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sC#rambled - Computers & Other Gadgets

Intro from college days: So I'm a computer geek. That picture over on the right used to be my computer desk, but now it's nowhere near that bad. Now, instead of cramming everything onto one desk and the edge of my bed, I have different desks on three sides of my room! One of the benefits of moving to an actual bedroom rather than an 8x10 "cell." Anyway, the plan with this page was to give an in-depth look into all the "computers" in my life, from the obvious "normal" computers, to cell phones, pda's, or anything with a "computer" inside it.

Page Updated January 2021

Real Computers

It's true. I finally own a mac. Well, my employer owns a Mac that I use. It comes complete with the magical touch bar which allows me to play a super-tiny piano as well as pretend my computer is KITT. Mostly it lets me log in with my finger. Like I've been able to do on Lenovos for years. I still drive at least 3 external displays with this, so my productivity has not been hampered.

Summer 2019 - upgraded to a 2.3GHz i9, 32 GB 2400 MHz DDR4 w/Radeo Pro 560X. Whoo - beefy!

  • 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7
  • 16 GB 2133 MHz LPDDR3
  • 512GB SSD
  • 15.4" retina display
  • 4x UCB C w/thunderbolt 3
  • March, 2017
As mentioned above (or more likely, below, depending on how this table shifts), our 6pack was constantly having problems - usually when I was out of town, so I finally broke down and bought a dedicated NAS to serve as our home server. Going on 3 years now, and it's still ticking away nicely.

For awhile it was serving as our home theater PC, since it comes with a remote and HDMI-outputs. Eventually, that was just replaced with an excellent RokuTV which is much easier to manage. Now it's primarily a file server; I've tried a couple of other apps on it including a virtual Windows, but it's too underpowered for that.

It does, however, make a great DVR for home security cameras, which was a pleasant surprise for me - I tried one of those all-in-one kits and discovered it spamming my network with outrageous traffic. Now, however, I can just hook up regular POE IP cameras up to our network (or even a dedicated subnetwork with the NAS's multiple NICs) and have full control of the system. Nice!

  • QVR 453A
  • An embarrassing Celeron CPI
  • 8GB RAM
  • 2-row 16-character LCD backlit display (whoo!)
  • Otherwise, headless
  • 3x 4TB NAS-grade drives in RAID5 (getting full; need to add a new drive soon!)
  • 2018
Not sure exactly what prompted replacing the Aspire, but we went through a couple of iterations before landing on this one. Not wanting to spend a ton, we first tried a Chromebook or two. I had attempted this in the past (probably when we got the Aspire) but once again came up short. Even though this was mainly for Amanda to do web-based work, it constantly failed to connect to our network, and of course, there was always an extra app needed that wouldn't work.

So we settled on this guy - actually got an excellent deal on it, and it's been working wonderfully. With its hinge it also doubles as a nice Lego instructions reader for those MOCs or old builds where we're lacking some paper manuals!

  • Um, I'll get to this eventually
  • 360-degree rotating hinge!
  • December, 2019
Since we bought a house with a cute little desk nook in the kitchen, having the giant desktop computer on the main floor was unpractical. This Acer Aspire E 15 is pretty much Amanda's computer now. The case is sort of cheapey plastic, but the guts are pretty decent. Plus it has a full keyboard which makes it useful for her tasks.

December, 2019 - It has lost a key or two, but still ticking. Upgraded to a new Flex computer and handed this one down to H.

  • Intel Core i7-7500U 2.7 GHz
  • 8GH DDR4
  • 256GB SSD
  • 15.6" Full HD
  • Fall, 2017
Replacing Digiv aka Digiv7, I was initially going to build a machine with killer guts, but then when I saw a deal on this one, I snapped it up right away. I wasn't planning on another BluRay machine, but the fact that it came with a drive and the requisite software was a bonus. In fact, it made me get some 'real' software for Digi6Pack, so now all 3 of the main screens in my home can run BluRay. The touch-screen was a great bonus for this Windows-8 machine, and the card reader and easily-accessible (and numerous) USB ports made this one a no-brainer.

Really lacking in name creativity, I decided that since this one had an i7 in it, I'd just drop the 'v' off of its predecessor and call it Digi7. Never mind that the previous 7 stood for the version of Windows running on it...

Jan 2021 - Really? This thing is almost a decade old? It still runs our Plex server, my Lego build screen, and anything Windows I need (now that my company has prohibited Parallels on my Mac)

  • Intel Core i7-3770 3.4GHz quad
  • 16GB DDR3
  • 250GB SSD + 5TB
  • 23" 10-point Touchscreen
  • BluRay, USB3.0
  • December, 2013
It's been almost a decade since I've built a computer from parts, but I finally did it to create our new Media computer / primary server. Originally planning to stuff it into a tiny box, I eventually ended up with a pretty average mid-sized case. I'm still considering putting an even larger (quieter) fan on the CPU and replacing the power supply with a PicoPSU for a totally silent operation, but since this is driving a projector screen, the loudest part of the system is already the projector.

The name is a little lame, but one of the guides I followed for compatible parts called their system an A-6Pack, so I followed suit.

Image - from a fuzzy phone-pic I took of the whole thing one night. Given the scene, I felt a little Inception-like. I promise the basement's not always that messy - and we actually have real speakers in the system now, rather than a 14-year-old RCA system.

September 2017 - As this likes to die every time I leave on a work trip, it no longer serves as our primary household media server. I'm not actually sure what I plan to do with it, but it could certainly still be used for something, right?

  • AMD A6-3500 65w 3-Core CPU
  • 4GB DDR3-1866
  • 64GB SSD
  • 106" HD Screen
  • BluRay, USB3.0
  • July, 2012

I'm incredibly creative at naming things... It's a Lenovo ThinkPad R61.

With my smart phone and tablet, I'm using this less and less. But it's still good for tech work on the road, and as a backup when our desktop takes a dive every once in awhile.

Jan 2013 - Dang. This thing keeps on tickin'. It's heavy and has no battery life, but it's still an excellent tool for remote development, at least when there's an outlet nearby.

2015 - Bought a new battery for this, and now my daughters use it for various homeschooling activities!

  • T8100: 2.1 GHz Intel Core2Duo
  • 4GB DDR2 667mhz
  • WSXGA+ 16800x1050 15.4" LCD
  • 160GB ??
  • May, 2008
Computers which have passed on, but still hold a dear place in my heart
Computers which have passed on, but still hold a dear place in my heart
EpicSomething (the # changes with approximately bi-annual upgrades)

My layout at Epic circa 2011, and part of my 10 displays including the USB monitor, digital picture frame, and Cisco IP Phone. I have a classy (though unfortunately mac PowerPC-based) motherboard clipboard, 3 sets of Bucky Balls, and various computer hardware pinned to the wall. Unseen are my 4 large whiteboards, binder clip collection, giant CDA printout, and comic-filled bulletin board. Oh, and sitting on top of one of the whiteboards is a mini Pentium collection with a very relevant Weird Al song title emblazoned underneath.

See desk circa 2010, where I only had two widescreens... I know... shameful.

2014 - Everything's driven off a laptop now, including a 27" 1440p monitor! Check it out!

2017 - Alas, I have left the land of Epic. This computer (or one of its replacements) is likely still going strong in Verona, WI, but it will probably never drive as many monitors as it did when it was mine.

  • ThinkPad T450s
  • 2.7GHz Core i7
  • 12GB DDR3
  • 1x 27" 1440p
    2x 23" widescreen FHD
    1x 15" laptop display
    1x 7" USB monitor
  • 500GB SSD
  • CMStorm Backlit Mx-Blue Mechanical Keyboard
Asus Transformer Prime
While technically a 'portable electronic device', this thing has replaced my laptop as my primary mobile device. I'm officially an early-adopter, at one point having 4 separate pre-orders out for the thing. Though some received theirs before I, I was one of the very few to have both pieces of it in the first week. It's an Android tablet, now (Jan 2012) with Ice Cream Sandwich, and so much power and battery life, it'll keep me going for quite awhile.

Oct 2012 - Keepin' up with updates. Jelly Bean! Still a good tablet, but performance/quality problems have plagued this model. Usually it works fine, but it does tend to hiccup more than it should.

Jan 2014 - As much as I wanted to drop-kick this down the stairs to claim my SquareTrade warranty, I'm more honest than that. Still, on its second trip to SquareTrade, they gave up and said, "we can't fix this, here's an Amazon gift card." Net result: brand new Kindle Fire HDXes for both my dad and me!

  • Tegra 3 Quad-core (w/5th companion core)
  • 32gb storage + 32gb microSD
  • 10.1" 1280x800 multi-touch screen
  • 18+ hour battery life w/full qwerty keyboard

It's a Dell Vostro 220s. V for vostro!

The shuttle started crashing all the time, even after a fresh Windows install. I figured it was time to replace it, since it's getting on in years. Amazingly, within a week, this one was doing the same thing! I then learned that it's a bug in Remote Desktop that crashes a computer if you connect with a high color depth while another computer is connected with a low color depth.

Nov 2013 - Power supply died for the second time. This time it took out most of the motherboard with it. Alas, while it was still running very well with the SSD, it was ultimately replaced by Digi7

  • 3GHz Core2Duo
    (E8400, 6M cache, 1333fsb)
  • 4GB DDR2 800MHz
  • 22" 1920x1080 Full HD LCD
  • 3x1TB drives + 1x240GB SSD
  • 16x DVD RW Burner
  • June, 2009

As you'll learn, this name follows the rest of my creative-naming schemes.

When DigiMuzik died, Amanda couldn't stand being without a computer upstairs. Plus, I'd been having my eyes on the new netbooks, and the MSI Wind seemed to be the best one around. We didn't want to spend too much, but I got a great bargain on this little bugger. Now as of 2012, the battery no longer works and the wifi and webcams are wonky, but it's served as a backup in a pinch, and I keep meaning to set it up as the kids' computer.

  • Intel Atom 1.6Ghz, OC to 1.98Ghz
  • 2GB DDR2
  • 1280x600 10" LCD
  • 160GB HD
  • Nov, 2008

Super-Creatively named because it's a Shuttle XPC.

Now that it's been replaced with digiv, it will likely become a media computer. It's currently hooked up to our downstairs TV, and I'm trying to get some sort of DVR software running on it. At least the lid is back on the case; the replacement power supply is too large to fit inside, so it's snaking its way in through a hole in the back.

Fall, 2010 - I finally sold this one in a purge of non-working computer parts. It makes me sad, but the thing was mis-behaving on many levels.

  • 2.66 GHz Pentium 4
  • 1.5GB PC2700
  • 2x Mitsubishi Diamond Plus 17"
  • Seagate 7200rpm 120GB
  • Lite-On 16/48 DVD/CDRW
  • Fall 2003 - Fall 2010
DigiMuzik a.k.a "DigiDoggie"

It's portable and follows me around everywhere (Blame Russ)

Trivia: Almost everything in this thing except the battery and CPU has been either upgraded (it has more memory/HD than that now) or replaced on warranty. So much for high-quality dells...

Sadly, this guy has passed on. When it overheats, it freezes, no matter what OS I try. I may continue to tinker with it, but I may end up just selling parts.

  • 2.0 GHz Pentium 4M
  • 512MB PC2100
  • UXGA 1400x1050 14.1" LCD
  • Hitachi 5400rpm 40GB
  • 16/24 DVD/CDRW
  • February, 2003 - October, 2008

Musical Instruments

Clavinova CVP-307

What would a musician be without a piano? And what would a computer-loving musician be without a digital piano? In the spring of 2009, I finally purchased my pride and joy: a Yamaha Clavinova CVP-307. This baby has it all: the touch of a baby grand, beautiful sound that uses microphones in the cabinet to sample reverberations in the room to give the sound richness and texture, hundreds of sounds, styles (to auto-accompany whatever you play) and songs (which you can play from music directly on the screen), USB storage, digital recording, video out (for large screen playback. including karaoke), and dozens of vocal harmonization configurations.

Check out the whole story on my family blog!

Roland JV-90

Prior to the Clavinova, this was my only piano. Well, I guess the girls probably have a dozen keyboard toys between the two of them, but they don't count. It's the same one my sister had when I stayed with them in high school for a summer. At the time, she was leading the worship band for her church, and this is an excellent performance keyboard. It's small enough to be portable, has lots of expandability options, and most importantly, is very easy to control / switch between patches during a live performance. You even get a mini-mixing console to adjust levels! My two biggest complaints are that it doesn't have a very good 'piano' sound (though MIDIed Grand is a decent pop alternative), and its 28-voice polyphony is VERY low, especially when some voices use up to 4 samples per note. I also never really liked having the sound come out of a big amp (which is starting to get old and flaky), and I didn't have the space or money to set up nice studio speakers for it. I do, however, like the rest of the sounds, including an expansion board I got with the thing, and I still use it from time to time at my church when I want something more than a plain piano (the ALESIS we have is terrible at switching patches!).

Portable Electronics

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 - December, 2012
The Desire was showing its age, even running the fastest custom ROM possible. At the time, the Samsung Galaxy GS3 was out, and I could possibly imagine using something that big. My team lead at work had a Note1, and we were all making fun of him for having such a huge device. Well, I was pretty unimpressed with all the other devices available at the time, and I figured if was I going to have a big phone (GS3 was about the only viable option), I might as well get the best one out there, with an active stylus to boot. In all honesty, it's smaller than the Note 1. And with the case and holster combo I bought (my gadget nudity preference outdone by US Cellular's awful Belief plan bait-n-switch - a different story - canceling my self-insurance plan), it's not a pocket-killer. It feels great to use, and I honestly do use the stylus for certain specific uses.

October, 2014 - Upgraded to a Note 4. I love this series of phones!

September-November 2016 - Went through two Note 7's and an S7 edge before going back to a Note 4 due to the Note 7 battery kerfuffles. Alas, I need to wait a year and hope there's a Note 8.

September, 2017 - Yay! There's a Note 8, and somehow I got an amazing deal on it!

September, 2019 - Really odd experience where this phone stopped charging. Tried getting it "repaired" twice (both places just tried to replace the battery), but eventually it was dead. I'm a holdout for the headphone jack, so even though the Note 10 was available, I went with a Note 9 to keep going a little longer (and to not pay $1000 for a new phone...)

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9" - January, 2014
When I got the Note, I found I was using a tablet a lot less. And when the Transformer Prime started driving me crazy by freezing and underperforming at everything, I began looking for alternatives. My kids, however, were starting to use the tablet a lot more than I, so when I heard about Kindle FreeTime, a service that locks down apps, removing IAP's and advertising, just for kids, it seemed like a clear win for a device. Plus it was the cheapest "real" Android tablet option out there. I initially got the previous-gen model last October, since I got a killer deal on it. While that's still a great tablet, when I finally got the Prime declared dead through StraightTalk, I splurged and got the newest one for my Dad! (The Mayday feature should come in very handy there!) This thing is zippy fast and really light - a great bonus for my carpal-pained wrists.

October, 2014 - This was becoming a kids' tablet (Kindle FreeTime is awesome), but Amazon has some issues with how they store apps (5 different profiles on the device = quickly running out of room!). So I bought a pint-sized 64-gig Fire HDX 7" for the kids with a cool bumper case, and am keeping this one for myself. Maybe now I'll put a real Android OS on here...

January, 2021 - Would you believe this thing is still going?! My wife has mostly laid claim to it, though I still returned to it from time to time, usually to view comics on a bigger screen. Last Black Friday, though, I ended up getting the new HD 10 (uh, twice, but that's a long story), so I'm not about 50 Android versions behind. Also, it has a slightly larger screen (and great speakers). Still, there's nothing quite as elegant as that original HDX!

HTC Desire - September, 2010
Androids... everybody needs good androids... (In an episode of the awesome Red Dwarf show). Despite my comments about cell phones (see the Rokr Z6m section), my time with an iPod Touch and the Dell Axim before that showed me that a pocket device can be so much more. In the fall of 2010, I joined the Android craze, and it couldn't have been at a better time. The operating system really has many of its kinks worked out, and the app store is very mature. Moreover, however, US Cellular finally has these, so I didn't have to jump ship to Verizon. I am very happy with my HTC Desire (rooted and modded with CyanogenMod), and seem to post about it often.

November 2011 Update - Tried to upgrade to a Motorola Electrify, but this Desire more than holds its own, so I'm going to hang onto it a bit longer. Plus 4G is coming next year...

January 2013 Update - This is still a great little device, but with the obtention of my Note 2, this has turned into a gaming device for the kids...which is great, since they no longer need to "play with the iPod."

Amazon Kindle 3 - December, 2010 / Paperwhite - October, 2012 / Voyage - ??? / Oasis - November, 2020
A year ago, I was trying to decide between a Kindle and an I-can't-believe-I'm-considering-it iPod Touch. Since they were running around the same price, it seemed crazy to get something that could ONLY read books (though since I didn't have a smart phone at the time, the free-for-life Internet browsing was tempting). A year later and realizing that I don't read as many books as I thought I would (partially because I hate staring at a glowing screen at night), I started looking at the Kindle again. Plus the fact that it's less than half the price it used to be makes it even more tempting. But this year people are saying: Get an iPad that does so much more than read books. Well... yes... at 3 times the weight and price. Plus now that I've re-converted away from Apple again (Android is SO freeing), I'm not that tempted to go back. The Kindle is so light and easy to read, I've gone through 3-4 full-sized books in less than two weeks (a big deal for a full-time software developer and devoted husband/father). I try not to spend money on books, since I can get them at the library for free, but so far, I have a pretty good backlog of promotionally-free books plus another half-dozen brand new ones from my 'Professional Development Fund' at work, so I should be good for a couple of months, at least!

October 2011 Update - New Kindles came out. Not impressed. I don't want to muck up my screen with fingerprints, and, while mildly horrendous, the keyboard is much better than having to arrow around a virtual keyboard.
Also, I've learned that Amazon has awesome customer service! I dropped my Kindle on the sidewalk almost a year after purchasing it. At first I thought it was okay, but when I turned it on, the screen was completely shot. Figuring I'd just have to buy a new one, I called up Amazon to just see if there were any options. After honestly saying I dropped it, they still sent me a brand new Kindle under warranty for free! That is how you keep a customer, people!

October 2012 update - Okay, now I'm interested in the new Kindles with the light and capacitive touch screen. After a Craigslist sale and some cashback rewards, I have upgraded for a total cost of $6!

November 2020 update - At some point I had upgraded to the Voyage...for some reason. Both it and the Paperwhite are still doing fine (in fact, I picked up a SECOND Paperwhite for something like $25 at one point), but I was lured by Black Friday sales and pandemic stimulus checks to finally upgrade to the Oasis. I've been in a bit of a reading lull lately, and I thought maybe some new tech would stimulate me.

My cellphone used to be (in 2008) a Motorola Rokr Z6m. We're still on US Cellular (though I once wrote a tirade as to how they treat their 'long-time valued customers' who switch markets as brand new ones....) because all of Amanda's family is, and frankly, she talks to them a whole lot more than I talk to my Verizon-tethered relatives. I've always said I didn't need anything fancy (never had a camera or mp3 player or web access before), but I now love the ability to switch between my audiobooks (nice on my 35-minute commute) and talking on the phone, and the standard-sized headset is interchangeable with regular headphones. Plus the guys at the local Radio Shack seem to love giving things away. Amanda uses a W385, seen at right. It's the free one, but still has a camera and bluetooth... which I lovingly used to put the Goonies ringtone on for her!

Pebble Time! (For some reason, I always say this in the style of MC Hammer's Hammertime) - This watch actually started out as a purchase of a different watch on Kickstarter... my first real lesson in what the crowdfunding site isn't (a technology shopping store). I wasn't so sure about the first Pebble that came out - it looked very blocky, and I wasn't sure I wanted to wear something so big. A couple years later and more smart watches are making the scenes. The HOT Watch opened up on Kickstarter which was kind of like a Pebble, but with a touchscreen and a really neat "private calling" feature, where you just put your hand up to your ear and talk, looking like a dork in the process. Anyway, I backed it...and then waited for over two years. I had pretty much given up and was considering one of the many Android Wear watches, but they were all pretty expensive for something I'd probably bang against a wall in the first week of owning it. And then Pebble Time came along. Not as expensive and advertised as a watch-first, not a phone replacement. The timeline interface seemed really nice, and the color screen and voice-reply feature was a nice upgrade from the original. Mostly, though, this thing looks like a watch. I got it on-time in May of 2015 and love it.
The funny part is I finally got the HOT Watch in December, used it for a day, and hated it.

2021 Update - It's been several years since Pebble was acquired by Fitbit (whom I believe, now has been acquired by Google... *sigh*). But I still love this watch. I did have to replace it after a year or two after the glass cracked and then moisture seeped in while hiking atop Mauna Kea, but its replacement is still going strong. Well, maybe not "strong." That battery doesn't last as long as it used to, and sometimes it's been stubborn to charge. I've thought of replacing it a time or two, and even tried what most people say is the closest replacement, the Amazfit Bip, but it just couldn't replicate the features of the Pebble - even though I only use a couple primarily. When this finally dies, it will be a very sad day. Replacements are still available on eBay, but they're getting more expensive, and the batteries are just getting older.

Casio Telememo - So, this is a bit of a stretch as far as a 'computer', but I love this watch. I appreciate analog watches and prefer them to digital chronometers, but I like some of the abilities you get with a digital watch. This thing has both! The analog portion lights up and also glows in the dark (which is a bit creepy when I just come in from outside), and the digital has all the normal features and then some. I especially like the countdown timer, so when timing food or other activities, I just carry the timer with me. Even more neat (but, unfortunately, something I don't use that often) is the watch's capability to store phone numbers (or other numbers). Programming them in is a bit of a pain, but before I changed my SPAM phone number to a more memorable one, this was really nice to be able to quick reference it on my wrist (you know, for filling out the occasional mall sweepstakes entry form!). Now, I currently have a couple rewards program's numbers in there. I amazed a Marriott desk clerk when I read off my number from my watch.

Jan 22, 2012 - This watch made it into My Blog!

2013ish I must've stopped wearing this because as of getting the Pebble Time, I was watch free for a couple years.

Cameras Through the Years - June 29, 2010
I've owned and used quite a few digital cameras through the years. It took me until June, 2010 to realize that, "hey, these things have computers in them too!" This can easily be seen in the shot to the right of our Canon SD1000 that recently bit the dust. I assume it was opened one too many times in my pocket. Eventually the lens started refusing to come out all the way, and I'd have to power-cycle it about a dozen times to take a picture. Not fun when you're trying to capture your baby's incredibly cute smile. So I did the most natural thing (to an engineer): I took it apart!

After playing around with floppy-based Sony Mavicas in high school (that was fun...) and checking out a few different models from the awesome IT building at IA state, I finally purchased a Canon Powershot S230. (Maybe I had an A20 before that, or maybe it was just one that I checked out from the IT services) It was a display model at Best Buy, so I bought their extended warranty plan... something I would never do today. It was a good thing, however, since almost 2 years and 11 months into my 3-year warranty, I realized the camera had a stuck spot on its image sensor... a blue pixel appeared in the same position on every picture. Somehow, the staff at the Best Buy I visited figured it qualified, and I traded in for the aforepictured gutted SD1000 which has been our pocket camera ever since.

As I started noticing the blue-pixel problem, but before remembering the warranty card I had stashed in a drawer somewhere, we bought a Canon S2IS megazoom camera. I had always hated the tiny zoom on my camera, and I loved the flip-out LCD screen. I tried out the slightly more expensive S3IS over Christmas 2006 but realized I we didn't need a $450 camera, when the S2IS had a great deal going on. (I really didn't care about megapixels after 5 at that point) The S2IS has been great for trips and scenery, though its bulk means it doesn't end up being used as often as the pocket cameras. The image stabilization and zoom during movies, however, make this my current favorite camera.

October, 2011 - We haven't used this much over the last year, as the Lumix does pretty much all this does in a smaller package. I passed it on to a fellow employee to get a few more years of enjoyment out of it before it becomes totally obsolete.

Since I seem to be extremely loyal to Canon, we figured the most logical way to replace the SD1000 was with its bigger brother, the SD1300IS. Image stabilization and 4x zoom: nice (though the 4x is a bit of a gimmick considering it starts out at widescreen...which as I've used it over the last two weeks is actually pretty nice). Performance: Argh! Maybe it's the 12 megapixels it has to write to the card every image (though lowering the resolution didn't seem to help), but if it doesn't take a picture instantly when I click the shutter (even with the half-shutter-to-focus trick), I lose the moment I'm trying to capture. We sort of made fun of a relative's Kodak that took forever to take a picture, but I'm really surprised by Canon on this one. Maybe the more expensive SD1400IS doesn't have the problem, but from the reviews I've read, the Canons aren't that fast any more. Which is sad, since while the SD1000 was running, I compared these two, and the SD1000 ran circles around the SD1300IS from shutter lag to shot-to-shot time. This one's probably going back...

As I write this (actually, the inspiration for writing this), I'm awaiting delivery of a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7. I've read reviews on a lot of cameras, and tried several out at the store, and this one just excites me. (Well, okay, that and the fact that I got it for $90 under retail with an Amazon sale + coupon) But it has more zoom than our S2 in a pocket-sized package. It's a bit bigger than other pocket cameras (but potentially comparable to our older PowerShots), but it's a 12x zoom camera that fits in my pocket! Supposedly it can do 16x intelligent zoom without looking too digital, and since I'll definitely not run it at 12MP, I should get a tiny bit extra even then. It has the dedicated movie button both Amanda and I have come to love, and you can zoom during video (also very important). Speaking of video, it records HD video in AVCHD format (hopefully taking up less space than Canon's MJPEG I've been stuck with for years). I don't exactly care about HD yet... still a bit behind the bandwagon on getting a big TV... but it's nice to have the option. Aside from what reviewers I've read say is an excellent auto mode, this thing has so many menu options and other bells and whistles to keep this computer engineer satisfied. Oh... it also has GPS to auto-tag photos. Neat! Perhaps I'll update this page when it arrives... which might actually be... right now!

Jan 2012 - So the lens quit focusing. Did you know that most credit cards extend warranties for an extra year?? With the warranty money, we moved up to a ZS-9... which actually has fewer bells and whistles than this, but has better quality results, is faster, and has a wider and longer lens. The ZS-10 (which is the realupgrade to the ZS-7) apparently takes really bad pictures thanks to a much faster lens/sensor that sacrifices quality for speed.

Dueling MP3 players: 32GB iPod touch vs 80GB Zune
In summer 2009, woot had a deal on an 80gig Zune. Since our old Rio Karma MP3 player bit the dust, Amanda hasn't had a music player in the living room (besides *shudder* a CD player). This thing certainly fits the bill, with enough storage for all our 'legitimate' music (we've purged everything else) and access to Zune Pass to listen to almost any music legally. The wireless sync is beautiful (after MS replaced our non-functioning refurbished model with a brand new one: customer service WIN!), and now that we have a Windows 7 machine with an awesome media player, I can record movies or shows (currently a large collection of Dora and Diego off cable) and send them right up to the Zune to play on the TV. Excellent!

The iPod was a painful thing for me (to actually buy an Apple product), but I got a relatively good deal on it (and it was a Fall-'09 pseudo-birthday present!), and I'm certainly in love with it. I don't use it as much as an MP3 player, as a replacement for the X30 as a pocket computer. E-mail/calendar/web surfing are a breeze. E-book and Biblereaders are awesome (Olivetree transferred all my previously-purchased translations just fine). Plus, with over 100,000 apps, there are plenty of games and other utilities I can use. And with 32 gigs (as opposed to the 512MB card in the Axim), I can have most of my music and videos that I'm watching (Yay, Red Dwarf!) on the device at the same time.

So now we're in the unique position to compare iPod vs Zune. Honestly, if I just wanted an MP3/video player, I'd stick with Zune (and perhaps get a Zune HD, so I could get web surfing and potentially apps down the road). The Zune Pass is incredibly worth it to listen to all kinds of music legally. But for a pocket PC replacement, definitely the iPod Touch hands down. It's much more (to me) a pocket computer rather than an MP3 player.

2013 update - the iPod has been sold (yay! My home is iFree again!), and the Zune sits in a drawer. Anybody want a Zune?

Dell Axim X30 - 624mhz, bluetooth, wifi
I used to have a pocket PC in college, but the screen broke... and then it was stolen (lucky thief...). I hadn't used it too much, so didn't feel like replacing it until someone at work was selling one at a crazy deal. So I bought it and have loved it ever since. I don't do much e-mail/scheduling on it like normal people do, but I do use it for e-book reading (going through Sherlock Holmes right now), bible-reading, and dictionary lookup. I also pop it open at home when I need a quick web-lookup, but its 3-year-old battery doesn't hold up on wireless for very long. It used to be my main audio-book player before I got the new cell phone. I also used to track my eating and exercise on it... something I *cough* should probably start up again...
Sniff... sold in December of 2009... to bring joy to another user for a few more years.

Yes, I'm super cool and have a pager. No... actually I don't. I just carry one for a week every other month or so for work. Now that our application is finally live (Hooray!) we have to provide after-hours support. Though, for various reasons, we doubt we'll ever get a real page that isn't a wrong number (lousy App-name changes). But anyway, I've always wanted a pager, so now I have one.

May, 2011 - Aww, I'm no longer super-cool. But on the upside, I don't have to carry a blasted pager around for work anymore!

Other Gadgets

ScanGauge II
The ScanGauge is my latest gadget (Sept 2008). This little gizmo plugs into an OBDII on any car since 1996 and gives you tons of readings otherwise unavailable to cars without decent computers in them. Since I'm stuck with Amanda's old Cavalier, I don't even have a tachometer, let alone anything that will tell me gas mileage. In addition to gauges I'll probably never use (Voltage, Engine Load, Throttle Position, Intake Air Temp., etc), it has 4 trip computers that can be displayed as gauges (I have instant MPG and trip MPG displayed simultaneously; the trip auto-resets itself if you leave the car off for a few minutes). It even reads and resets those annoying 'Check Engine' codes that usually cost you $60 to get 'read' at a dealership. I was already changing my driving habits to save on gas mileage; now I can become obsessive!

January 2021 - I still have this thing, but it fails more and more to read codes on newer vehicles. Maybe time to upgrade....

Westinghouse Home Intercom System
I was at the Weber house, and Amanda's mom said, "Would you be interested in these?" Well, how can I turn away anything 'gadget'-related? Plus, now we can be cool like the Taylor's in Home Improvement and have a household intercom. It has 4 channels, and supposedly, you can send or receive to multiples at once, but I haven't quite figured out how exactly that part works. We do have one in the bedroom, one in the living room, and one in the basement, but it hasn't become a heavily-used gadget. We did however learn that at least one of the base stations conflicts with the X10 system in our bedroom. If it's transmitting (and there's a lock-on button which our kids love), none of our switches work. We thought we were going crazy!

2017 - As of moving to Iowa, we haven't gotten these to work too well. Giant house and all....

2021 - Now that there's an Echo device of some sort, we can pretty much do without these... that don't work anyway

X10 Remote Control System
I've had an X10 system since college, but I finally upgraded it a bit ago. It's essentially a wireless control system for lamps and other electronics. It allows us to control, in our bedroom for example, all 3 corner lamps and the room light from either the doorway or either side of the bed. In the living room, where we only had one light switch that only operated one outlet, we now have an X10 control panel by both doorways and by the recliner that turn on each light individually, including Christmas lights when that time comes around. You can also use them to dim lights and, with add-ons, you can control lights from a computer or remotely by telephone. We're not quite sophisticated enough to do that, but they are fun nonetheless.

2021 - Our house is slowly becoming Alexa-ized...along with several smart switches and bulbs. We still have a couple things on X10.... but their days are numbered!

Energy Meter EM100
Another step in my quest to save energy (and money), I have one those gadgets you can plug in between an electronic device and the wall, and it'll tell you how much energy it's using. If you input the cost of electricity, it'll also tell you how much something is costing per hour. (Or day as the case may be...) I found out that our living room set of TV/VCR/Stereo costs $.03/day even when turned off. ...'course that doesn't mean I've put an X10 controller on it to completely turn it off when not in use. Still I envision this thing helping me cut costs on electricity.... someday. When most of these things run for over $100 or $200, finding one like this for $26 is a bargain. Get your own!

Schwinn Bike Computer
Growing up, I always rode bikes with the folks, and we had trip computers on our bikes. I finally got myself a decent (read: Non-Walmart) bike this year and hadn't really planned to get a computer to go with it, since they're usually something like $30-$50, until I was sure I'd actually use the thing on a regular basis. Well, lo and behold, I found this thing for a measly ten bucks at Amazon! The thing does everything I cared about with some bonuses like a clock and temperature display. For $10, you can't go wrong!

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