« October 2008 | Main | December 2008 »

November 29, 2008

Sell It on eBay - The Sequel

Last year I bought a 4 GB SD card that it turned out was incompatible with my Palm, so I decided to sell it on eBay and actually wound up making about $10 profit. This year, I bought some new memory for my laptop computer so I had two 1 GB memory boards that I no longer needed. I figured I would try selling them on eBay.

The process was much the same as last year but the price had gone up from 20 cents to 35 cents to post an ad. That's still less than a stamp. I took a picture and wrote up an ad and decided that a 5-day ad would be appropriate (last year I did a 7-day ad which was probably too long except that I ended up revising my ad a little). That was Wednesday evening, so the 5-day period would cover all of the big Thanksgiving shopping weekend but still give people who shop from work or school a chance to see the ad on Monday before it closed out.

Still, I didn't get any bids until tonight, when the first bid came in at the minimum of 99 cents. That's good because that means that at least I will sell it and somebody else will be able to use the memory. Also I am charging $4.60 for shipping and handling like I did last year. I told Mom that if I got a second bid, the price would probably go up pretty quickly to $5 or so because the first bidder probably bid more than the minimum of 99 cents. A few hours later, the price had jumped up to $7.20 when a competing bid was entered. I don't know how much higher it will go, but it would be great if it would get up to $20 because that's how much I got the upgraded memory for (after a $40 mail-in rebate, so I'm also out $4.20 in sales tax) and that would pay for itself!

Here's the listing.

November 27, 2008


It's been a long time coming, but I finally got a Blu-ray DVD player. I was psyched when I first heard about the new high-definition DVD's that were planned. But then Sony introduced one standard and a competing standard called HD DVD was being developed too. So there was a long format war with studios lining up on different (sometimes both) sides. Buy the wrong technology and you'd be stuck with a dinosaur. That's ultimately what happened to those early adopters who bought the lower tech, more affordable HD DVD players.

But even after the format war ended early this year, Blu-ray players were expensive, about $400. You could just buy a Playstation 3 which could play Blu-ray discs for about the same price. I kept shopping and waiting for the prices to come down. I think the weak dollar over the summer kept that from happening as quickly, but now the recession and a stronger dollar have worked their magic. Fry's had an ad the day before Thanksgiving for a Panasonic player for less than $200. That's a pretty good price point, plus they had a great special on memory for my laptop so that I was able to upgrade from 2 GB to 4 GB for only $20. And since they were offering a 2 GB SD card for 99 cents after a $5 rebate, I got one of those too. I should have done more research on this particular player, but Fry's doesn't tell you in the ad what model it is. It turns out it is a DMP-BD30, a model introduced last year, but one that got good reviews on Amazon.

Last night I went to Hollywood Video and rented a Blu-ray disc to try out the new player. I rented No Country for Old Men which I had been putting off seeing due to the violence and murky ending (still a good movie). It was a good one to try out Blu-ray since the Coen brothers make such nice-looking movies. It was a very simple matter of disconnecting the old DVD player and connecting the new one. Since the old one was a Panasonic as well, I didn't even have to change the settings on my universal remote control.

But Hollywood Video charges an arm and a leg for Blu-ray movies. This one was over six dollars I think. So I went ahead and signed up for Netflix who charge one dollar extra per month if you want Blu-ray movies. I'll probably do Netflix for a couple of months, though I should have waited and signed up first thing Friday morning since they won't be shipping today anyway.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

November 18, 2008

Fantastic Contraption

My old roommate, Rich, sent me this website. He has a Master's in Physics and another one in Engineering Science and knew I would like it. I can't really explain it, so you will just have to visit. Basically you build mechanical contraptions to move an object to a certain spot.


It starts out easy, of course. Then it gets harder and harder and the contraptions required get more and more complicated. I started out by always building a little car that would take the object wherever it needed to go. Once you finish a level you can save it or you can look at other people's solutions. If you buy the program, then you can rate people's solutions. There are thousands of solutions, but the really good ones are the 4 and 5 star solutions. The 5-star solutions are just amazing. There are catapults, chains, spear throwers, cranes, lifts, and so on. Some solutions just stumble along, some are just beautiful. Mine are usually cars.

Try the game out first. The tutorial is pretty short and you can do the first few levels in a few minutes each. After you check things out, you can look at some of the ones I did, with links below. Feel free to share your own designs too.


This one is a typical example of one of my designs, for Up the Hump:

Bendy Truck

This one is a little more elegant, with the nice touch of leaving the object in the target zone permanently, for Around the Bend:


This is an amazing solution (by someone else) to the level Mission to Mars:

Major Tom


November 15, 2008

Cheap Gas

I saw gas last night for $1.95 a gallon. When gas was $4 a gallon a couple of months ago, people were rushing to dump their trucks and SUV's to get more efficient vehicles. So has the opposite happened now that gas is cheap again? Since car shopping in May, I've been on a bunch of car dealers' e-mail lists. I got an e-mail this week from a Toyota dealer saying they are having a Prius Clearance Event, a "blow out" sale on 25 cars, selling them at dealer invoice cost.

November 8, 2008

Wordpress Blog

A guy wrote to me last weekend and said it would be nice to have a blog or discussion area on legislative issues for the Engineer's Association website. I know that the web hosting company will allow a blog because we already have a discussion area set up that I've talked about before.

I told the guy I could just add a legislative subforum and he could post issues there and people could discuss them, or I could set up a blog where he could post upcoming bills and people could then comment or ask questions. Really, since the whole site is based on the template for my blog, the whole website could probably be a blog, though I'm not sure how it would work having the different districts and so forth.

I added the subforum to the discussion area, but I kind of wanted to try out installing a blog. Wordpress, a competitor to Movable Type which is used here, is supposed to be a little easier to set up. It really wasn't too bad. I downloaded the installation file, then expanded it using cPanel File Manager. Because it expanded itself into a folder called Wordpress, I had to move everything up a level to put it in the "blog" folder I wanted it to be in. Then I set up a subdomain so that people could get there by typing:


I had to set up a new database in my MySQL control panel and assign a user (I chose user "admin" but the problem there is that account used an old password and I couldn't figure out how to change it, so I deleted admin and added a new one called admin with a new password; then the forum broke down since it uses the same user but now had an outdated password, so I had to modify its config.php file as well with the new password). Then I just edited the wp-config.php file with the database info. I messed up there by not remembering that the real name of the database was gdotea_blog instead of just blog and the account name was gdotea_admin instead of just admin.

Once I did that I was kind of off to the races except that something I did seemed to have made the entire website stop working. The webhost tech support either fixed it or pointed out that it wasn't actually broken (I still have no idea what was going on). Anyway, now I have a blog set up.

It isn't nearly as configurable as Movable Type. Movable Type does a lot of formatting of the look and feel of the site via styles which are coded. The only thing I could change in Wordpress was the background and text color of the header. For the rest of the appearance Wordpress uses graphics to create the background color, borders, etc. If you want to change any of that you would have to change the six or so graphics that make up header, body, and footer. Which I still might do. Not as configurable but easier to install. That's kind of the standard tradeoff for computer stuff.