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Hardware MPEG2/MPEG4/MPEG4-AVC/H.264 Transcoding

Leadtek Research Inc has release the WinFast PxVC1100 PCIe x1 add-on card which uses four of the Toshiba encode/decode cores  (SpursEngine SE1000 — BXA32110) derived from the joint Sony/Toshiba/IBM alliance (STI) Cell (Cell Broadband Engine Architecture, CBEA) processor (used in the Sony PlayStation 3 game console).

If you’re serious about video encoding this card is way more powerful than leveraging your GPU (nothing stops you from using both).

I couldn’t find a retail price on the PxVC1100; from what I’ve read it was delayed, but should be available in the US soon.  I expect it’ll be fairly expensive since Nikkei WinPC’s benchmark showed a high-def video in MEPG-2 TS format was transcoded to H.264 using the WinFast PxVC1000 about 2.9 times faster than a Core2 Q9650 (3GHz).

If you want to check out other vendors that offer a SpursEngine enhancement, some Toshiba Qosmio laptops and the Thomson-Canopus Firecoder Blu PCIe add-on card are candidates.

Originally posted 2009-01-03 12:00:46.

Credit Card Game

So you’re looking to add another credit card to your wallet… here’s a few options and things to consider ad you play the credit card game and get the financial institutions to pay you.

Discover — promo offer, spend $500 and get $50 cash back; but you’ll only get 0.25% cash back in the first tier (but they do have on going special categories, and the cash back percentage goes up as you spend more; but certainly their are better options).

Walmart Discover — promo offer will give you $20 cash back if you spend $100 on it the day you apply at a Walmart store (you get a check with your first statement).  Keep in mind that the Walmart Discover isn’t actually issued by Discover Financial Service, but rather by GE Money Bank (so it has to be managed through the Walmart portal, not Discover; and it doesn’t have many of the features of a regular Discover card).

NOTE: Discover branded card allow you to get cash back at a Walmart or Sam’s Club (which is charged as a purchase, not cash advance).

Citi Diamond Preferred MC (or AMEX) — promo “5% bonus” on gas, drugstores, and supermarkets for the first year; if you spend $300 in the first three months you get a $50 gift card; 1% normally — virtual credit card numbers

Citi Dividend MC — “bonus” categories change; 1% minimum ($300 max rebate per year) — virtual credit card numbers.

Chase Freedom VISA — promo 5% on gas and travel right now, the “bonus” categories change; 1% minimum.

CapitalOne Platinum VISA — 2% on gas and groceries, 1% minimum — low rent bank; but pay your bills and you will be fine.

Costco AMEX — 3% gas and dining; 2% travel, 1% minimum (requires paid Costco membership; $3000 purchase limit on 3% gas, 1% afterwards).

Most all the cash back cards now don’t offer good cash back rates for long (you have to play the promo game)… one way to avoid that is get a “branded” card at a place you do lots of business (like if you bought Shell gas most of the time get the Shell VISA — but it only works if there’s a card from place you do a lot of business and it pays say 5% there and 1% elsewhere; Chase has lots of those types of cards).

My feeling is the right number of credit cards is THREE

  • VISA
  • Master Card
  • Discover

You can argue four if you like AMEX — and that would probably be either the Costco or Citi AMEX for the best deal.

I would say acquire a credit card no more often than every three months until you’re at the level you want… if you find a card you like better than one you have — acquire it and just don’t use the other card (you can close it as well, but that really doesn’t buy you anything). DO NOT apply for more than a single credit card per month; and be careful about opening a bank account AND applying for a credit card in the same thirty day window (do the credit card first).

NOTE: Use credit cards responsibly.  If you can’t afford to pay the balance off every month — don’t make the purchase.  While many people keep revolving balances on credit cards, the interest rate (even a good interest rate for a credit card) makes the cost of what you’re purchasing ridiculous.  If you feel you won’t use a credit card responsibly — look for a financial institution that offers rewards on their debit card.

If I were applying for a new card right now it would probably be the Citi Diamond Preferred; and I’m considering applying for a Citi Diamond once the Chase 5% gas deal is over.

NOTE: I have a Discover, Walmart Discover, Citi Dividend, and Chase Freedom (along with others that I have not included on the this list).  I do not have (nor do I want) any AMEX card; nor do I personally want to do business with CapitolOne.

Originally posted 2010-07-23 02:00:19.

Citibank World Dividends Master Card

I got home Friday evening and had an alert from Citibank that a statement was ready on my Citibank World Dividends Master Card account… this is an account they’d converted from their Dividends reward card that had a really nice cash back program to a card that really didn’t have a very good program at all, so I really didn’t use the card much; but I’d done a small charge on it a couple months ago, and then paid it off when the bill was issued.

So, the alert was notifying me that I had a statement ready that would have a zero balance, and would only be showing a posted payment.

The problem was… there wasn’t a PDF of the statement available.  And the same thing had happened to me about eight months previously; so I actually knew exactly what it was.

The bottom line was some programmer at Citi decided (or was instructed to) not produce PDF statements for account with zero balances period… ignoring the fact that federal law requires a credit card company to issue out a statement with a zero balance should there be any transactions in the period the statement covers.

Certainly the supervisor I was transferred understood the requirement that a statement be issued when there was transactions during that period…

But, once again, I was sent over to a on-line technical support agent; who insisted the problem was my browser… Firefox 8; so we tried it in Internet Explorer 9… same thing, no PDF statement… then we tried it in Internet Explorer 8, Internet Explorer 7, and Firefox 5… guess what, still no PDF statement (she of course wouldn’t have it that I’d gone through all of this before — she had to make sure she wasted the maximum amount of my time that she could); then the technical support representative decide that maybe she should actually ask someone about this issue… and –SURPRISE– she was told that there was an issue in the system and in fact PDF statements were not issued out on account that had a zero balance, that they had to be requested to be generated.

While normally I believe in the three strikes you’re out paradigm, for a financial institution as well run as Citibank I made an exception… I decided because they managed to waste 50 minutes of my life today; and another about 90 minutes of my life several months ago on the exact same issue, that they were OUT!

I requested a return to a supervisor and canceled my account.

As always, I wished her the best of luck finding another job when the financial institution she worked for went out of business, and assured her that I would do everything in my power to encourage everyone I knew to dump Citibank.

The only unfortunate thing about cancelling the account was losing the $13.56 in Dividend reward points, but I certainly wasn’t going to keep the card until I had accumulated the $50.00 in reward points necessary to request a check.

I still have a two other Citibank credit cards (one VISA and one Master Card)… and while I may keep those cards for the moment (since Citibank and Bank of America are the only two financial institutions in this country that provide virtual credit card numbers)… but I will guarantee you I’ll make sure as little money as possible is charged through Citibank, and should one of my credit unions add virtual credit cards Citibank will be history for me.


UPDATE:

On Sunday I received an email from Citibank telling me that there was a PDF of my statement available for download.  Guess what — no statement.  I called up the clueless people at Citibank (again) to waste (more) of my time…

I guess maybe they’ll just have to change the spelling of their company to Shittybank.

Originally posted 2011-11-20 02:00:27.

EMail from my domains…

As of 1 March 2010 all of my domains should have both SPF and DKIM support in order to help receiving servers verify that the email is not SPAM.

If you are having problem receiving my email, or my email is ending up in your junk folder, please contact your email provider and query them about this.

Originally posted 2010-03-30 02:00:58.

Simple Mobile

For those of you who live in areas where T-Mobile has good service, perhaps the best deal in cellular might be Simple Mobile; you can either purchase a GSM phone from them (the price is of course not subsidized that includes one of their SIM cards), or just purchase a mini, micro, or nano SIM card from them for your unlocked GSM phone.  Monthly rates are $40, and that includes unlimited voice, unlimited SMS/MMS, unlimited 3G data, and up to 250MB of 4G data — all on T-Mobile.

I haven’t tried the service, mainly because T-Mobile coverage isn’t very good in this area; but again, if T-Mobile coverage is good where you use your cellular phone this should be one of the least expensive ways to get an unlimited plan.

If you already have a GSM handset that you’ve satisfied the contract on, there’s no question you can save money by switching; if you haven’t just subtract the cost of the monthly feed form your current monthly plan and then divide the cost of the phone by the difference (that’s the length of time it will take before you start saving money).

http://www.mysimplephones.com/

Originally posted 2013-03-18 08:00:10.

Republicans Go Tea Party

So the Republican’s have come up with a new pledge — a pledge of empty words, suspect promises, vague historical references, and twisted ideas.  Action speak louder than words, and their actions have spoken — incumbents are part of the problem, not part of the solution — VOTE THEM OUT.

I’d poke fun at all of this drivel; but I’ll just re-publish it here and let you try and read through it without laughing so hard you have to wipe off your monitor (multiple times).


A PLEDGE TO AMERICA

America is more than a country.

America is an idea – an idea that free people can govern themselves, that government’s powers are derived from the consent of the governed, that each of us is endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. America is the belief that any man or woman can – given economic, political, and religious liberty – advance themselves, their families, and the common good.

America is an inspiration to those who yearn to be free and have the ability and the dignity to determine their own destiny.

Whenever the agenda of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to institute a new governing agenda and set a different course.

These first principles were proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, enshrined in the Constitution, and have endured through hard sacrifice and commitment by generations of Americans.

In a self-governing society, the only bulwark against the power of the state is the consent of the governed, and regarding the policies of the current government, the governed do not consent.

An uncheckedexecutive, a compliant legislature, and an overreaching judiciary have combined to thwart the will of the people and overturn their votes and their values, striking down long-standing laws and institutions and scorning the deepest beliefs of the American people.

An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decisions, issues mandates, and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many.

Rising joblessness, crushing debt, and a polarizing political environment are fraying the bonds among our people and blurring our sense of national purpose.

Like free peoples of the past, our citizens refuse to accommodate a government that believes it can replace the will of the people with its own. The American people are speaking out, demanding that we realign our country’s compass with its founding principles and apply those principles to solve our common problems for the common good.

The need for urgent action to repair our economy and reclaim our government for the people cannot be overstated.

With this document, we pledge to dedicate ourselves to the task of reconnecting our highest aspirations to the permanent truths of our founding by keeping faith with the values our nation was founded on, the principles we stand for, and the priorities of our people. This is our Pledge to America.

We pledge to honor the Constitution as constructed by its framers and honor the original intent of those precepts that have been consistently ignored – particularly the Tenth Amendment, which grants that all powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

We pledge to advance policies that promote greater liberty, wider opportunity, a robust defense, and national economic prosperity.

We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values.

We pledge to make government more transparent in its actions, careful in its stewardship, and honest in its dealings.

We pledge to uphold the purpose and promise of a better America, knowing that to whom much is given, much is expected and that the blessings of our liberty buoy the hopes of mankind.

We make this pledge bearing true faith and allegiance to the people we represent, and we invite fellow citizens and patriots to join us in forming a new governing agenda for America.

Originally posted 2010-09-24 02:00:13.

What’s In A Name?

The man’s name Roger \r(o)-ger\ is pronounced ROH-jer, RAH-jer. It is of Old German origin, and its meaning is “renowned spearman”. Popular in the Middle Ages and the 19th and 20th centuries. Rogelio is a Spanish form. Rutger is a Dutch form, made familiar in modern times by actor Rutger Hauer. Actor Roger Moore; opera singer Ruggiero Raimondi.

Roger has 15 variant forms: Dodge, Hodge, Rodge, Rodger, Rog, Rogelio, Rogerio, Rogers, Rogiero, Rojay, Rufiger, Ruggero, Ruggiero, Rutger and Ruttger.

Names that sound like Roger are Ryker and Riker.
———-
 

The man’s name Lem \lem\ is a variant of Lemuel.

The name Lem sounds like Liam and Lyam. Other similar names are Lee, Jem, Le-, Leo, Lea, Le, Len, Lev, Les and Lew.

Lem is a very rare male first name (source: 1990 U.S. Census).

———-

 

The man’s name Lemuel \l(e)-muel\ is pronounced LEM-yoo-el. It is of Hebrew origin, and its meaning is “belonging to God”. Biblical: a king mentioned in Proverbs 31 who was given a detailed description of the value and capabilities of a good wife. Literary: Lemuel Gulliver of Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”. The name was revived from around 1840.

Lemuel has 2 variant forms: Lem and Lemmie.

 

Lemuel is a common male first name (source: 1990 U.S. Census).

 

Originally posted 2008-05-13 12:52:06.

Droid Does

I purchased a used Motorola Droid this weekend — I couldn’t resist, the price was reasonable and it included an extra charger, the multi-media dock, and a 16GB µSD card.

I’ve played with Android both on other people’s phone, and a hacked version loaded on my HTC Touch Pro 2 (but there were a number of things that didn’t work, and because the phone is both CDMA and GSM I expected that there would always be a number of issues with Android on it until there were a reasonable number of CDMA “Worldphones” running Android).

By far my preference in handsets are those made by HTC — I just think they do a much better job designing the handset, and understand the features that consumers really want on a smart phone… but the Droid is sort of the standard; and it met my absolute criteria for an Android based phone, it had a slide out keyboard.

I just have zero interest in all the new whizzy phone that don’t have keyboards — I send too many emails not to be able to see a reasonable amount of the screen and type at the same time (and don’t even think about things like remote desktop with a virtual keyboard).

Using Android is interesting… many aspects of it are well engineered and simple to use — but just as you think the ergonomics have driven the design of the interface, the geeky techno thorns in Android rear their ugly head.

By far the iPhone has made the slickest interface — but without a keyboard all you really have is an expensive iPod that can make phone calls.  Windows Mobile (at least with the extensions HTC loads on their smart phones) has made using the features very friendly, but every time you want to stray from what 90% of the people with Windows Mobile handsets want to do — or do something “advanced” that doesn’t involve an Exchange Server or Outlook… it stumbles and makes you have to be both technical and clever.

Given the tender young age of Android it’s certainly very respectable how far Google has come; but in trying to make the handset easy to use, Google has required the use of Google services with the phone — no you don’t have to, but you’ll fight every feature of the phone if you don’t setup Google Mail, Google Voice, etc.

There are those who still seem to think that Google does everything they do for the good of the general public — rubbish!  Google makes money off advertising, and to do that effectively they need to target advertising by demographics, and they do that by tracking trends by mining data.

Everything Google does Google does to support their revenue stream.

That isn’t necessarily bad; it’s just something that users of Google’s services need to understand… and you do need to pay close attention to Google’s privacy policies.

I’m not saying you’d be any “safer” with an iPhone (Apple is certainly trying to do the same thing — and I always find it humorous that it seems every “cloud” service Apple introduces is tied into iTunes (a very poorly thought out name for that type of service — obviously it was initially intended to only provide music).

Bottom line; I’d say your best value in a smart phone today is an Android based handset, and I’d recommend you consider trying it out with a used handset that has the features you’re interested in.

Yeah — I could add a line about reduce, reuse, recycle — but in actuality this has more to do with figuring out how you’ll use a smart phone before you commit to spending a great deal of money or locking yourself into a long term contract.  And remember, phones will only get better over time — and we’re very close to really having 4G service (at least Sprint, Verizon, MetroPCS, and Cricket seem committed to roll it out — AT&T doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to do anything except rape iPhone customers).

Originally posted 2010-09-20 02:00:16.

Trust In Government Hits Near-Historic Low

A Pew Poll released yesterday shows “Americans’ trust in government and its institutions has plummeted to a near-historic low…”

Americans’ trust in government and its institutions has plummeted to a near-historic low, according to a sobering new survey by the Pew Research Center.

Only 22 percent of Americans surveyed by Pew say they can trust government in Washington “almost always or most of the time” — among the lowest measures in the half-century since pollsters have been asking the question.

And an increasing number — almost 1 of every 3 people — say they believe government is a major threat to their personal freedoms and want federal power reined in.

You can read the complete article on NPR.

Originally posted 2010-04-19 02:00:57.

DVD Backup

Before using software the backs up encrypted media please check the laws in your country and insure that you are in full compliance.  In some countries there may be conflicting laws, make sure you understand the issues before proceding.

DVDDecrypter was one of the absolute best utilities for decrypting DVDs for legitimate backup purposes; you can still find copies of it on the internet, and you can read all about it and the end of it’s development.

Now DVDFab is probably the best product for Windows.  Three’s a free version, as well as two different commercial versions of it for sale by the developers.

Originally posted 2008-11-30 12:00:51.