Dell: SATA disk failed! (Part 2)

So one Friday morning, the day after I was notified by Dell technician, a Dell (no, not the singer) engineer called and asked to come over that morning itself. Wow! That was efficient.

I explained to the engineer the problem and, as expected, he brought a replacement SATA disk. I then pointed to him that this disk has a cache portion that should be accelerated, hoping that he wouldn't repeat the same mistake as a previous engineer the last time this disk was replaced.

He also told me that he was asked to replace the laptop's DVD player. Huh? I never report any problem with that and so I was puzzled. I declined the replacement as I didn't want any unintended problems.

After he replaced the disk, he asked me to use a Windows installation disc. What? I had already told the technician, via e-mail, that I didn't have Windows 10 installation disc. Fortunately, I had Windows 8 version which I wouldn't had had if I didn't specifically ask Dell for it when I ordered this laptop. I now begin to suspect that instead of a DVD player replacement, he was supposed to bring a Windows installation disc. 

However, at the setup process, an error message popped up saying that drivers couldn't be found on the disc. I then tried a Windows 10 installation disc that was burnt from Microsoft website (since I qualified for the free upgrade) and then the Factory Recovery disc created using Dell's programme. Same error message. At this point, the engineer asked me to request for an installation disc from Dell. I was crestfallen since that would mean my laptop would be "off" for at least a day.

I tried the Windows 10 disc again and suddenly it worked! Don't know why.

Hours later after he left, I finally had the chance to install the Intel Rapid Storage Technology (IRST) software. I suspected that the disk was not accelerated because my laptop performance was turtle-like compared to normal (read my previous encounter here). Guess what? I was right! Once again Dell engineer has disappointed me.

Because I was diligent in blogging about the problem and its solution previously, I managed to get the disk accelerated again and now my laptop is performing as fast as before. Incidentally, I also found a website that gave a more detailed write-up on this solution.


Dell: SATA disk failed! (Part 1)

Goodness! Seems like a yearly affair. Argh!

This time, the Intel Rapid Storage Technology (IRST) notified me that the laptop's accelerated SATA disk has failed @@. I didn't notice any significant difference in its performance but I understand from a few tech websites that this probably meant the hard disk is dying :(

So these were what I did thus far:

(1) Tried running diagnostic using Dell's Support Assist installed in the laptop. Twice laptop shut down on its own and upon restarting, there was error message saying that Windows didn't load correctly.

(2) The ePSA Pre-Boot System Assessment's normal test showed nothing was wrong. Its thorough test stuck at 97% when it was testing hard drive, after more than the scheduled 30mins.

(3) Tried using Dell's online diagnostic too. Twice there was BSOD with the error message "Kernel_Security_Check_Failure".

(4) Did a system restore but to no avail.

(5) Contacted Dell's technician via e-mail and upon his suggestions, I did the following:

(a) Was asked to update all drivers but IRST still reported the "failed" accelerated SATA disk. Tried Support Assist but it never finish despite after more than 1 hour. Tried Refreshing Windows 10. Didn't work.

(b) Was asked to roll-back to Win8 from Win10. However, I upgraded more than 30 days ago and so the roll-back option was not available to me. So I did a Factory Reset using recovery disc. Alien Respawn detected something wrong with a drive. After reset, the problem was still there. Managed to use Dell's online diagnostic to test (and stress test) hard drive. No issue. Updated drives and did Windows update: problem is still there. Support Assist overall scan: Pass

At this point, the technician ordered replacement part(s) and arranged an engineer to contact me in a few days time. I expect the hard drive to be replaced and so I hope this engineer will do this correctly (since it involves SSD) unlike the previous one. Gosh, really hope it'll go well.

Atlas Reactor: OZ

I have tried most Freelancers. Among the 3 categories i.e. Firepower, Frontline and Support, I'm weakest at playing Firepower. If I want to deal lots of damage, I die. If I want to stop dying, I deal little damage @@.

Currently the 2 Firepower characters I'm still playing with competitively are Nix and OZ.

OZ is fun to play. His distinguishing feature is his "afterimage" i.e. a clone of himself created at the last position he was at. You can only have one at a time, except during the turn after the ultimate ability is used (explained later).

His 1st ability, a Blast, (as usual, 1st one has no cooldown for all characters) is Phaser Laser. He and his afterimages shoot laser. Additional damage if shoot at same target. The default modifier increases this additional damage but I changed it because (maybe due to playstyle?) often than not I cannot shoot at the same target. So I choose the modifier Divide And Conquer: targets hit by only one laser take an additional 4 damage. This provides a more consistent amount of damage and in certain circumstances, it deals more damage than that of the default modifier.

His second ability, a Blast, is Photon Spray which enable him and his afterimages to deal damage in a cone-shaped area with additional damage if sprays overlap the same target. I stick to the default modifier which increase the energy gain per hit.

3rd ability, again a Blast, is Zap Trap which creates a damage shield around him and his afterimages. Again, extra damage if hit same target(s). Default modifier weakens enemies until end of next turn. Due to extra loadout points used for his 1st ability, I had to choose modifier with lower loadout point and so I choose the modifier that slows, instead of weakens. I seldom use this ability because it requires me to be in harm's way. Being a squishy, I prefer to keep a distance.

OZ's 4th ability is Made You Look, a Dash, which allows him to switch position with his afterimage. The default modifier adds might for that turn. It's a free action and so I can switch and blast enemies too in the same turn, with the might added on. Nice simple combo :)

His ultimate ability, also a Dash, is Catch Me If You Can, is a multistep ability: (1) choose a position to dash to, and then (2) choose 2 other positions for afterimages to travel to. Deal damage to targets along the way and, as usual, extra damage if hit same target(s). This is the only time there's more than one afterimage. The damage is quite small compared to ultimate abilities of other Firepowers but the strength of this ability (besides it being a Dash!) is what you do the next turn. You have 3 sources of damage: OZ + 2 afterimages. So choosing carefully those 3 positions in anticipation of enemies' positions is important.

Alas, although I did very well during the first 10 games (broke above ELO 1600), I did so poorly after that that I went back down below ELO 1500 @@. It is now back to 1500+. I still like playing him though.

Below are screenshots of 2 games where I contributed the most as OZ (compared to the lowest):

Atlas Reactor OZ_1

Atlas Reactor OZ_2

Atlas Reactor OZ 3

Atlas Reactor OZ 4

Yes, it was sudden death in both games @@. Close games.

Feedback & Comment at Work

I know many times when we are upset or frustrated at some colleagues and/or clients, we are tempted to use judgmental words like "careless", "incompetent", "stupid" and "weak". The list is definitely not exhaustive, both in length and in intensity of the words.

I've regularly encountered people, in my job, that rightly deserved such labels (good example is in this post) but it is generally not advisable to say that to their face. Yet, somehow I want to pass some sort of feedback to them in the hope they improve in future.

So I lay down the facts such that any one who reads it will understand the problem...and they can think up the appropriate judgmental words themselves :) One good tip: to encourage them to improve, tell them how it will benefit them too.

Likewise, if you are falsely accused of negligence, just put up a vigorous defense by laying down facts, without using judgmental words such as "unfair" and "check your facts before accusing me". With those facts laid down, assure the accuser that you are doing your best to help him/her (as evidenced by facts!).

Often than not such tactics would improve things in the future. There are, of course, some really stubborn and thick-skinned people. For those, just pray that karma works at lightning speed.

CPF, Ins, Msia, SG

I currently have CPF account in Singapore. There's money in the Special and Medisave account.

Special account can only be utilised once I reach the prevailing retirement age (currently is 62) where it will be converted into something akin to a pension with some death benefit to beneficiary. I dislike this because I do not want to leave anything behind.

Most of the money in the Medisave account (it's a little complicated) cannot withdrawn (paid to beneficiary upon death). It can be used to pay for some medical treatments and partial hospitalisation bill. More importantly, it can be used to buy medical insurance. However, such medical insurance is only meant for Singapore citizens and PRs, and foreigners who lose their PRs but still have employment passes (EPs).

I have such medical insurance. Since it's Singapore based, it'll pay overseas hospitalisation bill only for emergency cases, which I did so when I was hospitalised for dengue fever.

Currently these accounts are earning 5% interest rate, way above the statutory minimum of 2.5%. There's no guarantee that the excess interest will continue in the future.

I'm likely to lose my PR this year and so technically (at least according to my adviser) my medical insurance coverage should cease. However, the insurance company is currently continuing coverage despite me not being a PR or an EP holder. There's no guarantee this will continue in the future though.

So I'm thinking of the following alternatives:

(1) Continue with the current arrangement. Hospitalised locally only for emergency cases. For other cases, consider going to Singapore's hospital. 

Then at age 62 (or later), I will need to consider whether to close CPF accounts (if there are still no changes to how the pension work and non-withdrawal rule of Medisave account). If I do, I'm not sure whether I'll still have the medical insurance coverage or not. There's also the risk that the insurance company may discontinue coverage even before this, although I doubt they'll do this because they usually grandfather such decision, rather than making it retrospectively.

(2) Get a local medical insurance. Close CPF account so that I can invest the money in income-generating products (dividend paying shares, renting out property, FD) to pay for the cost and more.

Downside is (if it's still the requirement by Singapore government) that I will need to undertake that I am not going back to Singapore again in future. Also, return on investments is not guaranteed whereas the interest on CPF has a minimum of 2.5% p.a..

In addition, I vaguely recall that local medical insurance is more expensive for the similar benefits.

Option (2) is more clear-cut with the key downside is that I can never go back to Singapore. Option (1) is dicey because of possibility of losing medical insurance when I need it the most (i.e. when I'm much older).

I have to think this through carefully.


There are some new rules. The one that is applicable to me is:

" Withdrawal of CPF by Malaysians residing in West Malaysia

Who is eligible?

You can withdraw your CPF in full if you meet all the following conditions:

i.   You are a Malaysian Citizen and have left Singapore permanently to reside in West Malaysia.
ii.  You do not hold a valid Singapore Work Permit/Employment Pass and have renounced your Singapore Permanent Residency (if applicable).
iii. You are either:
     a. 55 years old and above; or
     b. Below 55 years old but above 50 years old and have not worked in Singapore in the last two years before your application; or
     c. Physically or mentally incapacitated from ever continuing any employment or is found to be of unsound mind. "

Or I just move to East Malaysia or another country and option (2) will still be valid @@.

Overwatch: Bastion

Bastion is a newbie favourite and, yes, it was my favourite too when I was at lower levels. He has the highest DPS among all heroes and, on the surface, quite easy to use: find a nice spot and shoot all enemies that come into side.

However, as pointed out by youtubers, players do learn how to deal with him later and his popularity drops as you level up. He is rarely picked for competitive plays. So until players learn that, he will remain a viable pick.

As for me, I use him only as a surprise factor i.e. last minute pick for defense and so catch enemies off guard. Works quite well for the last defense point or the final destination of payload. The key to playing him, as with many other heroes, is to reposition regularly so to scuttle enemies' plan to counter him.

Bastion has 3 modes. His default mode is a recon mode i.e. a robot. He then can reconfigure himself into sentry mode i.e. a turret-like structure that does rapid fire. Pretty much like a machine gun. Devastating and a favourite mode among players. In fact, some may view it even more powerful than his 3rd mode: the tank mode, which is his ultimate ability. For a short time, it'll fire cannons that do immense area-effect damage and adds more armor during this 8secs.

He also has a healing ability. So useful.

The last video shows how I unlocked the achievement "Charge!": kill 4 enemies with a single use of Bastion's Configuration: Tank in quick or competitive play :)

Torture chamber?

One of the reasons I make a point to go to gym 2 or 3 times a week (I could swim or practise yoga at home) is to accompany Ban and his brother. Ok, actually it's to organise an exercise outing for them because otherwise they don't.

So one day, as usual, before we head out to gym, I asked Ban to call his brother.

Ban: Time to go to gym
Bro: I don't feel like going but I guess no choice
Ban: Me neither

What?? Lol *smack* *smack*

I dreamed that I dreamed

Spoiler alert for those who have not watched beyond episode 431 of Naruto Shippuden.

Madara cast the spell Infinite Teppanyaki Tsukoyomi and put most of the shinobis in a dream-like state. Most of the dreams were quite simple and each lasted at most 2 episodes but the one by Tsunade, oh boy, could fill an entire anime's season.

After having watched the entire dream sequence, this was what happened (each open square bracket indicates an "inception"):

In reality, Tsunade was dreaming about

[Her having fallen asleep at a desk and dreaming about

          [Her reading Jiraya's novel that wrote about

                    [The Child of Prophecy.

The last one occupied most of the episodes with the first one reflected in only about half an episode where she was woken up by Dan (her lover who in reality was dead long time ago).

Although a little cheesy and an obvious money-grabber/delay tactic, this particular mini-arc was quite nice because many beloved characters were alive. I can imagine Tsunade willingly live in this dream.

The next arc is about Itachi's childhood. I've watched the first two episodes. Seems promising.

Overwatch: Mercy

Besides Reinhardt, Mercy was the other character that I watched videos for guides, tips and gameplays before trying her out in the Open Beta.

Mercy can either heal a friend or boost his damage. Only one at a time. She's usually better off doing this than change her healing staff to a blaster and shoot. However, do use the blaster if you suddenly find yourself all alone and trying to flee from an enemy. You'll never know whether you can outduel the enemy until you try. I did that a few times hehehe.

She also has an ability, with cool down, that allows her to quickly fly towards any friend within a certain range (quite a long range though). I use this frequently so as to be unpredictable in my movement, and of course to quickly go towards a friend who's in need of healing. She can hold down the Space button to slow down her descend after that if she is in the air and chooses to stay there longer.

She has a passive healing ability, which is great since she can't heal herself :)

Her ultimate ability is resurrection. She can resurrect as many friends as possible within a certain radius and within a certain time after their deaths.

This is the most resurrections I've gotten so far and done only once to date :) It unlocked the achievement "Huge Rez".

In terms of game mechanics, Mercy is easy to play in my opinion but you are constantly at the mercy of your team mates' (more so than any other character) gameplay.

Update: got another huge rez and this time it was PotG :)

Like, Don't Like

Name one thing you like to do. Then, if you are not already doing so, imagine you spending less time on other things so as to spend more time on this activity.

Next, name one thing you do not like to do, even if it is for yourself. Surely you would try your best to spend least amount of time on this, wouldn't you?

Now imagine that after having done the above, you are asked by someone to do the thing you do not like to do but this time for that person's benefit (yes, not even for your benefit). Even worse, that person assumes that all you need is time: something that you have "created" to do thing you like to do and certainly not what you dislike doing. How would you feel?

When I'm in a generous mood, I sometimes help others despite not liking what's needed to be done. In fact, once a while I go out my way to do it. However, when it occurs on a regular basis, I just have to say no, even if I feel conflicted.

It was only recently I took the time to reflect why I feel resentment in doing this and then came up with the above reasons. I should probably explain this to them the next time I decline to help.