The weather has turned – surprisingly – cool since last week after the National Day weekend, with flash storms occurring at several points during the week. Quite interesting to think about it, since just over a year ago, we were pretty much living in daily smog, and for some reason, the haze has not returned for the most part to our island. It did hit a few parts of our neighbors up north in Malaysia, but judging from the news, it still wasn’t up to the extremely unhealthy levels of June 2013 even then. There are still a few dengue clusters about the island, but thankfully too, our area in Hougang has dropped off the dengue hotspot list since the last fortnight too.

Today and the next 3 days of weather. This is considered pleasantly cooling by local standards of humidity!

Today and the next 3 days of weather. This is considered pleasantly cooling by local standards of humidity!

On the personal front; my detailed health screening returned the other week to report that I was in good health at the age of 42, for the most part. Because the report also noted that I was approaching high-blood pressure and also have high (bad) cholesterol. Quite a timely wake-up call, because I resolved immediately thereafter to exercise regularly and eat healthily. For the former; I tried swimming at the Minton lap pool, but unfortunately, the pool gets frequently misused by residents who treat the pool as a water play ground for young kids rather than an exercise pool. Next best option; stairs-climbing! I’ve been walking up from the ground to the top floor at our apartment block at least 3-4 times a week now, and have been steadily improving the number of iterations I do a complete cycle. Started off with 2 iterations and I’m now up to 4 – the latter of which makes it roughly about 56 floors of stairs. Good stuff!

As for our two kids, we have a few developmental notes to make since the last fortnight too.

Hannah having fun with the Nikon Coolpix L29 we got her for her last birthday. She might just have the photographer gene, as some of her pictures are pretty nicely framed! We'll post up some of her shots soon enough.

Hannah having fun with the Nikon Coolpix L29 we got her for her last birthday. She might just have the photographer gene, as some of her pictures are pretty nicely framed! We’ll post up some of her shots soon enough.

Peter has got to the point where he can squirm free from the seatbelt restraints. The situation got so bad that on a couple of occasions, we had to stop the car by the roadside, and carry him out to sit with us in the front compartment.  Since then, we've reversed this seat location so that it faces front now, and added an additional restraining strap (courtesy of Ikea, and sewed in by Ling) so that he can't easily get free from the car seat belt... until he figures out how to unbuckle himself altogether!

Peter has got to the point where he can squirm free from the seatbelt restraints. The situation got so bad that on a couple of occasions, we had to stop the car by the roadside, and carry him out to sit with us in the front compartment. Since then, we’ve reversed this seat location so that it faces front now, and added an additional restraining strap (courtesy of Ikea, and sewed in by Ling) so that he can’t easily get free from the car seat belt… until he figures out how to unbuckle himself altogether!

Celebrated mom's 71st birthday over the National Day weekend. With all her grandkids in this picture.

Celebrated mom’s 71st birthday over the National Day weekend. With all her grandkids in this picture.

We also started Hannah on introductory Ballet lessons too. Our Saturday weekend mornings are now spent hanging around Ang Mo Kio central while she's at her classes. She enjoys the classes tremendously, and we'll see how far she'll want to take this new found love.

We also started Hannah on introductory Ballet lessons too. Our Saturday weekend mornings are now spent hanging around Ang Mo Kio central while she’s at her classes. She enjoys the classes tremendously, and we’ll see how far she’ll want to take this new found love.

Another one of those 'in' activities now for kids. Ling bought her a large jar of Pyssla beads from Ikea. She's put together simple patterns and have been proudly presenting them to everyone around her.

Another one of those ‘in’ activities now for kids. Ling bought her a large jar of Pyssla beads from Ikea. She’s put together simple patterns and have been proudly presenting them to everyone around her.

Started Peter too on a variety of fruits, including banana and apple slices. He's apparently more interested in upsetting the apple cart here then just eating the slices!

Started Peter too on a variety of fruits, including banana and apple slices. He’s apparently more interested in upsetting the apple cart here then just eating the slices!

Earlier post in this two-parter here.

A desktop PC would have easily been able to hold a solution that was quick, offer storage solutions as large as its case can hold. Except that if the thing was possibly gonna go into a TV console, I was going to be limited by how big the case could be; especially along the height and depth dimensions. Of the major casing manufacturers, many offer their own unique line of mini-ITX casings. After a lot of exploration, the ones I shortlisted included the Elite 110 and also the SilverStone Sugo SG05. Of the two cases, the Elite 110 was a little taller and wider – which were fine – but more seriously, deeper – which while would have meant a very tight fit into the TV cabinet with very little clearance for cables. The SG05 was a much more comfy fit, though also a less-widely carried model at Sim Lim shops. Very nicely too was that the SG05 was able to hold video cards of up to 10″ in length. It wouldn’t fit the fastest cards that money can buy, but pretty decent solutions nonetheless of the GTX X60 variety.

The rig as configured from existing and new parts from Sim Lim were:

Silverstone Sugo SG05 Mini-ITX Black Casing. The casing wasn’t of the screwless variety, The casing offered space for an SSD, a 3.5 inch HDD, and even a slim DVD bay (unused after assembly).

Silverstone SFX Series ST45SF-G 450W Gold series. Not much options here, as I needed a slim-profile PSU. The casing actually comes bundled with a similar wattage PSU but of the bronze rating, but that was out of stock too. So, paid a little more to get a more power-efficient and higher-rated PSU.

Intel i5-4460. Slightly less quick than the i5-4670 that’s in the desktop rig. I’m not intending to do photo editing or video rendering on this machine though, so a slower i5 was just fine.

Xigmatek Praeton LD963 Low-profile CPU Cooler.  A normal full-sized CPU cooler wouldn’t have fitted in!

Asus H97I-Plus Mini-ITX motherboard. I was originally intending for a H87i motherboard but that wasn’t available at the store I was picking up the bundle from, so went with the newer and very marginally more expensive H97i board.

Kingston DDR3 1600 MHz 8GB RAM. Went with the cheapest 1600 MHz value-RAM I could find.

Western Digital 4TB Green HDD. I’ve had a lot of luck with the Western Digital Green HDDs, compared to the couple of Seagate Barracudas that all failed because of (apparently) batch issues at manufacturing. I swapped this HDD for an older 2TB drive from my desktop rig though – 2TB should suffice for the moment. Added one of my spare OCZ 160GB SSDs to it as the primary bootup drive.

Palit 2GB DDR5 GTX760. The same card to my desktop rig.

Microsoft All-in-One Media keyboard. Compact keyboard with a built-in trackpad. Would had been perfect – were it not for that there’s no function-lock key. Arrgggh.

Casings in this class are very compact, which meant very tight quarters to mount components, cables and connectors around. Still, after a couple of hours installing Windows 8.1, and transferring nearly a TB of family video and pictures, the unit was good to go.

The SG05.

Installing stuff onto the primary drive of the SG05.

Cable management? What cable management LOL.

Cable management? What cable management LOL.

Installing Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, just for the heck of it. Check out the download speed: not quite 1 Gbps as the connection has gone through two routers before reaching this PC, but very good for our needs.

Installing Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, just for the heck of it. Check out the download speed: not quite 1 Gbps and just a shade under half that as the connection has gone through two routers before reaching this PC – but still very good for our family’s bandwidth needs.

The rig all ready to go, and sitting inside our bedroom TV console.

The rig sitting inside our bedroom TV console.

The first TV that gets the honors in hooking-up is our Master Bedroom’s TV panel – the old Panasonic Viera plasma 46″ from our Rivervale home. Oddly, though the Viera supports 1920×1080 resolution, I couldn’t get it to display at that resolution without losing about 5% of its left and right edges, resulting in a very odd though resolution of 1768×992 resolution. Tinkering around the Viera options though revealed a 16:9 Overscan option, and disabling that from the default enabled setting sorted the 1080p problem nicely.

All done and finally ready for an Assassin’s Creed IV: Blag Flag stress test.:)

Long-post, so split into two parts.

Back at the end of last year, I did my every couple of years routine of assembling a new desktop rig to see me through the next stretch. That PC now sits comfortably in its own corner at our workroom, and has worked very well for 8 months now without any issues. Interestingly, when I did a routine check on its internals, there was noticeably less accumulated dust and dirt inside it than I’d expected. Which made me wonder if it’s because our Minton home is less dusty than our old Rivervale place. In any case, at some point, I’d be thinking very hard about making a couple of custom dust filters and putting it at the vents of this machine.

Another PC project I’d been thinking of putting together since moving in has been a PC that would be connected to one of our two flat-screen TVs. The motivation for this came about when Hannah started expressing interest at the start of the year to see photos and videos of herself when she was a toddler. Now, most media players can do that to a degree, but format support remains iffy, and the user-interface is also clunky. Forget about scrolling through several thousands of pictures in each folder, and file searches too. The PS3 fares somewhat better with its support of video and picture formats but not by much. So, this home pictures and video rig would had to be based off a PC configuration and running a traditional desktop operating system.

The main challenge though was figuring out a suitable size for it. My requirements for this rig varied over the months, and they went something like this:

Compact enough to fit into our customized TV console deck, or sit on top of it.

Can run full HD content well.

Offer internal storage options of reasonably large capacities (as in a couple of TBs), and preferably chassis space for both an SDD as primary drive and a separate HDD for media.

Can be dual-purposed to run 3D games with some future-proofing.

The last requirement one was especially tricky, as 3D games require decent graphic processing unit cards, and those things are not small, and more significantly, require significant cooling apparatus and ventilation space to keep them operating optimally too. The PC market has seen a selection of miniature PCs, especially from lines like Asus EEE PCs, Zotac Mini-PCs, and Gigabyte Brixes. The EEE PCs are very stylish, compact and would have been a pleasing and futuristic accessory that would go well with the cabinets. But while their line of machines would not be able to drive anything beyond simple flash-based games.  The Zotac and Gigabyte Brix mini-PCs offer a decent range of configurations and choices, with their top-line solution available here being rigs that include an i5/i7 processors alongside Iris Pro 5200 graphics. I found the Zotac models rather drab-looking externally, and favored the Gigabyte models for their strong paint jobs for the casings.

A Gigabyte Brix in  exciting red!

A Gigabyte Brix in exciting red!

A Zotac - not as interesting looking.

A Zotac – not as interesting looking.

The Iris Pro solution was interesting, as it’s widely regarded as one of the current quickest integrated video solutions for small form-factor PCs. It would have run current 3D games somewhat well but wasn’t especially future proof against upcoming content – and more worryingly, the early reviews of the Gigabyte Brix models with the Iris Pro noted serious heat and noise issues. Gigabyte had just announced a new Brix model that would feature a quicker and dedicated graphics card based off the GTX760, but that model wasn’t available here yet – and judging from the prices of the American pricing, would have probably cost about S$1.5K once memory and storage solutions had been included in. These mini-PC models too typically also offer a single-bay for storage options: which would have meant that I’d have to go with a 2.5 inch HDD (slower program and operating system access than an SSD), and also limited to 2TB in capacity too currently.

More in the next post!

 

We drove past Jalan Besar yesterday Sunday late-morning on our way to brunch, and it occurred to us that it’s already been past six months where we’d spent most of our spare time outside work on the hunt for electrical fixtures and installations for our Minton home. Ever since moving and settling into our home, our leisure hangout places have also gone through a bit of a shift. Back at our old place, the places where we’d head out to on weekends would routinely be Compass Point, Hougang Mall, Hougang1, and Greenwich Village, where both our workplaces are situated. Nowadays, it’s Serangoon Nex, City Square Mall, Bugis Junction, and we’ll be also adding Toa Payoh hub soon enough to that mix too.

What has helped a lot of course is that our Minton home is located at a relatively centralized location than the north-easterly Rivervale was. And that in turn has made getting to downtown places easier too via private transportation. Unfortunately, the same can’t be quite said for public transportation. It’s closer to downtown, but our new home requires quite a bit more walking distance to get to either one of the two MRT stations that the condo is equi-distance from.

Ling has lots of little anecdotes to share too about our two kids. For instance: a month ago, Hannah surprised her by saying this:

Hannah: Mommy, thank you for growing didi for me.

Mommy: ?? You’re welcomed, sweetie.

Both Hannah and Peter enjoy playing with each other since Peter started to sit up and recognise faces and voices. Sometimes we wonder whether the age gap of 4 years has something to do with it. We were certainly surprised to hear the daughter thanking us for giving her a brother.

Another one of these conversations:

Hannah: Mommy, what are you going to do with the cheese?

Mommy: I’m going to let it melt and mix it up with the corn.

Hannah: What is melt?

Mommy: It’s when something solid becomes liquid. Okay, it’s like when you put ice on the table and it becomes water.

Hannah: Okay, for example ah, when you eat ice cream and it du..du..du..du..du…and it melts. The hot air around it makes it melt.

Mommy: Oh yah…

Cup corn-styled!

Cup corn-styled!

And more pictures now.:)

Got no clue what is going in Peter's head when this picture was taken!  He's got four teeth coming along now.

Got no clue what is going in Peter’s head when this picture was taken! He’s got four teeth coming along now.

Peter can easily hoist himself up, and is almost able to walk on his own now. The terror to come LOL.

Peter can easily hoist himself up, and is almost able to walk on his own now. The terror to come LOL.

A couple minutes of iPad time. This one's that popular (among young girls?) Toca Hair Saloon game. on iOS.

A couple minutes of iPad time. This one’s that popular (among young girls?) Toca Hair Saloon game. on iOS.

Not sure what she's thrilled about, but that's the Fairprice Supermarket cash receipt for our groceries.

Not sure what she’s thrilled about, but that’s the Fairprice Supermarket cash receipt for our groceries.

 

It might be the company I keep, but I rarely see or hear of many friends who still listen to classical music regularly anymore, if going by social media posts is any indicator. Just earlier this year, I shared a couple of Youtube videos of live recordings of pieces I enjoyed – including a lovely rendition of Handel’s Lascia Ch’io Piango aria as sung by New Zealander Hayley Westenra – and not surprisingly, very few seemed to respond to it. Not quite like the ‘Likes’ any one of Peter or Hannah’s pictures would routinely enjoy.

I’ve still continued eMusic’s subscription service since my last post about my love for the classics 4 years ago now, and picking up to a dozen classical albums each month under its service package – most of which I’ll go through, select, and pack them into the car audio for listening. If it weren’t for this service, I don’t think I’d ever discover much lesser known classical composers like Johann Fasch, Jean-Marie Leclair, Charles Villers Stanford or Pietro Locatelli. I’ve generally steered away from the well-known works from the mainstream composers on eMusic on the other hand – there are only so many versions of Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s London Symphonies, or Beethoven’s Piano Concertos I want to acquire!

Interestingly and perhaps reflecting also of young people trends, there are fewer manufacturers of dedicated MP3 players these days, what with many preferring to get their music fix via smartphones. Two of the holdouts still releasing updated models regularly are Sony and Cowon. My last MP3 player was a Cowon C2 which I bought from Amazon last year in March and had it shipped here. That little unit produced lovely audio, a very wide range of customization options, and a battery that seemed to run forever – and whose touchscreen zonked out last month. Arrgh. That was my second Cowon MP3 player over the last 5 years, and the first one also failed though for other reasons.

I wasn’t keen to return to Cowon players any time soon again, even though they are still routinely among audiophile’s favorite choices of personal audio units. I was however interested in trying out an Android-based MP3 player, if nothing else that they routinely come with larger touch-based screens, great customization options, and also running off an operating platform I was familiar with and like a lot – if also on the other hand, at the expense of usually shorter battery runlength and also overall stability.

The Sennheiser Momentum hooked up with the Sony F886.

The Sennheiser Momentum hooked up with the Sony F886.

So; in came the Sony Walkman NWZ-F886, and accompanying it a Sennheiser Momentum On the Go – that was picked up early this month. There weren’t that many choices for Android-based MP3 players, quite unlike the almost bewildering range of headphones out there from dirt cheapo ones under $10 to premium ones that have everything and cost a few thousand moola. And after a fortnight of use:

Customization – hooray!

Svelte form factor. Compact, light, and its case that oozes confidence and density – none of that creaky stuff that you get with cheap plastics. Very premium-looking too.

Pretty good audio – and almost as good as the Cowon players.

Android runs well on it. No lag or stuttering observed in music playback. Haven’t quite stress-loaded it with other apps though (no intention to).

Reasonably high-resolution screen for me to squint at the album covers.

Charges quickly.

On the other hand:

Battery isn’t as cracked up as others have suggested. I’m maybe squeezing about 15+ hours of it with some light usage of the screen and scrolling about albums.

Finger-print magnet.

Somewhat low screen viewing angles.

Dated Android OS at 4.1.1, even with the most recent firmware update.

Uses Sony’s proprietary charging and data cables.

On the overall, I’m pretty happy with it – not that I would have had much other choices if i wasn’t!

Discovering Schubert's Overtures - thanks to eMusic.

Discovering Schubert’s Overtures – thanks to eMusic – and also all of Rossini’s Overtures, part of Christian Benda’s series of recordings with the Prague Sinfonia Orchestra.

 

 

Been another long while since I did a post on our kids! So, lots of pictures in this update post. I think we’re blessed in that both Hannah and Peter’s birthdays are in the month of June – which nicely coincides with the stipulated school holidays in the public school calendar. We celebrated both their birthdays at home; with friends in Hannah’s case, and with our larger family for Peter. Hannah is of course at an age now where she recognizes the significance of having a birthday, and that it’s not just about having more presents and toys to play with. Peter on the other hand was completely nonplus about it and probably wondered what all the fuss was about when the family all gathered around him for the celebration song.

Hannah just turned five!

Hannah just turned five!

And received from us a Nikon compact camera as a birthday present.

And received from us a Nikon compact camera as a birthday present.

Hannah admiring her just taken-selfie, while Peter looks bewildered at the bounced flash that just triggered to take this picture.

Hannah admiring her just taken-selfie, while Peter looks bewildered at the bounced flash that just triggered to take this picture.

We haven't bought Hannah a lot to swim in the new main pool @ Minton, given that our weekends have been quite packed with activities. She's been taking swimming lessons too at school, so is more comfortable now in the water.

We haven’t bought Hannah a lot to swim in the new main pool @ Minton, given that our weekends have been quite packed with activities. She’s been taking swimming lessons too at school, so is more comfortable now in the water.

We've started letting Peter have his tidbits of food with us when we eat out of home. Necessary method of engagement, otherwise he'd just bawl (out of boredom?!).

We’ve started letting Peter have his tidbits of food with us when we eat out of home. Necessary method of engagement, otherwise he’d just bawl (out of boredom?!).

Peter more interested in his birthday cake than the singing.:)

Peter more interested in his birthday cake than the singing.:)

Peter is nearly able to stand unsupported on his own now. At the moment, he can keep his balance for a few seconds, but he's getting there.

Peter is nearly able to stand unsupported on his own now. At the moment, he can just barely keep his balance for a few seconds, but he’s getting there.

Six months ago I picked up the Google Nexus 7, that very compact Android tablet designed by Google. The tablet is still very much alive – to/fro from home and work every day, and inside the side pockets of my berms over the weekends. Something happened though that I didn’t anticipate when I bought the Nexus 6 months ago – specifically, that I’d start developing Old Flower Eyes (short-formed to OFE for this post) earlier this year. For our Ang Mo buddy, Old Flower Eyes is a literal translation of a Chinese phrase that describes Presbyopia. The funniest thing is that I only realized I was gradually developing OFE in February this year, though the farsightedness started around the end of last year already.

As for what to do with it; the optician I went to to consult if I needed a pair of progressive glasses shared – with a chuckle – that a pair of such glasses will nicely solve the reading difficulties I’ve got, but I shouldn’t get them yet – because my eye-sight has yet to worsen to the point it won’t get worse. Gaaahh.

in the mean time, the Google Nexus 7 and its compact screen was making it harder to read things now. Oh, I had a custom ROM installed on it that allowed for a generous re-sizing on-screen fonts, but it wasn’t fool-proof, and many a time, the font had to get so big, that a simple web page with any length of text would mean a lot of scrolling just to get to the end of it. I’d initially intended to pick up the third generation iPad mini at the end of this year to replace the Nexus 7 then, but the worsening eyesight basically brought forward that purchase, and I settled for an iPad Retina Mini LTE; the second generation model in its series.

The Google Nexus 7 and iPad Mini Retina, both from 2013's line-up.

The Google Nexus 7 and iPad Mini Retina, both from 2013′s line-up.

The new iPad still fits nicely into the side-pockets for most of my berms, though not into the pockets any longer – not quite like the Nexus 7 which could fit easily, and even the jeans backpockets. The battery runs for quite a bit longer than the Nexus too for my usage pattern, though iOS 7 still feels constricted in how far I can customize the look and feel of the tablet, especially coming out from the Android OS. It’ll be interesting to see how the iOS 8 fares, though judging from the many preview articles about it now, it’ll still be some ways off from the sheer customization possible only on Android.

19. June 2014 · 1 comment · Categories: All Posts, At Home, New Home · Tags:

One of the (relatively) more novel things we did for our new Minton home was to invest in a dishwasher machine. We’ve blogged here previously about our thought-process in going with a bit more automation in the kitchen, and the space considerations we had in mind in view of that. The short version of that is that we were lucky to be able to move our laundry machine out from the original Developer-supplied spot in the kitchen into the yard, therefore freeing up that space for us to put a dishwasher and additional storage in.

While there are quite a few dishwasher models from major brands on sale in home appliance stores here, I’m not sure if these appliances are really staple items for Singaporean households. For starters, our parents’ generation had no such appliances in the kitchen, and within our generation of friends and people of our age with families, we do observe one or two families with these devices but it’s not a common household item either; unlike say vacuum cleaners, microwave ovens, laundry machines and the like.  We decided early on we’d go with a compact/half-height dishwasher, largely on account that:

We wouldn’t be using the dishwasher that often. On non-school holiday periods, the only times we’d cook would be during weekends.

We don’t have that many mouths to feed at this point. Peter is fed separately, and Hannah uses children-size crockery.

We didn’t like the idea of having the entire cavity vacated by the laundry machine used by a full-sized and relatively tall dishwasher.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have quite a wide range of compact dishwashers to choose from, so eventually settled on the Bosch SKS62E12EU. This dishwasher now sits in a customized cabinet our Interior Designer constructed, with a quartz hard-surface counter-top too. Our experience six weeks into using this machine has been on the whole positive. Great things about the machine:

Reasonably cheap. The compact dishwashers we saw were routinely cheaper than the full-height ones.

Easily accepts all-in-one capsule detergent solutions, though the makers of such detergent solutions seemed limited to just two at the big supermarket chains.

Very quiet. Whisper quiet even!

Great for small families.

Great for already small kitchens, like our Minton home.

Utensils and crockery come out clean, for the most part. Ling remarked on the first use that there was some mild residue on a few of the cleaned items, but we didn’t observe it further on.

But on the other hand:

Difficulties fitting medium-sized and larger pans with their long handles. It’d be a non-starter if use big frying pans with long handles and must wash them in these machines.

Long wash-cycle (3 hrs on default settings).

Will be too small if you use a lot of crockery in food preparation, or have a lot of mouths to feed

In particular, the long wash-cycle is something we had to adjust to – since washing crockery by hand would routinely take just minutes, making those items quickly available for re-use.

Still, the appliance has proven quite handy. It doesn’t draw attention to itself when it’s operating, and when not in use, blends in nicely with the rest of the kitchen finishing too. Though I suspect when over time when there are finally four adults to feed in our household, we might look into a larger unit then.

Our Bosch compact dishwasher sits in a customized cabinet. We gave some finger clearance  when deciding how large the cavity was going to be to house the appliance.

Our Bosch compact dishwasher sits in a customized cabinet. We gave some finger clearance when deciding how large the cavity was going to be to house the appliance.

Typical rinse cycle is 3 hours. Runs very quietly.

Typical rinse cycle is 3 hours. Runs very quietly.

Not fully-loaded. The dishwasher can contain more material than this.

Not fully-loaded. The dishwasher can contain more material than this.

Straight on view of the interior. Do observe the height clearance for utensils and cookery.

Straight on view of the interior. Do observe the height clearance for utensils and cookery.

 

 

There was a news article not too long ago reporting of workmanship issues at The Canopy Executive Condominum, a newly completed apartment project here on our island. In that instance, the general issues faced by new apartment owners apparently were so pervasive and widespread that news media took interest in their story.

To be fair again, our Minton unit was in a reasonably good state when we got the keys in January, and the first defect rectification went more/less smoothly helped by a jolly worker in-charge and an effective customer service officer who acted as the go-between us and the worker team. We were aware however of several neighbors who weren’t quite so fortunate over the last couple of months, though now that most units are already moved-in or in the middle of renovation, we’ve been hearing less of early defect issues coming out of newly received units. Still and mindful of what the The Canopy EC residents encountered, I wonder though if such workmanship issues are endemic to mass market apartment projects, and that it seems whether one gets a unit that’s in an alright state against one that has numerous issues is a crap shoot.

Now that our unit has been lived in for almost 6 weeks now, we’ve started to also observe little issues coming out of it. Nothing that poses danger to life and limb thankfully. Several of these annoyances we just shrug away – I’m certain that the longer we stay in it, the less these minor things will bother us – but one issue did bother Ling, and that was specifically how grouting was done in the living/dining hall and the kitchen. We heard a couple of our neighbors sharing that the grouting for their units were so badly done that they came off after a few floor cleanings.

Ours was thankfully in a relatively better state on the overall – in that they didn’t dissolve and stayed sealed for the grouts in the living and dining halls even though they still aren’t as nicely done as we would have liked them. Just as well, since it’d be hard for grouting to be redone for the living/dining hall now that all our furniture has gone in. The kitchen grout was a different story though – they were of uneven color. Some of it was white, others cream, and several were even grey.

Visible grout hole where the skirting is in the kitchen.

Visible grout hole where the skirting is in the kitchen.

Different grout colors.

Different grout colors.

And Ling would have had none of it, since she spends so much time in the kitchen and she’d have to look at it everyday. So, we contacted our customer service officer – a different lass as the previous one who served us very well had since left the company – over for an inspection a fortnight ago, had a short inspection to ascertain the scope of work, and re-grouting work started shortly thereafter and over the weekend. We also took the opportunity too to get cracklined tiles around the rubbish chute replaced, likewise also for a chipped marble floor tile in the master bedroom toilet – though the worker ended up accidentally damaging a neighboring tile, meaning two tiles had to be replaced.

Kitchen floor re-grouted.

Kitchen floor re-grouted. Looks much better now!

Looking much better after the excess dried up grout had been sanded away.

The excess dried up grout had been sanded away.

Two tiles removed. One which was chipped, and another which was the result of collateral damage.

Two tiles removed. One which was chipped, and another which was the result of collateral damage.

Laying down the new tile!

Laying down the new tile!

 

Newly laid tiles in the master bathroom. Not quite exactly the same tone, but at least no chipping.

Newly laid tiles in the master bathroom. Not quite exactly the same tone, but at least no chipping.

27. May 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: All Posts, At Home · Tags:

The several news articles reporting of the worsening smog in Beijing this year had a side-effect; they reminded those of us in Singapore of the dreaded haze from last year, and that it was only going to be a matter of time when the effects of slashing and burning tactics employed by Indonesian farmers coupled with weather phenomena would once again reach Singapore. So, when local news reported last week that the haze was not only going to return soon, it looks to be even worse than last year’s, it was largely received by persons here with a mix of mostly disappointment and resignation as opposed to shock, going with social media at least.

We went without air purifiers last year, and instead relocating most of what we did at home to the master bedroom at our old home. This year with Peter at home, we’re even less inclined to risk living with the bad air. So, we started scouting around for air purifiers over the last week. Our requirements were quite specific again; we’d likely be relocating most of what we do at home to the master bedroom at our new Minton home, so the air purifier unit would need to easily work with a room of that size. We wanted also a unit that was True Hepa certified, and also with filter parts easily available for end-user purchase.

The Honeywell purifiers were the most consistently highly-rated units on online chatter and are priced attractively in the US but apparently heavily marked up by the local distributors. We thought of picking them up through Amazon but didn’t want to have to deal with having to use stepped-down transformers. Of the bunch of alternatives, the Sharp and Philips purifiers seem to be quite popular, but we eventually settled on a Novita NAP 611-i. The Novita purifiers seem to be relatively well-received on online forums and popular purchases too. We eyed the the NAP 611-i which ticked all the boxes. The unit was a $599, but we got it at $500 at Goh Ah Bee, a home appliance store located at Kovan and quite near The Minton. The unit came with a extra complimentary filter set – nice – which immediately extends the longevity of the unit, assuming if everyone else works to expectation in the years to come.

Very stylish looking too.

Very stylish looking too.

The complimentary filter pack; the pack contains one each of the cool catalyst, granular activated carbon, and the True Hepa filters.

The complimentary filter pack; the pack contains one each of the cool catalyst, granular activated carbon, and the True Hepa filters.

Fan-intake,

Fan-intake.

Four of the five filters. From left to right; 1. Washable mesh filter 2. Cool catalyst filter 3. Granular Activated Carbon filter 4. 99.97% True Hepa filter The fifth filter is the ionizer is built-in and can be turned off from what I've read.

Four of the five filters. From left to right;
1. Washable mesh filter
2. Cool catalyst filter
3. Granular Activated Carbon filter
4. 99.97% True Hepa filter
The fifth filter is the ionizer is built-in and can be turned off from what I’ve read.

The unit seemed to work just fine, though we’ll have to wait till the haze actually returns in a couple of weeks to see how it’ll operate under stress. More to report when that time comes!