Tag: Home

Bad Gas!

For my birthday, my parents gave me their hand me down snow blower – a Craftsman 5/22.  It worked great for a while and then suddenly started stalling and sputtering.   It would start but once the choke was off it would sputter and eventually stall.  Before paying anyone to fix it, I decided to try the two cheapest things possible to fix it: 1) replace the gas and 2) replace the oil.  I only got to step one.  I siphoned the 87 octane gas out and replaced it with 93 octane gas and it started running right in under 60 seconds.  From now on I’ll buy the high octane gas for my lawn mower and snow blower!

magicJack review

Recently we replaced our existing home phone service that was provided by Time Warner Cable with magicJack.  We have been using it for a few months now so I have enough experience to report how it works.

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Works with my desktop pc and plugs into our home jack just like time warner cable did to provide phone service to all phones in our house
  • Mostly good sound.  Sometimes things break up but I would say it is about 75% as good as TWC but much much cheaper
  • Fax machine works OK with it

Cons:

  • Sometimes you have to pick up the phone 2x to get it to give you a ring tone
  • PC has to be always running (not a con for me since I always leave my PC on anyway)
  • Have to restart it every few weeks which is fine since I usually reboot my PC  that often
  • Sometimes when people call, they can hear us but we cannot hear them.  Calling them back always works fine
  • 1hr time limit on calls.  magicJack disconnects you after you make a call that goes over 1hr.  You can dial right back but it is still annoying
  • Tried some add on software to keep it from popping up but it stopped working after a few weeks
  • Tried magicRingForever but sometimes it would fool my answering machine so I stopped using it

Switching to AT&T U-Verse from Time Warner Cable

Well I finally gave up on Time Warner Cable.  We moved into our current house over a year ago and when we did we got a “welcome back” deal from TWC because we were switching back to TWC from DirecTV.  We had TWC but left because their rates steadily increased.  The straw that broke the camel’s back was when they incorrectly billed us repeatedly for over $400 in incorrect fees and only offered to credit our account instead of actually refunding the cash.  After that we left TWC and went to DirecTV for a couple years but after the first 2 years DirecTV steadily raised their rates too.  When we moved into our current house we left DirecTV and went back to TWC.  The package we had was $127 for turbo internet, digital tv with 2 DVRs and unlimited home phone.  After the year rate ended the price shot up to $185.  I dropped the phone and downgraded the cable but the bill was still $139.  Then it went up to $145.  Then it went up again to $150.  It just went up again to $154 for turbo internet and digital cable (no movie channels) with 2 DVRs.

I finally got fed up.  Today I signed up for AT&T U-Verse with Max Internet (12 Mbps) and U200 (~280 channels) with 1 DVR (records 4 channesl at once) and 2 other receivers that can play recorded channels from the DVR (3 rooms total) for $104/mo for the first 6 months and then $129 after that.  I also should get $125 in prepaid visa cards for signing up online.  There was a $29 install fee.  So if you do the math it works out to:

104 X 6  months = 634
+ 129 x 6 months = 774
+ 29 install fee
- 125 in gift cards
= 1312 for the 1st year with AT&T U-Verse
vs. 
154 x 12 months
= 1848 if I stay with Time Warner Cable

Savings next yr with AT&T instead of TWC is $536 (or $44.66/month)

I did concede to the TWC rep on the phone today that AT&T will probably raise their rates and eventually I will decide to leave them too.  By then TWC or DirecTV or Dish or WOW will be willing to offer me a nice deal and I’ll probably switch again.  It stinks that you have to leave a company for them to treat you as a valuable customer.  After we left DirecTV, I got a flyer from them every other day with a nice deal if I would come back.  I guess absence does make the heart grow fonder – when it comes to TV providers missing ex-customers.  My hope is that by the time AT&T raises their rates too much, I can switch to Net Flix + Hulu or something similar.  I tried this time but several of D’s favorite shows are not available on any streaming provider.

Corded Phone = Fail

I just bought an Emerson Corded Caller ID Phone from Walmart for $9.  OK, it is pretty cheap but.. um.. it is still pretty disappointing.  The phone requires 4 AA batteries to operate the caller id lcd that  shows you the number that is calling you.  OK, first of all 4 batteries is a lot and amazingly the display is still pathetic.  The display is just plain bad.  The phone lays flat and that with the display make it useless in terms of identifying the caller.  It is going back.  I should have been tipped off by the fact that almost all of the boxes on the shelf appeared to have been opened and returned to the store.

New Curtains

A few months ago, we took down the curtains in our kid’s playroom and our dining room.  We took them down when we painted those rooms but we never put them back up because D wanted to get new ones.  We finally got new curtains this weekend.  They are sheer with a grommet top.  We got the curtains from JCPenny.  We got the curtain rods from from Target.  D did pretty much all of the running around because she had a strong opinion about what she wanted.  I just wanted to cover up the open windows so people on the street can’t into our house.  I’m very happy with the result.  I think they look better than the picture on the left.

HPMini 210

Santa brought my wife and I a HPMini 210 netbook computer for Christmas.  My wife wanted a netbook to replace the larger laptop we were using in our living room and so she could take it to school with her to use during her breaks between classes.  I wanted a netbook for the occasional vacation.  Neither of us could come up with enough reason to buy one but luckily Santa brought us one!

So far I’ve been pretty happy with it.  I hacked the 1024×600 display so that it works at 1152×864.  That helped add some screen real estate.   So far my only gripes are that the buttons on the mouse pad are sort of sticky and you can’t touch them while also sliding the mouse with the other hand.  That is annoying.  I haven’t really pushed the battery life or processor so I can’t say much about them.   For web surfing and document writing this ~$300 model works very well.

Sony Mini HiFi EC55

Several months ago I bought a Sony shelf stereo system to use in my living room for when we have family and friends over.  I usually play DJ and I wanted a system that sounded good but wasn’t going to be too expensive.  I picked this system up from Walmart for about $125.

So far I have been pretty happy with it.  It sounds good and is plenty loud.  We took it to my brother-in-law’s house for a very loud Halloween party and it performed well there too – without blowing out the speakers when the volume was turned all the way up.

2010 Home Improvement – Misc.

We also did some smaller misc. projects last year:

  • Added railing going upstairs (much safer now)
  • Added outlet in the upstairs hall and laundry room
  • Added bathroom fan to kids bathroom
  • Fixed messed up light switches in hallway
  • Replaced all fancy but non-functional vent register covers with plain white ones.  The openings were too big and the kids would drop small toys down into them
  • Sanded down the tops of uneven sticky doors in bathrooms (all), master, kids rooms, office, etc
  • Replaced all tan outlets, switches and covers with white through the entire house

2010 Home Improvement – Z’s Rooms

Z’s room had old green carpet which was grossing D out.  When we decided to remove the carpet it presented an opportunity to paint the base trim without the carpet getting the way.   So we:

  • Replaced the carpet with a cheap tan carpet like we have everywhere else in the house
  • Painted the closet door, room door and air return vent
  • Replaced the switch plates and phone plates with white ones
  • Painted the base trim (sand, prime, calk, paint 2 times)
  • Painted the walls (paint 2 times) a Kermit/Yoshi green color (color chosen by D and approved by Z).