Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stream Netflix into someone's stocking

It's been way too long since I posted here. I'll try my best to keep it up!

You need to check out Netflix streaming. This probably seems like old news but they just came out with a new plan structure. You can now instantly watch an unlimited amount of streaming Netflix content for $7.99 a month. Or add a couple of bucks more to get DVD or Blu-Ray discs in the mail in addition to instant content.

I love this thing. The quality is great and I can watch what I want when I want. I can pause it when I need to get up to keep my daughter from hurting herself on some random thing that caught her eye or anything else that might come up. If I turn it off and come back to it later it remembers right where I left off and it starts in seconds.

You can either watch content on your PC or you can watch it on your TV if you hook up your laptop or desktop to it. Plus there are quite a few devices now that allow you to stream Netflix. At my house we have a Blu-Ray player with Netflix and all kinds of other internet content it can display on my TV.

If you don't have it yet, get yourself a one month free trial and check it out. Better yet add it to your holiday gift list. You can even get a gift card for someone who already has Netflix so they can credit their account.

I know I sound like I work for Netflix but it's just that good. Don't delay, act now!

Friday, October 15, 2010


The last time you were driving through your neighborhood and saw a house for sale did the nosey side of you say to yourself “I wonder what they’re selling for?” or “I’d love to see some pictures of the inside of that place.”

Well now it’s easy to find. Check out It’s a really cool tool. 

Search for your house or your neighbors and you can find recent sales values, estimated current values and other information about the home (beds, baths, sq. ft.). If the house is currently for sale they’ll generally have pictures posted from the real estate agent’s website or a link to their site listing.

If you’re actually hunting for a house to buy you can pull up a satellite map of an area you’re interested in and the houses that are on the market are marked on the map. This was a very useful tool when I was looking for a house.

So get out there and get your nosey on!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Disaster strikes at unexpected times

Disaster. It always seems to happen when you’re not prepared.

How important are the pictures, financial records, school work and various other things you store on your computer? To me they’re pretty important. You can’t recreate some of that stuff. File backups are cheap and easy compared to the alternative. I’m not talking about full computer backups here, just your files. That’s the important stuff anyway, programs can be reinstalled.
When it comes to your PC or Mac there are a number of ways to be prepared. The way you choose depends on what disasters you want to be prepared for. Below are some scenarios where a file backup would come in handy and their related level of difficulty to recover your files without some type of backup. These are not far fetched and some of them happen more regularly than you might think. I’ve gotten calls on most of them at some point. Keep in mind that difficult equals expensive and even the easy ones are going to cost you some money if you don’t have the equipment or know-how to do it yourself.
  • Computer won’t start due to operating system problems - easy - but not for most people using a PC 
  • Some component in your old computer dies (other than the hard drive) and you’d rather just transfer your old stuff to a new one - easy - again, not for most people
  • Hard drive dies - difficult - fork over at least a grand, if you can find someone to do it that cheap 
  • You drop your laptop and damage the hard drive - difficult - see “hard drive dies”, but you may still lose some data 
  • House burns down - most likely impossible but at best very difficult - see “hard drive dies”, except this time you can probably kiss your data goodbye 
  • Computer gets lost or stolen - impossible - bye bye data
Each of these scenarios is made much easier, and in some cases exponentially easier, with a file backup. In most instances you can do it yourself or for free with the help of the backup vendor.
Here are some backup options for home computer users:
USB external hard drive - This is a good option and certainly better than nothing. You can pick these up at any big box store or my favorite website for tech stuff - - for around $100 or less depending on how much data you have to backup. Here’s a link to some USB hard drives on Some of these devices come with backup software while others will require that you use the operating system’s built in software. Keep in mind that this option isn’t going to protect your data if your house burns down unless you bring it with you every time you leave home. I’m not seeing that happening, so we’ll just say that this method won’t protect you from fire.
Extra internal hard drive - If you have more than one hard drive in your computer it will give you the same protection as backing up to a USB drive (assuming your never going to remove the USB drive from your house). The problem is that most people won’t already have this in place and it’s cheaper to get a USB drive. If you think you have two drives have someone who knows computers check it out before you assume anything. Two drive letters in My Computer does not equal two hard drives.
Online backup - This is by far the best option. You can google online backup and the first few results are some of the top companies in the online backup business. These are generally pretty easy to setup and recover data from. This will protect you from the worst of disasters. Some of these services are free for small amounts of data and as low as $5 per month for unlimited data. Also, most of these services use encryption and other security measures to protect your stuff from internet thieves. If you're worried about it make sure to check with the vendor.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

I’m a home phone kind of a guy...

...with a cell phone for when I’m out. But I really like having a home phone. I don’t have to worry about cell coverage issues or standing next to the wall with the power cord plugged in to talk on the phone because I forgot to charge my cell phone. Sometimes I can’t even find my cell phone!

My wife and I have been using Ooma for a few years now and love it! A few of our friends have tried it our on our suggestion and they love it too. I’m blogging about it because it’s sweet. The call quality is great and you can use any standard telephone with it. You plug the Ooma Telo into your modem or router, plug your phone into the Ooma Telo and you’re off and running. Your PC doesn’t need to be on like some services require.

Check it out at

At the time I'm writing this the Ooma Telo is on sale on for $50 off.

If you have a high speed internet connection you should get rid of your cable company phone package and save some cash. You buy the device for a one time fee of $249 and you get free US Calling, caller-ID, call-waiting, and voicemail. You can access your voicemail via the Ooma website from any web connected PC. All you pay is the monthly governmental charges. In my area it’s about $3.75 per month. They have a calculator on their site so you can find out how much it would be in your area. There’s other cool features available for $9.99 per month if you want to go with their premier service. We use the free (other than government imposed fees) standard service and it’s perfect for us.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Looking for a place to eat? Check out this site...

My wife and I like to go out to eat. You probably do to. Who doesn’t - no cooking, no dishes, hopefully good food and good service. We’re not too big on chain restaurants and like to check out local places we’ve never tried. But there’s nothing I hate more than paying good money for a bad meal or experience. Try to avoid that before you get there...

I love me some chicken riggies!
If you’re looking for a new place to try you need to check out There are a lot of other things you can use it for (i.e. professional services, auto shops, doctors) but I mostly use it for eating out. The cool thing is that they sort everything by food type and there are generally at least a few reviews for each place from folks who’ve actually eaten there. Like anything, you have to take some of the reviews with a grain of salt but all-in-all they’re generally genuine and informative. If you try it out and enjoy using it you should consider being part of the community and posting some reviews yourself.

Check it out - !

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cable internet slow?

We live in an age where we want stuff right now! A lot of times that’s not a good thing but in this case I would disagree. It needs to work so I can work (or play)!

Has your cable internet at home been slower than usual? There are a few factors that can cause slowness but sometimes a reboot of your cable modem and router, if you have one, is all it takes to get you back on track. I won’t get into why this works (mostly because you probably don’t care) but I’ll explain how to do it. First...a quick explanation of a few other things it could be.

The equipment in your house is not always to blame for internet slowness or outages. Sometimes the number of people using the internet in your area at a given time can slow everyone down. This is especially true of cable internet connections. I’ve personally not experience this at my own house but I know folks who deal with this all the time. It normally happens when the kids get home from school. The other common cause is your computer. If it’s running slow or has malware (something I’ll cover another time) or a virus it can seem that the internet is slow.

The easiest place to start is reboot the modem and router.This might also resolve wierd wireless issues if you have a wireless router. Here’s how:

1) Turn off your PC
2) If you have a router (not everyone does but you should know because you will have bought it) unplug the power from the wall or the back of the router itself. I’m not going to post a picture because they vary.
3) Unplug the power cable from the cable modem at the wall or the back of the modem. These can vary too but this is a very common model: 

4) Wait a couple of minutes. This is important so make sure you wait!
5) Plug in the modem and router. These will take a minute or two to be ready to go.
6) Boot your PC and give it a go.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Welcome to my new blog!

Thanks for stopping by! Hopefully you’ll find something here you can put to use.

In real life I’m an IT (information technology) guy and I’ve been working in the field for about 8 years or so in some capacity. Most of my IT career has been spent traveling from office to office as outsourced IT help but thankfully I’m now in one office all day.

In my past travels, at my current office or in everyday social settings it seems that a week does not go by that someone doesn’t ask a “quick personal question”. Especially when folks find out that’s what I do for a living. I’m always glad to help. The questions are usually about a laptop they should buy, why their wireless at home is flaky or how to get their PC back up to speed.

So, here’s the direction I’m going with the blog:

This blog isn’t for tech geeks but tech geeks might benefit from reading it. I’ll be giving occasional pointers and tips on anything from useful websites to gadgets for home use to how to fix this or that. And sometimes it’ll just be my opinion on something I want to give my opinion on. Most of this stuff won’t be cutting edge but I’m guessing there will be a fair amount of folks that haven’t heard the news.

Let’s get this party started!