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Excellent shopping charma today! Some neat stuff out there for geeks and geek wanna-be's.

By Andrew Pollack on 04/05/2004 at 07:07 PM EDT

Lest you all think my life is nothing but writing amazing code by day (and night) and running into burning buildings or ripping people out of damaged cars by night (and day) I thought I'd share some more mundane fun for a change....

All I really needed was some good printer paper and some solvent to clean crayons and washable (not) markers off the kitchen table. That meant two stops. Wal-Mart and Staples. Now understand that when you live where I do that means a twenty minute drive "into town" so you do tend to make the most of it. I came across some great cheap stuff!

New stuff Wal-Mart (wow, what a day I had!)

For 99 cents, extension cord carriers. No more piles of extension cords in the garage for me. This is the big time!

For $9.99 -- Portable GFI socket adapters. Yep, these are made to go in the way of the wall socket so that when you plug your extension cord or power strip in it is protected just like it would be in a kitchen sink or outdoor outlet. If you think your surge protectors are keeping you safe from fire, you're wrong.

Surge protectors block a sudden spike from outside getting to your stuff. A GFI (Ground Fault Interrupt) does the opposite. If a frayed cord, crossed wire, a bucket of water, or your hand cause the circuit to open to more voltage than it should carry, a GFI will stop the flow. I use these on my extension cords when using the shop vac or power tools of course, but I also use them ahead of my outlet power strips in both my office and server room. I've had the experience of a bad switch causing an extension cord to arc, and I've put out fires caused by appliances that grounded out. A GFI is a life saver.

For $14.00 -- A window fan with (count them) two big fans! Woohoo! That gets melded into my server room air circulation system and cuts down the need for the air condition to kick on. Now I just need a couple of actuators and a relay so I can make a louver to close the vents on those when they're not needed.

Then over to Staples (the fun never ends)

First, since my new drive reads and writes DVD+R and DVD-R, and the only reason to use one over another is based on what your home DVD player can play (and as yet, that remains undetermined) I'd planned to get one of each and try it out. The best price I've seen for dvd media is about 2 bucks a disk retail (mail order is cheaper). Well, Staples had cubes of 10 from Sony rated to 4x write just like all the others for 9.99 on clearance. Wow, so I got one block of each.

Then, I got sick of my little radio shack powered speakers with this fancy new PC, and got an Altec Lansing powered speaker setup with a sub-woofer (yes, the first I've ever owned) and matched speakers. After rebate, $29.99. Now when that windows notify sound happens the windows in the house shake in response.

And finally - I must have been a really great person in some former life - just when I was out of 8mm tapes for the Sony handicam, I saw they were on clearance also at Staples. 2 packs of 2 hour tapes (that's four hours for those of you in Ohio still trying to figure out tips) for $2.50. I picked up two -- but when rung in they came up at 50 CENTS a pack! Needless to say I grabbed the remaining 8 packages as I've now paid less than 13 cents per hour for 8mm recording media.

All in a day's shopping.

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