Shopback’s got my back

This is not a sponsored post. I got a collaboration request months back, but wanted to do up something only after redeeming my first batch of cash rebates.


And on 15 August, I successfully transferred the first batch of hard-earned cash rebates to my bank account. I have about $10 more in my Shopback account to cash out. I signed up for a Shopback account in March.

So for online shopperholics, here’s how you can earn cash rebates on top of the discounts offered by online shopping sites.

Tip #1: Sign up for a Shopback account only when there is a promotion. In this way, you will get bonus cashback to kickstart your digital Shopback wallet. In April, I signed up using a UOB promo code and got $13 added into my Shopback wallet. Not a bad starting point. But don’t be happy just yet. See next tip.

Tip #2: You can cash out the cash rebates earned through Shopback only after you actually earn $10. In my case, I had to have $23 in my account before I could transfer the cash rebates earned to my bank account.
Tip #3: Thereafter, you can cash out the rebates every time you have at least $10 in your Shopback wallet. You gotta wait 7-14 days for the transfer to go through.
Tip #4: You can only earn cashback when you click through Shopback’s website or the recently launched Shopback app. This means you have to visit Shopback’s page, then click on the merchant you wanna shop at, then shop away.

Tip #5: After clicking on the merchant icon, please read the instructions very closely. If you were to miss just one step, no cash rebates for you. These steps, to me, can be quite troublesome. The new app has helped a bit. But what’s a little pain for some extra $.

The $44 or so rebates I have earned, are from Lazada, Groupon, Foodpanda and Uber. Yes, you can get $0.30 in Shopback cash rebates for every Uber ride. This is on top of whatever discounts/ promo codes Uber offers.

Have fun exploring!

If you want to see Shopback’s how-it-works page, visit http://www.shopback.sg/how-it-works

Battery powered locks for the keyless

IMG_1144

Away with the manual deadbolt.

[Not a sponsored post]

Ever imagined a world without physical keys? It’s technically possible with battery operated locks that accept pin code, RFID card and fingerprint entry. It’s been on my mind for some years, but delayed the installation due to cost.

Fast forward some years later, the prices of such locks have generally gone down, with some going for as low as $100+ without installation on online shopping sites. I decided to go with a local retailer and installer to put my mind at ease, and leave Qoo10 behind this time round.

What were my considerations?

Firstly, price. I wasn’t going to part with $1K just to replace locks. Not that this point in time. Price will determine what kind of features you get with the lock though. To save some, you can buy from lesser known shops. I got this lock from Interlock.

Secondly, complexity. As my fire-rated door is more than 10 years old, it is not going to make much sense overhauling the locks completely. I wanted a simpler solution which doesn’t involve much drilling and tearing out of old locks.

Thirdly, brand. While I didn’t need a top of the range model, I didn’t want an unbranded, unreliable one. A reputable-in-the-market system with some form of warranty would make more sense.

The world calls this a digital lock. I call it a glorified battery operated lock for the lazy.

This particular assembled-in-Korea model from Gateman (Yale’s the parent company according to the installer) costs $368, a good hundred bucks cheaper than its sibling that reads fingerprints and over a couple of hundred moolahs cheaper than the Yale equivalent.

The Gateman A20 is quite a looker. Sleek front plate with a fierce looking locking rear mechanism that locks with confidence and is supposedly more secure with the added ‘claws’. The A20 accepts up to 20 RFID cards or tags (reads my tags a little slowly, imo) and allows you to set a security pin code that allows you access if you were to forget your cards or tags. Installed within 30 mins; only one drill hole needed to mount the front plate and connect it to the rear locking mechanism.

Like all battery powered equipment, the A20 is susceptible to battery leaks. The installer advised me to change the 4 AAs every six to seven months, even though they may last nine to 12 months. And it’s best to use dry cells, if not, alkaline ones.

While I have one less key in my pouch, the A20 doesn’t relieve me of all my keys. I still need keys to unlock my home’s first layer of defence – the old school wrought iron gate – and my letter box.

Installing a battery operated lock on a gate like mine isn’t smart imo, if you are looking for a secure solution. Essentially, your gate will only be as secure as the old-school lock used to secure a metal box that covers the battery operated lock. The locked metal box is meant to keep ‘malicious’ fingers off the unlock button at the back of the lock. No issue with wooden doors, as there is no easy way for someone to press the unlock button from outside.

Here are a couple of photos:

IMG_1148

Front plate – a looker

IMG_1147

The Claws

Would I recommend you the A20? Yes, if you just want a no-frills lock. No, if you only want to unlock your door using your fingerprint. I couldn’t bring myself to pay $100 more.

Teardown: Diamond Water Filter System

My first teardown in forever. For years, my family relied on Diamond Energy Water, after having put the water through various tests which showed the benefits of drinking Diamond (instead of drinking directly from the tap).

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Diamond Energy Water System

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Diamond Energy Water System

The time came for us to change almost all of the six filters embedded within the system. We decided not to, mainly due to cost and the age of the system. The white cabinet is no longer white.

For me, I have always wondered why manufacturers don’t encase their filters in transparent materials. A water filter system is defined by its filters. Show off what your filters are made of. Be proud.

So, for you guys, here’s a teardown, a look into – and inside – the filters. We put them filters under the knife, for you. You can then make a decision on whether to get a Diamond system, or not.

Filter A

Official description: The world’s best impregnated ceramic filter, which has been awarded NSF Certification, thoroughly removes bacteria and impurities like dirt, silt and rust.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter A

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter A

The ceramic filter inside Filter A, when new, is pure white.

Filter B

Official description: Activated carbon removes unpleasant odours and colours, while natural mineral stones regulate mineral content.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter B

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter B

Filter C

Official description: Composed of Grade A activated carbon and a KDF metal ion converter (meeting the standards stipulated by the FDA and EPA of the United States), this filter completely removes heavy metals, chlorine, and other chemical contaminants.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter C

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter C

Filter D

Official description: The CE3000PI Energy Conversion technology of Japan effectively breaks water molecules into the smallest possible clusters; making it easier for our body to absorb. It also increases the dissolved oxygen content in the water.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter D

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter D

Filter E

Official description: A high-tech ID3 energy stabiliser with far infrared technology stabilises energy in the water to keep water molecule clusters at the smallest size for a prolonged period of time.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter E

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter E

Filter F

Official description: High-density activated carbon combined with natural magnetic stones help balance the water to a mild alkaline level and increase the number of calcium ions to further enhance health.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter F

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter F

After dissection, filters B, C, E and F look similar + Black material plus some stones, just in different colours. Filter C comes with an additional thingy – KDF-55. Filter D is filled with whitish balls in two sizes. Filter A is expected and required in water filtration systems, just implemented differently.

And you may have noticed the different filter label designs – Older design = the blue and white ones labelled Diamond. Newer design = the green and pale yellow ones labelled TDM (I don’t know what is TDM).

I’m just glad we moved away from this bulky, costly 6-stage system, which to some is filled with (activated) carbon and only carbon.

See Pea Argh – #NationOfLifeSavers

In the most useful in-camp training yet, I successfully completed all requirements of the ‘Home Team First Aid with Basic Cardiac Life Support and CPR + Automated External Defibrillator’ course, together with about 40 other participants.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Lifesaver

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Lifesaver

As part of certification, we had to do CPR on a high-tech dummy with an embedded metal structure simulating the human ribs. And my, it was tough. After just 5 cycles of 30 compressions and 2 breaths each, I had to wipe beads of perspiration off my forehead while catching my breath. This test, one of many, was conducted in a freezing cold room, by the way.

The AED training is useful. I finally had the opportunity to get acquainted with the machine that works hand in hand with CPR to increase victims’ chance of survival.

In Singaporean style, there is an acronym for everything (to help make sense of the world around us). Keep ‘DRSABC’ in mind, while you watch this CPR+AED video uploaded by SCDF.

D – Check for Danger
R – Check for Response – Tap victim’s shoulders firmly and seek a response
S – Shout – Get someone to call 995, and another to get an AED
A – Airway – Open the victim’s airway and…
B – Breathing – …check for signs of breathing and pulse
C – Compressions – If ‘B’ isn’t present, start CPR.

Go get yourself certified!

Eye Mac

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | The 2010 Macbook Pro as compared to its larger cousin

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | The 2010 MacBook Pro as compared to its larger cousin

My first Apple machine was a 2008 MacBook Pro. In fact, it was my first portable computing equipment. Costing over $3,000 then, it was meant to support me through university. Problems plagued the unit, and after about two years and multiple phone conversations, Apple replaced the entire machine, for free. Thanks to AppleCare, I got a Unibody MacBook Pro as replacement. Save for battery issues, and most recently, hard disk capacity issues, this 2010 MacBook Pro has been with me for five years, and counting.

Now out of school, portability isn’t a main requirement. I needed something that could give me computing power, and yet not clog up my desk.

Apple’s latest update to the iMac family was good motivation. Who can resist the new trackpad, updated high resolution screens, and upgraded internal specs? Having saved up for quite a while, I decided to jump in to make this purchase right after Apple updated its product line-up last week.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Well padded carrier

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Well padded carrier

It took Apple (and DHL) about a week to get this to me. Slow, but to be fair to them, I was warned that shipping would take two to four working days. The perils of customisation – switched to a full Solid State Drive (SSD) setup (after reading about the headaches caused by Fusion drives), and replaced the unergonomic mouse with a trackpad. The RAM upgrade is too expensive, Apple.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Keyboard plus Magic Trackpad 2

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Keyboard plus Magic Trackpad 2

After taking much time to restore files from my MacBook Pro and sorting out the many please-enter-your-licence-key prompts, I got down to testing key applications and services like Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, Photos, Steam games, Ookla speed tests and some HD videos.

Speedy, is an understatement. Moving up from an aged 5400RPM hard disk drive to an SSD is like strapping a snail with tonnes of Turbo rockets. Applications open instantaneously, no insufficient memory errors while scrubbing through HD video/ audio files, setting graphic requirements to high or very high is no longer a dream, and with the upgraded wireless AC chip, I can now cross 500Mbps on my 1Gbps broadband connection. 200Mbps was all I could hit on my five-year-old MacBook Pro. Note that the theoretical transmission speed of my iMac (option-click the wireless icon on your Macs to find out) is 585Mbps as there is no clear line of sight between the iMac and the router.

Now to see if this iMac can last another five, or even ten, years.

Notes:

  • The AppleCare warranty coverage starts from your purchase date, online or at the brick-and-mortar store. If you ship directly from Apple’s online store, warranty coverage will commence even before you receive the unit. A call to Apple to appeal may help.
  • Time Machine backups cannot be easily restored on a different model, i.e. you cannot restore backups made on your MacBook Pro to the iMac. Migration Assistant should be your go-to application for this – time consuming and complicated, but better then starting from scratch.

The worse nightmare has begun

Image / BIG_MOUSE / In megabytes

Image / BIG_MOUSE / In megabytes

At least storage is counted in megabytes and not megabits. Dropbox, Google Drive and all have stopped working. Final Cut Pro keeps prompting me to clear my render files. And sluggish is the word to describe my five-year-old Macbook Pro now.  As if it wasn’t sluggish enough.

Apple, please announce your new line-up of iMacs soon!

Forte K3 – The Drive + Some Tips

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Under the cloudless sky

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Under the cloudless sky

Accelerating

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Free 3A mats from my salesperson

Photo | BIG_MOUSE

KIAs are not known to be exciting in this aspect – just do a Google – and the Forte K3 is no different. Don’t expect blistering performance when you put the floor-mounted accelerator pedal to the metal. Just don’t, cause you will be disappointed. Don’t get me wrong. The K3 isn’t slow; it’s just not as torque-y as the Jetta, Altis or even the Avante. Expect a more gradual pick-up – think comfortable.

Speed aside, the gearbox is actually tuned for ‘performance. The auto transmission tends to hold the lower gears for a longer period of time during acceleration. This is contrasted with the Avante’s cogs that want to shift upwards as quickly as possible.

But the engine growl sure sounds good for a 1.6-litre car. Vroom.

A tip for K3 drivers: To accelerate smoothly and overcome the gear-dragging tendency, depress the accelerator pedal by about 25% from standstill and keep it there till you reach cruising city speeds, say 60km/h. Actually, the percentage doesn’t matter. The trick is to keep the pedal at constant pressure every time you accelerate till the car learns your driving style. If you move the pedal up and down during initial acceleration, surely you will get up to speed, but for me, the drive would get a little jerky as the gearbox needed to hunt for the right gear.

Braking

Engine braking is not just for cars with manual transmission. Auto car drivers, like me, are used to decelerating without any engine/ gearbox assistance. I was pleasantly surprised that the K3 gearbox is smart enough to downshift as I slow the car down. For the K3, you can feel the downshifts as you slow down. One, I think this feature gives the driver some braking confidence. Two, the brake pads will wear less quickly with the engine kicking in to help slow the car down.

Steering

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Weighted steering

Photo | BIG_MOUSE

See the steering wheel icon in the picture on the right? You have three steering weight choices – comfort, normal and sports. Leave it on comfort, I say. The other two modes add steering resistance so artificially that it changes steering dynamics. The normal and sports mode left me disconnected from the road. Try it for yourself.

On normal, the steering is light at city speeds (you can even do a u-turn with your pinky), and tightens up the faster you go (moving the steering wheel at higher speeds requires more strength).

Highway

Driving on expressways is satisfying. The K3 is pretty stable at highway speeds and tracks corners well. Suspension absorbs most road imperfections, but as the springs are apparently tuned for a harder ride as compared to its Korean cousin, expect cabin peace to be interrupted by bigger bumps, for example, deeper portholes along trunk roads up North or big road imperfections such as the bump at Pan Island Expressway (Westbound) exit to Kallang Paya Lebar Expressway.

The K3’s ventilated driver seat, which pumps cool air (or hot) around your butt, is great motivation to go for long rides.

On Slopes

A little known feature on the K3 is the hill-stop/start assist. This just means that on a slope greater than a certain degree, the K3 will hold its position after it comes to a stop. Depress the brake pedal and bring the car to a complete stop. Lift off the pedal and the car will hold its position. So far, this feature works on multi-storey carpark ramps but doesn’t kick in on the gentle inclines of our expressways.

Fuel Economy

A saying from my friend’s dad: If you get so obsessed with the minor stuff like saving on parking (and cheating) and driving like a tortoise to hopefully save some fuel, you might as well don’t drive. Quite true, I think. Seeing the fuel consumption meter fluctuate and move from 7.9l/100km to 8.9l/100km can sometimes be depressing. Again, KIAs are not known for their economy. On the Avante, we could easily hit 14km/l in the first few years. On the K3, we are hitting 12km/l (a mixed of city and highway driving), and got close to 13km/l for close to 100% highway driving. Note that we accelerate freely in line with traffic conditions. We do not keep RPMs below 2k most of the time during acceleration: 1) the car feels heavy, and 2) the engine sounds better at higher RPMs.

Insulation

If the K3 were to come with a set of better tyres instead of the factory installed Nexens, I’m quite sure there will be less cabin intrusion. Road bumps are just soft thuds from inside the car. Wind noise is present, but muted. It’s on par, if not better than the Avante. Sadly, the Nexens are quite a noisemaker.

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What’s next in this series?