Nerdism at its best

December 29, 2015

Biebs’ Bread

This is a simple recipe one that I modified for myself. It is suitable for almost all diets except those of you that are celiac. I have not tested this with a flour suitable for a celiac diet. if you do experiment though I would love to hear your results.

Update: I have since halved the amount of sugar in this recipe and the bread is that much better. the original recipe i modified called for 2/3 cups of sugar this left the bread more dense than I wanted. it was still good just not as springy as I was hoping for also update the photo to be the proper subject as the one i first used was made with white flour not Whole Wheat.


  • 2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 cups whole wheat flour(non enriched)


  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water, and then stir in yeast. Allow to proof until yeast resembles a creamy foam.
  2. Mix salt and oil into the yeast. Mix in flour one cup at a time. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Place in a well oiled bowl, and turn dough to coat. Cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  3. Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes, and divide in half. Shape into loaves, and place into two well oiled 9×5 inch loaf pans. Allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until dough has risen 1 inch above pans. You can also just throw them on the oven stone without the pans if you have one in your oven this is what I do.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes.

October 9, 2015

Life With or Without Smartphones


The devices have only been around for a decade, but already they have so fundamentally infiltrated our day-to-day that for many of us, life can be broken down into two distinct eras: before and after the advent of the smartphone. Most smartphone users I know have said at one time or another “I can’t imagine my life without a smartphone.” On its surface, that’s a dramatic (and vague) statement. The thing is we could live without our smartphones. I like many others choose not to. I could use all the web apps that go side by said with my phone apps and use my laptop that I carry around with me everywhere. My phone however is and will always be more convenient than my laptop or carrying around a calendar/planner and pen. We are addicted to our smartphones. Our phones, more so than our tablet devices and notebook computers, are the culprits behind our insatiable need to keep abreast of everything that’s happening around the world.

Things have gotten so bad that we now check or use our phones at dinner, in the bathroom, while driving, at the movies and in bed. For the majority of smartphone users, our phone is the last thing we check at night and the first thing we reach for in the morning. Many of us have chargers that double as a carrying case while others carry their chargers with them in the event their phones die from overuse. Yep, we are addicted to our smartphones!

A Gallup poll (JULY 9, 2015, of only 15,747 U.S. adults) showed that of that group  81 percent of smartphone users keep their phones nearby for the entire day, and 72 percent report checking the device hourly. Which honestly, seems like monumental restraint (writing this, I checked my phone for a text alert, to use the calculator, and just…. because).

My device has become my constant companion; I rely on it to wake me up in the morning, get me where I need to go, keep track and notify me of my appointments. It plays an important role in keeping me connected wherever I am in the world. I text family and friends with important messages (e.g., “I’m running five minutes late” “Where are we meeting?”), I conduct business on my phone, use it as a GPS, listen to music and I take pictures to capture everyday moments. like this video of the crazy Ginger kitty.

However, at 9pm every night my phone goes silent, it stays on, but it does not make a sound I only started doing that about 2 years ago. I could physically feel the relief from being untethered to my smartphone. It almost felt like freedom. I wasn’t beholden to the people texting me, calling me or updating their social media platforms. I could hear my surroundings instead of the monotonous sound of my notifications.

It wasn’t easy at first. Whenever I would receive a work email even off the clock I would feel that I would need to take care of it. My at work switch never shut off. I would be distracted and was never happy with anything. For the first week I caught myself still checking my phone constantly for something I may have missed. But then I accepted my new reality, after about 4-5 days. My world didn’t fall apart because I wasn’t productive every second of the day, and wasn’t on top of every message instantly. I actually survived not immediately knowing exactly where Crimea was or who won the Oscars last year. Shocking, I know.

When our lives are always connected, being disconnected for just a few hours can be a relief. This was my experience, however you will not be seeing me out and about without my smartphone.

September 30, 2015

Your passwords are not secure


The majority of people use very weak passwords and reuse them on different websites. How are you supposed to use strong, unique passwords on all the websites you use? The solution is a password manager.

Password managers store your login information for all the websites you use and help you log into them automatically. They encrypt your password database with a master password – the master password is the only one you have to remember.

Don’t Reuse Passwords!

Password reuse is a serious problem because of the many password leaks that occur each year, even on large websites. When your password leaks, malicious individuals have an email address, username, and password combination they can try on other websites. If you use the same login information everywhere, a leak at one website could give people access to all your accounts. If someone gains access to your email account in this way, they could use password-reset links to access other websites, like your online banking or PayPal account.

To prevent password leaks from being so damaging, you need to use unique passwords on every website. These should also be strong passwords – long, unpredictable passwords that contain numbers and symbols.

Web geeks have hundreds of accounts to keep track of, while even the average person likely has tens of different passwords. Remembering such strong passwords is nearly impossible without resorting to some sort of trick. The ideal trick is a password manager that generates secure, random passwords for you and remembers them so you don’t have to.

What Using a Password Manager is Like

A password manager will take a load off your mind, freeing up brain power for doing productive things rather than remembering a long list of passwords.

When you use a password manager and need to log into a website, you will first visit that website normally. Instead of typing your password into the website, you type your master password into the password manager, which automatically fills the appropriate login information into the website. (If you’re already logged into your password manager, it will automatically fill the data for you). You don’t have to think about what email address, username, and password you used for the website – your password manager does the dirty work for you.

If you’re creating a new account, your password manager will offer to generate a secure random password for you, so you don’t have to think about that, either. It can also be configured to automatically fill information like your address, name, and email address into web forms.

Why Browser-Based Password Managers Aren’t Ideal

Web browsers – Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and others – all have integrated password managers. Each browser’s built-in password manager can’t compete with dedicated password managers. For one thing, Chrome and Internet Explorer store your passwords on your computer in an unencrypted form. People could access the password files on your computer and view them, unless you encrypt your computer’s hard drive.

Mozilla Firefox has a “master password” feature that allows you to encrypt your saved passwords with a single “master” password, storing them on your computer in an encrypted format. However, Firefox’s password manager isn’t the ideal solution, either. The interface doesn’t help you generate random passwords and it lacks various features, such as cross-platform syncing (Firefox can’t sync to iOS devices).

A dedicated password manager will store your passwords in an encrypted form, help you generate secure random passwords, offer a more powerful interface, and allow you to easily access your passwords across all the different computers, smartphones, and tablets you us

Password Managers to Use

A variety of password managers are available, but three stand out as the best options. Each is a solid option, and which you prefer will depend on what’s more important to you:

Dashlane: This password manager is a little newer, but what they lack in name recognition they make up for with great features and slick apps for almost every platform — Windows, OS X, iPhone, iPad, and Android. They have extensions for every browser, features like a security dashboard that analyzes your passwords, and they even have an automatic password changer that can change your passwords for you without having to deal with it yourself.

One of the best features of Dashlane is that it’s completely free to use on a single device. If you want to sync your passwords between devices, you’ll need to upgrade to premium. But you can test it out for free.

And when it comes to security, Dashlane has another advantage, because you have the choice to keep all of your passwords locally on your computer, rather than in a cloud. So you have the benefit of something like KeePass, but with a better interface. If you do choose to sync your passwords using the cloud, they are AES encrypted.

LastPass: This is a cloud-based password manager with extensions, mobile apps, and even desktop apps for all the browsers and operating systems you could want. It’s extremely powerful and even offers a variety of two-factor authentication options so you can ensure no one else can log into your password vault. LastPass stores your passwords on LastPass’s servers in an encrypted form – the LastPass extension or app locally decrypts and encrypts them when you log in, so LastPass couldn’t see your passwords if they wanted to.

KeePass: LastPass isn’t for everyone. Some people just aren’t comfortable with a cloud-based password manager, and that’s fine. KeePass is a popular desktop application for managing your passwords, but there are also browser extensions and mobile apps for KeePass. KeePass stores your passwords on your computer so you remain in control of them — it’s even open-source, so you could audit its code if you wanted to. The downside is that you’re responsible for your passwords, and you’ll have to sync them between your devices manually. Some people use a syncing solution like Dropbox to sync the KeePass database between their devices.

Getting Started with Your Password Manager

The first big decision you will need to make with a password manager is choosing your master password. This master password controls access to your entire password manager database, so you should make it particularly strong – it’s the only password you’ll need to remember, after all. You may want to write down the password and store it somewhere safe after choosing it, just in case – for example, if you’re really serious, you could store your master password in a vault at the bank. You can change this password later, but only if you remember it – if you lose your master password, you won’t be able to view your saved passwords. This is essential, as it ensures no one else can view your secure password database without the master password.

After installing a password manager, you will likely want to start changing your website passwords to more secure ones. LastPass offers the LastPass Security Challenge, which identifies the weak and duplicate passwords you should focus on changing. Dashlane has a Security Dashboard built right in, that will help you figure out which passwords might need to be changed.

Password managers also allow you to store other types of data in a secure form – everything from credit card numbers to secure notes. All data you store in a password manager is encrypted with your master password.

Password managers can even help against phishing, as they fill account information into websites based on their web address (URL). if you think you’re on your bank’s website and your password manager doesn’t automatically fill your login information, it’s possible that you’re on a phishing website with a different URL.

September 29, 2015

Why Deleted Files Can Be Recovered and How You Can Prevent It


When you a delete a file, it isn’t really erased – it continues existing on your hard drive, even after you empty it from the Recycle Bin. This allows you (and other people) to recover files you’ve deleted.

If you’re not careful, this will also allow other people to recover your confidential files, even if you think you’ve deleted them. This is a particularly important concern when you’re disposing of a computer or hard drive.

What Happens When You Delete a File

Windows (and other operating systems) keep track of where files are on a hard drive through “pointers.” Each file and folder on your hard disk has a pointer that tells Windows where the file’s data begins and ends.

When you delete a file, Windows removes the pointer and marks the sectors containing the file’s data as available. From the file system’s point of view, the file is no longer present on your hard drive and the sectors containing its data are considered free space.

However, until Windows actually writes new data over the sectors containing the contents of the file, the file is still recoverable. A file recovery program can scan a hard drive for these deleted files and restore them. If the file has been partially overwritten, the file recovery program can only recover part of the data.

Note that this doesn’t apply to solid-state drives (SSDs) – see below for why.

Why Deleted Files Aren’t Erased Immediately

If you’re wondering why your computer doesn’t just erase files when you delete them, it’s actually pretty simple. Deleting a file’s pointer and marking its space as available is an extremely fast operation. In contrast, actually erasing a file by overwriting its data takes significantly longer. For example, if you’re deleting a 10 GB file, that would be near-instantaneous. To actually erase the file’s contents, it may take several minutes – just as long as if you were writing 10 gigabytes of data to your hard drive.

To increase performance and save time, Windows and other operating systems don’t erase a file’s contents when it’s deleted. If you want to erase a file’s contents when it’s deleted, you can use a “file-shredding” tool – see the last section for more information.

Solid-State Drives Work Differently: None of this applies to solid state drives (SSDs). When you use a TRIM-enabled SSD (all modern SSDs support TRIM), deleted files are removed immediately and can’t be recovered. Essentially, data can’t be overwritten onto flash cells – to write new data, the contents of the flash memory must first be erased. Your operating system erases files immediately to speed up write performance in the future – if it didn’t erase the file data immediately, the flash memory would first have to be erased before being written to in the future. This would make writing to an SSD slower over time.

Recovering Deleted Files

If you’ve accidentally deleted a file and need to get it back, there are some things you should bear in mind:

  • You should recover the file as soon as possible: As Windows continues to write files to your hard drive, the chances of it overwriting the deleted files increases. If you want to be sure you can recover the file, you should perform a recovery immediately.
  • You should try to use the hard drive as little as possible: The best way to recover a deleted file from a hard drive is powering the computer down immediately after the file is deleted, inserting the hard drive into another computer, and using an operating system running on another hard drive to recover it. If you try to recover a file by installing a file-recovery program on the same hard drive, the installation process and normal use of the hard drive can overwrite the file.

Windows doesn’t include a built-in tool that scans your hard drive for deleted files, but there are a wide variety of third-party tools that do this. Recuva, made by the developers of CCleaner, is a good option. Recuva and other utilities can scan a hard drive for deleted files and allow you to recover them.

Preventing Deleted Files From Being Recovered

If you have confidential, private data on your computer, such as financial documents and other sensitive pieces of information, you may be worried that someone could recover your deleted files. If you’re selling or otherwise disposing of a computer or hard drive, you should exercise caution.

You can use a utility that automatically wipes your hard drive’s free space – by writing other data over the free space on your hard drive, all deleted files will be erased. For example, CCleaner’s integrated Drive Wiper tool can do this.

To make sure that a single file can’t be recovered, you can use a “file-shredding” application such as Eraser to delete it. When a file is shredded or erased, not only is it deleted, but its data is overwritten entirely, preventing other people from recovering it. However, this may not always protect you – if you made a copy of the file and deleted the original at some point, another deleted copy of the file may still be lurking around your hard disk.

Note that this process takes longer than deleting a file normally, so it’s a bad idea to delete every file this way — it’s only necessary for confidential ones.

To really prevent someone from recovering any of your data, you can use a disk-wiping program, such as DBAN (Darik’s Boot and Nuke.) Burn DBAN to a CD, boot from it, and it will erase everything from your hard drive, including your operating system and all your personal files, overwriting them with useless data. This is very useful when getting rid of a computer — it helps you ensure all your personal data is erased. While some people think that files can still be recovered after they’re overwritten, the evidence shows us that one wipe should be good enough.

You should now understand why deleted files can be recovered and when they can’t. Remember this when getting rid of a computer or hard drive – your confidential files may still be present on your hard drive if you haven’t properly erased them.

September 12, 2015

What’s a Miniature

I have been asked what are miniatures a lot here recently since I have been posing my work I have been doing on Facebook and around the internet. I am no pro when is comes to painting these things. Maybe you don’t even own any miniatures maybe you do. Maybe you know what they are but are too afraid to start or not sure where to start. so they just sit there collecting dust in a box somewhere. First of all, they’ve come a long way from the old pewter days on unpainted sculpts used almost exclusively for Dungeons and Dragons. Modern manufacturing methods are creating some fantastically detailed sculpts from an ridiculous array of genres, and from a variety of new plastics and resins.

There’s a tiny little world out there. It even makes me want to get a 3D printer and create my own. Part of my impetus for giving this a shot was that I needed something to get me away from my computer screen that was also very relaxing and fun. It was very intimidating at first because noting i seemed to do was turning out good, but through a little research plus trial and error I have started to get better at it.

Again, I am a complete novice at this, so I was hesitant to invest much money into it, but I’m really glad that I did. But I have spent most of my time trying to find a brush that I like I have a pile of brushes now, but only a few do I really like. the two brushes I have enjoyed using thus far are a 10/0 loew-cornell 7300 shader and a 12/0 Master’s Touch Mini Kolinsablon Round Brush.

I use primarily Reaper Paints and Vallejo paints that I get from hobby lobby. I prefer Reaper’s. there are other I have use like Citadel paints but I do not like them at all. Some people will swear by them. I have not used them but i am told that you can also use the cheaper tubes of acrylic paints just fine so long as you thin them up first.

Painting miniatures is relaxing and enjoyable. In a way, it’s a nerd’s version of meditation. I turned on my desk lamp, played some music quietly in the background, and had a really peaceful time painting my figures. I made the mistake of looking online at miniatures painted by pros. (Never compare your beginning with someone else’s middle.) Mine aren’t even in the same league, but I’m pretty pleased with my first effort and I’ve had a GLORIOUS time doing it.

August 4, 2015

Microsoft will not charge you for windows 10 updates…


Windows 10 is available for free to most computers out there. Assuming your computer runs either Windows 7 Service Pack 1 or Windows 8.1, you’ll see a “Get Windows 10″ pop-up as long as you have Windows Update enabled. Even if you’re using Windows 7 without Service Pack 1 or the original version of Windows 8, you can upgrade to the latest versions of Windows 7 or 8 for free and then get your Windows 10 upgrade.

Microsoft has previously said this Windows 10 upgrade will be “free for the first year.” This means that this free offer lasts a year — from July 29, 2015 to July 29, 2016. You have a year to get your free upgrade. If you don’t upgrade by July 29, 2016 and try to upgrade on July 30, Microsoft won’t give you Windows 10 for free.

If you do upgrade within the first year, you get Windows 10 for free, permanently. You don’t have to pay anything. Even after it’s been a year, your Windows 10 installation will continue working and receiving updates as normal. You won’t have to pay for some sort of Windows 10 subscription or fee to continue using it, and you’ll even get any new features Microsft adds.

Boxed Windows 10 Copies and New Computers Are The Same. Free upgrade aside, this works the same across all Windows 10 licenses. If you buy a boxed copy of Windows 10 — for example, if you’re building your own PC and need a Windows license — it’ll cost $119 up-front and won’t ever require a subscription or another payment. If you buy a new computer that comes with Windows 10, it won’t ever require a subscription or fee either. Businesses may continue paying for volume licensing subscriptions, which is the only type of Windows subscription that really exists. This is only relevant for businesses doing large deployments of Windows systems.

Then What Exactly is “Windows 10 as a Service”? If Windows 10 is completely free, then what is all this talk about Windows being a “service” going forward? Well, to hear MIcrosoft tell it, they’re changing the way they develop and deliver Windows. This is tied together with Windows 10 being “the last version of Windows,” as some are saying.

Windows 10 will be updated and developed on an ongoing basis going foward. Microsoft won’t work for three years on a Windows 11 with new features and attempt to sell you an upgrade. Instead, they’ll continue adding features and improvements to Windows 10 itself on an ongoing basis. You won’t have to pay for these features. Windows 10 will just receive regular updates with the features that would otherwise have been held onto for Windows 11.

In this way, Windows 10 becomes more like Google Chrome — something that’s continually updated in the background. That’s why you can’t disable Windows Update on Windows 10 Home, and you can only delay updates on Windows 10 Professional. Microsoft wants to get all modern Windows computers on the same version of Windows and keep them updated, creating a single platform for developers to target and a single platform they have to support with security updates. Windows 10 is more like the operating systems on a Macbook, Chromebook, iPhone or iPad. You don’t have to worry about paying to upgrade to the next version of the operating system — you just get those improvements for free.

Free For “The Supported Lifetime of Your Device”(1) Microsoft doesn’t say that your PC will continue getting free updates forever. Instead, they say that those feature updates and security updates will continue “for the supported lifetime of your device.” Microsoft hasn’t actually explained what this phrase means, but it has a bit of an obvious explanation to it. Windows can’t continue to support old hardware forever — Windows 10 won’t run on PCs from 20 years ago. Whatever version of Windows exists twenty years from now probably won’t support today’s Windows 10 PCs. Microsoft gets to draw the line of when they want to stop supporting old hardware with future updates.

So How Does Microsoft Plan on Making Money? Microsoft still plans on charging for Windows licenses. When you buy a new PC, the manufacturer will still have to pay MIcrosoft for that license. If you build your own PC, you’ll need to pay $119 for a Windows license. Businesses will still need to pay for volume licenses — Enterprise versions of Windows 7 and 8.1 don’t get the free upgrade offer. Yes, Microsoft is losing upgrade revenue — people won’t pay to upgrade Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs to Windows 10. But very few people actually go out and buy a boxed copy of Windows to upgrade those old computers, anyway.

Microsoft benefits from pulling you into their Windows ecosystem. If you like Windows 10, you might get a Windows phone to run those same “universal apps” or even just choose Microsoft’s apps on your iPhone or Android phone. You might buy a Windows tablet or PC instead of a Mac, iPad, Android tablet, or Chromebook. You might choose an Xbox One over a PlayStation 4. If you don’t like your current Windows 8.1 system so much, Microsoft is betting you’ll like Windows 10 more and that will make you happy and more likely to continue purchasing Microsoft products in the future.

Of course, Microsoft could change tactics in the future, releasing WIndows 11 in five years and declaring that older devices are no longer within their “supported lifetime.” But this is clearly Microsoft’s plan right now — you shouldn’t worry about having to spend money for an existing Windows 10 install in the future. It’s free.



April 7, 2015

Which laptop should I buy?

As the resident PC geek, I get asked a lot which computer people should buy.

If you’re a gamer, programmer, or otherwise need a beefy computer, you might consider having a desktop at home and bringing a lighter laptop or even a tablet for mobile uses. Some may even be able to get by with just a tablet, especially if it has a keyboard accessory available. All major tablet platforms, including Android, iOS, and Windows 8 have excellent note-taking apps.

Before we get into specific recommendations, let’s talk about the general features you want in your laptop:

Weight is both the most important and most forgotten criteria for finding a laptop. Don’t get any laptop over 5 lbs, and aim for under 4. The heavier your laptop is, the less likely you’ll bring it with you. A lighter, smaller laptop fits better in your pack, and is easier to lug around.
“It’s too heavy” is the #1 laptop regret I hear. You can comfortably bring a lightweight laptop with you everywhere, never having to think ahead about whether you might need it or not.
Battery life is second most important feature. Look at third-party reviews to verify manufacturers’ battery life claims – the battery life stated is usually exaggerated by measuring under unrealistic conditions. You want enough battery life to get through a full day, so the hours you need depends on your type of day. Five hours is a good minimum.
Get a computer that’ll last. A laptop that costs 20% more up front but lasts four years is worth it, especially when you consider the time lost replacing a broken laptop in the middle of work or as a student midterms. Avoid “entertainment” or “media” computers, and look for “business grade” or “professional” computers. The specs may look identical, but the build quality, internal structure, drop resistance, and longevity will be better.
Screen size isn’t all that important as long as it’s comfortable to carry – you’ll be sitting right in front of the screen. Screen resolution is important though. Resolution is how many pixels there are per square inch of screen. The higher the resolution, the crisper things will look, and the more will fit on your screen at once. This makes it easier to put an Excel sheet with data and a lab report in Word side-by-side, or to have a browser open for research right next to your report.
Avoid laptops with a 1366×768 resolution, as it’s too small to fit two windows comfortably side-by-side. Look for a 1600×900 screen as a minimum, and get a 1920×1080 or larger resolution if possible. A super-high-resolution screen (like Apple’s Retina displays) is nice, but by no means a necessity – they make everything look smoother but don’t increase usable screen space.
Get a dual-band wireless card. Unfortunately the wording used by manufacturers is inconsistent, but look for things like “dual band”, “5 GHz”, supports “802.11a” or “802.11ac“. Most public spaces are converting to a 5 GHz wifi network, which will have much less congestion and interference than the standard 2.4 GHz spectrum. Even if this option costs $20 or $30 extra, it’s worth it. In a crowded area it can mean the difference between not being able to connect and having nearly limitless speeds.
If you are a student. Look for student discounts before you buy your laptop. All major manufacturers offer student discounts, typically from 10-20%. Here’s a list of student portals for some of the major manufacturers:

You can also get an academic discount on most software. Don’t purchase Microsoft Office or other bundled software with your laptop. Your university’s bookstore likely offers the same software for 20-80% cheaper. Some schools even offer Microsoft Office for free to all students. You also don’t need to purchase anti-virus software – antivirus software is available for free.



Specific Recommendations

Surface Pro 3 (from $720)

The 2014 #1 laptop suggestion… is not a laptop! It’s the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. The Surface has the internals and performance of a full-powered ultrabook laptop in the shape of a tablet. Unlike Android or iOS tablets, it runs a full, regular version of Windows, meaning you can use any program like you would on a regular PC. The detachable keyboard ($130 extra, but a must-have) allows you to type like a regular laptop, and snaps off so you can use the Surface as a tablet. The Surface has all the major features recommended above: it’s light at 1.8 lbs, testers have run it for nearly 10 hours doing casual web browsing, and about 7 hours with video playing, and it comes with a 5GHz ac/abgn wifi card and Bluetooth 4.0 built in.

Perhaps the most compelling feature for students is the built-in digitizer. In addition to 10-point multitouch, you can also use the included surface pen to hand-write notes, to draw diagrams on your typed notes, to create things in Photoshop or Illustrator, to annotate documents, etc.

The base model is $799, but students get 10% off through the Microsoft Education Store. The lowest-cost model gets you a Core i3 processor, 4 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of storage. I’d suggest going with the next model up, which gets you a Core i5, 4 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage for $1000 ($900 with discount). If you have demanding needs, you can get up to a Core i7 with 8 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD.

Visit Microsoft Education Store or View Surface Pro 3 details

I use to recommend Lenovo but due to due to Lenovo pre-installing spyware on their computers. I can no longer recommend any Lenovo products


Apple MacBook Air (from $950)

I personally prefer Windows over OS X, but the MacBook Air is definitely a nice computer. If you’d like a Mac, I would suggest the 13″ version, which weighs in at 2.9 lbs. You don’t get many configuration options with Macs, just a few choices to upgrade the storage or processor. The 13″ comes with a 1440×900 screen, a claimed 12 hours of battery life, and 5 GHz wifi. You can get the 11″ starting at $850 and the 13″ starting at $950 on Apple’s Mac for Education site.


ASUS ZenBook (from $925)

The Asus ZenBook is the one exception to my “no consumer laptops” rule. The ZenBook line’s build quality and features are superb, and while expensive, they deserve a look if you can afford one. ASUS isn’t very good at naming their laptops, but I narrowed the dozen or so laptops in the ZenBook family down to two choices – both with new, power-efficient Intel processors, high resolution touchscreens, and 5 GHz AC wireless.

  • The UX301LA is one of the nicest laptops on the market right now. Starting at $1500 it’s quite pricey, but you get a 2560×1440 ultra-HD screen behind scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass, plus up to 512 GB of SSD storage and 8 GB of RAM. Asus doesn’t sell their laptops directly, but you can buy one on Amazon.
  • The UX302LA is just as sleek, but brings down the price to $925 by using a still-excellent 1920×1080 screen, 4GB of RAM, and a standard magnetic hard drive instead of an SSD. It too is available on Amazon.

Dell Latitude and XPS

Dell’s Latitude business notebooks are durable and should last you a long time. Unfortunately, Dell doesn’t offer nearly as much customization as they used to, so it can be difficult to get the right combination of features. I couldn’t find any Latitude laptops with a high resolution screen for under $1000, but most did offer 5 GHz wifi cards. At 4.3 lbs and 14″, the Latitude 14 5000 series seems to have the best balance of features among the current Latitude lineup.

Dell’s consumer-oriented XPS laptops aren’t quite as rugged as the Latitude, but still provide good performance and decent build quality. The XPS 13 weights 3 lbs and comes with a 1920×1080 full HD display.

Saving money

Most of my suggestions here are a bit pricey. That’s for a reason: I only recommend laptops that I think will last through a whole college career(ie 4 years or more), and that have the features I think you need to get the most out of your computer. A cheaply built laptop will come back to bite you, and ultimately cost more when you have to replace it down the road.

However, I know that for a lot of families, a $1000 laptop is just too much to afford. The cheapest laptop I could configure with all of my suggested criteria above was theThinkPad E440. It came out to $602 using the Barnes and Noble discount with the following options:

  • Core i3-4000M
  • 14″ HD+ 1600×900 screen
  • 6 cell 62WH battery
  • Intel 7260AC dual band wireless

The E440 isn’t as rugged as the T or X series ThinkPads, and it’s heavier at 4.7 lbs. However, it’s still more durable than generic consumer media laptops, has the fantastic ThinkPad keyboard.

Refurbished laptops: brand-new quality at much lower prices

If $600 is still over your budget (or even if your budget is $1200), consider looking at refurbished laptops. When a customer cancels an order, their brand-new unused laptop is sent back to the factory, but it can’t be resold as new. Every major manufacturer has an outlet store where they sell refurbished laptops. Each refurbished computer is checked carefully to make sure it’s in good condition, and typically still comes with a full 1-year warranty. Computers are often hundreds of dollars cheaper when refurbished, and work just as well.

Availability of refurbished laptops fluctuates constantly, so you have to keep a close eye out for good deals. For example, at the time of this writing, a Dell E7440, typically a $1000+ ultrabook, is available for $520 with full HD 1920×1080 screen and dual-band wireless.

April 3, 2015

Chicken, Pico de Gallo, and Bean Burritos

As with my earlier post today here is the recipe for the reason I was making Pico de Gallo. This recipe makes roughly 12-16 burritos depending on how you stuff them And the size of your Tortillas.


  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice (cook as back of bag suggest or in rice cooker)
  • 16 8~9 inch low carb whole grain tortillas
  • 15 oz of black beans (canned)
  • 1 lb of shredded chicken (prepare this however I used a day old rotisserie chicken from Dillons)
  • bag of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz of mushrooms (I used baby portabellas)
  • Pico de Gallo (refer to my recipe for ingredients
  • Olive oil (enough to coat your pan)


  1. Cook your Rice according to its package or in a rice cooker.
  2. Place chicken breasts into a saucepan and pour in enough water to cover. Place over medium heat, bring to a boil, and simmer until chicken meat is no longer pink, 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Transfer chicken breasts to a bowl, allow to cool, and shred the chicken meat with 2 forks.
  4. Or if you are like me and don’t want to go through the trouble of cooking and shredding your chicken. Go out and find a day old rotisserie chicken (I get mine from Dillons) and shred it and save back about a pound of chicken. Freeze the rest.
  5. Next get out your 12 in pan coat it with olive oil. Put it over a medium heat. Add your mushrooms and Pico de Gallo and sauté them together. Once the mushrooms are nice and soft add your beans and chicken continue to cook until everything is nice and hot. You can season this mixture to taste with whatever seasoning you like. I prefer not too.IMG_0259
  6. Once your rice and your main filling is done time to get out your tortillas. Preheat your oven to 350 Degrees
  7. One heaping spoon of fillingIMG_0262
  8. One heaping spoon of riceIMG_0263
  9. Add some cheese and wrap
  10. Once you have made all you can make and filled your parchment lined pan and your stove is ready. Place burritos into the oven at 350 degrees for 15 mins. Once they are done let cool for a few mins. they are ready to eat or placed in bags and ready to be frozen*.IMG_0267

*note if you freeze them you can microwave them for 1 and a half to 2 mins and they are ready to enjoy.

April 3, 2015

Pico de Gallo


So I have been looking for veggies to be able to put inside my diet friendly burritos I make for myself the problem was trying to keep it simple. In comes Pico de Gallo. Here is my recipe I don’t ever measure so I estimated.


About This Recipe

  • YIELD: Makes about 1 quart
  • TOTAL TIME: 30 minutes
  • SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: Fine mesh strainer, large bowl


  • 1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice
  • salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 large white onion, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 to 2 serrano or jalapeño chilies, finely diced (seeds and membranes removed for a milder salsa)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice from 1 lime


  1. Season tomatoes with 1 teaspoon salt and toss to combine. Transfer to a fine mesh strainer or colander set in a bowl and allow to drain for 20 to 30 minutes. Discard liquid.
  2. Combine drained tomatoes with onion, chilies, cilantro, and lime juice. Toss to combine and season to taste with salt. Pico de gallo can be stored for up to 3 days in a sealed container in the refrigerator.


March 30, 2015

Gamenight – Pandemic


Pandemic, a board game in which players work together to protect humanity from four world-devouring viruses. The game ranks up there with Settlers of Catan as a sure-fire “gateway drug” to German-style boardgames; it is thoughtfully designed, deeply polished, and has just the right amount of story world. Most everything about the game suits my idea of ‘fun’: strategic thinking, a healthy dose of variability from play session to play session, emergent complexity, cooperative play and thoughtful communication design.

One problem though my game had misprinted instructions that inadvertently made our attempts at playing really hard. I have owned the game for quite awhile but never played it. Having contacted the game maker they emailed me the proper instructions that I can print out.

But be careful, because it’s addicting. When you lose, you’ll just want to start all over again. And when you win, you’ll want to increase the difficulty level and try again.