Friday, April 29, 2016

What if I switch phones with my wife?

After writing that last post, I got a great idea.

What if my wife's phone doesn't have the GPS problem my phone has/had? If her phone functions properly, I can simply switch the phones because she doesn't drive the car yet. We both have the same phone so she won't miss a thing.

Ideally, I should have tested her phone a few days to see if it was working properly, but I was impatient. I wanted to switch first and then test. Then at least I would be able to use Marshmallow again. The feeling of being able to use the latest OS makes me happy, even if it is slow.

I factory reset both phones and flashed the latest version of Marshmallow available on Google to both phones. I swapped the SIM cards and the phone cases.

I restored the applications from the corresponding latest backups to both phones. That meant installing a lot of applications than what Marshmallow was used to running on my phone, because my final backup was from KitKat and I had installed a lot of app on it because it never slowed down like its successors.

This immediately brought back the sluggishness I was so used to on my phone. I used the phone the whole day yesterday and it eventually became somewhat usable. Either the indexes/caches we constructed to make things faster or my body got used to the sluggishness. Or it can be both.

What about the GPS issue? Is it better on this phone?

Yesterday I had to drive for about 30 minutes (I had to visit a house in Mulgrave to check some furniture which was advertised on Gumtree) and I found the location to update without a hiccup on Google Maps. Does this mean the problem is fixed? No, because it is definitely too early to draw any conclusions just yet but the initial results are at least positive. I think it needs at least a whole week of testing but I don't drive much, so a week of good performance is still not a good indicator. We shall see. I'm sure you'll hear more about this topic soon.

Was it a coincidence that the GPS issue was fixed by downgrading to KitKat?

In the previous post, I mentioned that I downgraded the version of Android OS running in my Nexus 5 to KitKat from Marshmallow to fix GPS signal issue that I had been experiencing heavily in  the last few days. It seemed to fix the problem, but was it the software downgrading that really fixed the issue?

I researched more about this topic and people were claiming that the real reason behind this phenomena is not a software problem, but a bad connection between the terminals of the GPS antenna and the receiver circuit. If you open up the phone and slid a piece of paper underneath the antenna module to make the terminals protrude a little bit more than usual, they claim this issue goes away. Opening the Nexus 5 sounds like an adventurous thing to do but as per ifixtit's teardown manual of the Nexus 5, it looks like a straightforward thing if you have a plastic opener, which I sadly do not have.

But if this is the real cause of the issue, why did downgrading to KitKat seemed to have fixed the problem? There still could be a deficiency with newer firmware. Or, by chance, the contact between the antenna terminals and the circuitry improved, which means that it will go bad again. We will never know.

Unless of course, I switch back to Marshmallow, make it behave as erroneously as it used to and apply the GPS antenna fix and observe the results. If it goes back to functioning like a proper phone after applying the GPS antenna fix, then I can switch back to I Marshmallow and probably hold off buying a new phone. I can do this test, but since I don't have a plastic phone opening tool, it will have to wait a bit longer.

Time to order a plastic phone opening tool I suppose.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Downgraded from Android Marshmallow to KitKat on my Nexus 5

Backt to KitKat


Yes, you read it right. Downgrading is not a term that's often associated with me, but I had to do it. And in this case, it is not just one, but two major OS versions that I had to say bye bye to.

I had to do it to confirm a critical issue that I was facing with my Nexus 5 was caused by the OS updates.

The issue that I was facing was regarding navigation in Google Maps. If you are a regular follower of my blog, you would know that I recently migrated to Australia. I also bought my first car, not because it is a fashion, but it is an absolute necessity in Australia. The country is huge and the public transport service is not efficient for a developed nation. Since the country is quite new to me, I have to get the help of a navigator to drive few km even. My car does not have an inbuilt navigator nor I did buy a 3rd party one. I depend on Google Maps on my phone for that.

But it was not working as expected.

The maps would suddenly stop updating my location and because of this, I have missed my turn several times. I was not sure why it stopped updating the location every now and then (this usually happens like one or two times in every trip and if I reboot the phone before starting navigation, this would happen less often, but it would still happen.)

I found out the reason why the location was not updating accidently. I wanted to know who the culprit was so I installed Nokia Here maps (which by the way, is brilliant! It even shows the speed limits for the section of the road.) to first rule out Google Maps was not the one. The same thing happened with Nokia Here maps too and instead of being tight lipped, it informed me “GPS Signal Lost”. This was when I found out, it was not a problem with Google Maps, but a problem with GPS signal reception. Was it really cloud cover? Probably it has something to do with it, but why would this happen everyday?

When I searched around the web, I found out that many peoples’ Nexus 5 phones were plagued with this issue, and they were claiming this happened after upgrading to Lollipop from KitKat (the OS that Nexus 5 was originally shipped with). But I was already on Marshmallow and I have no data to support that this problem showed up after upgrading the OS. This is because, I never drove since I had the phone, until now.

But there was one way to find out. That was by actually downgrading the OS to KitKat and experimenting.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

My precious is alive!


On 16th of April, my family finally arrived in Australia. With them came the display of my desktop PC, namely the Qnix QX2710.

In the previous posts I mentioned how I got ready to welcome the monitor. The PC was placed on the desk, the speakers were placed so that they would stand up from the two sides of the monitor had it been there. The mouse and the wireless receiver plugged into the extender cable was peeking through the small gap between the right speaker and the PC. All the cables on the IKEA Signum cable management tray were laid properly and only the Dual DVI-D cable was visible, which needs to be plugged into the display. My family was supposed to bring an old PS/2 keyboard that was collecting dust, with them. If they did not have this with them, I would have bought a mechanical keyboard as well. That day can wait now.

Sadly, I had to wait till the end of the day to unpack the display. But luckily, it was still in one piece when I opened the package.

I hooked up everything and turned on the PC. The fans started spinning, but no display! The display was behaving as if it did not receive any signal. The fans on the GPU was spinning initially, but they halted. It was probably because the fans do not spin when the temperature is below 60C. The Gentle Typhoon AP29 fan that I had on the Kuhler 620 radiator was spinning at full speed.

I reset the power to the PC, but still nothing. It was demonstrating exactly the same behavior. Yikes!

Reset the BIOS it is then. Unfortunately, there was no BIOS reset button on the rear I/O panel on the Z97i Plus board so I had to open up the PC and shorten two pins. I did that with a screw driver but it still was not working.

Probably the pins did not get shorted properly. My father suggested that I take the battery out. I did, waited few seconds and put it back. That did not fix the issue either.

This is bad!

Then I decided to do things I could. Take out the RAM modules and try with just one stick. That brought the PC to life! Phew! I quickly entered BIOS…um…UEFI and loaded default settings. Then I shut the PC down and installed the other RAM. It booted find and I went back to BIOS and set my overclock back to where it was supposed to be. I am not 100% sure if I got them exactly the way they were before though. Time will tell. Perhaps I need to do a stress test some time later.

The PC POSTed fine even with the overclocked settings. Yay!

Now I can forget about the crappy MacBook Air. Or can I? Perhaps not, as I take it to my work place to do research on stuff as we do not have permission to connect the work PCs to the internet.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Getting ready to welcome the long-awaited

2016-04-15 19.32.46

My family was finally going to join up with me in Australia on the 16th of April. I am very happy about it. To make things even happier for me, they were bringing the QNIX QX2710 display with them. I had to leave it back in Sri Lanka as I could not fit it in the weight allowance.

There was not much to arrange really. I had all the things I needed to get the PC up and running.

But then I had this idea for the longest of times. I wanted to do a proper job of cable management. External cable management that is.

First thing was to get a long power board where I could install on the back of the desk. There was a thin board on the back which allowed screwing a power board onto without revealing anything. I bought one with four surge protected outlets from Coles supermarket and a packet of nails from the Two Dollar shop. The power board had the necessary hooks on the back to be mounted vertically. I did not have a drill but I managed to somehow screw it up. Now only one cable came out of the desk.

It was better than what I have done in Japan, but what should I do with the cables? I could tape them up to the back of the desk, but it would have been irritatingly difficult if I had to do some PC maintenance. There had to be a better and easier way to do it.

Cable Management in Japan

This is the best I could do when I was in Japan

I am subscribed to the YouTube channel of TechSource where the host shows cool and tidy desk setups with very tidy cable management. I wanted to do something like that. Most people who had sent photos of their nice looking desk setups were using one particular item that made things so much easy. It is called the IKEA Signum Cable Management Cradle. I have an IKEA near my apartment and it had it for $20. Yes, again, not cheap, considering the desk only cost me $39 from Kmart. But I decided to buy it.

IKEA Signum

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bought new speakers for the desktop PC


I had to buy new speakers for my PC because I sold the Logitech Z623 speakers before leaving Japan.

I checked the prices of the speakers in Australia and I was disappointed with the prices. The Z623 which I paid around $100 in Japan, was going for $150 or more. If it was around $100 mark, I would have happily bought another set of Z623.

Perhaps it was for the best.

Because, if I bought the Z623, then I would have had to keep the subwoofer on the floor which gives my kid easy access to wires. It would look messy too.

So I decided to get a set of stereo speakers instead. I number one requirement was them not to sound rattling at high volume (i.e. when watching movies). I could get such speakers if I spent few hundred dollars, but they would be large. The desk I bought to keep the PC was only 108cm wide. The SG13 is about 22cm wide, the QNIX display is about 64cmw wide. This gives me about 22cm for speakers, unless I move the PC onto the ground, which was only the last resort.

Initially I did not pay much attention to the dimension of the speakers. I wanted to a decent pair of stereo speakers. These will be like studio monitors, with a flat response.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Bought the Asus DSL-AC68U DSL modem router


In the last post I mentioned that I decided to upgrade the router in my apartment. The one I wanted to buy was the Asus DSL-AC68U router. I looked around hoping for a cheap deal, which sometimes pop up out of the blue. But I was not lucky this time. I had to pay the full price.

I could have ordered one from eBay for $319 with free shipping. But there are few PC shops near my apartment and when I checked their prices, I found out that the shop called MSY was selling it at the exact same price. There was no reason for me to get it late, if I could have it today for the same price, so I decided to buy from MSY.

This was the first time I was going to buy a PC part from a shop, in a long time. In Japan, I did not buy anything at a shop since 2012. The Palit GTX 670 Jetstream card was the last one I bought by visiting a shop.

But most of these PC shops in Australia do not seem to have showrooms. You place the order online and then go pick it up. The shop will prepare the order as soon as you place the order and will inform you when it is ready for pick up. You can pay when you place the order or you can pay at the shop; at least that was how MSY operated.

I also placed an order for three short CAT6e cables.  I needed three to connect the NAS. Only one was provided with the Asus router. I had two from the Belong router that I was replacing but they were CAT5 cables. The ones I placed an order for were inexpensive as they were very short. Both the router and the NAS would be kept on the fridge, so I did not need long cables.

I placed the order to MSY Clayton shop and went there after work to pick it up. Everything was done in 5 minutes.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Decided to buy a proper router


When I got my internet connection with Belong, I received a free Wireless ADSL/Modem router as I signed up for one year.

While I do not have any complaints to make with respect to the modem potion of it, the router was using ancient technology. No Gigabit Ethernet, no dual band Wi-Fi support and no 802.11ac support. Streaming performance from the NAS to my MacBook Air was terrible. The situation would not improve with my desktop PC, despite having dual band 802.11ac support, because the router was not capable of it. And, the 100Mbps Ethernet ports were, quite slow for 2016.

The telephone point in the apartment that I am renting, is located in the kitchen. (I don't know what the architect was smoking! Perhaps at the time the apartment was built, the Internet was unheard of.) The kitchen is attached to the living room. My desktop PC will be kept either in the living room (until we buy a TV) or in the 2nd bedroom. It was impossible to draw an Ethernet cable or a RJ11 cable from the kitchen to either of these locations unless I drew it on the floor. But I wanted it out of reach of my kid. I could not draw it along the wall because I would have to fit some hooks or nails on the wall to lift the cable up, which would mean damaging the property.

I did not want to keep the router in the kitchen as well. My wife would definitely spill water on it. The ideal location was the top of the fridge. From there, the PC would get direct line of site from the router if it was kept in the living room. My wife has no immediate plan to buy a TV, so the PC will most probably stay in the living room for a long time.


And I could move the NAS to the top of the fridge as well. Then it could be connected to the router via Ethernet.

Now all I needed was a good router.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Got my HP ProLiant MicroServer Gen8


In my previous post, I mentioned that I ordered the HP ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 to use it as a NAS. It arrived quite quickly from the retailer but as I was not at home when the delivery man arrived at my place, I had to go and collect it from a nearby distribution point.

The server came in a box that was much larger than I expected. When I took it out, it still looked larger than my desktop PC which was using a Silverstone SG13 case. Volume wise the MicroServer was only 1.5 litres larger, but the cube shape of it made it taller and appear bigger than the specifications suggested.

The server was very well packaged. This is an enterprise product so HP will not skimp on it.






I quickly opened the 120GB SanDisk SSD which I ordered with it and put it in one of the drive bays. I could not install it onto a drive caddy because they do not have support for SSDs, but I could simply plug the SSD into the SATA ports and slide the caddy in. The caddy did not touch the SSD and the SATA port was the only thing holding the SSD.  The SSD will eventually be installed in the slim optical drive bay but since I only have two hard drives at the moment, I do not have to move it there just yet.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Decided not to build a NAS... well sort of


Image courtesy Buffalotech

Does it mean that I am going to buy an off-the-shelf NAS unit?
No. It just does not work for me.

Does it mean that I have given up on a NAS?
Not that either.

Then what?

To be honest, after checking the prices of the components that would go into a custom NAS build, I almost gave up the idea of setting up a NAS: building or buying. A decent NAS that would satisfy all of my requirements would cost about $550-600. And that too, is with the lowest prices I could find.

At one time, I even thought of getting a bigger case like the Fractal Design Core 500 (19.5 litres) or Define Nano S (26.8 litres!) or the Phanteks Enthoo Evolv Mini (34 litres!!). But I still cannot keep the main PC running 24/7 as it would eat up a lot of electricity with the overclocked Core i7 4790K CPU and the GTX 970. I have heard that the electricity bills are pretty crazy in Australia.

If you want me to remind you why am not a fan of off-the-shelf NAS units, that is because I do not like their use of proprietary file systems. This means two things. One, I would not be able to access my data if something happens to the NAS. Two, I would not be able to use my existing drives as is which means that I would have to format them to use them. I can format one drive first, transfer the data on the other drive using the HDD enclosure plugged into the laptop, then format the other drive, copy back the data. But that means, even for a few hours (I don't think it will really be few. It will take a whole weekend at least), I will not be having a backup of my data. Things will go wrong when you least expect that to happen (Murphy’s law anyone?), and this moment is the ideal time for mother nature to show her wrath. I do not want to take that risk. My data is so precious.

So as we stand, off-the-shelf NAS units are no go. Building a NAS is also a no go. Buying a case to house at least two 3.5" drives and an SSD seems to be the only option.

Or, is it?

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