15 December, 2014

Swype On iOS 8

I'll be frank - custom keyboards was the only thing I was looking forward to on iOS 8, and they botched this up. iOS 8 is a disappointment so far. I mean, these are the issues not relating to the custom keyboards:
  1. Apple backpedaled and killed Photo Stream and Camera Roll, then they backpedaled again and restored Camera Roll in 8.1
  2. Annoying reminders that mobile data is turned off for certain apps
  3. App Store - STILL no sorting or filtering
  4. For no reason, writing reviews in the App Store has a huge font
  5. Only cursory, token support for adjusting text size, even in the built-in apps. http://lowvisionrants.com/2013/12/26/where-ios-7s-dynamic-type-works-and-where-it-fails/
  6. SMS - swiping the notification from the Lock Screen or tapping it in Notification Center used to bring you to the Messages app, now this is hit-and-miss
  7. Did they really create an unremovable app to show me 19 random tips? Apple products have never had good, thorough manuals. I suspect it's because they expect their products to be "intuitive". Seems very stupid to add features and not tell people about them, but whatever. Looks like too many of their features are going unnoticed, so they created the Tips app. But it's of no use and can't be removed.
Apple has lost their famous attention to detail, they can't get their basics right and they're losing ground.

Anyway, I was glad to have more choices for keyboards, because phones have come a long way, but text input is way waay behind. I thought Swype would be much much better, but there are some caveats:
  • You can only use one hand.
  • You have to get the word right in one try. You can't break up long words. This is especially a problem if you're having sensitivity issues or accidentally move out of the keyboard area.
  • You can't use the iOS shortcuts. You can't use any custom shortcuts whatsoever.
  • Punctuation is a pain
  • The first version had some really really stupid things, like asking me to add single numbers to my dictionary. I know this is their first time on iOS, but they've been on Android for years now, so I expect more than a beta-level development.
The net result is that Swype's benefit is minimal to nonexistent. Limiting yourself to only one hand already cuts speed by about 50%, and Swype definitely isn't 200% as fast as the iOS keyboard.

Since it looks like they still have no idea how to make a user-friendly keyboard, I'm putting this here for them:
  1. Always have an undo option
  2. TELL PEOPLE WHEN YOU'RE GOING TO REPLACE WHAT THEY TYPE. It's really obvious that there are 2 distinct situations 1) the keyboard suggests a word, but leaves what you type 2) the keyboard will replace what you type with their suggestion. I don't know why they don't make this clear.
  3. BE CONSISTENT - if I type some letters and it suggests a word, if I type more letters of that word, THE SUGGESTION SHOULD NOT CHANGE. If I type other letters then remove them, THE SUGGESTION SHOULD COME BACK.
  4. I'm looking at you iOS - if you have a space above the keyboard for suggestions, STICK TO IT. Don't suggest words at the cursor anymore. Don't have suggestions all over the page.

I typed "leave early" and iOS suggested "peace early". This is some rage-inducing programming right here. Seriously? Are they even trying?

11 December, 2014

PayPal Address History

When buying things and paying with PayPal, most commonly on eBay but also used by small-time sellers, PayPal presents you with a list of your recently-used addresses. It's meant for convenience, but mine became annoying when the list grew longer and longer, with repeated entries. There's no way to clear this list. Examples of people asking this:
I must emphasise that these addresses are NOT in my address book. They're just addresses I've used God knows how long ago, that PayPal still keeps. They're a problem because:
  1. Security issue if someone gains access to your account
  2. High chance of sending things to the wrong address
  3. Many repeated entries
It's puzzling why PP decides to keep these forever. Not expecting much, I sent PayPal a message. If enough people make a fuss, maybe they'll change this odd decision. I was also considering opening a new PP account just because of this. They auto-replied with an email:
Below this section, it says "If these do not answer your question, please reply to this email with as much information as possible." So I replied and expected more generic replies from PP.

Then, a few days later, I got a call from a +60 phone number. I didn't want to answer it at first. When they said they were from PayPal, I was suspicious, because this is a common tactic by scams. I was careful not to reveal any more personal information. They only asked for my email address and real name. Amazingly, they understood my problem! More amazingly, they said they would delete the old addresses (and read a few of them to verify)! I got this email from them:
During the call, they said they would also give me $10 credit!! I received 2 follow-up emails from them, the one above and this one:
I have since spent the credit so I can confirm this is for real. However, I haven't checked to see if the addresses are really gone.

Now, I had a slightly bad opinion of PayPal at first, and this experience gave me more confidence in them. Not only were they able to fix my problem without me having to explain it repeatedly, they even gave me credit! I'm not saying they'll do this for everyone (they probably saw how much I spent on PayPal), but if you have lots of old addresses you want to get rid of, you could try emailing them.

07 December, 2014

Ace Of Base

I heard this song on the radio. The chorus went something like "don't turn around". Hmm, that sounds a lot like another song, I think it goes "all that she wants". Searched for the second song. Yup, "All That She Wants" is a 1993 song by Ace Of Base. So did don't turn around copy / was inspired by / is a tribute to All That She Wants? Searched for it, turns out Don't Turn Around came out first, in 1992, also by Ace Of Base! I prefer All That She Wants. Hmm do all their songs sound like that? I know there's a band whose songs all start with a long, drawn-out female voice: "hooooowwww caaaaann yoooooouuuu sseeeeee....."

New songs inspired by old:
"Pump It", Black Eyed Peas - Misirlou

20 November, 2014

Panasonic NN-DS592B Combination Microwave Oven

I bought this oven, thinking it could replace several kitchen appliances: conventional (normal, baking) oven, toaster, steamer and microwave. Unfortunately I don't recommend it as it's ridiculously difficult to use. At first I thought I was growing old when I couldn't understand the manual. Now, having tried to use the oven, I found out it's not me. I also have a Panasonic fridge and the manual is similarly hard to understand / missing information, so maybe Panasonic just isn't good at writing manuals. A pity, because I was quite happy with their TV.

Ok so what's so hard to use about it?
  1. It has many modes (that's fine, that's why I bought it), but it doesn't clearly state what kinds of heating each mode uses. e.g. does combination use microwaves? Does double-grill use microwaves? (answer: yes and yes) This is important, because you need to know whether you can use metal in such modes.
  2. You'd think all the modes are equivalent, but for some reason they're spread out all over the controls and manual. I mean, some are above the round knob and some are below.
  3. It comes with no less than FOUR trays, TWO of which can only be used in ONLY ONE MODE EACH. The LCD even has an indicator which tray to use, but the icons all look similar. It also has a reference table showing which trays and modes are compatible.
This is way beyond what you can expect the average household to learn.

For example, I was trying to grill a sausage. So I put aluminium foil on the double-grill tray and used the double-grill mode. Does the double-grill use microwaves? See above. "Hmm, does my sausage contain glitter?" "No? It's sparking, then"

Ok fine, switch to the normal, conventional oven mode. This should be fine, right? What's that plasticky smell? Check the reference table. THE DOUBLE-GRILL TRAY IS ONLY FOR THE DOUBLE-GRILL MODE! Why? BECAUSE THE BOTTOM OF THE TRAY HAS PLASTIC! (Aside: I think the double-grill mode uses the heating element to cook from the top, and the tray absorbs microwaves to cook from the bottom, because it has no bottom heating element)

18 November, 2014

AmazonGlobal's Free Shipping

First post about Amazon's international shipping

I can't figure out why shipping is charged for some products, even though they seem to be eligible for free shipping. The conditions seem to be:
  • Larger than 18" × 14" × 8"
  • Heavier than 20 lbs
  • If the item says it has to be shipped separately (see the right side of the picture below)

I was trying to buy the product above. It wasn't too big or heavy, so I'm guessing it's the "ship separately" clause that disqualifies it.

If an item meets these conditions, shipping will be charged on THE WHOLE ORDER, which isn't very good programming. i.e. if I have an eligible USD125 order with free shipping and then add an ineligible product, I now have to pay shipping for the original order AND the new product, instead of only the new product as I'd expect. The solution is to break it into 2 orders.

More questions:
  • Are products sold by other sellers (fulfilled by Amazon) also eligible for free global shipping? Can they at least use Amazon's international shipping prices? So far the answers seem to be no.
  • You know how some sites earn money by having a link to Amazon, and Amazon pays them a commission when you buy things from that link? Amazon also has a charity, Smile, that works in a similar way. When you start shopping from the Amazon Smile page, Amazon donates some money you spend to charity. How does this work? Does Amazon keep track of when you add every item to your cart and who to donate to? Or is the donation for the entire cart?
  • Is there any way to tell which seller you're buying from when looking at your cart? Sellers make a huge difference in delivery, shipping, reliability and Amazon is either nonchalant about telling or deliberately obscuring this information. I'm leaning towards the latter.
end

07 November, 2014

Fenix UC35

Fenix has released the UC35 torch, which is very similar to my UC40UE. I'm not sure if it's meant to replace the UC40UE.

Similarities
  • Same Cree XM-L2 U2 "emitter" (bulb)
  • 960 lumens
  • Similar throw distances
  • Power sources: 18650, CR123A

Differences
  • The major difference is the UC35 can charge any 18650 battery. While the UC40UE can run off any 18650 battery, it can only charge its own double-ended battery. (not sure how "any" is "any" battery, i.e. protected batteries)
  • Because of the wider range of batteries it charges, there are more charging protections.
  • UC35 has another low level, 50 lumens. Other levels are shifted up. However its lowest is also raised to 14 lumens, which I think is actually LESS useful than the UC40UE's of 10.
  • Charging port is moved to the side
  • UC35 has a pocket clip?
  • It now has dual switches, so it has momentary on.

05 November, 2014

Data In StarHub's Prepaid Top Up Form

I tried to top up my StarHub prepaid mobile account online and the form already had this data:
mihai.ilincescu@mi-pay.com
Ovidiu
Birladeanu
Opa opa
Doesn't seem like a real person. I'm just wondering if this is someone's data leaked, or just a placeholder like lorem ipsum? Because long ago, Neopets had a bug where the login fields would be filled with someone else's data.

01 November, 2014

HopShopGo Good Service

I haven't used HSG for a while, and I asked them a question while restarting my deliveries. I wanted to buy a magnetic knife rack, but they said they wouldn't ship magnetic items.

They quickly sent this reply:
We have noted your inquiry for the international shipping eligibility of a Norpro 18 Inch Aluminum Magnetic Knife Bar. As we have to confirm the shipping eligibility of the item you provided to our U.S. Warehouse Team, kindly allow us 1-2 business days to relay the results.

And a few days later:
We are pleased to inform you of our U.S. Warehouse Team's confirmation that this item (Norpro 18 Inch Aluminum Magnetic Knife Bar) is safe for air freight, and that we will certainly be able to ship this to you internationally. As such, you may arrange for delivery of this product to your U.S. address (or add it to a BuyForMe order) at your convenience.

That's service! To be fair, I was wary of HSG in the past due to their tendency to overestimate the volumetric weight and poor documentation (no itemised invoice), so they're not perfect.

Abandoning vPOST

People say vPOST is ok when it works, but good luck if you need anything but the simplest task done. I've found this is true, and will not be using it any more for anything of importance. Initial post

It was a routine order. Here's the NUMEROUS times they absolutely messed up:
  1. They sent the POPstation code and notification to the wrong person, resulting in my package ending up in the hands of a stranger. They managed to reinsert it into their system and said I could pick it up from Pasir Panjang Post Office. Fine.
  2. THEY DELIVERED IT TO PASIR RIS POST OFFICE INSTEAD. SINGAPORE POST CAN'T TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PASIR PANJANG AND PASIR RIS!
  3. Of course, numerous promises to call back were unfulfilled.
  4. It had to wait at Pasir Ris for 5 working days before it could be redirected.

In the end, this is what my package looked like after its tour of Singapore:

And this is what its tracking looked like:
(Read from the bottom up) You can see on 22/9, it was collected by another customer, 23/9 it was reinserted. Here's the funny thing - on 26/9 there was an unsuccessful delivery attempt, when I ordered it delivered to a post office. But if you look at the package above, there's a residential address on it. I'm wondering if, due to the original mix-up, the other customer got the same package number and tried to redirect it to his address? Maybe that's why it ended up in Pasir Ris. It remained in Pasir Ris from 27/9 to 3/10.

I'll just point out it spent 6 days getting from America to Singapore, but 11 days within Singapore. During which I got a different story every time I called. Now, because of this I complained to vPOST, and they offered me compensation. What did I get? A single 20% off. Yes, something you can get with the right card, or even just by searching for the voucher code up to a while ago. That's another thing - there are almost no more discounts for vPOST. When I compared vPOST with HSG, vPOST was actually MORE expensive and only its 20% discount made it viable. Now vPOST discounts are all but extinct. It's MORE expensive and LESS reliable.

With no hesitation, I condemn vPOST.

24 September, 2014

Rowenta Compacteo Ergo Vacuum Repair

I have this Rowenta Compacteo Ergo 1900 W vacuum cleaner that I don't know the model of:
It broke yesterday but I managed to half-repair it. This was my experience, in case anyone is in the same situation.

The power cable normally winds up on a spool. Well, it managed to wind up OUTSIDE the spool inside the body of the vacuum and get tangled up. Sort of like a bicycle chain coming off. I see this happen to retractable badges/measuring tapes quite often.

First I tried to open up the vacuum. I removed all the screws I could see (4 on the bottom and 2 inside the dust bag bay), but it was still held together around the wheels. I even took a wheel off but couldn't find any more fasteners. There must be clips inside.

Fortunately, I found out the plastic socket for the power plug can be pulled out:
I can't remember, but I think I pulled at the plastic strip on the bottom of the socket. This picture sums up the situation: power cable off the spool, wound around the white and red internal wires of the vacuum cleaner. I don't think it's good to put stress on those wires as who knows how strongly connected they are?

The problem wasn't over yet. As you can see, access was limited. I used a chopstick (because it wouldn't damage the cable, unlike a screwdriver) to push the cable back as best as I could (the spool is pretty big), then turned the spool by hand to play out the cable. Fortunately, this was enough to correct the cable (again with the bicycle chain, it's like hooking the chain on the start of the gear and turning the pedal so the whole chain wraps around the gear).

The final situation:
Now, I couldn't get the socket back on :smack:. It juts out about 1 cm and now my vacuum won't stand straight. At least it can still stand. I think it's a better condition than the cord being stuck 50 cm out, and if it happens again it'll be easier to fix. I could also cut/file the socket to make it fit.

23 September, 2014

Trends Portable Air-Con Maintenance

air con cond conditioner conditioning aircon air-con air-conditioner air-cond
I have a Trends PC15-AM1B portable air-con, rated at 15,000 BTU/h, that was giving me a lot of trouble, spending almost as much time on repair as working. I figured out a maintenance schedule for it that seems to work, no breakdowns in a year, so I'm writing it here and hopefully it's helpful for someone.

Problems

  • Firstly, it leaked, although this model is supposed to automatically evaporate the water. Sent for repair - came back, still leaked. I don't think anything was spoilt, just that it condensed water faster than it could evaporate it.
  • The manual said you can connect a hose to it to drain the water away, so that's what I tried. This was worse - after a few days, the air-con became very noisy, then the compressor stopped working, only the fan was left running. The display showed the error E3, which the manual said was a gas leak but the repairman didn't think so. This happened no matter which drain I connected the hose to.
  • The repairman said the inside was very dirty when I sent it for servicing.

Short Solution:
I found out that setting the fan speed to the lowest stopped the leaking by more than 95%. Looks like reducing airflow reduced condensation (expected), but it reduced condensation more than it reduced evaporation, i.e. it was now able to evaporate the water fast enough.
I also cut a plastic tray to fit under the air-con to catch any leftover leaks. Plastic because water + electricity is bad, and a conductive tray would have been worse.

Maintenance

Now this is the complicated, troublesome part that I found out, through trial-and-error. I haven't managed to open up my air-con so I don't know what the inside is like. It's like doing surgery blind.
Reducing the fan speed, as mentioned before, greatly reduced leaking, but what about the dirt accumulation? This is what I do:
  • Every week, at the most every 10 days, flush the air-con with water.
  • TURN THE AIR-CON OFF AND UNPLUG IT (do I need to say this?)
  • To do this, move the air-con so that the lower water pipe (on the side with the air intakes) is near a drain. Remove the plug and let the dirty water drain out. Observe that there are clumps of dirt in the water.
  • You need to prepare a funnel and hose that fits over the air-con's water pipes. Put your plastic tray below the other water pipe to catch water that's going to leak out. Have a mop ready.
  • Remove the plug from the other side (this is located at about the middle of the air-con's height, near the stickers). A bit of water will flow out. Quickly put the hose over the pipe. Slowly (over about 1 minute) pour 1 litre of water into this pipe. Water will flow out the other, low pipe. See more dirt being flushed out. At this point, some water may leak from the bottom. This is what your tray and mop are for. Sometimes it leaks, sometimes it doesn't. I haven't figured out the pattern yet.
  • When the water from the low pipe slows to a drip, replace that stopper.
  • Pour 500-1000 ml more water into the middle pipe, filling the air-con. I've found it's able to hold this much water without overflowing. The thing is, even though it's not very good at evaporating water, it really doesn't like running without water. To the point of spoiling.
  • Remove the hose and stopper the middle pipe. Done!
It seems that running the air-con dry (by draining the water from either pipe) is very bad for it and will eventually kill the water pump. So counter-intuitively, adding some water to it helps. If you notice it becoming much louder than usual, sounding a bit like sucking from an almost-empty cup, turning it off and adding some water seems to help.

Every 2-4 weeks, wash the filter.

All these problems stem from the water pump, so I'm wondering if I should I have gotten a model that DOESN'T evaporate the water instead, which has no water pump to spoil.
  • No water pump to spoil
  • Empty water as often as you like - no leaks
  • Emptying water removes the dirt as well and keeps the air-con clean
It's very odd, it seems that the lower-end model is more reliable.

Disclaimer: do this at your own risk, this is only general advice, etc.

vPOST Screw-Up

Well, something finally went wrong with vPOST. On 17 Sep they sent out my package from the U.S. On 20 Sep I got this email:
It's weird because:
  1. I haven't received an "arrived in Singapore" email in a while
  2. All the package details are missing?

Then, I got a phone call from someone saying vPOST sent my notification to them!? They had already opened the POPStation and fortunately my package had my name and number! But we couldn't meet so who knows where my package is now?

vPOST discounts have been harder and harder to get recently. It remains to be seen whether I'll continue using them.

18 September, 2014

iOS 8 And Photo Stream

iOS 8 was just released today, and it's made some very serious changes to Photo Stream - it's basically killed it. Seriously, it's no longer there, and Photo Stream isn't even mentioned anymore on iOS 8's webpage. All your photos that weren't in a Camera Roll on any of your devices are gone.

Previously

Photo Stream (PS) and Camera Roll (CR) were maintained as separate, independent sets on your iPhone. You could store and delete photos from either one. I kept CR as a sort of "new" set of photos I hadn't backed up/organised yet, and PS as a recycle bin. PS was limited to 1000 photos on iOS devices, possibly more on computers.

iOS 8

What iOS 8 appears to have done:
  • Delete/remove access to PS
  • Transfer photos from all CRs across all devices to the new PS. Since I haven't updated my iPad yet, and it still knew what photos were on its CR when the iPad was sleeping, it appears to remember either a) what's on your CR, or b) which photos in the old PS haven't been deleted from your CR.
  • new PS/CR are one and shared across all devices. Basically from the app alone, you can't tell which photo came from which device.
  • Recently Added appears to be a replacement for Camera Roll, but how long photos stay in it is unknown. Recently Deleted appears to be a replacement for how I used to use Photo Stream (i.e., a recycle bin).
People (and of course Apple) are touting this as an improvement, mainly because PS is no longer limited to 1000 photos, but the huge omission is couldn't they have done this without deleting old PS photos?

Incidentally, in Settings, Photos & Camera, there's an option for Summarise Photos. I figured out what this does is either show all photos in Years or Collections view, or show photos in sets of 10 (i.e. if you have 54 photos, it shows a summary of 50)

There are some photos in my new photo whatever that weren't on any CR and survived, so it looks like even when deleting photos, Apple can't do it properly? Sigh.

Apple discussions, because Apple's discussion interface is worse than Reddit's. Seriously. I had 2 tabs open, signed in, and it wouldn't recognise me in the other tab. No, ok, I opened that discussion in the signed in tab and it STILL made me sign in! What's the difference between Follow and Bookmark? WHY IS MY LIST OF BOOKMARKS SO HARD TO FIND?
Where did photostream and Cameraroll go in iOS 8? https://discussions.apple.com/thread/6537671
iOS 8 update resulted in Photo Stream missing https://discussions.apple.com/thread/6537401

12 September, 2014

Ti2 Sentinel Modification

In my original post, it bothered me that there was a lot of wasted space in the caches. I found out the S8M size is about 2 mm too short to hold Singaporean $100 bills, which drove me to modify my capsule. I'm generally apprehensive about modifications, since my skills aren't very good, so they usually end up like this:
Also, Sentinels are expensive.

First, I noticed that the cap extended after the threads ended, which seemed like a waste of space. In this picture, there is a line corresponding to the top of the threads. The cap goes on for at least another 1.5 mm, maybe 2 (small interval markings in 0.5 mm). The different coloured top part is the bevel, not the top surface. This means I can potentially increase the capacity by 3 mm.
But would removal of this material affect the sealing of the cache?
The other cap had a similar amount of extension. I forgot which cap was which.

First, I looked at other examples of metal threads - my Fenix UC40UE's threads went all the way to the end of the body (male). So it didn't seem necessary to have a flat portion without threads. People praise Fenix's build quality so I thought they would be a good reference.

Next, I looked in the Sentinel's tube to see how the female threads ended. From what I could tell, it was:
(end of body) (flat portion) (threads) (thin line) (centre of body)
It looked like the cap's top lined up with the thin line, meaning the cap's threads would end before the body's. Worst case scenario, if I ground the caps down to the threads, the body's threads would be exposed. If I say, kept a powder in my Sentinel, it could get into the threads. But then again, the threads didn't fit so closely in the first place. They were surprisingly loose, actually, given how many claims were made about their quality.

So I decided to chance it. Now, if you want to try this, it's best if you have some kind of mechanical grinding aid, maybe a belt sander. If you do it freehand on sandpaper, it's hard to keep the cap perfectly vertical, and you might end up with a curved or sloping face. Things I learned:
  • Some people look down on Grade 2 titanium, but wow, it's really hard. Much harder than aluminium. This was really slow going. Gave me faith in the strength of the Sentinel, though.
  • I managed to use both hands at the same time to grind both caps, saving about half the time.
  • I managed to keep the face nicely flat. Yeah!
  • If you're going to try this, it's best to use masking tape to protect everything you don't intend to grind, especially the threads. It saved my threads from some damage.
  • I took out the o-rings, since you have to take them off for cleaning afterwards anyway. You don't want metal dust/abrasive under your o-rings.
  • Once you sand away the bevels, it leaves a 90° edge on your cap. Combined with titanium's hardness, this is enough to cut skin! I didn't have a lathe to put a precise bevel back on, what could I do? The inner bevel is easy - fold a cone of sandpaper, about the size of the inner surface, then move it all around the inside. On average, every point on the edge should be sanded the same amount, resulting in a uniform bevel. For the outer bevel, take a funnel, line the inside with sandpaper, and do the same. It's not a perfect bevel, and it's very very shallow, but at least it's not sharp. Maybe I can use a cone to thin the cap and get more space...


Final result:
Hmm, the bevel is clearly gone, but it still extends by more than 1.5 mm. Looks like there's not much difference. But now I can fit S$100 bills, which is great! I removed as little as possible!

10 September, 2014

Things I Learned Buying A House

Ok at first I wanted to name this "How To Buy A House", but I thought it was a little presumptuous from someone who's only bought one house. So these are like notes for future me when I buy my next house, things I definitely won't remember.

I think, the first step when buying anything is to set your budget. Next it helps if you can decide on which geographical areas to focus your search on. Ok I don't know much about this aspect but I was thinking something like, you can change the inside of your house but you can't change the outside. So location, location, location. And your neighbours. You probably intend to eventually sell the house, so consider resale value - existing location, changes in location (e.g. new train lines nearby), changes in property values, and anything about the house that improves or hinders your chances of selling it in the future (e.g. a swimming pool in a HDB flat. Or converting an entire room into a fish pond. Or even small things like moving the toilet bowl to another location. I read about someone asking if he could replace his stove with a bookshelf since he never cooked).

Renovation

This section is my real aim in writing this post. Things to look out for during inspection that will save/cost you in renovations. I feel I didn't do my inspections well because during every visit, my entire group got distracted by, "oh, this is a nice design, or we should change this, or we can use this room for that", instead of critically looking for flaws in the property. Good diversion by the seller and their agent, I guess. Ok so here are the things, from most to least likely, that you will consider renovating.
  1. Painting. I hear this is pretty much given. It's a cost-effective method to enliven and spruce up a place and can change its whole feel. I mean, people even do it when they aren't moving. Price varies by size and kind of paint used. I guess you should look at existing wall coverings and if you need to pay extra to get them removed (wallpaper!). Also consider things you won't change (e.g. window frames, cupboards, flooring) which will limit your colour options.
  2. Toilet fixtures and tiling. From what I hear, this is the 2nd most common thing to change. I guess people find using others' toilets gross? So budget to change this. HDB toilet options are pretty limited, so the costs should be easy to estimate. I mean each toilet will have 1 toilet bowl here and 1 sink here... so tearing everything down will cost the same.
  3. Kitchen stove (hob) and hood. Again, usually replaced. The past 3 things are most likely going, so there's no need to inspect them closely. Just look for big problems like leaky pipes, mould, especially on the ceiling.
  4. Kitchen counter/cabinets. This is where you can start saving money. Replacing the counter is going to cost at least $1000, and the cabinets several times that. So if these are in good condition, that's several thousand saved. Remember to look inside the cabinets and try out the hinges. Also consider the layout and size of the fridge alcove, if you can live with that. Oh, the part of the wall behind the counter - what's it called, the backsplash? Is also at least $1000 for a tempered glass one.
  5. Flooring. Flooring is a big big expenditure so you have to decide if you're gonna keep it or not. Consider if the existing flooring will last as long as you intend to keep the house.
  6. Cabinets. Several thousand dollars more if you're going to build a TV console, wardrobe, etc.
  7. Windows. This is what I really want to talk about. HDB has always been particular about windows, and they've just started requiring a $3000 permit for window work. That's for the permit alone. CHECK THE WINDOWS! The hinges, everything! Be prepared to pay if they need any work!
  8. Electrical. I think companies charge extra if you add electrical points, lights, etc. In a modern house, Internet access is more important than gas, so you might consider Wi-Fi reception, places to put the router, and even LAN cabling. For more pizazz, lay a HDMI cable from the TV to the couch so you can either use the TV as a monitor, or control your TV from the sofa.

Things You Can't See

Things that affect your house, that you can't tell during an inspection
  • Neighbours. This is a huge huge issue. I think I don't have to emphasise how important good neighbours are.
  • Noise. Traffic, trains, people activity nearby.
  • Weather/seasons. What directions the Sun shines in. Places that leak when raining. Not relevant to Singapore but things in other seasons, insulation, burst pipes, I dunno.

29 August, 2014

TKS Mini-biner

A Kickstarter project: TKS: Titanium Key System

This is actually only the SECOND project I've received rewards for, and the ONLY physical reward I've received, despite it being the 15th project I've backed, and approximately 14 months after I backed my first project. (It's not that bad. Most of my pledges are $1 to keep track of projects and see updates.)

This project was mainly for titanium one-piece multitools with the usual wrench, bottle opener and hanging hook functions. Those didn't interest me, but their carabiner did. The entire carabiner, including the spring and gate, was made of a single piece of titanium, what I call a "unibody" design. It's similar to the Bauhaus carabiner, both very elegant, although I have to admit the Bauhaus looks better. The best part of the Mini-biner was it cost only $10, less than 1/3 of the Bauhaus, and possibly the cheapest titanium carabiner I've seen. It even had free anodising.

So it arrived without warning at my vPost address, and I hurriedly threw some orders together to make the shipping worthwhile. The carabiners were in what looked like plastic envelopes for coins, in a too-big padded envelope. It was ok, vPost only charged for 0.5 kg volumetric weight. There was a cute little laser-engraved wooden plaque included. Maybe the carabiners were cut with the same laser?
First impression: the carabiners are smaller than I expected, but that's ok since I was planning on using them on belt loops and all my other clips and carabiners hang too low. They're also really light and feel like they could be aluminium, but I don't think aluminium has that much spring. The gate is surprisingly stiff. All their edges are smooth so they've had some finishing work done.

So far, I love them. The right size and weight, unique design, titanium, build quality seems ok and cheap! I'm just worried about the gate. The problem with the unibody design is, I think the gate thickness has to be optimised so that the entire section bends evenly. If not, it'll break after some use. It's happened to some Bauhaus carabiners. Hopefully they've tested and iterated this design. You'll also see that solid loops (e.g. keys) can only go in the clip and hang off the bottom of the carabiner. They can't fit in the circle. This also happens to be where the bending takes place, so any scratches/cracks will grow quickly and shorten the life of the carabiner, so I'm refraining from keeping any metal there.

28 August, 2014

Internet Shenanigans

Ok yesterday my Internet access speed was very slow, maybe due to heavy rain the past few days.

Then today, Yahoo Mail stopped working:
I thought it might be because my Firefox was too old, so I updated it.
After I updated FF, I couldn't switch or close tabs! In the future, for any problems like this, the first response is to disable all add-ons.
So I updated TabMixPlus, and it worked.
But my tabs are all now the Title Bar colour and I can't read the text! Protip: you have to enable FF's Title Bar, then all the tabs will return to grey. Call me old-fashioned, I insist on a Menu Bar.
Then I spent some time customising my tab colours.
Yahoo Mail still doesn't work. I thought it might be me because it stopped working for a few minutes this month, but lots of people on Twitter are having this problem, so it's Yahoo. Twitter is great for seeing if you're the only one with this problem.

27 August, 2014

Lubricants And Fenix UC40UE

superlube super lube super-lube
I bought 3 kinds of lubricants from BIC Warehouse on Amazon - the first time I had knowingly bought from a seller that shipped goods themselves. I chose this seller because it was the only one that sold all 3 (aside: there's no automatic way to see sellers that sell a specific set of products). I thought it would be good to have some lubricants around the house.
Note to future me: These are the lubricants you bought:
  • Super Lube 51010 oil (aside: I love how the product number is the same as its barcode! I don't think they do this in Singapore? Product numbers are a great, unambiguous, unique way of identifying a product.) The Amazon listing doesn't state this clearly, but this is "Super Lube® Oil with PTFE (High Viscosity)" in the catalog, or Super Lube Oil with Syncolon. This package is the 7 ml (1/4 oz) precision oiler.
  • Super Lube Grease with Syncolon, product number 21030. Listed in the catalog as "Super Lube® Multi-Purpose Synthetic Grease". (aside: Super Lube is made by Synco Chemical Corporation) I can't find a clear statement of what both of these are made of, but I'm leaning towards carbon-based instead of silicone. This package is the 3 oz tube.
  • AGS graphite lubricant. Apparently you're not supposed to use oil in locks. Graphite is the correct lubricant. I thought this was only for locks, but the packaging says basically everything non-electronic.
All of them were around the same price, meaning the oil was the most expensive, per amount. Maybe it's the packaging. It's not obvious, but the oil came in a transparent, soft, plastic squeezy bottle and cap (a bit like correction fluid). The dispensing is just a hollow plastic nozzle. The cap has a nice metal clip that I'm already wondering what else it will fit on. So far I think the oil is the most useful. I had a quick look and Super Lube products don't seem available in Singapore, so I don't think I paid too much.

I bought these for my torch, based on the recommendations from CandlePowerForums' grease and lube thread. Super Lube was the cheapest, easiest to find, available in reasonable quantities and had the most other uses. So I wiped down my UC40UE's thread and o-ring, and greased them. Verdict: an improvement! It's smoother and doesn't feel grainy anymore. I saw some white spots and streaks (i.e. bare aluminium) starting to appear on the threads, so it's a good thing I started lubing them. At least I don't use the lock-out function, or twist the cap often.

I also sparingly greased my Ti2 Sentinel. This didn't show much difference, probably because the threads don't mesh as closely and there's no spring tension. I didn't put much grease as I sometimes use it for storing paper, and I think the grease would stain.

Update 30 Aug 14
Buying lubes in Singapore
If you don't want to buy (from overseas / so much), I've found these alternatives locally:
Silicone grease - Outdoor Life at Wheelock Place sells a small tub of o-ring grease for around $9. $4 at Black Tactical. Fstop Lights. All these are more expensive, per quantity, than what I bought, and they may not work in other applications.
Oil - The Planet Traveller sells a small bottle of Victorinox Multi Tool Oil for around $7.

22 August, 2014

Lock&Lock Water Bottle

I bought this water bottle from Lock&Lock, thinking it should be quite good, but it was horribad. I recycled it after just a few uses. This design is quite common and I wonder if others had the same problems.

IT STANK. I know water bottles can pick up smells, especially if you drink while eating, but this stank above and beyond normal and acceptable limits. Not only the spout, even the water itself would reek. I can't see why as it was made of normal materials - PP for the lid, and I think Tritan for the clear part. Even after washing in the morning, it would smell by the end of the day. Now, all my other bottles, even disposable ones I dragged for longer than their design life, could go for days, no problem. Those PET bottles for drinks - I only rinsed them with water, no soap touched them, and they could easily make a week.

I also didn't like the design. I want all my drinking surfaces to be covered. Think about all the dust and dirt around you. It settles on the exterior surfaces of your bottle. If you drink from those surfaces, into your system they go. (yeah, I don't like those with bite-valves and external straws. Still undecided on CamelBak's Podium.) To show you what I mean, I sprinkled powder on the water bottle when it was closed:
Imagine this is dirt. Or dust. Or sand. Or mud. Or pathogens. What happens when I open the cap?
Loook, unless you're pouring into your mouth, you're also taking a mouthful of powder when you drink! If you wouldn't lick exposed surfaces in your environment, I don't see why you'd use a bottle like this.

So I'm on the search for a new, better water bottle with these requirements:
  • 500-800ml
  • Can be washed with boiling water. The easiest way to wash your bottle outside is to fill it with boiling water and pour it over the cap. This is the hardest property to find, if you're looking for a manufacturer to explicitly state that "our plastic bottle can be used with hot water". But I may go easy on this since I'm not going to actually drink hot water from the bottle, just wash it, so it just has to not degrade.
  • No exposed drinking surfaces!
  • Not insulated!
  • Easy to clean, no nooks and crannies. Drains completely. My Nalgene N-Gen would always retain some liquid. This is the second-hardest property to find. O-rings must be removable. 
  • Ideally, I can fit my hand inside to clean.
  • Doesn't leak, duh. Doesn't open when dropped.
  • Ideally, small mouth to drink from when walking.
  • Ideally, one-handed openable and closable.

My Tupperware mixing tumbler actually meets most of these, but it bursts open when dropped.

18 August, 2014

UK Socket Tester

I got this from Spiratronics, a UK seller on eBay. It wasn't very expensive. About 3 GBP + 3 GBP for shipping, and I got it in 11 days. It tests for improperly wired sockets, like live-neutral swap or missing earths, but it doesn't detect neutral-earth swap (the hardest to test). There were more expensive models that could test ELCB/RCDs, but I thought I didn't need those features.

Testers for UK sockets are quite hard to find. I thought I could get them from HK sellers, but in the end I couldn't. China and US socket testers are, of course, the most common. This is still made in HK, though. Sheesh. It's by the company "Ever-Winner Electric Works Ltd", part number PL10052. They didn't list a website. Maybe someone will have better luck than me and be able to buy it directly from HK. I also saw something like this in Sim Lim Tower, I can't remember for how much, but certainly more than on eBay.

It's already proven its worth. My Sony Vaio was giving shocks, and although all the sockets in my house are wired correctly, I found out the power strip my Vaio was drawing from didn't have an earth!
I replaced the power strip and my Vaio is now shock-free!