30 August 2007

LCD Monitors for Not-So-Dumb Dummies

As mentioned earlier, I am looking to make a few more changes to my PC setup. One of which is to upgrade my current Samsung SyncMaster 793DF CRT monitor to a 19” LCD monitor. I’m going to share a summary of the advice I picked up on the Internet on how to pick an LCD monitor. Let’s get right down to it!

Just like many decisions for change in life, first ask yourself “why”? My reason for changing my monitor is that the current 17” CRT monitor eats up a third of the available space on my 4-foot desk. Aesthetic value is also a common reason for people to change their monitors because LCD monitors these days can make even an old junk PC look state-of-the-art.

Budget is always a concern when making a good purchase decision. “You get what you pay for" comes to mind. Don’t expect anything too fancy if you’re trying to save every penny. At the same time, spending a bomb isn’t always best either if you have no use for the features which come with your break-budget LCD monitor. So, first things first, why have we decided to buy an LCD monitor?

Your choice of LCD should be very much based on your reason for change and/or purpose of use. Take for instance gamers/graphic designers will prefer a monitor with sharp, clear, vivid colors, and smooth imaging – something high-end per se. The average PC user running simple office programs or internet browsers or chat programs will not require anything fancy from their monitor. You probably wouldn’t even notice the difference in quality without somebody pointing it out.

Let’s get technical. Here are some of the lingo you might come across when speaking to a sales person, or while browsing the specifications.

Monitor size
The most common variations in size at the moment are 17”, 19”, 20” and 22”. This is a measure of the viewable area calculated diagonally across the screen. Of course the bigger they get, the more you pay.

Widescreen or not
This is really up to you. From what I gather, widescreen improves the experience of watching movies – you don’t get the horizontal black stripes across the top and bottom of the screen. Also, you get a much better view when you open 2 programs/documents to view side by side (if you ever have to). Widescreen monitors generally cost more than normal monitors of the same size & features, although I have no idea why.

The distance between the centers of two adjacent pixels. The smaller the pitch, the sharper the image. They’re all below 0.3mm these days.

Resolution & aspect ratio
LCD monitors come with the option of setting your display to different resolutions. What you should be more concerned with, when making the purchase, is “native resolution”, which is the optimum resolution of the LCD monitor. “1,600 X 1,200”, “1,280 X 1,024”, “1,280 X 960”, “1,024 X 768” describes the resolution. The aspect ratio is simply a ratio of the width to height of the screen, expressed as “4:3”, or “5:4”. A detailed explanation on this may not mean much and might just confuse you further. So to keep it simple, just make sure the monitor’s native resolution and aspect ratio match. I.e. monitors with a native resolution of 1,280 X 1,024 should have an aspect ratio of 5:4. And monitors with a native resolution of 1,280 X 960 must have a corresponding aspect ratio of 4:3.

Curious to know what happens if you pick one with a native resolution which does not correspond to the aspect ratio? Try to picture this - perfect circles you draw on screen will print out oval-shaped. Perfect squares will appear rectangular on paper. Pictures of people may look taller/fatter (stretched) on screen than they are in real life. If you still don’t get the picture, don’t stretch yourself out (pun intended).

Response time
Lately most LCD monitors come with response times of 5ms or 2ms. That’s the time it takes for a pixel to change from color to color. Let’s face it - technology is so advanced now that the difference in speed is minimal. In case you didn’t notice, ms = milliseconds… how many of us are able to tell the absolute difference between 2ms and 5ms? Get my point? Let’s skip the technicalities of this. But it’s still good to know that in theory, 2ms is faster than 5ms, therefore, 2ms is better than 5ms. *eye-rolling* Whatever!

Input Type
You’ll come to find LCDs available on the market come with analog or digital (DVI) inputs. There are also those which come with both. It’s better to do a check before making your purchase. What you first need to know is whether or not your current PC graphics card supports DVI. If it does not, make sure your LCD monitor is analog capable. My advice though, is to pick a monitor which supports both analog and DVI because DVI quality is much better. Even if you don’t want to upgrade your graphics card now, you might decide to upgrade later. And when the time comes, at least your gorgeous LCD monitor is already DVI compatible with your awesome new graphics card.

Measured in cd/m2, a.k.a. nits, most monitors average 250nits. I’ve seen a few go up to 300nits. In this case, more is better.

500:1, 750:1, 800:1, 1000:1, 2000:1, 3000:1... Higher is supposedly better because it shows the intensity difference between the brightest bright and darkest dark. It seems the methods of this measure are not standard across the board among the manufacturers. Therefore comparing figures on spec sheets aren’t very reliable. My advice, if contrast is really that important to you, is to check out the demo units on display at the shops.

Viewing angle
You’ll see measurements like these (horizontal/vertical): 140˚/140˚, 160˚/160˚, 178˚/178˚. I cannot imagine how you’ll be looking at your screen from an angle of 178˚, but if higher is better, then go for it! No… seriously, unless you’re having your family and your extended family and all their friends too trying to see the screen from all around you, you’re not going to need viewing angles of 178˚/178˚. But do try to keep it to at least 160˚/160˚... you never know.

3 years… no less! Manufacturers who offer more years in warranty generally only do so because of their confidence in the quality and durability of their product. As I mentioned at the beginning, “you get what you pay for”. 3 months to 1 year only? Don’t even go there!

Do ask for more details on the warranty. Some warranties, although for 3 years, only cover certain aspects of your monitor and exclude some things like the backlight which tends to have a relatively high failure rate. There are also more comprehensive warranties which cover everything for the entire duration of the warranty. I was told Samsung offers 3-year full warranty on some of their monitors, if not all. Other more reputable LCD monitor manufacturers – ViewSonic & LG (I haven’t studied their warranties yet).

After making your purchase, do a quick check for stuck pixels on the screen. Load up a blank white page and check the screen inch by inch to see if there are any black dots (pixels which don’t light up). Then repeat with a blank black screen and see if any pixels stay lit. If it’s just a couple scattered in the far corners, don’t worry about it. But if it’s an entire cluster, send it right back to the dealer and complain their ears off.

Other features
Height and tilt adjustable LCD monitors are also available on the market. You can even find some widescreen monitors which swivel 90˚. I.e. change from landscape to portrait view. Some even come with built in speakers, although not very good quality speakers.

To be very frank with you, after looking at so many different models from different manufactures, I’ve found that while their specifications do vary, they’re not so bold and obvious that you can easily decide on one over the other. So when it comes down to this, I’ll just come right out and say go for the one which looks more eye-pleasing to you. Seriously, when using a computer, your eyes should be looking at the monitor, not your fingers as you tap away on the keyboard. If you’re going to spend so much time looking at your monitor, it might as well be a very pretty one!

I shall refrain from commenting on this due to the ever-changing prices at stores. But you can expect to spend anywhere around RM600-RM800 for a decent LCD monitor.

Postscript: Please try to remember that I am not an expert in this field. Everything said above is just a matter of my personal opinion based on information I dug up on the Internet. Feel free to leave a comment calling me an idiot for putting up anything which is not true and I will have it amended.

29 August 2007


In the recent weeks, I have been spending quite a bit of time, money and energy reorganizing my work space at home. I have moved all the related furniture around to give me a better feel of a home office.

I am certainly most proud of my current PC setup. The CPU I personally built from scratch early last year comes with the following…
- Intel Pentium 4 2.8Ghz processor
- Kingston 1GB RAM
- 2 HDD (160GB new + 40GB old)
- Samsung Combo Drive
- ATI Radeon 256MB Graphics Accelerator AGP
- Sound Blaster
- An awesome looking glossy black Tsunami ATX casing

Ok, I know it’s not all that much to shout about since it’s already been that there for a year and a half. But really, it gives me enough processing power to do just about anything I want to do on my PC. I’m still running Windows XP which is pretty stable. I haven’t yet tried Vista so I don’t know if my hardware will match up to it.

I’ve also got my Aztech WiFi router with built-in modem. The transmission is strong and stable enough that downloads on Ivan’s laptop from any other room in the house are as fast as downloads on my PC via the network cable.

My HP iPaq docking station is also perpetually hooked up to the PC. There’s also a set of Altec Lansing headphones which puts out awesome sound & music quality.

Newer additions to my arsenal include 2 new printers – a mono Samsung 3-in-1 (LaserJet + scanner + copier) and an Epson Inkjet color printer. I also recently got a new Microsoft desktop keyboard + mouse combination and brand spanking new Sonic Gear 2Go white portable multimedia speakers (matches my Samsung Pendant).

Apart from the extra 1GB RAM I hope to include soon, there are only 2 more things I feel very strongly about adding to my setup. The first is a designated webcam which my family will use to keep in touch with Ivan once he leaves for UK next weekend. And the second is a 19” LCD monitor to replace the current 17” Samsung flat screen CRT because it takes up so much desk space.

My next post will share some of the information I picked up while doing research online regarding LCD monitors. So if you’re thinking of upgrading and don’t know what all the mambo jumbo is about, do visit BeingMervs again soon.

24 August 2007


I’ve got to say, Scrabble is a damn fun game. I’m building words I never even knew existed!

I generally like to play to my opponents’ levels. I have the patience to build short, simple words when I play with people who build short, simple words. Likewise when someone proves they’re up to the challenge, I like to give them my best – defense; offense; building 2 words ahead of the game; damage control to my rack; etc. It’s a little like chess, but a lot more creative really.

If you’re like me and you like word games, log on to Facebook. You can add an application called Scrabulous and play Scrabble with your friends. Search for gooihup[at]hotmail[dot]com and drop me a message. I’ll be happy to play with anyone who asks.

Alternatively you can go to the Scrabulous website and play with random Scrabaholics from all over the world, free of charge.

20 August 2007

Random Thought: Cool Trick

You guys have seriously got to try this...
1. Load up a webpage (any site) with lots of pictures. Suggestions: Google Images, or even your Friendster Friends list. As long as it has pictures this will work.
2. Cut and paste the following text into the address bar, replacing the original URL.
3. Hit [ENTER]

javascript:R=0; x1=.1; y1=.05; x2=.25; y2=.24; x3=1.6; y3=.24; x4=300; y4=200; x5=300; y5=200; DI= document.images; DIL=DI.length; function A(){for(i=0; i<DIL; i++){DIS=DI[ i ].style; DIS.position='absolute'; DIS.left=Math.sin(R*x1+i*x2+x3)*x4+x5; DIS.top=Math.cos(R*y1+i*y2+y3)*y4+y5}R++}setInterval('A()',5 ); void(0)

Don't worry, it's no virus. Everything goes back to normal when you load the page up with its orginal URL again. It works with Windows Internet Explorer but I don't know about other browsers.

Post#100: My Cake Experience

This is my 100th published post here on BeingMervs, after slightly over a year. Didn't think I'd have the consistency to get this far when I first began. I surprise myself sometimes.

Okay… so this is how the story unfolded.

I skipped Friday evening’s usual gym session in order to make my way to the highly recommended baking supplies shop in Taman Megah. I was definitely not misinformed. You can get practically anything related to baking there. Seriously no joke!

Jo was running a bit late so we met up there. She was surprised to find that I did not have a shopping list. She got skeptical when she asked what we needed and I simply replied let’s just walk around and see. I had a rough idea on what I wanted to make and I kind of pulled recipes from all over the Internet. The problem was I could not make up my mind so I decided to just go with the usual cake ingredients – flour, butter, eggs, chocolate chips, icing sugar, etc.

It was a last minute decision to bake a test-cake in advance, just in case. So I got started that evening itself. Due to lack of supplies (I thought we had some stuff at home, apparently not), I ended up running out to the nearby supermarket for more supplies. As I was doing a quick run around, I noticed my favorite marshmallows sitting on the shelf and couldn’t help but pick up a pack to munch on back home. It wasn’t much later that it became an ingredient in Robert’s cake… another one of those spontaneous things.

Anyway, I finally made up my mind on the how the cake should be. The vision I had in my mind was something like this – chocolate chip butter cake; round 9-inch double-layered; chocolate butter cream filling with a layer of marshmallows in between; white butter cream frosting all over; hardened shiny chocolate glaze over the top with that dripping-down-the-sides effect; and of course the words “Happy Birthday Robert” on top.

The test-cake… something went wrong with the first process of the 2 layers of cake itself. Upon removal from the oven, I found that one layer had gotten very holey beneath the surface, like the cake developed air pockets while baking. And the sides were kind of hard… crusted but not burnt. Not exactly what I expected. Too bad it was too late to do anything.

The marshmallows went on easy enough, except for the slicing part… they’re so sticky on the inside. The chocolate butter cream filling wound up too watery, which was a good thing because it just flowed right down into the crevices of the bottom layer of the cake. Yet it was still thick enough to not make the cake soggy and drip out the sides. I have to admit that got me worried.

The butter cream frosting recipe I pulled off the net had an extremely high icing sugar content but I figured since it was just a test cake, I should just go with the recipe and see how it comes out. The texture was good… soft enough to spread all over the cake, and it hardened well in the refrigerator. I had neither the butter nor the tools to do any more icing & the chocolate glaze so I called it quits there… 1.30am the next morning.

The tasting when I woke up in the morning went alright. Dad and I each had a slice. The test cake was a little hard to cut through right out of the fridge. Dad found the icing too sweet, and the cake texture was a little harder than he would have liked, but still good. I agreed on both accounts. His suggestions were to use less icing sugar, and to mix the batter in one direction only for a longer period of time. My dad is a wise man.

After a quick run to the cake supplies shop in Taman Megah again, I began work on the real thing. The process was pretty much the same, but the baker was just a little bit wiser. I baked each layer of the cake individually and they both turned out perfectly identical. The sides weren’t crusty as before, and both layers didn’t have holes. I was thankful and could only pray that I didn’t fuck up the next few processes.

The chocolate butter cream filling was perfect this time. All I had to do was use a whole lot less milk. I sort of over killed with the milk the night before which led to the whole liquidy texture. It spread over the marshmallows and cake so well I couldn’t resist picking more marshmallows out of the bag and dipping them into the cream for a bite.

The top layer of the cake went right on perfectly and there was this interesting burger-like look… a bit large though. The icing process called for some changes. I greatly reduced the amount of icing sugar in the recipe, but also added the balance icing cream from the night before. End result was still sweet, but not as sweet as before. Jo had a fun time coating the cake in its snowy white frosting. The cake was starting to look presentable, thank goodness.

I left my vision of the complete cake with Jo and let her take over for the decoration portion. She played around with the chocolate glaze a little and decided to drip it across the entire top of the cake. It turned out beautifully. She added some cherries she picked out of a can of cocktail fruits as deco. And the final touches of the words in print were done. I liked the fact that it wasn’t the cursive-styled fonts they usually do at cake shops when writing “Happy Birthday So & So”. We went with the amateur look and printed “Happy B’day Robert” in pinkish icing. That really gave the cake a personal touch. With that done, the cake went back into the fridge for another round of cooling to harden the chocolate glaze and icing.

We were ready just in time for dinner, which was well deserved since I missed lunch being all tied up with the baking. Everyone agreed to delay the cake cutting to much later since we were overfed at dinner. With so much cream in the cake, I didn’t dare serve it after dinner anyway.

We wound up having the cake’s candles lit shortly past 11pm at Chee How’s place. Chee How’s mom was quite impressed just looking at the cake, saying we were very talented. I can’t imagine why. She insisted the same after trying a slice. I still cannot imagine why. She also complimented the fact that I didn’t use eggs for the frosting & icing because that would have made it hard to preserve the cake for more than 2 to 3 days. To be honest, I didn’t even know that people use eggs for icing cream. I just went with the first frosting recipe I came across.

After all said and done, it turned out good enough for people to split and tapau the unfinished portion. They mostly claimed they liked the cake but it’s really hard to accept a compliment as the truth when it comes from friends.

I’m just pleased no one called up to say they’re down with diarrhea or food poisoning. *phew*

The overall cost – 12 hours of work for 2 cakes, about RM140 spent, lots of leftover ingredients. I’ll probably try my hand at it again pretty soon.

17 August 2007


Ahhh… another day at the office with little to do. With my departure announced and handover activities underway, I am slowly left with less and less to do. By my estimates, handover will likely be completed before the end of this month. That leaves the entire September with absolutely nothing to do. Bummer!

In the recent days I’ve been kept company by my newest best friend – the Internet. With bouncing interests, I look up something new every day. Different themes covered so far include fitness, Herbalife, various known nutritional foods, diving, videos, daily news, etc.

I think I shall proceed with a different theme every day. Today’s theme – baking. Yeah, you didn’t misread that. We’ve had very little experience so far with the RM1.6K oven we have built into the kitchen cabinets. I figure if it cost my parents that much, I might as well put it to good use. Jo & I will be baking a cake (hopefully a nice one) for one of my bestest buddies – Robbie!

Quick interruption to announce – Robert turns 30 this Sunday. Old fart! *cue sinister laugh* Anyway, Happy Birthday man! Love you enough to bake you a cake so you better eat it, even if it kills you!

Back to the research on baking cakes. I’ve spent most of my morning so far looking up interesting cake recipes. The resources I’ve come across are fascinating. From the infinite ingredients and recipes, to step-by-step guides, and even tips & tricks and advice on substituting ingredients, there seems to be just no end to it. I’m going to have to continue my research and read up cake decorating too.

I just hope I don’t end up killing the 15-odd people who have the misfortune of being the quality & safety officers tomorrow night. Hmm… come to think of it, if the cake doesn’t kill them, my foot-long parang will if they even dare think a rotten comment. Same fate for those who refuse to try.

I appreciate advice on where to hide the bodies. Please leave comment.

15 August 2007

Rescue Me!

It's been a while since I blogged about diving. No doubt I am still as passionate about it as ever. The problem is that I have to put aside my desire to dive for the time being in order to focus more on developing some means which will allow me to dive whenever & wherever I want in the future.

Earlier plans to join Dragonet's Project Aware at the end of September will be dropped since it's around the same time I draw my last salary. Thrifty is the key here.

Nonetheless, the passion remains. I have a strong desire to develop my diving career further. The following chart shows the different courses offered by PADI.

(click on the flowchart to find out more about each course)

My current certification level is Advanced Open Water Diver. I am hoping to get to Divemaster sometime in the near future. Next course of progression will be Rescue Diver, targeted to be completed in April or May next year.

Yea... rescue diver. Sounds over-glorified. I probably wouldn't even be able to rescue my own ass if shit were to happen. But I figure the knowledge and experience gained may one day make a difference between life and death.

In any case, I will first have do the pre-requisite - Emergency First Response... basically a 1 day comprehensive course on first aid. I'm eager to accomplish this before the year comes to a close. Can't wait! Can't wait!

Ahh... the excitement of being a diver. Can you feel it?

13 August 2007

Random Thought: Moving On

It is done. After a short discussion with my boss and a lengthy interrogation by my GM last Monday, followed by a few days of waiting for my boss to inform me how soon I can leave, I submitted my letter of resignation to my GM last Friday.

25 September 2007 will be my last day employed at NMM. That’s approximately 1.5 months notice, more than my statutory requirement but I figure I don’t dread this job that much to have to leave immediately. Besides, at least I’ll still get a full month’s pay. The only sad part is that it means I’ll have to suffer an extra 2 weeks of doing close to nothing in the office.

Looking on the bright side, I have already started the ball rolling on my next business endeavor. My plans are falling into place and I am wasting no time with putting everything into action. I have little over a month to get myself prepared and adjusted to my new, longer (but more flexible) working hours. It will be an entirely different thing for me and definitely a great deal more challenging. It scares me a little, and yet I am so much looking forward to it. I am comforted by the thought that as long as I do my part, I will not fail.

Success is a road I must walk with my own two feet. I am grateful to have family & friends as guides, to point me in the right direction and keep me from getting lost. And I have my buddies Attitude & Determination to get me there!

08 August 2007

Toilet-train Your Cat

I remember being the child who always came home with all sorts of weird creatures & critters, driving my mom & dad up the wall. Seriously... from the garden - worms, spiders, grasshoppers, birds; from the drain - tadpoles, frogs, fishes; from the streets - kittens, puppies, etc. Yea, I've always been fascinated by nature.

My parents mostly never allowed me to keep any of what I brought home. Apart from my childhood asthma, it was just too much hassle to feed and care for any pets. I especially remember there was once I was allowed to keep a stray kitten I brought back from primary school. It was amusing to see the dread on my parents' faces each time they could smell kitten poo. We'd end up turning the house upside down to locate it. I was forced to put kitty up for adoption within a week. If only we had known any better.

Those of you who have cats/kittens trained to use the cat litter, here's an interesting read for training your cat to use the toilet. Pity there's nothing in there about teaching your cat to flush.


I wonder if the same works for live-in house dogs.

06 August 2007

Making Decisions

Sometimes it doesn't matter which side of the fence you get off on. The important thing is to get off the fence. You cannot make progress without making decisions.

And thus, I shall not sit on the fence any longer. I've made my decision. As with many of the recent forks in my path, I am opting to go down the road which looks more challenging.

Bring it on!

01 August 2007

Random Thought: Quitting

Quit (http://thesaurus.com/):
Abdicate, blow, book, bow out, check out, chuck, cut out, decamp, depart, desert, drop, drop out, evacuate, exit, forsake, get off, give up, go, leave, leave flat, leave hanging, pullout, push off, relinquish, renounce, resign, retire, surrender, take off, throw over, vacate, withdraw, yield.

I certainly feel like it.