Review

Transcend USB C SD Card Reader Quick Test

My pet peeve with the MacBook Air Retina is the lack of SD card slot and I’ve never been without one since I started using laptops. I do a considerable amount of multi camera video shooting making the loss of SD card slot more than just a minor annoyance. I can’t effectively do my work if the camera need to be tethered to the laptop during file transfer.

The first solution I used is an el cheapo SD card reader from al-Murah and USB A to USB C adapter from Mr. DIY. The total cost is less than RM10. However the form factor is super clunky and had too many parts. It’s awkward to insert and remove the SD card while the thing is attached to the laptop. Worse, it made the next port crowded.

Enter the Transcend RDC 2 that have SD Card, Micro SD and USB A port. The design with that short bit of cable gives better clearance and handling. Priced at RM59 this solution is 6 times more expensive.

Is the Transcend faster? Yes, but not by much. Definitely not 6 times faster.

El Cheapo SD Card Reader
Transcend SD Card Reader

As you can see, only the write speed is significantly higher while read speed is almost identical.

While we at it why not we test the USB A port on the Transcend.

Direct USB C connection as baseline
Connected via Transcend
Connected via Mr. DIY USB A to USB C Adapter

Adapters do incur speed penalty but in this case Transcend is absolutely horrible. Almost 90% loss of performance compared to the baseline. This pretty much relegate the port for charging phones or used with keyboard and mouse.

Conclusion? If you really need a robust SD card reader on regular basis then the Transcend might be worth it. Else any el cheapo one will do. The USB A port is a nice bonus but the speed penalty is way too much for any serious use.

Super Long Term Review: Crumpler Bags

I’ve been using Crumpler bags since 2011 when I bought one to bring my iPad 2. As you can see from the picture above, there’s already 3 versions of the Crumpler logo. I also have another one which is a backpack that can carry DSLR + laptop.

All held up pretty well – the zippers, velcros and buckles works. The lining still intact, no tear from carrying stuffs around. Slings and straps also remain intact.

It survived 8 years so far and I expect it can easily hit 10 years. That’s real quality.

Quick Roundup for Custom Email Solution

lost in space
Photo by Martijn Baudoin / Unsplash

Digital Ocean is really sweet since it’s cheap and fast compared to shared hosting services. Especially with Marketplace that let you setup a variety of services with ease. But then you realize you don’t have email accounts for your domain.

You can easily setup forwarding to receive emails but there’s no easy solution to send as your domain without an email server.

The things is, setting up an email server is a pain.

Few years back, you can easily get 5 / 10 user Google Apps for free. Now it’s no more. Subscribing per user is way too expensive.

So what are other cost effective options? Either free or less than $5 per month.

Zoho

You can get a free plan but only one domain per phone number. So not a good solution if you do lots of website for clients. Also it’s webmail access only.

Ionos.com Mail Basic

This sounds promising at $2 per month but after we paid for the first month we discovered that you’ll need to get a free* domain from them or transfer an existing domain to them. We feel duped man…

Migadu.com

Based in Switzerland, this is our current savior. It have forever free tier and packages starts at USD4 per month. Although the interface is rather barebone it provides both webmail and IMAP/POP access. That’s very important tp because I love to manage all my email from my Gmail app.

Unifi 30mbps vs Digi Unlimited LTE

Digi Unlimited LTE
Unifi 30mbps Unlimited 

At a glance, the download and upload speed is very similar. But as the say, the devil is in the details.

Obvious thing is the ping, which is 4 times higher on the Digi line compared to UniFi. So that’s not ideal already, since the lag is bad. But it should not matter much to me since I don’t play online games. Streaming should work fine.

However, digging down on the detailed result exposed a high jitter value for Digi. At 13ms, it is ~40 times higher than Unifi at 0.34ms. High jitter means that the packet arrived all jumbled up and the flow is not very smooth. It’s very apparent when you are streaming on TV. Worse, I have three pre-school audiences who had not quite learned the virtue of patience.

Of course the Digi line faced several handicap here being at the mercy of various interferences. In fact, I’m just getting 60% signal strength at home. That is despite an external antenna mounted at the top floor window.

It’s very good choice if your area only have Streamyx service and no Unifi. You still get fast speed to move files around. It’s truly unlimited and no throttling ever occurred despite consistently burning though 150GB data each month. It was such a lifesaver when I was renting at a prior location which only have Streamyx.

But now at a new rental location I have option for Unifi and it’s only RM89 for unlimited plan. It’s almost half the price from Digi’s RM159 per month. The difference can cover the cost of Netflix and Apple Music.

So goodbye Digi, it’s been a pleasant experience being your customer. The termination process was easy and painless. Just go to Digi store and sign on their tablet. Remaining bills can be settled later.

In conclusion, I highly recommend Digi Unlimited if your area don’t have Unifi or any other fiber optic option. It works as advertised and it performed consistently throughout my usage for the past 1 year.

Unifi TP-Link AC1200 Quirks

It is not just a skin deep branding

Just got this a few days back and discovered some quirks that’s different from the stock AC1200 from TP-Link:

  • Need to use wired connection to ensure the settings are really saved and took effect
  • The WPS button is disabled
  • SSID name will always have @unifi appended at the end. Free ads for TM.
The box is completely normal similar to those sold in stores

Prisoners of Geography

Prisoners of Geography

Just finished reading this book by Tim Marshall on Saturday so here’s a quick review.

The idea is simple, geography as the ‘forgotten factor’ to the success or failure of nations. It is not the factor but simply the one that’s routinely overlooked. Also how geography affect world politics.

Some people might not be comfortable with the ideas in this book. Especially those who put too much emphasis on sheer human will and ingenuity. In other words, our own success also depends on the choices made by our forefathers in settling places.

Those who play Civ6 could readily see the facts in action as the terrain gives bonuses or penalties for military power, science, commerce, religion, etc.

Maybe the book seems to oversimplify things a bit as it give a sweeping global overview. The details might not be as accurate but it still gives something substantial to think about. You will not see the world the same way after reading this book.

Overall, it’s quite an easy read yet still thought-provoking.

Living Up to the Ad

It is rare that products lives up to their TV ad. Usually the ad exaggerates and the product is such a let down when you use it.

The Sennheiser ad depicts high quality audio recording of a jamming session. My friends from the band Dewangga called me up to shoot photos during the recent Sharq Art Mosaic Night. Focusing on photography I didn’t plan to record any video on that particular day.  But I did brought along the Sennheiser Memory Mic just in case.

True to the spirit of an arts festival, an impromptu session did happen between my friends and musicians from Iraq and Japan. So I just put the mic on the table and controlled it from my smartphone. A quick sync later with internal video and from the second camera yields a satisfactory video.

Back to Opera

Photo by Panos Sakalakis / Unsplash

In an effort to lessen my dependency on BigTech, I decided to install Opera on my desktop, laptop, smartphone and tablet. Discovering Opera Touch is what really made this possible.

All this while I only know Opera Mini – which gave me an impression that Opera is only useful to save data while on mobile devices. Opera Touch really give a new spin to mobile browser UI and it’s genuinely useful. It works so much better for single handed operation.

Synchronization function is rather clunky since it have both the My Flow function and Opera Account. But somehow it must be setup on desktop or laptop first to achieve a Google Chrome style of synchronization. It works though, just a bit convoluted to initialize.

I actually really love Google Chrome since way back when it launched 10 years ago. I remember when I started to use Mac and Google Chrome is still not available for Mac I even run it via VMware! Those were the days when Firefox started to get really cluttered and slow.

Anyway,  back to using Opera I even changed the default search to DuckDuckGo to further distance myself from Google. I have no plan to completely abandon Google, it’s just that I’m taking steps not to be caught in the algorithmic filter bubble.

Convert Coins to Phone Credits

Actually it’s been years since I first noticed this machine but I only finally got to try it this week. It works as advertised and I successfully bought RM15 Celcom credits purely using coins.

At first I was afraid that it will reject coins after a certain amount and ask for bank notes. But no such thing happened and it takes all the coins with minimal rejection.

But the catch is that is took a small fee, so you do pay a bit more. To get RM10 you need to pay RM0.30. But since it’s a loose change for me, so it doesn’t matter much.

However, the credit validity is a bit weird. At first I bought RM10 and it extended the validity by 10 days. Then I bought another RM5 yet the validity period didn’t extend.

Anyway, this machine made it worthwhile for me to diligently put aside coins from my wallet. I’m thankful it exists and it feels a bit nostalgic to press on the antiquated phone booth keypad.

Notes from Cal Newport’s Deep Work

Vintage polaroid on top of amazing books.
Photo by Kobu Agency / Unsplash

I started reading this book on my iPhone last Friday but it proved to be such a strain to the eye. This is true despite the improvement brought by the dark mode. This morning I loaded it to my Kindle and powered through it at the office. I really went deep on this one.

Notes from Cal Newport's Deep Work

So here’s some things that I’ve learnt from Deep Work:

  1. This book actually ties quite nicely with The One Thing and The Bullet Journal Method. It offer nuances and deeper why behind the tactics and narrative provided in both books.
  2. Your physical setting is important in supporting deep work. Open office clearly kills deep work. The same goes for rows of opened tab in your browser. That’s why native app for Ghost puts you in a better flow as compared to the busy WordPress editor.
  3. Set aside time to use the Internet for research. Don’t search round the clock. If an idea pops up in your head, jot it down and wait for the next research session. I think this important for me as I have the tendency to fall deep into the rabbit hole of Wikipedia (or worse: Wikia of fictional universes).
  4. Allow the mind to become bored. Don’t immediately reach for your smartphone when you are stuck waiting. If you are hooked to shallow work and pleasure, you are not able to dive in to deep work mode.
  5. Don’t use the Internet to entertain you. It primes you to stuck in the sandpit of shallows. Do other tasks – wash the dishes, clean up the house etc. If you still have free time do anything except going to the Internet for entertainment.
  6. Capacity for deep work need to be trained. Reading the Quran with Tafseer seems to be a good exercise. Yes I know it sounds perverse to do what Allah commands just to reap worldly rewards. But better start with insicerity then not starting at all.
  7. Social media really gives a false sense of importance to your musings. I’ve blogged during pre-social media days. It’s hard to gain sizeable following but the few that read regularly are really meaningful. Reading Deep Work made me realize this truth once again and discard the vanity metric of social media.
  8. Cal Newport did offer considerable nuance in deciding to quit social media. It made me confident to fully quit Twitter. I haven’t posted anything there for a while. As for Facebook, there’s not much use in using it in maintaining relationship as it is too shallow. Better meet up for coffee and such. However it is still vital for me on the commercial side as long as the ads run there brings considerable profit. If not I can safely ignore it or later delegate it to customer success officers.