Buying a Laptop?

What do you look for in a laptop computer? Is it the color? The weight? Or is it size. Below, I have outlined a few important factors to consider before you make your purchase.

Platform

There are basically 3 common platforms that come standard in most computers: Windows, MacOS and Chrome OS. Picking any comes down to preference. They each have their pros and cons that I will not get into here but they all have a financial impact on your choice of computer with MacOS being the most expensive.

CPU

This is the brain of the computer and one of the most vital components. If you want a fast computer that boots up programs in a flash, completes tasks as soon as you start them, and doesn’t keep you waiting, then you want the strongest processor available. When talking about processors, we look at the number of cores and speed (measured in GHz or Gigahertz) “The speed of the chip will tell you how much data it can process in how much time, so the bigger the number, the better. The number of cores functions as a multiplier, as the processor is actually a stack of cores that each run at the listed speed (e.g. a single-core 2GHz processor is a lot slower than a four-core 2GHz processor).”

 

RAM

RAM basically allows you to work with more information at the same time. It allows for more applications to be run at the same time, and for more data to be quickly accessible by the system at any one time. The more RAM you have, the faster the computer is able to multitask. The one trade-off is that the more RAM processes going on, the more the battery is drained over time. So if you’re more concerned about long battery life than multitasking, you should probably opt for less RAM.

Storage

Hard disks (HDD) are the primary storage components for computers. While HDD’s are inexpensive and better at processing large files, they’re bulky, use up a lot of power and and produce noticeable heat and noise. These days, solid state drives(SSD) are the standard. They’re faster and use less power. They’re pricier, but deliver better performance and are more reliable than HDD’s .

Keyboard Quality

The keyboard is one of the most overlooked features in a computer yet one of the most used. For long typing sessions, you must get a laptop that has a comfortable keyboard. You want a keyboard that has a comfortable layout with full-sized keys and some space around the arrow keys. Make sure the keyboard is also backlit, so that you can type with an easier view on the keys in dimly lit environments.

 

Connectivity

These are also specific to your needs. You may want 5 USB ports and not care about having a DVD drive.  You should get a laptop that has a good selection of connectivity options.

USB is standard on most computers.  USB 3.0, is the most recent version and is faster than its predecessors. There is an even newer version of USB called USB Type-C which offers higher bandwidth and the ability to handle enough current to power a laptop. Going by trends, USB Type-C will eventually become the industry standard and single technology that you’ll use to connect all your devices. Other connectivity options are HDMI ports, SD card slots, WiFi and Bluetooth.

Battery life

This is very important if you are considering on purchasing a laptop.  The ideal battery life should be 7+ hours. Battery life is affected by screen brightness, the screen resolution, and the tasks that you run. Programs that need lots of processing, stream lots of online video, or if you transfer lots of files over your wireless network will also drain your battery fast. Manufacturer-quoted battery life is often not accurate and you may find your battery draining sooner than is indicated.

Build Quality

This mostly affects laptops. They come in all shapes and sizes and different materials are used to build them. No matter how careful we are, laptops can get dropped or drinks accidentally spilt on them. Some are rugged to withstand rain and dust and some even come with military-grade protection. The hardier the laptop the costlier it is. A good example is the IBM  ThinkPad line of laptops by Lenovo. They are made rugged and hardy and can withstand a few drops with no effect on the structural integrity the laptop.

 

Hopefully these pointers can help you focus on the most important specifications required for a fully functional computer.

Buying Your First Car?

Buying a car is big investment and an expensive one to most people. Most of us have probably taken a loan or saved up for quite some time in order to acquire your first car. So where do you start? I will give a quick guide on what to look for when making your car purchase.

  1. Safety

Safety first, so goes the saying. The reason this is top on my list is that regardless of engine size and all other add-ons , if the vehicle does not have sufficient safety features, then it is not worth the wheels it is standing on. It is an accident waiting to happen especially with the kind of road carnage we have on our highways. Safety includes airbags, knee protection, anti-lock brakes, safety alerts and electronic stability control (prevent the car from spinning out of control and sliding sideways).

  1. The Engine

Now that you know that your car is safe you need to check the two other important things that Kenyans are interested in, how fast can this vehicle go and what is the fuel efficiency? Both these aspects are determined by the engine. There are two basic things to check here – the overall displacement of the motor in liters and the number of cylinders in the engine. For instance, a small car would usually have a 1.6 liter four-cylinder engine, which is great for fuel efficiency but might not give you rapid acceleration, especially on an incline. On the other hand, if you have a powerful engine, like a 6.2 liter, eight-cylinder one, you can whizz past everyone else but end up having to cough up much more for fuel, because efficiency here would suffer. Ideally, pick something that is suited for the type of driving you do – if you will be stuck in city traffic, the rapid acceleration won’t be any use.

  1. Transmission

This is basically a choice between automatic and manual transmission. There is also another option which is a hybrid of the two, semi-automatic transmission where the clutch is automated and your only worry is to move the gear stick. Choice of transmission is neither here nor there in terms of performance and with advancements in technology, both options are relatively efficient.  If you want an easy, hustle free drive go with automatic transmission. If you are a thrill seeker and want to be one with your car, go with manual transmission.

  1. Comfort & convenience

It goes without saying that your overall driving experience should be comfortable. Take the car for test drive to get a feel for it. Enter and exit the vehicle. Can you do so easily and without hitting your head or banging your shin? Once behind the wheel, can you find a position that allows you to reach the pedals and steering wheel comfortably? Is there enough headroom? Are all of the controls within easy reach? Check visibility from the driver’s seat. Can you see clearly now? Do you have a clear view of the traffic around you? Are there blind spots? Start the engine and take a drive. Concentrate on the smoothness of the ride. Does the suspension absorb bumps without a spectacle? If the transmission is automatic, concentrate on the smoothness of up-shifts and downshifts. If it’s a manual transmission, does the gearshift move through its pattern fluidly? Do you feel comfortable with the operation of the clutch and the amount of effort it takes to depress it? Is the steering responsive? Does the vehicle track straight when the steering wheel is held in its center position or does the vehicle wander? Does the vehicle feel stable when cornering? Do the brakes stop the vehicle smoothly? Is it a controlled, straight-line stop? This seems like a lot but they are important factors that will make your driving experience smooth.

  1. Availability of spare parts

Should I even mention this? This is usually on the top of every Kenyans list. It is important that you pick a car that has plenty of spares in the market. It will beat logic to have a nice car and then have to park it for extended periods when it breaks down as you try to import parts. Not only is this expensive, it is also time consuming and will quickly sap your energy and enthusiasm for your new car.

  1. Infotainment features

Entertainment is a pretty basic feature in most cars. There is a myriad of options to choose from depending on your tastes and preferences: USB, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, touch screen, iPhone compatible, surround sound, CD player, voice controls and in-built navigation systems. Bluetooth and a USB port are now standard in most cars. If the car has a touch screen please make sure to test its sensitivity. Does it quickly respond to inputs?  A big but laggy infotainment system is not something you would want in a new car.

  1. Warranties

Warranties are usually offered by most car manufacturers and dealers and the standard has mostly been a 5 year or 100,000 km warranty. This is changing though with some adopting what they call a ‘one year no cost maintenance’ which means that if a new car breaks down in the first year the dealer will repair it at no cost to the owner. Check what type of warranties you are getting and if it depends on the number of years or kilometers driven. There also might be a few initial servicing deals thrown in by the dealer. So, don’t hesitate to ask about them.

You can choose to consider the resale value of the car and recurring costs like insurance, fuel and maintenance when you make your pick. Another thing to note is the time of the year you intend to make the purchase. Take advantage of end year deals or time you purchase to before the launch of new models. Dealers tend to clear previous models then by having discount sales.

There are many things you can look at when buying a car but you should be safe with the above.

What To Look For In An AV Receiver

AV Receiver. Sounds like something safaricom will float a tender for, right? An Audio Video Receiver (AV Receiver in short) is actually a consumer electronics component used in home theater. Its primary purpose is to receive audio and visual signals from a number of sources and process them to drive loudspeakers and/or a display. Yes, I googled that and Wikipedia came through.  An AV Receiver is the focal point of the home theater system, connecting your speakers to various electronic components. It powers your speakers, tunes radio stations, switches between audio and video components & decoding signals for surround sound. In short, it’s the nerve center for your home entertainment.

So what should you consider when you finally decide enough is enough and it’s time for the neighbors to call the police?

  1. Inputs & Outputs

This is simple: the more inputs and outputs (places to connect to the receiver) the more components (TV, speakers, playstation, blu ray player) the device can hold. Quick math.

  1. Power

Power isn’t simply another word for volume. Power dictates a receiver’s ability to produce detailed and dynamic sound. Power is measured in watts. So it goes without saying that the higher the wattage the better the sound quality.

  1. Calibration

Beginners will find that just setting up a home entertainment system so that all of the components are connected is hard enough, let alone determining whether the components are properly functioning. It is advisable to purchase a receiver that can handle automatic room calibration. It will set up the system and even suggest speaker placement.

  1. Wireless connectivity

With wireless technology being incorporated into everything, it goes without saying that your receiver should have this as well. Streaming music is now the norm rather than the exception therefore built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are part and parcel of this experience.

  1. Speakers

All the above will amount to nothing if you do not match your receiver with a good set of speakers. They don’t have to be expensive, top of the line speakers. The rule of thumb is the speakers should be half the receivers power rating ie a speaker with a power rating of 350 watts will require an amplifier that can produce 700 watts.

There is so much you can choose to look at when making your purchase: number of channels, total harmonic distortion (THD), second-zone audio etc the list can vary depending on tastes and preferences but the above should cover the basics.

HAND HYGIENE FOR WHO?

For many decades hand hygiene has been a practice targeted at prevention of communicable diseases. Most people will ask, why practice hand hygiene, what are the consequences of dirty hands, nails etc. Well most of the pathogenic microorganisms we ingest are passed through contact by hands if not for already stale foods. Hand hygiene focusses on reduction but not total eradication of microbes. Hand hygiene basically ensures the microbial levels/quantities are deemed safe for consumption.

Hand hygiene can be performed through hand washing or by use of ABHR (Alcohol based hand rubs). Hand washing by water or soap and water involves the mechanical removal of microbes from our hands. Soap adds some value by lysing some of the potential pathogens. Disinfection may or may not be achieved by some soaps depending on the level of soil and the nature of microbes one is exposed to. For the soaps that claim anti-microbial efficacy, they mainly target very basic bacteria, fungi but hardly viruses. One would need a more efficient antimicrobial agent like povidone or chlorhexidine to be able to achieve intense antimicrobial activity against pathogenic bacteria, fungi and viruses. This in many cases is not necessary especially when you are exposed to less pathogenic microbes.

The use of ABHR has a topic that has received various discussions some supporting while others against the use of such. The best recommendation for use of ABHR is when the hands are not visibly soiled. Remember we cannot see pathogens with our naked eyes. This doesn’t mean they do not exist! In fact, microbes are cosmopolitan and exist everywhere around us. Some may be opportunistic causing infections during low immunity or when exposed in great amounts more than the usual. As well we have microbes that are considered as normal flora and interact and have mutual benefits with their hosts – this is a wide discussion that can be expounded later. Thus we are advised that when our hands are visibly soiled, we are required to wash them with soap and water, dry the hands and then you can either continue with your activities or if more precaution is to be observed you can use ABHR to sanitize.

ABHR are considered as agents for hands antisepsis- Disinfection is a term more used with inanimate objects but while antisepsis is used when talking about disinfection of skin, always be sure not to confuse the two terms- when no visible soil is present on the hands. These ABHR’s are rinse free as most of them are based on Ethanol or Isopropyl which evaporates after hand rubbing. The levels are safe enough not to get anyone drunk. Consider this, apple juice contains alcohol, one can hardly get drunk by drinking 2 litres of apple juice, thus the amount of alcohol used on the hands is very little and cannot be absorbed into the human body.

ABHR vary in the type of alcohol used, emollients (moisturizing agents) and log reduction (microbes killing power). ABHR used at home, and sanitizers carried in the hand bags are usually having a low killing power considering the microbes one is exposed to are not very pathogenic. Those used in the hospitals are stronger and have a higher log reduction. When ABHR claim a 99.9% killing of germs we consider this a log 3 reduction, ABHR used in the hospitals should be able to meet at least a log 5 reduction which is 99.999% reduction. The 0.001% is very significant as far as killing microbes is concerned. This will determine what kind of ABHR one should select for use. Examples of log 3 ABHR in the Kenyan market include: Protex, Velvex and Dettol while log 5 reduction include: Anios gel, Alsoft V and KemRub.

Therefore, hand hygiene is for everyone! We can all control communicable diseases by practicing hand hygiene.

Buying A New TV?

Thinking of getting a new TV set or upgrading to something more up to date? Just like any device these days, the technology changes quite fast and it can be overwhelming when faced with the tech jargon that accompanies the device. Apart from price here are few factors that one should consider before committing to purchase a television in today’s  market.

Resolution and Screen Size

If you have been paying attention am sure you have come across abbreviations HD and 4k UHD when it comes to televisions over the past five or so years. This is all about the maximum  picture resolution that can be displayed on the screen. Bear with me as I get a little technical here, image resolution is measured in the number of vertical and horizontal points/elements called pixels that every screen uses to display images. Every screen has a maximum number of these pixels that determine the clarity of displayed images. True/Full HD screens have 1080pixels by 1920pixels and are suitable for larger screens from 40 inches to 50 inches as opposed to HD Ready screens with a maximum resolution of 720pixels by 1280pixels suitable for smaller screens of 32 inches or smaller. On to the newer kid on the block, 4K UHD resolution which simply put, means 4 times the resolution of Full HD (2160pixels by 3840 pixels) and is the best resolution for larger screens from 55 inches and above. With the larger resolution comes better contrast (difference between light and dark parts of an image) and brightness.

When it comes to selecting a screen size, the distance that the viewer will be sitting from the TV set comes into play. The larger the distance the bigger the screen needed so as to take maximum advantage of a higher resolution.

Media Format

The resolution of the screen can only be fully enjoyed if the media displayed on it matches   that of the screen. Meaning, a video of HD(1080p) resolution is best enjoyed on a Full HD TV screen. Videos of a higher resolution may look better on a lower resolution screen , say a 1080p video played on a 720p screen given that the file format is supported . A key note is, if the TV set supports your most commonly used media file formats. There is nothing as annoying as having media you want to enjoy only to be met with ‘File format not Supported’ or ‘Cannot play File format’ message on the screen. Once upon a time, as long as your device could play the ‘.avi’ file format  you were mostly good to go but now with the availability of HD content, the demand of file formats that don’t take too much space but deliver high quality has led to newer file formats. To avoid frustration after purchase, make sure the packaging of the TV displays the latest file format for playable media. At present this is the ‘HEVC’ format which supports highly compressed HD video.

Smart Vs ‘Dumb’

 

The current buzz word along with 4K UHD is Smart. Simply put, just like phones, the smart function allows extra functionality such as watching videos via apps provided on the TV’s platform(Netflix, Youtube and countless others). Smart and accessing the internet go hand in hand. You may not necessarily require to buy a smart TV to get the ‘smart’ experience however. There are streaming devices that can be bought, connected to the tv  via USB port or HDMI ports that can add the smart functionality and are available at pocket friendly prices. These devices include various Android TV boxes, Chromecast devices, Amazon’s Fire TV and many more(that’s a topic for another day) not forgetting that Game consoles do the same these days too.

Pricing

This goes without saying but quite often this is the determining factor when buying a new TV. Keep in mind that the more common brands with all the bells and whistles do cost an arm and a leg  but there are choices out there that make owning a TV that’s up to date and should last you a good while before you think of upgrading.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to your personal choice. Know what you want, why you want it and how you will use it. Feel free to carry a flash disk or external  drive with your most commonly used media content and ask to view it before you commit to a purchase, that way you have lesser chances of making a disappointing  purchase.

I hope this article will be of useful and feel free to give feedback on the topic or suggestions on what to tackle next that a Kenyan Buyer would like to know before making a purchase.