Saturday, April 25, 2015

Bought a Samsung 850 Evo 500GB SSD

Samsung 850 Evo

I bought a new SSD. It's the recently released Samsung 850 Evo 500GB model. I bought it from a shop called "Pasokon Koubou"  (パソコン工房). It was spontaneous and you can read below how it went from idea to execution.

Last Friday while travelling back home from work, I received an email notification informing me that the prices of the Samsung 850 Evo SSDs had been slashed in Japan. I had them added to my watch list, not because I was in the market for a new SSD, but because I was a intrigued by how the falling Japanese Yen would affect prices of computer parts. Computer parts are the only thing that I feel spending money on: not food or clothing or leisure.

The price of the 500GB model had dropped to JPY 23,880. Indeed it is still a hefty price to pay for a drive, however considering how much the Yen had fallen, the price of this would amount to about $200, which is a really low price. Still, I wasn’t going to get it just because of the price.

Price drop

Bought Battlefield Hardline finally

BFHL

I had been wanting to play the game, but could not find a decent deal until today. Electronic Arts, the publisher of the game was handing out a 40% discount on Origin for the game, so I wanted to grab that opportunity.

Origin_2015-04-25_02-00-41

It took a while to download though. Not because of the shear size of it, but because the server was slower than usual. Probably everyone was downloading it thanks to the discount.

I could not play the game yet. So from tomorrow onwards, I will probably not be playing Crysis 3 much – if at all. I will definitely miss the Nanosuit. I intend to play the Single Player campaign mode first though. I haven’t played Battlefield in a while so I will need some getting used to. Hopefully I will be able to crank up the graphics to the maximum, at least in the campaign mode.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

My SFF gaming rig is so heavy!

SFF build

When I slimmed down my old gaming rig to the one that is shown in the photo above, I had one goal. Make it as small as possible without compromising on performance. However, after I built the PC, I felt that there should have been two goals and that I wasn’t able to satisfy that second one. Weight!

I had to do many changes to the internals of the PC after I built it. Install new fans, change the CPU cooler multiple times, swap the graphics cards (few times actually, due to my issues with the MSI GTX 970 Gaming card) and also experiment with the case fan layout. All those times, I had to pick up the PC from the top of the desk and carry it to the kitchen to work on it. That was necessary because in our small apartment, I had to move as far away from the kid as possible, as the opportunity would be ruined if he woke up from the noise. From the very first moment I picked it up, I felt that it rather felt heavy for its size. It is understandable because the internal components haven’t really changed from what it replaced; just the case was smaller. Sure, now I have a smaller cooler than the Silver Arrow or a lighter PSU than the Corsair TX850 or a micro ATX motherboard instead of an ATX board thus being lighter. But that difference would hardly add up to a kilo I bet.

Finally I decided to properly measure the weight of my PC. Instead of unplugging the cables and carrying it to the kitchen where the scale is kept, I decided to bring the scale into the living room and sneak it through the PC and the desk. The Surface of the desk seemed hard enough to give an accurate enough value.

So how much does it weigh?

20150418_181852~2

12.5 frigging kilos! That's almost half of the baggage allowance! If it was less than 10kg then I would have been happy.

Is it even possible to drop the overall tally below the 10kg mark? I doubt I will be able to do that just by changing the components alone. A further shrinkage to the Mini-ITX level seems inevitable, which would be a substantial cost.

But before getting too ahead of myself, I decided to search for the weight of each component that's currently housed inside my PC. I ignored the weight of the CPU, RAM and the SSD because they hardly contribute to the overall weight.

  • Silverstone SG09 Case: 5.3kg
  • Asus Maximus VII Gene motherboard: 1.5kg (deducted from a shipping weight of 4 pounds)
  • Noctua NH-U12S CPU cooler with NF-F12 fan: 0.755g 
  • Gigabyte GTX 970 Gaming G1 video card: 0.9kg (deducted from a shipping weight of 2.4 pounds)
  • Western Digital Caviar Green 3TB HDD: 0.73kg
  • Toshiba 3TB HDD: 0.68kg
  • Silverstone 750W PSU: 2.1kg (this is significant)
  • 2x Enermax 92mm fans: 0.2kg (deducted from a shipping weight of 0.119kg each)
  • 1x Enermax 120mm fan on the CPU cooler: 0.125kg (deducted from a shipping weight of 0.158kg)
All of that adds up to 12.5kg. The components that can really make a difference are the case, PSU, CPU cooler,  hard drives and the video card. I am not sure how much I can lower the weight even if I change these components. A lighter case will probably get the total below the 10kg mark, however if I stick with MICRO-ATX form factor, I will have to give up on volume of the case because the SG09/10 are as low as you can go without comprising on compatibility. I don't want that either. 

That means one thing. I will have to go for a Mini ITX build if I want to lower the weight of the rig. And that's a substantial amount of money which I am not comfortable with unless I can get the total weight to around 8kg. This needs a lot of research and I actually do have time. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Nexus 5 couldn't connect calls with my wife's Nexus 5

The contact doesn't exist

All this started couple of days ago. Calls from my Nexus 5 could not be connected with my wife’s phone. It always showed as ”Line Busy”. However calls from her phone could be received from mine without any problem. Weirdly, her phone could receive calls from others (also from Skype and Viber) and I could call others as well. The only combination that was failing was I calling my wife.

It was as if she had blocked me. Well,  she hadn't - at least not intentionally. But I cannot trust the kid. There is always something missing from the home screen after he gets his hands on a phone. I try my best to keep him away from my phone.

I couldn't find caller blocking functionality in Android. I was in the assumption that my phone was the culprit since from the point of view of my wife's Nexus 5, it was working perfectly as it should. I reluctantly factory reset my phone. This was the first time I had done it so even if it didn't fix the problem, I thought it would at least be educational.

I wasn't really educational. It didn't need my intervention until the initial setup screen showed up. From there onwards, it was identical to a manual OS upgrade which I'm not quite familiar with after performing it few times. And more important, it did NOT fix the original problem. I still couldn't connect with my wife's phone. I had to waste like 1 hour setting up the phone like was before. I wish it was possible to backup and selectively restore the individual app settings as well.

Friday, April 10, 2015

So much noise coming out of the front headphone jacks

SG09

Since a while back, I had been plugging in the headphones to the headphones port on the Logitech Z623 speakers. I could not remember why I did that. Yesterday I mistakenly plugged them into the front headphones ports and then I remembered why.

Noise!

There is a massive noise inserted into the audio signal when I plug them to the front headphones port. I checked if I could fix it by disabling the mic port for example. It was already disabled.

It has to be the front audio cable or the port of the case. I am definitely not using a dedicate audio card, but the onboard – actually it is not on-board – that comes with the Asus Maximus VII Gene is no slouch. That is one of the reasons I picked this board over the other Micro-ATX boards, because I would not need to buy a dedicated audio card.

Since there is no problem when I listen to the headphone through the port on the speakers which are, by the way, connected to the ports on the same audio “card”. Like I said, it is not on-board, it is a separate solution that plugs into a proprietary slot on the motherboard. And my headset definitely isn’t the culprit as it is a audiophile grade headset, the AudioTechnica ATH-AD500X and again, it works well when plugged through the speakers.

It is not a big deal. I just want to let others who are looking to buy the Silverstone SG09/SG10 cases that there might be a problem with the front audio ports. YMMV obviously. I had issues with the front audio ports of the Raven RV03 as well, but instead of noise, they did not make the headphone jack stick inside. It was always loosen up. Bad, Silverstone, bad!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Decided not the return the Jackery Zen portable charger

Zen

In a previous post I wrote that I was going to return the portable mobile phone charger that I recently bought from Amazon because of some issues with its functionality. The name of the charger is Zen, which isa manufactured by an American company called Jackery. The issues that I encountered was its inability to charge my wireless Bluetooth headset, the Plantronics BackBeat Go 2. There were couple of other issues where the charger would commence charging the devices without first pressing the power button and also the manual wouldn’t stating what to do after the device had finished charging (whether the charger needs to be turned off or simply unplugging the device would be adequate).

I tweeted this to Jackery’s twitter handle and they responded about the power button with the following.

jackery

The issue of automatically commencing charging is real. This does not happen all the time though, which is weird and I am intrigued as to finding out what the culprit is. Probably a defect in this particular item or probably how the Nexus 5 charges is causing this. However if I press the power button every time after plugging a device, it would start charging regardless, so this is really a non-issue, as long as the charger doesn’t die on me.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Finally received the Android 5.1 OTA update for Nexus 5

Not for my Nexus 5, because I already manually upgraded to 5.1 using the official binaries downloaded from Google servers. This update is for my wife’s Nexus 5.

Yes, I wrote in this post that I might actually upgrade my wife’s phone to Android 5.1 manually, as I had grown in confidence in doing that. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to spare, so it was postponed indefinitely. Finally yesterday, when I was about to plug the phone to micro USB cable coming off my PC to charge it, I checked the notification drawer and saw that there was an entry that I had never seen before.

Screenshot_2015-04-04-10-51-30

Even though I was plugging the phone to the power source, it already had almost 100% battery. Without second thoughts, I tapped on the entry and that made the following pane to show up on screen.

Screenshot_2015-04-04-10-52-59

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Guess I won't be upgrading to the new 12 inch MacBook

macbook-select-gold-201501
I was looking forward to the new MacBook Air because was considering upgrading our 2011 model as it was showing signs of battery wear. Instead Apple launched a MacBook. Not an Air,  not a Pro, just a MacBook. That's fine as I couldn't care less about the name. As beautiful as it may be with its super thin profile, Retain display with every thin bezels, super silent operations as it has no fans, doubled SSD performance and better (according to Apple at least) key switches, I have concerns about this model, all of which are due to heavy compromises Apple had to make to make it so thin.
 
Firstly, it has less battery life than the last generation MacBook Air: 9hrs compared to 12hrs on the 13-inch MBA. Although it is still higher than that of the one we are hoping to replace, I feel that it is a downgrade. The reason for the reduced battery life is the thinness of the body which doesn't allow as much battery cells as before. The low power 1.1GHz Core M CPU cannot save the MacBook either. If not for this chip, the battery life would have been substantially lower. However, since I do not take the laptop with me on long journeys, this might not be a real issue as I would be couple of feet away from a wall socket. (Now you must be wondering why I have to have a laptop in the first place. I don't need one. But my wife does. She watches tele-dramas on the laptop, and this allows me to keep her away from the desktop.)
 

G602 battery died while I was in a game!

G602 battery
 
.Unless you are new to my blog, you should know that I'm using the Logitech (ahem, Logicool in Japan) G602 "wireless"  mouse with my PC. I love playing Crysis 3 multi-player on my PC as well. You should be thinking now that this combination is pretty messed up. Gaming and wireless mouse? That doesn't sound right. Right?
 
Well, this is not your typical wireless mouse, which you would get with those keyboard combos. This is a gaming mouse in that it has a lot of features to help gamers feel that this is not a wireless mouse in any way, except for the unavailability of cable drag which is indeed a plus. Namely, it is equipped with a better sensor than most mice (of course there are mice with vastly better sensors but those are on wired mice), has lots of programmable buttons, contains onboard memory (sadly for just one profile), can operate at 500Hz polling rate (again, sadly not 1000) and has built in high quality Teflon glides (wish they had bundled few extra as the ones on mine have started to peal off). Best of all,  you get a 250hrs of continuous gaming without needing to swap out batteries. You can extend that if you are not gaming by switching to endurance mode which can be done by a dedicated switch on top of the mouse.
 
Basically this is the best wireless gaming mouse you can get.
 
But today, for the first time, just when I was going to shoot someone in a Crysis 3 games, the battery died. If I had the Logitech Gaming Software installed, it would have warned me that the battery level was dangerously low, but I don't have it installed due to input lag issues. I thought the battery had the hardware to monitor it and notify me how much juice is left. There are dedicated LEDs to indicate the current battery level, however apparently the software is required for them to be useful.
 
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