internet

Take Your Nightlife To The MAX With Online Entertainment

//

Are you looking for a way to take your online night life to the max? Anyone who spends a lot of time on the internet already knows that there’s a lot of content out there that can help you do a wide variety of things, from research to tips to help you boost your productivity. No matter what you are looking for on this subject, whether it be shortcuts and hacks to tips and tricks, there’s much to learn online on how to get things more done in less time. We’re all about speed, making sure the list gets checked off as quickly as possible and downloading software to block out all distractions so you can actually get some work done.

But what about those times when you are looking for something fun to do on the internet? Those times when you are home alone at night and are looking for an entertaining way to pass the time? Yes, it’s possible that you can check the popular social media networks like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, but you must admit that there’s something mundane about scrolling through your friend’s photos.

It is because of this realization that we offer up some better ideas. Interested in learning more? Check out our short list of the most wonderfully entertaining places to check out on the internet, outside of social media and checking your email.

The Onion

The-Onion

If you haven’t already checked out this online satirical newspaper, then you are missing out on a really good time. This publication started back in the late 80s and, since then, has managed to successfully maintain a high standard of both writing and humor. Their headlines, like “Thinking Cats Shits Outside the Box”, will make you laugh out loud and the content is even better.

The Oregon Trail

oregon-trail-old-feature

For those of us who miss our favorite 90s era exploration game, Internet Archive, and has made it possible for gen-Xers to play our favorite game of yore. And, if this particular game isn’t your cup of tea, Internet Archive has made other iconic oldies available for play, they include, The Lion King, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Burger Blaster, Street Fighter, and Duke Nukem.

Play Pokemon Go

pokemon-go

If you are looking for something that will get you out of the house but you don’t necessarily want to forego the companionship of your mobile device, consider playing Pokemon Go. It’s the perfect solution for people always in front of their computer screens and who are looking for a fun way to stretch their legs. Plus, hunting for Pokemon is great fun and has an excellent way of bringing back the innocence of our childhoods.

Red Flush Online Casino

rf-girl

For those who would like to pass the time in a more thrilling way (and possibly with some real cash for their trouble), they should consider going to go play free casino games at ca.redflushcasino.com. This site is perfect for gaming lovers because it features many of their favorite casino games, like poker, slots, Blackjack, baccarat, and more. And the best part? You can play all these games from the convenience of your home or wherever you may roam with your mobile device. Furthermore, it is possible for new players to get up to $1,000 free just for signing when they sign up and making their first deposit. In this way, it’s possible to stretch out your gameplay and increase your odds of winning extra cash.

What do you think of the activities listed above? Have you ever tried any of them before? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. We look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Comcast’s $2 Billion-a-Year Secret

////

How would you like to earn a $300-400 return on a $70 investment, give or take a few dollars? Let me ask you something else, are you happy with your internet provider? If you’re like millions of Americans who use Xfinity/Comcast’s high-speed internet, chances are you’re not.

5199699935_19d9ed0687_b

What if I told you that sending a message to Comcast is as easy as driving to the local big box store and making a simple phone call? Intrigued?

Let me explain:

Comcast is the big brother of cable providers, especially here in the Northwest. If you want digital cable and high-speed internet without a dish, you’ve pretty much got no other choice. While supposedly their conglomerate is not big enough to warrant an anti-trust fine, Comcast is a monopoly in the true sense of the word. They have a lock and key on the internet above 30mps speeds, and if you want to get that high-speed bandwidth, at some point you have to go through Comcast.

IMG_0481But what does getting internet from Comcast entail? For those already customers, we know this story front and back. The phone calls, the technician appointments, the service call windows that last all day and the guy shows up early anyway because another job was cancelled and you’ve got to go get the kids from school… Then there’s the equipment. With any internet package, you need a modem to translate that signal from the cable line into Netflix or Call of Duty or Cat Videos.

When you think about it, equipment rentals are the bread and butter of Comcast’s quarterly income. Think about the last time you looked at your Comcast bill. They have a piece of equipment for each service they provide. Whether you want digital cable (which means you pay at least $10 a month for a set-top box), or phone (which takes a different huge, expensive modem) or just plain-old high-speed internet, Comcast is going to charge you a monthly fee for renting that equipment… That’s just to get the service you’re paying for already.

I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t make any sense to charge customers a certain price for a certain service, and then turn around and say, “We’re going to need another $25 a month to allow your TV/computer to receive that service.”

In my book, that’s called “The Ol Okie-Doke.”

The truth is that these huge “providers’ get away with this kind of behavior all the time. They laugh in the face of government regulation because they pay lobbyists a lot of money to make sure congress keeps passing legislation that helps companies like Xfinity/Comcast grow even more powerful. Because seriously, when was the last time a Senator worried about his internet bill? The people that have the power to make decisions about whether huge multi-national conglomerates are not fleecing the rest of the 99% just don’t think about these kind of things… Not because they’re bent, corrupt stooges, but because they’ve never had to sit down and decide whether they can afford to keep INTERNET or not.

7677455554_9349c039cb_k

The way to send a message to Comcast, and get a return on your investment, somewhere in the vicinity of 11% is simple. Most of the equipment you rent from Comcast is specific to the service they’re selling, for instance you can’t just go buy a set-top cable box and expect 700 channels. You have to “rent” Comcast’s.

This isn’t so for internet.

Last Saturday night, when our internet died, panic gripped the Toomb household. We’d been having issues for a while, with dropped signals and spotty connectivity… But we figured it was just the fact that we’ve got a house full of people that are constantly plugged in. We are bandwidth hogs. From high definition multiplayer video games to streaming HD movies and tv shows, we cut the cable cord almost two years ago and get all our entertainment through the internet. Therefore we rely on every drop of juice we can squeeze out of that connection. That plus the fact that my wife and I both work from home, when the internet goes out in our household, alarm bells go off and a ticking clock starts... The ever-constant pressure to get the network back up before Monday hits.

IMG_0475

I spend most of the night troubleshooting with the friendly Comcast operator before he confirmed my suspicions by letting me know the modem was dead and I needed to take it in to the nearest Comcast office to swap it out for a new one. That and take the opportunity to tell me how he can save me such and such by switching to whatever.

That’s when I realized that I could just go out and just buy a new modem and have Comcast register it over the phone… And it hit me… I’m paying $8 a month for nothing. I’ve had a Comcast account in my name since 2002, a fairly long-term customer. At $8 a month for 12 years, that’s a cool $1,152 I’ve paid in rental fees for a modem alone.

It actually makes me cringe.

If you figure the average lifespan of a modem is 3-5 years, I could have bought 3 brand new from the store and saved myself $989 in the mean time. This time I didn’t hesitate. I looked up the exact same model that Comcast rents now and found it for $69 at Walmart. That $69 will save me $315 if the modem only lasts 4 years, and $411 if it hangs in there for 5.

IMG_0466

Comcast has something like 22 million customers, and at $8 a month, modem rentals are a $2 billion a year business. That’s $2,000,000,000, with 9 zeros. Imagine if every person that pays that $8 a month took their next paycheck and bought a comparable $60-80 cable modem. When was the last time you heard about a company losing $2 billion a year and not get shaken to the foundation?

The only way to let Comcast know that we are unhappy with this system is to do just that.

The numbers don’t lie, if any company lost $2 billion in profits, their stockholders would be screaming for their heads, holding pitchforks and torches high. I don’t know about you, but I personally think Comcast has a little pitchforkin’ coming. I mean, seriously, if $8 a month is worth two billion a year, imagine what they make from HD DVR boxes that they charge upwards of $15-20, and that’s just for one television. If you’re crazy like me and want high definition on the various high definition televisions in the house, you’re shelling out rental fees like nobody’s business. So go ahead, grab your pitchfork…

Here is the modem I bought, I’m not being paid to recommend it, there are just a boat load of options and this one is a good, solid bet that is compatible with Comcast’s system.

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Motorola-SB6121-SURFboard-DOCSIS-3.0-Cable-Modem/20742485

 

Christmas Treasures: Ma & Pa Christmas Shop in Blue River Delivers Holiday Cheer all Year

///

by Kevin Baird, EDN

Christmas Treasures is located at 52959 Hwy 126 Blue River, Oregon. It's 45 miles east of Eugene. (all photos - Kevin Baird)

If you are anything like me, you have driven by Christmas Treasures, in Highway 126, dozens of times and never stopped in. Every I drive past it, I tell myself that I will and check the store out, next time; but that never happens. Last weekend I decided it was time to pay the store a visit, so I hopped in my Dodge Neon, put on some Christmas tunes and downed a Red Bull as I drove 45 miles to Blue River, Oregon, to see what Christmas Treasures was all about. Maybe I would come back with a Christmas treasure of my own.

Pat Dibala and his life partner, Nancy Wood, have been successfully running Christmas Treasures since 1993. Before opening the shop, Pat and Nancy were living in Florida. They had visited a number of Christmas shops during their travels on the eastern seaboard and had taken a fancy to them. The couple also had an affinity for collectibles and figurines. One day, Pat said,

“Let’s try the Christmas business.” 

Hand carved in Missouri, this Santa Clause is delivering presents by Orca

Pat, Nancy and their children, moved to Blue River, Oregon, to start Christmas Treasures, which opened in the fall of 1993. Originally, Pat was going to carve his own ornaments to stock the shelves and Nancy was going to be in charge of sales, but Pat quickly realized he could never feed his family if he ran the shop that way. So they began buying merchandise to fill their store.  

This 1939 Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer stuffed animals is one of the first ever made

It’s hard to look at Pat and not think of Chris Kringle. Pat’s white beard and hair, stout build, steel-blue eyes and deep red Carhartt shirt remind me of a Santa Clause you see in the movies, living among the people in New York City and surprising everybody at the end when his true identity is revealed. He asked me if I wanted a tour of the store and proceeded to show me German nutcrackers, nativities from Italy, hand-carved Santa figurines from Oregon and trees covered from tip to trunk in ornaments. A crackling fire made it warm and cozy inside while old-fashioned Christmas tunes filled the air. I couldn’t help but feel a little Christmas nostalgia rush over me as I saw all the fine works of Christmas art that saturate the store.

Owning your own business in this day and age isn’t easy. With companies like Amazon selling just about anything you can think of over the internet, Pat has had to stay ahead of the game to make it. And make it he has. Pat has seen Christmas stores in Portland, Bandon, Sisters, Albany and Salem all go out of business. 

“What saved us was Steven,” Pat said.

In 1999, Pat’s son, Steven, at the time a high school junior, begged his dad for a computer. He had been learning everything about computers in school. He made a deal with his dad that if he got a computer he would build a website for Christmas Treasures. The deal was made and, as a result, Christmas Treasures was one of the very first Christmas shop websites. For years Christmas Treasures turned-up as number one on search engines in regards to Christmas ornaments and figurines. 

Pat and Nancy had toyed with the idea of selling coffee and ice cream, but their internet sales exploded and there was no need for it. 

You can find hundreds of Christmas ornaments on the trees at Christmas Treasures

Business has grown a lot over the years. In 2001, the year they doubled the size of their store by converting their kitchen and living room into a larger store front, they supplemented it with a 40-ft storage trailer. Presently, that container has grown to a 10,000 square foot warehouse. They average 15,000 internet sales a year to 40 different countries. He has even hauled in a few enormous sales. A few years ago he sold $20,000 of fiberglass reindeer to a military base in South Korea. More recently, Steven has created a Facebook page with over 1,500 followers, of which half are from Europe. 

 “We’ve been real fortunate,” Pat said. 

Keeping Christmas Treasures competitive is a constant battle.

“We have to be careful we’re not buying something Wal-Mart has,” Pat said. To stay competitive Pat is always looking for unique merchandise. In January, Pat will fly to Atlanta for the Atlanta Gift Show. He hopes he’ll find new artists to purchase ornaments and figurines from. Later next year he is also heading to Germany to look for more product. In the future he hopes to make a trip to Scandinavia

Christmas Treasures sells Santa figurines from all over the country and from a number of European Countries

Christmas Treasures also boasts a 160-ft lighted tree. In 1994, the amount of incandescent bulbs that lit his tree cost him $10 an hour to keep it lit.

“I couldn’t wash my clothes,” he said. He had to turn off the tree in order for his appliances to work. In 2003, Pat restrung the tree with LEDs, which brought costs down to $1 per day to keep it lit.

“It was fun to see in a windstorm,” he said, “It looked like a monster.”

Weather has taken a toll on the lights though. Nowadays only 20% of the lights on the tree are still functioning. A man from Springfield offered his services to relight the tree, free of charge.

“He must like Christmas,” Pat said.

After speaking with Pat, I went back through the store to find an ornament for my tree. As I cruised through the store I was amazed with how unique everything was. It definitely isn’t the kind of stuff you’ll find at Wal-Mart or Target. I ended-up buying a wooden yellow duck  with a jumping-jack mechanism because I thought it would go well with the devilish clown ornament my grandmother gave me when I was young, which also had a jumping-jack mechanism. That was the first ornament of it’s kind I had ever seen in a store and now, thanks to Christmas Treasures, it’s on my tree.

I bought this yellow duck ornament from Christmas Treasures so the devil-clown would have friend on the tree.



 

The Demise of Borders

//

Ryan Beltram, EDN

If you’ve driven past the Oakway Mall recently, you may have noticed Borders has had a lot of customers.  Typically that would be a great sign that business is doing well, but as most of us know, not in the case of the once giant book retailer.  According to an employee at the store, Borders plans to close some time in September.  More than 40 employees will have lost their jobs with the closure of the store that ironically started out as a used bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The company officially  announced it  was bankrupt in  February and in July it was unable to find a buyer before its July 17 bidding deadline.  On July 22, the company began liquidating its remaining 399 stores including the one in Eugene.  But  you won’t get any sympathy from local bookstores in the Eugene area about Borders going under.  Tsunami Books owner Scott Landfield says a little  adversity in the book industry is normal.

“We’ve essentially been bankrupt for 15 years and we continue to work hard to keep our store open.  It’s unfortunate what’s happened to them, but I think them closing helps bring the focus back to buying local.”

When the last store sells its last book, Borders will have closed more than 500 stores and laid off thousands of employees as the big-box bookstore joins Blockbuster, Circuit City and Linens ‘n Things as victims of the recession.  But where did Borders go wrong?  Sure the recession had a significant impact on the demise of the company, but there were other factors that lead to Borders failing.

A good business anticipates changes in the way people consume their products and they act accordingly to ensure the business remains profitable.  In the early 2000s, Borders did the opposite of anticipating a new trend and they paid dearly for it.  In 2001, Borders turned over its internet operations to Amazon because its online business was losing money.  For the next seven years, it outsourced its online sales to Amazon and would only get a percentage of sales from Amazon in profit.  According to the company’s 2000 annual report, they envisioned Borders.com as nothing more than a convenient channel for customers.  No ability to purchase books straight from the website, just a place to be reminded of what they have.  Think of it as a place where you can look at the merchandise but you can’t touch it or take it home with you.

In the seven years that Borders decided not to profit significantly from online buying, Amazon went from being merely a book-buying site to becoming one of the leading online retailers.  According to Internet Retailer, E-commerce stocks rose 36% in 2010 and as web-only companies, Amazon ranked number one.  It wasn’t until 2008 that Borders announced its marketing alliance with Amazon was over and that they would be launching their own web sales site.  But by then it was too late.  Companies like Amazon and Wal-Mart had become leaders in book-buying retail and even Borders bookstore chain competitor, Barnes & Noble had focused on online sales years ago.  But it wasn’t just the internet that Borders was last in capitalizing on.

A trendy new gadget called the e-reader was introduced by Amazon in November of 2007 when they debuted the Kindle.  Barnes & Noble introduced its Nook, now sold in Wal-Mart and Best Buy, in November 2009.  Apple’s iPad came out in April 2010.  Borders decided to wait until 2010 to release their own e-reader device called the Kobo.  But once again it was late to the party.  By July of 2010, Kindle book sales had surpassed hardcover book sales, and then six months later beat the paperback books sales rate.  The Nook while not as popular as the Kindle, boosted sales for Barnes & Noble during the holidays last year.  Everyone I know has either a Kindle or a Nook.  Who’s heard of the Kobo?  Whether or not it’s a better e-reader than the more popular devices is irrelevant.

Another area that the company failed to identify was the changing CD and DVD market.  In the 2000s, it generated hundreds of millions of dollars in sales of CDs and DVDs, and it expanded those sections in its stores.  But by the mid 2000s, companies like iTunes, Netflix and other file-sharing networks became popular and places like Virgin Records and Blockbuster saw declining revenue.  The same forces killing the bookstore now were doing the same thing to the music and video industry five years earlier and Borders did not anticipate that same fate for books.

The last factor Borders failed to correct was too much expansion.  It opened too many stores and signed too many 15-to-20-year leases, making it more difficult to close unprofitable locations.  The Eugene location has two more years left on its lease and whatever business follows will likely not be another big-box chain but rather several smaller businesses to fill the large space.

Looking at the facts, the main culprit in Borders demise was the internet.  The retail industry has become a challenging business, regardless of what you are selling, but in order to succeed you have to see changes before they happen and adapt.  Barnes & Noble looks smart now having recognized the trends in bookselling–the internet, e-readers, scaled-down stores as apposed to big-box stores.  But they may have delayed the inevitable themselves having announced bigger-than-expected losses this year.  Despite a rise in revenue thanks to digital sales, Barnes & Noble is struggling and for a company up for sale, the future does not look bright.

But at least they’ll still be here during the holidays.  All those customers going in and out of Borders right now will be gone come Christmas and the 25,000-square-foot space will be deserted.