Car Repairs

June 29, 2008

One of the great things about the internet is that it can point out areas that we are weak in and then helps improve them. One of those areas is automobiles. Living in New York, there isn’t as much of a need for a car, but we still have one. We recently went to have it inspected and had the nasty surprise of needing a break job.

We ended up paying about $175 for it, but I just didn’t know if we had gotten a fair rate. Along comes http://repairpal.com/, if you give this website the basic info about your vehicle, what kind of work you are having done and where the repairs are made, it will give you a range that the repair should cost you.

No longer do you have to wonder if you got a decent rate if you know next to nothing about car repairs. One of the problems though is that you have to tell it what the problem is. If you buy the mechanic’s line about a repair you don’t need, this site won’t be much help, but at least you’ll know that the work he or she did do was priced fairly.

In our case, RepairPal told us it should have cost us between $140 and $210, so I feel pretty good about where we went. It is nice to have that added piece of mind that comes with being Techeap.

Thanks to Techcruch to turning me on to this and one of its competitors, Driverside. I didn’t really give Driverside a fair shake since I needed to register to use it, but if I any reason to doubt RepairPal, I may go and give it a try.


More Than Background Music

June 29, 2008

I’m not a huge music fan, which I know is rare. Almost everyone I know says they love music. I appreciate good music, but I’m not likely to listen to it in my free time. However, I’m hosting a housewarming party in a couple of weeks, which got me to thinking, wouldn’t it be nice to have some music playing in the background. Thankfully, my fiancée has a substantial music collection loaded into iTunes which has very good playlist functionality.

But what if you don’t own a lot of music, but would still like to have that background playlist?

I’ve found a website that works pretty well for me and has the functions that I like at www.imeem.com. However, it is not for everybody. It can insert ads randomly in your playlist. They are short, but you should consider that if you are going to use this. There are also a number of social feature that I haven’t really tapped into, but you might find useful.

There are a bunch of other music sites that have free music and other capabilities that you may like more.

http://www.musicouch.com/Musicouching/Music-Rules-Top-10-Music-Websites-That-Delivers-Greatest-Free-Music.122475

As someone who believes in the value of intellectual property, it is important to keep in mind that these websites do compensate the writers and artists for their plays, so they generally do not allow downloads.

I’ll probably talk about place to get free (but probably not very popular as of yet) music on the web in a later entry.


Cap Attack

June 29, 2008

As you’ve probably heard if you’re a tech news junkie like I am, Time Warner is starting to test out bandwidth caps on home users. The Washington Post has a good article about this here. You’ve probably also seen the outrage that various blogs and websites have shown against this sort of pricing scheme.

The sad truth, however, is that most people would not even come close to using the smallest 5 GB cap. We all know many people like this. For example, the people who are still on dial-up, who would be hard-pressed to download 5 gigabytes if they were downloading 24 hours a day, all month. The people who only use e-mail and occasionally view a YouTube video. This isn’t a criticism, but it is just a simple fact. Some people do not have the time or interest to integrate technology into their lives, which from where I sit is too bad. Technology, computers and the internet have the ability to improve your life, as I hope to show you in this blog. However, if your access to the internet is limited just as some of the best uses for the internet become available this will have a dampening effect on advancement.

The more people that are involved and interested in any given technology, the more that that technology is apt to grow and improve. This cap could be just the thing that stops someone from trying to listen to a podcast or to watch their favorite TV show online. I know that if I have a cap I become much more aware of my usage of a product. For example, I have a pre-paid cell phone that I hardly ever use. The reason is that even though I have over 500 minutes of time on it, I’m afraid of running out of time when I really need it.

I think that the same sort of mentality might apply here. People are liable to here about new technologies, like the NetFlix set-top box or programs that I’ve talked about like Joost and decide against even trying them because of their fears of the cap.
And the fears of people under these caps is pretty justified. If you were to download one high-definition movie, that could easily use up a 5GB cap all at once. As people with cell phones know, overages can be really painful. It still remains to be seen how the Time Warner plan will work, and maybe the doom and gloom being sounded across cyberspace will turn out to be overblown. Only Time (Warner) will tell.


Apple iPod Rebate Promotion

June 29, 2008

While I’m not a huge fan of Apple, mainly because I think most of their products are overpriced, I did run across a pretty interesting promotional deal.

http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/08/06/03/apples_free_8gb_ipod_touch_back_to_school_promo_now_official.html

The basic idea is that if you are a student or education professional and you buy one of the newer generation Apple computers from their website or an official Apple retail store, they will give you a rebate for the purchase of an iPod Touch.

While this still wouldn’t be enough for me personally, I’m sure there are some Apple fans out there that may want to consider this significant freebie.


Update to A Cautionary Tale

June 29, 2008

Well, I have good news and bad news about my friend who bought that laptop that came with Windows XP and didn’t fit her needs. The good news is that another person at Best Buy agreed to take the computer back with no restocking fee. This just goes to show you that sometimes dealing with other people can get you what you want. The bad news is that she had gotten a service to install a couple of security programs for her and that money she could not have refunded. The shocking thing to me was that this service was not transferrable. On top of that, the service charge was more than the money she would have lost if they had charged her the restocking fee.

So, if you have someone who can help you install these programs for you, it is probably worthwhile to do so. Sadly, this industry can be a lot like getting a car repaired. If you don’t understand what they are doing to your car, the mechanic can charge whatever he wants, and in this largely unregulated industry, that can cost you.


Buying a Laptop: A Cautionary Tale

June 29, 2008

A friend of mine just bought a new laptop. Unfortunately, she got some advice from someone who just gave her a list of requirements for what she “wanted” without actually explaining what those items were. I’m also not sure if that person even asked what the computer was being used for, which is ultimately the most important consideration to make.

Her new laptop comes with the newest operating system, Windows Vista. However, in the audio editing field, the professional-grade programs are not fully compatible with this new operating system (or OS). This means that the brand new machine she bought can’t do what she bought it to do. At this point the store left her with two options. One, she can return to where she bought it and get charged a 15% restocking fee. Two, she can buy a new copy of Windows XP at retail and install that.

Obviously, neither of these are a good result for her buying experience. The sad part of the whole situation is the likelihood that she’ll been even more frustrated with technology and come away from the whole experience jaded against what should be a tool to help her.

So what’s the moral of this tale of woe?

1. When you get help from somebody else, which is a great idea, make sure you understand what they say you need from a computer.

2. Think about what you need your computer to do and make sure that it is going to do what you need it to do.

3. Be careful before buying a new operating system. Although, Windows Vista is more than a year old now, there is still not a lot of software compatibility, which means you can’t do everything you think you’d be able to do on this software.


Web Site Link Checker

June 29, 2008

If you run any sort of web site or blog, it is a good idea to periodically check to see if all of your links are current and still working. If you have links, that lead no where, also known as broken links, it lowers the credibility of your site.

Of course, manually checking every link to see if it still works is out of the question, so a good free program that will check your links for you is http://home.snafu.de/tilman/xenulink.html.

Xenu will check all of your website’s links to see if they still connect to active pages. I was able to correct a typo on my own blog by using this software. It did also come up with one false positive, but that was fairly easy to check up on. The program takes up very little hard drive space and is pretty easy to install. So for a nice little piece of software that can help keep your website running properly, check out Xenu.