Saturday, December 29, 2007

Backup Hard Disk: Western Digital My Book 500

I bailed out on the sophisticated backup system by buying a Western Digital 500GB external "My Book Home" drive at Costco for $139. I really needed to back up my files pronto. So far, so good, but I did have to reformat it for NTFS, as it comes formatted as FAT32 (not a good thing).

One gripe: the included backup software, WD Anywhere Backup is a trial version, and not advertised as such. Also, it seems to be unable to backup my outlook.pst file and large .avi files. So far, the jury is out on whether it works well.

Finally a Rib Roast worth writing about

For Christmas dinner this year we made a 10lb 3-rib, rib roast from the great meat department of Fairway's Harlem store. They sell USDA Prime grade meat, which is the best. (Choice and Select are the others, in descending order).

The butcher prepped it by cutting off the bones and laying them underneath the meat, then tyeing it all together with string. A simple marinade of mustard, garlic and rosemary was rubbed on the exterior. It was cooked to 120 degrees using low heat (250) for, like 3 hours. (It was seared at 450 degrees for 15minutes to start).

We've been eating the best prime rib sandwiches ever for the past 4 days.

PS3, baby

Got the Playstation 3 for Christmas and I am impressed! Why?
  • Its a great Blu-ray player, and a great upscaling DVD player, too.
  • It has wireless everything: Bluetooth for the controller plus built in Wi-Fi networking
  • Acts as DLNA Client, meaning you can view photos, videos and play music that is on another computer in you house, by configuring it as a DLNA Server. This is a work in progress. I got the photos to pretty well now (after using a wired connection from PS3 to my router and improving the performance of my 802.11g wireless network connection to the server computer)
  • Regarding games, I only have one, F1 Championship Edition, which is less exciting than I expected.
  • I've started participating in the Folding At Home project, a distributed computing research project sponsored by Stanford, and supported by Sony via the PS3. The project is a computer model of protein "folding" which may yield medical benefits, like helping cure cancer.
  • Overall, a great machine. More comments to come.

Update on Panasonic 42" 1080p Plasma


Its been a month now, and all is well with the new TV. I have yet to calibrate it (DV Essentials DVD hasn't arrived from Netflix yet), but I used settings from PC Magazine and it looks great.

Thoughts:
  • Blacks are very good, though I actually thought they would be better.
  • The 1080p resolution is phenomenal when fed by Blu-ray. You really have to be closer than my standard viewing distance to see it, but when you do it is amazing.
  • The exterior of the set itself is quite good looking. Piano black works for me.
  • No significant gripes!
Still highly recommended.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Free Range Heritage Turkey

We got our Thanksgiving turkey from the Plaid Piper Farm in Sussex County, NJ. It was a huge hit! It was large (29lbs) as these hybrid heritage breeds tend to be. The flavor was amazing, particularly the breast meat: no pastey bland, dry breast meat here. Recommended. Will do it again every year.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Keeping your photos and videos safe... in other words, data backup

I'm embarking on a long search for home data storage. I thnk I'm headed in the direction of a NAS (Networked Attached Storage), or a hard drive that's connected to your home network, not an individual computer. This is much like the network drive you probably have at work.

But what are the common options?

1. Single Computer based:
A) Simple/complex external hard disk backed up manually. (A single USB/eSATA drive or a Drobo)
B) Extra HDD in a computer, backed up manually, automatically or in a RAID configuration
2. Network Based
A) Single Drive (?)
B) Multiple Drive/RAID (Theus)
3. Offsite network storage.

I think a NAS will be preferred choice of the future. It can be used for shared storage and backup, and is independent of any one computer.

Costco has a WD MyBook World Edition II which looks very cool. Its a 2TB NAS that can be RAID 1 enabled for full data redundency. It also has a feature whereby you can access the drive from the internet. I hope it is secure! $600 bucks, but it does it all.






Interesting links:
ExtremeTech.com "Ten Storage Strategies for the Home"
HP's new MediaSmart Home server
Interesting home NAS with bells and whistles

I'll be adding to this over time.>>

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Computer pricewatch for those looking at buying...


Late November 2007

The HP Pavillion 9000 series looks like a winner for the performance minded. Check out the Pavillion Elite M9077c-b an in-store Costco special, for $1499, I believe.

Its got
  • a 24" HP monitor (a significant upgrade from 22"monitor both in size and resolution - 1,920 x 1,080 is full HD)
  • an Intel Quad-core QX660 processor for greatly improved multitasking (care for editing videos while doing anything else?
  • a 400GB HDD (with a free internal and external drive bay), and a free PCIe 16 expansion slot
  • This HP has both the HP Personal Media Drive slot and Pocket Media Drive slots, which allow HP's propriatary cartridge-like drives to be installed. The 'Personal' drives are based on 5.25" HDD's and are an ok value.
  • the GE Force 8500GT graphics card is pretty good for multimedia uses, but not for real hard-core gamers, though it supports DirectX 10. It also has a regular NTSC and hidef ATSC video tuner for those who want to watch or capture TV (not sure about the specs here).
  • Its got lots of card reader slots and connectors including Firewire for that older video camera.
  • A wireless keyboard and mouse rounds out the great feature set.

The only things missing are
  • an external eSata connector (but you don't really need it with the internal bays, or you could add a connector to the free expansion slot), and
  • an enhanced audio card (if you don't need the eSATA or feel like ripping out the modem, you can use the slot for this),
  • and built-in RAID support. Then again, a RAID NAS like the WD MyBook World Edition II might be the better choice for data backup and shared storage.
I've been watching the HP machines evolve recently and this one hits nearly all the features. Performance benchmarks I do not have, however. You may want to check them out before buying, but overall, judging by the components and featureset, this is a killer machine, very well rounded and even upgradeable.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Artisinal Ham and Bacon Updated 11/12/07

The hunt for great bacon is on.

Niman Ranch is allegedly insanely great, but its quite expensive. I've ordered from Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Hams and I just received it. I'll post results soon. Inital thoughts? The 4 vacuum sealed bags of bacon arrived in a cardboard box. They were a bit greasy and a few small ants were in there! Not a confidence inspiring beginning. But, David Chang of Momofuku is recommending it, so I'll weigh in after a weekend breakfast with yeast-leavened waffles...

OK, so I didn't make the waffles, but I tried the bacon. If you like your bacon smoky, this stuff is for you. It comes in thick slices, say 14 to the pound. When cooked it doesn't loose much volume, like "regular" bacon. The slices remain hefty. The real distinguishing factor is the amount of hickory flavor. It is overwhelming. I've never tasted so much smoky goodness.

Now, you may not want this much smoke, but it sure is eye opening! I would recommend this bacon for a mind-blowing BLT, using, say Cibatta bread from Balthazar Bakery (but I never got the chance to test this, as I'll explain below.

Regarding the ants... I think some escaped from the box and proceeded to take over a loaf of Cibatta and a loaf of pan-formed sourdough in a brown bag inadvertently placed exactly where the bacon box was sitting. I've got the ants under control now, I think. In spite of the ants, the bacon is a hit.

Better Eating?

After reading Michael Pollen's The Omivore's Dilemma, and eating at Blue Hill at Stone Barns I'm officially hooked on locally grown and raised vegetables, chicken, pork, etc.

Here are some links which I'll update over time.

Eat Wild
Jersey Fresh
Eat Well Guide :: Home
Abma's Farm & Market - Home

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Best Fried Chicken Ever


Those of you who know about Korean Fried Chicken are lucky indeed. Boom Boom Chicken in Fort Lee, NJ and, apparently others, make the most irresistible, preconception-shattering, eye-opening chicken ever battered and dropped in hot oil. Off the Broiler has a good piece. Chow lists some more. Get some now!

Update: Bon Chon Chicken in Leonia is good but doesn't measure up to Boom Boom.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The state of Value in 1080p Flat Panel TV's (Updated11/26)

See bottom for update.

Like many people, I'll soon be in the market for another TV, but it's a perilous world out there. Technology is marching on incessantly, and I don't want to get caught buying the betamax of the TV world. I'd argure that 1080p represents one of many inflexion points in TV technology, a major one to some tech savvy people, a minor one to others. While resolution isn't the only measure of TV quality, it is important, so I'm watching for the best value in 1080p flat panels.

Right now, the major plasma and LCD manufacturers are introducing their 1080p sets, and they're priced, for the most part, north of $2,000 for 46-50" panels, often more. So far there's an LCD and Plasma Contender.

The LCD:

Sharp LC-46D62U 46" LCD is $1,549 at B&H in Manhattan. CNET calls it this way:

The good: Best black-level performance of any non-CRT we've tested yet; resolves every detail of 1080i resolution sources; image stays relatively true from off-angle for an LCD; distinctive two-tone styling.

The bad: Inaccurate color temperature; irregular bands across screen visible in some scenes; lacks picture-in-picture; no PC input.

I'm a pig for black levels, and this set allegedly delivers near plasma level blacks, and LCD's are bright. I might be able to live with the bad, as I'm not hyper critical of color temp. Banding may be annoying.

The competition is thin out there. The arguably somewhat better Samsung LN-T4665F is $2,100 at B&H is $400 more and is over $2k. The better by some measures Samsung LN-T4681 is well over $3k.

The Plasmas:

Panasonic 720p plasmas are now around $1500. The 720p Panasonic TH-50PC77U was temporarily $1599 at Costco, but the similar TH-50PX77U is $1594 at B&H now, and is the value leader for 720p big plasmas at the moment. If you want speakers on the bottom and can do without some front jacks (composite/Svid/Audio), you can save about $100 but going with the 75U model which is slightly taller and narrower.

Panasonic 1080p plasmas are well over the $2k mark, but coming down. 1080p Th-50PZ700U is $2,289 + $135 shipping at B&H. While the 42" TH-42-PZ700U is well priced at B&H at about $1474 + $135 shipping.

Conclusion:
OK, I bought the 42" Panasonic 1080p at B&H for $1350 plus obligatory $135 next day shipping. The 42" plenty big enough for my bedroom where I'm viewing from approximately 11 feet. A bigger screen wouldn't be bad from that distance, but watching TV images in a dark bedroom generates some eyestrain, depending on the content, so an even bigger screen may be too bright for the setting. So far, I love the TV, and that's before calibration with the Avia DVD. A final note: after buying it, I was pleased to discover PC Mag's Editor's Choice review! I feel validated now!

PC Mag Editor's Choice Review of the PZ700U

CNET's Review

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Momofuku Ssam Bar, NYC

On Friday August 3rd, we ate at Momofuku Ssam Bar, my new favorite restaurant! David Chang is a genius. He has an amazingly creative palate and flair for combining traditional korean flavors with non-korean ingredients. For example, raw oysters on the half shell, with kimchee consomee, to us koreans: "mul kimchee." It was brilliant. The Ssam was great. Ssam is a traditional korean way to eat barbequed meat, such as Bulgogi, or Kalbi. I've been eating Kalbi this way since I was a kid, but the contemporary culinary relevance of this ancient dish surprised me. (It actually reminded me of an In-n-out Protein Burger) The lamb sausage Ssam was great also. (kimchee compote on the side).

There were four artisinal American hams on the menu. I tried the Edwards Wigwam Country Ham from Surry, VA. Not quite Jamon Serrano (not to mention Iberico), it had a pleasingly strong flavor. I would love to do a ham tasting next time. The fried cauliflower was the hint that chef was for real. Now I hate cauliflower because it is pasty and plain, but his preparation acknowledges this and adds the complimentary flavors and textures to take a one-dimensional vegetable to new heights of complexity. The frying gives it crispness, and the chilie/mint/fish sauce adds flavors to counterbalance and challenge the distinctive cauliflower flavor.

We ordered a very dry sparkling Vouvray (presumably made from Chenin Blanc grapes) which was festive and fruit rich without being cloying, and matched up well with our appetizers.

They also serve Hitachino Beer available in two of its 10 incarnations, White, and Red Rice. If you haven't tried them, they are a revelation. They keep the malt/hops flavors under wraps and go for fruit and citrus notes, but in a subtle way, not in the knock-your-socks-off way of Belgian ales.

All of this doesn't come cheap, in spite of its low-budget, East Village location. But your palate will be rewarded, for your midtown-like expenditure. That it has a very hip, downtown ambiance will either be a attraction or not, depending on what you are looking for.

2007 BMW 335i Coupe


I'm lovin' my new ride a 2007 BMW 335i Coupe ("E92" internally to BMW) delivered May 24, 2007. I wanted to do European Delivery (for 2nd time), but didn't want to wait. Photos here. E90Post.com is a great website to discuss or learn about 3series BMW's. Check out my profile.

For me, it has it all: potent acceleration, beauty, luxury, comfort, and handling. To top it off, it's a great value, all things considered. For those who will note the Infiniti G37: I'll accept the value proposition (full disclosure: I haven't driven it), but you get a lot of externalities with a BMW. Not to be a jerk, but prestige; the well developed enthusiast community with access to the track days, bulletin boards, etc; relatedly - the support of the owner community if you should decide to keep it for, say 10 years; the fact that it has an identity when its 5 or more years old, unlike say, the Lexus IS, which sort of fades away when it ages; the racing pedigree; the tradition; the option for Euro delivery.

This is my third BMW, (the first was a 2001 325Ci, the second, my wife's CPO 2003 530i), and I can't see this trend ending. I really don't see an alternative for me. If I go upmarket, it will probably be for a 911 C2S (997), but that ride is double the price.

BMW gives you the full, authentic enthusiast ownership experience "with benefits" for a price that not everyone can afford, but which is not stratospheric. Though I'm sure the F430 Scuderia does it better...

The Truth about Cars 335i Coupe
Autoweek "Our Take"
Edmunds Full Review
Automobile Mag Review
Everything you ever wanted to know about the E92 from E90Post.com
5th Gear Video Review
Vishnu Tuning's Procede Engine Modification
Autoweek review of above
Road and Track 335i vs G37
Car and Driver 10 Best Cars 2008

Applegate Farm in Montclair, NJ

On Saturday night, August 4th, I took my youngest to Applegate Farm in Montclair, NJ. Its a charming place, with very good ice cream. But forgive me if I was expecting more. Off The Broiler has a review. For its type (the country-style ice cream barn) I'll take Ted Drewes in St. Louis, MO.