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Category: finances

SDrive NUXX Parts Now For Sale

Prototype 1 PCB (v1.0) in the enclosure with v1.0 end panel artwork.

It’s happened. The SDrive NUXX parts are finally available for ordering over on the SDrive NUXX Ordering Page. As noted here on the AtariAge forum I’ve got four things for sale:

· SDrive NUXX PCB & End Panel SetUS$35 – One SDrive NUXX PCB v1.1, one set (front and rear) SDrive NUXX End Panels, two thread-cutting screws for mounting thick-wing SIO connectors, and two 4-40 screw/nut sets for mounting thin-wing SIO connectors.

· Preprogrammed MicrocontrollerUS$5 – One Atmega ATmega8-16PU (PDIP28 package) microcontroller, programmed with the SDrive firmware with the Brown-Out Detection (BODEN and BODLEVEL) fuses programmed. Only available with the purchase of an SDrive NUXX PCB & End Panel Set or SDrive NUXX Kit.

· SDrive NUXX KitUS$100 – The aforementioned PCB & End Panel Set, plus a preprogrammed Atmel ATmega8 microcontroller, and all the other parts for building one SDrive NUXX except for an SIO connector. This includes a black Hammond Manufacturing 1455L1201BK enclosure. Note that if you wish to use the enclosed DB15 connector instead of your own SIO connector, some slight modification of the IO Connector hole on the rear panel will be required to ensure that the mounting screws fit.

· Completely Assembled and Tested SDrive NUXXUS$150 – One completely assembled SDrive NUXX with SIO connector, tested and ready to use. Includes a 2GB Kingston SD card containing SDRIVE.ATR, tested to work with the SDrive NUXX. As I only have access to a limited number of SIO connectors, this is limited to a total of 10 items, to be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

All aforementioned items ship FOR FREE via First-Class Mail to US addresses. For international destinations, postage (via First-Class Mail) is a flat-rate US$7 to international destinations for each complete SDrive NUXX, SDrive NUXX Kit, or every five SDrive NUXX PCB & End Panel sets.

From now through 03-April-2009 I will be accepting orders. After 03-April-2009 the ordering window will be closed and I will begin ordering the parts. The PCB and end panel manufacturers have quoted me three weeks lead time for manufacturing, and then a week (or so) for shipping, meaning that I should receive these parts around the beginning of May. As soon as the PCBs and end panels are received I will begin assembling and shipping orders. I will have all orders shipped out as soon as possible.

So, that said, if you’d like to place an order, please head on over to the SDrive NUXX Ordering Page. The payments are handled via Google Checkout. Note that if you are wanting to order an assembled SDrive NUXX (or get on the waiting list for in the case that ordering is full) an assembled SDrive NUXX you will need to email me directly. (See the ordering page for more information on this.)

And, finally, please be sure to review the SDrive NUXX, SDrive, and SDrive NUXX Ordering pages before ordering, to ensure that you have a good understanding of what it is that you are buying. This is a DIY project, and while all parts are guaranteed to be free from defects they are otherwise without warranty or technical support.


Two Credit Cards

This morning after waking up I checked my email on my phone and found an authentic-looking fraud alert from HSBC, the bank which holds my most-used credit card. This informed me that HSBC believes one of the recent transactions on my account is fraudulent. I then tried to sign into HSBC’s online banking stuff, only to find my account disabled.

Calling HSBC I was informed that a merchant through which I used my credit card “approximately 18-20 months ago” reported to MasterCard a compromise, and my credit card info is now available publicly. This info was used by someone who manually keyed in a $4680.22 transaction at Tahitian Noni International (Wikipedia), a MLM shop out of Provo, UT. I also told that while they currently do not know which company was compromised, this information should be available to me upon the completion of MasterCard’s investigation.

Save for the fraud, this is just the system working as its supposed to. Unfortunately the timing is a little inconvenient. The charge has been delt with, and a new card with new account number and card and such is being sent to me. As I’m leaving for the San Francisco area this evening and now without the ability to use my ‘normal’ credit card, I’ll have to fall back on the backup one. This card doesn’t pay cash back, has a high interest rate, and generally doesn’t get much use. I probably should also call that card company and inform them that there will soon be charges coming from all over the country so that this one doesn’t get flagged / turned off. I guess this is why I carry two credit cards.

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Nokia E51 and Kensington Expert Mouse For Sale

I’ve got a Kensington Expert Mouse (Trackball) and Nokia E51 for sale. Both are in like-new condition. The trackball was only used for a couple hours, until I decided I didn’t like it. The phone was used for a couple months, but after the recent acquisition of the G1 / Android, I don’t really need it.

Here are photos of the Kensington Expert Mouse: 1 · 2 · 3
Here are photos of the Nokia E51: 1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · 6 · 7 · 8 · 9 · 10 · 11 · 12

In case you don’t know, the Kensington Expert Mouse is probably the best trackball made. It’s got a pool ball sized ball, four large buttons, and a scroll ring around the ball which serves the same function as the scroll wheel on a mouse.

The Nokia E51 is a very nice Symbian Series 60 phone with a metal case. It’s quad band, has a SIP client for VOIP goodness, a nice browser, great screen, and 802.11 connectivity. I really like this phone, I just no longer use it. It is completely unlocked, so it’s not tied to any particular operator, SIM, or anything else. Any SIM should work in it, anywhere in the world.

For the Kensington Expert Mouse I’d like: US$50
For the Nokia E51 I’d like US$180

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NEWSFLASH: Competant Comcast Employee!

After last night’s terrible experience with Comcast I decided to call and get verbal confirmation that the bill I received should be ignored and that I am to receive a credit. After sitting on hold for 40-some minutes I spoke with someone who informed me that my account has a credit of US$64.98, which I will be receiving 30-45 days from disconnection. This person was actually able to understand what I was asking and clearly and quickly answered my questions.

Upon asking why I received the bill, I was informed that while my service was terminated on 29-Dec, the physical disconnection hadn’t occurred until after the bill was generated. Because of this Comcast had not completely closed out the account, prompting the generation of the bill. I don’t agree with this timeline for account termination, but at least it’s a reasonable explanation.

Now I just have to keep an eye out for the refund from Comcast. Once I receive that (and no more bills) I will be content.

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Comcastic Billing Failure

After cancelling Comcast service on 29-Dec-2008 (and returning the equipment on 30-Dec-2008) I was sent a bill asking me to pay for service for February, 2009.

As mentioned before, back on 29-Jan-2008 I had Wide Open West cable service installed at home, cancelling Comcast service the same day. The following day I waited in this long line at the Comcast office in Troy to return the cable modem, obtaining this receipt showing that the hardware was received. Save for the refund I am owed for January service, this should have completed my business with Comcast.

Today when I arrived home from work I found this bill from Comcast, requesting payment for service for 30-Jan-2009 through 29-Feb-2009. After two phone calls which resulted in the IVR system telling me that there were extended hold times, no available automated callback times, and that I should call back later before hanging up on me, 9pm rolled around and Comcast’s billing department closed.

Going against my better judgment I tried the Comcast Live Chat Support. After being passed off from Jennifer.25657 to Charlon.35491 I had a difficult, convoluted chat resulting in my being told that “Yuo can dis regard the bill you received.” (Here [PDF] is a transcript of the chat, if you’d like to read it. It does a great job illustrating Charlon.35491‘s outstanding reading comprehension skills.)

Tomorrow I will be attempting to call Comcast again (possibly recording the call) to double-confirm that there is no expectation of payment and that I am owed a refund for overpayment in January. What baffles me is how a company which supposedly has an integrated, electronic billing system can list a service as canceled but still issue invoices for it. I guess this is the Comcastic service that one should expect.

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401(k) Go Down

Scan of a performance chart from a report on a segment of my 401(k). It decreased quite a bit.

It’s a good thing I don’t want to retire any time soon.

This is a scan from one of my 401(k) statements, one which I received today. This isn’t all of my retirement savings, but it’s a good chunk of it. It’s a bit disheartening to see that, across all six funds this is in, everything has basically collapsed.

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Home-Brewing Coffee Statistics

Coffee beans and the sheet of paper on which I tracked how many cups can be made from two pounds of beans.

I’ve mentioned before that I’d been logging how many cups of coffee were made, how many grind cycles executed, and how many coffee filters consumed in my daily coffee making. This was done so that I could determine just how cost effective it is for me to make coffee at home each morning versus stopping to get coffee.

First, the stats:

Two Pounds of Kirkland-brand (Costco) Coffee Beans, whole: $11.99
Mr. Coffee-brand burr grinder, grind set half-way between C and D, timer set to 7 or 8: ~$35
Aerobie AeroPress Coffee Maker: ~$30

Servings Produced: 25
Grind Cycles: 21
Filters Used: 4
Water Used: 2 Cups (Per Serving)

As the AeroPress and grinder are more than two years old, I will consider these sunk costs and not take them into account in these figures. I am also still working through the original set of filters which came with the AeroPress, so I do not need to take filter cost into account yet. Once I do, typical cost is $3.99 – $5.99 for 350 filters and I normally use a single filter for around five servings, adding $0.00228 to $0.00342 to each serving of coffee.

Electricity will be particularly hard to quantify with the challenges of metering a hard-wired appliance, so I will assume the microwave consumes 1000W peak, which is typical for a microwave of this size. My most recent electrical bill was charged at just under $0.12/kWh. At 3:30 of usage per serving of coffee, this is around $0.007 of electricity.

The two pounds of coffee were ground into just a bit more than was needed to make 25 servings. The measurement for this was not particularly accurate, but as I use the same technique for scooping each morning so this shall be assumed to be a consistent measurement. With the $11.99 price for the two pounds of coffee, this results in a cost of $0.48 per serving for each cup of coffee. It must be noted that the coffee used in this study was a bit more costly than typical Kirkland-brand coffee. The three pound bag I purchased to use after this one also cost $11.99. It can then be expected that this bag of coffee will cost 50% less per serving ($0.3197).

Now, the figures:

Tall Black Coffee from Starbucks: $1.64 (incl. tax)
Medium Black Coffee from Beaners / Biggby: $1.79 (incl. tax)
One Serving (~16oz) of Coffee From Home: $0.487 (at $11.99 for 2 lb)
Daily Savings: ~$1.25~$1.40

Sure, there’s also a time cost, but preparing this coffee takes around five minutes per morning, which is a bit less than the amount of time it would take to stop at a coffee shop and pick up coffee. It’s also more convenient to not have to stop somewhere every day. With the cheaper current bag of coffee, the daily savings will increase by around $0.15 per serving.

I could save even more by waiting until I get to work and drinking the coffee there, but it’s really awful quality Aramark-branded crap which has a persistent smell and taste of burnt brush. There is a Flavia machine in one of the buildings at work which I could use, but the layered plastic and foil packet discarded with each serving is horribly wasteful and I prefer not to use this for the exact same reason why I eschew home-use single serving coffee packages.

Speaking of single-serving coffee makers and waste, making coffee at home produces far less waste. While I do throw out coffee grounds every day and the inevitable bag it is all packed in, these would be discarded by the coffee shop. What I do not dispose of is the paper cup, jacket, and plastic lid provided with each cup, and I hope that the grounds contribute (in some small way) to a landfill decomposing just a little bit faster.

For completeness sake, here’s the process I follow to make coffee each morning:

· Run a grind cycle.
· Microwave two cups of water for 3:30.
· Fit the AeroPress with a filter, selecting a new one if the current one is clogged or old, setting the AeroPress on a pint glass to catch the coffee.
· Put three measures of ground coffee into the AeroPress, measured with the scoop provided with the AeroPress.
· Pour enough water (about one cup) into the AeroPress to fill it, then stir with the paddle until all grounds are suspended (about 10 seconds).
· Push the brewed coffee out through the filter with the plunger.
· Remove the filter retainer, rinse and save the filter if it isn’t too clogged nor old.
· Discard the used grounds into the trash can.
· Pour coffee from the pint glass into the Bodum Travel Mug that I use daily.
· Pour remaining hot water into travel mug until it is full. Stir briefly with paddle to mix.
· Rinse all parts and stack them to dry for the next use.

Yes, I know that I should be composting these, but living in a condo makes composting prohibitively difficult.



So, I’ve got 10 shares of Google stock (NASDAQ:GOOG) and it’s down 40.92%. In short, I’ve lost a lot of money on it.

I’m noticing that Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) are up a whole bunch since they crashed a few days ago. I really, really can’t help but think that I should dump all my Google stock tomorrow morning, buy a bunch of Fannie Mae or maybe Freddie Mac, wait a few days, then sell that and move it all into an ETF which tracks the Euro.

Do any of you think this is a particularly good or bad idea?

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