Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pulse by Jeremy Robinson (Book 2010)

Well color me surprised. On a recommendation from a colleague, I put this book on the list and finally got to it last week. I was a bit wary of this author because of the inconsistent quality of two other novels he wrote before.

This book seemed to be a better version of the Dane Maddox series of stories by David Wood. I liked this series a bit better, as the characters were more interesting and the plot and background was more descriptive. Jeremy's story-telling ability in this book was a phenomenal improvement over Island 731 and Raising the Past. Ironically this book was an earlier work which means that his writing has gotten worse over time? Odd. I'll look forward to seeing if other books in this series can measure up to this one.

But yeah the story took an old, historical myth, built a fictional plot around it, and took the reader on a pretty exciting thrill ride. I enjoyed the whole thing and am pretty jazzed to read more.
Rating - High

Friday, April 24, 2015

AT&T Samsung Galaxy S6

So I never thought that I would go back to a carrier-branded phone, but financially this is what made sense. At the time of writing this post, the Nexus 6 was still around $470 and I didn't really want to pay that much for a phone that was already half-a-year old. I went to a local Best Buy to wander around and I saw this phone that I totally didn't research. After holding it and tinkering around a bit, it totally felt solid, like an iPhone clone that wasn't plasticky at all. The screen actually looked pretty nice as well. I then went home and started researching. To my surprise it had exactly what I was looking for: a camera with OIS (optical image stabilization), wireless charging, and Android. On top of all of that, Best Buy was having a deal where if you upgraded with them, they would give you a free wireless charger...I'm a sucker for free stuff.

  • Wireless charging is back! Now I have 2 chargers: one at work and one at home, perfect!
  • The phone is super fast. An 8-core processor certainly helps that along and it's quite noticeable; no lag at all.
  • The phone totally feels solid with a good build and a glass back and such. Personally I'm all about having a whole unibody design. People will always upgrade phones so nobody really needs to worry about not having a replaceable battery.
  • The camera is badass...pics are super focused and has great quality. Night/day difference between this and the OnePlus One. Additionally you can activate the camera with a quick doubletap of the home button wherever you are.
  • I guess this can be a pro, but the screen is super sensitive. Compared to the OnePlus, when more often than not it would not register a touch, the screen on this S6 totally detects everything, even when you're 1mm away, which might get a bit annoying, but I'll learn to adapt. I'd rather it be too sensitive vs. not being sensitive enough.
  • It has a heart rate monitor on the back near the camera. It's sorta a gimmick, but it's kinda cool to take a reading when you're on the can or when you're all stressed out just to see the difference.
  • Battery life is much less than the OnePlus; probably minus a whole day. I guess that's what an average phone battery is like, but I just got used to the uncanny battery life of the OnePlus. You can totally survive a day, but you have to adapt charging times. I think I got the equation down though; I only need 2 hours per day to wirelessly charge the phone back up to max.
  • One of the main reasons why I initially gravitated towards the Nexus line was for the the Vanilla Android UI. This phone has the Samsung Touchwiz on top of Lollipop, and although it's much better than what I remembered of this UI to be back in the S2 Captivate days, it still is kinda ass. Luckily I downloaded the Google Now Launcher which essentially turns the UI back into Vanilla Lollipop, so it has been swell since the switch. Various menus like the pulldown are still Touchwiz, but I can deal. Samsung has worked to make this better and you can tell, but it's still invasive and unnecessary.
  • Since the phone is a branded-carrier one, that means that there are a bunch of programs that you can't delete like Uber, Yp, Skype, and also a bunch of AT&T and Samsung bloatware, but I found a way to pseudo-hide them. Just go into the Application Manager and disable each unwanted app. It should disappear from the full menu screen; not too shabby. This doesn't work on all programs unfortunately, but it did get rid of the majority of the more annoying apps.
  • Hardware-wise, I'm not game with the middle Home button that was totally meant to copy the iPhone. I mean I get why Apple folk would like this, but I think it's unnecessary to have a physical button for this function. Samsung should've copied the Nexus, made the screen bigger, and just had software buttons on the bottom for the Home, Menu, and Back functions.
  • No more using the hotspot functionality. Since it's branded, AT&T will know and then will try to take away my unlimited data. I'm gonna try to keep that for life even though I rarely even use my phone.
So as of this moment there isn't any part of the phone that is a dealbreaker. I live a very simple cell phone life so as long as the primary stuff I use it for works, then I'm happy. I do kinda miss having a larger screen to type on, but having a phone that easily fits inside my pocket, provides me with an equally good feeling as well.

Friday, April 17, 2015

AC Foul Smell Removal

So for as long as I can remember the Prius has always produced this nasty-ass smell during summers whenever the AC compressor was turned on. I've ignored it for a few years now, but on one random day I decided to research this topic and the following is what I found out.

It turns out that there's an evaporator coil that is located deep inside the console, near the firewall where all the HVAC stuff resides. This coil area can grow mold and other bacteria, but it mainly occurs in humid environments. Since this car originally came from Ohio, that equals humid. The remedy is to buy a foaming cleaner and inject it through the AC evaporator drain hose that is found on the bottom of the car. This is also the same hole that produces that puddle of water during summers. So yeah the foam travels up into the coil housing, envelops the whole area, kills off the bad shit, then everything just drains out of the same hole.

So the actual item from Toyota that you want is this: AC Refresher Kit - A/C Power Foam Evaportator Cleaner & Refresher Model: 00289-ACRKT. Bad thing is that it's listed as discontinued on many websites and when I went to the service counter to try to buy it directly, the Toyota guy was an asshole and said they didn't have any (without even looking up the model number). Yeah this is the same crap-ass dealership that I had problems with in the past so what can you expect, right? Anyway if you can find it at your local Toyota or Lexus dealership consider yourself lucky. Any of the OEM places online cost around $15-20 to ship it because it's considered a hazardous item. That pretty much doubles the price of the item to get it to your door; not really worth it. If you can find it locally and pay only tax then you should be kosher, but if not, just get a similar item online.

Since I was unable to find the exact item I wanted, I was relegated to look through Amazon and I ended up buying this: 1Z Klima-Cleaner Professional Air Conditioner Cleaner.

To take care of business this is all you have to do. (Note that this is what I did, so I dunno if I did it right or not.) I parked the car on ramps, made sure to run the car with the lowest temperature setting, AC on, external air, fans pointing to body and legs, then I shut off the car. Under the car wander over to the passenger side tire, look towards the center of the car about 1.5 to 2 feet and right around there give/take is the location of the drain tube, up 1 foot or so. The picture at the top of this page shows what the tube looks like. You have to move your head up and look around in order to see the tube, but after you know where it is, your hands can do the rest. Note that you don't need to remove the plastic shielding in order to get to said tube.

The next step is to get a drip pan ready, get the foaming cleaner ready, shove the smaller hose that comes with the cleaner way up into the tube until you run out of hose, shake the can, then proceed to depress. When I did it at first, a good amount of foam actually came out of the tube immediately. Turns out that I didn't push the hose far enough up. Anyway, keep on depressing the can, shaking it, and trying your best to keep all foam from escaping the tube. After the can is empty, pull the hose out and then put the drip pan underneath. This next step is pseudo optional. The foaming cleaner will clean the coil and that is all that I heard is really necessary, but I opted to also spray a ton of lysol through the fan intake vent near the windshield on the passenger side. You can see this vent when you lift the hood.

So yeah for this step I turned on the car, made sure that all settings were still A-OK with the AC on and stuff, and then I maxed out the fan. I kept on spraying the intake with Lysol while toggling through the fan direction settings (body, body/feet, feet/defroster, feet). I think I cleared out half of the Lysol can, and during this time a bunch of the foaming cleaner turned into liquid and drained out. The color of the liquid was nasty but not super bad...just a little bit of brown with a dash of green.

So yeah that's about it. It took a few days to get the lemon chemical/Lysol smell out of the car, but I'm waiting for the temp to heat back up so I can test out the AC this summer. If the smell comes back I'll probably buy a different foaming cleaner to see if it works any better for round 2, but for now it "seems" to have worked.

Update 1: It seems as though the cleaner didn't fully work. It's deep in summer now and the smell is back. If you toggle between AC being off/on and if you come back from your car being off for a while, the odor will manifest itself. I'll try a different brand and see if that helps resolve it.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

King of Thieves (Odyssey One: Star Rogue) by Evan Currie (Book 2015)

I'm generally a fan of Evan Currie's books, but this one seemed to lack the spark that got me into his Odyssey One series. This book had a new captain, new ship, and a whole host of new characters, for the most part. Instead of a full-blown exploration plot, it centered around a newly discovered moon that was an uninteresting as they come.

The story reminds me of one of those movies where in the beginning the options are limitless for something great, but instead of doing something cool, the producers decide to cheap out and force the characters to go through the motions in some horrible fixed location that is both unoriginal and uncompelling. In this story, the crew of this spaceship is stuck near a metal moon that is more-less hollow, but has several lab areas and some requisite space monsters.

Towards the end of the book, some details of the Swiss cheese plot were explained, but most were not. I'm sure all the loose ends will be expounded upon in the next few books of this series, but we'll see if I'm up for reading more about this baseline crew and their antics in space.
Rating - Mid

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Warship (Black Fleet Trilogy, Book 1) by Joshua Dalzelle (Book 2015

After reading the first few chapters, I didn't think I would like the book. The main Captain seemed to be an ass and the the rest of the ship and crew seemed quite stale. This didn't change all that much throughout the book, but the story moved along pretty fast so that convinced me to keep on reading.

The plot was very reminiscent of the Ark Royal series, which made you wonder... Towards the end of the book though, it splits off and actually becomes its own story but still. If you want to compare the two, the Ark Royal series was better.

Although the writing was pretty good, I just didn't like any of the characters. They all seemed forgettable and the Captain continued to be a dry cut-out. I'll put this series in the basket just in case I run out of books to read, but it certainly isn't a series that I'll be too eager to continue on with.
Rating - Mid