Archive for June, 2006
Raise your hand if you have at least one iPod or other MP3 player? Two? Three? More?
I don’t know how this happens but it seems to happen a lot. Perhaps it’s our desire to have the latest and greatest, or maybe everyone in the family needs their own device, but somehow we end up with a lot more of these and other gadgets than we care to admit. In my household we have no less than four MP3 players; seems a bit ridiculous but that’s the reality.
So you have an iPod Video, an iPod Nano, perhaps a Rio Carbon and a Gizmo Wambang (ok, I made that one up) and you want to be able to listen to these devices in a family room when company comes over or in your office. Don’t fall into the trap of buying one of those cool looking docking stations you see in the electronics store. If you’re like me, you see these and are drawn to them, but if you’re strong, you say, “NO, I don’t need that”, and you walk away, only to make your way back to the same spot next time. While these are nifty little toys they’re not very practical because they’re manufacturer and, often times, model dependent. If you’re not careful you’ll find yourself in a situation where you go out and spend $300 bucks on a cool docking station and it works great, then the next year’s must-have player comes out and, guess what, it doesn’t work with the docking station.
In order to have a solution that works for all of my players, I bought an inexpensive set of desktop speakers, set them up in my kitchen, and can now plug them into whichever player I want.
It may not be as pretty a solution but it sure is more practical. It’s also guaranteed to work with any player whether it be today’s generation or the Gizmo Wambang that comes out 5 years from now.
Are you contemplating a purchase of a new hybrid or alternative-fuel vehicle? Depending on your motivation, this may, or may not, be such a good move.
If you’re considering a hybrid and your motivation is to save money in light of higher fuel prices, you’ll be disappointed with the results. According to Consumer Reports findings “two of the six hybrids [in the analysis] recovered their price premium in the first five years and 75,000 miles of ownership. The Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid provide a savings of about $400 and $300, respectively, when compared with their all-gas counterparts – as long as federal tax credits apply. But extra ownership costs during the first five years and 75,000 miles for the other four hybrids ranged from an estimated $1,900 to $5,500, compared to similar all-gas models.”1 Even though there is a very small savings of $300 – $400 over five years, this isn’t compelling from a cost savings perspective.
What about alternative fuels? While the technology for alternative-fuel vehicles has come a long way, the most accessible option available in the United States is E85 / Ethanol. According to an article in Popular Mechanics it would take 4.5 barrels of crude oil to produce the 97 gallons of gasoline needed to drive a small car from New York to California at a total cost of about $212. In order to make the same trip in an E85 / Ethanol vehicle it would take 53 bushels of corn and a half-barrel of crude oil to make 176 gallons of E85 at a cost of $425. Why the extra 79 gallons of fuel? Unfortunately a gallon of E85 contains less energy than the same gallon of gasoline. To put it simply, to equal the distance traveled on a gallon of gasoline, it takes 1.56 gallons of E85 to travel the same distance. Maintenance costs between the E85 and all-gas vehicle over 5 years and 75,000 should be pretty much the same but, using PM’s numbers, fuel for the E85 vehicle is 50% higher than its all-gas cousin.
While neither of these options are appealing from a cost perspective, both produce less emissions than a gasoline only vehicle. Another positive is both solutions decrease the amount of gasoline used which could, some day, decrease (even if only slightly) the amount of oil needed for import into the United States.
Technology in this space is advancing rapidly and will, no doubt, significantly improve in the future. A lot of folks are jumping into this game early. As long as the motivation isn’t cost savings but an eased conscience then good for them, but I think I’ll stick to my all-gas vehicle for now.
If you’re reading this article then I assume you’re, at least, a little interested in technology. If you’re a little interested in technology, then I assume you own a digital camera. You do — right?
If you answered no to that question and you’re not shooting film because your a professional photographer, then I have just one question for you – why? Whatever your reason, I can give you two simple reasons to change. No, I’m not going to say because everyone else is. An even more compelling reason is that the film manufactures are starting to drop production of some films & paper and camera manufactures are starting to drop development and production of new film cameras. Face it, film is on it’s way out (at least for the average guy), it’s only a matter of time.
If that’s not enough to convince you then the convenience of digital should be. Not only can you take many more photos with a digital camera (and a large media card) but you can pick and choose which are printed and make improvements to those selections, such as red-eye reduction, etc. before the printing takes place.
If you’re already a digital user, or are a film user that I have persuaded to come to the digital side, what do you do with all of those photos that are just crying to be shared. Printing your photos and placing them in a photo album is great, but who really sees them? If you’re like me, you may not even live in the same town, state or country as your family or others that may like to see these photos. That said, most of us now have internet access, and more and more have broadband access which makes sharing our photos online a much better solution than putting them into a printed photo album alone.
If you research photo sharing services on the internet, you’ll soon be overwhelmed with options and will find a wide assortment of services, some free and some not. I have tried just about every service that’s out there, and in my experience, there is none better than SmugMug.
My main reason for choosing these guys is the simplicity of their service. Not only is the site easy to use and fantastically intuitive, it’s also totally customizable for those of you that want (or need) to integrate the pages into an existing site. Another great thing about the folks over at SmugMug is that they’re a very cheeky group – and I mean that in the nicest way. Read through their site and you’ll quickly see what I mean.
Two thumbs up for SmugMug – if you need an online storage site for your photos and a place to create online photo albums that you can share, there’s no better place to be.