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Archive for the ‘gadgets’ Category

Purchasing items from eBay using the Global Shipping Program Part 1

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

I’ve read lots of bad press about eBay and the Global Shipping Program…..so here goes this is my experience..

On occasions I purchase items from the US from eBay or direct:- 16 years ago, items would enter the UK, and you would pay zero Import Duty, Value Added Tax and Administration fees.

That was 16 years ago, it would seem the world of Online shopping from around the world, especially from the US has now caught up with UK Customs, and today, if an item has a declared value of over £15 GBP, you will have to pay VAT@20% on the total amount, if the declared value is in USD $, it’s converted at the exchange rate on the day it’s received at UK Customs, and most often an administration fee of £8 or £11 depending upon if it’s Royal Mail or Parcelforce, that have handled your parcel.

Something relatively new, has started to appear on eBay on seller listings, it’s called the Global Shipping Program or GSP, my understanding is that US or UK sellers, do not have to worry about shipping overseas, they pack up the items, and ship it to a logistics company in the country or origin, this company then forwards to the destination, and also handles the Customs, Import Duty, Value Added Tax in advance, by passing this cost direct to the Buyer.

This payment is processed by Pitney Bowes, and appears on your Paypal Account as a direct payment to Pitney Bowes. You will see, two payments for the item, one to the seller, and one to Pitney Bowes for the Customs charges. The theory is that the item, is not delayed in Customs, and you pay no charges when it’s delivered!

I’ve actually been fascinated by the logistics involved in this process. I first got the following:-

It stated Multiple Carriers, and that didn’t help much in tracking…

And then this

I did some more digging, and found the following, it got handed to wnDirect

I tracked down the flight, using the Air Way Bill number 45494864, and it was on a Virgin Atlantic Cargo flight using this site, and 932 and VS (IATA code).

This led me to Virgin Atlantic Cargo Site

My item is in that parcel container, along with 26 other items! Received in London, 03 May 2016 @ 10.20.

I believe it’s now with 13ten

It will be interesting to see HOW QUICK 13ten, get it to me now it’s in the UK, as they use Royal Mail, Hermes, YODEL or DPD, that’s probably the weakest link!

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Synology NAS and SSD Cache Part II – Is cache better for Plex Media Server ?

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

In my recent article comparing the performance of the addition of a Read and Write SSD Cache to a volume on a Synology NAS, I started to look in detail at whether this cache benefits any other services on a Synology NAS running DSM 5.2.

In this experiment I’m looking at the Plex Media Server, and I’ve setup two identical Synology NAS, running DSM 5.2 Build 5644 Update 5, both with Plex Media Server 0.9.15.2.1663, both are streaming the same 1080P Blue Ray movie to the same Plex client via WiFi, at the same time. The first NAS has no cache, the second NAS has 120GB of read and write cache, and these are the results.

The second NAS with the read and write cache enabled shows, lower Disk Utilization 1% compared to 5%.

Again you can see here, 6% (no cache), 1% (cache)

The same stats from both NAS, No cache and cache enabled, what is interesting is the CPU load results are lower on the cache enabled version!

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Synology NAS and SSD Cache

Saturday, April 9th, 2016

I’ve been recently experimenting with SSDs (solid state disks), to accelerate my spinning rust in my Synology NAS.

Recently in DSM, a new SSD cache option is available, which allows you to create a read or write cache with 1 or 2 SSD devices respectively.

Here are some results, which I’ve graphed

2016-04-09-21_26_42-microsoft-excel-book5

In my very quick and crude tests, I could see an improvement in Writing to the NAS, which doubles in performance. Read speed is very similar, and the cache was “warmed-up” before testing.

And here’s a video of the new Synology SSD Cache Read Hit Rate graphic, which looks a little graphic equalizer, from the 70-80s, so I’ve dropped a music track in the background! I thought it only right to over-flange (distort!) the track, so you may want to turn down your volume!

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Spot the difference between these two Brother P-Touch tapes

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

Spot the difference between these two White on Green Glossy Laminuated TZ-735 Brother P-Touch tapes?

The one on the right costs £14.00, and the one on the left costs £3.85, both including delivery.

What I had a chuckle about is the compatible tape is correct stating it’s 0.47 inch, and not 1/2 inch, if you work out what 12mm is in inches!

Both function correctly in the two Brother P-Touch label printers I have tested, but the one on the left is marked as P-Touch compatible, it’s not a genuine Brother product, and manufactured in China. Readily available from eBay, or other online stockists!

I was going to throw my P-Touch label printer in the bin, because the cost of replacement tapes was so expensive!

I’ve just taken delivery, of four of these cartridges, at approx. £10 – 6mm,9mm,12mm and all work as expected, this would have cost four times this amount for the Brother original parts! – Direct from China, including packaging and posting, arrived well packed, signed for delivery and within 7 days excluding weekend.

I’m not sure what is going to happen, when the China bubble bursts!

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Andy’s quest for the perfect cup of coffee! Part 1: How do you like your coffee?

Friday, March 18th, 2016

I like strong black coffee, and at University I was too lazy to boil the kettle, and I just used to add cold water to coffee granules, (that was 26 years ago!) I do not prepare coffee that way anymore, and no longer use coffee granules either! I also prefer warm coffee, or cold coffee, not piping hot. For a while I used to drink quadruple espresso, I also prefer a small amount of good tasting coffee, rather than a large cup of coffee.

Here’s one I made earlier

makingcofferforxchemex6

I’ve got the following coffee makers, which I’ve tried

  1. Braun filter coffee maker
  2. Braun espresso machine
  3. French press cafetiere e.g. Bodum.
  4. Stovetop espresso maker (my Dad would often comment, he didn’t want any of that sludge you boil-up on the stove!).
  5. Aerobie Aeropress (purchased in Panama, which was cheaper than purchasing it in the UK!).

These all have their advantages and disadvantages, e.g. they are quick and convenient, and I cannot praise the Aerobie Aeropress, enough - for mobile, espresso coffee when you away from home!

But the drawback I’ve found with them ALL, is the coffee taste, and some bitterness which can be tasted in the resulting coffee.

Let me introduce you to the CHEMEX coffee maker, invented in 1949 by a Chemist, and using a conical flash and filter papers, the modern CHEMEX coffer maker is made from non-porous, borosilicate glass and fastened with a wood collar and tie. It uses a special scientifically designed filter paper, the results are fantastic, Clear, pure, flavourful and without bitterness or sediment every time, you can make your coffee as strong as you like without bitterness. However, this is not a quick method of making a perfect cup of coffee, and has almost a ritual, a bit like perfect tea making or the “Japanese Tea ritual.” - if you one are a coffee drinker - that just pours water over coffee granules out of a kettle, and you like your coffee that way, I don’t think a CHEMEX is for you!

The CHEMEX uses the pour over, slow drip method to deliver a flavourful and without bitterness cup of coffee.

the box the CHEMEX arrives in!

CHEMEX filters, specific for the 3 cup CHEMEX

The 3 cup CHEMEX (it creates approx 450 ml of coffee)

here’s a short video, 45 seconds our of 4 minutes of the complete process

some instructions, with photos of how I do it with a CHEMEX.

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Andy’s Paperless Office - Fujitsu ScanSnap IX500

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

This was an early Christmas (2015) present, and more gadge for the office. But it does have a serious side, because I decided there is far too much paper in my life, and from late 2015 I’ve gone paperless. So it’s also my New Year’s Resolution for 2016.

No paper!

The ScanSnap is fantastic, wireless scanning via WiFi to laptop, Android Phone, iPad, software is brilliant, one of the best software installs and setups, I’ve ever performed with any hardware! – Well done Fujitsu! – It’s a good job, that not all hardware and software is like that, I would be out of a job! Drop all my paper into the top of the scanner, Hit the blue button, or do it remote from my PC, and I end up with a bunch of searchable PDF files.


Local Storage is cheap as chips, Cloud Storage is even cheaper, it’s far quicker for me to pull documents from my “DocStore” than try and find anything in a filing cabinet, if I need a hardcopy, I just print it out. I can also easily give access to my “DocStore” securely via the Internet to Lindsey also, so she can look at all my documents.

So all my documents, are now scanned to an Adobe PDF document, OCR recognition is performed on this document, before it’s saved to create a Searchable Adobe PDF document, this is then saved to a folder structure on my PC, e.g. 2016 > Finance > Credit Cards.

The “DocStore” is then mirrored to two Synology NASes using Cloud Station and these are backed up to Amazon S3 Cloud, and I also use Tresorit secure Cloud Storage.

At present I’ve got approximately 1000 pages in my “DocStore”, which is about 1.4GB, and when I’m finished it closes up nicely.

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BB-8 - This is the Droid you’re looking for from @Sphero

Friday, February 5th, 2016

A little board, so need some more gadge!

To add to my existing collection of robotic gadgets from Sphero… let me introduce you to BB-8, this is the droid you’re looking for!

BB-8

BB-8

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Fancy a late Christmas Present! The Baxter Robot!

Monday, December 21st, 2015

Baxter Robot

Baxter Robot

The Baxter Robot was demonstrated in the Department of Computer Science this morning!

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Out with the Dyson, and in with the Gtech AirRAM K9 and Gtech Multi

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Over five years ago, I purchased my first Dyson, and blogged here - I Thought My Carpets Were Clean Until I purchased a Dyson.

The big problem with the Dyson DC20, cylinder vacuum cleaner, it has a cord, and it’s very heavy, awkward to clean stairs, and very heavy to carry upstairs to clean the bedrooms, and landing….nothing wrong with it, and it’s just gone out of guarantee.

Honey sales have been good, so time for a new gadget, to help me (my new contract is to do the vacuum-ing around the house!).

After watching the TV Adverts, and reading all the reviews, I’ve decided to purchase a Gtech AirRAM K9 and Gtech Multi.

Gtech AirRAM K9 Cordless vacuum cleaner and Gtech Multi handheld

Gtech AirRAM K9 Cordless vacuum cleaner and Gtech Multi handheld

Gtech AirRAM K9 Cordless vacuum cleaner and Gtech Multi handheld

Gtech AirRAM K9 Cordless vacuum cleaner and Gtech Multi handheld

I placed the order with Gtech’s website on Sunday 19th July, and I was surprised it was not as automated as some websites, what I mean is, the email confirming your order, I never got one, one was never sent…and the Order Online, when I track it, is still sitting in Processing…..my other niggle, Gtech charge Credit Card holders 2% - this is a bit old fashioned! but they do not charge anything for Paypal, after a recent discussion by Martin Lewis about Paypal, Credit Cards and Losing your Section 75 Rights - this here Warning! Don’t use PayPal to pay on a credit card - I thought stuff Paypal on this one! But hey come on Gtech 2%, are you not making enough cash, to re-negotiate with the credit card companies!

yesterday, I was surprised to get an email from Interlink (sister company of DPD - I didn’t know this until today!) advising me I would get a delivery today from Gtech, and early this morning, as was advised Interlink would deliver between 13:57 - 14:57, and at 14:05 I was the proud owner of a Gtech AirRAM K9 and Gtech Multi.

So logistics and 2% CC charge aside -

Gtech AirRAM K9

Gtech AirRAM K9

Gtech Multi

Gtech Multi

WOW - these are fantastic - cordless, light, powerful, Dyson move over, there is a New Hoover King - Gtech! I’ve been vacuuming everywhere, until the charge they come with ran out, so both are on charge for four hours!

and they’ve got a fantastic new advert featuring music by Queen. (Freddie Mercury).

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Andy’s new gadget for testing car batteries! - A Solar BA7 Battery and System Tester for 12 volt batteries

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Yes, I have been experiencing car troubles again, well to be honest, the issue has never really gone away, and I’ve done nothing about it, other than keep charging my car battery!

The Problem

The issue has been, if I do not use my car for 24 hours, when starting the car, it does not turn over. So I have to ensure, I start and run my car 7 days a week. Lately, however this period of time, has been decreasing to less than 10 hours, so if I park up overnight, the car will not start the next morning.

The Temporary Solution

If I connect the battery to a battery charger, and charge for less than 5 minutes, it allows me to start the car. This is odd, because the battery is not going to charge much in 5 minutes.

This temporary solution to the issue, was becoming problematic, and delaying me getting off to work in the morning, unrolling the 50m extension lead, plugging in the battery charger, charging the battery, driving to work, and the car was always able to start after parking up in the car park, until Tuesday, when it refused to start, requiring me to get a jump start, with my special jump leads from my Boss! (I think Lindsey was probably getting p***** off as well, because my car is parked behind hers, on the drive!)

Discuss with “The Specialist”

I spoke to Paul from JLB Electronics, pop by their website, and purchase some electronics bits and bobs… about the issue with my car, I took some voltage readings with a voltmeter, before and after charging, and current draw from the battery at idle. The voltage of the battery was 12.4/12.5 volts, and current draw was 0.77A at idle (which could be high!), but not really enough to flatten a car battery overnight.

The Fix

So I decided to purchase a Solar BA7 Battery and System Tester for 12 volt batteries from Amazon.co.uk, this is not just a voltmeter, which can test starting minimum and maximum voltages, battery under load, battery at idle, to check your alternator is working correctly, but also checks the car battery conductance, and compares with the stated value on the battery e.g. the CCA (cold cranking amperes - this is the current which can be delivered for 30 seconds), the value is stamped on the battery!

Amazon parcel

Amazon parcel

Solar BA7 Battery & System Tester for 12v batteries

Solar BA7 Battery & System Tester for 12v batteries

Solar BA7 Battery & System Tester for 12v batteries

Solar BA7 Battery & System Tester for 12v batteries

As I had suspected the battery was at fault, I also purchased a new battery from Halfords - a Yuasa YBX5096, this brand in the UK, commonly associated with batteries in alarms, but very common in Japan and Japanese cars!

Old Car battery CCA 300 - FAIL

Old Car battery CCA 300 - FAIL

After connecting the tester, the CCA value tested is 300, the battery has a stated CCA of 680, so therefore it’s a fail, you cannot make out the numbers on the LED, but the fail light is lit! So it was nice to technically know, after testing the battery is duff!

New Yuasa Silver HSB096, 80Ah 760A (CCA) - PASS

New Yuasa Silver HSB096, 80Ah 760A (CCA) - PASS

Checking the new Yuasa Silver HSB096, 80Ah 760A (CCA) - it passes with a CCA value of 900, and 860. So good to know, my new battery is perfect!

So, before I removed the old battery, I tested, starting minimum and maximum voltages, and charging at idle and load and both these tests pass, so clearly it points to a duff battery, so it was quickly removed and changed.

New Yuasa Silver HSB096, 80Ah 760A (CCA) - PASS

New Yuasa Silver HSB096, 80Ah 760A (CCA) - PASS

New battery installed and connected…..sorry about the fuzzy photograph, excited!!!)

New battery installed....

New battery installed....

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