Convert videos to your Zune for FREE

The Microsoft Zune MP3 and video player is not capable of playing very many video formats. To make matters worse, the software used to sync the Zune with your computer is not able to do any video re-encoding in order to make videos compatible with your Zune. If you search online, you may see many programs such as Cucusoft, Avex, and DVD X which claim to be able to convert your videos to Zune’s format.

The good news is that you don’t need to buy any software, because there is free software which is able to accomplish the same thing! As it turns out, Microsoft’s Zune uses the WMV format, which is Microsoft’s custom video format. Luckily, Windows Movie Maker is able to effectively convert videos from any format to WMV. Best of all, Windows Movie Maker is free software which is probably already on your computer. If not, you can download Windows Movie Maker by searching on Google, ‘download Windows Movie Maker.’

Here’s how to convert your videos to a format compatible with the Zune:

1)      Open Windows Movie Maker

2)      Import your video into Windows Movie Maker

3)      Drag the video towards the bottom, where you see ‘Drag media here’

4)      Go to the file menu, select publish movie

5)      Select your computer to publish the movie, and name your desired output file name and location

6)      Select the video format to Windows Media Low Bandwidth, or any other format which outputs with a 320×240 resolution. This is Zune’s native resolution.

That’s it! Because you are outputting to the native resolution of the Zune, that means that when syncing the video file to your Zune, no conversion will take place because it’s already in the format which is compatible with the Zune. There really is no need to pay money or buy any software in order to convert DivX, AVI, MPEG, or any other types of videos to your Zune.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to Stumble it!

Posted under Avoiding Fees, Saving Money, Technology

This post was written by admin on November 29, 2008

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Retail Blu-ray drive hits hundred dollar price point

The first blu-ray players were released in 2006, and only now can you buy a blu-ray drive for your computer for under a hundred dollars. Typically, newegg.com has the lowest prices for most computer hardware, and can be used as a reliable tool to check the lowest prices for whatever gadget you are trying to purchase.

So what do you get for a hundred dollars? The answer is not much. The hundred dollars drive can only read blu-ray discs, but can’t burn them. That wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that it can’t burn DVDs or CDs either.

Let’s take a look at the cheapest blu-ray burner

While the cheapest retail blu-ray drive goes for $99.99, we find that the cheapest OEM blu-ray drive goes for $199.99. Here we are, over two years after the initial release of blu-ray players, and burners still cost at least two hundred dollars? It gets worse.

What do you get for 200 bucks? For 200 dollars, you get a blu-ray burner with a blu-ray DVD-ROM access time of 350ms. To put this into perspective, most drives for sale have an access time of 180ms of lower (lower is better). This means that the two hundred dollar blu-ray burner is over twice as slow as many other burners when it comes to access time. Not only that, but apparently the drive can only burn BD-R at 4X speed, while most burners can burn at a speed of 6X.

The two hundred dollar blu-ray burner can’t even burn BD-RE media. BD-RE media is a blu-ray dist which can be erased and re-written. Because blank blu-ray media is so expensive, it is even more important that you have the ability to erase your disc and try again should there be an error when writing to the disc. Unlike blank CDs and DVDs, a blank blu-ray DVD will cost you at least a couple dollars.

Summary

It has been over two years since blu-ray players were released, and blu-ray drives for desktop computers are still a hundred dollars. Worst of all, the cheapest blu-ray burner is two hundred dollars, with a 50% slower access time, 33% slower record time, and can’t even burn erasable blu-ray media. It is my opinion that if you really want to save money and frustration, the best thing you can do is wait. Think if you really need blu-ray, or if DVD is still good enough for you. If your computer is running out of storage space, it is much cheaper to store files and movies on a hard drive rather than burn blu-ray discs. The price of blu-ray drives will eventually come down, as will the outrageous price of the movies. But for now, we haven’t reached a point where it’s cheap to own, watch, and record blu-ray movies.

One hundred dollar drive

Two hundred dollar burner

Posted under Uncategorized

This post was written by admin on November 24, 2008

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How to get traffic with StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon is one of the most widely used social networking tools on the internet today, and for good reason. StumbleUpon gives people the ability to rate and discover websites, including your website! If used correctly, StumbleUpon can be a great way to generate high quality traffic to your website. This article will explain techniques which can be successfully used to generate high quality repeat traffic.

The goal is to get repeat, targeted traffic

If you create a free account with StumbleUpon, then immediately give a thumb up to your own site, you can expect to get a few hits initially, and then you will never get any hits again! The reasons for this are technical, and have to do with how StumbleUpon’s algorithm was developed. This brings us to the first rule.

Rule #1: The longer you have been with StumbleUpon, the more hits you will get.

The people who developed StumbleUpon are smart. They realize it’s all too easy for someone to create a new account, give a thumb up to their own website, then create another account, and so on. For this reason, each user has a different ‘weight’. This is a term which is often used in many computer algorithms. Basically, people with more weight attached to their account have a greater influence on the algorithm.

How to improve your weight

There are a couple ways to improve your weight. The first and easiest way is to simply use StumbleUpon. Actively use StumbleUpon to visit and rate all sorts of websites. Discover new websites, and write reviews. The more websites you rate, the greater your weight. The more reviews you rate, the greater your weight. The more websites you discover, the greater your weight. The more friends you have on StumbleUpon, the greater your weight. The longer you have been using StumbleUpon, the greater your weight. Basically, this prevents people from opening 100 ghost accounts and give 100 thumbs up to their website. Instead, it is better to simply relax, use one account, and over time the weight attached to your account will be greater.

Rule #2: Build up your weight before rating your website

If you’re new to StumbleUpon, it’s best to wait for a while before rating your site. Use StumbleUpon for at least a couple days before giving yourself a rating. When a user rates a website, the weight of the rating is equal to the user’s weight at the time of the rating. This means you should build up your weight before giving yourself a review if you want more traffic.

Rule #3: Give thumbs up to websites which are similar to yours

StumbleUpon uses a fairly standard clustering algorithm. Basically, when someone clicks on the stumble button, the algorithm looks at all the websites that user has rated, compares that user to a database with all user ratings, and uses that information to determine which sites the user is going to like. Sure, people can set up which topics they are interested in, but the clustering algorithm is what really determines which websites they will StumbleUpon next. In short, if you rate websites which are similar to yours, you are much more likely to receive relevant traffic.

Rule #4: Get other people to give a thumb up to your website.

This rule is pretty simple. The more people who give your website a thumb up, the more traffic you will receive. Even if you have an account with a high weight, that doesn’t compare to the sum of a hundred other people who could potentially give your website a thumb up. Put a stumble button on your website, ask people to click it, do whatever it takes! Another excellent way to get ratings from other people is to simply make an excellent website!

Rule #5: Get your tags right!

When the time finally comes when you want to give your own website a thumb up, you will need to write a review on your website. Be sure to choose your tags and keywords carefully to closely match whatever type of website you have.

That’s basically it! If you actively use your Stumble account, actively rate other similar websites, and encourage other people to rate your website positively, you are well on your way to generating high quality, repeat traffic!

Posted under Making Money

This post was written by admin on November 23, 2008

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Is it cheaper to drive, or to fly?

I was recently looking for airplane tickets from San Jose, California to Seattle, Washington. The cheapest tickets available for the dates I wanted were $310 for a round trip. The natural question to be asked here is if it’s cheaper to drive, or to fly? If you are planning a trip, you should follow these steps if you’re looking to save the most amount of money.

1) Find out how expensive the plane tickets are going to be

Be sure to check out a couple sites such as expedia.com, Travelocity, or AAA if you are a member. Don’t just look at the presented price; be sure to include tax and booking fees if applicable.

2) Find out how many miles the journey will be

I recommend using Google Earth to find directions from one place to another. This program may be a little slow if you don’t have a good graphics card from nVidia or AMD, so you could try yahoo maps or MapQuest if you don’t have a graphics card for your computer.

3) Find out how long the journey will take to drive

Google Earth and other websites will tell you an estimated time to arrival. These programs take the route that it calculated, looks up the speed limit and the distance for each segment of the road, and use that information to compute the estimated time to arrive. If you drive over the speed limit, you will get to your destination faster, but you will also use more gas. Typically, if you go faster than 65 miles per hour you will consume more gas for the same miles traveled.

4) Find out how many miles per your car gets

You can easily look up the EPA rated MPG for your specific car online. Be sure to record the miles per hour on the highway. Please note that these numbers are only an estimate. My car is rated at 36 MPG highway, but actually gets 43 MPG when using cruise control at 65 MPH. If you have an electronic meter to tell you your miles per gallon, that’s even better.

5) Calculate how much it will cost you to fill up your car

Gas prices vary per region, but the national average will give you a good estimate. Be sure to calculate for both the trip to and from your destination.

6) Reality check

For long journeys, you can be in the car for over ten hours in a single day. You need to do a reality check. Now that you know how much money it’s going to cost you to drive to and from your destination and you know how much tickets cost, you need to calculate how much money you will save by driving. Is this number worth it to you? For my San Jose to Seattle situation, driving for a day each way will cost me over 200 dollars less than flying. Since it’s going to be a long Christmas break, it is worth it to drive instead of fly. But you need to do a reality check and make sure it makes sense for your specific situation.

Other considerations

Depreciation of your car

The more miles a car has, the less it is worth. If you plan on selling your car, you may want to take depreciation into account. If you are renting or leasing a car, make sure that they aren’t going to charge you for the extra miles you’re going to put on the car.

Safety

Driving in a car for 12 straight hours isn’t the safest thing to do. Some people have trouble concentrating for that long, which can lead to an accident. Flying in an airplane is statistically very safe. Flying is actually safer than driving a car for a long distance.

Boredom

On one hand, driving can save you money, but it can also be extremely boring. When you pay extra for an airline ticket, you can arrive at your destination much, much faster. You are paying for that convenience.

Rental car

Rental cars can be extremely expensive, especially if you are under 24. If you plan on flying to a location and using a rental car for a couple days, definitely take that into account. Of course, if you drive your own car, you won’t need to rent one.

Hotel expense

If a trip is simply too long and you need to spend the night in a hotel, you need to take that into account. Generally, if you have to spend a night in a hotel on the way to, and on the way from your destination, it’s probably easier and cheaper just to fly.

Posted under Saving Gas, Saving Money

This post was written by admin on November 18, 2008

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The ten worst ways to save money

I write a lot of articles about how to save money, but sometimes it just isn’t worth it. Here are the ten worst ways people try to save money. All of these are ways actual people have tried to save money.

Reuse toilet paper

Think about all that toilet paper you use only once, and then just flush it away! That’s like throwing money down the toilet! There are actually companies that use reusable toilet paper.

Siphon gas from a police car

They already use a lot of gas during the day, so they won’t notice, right? Besides, they’ll never suspect a crime with their own vehicle, right?

Stealing power lines for the copper inside them

Believe it or not, some people steal high voltage power lines in order to get the copper. Some people have even died while stealing power lines. Honestly, if you need to steal power lines in order to make a little extra money, then you’re in trouble.

Taking your life savings to a casino

A brilliant plan to save money!

Buying lottery tickets, lots and lots of lottery tickets

I remember talking with my high school janitor many years ago. He was saying how if you spend most of your money on lottery tickets, it will all balance out. The simple fact of the matter is that it doesn’t balance out, so just don’t do it.

Shop at high end stores

The going theory is that buying all of your cloths and other items at high end stores will last longer and therefore save you money. While this may be true for some items, in general it is still cheaper to shop at the low end stores. Frankly, be careful of the items you buy from stores like Wal-Mart, due to their complete lack of any quality control.

Make your kid eat a McDonald’s everyday, and then sue McDonalds

You’d have to be a pretty bad parent to let your kid get super-morbidly-obese by eating fast food. You’d have to be a pretty bad person to sue the fast food business for millions. The people who participate in this practice seldom win the lawsuit.

Sell your neighbor’s dog

One person sold his neighbor’s dog at a yard sale. Honestly, this is one of the worst ways to make money I’ve ever head of.

Sell space on your skin for advertising tattoos

Some people have decided to put permanent tattoo advertisements on their skin for money. Honestly, when you’re 65 years old, how are you going to explain why the Enron logo is tattooed on your back?

Join a cult

In areas where rent is expensive, some people choose to join a cult where they get free room and board, even if they don’t believe in the cult’s cause. Unfortunately, these stories often have a very unhappy ending financially.

Posted under Off the wall, Saving Money

This post was written by admin on November 16, 2008

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Checklist before trying to make big money online

Making money online is fairly easy, but making decent money online is much more difficult. By decent money, I’m talking about whatever amount of money it takes to significantly improve your life. An extra twenty dollars a year is one thing, but an extra thousand dollars a year is quite another. If you are determined to make big money online, look over this checklist before you waste your time, and possibly even your money.

1) Stay focused, and be patient

Making good money online does not happen overnight. In fact, it can take many weeks, month, or sometimes even years before you start to pull in a sizeable income from whatever online venture you’re participating in. You need to stay focused, be determined, and be prepared to spend a lot of time producing high quality material that other people will want to read, view, or buy. You need to be prepared to spend a lot of time in your online venture over several months, or even years.

2) Size up your competition

Like all things in life, the internet is one giant competition. People are competing for more traffic, more money, more everything. If you want to make a website which has jokes and comics which you make, you need to make sure you can produce enough high quality content to draw traffic to your site. Likewise, if you produce articles, you need to make sure you have time to produce many, high quality articles to draw traffic to your site. After looking at your competition, if you think you have what it takes, go for it!

3) Have some serious time to dedicate

If you want to make big money online, you need to dedicate some serious time. You won’t make big money by taking a survey occasionally, and you won’t make big money writing for other peoples sites…usually. The most common way to make money online is to create your own website. The more traffic you get, the more income you get. Traffic is the name of the game, and you have to be prepared to dedicate some serious time to build up traffic to your website.

4) Have some type of technical experience beforehand

Running your own website is much more complicated than checking your email. Lots of people have websites, so it certainly isn’t rocket science. But you should at least have all your basic computing skills down before trying to start a website for yourself. Technical experience with computers and the internet will also help you build more traffic and faster.

5) Be prepared to risk a little

Everything in life is a risk, and having your own website is no exception. In order to generate good money, free web hosting services are not a very good choice. You will need to pay to register a domain name, and you will also probably have to pay for a website hosting service. These aren’t much, perhaps only 80 dollars a year total. Still, you need to be prepared to risk a little money and risk wasting your time if you want to try to make big money online. In online ventures and life in general, there are very few rewards to be had without any risk.

Posted under Making Money

This post was written by admin on November 15, 2008

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Advertising tactics of HHO sellers and scammers

If you’ve read my article about videos made by HHO sellers and scammers in order to advertise their websites, then you already know that people who sell HHO systems are flat out liars, and usually scammers. Today, I’m going to focus on another advertising tactic of HHO scammers.

In order to make money, they need traffic to their websites so that people buy their products. One method is to spam thousands of websites with a little comment and a link to their website, where they try to rip you off. Virtually all of the comments I receive from this website are spam, so I moderate comments. But I do pay attention. Over and over again, people selling HHO related fraudulent products post to my website, and in return, I get their IP address and a copy of the link they are trying to promote. Here are some examples of spam I have received, all from the same person:

“It’s a shame we rely on foreign oil so much. Check out a great HHO system here”

“Is it possible to run your car on water? Find out here!”

“Read full reviews of HHO devices here!”

These all lead to different websites, which are owned and operated by the same person. That’s right, different websites are all owned by the same person. There are many HHO websites out there, and some people own several different websites in order to maximize the amount of money they can steal from you. The funny thing is that the IP address for all these comments is traced back to a hotel. It is impossible to tell who is running these websites because the owner is operating anonymously.

If you think HHO is a legitimate technology, I am going to ask you only one question. Why would someone own and maintain several different HHO websites, and take great lengths to ensure that he is entirely anonymous? Why is it necessary for the HHO salesperson to protect his identity? The answer is obvious; the person is a scammer who feels threatened by retribution from individuals, or the law. What’s really scary is that one of the websites is an ‘HHO reviews’ website which advertises his other two websites, and trashes his competitors. So the next time you read a review website about HHO and the website gives you links to sites which sell HHO devices, keep in mind that the review is probably written by a scammer who wants to take money out of your wallet.

Conclusion

People who sell HHO devices, plans and kits often maintain several websites, and several review websites which effectively advertise their products. Their methods of advertising are numerous, and include spamming thousands of websites such as this one with comments advertising their products. Most people who sell HHO devices operate from hotspots from hotels or cafes in order to hide their identity. These behaviors are all consistent with scam artists, thus it is reasonable to conclude that HHO is, in fact a scam.

Posted under Avoiding Scams, Saving Gas, Technology

This post was written by admin on November 10, 2008

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Buying tickets online is a waste of money

Buying tickets online for movies, museums, and other attractions is easy and convenient. Buying tickets online is also a very good way to waste money. Many times, buying tickets online may seem like a great way to ensure you have tickets to an event which may sell out, and it may also seem like a great way to avoid waiting in line to buy tickets. Unfortunately, buying tickets online is much more expensive than calling directly to purchase tickets in advance.

Why is buying tickets online more expensive?

Websites which sell tickets need to stay in business. In order to stay in business, they almost always charge you extra for using their online service. This is often called a booking fee, or convenience fee, and can range anywhere from three dollars to fifteen dollars a ticket! This can add up to some serious money! Here are a couple examples:

Alcatraz Island

If you want to see Alcatraz Island, it is highly recommended that you buy tickets in advance, since they regularly sell out. Some online websites which sell tickets to Alcatraz charge a convenience fee of up to 12 dollars per ticket! If you have a family of four and want to see the island, using these websites can cost you close to fifty dollars, which is not acceptable. What do you get for those fifty dollars? Absolutely nothing. Avoiding the fifty dollar convenience fee is very simple. Simply call the Alcatraz national park service directly and purchase tickets over the phone. It’s simple, easy, and you don’t get charged a super high online convenience fee.

California Academy of Sciences Museum

Frankly, this museum isn’t that great, but I’ll use it as an example. If you want to see it, buying tickets in advance is highly recommended. Like Alcatraz, many websites charge an additional seven dollar convenience fee. Seeing as how the tickets are already extraordinarily overpriced for the science academy, you will want to avoid paying even more. You also want to buy tickets beforehand so you avoid waiting for an hour and a half in the freezing cold just to buy a ticket, just so you can wait another half an hour before getting in the front door. So how do you avoid the online convenience fee? Again, the answer is to directly call the science academy museum and purchase tickets before you go. Again, I’d just like to emphasize that this museum isn’t that great. The building may look cool from the outside, but there are many problems inside…but I’ll save that for another article one day.

Buying hotel tickets

Many popular hotel reservation websites charge a convenience fee. For example, if you reserve a hotel room with Hotels.com, you can expect a ten dollar convenience fee just for using the website. Instead, it’s just easier to call the hotel directly and avoid the convenience fee. This process can be a little frustrating, since some hotels have special deals with online ticket vendors, so it may or may not be cheaper to buy the hotel room online, depending on the hotel.

Conclusion

This article is pretty simple, and can be summed up as follows; if you can call a place directly and purchase tickets in advance, do it. Otherwise, you may be the victim of online convenience fees. The internet is a great place to scout the lowest prices of hotels, airline tickets, Broadway tickets, etc. But once you have the lowest price scouted out, call the venue directly, reserve the ticket ahead of time, and don’t pay the convenience fee. Saving money can be that simple!

Posted under Avoiding Fees, Hidden Fees, Saving Money, Shopping

This post was written by admin on November 9, 2008

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Building a computer yourself can save you money

If you want a decent mid to high end desktop computer, you have two options. Your first option is to buy a computer from a company, such as Dell, Compaq, or Apple. The second option is to build a computer yourself. As it turns out, it’s much cheaper to simply build a desktop computer yourself. If you want a laptop, the only practical option you have is buying one made by a company.

Advantages of building your own computer

Cost

Buying all the components and putting it together yourself will cost you less money. You can either save money, or you can get a better computer for the same amount of money, depending on how you want to look at it.

You get exactly what you want

Because you buy all the components yourself, you don’t have to settle for any specific pre-made configuration. You choose the exact video card you want, the exact processor you want, etc. Dell and other major companies offer you some flexibility, but nowhere near the flexibility you get when you build your own computer. For example, you can choose an extra quite heatsink for your CPU if you decide to build your own computer. I have never seen a major PC company let you choose which heatsink you want.

Fun factor

It can be a great and frustrating experience building a computer for your first time, but there is some amount of fun involved.

Disadvantages of building your own computer

No support

When you build your own computer, you assume full responsibility for it. If you press the power button for the first time and the computer doesn’t turn on, it is up to you to figure out what is wrong. (Plug it in, and connect the power button to the motherboard, by the way)

Possible noise

Some companies take great strides in order to design and build the quietest computer possible. When building your computer, make sure you get cases, fans and power supplies which are designed to be quiet. For example, my case has quite a lot of fans, and is much louder than I thought it would be. So after I finish paying off my car, I may actually buy a nice, quiet case. So be sure to get the right case, or else you may want to spend money a little later down the road.

Where to get the cheapest computer components?

Generally, newegg.com is the cheapest website around. Tigerdirect.com is also a very good website. If you want to go to a store and look at computer cases or motherboards, I’d suggest Fry’s electronics store if you live on the west coast.

Posted under Saving Money, Shopping, Technology

This post was written by admin on November 7, 2008

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Live without cable television and save some money

Cable television is often considered a necessity, and can run you anywhere from 30 to a hundred dollars a month. What if you could cancel your cable TV hookup, and not even notice? No, I’m not talking about stealing cable, and I’m not talking about taking a walk or reading a book instead of watching TV.

The internet has gotten faster at a frightening rate, and there is where our discussion begins. It’s fairly easy to download files at 200 KB/s, and it’s moderately easy to download files at 500 KB/s. This is actually enough to support streaming high quality video! You have a couple options here. There are many legal sites where you can watch television shows, and even movies online. The quality of these streaming video sites is medium. If you have a small TV, the quality of these videos will be fine. For larger TVs, streaming video probably won’t satisfy you, especially if you have an HDTV.

Some streaming websites allow you to watch TV shows for free, and simply insert commercials. An example is southparkstudios.com. These are the best sorts of websites because you don’t have to pay anything, the website is legal, and this particular site has excellent video quality. In fact, the video quality of this website is equal to or better than standard television.

What if you want to watch live TV? Don’t worry, you can do that too! An example of that would be channelchooser.com. This website is supported by ads, which means you don’t have to pay anything, and it’s legal. This website is an example of medium quality video. Again, if you have a big TV, the quality will be significantly worse than cable television. But if you want to watch live TV from any channel imaginable, these websites can be a great resource for you.

There are also less-than-legal ways to watch TV. Various hosting sites such as Rapidshare are known to host high quality video for a variety of television shows and movies. Downloading TV shows and movies illegally is, well, illegal. The advantages are that you can store the files on your computer and the quality can be higher than streaming online video. Generally, I wouldn’t recommend doing anything illegal, mainly because the consequences for getting caught are high. People are being sued left and right, primarily for downloading music, but television shows and movies as well.

Last but not least, there are services such as Netflix, where you can rent DVDs all you want for a monthly fee. The monthly fee for Netflix is far lower than any monthly cable television bill. Best of all, DVDs are, of course, high quality! Even better, most televisions shows nowadays are being put on DVD. Heck, even Tiny Toon Adventures season 1 was released on DVD not too long ago…so you should be able to find your favorite shows on DVD.

If you live in a well populated area, you may want to consider getting free TV over the airwaves. The switch to digital television broadcast will be made in the US in just a few months. It’s a good idea to check which stations you will be able to receive from your house before going out and buying any sort of antenna. You also want to make sure that anything you buy is going to be compatible with the switch to digital broadcasting.

If you choose to watch streaming video online, or download video to your computer, you will probably want to get the video onto your television. You may want to consider getting a small media PC. If you have a laptop, you probably have some sort of S-video out port which you can use to connect to your television. If you have an HDTV, you will want either a DVI or HDMI connector in order to display video from a computer on your television.

Posted under Saving Money, Technology

This post was written by admin on November 4, 2008

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