Monthly Archives: October 2008

Rants – Why can’t I buy a sweet looking $500 PC

The world is filled with mediocre computers that cost $500 or less. Some look better than others. What I want, indeed, what would set the world on fire is a $500 computer that looks great and can play games. Considering the onset of digital TV in February of 2009 will create the need to encode and decode HDTV streams, a computer with decent graphics is more useful than ever. You have to think about the total package when you buy a computer: who want's to end up with an expense e-mail machine?

To me, the perfect candidates for an inexpensive, good looking, productive, and high gaming perfomance computer are be the Apple Mac Mini and Xbox 360. The Mac Mini looks great and was a decent gaming machine by 2005 standards. The current version, hover, creates negative pressure around spheres. Perhaps Apple could upgrade the Mac Mini with some decent graphics, but on the subject of $500 computers, the CEO of Apple recently had this to say: "We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk; our DNA will not let us do that." Interestingly, the original Mac Min cost $499, making it, in Steve Jobs's words, junk. Maybe they've had gene therapy since then.

The Xbox 360 is another decent looking computer but it has the opposite problem. It is a great graphics platform that can't be used for anything productive. It has the cability to do other things. Behind the svelte case is a triple core PowerPC processor, 512mb (i.e. barely enough) RAM, and up to a 120GB hard drive. Yet Microsoft, because it also creates negative pressure around spheres, has locked down the Xbox 360 and limited its use to games. I do note that the PS3 plays games as well as the Xbox 360 and Sony generously lets us peoples load up other operating systems. Too bad the PS3 only has 256mb (i.e. not enough) RAM for productivity applications.

There are some able contenders for a svelte $500 dream machines. The cheap looking Acer X1200 and X3200 cost less than $500 and have decent integrated graphics that can be upgraded using fancy hybrid SLI technology. The HP Pavilion Slimline looks better than most computers, can also be upgraded with decent graphics, and some deals are available. An upstart Linux machine claims to be the next big thing in gaming, and it may eventually cost less than $500. The Asus Essentio is the most jaw droppingly good computer I've ever seen. I think it looks ever better than the Mac Mini, and if it ever offers decent specs for less than $500, it'd be a game changer. Although all of these contenders run Windows, an arguably crappy operating system, they can also run linux. Some games run native on Linux and other will, with a little help. As noted in the comments, a great small computer can be built from scratch for even better performance for the cost.

But maybe with the recent price drop of the Xbox 360, it may make more sense to buy two computers: a $200 Xbox 360 arcade for playing games and something like a $300 KPC for productivity. $500 gets you two pretty good looking little computers, and for a bonus, a the productivity computer  can stream audio, photos, and video to the Xbox 360. Movies are best watched on the couch, y'all.

But don't take my advice. I've decided to buy (with my wife's blessing) one of them new fangled MacBooks. They cost way more than $500. Good thing I've been frugal.

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Happy Halloween!

I will use any excuse for gratuitous toddler and baby photos! Little man picked out his own costume. Giganto baby is wearing his old costume. I hope she grows up liking trains 😉

Taking them tricking-or-treating makes the entire parenting experience worth it.

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Untimely Reviews – “Once”

Despite my love of Halo 3 and general affinity for two star movies, I more often enjoy small movies about human interaction. "Once" is one of the best of these movies. It is about the love(not) between two people from different worlds but one passion: music. Unlike a romantic comedy, this movie can be relished by those for whom love is on the outs: because sometimes it is better to be single and available.

No spoilers here, not that they would be worth it. Compared to most movies this film is almost shot in real time. This goes to show that in most movies the plot is given too much emphasis over nuances. If you like nuances, seeing into the lives of characters, "Once" is like a rare jewel in a pile of less rare jewels.

"Once" is partly (or mostly) elevated above the dross partly because the music is actually fantastic. One scene in particular is striking because we can completely understand why a skeptical sound engineer would be surprisingly impressed by the music. We can't just pretend a song works because the movie says it works. It has to work outside of the story. One of the greatest movie songs is "Constant Sorrow" from the movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou". A central part of the storyline involves the sensational popularity of the old-timey song. The song works in the story, of course. But if the song had been the normal movie made trash, the sub-story would be stupid and the entire movie would be mediocre. But the song is awesome, and the movie is great. The same is true of the music in "Once."

Original Soundtrack

"Once" will give you the good feeling of seeing a film that leaves me intellectually stimulated and emotionally satisfied. Can I stress the greatness of this movie enough? Lets find out: "Once" should be shown in every film class, "Once" should be on everyone's list of great movies of all time, "Once" should be seen and loved by everyone who says they love music, "Once" should have won more Oscars.

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Personal Stories – my big fat body

Apparently, a lack of physical activity over a lengthy period has deleterious effects on the body. My once fit 155lb half-marathon running body has morphed into an out-of-shape big bellied shape you might have seen in my photos. At least I have a built in baby seat. Tired of panting after walking up a flight of stairs, I have begun the journey of a thousand miles . . . on a recumbent exercise bike.

Always frugal, I dropped my gym membership last year and bought an exercise bike. We have reaped the savings in terms of money, but not cardiovascular fitness. Somehow the bike was covered in clutter and I was busy with other things, some important and others not so much. Well, the bike will languish no more.

I set it up again last week. The inherent flaw of this bike (a NordicTrack EasyRider 400) is its ginormous TV blocking display. Although a Consumer Reports best buy, this one flaw nearly ruins the entire purpose of the bike: combining excerise with TV. Who can stand sitting in their basement looking at a cheap blue LCD display for 45 minutes? A TV needs to be about 5 feet off the ground to clear the top of the display, but then neck straining comes into play.

Even if I were able to suitably mount my TV over the bike's display, what would I watch? Our main TV has a DVR attached, but the basement just has dumb old cable. I'm definitely not going to tailor my work-out schedule around TV showings. Plus, who get's excited about working out to commercials? Never one to put finesse over need, I strapped a laptop to my recumbant bike and started watching TV on the internet.

Success. In one week I have worked out every day for 30-45 minutes and managed to watch all of the new episodes of "The Office" and the outstanding "Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog". In the future I hope to reduce my resting hear rate, increase my endurance, and watch all of season 1 and 2 of "Lost". Sure, checking my heart rate is a pain, but no pain no gain, right?

Huzaa to strapping notebook computers to exercise bikes!

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Personal Stories – A Day in the Life

2 years ago, I took a set of grainy pictures on my smart phone to document my day. This time my waist is 4 inches bigger, I have a sweet blackberry which can take better pictures, I drive a half hour to my new job as in-house counsel, and I spend less time working at night. Yet, as you can see, my typical day hasn't changed much.

My dear wife is actually sitting about 8 feet away writing her own blog or checking e-mail or something like that. We chat whilst we enjoy our own media. The day ends with my wife and I sharing a Daily Show together. This was the most hilarious clip from the show.

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