Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Chores A-Side Effect

Given we have a long weekend, it was time to buck up and finish our Christmas decorating. This year we're missing the enthusiasm to decorate and have only made do with the main Christmas tree in the living room - no wreath in matching colours, no additional Christmas decor sprinkled all over the place.

So, today's plan was to at least have the Christmas wreath up on the front door grille.

Only...if it was as straightforward as that.

First up, remove the decoration currently on the door grille. This has been up for most of the year, so the grille's all dusty. And rusty too... So. Remove the plastic wrapped around the grille's (to prevent the decorations from scratching the grille). Wash the grille (Daiso's range of microfibre cloth with plastic handles make the job a bit easier), then spray some WD40 on.

Let it air, while cutting up new plastic sheets (we use book wrappers) to cover the grille (because the wreath has a wire base).

Next up, the main door and the door frame itself. A year of dust has been caught on the door and frame (since we get the wind blowing into the front of the house - the porch is littered with leaves every day ugh), so we've to wipe all that off.

OK now that the grille's dry, wrap up the grille bars that will be in contact with the wreath. Tape them up, and it's time to hang the wreath and decorate.

That part is pretty straightforward. We'd already set aside the ornaments meant for the wreath so it's just a matter of randomly hanging it about.

Now throughout all this we've been walking in and out of the house, and it's been very dusty so we'd to keep washing our feet every now and then because we do not plan to mop up today. Still, this meant the toilet's wet and we notice it's been a while since it's been washed.

Get the bleach, get the plastic broom, a quick scrub, and we're done.

Christmas decorating? 15 minutes.

Associated chores? 2 hours.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Cumulative Upkeep

We have so many games to play, and a fair few of them have daily check-in rewards or timers (due to their nature of being free-to-play) that it's sometimes ridiculous how much time we've to check in the games now.

But then most of the games are entertaining, which is why we still play them.

At this moment we have:
  • Tiny Tower (started replaying since their 5th Anniversary Update)
  • Pokemon Go (now with the daily rewards)
  • Magic The Gathering Puzzle Quest
  • Fantastic Beasts: Cases from the Wizarding World
Tiny Tower doesn't take much upkeep, so long as we check in once a day and tap to launch fireworks. Pokemon Go is a bit more challenging as we ought to get to a Pokestop at least once a day - we missed it once and now our Pokemon caught and Pokestop check-in streaks are 2 days apart.

The biggest culprits now are Magic The Gathering Puzzle Quest and Fantastic Beasts: Cases from the Wizarding World - these two games seem to eat into a bulk of our time now. With Fantastic Beasts, while we are limited by the amount of energy available, the energy recharges fairly fast that we can play every hour or so if we wanted to. As as for MtG Puzzle Quest? It can be endlessly engrossing as the game model keeps giving you freebies. It doesn't really lock away any cards from you i.e. pay to obtain rare cards, although it is slower when getting them through the in-game events or challenges or daily rewards.

That means we actually do end up spending a few hours in a day playing these games. Looking at the games right now, we're likely to stop Tiny Tower once we've built all the floors, and Fantastic Beasts when we've finished all the cases.

Pokemon? Hah. Just heard there's going to be an update with more Pokemons.

MtG Puzzle Quest? Even worse. This is the most Magic we've played (Magic Duels is just hogging up space on our iPad), because the quick game time works for us (hey, match-3). The gameplay flavour does match the card game mechanic and flavour (like colourless mana being colourless gems and how the Eldrazi interact with them).

The only way we're going to wean off these two games is if we have no Internet access at all for a good period of time.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

3DS System Transfers

In all our experience with Nintendo's handheld consoles, we've only ever started having issues with it starting from the 3DS. With the rise of the Nintendo eStore and downloadable games and content it was hard not to compare it with Apple's iOS devices and the App Store / iTunes Store.

Example: we buy an app from the App Store. This registers the 'license' for that app to our account. Then we can easily download that app on any of our devices - the iPhone and iPad basically. It doesn't seem to be that way with the Nintendo eStore? Then again, not everyone owns more than one 3DS really and we suppose it's supposed to work the same way as if buying a physical copy of the game (that is, you need two copies of the game for two devices). True that it doesn't make sense owning more than one console at a time...

Then there's transferring content from one 3DS to a newer 3DS (hey, sidegrade upgrade!).

With an Apple iOS device, just back up the entire thing via iTunes, plug in the new iOS device, Restore From Backup and done. We've done this a fair number of times when we upgraded from our iPod Touch to an iPhone and even to the iPad (this was before iCloud came and made cross-syncing so much easier). Syncing via iTunes had its own set of headaches but overall we understood the process.

Transferring data from one 3DS system to another? In this case, from the 1st-gen Nintendo 3DS onto the 'New' Nintendo 3DS XL?

To be honest it wasn't really difficult from a technical standpoint. No need to install special software and there's big friendly buttons telling you what to do. It was just a slightly more complicated 'cut-paste' from the SD card of the old 3DS onto the microSD card of the new 3DS, along with wireless transferring of data from console to console.

However, it still was no easy task.

First we had the choice of transferring data either wirelessly, or by using a PC to copy over data from SD card to microSD card.

Totally transferring data wirelessly would take goodness knows how many hours given we got the 3DS early on, with the Ambassador status and downloaded content. We could try leaving it overnight but we didn't really want to wait it out.

Transferring using a PC, that was a whole other level of stress as you need to prepare a few things. A few things are required, that in this day and age, isn't something really commonly found any more when we plan to transfer to the 'New' Nintendo 3DS XL.

1. The "New' 3DS XL requires a small Philips screwdriver. The kind one uses to tighten the screws in spectacles. Without that we can't open the back panel to remove the microSD card.

We'd dug about the house looking for the small Philips screwdriver. We knew there ought to be a set somewhere, we hazily recall seeing it before in a drawer somewhere. If everyone in the family had perfect eyesight that's it we'd have to do this another day, not at 11pm when all the shops are closed.

2. A computer with a SD card slot isn't enough. We needed an adapter for the microSD card as well.

If we had never used digital cameras, this would be another problem. Nowadays where most people make do with smartphone cameras, what's the likelihood of keeping around a microSD card reader / adapter? Thankfully we knew where we stashed all our accessories, and so we just needed to test them out to make sure that our Mac could read the microSD card.

Our Mac mini has a SD card slot so at least we could try reading both SD and microSD cards for data before finally beginning the transfer. It wouldn't do if we started the process only to find out that the SD cards couldn't be read by the Mac and we had to dig up a Windows PC! In fact, we actually did set up a laptop running Windows to do this, only to find out that the laptop didn't have a SD card slot (and we didn't have a working USB SD card reader).

3. Then, knowing how tricky file systems can get with NTFS and FAT (because we're using a Mac), we were worried about the SD and microSD file systems - what if we can copy from the SD card but not copy TO the microSD card? Checking the properties of the cards, it's stated that they're in a MS-DOS file format. Okay, we're not sure but we guess it's possible (since the Nintendo webpage guide mentioned using Finder on Mac).

We'd already watched the tutorial video and read through the guide, but it was still slightly stressful making sure we had everything on hand before we began - we didn't want to be stuck halfway!

Beginning the process and the 3DS consoles tried to calm us down by showing Pikmin 'carrying' data from one system to another. It worked.

Then came the tricky bit, once all the necessary data was initially transferred wirelessly. Now's the bit where we have to remove the SD card from the old 3DS and copy them over to the new 3DS. The instructions kept cycling through on the new 3DS on what we needed to do, until we gave up tapping through the pages and pressed the Power button to turn the console off.

The old 3DS, on the other hand, showed the screen as if setting up the 3DS for the first time! Should we continue? Would that wipe the SD card contents? We decided to leave the setup screen as it is without continuing, and ejected out the SD card (so much easier on the old 3DS, no unscrewing required).

Inserted both cards into the Mac...deleted the contents of the microSD...drag and drop contents from SD card to microSD card...eject...yes! Success!

And so, after all that stress, we've finally migrated all data from the old 3DS onto a New Nintendo 3DS XL Monster Hunter Generations Edition!

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Affording A New Automobile

Aidan's been in the family for eight years now. Unfortunately with autos, one can't (or rather, shouldn't) really hold on to them for too long whatwith depreciation, servicing and possible replacement of parts that break down...

Then the Chief got a new car last year. And so, we thought we might as well start 'scouting' around to see what we may want to consider when we ourself would change cars.To be honest we weren't really interested in cars. The only cars that caught our attention were those that had flashy techy stuff inside - like the first time we sat in a Citroen and there was a digital tachometer on the dashboard, or the Prius with all it's buttons.

Not being savvy about cars, the things we're looking for in a new car?
- the infotainment system, which definitely has to have Bluetooth connectivity with our iPhone, and better yet if it comes with CarPlay so we can futureproof against having to upgrade the infotainment system anytime soon. Bonus if it comes with GPS!
- something that can go faster with less engine, road and wind noise!
- the techy bells and whistles such as keyless entry and push-to-start, auto lights and rain sensors etc

Our biggest mistake? Test driving the Ford Focus first.

The moment we got onto an empty stretch of road and the sales agent got us to floor the accelerator...we were brought back to them Daytona days where you just wanted to rev up and go fast. That pretty much ruined the driving experience for all our other test drives where a slower smooth drive was the main idea. Got in the car, stepped on the accelerator, and...meh. We know, we know, it ain't as if we're driving a racing car or summat but still...

Tried the much-advertised self-parking feature too. In an empty basement car park, the Focus ignored most empty bays until it detected a pillar, and then began parking there...and ended up taking up two bays. Well perhaps it would perform better with other cars around. Just as well we're quite capable with parallel and reverse parking. heh.

Of course, what we were looking for in a car wasn't really based on practical reasons...whenever we went, "Ooh this is nice," we had the Chief telling us, "How much is the car?" In getting a new ride the Chief had set the budget first and then picked the car. In our case, it's more of having certain specifications and then picking a car that fits that within acceptable budget. So keeping 'acceptable budget' in mind, we test drove the Ford Fiesta as well. And it was also fun!

To be honest if we didn't test drive the Ford at all, we might have just gone with a Honda Jazz. Or City. Or the new Mazda2 (except that we didn't test out the Mazda2 until quite late, as the rest of the family's driving Mazdas and we wanted something different). Decently priced with satisfactory infotainment system. Somehow not the Toyotas, they've not appealed to us somehow.

But we did, and that pretty much coloured our experience for all the other test drives: "It wasn't as fun." To be honest we didn't try out much...the Honda Jazz, the Renault Captur...the Mazda2 did give a good impression too, it had a more premium and modern feel compared to the Fiesta. Didn't try out the VWs too. Even when comparing specifications as listed on the car companies' webpages, it boiled down to "comparing it against the Fiesta".

With that kind of mindset, yep, we got ourself the Fiesta.

Monday, April 25, 2016

First Impressions: Timbuk2 Command

After a couple of years with our Esprit messenger bag, we found ourself thinking of getting a new bag again.

Yeah, considering when we bought said Esprit bag, our requirements was for something not too big to avoid dumping too many things inside until it was rather heavy on the shoulders. So long as we could fit in an iPad, a bag of charging cables and power plug, our wallet and keys, we were good.

Carrying a small messenger bag meant we ended up carrying a few bags on occasion: the messenger bag; a gym bag and shoe bag; a laptop bag; and possibly a paper bag of other miscellaneous things. And so it's got us thinking how, asides from a small messenger bag for casual use, we could get one for our usual work week that can carry our usual stuff, our Traveller's Notebook, our laptop (or bluetooth keyboard) if necessary, and our gym togs. Then we can cut down the number of bags to just the work bag and a shoe bag if we've packed for the gym.

We just had a few requirements.

Backpacks were out. We weren't keen on carrying a backpack or knapsack. We like the messenger bag look.

There has to be good handles. Bag needs handles in addition to the shoulder strap. And if we plan to stuff in a lot of things and carry it by hand rather than strap it across our shoulders, we don't want something that looks like it can't bear a heavy load, nor something that would be painful to hold for long periods.

A good balance for laptop safety. Not too padded such that the bag is too heavy without even carrying a laptop. Yet feels padded enough that we don't worry over every bump the bag makes.

Aesthetics. Much as we like Crumpler, most of their bags are quite colourful and we wanted something slightly more subtle. True, they do have some colour combinations that wouldn't draw attention in the office but we thought we'd leave visiting the Crumpler store until we've tried looking around elsewhere first.

So we were looking around MidValley and Gardens and then came across Timbuk2 in Robinsons!

We only saw the Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag at first, and while it didn't really meet our requirements we decided to check out the rest of the range. Then we came across the Command TSA-Friendly Messenger Bag. And it checks everything off our list!

We were slightly hesitant as it was the M size and felt a bit too big for us (comparing with a S size Classic), but since Robinsons only had the one size for the Command...we thought. Hell with it, we're taking it. So far, it's been good. Although we haven't really finalised certain things like which compartments do we really want to keep our keys and wallets etc., we've tried carrying our laptop and gym togs (in a small Muji garment case) and so far it's been comfortable enough.

Now to balance use between this and our Esprit bag so we don't get achy shoulders all the time, nor leave the Esprit bag unused too long that it falls apart!

Monday, March 07, 2016

Artsy Fartsy

Quilling. Calligraphy. Journaling.

This year is it's looking like we've heavily invested in artsy stuff.

Learn a new craft skill, so we decided on quilling. With the aim of putting the skill to some use rather than as something we learn to do and then put aside.

With regards to calligraphy, well, it was sometime early November when we finally found out where to buy flex calligraphy nibs. Our keenness for getting flex nibs to experiment in copperplate writing was due to this particular video:

While we were aware that the pen had some sort of customised nib, we never really did do our homework finding out more about flex nibs, instead learning that most fountain pen brands don't have these kind of nibs. We started off with the Lamy Joy since the italic nib was a good start for calligraphy writing (mostly uncial in our case, the nibs aren't wide enough for us to write copperplate / blackletter properly) and wasn't messy as we used ink cartridges instead of dipping ink or using an ink converter.

Then we found flex nibs. And now, we got ourself a Jinhao fountain pen customised with a Zebra G flex nib installed in. The thing is, re-learning how to write isn't easy at all. Calligraphy is more akin to drawing than writing and is much slower.

And since we got ourself a Midori Traveller's Notebook, there's been some double work as we've made notes, marked appointments and dates, and journaled entries. Things we have been doing on the iPhone. There's just something about actually writing it down, though. Sometimes it's much easier to refer back to a physical notebook, too.

Now the problem is, these things are eating into our time. While this year we've already said we would take a break from the choir, but it looks as if we're taking more onto our plate than anticipated.

Let's hope we don't burn out before the year end.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

First Impressions: Spotify

When Spotfy first launched in Malaysia, what really caught our attention was that it had rather a reasonable subscription plan. We signed up for the free account to give it a go, downloaded the app, and during lunchtime we realised we still preferred having the actual songs on our iPhone rather than stream it, for two reasons: we have limited data, and our battery takes a bigger hit.

A monthly data plan of 2GB doesn't really inspire confidence in us continually streaming music wherever we go, plus honestly data coverage isn't necessary great everywhere we are. Also, we can't plug in a pair of earphones and disconnect while in the office as we never know when someone may be calling us from across the room.

And so we made do with just a basic account, until the other day Spotify sent us an email with an offer for a Premium account subscription at RM2 per month, for three months.

Okay...that's tempting.

And so we decide, why not. And because we're trying, we tried to make an effort to use Spotify more, not only on our iPhone but also the PC version.

And now after 2 months, how do we find it? Well, while we do use it more than we did with a Basic account, but we're still using it less than we ought to. Mainly streaming music at work at very low volumes (unless no one else is in, like on the third day of Chinese New Year where we blasted the Opera radio throughout the day) through connected speakers, and on the classical/opera/instrumental genres (can't be blasting Combichrist's "What The F* Is Wrong With You?" now...).

Spotify's auto party playlists were great and came in handy during the New Year Eve's party and other meetups (and come to think of it why didn't we just let one of the easy listening playlists run at night when we're chilling in bed...).

We're also just realising we can use Spotify to preview albums to decide if their worth getting, especially since the last couple of albums we've preordered turned out to be...well, not that exciting.

Sure, there's loads of Spotify functionality we've yet to try out - discovering new music via their recommendations, the different radio stations...probably the only one we won't use is the Run function.

Our three months promo will be up by next month and we think we'll hold off continuing our Premium subscription for now...because there's Apple Music to also try out.

After that...see how.