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!

 

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.

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.

Most new condo projects on our island routinely try to design their blocks such that each unit’s living and bedroom areas are in the north-south orientation, and in so doing avoid the afternoon sun that can otherwise blast unrelentingly into the rooms. Most of the units in The Minton are north-southerly facing (with the exception of one block!), including ours.

A year ago while I was doing my fortnightly photo-visits to the ongoing construction site then, I observed that our front balcony would get some morning sun. Not quite an issue for us. And when keys were collected in January this year, we again observed that there would be some mild afternoon sun getting into Peter’s room – but not the other bedrooms. Whew – we thought. But then, exactly as Ling feared, this was a seasonal thing, and since 3 weeks ago, our Tranquil World facing bedrooms have been getting some direct sunlight into the rooms. Not full-on thankfully in the east-west sense, but sufficient to heat up the room to the point that it’s noticeable. Hannah’s room and our workroom are especially affected, since the Zebra blinds we’ve got there can’t block a sufficient amount of sunlight.

So, we had to look into window films and specifically of the solar control type. There were already several advertisers promoting their various brands on different web sites and the like, and it was some intensive fact-finding on our part. And also because solar control films are a commonly-requested product for new built-up apartments on a hot and humid equatorial island, our mail box over the last months have been stuffed with flyers and brochures from many, many window film contractors.

Without getting too much into our exploration process, what we’ve learned in the last one week – from deciding to go with films to learning about the different film types and specifications to inviting different contractors down for measurements to deciding who to go with and finally actual installation – include:

Competition in this industry seems extremely intense. We heard and read of stories of companies badmouthing their competitors products.

The more affordable films seem compacted around the same price range (about $4 to $6 per square foot).

Most films we saw all offered 99% UV rejection, and Solar energy Rejection was routinely between 45% to 55%. The other characteristics (Visible Light Transmission, Warranty, Infra-red Rejection) varied significantly however.

Some characteristics of the film are (a lot) more important than others. The important ones are Total Solar Energy Rejected and Visible Light Transmittance if you’re also concerned about how much darker your room might be once films are installed.

With regards to the last point, there are quite a few online resources that debate on the often-cited Infra-red rejection film characteristic how what it really means, including here, here and here. The long and shot of what those resources all say is that IR rejection statements needs to be read with caution.

Lots of brochures and flyers from window film contractors.

Lots of brochures and flyers from window film contractors.

As for the other characteristics; after having been convinced about the importance of the selected film characteristic indicators, we invited several film contractors down for their sales pitches, measurements and quotations. Not quite easy deciding between the lot, but we eventually settled on LLumar solar control films, and with a contractor who was its local distributor. The film manufacturer seemed well-established and having been in the business for decades, and their films well-reviewed and received too and used across different purposes. The cost per square foot of their solar control films were just a little higher than their competitor products, but we were persuaded to take up their package largely on account that their films seemed in our exploration to be most premium of the bunch.

The installation took 2 afternoons, and we had different film types installed for the living/dining halls and the bedrooms. The two films’ Visible Light Transmittance was 48% and 60% for the Living/Dining halls and bedrooms respectively, and both offered 53-54% Total Solar Energy rejections. Total damage was almost $1.9K. Ouch!

Photos.:)

Workers going about it in our workroom.

Window Film Workers going about installation in our workroom.

And in Hannah's room.

And in Hannah’s room.

Oh yes. We had roller blinds installed in our front balcony too. The contractor was the same fellow who's done all of our blinds and curtains too.

Oh yes. We had roller blinds installed in our front balcony too. The contractor was the same fellow who’s done all of our blinds and curtains too.

 

Catching up on another post of our children in the last fortnight. Another recent thing we’ve gradually realize of our new home is that the Tranquil World-facing bedrooms of our unit – which includes Hannah’s room – gets a seasonal blast of direct sunlight. We didn’t observe this earlier in the year at the time we collected our keys, but possibly also in good part that the weather has turned hot and humid again, their room gets a good toasting in the early to mid-afternoons every day. As a result, We’ve been looking closely at solar films and will have some notes to write on very soon.

We’re still thankful that Peter sleeps soundly every night, but boy – can he make a royal din in the day time. It might be the effect of his room facing inwards against other neighboring blocks and how sound bounces around coupled also with his very healthy pair of lungs, but when he yells, we’re pretty sure everyone can hear it. Yep; he yells for attention, not merely cries for it! Hannah loves playing with him still, but when she’s busy with something else (like her art n’ craft), our boy gets all moody and will holler when he’s left alone in his cot.

Ling was sharing too the other morning that our girl has reported being occasionally called names by her friends in school. Nope we’re not going to step-in at the moment, since this is part of growing up and she doesn’t seem too bothered by it. But if that’s indeed happening, it doesn’t surprise us too much either – on account that Hannah is just a little bossy and has no compunctions telling other kids off when they engage in acts she believes are wrong. She has the makings of a a social butterfly for sure.

And of late, she’s returned again to carrying sheets of stickers that she brings along with her when we’re out of home, and passes them out to other children that she walks past. “Mommy/Daddy/whoever’s nearer, can you cut this sticker out? I want to pass it to that 妹妹 (little sister)!” In fact, we’ve had to reign her in a little one time when she wanted to run off to the other side of a Metro store to look for a girl that walked past her several minutes ago LOL.

The two kids at play at our new home on a weekend morning.

The two kids at play at our new home on a weekend morning.

Hannah having fun with ice water and a straw. This was over dinner at a Malay-Muslim cafe @ Hougang Avenue 1. They whipped up wonderful Roti Johns (our Ang mo friend will be thrilled to hear that!).

Hannah having fun with ice water and a straw. This was over dinner at a Malay-Muslim cafe @ Hougang Avenue 1. They whipped up wonderful Roti Johns (our Ang mo friend will be thrilled to hear that!).

Peter's gonna be one year old very soon.

Peter’s gonna be one year old very soon.

Her new post-it notice board mounted in her room. Hopefully, no more loose pieces of all her drawings all over the house now.

Her new post-it notice board mounted in her room. Hopefully, no more loose pieces of all her drawings all over the house now.

Aside from the carpentry work that we included into our workroom at our Minton home – which was a lot – the only other renovation item we put in was to draw two additional LAN points, one on either side of the room. But we just discovered before the public holiday yesterday that our electrician had made a bloop when the cables were laid a few months ago. We’d requested for Cat 6 cables, but what we got were actually Cat 5e’s. Our ID was shocked when we appraised him of it, apologized sincerely, and promised to get to the bottom of it. Though at this point, we’re not sure what can really be done aside from the usual refund of work that was not quite what we wanted – since the two cables are running through false walls, up to false ceilings, across a good part of the house, and ending where our apartment’s main junction box is.

Oh dear. Says clearly that it's 5E and not 6.

Oh dear. Says clearly that it’s 5e and not 6.

Adding on to another issue we discovered of our electrician’s work (basically that he took a few short cuts when installing those very tricky LED downlights), Ling is so very not-pleased with this subcon’s work. To be fair though, the Cat 5e cables are already reasonably good for our current needs since they theoretically support Gigabit Ethernet networks – but putting aside that we really should get what we paid for, the Cat 6 is simply the higher spec-ed and more stringent standard. And not forgetting future-proofing our home too for better connectivity standards in years to come too. We’re waiting for our ID to get back to us on this and what he’s going to do to make good, so more updates to come at some point, probably.

That aside; a good part of the weekend was spent installing and configuring our home office multi-function printer. We’ve been using dedicated laser-printers for a long while now ever since they reached consumer-friendly price-points just before the turn of the century – but for our new home, decided to bump it up to a multi-function printer instead. My key requirements in the recent hunt for one such were that it would had to:

Support the three functions we use: scanning, printing, copying

Support wireless printing

Support automatic duplex printing

Support scanning to email (but more on this later)

Offer an unexposed paper tray

Use an automatic document feeder

Pretty much everything that I use at my own office printers and have come to require in order to be work-effective. Not surprisingly too, the mainstream printer manufacturers all seem to recognize how important are these printers to small home-offices, so they routinely offer at least a few models that meet all these standard requirements, largely differing only along how large these printers are, their price-points, warranty and support policies, and additional features. We’ve had pretty decent experiences using Fuji laser printers previously, so opted for the Fuji Docuprint M255z, a widely carried model in most computer and electronic appliance stores. The printer is about the most affordably priced in its range at S$309 with an additional $40 worth of everyone’s favorite shopping vouchers – NTUC Fairprice ones – and comes with a hefty 4 year warranty period too.

On the down side, the printer is a little larger at its footprint than competing models, and it just barely fit into the bay window ledge. Particularly; the enclosed paper tray sticks out at the base by a couple of inches while the back of the printer is recessed by about the same amount (duh!) – so if table area is premium for you, then you might need to look elsewhere.

Pretty large fellow.

Pretty large fellow.

Configuring the printer was a different story altogether though. Printing, copying and scanning were easy enough. Connecting it to work wirelessly, and to send content to a common shared directory in our home network were much tougher. The printer didn’t seem to work with 5 GHz wireless networks, which meant I had to also use the routinely more congested 2.4 GHz wireless network for our home. Nor can I get the scan to email feature working properly yet. Bummer.

Many homeowners when putting together the furnishings for their new apartments will routinely check out Ikea. We’ve had pretty varied experiences with Ikea furniture at our Rivervale home. Basically ‘good’ for their baby changing table and baby chairs, ‘so-so’ for lighting fixtures and sofas, and just ‘godawful’ for their book shelving (they started sagging after 6 months). The fact that their self-assembled furniture though are priced so low has meant we still check their two large stores out to find items that we can get that won’t be too painful even if they don’t work as well as expected.

Shopping @ Ikea Tampines

Shopping @ Ikea Tampines

Our purchases for our Minton home this time round have included quite a large number of items on top of the previously blogged lighting and 1.5 seater sofa, and they are:

Bathroom clothing hooks

Bathroom towel rods

Bedroom full-length mirror

Children bedroom shelves and clothing hooks

Living room photo frames

Bathroom full-height open shelf

Foyer shoe bench

Outdoor furniture: rocking armchairs and sidetable

The last three items were packed flat and unassembled – one of the well-known characteristics of Ikea’s offerings. We had the option of having the store deliver and assemble it for us, but like many Singapore families, we brought the furniture back in our trusty family sedan and assembled it at home. I was able to assemble the whole bunch of items pretty easily without hitches except for the Molger shelf. Pretty sure I followed the instructions closely, but the joining screws wouldn’t go in all the way, resulting in noticeable gaps between the supporting struts and beams. Oh well.

Kitchen appliance rods; no assembly required - just drilling.

Kitchen appliance rods; no assembly required – just drilling.

A POÄNG armchair as packed in flat boxes.

A POÄNG armchair as packed in flat boxes. $99 a pop including the cushion.

Two POÄNG armchairs + Lack sidetable - all done. Pretty easy to assemble too.

Two POÄNG armchairs + LACK sidetable ($17.90) – all done. Pretty easy to assemble too.

TJUSIG Shoe bench - easily assembled too.

TJUSIG Shoe bench ($129) – easily assembled too.

MOLGER shelving unit ($99) in the bathoom, and a real pain to assemble.

MOLGER shelving unit ($99) in the bathoom, and a real pain to assemble.