Friday, February 23, 2007

Buying a new Treadmill


My current treadmill is a proform 730 that I bought from sears. I have owned this treadmill for about 9 years and like most home treadmills it got used a lot for about 6 months and then started gathering dust. That was true until a little under 2 years ago, that's when I started running. Over the last year I have run about 10 miles a week. Although my current treadmill was great at gathering dust, it's not that great for running: very noisy, needs better cushioning, blows the circuit breaker if I accelerate to fast and stops completely if I start using it without warming it up on a cold day (it's in the basement). I decided to look to a new treadmill.

When looking for a new treadmill the first thing I discovered that the most comprehensive place to get ratings is from . As a matter of fact 99% of all reviews refer to treadmill doctor's comments or ratings. My guess is that it's lot of work to actually use and review all the treadmills that are out there so why not just write a review and let treadmill doctors do all the work. The problem with treadmill doctors is that although they give a numerical rating to each unit making them easy to compare they only provide a very short comment to go with that. The best site for in-depth reviews of treadmills I found was He gives a nice in-depth review, but does not cover every brand or model.

My second observation is that cheap treadmills are built like gym memberships are sold, if everyone who has a gym membership actually showed up, you wouldn't be able to get in the building, if you actually run on your cheap treadmill all the time it will fall apart. Although I think the people who sell expensive treadmills over state a bit. I find it amusing that if you look on some of the treadmill manufactures sites they will say things like Model 4 is the minimum treadmill for the serious runner, but their models 1, 2 and 3 all go fast enough to run on. I guess that just to satisfy you before you use it as a storage device.

The third thing I noticed is that the sales person in every fitness store tells you that everything he sell under 2,300 is crap until you tell him that you only want to spend 1,500. Then suddenly the 1,500 model is perfect for you.

My Requirements:

Must haves

It costs under 1,500.

It has a good amount of cushioning to minimize the strain on my body.

It only make an expectable amount of noise.

It has a good build and will last.

It has a good display.

It folds up (it gathers less dust that way).


I would like to have one that can receive a heart rate from a chest strap rather than from having to use grips.

The display has a 1/4 mile track on it.

It has a built in fan.

Based on my research I came up with two finalists

Smooth 6.25

Sole 80

Smooth 6.25

It meets all my requirements. It is almost always on sale for 1,499, but I think is amusing that when it's not and selling at 1,699 they still say on the product page "As the only folding treadmill under $1,500 built for serious runners, the Smooth 6.25 delivers some mighty features at an unbelievable price". I guess it is unbelievable that an under 1,500 treadmill would have a price of 1,699. It does work with a chest heart rate strap, but has no display track or fan.

Sole F80

It meets all my requirements plus it does work with a chest heart rate strap, has a display track and a built in fan. The F80 has a maximum speed of 11 MPH vs. the 6.25 max of 10 MPH. The F80 has a running deck size of 20 X 55 vs the 6.25 size of 20 x 54. Neither of these is that significant for me.

I went ahead and purchased the Sole F80 and I am waiting for it to arrive. I will post an update once I use it.

Other sites for research:

PS If you want to watch TV on your fold up treadmill, but you have it facing a wall, this looks interesting.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Getting phone service from Comcast. (AAAAAHHHH!!!!)

I have not given up on this blog, but we just had a baby and I really have no free time that I don't use for sleep.

I have had the service for about 6 weeks and I am in the middle of my second outage (both the phone and their voice mail service are out). This outage is somewhat acceptable because we did have a major thunderstorm last night and the cable and internet are out also. My biggest complaint is that when I called them to have my calls forwarded to my cell they told me I could only do that from my home phone. The conversation went down hill from there. When I asked to speak to a supervisor he told me that there where none available and he needed to fill out a form to have one call me back. When he didn't ask me for a phone number to call me at I asked him what number are they going to call me at and he told me they would call on my home phone number. When I reminded him that I didn't have a phone he said ok, but still didn't ask me for a phone number. On his form he need a reason for the call and I told him I wanted to discuss the call forwarding and his response was they won't be able to help you, but he was sure they would have it in a couple of years, because they have smart people in ivory towers working on this (as apposed to the idiots they have answering the phones).

My quick review

Sound quality – It is the same as Verizon

Reliability - It is below Verizon (my other outage was an unexplained 1 hour outage). To be fair I have only had it for a short time so this might be an aberration and over the years I have had outages with Verizon.

Service – It is about the same as Verizon

Features - They are about the same a Verizon (Verizon does allow you to call forward from outside your home phone), but significantly below other cable companies and Vonage. The web site sucks, you can only check voice mails and see delayed call history. There is no ability to change your settings. You can't shut off your voice mail if you use your own answering machine. My answering machine does pick up before their voice mail, but in cases where someone would have gotten a busy signal in the past it goes to voice mail. You can't have your voice mails forwarded to an email, but you can have a notification sent. Vonage even has a feature to automatically forward your calls if they can't communicate to the hardware in your house. Some of the other companies have a feature where you can have your calls ring simultaneously on your cell, home and work and the call goes to who ever answers it first.

Price - It is cheaper then Verizon, but more expensive then other cable companies and Vonage.

Bottom line- I would not recommend it, but I will probably stick it out a little longer.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Buying a computer in 1994

Here is something I wrote in 1994 for work for when people would ask us what computer to buy. It's obviously dated, but some of its points still hold true.

From 1994

When Is a good time to buy a personal computer and which one should I buy ?

I want to by a computer, but is this a good time to buy?
Who should I buy from?
How much should I spend?

In order to answer these questions you need to understand how the trends of price/performance ratio works across time. Lets say that in 1992 you bought a computer for $2000 and its performance was average for computers available on the market. In 1993 that same computer that you bought in 1992 will now cost only $1400, with the average performance computer will still be around $2000 with a great increase in performance. Computers keep getting faster and faster and software requirements keeps going up and up. Each fueling each other. Without the faster computers no one could use the latest software, and without the latest software no one would need faster computers. So why do we need the latest software? The trends in the software industry have been to make software more functional, easier to use and have the ability to share data with other applications. What does this mean to you ? For example lets say you wanted to take a spreadsheet, take a graph and table from that spreadsheet, put it into a word processing document and print a form letter. Wow! If you were using DOS applications you could do it, but it might take you all day and you need to be quite proficient in all the software products you would be using. If you did that in windows it might take you an hour and it would be easy. So why not use windows? Well here's the catch, you could use an old 386SX/16 with 1 Mb of RAM (Random Access Memory) to do it in DOS, but you would need a minimum of a 386DX/33 with 8 MB of Ram to do it in windows. What's the difference between these Machines? - MONEY.

To illustrate the trends in computers we have graphed the average price Vs. performance over time for Gateway 2000 Computers From July 1992 - January 1994. For the performance rating we used our own grading systems taking into account speed, size of the hard drive, amount of RAM, video speed and video screen size. We graphed the lowest , mid range, and top of the line system available at six month intervals. Higher marks on the graph represent higher performance per dollar.

The graphs are evidence that amount of performance you get for the money you spend will always goes up over time. It also shows that your best value is usually in your Mid End System

When to buy a computers really depends on your needs. The longer you wait the better the computer you will get, but using that approach you will never buy one. Although this may sound strange the best time to buy a computer is when you really need it.

Our recommendation is a Mid Range system. If you buy a low end system you might save some money, but in six months they won't be making computers at your level and software manufactures will quickly write software that will be to slow to run on your system. If you buy a top of the line system your computer will stay useful for the longest period of time, but your paying for the development costs of the latest technology and the extra mark up associated with cutting edge. If you buy from the middle range of what's available you end up with a good buy. Your computer will stay effective longer then if you bought low level, but not with the price tag associated with top of the line.

As to who you should by from; It depends mostly on the current pricing, but look for a company with a good reputation. Overall mail order computers are a priced lower then the ones that you buy in a store, but can take anywhere from a week to 3 months till you get your computer. Remember just because you by a computer from a local store it doesn't mean that the store will be in business in six months.

The warranty of the computer is something that you should take into serious consideration. Try to avoid warranties that require you to send your computer back to the manufacturer. Also check to see what the guarantied response time is. If you depend on your computer don't get a warranty that will have you without your computer for weeks while you wait for them to fix it. If you buy a laptop the warranty is more important then if you buy a desktop because they tend to break easier.

At the this moment we would recommend Gateway 2000 for a desktop computer and Dell for laptops. Please bear in mind that by the time you read this the pricing will have changed, but if you require access to periodicals with computer information or adds please contact the systems dept.

end of 1994 article

A couple of quick observations

Hardware has now greatly exceeded software needs. Unless you are a gamer or do video processing most low end computers have more then enough power for you (until Vista arrives).

I find the references to mail order and periodicals amusing (we did exist without the web).

Friday, March 24, 2006

Castro's Favorite Color

Castro's Favorite Color

If you are looking for something far more interesting to read go here.


I did this research for someone about 6 months ago, but I think it still stands. When I post new research I will provide more links. This is from memory.

I personally own a 2 ½ year old 42” Sony rear projection LCD. I love the TV, but this generation of the RP LCD had slight problems with shadows especially with non HD sources. You can really see it when you can’t make out all of the details of an African American’s face in a dark scene.


Regular rear projection HDTV- They are cheaper, but they are huge, suffer from burning in and don’t have the best picture quality.

RP LCD and rear projection DLP- They are a nice size, don’t suffer from burning in and have great picture quality. It used to be that DLP had a better picture, but they also had some issues. Now from what I have seen the quality on the Sony LCDs is as good as the DLPs and Samsung seems to have solve the earlier issues that DLPs had. One thing you should look at is that on many series the smallest model will have the same bulb as the bigger screens in that series so it will actually have a brighter picture.

Note: If someone tells you that DLP is better because that’s what they use in Digital movie theaters they are wrong. The DLP technology used in theaters is better then the ones in the TVs (3 DLP chips in the theater only one in the TV).

Plasma - Flat screen, best picture, but have burn in.

LCD – Flat screen, best picture, no burn in.


Unless you have a space issue or want the look of a flat screen I would go with RP LCD or RP DLP. From what I saw I prefer Sony (RP LCD) and Samsung (RP DLP). If want to spend the extra money on a flat screen go with LCD. You don’t want to spend all that money on plasma just to watch all your 4:3 television stretched. I would not spend the extra money on the 1080P models unless you are going to hook your computer to the TV, because that the only thing that can provide that level of resolution.

Sony 42" - KDF-E42A10 , 50" - KDF-E50A10
Samsung 42" - HL-R4266W, 46" - HL-R4667W, 56" - HL-R5667W and If you want a cool looking one for a little extra money the 50" HL-R5087W.

Things to know:

4:3 and 16:9 – It is the ratio of width to height of the screen. 4:3 is a regular TV screen and 16:9 is a wide screen.
480i - 480 interlaced - regular TV quality
480p - 480 progressive - DVD resolution - EDTV
720p - 720 progressive - HDTV
1080i - 1080 interlaced – HDTV
(720p and 1080i are both HD some networks broadcast in one others in the other)
1080p – 1080 progressive – Digital theater quality, some TVs now have this, but there is no source material available.
Burn in- When a static image is leaves a permanent mark on a television screen regardless of whether or not the television is on or off. If you are watching 4:3 shows on a 16:9 TV that is subject to burn in , you need to stretch the 4:3 image to 16:9 to avoid it.

Things to look out for:

EDTV is not HDTV (it’s not as good)

Cable companies suck at setting up your HDTV. Almost every time I go over someones house that just got a HDTV cable box from Comcast it is set up wrong. The technicians usually set the box to 16:9, but leave it on 480i. I get a lot of wows when I switch the box to 1080i.

You can still have black lines on the top and bottom of a wide screen TV. Some movies are recorded wider then 16:9