Half way through the year of 2020

We are half way through the year of 2020. Already? Yes, time flies. It has been a rather quiet year for me so far.

I’m not sure if I should feel glad about it, but I do felt lucky that nothing major was in my plan this year, especially some big personal goals. It was originally planned to be a quiet year for me… and oh boy, quit indeed so far for the last 6 months. Due to the pandemic that is happening now, the world has almost grind to a halt. A lot of things had happened, both good and bad. I’m glad that I’m still hanging in there, surviving through the days.

As the world started to turn again, people started to move on and live their lives with the pandemic. Dubbed as the “new normal”, people started to return to the streets, shops are reopening, the pace of our lives started to pick up once again. There are still a lot of uncertainties lying ahead. Whether will vaccine be discovered, whether life will return to the “old normal”, whether if there’s another pandemic coming and so on. Well, nothing much you can do by just worrying over something. Just get ourselves prepared for the unknown, and live our lives as much as we can for the time being.

The only “major” event planned this year is for me to travel again by end of the year. I doubt it will ever happen, but there’s nothing else I can do but wait for now. Just wait and see what comes and then work accordingly. In terms of my life, my work… no major changes so far. Still the same as 6 months ago, and I’m still working hard to get better and improve little by little.

Stay safe everyone. Let’s hope the second half of 2020 will be better. Till then.

Ultra wide monitor Q&A

Source: LG official website.

Following up from my previous post on ultra wide monitor, here are some common questions that one may faced when deciding whether to go for ultra wide or not. I’ll try my best to answer them based on my understanding and knowledge.

Will it be difficult to navigate your mouse from one edge to the other?
No, not really. But I guess it depends on your pointer speed and how accurate your mouse is. I always set my pointer speed to very fast speed so I don’t see any problem, delay or slow reaction in moving my mouse from one end to the other.

Does it require high graphic performance on my PC?
Not exactly, but that very much depends on the specification and what you are pushing it to do. For standard refresh rate and native resolution, even my 5 years old company laptop which runs on Intel 6th gen i5 CPU with internal graphic can drive the display without issue. If you are pushing more pixels, higher refresh rate, use it for gaming and so on, I believe you will need a discrete GPU to drive those pixels.

Is 29” too small to be useful?
It really depends on what you use it for and your distance from the screen. If you are not sitting too far away and you usually only need to run 2 programs at the same time, then I would say 29″ is just nice. If you have a deep desk or you prefer to run 3 or more programs at the same time, then getting something with 34″ or higher would be more suitable.

I can’t imagine how will the monitor and aspect ratio be like
It certainly is not easy to imagine. One good way to start is to compare to your current monitor. I found this website useful in giving me an idea what the 21:9 monitor will be like if it was a 16:9 monitor instead. From there, I roughly estimated that a 29 inch 21:9 monitor will have similar screen height as a 23 inch monitor, which is something close to my office’s monitor, and I’m comfortable with this screen height, so 29 inch ultra wide should do the job for me.

21:9 or 32:9?
There’s another breed of wide display dubbed Super Ultra Wide that has aspect ratio of 32:9, which is basically two monitors built as one. They are even wider, gives you even more screen estate, can run 4 programs or more side by side. I have not used one before, but I did saw some users mentioned about the quirks with that resolution as it is not commonly supported. Anyway, no comment. 21:9 is good enough for me at the moment.

Full HD or higher resolution?
This is pretty subjective. For me, I use this for my work purpose only, thus 2560×1080 resolution is good enough for my use. If you do the math it is around 96PPI, which is no where near the density of some of the higher end screen out there. If I work from a distance, I will not noticed the pixel, but I do aware that it is not as sharp (I’m spoilt by my iMac’s screen anyway). So if you need sharper screen, you’ll need to step up to 3440×1440 resolution. You can use this website to estimate at what distance your eyes will not be able to differentiate the individual pixels.

Flat or curve?
Now, this is an interesting topic of discussion. I have not used a curve screen long enough to provide judgement on whether it is better than a flat screen. I guess the merits of curve screen is to provide you with more immersion on your media and at the same time avoiding some glare on the glossy screen. For me, currently I don’t see a need to go curve when using my 29” matte screen, it is very useable as it is. But if you are going for larger screen such as 34”, perhaps it makes sense to go curve… anyway, I’ll reserve my judgement and suggestion for now on this topic.

And that’s about it for now. If there are any other thoughts few months down the road, I’ll share again with everyone. Till then.

Going wide… like ultra wide

Source: LG official website

This is going to be a long one.

As you may or may not aware, Singapore was under “circuit breaker” period for the past months. Similar to lockdown imposed around the world, everyone needs to stay home as much as possible, limiting their contact and exposure to others in order to curb the spread of virus. Like everyone else, I was forced to work from home. My daily work involves juggling between 2 to 3 super long excel sheets and a few power point slides at the same time, and doing that on a 13 inch laptop screen is tougher than mission impossible. I do have a 22 inch Full HD monitor borrowed from office for this period. Although it does help a little, but there are many issues that I ran into with the dual screen setup of monitor + laptop screen.

To put it simple, Windows is just poor in managing screens. That’s what I summed up from my experience thus far. Connecting the monitor, setting it as primary display, yet time and time windows and programs will open itself on the secondary screen instead. Although it is possible to work on this setup, the hiccups and the occasional quirks have hindered productivity. Something needs to be done. I could add another external monitor and stop using my laptop screen, but that will not solve the issue of windows opening randomly on any monitor it wished. After long consideration, I figured that I need to use a one monitor setup. Large high resolution screen came to mind, but considering Windows is so sucks in managing screen scaling, it would still be problematic and I may not be able to really improve my workflow. Hence, came the idea of trying out an ultra wide monitor.

Watching movie in its native 2.35:1 aspect ratio

My aim is to connect my laptop to only one display, and this display should allow me to have a good multi-tasking workflow. I don’t need ultra high resolution screen for my work, as long as I can read the text and graphics I’m okay to see some pixels (anything equivalent to what my current loan monitor will be good enough). After searching high and low, I decided to settle with the LG 29WN600-W. The basic specifications that I bothered for this monitor are as follow:

Screen size: 29 inch
Resolution: 2560 x 1080
Aspect ratio: 21:9
Brightness: 250 nits
Color accuracy: Calibrated, 99% SRGB
Display type: IPS, matte coated
Built-in speaker: 7W x 2
Security: Kensington lock compatible

That’s about it! It does have other gamer centric features, HDR10 support and so on which are not of my concern. All in all, this is a very basic monitor with ultra wide aspect ratio of 21:9, which is around 33% more screen estate than a regular 16:9 Full HD monitor. Reading the specification and looking at the monitor itself shows how “basic” it really is. For example, there’s no height adjustment and swivel on the monitor stand, it doesn’t come with USB-C connectivity, there’s no downstream USB port and the list goes on. But still, I decided to purchase this monitor for a few reasons. It is one of the affordable monitor that grant me access to 21:9 aspect ratio and its feature set meets my need for office use. I’m saying this because if you are willing to pay more, there are much better options out there with much better feature set. If you are interested with this monitor, or you would like to know more about 21:9, feel free to read on.

Multitasking at work

Let’s get the downside out of the way first. Other than those missing features mentioned earlier (which is to be expected for monitor at this price point and not a deal breaker), the complaints I have with this monitor are:

  1. If you are close to the screen or viewing the screen from a steep angle, you may notice the left and right edge of the screen tears a little. Perhaps because the panel is not laminated, or maybe the matte coating, or for whatever reasons, but it is not noticeable as long as you maintain a normal viewing distance from the screen.
  2. No cable management included. I guess it won’t add a huge cost to them by just adding a hook or something at the back of the stand in order to run the cable through.
  3. The base of the stand is rather wide, it supports the monitor well without letting it wobble while in use, but it will take up some space on your desk.
  4. The overall height is pretty low, most probably you will need to use vesa mount or a stand to elevate the monitor to your eye level.
  5. After using it for few days I noticed a little bit of discomfort to my eyes. I thought it was due to PWM flickering, but after I checked it seems to be a flicker free panel. Things got better after switching to “Reader Mode”, but after playing around with the settings for a couple of days, seems like the problem has reduced or resolved. This very much depends on individual, so your milage may varies.

And… that’s about it. Yes, I don’t have a lot to complaint overall. In fact, there are a number of surprises that I did not expect the monitor will deliver, such as reasonable sound quality from the built-in speaker and colours are quite accurate out of the box. So in the end, does a 21:9 monitor solved my problem?

After using it for awhile now, I must say yes it did improved my workflow and productivity. Opening two programs side by side with enough space to see the content and work on them is a game changer, something that is hardly doable with my previous screen. And now since I’m running everything on one screen, it has less annoyance and I was able to work through windows by windows easily. However, if you are running programs on fullscreen, it could be overwhelming at times. Excel is okay as I’m able to glance more columns. Website for example are not optimized for such aspect ratio, so there will be a lot of empty spaces lying around.

Lightroom on ultra wide screen

The same goes to programs such as Lightroom. However, other application such as Photoshop and video editing software which allow you to rearrange the adjustment panel would be able to make good use of the extra screen estate. As for movie consumption, 2.35:1 movies will play in native aspect ratio without the black envelop, however 16:9 movies will play with black bar on the sides. For these topics, I guess there are enough materials covered by various youtubers or reviewers, so you can search around and see if ultra wide screen will benefit on your current workflow. Don’t ask me about gaming… I don’t game!

All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with this monitor. I got it at a good discounted price during the recent “work from home” sales, and there is no regret so far. I do noticed there are a few older models from LG that are available through some other retailers, if you plan to save on a few bucks, perhaps you can take a look at those too. Now, this brings me to another thoughts… should I get myself a 21:9 for own personal use? Not now I guess as I’m still rocking my 3 years old iMac (still going strong), but in the future, it is certainly something I would really consider. If you have any question, feel free to ask and I’ll try my best to get back to you. Sorry for the super long review, I’ll do a follow up post to discuss more on the 21:9 aspect ratio in another post. Till then.

After 1st of June 2020

Technically speaking, the circuit breaker (a.k.a. lockdown) in Singapore has been lifted. From 2nd of June onwards, measures are gradually loosen in order to allow people to resume back their daily life, although it will not be the usual one in near future. For me, nothing much has changed other than now I will need to juggle between working from home and working in office. This turns out to be more taxing as I will either need to carry all my work related stuff with me wherever I go, or I just need to have two sets of everything, one in office and one at home.

A friend of mine asked me what I’ve missed throughout the lockdown period. Hmm… to be honest, nothing much. Perhaps I missed going to gym daily, I missed working in office instead of at home, I missed the freedom of going places or travelling, and that’s about it I guess? I believe some of us can’t wait to dine in at our favourite restaurant, visiting friends, attending concerts, hop on a cruise and so on. Well, in my opinion, the lockdown has actually taught us to identify what’s essential and what’s not. Not sure if there was a moment during this period where you realized you could actually go on with your life with just very little thing?

Taking stock on what have I done during the lockdown period: I have read some books, watched a few dramas and movies, started learning some programming language, not exercising as much as I would have hoped for but more time was spent in stretching and form improvement, rearranged some of the furniture in my house making it more spacious to live in, cooked a whole lot and learned a few new tricks and recipes, and finally completed my personal book project and started a few others. Sounds fulfilling?

I’m glad that I was able to live through this period. I have to admit I do have some downs in the beginning. Received pay cut, worried about job, worried about finance, worried about future. But I managed to pick myself up and got through everything. I know I was fortunate enough to at least be in my position during this period and I’m grateful for that. It could be much worse. Well, let’s see what challenge awaits for me in the days to come. Till then. Take care.

The world of over engineering

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Take a look over on kickstarter (or indiegogo), you will soon find the platform is filled with over engineered stuff, like super complex lunch box, items that doubled or tripled with additional features and functions that may or may not be necessary and so on.

Just do a quick search on “bag”, you will find that almost every bags packed in every single features gathered from every other existing bags out there, all cramped into one. All these features generate enough hypes to make each of these bags labelled themselves as “the best bag every designed and built”, throw in a collaboration with some “famous” YouTubers, or get it review by some of them and there, you have a winning formula in selling tons of it.

For example, there are over engineered carry-on backpack that can expand in capacity, carry up to 30L, filled with compartments, extra padding and weights in over 2kg for just the bag alone. Typically, carry-on luggage is limited at 7kg in weight, that means you can only fill up another 5kg of stuff with such a huge capacity… all of a sudden it doesn’t sound like a lot right? Let’s say you carry a laptop that weights around 2kg, you are only left with 3kg to carry all your remaining stuff (clothings, toiletries, other daily essentials etc.), how is that even practical?

Camera bag is another culprit of over engineering. Velcro are replaced with countless of magnets, lots and lots of compartments that can’t even be filled, bags that are designed as “the ultimate bag” which cater for every possible environment (such as urban, hiking, trekking, extreme sport and so on), the list can go on and on. Other than bags, there are various camera accessories or “tech” items flooding the platform everyday. There’s nothing wrong for them to sell you something you don’t need, but it’s our call to perform our due diligence, to be rational and honest, and ultimately not to be deceived by the marketing hype.

For me, I had tried to stay away from “reviewers” online, be it YouTube or any other platforms. If I was interested with something, I took the time to really study, understand and think through whether it is really as useful as it advertised. “But it’s on kickstarter! Limited quantity and special price for early backers! Promotion ends in 30 minutes!” It’s okay, for me, I’m willing to spend more on something I really want and need than paying less on something I don’t really need and regret buying in the end. I had my fair share of wrong decisions in the past, and hopefully I will be a little wiser in the future.