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The End of An Era and The Beginning of a New One

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This Saturday we lost electricity... and along with it my old Dell Zino. I first wrote about it when I looking to do my digital media overhaul in August 2011. It's a fun article to reflect upon. I had two $99 HP Touchpads coming to the house the next day. That's how long the Dell Zino was with us.

The Dell Zino was an Home Theater PC (HTPC) that we used to elminate our cable box rental fees along with this SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime and a very cheap cableCARD from your cable company.

The combination of an HTPC, Microsoft Windows Media Center, and the HDHomeRun Prime, gave us almost everything that we'd get from renting a DVR from the cable company. We didn't get OnDemand, but we also had a full computer for running, Netflix, Hulu, a Plex Server, and the incredible PlayOn TV.

The Dell Zino was $550 and the HDHomerun Prime was a couple of hundred on top of that. It wasn't exactly a cheap solution to avoid paying cable fees, but it felt good. Now that we are sending Zino the Wonder Television to the eternal entertainment center in the sky, I can finally calculate how much it might have saved us.

Yesterday I went to the Cox store to get a replacement box. The idea was to get a short-term solution while I wait for the successor. I could get a box for $1.99/mo. that essentially allowed me to watch TV. For $8.50, I could get a digital guide and OnDemand. For another $15 (on top of the $8.50), I could get DVR functionality. That's $23.50/mo. for what I had with the Zino (again, minus OnDemand). That's $282 or $1410 over the 5 years we had the Zino.

That set-up cut our DVR costs in half! If you count that the HDHomeRun Prime is still fine it wouldn't be too much of stretch to say it saved us nearly $1000.

I'm not sure if getting 5 years out of the Zino was good or bad. I rarely have a computer last that long, so that's good. On the other hand, it didn't have to do too much. It usually ran one application. I would expect it to last a long time.

The Replacement May Be a Problem

I knew that the Zino was on its last legs. I had been looking for a replacement, but I knew it wasn't going to be easy. Microsoft ended Windows Media Center in Windows 10. It simply isn't available in any form. It was the only software that works well for all the premium channels. With Windows 8 you had the option to get Windows Media Center, but you had to pay extra for it.

So ideally, I'd be looking for a computer with Windows 7. That's not easy to find as most new computers are sold with Windows 10. I noticed a deal on a rare Windows 7 computer Amazon Prime Day, but I didn't pull the trigger. I simply didn't want to spend another $600 that day.

What a difference a weeks makes.

It seems like my luck comes in two forms: extremely good and the bad. This is a case of extremely good luck. I happened to go on Slickdeals where I saw the deal originally. The original deal expired, but it happened to be back!

For those who aren't tech nerds, the processor in my old Zino scored 1782 on a Passmark benchmark test. The new processor scores a little over 10,000 on the same benchmark test. Roughly, the brains are 5.5 times faster... but there are a lot of other speed enhancements as well (faster memory, faster graphics, etc.). I wouldn't be surprised if it was 10 times faster in practice.

The price was ~$620 with taxes, so not too much more than the original Zino. It's a bigger computer, but not too big.

Here are the full specs for technology nerds:

  • Intel Core i7-6700 Quad Core 3.6GHz CPU
  • 16GB DDR3L Memory
  • 2TB HDD
  • AMD Radeon R9 360 2GB GDDR5
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • 4x USB 2.0
  • 1x HDMI
  • 1x VGA
  • DVD-RW
  • 802.11bgn WiFi + Bluetooth 4.0
  • Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit (Includes Windows 10 Pro License)

There's room for improvement like an SSD, more USB 3.0 ports, a Blu-Ray drive, and 802.11ac wifi. I may end up putting an SSD in it, but I'll give the traditional HDD a shot first. I had zero 3.0 ports, so having 2 is nice. I have an external portable Blu-Ray drive, so that's not a big deal. I typically use the Ethernet connection for the media center since it needs to be near the cable connection anyway. Thus the WiFi isn't a big deal.

I'm excited to have a processor that fast with that much memory. I have been using laptops that are designed with chips to save power for years. Even the Zino used chips designed for a laptop. I imagine it will be quite an increase in performance to go back to the power of a full desktop.

I'm hopeful that it will be relatively easy to get Windows Media Center set back up. I'll let you now how it goes.

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Spending, Technology Tip

Posted on July 19, 2016.

Herbalife Settlement: Quick Reactionary Thoughts

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I checked into my stock watchlist this morning to see Herbalife stock up around 20%. That was my first indicator that the FTC/Herbalife settlement must have been announced. Sure enough… the news headlines were, “Herbalife declared NOT a pyramid scheme.” I shook my head thinking that this feels like an inside job, just like how […]

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MLM

Posted on July 15, 2016.

My Ideas for “The Big Short: Part 2”

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Last night, I finally got around to watching The Big Short. I had rented it on Amazon for a $1, but it sat around. Yesterday I got an email from Jim Wang of Wallet Hacks that he had just watched it on Netflix. He wrote the following: “When it came out in 2015, I’m sure […]

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Investing, MLM

Posted on July 14, 2016.

What You Can Do To Get Your First Paid Freelancing Client

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The following is a guest post from Martin of Studenomics, where he writes about financial freedom in your 20s without missing a party. For more tips, check out his book, Next Round’s On Me. “He said that I didn’t charge enough so he offered me more money because he felt bad for me.” A student […]

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Income Growth

Posted on July 13, 2016.

Amazon Prime Day is Here!

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You knew I just had to write about Amazon Prime Day. This is probably one of the best days to save money. Unfortunately, it’s also one the most dangerous days to spend money. When I’m looking at some of these deals, I have to remind myself that saving money means not spending it at all. […]

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Spending

Posted on July 12, 2016.

I Just Made a Ridiculous Investment… Here’s Why

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I made a mistake in the title. Investment is the wrong word… gamble is better. Bad gamble might be the best phrase. To make matters worse, I invested money that wasn’t mine. I invested in an ETF focused on Greece (symbol: GREK). Let me start off by explaining how bad this investment is. Here’s what […]

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Investing

Posted on July 11, 2016.

Best Use of Less Than $100? (and Bonus Deals!)

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I was reading the awesome email newsletter this week and Jim ended it with a great question: What do you consider your most valuable under-$100 purchase of all time? The thing that has had the most impact in your life? I cheated by naming two “most valuables.” For some reason, whenever Jim asks me for […]

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Deals, Spending

Posted on July 8, 2016.

Prepare Now for Amazon Prime Day

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[Editor’s Note: Even though article is about Amazon Prime, it’s actually most useful for people who aren’t already, and don’t intend to become, Prime members.] Last year Amazon had a Prime Day that was, by all measures, enormously successful. I think I picked up $200 in electronic deals (the highlight being a very cheap Kindle […]

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Spending

Posted on July 6, 2016.

Take the Monthly Income Challenge

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When I first started this blog in 2006, I had a little area at the top that I called my alternative income. I purposely created the vague term because I didn’t know how to define this income. Some people would call it passive, but blogging is anything, but passive. At the time, I was lending […]

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About / Admin, Alternative Income

Posted on July 5, 2016.

Independence “In So Many Ways”

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I hope all my readers in the United States are having a great Independence Day. (I don’t have a lot of readers outside of the US, but I didn’t want you to be confused.) The title of this article is inspired by my 3-year old’s new favorite song from Daniel Tiger: “In some ways we […]

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About / Admin

Posted on July 4, 2016.

 
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