On Saturday I joined a local fitness club. I have been entertaining the idea of getting a membership to a fitness club for a while now, but when I started out looking for one, I didn’t want one of those professional performance places where its a bunch of hulk hogans running around and all that. So I found a family oriented club and went to check it out on Saturday morning. I was a little intimidated by the size of the place, but once the manager started showing me around, it was really quite nice. Everyone was friendly and they offer a lot of cool programs that come as part of the membership. It is a bit expensive, but my plan is to stick with the club for about a year, get myself in better shape and then try to get some equipment that I can use to maintain my fitness level at home. I need to go at least 3 times a week which is going to be tough with my schedule. I realize that if I am going to do this, its going to cost something besides money, and that is my family time. I’m going to have to go at night twice a week and once on Saturday morning.
I have tried several software packages to do screen recording, and I must say that my favorite by far is Camtasia studio by TechSmith. Their software is visually appealing with a modern and intuitive interface. It also outputs your projects in a variety of configurable formats and makes your work look very professional. Several neat features I enjoy are smart focus and a neat little mouse trick. With Smart focus, the video can zoom and pan as you move your mouse around while recording, this way the viewers get a close up view of what you are doing and you are not wasting as much viewing space with unused area on your desktop. I also like the feature of using the hotkeys to pause recording so you can make changes or do other tasks, and when you un-pause, the mouse is returned exactly to where it was when you paused the recording, eliminating the annoying mouse jumps you get in many other packages.
Its not free, and in fact is one of the most expensive solutions I looked at. But the user experience is ver good and the output is the best I’ve seen in screen recording packages. This is a great tool for many professions and specific tasks, but particularly useful in IT as you can record tutorials or how-to videos with ease, and make them very easily viewable and portable!
I personally use one of these on my Exchange server, but didn’t know about this one until recently. Go to POP Grabber and check it out. It has a free version for 3 accounts or you can pay I think $35 for the full version which is unlimited. This is a great deal compared to other POP3 downloaders which are often much more expensive.
For the past few weeks I’ve been trying NetFlix, which has actually turned out to be pretty cool. You can logon to their website and rate moveis that you’ve seen, and then you get a huge list of recommendations which are generated based on your ratings of other movies. They have a great selection and a local warehouse in Tampa, so I get my next selections pretty fast! I don’t know if I’ll keep it or not, its not that expensive but I only have a few more movies left that I want to see in my queue, after searching most of their inventory. So I will probably end up cancelling.
Tonight we are having Pizza Hut pizza for dinner. Its been a really long time since we’ve had Pizza hut, since other places are cheaper and closer. But Sarah and I really love Pizza Hut pizza so tonight we are getting a large pan pizza and a thin and crispy pizza. I think Pizza Hut is my personal favorite pizza, followed by dominos and then various independant places I’ve been. Dominos has the best cheesy bread hands down of anyone else! Papa Johns is also really good, but a bit more expensive so we don’t have it that often. I did NOT like their perfect pan pizza.
The time has come once again for me to get new glasses. Last time I got new glasses I spent way too much money and didn’t even get a pair of frames that I liked. I think this time, I am going to try to find a way to take someone with me and help me pick out a pair of frames that look good. Maybe I should get a stylin’ pair like H.R.G on Heroes 🙂 NOT! They look OK on him, but I think something a bit more moden will be good for me. I want to get laser vision correction, but probably won’t do that for a few years or so, due to financial issues (since its expensive). And the Lasik people had the nerve to tell me I have large pupils! Which of course means I need the most expensive package! Oh well, for now I just hope to find a good pair of frames that look good on me. Its just hard to pick out a good pair on my own, since I can’t see without my glasses, and none of the frames on display have real lenses in them. So its like a blind man trying to funble around in the dark. Hopefully this time it will work out better! I am planning to go some place like Lenscrafters or something to see what I can find.
I got a sheetfed scanner in the mail today, and started doing some searches for free or open source software for use in making our home office a paperless home office. I am so tired of all the clutter in all the papers we get from creditors, and not to mention all the papers from Sarah’s schooling and Liz’s activities. I found this great software called DocsVault, which has a free home edition for download. I had searched for a few hours and really hadn’t found much of anything that cought my eye. Some expensive server based systems looked great, but were overkill for my home needs. So I came across this software and downloaded it to give it a try. I was impressed right from the start, it has everything we need for organizationl; cabinets, drawers and folders. It stores everything in an internal database and can use my sheet fed scanner. It has backup and restore capabilities built in, and can burn stright to CD/DVD or to a hard drive location. It integrate with MS Office and save documents directly to the cabinet/drawer of your choice. It has search capabilities and lots of powerful features above and beyond what I thought I could get for free. I started today scanning in papers, anything from bills, tax paperwork and all the way to the girls drawlings. Its perfect and exactly what I need to take care of my digital home needs. This should decrease the clutter and allow for better archiving and make things easier to find.
I got my new surround speaker system last night, but was very disappointed to find that they were as cheap as you can get. The website with their description was very mis-leading. I managed to combine them with my TV speakers and got it to sound half way decent. But I am going to have to upgrade to a more expensive and better sounding system in the not so distant future. Its frustrating because these things are so expensive and I don’t even want the top end major name brand or anything, and it will still probably cost me at least $300 for the speakers and sub that I would want. GRRR.
I recently decided that I’d like to replace the older surround sound speakers currently installed on my multimedia PC at home. Since I don’t have cable or DirecTV or any other paid TV Service, I use my multimedia PC to download/watch any shows or movies (not counting DVDs) that I want to see. This works out great for me, and the quality is amazing. My multimedia machine is a 1.8GHz AMD system, with 512MB of RAM, a 400GB hard drive, and Realtek HD Audio processor. I checked out my system specs and found that if I bought a really nice set of surround sound speakers, I’d probably need a new sound card. I like the Realtek HD audio, but the physical outputs on the motherboard are limited. I won’t have enough outputs to power a decent speaker set in 5.1 surround. So I went online and took over an hour to decide on a new sound card. I ended up getting the Creative Audigy EAX PCI. Its not an expensive card, but should deliver good quality 5.1 6 channel audio to my living room. Now the hunt is on for a good speaker set, I want to get something thats 5.1 surround, has 2 right channels, 2 front channels, a center channel/sub. I need something with a remote for volume control. I also want something if possible, on stands, so I won’t have to worry about finding temporary stands or mounting stuff on the wall.
I think I found a few sets on eBay that look pretty nice, and are fairly affordable. I don’t really need a receiver, because I won’t be using it for any radio or with any other inputs. All my multimedia comes from my multimedia PC, so as long as whatever I get connects to my multimedia PC, I’m set. I don’t want to go overboard either, since I won’t be using them to their full potential till we either move to a more secluded area, or the kids are older. We live in a close neighborhood, so I don’t want to make too much noise! I’ll try to put together some kind of diagram and spec listing for my multimedia PC and home theatre system once its complete.