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

I can hardly believe I've been writing this column for ten years now and have never missed a month. I never dreamed it would end up being so widely used. It all started when a group of us from Central Florida Computer Society traveled to attend the 1994 FACUG fall conference in Cocoa, FL. During our travel time, the president at that time (Miguel McCormick) told me the group was getting many special offers and he didn't have time to announce them at meetings. He asked if I would mind putting them together as an article for the newsletter if he channeled them all to me. Hesitantly, I agreed since Miguel has always worked hard for the group, but I knew nothing about writing articles.

I received much criticism for the first column from the desktop publishing SIG I attended in an effort to help me improve it. They said nobody would read it the way I was writing it. I was having no luck understanding techniques to improve it when e-mail arrived from two editors, because of newsletter exchanges, asking if they could reprint it. Since many offers were time sensitive, I offered to put those editors on a list. I originally sent the column to editors individually for some time because I knew nothing about BCC or CC, or even how to attach a file to e-mail. That first column had 22 special offers in it. I also started giving it to Space Coast PC UG since I was also a member there. Surprisingly, the third editor to ask for the column was from Portland, Oregon PC UG and I was then published from coast to coast, but in just three newsletters. After three months of trying to improve it, with no success, my friends in the DTP SIG finally remarked that since it seemed to be working, just forget improving it.

A few editors feel that this is the "deals" column and should only contain deals, nothing else. Two editors have always felt the column is over worded. They insist that all you need is the name of the product, the price and ordering procedure, thus reducing it to about three paragraphs. I've always felt that those editors were missing what seemed to make it work. I often get feedback from my personal comments. Most editors feel differently and often e-mail me that their readers enjoy the column however I write it, which is always good to hear.

One problem lately is with myself. I don't devote the additional time required these days to dig up deals and I also get turned down more, along with just no response even though I had talked to them at a show. Items I find in UG newsletters, and suggestions sent by editors, help. I still have a few leads that I plan to follow up, but I'm writing the column from month to month, seeing where it leads. I also use occasional unknown products now that I receive announcements for, if they offer a discount. I still get a lot of support from many editors wanting me to continue. Many editors depend on the DealsGuy column, and for a very few, my column is the heart of their newsletters along with the group's member news. One thing seems certain though, and that is that the DealsGuy column is on borrowed time.

You need a tough skin to do this job because there is no way to please everybody. Complaints seldom come from the readers though, and those that do are usually because of a problem. However, editor's complaints sometimes lead to changes. Interesting that for the last few years though, the DealsGuy column has not been published in the original newsletter that started it all.

I'm presenting two great items that could be Christmas gifts, even for you. I'm excited about them both and you'll love them.

Lets Understand The Darn Weather Better

I love this item and was able to put together a deal just in time for Christmas (what a great gift). I can't adequately describe this full-featured weather station so check their Web site. [http://www.peetbros.com] I am just now learning everything about mine. It's certainly full featured and I'm having great fun. I installed it just hours before our latest hurricane, Jeanne, and spent more time checking the Ultimeter 100 data than checking the storm. It offers about any type of data and display you want and recorded my highest wind gust at 66 mph., 9/26/04, at 10:05 AM. I could have shown it in other units, as with all the data. Data can also be accessed by phone line. I'm now working on a better mount and location for my rain gauge. Ultimeter 100 can be set to continuously scan wind speed, wind chill, temperature, today's rainfall, time and date, or just certain data. It also shows the wind direction. An alarm can be set for the danger of an impending flash flood if your area is prone, or for other possible situations. A 9V-battery backup retains your data in the event of a power failure. Pushing a button will give you highs or lows for any of the last seven days, or for long term.

This deal is a scoop since they are introducing a new feature, which is a "serial text" interface that works with your computer to view the weather station's accumulated data. Simply connect the serial cable, start Windows HyperTerminal on your computer, then by pushing buttons on your weather station, quickly view data from the Ultimeter 100 system's memory for various time periods and format it as you like on your computer. The feed updates each minute.

For just $199.00 you get the "Ultimeter 100" weather station (MSRP $199.00) bundled with an indoor temperature sensor (MSRP $12.95) and a 15' serial computer interface cable (MSRP $20.00), both of which are normally optional. The unit does include the anemometer wind vane and other necessary cables. There are other peripherals such as a self-emptying rain gage and "The Weather Picture" (a large digital display that can be read across the room), extensions for the cables and more.

The Ultimeter 100 is the only product offered with the bundle, but obviously they have other models and accessories to offer. Please mention the code "DealsGuy" when ordering this special $199.00 bundle. E-mail them at [peetbros@peetbros.com], or call them at 1-866-446-1216 or 1-321-206-6214. Shipping varies according to the dollar amount, but orders between $200 and $299 will cost $15.75 S&H. FL. residents should add 7% tax. If you're not convinced, call for their beautiful 10-page brochure that tells it all.

Your Badge Says It All

You may have seen digital badges at computer shows, as I have, and they took my eye. I bought one and have enjoyed mine. People comment when they see it since it really stands out. It scrolls your message, which can be up to 118 characters, in red LCD letters. You can vary the scrolling speed. Get more details at http://www.bannerbadge.com] There's a video there of the Banner Badge scrolling a message, but in person, it looks much better than on that video according to my screen. You can order either a black or red one, and it comes with the programming kit. There is an optional USB-to-serial adapter, and the "Buddy" that will program it without your computer. The digital badge is a real eye-catcher and lots of fun.

Originally I purchased mine from another company and tried to make a deal with that company, but with no success. I consider them the losers. I later found this company, Banner Badge, in another show, and with much better prices. The Banner Badge guys were happy to give my readers a deal, which is 10% off the posted prices on the Web site. Unfortunately there's no way to enter a price code for the DealsGuy price when ordering so you'll need to e-mail them at [info@bannerbadge.com] or call them at 1-772-571-9944, and be sure to mention DealsGuy to get the 10% discount. What a great Christmas gift! Don't forget to order extra batteries at their low prices.

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 Web site pages for your viewing. They contain new product announcements that I received over a period of time in 2003. More will be forthcoming when I get the ambition.

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