On the Road Again (How to Remove Your Tires)

I finally got to take Vanessa out of a spin (my car’s name is Vanessa, remember?). We had a fabulous time cruising Utah County and blasting our favorite tunes (I’m only a little crazy). I really wish there were more places where I could drop the pedal and let loose. This car is built for speed and I really don’t get to take advantage of that. Sometimes I think maybe it’s time to get a new hobby… but then I go for a ride and fall in love again.

So yesterday I swung by work to help Jim swap his tires (the pictures below are his car, not mine). He’s got a set of Forgeline rims in the back and the leak. Not the tires- the rims. These particular rims are a three piece forged set and the leak is occurring where the pieces are bolted together. Yes sir, with this kind of performance even your rims need maintenance.

Anyway, I helped Jim swap his wheels off. Wheel swapping is pretty easy on most cars. Vettes with tires that are 12.5″ across and that weigh about 40 lbs are a little trickier. Just a quick set of instructions to help all you people who want to change their Vette tires (or any tires).

Items I recommend:
1. Car Jack (low profile)
2. Jack Pads
3. Torque wrench
4. Wrench extender (pictured in kit above- you may need this is your rims have deep lips).
5.  Wrench bit that fits your lugs (size will vary based on what wheel you have on your car).
5. Locking lug key (if applicable- sometimes nice wheels come with a special lug to deter theft).

Steps to remove / change tires:
1. Put your parking break on.
2. Underneath the car about to feet from the rear ties there is an oval hole. You can put your jack pad there or jack directly from this spot.
3. Carefully position your Jack and pump it up until it’s firmly in place, but don’t lift your car of the ground yet.
4. Loosen your lugs. Here’s a great article on wheel lug torquing, including how to loosen and tighten your lugs.
5. Jack the car up until the tire is off the ground. You can use a car jack stand if you can any concerns that your car might fall.
6. Finish loosening the lugs and remove them.
7. Firmly grip the tire and pull it off the vehicle (and remember, you can roll a tire- you don’t have to lift it to put it somewhere).
8. Give you rotor and brake calipers a little cleaning if you want
9. Lift on the new tire, light up the holes with the lug bolts, and refer to the torquing guide above again.
10. Remove you jack lift (if applicable), lower your car and repeat on the other side.
Remember: after you drive you car 50-100 miles you should tighten the lugs again!

Just in case you’re curious about why you’d be removing or changing tires, here a few good reasons:
1. You’ve got one set of street tires and one set of track tires and you need to switch them.
2. You’ve got a flat and you’re putting on a spare
3. Wheel maintenance (tire, rim, TPMS, etc).
4. Assembly maintenance (breaks, calipers, rotor, etc)
5. Left / Right tire rotation
6. Because you’ve got a sick idea of fun.

Anyway, now that the weather is a littler better (could we do something about these roads? They are awful!), batteries are charged and wheels are swapped maybe you’ll see us on the road again.

Posted Jan 30, 2011 by Cam Hughes

A Bird in the Hand

There are so many things I want to do. Sometimes I lie awake in bed and I can’t shut off my mind. I drive myself crazy because I’m terrified to miss anything that I perceive as an opportunity. I look at the world and see dollar signs on everything. What you say is weighed by how marketable or profitable it could be. Everything is a potential business idea. I need a break from it. I need to take a step back from the world of business because I simply can’t do it all. And because I already have a bird in the hand.

Anyone who knows me is familiar with my company (or companies). I sell knives, self defense products, survival & outdoor gear, emergency preparedness items, watches, even dehydrated food. But all of that is the very tip of the iceberg, ladies and gentlemen. There is so much more we could sell. And so many nights I simply stay up, obsessing over new products, combing the “www” for information. Sometimes I just wish time would stop so I could find everything, learn everything, know everything. But that’s obviously not going to happen. I have to pick my battles.

And so, I present to you some of my findings. Something that I would pursue if I had the time and didn’t have projects that interested me even more. The research I’ve compiled here isn’t complete and obviously there are certain proprietary things that I won’t share, but I think if what I outlined below was initiated (competently) the result would be a viable side business. The methodology for approaching this project is 1) find s product I’m interested in 2) determine market interest 3) review competition 4) find available Internet real estate 5) determine barriers to entry 6) totally up to you.

The product of interest: Laser Pointers

The first step is to do some basic research. I love Wikepedia’s general information. In the case of laser pointers it outlines the various types, uses and even provides some regulatory info. Good stuff. Wikipedia Laser Pointer Article.

The next step is to determine is there’s any market interest. I think Google is a great resource for this (get ready for a life changing tool). Google will actually tell you how many people are searching for a specific thing or things (using keywords). For example, in Google’s keyword tool I have typed in “laser pointer” and a few different variants of pointers I learned about from the Wiki article. Next (on the left of the screen) I checked the “[exact]” box to see how many people typed the exact keywords I have entered. I can instantly gauge the demand for a laser pointer. Roughly 12,000 people search for one each month. I can also see that people type the singular “laser pointer” far more often than the plural “laser pointers.” And people are big into green laser pointers with over 6,000 people Googling them each month. Google also shows you other keyword or keyword strings with high search volumes. More good stuff.

Now we check out the competition. If we google “laser pointer” or “laser pointers” the first website we come to is www.wickedlasers.com. They have a pretty nice looking store and it only take s a few seconds of browsing to see that they take lasers seriously and (more importantly) have built a nice little business around this product. You can generally guesstimate a company’s success by visiting their “about” page, by checking their Facebook account (WickedLasers has over 11,000 fans!) and doing a Google search for the company’s domain name to see how many search results are returned (77,000 in this case). Seems pretty healthy!

You can also buy laser pointers at places like Amazon, ThinkGeek, RadioShack, Dragonlasers, etc. Well cool, looks like there are some laser pointer stores out there. Why not be part of the action. [As as aside, digging deeper will show you that WickedLasers is Japan based and they actually do some B2B].

Now in order to make your Internet business a reality you’ll need a domain where your website resides. There are two schools of thought on this. 1) You can find a domain and create a brand around it (i.e. WickedLasers) or 2) you can buy up exact match domains (i.e. domains names that are keywords people are typing into search engines such as Google) and try to dominate search engine results. Either will be tough- there are no short cuts to the top.

There are plenty of brand-able laser domains you can pick up from places like GoDaddy for $11.99 a year. Things like AwesomeLasers.com or LaserPointerDeals.com are readily available. But to be clear- these domains are not keywords. People won’t find your website unless you’ve done a good job marketing or advertising.

My personal choice (this time) would be to pick up some more expensive exact match domains and build out information websites that drive traffic to my actual website (maybe something brand-able, maybe an exact match domain, no idea at this point). Looking at my Google keyword search list I can see what people are looking for. So, I head over to one of my favorite places to search for domains. I type in my keyword string, “laserpointer.” Look at that- there are actually two exact match domains for sale! [As another aside- you’ll have to figure out where to go to buy the domains on your own, but it should be pretty simple].

A trip to another place for domains and I find this:

At this point I’m only really missing one color. So I head over to RedLaserPointer.com. And:

If I was pursuing this dream of owning an online laser pointer company (and assuming I had determined the barriers to entry were not insurmountable) I would actually go ahead and make an offer on RedLaserPointer.com. Based on the traffic and sale prices of the other domains I’d offer between $800-$1000. Anyone reasonable would accept it. After getting it I’d buy up the other domains and I’d have a sweet little laser pointer domain portfolio. If red laser guy didn’t want to sell, not a big deal. It would have been a minimal part of my traffic.

At this point I’d be fantasizing about how well my info sites would do. First or second in the search engine results for exact matches. I could reasonably expect about a third of the people searching to click through to my websites if I have the first or second spot (and I’ve got a good chance with my exact match domain and my amazing little content sites that I’ve set up with relevant and unique content). If I’ve got all four sites running I can expect about 3000 visitors each month and targeted traffic is money). Yeah, okay- I got ahead of myself a bit.

The Barriers to entry are an important consideration. They should have probably been carefully assessed prior to making any investments. However, I have not given them too much consideration at this point so I added them here at the end. Here’s what you’re dealing with:
1) Product availability. Can you get the product? Can you sell it for a profit?
2) Competition. How established is your competition? How extensive is their product line? What are you up against?
3) Website. Obviously you’re going to need a place to sell them and websites aren’t free. There are some great websites like WickedLasers, but you’ve also got websites like LaserPointersForSale.com.

If you had this website (or were going to make one like it) I would actually consider it to be a barrier to entry (and by the way, I might think hard about making an offer on this website. It has a lot of exact match searches and the person who built it can’t be too invested in it). You’re going to need a good website to sell your product so determine your ability to provide your customers with a good shopping experience (and consider things like order fulfillment at this time a well).
4) Regulatory issues. Some lasers can’t be imported and other have restrictions on sales. Some states have laws that cover the use of lasers.
5) I’m sure there are plenty more barriers to entry, but that’s about where I gave up. I simply ran out of time to answer these questions and map out a coherent business strategy for this particular product.

Laser pointers are cool. There’s a demand. There are some great domains out there. But I’m not going to do it. And I’m actually scarred not to do it. I feel like I’m missing out. But in an effort to face my fear I’m walking away from this one and leaving it for you, the reader. As I said before, I’ve got a bird in the hand. That’s not going to stop me from going after a few birds in the bush, but the ones I have my eyes on right aren’t laser pointers. Iceberg.

Posted January 26, 2011

Now entering 2011

2011 has started out with a bang! I just got back from the 2011 SHOT show in Las Vegas (I covered it on our company blog, knifeblog.com). The show is always a blast (yeah “bang” and “blast” are bad pun references to the “SHOT” show, so sue me). We get to meet with vendors, see new 2011 products and feel out the new trends. It’s exhausting though- the show has nearly 30,000 booths and that means a lot of walking. At about 4 pm each day we’d go back to the hotel, flop into the bed and fall asleep. I got a cold on the second day so I was more tired than usual (I’m still trying to fight it off, but it’s the first time I’ve been sick in almost eight months!).

Being exhausted didn’t stop us from having fun though. Each night we took in the Vegas stores, sites and atmosphere. We went to see Penn & Teller too (at the Rio). The acts are humorous, thoughtful and well done. Sometimes it seemed like things were dragging and there were a couple of slips, but overall it’s something I’d recommend to someone looking for Vegas magic production.

Anyway, here are a few reflections, thoughts, resolutions, etc. 2010 seems like a blur, a memory that’s already fading into the background. 2011 is whipping past me at unprecdetended speed. Should I slow down? Do I want to?

My family is growing and evolving. Little people I helped create years ago are now reading, writing, drawing, playing video games, having adventures and surprising me each day. We’re still debating about whether to add another family member or not, but I’m pretty sure a sixth isn’t too far off. Good thing we’ve got a mini van.

Likewise our companies are growing and changing. I never would have dreamed we’d be where we are today. 2011 has started off strong and we’re building infrastructure to accommodate what we think will be a phenomenal year. We have some great things in store, but I’ll discuss that on camoncommere.com in the coming months.

My one and only resolution this year is to focus on my health. That means less work, more exercise and better nutrition. It’s my only resolution and I think I should be able to handle it. The SHOT show was a great starting point, since I had to walk until my legs and feet begged for mercy. My goal: lose 60 pounds of fat and run a 7 minute mile. I think getting my body in shape will spill over into other areas of my life too and help me find some of the balance that I’ve been missing.

A toast to 2011. May it be a year filled with adventure, growth and with things that make life worth living.

Sledding on Jan 1, 2011

Battery Blues

I miss the good old days when cars were simple. If your battery was dead then you car didn’t start. That was it. But now… oh man.

Dead Battery

The weather was actually pretty good a couple of days ago. A lot of the snow had melted and the roads, for the most part, were dry and free of debris. I thought I’d take my car for a quick spin so I headed over to work to pick it up.  I recently got the Tron soundtrack and thought it would be fun to listen to it on my car stereo. It probably would have been…

My first clue that there was going to be a problem was when the door didn’t want to open. I waved my key at the car and said a few encouraging things and the door finally unlocked. The interior lights seemed fine so I pushed the ignition switch. The car began to have convulsions. It made several loud clicks (the starter unsuccessfully trying to turn the engine over), the stereo blared to life accented by crackling, the interior lights began to dance, both windows rolled down about an inch and the left headlight started to flicker. I turned the car off. But you know cars these days. When you turn them off they don’t actually go off. The left headlight kept sputtering and the lights on the dash flickered uncontrollably.

I might have been able to do something about, but that that moment a voice said, “Sir, can you please step outside?” I hopped out of my car, and shut the door, hoping that would let the car know we were done. I turned around and was greeted a police officer. “What are you doing?” he asked.  I suppose I looked a little suspicious…standing there with the bay door open… apparently hot wiring a corvette… .at 1:00am.  I managed to soothe the policeman and returned to the task at hand.

The door was giving me trouble again. Back to square one. I went to pull  my key out  to show the car that everything was okay. No keys. I looked around for a bit and then it hit me. I pressed my face against the car’s window. Beneath the dim interior light I cold see the key nestled safely in the cup holder. Deja Vu.

I tried to stay calm. I explained the problem to the car and tried to the door again. To my disbelief it opened. I grabbed the key, popped the hood and got to work. The car clearly needed a charge. After I got things hooked up I wandered around work for a few minutes trying to decide if I’d go home or wait for the car to charge (Tron’s music was still beckoning and, after my ordeal, I would have enjoyed a drive). That’s when I noticed a charger that Jim had brought to work for his car (which, ironically, was also sitting dead in our shop).  “This has a jump start feature!” I noticed excitedly.

I switched the battery chargers out and set Jim’s charger to the jump mode. I gave a the car a few minutes and then climbed back inside to try again. No blinking dashboard lights- good.  I pushed the ignition button again. The car briefly turned over and then reverted back to clicking mode. The lights flickered and then the left headlight went out completely. I turned the car off and the right headlight began to strobe and the left window dropped halfway down. My radar detector turned on and the “low voltage” warning light blinked at me. Nice.

That was enough of that. I put my old charger back on, set it to trickle charge and went home. The next morning I went back to see how things had gone. I unhooked the charger. No problem getting into the car. I fired it up. It turned over perfectly and everything seemed in order. I revved the car a few times. Awesome. All the stereo presets were even intact. I’d brought her back from the edge of life!

And I would have gone for a drive that night except mother nature decided I was clearly in need of a break from my car. It snowed about three inches in the late evening. And that’s my story. I guess you could say I got the battery blues. Yeah I got the “my car won’t start, ’cause the battery is dead” blues.

Posted by Cam Hughes, January 9th, 2010

Portable Gaming Evolution

I suppose I’ll start out by saying that I really like my iPhone 4. It does nearly everything. It’s a phone. It’s data organizer. It’s a web browser. It’s a media center (music & movie). And it’s a gaming machine.

I’ve picked up a few titles here and there and really like them. Things like Angry Birds, Field Runners, Scrabble, Ragdoll Blasters and such. Most accommodate the touch screen interface nicely but the action is pretty light. A few months ago I noticed Street Fighter IV in the App Store. I imagined trying to play on the touch screen and cringed. It wasn’t until the game went on sale a week or so ago that I finally bought it (I was a Street Fighter junkie when I was a kid). I turned on the game expecting to be mildly entertained for a few minute. I was wrong.

Street Fighter IV has turned my iPhone 4 into a mini arcade. For lack of a better word the controls “feel” great. I’ve played other games where the “joystick” just didn’t feel right and the touch response was unmanageable. But Capcom got this one right. It’s not perfect, but control is very good and the game is a blast to play. I’m sure by this point I’ve logged a few hours. I can recommend this title to anyone (it also works very well on the older iPhones).

Around the same time I noticed a new app by Hudson. A TurboGrafx-16 emulator. I was floored. I got it right away and literally downloaded a fortune of nostalgia (you buy each game separately but they are contained within the app). I played Bonk’s Adevnture and Bomberman ’94 for awhile and found the emulator to be very enjoyable. The controls don’t “feel” quite as good as they do in Street Fighter IV (I especially found shooters to be hard to control) but again, the touch screen buttons are really pretty good.  I love having one device (iPhone) where I can just switch between games like these.

Anyway, this TG-16 emulator brought back so many good memories from my child hood that I wanted to blog about a few. I’ve always loved portable games. My Dad got me the first one I can remember. It was a mini Ms. Pac-Man game made by Coleco (this was in the early 1980’s). A few years later I discovered LCD games from Tiger and Nintendo (I still have some of these). I remember how amazing they seemed, but I bet you couldn’t get a kid today to play one for five mins (maybe I’ll give it a shot). At first everything was one dedicated game. And then…in the late 1980’s…

…you could buy portable video game systems that took cartridges! I don’t know how many existed (you can actually read a neat little portable video game history here) but I had a Nintendo Gameboy, an Atari Lynx, a Sega Game Gear and (my favorite) an NEC  Turbo Express (a hand held version of the TurboGrafx-16).  While I enjoyed playing the games I was almost as interested in the technology that powered them. I spent hours pouring over specifications, hand counting pixels and designing my own “perfect” machine (I used to make my own little magazines with game reviews and system comparisons). I fantasized about a device that would play all the games.

Just for kicks here are the resolution specifications of the early portable gaming systems: Gameboy resolution (monochrome): 160×144 pixels, 2.6″ diagonal | Lynx Resolution (color): 160 x 102, 3.5″ diagonal | Game Gear Resolution (color): 160 x 144, 3.2″ diagonal | Turbo Express Resolution (color): 400 x 270, 2.6″ diagonal. I remember being obsessed by the Turbo Express unit’s pixel density (go ahead, have a crack at it).  Compare this to the iPhones now:  iPhone4 (960 x 640, 3.5 ” diagonal) | iPhone3 (480 x 272, 4.3″ diagonal).

Many of these systems endured through the early and mid 90’s. Meanwhile PC gaming was becoming bigger, PCs were getting smaller (PDAs). Phones were getting more powerful too.

In the late 90’s and early 2000 a slew of cool new devices were released. The Compaq Ipaq (resolution 320 x 240, 3.8″),  HP Jornada (same resolution, smaller screen) and Motorola Razor (resolution 220 x 176, 2.2″) stand out in my memory. At that point no one had successfully combined a phone and a PDA into a single device. I remember having an iPaq and all I did was use it to take notes and play games. The touch screens back them were nothing like what we have now. In fact most PDAs supported only a single touch at one time. No virtual joysticks or buttons (well, none that worked). Portable PDA gaming had a long way to go.

As did Phone gaming. My Razor had Chessmaster and a Fast and Furious game (really bad, by the way). I could make calls, play simple games and kind of organize things. But a gaming “experience” on a phone or PDA was going to have to wait.

There was also Sony’s 2005 PSP entry. I picked one of these up with high hopes. It was a great system with some super games (Megaman X and the Street Fighter series).  The PSP allowed you to play games, watch movies, listed to music and surf the web. The 4.3″ screen (resolution: 480 x 272) was the defining characteristic of the front. However the unit was too large to be practically carried everywhere and was not a phone.

Around the same time companies began releasing PDA phone combos. There were some exiting models with a bit of  gaming promise. I was an avid fan of Sprint’s HTC line (check out my post about some of the Spring phones I’ve owned). But they just didn’t have the power to pull off any “real” games.

And then in 2007 Apple released the iPhone. At first it was much like the other PDA phone combos. But I watched and waited. Eventually the iPhone games became pretty exciting. Explosive graphics, sound and the needed computing power to pull it off. No buttons though- that worried me. Well, here we are. 2011. I’m playing Street Fighter IV and the old TurboGrafx-16 games on my iPhone 4 with virtual buttons (yeah for multi-touch!).  While a touch screen can’t quite compare to the feedback of a real controller I’m pretty thrilled for the time being.  I wonder what the future will hold…

All I really wanted to say was that I’m impressed by the evolution of portable gaming. I enjoy downloading applications (as opposed to having cartridges). I love the power that comes in a package as small as the iPhone. I’m floored by the screen resolutions that we have now (PS- I hope there is a Street Fighter IV update that takes advantage of the iPhone 4’s incredible retina display). I’m amazed at how much one device can do and how seamlessly it can be accomplished. The future’s going to be cool. I’m going in.

Posted January 3rd, 2011 by Cam Hughes.