All posts by Frank Pilone

This is my personal web site, and much of my information about me is here. Any questions, feel free to ask me.

Newcomer Suggestions

School for the 08-09 year is about to start in a month. What does that mean? College students galore. Some maybe coming here for the first time. While I am not an expert on all things relevant, here are my suggestions for newcomers to the city. I am sure that some people would not agree with me, but these are my suggestions, so one should take it as is. As for my experience, I lived in Pittsburgh all of my life, so I have some thoughts that would prove helpful. I also do all of these suggestions too.

One, check with your school to see if your ID can be used as a bus pass. I know Pittsburgh University, and Carnegie Mellon University students, and employees get to flash their ID, and get on the public bus system for free. Consider this as a part of your tuition. If your school doesn’t offer this, you would want to invest in about $75/month especially if you would be using the bus a lot. Normal bus fare is $2.00 and $0.50 for a transfer. You should focus on living within the city, and not so much in surrounding areas as the ride would be too long. I had been on a bus for 90 minutes one time just going from point A – point B.

Continue reading Newcomer Suggestions

My First Amazon Music Purchase

For the most part, I have used iTunes for my music downloads. It is simple, and easy to include with my iPod. However, after hearing hype about it, and still noticing that many artists I can find on iTunes still have DRM, I looked at Amazon Music. I basically hate DRM, and usually strip it when possible. I don’t redistribute my music, but simply put, I don’t want problems. I have purchased DRM from a Hamster like service, and when I terminated my account, I couldn’t re-authenticate my DRM.

So, I wanted to try to get an artist I really enjoyed. I bought one of her albums through iTunes for about $10, and then went to Amazon a couple of weeks later (or the day of this post), bought another album for $7. The nice thing, it is no DRM, and better than 192kbps. I bought the same artist, but needless to say – different albums. I actually like the sound of the Amazon album better, and with the exception of a download, it is pretty transparent. It also copies (or hopefully move) the songs to my iTunes library.

Continue reading My First Amazon Music Purchase

T-Mobile Verdict

I have been with T-Mobile for a couple months now. I have been using T-Mobile for EDGE Data services for my notebook, but with the inclusion of using Cellular services, things are somewhat different.

The services is about the same as with everyone else. Like with all carriers in the US, they have a perk which is unique just to the carrier. For example, AT&T offers the ability to have unused minutes to carry over for a up to a year. T-Mobile offers two of such perks, although the second one requires a special dual mode GSM/Wifi phone.

Continue reading T-Mobile Verdict

It’s So Big

For those with your mind in the gutter, it is not what you think. And for those that don’t know me, I have a notebook PC, which is my primary PC. I do have an old desktop, but I hadn’t ran it for months now. Nonetheless, as with anyone that has a computer may know, storage is a big issue. I have a 160GB hard drive in my PC, and about half of it is filled. This does not include my music, and any TV shows as I would have to store them on an external hard drive. This does become inconvenient though.

Well, Hitachi which makes computer hard drives has a solution for $225. It is a 500GB 5400RPM mobile hard drive. Now, some of the wannabe geeks with desktops are saying that is not big. I have a 750GB or bigger. Notebook PCs or at least 98% of them uses smaller components to fit everything in a nice neat package. The desktop hard drive is 3.5" while a notebook hard drive is 2.5" So while there are 1.5TB (1,500 GB) hard drives out there in the 3.5" size, the 500GB is the largest for the mobile platform.

Continue reading It’s So Big

T-Mobile, My Preferred Carrier

With a little more than 1 month, I have come to actually enjoy my new T-Mobile service. While the phone was pricey, I wanted to get something that was better than my Razr. I could have got something cheaper, but I chose my 8320 because of the QWERTY keyboard. I used to rely on Vonage, and AT&T for a combination of my home, and cellular service. I used to set up where Vonage set Simul-ring to ring my cellular – so I could choose which phone to answer, and make it so a person would only have to deal with one phone number. I still wanted to provide with one phone number, and I would have used my Grand Central number, but the service has this annoying call presentation. This is to me, a stupid decision by Google, which I hope they correct.

So if I wanted to have just one phone, my options were Cricket which been there and done that. Maybe Cricket got better, but I wasn’t going to waste my money to risk it, especially since a Razr from Cricket is about $250. The other option was T-Mobile with the Hotspot@home service. I chosen T-Mobile with the HotSpot@home service, and I would go into detail of why.

Continue reading T-Mobile, My Preferred Carrier

Magic My Jack

On Monday 9th of June of 2008, I have received a special piece of hardware that utilizes software, and a service. This device and service is called Magic Jack. It is a special device that connects to the USB port of your Windows XP/MAC OS PC. The software installs on your PC, and you set up with an email address. You would than be able to select a limited line of phone numbers that are US based. Once you set everything up, you would be able to connect a telephone that has a standard US based RJ-11 jack into a the device, and you could make regular phone calls.

The device cost’s about $50 including shipping. It takes about 5 -10 minutes to set up, and it installed easily on a Windows XP Pro computer. It includes one year of service, and each additional year is $20/year. Continue reading Magic My Jack

Blackberry – Yummy

Here is a problem. I have a house phone, and a cellular phone. I want to be able to rely on one phone, but needless to say, home phones don’t have the flexibility. Unlimited Cellular plans cost more than $100. There is an exception being Cricket, but in my experience, it is not worth it. So, I need the power of a cell phone, and the minutes of a home phone when I am home. There is a solution that requires a change in cellular carrier, and phone.

The T-Mobile’s edition of the Blackberry Curve and the right plans is the answer. First, the perk is the Curve’s wifi capability. With @Home service, any compatible phone can make unlimited calls when in a wifi network. Since I have a wifi-g network, this is great. Before, when someone calls, both a cordless home phone, and my cellular phone rings. I then choose which phone. Now, just one line is required. The Curve then rings, and since it is in a wifi network, the calls are 100% free, and do not consume any of my cellular minutes. Continue reading Blackberry – Yummy

Blue Hippo Attracts Idiots

If you live in the US, I am sure you have heard of Blue Hippo which in reality offers a layaway plan for those that wish to have a computer. This is a SCAM. No, I never got it, but that is because this “program” is so outrageous, it is not funny. They prey on people with bad credit, and low income. I went to the Blue Hippo’s web site, and come across a number of disturbing features. Let’s look at these disturbing features.

First is time. They can hold the computer you are paying for up to 52 weeks unless you pay it off quicker. If you make 6 – 13 consecutive payments, they might offer financing for the remainder. I am sure this financing has interests, and anyone with bad credit would of course have high interest. Maybe it’s not interest bearing, but for the cost, it doesn’t matter much. If you are like me, and get income only once a month, these convenient weekly charges could be painful financially. So, provided you have to wait 3 months (4 x 13 weeks = more than 3 months), you would have paid at least $286. You still have to finish it off, and you can only hope they would finance the remaining charges. Continue reading Blue Hippo Attracts Idiots

Brother QL-570

Early in April, I came across a need to print labels. The reason is regular mailings on the behalf of someone else. In any case, I was brought with a dilemma. Do I go and buy more sheets of labels that may or may not print exactly as needed, and spend on ink to print these, or do I look for a better alternative. I already knew of label printers, but needed something on a budget. The Dymo series started are around $150, and goes up from there. I found an alternative being the brother QL-570. which was about $100. I also acquired a roll of labels which while more expensive per label, the cost savings would come with the thermal printer which requires no resources other than electricity.

The printer is fast for its size. I am able to print out about 20 labels with barcodes in about 1 minute. This makes my life easier as I never have to wait. And since the labels are never printed until needed, it is going to save on resources. And since the printer is thermal, it is not going to require an ink cartridge, nor a laser cartridge. Heat is applied to specially coated material, in this case the labels. The software package is also good allowing for a wide range of effects. The address book can import and export CSV files which makes storing a backup of the needed addresses easier. Continue reading Brother QL-570

Acer Aspire 5100

I currently own an Acer Aspire 5100-3010 with an AMD Turion 2.0Ghz CPU. It first came with 1GB of memory, but upgraded to 4GB of memory. It has a 160GB hard drive, but 10GB is partitioned from user’s resources – most likely for re-installation. It of course has a webcam, DVD Writer, VGA, and all of the ports including the useless v.92 modem port. It also an SD card slot, and a PC card slot. To top it off, it comes with a variety of tools or the webcam, and to make a personal feel for the Acer. It also has Windows Premium Edition. With a 15.4″ Widescreen monitor, it is a great road worker PC, and a good compliment for any home user except for the hard core gamers.

It does have a good 2.5hour battery life, although you might be able to squeeze 3 if you do a couple of things. I do like the fact it has a good set of specs that is even respectable to would be desktop users. There are a few gripes I have. One, the speakers could be better. I found myself buying a set of desktop speakers only to plug in the front of the front of the notebook. In the case of the speakers, it is pretty much like the little engine that couldn’t. The webcam was odd. It can take pictures, but don’t dare to place pictures it hasn’t taken in the “My Pictures” folder. If you do, forget your webcam working. When I talked to technical support, they said just move all of the pictures in a separate folder. Continue reading Acer Aspire 5100