1. The perfect gift for Mom & Dad!

    November 21, 2013 by Karl

    digitalframe200berry berry berry berry berry

    My parents recently celebrated their 50th anniversary.  My sister and I were racking our brains trying to figure out what to give them as a gift.  After doing a search on the internet, my sister stumbled on a great gift that ended up being PERFECT!  It could work equally well as an anniversary, Christmas, father’s day, mother’s day, retirement, or birthday gift!

    You invite friends to call a phone number and leave a message or memory about the loved one who is receiving the gift.  You then combine all these messages and package them for the recipient in some sort of gift. This can be as simple as an audio CD, a flash-drive for their computer, or a keepsake box that plays sound when it is opened, or even a digital picture frame that plays mp3′s.  In this article I will describe three different ways you can do this.  The first two will cost some money.  The last one will cost you NOTHING but your own time in putting it together.  That’s right, a FREE gift!

    Voicequilt.com is perhaps the simplest and most versatile method, but it will cost you.  You pay Voicequilt for a certain amount of time for use of their system.  Next, you send out invitations to friends of the recipient via email, social media, or snail mail.  These friends then call the number provided by Voicequilt and leave a message in your account. Now you can listen to the messages these friends have left, and change the order of the messages for the best impact to the recipient.  You can choose a keepsake to have all these messages put onto, and you’re done!  Voicequilt will take care of the rest!  This method can cost as little as $50, but for a good gift it will probably be more like $150 to $200 if you are buying one of their keepsake gifts.

    Another option is Speaksake.com, which offers the same service as Voicequilt, but they only provide a CD which they send out when it is completed.  This method will cost less than $50.

    The free method uses a Google Voice account.  Google Voice is a free service that provides you with a phone number for people to call.  With Google Voice  you have one phone number that calls several different phones such as cell, home, and office all at the same time, but it is also SO much more.  It allows you to have voice mail that sends the voice message to you through email.  This email will have an attachment which is a wave file you can use for your keepsake gift.

    CAUTION: This Google Voice method will require a lot of work, and may not be for everyone.  Google Voice sends it’s sound files as .wav file attachments.  This means that you will probably need to change each message into another format in order to be useful in most keepsakes that you might want as the final gift.  Most devices use mp3 file formats to store voice (or music).

    Google Voice method explained:

    I’m not going to give a detailed step-by-step explanation of this method.  If you need that, you probably should not be using this method.  However, if you are up to the challenge, here is the basic outline of what you need to do:

    1) Create a Google Voice account and select a phone number that is going to be local to as many people as possible.

    2) Record a greeting in the Google Voice Account such as “Hi, this is the voice keepsake number for xxxxx.  Please leave a fond memory of something you did together after the tone.  Thanks for your participation in this gift!”

    3) Be sure to set up the voicemail in Google Voice to be sent to your email account.

    4) Create a facebook or other social media group, and invite all the people needed (EXCEPT the recipient of the gift) to be part of the group.  In the group page explain what the group is about, giving them the Google Voice number for people to call.  BE SURE TO HAVE A FINAL DEADLINE DATE.  Expect everyone to procrastinate!!

    5) Send snail mail /email to everyone who is not part of the social media group (or call them on the phone).

    6) Once you have all the messages in your email inbox, save the messages to your computer.  Now convert them to MP3 or whatever format you need for the final product (usually MP3).  You can do this using Zamzar or any of the thousands of converter programs and services out there.

    7) Now take these messages and put them on your CD, flash-drive, or digital picture frame and wrap them as a gift.

    We ended up with almost an hour of messages (a total of 68 messages) for my parents.  Be sure to have a box of tissues handy when the recipient listens to it!

    My recommendations:

    The Google Voice method is cumbersome but doable.  VoiceQuilt really makes the job easy.  We used their service in doing our parent’s gift, and it was a total success.  My sister and I spent lots of time putting pictures together for a digital frame (which we ordered from Amazon.com), and I spent lots of time contacting people to have them leave messages.  It is time-consuming any way you do it, but I’m glad we used VoiceQuilt because it saved me lots of time that I would have spent converting to MP3.

    I love hearing from people!  Please leave a comment below!

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  2. How to buy a laptop computer

    June 24, 2013 by Karl

    Laptop Picture berry berry berry berry berry

    Wondering which computer is the best deal?  This article will give you some tips and tricks in knowing which computer will give you the most bang for the buck. This advice is true whether you are buying a desktop computer or a laptop computer, though generally laptop computers are not going to last as long as a desktop, and will be more costly to repair.

    Generally speaking. most laptops have the same basic features.  They all have keyboards, touch pads, microphones, cameras, DVD drives, USB ports, and LCD monitors.  So why the big difference in price?  What exactly are you paying for?  It all boils down to 4 basic things:  the type of processor, the amount of memory, size of the monitor, and the size of the hard drive.  These 4 things are what you need to consider when making a purchase.  The most important of these 4 in making a decision  is the processor.  The hard drive and memory can be upgraded or swapped out easily.

    The brand name no longer means a whole lot.  Historically, there have been good Dell laptops, and bad Dell laptops.  There have been good HP laptops and bad HP laptops.  What you are buying with the name is really the ability for the computer to be serviced during the warranty period, or down the road if it breaks after a few years.  Almost all computers come with a limited 1 year warranty, and generally most of the big name manufacturers offer the same level of support.

    The laptop monitors are all pretty basic.  They have an LCD display with a backlight behind it that allows you to see the display.  There are no magic secrets to deciding which display is best.  Go with the biggest you can find for the money you are shelling out.  A 15.6 inch display has become pretty standard over the years.

    In today’s world, any computer should have at least 4 Meg of memory with a 300-500 Gigabyte  hard drive.  Again, look for the biggest you can get for the money you are spending.

    So, how do you distinguish between processors?  20 years ago Intel was the only name on the market, so you had a choice between their older 386 processor and their newer 486.  There was no confusion about which was better.  Now there are many manufacturers out there with hundreds of processors on the market, and distinguishing between them is a guessing game to the uninformed.  Unfortunately, some manufacturers take advantage of this and sell low-end processors in their high-priced computers.  The uninformed public often doesn’t know any better.  However, there is a better way!!!

    Geeks love to get together and compare toys.  Benchmark testing is what the geeks use to figure out which processor is better than another.  Lucky for us, these geeks also like to share their results!!  Here is a site where you can compare microprocessors to see which is faster than another.  Without this basic tool, there would be almost no way to keep track.  This page shows almost all the laptop processors out there, along with their benchmark score.  The higher the score, the better the processor.  Often you will find two laptops around the same price, and one will have a benchmark of less than half the other.  It’s kind of sad how the manufacturers play to our lack of knowledge.  Please note that the prices listed on the benchmark page are for the processors only and should NOT be used as a gauge for the price of a laptop.

    I have a list of recommended laptops in the Frugalberry Store, which I will try to keep up to date.  Please post a comment if I fall behind and it needs to be updated.

    Benchmark Tool Link:

    Processor Image

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