Thursday, November 26, 2015

What if i could make my PC even smaller?


I thought that the Silverstone SG13 case was the smallest case that I could fit my hardware inside, but there seems to be another contender now. And it is significantly small that the SG13  in terms of the volume, at only 7.25 litres or 63% of the volume of the SG13. More importantly, it only weighs 1.25kg because it is made of Aluminum.

The case is called A4-SFX by DAN Cases. Funny thing is, it supports a much longer video card than the SG13 does. (295mm vs. 267mm) If you can survive with a CPU cooler that's only 48mm tall, then this is an amazing case.

What's great is that you don't have to look around for compatible CPU coolers or PSUs, because the website lists them all under the Compatibility section in their product page. I don't even have to change anything in my PC to switch to this PC, except I will have to revert to the stock Intel cooler and say bye bye to overclocking. Perhaps a cooler from that list would allow me to keep the 4.5GHz overclock.

There are two catches though.

    • The case isn't available for purchase yet. According to the FAQ on their website, it says the case would arrive at the end of 2015. There is only one month to go before the end of the year though. So it must be just around the corner. Awesome!
    • It is going to be very expensive. The case would be $200 to $230 (before tax) when launched and you will have to pay shipping on top of that price tag. Darn! I don’t think I will be able to spend that money on a case. It would be $300 with all the extra charges if I want to order it from Japan.

      That price is way too steep for me unfortunately. So I might keep holding to the SG09 case for the moment. Once I settle down, there is really no need for a SFF PC. So I don't want to spend a lot of money on making it any smaller.

      Sunday, November 15, 2015

      Smarket gave me more than their estimate for the iPhones


      In a previous post I mentioned that I found a shop called Smarket to sell my iPhones. The sent a delivery man to my apartment to pick up the phones, free of charge. I received an email after a couple of days (on Monday) saying that the phones arrived at their shop safely. They also mentioned that it might take up to 2 weeks for them to conclude the assessment due to extremely high popularity with their service. I did not really care as long as I received the same amount of money or as close to their original estimate, and that I received them before I left Japan.

      On Thursday, I received another email from them saying that there was a little issue with the documentation I provided as proof regarding my name, age and address. I sent copies of the front side of the Insurance card and an electricity bill. They had asked for a copy of the back side of the card as well. There is not much on that side other than an address column which has to be filled by the owner of the card. I had written the address by hand, but they said it is fine. Since I didn't want to delay their work any longer, I faxed them what they wanted within an hour. Just to be safe, I also faxed my Residence card. I had to pay JPY 50 to send the fax from the Family Mart near the office. I could have used snail mail too, but it is actually more expensive than sending a fax. This is actually my 3rd time sending a fax - ever. (This is the first one, and the second one was sent from the office)

      They emailed me saying that they received the fax, but sadly that they could only assess it the next day because it was late.

      Monday, November 9, 2015

      Catching a Nambu line express train from Nakanoshima


      The name of the railway line that goes through the closest railway station to our apartment in Japan is called Nambu line. The station is Nakanoshima. Nambu line is operated by JR.

      Couple of years ago, JR started an express train service on the Nambu line. What's meant by express in this case is that the trains skip the less important stations and ultimately shave off few minutes as a result. They did it without expanding the stations and simply exploited the larger time gaps between each train during the day time. In other words, the express train service isn't available during rush hour where the time gap between trains is short. Still, they have to time it so that the express trains can overtake the slower, regular ones at stations that has the facility to switch tracks (there are only a handful of stations with the capability on the Nambu line). This isn't that hard especially on the Nambu line which doesn't branch into multiple lines and because the trains are punctual.

      Being a heavy residential area, Nakanoshima was originally chosen as a station where express trains halted. However, after few months, for whatever reason, they removed Nakanoshima from the list of such stations. Now we have to watch in awe when the express trains whistle past us when we are waiting to hop onto a train.

      But all isn't lost. If you are lucky, there is still a way you can hop onto an express train. If there is a train travelling in the opposite direction that is approaching the station soon after you missed a regular train (or if you deliberately missed it to do the following trick), you can board it, go one station (which has to be a station where express trains stop - and in the case of Nakanoshima, both stations before and after it are stations where express trains halt), get off and hopefully get aboard the express train going in the direction you originally wanted to travel. (The good thing is, it won’t cost you any additional charges. In Japan, the charge it calculated as the lowest between two gates where you either insert the ticket in or you touch the Suica card on. There is usually no need to go through a gate when switching the directions.)

      We managed to put this trick into test recently.

      Getting rid of the two iPhone 6’s which are SIM locked to AU


      Now that I have terminated the AU connections, it is time to sell the iPhones. I checked the offerings on my favourite sites few weeks ago, namely Sofmap and Dospara. Sadly they were offering only JPY 30,000 per phone. It was possible to get JPY 34,500 from Sofmap if I sold it for points, but I had no use for the points at this time and there won't be enough time to use them.

      So I turned to my trusty auction site: Rakuten Auction. I checked the prices other people were selling the same phone and they were listing them for JPY 45,000-ish starting bid. Nobody had bid for those phones though. I set JPY 44,000 as the starting bid for my phones. This was about a week before terminating the AU connections. Nobody bid for it and when October 31 drew nearer, I reduced the starting bid all the way down to JPY 38,000. Then someone asked for the IMEI number of the Gold model saying that he would like to buy it. With the IMEI number they can check is the phone had any network restrictions with AU. Our phones had no restrictions except that they had to be used on the AU network. But I read that it is dangerous to give out the IMEI numbers to others so I was a bit worried about it. But just then, I found a shop that would give JPY 36,000 for the Gold model and JPT 35,000 for the Space Grey model. Considering the overheads and delivery charges (as I listed the phones as free delivery) involved with the auction, I decided to sell the phones to this shop. So I withdrew the listing from Rakuten Auctions.

      However, the shop was not that great either. I emailed them confirming the prices and I never received a reply from them. I could of course call them but I didn't have to do that because they have a email system. I could have visited their shop but since their working hours are very short (10am to 7pm on weekdays, 11am to 6pm on Saturdays, 12am to 6pm on Holidays), I would not be able to make it to their shop and finish the trade if I leave after work. Yesterday was a holiday and I was thinking of visiting their shop. My wife wasn't very happy about it; she wants to sell the phones, but also wants to be with me but then again don't want to pay for the train tickets to visit the shop. This made me reluctant to visit the shop as well. If I received the darn reply from them, it would have been OK because I could have simply sent them the phones and they would assess it and send me the money.

      Saturday, November 7, 2015

      Logitech (Logicool) Z623's power button is unstable again

      When my Corsair SP2200 speakers developed a crackling sound, I returned them for a full refund and bought the popular Logitech Z623 speaker set. Within the 2 year warranty period ran out, a problem developed in those speakers as well. The speakers would not keep turned on for a moment after pressing the power button. I would have to turn it off and turn it back on several times until the power button "sticks". Logitech (known as Logicool in Japan) replaced the speakers with a brand new set. 

      They worked find for a while but after the warranty expired (I did not get an extension of warranty with the replacement; the warranty period was same as the original), they also started showing the exact same problem with the power button. The following video demonstrates the issue with the current speaker set.

      This is not an isolated problem. There are reports from many people about the same issue on the Internet. It appears that the dust which gets trapped between the contact points of the power button is the cause of this issue. Some, who have been brave enough to open up the speakers to perform a clean up say that it fixed the problem for them.

      Thursday, November 5, 2015

      Why won't OSX remember the SMB password?

      Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 8.19.29 PM
      If you had been following my blog for a while you would know that I use my desktop to store all the files and use the other devices to access them over Wi-Fi. Now that I do not have a tablet, I use the MacBook for all my media consumption tasks, when my wife is using the desktop PC.
      To connect to the desktop PC, I have to go use Connect to Server option in Finder. You would see a dialog box like this.
      But I was having this problem. OSX never remembers the login credentials to my Desktop PC despite commanding it to store them in KeyChain. I have done this several times and it never seemed to remember them. Entering the username and password is a pain because they are same as Microsoft Account's: they are long!
      Today I finally wanted to get deep into this issue.
      I opened KeyChain app and checked if my login details are really saved in there. I saw two entries and thinking that they were conflicting each other, I deleted one. Then just to make sure that everything is in order, I opened the only one remaining. And then I could figure out what really was wrong.

      Wednesday, November 4, 2015

      Switched to DoCoMo via Mineo D Plan on the Nexus 5


      In the last article I mentioned that I ordered two new SIMs from Mineo to use with our Nexus 5 phones until I leave Japan. The SIMs should have arrived around October 29, but they were not here even by the 31st. 31st is significant because I was going to terminal the AU connections. I was hoping to start using the Mineo connections from November 1. Funny thing was that one of my colleagues also ordered Mineo SIMs about 2 days later than I did but he had received them by the 30th.

      I was so upset about it that I tweeted Mineo telling my dissatisfaction. They told me that there could be delays due to huge demand these days. That would have been justifiable if my colleague hadn’t received his SIMs. He also lives close to our apartment so it could not have been a delay in the postal service.

      But luckily, I received the SIMs early morning on November 1. It was delivered to me by a postman and it came as registered post. I wasn’t really affected by the delay much because it was the weekend. If I had to leave for work without internet connectivity, I would have lost my mind.


      The SIMs came in two packages like these.

      There was a manual with all the instructions to setup the phones were bundled along with the SIMs. The Mineo numbers – at least the ones I got start with 070. I am not used to that prefix. I’ve only seen 080 or 090 on mobile phones.

      Ordered my Mineo SIM, my first MNVO connection


      This is a long post.

      It is confirmed: I'm finally leaving Japan for good in December. That means, I have to terminate my mobile phone contracts. Since I'll be terminating the contract earlier than 2 years, I have to pay the early termination fee. There is no escape from this. If you somehow avoid paying this (by letting the connection get terminated by not paying the bills for example), there is the risk of litigation. Since they have a copy of my passport, there is no way to hide. At least there is no "very early termination" penalty imposed by AU, at least not for my contract.

      So I looked at my options of how to recover or at least minimize this cost. I, of course, will be selling the iPhones before I leave because they are locked to AU, but that plan was there from the beginning. So I wanted more than that. I checked if there were any connections where I could switch to and then terminate  but still recover the cost of early termination and other overheads by selling the phones. There weren't any! Apparently the mobile phone companies have come to senses.  They all ask for a huge penalty when terminating the phone within the first year, if they initially charged a discounted price for the phones. This penalty is much larger than the price I can make by selling the phones.

      It was possible to change to a cheaper plan from AU than the one I was using. But there is one problem. I wanted to sell the phones before I leave Japan, obviously, but then I would not have a phone that would work with an AU SIM (the Nexus 5 doesn't work with the AU SIM) until I leave Japan. Even if the Nexus supported the AU SIM, I would have to terminate the connections on the previous day the latest. That is not a safe thing to do because I would need the phone to check the transit information and map on the day of the departure. And it would be difficult to sell the phones on the day before we leave Japan. There is loads of work to do: packing and cleaning etc. Not to mention, it will be the winter too.

      Tuesday, November 3, 2015

      Nexus 5 battery drain on Android 6.0 Marshmallow


      One of the improved features of Android 6.0 Marshmallow is improved battery life. Be it the Doze mode or the polishing of the rough edges of its predecessor, most people – at least the reviewers – seem to be noticing that their devices aren’t as thirsty for juice as they once used to. Unless you have a Nexus 5 or 6 that is.

      I finally switched back the Nexus 5 couple of days ago and I immediately noticed how fast the battery of my phone drained. Today at work, I was down to the 30%s in no time. When I checked the battery status from the settings app, I notice something weird. The item that was using the highest percentage of battery was Wi-Fi. Why it is weird is because I did not have Wi-Fi enabled while I was away from work. So how could the Wi-Fi feature be responsible for draining the battery.

      Battery status

      Google search – ironically in this case – came to my assist. It appears that there is a feature called Wi-Fi scanning in Marshmallow which helps improve the location by letting system apps and services detect Wi-Fi networks any time. I am not sure if it really helps with anything, but all I know is that I am not getting my whole day battery life anymore.

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