Free Powerful Budgeting Tool – Pear Budget


So, I thought I’d try to straighten out my finances in 2007… wasn’t happing until now, enter Pear Budget. Pear Budget is an Excel spreadsheet that gives you the power to forecast and budget from month to month. The user interface is simple, if you’ve used Excel before, you’ll be able to use Pear Budget. Just open the file and setup your “accounts” on the first page. Pear Budget groups your expenses into 3 main categories:

  1. Regular Expenses
    Mortgage, Rent, Electricity, etc.
  2. Irregular Expenses
    Auto Maintenance, Doctor Visits, Medicine, Gifts, etc.
  3. Variable Expenses
    Groceries, Dining Out, Hair Cuts, etc.

Pear Budget then gives you a simple day by day, month by month sheet format of entering income and expenses and let’s you know whether you’re in-the-hole or above water for not only the current month, but for the year as well.

Simple and easy to use progrom to get your financial life in order… highly recommended if you don’t want to spend the money to get a program like Microsoft Money or Quicken by Intuit.

PearBudget is a FREE budgeting program, written in Excel. It can be used by almost any spread- sheet program (Excel, Word, OpenOffice, etc.). Setting it up is a snap, and it takes less than half an hour a month to maintain it and see how you’re doing. (And—did we mention?—it’s free!)
Pear Budget – http://www.pearbudget.com/

Pending Current Registrar Approval – Domain Transfer – Timeline


Transferring domains from one registrar to another is never easy; at least in my experiences. It seems to me that the smaller registrars out there are typically very reluctant to release a domain name and they really drag their feet through the whole process.

Take for instance my most recent experience – with rapidsite.net

First of all, I had to call 3 entirely different locations/departments before I was actually able to get a hold of someone who was willing to recognize the fact that my domain existed. Once we established the fact that my domain was in fact real, I found out that in order to get an Authorization ID for transfer, I’d have to send an email to their domain registration department – Yay!!!

I send an email to the domain registration department, and to my surprise, I get the Authorization Code on the following day (Saturday). I proceed to input all of this information into my new registrar, and the domain’s status gets updated to “Pending Current Registrar Approval” where it has been for the past 4 days (today is Wednesday). I just called the company back because I was under the impression that this process – releasing the domain – should only take 24-72 hours (1-3 days), but they’re telling me that it takes for business days. So assuming that the transfer request went in on Monday, I should expect to have my domain land at the new registrar on Thursday (tomorrow), right? I hope so! Stay tuned, as I’ll keep you posted on the final outcome.

Leave the names of any other registrars that you may have had problems with below.

Sad But True I’ve Got the Xbox Blues – Red Ring of Light


So its official… after about a year or so, my Xbox 360 has officially crapped out on me. I turned it on last night and had a flashing red ring of light. I guess this is a fairly common problem, after having searched the internet for a solution, but it also sounds like microsoft is usually more than willing to fix the problem promptly.

This morning I called Xbox customer support (800) 4-MY-XBOX and they informed me that I have to send my console in, which they claim that they will fix within 10 business days. We’ll see about that.

Looks like I may have to hook up my original Xbox so I can keep on playing Halo 2 until my Xbox 360 gets repaired. What a hassle!

Has anyone else had this problem, or am I the only lucky one?

Stay tuned to see what happens with my 360…


Xbox 360 Repair Update

On Tuesday morning, January 30th – I packaged my Xbox and sent it into the Repair Center. What can brown do for you? I’ll tell you what they can do for me… they can hussle that ass up and get my Xbox delivered to Texas ASAP! I miss Gears of War!!!


Xbox 360 Repair Update 2

On Friday, February 2nd, I got notice from UPS that my package had been delivered to the repair center. On Saturday, February 3rd, I got notice from Xbox / Microsoft letting me know that they had received my Xbox360 and it was in their system for processing. Here’s a copy of the exact image:

Dear Customer,
We have received your Xbox at our service center. It is our priority to process your Xbox in a timely manner and to get it back to you as good as new. We will contact you as soon as we are finished so you can get ready to get back into the game!

Thanks,
Xbox Customer Care


Xbox 360 Repair Update 3

On Wednesday, February 7th, my Xbox was returned to me. Not a very painful process at all. I understand that Microsoft will send you a box for shipping if you request one, but I just packaged the xbox myself in order to get it sent out faster. They fixed the problem in a day and had my console back in the mail the following day (shipped via UPS – 3 day select service).

Tips to Organize Your Digital Photos – Digital Picture/Image Management


If you’re like me and the digital camera age has completely changed the way you take pictures – meaning you take pictures like its going out of style – then managing these pictures has probably become a problem for you… or, you just don’t worry about managing them. I like pictures, I like keeping them, and I like knowing that I’ll be able to find them if I need to. This article will hopefully give you some insight on how to organize your photo album(s) for easy management. Or you can continue on like many of my friends who just take pictures on the digital camera until their memory card is full, delete the pictures and start over – no printing, no downloading, nothing… what’s the point.

The first thing that I recommend doing is getting a good application for managing/organizing pictures. Here are a few that I recommend:

  1. Picasa by Google (http://picasaweb.google.com/) – This is my absolute favorite photo management tool. It runs smoothly, it’s got a great clean user interface, its got simple photo-retouching tools, and it supports video.
  2. Windows Photo Gallery (New in Windows Vista) – I’ve only used this a few times, but Microsoft is definitely onto something. I get the feeling that they’re taking ideas from Picasa, but that’s only because I’m an avid Picasa fan. Windows Photo Gallery gives you a good easy way to manage photos within windows without having to worry about extra software. The photo tags/labels idea is pretty cool too.
  3. Preclick Photo Organizer – What’s a list without at least 3 programs? Preclick seems to get a lot of good reviews, so I thought I’d add it to my list, though we all know that I’m not going to be switching from Picasa anytime soon.

Okay, so now we’ve got a list of programs that we can use to help us view/manage/organize our photos, but the best tool of all is built into your computers operating system – the file system. I use folders to manage and organize all of my photos, and I’ve found the following format to be very useful in helping to find any photos I’ve ever taken.

Each time I connect my camera to download photos, I create a new directory. I’ve read articles that say to give the directory a meaningful name, this makes perfect sense, but what happens when you have 300 folders with meaningful labels? We have Christmas every year, my wife has a birthday every year, so rather than just naming folders “Christmas 2005”, “Christmas 2006”, etc. I precede my descriptive meaningful name with the date the picture(s) were taken, i.e. “2005-12-25 – Christmas at the Folks”. This serves 3 purposes:

  1. I have the date the pictures were taken (makes them easy to find).
  2. I still have a unique, meaningful folder name (in case the date isn’t enough).
  3. All of my folders will be organized chronologically – this is very helpful when looking through years worth of photos.

I think this is the most integral part in photo organization, using the following method to name folders:

YYYY-MM-DD – Description of Photos

if your photos span a couple of days, or you went on a trip, use the following:

YYYY-MM-DD-DD – Description of Photos

Once you get your folder structure in place, the rest is easy. Just find a program that you like (Picasa) and set it up to monitor your “My Pictures” folder (or whatever directory you might keep all of your pictures in.

I hope this helps all the photo buffs out there, post links to the best pictures you’ve taken… I’d love to see them!

Broken Xbox 360 – Flashing Red Ring of Light (RoL)


So I turned on my Xbox this evening to get my Halo on, and instead of the normal single green light in the upper left quadrant, I had 3 flashing red lights. Apparently this is the Xbox’s way of telling you that there is something all F’ed up. Depending on the severity of the problem, a different number of quadrants could be flashing red when you boot up your broken Xbox 360. Here’s your guide on what you need to do to figure out what’s wrong with it.

First off, you’re either going to need the capability of remembering 4 digits, or you’re going to have to go get a pen and paper.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, while your Xbox Ring of Light (RoL) is flashing red, press and hold the synch button (the controller connect button) and while holding it, press the DVD eject button. This will put the Ring of Light (RoL) into a faster blink and the the number of lit quandrants may change. This process will need to be repeated 4 times (hence the need for the pen and paper if you’re incapable of remembering 4 digits, but you’re somehow able to remember where every weapon on every map in Halo 2 is). Each time your press the synch and DVD eject button simultaneously, write down the approprite number from the following table:

RoL Flashing Light Codes
One Light Flashing 1
Two Lights Flashing 2
Three Lights Flashing 3
Four Lights Flashing 0

Here’s an example:

  1. Turn on your Xbox360 and wait for the red lights.
  2. Press and hold the synch button, then press the DVD eject button – if all 4 lights flash, write down “0” and repeat this 3 more times.
  3. Press and hold the synch button, then press the DVD eject button – 1 light flashes, write down “1” and repeat this 2 more times.
  4. Press and hold the synch button, then press the DVD eject button – all 4 lights flash, write down “0” and repeat this 1 more time.
  5. Press and hold the synch button, then press the DVD eject button – 2 lights flash, write down “2”.
  6. Now you’ve got your error code: “0102”

Okay, so now you know how to figure out your error code, use the list below to figure out what’s wrong with your Xbox… and if your lucky (I was not) the list will not say “Not yet known”.

0001 – Power Supply Problem
0002 – Power Supply Problem
0003 – (not yet known)

0010 – Over Heating
0011 – Over Heating
0012 – Over Heating
0013 – Over Heating

0020 – not yet known, possibly overheating
0021 – not yet known
0022 – GPU Error / GPU Overheating

0101 – not yet known
0102 – unknown error*

0110 – Memory Error / Memory Overheating

1003 – Hard Drive Error**

1010 – Hard Drive Error, Can be caused buy a currupt or missing Eprom.

1013 – not yet known

1020 – not yet known

1022 AV cable error***

1030 – not yet known

* Literally means the console does not know what is wrong. Possibly a short or cold solder joint somewhere (2 reports of people repairing this, one was removing moisture build up inside the console, the other used a hot-air rework to reflow the BGA Ram chips)

** It could be a problem with the Hard Drive itself or a problem with the internal connection to the hard drive, Try removing the hard drive and playing without it

*** There is a problem with the AV cable, try using a different AV cable. (could also be a problem with the encoder chip)

Hopefully this helps… it didn’t help me, so it looks like I’m going to be making a call to Microsoft/Xbox Customer Support. Here’s the number: (800) 4-MY-XBOX

Free DJ Hero

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Xbox 360 Guitar Hero 2 (II)


Though there is not yet a release date, all you Guitar Hero fans will soon be able to rock out with Guitar Hero II on Xbox360. I think the biggest improvement is going to be the fact that they offer downloadable content… can you say WOLFMOTHER???

The following text was taken from xbox.com:

Guitar Hero II™ explodes onto Xbox 360™ with over 70 songs and the revolutionary X-Plorer® Guitar Controller. Choose from a wild group of rockers and jam at concert venues that grow in size as your rock career progresses. Play with a friend and shred riffs cooperatively, or go head-to-head in multiplayer modes like Pro Face-Off.

  • New for Xbox 360: This version of Guitar Hero II includes the X-Plorer Guitar Controller, additional songs, and downloadable content.
  • Killer soundtrack: Rock out with with over 70 jaw-dropping tracks, including You Really Got Me, War Pigs, Beast and the Harlot, Crazy on You, Carry On Wayward Son, Heart-Shaped Box, Killing in the Name, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Message in a Bottle, Shout at the Devil, and Surrender.
  • Content downloads: With Xbox Live®, grab new songs, themes, and picture packs. Download exclusive songs and check where you rank on the Guitar Hero II leaderboard.
  • Multiplayer: Grab a friend and form your own rock band in Cooperative Mode. Want to see who can rule the stage? Go head-to-head with a friend in Pro Face-Off mode.
  • Practice mode: It’s going to take some practice to sell out stadiums and have fans screaming your name.

Halo 3 Public Beta – Release Date


Apparently Xbox and Bungie will be releasing a beta version of Halo 3 in February 2007. You can either get a copy of the beta by being one of the first 13,333 players who complete all of the requirements (listed below) or, you can take the simple way out and purchase a copy of Crackdown (www.xbox.com/en-US/games/c/crackdown/default.htm) In my opinion expert opinion, this looks like a huge stunt on the part of Microsoft and/or Bungie to sell copies of a horrible game, that would otherwise remain on the shelf for months. I’m just going to burn a copy of the Halo 3 Beta when it becomes available! 😉

For those of you who are interested in learing how to be one of the lucky 13,333 who can earn a free copy of the Halo 3 Beta, read below.

The following text was taken from www.halo3.com:

The Xbox Live multiplayer public beta, which is a pre-release version of the multiplayer experience of Halo 3, is scheduled for availability in spring 2007 exclusively on Xbox 360. This beta also represents an opportunity for gamers to give information that will help in the development of Halo 3. Through the resulting feedback, Bungie Studios will be able to further refine and hone the end result of the game.

Phase one registration is now closed. If you have been selected to participate, congratulations and stay tuned for an email notification on the week of January 22-26, 2007.

For those of you that didn’t make it in – fret not as this phase one was just the first of three ways to secure an invite to participate in the development of Halo 3. The next two paths of entry are the following:
– Qualifying over Xbox Live via the “Rule of Three” program in early February
– Purchasing marked packages of the upcoming game Crackdown™, which hits store shelves in the U.S. on Feb. 20

Details of both of these programs are provided below.

Rule of Three Program
The “Rule of Three” program is currently planned for gamers (17 years and older) in the 50 United States (includes District of Columbia) and Canada who have access to an Xbox 360 Pro console or an Xbox 360 Core console with hard drive, a valid Xbox Live Gold subscription and the Halo 2 game.

It is a two-step process:
1. Participate in at least three hours of Halo 2 multiplayer sessions on your Xbox 360 console via Xbox Live during the three (3) day period beginning February 1st at 12:01 am EST and ending February 3rd at 11:59 pm EST.
2. After the three day window is over, head back over to www.halo3.com on February 5th and register.

If you are one of the FIRST 13,333 to do this (and meet the above requirements) you will receive an invite notification in February to participate in the Halo 3 Beta.

Please note that if you registered to participate in the Halo 3 Beta during Phase One and were not selected, that does not preclude you from registering again for during Phase 2.

Crackdown
When Crackdown hits store shelves (Feb 20 – North America, Feb 22 – Asian territories, Feb 24 – European markets), and you still haven’t secured a place in the Halo 3 multiplayer public beta you can still get in via specially marked boxes of Crackdown. These boxes of Crackdown include an invite to participate in the coveted Halo 3 multiplayer beta program when it becomes available. When the Halo 3 multiplayer beta surfaces in spring 2007, those owners of Crackdown that have access to an Xbox 360 Pro console or an Xbox 360 Core console with hard drive and a valid Xbox Live Gold subscription simply need to load their copy of Crackdown into Xbox 360 and use the disc as a key to download the beta from Xbox Live Marketplace and join the battle in Halo 3 multiplayer.

Hopefully this information provides some additional clarity. See you online!

*Limit one registration / Halo 3 beta invite per person and Xbox Live gamertag. Your invitation is non-transferable and cannot be redeemed for cash. The Halo 3 beta is available in English only.

JVC Everio HDD Camcorder – PowerDirector and PowerDVD


Creating .AVI and/or .MPG files from PowerDirector – I don’t recommend using PowerDVD.

I actually just found another program (that comes bundled with the JVC Everio) called Cyberlink PowerDirector. This program will allow you to export your video(s) as .AVI or .MPG1 or .MPG2 files. Here’s a brief overview of how to do it:

  1. Open PowerDirector (Duh)
  2. Import all of your .MOD files.
  3. Add all of your .MOD files to the timeline (or) If you want to create individual .AVI or .MPG files, add the files to the timeline individually.
  4. Once your timeline is setup how you’d like it, Click “Produce”
  5. Now select Save to File
  6. Finally Select .AVI or .MPG and select the directory that you’d like your file stored to.

I hope this helps, if anyone has a better method or a better software for doing this, please let me know!

Thanks in advance!

Convert MOD files to MPG or AVI – JVC Everio HDD Camcorder


So anyone who has purchased a JVC Everio HDD video camera has probably learned that they chose to use some god forsaken proprietary video format – the .MOD extension. Apparently this is some sort of MPEG2 encoding, however, most major video editing suites prefer not to accept this format… what we need is something more common… such as .AVI or .MPG. I would be happy with the .MOD file format if the software that came with the JVC Everio actually worked. I’ve tried creating multiple DVD’s using the PowerDVD software with no luck so far, it’ll get halfway through the process, and then something will fail. And instead of giving me a decent explanation of what failed, it says:

Disc buring has failed due to:
Not very helpful.


I actually just found another program (that comes bundled with the JVC Everio) called Cyberlink PowerDirector. This program will allow you to export your video(s) as .AVI or .MPG1 or .MPG2 files. Here’s a brief overview of how to do it:

  1. Open PowerDirector (Duh)
  2. Import all of your .MOD files.
  3. Add all of your .MOD files to the timeline (or) If you want to create individual .AVI or .MPG files, add the files to the timeline individually.
  4. Once your timeline is setup how you’d like it, Click “Produce”
  5. Now select Save to File
  6. Finally Select .AVI or .MPG and select the directory that you’d like your file stored to.

I hope this helps, if anyone has a better method or a better software for doing this, please let me know!

Update
This site has many different ways to convert MOD files. Check out some of the solutions.

Thanks in advance!

Costco Changes Return Policy for Consumer Electronics


Costco changed their return policy for all electronics purchases. Under the new policy, all electronics purchases as of 2007 can be returned “no questions asked” for up to 3 months after purchase, and up to 6 months for defective merchandise. This is a huge change to their policy, where all non-computer electronics returns were accepted for up to 3 years (sometimes 5 years) after purchase with the original receipt. The new policy is for all electronics, including televisions, stereos, GPSs, cameras, projectors, MP3 Players, and phones.

Costco stores will still accept returns for all electronics purchased within the last 3 years, but only for a few more weeks until members are notified about the new policy. The product being returned must include the original receipt, all manuals, cables, and everything which came in the original box. The original product box/packaging is not required for most electronics returns.

It was only a matter of time until Costco changed their return policy on electronics. It certainly makes sense to use their return policy before it disappears. Someone may have an moral concern about getting money today for double the price of what your electronics item is actually worth today, but keep in mind this was an advertised return policy and not a loophole being exploited. For a lot of people, the existence of this return policy helped them make more Costco purchases than they normally would have, so Costco may have had more purchases because of this return policy. It is likely they decided to change this policy now because HDTV prices are dropping at a rate of about 20% to 25% per year, which is now similar the rate of which computers drop in price. That may encourage more returns than they like, plus big screen HDTVs are lighter than older big screen TVs making them easier to return to the store.

All non-electronics purchases still can be returned years after purchase, with the original receipt. This includes clothes, non-perishable food, artwork, books, furniture, and tools. For questions about their new return policy, visit the customer service counter at your local Costco store.

The above story was taken from hotdealsclub.com