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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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!

Finding a HDMI capture card

As for sending video signal into a computer for streaming, too bad GPU’s HDMI can reverse into an input and using the GPU directly for recording. So I need an external HDMI capture card since I can’t plug any PCI-E cards into my laptop or my m-ITX PC.

At first looking in Lelong, the HDMI capture device sold are only able to save into a USB host, and unable to pass-thru video data to a computer directly. A bit of Google search, I found a lot of professional use Blackmagic Intensity for streaming HDMI video into their PC. It cost RM1050 here, which is very expensive if I only wanted to very occasional streaming.

Gamers are also using HDMI capture device to stream their games online, from their console, so a few companies sells their product to cater this niche markets. In theory it can also be use for output from a camera, which some people actually manage to use it as such.

A very famous brand in US with such product is Elgato with their HD60 and HD60s series. The difference with the HD60s is that it provide HDMI pass-thru, into a PC where the video encoding will be done. The HD60 will encode the video, but it would not be very good in quality.

Since there is no distributor bringing in those products, the price to get one from Lazada is very high, much higher compared to buying on in the States. Last year Razer launched their very own HDMI capture devices too called the Ripsaw and it is brought into Malaysia. I manage to find someone selling at a very competing price of RM630 in Lelong so I think that’s what I am going to get.

The Razer Ripsaw is using the same internals from Avermedia Live Gamer Extreme. It is cheaper in the US, but significantly more expensive in Malaysia at RM1.2k maybe due to no official local distributor.

I wish I can get an affordable 4k capture card at around RM400 since these stuff shouldn’t be so expensive to begin with. Until then, I should be sastified with the 1080p since not there’s no real usage for streaming at 4k anyway.

Finding a HDMI capture card

Get Another DSLR?

I’ve been eying for the 5D Mark III for sometimes now, even before I bought my second hand X-T1. I couldn’t find a reason to buy it because of how rare I will be shooting with it since I’ve stopped shooting for events. Until now…

My younger brother is going to get married in November, the wedding will be held in KL. My mother who has difficulty walking couldn’t come to KL to attend his wedding, so I’m thinking to some how stream the event online, so she can watch from her bed.

Yes I can use a webcam which I already have, but I think the video feed from a camera will be much better. In addition, adding a tele lens will allow for close up at people’s expression. For a camera to do that, it has to have direct video output, preferably thru HDMI for best resolution. Looking at my camera collection: Canon 5D, 40D, 1000D, Fujifilm X-T1 and X100S. None of them has so called Clean HDMI Out.

The 1000D and 40D has PC tethering, and I could probably hack that with some software to stream what’s captured on the screen. I don’t think this is a good idea because the video feed wouldn’t be smooth and low resolution in today’s standard. The X-T1 got phone tethering, but there’s no way to stream the video out, at least not in a reliable way.

Since I already got a couple of Canon and Fujifilm lens, I decided not to look for a third brand of camera for this little project. The brand new Fujifilm X-T2 has got sharp 4k recording as well as clean HDMI out. It is priced at RM6400 brand new.

At around the same price, I could get a used Canon 5D Mark III. The 5D3 only shoots 1080p, very blur 1080p. Looking how its successor 5D Mark IV compared to the rest in low light video, seems like the 5D3 bigger sensor won’t be an advantage in noise department at high ISO. The 5D3’s Clean HDMI out doesn’t output sound from the camera’s mic too.  The 5D3 looks like a poor choice in every way as a video camera. It is also not a very good still too in 2017 with its poor dynamic range.

If I were to sell all of my Canon lens and replace them with Fujifilm…

X-T2 – RM6400
XF 50-140mm – RM6400
XF 16mm – RM4400
minus – RM9500 selling old Canon lens
Total: RM7700

That comes out almost RM2k more than a used 5D Mark III, but of course it’ll give a big boost in image and video quality. If I regretted the purchase and decided to sell of the Fuji, I will lost around RM3-4k, but if I were to sell the used Mark III, I only lose around RM1k at most.

If not for still owning good Canon lens, I wouldn’t be considering the 5D3 at all. However I still have the awesome 70-200mm f/2.8 and 24mm f/1.4 which perform really well on full-frame camera, and I really miss getting nice bokeh after shooting mostly with Fujifilm for 3 years. I’m sure the X-T2 is faster than the X-T1 but the 5D Mark III’s focus will still have a slight edge in speed. Or I am a Canon fanboy… damnit.

And for streaming, the viewer will not be watching from a 50″ TV, they most probably watch it on their computer, phone or tablet and probably over Youtube or Facebook. Some may be streaming at 1080p but most will most probably stream at 720p or lower in Malaysia. So the video quality of the camera doesn’t actually matter, solely in this aspect.

So I’m most probably going to get the 5D3, plus a grip, plus extra batteries, plus a ACK-E6 adapter for powering the camera continuously without battery.

Get Another DSLR?