I recently upgraded from my 2007 Macbook Pro (“Gaming on an Apple? Boo! Hiss!”) to a shiny new Alienware M11x R3. I was asked how I got my new computer for such short money this morning, and I thought that I would take some time to write out my whole purchase process.
First, of course, is saving some money. I knew approximately how much I wanted to spend (under $800). Once I had that squirreled away I started looking into what options were available and how to make that money work harder.
I started scouring slickdeals.net for sales. Not only current sales, but I went through their forum history and brought up past sales as well. Then I started mapping out when these sales occurred on a google calendar. Once I had everything up to last year’s black friday mapped out (there’s too much noise in the holiday time period so I threw that data away) I exported the google calendar as a pdf and imported it into photoshop as slides. I set the slides to be 80% transparent and boom: I had a heat map of when sales were most likely to occur during each month. I did this for a few major brands (Dell, HP, Asus, Lenovo, and Acer). After looking at the data I decided on Dell because they had the most frequently overlapping deals (more on that later).
Once I decided on Dell I started looking at the specific deals and how frequently they occurred. At first I noticed Dell’s “buy a laptop, get an xbox for free” deal, but after some due diligence I saw that they were just jacking up the prices on those specific laptop models to compensate for the free xbox. You sly dogs.
Then I noticed a Dell gift card deal. Basically you buy a $500 gift card and get X for free. X was usually a printer or a low end monitor, but also occasionally a second gift card. This was promising. I set up an alert for that in my RSS reader.
I also noticed that, while specific models were often on sale in the Dell store, there were rarely any site wide “X percent off” sales. However, the dell outlet store had 10% and 20% off sales almost monthly. I checked to make sure that I could use the gift cards in the outlet store (I could) and set up an alert for that.
In mid-august the $500 gift card deal showed up, with a $75 e-gift card kicker. Perfect! I picked one up with my rewards credit card.
(Sidenote: If you don’t have some type of rewards card, then I highly suggest getting one (I use a JetBlue card because they have earned a lot of good faith with me over the years). Make all of your daily purchases with it (gas, groceries, amazon, link it to your steam account, etc) and you will be surprised at how quickly the points stack up. I earn at least a free round trip flight every year. In this case, I was using $500 that I was already going to spend and getting some points as a kicker. As I said earlier, make your money work harder.)
The $75 e-gift card was only good for 90 days, but from my previous research I was confident that an outlet sale would come up in that time period. Sure enough, on September 2nd the Dell Outlet store had a one day 20% off sale.
The downside to using the Dell Outlet store is that you can’t customize your own setup. You have to buy pre-built machines, so you have to be flexible with what you are getting. That could mean spending a bit extra and getting a little more machine then you intended, or spending a bit less and having to do some upgrades on your own later (RAM, hard drive, bluetooth, etc). Thankfully Dell laptops are pretty easy to get into (easier then macs, for sure) so this isn’t a big deal. I camped the dell outlet website for the day and waited for a computer close to what I wanted to be listed. When one came up, I pounced.
The end result: $1016 base price for the alienware, minus the 20% off coupon ($203), minus the $75 gift card, brought the price down to $738 (with free shipping). In the end I saved over $650 on the regular dell store price.
I know that a lot of you may be thinking “wow, that’s a lot of work just to get a laptop”, but it really wasn’t. Putting some money away, one solid night of planning, and a little patience was all that was needed.
If you don’t know and have been living in the gaming dark - Portal is the accidentally smash hit game that Valve included with Orange Box games. The little puzzler saw huge success and now has a sequel. You use two portals, one orange and one blue, to teleport and propel yourself through obstacle course type levels. All the while you are battling the cake promising robot GLaDOS. The game is fun, hilarious, and great for all levels of gamers. It is a fantastic starting point for anyone in your life who might not be into gaming but is open to try.
Jonathan Coulton, when discussing his thoughts about the prospect of creating a new album for his masses of rabid fans, gave a list of reasons why the new project scared him. The one that struck me was number five, “I’m afraid that even a small change in direction is going to disappoint some fans.”
Having listened to the new album, I can see why he would be afraid. This is a grown up sounding Jonathan Coulton. There isn’t too much here for the robots and evil scientists crowd, but thats okay. The songs still have the JoCo quality we’ve come to know and love. This album takes some serious nods to Ben Folds at times, and They Might Be Giants at others.
There are 16 new songs here, along with reworkings of both Portal songs, “Still Alive” and “Want You Gone”. The new arrangement of Still Alive really stands out, with vocals by Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara fame. As for the new songs, “Glasses”, “Sucker Punch”, and the albums title track “Artificial Heart” are the most likely to get stuck in your head, but I have a feeling that like most of his catalouge, the other songs will start to pop over time. Don’t get me wrong, these are great songs, but they don’t have the immediate hook that songs like “Re: Your Brains” had. In fact, some of these tracks are downright contemplative. (I’m looking at you, “The World Belongs to You”, which appears to be about a god losing his credibility)
Overall, I don’t think Jonathan Coulton has anything to worry about. This album, while a departure, is a welcome one. It’s an evolution of the sound that makes a lot of sense, and a solid album all around.
Eye-shuh’s been doing all the heavy lifting on the site these days content-wise and I am equally envious and grateful for it. I wish I could be investing hours of my day in both my Games and Writing To Do List, because my WorkFlowy is full of plans and ideas. I wistfully yearn for time to delve into the following:
Finish Guild Wars: Eye of The North (GWEN). First, to complete new content and earn rewards for the release of my next obsession Guild Wars 2 and second because my dream of a competitive all female PvP team isn’t going to build itself. Thirdly, I need to explore and interview new guilds (Luxon for life!) where I can pursue an Officer position. Oh, and maybe get it together to finish Guild Wars: Nightfall. Finally. Sheesh.
Bastion may be quickly sinking into the pile of Games I Was Excited For and Bought on Steam but Haven’t Installed Yet. This makes me a sadpanda. Other games in this pile include Plain Sight, Portal (seriously, I know), and Super Meat Boy.
Poker Night at the Inventory is a silly way to play poker. It’s pretty standard as far as game play is concerned, but the added twist of the hilarious dialogue from the characters you play with plus the chance to unlock fun card decks and tables gives the game a unique spin.
Probably my favorite thing about the game is that you can turn the dialogue of the players up and down to suit what you’re in the mood for. If you just want a quiet poker game, turn ‘em down. If you’re looking to take it slow and giggle a lot, turn it up!
The game doesn’t come without its flaws: even with the dialogue turned off, game play tends to be pretty slow. It also takes a very large amount of system resources for how simple it really is at its core. My biggest issue with the game, however, was the voice acting for Tycho. It wasn’t bad…I was just creeped out by it since I was half expecting to hear the voice of Jerry Holkins. ;)