We left Japan on the 21st of December, with no plan to return. That's not important. What's important is that I managed to bring the PC inside checked baggage without much trouble.
Friday, December 25, 2015
We left Japan on the 21st of December, with no plan to return. That's not important. What's important is that I managed to bring the PC inside checked baggage without much trouble.
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
I had an idea in the morning. I wanted to know all the PC parts that I have bought during the 5 and a half years I have lived in Japan. I think I have spent a lot of money on the PC!!!
But hey, it is my hobby and just because one might feel that it is a total waste of money, it is called life. And I have sold everything that I do not use, albeit at a much lower price than I bought. I think I probably have wasted like JPY 200,000 if you calculate the deficit between the total amount I have spent on buying these items and the total amount I have sold them for.
There are two ways you can go about buying a PC. Either spend a fortune and get something that might last 3 or 4 years without any trouble. Or buy something spending half that price and keep upgrading the components every year and selling the old components. If you keep the total cost the same, you would definitely have a much faster, efficient and capable system in 4 years than the high-end system you would otherwise have built 4 years ago. I follow the second path.
Anyways, here is the list I came up with.
- Intel Core i5 750
- Intel Core i7 2600K
- Intel Core i7 4770K
- Intel Core i7 4790K x3 (Yes, I bought three of them and settled with one)
- Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD3
- ASRock Z68 Extreme 4
- Asus Maximus VII Hero
- Asus Maximus VII Gene
- Asus Z97i Plus - current
I bought my QX2710 display from eBay, paying roughly $300 about 2 years ago. It is indeed not as fancy or feature rich as the models from the known brands, it gets the job done.
The QX2710 has one big problem. The stock monitor stand is very week. Even a small earthquake makes the whole monitor wobble while the table lamp hardly moves. Furthermore, the friction between the surface of the stand and the monitor is not sufficient, which makes the monitor lean forward after a few hours of adjusting the tilt. Usually you would want the display to tilt slightly backwards, but in this case it tilts forward. And I have gotten used to it.
Now there is a bigger problem. The tension caused by the weight of the monitor on the stand has made the bezel to warp a bit!!! Now there is a slight gap between the panel and the bezel around the middle bottom of the display as shown in the photo below.
I am not comfortable using the monitor as it is. The only solution as far as I can understand is to buy a 3rd party monitor stand or arm and mount the monitor on it. The monitor is VESA mountable, however there is one catch. A part of the base would stick out of the bottom like a ponytail. To remove it, you have to take the monitor apart, which I am not very keen on performing.
But then again, a separate base would just add more weight to the monitor. This is problem because I plan on shipping the display inside the checked baggage. I cannot predict the fate of the display in the hands of the ruthless baggage handlers at the Katunayake Airport though. All I can do is hope for the best. Perhaps I will buy a monitor arm if it survives the trip.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
I thought that the Silverstone SG13 case was the smallest case that I could fit my hardware inside, but there seems to be another contender now. And it is significantly small that the SG13 in terms of the volume, at only 7.25 litres or 63% of the volume of the SG13. More importantly, it only weighs 1.25kg because it is made of Aluminum.
The case is called A4-SFX by DAN Cases. Funny thing is, it supports a much longer video card than the SG13 does. (295mm vs. 267mm) If you can survive with a CPU cooler that's only 48mm tall, then this is an amazing case.
What's great is that you don't have to look around for compatible CPU coolers or PSUs, because the website lists them all under the Compatibility section in their product page. I don't even have to change anything in my PC to switch to this PC, except I will have to revert to the stock Intel cooler and say bye bye to overclocking. Perhaps a cooler from that list would allow me to keep the 4.5GHz overclock.
There are two catches though.
- The case isn't available for purchase yet. According to the FAQ on their website, it says the case would arrive at the end of 2015. There is only one month to go before the end of the year though. So it must be just around the corner. Awesome!
- It is going to be very expensive. The case would be $200 to $230 (before tax) when launched and you will have to pay shipping on top of that price tag. Darn! I don’t think I will be able to spend that money on a case. It would be $300 with all the extra charges if I want to order it from Japan.
That price is way too steep for me unfortunately. So I might keep holding to the SG09 case for the moment. Once I settle down, there is really no need for a SFF PC. So I don't want to spend a lot of money on making it any smaller.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
In a previous post I mentioned that I found a shop called Smarket to sell my iPhones. The sent a delivery man to my apartment to pick up the phones, free of charge. I received an email after a couple of days (on Monday) saying that the phones arrived at their shop safely. They also mentioned that it might take up to 2 weeks for them to conclude the assessment due to extremely high popularity with their service. I did not really care as long as I received the same amount of money or as close to their original estimate, and that I received them before I left Japan.
On Thursday, I received another email from them saying that there was a little issue with the documentation I provided as proof regarding my name, age and address. I sent copies of the front side of the Insurance card and an electricity bill. They had asked for a copy of the back side of the card as well. There is not much on that side other than an address column which has to be filled by the owner of the card. I had written the address by hand, but they said it is fine. Since I didn't want to delay their work any longer, I faxed them what they wanted within an hour. Just to be safe, I also faxed my Residence card. I had to pay JPY 50 to send the fax from the Family Mart near the office. I could have used snail mail too, but it is actually more expensive than sending a fax. This is actually my 3rd time sending a fax - ever. (This is the first one, and the second one was sent from the office)
They emailed me saying that they received the fax, but sadly that they could only assess it the next day because it was late.
Monday, November 9, 2015
Couple of years ago, JR started an express train service on the Nambu line. What's meant by express in this case is that the trains skip the less important stations and ultimately shave off few minutes as a result. They did it without expanding the stations and simply exploited the larger time gaps between each train during the day time. In other words, the express train service isn't available during rush hour where the time gap between trains is short. Still, they have to time it so that the express trains can overtake the slower, regular ones at stations that has the facility to switch tracks (there are only a handful of stations with the capability on the Nambu line). This isn't that hard especially on the Nambu line which doesn't branch into multiple lines and because the trains are punctual.
Being a heavy residential area, Nakanoshima was originally chosen as a station where express trains halted. However, after few months, for whatever reason, they removed Nakanoshima from the list of such stations. Now we have to watch in awe when the express trains whistle past us when we are waiting to hop onto a train.
But all isn't lost. If you are lucky, there is still a way you can hop onto an express train. If there is a train travelling in the opposite direction that is approaching the station soon after you missed a regular train (or if you deliberately missed it to do the following trick), you can board it, go one station (which has to be a station where express trains stop - and in the case of Nakanoshima, both stations before and after it are stations where express trains halt), get off and hopefully get aboard the express train going in the direction you originally wanted to travel. (The good thing is, it won’t cost you any additional charges. In Japan, the charge it calculated as the lowest between two gates where you either insert the ticket in or you touch the Suica card on. There is usually no need to go through a gate when switching the directions.)
We managed to put this trick into test recently.
Now that I have terminated the AU connections, it is time to sell the iPhones. I checked the offerings on my favourite sites few weeks ago, namely Sofmap and Dospara. Sadly they were offering only JPY 30,000 per phone. It was possible to get JPY 34,500 from Sofmap if I sold it for points, but I had no use for the points at this time and there won't be enough time to use them.
So I turned to my trusty auction site: Rakuten Auction. I checked the prices other people were selling the same phone and they were listing them for JPY 45,000-ish starting bid. Nobody had bid for those phones though. I set JPY 44,000 as the starting bid for my phones. This was about a week before terminating the AU connections. Nobody bid for it and when October 31 drew nearer, I reduced the starting bid all the way down to JPY 38,000. Then someone asked for the IMEI number of the Gold model saying that he would like to buy it. With the IMEI number they can check is the phone had any network restrictions with AU. Our phones had no restrictions except that they had to be used on the AU network. But I read that it is dangerous to give out the IMEI numbers to others so I was a bit worried about it. But just then, I found a shop that would give JPY 36,000 for the Gold model and JPT 35,000 for the Space Grey model. Considering the overheads and delivery charges (as I listed the phones as free delivery) involved with the auction, I decided to sell the phones to this shop. So I withdrew the listing from Rakuten Auctions.
However, the shop was not that great either. I emailed them confirming the prices and I never received a reply from them. I could of course call them but I didn't have to do that because they have a email system. I could have visited their shop but since their working hours are very short (10am to 7pm on weekdays, 11am to 6pm on Saturdays, 12am to 6pm on Holidays), I would not be able to make it to their shop and finish the trade if I leave after work. Yesterday was a holiday and I was thinking of visiting their shop. My wife wasn't very happy about it; she wants to sell the phones, but also wants to be with me but then again don't want to pay for the train tickets to visit the shop. This made me reluctant to visit the shop as well. If I received the darn reply from them, it would have been OK because I could have simply sent them the phones and they would assess it and send me the money.
Saturday, November 7, 2015
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
In the last article I mentioned that I ordered two new SIMs from Mineo to use with our Nexus 5 phones until I leave Japan. The SIMs should have arrived around October 29, but they were not here even by the 31st. 31st is significant because I was going to terminal the AU connections. I was hoping to start using the Mineo connections from November 1. Funny thing was that one of my colleagues also ordered Mineo SIMs about 2 days later than I did but he had received them by the 30th.
I was so upset about it that I tweeted Mineo telling my dissatisfaction. They told me that there could be delays due to huge demand these days. That would have been justifiable if my colleague hadn’t received his SIMs. He also lives close to our apartment so it could not have been a delay in the postal service.
But luckily, I received the SIMs early morning on November 1. It was delivered to me by a postman and it came as registered post. I wasn’t really affected by the delay much because it was the weekend. If I had to leave for work without internet connectivity, I would have lost my mind.
The SIMs came in two packages like these.
There was a manual with all the instructions to setup the phones were bundled along with the SIMs. The Mineo numbers – at least the ones I got start with 070. I am not used to that prefix. I’ve only seen 080 or 090 on mobile phones.
This is a long post.
It is confirmed: I'm finally leaving Japan for good in December. That means, I have to terminate my mobile phone contracts. Since I'll be terminating the contract earlier than 2 years, I have to pay the early termination fee. There is no escape from this. If you somehow avoid paying this (by letting the connection get terminated by not paying the bills for example), there is the risk of litigation. Since they have a copy of my passport, there is no way to hide. At least there is no "very early termination" penalty imposed by AU, at least not for my contract.
So I looked at my options of how to recover or at least minimize this cost. I, of course, will be selling the iPhones before I leave because they are locked to AU, but that plan was there from the beginning. So I wanted more than that. I checked if there were any connections where I could switch to and then terminate but still recover the cost of early termination and other overheads by selling the phones. There weren't any! Apparently the mobile phone companies have come to senses. They all ask for a huge penalty when terminating the phone within the first year, if they initially charged a discounted price for the phones. This penalty is much larger than the price I can make by selling the phones.
It was possible to change to a cheaper plan from AU than the one I was using. But there is one problem. I wanted to sell the phones before I leave Japan, obviously, but then I would not have a phone that would work with an AU SIM (the Nexus 5 doesn't work with the AU SIM) until I leave Japan. Even if the Nexus supported the AU SIM, I would have to terminate the connections on the previous day the latest. That is not a safe thing to do because I would need the phone to check the transit information and map on the day of the departure. And it would be difficult to sell the phones on the day before we leave Japan. There is loads of work to do: packing and cleaning etc. Not to mention, it will be the winter too.
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
One of the improved features of Android 6.0 Marshmallow is improved battery life. Be it the Doze mode or the polishing of the rough edges of its predecessor, most people – at least the reviewers – seem to be noticing that their devices aren’t as thirsty for juice as they once used to. Unless you have a Nexus 5 or 6 that is.
I finally switched back the Nexus 5 couple of days ago and I immediately noticed how fast the battery of my phone drained. Today at work, I was down to the 30%s in no time. When I checked the battery status from the settings app, I notice something weird. The item that was using the highest percentage of battery was Wi-Fi. Why it is weird is because I did not have Wi-Fi enabled while I was away from work. So how could the Wi-Fi feature be responsible for draining the battery.
Google search – ironically in this case – came to my assist. It appears that there is a feature called Wi-Fi scanning in Marshmallow which helps improve the location by letting system apps and services detect Wi-Fi networks any time. I am not sure if it really helps with anything, but all I know is that I am not getting my whole day battery life anymore.
Sunday, October 25, 2015
Thanks to Amazon Prime, I received my new Bluetooth earphones the next day after placing the order. I will be replacing the Plantronics BackBeat Go 2 which is having an issue as discussed in this post.
It came in a nice pouch with lots of other spare ear tips and a charging micro USB cable. The default eartips worked fine for me so I didn't change them.
At first I paired it with my iPhone 6 which is my day to day phone at the moment. I could easily pair it with the iPhone. It shows the battery level of the earbuds when it is connected just like the Backbeats. The quality is very good too, much better than the Backbeats. The quality of the Backbeats were quite poor. I didn't feel this initially, but even compared to the Apple EarPods, they were very clumsy. Remember though that I'm not an audiophile and this is a subjective claim.
The other thing I love about the QY7 is its battery life. It would work way longer than the Backbeats. I haven't measured the battery life properly, but according to my experience it would go for more than 8 hours without a charge. I listen to podcasts while commuting to work and that is about 1hr in total. I would 90% battery left according to the battery status shown on the iPhone for the earbuds a day after fully charging the battery of it. If this is accurate, it could be as high as 10hrs. It could be that these earbuds carry a larger battery than the Backbeats because they are a bit larger. Also it appears that the earbuds turn themselves off after a while if it is not connected to a device. Not the most amazing design but I'm up for longer battery life.
Android Authority wrote an article about how expensive the Nexus 5X in Japan is, even when bought directly from Google Store. But the high price is only one part of how much messed up Nexus 5X in Japan is. It is not even unlocked! A Nexus phone that is not unlocked must be never heard of.
Last week I paid a visit to the Biccamera to see if there were any nice deals on phones. The usual “iPhone 6 for free” deals were available, but the catch is that unless you use it for more than a year, you will have to pay a hefty penalty. I won’t be in Japan for another whole year so I gave up the idea. No new phone for me then.
But I didn't want to waste my trip, so I looked a round for new gadgets. There was the Nexus 5X on display and I was amazed by the price you would have to pay upfront. That cost will be massively discounted over the course of two years if you use MNP, but let's be realistic now. Who wants to use the same phone for 2 years? Well, I don't. So if you are switching carriers at mid point, you'll have to pay them back half of that hefty price. That comes about 80% to the value of a brand new Nexus 5X from Google Store. And you definitely don’t want to buy it with a new connection because then the phone will not be discounted. You will be paying a massive JPY 80,000 plus amount for the phone alone (for the 32GB model).
When I bought the Nexus 5, one of the things that made it my obvious choice was that it wasn't locked to any carrier. I have confirmed that it is truly unlocked because I could use a Telstra prepaid SIM in it on our trip to Australia early this month. I'm not sure why they have locked the Nexus 5X to The carrier especially when the price of the phone is massively inflated. This doesn't make sense because people won't buy it from Y-Mobile and switch to another carrier. If the phone was free or hugely subsidized (more than any penalties that you would have to pay for early termination of contract) then people would do this. But not with all these conditions. I don't even understand how they managed to get Google to go along with this stupid idea in the first place. Yes, you can get it unlocked after 6 months but you can get the iPhone 6S for the same price and it can be unlocked after 6 months too. There is no competition between the iPhone 6S and the Nexus 5X.
This is definitely a ploy by the carriers to trap customers in a 2 year plan. They should understand that more and more people are moving to MVNOs because they are much cheaper and do not lock you to a 2 year plan. MVNOs are more applicable in an age like this where circuit calls are not necessary. There are million VoIP clients which are much cheaper than the absurd circuit switched mobile call prices in Japan.
You can buy the Nexus 6P, which is vastly superior to the Nexus 5X from the Google Store for JPY74,000 which is cheaper than buying the Nexus 5X from Y-Mobile. I don't know whether to laugh or cry now. (Still you'll be paying about JPY10,000 more than the US price for it. Wonder if Expansys will be able to bring down these phones at a reasonable price. It is still unavailable as of writing this post.)
Monday, October 19, 2015
I had been using the Plantronics Backbeat Go 2 earbuds since January 2014 to listen to music and podcasts on my phone. I bought them as a birthday present for myself. Those are also my first Bluetooth earbuds. Sadly, I would have to replace them soon.
It appears that the connection between the left and right drivers of the earbuds are damaged. I no longer can hear anything from the left driver but when I wiggle the cable, the audio comes for a split second and goes away. Same thing happens when I walk while wearing the earbuds because the cable moves. And it is very irritating. So right now I'm wearing it only on the right ear. Obviously I lose the audio quality and it cannot block any noise the outside anymore.
I don't have any spare earbuds, so have to wear the Backbeats this way until I can get some new ones. Well, I do have the Apple Earpods but I don't want to use them because I plan on selling the iPhone in a few months. I don't want to use any of the accessories because it may lower the resale value.
There is no way to repair these as far as I can tell. There aren't any screws or anything so that I can disassemble it without damaging it. I was unable to find a tutorial on disassembling either. The unit appears to be sealed. But since I'll be throwing them in the garbage bin, I might as well tamper it. But I could not find time for that.
I cannot go on like this so a couple of weeks ago I ordered a new pair of earphones: SoundPEATS QY7. They are the most popular Bluetooth earphones sold on Amazon (US as well as Japan) and has a decent end user rating as well. I also watched some YouTube reviews on them and they were recommended, especially for the price. They cost fraction of what I paid for the Backbeat Go 2 and comes at ¥2,399. (I spent over ¥5,000 for the Backbeats by the way and that was with a decent discount too.)
I'll compare it with the Backbeats when I receive it, so be tuned for that post.
I’ll through the Backbeat in the garbage bin once I am confident QY7 would work for me.
This is not the first time I had issues with the Backbeat Go 2. Several times I had the earbuds freeze on me and I had to let the battery drain before I can recharge them and use them again. I almost RMAed them when this happened the first time.
Friday, October 9, 2015
Thursday, September 24, 2015
- cheaper (much cheaper on Rakuten, like JPY2,500 compared to the Silverstone),
- had more connectors on the SATA power cable (4 vs. 3) and
- had a fan that was always running (compared to semi-silent one on the Silverstone).
But the Silverstone one
- had all Japanese caps,
- had shorter power cables and
- was from a well-known manufacturer (not OEM, mind you) in the field of PSUs.
Thursday, September 17, 2015
I originally wanted to build a NAS to store all the data but the timing did not prove to be feasible. One of the two Western Digital Green drives I recently purchased is currently installed inside the PC and the other one is kept outside. Since that drive is only used for backing up the internal drive, there is no need to have it connected to the PC all the time.
I did have a SATA to USB converter but it only supported speeds up to USB 2.0 with a maximum read speed of 40MBps. Imagine backing up GBs of data through that narrow interface, especially that initial backup. It took me more than half a day, and that’s about half a drive. It was obvious that this converter was out of place, so I decided to buy a new one. This time, not just a cable, but with an enclosure as well, especially to protect it from my kid. He is top curious about stuff.
Speed was essential, however I did not care much for the 400MBps transfer speeds promoted by some of the products showcased on Amazon. Realistically, I wouldn’t need more than 150MBps because that’s the peak read speed of the drive. (You can check the benchmarks of the Western Digital Green 4TB drive here.)
There was another critical requirement. 240V input voltage support. Japan uses 100V from the mains and it is irritating. Many of the electric appliances do not work out of the box if we take them with us back to Sri Lanka. So I wanted to avoid buying something that was made in Japan as there was a high probability that it would only support 100V input. That’s when I came across the company called Inateck which is an international brand. Amazon had products from them on store at reasonable price tags. I always try to buy from Amazon, because it is easy to return unsatisfactory products, and this indeed was an unexplored field.
Which one did I choose?
I debated whether to get the two drive vertical docking station or the single drive model, and finally decided to go with the latter because it was horizontal, hence stable, and had a cover. The price difference wasn’t large though. The model I opted for was Inateck UASP USB 3.0 HDD Docking Station with Dust Cover (Horizontal)(FD1006C). I'm sure they couldn't make that name any shorter. And the power adapter indeed supported 100-240V input.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Last Friday I bought a new cooler for my Devil's Canyon CPU: the Enermax Liqtech 120x. I thought it would perform better than my Antec Kuhler 620 because of its extra thick radiator. I was wrong. It doesn't perform better than the Kuhler 620, at least In my case.
First of all, I used only one fan because both fans wouldn't fit in the case. I knew this beforehand. I used the Gentle Typhoon AP29 initially, the exact same thing I had used with the Kuhler. It shouldn't have any difficulty cooling the radiator at least when running at full blast. The grills in the radiator didn't seem as dense as the Kuhler's so I doubt so I don't think having the two stock fans would have made much of a difference, except pushing all that warm air that's trapped inside the case out easily. Later on, I switched to one of the stock fans because I started hearing a weird noise from the AP29 when it was installed after the radiator as pull. I was using it as a push fan on the Kuhler 620's radiator.
Anyways, I have a feeling it had nothing to do with the fans because as I found out, there is a very simple reason for the cooler not performing well. There isn't a very good contact between the water block and the heat spreader (IHS) of the CPU. It is concave in one direction. The water block is perfectly flat. The heatsink doesn't touch the IHS at the middle of the CPU and that's where we should get proper contact.
When I applied thermal paste using the spread method, the cold plate had no contact with the IHS like in the following photo.
Friday, September 4, 2015
Ok not THAT Skylake.
Skylake is Intel’s latest mainstream platform. Intel initially released the unlocked K series CPUs to the market and that means they were targeting the enthusiast crowd from the very beginning. But what is the point if it doesn’t overclock well?
It has been more than a month since the release and I believe we have a good idea about the overall overclockability of the CPU. Most CPUs are capable of hitting 4.6GHz which is better than Haswell. Does this mean the 14nm process shrink worked? Or is something else making them overclock more consistently higher than Haswell?
I believe the biggest difference is the removal of the Fully Integrated Voltage Regulator or FIVR as it is often called. FIVR in Haswell made overclocking difficult in two ways.
4790K on the left (FIVR is the small dots you see to the left side of the die) and 6700K on the right.
Firstly, it is additional circuitry. This means there will be additional heat that is generated inside the CPU, although it is not inside the die. This made Haswell CPUs to run super hot when overclocked. (Yes, the biggest culprit is the thickness of the thermal paste that was applied in between the die and the heat spreader and that is a well documented issue. Skylake suffers from the same thing.)
Secondly, it is another component that can cause instability and thus fail the whole system. Before FIVR, you only had to play with the Vcore (unless you are playing with the RAM). With the FIVR, you had to tune the Input Voltage too. So you had to play with two voltages and each of them had somewhat of an influence on the other one. And the quality of the FIVR circuitry would also affect the stability, not the voltages.
So with Skylake you don’t have the dreaded FIVR and every enthusiast should be relieved.
Not just every enthusiast: every motherboard maker who makes high-end motherboards. With the FIVR, the quality of the VRM on the motherboard didn’t play a significant part overclocking. But with Skylake, their importance is pronounced. In a way this is bad for the consumers because if you want to overclock your CPU as high as possible, you will need a good motherboard. And good motherboards don’t come cheap.
But hey, enthusiasts seem to have deep pockets.
That said, would I upgrade to Skylake? Sadly my pockets are empty these days.
Monday, August 31, 2015
Good news. I finally managed to pass the N2 of Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). This was my second attempt. The first attempt went down horribly. This was also my last shot at it, so I am glad I could pass it.
The exam has several sections, namely Language Knowledge, Reading and Listening. We have to get 19/60 for every part at least to pass the exam. 57/180 doesn’t look that hard but you actually have to score 90/180 a well. The last time I only managed 79/180 and the biggest contributor to the failure was the reading part. I am too slow at reading Although I had the required marks for the Language Knowledge section, I had a bad start to the exam with not knowing answers to first five questions. To be honest, I didn’t study much the first time. I thought the Japanese knowledge that I have gained by working in Japan amongst Japanese people was enough to pass the exam. Obviously I was wrong.
So this time I studied a bit more. The biggest issue I had was that I could not find a proper syllabus for N2. So how did I study? I didn’t buy any books and definitely didn’t attend any classes.
Friday, August 28, 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
COVERSPOT, the shop I ordered the SX500-LG power supply unit for my SG13 build from was delaying the order far too long that I finally gave up and asked them to cancel my order. I had to contact (email) them and get it done because for some reason it was not possible to cancel the order from the purchase history section of my Rakuten account. Usually a button to cancel the order would appear there. It said if the button doesn't appear, we have to contact the shop.
But there is one problem. They had it for the cheapest and the next shop is selling it for about JPY 500 more. I won't pay that much for it. The cheapest price was already too expensive.
There is another player in the market, Sharkoon, who makes a SFX-L unit called Silent Storm SFX Gold with exact same specs and layout as the Silverstone SX500-LG unit, which is slightly cheaper and readily available however their choice of capacitors is a bit worrying. Sharkoon is using arguably less quality Teapo branded Korean capacitors for the primary and secondary side capacitors of the PSU. They are using a Japanese capacitor for the standby capacitor though. Silverstone, at least with the revision 1.1, is using Japanese capacitors across the board.
Everyone these days is asking for Japanese capacitors and the enthusiasts seem to reject anything that doesn't have them. But it reality, they could be overestimating the effects of having non-Japanese capacitors with regards to home computers that doesn't run at full load 24/7. JonnyGuru, a reputed PSU reviewer replied to my thread on his forums saying Teapo is fine.
Saturday, August 15, 2015
Couple of days ago I posted on Facebook how I chickened out from delidding my Devil's Canyon chip. A friend told me that it would be beneficial for me to upgrade to Haswell-E instead. Haswell-E die is soldered to the IHS so it shouldn't run at a temperature as high as Devil's Canyon. And I get at least two more cores to play with.
There is a huge barrier for entry due to price
I checked the prices of the Core i7 5820K (because the 5930K is useless and the 5960X is out of reach), ASRock X99E-ITX/ac Mini-ITX motherboard (the only X99 Mini-ITX board out there) and 16GB of DDR4 2666 sticks.
- CPU: ~ JPY 50,000
- Motherboard: ~ JPY 37,000
- RAM: ~ JPY 18,000
That would total out to around JPY 105,000. Expensive, but that’s what you have to pay for cutting edge. But it all depends on how much I can make from selling my existing stuff.
I checked the offers on Sofmap store and it was disappointing. Very disappointing. I would only receive around JPY 50,000 in total for my Core i7 4790K CPU, Asus Z97i-Plus board and A-DATA DDR3-2400 16GB memory. That’s an insanely low amount. No way I am going to sell my stuff to these shops.
However, shops aren’t the only place I can sell them. I can auction them online. However, since these are all used parts, I bet I won’t be able to extend this to JPY 70,000 mark. JPY 60,000 is possible, but it will take a long time because I have three components to sell. And if I sell at least one of them, I would have passed the point of no return.
Friday, August 14, 2015
We take a lot of photos when you go on trips. (Otherwise what is the point of buying the Canon 70D?) My wife loves to sort them out in the next couple of days. Since she takes a long time, I do not want her to use the desktop PC for that. I used to setup the tablet to access the photos which are stored on the hard drives in the desktop PC over the network, but we no longer have a tablet with us.
We visited Sanrio Puroland last Monday. As usual, my wife wanted to check out the photos we took there and this time I setup the MacBook Air for her. Unfortunately, the built-in Preview application can open only one photo at a time. You cannot use the arrow keys on the keyboard to navigate between the photos. There is no provision for that in that application. So as a temporary measure, I copied all the photos to the MacBook and imported them into the Photos app in OSX Yosemite where she could use the arrow keys to navigate.
What if I had Windows on the MacBook Air?
That would work!
In fact, I had an early preview build of Windows 10 (build 10041) already installed using Boot Camp. I booted into it and immediately felt how unstable it was. I tried using Windows Update to see if I could upgrade it to the RTM build. Windows Update insisted that there weren’t any pending updates. Windows Update was broken! Either the Windows Update in this build was broken or Microsoft didn’t want it to be upgraded to RTM.
That’s when I decided to install Windows 10 RTM freshly on the MacBook Air. Since I don't have a Windows 10 key, I decided to install Windows 7 and upgrade it to Windows 10. (I had already used the Windows 8.1 key on my desktop PC, so I could not upgrade from Windows 8.1.)
Installing Windows 10 RTM on the MacBook Air
I first went into OSX and removed the existing Boot Camp partition. Then I downloaded the Windows 7 Pro ISO that I had stored on my desktop PC onto the MacBook Air. I fetched one of my 16GB SANDISK USB sticks (click here to read a small review of them) and started creating the Windows 7 bootable installer from Boot Camp Assistant. I partitioned the SSD in the MacBook 50%-50%. I really don’t keep much files on the drive so I could survive easily with 60GB on each OS.
Once that was done, I rebooted the MacBook and the installation of Windows 7 started. Installation of Windows 7 went without any drama. After the installation was completed, Boot Camp installed the required drivers and I finally could go online to activate Windows 7.
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
When I migrated my PC into the Silverstone SG13 case, I mentioned that I had a few future upgrades planned. It was mainly two things: a SFX PSU and a better cooler. I have ordered the PSU already, although it has not arrived yet. The cooler was a low priority one, because I already had an ancient AIO water cooling unit, namely the Antec Kuhler 620.
So why did I want a better cooler?
It is because the Kuhler 620 was showing its age. The CPU temps rise past 90C when I run Asus Realbench stress test on my Devil's Canyon CPU clocked at 4.5GHz at 1.24V. Neither Realbench is as stressful as Prime95 or Linpack nor the Vcore is on the high side, but the temps are too high. To make things worse, the fan I use - the Gentle Typhoon AP29 - is much more powerful than the fan that came with the cooler. I asked around if the performance I see is what I should get from this particular cooler, and people say it should perform better.
Some said it is possible that a portion of the coolant has evaporated over the years. Even though it is a sealed unit, there could be micro sized holes than could be responsible for such a thing.
All I know is, it is not performing up to my expectations.
Water cooler options
So I looked around for a replacement and came across three candidates suitable for the job. The NZXT Kraken x31, Corsair H80i and the Fractal Design Kelvin T12. All of them were similarly priced and they all had their pros and cons. However after some thought, I rejected them all.
They all added extra weight to the PC. The H80i with the thicket rad with dual fans (yes, it fits marginally), the T12 with thicker rad and the Kraken with dual fans. I would probably buy a new cooler once the weight reduction has served its purpose.
But is there anything else that I can do?
Yes indeed there is. Delidding the CPU. That would result in an instant 15C reduction in load temps. And it would cost much less than a new CPU cooler.
Friday, August 7, 2015
I waited till the 5th to pay a visit to Sofmap to sell the Asus T100 tablet off. That's because days ending with the number 5 are called the "Sofmap中古日" which means if you decide to exchange the items for Sofmap points, you get a 5% boost on such days.
I hopped onto a train bound for Kawasaki after work on the Wednesday. There is a Sofmap support center in the Lazona shopping complex where they handle 買取 or purchases from their point of view. I went there and waited for my turn. When it was my turn, I handed over the tablet which was cleanly packed as it came from the factory, telling the staff personnel that the keyboard dock doesn't work properly. He made a serious face and told me that in that case there is a chance they might not accept the tablet at all or return the keyboard dock and take only the rest of the parts. I feared they would go with the former.
He took the tablet in for inspection and told me to come back in 30 minutes. That was short, probably because there weren't many people there and it was a weekday. I wandered around the Biccamera store checking out the cool gadgets during that 30 minutes.
Tuesday, August 4, 2015
I finally decided to sell my Asus T100 tablet. That's because it is slow (Atom platform is slow) and the keyboard was broken. (Read about that here) When I contacts Asus, they told me that they weren't selling the keyboard dock separately. Bastards!
I waited to see if Windows 10 can magically make the tablet experience awesome. But an Atom will always be an Atom. Windows 10 was also too slow for me on it. And I frequently got BSODs.
So it is going out of the house. That is final.
Instead of auctioning, I decided to it to Sofmap. I had no idea how much money I would receive due to the malfunctioning keyboard and the various scratch marks on the body of the tablet, but I wanted to give it a try. If Sofmap wasn’t prepared to offer a reasonable amount of money, I would go back to my regular method: Rakuten Auctions.
First things first though. I needed to load factory defaults of the tablet. I was running Windows 10 on it and I wanted to go back to Windows 8.1 that it originally came with. I tried resetting from the Settings app, and it reset back to Windows 10, and not 8.1 I don't have any recovery media to do a manual recovery either.
Monday, August 3, 2015
I was planning to get a new PSU for my SG13 build to lower the weight, increase the breathing room for components and improve the airflow by reducing the cable clutter. I was trapped between two PSUs, the SX500-LG and the SX600-G, both from Silverstone. The former is a SFX-L unit and the latter is a SFX unit.
SFX or SFX-L?
Between the two, I chose the SFX-L unit because of its 120mm fan and the slightly cheaper price tag. The SX600-G comes with a 80mm fan and should be noisier and wouldn't be adequate for exhausting warm air inside the case. I'm not convinced the SX500-LG is either but it should be better in that regard.
New options unearthed
However, there was another brand as I found out, which was cheaper and probably better for airflow. It's the Scythe SPKRG-S500P. It appears to have the same OEM as the Silverstone SFX-L unit although there aren't any reviews of it. It would be about JPY4,000 cheaper which is significant and comes with meshed modular cables. Those cables aren't as pretty as the flat cables offered by Silverstone, however when it comes to the 24pin cable, meshed cable overs less of the airflow and that could be noticeable inside the SG13.
Friday, July 31, 2015
Microsoft had to rush up Windows 10 by several months because they wanted the “Back to School” sales. It seems to have an impact on the quality of the OS because to me, Windows 10 is one of the buggiest OSes yet to come out from the company based in Redmond.
One such issue is related to Windows Search. Microsoft have never gotten Search working properly on any OS after Windows Vista. Contrary to the popular backlashing, Vista was awesome with Search: super fast (even searching from non-indexed locations) and accurate. Windows 7, 8, 8.1 all have been messy. Files do not show up on search results even though you can clearly see they are there by browsing from the Windows Explorer.
Anyways, this bug in Windows 10 is that it shows “We’re getting search ready” on the top of the Search menu, even when the Indexing has been completed. Search would not be able to find most of the files during this time.
For example, it cannot find Windows Update entry. This is just an example; it cannot find anything useful. Apps do show up though.
I tried re-indexing, turning the Windows Search service OFF and ON and even reverting to the only Search Locations that are indexed by default. None of that fixed the issue.
But finally I managed to fix it. I deleted the index manually and let it be rebuilt.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
NVidia ShadowPlay seems to be causing issues with Windows 10 (driver versions 353.30, 353.54, 353.62)
Monday, July 27, 2015
The last time I stress test day CPU was when I had the Maximus VII Gene board and the Noctua NH-U12S cooler. And it was with a low ambient temperature as well.
Fast forward to July of 2015 and we have a lot of changes. New case, meaning new motherboard and a new cooler. And Jul means, it's the summer. Sure, we have the A/C on, but the temps are around 26-27C, which is a couple of degrees higher than the previous months.
Wouldn't I have stress tested after all those hardware changes? I should have, but I didn't think it was necessary. For one, the stability of the overclock of Intel CPUs these days don't seem to be affected by the temperature. So the cooler or the lack of airflow inside the case shouldn't have made a difference. Then, Asus says that all of their Z97 Motherboards overclock exactly the same; only the feature set is different. More importantly, I didn't have the time to go through it again.
But yesterday, while I was transcoding a HD video in Handbrake, I got a BSODs. The dreaded "WHEA UNCORRECTABLE ERROR" error.
So the overclock wasn't stable after all. It was time for me to stability test the CPU. At least this time I had a starting point.
“4.5GHz @ 1.21V Vcore with everything else set to default”
That was where the CPU was at up until now.
But first, I wanted to make sure a stress testing tool would find the current overclock settings as unstable. I am not a fan of synthetic stress testing tools such as Prime 95 or AIDA64. Instead, I turned to Asus Realbench, which can be downloaded from here.
Friday, July 24, 2015
Monday, July 20, 2015
All this time I was under the impression that the Silverstone ST75F-GS PSU that I have in my PC was only 140mm long. Today while searching for a suitable PSU for the SG13, I came to know that it was in fact 150mm long. In addition to that, it actually weighs 2.5kg and not 2.1kg as I thought it was. I don't know how I got misinformed though. I probably was reading the specs of a similar unit from Silverstone.
Wait. That PSU I had been reading specs of, has the same model number. One is 150mm long and weighs 2.5kg. while the other one is 140mm long and weights 2.1kg. Which one do I have? I suppose I should measure mine. (Don’t want to take the PSU off the case, so I will just measure the dimensions – length – of the PSU.)
So the one I have is the 150mm long model. Phew!
This is exciting news!
My new PC case, the Silverstone SG13, doesn't support air coolers taller than 61mm. Hence the Noctua NH-U12S cooler than I had been using with the Silverstone SG09 case does not fit anymore. There is no point holding onto it because I won't be building a PC in a larger case in the foreseeable future. Therefore, I exhibited it on Rakuten Auction.
I set a starting bit at JPY 5,000. The cooler was going for around JPY 7,500. Since there was no degradation in the cooler, I thought it would be a easy sell. I was wrong. It's not that nobody was interested in the cooler. There were many who added it to the watch list but waited without bidding, hoping that I would drop the price a tad lower.
After a couple of weeks, I dropped the starting bid to JPY4,500. I waited many days and finally I got lucky. Someone thought that it was a fair price and placed a bid. He paid for it the next day and I sent it a couple of days later. That person lives in Hiroshima and it is hundreds of miles from my apartment. Thus it took a couple of days for it to arrive at the destination.
Here is the link to the Rakuten listing.
And there you go. My first Noctua cooler is not with me anymore. To be honest, I wasn't all that impressed with its cooling capabilities. The reviews that I read about it spoke of nice things about it. Even with two fans, it was nowhere near as cool as the Silverstone HE01 cooler with the sole fan running at 1000RPM.
If you are wondering what I am using in my PC at the moment, it is the Antec Kuhler 620 All-In-One water cooling unit that I bought about 4 years ago (yes, I didn't get rid of it for some reason). I do not have the stock fan with me anymore. A Gentle Typhoon AP-29 3000RPM non-PWM fan is helping the radiator cool down. Of course I do not run it at 3000RPM all the time; not noise would be deafening. The integrated fan control of the Asus Z97i-Plus takes care of the noise issue. The overclock/Vcore of the CPU and the maximum fan speed are set so that the CPU temps hardly go past 80C with the fan speed of 2000RPM while doing a normal CPU intensive job like encoding a video in Handbrake. Definitely it is very audible at 2000RPM but I cannot expect miracles with this 4 years old thin-radiator.