Category Archives: Uncategorized

Cheap Comcast for the Poor and Veterans

Comcast has cheap internet for people who get government housing or food assistance, and now also offers this for Veterans. For $10/month you get 15Mbps/sec download and 2Mbps/sec upload. This is 10x faster than the old DSL speeds and more than fast enough for streaming HD video. There are no charges for setup or equipment (modem/wifi router). If you qualify, it’s a great deal.

Go to:
https://internetessentials.com

Or call 855-846-8376

To qualify, you can’t have had Internet through Comcast in the last 3 months and you can’t have another Internet service.

I only wish this was promoted more, as there are lots of qualified people who have big $100/month bundle deals because they don’t know other options exist.

Through the Internet Essentials website from Comcast, customers can also order $150 computers. These are slower desktops and laptops (currently with Core 2 Duos and i3 CPUs) but they come with Windows 10, Office, and Norton Antivirus preinstalled. This is also a great deal if you qualify. Each household has up to 2 years to purchase the computers and can purchase up to 3 computers. CDI is the partner that runs the computer sales and they can be reached at 888-234-4272.

Amazon PrimePantry Review

Amazon recently launched a new service, currently just for Prime members, called Amazon PrimePantry.  The idea is you can order certain pantry-esque items (no cold food) and have them shipped in 1 big box for just $6.  I ordered an assortment of items that I thought might be challenging to deliver intact.  Amazon’s goal is to have it delivered within 4 business days.  The selection of items is rather limited but clearly Amazon is launching with items they believe they can handle successfully.

The first snafu came with the delivery timeframe.  It arrived late but Amazon did refund me the $6 shipping as they always do when an item is late.  Since I had ordered some detergent, toilet bowl cleaner, and water, that made the box rather heavy though it arrived with minimal damage.

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At first glance, things appeared fine.  The toilet paper and chips were not crushed.  Items were grouped into two compartments.  Unfortunately, once I started to remove items from the left side of the box, I noticed everything was sticky.  I assumed something must’ve leaked.  Sadly, two items had.  The detergent had a small crack in the bottom and the soup box had been malformed to the point of leakage.

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Oh, the carnage!  Someone has shot my soup!  Who would do such a thing?  I suspect Chef Boyardee.

Sadly, I think local groceries don’t have much to fear from PrimePantry quite yet.  The prices were nothing special and waiting 4 days is a little too long for most people.  The potential shipping problems are obvious.  I suspect this is currently just an experiment for Amazon which is why they’ve limited it to Prime members.  There are rumors that Amazon is looking into becoming their own delivery service which would replace the likes of UPS who delivered this order.  When and if that happens, Amazon might be able to provide the delicate care such a delivery needs.  In the meantime, its hard to recommend.

 

Fax a PDF from a Mac

Faxing seems to be an ancient technology that just won’t die.  It is still embraced, often even preferred or required, by many businesses.  Most people don’t want to have to own a fax machine any more but do have to fax from time to time.  There is a modern day solution.  You can easily fax any PDF from a Mac.  And since you can convert anything in a browser to a PDF easily on a Mac, it allows you to fax almost anything you could print out.

Apple makes a USB fax modem but sadly, they’ve not maintained it so it doesn’t work on the latest Macs any more.  Fortunately, US Robotics makes a great US Robotics USB Fax Modem that is compatible with a Mac.

Once plugged into a Mac, you’ll notice you have gained a new option via the Print PDF menu.

If you’re like me and have dropped your expensive home phone service for a cheaper Voice over IP phone line, then you may have a little more work to do to actually get a fax to go through.  In the case of the popular Ooma Telo Free Home Phone Service, you have to tell the line that you are about to fax so it can optimize the connection.  This is done by prepending a *99,, to the phone number you are faxing to.

Online Travel Sites

Reagan National Airport

Online travel booking is easier than ever. And for us lucky folk in Washington DC with three airports (Dulles, Reagan, and BWI) there are flights everywhere and lots of deals. Below are some useful travel sites.

Travel Reservations

Travelocity – early leader in online reservations with roots back to CompuServe and AOL. Now known for the gnome commercials.

Orbitz – developed by airlines in response to Expedia and Travelocity.

ITA – uses the search system that powers Orbitz, but allows far more complex trips.

Priceline – offers standard purchases or allows you to name your own price for flights, hotels, and car rentals. Pitchman is now William Shatner.

Expedia – started by Microsoft, bought by Ticketmaster, now independent.

Hotwire – owned by Expedia. Unique in that you purchase hotels based on location and star rating. You only find out the name of your hotel after the purchase.

Kayak – travel search aggregator. Kayak does not directly sell tickets, but links to all the sites that do and makes a small amount of money on click throughs.

Bing Travel– recently renamed from Forecast.com, now owned by Microsoft. This site has flight price trends and predictions to help you decide if you should buy or wait for a better fare. It’s not perfect has helped me on a couple of occasions with suggestions to wait for a better price.

Special Airlines

JetBlue and Southwest airlines are not part of the above travel reservation sites. You can only book with them directly.

Other Resources

The Savvy Traveler Blog – deals and news by Rudy Maxa who often discusses travel on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show on NPR in DC.

Flyertalk – forum for frequent flyers to discuss deals and reward programs. This is where serious deal seekers go to discuss optimizing their points and airline status.

Liftopia – discount ski lift tickets and ski hotel deals.

TripBuzz – find local activities.

Have other travel resource recommendations? Email me to let me know.

6/12/16 UPDATES: Updated ITA Link and added TripBuzz, thanks to Phoebe.

Microsoft Security Essentials

Microsoft officially released Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) today. It is a free tool to protect your computer from malware, viruses, spyware, rootkits, and trojans. Unlike the previously released Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT), MSE runs all the time and actively searches for threats.

Blurb from Microsoft:
Microsoft Security Essentials

Early tests show MSE to be very effective at catching threats. It updates itself automatically and without hassle.

It takes over all antivirus functions and is recommended to be run as the ONLY antivirus software on a computer. You should not run it alongside other popular software such as Norton Antivirus, McAfee, or AVG. Presumably this would cause the antivirus software to fight it out on your computer, hurting system resources and confusing one antivirus program, for example, when it finds a virus in the other antivirus’ quarantined vault.

I recommend this for all Windows computers: Windows XP, Vista, and 7.  The only exceptions are pirated versions of Windows since MSE requires Windows Genuine Advantage to run and make sure that your copy of Windows is legit.

MSE has a small footprint with low minimum requirements:

  • For Windows XP, a PC with a CPU clock speed of at least 500MHz and at least 1GB of RAM
  • For Windows Vista and Windows 7, a PC with a CPU with clock speed of at least 1.0GHz and at least 1GB of RAM
  • VGA (display): 800×600 or higher
  • Storage: 140MB of available hard-disk space
  • An Internet connection is required for installation and to download the latest virus and spyware definitions

MSE Quick Scan