Spring Cleaning…

Ahh… Spring time. Nothing like starting spring cleaning early and enjoy the rest of spring fully. I had a couple things on my hit list of things to improve and probably spend way to much money..

My old office chair had developed a bad slant to it. One of the weld on the mounting plate has a bad crack in it and every time I would lean back, it would get worse. By the time I got my replacement chair, I basically had no back support. What did I buy? Some really expansive “gaming” chair from DXracer. Is it worth all the money? well so far, I can say that it is far more comfortable than the old one and it is clearly far better built than the $70 dollar chair that I bought last time.

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Mean green gaming chair! 

I also had to replace the band on my watch but because my watch is oh-so fancy, I can’t just bring it to a run of the mill watch store. It has some special hex lugs and they basically expect you to go to an authorized retailer to get the band changed. Since the nearest of such retailer is all the way down in Kansas City, I spent $40 to get my own set of tools… and another $40 on a replacement band… Still cheaper than going through retailers I suppose… (I had the watched shipped last time and that was $150).

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I think I mentioned several time in the past that the apartment complex where I live has a lake. It’s great for running and when the weather is nice, people actually fish in it. I have not yet seen people fishing but there are plenty of evidence in the form of bobbers stuck in tree branches.

I am going to guess the amateurs came out first. I have not done all that much but I am pretty sure that I would manage to not tangling my line in a tree, heck I would know better than fishing next to the trees…

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If you are interested in Rubik’s cube style puzzles, you might have heard that V cube has release their latest giant puzzle. Yes, they finally released a nine layered puzzle, three whole years after the eight layered one, and to be honest, I am a bit disappointed.

The main issue that I have with it is that it’s not that much more challenging than the eight layered or even the seven layered puzzles. If you look at the difficulty curve between the difference Rubik’s cube, there is a big leap between the standard three layered cube and the next two cubes. The five and four layered cubes required new techniques to solve the centers and the edges that you don’t need in the three layered cube. The seven and six layered had their own twist on how to solve the last two centers but the rise in difficulty was not that big. The main difference between the nine and seven layered puzzle is mostly having to deal with more pieces. The eight and nine layered cube have no new techniques required to solve them. If you can solve the six layered puzzle, you can solve anything bigger.

Oh, and it’s massive. Even with my massive hand, it is hard to handle.

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9×9 to 6×6 V-cubes

I was hoping was a new challenge to tackle but it turned out to be more of the same. To be honest, I actually have several challenging (and horribly expensive) puzzles that I have yet to solve.

Let the rainy season begin!!

Ahh, Spring! A season that bring vision of warm weather, refreshing breezes, having a nice glass of ice tea on the terrace of your local coffee shop… But nope! Here, it means a ton of storms. It has been raining non stop for the past four days or so. I has not been so bad that I had turn the heater back on but pretty close.

I had such high hope of getting back to running outside and try out my new Garmin GPS watch.  I already signed up again for the Omaha half marathon and I think that I can cut at least 10-20 minutes from last year time’s, but I really don’t want to be on the treadmill for more than a couple miles. Hopefully we get a couple nice weeks before the unbearable heat of summer, get some good runs going.

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Hey, remember how I said that I was looking into getting a Huawei P10 if/when I came out in the United States? HAHAHAHA, what a fool I have been! Turns out I misread a couple articles. When I read “there is no announced release for the US”, I assumed there was an implied “yet” but after looking a bit more into it, the word seems to be that it won’t be released in the states… Bummer.

Well, at least there is a silver lining in the form of my second choice of phone: the Mate 9. It has almost the same specs, it has a bigger screen, better resolution and higher pixel density, but most importantly, I can actually buy it right now. It apparently comes with Amazon’s “Alexa” thing but it will disabled/deleted faster than you could say “useless piece of $%*#!”. There is a Pro version with 128 gigs of memory and 6 gig of ram but it’s nearly $300 more expansive… Yeah, I’ll pass. The one thing I am not too keen on is the fingerprint on the back rather where the home button is, I guess I could live with it.

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Something kinda funny happened at the office recently. As we prepare to give one of our building to UNO, the security department has been doing upgrades to our system, and they must have messed something up because all the employee badges stopped working, but only on some doors.

I remember walking into the building and seeing this long line in front of the security desk. Tried to buzz in and could not get in. I could wait in line for like ten minutes or walk to the back of the building and use the other set of doors that apparently worked fine. So apparently we have two different set of access authorization for one building, which is seem really dumb.

The way they seemed to have fixed it is what really takes the cake. As far as I can tell, the doors don’t lock anymore, the badge scanner is blinking like you just buzzed in. They also doubled on security guards to avoid a situation where the front desk is unattended and someone sneaks in.

Problem: people can’t go through the security doors. Solutions: A) fix the access issue issue or B) unlock the doors… I guess they went for the lazy option…

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Talking about the office, I think I am finally seeing the light at the end of tunnel. I have been trudging through two projects: one that is not due for another 6 month and another one that’s 6 month overdue.

The design for the October project are about a precise as tarot card reading. It’s full of assumptions, maybes and several section label “to be determined”. Some changes in one program don’t match the changes in an associated copybook. It’s a complete mess.

The other overdue project is that late because it was also a complete mess. When I got the design for the project, all it had were a couple input file layouts (which, surprise, surprise turned out to be completely inaccurate). I improvised a report program and waited 3 months for test files. The test file they sent us were not formatted and were only to test connectivity… after waiting another month, we finally got some proper test files and discovered how far off our assumptions were. I rewrote most of my program only to determine that one of the input file is actually useless and the we should only two of the three files.

I effectively rewrote that program three times now but it might finally be over. All I need is for the other team to confirm the reports and I will finally be free to trudge through one project instead of two…

I guess it’s officially spring…

 

As you might have heard, the spring equinox was this Monday and it has officially been spring for three whole days, and to be honest you can hardly tell. We had this gorgeous day on Sunday with temperatures in the low 80, I went on a nice six mile walk, got a chance to wear so shorts for the first time in while… and couple days later it was sleeting… I was literally freezing this morning… It is supposed to get better in the upcoming weeks and genuinely can’t wait for so nicer weather. That is until real Summer kicks in and it gets unbearably hot… I need to to move to Hawaii, at least the temperature are constantly nice year long there…

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So there has this brouhaha going around about how Microsoft was push “intrusive ads” in File explorer going on last week and earlier this week and I just can’t fathom what planet these people live on. Maybe it’s because I am a techie and most tech website are for the common lowest denominator, and probably because click bait makes more money, but I was not inconvenienced at all by the supposed “dastardly move” by Microsoft. First of all It’s hardly intrusive, it was just a “banner ad” that, unless you have a tiny screen and font at maximum, is far less intrusive that your average online self playing video ad, and it actually has a X at the top right to dismiss it, something that a lot of articles fail to mention. Sure, there is a setting that will probably prevent future ads, but it take less than a second or two to click on the X and once dismissed that ad never reappears. Also I think that the ads are somehow tied to your Microsoft account because it only appeared on one of my three Windows machines and they are all up to date. This seems like such a storm in tea cup, which I guess is the general trend in media these days…

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I have been looking for a new phone and I think that I have found what I am looking for, the Huawei P10 ( and probably the plus variant). It has a nice a large screen, 20 mp rear camera, Micro SD slot, runs on the latest version of android, has an headphone jack and most importantly it should be cheaper that comparable phones from popular brands like Samsung or Apple. Yes it is from a Chinese brand which might scare some people but Chinese phone maker have been making some really good ones. My current phone, the Oneplus 2 is really competitive in there of feature and price. There is no release date for the american market yet, and I am not risking buying an import from ebay (plenty of scammers), so I’ll have to endure my wonky phone for a while longer. I’ll also keep a look out for possibly the Oneplus 4 that might come out later this summer, or just go for the 3T which has gotten a lot of good reviews.

I guess it’s winter again…

It seems that WordPress had a brain fart and this was never posted… Just pretend that this post was made a week ago….

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Last Monday it was gorgeous outside! the sun was shinning, there was a light breeze and it was like 80 degrees outside. Summer felt like it was around the corner. Now, it’s gloomy as hell and the temperature are in the low twenty degrees and it was technically snowing on Friday… Why oh why is weather so inconsistent these day?  I don’t mind weird swings in temperature but this is really brutal.

But Alex, surely there is more going on the world than stupid weather! Why yes voice in may head, there is!

I went to the movie theater the other day and went to see the new King Kong movie and was actually pretty good. Sure, some of the characters are not very three dimensional and feel somewhat pointless but most of them die so to me that not really an issue. Visually, the movie is incredible. The fight scene with Kong at the end is really cool, and unlike the 2005 remake of the original, it does not feel like it too long. I was surprised to see that the movie was barely two hours. If you liked Godzilla and are curious about some of the coming movie in that shared universe, I would strongly recommend giving it a watch. Also do make sure to stay for the after credit scene, it is well worth it.

The one thing that annoyed me the most was not in the movie itself but one of the trailers, the one for “Life”. It’s a sci-fi movie that opens with “Spirit in the skies”, just like Guardian of The Galaxy, it has a cocky Ryan Reynolds just like in Deadpool, It has the international space station breaking up and entering the atmosphere just like in Gravity, there’s an alien that kills on instinct and they try to kill with a flame thrower just like in Alien. It’s like Sony decided to take elements from very successful sci-fi movie, threw them in a blender and decided that because it worked for others it will work for them… Oh so blatant plagiarism…

Also I definitely need a new phone because my current one is starting to act up strangely. First of all one of the quirks is that there is no vibration only mode, the ringer volume cannot be completely turned off. I cannot silence my phone, which means that i can’t silence my phone… Now that isn’t an end all issue, I just put my phone on airplane mode. Comes in quirk number two: when I turn off airplane mode, my Bluetooth devices can’t connect anymore unless I reboot my phone. This is really annoying. It also happens even if I don’t use airplane mode. Oh and for some reason, if I don’t reboot my phone once in a while, the Youtube app decides that synchronized audio and video is for sissies and desynchronizes… That last one baffles me, somehow I can understand the Bluetooth Issue, but Youtube? I think I should start looking for a new device….

Uhmm? What’s that? New AMD CPUs are coming out this weekend? And they look like they might actually be good value? That sounds very exciting! What? Oculus just cut the price of their Rift headset by $200? Wow! This might just be the best moment to buy into the VR experience… But what’s this? Nintendo’s latest console is coming out this Friday? Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti?  My oh my! So many things to buy!

But chances are… I ain’t buying any of them. All of these are definitely tingling my interest but I not sure I can justify buying any of them.

While the new line up of AMD’s CPU look promising: 8 cores, low energy consumption, more affordable than a comparable Intel CPU. However, I would need to get a new motherboard, which would cancel out any price advantage, and my current system is an ITX form factor, and no ITX motherboard with the new AM4 socket are available yet. Besides my current computer is still more than powerful enough to play current releases at near max settings anyway. The GTX 1080 TI would be easier to slap in my current computer but again, I don’t need to upgrade my computer.

What about the Oculus Rift? $200 off is definitely a great deal! This is more of a grey zone. I really want to get into VR and price had always been a big roadblock. One problem I have is that the Oculus room scale setup has been hit and miss for many people. Supposedly there is a new update coming to fix the tracking issues but information is thin on that. Another is that HTC has better tracking and is working on new controllers that supposedly are coming out later this year. Plus, there is a chance that they will cut their pricing as well to remain competitive. Oh and I still have some issues with Facebook’s/ Oculus’ decision to have timed exclusives for their platform. I think I’ll continue to wait and see how the VR landscape evolves, besides I doubt that Oculus will raise their price again any time soon.

What about the Nintendo then? What’s wrong with that? Well, while there seems to be some positive words going around, I think I’ll wait until more proper reviews are out. Big issue like the Red Ring of Death tend to not show up in review hardware. Plus the current release line up of game is a bit thin. Sure Mario Kart is a safe value but I am sure that more interesting games are bound to come out.

In the mean time, I guess I can always put some money aside and try to pay off my car early… Or maybe I should look for a new phone… That could use an upgrade….

Back from the from the dead… sort of…

Hello Internet! It’s been a while since my last post here! Six whole month since that last blog post! Golly!

So what happened since? Well, I finished building that computer and it is working like a charm, I ran the Omaha half-marathon and finished it in three hours and twenty four minutes, which is not bad for a first timer,  I went to the New York Comic con which was a ton of fun, I transitioned from contractor to full time employee, and finally had an amazing trip to Florida in January.

So why I did not post anything in the past six month? Simple really: I was slacking… And why did finally restarted blogging today? well, it’s not because I am less of a slacker but because I am sick and off my face on aspirin and sore throat medication! You know those flu like symptoms where your throat is as dry as the Sahara and every part of your body just hurt? Yeah that’s me right now…

That weird nap from yesterday should have ticked me off. I decided to lounge and read some of the comic books I had bought that morning. I looked at my watch, it was 3:30, I get comfortable on the sofa and Bam! Suddenly it’s 5:45. Either I was suffering from phantom time due to an alien abduction or I was on the brink of getting quite sick, and considering in what shape I was in last night, it was obviously the later…

That being said I am starting to feel better than last night and I have tomorrow off, so it should not affect me to much, though my weekend plan were swiftly ejected out the window… I sure ain’t going to the gym today!

I guess this the perfect opportunity to catch up on some video games that I wanted to play, or watch some movies, or lay on the ground drinking hot tea to sooth my throat and contemplate the meaning of life… So many choices…

Counting steps, trying to build a pc, a finally some good news…

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I have been wearing this Fitbit fitness tracker for a while now and always wondered just accurate it is. I know it is pretty bad because it often says that I walk when I’m seating in cubicle, when I sleep, or when I play video games. While I don’t have another proper fitness tracker to test it against, though I should be receiving one of the new pebble smart watch some time in September, I do have another device with a built in step counter: a Nintendo 3DS.

Nintendo love trying to push gaming in weird direction and one of the ways they did that with the 3DS was the step counter. By walking around with the 3DS in sleep mode, you could earn gold coins, up to 10 a day I believe, that you could use as Virtual currency in certain games. I don’t know how many games actually used that feature, but the only one I have is Lego Star Wars The Clone Wars.

I was Going to walk to get a sandwich anyways so I though I would do an experiment and see how big of a difference there would be between the two. After walking the close to two miles to the sandwich shop I examined the the two counts. The Fitbit Counted 3114 steps while the 3DS counted 2979 steps, A number far closer than I would have expected. Knowing the Fitbit has a tendency to over count, I surprised at how good the step counter on the 3DS was. It is not a very scientific analysis, having only two points of data, but that gives me a good baseline for when I get the pebble watch and maybe any other tracker I might get, like one of those fancy Garmin running GPS enabled watches my parents are using.

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It is no secret that I like to play video games, and one of the most practical platform is obviously the Computer. Games that were made years ago can easily be ran on modern systems, and despite what some people say on the internet, you can upgrade your system every few years for less than say buying a new Apple computer.

The computer I currently have is getting dated. It is an MSI gaming laptop I bought it in summer of 2013. It was pretty good back then bought now, it has a some trouble playing the newest games. I can play the latest DOOM at 45 FPS if I set everything to low but that is not really the best way to play games. It runs this weird bastard Nvidia laptop GPU: a 765m. Maybe it is supposed to be between a 760m and 770m? I guess it does not matter now. My plan was to retire my old and sluggish macbook pro and use while my gaming laptop becomes my workstation and have a new proper gaming PC.

I have been buying part for the past few months in hope of making the best Bang for buck computer, and this is what I ended up designing:

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It would a nice and Compact Mini-ITX computer powered by an Intel I5 6400 CPU and an AMD RX 480 graphic card, with 16GB of DDR4 RAM and an 480 GB SSD. All the hardware cost me only $750 (add $100 for a Windows 10 license) which is a good value for a budget computer. In fact it is barely more expensive than the cheapest Nvidia GTX 1080, their latest flagship gaming card. Building a computer is all that hard as long as you make sure all the components are compatible.

The hardest part of all the assembling process was trying to connect the power cable to the different ports. It is a fairly small case and I have large hands. But with a little bit of patience I was rewarded!

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Look at this beauty! Truly PC master race!

So? How does it perform? Can I finally  run games better than on the old potato of computer? Can I hit the fabled 1000 frames per seconds in Minecraft? Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? Yeah, turns out not everything was flawless as I first hoped…

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As you can see from the picture above, there is a massive hole in the back of the case where one should fine the Power supply. It’s not in the computer anymore because it was complete dead, like hopelessly dead. When you turned it on, it would make that distinct electrical buzzing noise of a short circuit and smelled of fried electronic. Looking through the ventilation hole, I found what seems to be the culprit:

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That looks like one of the capacitor for the voltage regulating circuit decided to explode and leak everywhere, making it completely useless, and the most likely source of the failure. Good thing is that Corsair, the manufacturer of the power supply, has a three year warranty on their product which means I’ll get it replaced for free. I guess I’ll have to wait a couple more weeks before I can get my computer up running….

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To wrap things up for this week, how about some good news?

As I might have mentioned in previous blog post, I am contractor from a British contracting firm for a client here in Nebraska. My contract was for two years and that contract is about to come to an end this October. My hope was to become a full time employee here rather than staying a contractor going to another client.

I have talked to manager about my interest in becoming a full time employee but he never told any specifics  about what or when things would happen. Then earlier this week, I got wind that some of the other contractor that were working at another location where let go of before the end their contract. That got me slightly worried, but that fear was short lived. Yesterday, first thing in the morning my manager came to me and asked if I had time to talk with one of the directors. This was a brief discussion about them proposing me a senior programing position at the company. This made me very happy especially the proposed pay that would be about 45% more than I am currently paid!

Nothing starts a weekend better than news of a massive salary upgrade!

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