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Old 08-07-2016, 11:19 AM   #21
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Skype.

Free software that allows you to video-conference for as long as you wish with one or several people scattered around the globe for free. Simply amazing.

It has allowed me to connect with previously unknown cousins (that I 'found' thru DNA testing and further online research) who live in Europe. Through weekly Skype sessions over the past two years I have developed a close relationship with them.

omni
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Old 08-07-2016, 11:28 AM   #22
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Inexpensive DNA testing.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I bought a $99 23andme.com saliva test kit (price is now $198) in 2013...and it unlocked a world of relatives who live in Europe.

Upheavals by revolutions and wars over the past 100 years caused many individuals in the family to leave their homeland and lose touch with each other. I had always wondered if I might have some contemporary family members. It was a surprise and delight for me to find and connect with them.

omni
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Old 08-07-2016, 11:39 AM   #23
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The internet. The global marketplace.

I love the internet, I can get anything I want on the internet. Just google up "anything you want" and you will find it.

My latest find, southern boiled peanuts. Had 'em first on a trip to South Carolina decades ago and liked them. So I had an urge and sure enough there they were, just a few clicks and keystrokes away. Ordered up 4 lbs of traditional and 4 lbs of cajun.
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Old 08-07-2016, 12:01 PM   #24
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Inexpensive DNA testing.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I bought a $99 23andme.com saliva test kit (price is now $198) in 2013...and it unlocked a world of relatives who live in Europe.

Upheavals by revolutions and wars over the past 100 years caused many individuals in the family to leave their homeland and lose touch with each other. I had always wondered if I might have some contemporary family members. It was a surprise and delight for me to find and connect with them.

omni
I did it too. Found out all my ancestors have been from here since at least 10.000 years. Same thing with relatives, all in a 200km radius.

Pestilence, wars, famine, upheaval, technology. We stayed put in Doggerland.
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Old 08-07-2016, 01:14 PM   #25
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All the free and very cheap technology.

We use MyFitnessPal and Mapmywalk. How cool are they. Just scan in barcodes and get accurate calorie counts with macros. How the heck did folks track that before?(I know). Tracking both calories and exercise has amazing benefits.

Then all the free storage, really. I think back 20+ years ago when the capacity guy learned I was writing a compression algorithm for a couple of large files. He was saying a one byte increase in record length(of the current files) was a even million dollars in disk!
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Old 08-07-2016, 01:33 PM   #26
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I was watching these guys on TV racing R/C plans with cameras and they had on goggles to control the planes as if in the pilot seat, pretty awesome.
I've had the gear to do that for a while but haven't done it yet because I don't have a safety pilot, that is someone to watch visually and grab the control transmitter if the TV signal is lost. DW has little to no interest in R/C so I might have to go to a flying site to do that. The TV camera and transmitter weighs 4.5 grams!

There are lots of FPV (first person view) videos of that on youtube.
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Old 08-07-2016, 01:58 PM   #27
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...... One of these days I'm going to donate my iron to Good Will, and they will probably look at it and say in puzzled tones, "What's this for?"
....
Early this year I bought an iron at GoodWill and used it to iron on the ends of kitchen counters. (they need heat to melt the glue).

Didn't even worry if glue got on the iron (none did) as I was not going to iron any clothes.
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Old 08-07-2016, 04:41 PM   #28
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For simple elegance: garage door opener!
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Old 08-08-2016, 02:12 PM   #29
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Noise cancelling headphones. I've had a few (best were Sony and Sennheiser), but not that long ago I tried a friend's Bose model. I was absolutely blown away by how much better they worked.

So despite my loathing for Bose (I've always believed their super high prices were simply to pay for their ubiquitous ads), I bit the bullet and bought a pair.

Bose QuietComfort 25

OMG, the hype may be actually justified. I've used them on my last four plane trips and they have been the most relaxed, stress-free flights I've ever had. And a serious bonus is that it's easy to hear and understand the flight attendant when they talk to you, even with the headphones on.

There is a newer model, the 35, but I expect to use my 25s for a long, long time.
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Old 08-08-2016, 02:37 PM   #30
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Exactly! A little electronic item for $2.00, with free postage, and it's being flown from China. Lol. That's a slim profit there after Ebay fees, postage and oh ya manufacturing the thing.
I paid $0.99 for 20 16-MHz crystals on eBay, with free shipping from China.

The intention was to build an SSB IF filter (hams on this forum, are you there?).

I did not expect much for crystals at 5c a piece, but measured the entire lot to get individual characteristics of each crystal (Lm, Cm, Co, Rs), did a tentative design, checked out by circuit simulation, and man, it should work. Son of a gun!

One can buy an old NOS 455-KHz Collins mechanical filter for $50-$100, and the low frequency is not as nice as this home-brew one at 16 MHz.

I have not built the circuit yet to check it out, but already put in an order to get another lot of 20.
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Old 08-08-2016, 02:43 PM   #31
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Google Earth/Google Maps. See almost everything in the world.
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Old 08-08-2016, 03:31 PM   #32
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Synthetic lubricating oils.

Advances in lubrication chemistry have created oils suitable for operation of internal combustion engines and other equipment to be able to operate effectively in extremely harsh environments.
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Old 08-08-2016, 05:44 PM   #33
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Interesting thread. So much amazing stuff today that is so cheap. So many high-tech examples. I just bought an inspection camera for ~ $20 - USB into a laptop, and you have a hi-rez camera the size of a crayon on a cable. I don't know if I will ever use it, but I bought it 'just in case'.

But on the lower tech side, the garage door opener post made me think of this wonder of the ages:

The anti-scald shower valves!

For decades, it was such a pain to take a shower when others were home. If they ran the water, out shower would go cold or hot as the pressure changed. When I re-did the bathrooms, I bought the anti-scald, self-adjusting valves. The mechanism is simplicity itself. It's just a little floating collar inside the valve that responds to pressure variations, and self adjusts to let more water flow on the side with the lower pressure. One moving part, and it works so well, I never feel the slightest change in temperature, no matter how much water is being drawn elsewhere in the house.

A luxury I could afford! It makes the old valves seem like the middle ages.

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For simple elegance: garage door opener!
Yes! Our old house had a steep driveway. The routine was to pull in, push the brake pedal, set the parking brake, and only then put it Park (putting it in Park first might jam it up against the downhill pressure). Then get out, raise the garage door, get back in, release the brake, pull in, lower the door.

I put in the garage door opener when DW was pregnant. That was major brownie points, she still mentions it from time to time!

-ERD50
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Old 08-08-2016, 05:49 PM   #34
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Matches.

No more blisters from the PITA chore of rubbing two sticks together.
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Old 08-08-2016, 05:58 PM   #35
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Matches.

No more blisters from the PITA chore of rubbing two sticks together.
You had sticks! When we were kids...

-ERD50
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Old 08-08-2016, 06:40 PM   #36
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Microwave oven, chest freezer, ziplock bags.....

Costco and Gordon Food Service, where I can buy boxes of food to heat up and serve guests without slaving over a hot stove. (Makes it easier to invite people over.)

Condo with HOA fees (Now I only deal with 1/2 the home maintenance of the past.)

The fact that DS grew up to be a service writer at a local respected auto dealership. He watches my vehicle like a hawk.........since he worries I'll drive away into some kind of trouble (since DH passed away a year and a half ago). NEVER did I expect that "challenging" teenager to grow up and suddenly start supervising ME!!
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Old 08-08-2016, 07:50 PM   #37
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Microwave oven, chest freezer, ziplock bags.....
Hey, that's a great one in line with the 'minor' theme of this thread.

I remember when zip-lock bags were fancy new-fangled bags. Now, you buy 1/2 pound of cheese at the deli counter, and they give it to you in a 'zip-lock' bag.

Lately, we've splurged on the 'zipper' style, slider closure bags for stuff we want to open/close many times over (chips, crackers, nuts, etc). They kind of replace the old Tupperware style containers, with the advantage that they shrink as the amount shrinks.

OK, another one that really isn't 'minor', but cars overall. Oil monitors mean an oil change only once per year for us, spark plugs rated for 50,000, or 100,000 miles - same for some of the coolant and trans oil. Car maintenance is pretty minor these days, even though an ICE is a complicated beast with many moving parts.

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Old 08-08-2016, 07:56 PM   #38
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Good booze. Who on earth ever decided to put some kind of fruit, grain, or whatever in some kind of container, goat skin or tar/resin lined clay amphora and let some wild yeast do it's thing. Then taste it, or even drink it. Then go back and try to replicate or improve the last batch. Who thought of distillation? How many died/got sick drinking the first drippings? Then cook a little longer for the hearts.

A lot of time, thought, money, life invested in such a remarkable beverage.
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Old 08-08-2016, 08:43 PM   #39
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I believe in drinking good booze. I have never entertained the thought of making my own, not even brewing beer. Too many things in life to take up as hobbies, so a guy has to limit himself.

Someone said Zip Lock bags. I paid $1 (free shipping) to get 100 small Zip Lock bags of 2"x3" to sort and store away my little precious electronic parts. Ran out of them, so bought another batch on eBay, but paid $2 for 100 now to get the thicker bags. How do these Chinese make any money selling these bags? Man, I am glad I live in the US.
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Old 08-08-2016, 09:40 PM   #40
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I love this story about making a toaster from scratch: Searching For Meaning In A Cheap Toaster : NPR

It's basically the cheapest, simplest appliance one could have, yet was still incredibly difficult to manufacture.

I often feel like almost everything technology related is like magic (i.e. clarks 3rd law "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."). Beyond simple repairs of replacing parts modular parts, I can't fix or make anything despite my engineering background.
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