Daily Archives: December 8, 2009

Nifty Little Dell

I am really interested in the new Dell Zino HD.   First, I’d like to point out that it starts at under $250 delivered.  It is like the Mac Mini in form factor, but features better hard drive, memory and graphics card expansion and capacity while also featuring slower processors.  With its combination of outputs, its seems to be the perfect little  box for a media center PC that is mainly used to stream media.  Given its lack of expansion slots, one would be limited to USB TV tuners which is less than optimal.  This is not a huge deal if you’re mainly playing back recorded TV as you would be well served to use your bigger main PC in this case to install your tuners and capture drives.  For Hulu, YouTube and Netflix this guy would be awesome.  A front IR port would have been nice for the use of Media Center remotes and the option for blue tooth for nice wireless accessories.

From the front.

From the front.

From the back.

From the back.

Pretty robust expansion with the eSata ports – this thing would be an *awesome* base for a home server with 65W consumption maximum and the ability to attach eSata drives or multi disk enclosures for just mind boggling expansion along with the prerequisite and surprising at this price point gigabit ethernet.   Note you could would need an HDMI to DVI adapter for most digital panels and that you would need a mini stereo to RCA converter to get the 5.1 digital sound (just like the older Audigy cards) which is a bit of a pain, but at least the options are there.

Options go up to 8GB of ram and a 4330 discrete/separate video card.  These are both luxuries as the integrated graphics are fine and you really don’t need more than 2GB of ram in most user scenarios.  Especially as the CPU choices are pretty slow – the dual core upgrade would be a great one at the current price of $65.  For me that would be the only change I would make as I have easy access to more Windows 7 licenses.  If you are looking to make this into a real media box hooked to a TV, I would go for the 7 upgrade.

Bottom line, if you are looking for a little media box or home server, this is a great option.  Even as an inexpensive desktop, the package is pretty compelling.  Maybe I’ll buy one to check it out 🙂


Tagaytay Taal Volcano excursion

Kristin and I were not too adventuresome while I was visiting her in the Manila and for the most part this is because the Philippines is not very tourist friendly.  The island was fairly devastated during World War 2, given how heavily the Japanese defended it, and that seems to have created a vacuum of things and places worth seeing.  Furthermore, the transportation infrastructure is very lacking, it takes about two hours to get out of the city to anywhere and the places Filipinos recommend seeing are typically over ten hours away by car as there isn’t a real highway system.  Or it could be that what you want to see is on another island, in which case your best bet is to go by plane which is fairly expensive.  Even our little trip out to a volcano was pretty expensive due to the fact we had to get a car and driver for seven hours to complete the journey at 1,200 Pesos (roughly $25) per hour.

Anyway, we made a trip out to the Taal Volcano which you can read some more information on here.

On to the pictures!  🙂

That was our big trip.  With sun shining down on us, it was actually still fairly pleasant but warm and we drank a lot of the water we had packed along.  Seeing people from all around the world going up and down the mountain was interesting as we saw folks from Europe, the middle East, Asia and of course the U.S.

It took about 40 minutes and 200o Pesos ($40) to get the horses and 3000 Pesos ($60) for the 20 minute each way boat ride.  On the way back out boat driver was a jerk and we got pretty wet.  I don’t know if we missed a point where we were supposed to tip him or what exactly happened.  A vendor tried to ding us for 50 pesos each at the top of the mountain for “a refreshing drink for our guides.”  Surprised by this, we declined which seemed to upset our non-english speaking guides, but I think we over tipped them with 100 pesos each when we got to the end. It is hard to know when and how much to tip when everyone has their hand out.

We went for lunch at a place a coworker had recommended, Mushroom Burger.  It was OK, but I think we prefer our burgers to only be beef or pork 🙂

On the way out and back we observed the slums, new developments, crazy traffic, pineapple fields and over all congestion that is typical of the area around Manila.  On the way back, we must have looked quite the sight to our cab driver, falling asleep and tipping all over the back seat.  Who knew it would take so much out of us to ride up a hill on horses?  I think it was mainly the heat.  I managed to burn my forehead pretty convincingly.

It was cool to go out of our comfort zone a bit, it would have been nice if more activities like this one had been within reach of the city.