NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, July 2004
The Deals Column
by Bob Click, The Dealsguy
Greater Orlando Computer Users Group
(click to email author)

Some Rebates Aren't So Bad
We've all heard horror stories about rebates and I seldom purchase anything with a rebate unless it's a good deal even without the rebate. I recently purchased an 80-gig external Western Digital hard drive for $110 that had two rebates, one for $30 and another for $20. After mailing them, I noticed I had mailed the wrong barcode. A month later I received a postcard telling me I had not included the UPC barcode and offering the opportunity to resubmit it, which I did for the $30 rebate. Several days later, I received the same notice for the $20 rebate, but misplaced that card. Since I had only seven days to resubmit it, I thought all was lost when I finally found it too late.

I gave up on that rebate, but was filing another for a free telephone and was confused about something. I called the 800 number they provided for questions, and got my answer. Before she hung-up, she asked if she could be of any further help and I laughingly told her about the one I had misplaced and the time had expired. She said it was no problem and after giving her my information, she fixed it and got it back in the process. It was an OfficeMax rebate, which I have since received.

Since then, I called the OfficeMax rebate center about another one I hadn't received after almost a year. I was told the Seattle rebate center it was mailed to was closed, but he would fix it. I received the acknowledgement by e-mail the next day, and the check a week later. Fortunately, I have not lost any rebates so far.

Ain't Technology Grand?
Trade shows often have magazine stands with interesting ones to read. At the Home Electronics Expo I found ElectronicHouse [ http://www.electronichouse.com ] which I enjoyed, and this item caught my eye. We have often looked in our bathroom vanity's mirror. What about one that may seem like it morphs? Royal Phillips Electronics has developed a new twist for the bathroom vanity called Mirror TV, and it might be looking back at you, sort of. It will turn into a TV screen that could be showing your favorite news broadcast or stock reports. How about that --- turned off, it's a mirror, or on, it's a TV! When offered, it will first appear in hotels, then to home users sometime in 2005. If the news is interesting though, how long might those BMs take? What about if your stock is dropping? Don't watch it too long or you may shut off the circulation to your legs. Can they be sued for that? Probably!

ElectronicHouse also had an article about putting your audio system on IP. Giving your speakers their own IP address properly can make amazing improvements to the sound. I was also looking through an issue of FlatPanel World that had interesting articles. It is a new publication by CE-Pro. One article offers explanations about various types of flat panel displays. I didn't see a Web site except for the parent magazine's [ http://www.ce-pro.com ] Author Robert Archer stresses that dealers should know the difference between LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) and LCOS (Liquid Crystal On Silicon) as well as plasma display technologies when giving their sales pitch. He explains them all including DLP (Digital Light Processing) and explains the importance of calibration on a thin screen, which can cost upward of $300. He discusses some technologies of plasma displays. I saw several great articles about FPDs (Flat Panel Displays) and audio techniques.

In Digital Connect Magazine's March issue [ http://www.digitalconnectmag.com ], I read an article concerning the licensing of low voltage integrators (installers). I'll bet many of you didn't know that in some states, integrators who work with low voltage systems, such as remote controlled lighting, audio/video or telephone systems, must be licensed. Their license presently specifies 50 volts or less. One state is considering a bill requiring home installers performing electrical work at more than 50 volts to obtain high voltage licenses. CEDA (Consumer Electronic Design and Installation Assoc.) is lobbying the state to classify high-voltage projects as starting at 100 volts, a level that would not shut out integrators with a low voltage license from working with audio, video and home telephone systems. You might think that anybody could pull in some low voltage cables and hook them up according to the color code, but an experienced integrator for that type of wiring would know the importance of the proper wire and routing to eliminate interference and other problems. From my own experience installing auto audio, wire placement is extremely important. Not just anybody is capable of always installing a successful integrated digital system without experience.

With home wiring turning toward IT more and more, appliances and controls are also changing. For example, you are all familiar with your AC/heat thermostat, which originally had only the ability to turn the system on or off. Times are changing --- new controls are capable of talking to the appliances as well as controlling them. Other appliances will become the same way in the future. New technologies pretty much lets your home think for itself. I hope mine doesn't get mad at me for neglecting it!

Last Minute Changes
Two vendors pulled out at the last minute because their material suppliers are raising prices at a dramatic rate and they want that to stabilize, so here are some things I have kept in reserve. Also, if you forgot to take advantage of the great Executive Software Deal, I think they will still honor it, but act soon [http://consumer.execsoft.com/home.asp ]. Don't forget also the MailWasher deal from last month. [http://www.firetrust.com/products/pro/ ].

A Nice Tool For Teaching About Computers
This item has limited interest at best for my readers, but since we have teachers in our user groups, I am including it. Some larger user groups also have hardware SIGs, some of which are structured and might be interested in this product, although it may be too costly for a SIG. While browsing through the "Association For Technical And Education Show" I saw many types of training stations and this one caught my eye. It is a "Personal Computer Training Station" with the motherboard, keyboard and some other components mounted on the top, easily accessible right before your eyes. Pull out a drawer and you will find the drives, which can be snapped out of their respective holders and quickly unplugged. It has a custom-built 350-watt UL power supply and supports AT/ATX/P4 motherboards. It also offers high-speed hard drive duplication capability.

This is a sort of breadbox type workstation and everything is very handy. Go to [ http://www.atp-p51.com ] where you can get more information and pictures of the product. The guy said he was unable to offer a deal because he depends on distributors.

Opt Out Of Spyware
According to Kim Komando, the Network Advertising Initiative, [ http://www.networkadvertising.org ] helps you drop both DoubleClick and Avenue A Inc., known for spyware. I haven't tried it yet.

Accidentally Deleted Those Pictures?
Don't worry, if you were using your digital camera and, with a slip of the finger, you deleted something from your Smart Media or Compact Flash Card that you later want, here is the answer. Just go to [ http://www.z-a-recovery.com/digital_image_recovery.htm ] and download Zero Assumption Digital Image Recovery at no cost to you. Even though it says no image is there, if it used to be there, this program will recover it. Thank God for freebies, and for Bob Schuchman of San Diego PC UG who wrote about this one some time ago in their newsletter.

That's it for this month. Meet me here again next month if your editor permits. This column is written to make user group members aware of special offers or freebies I have found or arranged, and my comments should not be interpreted to encourage, or discourage, the purchase of any products, no matter how enthused I might sound. Bob (The Cheapskate) Click [ bobclick@mindspring.com ]. Visit my Web site at [http://www.dealsguy.com ] for interesting articles from user group newsletters. I also posted some interesting NEW Web site pages for your viewing. They contain new product announcements that I received over a period of time. More will be forthcoming.

Click here to return to top