Friday, 31 July 2009

Tame My Budget 3 : Daily Budget

I hope that by now you already have a clear plan of how you could cut some of your monthly expenses in order to meet with your average income. Do not worry if your income still unable to cope with the expenses because we still have some room to improve on our daily spending, in order to bring the gap closer.

In terms of money power, daily spending can provide more saving compare to monthly expenses. This is because daily spending contribute the spending weight every day of the month. Even the slightest change in daily spending can contribute a lot. Imagine that you could cut off your daily expenses by $5 per day, by 30th day of the month you would already save $150 in total.

The downside is that, changes in daily must be made routine. If you have to cut $5 for one day, then you have to repeat the same cut every day until the end of month in order to have full accumulation of savings. That is a definite lifestyle changing experience. However, in my experience, when we change something in our life, if we maintain the routine, by the end of the month we caught up with the habit and the changes feel more transparent in our life.

Let us look at each details of our daily expenses. I am using my Excel file as a reference.

How much do you spend on food alone? Using your daily tracking, you can check out the average spending on food. This category covers the monthly trip to supermarket to fill up your home food storage, the daily lunch spending, the daily dining out, the weekly fast food trip, that candlelight dinner for that special occasion up to all the junk foods and tit-bits that you purchase between meals.

Here are some tips that you can try to practice if it suit your lifestyle:
  1. Do you regularly take breakfast by eating out? How much do you spend on that breakfast? If you do not take breakfast at all, how much can you save throughout the month? Of course you need to take breakfast, since skipping breakfast is not recommended for your health. Our body have starved for 8 hours during sleep, it need fresh energy to start up the day. But how much food do you need to consume every morning for that energy? Do you swear on 2 pieces of roti canai, 1 plate of nasi lemak with egg and large teh tarik (sound familiar)? Hmm, I wonder if anyone take steak for breakfast? Hehe. Your body should be able to tell you how much food you actually need to consume. Try to cut down on your breakfast and see if your body can handle that quantity of food until lunch. I have been experimenting with myself to finally understand that 1 slice of bread and jam with a cup of hot chocolate (Milo) are more than sufficient for my body to survive until lunch. How much does it cost for my breakfast? I even go further saving by eating at home. Right before going to work, I prepare my own breakfast (bread and Milo is not really that hard to prepare myself) and eat at home. The cost for the breakfast almost transparent because the bread and the hot chocolate was bought one time early the week and able to support for the whole week breakfast.
  2. Do you eat out for lunch too? For those at work, that is pretty obvious because it might not be convenient to eat at home during lunch (of course unless your house is just next to your workplace or if you are actually working from home). I prefer to prepare my lunch at home and pack to have it at workplace. At least, having lunch in cafeteria save my time and fuel from having to drive outside of my workplace. Try to look for small change in habit that can help to cut down your daily lunch spending. Pack your lunch from home, for example, or try to reduce the food you have to consume during lunch. If you had a big breakfast and still full, you may also skip lunch altogether. Try experimenting on you lunch habit but do take care not to go too far until your body unable to cope with too drastic change.
  3. How about dinner? Do you cook at home? Do eat outside? Do you regularly buy cooked food for dinner? For those with family, I would proposed to eat at home in the comfort of your house within the closeness of your family. Not only your could save on money, you could inject family values. I lived a single life but I cooked at home much more frequent than eating out. Eating a home-cooked dinner not only help on saving but it help to ensure the quality and cleanliness of food. Eating cooked food from outside means that not only you are paying for the raw food, but you are also spending on the service to cook the food. Why not spend on raw food and cook for yourself to avoid the extra expenses? But I do not have time to cook. I do not know how to cook. I do not even have a kitchen at home. All this downside might demotivate us on changing our dinner habit. Simulate your budget and see how much you could actually save just by making your own dinner. Observed if that spending is worthwhile for you to find time to cook, or learn to cook or start to buy some cooking appliances for your home. If you do not spend too much on your dinner, sometimes eating out might be a saving for you too. Shape your budget to suit your lifestyle.
Essential Self-Care
I believe things I bought for my daily self-care is just as important. Maybe because I live a metro lifestyle which looking good is imperative for me. Thus, buying self-care product like shaving cream, razor, face cleanser, body soap, shampoo, conditioner, hair treatment, moisturizer, perfume, clothes and shoes (sounds like I am starting a saloon, right) seems important to me. Do you have similar habit? If you do, your tracking should show that a big chunk of your spending could flow to this category. Look for ways to slow down your money flow for your self-care product. During shopping, be perspective to price tag more than looking at the brand. Expensive product do not means that it is the best for you. If you have a habit of buying high class self-care product, go on and try out on those cheap brand off the shelf. See if it works for your body. I used to swear on Biotherm product which easily cost $150 per product, then I change to Loreal which around $60 and then later I change to local Malaysia brand that normally range between $20 to $30. That is already an 80% savings and I do not experience much change in my outlook between using local brand compare to using Biotherm. Try it and see if your body able to cope with the change.

Hehe, big controverting topic on this. If you are a smoker, you might heard a lot of advices to STOP SMOKING. But if you are like me, I would say that is more easy said than done. For those non-smoker out there, this would not be a problem. For smokers, read on. First, check how much you are spending monthly for your cigarettes. It is important to know how many sticks of cigarettes that you smoke in a month, at less in average. I used to smoke around 800 sticks per month which a little more than 1 pack of 20s per day. During that time, I am spending $300 for my smoking habit. Then, I changed to a cheaper brand. Without changing the quantity of cigarette I smoked, looking for cheaper brand per pack, drop my spending to $120 per month. That is a lot of saving. You might said that cheaper brand does not taste as good as those expensive ones. You might said that your body cannot tolerate cheaper brand. You might even said our body will die faster if we smoke cheaper brand. My question to you, have you try them? I have tried to change cigarette from one brand to another. Due to their marketing value, of course taste of each brand is different. But how do you actually define that this type of "smoke" taste better than another type of "smoke". How does "smoke" taste like anyway? The rejection of new taste was because of your habitual behavior. That is what smoking is, a habit. When you are in a habit of smoking one type of brand, changing the brand feel uncomfortable, just like forcing yourself to change a habit. Same like any habit also, if you give it a try, make it a routine, by time your body will learn this new habit. Previously it took me 3 weeks before I am comfortable with new brand of cigarette. Now, I am able to change the brand and be familiar with it within just around 3 packs. That gave me more versatility of changing the price of cigarette I smoke, at least I do not have to stop smoking all together, right. I would propose you to try this method, give your body a change to adapt to the change before you decided to give up on the trial.

Vehicle & Transportation
Do you have your own transport? Do you take public transport like buses or LRT? Here are some tips that you can try to save on this expenses:

  1. Regular maintenance is a must. Visit your workshop for service every 5000km or 3months (whichever comes first). Regular checks help to detect early degrades and able to repair before it get worst. If you tend to skip maintenance, if your car experience major breakdown, the cost to repair will be much much higher.
  2. Learn to be more educational towards car modification especially if it going affect the car performance. The car designer and manufacturer have build the car to its specification to improved on its engine power, fuel consumption and safety. Changing this specification might affect all this. Not only that you are putting down your money to invest on the modification, you might reduced the car lifetime if you are stressing too much on its capable engine power. You also might drain your money having to spend on more fuel if the modification increases the car fuel consumption. Worst, you are playing with your life if your impact the car specification to be less safe on the road.
  3. Driving style also affect fuel consumption which will deter on your expenses. Drive slowly in a consistent speed. Driving at more than 120km/h compare to drive at 90km/h have huge impact on your fuel consumption. I do not normally drive more than 90km/h and my current fuel consumption is a little more than $0.11 per km (with our current $1.8 per liter of fuel). Moreover, drive slowly means not only it is safer, but you will use your brake lesser which improve your brake lifetime. If you drive faster than average, you will keep on having to play with your accelerator, your gear and brakes in order to react to other traffic which will drain your fuel faster and reduce your engine component's lifetime.
  4. Air condition is another feature in most car that will increase your fuel consumption. Turning on your air condition will used twice as much fuel than without air condition. Of course you swear on the luxury of having a cool fresh breeze blowing on your face but that luxury is expensive. Can you live without it? Or at less reduce its usage?
  5. Your car usage habit also affect the spending on your car. Try car pool if available or convenient. Use public transport especially for that long trip back to hometown during festive season. I own a car and motorcycle. I tend to ride more on my bike compare to use my car. Furthermore since I normally drive alone without much baggage to carry, I do not see why I have to depend on my car for those light trip. If you always drive your car to bank to settle your banking or paying utility bills, try to opt for online payment instead. That will minimize having to make that trip to bank, used more fuel, spend on parking, stress yourself by screaming at other driver in traffic jams and so on.
There are many ways to save on your daily expenses if only you look out for these opportunities. Remember that, if you used to have lavish your lifestyle with all those unnecessary spending, making changes in lifestyle is not going to be easy. Having a close track of your money flow will help you to be more enthusiast on changing your spending habit because of the visibility of savings that you can see every time you change something in your life. $1 save in 1 day, goes a long way.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Review Notebook : Dell Studio XPS 13

This is my best friend, Rizan's latest notebook. If not mistaken, he just owned this notebook for 2 months now after he gave up his last Sony Vaio VGN-FW23G. My friend normally only settled for the highest end notebook and his new Studio XPS 13 is a true power compare to my Acer Aspire 4930.

Dell Studio XPS 13 specification:
Processors Up to Intel® CoreTM 2 Duo Processor P9600 (2.66GHz/ 1066 FSB/ 6MB Cache)
Operating System Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium
Memory 4GB5 1067MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Chipset NVIDIA® GeForce® MCP79MX
Graphics Integrated NVIDIA® GeForce® 9400M graphics
256MB6 NVIDIA® GeForce® 9500M-GE with Hybrid SLI® Technology
LCD Display Edge-to-edge Glossy 13.3 inch WXGA CCFL LCD display
Audio and Speakers 4 Watt Integrated Stereo Speakers, 2 watts per channel, 2 channels
Hard Drives Up to 320GB7 configured with a 7200RPM hard drive.
Optical Drives 8X DVD+/-RW8 Slot Load Drive
Power 6 cell 56 WHr Li-Ion Battery
Camera 2.0MP Integrated Webcam (with CCFL display)
Dual Digital Array Microphones
Wireless Dell 1515 Wireless N Mini-Card
Bluetooth Bluetooth® Internal (2.0) mini-card
Ports USB 2.0 compliant ports
e-SATA port with Powershare
15-pin VGA video connector
IEEE compliant 1394a port
Integrated network connector 10/100/1000 LAN (RJ45)
54mm Express Card slot
Display Port
AC adapter connector
Audio jacks (2 line-out, 1 Mic-in)
8-in-1 Media Card Reader
Dimensions Width: 12.56" (319mm)
Height: 0.88" (22.55mm) front / 1.35" (34.34mm) back
Depth: 9.3" (236.12mm)
Weight 2.2kg

Having the used of Intel Core 2 Duo P9600 2.66GHz, the Studio XPS 13 speed is a blaze. I did not actually challenged the notebook to any heavy load such as rendering graphics or playing 3D games, but the typical day to day activities was handled very smoothly. The notebook supports up to 8GB of DDR3 RAM. Loaded with 4GB DDR3 RAM, could possibly contributes to its smooth processing speed when running with Windows Vista Home Premium.

The front cover has a black glossy finished (which I always find very intriguing). Some of the front cover also were enveloped with black leather finishing giving that typical office organizer look. This sleek design introduce a very business-centric look to the notebook.

13.3" display giving away 12.56" x 9.3" in dimension is also very practical. The display is big enough to challenge the standard 14.1" display but with its smaller dimension and lighter weight (2.2kg) are more than sufficient to offers its mobility experience.

I thing the 2.0MP webcam is barely sufficient. Of course with the capability of face tracking, it stands higher than the standard 1.3MP on most notebook. However, the video quality when streaming through Yahoo Messager still a bit blur and unable to fully push the background lighting to improve on its brightness.

The keyboard however I found very interesting. Each of the keys illuminated with backlit LED making using the notebook at dark places is an ease. Touchpad, not only simple to use, but it introduced a good finger gesturing that allowed options such as zooming. On keyboard area, there are capacitive multimedia key that illuminate white glow when it was activated.

The USB port however is a bit lower than average. This particular Studio XPS 13 units was packed with only 1 USB 2.0 port. Having to use it for mouse, no more USB port for other peripheral. My friend even have to buy a Bluetooth Laser mouse to use with his notebook in order not to accommodate the 1 USB port. That 1 USB port was then used for the notebook fan.

The notebook fan seems like a must for Studio XPS 13. The notebook quickly radiates heat after a few minutes of power on. From Dell's website, we are recommended to update Bios to solve the heat issue. Even after a successful Bios update, the notebook is still very hot than normal. We are not sure if this is due to the mechanical design on the notebook or radiates from its powerful NVidia GeForce 9400M graphic cards. However, if even a normal application could initiate such temperature, I just wander what would happen if we play 3D accelerated games on the notebook for a long period of time.

Aside from the heat, other functions are remarkable. Its performance is the highest compare to any notebook that I used before with Windows Experience Index is at 5.3.

Free E-book : Urus Wang Elak Gaji Ghaib

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Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Tame My Budget 2 : Monthly Budget

For those who has started to track their money flow for a month, then you may read on. For those who have not, please do so because this topic will directly focus to the very details of how you can tame your money flow. Without proper tracking, such focus will be blurred.

First, let us look at your monthly tracking. Does the variance positive? Have you manage to list down all source of money income including from credit cards, personal borrowing money, other income source aside from you main salary or even that RM50 that you found on the road on your way to work today? Focus on those list of income. Our objective is to ensure that all our income are positive income which will not affect our next month budget. Examples of positive incomes are your full time salary, part time salary or passive income. Negative incomes are credit cards, personal loan, borrow money or any other source that will require you to pay back by time. Plan to reduce from having too many negative incomes. Negative incomes are not all bad. It can also be tame if use wisely. But if you do not know how to improve on utilizing negative incomes to your benefit, target to zero out negative incomes in order for you to be more in control now and also later in future.

Prioritizing of eliminating negative incomes will base on its “compounding interest”. I will explain later in other topic to further derive the power of compounding interest. Here are my plans when I eliminated my own negative incomes:

  1. Credit cards – Being an unsecured loan with 16% to 18% per annum interest, credit cards will suck up on your positive income drastically. The basic rules are to maintain only 2 credit cards and I will explain later how to choose and make fully use of your credit cards. Right now, plan to terminate as much credit cards that you should not have. My proposal is to go to bank, block your credit cards and request bank to convert your outstanding balance to term loan. Term loan normally at a range of 6% to 9% per annum interest which directly chop half of the interest for the credit cards. Bank that are, in my experience, would support such conversion including Citibank, HSBC, RHB, AmBank (MBF) and Standard Chartered. Those bank whom I knew do not offer term loan at all would be AEON and EON (if you plan to use their credit cards, I would propose not too). Another most important thing you need to know about credit cards, “NEVER EVER TAKE CASH ADVANCE....EVER”.
  2. Personal loan – Personal loan is a form of secured loan, so its interest rate is much lower. Check with your bank to see if the personal loan is having compounding interest or not. Some personal loan, directly calculated the interest and adds in to your principal before determining your monthly payment. For this type of loan, no further harm it can do to you, just continue to maintain healthy monthly payment until you paid off the whole loan. For loan that introduce compounding interest to its balance, try to pay more monthly and not to skip your monthly payment. If you skip your monthly payment, the interest calculation will be higher, which means you will need to pay more. For now, plan to pay off your personal loan and do not plan to make new loan until you cleared off your current loans.
  3. Overdraft accounts, car refinancing, house refinancing, mortgage (including gold) – These are some of the tools that you can use in order to get liquid cash to support your lifestyle. Since they are tools, how good or how bad these tools are depends on how you use them. Please do not plan to take up this type of income unless you know exactly how they work (I will open up topics for these type of income later). Only take up these types of loans if you plan to have capital for investment. But if you plan to use the money for spending, I highly do not recommend it.
  4. Borrow money – It is classified as borrow money only when your borrower did not charge any interest. This includes borrowing money from your family, your friend or even your boss. If you “borrow” money from someone who charge interest (such as along) then that is categorized under personal loan. Borrow money is the most subtle source of negative income since there is no interest charge. However, since you are borrowing money from someone close to you, it is ethical to pay them back accordingly to what you have discussed with the borrower. If you plan to pay back by next month, please make sure you do so. If you plan to payback on monthly basic, discuss properly and make sure you do not skip any payment. Borrow money do not impact much on your budget but it have a lot to do with trust. Do not loose the trust from those who are close to you because you never know when you going to need their help for even “bigger favor” somewhere in future.
Go on and try to simulate the numbers of your source of income in the Excel file. Try to zero the usage of credit cards, and see how much negative the variance can be. It is just a simulation, so no need to think too much of it. At least, it give you some picture of how much you have to “slow down” your spending once you lost some of your income. For the sake of freaking you out, try to zero your full-time salary and see if you can live without that kind of money. Hehe.

Once you had your fun, now focus. You need to set a goal of how much your budget income should be. Fill up in the excel file with these actual income information:

  1. For your main income (in my case is my full-time salary), fill up your net salary. Try to put down your average net salary. If you do not how much your employer pay you every month (duh?), consider your income as 85% from your basic salary. Do not include any month to month allowance (overtime, inconsistent allowance or bonus). This will help you to shape your budget from your main salary instead of your allowance. So, if during tough time when you do not have a good allowance, it will have the least impact to your budget.
  2. For other positive income, fill it up as average as possible. If you have passive income, it tend to move up and down throughout each month. Go for the average.
  3. For negative income, it is up to your own plan as what I have discussed earlier. If it is too tough for you to immediately stop using your credit cards, for example, try to plan to slowly reduce the income through your credit cards or other negative incomes from month to month. The main points is sustainable and continuous. It is good to reduce them by 10% each month rather than not to reduce them at all.

After you key-in your average income, take a look at variance. It should show a negative number now. That negative number showed how much you should reduced your spending in order to be comfortable with your planned income. Do not panic first especially if that figure is sky high. For now, just believe that you can achieve it.

Now, focus on your spending. First, let us look at Fixed Monthly Expenses. You already know how much money you need to save, so look for expenses that you can chop off. Here are some of my ideas.

Hire Purchase (Car)
As for now, I have not find any tips on how should we approach our car loan payment. Azizi Ali (Malaysia very own Money Coach), once said that a car is just a tool to get you from A to B. His idea of having healthy car loan is that the monthly payment must be lower than 15% of your net salary and the car loan must be able to fully settled within 3 years. If you are currently paying more than that, means your car loan is too heavy for your income to bear. I am sure a lot of us already overshoot this guideline. It is okay, I guess. But if you are one of those who is planning to buy car, it is good to ensure that the car payment is affordable. For those already with car loan, let us stick to the monthly payment for now.

Home Loan
Home Loan is compounding interest based on its balance loan. This means, the longer you take to pay off the loan, means the more interest you have to bear. Furthermore, since home loan is a long period commitment payment, I am sure you are hoping that the monthly payment need to be lower even though the tenure (period of payment) is extended. In order to lower the payment, you can refinance your house and look for a longer tenure and further reduce the monthly. But before you opt to this option, please look for more tips from me in regards to home loan, so that your decision can be a wiser one.

Credit cards
If you are paying 5% minimum only, you will not be able to settle your credit card payment fast. Most of the monthly payment will be drained out as finance interest. So, you need to pay a bit more than 5%. Go to this link ( and use the calculator to see how long it takes to clear your outstanding balance if you only pay the minimum every month. For example, if you have RM4000 outstanding balance and you stop spending on your credit cards today, if you only pay 5% the minimum monthly, it would take you 83 month (almost 7 years) to clear off you outstanding balance. By that time, you already paid bank RM1600 interest. Imagine that, simply hand over RM1600 to bank just for the service of lending you RM4000. And what if you pay only 5% minimum but still do not stop using your credit cards?

First step, try to stop using your credit card. If cannot, try harder. Hehe. It is crucial that you do it. Then pay a fixed amount every month, which must be more than the required 5%. For example, if your outstanding balance is RM4000 and you pay a fixed amount of RM200 every month, you will be able to settle the balance within 24months only (2 years). Try out this calculator ( to simulate how much needed to pay and how long it takes to settle your credit card.

I am struggling to pay my 5% minimum, how can I pay more than that? Is this what you asked yourself now? Do you want to settle your credit card fast at the same time pay lower than 5% minimum? I would propose you to go to your bank and asked to convert your outstanding balance to term loan. You can use this calculator to simulate your term loan situation ( For example, let say that you manage to get a term loan with only 9% interest rate. You plan to settle your credit card outstanding balance of RM4000 within 5 years. With term loan, you will only have to pay RM84 per month! What if you want to settle them within 2 years? Your monthly payment will be RM183 which is even lesser compare to the credit card simulation that I mentioned earlier. The trick is the compounding interest rate. As long as you have your credit cards eating your money at 18% interest rate, you will always need to pay more.

Every time you need to buy insurance, asked yourself, do you really need them? There are so many types out there for Life, Personal Accident, Hospitalization and Medical Card. Each of these emergencies will definitely impact your life and source of income. So how could we live with such risk if we do not take up insurance? Insurance company willing to bear that risk for you with certain monthly payment (premium). By the time the insurance reached it matured coverage period, they will no longer cover you and your premium payment will not be return to you. So, if you take a Personal Accident insurance that cover you for 10 years with RM20,000 coverage, can you ensure that you will meet with accident somewhere within that 10 years? You have to have an accident right? If not you will lost all your premium right? So, which one is more important, not to have an accident or to loose your premium? I would like to advise you to take back some of that risk. Do not share them with insurance company unnecessarily. Of course you would need some money in case, one day, something bad happen to you. So, why not stop paying insurance company, instead put your monthly payment into savings account or investment. That way, if in future you need to use the money to support you, you have the cash reserve for you to use. If you are lucky enough not the have any bad thing happen to you, then that money can go to your children future or spend for your retirement. Look through considerably over the risk. For me, I maintained having 1 Life Insurance which joint with Unit Trust Investment so that I can ripe both benefit. I have canceled my Personal Accident (PA) and hospitalization insurance and start savings using the monthly payment. If you can not effort the monthly payment, then ask yourself if you still want to pay for the insurance or not.

Internet Provider
If you are like me who need to have a constant connection to Internet, then judge your service provider to see if it is the most value for money. Basic guide for Internet subscription: wired connection is faster, reliable and much cheaper compare to wireless. Wireless such as EDGE, 3G and 3.5G broadband is expensive compare to value per speed and most of the time is unreliable. The extra money you pay for the wireless is on its mobility. This would depends on your lifestyle. Do you need Internet while on the move? If you have the option, go for wired services instead. In Malaysia, for wired connection, you can opt for Streamyx or Time Broadband. For wireless, you can always compare between Maxis, Celcom, DiGi, P1 and U Mobile to find the best package that works for you and your coverage areas.

Satellite TV Provider
Here is Malaysia, most of home installed with Astro. We do not have any other option, either Astro or have to rely on over-the-air TV Channel. Astro packed quite a punch with it list of exciting programs to choose from. Different package comes with different programs and also different price tag. Choose wisely. If you subscript to a package which you do not watch it at least 50% of the month, then why bother paying money for them. Get Astro to change your subscription and go for those channel that you watch more frequently. Maybe I did not watch it that frequent, but just in case I want to watch them later, it is good to have what? To spend your money wisely, "Just In Case" habit is not healthy. Pay only for what you need and drop the rest.

Utility Bills (Electrical and Water)
You need to use them everyday. Can you terminate your electrics or water to save money? I don't think so. What you can do instead is to save its usage:
  1. Lighting - Every time you want to switch on a light ask yourself, "Do I need too turn this on?" If your living room and dining room is next to each other without barrier wall, turn only one light from one of the room. Use fluorescent light more than incandescent light since fluorescent light use less energy. If you have smaller room, use short fluorescent light compare to long one. Fluorescent light tend to use more energy during start up. If you plan to leave a room only for less than 5 minutes, leave the light on. If it is longer than 5 minuts, switch it off. If you prefer a gloomy feeling of incandescent light, opt for energy saver bulb instead, it helps to save up to 80% energy than the conventional ones. When your family went to bed, switch off all the lights. We tend to leave the light on because we want to scare off thief (did it really work?). If someone wants to break in to your house, having light off or on does not really matter much, right. So, if you stay in a dense neighborhood, turn off all your light and rely on the street light or your neighbor's light (just hope they also not energy-saver freak like you, hehe). If you stay in a mansion in the middle of jungle, I guess you should turn on some light while in bed, just to get rid off that gloomy scary feeling (uh, spooky).
  2. Fan - Turn on your fan only when need too. If it is a windy day, just open up the windows for that fresh breeze. When you turn on the fan, go for lower speed. Higher speed means more energy needed. If your room has high ceiling, where even the highest speed of fan will not do any good, then go for stand fan or table fan. Try to get fan that have timer so that you can set the timer to switch off the fan, for example after you went to sleep.
  3. Television - It was designed to be watch, so only turn it on if you plan to watch it. I have a nag of switch on my TV if I want to watch it, and turn it off once I turn on my notebook so that I only need to focus on one appliance at a time. If you like to lay down in front of your TV and watch it while doze off, set it on sleep timer so that it will switched off once you already fall asleep.
  4. Fridge and freezer - You need to turn it on all the time to keep your food fresh, right? But you can save energy by setting the temperature dial to the minimum. Both my fridge and freezer always turn down to minimum and I never have an experience of bad food in them. Even my freezer do not have even the tiniest of icicle but my food stay fresh even at lowest setting. If your food is hot, let it cool to room temperature before put them in fridge. Then do periodic clean up on your fridge and freezer and throw off all the "old" food if you do not need them. The lesser food in your fridge, the lesser energy it need to keep it cool.
  5. Air condition - Try to get those with inverter to help save energy. Set it to timer so that it will turn off, for example after you go to bed. Stick to "Economy" mode if your air condition have that option. You can also turn on your fan at the same time to flow the air, this way it gives a cooler feeling without having to set your air conditioning to the lowest temperature. Remember to clean up your air conditioning monthly. Having dust clog in the filter means it have to work more to blow you more air.
  6. Microwave - I am sure we tend to rely on them for a quick cook. If you have time, cook your food on stove rather than in microwave. We do tend to want everything to be fast, but if we plan our cooking time earlier and use the stove more than the microwave, we can cut some of our energy usage.
  7. Washing machine - Only use your washing machine once you have full load of laundry. It will save energy and water too. Having less frequent use also help to extend your washing machine lifetime. So, try not to be too hardworking to wash your laundry daily.
Do you have home line phone or you use mobile phone? If you can rely on mobile phone, then try not to have a home line. This phone service normally have monthly subscription fees either you use them or not. Track your monthly phone bills. If you spend more on subscription fees than your calling charge, just terminate the service. You can also save on your mobile phone bills. Take one month statement and review all your calls, sms, mms and internet data usage. Using the same style for use, simulate across other service provider. Find the lowest charge that you need to pay with your style of usage. Last 3 years, I spent around RM300 on my mobile phone bills. After I reviewed my usage, change to a more value for money service provider, I am currently having almost fixed monthly charge of only RM80. Check out between Maxis, Celcom or DiGi for the best deal. Look through prepaid and postpaid service too and I am sure there will be a better option that you can use to save on your mobile phone bills. With current option to stick with your number while changing service provider, you should not have any excuse to change to a better value service provider.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Review Notebook : Acer Aspire 4930

This is my current notebook. Acer Aspire 4930. This is my second Acer notebook after I trade in my Acer Aspire 5670. Both my experience on these Acer's notebook is satisfactory.

Acer Aspire 4930 specification:
Processor Intel® Centrino® processor technology, featuring:
Intel® Core®2 Duo processor T5800 (2 MB L2 cache, 2.00 GHz, 800 MHz FSB, supporting Intel® 64 architecture
Mobile Intel® GM45 Express Chipset
Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100 (dual-band quad-mode 802.11a/b/g/Draft-N) Wi-Fi CERTIFIED network connection, featuring MIMO technology, supporting Acer SignalUp with Nplify2, 3 wireless technology
Operating System Windows Vista® Home Premium
VGA 14.1″ WXGA high-brightness (200-nit) Acer CrystalBrite™ TFT LCD, 1280 x 800 pixel resolution, supporting simultaneous multi-window viewing via Acer GridVista™
16 ms response time
Memory Dual-channel DDR2 SDRAM support
2 GB of DDR2 667 MHz memory, upgradeable to 4 GB using two soDIMM modules7
Graphics Mobile Intel® GM45 Express Chipset with integrated 3D graphics, featuring Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD (Intel® GMA 4500MHD) with up to 1759 MB of Intel® Dynamic Video Memory Technology 5.0 (64 MB of dedicated video memory, up to 1695 MB of shared system memory), supporting Microsoft® DirectX® 10
Dual independent display support
16.7 million colors
External resolution/refresh rate:
2048 x 1536: 60 Hz
1920 x 1440: 75/60 Hz
1856 x 1392: 75/60 Hz
1792 x 1344: 75/60 Hz
1600 x 1200: 100/85/75/60 Hz
1600 x 900: 60 Hz
1400 x 1050: 60 Hz
1280 x 1024: 120/100/85/75/60 Hz
1280 x 960: 85/60 Hz
1280 x 768: 60 Hz
1152 x 864: 100/85/75 Hz
1024 x 768: 120/100/85/75/70/60 Hz
800 x 600: 120/100/85/75/60 Hz
640 x 480: 120/100/85/75/60 Hz
MPEG-2/DVD acceleration
WMV9 (VC-1) acceleration
HDMI™ (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) with HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) support
Acer Arcade™ Deluxe featuring Acer CinemaVision™ and Acer ClearVision™ technologies8
Audio Dolby®9-optimized surround sound system with two built-in stereo speakers
Optimized 2nd Generation Dolby Home Theater®9 audio enhancement, featuring Dolby® Digital, Dolby® Digital Live, Dolby® Pro Logic® IIx, Dolby® Headphone, Dolby® Natural Bass, Dolby® Sound Space Expander technologies
True5.1-channel surround sound output
High-definition audio support
S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface)11 support for digital speakers
MS-Sound compatible
Acer PureZone technology with two built-in stereo microphones, featuring beam forming, echo cancellation, and noise suppression technologies
Storage One 160 GB hard disk drive12
5-in-1 card reader, supporting Secure Digital™ (SD), MultiMediaCard (MMC), Memory Stick® (MS), Memory Stick PRO™ (MS PRO), xD-Picture Card™ (xD)
Optical Disk Drive 8X DVD-Super Multi double-layer drive:
Read: 24X CD-ROM, 24X CD-R, 24X CD-RW, 8X DVD-ROM, 8X DVD-R, 8X DVD+R, 6X DVD-ROM DL (double-layer), 6X DVD-R DL (double-layer), 6X DVD+R DL (double-layer), 6X DVD-RW, 6X DVD+RW, 5X DVD-RAM
Write: 24X CD-R, 16X CD-RW, 8X DVD-R, 8X DVD+R, 4X DVD-R DL (double-layer), 4X DVD+R DL (double-layer), 6X DVD-RW, 8X DVD+RW, 5X DVD-RAM
Communication Acer Video Conference, featuring: Integrated Acer Crystal Eye high-def webcam, supporting enhanced Acer PrimaLite™ technology
Acer Video Conference Manager software, featuring Video Quality Enhancement (VQE) technology with H.264 video compression, supporting 640 x 480 resolution online video calls with drag-and-drop Picture-in-Picture (PIP) interactivity13
Acer PureZone technology
Optional Acer Xpress VoIP phone
WLAN1, 3: Intel® Wireless WiFi Link 5100 (dual-band quad-mode 802.11a/b/g/Draft-N) Wi-Fi CERTIFIED network connection supporting Acer SignalUp™ with Nplify™2 wireless technology
WPAN: Bluetooth® 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate)
LAN: Gigabit Ethernet, Wake-on-LAN ready
Modem: 56K ITU V.92 with PTT approval14, Wake-on-Ring ready
Dimensions and weight 340.4 (W) x 247 (D) x 22.9/42.3 (H) mm (13.4 x 9.7 x 0.9/1.6 inches)
2.43 kg (5.36 lbs.) with 6-cell battery
Power Supply ACPI 3.0 CPU power management standard: supports Standby and Hibernation power-saving modes
48.8 W 4400 mAh 6-cell Li-ion battery pack:
Up to 3.0-hour battery life15
2.5-hour rapid charge system-off, 3.5-hour charge-in-use
3-pin 65 W AC adapter
I/O Ports Acer EasyPort IV connector
ExpressCard™/54 slot
5-in-1 card reader (SD™, MMC, MS, MS PRO, xD)
Three USB 2.0 ports
HDMI™ port with HDCP support
Consumer infrared (CIR) port
External display (VGA) port
Headphone/speaker/line-out jack with S/PDIF support
Microphone-in jack
Line-in jack
Ethernet (RJ-45) port
Modem (RJ-11) port
DC-in jack for AC adapter
Keyboard 88-/89-/93-key keyboard1 with inverted “T” cursor layout, 2.5 mm (minimum) key travel
12 function keys, four cursor keys, two Windows® keys, hotkey controls, embedded numeric keypad, international language support, independent US dollar and Euro symbol keys
Empowering Key
Easy-launch buttons: WLAN, Internet, email, Bluetooth®, Acer Arcade™
Acer MediaTouch keys: play/pause, stop, previous, next
Volume wheel
Acer Media Center remote control1
Warranty One-year International Travelers Warranty (ITW)

I purchased this Acer 4930 last year December 2008. Not so much of a purchase actually, it was a birthday present from my friend. Quite an enjoying experience surveying for the best specification with the most value for money price tag. Finally, I chose to buy from a retailer at Dataran Pahlawan Melaka. I wished I still remember the retailer's name because the salesman is so nice and gave me a great bargain.

Acer Aspire 4930 during that time having a price range of RM2000 to RM2300 depends on its specification. I got mine for RM2000. In order to bargain to this price, I asked the retailer to deduct the actual price tag (RM2200) by minus out their FOC items (4GB thumb drive, mouse and Epson printer) and also not to include the Windows Vista pre-loaded. I then, installed Windows Vista Home Premium myself through different purchase.

The positive side of Acer Aspire 4930 is its specification of 2.0GHz processor, 1GB DDR2 RAM, 14.1" VGA and 160GB harddisk which works well with what I need. This is what I consider as standard specification that is more than enough to handle normal day-to-day task including word processing, spreadsheet, slides, presentation, games, internet browsing and streaming online.

I love its glossy finishing on the display panel. Having a light up "Acer" on the front side of the display is very eye-catchy. The keyboard area do not have glossy surface though, which I find very smart because I definitely do not want to keep wiping the keyboard area everytime my hands touched it since I hate to see finger prints on any of the glossy surface. :)

For standard used, the keyboard works fine having similar size with normal desktop keyboard. Additional keys such as for Bluetooth, Wireless, Shortcut keys dan Media Player keys is good to have, although I do not so much used them. The analog volume dial on the left side of its chassis is amazing, I love it. It helps to easily dial up and down the windows volume.

The 14.1" VGA also work fine for me. Acer CrystalBrite technology drive a clear, bright and sharp image whom to me is satisfactory. It also include VGA and HDMI output port so that I can connect my notebook to my LCD TV for even larger view, although I never find much use for this option.

Acer Aspire 4930 where driven by Realtek chipset sound system. A very average, but good enough sound control. It also coupled with Virtual SurroundSound with Dolby Home Theater speaker but expectedly, the sound is just average. But by plugging headset to the system, the sound were driven to a much outstanding experience.

For online conferencing or chat, having 1.3MP CrstalEye webcam is sufficient. Although, it seems that some of the option setting that coupled with the camera software do not work at all. Specifically, there is an option for Face Tracking (where the webcam focus keep moving with your face to maintain your face as center to the webcam) which, however, is not working. Acer also packed an Acer PureZone microphone near the webcam so that you can talk directly to the camera area compare to my previous notebook that populated the microphone on the keyboard area. However, due to the microphone distance to my mouth, the sounds captured was not very clear.

I personally loves the Wireless experience though. The WiFi able to work with A/B/G/Draft-N signal. Coupled with Acer SignalUp, it able to capture even a very low signal. It has a built-in Bluetooth with hardware key to turn it on and off which I find both practical and easy to use. Having ExpressCard slot, works great for my ExpressCard 3G Celcom.

It also comes with 3 USB 2.0 ports which I find them very useful. 1 ports spefically accommodate for my mouse and still I have 2 more ports for my thumb drive or connection to my handphone.

Its battery able to support up to 3 hours if you use the Vista Power Saver option. My previous notebook support Acer Power Management which I loves, but sadly Vista do not support this Acer software on my Aspire 4930.

In terms of heat, its temperature did raised to a typical notebook heat after 30 minutes of usage but that is pretty standard for most computer.

As for 3D gaming experience, I do not expect much from this notebook. I did manage to play The Sims 2, Assasins and Warcrafts driven by the Intel 3D chipset. But I am sure, any latest games with higher specs for the 3D cards will not be manageable by Intel 3D chipset.

As for its compatibility with operating system, I find it strange that this notebook unable to use Windows XP. I have tried to install Windows XP SP2 for 3 times but it will hung to BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) even during the initial installation stage. However, this notebook works fine with Windows Vista Home Premium and even Vista Ultimate that I managed to try on. When running Vista, sometimes Vista keep telling me that the driver for WiFi, Infra-Red and LAN is not compatible and asked me to install the driver from the OEM. Even though after installation of the recommended driver, Vista keep telling me the driver is not compatible. Aside from its background notification for this issue, I did not find any problem using WiFi and LAN even with the original driver.

I have installed 2GB DDR2 RAM to my Acer Aspire 4930. Currently, its Windows Experience Index is at 3.7.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Hidup Bebas

  1. Pemanduan Jimat Wang
  2. Buffet Ramadan di Malaysia
  3. Courts - Jual barang atau jual insuran?
  4. Review Legoland Malaysia - Lego Technic
  5. Review Legoland Malaysia - Lego Kingdom
  6. Buffet Ramadhan di Johor Bahru 2015

Finding Notebook

My friends always asked me this question, "Is this notebook spec okay?". That is a valid question since they are so many varieties of notebook out there to choose from. Sony, HP, Acer, IBM, Toshiba and Dell are some of the leading brands that always proud of announcing their latest notebooks. In the midst of notebook era, netbook (the cute mini version of our notebook) pop up, and boy, do this cute netbook sure is an eye-candy.

I like to give some points to those looking for "great" notebook out there. Having to buy the best notebook does not simply means that you must get the latest design, the highest-end of technology, the glossiest (hehe, I personally love my notebook glossy finish, sooo sexy), the most expensive or the one having its biggest ad popped on the billboard near KLIA highway. To me, the best notebook is the one that work best for you, and only for you.

To start, take a piece of paper and write down what is the main reason you buy laptop. When I said main, mean 1 "very main" reason, not 100s. Some want to buy notebook to play offline games, or some for online games. Others want to browse internet and some prefer to browse streaming video and music (there is a different between "browsing" internet and streaming). Students might plan to use notebook for simple work processing and excel spreadsheet for their thesis and paperwork. Others want to use for their work (work as report writer and games programmer require different notebook specification, so please be specific). That 1 particular main reason will determine the specification of your notebook. It also will determine your notebook price range of 1000+ or 5000+, so please be honest with what you really want.

After that, ask yourself this question and write down the answer on your piece of paper:
  1. Will I be traveling a lot with the notebook? Daily or monthly travel?
  2. Would I need to switch on my notebook at any convenient time even without any power supply? Will this happen daily?
  3. How big would I require the LCD screen to be? Is the 14" or 15" that I normally see on cyber cafe desktop, should be a fine size for me? Do I need smaller or bigger display?
  4. Will I use my notebook for Wireless connection such as WiFi at Starbuck? How bad will be the WiFi signal there?
  5. Do I plan to keep all files inside my notebook? Videos, MP3, big files from work? Do I plan to keep the file long or I like to frequently delete or move the file out from my notebook?
  6. Will I be playing any 3D games?
  7. Will I be using my notebook to listen to music frequently?
  8. Do I require Microsoft-based Windows?
Done? If not, please complete all questions. Go on, I will wait for you....

The reason of asking yourself this question, is that the answer will determine the basic specification for your notebook. It will indirectly determine the range of price of that notebook between low-end, mid-end and high-end. Let me cover each questions again.

Will I be traveling a lot with the notebook? Daily or monthly travel?
If you are a frequent traveler and need to bring your notebook most of the time, do take some times to look at the weight of your notebook. A mid-end notebook normally is around 2kg to 2.5kg. This weight is within a standard price range. If you need something lighter, means some of the items in the notebook need to be smaller or use a lighter material, which will end up give you higher price. For netbook, standard weight is 900grams though.

Would I need to switch on my notebook at any convenient time even without any power supply? Will this happen daily?
We do not normally look at the battery capacity since we know that we can recharge the battery if it drained out. But if your usage of notebook require a constant rely on battery, do check out its battery capability. Most battery can last for 2 hours and can be extended using software enery consumption from your operating system. But some brands might go further on optimizing their notebook "mobility experience" and able to offer their notebook running longer on battery. Do check this option out if you think you going to need it. Of course, purchasing anything extra, means extra money need to spend.

How big would I require the LCD screen to be? Is the 14" or 15" that I normally see on cyber cafe desktop, should be a fine size for me? Or do I need smaller or bigger display?
This is very important. That LCD on your notebook will be the one your eyes will fixed on during every intimate moment you are having with your notebook. If you are familiar with the standard 14" or 15" desktop CRT, than choose that size for your notebook. This size maintain a standard price range. For netbook, 10" would be its standard price range. If you are looking for something smaller or bigger, there are option out there ranging from 10" notebook to 17" notebook, but again, anything not standard also come with its non-standard price tag.

Will I use my notebook for Wireless connection such as WiFi at Starbuck? How bad will be the WiFi signal there?
You need WiFi, ok, I get that. Most notebook offer WiFi, so why do I need to care about this question, right? For your information, our WiFi technology is constantly evolving unknowingly. The WiFi is classify as A, B, G and latest N signal. What the h*** is that? Each signal handle at different frequency, different bandwidth and different noise interference. Good news is that it is backward compatible. So if your notebook have Wireless-N, than you can use A/B/G signal too. But if your notebook use Wireless-G, then you will not be able to use N signal. Our technology standard now is at Wireless-G which normally use by WiFi hub such as Starbuck, Coffee House, Mamak shop, etc. So, it is not wrong to buy notebook with Wireless-G signal. But Wireless-N is also growing at fast rate. So, do take a look when comparing the price. If it is within your price range, I would propose you to take up WiFi-N with your notebook. Also, if your WiFi area tend to have bad signal due to noise or your notebook is further away from the nearest access point, look for notebook that have signal optimization. My personal experience, Acer SignalUp© works like a charm capturing even the dimmest signal.

Do I plan to keep all files inside my notebook? Videos, MP3, big files from work? Do I plan to keep the files long or I like to frequently delete or move the file out from my notebook?
The reason of asking this question is to determine the space you need for harddisk capacity. Nowadays, harddisk capacity can range from 160GB up to 1.5TB. Personally, I am using 160GB and still have not encountered any capacity issue. Of course it is good to have a big harddisk capacity, but the risk is that, if one bad day, your harddisk damaged, then you will lost a hack lot of files. I would recommend 160GB or 250GB. At 250GB, you should be able to keep 500 pieces of 500MB movie in your notebook (do you really intend to keep 500 movies in your notebook? what is wrong with you?).

Will I be playing any 3D games?
If you plan to use your notebook to play 3D games, then choosing the one with a good 3D graphic cards will be crucial. The standard Intel chipset will be good for playing those simple 3D games. But if you need a higher end 3D cards, make sure to pack the notebook with NVidia or ATI Radeon. Standard price range notebook normally comes with Intel Graphic Share chipset. If you are particular over your 3D graphic quality, please look for other options than Intel.

Will I be using my notebook to listen to music frequently?
Music will be another issue with notebook. Very seldom that notebook packed with a superb sound system. Even if it have a good sound card in it, without a powerful speaker, the sound quality will still be bad. I do not normally see a notebook speaker manage to drive any powerful sound from it. However, this does not means a dead end. A good sound card in notebook will be able to give you amazing sound system when coupled with headset or external speaker. If you plan to hang on to headset on your notebook for frequent dine of music, check out notebook with Altec Lancing sound system. But still, the option is not that many. However, later you can still be able to improve it through software accelerated sound system such as on your Media Player or other music software in your operating system.

Do I require Microsoft-based Windows?
So, you want to buy a notebook. Then why should you worry about the operating system? Because without the operating system, your notebook will be as good as a big paper weight. Operating system is another portion that will require you to spend money on. If you have an option to pre-load the operating system when you purchase the notebook, then go ahead. OEM Retails license sometimes is cheaper than purchasing the boxed Windows. You might also want to get the Vista SE which is the cheapest in the line of Vista. Without the pre-loaded operating system, you will need to buy a separate boxed Windows. If you plan to install a pirated copy (ehem, ehem), then be advise that some of current Vista pirated copy does not work. (don't tell Bill Gates that you heard that from me)

Other than this functionality question, additional things you need to consider:
  1. RAM capacity : Vista will work with 1GB. Most notebook can support up to 4GB. The more RAM, the better speed you get. If you got the budget, go ahead and pack as much RAM as you can effort to.
  2. Warranty : Make sure you got minimally 1 year warranty. Some retailer might offer additional warranty with increased price. My advise, 1 year is good enough.
  3. Optical driver : Minimally get DVD reader. Unless you plan to burn DVD, you will not need the DVD burner. But, even standard price notebook range might easily packed with DVDRW. As long as you do not have to add money to that, no harm having DVDRW.
  4. USB port : Nowadays, USB is a common use. Having 2 USB ports will be sufficient but more is even better (as long as no price increase). Having only 1 USB port, probably you will accommodate it with your mouse, then no more ports for other peripheral. As for external USB hub, nothing is convenient enough right now compare to have the USB port built in to your notebook.
  5. Accessories and Free Gift : Those branded notebook sometimes have fixed price. In order to attract customers, retailer will offer free gift and accessories together with the purchase. Look around for those whom offer the best gift. By the way, if the retailer offer free gifts, you can bargain with them to deduct the free gift price from the notebook price if you do not need the free gift (nothing is free. Even the FOC item price was amortized into the notebook price). My personal experience when I purchased my Acer Aspire 4930, I managed to get the retailer to deduct RM200 from my notebook price just because I do not want their FOC of thumb drive, mouse and printer.
The biggest decision-making question that I have not touched yet so far is, "How much is your budget?". I have mention over a standard price range. A standard price range notebook (not netbook) should be around RM1500 to RM2000. Anything higher than that, means there are some items in the notebook that are high-end. Make sure if you want to buy a more expensive notebook, it is an intended purchase and you know the very details of what you paid for. Anything cheaper than this, smells fishy. If you were offer notebook at RM900 or less, please ask thousand of questions in order to not be cheat with. That notebook might be used, refurbished, no warranty, or have been curse with dead soul in it. Do be careful not to be blinded with strangely cheap offer.

As for the brands, those that offer value for money notebook would be Acer Aspire, Compaq Presario and Dell Inspiron. Lenovo, Toshiba and Benq also offer good price but since I never tried their notebook before, then I will not include that as my standard notebook range, for now. Sony and Dell packed quite a powerful high-end notebook with powerful high-end price tag too. So, do take note of want you pay for. Happy shopping!