Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Before You Buy Your Laptop

Buying a new laptop can be a nightmare. Often, people who are not laptop savvy are confused with the range of brands, different hard disk (HDD) and random access memory (RAM) capacities, and other features including those of the deal being offered.

What you want to do with your laptop (or smart phone) will have some bearing on the capacity of the device you buy. But first, let’s discuss what some of the terms mean. Skim these if you already know what they are.

CPU - Central Processing Unit. This is a chip-set that does most of the work to operate your laptop. Most laptops have a little blue sticker indicating that your laptop has “Intel inside” and there is a variety eg, “Celeron, i5, i7’ etc. More about these later
RAM - Random Access Memory. RAM is memory that is used to hold data while it is being processed eg, while downloading or uploading photos.
VRAM - Is RAM associated with your output monitor. It provides a buffer between your laptop and monitor. Also called Dynamic RAM (DRAM).
HDD - Hard Disk Drive. A storage device upon which you can store data eg, a photo or document.
SSD - Solid-State Drive. SSDs are taking over from HDDs because they have no moving parts and are much faster. (Also eMMC - Embedded Multi-Media Controller)

Now that you are familiar with these terms, when you visit a retail store and see displayed descriptions of various brand and models’ capacities, you’ll know what they refer to. Having this understanding will help you buy what you need and not more or less.

Package Deals  
Laptop sales people are good at promoting package deals. Many of the deals are excellent, but there is also need for caution. Why? Because you may pay more for each item “packaged” than you would pay for separate items and think it’s a bargain because a sales rep tells you so.

Say for example the deal includes a laptop, a power surge protection plug, an antivirus program, other software, and some sort of help line offer. You may be charged say $30 (all amounts in AUD) for a power surge protection plug that you can buy for $10. The help line package could be $300.

You need to ask what the package includes and how the price is determined. If you don’t think you will use the $300 help line or already have a power surge protecting power board, perhaps the package isn’t what you need.

If you already subscribe to an anti-virus/firewall protection program, transfer it to your new laptop. Most allow use on four or six separate devices. Go for the separate items you do need. Remember they want to sell you a laptop - you have the negotiating advantage.

Deciding What Specifications You Need
If you are playing games online, you’ll probably want a lot of RAM, a high speed CPU and VRAM. Gaming uses a lot of resources. Ask your supplier for a laptop specified sufficiently for gaming. It will usually be more expensive than other laptops.

Most people use their laptops for email, photo collection and editing, music, offline games, surfing the internet, and perhaps managing their affairs with banking, superannuation, insurance and so on. If that’s you, you don’t need a specified-to-the-max laptop.

Looking at one major retailer’s site today, the cheapest laptop they have is a Lenovo for $396. It’s light (for travellers) and has minimum specifications including minimal storage (64 GB). It would suffice for email and surfing, but 64 GB of storage is insufficient and it would probably lead to frustration. You get what you pay for.

Their Gaming Laptop is $2297 and is highly specified.

In the middle range is a $797 Lenovo with 8GB RAM, an Intel 1.3 processor and 128 GB of SSD. It has a 15.6” screen (measured diagonally) and comes with Windows 10. It would be suitable for most applications, even some level of gaming. If you download huge volumes of high resolution photographs you’d probably need to transfer them later to a removable hard disk drive otherwise the 128 GB of SSD would disappear fast.

If you are buying a laptop, don’t walk into a store and get the first one you see. Before you go, think about what you want your new laptop to do. Write down your minimum requirements and then go shopping.

Don’t think that higher cost is always better quality. Choose a price range with which you are comfortable and then compare several models and brands. Don’t pay for additional stuff you don’t want or need. Make sure you know what warranty period applies and if you intend to use DVDs with it, make sure it is equipped with a DVD reader as many laptops now are not.

Good luck with your shopping.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Plan Your Retirement Early or Miss Out

Retirement provides time to travel to exciting places
Some people fritter away their lives and five years before retirement think about what they need do to prepare. By then, it's probably too late.

Truth is, it's better to make some plans for retirement not long after you begin work. Yes, I know, you are 18 or 23 or so and the last thing on your mind is retirement. Maybe that's a tad early as you're probably earning a small salary, struggling to make car and rent payments, and spending more than you earn. So, why not start as soon as you have some spare money? Hopefully that will be when you are in your late 20s or mid-late 30s.

The point is, one day you will have to stop work, either because you are too unfit to work or you will have decided you've had enough and simply retire from the work force. I retired after 51 years at work.

In Australia (I can't speak for others), we have a pension scheme that is accessable after 65 years of age and up, depending on your birth year. However, your aim should be NOT to get the government pension because it really isn't enough to live on comfortably.

You should aim to be self-funding if possible. Do this by putting as much as you can into your compulsory superannuation fund, buying your own house and paying off the mortgage, and if possible, purchase one or more commercial or private properties to rent.

Even $10 per week into your superannuation fund will multiply over the years into something worthwhile.

Attend the numerous free superannuation seminars that are offered from time to time so you get a grasp of what superannuation is all about. The more you learn, the better you will be able to prepare.

Before you know it, if you are fortunate not to be culled earlier, you will arrive at retirement. When you retire, your salary will stop and you will need to live on the money you have saved in superannuation, bank accounts, or elsewhere. Obviously, the more you have, the better your retirement years will be.

Look forward to travelling, socialising with fellow older people, your children and grand children if you have them and, instead of working every day of the week and perhaps the weekend too, do what you want to do. You will be free. Free of the need to work and depend on someone else supporting you.

It's a great feeling. even greater if you are sufficiently well funded to enjoy yourself.

I hope this post gets you thinking about your retirement and why you should be at least aware of including it in your plans as you passage through life.


Friday, November 24, 2017

Has it really been four months?

Houses at Venice, Italy
I can't believe four months have passed since I last posted on Working Smarter.

Since I retired from my job at a prison, life has been hectic. I don't know how I ever had time to work eight hours per day, seven days per week for 51 years. I did enjoy all the jobs I had, but it's great to have all day, every day, to do whatever I want, rather than have to be working for the man - or the government.

So what have I done this year?

In early March, 2017 I flew from Perth, Australia to Hong Kong and thence to the once United Kingdom. From the UK, I flew to Malaga in Spain and travelled by train to Portugal. Then I went back to the UK, this time to Scotland.

After visiting friends in Scotland and having a look about Aberdeen, Arbroath, Edinburgh, and a few other places, I flew to Geneva, Switzerland so I could attend Baselworld 2017, the world's greatest watch and jewellery event. From there, it was off to Brussels to join a three week bus tour of Europe.

Next, it was a cruise around Norway, Denmark, Sweden and nearby countries. By then it had all become somewhat of a blur - visiting different places every day or so is tiring and ultimately you can't recall if you were at Keil in Germany or Rome in Italy.

But, somehow I survived and when the cruise ended at Copenhagen, Denmark, I spent a few days there and then flew back to Aberdeen and spent the next four weeks driving all over Scotland, England and Wales.

I achieved two Bucket List aims. One was to visit Arbroath, Scotland where my great grandfather, eight generations removed, lived before he was transported to Australia for stealing cheese. (Every Australian wants to find a convict in their past) The other was to visit Pembroke Dock in Wales where my father flew from during WWII in Sunderland flying boats intercepting and sinking German submarines.

Ultimately, it was back to Australia via Hong Kong and back to my real life and after a short stint at Alice Springs, off again in the caravan for a circuitous trip east to Queensland, south to New South Wales, across the top of Victoria to South Australia and then back up the centre of Australia to Alice Springs where I sit and type.

In January I will be moving to our new house in the Barossa Valley, Australia's principal wine growing area.

Why do I tell you all this? Simple. It's because one day, like me, you will retire from work and need to keep yourself in food, clothing and accommodation until you are harvested by the Grim Reaper.

How you do that is the topic for my next post. Stay tuned.