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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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