Pumpkin carving with a soldering iron (yes, you read that right)

Common tools for pumpkin carving

It is not the first time someone has gotten the idea of carving a pumpkin with a soldering iron but it is the first time I have thought to try it.  I have never carved a pumpkin before either so this is a new experience for me.  I pulled out the most common carving tools as well as a pumpkin to get started.

Bleach to prevent mold

Make sure you have bleach and hairspray.  Bleach will clean the pumpkin and help keep the pumpkin from decaying or developing mold for a while.

Clean out the pumpkin

Make sure you clean your pumpkin by spooning out all the guts and seeds.  I used a fork to ensure all the goo was scraped out.  Once you think you are clear, clean the inside with some bleach to prevent mold from developing.

Carve your name!

First thing I did was heat up my soldering iron and carve out my name on the top.  The heat made the cut slice so easy to make.

My pumpkin pattern

The end result can be seen above.  You would want to grab a can of hairspray and spray all around your pumpkin to prevent mold and decomposition.  Not bad for a first time carve.  Now for a bit of warning.  There is a reason why a soldering iron is not used often for carving pumpkins.  The reason is because the pumpkin lets out a liquid when a soldering iron pierces the pumpkin.  This liquid evaporates quickly and leaves behind a black coating over the soldering iron.  It is a pain trying to clean the soldering iron after that so this can be a possible explanation why not many people use a soldering iron for carving.

In the dark

Have your own pumpkin carving disasters?  Share with us by commenting below.

Desktop Capture Software

There comes a time in a person’s life when the need to record or photograph everything in their life becomes an obsession.  No, that hasn’t happened to you?  I guess it is just me.  Regardless, eventually everyone will come to a point in their life where they will need to record or photograph themselves or their activities.  A webcam, digital camcorder, or digital camera will more than suffice for your recording activities taking place out in the real world.  The problem occurs when you want to record video of yourself using the internet or a program on your computer.  Technically, you can use your existing camcorder to record over your shoulder but that just looks tacky.  So what do you do?  Fear not little fella, for I will introduce you to the magic of desktop capturing software.

What is it?

Desktop capturing software is a program you can install on your computer that records what is on your desktop.  Anything you can see on your desktop can be turned into a video.  Desktop capturing software does vary from program to program.  Some programs records both video and audio (either from the programs running or your own commentary), others only record video, and some could even record you playing video games.  In addition to the various features, the price range for these programs also vary.  Some software can price for as much as $500 that include cool little features.  For now, I will focus on three: CamStudio, Taksi, and FRAPS.

CamStudio

CamStudio is free software that can be downloaded by following this link and running the installation process.  CamStudio is one of the best programs out there you can use to capture your desktop activities.  I use it whenever I need to make a video on how to teach others how to use certain programs.  It is very easy to use.  Just push the play button when you want to start recording and then just push stop to stop the video.  As far as I know, there is no limit to the amount of video you can record using CamStudio.

Taksi

Taksi is free software designed to capture your video game activity.  Its was design to imitate FRAPS in all except price.  I unfortunately do not have very good luck with Taksi.  I was able to make some videos work such as this one; however, the quality does not look good.  It could be that my computer is not powerful enough to run its maximum potential.  If anyone can get it to work, let me know by contacting me through the comments or social media.

FRAPS

So far, FRAPS is my favorite software to use whenever I want to record any of my video game gameplays.  It is easy to use, the quality is beautiful, and the format the videos are saved in are easy to manipulate.  The best part is that FRAPS is easily available for only a one time payment of $37 and it includes free updates for as long as you have the program.  If you want to try out the program before you buy it, there is a free trial version of FRAPS available to download.  Just remember that with the free version you can only record up to 30 seconds and every video you record will have a watermark advertising FRAPS.  Here is a little sample of me using FRAPS to record myself playing Bioshock.

Have any other desktop capturing software you prefer?  Let everyone know by commenting below.

Logitech C510 HD Webcam Review

I honestly thought that I could have gotten away with not buying a webcam during my time at the university.  I did not see the point of a webcam other than communicating with others face to face and since I usually use the phone or a face-to-face meeting for communicating, I did not buy a webcam.  This all changed last week when my Japanese teacher, Matsuhashi sensei, gave me an assignment where I had to video message a native Japanese speaker in Japan.  I had bad experiences with webcams in the past.  The video quality was horrible, the built in mic was barely audible, and software was difficult to use.  I was more than a little hesitant to buy another webcam.  I did remember that I bought a webcam last year for my little sister from Logitech.  Since I enjoy Logitech’s products so much, I decided to purchase myself the c510 Logitech HD Webcam at Radioshack.

Specs

The specs can be found here.  I also did read the specs on my video review of the c510, which can be found below.  I strongly recommend viewing the video to see the actual quality of the camera as well as a detailed review.

Contents

The c510 HD webcam comes with three things: the webcam, a very comfortable pouch made from a mesh-like material, and free software that supports the camera experience.

Video and Picture Quality

If you haven’t seen my video review, take a look below.  I was amazed and impressed by the video/photo quality.  It was very clear, crisp, and delightful to use.  With this camera, I will not have any trouble having others chat with me via Skype or any other webcam chat software.  It is not the best video quality out there, but for $40-$50 it is a really good price.

Mic Quality

I did not include the mic quality in my video review, so I quickly went back and tested it out.  The quality was just as good, if not better than my Logitech H250 headset.  If it only had an external speaker installed, then I might consider replacing my headset.

Software

I did not expect any special software from the disc inside the packaging.  On a whim, I installed the special software and was pleasantly surprised.  It came with special filters, motion capture avatars, and other cool little features that will enhance your video capturing experience.  Want a closer look?  Take a look at the video below.

Final decision?

For most of my uses, the c510 HD webcam will fulfill most of my needs.  I find the price cheap enough for a good quality webcam that I will use often.  Logitech makes good products so I know the webcam will last for a while.  I highly recommend this camera to anyone who is in the market for a good and reliable webcam.

3 Reasons Why You Should Not Sit on Your Upgrade

Every once in a while at work, I would get an elderly customer walking in for the occasional double AA or AAA battery refill.  During the checkout, I would ask them how their cellphone is working out for them or if they are ready for a new phone.  More often than I would like, the customer tells me that they still had the same phone for 4 or 5 years.  On the rare occasion, the customer would inform me that they save so much money by not paying for a new phone every two years and that anyone who does upgrade once their upgrade is eligible is just foolish.  When this occurs, I would just smile condescendingly to them because I know no matter how much I try to argue with them, they won’t change their mind. On this occasion, the customer is wrong because sitting on a phone upgrade will not benefit you unless your thinking of changing carriers.  Consider the following next time you are thinking of not upgrading as soon as you are eligible.

This picture was found on http://www.girlsjustwannahavefunds.com/
Go check it out, there is lots of interesting content hosted there.

Reason 1: You are throwing away money!

If you remember from my earlier blog on the True Cost of an Upgrade, I mentioned that the reason contract cell phone carriers offer Smartphones that normally cost $700 for $200 is because they give customers a subsidy whenever they renew their two-year contract.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking that wireless carriers are losing money.  They offset their subsidy cost by charging you higher monthly rates above their operating costs.  Let us take Sprint for example.  One can pay $79.99 per month on a contract plan with 450 anytime minutes, unlimited text and unlimited data or one can pay for the same service (Boost uses the same towers as Sprint) on Boost Mobile (which includes unlimited minutes) for only $55 (we are not factoring the savings from Boost’s Shrinkage).  I don’t exactly know Sprint’s operating cost per individual plan but for the sake of argument let us assume the $25 difference goes toward paying back the subsidy.  In a standard two-year contract, this means that you pay an additional $600 if you went for Sprint than Boost Mobile (this usually evens out the subsidy).  Do the people who don’t renew their contracts get their bill reduced?  No.  If you chose not to renew your contract you still get to pay the exact amount as the other guy who does renew their contract.  So what should you do?  If you like to keep the same service, but don’t want a new phone then upgrade to a free new phone, ask your wireless consultant to switch back your number to your old handset, and either keep the new phone as a back up phone or sell the phone to someone else.  If you want wireless service but don’t like contracts then seriously consider switching to a Pre-paid cell phone service like Boost Mobile or Radioshack’s Pre-paid service.

This image popped up first on my Google image search for “fast technology”.
The website that host the pic is http://www.domex.com/
I enjoy the simplicity of the website. A zen like calmness is in my soul.

Reason 2: Technology Upgrades Very Fast

Technology changes very fast.  Like ridiculously fast.  Technology like LTE makes old download speeds painful to watch.  If your provider offers LTE and you are still running 3G, take advantage of the LTE since you are paying for the same service.  Sitting on your upgrade because you want the latest and fastest cell phone?  Don’t.  Just don’t.  Smartphones/cell phones are being improved all the time.  If you are waiting to get that perfect phone with the massive storage and awesome camera then you will be waiting forever.  Better cameras are being installed, larger memory is always being added.  Do yourself the favor of upgrading to latest gadget since no matter what you will experience buyer remorse.

Found this image on http://www.idownloadblog.com

Reason 3: BBBBBBBattery!

Batteries don’t last forever.  Even if you let your battery die completely and then recharge your battery fully every time, your battery will eventually stop holding a good charge.  Smartphone battery will eventually lose their potential after a certain amount of charges.  Some phone insurances gives you a free battery in their plan.  Most people don’t buy the insurance and as a result they end up paying for their own battery (average battery for a smartphone is around $40 in a retail store).  Rather than pay for a new battery, why not just upgrade to a free phone and pay the upgrade fee next cycle?  Not only will you get a new gadget to play around with, but you also won’t have to worry about your battery dying on you.

Have other reasons of why people shouldn’t sit on an upgrade?  Or do you have arguments against renewing two-year contracts?  Let me know by commenting below.

The Path of a Solder Man (part 3)-Five Steps to fixing Headphones

Years ago, I bought some cheap ear-bud headphones to be used for my laptop.  The cost of ten dollars was a good price at that time and it would have resulted in a happily ever after scenario for me if I did not lose my headphones.  I grudgingly bought another pair of headphones the next day.  Two weeks later, my 1/8 inch stereo jack was snapped off from the end of the headphone wires.  Ever since that day, I refused to buy another pair of headphones for fear of them breaking all too soon.

Just last week, I found the same headphones I broke two years ago (apparently, I am a closet hoarder).  My younger self couldn’t do anything to save my headphones but maybe my solder alter-ego could fix my headphones.

Here is what you’ll need:

Solder, wire strippers, 1/8 inch stereo phone plug, soldering iron

Step One-Visualize the Steps

The first thing I did was look for a possible online guide to help me through this process.  I recommend taking a look at this DIY headphone repair video made by RichsMethods (he has other cool videos so check them out!).

Step Two-Use the Wire Strippers!

If your cable is anything like mine, the end wires are too frayed to be used as it is.  Take your wire strippers and strip about 0.5 to 1 inch of bare wire to be used in the soldering process.

Step Three-Pull the Wire Through the Ring Terminal

Follow the video instructions and pull the wires through their respective ring terminals.  For example, the ground wires go through the middle hole and the colored wires go through their own side hole terminals.

Through the Hole!

Step Four-Solder It!

I had a bit of trouble heating up the wire without having it smoke out of control.  I ended up heating a bit of solder on the tip and quickly joining it to the wire and ring terminal.

Solder that Wire!

Step Five-Test It!

Before you screw the cap, insert the jack to a device to check for sound through the headphones.  If it works, congratulations!  If not, you can melt the solder off, strip the wires, and follow steps one through five.

Done!

What are your favorite headphones to use?  What do you usually use your headphones for (obviously to listen, but what kind of things do you listen to)?  Let me know by commenting below.