Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Is it the time to buy a new laptop?

The MacBook Air laptop which we have to our place was bought almost 5 years ago from Japan. I bought it with a discount that I received when signing up for an internet connection with OCN. I did not use it that much because I had my trusty PC with me. But my wife used it a lot, but mostly for watching tele dramas.

It’s received all the OSX update up to date. I think it will change from this time though. It is running a Sandybridge CPU clocked at 1.7GHz with 4GB RAM which is quite slow for today’s standards, but it is almost as fast as the 12” MacBook. So there is no real reason for Apple to stop supporting it, except for sales reasons. They want us to pay for a new laptop.

From the outside, other than few scuff marks which are only visible if you look closer, the outer shell has held up very well. However the screen has some imprints of the keys on the keyboard, which I am not sure if they are permanent or I can get rid of. They haven’t caused any inconvenience while using the laptop, but when you power it on for the first time after resuming from standby, when the screen is dark.

To be honest, OSX is quite slow for my needs. The 4GB RAM probably is the culprit. Opening lots of tabs in Chrome can bring it down on knees.

Optus Galaxy S7 software update

Couple of weeks ago, I got the second over-the-air (OTA software update for my Optus branded Galaxy S7. I actually found out the availability of it on Whirlpool forums and before the phone automatically searched for the update manually and it showed up.

It updated from firmware G930FXXU1APF2 to G930FXXU1APGH. Everything went fine without a hiccup.

I noticed two things after the update though.

  1. The phone would fall back to 3G when the LTE signal strength is too low, much earlier than before. This was a problem for me with the previous firmware, where at work, it would stay in LTE despite having zero signal bars. The result of this was terribly slow internet speeds. So I had to keep the network in 3G forcefully. I still keep it that was however, because the best signal strength I would get in LTE is 2 bars. It’s mostly 1 bar, and this can hamper the battery life unnecessarily. And, although the Optus agent said that my 4G reception would improve after 23rd of July, nothing happened.
  2. There is a process called Media Server in the top battery consuming apps list, which I had not seen before. I still haven’t been able to figure out what is causing this process to run in the background. Some people had mentioned it was caused by Google Chrome, but I use Firefox; some say it was triggered by VoLTE, but disabling it did nothing. (I was briefly testing LTE speeds around where I live, and VoLTE was enabled.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Upgrade plans for my desktop PC

The Small Form Factor PC that I built last year is quite fast for almost all the things I do with it. But I love upgrading my PC just to experience what the latest and the greatest hardware has to offer. Sadly, things do not usually live up to my expectations, but that is a different story.

This story is about the potential upgrade path this particular PC offers.

Sadly, my options aren't vivid. The PC is built in such a way that a tangible increase in performance requires a substantial amount of spending, which sometimes defies the reasoning behind "building" a desktop PC.

Let me explain.

Video card

Let's look at the video card first, because as you probably know, I am a gamer. The video card is the most important component in a gaming PC. But, I am not the typical gamer you would find elsewhere, but that is for another discussion.

Right now, I have an overclocked MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4G in my PC. To see a tangible increase in performance, I have to at least get a GTX 1070 and overclock it, which would give me 50% performance gains over my current card. But it would cost me close to $700 if I want to buy locally. $100 or so cheaper if I buy it from outside Australia, but it will make claiming for warranty painful. The GTX 1080 would give me twice the performance but it would cost me a whopping $1000 if bought locally! I am not going to spend that sort of money on a single piece of computer hardware, probably ever! But the GTX 1080 can be bought for less than $900 if I look to import it from outside.

Walking to work

I have a great advantage at the moment. I am only a walking-distance away from work. No, I don't walk in a suit. It still takes about 20 minutes, but that is miniscule. It saves money (because you don't have to pay for transport), saves time (no traffic, you have the total control; if I want, I can rush back home in 10 minutes) and it is definitely good for health (40 minutes of walking everyday).

Walking in the winter is a bit difficult though. It's not because of the outdoor temperature, but because of the wind that usually flows from north, which hits straight on my face. It is winter now in Australia, but we have passed the peak, so it is getting better. But the summer could be a totally different monster, but I have walked outside at 40C temperature, so I should be OK.

The rent in Melbourne is pretty steep. When I was looking for our first apartment, I had to take the transport expenses (or, the lack of it) into consideration. I pay $345 per week for our current apartment, which is quite a lot of money. During my search, I came across houses/apartments with a weekly rent of around $325 but they would have required me to drive to work as they were not very close to my workplace. I could take the train, but the fares would cost about $23/week if I get the myKi pass for the whole month. If I drive 15km each direction, that would be 150km each week or about 18 litres of petrol, which would be about $20/week, so it is similar to what I am paying right now. Our current apartment is smack in the middle of all the shopping areas, so it is very convenient, which you sometimes cannot value by money.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

We just had our second baby! (Part 2)


This is the part two of the series. You can read the part one here.

First appointment at the hospital - with the Midwifery section

In the previous post I mentioned that we got an appointment from the Midwifery section of the Monash Medical Centre for Tuesday, the 3rd of May. I've never had to visit the hospital before so this would be the first time I go there. I was not sure where to park the car even. I searched for a map of the hospital online but I could not find any. However, I found out that the parking charges within the hospital premises were very steep. But since this was out first visit, we decided to give into the ludicrous parking fees by parking the car within the premises.

The appointment was at 1pm. I went to work in the morning and took short leave after a quick lunch with the intention of going back after the checkup. I did not expect it to take too long - Australia is a developed country after all, and everything ought to be well organised and punctual, right?

We weren't sure where the clinic was, so we had to look for it. Someone who was working at the hospital must have figured we were lost and came to our help and she gave us directions to the clinic. There was a separate reception at the clinic and we stood up in the queue and waited for us to be called upon. When we were called upon, we let them know that this was our first visit and that we had an appointment with the midwifery section at 1pm. The receptionist asked my wife's personal details to confirm she was who she claimed to be. After that, she asked us to take a seat and wait for her name to be called upon.

We had to wait for about one hour until we were called upon. So much for hoping that I could return to work within an hour or so.  The maternity clinic was filled with mothers-to-be, probably because that particular time slot was the busiest hour with some of the doctors gone for lunch.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Bad Skype video quality from my PC but not from the phone?


AI live in Australia, so I have to keep touch with family back in Sri Lanka via Skype. Ever since moving here, I had been getting complaints about the video they receive being terrible.

The obvious culprit is the internet connection at my current apartment. It is using ADSL2+ and practically I get a bandwidth of about 16Mbps down and 1Mbps up. While it is substantially slower what I got in Japan, it is still similar to the speeds your get on the family package back in Sri Lanka.

But the video I get from the other side is clear!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Galaxy S7 on Optus network stuck in “Searching for GPS” - fixed for now!

S7 Navigation

Image courtesy of this YouTube video

One of the things that made me want to upgrade my phone was this. (If you don't want to read that whole post, the problem was with its GPS where it would lose the signal randomly while navigating, which made me go past where I was supposed to turn in places that I was unfamiliar with.)

I did a lot of research before I bought my S7. GPS issue is just one problem; the phone had to be usable in the first place, irrespective of whether it had the GPS issue or not. At the Chadstone Shopping Centre, I played with many phones for many hours and felt the iPhone 6S or the Galaxy S7 were the most usable. Hence I limited my further research to those two.

Sadly, there was no definitive answer to whether either of these phones had the GPS problem. There were complaints from people from both camps about GPS reception issues, sometimes triggered by software updates. But they were not widespread, and there seemed to be solutions to fix those issues.

I bought the S7 expecting everything to work well, but on the very first day I tried to navigate by car, I was hit with the darn issue!!! As soon as I got into the car, I set the destination as Chadstone Shopping Centre because that's where we shop most of the grocery. But all I got was the following message displayed on the Google Maps app.

Waiting for GPS

My current location was shown as a grey circle, instead of a blue circle. It's a bit different to what I experienced with the Nexus 5 though. With the Nexus 5, I would lose the GPS signal randomly.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Glad I did not wait for the Galaxy Note 7


Image courtesy sammobile

Before I actually bought my S7, which was a spontaneous decision as a great deal popped up, I had decided to wait for two phones before I made the decision. The Galaxy Note 7 and the iPhone 7.

Today is August 2nd and two important events happened today. The revelation of the Galaxy Note 7 is one of them. (The other one, if you are wondering, is the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.)

I had been following up on the Galaxy Note 7 rumours and even though at first they looked promising with 6GB RAM and a faster SoC coming to the phone, they gradually turned boring.

As soon as I woke up in the morning, I checked about the Samsung event which should have gone live at 1am to learn about the specs of the phone. Yes, the had exactly the lacklustre hardware features that the latest rumours described. No 6GB RAM. That’s THE deal breaker for me.

I am sure there are some fancy upgrades for people who are upgrading from the Note 5 (like better SoC, gorilla glass 5 screen, larger battery, better camera, IP68 rating and last but not least, the iris scanning feature), but to me, it is a Galaxy S7 Edge with an SPen, however those SPen related features are pretty cool.

Oh, and the phone is going on sale for AUD 1,349 in Australia. It’s a lot of money, solely due to the fallen Australian dollar. But if you preorder it, you get a 256GB Samsung Evo Plus MicroSD card which retails for around $200. That's a lot of storage. I have no idea what sort of plans the Cellular Telcos are planning to offer though. They would not be as nice as the plan I got though; that's for sure.

It still comes with the same version of Marshmallow the Galaxy S7 shipped with (another negative, as Nougat is just around the corner), albeit with a more professional looking UI called the Grace UI. I read somewhere that Samsung will offer this to the Galaxy S7 as well, but I am not sure when it will happen. Samsung might not offer it at all, just to make the Note 7 look premium.

Anyways, I personally am not disappointed at all, because I already got the S7 and I am stuck with it for at least a year. I would have been very disappointed, and it probably would have thrown me back into the Apple realm had I been waiting for this.

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