October 2010

So I guess that CC Chapman finally hit puberty on this episode of Cast of Dads. We are not exactly sure what happened, whether it was the Skype “bugs” at work, the fact that Halloween is just around the corner or if CC just has an alter ego that came out when we recorded Episode #34 “Itchy Scratchy Hasselhoff“, but regardless, this recording is quite, er, amusing to say the least. (Apologies up front if the audio is a bit “off”.)

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Despite CC trying to impress us with his deep, slow voice (it does command some respect, doesn’t it?), we managed to bang out 30 minutes of great content on Cast of Dads Podcast #34. If you are curious about some of the questions we asked (and later answered in the podcast), take a look at these:

  • What remedies do you have for Lice and what really works?
  • What is “Movember”?
  • What are the Cast of Dads dressing up as for Halloween?
  • Can you really “groom” your chest hair and how?
  • What’s a good example of a cool project you can do with your kids?

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When you first move into a house, one thing that you should first consider is a home alarm system. Often, various companies will have special deals for new homeowners and you should definitely consider having one installed if you have the opportunity. Typically, the “special” you will get is for a base system and then some additional monitoring points like doors and windows and perhaps a motion detector. But, if you are like me, you usually won’t add to the system once it is installed. The problem is, and this is one facing many homeowners, is that your system is probably very out of date. Technology over the years has improved and gotten more efficient and smaller. And since you probably installed your system a while ago and were dealing with all of the other expenses that come with a new home, you probably got an entry level system or one of the older models.

You definitely do get some advantages when you get an alarm system for your house. Apart from the peace of mind of knowing that your property is protected when you are not home, you can also get some discounts on your home insurance for having a system that connects to a central communication station. Remember that not all insurance companies offer this discount nor do all types of alarms qualify for these discounts but it is definitely something to consider when shopping around. Another important thing to think about is the cost of the monthly monitoring service. When I first had our alarm system installed over 4-5 years ago, the monthly rate was about $32. It is now about $40 and continues to climb.

So when I was approached to do a review of Alarm.com, I was definitely intrigued, especially since I hadn’t really thought about a new system since buying my house. Recently, there had been a few break-ins in our neighborhood and it had started me thinking that I need to figure out better ways to monitor our house. We have placed up signs that proclaimed “Neighborhood Watch” (which is something that I recommend that you involve yourself in in your community) as well as some signs that people are monitored via video (I recently installed a DropCam in our house to monitor via video and audio). Right after I was contacted, I started doing some research on Alarm.com and the first thing that struck me was that this alarm system is definitely a technology upgrade.

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For starters, here are some things that they offer:

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Let’s face it, when you buy a laptop, you don’t usually think about the built-in webcam. But if you look at many of the laptops out there, you will see that the built-in webcams are dramatically underpowered and are pretty much like using a really old camcorder to do video calls or webcam-related actions. Many netbooks, for example, come with measly 1.x – 3 megapixel webcams. These are great for regular video conferencing. But when you really want to get detailed, and have some fun in the process, you might want to look at the Microsoft LifeCam HD Cinema.

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This is not your average webcam. It’s a 720p widescreen high definition camera that boast of a variety of high end feature. It has auto focus which means that objects that are in view and move remain crisply oriented. If you get close, it automatically adjusts to focus in. There is a digital microphone that makes sure that the audio remains crisp and clear.

It has some “named” features as well like “ClearFrame Technology” which means that even in low light, the Cinema will produce good video, even in lower lighting conditions. And it has something else called “TrueColor Technology” which automatically adjusts the exposure of the shot.

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Getting a new car is always fun. I personally love that new car smell that comes with your purchase. And making your car more “yours” is always important. Many people will cover their cars with bumper stickers or other types of customization. Some are purely aesthetic while others not only look good but also provide an additional function like safety or the preservation of your car. Any many of these upgrades can be done days or even years after your purchase.

As part of my car buying series (see here and here), I’m focusing on how consumers can save money after buying a lower model car (e.g., the base model) and then buying after-market add-ons to bring it closer to more expensive trimlines but without paying the dealer’s dramatically inflated pricing. One great thing about after-market upgrades, like in this case window tinting, is that you can pick and choose exactly the ones that you want and not get “extras” in a package that you don’t really need.

So let’s take a look at the first thing that I had done on my new car, window tinting. This is an upgrade that I definitely recommend that you do for a variety of reasons:

  • It protects the interior of your car from harmful UV rays
  • It keeps the interior of the car cooler
  • It provides added safety in the event of crash by containing all of the broken glass
  • It gives added security from a break-ins since it is more difficult to break the glass
  • It provides privacy to your passengers (great for kids)
  • And it simply looks great (my opinion)

Many times, you can buy a new car with privacy windows or the window tinting already done. Some of these tints are done in the glass making process itself. Some cars even have double paned glass making them stronger, more energy efficient and, of course, more expensive. But, did you know that many car dealers will actually send out many of their vehicles to get the windows tinted by a 3rd party and then later mark up the price on the sticker.

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Ok, I Bought A New Car, Now What? But First, A Little More About The Buying Process

October 20, 2010

A few weeks ago our 2001 Honda Odyssey died. The transmission on our 10 year old family shuttle that had “only” 130,000 miles conked out, for the second time. It had served us really well until the last year or so, and then it had developed an expensive habit of relentlessly having to visit the […]

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Calculating Speeds of Objects On The Go with Pocket Radar

October 19, 2010

A few months ago I received a really cool and pretty useful gadget. About the size of a cell phone or a compact camera, the Pocket Radar is a nice gadget to throw in your bag, especially if your kids are in sports, or learning about physics. The Pocket Radar allows you to quickly and […]

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An Interview with Ford: Understanding Safety Advances in Ford Vehicles & the Ford Focus 2012

October 18, 2010

Recently, I have been very focused on the car industry lately as I have been shopping for a new car. One of the primary items that made me want to consider a new (or newer) car as opposed to and older model is the advancement of safety features that many manufacturers have made. While many […]

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Cougars, Cars, Dirty Diapers, Fighting & Shooting Pool with a Rope – Cast of Dads Podcast #33

October 11, 2010

You gotta love unscripted recordings. And how we are all at the beck & call of technology. During our live podcast, Skype decided to act like a misbehaving child and refused to let us talk. But we worked through this and just kept going with a fairly “loaded” series of topics. The result is Cast […]

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