So I have been thinking about money…A lot!

I am 30 this year and recently I have been thinking and yearning to move out of my parents apartment and buy my own apartment.  A place where I can call home. But I can’t do that until I am 35, me being single and if I want to buy an HDB flat, then 35 is the age when I can buy a flat for myself to live in. 5 years of waiting of planning. And all the time this part few months, of imagining myself owning my own home, naturally led to thinking about money.

Buying a home is a significant investment and commitment. The cash deposits, the bank loans, the monthly mortgages, more bills to pay, all led to the fact that I had to start thinking about money more and more often. Lately I have kinda obsessed in managing my money, to the point where I no longer think of where to save, or how much cash saving I should have, but more in the veins of: How much emergency funds should I have? How much of the monthly mortgages am I comfortable at paying? How much money should I put in my retirement fund? Where should I invest? For how long? How much can I afford in buying a house? Where should I look for, for my first home? So many questions. So many adult questions!

My thinking about money has become so granular, that every dollar is carefully considered. Of course, keeping a tight lid and having sheer discipline in managing your money all the time is unrealistic. Circumstances change, you might lapse in your spending habits, and there will be days where you might have the extra cash to do anything you want, be it saving or spending. Again so many decision, its paralysing.

I used to think that I should just set aside the amount of money I should save, and then whatever is left is for spending. That is no longer the case. Life just got a little more complicated. Savings, expenditures, investments, deposits, withdrawals, transfers, mortgages etc.

I have 5 years to plan. 5 years to determine where I should go where my money is concern.

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Ear infection… on both ears!

So this past week, I was ill. I was down with an ear infection, which resulted in me being forced by the doctors to take 4 days of medical leave so that I could rest and recuperate as my ears slowly heal. Which is a good thing because I desperately needed the rest because my ears were killing me. The infection, thankfully not in the deeper part of the ear canal, was causing so much pain, it felt like I was having an earache, headache and toothache all at the same time! The pain was like firecrackers going off in my ears, shooting pain through the nerves up and down on the sides of my head. At its peak (in terms of inflicting pain) I could neither move my jaws nor chew my food during meals. I couldn’t sleep because of a headache giving me such excruciating pain that only paracetamol and diclofenac could alleviate. And I was on those painkillers for the better part of the week, 24/7.

The infection took longer than usual to recover because both ears were not infected at the same time. It started on my left ear and slowly made its way to the right ear. That means I had to endure excruciating pain both times as it travels from the left to the right over the week. At one point, both ears were hurting so bad that diclofenac was the only painkiller that would allow me to sleep.

I am better now and I finally finished the course of antibiotic. The doctors prescribed me Augmentin, which is the brand name for amoxicillin antibiotic.

While visiting the hospital, for some odd reason, the doctors couldn’t pinpoint the exact cause of my ear infection. The symptoms were the classic ear infection one would typically diagnose given the type of pain one would get, but couldn’t exactly find the cause of the problem. Was there a wound in the ear? Was there a yellow discharge in the ear indicative of an infection? Was there an insect residing in the ear, or some piece of foreign material stuck in the ear canal? No, no, and no. I told them that only the outer ear area was hurting the most and that I retained my hearing just fine. It seemed that the ear canal and the surrounding soft tissues like the skin and cartilage that gave my ears shape were hurting the most. But as to what caused it to be infected. No one could give me a straight answer.

Nonetheless, Augmentin was prescribed, as its usually prescribed as a first level defence against ear infections (among other types of infections that Augmentin is useful for). Whether it truly works, I am not too sure, but the over time, the pain subsided and now I am back to normal.

I have an appointment with the ENT on Monday and hopefully, nothing serious will come out from this whole saga.

 

The Octavius Maximus Build!

When the new Ryzen’s Zen+ Ryzen CPU was officially launched last week, I pulled the trigger to get their latest 2700x, 8C/16T CPU with an accompanying motherboard. I couldn’t wait for the ITX motherboards to be released, so it was my first time getting a full ATX motherboard. Previously I mentioned that I never liked having huge gaps underneath the graphics card with all the spare and unsed PCI-E slots below it. It’s just an unnecessary waste of space. But after building the new rig, I am slowly getting used to the idea of having large empty spaces below the GPU.

With the ATX motherboard, I had to get a new case too, as the NZXT Manta wouldn’t be able to fit an ATX motherboard inside. So I got the Fractal Design Meshify C Dark Tinted Tempered Glass edition PC case. The tinted tempered glass, is surprisingly helpful in masking out the empty space below the graphics card because it darkens the entire area out, making it look like there’s no dead space in between. So you only see the GPU RGB LED and anything above it. This darkens out any hideous cabling found at the bottom of the motherboard but the downside is that the LED RGB luminence is somewhat diminished due to the nature of the tinted tempered glass. Everything inside looks darker now. But still, it give a surprisingly cleaner look that I initially expected when I built this rig.

The CPU and motherboard combo came at around S$800. I got the Asus ROG Strix X470-F motherboard, which was supposedly the second best motherboard after the Crosshair VII. It is significantly cheaper too due to less extreme overclocking tools and features usually reserved for the Crosshair series. I did encounter a problem with the motherboard when I first bought it. It simply refused to POST to BIOS. My motherboard was essentially dead on arrival. That set me back a couple of days after building the rig and finding out that the motherboard was defective. I had to wait till the coming weekday to have it exchanged for a new one. Luckily, exchanging it was one-to-one and it was quick and painless.

With that out of the way, I spent time doing some cable management before installing the newly exchanged motherboard. My weakest part of building a PC is the cable management. I find it extremely tough and annoying just to spent considering amount of time ensuring that the cables at the  back of the PC is neat and tidy. At the end of the day, it was still pretty messy, I gave up. At the bare minimum, so long as I could close the back of the PC with the steel case, without any impediments, I am happy with the results.

I resued most of the components like the RAM, storage, PSU, GPU and case fans from the previous build for this new one. The only new components were the CPU, motherboard, a couple of LED RGB case fans, and the case.

I named this build, the Octavius Maximus build. Octavius, similar to the number 8, which represents the 8 core, 16 thread CPU and the Maximus, which represent the flagship and most powerful consumer based GPU currently out there on the market, the GTX 1080ti.

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So here is my new PC specs:

Octavius Maximus PC Specifications

AMD Ryzen 2700x 8C/16T CPU 3.7GHz base clock, 4.30GHz boost clock

Asus ROG Strix X470-F ATX motherboard

G.Skill Trident Z RGB 3000MHz 32GB ram (3200MHz overclocked)

Sandisk Ultra II 480Gb SSD x2

WD 2TB HDD

AMD Prism Wraith stock cooler

EVGA GeForce GTX 1080ti 11Gb FTW3

Corsair RM650x PSU

Fractal Design Meshify C tempered glass edition.

Thermaltake Riing Floe 120mm RGB case fans x3

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.

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.