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Slides from 2013

Some friends asked me that I have not been posting photos online for quite sometime and wondered I have stopped shooting.  Well, definitely not!  Photography is still my no.1 Hobby and I just bought a A7R didn't I? :)

I am shooting less often nowadays because mainly my subjects (the kids) are bored with my camera.  Once they see I'm holding one, they would hide from me :P.  And if I managed to get them to pose, they would make silly and funny expressions in front of it without any prompts from me.  I wonder whom they learnt that from.... tehehehehe

Anyway,  I did shot quite a lot of slides last year and only managed to send them to develop recently.  Got them back yesterday and spent a day time to "copy" them to digital.  You may view them over my flicker stream under landscape 2014.

A short review on Maige TV. IPTV box

World cup is coming and although I am not a die hard soccer fan.  I do enjoy World Cup.  Luckily I am currently in Thailand which do have 22 matches free on air.  My friends in Singapore however are not so lucky.  They have to pay the most expensive World cup package to watch it on their own TV.

That's where the discussion and research on how to get World Cup at a cheaper rate started.  And I didn't found the cheapest option but an interesting one that allows us to watch various satellite and HBO cable channels over the Internet.  This is known as IPTV  (IP stands for Internet Protocol).  What it is?  It's basically something very similar to Mio TV by Singtel that uses an Internet connection to stream/broadcast a show.

There are various brands for such IPTVs and currently one of the most prominent one is by Maige TV.   This box is a device dedicated to streaming video on demand and online.  There is a local distributor for both Singapore and Thailand but I decided to be cheapo and ordered a unit via Alipexpress.

I placed an order on the 9th and only managed to receive my box on the 17th.  Shipping was by DHL and was considered fast as there was a week break for the Songkran over here.  Price I paid was $390SGD for the box, wifi adaptor and shipping in total.  $50 cheaper then the local distributors but I would recommend those with non geeky friends to get it locally.   I will get to that later.

Hardware wise.  HDML cable was included but no batteries for the remote.  The box and the remote feels cheap.  Cheap like those China made Media TV boxes.  Not necessary a bad thing but at this price point I was thinking it should be better.  Let's say we deduct the subscription and shipping cost.  The hardware will be around $200.  So 200 for such hardware is a bit errrmmmm.
The usb port on the side which is for the wifi-adaptor was slightly twisted on arrival.  I had a hard time inserting the USB adaptor initially but I opened the box up and used a plier to twist it back in shape.  So for those non-daredevils, please please get it from the local distributors.  At least it will be easier to get a replacement if there is a hardware fault.  But opening up the box I see a pretty decent circuit board.  Not dirt cheap components in there I will say but still relatively expensive for a $200 box.  

Video quality? Streaming was good on my fibre connection here in Maesai.  Both Wired and Wifi - N tested.  1080p HD quality for most channels and some even have Ultraclear which I find streams very well.   I have tested the device over various time and it does hangs once in a blue moon. Quite normal for IPTVs boxes.  There is a refresh button on the remote so just hit that and it will resync again.  Not occasionally but for certain channels do get it more often than others.  Live streaming of soccer was good over here though but as usual like Mio TV, there will be a slight delay compare to real cable broadcast. The new box also provides 7 days playback functionality and Video on Demand which I find it to be very useful.  Basically you can watch any shows you had missed within a 7 day period.  Video on Demand library is pretty awesome.  G.O.T, Battlestar and tons of Cantonese, Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese dramas are available.  Movies are updated frequently.  The kids watched a few cartoons on the box already.  Frozen was one of them :P.  The software interface is responsive and fast compared to bloody starhub cable box.   It came default in Chinese though and even though you changed the interface language to English, mos of the show listings will be in their native language.  Even for the titles in V.O.D are in Chinese for English drama.  Like those found in latest media player, firmware can be upgraded so I guess there will be improvements coming up.  The device also has an additional usb port for HDD so it can be used as a media player box too.  I have not tried that portion as the online content is more important and comprehensive for me.
For a full channel list, check it out here.  Last count was 366.

Installation was a breeze for wired connection.  Just plug an Ethernet cable (provided too) to your router, HDMI to the TV and power adaptor you're ready to go.  Once powered on, it will prompt you for activation or renewal.   I contacted the seller to activate the box for me.  Yes, it's via subscription and the 1st year subscription is included in the package.  The chap was online and it only took a 5 mins wait to get it activated.  Renewal is on offer at $100 SGD at the moment but according to the site, the usual price should be $140.  My advice is to just use it till it expires and renew afterwards.  Yes it might be more expensive later but what if they go bust?  So ignore the subscription till it ends.  Wireless however was a pain in the ass for me.  1st was the USB port issue which I managed to solved quickly.  Then I couldn't connect to my WPA enabled Wifi even after I entered my passphrase correctly numerous time.  I thought it was due to the port but it could detect my home's SSID so I guess its the encryption portion.  In the end.  I created another SSID with no WPS and serve as a single guest account on my router and it worked fine after that.  Not exactly secure but at least it works for the moment.

IPTV is relatively new.  Content providers are still willing to provide content to these newcomers as they still pay their license fee and yes, it's legal.   Beware if there are no subscription fees at all. But data carriers like Starhub and Singtel might easily sabotage these newcomers by putting a QOS on such servers.  Not likely to happen in Thailand but not too sure about SG.  If lotsa people buy this box then we might see it happen.

Overall conclusion is if you want EPL/Soccer, HBO, Discovery Channels and other major news English channel, this box has it all.  Video Quality is great.  Installation is a hassle for Wi-fi  (for me)  but otherwise not a major issue.  Would I recommend it?  Yes I would if you really enjoy watching cable TV and do not want to pay too much for all the channels.  Especially the sports one.  But not highly recommend it as the initial cost of getting the box is high.  Even worse is that the box and remote is pretty cheaply build externally and whether it will last more than 3 or 4 years is an issue.  If the entry price is not more than $300 then I would highly recommend it.

A short trip back - 2014

The long break for schools in Thailand starts from March till the 1st week of May.  That is for the majority of public schools in Thailand.  I took the family back to Singapore to visit my sis and mum again.  We hit the road on 29th March and returned on the 7th.

This round, we flew out from Chiang Mai instead of Bangkok like last year and due to financial constrains.  We didn't even stay in Chiang Mai when we returned from Singapore.  Normally, we would stay a few days either in Bangkok or Chiang Mai after our return from Singapore but we didn't.  We just took a taxi straight back to Maesai and actually for this trip, we aren't as tired as it used to be.
  It might be due to the kids are older so its now as daunting as it used to be.

This trip to SG was mostly unplanned.  Plainly just to let the kids to spend some quality time with grandma and aunt.  The road trip started with a Sam Law (Tuk Tuk)  trip to the Maesai bus station.  From there, we took the bus to Chiang Mai.  Then we switched to a Sawng Tiao (Red Pickup truck taxi) to the airport and flew out via Silkair.  It was hectic but actually quite fun as the kids get to try different sorts of transport in a single day.  Over in SG, we spent most of the time at their aunt's home.   We did however,  revisited the Sentosa Watercove Park and Jurong Bird Park.   

My sister also took some leave from her busy work schedule and brought the kids to a toy store and they bought another set of LEGOs.  So they are pretty occupied at her flat.  

Overall, I didn't get to meet up with friends on this journey.  I will be returning to SG again in early July.  Reason?  Bloody reservist again.