Technology Tuesday – The Results and The Review

•August 26, 2008 • 5 Comments

Okay, first of all, thanks to everyone who entered the contest!! Due to a couple glitches with the commenting system – and just some general comments in the fray – I went through and listed out all the names.

The following people were submitted in the drawing and I really want to thank you for all of your great vlogging examples!

ultra

ultra

Mark Warren, Eric Miltsch, Mocha, Rahsheen, jennydecki, Karl, Adrienne, James from Babyspot, Liz, Tara, Tina, Kelly, Roger Gauthier, Geekazine, Connie, Mark Warren, Brian Bonn, BunnyB, Rob White, Dario Salvelli, melitami, Kevin T, CalifMom, Deb On The Rocks, Banana Lee Fishbones, TSM_Oregon, Seeker65, Freerangemom, Chris Shouse, Home Biss, RobGuy, Suzanne B, tixrus, Mama to 3 Boys and a VLA Biz Too, CanCan, Naomi, brandy3,  Go Annie, Angela Penny

So I know you want to know right now who won… but I’m kind of evil.  I’m going to give you the $2 review of the Flip Ultra first, now that I’ve had a chance to play with it a bit!  (Yes, yes, I know you can scroll down to see who won first, but you can’t blame a gal for trying!)

The Flip Ultra – A User Review

Okay, I have to admit, it’s a cute and sexy little video camera.  This isn’t your big, old wrist-bending video camera that lines the soccer fields and recital stages all across the country.  This is a ‘wow… is that a video camera? It fits in your pocket? How’s the quality? Really? It must cost a fortune then… really? wow’ camera.

The Good

  • It’s small – it will fit in your coat pocket, your purse, your backpack, your diaper bag, your laptop bag.
  • It’s lightweight – your wrist won’t get tired holding this up – it weighs about the same as the average smart phone or PDA
  • The picture is surprisingly crisp and clear – after seeing grainy resolution and fuzzy focus from cell phones and video footage captured with the average digital camera, the resolution and clarity of the Flip Ultra was a pleasant discovery
  • The sound quality is surprisingly good – again, the average video camera isn’t exactly high quality on sound unless you are willing to shell out a fair penny, the sound quality of the Flip Ultra is good even in noisier environments.
  • It’s easy to use – this is a video camera that you can hand to any passer-by and have him/her push-the-red-button-and-go without any confusing extra buttons or lengthy explanations. Push up to zoom in, push down to down to zoom out.  Red button starts and stops.  It takes a couple of minutes for anyone to learn how to use.  Including my 5 year old who wants her own now.
  • Widgets – it comes with connector cables that let you plug it right into any TV with an S-video jack, so you can play the footage back right away on a big screen.  You don’t have to download, reformat, burn a DVD and put it in the player to show Grandma the footage of the kids opening presents.  Just plug it in and go.
  • Best of All? The Flip Ultra is incredibly affordable. Retailing at $149 or less (there are some seriously good deals out there right now!) it’s less expensive than most cellphones.  It’s certainly less expensive than the heavier, bulkier, now-collecting-dust-on-my-shelf video camera I bought a few years ago when my kidlet was younger.  Both GeekDaddy and I are fans.

The Bad

  • Stability – okay, I’m being honest… I don’t have the steadiest filming hand.  Some of the test footage that I shot made GeekDaddy and I a little seasick when played back on anything larger than the tiny screen on the back.  We discovered that GeekDaddy’s footage was a little less prone to “shaky cam” but it’s hard to keep it steady for longer footage.  Yes, it can be put on any standard tripod, but that kind of defeats the point of portability.
  • Lighting – Not much you can do if the lighting isn’t good.  While it handles low light situations fairly well if they are consistently lit, it’s not very adept at dealing with mixed-lighting situations.  Going in and out of shadows is a bad idea, and there’s nothing you can do to manually adjust for low-light.

The Questionable

  • Software Glitches – The Flip Ultra comes with its own software.  In theory, you install it and go. From that point forward every time you plug the camera into a USB port, it’s supposed to run the built in software that lets you do basic editing, save files, delete files and play them.  This worked GREAT on my little black one.  It didn’t work at all on a different Flip Ultra camera (purchased in July) even plugged into my laptop.  Despite uninstalling and redownloading and reinstalling the ‘updated’ software, it never ran successfully on one camera, but always ran on my new one.  Was the other camera damaged? Perhaps, but that’s why it’s under questionable.

All in all though, I have to say – this is an excellent little camera.  I’d recommend it to just about anyone, especially given how affordable it is.  So I’m fairly sure that the winner of this contest is going to have as much fun with this as I am.

It seems only fair to announce this using a video, so I’m going to link the announcement from 12seconds.com (tried to embed it, but WP was having none of that…argh.)

Again, thanks everyone for entering, the list above was posted in the order the names were in my spreadsheet (1 entry per person, no matter how many comments you posted!) and the winner is…

Winner Flip Cam Contest on 12seconds.tv

Email me your mailing info at Lucretia AT Geekmommy DOT net and I’ll get it out to you this week!

See you tomorrow!

Money $aving Monday… Has Been Postponed This Week

•August 25, 2008 • 3 Comments

I’m sorry.

I’m having some real-life-getting-in-the-way-of-very-important-blogging issues! :)

Seriously, my Buttercup starts Kindergarten this week, the DNC is in town, I’m a couple days behind on everything except excuses!  So I’m moving “Money $aving Monday” this week to give myself a little breathing room.

Look forward to the transformation of Freeform Friday into Frugal Friday which will hopefully include some video footage!

Meanwhile, don’t forget to check back tomorrow to see who won the Flip Ultra Video Camera giveaway!

Thoughtful Thursday – Frequency & Dilution

•August 21, 2008 • 15 Comments

When I started this blog, I posted rather haphazardly to it.  Whenever I really felt motivated to post, I would.  Then I’d Twitter the link, some folks would come and read it, a few would comment and I’d reply and we’d move on again until the next time.

Recently, I decided to take a risk with it though.

You see, this isn’t my first time around the dance floor.  I’ve been blogging for 8+ years now under various names in various places.  With one exception, I found that the more frequently I blogged, the more sparse the comments and readers became.

I know my own reading habits are such that there isn’t a ‘daily blog’ that I read.  No, I’ve never gotten addicted to Dooce or Techcrunch or anything else everyone I know says is “the first thing they read every day upon logging on.”  I’m just not that kind of gal.  The only people in real life I can be around every day are my husband and my daughter – so it’s not terribly surprising that I feel the same way about blogs.  Heck, even when I got the newspaper delivered I didn’t read it daily.  I’m just too random for that.

So it doesn’t exactly surprise me that the kind of readers I attract when I write aren’t that sort either.  You’re more likely the sort who clicked on a link I posted on Twitter, or who occasionally stops by because it’s on your blogroll and you’re bored or you’ve found me on a search engine somewhere.  The thought that I might spout blogging gems daily is just as amusing to me as it is to you.

So when I opted for shifting this blog to ‘daily posting’ under certain topics, I knew I was doing so at the expense of good commentary.  I mean, few folks feel the need to write a letter-to-the-editor of their local newspaper every day about an article they read – why would we think blog readers were going to comment every day?  Usually, I suspect the folks who do “read this one site every day first thing” and comment on it are probably a bit more obsessed with the blogger than the blog.

Honestly, not everything that comes out of an a-list blog site is that fascinating.  A higher percentage than most? Sure.  But if someone is commenting every day on every post – I’d wager money on the fact that the attraction is getting noticed by the poster him/herself, not because every blog spurs a discussion.

Recently, I posted a couple of times in my new format only to have 0 comments.

At first, I got paranoid!! ‘Oh my gosh – this isn’t going to work!! You don’t like the new format! It’s not interesting or engaging enough to read!’

Then I went and checked the site stats… and yep, sure enough, some of you are still reading.

‘Oh duh…’ went the voice in my head, ‘you knew this was going to happen. You’d just gotten used to having someone respond every time you posted here. Now get back to reality and don’t abandon ship just yet.  When someone posts that you’ve gotten boring, or your subscriptions start going the other direction along with your site traffic, then you can panic.’

It’s just that I’d forgotten the law of numbers.

You see, I read monthly magazines cover-to-cover most times… because I have time in which to do it and because the infrequency of their publication tends to mean higher quality of content.  Sometimes I’ll read weekly print publications cover-to-cover, but usually it’s when I don’t subscribe but have bought one on a newstand.  But daily delivered data? Yeah, it’s seldom ALL worthy of note.  So if you’re reading this in your Google Reader or whatever RSS feed you use, I’m not going to be surprised when you skip over or delete a large number of my daily posts unless the title interests you.

But hopefully once in awhile I’ll manage to post something that spurs discussion again.  Because I’d forgotten what it’s like to keep wondering why no one is commenting on an entry.  I guess if I’m going to step up the frequency, I’d better both up the level of content AND lower my expectations!

But do me a favor? If it does get surpassingly boring – before you delete me from your ‘to read’ list? Take 2 minutes to comment and let me know. Even if it’s only to say ‘dude – you suck and you were more interesting when you talked less.’

Thanks!

Weight Loss Wednesday – You Say Tacos, I say Mockos…

•August 20, 2008 • 2 Comments

I didn’t get on the scale today – because I did on Monday as part of my participation in the Tweightloss Challenge.  I’m on a team trying to lose weight with the help and support of our Twitterpals.  So far, I’m down 5 lbs from where I started my journey and 3 from where I started the challenge.  Or I was on Monday anyways… I’ve decided to try and keep myself to weighing only once a week, or I start getting obsessive about it and that way leads to stress and neurosis for me.

But I was trying to figure out what I could post that might help someone else thinking about all of this and then I remembered that GeekDaddy & I make a recipe that goes over big with our friends and they always wish we’d told them about it sooner… so I thought I’d share it.

Several years back, we tried one of those “highly restrictive professional diets” – there are a lot of them out there and you probably see them advertised on TV and in your local paper.  This one actually happens to work – I lost over 25 lbs on it, and GeekDaddy lost 35 and hit his target weight – which is part of what proved our downfall.  It was so much easier and faster for him that I got disillusioned when I was only 1/2 way to my goal and he was done and ready for “maintenance.”  The other part of the failure equation was that the diet itself was so crazy restrictive that when I lost it and took “one weekend off to eat like a normal person” and he joined me, 3 months later we were both right back where we started.

One really good thing came out of it though and that was that the extreme lack of anything resembling a simple carbohydrate made us get creative.  We came up with ‘Mockos’ (the name is a play on words of course, mock tacos -> mockos) because we were hard pressed to find meals that weren’t boring and bland… given that salt was verboten and most food was really generally unappetizing after a few weeks.

butter lettuce

butter lettuce

What you need

~ 1 head of Butter Lettuce
~ 1 lb of lean ground beef or 99% fat-free ground turkey (the other kind is gross, thanks)
~ 1 can of either black beans or pinto beans
~ 1 bag of 2% shredded cheese
~ Taco seasonings (can either be a packet from the store or do like we do and put chili powder, garlic, onion powder and tabasco sauce in w/ the meat instead)

    Brown the meat in a frying pan, season with taco seasoning, drain off any excess fat/grease.  Zap the beans in the microwave. Set aside about 1/4 cup of 2% shredded cheese for each person.  Use the individual butter lettuce leaves like you would a tortilla – so like a mini burrito or soft taco –  you are going to put about 1/2 beans and 1/2 meat into a leaf, sprinkle on some cheese and roll it up and eat as you go.  GeekDaddy adds salsa to his, I don’t. To each her own.

    It serves about 2-3 people.  You may find you have “stuff” left over.  Just put it in the fridge and make it into a nice taco salad the next day.

    Seriously – it’s tons healthier and really easy.  Plus you can kind of play with the seasoning until you get it where you want it.  We’ve done it with lean beef, ground turkey, ground buffalo, and even chicken.  It’s fun and fast.

    Yeah, not much of a recipe, but seriously. Yum.

    Tell me if you try it what you think and how you make it your own!

    Technology Tuesday – The Contest

    •August 19, 2008 • 61 Comments

    Sorry to get this one up so late – I know it’s already Wednesday on the East Coast and my friends in Singapore are coming up on their lunch hours… But hey, trust me. This one is worth the wait!

    I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to play with the Flip Ultra video camera in order to write the review I want to write, so I figured that will have to wait until either Friday or next Tuesday.  But I’m not going to keep you guys in further suspense as to the nature of the contest for the Flip Ultra that the nice folks at Pure Digital (in conjunction with the WalMart 11 Money Saving Moms project) sent me to give to one lucky reader of this blog! (Mostly because I’m sure a few of you would come after me if I put it off again!)

    So.  Here it is then.  I was trying to figure out what made for a good contest.

    If I just say “comment and I’ll randomly draw a number” then the guy who drops by here one time for 10 seconds stands as much chance of winning as those of you who have been hanging in there with me. Plus, I’d like this to be something fun for all of us.

    So I’m about to start trying to post my vlogs here with my own Flip camera and it wouldn’t hurt to learn a bit more about what you guys like in that regard.

    So here’s what you have to do to win – Leave a comment here.  In the comment you need to put 2 links:

    1) a link to an example of what you consider a GOOD vlog.  Something you’d actually watch.  Don’t just go to Google and put in ‘vlog’ and post the first thing you find – because I might just get clever and ask you a question like what the last line in the vlog was! ;)

    2) a link to someplace you’ve reposted the link for this contest – it can be your blog, it can be Twittered, or Plurked, or posted on Friend Feed or your favorite social network. Just post a link to where you’ve posted it so I can follow it back and verify (this means it has to be a public post!)

    This should give me a good sample of vlogs you think are worth watching.  And if you’re entering to get the Flip to start your own vlogging? it might help you figure out where to start too!

    The contest ends Monday, August 25th at 11:59pm Mountain Time (my time zone) and I will then use random.org to generate a number that will correspond with the commentor who wins.  (Comments without the two required links will be excluded from the numbering.)

    I will announce the winner in the next Technology Tuesday post.

    And just to whet your appetite? Here’s a picture of the one I opened – you’ll be receiving your own unopened box identical in nature! Yep, it’s a nice, sexy black Flip Ultra!  Good Luck!

    Still in the Box

    Still in the Box

    ETA: sorry about that – default comment moderated anything w/ 2 links or more! oops! Fixed it! :)

    Money $aving Monday – Move It Around

    •August 18, 2008 • Leave a Comment

    This is a quick tip – but the recent spate of cold weather here reminded me that, with school starting, we’re headed on our way toward Fall and changing weather.

    A simple way to save money on both your heating and cooling bills is to remember that you don’t need to heat or cool the *whole* house.

    In our house, along with the 6 month changing of the furnace filter we do a 6 month “changing of the guard” on our air/heating vents.

    In cooler months, we close the upstairs vents and open those on the first floor – because heat rises.  Likewise, in warmer times, we open the vents on the top floor and close those on the first floor, because colder air inevitably drifts downward.  If you’re keeping all your vents open, your heating & cooling systems have to do twice the work.  That’s twice the electricity.

    It’s a small effort twice a year, but believe me, it saves you bigtime on the energy bill!!

    Have a great Monday!

    Weight-Loss Wednesday? Thoughtful Thursday? Sick Reality.

    •August 14, 2008 • 3 Comments

    I’m taking 2 minutes to write this before I go back to where I’ve spent the past 40-or-so hours… my bed.

    Weight-Loss post didn’t happen – because I was busy losing calories the old-fashioned way: not being able to keep anything down other than crackers, ginger ale, and a bowl of chicken noodle soup.

    Thoughtful Thursday? all I can think about is how miserable I feel, how quickly the e-mail is piling up in my inbox, how far behind I’m getting, and how I somehow managed to miss calling in to a panel on women in speaking that I really wanted to be in on.

    But my stomach, intestines and muscles inform me that I am not going to manage anything other than clicking “Post” on this and collapsing back into bed.  If I’m lucky, my darling GeekDaddy will bring me more soup.  But he’s been taking care of both Buttercup & me while working full-time the past 2 days.  He’s truly my knight in shining armor.  My exhausted knight in shining armor.

    Did I mention I’m a sucky patient?  Whiny, self-absorbed, demanding and cranky? Yeah.

    On that note. Tomorrow is another day. G’night.