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Member since: 20.06.2010

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    • Pentax Optio M60 / Digital Camera / 53 Readings / 51 Ratings
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      25.06.2010 21:34
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      A very nice point and click camera with lots of options and very good picture quality.

      There seems to be quite a bit of disagreement about this little camera when you look around on the internet. Either people seem very happy with it or they are complaining and want to return it to the store as soon as possible. Personally I am pretty enthusiastic about this camera. I have it for over a year now and have not had any issues with it.

      I am your average "photographer", as in I point and click and want the camera to do the work without me having to fumble around with settings. So I am not going to talk about ISO values, white balance, sensitivity, EV Compensation, ... because honestly I do not know what they are all for. Which means I will cover things that I think matter most when looking for a normal day to day use digital camera.


      Design:

      The Pentax M60 is compact, light and lies very comfortably in your hand. The manufacturer has kept the use of plastic to a bear minimum, which gives the camera a very solid feel. Most of the back of the camera is taken up by a good size screen (which has remained scratch free so far).


      Lens and zoom:

      The camera is able to take pictures up to 10 mega pixels, which is more than enough for your day to day use and holiday pictures. And this would allow you to enlarge your pictures if you would like without losing out on quality.
      Pentax did a nice job with the 5X optical zoom, which works very well and will not give you any quality loss.


      Memory:

      The standard memory allows you to take 9 pictures on the best quality. So you will have to invest in an SD card to expand this. I have a 2gig SD card in my camera and that allows me to take 482 pictures on the best quality. Normally I set my camera on 7 mega pixels and than you can take up to 648 pictures.


      Battery:

      Pentax has chosen for a lithium-ion battery, which has to be recharged outside the camera in a separate charger (delivered with the camera). The battery life is something I cannot flaw, the camera can be used for a long time before you have to recharge. And there is a handy indicator on your screen, which shows the remaining battery available.


      Modes:

      There are no less than 24 preset modes you can chose from on this camera when taking a picture. All these modes are set by the manufacturer as "best" settings for certain situations. Just a grab out of the possibilities are night scene, flower, landscape, surf and snow, sport, pet.

      I think the most important one though is the auto mode. The camera will then pick "the most likely correct mode" for you automatically. And in most occasions this will give you a very nice result.


      Menu:

      In the menu you can change the settings of your camera. The menu is very simple in use and self-explanatory. But I must admit that I have left most of the options as default.


      Quality:

      I'm not an expert but I cannot fault the picture quality. The pictures taken look sharp and the colours are very natural.
      I have printed quite some pictures at home on photo paper with a normal printer and they come out just great!


      Nice extras:

      - Ability to make (short) movies
      - "Smile capture" - Very funny to use at parties as the camera will automatically take a picture when it detects someone smiling
      - "Face priority" - The camera will focus on faces when taking a picture
      - A build-in picture editor so you can reduce red eyes, put a frame around a picture, adjust colours, ...


      Overall:

      A very nice point and click camera with lots of options and very good picture quality. In its price range I think it is a very worthy contestant with others.


      If you feel there is something missing in this review, do let me know and I will do my best to add it.

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      • Rice & Pasta Dishes / Recipe / 40 Readings / 34 Ratings
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        25.06.2010 13:38
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        Plain and simple: a tasty dish

        You sometimes read that making a good risotto is really hard, but I disagree with this statement. Ok, it might not be like the "real" risotto you would get when visiting Italy but in the end does it matter if it tastes great?

        This is a recipe that I make on regular basis for me and my girlfriend, and we both love it.

        Note that the measurements are for a portion that feeds 2 quite generously. It might take you a few tries to get the consistency right, but that's all part of cooking I think.

        Ingredients:
        - 125 gr of Arborio rice (or other risotto rice) - the rice is essential!
        - 1 shallot (I prefer this over onion in risotto)
        - 2 cloves of garlic
        - 600 ml of warm vegetable or chicken stock
        - A dash of white wine (optional)
        - Some fresh cut mushrooms (I use normal ones because they are cheap)
        - Portion of fresh or frozen spinach (if you use frozen spinach like I do, make sure you drain all excess water when you defrost it)
        - black pepper and salt
        - olive oil (gives some extra taste compared to sunflower oil)
        - Generous portion of parmesan cheese

        Steps:

        1/ Sauté the chopped the shallot and garlic in some olive oil on a medium heat fire

        2/ Add the rice in your pan and stir well to make sure the rice has a little layer of oil around the grains

        3/ Add some white wine and let the wine get absorbed by the rice - if you do not have white wine you can leave this step out

        4/ When the wine is gone add some of the stock while stirring the rice

        Note: It is important that you only add small amounts of stock in your pan while stirring the rice. Only when the stock in your pan is almost gone you add some more. Do this, while stirring the rice continuously, until the rice is almost cooked.

        5/ If the rice is almost cooked (or when you add the last of your stock) season with pepper and salt and add the mushrooms and the spinach. Both of these ingredients only need about 2 minutes to cook.

        Your aim is to have a nice smooth rice dish - you do not want to have a rice pudding consistency!

        6/ When you are happy with the consistency of the dish, turn off your fire and add the parmesan cheese (if you do not like cheese you can just leave it out but for me it's essential) and have a final tasting

        7/ Serve immediately (with a nice glass of white wine)

        I hope you will enjoy this dish as much as I do and if something is not clear, feel free to send me a message.


        Extra:
        - This dish is great as a vegetarian dish but is really nice with some grilled chicken or turkey (season with Italian herbs)
        - Why not add wild mushrooms for extra flavour

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        • Chocolate in General / Recipe / 34 Readings / 32 Ratings
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          23.06.2010 20:43
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          Easy and quick recipe for a delicious chocolate mousse

          Chocolate mousse, a dessert that is always a winner among chocolate lovers (and can convert others). And it doesn't have to be complicated to make at all. This recipe is fast, easy and it tastes just great!!!

          Ingredients:
          100 gr of good quality chocolate (I prefer dark, but milk works as well)
          3 eggs
          50 gr of sugar

          Steps:

          1/ Separate the egg whites and the egg yolks in big enough bowls

          2/ Add the sugar to the egg yolks and whisk until it gets it is smooth (little bubbles will appear)

          3/ Whisk the egg whites until they stand in peaks
          Tip: If you add a tiny pinch of salt it will go a lot easier

          4/ Melt the chocolate - either over a pot of hot water or in the microwave (watch out that you do not burn the chocolate this way)

          5/ Let the chocolate cool down for a bit so it is not too warm and add together with the egg yolk. Stir until you have a smooth paste

          6/ Mix the beaten egg whites gently with the chocolate mixture
          ! Be gentle when stirring the whites and the chocolate together, you do not want all the air to go out of the egg whites (it would be a shame of all the hard work you put in to get them to that stage)

          7/ Divide over ramekins or small cups and put in the fridge for at least 2 hours

          Enjoy !!

          Alternatives:
          - Why not add some double whisked double cream (100 ml)
          - Why not add a tea spoon of powder coffee

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          • Stews & Sauces / Recipe / 25 Readings / 24 Ratings
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            23.06.2010 20:22
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            An easy recipe for a very tasty chilli con carne

            Who doesn't love a good home made chilli con carne, it's easy to make, it all fits in one pot and it tastes great.
            The recipe below should be looked at as sort of a guideline because people' taste differ and who am I to tell you how something should taste. It is a great dish to experiment with, especially when it comes down to the amount of spices you add. Therefore I will only give the "right" amount for the basic ingredients, for the spices, well add to your own taste as you go along. When I make this dish it never tastes the same, but it always taste great!!

            I think in theory you should be able to feed 4 people with this, but to be honest I eat so much of it it only feeds 2...


            Ingredients:

            1 big onion
            1 red pepper
            4 cloves of garlic
            500 gr of minced beef
            1 can of red kidney beans
            1 can of chopped tomatoes
            2 table spoons of tomato paste
            Some sunflower oil
            Pinch of sugar (you might not need this)

            Dried spices:
            Cumin
            Black pepper
            Chilli powder (or flakes)
            Cayenne pepper
            Salt

            You may wonder why I use both cayenne pepper and chilli pepper. The reason for this is that both kinds of pepper give a different heat to the dish.

            ! Have a big enough pan ready for all ingredients to fit and simmer
            Steps:

            1/ Heat the oil in your pan on a medium fire

            2/ Add chopped onion and garlic and leave to sauté for a bit (until onion gets soft)

            3/ Add your mince to the onion and garlic and season with salt and black pepper

            4/ When the mince is fried sufficiently add the tomatoes, beans (with liquid), the chopped red pepper and tomato paste. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.
            ! This is a good time to already have a taste. If your tomatoes are a bit too acidic for your liking add some sugar and taste again, the sugar will counter the acidity.

            5/ This is the moment of truth as at this stage you will add the other spices (cumin, cayenne pepper and chilli) to your liking.
            !! Be gentle on the spices in the beginning. You might not feel the amount of heat at the very beginning but after 5 minutes of simmering it might be a whole different story.

            6/ Let the whole dish simmer on a low fire for at least 30 minutes (the longer the better)

            7/ Have another taste and add seasoning if needed

            8/Serve with white rice

            Enjoy!! (The chilli will even taste better the next day ;-) )

            Extra:
            If you feel adventurous why not add one of the following ingredients:
            - Small can of sweet corn
            - Coriander
            - Some dark chocolate
            - Small amount of lager

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            • More +
              20.06.2010 20:30
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              Very nice looking and comfortable (gaming) headset with good sound quality for an affordable price!

              This headset is only the second headset I ever purchased for gaming and they suit me perfectly. I think I bought them almost a year and a half ago and they still work as good as on the first day I plugged them in my pc.

              Why a "gaming" headset you may ask?
              When I purchased the headset I was a "heavy user" of the online game World of Warcraft. Which meant I could spend several hours a day behind my pc with a headset on. So you can imagine that I was looking out for a comfortable headset if it was going to be on my head for long periods of time and I needed to have a microphone integrated in it.
              This is why I originally went for the Fatal1ty series of Creative. Fatal1ty is the pseudonym of an American professional gamer who has won several world championships in primarily first player shooters. Hence I figured he should know what a comfortable and overall good headset should be like. And it must be said I have not regretted this purchase what so ever.

              Look:
              The headset itself is manufactured in hard black plastic with some dark red on the earpieces. There is padding on the top for a good support and the padding on the earpieces block out surrounding noise very efficiently (to the annoyance of people trying to call you J ).
              The (flexible) microphone is integrated in the headset and can be detached if needed. Which is very handy if you don't really need the microphone while playing.
              The cord is pretty long and has a volume regulator integrated, as well as a button to switch the microphone on/off.

              Installing:
              Very simple plug and play with no further hassle. There is a separate plug for the sound and microphone, so it's a matter of connecting the right colours.

              Quality:
              - The hard plastic if very decent and never gives you the feeling that it might snap or break whenever you use the headset. The padding is very well attached and of good quality, so far it does not show any signs of coming lose (or other defects).
              - I find the sound quality very good with good bass sounds when needed. Whether you are listening to in-game sounds, your fellow players or just music on your stereo it all sounds very good.
              - The microphone I used for in-game talking over Ventrilo or Teamspeak and is nowadays used to talk over Skype with family or friends. Because the microphone is flexible so you can move it closer / further away from your mouth if needed. Most importantly here is that people seem to hear me very well with little interfering noise, so I cannot flaw this.

              BUT is it really that comfortable?
              Well, yes and no. For me it is very comfortable because I have been wearing for a long time and got used to it. But I remember the first two weeks or so where my ears started to hurt because of the headset (then again you can say that you are not really meant to wear headphones for several hours in a row). So you might say you need to have a little patience with the headset...

              Overall:
              Very nice looking and comfortable (gaming) headset with good sound quality for an affordable price!

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              • Toshiba SD 190EKB / DVD Player / 35 Readings / 33 Ratings
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                20.06.2010 15:39
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                A very good lower end dvd player that does what it needs to do.

                I bought this dvd player around 7 months ago and it has served me very well so far. The Toshiba SD 190EKB does everything it says on the box for a very affordable price (you should be able to pick one up for around £35).

                Design:
                The dvd player comes in glossy black, with a minimalistic front which makes it look nice and slick.

                Installation:
                Installing the dvd player is a matter of standard plug and play, so it can't get much easier than that and should not be a cause for a any problems. The option menu for further "tweaking" seems fairly straight forward and easy to go through. Although I must admit that I haven't much played around with this as it depends on the set-up of your video/audio system.

                ! On a side note I was slightly surprised when I opened the box that there was no scart cable delivered with the dvd player. So make sure when purchasing this dvd player that you have an extra scart cable lying around (or other connection cables such as CVBS).

                Discs / Formats:
                Like most dvd players these days the common discs you normally come across are supported (dvd, dvd-r, dvd-rw, cd, cd-r, cd-rw, etc).
                And there is a nice bonus because even though the Toshiba SD 190EKB is a lower end dvd player it also supports JPEG, DivX, AVI and MP3. Which is nice for anyone who downloads movies from the internet or if you want to view your pictures from your camera on the tv.

                Playback:
                The image and sound you get from this player are good, nothing more nothing less. I'm using a scart connection on a normal tv and have no complaints what so ever, it works like a charm.
                I'm using the dvd player on a regular basis with different kinds of discs/formats and have yet to come across a single skip during playback. Which can be a major issue on a lot of dvd players.
                The only complaint I might have is that the dvd player makes a rather annoying sound when going to the dvd menu.


                Overall:
                A very good lower end dvd player that does what it needs to do! I have not regret buying the Toshiba SD 190EDK for one second.

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