Until quite recently, if anyone had asked me what my favorite kitchen appliance was, I suspect I would have said my microwave – purely on the basis that it saves me time and I use it so often. Now, although I still love my microwave oven – it’s an incredibly convenient kitchen gadget – I think I would say that my new halogen oven is my favorite kitchen device.
It’s incredibly versatile – cooks anything that you would normally do in your conventional oven – it’s fast, it’s healthy and it saves me money. I use it all the time. I hardly use the “big” oven these days, and the microwave is primarily used for heating up already prepared food – which is what I suspect most people use their micros for.
What Is A Halogen Oven?
Halogen ovens have a relatively simple construction, which is good because there’s less to go wrong. They are basically large glass bowls – about 12 liters in volume – mounted on a plastic cradle and with a lid that contains a halogen oven light, a small fan and some controls.
The halogen light acts as the heat source, and it heats up virtually immediately. There’s no waiting for the oven to warm up, just pop your food in, set the temperature, choose the cooking time and off you go.
It heats food using infra-red radiation from the halogen light bulb. The small fan circulates the air within the glass bowl to ensure an even distribution of heat and there is also a convection heating result.
The heat is instantaneous, there are two heating modes and the volume of the bowl is much smaller than a traditional oven. All of these factors combine to make cooking food in a halogen oven much faster than using a conventional oven. you will get cooking times that are close to those of a microwave oven – but you’ll be able to cook food and achieve results that you would never get in a microwave.
You can roast poultry and meat and get lovely golden brown chicken (see image top right). You can steam fish, broil steak, bake cookies, cakes and muffins, heat up frozen pizza and even make things like French fries and breaded chicken with hardly any oil.
In short, you can cook anything in your halogen oven that you would in your main oven – but faster. It has the speed of the microwave combined with the versatility of a “proper” oven. You can even use foil containers in it if you want!
Halogen ovens have even more to offer. Because they cook the food so quickly,and because they have a small volume, they use a lot less energy than your main oven. Most manufacturers claim a 75% reduction in energy used to prepare food – on a like for like basis comparing halogen ovens to traditional ovens.
Halogen ovens also use much less oil than other types of cooking. For example; you can make French fries with just a spoonful of oil. You can enjoy your favorite foods without having to worry (too much) about your health – or your waistline.
And when you’re done cooking and eating, halogen ovens are really easy to clean. They have an “auto-clean” function; just add soap and water, select the “Clean” setting and set the timer to ten minutes or so. Alternatively, you can pop the glass bowl in the dishwasher or clean it in the sink as you prefer. Whichever option you go for, it’s a whole lot easier than cleaning a traditional oven (and no nasty chemicals and cleaners required either).
Halogen Oven Benefits In Summary
Versatile – cook anything you can think of in a halogen oven
Easy to use – set the timer, choose the temperature and go and get on with something else
I love my laptop. It’s a nice powerful i5 machine and I’ve taken it with me on my travels often. Even when I just want to move to a different (quieter) room in the house, a laptop is very handy.
I have my tablet computer for fun and my e-reader for reading – but when I want to get some serious work done, it tends to be the laptop that gets fired up.
The only problem with laptops, especially the larger and more powerful ones, is that they tend to heat up quite a bit. They can very quickly become so hot that they are, despite their name, extremely uncomfortable to use on your lap.
However, that’s not the worst of it. Like many other electrical and electronic devices, laptops age more quickly the hotter they run. Some heat is unavoidable from any electrical appliance, and laptops are no different, but if they run too hot they will tend to have a short working life. If you’re very unlucky, excessive heat may even cause your laptop fail suddenly.
The trouble is that laptop computers have become very powerful these days, and more power means more heat generated. However, because we all want the convenience of light and portable computing power, there’s a definite limit to the size and weight of a laptop.
The upshot of that is that there isn’t much room to fit cooling fans inside laptop computers. As a rule, a laptop will have smaller, less powerful fans than the equivalent power desktop machine. That’s why they tend to overheat.
The way that people use them doesn’t always help either. Laptops usually have their inlet cooling vents on the underside of the base. If you tend to use your laptop balanced on your knee, then your pants or skirt fabric can sometimes crease and impede, or even completely block, the flow of cooling air into the laptop.
How Do I Know If My Laptop Is Overheating?
All electrical appliances generate a certain amount of heat – and some laptop manufacturers do design their machines to run quite hot. If you’re not sure whether or not your laptop is overheating, here are some clues that you may have a problem:
Does your laptop quickly become uncomfortably hot to use balanced on your knee – or does it heat and even discolor the surface of the worktop that you use it on?
Does the internal fan operate all or most of the time?
Does your laptop sometimes cut out when you’re using it for processor hungry tasks (you may hear the fan laboring prior to cut out)?
Does your laptop cut out frequently within a short time of switching it on?
If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, then it seems quite likely that you may have a problem with an overheating laptop. Fortunately, there’s a simple and inexpensive solution available; use a laptop cooling pad to lower the operating temperature of your laptop.
Choosing A Laptop Cooling Pad
There are two different types of laptop cooling pads; passive and active. Either one will help to lower the working temperature of your laptop.
Passive Laptop Cooling Pads
Passive laptop coolers have no fans, they are just a hard surface which you put your laptop on top of. This ensures that there is enough room for the air to circulate freely beneath the base of the laptop and get into the laptop cooling vents, which are usually situated on the underside of the laptop.
Because passive coolers have no fans, there’s no additional noise (although most active cooling pads run very quietly) and there’s no need to draw power from your battery.
As mentioned earlier, it’s easy for laptop cooling intake vents to get blocked by fabric or other materials, so this can be quite effective. These can be all that’s needed for lower powered laptops or even for powerful laptops which aren’t in operation for long periods at any one time.
Active Laptop Cooling Pads
Active laptop cooling pads use one or more fans to direct additional air into the cooling vents of the laptop. Most will blow air directly upwards towards the base of your laptop – because the majority of laptops have the cooling intake vents on the underside of the base and the exhaust vents on the side. However, some laptop cooling pads have reversible airflow so that you can draw air away from the laptop if it has the exhaust vents on the underside.
You connect the laptop cooling pad to a spare usb port on your computer to get the power to drive the fans. Normally the fans run very quietly, they are usually quieter than the internal fan inside the laptop. Some cooling pads have variable speed fans where you can turn the air flow up or down according to what kind of tasks you’re performing on your laptop.
Active cooling pads can direct significant amounts of extra cooling air into your laptop and really drop the running temperature. They are a great solution for powerful laptops and gaming machines.
Why Use A Laptop Cooling Pad?
A laptop cooling pad will help your laptop to run cooler. That will be more comfortable for you in use – but just as importantly, it will prolong the life of your laptop and help to keep the information that you have stored on it safer (although you should still make regular backups of course).
Laptop cooling pads start at just a few dollars. They are an inexpensive, but extremely effective, way of protecting your costly laptop hardware and protecting your data. Even if your laptop isn’t overheating, dropping its operating temperature will extend its working life.
A laptop cooling pad will pay for itself many times over – and it might save you a lot of hassle if you avoid a sudden thermally induced failure.
Tablet computers are very popular these days. They make up over 50% of computer sales at the moment, selling more than both laptops and desktops combined. Bearing in mind that Apple pretty much launched the tablet market when they released the original iPad, as recently as 2010, that’s an amazing result.
Until quite recently, even the most fervent early adopters and geeks considered tablets very much as an add on device; one which could be a useful supplement to a notebook or a desktop, but which couldn’t fully replace a “proper” computer. Now more and more people are choosing tablets as their primary computing device.
So just what are the key factors behind the surge in tablet computer popularity? More importantly, if you’re in the market for a new computer, should you be opting for a tablet or going with the more traditional desktop or laptop options?
The latest generation of tablets is definitely a lot more powerful. Quad core processors and high clock speeds mean that tablet users are pretty much getting desktop and laptop power – but in a device that you can hold in one hand and which will easily fit into your purse or briefcase.
Tablet Computer Prices
The tablet computer market has two basic subdivisions at the moment – Apple and everybody else. Apple has maintained its high price point, and that doesn’t seem to upset its fans. However, the “everybody else” sector of the market is now offering some great value tablets to the buying public.
Not necessarily cheap, but feature packed for the money. With that being said, there are plenty of small tablets available at very low prices which offer a great entry point for anyone looking for a budget tablet. These are not unknown brands either – you can now pick up an entry level Kindle tablet for less than $100.
Ease of Use
Most tablets are sold for personal use at the moment. People want them mainly for entertainment, with a little e-mail thrown in perhaps. For tasks such as playing games, watching videos and checking your Facebook or Twitter account, many people find tablets, with their easy to use touch screens, a much more user friendly option than desktops or laptops.
A prod here, a swipe there and you can be connected to your favourite social network, streaming video, playing games or checking your e-mail. Tablets may not be as productive for work type functions, but they are a fast and easy to use access point to entertainment for most users – and that’s exactly what they want.
It’s a natural consequence of their extreme ease of use that tablet computers appeal to a much wider audience than either laptops or desktops. Many people who would not enjoy using a computer are quite happy to pick up a tablet and start swiping and poking away. Simply put, tablets appeal to more people than other types of computers.
You will often see very young children using tablet computers these days. You can get specially designed tablets for children – from the likes of LeapFrog, VTech etc. – but many parents are just going with entry level standard tablets, in a child-proof case more often than not.
Prices have dropped enough that there isn’t much difference between toy tablets and the real thing these days. With a standard tablet, parents generally have a lot more freedom to search for educational software, games and apps for their little ones.
At the other end of the scale, tablet computers for seniors are becoming extremely popular. Many senior citizens enjoy using tablets as a way to keep in touch with their family and friends. Watching movies, keeping up with current events, browsing social networks and even gaming are also popular activities.
Some studies have suggested that playing computer games is a good way to help retain memory function in seniors. It’s certainly an enjoyable diversion.
From the very young, to the very old, and everywhere in between, tablet computers have a very wide audience – many of whom would shy away from a QWERTY keyboard and mouse combo. It’s a major factor in the success of tablets to date.
The Future Of Tablet Computers
For the past few years, tablets have mainly been personal purchases. As mentioned earlier, they are mainly used for fun and entertainment.
However, corporate buyers are starting to look at tablet computers and things may change. For one thing, you can expect to see Windows based tablets taking a larger percentage of the market as most business environments still have a bias towards Windows and Windows software.
Over the last couple of years Android took over from Apple’s iOS as the most popular operating system. Windows currently makes up under 5% of all tablets. It seems unlikely that Android will be displaced any time soon, but a growth in Windows based tablets seems inevitable.
When Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type, around about 1436, it was unquestionably the biggest change in the world of books for many centuries. It allowed the man in the street to have access to affordable books, pamphlets and newspapers and helped to increase adult literacy enormously.
Affordable and accessible reading material was one of the major factors that fuelled cultural, industrial and scientific advancement in Europe and, subsequently, the rest of the world. It helped to lay the foundations of our modern digital information culture.
There were no more fundamental changes in the world of books for many centuries. There were certainly improvements in the efficiency of the printing process. We got things like typewriters, computer controlled printing presses, word processors etc. – but the basic product, newspapers and books didn’t change much at all.
More Changes In The World Of Reading
Not until e-readers hit the market that is. The first commercial e-readers hit the market around 2006 and the Amazon Kindle appeared in 2007. There had been e-readers prior to that, but they weren’t really mainstream products. The Kindle may not have been the first e-reader, but Amazon’s association with books and reading gave it great deal of credibility which had been lacking up until that point.
Even with Amazon’s clout in the book market, it wasn’t really until the release of the Kindle 2.0 in 2009 that e-readers really took off. It was a combination of improvements in e-reader hardware and a rapidly growing number of available e-books for use with e-readers that seemed to do the trick. By 2009, it was quite normal to find any book available in e-book format.
E-readers have developed quite a bit since then. Displays are sharper, page turns are faster and there are lighted readers so that you can read in the dark. Prices have fallen and e-readers have been pretty well accepted as part of the landscape by the general public.
Nonetheless, there are those who are already predicting the demise of e-readers. Many pundits feel that the advent of cheaper tablet computers will see an end to the short life of e-readers.
In fact the two devices are quite different. Reading on a back-lit LCD screen is less pleasant than reading on an e-ink display. Even so, many people will be happy to do that, for a short period of time at least, in order to get the increased power and added versatility of a tablet computer.
Interestingly enough, a recent study suggested that older people had a preference for reading on e-readers and younger users were happy enough to read on tablet computers – or smart phones for that matter. It may be that older eyes benefit more from the improved reading experience offered by e-ink technology displays.
In the final analysis, it seems unlikely that e-readers will be displaced by tablet computers any more than printed books were displaced by e-readers. It’s also debatable whether or not the hardware used to read e-books is very important.
The major change in reading has been brought about by the advent of e-books. Whether they are read on an e-reader, a tablet computer or a smart phone probably doesn’t matter very much. E-books, however you choose to enjoy them, are very definitely here to stay.
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