Category Archives: Contests

Lighting strikes twice (and thrice): winning Snagit and Camtasia

So, once again, it pays to TwitterTM. I happened to be online when Techsmith (@techsmith on Twitter) announced that they would be doing a 24-hour marathon about one of their flagship products, Snagit, with prizes to boot. I was immediately excited because I am familiar with Snagit and it’s an absolute-must for anyone who blogs. Besides the allure of winning something, I was curious to get to know the marketing machine (@betsyweber is the chief evangelist) and developers behind the product.

It was a long event (24 hours) so I was in and out. The #Snagit24 videos by Techsmith are up online for your viewing pleasure, but back to my title about winning, I won a license of Snagit v10 and Camtasia v7. Slightly surreal and I’ve already put Camtasia v7 to good use with this first video about setting page breaks in Excel 2007.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uScQ7nJm1NQ

One of the first things I noticed about Camtasia v7 is that redesigned interface puts the focus on creating your content. With Snagit v10, there was the addition of an all-in-one capture mode which I absolutely love. With the previous versions of Snagit, there was an emphasis on Profiles and shortcuts to launch your capture modes. I’m not big on keyboard shortcuts because on my HP notebook, it’s usually a combo of Fn+PrintScreen or Ctrl+Shift+Letter. That’s a LOT of key presses so in the past with Snagit v9, I would have to:

  1. go to the quick tray in Windows (7) and rightclick on the Snagit icon.
  2. Navigate to the Profiles tab; Click on “Basic Profiles” to select the particular capture mode I wanted.
  3. OR

  4. Start up Snagit by clicking the tray icon or going to the Programs menu
  5. Click on the capture type I wanted and hit the “big red button” to start the capture.

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Now, the smart developers at Techsmith decided that instead of letting users do ALL the work, they engineered the All-in-one mode with which you can capture regions, windows, objects and scrolling windows (horizontally & vertically which is the holiest of Holies in my book). πŸ˜› Needless to say, the addition of this feature alone is what would have made me upgrade from v9 to v10 because it cut down my fiddling time.

Some of the gifts they gave away includes books about making screencasts, Snagit, Camtasia, etc. I was lucky and won license to Snagit v10 AND Camtasia v7.
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snagit-win.png

This was back in May. Also back in May, Digital Inspiration and Softonic EN ran contests in which they were giving away a license to Snagit v10 each. I entered both contests, but I didn’t get my hopes up. So this morning, when I received a message from Tom Clarke from Softonic, I knew that lightning had struck twice. πŸ˜› He had emailed me to tell me I was the winner of their Snagit v10 license giveaway! 2010 is shaping up to be *quite* the year. πŸ™‚

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However, I could not (in good faith) accept the prize without telling him that I already had won a license to Snagit & Camtasia from a previous Techsmith event! So, I proposed that if he/Softonic was amenable to my giving away the license to a nonprofit organization (Free IT Athens at http://freeitathens.org), I would do so or they could pick another winner. Thankfully, that was an arrangement he & I could live with so Free IT Athens is now the proud owner of Snagit v10. πŸ™‚

Update (5pm): FRITA advocates for the use of open source software so I’ve emailed Tom Clarke about selecting another winner.

The moral lesson through my rambling article:

  1. it pays to enter giveaways.
  2. It pays to enter multiple giveays. πŸ™‚
  3. In my experience, the stuff I’ve won so far is stuff I use *daily. I absolutely LOVE my HP Touchsmart 600 and I nearly bit the poor husband’s head off when he suggested selling it to “upgrade” to a bigscreen TV. lol.
  4. Add value to the giveaways; My contest entries are usually thoughtful and honest about what I would use the item for if I won it. In my experience, I would say honesty is definitely the best policy.

That’s all for now. Good luck and happy hunting! πŸ™‚

I won an HP TouchSmart 600 giveaway by Chip Chick!

If you don’t know, Twitter‘s a great way to get involved with various communities (photography, technology, etc). Another good use of Twitter has been giveaways. Just make sure that’s NOT all you do on Twitter or if you must, set up a separate twitter account for participating in giveaways. In several giveaways based on Twitter, all you need to do is retweet a couple of sentences with a hashtag included. I’ve participated in non-twitterbased giveaways before and those are always more involved than just retweeting something. Here are the most common ways to enter giveaways that I’ve seen on the web.

  1. Leave a comment about “why you want X device/what X device will do for you/ETC” and be randomly selected. Usually done by big blogs and expectedly reduces your chances for winning due to the low barrier for entry.
  2. Post a video/picture and most creative will be selected by contest editors.
  3. Write a blog post about topic X and link back to a predetermined page.
  4. Create a video/picture/blogpost and the one with most votes win.
  5. Enter your personal details (name, email address and/or home address) for a random drawing.
  6. or Do all of the above and be selected by contest editors.
  7. or do all of the above and be randomly selected.

This particular contest I participated in was run by Chip Chick and the methods of entry were:

  1. Tweet @chip_chick saying β€œEnter me in the HP TouchSmart 600 Giveaway http://bit.ly/9FIls1”
  2. Make a comment on this post which explains what you would do with the HP TouchSmart 600 if you won it.
  3. Or send us an email detailing what you would do with the TouchSmart 600 if it was all yours.

I found out about this giveaway through Twitter and my initial instinct was to enter the contest through retweeting. This method would be great if entries were randomly selected b/c least amount of work on your part. However, I wasn’t too sure on how this contest would be judged and I decided writing an email would be my best option. I’ve done several of these that I was not under any illusions that this giveaway would be different. Giveaway contests are completely subject to the editors/sponsors rules so always read the rules. The rest, as they say, is history. πŸ™‚ Yadda yadda yadda, I got an email saying I had won the TouchSmart 600 last week.

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To say I was excited would be an understatement. πŸ˜› I have had some good luck online. Cases in point:

  1. Winning a license for Camtasia 6.0 (worth $299) via Gottabemobile.com’s contest in 2008 which involved making a video about why I needed/wanted Camtasia 6 and leaving a comment that pointed to the video I had created. The odds were in my favor because there were 4 video entries and whether you like it or not, if contests are decided by editors, they like to see some effort put into your entries! Did my video blow you away? Probably not, but compared to the other entries, I looked pretty good. I did make a follow-up video that was not so painful. πŸ˜€
  2. Last year, I participated in Swoopo.com for the first time and won an auction for my current laptop (HP dv7-3080us) for ~ $250. The retail price of this quadcore laptop is around ~$1400. To put things into perspective, my former (now hubby’s) laptop cost that much, but it’s specs are laughable compared to this current notebook. I digress, but I clearly scored a scoop with Swoopo that, much to my chagrin, I haven’t been able to recreate. This is why gambling is bad, kids. Don’t do it. πŸ˜›

So winning the HP TouchSmart 600 has been my biggest coup so far. I would peg its true worth at ~ $1200 versus the stated $1500. Who’s cares? I’m just thrilled to have won it and all that matters is this: HP makes good products. They’re well known in the blogosphere for their phenomenal giveaways and I’m glad they selected Chip Chick for hosting this giveaway. Now, I have possession of an entertainment PC that I didn’t have before. πŸ™‚ My hubby & I have already chunked our bulky entertainment center (made of wood), the 40lb TV, the old 100lb speakers, the VCR player (don’t ask. lol), the DVD player and temporarily shelved the PS2. Our living room looks great with the extra stuff moved out of the way as the HP TouchSmart is poised to become the defacto TV & entertainment spot. I do have an interesting sidenote.

First impressions about its specifications: This is in NO way looking this $1200 gift horse in the mouth, but I thought it bears noting. Nearly all online contests state that the “Approximate value of prizes may vary.” In my case, there was probably ~ $300 difference from the reviewed model which I don’t care about, but in the interest of documentation, I wanted to write about. The HP Touchsmart model reviewed by Chip Chick had a BluRay player. The eventual model I received (HP Touchsmart 600-1000t) has player for CDs/DVDs only. Update: I also noticed that this model (TouchSmart 600-1000t) lacks HDMI input. Luckily enough, my laptop (dv7-3080us) *can* play BluRay discs so I definitely don’t miss this feature although I would definitely swap out players if I could. The side-effect of missing BluRay playback on this model of the TouchSmart 600 is that HP could skimp on the graphics card installed in the PC.

On the outside packaging, I read it had “integrated” graphics and I inwardly winced thinking of the Intel graphics from my 2005 HP desktop PC. Thankfully, I was happy to note that it had an Nvidia Graphics card (Gefore G200) with 256MB of video memory and an Nvidia chipset (hence the use of the “integrated graphics” term). Putting this into perspective, my laptop’s video card has 1GB of video memory with BluRay Playback. I’ll speculate that this lower-end graphics card was put in because it didn’t need BluRay playback. The WEI score supports my suspicion as it was the ‘weakest’ link with a WEI rating of 5.3. It will be interesting to chronicle the computer’s performance. So far, I’ve had 1 incident where the screen ‘froze’ and didn’t respond to my taps while playing one of the games (Garden Pond) from the Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7.

First impressions about using it as the TV replacement: I gravitated to using Windows Media Center over the HP’s custom Live TV tile in the TouchSmart software. The main reason: using the remote control while in the TouchSmart 3.0 software repeatedly brought up the Windows Media Center. This meant that to bring up things like the guide or info with the Live TV tile meant leaving the couch to do so. It’s just a small inconvenience, but enough to make me stick to Windows Media Center for now. I would actually recommend using Windows Media Center for TV watching because it’s much more mature than the Live TV tile and I prefer WMC’s method of navigating through Channels and upcoming shows. The 23″ screen is more than adequate for our TV watching needs and the sound emanating from this thing is actually better than my old TV’s! Now, I’m no audiophile, but I generally use my husband as the yardstick for audio stuff and his verdict: it sounds rich. Sold!

First impressions about using Netflix app on the TouchSmart software or Windows Media Center: Windows Media Center wins this hands-down. Main reason: Netflix software on the TouchSmart 3.0 interface is only set up to playback movies that are in your “instant queue”. This means you must already have a movie “playlist” and the Netflix app dutifully plays those movies. However, the Netflix plugin for Windows Media Center has more capabilities i.e. you can browse the Netflix library and add movies for watching. You aren’t limited to items in your instant queue and can search movies based on genre. Perhaps with time, there’ll be more improvements to the Netflix app on the TouchSmart 3.0 software.

First impressions as a desktop computer replacement: Doing a dollar-for-dollar comparison (and based on this model’s specifications), you’re better off getting a desktop/flatscreen LCD combo for less than what this TouchSmart costs. Of course, you’ll be trading space and convenience for more computing power. This TouchSmart will be great for places with lobbies i.e. nearly all establishments where users do casual browsing, document editing, etc. It’s great for eye-candy too. For me, the primary selling points would be: TV replacement, BluRay playback (which this model lacks), and Touch capabilities. Text entry with the onscreen keyboard is a fun experience. I discovered that hovering above the letters was enough to trigger the surface. For instance, hovering above the letter A with your fingertip would cause the letter A to get entered into your textbox. This is possibly by design because it should theoretically help with text entry. Windows 7 is so smart and I’m discovering little things like pinching a webpage in IE 8 will zoom out! The built-in speech recognition in Windows 7 (Home premium) is actually pretty good and I spent ~ 1 hr going through the training, but I don’t forsee using my voice to command the PC because the error rate (at this point) is 50%. Error rate = issuing a voice command / recognizing the voice command . I’m Nigerian by birth so it probably detects my accent. Still, it’s nice to be lazy and yell “close that” to close the current/active window. πŸ˜› I have the speech recognition set to listen for the phrase “start listening” in order to start issuing commands versus having it on all the time or manually activating speech recognition.

First impressions on the bundled games: The standard games for Windows 7 are available for the TouchSmart 600. With the Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7, there are ~ 4 applications that are geared for being played through touch (Microsoft Surface Globe – like Google Earth, Microsoft Surface Lagoon – a screensaver, Microsoft Blackboard and Microsoft Garden Pond). The only missing item from the Touch Pack on the HP Touchsmart is Microsoft Surface Collage. The next set of games are HP games powered by WildTangent. I’m deeply mistrustful of WildTangent (see the “Wild Tangent” Wikipedia page) so I haven’t attempted playing any of the HP games. I haven’t heard of any companies making games that take advantage of computers like the TouchSmart. If you are out there, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. Surely, there is a market for this in the Windows world. I mean, the iPad just came out and now has thousands of apps yet the TouchSmart (the posterchild for the future of Windows 7 touch computing until the HP Slate makes its debut) doesn’t. It makes me wonder about Seriously, I’m not installing any applications on this computer that aren’t touch-aware. That would be stupid because I’ve got my laptop for that!

In a nutshell, this latest device in our household is a huge help & relief to have. I wasn’t kidding in my contest entry when I said the TouchSmart would become the centerpiece for entertainment at my home. My husband & I are huge Netflix fans and I like my TV stations. In 1 fell swoop, the HP TouchSmart has simplified my life. That’s the best thing about this computer. Look out for my next post (with pictures!) about my feelings about the HP TouchSmart after the giddiness of owning for a 1 day has worn off. πŸ™‚

The Unboxing Of My HP DV7-3080US laptop (20 days late)

The pictures speak a 1000 words!! Overall, this computer is a BEAST, in my non-qualified opinion. See the WEI score to back that up. I’m a little late to the unboxing party as I’ve had this notebook to play with since the 6th of January. πŸ™‚
This post will give a brief overview of the differences between the newer (2009) HP dv7-3080us notebook which I obtained under extremely fortuitous circumstances against my older (2008) customized HP dv9700t laptop. Price-wise, this dv7-3080us retails from $1,399 and upwards. In August, 2008, I purchased dv9700t custom notebook for just under $1440. With computers, this is pretty much the way things are i.e. price drops and you can almost always wait to get that perfect computer because something better will come along!

Without further ado, check the two computers out!

  1. 1.6GHz Core i7 processor (dv7-3080us) vs 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo processor (dv9700t): The Core i7 chip has Turbo Boost which can bump up the processing speed from the current 1.6MHz to 2.8GHz. I’m not a fan of doing any sort of overclocking on a notebook so I’m currently using the notebook at the base 1.6Ghz frequency. From a plain user standpoint, I noticed that my hardware controls are much more responsive and have no lag time between the press and whatever command is evoked. Points go to the core i7 processor for that. I’m able to boot into Windows in less than 1 minute which is not saying too much given as my other computer was humming pretty smoothly. That 1-minute boot-up rule is still holding up after all the usual suspects have been installed (Carbonite, Norton Internet Security, etc).
  2. Blu-ray ROM: This is just me buying into the hype of having a notebook that can play Blu-ray DVD discs, but this is definitely better than having a plain ole’ Super Multi CD/DVD +/- RW burner. Points go to the dv7-3080us for that. It’s kinda telling to note that I would NOT have purchased a Blu-ray ROM for ~ $200 more because I am not convinced that Blu-ray is worth the extra money.
  3. Updated components:
    • like the bluetooth radio now contains bluetooth 2.1 technology versus the dv9700t’s v. 2.0
    • a much better sound card from IDT technologies in the HP dv7-3080us versus the Realtek HD audio sound system in the dv9700t
    • the replacement of the Motorola modem in the dv9700t with the newer LSI HDA modem in the dv7-3080us.
    • ‘softer’ keys on the dv7-3080us which are less prone to my ‘fat’ fingers getting stuck and yanking off keys (true story)
    • a ‘flush’ webcam in the dv7-3080us that doesn’t light up when in use like the dv9700t did (I actually used duct tape to cut off the blue light that got turned on whenever the webcam was in use. It alerts potential thieves that they may be recorded), etc. As you’ll see in the pictures, the webcam light in the dv7-3080us has been lost and the actual webcam doesn’t protrude like the dv9700t’s does below:
    • rearranged audio input/output ports. The arrangement of the dv7-3080us puts the audio input/output to the right of the user which tucks any cords neatly out of the way whereas the audio i/o ports are in the way on the dv9700t laptop.
    • the removal of the physical wifi/bluetooth switch in favor of a touch-activated switch for wifi/bluetooth on the dv7-3080us notebook. Frankly, I prefer the new way of turning wifi/bluetooth on or off in the dv7-3080us notebook. Fewer accidental disconnections are always a plus in my book. πŸ™‚
    • removal of the ‘locking’ mechanism for when the laptop lid is shut down in favor of nothing on the dv7-3080us notebook. I don’t miss the extra step with the dv9700t notebook of having to depress a button to release the notebook’s lid.
  4. Added components: like the addition of the eSATA/USB port. I don’t have a fingerprint reader on the dv7-3080us (I opted to get one with the dv9700t) but so far I’ve survived very well without it.
  5. Better WEI scores on the dv7-3080us than on the dv9700t largely because of the better graphics card, more RAM and better processor.

So far, those are the noticeable alterations I’ve observed between the dv9700t and the dv7-3080us. Again, comparing both laptops is really unfair because a 2008 vs 2009 (when it comes to computer gadgets) could render any review meaningless. This little “review” is mostly for my pleasure and those who may find themselves at crossroads. Disclosure, I got a discount (~ 70%) on this laptop because I purchased it on a penny auction website. Beginner’s luck so do NOT try gambling at home! πŸ™‚ Below are the pictures of the laptop as I first received it: