Smartifying my home (Part 2)

In my last post, I talked about my new goals of 2018 in smartifying my room. Primarily, it was about adding smart bulbs, lightings and gadgets, adding a layer of automation to my life. The Nanoleaf Aurora, the LIFX bulbs and the Sony Android TV were the items in question.

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The process wasn’t easy. It was in fact, tedious and at times frustrating. A few weeks ago, I got the Audio Pro Addon T3, a portable (and sweet sounding speaker with a relatively huge bass given its dimunitive size) speaker for the living room. It touted awesome connectivity to your own wifi network that works well with Spotify Connect and has the ability to connect more speakers for multiroom setups. Sounds good on paper. I had an extremely difficult time playing nice with my home Wifi network. In the end, it took me a couple of days to figure out a small tiny setting within my router was disabled that prevented the Audio Pro from communicating with the router. The fact that I had to diagnose the problem myself by scouring the internet for a solution was not a pleasant experience.

I was quite traumatized by the entire experience that I had a good inkling that the same problem would surface once I got my Nanoleaf Aurora and LIFX up and running. And true enough I had the same exact problem with them; those devices had extreme difficulty connecting to my Wifi network. The second problem was made evident that such devices requires a fairly strong wifi network to make the first pairing between said device and the router. Since those devices are in my room, this presented unique challenges. The wifi strength in my room is weak with some dead spots around the room. I had no problem with wifi when using my gaming PC that is in my room. That’s mainly because the PC is close to the door and the wifi dongle (provided by the Asus motherboard) is a magnetised dongle, meaning that I can place the dongle virtually anywhere around the PC to get the best signal. The dongle supported 5GHz wifi, which fortunately, was able to get a strong signal from the Wifi in the living room and get very good speeds (upwards of 450mbps, very respectable from a Wifi standpoint).

The 2.4GHz wifi signal on the other hand is a little iffy in my room and since the devices such as the Nanoleaf Aurora and LIFX only uses 2.4Ghz wifi network, pairing is a pain. The weak signal made pairing extremely tedious. This is made worse when Apple’s Homekit has its own pairing problem. So I am dealing with 2 problems at the same time when I am pairing it to my Wifi network for the first time.

Nanoleaf Aurora was a little easier, but the LIFX bulbs were much more difficult. But I eventually after a couple of nights I managed to pair for 4 lightbulbs to my Wifi network. The bulbs tend to get dropped out of connection, as evidenced when I couldn’t control the bulbs in the App on my iPhone which resulted in me having to screw the bulb in and out again and wait for it to reastablish Wifi connection.

Lessons learnt

IoT devices such as the Nanoleaf Aurora, LIFX, wifi connected speakers, smart TVs and future smart devices are still in its infancy, where connectivity is concerned. There are still many technical hurdles to go through before we can get seamless connectivity with a press of a button. Too many standards and ecosytems makes a rather confusing endevour for an ordinary person. One can mitigate the problem by having a robust wifi network throughout the whole house. To do that, one might need to invest in next gen wifi network, such as Wifi Mesh where multiple wifi nodes are placed throughout the room for optimal wifi strength for IoT devices to play nicely. One must also need to plan or choose an ecosystem and stick to it, because you can get quite overwhelmed in remembering what devices works in which ecosystems. Switching from one to the other can potentially be tedious and confusing.

So before embarking on smartifying your home (or my room for that fact) do consider the state of your home wifi network and whether it is ready for a deluge of connected devices around your home.

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Pains me to ditch my camera for my upcoming trip

Early on while planning my trip to Vancouver, I made a firm decision to ditch my Olympus camera and all the lenses that I own. I wanted to pack light. I am doing a number of hikes around Vancouver, some of which are pretty challenging. So it is a no-brainer that lugging your entire camera gear while hiking in those magnificent but challenging trails will be unfeasible.

Everything was fine and dandy when I recently volunteered to cover a 3-day conference as a photographer. I gladly accepted it, since firstly, I have never covered such an event as a photographer before. Secondly, it has been quite a while since I used my camera that extensively. I must admit though, my interest in photography has waned a little bit ever since I got the camera a couple of years ago.

As I completed covering the event, I uploaded all the photos I shot to Lightroom and started reviewing them one by one. I had to select the best to submit to the organiser of the event. At the same time, my annual account subscription for Smugmug was due, and it started prompting me via email to renew my account or risk having all the photos I have taken and showcased on the website deleted. Begrudgingly, I renewed, despite the fact that the website has become inactive for quite a while and I rarely uploaded new photos to showcase my works nowadays. As I renewed my account and checked the website that everything was running the way it was, I looked back at some of the photos I took and I was suddenly hit by a pang of nostalgia. It made me realise the true purpose of why I took up photography. And the true purpose was that I just love to travel, and what better way to chronicle my adventures through pictures.

All of a sudden, my interest in photography was reignited. As I reviewed the photos that I took during the conference, it also made me realise something else; those photos look pretty good. Not award-winning, but pretty good considering the camera and lenses that I have. I made me realise also that I have some pretty good camera gear and those were meant to last. I spent a significant amount of money buying those gear years ago and now it’s been largely unused.

So now that my interest in photography have been rekindled, I am facing a dilemma. To bring or not to bring my camera? The answer is pretty straightforward actually. I simply cannot bring my gear, since I have firmly made my decision to pack light. On a practical side of things, it would simply be too cumbersome to bring my camera along for the hike. Now that makes me sad. I have to rely on my iphone 7 Plus, now that it is the only device that could take photos. And the trails that I am hiking in Vancouver will no doubt offer exquisite views of the surrounding landscape, views that I will be unable capture in all its glory. That makes me really sad. The iphone 7 plus camera would no doubt take good photos, but it will be a little trickier and I will always have that nagging feeling that somehow I will miss something along the way.

 

I miss school. Alot.

Now that I am officially a student again (graduate student), I eagely look forward to my night classes on mondays and wednesdays every week. Everytime I walk through the campus and on to my faculty of science bulding, I am constantly hit by pangs of nostalgia. Even though I was an NTU undergrad, seeing those kids milling their way around the campus, going about their daily acitvities, heading to this class and that lecture hall, made me realise how much I miss school. I miss school. Alot.

I graduated from NTU with a bachelor’s degree 4 years ago and it seemed only yesterday I attended my graduation ceremony, undertook my exams at the end of every semester, dragging my ass down to every lecture I had to sit in, and countless hours cramming just so that I can achieve my desired grades (second-class upper). Of course, there’s more to just studying and attending lectures. There were the orientation camps that I participated in, and helped organised in subsequent years. The school activities, volunteer work, exchange programmes. Life was so vibrant as a student. Looking back, I wish I could do more, I wish exams werent important, so that I can focus on things that were important to me. Making friends, trying out new stuff, be more adventurous and just fooling around. Truly, I have said this many times. If there were one moment in life where I could have a chance to relive through it all over again, it would be my time in NTU.

Still, I am grateful to be given the opportunity to experience all those things, and now that I am a NUS student, I can catch a glimpse of what campus life is like in NUS. For this semester, I will be going back to NUS for my lessons twice a week, and that would be it. The rest of the times are online lectures, intensive modules, perhaps a chance to attend classes at ANU. Going to NUS for my classes is like walking through memory lane. It’s like opening a photobook that you have longed forgotten, tucked deep within the recesses of an ancient bookshelf. As you flip open the dusty photo album, there you are, snapshots of your life laid out in front of you, experiencing campus life, living life as if there was no tommorrow.

MyRepublic

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1Gbps. That’s the speed I am getting from MyRepublic. This would be the first time trying out MyRepublic Broadband services, after being on the Singtel camp for close to 10 years.

It’s that time of the year where I am eligible to re-contract my broadband services and that means time to shop around for the best deals in broadband services based on my needs. I have no qualms with Singtel, but lately, Singtel broadband promotions aren’t that really attractive anymore, and it makes it overly complicated when they try so hard to bundle other services that are largely useless to me, such as Mio TV, Netflix, free this, free that (when it not exactly free, only for a short period of time) when I just want good, decent, respectable broadband connections. Is it so difficult to get it, without paying a premium on top of all the bundled pricing?

And another major deal breaker for me: Customer Service staff not knowing their products or services. I enquired about the PCShow promotion that Singtel was having regarding the 1Gbps fibre broadband bundled with MioTV and a 6-month Netflix subscription. I asked a few questions regarding the use of handset rebate vouches and and the type of routers Singtel would be installing (if any) if I were to re-contract my existing broadband to the new promotional subscription price. Sadly to say, the customer service staff on the line were very ill informed about all these, and I had to put on hold over the line several times while he went off to find the required information. Maybe they wouldn’t have to try so hard if your subscription aren’t that complicated to begin with.

MyRepublic on the other hand, is simple. Subscribe, get a rebate on the choice of router, pay for one-time installation fee, bill via credit card. End. That’s all. No fuss, no obligatory attached services you don’t need or want. No hidden cost, no change in pricing after one year into your subscription (unlike Singtel with all those small print, and complex terms and conditions). At the end of the day, I get a cheaper broadband subscription because I just want broadband, nothing else. I went down to one of the MyRepublic reseller store at a mall and the sole retail staff manning the store was confident and knowledgeable on the services offered, technical issues pertaining to switching telcos, installation procedures, and other billing matters. And just like that, I immediately signed up on the spot in the store.

I have scheduled the MyRepublic guys and OpenNet to check on the fibre infrastructure and make sure I everything is in order before the actual broadband set-up and router installation. I should be able to start using MyRepublic by the third week of June. Fingers crossed. I hope I can get better, and more stable broadband connection from MyRepublic than I had with Singtel. Not that there is anything wrong with Singtel, but if MyRepublic can do a better job, then, colour me impressed.

Had a couple of drinks

Had a couple of drinks with my colleagues tonight. Apparently one of my colleague’s friend opened a bar and restaurant in the heart of Raffles Place, and we were treated to some good food and fine cocktails. I had the chili burger, that comes with handmade minced beef patty with a dollop of chili, and a side of salad and fries. It was good.

After that we had a couple of drinks, mainly cocktails. I had two signature cocktails concocted by the bar itself, while others had 3 or 4. All were still sober as we spent the rest of the night just sipping each other’s cocktails to have a taste of all their signature cocktail offerings. I think we pretty much ordered and tried every signature cocktail there was at the bar.

Overall, it was a great night. Its kept me sane.

So what’s going on?

A lot. And I haven’t update this blog in a long time. I promised to write my entire Iceland adventure here but I stopped half way. I promised to update this blog regularly. But I didn’t. Broken promises, so many of them. So why didn’t I live up to my promises? I can give you a thousand excuses, but none would be a valid one. So here goes:

I just don’t feel like writing. That’s it. That’s my excuse. To elaborate, my life is in a doldrums. A  lot of things happened that just snowballs from there. After my recent trip to Iceland, I felt happy. Really happy. Travelling was the highlight of my life. Now that I have nothing planned ahead, there is really nothing for me to look forward to. Not that I don’t want to travel anymore, but my priorities have changed somewhat. I feel like it’s time for me to take a breather and save whatever money I have for my future. Not that I am broke. I have savings. A comfortable one, after starting work two and a half years ago. But I feel I can do better. And thus, I have made achieving my savings go and then exceeding it a main priority. That means less travelling, more saving. It’s not something I force myself to do it out of the whim, but rather after careful consideration, I feel that I should invest more in my future instead.

And speaking of my future, I am seriously considering taking a Master’s programme at NUS, Master’s in Science Communication. Most likely I would take it part time, which would span two years. If I do get it, that means even less travelling, more time studying and working. Essentially if all goes well, I am doubling down in staying put and working hard, both at my workplace, and at school. Working and studying. Ain’t gonna be easy. I would have to bite the bullet for two years. Will I be able to cope? Most certainly I will. And maybe on a sidelines, I could really accelerate my savings rate and reach my lofty goal. That is, if I don’t go crazy along the way.

So yeah, work wise, it’s not going well. I feel constricted all over a sudden. I am enjoying my work less and less as the days go by. I don’t know if that is normal, for someone who works at a place longer, over time, but I feel that if I don’t find happiness, a purpose in life in the next couple of years, I’ll go crazy. To say that I might go depressed? A possibility. So I need an outlet, and I have not found one. Finding an outlet, without spending money, thats a bad combination. I still love reading. I still find happiness in reading. But I need something else. When was the last time I truly felt alive? When I was in Iceland. When was the last time I laughed till my stomach hurts? When I was in Iceland. That was months ago. Laughter is the best medicine, but it’s hard for me to prescribe one.

So now to blogging. After months not blogging, I have returned. You might have guessed. I am getting desperate. I doing whatever I can do lift my spirits. To share this burden I am carrying. And I am trying blogging to see if it helps. Is this my last resort? No. I still have other outlets to keep unhappiness at bay. This is more of a stop gap measure. I hate my blog layout. It feels old. But none of the free offerings are appealing to me. So I guess I have to make do with it. I have thought of starting a new one. A more anonymous one. But what is the point of creating a blog, if not a living soul reads it, even if we are strangers?

So yeah, no vacations planned, no money to spend (it’s not as bad as it seem, but having more cash to spend would be great) and no way  out to find true happiness.

Cyclic Insomaniac

I’m not a morning person. I hate waking up before the sun rises. I hate it when the world is still dark and I had to get up for whatever reason I need to get up and start the day early. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen often. I don’t mind waking up not too early, to start my day right, but I feel so much more active when I am at night. I feel like the day just started when night falls. I feel like I have so much potential to do so many things when the sun goes down. I do feel tired from time to time, especially a long day at work. I sometimes crave to sleep early and get a good night’s rest. But everytime I do that, I can’t help but feel that it is just another wasted opportunity for me to do something that I would truly enjoy at night.

Night, with its peace and quite, is just simply beautiful. Being alone, hearing nothing but the calmness of the night is where I truly belong.

Occasionally, I get insomnia. Not bad ones. Thinking a lot sometimes, but other times, I just find it hard to sleep, taking an unusually long time to really fall asleep. Tossing and turning. Thinking. Plotting. Imagining. Fantasizing. And then I will fall asleep. Only to realise that a new day awaits. You felt like you just took a nap. But you don’t feel sleepy at all. Mentally tired, but nothing a good cup of coffee can break the exhaustion for the day ahead. And then it repeats for a few nights. It goes on every now and then. I sleep well for a period of time, and then I am as awake as an owl at night. Feeling productive, I do all sorts of things at night. Quiet things. Read, write, watch. Read ferociously. Till its past my bedtime. Past the number of hours of sleep required for a good night’s rest. Feeling grouchy the next day. Coffee in the morning. More coffee in the afternoon. Crash. Rinse. Repeat.

I dream almost every day. Vivid ones, fuzzy ones. But most of the time, I dream till I wake up. It’s like I have a second life. The moment my eyes close, the other life begins to stir. Never ending stream of visions passing right past being my eyelids. And then the alarm goes off. I open my eyes, waking up and seeing the world grounded in reality. I always see things, whether in dreams or in wakefulness. Rare do I sleep soundly where there is no visions, no dreams. Just sleep. Nightmares are rare thankfully. But some of them can be vivid, exciting and tense. Sometimes I wake up feeling like I just ran a marathon. My brain never resting. Always processing things 24/7.

I am a light sleeper most of the time. I wake up before my alarm goes off. I wake up when I hear the dogs barking on the street below when the owners were walking them. I wake up when two old ladies are having animated conversations after their morning exercise. I wake up when I hear the bathroom being used by my dad, getting ready for work. He goes to work earlier than I do. I hear all sorts of things before actually waking up from my alarm, because the world is already awake before I do. And thats a good thing. It means I wake up when the sun is already up.