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Speaking at Lansing, MI Day of .Net Thanks To Passing of The Hat

A few weeks ago I got an email from Jeff McWherter who runs the Greater Lansing .Net User Group they were going to have a Day of .Net event in June.  The email contained the normal type stuff you’d expect in an announcement for call to speakers.  Dates, times, location, etc.  but Jeff threw...

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New Charcoal Grill – Brinkmann Stainless Steel

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Man Toys | Posted on 23-07-2008

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When we lived in Ann Arbor, MI several years ago, our apartment complex wouldn’t let us use a charcoal grill.  Thus, we had to purchase a gas grill.  Being a charcoal guy I was incredibly disappointed.

Fast forward 6-7 years later our $119.00 Wal-mart special gas grill had seen its better days.  Out of gas and needing to replace the burners and more it was time to upgrade.

Using a birthday gift certificate from Sue (Ellen’s mom) and some ad money from the blog I purchased the Brinkmann Profession Stainless Steel Charcoal Grill (model 810-3214-S) as the replacement.  That’s right, charcoal!  I unboxed it last night and put it together on the deck.  I was a bit worried that putting it together was going to take a long time but it didn’t.  Actually I cost myself about 15 minutes or more for not reading the manual.  I thought at first the unit was missing holes in the side of it but later realized I had to turn the pegs on the legs inward.  Here’s a parts screen shot.

image

And the final product looks like this:

image

While this is nowhere near the most expensive grill on the planet it has some features that I really like about it:

  • It is stainless steel to minimize rust
  • It has 540 inches of cooking surface which will basically cook 75lbs of food.  Yeah I think that is plenty!
  • Porcelain coated iron cooking grills (minimizes rust)
  • Ability to adjust charcoal to different heights
  • Easy slide out charcoal tray
  • Built-in temperature gauge

All in all I’m satisfied with the quality and Brinkmann is known to make good products and the availability of parts is also a plus.  Tonight I’ll be curing the grill which will take about 4 hours.  After that, it is BBQ time!

Home Theater Setup But Still Missing HD DVR

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Man Toys | Posted on 24-08-2007

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Everything is finally in and hooked up and working with the new home theater.  The new Samsung TV arrived last Friday along with the new entertainment furniture.   The speakers arrived on Tuesday, one day ahead of schedule.  It took a lot of maneuvering to get everything situated but things are settling in.   Everything is working really well, especially the Onkyo TX-SR705 receiver.  I took a few pictures so you can see how things are shaping up.  

Xbox 360 in 1080P on 56inch Samsung HL-T5687S.  It looks incredible.  Right now I have the component out of the Xbox plugged directly into the back of the TV.  I originally hooked it up to the receiver but never could get the Xbox to run at 1080P.  Not really sure why.  If anyone knows, I’m all ears.

Home Theater 001

Here is a shot standing in the back of the room so you can get a better feel for just how large this screen really is.

Home Theater 003

The only thing still missing is the Comcast HD DVR.  Our area is STILL out of the HD DVR’s with HDMI.  My efforts to hold their children hostage in hopes my HD DVR would be expedited has all been in vein. 

I’m Joining the HDTV Era But There Is So Much To Upgrade

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Man Toys | Posted on 14-08-2007

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HL-T5687S Large ImageAfter years of HD envy I finally made the jump to HDTV.  I know it is hard to swallow that a confessed geek like myself doesn’t already own an HDTV.  The reason is I bought my 32inch Sony TV at the worst possible time years ago.  I wasn’t about to run out and buy another one until the prices were lowered.  When I purchased my Sony, at the time anything good started at $5,000.00.  Plus the newer components such as HDMI, 1080P and others were still being tossed around.  So, I waited.

After researching HDTVs for months I decided on the Samsung LED DLP HDTV Model HL-T5687S 56inch (pictured to the right).  This model has a lot of features:

  1. 10:000:1 contrast ratio
  2. SRS TruSurround XT
  3. 3 HDMI Inputs
  4. 1080p
  5. Slim model (14 inches deep)
  6. Built-in Tuners: NTSC/ ATSC / Clear QAM
  7. LED – No lamps to replace or color wheel

The biggest feature of this model is I don’t have a lamp to replace and the color wheel (I’ve heard this was noisy).  With LEDs the word on the street is it will start up in about 15 seconds of turning it on.   The funny thing about this whole ordeal is I had to order three TVs to get one. 

Last Thursday night I ordered a 61inch from Amazon.Com because the price on the 61inch dropped to $2149.00.  I patiently awaited for confirmation for my order which didn’t get sent to the vendor it was actually shipping from until late Friday night.  Saturday morning I woke up to check the status of the order and went to the page the TV was on and instead of being sold from some random vendor it was selling directly from Amazon for the same price but with free shipping!  Thus I called the vendor and canceled the order. They just got it anyway and hadn’t even processed it.  As soon as the order was canceled I placed another order for the same 61inch model. 

HVT122 - PlasmaSome of you are probably thinking at this point, didn’t you order a 56inch though?  The back story is on Saturday, after I placed the second order, the wife and I went to town looking for a new entertainment center to hold this 61inch beast.  We shopped and shopped and shopped and thought we finally found a unit that would really complement the house.  A timeless style we would enjoy for many years (picture to the right).   We drove back home and it hit me. I never measured the height of the TV for the entertainment center.  I kept measuring the width.  I called back to the store and the sales person measured it for me.  It was 37 inches.  The 61inch TV was 37.8!  I’m screwed!

I jumped on Amazon.Com real quick and canceled the 61inch.  Buying a TV this big was starting to become a chore.  I drove back to town to re-measure and see if I could make the 61inch TV work.  I fought a hard battle but in the end I was forced to get the 56inch.   No matter what I tried, the 56inch was the only size that was going to work with the furniture we chose (and no there were no other choices we liked).  Wife was now happy because she loved the furniture, but my manhood lost 5 cool points.  Wife 1, Husband 0. 

I got back home and ordered the 56inch TV which turned out to save me $300.00.  The 56inch was shipping from Amazon for $1849.00 and Free Shipping.  Yeah!  Last night it boarded a plane from Dallas and is probably sitting in the Jackson, Ms airport crying wanting its daddy.

Remember part of the subject?  ……so much to upgrade?  Well it doesn’t stop with just a new TV and entertainment center.  Now that I have HDMI inputs and outputs everywhere, my Sony receiver isn’t going to cut the mustard anymore.  After endless hours of shopping, reviews, feature comparisons, etc.  I settled on the Onkyo TX-SR705 7.1 receiver.Onkyo 7.1-Channel Home Theater Receiver - Black (TX-SR-705)(ONK TXSR705)

  1. 7.1 channel
  2. 130 watts per channel
  3. 1080p upconversion (big time plus)
  4. XM and Sirrius ready
  5. WRAT
  6. Audyssey MultiEQ XT
  7. 3 HDMI inputs

Logitech Harmony 890 Advanced Universal Remote ControlI think it truly is the best bang for the buck out there in mid-range receivers.  Last on the list is the Logitech Harmony 890 Advanced Universal Remote Control.  This will serve as my magic wand to run this whole setup.  It supports up to 15 components and of course is programmable to 175,000 different components.  I think I’ll be covered :)

New Digital Camera – Canon SD630

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Computer Hardware, Man Toys | Posted on 07-11-2006

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Sometimes you are forced into buying technology products when you don’t want to but it makes sense at the time. Friday was one of those. It was Ellen’s mother 70th birthday and we of course needed to take pictures. My cell phone has a 1.3 mp camera but let’s face it, that just isn’t good enough. Our current Canon Powershot S230 camera’s battery is on the fritz. So much so that with a full charge it will only take one picture! Since you can’t readily pickup Canon batteries at a nearby store here, we were going to be left with no pictures from her mom’s 70th birthday party. I did some quick research on Friday and decided to head to the nearest store. When I got to the store I decided that all the models I was looking at had the same basic features. It came down to price and “feel”. I settled on the Canon SD630 camera.

I’m not going to bother writing a long review of the camera, there are plenty other places that have done that. Let me just say that I really like the 3.0inch LCD on the back along with the scroll wheel enabled selector. The function selector feels really natural. While it doesn’t do the pictures justest, having the large LCD is awesome. So far the pictures are turning out well.

Brinly 42inch Lawn Sweeper Review

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Man Toys | Posted on 28-09-2006

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Last year after purchasing our new home I spent 3 days during Thanksgiving raking and blowing leaves. I vowed then and there that I wouldn’t be doing again. Several weeks ago I achieved man hood by purchasing a John Deere Lawn Tractor. As a result, I started investigating lawn sweepers to assist me with removing leaves, pine straw (the worst thing mother nature ever created), sweet gum balls, pine combs along with twigs and small limbs out of my yard. I settled on the Brinly 42inch Lawn Sweeper. Here are the specs:

  • Series No. STS-42 LX Deluxe
  • Description Tow-behind Sweeper
  • Working Width 42″ Working width
  • Hamper Capacity 15 Cu. Ft. Capacity
  • Brushes (6) 11″ Diameter
  • Wheels & Tires 12″ x 3″ Bar tread
  • Bearings Shielded Roller
  • Reverse Freewheels in reverse
  • Storage Stores in a compact upright position
  • Warranty 2 Year limited

Putting it together – Score F

It takes about an hour to put the Brinly together, although it may take some 2-3 hours because of the extremely poor manual. You need 2 1/2 wrenches and 2 9/16 inch wrenches. During this stage I was upset to not find any documentation that was clearly labeled as “English”. Brinly is USA made but they seem to have put more effort into documenting things for other languages than English. WTF!? If it wasn’t for my extreme IQ and manliness, I would probably still be putting the dang thing together. Basically you just have to follow the pictures, no words of wisdom will be showered upon you in the manual for putting it together. Brinly can definitely do a better job in this area. Also, there are errors in the manual. Some items are labeled wrong in some pictures and even the pictures they drew aren’t clear. For the person who just spent $239 MSRP on their product, Brinly, you get a big fat “F“.

First Trial Run

After getting the Brinly together I hooked it up behind the John Deere. I started off really slow at first to see how things worked and even varied the speeds. My John Deere runs (according to the manual) about 5.5 miles per hour at full throttle (or wide open as they say in the South). The Brinly can by no means keep up at that speed because the brushes are turning so fast that it slings the leaves and pine combs over the top of the catcher. Speaking the catcher. It is pretty flimsy and I am not sure how long it will last. I had rather have seen them provide a canvas catcher instead of the thin plastic one they provided. Honestly though, leaves don’t weigh much so I understand a little as to why they chose to skimp on the catcher. But since you skimped out on the catcher, you could have put more time in the manual.

But Does it Work? – Score A

The sweet spot to pull the Brinly seems to be about 2-3 miles per hours, probably closer to 2.5 miles per hour. Anything any faster and your leaves will be thrown out of the catcher. After pulling the Brinly around the yard for 45 minutes my yard was starting to look green again. The Brinly does an excellent job and getting up and removing everything I wanted. As a matter of fact, the picture you see to the left is exactly my results. I was really surprised at how well it removed pine straw from the yard as well as twigs.

Broke After 45 Minutes – Score F

After about 45 minutes of going over the yard I was very pleased with the results. But then I turned around and noticed the adjust lever laying over the top of the unit. Aparently the screw worked loose that holds the spring in place on the adjuster. I looked around the yard, couldn’t find it (maybe it got swept up?). So after 45 minutes, I don’t have an easy way to adjust my unit. The way the spring mechanism works isn’t the best design I’ve seen. There is a bolt, washer, spring, screw. Since you can’t tighten the screw all the way (because it then compresses the spring to much and you can adjust the unit), I suspect this is going to be one of those things I will have to do constantly over and over and over. Either that, or do something else to make the screw stay. I had a few screws and washer left over after putting it together so I managed to get the adjuster back in place so I could continue on, but I had to tighten it all the way down and I couldn’t adjust it when going to dump. I called customer service to order another spring and stayed on hold for 30 minutes, only finally to have someone come on to tell me to leave a voicemail. So far it has been 2.5 hours later and no return phone call. Since Indiana is in the EST time zone and I am in Central, my guess is they’ve left for the day.

Conclusion – Score C

The manual is horrible and my unit broke after 45 minutes of use and the quality of the catcher is less than par. With that said though the unit does do what it claims to do and does it very well in my opinion. I know that if I hand raked my yard with a rake I would still be raking. Not on that but the Brinly is going to do a MUCH better job of getting leaves up along with everything else. The easy dumping mechanism of the Brinly is nice although don’t forget to put the rope back into the catcher, otherwise it will get caught up in the brushes (cough, cough, so I was told).”