Nov 20, 2022

My YouTube channel

I recently made a YouTube channel to review flashlights as well as things from my various hobbies.

You can check it out here: https://youtube.com/user/1ZEROSVN

It's a fun way for me to talk review/discuss things from my various hobbies, but also a learning tool for me. I hope to improve my video editing and speaking skills through making videos and sharing them.

I hope the contents on this channel helps people as well as provide some entertainment. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Oct 12, 2022

My first hobby-grade Remote Control car

I saw a good sale on a 1:10 scale RC car recently so I bought it.

This was actually inspired by a hike to a nearby park (Fairview Park). This park has many dunes with plenty of dirt and low grass shrubs, perfect for a good RC car to do jumps and kick up dirt.

As is tradition, after I bought it, I couldn't make use of the car as there's only concrete and asphalt around me (downside of living in a city). 

Finally, I was able to get out to enjoy nature this weekend so I brought my new R/C car along.

Attached is a short video of this awesome toy. Yes! It feels good to be a kid again.


Special thanks to my wife for taking most of the footage here.

I took her to this newly-discovered place (for us at least) called Buckley Ponds, just outside Bishop, CA. This area has a few large ponds in the middle of a dry, desert plain. It's pretty much an oasis, but with cool features like many dunes and semi-rough terrains, great for off-road adventures. We even saw a runner running around the ponds, with a dog playfully following her...so it's also a great place to jog and to bring your dog.

Anyway, we went here for the views, but I got a lot of fun out of it too. Not seen in the video is me driving up and down several dunes and dirt roads. This is also my first "off-road" adventure in a 4x4 where I'm the driver. It's definitely fun.

Jun 7, 2022

Upgraded desktop computer

I finally found enough time to upgrade my main desktop computer.

It was running a Gigabyte B450 motherboard with Ryzen 5 2600 from 4 years ago. Time to update the old beast.

I actually bought most of the parts during Black Friday last year but never got around to installing them. I built a mini-gaming PC in between that time so there was no rush to upgrade this one. But now's the time.

Build goal: This is supposed to be my main gaming PC but, since I couldn't buy a new video card for a while, I moved the old one to my mini gaming PC (to be used in the living room). This one will suffice as my WFH PC for now. As such, no overclocking is necessary.
July 2022 update: I was able to get a great deal on a 3080ti for below $700 so I can finally finish this build.

Here's the config (new parts highlighted):

Motherboard: Gigabyte Z590 Aorus Elite AX ($96)
CPU: Intel i7 10700K ($150) - Yes, I know, old gen CPU, but I got a crazy deal on it. Plus, it's more than enough for gaming.
Memory: Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro - 32GB DDR4-3200 ($130)
Videocard: Zotac Trinity OC 3080ti ($693) [added in July]
Storage:
  1. ADATA SX8200 480GB NVMe 3
  2. 2x 240GB SATA SSD
  3. 1x 4TB 5900Krpm Seagate HDD
Case: BeQuiet Dark Base 700 - inverted ($130)
Power Supply: EVGA 850 BQ, 80+ ($50)
Cooling: Corsair H110i - front-mounted with 4 x 140mm fans in push/pull config & Intel bracket ($90), 1 rear 140mm CM MF140 fan + 1 top-mounted CM MF140 fan

Other items:
Sceptre Nebula C345B-QUN168W 34" Ultra-wide curved monitor ($350)
Razer Black Widow Elite keyboard ($85)
Logitech G502 Lightspeed wireless mouse ($50)

CORSAIR - MM800 Polaris RGB mouse pad

Since I'm lazy, I'll re-use an old picture. New ones will be added once I have time.

Here's a quick spec link & benchmark:
PassMark Rating

Since I'm using a 10700k, I can't use an nmve 4 drive hence my disk mark scores are low. An 11th gen CPU would help but there's no point in doing that just for Nvme 4.

Mar 1, 2022

Heroism in modern time

To say that things have been crazy around the world is an understatement. Historic weather events caused by climate change, hyper-inflation, political strife & polarization, population unrest, and of course, the Covid-19 pandemic. Leaders come and go, but nobody has been able to do much to change the dark narrative lording over the world. Needless to say, the last few years weighed heavily on us. Many people are tired, disappointed, and, quite frankly, exhausted. Then comes the war in Ukraine.

It is an unjust, and wholly unnecessary war helmed by a bully intent on brute forcing his way into an entire country. For what? To relive a distorted dream of a unified USSR? Most people growing up in the past 30 years don't even know what that is. Those that knew, knew it to be a period of hardship and failure. Heck, many ex-Soviet countries (including Ukraine) are still rebuilding as of 2022!

But, something magical happened in the last week: heroism...real heroism and courage that reignited people's hopes; hopes that the world will change for the better. That the courageous few can give rise to freedom from oppression, that their struggles matter, that humanity can save itself.

What Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Ukraine's president) has done is nothing short of amazing. In the span of a few days, he redefined the definition of a leader, a politician. By choosing to stay and fight with his people, by taking the tough road despite easier options, Zelenskyy shows his people that he is there with them, fighting for them, and suffering through it with them. 
Through his action, Zelenskyy inspires, not only his people, but a generation to fight harder, push further, and, best of all, not be afraid of evil, no matter how big and scary that evil is.




Throughout recent history, we've seen countless examples of politicians who insist on fighting for their people only to run when shit hits the fan. The Afghan president bailed with millions of cash while Ted Cruz secretly flew to a Cancun resort when Texas froze. Such displays of selfishness betray the trust people should have in their leaders. It's not like people trust politicians in the first place, but come on...have a little decency.
It seems political leaders have forgotten what it means to lead. To be a politician is to be a servant of people, not to be served. It is a privilege, not a prize.

If Zelenskyy had taken the offer to flee, we would have witnessed a very different war. The Ukrainian people won't give up so easily, but their leader's action has massive impact on the outcome. Personally I'd like to thank Volodymyr Zelenskyy for being true to himself and his people. Because of their actions, the world is able to see courage defeat fear and evil. Other leaders around the world are stepping up to levy sanctions and provide support. There's a lot of courage there too.

All of the sudden, it's cool to be brave. It's cool to be patriotic, and it's trendy to support Ukraine.
The Internet is going crazy over all of this. Sad to say, it's become a new fad. But that's a good thing. If there's such a thing as a "good" fad, this is it. I feel this is the new Arab Spring, only bigger and it is sweeping the globe. I hope this results in long-lasting change and truly inspires a generation of couragous leaders who serve their people.

It is not easy being a leader, especially during tough times. We've seen many examples of weak and cowardly leaders, but we've also seen examples of strong ones. Say what you will about President Biden, but you cannot say that he hasn't served his people for most of his life. Being a leader is not easy. Anyone who thinks otherwise should try it. Being responsible for 10 people is hard, doing the same for 330 milllion is much, much harder. It takes a special kind of person to volunteer for the pain and suffering that comes with being a leader. The more people you lead, the heavier the burden. But that's where courage comes from. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the strength to act in spite of fear.

We need more leaders in the world. We need more people who are not afraid to bring about change, to make the world a better place. We need more heroes...not MCU heroes, real ones who goes on Dancing with the Stars then fight Russian dictator a few years later. We need heroes who played a president on TV then actually doing it in real life.

Modern day heroism is on display, and it is oh so refreshing to see.

Sure, the war's not over. Zelenskyy may not survive. But the torch he's lit will be carried on by millions of others.

Feb 20, 2022

Our Lady Peace - In Repair

After 2 years of the pandemic, it's fair to say that everyone's in Repair.

Let's take some time to heal, and re-heal. We all need it.



Jan 2, 2022

Phantom H1 - A mini-gaming PC

Happy New Year! ๐ŸŽ‰๐Ÿพ๐Ÿป

2022 marks a new year full of hope and opportunities.
What better way to ring in 2022 with a technology refresh, right? ๐Ÿ˜

OK so 2021 has not been a great year for PC upgrades. Thanks to the pandemic and a confluence of factors, computer parts, especially graphic cards, are hard to come by. I've been hunting for a new RTX 3080 (or 3070) for over a year and still couldn't get it. ๐Ÿ˜”
Still, Black Friday brought some decent deals so I took the opportunity to upgrade my 3 year-old computer.


Did I need it? No, but it's fun to build and was a great project to undertake during the long holiday.

Actually, my current upgrade includes 2 phases. We're covering phase 1 in this post.
  1. New mini gaming PC - Move components out of my office/gaming PC to a new, mini computer connected to my big screen TV in the living room so I can game in 4K HDR.
  2. Upgrade office PC - Upgrade to an Intel motherboard and CPU on my office PC. It needs a refresh. I've been wanting to upgrade to a full-featured motherboard with front-panel USB-C connection. That was one big regret I had when building the old system.

A bit of history

The whole micro-ATX and mini-ITX form-factor never interested me until I saw the NZXT H1. That thing is so beautiful; compact, clean, modern, with a subtle sophistication to it. What's more is its quality build and great engineering. This case looks like a larger version of an XBOX Series X and comes in white, which perfectly complements my living room setup.

Needless to say, I fell in love when I first saw the H1, but the price of $349 was a little too much. It's actually a case, quality ITX (small form factor) power supply, and an All-In-One water cooler. Each of those components easily cost $100 so, I guess the price is justified. Still, it's a bit "too rich for my blood".

Thanks to the magic of Black Friday, NZXT put this case on sale for $180, then further dropped the price to $150. At this price, purchasing it was a no brainer for me.

Problem: mini ITX motherboards aren't cheap. They typically run north of $200 when my budget for a motherboard is around $120.
I can build both on Intel or AMD platforms as I can use a recently purchased an i7 10700K CPU ($150 from Microcenter) or a recently purchased Ryzen 7 5800X ($300 from BestBuy). Motherboard choices on ITX platform isn't great either. Luckily I came across another deal: Asrock B550 Phantom Gaming for $150. This thing has everything I wanted: front panel USB-C connector, 2 NVME slots (1 with heatsink), robust VRM, Wifi6, and RGB headers.

Component breakdown:
  1. NZXT H1 mini-ITX case, 650W power supply, 140mm AIO - $150
  2. Asrock B550 Phantom Gaming m-ITX - $150
  3. AMD Ryzen 7 5800X - $300
    Replaced with AMD Ryzen 5 5600X - $160
  4. EVGA GTX 1070ti SC - Re-used from old system
  5. Corsair Vengeance Pro 32GB DDR4-3200 - $130 (purchased 2 kits last year for my wife's video editing rig).
    Replaced with Crucial Ballistix 32GB DDR4-3200 for $90
  6. MSI Spatium M740 1TB NVMe Gen4 - $75
  7. 2 x 140mm NXZT AER-P static-pressure fan - $14. These are added to the rear panel for increased airflow.
Total system cost: $812 $639
This isn't a budget build but it is quite reasonable.
I excluded the price of the videocard but that could easily cost more than the entire system above. My little cousin was crazy and paid $1500 for a 3080ti!๐Ÿคฏ

Future additions:
  1. 2nd NVMe drive on the back of the motherboard to add capacity.
  2. 4TB 2.5" HDD to add even more capacity.
  3. Add an RGB strip for fun. Might need to run in a diffuser channel for more class.
Here are some benchmark numbers (no overclock):
According to Passmark, this system is in the top 2% percent in the world. Not bad for a mini computer.


PassMark Rating

3/14/22 Update: I downgraded the CPU to a Ryzen 5 5600X since the 5800X runs too hot and loud for this mini-PC. The 5600X was on sale for $210 and I had a $50 off coupon so I got it for $160! This is almost half the already discounted price I paid for the 5800X. Since I wanted this mini-PC to be a gaming-only PC, downgrading to the 5600X was a no brainer at this price.
Turning on PBO helps boost CPU speed to about 4.7Ghz during load. I could OC past 4.9Ghz but there's not much value in doing so. The CPU now idles at a cool 35 degrees C (versus 56) and maxes out at 67 (versus 80).

My wife's PC will receive the 5800X since she does video editing and such.
 
I also swapped out the RAM for 32GB Crucial Ballistix 3200 since it is lower profile and will allow higher overclocking. The original RGB RAM was a bit too high and was pushing up against the CPU fan.

Here are the updated benchmark numbers:
It's a bit disappointing to see lower numbers across the board due to CPU downgrade but it's expected.
I'll overclock the RAM a bit to help boost some numbers.

Pictures:

Plays well with my KEF speakers

You can see a bit of that air gap at the top

Mod 1: 140mm static pressure fan

Mod 2: small magnets to create front air gap

Looking good while being benchmarked

System innards. Love the design.
Yes, that's the new, slightly downgraded PSU.

Can't believe so much fits into this little thing
There's a 2nd NVMe slot on the back for extra storage

Motherboard I/O Panel

Sep 26, 2021

Parisian Vibe - Best of French Songs (Mix)

Holy smokes, this playlist is amazing.
Put on a pair of headphones and turn it up to 11!

That first song (Quedate Luna) makes me want to fire up my speakers just to feel that awesome beat drop...but it's late so I'm listening on my phone with Creative SXFI & 1More TripleFi headphones.

Going to try again tomorrow with my KEF Q150 speakers.



Aug 14, 2021

Pale blue dot

This video is so inspiring.

Elon Musk is the Einstein of our time. Despite his brilliance, he is running out of time to achieve his mission: get humanity off this rock, this "mole of dust, suspended in a sunbeam".

Elon is planning his remaining time in 5 minute increments so he can make the most of it. The least we can do, is to push harder, go higher, and achieve more in our work. Even if it contributes a fraction of a fraction to humanity's progress, it'll be worthwhile.

Skip to minute 12 for the most inspiring part, where Musk channels Carl Sagan.



Jun 14, 2021

Mood lighting for your TV: Govee Flow Pro light bars

Ever since I saw the Philips Hue HDMI sync demo 6 months ago, I've been wanting to buy them for my TV. However, at $150 for the light bars (which I actually have) and $250 for the HMDI Sync kit, they're a bit much.
Since then a few alternatives came to market but none are good enough, until Govee released the Flow Pro Light bar kit. However, it was unavailable for a while and still a bit expensive so I waited.

Well, yesterday I came across an awesome deal where these can be had for $34! I couldn't pass up such a deal so I bought one.


Thanks to the magic of Prime shipping, I got it today. Yay!


Quick review


Pros:
  • No HDMI pass-through so you don't lose any function between your source and display. With pass-through solutions, you can lose advanced functions such as HDR and HDMI 2.1. Without those, you might as well stick to a 2018 TV. No lighting effect system is worth losing those features.
  • Much cheaper price. At around $64, this kit is about 1/6th the price of a comparable Hue Play + HDMI Sync box.
  • Amazing customizations. There are 6 individually controlled segments per bar for a total of 12. You can also control brightness for each section independently.
  • Music modes are awesome. The best I've seen in any LED products thus far.

Cons:
  • Slight input lag (i.e. display shows blue half a second before light shows blue). Although the latest firmware update greatly improves this area, it's still there. Best mode is to use game + split screen.
  • Some inaccurate color detection. That camera gets it right most of the times but sometimes, it misses. Not too bad though. Accuracy improves alot after I calibrated the set using the included 8 orange squares.
  • This is a nitpick but, 2 bars aren't enough to properly light a 65" TV. I'd like to see them add an extension kit for 2 more bars via a USB Y-cable. I'm sure it can be done.
  • I wish the lights auto turn off after 3 mins of detecting only black screen (i.e. screen off). As is, I have to manually turn it off after use. Annoying.

Overall rating: 9/10
This kit gave me exactly what I wanted ever since I bought my OLED TV: a dynamic background lighting system to match its beautiful pictures. The more I use this system, the more I appreciate how it subtly extends and complements the picture shown. It's a definite improvement on an already amazing home theater experience. 

Kit includes:

  • 2 light bars w/ USB C connector
  • 1 camera w/ USB A connector
  • 1 power adapter w/ typical power plug
  • 2 vertical stand adapters
  • 2 behind-TV stick-on brackets
  • 8 little orange squares with adhesive back (for calibration)
  • Manual and a little paper about Govee

Here's what they look like (stock photos):



How they work:

  1. The webcam (mounted on the top or bottom of your screen) "sees" colors on your display then send signal to the LED light bars to reproduce them.
  2. In between, there is a Bluetooth-enabled controller which controls the lights.
  3. This controller pairs with the Govee app on your phone to give you customize and control the lights, as well as work with Google or Alexa. You can tie them to your smart home setup if you wish.

Here's a demo video as well as a few pictures I took to showcase this lighting system:


Here's a fast action video to show the input lag of this system. It's there but not too bad. This is with the latest firmware update on gaming & splitscreen mode. 

Not shown here but these also have multiple modes including music sync modes, scene modes, as well as timer and voice controls. 


No true white LED so you see a typical purple-tinged approximation of white



Color display is a bit inaccurate here. It's supposed to pick up orange, not purple

Apparently it only reproduced the center color






Installed without adhesive

I don't want anything sticking to my OLED TV so I didn't use the 3M backed mounts. For now, they are resting on the TV's sub. Not ideal but decent enough. 
I'll decide if I want to use the rear mounts later.
Who cares about cable mess behind TV right? ๐Ÿ˜

Jun 3, 2021

How does a 2018 computer fare in 2021?

I had some time today so I played some PC games. Of course it's been a hot minute since I played any game so I had to do a bunch of software updates.

Here's my gaming pc:

PassMark Rating

More details can be found in the original 2018 post.

After some light gaming, I decided to update all drivers and even the BIOS to see if there's any performance improvement.

Well, good news and bad news.

Good news is my PC is still fairly competent. It's ranked in the 88th percentile in the world, which isn't too shabby. The driver and BIOS updates seems to have improved some performance, especially in the storage area.

Bad news is 2D video performance is severely limited by the Spectre and Meltdown patches Intel and AMD applied to "fix" inherent flaws in their CPU architectures. This almost halved my 2D graphics performance! ๐Ÿ˜ 
This, plus recent "optimized" graphics card settings from nVidia caused my overall graphics performance to slip. My PC is now in the 93rd percentile vs 97th in 2018. To be fair, a bunch of people upgraded their computers as well as bought new, more powerful computers so yeah, my computer is no longer in the top 3% ๐Ÿ˜ค. Eh, it's all good. My games still run decent.

Here's the current performance benchmark:
This system is losing its edge but still decent

In comparison, here's what it used to look like back in 2018 (overclocked of course):


A side effect of updating BIOS is a reset of all my overclocked settings. Doh!
Good thing I wrote down the old overclocked settings for Ryzen 2600 on a Gigabyte Aorus B450 WIFI motherboard. Here it is in case you need it (I'll probably need it later too):
  1. Go into BIOS (press Del when the computer starts up)
  2. Set CPU multiplier to 40 (default is 3.5)
  3. Set Vcore offset: +0.120 (stock voltage is 1.25v so this will bring it up to 1.37v. 1.35 is recommended but I wanted a stable system and have plenty of CPU cooling so I added a bit for more stability). That said, I might drop it down to 1.35v later.
  4. Set memory to XMP 1.0 profile, which forces it to run at 3Ghz (rated speed for my memory). I can go further since my memory can handle up to 3.2Ghz, but I prefer stability so this is good enough.

Current specs:
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 2600
Memory: 32GB Patriot Viper RGB DDR4-3000
Storage: 
  1. ADATA SX8200 480GB NVMe
  2. StoreMI array w/ 240GB SATA3 SSD + 4TB 5900Krpm Seagate HDD
Case: BeQuiet Dark Base 700 (inverted)
Cooling: Corsair H110i - Front-mounted with 2 x 140mm fans + 2 BeQuiet 140mm fans in push/pull config.
Cooler Master Fan Pro kit: 1 rear-mounted 140mm + 2 top-mounted 140mm.

Other items:
HP Omen 32" 1440p monitor
Razer Blackwidow RGB mechanical keyboard
Logitech G502 SE mouse
CORSAIR - MM800 Polaris RGB mouse pad


Possible upgrades in the future:
  1. RTX 3070 or 3080 (when the current GPU shortage blows over)
  2. New motherboard, CPU, and RAM