2/21/2009 11:53:12 PM
As my first act with my new computer, I shall write a blog post about said computer.
My previous computer was a laptop that I purchased from Cyberpower PC back in 2004. It was nearly top of the line at the time with an AMD64 3400+ and a Mobility Radeon 9700 Pro graphics card (sadly the Mobility 9800 Pro was released the next day). It served me well for about 4.5 years, but lately things have started to slow down. Since I’ve been working more and more with photography, I recently purchased Adobe Lightroom 2 to work with my images in RAW format. This software worked on my laptop, but exporting photos took forever. It was time for a new machine.
I spent a good 6 or 8 months researching just what I wanted in a computer. Intel released their new i7 chip which blew away all competitors in benchmarks but costs an arm and a leg. AMD had been pretty slow at releasing products that were even somewhat competitive until their recent launch of their Phenom X4 II line. I read some benchmarks over at Anandtech, and saw that this line performed fairly well at a good pricepoint.
After looking at sites like NewEgg or TigerDirect (or even Best Buy) for pre-built models, I decided that none of them had the pieces I wanted. Some had good processors but bad graphics cards. Others had good graphics cards but cost a small fortune. I decided to return to Cyberpower PC to see what I could find.
Initially I had the idea that I would take one of their lower end models and tweak the specs until I had what I wanted. I put together some ok machines with Phenom X4 9950 processors in them that ran about $600. The night before I purchased one of these, I decided to try modifying one of the higher end machines and removing parts until I had only what I needed. Doing that, I ended up with the machine that worked for me and bought it.
Here’s a list of my new machine’s specs:
- Microsoft Multimedia Keyboard
- Microsoft Optical Wheel mouse (a nice backup)
- AMD Phenom X4 II 920 2.8ghz
- 500 GB Western Digital hard drive (7200 rpm)
- 4 GB DDR2 RAM (Corsair)
- Biostar TA790GX motherboard
- 12-in-one media reader (for my photos)
- Sigma Windstorm case (the red one, since it doesn’t have a side panel)
- 580W Power supply (for SLI)
- 802.11G Wireless card
Total price after rebates and shipping: $639.
Additionally, I bought an ASUS VH222H 21.5” monitor with DVI, VGA, and HDMI connectors from NewEgg.
Note the lack of a graphics card and operating system above. I decided to keep costs down by using the ATi 3870 256mb graphics card that I won at last year’s SXSW conference as the graphics card in this machine. Since I have a free install of the Windows 7 Beta, I’ll use that as the OS (I’ve heard it’s quite stable).
After a small problem regarding a missing power connector for my graphics card, I got everything set up, and it seems to be working well. Hopefully it’ll be up and ready as my main computer tomorrow.
12/14/2008 5:37:39 PM
It’s hard to find fancy places to go in Northwest Arkansas. When discussing options for places to go after a fancy dinner at Bordino’s in Fayetteville, AR with my roommate, the topic of wine bars came up. I’d never been to a wine bar before, and I didn’t think that any existed anywhere in Northwest Arkansas. I hopped online and quickly found The Fayetteville Wine Cellar, conveniently located just off Dickson Street in Fayetteville, AR near the Walton Arts Center.
Following our dinner, Dana and I drove over to the parking lot between the Walton Arts Center and the Metro District Building. Parking was difficult, as a showing of the Christmas Carol at the arts center led to a full parking lot. Thankfully we found a spot closer to Dickson Street and entered The Wine Cellar.
The first thing that caught my eye after entering was a set of 12 wine bottles set against the left wall in what the bar’s website called an Enomatic wine dispenser. Not knowing how to proceed, Dana and I made our way to the register for assistance. Thankfully, the server behind the register described the process for ordering wine at The Wine Cellar. Though the bar offered traditional mixed drinks, they also sold gift card-like cards that worked in the Enomatic dispensers. I put $20 onto one of these cards to start off with and one of the attendants walked us over to the dispenser to try it out. He offered Dana and me a crystal wine glass and explained that the dispenser would fill our glasses with whichever type of wine we chose and with whichever quantity we chose. All wines were offered in 1 oz (taste), 2.5 oz (half glass), and 5 oz (full glass) quantities. By inserting the gift-card into the dispencer, putting our glass under the correct spout, and selecting the quantity of wine we wanted, we were able to get perfectly metered amounts of wine.
I started by trying the suggested red wine, while Dana sampled two of the fruity whites. By only requesting 1 oz servings, we were able to try a variety of types before settling on two that we liked. After choosing, we sat down at one of the tables near the front door to enjoy the live music and the atmosphere.
By this time, the performance at the arts center was ending, and a steady flow of patrons entered the restaurant. We decided to leave at this point since we’d had a good taste of great wine and the room was getting a bit crowded.
My experience at The Wine Cellar was quite good. The Enomatic wine dispenser offered a great way to try wines without requiring me to buy multiple glasses. By pre-purchasing a gift-card, I was able to limit how much I could spend, but still try multiple varieties. The location was somewhat hard to reach physically, but this is true of most locales on Dickson Street on a Friday evening. Overall, I’d recommend The Wine Cellar as a place to get great wine without having to be a wine connoisseur.
12/14/2008 5:16:00 PM
Last Friday night I had the opportunity to celebrate my 5 month anniversay and my girlfriend’s birthday at Bordino’s on Dickson Street in Fayetteville, AR. Overall the experience was pretty awesome.
My Bordino’s experience began the Tuesday before when I visited the Bordino’s website to look over the menu. I had heard great things about the atmosphere and food, but I wanted to see what they had to offer before making my choice as to where to eat. The site was easy to navigate, and thankfully offered reservations through OpenTable.com, which is quite the rarity in Northwest Arkansas. I booked a reservation for 2 on Friday night and was all set. I received a confirmation email reminding me of the time shortly after making the reservation. Thursday evening, I received another confirmation email from OpenTable with details on parking, which were quite helpful, as the best parking option for Bordino’s is the valet parking behind the restaurant.
Friday evening arrived, and I surprised my girlfriend by driving up to the restaurant. The valet behind the restaurant was quite helpful, and we were seated immediately in the rear section of the restaurant behind the bar area.
Though the restaurant was quite busy, the setup of our table made it still seem like an intimate experience. There was a single lamp hanging over the table that seemed to make the rest of the room appear dimmer.
Our server arrived promptly and offered great suggestions on wines. I had no idea what kind of wine to try, as I’m not much of a connoisseur of wines, but her suggestion for a red wine was flavorful, even if it wasn’t my favorite. Her suggestion for a “fruity, white wine” was spot-on, and my girlfriend enjoyed it greatly.
Since this was our first visit to Bordino’s, our server offered us a free appetizer of real bread, sliced parmesan cheese, sweet basalmic vinegar and a freshly roasted head of garlic. The combination of each was quite flavorful and was a good introduction to dining at Bordino’s.
For the main course, I ordered the Seared Lamp Chop with Fig Sauce, and my girlfriend ordered the Chicken Breast with Truffle Marsala sauce. My cut of meat was very tender and tasted somewhat like a good cut of steak I once had. I don’t remember eating lamb chops before, so I don’t have a basis for comparison on that. My girlfriend thoroughly enjoyed her chicken with truffle sauce. I stole a small piece of her chicken, and I found that the sauce had just enough saltiness to enhance the flavor of the chicken without being too overpowering.
Near the end of our meal, we were personally greeted by Alex, the manager on duty at Bordino’s that night. We thanked him for the wonderful meal, paid, and left the restaurant for the evening. One of the two valets outside retrieved my car as my girlfriend and I waited near an open space heater behind the building.
Overall my Bordino’s experience was fantastic. The atmosphere was intimate enough for an anniversary dinner yet flexible enough to accommodate other groups in the room. The wine selection was quite extensive and the server’s recommendations were very helpful. The appetizer and main dishes were pleasing to the eye and palate and left me very happily full. The valet service was prompt and helpful. Though dining at Bordino’s ended up being rather expensive, I definitely believe it was worth every penny and recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for fine dining in Northwest Arkansas.
11/20/2008 12:12:07 AM
Tonight (or was it last night?) I went to see the Irish singing group Celtic Thunder at the BOK Center in Tulsa. It honestly wasn’t what I was expecting.
The show began immediately with the group going on stage and doing a number from their first album. When it was over, they hurried to their next spots without much in the way of transition other than changing lights. This pretty much set the trend for the evening with the performers only talking twice during songs and once during the introduction of the band.
I guess I was expecting more of a show than a concert. Vocally, the group was excellent. I think one of the singers may have been lip-synching on a couple songs, as he didn’t have much variation in his tone. The rest were excellent.
For Celtic Thunder, I’d recommend buying their two albums (if you buy one, purchase the first) over going to the show. It was fun and entertaining, but the album has the best part of the show: the music.
11/17/2008 10:36:22 PM
Today I downloaded and installed the new version of the Google Mobile application for the iPhone. I read about it on a recent Mashable article and thought it might be interesting to try. They usually have good recommendations, but they fill up my Twitter feed a bit too often.
Installing the app meant downloading the new version from the App Store through iTunes and resynching it to my iPhone. I tried the application before, but it didn’t really offer anything that I couldn’t get from the mobile versions of web pages or the build-in YouTube application.
After installation, I gave the app a few tries. To search all you have to do is click the microphone icon in the top right corner of the screen. The app makes a small sound and tells you to “Speak Now” so it can recognize your voice. According to Mashable, the app records your voice into a small audio file that it sends back to the Google server for interpretation.
So far, it’s been more accurate than I thought it would be. I searched for things like “Rockfish Interactive” or “Braylon Edwards” or “What time is Heroes on NBC next week?” and it was able to correctly decipher most of them. There were a few mistakes. Somehow I ended up searching for “atmosphere ozone” after one search. When I left the speaker on when ambient noise was the only sound in the room, it somehow recorded “California.”
I’m going to keep trying this app out a bit more. Maybe it will come in handy when we’re looking for a place to eat after church on Sunday.