Here are some year end savings that were sent to me by Buy.com. That’s Buy.com, and not BestBuy.com. If you aren’t familiar with Buy.com, they are a Aliso Viejo, California based company, and they were rated as one of the Top 50 online shopping experiences in 2007. I have purchased from them several times for digital photo printers, DVDs, and more.
First thing I noticed were their savings on some best selling books. I know your fist thought when it comes to books is Amazon.com, but Buy.com is telling me that these titles are eligible for free shipping, so you may very well find that you’ll save more at Buy.com on these titles.
2666 by Roberto Bolano
Eligible for FREE SHIPPING
Buy.com Price: $19
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Eligible for FREE SHIPPING
Buy.com Price: $14.66. You Save: $9.29
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (Oprah’s Book Club) by David Wroblewski
Eligible for FREE SHIPPING
Buy.com Price: $14.98. You Save: $10.97
The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder. Eligible for FREE SHIPPING
Buy.com Price: $20.49. You Save: $14.51
The Forever War by Dexter Filkins
Eligible for FREE SHIPPING
Buy.com Price: $14.85. You Save: $10.15
Year-end Bags Blowout! Save up to 67% on select bags and notebook cases! exp 01/31/09
Hit DVD Blow-out starting at only $5! Get the Devil Wears Prada, Futurama, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno and more! exp 01/31/09
New Customer Coupons
If you’ve never bought from Buy.com before, you might try the links below to search for items in other areas of their stores. These links will provide you with extra savings at checkout. These links are good until January 31, 2009. I’m not sure if they are stackable with the offers above.
$10 off $200 All Stores
$5 off $100 or more in ALL Stores!
$10 off $200 valid in our Computers, Software, Home Networking, Digital Cameras and Electronic Stores!
$5 OFF $100 Coupon in our Electronics Store!
$10 OFF $200 Coupon in our Computer Store!
$5 OFF the purchase of $75 valid in our Music, Movies and Games Stores!
$10 OFF $100 Coupon in our Bags, Sports, and Toy Stores!
I’m referring to the video streaming services that are available for the home consumer market today: Netflix, CinemaNow, Amazon’s Video on Demand, and Blockbuster. Streaming video, for those unfamiliar, allows you to watch a video while it downloads. This was available to computers originally, and has since moved on to include televisions via game consoles and set-top boxes, and mobile phones most recently through YouTube and MySpaceamong others.
I’ve read a lot of articles with a lot of opinions on which is better or best, but it seems clear to me there is no one service that works best for everyone and every viewing platform:
Not everyone wants to watch video or TV on their computer or mobile phone
Not everyone wants to pay $300 for a phone or a box
Not everyone watches videos on a regular monthly basis
For streaming video to your computer you have many choices: Netflix, Blockbuster, Amazon’s Video on Demand, iTunes, and CinemaNowamong others. Some of these, such as iTunes, aren’t true streaming services since the video must be partially or completely downloaded first in order to be watched, but broadband Internet access is sharply reducing the amount of time one must wait for the video to download.
All you need is some video playing software on your computer in order to watch the videos. Some services use popular pre-existing programs such as Apple’s Quicktime (which is included with iTunes) and Microsoft’s Windows Media Player. Some services, such as Amazon’s Video on Demanduse their own software. (Amazon has their Unbox Video player software.) Others, such as Google’s YouTube and Hulu from NBC Universal and News Corp. can be watched in your browser.
Some of these services charges have a monthly subscription fee you can use, or you can pay on demand. If you watch videos frequently, they are bound to have a monthly subscription plan that you will find suitable. Otherwise you can expect to pay at least $1.99 or $3.99 per video for on demand service. New releases tend to be harding to get as not all film distributors are willing to make their videos available in this fashion.
The number of television services are increasing rapidly, but, in my opinion, still has a way to go. Quality is still not dependable from the true streaming services.
For example, Netflix, a perennial favorite, allows you to stream to your computer, and a variety of network media boxes are available which allow you to connect your computer to your television though your home computer network. You also have the option of streaming to a TiVo digital video recorder, a Xbox 360 game console, or a LG BD300 or Samsung’s BD-P2500or BD-P2550 Blu-ray disc players. The video will download at the highest possible speed with the highest possible picture quality, but if there is a increase in demand the picture quality reduces to maintain the download speed necessary to keep the picture moving. A recent increase in usage by Xbox 360 owners caused such an increase in demand that some experienced picture qualities they considered “unwatchable”.
Take control! Get movies on-demand. Watch instantly on your TV at anytime. Learn more.
As with the computer services mentioned earlier, there is either an on-demand fee or a monthly subscription plus the boxes themselves cost upwards of $150 and $250. TIVO has a monthly subscription of about $8 to $12, and Xbox 360 requires a $8 monthly subscription to their Xbox Live Gold service, or a $49 annual fee.
There are other set-top boxes to look at, too, such as Vudu and Roku.
Take a look at the LG BD300 Network Blu-ray Disc Player for accessing Netflix video on demand service. This player sells at Best Buy for $349, but you can get it at Amazon for $290 now.
Principal among the mobile phones are the Blackberry and iPhone. These new phones, along with Google G1 phone from T-Mobile, allow you to watch videos from any of the web based services. You laso have the option of storing video files on some of the phones with large storage capability. For example, the iPhone allows you to download videos from the iTunes service. Verizon offers it VCast television service which allows you to watch television programs on your cellphone.
The phones cost over $179, and then your phone service is about $39 a month (but you already knew that) plus there is a data service fee of $30 per month as well. The data service is needed for either Vcast or Internet access on your Blackberry, G1, or iPhone.
My Issues, Maybe Yours
Many of us watch too much TV, and in many cases too much video. Which is worse? That all depends on what you watch and who you talk to. Monthly subscriptions make me feel forced to watch video or feel as though I’m throwing my money away. I was an early adopter of Netflix, among other things, and paid the monthly subscription for a whole year and only watched one video, so that was a $96 rental. Big waste. I’m more of an on-demand video watcher, not an on schedule video watcher. I prefer to be informed over entertained, and when I’m informed I like to be informed honestly and objectively whenever possible.
I also like to have maximum picture quality. I had a laserdisc player, still do, and I have several DVD players. I think some of my laserdiscs look better than some of my DVDs. The engineering quality isn’t always equal. Some manufacturers put a little extra care into the transfer, but streaming video currently has a variable picture quality to account for levels of demand. Some days are better than others. I’m just thinking about digital TV right now. The occasional picture scrambling drives me nuts. We get to look forward to that 24 hours a day when analog TV broadcasts go offline in February 2009.
I hope you’ve found this post informative today. Let me know what you think of streaming video, the different services, and anything related. Or send me a question for a future post.
Hello, everybody! Sorry for the delay in posting today, but I’ve had a rough weekend. I had to get an emergency tooth extraction on Friday, and you can image how difficult it was to find an oral surgeon the day after a major holiday, and heading into a holiday weekend.
I thought I just had a head cold all week long, but it turns out it was all from an infected tooth. I had tried finding a physician on Friday, with no luck, so I tried calling my dentist since I remembered I had a tooth extraction pending. He was able to get me in to see Dr. Steven D’Abundo in Merrick before closing for the day, and he removed the tooth in a few minutes.
He also prescribed an anitbiotic which I take every 6 hours. He had also prescribed a pain killer, but it seems, surprisingly, I have had little need for that.
Borders Bookstores, Off-line Savings
Though Skylarking has concerned itself primarily with online savings offers, I’d like to alert you to an off-line savings offer. The Borders Bookstores chain is having a multimedia sale this week. All CDs and DVDs are being sold at 30% off their regular list price. (I corrected the discount. originally I said it was 40%, but it is actually 30%). The sale has already begun, and it ends on January 4, 2009. So if you’re looking to save on some last minute, year end shopping, or if you have some gifts you forgot to pickup, go to your local Borders Bookstore and take a look.
I frequently order my business cards and customized stationery items and calendars from VistaPrint. Right now they are offering up to 90% off their regularly low prices. Now’s a good time to save on holiday cards for next year. Save yourself from rushing to the store next year, and save yourself a lot of money, too.
Here are some TigerDirect deals:
SAVE $50 – HP Compaq Notebook: AMD Sempron 2.0GHz processor, with wireless networking, 1 GB RAM (Memory, DDR2), with a 120 GB hard drive (Storage), a dual layer Lightscribe DVD burner, and a webcam. Uses Vista Home Basic $379.99* after $50 mail-in rebate, rebate expires 12/31/08. I particularly like the Lightscribe DVD burner. If you purchase blank Lightscribe DVDs, you can flip the disc over after burning data or video to it, and then have the burner burn a label onto the surface of the disc. It’s fantastic.
SAVE $50 – HP Compaq Notebook: AMD Turion 2.0GHz processor with wireless networking, 2 GB of RAM, and a 160GB hard drive. It alkso has the dual layer Lightscribe DVD burner and webcam. Uses Vista Home Premium $499.99* after $50 mail-in rebate, rebate expires 05/30/09.
SAVE $120 – EVGA GeForce 8500 GT Video Card: 1GB GDDR2 Video memory onboard, connects to a PCIe (PCI Express) slot. This board is SLI ready which means if you buy and install two of them they can work together for double the power. This is great for 3D video gaming such as World of Warcraft. It also has connections for DVI, standard VGA, and HDTV. Now $39.99* after $35 Mail-in rebate, rebate expires 12/31/08. You need to check if you computer has one or two available PCIe slots. Contact me if you hagve questions about this.
SAVE $1100 – Sharp 52″ Aquos LCD HDTV: Sharp, a leader in LCD technology, establishes a new standard for LCD TVs. With a screen size of 52″, the AQUOS® LC-52D64U fits a large screen into an incredibly small footprint. They changed the layout of circuits inside the LCD panel, reduced the number of parts, and developed the slim-line design therby reducing its depth by 25%. It uses a proprietary Advanced Super View / Black TFT Panel with multi-pixel technology providing 10,000:1 Dynamic Contrast Ratio and a 4ms response time. It has built-in ATSC/QAM/NTSC tuners and includes 3 HDMI (version 1.3) inputs, compatible with 1080p signals, a PC input and 2 HD component video inputs. Side terminals are included for wall-mounting convenience. $1399.99
Sears, the retailer, has a wishlist registry program entitled “Heroes At Home” which is designed to benefit members of the military, veterans, and their families. Through their web site, you can make a non-tax-deductible donation to help a serviceman or woman, a veteran, and their families this holiday season. This is so useful to those who are separated from their loved ones, or to those who have families in need this season. Perhaps you know someone in such a position right now. (When I was young, my father served in the military, and those early years afterwards were lean and rough, but we made it through, and we frequently support programs of this kind.)
Once you arrive at the Sears Heroes at Home site you can click “See How You Can Help” to read their stories in their own words. Nearly 32,000 families nationwide are represented on the site. The stories told reflect whatever the member or their family wishes to share about their background, their families, their current status, their needs and wishes, and their hopes for the future. Details show how many people are in the family and the state in which they reside.
One story I read was from a New York serviceman who had left behind a 2 year old son with his grandparents. He told how he had missed their son’s second birthday, and wouldn’t likely see them until next year. For now, he just wanted to see that his son received something nice. Items included some pajamas, a coat, a sweater, and a shirt, or a Wii game console.
Another was from a serviceman with a family of 6 in Arkansas. He, too, had a young son whom he would be away from soon. He also wanted to provide a few household items for his wife.
There appears to be no minimum donation, and some items on the wish lists cost as little as $10. The donations are not tax-deductible, and the collected monies are used to purchase gift cards which are distributed equally to each of the recipients of the program. Whether you choose to donate or not, you have the option of leaving messages of support. As far as I can tell these messages are kept private, and are likely forwarded.
Rob Pegoraro of The Washington Post has an excellent article, “Pre-Flight Instructions For Your New Computer”, for new computer owners. Whether you have a new PC or a new Mac he offers excellent advice for getting started with your new computer. Here are a few of the recommendations he’s made for users of Windows Vista and Mac OS X Leopard:
Activate the pre-installed antivirus on a PC. (Skylarking note: Or download Avast at www.avast.com, and download the Home edition. It’s free if you only have it iusntalled on one PC in your household. Mac users can consider getting an antivirus program at the Apple Store online to spare your PC using friends from viruses you might accidentally pass on.)
Turn on the firewall on your Mac: Click System Preferences >> Security>> Firewall >> “Set access for specific services and applications”. (Note: The firewall on Windows Vista PC is active out of the box.)
Download system updates. Vista: Start >> Control Panel >> Check for updates. Mac: Apple-icon >> Software Update.
Remove “trialware” and buy the $150 Home and Student Edition of Microsoft Office 2007, or download the free OpenOffice 3 at http://openoffice.org or use the free Google Docs Web-based software at http://docs.google.com. Uninstall software via Start >> Control Panel >> Uninstall a program.
Declutter the desktop: Drag and drop unwanted icons into the Recycle Bin, or use right-click and delete on the icons.
Declutter the Mac’s Dock: Drag unwanted icons off the Dock, and they’ll vanish.
Backup: Use Windows Vista’s Backup and Restore Center with an external drive, or, if you have a broadband connection, use a free online backup via Mozy at http://mozy.com.
Backup on a Mac: Get an external hard driveand use Apple’s Time Machine software.
Surfing the Web? Get Mozilla Firefox, http://mozilla.com, for free. Many people prefer it over the Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mac’s Safari.
Rest: Don’t rush to install your old programs, and “don’t go crazy trying out new ones.”
For an old printer or scanner: Go to the manufacturer’s web site and download the updated drivers instad of using the ones on the original CDs. (Skylarking note: You might also find that the Windows drivers are sufficient for operationg these items.)
He makes additional suggestions regarding email applications (Thunderbird, Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail), music and video playing software (iTunes), and photo editing tools such as Picasa.
At least once a week I like to look up into the night sky and remind myself that I’m — we are — on a planet that, along with a few others, orbits about an immense and distant sun in a mindboggling large, ancient, and starfilled universe. How often do you reflect on part of that?
I’ve been fortunate to have access to some decent and not-too-expensive telescopes in my life. Through their use I’ve seen the rings and moons of Saturn, and various other planets and stars I can’t recall. I’ve been fortunate enough to see meteor showers in the Arizona desert, and over the Grand Canyon. 30 years ago, while in the Catskills of upstate New York, I was able to see the band of the Milky Way stretching from one horizon to the other.
Within the last few weeks, partly due to news stories about the space shuttle and the International Space Station, I’ve become interested in spotting some of these “local” spots of light in the night or early morning sky. I started searching for web sites with information on obeserving the shuttle and space station in their orbits. Two sites I found to be quite useful are SpaceWeather.com and Heavens-Above.com.
ISS and space shuttle flyover. They appear as streaks on the right side.
Once you arrive at this page you can enter your postal code if you are in the United States or Canada. Or you can click a link to access their Global Flybys page for other countries in the world. For the glabal page you select your country, state, and city to access satellite information.
SpaceWeather.com does limit their satellite information to a select short list of satellites. In their own words, “We cut through the confusion by narrowing the list to a handful of the brightest and most interesting. At the moment we’re monitoring the Lacrosse 3 spy satellite, the International Space Station, the Early Ammonia Servicer and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope”.
ISS over Kent, England (4/4/2008)
Once you’ve entered your location information they provide you with the next seven days worth of flybys. The results tell you the name of the object or satellite, what time the object becomes visible (rise time), how long it will be visible (transit time), the direction to look, its maximum angle above the horizon (max elevation), and its brightness (magnitude). Most objects they list can be seen with the naked eye or binoculars. You can click on the name of the object to find out more information about it.
They also have a SpaceWeatherPhone.com site which sends text alerts to your cell phone about solar activity and astronomical events in your area. These alerts are pay services. It’s $4.95 a month for solar activity, and $6.95 p[er month for astronomical, meteor showers, and satellite activity. Perhaps you know a stargazer who’d be interested in receiving these alerts.
In the few days I was visiting SpaceWeather.com I did find there were several service outages. I was unable to learn the cause of these outages though, admittedly, I didn’t look to find out why either.
I found Heavens-Above.com‘s results to be more to my liking, though the interface required a little more of a learning curve. I’ll explain the best approach so it’ll be easier for you, should you choose to explore it, and I think you should.
The site itself is much simpler than the SpaceWeather.com site. It appears to be the sole work of Chris Peat in Germany. His site covers a broader range of satellites including Iridium communication satellites (which apparently have reflective panels which “flare” in the early morning sun). He groups his observations by satellite for about a dozen observation times.
To get the best results on Heavens-Above.com
Click the link “Select from map” under the heading “Configuration”. This will take you to a Google map of the world.
Place your mouse over your region of the world, and roll the wheel on your mouse away from you to zoom in.
(If you don’t have a wheel mouse, you can click double-click on your region. Repeat till you have zoomed in close enough to make out where you are or, if travelling, where you’ll be. If you have trouble double-clicking, you can use the controls on the left hand side of the map. The + and – zoom in and out, while directional arrows scroll the map, left right and up and down. You can also hold and drag the map with your mouse.)
When you finally locate where you are, just single click on that location. (Write down the north and west coordinates under the map if you think you might like to use this site more in the future. You can create a user account and record those coordinates as your location.)
Type a name for your location in the “Name” box.
Select your time zone from the list, and click “Submit”.
Once you’ve set your location, you can choose what you’d like to observe: Satellites or Astronomy. In my case, I chose ISS for the International Space Station. The site listed a dozen “Visible Passes” which contained similiar information to the SpaceWeather.com results.
Detailed Star Chart
Clicking a particular date for the results allowed me to see a “Whole Sky Chart” and a “Detailed Star Chart” which set the path of the ISS against a star and constellation chart, so I would know where to look.
Then I could also click for a “Ground Track” which shows a map of my region with a trackline for the ISS marked with clock times to show me where the ISS would be relative to my location. This also made it easier to know which way to look (assuming you have a sense of direction).
So that’s a brief summary of both sites. As I said, I preferred the detail and breadth offered by the Heavens Above site, but a more casual or younger stargazer might like the ease of the SpaceWeather.com site.
Sadly, all this information cannot control the weather. It’s winter here in New York, and its been quite cloudy and overcast these days, so I have had little luck spotting the ISS through the clouds. One day, when I wasn’t looking for it, I noticed a fast moving point of light in a break in the clouds. I waited for it to get closer, thinking it might be a high flying plane, but it disappeared when it should have become visible in the next break in the cloud cover. That made me wonder, until later, when I read that the ISS will disappear from view when it passes into the Earth’s shadow. So, I probably did spot the ISS, and I witnessed it disappearing from view as it entered the Earth’s shadow.
Since then, I have given some thought to digging out my compass and binoculars so I could try again to spot the International Space Station.
Also, you may recall that on a Nov. 19th spacewalk, astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper of the Space Shuttle Endeavor, dropped her toolkit after a grease gun inside it burst, and she watched as the kit floated away. Both of these sites provide tracking information for spotting the toolkit as it continues its orbit of the Earth. The ISS and the shuttle can be seen with the naked eye, but they recommend using binoculars for the toolkit since it is significantly smaller.
I hope you all have a “Happy Holiday” and a “Prosperous and Healthy New Year” wherever you are, and however you choose to celebrate it. I thank you for reading Skylarking. I look forward to continuing this service of articles, coupons, news stories, and tips and tricks for home, school, or office.
My personal holiday wish is that I’ll be over this awful head cold I’ve had for a week now. I was almost over it this past weekend, but it’s made a comeback this week. Beyond that I’d like to lose another dozen pounds, and drop my weight under 200. My doctor would like that, too, but I think he’d like it better if I lost another two dozen pounds and reduced my weight under 190.
As for 2009:
According to the Chinese Zodiac, the Year of 2009 is the Year of the Ox. The Ox, or the Buffalo sign, symbolizes prosperity through fortitude and hard work. Those born under the influence of the Ox or Buffalo are fortunate to be stable and persevering. The typical Ox is a tolerant person with strong character. Not many people could equal the resolution and fearlessness that the Ox exhibits when deciding to accomplish a task. Ox people work hard without complaints at work or at home. They know that they will succeed through hard work and sustained efforts, and do not believe in get-rich-quick schemes.
That sounds pretty good to me. Of course, I’m a snake person: “Snake people are very shrewd and often achieve success through their wits. They are wise and intense with a tendency towards physical beauty. Snake people are discreet, restrained and refined. They never come across as pushy, and instead get their way through subtle manipulation. Cautious and intelligent, they possess analytical minds, but often also have a well-developed gut instinct.”
Please take some time to post and share your holiday wishes.
I have to admit (or someone will do it for me) I am a self proclaimed Star Wars nut. Well, I’m not as nutty as I used to be since the six Star Wars films were completed. Just to give you an idea, I had a French documentary film about the Star Wars fan phenomenon dedicated to me back in the late 1990s just before the prequels came out.
I’ve been seeing the Star Wars films bundled in two special DVD packs lately. One is the prequel trilogy: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith; the other is the original trilogy of Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and the Return of the Jedi. I’d pick them up myself, but I’ve already got them all on VHS, LaserDisc, and several different DVD packages. Yep, I do. Yep.
If you don’t have them, and you’re thinking about getting them, either for yourself or some else else, why not give FYE.com a try? They have a few special offers on both these sets. You can see in the pictures in this post that they offer the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy sets, either separately or in a bundle with The Clone Wars animated film from earlier this year. Yeah, I saw it. My daughter loved it.
If Star Wars isn’t your cup of tea-vee, then maybe you’ve got a favorite TV or Cable program that you’d like to collect on DVD. Then you might be interested in checking out FYE.com’s “TV on DVD; Buy One Get One Free” offer. Just jot down or copy the coupon code: P14B1G1TV, and click the image below to scoot on over to FYE and check out their selection of TV collections. Then use the coupon code at checkout to get the savings. Both the TV DVD and the Star Wars offers are good through Dec. 24, 2008.
Dell just sent me this coupon code, P8KJNT4LV44T9S, which can be used to get free shipping on select Dell Inspiron mini ultra-portable netbook PCs. If you check in here regularly, you’ve already seen my multiple posts on the Dell mini 9 and other netbooks in general. Us the link below to access Dell’s home page for the mini 9 and the mini 12, and then use the coupon code at checkout to get the savings.
Free 3-5 day shipping on select Minis! Coupon Code: 1303GMTDC1CS3Q
The mini 9s start at $349, and the mini 12s start at $499.
What’s the difference?
The mini 9 is small with a screen size just under 9 inches, while the mini 12 is slightly larger with a 12 inch screen. The 12 also weighs about half a pound more. Most of the minis run on Linux or Windows XP, which is great if you’re Vista-phobic.
Whenever I shop, I’m always on the lookout for good prices on digital picture frames. That is, if I pass one in sthe store, I’m going to check it out. In my opinion the technology behind these devices isn’t that complicated, so I find it difficult to justify spending over $80 to $100 for one. Today, I spotted the Synaps 7″ Digital Picture Frame with its walnut wooden finish online at TigerDirect.com. It’s selling for $39.99 right now, and if you’re not sure about the Synaps name, then you can always add on a one or two year service plan from TigerDirect for as little as $15 or $18 respectively. Customer reviews for the product have been very favorable.
The frame also allows you to run a digital slideshow of images, so the picture is constantly changing. The frame can be rotated for displaying images in a portrait or landscape orientation. The image at right shows the landscape orientation.
For the techies and digital photo enthusiasts, here are the spec1ifications (specs for short): It has a TFT LCD display which is 7 inches diagonal, with an visual aspect ratio of 16:9. The screen resolution is 480 x 234, and it supports MMC, SD, MS media cards. Photos must be in a JPEG format. The frame measures 7.9″ x 5.3″ x 1.3″. You can see the controls in the image at left (click the image to enlarge).