Friday, October 20, 2017

Cutting down on waiting times

I wrote in a previous post that I got a new job in the city. While I love the job and the work I am doing because it is both challenging and I get to learn a new thing almost every day, there is one real inconvenience I have to face every day. That is commuting to work.

I have gotten used to the 1hr commute on the public transport. On a perfect day, it can be 50 minutes, but it can stretch as much as hours and 20 minutes. The actual I am on the move is about 35 minutes: 5 minutes on the bus, 15 minutes on the tram and 15 minutes on the train. The additional time comes from the transfers.

The trams and the buses are the real pain because they can get delayed a lot depending on traffic. That doesn't mean trains are always on time, but they are at least on time more than the other two.

There isn't anything I can do about the buses but today I found out that I can do something about the trams. At South Yarra station, which is where I transfer from the train to the tram to go to work, there is a digital display which shows when the next three trams are going to arrive. But there is no such display at the tram stop where I get aboard the tram to return home.

  • On a good day, I will arrive there just time to catch the tram.
  • On a normal day, I will only have to wait for a couple of minutes before the tram arrives.
  • On a bad day, I will see the tram leaving, while I wait on the other side of the road not being able to cross to catch the tram. I have to wait about 10 minutes to catch the next tram.
  • On a very bad day, I will see two trams pass me while I wait on the other side of the road!
  • On a terrible day... I don't want to talk about it because cannot do anything about it.

If I knew when the tram actually arrives, I would know when to leave work, effectively scraping away the unwanted wait times. And guess what? There is an app for that!! That digital display at the South Yarra stop, right in my hand. So I know exactly when the trams arrive at my stop and I can plan my return a little bit better. Plus, it will also show my service disruptions as well, so that I can take another route.

This app is called tramTracker from PTV.

There are of course negative reviews about it on the Play Store, but that is to be expected. I thought 3.7 rating was pretty high for an app released by a government office. And I will also praise it until it drives me insane on of these days. But I feel that having the information handy is better than having a static timetable which is wrong more often than not when there is traffic involved.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Why I like credit cards

There are three reasons why I like credit cards. First, I don't have to pay multiple bills (at least, ideally). Seconds, I get to keep money in the bank account for longer thus earning interest. Third, I get rewards points.

When I was in Japan, I had two credit cards - EPOS and Rakuten; both VISA. The Rakuten card was the best because you could pay with Rakuten cards when shopping on Rakuten website and there were deals like 10% points on products sold there. But I had to use my brain a lot because it wasn't always beneficial to buy from Rakuten because Amazon was cheaper even after considering the points. Plus, I was anyway getting 1% points on every purchase I made using the card. I had earned over JPY15,000 in a couple of years I had it. It's a shame that I didn't get it sooner.

I earned some points from the EPOS card too, but the benefits were limited. The only useful thing we used them on was gift vouchers which we gave our friends when visiting them or use them for ourselves.

Now in Australia, I use an Amex Essentials Card. I get 1 point for every $1 I spend (normally), but the actual conversion is like $7.41 for every $1000 spent. And you can use these points to pay for the credit card bill itself, which is great. There are other offers like $xx off if you spend $xxx or more at a certain store. The most recent such spending was at a BP fuel station where they offered $10 back when spent over $40. They also credited me $50 when I spent more than $750 in the first 3 months of getting the card. I use the card as much as possible, but Amex is not widely accepted as VISA or MasterCard, which is a shame. But I have added it to PayPal and sometimes some shops allow PayPal but not Amex directly. Also, there are benefits for people who fly a lot, but that's not for me.

Today I was wondering if I could pay the bills using the card, but it doesn't look economical as they all charge a credit card processing fee. Optus charges 0.385% and ClickEnergy charges 0.6%. Technically they are both less than the points I earn ($7.41 per 1000 points or at 0.741%), but I found out that Amex awards only half the points when used on utility payments. So I would be only earning money at 0.37% which is less than what both Optus and ClickEnergy charges as fees.

Yarra Valley Water, which is the water company, does not even support Amex, but they don't seem to charge a processing fee. I could be wrong though.

The other thing I found weird is that Costco in Australia does not support Amex anymore. When we were in Japan, Costco accepted only Amex (or cash)! It's the other way round here. You can pay with VISA or MasterCard at Costco.

I guess I will just keep using it on grocery.

Oh btw, I forgot to tell that all these credit cards I mentioned in the post do not have an annual fee. And also I don't care what the interest rate is because I always pay the statement balance on the due date, and you should too.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Resume gaming?

After almost a year of not playing any games on my desktop PC, I decided to resume gaming. But I don't have the urge to play games as I used to. Probably it is because my PC is getting old. Well, it is only about two years old and it is working perfectly well.

Or probably because the Internet in my apartment is pathetic.

Or maybe both.

One thing I noticed, which I had noticed when I was playing games before as well, is that the PC run pretty hot in the small shoebox sized case. There is nothing much I can do about it though. I want to keep my overclocks, which is conservative because I care about the power consumption, but they are not helping the situation either way. Funnily though, the video card, which is the biggest power eater inside the case, never hits 80C. The CPU, on the other hand, loves to hit 85C while using Handbrake.

I don't think the video card is causing the CPU to run hot because the fans of the video card do not spin when I'm not gaming; which means there is no way that it dumping hot air into the case has anything to do with it. Besides, the CPU cooler is my 6 years old Antec Kuhler 620, which is mounted at the front of the case pulling cool air in from the outside of the case. So I don't think the GPU would affect the CPU temps at all.

Too bad I cannot test it. The display I am using needs a Dual-Link DVI port and my CPU's integrated GPU cannot drive it.

But I wonder if the effectiveness of the coolant inside the water cooler has noticeably deteriorated over time. I didn't even use the cooler for about 3 years and I switched to this when migrated my PC to my current case in 2015. In that span, I had 3 coolers which I used for more than a month.

Now that I have settled down in Australia, I was thinking of upsizing my PC back to ATX size, to give me more cooling and expansions capabilities. But that would be an expensive upgrade.

Exciting things at the new job

At uni, I studied to become an Electronic Engineer. I joined a software company after that and I worked as a Software Engineer for more than 5 years in Japan. After that, I moved to Australia and got a job as an Embedded Software Engineer. Finally, I ended up as React JS Software developer!

I love what I do. It is really challenging and exciting. That is not to say that the work I did before was not challenging. It sure was, but it was not exciting.

Why I call the work I do is exciting is because I am working with a modern technology stack, which is something I always wanted to do. So little of the technologies I used to work with is currently being used in the product we are developing.

Here are some of those technologies we are currently using in our project.

  • React Native
  • React A-Frame / A-Frame VR / THREE.js
  • Redux
  • GraphQL
  • Feathers.js
  • Styled Components

Those are cutting edge technologies used in the front-end market. Funny thing is that I had no experience with any of the above technologies before I joined the company. I knew about Redux and that's about it. Of course, I knew about React from the previous project but we used a very limited set of technologies in that project. I should still be thankful to the CEO and lead software engineer for believing in me.

And top of that, I am working on a brand spanking new Mac Book Pro 13" with Touch Bar. The dongle life is real though. I have two 27" displays attached with USB Type-C to HDMI adapters, a Corsair K70 Lux RGB and a Steelseries mouse attached via a USB Type-C to USB-A dock. Ans we have a multitude of Samsung Galaxy S6, S7 and Google Pixel XL phones and Gear VR, Google, Google Daydream and Google Cardboard HMDs for testing.

I won't talk about the app that we are building because it is not released to the public yet. When it is released, I sure will post something about it here.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Installed Control Center on my Metabox laptops - count up to the first freeze begins...

There was something I forgot to write in my posts regarding the random freezes on my Metabox laptop. That is, I posted about this on the Whirlpool forums. One thing that I was specifically asking for was about where I can download all the drivers from. Kris from Kong Computers (that's the store I bought the laptop from) had come across that thread and he informed me via email that he contacted Metabox about this and he gave me two links to download what I wanted. One of the links was to the full suite of drivers for my laptops. It was a 2.5GB-ish download. The other one was for the latest Control Center software (version 5.0001.1.33). Oddly though, the full suite had a slightly older version of Control Center software.

I was quite confident that the laptop was working well so far without a freeze, so I decided to give a shot at this latest version of Control Center. Of course, I created a restore point before installing it.

The setup went without a hiccup. The Flexikey app got installed along with it as well. Finally, I was able to get rid of the dreaded blue backlighting (I won't who's idea it was to use blue as the default backlighting colour!) and this time I settled with white. It's not perfectly white, especially on the bottom most row you can see blue and green tints, but it is useable.

I did not double click the Control Center software though. That probably is a bad idea.

Later on, I set up ThrottleStop using this guide. I don't need Control Center to do that for me. ThrottleStop is was more powerful.

So, the count up till the first freeze begins. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Resolved the Metabox N850HJ's random freezes?

A couple of weeks ago I had some time to format the drive in my laptop and install everything from scratch, in the hopes of fixing the random freezes that I had been encountering since buying it. I played safe this time. I didn't install any drivers manually; I left Windows to take care of it. I only installed the application software because I knew they were not going the cause any system stability issues.

Luckily, Windows managed to recognise and install all the required drivers resulting in no visible exclamation marks in the Device Manager. This was including the webcam and the fingerprint scanner, two of which are notorious for not wanting to be discovered by Windows.

I think the problem is gone. I have not experienced any freezes since. I think two weeks is long enough to conclude that the laptop is finally functioning as it should.

There is one issue though. I cannot change the colour of the backlight on the keyboard. It requires a software called Flexikey, but you cannot install just that software. It comes with another software called Control Center, which I have no use for. It messed with the power saving features and I am quick happy with the ones Windows offer out of the box. Besides, I would be using ThrottleStop to under-volt the CPU and do it manually. I am almost positive that the freezes were caused by this. So this means, I will be stuck with the stupid blue keyboard backlighting.

I will probably wait a bit longer and decide if I want to install Control Center and see if the problem comes back. I haven't checked; maybe I don't have to have it running at startup. When I checked back then, I couldn't find it being launched as a Startup program; so probably it was launched via a service. If I can just get the keyboard software launching at startup and not the Control Center, I won't be too worried about having the Control Center installed. Let's see.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Issues with the Metabox N850HJ laptop

Rememeber I bought a new laptop few months back?

For the most part, it is running very well. The keyboard is my favourite part. I can type way faster on this keyboard than the Corsair K70 LUX mechanical keyboard I have on my desktop PC.

But there are two issues with it that I haven’t been able to fix so far.

Track pad is garbage

The track pad is rubbish. I don’t know how they managed to make this so bad. The benchmark - the MacBook Air - is leagues ahead of it. But the MacBook Air wasn’t that great in Windows. So I believe it is partially due to the software.

Fuunny thing is that this laptop has the Microsoft Precision trackpad. It never advertised like that. I tried with various settings in Touchpad settings pane in Windows Settings (that’s a lot of settings) application, but I still haven’t been able to settle down with something that I liked.

Random (soft) freezes

I experience freezes every now and then. I initially thought they were hard lockups, but then by chance, I found out that if you put it to standby (by closing the lid), it would go into standby. If you open the lid, it would resume fine with no sign of any lockup. I thought it was the graphics driver. But running with either the Intel driver or the NVidia driver did not make any difference. It could be something else.

It is really difficult to troubleshoot this because this doesn’t happen often. It could happen daily. Or it might not happen for a week. There aren’t any errors in the Event Log either. I don’t have much bloatware installed because the laptop didn’t come with Windows installed in the first place. I installed it. But I am using this tool called Obsidian Tools to download and install all the latest drivers and software for it. So it could be one of those drivers that is messing with things.

I think reinstalling Windows and only installing the bare minimum set of drivers would probably be the way to go. If it works fine, then I can create a back up of it and experiment with one new driver per week or something.

The audio output is terrible

This is a real issue but this is not fixable. This is how it is and I have to live with it. Both the quality of the sound output and the volume are terrible.

Conclusion

I think I would be able to fix that 2nd issue (freezes) by reinstalling Windows. I should do this when I have some time.

The laptop is decent otherwise. It is holding up as well as I expected. It was not that cheap honestly, but I got a lot of hardware for that money. Sure, there were couple of better deals during the End of Financial Year sales in June on similar SKUS, but I have no regrets jumping on the purchase a couple of months before that.

Life updates

It’s been a while since I last posted on my blog.

One very important thing happened during that time. I got a new job.

It is kind of a fresh beginning for me.

Perhaps you had read the post I wrote about how I got my first job in Australia. That was an Embedded Software position. I used to develop Canon printer driver related applications for more than 5 years before that, and that is what got me my job.
But thankfully, the work that I directly carried out at my previous workplace was not related to embedded development at all, although the project that I was in was actually an embedded project. I had to work on the front-end of the product which we were developing. And it was a web based front-end, something that I had very limited experience on. To make thinks more dramatic, the front-end was to be built using the most popular front-end library as of today: Facebook’s React.

It was scary at first. But I felt that this was an amazing opportunity to work with a fancy new tech stack and start my career fresh. Not to mention, React.js developers are of high demand in Australia.

There weren’t any senior web developers who could guide me or mentor me at work. I had to learn everything from scratch by my own. And I did that both at work and at home. I made learning about the React ecosystem my hobby. If you know me, my hobby used to be playing PC games - Crysis 3 mostly. Would you believe me if I said that I haven’t gamed for more than 10 hours in the last whole year??? (Funny thing is that even after getting the job, I haven’t resumed gaming yet. I still have a crap load of things to learn. The crazy speed at which these libraries evolve and new libraries pop up are not helping either.

So, now I am a React developer now - officially. The project that I am working on at my new workplace, although I have only glanced the shell of it, it amazingly complex. Here’s a spolier: it’s a virtual reality, React-Native project. How much more bad-ass can it get? We already have a working app which we continously improve. The next step is to get it on the Google Play store. And this is only one of those fancy projects.

Oh and I am working on a brand new MacBook Pro with dual 27" screens attached to it. I also have a Corsair K70 Lux RGB CherryMX Red keyboard and a Steelseries mouse (cannot remember the model) connected to it. The dongle life is sooooo real. Probably I should have asked for an iMac, but the portability might be helpful.

The only catch is, the now 1-hour commute feels like an eternity compared to the old 5-minute commute. The new place is in South Melbourne. Because of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project, I have to take a longer route for a few days. After that, it will become a 50-minute commute.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bought a new laptop to replace the ageing MacBook Air

I finally pulled the trigger on a new laptop.

I didn't go with Apple, Dell or any other mainstream brands. I went with Metabox. Yes, you read it right: Metabox. They are also known as Clevo in other parts of the world. Gigabyte also seem to have these laptops sold with a Sager branding.

The model I went with is called Alpha N850HJ. It's cheap (for the specs) and pretty fast for what I want to use it; that is everything, but gaming. I don't plan to game on this laptops. The memory, storage and Wi-Fi options are user configurable, so I simply took the base model, upgraded the memory to 16GB and added the Intel 8265 Wi-Fi card. They had a promotion on the Hynix 512GB SATA M.2 SSD, so I went with that instead of an NVMe drive. I won't benefit from an NVMe drive; it's only for the bragging rights. I also decided not an operating system as I have a license I can use with the Windows 10 Creators Update, which just came in time for the laptop.

It ended up costing me AUD 1,487 although if you tried building it on Metabox website it would have cost AUD 1,507 + AUD 30 for shipping. I bought it from Kong Computers which saved me $50 including shipping. It took a week to get the laptop built, tested and delivered.

In terms of future expansion options, I can add another 16GB RAM card, a 2.5" SSD and replace the battery if it goes bad. Of course the existing M.2 SSD and the Wi-Fi cards are replaceable as well.

I will talk about my initial impressions about it in another post.

CPU temps of the Mid 2011 MacBook Air

I know my MacBook Air can get pretty warm, but I never measured it quantitatively. I don't know what people use to measure those in OSX; but luckily I have Windows 10 installed via BootCamp (i.e. natively) and I am familiar with the tools in Windows.

I downloaded the trusty duo: CPU-Z and Realtemp. This is the Mid-2011 MacBook Air from the SandyBridge era. The CPU is a Core i5 2557M, which runs at 1.7GHz with a max boost of 2.7GHz.

I didn't want to run any stress tests straight away. But I ran Windows Update and updated the other software installed in there while monitoring the temps. It was astonishing to see the temps hover around 85-90C with a CPU utilisation of around 50% according to task manager, while hitting a max of 95C. I have no doubt it will throttle if the CPU runs at 100%, and probably burn a hole in the bottom of the aluminum unibody chassis if I attempted to run Prime95. So I didn't. This was good enough proof that the temps were terrible in such a thin chassis. I wonder if dust has something to do with it, because it is a 5.5 year old laptop. It cannot be free of dust.

I wonder if it is worth getting it serviced at the Apple store along with the battery. It won't be cheap @ AUD 189. Honestly, I don't want to spend any money on such an old laptop.

Monday, March 20, 2017

New goal for 2017: 100wpm average in TypeRacer before the end of the year

When I was watching YouTube reviews on mechanical keyboards before I bought my mechanical keyboards (note the s after keyboard, because I had to buy two), I came across a site one guy used to test how well he could type on the keyboards he reviewed. It was called typeracer.

What you do on that site is, type - as fast as you can. You are given a paragraph to type and it shows the realtime words per minute. You have to type in the correct case, type the punctuations and type with correct spellings (correct, according to the paragraph) to finish each test. To make it fun, they have made it like a game, hence the name typeracer. While there is a practice mode which doesn't record the performance into your profile, this racing mode which you race against other people (or racers) records your performance into your profile. Of course, if you are cheap, you can close the race midway if you feel you are not going to get a good score and it will not be reflected in your profile. By default, you will be racing against some random people who are logged on like you, but you can also race against your friends by inviting them to a race. I haven't used this feature yet, but I think that is the most fun part of it.

So far I have done over 500 races and I average about 70 words per minute. There are people who can type faster than 150 wpm and you can check some videos on YouTube where they do it in real time. It is amazing how fast some people can type. Buy they have few tricks up their sleeves which I don't use. If they misspell a word, they would quickly press Ctrl + A to select all the text you typed into the text box, and type the word from the scratch. I don't do that. I use backspace to erase letter by letter and correct it. Doing the former method would save a lot of time in typeracer, but you cannot do that in real life when you are writing a document. I want to improve my real-world typing speed by improving accuracy, not by employing these typeracer specific "tricks". So I will probably continue to do it the way I do now.

Serviced my car for the first time

According the service manual, my 2007 XV40 Aurion only requires an annual service if driven under normal conditions. I don't drive the car often - I don't have to. When my parents were here, I hardly drove to work. I walked to work because it took only 20 minutes and because my wife had all the support she needed. There was no real urgency to get back home.

Since owning the car, I had only done about 7,000km, out of which about 1500km was for driving practice (my wife and I).

After the VVT-I hose burst incident, I wanted to get the service done as soon as possible. But I didn't know where to take the car to for the service. Toyota dealerships are known for ripping off people (as that is where they make up for the little margin they make selling cars) and some others are known for misdoings (like magically finding issues that were never present in the first place, leading people to believe that they did something).

After a bit of looking around, I came across a site called fixedpricecarservice.com.au (which they have renamed since to autoguru.com.au) where you can find mechanics to get the service done. They gave me several options with mobile mechanics. Mobile mechanics would come to your place and perform the service then and there which was not only convenient, but also you could monitor their work to make sure they weren't doing anything 'naughty'.

I contacted the highest rated one, but it didn't work out. Then I contacted the 2nd highest rated one called Australian Mobile Mechanics and they arranged the service to be performed next day. I told them that I had bought some parts (engine oil, filter etc) on sale and they deducted the cost for those parts. I lose the warranty on the parts, but the 1 year warranty on labour is applicable. The service charges ended up being $134, for the 105,000km logbook service. I was at 102,500km at that time. It is not cheap, but it is not that expensive either. Car service in Australia is expensive, because labour is expensive.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Fixing the Edifier Exclaim E10BT BlueTooth issues

About 9 months ago, I bought a new set of speakers for my PC called Exclaim E10BT from Edifier. They sound superb and they have a very small footprint. Both of those features were equally important to me when I was searching for a set of speakers.

However, it has a feature that I didn't really want or use, but it has started causing me a lot of inconvenience. That is BlueTooth connectivity. You can connect to it from your phone and play back music via BlueTooth. It sounds like a handy feature to have. But it doesn't ask for a key to input when you connect to the speakers. Anyone with a BlueTooth device can connect to it.

This would not be a problem if you were living in a big house. But I am currently living in an apartment and there are other people living near me. Someone has paired their TV or device to my speakers. Every now and then, they would connect to my speakers and I would start hearing nonsense through the speakers.

There is no way I can disable BlueTooth on these speakers. The manual doesn't have any information relevant to my issue.

However, I figured that I might be able to do something about it.

When the speakers are connected to a device via BlueTooth, another device cannot automatically override it. You have to terminate the existing connection by pressing the power button on the speakers, and then try to connect. So, if something from my end can connect to the speakers before that other pesky TV does, at least I have the control. Luckily, my desktop PC which the speakers are connected to, has support for BlueTooth. So, that device on my end can be the desktop PC.

I connected the desktop PC to the speakers via BlueTooth and observed its behaviour.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My wife's driving

Not having the car for a couple of days didn't affect our day to day life much. We had bought all the groceries for the whole week during the last weekend and it's only a 20 minute walk to work. However, we were worried about one particular thing. My wife's drive test was scheduled for Friday morning!!!

I towed the car to Chadstone Toyota on Monday. Thursday was Australia day, which was a public holiday. So, if I didn't get the car by Wednesday, my wife wouldn't be able to practice driving on Thursday and we probably wouldn't be able to go for the test on Friday. (Friday was a holiday at work, although it went out of our annual leave.) My wife has never taken the bus or the train by herself, which is the reason why this was a problem in the first place. I have to take her to the test. The VicRoads test centre we picked was about 40km away from home, as the routes there were less complex. Besides, the instructor was more familiar with the test routes there.Luckily, we got the car back on Wednesday and my wife was able to practice driving on Thursday.

On Friday, we could go for the test as we planned, and by some miracle, she passed it!!! This particular Friday was a good day for the drive test because there were less cars on the road, because many people were taking the Friday off to make it a four-day long weekend. The schools were still in holidays until 1st of February.

I would like to talk a bit about the events that led to this day.

My wife had to start the journey to obtain the Victorian driving license from taking the road rules test at VicRoads which happened in September. After passing that test in the first attempt, she applied for a learner permit which allowed her to practice driving with a full license holder on the passenger seat. If you are on a permanent resident visa, you can drive up to 6 months in Victoria with your overseas license. The 6 months is calculated from the first point of entry, which happened in October 2015 for us. By the time my wife moved here in April 2016, her 6 months were already up, so she had to get the learner permit anyways. (I had a couple of months before mine expired as I arrived in February, so I could practise driving myself.) After getting the learner permit, she took the Hazard Perception Test and passed it in the first attempt as well. This brought her closer to obtaining the Victorian license. Only thing remained was passing the drive test. (It's much easier to get the full license for people who have a overseas full license, otherwise it is a lengthy process.) Since she had not driven a car in almost 5 years, we decided to take some driving lessons first. The driving school we decided to attend was a Sri Lankan one called Learning Pedals. The instructor assigned to my wife was a female, and at the beginning she came to pick my wife up. After a couple of lessons, we had to decide where we would take the test, and we had to practice on the test routes to familiarise about the tricky spots. We could take the test at Heatherton or Burwood, but the routes were known to be a bit complex. We were hoping to take the test before my parents returned to Sri Lanka on the boxing day. So the instructor recommended that we go to Pakenham for the test because the routes were simple and it was easy to pass in one go. Since Pakenham was about 40km from our place, I had to drive her there for the lessons on Sundays. We had to take our baby girl with us as well, because she would need a feed. We left our son with my parents.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Gave another shot at a mechanical keyboard

After that bad experience with my first mechanical keyboard purchase, I decided to buy another one from a local store. Luckily for me, there are many computer shops within a 5km radius. PC Case Gear, Scorptec, PLE, CentreCom, MSY and CPL to name a few. Furthermore, I wanted to buy a keyboard from a reputed brand name this time round. (I'm not saying Turtle Beach is not a reputed brand, just that it is not widely known.)

I kept a keen eye for deals for a couple of days on ozbargain, but none showed up. So I decided to visit the online store of those computer shops and searched for a decently priced keyboard.

The Logitech G610 and the Corsair STRAFE (non-RGB) were around $130. They were good products but I wanted to get the best bang for the buck. That's when I came across the Corsair K70 Lux (non-RGB) for $135 on CentreCom. This is better than both of those keyboards for just $5 more. Better than the G610 because it has dedicated media keys and better than the STRAFE because it has an aluminum construction compared to plastic. There were cheaper mechanical keyboard from reputed brands such as Ducky but they had some kind of a compromise - some had no backlighting, some had switches other than Cherry MX, some weren't in stock with no ETA and some didn't come with Cherry MX Brown switches. I was all set on the MX Browns, because I actually type more than I play games so I needed tactile feedback, at the same time I didn't want to noise MX Blue switches. Browns were the middle grounds, and middle grounds are better in life.

The only concern I had about the Corsair keyboards was their software suite and the keyboard requiring two USB ports.

But after some research, I came to know that you could do just fine without the software (you mainly lose the macro functionality and fancy lighting patterns) and you don't need to plug in both USB cables if you plug it into a USB 3.0 port. Honestly, I do have many unused USB ports on the back of my PC, so that 2nd point was not really a big issue; just something that I didn't like.

Car-less for three days after an engine oil leak

Last Sunday, we went for a driving lesson for my wife (her drive test is coming up shortly) and on the way we visited Costco to fill up the fuel tank and have pizza for lunch. The petrol (ULP 91) prices have hit 140c per litre everywhere, because of the high demand in the summer, yet as a Costco member, I could buy them at 118c, which was about 15% cheaper. We filled up the tank and came home.

After I reversed the car in the car port at my apartment, I noticed a trail of liquid on the driveway leading to the carport. After a while, I noticed there was a bit of an oil spill under the car. It was a little spill, and I had to rush to a birthday party in the evening, so I went there and came back. I could notice more oil where I parked the car as well. Worried, I smoothly drove home (I drive smoothly anyways) which was only a 5 minutes away. I was watching for the low oil pressure warning whole through the trip back home, but it never came on. I never could feel or heard anything out of the ordinary from the engine either.

Once I parked the car, there was a new oil trail close (parallel) to the old one. So it was still leaking. I called my father and asked what I can do and he told me to check the oil level immediately even though I had driven the car few minutes earlier and even though it was not a perfectly flat surface. The carport floor ramps slightly forward. I saw NOTHING on the dipstick. NOTHING! I initially thought all of the engine oil had leaked out. The oil spill under the engine was much bigger now as well.

So, I couldn't move the car. I talked to a mobile mechanic and he told me that there is a known issue with the Toyota Aurions prior to 2008 where the oil cooling hose which has a rubber midsection can get damaged over time and leak oil, and Toyota should replace it free of charge.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The update on the Turtle Beach Impact 700 keyboard purchase

In the previous post I mentioned that I placed the order for my first mechanical keyboard. It arrived a day earlier than the seller predicted. The postman was kind enough to deliver it to me just before I left for work. But I had to rush to work, so I decided to play with it when I returned home from work.

I unboxed the keyboard with my son sitting along side. It was way more fun for him than myself. I am not that amused by unmoving packages; I just want to to get it working asap. But I took some photos just to post here.

The keyboard has two USB ports. I think you can do with just one, because the second one is just for USB passthrough. But I connected both because I have ample USB ports on my PC.

To test the keyboard, I opened up notepad and started typing some words. I noticed that the spaces weren't registering between them. I hit the space bar several times and I wasn't dreaming: the spaces really weren't registering. I disconnected the keyboard and reconnected it to see if it was just a random Windows error. But the space bar still wasn't working. I connected the keyboard to two different ports on the back as well as the front. Same story. Then I tried it on the MacBook Air, and no change. The space bar was not working!!!

Yikes!

The keyboard doesn't have a companion software. That was one reason why I was happy to buy this keyboard in the first place. An additional software layer means more input lag. So this wasn't caused by me forgetting to install a companion software.

I went through the manual to see if I was doing something wrong. Honestly, what more should one do to get a keyboard working with a PC? Anyways, the manual did not mention anything special we had to do, nor any troubleshooting guides, so it wasn't a setup issue.

Conclusion: the keyboard was a DOA!!!

I have not had a DOA in a long time. The last one was a MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4G which had one of its fans not working, but it wasn't totally DOA.

I wanted to see if the space bar was the only key that was not working. It was not. Several keys were not registering the key strokes. Namely, the Delete, down cursor, Num Lock, Num7, Num4 and Num1 weren't working. If I had to guess, all these keys were connected through the same electrical wiring to the controller.

I uploaded a video to YouTube showing the fault.

I went online to see if there were similar claims, but it seems I was the only (un)lucky one.

It was time to RMA the keyboard. I first messaged the store through eBay. I was told that they would most probably have to refund due to stock being exhausted. I asked how to proceed with it, but I did not received a reply back. It was late night anyways. I was lucky to have received the initial response in the first place.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Finally...placed an order for a mechanical keyboard

I had not bought anything "fun" for myself in almost a year and I finally had to do something about it. Today I received a $20 off coupon code from eBay and I thought this was my chance. I looked around for deals on Ozbargain because a great number of deals pop-up when there are discounts on offer from major retailers.

There were few for SSD and hard drive deals, but I was not in the market for either. Well, I am in the market for the 4TB hard drive, but I still haven't had time to go over the idea of strengthening my backup policy I discussed here. There were two deals for mechanical keyboards: one from JB Hi-Fi and one from eBay. The JB Hi-Fi offers weren't really cheap because you could find the products they have on sale for cheaper if you knew where to look. But the one on eBay (well, it wasn't directly from eBay but you could buy it from their eBay store as well) looked solid. A backlit mechanical gaming keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches for AUD 100. While it still sounded expensive, it was not as expensive as the AUD 150+ normal price for mechanical keyboards from well-known brands like Corsair and Razer. Hence I decided to take a look at reviews if this was my chance to own a mechanical keyboard for the first time in my life.

The keyboard on offer was a Turtle Beach Impact 700, which was unheard of. (Note: If you visit that link, you would know that there is a huge discount on offer on Turtle Beach's US store as well) If you are into gaming, you would know about the brand "Turtle Beach" mostly from their headset lineup. But I didn't know that they made keyboards until today.

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