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March 31,2009(Tuesday)

A lot of readers ask us how we shoot our product and review photos.  We don't do anything fancy.  The walls in our work area and ceiling are painted a flat off-white.  When the sun is out, the rooms doubles as a perfect photo studio.   The reflected light is soft and does not cast much of a shadow.   When it is right we can just shoot away, but sometimes the sun does not cooperate (we ARE in New England after all) and we may need the help of a flash. 

Used appropriately, it can bring make a photo pop.  However, flash photography is a lot more than just... [More]- Nikon Creative Lighting System


March 30,2009(Monday)

Many older photographers have a collection of slides and negatives sitting in the back of the closet. The intention is to convert them to digital files "some day."  We had the same goal when we got our slide scanner a few years ago.  However, we did not get very far with our project.  There were a few good reasons.  Some were process related, but the main reason was our results were not very good.

Scanning slides and negatives is more than just popping some slides into a slide scanner and hitting the scan button.  It is about understanding the... [More]- How to Scan


March 28-29,2009(WeekendEdition)

Newport Rhode Island is known for its Cliff Walk,  the Tennis Hall of Fame, and blocks and blocks of mansions.  These are all great reasons for a day trip from Boston.

However, the BEST reason to drive to Newport maybe for the food at Annie's diner.  The menu offers standard fare, but the taste is out of this world.  We are not sure what they put in the eggs with sausages, but they were... [More]- Breakfast in Newport


March 27,2009(FramesAndLenesFriday)

Our Oakley Juliet sunglasses came with two sets of lenses.  Both sets were polarized, but the yellow ones had a more reflective mirror coating.  We thought we would swap out the blue ones for yellow in honor of Spring.   Ok, it may not be the most compelling reason, but it gave us an excuse to take apart the Oakley frame :-)

The Oakley frame is a little different compared to a typical sunglasses frame.  The screw holding everything together is on the bottom rather than on... [More]- Oakley Lens Replacement


March 26,2009(TurnOnTheLightsThursday)

Some here have been complaining about the flickering light in the RainyDayKitchen.  The problem was not serious enough to make it on the RainyDayRenovations Project list, but it was always in the back of our minds. 

This past weekend, a few folks went to IKEA for lunch (cheapest place to shop AND eat) and saw a perfect replacement for the annoying, and some would say ugly, overhead light in the kitchen.

Since the lamp they saw was under $30, they didn't bother to get approvals from the ... [More]- Let there be light


March 25,2009(WowUsWednesday)

One never knows what gets put out on the sidewalks of Boston on trash day.  OK, most of it is trash, but once in a while, you find a $1000 stainless steel dishwasher along with the usual crap.

This one was discovered by one of our editors while surfing Craigslist. It was listed as .. "free, first come first served.  The only problem is that it ... [More]- Free is Good


March 24,2009(TechTuesday)

The most asked question we got these past few days was "does the new Xyron Create and Cut software work with the old Wishblade?"  We decided to set up the older Wishblade to find out.

The short answer is "yes."  The Create and Cut software will work just fine with the older Xyron Wishblade.   We plugged both machines into the same Mac and turn them on.  To our relief, the Production Manager software had no problem detecting the two Wishblades. 

As a quick test, we imported some data files from a previous project to the Create and Cut software and... [More]- New Software Old Wishblade


March 23,2009(MallMonday)

The New England Flower Show is now at the mall?  Not just one mall, but a few of them scattered around town.  The word was that the folks who usually put the show together every year ran into a bit of a financial problem, but got creative and worked out something with the mall owners.  It is a pretty smart idea.

One of the shows was at the Chestnut Hill Mall in Brookline.  We had to go check it for ourselves.  The displays were placed at all levels of the mall.  Mixed in with the flower show were... [More]- New England Flower Show


March 21-22,2009(WeekendEdition)

We showed the unpacking of our brand spanking new Wishblade yesterday.  ALL of the directions which came with the Wishblade were written for PC users.  So, to make things clearer for the Mac folks, we'll walk through the setup and installation of the cutting software for OSX. Fortunately for Mac users, the steps are pretty simple, but we realize that not all scrapbookers and crafters are computer geeks, so we'll point out the steps which may be confusing.  Feel free to drop us a note in the Xyron Mac forum if you are having trouble.  We'll be answering questions there for the next week.

The first step is to complete the setup of the physical machine.  The Wishblade came with a 3' USB cable.  We got a 12' cable from Micro Center so we could place the machine at a more convenient location.  We also installed the pen in the cutter instead of a blade for the test run.  This was so we won't inflict any accidental damage to the machine should things don't go as expected.  We had to leave the cover in the open position with the pen installed. 

All of the Mac software (Production Manager, Create&Cut+) were on the Create and Cut Plus CD.  Running the Create&Cut Plus Installer on the CD installed all of the necessary software to the various locations on the Mac.  When the process successfully completed, there were two new... [More]- Wishblade Software Install


March 20,2009(FirstLookFriday)

Xyron rocked the scrapbooking world a few years ago with the introduction of the Wishblade Personal Media Cutter.  The first Wishblade was powerful, simple use, but unfortunately not supported on the Mac.  We were able to work around the limitation, but the workflow of creating our designs on the Mac, converting the files, and cutting on a Wishblade via PC was cumbersome enough that we didn't use the device as often as we would have liked. 

Last year, Xyron introduced an updated version of the Wishblade.  Along with various physical changes to the cutter, the Wishblade is now supported on Macs running OSX.  Finally, we will be able to both design on the Mac and... [More]- Wishblade FirstLook


March 19,2009(NeedleNThreadsThursday)

Having heard that we were having a problem with our car cover, one of our contributing editors mentioned that her 80-year olded mom is an excellent seamstress.   What is even better is that she makes house calls.  We were a little excited about going shopping for a new cover (doing our part to stimulate the economy and all that), but decided it was much more fiscally practical and environmentally responsible to repair the cover if we could.

We arranged for an appointment to have Nan (Carolyn's mom) to come by the office and take a look.  To prep for the task, we washed the cover and cleared out a space... [More]- Car Cover Repair


March 18,2009(WhatToDoWednesday)

We have all-weather covers for our cars and scooters because we don't have a covered garage.   The covers are made of a breathable water-resistant material which keeps the rain and snow out but does not trap moisture. 

We like the custom fit covers because they stay in place well even when the wind is blowing hard.  The silver cover has been in service for about six years and is still going strong.  Maybe it is because the silver cover is a... [More]- Car Cover Problem


March 17,2009(TelescopeTuesday)

There are two sets of knobs which can influence the sharpness of the image seen through our Meade LX200 GPS telescope.  The first set is the collimation screws at the front.  They are for aligning the secondary mirror so that it is perfectly planar to the larger primary mirror.  When the two mirrors are perfectly aligned, the stars should appear as a sharp point.  The other knob affecting the quality of the image is the primary mirror focus knob.  The job of this focus knob is to carefully move the large primary mirror in the back closer or farther from the secondary mirror in the front so objects can come into focus when viewed in the eyepiece.

As with most equipment, refinements can be make to the original.  The two items listed above may be upgraded with minimal cost and effort to enhance the LX200 GPS scope's ease of use.  A company called Bob's Knobs sells a set of replacement screws to make quick work of the secondary mirror calibration task.  Another company called Starlight Instruments make a replacement focus knob which, when installed, will enable the user to... [More]- Meade Focus Knob upgrades


March 16,2009(FunnyMoneyMonday)

None of the financial experts, pundits, and advisors saw the current economic meltdown coming.  Why?  Nobody (with the exception of a guy in MA named Markopolos) realized that Madoff's fund was a Ponzi scheme so large that they should now change the name of the scam to the Madoff scheme.  Why? 

Isn't uncovering and warning us about these potential financial WMDs the job of the financial news networks and reporters?  Or are they just cheerleaders for corporations that own the networks and advertisers that pay the bills...as per Jon Steward's hilariously funny and extremely... [More]- Due Diligence


March 15,2009(WeekendEdition)

Cupcakes are a hit at any family gathering.  Often they are served from a tray, but for a special occassion our RainyDayKitchen folks thought it would be fun to go the extra step. 

This weekend they are going to a b'day party to help one of the editor's mom celebrate her 80th.  It's a big family and there will be LOTS of homemade food.  Instead of... [More]- Cupcake Tree


March 14,2009(WeekendEdition)

A few years ago we had the pleasure of working with Verizon to setup DSL internet service at our remote office in NY.  When we are on the road, though, we connect using the Verizon Wireless service so we never needed a WiFi network at that location.  However, not all of the devices we carry (iPod Touch, 12" Powerbook) these days have a PCMCIA slot for the Verizon Wireless card.  In order to make an internet connection when we are at the NY office, we need a way to share the DSL connection.  It was finally time to set up a Wi-Fi network at our satellite office. 

Setting up a wireless network in a home office is a pretty simple task. Or so we thought.  We had an older Linksys (BEFW11S4) wireless router which should have been perfect for this purpose.  However, after several attempts over the course of a few visits, we gave up trying to get the Linksys to work... [More]- Belkin Wireless


March 13,2009(MentalFocusFriday)

Zen is an attitude, an approach to living, a way of being in the world.  There are many ways to learn, develop, and incorporate Zen practices into one's daily life.  Yoga is one way, Aikido is another.  One of the most popular is to just sit and meditate.

A few years ago, the staff at Tricyle invited their readers to a "Commit to Sit" meditation challenge.  They have once again asked those interested to... [More]- Tricycle


March 12,2009(TravelThursday)

Some of us had to pop down to NYC for a small project this week.  We managed to finish early, and as our dinner plans were not until much later we took a stroll uptown toward the Apple Store on 5th Avenue to see how things are going at the "mother ship."

Boston is such a quaint little place compared to NYC.  The energy pulsing through the streets just slaps out-of-towners upside the head.  Anyone standing in one place for more than a few seconds had better have a... [More]- NYC


March 11,2009(WiredWednesday)

Yesterday we did a quick look at ScotteVest's Q-Zip and MicroFleece pullovers.  The fabric and construction of both jackets are high quality.  The Q-Zip features two side and one chest pocket.  The MicroFleece has five pockets embedded in its structure. While that is a lot of pockets, they did not make the garments bulky-looking.  In fact, these pullovers are much sleeker in appearance than their normal counterparts. 

Each pocket has been designed for a distinct purpose. To show the versatility of the pockets, each comes with a note card with some suggested uses for that pocket.  One major feature of these ScotteVest pullover is its cord management capability.  Today we will show how easy it is to wire them up for... [More]- ScotteVest Wired


March 10,2009(TechClothingTuesday)

An iPod is part of the wardrobe for a lot of us in the office.  One problem with carrying around the iPod all the time is managing the headphone cord.  Scott Jordan, CEO and founder of SCOTTEVEST (SeV) , has been addressing this and other problems related to carrying around personal electronics for close to a decade.

The Q-Zip and the MicroFleece pullover are two items which are perfect for Spring.  The Q-Zip is thin long-sleeve pullover that is great for... [More]- ScotteVest


March 9,2009(MoneyMonday)

"Alien vs Predator" is a movie about two extraterrestrials fighting for the domination of the planet Earth.  In some sense, John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman have been doing the same for the past fifty years.

Keynes and Friedman are two economists whose theories have influenced over 80 years of US and world economic policies.  Some of us remember learning their theories on macro economics back in junior high school.

Keynesians held sway after the economic collapse of 1929.  Roosevelt architected the recovery using Keynesian principles of... [More]- Keynes vs Friedman


March 7-8,2009(WeekendEdition)

Last weekend we painted the stairwell at the office.  We could have hired painters, but the interns offered their services and we took them up on it.  The project came out quite well.  Taping and masking made the results professional looking, but we did run into a few snags.  The main problem was the stair treads.  We taped all of them, but the paint managed to seep underneath. 

We didn't realize it was a problem until everything had dried and the tape has been pulled off.  It was only then we saw the problem.  The only solution was to... [More]- Scraping Paint


March 6,2009(FlipVideoFriday)

Last month we did a quick mention of a cool little digital HD video camcorder from PureDigital.  The folks in the office have been playing with it and the general concensus is that the unit is simple enough to use by our grandmother and the quality high enough for most casual video situations.

The Flip MinoHD videocam really has two buttons which the user needs to know about before shooting: the Power button and the Start/Stop button.  The Power button is on the right side (as view from the back) of the unit.  The Start/Stop button is... [More]- PureDigital Flip Mino HD


March 5,2009(TravelTechThursday)

Getting a new passport is typically a once-in-a-decade task.  We occassionally have to travel internationally, so we like to keep ours up to date.  One of our editors' passport expired last June.  As we all have plans to travel to Bermuda later this year, he realized he better get his act together and get it renewed.

There were a few stories last year about the long wait for getting a passport.  We are happy to report that the backlog is apparently gone.  The entire process took... [More]- New Digital Passport


March 4,2009(WhatIfWednesday)

Meetings are a necessary part of doing business.  Traveling for business is a consequence of the need to interact in person.  However, it is not always a requirement for conducting business.  We have had successful business relationships for years with people we have never met.  Everything still got done on time and within budget. 

Why are we talking about this?  While unpacking from our recent trip, we came across a copy of USA Today.  We saved it because of an advertisement claiming that canceling meetings "cost jobs."

That kind of thinking is SO wrong-headed that we felt we had to respond.  The U.S. Travel Association sponsored the ad in USA Today.  They made some pretty disingenuous and self-serving claims such as "...for every meeting that is cancelled, jobs are lost..."  What nonsense!  In our experience, for every meeting that is cancelled, time is saved and productivity is raised.  What we should really be doing is... [More]- Traveling for meetings


March 3,2009(TomBihnTravelTuesday)

We head down to Dallas every few weeks or so for business.  The trips are mostly two or three days long.  As we like to travel light, we pack only the essentials.  Nothing comes along unless it will be used.  Gear which is multi-functional are especially appreciated.  Gear designed to get us through security with a minimum of hassle is coveted.  Gear that help us get on and off the plane faster is priceless.  Tom Bihn's CheckPoint Flyer scored points in all three categories.

Last Tuesday we took a FirstLook at the new CheckPoint Flyer from Tom Bihn.  We knew it was a well designed bag and we were eager to see how it would perform on the road.  We took it with us on this trip to Dallas and it looks like it will be... [More]- CkeckPoint Flyer FirstUse


March 2,2009(MuseumMonday)

Providence Visits Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) : Opportunities Abound in the Aftermath

The paths of two pioneering iconoclasts, both favorite sons of Providence R.I. crossed at the ICA on Saturday. Spalding Gray, the writer and epic monloguist who committed suicide in 2004  provided the roller coaster of words.  Buddy Cianci, the two score and more Mayor who propelled Providence into the limelight, was the guest artist in the 5 person show entitled Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell. Gray's widow, Kathleen Russo has stitched together his monologues, stories, unpublished letters and journals into a one act show that... [More]- by Jay Rogers


March 1,2009(WeekendEdition)

Yesterday we did a quick write-up of the Alden proGrabit because we stripped one of the screws when removing the banister from the wall, which which was being removed because we were painting the stairwell.

Plans had been in place to paint the stairwell for about three years.  It took us that long because the color decision was left to one of the editors, who we now realize has... [More]- Painting stairwell


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