Online Stores Should Make It Easy To Convert Prepaid VISA Gift Cards

prepaid credit cardOnline stores should take advantage of people disliking prepaid VISA gift cards with all the hidden fees and the fact that it’s hard to use up every last penny on that darn thing. I just got a prepaid American Express card from a recent deal I took apart of and I do what I always do, I convert them into gift cards and add it to my balance.

Today, if I wanted to cash out my prepaid credit card, I would have to go to, purchase a gift card, and send it to myself. Afterwards, I’d have to redeem it once I got the email. Though not a complicated process, it seems it can be easily simplified.

If I was an online store, I’d add a convert button on my website that’ll allow users to input a credit card number, expiration date, and an amount. The amount immediately gets charged and automatically gets added to my gift card balance. In fact, I’d probably advertise that there’s no hidden fees and no expiration date and stick it on any page where I already advertise about gift cards.

Simple, easy, fast.

Project Get Rid of PCs

So Project Get Rid of PCs is officially underway! I decided I had too many computers running in my house and 2 of them are just fancy file servers. Now that I switched to a Mac mini, my Windows desktop has become nothing more than my video encoder / Quicken host, which I plan on converting to a VM.

Unofficially, this is also called Project Conserve Energy (for those who might not share my opinion on Mac OSX, you must at least agree conserving energy is good). I’ll be able to power down 3 full computers (hosting a total of 12 HDDs running 24/7) and replace them with 4 power-saving external USB drives.

I was initially planning to start this project during holidays, but with the floods in Thailand and the expected hard drive shortages, I decided to get them before the price was blown out of proportion. Costco had a coupon where the Western Digital 3TB drives would be $20 off and when SlickDeals reported the final price was $110, I decided to bite.

Even though Costco’s coupon showed a limit of 5 per customer, they had a sign up that said limit 2 due to the flooding in Thailand. SlickDeals did report you can actually bypass the limit as long as it’s only 2 per transaction.

Anyway, I pulled Derek along since these hard drives were going to come out of’s budget, but was sad to find out that Issaquah was sold out of them. Their computer showed 6 in stock, but probably in people’s cart. The told us that Kirkland still had ~30 in stock and Derek was cool enough to take a side trip to Kirkland Costco. We each picked up 2 and my original estimation of ~$500 came pretty close. I had altered my estimated cost to ~$600 after I heard about the flooding in Thailand.

Western Digital My Book Essential 3TB External USB Drives

The plan was to have 2 sets of mirrored drives (RAID 1) and as Ryan has painfully found out, it’s impossible to use the Apple software to raid 3TBs. I went ahead and installed SoftRAID and setting up the arrays was really easy.

External USB Drive Setup

Now comes the long part of moving all the crap off my existing file servers onto these external USB drives.



So during the past few days while I was browsing, I noticed a new logo of a cute bag on many of the item pages I was viewing:

AmazonTote Block

At first I didn’t pay much attention to it as I was just browsing and not really shopping.

However today as I saw the logo a few more times, I decided to take a look at what it really was: What Is AmazonTote?. Apparently it’s sort of an expansion of their AmazonFresh program, but with no minimum purchase required for free shipping. It’s only available at certain zip codes, just like their AmazonFresh program, and they make 1 delivery per week (on the same day of the week), so you can keep adding items into your “tote” and if it’s added before the deadline, it’ll be delivered on your specified date.

Most items I’ve looked at so far seemed eligible for AmazonTote, though I’ve only been looking at books, video games, board games, and blu-rays. But according to their FAQ, items under 50lbs which are in stock and sold directly via Amazon are usually eligible.

1 delivery per week would most likely beat the delivery times I get from Free Super Saver Shipping.

Returning items is even simpler (though I don’t recall the last time I actually returned anything to Amazon). All you have to do is just put the item(s) back in the tote bag and they’ll come pick it up.

You can read up more about the program here: AmazonTote FAQs.

My guess is that AmazonTote is really AmazonFresh v2.0. They already have the AmazonFresh delivery service. If they can make more deliveries to the same area per trip, it’ll lower the shipping cost per order. The zip codes they’re starting with are most likely areas where there’s already a ton of customers using AmazonFresh and that’s why they can offer free shipping for their AmazonTote service. As AmazonFresh becomes more popular in the other areas, I believe you’ll see AmazonTote pop up in more areas.

Another strategy would be if there’s a high enough demand for AmazonTote in a particular area, that’ll allow them to also bring AmazonFresh to that area.

Currently, AmazonTote is available for the following ZIP codes: 98004, 98005, 98006, 98007, 98008, 98033, 98039, 98040, 98052, 98102, 98103, 98105, 98107, 98109, 98112, 98115, 98117, 98119, 98125, 98133, 98199.

If you would like AmazonTote offered in your neighborhood, please contact us.

Whistle – Free Phone Calls

Whistle I first read about Whistle on SlickDeals: Free Inbound/outbound Calling No Server required and what intrigued me was the fact it works with Google Voice as well as SIP capable ATA devices. There’s also the fact that it works on your iPhone and iPod Touch, but I currently own neither.

Whistle – Free Phone Calls to Anyone in the U.S.

I’ve been using Google Voice + Gizmo5 + ATA for almost a year and it’s been working great. The only downside is that outgoing calls are limited to 3 minutes. However if you initiate the outgoing call from Google Voice, it’s unlimited.

My Linksys PAP2 comes with 2 lines which means I can setup 2 separate SIP accounts, so I decided to give this a try. Creating a new account actually requires downloading their software. Installation was pretty simple, though their software was pretty much a very simple SIP client. The SD thread also links to a tutorial on how to set up your ATA: Use Whistle Phone on any SIP device – Make free VoIP calls to USA [Tutorial]

The only changes I needed to make was the following:

Outbound Proxy:
Use Outbound Proxy: yes
Use OB Proxy In Dialog: yes
Register: yes

User ID: (10 digit phone # – no dashes)
Password: (your account password)
Auth ID: (10 digit phone # – no dashes)
Use Auth ID: yes

I also learnt a bit on how to define ATA dial plans. Here’s what I ended up with:
(1[2-9]xx[2-9]xxxxxxS0 | <:1>[2-9]xx[2-9]xxxxxxS0 | <:1425>[2-9]xxxxxxS6)
Which made me realized that neither area codes nor prefixes can ever begin with 1.

Gave it a test run and found out I had to disable my STUN Server. Never quite knew what the STUN Server did, but when setting up Gizmo5, the tutorial stated I should enable it. I disabled it and my Gizmo5 account was still able to receive and make calls. With the STUN Server disabled, I was also able to make calls using my new Whistle account.

As noted on the thread and site, you’re required to listen to 15 seconds of ads before your outgoing call is made, but there’s no restriction on how long the call is as long as it’s within the U.S. They do have international plans, but I have no idea if it’s a good deal or not. I made about 5 test calls and only the 1st one required me to listen to an ad. I’m not sure if it’s because I hung up pretty much immediately after calling my cell phone. Definitely worth playing with. There’s no ad requirement for incoming calls.

If you don’t have an ATA device, you can always hook up a microphone to your computer.

Christmas Came A Day Early

My Amazon package wasn’t suppose to come till tomorrow, but I guess the delivery guy decided to bring Christmas a day early!

First I got the 2 books I ordered:

Sh*t My Dad SaysLeast I Could Do Beginnings - Look At Me!

Sh*t My Dad Says is by someone I follow on Twitter (@shitmydadsays) and his dad says the most hilarious stuff. I expect no less than cracking myself up when I read this book. Least I Could Do is a daily web comic which I follow and I love their Sunday strips as that’s when they do the “Beginnings”, a strip about when Rayne was a kid. I’ve been looking forward to pick up The Beginnings comic books for awhile, but they’re quite expensive if you purchase them directly + there’s a hefty shipping fee. So when Amazon decided to sell Look At Me!, I knew I had to pick it up. Now I’m waiting for Amazon to carry the 2nd volume of Least I Could Do Beginnings: Adorableness. I asked the artists during Dragon*Con on when they’ll be making a Rayne kid plush doll and they tell me it’s in the works.

Next we have a box of Creme Roulee Dark Chocolate European Style Rolled Wafers which was on sale for $9 for a box of 6. Who knows how long these are going to last me. Don’t think my scale would be happy with me if I finish these too quickly.

Creme Roulee Dark Chocolate European Style Rolled Wafers

Finally I got myself a nice looking wall clock. I’ve been meaning to get one for my living room for awhile, since I often forget when I should go eat or go to bed when I’m watching TV/movies or playing video games. Whenever friends come over to play Rock Band, 2am just suddenly hits us because no one’s been paying attention to the time. The one I got was the La Crosse Technology WT-3102S 10-Inch Atomic Analog Wall Clock and one neat feature is that it automatically synchronizes the time with radio waves.

wall clockwall clock

Rock Band 2 + Xbox 360 Live Points Deals

Wow! It’s been quite awhile since my last post. Things have been quite busy at work and with the darn construction going around here, I’ve been waking up at 9am. I haven’t gotten a chance to blog about Joe’s Birthday BBQ or my recent camping trip. Hopefully my workload won’t be as bad in the coming weeks.

Anyway, the following deals are time sensitive, so I thought I’d blog about them now before they evaporate. has a few Xbox 360/Rock Band deals going on this weekend:

Xbox 360 Live 4000 Points for $40 or Xbox 360 Live 1600 Points for $16. These are normally $50 and $20 respectively. You’re basically getting a 20% discount making it 100pts/$1 instead of 80pts/$1. Pretty good deal considering Live Points don’t usually go on sale and if you order $25+, you get free shipping and since these are considered “gift cards”, they’re not taxable (even in WA).

If you’re seeing a different seller on the main page, please look on the right side, and you should see as seller and the lower price. Given that this deal started earlier this weekend, it’s currently back-ordered, but you’re still allowed to purchase it at the discounted price.

If you’re wondering if it’s better to get the 1600 points or the 4000 points, the better deal is the 1600 points because at 4000 points, you save about 5 cents, but the savings are pretty negligible. I would recommend buying 2x1600pts to qualify for free shipping.

Buy Rock Band 2 for the Xbox 360 and get a 1600 Live Points Card

Here’s your chance to add the new Rock Band game to your collection and set yourself up with 1600 Live points. That means the 84 tracks from the game plus about 10 downloads with your points. This deal will keep you rocking for a while! Offer limited to products shipped and sold by Promotion ends on October 4, 2008 at 11:59PST. Offer good while supplies last. Limit one per household. See Details.


Order the standalone version of Rock Band 2 for the Xbox 360 and the Xbox 360 Live 1600 Points card by October 4, 2008 in our Video Games Store and receive the Xbox 360 Live 1600 Points card free. To redeem this offer place both participating products in your cart and proceed through the check out process. At the end of your order the cost of the Xbox 360 Live 1600 Points card will be deducted from your total order. This offer applies only to the purchase of the standalone version of Rock Band 2 for the Xbox 360 and the Xbox 360 Live 1600 Points card offered by and does not apply to products sold on our site by third-party merchants or through third-party areas such as Marketplace or Auctions. Limit one per household.

How to Qualify for the Rock Band 2 Points Card Promotion:

-This offer applies to qualifying purchases made before 11:59 p.m. PT on October 4, 2008 while supplies last on the “the standalone version of Rock Band 2 for the Xbox 360” and “the Xbox 360 Live 1600 Points card.”
-Offer does not apply to out-of-stock items.
-The cost of the Xbox 360 Live 1600 Points card will be deducted from your total order at the end of the check out process.
-Offer can only be applied to orders placed after 12:00 AM PT on September 21, 2008, and before 11:59pm PT on October 4, 2008.

Since I was planning to pick up Rock Band 2 already (just didn’t want to pay retail), getting a free $20 worth of Xbox 360 Live Points made a pretty sweet deal. Too bad I had to pay WA sales tax, but even considering that and the fact that the 1600 is really worth $16 this weekend, I’m still saving over $10.

Finally, this probably isn’t time sensitive, but Xyon informed me there was a new free Rock Band song: Stephen Colbert DLC hits Rock Band. The song is called Charlene, a pretty short and hilarious song by Stephen and the Colberts. Those flawless expert achievements are finally within reach!

New Free Halo 3 Map: Cold Storage

Got this via the Marketplace RSS feed: Celebrate Bungie Day!

Grab this new multiplayer map free.
Grab this new multiplayer map free.

Cold Storage Map

Once, the Cold Storage facility was a vibrant, active research center on Installation 05. An accidental contamination resulted in an unforeseen outbreak, which compromised the Forerunner center. Now, emptied and silent, watched only by a local caretaker, the abandoned structure serves as a reminder of how something as powerful as science is ultimately beholden to nature. This new map is available free starting on 7/7.

Downloaded it a few days ago. Haven’t got a chance to try it out yet.

More Free Tracks for Guitar Hero III and Rock Band

Time to jam.
Time to jam.

Just got alerted that there was a new free track for Guitar Hero III: Guitar Hero III July Song Track Releases:

Top Gun Anthem Single Track (available July 3)
Price: Free
Songs: “Top Gun Anthem” written by Harold Faltermeyer as featured in the famous movie starring Tom Cruise.

I guess it’s a freebie to celebrate the 4th of July. You can listen to the music on YouTube: TOP GUN ANTHEM

Since I was on Xbox Live downloading this free track, I decided to see what other DLC (Downloadable Content) was available for games that I own. Apparently they released new costumes for Ninja Gaiden 2 for 200pts each. I really have no need to pay $2.50 to get a new costume for Ryu Hayabusa.

Anyway, it turns out that Rock Band is also release a new free track. According to *** DLC Week of July 1st – Crüefest Pack plus free song!:

Hey everybody, next week for DLC we have the Crüefest Pack for $.99 per track (80 Microsoft Points) and a track from the movie “The Rocker” by Vesuvius absolutely free! Also check back on Monday and I may have some other news-type-stuff for you.


“Promised Land” – Vesuvius
(All tracks utilize the original master recordings)


“Promised Land” – Free!

You can go listen to Promised Land and watch someone play on YouTube: Promised Land- Vesuvius Rock Band Guitar Expert. Sounds like another song celebrating July 4th, Independence Day.

Another Free Guitar Hero III Track: I AM MURLOC

So I finally logged into Xbox Live today to accept Xyon’s friend invitation (apparently he’s now addicted to Rock Band and went out to purchase an Xbox 360 and the Rock Band Special Edition).

I AM MURLOC - L70ETC Anyway, while I was browsing through the Inside Xbox videos and noticed that there was a new free track for Guitar Hero III: I Am Murloc

From OXM’s World of Warcraft meets Guitar Hero:

Thursday 26-Jun-2008 9:52 AM “I Am Murloc” available to download for GH3, which is great if you actually know what it is.

Fans of Guitar Hero III and free stuff can download “I Am Murloc” today, a World of Warcraft song by Blizzard’s in-house band, Level 70 Elite Tauren Chieftain.

This promotional exercise is supposed to build hype for a big announcement ahead of the Activision and Blizzard merger finally taking place. It could be an announcement that World of Warcraft is heading to consoles (which makes sense given the console DLC and merging) but it’s more likely to be something in the vein of Diablo 3 being announced.

As for the song itself, here it is. Erm… what?

Looking up on YouTube, I found the song and music video: I AM MURLOC – L70ETC.


Motorola SURFboard SB5101 Cable Modem

So I finally picked up a Motorola Surfboard SB5101 Cable Modem. finally had a deal for $43.99 – $20 rebate, making it only $23.99 shipped. Well, I had to pay sales tax too, but that’s because I’m in Washington.

There has been discussion on threads if the rebate is valid for given that the rebate form is hosted on and that doesn’t actually list the rebate. However on the rebate form, it does state that is a valid retailer to purchase from. Then there was doubt about the UPC matching given that apparently there are 3 UPCs for this particular modem and something about the color of the box.

I got the modem today and the UPC do indeed match (6-12572-14827-3) and mine came in a blue/black box if that matters.

Previously, I had posted my results from using my D-Link DCM-202 flashed with a special Comcast firmware yielding these results:

speed test with d-link dcm-202

A couple days later, TekMan showed me his results:

TekMan's Motorola SB5101 speed test

I was shocked how much of a jump there is just based on the cable modem alone! At this point I was determined to find a deal and get my own Motorola cable modem.

A week or 2 ago, there was a Circuit City deal for $20 after rebate, but required price matching to Office Depot and the fact that I had to actually visit a store discouraged me from attempting. When I saw this deal on SlickDeals, I knew I had to get it.

I ordered it last week for $44.99 + tax shipped and then it dropped a dollar further to $43.99. I did get my dollar back through’s 30 day price guarantee. Anyway, the modem arrived today and I called Comcast to update the MAC address so I can associate the new cable modem to my account. After giving him the information, he tells me the registration server was down and told me to try back at 3am. I had called around 11pm and the thought of me going internet-less for 4 hours was a scary thought.

So I sat around filing my rebate and did a couple other things while the clock ticked away. When the clock hit 1am, I knew I had to check to see if I can register my modem yet. I called and indeed the server was back up. Registration only took a few minutes and my internet was up and running in no time. Whoopee!

Of course, the first thing I do is another speed test:

My Motorola SB5101 speed test

This purchase was definitely worth it. I did 3 tests with my D-Link DCM-202 and they average to around 18000Kbps down and 1500Kbps up. I did 2 tests with my Motorola SB5101 and they average to 23000Kbps down and 3100Kbps up. Quite a performance increase for just $25! Of course, this could just be the initial burst speed, but I’m still excited about the speed increase.

Now I have a spare cable modem or if I sell it, it’ll probably pay for my Motorola cable modem completely!