Friday, August 10, 2018

Ecovacs Deebot N79S

The Good:
Can pick up most small things
Doesn't go down a large drop (like stairs)
Cheap replacement parts
Great App
Comes with own remote

The Bad:
Not very smart
Get's stuck

This is the first time I’ve ever owned a robot vacuum so I had no expectations. Everyone knows that the Romba was the first and is considered the best but they are also the most expensive. I was recommended the Ecovacs Deebot N79S.
We have a short haired dog with dark hardwood floors. Any animal(including humans) with dark floors do not go well. Dark floors look nice in show rooms and pictures but from a practical standpoint, they suck. Why do we have dark wood floors? The house came with it. Why haven’t we replaced them? They cover the 80% of the entire first floor including the kitchen. Why anyone would get hardwood floors for the kitchen escapes my logic but that’s a whole other post.

It looks like Ecovacs did their homework in terms of how to build a robot vacuum. its seem well built and you only have to put together a few items (the two outside brushes, main brush and filter). And it’s good that you can take out and put in these items as they should wear faster than the other parts. You can find replacement parts for really cheap on Amazon. It does however appear more complicated to replace the battery pack. With the N79 model, it was just two screws to replace the battery packs. Now you have to take the entire bottom off to get at the batteries and it looks more complicated to put it back together, although I have not tried and good luck trying to finding the replacement battery. As this model becomes as popular as the N79, I'm sure replacement batteries will show up. It is all plastic construction with some rubber on the wheels. Overall, I would say it is built well.

This is where a robot vacuum counts and this is where it does fall a bit short in my floor plan. My kitchen, family room share an open space that is connected to a hallway that leads into the study and then on the other side of the kitchen is a dining room separated by an open doorway. We have two couches in the family room and we have a kitchen table in the morning room behind the kitchen. 
When it does run, it does pick up most of the things you would get with a medium vacuum cleaner. It does a much better job than just a handheld vacuum. Where it falls short is in the programming. 
There are several settings you can choose from for the job. You can do auto which is suppose to go everywhere and make adjustments for what it senses, there’s a single room setting where it’s suppose to just do one room, there’s a edge setting where it just goes along the perimeter and a spot setting where it just going it bigger and bigger circles. 
I mostly use the auto and single room. I’m not really sure what is the difference between these settings. In my complicated room setup, it seems to behave the same. It has more than several times gotten “stuck” in a specific location where it runs the same pattern over and over. It turns into the leg of a sofa and runs into the bookcase behind it, it turns and goes along the bookcase but then it backs away then turns in to the sofa. It will do this for 10 minutes (draining the battery) and then it finally gets out of it. This has happened at least 3 times in the two weeks I’ve been using the vacuum every day. I think this is a software issue more than anything else. I can see how Romba is better because the more expensive model maps the room so it knows where it can and can’t go. It is worth the 3X cost over this one? Maybe. 
It can go over the edge of the oriental rugs we have but if it hits it at a certain angle or speed, it will think it’s blocked. It will remove pet hair from the carpets. 
It will get tangled and stuck on plugs and cords and wires. I have one sofa where the bottom is curved so that if it gets under it in one section of the couch, it needs to come out at the same section or it will spend 30 minutes trying to figure out how to get out. It’s just easier to block the section of the couch.
I’ve had to tidy up and wrap my speaker wires I had going under the coach. Something I should have done a while ago but the robot getting stuck forced me to do it. 
The base has a limited sensor range. I’ve had the robot pass less than 4 feet from the base and it still couldn’t find it. It seemed to spend more time hunting to recharge that actually vacuuming. If it was mapped, like a Romba, it would know where it is. Is that worth paying an extra $600? Probably not. 
Super easy to empty out the filter while it's charging

This is the state of the brushes after about 30 runs

Battery Life 
The unit would not run more than 30 minutes before it when to home base to recharge. I would check the battery level and it was only at 50%. Maybe it has recharge anxiety.  After contacting customer support and doing their suggestion of running it a short while, resetting the base and then charging it for 4 hours, it runs for about an hour now. Never the 90 minutes as was advertised. Maybe in less complicated rooms, it would run for longer. Your mileage may vary. 
I expect the battery to last about a year if I use it every day with each time the vacuum running less and less time. Replacement batteries, if you can find them, are about $45 each. the N79 required 2, almost half the cost of the vacuum itself. I’m guessing the company priced their vacuum low so that you would just buy another one instead of replacing the battery. 

The App
Ecovacs does come with a great app. It’s simple, clean and easy to use. You can set schedule, type of cleaning, etc. It also came with a remote so that if you didn’t have the app, you could control it with it. Programming from the remote is another matter. The instructions were not helpful in programming from the remote. 

I can see where Ecovacs fits in with the overall robot vacuum market. They see how expensive the better Romba is and tried to make one that vacuums just as well but at 1/3 the cost. It is easy to use and maintenance is easy to do. The vacuum part does work well but it is not “smart” around furniture and the room landscape. Is it worth the cost? Probably. It has great rating on Amazon. I feel like if they had spent just a few more hours on the programming and charged and extra $20, it would be a fantastic buy. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Xbox One X

In terms of pure dollars is it worth the extra $250 over the Xbox One S? No. 
You get the same performance for most games. As of this writing, there are only 3 games that can take full advantage of extra performance of the Xbox One X, plus, you'll need a 4K TV with HDMI 2.1 to notice any difference and you'll also need a surround system for the full experience. I don't have a 4K TV with HDMI 2.1 or a receiver with that same standard. It does perform really well and games really do pop. Is that enough to justify double the cost? I don't think so. 

I chose the Xbox long ago over the PS system due to the controller. The Xbox One X controller is impressive. It is a step up over the Xbox 360 controller. It feels much more substantial and I liked that they still kept it to requiring just two double A batteries. Rechargeable batteries work well and offer the best life over "kits" you can buy for the controller. Amazon offers AA batteries with 2400mAh each. Most rechargable kits offer 2400mAh for both batteries. 

I do like the extra ports that the Xbox One X does offer. You can connect an external USB 3.0 drive to play games which you will eventually need. The Xbox One X comes with a 1TB of space but that will only hold 15-20 games depending on the size of the game. Games will become larger and larger. Some games coming out in 2018 are over 100gigs!

I do not like the fact that you have to load the game onto the hard drive in order to play the game. The Xbox One X does let you start playing without loading the entire game which helps but it's still an annoyance. Microsoft should have sped up the read and processing speed of the drive so that you can play off the disc since they sped up everything else in the Xbox One X. I feel that Microsoft will not make improvements in this area due to the fact that they really want to phase out physical discs. It's coming. 

Is it worth it as a long term investment? Probably Not.
Microsoft will retire the Xbox One S and the X will be lowest version of the console(It'll be rebranded under another name). I'm sure they'll come up with another version prior to that happening and you'll have to sped even more money for the next version. It's their way of taking your money. I tend to hold onto the consoles for a long, long time. I still have my original Xbox but don't play it. I have two Xbox 360s which I do use. 

The best bet would be to wait until a year after it came out for the price to drop or have them include more games or an extra controller. It may be worth while if you plan on keeping the console for 10 years.

Technical Specifications:

  • CPU: x86-64 2.3GHz 8-core AMD custom CPU
  • GPU: 6 TFLOPS, AMD Radeon-based graphics clocked at 1172MHz with 40 compute units
  • Memory: 12GB GDDR5
  • Storage size: 1TB HDD
  • External dimensions: 30x24x6 cm/11.8x9.4x2.3 in
  • Weight: 8.4 lbs/3.8 kg
  • Optical drive: 4K UHD Blu-ray
  • Input/Output: Power, HDMI 2.0b out, HDMI 1.4b in, three USB 3.0 ports, IR out, S/PDIF, gigabit Ethernet
  • Networking: IEEE 802.11ac dual band (5GHz and 2.4Ghz), 2x2 wireless Wi-Fi with Wi-Fi Direct
  • Power consumption: 245W

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Review of Google Wifi Mesh Router System

The Good:

  • Can be easy to set up for most people
  • Great speeds with mesh network
  • Simplified menus
  • Awesome support

The Bad:

  • Doesn’t have some advanced features
  • Need a google account and smartphone
  • One shared port
  • Doesn't switch between wifi points well

It looks different than your typical router. I personally like the way the some of the other routers look, with antennas coming out all over the place. They often look mean and like an alien mothership with blinking lights. It shows that it’s a serious piece of hardware that can kick ass. This look is not for everyone. The styling reminds of something Apple would put out.

Google made it look to blend in with your furniture

Since it would be placed through different parts of your house, the styling’s main objective is to be unobtrusive. I think it accomplishes this task.

You can adjust the brightness of the light

Setup is pretty easy. You have use an app on your smartphone to set it up and must have a google account. There is no browser interface. The wireless covered my three story house better than Netgear R8300 which was the same exact price. (The Netgear died 18 days after purchase – common issue with that router).

Most people have a modem coming from their ISP. I had Verizon and they were able to configure on their end so that wouldn’t need a modem(this can be done with some haggling). It’ll take some time to release the DCHPs from their end (usually overnight) so some things may not work correctly right away.

I had this issue where one of my ports was not working and for some reason it would not let one chromebook sign on even though I had two of the same model and it let the other one on wifi. If you do have modem from your ISP, reboot your modem after you have installed your primary wifi point.
You connect the wire coming from your modem or ISP into the globe socket and then from there I connected the other Ethernet port into a switch. I then connected my other Ethernet cables into the switch.

If you have switches that are only rated for 10/100 you’ll only get a fair signal. You’ll need gigabit switches to get a great signal. Google Wifi doesn’t give you any real numbers to see. They rate their signal as weak, fair, good and great.
My house has Ethernet ports throughout the house so I used the other two wifi hubs as access points throughout the house but had each one connected via Ethernet. This is the equivalent of having three routers connected to my ISP at different stories in my house.
Google wifi is the evolution of their OnHub router. Google did right by integrating it into their previous system. If you own an OnHub you can use this as another Google wifi point.

I was disappointed that you can’t stop the SSID from broadcasting but it’s not a deal breaker. There is no Mac filtering, content filtering or url blocking. For most can live without these features especially if the trade off is for a great wifi signal all over your house. I just wish Google offered these items considering the price you are paying for the router.

Overall, Google makes things easier to do. Most of the features with the router are standard on most high end routers or if you use DD-WRT. Google does most of them, but easier.
You can identify what’s on your router and rename it something you’ll recognize unless you can memorize the MAC addresses of all your devices. Google Wifi makes is really easy to do this on one screen. You can do this on other routers but it’s more clumsy.

Renaming devices are really simple

You can pause internet on a group of devices or a single device at any time. Again, this can be done with your more advanced routers but Google makes it so easy. I do wish they added a feature to schedule times of when they are connected and when they don’t have access.

I have all the chromebooks in one set up. All I do is click one button and it pauses the wifi connection. I can also schedule the time that the wifi will come back on for these devices. This can also be done on an individual device basis as well. The schedule feature is only for 24 hours to turn back on or no time if you want the device not to be connected. You get real time data as well to see what is taking bandwidth on your wifi system. Again, you can usually do this with other routers, Google just make is easier to do.

Google just did an update a few weeks ago so that you can now set schedules for which devices have access to the wifi. A great feature. I wish they would add the feature of blocking certain websites on certain devices. Google wifi allows you to submit feedback and suggestions.

You can see what's on your network and real time data

Wifi Access Points 
I have one point in the basement, in an office on the first floor on a high bookshelf, and then one on my nightstand on the top floor. They are all wired connections. The coverage is excellent. I've using a wifi app to test the signal strength and speed. No matter where I am, I get a signal of 40-70dBm and a transfer speed of 200-600mps. You will get much less if your wifi points are wireless. My test was about half of the wired strength and speeds when completely on wireless (60-80dBm, 80-200mps). Your speeds will differ depending on placement and interfering signals. Google wifi does a good job in automatically scanning the other signals and then choosing a signal for the best strength.

I did notice that Google wifi has some issue switching between wifi points. It has to drop the point that it's on before it can access a stronger signal access point. It doesn't really do this well. I've been on the top floor and my phone was still connected to the basement even though I was literally a foot away from the bedroom wifi point. If you turn off the wifi on your phone and turn it on again, it will pick up the strongest signal. It does switch on it's own but it usually took me being near the closes wifi point for at least 15minutes. I didn't really notice an issue with performance on my phone but I have seen my phone drop wifi and then go back on to the strongest wifi point.

You can see the history of the bandwidth up to 60 days

Google will continually make updates to their product. This can be mostly good. Their updates usually makes their products better but the fact that you have no choice but to go with the updates is not ideal. Sometimes, I like the product as it currently is and do not want updates. You don't have a choice with google. Yes, I realize sometimes the updates are needed for security. I would still like a choice on if I want the interface updated. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Fluval FX6 Review

Review for Fluval FX6

The Good:
High capacity for media
Put any media you want
Self Primer
3 year warranty

The Bad:
Doesn't come with much media

The new FX6 model came out around 2011 to replace the highly popular FX5. There are very few commercially made filters for large tanks. This new version uses 10% less electricity than that FX5. The filter is rated for 400 gallons but is rated for 925 gallons per hour. To me it seems like it really should be rated for 220 gallon tank as you want to turn over your water 4X per hour. I suppose you could use it on a 400 gallon tank but you'll be doing water changes a lot more often.
I'm running this FX6 on a 75 gallon tank and I'm running 2 FX5 on a 180 gallon tank. Overfiltration, possibly. However I can't argue with my results. Healthy fish, clean water and I do water changes 20% once a week.

Set up in fairly straightforward and easy. It has a self priming feature that helps getting started easy. It also shuts itself off every 12 hours so all the air trapped inside escapes and you have less noise and the most efficent flow.

There are also control levers to change the amount of flow coming in and out of your filter. You can use these to fine tune your filter and also change the amount of noise the filter makes. My is right next my couch so if it make even a little noise, I can hear it.
I put a styrofoam lid under the filter to reduce vibration. The filter can become a little bit noisey. It's usually not from the motor but from the air trapped inside the filter swirling with the water.

Fluval recommends the following media setup for this filter.
I can understand the logic of how this is set up. The water goes through the mechanical filtration first and then goes to the biological filtration and then a water polisher at the end. I guess this will work well if you also want to do maintenance on the filter every month, which they also recommend.

I'm going with a completely different media arrangement. I've removed all the mechanical filtration and put in Fluval's Biomax media in all the trays and even where the mechanical filtration would be. This gives me almost 3X the biological filtration than their recommended setup. This reduces my maintenance on the filter to once a year.

The biological filtration is only good for the amount of "food" (fish's waste) it gets. Since I removed all the mechanical filtration, the waste slowly starts to build up in filter. This wastes provides more food for the bacteria which in turn provides more biological filtration.
My once a year maintenance is removing all the trays and washing out the build up of waste in the filter and then I top off any Biomax that is needed and then put it back on the tank. The whole process takes about 15 minutes. I usually do it in the summer as I can just do it outside plus the warm temperature will keep alive most of the bacteria.

This setup will not work for everyone. It works for me. I've been using this setup for the past 4 years and have never lost a fish.

The great thing about this filter is that you can put whatever media you want. My arrangement works for me and my fish. You can customize it to whatever you want. It comes with two media bags.

The filter is a bit expensive, especially for a 75 gallon tank. What I'm paying for is using up less of my time to do tank maintenance. Some people really like to do tank maintenance. I do not. I want to keep as minimal as possible. Weekly water changes, cleaning the substrate and glass once a month is all I do.

I do like the Biomax but I am thinking of switching to lava rock. It is about 5X cheaper and offers as much surface area if not more. You will need to break the lava rock into smaller pieces. I'm going to experiment with a small canister filter first before I put the lava rock into the FX6. I've noticed that the Biomax breaks down at a rate of about half a box per year with my set up. Initial set up was expensive as the FX6 used up 9 boxes of the Biomax at $10 a box.

What comes in the box:

Two bags for hollow rings (not Biomax)
  • Rubber hosing
  • Rim Connectors, clips and suction cups
  • Inake stem
  • Output nozzle
  • Lid fasteners
  • Filter canister
  • Utility valve and hosing
  • Drain cap
  • Pump unit (motor) and power cord
  • Rubber feet
  • Media baskets
  • 1/2 media baskets
  • Filter lid and other accessories


For fresh and saltwater aquariums up to 1500 L (400 US Gal)
Flow Rate: 2130 L (563 US GAL) PER HOUR
Pump Output: 3500 L/H (925 US G/H)
Mechanical Area: 2,100 CM² (325.5 IN²)
Media Basket Capacity: 5.9 L (1.5 US GAL)
Filtration Volume: 20 L (5.28 US GAL)
Head Height (max.): 3.3 M (10.8 FT)
Wattage: 120V/60HZ – 43 W AND 230-240V/50HZ – 41 W
Dimensions (L x W x H): 40 X 40 X 53 CM (15.75 X 15.75 X 20.8 IN)

Huawei Honor 6X Review

Review for the Huawei Honor 6X

The Good:
Solid build quality
Dual-SIM support
MicroSD support
Dual cameras
Fast fingerprint reader
Good price to performance ratio
Comes with a screen protector

The Bad:
Huawei's own interface
EMUI feels unpolished
No USB Type-C
Weak speaker
No dual band wifi

Overall, the buttons on the 6X don’t feel very tactile and don’t offer the satisfying click that many users look for, which is unfortunate. On the left side of the device, you’ll find the power button and volume rocker, while the headphone jack is placed at the top. On the bottom of the device you’ll find the microUSB port, flanked by two grills – one that houses the speaker unit, and one that hides the microphone.

Finally, the right side of the device houses the dual-SIM card slot/microSD card tray. There’s also a fingerprint sensor on the back, which sits below the dual-camera sensor.

It came with a screen protector already in place! Why doesn't every phone manufacturer do this?! Everyone know how hard it is to perfectly put a screen protector without any bubbles or dust.

5.5-inch LCD display with a 1080p resolution, and it is a fine display overall. Sharpness isn’t an issue and it gets bright enough to allow for comfortable outdoor visibility.

Honor 6X comes with Huawei’s own mid-range processor, the Kirin 655, backed by 3GB of RAM
Everything is as fluid and responsive as expected in everyday use, and the device also handles graphically-intensive gaming with little issue. Performance is easily one of the highlights of the Honor 6X, especially when you consider the price to performance ratio.
It's a capable processor, scoring 56,602 on the AnTuTu benchmark, which measures overall system performance. That puts it above the Snapdragon 617-powered G4 but below the Kirin 950-powered Honor 8 (91,712). It's also no match for the Axon 7's superior Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 (141,989).
device coming with a large 3,340mAh unit. Huawei claims that the Honor 6X can last for as long as two days with moderate usage and for 1.5 days with heavy usage, which is certainly a very lofty claim. I did get around 1.5 days of battery life quite consistently though, with usage that involved a lot of gaming and a fair amount of watching videos on Youtube.

Every dual-camera setup utilizes the secondary camera differently, and the Honor 6X comes with a 12MP primary shooter and 2MP secondary unit, with the latter being used purely to capture depth information that can be taken advantage of when using the camera’s wide aperture mode.
The wide aperture mode lets you dial in the aperture from f/16 down to as wide as f/0.95, which allows for a very large bokeh effect. While changing the aperture does give you more or less depth of field, it doesn’t allow more light into the camera, so it’s not a true aperture change in the purest sense. However, the bokeh effect does work quite well and looks very convincing.
The overall camera experience has been quite impressive. It is fast to focus and capture photos, and the photos are surprisingly very pleasant, especially for a mid-range smartphone. The photos come with excellent color reproduction, are well detailed, and the camera does a great job with balancing highlights and shadows, which certainly wasn’t expected from a device in this price range.

It also performs fairly well in low-light situations. Highlights are mostly kept in check, with only a few rare occasions where they would appear overexposed. It is only in the poorest of lighting conditions where the camera falls apart completely, but most low-light shots are perfectly usable, with pictures coming with a fair amount of detail and minimal noise.

Network and Connectivity
The Honor 6X is an unlocked GSM phone with LTE bands 2/4/5/12/20/38, like the Honor 8. The only key omission is band 17, which improves building penetration for AT&T users. The phone showed strong network performance on T-Mobile throughout my testing in midtown Manhattan, registering a top download speed of 16.6Mbps. Other connectivity protocols include Bluetooth 4.1, but there's no NFC or dual-band Wi-Fi like you get on the Axon 7.
On the software side of things, you get the Emotion UI skin on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but an official update to Android 7.0 Nougat is expected to arrive shortly. The user interface is very bright, colorful, and somewhat cartoonish, and you get everything that we’ve seen from the EMUI in the past, like the transparency effects and the lack of an app drawer.

The notification panel is still split into two tabs: one tab for notifications, and another for Quick Settings, which is a layout that doesn’t feel as easy to use as what we have with stock Android.

If you’re after a phone but don’t have enough money to pick up a flagship, this is a great alternative.

In a budget market flooded with options, the Honor 6X sticks its head above the water with a premium look and good spec in almost every area.

The chipset will be able to run most of your favorite games and the battery life is solid enough to get you through a hectic day.

With a good camera on both the rear and front, it’s hard to go wrong with the Honor 6X.

Display            5.5-inch IPS LCD display 1920 x 1080 resolution 403ppi
Processor Octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 655
GPU               Mali-T830MP2
RAM              3GB
Storage           32/64GB
MicroSD        Yes, up to 256GB
Cameras         Rear: Dual 12 and 2MP with phase detection autofocus, LED flash, 1.25┬Ám pixel size, wide aperture range from f/0.95 - f/16
                       Front: 8MP
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, 2.4GHz Bluetooth BT4.1, Micro USB, GPS/AGPS/Glonass/BeiDou, Navigation Satellite System
Sensors         Hall effect sensor, Fingerprint sensor, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, Compass, Accelerometer
Battery         3,340mAh Non-removable
Software      Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, Emotion UI 4.1
Colors         Gray, Gold, Silver

Dimensions and weight 150.9 x 76.2 x 8.2mm, 162g