JBL Bar Studio

I was walking around town yesterday when I saw an event hall selling consumer electronics like headphones, speakers, powerbanks, and sound bars. In particular sound bars from JBL. They were selling at an offer price and I was intrigued by what they had on sale. I came across the entire line of JBL sound bars, from the 2.0 setups to the full 5.1 audio setups with discreet subwoofers.

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I got myself the JBL Bar Studio for my TV setup in my room. As you know, I recently for a 49inch 4K TV from Sony for my room. That was the last piece of major electronics I got to complete my room revamp that took place over several months since the end of 2017. Ever since I got that, I had to contend with crappy TV audio for all my video and Netflix fix. I couldn’t find a decent soundbar that is perfect for a room set up, yet does not cost an arm and a leg to get one. I just wanted a simple sound bar that would enhance the TV audio that I am currently experiencing. I was not looking for a set up that would blow my mind (or my room windows with a kW powered speakers).

JBL Bar Studio was perfect. It features a single soundbar. That’s it. Just what I needed. And for S$250, its a pretty sweet deal considering the sound quality that comes out from the  sound bar. I mean, its JBL, it has to be good. The JBL Bar Studio is not earthshattering. Bass is good, punchy, but could be better if it can go lower in terms of frequency. Still, my aim of getting a sound bar was simply to enhance the TV audio, get a little more clarity, loudness and punchiness, especially when it comes to action scenes. The JBL Bar Studio served its functions terrifically.

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I overspent while in Sydney

I enjoyed my time in Sydney. Amazing people. Amazing beaches. Amazing cuisine. But what I didn’t expect was how badly I underestimated my travelling budget to be. I utterly overspent while vacationing in Sydney. Now I have to suffer the consequences of eating grass for the next few months!

Heading to Sydney without an itinerary.

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Now this is going to be interesting. My upcoming trip to Sydney will be my first solo trip without an itinerary. Yeap, that’s right. I did not plan anything for my upcoming trip. The only thing that I planned was my flight, my accommodations, and one outdoor activity that I decided to book in advance just in case of limited slot availability. I seriously do not know how my trip will turn out. It can visualise my trip as going in either directions; either it’s going to be fucking awesome, or it could be the most boring trip I have ever made as a solo traveller in my entire life. We shall see.

So why did I not have a plan? Partly the reason is that I am so busy with work and school that I just do not have the time to sit down and really draft a proper itinerary. Another reason could be that after I book my flights, I am starting to get cold feet on this trip. I am suddenly not in the mood anymore. Strangely, I’m not exactly looking forward to this trip. Yes I am busy, and I feel burned out sometimes, and I know that this trip is exactly what I need to get myself refreshed before facing the onslaught of work and school. But so far, my ‘busyness’ had dampened the mood somewhat. Just a little more than 2 weeks before my trip and the thought of vacation hasn’t reached to the top of my mind yet. Usually, by this time, my vacation is the only thing I can think of right now. My mind would be so distracted that I wouldn’t be able to focus on work or just about anything else other than the trip itself. This has never happened before. For the first time, I am not feeling excited about my holiday and it’s kinda worrying. I love to travel. Somehow that love has died for some reason.

Disabling my Smugmug account

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I have been using Smugmug to host some of my photographic works over the past few years. The photos that I took from my trusty Olympus OM-D camera were all saved and backed up using the Smugmug file storage services. Now I am disabling the account because I haven’t been using the website much. The past year alone, I barely uploaded any photos at all. And while the file hosting services are fantastic, I am under-utilising the services and wasting money away. So now I am downloading all the photos that I have hosted on the website back to my computer, where it will be stored somewhere else, at least somewhere without a website as a front to showcase some of the best works. It might on OneDrive, since I have tons of space there. Goodbye SmugMug!

Nanoleaf Aurora is just amazing!

8A1aSoA - ImgurAs part of the room revamp project that I started sometime late last year, one of the final touches being made to my room and my desktop area was to fix the Nanoleaf Aurora panels. I bought the starter kit with 9 panels and an expansion of 3 addtional panels, making it a total of 12 panels to play around with it. In the end, I chose a simply clean design, spreading the panels wide across the wall above my desktop.

Ever since then, I have gone absolutely crazy over these panels. I have a number of favourite themes that I switch it up from time to time to keep my room ambience fresh and cosy and perfect for any occasion. But soon after, I begin to realise, would it be even better if I expanded to an addtional 3 more panels?

And expanded I did. The final design is the one above. With 12 panels, it just felt, incomplete. Let me show you what it looked like with 12 panels that I initially had. IMG_3939

It looked simple enough, but it felt a little short, barely stretching the entire desktop area. With 3 more panels, it now looks complete. These things are expensive, but they are totally worth once you switch it on, set it up, and let the lights take over. These things are seriously too pretty.

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.

Smartifying my room (part 1)

As you know, my room is my sanctuary. I can go to great lengths to decorate my room to my liking. A personal and safe space where I can hang out and be alone. So it is no surprise that I invest quite a bit on a PC desktop set-up, starting with my gaming PC, followed by a nice looking borderless PC monitor from Dell. After that I did a Ikea hack and bought a kitchen tabletop and placed above 2 gray shelves to make a DIY desktop.

This near year, in 2018, my goal is to smartify my room, that is, to install smart lighting such as the Nanoleaf Aurora panels (12 of them) and the Lifx LED bulbs. Oh did I mentioned that I got a brand new 49 inch Sony 4K TV?

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The TV

The TV came in when I finally had the time to shift my bed 90 degrees away from the windows to make way for a one-seater sofa. Opposite the sofa, where my PC desktop is currently at, there is just enough space for a 4K TV. I bought the Sony X800E, 49 inches with HDR capabilities at Courts. I had a great deal. It was initially selling at S$1490, way below the recommended retail price (since, my guess is that they were clearing stock to make way for the 2018 models recently announced at this year’s CES in Las Vegas) S$1499 seemed reasonable enough for me as I always knew that Sony TVs are usually priced at a premium over their competitors. I expressed my interest in making a purchase when suddenly, the salesman who was attending to needs mentioned that there was an opened box of the same model that I wanted.

What happened was that another buyer initially bought that TV but bought the wrong size and couldn’t fit into their TV console. So they were forced to return the TV and bought a smaller one instead. Having been opened, Courts had no choice but to sell it at a lower price point. It was going for only S$1299. That piqued my interest. I drilled him further about the reason for the return and to ascertain whether he was telling the truth. He seemed truthful enough and I was pretty convinced of his story. At the end of the day, I thought to myself; It was only opened and returned within the same day, the plastic sheets and wraps were still largely intact. It wasn’t even turned on before they realised the TV they bought couldn’t fit into the wall mounted TV console. It was a great deal, nevermind it was only opened for a day. I took it immediately, brought back home and tested the TV. It was perfectly fine. S$200 cheaper just like that.

The Lighting

I decided to go for two kinds of lighting from two different companies. The Aurora LED panels from Nanoleaf,  that can showcase 16 million colours and smart bulbs from LIFX, also LED that is capable of showing 16 million colours.

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The Nanoleaf Aurora is fantastic. It exceeded my expectations when it comes to the level of brightness these panels can emit, and the vibrancy of the colours that these panels can display. Installation was a breeze. Just use the tracing paper given to you in the packaging to plan your layout and start connecting the panels together and stick it to the wall one by one. One thing I learned about installing these panels is that a little bit of planning goes a long way. By patiently installing each panel properly and ensuring that they stick to the walls will result in a satisfying piece of art in which you can manipulate the light using your smartphone. I have had hours of fun coming up with various lighting themes, moods and colours for various occasions that may be needed. The app is seamless to your and pretty intuitive. However, pairing the panels with your phone by telling it to connect to the home network can be a pain in the ass. More on that later.

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The bulbs came a couple of days later. The bulbs were meant for my spotlight fixtures on the opposite wall to my PC desktop. It can hold 3 GU10 bulbs. These bulbs are meant for spotlight effect that gives directional light to the room. Again, the colours were vibrant and accurate and although each bulb isn’t as bright as I thought it could be, having three of them light up white or different white temperatures, can be quite bright. Pairing was much more difficult than the Nanoleaf Aurora panels. I will discuss connectivity issues later in another post.