Monday, August 31, 2015

Finally passed JLPT N2


Good news. I finally managed to pass the N2  of Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). This was my second attempt. The first attempt went down horribly. This was also my last shot at it, so I am glad I could pass it.

The exam has several sections, namely  Language Knowledge, Reading and Listening. We have to get 19/60 for every part at least to pass the exam. 57/180 doesn’t look that hard but you actually have to score 90/180 a well. The last time I only managed 79/180 and the biggest contributor to the failure was the reading part. I am too slow at reading Although I had the required marks for the Language Knowledge section, I had a bad start to the exam with not knowing answers to first five questions. To be honest, I didn’t study much the first time. I thought the Japanese knowledge that I have gained by working in Japan amongst Japanese people was enough to pass the exam. Obviously I was wrong.

So this time I studied a bit more. The biggest issue I had was that I could not find a proper syllabus for N2. So how did I study? I didn’t buy any books and definitely didn’t attend any classes.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Cleaned up the cables inside the SG13 case

Now that I have cancelled the order for the Silverstone SX500-LG PSU, I thought of tidying up the cables of my current PSU to make room for the air to flow without obstruction from the front intake fan.
The PSU that I currently use is also from Silverstone, but it is an ATX PSU which has cables that are long enough to approach the components when installed in a larger case. It is impossible to find an ATX PSU with short cables for that reason, but compared to the other brands, the cables that come with this PSU are a tad shorter. However there are some stupid design decisions that have been made by Silverstone such as having only one connector on each PCI-E cable. So, not only the cables are too long for the SG13 case, I have to use more cables than necessary.
But I wanted to see what I could do about that cable mess. As far as I know, things would not get any worse than this as the PSU that I plan to buy a will have shorter cables.
This is what I was able to achieve.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Cancelled the order for the SX500-LG

Sharkoon Silent Storm 500W Gold

COVERSPOT, the shop I ordered the SX500-LG power supply unit for my SG13 build from was delaying the order far too long that I finally gave up and asked them to cancel my order. I had to contact (email) them and get it done because for some reason it was not possible to cancel the order from the purchase history section of my Rakuten account. Usually a button to cancel the order would appear there. It said if the button doesn't appear, we have to contact the shop.

But there is one problem. They had it for the cheapest and the next shop is selling it for about JPY 500 more. I won't pay that much for it. The cheapest price was already too expensive.

There is another player in the market, Sharkoon, who makes a SFX-L unit called Silent Storm SFX Gold with exact same specs and layout as the Silverstone SX500-LG unit, which is slightly cheaper and readily available however their choice of capacitors is a bit worrying. Sharkoon is using arguably less quality Teapo branded Korean capacitors for the primary and secondary side capacitors of the PSU. They are using a Japanese capacitor for the standby capacitor though. Silverstone, at least with the revision 1.1, is using Japanese capacitors across the board.

Everyone these days is asking for Japanese capacitors and the enthusiasts seem to reject anything that doesn't have them. But it reality, they could be overestimating the effects of having non-Japanese capacitors with regards to home computers that doesn't run at full load 24/7. JonnyGuru, a reputed PSU reviewer replied to my thread on his forums saying Teapo is fine.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The possibility of upgrading my PC to a Haswell-E setup

Couple of days ago I posted on Facebook how I chickened out from delidding my Devil's Canyon chip. A friend told me that it would be beneficial for me to upgrade to Haswell-E instead. Haswell-E die is soldered to the IHS so it shouldn't run at a temperature as high as Devil's Canyon. And I get at least two more cores to play with.

There is a huge barrier for entry due to price

I checked the prices of the Core i7 5820K (because the 5930K is useless and the 5960X is out of reach), ASRock X99E-ITX/ac Mini-ITX motherboard (the only X99 Mini-ITX board out there) and 16GB of DDR4 2666 sticks.

  • CPU: ~ JPY 50,000
  • Motherboard: ~ JPY 37,000
  • RAM: ~ JPY 18,000

That would total out to around JPY 105,000. Expensive, but that’s what you have to pay for cutting edge. But it all depends on how much I can make from selling my existing stuff.

I checked the offers on Sofmap store and  it was disappointing.  Very disappointing. I would only receive around JPY 50,000 in total for my Core i7 4790K CPU, Asus Z97i-Plus board and A-DATA DDR3-2400 16GB memory. That’s an insanely low amount. No way I am going to sell my stuff to these shops.

However, shops aren’t the only place I can sell them. I can auction them online. However, since these are all used parts, I bet I won’t be able to extend this to JPY 70,000 mark. JPY 60,000 is possible, but it will take a long time because I have three components to sell. And if I sell at least one of them, I would have passed the point of no return.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Installed Windows 10 on the MacBook Air


We take a lot of photos when you go on trips. (Otherwise what is the point of buying the Canon 70D?) My wife loves to sort them out in the next couple of days. Since she takes a long time, I do not want her to use the desktop PC for that. I used to setup the tablet to access the photos which are stored on the hard drives in the desktop PC over the network, but we no longer have a tablet with us.

We visited Sanrio Puroland last Monday. As usual, my wife wanted to check out the photos we took there and this time I setup the MacBook Air for her. Unfortunately, the built-in Preview application can open only one photo at a time. You cannot use the arrow keys on the keyboard to navigate between the photos. There is no provision for that in that application. So as a temporary measure, I copied all the photos to the MacBook and imported them into the Photos app in OSX Yosemite where she could use the arrow keys to navigate.


What if I had Windows on the MacBook Air?

That would work!

In fact, I had an early preview build of Windows 10 (build 10041) already installed using Boot Camp. I booted into it and immediately felt how unstable it was. I tried using Windows Update to see if I could upgrade it to the RTM build. Windows Update insisted that there weren’t any pending updates. Windows Update was broken! Either the Windows Update in this build was broken or Microsoft didn’t want it to be upgraded to RTM.

That’s when I decided to install Windows 10 RTM freshly on the MacBook Air. Since I don't have a Windows 10 key, I decided to install Windows 7 and upgrade it to Windows 10. (I had already used the Windows 8.1 key on my desktop PC, so I could not upgrade from Windows 8.1.)

Installing Windows 10 RTM on the MacBook Air

I first went into OSX and removed the existing Boot Camp partition. Then I downloaded the Windows 7 Pro ISO that I had stored on my desktop PC onto the MacBook Air. I fetched one of my 16GB SANDISK USB sticks (click here to read a small review of them) and started creating the Windows 7 bootable installer from Boot Camp Assistant. I partitioned the SSD in the MacBook 50%-50%. I really don’t keep much files on the drive so I could survive easily with 60GB on each OS.

Once that was done, I rebooted the MacBook and the installation of Windows 7 started. Installation of Windows 7 went without any drama. After the installation was completed, Boot Camp installed the required drivers and I finally could go online to activate Windows 7.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Decided to delid my Devil's Canyon CPU. Well, kind of…


When I migrated my PC into the Silverstone SG13 case, I mentioned that I had a few future upgrades planned. It was mainly two things: a SFX PSU and a better cooler. I have ordered the PSU already, although it has not arrived yet. The cooler was a low priority one, because I already had an ancient AIO water cooling unit, namely the Antec Kuhler 620.

So why did I want a better cooler?

It is because the Kuhler 620 was showing its age. The CPU temps rise past 90C when I run Asus Realbench stress test on my Devil's Canyon CPU clocked at 4.5GHz at 1.24V. Neither Realbench is as stressful as Prime95 or Linpack nor the Vcore is on the high side, but the temps are too high. To make things worse, the fan I use - the Gentle Typhoon AP29 - is much more powerful than the fan that came with the cooler. I asked around if the performance I see is what I should get from this particular cooler, and people say it should perform better.

Some said it is possible that a portion of the coolant has evaporated over the years. Even though it is a sealed unit, there could be micro sized holes than could be responsible for such a thing.

All I know is, it is not performing up to my expectations.

Water cooler options

So I looked around for a replacement and came across three candidates suitable for the job. The NZXT Kraken x31, Corsair H80i and the Fractal Design Kelvin T12. All of them were similarly priced and they all had their pros and cons. However after some thought, I rejected them all.


They all added extra weight to the PC. The H80i with the thicket rad with dual fans (yes, it fits marginally), the T12 with thicker rad and the Kraken with dual fans. I would probably buy a new cooler once the weight reduction has served its purpose.

But is there anything else that I can do?

Yes indeed there is. Delidding the CPU. That would result in an instant 15C reduction in load temps. And it would cost much less than a new CPU cooler.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Got rid of the darn Asus T100 tablet


I waited till the 5th to pay a visit to Sofmap to sell the Asus T100 tablet off. That's because days ending with the number 5 are called the "Sofmap中古日" which means if you decide to exchange the items for Sofmap points, you get a 5% boost on such days.

I hopped onto a train bound for Kawasaki after work on the Wednesday. There is a Sofmap support center in the Lazona shopping complex where they handle 買取 or purchases from their point of view. I went there and waited for my turn. When it was my turn, I handed over the tablet which was cleanly packed as it came from the factory, telling the staff personnel that the keyboard dock doesn't work properly. He made a serious face and told me that in that case there is a chance they might not accept the tablet at all or return the keyboard dock and take only the rest of the parts. I feared they would go with the former.

He took the tablet in for inspection and told me to come back in 30 minutes. That was short, probably because there weren't many people there and it was a weekday. I wandered around the Biccamera store checking out the cool gadgets during that 30 minutes.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Restored the recovery functionality of the Asus T100TA tablet


I finally decided to sell my Asus T100 tablet. That's because it is slow (Atom platform  is slow) and the keyboard was broken. (Read about that here) When I contacts Asus, they told me that they weren't selling the keyboard dock separately. Bastards!

I waited to see if Windows 10 can magically make the tablet experience awesome. But an Atom will always be an Atom. Windows 10 was also too slow for me on it. And I frequently got BSODs.

So it is going out of the house. That is final.

Instead of auctioning, I decided to it to Sofmap. I had no idea how much money I would receive due to the malfunctioning keyboard and the various scratch marks on the body of the tablet, but I wanted to give it a try. If Sofmap wasn’t prepared to offer a reasonable amount of money, I would go back to my regular method: Rakuten Auctions.

First things first though. I needed to load factory defaults of the tablet. I was running Windows 10 on it and I wanted to go back to Windows 8.1 that it originally came with. I tried resetting from the Settings app, and it reset back to Windows 10, and not 8.1 I don't have any recovery media to do a manual recovery either.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Chose the SX500-LG PSU for the SG13 build and ordered it


I was planning to get a new PSU for my SG13 build to lower the weight, increase the breathing room for components and improve the airflow by reducing the cable clutter. I was trapped between two PSUs, the SX500-LG and the SX600-G, both from Silverstone. The former is a SFX-L unit and the latter is a SFX unit.


Between the two, I chose the SFX-L unit because of its 120mm fan and the slightly cheaper price tag. The SX600-G comes with a 80mm fan and should be noisier and wouldn't be adequate for exhausting warm air inside the case. I'm not convinced the SX500-LG is either but it should be better in that regard.

New options unearthed

However, there was another brand as I found out, which was cheaper and probably better for airflow. It's the Scythe SPKRG-S500P. It appears to have the same OEM as the Silverstone SFX-L unit although there aren't any reviews of it. It would be about JPY4,000 cheaper which is significant and comes with meshed modular cables. Those cables aren't as pretty as the flat cables offered by Silverstone, however when it comes to the 24pin cable, meshed cable overs less of the airflow and that could be noticeable inside the SG13.

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