Thursday, May 5, 2016

Bought my second car

This is one of the long due blog posts I had in my head to write for some time.
I wanted to change my car to a somewhat modern looking one after using for 2 and half years. Emphasis on the word "somewhat". Basically what I had in my mind was the Nissan Bluebird Sylphy G10 and the Nissan FB15. I had heard from friends that while they are not really economical in terms of fuel consumption, they make up for that fact by being very comfortable.

I use my cars mostly in weekends so I'm not really bothered about fuel consumption. So I started the car hunting in January of 2014 and was able to find the new love in June. I inspected at least 30 cars during that period . Finally what I bought was not what I initially expected though. I was biased towards the 1.8 liter Bluebird Sylphy over the 1.5 liter version simply because it has more power :) . But good specimens were hard to come by, 1.5 liter version was comparatively available. During this time I also checked out few Nissan N16 Sunnys as well. Basically it's the same car as the Bluebird Sylphy G10, albeit with different engine options and different interior trim levels.

Happiness from seeing your reflection on the paint work is one of those little inexplicable things :)

I was finally able to find an N16 Sunny in reasonably good condition for my budget. During this period I was able to seek a new home for my previous car as well. He was a very good colleague of mine. That was a heart warming moment to see you leave your car at someone else's home. On the flip side of the coin, I get to see the car once in a while since the friend lives close by. Wait! I didn't see him for the last couple of months :(

If you are interested in the specs here is a breakdown.

Model: Nissan N16 Sunny Super Saloon
YOM: 2001
Engine capacity : 1600cc (1.6 liter)
Power: 118hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 165Nm @ 4000 rpm

By the way only the Super saloon comes with the 1600cc engine, the Ex Saloon comes with the 1500cc engine which is the same engine used in FB15 Sunny. Note that this applies only to the pre-face-lifted N16 only, the face-lifted N16 ( known as N17 in our market) has even 1300cc Super Saloons. :)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Finally bought a Canon 700D. Happy!!!

I'm not kidding, this was probably one of the toughest decisions I had to take in my life. I had been using a Sony Cyber-shot W230 since 2009. I had this craze to own a DSLR ever since I felt the limitations of my point and shoot camera, which was not so long after I bought it. For me, a DSLR is an expensive investment with nothing in return except for the pleasure factor, so I literally postponed this idea more than a dozen times, though I kept doing my research for a suitable camera. I had Nikon D5200 and Canon 700D in my mind. They were both in the same class but the Canon was a bit pricier. Even after reading so many articles I had this doubt whether to go with the D5200 or the 700D. Nikons have always had better dynamic range in their sensors, similarly I kind of feel Canon has better auto-focus performance. My brain said to go with the Nikon but the heart said to grab the Canon. Overall package wise I felt the Canon was a bit ahead, plus, Canon had me at the killer touch screen implementation. To be honest though, even the day before I bought the Canon, I had not decided on which camera to buy :)

I bought the 700D with the 18-55 IS STM kit lens in April. At the same time bought the 50mm f1.8 Mark II AKA Nifty Fifty as well. Ever since I started reading on photography I always wanted a big aperture lens. I had this lens attached to the body for days without even removing to switch with the 18-55 lens :) 

For the telephoto end I only had limited options. Clearly I couldn’t spend a lot for a hobby with no return on investment so I had only the 75-300 (Non IS) and 55-250 f4-5.6 IS II or STM to choose from. I ordered the 55-250 f4-5.6 STM via Kapruka since it was not available in the local market by then. The lens arrived exactly after one month from ordering. I wasn’t happy with the fact that it took so long. By the time the lens arrived it was available in the local market as well albeit with a slightly higher price tag.

I don’t get to travel a lot, so the chances of capturing something interesting is very slim. Thankfully I have a tree behind my house which is busy with birds which I can easily reach with the 55-250 lens. On the flip side though the birds are of very common varieties. I like to experiment with long exposure and night photography so I bought a cheap tripod from Kandy when I was on a trip. It wasn’t as cheap as in Colombo but I didn’t have to spend more for fuel :)
Strangely, I forgot my login details for my flickr account so I created a new one. I do post some images which I capture with my DSLR on flickr so if you wanna have a look just visit my flickr photostream. I admit they suck, but bear with me as I’m still learning. :)

Friday, November 7, 2014

To upgrade the PC or upgrade the car ?

The last upgrade that went in to the PC was the graphics card I bought nearly 2 years back. In today's standards 2 years is a hell of a lot of time to keep using a graphics card, though I am going to stick to this for a while as I have no plans to upgrade the monitor resolution. The casing has seen many upgrades (perhaps a downgrade too) and it has sheltered the components for 6+ years straight without seeing one major upgrade; the cpu. I bought the E6750 in 2008 February for 25k hoping to keep it for at least 3 years. Anyways the priorities started to change slowly as I bought the first car in 2011. The PC had to take a lower place in the priority list. But hey! this is the gaming season. Call of duty Advanced Warfare is already here, and FarCry 4 is around the corner, perfect time for the long due cpu upgrade. The present cpu has seen its heydays and sadly doesn't have enough grunt to run the latest AAA titles.

I did my home work and figured with the budget I am allocating I can get some non K 4th gen i5 cpu with probably a B85 motherboard. Here I am going to skimp on the motherboard as there is no point spending on a high end one since non K cpus can't be overclocked no thanks to Intel. This would cost me close to 40k. I will be using the existing Ram which I upgraded few years back when the motherboard went kaput.

When I come to think of it, 40k, just for the sake of playing a couple of games this year, is it really worth to spend that much? On the other hand I could spend that money on the new car and take care of the suspension. The front suspension needs attention, probably 2 new shocks and some bushes here and there. I can say for sure the front left shock is a goner as it doesn't make the sound it is supposed to make when you bounce the car several times. Japanese KYB shocks cost close to 10k each, since you should change shocks in pairs it would set back 20k. Add the cost of bushes, labour charges and alignment charges and it will come close to 40k. I could go the cheap route and repair the shocks locally for 7k a pair but I have no faith in them. You should always try to get the genuine or the equivalent OEM parts at least for the critical components.
So the burning question is what should I upgrade?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Android 4.3 Jelly Bean on Xperia Mini Pro (SK17)

Sony decided that Android 4.0.4 is as good as Xperia mini pro gets, and a lot of other phones for that matter. Ice cream sandwich is no slouch, but no thanks to Java, the UI layer can be cumbersome for phones with slower hardware. Jelly bean to the rescue!. With project butter and various software optimizations the UI layer now can operate at 60 fps for a buttery smooth experience.
So how did I get jellybean on my Xperia ? Keep reading to find out. 

The first thing you have to do is rooting the phone, that's a no brainer eh? Find out how to root your device before everything else. It's usually different from device to device. Next up is unlocking your boot loader. Now some devices have factory unlocked boot loaders, if that's your case consider yourself lucky. This is not to say that others are unlucky, but YMMV. There are some devices where the boot loader is not unlockable. Now this is where most of you will choke and it will cost you money to make it unlockable. I had to pay close to 7 euros to Wotan server to get it done online. Mind you the process involves fiddling with hardware so it's not for the faint of heart. Once you are done you can get your boot loader unlocked with Test point method ( Wotan server also uses this).

When everything is done you are ready to flash that shiny jellybean ROM of yours. At the moment I use Legacy Xperia Jellybean 4.3 ROM which is based on Cyanogen mod 10.2 as the daily driver. You have to extract the ROM and flash the kernel file using the Flashtool. Then boot to recovery (CWM) and proceed to flash the ROM. I have the nAa kernel which is really good and fast. If you need more information on how to flash custom ROMs head over to xda-forums.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bought an Asus X55A

So I had this itch to get a full fledged notebook again for sometime. The Lenovo netbook I had was painfully slow for most tasks. High bitrate 720p video playback was troublesome at times. It was 2years+ old so it was up for an upgrade. I was monitoring the market prices for affordable notebooks for several months. I didn't need a high-end or a gaming notebook since I ain't gonna replace the desktop with laptop as my primary PC. I decided that I should get either a Pentium dual core or a Core i3 based notebook. One thing that does not go well with bugdet offerings is the looks. HP lineup is so fugly with cheap looking glossy plastics. Dell lineup is so boxy. I don't like boxy designs at all. One day I noticed an Asus lappy that was advertised on lapzone dot lk. I've always had a soft spot for Asus in my heart ( Rock Solid - Heart Touching :) ) besides the price was good and it looked great. I read few online reviews and ran to catch a train to Bambalapitiya.

This lapzone store was located directly infront of the Majestic city. I noticed a Lenovo lappy with the same configuration as the ASUS one save for a slightly slower CPU but the rest were same, even the price. Lenovo one looked a little better with it's color scheme and I believe it had a slightly better LCD panel too. I love the Lenovo keyboard BTW. ASUS one carried 2 years hardware warranty from the dealer itself while the Lenovo had only 1 year. Then I bargained it down to a good price and left the place to check other shops out. Asian computers in Unity plaza had few Gigabyte notebooks with 2 years hardware warranty as well. All the laptops in the stores were playing the movie Adventures of Tintin (2011) . Then I noticed a lappy with an absolutely gorgeous LCD panel. It really did stand out from the rest. The colors and contrast were off the chart, so were the viewing angles. I guessed it had an IPS panel, but I don't know how is it feasible to slap an IPS panel in a budget laptop. I'm a bit of a pixel peeper myself but unfortunately it was way over my budget. The lappy was a Gigabyte with a Core i3 CPU btw. There wasn't any particular lappy that caught my eye so I returned to lapzone and bought the Asus lappy I mentioned earlier for Rs 52,500. The model is X55A.
The display is average at best, you can't expect better panels in this price range though. And I usually watch movies on the TV connected to the lappy anyways. One bigger drawback of this lappy is the ports. It has only 2 USB ports (1xUSB3.0 + 1xUSB2.0) and all the ports and power connector are on the left hand side. So it is pretty crowded. Right side houses only the optical drive.

I hate to fiddle with so many cables so I ordered an HDMI cable off eBay to replace my audio and VGA cables that run to the TV set. The old Lenovo didn't sport an HDMI out.
The battery pack is a 47Wh unit. I tested it for the runtime with my HSDPA modem plugged in and it achived not-so-bad 4 hours of web browsing. That means a power usage of 11.75W ( 47Wh/4h) . This was with 30% brightness and Asus battery saver profile enabled. The modem is a mega battery hogger @~2.5W. All the other components use only ~9.25W. My guess is that the lappy should do around 5 hours of surfing with WiFi.

God I miss the Lenovo keyboard, I really do. Keyboard on the Asus is rather unresponsive at times, you have to press on the dead center of the keys to register it. Asus should learn a thing or two from Lenovo on how to make great keyboards.
I don't have many complaints other than the ones I mentioned above. It is really fast for the tasks it is used for. The cpu is B980 @ 2.4GHz ; a cut down version of Sandy Bridge; is nippy enough for day to day tasks, and will serve my needs for at least another 2 years. :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Got myself a GTX650Ti

So I gifted myself a new VGA just in time for the new year. The aged 9800GT died on me few months back so I had no gaming life during the past months so to speak. Oh btw I got a PlayStation2 from a friend of mine and had some fun with it. The old 9800GT was 4 years+ old but still had some kick left in it, but it died and I had to get a new one. Local prices were absurd as usual and a Geforce 650 was around 20K, a GTX 650Ti would set you back a hefty 27K+.

Luckily Anusha  asked me if I want to get one from Japan when he comes to SL in December. So I checked few japanese online stores and opted to get a GTX650Ti made by Palit for JPY11,380 which was roughly equivalent to LKR18,000. That marks it as my 6th encounter with nVidia and I'm yet to buy any ATi/AMD card. Does that make me an nVidia Fanboy ?? :)

One fine Wednesday I met Anusha and got the card from him, oh and I had to bug him to check the card for DOA when he got it from Japan. We had a small mishap with money where I had given him less than the promised amount, managed to solve it but the embarrassment is still there :)

Plugged the card and did the routine installations and voila! Everything is fine. Now I had FarCry3 and Most Wanted pre-installed :) , cranked to max possible graphics quality on FarCry3 and it delivered near 30FPS (@1366x768) during the opening scene, not to say it is playable but still being on a 5 years old CPU ( E6750 overclocked to 3GHz) that is decent. Anyways had to lower some options here and there (specially SSAO) to get it to play at a smooth frame rate. One thing I noticed in FarCry3 was even at 30FPS the game play is nowhere near smooth as it would with Call Of Duty. So some sacrifices with the graphics quality had to be made.

The card is dead silent while sitting at idle and is much much cooler than my old card. To give you some perspective, the 9800GT sat around 58-60C with the fan @ 100% speed, while the 650Ti manages to do away with less than 40C, and that is with the fan @ 35% (Auto). I always had the 9800GT fan at full throttle to avoid any unnecessary overheating.

This was the significant gadget(PC) purchase I did in 2 years so "the itch" to get a new gadget is resisted for few months to come :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Nothing like a trip down the memory lane to recall the hardware of the past.

Do you remember your first PC ? I think everyone does, and will never forget. I got mine as a gift when I was in year 10 in school. It was a used Compaq Prolinea 4/33 with an IBM 14" CRT Monitor, a Compaq keyboard and an IBM mouse :) . I still remember the first day I got it, I had to anxiously wait for an entire day for my parents to bring a power entension cord to power it up. It was loaded with Windows 95 though the hardware was in DOS/Win 3.1 era. The processor was an Intel 486 DX running at mighty 33MHz, coupled with 8MB of RAM and a whopping 120MB Quantum hard disk, with integrated Tseng labs ET4000/W32 VGA with 1MB of VRAM  which I and my friends enjoyed countless hours of  playing Wolf3D and Dangerous Dave with. And that with the annoying (now!) sounds of the PC speaker. Oh I'm getting all nostalgic over and over again. :(

Then came the school holidays. Ours was the only household who had a PC in the area. My friends would wait for my parents to leave the house and sneak in asap. Then they won't leave until the time my parents come back home in the evening. So I usually had my lunch after 5PM :) . Nice memories. I was afraid that the PC would burn from using several hours straight, my fear was quadrupled when I learnt that the CPU didn't have a heatsink or a fan of any sort. Yes! I took apart my very first computer not more than 3 months after getting it. Once we were playing a game during a heavy rain and nearly got struck by lightning. I was nervously waiting for electricity to come back to make sure the PC wasn't kaput. 

I was basically using the PC for playing games and most importantly learning how to use a PC :) Didn't have internet back then so unlike thesedays everthing was learnt by trial and error. With the 120MB of hard drive space I was deleting everything that seemed unnecessary to gain free space, once I deleted io.sys , and msdos.sys files :) and saved the PC miraculously by putting a 3.5" floppy disk with those files at boot time which I brought copied from a Win 98 PC from the school computer lab.
After using nearly 2 years straight, the time came for me to go for a faster PC with multimedia capabilities. So I reluctantly sold it to a friend of mine and got a Pentium 166 (No MMX). 
Though the current PC I use is easily five hundred times faster and has literally 1000+ times memory (8GB) and has blistering fast graphics I will cherish the moments I had with the mighty Compaq Prolinea forever!

Click here to view a disassembled Compaq Prolinea  4/33 in it's full glory.