Sunday, December 25, 2016

How I mount my Galaxy S7 phone in the car

I had been complaining about the GPS issues with my phone in the past (read about it here). That's because I use them for navigating when I am driving the car. The GPS issues were resolved after buying the Galaxy S7 and disabling the My Optus app (read about it here). But I never talked about how I was mounting my phone in the car.

Initially, I ordered a Handsfree Bluetooth Smart Phone Holder from Kogan as per my cousin's recommendation. However, the ETA for it was a bit too long, so I cancelled the order.

I then went to the JB Hi-Fi and bought the Cygnett Dashview Universal Car Mount which was much cheaper and I could buy it on the spot. It wasn't a great product and the price probably reflects that. The arms of it which held the phone in place scratched the body of my phone's case because they were so tight. The tightening dial (I don't know what it is called, you just have to tighten it for the mount to stay fixed on the windshield) would loosen every now and then, although the mount never came off all by itself. But it at least got the job done.

But few weeks ago, I ran into a new problem.

I was in Beaconsfield and heading towards Melbourne City on the Monash Freeway M1. The phone lost GPS and never recovered. The phone felt hot and very sluggish, so I cleared all apps and when it didn't do anything, I rebooted the phone. Still it did not recover, so I just switched to my wife's phone for the rest of the trip. A few days before the first incident, I installed Optus Sports app to watch cricket on the phone. (I could use it freely with my plan) I thought that app messed up my GPS, just like the My Optus app did a few months ago. The phone had gotten a bit slow as well over the months, so I decided to do a complete factory reset and start from the scratch. I didn't get any issues with GPS afterwards, and I thought that it was just a software issue and that it was resolved.

And it occurred again on another day, around the exact area!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Google Play Store Family sharing and Opinion Rewards are a great power couple

Google Play Store now has a feature called Family Library. This lets one person to buy an app and share it amongst all the members in the Family group, without everyone needing to pay for the app individually.

You first have to add family members to your Family Group, from your Play Store Account settings. You can add a maximum of 5 family members. I only added my wife. The catch is that you have to specify a single payment method for all family purchases, and everyone you add to the Family should confirm the payment method. So, you would not want to add anyone else you don't trust with your money to that group.

While it is great that each family member doesn't have to purchase the app, you can take it to the another level if all of them are earning Google Credits through Opinion Rewards app.

I bought Solid Explorer Full Version, Holo Launcher Plus, GSam Battery Monitor Pro and Pixel Icon Pack with my Google Credits since writing about Opinion Rewards couple of months back. Purchasing all those apps exhausted all of my Google Credits. But my wife had been piling up Google Credits in her account and I figured I could use those credits to buy apps from her account and share it with me through the Family Library.

Unified Remote Full was available on sale for Christmas, so I decided to try it out this way. As expected, I bought it from my wife's Play Store account which added it to the Family Library, which allowed me to install it on my Galaxy S7 from my account. Awesome!

Thank you Google for Family sharing and Opinion Rewards. :)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The "backup" plan - end of 2016

I have a lot of valuable digital data. The most precious ones are the photos of my wedding, my kids and all our trips in Japan. I do have all the photos backed up to Google Photos and some to Facebook, but the issues is that neither service preserves original file. Additionally, I have all the 'important' documents backed up to Google Drive.

Locally, I currently have all my data in my DIY NAS. It has currently got two data drives (can support four), which I mirror manually every now and then. While one drive is a backup of the other, the NAS is still a single device. This means, a power surge can kill the server, which can take the drives along with it. And I am not living in Japan anymore. Electricity in Japan was very stable and it only failed once during my 5 and a half year span there. That was on March 10, 2011 when the massive 9.0 scale earthquake hit Fukushima. I think we can excuse that.

I am not saying the power delivery in Australia is unreliable. It is yet to fail since I have arrived here as well, and I've been here for more than 10 months. But Japan runs on Electricity (literally, because of the electric trains), thus it has to be very stable and has to have a lot of fail-safes in place and power headroom. Australia runs on fossil fuel, both literally (i.e. cars and logistics) and figuratively (i.e. power is generated using fossil fuel). Good thing is, the consumption is much less than Japan with 1/7 the population.

Back to my backup plan...

Friday, November 11, 2016

Creating a folder on a remote file share is very slow in Windows 10 Anniversary Update

I have a NAS that runs Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials. I have my desktop PC which runs Windows 10 Anniversary update. I Recently noticed that whenever I wanted to create a folder in the NAS from my desktop PC, it would take a long time for the folder to be created. Long time here means about a minute or longer. This would make Windows Explorer very not respond until the folder is created.

After experiencing this several times, I did a workaround. I would create the folder locally and cut and paste it into the NAS. This would work without issues. But every now and then, I would forget to do this and I have to curse myself for forgetting to do the workaround.

Today I decided to check if this was a widely known issue. I came across this thread on TechNet which exactly described what I was experiencing. Many people had joined the discussion and there were few workarounds that had popped up.

  • Disable Windows Search (not sure if it is on Windows 10, Windows Server or both)
  • Use PowerShell to create the remote folder.
  • Use 3rd party Windows Explorer replacements to create the remote folder.

Literally just minutes after I visited the thread, someone posted on that thread saying that Microsoft had fixed this in build 14965 which is only available for insiders on the fast ring.

We’ve fixed an issue where File Explorer might crash when creating or renaming a folder on a network share.

Since I am not really entertained by frequent troubleshooting anymore, I stick to final stable versions of every software I install. So, I guess I won't be getting this fix for a while. For now, I will just have to disable Windows Search, which doesn't work properly anyways. I use a 3rd party app called Everything to search files, which gives results super fast.

Edit:

Looks like disabling Windows Search service fixes the issue. I disabled it on both the client and the server and now the folder creation is instantaneous.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

So...what happened to my laptop buying plans?

I was hoping to upgrade my almost 5 years old laptop soon, but both Microsoft's and Apple's pricing screwed things up.

The Surface Book with Performance Base starts at a whopping A$3,599. The MacBook Pro 13" starts at A$2,199 (although it could be had for less than $2,000 for a limited time from The Good Guys, which is much lower compared to Microsoft's offering, but still that's too much money for the return. These are using dual core CPUs from last generation.

I want a laptop with a touch screen. I would love a detachable screen so that I can use it as a tablet to read stuff. There aren't many options in that category. Surface Pro 4 is a good option, but that's last year's tech and goes for almost $2,000 for a decent specced model. I could get the last year's Surface Book for much cheaper than the new one as well, but still it is over A$2,000.

I don't need a dedicated GPU. I am fine with the integrated GPU. I do not plan on gaming on it. I have a desktop for that, if I can find time.

If I want a pure laptop (not a convertible), the Dell XPS 13 was a great option (the Skylake model, not the KabyLake model as it is pretty expensive too) until I found out that it was plagued with a hissing noise (like a coil whine) which is noticeable. Otherwise, I was really impressed with it when I tried one out at the JB Hi-Fi. It is beautiful, fast and lightweight. Well, it is not cheap either.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Gotta love Google Opinion Rewards

After arriving here in Australia, I decided to give a second go at Google Opinion Rewards app. I used it briefly in Japan but got nothing from it.

I don't know what got me to try it again but it's been worth it so far. I regularly get surveys, especially after I do some shopping at the Chadstone Shopping Centre and I earn a few cents to a couple of dollars a week. I've been honest in all my answers because you cannot cheat to Google. Google knows everything! People say that that's one reason why one would regularly get surveys. I've seen it ask some weird questions (especially about places that I've not visited) to test if you're being honest as well. Google knows where you've been to because of the GPS in my phone.

Some people say that if you are a female, you would earn more rewards because Google (and everybody else) knows that women love shopping. Their opinion is more relevant I suppose. Thus I signed up my wife for Opinion Rewards and she got a $1 survey after couple of days! I'd never seen one that paid that high. Probably there is some truth to that after all. It's a shame that I'm the one who usually does the grocery. Perhaps I should switch phones when I go shopping... Nah! I hate the Nexus 5.

However, there isn't much you can do with the reward points other than to spend them to purchase stuff on the Google Play Store. In my case, that would be Android apps. It's a shame that cannot cash them.

Here is what you've been waiting for. How much have I really earned? I signed up in April but didn't use the app at all. Since the 4th of July (which was the day I earned my first rewards) up until the time of writing this post, I have earned $15.49. I have bought 5 Android apps with those credits, all of which I probably wouldn't have bought if I had to spend on out of my own pocket.

  1. White Noise - AUD 0.20
  2. EZ Package Disabler - AUD 1.89
  3. Speedtest (Permanent Ad Removal) - AUD 1.09
  4. Network Signal Info - AUD 3.75
  5. MX Player Pro - AUD 7.10

There are a couple of Android apps in my Wishlist: Holo Launcher Plus license @ a whopping AUD 7.27, Dictionary.com Premium @4.85 and Pocket Weather Australia @1.99. It'll take a while to pile up that much reward points. Perhaps I will find something else to spend that money on if I wait that long.

Anyways, Google Opinion Rewards has been pretty decent so far. I must have spent less than 5 minutes total on answering the surveys. That's way less that what it took to write this blog post.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fixing the Nexus 5 update error

My old Nexus 5 is with my father now. I did a factory reset before I passed it to him. After a few days, the phone received a security update, but when we tried to install it, it would fail mid way with an error screen as shown above. To exit the error screen, we had to press and hold the power button and the volume down button; then it would reboot the phone and everything would be back to normal. However, after a while, it would show that an update is available (it is the same one that failed), but it would result in the same thing. We tried several times with no success. The phone only had about half a dozen apps installed other than the stock apps, so it must have been a real mess up.

Next thing to do was to do a factory reset. It also did not fix the problem.

Then we decided to completely erase and manually install the latest official firmware for the phone. I had not done this in a while, so I had to look for a tutorial. Last time I followed this YouTube video but it was telling me to download Android Studio to get the ADB Bundle. Then I found this written guide, which suggested an alternative way to get the ADB bundle installed.

And it was a success. By that I mean that we are not getting that error anymore. But we have to give it a couple of months to see if it really got fixed, because since the phone is already running the latest build for the Nexus 5, there would not be any new updates for a while.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Installing Jekyll on OSX

I wanted to play with Jekyll after watching this video. You would usually install it using the terminal using the following command:

$ sudo gem install jekyll

But unfortunately, it failed for me with an error saying:

ERROR: Error installing jekyll:
ERROR: Failed to build gem native extension.

It appears the make command is not found on the system. you need to install OSX command line tools.

I'm sure you can download them from Apple somehow (some people say you need to install XCode and then install the Command Line tools from it) but what I found the easiest way to get it into my installation was by installing Homebrew (it's a package manager like apt-get on Unix) using this command:

/usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)"

Then it would run the Homebrew installer but after a few seconds it would pause it and ask you if you want to install the Command Line tools in a separate dialog. You tell it to do that (that's the whole point it all this) and it will take a moment to finish install the tools (1 minute to download, 1-2 minutes to install). After that's done, you press Enter in the Terminal window to resume the installation of Homebrew (sadly I couldn't capture a screenshot to show you, but it's straight forward, so don't be scared) and it will finish after a few seconds.

Now if you run our first command (yes, that one you use to install Jekyll in the first place), it will go through. Now you can play with Jekyll; yay!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bought a cheap printer because that's the economical thing to do

Bought a printer, more than half a decade after buying the last one. The HP whatever model that I bought was not bought out of my own pocket, so technically I didn't buy it. By father did.

So this is my first printer.

It's a black and white one. But it's a laser printer, made by Brother. The model number is HL-1210W; W is for Wireless. That makes things easy, because there is no place to keep the printer either near the PC, the server or the router. It is a single function type (so no scanning or copying) but I think I can do just fine with Tiny Scanner app in my phone for scanning (and hence copying).

So, how much did it cost? Not much. Just AUD 59. I bought it from Staples. The usual price is $79, but it was on sale for $69 (sadly, it is slightly cheaper now at AUD 66.50). Stock take? Who cares? And for first time buyers of Staples, they were giving a $10 promotional discount if the total purchase price was above $60, so it ended costing $59. Funny thing is that the non-wireless model was going for $59 as well everywhere. Haha, so funny. But every once in a while, that model goes on sale for about $40, if you are a bit patient.

I checked the prices of the toners before the purchase. Compatible (not OEM) toners can be bought for about $18 on eBay. It's way more economical compared to an InkJet printer. Before buying the printer, I used to print documents at the Clayton library for $0.20 a page. Expensive, I know. But it appeared to me that this wasn't that expensive compared to an inkjet printer after all. Basically, buying an inkjet printer was only a convenience, not a cost saving solution. The laser printer is about 5 times more economical.

Getting the printer hooked up on the router took a bit of effort because I was trying to be a smart ass and didn't refer to the manual at first. After it picked up the network, it was a walk in the park. The printer would automatically connect to the network after turning it on. I didn't properly time the printing speed but print outs are reasonably fast. I didn't feel it was slow in any way. Either those Canon hardware I used to write drivers for were junk or I'm getting old.

Anyway, no regrets with the purchase. Doesn't happen often.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

How much power does my NAS based on the HP MicroServer Gen8 use?

Ever since building a Network Attached Storage (NAS) for storing all my data files, I was intrigued about how much power it actually drew from the wall. This turned into a concern when our household electricity bill skyrocketed in the last couple of months. I did not think the server contributed to a significant portion of the usage, but you never know.

I finally decided to buy a watt meter. Kill-a-watt, which is the popular product amongst PC users was expensive. So I looked at Chinese products on eBay and AliExpress. Found one for cheap on AliExpress an ordered. It took a long time to arrive. The current price is much higher than what I paid for it. I only paid $11.71.

I plugged the watt meter to the wall socket and the server to it, and measured the power consumption. While idling, it used about 40W, which was a bit higher than I expected. But it could be because it has two mechanical drives, an SSD and 10GB of RAM. What was impressive was that it only used about 6W more while doing a HandBrake transcoding job, however it is painfully slow compared to my Desktop.

So it would use about 1 unit per day if I run it 24/7. It is not that bad, but could be lower, and would have definitely be lower if it was an off-the-shelf NAS. I'm just relieved that it is not using a horrendous amount of power.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Is it the time to buy a new laptop?

The MacBook Air laptop which we have to our place was bought almost 5 years ago from Japan. I bought it with a discount that I received when signing up for an internet connection with OCN. I did not use it that much because I had my trusty PC with me. But my wife used it a lot, but mostly for watching tele dramas.

It’s received all the OSX update up to date. I think it will change from this time though. It is running a Sandybridge CPU clocked at 1.7GHz with 4GB RAM which is quite slow for today’s standards, but it is almost as fast as the 12” MacBook. So there is no real reason for Apple to stop supporting it, except for sales reasons. They want us to pay for a new laptop.

From the outside, other than few scuff marks which are only visible if you look closer, the outer shell has held up very well. However the screen has some imprints of the keys on the keyboard, which I am not sure if they are permanent or I can get rid of. They haven’t caused any inconvenience while using the laptop, but when you power it on for the first time after resuming from standby, when the screen is dark.

To be honest, OSX is quite slow for my needs. The 4GB RAM probably is the culprit. Opening lots of tabs in Chrome can bring it down on knees.

Optus Galaxy S7 software update

Couple of weeks ago, I got the second over-the-air (OTA software update for my Optus branded Galaxy S7. I actually found out the availability of it on Whirlpool forums and before the phone automatically searched for the update manually and it showed up.

It updated from firmware G930FXXU1APF2 to G930FXXU1APGH. Everything went fine without a hiccup.

I noticed two things after the update though.

  1. The phone would fall back to 3G when the LTE signal strength is too low, much earlier than before. This was a problem for me with the previous firmware, where at work, it would stay in LTE despite having zero signal bars. The result of this was terribly slow internet speeds. So I had to keep the network in 3G forcefully. I still keep it that was however, because the best signal strength I would get in LTE is 2 bars. It’s mostly 1 bar, and this can hamper the battery life unnecessarily. And, although the Optus agent said that my 4G reception would improve after 23rd of July, nothing happened.
  2. There is a process called Media Server in the top battery consuming apps list, which I had not seen before. I still haven’t been able to figure out what is causing this process to run in the background. Some people had mentioned it was caused by Google Chrome, but I use Firefox; some say it was triggered by VoLTE, but disabling it did nothing. (I was briefly testing LTE speeds around where I live, and VoLTE was enabled.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Upgrade plans for my desktop PC

The Small Form Factor PC that I built last year is quite fast for almost all the things I do with it. But I love upgrading my PC just to experience what the latest and the greatest hardware has to offer. Sadly, things do not usually live up to my expectations, but that is a different story.

This story is about the potential upgrade path this particular PC offers.

Sadly, my options aren't vivid. The PC is built in such a way that a tangible increase in performance requires a substantial amount of spending, which sometimes defies the reasoning behind "building" a desktop PC.

Let me explain.

Video card

Let's look at the video card first, because as you probably know, I am a gamer. The video card is the most important component in a gaming PC. But, I am not the typical gamer you would find elsewhere, but that is for another discussion.

Right now, I have an overclocked MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4G in my PC. To see a tangible increase in performance, I have to at least get a GTX 1070 and overclock it, which would give me 50% performance gains over my current card. But it would cost me close to $700 if I want to buy locally. $100 or so cheaper if I buy it from outside Australia, but it will make claiming for warranty painful. The GTX 1080 would give me twice the performance but it would cost me a whopping $1000 if bought locally! I am not going to spend that sort of money on a single piece of computer hardware, probably ever! But the GTX 1080 can be bought for less than $900 if I look to import it from outside.

Walking to work

I have a great advantage at the moment. I am only a walking-distance away from work. No, I don't walk in a suit. It still takes about 20 minutes, but that is miniscule. It saves money (because you don't have to pay for transport), saves time (no traffic, you have the total control; if I want, I can rush back home in 10 minutes) and it is definitely good for health (40 minutes of walking everyday).

Walking in the winter is a bit difficult though. It's not because of the outdoor temperature, but because of the wind that usually flows from north, which hits straight on my face. It is winter now in Australia, but we have passed the peak, so it is getting better. But the summer could be a totally different monster, but I have walked outside at 40C temperature, so I should be OK.

The rent in Melbourne is pretty steep. When I was looking for our first apartment, I had to take the transport expenses (or, the lack of it) into consideration. I pay $345 per week for our current apartment, which is quite a lot of money. During my search, I came across houses/apartments with a weekly rent of around $325 but they would have required me to drive to work as they were not very close to my workplace. I could take the train, but the fares would cost about $23/week if I get the myKi pass for the whole month. If I drive 15km each direction, that would be 150km each week or about 18 litres of petrol, which would be about $20/week, so it is similar to what I am paying right now. Our current apartment is smack in the middle of all the shopping areas, so it is very convenient, which you sometimes cannot value by money.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

We just had our second baby! (Part 2)

IMG_6023

This is the part two of the series. You can read the part one here.

First appointment at the hospital - with the Midwifery section

In the previous post I mentioned that we got an appointment from the Midwifery section of the Monash Medical Centre for Tuesday, the 3rd of May. I've never had to visit the hospital before so this would be the first time I go there. I was not sure where to park the car even. I searched for a map of the hospital online but I could not find any. However, I found out that the parking charges within the hospital premises were very steep. But since this was out first visit, we decided to give into the ludicrous parking fees by parking the car within the premises.

The appointment was at 1pm. I went to work in the morning and took short leave after a quick lunch with the intention of going back after the checkup. I did not expect it to take too long - Australia is a developed country after all, and everything ought to be well organised and punctual, right?

We weren't sure where the clinic was, so we had to look for it. Someone who was working at the hospital must have figured we were lost and came to our help and she gave us directions to the clinic. There was a separate reception at the clinic and we stood up in the queue and waited for us to be called upon. When we were called upon, we let them know that this was our first visit and that we had an appointment with the midwifery section at 1pm. The receptionist asked my wife's personal details to confirm she was who she claimed to be. After that, she asked us to take a seat and wait for her name to be called upon.

We had to wait for about one hour until we were called upon. So much for hoping that I could return to work within an hour or so.  The maternity clinic was filled with mothers-to-be, probably because that particular time slot was the busiest hour with some of the doctors gone for lunch.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Bad Skype video quality from my PC but not from the phone?

    Skype

AI live in Australia, so I have to keep touch with family back in Sri Lanka via Skype. Ever since moving here, I had been getting complaints about the video they receive being terrible.

The obvious culprit is the internet connection at my current apartment. It is using ADSL2+ and practically I get a bandwidth of about 16Mbps down and 1Mbps up. While it is substantially slower what I got in Japan, it is still similar to the speeds your get on the family package back in Sri Lanka.

But the video I get from the other side is clear!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Galaxy S7 on Optus network stuck in “Searching for GPS” - fixed for now!

S7 Navigation

Image courtesy of this YouTube video

One of the things that made me want to upgrade my phone was this. (If you don't want to read that whole post, the problem was with its GPS where it would lose the signal randomly while navigating, which made me go past where I was supposed to turn in places that I was unfamiliar with.)

I did a lot of research before I bought my S7. GPS issue is just one problem; the phone had to be usable in the first place, irrespective of whether it had the GPS issue or not. At the Chadstone Shopping Centre, I played with many phones for many hours and felt the iPhone 6S or the Galaxy S7 were the most usable. Hence I limited my further research to those two.

Sadly, there was no definitive answer to whether either of these phones had the GPS problem. There were complaints from people from both camps about GPS reception issues, sometimes triggered by software updates. But they were not widespread, and there seemed to be solutions to fix those issues.

I bought the S7 expecting everything to work well, but on the very first day I tried to navigate by car, I was hit with the darn issue!!! As soon as I got into the car, I set the destination as Chadstone Shopping Centre because that's where we shop most of the grocery. But all I got was the following message displayed on the Google Maps app.

Waiting for GPS

My current location was shown as a grey circle, instead of a blue circle. It's a bit different to what I experienced with the Nexus 5 though. With the Nexus 5, I would lose the GPS signal randomly.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Glad I did not wait for the Galaxy Note 7

Samsung-Galaxy-Note-7

Image courtesy sammobile

Before I actually bought my S7, which was a spontaneous decision as a great deal popped up, I had decided to wait for two phones before I made the decision. The Galaxy Note 7 and the iPhone 7.

Today is August 2nd and two important events happened today. The revelation of the Galaxy Note 7 is one of them. (The other one, if you are wondering, is the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.)

I had been following up on the Galaxy Note 7 rumours and even though at first they looked promising with 6GB RAM and a faster SoC coming to the phone, they gradually turned boring.

As soon as I woke up in the morning, I checked about the Samsung event which should have gone live at 1am to learn about the specs of the phone. Yes, the had exactly the lacklustre hardware features that the latest rumours described. No 6GB RAM. That’s THE deal breaker for me.

I am sure there are some fancy upgrades for people who are upgrading from the Note 5 (like better SoC, gorilla glass 5 screen, larger battery, better camera, IP68 rating and last but not least, the iris scanning feature), but to me, it is a Galaxy S7 Edge with an SPen, however those SPen related features are pretty cool.

Oh, and the phone is going on sale for AUD 1,349 in Australia. It’s a lot of money, solely due to the fallen Australian dollar. But if you preorder it, you get a 256GB Samsung Evo Plus MicroSD card which retails for around $200. That's a lot of storage. I have no idea what sort of plans the Cellular Telcos are planning to offer though. They would not be as nice as the plan I got though; that's for sure.

It still comes with the same version of Marshmallow the Galaxy S7 shipped with (another negative, as Nougat is just around the corner), albeit with a more professional looking UI called the Grace UI. I read somewhere that Samsung will offer this to the Galaxy S7 as well, but I am not sure when it will happen. Samsung might not offer it at all, just to make the Note 7 look premium.

Anyways, I personally am not disappointed at all, because I already got the S7 and I am stuck with it for at least a year. I would have been very disappointed, and it probably would have thrown me back into the Apple realm had I been waiting for this.

Friday, July 29, 2016

We just had our second baby

A photo of here in her cot. Blurred of course.


And it is a girl this time! 

And she was born in a whole new country -  different to where my wife and I were born and different to where my elder kid was born as well. 

And she is actually an Australian citizen!

This is a long story, so I will be splitting this story into several posts.

Remember, we just moved to Australia. We used to live in Japan before that. That's where our elder kid was born. But he is not a Japanese citizen - he is still a Sri Lankan citizen.

My wife got pregnant couple of months before we left Japan. She knew there was a few months’ down time between the point when we left Japan and the point when we would be settled down in Australia. During this time, she would be in Sri Lanka, so it was a great time to be pregnant as she would get all the help from everyone around. Plus, she would get a chance to eat all those tasty food that she missed last time.

Everything went according to plan – my wife getting pregnant that is. I was still a bit weary because I wasn’t all that sure that we would be able to settle down properly in time to have the baby in Australia. Having family here without a job would have been really stressful and it would drain our savings. I could not ask my cousin to let all of us live there (I believe he still would have helped though). But we took the risk. The worst thing that would have happened was to have the baby in Sri Lanka and needing to apply for Child Visa as mentioned here. It would have cost us a lot of money as well as a lot of time, but it still would have worked. And, my wife had made up her mind and there was no way I could change her mind unless I was willing to live with a grumpy wife for a few months.

After moving to Australia, I found a job in no time. Then I moved to an apartment and bought a car. Those were pretty much the prerequisites for my wife to plan the journey here. We had already decided that my parents would travel with her to Australia. It was impossible for my wife to look after Sonath (that’s my older kid) who is passing one of the most mischievous days of a person's life. She would definitely need help after the new baby comes out as well. This is another reason why finding a job was imperative. To get Overseas Tourist visa for my parents, I had to send a sponsorship letter to the embassy saying that I would bear all their expenses here.

Cases on phones: cannot live with them–cannot live without them

IMG_20160729_070408

I bought a new phone that means I have to do something to protect... my precious. That's why I ordered a new case for the phone. The case was a Spigen branded one as they were regarded highly for the build quality of their cases. The model I went with was the Slim Armour.

I ordered it from eBay Australia and the seller was a local seller called ProGadgets -  in fact only about a couple miles from my apartment. I ordered on the 18th night and it was delivered on the 21st. I could have simply went and picked it up in-store but shipping was free, so I didn't have to.

It cost my $19.99 for the case although the recommended retail price (RRP) was $39.99. I am not sure why they were selling it for half the price but all I could find was that they were an authorised Spigen reseller. So they most probably sold legitimate products.

ebay

The case didn't come with any accessories. Just the case and the receipt. I wish they bundled a screen protector with it as well, given the price.

The case looks gorgeous. This is the best looking case that I've ever owned after the iFace case that I had for the iPhone 5S. It nicely augments the Galaxy S7. It's not just the looks: the build quality is amazing too. But I think this is where it should be for a case that retails for $40.

IMG_20160729_070345

The metalic area does catch fingerprints but nowhere near as bad as the naked glass back of the Galaxy S7.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Restricting data usage while tethering: TripMode

Wifi Tethering

Image courtesy www.sammobile.com

The work I do in my job demands me to do a lot of research because it is not exactly released to what I had been doing in Japan. I had a write an application in Free Pascal using Lazarus IDE and now I am doing development of web application using ReactJS. These are RAD projects so it is not feasible to take a long time and read up on these things in a book.

So I use my laptop at work, tethered via the Galaxy S7 (previously the Nexus 5) and everything is great.

Except, sometimes something eats up several hundred megabytes of my data!

Initially, it was the Windows Update that was doing this. I was on the Fast level of Windows Insider program (the MacBook Air is my test PC) and it downloaded almost a gigabyte of data without me knowing. After I became aware of it, I checked the “Defer Updates” option in Windows Update.

Defer updates

But then I found out you could specify a hotspot as a Metered one, so that Windows would download updates when connected via it.

Metered network

But still, there are other applications that I have installed in the PC that ignore this. And this was no different in OSX as well. They would go about downloading their updates freely. So I wanted to know if there was a better way to restrict the data usage.

I came across a software called TripMode that seemed to do exactly what I needed. It was not a free software (USD 7.99 per license) and the article where I read about it said it was only available for OSX. When I went into their website, I saw that they had a Windows version out as well. (They have had the Windows version since January 2016)

Friday, July 22, 2016

What happened to my $20 discount?

Optus billing

The whole world knows that I bought a new phone. (Well, if you aren't already aware of it, that is because you weren't paying attention. That information is public knowledge.)

The plan that I signed up for was the Optus $85 My Plan Plus with a $20 discount per month for the entirety of the 24-month contract period.

Optus Deal[5]

How postpaid works in Australia is different to what the word mean. You have to pay the minimum amount (in my case, that should be $65) in arrears, and if you go above that minimum amount (eg: you used more than 7GB data or made international calls exceeding the 300-minute allowance etc.), the extra amount will be charged in the next billing cycle. You get a few days to actually make the payment, but the bill is "generally" generated at the beginning of the billing cycle.

And last night, I received my first bill for the new plan. I signed up for the plan on the 18th.

And it stated that I had to pay $85!!! There was no mention of the $20 discount.

4G issue with Optus and Galaxy S7

Screenshot_20160722-075102

It didn’t take too long for me to find a problem with my new handset. At work, I was getting marginal 4G strength (like 1 bar and it sometimes dropped to zero bars) and the browsing speed was terrible. It would take seconds to load a simple website like Google.com. But when the signal strength drops below some set threshold, it would automatically switch to 3G as it should (I think the data is HSPA+ as it shows an H near the clock) and the speeds returned to being very good. I’m only talking about browsing speeds here, not SpeedTest speeds.

Getting lower 4G speeds than 3G speeds is a messed up situation to begin with. The Galaxy S7 wasn’t helping to make the situation any better either. I wish I could override this fallback threshold, but it is not possible. The only way to get good speeds was to manually limit Network mode to 3G from the Settings app. Once that’s done, it works pretty well. But I lose features like VoLTE because of this. Whether or not it is a useful feature is yet to be seen, but it is a feature the network and the phone support, so I would like to make use of it.

Near the office, these are my LTE and 3G Speedtest results.

The S7’s software has some location based automation capabilities built in, but it does not let me switch the Network mode. That’s a shame, otherwise I could do this automatically based on my location.

This was a non-issue with the Nexus 5 because I have never seen it operating in 4G mode at work. Either the radio transmitters aren’t good or that fallback threshold is higher than what’s set in the S7. Either way, I still got good speed with the Nexus 5. Good speeds in the sense, there was no perceptible lag.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Finally bought a new phone

S7

I went with the Galaxy S7 Onyx Black model. This is the Exynos model. This is my second Android phone, after the Nexus 5.

Many would say that it was a stupid decision to buy it at this time because many new phones are coming in the next couple of months, such as the iPhone 7, Galaxy Note 7 and a new Nexus. But Optus, which is the network I was previously on, started offering the phone for $65 per month on a 2-year contract with unlimited calls and 7GB monthly data, so I had to grab it. It's still not as good as the Woolworths Mobile offer of $70 per month for the S7 Edge with 8GB data. But with the Optus offer, I didn't have to pay the early termination fee. I've had the Optus connection for only 4 months and I had to pay about $180 to terminate the connection.

I was already paying $40 for it and that was without a phone. So the phone would only cost $25 a month excess and it would make phone only $600 over the 24 month period. The cheapest S7 costs almost $1000 locally, so that’s about $400saved. The only caveat is now I have only 7GB of data instead of 10GB. The $40 SIM only plan I had was in fact the $60 plan with 10GB monthly data, but I got it when it went on offer with a $20 monthly discount. The other advantage of sticking with Optus is that I can swap the handset after 12 months paying only $99. I don’t know if I would actually do it, but that is a good option to have because in a year we might have way better phones. Additionally, I can terminate this connection anytime without paying the early termination fees. I do have to pay the remaining value of the phone though, which is calculated at $45 per instalment (not $25 sadly, so it is not really worth doing that).

Optus Deal

Click to enlarge

I could have bought the phone online which is the preferred method generally, but it would have taken 2-3 days to arrive. Since I went to work yesterday by car, I decided to pay a visit to the Optus store in the Chadstone Shopping Centre on the way back to see if the deal was available in-store. I chatted with an Optus agent online to check if this was the case, but they were unable to confirm it. Luckily for me, they had the same offer in-store, so it wasn't an online only deal unlike some of the deals.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Flagship phone prices in Australia

Capture

This is a continuation from this post which I talked about the progress of my phone upgrade plans.

There are three ways you can buy a brand new phone in Australia.

Buy it with a plan

Buying it with a plan over a fixed period of time is the first option. This period is generally 24 months but you can find 12 month plans as well. This is also generally the more expensive option in the long run but you don't notice it much because there is no huge upfront payment. It's just a trick to fool the people who don't pay attention. However there was one deal recently launched by Woolworths Mobile (an MVNO which uses Telstra's network) which was cheaper than getting the phone (locally) with a similar plan. Sadly I missed out on it because I wasn't convinced the S7 Edge, the phone offered in the deal, was a good phone until last week when I got some personal time with it.

Buy it outright with local warranty

Buying it from the local market, paying full amount upfront as you would buy any other thing would be the second option. Generally this is cheaper than getting the phone on a plan and also gives you a lot more control over your choice of plan and termination of a plan. Also you get full 2 year local warranty. This even applies to iPhones. You don't need to get an Apple Care Plus warranty but one can argue that the price tag includes this. But expect to spend well over AU$1000 for a flagship model from any manufacturer. For example,  the Galaxy S7 is $1149,  S7 Edge is $1249 and the iPhone 6S 16GB model is $1079 (which is not recommended due to ridiculously low storage space.) When time goes by, especially when the successor is in the horizon, shops tend to lower the prices. mobileciti is currently selling the S7 for $1039 and the iPhone 6S for $989.  In addition to that, sometimes there are 20% off eBay deals where shops like Bing Lee and The Good Guys participate and they sell phones with Australian warranty. It’s worth waiting for these, if you are not in a hurry.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

So… how’s that phone upgrade plan going?

galaxy-note-7-leaks-press-renders-1

It’s a mess, I tell you. My phone upgrade plan is a mess. I just don’t know which phone I should upgrade to. I am scared to go with any phone.

Why? Because I cannot really test-drive the phones long enough to see if any issues are there before buying one. My Nexus 5 performs superbly after a reboot. (Until I want to snap a photo of my kid indoor or do something in a hurry. Today my wife asked me to show a photo of our son to someone and it took at least 30 seconds to load my photo albums on Facebook. So embarrassing! But what drives me insane is when I get errors like “Cannot connect to Camera” which requires reboot to resolve. )

I will have to trust the reviewers, but they can be biased.

I have shortlisted three phones to buy but none of them are out yet. They are

  • the next Nexus phone from Google,
  • Galaxy Note 7 from Samsung and
  • iPhone 7 from Apple.

If I must buy a phone today, I would get the Galaxy S7 Edge.

I don’t like some of the design decisions Samsung have taken with their phones, both hardware and software such as the back button on right, cartoonish Touchviz UI (the upcoming Grace UI for Note 7 would fix some of the issues though) and reinventing the wheel with regards to certain apps. But the amazing camera performance (mostly focusing performance) and being the fastest Android phone as of yet appeal to me. It’s not fun not getting frequent or quick OS updates, but at least it eliminates an update messing the phone. For example, my Nexus 5 ran very well with KitKat which it originally shipped with, but the issues mostly came up with Lollipop and Marshmallow.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Silverstone SG13 vs the Core i7 4790K

SG13

Last Thursday before going to bed, I played a game of Crysis 3. Without any particular reason, I ran Realtemp on the background. When I exited the game, I took a look at the maximum temps that were recorded by it.

RealTemp_3.70_2016-06-15_23-26-09

It was worrying. This was at an ambient below 25C. And this is just gaming.

I was running the Scythe Gentle Typhoon 3000RPM fan which is cooling the radiator of the Antec Kuhler 620 (first edition) at around 1800RPM. The fan speed was lowered from the fan controlling software built into the UEFI of the Asus Z97i Plus motherboard.

I let the fan run at its rated speed and that made the temps drop by 10C while playing Crysis 3. It was OK, but still too high for gaming.

However, the next morning, I wanted to transcode a video in Handbrake and this sent the CPU temps to a whopping 98C. This was with the fan at full speed!!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Internet in Australia

Internet

After securing a lease on an apartment, one of the first things I did was to get an internet connection. It was saddening to find out that I couldn't get NBN because NBN wasn't launched in this area yet. I had to go with ADSL.

After looking at few options, I went with Belong, a subsidiary of Telstra, because the contract was for only 1 year (which is also the lease period of the apartment) and because they gave a free ADSL modem with Wi-Fi with an almost zero initial fee. The monthly charge was $75 which is quite a lot to be honest, and I selected the 1000GB per month plan. TPG offered unlimited plans but I had to pay for the router, pay an initial setup fee and it was for only 6 months which meant that I had to recontract after 6 months, if according to my understanding.

To be honest, the inclusion of the free router with the 1 year Belong contract had quite a pull. Had I known that the router they bundled with the connection was crap and I anyway had to buy a new router, I probably would have gone with someone else.

Anyways, now I'm with Belong and I cannot switch to another provider without paying the early termination fee of like $20 per month for the remainder of the contract, which would be a whopping $180.

What about the speeds? It is only ADSL2+, so it's not fast. Here are my sync stats reported from the router.

Line Stats

They are reasonable for ADSL, probably because I'm lucky to be only about 1km away from the exchange.
Here is my speed test result.

Speedtest

Pathetic, compared to what I got in Japan.

I can saturate the download bandwidth without too much difficulty but the lack of upload bandwidth is such a problem. Uploading photos to Facebook takes forever and uploading videos to YouTube is almost impossible. I think I need to invest some time on finding efficient encoding settings some time. Browsing the web and streaming YouTube videos aren't too bad though. At first, these were also very slow but it probably was the fault of the MacBook Air which I initially had to live with for a whole two months. However, I get constant complaints from Skype callers saying our video isn't clear.

Hey, this is no Japan after all.

Next time I look forward a new apartment, I will pay special attention to the availability of NBN in that area.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Bought a new mouse pad

Mantis

I have not been using a mouse pad because my wife and kid used to spill food on my old QCK Mini mouse pad which had a cloth surface. The current arrangement is such that my wife does not have to sit so close to the PC when feeding my kid, so it was finally time to get a new mouse pad.

The one I bought was a the RAZER Goliathus Mantis SPEED Edition. I bought it from a local eBay seller because I am cheap. I am not even sure if it is legit. That’s a risk I was willing to take. It arrived in about a week’s time so no complaints there.

This mouse pad has a cloth surface as well, but the surface is not as coarse as the QCK either. It also has a seamed border, which I am not sure is a good thing or a bad thing yet. I will soon be able to know. I know something which is not good about it compared to the QCK, that is it does not grip the surface of the desk as well as the QCK used to.

The mouse I am using on it is a Logitech G602. It seems to work OK, but I did not have much time to play any games with it yet.

IMG_20160520_070948

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Data copy speeds from my NAS to the Desktop PC

Remember I paid a lot of money for a router last month? Was it worth it, or did it only make a large hole in my pocket?

Well, I’ll let the following screenshot answer that question.

Untitled

This is a screenshot of a file copy dialog of Windows 10, which was taken while copying a ~4GB file from the NAS server to my Desktop PC via 802.11ac. It is copying at 70MBps+ speed. This is a massive improvement over 7MBps odd I was getting with the old router.

The Wi-Fi module in the Desktop PC, which is the onboard Wi-Fi chip that comes with the Z97i Plus motherboard, is rated at only 867Mbps. The router is the Asus DSL-AC68U running, not a recent firmware (not the latest, as I could not find time to update the firmware and test it today, after finding out there was newer firmware out.)

The distance is only about 3m between the antenna on the PC and the router though. But that is OK as I do not have any other powerful device farther than that. Also, the NAS server is connected to the router via Ethernet using two gigabit connections and load balanced using teaming in Windows Server 2012 R2. However, the hard drives in the NAS server are not using RAID to improve performance. So teaming the LAN ports probably does not make any difference.

Anyways, I am quite happy with the performance.

Now only if I could find some Crysis 3 local servers. There used to be local servers, but the popularity of Crysis 3 has gone down so much that almost none of them are operating. Although I was able to find a server with <100ms ping once, with everyone else having 200ms+ ping. I felt like god for a moment.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Marshmallows are no good!

So, no, exchanging phones with my wife DID NOT fix the GPS issue.

Today I had to drive to a shop to get some furniture about 25km away from my apartment, and the GPS acted up again. This was on the Nexus 5 my wife was using earlier. The phone was running Marshmallow 6.0.1. It was freshly installed couple of days ago.

The GPS problem persisted with Google Maps as well as Nokia Here maps. The issue occurred several times throughout the 50km or so total distance.

Thankfully I did not have to do a U-turn and correct the route. If I had to do that, I would have been super pissed because we had to make it to the shop before 5pm. And it was 3:40pm when we started heading for the shop.

Guess I have two options.

  • Switch back to Kitkat and enjoy a properly working phone, but look like a caveman.
  • Buy a new phone, making a hole bigger than AUD700.

Whether or not I go for the 2nd option needs very careful consideration. For the time being, I am back with Kitkat. *sigh*

Friday, April 29, 2016

What if I switch phones with my wife?

After writing that last post, I got a great idea.

What if my wife's phone doesn't have the GPS problem my phone has/had? If her phone functions properly, I can simply switch the phones because she doesn't drive the car yet. We both have the same phone so she won't miss a thing.

Ideally, I should have tested her phone a few days to see if it was working properly, but I was impatient. I wanted to switch first and then test. Then at least I would be able to use Marshmallow again. The feeling of being able to use the latest OS makes me happy, even if it is slow.

I factory reset both phones and flashed the latest version of Marshmallow available on Google to both phones. I swapped the SIM cards and the phone cases.

I restored the applications from the corresponding latest backups to both phones. That meant installing a lot of applications than what Marshmallow was used to running on my phone, because my final backup was from KitKat and I had installed a lot of app on it because it never slowed down like its successors.

This immediately brought back the sluggishness I was so used to on my phone. I used the phone the whole day yesterday and it eventually became somewhat usable. Either the indexes/caches we constructed to make things faster or my body got used to the sluggishness. Or it can be both.

What about the GPS issue? Is it better on this phone?

Yesterday I had to drive for about 30 minutes (I had to visit a house in Mulgrave to check some furniture which was advertised on Gumtree) and I found the location to update without a hiccup on Google Maps. Does this mean the problem is fixed? No, because it is definitely too early to draw any conclusions just yet but the initial results are at least positive. I think it needs at least a whole week of testing but I don't drive much, so a week of good performance is still not a good indicator. We shall see. I'm sure you'll hear more about this topic soon.

Was it a coincidence that the GPS issue was fixed by downgrading to KitKat?

In the previous post, I mentioned that I downgraded the version of Android OS running in my Nexus 5 to KitKat from Marshmallow to fix GPS signal issue that I had been experiencing heavily in  the last few days. It seemed to fix the problem, but was it the software downgrading that really fixed the issue?

I researched more about this topic and people were claiming that the real reason behind this phenomena is not a software problem, but a bad connection between the terminals of the GPS antenna and the receiver circuit. If you open up the phone and slid a piece of paper underneath the antenna module to make the terminals protrude a little bit more than usual, they claim this issue goes away. Opening the Nexus 5 sounds like an adventurous thing to do but as per ifixtit's teardown manual of the Nexus 5, it looks like a straightforward thing if you have a plastic opener, which I sadly do not have.

But if this is the real cause of the issue, why did downgrading to KitKat seemed to have fixed the problem? There still could be a deficiency with newer firmware. Or, by chance, the contact between the antenna terminals and the circuitry improved, which means that it will go bad again. We will never know.

Unless of course, I switch back to Marshmallow, make it behave as erroneously as it used to and apply the GPS antenna fix and observe the results. If it goes back to functioning like a proper phone after applying the GPS antenna fix, then I can switch back to I Marshmallow and probably hold off buying a new phone. I can do this test, but since I don't have a plastic phone opening tool, it will have to wait a bit longer.

Time to order a plastic phone opening tool I suppose.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Downgraded from Android Marshmallow to KitKat on my Nexus 5

Backt to KitKat

Introduction

Yes, you read it right. Downgrading is not a term that's often associated with me, but I had to do it. And in this case, it is not just one, but two major OS versions that I had to say bye bye to.

I had to do it to confirm a critical issue that I was facing with my Nexus 5 was caused by the OS updates.

The issue that I was facing was regarding navigation in Google Maps. If you are a regular follower of my blog, you would know that I recently migrated to Australia. I also bought my first car, not because it is a fashion, but it is an absolute necessity in Australia. The country is huge and the public transport service is not efficient for a developed nation. Since the country is quite new to me, I have to get the help of a navigator to drive few km even. My car does not have an inbuilt navigator nor I did buy a 3rd party one. I depend on Google Maps on my phone for that.

But it was not working as expected.

The maps would suddenly stop updating my location and because of this, I have missed my turn several times. I was not sure why it stopped updating the location every now and then (this usually happens like one or two times in every trip and if I reboot the phone before starting navigation, this would happen less often, but it would still happen.)

I found out the reason why the location was not updating accidently. I wanted to know who the culprit was so I installed Nokia Here maps (which by the way, is brilliant! It even shows the speed limits for the section of the road.) to first rule out Google Maps was not the one. The same thing happened with Nokia Here maps too and instead of being tight lipped, it informed me “GPS Signal Lost”. This was when I found out, it was not a problem with Google Maps, but a problem with GPS signal reception. Was it really cloud cover? Probably it has something to do with it, but why would this happen everyday?

When I searched around the web, I found out that many peoples’ Nexus 5 phones were plagued with this issue, and they were claiming this happened after upgrading to Lollipop from KitKat (the OS that Nexus 5 was originally shipped with). But I was already on Marshmallow and I have no data to support that this problem showed up after upgrading the OS. This is because, I never drove since I had the phone, until now.

But there was one way to find out. That was by actually downgrading the OS to KitKat and experimenting.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

My precious is alive!

IMG_5736

On 16th of April, my family finally arrived in Australia. With them came the display of my desktop PC, namely the Qnix QX2710.

In the previous posts I mentioned how I got ready to welcome the monitor. The PC was placed on the desk, the speakers were placed so that they would stand up from the two sides of the monitor had it been there. The mouse and the wireless receiver plugged into the extender cable was peeking through the small gap between the right speaker and the PC. All the cables on the IKEA Signum cable management tray were laid properly and only the Dual DVI-D cable was visible, which needs to be plugged into the display. My family was supposed to bring an old PS/2 keyboard that was collecting dust, with them. If they did not have this with them, I would have bought a mechanical keyboard as well. That day can wait now.

Sadly, I had to wait till the end of the day to unpack the display. But luckily, it was still in one piece when I opened the package.

I hooked up everything and turned on the PC. The fans started spinning, but no display! The display was behaving as if it did not receive any signal. The fans on the GPU was spinning initially, but they halted. It was probably because the fans do not spin when the temperature is below 60C. The Gentle Typhoon AP29 fan that I had on the Kuhler 620 radiator was spinning at full speed.

I reset the power to the PC, but still nothing. It was demonstrating exactly the same behavior. Yikes!

Reset the BIOS it is then. Unfortunately, there was no BIOS reset button on the rear I/O panel on the Z97i Plus board so I had to open up the PC and shorten two pins. I did that with a screw driver but it still was not working.

Probably the pins did not get shorted properly. My father suggested that I take the battery out. I did, waited few seconds and put it back. That did not fix the issue either.

This is bad!

Then I decided to do things I could. Take out the RAM modules and try with just one stick. That brought the PC to life! Phew! I quickly entered BIOS…um…UEFI and loaded default settings. Then I shut the PC down and installed the other RAM. It booted find and I went back to BIOS and set my overclock back to where it was supposed to be. I am not 100% sure if I got them exactly the way they were before though. Time will tell. Perhaps I need to do a stress test some time later.

The PC POSTed fine even with the overclocked settings. Yay!

Now I can forget about the crappy MacBook Air. Or can I? Perhaps not, as I take it to my work place to do research on stuff as we do not have permission to connect the work PCs to the internet.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Getting ready to welcome the long-awaited

2016-04-15 19.32.46

My family was finally going to join up with me in Australia on the 16th of April. I am very happy about it. To make things even happier for me, they were bringing the QNIX QX2710 display with them. I had to leave it back in Sri Lanka as I could not fit it in the weight allowance.

There was not much to arrange really. I had all the things I needed to get the PC up and running.

But then I had this idea for the longest of times. I wanted to do a proper job of cable management. External cable management that is.

First thing was to get a long power board where I could install on the back of the desk. There was a thin board on the back which allowed screwing a power board onto without revealing anything. I bought one with four surge protected outlets from Coles supermarket and a packet of nails from the Two Dollar shop. The power board had the necessary hooks on the back to be mounted vertically. I did not have a drill but I managed to somehow screw it up. Now only one cable came out of the desk.

It was better than what I have done in Japan, but what should I do with the cables? I could tape them up to the back of the desk, but it would have been irritatingly difficult if I had to do some PC maintenance. There had to be a better and easier way to do it.

Cable Management in Japan

This is the best I could do when I was in Japan

I am subscribed to the YouTube channel of TechSource where the host shows cool and tidy desk setups with very tidy cable management. I wanted to do something like that. Most people who had sent photos of their nice looking desk setups were using one particular item that made things so much easy. It is called the IKEA Signum Cable Management Cradle. I have an IKEA near my apartment and it had it for $20. Yes, again, not cheap, considering the desk only cost me $39 from Kmart. But I decided to buy it.

IKEA Signum

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bought new speakers for the desktop PC

Edifier-Exclaim-e10

I had to buy new speakers for my PC because I sold the Logitech Z623 speakers before leaving Japan.

I checked the prices of the speakers in Australia and I was disappointed with the prices. The Z623 which I paid around $100 in Japan, was going for $150 or more. If it was around $100 mark, I would have happily bought another set of Z623.

Perhaps it was for the best.

Because, if I bought the Z623, then I would have had to keep the subwoofer on the floor which gives my kid easy access to wires. It would look messy too.

So I decided to get a set of stereo speakers instead. I number one requirement was them not to sound rattling at high volume (i.e. when watching movies). I could get such speakers if I spent few hundred dollars, but they would be large. The desk I bought to keep the PC was only 108cm wide. The SG13 is about 22cm wide, the QNIX display is about 64cmw wide. This gives me about 22cm for speakers, unless I move the PC onto the ground, which was only the last resort.

Initially I did not pay much attention to the dimension of the speakers. I wanted to a decent pair of stereo speakers. These will be like studio monitors, with a flat response.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Bought the Asus DSL-AC68U DSL modem router

01

In the last post I mentioned that I decided to upgrade the router in my apartment. The one I wanted to buy was the Asus DSL-AC68U router. I looked around hoping for a cheap deal, which sometimes pop up out of the blue. But I was not lucky this time. I had to pay the full price.

I could have ordered one from eBay for $319 with free shipping. But there are few PC shops near my apartment and when I checked their prices, I found out that the shop called MSY was selling it at the exact same price. There was no reason for me to get it late, if I could have it today for the same price, so I decided to buy from MSY.

This was the first time I was going to buy a PC part from a shop, in a long time. In Japan, I did not buy anything at a shop since 2012. The Palit GTX 670 Jetstream card was the last one I bought by visiting a shop.

But most of these PC shops in Australia do not seem to have showrooms. You place the order online and then go pick it up. The shop will prepare the order as soon as you place the order and will inform you when it is ready for pick up. You can pay when you place the order or you can pay at the shop; at least that was how MSY operated.

I also placed an order for three short CAT6e cables.  I needed three to connect the NAS. Only one was provided with the Asus router. I had two from the Belong router that I was replacing but they were CAT5 cables. The ones I placed an order for were inexpensive as they were very short. Both the router and the NAS would be kept on the fridge, so I did not need long cables.

I placed the order to MSY Clayton shop and went there after work to pick it up. Everything was done in 5 minutes.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Decided to buy a proper router

DSL_AC68U

When I got my internet connection with Belong, I received a free Wireless ADSL/Modem router as I signed up for one year.

While I do not have any complaints to make with respect to the modem potion of it, the router was using ancient technology. No Gigabit Ethernet, no dual band Wi-Fi support and no 802.11ac support. Streaming performance from the NAS to my MacBook Air was terrible. The situation would not improve with my desktop PC, despite having dual band 802.11ac support, because the router was not capable of it. And, the 100Mbps Ethernet ports were, quite slow for 2016.

The telephone point in the apartment that I am renting, is located in the kitchen. (I don't know what the architect was smoking! Perhaps at the time the apartment was built, the Internet was unheard of.) The kitchen is attached to the living room. My desktop PC will be kept either in the living room (until we buy a TV) or in the 2nd bedroom. It was impossible to draw an Ethernet cable or a RJ11 cable from the kitchen to either of these locations unless I drew it on the floor. But I wanted it out of reach of my kid. I could not draw it along the wall because I would have to fit some hooks or nails on the wall to lift the cable up, which would mean damaging the property.

I did not want to keep the router in the kitchen as well. My wife would definitely spill water on it. The ideal location was the top of the fridge. From there, the PC would get direct line of site from the router if it was kept in the living room. My wife has no immediate plan to buy a TV, so the PC will most probably stay in the living room for a long time.

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And I could move the NAS to the top of the fridge as well. Then it could be connected to the router via Ethernet.

Now all I needed was a good router.

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