Monday, July 27, 2015

Return of the Curve..

After a long absence..

There aren't many good-quality 16" folding bikes out there.
Those that are worthy of a mention includes the Dahon Curve D3, XL and SL. 
While the XL and SL has long been discontinued, Dahon maintained the lower-end Curve as one of their main stable bikes in the 16" category.

Dahon improved the 2015 Curve i3 with a Shimano Nexus-3 drivetrain

Be prepared to pay..

Typically, a Dahon Curve D3 back in the early days (introduced in 2008) would cost around RM1,600.
The new Curve i3, now, with Shimano Nexus3 gearing, is priced at RM2,089 (inclusive of GST).
You are paying for a China-frame with basic components. And by today's standards, it's way overpriced compared to the readily available options from other China manufacturers.

The Curve i3, folded

How it handles? 
It's a basic bike with a 3-speed hub gear, weighing around 11kgs. It folds neatly into a compact package so that you can bag it during your commute into the city centre in a bus or on the train.
By saying "basic", you don't get all the luxury of high-end components. 
But, that said, the Curve is pretty hardy. 
The earlier models were bundled with a pair of Schwalbe 16x20 Big Apple tires. This gave it a really comfy ride.
Handling-wise, you might the small bike a bit "twitchy", so, for riders with no experience, it's would not ride as well as a large bike. But if you train yourself to ride it, you will overcome all the "shortcomings", well, literally..

Where to buy? 

Johnny Ng from My Bicycle Shop has a few in stock. Quantities are limited because the Malaysian distributor is not really interested to sell this bike. To get a closer look (sorry, no test-rides), give Johnny a call at: 016-632 2599.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

First-impressions: Xiaomi Redmi 2

The "China-syndrome"

There's a saying that goes: "Cheap thing no good, good thing no cheap.."
And in moments of desperation, one would seek solace in China-made budget product that won't hurt the wallet.
My HTC One M8 took a head dive onto the pavement and cracked it's glass screen. The damage was serious enough to warrant a trip to the HTC-appointed service centre in Low Yat Plaza and I made it back just hours before some hooligans thrashed the place.
Jokes aside, with the high-end smartphone benched, I had nothing but an older HTC One X+.
This phone, though only more than three years old, is now a heap of junk. It tends to hang with multiple apps running the background.
It's Android KitKat OS can't be upgraded. Old is old and having seen the rapid pace of development in smartphone technology, the best thing to do for the old phone, is to put a broadhead through it's screen.
So, there I was, in search of a stop-gap measure before the HTC is ready for collection. The worse part was the turnaround time: 1 - 4 weeks.
With that in mind, my choice back-up phone is the Xiaomi Mi4i. But the cost was out of my present budget.
That said, the next best thing was the Xiaomi Redmi 2.
This one's a 64-bit quad-core 1.2GHz machine that has the speed to rival the older HTC One X+.
But, it has a really small RAM at 1GB and an internal flash memory of 8GB.

The Redmi 2
Quality and finish

Out of the box, the Xiaomi Redmi 2 is nothing but solid.
I don't see any flaws at all on this budget phone.
Specs-wise, it fulfills my needs for a 4G-LTE phone that the HTC One X+ does not have.
The casing is made of plastic and it doesn't really look and feel like some cheap at all.


The 64-bit Snapdragon 410 processor is pretty impressive for a basic phone like the Redmi 2 if you don't run a lot of apps.
Way I see it, the only drawback with this basic phone, is the speed tends to lag when you run memory-eating apps simultaneously.
I found this when I activated the Endomondo fitness tracker with GPS and at the same time, try to take a snapshot with the phone's camera.
As far as the user-interface is concerned, Xiaomi's MiUi 6 OS is smooth operating and simple.
It's responsive and not cluttered.
The only thing I need to get used to: is the home and back buttons because it's different from how HTC lays out their smartphones.
As for the camera, well, I'd say I've seen better ones like the Motorola Moto-G.
The HTC One M8 takes the cake in terms of producing high-quality images and videos. But for a phone under RM400 (RM399 for the Redmi 2 8GB version through Xiaomi's official website), you can't complain.
This phone costs even more at the retail stores, the lowest you can get is round RM450 without GST.
While the camera is only so-so, what I found impressive on this phone - is the music player. You can set the sound equalizer and there are preset features optimized to complement Xiaomi's range of in-ear headphones. 
In short, the sound produced by the music player on this little phone is good.
As far as call-quality is concerned, the Redmi 2 delivers. The speakers are crisp and clear.
The only thing that I can't get used to, is the small keyboard. My fingers tend to slide over to the wrong key when typing. So, if you have large hands, that's bad news.
Other than a few shortcomings. there's hardly any fault you can find on this awesome budget phone.
On a daily-basis, I use the Redmi for my Mi Band fitness tracker and the Mi Fit apps to track my daily activities.

And updated version

Xiaomi is now offering and enhanced version of the Redmi 2 with a 2GB RAM and 16GB Flash memory and is being sold directly from Xiaomi at RM459 a piece. Best of all, you can get aftermarket soft cases for the phone at only RM10. For more information, you can head to Xiaomi Malaysia's official website

The walk..

"These legs are made for walking.."

My health has gone to the dogs and of late, I have inherited my late father's lifestyle diseases.
High Cholesterol, Hypertension and Type II Diabetes: it's all in place.
That said, my dad lived up to 73 before he passed away.
On a routine trip to the clinic near the office, I was "forced" to take a blood test without fasting.
The results were simply devastating.
High-Cholesterol, and a glimpse into my blood-sugar levels indicated that something was not right.
The doctor said my kidneys were leaking protein.
Later, another test was made and the results weren't good either.
Glucose-levels in my blood and urine were high.
This was followed-up by another test that sealed my fate.
The doctor had diagnosed me with type II Diabetes.
There was a moment of self-denial and disbelief, but hey, dad had it, and it was in the late stages of his life.
I was put under medication and was told to go on a low-carb diet and eventually cease consumption of starchy food such as rice and noodles.

 Coping with the "unholy" trinity.

High-cholesterol, Hypertension and Diabetes can only mean one thing: Death.
There's risk of getting a heart-attack as plaque from extremely high cholesterol clogs up the main arteries in the heart.
Next, is stroke. And last but not least: kidney failure due to chronic diabetes.
Sounds scary, but it's true of such condition goes untreated.

Positive mental attitude and a change in lifestyle

The first thing I did, was to talk to Michelle, my wife.
A change in lifestyle is imminent. 
Being Asian and with my brains hotwired to consume rice, it will be hard to reduce intake of this grain, but what has to be done, has to be done.
Our first measure was to replace the polished rice with brown rice from Cambodia. Consumption is reduced to small portions.
This also means a change in eating habits. No more nasi lemak in the morning. My breakfast is now a piece of Canadian purple wheat sandwich. Fillers would be Japanese Soba or buckwheat noodles.
Natural "healers" like Okra and Bittergourd became my daily diet for the last 30 days. I love okra, so, there's never been an issue consuming this vegetable.
Eating well is one part, the other is exercise.
I don't need gym membership because I have working dogs.
They are my motivation and I have scheduled my time to accommodate their wellness by taking them for morning and night walks.
This is now my routine. 
We walk for 3.5km a session. It feels good to sweat it out and the kidz love it.

Our Siberian Huskies are getting the most of my exercise regime
My usual walking route

The longest distance I've done in a day
Don't stop.. Believing.. 

My buddy Bob Lew, a Diabetes sufferer also contacted me about my weight. At the time, I weighed-in in at 101.0kg.
He managed to shed 22kgs through a new diet regime and aims to hit 88kgs in the months to come.
Bob is a man determined and would not stop at anything to achieve his goals. I know this because we've been friends for 30 years.

Bob (3rd from left) with me back in 1988
At Broga Hill in 2010
So, having heard what he had to say, I took on a 90-day challenge. 
The aim, is to shed 10kgs.
With controlled food intake and adequate exercise, this can be achieved.
Since my last weigh-in on June 16 at 101.0kg, I have lost some 5.8kg and stand at 95.2kg. I strive to eat healthier and stay away from food that is heavily-laden with carbohydrates. Since I don't have a sweet tooth, sugar has never been an issue. I drink my coffee black without sweetening. 
I guess the straw that broke the camel's back was the high consumption of canned drinks like Coca-Cola and 100PLUS.
This contributed to the spike in sugar-levels and the blood test confirmed this.
To fight the bulge, I walk a minimum distance of 6km a day. This helps to burn the fat and get rid of excessive calories.

Never give up

I have never stopped my outdoor pursuits and this medical condition is by no means, a hindrance to by active lifestyle. Now that exercise is a daily routine, I need to head out even more.
So, the part where I find balance is very important. Spouse support helps a lot as I have nothing to hide from my significant half.

Living with Diabetes doesn't spell the end for outdoor pursuit such as angling

Sweating it out at the archery range
I've hit the middle-age and based on my life journey, I have little regrets if my life ends abruptly.
As a matter of fact, life has been excellent!
My only regret, if I die before my time: is not being able to grow old with Michelle, my wife.
Things happen for a reason and given the chance to make it right, I will do my level-best in controlling this lifestyle disease. So, there's no room for thoughts like giving up or throwing the towel. Life's worth living if you have people who care for you and you don't let them down by ignoring your own health and well-being.

First-impressions: Xiaomi Mi Band

Sometimes, cheap can be good...

I never gave Xiaomi products a second look.
Seems that one of China's fastest emerging tech companies is coming up with some really great stuff at value prices.
One of their goods that caught my attention was the Mi Band, a really cheap fitness tracker.
On the Malaysian Xiaomi website, these are sold at RM59 each. 
Out of the box, the Mi Band is packaged with a fitness tracker pod, black silicone band with a metal clasp and a charging stick.
There are no fancy paperwork that goes with the Mi Band, which kept it as a minimalist item.

The benchmark.

As far as "blind" fitness trackers (with no information window for steps and calories) are concerned, it will be hard to beat a Fitbit Flex.
But at a pricetag of RM350 a piece, the Flex is nowhere compared to the Mi Band.
Why? Here are a few simple points:

  • Sleep mode is automatic.
  • The band connects to your phone via Mi Fit app (from Google Play & Apple) and is capable of giving alerts for incoming calls and SMS messages.
  • The tracker pod is robust and waterproof.
  • Has a battery life of 30 days and beyond (some recorded 40 days from a single charge).
  • Replacement bands (four colours) are sold at RM10 each. This is by far, cheaper than the Fitbit Flex and Garmin Vivofit replacement bands that cost more than RM130 for a pack of three.
  • A fraction of the price compared the Fitbit Flex and Garmin Vivofit.
"Made in China", a stigma

There's always the argument about inferior products from the Motherland. Such, we can argue till the cows come home.
But, having seen the quality, fit and finish of the Mi Band, I would say that it's at par or even better than some of the more expensive fitness trackers.
Now, let's face the fact that most of these gadgets are "Made in China". Doesn't matter if they are "designed in the EU, USA", but the principle remains: it's manufactured in China.

Screenshots of the Mi Fit app and Mi Band integration

Usability and performance

The Mi Band is best optimized with it's application: the Mi Fit which you can download from Google Play for Android phones or Apple Itunes for IOS phones.
It's a very straight-forward app and can be hacked to integrate with the Mi Smart Scale (not officially available here in Malaysia, sold by third-party retailers).
I have used the Mi Band for more than a month (37 days) and logged in some 259.6km (walking).
Paired with the Mi Smart Scale, with an initial weigh-in at 101.0kg, I lost 5.8kg through exercise and controlled food intake.
So, as far as performance is concerned, the Mi Band is flawless. Even if it goes kaput, I won't be sore because it costs only RM70 from a third-party reseller.
The default Mi Fit app from Google Play does not support the Mi Scale, so, one would have to manually install the China-version of the Mi Fit app from Xiaomi's official website. During installation, the updated app will overwrite the current Mi Fit app on your smartphone.
Once paired, both the Mi Band and Mi Smart Scale is a formidable tool for weight management and your daily exercise.


The Mi Band retails at RM59 from Xiaomi's official website in Malaysia. But it's "out of stock" at the moment. You can get this from third-party resellers at RM70 at the lowest. The highest retail price is RM89 at the PJ Digital Mall. For the bargain-hunter, try Low Yat Plaza in Kuala Lumpur.