XTerra Speaker Upgrade

My wife owns a 2000 Nissan XTerra SE that has all the trimmings and it was the first year that the car was offered.  It had some flaws in it as any first run production car has and it has its little quirks that make it unique.  The car is 10 years old this month and I decided to get my wife’s car a much needed speaker upgrade.

The car came with factory speakers and over the years these speakers have deteriorated quite a bit.  It got to the point where there wasn’t any bass in her music.  The car has 6 speakers (2 of which are tweeters) and a factory stereo which is still working alright.  The fact that the music coming from the car didn’t have any bass was bothering me for a while but I never did anything about it but I finally decided that since Claire’s sister’s friend was coming down and knew how to install car audio, I would use the opportunity to get her some new speakers.

I bought some 6 1/2 inch speakers for the front from Infinity.  I’ve heard about the Infinity brand in car audio and they sounded pretty good at Best Buy.  My sister-in-law trusts Infinity and I can say I’m not disappointed with the purchase.  These speakers seem to have a decent punch to them and it even came with some cone tweeters to give it some high end range.  The speakers in the front were by far the worst of the 6 in her car.  I opened up the speaker panels and the foam holding the speaker together started falling out.  So at least now I knew why there was no more bass in the music.  XTerra’s use a speaker adapter so the wire needed to be spliced so it could be installed.  I did the tear down, my sister-in-law’s friend did the assembly which helped to get things installed a little bit quicker.

For the rear speakers I went back to a trusted brand, Pioneer.  I had Pioneer speakers a long time ago in my first car and they greatly improved the music in my car.  The rear speakers weren’t nearly as bad as the front speakers but since I had already spent some money on buying the front speakers, it only made sense to upgrade the rear speakers as well.  These speakers also added some tweeters to the cars sound system for some better sound in the high ranges.

Both the front and the rear speakers were a perfect fit and are well hidden behind the factory speaker grills.  Of course the new speakers needed to be tested so we used some of my wife’s rock music to give them a trial run.  I need to stick in one of my CD’s in order to really test out the bass on these bad boys though.

Next up will be a head unit so that my wife can use her iPhone with her stereo.  Right now there is no AUX output so it can’t only take CD’s and tapes (who the heck uses tapes now anyway??) so changing it for something better will be the final upgrade to the sound system unless I get the OK to put in a sub woofer but I doubt that will ever happen.

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TweetDeck – Twitter app for Desktops and iPhone

I am once again trying out some new software to help keep up with my social network and one that came highly recommended on the net is Tweet Deck.  Tweet Deck comes in two different varieties, the iPhone version and the Desktop version.  I’m using both of them at the moment and it seems like an excellent piece of software.  I’ll start with the desktop version first.

The cool thing about the software is that it uses panels to show tweets, direct messages, mentions, and Facebook status updates.  Thats some pretty powerful stuff!  I’ve been using it for a week now and its been quite easy to keep up with everything at once in terms of status updates from people I know or that I’m following.  I’m able to tweet or provide Facebook updates directly from the app so that is definitely a plus in that I don’t have to log into their respective websites to do the updates.  Here’s the thing, it only shows status or tweets, anything else and you have to go directly into the app.  It also has a sync function with the iPhone version but I haven’t used that aspect of the software yet, actually I haven’t found a need.  One of the cooler panels that the app has are suggestions for people to follow.  I’ve actually found some interesting people to follow on Twitter using this function so in that way its been pretty useful to me already.  If they could only make TweetDeck minimize to a desktop tray icon that would be uber sweet!  I think I’ll continue to play with this app, I’m hoping they don’t start to charge for it and just use ad support for their business model.

I also downloaded the iPhone version which works on my iPod Touch and it works a lot like the desktop version.  This version only allows three panels which are tweets, direct messages, and mentions.  The interface looks pretty much the same and for a mobile version it does what I need which is tweet my current status.  I’ve actually replaced Twitterfon with TweetDeck since I like the interface much better.  I could have set up a sync with my desktop but I’m not on my desktop enough to even bother.

I’ll keep looking on the interweb for more ways to keep me updated about my social networks but for now this app will do just fine unless something better comes along.

Mint.com Improved!

Mint.com is a personal finance website that I’ve been using on and off for the last year or so.  I’ve normally favored Yodlee Money Center because they had more tools available but Mint.com is certainly improving themselves for the better.  It also helps that they have their own application for the iPhone/iPod Touch.

The biggest improvements that I’ve been able to see is their budgeting and trend analysis areas.  I used to use MS Money for years and tracked every little expense by downloading my transactions and categorizing them.  For the past two years I’ve abandoned Money because it just didn’t seem to make sense anymore.  The power of Money was the budgeting and trend analysis on spending and income but since Mint.com has introduced these things, I’ve been able to set these areas up again.

Mint.com already had a basic budget tool but it wasn’t very robust, the new implementation is a bit better and makes things much easier to see.  Mint’s power has always been presenting things in a visually appealing manner and this implementation is no different.  Here is a link on how to budget with Mint.  The cool thing is that it does the following which is new:

  • Auto categorize transactions and add them to your budget
  • Track spending and income over time to view spending and income trends so that informed decisions can be made on how to change your lifestyle
  • Set goals for spending and saving
  • Live monitoring of your budget with email or SMS alerts

The live monitoring of my budget is really useful, it tells me when I’m about to overspend or when I send in a bill payment without me having to fire up an application that sits on my home desktop.

The trend analysis graphs are much improved since the first iteration of the product.  It can show how your net worth has changed over time, what you’ve been spending more money on, etc.  Money Center does the same thing but isn’t as visually appealing.  The graphs are helpful in tracking how I’m doing overall and where I need to start cutting expenses.

A few things I would like to see on Mint.com are features that are on Money Center.  The first is a calendar that shows when all my bills are due, the second is the ability to group accounts and only show reports on that grouping, adding reward accounts and tracking how many points I have in each one.  Other than that, the app is much improved and I hope they can make further improvements in the future.  I’ll continue to use Mint alongside with Money Center but it might over take Money Center if they keep on adding excellent improvements like this last update

Beware of Windows Antivirus Pro

Windows Antivirus Pro…. the bane of my sister-in-laws computer!  This is some malicious malware that goes around and makes you think its a real antivirus program.  This thing does nothing but lock up your computer and generally makes life miserable.  I’ve tried cleaning it out before and for at least a couple of weeks it worked but for some reason there is a new version of this thing and it came back.

The way it works is that it pretends to scan your hard drive and then informs you that you have issues with your computer.  When you attempt to launch a program it tells you that the program is a virus and prevents you from running any programs on the computer.  The previous version wasn’t nearly this bad.  I’ve been looking online for a way to get rid of it but most of the solutions I’ve come across involves installing new software.  Thats definitely not the way to go to get rid of this thing.

I’m taking another route which is to reload the entire computer with Vista.  It used to have XP but its too easy to get malicious stuff installed on it so I’m hoping the extra security will help out.  The biggest pain about this route is that I have to re-install everything that was on the computer as well as putting all the files back.  My sister-in-law doesn’t have a lot of data so that will be the easy part.  I think this will take another day to finish and then I’ll be done.

If this gets installed on your comp, beware!  Incredibly hard to get rid of.  I recommend lots and lots of backups of your data and a strong virus/spyware engine.  Time to get back to fixing her computer!

IllWillPress is on YouTube woohoo!

For those of you that don’t know, IllWillPress is the home of the Lord and Master…..FOAMY!  I’ve been watching this cartoon online for about 3 years now and it never goes old.  How can you not like a ranting and raving squirrel?  My favorite entries are the Foamy Fan Mail episodes, the tech support episodes, and the ones that take place at Starschmucks (can you tell what business he’s really talking about?).

The cartoon is all written in Flash which is something I used to dabble in for my now defunct website and it used to be difficult to find some of the older episodes online.  One place that was really good about listing all the episodes was FriendsofFoamy.com.  I haven’t been there in ages but I have some wallpaper that I still use on my computers from them.  Recently, IllWillPress has moved its content over to YouTube and set up an entire channel just to display Foamy!  How freakin awesome!!  You can find the link here.  This stuff is definitely NSFW (if you don’t know what that is I suggest you look it up in Google or Bing for a definition).

The author of these wonderous cartoons has started another cartoon called 4y-Records.  This one is relatively new and I’ve only see the first two that are on the new YouTube channel for IllWillPress.  It runs along the same lines as Foamy except it all takes place in a music store and has a focus on a cashier there.  It’s still a little rough around the edges and isn’t up to the awesomeness of Foamy but I can see it getting there.  I must say I like having Channels to subscribe to like Bandai and IllWillPress.  Maybe they’ll make more channels that I might like, like Strong Bad, Harmony Gold, or Manga Entertainment.

Travel Trouble to DC

This weekend I traveled to Washington DC with my wife for a friends birthday.  As usual I tried to book us on Delta Airlines because I have the most status and points with them from all my business travels to date.  I did have enough points for one ticket so I used that for my wife and I purchased mine so I could get some points from Delta.  The trip up required a stop over in Atlanta since there is no direct flight using Delta.  A funny thing happened, I was upgraded for both legs of the journey while my wife was stuck in coach.  I received a lot of flack for that one from our friends in DC but getting upgraded is a Delta decision, not mine.

Anyway, we ended up being delayed in Ft. Lauderdale for about an hour which used up all the cushion for our next leg of the journey to Washington.  I continued to check the status of the next flight hoping it too would be delayed but I didn’t have so much luck in that department.  We actually got to Atlanta with about 20 minutes to spare but had to wait 5 minutes in the plane so that they could move a baggage cart that was blocking the gate!  Such idiocy!  Put the cart elsewhere not in front of a gate!

Since I was up front in First Class, I decided to sprint for it through ATL to see if I could get them to hold the flight.  I was at gate A23 and my connecting flight was at gate B1.  Those of you who fly through Atlanta know how far away that is and sprinting with a rollerboard isn’t the easiest thing to do.  I sent a text message to my wife on what gate to run to, we weren’t the only people on the plane late for connections, practically everyone was trying to connect to their next destination.  I was able to make it to the gate with 2 minutes to spare (or so I thought only to realize that the door was shut and the status on the board said “Departed”.  BLAH!  My wife was all the way at gate B16 when I told her the bad news so there was no need to sprint further.

The good thing was that we were guaranteed to be on the next flight out on Saturday morning (this basically killed my sight seeing plans for the day) but we were stuck in Atlanta for the night.  Delta provides counters so you can get vouchers so I decided to get in line and wait with everyone else that missed their connection.  The line was LONG and the wait was just as bad.  There were some check in kiosks that was able to give us our vouchers and my wife’s boarding card (seat request!).  Now here is where my status came into play again.  Since I bought my ticket separately from my wife’s, we were given vouchers for two different hotels. My wife got the lovely Red Roof Inn and I was able to get the much nicer Double Tree.  I thought that was kind of funny but in the end we stayed together at the Double Tree since it was the nicer of the two.

The next day we were able to leave, but again we weren’t seated together because I had a First Class ticket and she had to sit in coach.  It’s a good thing we were flying JetBlue home, I think she would have been upset if I got First Class on the way home too.

The actual trip to DC was nice, too bad it rained on Saturday.  I was only able to see the Washington Monument and the WWII monument.  I was so close to getting to the Lincoln Memorial but the rain stopped us (we didn’t have an umbrella) so we turned back and got ready for our friends party.  I might go back to DC for a longer visit next time so I can see a bit more of the city and take in the sights of the Capitol.  Well, back to work!

Blog Automation – Getting your blog to update your Facebook status

As I’ve been experimenting with WordPress and some new services to get my blog out into the interweb I think I’ve been relatively successful with my current method so I thought I’d share it just in case anyone wants to give this a try.  Here is my current set up but depending on who the blog is supposed to reach, some of these services won’t be required or it just might become popular enough on its own that this won’t be needed.  Anyway, here we go!

Services:

First off there are a number of free services that will be needed to make this happen and in order to select the services you need a goal is required.  My ultimate goal was to get my blog to update my Facebook status without me having to do it manually by blogging then going to Facebook and adding a link.  After doing some research into the problem I was able to come up with a solution that is working really well.  First off I’ll list the services I have to make all this happen and all of them are free.

  1. WordPress – Blog
  2. Facebook
  3. Twitter
  4. Twitterfeed
  5. FeedBurner – Optional

OK, first things first, you need to sign up for all these services and I’ll say what service does what.  Most of them should be familiar already such as Facebook and Twitter but Twitterfeed and FeedBurner might be a little new.

WordPress – Pretty simple, this is where all the blog posts go.  What is blogged about doesn’t really matter.  I post things about technology for the most part and things that occur in my life.  I have been writing in my blog since 2005 give or take about various topics.  It started as a news page for my website but now its what I use most to write about things that interest me or that I think others might want to read.  It also helps to keep my writing skills sharp.

Facebook – Ahh the huge social network that everyone is on.  Pretty easy as well, this is where most of your friends, family, co-workers, ex’s, pretty much everyone you know is on this thing and is probably on your friend list too.  The big thing with Facebook for me is the status updates since this is where all your blog posts are eventually going to end up complete with a web link to the post.

Twitter – Another social like network that limits your updates to 140 characters.  This updates people on what you’re doing but unlike Facebook, the entire planet can see it and not just your friends like in Facebook.  This is the intermediate area where your blog is going to be published.  I’ll explain that later.

Twitterfeed – This is the service that makes everything possible and helps the snowball that is your blog post to pick up a ton of speed.  As the name implies this integrates with Twitter and your blog.  This is kind of a set it and forget it service but its extremely useful.  It will generate a tiny url for the blog post so it fits in a tweet to Twitter.

FeedBurner – This service is optional.  It gathers statistics about your RSS feed for your blog to let you know who’s viewing your blog.  Pretty nifty if you’re concerned with stats up the wazoo.

Now that you know what everything kind of does, its time to bring the web together and get stuff posted.

The first thing that needs to be done is to get Twitter to update your Facebook status.  There is an app in Facebook that will link the two accounts together so that whenever you tweet, it reflects that straight away in Facebook as a status update.  This is very useful since I can tweet using a text message from my phone without going to the web.  I would test this out a few times just to make sure its working correctly.  Facebook can still be updated manually but this won’t be reflected in Twitter.  Just keep in mind that once enabled, whatever you do on Twitter is done in Facebook.

The second thing that needs to be done is to setup Twitterfeed.  Twitterfeed is a service that takes RSS feeds and sends them as tweets to Twitter.  All blogs come with some form of RSS address and this address is what goes into Twitterfeed.  Twitterfeed can look for new posts every 30 minutes or so for the latest post and tweet it.  At the same time, Twitterfeed adds a url link so that people can go to the post.

For those that love statistics, FeedBurner is the way to go.  It shows in a report format who is reading your blog, how many hits it gets a day, who is subscribing to it, etc.  All that needs to be done is to put the RSS link from the blog to FeedBurner and then it will start tracking stats.  I think the stats that WordPress gives you is plenty but this is for those that want a bit more.

Pretty much thats it!  For those of you who need to know the process flow it goes like this:

  1. Blog post -> Twitterfeed
  2. Twitterfeed -> Twitter
  3. Twitter -> Facebook

And that is how all my blog posts find its way on to Facebook.  I’ve seen a big jump in readership but I think it also depends on what I happen to blog about.  Thats it for now.  More inspiration will come after the weekend is done.