I Got a "Free" iMac!

I’m sure some of you have seen those ads on the web advertising a free gift iMac, iPod, or Razr. When you get to their site, though, they tell you that you have to complete certain offers in order to receive your “free” gift. I read an article on the ‘net a while back that chronicled the author’s participation in a “Free Mac mini” gift site. He talked about his doubts that he would actually get his gift and about the ups and downs of completing the offers while dealing with the customer service people. However, in the end of the article he posts pictures of his newly acquired Mac mini, totally convincing me that it is legit. I saw an ad for a free iMac, and figured that I’d jump in and see how it went for myself.

The iMac being offered was the one with a 20.1″ widescreen, Intel Core Duo 2Ghz, 250GB hard drive, and 512MB RAM. Right now it’s being sold in the Apple store for $1,699.

I realized that the iMac was being offered from the same company that the Mac mini came from, so I decided to see how it would go for me. This gift would require me to complete 18 offers in order to get the iMac. Almost all of the offers required a purchase in order to get credit for completing the offer. Since most of them offered refunds, I calculated that I was going to need to spend around $135 after it was all said and done. Considering that it normaly costs $1,700, I was willing to spend at least $500 and still feel pretty good about the savings.

After completing all the offers on my end, there were 3 of them that didn’t report as completed to the gift site, and their terms stated that I had to wait at least 30 days before I could show proof of purchase and get credit for the offers. I waited the 30 days, and then they manually credited my account to show that I had qualified for the iMac. I filled out a redemption voucher and mailed it in, and 2 weeks later the UPS man dropped this off at my office:
_DSC1112.JPG

_DSC1117.JPG

It was delivered to where I work, so I could barely wait till I got home to open it up and get it running. I was so shocked that it actually worked! Not to mention the anticipation was killing me having to wait the 30 days for the credits to go through and to mail in the voucher. Here’s some shots of the unpacking.
_DSC1119.JPG

_DSC1120.JPG

Here’s a shot of the initial setup. Since I have a PowerBook, I can automatically transfer all my settings and files to the iMac so that when I sit down to use the iMac for the first time, it’s exactly like my PowerBook.
_DSC1122.JPG

Here it is all set up and firing away! It’s noticeably faster than my PowerBook, however, it seemed to be a bit more RAM hungry. I quickly ordered an extra gig of RAM so now it has 1.5GB total, and hums along quite nicely. It’s amazing that Apple can fit all of that power and beauty into such an elegantly small package. I mean, if you didn’t already know, that’s the whole computer right there. The screen, the keyboard, and the mouse (optical Mighty Mouse, nonetheless). All of the components of the iMac are fitted into the white casing around the LCD display. (Notice the green box on the right side of the picture is a 512MB iPod shuffle that I also got from a freebie gift site and didn’t have to spend a penny.)

_DSC1223.JPG

I thought I was gonna have to buy a new desk to fit the huge 20″ screen. I was quite surprised that it fit inside that little opening, but just barely horizontally. It really is a very sharp screen that is very bright and extremely comfortable to look at all day. I find myself having too much space sometimes. Wait. I didn’t just say that. One can never have too much space! The only annoying bit is that the SuperDrive is on the right side of the screen, so I have to rotate it slightly when I need to insert a CD or DVD. It’s really not that bad at all.
_DSC1229.JPG

Ok, so you’re probably wondering the total amount that I ended up spending to get this wonderful new iMac for “free”. Well, I went over my original estimate by $79.85. The total dollar amount that I spent after all the refunds were issued and returns shipped was $214.85. Some of you might say that amount is well in excess of “free”, but may I point out that it is also $1,615.82 cheaper than I could have paid for it at the Apple store (price includes sales tax). It’s not everyday that one gets 88% off the retail price.

So in conclusion, I would highly recommend that anyone try out these “freebie” sites and bring home some really cool gear. There are tons of them out there offering a wide range of items from phones, to designer handbags, to iPods, to prepaid Visa gift cards. Not all of the companies are as reliable as the one I used, so be sure to do some research on the item you’re contemplating before you begin. Also, keep in mind that it takes several hours of your time and energy to do this. I had to keep checking up on offers to make sure I canceled in time to prevent getting charged for extra shipments. I spent quite a bit of time going over each offer’s terms and conditions to make sure there were no hidden costs or fees that weren’t clearly stated on the website. This alone probably saved me about $300. I kept a text document running and made sure to make note of how much they were charging, when I needed to cancel, and the phone number to call to cancel. I say all of this to make it very clear that I was very meticulous and aware of everything I was getting into, so if you are careless, you might end up spending more than you planned on, or possibly not even qualifying for your gift. Be careful out there. I’m not making any guarantees about your experience.

One last note. I got a call today from my credit card company saying that someone had attempted to use my credit card to make a $500+ purchase on some family reunion website in Utah. Obviously, I have closed the account and won’t ever know for sure if the account number was stolen by one of the offers I did or through some other means, but I felt that it was worth mentioning.

Gallery Update

I just upgraded my gallery to allow you all to upload your own pictures. If you’d like to share some images, all you have to do is register for an account, I’ll activate it, and then you can upload pictures.

Also I’d like you to notice that comments are allowed on almost every area of my website, and I would love to have more discussions about the posts I’ve made, the images in the gallery, and also in the forums. In the gallery, there is a drop-down menu below every photo where you can select “Add Comment”. On this main blog page, there is a link at the bottom of every post that you can click on to view/add comments to that posting. Right now, all the comment links on this main page say “No comments” but I hope that will change soon! 🙂 I think you all know how to use the forums for comments, so I won’t explain that part.

Enjoy!

Meebo Me

Did you notice the new little Meebo widget on the right side of the site? That’s a little instant messenger window that you can use to talk to me. I’m not always online, but I am around more often than not, so feel free to drop me a line whenever you’d like.

Update: I had the Meebo Me widget up for about two months, but I never received a single instant message, so I removed it. If you’d like to IM me, email me with your screen name and which service it is (AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, GTalk), and I’ll email you back with mine.

China Update & Conclusion

Some of you may have heard that I was applying for the STINT program with Campus Crusade for Christ. I received news that my application was rejected.

During the time of filling out the application (which was quite lengthy) and waiting for a response, I had been praying that God would reveal His will to me in this area. I am at peace with what I believe was His decision to close the door on this opportunity. I have complete faith that it is God’s will and that this is a sign that He does not want me going to China at this time. I have ceased all attempts to get to China for now, and I am currently looking for where God might want me to be serving Him around here. I have begun volunteering with the youth ministry at Capo Beach Calvary and I definitely know that God has called me to serve there for right now.

Although this website was originally intended for field updating purposes, I will no longer be using it for that purpose. It will remain active, but now it will be more of a personal journal and web log. In other words, it will now be more of a hobby of mine and probably be less geared towards my life/missions updates, and more towards internet related topics.

I thank all of you for your support over the past three and a half years as we struggled through the processes of getting to the mission field together. I still have missions on my heart and hope to someday be in the mission field when God sees fit.

Here’s a link to a sermon that has encouraged me and lifted my spirits. Maybe it will do the same for you.
The Way of the Cross

Tutorial – Animated GIF

I’m not exactly sure how many times I’ve been asked on MySpace how I made my default pictures flip through like a slide show, but it’s been close to 15. It seems like people want to know how to do this, so here’s how I do it. It’s not the only way, and it’s probably not even the easiest way, but it’s how I do it. If you have a different way that you’re proud of, post it in the comments.

Before you get started

You’ll need to have Adobe ImageReady to use this tutorial. It comes with Adobe Photoshop, so if you have Photoshop, then you have ImageReady.

Also, you may want to prep the images that you’ll be using to make your animation. If all the images are the same dimensions before you go to ImageReady, it makes the process a lot simpler. You don’t have to make them all the same dimensions if you don’t want to, but you’ll have to play with the transparency or a matte background if they are different.

Here we go!

1 Open ImageReady.

2 Click on the File menu, then Open… and you will see the open dialog box. Navigate to the images that you want to include in your animation. (Hopefully, you already have them prepped as I do below.) Select all of them at once by clicking on the top one, and then holding the shift key as you click on the bottom one. Click Open.

3 Now you need to have certain tool palettes and windows open. Make sure your Window menu matches mine below. (The check marks indicate a palette/window is open.)

4 Make sure you have the Marquee tool selected in the Tools palette, and then click on one of the images. I have clicked on the far right image. Now press command+A to select all (control+A on Windows) and then command+C (control+C) to copy the entire image.

Step5-2

5 Next, click in the far left window and press command+V (control+V for Windows) to paste the image on top of the first image. Continue to do this with the remaining image(s) until they are all copy and pasted into the same window (or for you pros out there, the same “canvas”). You’ll notice that each time you paste an image onto the canvas, a new layer will be created.

Step6-2

6 After you copy all the images onto one canvas, close all windows except for the one that contains all the images. Your display should look something like the screenshot below with only one canvas open (top left red circle) and three layers in your layers palette (bottom right red circle).

Step7-2

7 Click the Duplicate current frame button as many times as you have images. In my case, I have three images, so I clicked it three times to create three animation frames.

Step9-4

8 This is where the going gets rough, so don’t give up! The animation works by simply displaying only one layer in each animation frame. We have to tell ImageReady which layers we want displayed in which frames. We can do this by setting the layer visibility as shown below. The little eye icon means that the layer is visible. If there is no icon to the left of that layer, then that means it is hidden.

Highlight the second frame of the animation, and then go over to the layers palette and make it so that only one layer is visible (i.e. only one eye is showing next to the layers).

Step8-2

9 Highlight the next frame in the animation, and go over to the layers palette and make the next layer visible, and the previous layers hidden as show below. Repeat this process as many times as you have layers so that each layer has its own frame in the animation palette.

Step10A-2

Step10B-2

10 You now have an animation! To preview it, you can click the play button on the bottom of the animation palette.

Whoa! Hold your horses, pardner! That’s moving a little too fast, isn’t it? You’re not done yet. Let’s fine tune the animation and export it for use on the web.

Highlight the first frame of the animation by clicking on it once, then hold down the shift key and click on the last frame of the animation. This will select all of the frames of the animation as shown below.

Step11-2

11 You can change the amount of time each frame is displayed by clicking on the menu directly below the image in the animation frame (the default is 0 sec.). We already selected all of the frames, so when you change it to 2.0 seconds, it will change all selected frames to 2.0 seconds. (If you would like the delay to be different for each frame, you can only select one frame at a time and change the delay separately.)

Step12-2

12 Ok, we’re almost done… in the optimize palette, select the format GIF as shown below.

Step13A-2

13 In the same optimize palette, select 32 colors. (This will decrease the file size by only using 32 different colors to make up your images. You can play with this number to find a balance between low file size and a good quality image. For my animation, 32 was about right, especially since it’s not a very large image that will easily show grain.)

Step13B-2

14 Now we’re ready to export the file. In the File menu, select Save Optimized As…

Step14A-2

15 A save dialog box will pop up and ask you to name the file and ask you where you want to save it. I’ve chosen to name mine “my_animation.gif” and I’m saving it to the Desktop.

Step14B-2

16 Make sure that you have the Format set to Images Only as show below, then click Save. That’s it! You’re all done making your animated GIF.

Step14C-2

17 If you would like to preview the final product, you can do so by dragging the image file into a browser window as shown below.

Browser-3

18 Here’s the final animation.

My Animation-2

If there was anything that was unclear, please let me know and I’ll try to rephrase or add more descriptions. I’m always trying to walk the thin line between writing too much that it becomes confusing or insulting, and not writing enough and getting people lost. Enjoy and feel free to send me your newly created animations.

Reader Submission:

SmileyNoBike.gif
SmileyNoBike of the GixerJunkies.net
Photographs by JT aged 8 1/2