Category: Gadget

Pobox vs Forex vs MyShoppingBox vs Johnny Air Cargo – A Review Series (Part 3)

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Gone are the days when you only rely on your US relatives trip back home to PH to bring you your designer clothes, newest shoes, electronics and other items. Here’s a review of delivery companies offering forwarding services from the US to the Philippines.

This is the third part of my review of shipping companies that offers delivery services for items purchased from US online merchants to the Philippines.

Company: Forexworld
Website: http://www.forexworld.us
Shipping Type: Sea Freight
Transit Time: 30-45  days
Cost:

Published Rates for LA Warehouse
Box
Dimension
Shipping Charge
Green box (non commercial box)
24” x 18” x 24”
$65.00
Blue box (regular box)
23” x 20” x 17”
$55.00
Red Box (medium box)
23” x 16” x 17”
$45.00
Bulilit box
18” x 16” x 9”
$35.00
Any box smaller than the bulilit
$25.00
These rates apply to Metro Manila deliveries only.  Deliveries to provinces are available for an extra charge, depending on its destination.

Pros:

  • Offers different sized boxes, depending on how big your packages are, no weight restrictions. Quite cheap if you are ordering heavy items.
  • Accepts odd sized packages as well, gives you a quote on how much the cost is.
  • Free Item Consolidation, they remove the merchant’s boxes to save space! They can store your items for a maximum of 45 days
  • Online portal to manage your items, status of your box. Once you input your items online, allow 24-48hours and it will be updated automatically once they received it.
  • Delivered at your door at no extra fee.
  • If you plan to ship a TV, for a fee you can request to have it powered on once it arrives(to prevent dead on arrival units).
  • You can purchase additional insurance.

Cons:

  • Slow, specially on busy season(Black Friday sale, Christmas – expect 6-8 weeks.
  • Manual system for payment(bank deposits), PayPal has extra charge
  • Recent news of pilferage by US Customs

Sample Tracking:

So Forex is the mother company of PoBox as far as I know. Their shipping address looks similar(could be adjacent buildings), so I would presume this is owned by the same family or so.

Anyway, to make this short Forex > Pobox. In all aspect of the customer experience, Forex delivered better than Pobox. Forex’s online portal is way better than Pobox in terms of feature and its updated almost in real time. I inputted my items immediately after ordering and the entries were updated the same day they received my parcel. The portal also sends email notifications.  Another thing is that their customer service in PH is quite good. They respond to email updates within 24 hours and when you call them up, there’s no long waiting time.

My box departed US Nov 22 and arrived in PH Dec 23, with all 32 items(~$1000 worth) accounted for(I paid less than Php 3500, with extra insurance). I can’t wait to order my next box, yes from Forex from this time on.

 

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Romoss Sailing 5 13000mah External Battery Unboxing and Review

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I got myself a Romoss power brick this morning from a Sulit seller. I’ve been hunting for a good deal for an external battery online for the past 2 days and found Anker at Amazon, unfortunately, I have to have something before the weekend as I’m travelling to the province.

It’s the first time I heard of the company, but since the seller offered 6months warranty, compared with 1 month warranty for Yoobao, I took the chance and ordered their 13000mah model.  Here are some unboxing photos. Stay tuned for the review, as I needed time to test the product. This costs Php 2,000.

Name
sailing 5
Capacity
13000mAh
Model
PH50
ID
PH50-301
Weight
296g/10.44ozs
Size
138*62*21.5mm/5.43*2.44*0.85in.
Input
DC5V 2.1A
Output
1.DC5V 1A  2.DC5V 2.1A
Power
15W
Charging Time
~8 hrs (2.1A adapter)

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Box Contents: The power brick, a USB cable and a user manual.

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Sorry for the watermark. The input port is micro USB, there’s a button to check the power level and there’s 4 LED to show the battery status.

image_42 Output Ports – 2.1A and 1A.

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Here’s the power brick side by side with a Galaxy S3.

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iPad Warranty Experience – Power Mac Center

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More than a month ago, my iPad 4’s screen started to show a 2 inch vertical band across its screen. The band actually intermittently appears, but most of the time it manifests itself after around 30 minutes of continuous use(I figure it might be heat induced). I thought it was because of the upgrade to IOS 7, so I immediately restored the iPad to default to no avail. I also reverted to IOS 6 without any improvement and the problem seems to worsen. The band seems to stick now and is very noticeable if you use a dark screensaver. So I thought, well this is not just a software issue, it’s a faulty screen.

I have an iPad 1, which is up to now(more than 3 years old now) works flawlessly without any protection and this iPad 4 on its Otterbox case is not more than a year old and have this screen issue. Anyway, fortunately, it’s still under warranty.

So I brought my iPad in their Greenhills service center. It’s in the the Northeast Square building along Connecticut St. It’s around 100-200m from the Greenhills Shopping Center.

The service center is kinda small but their staff are all accommodating and courteous. I was there before lunch and it probably took me less than 20 minutes to have the iPad processed for service. The white band did not appear at first, but luckily after playing some videos and changing the wallpaper, then rebooting, the tech said that its a hardware issue. They did not ask for a receipt, they just check the serial number. They will examine your iPad for scratches, dents etc, but since mine is fully covered and look like its fresh from the box, it didn’t took long and the tech processed the paper works.

Upon leaving, I was told that the replacement should be expected in 2-4 weeks, or even up to a month. I personally think this is too long for a company like Apple.

One thing I liked is that they periodically send updates via SMS. In my case, I received 4 SMS, the first one on the day I brought my iPad, the second one was when they said that the replacement was approved and then the 3rd and 4th one was when they said that it arrived and ready for pick up.

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Screenshot_2013-10-31-12-58-32

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Screenshot_2013-10-31-12-58-53

Pros:

  • Power Mac’s service center is easily accessible. There are no long lines and the staff are all courteous. There’s a sales office right beside the service center if you want to purchase Mac products
  • Sends SMS notifications when there’s an update on your Apple product. When I checked their website, there’s a work on progress page where supposedly you can use to query your device status.

Cons:

  • It took 32 days to replace my iPad. In fairness to Power Mac, when I followed up via phone 4 weeks after I brought in mine, they said that the replacement actually arrived October 8, which is roughly 10 days after they accepted the uni. The person on the phone told me that their shipment is stuck in customs for 2 weeks! When i picked up the replacement(they replaced the entire unit by the way), I asked them if they could extend the warranty since they ate 1/12th of the warranty period. They said no, and told me its “normal” to get the replacement in 1 month.
  • They don’t answer email inquiries for follow up(at least on my experience). Before I called I sent an email and when I didn’t receive any reply just called. Phone experience was not that bad though.
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Windows 8.1 and Lenovo Thinkpad T410 Sleep Issues

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I just installed the GM version of Windows 8.1 from my MSDN subscription on my 3 year old Lenovo T410 and decided to revert back to Windows 7(Yes, I skipped 8.0). The most pressing issue I encountered is that the laptop won’t wake up from sleep. When you close the laptop to put it in sleep mode, it won’t wake up after you open the screen. The laptop seems to initiate very few IO, then decide to just sit there idle(no screen display, no disk activity). You have to power cycle the laptop to get it working again.

This is a big flaw for me. I don’t shutdown my computer and basically just put it in sleep when I don’t use it. I am in front of my computer mostly throughout the day and it makes no sense shutting it down as it slows me down. I only reboot/shutdown when i’m on vacation or installing some patches.

I’ve tried everything from updating the BIOS to installing the latest power management driver from Lenovo. I will update this post when I find a solution to this issue. Stay tuned.

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Access your Android phone’s SMS from your Android tablet and PC

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mt_2a

Since the first tablets arrived circa 2010, my daily phone usage(on the aspect of using the none phone features) has gone down. I mostly use it now only for SMS and calls and do the rest of the stuff on my tablet(browsing, movies, music, reading etc). The release of a special class of devices called phablets bridged the gap but in my case, I don’t really like its form factor. I feel it’s too big of a phone and too small of a tablet.

At home, my Nexus 7 is always with me more than my phone. The phone stays in my room, while the the Nexus goes with me in the Living Room, Bedroom, Dining Room, Comfort room, you name it. The problem is, having all my attention on my tablet, I miss SMS and calls from the phone since it’s out of physical reach.

And then I found MightyText. This is a free solution that allows you to send and receive SMS/MMS from your Android tablet and PC/Mac. Just install the Android app and use your google account to register. Install the Chrome plugin and you will be able to do the same from your PC/Mac using the browser. You can also view photos that you took on your phone(optional, and disabled by default).

The app requires Internet access to work, though it would be nice if it could also support bluetooth as a backup. The app communicates to a cloud server using your Google account which in turn notifies all your connected devices when an SMS/call is received. Sending SMS basically works the opposite way, your device send the message to the cloud, then the app in your phone receives it and send it via SMS using your carrier.

It’s a perfect app for me, but one of my concern is privacy. Since your SMS/call information/contacts and even photos is routed to their server, they have access to your private information. I’m still considering if I will use it full time. I just hope they offer a paid service where my data is encrypted using my key on their servers. This will make me use their service more.

 

 

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How to order Nexus 7 2nd Gen from Amazon US to Philippines

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Amazon: $269 for the 32GB version + $18.83 Sales Tax(New Jersey) = Php 12827

Johnny Air Cargo: Php 849.52

Total Cost: Php 13,677

nexus7fhd

Disclaimer: Alright, I just want to be clear here, I know this price is around Php 2000 cheaper than what most stores in PH sell the 32GB 2nd generation of Nexus 7. However, the shipping charge from JAC could change depending on how Amazon or the online shop where you purchased the tablet packed it.

And so early this month(August), I was looking for a way to source a Nexus 7 2nd generation as I needed it for a project. The tablet was released a few weeks earlier in the US and I am pretty sure the only way I can buy it is online. When I checked Amazon, the 32GB is on back order for 2 weeks, but based from previous experiences, I know that their shipping estimate is pretty conservative. And so I ordered the 32GB version and shipped it to JAC(NJ), and hopefully I’ll get it in more or less 3 weeks time.

4 days passed and I receive a shipping notification from Amazon that my ordered was shipped, and I thought I was right that they’ll be able to ship it earlier than expected.

Alright, then came the waiting game. Here’s the timeline on how much time it took from ordering to the time I received the tablet.

Aug 03 – Item ordered on Amazon(2-4 weeks shipping time)
Aug 07 – Amazon marked item: Shipped(2 day shipping)
Aug 09 – Fedex marked item: Delivered
Aug 12 – JAC marked item: Received
Aug 15 – In transit(probably on plane)
Aug 22 – JAC marked item: For Processing(Manila)
Aug 24 – AM: JAC sent me an SMS to pick it up
Aug 24 – PM: Picked up

Based on previous transit times using JAC, I normally get the item at the 8th working day starting the count from the day they receive the item. For this instance, it is 4 days delayed. The reason was there was a typhoon in Manila the week my item arrived. Customs was closed for approximately 2 days and so JAC told me that there are a lot of backlog inspections in Customs.

Now here’s the thing, this is the first time that I’ve received an item from Amazon that is not packed in a box. Amazon shipped my item on a pouch! I was really anxious to test the tablet as I don’t know how JAC handled the shipment and I’m afraid the bubble wrap inside the pouch offers very little protection to the tablet. When I opened the envelope, I examined the Nexus 7 box and luckily there are no bumps and the tablet was in pristine condition.

With a shipping weight of only 2lbs, I paid the minimum amount of Php 850, which is not bad. What confuses me is why JAC didn’t charge me an additional of $25 since it is a tablet. When I ordered a Kindle a while back, i paid close to Php 2000 I think. So I don’t know if they made a mistake or they removed this policy already.

The tablet was awesome! I liked it more than my iPad 4 because of its size and weight. I’ll make another post on my first day of using it(yes, I rooted the device on day one).  So stay tuned!

I am an early adopter, so I won’t mind spending a little bit more just to get a device earlier. I think PH will have a steady supply of this in the next few months. As of this date, the cheapest Nexus 7 2nd gen 32GB I know is around ~15K Php. If you decide to take my route and buy it from Amazon, here are some tips:

  1.  You can have free 2 day shipping in Amazon if you try Amazon Prime for 30 days.
  2. The same item can be sold by different sellers. I only buy if it is sold by Amazon, not other retailers. Make sure you check which seller you’re purchasing the item from. If it is not Amazon, make sure you check the feedback etc. Right now, its Out of Stock on Amazon, but as I’ve said it’s available from other sellers. Last week I saw that Amazon is shipping it 1-2months, now its Out of Stock. There’s too much demand for this tablet.
  3. I use JAC plus, not JAC Retail. I think these are 2 different sales group from within JAC. I don’t know, but I think JAC plus staff is much more efficient in terms of replying to questions via email. To send using JAC Plus, send your item to JETC/Your Name, JAC+, followed by the address. JAC has office in NJ and NY, I’m used to sending my items to NJ because they have no tax, but since mid this year they charge sales tax to Amazon already. It might be faster to ship out if its shipped to NY, but I can’t confirm it, maybe next time.
  4. Once Amazon/Fedex marked your item as delivered, wait for 1-2 days and send an email to JAC(find the email in their website). They’ll give you a tracking number and you can check it’s status at http://tracker.johnnyairplus.com.
  5. I was charged a little bit less because Amazon shipped the item in a pouch. You may have additional charge if it was packaged on a box(if it is a big box, sometimes this happen). But the tablet’s box is pretty compact, so if Amazon use the right box size, I think you will be charged the same. Also I was not charged of additional $25 for a tablet purchase.
  6. JAC sends SMS when the item is ready for pickup. The SMS will include the amount to pay. They do accept credit cards by the way. If you can’t pick the item personally, you can write an authorization letter for someone to pick it on your behalf.

 

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Fix: Evasi0n jailbreak, crashing Weather app

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The long awaited untethered IOS 6.x jailbreak finally arrives. Team Evad3rs released v1.0 of the jailbreaking utility to the public today.

The first time I tried to jailbreak my device, I ran all native iOS apps on my phone and noticed the weather app crashing when executed. The simple fix is to update evas1on installed on your phone! Here’s the simple steps.

  1. Open Cydia
  2. Under the Changes tab, you should see an upgrade to evasi0n 6.x untether. The latest version is 0.1-1.
  3. Try the weather app again and it should run now.

There you go!evasi0n_header_2

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Fix: Acer Aspire One D255 Freezing Issue

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The other day, my brother in law brought in his year old netbook that freezes randomly when being used. The symptom is while casually browsing the net, the screen and mouse will freeze and the only way to recover is to reboot the machine by holding the power button.

The netbook is an Acer Aspire One D255, an Atom based netbook with 1GB of RAM. Upon using the netbook for a few minutes, I encountered the freezing problem and just like any techy guy would check the following:

  1. Memory – i used Prime95 to stress test the CPU and memory and to my surprise the system did not freeze!
  2. Overheating – i checked the back of the netbooks for heating issue and found the heat not that bad.
  3. Bad OS – i usually pick this as a last resort. Normally, i think freezing problems are hardware related so I skipped this possibility for later.
  4. Drivers – I checked Acer’s website and all the drivers are updated. Also checked Windows Update and all updates have already been installed.

The last thing i noticed is that when the system freeze, I am actively using the touchpad. So what I did was use a USB mouse and tried to reproduce the problem. It’s been more than 2 hours and the netbook has not frozen since!

It seems a good enough workaround, but I’ve got one more thing to try. I checked on Acer’s website and noticed that the netbook is running on a BIOS a couple of version from the latest. I installed the latest version of the Aspire One D255 from here. Note that you have to be sure you are using the same model of the netbook before you apply the fix! Just download the zip file, extract it and run the Windows version of the BIOS patch. Reboot the machine and off you go!

I disconnected the mouse and lo and behold, the freezing problem was fixed. Sure enough the BIOS update resolved the issue as I’ve asked the owner of the netbook the stress test for the day and problem has not surfaced since.

TLDR:  Fix to Acer Aspire One D255 random freezing issue are:

  1. Do not use the built in mousepad, instead use a USB mouse.
  2. Upgrade to the latest BIOS.

AOD255

 

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Fix: SuperDrive blocking CD/DVD discs from getting in.

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Have you ever experienced your Mac Mini not allowing you to insert a DVD? It basically blocks the  DVD when it is halfway inside. Normally, the DVD should be sucked in at this position, however in this case, you’ll feel something blocking the DVD from inside the drive itself.

I almost gave up as I’ve tried almost every solution I can find in the net. I’ve resetted SMC, resetted the PRAM, pushed eject for 5 seconds, run drutil to eject, nudge the DVD using my fingers, etc. etc.

I was desperate, so I tried to find out what’s blocking the damn DVD. I used a thin piece of plastic(old credit card) and inserted it to the DVD slot, close to the right side. I chose this side since this is where i felt the DVD disc is having some resistance. I nudge the credit card left to right a few times and felt something inside the DVD that gave way. It seems to be a part of the DVD that got stuck and won’t retract, thus resisting any DVD. When that part moved, I heard the familiar Super Drive sound which I’ve not heard from my mac ever since i’ve got this issue. When I inserted the DVD, true enough it went in. I hope this works for you too. 🙂

TLDR: To be able to insert a DVD to a mac that’s blocking any media you insert on it, put a thin piece of object(ex: credit card) to the right side of the slot DVD. Move it left to right until you hear a thing snap out. This will unlock a stuck piece of a drive that’s resisting any media.

macminizipper

 

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How to Restore Specific Time Machine Volumes

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I have a circa 2011 Macbook Pro with 2 disk drives. If you are not aware, you can replace the DVD drive with a DVD Drive Caddy so you can use it as a disk drive instead. Doing so allowed me to have a 120GB SSD drive for my MacOS drive and the original drive as my data disk.

The other day, my data drive reported an I/O error when copying a rather huge file(around 8GB). At first I thought it was my destination USB flash disk giving up, but upon closer inspection, it was my data drive starting to fail. The drive itself has given me a hint a few weeks back, when it started producing those squeaking motor noises. I guess it started to fail at that time and begin producing bad blocks.

Before I replace the disk, of course I need to backup my data. I used a 500GB external USB drive as a temporary Time Machine backup. It successfully backed up both of my volumes(MacOS and Data).

Now here’s the messy part. Time Machine does not allow you to selectively restore a volume. My SSD drive hosting MacOS is fine, its just the data that I need to restore. So here’s what you need to do:

  1. After you replaced the failed data drive, you will not be able to login to MacOS using your account. Reason is, you’ve moved your User Profile to a different volume, so if its not there, login will fail. However, you can login using the root account(you enabled root, don’t you?).
  2. Insert your Time Machine backup and locate your most recent backup. Restore the specific volume to the new drive.
  3. Make sure the new drive has the same name as your previous volume.
  4. Reboot. You should be able to login again. Some profiles you need to recreate, like in my case, Dropbox asked me to reinstall!

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