NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, December 2009
The Deals Column
by Bob Click, The Dealsguy
bobclick@bellsouth.net (click to email author)

People I?ve seen since releasing the November column commented on my vacation, but missed that some pictures of Port Huron, Michigan?s Boat night would be on my Web site. You can check http://www.dealsguy.com/Boatnight_Images.html for the pictures and descriptions.

I was surprised to hear from as many readers as I did about the GM bankruptcy thing. I was unaware that so many of my readers were also affected. Good luck to us all. I wonder why most of the people that ran GM into the ground are still running it, with our money. I hear people complaining about the unions, but their pay cuts didn?t make the news. Many GM workers took pay cuts, some as much as 50%. That must have hurt, although some people feel that even workers at a 7/11 make too much money. Salaried workers involuntarily took health care cuts long before the union people had to. Where I worked in Michigan is pretty much a ghost town now where former GM plants are now fields of weeds. When I hired into my GM plant, I was overwhelmed by the size of the plant (eight blocks long and four blocks wide) where over 7,000 people worked in 1950. Buick City was much larger, but it?s also gone.

Recreation Time
My wife and I took a bargain cruise in September with two other couples and found that corporate cutbacks have also invaded the cruise industry. At least that?s what we were told when we asked crewmembers, or customer service, questions. Customer service urged us to e-mail our concerns to the corporate Web site. Our ship was the Freedom of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean beauty. It can carry about 4,300 passengers and has 1,400 crewmembers. Last December (2008), we cruised on the Mariner of the Seas (also Royal Caribbean) and it?s slightly smaller than this one, but they are both large. There are no more free gifts for ?Crown & Anchor? members (people with multiple cruises on RC). We did get coupon books, but discounts in them don?t amount to much.

We weren?t the only ones who noticed that portions at dinner are now smaller, although I have no problem with that. The buffet was only complete in the morning. For the luncheon buffet, half of the area was cordoned off, but the selection was still good. We never went to the evening buffet so we don?t know about that one. Servers told us that with part of the area cordoned off, there was less food that had to be thrown away. Everybody did get whatever food they wanted. We noticed a few other cuts, but we still enjoyed the cruise. Of course, some of these policies could actually be ?that ship?s? policy. The cruise in December on the Mariner of the Seas was better, but it?s been moved to Las Angeles and the Freedom is taking its place out of Port Canaveral. Corporate cuts probably took place since we took the cruise on the Mariner.

The Freedom of the Seas is about 1,100 ft. long and 126.64 ft. wide; and is much too large for the Panama Canal. As I said, we had a fun cruise, but it is often crowded in certain places. The evening shows were great and one person in our group managed to get us tickets to a show at the ice rink, and that was also a spectacular show.

We think our next cruise will be on a smaller ship. There seems to be some great cruise bargains available these days. How about $399 for a 7-day cruise on a Holland America ship! Also, Norwegian Cruise Lines, which I have never tried, called to offer us a five day cruise at $129, but we weren?t quite ready for their fast approaching open dates. We did sign up for the Florida Association of PC Users Groups spring conference, which will be held on a three day cruise next spring. Registration for it has been great and it seems to be well received.

Enough about our fun (which is destroying our savings); here?s a few things that might be of interest to you.

Just the Ticket For Dark Restaurants
If you haven?t seen (or heard) them, you?d be impressed with ?Talking Menus.? I saw them at a food show some time ago, but haven?t been to a restaurant that uses them. I?ve been to a few restaurants with a dark ambience and tried everything to see what was on the menu. These talking menus would be the answer, and according to the brochure, they can also tell you the nutritional facts if you are interested. Look them over at http://www.talkingmenus.com

I could have asked them for a discount, but I doubt your budget would have tolerated a $399 menu for your dinner table at home (from the prices in the booklet they gave me), and I doubt the cook offers multiple selections to choose from. Ask your favorite restaurant if they?ll be getting them soon. We don?t frequent the dark places much and our favorites, the fast-food places, don?t need them. However, my wife has to read the menus behind the counter to me because the print is too small. Have you noticed that on their dollar menus?

Tool For Repairing Access Files
I ran this product back in March, but if you missed it at that time, DataNumen is now offering a 20% discount by using the coupon code DATA-E2OI-TWEN when ordering at http://www.datanumen.com/aar/order.htm This is a better deal than the discount last March which was only 10%. The discount code may also work for ordering their products for repairing Excel and Word; and for the Outlook and Outlook Express files. Check their Web site for descriptions of the products. The version for Access is 2.1, updated from the one in March.

How?s Your Battery Doing?
Hewie Poplock of Central Florida Computer Society http://www.cfcs.org mentioned this product to the members of his SIG (Special Interest Group) and it sounded to me like something that my readers might be interested in, considering the proliferation of laptop use these days. According to their product page, ?BatteryCare is a free utility that gives you much more information about your battery than how much charge you have left for the current session: The app changes power profiles for you when you connect your laptop to a power source, lets you know how many recharge cycles your battery has left, and more, all for free.? I know my laptop is not accurate about its remaining time, but I have not used it very much while depending entirely on its battery.

It sounds like a handy product, and how could you go wrong if it?s free. However, the developer does appreciate any donations to help keep his work going. Makes sense to me. http://batterycare.bkspot.com/en/index.html

Having problems reading the screen?
A while back, I read a review of DeskTopZoom written by Bonnie Snyder in Bits of Bytes, newsletter of the Pikes Peak Computer Application Society of Colorado Springs http://ppcompas.apcug.org/bb0903.pdf#page=5. This product does a good job of giving you options for enlarging parts of your screen for easier reading, or to study something you can?t see very well on a page. It does have a few shortcomings, but all in all, she speaks highly of it, and the price is ?nada.? If you would like to find out more, read her article in the above link, or go to http://www.softpedia.com/get/Desktop-Enhancements/Other-Desktop-Enhancements/De sktopZoom.shtml. There may be improvements since her review was written.

Magnifier You May Already Have!
Let?s say that you sometimes need simple magnification for something. Like me, you may not have known about the screen magnifier in XP. It?s nothing exciting, but simply click ?All Programs, then Accessories, then click Accessibility? and you?ll find Magnifier. I tried it and it?s pretty basic, but I?m told that more information about it is on the Microsoft Web site. The article I read said there?s a link for that, but I didn?t see it. On my screen, large text appeared at the top with a large curser, and while there wasn?t much magnified screen area, I was able to make use of it. Try it; it may be all you need. Clicking ?exit? stops it. I was unaware of this gem until I read it in a newsletter.

That's it for this month. I?ll have some more new product announcements on my Web site that didn?t offer discounts. 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 . Visit my Web site at http://www.dealsguy.com.

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