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Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Anatomy of an eBay Scam - Revisited

'Tis the Season for eBay & PayPal ripoffs. Welcome to the Part 2 of my ongoing eBay & PayPal saga, "The Anatomy of an eBay Scam." To catch any of you up that are not familiar, as my OLD college roommate Josh reminded me -- "I got suckered." Basically, did a deal with an alleged criminal from West Covina attempting to buy a new Digital Camera, a Canon Powershot SD800 IS. Which, for those who know me -- know that I rarely get "suckered" -- being relatively skeptical and savvy. However, my desire to get a camera quickly got the best of me in this case!

Here is the updated status:

  • Still no camera as of Thursday, 11/30 -- no surprise here. A couple people thought in my previous post that I was being a little aggressive in terms of timing, but am glad that I was at this point.
  • The user, Nadia99a is no longer a registered eBay user. Which is basically code for eBay knows they were trying to defraud, rip-off, and/or scam people and put an end to it.
  • I have heard nothing from the FBI's IC3. Not sure what there response time is, but with cyber-crime -- timing is everything.
  • Still waiting on PayPal's resolution. December 4th is the day where they will supposedly decide the case and I find out if I will get any money back at all, should be interesting.
  • I have contacted two of the other auction winners from auctions by this alleged scam-artist and they are equally concerned. I encouraged them to also fill out the appropriate disputes and IC3 cases to hopefully increase the sense of urgency.
  • On a note of potential good news, I found that both the city (West Covina) and the area code (626) provided by the eBay seller are valid and match. While it may still be false, I have seen cases where they did not. So, if things continue down the current path, I will be contacting the West Covina Police Department really soon. Does that sound fun?

On the same note, I have been purchasing holiday items online since 1996. In fact, I do not know the last time that I went to a mall or store for a Christmas gift. While I have been aware of scams and cons around eBay, PayPal, and other online purveyors -- this is the worst I have seen it. Some of the examples I have seen include:

  • My case, where the buyer has no intent to deliver the goods being sold.
  • Seriously misleading buyers. There have been auctions for PS3's, Nintendo Wii's, and TMX Elmos where the description is intentially deceptive by covertly listing "box only" or "pictures of item only" with people looking to feed on a given frenzy.

Any to tell you the truth, I believe that both eBay and PayPal have made it too easy for these schemes to be perpetrated. It seems they have eased their development and efforts to ensure a safe environment and thieves have passed them. In an upcoming blog, I will suggest a few things that eBay and PayPal could do to prevent much of this in an upcoming post.

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Intuit to Acquire Digital Insight - Yay!

Well, the reason for this post, as most of you know I currently work for Digital Insight Corporation. I think this is an extremely exciting annoucement from Digital Insight and represents an exciting opportunity with Intuit! more news and excitement to come, I am sure! The press release is included below.

-------------------------
Intuit to Acquire Digital Insight
Stage Set for New Generation of Online Banking Solutions

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. & CALABASAS, Calif., Nov 30, 2006 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Intuit Inc. (Nasdaq:INTU) and Digital Insight Corp. (Nasdaq:DGIN) have signed a definitive agreement for Intuit to acquire Digital Insight. Under the terms of the agreement, Intuit will pay $39 per share in cash for each Digital Insight common share. The total purchase price is approximately $1.35 billion on a fully diluted basis.

The acquisition will bring together Digital Insight, a leading provider of online banking services, and Intuit, the leading provider of financial management software, to millions of small businesses and consumers. Together, the companies will serve more than 5,000 financial institutions, nearly 25 million consumers and nearly 7 million small businesses. The acquisition will combine Intuit's culture of customer-driven innovation and leading brands with Digital Insight's best-in-class distribution and application service provider model.
"The combination of two industry leaders will put Intuit in an excellent position to bring a new generation of online banking solutions to market in a way that will redefine the way small businesses and consumers manage their financial lives," said Steve Bennett, Intuit president and chief executive officer.

With the acquisition, Intuit will be able to combine work flows in its financial management tools with online banking capability offered by Digital Insight to create new, easier, and better-value offerings for consumers and small businesses.

"Online banking is growing rapidly, but today's solutions don't meet the needs of most small businesses and many consumers," said Jeff Stiefler, Digital Insight chairman, president and chief executive officer. "Digital Insight's and Intuit's combined assets and competencies will change the game for small businesses, consumers and the financial institutions that serve them. In addition to the clear business benefit of this proposed acquisition, both companies have already had the opportunity to work closely together to develop the mutual trust and respect that is a critical prerequisite for any business combination to be successful."

Following the closing of the acquisition, Digital Insight's business operations will continue to operate from its existing facilities in California and Georgia. The Digital Insight business operations will establish the foundation for a newly formed financial institutions business division within Intuit, with Stiefler serving as that unit's president.

The transaction is subject to regulatory review, Digital Insight shareholder approval and other customary closing conditions. After closing, expected in the first calendar quarter of 2007, Digital Insight will become part of Intuit, and Digital Insight stock will cease trading. Intuit plans to finance the transaction with a combination of existing cash balances and up to $1 billion of debt financing, although there are no financing contingencies in the merger agreement. The transaction is expected to be dilutive to Intuit by two to three cents per share on a non GAAP basis in its current fiscal year and slightly accretive on a non GAAP basis in fiscal 2008.

A live audio webcast conference call is available at http://web.intuit.com/about_intuit/investors/webcast_events.html. The call begins today at 5:30 a.m. Pacific. A replay of the audio webcast will remain on the Intuit and Digital Insight Web sites for one week after the conference call. Intuit has also posted this press release on its Web site and will post the conference call script shortly after that call ends.

The conference call number is 866-837-9782 in the United States or 703-639-1420 from international locations. No reservation or access code is needed. A replay of the call will be available for two weeks by calling 888-266-2081 or 703-925-2533 for international callers. The replay access code is 1004956.

About Digital Insight Corporation
Digital Insight Corporation (Nasdaq:DGIN) is the leading provider of on-demand banking services to mid-market banks and credit unions in the United States. The company's extensive portfolio of on-demand applications is hosted in its world-class data center and securely delivered via the Internet. Outsourcing the management of online banking services to Digital Insight empowers financial institutions to generate new sources of revenue, increase customer retention and realize increased cost efficiencies. For more information, visit www.digitalinsight.com.

About Intuit Inc.
Intuit Inc. is a leading provider of business and financial management solutions for small and mid-sized businesses, consumers and accounting professionals. Its flagship products and services, including QuickBooks(R), Quicken(R) and TurboTax(R) software, simplify small business management and payroll processing, personal finance, and tax preparation and filing. ProSeries(R) and Lacerte(R) are Intuit's leading tax preparation software suites for professional accountants.

Founded in 1983, Intuit had annual revenue of $2.3 billion in its fiscal year 2006. The company has nearly 7,500 employees with major offices in 13 states across the United States, and offices in Canada and the United Kingdom. More information can be found at http://www.intuit.com/.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Finally Found the Nintendo Wii – Thanks to NowInStock.net!

To say that I was somewhat distracted by the Playstation 3 (PS3) release would be a slight understatement. If I would have had my wits about me, I would have insured I was able to get a Nintendo Wii on launch day. In fact, I happened to be at Best Buy in Thousand Oaks while they were handing them out on Saturday, November 19th. Had I jumped in line, I may have been able to get one.

Oh well, fast forward today. Since the day of launch, I have been keeping a close eye online for another release of Wiis. Yes, there have been a few additional brick & mortar opportunities, but they are a real pain in the rear. In fact, last Sunday morning, I drove by that same Best Buy just before 7am in the morning on our way to breakfast and noticed the line for the “guaranteed 12 in stock” was already around the corner.

So, I have continued to monitor various websites and finally today, I was able to bag a Nintendo Wii bundle from Walmart. Yes, everyone knows that bundle is seriously over-priced, since Walmart REQUIRES you to purchase 8 games with the initial bundle -- what a rip-off and margin padding scam applied by Walmart. The trick now will be to return the games to Walmart and just retain the console. Should be some serious fun coming up with Walmart

However, I left out one huge credit to my ability to score the Nintendo Wii. Over the weekend, I ran into a post on an Amazon.com forum that recommended a website called nowinstock.net that put together a pretty nice Email/RSS notifier for when one of three products come into stock – it checks for the Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, and the TMX Elmo. I must give serious kudos to Justin the Webmaster @ nowinstock.net, as his tool notified me immediately. I hit the link in his notification almost instantly and the Wii was able to be ordered. Hopefully Justin’s tool will be able to help me pull off a PS3 before the holidays are up. Thanks Justin.

For any who want to try out Justin’s notifier, check out http://www.nowinstock.net/ -- I hope Justin is setup with some affiliate programs on his links!

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Nintendo says sells 600,000 consoles in 8 days - whopee!

No huge surprise here. From what I have seen out there you can still come by the Nintendo Wii easier than the PlayStation 3. I would guess that less that 200k Sony PS3's have hit the market. However, the demand does not seem all that different --- I wonder if the Playstation's higher price point ($499/$599) vs. the Wii ($249) is having an impact on their market......

"SEATTLE (Reuters) - Nintendo Co. Ltd. (7974.OS: Quote, NEWS, Research) sold 600,000 units of its new Wii video game console in the first eight days after its release in the Americas, as the company vies with rivals Sony Corp. (6758.T: Quote, NEWS, Research) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) for gamers' hearts and wallets.

Including sales of accessories and games, Nintendo's Wii-related revenue had hit $190 million since the machine's November 19 release, the company said.

At $250, the Wii costs half as much as the cheapest version of Sony's (SNE.N: Quote, Profile, Research) PlayStation 3 console, which went on sale in the United States two days before the Wii hit the market.

Many fans of both systems lined up at retailers hours or even days in advance of the launches to guarantee they were among the first to claim ownership of the highly anticipated machines.
The consoles are also being hawked on Internet auction sites such as eBay (EBAY.O: Quote, Profile, Research) for several times their retail price tag.


"We've shipped retailers several times the amount of hardware the other company was able to deliver for its launch around the same time -- and we still sold out," Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said in a statement.

Sony has not revealed how many PlayStation 3 consoles it has sold in North America so far, but has said it aims to have shipped 1 million units by the end of the year.

Microsoft has shipped more than 6 million of its Xbox 360 since launching it in November 2005.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved. "

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Playstation 3 (PS3) vs. Playstation 2 (PS2) Launch

Given that I have been caught up in the Playstation frenzy again -- although this time it is different, because it is the Playstation 3 (PS3) rather than the Playstation 2 (PS2). However, after following the madness for the last 10 days, I thought I would share some differences and similarities I see between the launch of the PS2 (October 26th, 2000) and the launch of the PS3 just a few days ago (November 17th, 2006). What do you remember about the launches?

1. The hype is higher for the Playstation 3 - FALSE. A lot of people have commented on various blogs and message boards that the is a lot of more hype surrounding the launch of the Playstation 3. However, my guess is that the majority of the people commenting either were not old enough to remember the launch of the Playstation 2 or did not follow it. But, the hype was just as high for the Playstation 2. I remember all of the articles and media coverage from that time. The entire industry had been waiting for the Playstation 2 for quite awhile -- there was no XBOX or similar competitor to mute the launch.

2. Product availability is less for the Playstation 3 - TRUE. Having waited through the launch night of both the Playstation 2 & Playstation 3 launches, there was much more product available at launch time for the PS2 -- especially in the online channels. While there was still a secondary market with markups for the PS2, it is nothing like what is currently being seen on eBay with 40k plus available at launch and over 7k available at the time of this post. Stores such as Amazon and Best Buy were having nightly online inventory releases. Thus far with the PS3 there have been a limited number of releases from Walmart, Toys-R-Us, Sony Style, & Gamestop while very large retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy have yet to hold and online sale.

3. I already had my Playstation 2, 10 days into launch - TRUE. Thanks to my tech-savvy self, I was able to assist a certain retailer with a problem on their website and they allowed me to get access to the early arrival of the PS2. Unfortunately, I did not learn my lesson and I failed to pre-order the PS3. It looks like I may turn to eBay if the online stores do not receive inventory soon. More on that to come soon.

3. Retailers are as bad as the eBay "scalpers" with their awful bundles - TRUE. Retailers, especially Walmart have put together awful and unreasonable bundles to take advantage of their customers and increase their profits. For example, Walmart is requiring the buyers to purchase extra controllers, 12 games, 2 DVDs for more than $1500+ with tax to take advantage of their allocation. All of that for a $599 machine. Walmart, Toys-R-Us, Circuit City, & Gamestop seem to be the worst offenders here. I doubt any of those who buy these bundles from Walmart will be happy with their purchase and return. Consumers are not being forced to buy these items, but still -- it is outrageous. While Target, Amazon, & Best Buy offer the items as the individual consoles, they have not had stock, so the point is moot.

4. Amazon's PS3 60GB forum seemed to be the favorite "camp-out" spot for online users - TRUE. For some reason, possibly because people anticipated that Amazon was going to receive an large allocation of PS3's. They have not, but still users have stuck around here. There is some speculation that Amazon's allocation was tied up in the Toys-R-Us arrangement that fell apart this past summer.

5. The number of rip-offs is higher - TRUE. This is mainly seen on eBay, but there seems to be a lot of fraud going on. eBay has taken some precautions to help prevent scams like requiring buyers to show pictures with their username and receipts. However, there are still a lot of scam-artists attempting to sell -- empty boxes, pictures of PS3s, etc. Buyer beware!

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Anatomy of an eBay Scam

Well, it looks like I may have been had. After over 10 years of being an avid eBay and PayPal user -- including 400+ positive feedbacks on my current account – it appears that I have run into my first scam at eBay. Better yet, it is the first time I have fallen for an apparent scam from an eBay user.

Everything started off relatively innocently – I was looking to add the Canon PowerShot SD800 IS to our camera inventory. While Ashley likes the pictures that our PowerShot G7 takes, it is a little bulky for everyday, in-pocket use. A natural alternative was to look at the smaller Digital Elph SD line. Given that the newer SD800 IS has two the most important features that our G7 has, the Digic III processor as well as image stabilization, it made perfect sense to pursue. So, in order to reduce the cost – I decided to look on eBay for a “lightly” used version.

After searching eBay for the right item to bid on, I came across auction #110056819205, which is for a like-new SD800 IS camera. After some basic bidding, I end up losing the camera by not bidding high enough. Now the fun was going to being. When checking the status of the auction the next day, I noticed that the seller (nadia99a) had re-listed the auction. Curious as to the reason, I noticed that the person who won the auction was “no longer a registered user”, so I figured the auction was now moot and contacted the buyer. After the exchange of emails, the seller and I agreed on a second chance offer price and decided to move forward. I figured with a 100% positive feedback rating of “8” that the seller was somewhat respectable. The buyer sent me the invoice and I paid via PayPal – this was on November 20, 2006. An interesting note here is that the eBay seller never sent the second chance offer, rather only sent the PayPal invoice – I did not notice this initially, but effectively for this reason the transaction was outside of eBay.

Upon completing the payment, I requested a favor of the seller. Since the seller lives a relatively short distance from my home in Thousand Oaks (45 miles or so in West Covina, CA) – I request that buyer ship the same day so I could use the camera during our Thanksgiving trip to Disneyland. The seller obliged and confirmed that it shipped out via USPS delivery. All seemed to be on track, so I was anxiously anticipating the arrival of the SD800 IS on Tuesday, November 21st.

The 21st came and went, no delivery of the camera. No cause for concern, the US Mail can be slow sometimes – I emailed the seller again – they confirmed that it shipped. The 22nd came and went, no delivery of the camera – now I am starting to get suspicious. I noticed that the seller still did not cancel the auction for which they supposedly were to selling me the camera, so I inquired – the seller responds that they have multiples. Then nothing came on the 24th, because it was Thanksgiving – then nothing again on the 25th.

Now things are really looking bad, so I decide to check the specific feedback of seller – all 8 of them are from the last week and for small purchases of only $0.01 each. Then, I noticed that the items that are being listed by the seller are identical to ones that recently sold. They are all small enough in value (a few hundred dollars), where perhaps they are thinking people will not make to big of a stink about them. The seller is also no longer responding to emails. It seems like a pretty clear case of eBay / PayPal fraud.

So, what to do now……thus far, I have :


  • Filed a claim (not just a complaint) with PayPal and hope that PayPal has frozen the appropriate amount of money in the PayPal account. This is set to resolve on December 4th, 2006.

  • Filed an incident report with the FBI’s IC3. IC3 is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center. They review reports and refer information to the appropriate local, state, or federal agencies.

  • Filed a report with eBay for an outside of eBay transaction.

I am hopeful the amount of money I spent on the auction will be returned to me, approximately $300 or so. However, the most important thing from my perspective is to make sure that the person perpetrating these fraudulent transactions is caught and stopped. If anyone is aware of any other appropriate actions, please let me know!

I will update my blog as information comes my way. Minimally, I have learned that I do need to look at the specifics of someone's feedback before bidding or doing business with someone. Especially in these types of cases where a lot of feedback has been generated in a short amount of time.



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Friday, November 24, 2006

Disneyland for Thanksgiving? A Family Tradition!

Another year, another Thanksgiving Day at Disneyland in Southern California. What began as a trial a few years ago has now become a tradition, with the Brown & Hanscom families going to Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks in Anaheim. For 2006, this makes it the 3rd annual trip for our families which seems to be growing each year – as a total of eleven of us made the trek down to enjoy both theme parks and a great Thanksgiving meal at the Storytellers Café.

First off, let’s talk about the accommodations – we decided to stay at the Doubletree Guest Suites Anaheim Resort for our trip for a couple of reasons. The first is that the hotel is a Hilton family property and our family prefers to stay at Hilton because of the great rewards and the fact that all of us maintain Hilton Honors VIP Gold status. Secondly, they had a phenomenal deal on these dates this past summer and while we absolutely love the Disney Grand Californian – at $400/night, we prefer our $80 Doubletree rooms. Upon arriving we quickly realized the reason for the great rates – the hotel is a brand new property and the promotion must have been to help make sure the resort would be full over the holiday weekends. Overall, the Doubletree was fairly impressive – the entry was nice, there was a good assortment of a restaurant, bar, and a coffee shop making sure that all the needs were met. In addition, the rooms were great – relatively large suites, filled with great quality amenities, bedding, and fixtures.

Now, onto the festivities – over the last couple of years, Disneyland has been relatively quiet on Thanksgiving Day. This year we were a little nervous that our secret was out, as in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, we heard many Disney radio advertisements encouraging people to enjoy a relaxing day at the theme parks. We kept hope that it would remain relatively calm for our Thanksgiving stay and I must admit, Thanksgiving Day at Disneyland was a great success! We arrived at the Disneyland Park right at opening – bright and early – 8:00am. We then made quick runs to Indiana Jones to get a Fast Pass for later, and then right into the line for Space Mountain. (Our technique that we have perfected over the past couple of years of season passes is to get fast passes as quickly as possible in the morning because you can get the early times and immediately be available to select another fast pass, which is a huge key. That way, you save the fast passes you collect in the morning for when it is more crowded in the afternoon. This also works well for California Adventure as you can have an active Fast Pass in both parks – which is great if you are not able to get your hands on the scarce “Dream FASTPASS” badges that are currently being handed out at random within the parks. I made somewhat of an attempt to locate one, but was not successful. We continued hitting all of our favorite rides Pirates of the Caribbean, Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Soarin’ Over California, Hollywood Hotel, and the Maliboomer until the time came for dinner.

We then went to our favorite (other than Club 33) Disney Southern California restaurant, the Storytellers Café – located in the Grand Californian Resort. Generally, we have always ordered from the menu, but starting last year we had the Thanksgiving Buffet. Overall, it was a decent meal aside from the Prime Rib which was not the best. However, the Storytellers Café really nailed it. All the trimmings including turkey, prime rib, ham, mashed potatoes, and stuffing! I even had a few extra helpings of the prime rib – which was greatly improved over the last year. In fact, trusty case member “Scott” was doing a lot of the carving on the prime rib & ham – he’s been a fixture the last 3+ years we’ve been going there and it was great to see him again!

After a great meal, it was back to the parks to enjoy the fireworks. While they were relatively good fireworks, it is simply impossible to compete with quality of the 50th Anniversary fireworks spectacular that we had been seeing the last 18 months. Disney has a lot of work ahead of them to really improve on that. However, it was FIREWORKS and it even “snowed” afterwards. It was a great Thanksgiving holiday with the family!

Friday, we made an “attempt” to visit the park again. Sleeping in a little to rest up from the previous day, we got to the park and promptly decided we had enough. Every line we went to had at least an hour long wait, including Pirates of the Caribbean – given the relaxing day that we had just one day previous – we made a quick exit for home!

Please check here to see the picture album from the day:



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Sunday, November 12, 2006

USC homecoming - Trojans trounce the Ducks

Having run across some tickets for Saturday's game, Ashley and I joined our cousins Scott (USC '06) & Heidi for USC homecoming on Saturday, November 11th at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The game of course was the USC Trojans vs. Oregon Ducks game and until a few weeks ago, the game was being built up as a major showdown with BCS implications. Since then, Oregon had lost two games and USC lost to Oregon State which I lamented about here. Still, USC was playing minimally for a Rose Bowl berth.


We arrived to the USC campus around 2:00pm for the 7:30pm game because of all the festivities and tailgate parties that go along with homecoming events. As anyone living in Los Angeles knows, traffic getting to downtown through the San Fernando Valley on an afternoon is an absolute bear. My cousins have a great parking location right near the stadium that is close, cost-effective, and secure -- that made the end of the trip fun. Upon arriving, we engaged in the usual fair, going through the tailgate and other parties as night time approached. Our seats, which were buried in the Oregon section "1CL" was the farthest away from the action, but still fun seats to have.


The game itself was the typical USC game that we have come to know over the past few years. A fairly intense first half exchange, but by halftime it was a 14-0 affair. The second half also had its share of excitement after two plays where a Dwayne Jarrett interception was followed by an Oregon fumble to really set the teams apart. Perhaps the most intense moment of the game what the referees ruling on the late game "touchdown" by the Ducks. In all, it took about 25 minutes for the refs to get to the decision. First they reversed the touchdown, then they reversed the reversal. In the end, everyone in the stands just wanted there to be a resolution to the play -- points or not. John David (JD) Booty, Chauncey Washinton, Dwayne Jarrett, & Steve Smith all had great games and it looks like the USC passing game is finally back!


Perhaps the biggest development during the afternoon was the string on top BCS teams that were upset during the day. First a highly-overrated Auburn team lost to Georgia, then Texas lost to Kansas State, in fact Florida almost lost to South Carolina. All of those were enough to boost USC to #3 in the BCS standings, perfect positioning for another championship run! At this point, if USC wins out -- against Cal 11/18, Notre Dame on 11/25, and finally at UCLA on 12/2, USC will go to the BCS Championship game this year. With simply a win next week, they will clinch a Rose Bowl berth. The end of the season is sure to be exciting, so stay tuned!


On a side note: Let me take a minute to get on my soap box about the fact that the Oregon Ducks have the ugliest uniforms in the PAC-10 and perhaps the entire NCAA. I know that they pride themselves on the fact they have about 30 different "kits" and the players choose before each game. However, it was a bad idea put together one that has what is supposed to be corrugate metail on the knees and shoulders. Because, when they play teams like USC, they look more like tire treads as they get runover. The good news is that this option is available for both away and home games, so they are equal opportunity when it comes to getting run over.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Canon PowerShot G7 has arrived!

The long awaited arrival of my new digital camera from Dell is here, the Canon Powershot G7 10 mega pixel camera! What's included in the box:

  • PowerShot
  • G7 Lithium battery pack
  • Battery charger
  • 32MB SD memory card
  • Neck strap
  • Digital Camera Solution CD-ROM
  • USB cable
  • AV cable
  • User's manual

My first impression on items included in the package is that I find it somewhat lacking. The inclusion of a 32MB SD memory card for a 10 megapixel camera is not only a waste of a card, but somewhat of an insult a you can get a total of about 8 high-resolution photos on that size of a card. Fortunately, I have been able to pick up both 1GB and 2GB cards on the cheap due to some recent deals from FatWallet.

Next, the inclusion of a full neck strap, but no wrist strap. While some might appreciate the next strap, this camera is no where near as large as a Rebel EOS SLR where a neck strap is necessitated. The inclusion of a basic wrist strap would have been nice.

And my last disappointment is the lack of a basic soft case for the camera. With my other Powershot line purchase in the past, a very basic soft case that protects against basic body and LCD scratches. I do not personally have the need for a larger case, just something basic. At this time, it does not look like Canon has produced a basic soft case at this point.

Now on to the camera itself. Initially, I am very impressed with the look, feel, & size of the Canon Powershot G7 camera. This is the first time that I have been able to put my hands on this camera, given my previously mentioned difficulties. My only initial concern is that if my hands were any larger, I would clumsily fumble around with all the various manual controls available on the camera. Other than that it feels extremely ergonomic and functional.

After charging the battery, I took a few test shots (to be posted soon). I am very impressed with the initial quality of the shots when compared with my previous Powershot (Elph) cameras. The differences, especially in night photos is amazing. The G7 powers on very quickly and is able to snap shots in repetition at high-resolution at a greater pace than I have been used to. The 6x optical zoom does a great job of enlarging distant objects without decreasing the quality.

While I only have taken a few photos thus far, I am very impressed with this camera. I will follow up with additional insights and opinions once I have used the camera more along with sample pictures. I am also going to be picking up a few additional accessories including a LCD scratch protector and extra batteries. At this point I would recommend the Canon Powershot G7 to anyone looking to capture high-quality photos with a relatively compact camera and still skipping the SLR for photography!

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Lights Out

Welcome to this year’s season for the Los Angeles Lakers. Tonight (11/07/06 – Los Angeles Lakers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves) was my first visit to Staples Center this year and I must say I was impressed. However, I am not only talking about this year’s team. The new ambience at the Staples Center with the “Lights Out” scheme they have put in place for the arena lighting is awesome!

Rather than flooding the entire arena with bright light, the lights are focused on the court with the stands being relatively dim. From our seats in the Premier section, it seemed to bring the court closer to us and make us feel like a part of the action -- more reminiscent of a boxing match. (see picture from my seat) Planning to attend several additional Lakers games this year, I hope they continue with this scheme, it is a winner.

Perhaps the lighting even has an influence on the players? While Kobe Bryant is still obviously coming into condition – the rest of the starting cast thus far in the season, and especially in this game are greatly improved in terms of skill and chemistry. Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, Jordan Farmar, & Andrew Bynum were absolutely impressive in their teamwork on the floor. Walton looked so good that I picked him up for my Fantasy team & Bynum looks to have matured about 5 years in his off-season work with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

This could be a great season for the Lakers!

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Monday, November 06, 2006

PSP on the Mend from a Broken LCD

Update: New Guide on how to Replace to your PSP LCD

My Sony Playstation Portable (PSP) has become of mainstay of my recent travels, providing an additional means of passing the time in airports and on planes. It came in extremely handy during this past September when I spent more time on a plane and in airports than not. I use it mainly for games, and have not crossed over to the UMD format for movies nor has it replaced my iPOD for music and photos. In addition, it has proved to be fairly sturdy and reliable, as it made all the trips unscathed across the globe, including across India taking its share of bumps and bruises. For the most part, the Logitech PlayGear Pocket has done an excellent job at protecting the PSP with a hard case without greatly increasing the weight.

On one of the occassions where it was not being protected by the hard case, one mishap occurred which resulted in a serious cracking of the LCD glass rendering the PSP useless. My first reaction was to call Sony support and see what they could do for me. Probably, it does not come to anyone's surprise that the price tag for Sony to do an "authorized" repair came to well over $100. Being relatively electronic savvy, having fixed laser issues on my PlayStation2 - I decided to see if there was a cheaper way. After some basic searching, I realized that this issue with cracked LCDs is a relatively common occurrence. Then a quick browse on eBay searching for "sony lcd psp replacement" turned up over 175 current items. After selecting a vendor located in Hong Kong, "gameconsolehk", I placed my order and waited for the item to arrive, for less than $40.

About a week later, the replacement LCD showed up and I started working on replacing the screen. After taking out the obvious screws to open up the case, I noticed the outer shell would still not separate, so I visited the lik-sang.com forums which turned up some excellent photos and a video.

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On a side note, Sony recently filed a lawsuit against the lik-sang company in order to force them to shut down. Lik-Sang apparently produced a few things that Sony did not care for, so Sony took care of that. The disappointing part is that the tutorial and video included on the forums were excellent and I had hoped to link them to this post.
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They revealed that I missed the last two screws underneath the black warranty strip. I removed the last two screws and proceeded with the replacement. The replacement itself is fairly straight forward -- you only need a couple of mini-screwdrivers, a flat-head and a phillips to do the job. Once you slide off the lower metail bar and then unclip the LCD from the housing, the work is almost done. The last and most delicate part of the work is to unlock the clips that hold the LCD cables to the PSP. This is a critical part to take easy, break a clip and you are really out of luck. Once you have unclipped the cable, the replacement fits right in.

In a matter of 15 minutes, I was able to replace the LCD and restore my PSP to working condition and it is behaving like new. If you happen to end up in the situation with a broken LCD, you can do it yourself to save some money. Warranty is not really a concern here, as once you contact Sony support about a broken LCD the assumption is the product has been abused and the warranty is voided.

Best of luck! If you have any questions or run into any problems, just leave a comment or send me a note and I will try to help!

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Getting my hands on the elusive PowerShot G7.....

Now that I have a Canon PowerShot G7 on order with Dell, I wanted to try and actually get my hands on one before it arrived. I went to a number of local spots and nobody seems to have one available on display; not Ritz Camera, not Fry's Electronics, not Best Buy. So, after driving around for the better part of an afternoon - the conclusion I reached is the first one I will see when it arrives at my door. Has anyone else been able to have hands on this camera?


This brings up and interesting point - how could I choose a camera without testing it out first? Especially a camera like the PowerShot G7 with a relatively lofty price tag of $599. While it may seem like a difficult question, it is actually pretty simple. The first reason is that given the ability to sell a relatively mint condition new camera on like the G7 on eBay is relatively easy. In fact, with the Dell discounts - it might be possible to come out ahead and have a true FatWallet moment. That greatly lowers the risk and concern when selecting such a camera.

However, it is important to understand why I like this particular camera. Truth be told, I was hoping that Canon would continue the S80 line - but nothing seems to be imminent. The two features that really killed the deal on the S80 was the lack of both Optical Image Stabilizer Technology and the DIGIC III processor. Those two advancements, plus the 10.0 megapixel feature really sold me on the camera. Despite what some user comments say on reviews out there like the one you will find on CNET - the missing RAW mode is not a deal killer nor does not take away from the appeal and quality of the remaining features of the camera. I cannot wait until it arrives!

On an accessory notes, there have been extremely good deals on SD Memory cards for cameras like the PowerShot G7. In fact, this weekend I picked up a Kingston 2GB SD card for $19 from Fry's Electronics in Oxnard.

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Retiring the Canon PowerShot S410 Digital Elph

Well, after 3 years it has become time to upgrade the trusty Canon PowerShot S410 Digital Elph camera and that Ashley and I have put some serious miles on. There are quite a number of places it has been, including all the way around the world. In fact, in just the past 12 months it has been to:

  1. Hawaii (Oahu, Waikiki)
  2. Germany (Munich, Berlin, & Heidelberg)
  3. India (Bombay - Mumbai, Pune, & New Delhi)
  4. Walt Disney World (Orlando, Florida) as well as Disneyland.
  5. Yosemite

Overall, it has been an excellent camera -- although we have often been disappointed with low-light photos and dark shooting. For example, photos of the castle in Heidelberg, Germany and the fireworks at Disney had poor focus and quality, even when using with tripod. Otherwise, the general pictures have always come out wonderful and even took some breath taking photos in Yosemite. Despite it's trustworthiness and dependability that it has become known for in our household, we're "upgrading" to the new Canon PowerShot G7 digital camera. It's due to arrive in the next week after getting an excellent deal from Dell, thanks to my preferred account status and some discounts I was able to get it for ~$50 below MSRP including shipping & tax.

On another note, I also decided to get rid of my Canon Digital Video Camcorder - MiniDV ZR50-MC. I am not sure why, but Ashley and I are not big video people. Perhaps that is because we do not have kids or maybe even because as small and compact as this particular video camera is - it is a burden to carry around given the numerous recent trips that we have been on. It is currently listed on eBay for any of those who may be interested. I am hoping for at least $175 for it - which would definitely help defer some of the cost of the G7 that is in transit from Dell.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Taking a Beating

I can be a sucker for pain -- sometimes. To that end, I "play" soccer in an indoor soccer league in Camarillo, California called At The Playground Entertainment Park. I play for two different teams that the company I work for, Digital Insight sponsors. The first "B" league team, but for grins there is no "A" league. The second is a "30+" league.

Thursday nights are when the "B" league games are. To give you a little flavor for our league and our team, realize first that as I mentioned -- there is no "A" league. The "B" league has 14 teams, many of which are made up of guys who played college ball at local colleges like CLU (Cal Lutheran). Then, there is our team. We're generally made up of weekend warriors and some guys who have not played soccer in 10 years or ever played organized ball. So, there is little chance that anyone will mistake any of us for England's Wayne Rooney, Spain's Fernando Torres, or even USA's Landon Donovan.

This brings us to last night -- I generally show up for our games 30 minutes early to watch the game before us, just to see how the other teams are playing. In this particular game, it was a relatively close game with less than two minutes left when everything broke lose. After a great series of plays by the keeper, the player attempting to score decided to spit in the goalie's face. Those two proceeded to square off and then everyone entered into the fracas. For some unknown reason, there were 10 or so friends (not players) from the team of the guy who spit sitting in the reserve player area. They also ran onto the field and tried to mix it up with the other team. Punches were thrown, cheap shots were taken, and even some blood was spilled. Next thing you know the owner of the complex is on the field pepper-spraying people. In the end, one team and its players should be banned permanently from the league as this is the 2nd time in a month they have had players behave in this manner. There is no place for that behavior in league like this. More to come on this, I am sure.

Oh, yeah and we played our game as if it did not happen. We lost 13-5 or something like that -- pretty much par for the course for us -- but we had some serious fun. We're improving and look to this season or next to get our first win.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

He’s back. Willie the Wave!

I received an email today from my good buddy Josh Rhea today with a link to something that I never thought I would see again. That’s right, Willie the Wave has been resurrected as the mascot for Pepperdine University. How can this be? At least Pepperdine will no longer be the only Division 1A school without a mascot after the ill conceived assassination of King Neptune by the “WAVE MEN”.

To tell you the truth, this day could not have come sooner for me. I have missed Willie since the day he was taken from us back in 1996, things just never felt right with him gone. Willie was a real part of the Seaver College experience and then suddenly it changed.

With the launch of the 1996-1997 basketball campaign the decision was made to go away from Willie and in a new direction. As part of the new direction my fraternity Psi Upsilon (Lambda Omega Sigma at the time), was asked to take part in the unveiling of the new Mascot, “King Neptune”. So, as part of the ceremony we carried a surf board out into the audience at the Midnight Madness with the King riding on top. In an interesting twist, numbers of fans in the audience were chanting “We Want Willie! We Want Willie!” And in many ways, I was too – on the inside. However, over time the King – or “Papa Smurf” as he was affectionately known became accepted, however never really loved.

So, for the past few years Pepperdine has been the only Division 1A school without a mascot, and based on the “Wave Men drown” article by Austin Nelson for the Graphic at Pepperdine, an unveiling of the “WAVE MEN” was a disaster back in August of 2005 that was two years in the making.

But Willie is back! The jury is still out on whether he is better than ever – I am still partial to the original Willie we got used to in the 1990’s – but at least Pepperdine has a mascot for the new students to love and us older ones to reminisce about.

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Are you kidding me?

The Los Angeles Lakers are 2-0. Let me say that in a different way – the Los Angeles Lakers are 2-0 without Kobe Bryant. Before Tuesday night, how many people would have guessed that the Lakers would have wins against Phoenix at home and the Warriors at Golden State knowing the Kobe Bryant would not be playing?

Now, I do not want to get too far ahead of myself, but this is shaping up to be an extremely exciting season for the Lakers. In each game, the teams’ balance was excellent with Lamar Odom serving as floor general while Kobe keeps rehabilitating his knee. Plus, the was a great distribution of scoring and good play from the youngsters including Ronny Turiaf (Gonzaga!), Andrew Bynum, and Jordan Farmar. (UCLA!) This bodes well for the possible success of this team picking up from their first round battle with the Phoenix Suns in the NBA playoffs last June.

Next Tuesday, I have tickets for the game at Staples center for Lakers vs. Timberwolves. I must say that I cannot wait for game time to come, and hope that once Kobe comes back the team play and execution continues.

Go Lakers!

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Do Something

Welcome to my blog. Some Life.

The concept is just beginning and is sure to go under a lot of development and changes over the coming days, weeks, and months. This is the first site I have put together in quite awhile and is sure to grow, focus, and evolve. Into what exactly, I am not sure yet.

This beginning has been a long time in the making -- getting started is always hard part. For the better part of a year I have talking and thinking about putting this together. However, there was always a higher priority that "demanded" my attention.

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