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Jimmy Guo
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Jimmy Guo

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A BMW dealer quoted me $3,000-4,000 USD of repairs on my 2001 BMW 325i ... the range comes from uncertainty whether a 1k item was included or not.  Once I saw a 2k quote on the brake job, I knew there's no need to nickel-n-dime any further.

Yesterday, the car visited the dealership because of the Takata airbag recall.  The entire service experience was good.  Knowing how expensive dealer service is (e.g. $200/hr labor + overpriced parts compared to the same "Genuine BMW" that can be purchased from pelicanparts etc.), I must not complain, and indeed not really intending this as a complaint... just a data point :)

As I have been staring at some free time in the coming week or two, I planned the brake rotor + pads replacements and brake fluid flush DIY.  The total cost of parts + tools comes to ~$500 (from pelicanparts, OEM  or Genuine BMW parts).  This will be a 5 - 8 hour job (for me) for all 4 wheels.  So the $2,000 quote is about right if done at dealer (~2-3 hours of labor + expensive parts).

Then there's the quote about the power steering issue.  There is leak on the power steering reservoir, and dealer proposed to replace all (reservoir + hoses + "flush").  The issue is that there's no leak on the hoses or underside of the reservoir -- it must be a worn gasket (a $3 part), and I have, rather recently, replaced the hoses (and "flushed" it as part of this replacement).  This is a 1k item from dealer.  I think it would have cost me ~$150 parts + tools and 2 hours of labor to perform what the dealer proposed (instead of a $3 parts + 10 minutes of labor for the power steering reservoir gasket replacement).  So this is a very overpriced item even in dealer terms.

Last, the various "triage" labor costs (open ended items) about radiator cap deposit (due to a previous coolant tank leak that I did not bother to clean up thoroughly) or oil leak (which as I posted years ago, BMWs are famous for).  In other words, no item I did not know (or cannot easily spot).  I'd very much want to enlist some quality (but affordable) mechanic's help to triage and resolve the oil leakage.  Given multiple leakages (gasket replacements afterwards), I am now looking at possibilities that I cannot DIY fix (lifting the engine block or raising the car on subframe).  Given how expensive dealer service is (and similarly expensive BMW repair shops), I guess I will just live with it for the time being...
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On the costco-amex news, I can only say good riddance.  One less card to carry, and one card whose only purpose is to pay for Costco purchases.  I think Amex should simply go away... nobody will miss them.
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Jimmy Guo

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I ended up choosing a iPhone6 Plus 64GB over a Nexus 6, this time around.  I am keeping my iPhone5 as a backup phone (as an unlocked phone for international travel, or just in case a phablet is really that annoying).  It was a hard call till the last minute (price difference of $400 vs. $250 is not really a factor, but hardware spec and form of Nexus 6 over OS, camera, connector type, and maybe build quality of iPhone).

BTW my Nexus 7 finally got Lollipop 5.0.2 for a week or so now... it was a good upgrade IMHO, aka "worth the wait".  But the mini fiasco over the cliff-hanger wait did leave a shred of doubt over Android's commitment to older hardware.  That is a factor into my phone upgrade decision as well -- maybe I will just let Android mature a bit more to have a track record in EOL, before I seriously consider another (Google) Android device...  Yet, Lollipop does feel snappy on the old Nexus 7 -- kudos to Google Android team for finally making it happen!
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First impressions of iPhone 6 Plus (upgrade from iPhone5):
- Heavy
- LOVE the fingerprint sensor
- OK with the phablet form factor... have to use both hands when playing FreeCell, but otherwise nothing changes (still using a belt holster, albeit larger and tend to block my coin pocket or even wallet access but I consider it an added safety feature for my wallet)
- No longer need to magnify... saves eyesight at the expense of holding a brick so to say (but at least it's not like holding a tablet to take pictures / videos :)

Still have to check out the 60 FPS video which I look forward to (for sports recoding).  Otherwise will judge casual snaps as it goes (I'm a SLR snob anyway).

I wish they could have changed the home button to a sensor pad completely -- still have to press it instead of light tap.  My old iPhone5 suffered numerous drops in the first month of ownership (with dings, scratches and a loose screen that Apple do not think it's the bulging battery problem, which I tend to agree since the frame is pressed in a bit :).  Along with those damages, I've been used to the stubborn home button on the iPhone5 -- I'm afraid I can press too hard these days to displease the home button on the new iPhone6+.  But I learned to order a protective case along with the new phone order (and arrived on the same day :)...
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This is a nice page on BMW e46 common fluid leaks:
http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=882732

As much as I thought I may be done with Engine Valve Cover Gasket, Oil Filter Housing Gasket, Cooling (radiator, coolant tank, hoses, thermostat), Power Steering (hoses so far), I'm sure more will (and maybe already) leak -- oil pan gasket, oil separator, etc. etc.

And it's time to check / replace my 3.0L V6 Camry's timing belt / pulleys / tensioner / water pump... it's 188k miles already and has been the more abused car in the family...
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Now we've moved on into the rationalization phase, according to my pop-psychology understanding. ;-)

Anyway, as long as you're having fun (some of the time, at least), don't mind me... Clearly I have my own masochism issues, sigh.
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Oh great... school uses google docs for group projects, kid never saved a local copy, teacher said all she sees now is incomplete deliverable, and the entire project team is upset because apparent it was complete before (and teacher is the hardened type in terms of her trust).

Once the chores are over, I will help them out a bit... assuming it has revisions. Although, I would only use google docs as secondary / collaboration source of data. So many tidbits of wisdom about high availability and security to pass to the generation that I truly sympathize... their world is one that has very little proof that offline data can be and should be used as effectively as the online world.
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Sharing the Road http://apps.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/hdbk/shr_slow_veh.htm

There's this new traffic code as of September 2014, that cars must maintain at least 3 feet distance from a bicyclist if the bicyclist is in the lane (not in the dedicated bicycle lane I guess).  As a bicyclist I welcome this, and I have been doing this for years, to be considerate to other bicyclists when I am behind the wheel.

I wish all drivers take notice -- you won't believe how close (and fast) cars zipping by just to make it across an intersection, while I am sandwiched in between curb parked car and the automobile traffic!  I hope they use the traffic camera to ticket these ignorant inconsiderate rude half-witted animals behind the wheel :)

On the flip side, riding bicycles side by side is against the DMV code as well, so bicyclists (esp. kids making it to school in a social manner) should be considerate as well.
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Two audio issues with my Linux media PC setup:
- HDMI Audio
Linux HDMI Audio negotiation is done once at startup.  Somehow custom EDID binary to xorg.conf won't do it.  So I'm back to having to start Linux with TV and receiver on.  A setback, after making sure that it can start X11 without TV / receiver.
- Direct / pass-through of audio signal to receiver
PulseAudio is the problem.  Cannot tolerate it down- / up-mixing signals all the time (e.g. stereo signal paired with a "5.1" device ends up up-mixed to 5.1!?!?!) -- there's no "no-software" device that simply allows pass-through.  While PulseAudio provides a level of indirection and unification over underlying solutions of the Linux audio architecture, the lack of pure direct signal to the device makes it what I'd call public enemy #1 of a Linux media PC.  Fortunately, the solution is simple: don't use it.  Just configure my favorite apps (VLC and Audacious) to use ALSA directly.  I even went a step further -- uninstalled pulseaudio and rebooted, to make sure whatever plugin / library that continues to rely on it would simply fail.
Sooner or later, I'd probably be thinking about Arch Linux more seriously, with the way Linux desktop / distro is going...
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Turns out I forgot to update the EDID.bin after I replaced the receiver... now it's fully headless!

As to pulseaudio, everywhere I checked, they recommend removing it for HTPC setup.  So I'm not missing anything.

I've since looked into 'no sound' issue that occurs randomly, as well as using XBMC.  On the 'no sound' issue, I hope I've finally fixed it.  And XBMC is simply amazing!  Tried Plex way before when and was not impressed.  A few years later, now, it seems the Linux mediacenter software have matured.

Compared to the setup I had with OS X (which is OK but not great, given lack of control on things like overscan / downmix 7.1, etc.), I think I have finally arrived at the HTPC solution I envisioned 4-5 years ago.  Kudos to the Linux HTPC community (XBMC in particular) and the Arch Linux community (where you find good info).  I will post all the changes (as well as reference pages) soon...
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This is a very informative series of blog on cholesterol testing and heart disease prediction. The gist of it is that the currently wide spread use of LDL HDL content metrics are statistically irrelevant, hence are weak indicators of risk factor scoring. The author argues for adoption of measurement of LDL and HDL particle counts, or the vessel count of apoproteins, which are now known to be more directly related to artery clog formation.

http://eatingacademy.com/nutrition/the-straight-dope-on-cholesterol-part-i
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Took my car in for a routine maintenance, and as usual a very good experience. Daniel Boyd at Magnussen's was very friendly and helpful. The waiting room, wifi, coffee, all helped ... I could have stayed there forever getting my work done while my car is being serviced :)
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