Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Quora: The Most Intriguing and Fun Site on the Web

20 February 2013 1 comment

In my opinion, it’s easy to get addicted to Facebook.  It’s like brain candy; it’s such a guilty pleasure to get constant updates of what people are doing and what they think.  Plus, how else would you keep track of everyone’s birthday!?  Unfortunately, there’s generally very little sustenance to what’s posted on there.


Breaking Bad (TV Series) topic page

On the other hand, there’s a great site that’s just as addicting and is loaded with an incredible amount of knowledge.  The site is called Quora and is essentially a question and answer site, but with a twist.  Anyone can ask questions and anyone can answer them; however, the twist is users vote on answers, which causes them to “bubble” to the top.  Plus, you can “follow” specific questions, users, and topics that interest you. When you follow a question, you get notified of any new answers that are written.  When you follow users and topics, they’re used to curate what you see when you log into Quora.

It may not seem all that clear from my description, but I think if you give it a try, you’ll get sucked in!

I really enjoy the site because the huge range of questions and topics that are addressed.  Plus, there is such a large (and growing) set of users that are answering questions, there ends up being an abundant amount of unique perspectives.  These particular questions come to mind when considering unique perspectives:

It’s really hard to list some of my favorites because there have been so many, but here’s a shot at it.

Favorite Questions:

A Question I Asked That Got Popular:

Favorite Answers:

My Best Answers:

Sample Topics:

Favorite People:

Or maybe I should have saved all this time and just shared this link:

I’ll look forward to you joining Quora (it’s free, of course) and following me, so I can follow you back.  Feel free to comment here with any questions!


IFTTT: Fun Way to get Olympic Updates and More

A while back I learned of a website which could link all kinds of other websites and services together in a clean, intuitive way.  I used it for a few things, but hadn’t found a really fun use of it until now.

The site is IFTTT and stands for “If This Then That”.

Some of the sites you can use are Facebook, E-mail, Text Message, Twitter, Dropbox, Instagram, etc.  Or you can use services like the weather forecast, Free Kindle books, new movie releases, and so on.  Then, you create a “recipe” that ties those “channels” together.  For instance, here are some popular recipes with channels in bold:

  • When my Facebook profile picture changes, update my Twitter profile picture.
  • If the weather forecast for tomorrow calls for rain, send me a text message.
  • Whenever I post a picture to Instagram, save it to Dropbox too.
  • When a new book is added to the Top 100 Free Kindle books, send me an e-mail.

These examples were all pulled from the most popular recipes.  You can use one of those recipes (and modify it if you want) or you can create your own from scratch.  There are thousands of possibilities with the 50 channels they have available.


So here’s the really cool new channel on IFTTT: ESPN’s coverage of the Olympics.  Here are the two recipes I’m using:

IFTTT: Olympics

Pretty fun, huh?  So I get notified of any gold medal the US wins or whenever anyone sets a World Record.

Setting these recipes up literally takes just a few minutes.  Simply sign up for free and try it out.  Let me know what you think!

Adding Dates and Times in Excel

I answered a question on Quora today regarding how to add a column with dates to a column with times using Excel.

Simple Answer: just add the two cells.

Detailed Answer: dates and times in Excel are stored “behind the scenes” as numbers

  • Dates are stored as the number of days since 1/1/1900
    • 1/1/1900 is stored as 0
    • 1/2/1900 is stored as 1
    • 7/24/2012 is stored as 41,114
  • Times are stored as a fractional number (out of 24 hours)
    • 12:00 midnight (aka 0:00) is stored as 0.00
    • 12:00 noon is stored as 0.50
    • 11:59:59pm is stored as 0.999988…
    • 9:25am is stored as 0.39
      • fractional number of minutes into the day is (9 * 60 + 25) / (24 * 60) = 0.39236
  • Thus, adding together a date cell and a time cell gives you a number with a decimal, which Excel converts to a Date/Time.
    • 7/24/2012 9:25am = 41,114.39

That’s a pretty technical answer, so here’s a screenshot:

Cell D3 is calculated by simply entering the equation =B3+C3.  From there, you can right-click on that cell and go to ‘Format Cells…’ to make the resulting cell look exactly how you want.

Categories: Excel Tags: ,

More Info on Cutting the (Cable) Cord

Over 300 channels on RokuI got a ton of great feedback on my last post regarding my family’s choice to get rid of cable tv.  Some people even said my post pushed them over the edge to finally pull the plug!  However, some others had great follow-up questions that I want to answer here:

What broadband service do you use?  How much is it?  Details!

Time Warner Cable.  We moved to Buffalo last year and got the introductory offer of $38/month for 20 Mbps download / 2 Mbps upload.  This is their Turbo package and is twice as fast as their Standard package.  After that offer expired, the bill jumped up to $54 but I was able to negotiate them down to $45.

What kind of router do you have?

Linksys E3200.  Knowing how much I’d be saving on cable and how much I’d be relying on the router, I invested in a new one with some serious horsepower.  It really wasn’t that expensive when compared to a month of cable.  It’s been great – very easy setup and nearly flawless performance.

What is your setup like?  Is your Roku wireless?

We have the Time Warner modem hooked up to our wireless router in our office so our computer can be hard-wired to it.  This makes both of our Roku’s wireless and we’ve had practically no issues with this setup.  Our main TV has our Roku 2 and it’s about 15 feet away from the router (through 3 interior walls).  The kids playroom has our original Roku and is about 20 feet from the router and goes through 2 walls.  Before upgrading to our current router, we’d have issues with the Roku freezing up, but since switching to the E3200 router 8 months ago, we’ve had zero issues.

I’m thinking about buying ‘brand x’ expensive antenna.

Don’t do it yet!  Try out the cheap option first.  Or at least research how good the over the air (OTA) signal is from your house: I had a lot of luck with this website because it accurately stated our rental house would have bad reception while our new house would have great reception.  Lucky for us!

Lastly, here’s a nice channel guide for OTA programming:

What about shows for kids?

It’s really surprised me how much content for the kids is out there. Netflix online ($8/month) has tv shows like Dora, Diego, Curious George, Sesame Street, Super Why, Wonder Pets, Barney, and more. Of course they’re always adding more.

Also, we made a one-time payment of $15 for a full season (26 episodes) of Olivia on Amazon Video. Between those two video services and Hulu Plus (my favorite, but practically no kids shows), there are tons of entertainment options.

Don’t forget the Roku 2 has a fancy remote that lets you play Angry Birds!  I would have thought my 2- and 4-year olds were too young for it, but both of them love it.  It comes free with the Roku and has hundreds of levels. Plus, it shows great future potential for the Roku and it’s fancy remote.

How can you live without cable sports?

As a lifelong sports fan, this was the toughest decision by far.  But, consider what sports are on CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox: multiple NFL games on Sunday, all day Saturday of NCAA football, over half of the NCAA basketball tournament games, all of the championships for NHL / MLB / soccer,  golf tournaments practically every weekend, Olympics, World Cup – I think you get the point.

Keep in mind, though, that for a small fee Roku offers packages for NBA, NHL, MLS, UFC, MLB and more. Yes, you’ll still miss SportsCenter and NFL Network and specialized channels like that.  But, it’s up to you what those are worth when considering money and free time with family / friends.  Personally, I’m happy with my choice!

Lastly, here’s a good article from Wired magazine that discusses this same topic.

Bye bye cable, Hello money!

9 April 2012 1 comment

Here’s an article I recently wrote on how my family cut the cord with Time Warner Cable last year and how great it’s been going!

How We Saved $100s in 2011

Do you find yourself wishing you had more money?  What about more free time?  If so, I’ve got an option for you to explore which can do a bit of both.  My option: DITCH CABLE TV.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” you say.  Or maybe it’s more like, “Noooooooo!”

I’m not telling you to throw out your tv.  Instead of cable, get your shows and entertainment through a device referred to as an “internet tv device” (aka “set top box” or “streaming player”).  The most popular of these devices are made by Roku, Apple, Google, Boxee, Sony, or Logitech.  They are small, electronic devices that connect to your tv and pick up shows from your home internet connection (many of them do so wirelessly).

“But where do you get your shows?”  Well, that depends on the set top box you choose.  The most common sources are websites like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, and so on.  Plus you can listen to streaming music (Pandora), check the weather, and play games.

“Okay, but how does that save me money?”  What does cable cost you per month?  $40?  $60?  More?  Here’s the breakdown of what my family currently has:

One-time Purchases

  • Roku 2 XS set top box = $99
  • Over-the-air antenna from Wal-Mart = $15
  • Amazon On-Demand = We bought 1 season (25 episodes) of a show for $15

Ongoing Monthly Expenses

  • Hulu Plus = $8/month – 100s of popular tv shows to watch whenever you want via Roku, PC, smartphone, or tablet.  Many shows have every past episode available too.
  • Netflix streaming = $8/month – 1000s of movies and tv shows (including kids shows) also available on any internet device.

Total for the first year = $321

Total for every year thereafter = $192

What do you pay for cable again??

We love the Roku too because it’s got a simple-to-use remote with motion control so you can play the Angry Birds game that’s included!

“What about sports!?”  Ah, the one negative: no SportsCenter.  However, so many big sporting events are on CBS, NBC, FOX, and ABC.  The $15 antenna flawlessly picks up HD TV over-the-air.  Plus, there are services available on the internet tv devices like NHL Game Center,, NBA, and UFC.

“What did you say about free time?”  I used to LOVE cable, but since I ditched it, I don’t have the ability to sit and veg out and flip through channels like I used to.  Eliminating that time suck has allowed me to be more productive and spend more time with my family!

Left Padding Zeros in Excel

14 February 2012 26 comments

Here’s a quick equation to use in Excel if you’re trying to pad a number out to the left.  For instance, you have “427” and you really want it to be “0000427”:






The TEXT function has a few more tricks up it’s sleeve.  Here’s a link to more details on it:

Categories: Excel Tags: , ,

My Review of Roku 2 XS Streaming Player

1 February 2012 Leave a comment

Originally submitted at Roku

Adds an enhanced remote for playing games, plus extra connectivity options.

Helped me painlessly cut the cable cord!

By Hurls from Buffalo, NY on 2/1/2012
5out of 5

Pros: Great value, High quality picture, Easy to use, Compact, Reliability, Easy to set up, Built in Wi-Fi

Cons: Best to have great router, Need fast internet service

Best Uses: Secondary TV, Primary TV, Kids Play Room, Living room, Bedroom

Describe Yourself: Early adopter, Home entertainment enthusiast, Technophile, Power User, Family man

The viewing options on the Roku are fantastic! So many shows and movies, plus now they’re adding games so it’s becoming even more addicting! I know they’ll continue to add channels and content, so it’s going to continue to grow. Hopefully someday they get YouTube and some kind of NFL or NCAA football, then the device may be nearly perfect!