It’s been busy as always, to the point where last week, I didn’t even have the opportunity to put up a random post. As a result, this week, there’s quite a lot of “random” to talk about.
Refurbished Asus Laptop
It’s been over three years since I last purchased a laptop, and over time, despite having a RAM and SSD upgrade, it is still a little deficient when it comes to processing power and energy efficiency. Looking to scope out the cheapest bargains, it seems rather strange that new 4th-generation Intel-based laptops seem to be only of “moderate” value for money. The latest top of the line laptops based on the Intel Core i7-4700MQ begin at $849, but are more commonly seen around the $1000 mark.
Not wanting to part with that level of cash, and knowing that I had seen an Intel Core i7-3630QM based laptop for under $879 at least a year back, I went looking for a better deal. I was willing to settle for an i7-3630QM (CPUBenchmark Score 7706), because its performance is within a few percent (2-3%) of the latest i7-4700MQ (CPUBenchmark Score 7915) and it’s faster than my former main desktop anyway (CPUBenchmark Score ~6943).
So I went digging in OnlineComputer’s Asus Refurbished price list and I found an Asus K55A-SX344H for just $599. It was based around an Intel Core i7-3630QM, with 4Gb RAM, 750Gb hard drive, Integrated Graphics, DVD-RW, Wireless N, Webcam, 15.6″ 1366×768 screen and includes Windows 8. That’s pretty much the same kind of spec as the $849 HP “basic” i7-4700MQ model just with the CPU swapped! It’s a $250 saving for a few percent less performance, and considering I’d be using it mostly at a desk, the power efficiency difference are moot.
Buying refurbished is definitely going to be a bit of a dive into the unknown, after all, refurbishing means something different to everyone. The promise was that this was “refurbished” to Asus’ standards by them … surely, you can trust the manufacturer?
Purchasing the refurbished products required contacting the shop and getting the stock organized. It was a several week frustration to get it organized, but once it arrived, I sprung into action and leapt into the store to purchase it. Numbers are often very low.
So, what do you get? Well, for one, a very generic and uninspired cardboard box that is crumpled somewhat and taped back together. Not a good start? But at least you have the reassurance of the label …
… which indicates that it is refurbished by Asus themselves.
Inside, the laptop was packed with a large bubble wrap, with the power adapter cables rubber-banded together. There were some basic leaflets, but no media and manuals (as is the case for most modern products). There were no protective films over the LCD, and the underside of the laptop was re-serialled as a refurbished product.
I took the time to go over it with a fine tooth comb – for one, it was functional, it passed Prime95 torture for two days straight, it had the right specification components and there were no scratches anywhere (surprisingly). There was no bad pixels on the screen, nor any bad/reallocated sectors on the hard drive.
There was, however, a little bit of a high reading for G-Sense Error Rate, meaning it may have been roughly handled with the hard drive running at one point in time. Oh well, it is running just fine, and it had under 30 hours of use. I intend to get rid of it anyway.
The battery itself came with a wear level of 17%, which reduced to about 14% after several full cycles for recalibration. This kind of wear is expected, as the battery had probably been in storage for a while. Most batteries spend their lives around 20% of wear (i.e. 80% of capacity), so that’s not really a big issue.
For the price, I was really pleased. It was snappy-ish out of the box. I did need to run the Microsoft Fix-It to get windows updates to properly apply, but aside from that, it was a sound laptop. So what are the catches? Well there’s a leaflet that came with the laptop that documents it. It’s a bit of a shame this isn’t available ahead of time.
The catches, in general, are:
- Not covered by DOA
- Warranted for 1 year, but battery only for 6-months
- 30-days limited software support
- Bad pixel warranty – only for >3 bright/5 dark/8 bright+dark OR 2 adjacent bright or dark OR 3 bright and/or dark within 15mm diameter.
- Minor cosmetic damage not warranted.
That’s not too bad, I suppose, but of course, I always want more from my laptops, and I don’t want to pay for the manufacturer’s price. For one, I wanted more than 4Gb of RAM, so I got another 4Gb in there for about $45.
Then I decided to go with an SSD, because I don’t want to have the mechanical liability of a hard drive, and the slowness, so I put in my spare Crucial M500 in there, which cost me $139. I did the migration with some Linux wizardry, but still had to call Microsoft up to reactivate it :(.
It is also criminal to think that they had shipped the laptop with a single-stream single-band Wireless N card, which is utterly rubbish, so I decided to grab an Intel 7260HMW AC card for dual stream Wireless AC + Bluetooth 4.0 action, setting me back $26.50.
The funny thing? Puny card, large box. See the card? Enough said.
The battery lasts about 3-4 hours depending on load, so ideally, I’d like to have another battery. I consult eBay and grab a cheap and crappy clone for $29. Maybe I should buy a few more …
And lets just say, I’d love to have a BluRay writer in there too, since I use BD-Rs for data storage. A 6x Panasonic drive costs $75, so I decided to grab one (it’s still on the way).
So that brings the total to $913.50, but now I have a machine with an i7-3630QM, 8Gb RAM, 240Gb SSD, integrated graphics, 15.6″ 1366×768 screen, dual-Band wireless AC + Bluetooth 4.0, GbE, Blu-Ray Writer, webcam.
That’s a pretty good laptop for the price … and there’s not much more I can do to upgrade it. After all, it claims to only support 8Gb of RAM maximum. Maybe one day, I’ll go with a caddy and a second SSD. Who knows. At least it’s flexible!
D-Link DDNS Service
It seems the guys from DynDNS have decided to continue their crackdown and closure of “free” dynamic DNS accounts. This time, it’s dlinkddns.com, a “rebranded” service which is targeted for D-Link router owners.
I only became aware of this service when I purchased a D-Link router and found it as an option within the Dynamic DNS menu option. At the time I signed up, DynDNS had already retracted their free DDNS offering, and issued stern warnings that this service was provided for D-Link router owners only. There wasn’t really any firm verification, and I don’t remember them stipulating any terms when it came to the service. It seemed to be a “free” for lifetime type service.
This changed when I received this e-mail this week:
To our D-Link and Dyn Users — Action Required.
We are upgrading the D-Link DDNS platform and need to verify that you are still an active user of the service. As a user of a hostname supplied by Dyn (aka DynDNS) with a D-Link product, you are required to confirm your account within 90 days of this notice.
Go here to re-register your D-Link product. You’ll need to have your product’s serial number and MAC address in order to complete this process. During the process, we will be verifying if you are a D-Link product owner. Only one account can register per device.
Following confirmation of this process, you can continue using your D-Link registered product without interruption. D-Link’s arrangement with Dyn provides you with a hostname and free dynamic DNS for the period specified for the product (generally up to six months). Where certain products include longer periods for the free service, your service will remain free for the extended period specified. You will receive a notice by email prior to the renewal date, if applicable.
If you are unable to confirm your registration and believe this to be in error, you will need to contact D-Link Support. Note: this manual verification process may take up to 7 business days to complete.
For non-DDNS enabled D-Link product owners or owners of non-D-Link products, please visit the Dyn website for other offerings from Dyn. The D-Link DDNS service is only for owners of D-Link products with DDNS functionality enabled.
The verification process must be completed within 90 days of this notice. All unverified hostnames will be removed after the 90 day period. If you have any questions, please contact D-Link Support or visit our D-Link Registration FAQ documentation.
Dyn and D-Link
It looks like DynDNS are shuttering as many dlinkddns.com accounts as possible, as some of them may be fraudulent. They seem also to be making the services available for contract periods of around six months, rather than for life, to ensure the costs don’t balloon out over time.
Unfortunately, attempting to register my product, results in failure. I really can’t be bothered to pursue this, as my product is several years old, and they might claim that it’s not “supported”.
Just another “free” service that gets shuttered …
Aldi Mobile Speeds
Good news for Aldi Mobile users, this week they were notified by e-mail that the speeds are increasing. This looks to be a “lifting” of the artificial 7.2Mbit/s cap on resold Telstra services, and likely a sign that Telstra doesn’t perceive Aldi Mobile to be a threat to their network.
We have some updates to share with you about improvements we are making to your ALDImobile service.
Increased network speed
We are pleased to inform you that from today the available network speeds have increased, allowing customers to enjoy faster Internet access.
What you need to do
To access the increased data download speed, you will need to end your current data session, and then start a new one. You can do this by simply turning your mobile phone off and then back on. Alternatively, if your phone allows it, switch to airplane mode and then switch back to normal mode again.
Please note that increased download speeds may not be available in all areas and will depend on your coverage. Download speeds can be affected by several factors, please refer to our network information statement at the end of this email for full details.
Increased mobile coverage across Australia
We are also pleased to let you know that our carrier has informed us that from the 24th July, network coverage is improving.
The mobile product of Medion Mobile Pty Ltd provides a 3G coverage footprint of 98.5% of the Australian Population covering 1.3 million square kilometres.
The mobile solution of Medion Mobile Pty Ltd has extensive breadth and depth of coverage and support by a quality network.
Turning off old WAP1 network
Finally, our carrier will be turning off their WAP1 network later this year. This won’t affect the majority of our customers, but for some people using old, non-Smartphones, it will mean you won’t be able to access WAP Internet from your handset or send/receive MMS messages.
If you think this change will affect you, you should consider changing your handset before 20th December to ensure you can still enjoy Internet and MMS access from your mobile phone. You can find out more in our help section: www.aldimobile.com.au/help?s=WAP1
If you have any queries about this notification, you can find out more on our website, or send us an eSupport message from your ALDImobile account and we’ll respond.
The ALDImobile team
Our network information statement
Medion Australia Pty Ltd. trading as ALDImobile uses part of Telstra’s 3G mobile network. The mobile product of ALDImobile provides a 3G coverage footprint of 98% of the Australian Population covering more than 1.26 million square kilometres. Outside the 3G coverage footprint, customers will revert to 2G coverage and speeds. The combined 2G and 3G footprint covers 98.7% of the Australian population.
Medion Australia Pty ltd’s Pay as You Go plans and Value and Data Packs have typical download speeds of 1.1 – 20Mbps across more than 85% of the population, 550kbps to 8Mbps across more than 95% of the population, and 550kbps to 3Mbps in remaining coverage areas (reaching 98.5% of the population). Typical 3G upload speeds are 300kbps-3Mbps across more than 93% of the population and in remaining coverage areas 300kbps-1Mbps. End-user speeds will also vary due to factors such as device capabilities, location, distance from the base station, local terrain, user numbers, hardware and software configuration, download source/upload destination and network management measures.
Station and Rail Network Upgrades
The station upgrades at Granville are continuing, and it seems that the old bus terminal is starting to see even further demolishing. The footpath on the terminal side is now closed, and the fenced area has expanded slightly. As a result, commuters have to make a precarious crossing across the main road, assisted by traffic controllers. One of the bus stops has been relocated too, to accommodate the change.
This was taken from across the road from where I normally enter the station, on 17th July.
Central station has also gotten an interesting lighting upgrade, with all of the platform lighting replaced by nicely diffused LED lights of the same shape as the old fluorescent tubes. The diffusers are so incredibly opalescent!
Further DTRS radio bases seem to have been spotted – a low-base near Villawood has been spotted, as well as another somewhere along the Bankstown line. I did have a trip to the Blue Mountains, and there are a heap of DTRS sites scattered along the line. It was so many that I couldn’t effectively catalogue them. It seems like the system is being filled in, ready for operation in the near future.
Meanwhile, the advertisements claiming the elimination of certain paper tickets have now been improved, with a more recent version illustrating some of the tickets pictorially. However, it’s still not entirely obvious at a glance, especially with a picture of what appears to be a regular myTrain ticket. Needless to say, only certain myTrain tickets (e.g. off-peak adult) are going to be eliminated on 1st September.
Ziphosting DNS Meltdown
In a rather annoying move, it seems as if Ziphosting has had prolonged issues with their European DNS server on Friday 18th July 2014. As a result, I was receiving constant messages of my site going up-and-down on the downtime monitoring service, and the number of views plummeted significantly on that day. The outage lasted several hours, unfortunately.
But hey, at least I’ve reached over 314,159 views (i.e. 100,000π views). Yay!
It seems that on the 12th July, we had a supermoon or something like that. The moon was looming nice and bright, so I decided to try photographing it. Using my 70-300mm lens and a 2x teleconverter, I managed a photo, but it wasn’t as sharp as I would have liked.
You may have noticed that I’ve been doing a lot of power bank test runs lately. It seems a bit of a shame to just “waste” all that energy, so I decided to offset it a little by using some solar panels to charge my devices.
I decided to stuff two 10Wp panels and a 5Wp panel into my window for a total of 25Wp of solar power supply. This is sent to an old car battery to be used as an “infinite capacitor”. From there, I used a buck converter module and the remnants of old USB port headers to provide two 5.10v charging outputs. By charging during the day time, the output is about 15W maximum, thus the balance is usually in favour of charging the car battery allowing charging to proceed even slightly into the afternoon and evening.
By doing this, I can use some of the sunlight to provide the energy to power my experiments, rather than letting my panels sit unused! As a plus, I’ve been charging my phone off this solar-setup for over two weeks now.
Well, what can I say? I’m a very busy random person? … See you again sometime soon!