Chortau dashboard camera review

Hey people!

After using the A118 for nearly 2 years, I had to look for a new dash cam when I sold my previous car. One of the reasons why I did not want to remove the camera is that I had to remove back the wire running from the cam, across the top of the windshield and under the dashboard till the cigarette lighter. Hence the decision to go for another unit and a newer model. A hell lot of dash cam models are available on the (online) market and it can indeed take much time to go through them, read reviews and assess the pros and the cons. So, if you missed that dash cam introduction and review, do have a look here – Really important stuff that I won’t be discussing in this post.

Today’s post gonna give an overview of the Chortau (yeah, weird name) dash cam and also, the main additional feature to look for.

New dash cam feature – WiFi

When I started looking for a new dash cam, there was one additional criteria to look for : Built in WiFi connectivity in the dash cam. Plenty of new models now allow you to connect directly to the camera to view the clips, download, edit and share them through your mobile (iOS or Android). That’s pretty cool stuff as you don’t need to remove the memory cards or the dash cam itself to copy the videos to your computer. You can still do that if you have to copy the whole set of video clips on the external memory card.

Whenever I have to copy a video, I need to switch on the WiFi on the dash cam, open my mobile app, browse through the cam’s video gallery, select the clip and click the download button.

Overview of the Chortau dash camera

Having a similar wedge form factor as the A118 / B40, the camera is barely visible from the outside and also from the inside since it is well hidden and concealed behind the rear-view mirror.

Other features are quite standard ones, namely:

  • Video : 1080p
  • Photo : 12 MP
  • Sony IMX323 Sensor
  • Novatek
  • Wide angle view (170¬į)
  • 2 inch screen
  • G Sensor
  • Built in battery
  • and of course, WiFi connectivity

Photo gallery

Points I like :

  • Video quality is very good during the day as well as at night
  • The camera also allows you to zoom in / out so that when you can have the optimal area to record in case your dashboard is largely visible in the video footage.
  • You can switch off the camera’s display screen so that it does not distract you when driving. Very practical feature : My screen is always off.
  • You get 2 extra 3M stickers for the plate which needs to be fixed on the windshield
  • You get a tool (the blue one) to easily install the wiring

I have been using this Chortau dash cam for the past 6 months now and I’m pretty much satisfied despite the areas of improvement mentioned below

Points I don’t like :

  1. WiFi speed
    It literally take ages to download a clip through the WiFi. A 300mb video can take more than 5 minutes
  2. Recording while connected to mobile
    When the camera is connected to your mobile while you are downloading a clip, the camera stops recording. So, you might miss important things.
  3. No emergency lock button
    Unlike the A118 model I owned previously, this Chortau unit does not have a dedicated lock function whereby you can instantly prevent mark a clip so that the camera does not overwrite a specific footage. This lock feature also normally moves that video in another folder. I miss this feature!

Installing the dash cam

No need to look for a technician to install the dash cam. You just stick the camera’s holding plate using the provided 3M sticker glue and then, you run the wire from the camera to your cigarette lighter. So, no wire will be hanging around since it will be neatly hidden on the edge of the windscreen and below your dashboard. It might just take some 15-30 minutes to get this job done.

Built in battery?

Yes, you read it right. I had carefully chosen my previous dash cam because it had a capacitor instead of a battery. This normally means that camera stays on for a few seconds when disconnected from power but the advantage is that the camera should last longer since it doesn’t have a battery whose performance will deteriorate over time. The Chortau’s product specification does mention a lithium battery but strangely, it lasts only a few seconds, just like a camera with a capacitor.

When I reached out the email support recently to clarify this point, they did confirm presence of a battery but of very small capacity.

Video samples

You can watch a short sample file with day and night recordings here :

Photo Sample

Despite that a dash cam’s function is rarely used for taking pictures, nevertheless, here is a sample of picture shot :

My real struggle

I may sound silly but I really struggled with the dash cam for several months.

Going to the menus was really a pain as the menu button did not work. I repeatedly had to use that button for several times, and press everything else before being able to go to those menu to switch on the WiFi or change settings. I even contacted the seller who told me that he does not have such problems and it might probably be a humidity issue.

Then, exactly 2 weeks back, I got in touch with support to figure out if there was an issue. Well, they replied back to tell me that you first need to press the “Ok” button to stop the recording and then, press the “Menu” button to go to those screens. And you know what? It worked! I was like… so stupid for months!

The mobile application

Depending on dash cam models, you might need to use specific free apps in order to connect to the device. This information is normally available in the user manual. I did try numerous apps but none other work except the one specified. This Chortau model connects to an app called RoadCam.

Screenshots of the app :

 

Summing up

Now that I have gone quickly through the main features of the Chortau dashboard camera and also, the dedicated iOS / Android app, RoadCam, it is now time to give a final verdict. Overall, I like the camera despite it lacks the emergency lock button. WiFi speed is also an issue but at the end of the day, it does the job slowly. I guess that we cannot expect much from such devices. I would love to review or get feedback from another similar dashcam with WiFi connectivity. I did not experienced any lag while going through the camera’s menu or even in the mobile RoadCam application. I also loved the responsiveness of the Chortau support through email. They reply to all queries and they are very helpful to clear any doubts you may have regarding the camera.

I did not mention the price yet. I paid the unit GBP 50 + GBP 18, amounting to a total of GBP 68 (Approximately Rs 3200). And it took less than 2 weeks to be delivered after being shipped from the Great Britain. FYI, I paid around $70 for my previous camera 2 years back. I just hope that this Chortau unit will last for some time and it won’t disappoint me.

That’s all for today.

Bye ūüôā

 

 

A guide to become lazy with wifi-enabled switches

As promised a few days back, here’s the post which I wanted to write since quite some time.

While browsing on AliExpress several months back for some timer-based lights, I stumbled upon some interesting wifi-enabled switches which allows you to control your lights and any other electrical devices differently. On top of being able to control them from anywhere through the internet, you can easily create schedules to switch them on / off, set repeated timers and even use them through remote controls.

This also means that you don’t need to get off your sofa to switch a light on or off. No need to run to switch off your oven when you feel the burning smell. Seriously, you can do more than that.

That sounded really exciting and I started to look for similar switches on the net. One brand which was constantly popping up in search results was SONOFF. There was a good set of positive feedback around the brand commercialized by a Shenzhen based company named ITEAD.

Range of products

Their official web site gives a very good overview of the different type of devices they sell, ranging from the basic wifi switch up to temperature and humidity sensors or even a bridge device allowing you to register remote control patterns so that the device is able to “mimic” them and make them controllable through internet.

 

Always connected to your wifi router, each of these products communicate constantly to an Amazon cloud server to provide an update of their states and also, to receive instructions to switch on / off according to your planned schedules or whenever you use the dedicated app to switch them. These devices also get firmware updates and installation is done through a single button.

On the basic Sonoff switch and on the light touch switches, there’s a led light which provides feedback on the connectivity state of the device. The light touch switches also have additional led lights corresponding to each light connected. At night, you only have to follow the light… to your switch ūüôā

Prices?

 

 

Although you can purchase them through eBay, I prefer going through AliExpress since Sonoff have their official store. Also, watch out for frequent promotional offers. For indicative purposes:

  • Basic Switch – $7 ~ Rs 240
    You can install this switch before or after absolutely any other switch or appliance to control electricity flow.
  • 3 Gang Touch (UK) – $30 ~ Rs 1, 000
    Used to replace any existing typical light switches we have in our homes in Mauritius. Each gang controls 1 light.
  • Remote control (433 Mhz) –¬† $6 – Rs 200
    You can program a remote control for up to 4 different lights

And yes, if you are planning to buy the touch switch to replace your existing light switch, go for the UK version one. It perfectly suits the existing base you have at home.

A step towards making your home intelligent

 

I have already purchased and installed several of their 3-gang light switches and Sonoff Basic devices, all configured to work over the internet and through remote controls. Working flawlessly for the past months, I’m pretty much satisfied with this concept which easily makes your home more intelligent through

  • Automatic switching of lights at specific times and days
  • Triggering other lights / switches automatically when a specific light is switched on or off
  • Use of sensors to trigger events (Yet to experiment on my side)

A quick guide to install the switches

Depending on what you have purchased, installation will vary but generally, the devices are quite easy to install. For instance, a socket is just plug and play and you should be able to configure it without getting your hands dirty. For other switches, generally, you will need:

  • Time
  • Patience
  • Being able to identify colors in wires
  • Basic electrical knowledge
  • An Android / iOS mobile
  • A wifi internet access and password
  • Finally, some simple tools (screw driver, knife and a hammer in case things do now work correctly)

For example, here’s a shot of a normal 3 gang by a Sonoff 3 gang touch (UK version);

And here’s a Sonoff Basic placed just before a 3 gang switch. So, I’m able to control electricity input to the switch and any physical switch in the “on” position will be switched on / off through a single Sonoff Basic device:

The EWeLink mobile app

Freely available on Android and iOS, the app allows you to register your devices and hence control them from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection. You can also share your devices to anyone as long as they have a EWeLink account.

The screenshots below will give you a better idea of what to expect.

Other ways of controlling the devices

Google Home and Alexa are 2 additional ways you can easily switch your lights but I can’t test yet.

It is too bad that Siri can’t do that yet natively but it can be achieved using the IFTTT and iOS Shortcut app as per screenshots below

Thanks to Jason who shared a tutorial showing the steps above. Now, it is even more fun.

Just imagine saying

“Siri, switch on the front lights”….

You can replace Siri with Google or Alexa but remember, I’m nearly an Apple fan boy now…

What happens if they unplug their server one day?

I did ask myself this question too…

As mentioned earlier, each of the Sonoff devices are connected to an Amazon cloud server.  So, what if the server is pulled down or the Sonoff company stops providing this service? Well, your devices will still work through their own switches and also through their remotes.

Now, if you are a geek, this will definitely make things more exciting… No need to wait for the server to go down. You can take control of the devices by flashing it and also, doing simple api requests. This opens endless possibilities of doing things…

And what happens if you don’t have electricity?

Huh. You can’t switch on lights without electricity dude!

Silly question!

What’s next?

Before ending this post, it is worth mentioning that there are several other brands doing the same thing or even more. It is your money. You do whatever you want. The choice is yours.¬†As for future plans, I’m very tempted to purchase the bridging device and also the colored led strip lights. And if ever I get bored for some days, I might try to control the devices directly without going through the AWS server.

So, keep tuned to this blog for more updates.

Ciaow…

 

One week in Johannesburg

Sawubona everyone!

I’m back to our paradise island after spending a wonderful week in Johannesburg, one of the biggest cities of South Africa. Known as the “City of Gold” after the discovery of the precious metal in the 1880s, the city seems to be a great country to live in, with loads of places to discover and many things to learn about the history of its people.

In case you are wondering the language used to greet you, it is called Zulu, one of the 11 official languages of South Africa. And yes, it is important to mention that black & white people live altogether peacefully thanks to their hero, Nelson Mandela who fought against apartheid / racism. As far as I witnessed, your skin color does not matter. Also, worth mentioning : I noticed loads of people of Indian origin with huge resemblance to Mauritians.

A bit more about the travel & stay

After spending endless minutes (in fact, nearly 2 hours) in our airport and 4 hours flight time in Air Mauritius’ new A350, named Le Morne Brabant, I landed in Joburg which has a 2 hours‚Äô time zone difference from Mauritius. Again spent another 2 hours in the OR Tambo International airport before riding to the my final destination.

My first impressions : Sometimes it is difficult to grasp what some people there say because I’m not used to the accent. However, most people are nice and welcoming. Travelling around the country is great during weekends but however, there are considerable traffic jams during working days. Unlike in Mauritius, you can have 5 lanes going in the same direction, without any emergency or crawler lane. Despite those 5 lanes, traffic jams are a normal thing. Also, maximum speed limits on some highways are 120km/hr and from what I understood, there’s a minimum speed limit of 60km/hr on some roads.

I can say that I’ve been pretty busy there with sightseeing during the weekend, work during office hours and wandering in the huge malls late every evening.¬†With a booking of 7 nights in a guest house on a bed and breakfast package, I enjoyed my stay in the one of the wealthiest regions, known as Sandton. On top of being a secure area, most shopping malls are easily accessible within less than 30 minutes‚Äô drive while the office was only 5 minutes‚Äô drive.

Situated at around 1,700m above sea level, the temperature is quite good in this region of the world. For the month of February, it is roughly 26 degrees during the day and the temperature can drop down to around 16 degrees at night. Very comfortable climate in Johannesburg right now but however, important to mention that there’s a severe drought in Cape Town right now. So severe that people need to live with under 50L of water per day (for every possible usage – bathing, toilet, cooking, drinking etc) as the city is running out of water supplies.

Currency

The currency used is in the South African Rand, often abbreviated by ZAR or R.

For indicative purposes :

  • 1 rand is approximately 3 Mauritian rupees
  • 1 US dollar is approximately 11 rands

The open-top bus tour

Still remember the big bus tour I mentioned in my Dubai’s post? Well, the open-top bus tour has the same concept whereby you buy your ticket valid for the whole day and you can hop in and out of the red bus any number of times you want. However, if you really want to visit each place along the bus route, I will advise you to book for a 2-days ticket. It can also be a tiring journey, so be fully prepared and careful with small kids.

For less than R200 (roughly MUR600), you get to visit the best tourist attractions of Joburg in one day. You might also need to pay keep some additional cash to pay for entrances at some attractions along the bus routes.

A few places to visit absolutely

The open bus tour allowed me to get to several places along their route but I chose to get off at the few mentioned places only because of lack of time:

Johannesburg Zoo

The first time ever I saw an impressive real gorilla of 1m80 and an elephant.

Carlton Center

Being the tallest building in Africa, Carlton Center is a skyscraper of 50 storeys also known as “Top of Africa”. From the 50th floor, you can have a panoramic bird’s eye view of Johannesburg

Gold Reef City

If you follow me on Facebook, you probably saw the video of the “Tower of Terror” I uploaded a few days back. I still feel goose bumps when I think about the wagon plunging 90degrees downwards from a height of 50m! With several other rides in the park, you can easily spend the whole day there with you family and the prices are very affordable. So, to the left below is a photo of the entrance of Gold Reef City and to the right, a selfie in one of the glamorous toilet of the Gold Reef City ūüôā

Additionally, you might want to visit an ancient gold mine and go to Level 2, found 75m deep into the earth. It was an enriching visit, especially when you think that people might not have the same opportunity as water is flooding the old gold mine.

Some years back, visitors were able to go even deeper, but they had to close the access because of natural water flooding. During the visit, you also get to hold a pure 12.5 kg gold bar! And to the right of the picture below, you can find an indication of the depth of the mine.

Downtown Joburg

A place to avoid as a tourist, especially if you are alone but however, you are quite safe if you are driving through the region in the bus tour. Here, you can find shops, small snacks and etc., just like you will find in Port Louis or other towns of Mauritius.

SAB World of Beer

It is some sort of museum for beer. Yeah, the first part of the visit consists of videos showing the history of beer, how it is made etc. You also get to taste “Sorghum”, the traditional beer made by women in the Zulu culture. As per their culture, the “Sorghum” is drank in a special vessel pictured below. Very different from the commercial beer we all know; beer lovers would probably have never be fans of beer if the taste was kept the same lol.

During the visit, you also get a can of chocolate flavored beer along with 2 vouchers for tap beer in their bar. So, at the end of the visit, you are nearly drunk! So, please make sure that this place is last in your list!

Monte Casino

I also loved my visit to Monte Casino. If I had to describe it : It is a large mall building in which there is practically a village built inside, with fake streets, fake rivers, fake sky ceiling and an enormous open-air casino in the center. Everything is so real inside that you might think that you are actually walking on real streets and entering real shops found outside on the streets :

My first experience with Uber

For those who don’t know, Uber is a service whereby you can request a car to travel to your destination using the Uber application on your smartphone. Available in over 600 countries around the world, Uber has a large network of vehicles whereby practically anyone can become an Uber driver and earn a living. Using the mobile application, you just choose your destination and request a ride to the first Uber driver responding to your request. The mobile app also shows the position of Uber drivers in real time, as pictured in the left picture below. On the right side, you can see the estimated fare for the chosen destination :

Here in Johannesburg (and in many other countries), you can add your credit card to your Uber account. From there, you don’t even need to bother about payments. The moment you get off the vehicle, your credit card is charged accordingly automatically! You also get to rate your driver from 1 to 5 stars.

Other means of transport in Johannesburg include

  • GauTrain
    It is a rapid rail service covering over 80km and stopping at around 10 main stations in the city.
  • Uber
    As explained above, Uber remains a very convenient method of travel at a fairly good rate
  • Taxi
    More expensive than Uber rides, taxis operate differently from Uber as they normally require special license etc. just like in any other country. Because of the competition with Uber, sometimes taxi drivers might not appreciate if Uber drivers pick passengers near their taxi stands etc.
  • Taxi vans/minibus
    Available throughout the country and easily recognizable by the thin yellow reflective bands around the vehicles, the 15-seater vans offer a very convenient and cheap way for locals to commute around the country or to their place of work. One interesting thing about these taxi vans; The drivers and passengers communicate through hand signs to indicate where they are going or need to go as the destination is not written on the van itself.

Security

 

Although the first concern of people at the mere mention of “Johannesburg” or “South Africa” is insecurity, I have not felt being in danger at any time, but you need to be careful, especially when you realize that every house or building in regions with the high-income population are protected by electric fences and armed security services ready to intervene anytime.¬†When you drive in regions whereby you can’t find any of these fences or security signs, you know that you are in less wealthy regions inhabited by the middle-class and even low-class population. You can also find slums in regions far away from the main wealthy regions.

Some basic rules are

  • Avoid travelling alone in unknown regions or roads
  • Avoid wearing jewelries or walking around with big cameras
  • DO NOT VENTURE in markets you might find in some regions.

As you can notice, these rules are applicable to any other country (exceptions do exist) but the rate of criminality in Johannesburg (as well as other cities in South Africa) is very high, hence the need to be careful and avoid taking any risks.

To give you another example, it is not advisable for tourists to be on their own in downtown Johannesburg whereby you can find shops and probably very good deals. However, shopping malls are generally safe but as you can guess, prices are quite high because you will find mainly big brands out there.

Shopping

There are tons of shopping malls around Joburg, easily reachable by the vast road network. And in some of these malls, you can find craft markets where you can grab good deals while enjoying a safe and sound environment. For example, I’ve been to Rosebank’s Art & Craft market to buy souvenirs but remember, always bargain!

 

 

I have been constantly comparing prices in Mauritius / Johannesburg and I can say that there isn’t a huge difference whether you are buying food, drinks, clothes or even petrol.

Poverty

Like in any other country, the society is divided into different classes depending on your income and social status. Joburg has beggars too unfortunately. You can see them around shopping malls or near traffic lights. While some of them carry a garbage bag so that you can throw your rubbish into them when you are at traffic lights, others might do some show to entertain you. The reason behind is to get some money from you while they entertain you or help you to get rid of your unwanted stuffs.

Summing up

If I need to come to Joburg again, I will gladly do so. Additionally, I even feel ready to hire a car and drive around here as I have been able to look around and observe the behavior of people in general. Vehicles are right-hand driven, just like in Mauritius. Roads are also in very good conditions and drivers are courteous in general. People don’t drive aggressively or don’t horn unnecessarily. Affordable to live in as a tourist, Joburg seems to be a good place for sight-seeing with your family as long as you don’t take any risks. The only unpleasant surprise I got here is that I had to pay a 10% gratuity fee (tip) of my total bill to the waiter in one of the restaurants. Well, it seems that this is the normal percentage to pay here in the region. I need to read more about my destination before flying next time!

A last thing : Some extra kilos are expected to show up because for the past week, whatever I ate was very bad for health : Oily, fatty food. And beer practically every single day!

Ngiyabonga (Thank you in Zulu language) for keeping tuned to the blog!

Take care!

 

I tried the KFC Chizza…

Today, I tested the new KFC Chizza for you!

Well, while scrolling my Facebook news-feed this morning, I came across the KFC’s post about their new item, the KFC Chizza. The nearest KFC outlet being only 2 mins from my office, I drove directly there after work. I absolutely wanted to grab one, take some pictures, eat it and then write this blog post ūüôā

As you can guess from its box, the Chizza (Chicken-Pizza) seems to be the KFC’s own version of the pizza. It consists of 2 pieces of chicken filet (the same you find in the KFC Boxmaster), each sliced into two smaller pieces and topped up with a mozzarella cheese,¬†tomatoes, sweet peppers, and pineapple. Being a deep fried product, you can expect to see good amount of oil but it is definitely less oily than the Double Down¬†launched some time ago.

My verdict

Much better than their last products such as the Double Down or the popcorn chicken, the KFC Chizza has better chances to win the heart of KFC and pizza lovers. However, the Rs199 price tag might make the product out of reach of students and other KFC fans who might prefer the Zinger Meal which also includes a drink and chips. Being a limited edition product, I think that the marketing strategy of KFC is to create a buzz around the product, make each and everyone buy at least one of them, without aiming to maintain the product on the shelf for a long period of time.

KFC Chizza is once again definitely something to try out. However, KFC totally ignored a fact when launching this product at this specific point of time. Many Hindus are actually fasting for the forthcoming Divali festival and in general, brands avoid launching new products during such periods.

Anyway, those who can’t have one right now, you can always catch up later on!

Cheers!

 

Dhanvin‚Äôs 3rd birthday ‚Äď Theme : Masha et Michka (Masha and the bear)

3 birthday cakes for his 3rd birthday anniversary :

  • One for the birthday cake cutting in school,
  • another one for the whole family party and
  • a last one (which got damaged in the car) for another small party.

For info, I purchased the Masha & Michka theme sets from AliExpress.

Link to the first birthday anniversary celebrations here (Theme : Cars) and photos for the football theme 2nd birthday celebrations can be found here.

Enjoy!

Cheers!

 

Best “mine bouille” in town‚Ķ euh‚Ķ Mauritius

Hi!

I have definitely not eaten every “mine bouille” (boiled noodles) in every snack or restaurant of the island but many of my facebook friends / followers definitely envy me each time I post the pics of noodles from one of my fav snacks in Port Louis. Probably you will too.

Situated in China Town, just a few meters from the burnt game-house named l’Amicale, “Le Pain Maison” is a small snack where you can order noodles (fried / boiled) or stuffed bread along with a choice of fillings at a very affordable price. I especially love the “mine bouille” because they truly have a unique taste and look.

Some shots to water your mouth :

 

Choice of fillings

Among the different menus (fillings) available, you can get the following : Poulet chassive, poulet au miel, sauté poulet, sauté boeuf, oeuf, poulet au tamarin and for vegs : sauté legumes avec teokon.

Some tips :

  • Don’t go there in a big group as there are only around 4-5 “stools”.
  • Girls, you might probably choose not to wear mini-skirts too.
  • And please, when you have finished eating, don’t just sit there and start gossiping. Pay your bill and walk out as other people might be waiting to have lunch.

I should thank A.B for bringing me there for the first time nearly 3 years back (Thanks again Facebook for keeping track of this day). Ever since, I regularly drop in to have a big portion of mine bouille along with some chicken fillings and an egg omelette. And I regularly bring along colleagues / friends there. I have also stopped counting the number of times I have to give directions (or post google maps) to indicate the location of the snack!

To give you an indication of the price you might pay :

Mine Bouille + Chop Soy Poulet + Poulet Chassive + Coca = Rs 100

Map :

Google maps link : https://goo.gl/maps/yWm3uNiezJw

btw, “Le Pain Maison” is open on saturdays too.

Mine bouille saumon gros pois

There’s another place which is worth mentioning too if you want to taste the famous mix “mine bouille saumon gros pois”. Just drive to the back of Champs de Mars (besides the post office) and you will notice the small Green snack on which you can see the words “Tico” and some newspapers hanging along a rope.

Don’t be afraid of the owner Tico or his assistant. Just place your order, grab your noodles / halim and sit on the bench or the side of the street. However, if you are fussy about food, this place might not be for you.

To give you an indication of the price you might pay :

An halim + a mine bouille saumon gros pois for less than Rs100

Map :

Google maps link : https://goo.gl/maps/HREznVeM9Mo

Other “best in town” series :

For those who wish to eat “boulettes”, have a look at my post here and for the best “halim”, head over to this page.

Bon appetit !

[Online shopping] Exemption raised to Rs3000 for imports following the Budget 2017 – 2018

That’s indeed a good news for those who spend their time and money on online shopping platforms such as eBay, Amazon or Alibaba!

In the Budget 2017-2018 exercise of the 8th June 2017¬†by The Prime Minister, Pravind Jugnauth ( btw, I hate to say that and I am sure, I’m not the only one), the following section was included in the Annex section :

A.3. Customs duty
(c) Import by Post and Courier Services
Presently, the first Rs 2,000 of the value of an article imported by post and courier services is exempt from customs duty and VAT. Henceforth, this exemption value is raised to Rs 3,000.

 

Example :

So, if you purchase an item valued at, let’s say, Rs 10, 000, you will have to pay VAT (or custom duties, where applicable) on only Rs 7, 000. This amounts to 15% of Rs 7,000 = Rs 1, 050. So, your item has cost you a total of Rs 11,050. Without this exemption increase, your item would have cost you Rs 11, 200. Quite a saving!

As a reminder, there’s also a Rs 30, 000 limit beyond which you need to hire a customs broker to be able to clear your items out of the custom.¬†Prior to Budget 2013, the limit was only Rs 10, 000 and there was no exemption. Read more here.

That’s indeed a good news for those who spend their time and money on online shopping platforms such as eBay, Amazon or Alibaba! This said, I now have to update my old articles!

 

Reviewing the Miccus SR-71 Stealth Headphones & Mini-jack RTX Bluetooth transmitter

Welcome back to the blog for a new review of the gadgets I recently purchased some weeks ago. To start with, I should first of all explain¬†the reason behind the purchase.¬†Some parents with kids will¬†most probably agree¬†that noise is usually kept to a minimum whenever the kid is sleeping. And noise includes keeping the television volume so low that you can barely enjoy watching anything. That’s why I started looking for a set of headphone which could be¬†connected to the television.

Making a choice

While at first, I was rather reading about dedicated headphones connected to their¬†base station using radio frequencies (RF) , I later turned to bluetooth headsets as¬†they could be used¬†not only for tv sets but also, laptops and mobiles (especially if yours doesn’t have a¬†3.5mm jack). Thanks to the internet, there’s a large variety of products, ranging from¬†$10 up to $400. I have been actively reading reviews and comparing prices on eBay and Amazon¬†but sadly, purchasing on Amazon costs more for Mauritians because of the high shipping rates.

However, you need to take several aspects into consideration before taking a decision : For example, is your tv set equipped with bluetooth, battery / power source, number of headphones you might want to connect simultaneously, earphones or headphone and of course, quality of sound which will directly reflect on the price of the product. Another additional¬†point which is critical when choosing such a device is the latency. To quickly understand, I am sure that you would¬†not want to watch¬†a movie with a thunder-lightening like delay.¬†Low latency devices ensure that there’s a minimum delay in processing¬†and transmitting sound so that there’s good lip-synchronization.

And to be able to connect it to a non-bluetooth enabled television set, I needed an additional device : A bluetooth transmitter. Connected to an audio source (or tv set) through the headphone jack, the bluetooth transmitter processes the input and sends it over to any other bluetooth device connected to it. Again, a few things to take into consideration : battery / power source, number of devices which can be simultaneously connected, and again, very important, the latency.

Important to note that in order to achieve a low-latency situation, both headphones and transmitter should be able to operate with very low-latency and also, make sure that both devices are compatible.

Miccus SR-71 Stealth Headphones

After several weeks looking at different products, I finally opted for a rather new brand named Miccus on sale for a fair price of $60. I was quite amazed by the specs on their web site but there were actually very little customer reviews. Nevertheless, I decided to go for it for various reasons. Just summarizing a few of the features displayed in their product description  :

  • Leather ear-pads
  • A very useful hard case to store the headphone and cables.
  • Dual link, meaning you can connect two devices simultaneously and switch in-between them.
  • Bluetooth mode as well as¬†using it with a standard¬†cable, just like any other headphone/earphone.
  • Up to 15 hours of battery
  • Low latency of 32 milliseconds achieved using connected to a device transmitting in aptX Low latency codec. Else, the headphone will operate using standard aptX or SBC codec

Miccus Mini-jack RTX

Since the same brand produces their own bluetooth transmitters, I automatically chose one of their devices, the Miccus Mini-Jack RTX for around $35. Again, some of the features displayed on their web site:

  • It can both be used as a transmitter and receiver
  • Supports¬†aptX LOW LATENCY codec, so it works along very well with the SR-71 headphones.
  • Up to 2 devices can simultaneously be connected to it to receive¬†audio but however, no low-latency mode in dual-link operation. Instead, it will operate on¬†standard aptX or SBC codec
  • Up to 10 hours when running on battery and automatic powering off when not receiving audio in input
  • Automatic power on when connected to a power source

The total cost

Enough said about product specifications written on web site. As I mentioned at the beginning, one should know how much he / she is willing to spend. With a total of $95 for these 2 Miccus devices, shipping to Mauritius costs an additional of $22 using USPS first class international delivery. However, advertised as a bundle, the purchase of the headphone and transmitter along with shipping has cost me a combined total of $102, roughly amounting to Rs3,700, thus offering a saving of $15.

No Vat or other postal charges as the item was directly delivered to the post office of my village.

The actual review

Overall, the wireless solution to watch television is a good one, with nice battery life, easy to use and practical. I can use it when connected to the tv set, on my laptop and my mobile. However, since I switch among the 3 devices quite often, I usually need to pair the headphone depending on the usage pattern.

 

Coming to the build quality, both devices look sturdy and of good quality, except for the leather earpads (I will come to that later on). The headphone has only 3 buttons, the main Multi-function button and 2 volume buttons. Depending on modes and presses, these 3 buttons allow you to¬†switch on/off, change volume, change music tracks and take/reject phone calls. Placed on the right side of the headphone, the 3 buttons look like they will last for long. If you wear a pair of earings, you might need to reconsider the usage of over-the-ear headphones as they might not be the most suitable ones. However, if you wear only a small earing (yes, like me), the headphones will be just ok. The earing might prick you but you will get used to it with time. Or just remove them ūüôā

The hard case is really a plus as it allows you to safely store the headphone (and even the transmitter) securely. The detachable pocket inside the hard case is very useful too for storing the cables if you are moving around. I will advise to keep them to a minimum, meaning, carry only the transmitter audio cable and a usb cable as both devices can be charged with the same usb cable¬†(The one used for most mobile phones too). In general, you won’t be needing the 3.5 mm stereo audio cable and other extra cables bundled along.

 

The sound output is nice and decent if you are not expecting Bose-like experiences. In that case, you should invest some $200 more bucks. With the volume buttons on the headset, you can easily operate it without having to reach your remote control of your tv set. Also, since the headset can delivery quite high volume, you should be careful when using it other than in your tv room.

 

Cables are provided for both devices for charging and connecting purposes, so no worry about that. A double sided sticker is also available for the bluetooth transmitter so that you can stick it neatly around your television set but personally, I will advise you to put it somewhere in front.

Important to note that the Miccus products are labelled “Made in China” but nevertheless, they are not cheap-looking quality products. A special mention about this has been made in the user manual and even on the box.

Operating the devices

Powering on :

  • Headphone : Press and hold the main button until a beep sound is heard and the led lights start to blink
  • Transmitter : Press and hold the button until the led lights start to blink

Powering off :

  • Headphone : Press and hold the main button until the led turns red and a beep sound is heard.
  • Transmitter : No switching off required. It turns off after 30 minutes if no sound is received from the input. For example, after your tv is switched off.

Paring process :

Pairing is fast and simple. The pairing process in between the headphone and transmitter is straight-forward but for other devices, you need to key in the default PIN code.

  • Headphone and transmitter : Press the main button for a few seconds until the led lights¬†turn red and blue repeatedly. Then, choose the device on your laptop or mobile phone in order to pair both of them. Led lights flash blue when pairing is successful

My concerns :

The Miccus Mini-Jack RTX works nearly flawlessly I should say, so not much to complain. Unfortunately, there are a few points which has to be improved on the SR-71 Stealth Bluetooth headphone.

Bluetooth connectivity

Still remember that I previously advised you to place the transmitter in the front of your tv-set? Despite operating on Bluetooth 3.0 which has a theoritical working range of 10 meters (or 33 feet), there has been a few times whereby the sound delivered to the headphone is not continuous (with those annoying noise for the ears) even if I am only a 3-4 meters from the transmitter.

Layout of buttons

With the 3 buttons packed very closely, it takes time to get used to them. Personally, I would have preferred that the volume buttons and main multi-function button were either placed separately, each on one side of the headset or of different sizes in order to be able to differentiate them easily with a finger press. However, I guess that this placement will definitely increase the manufacturing price.

Leather ear-pads

Being over-the-ear headphone, the ear-pads cover your ears completely, limiting the amount of external noise that can travel to the ear-drums. Unfortunately, this causes quite an inconvenience as air cannot circulate freely. Over a few couple of hours, I can easily feel my ears warming up, forcing me to take off the headphone for some seconds. Alternatively, I usually place the ear-pads in such a way that it does not cover my ears completely so that I can feel more comfortable for longer hours of usage.

As per past experiences with leather products, I know that many of them (especially low quality ones) have the tendency to wear over time and peel off. For these earpads, only time will tell if they are of good quality. Keeping fingers crossed.

Microphone

Personally, I have been very deceived by the performance of the built-in microphone found on the right side of the headset. When I first used the headphone paired with my iPhone, the person at the other end could not hear me properly. After several tests, I found out that the microphone was not able to perform up to an acceptable level. Making phone calls or doing Skype Calls is nearly impossible, so be careful if you plan to use the headset for these purposes exclusively.

Summing up

I think that I have covered various aspects and user experience in regards to the Miccus products without going into any technical details.Also, I made it a must to include a maximum of pictures so that people can have a better look at the products without having to rely on the official pictures. Overall, both SR-71 Stealth Headphones and the Mini-jack RTX Bluetooth transmitter are a good investment if you want to enjoy watching your movies whether on your traditional television set or even on your laptop. One of the best advantages of having a bluetooth headphone as compared to RF (Radio Frequencies) operated headphones is mobility. You can carry your headphone everywhere, even to listen to music in the bus or while jogging.

However, as mentioned, be careful if you are planning to use it for taking phone or Skype calls. Not much recommended for this use. I hope that this post might be useful for anyone planning to purchase these Miccus products.

Keep tuned for the next post.

Cheers!

32 years old…

Welcome back to the blog for this special post ūüôā

Unlike previous years, the birthday celebrations started on the eve with a great beer party with colleagues in Trou Aux Biches. When I woke up early in the morning, I was pleasantly surprised to find these sticky notes on my garage door :

Another creative idea of my cousins. For those who probably don’t know the meaning, “Bhai” is the hindi equivalent for brother.¬†Coming to today now, since we were on leave,¬†we had lunch at Cascavelle food court before driving to Wolmar for a swim. The kid was the happiest of all because he loves swimming (just like his dad) while the mum sat down in the shade of trees. And the celebrations ended with a home made chicken briani and a birthday cake.

Selfie video project

Coming now to the annual share of my updated ageing project, there are now nearly 1500 selfies, shot daily for the past four years. This year, I uploaded the video to both my Youtube channel and my Facebook account :

For those who know about my ongoing diet (-16kgs since December 2016), you might be interested to watch (again) the pictures as from 4th December 2016 (1min40 marking). As from this particular point in the video, I have intentionally reduced the speed of the video.

Special thanks to J Kalachand for their annual birthday phone call and Nandos for their Rs250 gift voucher (through sms) :

As usual, no need to say that meanwhile Facebook was doing a great job to remind everyone that they need to wish me. Notifications, text messages ( including iMessages) and phone calls continued throughout the day.

Big thanks to family members, friends and everyone else for making this day special !

The review of the iPhone 7

You surely remember the surprise announcement¬†about my brand new iPhone approximately 10 days ago! You will be glad to know that both the iPhone and the Android-fan boy survived the transition. Although it was quite a smooth one, I’m still learning the new way of doing things and also, making¬†the most out of it. After investing nearly Rs30k in the 128 GB thing, you got no other choice than to comply to the rules set by Steeve Jobs & Co.

Now, get ready¬†koz this gonna be a loooonnnggg post! I’ll be sharing essentially my views about the device and the difference between this device and other Android-powered ones.

Why the move to iThing ?

You are probably not the only one who have this specific question in mind. My decision to move to Apple surprised everyone, and even myself. I considered the option only when my wife suggested that I should buy an iPhone since my sisters grabbed theirs too during the past days. Why not? In fact, I have been thinking to purchase a new device ever since the screen of my HTC Desire 820 got a wide crack.

As I have been reading more and more reviews about Android powered smartphones, I realized that they were all practically the same. Manufacturers were constantly releasing new models with larger screens, more processing power and more RAM memory to differentiate themselves not only with the competitors but with their own previous models. Right now, there’s a probability that some new models of smartphones have even more RAM memory and processing power than your desktop / laptop!

There’s a point I particularly wanted to write about : Apple doesn’t get into the fight for the amount of RAM or capacity of their batteries fitted on their devices unlike other Android-powered brands. For instance, the newer One Plus 3T has 6 GB of RAM while the latest iPhone 7 is still ‘stuck’ with 2GB of RAM. Battery wise, the One Plus 3T (and other flagship devices) now have battery capacities of around 3000 mAH while the iPhone 7 has a 1900 mAH battery. None of these Apple Iphone 7 figures are displayed on any advert or even in their technical specification!

Software-wise, only flagship devices were getting upgrades to newer versions of Android, with manufacturer’s or network carriers degree of customization. Everyone want to do things differently and finally, we currently have up of hundreds of version of Android on the market. Technically, this is what people often refer to the fragmentation of Android.

As I said before, it was a tough decision to take but I chose to go for an iPhone because I also wanted to experience something new and discover if the hype around Apple products was indeed justified.

Why the iPhone 7?

Once the decision to buy an iPhone was finalized, the next tough decision to take was : Which iPhone? A very brief description of the models more commonly on sale :

  • Iphone 7 and 7 Plus
    Upgraded Iphone 6 with new processor (A10), stereo speakers, 2GB Ram and water / dust resistant ( without 3.5mm headphone jack)
  • Iphone 6s and 6s Plus
    An upgraded version of iPhone 6, new processor (A9) namely with 2 GB RAM.
    Please note that the original iPhone 6 is practically no more in sale. The iPhone 6 was an upgraded version of iPhone 5 but with a bigger form factor
  • Iphone SE
    Same hardware as 6s series but with the size (form factor) of the iPhone 5

Of course, there are other hardware upgrades, including screen, camera, weight and battery but I will be going through the details of the iPhone 7 only.

Since I was not particularly willing to have a very large screen, the tie was between the following 4.7 inches devices, namely the iPhone 7 and iPhone 6s, with a price difference of approximately Rs5k. I finally opted for the most recent one for various reasons, including the claimed better battery life, stereo speakers, IP67 water / dust resistant, and newer processor, in the matte black finish.

The device in brief

At this point of time, I should let you know that I cannot compare the iPhone 7 with none of my previous devices – HTC Desire 820, HTC One M7, HTC Chacha, Sony Ericsson Vivaz Pro, Nokia N80, Nokia N73, Nokia 6600, Nokia 1100, Ericsson T10, Ericsson A2618, Motorola Talkabout, Dancall or the Nokia 3330. That’s indeed a long list of mobile phones I owned but the iPhone 7 is totally playing in a different league for several reasons, including the premium price tag.

Without going into any minute details about today’s device, I will say that it is feels solid and slim. Made up of some kind of aluminium, it is so slim that I have the constant fear that it falls down or from my pockets. Although I have already purchased a casing and a screen filter, it will probably take up to 1 month before it reaches my doorstep. Also worth mentioning, I have not¬†noticed the device warming up during prolonged usage.¬†Performance-wise, I have not noticed any lags or applications hanging during the past days.

Coming to the screen they called Retina HD Display, the result overall looks good. Rich colors, crisp and clear picture. No annoying fingerprints on the screen. Despite that iPhones aren’t fitted with Gorilla Glass, these devices are known to have very resistant screens. Let’s keep finger crossed! Just below the screen is found the circular “Home” button. In fact, no, it isn’t a real button. It neither moves nor pushed when pressed.. It feels like one but it is rather a fingerprint sensor behind their new Taptic Engine. One of the aims of this engine is to provide a tactile feedback when pressed, so that it feels like a physical button.

Fitted with stereo speakers, one at the bottom and one at the ear-piece, the sound is quite decent and loud. It still sounds like a smart-phone. The bundled earphone fitted with a lightening connector works good, even at the maximum volume limit. Additionally, a lightening to 3.5mm adapter is provided for those who wish to connect other earphones to their 7.

I have been very satisfied with the¬†battery during the past days as it easily last long enough depending on usage. More than a day if you insist on knowing but once again, it all depends on¬†how you use your phone. While going for an evening walk of 1 hour, the battery drops¬†by only 4%, even with music playing aloud using the bundled earphones. The charging process is quite quick too, less than 2 hours to reach 100% mark but remember to buy extra¬†lightening cables and charges if there isn’t any iPhone users around you.

The camera

Although Apple claims that iPhone is the most popular camera in the world, I have not been impressed, at least not so far. Fitted with Optical Image Stabilization, the device should deliver better¬†pictures, especially in low light situations. I haven’t been uploading pictures on my Facebook recently but the few snapshots below should give you an idea of¬†the quality of pictures :

Unlike other smartphone cameras, the iPhone 7 practically does not offer any other customization settings from switching HDR, flash, the Live option, the timer and lastly, applying filters¬†(unless you download a third party app). However, if you want to shoot a “macro” picture, bring your iPhone close to the object, tap on it to lock the object and just shoot. Lastly, if you want to increase or decrease exposure (brightness), drag the yellow bulb besides the focus point.

The selfie camera is not so impressive despite that I love the idea of using the screen as a flash when shooting selfies. They called this the Retina Flash, lol. But, I have not used it extensively to really compare the results. One thing for sure, the front camera shoots ultra wide pictures. For comparison purposes, have a look below :

This selfie compilation not only gives you an idea of the selfie camera but it also shows how my hair has gone during the past 3 years. 
This selfie compilation not only gives you an idea of the selfie camera but it also shows how my hair has gone during the past 3 years.

 

I feel a bit lost when using “Photos for iOS”, the default photo /video handling app and I hope that I get used to it with time. However, photo editing is straight-forward and easy using the same app.

What is so different from Android?

Coming back to using an iPhone for the first time, it was a drastic change. To tell you the truth, I barely used the iPhone 7 as one would have expected. Once I unpacked the device, I just fitted my SIM into it, connected to the internet in order to create an Apple ID and completed the process. Late that night, I installed the basic Google Apps in order to be able to fetch mails and contacts, then downloaded the usual social networking / communication tools ( Facebook, WhatsApp etc).

Some of you might ask me, why Google Apps instead of Apple’s own cloud? Well, since this is my only Apple device, I don’t feel the need (yet) to move my things over to iCloud. I love having my gmail account in my gmail app instead of Apple’s Mail app and even for my phone contacts, they are still synced from my Google account. Even my pics are still on Google Photos and backups are done to Google servers too. Since web sites opened on my laptop using Chrome browser are easily accessible from the Google Chrome App on Apple’s iOS, files uploaded to Google Drive are readily available on iOS too, I don’t have to use the iCloud. If someone has more than one Apple device, it will probably make more sense to use Steeve Job’s Cloud.

The keyboard

Nothing was the same anymore. Even now, I am not at ease at all with the size of the keyboard. Despite having downloaded several keyboards from the Apple Store, I am still struggling to get used to the new keyboard. Practically all keyboards look the same. No additional buttons such as arrow keys which I find very useful when moving around text while typing. On iOS, you need to press on the text so that the region is magnified. This allows you to drag your finger to change the location of the cursor. Quite annoying.

Unlike in Android, iOS default keyboard does not offer you the possibility to swipe (or drag your fingers over the keys) in order to write words but you can achieve the same thing by downloading the Swype keyboard or GBoard (Google’s keyboard on App Store)

Where are those 3 buttons???

Why keep 3 buttons when you can do (practically) everything with only one? Well, iPhone’s sole Home button works as follows :

  • First tap / press : Go to home screen
  • Double press : Display all open apps.
  • Double tap¬†: Lower the screen in order to access the buttons / menus at the top of the screen.
  • Three press : Configurable action.
  • Long press : Access to Apple’s voice assistant called SIRI

However, I greatly miss Android’s back button! However, iOS kinda re-invented the back button by placing it virtually on the top left corner of your screen if iOS feels that an application has opened another one.

The silent switch

I am not particularly a fan of it but this feature of the iPhone is pretty practical. A physical switch on the left side allows you to instantly set your device to silent or ringing mode. It saves you a few milliseconds and it simply does the job. Period.

3D Touch

On Android devices, you can either (1) tap an icon / menu / section of the screen or (2) press and hold to get access to the app or associated functionalities. On the latest iPhone 7 (and also, iPhone 6s), you can also press harder than usual to activate the 3D Touch. This action can trigger additional options to appear on the screen, depending on the app.

For instance, on the Facebook icon, you

  • Tap : Open Facebook
  • Press and hold : Activate the mode where you can move the icon around on the screen or uninstall the app
  • Press harder and hold : New set of menus enable you to post a status directly, as shown in the picture above.

SIRI…

Before saying more about her, I acknowledge that SIRI is intelligent and more attentive (sometimes, too much because she tends to listen to other people taking around you). Siri is good at recognizing your own voice and translate them into commands. She is more human in the way she responds to your requests, unlike Google Now. However, very recently, Google Assistant was launched and it is supposed to compete directly with SIRI

Siri recognized additional fun commands, for example “Call my wife” or “Call Dad”. You just need to define your relationships in your contact info. She does a lot more, for example, she even cracks jokes!

Security restrictions among applications

You probably used those applications usually sms you a security code in order to validate your account. For example, WhatsApp need that SMS to ensure that the phone number you registered is indeed yours. Well, on Android powered devices, these applications can automatically read the SMS to get that code. The user does not (usually) need to type that code. Things are different on iOS because of the security restrictions. I am not an iOS expert but normally, I understand that communication in between apps are quite limited. For this reason (or similar), the WhatsApp application cannot read SMS received because they are completely separated from each other.

To give you another example : When installing additional custom keyboards on Android, the new installation process automatically opens up the related settings so that the user can choose the new keyboard for use on the device. On iOS, apps can’t do the same thing. Instead, developers display the steps necessary to go to the settings menus to enable the keyboard.

Each app runs in its own world (sort of sandbox) in order to ensure that a critical error or a breach in that application does not propagate to other apps and the Apple device. This contributes to render iPhones for being stable, at least, this is what is usually claimed. Users cannot complain that applications are causing the device to crash because once you tap on your “Home” button (The only button in fact), control is somewhat granted back to the device.

No (fully functional) smart dialing

As an Android user, I was able to use the numeric dial pad to key in the name of the person I want to call so that the contact is automatically retrieved and displayed onto the screen. You will be surprised to learn that this is not available by default on any brand new iPhone you purchase. I really find it a shame that this functionality is not available on iPhones. You need to download third party apps in order to achieve that time-saving functionality or you should instead do a search in your contacts.

There’s still a problem. These third party apps can’t display a full call log. In fact, Apple has set restrictions whereby received or missed calls are not accessible to apps, except the dedicated “Phone dialer” app. Once again, this is a direct consequence of the restrictions I just mentioned in the previous section.

Accessing the upper section of the screen

This is a WIN on the iPhone : whenever you need to click on any item found on the upper part of the screen, just double tap the home button to slide down the screen. It is so practical! It ensures that you can continue using your device with only 1 hand.

The fingerprint sensor

Named as TouchID in the iPhone, the experience with the fingerprint sensor made everything so seamless. Once you register your fingerprints, you actually forget that each time you tap your Home sensor (“button”) to wake your device, the device is actually scanning your fingerprint to make sure that it is authorized. TouchID is also required at each time you switch on the device, when¬†you download applications or even in some applications to make sure that only¬†registered fingerprints can be given access.

Ever since I have been using it, there has been no complaints. In fact, to be sincere, there was one critical complaint from my wife : She could not unlock the iPhone… So, the only solution was to register her fingerprints too but some might ask me : Why put any security in that case? ūüėõ

Transfer something over bluetooth AirDrop

You might probably be aware that iPhone owners can’t transfer anything to a non-iPhone user through the bluetooth connection. Yes, probably for security reasons. Apple went even further by¬†creating a protocol called “AirDrop” for their users to enjoy the¬†communicating and transferring data between themselves by using both bluetooth and WiFi technologies.

The last words

There are things that you can’t change when you move to an iPhone. No tweaking, no extreme customization, no way of changing default apps to open your pictures, videos or browser links. Not even widgets on your screens except on the dedicated area.¬†You either abide by what has already been implemented or you leave (Apple’s world). Apple made it this way to ensure that their devices run smoothly at all times and millions of people are dying out there to grab the latest devices. ¬†Okay, perhaps I’m exaggerating here but just to say that Apple has created a standard and they are the ones who define how their users should use their phones.

The end product :

A device which delivers the essential functionalities and services you need for a smartphone without compromising performance and battery.  So, This is 7 and I am not an Apple fan boy yet.

Hope that you enjoyed the review and in case you are thinking to move to an iPhone, please let me know ; )

Cheers!