Halogen Ovens


What Is A Halogen Oven?

halogen oven plus accessories big bossI got a halogen oven as a gift some time ago, and it has very quickly become my favorite kitchen gadget. I use it all the time now, my main oven is hardly ever used – and I use my microwave mainly for heating things up (I think that’s what most people use their microwave ovens for).

Halogen ovens are relatively simple devices which will sit right on top of your kitchen worktop. There’s no need to modify cabinets or anything like that – they take up about the same amount of space as a microwave.

They consist of a large glass bowl, about 12 quarts in volume, which sits on a plastic cradle. They also have a lid containing a halogen light bulb and a fan on the inside and some simple to use controls on the outside.

The halogen light bulb is the heat source and when it is switched on, it instantly produces intense heat. The fan circulates the air so that the temperature inside the glass bowl is evenly distributed.

Normally, halogen ovens are supplied with an extender ring which can be fitted between the glass bowl and the lid to extend the capacity to approximately 17 liters or so. That’s more than enough room to cook a 16 or 17 pound turkey.

What’s So Good About Halogen Ovens?

halogen oven with hinged lidThe great thing about halogen ovens is that you can cook anything in them that you would normally do in your main oven. They are incredibly versatile. The following are just some of the things you can use your halogen oven to cook:

  • Roast meat and poultry.
  • Broil steaks
  • Cook burgers, sausages and bacon
  • Steam fish, rice and vegetables
  • Casseroles and stews
  • Bake bread, muffins and cookies
  • Cook food from frozen
  • Air fry food like French fries and breaded chicken
  • Cook pies and other pastry based dishes

You’ll get great results with your halogen oven. Poultry will be a lovely golden brown color, roast meats will have a lovely glaze, pastry will be light and flaky. In short, you can cook anything that you would do in your traditional oven.

So far, so what? You can already do all of that in your main oven (or on the hob). The big deal with a halogen oven is the fact that the dual cooking action of halogen infra-red radiation and fan assisted convection heating means that you can achieve all of these results in much less time than it would take in your normal oven.

It varies a little according to the type of food being cooked, but you will get conventional oven results in times which approach those of a microwave oven. It really is like getting the best of both worlds.

However, and as good as that is, it isn’t where the advantages of halogen ovens stop. Because they cook food quickly, they also use much less energy than your conventional oven. Most halogen oven manufacturers claim a 75% reduction in energy usage compared to cooking the same meal in your main oven. that’s definitely a saving worth having.

Halogen ovens are also good for your health. When you roast meat and poultry, the juices will drain off. you’ll still get a lovely roast, but it will have much less fat. And you can even air fry things like French fries and breaded chicken using no more than a spoonful of oil. In short, you can enjoy the food you like – but without having to worry about your health (or feel guilty).

Halogen ovens are even easy to keep clean. There’s no need to use harsh chemicals and then get down on your knees and stick your head in an oven (inhaling who knows what type of fumes in the process). Just add some water and detergent to the bowl (leave the racks in if you like), select the “auto-clean” function, set the timer to ten or fifteen minutes and then let the oven clean itself.

Once it has run through its cycle, empty the water out and give it a wipe with a paper towel or a sponge. alternatively, you can just take the bowl out of the cradle and pop it right into your dishwasher. Equally easy I think you’ll agree.

Halogen Oven Benefits Summarised

  • Super versatile – cook anything you would normally do in your main oven
  • Save time – fast cooking, close to microwave oven times
  • Save money – use less energy
  • Good for you – get tasty, healthy meals using less oil and fat
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to clean

Advantages Of E-Readers


E-Readers Have A Lot To Offer

kindle voyage e-readerReading has always been a passion of mine, so when e-readers first hit the market back in 2006 (Sony PRS) and 2007 (Amazon Kindle), I just had to have one. At that time, I was doing a lot of traveling due to my job – and one of the main attractions was that I would be able to carry thousands of books with me wherever I went, but on a compact electronic device that was smaller and lighter than a slim paperback.

The fact that, as long as you could get a Wi-Fi signal, you could choose a new book and download it in less than a minute was another big plus. My idea of hell is being stuck in a hotel room in a foreign (often non-English speaking) country without something to read. That was never a problem after I got my first e-reader.

Of course, whilst those were the main reasons for buying a reader, there are a number of other advantages on offer as well. Most importantly, the e-ink technology displays that e-readers like the Kindle and the Kobo use are very much better for reading on than an LCD computer display.

E-ink displays use tiny black and white colored chips suspended in a viscous fluid which is held within transparent spheres. The spheres themselves are held between two electrodes (one of which is transparent), and passing current of varying polarity through the electrodes makes the negatively charged black chips and the positively charged white chips align to form the text on the screen. the text formed in this manner is much sharper than that on a computer screen, which uses a combination of red, green and blue pixels to approximate text and images.

Unlike computer displays, e-ink displays are not back-lit. Even the “lighted” readers such as the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kobo Glo project the light onto the text that is being read. That’s important because reading on a back-lit screen is like trying to read when there’s a light shining in your eyes. That can produce eye strain, or possibly even produce a headache – but it’s not a problem that you’ll ever experience when using the e-ink displays used in modern dedicated e-readers.

A further advantage of e-ink displays is the fact that they use very little power. Once the pigmented chips have been properly positioned, they are held in place by the viscous fluid. Power is only required when the page is being updated. That means that e-readers can operate for several weeks between battery charges. A tablet computer will most likely last just a few hours between charges.

The fact is that e-ink displays are great to read on. They are, in my opinion, as close to reading printed text on paper as to make no difference. If you are reading a good book, you won’t even be aware of the fact that you’re using an electronic gadget – which is just how it should be.

are-ereaders-green-212x300E-readers and e-books are also more environmentally friendly than printed books (as long as you read enough books). They don’t use paper, ink or bindings – and because they are not physical products, they don’t have to be packaged and then transported by road and rail. They also don’t have to be recycled (which is good, but still uses energy and resources of course).

The e-reader hardware itself consumes resource, but since it can be used to read many books, there comes a point where it is the best option – in environmental terms at least. Most people who read a book a week will be greener if they keep their e-reader for at least a year before upgrading.

One of the best things about e-readers, and one which I hadn’t really thought about when I decided to get my first one, is the fact that you can get lots of cheap, and even free, e-books. E-books tend to be cheaper than printed books, which is fair enough because they don’t use paper, ink etc. and don’t need to be delivered. However, you can also get lots of totally free, out-of-copyright books – and there are also many self published e-books which are available at very low prices.

Some of these are really very good, more than a few make it onto the best-seller’s lists. Most of them would never have been published in the old print paradigm publishing world.

Advantages of E-Readers In Summary

I could go on (and sometimes I do) about the numerous advantages of e-readers, but here’s a quick summary of some of the main ones:

  • Small and lightweight (smaller than a paperback).
  • Long battery life – go for weeks between charges.
  • E-ink screen is great to read on.
  • Better for the environment (for those who read enough books).
  • Carry thousands of books with you wherever you go.
  • Download new books in under a minute.
  • Get low cost, and even free, e-books.
  • Read books by authors you wouldn’t have heard about before self publishing.

kindle paperwhite ereaderI tend to update my e-reader once every couple of years or so. to be honest, I would probably still be using my original Kindle if it were not for the fact that I keep getting “upgraded” at Christmas and on my birthday.

At the moment, I’m using a Kindle Paperwhite, which is a great reader. The best e-reader on the market right now is probably the Kindle Voyage, but I’m happy enough with my Paperwhite – at least until my birthday rolls around again.

Should I Use A Laptop Cooling Pad?


Why Do Laptops Get So Hot Anyway?

i5 laptop front viewLaptops are great devices. I’m old enough to remember life without them, and I wouldn’t want to try that again. It’s just so convenient to have portable computing power that you can tote with you wherever you go and use wherever you need it.

Laptops are incredibly powerful these days, which is great because we all want the maximum amount of power. However, the by-product of all that  lovely processing power is heat – and the more power, the hotter things get.

The other thing that most of us want from our laptops is portability. We want small, compact and lightweight laptops that are easy to carry about with us. That means that there is less physical space available inside the case – which means that the cooling fans used in laptops tend to smaller and less powerful than you might expect to find fitted in a desktop machine of similar power.

So, plenty of power means more heat, and a lack of physical space means puny little cooling fans. It’s hardly surprising that laptops get hot is it? We want power and portability, the end result is a hot laptop.

How Hot Is Too Hot?

overheating laptopIf you have used your laptop balanced on your knee for any length of time, you can’t have failed to notice just how hot these otherwise cool devices can get. Some laptops can even get too hot to properly live up to their name.

There is even a rumor that some manufacturers avoid using the term “laptop” in their product descriptions as they are aware that their machines can’t really be used on someone’s lap due to the running temperature. Of course, that may be no more than an urban myth – but it has an element of plausibility about it.

The thing is, all electrical and electronic devices generate heat; it’s inevitable. Laptop manufacturers are aware of the problem and strive for the best compromise design to give us the portable power we want taking operating temperature into account.

It may be inconvenient that your laptop gets uncomfortably warm on your lap, but it may be within the operational design limits of your particular machine. However, overheating can increase the rate at which any electrical and electronic device ages and shorten its working lifespan.

In summary, some heat is OK, but too much heat might make your laptop fail sooner than it needs to, or possibly even result in a sudden failure. So how can you tell if your laptop is running too hot? Here are a few tell-tale signs that you may have a problem with laptop overheating:

  1. Your laptop becomes uncomfortably hot – too hot to use on your knee – or it discolors the surface of the worktop that it’s sitting on.
  2. Your laptop’s internal cooling fan operates almost all of the time.
  3. On occasion, possibly when you’re involved in CPU hungry tasks (gaming for example), your laptop cuts out completely.
  4. Your laptop often cuts out, sometimes just a little while after switching it on and even when doing fairly simple tasks.

Answering yes to any of the above could indicate that you have a problem with an overheating laptop. If you answered “yes” to either question 3 or 4, then you almost certainly have a problem with your laptop’s operating temperature which needs to be addressed.

How To Deal With An Overheating Laptop?

At the risk of stating the obvious, the best solution is to lower your laptop’s operating temperature. In most cases, this is relatively easy to do – you can simply use a laptop cooling pad.

passive laptop cooling padLaptop cooling pads come in two main varieties; passive and active. Passive laptop coolers simply provide a firm base for your laptop to rest on. This can be effective as it ensures that there is a gap beneath the laptop so that cooling air can circulate and find its way into the cooler inlet vents (these are usually located on the underside of the base).

Sometimes that can be all that’s required. Passive cooling pads can be effective for lower powered laptops and even high powered laptops that aren’t in use for long periods of time.

If you are in the habit of using your laptop on your knee, it’s very easy for the fabric of jeans, chinos, skirts etc. to wrinkle up and block the air intake. Likewise if you use, or just leave your laptop sitting on, a bed, a sofa or a cushion, the intake vents can become obstructed or totally blocked.

A passive laptop cooling pad will remedy all of these problems and make your laptop run cooler. Passive coolers have no fans – so they make no noise and draw no power from your battery. Designs vary, but you can get some that are easily portable so that you can carry it with you if you wish.

active laptop cooling padLarger more powerful laptops may benefit more from the use of an active cooling pad. These use one or more fans to direct large amounts of additional cooling air into your laptop’s air intake vents and can drop the operating temperature of your laptop by quite a bit. The power for the fans is supplied by connecting to a spare usb port on your laptop.

Most active cooling pads have fans that blow vertically upwards. That’s because the majority (over 90%) of laptops have their cooler inlet vents on the underside of the base and the outlet vents on the side of the case. However, you can get cooling pad designs which have reversible fans if your laptop is one of the ones with the outlet vents under the base.

If you hold your hand near the vents at the side of the laptop, you’ll probably feel warm air being blown out. That means that the exhaust vents are on the side – so air blowing vertically upwards is what you require. Alternatively, you can take a piece of single ply tissue paper and hold it flat near to an air vent. If it is blown away, it’s an exhaust vent, if it is sucked in, then it’s an inlet vent. If in doubt, check with the manufacturer of your laptop.

Laptop Cooling Pad Benefits

Laptop cooling pads cost just a few dollars. When you think about how much your laptop is worth, that’s a small price to pay to protect it against failure and extend its operating life. You will also be helping to protect all of the precious data that is stored on your laptop’s hard drive – although you should still make regular backups of course.

Whether you think you have a heating problem with a laptop or not, cooling pads are a smart investment – and one which could save you money, and a whole lot of hassle, in the long run.

Which Is The Most Popular Tablet Computer?


The Best Tablet Computer?

Apple ipad tablet computerIf you were to ask someone “which is the best tablet computer?” right now, you would probably get a fiercely partisan answer. Some personal electronics are very personal – mobile phones and tablet computers seem to fall into this camp, there’s an almost tribal vibe going on with these devices.

Whilst it might be a pointless exercise to speculate upon which tablet computer is best, “which tablet computer is the most popular?” is a question that can be addressed a little more dispassionately. Here are the most popular tablet computers based on sales volume – be prepared for one or two surprises.

 Apple iPad

ipad 4th genNo big surprises here – Apple still rules the roost with its Apple iPad Air and iPad Mini. Apple’s iPad tag team accounted for 36% of all tablet sales in 2013.

That’s down a little from the 53% of worldwide sales that Amazon enjoyed during 2012, but competition is much fiercer now. Sales of over a third of the market are impressive, whatever way you look at it.

What may be slightly surprising is the fact that the iPad Mini is now selling more than the “full size” iPad. Apple fans seem to be hugely impressed with the Apple Pocket rocket – especially since the introduction of the “Retina” model at the end of 2013.

It’s lightweight, portable and easy to use with one hand – and, whether you agree that it’s the “best” tablet or not, indisputably the most popular tablet computer in the world right now.

Samsung Galaxy Tab

Android tablets accounted for 62% of the market during 2013, outselling Apple’s iOS tablets for the first time ever. Whilst iOS sales are basically iPads, the Android share is divided amongst a large number of different suppliers.

In 2013, Samsung were the leaders of the Android pack – by a long way. Samsung’s 2013 market share was an impressive 19.1% (up from 7.4% in 2012). They do appear to be closing the gap on Apple at a rate of knots.

Samsung’s range of tablet computers is huge. They offer a huge range of tablets from 7” up to 12”. It’s hard to pick out the one tablet from the Samsung range – but the most popular at the moment is probably the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7” model.


Trailing in a rather distant third place, ASUS grabbed 5.6% of the tablet market in 2013, marginally up from their 2012 share of 5.4%.

The best, and probably most popular, ASUS model is the “Google” Nexus 7”, but it has some other noteworthy tablets in its range at the moment. The T100 Transformer Book, for example, has proven to be a big hit with users who want the portability of a tablet with the benefit of a QWERTY keyboard on occasion.

Amazon Kindle Fire

kindle fire tablet computer familyThere are times when it seems hard to turn on the TV without seeing Amazon’s Kindle Fire range being advertised, so it’s maybe just a little surprising to find Amazon languishing in fourth place. It might also come as a surprise to find that Amazon’s share of the tablet market dropped from 6.6% in 2012 to 4.8% in 2013.

Nevertheless, consumers who use Amazon a lot, and especially those who are Amazon Prime members, find the Fire to be an attractive proposition. The kindle Fire HDX 7” model is probably the pick of the bunch right now.


With a 3.3% share of the market in 2013 – up from 1.9% in 2012 – Lenovo may be something of a surprise entry in the popularity stakes at number five.

Lenovo manufacture a fair number of tablet computers, but it’s the Lenovo Yoga tablet, paired with a matching optional keyboard more often than not, that is boosting their popularity right now.

Other Manufacturers

If you’re own personal favourite hasn’t made the most popular list, there’s no need to be downcast. At the moment “other manufacturers”, none of which account for more than 3.0% of the market individually, are taking an impressive 31% of all tablet computer sales.

Some of these are cheap imports, but this sector also includes giants such as Microsoft, HP and Dell – some of whom will almost certainly be making sure that they get “their share” in future.

Watch out for a growth in the popularity of Windows tablets in particular over the next 12 months.