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Burglar-proof your home on a cheap budget

burglarWe recently had two break-ins in our neighborhood, one of the houses is our neighbor who left the country for a month. The burglar force-opened the back door, loaded everything of value into the home owner’s car and took off. The car was later found empty and abandoned. The second case is more interesting, the owner was in the house when the break-in happened. The burglar came late in the night (around 3am) and knocked at the door to check if anyone was in. The owner didn’t open the door and went on sleeping. The thieve force-opened the basement emergency window, got into the house but quickly left after realizing the owner was home.

Last weekend we had a neighbors meeting and the police officer investigating the case was giving a speech. This blog post is in essence a summary of the tips he gave us on how we can prevent or make it less likely for the incidents like these to happen.

Always lock doors and windows - this applies to homes and cars alike. The officer mentioned a recent arrest where a gang of teenagers was doing ‘car hopping’, the kind of crime when they move into a neighborhood and raid cars. They stole things from around 400 cars in a few weeks - none were locked.

Don’t leave mail in the mailbox - both break-ins in our neighborhood happened after the owner left mail in the mailbox. A stuffed mailbox is a sign telling the criminal that “the owners are not home”. When on vacation, have neighbors pick up your mail or stop mail delivery at the Post Office (and verify it stopped).

Secure sliding doors and windows - in one of the cases of the break-ings in our area, the burglar simply forcibly opened the sliding patio door w/o even having to break the glass. Criminals are looking for easy targets and anything that makes it difficult for them to get into the house will help. The simplest way to reinforce a sliding door is by using a strong wooden dowel or metal rod on the inside.

Make use of blinds after sunset - so many times I have walked by a house during night time and saw a family gather by a large screen TV or a guy working on a laptop computer. Without blinds, your house is a fish bowl and it is easy for the fisherman (the criminal) to pick the biggest fish without much effort.

Leave a light on when you leave - if you leave during dark hours, leave a light on in one of the rooms, alternate the room. Don’t use the kitchen countertop light for this purpose - according to the officer, too many families are doing it so it now has a different connotation. Consider purchasing a couple light switches on a timer and use them to turn on/off lights when you leave for a long period of time.

Light up your house from outside - the best way to do it by installing sensor activated lights on the outside of the house. If possible, install the lights high enough so it is hard for the burglar to just take the light bulb out. Otherwise, buy a motion sensor light bulb socket (available at Amazon for $22.86) and use with your outdoor lights.

Make a thorough inventory of your house - if inevitable happens, you want to be ready to give the insurance company complete list of what was stolen (I assume you have insurance). Get out the video camera and take a thorough tour of your home, then store the video in a safe deposit box, or make two copies and leave them at your friends/extended family.

Install visible alarm signs on the outside - even if you don’t plan to install a security system, a “Protected by” sign can be a strong enough deterrent to avoid the burglary. The criminals are looking for an easy target and anything that can make them think twice about breaking into your home is a help.

Get yourself a dog - this is probably the most effective way to burglar proof your home but at the same time it is a very subjective tip. You should never get a dog just because you want to keep your home safe. To me a dog is a family friend, but if you think of getting one - consider the side effect of protecting your home as a bonus.

Have you had crimes in your neighborhood lately? How do you burglar proof your house?

Photo credit to Johnny Grim @ Flickr

Community owned deal site. Nonsense?

firefox-open-standardsThis is just a crazy idea I had the other day and which I decided to write down before my mind wonders somewhere else and I forget about it. What if there was a website for bargain hunters that runs in a similar fashion as say Wikipedia or CraigsList? No ads, no affiliate links, completely community operated and based on open source platform. Would it make any sense at all?

I understand there are probably some bulletin board based bargain forums that do it but the phpBB is a stone age technology and has never really been meant to be used for shopping. What I mean is to have a fully functional social site with all the bells and whistles that come with a perfect deal site but completely owned and operated by the community.

Why would this make sense?

If the idea is novel the media will pick it up and it will spread virally offering free advertising (at least at the beginning). The members that join will make the most devoted bargain community that ever existed since they know the place is theirs and there is no owners behind the scene that set their rules and make profits off of the deals. Devoted members means more growth for the website because of all the free publicity and referrals they bring in.

I know from my own experience running Buxr that the web platform could be written in such a way that the community can properly format & categorize the deals, verify them, and also update them over time. To keep things sane, new members could have limited privileges but as they gain the tenure they turn into “power users” who can do more around the site, and eventually suggest themselves to become moderators. The community would vote (say once a year) to pick a number of moderators who then run the site for the next year.

The platform would be based on an open source code written by web developers volunteers who devote themselves to this idea. The only monetary expense is web hosting but it can be easily offset with donations since web hosting is dirt cheap these days.

So what do you think? Is this something even worth discussing? Does social shopping & bargain hunting have the scale to become a foundation of an open community like this? Do people even care about who owns the content they create and how it is used? Am I out of my mind even thinking about this idea?

Please follow me on Twitter!

twitter bird

My old timers have sure noticed that my blogging frequency went down a lot in the past several months. My projects sure take a tall but it doesn’t mean I am less active online. ;-) The quick deal posts I used to put up on ProBargainHunter now all go to Twitter. I just find Twitter more convenient for quick shout outs which many shopping deals really are. If you are interested in these quick updates, please follow me on Twitter. You can also find my most recent updates on the Twitter widget I embedded on the home page of this blog.

RetailMeNot releases July coupon data report

The second most popular coupon site in my monthly list has just released July stats data on consumer coupon usage. This time they add online coupons information and also throw in some interesting details like top 10 most searched stores. By the way, the number one is Victoria’s Secret followed by Amazon and Macy’s.

Here are some highlights that caught my eye. Go to Tips at RetailMeNot for the complete update.

Traffic in July

Traffic in July: 9.7 million
Year over year change: 95% (5 million July 2008)

Available Coupons

Online: 236,701 coupons for 36,127 retailers
Printable: 180,000 coupons for 72,000 stores

Online Coupon Sales in July

Sales generated: Approximately $18 million
Year over year change: 80% ($10m in July 08)

Amazon creates URL shortener for its products

Do you use Twitter a lot? Here is a neat way to link Amazon product without a need for any of the URL shortening services like tinyurl.com or bit.ly

Take the normal product URL, extract the identifier part, e.g. ISBN for books or product identifier for other items, and append it at the end of “amzn.com/”

Examples:

http://www.amazon.com/Buyology-Truth-Lies-About-Why/dp/0385523882
becomes
http://amzn.com/0385523882

and

http://www.amazon.com/LG-Network-Blu-ray-Disc-Player/dp/B001UQ6F5M
becomes
http://amzn.com/B001UQ6F5M

Also, if you use Amazon’s wishlists, you can build a short link by appending the wishlist identifier to “amzn.com/w/”. Here is for example my wishlist:

http://amzn.com/w/37ZKKD0NVPAZD

Credit goes to Eric Engleman of Tech Flash for blogging about the trick.




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