Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How to Buy a (PC) Laptop for Normal People

I've had many people ask my advice on buying a laptop for them or their college student. I thought I would share my suggestions here to make it more available.

This advice is for you if:
  • You don't do a lot of video editing or Adobe Photoshop work.
  • You work mostly in Microsoft Office, surf, email and keep your music on a computer.
  • You don't necessarily want a Mac.

This describes most of the laptop users. We are light users. I include myself in this even though I do a lot of photo editing in Lightroom and use several programs outside of Office. What typically makes one a heavy computer user: video editing, heavy Photoshop use.

Budget: $400-$700
You can find all you need in this price range.

Stick to the name brands:
(No particular order)


Lot's of people will tout this brand or that. For every person who tells you why "brand x" stinks, I'll show you 10 people who rave about theirs. You can find plenty of online ratings. Here's one.

Look for these basic specs:
  • Hard drive: 500 GB* or larger (Gigabytes*)
  • Memory: 4 GB
  • Processor: You do not need the latest, greatest & fastest. Most people can't tell the processing difference between today's hot one and one that's 18 months old (or more). Salesmen love to push processor. Ignore them.
Screen Size:
If you plan to carry it a lot, look for a 15" or smaller. It will fit in a backpack easily and won't wear you out. The more you plan to tote it, the more you should pay attention to how much it weighs. Getting your hands on it in a store is a great gauge of this.

If you won't carry it much at all and you like a lot of screen space, look for a 17". The 17s will probably be at $700 or a little more.

(My next laptop will be 15" or smaller since I simply plug a large monitor into my laptop to do photo editing.)

Battery life:
Unless you plan to be plugged in a lot, check the specs on battery life. If you can find it rated 6-8 hours, that's great. Realize whatever it's rated for, it will diminish with the life of the battery. So that 4-hour battery is maximum and it will decline from there.

Other factors:
Pay attention to things like keyboard, touch pad, buttons, and overall look and feel of it. The great thing about a PC laptop is there are tons of options. Make sure the controls and look and feel good to you -- you will live with it for the next 3-4 years. This is a great reason to go to a retail store.

DVD/CDR drive: (The thing you put your CDs & DVDs in)
These are starting to phase out. We are in the transition of getting all of our data wirelessly. If you want to cut down on the weight of a laptop go without. If you do, you may have to pop for a CDR drive that you connect with a USB cable to your laptop ($70-$80). If you're not sure, go with the DVD/CDR drive. Most of them still come equipped with one.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Reflections on 40 Years of Music

I've been playing drums for over 4 decades now. (I actually wrote 40 years but deleted it--too horrifying.) That means I've grown up with and played music from the early 60s to now.

If we look back from today to 50 years of music we have the folk,"pop" and psychedelic 60s, the groovy, light/heavy rock, and disco 70s, the new-wave British invasion MTV 80s, the singer-songwriter, U2 influenced 90s, and the hodge-podge mix of everything 00s. And get this: bands like the Rolling Stones, The Who and Bob Dylan have weathered their way through all of those decades and are still going!

Contrast those styles with me looking backward at the same time period in 1970 when I was six. I looked back and saw: 20s Ragtime, 30s beginning of the swing era, 40s Big Band, 50s birth of rock & roll and jazz goes be-bop and cool, 60s folk, pop and psychedelic.

Talk about a huge diversity from the 20s thru the 60s! Dramatically different styles, different instruments, different band make-up. I can't think of one artist that spanned those decades. Maybe Louis Armstrong.

One of the things I appreciate about all the playing (and listening) time I've been fortunate enough to log is how playing is now second nature. It's easy to hear changes coming in tunes when I play them or hear them the first time. It's easy to know when to play busier and when to simplify; when to crank the volume and when to whisper. Quite simply, I hear things quicker than when I was younger.

But I think that everything that is a plus as a drummer and lover of music, also works against me. Because of how long I've been around music, it's so easy to hear the past in new music. "Oh, that's just a reworked Motown rhythm...ah, it's just a surfer feel...hmm, ok a disco feel with a different melody line," etc.

Combine that with the reality that from the 60s to now, we haven't radically changed the musical game. The instruments are still the same (Fender & Gibson guitars, drums bigger or smaller but the same, amps and PAs, piano/keyboards, the occasional horn or string section.

That said, I do not think music now is any less creative, imaginative or cool than it has been. The difference? Me. Everything I hear sits upon all the music I've heard and played since the mid 60s.

The challenge? Not playing the part of the grumpy old musician, "Do you know how many times I've played that groove?! There is nothing new about that song!"

(Not that I'm going to totally shed my elitist tendencies altogether--I mean, c'mon--I am a schooled musician... ;-)

But seriously, this is a challenge. I want to be known by younger people as open minded and someone they want to be around and seek advice from. I want to be able to embrace what has come before me and what's coming now. As music changes, I want to roll with it, not against it.

So if you catch me being grumpy, just work the code word "rutabaga" into our conversation and I'll know what you mean ;-)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Super-Simple Cabinet Uplighting

Click here for the details of this simple and inexpensive DIY project.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What Non-Profits Can Learn from BLUSH

see more pics from Hungry for Love

1. Plan Way Ahead

Big events need big planning time lines. They spend a month+ preparing for each event.

2. Pray Hard
People are praying well in advance, expectant that God will show up and be lifted up.

3. Enlist an Army of Volunteers
No one person makes it a success. Scores of people multiply the result and share the load. A Team outperforms a gifted individual every time.

4. Make It Worth Coming To

They've brought in nationally known speakers and local worship bands that could be national. Wowing people this time drives people to it next time.

5. Unity

There are many teams shouldering a BLUSH event but every team serves the greater purpose. A "silo" is a no go if you're trying for Big Mo' (momentum).

6. Sex Up the Space
BLUSH plasters their brand and appropriately cool decorations throughout their space--even the bathrooms. People notice and dig sexy.

7. Work Hard
Big effort nets a big return. You can't coast into an event that attracts 1,000 people. You have to sweat and grunt into it.

8. Have Fun
As hard as people work, smiles and laughter are there from prep to presentation. Everyone wants to be part of something fun. Fun transcends sweat every time.

9. Trust God
They realize it's only God using their efforts. God is responsible for the result, we're responsible to pray and work hard.

10. You Don't Need a CEO
Volunteers are the lead dogs. They discern what God's up to and organize the army to that end. You don't need a salary for success.

BLUSH is a non-profit organization that has done three outreach events to draw children, students and adults to God. The first two events drew 1,000+ people and the last drew 800 on a snowy night with many local cancellations.

What Can Blush Learn from Marketers?

Change their brand and logo to be gender-neutral. God has clearly given them influence with males and females of all ages. Never let your brand limit your influence.