Monday, August 29, 2005

Toshiba A85-S107 Laptop Review

After my old buddy "Dexter" an aging IBM Thinkpad 600 (266Mhz, 768MB RAM, CD, Floppy) finally bit the dust... partly due to a slightly misplaced cup of tea, and partly due to age I'm sure, I had decided to go Lappy-less for a year or so. But the inner geek in me strived for a new shiny laptop to use as a second PC at home and play a game or two on the lunch break at work. I originally bought Dexter as an off-lease three-year-old used Laptop and have never bought one new mainly due to cost. But after having to upgrade the RAM, not being able to play DVD's, and having it come with a dead battery ($100+) I realized that the used laptop market wasn;t that great of a bargain all things considered.

Enter a Best Buy "Back to School" ad which showcased the Toshiba A85-S107 Intel Celeron M 1.4Ghz, 256MB RAM, 40GB HDD, and CDRW/DVD drive for $499.99 after a $300 MIR. I was ready to bite. However Best Buy soon revealed it was as close to a bait and switch tactic as legally allowable due to the fact that they had only received 8 total laptops for the entire two-week sale and were instructed to upsell as hard as possible to the next Toshiba model. This pissed me off and I gave up on owning a new lappy. Then I saw that CompUSA was offering the same deal and actually had a bunch in stock a few days later. So I bit.

I came away reasonably happy from the purchase, except for the pre-loaded garbage software that is so overbloated it is sickening and that the 32MB shared Video RAM on top of the bloat leaves a whopping 19MB RAM available for programs. This is unacceptable, WinXP and 32MB taken for VRAM no where near accounts for 256MB of RAM. Pathetic. But in a wonderful moment of revenge I found a coupon for $90 off memory and installation at Best Buy, they also happened to have 512MB Notebook RAM on sale for $59.99 (Install is $29.99)... so after a bit of arguing I walked away paying NOTHING! Heh.

The battery life is pretty dismal (1-1.5 hours) but other than that and the need to upgrade the RAM immediately it is a nice laptop. I miss my touchpoint nub, but an external usb optical mouse fills in nicely and is actually better.

Overall an 80/100.

Harry Potter - Half-Blood Prince

Amazing! That was my initial reaction and still is some 3/4 through the latest offering from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Series. This is no childrens book for sure, maybe for the original teens who have "grown-up" with the series, but this is one dark and mature read. What I find myself thinking through this one is if only all of the series had been written as this one, just how much better they could have been. Not to say the series has been poor, just that for an adult such as myself the syle of this book brings all the elements together quite nicely and makes for one of the most hard-to-put-down Potter books yet.

Dark, tough, gritty, and even some risque content set this one apart. I would question the intended age of the reader for this one, but highly reccomend it. This is one series I don't want to see come to an end, J.K. seems to finally be hitting her stride as a writer... it is just a shame it came so late in the series.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Buying a Game Cube

Having covered PS1 and PS2 titles for the past 8 years has kept me pretty tied to Sony except for my trusty GBA which gets use every now and then. I have come to realize I am starting to crave something new and different, and it would be nice to have a console that my girlfriend and I can play as equals (or as close as can be when she is not a hardcore gamer). I packed up about 7 of my crappier PS2 titles and decided to trade them in on a GC. $6.00 later I was the proud owner of a Black GC, can't beat that.

I picked up an extra controller/memory card/cable extensions/game case package, Mario Party 5, Mario Sunshine, Puyo Pop Fever, and Starfox Adventures. So I spent about $80 total for the system, extras, and games.

Mario Party 5 was the first to get some action and it was a fun time, I was a bit lucky and still trounced her but it was as competitive, even, and fun a non-gamer and a hardcore gamer can have together. (A funny aside: I let her use the "Turbo" function on her controller and I still beat it by a mile when it came to button mash mini-games. Heh, years of practice pay off I guess.) We laughed, had fun, and were able to actually enjoy a game together... which never happens on the PS2. Puyo Pop is next...