Find Tech Lifestyle on Google+

Friday, June 29, 2012

Playing the Frequent Flyer Game

Do you like technology? Do you also like to travel? Have you ever had to choose between spending your hard earned money on a vacation, or on a new gadget? Do you have good credit and are you disciplined with money? If you answered yes to all of those, then this post is for you. Read on to find out ways that you can have your proverbial cake and eat it too. 

I’m no expert in this field, but I have learned enough to show you how I got started, and how I've managed to earn nearly 900,000 frequent flyer miles and $1000 (after annual fees) in less than two years. This has allowed me to save tons of cash on travel and spend more on my second love, gadgets. 

Just five short years ago, back when savings account interest rates were in the 5% range, I was up to a different game for earning money on the side. Before the collapse of the economy in 2008, credit card companies were very loose when it came to doling out huge credit lines, often far in excess of what I was even capable of repaying (an important mistake that precipitated the collapse of the housing market). They also used to have a maximum cap on the amount they charged for a balance transfer or cash advance (around $75 to $100). I took full advantage of that lackadaisical attitude and managed to sign up for a few credit cards, and then combine them into a single card with a massive (to me) $55,000 credit line and a 0% interest rate on balance transfers for 12 months. I then turned around and wrote a balance transfer check to myself for, you guessed it, $55,000. I added that to some existing savings that I had in ING, and let it ride for a year. In the end, I paid the money right back at 0% interest, while pocketing $3000 in interest (after taxes) from my ING account.

I took a small hit to my credit score during that year, but quickly recovered it as soon as I paid the “loan” back. Since that time, the credit card companies have clamped down on that particular method, but are still happy to dole out credit to anyone with a good credit score, often with some large bonuses to boot.  Note before I continue: Don’t even think of attempting anything I will mention here if you are not capable of repaying the money back at the end of each billing period or at the end of whatever promotional period you are participating in. If you don’t pay off your credit card bills, you will completely negate the benefits I’ll describe here.

Since I love to travel, AND I love to take expensive gadgets like laptops and iPads with me, I was elated when I discovered just how many free flights bonuses were right there for the taking that could save me thousands of dollars (to buy tech with of course) if I just put in a little bit of effort. So, here are the basics of what I’ve managed to learn so far, and the sources that I went through to learn them.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Seeing Blue

Last week's post had me seeing black after my encounter with Team Oracle and their high G-force maneuvers. This week though, I’m seeing nothing but blue; the Blue Angels that is. It’s summer, and for me that means it’s airshow season. Whenever the Blue Angels come to town, I make it a point to go out and see them perform, and this year was no exception. On Saturday June 9th, I headed out to the MN Air Spectacular to see them perform in Mankato, MN and also to check out Sean D. Tucker’s performance.

I love all things aviation-related, but jets have always been my favorite. The sheer power and speed they possess is amazing to me and the ear-splitting roar of a turbojet with full afterburner is something that always gets my heart racing. As if jets weren’t amazing enough to me already, the things the Blue Angels do with their slightly modified F/A-18s is astonishing. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to fly as close to another jet as they do (at times just 18 inches apart)! I’ve always wondered, what happens if they sneeze that close?

There is no way I can describe the mind-blowing maneuvers they do during a performance other than to point you to a fascinating page maintained by the Blue Angels themselves. There you can see what it looks like from both inside and outside the cockpit as they perform each of their maneuvers. Go ahead and take a look now before reading further and make sure to play around with the various camera angles available: Inside the Demo

Friday, June 15, 2012

Aerobatic Flying with Team Oracle

Usually when I think of technology, I think of electronics. In reality though, it’s much more than that. Besides gadgets, one of my other loves has always been aviation, and there is a whole heck of a lot of technology involved when it comes to that.

Long before I picked up my first iPhone, I was the kid in the airport with his face pressed up against the glass marveling at the impressive power of those giant technological marvels. Literally at my earliest opportunity, I learned how to fly and received my pilot’s license shortly after my 17th birthday. I flew for a couple of years and even got the chance to ride in an amazing piece of tech, the 747-400 simulator. Sadly though, flying was too expensive of a hobby and I chose not to have the lifestyle of an airline pilot always away from home. Twelve long years have passed since I had the opportunity to pilot a plane. Imagine my elation this past week when I not only had the chance to fly again, but in an aerobatic plane with the talented pilots of Team Oracle no less!

Thanks to the incredible generosity of my employer, I flew in an Extra 300 with Brian Norris and was even given the chance to perform a loop myself! The fun didn't stop there though. I was also able to fly multiple flights in Team Oracle’s Piper Seneca and take air-to-air photographs of the amazing Sean D. Tucker in his custom-built Challenger III biplane!

Before I continue on, check out the video of my flight in the Extra 300:

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Foscam FI8910W WiFi Camera

I thought I would post this for anyone that has ever searched as long and hard as I have to find a decently priced WiFi camera for home monitoring. My particular need was for a video monitor to keep watch on my infant and toddler boys in their nursery, but these cameras have any number of other uses. I quickly ruled out video baby monitors as they were all insanely expensive for the video quality you get, all had mixed reviews, most had very limited features beyond video, and none had DECT technology to prevent interference with my wireless network.

I moved on to seeking just a stand-alone camera, and started my search with the following requirements:

  • Inexpensive- The camera had to be under $150, and preferably even cheaper.
  • Night vision- This was a must as I needed to see my children in complete darkness.
  • Acceptable Video Quality- HD video simply didn't exist in my price range so I settled for acceptable.
  • WiFi Connectivity- There was no way I wanted Ethernet cables snaking around my nursery.
  • Remote Connectivity- Come on, what technology geek doesn't want remote access to a camera?

As I searched, I drooled over the slick looking but very expensive Logitech Alert 750n, and was lured by the positive reviews of the also expensive Sharx Security VIPcella-IR. I thought maybe I had found my match with the cheap D-Link DCS-932L but hesitated after some mixed reviews. I actually pulled the trigger on the simple and slick-looking Dropcam HD, but then cancelled my order after reading this review and seeing some of the abysmal video samples. When I finally settled on the Foscam model that is the subject of this post, I left the then “coming soon” Withings Smart Baby Monitor far in my rear-view mirror.