New Malaysia

Flying back to a new Malaysia.

I was unfortunate that I couldn’t vote due to work, but I appreciate everyone who have voted in this election. For the first time in Malaysia’s 60 years history that the corrupted ruling government, Barisan Nasional (BN), has been defeated.

New Malaysia

Shot was taken during my flight to Kuala Lumpur. It was an overnight flight, but I could hardly sleep because I couldn’t wait to be back in Malaysia, a new Malaysia. I looked out the window when the plane was descending and saw the beautiful sunrise. I used the Samyang 12mm f/2 wide open, keeping ISO as low as possible handheld in a moving plane.

Later I discovered this new way of creating HDR without the computer. 2 JPEG exported from camera RAW engine at 4 stops apart. Photos were downloaded to phone using Fujifilm’s app and merged in Snapseed with double exposure tool. Rest of the adjustment with curve tool.

This method manage to keep the highlight intact, and pull tons of details from the shadow. The camera RAW engine seems to doing great at noise reduction, probably better than the latest Adobe Lightroom CC Classic.

Advertisements
Image

Should I upgrade my router?

I’m currently using the Asus RT-N56U. I bought it back in 2014 when the 802.11ac is starting to become mainstream, but most of the device I was using back then doesn’t support 802.11ac so I decided to get another 802.11n router.

Current: Asus RT-N56U

It was, and still is, a stable router. I could leave it ON 24/7 and it rarely slows down or need a reset. It was quite an upgrade from the unstable D-Link DIR-615 and weak Apple Airport Express. Even without antenna sticking out, the router is fairly powerful.

I love the build in download manager. With it I can download large files overnight while keeping my PC off. The USB 2.0 connection is more than fast enough for the 5mbps Internet speed I have back then. However, it is slow when transferring files over to the computer. It transfer at 2MB/s with stock firmware, and 20MB/s with custom firmware. Even when max out the USB2.0 speed, it is still slow when transferring large files.

When I started to travel to China more often, I started using the VPN function of the router. It is quite a Godsend because of it I can use Google and Facebook while in China. Other than social media, I also feel more secure doing banking thru VPN while connected to public WiFi anywhere outside of home.

Free Router: D-Link DIR-850L

If I ever get a new router, it must be capable of these features which is only found on more higher end router. It wasn’t found in the D-Link DIR-850L given free by my ISP. After subscribing to Time Broadband, they gave D-Link which I didn’t use it because my Asus router is simply more feature rich. My home internet is max out at 100mbps, so I don’t need the extra speed provided by the new 802.11ac WiFi.

That was 2 years back. After getting a 4K TV and a NAS, I start to realize there’s many dead zone in my small little apartment. I placed the Asus router in my 2nd bedroom next to the master bedroom. Although the signal is pretty good in the master bedroom, it is very bad in the living room. The kitchen area is ok, but the signal in the 3rd bedroom behind the kitchen is poor too. It wasn’t a problem when the 3rd bedroom was used as a storeroom, it is now my wife’s wardrobe room.

I initially forgot about having the D-Link DIR-850L at home, and planning to get a new 802.11ac router to replace the Asus RT-N56U, and using the old Asus as an access point. Asus newest model is the RT-AC86U and it cost around RM1500 in Malaysia. I probably could get it for around RM1200 online, but in the US it is only sold less than RM800, and less than RM700 in China. Finding the price so bloated in Malaysia most probably thanks to GST and SIRIM, I find it hard to buy it here. It is only a few weeks later that I realized I have an extra router at home.

Adding The Second Router

I have the B2 version of the router, the firmware that comes out of the box is 1.09. Since I do not use it as the main router, I was lazy to updating to the latest firmware. By following a guide in Hardwarezone, to set it as an access point, I got to turn off the HCDP, NAT and UPnP. After that connect it the main router with the LAN cable plugged into the LAN ports instead of WAN ports. I moved the main Asus router outside of the bedroom to the nearby the main apartment entrance door where the fiber optic modem is.

It worked and I managed to get Internet from the LAN ports. For some odd reason, I couldn’t detect my NAS in the network even if I’ve connected it to the D-Link router. I guessed updating the router to the latest firmware should fix the problem. I made the mistake of obtaining the latest firmware from D-Link Malaysia site. Even though the firmware is stated for non-Unifi unit, I ended up with a permanent @unifi suffix for WiFi SSID after updating to the latest firmware.

Then I tried getting the firmware from D-Link US. I first tried the latest Beta firmware. I got one major problem or bug after updating – I couldn’t set the WiFi password for the 2.4GHz band. So I went and install the latest stable firmware from the US site. Same problem. I finally use a pin to hard-reset the router by poking the button underneath, which solve the problem. I guess I might even fix it that way if I’ve stayed with the Beta firmware, but I didn’t bother to update back the Beta firmware since things starts to working normally. I was able to get Internet and access my NAS in the network.

Configure for Smooth 4K Streaming

I ran some quick speed test and it ran fine on the PC connected to the LAN port, and on my phone connected to WiFi. I played a 4K video, which was stored on the NAS, on the TV. It wasn’t smooth, it was even worst than before swapping the router in the bedroom. I suspect the TV is connected to the router in the bedroom which do not have LOS unlike the Asus router at the entrance.

I looked into that poor D-Link router’s interface to block the TV’s MAC address like I can do on my Asus router but I was unable to find that function. It does allow blocking device on the main page by setting parental control. So with that I setup Parental Control for the TV to “Always Off” and that sort of solve the problem. The TV starts to stream 4K video smoothly over WiFi and is finally better than before.

Should I upgrade my router?

Avantree Cara II Review

The Cara II is a simple device with an on/off switch, a 3.5″ jack, and a micro USB port. It is small and could fit inside the pocket, but not too small that is easily dropped and lost. The ON/OFF switch is a little small, and some times, I need to use my fingernail to switch it ON.

IMG_20180306_145041.jpg
What’s inside the box?

I could switch it ON for a quick test out of the box. The Bluetooth pairing is very easy and straight forward. My Oneplus 3T is able to detect it as a AptX device and begin to transmit high quality audio over Bluetooth.

Initial impression of the sound quality over AE Aego M 2.1 speakers is very good, I can’t tell the difference form using the phone’s headphone jack when streaming music from Spotify. I didn’t compare the SQ with a good DAC using lossless audio because that’s not my intended use.

I plan to use the Cara II in my car, so after fully charging it, I hooked it up to my car stereo and begin testing. My car has AUX input, which I connected to the Cara II’s headphone jack. The sound quality is again as good as plugging in

After charging it, the Cara II is now permanently inside my car until it need recharge. Since I don’t drive a lot a week, it probably last a few weeks with only intermittent on/off before I need a recharge. The sound quality is a huge improve from my previous setup – FM Bluetooth Transceiver. The transceiver not only doesn’t support AptX, broadcasting over FM made the sound quality really bad.

Since the Cara II is self powered, and doesn’t turn off when the engine stops, whatever is playing on the phone will continue until you manually switch off the device or the Bluetooth connection is lost. The Cara II will go into standby mode after a long period of time without any activity. I usually have to power it back up by switching it off and on, otherwise it can normally wake by recharging it, which I don’t do inside the car.

The Bluetooth connection, specifically with AptX is quite stable. Quite as in it does get a bit of interference when passing area with lots of signal pollution on the 2.4GHz band. Either that or my Oneplus 3T Bluetooth isn’t great. I’m just got myself a Oneplus 5T and I’ll update if things does improve with different phone.

I didn’t test another function of the Cara II as a Bluetooth transmitter whereby it can transmit the audio from what’s input into the 3.5” jack. I’m thinking it will be useful for those with TV or PC without Bluetooth and wanted a quick way to transmit high quality audio to their AptX capable headphones.

IMG_20180306_144916.jpg

For the price of RM139 it is a no brainer if you wanted to playback high quality audio on your conventional speakers, or like my case, use it inside the car.

Updated 4th May 2018: After using my new Oneplus 5T for a few days, I concluded the connection is much more stable and there is now zero skip during playback. The Oneplus 3T Bluetooth AptX is indeed wonky and there is nothing wrong with the Avantree Cara II.

Avantree Cara II Review

RMA Ikea Markus

The Old Markus

I got an IKEA Markus chair back in 2015 after I was starting to get backache after gaming long hours in front of my PC. Before getting the Markus, I was using the IKEA Snille chair, which doesn’t cut it. Not only is it uncomfortable, the plastic back broke quite easily and I’ve replaced the plastic part twice.

The Markus fixed the issue with my back pain and I glad I made the purchase. I also liked the height and tilt adjustment which make me sit more comfortably while maintaining a correct posture while computing (gaming, erhem).

A little over two years after the purchase, the tilt mechanism failed. It wouldn’t lock the tilt position anymore and I have the tighten the knob under the chair so that it will not tilt at all when I’m lean back. Since IKEA advertise the chair having 10 years guarantee, I decided to RMA it.

The RMA

I lost my receipt, but I still have records of the date of purchase, and the same credit card which I used. I brought my chair to IKEA Damansara the other day for the RMA. According to the friendly staff over the counter, they only need the date of purchase. After the staff checked the chair, they decided to refund me because they do not have the parts for replacement.

They can either refund back to my credit card or give me a gift card with the re-funded amount inside. There’s just one part that I’m not so glad about this is that they cannot fully refund the original price of the chair. I roughly calculated that they deducted around RM4 per month of owning the chair out of the total value.

Anyway, I took the gift card, went into the store and bought another Markus. This time I bought the black “fake” leather cushion one instead of clothes one for a change. I find the RMA process (or refund, for my case) very quick and efficient.

The New Markus

My previous Markus was with blue fabric cushion. The leather one does feel a bit warmer after prolong sit, but nothing uncomfortable. I do feel it is a bit more slippery to sit on. The handle for the leather version is softer and much better than the hard plastic on the fabric version.

RMA Ikea Markus

Live Streaming with X-T2

After testing a few times, the day finally arrive for me to use the X-T2 to live stream my brother’s wedding. I’m going to write about the gears first. Firstly is the camera – Fujifilm X-T2. I’ve blogged about how I ended up with this camera. So in addition to that, the video out works really well.

I’m able to get clean HDMI 1080p video feed from the Mini HDMI port continuously without even starts the recording on the camera. That’s mean I’m not restricted by the capacity of the SD card used, I can record on and on until my laptop’s HDD is full. I do have to disable the auto switch off function for power saving.

The body grip with its included power supply kept the camera powered throughout the shoot. There may be a slight power drain on the batteries but it was too little for me to notice it. All 3 batteries were practically almost full at the end of the 3 hours shoot when I disconnected the power.

Most of the shoot are done with the XF 10-24mm lens since the camera is set up pretty close up front stage. Arguably the 18-135mm or the 16-50mm will be a slightly better choice to zoom into the action without any lens change. I have to put in a static standby feed for lens change if I need a tighter crop of the frame with my UWA lens.

I bought the Razer Ripsaw for capturing the 1080p feed into my computer. It is the cheapest 1080p capture device I can find in Malaysia for the job. It works pretty well even though it’s primarily used by gamer to live-stream their console games. I didn’t compare the quality of the feed to the native files captured in the camera since my primary usage is for online streaming and that’s more of quality bottleneck. Since it can’t record 4k, I didn’t bother with that resolution.

The Razer Ripsaw is connected to my laptop’s USB 3.0 port. On the laptop, I used an open source software called OBS for online streaming. The initial set-up can be a bit intimidating but it wasn’t that hard. The actual usage during live-stream is pretty straight forward, I admit I did not tap into the full potential of the software. With OBS, I can choose to live-stream while record to hard-disk, just to make sure I still keep a copy of the video in case my live-stream failed. However the live-stream was a success, so I ended up not using the recordings.

As for encoder, I used the dGPU NVENC for online streaming and iGPU QSV for local recording. To be honest, I can’t really tell the difference in quality at a glance. I understand I’ll get better quality if I use software x264, but I don’t see the need to have that slight extra quality for this job.

I was lucky that the venue has extremely good free Wi-Fi, which save me the trouble of actually setting up the data connection myself with 3G hotspot. I was able to stream at 10mbps to YouTube without dropping frames. If the location doesn’t provide free Wi-Fi, I would have to be at the exact spot testing if I am able to get stable upload speed with my current telco, it is just so much variable compared to just using Wi-Fi and I was just really lucky.

I choose YouTube instead of Facebook due to the ease of editing the video after streaming it. I find it more private to use YouTube instead of Facebook whereby you get to share the link to specific people at any point of time by simply sending the link via Whatapps or email.

To do that with Facebook, I got to set the video as public and everyone on the friend list will be able to see it. I sounds good at first, until something embarrassing and everyone all over the world will get to watch it.

As I mention about editing in YouTube, due to the fact the camera never stops rolling throughout the wedding, it captured a lot of scene whereby nothing was happening and people were just waiting for things to happen. I can quickly use the timeline tool in YouTube to cut-out those time and save as a second video for those who wanted to re-watch.

All in all I’m very happy with this set-up. I wish I had a 4k video capture device since the camera is capable but such thing is simply too expensive for casual use. Since the bride likes the video feed too, I take that as a job well done.

 

Live Streaming with X-T2

Precision Trackpad Driver for AW13

Found a way to force Windows Precision drivers on my Alienware 13R3.

Just to be clear, the latest touchpad driver from Dell is very good. The tracking and scrolling have improved a lot since I got my AW13. There’s just one thing bugging me – zooming in browser. It is just not as smooth like on Apple’s Safari, which Microsoft own Surface device can totally do it in Edge browser.

Seems to me the feature is available with Microsoft Precision touchpad driver, which I find it dumb not to have the same thing for other touchpad (Synaptics/ELAN). I need it because the text seems rather small on the 13″ screen with 1080p resolution. Yes I can tweak the DPI but I like the UI size to maintain native and small.

That’s just me, so here’s the workaround:

I found a thread in Superuser forum, a guy named James Manes made the driver work on his HP Spectre X360 (2017). He followed a post in Reddit for the mod, but added a fix for the driver to continue working after waking up from sleep.

I downloaded the driver from link in the Reddit post, followed the instruction to install the driver and restart the laptop. The touchpad menu in Windows 10’s Settings changed after the driver change, indicating Microsoft Precision driver is working and I am finally able to do smooth zoom in Edge.

I try putting the laptop to sleep and waking it up just to see if the gesture continues to work and it did.

But there’s some problems. Tracking is wonky, and isn’t as good as Dell latest driver, but I can live with that, some people can’t. Second, after zooming in Edge, the scroll left/right isn’t working well. I’ll bounce back if I swipe left/right, but it will scroll perfectly fine left/right. This behaviour was the same as scrolling up/down with the older Dell official driver, which they’d fix on later date.

I’ll use the new modified Precision driver for now and see how long I can tolerate the shortcomings.

Precision Trackpad Driver for AW13

Nay, not DLSR!

On my previous blog post, I said that I am going to buy a 5D Mark III. However after much consideration and failing to get a used body within my budget, I’ve decided to just get a new Fujifilm X-T2. I’ll write a review for the X-T2 soon, so this post is mostly about why I’ve done that.

First of I feel Canon as a camera company is just so arrogant, and I do not support such arrogance, which I am going to vote with my wallet. The recent 6D Mark II launch shows the extent they are going to cripple a camera so they can sell 5D, 1D and Cinema EOS at a much higher premium. I’m going to refer the camera as 6DII from now.

I can understand if they omitted 4K video and dual card slots for their cine line and pro-bodies, but a sensor with worse dynamic range than their very own APS-C 80D? Like seriously Canon? I really wanted to know who approved this sensor to go into a 2017 full-frame camera.

Even then, they should just included both 4K video recording and dual card slots because the 6DII is so physically huge and very expensive! Heck, if they have included these, I would have just bought the 6DII instead of XT2.

This led me into thinking again whether I should buy a used 5DIII with all the reason I’d previously wrote. Honestly the only thing I will miss out without buying a full-frame body is only bokeh. The 56mm f/1.2 give me more than enough for me to chew.

So coming back to the XT2 purchase. I’ve decided that the video from the 5DIII is not worth the it in 2017. Other than the 4K Magic Lantern hack, the default 1080p video from the camera seems terrible at best, compared to even the much more cheaper m43 cameras. Heck even the 1″ sensor from Sony RX100V can shoot sharper 1080p video as well as 4k video.

The XT2 can do sharp 4k, as well as HDMI out which I think I will be using for my brother’s wedding for streaming the feed online. By adding the Booster Grip, I can use the included power adapter to power the camera instead of relying on the little batteries. To do the same on 5DIII, I need to get a separate power adapter, an attachment for the correct battery size and the whole package doesn’t work very reliably, as some of the reviews has mentioned in Amazon.

Lastly I manage to find a very good X-T2 deal, but it doesn’t come with Malaysia Warranty. I’ve used the X100S and X-T1 and those two has never gave me much problems and I’m confident in the X-T2 will be as reliable to not needing any local warranty.

Nay, not DLSR!