Thursday, June 26, 2008

Why iTunes is dead to me

Why is iTunes dead to me? Here's my "A-HA!" moment:

1) My wife and I watched Juno for the first time last night. (Loved it.)

2) Kari mentioned how much she loved the music and wants the soundtrack.

3) Today, I checked prices on Juno - Music From The Motion Picture from Amazon and from iTunes:
* Amazon: $8.99
* iTunes: $11.99

4) Amazon is DRM-free, meaning I'll never be given that annoying prompt about re-licensing this music when I upgrade machines.

Every time I check Amazon, it costs less than iTunes. When you see Amazon's daily specials, which we list regularly on dealnews, they're far less. In fact, they're so cheap that they make entire albums into impulse purchases. And they're DRM-free, they work perfectly on my iPhone, and Amazon's downloader even puts them in my iTunes app.

I have over $100 in credit at iTunes, since I usually stock up when iTunes Gift Cards go on sale. I'll take your best offer.

So long, iTunes. Pardon me if I don't wish you luck on maintaining your monopoly.

Hill Country BBQ = $$$

I lunched at Hill Country Texas BBQ today (30 W 26th St). Quite decent barbeque, with excellent brisket, good jalepeno cheese sausages, good pork ribs (although a tad dry), good corn pudding, and a good red BBQ sauce. Their sweet tea was a little odd because it had a mint flavor (real mint, but still didn't seem right). It's the best BBQ I've had in NYC by far, but that's compared to Jake's in Brooklyn (which is very average).

The problem? $72 (before tip) for three people for lunch! HOLY FRICKING PAYOLA. I'm used to Big Bob Gibson's BBQ in Decatur, AL ... better food at about half the price.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Western Digital's My DVR Expander

I purchased the Western Digital 500GB My DVR Expander eSATA External Hard Drive yesterday and connected it today to my Scientific Atlanta 8300-Series DVR (from Time Warner). Worked like a charm. Don't get me wrong, the Scientific Atlanta 8300 is a piece of garbage compared to a TiVo. But I went from 65% full to 15% full, a 4.3x increase if my math is right. Woohoo! I can finally let the DVR record niche shows I like to watch occasionally like Colbert Report and Deadliest Catch.

I paid 150 clams for this privilege, though, $50-$70 more than what a 500GB eSATA HDD should cost. Ouch. However, when I researched expanding my DVR, it seemed that there wasn't consensus on whether any ol' eSATA HDD works on my DVR model. I really didn't want to have to buy a HDD that I'd have to return, so I waited until dealnews stumbled on a deal for this model, which is intended for DVRs. I might have pissed away $70, but I might have saved myself lots of time and trouble. Any brave souls out there that have gotten any ol' eSATA to work?

And may I add ... OMG, I picked budget shipping from, and I got this item next-day. WOW.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Why can't Amazon sort by price?

Amazon, the world leader in e-commerce, can't sort by price. What's up with that? Surely the people who can provide customized recommendations can figure out how to ...

... oh, I just took a look at my personalized recommendations. Amazon apparently thinks I'm incontinent. Nevermind.

Setup my Onkyo receiver & Infinity Beta 10 speakers

This weekend, I setup my new Onkyo TX-SR606 7.1-Channel Receiver (paid $385). Setup was a breeze. The only hitch was that I'm using a 2-channel setup, and it ships from the factory in 7.1-mode. So I had to configure it so it knew I only had two speakers. Cake.

The Onkyo TX-SR606 is overkill for my system, but it was one of the cheapest HTS receivers dealnews has listed with 4 HDMI inputs (that aren't sound-disabled like some older Onkyos). I've got the Time Warner box, HD DVD player (which I only use as an upconverting DVD player), Xbox 360, and Mac mini hooked up to it. Loving it so far.

I connected it to two new Infinity Beta 10 Bookshelf Speakers. The dealpad is a rental, so I opted not to get a multi-channel home theater speaker setup for now since I didn't want to run wire through the walls. These speakers were top-rated by Consumer Reports (ya I know, but cheap bookshelf speakers are hard to get a rating on). Although far from fantastic compared to high-end bookshelf speakers, I'm very happy with their sound at $89 a pop. They'll make decent rear speakers down the road. Too bad Vanns sold out.

Friday, June 20, 2008 Now with advertising is taking a risk by adding banner ads to its product pages, at the top. They aren't exactly engaging high-end advertisers either ... I was shown a "Free dinner at Olive Garden" ad (pictured). First off, the link sent you to a very scammy solicitation for "2 Silver offers, 1 Gold offer, and 1 Platinum offer". Second, Olive Garden wasn't mentioned anywhere. And third ... Olive Garden? Ick!

So, is Walmart saying that e-commerce doesn't work for them? Or are they simply maximizing revenue from the thousands of people who visit their site every day from dealnews to buy something and then go, "Wait, I'm not shopping here. It's Wal-Mart! I'd rather eat at an Olive Garden!"

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I finally saw a Kindle

While on a plane this past week, I actually saw someone using an Amazon Kindle. Maybe I'm just not observant, but I've never seen one used before, even on the NY Subway. Observations:

1) The screen is terrifically bright, quite amazing, even in that annoyingly bright sunlight you get from a plane's window.
2) The Kindle owner sat in First Class. The Kindle costs $359. Nuff said.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

BabyCakes NYC

Last night, Kari and I went to BabyCakes NYC, a much-hyped bakery (specializing in cupcakes) in the Lower East Side. It has friendly, helpful staff. $16 bagged us four cupcakes and a slice of banana bread. A unique twist at BabyCakes is that is uses no sugar, flour and butter cream in its cupcakes. They instead use "all natural, organic and delicious alternatives free from the common allergens: wheat, gluten, dairy, casein and eggs."

It turns out, sugar, flour and butter cream are essential for yummy cupcakes. The frosting tasted odd, the cake was dry and unforgiving, and the flavors don't quite come together. Verdict? Yuck!

The banana bread, however, was the best I ever had: Moist, flavorful, with gooey chucks of banana.