Archive for January 2009

Get Cash Back on Purchases

microsoft live searchcashbackI know, I’ve been absent again.  January is always a bad health month for me. Anyone care to pay for my deviated septum surgery?  … No?  Okay.

Microsoft’s Live Search service is offering cash back on purchases made when using Live Search. You can find great deals on the products you want. They have links to the stores you trust: J&R  (, Barnes & Noble (, Hewlett Packard (, and NewEgg ( And, yes, they even have my favorite, TigerDirect (

All you have to do is go to the Live Search site at and search for the products you want to buy, then each time you click a Live Search cashback listing, you’ll find great deals on the product you chose from a variety of topnotch online vendors. Your results will list the cashback savings you’ll receive off the store price, and your final bottom-line price that includes tax and shipping costs.

Here are a few of the cashback percentages you can find:

The list of stores connected to the Live Search cashback system is enormous. You can access a complete list of stores and the cashback amounts provided, and whether or not free shipping is included with your purchase.

When you search you’ll be able to compare and sort products by the bottom-line price, and then you can click the best deal to go to the store. Everything you buy during that store visit will be eligible for Live Search cashback.

On your first time using Live Search cashback, you’ll be asked for an email address so your cashback account can be setup for free. You can keep saving money each time you use Live Search cashback. Every time you make a qualifying purchase, they’ll send you an email to confirm your cashback savings.

Typically 60 days after your purchase you can claim your cash once your account has accumulated a minimum of $5.

Got Something to Sell?

If you have an online shopping service, you may be able to promote your products through Live Search. Find out more about promoting your products in Live Search.

Get Your Refund Now

With an accountant in the family, every day is tax time it seems, but it’s getting to be time to prepare for April 15. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer when it xcomes to taxes — or if you want to try it yourself — then look to to get H.R Block’s Tax Cut or Turbo Tax. Prices start at $32 and you get free shipping, too. (The Basic TaxCut 2008 goes for $20 plus $5 shipping).

Either program is simple to install and use with tutorials that guide you every step of the way. Just click, click, click your way to a refund. Start by clicking the picture at right, and let them know Skylarking sent you, or tell ’em a little birdie told you.  (I’ve been waiting 6 months to say that. I know, I know, sad, isn’t it.)

IRS Info

Here are some useful links to the IRS web site with info regarding this year’s tax returns for indivuduals:

  • Tax Changes for 2008: You might be particularly interested in seeing if you are eligible for a Recovery Rebate Credit.
  • Tax Forms at 1040 Central: Scroll down the page to find links to download some of the commonly requested tax forms. You can download the 1040A, the 1040EZ, and the Schedule C for business owners among others.
  • Tax Fraud Alerts: Learn about some of the tax fraud scams that are circulating these days.
  • IRS E-file: File your taxes online for a faster return… I hope, you hope.  If you earned less than $56,000 for the year then you may be eligible to file for free with e-file.
  • Direct Deposit: Save yourself a trip to the bank with direct deposit from the IRS.

Now all I need to do is get started… last week.

Where is my Nokia N97?

n97I’m in the market for a new phone. It’s time to upgrade my “phone only” phone.  Okay, it does have a camera, but when I bought it all I wanted was a phone with a good speakerphone, but now I am in the market for something new and up-to-date.

One phone I have in mind is the Nokia N97due out in late March ’09.  Nokia gave a demo of the phone at this month’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2009) in Las Vegas. This is being touted as Nokia’s new flagship phone, but they prefer to call it “the world’s most advanced mobile computer”.

Let’s check out the details…

Tech Features

The N97has a 3.5-inch, 640 x 360 pixel, 16:9 aspect ratio, resistive touchscreen display with tactile feedback and a slideout QWERTY keyboard.  It has a wide range of connectivity with HSDPA (or 3.5G, half a step up from 3G), WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS.  It also has a 3.5-mm headjack.

What impressed me was its storage capacity.  It has 32GB of onboard memory, and that can be expanded to 48GB through the use of a microSD Flash card.  The onboard memory alone is double that found in the iPhone 3G (16 GB).

The battery life is also pretty impressive because it can play up to 1.5 days of continuous audio (those are your music files or podcasts), or it could playback 4.5-hours video.

It has a built in 5 megapixel camera with a Carl Zeiss lens, and DVD quality video capture. Looks like I won’t be needing my digital camera and camcorder for much longer after the N97 hits the market.

Software and the FaceBook app

facebook_picThough Nokia isn’t saying much right now, there is going to be additional software available for the N97, but the phone is still in development at this stage, and there are some features that haven’t been finalized yet.

One thing that is being discussed though is the Facebook application that is being integrated into the phone. You’ll be able to have a full screen view of Facebook so you can keep up to date with your friends while you’re on the move. This is an application for the phone that can be used in addition to actually visiting Facebook on the web over it 3G or WiFi connection. The N97 is designed so you can have immediate access to this feature whenever you’re connected.

Release Date and Pricing

The N97 is scheduled for a late March release in the UK. Pre-orders are already being accepted.  No date has been set for the US, nor has any provider partnerships been mentioned, but there is talk that an unlocked version will be released in the US.  The price is expected to be similar to that of the current N96 which retails from $650 to $900.

Bad, Skylark, bad!

skylarkOh, no, it’s been 7 days since I lasted posted. Don’t think I haven’t noticed, because I have. I had started writing a post this past weekend about the pending “shutting down” of analog television broadcasts coming up in less than a month on Feb. 17, 2009., but I hadn’t finished writing it on Monday as I had planned.

I spent most of Monday on client calls out on the east end of Long Island, and had lunch with some colleagues of mine.  Then had to run back home and pick up my daughter from daycare.

But I digress.

Here we are on Thursday, and I still have no real new post for you, but rest assured, as soon as I publish the one you are reading right now, I will start writing a real post.

Next up, the Nokia N97.




For all you Bloglines users out there, you can find Skylarking among the feeds there. I’m spreading my wings and broadening the horizons as it were. I setup a blog there called “Skylarking’s Notes” where I’ll track some items’ I find on the web, much as I do here. the URL/web address is

For those of you unfamiliar with Bloglines, here is a description, slihtly revised, from the site:

What is Bloglines?

Bloglines is a FREE online service that helps you subscribe to and manage web information, such as news feeds, blogs and audio. Bloglines tracks the information you’re interested in, retrieves new stuff as it happens, and organizes everything for you on your own personal web news page.

How Does Bloglines Work?

Bloglines is a “news aggregator.” Many online information sources, including web sites, blogs and news services, now broadcast their content to the web in so-called “syndicated feeds” or “news feeds” with new technologies like Really Simple Syndication (RSS) and ATOM. News aggregator software and services collect those syndicated feeds and present them to end users in a variety of ways.

Bloglines is a server-based aggregation system. This means that we run and manage all of the software and technologies necessary to collect the syndicated feeds from tens of millions of online information sources on our own computer servers and databases, and deliver that amazing content to you as a free, easy-to use online service.

After you join Bloglines you simply search for the content you are interested in and identify the feeds you want to track. Once you “subscribe” to those feeds (a single-click maneuver in most cases), Bloglines will constantly check those feeds for changes or additions and direct new information onto your Bloglines personal page.

How is Bloglines different from other news readers and aggregators?

  1. We’re free. Others charge a one time or monthly fee.
  2. We’re a web-based service you can use from any computer or appliance with a web browser. Others are desktop-bound software applications.
  3. Nobody offers all the features we do.
  4. We were the first, we are the largest and fastest growing.

How Much Does Bloglines Cost?

Nothing. Zip. Nada. Bloglines is completely free.

I hope you’ll look me up when you get there.  Again, the URL over there is

Toshiba 40 inch LCD HDTV

Toshiba 40 inch LCD HDTV

Toshiba 40 inch LCD HDTV

While I was writing up my news alert for the Samsung 19″ widescreen monitor, I noticed the Toshiba 40RV525U 40″ Full HD LCD TVicon selling for $699 at TigerDirect. Toshiba has been one of my favorite televison manufacturers for over two decades.

I find that Toshiba televison sets have the best black levels of any TV I’ve seen. That is, while black on many TVs looks more grey then black, on Toshiba sets black is truly black.

It all connects with the fantastic contrast controls and color filters available from Toshiba. And this 40 inch, flat panel, 1080P HDTV is no exception.

The Toshiba 40RV525U 40″ Full HD LCD TVicon provides full HD. This TV is large enough for your entire family to sit around and watch their favorite shows or videos. It has DynaLight dynamic backlight control, 3 HDMI digital inputs, and a high-res PC input which makes it ideal for your living room or home entertainment center. Its 1920 x 1080 resolution assures high quality images with fine details and no distortion.

The Toshiba 40RV525U can be yours today — at a price nobody else can touch. Its built-in ATSC/NTSC/QAM digital tuner, allows for viewing standard cable channels as well as crystal-clear off-air digital broadcasts. Its Cinespeed LCD panel delivers 8ms or better response speed to bring you clean, high-action home theater images. Now, every seat in the house is the best seat in the house!

Read these editted customer reviews for the Toshiba 40 inch HDTV:

Awesome Deal! I bought this for a family Christmas present and am loving it. The Picture is great, especially with HD cable input. X-box 360 games Rock and old standard def DVDs look really good. The built in speakers are OK but I would recommend hooking this baby up to a nice surround system to really complete the home theater experience. Installation is a breeze and there are plenty of inputs so you don’t have to worry about constantly switching cables. As stated by another reviewer, this is a Great deal especially for a name brand, 1080 TV.

Awesome LCD T.V., picture quality with HD is just great. For the price of only 749.99 and no tax or shipping costs,[at least in california] this was the ultimate purchase. Not only was it free shipping, it wasn’t supposed to arrive till the 29th, and it arrived Christmas eve! Great bargain, hookup the blu-ray and the PS3 it’s just the bomb. A must buy for anyone who is looking for an affordable 1080p Full HD T.V.

I can just imagine what it would be like to watch DVDs or Blu-ray discs on this set. Or even my old Xbox or PS2 games. (No 360 or PS3 for me yet). Or I could hook up my laptop to the set for some computing in the living room while relaxing on the couch, or maybe play some photo slideshows for the family. (Okay, the laptop idea seems silly, but its the novelty I go for some times).

Samsung 19″ rotating monitor ($160 savings)

Samsung Syncmaster

Samsung Syncmaster

I just received an email from my favorite computer parts retailer, TigerDirect. They are offering a 19″ flat panel LCD widescreen monitor from Samsung for only $129, that’s a $160 in instant savings from its regular price which is well over $200. “Big deal,” you may say, but what I love about this monitor is its rotating screen.

Rotate, tilt, swivel, call it what you will, but what it means is you can go from a widescreen to a tall screen simply by rotating the screen. 

Again, big deal, you say.

Now imagine typing a letter (to be printed and stuffed in an envelope) or designing a flyer or poster, and being able to see the full page, from top to bottom, full size, on your screen!  That’s what I love about this monitor.

The software included with this monitor will adjust the image so that it dispalys properly when you rotate the monitor. Want to find out more?  Then check out this video, below, or check out the details page for the Samsung 19″ Widescreen LCD Monitoricon on their web site and get one before they’re gone.

17 inch MacBook Pro shipping late January

`17 inch MacBook pro

`17 inch MacBook pro

At last week’s MacWorld Expo, Apple announced they would be shipping a new 17-inch MacBook Pro laptop near the end of January. Rumors had been circulating prior to the announcement that Apple would be announcing a quad core processor laptop, but this was not it. The new MacBook Pro is built around a “unibody chassis”, that is, it is carved from a single block of aluminum. Pricing will start around $2,800.

Battery Life

Apple Online Store

The big news was its battery life. Apple states its battery is rated to last “up to” 7 or 8 hours on a single charge, and that it may be recharged up to 1,000 times.  (Compare this to other laptops which may only hold a 3 or 4 hour charge with a recharge life of 200 to 300 charges.) You can watch Apple’s video regarding its battery design below.

Apple rates the battery for 200 charges per year, so at 1,000 charges the battery will need replacing in 5 years.  Of course users who frequently save to the hard drive will have to charge the battery more frequently.  If you use your laptop on weekends, you may find yourself recharging the battery for than 200 times per year, too.

Apple Online Store

Still, this is a pretty big boost in battery life, but, once the battery’s lifetime ends, you won’t be able to change the battery yourself.  You will have to take it to an Apple store or authorized reseller for replacement. This might be difficult for owners who live in remote areas. The battery costs about $160.

Admittedly, not everyone runs on their batteries every day. Deskbound MacBooks will find themselves plugged into a wall outlet.


The 17 inch MacBook Pro is also one of the heaviest MacBooks on the market. With its battery being 40% larger than previous batteries, and its block of aluminum chassis, it weighs a full pound more than the 15 inch MacBook Pro, but is still within the same weight range as other laptops in its class.


MacBook fans who were hoping for a Blu-ray DVD drive for high def video or data storage will have to wait a little bit longer. There is no Blu-ray in this MacBook, and there is no option available for one as at upgrade at time of purchase either (at this time).

Solid State Drive

The $2,800 model has a standard 320 GB (gigabyte) Serial ATA (SATA) hard drive, but two solid state drive upgrade options are available for $500 (128 GB) and $900 (256 GB). Though smaller in capacity, the solid state drives (SSD) provide greater durability and shock resistance over the standard SATA drives. Standard drives have moving parts, but sold state drives have no moving parts. Solid state drives are similar to the flash memory chips found in the digital cameras, or to the drives found in some iPods.

Memory (RAM)

The Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch model comes with a full 4 GB of RAM, and can be upgraded to 8 GB of RAM for an additional $1,200. So if you add the large solid state drive and the full 8 GB of RAM your new MacBook will cost about $5,000.

Most people will find the 4 GB of RAM sufficient, but for the frequent traveller I would recommend adding the solid state drive for its sheer durability.  More on the 17-inch MacBook Pro below:

17-inch Tech Specs
Height: 0.98 inch (2.50 cm)
Width: 15.47 inches (39.3 cm)
Depth: 10.51 inches (26.7 cm)
Weight: 6.6 pounds (2.99 kg)Display: 17-inch (viewable)
LED-backlit glossy widescreen
1920 by 1200 pixelsBattery: Built-in lithium-polymer
Up to 8 hours of wireless productivityConnections and Expansion:
MagSafe power port
Gigabit Ethernet port
One FireWire 800 port (up to 800 Mbps)
Three USB 2.0 ports (up to 480 Mbps)
Mini DisplayPort
Audio line in
Audio line out
ExpressCard/34 slot
Security cable lock slot
Included Software:
Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard
Time Machine
Photo Booth
Front Row
Boot Camp

iLife ’09

  • iPhoto
  • iMovie
  • GarageBand
  • iDVD
  • iWeb
Apple Online Store

Windows 7: Its Features and My Theories


My Theories on Windows 7

There appears to be a trend with Microsoft Windows release, in my opinion.  It appears that one version comes out which receives a lot of bad press and criticism, and then that system is followed up by a version which becomes popular and accepted.  People often say the newer version is the “working version” of the previous version.

New Desktop

New Desktop

Historically speaking, I have noticed that Windows 98 was called “Windows 95 that works”, and Windows XP was “Windows Me that works”, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Windows 7 is called “Windows Vista that works”.

What’s In Windows 7?

  • Touchscreens! The new version of Windows will support touchscreen technology which allows you to manipulate objects on screen with your fingers instead of a mouse. You’ll have to buy touchscreen monitor, of course. HP has been promoting and selling a Touchscreen system for several months now.
  • Touchscreen


  • The taskbar at the bottom of the desktop, looks and acts a lot more like the Dock in Mac OS X by listing open applications as icons without the names, along with lists of common commands and recently opened documents.  A feature I like is the ability to re-arrange the running application buttons by dragging and dropping them in a preferred order.
  • Dragging a program or document to the top of the screen maximizes that window to fill the screen. Dragging the window to the left or right causes it to cover that half of the screen. Additionally, you can hide other windows on the screen by “grabbing” one window with your mouse and shake it.  Or you can grab and shake by touching your touchscreen monitor.
  • Vista’s User Account Control is revised in 7 to allow the user to select four control levels.
  • Roku Soundbridge

    Roku Soundbridge

  • Home audio and video features are extended in 7, allowing music and video to be shared and viewed on other devices in the home such as networked media players like the SoundBridge wireless media receiver from Roku, and Microsoft’s own Xbox 360 game console.
  • Cell phone and smart phone synchronization features are developed further in Windows 7, thereby allowing you to sync your calendars or contacts or copy over your music.

See yesterday’s article on the Windows 7 Beta release.

Post Comments or Questions with the link below. Keep up-to-date with Skylarking: By Email or RSS Newsfeed or on Twitter. You can also send questions with my email form.

Microsoft Scores

Nick Wingfield of the Wall Street Journal reported some significant news regarding Microsoft this past Friday, and agreed with what they had to say.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at CES 2009

First, let me tell you this were mostly business deals that will greatly benefit Microsoft. Two of them involved raising the profile of Microsoft’s Windows Live Search service, and the last bit of news concerned the next version of Windows, Windows 7, the successor to Windows Vista, due out later this year.

These news bits were all connected to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s keynote address at this past week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. This was Ballmer’s first time delivering Microsoft’s keynote address at CES. Previously it has been done by Bill Gates, but Bill Gates stepped away last year from day-to-day matters to become more involved in his philanthropic projects.

verizonVerizon and Windows Live Search

Steve Ballmer announced that Microsoft had a 5 year deal with Verizon Wireless to make Windows Live Search available on Verizon’s mobile phone network.  Microsoft and Google have supposedly been in a bidding war to provide their search services on the network. The deal is estimated to cost a minimum of $650 million with Microsoft paying on a per phone/handset basis.

windows-liveThis bodes well for Microsoft, as they have been trying earnestly to get an advantage on Google. For example, Microsoft’s efforts to acquire Yahoo!have been reported for a long time in the news. Microsoft is the third most popular search service after Google and Yahoo!, but the Verizon deal will get them more visibility.

The Verizon deal will take off in the early half of this year.

dellDell and Windows Live Search

Microsoft also secured a Dell, I mean deal, to have Windows Live Search and the Windows Live toolbar setup as the default search service and tool on Dell’s line of consumer and small business computer systems for the next three years. Microsoft already has similar deals with Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Lenovo.

The Microsoft/Dell deal displaces an existing deal between Dell and Google. Windows Live Search will start appearing on new Dell systems starting in February.

Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft Sr. VP

Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft Sr. VP

Microsoft Senior Vice President Yusuf Mehdi admits that Microsoft needs more deals of this sort to truly compete with Google, but that “These two partnerships are very significant for us, because it…gives an opportunity to put our search offering out before a broader audience now in a pretty mainstream way, and I think you should think about it as the first step of us slowly bringing up the dial on how we start to promote our product.” 

Windows 7

windows-7Steve Ballmer’s other big announcement was that a “test version” of Windows 7 — the successor to Windows Vista which is expected to be released late this year — is now available. The test version, also known as a “beta” version in the computer industry lingo, is available for consumers to tryout on their systems.

Let me warn you that test or beta copies are far from being final, and that bugs do exist in these programs, and that harm could be done to your system and files. Do not use it on your primary computer. The purpose of beta versions if to help Microsoft determine what bugs exist and how to fix them.  It is strongly recommended that should you decide to “try it out” that you back up your entire system first, and, I repeat, don’t use it on your primary computer system.

Microsoft has setup a page discussing things you should know about the beta version, and they have another page for information on the upcoming Windows 7 and its features.

The beta version expires on August 1, 2009. You will need to install a prior version Windows on your system before that date.

Tune in tomorrow morning when I discuss the new features of Windows 7, as well as my theories on how it will be received.

Post Comments or Questions with the link below. Keep up-to-date with Skylarking: By Email or RSS Newsfeed or on Twitter. You can also send questions with my email form.