Saturday, August 25, 2018

Hit the kerb

Today was a very sunny day indicating to us that the winter is coming to an end. We were planning to go out to a place nearby, but my son wanted to go to the beach. We picked St. Kilda beach.

It was not too bad, but I wished it was a bit warmer. The water was cold and hardly anyone was in the water.

The route Waze picked for me back home was not familiar to me at all. It routed me through many small streets. Turning to one of those streets, I hit the kerb and hit it hard. I didn't realise how narrow the street was!

Thankfully, the wheels are steel and it didn't damage the wheel. If it was an alloy wheel, I bet I would have to change the wheel. That would have been painful because it was already dark.

But the impact damaged the wheel hub.

Although it is an eyesore for me, I won't be replacing the wheel hub right now because brand new OEM hubs cost about $45 on Ebay. Super Cheap Auto is selling 4 piece hab caps for cheaper, so I might pay them a visit. Perhaps they have hub caps that show less of the ugly steel especially with that slight rust. That would be a win after all.

Decided to finally do something about the MacBook Air's battery

Since buying the Metabox N850HJ laptop, I had been using it as my primary computer. Yes, I didn't use the desktop PC as much as the Metabox laptop.

My wife has been using the aging MacBook Air. She hasn't been treating it well though. Its battery was in a very bad shape, and she doesn't keep it charged. So every time she wants to work on it, we have to first let it charge for a few minutes, otherwise, it would be very sluggish. I started observing this behaviour after upgrading to macOS Sierra. After upgrading to High Sierra, it is still behaving the same way.

This is the current state of the battery. It only holds 30% of the original capacity. It's funny how it says it's only done 713 charge cycles. I thought the battery was good for 1000 charge cycles before degrading seriously.

This could well be the last MacBook I would own because I cannot justify spending Apple prices. So I decided to buy a replacement battery for it. Apple would charge $189 for their "battery service" which I think includes a new battery but I wouldn't be surprised it didn't. I didn't want to pay that much especially for a 7-year-old laptop, so I went on eBay and ordered a cheap compatible battery. I don't expect it to be as good as a genuine OEM battery, but if it gives me several hours of battery power without blowing up, I would be happy.

The battery should arrive next week and this will the first time I open up a MacBook Air. Hope I don't kill it.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Bought a "new" CPU for the NAS

When we moved to our new house, we had to buy some new stuff and among them was a new TV. Since I don't like to spend big bucks on brand names, I ended up choosing a TCL which was full of new features. The model number is 55X2US and I'm happy with the purchase. Any TV would have been an upgrade since we used my 27" QNIX monitor for watching movies before.

I have some movies in my NAS and I set up PlexTV to make it a media server - among other things. I don't use on-the-fly transcoding PlexTV supports because the movies I have, play just fine at full source quality. It's not as if I had a choice though because the G1610T Celeron chip in my NAS is hardly a capable CPU. I've been experiencing slowdowns, especially when opening a movie (which I almost always have to do twice, because it errors the first time) and using the time-slider.

So, I had been waiting to upgrade the CPU in the NAS to a 45W quad-core Xeon. There are higher wattage Xeons available for the platform, but I am concerned about the power consumption of the NAS. The best overall chip is the E3-1265L V2 which is an IvyBridge one, but they go for $250 used. The next best one is the E3-1260L which is a SandyBridge CPU, about 10% slower than the IvyBridge, and it goes for half the price. Needless to say, this was the CPU I had been eying. I waited for few months until finally, I had had enough and I pulled the trigger on a used CPU on eBay from a US seller. The total cost of it was about AUD 120 including shipping. I might have been able to find a Chinese seller for a slightly cheaper price, but the delivery takes about a month.

Oh, I also had to buy a tube of thermal paste. I settled for Arctic MX-2 which set me up for about AUD 10.

Installing the CPU wasn't that hard. I followed this video to get an idea of how to take the motherboard out. I didn't run into a single issue during the entire swap.

I would be lying if I wasn't 100% confident it would work. It's not because I wasn't confident in the server motherboard or my installation, but because it was a second-hand CPU. It was from a top rated seller though.

The server managed to detect the CPU without any trouble. Once booted, I fired up CPU-Z and Realtemp to see how the CPU was doing. I started an H265 video transcoding job. It was amazing how cool the CPU ran. After an hour, it only managed to hit 71C on the hottest core. This might not sound amazing, but the CPU is cooled by a tiny passive cooler with one case fan responsible for maintaining some kind of an airflow.

I haven't measured the power consumption - I should - but I think it consumes fewer watts than with the Celeron because the CPU utilization is significantly less. This means the CPU is almost idle most of the times. Even at full load, the new CPU has only a 10W higher TDP.

Now my PlexTV experience is better as well. Pretty happy with the purchase.

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