Problems with Microsoft’s Live Search cashback

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November 28 was Black Friday, and I was one of many people looking for great deals online.  I found out about a discount at HP the day before and wanted to take advantage of it.  Microsoft, in an attempt to convince people to use their Live search engine over competitors like Yahoo! and Google have developed what they call Live Search cashback.  By using it and setting up an account, a person can get cashback from participating online retailers.  One of these deals was 40% off at HP, and I just happened to be in the market for a laptop.  Awesome… or so I thought.

The deal was only running on Black Friday from 9am to 9pm Central.  I tried literally for hours to take advantage of this deal but was denied.  I wasn’t the only one.  It was down for most people.  Michael Arrington posted about it on TechCrunch.   I even posted about my problems on Twitter, as did many others.  I’m glad I did.

I was contacted through Twitter by Todd Bishop, co-founder and managing editor of TechFlash, a technology news site in Seattle.  Todd spends a lot of his time covering Microsoft and other big tech companies and was interested in what I had gone through.

To make a long story short, I had sent e-mails to Microsoft and HP, and then I forwarded those e-mails and the responses I received to Todd, who posted them on TechFlash today, to show a glimpse at what people like myself have put up with because of this situation.

I would like to thank Todd Bishop for posting my correspondence and continuing to follow the story for as long as he has.  I have e-mailed his post to Microsoft and HP.  I don’t know if all of this will do any good in terms of getting me a laptop, but at least the story is out there and it’s quite obvious that Microsoft is the bad guy, especially after saying they would run the discount again and then doing a complete 180° and saying they wouldn’t.

In short, use Google.

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The Great Smoky Mountains

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It has been a long time since I blogged, so I figured I’d give it a shot.  I’m typing this quickly while washing some clothes and getting ready for bed, so the descriptions of the events and sites below will be short and poorly described considering the amazing weekend I just had.  Sorry for that, but deal with it.

I went backpacking over Labor Day weekend with Jessie, my friend Eric and his wife Dana.  It was an awesome time, even though the blisters on the bottom of my feet still hurt a little and my calves are sore.  Apparently I love pain.

Eric and Dana took a lot of pictures with his awesome DSLR, and Jessie and I took a few with some disposables we brought along, as I was afraid to bring my digital camera (I should’ve brought it).  Hopefully I’ll be able to post many of these pictures soon to my MySpace, Facebook, Picasa Web Albums, Flickr, etc.  Wow, I have a lot of ways to share pictures only a handful of people will actually look at.

I bought a ton of gear to bring along on this trip since this is the first backpacking trip I’ve ever been on.  I’ve been on quite a few float trips in my time, but never anything like this.  I needed much lighter equipment, so I got a new tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpack, dry bags, etc.  Tallin the Super Consumer, here to save the economy!  But I can say without a doubt I won’t be one of those one-time backpackers who buys all of the equipment only to turn around and sell it on eBay or craigslist as “like new — only used once!”  I can’t wait until I get to use it all again.  Hopefully I’ll get my chance sometime in the fall so I won’t have to wait until the spring or summer.

We hiked about eight miles without backpacks around the Cades Cove area of the Smokies on Saturday morning, where we saw eight bears and a number of deer and other wildlife, as well as some buildings such as churches and homes that had local historical significance.  In the afternoon started our actual backpacking journey at the Twentymile Ranger Station with our sites set to make it to Gregory’s Bald, near the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.  We stopped multiple times to see and take pictures of some cascades and other spots on the trail, finally setting up camp after about four and a half miles.

Sunday was a grueling uphill hike to the top of Gregory’s Bald.  It was roughly another four and a half miles, but it was much steeper than anything we had done on Saturday.  I think it took us over five hours to go that far, which I chalk up to the fact that we were all carrying 20+ pounds on our backs.  My backpack weighed in closer to 35 pounds, partially because I was carrying a tent and a lot of food, not to mention 100 ounces of water when my Camelbak bladder was full.  I actually drink all 100 ounces before making it to the top that day.  A natural spring and Eric’s Katadyn Hiker water filter were lifesavers after that day’s hike had ended.

Monday we woke up early and made it all the way down another trail that took us back the Twentymile Ranger Station in a little over two hours.  Considering that it was around 7 miles, we were happy with the time we did it in.  Unfortunately, I ended up with two huge blisters on my feet during the downhill because of the way the bottoms of my feet near the heel rubbed against my socks and the bottom of the shoe.  I duct taped them before they really became a nuisance, so things could be a lot worse, although I did limp a bit for several miles.  I was almost giddy when the terrain leveled out the last few miles and I could almost walk without pain again.

All in all, this was one of the best vacations I’ve ever been on, and am looking forward to planning another trip, possibly to Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, etc.  I really don’t care where, I just want to be outside and reasonably far away from society.

Considering the chunk of money I spent recently, I should probably put this next trip off for awhile, although I don’t want to.  I’ll think about it more a month or so from now and play it by ear.

Not that James Taylor… James Arnold Taylor

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One of the world’s premier voice actors, James Arnold Taylor recently updated his website and started his own blog, a mix of text and audio. Since I’ve had a long-running love for voice-over work and its technical side, I sent him an e-mail asking about all of the equipment that he uses. Not only did he take the time to send me a reply, he recorded an incredibly detailed audio blog. The MP3 file is 10 minutes long, but it’s great for equipment and VO geeks like me. He even name checks me at the end of the blog (the second time’s a charm).

To get an idea of this guy’s vocal talents, check out his demo page.

Check out this link for his impressive resume, which includes promos for Fox, Leonardo in the recent TMNT movie, Fred Flintstone, and even voice doubling for all kinds of A-list actors. This guy is just awesome.

Support the Writers Guild of America

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Whether or not you are following the current writers strike in Hollywood, the video below is an excellent summary of the recent offer to the Writers Guild of America (WGA) from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), explained by studio head Roger A. Trevanti.

Support the writers everyone. While they may create the shows you hate, they also create the shows you love.

Ubuntu has finally made its way onto my main PC

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As a disclaimer for those who don’t know, Ubuntu is a Linux operating system that is becoming really, really popular, not to mention it is completely free. It does nearly everything Windows does just as well or better, with the major exception of high-end PC games and a few programs here and there. In most cases, if you don’t need the actual version of a program, there is an open-source (free) version of it that will work in Ubuntu/Linux (for example, instead of MS Office you can use OpenOffice). And with that out of the way, here’s what I did with my day:

After putting it off for a long time, I am finally running Ubuntu on my new computer. Gutsy Gibbon 7.10 came out yesterday, so I immediately fired up uTorrent and downloaded the 64bit version to take advantage of my computers architecture. I have been running Ubuntu on an older computer I have down here in the basement, but it’s only a Pentium III good for browsing the Internet, music, and not much else.

I’ve had a spare 300GB hard drive sitting around for almost a year so I finally decided to put it to some use. I threw it in my main computer and installed Ubuntu on it. I’m glad I did. After tinkering with the settings and installing programs for several hours, I have decided that Ubuntu will be my main operating system from now on. In fact, I’m currently composing this in Ubuntu.  I still need Windows for a few different things, such as logging into a specific VPN that requires Windows software and not being sure if it will run through Wine or a similar Linux program, but at least I will have divorced myself from Windows as much as possible. Maybe if I get a wild hair one day I’ll see if I can run that VPN software through Wine.

I’m going to try out a program called Ardour that is supposed to be similar to Pro Tools. If it is and it works with my Edirol UA-25 USB audio interface, I’ll have no use for Windows-based audio editors. Out of the many audio editing suites I have used over the past three years, Pro Tools was always my favorite, which means Ardour will have some big shoes to fill.

Ubuntu makes it extremely easy to add and remove programs and do other basic tasks. The new version integrates Compiz desktop special effects for those with decent to high-end graphics cards, such as cards based on nVidia or ATI chipsets. After turning on restricted drivers (which I didn’t have a problem with but others have), I’ve been playing around with these features and I am very impressed. It makes the old Windows XP/Vista interface seem dull and boring. It’s about time the old 1990’s desktop design had a facelift.

Rumors are flying that a certain radio station that used to be on the air in Granite City a few years ago will be back up and running again within the next month or two (hint, hint). The computer running this station will be running Ubuntu and not Windows. Linux operating systems are generally more stable than Windows operating systems, meaning that with a little luck the station computer will never crash.

There are several different versions of Ubuntu, notably Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and Edubuntu. Kubuntu is essentially the same as Ubuntu except that it uses KDE instead of Gnome, which is the desktop environment. Xubuntu is made for breathing new life into older, slower computers, and Edubuntu is made for schools as a learning environment for students while maintaining the functionality of Ubuntu. Can you imagine how much schools could save by not having to pay for all of those software licenses if they switched all of their computers from Windows/Mac machines to Ubuntu/Edubuntu machines?

Well, that’s it for Tallin’s educational tech talk for the day. If any of this sounds the least bit interesting to you, I’d recommend you head over to the Ubuntu website and find out more.

Seven years

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Saturday, May 26th was my 7-year anniversary at Leroy’s.  That’s a long time to hold on to the same job I’ve had since high school.  Too long.  I’ve been working between 35 and 40 hours per week since I graduated from SIUE.  Now that I’m starting part-time at KMOX, those hours at Leroy’s will be cut in half.  The good thing is I’ll still be able to keep my health insurance.  As long as I can keep at least 12 hours a week, I’ll have insurance.

Tomorrow will be my first day working at KMOX.  I’m really looking forward to it.  It will cost me more money than I’ll be making the first few weeks because I have to purchase a new wardrobe.  KMOX is a completely different atmosphere than Emmis.  Khakis, a button-up shirt and a tie will be the everyday attire at KMOX.  This is clothing I do not have in surplus.  I would have looked like I was working in sales if I had worn that to Emmis everyday.

Finally! A paying radio job!

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Even though it is only part-time, I can now say I have a paying radio job.  I was officially hired at KMOX this afternoon, and my first day is Tuesday.

It’s a board operator job with some added responsibility, like screening calls and other associate producer-type duties.  The hours should be pretty good for part-time, and I’ll have my schedule 3 – 4 weeks in advance.  The only downer will be the occasional overnight shift on Saturdays (into early Sunday morning), but I know I can handle that.  And it’s not like I didn’t expect it.  I am on the bottom, after all.  But, on the bright side, I do hear some of the most interesting callers are on late at night.

Now I need to figure out where to park.  When I was there for my interview, I parked in a lot that cost me $9.  Hopefully I can find something at least a little cheaper, or else I’ll be taking the Metrolink and walking a few blocks to KMOX.

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