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pennies on the dollar

What is a game cartridge?

What is a game cartridge? If you’re asking, you must not have grown up in the 1980s. But that’s OK. We’re happy to share our generation’s fun with you.

A game cartridge is a plastic case containing a circuit board, a connector, and a ROM chip. CDs and DVDs ultimately displaced them because they offered higher capacity at a lower cost. But in the 1970s and 1980s, the only lasers our game consoles had were the ones they drew on the screens in games about aliens. We liked our cartridges, even if we called them tapes sometimes.

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Estate sale tips for buyers

I talked earlier this week about garage sales, but what about estate sale tips for buyers? The overall strategy is similar, but there are definitely tips that apply specifically to estate sales. Simply put, shopping at estate sales can save you thousands of dollars if you do it right.

So what is an estate sale? Imagine an oversized garage sale. Essentially, the family is liquidating everything in the house. Of course you find a lot of the same things you’d find at a garage sale, but at a good estate sale, there will be high-dollar items too.

So, without further ado, here are my 18 hard-won estate sale tips for buyers.

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The trouble with Dell

Note: I wrote this in mid-2010 and, for whatever reason, never posted it. I found it this week. Although the information in it is no longer fresh and new, it’s still useful, so for that reason, I’m posting it now.

Dell is standing on some shaky ground right now. Bill Snyder has a good summary of the problem.

In recent years, Dell computers have, shall I say, made me nervous. Some of it’s been concrete. Some of it’s just been touchy-feely. Now one of those touchy-feely problems is more concrete.Read More »The trouble with Dell

Advice on scraping by

Here’s a good, timely Google search query: scraping by advice.

I looked, and I’ve never written anything that matched that query well. I know a lot of people are hurting right now. I’ve been in some tight spots and I’ve gotten out of some, so let’s talk about what I would do, on a really practical level, if I ran into another tight spot next week.

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Tips for running a garage sale

On a forum I frequent, the discussion turned to garage sales, and some people shared some horror stories. As someone who visits a lot of garage sales (I won’t say how many), I’ve seen the ways people deal with some of the pitfalls.

In the interest of encouraging garage sales, I’ll share what I’ve learned.

Nickel and dime your way to prosperity

An old friend and I have been talking a lot about debt elimination these past few weeks. With any luck, both of us will be completely debt-free by age 45 at the very most, and probably sooner.

The trick is to dump as much money as possible into debt retirement. As recently as November, the interest on my Honda Civic was costing me $1.40 a day. Think what you could do with that $540 a year you’re paying in needless interest.

The challenge is finding the money to use to retire debt.

The second-cheapest way to get household necessities

The topic at lunch at work turned to saving money around the house earlier this week, largely because one of my coworkers suddenly found himself with full responsibility for his two pre-teen nieces. The coworkers who are parents started talking about the best places to get good used clothes, the best places to get food cheap, and other stuff. Not being a parent, I just listened. I’m not at that stage in life.

I’m in a different stage of life, still a relatively new homeowner. Yesterday I paid a grand total of $5 for an ironing board and a stepladder, two things I’ve been surviving without. I’m about ready to quit going to the hardware store and to Kmart.

Why I dislike Microsoft

“Windows 2000,” I muttered as one of my computers fired up so my girlfriend could use it. “Must mean something about the number of bugs that’ll be discovered tomorrow.”

02/01/2001

I don’t like to do “this is what I did yesterday” messages but that’s all I’ve got. Mostly I re-imaged some Macs. I did get to put an HP optical drive in a Compaq Proliant server we bought used for pennies on the dollar from a failed dot-com. But no one had any drive rails. Luckily, I had a Compaq 386 sitting under my desk. I opened it up, pulled the 5.25″ drive, walked over to the Proliant, and it slid right in. Perfect. I unbolted the drive, bolted the rails to the optical drive (I had to find different screws), and put the drive right in. And the guy who normally handles the servers asked how I did it so fast. Hey, I did tech review on a book about PC hardware. I know how to work on these things… And I worked on far too many Compaqs my first two years of college. (And far too many IBMs my last two years of college.)

Hot tip: Compaq drive rails cost something like $30 from Compaq. Compaq 386s are free, when you can find them. Or they’re cheap. Or someone pays you 15 bucks to haul them away. Or, there’s eBay. I just found 12 people selling them there, with zero bids on them. Asking price: $4.99-$9.99.

I also parted out a Pentium-75 that no longer works. This is the only dead Micron PC I’ve seen, honestly. And I suspect the problem is the third-party memory in it (the memory there isn’t Micron, which tells me the original stuff was pilfered at some point). Since it’s useless, it’s either part it out and discard the stuff that can’t be used, or pay someone to haul it off. Well, I’m having a hard time getting my Soyo SY-7SBB motherboards running. Outside the case, they’re fine. Put them in one of my AT cases, and they don’t work. I suspect not enough grounding, or grounding in places it doesn’t want it. This Micron case is much more configurable than any of the AT cases I have, so it’ll help me solve the mystery. (I won’t go modifying my IBM PC/AT case until I figure out, with the Micron case’s help, where I need ground points. Then I’ll Dremel out the existing caseworks and put in spacers where I need them to be. Ah, the troubles I’ll go to for a chance to see someone’s face when they see something unexpected…

Last night after church, one of our seminary students was cleaning off his car. (We got some ice last night.) He had this dinky little plastic ice scraper that would probably fit in your shirt pocket. I was waiting for my car to warm up, noticed him struggling with that thing, so I pulled out my heavy-duty scraper, with its long metal handle and big brush, and walked over to his car. “I can tell you’re from Texas,” I said. Boom, boom, boom, and in 30 seconds I had all the remaining ice off his windshield. He watched me with huge eyes. I just laughed as I brushed off his windshield.

Heavy-duty ice scrapers are your friend. One day last week I had a half-inch layer of solid ice on my car. With this scraper, it still took me 10 minutes to clean it off. With a hand-size scraper, my only choice would have been to let the car run for 30 minutes with the defroster going full force.

And what’s this? I had 317 page reads at 3 p.m. yesterday. On a so-so DAY I get 317 reads. (I can get 600 on a good day; about 260 on a bad day.) That can’t be one person, because one person reading, if they spend two minutes per post, will get 30 in an hour. Maybe it was someone looking for something. I hope they found it. Or maybe a speed reader really really really likes my stuff.

And this from Gatermann. I got mail from a reader asking about getting a modem running under Linux. I noticed he used Southwestern Bell and suggested that was probably the problem, not his modem or Linux. I suggested he contact tech support and ask if Linux works. Gatermann piped in. They won’t even know what Linux is, he said. Remember, these are the people who couldn’t understand why they couldn’t ping me when I couldn’t get an IP address. (Yeah, I rolled my eyes too the first time Tom told me that story.)

But I suspect everyone there has heard of Linux. Heck, my ex-girlfriends know about Linux. The one I talked about taking me to the state capital and eating doughnuts on the steps (hey, if there are any Mizzou alumni out there and you know anything about this tradition, would you please e-mail me about it? Thanks in advance), one night we were sitting out there, and she brought up Linux. SHE did. At the time, I hated Linux because all I’d seen was Slackware. Another girl I dated briefly brought up Linux as much as she could because she knew I was writing a book about Linux at the time. Heck, people walk up to me at church and ask me if I know anything about Linux!

So Southwestern Bell employees have probably heard of Linux. But Tom’s right, they probably can’t say anything meaningful about it.