzaPhone is the ultimate status symbol for a college dorm, fraternity or apartment, or an executive office; and it's a great "power tool" for garage or basement.

It's also good for a lodge or club, the kitchen or break room at work; and although women can use it, it will be particularly appreciated anywhere hungry guys hang out.

The PizzaPhone is a great gift for others, but people can also use it to reward themselves. If a husband puts it on the kitchen wall at home, it might even encourage his wife to cook more. Or he might get hit with the phone.

PizzaPhone easily mounts on a standard "RJ11W" wall phone jack. It works with an ordinary analog phone line, or VoIP, or cable TV phone service, or in a business or institution's phone system. It can also be installed in a hotel or motel lobby or on a military base. PizzaPhone is powered by the telephone line. No AC power or battery is required.

Two models are available. The automatic-dialing PizzaPhone, which can be easily pre-programmed by the user to call a favorite restaurant, sells for $177, with free shipping anywhere in the United States, and has a two-year warranty. The manual-dialing PizzaPhone, which can also be used as a conventional telephone, sells for $77, with free shipping anywhere in the 50 states, and has a five-year warranty. It can even be used to order Chinese or Mexican food. Both phones can answer incoming calls.

The PizzaPhone is a product of RedHotPhones, the developer of the BatPhone, the GodPhone and the Presidential HotLine Phone. CLICK for more information and ordering.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hundred-buck 3G wireless netbook at RadioShack

RadioShack is now selling its first netbook, the Acer Aspire One. This is the first time Acer is offering a 3G-capable version of its One in the US market. (The Shack model may not be blue as in the photo above.)

The Shack will offer the device at $99.99 for customers who sign up for a qualifying two-year AT&T DataConnect mobile broadband service agreement with plans starting at $60/month. Price is $499.99 without the service plan.

The 2.44-pound netbook features 1GB memory, 8.9" screen, 160GB hard drive, built-in memory card readers and Windows XP software. The unit has integrated 3G functionality in addition to full Wi-Fi capability. CLICK for more. (info from TWICE)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Great deals on refurbed hi-def TVs at Tiger

I'm a big fan of Tiger Direct.

Over the years they've been my main source for bare-bones and complete PCs, components for PCs, monitors and printers, and a bunch of ready-to-use desktops and laptops. Their regular prices are very good, but I've often taken advantage of their big bargains on refurbished equipment for my office.

Yesterday I ordered a refurbished flatscreen Vizio HDTV for a guest room, to replace one of the last CRT TVs in the house. They have a variety of sizes and other brands include Toshiba, Samsung, JVC and Sharp. There are also discounts on wall mounts, Blu-ray players, cables and remotes.

I've never regretted buying refurbished electronic products, and I assume this TV will be just about perfect. It was probably returned to Costco or Sam's Club by someone who was too stupid to realize he needed an HDTV signal to see hi-def.

Shipping charges are reasonable. You probably won't have to pay sales tax. And with a Tiger credit card, you can pay over a few months with no interest.

Quanities are limited. Act fact. You can get delivery before Chanukah. CLICK

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New favorite salsa and chips are both from Costco

Ola Senor y Senorita!

I eat lots of salsa and tortilla chips, and I've tried lots of brands over the years. Many salsa brands, including Chi-Chi's and Ortega are acceptable to me -- especially if I have to grab a jar at a nearby 7-11 or Mobil Mart for late-night motel munching.

For the last year or so I had standardized on Santa Barbara salsa from Costco, and the ubiquitious Scoops chips made by Frito-Lay. Their spoon-bowl shape made lots of sense, and they tasted fine. I also like the fresh-made freebie chips served at On-The-Border restaurants, and usually order a refill towards the end of a meal, so I know I'll have some left-overs that they'll pack for me to take home. My wife complains that they're too salty, but she usually scarfs down the contents of the doggie bag before I get a chance. She doesn't like salsa, tho.

I'm a big Costco fan. I'm there twice a week for food, electronics, office supplies, books, DVDs, tools, car stuff, garbage bags, clothes, everything. The constant stream of new products, good value, great customer service, plus free food samples make an unbeatbale combination. I'm also a member of BJ's and Sam's Club, but Costco is always my preferred warehouse destination.

A couple of weeks ago, one of their nice old ladies served me a free sample of their own Kirkland brand organic salsa, on their own Kirkland brand organic tortilla chips. I was immediately impressed, and bought a bag and a big bottle. Yesterday I bought another bag and bottle. They are my new standard, and I highly recommend them.

The chips are not as convenient as Scoops, but the superior taste makes up for having to use a spoon to spread the joy. Of course, you can rough-it and just shove a chip into the salsa. I prefer spreading to dipping.

I buy them for the flavor, but they're also organic. If that impresses you, you'll have two reasons to buy them. And because they're from Costco, you'll save money and have fun shopping, so you'll have four reasons.

CHIP HINT: invariably, as you progress to the bottom of the chip bag, the pieces get smaller and smaller and eventually the pieces and crumbs are just too small to put salsa on. Here are two ways to prolong the joy and minimize the waste. (1) Put the small pieces in a bowl so your dog can eat them. (2) Put the small pieces in a bowl, mash them up with a spoon, pour on the salsa and mix it up and eat with a spoon. YUM.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New movie recommendation service is powered by people

Clerk dogs believes that people give the best movie recommendations and has a search system powered by human beings, not algorithms.

Its database is made up of hundreds of thousands of individual recommendations from dozens of former video store clerks. The former clerks, who should understand why customers like movies, have analyzed the characteristics of movies to create a database that is said to be much richer and deeper than collaborative filtering engines. The system was designed to allow customers to interact with the database and to take control of their movie selection experience.

The movie genome project that powers Clerk Dogs was started when Stuart Skorman opened a brick-and-mortar video store in 1985, and moved to the web in 1995 when he founded Reel.com. Two years ago he reunited the original writers from Reel.com to create the new movie recommendation site.

Skorman says he designed the search engine for the movie buffs who have seen so many movies that they’re having a hard time finding new ones (or old ones) that they will really love.


A search for Bedtime for Bonzo turned up nothing.

A search for Back to the Future showed the sequels. No surprises there. However, when I clicked on "Mash It" I reached a deeper analysis page with slider controls that allowed me to adjust such characteristics as "action" and "screwball humor" to reveal more recommendations, including Miss Congeniality and Blue Streak.

More clicks provide additional movie data, and ordering from Amazon.com

Monday, December 8, 2008

Super deals from Herrington. ACT FAST!

The Herrington Catalog, seller of all kinds of cool Big Boys Toys (as well as clothing and household items), is having a warehouse clearance sale, with discounts of 25 - 50% or more.


Friday, December 5, 2008

New Monster-size pizza from the Hut
(but it's not really bigger than their Bigfoot)

Having grown up in New Haven, and having recently returned to the area after a 37-year absence, I am a pizza snob.

New Haven pizza, as pioneered by Pepe's and Sally's on Wooster Street, spelled "apizza" and pronounced "ah-beetz," is the real thing.

I regard most pizza, particularly mass-produced chain pizza from Domino's, as little more than cardboard with ketchup.

"California" pizza, laden with pineapple, barbecued ferns, tofu, frog vomit, sun-dried twigs and organic pebbles should be illegal.

I am offended by "white pizza" because the essence of pizza is the sauce. If it's not red, like a Ferrari, it's not pizza.

I never order "extra cheese." A traditional New Haven apizza (sometimes called a "tomato pie") has grated cheese, but no mozzarella ("mootz") on it. You can get mootz, but it's an extra-cost topping.

Nevertheless, despite its lack of authenticity, I have enjoyed the pizza-like food that comes out of the non-brick ovens at Pizza Hut. It tastes fine IF I don't think of it as pizza. As Cynical Cousin Dave explains, "It's not pizza, it's Pizza Hut."

Back in 1993, PH offered a giant rectangual pie aptly called the BIGFOOT. It measured two square feet, and cost $10.99 with up to three toppings. CLICK to see a commerical. It was great for parties, but despite many enthusiastic customers, the product disappeared. It may have been a PITA to produce.

Now PH is trying again, with their PANORMOUS pizza. They say it's
biggest pan pizza they've ever made. I don't think it's really bigger than Bigfoot, but it's over 40% bigger than PH's large pan pizza. Price is $12.99 with one topping per "side."

Like Bigfoot, it may not be available for long. Some PH employees are already grumbling about having to assemble yet another size cardboard box.

FREEBIE MUSIC BONUS: if you order Panormous online, you can get 75 free MP3s for yourself from eMusic, plus 75 free MP3s for five friends. (I'm not sure if they each get 75, or if you divide up the 75 among them.)

BULLSHIT REPORT: Actually, Panormous doesn't have two sides. And actually, it's not one enormous pizza like Bigfoot was. Panormous is two separate 8-slice pizzas sold in one box.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Nokia "mobile computer" (cellphone)

On Tuesday Nokia unveiled the N97, which the company says is the world's most advanced mobile computer, and will "transform the way people connect to the Internet and to each other."

Designed for the needs of the Internet-savvy, the N97 combines a large 3.5" touch display with a full QWERTY keyboard, providing an always-open window to favorite social networking sites and Internet destinations. It has new technology - including multiple sensors, memory, processing power and connection speeds - for people to create a personal Internet and share their "social location."

With integrated A-GPS sensors and an electronic compass, the Nokia N97 mobile computer intuitively understands where it is. This makes it easy to update social networks automatically with real-time information, giving approved friends the ability to update their "status" and share their "social location" as well as related pictures or videos.

The home screen of the N97 features the people, content and media that matter the most. Friends, social networks and news are available by simply touching the home screen. The 16:9 widescreen display can be fully personalized with frequently updated widgets of favorite web services and social networking sites. The N97 is also suited for browsing the web, streaming Flash videos or playing games. Both the physical QWERTY and virtual touch input can aid efficiency in blogging, chatting, posting, sending texts or emailing.

The Nokia N97 supports up to 48 GB of storage, including 32 GB of onboard memory, expandable with a 16 GB microSD card for music, media and more. This is complemented by music capabilities, full support for the Nokia Music Store and continuous playback time of up to 1.5 days.

The Nokia N97 also has a 5-Megapixel camera with high-quality Carl Zeiss optics, 16:9 and DVD quality video capture, and support for services like Share on Ovi for immediate sharing over HSDPA and WLAN.

The Nokia N97 is expected to begin shipping in the first half of 2009 at an estimated retail price of $699 before taxes or subsidies.
This is a preview, not a review.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bargain breakfast at Mickey Dee's

People have been eating breakfast sandwiches (lox on a bagel, egg on a roll) for a very long time. But the notion of a portable morning meal that could be eaten from one hand while the other hand clutches the steering wheel, really took off in 1973, when McDonald's introduced the Egg McMuffin. It also put McDonalds into the breakfast business.

Egg McMuffin is a slice of Canadian bacon (which doesn't have to come from Canada any more than French Fries must be imported from France), a grilled egg, and a slice of cheese on an English muffin. A Sausage McMuffin with Egg is a popular variation that uses a sausage patty in place of the Canadian bacon. In the UK, the McMuffin is available without bacon for vegetarians. People order a "Bacon Egg McMuffin" to get the equivalent of the US version.

Former McDonald's President Ray Kroc wrote that Herb Peterson, the operator of their Santa Barbara franchise, asked him to look at something, not telling him what it was because it was "...a crazy idea, a breakfast sandwich. It consisted of an egg that had been formed in a Teflon circle with the yolk broken, and was dressed with a slice of cheese and a slice of grilled Canadian bacon. It was served open-faced on a toasted and buttered English muffin."

Peterson believed that to launch an entirely new food line, such as breakfast, McDonald's needed something unique and yet something that could be eaten like all other McDonald's items -- with the fingers. His solution came when he started modifying an Eggs Benedict sandwich that was being marketed by Jack-in-the-Box.

By Christmas of 1971, Peterson had been working on the product for months. He had experimented with prepackaged Hollandaise, which he rejected as too runny. He replaced it instead with a slice of cheese, which when melted on a hot egg produced the consistency he was looking for. He also had to develop a foolproof way of preparing an egg on a grill to give it the appearance of a poached egg. Poaching eggs did not fit with McDonald's assembly line production process, but Peterson solved the problem by developing a new cooking utensil -- a cluster of six Teflon-coated metal rings -- that was placed on the grill to give eggs a round shape to match an English muffin. When he added grilled Canadian bacon, Peterson had a breakfast product perfect for a sandwich-oriented fast-food chain.

In 1971, Kroc was celebrating Christmas at his ranch near Santa Barbara, and Peterson asked him to stop by the store.

Peterson was ready with a demonstration of his new product, and a flip-chart to explain its economics; but it was taste, not economics that convinced Kroc. He had just finished lunch before seeing Peterson, but he devoured two of the new sandwiches anyway. At Kroc's request, Peterson took his Teflon rings to Chicago to prepare his new breakfast for the rest of McDonald's senior managers, all of whom responded as positively as Kroc had.

McDonald's was ready to test the product nationwide, as soon as it settled on a name. Peterson favored calling it McDonald's Fast Break Breakfast, but the name had been copyrighted, but never used, by Nabisco. One evening, Mr. and Mrs. Kroc were having dinner with McDonald's exec Fred Turner and his wife Patty. Patty Turner suggested calling it the Egg McMuffin, and the name stuck.


(info from MCDONALD'S: BEHIND THE ARCHES by John F. Love, Wikipedia, & other sources).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Still have a job?
Celebrate with an $8,000 Nikon

On Sunday Nikon announced the D3X, an FX-format digital SLR featuring extreme 24.5-megapixel resolution and superb low-noise capabilities, which provides professional photographers with commercial-quality image performance in a familiar and versatile D-SLR form factor. It's intended to excel in all types of professional photographic disciplines from photojournalism and sideline sports, to commercial in-studio applications. It's also a great toy for rich amateurs.

The foundation of the enhanced performance of the D3X is its FX-format, 24.5-megapixel (6048 x 4032) CMOS sensor providing commercial, high fashion, fine art and landscape photographers with the extreme resolution, dynamic range, color depth, detail and sharpness that clients demand. The large 5.94-micron pixel size and high signal to noise ratio can produce vibrant images with breathtaking image fidelity while reducing lost highlights and shadows, and ensuring smoother tone reproduction with minimized noise, according to Nikon. With full resolution shooting speeds of up to five frames-per-second (fps), and 14-bit files, that when processed are approximately 138 MB, the D3X offers an extreme level of performance and versatility .

To re-emphasize the importance of image quality above all else, the D3X aims to deliver extremely high resolution, exceptional dynamic range, phenomenal total gradation and outstanding color reproduction. Image files can be recorded as TIFF, JPEG or NEF (RAW) formats in either 12- or 14-bit compressed or uncompressed formats, and recorded to UDMA compatible CompactFlash™ cards for optimum speed. Photographers can save image files directly to the dual card slots as overflow, backup, or as separate file formats to different cards. Building on the D3X's flexibility, users have the creative option to shoot in the 5:4 crop mode with 20.4-megapixel resolution, the ideal format for creating 8 x 10-inch portraits. While using DX-format lenses, faster continuous shooting of up to seven frames per second can be achieved at a resolution of 10.5 megapixels.

The low noise of the D3X is essential to any professional commercial application, and it provides photographers with an ISO range of 100 to 1600, expandable to 50 (Lo-1) and 6400 (Hi-2). The ultra smooth tones and lack of grain at ISO 1600 as well as at low sensitivity settings result in smooth, natural skin tones and exacting detail that, before the D3X, required larger and far costlier studio-bound camera systems.

The Nikon D3X can shoot at up to five fps at full resolution or up to seven fps in DX crop mode, allowing photographers to catch the split-second difference in a model’s expression or capture all of the action in a sequence. The D3X achieves a start-up time of a mere 0.12 seconds and a shutter release time lag of 0.04 seconds.

The D3X’s speed, as well as high levels of performance, leverages Nikon core technologies including a newly enhanced EXPEED™ Image Processing System, specially designed for the D3X to provide superior image quality, faster processing speeds and lower power consumption. This advanced system is said to be able to achieve extremely precise color reproduction for a broad spectrum of hues, in addition to vivid saturation and smooth gradation. What’s more, Nikon’s advanced noise processing function is engineered to minimize noise at all sensitivities and operate seamlessly without interfering with other image color parameters.

The D3X also features Nikon’s exclusive Scene Recognition System, which continuously analyzes information from the 1,005-pixel RGB light sensor, to further refine auto exposure, auto white balance and autofocus calculations. This should result in flattering portraits and awe-inspiring landscapes that portray accurate color and fine details. Nikon's exclusive 3D Color Matrix Metering II helps ensure accurate exposures, even in the most challenging lighting conditions. Instantly evaluating each scene before capture, input data from the system's sensor is automatically referenced against an internal database of more than 30,000 images derived from actual photographs to calculate correct exposure values. Active D-Lighting, used in combination with 3D Matrix Metering II, helps to determines proper exposure, and creates realistic contrast while compensating for lost shadows and highlights. Prior to shooting, users can choose from Extra High, High, Normal, Low or Off settings, as well as an Auto mode.

Additionally, the D3X features Nikon’s exclusive Multi-CAM 3500FX focus module, with 51 AF points, 15 cross type sensors and 36 horizontal sensors that easily track and lock onto moving subjects, delivering the same fast and accurate AF performance that helped make the D3 immediately successful. Users can select any of the AF points, making it easy to consistently attain accurate focus right on a subject’s eyes, frame after frame. Additionally, three AF-area modes – Single point, Dynamic-area AF and Auto-area AF – are available to maximize the use of the 51 focus points by selecting the most suitable one to match subject conditions. AF is also available in one of two Live View modes optimized for the studio, including a phase detection handheld mode and a tripod mode. This feature allows the user to zoom in up to 27x on the LCD screen to ensure critical focus. While in Live View, the graphic indication of a virtual horizon is also available, making it easier than ever to confirm camera orientation.

To further ensure each photographer's ability to balance their personal style, Nikon’s Picture Control System enables users to adjust their images to pre-set parameters such as Standard, Neutral, Vivid and Monochrome that apply tweaks to image sharpening, tone compensation, brightness, overall tone and saturation. Photographers have creative control over these image parameters with the use of up to nine available customizable presets.

Engineered for real-world functionality, the D3X retains a rugged shell with moisture, dust and shock resistance that has become a hallmark of flagship Nikon D-SLRs, while preserving the usability and ergonomics that allow the camera to remain an extension of the photographer’s vision. Attention to detail goes so far as to include a self-diagnostic shutter system that is tested to exceed 300,000 cycles for maximum durability and longevity. The camera’s body also maintains the resilient magnesium alloy construction and form factor of the D3, promoting consistent Nikon system synergy.

A bright and accurate viewfinder offers 100 percent coverage with 0.7x magnification. The body also houses Nikon’s acclaimed 3.0-inch super density LCD screen. The high-resolution 920,000-dot screen is viewable at wide angles up to 170 degrees, and will allow photographers to quickly zoom in to confirm critical focus. Users can also output the video signal to an external display via HDMI to allow client viewing. The D3X can capture up to 4400 shots per single charge of the camera’s Lithium ion battery.

The D3X is fully compatible with Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS) to give photographers a mobile lighting solution that is easy to manage. To further enhance mobility, the D3X is compatible with Nikon’s GP-1 GPS receiver to gather information such as latitude, longitude, altitude and date of shooting. Photographers can easily shoot tethered via USB, or use the WT-4a wireless transmitter to send images wirelessly when speed and mobility are essential. D3X users will also enjoy the system strength of more than 50 genuine NIKKOR lenses that provide outstanding sharpness and high resolution across a broad range of focal lengths.

The Nikon D3X will be available at Nikon Authorized Professional Dealers starting this month for an estimated selling price of $7999.95.
This is a preview, not a review.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Digger's Choice fried clam kit:
for yourself, for a party, or to get lucky

Your humble editor has been cooking and eating clams for many years, but except for a couple of very unsatisfying experiences heating frozen clam strips (think of warm gummy worms), I'd never had fried clams at home before.

A while ago, I received a nice email from Mike Annable of Diggers Choice in Wareham Massachusetts, near Cape Cod. Mike buttered me up with compliments about my WeLoveClams website, and asked if I'd provide a link to the Diggers Choice site.

We get lots of requests for links, and, since the clam website is not my fulltime gig (neither are the blogs), I seldom have time to investigate the requests, and I don't link just anyone. But since Mike said that the folks in his office thought the site was funny; and only a few very enlightened people (not including my wife) appreciate my sense of humor, his request deserved special attention.

Anyway, I went to the Diggers Choice website, and immediately started salivating. I placed an order for a do-it-yourself fried clam kit, and the next morning the UPS driver left a box at my front door, and sped away without ringing the bell. This could have been a tragedy, but my dog barked and I opened the door.

Since I've encountered a lot of lousy fried clams, made by professional cooks in real restaurants, I was not at all optimistic about cooking my own. I'm an OK amateur, but really had no idea what was involved, and doubted that I'd produce anything edible on my first attempt.

The meal was amazing -- way beyond what I expected. I can't say that they're the best fried clams I've ever had, but they're definitely much better than most of the fried clams I've had.

Although our frying oil was of dubious quality, and our kitchen crew had never fried clams before, the amazing freshness of the clams came through. Many restaurants serve frozen clams, or "fresh" clams that have been hanging around for three or four days, after traveling for three or four days. These clams were on the beach on Tuesday, and in our bellies on Wednesday. We could definitely taste the difference.

Another advantage over the pros: In restaurants, your cooked clams can sit around for ten minutes, drying out under the heat lamp until the server brings them to you. If you order a large portion, the second half will be cold before you finish the first half (and cold fried clams suck). When you make your own clams, you cook a small portion (maybe a dozen per person) and eat them while they're hot and juicy. After you finish, it takes just a minute or two to make a second batch, and a third batch, and a fourth batch, and...

Frying clams at home is a great party idea. It's easy, and will provide your guests with a unique experience -- much hipper than fondue or tacos or s'mores. It's fun, too; and you can probably convince guests to cook and clean while you concentrate on eating and drinking.

Also, consider making fried clams with your sweetie for an intimate Valentine's Day dinner. Clams are great aphrodisiacs; and clams and beer are two of the vital food groups necessary for nurturing human brain cells.

Most people have never had really good fried clams, and with next-day delivery of a Diggers Choice Fried Clam Kit, there is no reason to settle for second-rate clams. CLICK for the Diggers Choice website. They're also a great source for delicious lobsters, steaks, oysters, shrimp, scallops and more. If you can't get lucky after serving one of their meals, try a new deodorant!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Now yo ucan program your TiVo from your cellphone

TiVo is launching a cell phone-friendly Web site that will allow users to search programming and set their TiVo DVRs remotely. TiVo Mobile will be a free service available "with any Internet-enabled phone through any network, regardless of carrier," according to the company. Any user will have access to the program listings, but only TiVo owners (Series2 or Series3/HD) will be able to set their home DVRs to record programs they would've otherwise missed. A similar service was previously available--for a fee--only to Verizon customers. The service (available soon at m.tivo.com) is currently in beta, but will be more widely available "in a few weeks," according to the company.

It's worth noting that TiVo owners can already program their DVRs remotely through the company's main web site

No need to go out to save today

I started typing this blog at 5:30AM on Black Friday. I had planned to get dressed in a few minutes to take out the trash and head to Circus City to snatch some BluRay disc deals.

Instead I found what I wanted on Amazon.com.

No gas. No crowds. No lines. No tax. And I'll have them all on Tuesday with free shipping.

I also got a super-cool Seiko watch that I had not planned to get, at a bigger discount than I usually get at the Seiko factory outlet store in Maine.

Lots of other stores, including Circus City and Wally's Mart have good deals online, and many websites are offering free shipping. Keep in mind that if the company has a physical presence in your state, you will have to pay sales tax, which probably won't happen with Amazon orders.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Black Friday deal on "Best of" XM & Sirius

On Black Friday, Sirius XM will launch a trial, free “Best of Both” promotion and its first holiday advertising under a single Sirius XM banner. The company will give people three free months of “Best of Both” service with the purchase of any Sirius or XM aftermarket product.

(FUCK THEM! what about something to reward people like me who have been subscribing to BOTH services for years, and are still waiting to merge their contracts?)

The top-tier service usually carries a charge of $16.99/month, and adds Sirius channels to an XM subscription or XM channels to a Sirius subscription at a $4 premium.

The company will also abandon separate XM and Sirius ads. The company hopes the switch to joint advertising will alleviate customer confusion at retail.

Additionally, Sirius XM is starting to experiment with promotions to customers of used cars that have satellite radios in them, to get the new owners to activate service. It is working with CarMax and AutoNation and with certified pre-owned dealers. (info from TWICE)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New video download service from Blockbuster

Today Blockbuster introduced the 2Wire MediaPoint™ digital media player, an easy-to-use, on-demand video solution that offers movie fans instant access through their television sets to BLOCKBUSTER® ONDEMAND content, including thousands of titles from the latest movie releases to classic favorites.

Beginning today, for a limited time, the MediaPoint digital media player is available free with the advance rental of 25 BLOCKBUSTER ONDEMAND movies for $99 at http://www.blockbuster.com/. Unlike subscription-based services, which typically offer movies long after their release, BLOCKBUSTER ONDEMAND includes hot new releases, many available within weeks of leaving theaters. After the initial 25 rentals, movies are available for as little as $1.99 each. The players will begin shipping in time for the holiday season.

Said to be easy to install, the MediaPoint digital media player works seamlessly with any broadband connection, either wirelessly via built-in Wi-Fi or wired via Ethernet cable, to deliver movies and television shows from the BLOCKBUSTER digital library. With fast-forward, rewind, and pause capabilities, the viewing experience is DVD quality, no matter the speed of the broadband connection. Movies can be played right away or saved to watch later. Additionally, the player supports HD video content and can be connected to HDTVs.

The MediaPoint digital media player is extremely compact -- about the size of two boxes of movie candy -- and can be integrated seamlessly into home entertainment systems through composite cable, HDMI, component cable, or Toslink.
This is a preview, not a review.

Monday, November 24, 2008

See football in 3-D TV

If high definition wide-screen TV doesn't thrill you anymore, consider watching football in three dimensions.

Next week, a game between the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders will be broadcast live in 3-D to theaters in Los Angeles, New York and Boston. It is a preliminary step on what is likely a long road to any regular 3-D broadcasts of football games.

The idea is a "proof of concept," says Howard Katz, NFL senior vice president of broadcasting and media operations. "We want to demonstrate this and let people get excited about it and see what the future holds."

The several hundred guests at the three participating theaters Dec. 4 will include representatives from the NFL's broadcasting partners and from consumer-electronics companies. 3ality Digital will shoot the game with special cameras and transmit it to a satellite, which will relay the program to theaters.

This isn't the first time the NFL has participated in a 3-D experiment. In 2004, a predecessor company to 3ality filmed the Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers. When Sandy Climan, 3ality's chief executive officer, shows the footage, "people crouch down to catch the ball," he says. "It's as if the ball is coming into your arms."

Technology has advanced considerably since then, and now makes live transmission possible. Boxing in 3-D, Climan says, particularly "raises your blood pressure."

Some live events, including opera broadcasts and circus performances, already pop up on screens at theaters across the country.

Next week's demonstration will also include television displays, to show what might one day be available in homes. While 3-D television sets are already available in stores, mainly for the handful of DVDs available in 3-D, the industry is still working on technical standards for 3-D.

That process raises the possibility that 3-D TV sets purchased today might not be compatible with programs aired in a few years' time. Just as in theaters, home viewers must wear special 3-D glasses. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Paypal offers deferred no-interest payment

As the money supply tightens, eBay's PayPal subsidiary plans to offer consumers credit lines for online holiday purchases.

Starting Friday, PayPal will test a service offering online credit to several thousand members. The service builds on eBay's recent purchase of deferred-payment service Bill Me Later, which allows Web shoppers to delay payment instead of paying immediately.

The PayPal members will be preapproved for varying credit limits, based on an assessment of their finances. The credit can be used at online retailers such as Amazon.com and Apple, which use Bill Me Later. Shoppers won't get charged interest or have to make payments until April 1, 2009, when they can opt to pay through a payment plan with interest. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This camera is so cool, it's worth having even if you don't take pictures

I'm a sucker for red. I have a 30-year-old tomato-red Fiat sports car. I have a website that specializes in red phones. My favorite uncle and an important girlfriend had red hair. I even had red walls in my apartment until I married a different girlfriend who didn't like red walls. I refuse to eat "white pizza." If it doesn't have red sauce, it's not pizza.

As soon as I saw the new Panasonic LUMIX GMX-G1R digital camera, I started salivating and panting.

Although I've been a Nikon fan and owner since 1970, I am well aware of the inroads that Panasonic has made into the digital camera business, especially since they started using Leica lenses on some products. Panasonic has long been an important innovator in video cameras and camcorders, and now they're kicking ass in still progography, too.

In general, I use my big Nikon D70 DSLR for "serious" photography, and a compact Nikon Coolpix L6 is always in my briefcase or car for unplanned photos. In my office, there's an older Coolpix 5000 on a tripod for taking product pictures. I also have a bunch of Nikon film cameras going back to an ancient Ftn that has shot miles of Kodachrome. I occasionally fondle the film cameras, but I haven't shot film in years.

I'm not ready to ditch my shelf full of Nikons, but I'm definitely ready to add a Panasonic.

The LUMIX DMC-G1 is the world’s first Micro Four Thirds system camera. Panasonic says it's the world’s smallest and lightest digital interchangeable lens camera system, with the body and standard "kit" lens weighing about 20 ounces. It fills an important middle ground between my big and small Nikons, offering the quality and versatility of an SLR in a much smaller package, and has a bigger display than either of them.

Based on the new Micro Four Thirds System standard, the LUMIX G1 eliminates the internal mirror structure that's used in other single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras, and so it reduces the size and weight by nearly half.

With the mirror-less system, the G1’s distance between the lens mount and the image sensor, has been reduced from 40 mm –- as specified in the Four Thirds System –- to approximately 20 mm.

The G1's Full-time Live View lets you see in the LCD screen how adjusting the exposure, white balance, aperture and even the shutter speed will affect the photo. This kind of super-easy live view shooting has never before been possible with a conventional digital SLR camera.

Intelligent Auto mode activates six detection and compensation functions that work automatically, leaving you free to just aim and shoot.
  • Shake detection - MEGA O.I.S. Helps prevent blurring when the camera shakes.
  • Motion detection - Intelligent ISO Control Helps prevent blur caused by subject motion.
  • Light detection - Intelligent Exposure Adjusts the brightness of dark areas in the image.
  • Advanced Face - Detection Face Detection AF/AE Helps deliver clear portraits.
  • Scene detection - Intelligent Scene Selector Selects the optimal scene mode for the situation.
  • Subject detection - AF Tracking follows moving subjects and adjusts accordingly.

  • The 3.0-inch free-angle LCD with high 460,000-dot resolution 180° horizontally and 270° vertically, making it easy for you to capture dynamic shots from extreme angles without getting into an awkward position. And when the lighting around you changes, the LCD backlighting level automatically changes too, so you get comfortable, easy-on-the-eyes viewing at all times.

    In My Color mode you can freely adjust the color, brightness and saturation of an image, while checking it with Full-time Live View. This gives you the power to control how your image will look. You can even make dramatic color changes.

    Film mode lets you capture photos with a special mood or expressiveness. Much like changing the film type in a film camera, you can get a wide range of expression based on six color modes and three monochromatic modes. When the multi-film mode is selected, you can record pictures having up to three different effects with each press of the shutter button.

    1920 x 1080-pixel HD (high-definition) photo recording. The G1 shoots wide-screen, 16:9, full-HD images. These images can be displayed on an HDTV, which handles about four times the data of a standard-definition TV.

    The camera has an HD output so it's easy to connect to an HDTV for high definition viewing. If your TV is HDMI compatible, a single HDMI mini cable is all you need. If you have a Panasonic VIERA HDTV, you can also operate the G1 with the VIERA remote control for even easier viewing.

    The image sensor has 13.1 total Megapixels. There's a Supersonic wave filter dust reduction system. Lens focal length is 14mm to 45mm. The 35mm film camera equivalent 28mm to 90mm, which I've always considered the ideal zoom range for most shooting.

    ISO Sensitivity can be selected for Auto / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200 / Intelligent ISO. White Balance choices are: Auto / Daylight / Cloudy / Shade / Halogen / Flash / White Set 1,2 / Color temperature setting

    The G1 should be available now. You can get a kit with the new LUMIX G VARIO 14-45mm/F3.5-5.6 ASPH/MEGA O.I.S lens. Also available is the LUMIX G VARIO 45-200mm/F4.0-5.6/MEGA O.I.S.lens.

    The LUMIX G1 is also apparently the world’s first interchangeable lens camera with color choices, just like some Panasonic phone models. You can choose basic black, electric blue or bloody red models.

    For current Four Thirds users with a collection of lenses, an optional mount adapter will allow Four Thirds lenses to be compatible with the LUMIX G1.

    Panasonic is also offering a wide-variety of accessories including: External Flash DMW-FL220(GN22); PL Filter: DMW-LPL52; Mount Adapter: DMW-MA1; Battery Pack: DMW-BLB13; DC Cable: DMW-DCC3; Soft Case: DMW-CG1; Soft Bag: DMW-BAG1; Shoulder Strap (Stylish) DMW-SSTG1-A/C/R; Shoulder Strap (Woven) DMW-SSTG2-W; Shoulder Strap (Leather) DMW-SSTG3-T.

    Suggested retail price for the LUMIX GMX-G1R is $799.95.
    This is a preview, not a review.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    Super deal on superb lobster

    As I told you last week, if God skipped Day #3 and never got around to creating dry land, and instead skipped right ahead to Day #5 to create the sea creatures, I would not complain. I enjoy steaks, chicken, ribs and burgers, but I could live very happily on shellfish alone.

    I enjoy simple raw clams with cocktail sauce, but lobster fra diavalo is probably my all-time favorite meal. If I am executed, that's what I want for my last meal. It's "to die for."

    Lobster is usually a luxury food, but current prices are much lower than normal, and there are some terrific deals around. It's not good for the lobstermen who are getting about a buck less than last year for each scary critter, but depressed prices are wonderful for eaters.

    On Sunday my wife and I split a two-lobster deal for just $21.95 at the Weathervane restaurant in Kittery, Maine. Two days earlier we feasted at their branch up the coast in South Portland. The lobbies were big and delicious, and are highly recommended.

    Normally the "Wicked Cheap Twins" special deal is available only on Thursday, but we got them on Sunday. In Kittery we even had a coupon (in the book from the Tanger Outlet office) for a free appetizer. We got a plate of delicious onion rings that could have fed four hungry folks.

    Here's a link for the Weathervane website. They have 16 restaurants in northern New England and upstate New York. If there's none nearby, they'll ship lobbies, chowdah and other treats to you.

    Join their online Claw Club and you'll get a $10 coupon for your birthday, restaurant discount coupons, online lobster shipping discounts, and more.

    Eat hearty, matey. Aaaargh!

    As I've previously written, Kittery, Maine is a great place to eat and shop. There's plenty of clothes shoes and cosmetics for women, and men will have fun at Brookstone, Black & Decker, and Seiko.

    Thursday, November 13, 2008

    Time Out

    I'm taking a few days off

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008

    A reason to give Red Lobster another chance

    I love seafood.

    I've often said that if God skipped Day #3 and never got around to creating dry land, and instead skipped right ahead to Day #5 to create the sea creatures, I would not complain.

    If I had a boat to sit in, I could happily survive on lobsters, shrimp, clams and flounder... and never think about the burgers that didn't exist. (However, it would be nice to have tomatoes to make red clam sauce and cocktail sauce. And we need cows for melted butter to go on the lobster, so it's good to have some dry land.)

    Anyway, as a seafood fanatic, the ubiquitous Red Lobster chain has been a frequent source of frustration to me, chiefly because of lack of consistent quality both within the menu, and from restaurant to restaurant.

    Some branches of the chain are simply much better than others, and many of the menu items -- like fried shrimp -- are the high school cafeteria version of real seafood. On the other hand, I've had superb New England clam chowder at several RedLobs, I like the salad topped with tiny shrimp, and the food is always fresh.

    Nevertheless, RedLob is seldom high on my list when I have other dining choices.

    My attitude may change with the company's new Wood-Fire Grilling program that was announced yesterday.

    The company said it is "largest systemic change in Red Lobster’s history and is the second step in a three-phased plan to renew growth at the iconic seafood brand. Wood-Fire Grilling creates a clean, crisp flavor that naturally enhances the taste of seafood, emphasizing Red Lobster’s commitment to fresh, delicious seafood prepared with culinary expertise."

    I'm a big believer in cooking seafood on wood fires. I love the roasted lobsters and clams I've been eating at The Place in Guilford CT since 1964. It's an outdoor restaurant, only open from April through October. If RedLob can come close to duplicating their flavor year-round, I'll be their biggest fan.

    “We’re grilling food over oak because of the crisp, clean flavor it provides,” said Senior Executive Chef Michael LaDuke. “Fresh fish and seafood are delicious in their purest form, and Wood-Fire Grilling really enhances those flavors. The fresh, natural flavor makes the heart-healthy benefits of fish even more appealing.”

    In developing Wood-Fire Grilling, RedLob studied consumer preferences for nearly 20 cooking methods, conducted more than 30 focus groups and tested Wood-Fire Grills in 36 restaurants for more than a year. Consumers rated Wood-Fire Grilling as their most preferred cooking method, especially for fresh fish, shellfish, chicken and steak, because it added such an appealing flavor.

    Wood is the oldest grilling fuel and remains an excellent source because it enhances the natural flavors of food. But it requires practice and it’s advisable to let the wood burn down to hot embers before placing meat or fish on the grill.

    Hard woods – like the oak used by RedLob – give the best results, because soft resinous woods produce a black, stronger smoke.

    The result of the consumer feedback is the new Wood-Fire Grilled menu prepared by Certified Grill Masters at every restaurant. The menu features eight new items:

    • Wood-Grilled Lobster, Shrimp and Scallops -- a split Maine lobster tail, skewered jumbo shrimp and sea scallops with a buttery garlic finish
    • Peach Bourbon BBQ Shrimp & Scallops -- wood-grilled jumbo shrimp and baconwrapped sea scallops with a sweet peach-bourbon BBQ sauce
    • Wood-Grilled Sirloin & Shrimp -- a lightly seasoned center-cut sirloin and a skewer of jumbo shrimp
    • Wood-Grilled Scallops, Shrimp and Chicken -- skewered sea scallops, jumbo shrimp and a tender chicken breast with a buttery garlic finish
    • Jumbo Shrimp with Lobster Butter -- two skewers of wood-grilled jumbo shrimp topped with a savory lobster butter.
    • Maple-Glazed Chicken -- a wood-grilled chicken breast with a sweet maple and cherry glaze
    • Honey BBQ Grilled Chicken and Shrimp -- a wood-grilled chicken breast and
    skewered jumbo shrimp with a creamy honey BBQ sauce
    • Peach-Bourbon BBQ Scallops Appetizer -- wood-grilled, bacon-wrapped sea scallops with a sweet peach-bourbon BBQ sauce over thin-cut onion rings

    RedLob customers can also choose wood-grilling for any of the five to eight daily fresh fish species available.

    Wood-Fire Grilling is an initiative that also includes new restaurant equipment and specialized training that led to the selection of four to five Certified Grill Masters at each restaurant. Only they will prepare grilled items, in an effort to ensure consistent, expertly prepared food. Approximately 3,500 employees have been trained and certified, for 680 restaurants.

    High flames are not conducive for wood-fire grilling. Instead the Certified Grill Master must manage the burning logs as an even heat, using cross-hatching – typically recognized by diagonal grill marks - to know when meat and seafood need to be flipped over.

    The name of the Grill Master on duty will be on the menu, so who'll know whose hand to shake if you like what he or she cooks for you.
    This is a preview, not a review.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    WARNING: headphones can interfere with heart electronics

    If you have a pacemaker or an implanted defibrillator, don't keep your earbuds in your shirt pocket or draped around your neck -- even when they're disconnected. A study finds that some headphones can interfere with heart devices if held very close to them. They might even prevent a defibrillator from delivering a lifesaving shock, say doctors who tested them.

    "Headphones contain magnets, and some of these magnets are powerful," said the study's leader, Dr. William Maisel, a Boston cardiologist and a heart device consultant to the FDA. Maisel's research was presented Sunday at an American Heart Association conference.

    "I certainly don't think people should overreact to this information," but it's smart to keep small electronics at least a few inches from implanted medical devices, and not let someone wearing headphones lean against your chest if you have one, he said. "The headphone interaction applies whether or not the headphones are plugged in to the music player and whether or not the music player is on or off," he added.

    Nearly 2 million people worldwide have pacemakers, defibrillators or other devices to help their hearts beat faster, slower or more regularly. Tests by the FDA earlier this year concluded that iPods or other music players posed no threat to these devices as long as they were used properly.

    Maisel and other doctors wanted to know if the same was true of headphones. They tested eight models - earbuds and those that hook over the ear - in 60 people with heart devices.

    When headphones were about an inch from the device, interference was detected nearly one-fourth of the time - in four of the 27 pacemaker patients and 10 of the 33 with defibrillators. A pacemaker reset itself in one patient.

    Patients having such interference might not feel anything, or may have heart palpitations. But the interference could temporarily deactivate a defibrillator, keeping it from delivering a lifesaving shock if one were needed.

    The magnet's effect falls off rapidly with distance from the device, and heart device function returns to normal as soon as the headphone is out of range.

    The study did not test larger or noise-canceling headphones. The size of the headphone doesn't necessarily relate to magnetic strength. Small headphones often use neodymium, a very powerful magnetic material.

    A separate study presented at the heart conference found no danger to heart devices from cellphones equipped with Bluetooth wireless technology.

    Cellphones, anti-theft security devices and a host of other electronics have sparked fears in the past, but studies generally find no danger to heart devices with ordinary, prudent use, said Dr. Douglas Zipes, past president of the American College of Cardiology and professor of cardiology at Indiana University.

    Dr. Kenneth Ellenbogen, a heart device expert at Virginia Commonwealth University and a spokesman for the heart association, said the solution is simple: "Keep your headphones on your ears and when they're not on your ears, you shouldn't put them over your chest or your pacemaker." (info from The Associated Press)

    Monday, November 10, 2008

    Under-bed TV holder

    If you like your porn up-close and personal, or if 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.
    This is a preview, not a review.

    Friday, November 7, 2008

    Honda walking aid is like a bicycle seat with motorized legs

    Honda has been researching artificial mobility for a long time. In 2000, the company introduced the Asimo humanoid robot. Last Spring Honda showed an experimental model of a walking assist device which could help the elderly and other people with weakened leg muscles. Designed for people who are still capable of walking on their own, it's worn with a belt around the hips and thighs and helps to move the wearer's legs.

    Honda's latest development can actually raise and move the wearer's feet.

    It's like a bicycle seat with robotic legs connected to a pair of shoes.

    The experimental device, unveiled today in Japan, is designed to support bodyweight, reduce stress on the knees and help people get up steps and stay in crouching positions. Honda envisions the device being used by workers at auto or other factories.

    Engineer Jun Ashihara said the machine is useful for people standing in long lines and for people who run around to make deliveries. To wear it, you put the seat between your legs, put on the shoes, push a button, and just start walking around. The system has a computer and sensors so it responds to a person's movements.

    Pricing and commercial product plans are still undecided. Honda will begin testing a prototype with its assembly line workers later this month. (info and photo from The Associated Press)

    Thursday, November 6, 2008

    Watch football on your phone

    For the first time Thursday, a National Football League game -- the Cleveland Browns vs. the Denver Broncos -- will be viewable on Sprint cellphones as part of the company's partnership with the league.

    Over the next seven weeks, Sprint will phonecast the eight games that are televised solely on the NFL Network, the league's cable channel. For the past three seasons, the NFL has struggled to persuade major cable operators to include its channel in their basic programming packages.

    With the NFL Network available in only about 40% of American households, Sprint executives hope the NFL games can do for their company what the league's Sunday Ticket package has done for satellite-television provider DirecTV. Sunday Ticket, which is exclusive to DirecTV, allows dedicated fans to see every NFL game on Sunday afternoons, and has been crucial to DirectTV's growth.

    For the NFL, the Sprint phone-casts are part of a series of experiments with digital media aimed at discerning how fans will consume football in the future. NBC conducted similar experiments this summer, showing highlights and a handful of events from the Beijing Olympics on phones.

    "We know a lot of fans find themselves displaced, and they are using devices like mobile phones for more tasks," said Brian Rolapp, the NFL's senior vice president of digital media and media strategy. "With 60% of our revenues coming from media, we'd be foolish not to do something like this."

    The planned phonecasts are part of Sprint's NFL Mobile Live package, which is available on most Sprint handsets. The package can be purchased for $15 a month, and is also included as part of Sprint's Everything plans that start at $69.99 per month.

    Personally, I hate football. I never watch it on my HDTVs, and would not watch it on a cellphone either. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

    Wednesday, November 5, 2008

    Electronic bargains galore as stores close

    With Circuit City closing 115 stores and Tweeter apparently closing 94 stores, there should be plenty of bargains in consumer electronics between now and year's end.

    I won't miss Circuit City. I've often found their employees uninformed, unhelpful and dishonest.

    Tweeter, on the other hand, has been a great place to shop, and I've spent many thousands of dollars with them over the last decade.

    A year ago I bought two Sony XBR5 HDTVs at Tweeter. It was a 90-minute round trip. I first tried to buy them at a nearby Circuit City, but the salesman was a lying asshole, so he lost the sale.

    A few tips:

    When stores close, prices are usually gradually reduced, generally starting at 10 or 20% discounts, and maybe reaching 90% at the end. If there's something you really want, buy fairly early or you may lose out completely.

    Circuit City may ship the most desirable products from the closing stores to surviving stores, where they can sell for more money.

    Here's a list of CC's closing stores. (photo from IGN.com)

    Tuesday, November 4, 2008

    High-power laptop from Alienware

    Yesterday Alienware -- Dell’s high-performance PC gaming brand -- launched the new M17laptop. The 17-inch Alienware M17 is powered by the world’s first mobile quad-core processor, the Intel® Core™2 Extreme QX9300, and is Alienware’s first notebook with ATI CrossFireX™ multi-GPU technology, featuring dual ATI Mobility Radeon™ HD 3870 cards.

    Gamers can get an M17 featuring an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, ATI CrossFireX technology, 3GB of DDR3 memory and a 1920 x 1200 Extreme High-Definition LCD for under $2,000. Prices start at $1399.

    The Alienware M17 notebook can be configured with:

    The Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9300, the world’s first mobile quad-core processor, delivering revolutionary performance, efficiency and multitasking capabilities for maximum speeds, up to 50 percent faster than previous generation mobile processors.

    ATI CrossFireX multi-GPU technology featuring dual ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3870 graphics cards for intense HD video playback, full DirectX® 10.1 support for the latest next-generation games and frame rates up to 80 percent2 higher than single GPU solutions.

    DDR3 memory for up to a 50 percent increase in transfer rates, as well as the bandwidth necessary for the notebook’s quad-core capabilities. With up to 4GB of DDR3 memory, the M17 has the edge in data retrieval, load times and multitasking.
    Dual 500GB hard drives linked in a RAID 0 configuration for a massive 1TB storage capacity - enough to hold roughly 160 games, 250 full-length movies or 250,000 songs3.
    A 17-inch Extreme High-Definition 1920 x 1200 resolution display for Blu-ray Disc™ and HD video playback.

    The Alienware Command Center control panel, home to programs such as the AlienFusion power management system, AlienSense facial recognition software and AlienTouch touchpad controls, allowing you to take complete control of your computer.

    Alienware’s Stealth Black, a soft-touch, matte black finish that protects the system from fingerprints and scratches. The M17 features Alienware’s signature Skullcap case design.
    This is a preview, not a review.

    Monday, November 3, 2008

    It's getting easier to recycle old electronics

    Panasonic, Sharp and Toshiba will join a nationwide recycling initiative designed to allow purchasers of each companies’ products to have them recycled at collection centers around the county.

    The recycling program, which is being coordinated by Electronics Manufacturers Recycling Management (MRM), will provide a free means of recycling old televisions and other consumer audio and video products.

    The program will begin in several states in November before expanding to all states with hundreds of additional sites over the next three years. Products from all three companies will be accepted at these locations, with potentially more to follow.

    Beginning in November, more than 160 sites will be available in 10 states to drop consumer audio and video electronics products. The companies said they will continue to expand the program until its services cover all 50 states.

    Sharp said it will also accept consumer drop-off of its products for recycling at its headquarters in Mahwah, NJ.

    MRM said it is seeking build sufficient volumes to maximize efficient collection by bringing together the electronic product manufacturing community into a voluntary national program to handle America’s e-waste recycling needs.

    The initiative will enable MRM to expand its operations beyond its current activities in Minnesota and Texas. Now entering its second year of operations, MRM currently manages recycling services in both states for about 25 manufacturers.

    The first phase of the MRM nationwide ramp-up will start in November with management of recycling for manufacturers in several additional states, including California, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. MRM will continue its expansion until its services cover all 50 states.

    The MRM effort joins a similar initiative started in 2007 between Sony and WM Recycle America. The company in partnership with US Waste Management and its retail partners has collected over 560 tons of e-waste through more than 80 events nationwide. (info from TWICE)

    Friday, October 31, 2008

    Amazing deals at Staples. ACT FAST.

    Staples.com is offering some fantastic deals on a wide variety of refurbished electronic equipment, including printers, multi-function machines, a GPS, a scanner, a portable DVD player and more.

    Prices are generally less than half the new price, and even lower than the regular price for refurbs. CLICK

    Thursday, October 30, 2008

    AMAZING: a rental car company that doesn't rip you off on gas charges

    Two of the most annoying travel rip-offs have been the price for making long-distance calls from a hotel room, and the price for filling up the gas tank when you return a rental car.

    A couple of times I nearly missed my flight because I was racing around trying to find a gas station before turning in a car at an airport.

    Cellphones have largely eliminated the need to pay to use the phones in hotel rooms, and now Enterprise Rent-A-Car has made a major move to eliminate the sting of returning a car.

    They have a new program that charges in the same range as local gas stations, or even less. Earlier this year I stumbled on an amazing bargain -- Enterprise was charging 30 cents less per gallon than nearby gas stations.

    So, if you've been renting from Enterprise but automatically reject their gas plan, change your strategy. And if you've been using another company, you now have a good reason to try Enterprise. I've been using them for years, for both local rentals when my car is being serviced, and on out-of-town trips. Prices are fair and service is excellent -- including free pick-up and drop-off.

    I don't know if the gas deal is available at all Enterprise locations, so if it isn't offered, ask. One time I was at a location that I knew had the deal, but it wasn't offered to me. Fortunately I knew to ask.

    CLICK for their website or call 1-800-261-7331. Join their free "Members Benefit Program Plus." You'll get faster service and email notification of special deals. The company has a wide variety of vehicles, optional GPSes, and also sells low-mi used cars. They have more than 7,000 rental locations, so there's probably one near you, or where you're going.

    Wednesday, October 29, 2008

    A good reason to become a cop in Italy

    Traffic police patrolling a highway in southern Italy have a new employee benefit, driving the force's first Lamborghini Gallardo.

    The gift from Lamborghini, in blue and white and marked with the word "Polizia", has a top speed of 192mph. It should have the edge in any chase on the Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway. However, the car is just as likely to be used for emergency deliveries such as human organs for transplant.

    The sleek two-seater, topped with a flashing blue light, has a six-speed tranny and a 500-horsepower engine designed to make the Lambo go from zero to 60mph in four seconds.

    Donated by the Lamborghini factory in Bologna, its list price is $165,000, making it unlikely that the Italian police force will actually buy any. (info from the BBC)

    Tuesday, October 28, 2008

    Blu-ray player prices dropping

    If you've held off on buying a Blu-ray player because they cost $400, or -- if like me -- you're an early adopter who paid $1,000 and are ready for a second or third player for another part of the house, there's good news.

    Electronics manufacturers and retail chains are slashing prices of Blu-ray players in a bid to boost adoption of the high-def movie format, which has yet to catch on with American consumers.

    Entry-level Blu-ray players have dropped to below $230 at major retailers including Target, Wal-Mart and Best Buy. Some experts predict that promotional prices may fall below $150 on Black Friday, the big shopping day after Thanksgiving. Earlier this year, most Blu-ray players retailed for $400 or so.

    Industry analysts believe stores may have been overly optimistic in ordering Blu-ray players for the holiday season. That's another factor behind the price cuts, especially since some older models in retailer inventories can't connect to the Internet, which is necessary to tap interactive features on some Blu-ray discs.

    There is another motive for markdowns. Manufacturers and retailers want to speed the adoption of Blu-ray before digital-movie downloads and video on demand overtake movie disc sales and rentals -- a looming development that already may be damping sales.

    Blu-ray movies depict images in 1,080 lines of resolution compared to 480 for DVDs. They were expected to make up a bigger slice of disc sales after Blu-ray won the backing of Hollywood studios earlier this year over the rival HD-DVD technology. But as of last month, only 4% of U.S. movie disc sales were Blu-ray, according to Nielsen VideoScan. Many consumers remain happy with mainstream DVDs, and "upconverting" DVD players that cost less than $100 can boost the image quality to a level that many consumers can't distinguish from Blu-ray.

    Big-box retailers rely on sales of movie discs, not just because of the profit they generate, but because they lure customers into showrooms where they may be enticed to buy other items.

    Sales of DVD discs have begun to decline, however, and Blu-ray has yet to take up the slack, leading some analysts to conclude that retailers risk losing sales to movie downloads, much as they lost CD sales to music downloads.

    Cable-TV, phone and satellite providers as well as electronics makers are still piecing together the infrastructure and alliances necessary to offer a large library of downloadable and video-on-demand movies and TV shows in high definition. But as soon as that happens, "Blu-ray is done," predicted Rob Enderle, an analyst who advises companies including Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard on technology trends. "Retailers have every reason to be worried."

    Blu-ray boosters remain optimistic that they will see a consumer breakthrough this Christmas season. They note that retailers are devoting generous shelf space to showcasing the technology, despite the soured economy.

    The vast majority of the estimated 6.5 million Blu-ray devices now in US households are Sony Playstation 3 game consoles, rather than dedicated movie players. The Playstation 3 can play Blu-ray discs, but surveys show that gamers are not buying many Blu-ray movies.

    The challenge for retailers such as Wal-Mart, which has been featuring eye-catching Blu-ray kiosks alongside inexpensive DVD players, is how to balance promoting the new technology with providing the DVD values that consumers crave in the current economy.

    "We expect to see continued interest in Blu-ray this year as more people continue to embrace HDTV," said Kevin O'Conner, Wal-Mart's vice president of consumer electronics, adding, "We will continue to grow Blu-ray in line with the customer's desire." (info from The Wall Street Journal)

    Monday, October 27, 2008

    Cheapie DTV converter and rabbit ears
    change shitbox TV into super TV

    My parents have cable TV in three rooms of their condominium home in Florida. They also have a TV in their kitchen. Unfortunately, the kitchen was not pre-wired for TV diring construction. And like most Florida homes, their home has no basement; and another family lives above them. It would have been difficult and messy to snake cable from another room to the kitchen, so for 15 years they've been using rabbit ears in the kitchen and settled for shittty reception, on just a few channels.

    The arrival of digital television (DTV) has made a big change.

    I got them a $40 coupon from the Feds, which they used toward the purchase of a $60 DTV converter from RadioShack, and the improvement is absolutely amazing. With no upgrade in antenna and no effort to aim it for optimum reception, they are getting about 20 channels in crystal-clear, perfect color.

    The transition to digital television is happening on February 17, 2009, so if you or anyone you know is still dependent on regular terrestrial TV broadcasters (not cable or satellite or phone company TV service), and you or they don't have a TV that was built to receive digital signals, you'll need a box like this.

    I normally don't review low-tech stuff, but I was so impressed with the results, I thought I'd tell you about it. The model is the Digital Stream DTX9950. It has a decent remote control that handles both TV and converter functions, but there is no channel display on the box. There are other similar boxes from other sources that are probably just as good, and may have fancier features.