Review: Logitech Z333 Speaker System With Subwoofer

Logitech Z333 Speaker System w/ Subwoofer

For many years I have been using an old Yamaha 5.1 AV receiver with mismatched Philips active sub and Onkyo satellite speakers for my computer sound. This setup works well, however, I was looking to downsize as the amplifier, sub and satellite combo took up a lot of space in my office, so I went for the compact 80w peak (40w continuous) power, Logitech Z333 speaker system w/ subwoofer at $60.

I really don’t have the need for a big loud sound system in my 10ft x 8ft office, 40w continuous power is more than adequate, especially as I am sat less than 3 feet from the speakers, which sit just behind my monitor. The subwoofer is very compact, fitting between the two satellite speakers on my desk behind my 34in Ultrawide monitor, which creates a nice balanced coherent sound stage while I am sat at my desk.

The subwoofer measures 9.05 in x 9.13 in x 6.20 in (H x W x D) while the satellites measure 7.55 in x 4.25 in x 3.54 in (H x W x D). The subwoofer has a continuous power rating of 24w while each satellite speaker is rated at 8w, double those numbers for peak power. The subwoofer features two RCA speaker outs to connect the satellites, two L/R RCA inputs and a knob for bass volume, plus a corded volume control pod with headphone out and on/off switch, plus a fixed 3.5mm cable to connect to your PC soundcard.

My preferred connection method is the RCA input, taking the output from my Mayflower Electronics O2 ODAC headphone amp, as good as the Supreme FX audio chip on my Asus Crosshair IV Hero is, it’s no external ODAC. I have set the Windows volume for the O2 to 67%, set the volume on the ODAC to roughly two-thirds volume and I’m using the Logitech volume pod to control the speaker volume.

Getting to the all-important sound quality, I would rate it at very good for a $60 speaker system. However, if you’re looking for floor-shaking bass, I would look at one of Logitech’s larger speaker systems. If you are looking for punchy, tight bass with a balanced sound across the frequency range, these speakers could be for you. To my ear, the 55hz to 20khz range is accurate, I don’t hear any discernable gaps in the range.

In conclusion, for such a small package, it creates a large, balanced sound, which works for most, if not all genres of music. It will never shake the room with bass, no matter how loud you push the volume; it will get very loud from my seating position. In my setup, about halfway on the volume pod with the bass maxed out on the back of the subwoofer, is the maximum comfortable listening level, it starts to sound a little strained after about two-thirds volume, which I would expect from a sub $100 speaker system.

UPDATE [Mar, 2 2018, 13:47]: While listening to music at roughly 4/10 volume, the subwoofer suddenly started popping. It had never done this before today, even when driven harder than 4/10. The only way to fix it is to reduce the subwoofer to 1/2 volume, which no longer meets my sound requirements. I like to have some rumble and thud in my music, at 1/2 sub volume, it misses the mark by some way, maybe I’m unlucky, but you have question QC on these speakers to fail after just five months.

Review: Corsair Carbide Series® Air 740 High Airflow ATX Cube Case

Corsair Carbide Series® Air 740 High Airflow ATX Cube Case

When I built my Ryzen 7 system, I went with the NZXT H440 case as I wanted a quiet build, but I regretted it when I attempted to overclock, so I replaced that case with the Corsair Air 740 a few days ago and, overclocking is still a no-go despite an H110i AIO. Don’t get me wrong, the temperatures have dropped by 9°C due to the cleaner air flow, but at 4Ghz and 3.9Ghz, the system eventually crashes to BIOS.

I suspect there may be an issue with the Crosshair IV Hero BIOS, when it crashed, the last temperature I saw was 68°C, which is 7°C lower than TJmax (Tdie). So I am thoroughly confused why the PC is crashing, I gave it as many volts as I dare, 1.4v, which is the general consensus on the maximum safe voltage.

Anyway, back to the case, the Corsair Air 740 is a dream to build in, plenty of space to work in. I would say that building in the Air 740 was the easiest build I have done, and I have built many computers over the years. Moving the storage drives, and power supply to behind the motherboard gives much more room to maneuver. I had none of the usual issues connecting the fiddly fan, front panel, and audio connectors.

The first thing I did was take the panels off to remove the included 140mm fans, not that there’s anything wrong with these fans, I wanted to install my white LED maglev fans, also from Corsair. Then came the task of transplanting all the components from the H440 to the Air 740, which went exceptionally well, I had more issues getting the components out of the H440 than I did getting them in the Air 740.

The Air 740 has nine grommeted passthroughs to the rear compartment, where you will find a PSU mount, four 2.5 inch and three 3.5 inch drive mounts and an astronomical amount of cable routing space. The front has mounts for 3 x 120mm or 2 x 140mm fans, the top has mounts for 2 x 120mm or 140mm fans, the rear accepts a 120mm or 140mm fan, plus two more 120mm or 140mm fans at the bottom.

In theory, for the water cooling enthusiasts, you could fit a 280mm radiator in the bottom, a 360mm radiator in the front and another 280mm radiator at the top. As I am not into open loop water cooling, I used the top 280mm mount for my H110i which mounted with ease, no clearance issues, plenty of room for cabling and access to all those motherboard headers along the top of the motherboard.

On the front fascia, there is a power button, two USB3.0 ports, headphone/mic inputs, a reset button and a button to control Corsair’s line of RGB HD case fans, an option that I did not need, I want an understated white and red build, I don’t need a rainbow explosion in the case. I love the windowed side panel door, which swings open for easy access and can be fully removed by lifting up off the hinges.

On the subject of the front panel, the USB3.0, headphone and microphone jacks are at an angle which makes it kinda difficult to plug in headphones and USB peripherals. In addition, the reset button is right next to the USB ports, which means, in theory, not that this has happened to me, you could accidentally hit the reset switch while attempting to plug in a USB peripheral, which is obviously not desirable.

The Corsair Air 740 is the case I should have bought in the first place, it was the one I initially looked at and liked, but ended up going with the H440 instead. I’m not saying that the H440 is a bad case, it is not, I do like it, but there are some space issues with 280mm radiators and the airflow is not the best given its solid front and top panels. Ironically, due to the fans running at lower RPM’s in the Air 740, the silence optimized H440 case was no quieter than the Corsair Air 740 cube case, at least not to my ear.

The downsides, this thing is freaking huge, it measures 13.4″ x 20″ x 16.8″ (W x H x D), it will take up a lot of space, but this is the price you pay for clean airflow from front to back. That’s about all I can think of when it comes to negatives, this is an exceptionally well made case, very solidly built and well designed and I just love the aggressive looks from every angle. I give the Corsair Air 740 a definite two thumbs up!

Update [Nov, 16 2017, 14:10]: I have discovered an annoyance after writing this review. When my Corsair ML120/140 PRO fans reach the 1150 to 1350rpm range, there is a highly annoying resonance through the case, which was not present when the ML PRO fans were installed in the NZXT H440.

Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix 2017

Brazilian Grand Prix 2017

Sebastian Vettel returned to form with his fifth victory in 2017, his first since the mid-season break and Ferrari’s first win at Interlagos since 2008 when hometown hero Felipe Massa, who raced in his final Brazilian Grand Prix this weekend, came within one point of claiming the world drivers title that season.

The podium was set after turn 3 on lap 1 when Vettel overhauled polesitter Valtteri Bottas, beating the Finn to the left-hander at turn 1, from then on, Vettel was able to pull out and maintain a gap to Bottas and likewise, Kimi Raikkonen was unable to make any inroads into the gap between himself and Bottas.

A number of first lap incidents brought out the safety car. McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne found himself in an F1 sandwich between Kevin Magnussen and Daniel Ricciardo, ending his race and pitching Ricciardo off on the grass and to the back of the grid. Force India’s Esteban Ocon had a rare retirement as he and Romain Grosjean had a coming together at turn 6, for which, Grosjean received a 10-second penalty.

This will be a much shorter than usual review as not too much happened in my opinion. The main upsides for me were Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo’s recovery drive to fourth and sixth places respectively. Hamilton started from the pitlane due to a mistake in qualifying meant he failed to set a time in Q1, Mercedes took full advantage and changed his power unit as it was effectively penalty free.

Hamilton managed to get up as high as fourth place but stalled when he reached Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, the Ferrari had a little too much pace for Hamilton, Raikkonen holding off the Briton for the final five laps to maintain the podium position which he held since the start of the race. Ricciardo, did well after his first lap incident to finish in sixth, 16 seconds behind Red Bull team mate Max Verstappen.

With this victory, Vettel all but cements his position as “best of the rest” driver, only a win for Bottas and a DNF for Vettel at the season finale in Abu Dhabi can change the top 3 positions. Frankly, I don’t think that Bottas is the driver he was believed to be, I believe that if Hamilton had started in the same position as Bottas this weekend, Vettel would have had a much tougher time claiming victory at the Brazilian GP.

Overall, I thought this was a dull race as Brazilian Grand Prix’ go, maybe we needed a sprinkling of rain (or indeed, Bernie’s trackside sprinklers) to liven things up. And I doubt that Abu Dhabi will be any better as a spectacle, I find it disappointing that the FIA decided to use the shiny lights of Abu Dhabi as a season finale, I always thought that Brazil is a much more fitting venue for the season finale, but what do I know?

Brazilian Grand Prix 2017 Results

1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1:31:26.260
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0:02.762s
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +0:04.600s
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0:05.468s
5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0:32.940s
6. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +0:48.691s
7. Felipe Massa (William) +1:08.882s
8. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +1:09.363s
9. Sergio Perez (Force India) +1:09.500s
10. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +1 LAP

Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix 2017

Max Verstappen Wins Mexican GP 2017

Lewis Hamilton claimed his fourth world drivers title at the Mexican Grand Prix taking the chequered flag in ninth place, after suffering a first lap puncture courtesy of title rival Sebastian Vettel. No doubt the Hamilton conspiracy theorists would have been whipped into the frenzy after, the man himself, suggested over the radio that Vettel made contact deliberately, a la Michael Schumacher in ’94 and ’97.

The start of the race is where the title race was decided, the 1/2 mile drag down to turn 1 saw, Vettel, Hamilton and young whippersnapper Max Verstappen three abreast going into turn 1 with Verstappen coming out on top as the trio rounded turn 2. Vettel drifted wide allowing Hamilton into second place, however, Vettel kept his foot in, making contact with Verstappen’s right rear tire entering turn 2 before making contact with Hamilton’s right rear tire, breaking his front wing and puncturing Hamilton’s tire.

This left Hamilton to limp back to the pits, trying not to damage his car further, while Vettel stopped for a new front wing, the net result was Hamilton dropping to the back with Vettel two places ahead in 18th. Vettel immediately started to make his way through the pack and by lap 26, Vettel was in the points, it took Hamilton until lap 57 to break into the top 10, at which point Vettel was about to claim fourth place.

Esteban Ocon, who had received death threats from, what I presume to be Mexicans pissed off that he was taking the battle to their hometown hero, Sergio Perez, was unlucky with a virtual safety car period on lap 32 after he had already pitted, gifting Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen a free pit stop, allowing him to leapfrog the Frenchman into the final podium spot, before the VSC, Ocon was looking good for the podium.

My personal favorite [current] driver, Daniel Ricciardo, who had already been demoted from 7th to 16th on the grid for changing his power unit after qualifying, suffered a turbo failure after charging from 16th to 7th by lap four. I’m gutted by this as it would have been great to see Ricciardo charge through the field, with the pace he had, he could have made it a 1 – 2 for Red Bull, but it wasn’t to be for the Aussie.

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas had a better race, benefiting from the second corner madness, moving into second place as his team mate, Hamilton fell to the back. But, despite having the best power unit on the grid, he had no answer for Verstappen, the young Dutchman consistently pulled away from the Finn.

With Renault power units failing left, right and center, Red Bull had to be nervous about Verstappen’s power unit as team mate Ricciardo had earlier suffered a turbo failure. But the engine, the most recent spec, stayed strong to the end, with Verstappen setting fastest laps much to the chagrin of his race engineer who had instructed him to slow down and match the pace of second placed driver, Bottas.

Special mentions for Williams’ Lance Stroll and HAAS’ Kevin Magnussen finishing the race in sixth and eighth places, thanks to the VSC earlier in the race, the free pit stops launched both drivers up the grid, but as ‘they’ (who are they, exactly?) say, it’s better to be lucky than good, which in this case is true.

McLaren scored another point in Mexico in the hands of Fernando Alonso. But, McLaren have to be concerned with the reliability of the Renault power unit, four out of six power units didn’t make it to the end. McLaren ditched the slow and unreliable Honda power unit in favor of the Renault power unit in 2018, was that a smart decision? The Renault is a faster power unit, but if it goes bang, it means nothing.

So, all the top prizes have been claimed, Mercedes are constructors champions, Lewis Hamilton is world drivers champion, all that is left to fight for is, the best of the rest crown in the final two races. To say that the season fizzled out to a damp squib after the mid season break is an understatement, I was hoping for a true battle to the end, but Vettel and his Ferrari team repeatedly shot themselves in the foot.

Mexican Grand Prix 2017 Results

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:36:26.552
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +19.678s
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +54.007s
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +70.078s
5. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +1 LAP
6. Lance Stroll (Williams) +1 LAP
7. Sergio Perez (Force India) +1 LAP
8. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +1 LAP
9. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1 LAP
10. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +1 LAP

Formula 1 United States Grand Prix 2017

Max Verstappen Relieved Of Podium Finish At USA Grand Prix 2017

Lewis Hamilton took another step towards claiming his fourth world drivers championship by winning the US Grand Prix at the Circuit Of The Americas. Sebastian Vettel delayed the inevitable by finishing in second place, thanks to team mate Kimi Raikkonen moving aside for the German in the closing laps.

Despite Hamilton coming within a handful of points of claiming the 2017 drivers title, the big story of the race is Max Verstappen’s 5 second penalty which demoted him to fourth place, the Dutchman was booted out of the top 3 cool down room prior to the podium ceremony with Kimi Raikkonen taking his place.

But more on that later, the start of the race gave us some hope that we might have a race on our hands as Vettel got the better start leading Hamilton into turn 1, despite Hamilton’s best efforts to squeeze the German in the run towards turn 1. But, that hope was snuffed out on lap 6 going into turn 12, Hamilton easily sliding down the inside of Vettel’s Ferrari and that was the end of that as Hamilton pulled away.

Red Bull’s Verstappen was carving his way through the field after serving his grid penalties, up into the points after just three laps and after the first round of pit stops on lap 26, found himself in fifth place after leading the race for a few laps prior to being passed by Hamilton, which triggered the Dutchman’s stop.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas started third, was running in second, but ultimately fell backwards to fifth place by the chequered flag being overtaken by Vettel, Raikkonen and Verstappen. As Verstappen made his attempted pass, Bottas went off the track, not for the first time, keeping his foot in to maintain his position, but Verstappen cut back inside to make the pass through turns 13 and 14.

Big props to Carlos Sainz Jnr for his performance, in what, for him is a brand new Renault car and team. Seventh place, splitting the Force India’s has to be considered a win for Renault and Sainz Jnr. Sadly, for Renault, Nico Hulkenberg could not match the newbies sucess, retiring his car on lap 5, but I am looking forward to the battles between Sainz Jnr and Hulkenberg for the remainder of 2017 and 2018.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who started in fourth place, out qualifying teammate Verstappen, despite the Dutchman having an upgraded Renault power unit installed in the back of his car, retired from the race on lap 14 with an engine failure. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was left to rue the unreliable Honda power unit behind him as it let him down once again while running in a solid points paying position.

The top 10 was rounded out by the usual suspects, Force India’s Esteban Ocon, Sergio Perez, Williams’ Felipe Massa and, somewhat of a surprise, claiming a solitary point is Toro Rosso’s Danill Kyvat.

Going back to the controversy of Verstappen’s demotion from the podium, seconds before going to the podium. I believe we all agree that Verstappen cut the corner, the video evidence does not lie, however, personally, I am pissed off with the inconsistency of the application of the rule. Drivers have been cutting corners all weekend, and although no pass was made, there is a time advantage, no matter how small.

Valtteri Bottas, not once, but twice defended a position by going off track at turn 12, six or seven feet off track in fact, maintaining his speed on the tarmac run off and re-entering the track ahead of the attacking driver. First time was on lap 2 defending against Daniel Ricciardo and again on lap 53 in his attempt to hold off Verstappen, but the Dutchmen was wise to it and cut back inside to complete the overtake.

How can Bottas be allowed to keep that position without penalty, particularly against Ricciardo on lap 2, when he exceeded the track limits and gained an advantage? Of course, in the past, Bottas would have been on the grass or in the gravel, which was a penalty within itself, but sadly those days are long gone, now nearly every track has large tarmac run off areas that can be used to gain an advantage lap after lap.

As a sport, F1 needs to have equal application of the rules or abandon the rule completely. The whole penalty system needs an overhaul, the engine penalty system has robbed us time and time again of a great race because one or more of the top drivers have started from the back due to grid penalties because of engine and/or gearbox replacements. Stop the stupid penalties and let the drivers race.

United States Grand Prix 2017 Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:33:50.991
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +10.143s
3. Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) +15.779s
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +16.768s
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +34.967s
6. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +90.980s
7. Carlos Sainz (Renault) +92.944s
8. Sergio Perez (Force India) +1 LAP
9. Felipe Massa (Williams) +1 LAP
10. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) +1 LAP

Cooler Master H500P, A View From, Well, ME.

Coolermaster Mastercase H500P

When I saw the Cooler Master H500P displayed at Computex 2017, it got me all excited for a new HAF (High Air Flow) case from Cooler master, already owning a HAF 912 w/ 2 x 200mm fans (front/top), which houses my current media server. I wrote a review of the HAF 912 back in 2014, if you’re interested.

But after reading and watching many reviews of the new HAF case, I found myself disappointed. Cooler Master will tell you that the H500P is not officially a HAF case. But, it has the cues to a HAF case, including the ‘H’ in front of the 500P and the 200mm fans that Cooler Master used in their HAF series of cases.

The biggest issue I have is the lack of airflow, it has a transparent solid plastic front panel which chokes off much of the air, the only air comes from the sides of the front panel, which is restricted by the frame of the 200mm fans. I was considering the H500P as a replacement for the similarly restrictive NZXT H440 used in my current build, but, I’m not spending another $150 to have the same airflow issues.

Airflow is the biggest issue, however, there are also build quality issues, when I spend $150 on a case, I expect it to be solid and for it not to be squeaky. I expect the panels to not come off in my hands when I lift the case in the normal manner of picking it up from under the front panel and rear of the top panel. The tempered glass left side panel not sitting securely when locked and not sitting flush also irks me.

The NZXT H440 does have it’s airflow issues, removing the front and top panels really lower the CPU and GPU temperatures to prove this fact. But at least build quality is top notch, infact, this is the most solid case I have ever owned, I feel like I could drop it off a four story building and it would survive, albeit with some bumps and bruises. The H500P does not give me the impression it’d survive any drop.

I feel that Cooler Master went with the trend of putting glass or clear plastic all over the case, instead of sticking with the tried and tested mesh panels to actually allow air into the case. I feel the 200mm fans are there as eye candy, it does look amazing, rather than a practical device for pushing air. Their whole brand, COOLER MASTER is centered around cooling and airflow, a test that the H500P fails spectacularly.

There’s been a suggestion that there might be replacement panels with mesh available for purchase for extra $$. I refuse to pay $150 for the case, then another $50? for a meshed front panel. Should Cooler Master release a model of the H500P with meshed front and top panels and a better side panel securing system for the same $150 price point, I would take a second look, but as it stands, I’ll look elsewhere.

Afterthought, I believe case manufacturers need to look towards more open designs, there are too many solid paneled cases on the market. This, combined with the new breed of higher core (up to 18 cores, 36 threads) processors, generating more heat is causing a massive problem, extra heat generation and choked off airflow is a disastrous combination for hardware longevity and performance.

Removing the front/top/side panels is not an acceptable solution on a $150 case in my view.

Trump Screws Poor & Middle Class On Healthcare

Trump Signs Executive Order To End ACA Subsidies

Over the past couple of days, President Donald J Trump has signed two executive orders that will severely undermine Obama’s Keystone bill, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is more commonly known.

The first order signed on Thursday, will allow insurance companies to offer cheaper health care policies, which might sound good, but these policies will be very much barebones, i.e. little coverage and people with pre-existing conditions, like myself will more than likely be turned down for insurance coverage.

This will also undermine the healthcare marketplace as many young and healthy people will flock to the cheaper policies and away from the Affordable Care Act, which will mean insurance companies will reassess their participation in the marketplace, in many states, options are already very limited!

On Friday, Trump put the final nail in the coffin of the ACA by signing an executive order that will cancel all ACA subsidies with immediate effect, leaving millions of Americans with no way to pay their insurance premiums. The massive irony is that the people who will be affected the most are the people that live in states where Trump took victory, this includes Kansas, where I live, back in November’s general election.

The issue is that people will now not be able to afford insurance without the government subsidies, but the ACA will still be in effect, so those people will be penalized in their taxes for not having insurance. I have never agreed with Obama’s ‘individual mandate’, being forced to buy insurance or face a tax penalty, but what Trump has done is cruel, the exact opposite of what his campaign promised.

Of course, these orders came about because Trump and his Republican cronies have failed numerous times to repeal and replace Obamacare in the United States Senate, despite having the majority in both the House and Senate. The knock on effect of this Republican obsession with repealing Obamacare is that they have let funding for CHIP lapse, meaning millions of children will not have medical coverage.

From a personal perspective, this is a disaster, I received a renewal notice yesterday from BCBSKS and the premium, with the same subsidy we got in 2017 would be $439 per month, that’s up from $98 per month. Without the subsidy, the premium payment would be $1,057.39, that’s half my net income, obviously, that is not something that I can afford to pay, which leaves my wife and children uninsured.

I have medical insurance through my workplace, but to cover my wife and children on this policy would be a little over half my net income, which is how my wife and children ended up with a healthcare marketplace policy, $98 per month is better than $950 extra per month through my workplace.

The hypocrisy of Donald J Trump and the Republican party is beyond belief. Trump attacked Barrack Obama for the number of executive orders he signed throughout his tenure as president. Now, look, Trump has signed over 50 executive orders in his first nine months as president, and there is not a damn peep from the Republicans and the Democrats are too fucking weak to call out the hypocrisy.

It’s clear that we need to vote as many Republicans out of office as possible during the mid-term elections in 2018, their agenda is clear, they want to enrich their donors coffers at the expense of the people they represent. Don’t let their lip-service fool you, they agree with Trump’s actions, their words are that of a person that is seeking re-election, we cannot allow this to happen for our own self preservation.

This is not just limited to Republicans, the Democrats are just as bad, they have voted against the interests of their constituents time and time again when it comes to lowering healthcare costs, including blocking the ability to buy cheaper medication from across the border in Canada. The co-sponsoring of Bernie Sanders ‘Medicare for all’ is nothing more than lip-service, they know that the bill will not pass.

You could call me jaded and you’d be right, since moving to the US nine years ago, I have seen every day Americans be screwed over time and time again by what we laughingly call a government, big money controls congress and we have a president that is the CEO of an international business; who would have thought that he would NOT be fighting for the little person, the everyday American paying his salary.

I could go on, and on, and on about this; I don’t use the word ‘hate’ too often, but I hate Trump, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and the system that has allowed big money, be it pharma, healthcare, insurance or business conglomerates to buy politician’s votes in the senate and house. In Europe, we call this practice bribery, in the US, we call it lobbying, and money is speech, what a fucking shambles.

I wish I could defund government by not paying the $442 in state and federal taxes I do every month!

/rant over

Thank You, Dear Departed, Father.

Debt Free

On March 27, 2017, my father passed away at the age of 81, and as a result, this triggered the process of finalizing his estate which resulted in $107,888.12, my inheritance, being deposited into my bank account yesterday. This inheritance will allow me to pay off every cent of our debts and have roughly $45,000 left over in savings to secure my family’s financial future after the financial nightmare of the past two years.

I’m not exactly sad that my father has passed, we never had a good relationship, there has been a lot of less than honorable actions taken by my father in the past, where those actions will remain, I’m not going to speak ill of the dead, but I will say that him dying was the best thing he could have done for us.

This whole process has been very long and drawn out, given the 6 1/2 months between the start of probate and the disbursement of funds. The process was drawn out even more by the inactions of my father’s landlord, holding up the process, almost driving us to the point of bankruptcy, when the funds arrived, I was just days away from defaulting on the first of many loans and credit card payments.

My late father’s landlord, John, decided he was going to take £1,815 in cash from my father’s room and deposit it into a personal bank account, then took £550 from those funds, before handing over the remainder to the lawyers, for a new bed for my father’s room, which he claims my father agreed to, which is something I can neither confirm or deny, circumventing the administration of my father’s estate.

John then refused to acknowledge my lawyer’s requests to provide a statement of costs incurred, which ultimately slowed the process down for over a month, I instructed my lawyers to proceed without this documentation as clearly, John was not going to provide the requested breakdown of his claimed costs.

The money from my inheritance, which came in the nick of time will go towards paying $26,000 in credit cards, $21,000 personal loan and $12,000 car loan, saving me close to $1,000 per month, which was financially killing us, approximately $350 of those payments was interest on the cards/loans.

I have my mother-in-law to thank for loaning me $2,000 to keep us in the black (so to speak, as we were actually $60,000 in the red). We only survived this long because of random monies from various sources and tax refunds, my income alone would not have covered our living costs, plus all the loans and credit card payments. It’s been a rough two years for us, living on a single income for almost half of that time.

When my wife returned to employment after four months unemployed, due to bullshit reasons, Kansas is a non-union free-to-hire state, I’ll leave it at that, I don’t want to turn this into a rant. I took out a personal loan to create a structured payment plan to get debt free in five years. A couple of months later, it happened again, my wife was let go as the new manager “wanted to bring in her own people”.

That was 8 months ago, and my wife has now just gotten a part-time position as a leasing agent, which she starts next week. Income from her new job will be money we could put into savings as my income is high enough to comfortably cover our everyday costs. The reason for the part-time position is so my wife can also pursue her real estate career, hopefully, sell some houses and further improve our finances.

For the first time in two years, we will be debt free and hopefully, stress-free. The past two years have taken an incredible toll on my mental and physical health. I didn’t know how to feel seeing my bank balance indicating $107,984 yesterday afternoon, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry with happiness, that helpless feeling finally lifted, the dark clouds parted and the sun was shining in my mind.

I have to say a big thank you to Wolferstans Solicitors of Plymouth, UK for handling everything back in the United Kingdom for me. Excellent service from Gemma, Rebecca and their team, administering my late father’s estate and pushing through the funds for me to avoid financial ruin in the past 10 days.

My 41st birthday is coming up in two weeks and this is the best birthday present anyone could have ever gotten me. Although I have to admit that I have been looking at some new toys for myself, such as a Canon 5D MkIV and a Sony RX100 V, whether I actually spend any money on myself, that’s up for debate.

Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix 2017

Japanese Grand Prix 2017 Start

I think the line “they think it’s all over, it is now” springs to mind after the latest Ferrari disaster and yet another Lewis Hamilton win, meanwhile the Red Bulls are still surging forward for a double podium.

Sebastian Vettel started alongside Lewis Hamilton on the front row of the grid, but was immediately losing time to the chasing pack, Max Verstappen who had already slipped down the inside of team mate Daniel Ricciardo through turn 1 for third place, dived down the inside of Vettel for second place at the hairpin. Vettel only went backwards from there and eventually retired his Ferrari at the end of lap 4.

It got worse for Ferrari through the Spoon curve on lap 1, Kimi Raikkonen was pushed wide onto the AstroTurf by the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg, losing half dozen places, dropping back as far as 14th. The Finnish driver did recover to fifth place, which is not terrible given his starting position of 10th after serving a five place grid drop for a gearbox change while his team mate skipped out the circuit back door.

Carlos Sainz Jr crashed out through the Esses on lap 1 in what is his final race for Toro Rosso before moving to Renault for the final four races of the season starting from the US Grand Prix. The Spaniard replaces the much maligned Jolyon Palmer, who was paid off by the French team to walk away early.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon made a fantastic start to leapfrog from fifth to third, getting the better of Ricciardo through turn 1 and later on lap 2 passing the ailing Ferrari of Vettel. But ultimately the Frenchman could not match the pace of Red Bull, Mercedes and the sole remaining Ferrari of Raikkonen, finishing the race in sixth place ahead of his more experienced team mate, Sergio Perez.

There were two virtual safety car periods, in which, Hamilton pulled out time on second placed, Verstappen. My question is; was Verstappen slower than the delta or was Hamilton exceeding the lap delta to pull out a gap? No FIA investigation was instigated, so I guess this question will go unanswered.

As the race came to it’s conclusion, HAAS’ Kevin Magnussen made a robust move on Felipe Massa for 8th place going into turn 1 making contact with Massa’s front wing end plate. Pushing the Brazilian wide also allowing HAAS team mate, Romain Grosjean to slip down the inside, demoting Massa to 10th a few laps before Williams team mate, Lance Stroll had a right front tire failure sending him into the gravel and out of the race. This brought out the second VSC, in which Hamilton pulled out 3 seconds on Verstappen.

Those three seconds were crucial for Hamilton in the final 2 laps, Verstappen was closing on the Briton fast as Hamilton struggled with a power unit vibration. Hamilton was helped by Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, who both balked Verstappen after letting Hamilton pass, costing the Dutchman valuable time in his pursuit of the win. Verstappen took the chequered flag just 1.2 seconds behind Hamilton.

After the Japanese GP, the title is Hamilton’s barring the Briton having 2 DNF’s in the final four races with Vettel winning those races. The last three races have been disastrous for Ferrari, multiple power unit issues for both drivers and the inexplicable crash, which I believe Vettel himself instigated in Singapore.

Hamilton can wrap up the title at COTA (US Grand Prix) in two weeks time with another win and Vettel finishes sixth or lower. Hamilton has won four of the five races held at the Circuit of the Americas, you have to believe that he is heading for a fifth victory in Austin given the current state of play in Formula 1.

Japanese Grand Prix 2017 Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:27:31.194
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +1.211s
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +9.679s
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +10.580s
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +32.622s
6. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +67.788s
7. Sergio Perez (Force India) +71.424s
8. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +88.953s
9. Romain Grosjean (HAAS) +89.883s
10. Felipe Massa (Williams) +1 LAP

Review: Canon PowerShot SX730 HS For Live Music Photography

Canon PowerShot SX730 HS example photograph taken in a live music situation.

I’ll start by saying that, as a professional real estate photographer, I would never have bought the Canon SX730 HS as I don’t believe any point and shoot camera has the image quality I require. But, now I have recently gotten back into live music, I needed to buy something that venues would allow, the majority of venues only allow compact point and shoot cameras, so I bought the $400 SX730 HS for this purpose.

The Canon PowerShot SX730 HS works well enough in outdoor and well-lit scenarios which require lower ISO’s and faster shutter speeds. But, since I purchased the PowerShot SX730 HS compact camera for the single purpose of live music photography, my review will be based on this use case scenario.

Last night was my first opportunity to use the Canon SX730 HS in a live music scenario at the Orpheum Theater in Wichita, KS for Halestorm, Starset and New Years Day. Let’s get straight to the point, if you are looking for a live gig shooter, look elsewhere, at $400, I expected infinitely better from Canon. I’m a long time Canon customer, I have three Canon DSLR’s, so the SX730 HS seemed like a natural choice to me.

The two things you need for live music photography is good low-light performance, which in darker environments means pushing the ISO and a fast(er) shutter speed to freeze the action. To be able to set any sort of decent shutter speed, 1/125 of a second, I need to push 3200 ISO, which has high levels of grain, which destroys the detail of any shot. Additionally, when zooming in 40x, you lose two stops of light, which means that you need to slow the shutter from 1/125 to 1/30 of the second to compensate.

The Canon SX730 HS’ focus system is slow and often fails to focus, especially when zooming in by a factor of 25x or more. I missed countless shots because the camera refused to focus, even on a subject lit by a bright spotlight. I would estimate that it failed three times before being able to get positive focus lock. Even then, the auto focus still missed the targeted focus point, despite the double beep confirmation.

Shutter reaction time is laughable, again I missed hundreds of shots because of the lag time between pressing the shutter button and the photo being taken. It seemed like there was a delay of 1/2 a second between pressing the shutter button and the shutter actuating. Resulting in blurry or even a shot of an empty piece of the stage as my subject had moved in the time it took the camera to react to my action.

Please see 1:1 example of the grain and focus issues at the top of this review…

I shoot in manual mode, however, I did try the auto mode and it bumped the ISO upto max and set a super slow shutter, which made everything nice and bright, but was ultimately useless as everything was blurry between my hand movement and the fast-paced action on stage even with the image stabilization enabled. Another bugbear is that I am unable to shoot in RAW image format, this is a feature I expect in a $400 camera, entry level DSLR’s at this same price point can shoot RAW, so why can’t the SX730 HS?

Maybe I have been spoiled by DSLR’s over the years and I am being harsh on the Canon PowerShot SX730 HS; but with the exception of the telephoto lens, my LG V20 gives me the same results in terms of quality. I would have expected a $400 camera to be better than a camera built into a multi-function device like a smartphone. Maybe, smartphone cameras have improved while digital cameras have not?

If I had just bought the SX730 HS, I would box it up and return it to the store, however, I have had the camera for six weeks, bought shortly after the last gig I attended, where I used my V20 smartphone. It is not faulty, so I am stuck with it, selling it would probably result in 50% financial loss, so I will hang onto it and use it as a pocket camera for family outing and such, where carrying a DSLR is cumbersome.

UPDATE [Oct, 9 2017, 22.18]: I went to another gig, this time at The Cotillion and the results are the same, so definitely not a live gig camera, slow and often missed focus, very poor low light performance and very noisy / grainy photos. Honestly, I am on the fence about whether to bother taking the PowerShot SX730 HS to gigs any more, it’s just more stuff to carry and the results are not worth the hassle.