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!

12 August, 2014

Candy Crush Levels

It's actually possible to get an infinitely high score in level 252. It's a timer-based level with only 4 colours, so you can get +5 bonuses faster than once every 5 seconds, extending the game indefinitely. My max score is 3.5 million+.

In the iOS version, levels 609 and 619 are the same. So are levels 608 and 623. I'm not sure exactly how much the same, just the layout or even the type of level, target score and number of moves. This is really stupid design. If you're going to copy levels, DON'T PUT THEM SO CLOSE TOGETHER! It's even worse because 608 is also used as one of the quest levels in the jump between 608 and 623, so you see it 3 times. They say they've since changed it, but I don't think they'll change the iOS version.

09 August, 2014

Exercise Bikes vs Treadmills

I just bought an exercise bike. I think treadmills are better practice for running, and may be more challenging, but bikes have the following advantages:
  • Safer - if you trip or faint or whatever on a bike, nothing's going to happen to you.
  • Last longer / easier maintenance - I've seen so many treadmills with tangled belts / out of service. There are so many moving parts and a motor. I feel a bike would be easier to repair.
  • Cheaper - comparing the same quality, of course
  • Can be used to exercise leg muscles
  • Multitasking - you can use a treadmill while watching TV, and maaybe reading. You can use a laptop, tablet, phone, while cycling. More convenient = more likely to exercise.
  • Wider range of fitness/age - related to safer, even people with difficulty walking can cycle.

Recycling Silhouette Consumables

I found out worn out blades make pretty good letter openers, since you can adjust them to cut only the envelope.

I think mats can be used as those self-adhesive notice boards, but I haven't actually tried yet.

07 August, 2014

Fenix UC40UE Switch And UI

The UC40UE has what I think is called an electronic switch. Like a mouse button, it only has pressed and unpressed states. This is different from some torches that have a mechanical clicky switch like some pens that have an "on" and "off" state. I think electronic switches are supposed to last longer. One bad thing about the UC40UE is that the switch and rubber cover can't be removed or replaced. So far, the switch has behaved average. Sometimes it thinks I've released when I haven't, causing it to switch modes or turn off when I'm trying to use the strobe.

The UI is well thought-out.
If it's off and you press and hold, it goes OFF --- ON --- STROBE.
If you release it before ON, nothing happens. If you release it between ON and STROBE, it turns on normally. If you release it during STROBE, it turns back off.
If it's on and you press and hold, it goes ON --- OFF --- STROBE.
If you release it before it turns OFF, it goes to the next mode. If you release it while it's OFF, it turns off. If you release it while it's on STROBE, it goes back on.
The timing delays are what I'd expect.

If you're thinking, "What is he talking about, that's the only way to do it" - no. What I'm trying to say is, if it's off and you press and hold, nothing happens for 0.5 seconds until it turns on. They could also make it turn on immediately when you press and hold, but only stay on if you held for at least 0.5 seconds. This way, it would have momentary on, but at the cost of not knowing exactly how long to hold for it to turn on. As it is, it's easier to use, but loses a tactical feature.

Mode memory works perfectly. It's always remembered the mode so far. I even took out the battery for more than 5 minutes and it still came on in 110 lumens, so either it always starts at 110 if you take out the battery or it can remember the mode for more than 5 minutes without battery. This is in contrast to Nitecore torches which some people say have problems remembering the mode. I read of one torch where you had to keep it on for 2 seconds in a mode for it to remember it, I think it was a Nitecore. That seems a bit complicated, maybe that's why people have problems with mode memory.

So in summary - switch a bit insensitive, UI and mode memory perfect.

Electronics

It's advertised as having a low battery warning light, but the documentation doesn't say when it kicks in. I think Nitecore's P12's kicks in at 50%. It also doesn't say if the light blinks, stays on all the time, or only when the torch is running. Well, I tested it, and it flashes about once every 2 seconds, even when the torch is off:
I haven't exactly measured at what % it kicks in, but I took the battery out and the voltage was 3.312 V, so somewhere before that. The manual says at further discharge, it will dim, then the output itself will blink, but I haven't gone that far yet. I wish there was a more accurate way of measuring the battery. So far I can only measure the charging current, which lets me know if it's in the CC or CV phase of charging.

01 August, 2014

Fenix UC40 Ultimate Edition

Anticipation post

Well, it's been a long time since I bought an expensive torch. The last expensive torch I bought was the LED Lenser David 19, a 1 AA, 5 mm LED torch that, as far as I can tell, is about 50 lumens. I bought it in 2005 for about $50. At that time, white LEDs were new, and so were circuits required to bump the 1.5V of AA batteries up to ~5V to drive the LED. I thought I would spend more on a good torch and use it for a long time, and this model seemed pretty good since it was efficient and I could save money on batteries. It seemed to work, since in between that time I only bought a ~$3 torch from China.

This year, for some reason, I seem to have gone on a torch buying spree:
  • ~$5 torch from Kaidomain
  • ~$25 Energizer headlamp
  • ~$3 UV torch
  • ~$6 1 AA Cree Q5 torch from eBay. This one is surprisingly good. It can run off AA or 14500 (a rechargeable lithium battery the same size as AA, but 3.7V) batteries and is claimed to output 500 lumens or 7W. But the best part is the head can "zoom" to spread or focus the light, like Maglite torches, and even be removed to act like a candle. It also has 3 modes. I threw in an old battery and it produced a nice even circle of light, a bit blueish, brighter than my David 19! LED technology certainly has come a long way. I recommend this to anyone looking for a basic torch.

And now:
Included: torch, AOD-S diffuser, belt clip, CR123 batteries, battery case

Specs: 10-110-400-960 lumens, 150-16-3.75-1.5 hours.

Included in the box: torch itself, battery (inside the torch), micro USB cable, lanyard strap, 1 spare o-ring.

Inside, on the battery, is the cap so many people had problems with that they had to put an extra notice on the torch. Whose first reaction, on the torch having a problem, is to send it back instead of, you know, maybe OPENING it and having a look at the removable battery? Anyway, to anyone who also got this torch, ONLY THE CENTRE BLACK PLUG IS REMOVABLE. THE OUTER BLACK RING IS PART OF THE BATTERY, even though it looks like cheap plastic and it's not tightly stuck to the battery.

First Impressions
Wow, this torch is pretty small and light. It's comfortable to hold in my hand, and so light that I wasn't sure the battery was inside at first.
960 lumens isn't as bright as I expected, though. I thought it would be too bright to use indoors, but it just illuminates a room well when bounced off the ceiling. It's too bright to look at when I shine it in my hand, though. And I can feel my hand and the torch getting warm quickly, which is impressive. It also makes my photochromic sunglasses change colour, for some reason.
The front glass is verry nice and clear. At some angles it's invisible, not sure if it's due to the antireflective coating or not. The reflector is very smooth and uniform, and the LED chip is neatly centred.

FAQ
  • No, it can't lock-out, at least not with the included rechargeable battery
  • Yes, it can tail stand no problem. The lanyard might interfere with that, though. And it certainly can't tail stand when charging.
  • The USB port plug is attached to the torch so you can't lose it :) but you can't replace it :(
  • The switch is an electronic type, so it just clicks, it doesn't have on and off states
  • The double-ended battery means you can use the torch without the tailcap. Or charge the battery without the torch.
  • It doesn't work if you take out the battery and plug in the USB cable.

As I said, I don't like the fact that the head can't be removed. Better for waterproofing, but makes it very hard to clean the head contacts. And there are several spring-loaded contacts. Speaking of waterproofing, I'm not sure about the USB plug. Sony does this for their phones, but I wouldn't immerse this torch. And try and keep it pointed up when used in showers.

I'm also not sure about the battery's quality
  • As I said, flimsy black plastic around it
  • The centre, red, positive contact isn't centred
  • There's a gap between the red plastic and the contacts. Looks too easy to short to me.
I agree with them using a custom battery for this torch, though. Klarus' analogous torchlight, the RS11, also charges 18650 batteries over USB. The old, 2012, 620 lumen version could charge any 18650 battery. At least one model also got red-hot - "As it stands right now, if I put in a battery and put on the end cap, the spring on the end will turn red hot within seconds." (http://www.amazon.com/review/R3FB0UCAUX1EWW/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B0094BQGN6) The 2014, 930 lumen version now comes with a similar double-ended battery, much like Fenix's.

Belt Clip
I'm very happy with the belt clip from http://www.fenix-store.com/. It sits securely and doesn't move. I'm extra grateful because I did a cursory search of eBay and couldn't easily find belt clips. Only things are: only place I see to put the clip is on the tailcap, pointing towards the head, the clip might scratch the light, and the clip doesn't fit perfectly in the grooves in the light. All minor issues. It works great and even prevents rolling.

Yep, I think that's all I have to say for now. I wonder when the low battery signal kicks in.

Banyan Tree Bintan Part 3 (Final)

Finally, the last part of the Banyan Tree review.

Buffet Breakfast

Like every 5-star hotel, they have a wide spread of food for the buffet breakfast, from cereal, to cold cuts, to breads and pastries, to freshly cooked food:
Dried fruit and cheeses

Porridge and miso soup

They also had fresh pancakes and crepes. I didn't take those small bottles of jam home.
They have my favourite, eggs as you like them. It's outside so I didn't see it at first. You can go and order yourself, or you can also ask the staff to order for you.
A sampling of the hot food they had, including the famous Indonesian mee goreng. You'll notice the white gravy dish in the top picture was what we had for lunch the previous day, in this picture from part 1. Also in that picture from part 1, on the bottom right plate there's a small bowl of ikan bilis/anchovies, which they also had for breakfast.


Ok I gotta be honest, during breakfast we saw a cockroach on the floor. This place is a little too close to nature.

Check-Out

Like check-in, you don't have to queue at a counter. You wait in the library and check-out at a desk. It's convenient because you have time to analyse the bill after charging everything to your room!
Some people complain about, oh, everything's in USD but the final charge to your card is in IDR, so they're earning on the exchange rate. Honestly, if it matters that much to you, maybe you should stay somewhere else. I've been on enough scrimp-and-save "holidays" that I'd much rather not travel than pinch pennies.

During check-out, they'll even liaise with your ferry operator to print your ferry tickets for you! You can get a car transfer to the ferry terminal for USD12.50 one-way, for up to 3 people. I got the impression we could leave at any time, so I think the car is always there.

In conclusion, it was a very relaxing and pampering experience. A little too close to nature (insects, mosquitoes), but beautifully decorated and very friendly staff. I think if you don't leave the resort, 2 nights might be the most before you run out of things to do. Next time I might visit the market, or there are tour companies that operate interesting day-trips (shopping, massage, go-kart, nature walks etc.). Have fun!

31 July, 2014

Spam Companies

I am getting spam email from the following companies. I have never heard of them before, and certainly did not give them my email address. They have dubious business practices. Here are all their details. Name 'em and shame 'em:

Moonriver Singapore
Email from admin@moonriver.com.sg
Site: http://www.moonriver.com.sg/
Singapore Outlet:
Bugis Junction, Unit 02-40
Tampines One, Unit 01-35
HarbourFront Center, Unit 01-93
Plaza Singapura, Unit B1-33 Square2, Unit 01-39
Raffles Place Xchange, Unit B1-66
Malaysia Outlet: Unit F18, No. 1 CityOne Megamall, 93450 Kuching, Malaysia
There's also a link to http://shusingapore.com/ so they're probably related.

ClicPlan Singapore
Email from clicplan-sg@w.clicplan.sg
REWORLD MEDIA Pte Ltd (ClicPlan SG), Registration No: 201228461D
51 Goldhill plaza #12-11 308900 Singapore
members@clicplan.sg
This site uses the funny format 100,00$. Using , for decimals and putting the $ at the end? Is this even a Singapore company?

Tuition SG
Email from noreply@betterbusiness2000.com
Tel: 62977340
www.tuitionportal.info
A .info address? I've only seen those used by Sri Lankan spam.

Michsara Online Boutique
Email from info@michsara.com
http://michsara.com/
rem@link.rm0002.net
773-470-0350
Singapore 738081

Trendy Singapore
Email from enquiry@trendysg.com

Carousell
Email from jing.carousell@gmail.com
https://carousell.co

I hope their details get harvested and they get hit with more spam than they create.

29 July, 2014

Zoom For Mobile Websites In Safari

http://ios.wonderhowto.com/how-to/re-enable-zoom-for-websites-block-safari-for-your-iphone-0156489/

Mobile sites are great, but for some reason most lose the ability to zoom. This hack creates a JavaScript (I think it's called a "bookmarklet") that re-enables zoom. In case the site moves, create a bookmark with the address:
javascript:document.querySelector('meta%5Bname=viewport%5D').setAttribute('content','width=device-width,initial-scale=1.0,maximum-scale=10.0,user-scalable=1');

Glass Screen Protectors

Old post on screen protectors
The trend now in screen protectors is towards glass screen protectors. I read this Lifehacker article that honestly didn't tell me anything new. It's actually pretty amazing they can make tempered glass so thin.

I'm considering trying them out, mainly for shock protection, glass being more rigid than plastic. They probably can't bend like normal PET screen protectors, so previous techniques of pasting screen protectors may not work. I wonder what happens when they shatter, do pieces of glass fall out?