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March 10, 2006

Why everyone should have their own personal FedEx account

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I resisted when someone told me to get one, many years ago.

Why do I need one? I said to myself.

If I want to send something via FedEx I'll call them, talk to the person at FedEx and have them arrange a pickup.

And so that's what I did for years until I finally woke up and smelled the coffee.

I cannot tell you how many times having my own FedEx account has saved my bacon over the years.

Here are some reasons why you should go to FedEx.com or call 1-800-463-3339 (1-800-GOFEDEX) and get an account now:

• It's free.

• You get pre–printed labels with your info and account number on them — much easier, quicker and far more presentable than pressing hard through the three layers of paper with a pen and doing it yourself.

• You get unlimited supplies of FedEx packing materials — overnight envelopes, boxes of all sizes, whatever you want — delivered (again, free) to your front door.

• You can schedule a pickup very quickly and easily using their superior voice recognition technology 24/7 from any phone on the planet.

• When you absolutely have to get something there tomorrow there is no better way.

• When you need something sent to you fast and the sending party says they can't do it blah blah blah, you can instantly break the impasse by giving them your FedEx account number and having them ship it by billing your account. I have on many occasions had government offices, private companies and what–not send things to me I could not have received any other way — at least, not in the time–frame I was working in.

• You can use their superior packaging materials to send things via U.S. mail, UPS or any other shipper by simply wrapping them in brown paper. Extremely useful at crunch time.

• You don't need to have a credit card with you to send things: using your account number automatically bills the credit card you provided when you set up your account.

• If you've got serious money you can do what the stars do: ship your luggage direct to your hotel via FedEx and simply take a carry–on. Think how sweet it would be to simply put your suitcases by the front door, have the FedEx guy stop by and take them away, and not have to stand in line at the airport to check your bags. When I get big — real big — that's what I'm gonna do.

• Their boxes and envelopes can be broken down to top–quality cardboard for uses other than intended by FedEx.

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Think of the possibilities.

I'm sure there are many other uses for a FedEx account that I haven't noted but that should be enough to convince you.

March 10, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Laser Scissors

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Beam me up to cutting heaven.

From the website:

    You can cut a straight line!

    Just aim the pinpoint laser and follow the line.

    No marking, no crooked cuts.

    8.5" x 3.5" x 1".

$19.98.

March 10, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

H2Om — World's First 'Love Water'

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You pronounce it "H–two–Om" — like the mantra.

    Wrote Sharon Begley in today's Wall Street Journal:

    Although H2Om... starts with conventional spring water, exposure to words on the bottle's label alters it, says the company: "Love" and "Perfect Health," the first varieties, each transmits a "vibrational frequency" that the water absorbs.

    Each bottle is supposedly also infused through music (in the storage room after bottling) and thoughts (from the person drinking it).

Well?

Get yours here.

Finally we find out after all these years what that guy was all over Dan Rather about.

I wonder if they're gonna come out with a variety named "Kenneth"....

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Probably not.

[via Sharon Begley and the Wall Street Journal]

March 10, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Howard Hughes Washable Computer Mouse

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Long story short: A plastic sheath separates the magnetic scroll wheel from the internal magnetic components: remove the wheel and wash your mouse.

From the website:

    M10 ScrollSeal Washable Optical Mouse

    The UNOTRON ScrollSeal Washable Optical Mouse uses patented SpillSeal® Technology and has been tested to the international standards of IP66 and Nema4X.

    The M10 ScrollSeal Washable Optical Mouse is a 3–button mouse and is the first washable mouse to incorporate a removable scroll wheel.

    It has smooth optical tracking, ergonomic design and features two standard buttons with a third button conveniently located in the centre.

    The innovative design of the mouse means that it can be easily washed/immersed and sterilised with most detergents and anti-bacterial agents.

    Every recess can be sterilised including the scroll wheel which can be easily removed and simply clipped back into place once clean.

    UNOTRON M10 ScrollSeal Washable Optical Mouse fulfils the hygiene demands of many applications: Healthcare, Government, Education, Financial.

********************

Huh — I hadn't realized before I read the website copy that there were "hygiene demands" in anesthesiology beyond washing my hands; I guess I better keep an eye on this space, what?

Unotron also makes two other versions of washable mice, the M20 (below)

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and M30 (below),

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both of which are somewhat more expensive than the entry–level M10 and apparently able to withstand being cleaned/sterilized with more powerful industrial–strength detergents and whatnot.

The M10, in black or gray, is $49.99.

The M20 costs $55.06.

The M30 runs $68.99.

March 10, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The videophone that would not die

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Since I was a kid, way back in the twentieth century, I've been reading about the just–around–the–corner (these days, of course, we say "real soon now") videophone.

And yet — it never quite arrives, does it?

Now for the thousandth time comes yet another impending entry of this technology into our home space.

Sarmad Ali wrote about the latest generation of videophones in yesterday's Wall Street Journal in a story featuring three of the newest contenders.

Here's the article.

    Videophones Make a Push Into the Home Front

    More Options Available For Talking Face to Face; Some Remain Camera-Shy

    Electronics companies have started coming out with videophone products geared toward consumers instead of business executives, offering a new range of options for making face-to-face calls.

    The wide availability of broadband Internet access and lower prices for the devices have driven more consumers to consider using videophone technology.

    Many families, for example, now use Web-connected video devices to communicate face to face with relatives and friends who live out of town or abroad.

    A majority of consumers, however, remain reluctant to embrace videophones.

    The market for stand-alone videophones is still small in the U.S., industry analysts say, mainly because many customers don't feel comfortable talking in front of a camera.

    Still, the wider availability of products may entice more people to use video while talking on the phone.

    Viseon Inc., a Dallas-based maker of video telephones, has recently given its traditional-looking VisiFone (top) a makeover, recasting the device as a smart phone that can also give movie trailers and display news headlines.

    The phone can also be hooked up to a television set to allow users to videoconference with more than one person at once.

    The phone, which has been tested with different U.S. carriers since last July, will be available at lower prices through U.S. phone companies later this month.

    Customers will be able to buy the phone at $99 when bundled with a carrier, but they have to sign up for a two-year contract with the telephone company.

    Until now, when users buy the device without the service, they pay $399.

    The company hopes to sell more phones when the device becomes available through phone companies.

    "The target market is really everybody with broadband," says John Harris, chief executive of Viseon.

    Other consumer-electronics companies have also made special offerings.

    8X8 Inc., Santa Clara, Calif., is selling its Packet8 DV326 videophone (below)

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    for $149.

    The broadband phone was selling for $499 two years ago.

    With the Packet8 broadband videophone, consumers can make unlimited video calling world-wide and unlimited audio calling to anywhere in the U.S. and Canada for a monthly flat rate of $20.

    Sales of the Packet8 videophone have been growing rapidly as well.

    The company said it has about 10,000 videophone subscribers today, up from a thousand at the end of 2004.

    That is mainly because the technology has improved and the prices for the device and the service have dropped.

    The video-subscription fee for the Packet8 service is $20, down from $30 in 2004.

    Video-equipped home phones enable callers to view real-time video of the person on the other line, provided that the other party is similarly equipped.

    Video calls are made through the Internet instead of regular telephone lines.

    Users hook up their videophones to a DSL or cable modem or home router, plug the power cord into the wall, turn the power on to the device and then dial a phone number, the same way they do with regular phone lines.

    Videophone users need to have a broadband Internet connection and, in most cases, the same brand of videophones to be able to make video calls.

    When users make video calls, they only pay for high-speed Internet access and for using video and voice services.

    Regular phone lines aren't required.

    Consumers pay their unlimited video and voice-calling fee either directly to a videophone maker or to an independent video-service provider.

    Other offerings include the Ojo videophone, which has a video-mail feature that enables you to record a video greeting that callers automatically receive when you don't answer your videophone.

    The Ojo phone also lets callers leave a video message when the person they are calling isn't available.

    Plugged into a broadband Internet connection, the phone can only be used to make video calls to other Ojo users.

    The Ojo, which was developed by WorldGate Communications Inc., Trevose, Pa., costs $599.

    Consumers can buy the phone online from different retailers such as Amazon.com Inc. and from the company's Web site as well, but they have to subscribe to WorldGate for a video service.

    The videophone-subscription service costs $14.95 a month.

    Most videophones look more or less like any other conventional telephones, but the Ojo videophone (below)

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    looks different from other traditional telephones.

    It has a larger rectangular color screen for sharing video with another Ojo with a tiny camera above it.

    "It's really like a visit," says Jamie Press, WorldGate's vice president of marketing development.

    "When people get off the phone, they say it's really a nice visit."

    Another new videophone is the i2eye DVC-2000 broadband videophone produced by D-Link Systems Inc., Fountain Valley, Calif.

    The phone, which has a built-in five-color LCD screen, was launched last July.

    Typically, users can make video calls to other i2eye phones.

    The phone, which can be purchased from the company's Web site as well as other retailers, costs $399.

    Unlike other videophones, the i2eye phone doesn't require a video-subscription fee.

********************

But wait — there's more.

Edward Baig, in yesterday's USA Today, raved about his new Skype VOIP, which he used during a recent trip to the Caribbean.

What caught my eye, though, was a statistic in a table accompanying his column: to call the U.S. cost him 2¢ a minute with Skype; that same call cost $4.89 a minute using his hotel phone.

Let's do the math: the Skype call cost less than half of one per cent of the cost of a wired hotel call.

What does this tell me?

That your computer, PDA or VOIP–enabled cellphone will not only disembowel the telcos, but in the process throw in a videophone at no extra charge.

That's what I think's gonna happen sooner rather than later.

Perhaps you've seen the new MacBook Pro (below):

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it's got a camera built right in so that if you happen to want to talk (using VOIP) with another computer camera–equipped individual, you've got — voila — your very own videophone.

AT&T buying BellSouth — who cares?

Dead companies walking.

Maybe the price of copper will surge and they can sell all their old wiring as a commodity.

The videophone will just dissolve into the functionality of all our other communication devices.

Here's Baig's column.

    Skype banishes outlandish fees for calls from foreign lands

    Calling the USA from foreign soil can be a hassle.

    Not all mobile phones work abroad.

    Rates are often prohibitively expensive.

    Prepaid calling cards can be confusing.

    Besides, it can't be much of a vacation if you have to call the office.

    Of course, there are times when folks who travel abroad for business or pleasure must check in with bosses, clients, customers and family.

    My wife and I were in that position a week ago while on a Caribbean vacation to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

    Before leaving the USA, we learned that her Verizon phone would not work at our destination, and though my Sprint phone would, the per-minute "roaming" charge was $1.50.

    Cingular's roaming rate on compatible phones was $1.99 a minute.

    Having brought along laptops, we eventually settled on a far cheaper, if somewhat less convenient, calling alternative, through the global Internet phone company known as Skype.

    But not before investigating several other options.

    For example, an international customer service rep at Verizon said the cost to rent a usable satellite phone was $99, plus shipping.

    That's on top of $2.99 per-minute rates. Ouch.

    The various alternatives provided by the Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort & Spa, where we stayed, were equally unappealing:

    • The cost to call home from our room was $4.89 a minute. It also costs $4 to complete a collect call. Not that I had much confidence in the room phone. When I pressed the message button on the unit, I was connected to another room, not the front desk or my voice mail.

    • The resort said we could rent workable mobile phones for $10 a day, plus per-minute charges.

    • AT&T says Turks and Caicos rates on a prepaid calling card purchased in the USA are 75 cents a minute.

    Local hotels and phone operators may tack on connection fees.

    Beaches told us there's a $6 fee for each call to a U.S. operator.

    We turned to Skype, which despite a few snags, worked like a charm.

    Through the service, which was acquired in September by eBay, you can make free PC-to-PC calls.

    That function was not particularly helpful last week, because most of the people my wife and I needed to reach don't have Skype accounts.

    Instead, we exploited a service called SkypeOut, which lets you use a computer to dial regular phone numbers in the USA and elsewhere, from the country you are in.

    Skype's rate to the USA is just around 2 cents a minute.

    Prices to other outposts are also excellent: for example, about 2 cents a minute each to make calls to France and Italy, about 37 cents a minute to phone Iraq.

    Incidentally, calls made on Skype to Turks and Caicos phones cost 17 cents a minute.

    Granted, you may also have to factor in the cost of a high-speed Internet connection.

    I had to pay $50 for the week to access a broadband connection in the Beaches lobby.

    At least I could also check e-mail and browse the Web.

    I use Vonage Internet phone service at home.

    On some trips I might schlep the gear that makes it work.

    That wasn't viable at Beaches with no broadband in the room.

    Signing up for Skype is simple.

    You download software onto a computer and use a headset/microphone or the machine's speakers. (With a webcam you can also make video calls.)

    Getting going on SkypeOut took awhile.

    Because I hadn't previously signed up for the feature, I had to wait overnight for a "verification" e-mail to arrive before I could dial a regular number.

    I prefunded my account through PayPal.

    To make an international SkypeOut call from the computer, you enter 011, plus the country code and number.

    A virtual phone keypad shows up on your screen.

    The quality of most of the Skype calls we made to the States was roughly equivalent to the fidelity of typical cellphone calls.

    Occasionally, a call was dropped.

    We had trouble at times using the keypad to punch in the codes to remotely check office voice mail.

    It was more difficult for someone to call us.

    That's because I didn't try SkypeIn, a service still in "beta," or test mode, that lets people call your own dedicated Skype phone number, using a country and available area code of your choosing.

    SkypeIn costs $12 for a three-month subscription, $38 for a year, and includes voice mail.

    If you prefer using a regular cell for foreign travel, check with your wireless carrier before leaving the country.

    Most so-called GSM-type phones (for Global System for Mobile Communications) work abroad.

    But not all do everywhere.

    Ask your carrier to turn on international roaming ahead of time.

    And ask about those (sometimes) nasty rates.

    Best not to be shocked when you and the bill arrive home at the same time.

March 10, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Corum Vanitas Watch

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Each comes in an ultra–limited edition of 50.

From the website:

    This series of five Limited Edition designs marks the world premiere of 'marquetry' of precious stones and marbles as applied to watch dials.

    'Vanitas': Objects that symbolize the vanity of worldly things and the brevity of life.

Nicely put.

The face of the watch is surrounded by 108 full–cut diamonds.

The band is of crocodile.

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The price: $47,000.

March 10, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

rememberthemilk.com — 'Achieve domestic bliss'

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What's this?

"Never forget the milk (or anything else) again."

This new website, out of Australia and still in beta, "is the easiest and best way to manage your to–do lists online."

And it's free.

But then, so am I and look what you get — your money's worth.

March 10, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Boundary Issues

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March 10, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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