28 July, 2015

Box Designs For Silhouette

Previously:
Tried making coin pouches using a box design
One of these websites had designs for boxes

Found these box designs and their 2D plan/net/forms that are perfect for small Silhouette projects:
You might need the Designer Edition, but it's very easy to convert the line patterns to Silhouette format, even if you do it manually.

21 July, 2015

Shapeways July 2015

Shapeways had free international shipping again! The last time was in 2012 (I don't think they had any in between), when I got:
Material Sample Kit
Cubichain bracelet
iPhone 5 case

This time, I picked up more ready-made products (the Material Sample Kit doesn't seem to have changed in the past 3 years) including:


I also tried my hand at some designing. Now, I don't have any 3D design skills, but they have a nifty tool that lets you upload a black and white picture, and converts it to "3D", with the darkness defining the height. It lets you do some interesting things.

Note on shipping: International shipping usually costs USD19.99, and I suspect they use the same-sized box, which is 19.5 x 14 x 11 cm = 3003 cm³, or 0.6 kg volumetric weight. HSG will round it up to 1 kg, which is about USD6. Combined with Shapeways' shipping within US, using HSG will be cheaper, but it's still a hefty shipping fee. 3/3 of my packages used this box, from 1 to 6 items inside.

Yeah! My stuff is here!

Some notes on my creations:
1.2 mm diameter holes in 4 mm thick white strong and flexible won't clear properly and need to be drilled/filed
3.3 mm thick and 2 mm wide white strong and flexible should be strong enough to make a clip. 

22 June, 2015

vPOST Summer Spin & Win

20% off air freight - SUN20OFF
30% off vshop4u - SUNVSHOP30
$30 off minimum spend $80 - SUN30Z
$10 fixed shipping rate - SUN10OFF (for one package up to 1.5 kg)

Might only be until 20 July 2015. http://www.vpost.com.sg/summersale

09 June, 2015

Fitbit Charge HR

List of continuous Heart Rate Monitors (HRM)
This category of device needs an agreed-upon name. Is it fitness band, activity tracker, bracelet, whatever? Some also function as smartwatches. Or is it smart watches?

Ok the Charge HR might be the "best" continuous HRM on the market right now, simply due to its small size, meaning you can wear it for longer e.g. while sleeping. But it's still not very good. Sadly most problems are software/UI related.

Specs:
  • Rechargeable, 5 day battery life
  • Water resistance: declarations are all over the place. Some say only splash-resistant, some say 10 metres / 1 atm:
  • Sensors: optical HRM, 3-axis accelerometer, altimeter, one button
  • Output: OLED display, vibation motor

Operation/controls
Controls on the tracker itself are simple and limited.
  • Press button to turn on display and change views
  • Hold button to start/stop exercise mode
  • Double-tap to quick view. I've noticed the double-tap window is very narrow. Most of the time I'm tapping too fast. If your double-taps don't work, try tapping more slowly.
Settings can only be changed on a computer/smartphone. You can change what views are displayed and their order (e.g. if you don't want stairs climbed you can turn it off) and what you see when you double-tap (e.g. time, heart rate, steps...)

Likes
  • It shows how much charge it has, while charging. If you press the button.
  • HRM works pretty well and is pretty accurate, but could be better. See below
  • Steps is pretty accurate e.g. it can continue measuring when you stop swinging and hold your hand up, like you're reading the time
  • I've gotten 4+ days of battery life, but only syncing once a day

Dislikes
  • Cannot display time continuously. They should have this option, even at the expense of battery life.
  • Does not sync with Apple's Health, and it looks like they're not planning to (https://community.fitbit.com/t5/Feature-Requests/Integrate-with-iOS-8-Health-App/idi-p/319432) meaning this statement: "we’ve been the leader in developing direct partnerships through our open API with hundreds of the most popular health apps, wellness programs, incentive systems" is nonsense.
  • HRM takes very long to update and does not tell you the strength of the signal. See below
  • OLED screen flickers. Small problem. Speaking of flickering, the green HRM lights flicker very obviously, but you can't tell because they're against your skin most of the time. Are all optical HRMs like that?

HRM Function
Ok I got this mainly for the HRM function, not so much for the pedometer and certainly not for the water/food tracking. So how does the HRM do? In short: it works most of the time, it's decently accurate, but you can't tell whether it's working or not.

What do I mean I can't tell? There are 2 problems:
1. It's very slow to update.
If you take the tracker off your wrist, it still shows the last HR for a while. i.e. it takes up to a minute to tell you that signal is lost. Similarly, when you put it on, it takes a while to lock on to your HR.
This creates 2 problems: 1) it's useless for exercise, where an interval may only be 30 seconds long. 2) it's very hard to find a good position on your wrist to measure HR, due to the slow and unreliable feedback.
Fitbit says it updates every 5 seconds, but I've seen it take longer to update. Now, I'm guessing Fitbit decided it's better to show an outdated reading than no reading. Maybe this happens regularly and they don't want people adjusting the watch all the time. They should make the HRM update as fast as possible (at least once a second) when displaying HR.
2. There's no indication of the signal strength.
I have this very old Casio JP-100W watch that also can measure HR:
From http://www.digital-watch.com/DWL/1work/casio-jp-100w/
This ancient device has something the Charge HR lacks. No, not a continuous time display. When reading HR, the JP-100W has a bar that pulses, like a music equaliser. The length of the bar that fills up shows how good a reading it's getting. Similarly, there are HRM apps for smartphones. These will show a real-time graph, like an ECG. Why is signal strength so important? 1) like above, it gives immediate feedback on which is the best position to measure HR 2) it lets you compare how accurate the reading is, with your pulse. I'm not saying Fitbit needs to display a graph. Only something as simple as making the beating heart on the display beat in sync with your heartbeat. Right now, that animated icon serves no purpose.

The Apple watch is only supposed to measure HR every 10 minutes. I thought this was supposed to be better, but not by much. The only HR data you can see is 5-minute averages. Worse still, you can't export this data.

Software
Ok so I've seen a few reviews that say Fitbit's software is their strong point, which is... odd. Because I find it very inconsistent. While writing this review I am reminded of how thorough and unbiased a private blog can be. Here are the problems:
  • On every graph other than HR - specifically steps, sleep, calories, distance, floors - there's an icon to maximise the graph in the top right. For some reason, HR doesn't have it.
  • The whole software experience feels like HR is an addition, rather than an integral part of the design. Quick, when you think HR, what's the most important graph you want to see? If it's "my HR over the last x hours", Fitbit has no idea what we want. Because they chose to make resting heart rate the primary graph, which is odd, because RHR isn't going to change that much.
  • You can export your data to Excel format from the website! Yay! Except HR isn't included. Did you miss the fact that HRM is possibly your most distinctive feature, Fitbit? You do realise that every other fitness band can measure steps, right? Example threads from their forums:
Export Heartrate
charge HR export does not include HR data
Does NOT export HR info
HR Data Export
Heart Rate Graphs & Data
How can I export HR data to CVS or XLS file?
And the feature request: https://community.fitbit.com/t5/Feature-Requests/Ability-to-export-HR-data/idi-p/794526
It's not a good sign for their development and customer service that some of these threads for such a simple feature were started in January.
  • At last, a problem not related to HR: when you enter the "Friends" section, what do you expect to see first, a list of friends? Not Fitbit, they show you something called "7 Day Steps". Which may be the same, but with step count. Then why is my list of friends under Account > My Name > Friends?
  • You cannot see messages you've sent. Threaded conversations are too advanced or something. (they don't have it)
  • What on Earth is this grid supposed to represent?
Yes, I figured out what it means. It's very "innovative" to use a rolling calendar, where the bottom row is always the current week. And it's "so" intuitive, they don't need any labels!

So, verdict is: with current technology, a very basic, limited (e.g. it's possibly the most inaccurate for HR monitoring during exercise) 24-hour HRM is possible. The sad thing is, its use is hampered by very odd software decisions. If you're looking for one, be sure of the problems first.

Work in progress...

03 June, 2015

Kickstarter Scams

Yeah, we all know about the Kobe beef jerky scam and the massive, persistent Scribble, and there are lists of scam projects out there, but they all only mention suspended or canceled projects and none dare to list the real meat: how many projects took the money and ran, and how much did they escape with? I'm sure these are facts Kickstarter doesn't want made public, and I'm surprised they haven't taken down these scam projects. Now, for the first post, I'm going to be stringent on the criteria and only include definite scams:
  • Successfully funded
  • 0 delivered
  • At least 6 months overdue
  • 3 months with no updates

And I'm going to start with the biggest:
Eyez™ by ZionEyez HD Video Recording Glasses for Facebook 
Raised USD$343,415 on 1 August 2011. Last update 10 April 2012.
I think it's important to distinguish projects that were scams right from the start, from those with good intentions but ran into problems. Looking at the pictures on their campaign page, it's clear they never had a working prototype and they're just showing a bulky pair of sunglasses. This project sold (or rather, was going to sell) sunglasses with a built-in video camera, the cheapest of which was $150 a pair.

Arts for Veterans
Raised USD$2,635 on 10 March 2013. Last update 28 November 2013.
This project wanted to turn military uniforms into paper to raise money?

MD-Pen [Minimal & Durable pen]
Raised USD$14,660 on 9 August 2012. Last update 6 February 2013.
This is odd because it's just an aluminium pen. What's more odd is backers were promised their pen if they backed another pen, the CoCoPen.

Triumvir Pen : A multifunction alloy pen
Raised USD$20,372 on 22 September 2013. Last update 11 January 2014.
You'd never guess pens were so hard to make from the number of pen projects. The lack of updates and manufacturing details in this project don't help with its honesty.

Asylum Playing Cards
Raised USD$25,146 on 1 November 2012. Last update 14 July 2013.
This project is significant because it's the first to have a lawsuit filed against it: Kickstarter fraud: Washington files first consumer protection lawsuit involving crowdfunding This might set precedent for other scams to follow, but so far nothing has come of it 6 months later.
This was just a project for custom-printed playing cards, so no technical challenges, yet they still failed. In the interest the lawsuit generated, it was revealed that the creator didn't even have permission to use the artwork from the owner! For someone who has no qualms about stealing designs, I don't think the creator of this project ever intended to deliver. A scam right from the start.

VACHEN Smart Watch
Raised USD$110,128 on 30 May 2013. Last update 5 December 2013.
Abrupt silence. No explanation of what went wrong, how the money was spent. It's as though the creators died. Or took off.

Some Delivered

The previous criteria were extremely strict. Here are some "honourable mentions" also scams, but managed to deliver some broken products.

The Limb.al
A stiff phone cable that was supposed to also work as a mount. Actually a repackaged product.

Apollo AP-1 Tactical Flashlight

Keylet
A key + wallet that was poor quality and only delivered a few units.

CST-01
Raised a whopping $1,026,292 from 7,658 backers on 23 February 2013
E-ink curved metal band watch. I can't believe they actually managed to make a few and this wasn't a scam from the start. This project is recently under attention because the creators say they've run out of money, yield was lower than expected, and each unit will cost $300 - compared to the most expensive $129 pledge. Or is that $300 from this point, in addition to the million they've spent? People are debating whether they're being truthful or just absolving responsibility.

Modulus pen and stylus
I like this project because even while it was raising money, the creator had an argument in the comments. During manufacturing, they changed specs without consulting anybody. Last of all, they blamed empty envelopes on the postal service and lots of people didn't even receive the empty envelopes. The cherry on the cake is the creator has deleted their account.

Alpha - World's Best Wallet
It's 2 aluminium plates and an elastic band. Just like the zillions of other minimalist wallets out there. Yet somehow this managed to screw it up with crappy design + poor quality + deviating from promised + of course, not delivering all products.

Magic Phone Stand
A stiff phone cable that was supposed to be able to support the phone as a stand. I can't tell if they've delivered any products. With the last update in January 2015 but comments as recent as May, the creators seem to have forgotten how to post updates.

BONUS

As a bonus to you: projects that still claim to be working hard, but are obviously scams. You must have heard of the first 3...

The Dragonfly Futurefön
Raised USD$687,341, and has the cheek (both them and Indiegogo) to be on InDemand (continue to accept orders)
An amazing phone/laptop/tablet thing with dual hinged screens and a hinged keyboard. No point quoting the specs because they're all made up anyway.

Ritot
Raised a staggering USD$1,657,585 and also on InDemand!
A projection watch. Never mind the defying-the-laws-of-physics low angle projection and projecting darkness, or the fact that all their campaign images are renderings or photoshopped images (i.e. they don't have the simplest prototype). There are critiques out there of their electrical circuits showing they really have no idea what they're doing.

Arist
Raised USD$845,139
Oh man, where to start with this one. Allegations of a "backer party" where people backed and were refunded in cash to drive up rankings and inflate backer numbers. Legal threats against whistleblowers. Just look http://aristscam.com/

Moment Smartwatch
Raised USD$447,900
This project looks just as impossible as Ritot and CST-01, and raised almost half a million dollars, yet somehow people don't mention it.

Tango Super PC
The fact that they had 2 campaigns on both KS and IGG should have raised flags. A pocket-sized computer that claimed to be able to run full Windows (not RT or some hamstrung version)

MOTA SmartRing
Yet another project on both crowdfunding platforms. Is this not already a massive red flag, without promising something impossible with today's technology?

AMPY: Power your devices from your motion
Charge your phone by walking! Free energy! See why it won't work, or at best, be really really disappointing: http://drop-kicker.com/2014/11/ampy-and-juse/ 30 minutes of running to charge an iPhone 6 by 2.5%! Reading their statements gives the impression they're leaning towards intentionally misleading, rather than well-intentioned with no grasp of physics.

02 June, 2015

Continuous Heart Rate Monitors

Questions about Jawbone Up

Activity / fitness monitors are exploding in popularity, but measuring HR isn't a standard feature yet. Where available, it doesn't work perfectly, and of the products that can measure HR, few are actually meant to measure continuously. There seem to be 2 methods: green light and ECG. Hopefully the release of the Apple Watch means they're maturing somewhat. Apple Watch also shows the smartwatch and fitness tracker categories might merge. This post is to focus on those meant to measure continuously, including while sleeping.

Continuous, 24-hour
Fitbit - Charge HR, Surge. These are designed to continuously measure your HR. The Charge HR is the smaller one with a tiny OLED screen that's more like a fitness band. Charge HR - 5 day battery life, splash water resistance, auto sleep mode. Only smartwatch capability is caller ID. Non-replaceable strap.

Basis - Peak. Watch sized and shaped. 5 ATM water resistance. 4 day battery life.

Apple - Watch. "Continuous" recording every 10 minutes. No sleep tracking. Too big to wear to sleep anyway.

Microsoft - Band. Looks like it's trying to copy compete with Apple. It's more like a smartwatch with health features. Has a colour screen. In addition to HRM and sleep tracking (is it auto?) it's got GPS and a UV monitor. 2 day battery life, splash water resistance.

Jawbone - UP3. They seem to be having manufacturing difficulties.

Mio - Fuse. 7 day battery life (only 11-13 hours with continuous HRM), 3 ATM water resistance, NO SLEEP TRACKING.

Exercise Only / Manual Measurements
LifeTrak - all their models measure ECG heart rate on demand. Some have sleep monitoring. Large black and white LCD screen. Interesting feature is 1-year battery life with a non-rechargeable battery. It only measures heart rate when you ask it to, but the important question is what does it do with the data? Does it store it? How much can it store? Are the times logged as well? Can you export it?

Bluetooth chest strap e.g. Polar H7. The most accurate portable HR measurement method. Needs a smartphone and can't be worn for 24 hours, I think.

06 May, 2015

Thinkware X300 Problems

dash cam cams dashcam dashcams dashboard camera cameras recorder video recorders driving black box boxes blackbox blackboxes
Main post

I'm branching out the problems in this post because I have to keep editing it.

Battery Life
Maybe my car's start-stop system keeps the battery with minimal charge, but it doesn't even have the power to last through the night now. I'm wondering whether the cut-off voltage is accurate, because I set it to 12.1 V but the lowest I've seen in recordings is 12.3 V.

Hmm I was wondering what's the minimum voltage I can set it to and the car will still start. I heard it was 11.8 - 11.9 V, but I found this good site: https://dashcamtalk.com/battery-discharge-prevention/ Apparently 12.0 V is already 50% discharged, and deep cycling is bad for your battery! You only want to discharge to 80%, which is about 12.2 V!

Restarts / Resets
  1. Sometimes, when you start the car, it will startup, then it will reboot itself. I've checked - it doesn't record anything between the 2 startups. So you miss 2 startup times' and more worth of recording.
  2. MOST IRRITATINGLY, sometimes when you start it, it will have reverted to factory settings - GMT -8, sound recording on etc. Fortunately my videos are still there. But it will have changed to partition type A, meaning you have to format your card if you want to change it to your setting. (huh? It can change the partition type by itself to A without formatting and keeping my videos? Why can't it change it when I want then?)

My current theory is that any card gets corrupted when used for too long without formatting, which is what the workshop says. When corrupted, the restart + settings reset problems occur, and they occur together. Here are some instances - to look for a pattern:
  • 32GB: Formatted. 16th day restart and reset.
  • 16GB: Formatted. 6th day restart and reset. Nothing recorded after first startup. Hey when you turn sound recording off, it takes effect immediately! i.e. the sound in the video just stops.
  • 32GB: Formatted and set settings on PC using .exe on card. When inserted and started up, device formatted card again automatically. Settings preserved. Card stored on 21st day, no problems.
  • 16 GB: Formatted and set settings on PC using .exe on card. When inserted and started up, device formatted card again automatically. Settings preserved. This time, I turned motion detection recording on. 19th day restart and reset. Nothing recorded after first start.
  • 32 GB: Set settings on PC, device formatted it by itself on first use, settings preserved. 16th day restart NO reset. Hmm so they don't always occur together. 22nd day restart again. 23rd day restart again. Card stored.
  • 16 GB: Set settings and formatted using device on 28 Jul.
Hopefully formatting the card regularly will avoid this.

microSD card tests
Initially, I thought these problems were caused by my SanDisk Ultra 32 GB microSD card (30 MB/s, SDSDQUA-032G-U46A from Amazon), so I did some tests. But I found out they appear with Thinkware's card too.

Thinkware said their 32 GB cards are S$90. I ain't paying that. They also said their cards are faster than most Class 10 cards. I tested both cards with SpeedOut 0.5 (removable drive tester, needs administrator privileges, said to work at a low level so independent of file system):
SanDisk Ultra 30MB/s: Read 29.274 MB/s | Write 13.243 MB/s
Thinkware: Read 15.827 MB/s | Write 10.792 MB/s

Update: Alright, I heard IOPS/random timings are more important so I'm running more tests. Using CrystalDiskMark 3.0.4 x64. I'm not sure what settings to use so I chose 4 passes, 100 MB, random 4kb, Queue Depth = 1.
SanDisk Ultra 30MB/s: Read 3.099 MB/s (756.7 IOPS) | Write 0.696 MB/s (170 IOPS)
Thinkware: Read 2.667 MB/s (651.1 IOPS) | Write 0.009 MB/s (2.2 IOPS)
So the SanDisk is faster in every test.

06 April, 2015

Tweet: Would You Like To Save Changes?

Tweet - I'm starting a new type of one-liner style posts, like tweets. Enables faster comments without having to wait for a full post.
User Interface - I'm about to comment how technology has come so far, yet UI (and battery technology) remains so so very far behind. Seriously, phones have more processing power than computers that ran Windows XP yet they struggle to accurately select text?

Here's an idea, instead of just asking people if they would like to save changes when quitting Word or Excel, how about actually showing what the changes are? Most of the time it's just because you printed it. It's stupid how I can't give Word 2 versions of the same file and have it show me what the differences are. This is trivially easy, developers. No, instead you have to "track changes" while you edit. Has nobody thought of this before?

Also on UI:
  • Long ago, links on websites used to be in blue. A bit boring, but definitely more practical than now where links are hidden within normal text. I'm talking about usernames and times being links. Did you know times on Facebook take you to a direct link to the post? Did you know "edited" takes you to previous versions of a post? More than once I've considered tabbing through a webpage to find the links.
  • Controls that only appear when you mouse over them are retarded. How do they expect you to discover them?
  • As is putting links at the bottom of auto-scroll webpages. Lots of sites now, they aren't organised into pages. When you reach the bottom, it automatically loads more, making the page longer. Example: Google image search. Makes remembering the location of things impossible but whatever. What's absolutely brainless and shows no planning is putting links at the bottom. So you scroll all the way down, see "help" "API" "settings", and before you can click on anything, the page loads and the links are pushed down. How on earth are you supposed to click on those links? Facebook used to do this but at least they've improved.
Ok this went on for longer than I expected for a tweet.

06 March, 2015

Remax Glass Screen Protector

I finally tried out a tempered glass screen protector, by Remax. I didn't take a picture of it, but the thick cardboard packaging says 9H and 0.1 (probably thickness). I was actually already using it in my iPhone 6 Plus post, but didn't mention it. Minor dislike: in the iPhone 6 Plus post, you can see it doesn't completely surround the Home button, probably because it has to maintain a gap from the edge for varying case designs.
Previous post on glass screen protectors

It's actually quite good. As a screen protector, I'd say it's even the best screen protector I've used, for these reasons:
  • It's HIGHLY scratch resistant. Meaning until I removed it, it looked as good as new.
  • It's also easy to clean / dirt resistant. I don't know if they put a coating or glass is like that. It repelled fingerprints so much better than PET screen protectors. Most of the time when I took it out of my pocket it was already clean.
  • It felt great and smooth. Probably how the naked screen feels.
No wonder these are getting so popular. Regarding application, I didn't want to risk $30 so I let the shop do it. It looked the same as plastic screen protectors, less flexible but it can still be bent slightly. Probably can't do the: use tape to lift a corner to remove dust trick.

The MAJOR problem was, it only lasted 2 months:
One day I discovered this chip on one of the edges (this is the screen protector after taking it out). It was flaking glass powder. It didn't seem dangerous, but you don't want this near your face or scratching your screen, so I replaced it. So - it doesn't shatter once it's damaged. Is it really tempered glass?

When removing it, the chip was a weak point and it cracked. Still didn't shatter.

Now, these are great and I'd love to continue using them, but $30 every 2 months is too expensive. PET screen protectors cost 1/20 to 1/10 the price and I'll live with the dirty screen and replace them more often if I have to.

01 March, 2015

Shangri-La's Line Buffet

The Line Buffet is one of the more famous and expensive buffets in Singapore. It's even more expensive than Mandarin Oriental's MELT. I finally had a chance to check it out and this is an overdue post.
Right off, one thing I didn't like was they charge extra for drinks.


I can't remember exactly what the food was like. I think it was pretty good, but not that much better than MELT's.

Quinny Zapp Xtra And Maxi-Cosi Cabriofix

I had a hard time finding a stroller and car seat online, so this should help someone. WHY DON'T THEY JUST PUT WHAT STROLLER WORKS WITH WHAT SEAT?

Option 1: Mothercare Xpedior
This is a pretty cheap option that I think comes with a car seat, wheel chassis and pram seat (they need to come up with standardised names for these). I think both the car and pram seats fit on the wheel chassis. It's cheap for the whole set, but people say it doesn't last long.

Quinny Zapp Xtra
I always thought Baby Jogger was one of the most expensive strollers, but I found out Quinny is more expensive. Hmm. Anyway, Zapp is their line of 3-wheeled strollers. This is the Zapp Xtra Kenson special edition:
The fabric seat is removable and can be placed facing forwards (3 recline positions) or backwards (2 recline positions). I think in the Zapp Xtra 2 model it can be folded in half. One thing I don't like about the Zapp is it's a bit bulky and difficult to fold. It needs 2 hands and several steps, and even after folding it's still pretty big. When folded it can't stand upright or be wheeled, so you have to carry it.

It comes with the adaptors that let you fit the Maxi-Cosi Cabriofix onto it (do any other car seats fit? Are these brands cooperating?) which is good because as it is, the Zapp Xtra won't seat newborns, so you have to use the Cabriofix until they're 6 months old, or get the "seat reducer". Another advantage is if your baby is sleeping in the car seat, you can transfer the whole seat without having to wake your baby to take him out. So if you're looking for a stroller/car seat solution, you can consider this.

TEC P-7

The P-7s are pocket clips made by TEC Accessories, designed to enable you to dangle your keychain from the opening of your pocket, instead of clumping at the bottom. Sometimes referred to as P7.
They're about USD$10 each, which seems rather expensive to do something a paperclip could. There are also several copies on eBay. I've tried the knockoffs, now I'm comparing to see if they're worth the money.

Left - right: original P-7, P-7 knockoff, P-7 knockoff by EDCgear.

First off, EDCgear's version is no good. It's too stiff and difficult to clip on and off. Its advantage is it has holes on both sides, so you can clip it either way. Also, its holes are bigger so you can attach bigger split rings to it. And since it's so stiff, you don't have to worry about deforming it (it's just really hard to use).

The P-7 knockoff looks exactly like the real thing. You can distinguish it from the EDCgear by its brushed surface, while the EDCgear one has a shiny surface. This one works pretty well.

Original (left) and knockoff compared. The original has a much smoother bend and smoothed edges. It looks like it's been tumbled. The gap on the knockoff wasn't really this wide; I distorted it a bit when I tried to clip it to my belt.

Both have some spring, but they feel like they'll deform if you bend them too much. I feel flexibility is a key requirement of such pocket clips, yet I haven't seen a single one with good spring. The P-7 claims to be made of spring steel. Conclusion: there are some differences in the real P-7, but I haven't found justification for the price, especially since it's not very springy.

DIY alternatives: I thought of using a cap from a nice pen.
Commercial alternatives: although the P-7 seems expensive, it's actually one of the cheapest (branded) clips out there. See the Scout hook and GambleMade Mini-D, both Kickstarter projects. None of these appear to have any spring. Looks like proper springiness is hard to design/manufacture, but without it, how do these justify their prices?

Update 18 May 2015
After using it for a while, I can say the original P-7 has a nice finish (probably bead-blasted) with smoothed edges and feels solid in the hand, so it's slightly better than the knockoff. However, it also lacks proper spring:
These are 2 P-7s. The bottom one is slightly used, and the top one - I didn't even clip it to a belt, I only used it on a thicker pair of pants and now it's deformed and loose. Disappointing. Still searching for a clip/dangler with proper spring. Seriously? How are these manufacturers expecting people to use their products? Just hang them on your pocket? I'm just looking for something like this:
Which costs $1, yet people are selling things that cost 10-50 TIMES as much, yet don't work as well?

Summary of clips without spring:
  • TTpockeTTools TT-Capper - none whatsoever
  • P-7 - very little
  • Scout Hook
  • KeyStiK
  • GambleMade's - from what I hear, haven't tested it

With spring:
  • Munroe's - at least the EDCgear version has, I'm not sure about the original

Clips to test:
  • Cogent HangKey

This is just ridiculous. People are paying way too much for products with poor designs that don't even work. A good dangler will be able to hang on to a single sheet of paper, and not deform after clipping onto a belt - this is a common and reasonable use. And it's not too difficult - the EDCgear Munroe dangler can do this for ten bucks. These makers should work on getting their basic functionality right before adding all the bells and whistles.

07 February, 2015

Safety Razors

Safety razors seem to be making a comeback. I've thought about using one, and even tried a cheap one, but there are several hidden costs and inconveniences that I want to point out.

First, some definitions. I guess "safety razor" can refer to any shaver that makes it difficult to cut yourself, but I'm specifically talking about the older type, like this:
Where the blades are thin pieces of metal, usually double-sided, unlike those encased in plastic. I call those "cartridge razors" - e.g. Mach 3, Fusion.

Claimed advantages of safety razors:
  • Cheaper
  • Recyclable blades
  • Less irritation
  • Closer shave

Ok here's the reality:
Cheaper
Most people will compare by saying these blades are like $0.50, compared to $5.00 for a branded razor cartridge. True. It's still true after you factor in the upfront cost - good (and you need good, because a lot more depends on the razor here) razors, a stand, and a brush might cost $100, depending on how much you want to spend. But the difference narrows when you consider the ongoing costs - soaps and aftershave. The thing is, these razors need a good lather to work. Nobody shaves dry with these. And good soaps are expensive. So you have to stick with it for longer than you think to break even.

Recyclable/environmentally friendly
IN THEORY, the blades are recyclable, since they're all metal. In practice, look at what people have to do with their old blades. I'm not saying they just don't recycle them. They even need to take special precautions to dispose them. Because these blades aren't "safety" out of the razor. Rusty, used razor blades are hazardous. So people put them in old cans, containers, stuff them into holes in the wall (seriously). Also, almost all household plastics are recyclable, but how much actually gets recycled? Are there recycling facilities for razor blades in your country? The bottom line is, you're not going to recycle these blades, and you need to think carefully about what you're going to do with them if you have children in your house.

Less irritation/closer shave
I think this depends a lot on individuals, skin texture, hair coarseness, etc. I'll just point out this is a claimed advantage of cartridge razors as well. Again, in theory, with the huge variety of razors and blades out there, you should be able to find one that works better than a cartridge razor for you. Ok you can get a sampler blade pack with maybe 10 brands of blades. But how much are you going to spend to find the right razor? And are you going to try each razor with each blade?

Time
I haven't seen anybody say safety razors are faster than cartridge. And they're slow. There's more preparation to be done. You have to go slow. What you save in money, you may be losing in time.

18 January, 2015

ICA's SAVE

When using Singapore's Immigration & Checkpoints Authority's Submission of Application for Visa Electronically system, I had a funny problem. After configuring Internet Explorer as instructed, on the page that says "Welcome to SAVE This facility allows you to submit a visa application online through your local contact.", after clicking on "Proceed to Submit", it briefly says "redirecting to SingPass" before stopping on a blank page.

I found this post: Strange problem of Singapore ICA’s SAVE system that said the problem was adding things to the trusted sites. I removed the psi and enets sites and it still didn't work. I removed, I think, singpass services and it works! So if you're facing the same problem, try it. Not sure how it affects the rest of the application, though.

Oh, and it looks like you have to apply 30 days or nearer to your intended arrival date. Processing time is supposed to be one working day, and they seem to give a visa starting from the approval date, so you can arrive earlier than you intend to.

14 January, 2015

Tools' Hardnesses

Relative hardnesses of some tools:
  • EDCgear's Munroe mega dangler clone: 450
  • Boker Vox Access Tool: 650
  • Another mega dangler clone: 680
  • EDCgear curved prybar: 1000
  • Leatherman Brewzer clone: 880 

  • Wrench That Fits 2.0: 441

The action can't be completed because the file is open in Firefox

Recently I've been getting stuck with the above message when trying to delete files, after uploading them. Only started happening after updating my Firefox to 34.0.5. Happens when I upload to Picasa Web Albums or Google Drive. At least the problem goes away when I close Firefox, but it's still troublesome to restart Firefox so I'm using Chrome to upload files for now.

11 January, 2015

Thinkware X300

Alright, I'm starting this post before fully testing out this recorder, because the beginning is when I have the most to say. Ok preliminary stuff. Thinkware is also known as Inavi. There are very few reviews of this by end-users. Keyword stuffing: dash cam cams dashcam dashboard camera cameras recorder video recorders driving black box boxes blackbox blackboxes (this isn't for search engines, it's for me to find this post)


How does this compare with what I was looking for?
  • Wide-angle. Check.
  • Low-light. No particular mentioning of this, some say its low-light performance is not very good.
  • Front and back. Check.
  • Crash protection. Check. It actually does this very well. It has internal memory, which you can order it to copy to the card. It even has a supercapacitor (like a battery, but not) to record for a while after power is interrupted!
  • Heat-resistant. Check. Said to be the most heat-resistant brand, more than Blackvue. Has a temperature sensor.
  • Motion-detection. Check. Can be wired directly to the battery and can be set to turn off when battery voltage drops to a certain voltage.
  • Inconspicuous. Not really, but at least the white LED around the lens can be turned off. The 2 small LEDs on the LCD side can't be turned off.
  • No LCD screen. I actually changed my mind on this and wanted an LCD screen. 1. Check camera angle, especially since camera is removable. 2. Change settings. So this was what I wanted.
  • Removable. Check, but only the front camera.
  • Sound recording can be disabled. Check.
  • Uninstallable. Check, or so I heard.
  • Time and date stamp. Check. Can't be turned off.
  • Does not interfere with sensors. Check, so far.
  • Able to format memory cards. Check. Not only check, they say this is something you need to do regularly.

Note: the X300's rear camera is the BCH-500. The F550's is the BCH-350. F550 is similar in specs but has GPS and no LCD screen. Got front and rear installed for S$700.

Installation was pretty simple, as in the cameras can only angle up and down, so you have to install the lens in the centre of the vehicle. You don't have much choice over where to install it. I still got professional installation because of the vehicle power connection.

Usage: it's pretty easy to use, and I think most people can figure it out without the manual. There are basic settings like resolution, frame rate, sensitivity. Automatic recording is divided into 4 types:
  • While driving: continuous and impact
  • While parked: motion detection and impact
There's also manual recording and photos.

Casual comments:
  • It seems to be fixed-focus, not autofocus.
  • Videos are automatically divided into 1 minute files. Makes watching more difficult, but keeping only important files easy. I haven't checked if there's any gap in time between files.

Some things I don't like so far:
  • it takes really long to start up and change modes
  • the oddest thing is you have to partition the memory card into specific sections, and you can only choose from 3 partition schemes:
If you're planning to record parking, you'll pretty much have to use scheme C, which has the most for parking motion. The thing is, once a category is used up, it'll overwrite older files in that category, even if the rest of the card is empty. Example: you park and put in a 32 GB card. Once it records 15% of 32 GB of motion, it'll record over previous parking files, even though the card is 85% empty.

I did some measurements for a 32 GB card:
  • Parking motion detection. HD front and back, 15 FPS, it recorded 4.23 GB or about 52 minutes.
  • Parking motion. HD front and D1 back, 15 FPS (basically lowest quality). 4.22 GB or about 1 hour 4 minutes.
  • Continuous (driving) recording, full HD front and HD back, it recorded 11.1 GB or 1 hour 45 minutes (may not be full).
Maybe I park in really busy areas, but for motion detection I was able to cover about 8 hours, i.e. there was 1 hour of motion in 8 hours.

I specifically got the camera wired to my battery and it can only record max about 1 hour 10 minutes of motion :\ 32 GB is the max card size it supports. There should be a way to manually partition it, or better still, put continuous and motion detection in one category and impacts in another category.

It displays your battery voltage on the screen! I still can't figure out how it detects when your car is on, because it can tell when I turn on electrical power without starting the engine. Maybe:
  • If voltage drops from 14 - 12 V, switch to parking mode after 1+ minute
  • If voltage dips slightly from 12 V, switch to driving mode
  • If voltage rises from 12 - 14 V, switch to driving mode
Oh, you can't switch between these 2 modes yourself. I'm just wondering, for a car that has start-stop, could it switch to parking mode when your car is stopped? There's a delay of 1+ minute before it switches modes, and presumably if you stop for longer than that it'll think you're parked.

Settings are stored on the card. Latest conclusion: there's a small program on the card that lets you change the camera's settings on any computer, without installing anything. Necessary for camera models without screens, but still useful for this. The screenshot above is from that program.

Alternatives
Before this, I was thinking of getting a GoPro, which are about $300-400 and should have similar video quality. In the end I didn't because:
  • They're about the same price (although you can use the GoPro for other things)
  • You need to remove the GoPro when you park
  • If you remove the GoPro, how are you going to adjust the angle when you put it back? It doesn't have a screen, although you can buy one.
  • Am I going to charge the GoPro every day?
  • If you charge it every day, the battery won't last very long
  • The main reason was, reviews on Amazon say the GoPros have very buggy software. They restart or only record for a few minutes or flat out don't work.

This is what the interface looks like. 3 shortcuts on the left to: sound recording, manual recording and picture taking. About Device tells you the memory status and some basic explanations.

Problems

Problems are listed here, so I don't have to keep checking I didn't change anything else when I edit this post.

Stick-On Card Pouches

There aren't many choices for phone cases with card storage, which is odd because there's a demand for them - my posts on such cases are some of the most popular posts on this site. An alternative is to get a normal case, and get a stick on pouch / wallet / pocket. The aim of this post is to collect such pouches I've come across.

First, there's the Sinji Pouch (not shinji), by Sinjimoru. First mentioned in iPhone 5 Card Cases. I think I've bought one, but can't find it right now. These pouches are highly elastic and can hold other things like earphones and even small bottles (!) I think they're made of Spandex/Lycra (just found out these 2 are the same material!)
Ok yup, I found mine. Obviously, haven't used it yet:
They have a few different models and I'm not sure what the differences are.

KAPOTAS - The Dual Purpose Wallet with Re-Usable Backing
Made of leather, works alone or sticks to phones with micro-suction acrylic foam.

The PigiBak: Simply a better way to carry your stuff. 
Looks similar to the Sinji pouch. They say this is made of Lycra Spandex.

08 January, 2015

Things In 2015

January
Islamic gunmen attack office of French magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12. They escape and take a hostage in a printing complex. Separately, another gunman kills a policewoman and takes hostages in a supermarket. Eventually, all gunmen are killed.
Mr Ello Ed Mundsel Bello, a nurse at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, insults Singaporeans, claims his Facebook account was hacked, fired. So basically Anton Casey again.
Dead rat and rat droppings found in 5 food outlets in Marina Square
Korean boy band B1A4 accused of hugging 2 girls during their concert in Malaysia, then the girls are threatened with arrest after finding out they did it willingly
Husband and wife dead, maid injured after domestic row

February
UMNO minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob asks Malay consumers to boycott Chinese businesses. It goes down about how you'd expect.
3 people arrested for disorderly behaviour during Thaipusam
TransAsia Airways flight GE235 crashes into a river shortly after takeoff on 4 February
Debate erupts over the colour of this dress. Not big news, but it's a good time to think about colour perception. From someone who bought a spectroscope.
http://xkcd.com/1492/

March
Family attacked in their home in Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia. Father and son tie up the attacker, who dies. Initially said father and son might be charged with murder, then reduced.
Lots of MRT breakdowns
Death of Lee Kwan Yew. A week of national mourning for Singapore. Queue to pay final respects reaches 10 hours despite being open 24 hours.
Germanwings flight 9525 crashes in the French Alps, killing all 150 on board. Copilot is suspected of deliberately locking the pilot out of the cockpit and crashing the plane.
Jeremy Clarkson fired from Top Gear for punching a producer (their word: "fracas")

April
South Carolina police officer Michael Slager shoots 50-year-old unarmed Walter Scott 8 times in the back and kills him as he runs away. Officer charged with murder.
Movie (company?) Dallas Buyers Club forces Singaporean ISPs to release information about people who downloaded the movie.
South Korean police use force against people who want to remember the ferry disaster last year.
 Riots in Baltimore

June
Same-sex marriage legalised throughout the U.S.
Coloured powder, similar to that used for the "Color Run", catches fire when used in a water park in Taiwan. Almost 500 people injured, with 5 deaths.

end