Thursday, January 15, 2009

Some money saving deals, for now

Well I guess I know why I tortured myself those other years. Staples has Quicken Deluxe + Turbo Tax + Internet security. The Quicken Deluxe + Turbo Tax is only 59.99 (it does require a rebate). However, with your Staples rewards its even less. I believe they have Internet Security for $9.99 so get it all in one place. Of course if you hate having to fill in rebates and that is worth $7 then the deal below is still the way to go.

The first deal is Quicken+Turbo Tax for ~$67, no driving required no rebates.
The second is for iGo tips (~$0.99) at Radio Shack on clearance.

Tax Software and Quicken
Every year I torture myself trying to find the best deal on
  1. Quicken
  2. Turbo Tax
  3. Internet Security

This year, thanks to pointers from others, I have a new favorite (though I have not completed phase 3 yet). Plus, I can now save hours not looking for deals.

I believe the total prices is ~78 dollars.

Amazon has 1+2 for $101.98 less a $35 instant rebate (put both in your cart and go to checkout) and free shipping. I did this a couple of days ago so it definitely works. This gives you Quicken and Turbo Tax for ~67 dollars (pretty good). I also think you can still combine this with the Staples deal for Internet security for $9. This puts your total at ~$78, which is pretty good.

Of course I am still annoyed that this does NOT get you efile. Sure, you get federal efile for free, but with state efile at almost $18, I will print out returns again this year.

iGo Tips

I don't have time to go into iGo in much detail, but you can check out their web site ( Note I use my iGo lightly (only when I travel) there have been some complaints about durability. I got my first pair of adaptors when RadioShack was closing stores for $25 each (iGo anywhere 70 watt). I also got some tips on closeout, for about $3 each.

Tips are normally about $10, which is way to high if you ask me. However, I was just in a local RadioShack and there were a bunch (not all) on sale for under $1. There was also the dual power adaptor for $1, which can be used with the main brick or with the appropriate adaptor in a car. Even better the list is available online ( so if you need tips now is the time.

Dual Boot Windows and Linux

This might seem like a dry topic, afterall everyone knows how to use grub to dual boot a system. However, how many people know that you can use the Windows bootloader for the same purpose. Moreover, I would argue that this is fundementally the right way to do it for most users for the following reasons
  • Linux is multiboot friendly, it won't generally trash your MBR unless you ask it
  • Linux programs are not MBR sensitive, the version of Partition Magic I had (as well as an old version of Norton System Works) both volunteered to "fix" my bad MBR. By which they meant kill my Linux login.
  • When you update windows you won't kill your Linux install
  • Everyone dual boots from grub, get yourself a little street credit

Of course if you are in a community where Windows is considered an evil, then even using the NT loader may be considered bad. However, everyone I show my system to says "hey how do I do that?" BTW if you are using grub and want to make Windows the default just move it up to the first slot.

Just to give you an idea what you are in for you will

Reinstall Grub not to the MBR (or whatever linux boot loader you want).

  • For example run Grub with the right parameters

Get a copy of the boot loader

  • Run dd

Fix your windows install so it owns the boot record

  • (install, repair)

Create the entry for dual booting.

A detailed list can be found at

However, there are a couple of short cuts. Note, most of this requires admin privlidges. Sudo is useful on Ubuntu and Debian linux distros.

For Step 1:

  • We will follow this as is. Simply install Linxu but DON'T put the boot in the MBR

For Step 2:

  • Copy the boot sector dd if=/dev/sda1 of=/tmp/linux.bin bs=512 count=1 (NOTE the drive is the drive you installed the linux boot to). This can be found by fdisk -l which should show a partition with system = Linux.
  • Modern Linux distros can mount an NT volume read write, there is no need to use a USB or floppy for the copy.
  • You can also follow the alternative instructions at it sounds like a cool way to do it.

For Step 3:

  • You can probably user the repair function, if you have an existing Windows install. That is what I did.

For Step 4:

  • Follow to edit
  • Or do
  • C:> cd \, C:> attrib -h -r -s boot.ini, C:> notepad boot.ini
  • Add a line "timeout=30" to the top
  • Add a line "c:\ubuntu.lnx="Ubuntu Linux" to the bottom

There you have it, a dual boot that starts with the Windows Boot Loader.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Three companies that can make your life a little better

As a happy liberal, I believe we should let the free market do what it does well (consumer stuff) and let government do what it does well (serious stuff). While the financial scandal on Wall Street, along with the housing bubble show the free market at it's lowest point there are some encouraging things about the free market as well. In the happy holiday spirit I would like to present some of these.

newegg, yep the online retailer. newegg is my favorite online retailer, I have used them since graduate school (and that was a long time ago). They have a fine BBB rating, but for me I respect them because

  • The price is always reasonable. Sometimes they are not the lowest, although they often are. But unlike Amazon they are NEVER the highest. Sure Amazon has everything, but some times at twice to four time the price you would pay elsewhere.

  • The shipping is crazy good, especially if you are on the East Coast (Midwest will be a little slower). For example I ordered a replacement fan for my computer on 12/17 and it came 12/18. As other people have commented (on the newegg site) the shipment sometimes arrives before the tracking confirmation.

  • They are fair. One thing that had kept me from blogging about newegg is that I am a very careful shopper. Until this year I had not needed to return anything. While it is impressive to provide excellent sales service, excellent return service is even more impressive.

  • They have a nice service where you can have them notify you if the price drops or shipping is free.

  • They quite often have a product in each class with free shipping (cables seem to be an exception). For instance the $7.50 120mm case fan had free shipping!

So despite what a few people have said newegg is an excellent online retailer. In this day and age where there are scams and other problems it is important to have a company you trust. Plus, if you want to know if you are getting a good price compare it to the newegg price.

Speaking of good return and customer service, the pinnacle of this has to be Proporta. I had a crystal case I bought from them. It is available from several merchants, even US ones. However, Proporta had very few complaints and cheaper shipping (despite being in the UK). It protected my Palm well, but eventually broke. Despite the fact it broke from a fall they offered to replace it. Further, since it was discontinued they let me upgrade to a more expensive case. Now that is good old fashion customer service, those from Chicago may remember the retailer Marshall Fields as having similarly excellent service. Add to this Proporta seems to always produce good stuff, and they don't (like most US firms) charge an arm and leg for accessories. For example take the Ted Baker Six pack (which I deeply regret not getting) Compared to what Radio Shack ( sells it is a little more expensive. However, the Proporta version has a 3400mah battery compared to 2100mah (in the same package size). The Proporta is beautiful, the Radio shack not so much. Finally, and what I love most about outside the US companies they charge ~$2 for the device heads. For the Radio Shack/ Lenmar you pay ~$6 per head (if you can find them, I can't any more). Also, despite the apparent similarity they don't have interchangeable heads.

Finally, we come to Limoliner ( Unlike the rolly polly Fung Wah Bus ( Limoliner competes in price with Amtrak (not the Acela However, Limoliner offers faster service (usually), much better food (which is included), and slow but usable Internet. Now sure if we subsidized trains better Amtrak could blow them away. But we don't and a bus still beats driving a single car for the environment. So for filling a niche in a good way we have to give props to the Limoliner.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Buying a portable shop vac

I have had a big Craftsman shop vac for some time. I bought it when it was on sale for ~$60. It's been great so far, bailed us (literally) out a couple of time from some minor floods. Also, the blower is pretty good for moving leaves around a small yard. However, it is chore to haul around our rather small house. Also, without a garage it is not ideal for car cleanup. So I began a search for a small vacuum that would be easy to port around. There are three contenders for me: Craftsman, Home Depot, and Lowes. My ideal vacuum would have standard hoses, a blower port, and have an available HEPA filter. However, as we can see in the table I could not find that feature set. For me the Craftsman makes the most sense, on sale for $50 it has interchangable hoses with my big shop vac. Since the big vac can be a blower I can use that with the small hoses to blow out our radiators (no I don't have a compressor and I wouldn't see myself hauling one upstairs anyway).

FeatureCraftsmanHome DepotLowes



Hose Size
2.5"1 7/8"1.5"
HEPA available

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Palm T|X Flash Memory Speed

I use Mapopolis (no longer available for sale) and was wondering if a high speed flash card would help. When I had my previous E2 it had a memory limit of 1GB, but with the T|X I can now use 2GB. This card was on sale for $14 at Staples, so I figured it was worth a try. There are lots of posts about card speed, measured with various utilities (but the numbers appear unreliable). I am a big fan of benchmarks that represent real world situations. Copying from my PC to this card (with my USB2 reader is faster than my old 1GB card). Even more important a nvbackup of my Palm was cut from 14 minutes to 4. So clearly the Palm T|X can benefit from at least this level of speed. Kind, of wish I had gotten the even faster card to benchmark :) Mapopolis seems more responsive, but it is a lot harder to benchmark. I've got all the US maps, and all the applications I use commonly on the card as well as an nvbackup image. This way if I have to do a factory reset all I need to do is reinstall from the card.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fun with the new T|X

Recently my son stepped on my Palm E2. He is only about five so the blame is mostly mine. Fortunately, it was not all bad. Ever since I bought the E2 for ~ 190 a couple of years ago I had wished I had something with a little more capabilites. Since the E2 met its demise with a broken screen the next order of business was a hard case from Proporta to protect the new device. I considered the aluminum cases, but they seemed somewhat less useful and awkward. I settled on a clear case which has been stepped on and is still ok. I like Proporta because they seem to charge very fair prices for products and shipping (despite being across the pond) the lifetime guarantee is nice as well.

Compared to the Palm E2 the extra processing power in the TX is really nice when running Mapopolis (too bad Mapopolis is no more and nobody else is making new GPS programs for the Palm). Fortunately, I live in the North East and there is not a lot of new construction so I don't need any updates yet. Strangely, Mapopolis only runs well (voice command work, does not crash) when run from a SD card.

The next step was to try and get the Palm TX to dial my brand new W385. The steps that worked for me are:

Easy Part

  1. Update the phone link application (I don't think this is necessary)
  2. Establish a bluetooth connection between the phone and TX

Hard Part (I found these on a couple of boards)

  1. Go to Prefs->Connection- select my phone connection and Edit-
  2. change the "Model:" to "Standard GSM" from the drop-down list-
  3. click on "Details..." button that appears-
  4. replace the Init String with "+MODE=2" (do not include the quotes)- click OK- click OK- click Done (sorry I have no idea why or how this works, any comments welcome)
  5. pull the battery
  6. reboot the palm
  7. use the dialer and presto!
  8. NOTE steps 6 and 7 ARE required and are often left out.

Now my Palm dials my phone.

Sunday, February 3, 2008