Thursday, June 17, 2010

Computer upgrade, just not as I planned...

At work, there was talk of our personal computer hardware. I said I was planning on upgrading mine. I just did so, but not in the way I intended - though I still plan on doing that later.

There has also been talk of using a second computer for side tasks, like email or minor web browsing, to take those tasks off the main computer. Not just a seperate monitor, but a separate PC. I decided to follow up on that idea, and started at, where they sell cheap refurb systems, like an HP P4 3.2GHz for $99. That would work fine for web browsing. But after upgrading the memory from 256MB to 2GB and the HD from 20GB to 200GB, it would cost closer to $250.

So I decided to look at the Dell Outlet. Sorting by price quickly showed a computer at $289 for an Athlon Dual Core processor with 4GB RAM and a 250GB hard drive. I did some comparisons between models, decided I liked the cost/performance Inspiron Desktop 570, and filtered to them to try to find the one I looked at earlier.

Because of the place I had been in the list, I was at the end after applying the new filter. And I saw the one at the end, for $399. I wanted to see what made it worth $100 more than the one next to it. And I found it had an Athlon II X4 630, 2.8GHz quad-core, with 6GB RAM and 1TB drive. Either the processor or the extra RAM is worth the $100, but this has both. Additional bonuses over the cheap one at PacificGeek include DVD-RW, 7.1 audio, and both VGA and HDMI. And I added the 3yr support for $99, since I prefer 3yr warranties to 1yr on stuff like hard drives. I figured the $50/year for years 2 and 3 is worthwhile since some drives will die in that time and, and the warranty will pay for itself. (In comparison, any component warranty would require I mail the old part off, at a cost of another $10; this includes next-day in-home repair.)

And I added a nice Dell 21.5" full-HD monitor for $139, which is less than the generic 21.5" I got last month from TigerDirect (my job practically requires multiple monitors; it becomes much easier with 3). And all of it was with free shipping - the stuff's supposed to be here Tuesday. And 5% cashback by using a link from was a nice bonus.

It is all $668, with sales tax. Just for comparison, ordering new would cost $990, for the same stuff. $399 for the PC, $139 for the monitor, $99 for the warranty, and $31.85 in sales tax. OK, so it's $668.85...

I normally build stuff myself. Simple breakdown, based on cheap prices: $90 for Windows 7 Home Premium, $80 for the hard drive, $25 for the DVD-RW, $150 for the RAM ($50/2GB), $35 for the case, $20 for the power supply... and I'm out of money already. Still have to get the motherboard, processor, keyboard, and mouse. And some of those parts might have 90-day warranties, certainly not three-year on-site. So, I might could beat the normal price, but not the outlet price - not even close.

Ooma: No Google Voice Extensions for the Hub

Ooma has just clarified that they will not offer Google Voice Extensions to users of their traditional Hub product line, but only to those who purchase the new Telo product.

This is despite the fact that the Telo was not even available for months after the original planned release of GVE. GVE was originally slated for spring/summer 2009 with Telo scheduled for a holiday 2009 release.

The Google Voice Extensions was a key feature in my decision to go with Ooma, and was the main reason why I later expanded my system with two Scout units. I find it hard to justify $350 in new equipment just to get features that were announced for my current equipment.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Supper - cajun roast chicken

I'm fixing a chicken for supper. It's a 6lb whole chicken in-a-bag I got cheap near its end date. Took it home and stuck it in the freezer - the thick plastic it was encased in did really well.

I was planning to fix it Friday (frozen does fine in a Crock Pot, as long as you allow plenty of time), but I read the directions - turned out it has the giblets inside it. Some like them for gravy, but I don't, and they're not supposed to be cooked together anyway.

One main way to defrost big things is to soak it in water, the other is to put it in the fridge. I chose to combine ways, partly since I then wanted to wait several days, and partly because I thought my fridge might be too cold to thaw it. I put the chicken, still in plastic, in a stock pot (which I thought I might need, since the chicken wouldn't fit entirely in my Crock Pot), covered the chicken with water, covered it and put it in the fridge. The next evening, I checked on it - the chicken was encased in almost 1/4" of ice. I dumped the water and loose ice, removed the coating ice (which was mostly loose), and refilled the water. Checked it again Monday, and the water was still water and the chicken seemed soft. Drained the water and put the chicken back in the fridge, still in the pot, for later.

Last night, I took the chicken out, opened it, removed the paper-wrapped giblets, and, per the directions, rinsed the whole thing inside and out. Not difficult, since it's hollow all the way through from top to bottom with holes on each end.

Then I decided to pull the skin off. I normally do that before cooking pieces. And this was much easier than with pieces - it was basically like taking its clothes off. Slid a knife under the skin and "unzipped" it down the front. Then pulled the skin off one-piece-pajamas style, over the legs and such. The wings wouldn't cooperate; the skin tore around one wingtip, but I had to cut the skin around the other. Then I pulled off the larger fat globs; not all, since it will add flavor. Then I re-rinsed it.

Washed my hands, put the skin and fat in the bag the chicken came in, put that in a small shopping bag and tied that shut, then put that in another bag and tied that shut. Then put it in the trash.

Sprinkled cajun seasoning inside the chicken, and put it in the Crock Pot, where it's now squishy enough to fit. Then sprinkled a tsp of seasoning on top, and put 1/8c of water on that, to have the seasoning run down the sides. Sprinkled another 3tsp across the top, to cover all visible areas well, and sprayed water over it to wetten it all.

Then put the crock in the fridge until this morning. Put it back in the holder about 9:30 on high (to warm up), then on low about 9:50. The pot's now got liquid about half-way up, a perfect gravy base. It's likely already almost done, but I don't get off for another 6 1/2 hours. That's another good thing about Crock Pots - they don't overcook, other than maybe veggies getting too mushy.

I think I'll start looking for these more often.