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Improving Gas Mileage Through Applied Technology (and Willpower)

I drive a lot of cars in the valiant quest for better gas mileage. But up until last week, I didn’t pay close enough attention to the way I drove the land yacht parked in our driveway … the one with 130000 miles on the clock and the parking lot dings to prove it.

That all ended when I plugged a ScanGaugeII into the big Honda’s OBDII port.

When I pointed the battle cruiser to the Interstate, I did so with purpose … with the goal of improving gas mileage by twenty percent or so from the paltry official estimates.

Needless to say, I did much better then that.

Anyone can get better mileage out of their vehicle. It’s not magic. You just need to apply a little technology and a good portion of willpower.

Like Jim Morrison sang in Roadhouse Blues, you gotta let it roll …

Article (w/video): Improving Gas Mileage

Refurbished or Not?

A lot of people have a misconception about refurbished products. Most people will not buy them, because they have the thought that the item is used and in horrible condition. In most cases, this is not the situation. When someone buys an item and returns it, the manufacturer cannot simply add tape to the box and resell it. The item is no longer new. Even if a customer returned the item because it was missing a remote control or a cable — it is no longer considered new…

Would You Like to Know More?

Ubuntu At Best Buy?

Wow, this certainly surprised me. Today I found out that Ubuntu Linux is now being sold at Best Buy online and even at some stores. And normally I would say this is great, except there is a problem – what the heck is Ubuntu “complete” edition? To my knowledge, Canonical (owner of the copyrights and trademarks for Ubuntu) never provided any arrangement with ValuSoft. Because if it was true that Canonical had struck a deal with Best Buy, it would potentially overshadow the news we once saw with the Ubuntu/Dell deal.

So how widely available is it? Apparently, it is available in town here in Vancouver, WA – at three stores in the area. This is huge right? Not so fast. Best Buy mysteriously has not listed this in the same category as OS X or Windows. In other words, the OS I run everyday all day is not listed as an operating system. Well, let me correct that. It both is and is not. It is assuming you use the search feature to look for Ubuntu or Linux. But it is not if you browse to operating systems.

Here is where I see the problem. As you can see from the apparent box used, this “Ubuntu” release is going to see its fair share of frustrated users as it is not sharing the fact that Linux behaves very differently than other operating systems. There are some hardware vendors who have worked very hard at ensuring that there will never be Linux support with their products. So many existing notebooks using Broadcom chipsets or odd-ball video/audio chipsets are going to send new users into panic mode fast. Help is on the way through Youtube among other venues, but unfortunately people stumbling upon this Valusoft release will be mislead into thinking that migrating is a snap.

What do you think? Did Valuesoft use Ubuntu without getting trademark permission first or is Canonical trying a covert experiment with marketing while using Valuesoft as a test vendor for distribution? Hit the comments.

Gordon Ramsay’s LA Restaurant Won’t Be A Kitchen Nightmare

According to Serious Eats, the New York Post has reported that neither Hell’s Kitchen contestant will really be the Executive Chef at Gordon Ramsay’s new LA “The London” restaurant.

Do you honestly think, my sweet pea, that I’m going to be that stupid and that vulnerable? That I would stick my ass to the window and give one of them a chance to run that restaurant, which is a multi-million [dollar] investment? One of them will be part of an amazing team, put in the deep end. But they will definitely not be running the room.” For the record, the winner will be called an executive chef, but in fact will be one of 65 chefs responsible for all hotel meals, including breakfast, lunch, high tea and dinner…

I’ve got to say I was a bit concerned with all of this season’s contestants as most of them didn’t seem skilled enough to run one of Ramsay’s restaurants, let alone cook the line at a TGI Fridays.

Even though I’ve been rooting for Christina Machamer, and feel she was the most qualified out of this season’s losers, she’s hardly experienced enough and still has much to learn.

All in all, this season didn’t stand up to past season’s and Top Chef made it look like kindergarden. But it still remained my weekly guilty pleasure.

[The Prize of Winning ‘Hell’s Kitchen’: Executive Chef by Title Only]

Xbox 360 Chatpad

Recently I got the Xbox 360 Chatpad. The Chatpad is a mini keyboard that you can attach to the bottom of your Xbox 360 controller. I gotta say when I first got it I thought it made the controller bigger since it was attached to the bottom of the controller and I thought I would have to take it out when was playing some game.

After leaving it on and playing games, it really didn’t bother me like I thought it would of so after a while I got used to it and forgot it was there kinda like if it was part of the controller. The keyboard is great for sending messages to your friends when you want to do it fast because your playing a multiplayer game. I use it when my Wireless headset runs out of power and still gotta talk to my friends. Its also great when putting in some information to the console like for example a address or a code from a prepaid card it will work so it’s pretty cool. It’s great, you will get use to it and it’s not that expensive at $20 dollars I think it’s worth it.

Laptop or Desktop for University

For students beginning college or university in the fall, there is always the question of whether to buy a laptop or a desktop for school. The choice, without any hesitation, would be a laptop for me. As a student, you simply need the versatility.

You will find that class notes are easier to maintain if they go directly onto the laptop. These notes can be printed out later, if you prefer to use a hard copy to study for tests. Keep in mind that the laptop will be with you in the library, in labs, in seminars and so forth. Because it is such an essential piece of equipment, here are five suggestions about what to keep in mind when selecting that laptop:

  • Since the machine is going to be use so extensively, select one with a comfortable keyboard. Make sure that your hand fits the keyboard and try the keys. Keyboards have a responsiveness. See if the ‘feel’ of the keys suits you. You don’t want to have keyboard issues. You want the keyboard easy to use and suited to how you type.
  • Check the hinge that connects the laptop screen. You will be opening and closing the laptop numerous times. You want to have a solid hinge so that, over the months, the laptop screen stays in place.
  • Select a laptop with high memory capacity. If possible, put in as much RAM as possible. RAM is not expensive now and it is the single best way to improve the functioning and speed of the laptop. If you happen to be working with large data bases, you will appreciate having the increased RAM.
  • Try the laptop monitor under different lighting conditions. Does it have the same clarity? Classrooms have different lighting conditions. You want to have the same clarity on the laptop screen when you sit by a window as you would during a low light slide presentation.
  • The final suggestion is to backup. This is essential. You do not want to lose school material at any time during the semester. One of the easiest ways to backup is to buy an external hard drive along with the laptop. You will find that your ‘academic life’ is on that laptop and having computer problems during the school year is a disaster. Having a backup of what is on the laptop will pay off eventually.

These would be my essentials. Other people’s priorities may vary. Some students are using a combination of desktop and small laptop like the Asus Eee. The drawback to that system is the keyboard issue. The Asus Eee might not be ideal to use through a day of several classes. You might be able to carry a keyboard to plug in and use it that way, but keep in mind the extra equipment that needs to be transported.

There is one last thing to check. If disaster does strike, how good (and how fast) is the repair service for that laptop company. You will want to have that machine fixed and back in your hands in as few days as possible. This is something you want to know and how never to have to verify. May the computer gremlins be kind…

Catherine Forsythe

DVD Projector

Come on, you when it comes to movies, bigger is better. I have a large cement wall on one side of my living room, about 14′ X 7′ which is white and really looks like a theater screen. It would be perfect for projecting a movie onto. I thought of this the other night and decided to look around to see if there is such a thing as a projector for DVDs. Guess what….THERE IS!

Say hello to the “ZoomBox“. This little baby will run you about $250. It looks like a slide projector but it has a built in DVD player as well as inputs for game consoles, VCR, whatever. It projects a picture up to 60” (when placed 8 feet away from the wall). I’m really thinking about getting one of these however, a big thing that is turning me off is the fact I don’t see an audio output option. You have to use the built in speakers. That’s a big thing for me as I don’t see those internal speakers doing the movies justice. How hard is it to add an output for audio so i can connect it to my surround sound?

Don’t have a blank wall to use it on? how about the cieling? Or if you have a party, try an inflatable movie screen! Place it outside and project your baby boy’s bare butt while he is in the tub, at his 17th birthday party! So much fun to humiliate the kids isn’t it?

If anyone knows of a DVD projector that has audio out, please let me know.


Writing To NTFS-Disk On OS X

Gnomie rantom from our chat room writes:


I’ve started to use OS X since last Friday (4th of July) and I did encounter a problem with it. So I decided to let you know about this so that you can tell this to other OS X beginners, in case you do see this helpful. Problem is known as “writing to NTFS-disk on OS X” and here’s solutions for it.

  1. Go and download MacFUSE.
    – Select .DMG that describes your version of OS X. There are versions for 10.4 and 10.5. This is required for the next tool to work.
  2. Go and download NTFS-3G.
  3. Now you just double-click MacFUSE (.DMG, usually downloaded files go to your username/Downloads/, e.g. Pirillo/Downloads) and install it; it does have instructions built into it.
  4. Now you open NTFS-3G and install it.
  5. Restart your OS X.

That’s it; now you have permission to write your NTFS-disk. Be warned though that you can’t copy from NTFS-disks folder which is named with Scandinavian alphabets (ä, ö, and å [a with two dots on it, o with two dots on it and a with a circle on it]). This is quite unnecessary information for those who do not have these alphabets in daily use. I recommend to type in only English for NTFS’s folders.

Did Google Purposely Block Anti-Obama Sites?

Over at the Washington Times there is an article about how Google may have purposely blocked anti-Obama sites. Depending on who you wish to believe, the blogger’s, Google, the anti-Obama crowd, the bottom line is that the sites were in fact blocked. According to the story, Google identified the sites as spam, but there are also allegations of Google being biased in their blocking of these sites. The tale of woe states:

“You will not be able to publish posts to your blog until we review your site and confirm that it is not a spam blog … Sincerely, the Blogger Team,” Google said in an e-mail to the owner of Come a Long Way, one of at least seven blogs that were shut down. The affected blogs are all opposed to the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, and have a common association with the anti-Obama Web site JustSayNoDeal.com.

The suspension lasted five days in the case of comealongway.blogspot.com, according a post on the author’s new site at comealongway.wordpress.com. Several of the affected bloggers told Simon Owens of Bloggasm.com that they suspect supporters of Mr. Obama used Google’s “flag” function to report them as spam.

The company is looking into what happened but thinks the blogs were accidentally identified by spam detection software, Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich said.

Not everyone is satisfied with that explanation.

“While Google claims to be a neutral gatekeeper, the pattern of evidence increasingly suggests otherwise,” said Scott Cleland, president of McLean-based Precursor LLC and chairman of Netcompetition. org, which opposes so-called “net neutrality” regulation that would prohibit Internet service providers from slowing or blocking Web applications that hog bandwidth, among other provisions.

Mr. Cleland suggested the company is censoring content, violating one of the very net neutrality principles – as enumerated by the Federal Communications Commission – they are pushing to be codified in federal legislation.

Well here is my two cents worth. First of all this is going to be one of the most hotly contested elections is a long. long time. These two candidates are so opposite of each other, that there is going to be considerable controversy. But what is becoming evident is that the supporters on both sides, are attacking not the positions either takes, but on a personal level.

This political season is going to be very volatile. :-)

But what do you think?

Comments welcome.


This Week’s Xbox Live Arcade Releases

Schizoid,” the first Xbox Live Arcade game developed with Microsoft’s XNA Game Studio technology, and “Golf: Tee It Up!” launch on Xbox Live Arcade this Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 9:00 a.m. GMT (2:00 a.m. PDT).

Schizoid is a fast and furiously paced action game with simple, intuitive gameplay. Billed as “the most co-op game ever,” reflexes and smarts are key but sharp teamwork pays off even more! Ram your way through waves of glowing enemies: single player with an AI bot helper; or co-op multiplayer with two players offline or online through Xbox Live. Schizoid features over 120 challenging levels of mayhem that will appeal to casual and hardcore gamers alike. For the brave player, Schizoid offers the intense Uberschizoid game mode, in which a single player controls two different ships at the same time.

Developed by Torpex Games,

Schizoid will be available worldwide for 800 Microsoft Points and is rated E for Everyone by the ESRB.

Pick up and play a few quick holes on your own or compete in a full 18-hole multiplayer tournament with friends in Golf: Tee It Up! Both beginners and experienced golfers can easily join the fun on beautiful, panoramic and challenging courses. With the unique Focus feature, you can read the green or control the ball’s spin in flight to achieve amazing precision! Golf: Tee It Up! features zany, customizable characters and a variety of game modes including stroke, cup, or match play with local or Xbox Live multiplayer modes.

Developed by Housemarque and published by Activision, Golf: Tee It Up! will be available worldwide for 800 Microsoft Points and is rated E for Everyone by the ESRB.