Mi Box 3 review

All this while, I’ve been using my trusted Dell Zino small form factor PC as a HTPC in my living room. It’s small enough to fit into the TV bench and it doesn’t use as much power as a regular full-sized desktop PC. Over time though, my Dell started to feel pretty slow especially during startup. Not to mention the intermittent blue screen that come out from the PC. I thought it’s time to get a proper Android box to replace my Dell PC.

My initial plan was to get one of those cheap Raspberry Pi PC but after much thought, I’ve decided against it. Sure they’re are cheap but at 200 ringgit I can actually get a decent Android box for that price. Besides, Raspberry Pies requires you to buy other accessories like enclosures, memory card and multiple connector cables to make it work and those don’t come free or cheap. Instead if I get an Android box it comes with everything out of the box - cables, remote & power adapter for half the price of a complete set of Rasp Pi. That’s how end up buying a Mi Box 3, 5th generation from Xiaomi.

The Mi Box I got from a gadget shop in PJ cost only RM135. As always I did a thorough research on the Mi Box, read reviews on blogs and YouTube and weigh them against other models. The low price point is the main appeal. Unboxing the box, the Mi Box comes with one HDMI cable, one power adapter and one remote, that’s it. Connecting it to my TV was a breeze with the provided HDMI cable. The shopkeeper already did some pre-installation with the Mi Box and he already changed much of the menu from full Mandarin to 80% English.

So how does the software and interface fare? Very poorly. This is where the nightmare began. Although I said the menu was mostly in English, they default main content is not and still in Chines. Watching movies and browsing games to download for example are still in Mandarin and all of them doesn’t work at all. I suspect they only work in mainland China and without some serious modification all their default apps are pretty useless outside their original market (i.e China). Even worse, even though I got the seller to install Shafa Launcher and subsequently Shafa Market I never got to installing or sideloading even one Android app onto the Android box. I tried to follow multiple instructions and guides from the Internet but all of them mostly didn’t work. In the end I’m stuck with only Popcorn Time or to watch local multimedia content connected through the USB port. Even Popcorn Time doesn’t work half the time. If only I managed to get Google’s Play Store installed, that would make the Mi Box slightly more useful.

I should have known better than to buy a product targeted for the Chinese market with little or no modification at all. I found out I can get a fully modified Mi Box 3 with full English menu and dozens of streaming apps installed for a hundred ringgit more but I’m not willing to spend so much money on an entertainment gadget just yet. In the end I sold off the Mi Box 3 after only a week of using it thus recouping much of my money. If you’re looking for an entry level Android Box, I definitely won’t recommend the Mi Box 3, especially the unmodified Chinese version. The content is mostly Chinese and you only get 4GB of space half of them already used by the OS. Add a couple more apps and your Android box will run out space in no time. I

f you really have to get the Mi Box, wait for the International or American version one which is rumoured to be released soon. That one will have international apps and content and the menu and everything will be in English. It will also support 4K video and features 8GB of storage. Other than that get another Android Box brand or model which better specs. They will be slightly more expensive but it will be worth the price. The Mi Box 3 that I got is especially bad I wouldn’t want anyone to experience the horror as I did.

The importance of local election

On Monday (18th of July 2016), KL City Hall or more commonly known by its initials DBKL raised the parking rates in Central Business District of Kuala Lumpur by more than 150% from 80 cent and hour to 2 ringgit for the first hour. It caused public outcry especially people who frequently do business in the city centre or work there. Despite the protest and generally negative feedback from city folks, there’s pretty much nothing they can do about it. They can’t show their displeasure at the polling booth and vote out the current mayor because there’s no local election to vote in.

This is why we need to have local elections for local governments (such as DBKL, MBPJ, MPSJ just to name a few) so that there will be accountability. Once the residents have the power to elect and kick out their mayor and local councillors, these fellas will be more responsible in enacting new laws or implementing new policies (like hiking the parking rate to 150%). Because they know if they do their jobs badly or at their wimp and fancy they will be gone at the next local election.

The reason we don’t have any local government elections is because the ruling federal government is afraid that these urban demographic will tend to vote opposition candidates and parties rather than them. Whether it’s to counter the enormous power and resources they held at federal level or just for check and balance, opposition candidates tend to do well in local elections all around the world. This notion is not always true and mostly moot nowadays because voters, especially well-educated urbanites are smarter than they think. They will always vote for the best candidate who does their job well regardless of their political affiliation. Whether you are from the ruling party or the opposition, suck at your job and it will be your last term at the office.

Hence why it is important to have local elections for local governments in Malaysia. So that mayors and their local government will be accountable and more considerate in their actions because they know they voters will show their approval or displeasure at the polling booths. And I doubt the move will succeed in reducing traffic congestion for as long as people have cars and the public transportation is not as well connected or efficient, people will still prefer to drive to the city. Even worse, private parking companies now will likely to increase their rates as well in line with the City Hall's move. In a related news, the company responsible for collecting the new parking rates is believed to be connected to important persons in the ruling party, something which is totally not surprising at all in this crony-capitalism country.

What is this, Afif is writing political commentary now? Get out of here!

Eid 2016

Family photo taken with my cousin's GoPro equipped drone. No more timers or selfie sticks, bitch.

This year I had to work until the last day before Eid so that means I only get to go back to my hometown after work. Fortunately my company let me off early at 1:00 PM so we were already on our way by 2:30 PM. The journey back was relatively smooth considering it’s Raya eve. However since a lot of people left as early as Friday or Saturday, the road was quite clear by Tuesday.

It was our turn to celebrate the first day of Eid in my wife’s place in Tanah Merah. I got up bright and early (is 7:00 AM early enough?). While I was getting ready to put on my brand new baju melayu, disaster struck. I could have sworn there was a big L for large written on the plastic cover of the baju melayu when I bought it. But when I was about to try it, it’s actually size S. Lucky for me I could still fit in the clothes although it was a snug fit. Next time remind to open the plastic cover whenever I buy new clothes. I insist on going to the Tanah Merah town mosque even though as suspected it was overflowing with visitors. We literally had to pray at the mosque’s compounds although that is not uncommon during Eid round here. In hindsight I should have visited the other less crowded mosques around time especially the one nearer to our house. But then going to any other mosque other than the town mosque doesn’t feel right to me. I know that sounds silly, maybe it’s just me.

After the morning prayers we returned home and did the customary asking for forgiveness and merry-making. Everybody was there for my wife’s youngest sibling who just started working as a nurse in Ipoh and only get to come home on the 3rd day of Eid. Usually I would retreat to the bedroom and sleep the day off. But this year my wife had other plans. We are supposed to go visit some relatives’ house in Kota Bharu. As much as I rather not go see someone I never knew, as a responsible adult I just grudgingly went along with the program.

From Kota Bharu we went straight to my hometown in Pasir Mas. I heard Faiz and his family had come home for raya and sure enough he was there when we showed up at the door. In case you didn’t know, my mom and his wife had a huge fight a few months ago but the good news is they have all but reconciled with each other which is a good thing for everybody. The other good news back home is my sister who lived there had finally subscribed to broadband Internet so for the first time ever we have wifi at home! Although it is only Streamyx it is much better than the spotty mobile Internet connection that I usually experience with my phone there. That said, even my phone’s data connection is a lot faster now with LTE speed thanks to Digi (TuneTalk and Celcom suck previously).

We spend the night there and the next morning we made a quick plan to visit our Dad in Kota Bharu. Oh for some reason my big sister didn’t come home this year and she and her family celebrated in her home in Shah Alam instead. I know there’s a new trend of staying put in the city and not joining the stressful balik kampung rush but I didn’t know she’s also into it. Anyway we agreed to meet at Kopitiam Kita, a famous eatery in downtown Kota Bharu where once again we get to see a beaming Dad and a grinning stepmother. Forgive but not forget, that’s all I want to say. By the way, their roti titab is good but rather pricey at 5 ringgit a pop.

For the rest of my holidays I spent my days (and nights) playing computer game on my laptop - mainly Cities Skylines, a really addictive city-building simulation game. We plan to go back on Sunday but on Saturday, Hana woke up at 4:00 in the morning saying that her ear hurts. We tried to take a peek into her ear but cannot see anything so we had no choice but to go out and bring her to see a doctor. Being the small town like Tanah Merah however, finding a clinic that opens round the clock is next to impossible. So it is no surprise that we found none that’s open that morning. The only medical facility that’s open at the time is the emergency department of the Tanah Merah district hospital so we headed there in the end. Despite being 4:30 in the morning, the emergency department was alive with patients and visitors. Sure the cleanliness of the waiting room left a lot to be desired but we didn’t have to wait long for Hana’s name to be called. And the young resident doctor was friendly and quick to diagnose Hana’s pain as being caused by earwax blockage. She gave her some ear drops and painkiller before we left.

Since Sunday is the last day before many people goes back to work, we expected traffic to be superbad heading to the cities. Therefore we had wisely decided to wake up before the crack of dawn and leave around 4:30 AM. My initial plan of taking the regular Kuala Krai - Gua Musang route was scrubbed after seeing bumper to bumper traffic from the Machang junction and probably all the way to Kuala Krai. So we took the usual alternative route via Jeli and Dabong towards Gua Musang which is largely devoid of traffic although slightly longer than usual. We had breakfast somewhere in Lipis and then proceed through another alternative route via Sertik-Mempaga just before Raub. As always this route was fairly clear of traffic. I don’t understand why more people didn’t take these alternative routes instead of the clogged normal ones. Maybe they genuinely don’t know or they’re just somehow too afraid to try something new? Whatever it is fine by me. At least less traffic on these alternative routes for me to contend with.

We didn’t go straight home that Sunday but traveled 1,740 meters up Genting Highlands. You see, MBO Cinemas which I am a member gave me a free stay at First World Hotel if I sign up (for free) with Genting Rewards program. So I did and they give me a free 2 day one night stay at the hotel. Which is amazing considering I only visit their cinemas in like once every 2 months? Sure I had to book 1 month in advance and they gave us the smallest room available but at least it’s free. Okay I did have to pay 5 ringgit for early check in but that’s it. We didn’t feel like letting the kids take the boring indoor theme park again so we decided to try the Genting Skyway gondola lift instead. We’ve never tried it before so we thought why not. The return ticket is only RM12.80 each but if you multiply it by 5 we were 64 ringgit poorer. The view was okay along the ride. First we can’t see much because of the fog at first but the view started to clear up as we descent down the mountain. In fact the fog adds a little bit of enigma to the surrounding and it was quite lovely really. The air was cool and clean and although it rained for a bit we actually enjoyed the ride. After a while though we kinda got bored of the view. The gondola lift went as far as the Goh Tong Jaya station and then went back the same way.

Since we don’t have any plans to ride the indoor theme park, we went straight back to our room. Like any resourceful visitor, we cooked our dinner ourselves (don’t ask how). Our room is small and the twin single bed could barely accommodate all 5 of us but we managed somehow. There’s no air-conditioner unit in the room, they didn’t have to install any because it’s already very cool up in the mountains. There’s one ceiling fan though and even at speed 1 we were freezing cold. Usually I wouldn’t miss the chance to photograph sunrise on top of mountains and high places but not this time because I woke up late and I was too lazy to go downstairs and walk around to take pictures.

After Genting we finally headed home with visibly less traffic on the road unlike yesterday mega jam. For lunch I brought my family to Quan’s Ice Cream and Coffee House in Desa Pandan. Unfortunately for us it was lunch time and the place was packed with people and no empty tables in sight. We waited for a while and almost gave up entirely before a few people finally leave and we get to have our lunch there. Is it any good? Well I liked most of their food, they serve kopitiam style menu minus the exorbitant price or service tax. They have a variety of menu including sets for kids.

So that concludes my Eid celebration report this year. It’s been a mixed bag really but overall it’s not so bad. Naturally things would have been slightly more cheerful and I don’t have to penny-pinch on everything had I received my bonus earlier but that come fixed every year so nothing much I can do about it.