Laptops and convenience

A friend from work asked me the other day why I just don’t buy a desktop PC. After all, for a similarly priced laptop, I could get a desktop PC that’s multiple times more powerful and faster machine. I admit that I do miss the power offered by a desktop PC from time to time, specially when I’m playing PC games. However, I wouldn’t trade the convenience and portability that a laptop offers over more power and speed.

I want the option to be able to use a computer wherever and whenever I wished more than being able to play any PC game at full spec mode. If I really wanted to have an amazing gaming experience, I’ll just go out and buy a Playstation 3 or something.

As an example of how having a portable PC is handy, I’m actually at Toyota Werribee having my car serviced as I’m typing up this blog. I have like a couple of hours to kill while I wait for my car and I’m thankful I have a laptop. While sitting here waiting, I was able to listen to my own music, watched a bit of Back to the Future 2 and played a few minutes of Call of Duty 4.

And I don’t have to take my laptop outside the home to appreciate its portability. Having a laptop that connects to the network via Wi-Fi means I can have a PC experience anywhere in the house, be it in the bedroom or in the lounge room. I don’t have to be in a separate room and be stuck there if I want to use the PC. I could be using the PC in the same room as Raquel as she is watching a movie she likes.

Another advantage of a laptop is its battery. In the event of a power failure, my machine won’t just suddenly turn off. It has its own in-built UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) or back-up power.

As for games, I have a powerful enough laptop that it could still handle the newer PC games in the market today. I wouldn’t be able to play them in full-settings, sure, but the games are still pretty cool even with the settings turned down to what my laptop can handle. In exchange for a minor loss of visual quality in games, I get to play my games on the go, like on an hour’s train ride to and from work.

Now, if only Melbourne has free city-wide Wi-Fi like San Francisco. I could surf anywhere in the city then. For now, I’ll just have to settle with going to the few establishments that do offer free Wi-Fi in the city for Internet access (such as MagNation, Australia on Collins, Collins Place and State Library of Victoria).

Time to end this. The car service is done and I’m out of here.

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Published in: on June 28, 2008 at 12:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

New PC frustrations

I don’t have the time to do much blogging recently. I don’t have much time to do anything, really, ever since I got my new PC from Dell about a week ago.

I was in the market for a new PC. Something with a bigger screen, more memory, more hard disk space, a better graphics card and more power. I chose to get the new PC from Dell due to multiple factors: I get to choose the components that go into the machine; they are cheaper (if you compare a Dell machine with other brands’ similarly spec-ed machines); and I get a 3% discount from my company on top of the cheaper price. The only downside was that I have to order the machine online and wait for it to be assembled in Dell’s factory and shipped to my address.

Anyway, instead of relying on the company discount, I was lucky enough to have timed my purchase on the weekend that Dell decided to give out massive discounts. For the machine I wanted to buy, the discount was 15%! That’s certainly a lot better than 3%, right? But before committing the purchase, I gave my specification request another look to see if I forgot to add anything.

That’s when it hit me. If I add something to the machine that will make it go over $100, I get to have 25% off instead of just 15%! So, I added an external 160Gb hard disk to my request and recalculated the final price of the machine. It was so unbelievably cheap for what I was getting. I was so happy.

I expected the machine to arrive after three days max, but it didn’t. The reason? The Dell representative I talked to told me that the delay was due to an out-of-stock part of the machine. They already ordered for the missing part and once they have it, they will promptly send me the machine. Out of curiosity, I asked which part was missing. She said it was the external hard disk! Great. I had to wait several days more for my new PC in exchange for getting it cheap.

A few days later, I finally got the new PC. I was happy again. I couldn’t wait to take it home and start customising it according to my needs and desires. This meant installing a lot of apps I had installed in my old laptop. The problem was that not all of the apps I had in the old laptop that had Windows XP on it was compatible with Windows Vista Ultimate, which is the OS of my new PC. I only found out about the incompatibility of some of the applications after I had already installed them. So, installing, uninstalling and looking for a viable replacement app took way too much time.

Now, I think I have most of the things I wanted installed on my Windows Vista machine. Maybe now, I can finally continue playing my relatively-newly purchased game, Call of Duty 4. Maybe now, I can finally get to enjoy my new PC. Maybe now, I can finally rest and relax again.

Published in: on June 28, 2008 at 12:33 am  Comments (2)  

Of age and beers

We were having some friends over for dinner a fortnight ago and as part of our preparation, have decided to purchase a few bottles of beer for our guests. We headed to the local liquor shop and after browsing for some time, realised that we have no idea what to get. We both don’t drink beer and apart from purchasing cheap beer for cooking, have had no occasion to buy it at all. While seeking advice from hubby’s work colleague via a phone call, we wandered out of the bottle shop and into the supermarket next door.

We had to prepare a dish for the dinner anyway so I figured we could save some time by grabbing a few things while hubby consults with his work mate. After filling up our trolley with the items we needed, I had hubby wait in a queue and pay for the groceries. I asked him what to get for the beers and went to the adjoining shop to get them, again in the interest of saving time. Since we visited just a few minutes earlier, I knew where exactly to get the six-pack we needed. I grabbed the bottles and went straight to the register where there were a couple of men already waiting to be served.

I debated with myself on whether to pay for cash or credit and had my wallet open while waiting for my turn. My purchase amounted to less than $20 and I don’t want to wait around to have my credit card swiped into the reader, wait for the transaction to be approved, sign the slip and having the cashier compare my signature with that on the card. Cash it is.

When my turn came, I placed the box of beer on the counter and had the cash on hand ready for a grab-and-go transaction. The frazzled lady took one look at me and then at the beer and said, “May I see some identification please?” I nearly laughed out loud but instead mumbled, “Sure” and showed her my driver’s license. She took one look and accepted the money I was handing her.

Hubby was waiting for me just outside the liquor shop with the trolley loaded up with our groceries so I hurried out and told him about the incident. He laughed and asked if the woman had a double look at my ID. I said no and told him to keep his voice down.

The legal age of drinking in Australia is 18. I admit I didn’t have the best clothes on when I bought the six-pack and my hair wasn’t styled at all so it was just plastered against my face. I must have looked like a student to her buying some drinks for herself and some mates on a Saturday evening after some grueling study session. Who knows?

Just days before the incident, I was asking hubby whatever happened to the years as I contemplated life as I approach middle age. I find it heartening that although I may feel world weary at times, some people could still mistake me for someone (almost) half my age. That lady sure made my day.

Published in: on June 26, 2008 at 1:04 pm  Comments (2)  

Random photos

Since selling my compact digital camera several months ago, I’ve been relying on my trusty Sony Ericsson k800i to capture everyday snaps that usually end up as blog posts here. However, most of them never get downloaded (I’m lazy that way) or are forgotten altogether. I’ve just gone through my phone’s memory card and here’s the current batch just sitting there to be blogged about. What I didn’t realise is that a lot of them are about food. What can I say, we do love to eat!

We’re trying to change our diet and introduce more vegetables and cut back on meat. This stir-fry is one of the first experiments in our kitchen and although I like the way the mix of colours go together, it was just so-so in the taste department. I’ve forgotten which recipe this was and it didn’t feature in our dining table again.

My previous blog post was about the incredible canned chorizo from Purefoods. A couple of friends have pointed out since that the canned sausage shouldn’t be eaten on its own and would probably go well with other ingredients in a pancit (noodles) or fried rice recipe. Be that as it may, I still don’t think I’d go for the sausage packed in lard. We’ve discovered this fresh Continental chorizo from the chilled food section of the local grocery and we’ve already used it for a stew and Jambalaya. Delicious, albeit still a bit fatty! Colours in the photo are a bit off but can’t be bothered to edit.

Hubby bought several packs of Graham crackers about a month ago, intending to eat it with ice cream but never got around to it. It reminded me of cheesecakes made by aunts and my mom while I was young so I thought of making one. This is my first attempt at it. I’d like to make a healthier version of the traditional cheesecake so I opted to use yogurt instead of cream cheese. I was also intending to serve it to guests but I wasn’t impressed by it when I tasted a slice so the guests never even found out that we have this in the fridge. A couple of days passed and we were having this regularly for a snack. I guess you can say that it has aged well! The original recipe didn’t have an accompanying photo and a submitted this photo. I believe a photo helps in making other cooks try a recipe, don’t you?

Bananas here are affordable again (after prices went through the roof after a terrible storm) and we always get some when we do our grocery shopping. Trouble is, we always forget about them and we end up with spotty, overriped bananas. I have enjoyed adding them to soy milk to make smoothies (200 ml soy milk plus one banana blended together makes a great smoothie) but I was ready for something new. I also had some french vanilla yogurt left over from making the cheesecake and so searched for both ingredients in Allrecipes.com to see what I could make out of these two ingredients. I found a highly rated muffin recipe and tried it. It was fantastic! I’ve now made this twice in two weeks and here’s the latest batch! Yum…

While baking those muffins last weekend, I noticed that my lone muffin pan is starting to show signs of rust. Thus, I took advantage of Myer’s current stocktake sale and went out to get these. We wanted a silicone pan this time and these pink ones were the cheapest. I don’t care for the colour much but it won’t affect the muffins and hubby and I are the only ones who’ll get to see them in use anyway. I also got some custard cups for another kitchen experiment I am planning to do soon. Hmmm… if you tell my parents I’ve been out shopping for kitchenware and been busily searching for recipes and trying them, I’m quite sure they won’t believe you. I’m not sure I believe it either! Ah, let’s just say it’s a lesson in self-sufficiency.

Now that winter is here, my hands and feet are perpetually cold. Doesn’t matter if I swath them in layers of clothing or socks, it takes awhile for them to heat up and quickly gets cold again. Hubby’s arms and feet are warm enough so I usually press my hands or feet against his to quickly get them warm again. Trouble is, he complains about it saying my hands or feet are too cold. His solution was to get me this wheat pack which is basically just a bag of wheat which can be heated up in the microwave and retains its warmth for about 30 minutes. Now we could both be happily warm and cosy. The downside to this is that the bag naturally smells of wheat when heated up and makes me think of oatmeal and how much of a waste it is that the wheat inside my heat pack isn’t filling up someone else’s belly. On the other hand, hubby reminds me of the water and energy we are saving since we aren’t using a water bag instead.

Then there was the time when I’ve signed us up for publisher Simon & Schuster’s mailing list about a fortnight ago and as a thank-you gift, we each get a free book. We don’t exactly get a choice as to what specific book we would receive but we got to choose the category of book we would be receiving. I chose Mystery and Thriller and got A Thousand Bones by P.J. Parrish while hubby got Sacred Bones by Michael Brynes for choosing Action and Adventure. I’m not sure if they give out the same books to everyone who chose the same category or if it’s totally random. However, I’m quite happy with the book I got and hubby said that the subject of his book is something he’s interested although not quite sure about its plot. We both intend to read the book we got, the only thing is finding the time to do so.

Lastly, this is the latest photo in my mobile phone – our dinner tonight! We had Zucchini Corn Fritters, which goes well with Ranch Sauce. I’ve made this several times now and although it doesn’t look too pretty, it’s a favourite in our house.

See what I mean when I say that the bulk of my photos are of food?

Published in: on June 11, 2008 at 11:41 pm  Comments (3)  

Canned food, anyone?

With a few exceptions, I buy very little canned food since my parents taught me growing up that anything out of a can would most probably have a high sodium content and nothing could really compare with a good, home-cooked meal. Hubby, on the other hand, has no such qualms about getting canned goods. In fact, he’d get canned food that he’d like to “try” when we are out grocery shopping.

Unfortunately for him, he’s usually disappointed with the quality and taste. His recent purchase from the local Filipino shop is no exception. Purefoods’ Chorizo Bilbao style sausage was packed in lard and it immediately turned hubby off that he wanted to throw it out right after he lifted the lid off the can.

Not one to want to waste food, I encouraged him to at least try it but he simply refused. I microwaved one sausage in the hopes that he’d change his mind. This was how it looked like after it got nuked. It looked quite normal after I heated it but hubby won’t have none of it. Curious, I took one bite, chewed a couple of times and got the whole thing out of my mouth. It was very salty (like the whole thing was made of solidified salt) and tasted nothing like a sausage. Fail.

Published in: on June 7, 2008 at 5:19 pm  Comments (5)  

Duty calls

It’s time for EB Games’ annual mid-year stock-take clearance sale. I went there during my lunch break hoping to get lucky and find Call of Duty 4 on sale. I’ve been wanting that game since it came out but I just found it too expensive. I even contemplated on buying it off Valve’s Steam service which sells it for how much it sells in the US. With the Australian dollar exchanging to almost one-is-to-one against the American dollar, I’d be a fool not to buy it off Steam. However, the publishers of Call of Duty 4 caught on and increased the game’s price on Steam if you are from Australia! The short of it is that it is no longer cost-effective to buy the game off Steam. I’ll just have to wait for the price of the game to drop, is all.

Anyway, when I got to EB, I quickly saw at the entrance that Stalker was at half-price. It was about $50 bucks to begin with and at half-price, that comes down to about $25! I held on to that, just in case that was the last one.

When I got to the PC section, I also saw that Bioshock was on sale. But I’ve decided a while back that I’m going to get that from Steam. It’s almost just as cheap but with the added bonus that I can install Bioshock on any machine I want with Steam. Bioshock bought at a retail shop will only install on two PCs and then no more, as far as I know. I skipped Bioshock and saw Gears of War for the PC. It’s originally selling for $80 but has a “$30 Off” tag so that brings it down to about $50. Woohoo! I held on to a copy of that, too.

And then I saw it. What I was after. Lots of boxes of Call of Duty 4. Originally selling for $99 but now has a “$20 Off” tag on it. I quickly grabbed that game, too. I then had three games in my hands. I couldn’t justify getting all three so I put down Stalker as I was least likely to play that if I had COD4 or GOW.

I actually thought about getting both games but I know that I won’t be able to play both right now. In the end, I just bought COD4 as I’m more excited about that game than GOW anyway.

I was very excited to try the game out at long last. The problem was that when I got home, I realised that I needed 8Gb free space on my hard disk just to install the game. And I only had 3Gb space left. Doh! I had to write some of the files on my hard disk on to a DVD just to free up more space for the game. I wish I had gotten a laptop that had a bigger hard disk. That’s something to keep in mind for my next PC purchase.

In the end, I got the game installed and played the first two chapters of COD4. It was awesome! It’s like watching and being a part of a big blockbuster movie about the military. The first chapter in the ship was amazing and exhilarating. I don’t want to give anything away but if you don’t mind First-person shooters, then I really recommend you get this game. Well worth the cash I laid out for it.

Published in: on June 4, 2008 at 12:46 am  Comments (2)  

The Mist

It’s the first night of winter. The heaters were turned on to combat the freezing cold. Suddenly, all the heaters went dead. Our heaters share a circuit breaker with the laundry clothes dryer, too. We probably have one too many high wattage appliance turned on. To get the heaters powered up again, that meant stepping outside to switch the circuit breaker back on.

I’ve come to discover that most houses here in Oz have the fuse box outside. I sort of expected it to be inside a cupboard or in the basement. But, no. Here, they have it outside. It’s stupid, not to mention very scary, if you think about it.

Anyway, I had to step out of the house to go to the dark corner where the fuse box is just so I can switch a circuit breaker. When I opened the door, I stared out into the night. The street was covered with dense fog and it was dead quiet. It’s a scene straight out of a Stephen King novel or story, more specifically: The Mist. Or even a horror game like Silent Hill. It didn’t help any that it was freezing outside. It only added to the chill I was already feeling.

I had no choice but to brave it out. We have to have our heaters back on. I walked as fast as I could toward the fuse box without running, to avoid causing a wind chill. I switched it back on and hurried back into the house where it was warm. And safe.

In hindsight, I probably should’ve just gotten myself a coat before stepping out. Wearing only a T-shirt and long shorts wasn’t at all appropriate clothing for a cold winter foggy night outdoors. Still, it was cool (no pun intended) to see the misty neighbourhood streets. It was awesome. Raquel even took some photos to give you an idea of what it all looked like.

Published in: on June 1, 2008 at 11:31 am  Comments (4)  

Palabok public again

After a little bit of cleanup, I’ve now made the website public again. I wonder if any of the old readers who can’t log on still drop by.

I might also change the look-and-feel of the website in the near future. Raquel has gotten tired of its current look. I’ve already selected a WordPress theme to customise. It will take time though.

Published in: on June 1, 2008 at 12:47 am  Leave a Comment