My Rambling Thoughts

Legend of the Condor Heroes 2003

We finally enter wide-screen era.

42 episodes on two blu-ray discs for 45 yuan (S$8.80). What a bargain!

There are two original DVD releases. One by China publisher, two volumes of 21 episodes on seven DVD-5 each. One by Taiwan publisher, two volumes of 21 episodes on three DVD-5 each.

(Aside: 7 episodes per DVD-5 is too much.)

42 episodes on seven DVD-5 means 3 episodes/disc, so roughly 1.4 GB per episode (MPEG-2).

42 episodes on two blu-ray means 21 episodes/disc, so roughly 1.05 GB per episode (H.264).

Surprisingly, there are no interlacing artifacts. The source is PAL (25 fps), so the video is upscaled from 720x576 to 720p. Video quality is decent, but soft. For example, hair is almost all smeared out. I'm not sure if it would be any better on the original DVD.

A rough calculation puts the DVD bitrate at 4 Mbps (1.4 GB for 45 minutes). At this bitrate, a strong low-pass filter is used to remove fine details (such as hair, grass and texture) to avoid MPEG-2 block artifacts. DVD needs 7 – 8 Mbps to show what it is really capable of.


This is a mainland (China) production. One obvious change is copious use of outdoor scenery. It adds much realism to the show. Sets are bigger and don't look scaled-down and cramped. Effects are also better, so more flying around during fighting. :lol:

Guo Jing finally looks and sounds 'dumb'.

OTOH, Zhou Xun's voice is too hoarse for Huang Rong.

I believe this remake is adapted very closely from the novel. Some sequences feel condensed, though.

I like it overall, but I really dislike the cinematography. First is the use of ultra-wide angle lens. It exaggerates size-distance, so people in the foreground looks much bigger than people in the background. Second is that the cinematographer likes to shoot from low angle. Due to UWA, the lower body appears bigger than the upper body. It is disconcerting to me.

When one starts with UWA, there is tendency to show off distortion caused by UWA. But real experts use UWA in such a way you can hardly tell it is UWA, except they magically manage to get everything into the frame.

Legend of the Condor Heroes 94

For some reason, there is no blu-ray compilation of the 94-remake of Legend of the Condor Heroes. I could only find DVD editions, and boy, are there many: 2-disc, 5-disc, 6-disc (DVD-9) [22 ep], 7-disc and 12-disc sets.

How on Earth do you squeeze 35 episodes into 2 discs?

From Wiki, there is only one official DVD release by a Taiwan publisher: a 6-disc DVD-9 set comprising of 22 60-min episodes. It is supposed to be uncut, but I don't see how. The original broadcast has 35 45-min episodes.

So, I got the 12-disc set for 120 yuan (S$23.40). Each disc has three episodes and each episode is about 1.4 GB. It has only Mandarin audio track and Chinese hard-sub. I think it is recorded off cable TV. Video quality is sub-par, but it is watchable.

(From screenshots, the 7-disc set is recorded off TVB channel — the TVB logo is watermarked on the video.)

The 94-remake is often panned, especially when compared against the 83-remake. It is much shorter at 35 episodes. It sticks closer to the novel, though. (I have not read the novel, just going by later remakes. :-D)

Most people say they watch the 94-remake because of Athena Chu (朱茵). :love:

She's good, but the rest of the cast are pretty good too.

This show is good for its time, but its indoor "location" sets are its Achilles heel. They just cannot compare with real location shots of later productions.

Legend of the Condor Heroes 83 on blu-ray?

59 episodes on three blu-ray discs for 55 yuan (S$10.70). Are you kidding me?

The only legit version is three DVD box sets, each with five DVD-9, covering one arc each: Iron-Blooded Loyalists, Eastern Heretic and Western Venom and Duel on Mount Hua.

There are several versions on TaoBao, none of which fill me with confidence. The most common is a 6-disc "economical" DVD edition. How do you cramp 15 DVD-9 into 6 DVD-5? Run as far as you can from it.

Should I try this version?

59 episodes on 15 DVD-9 means 4 episodes/disc, so roughly 2 GB per episode (MPEG-2).

59 episodes on 3 (single-layer) blu-ray means 20 episodes/disc, so roughly 1.2 GB per episode (H.264).

Assuming it uses the original DVD source and is encoded properly, it would look just as good (or bad, depending on your POV).


Long story short: resolution is 720p. Video quality is VCR class — typical of analogue footage that is digitized without restoration.

The source should be DVD, because it is full of interlacing artifacts — it was not deinterlaced properly when converted from MPEG-2 to H.264. The person who did the conversion was only semi-skilled.

It is still watchable, though. Re-encoding with HandBrake with decomb helps some, but the damage was already done:

decomb: deinterlaced 212 | blended 3226 | unfiltered 71506 | total 74944

It could only detect 0.3% interlaced frames and blend another 5%.

A sample DVD to H.264 conversion:

decomb: deinterlaced 11899 | blended 8838 | unfiltered 48640 | total 69377

It detected 17.2% interlaced frames and blended another 12.7%.

If I like LOCH 83, I would buy the DVD box set and rip it myself.

This is considered a classic, but I've never watched it before. IMO, I feel the show has not aged well. Still, if it were remastered and restored on blu-ray, I may consider buying the genuine article.

The fate of all lithium-ion batteries

After struggling for 5+ years, the right speaker's battery of my Philips HTL9100/12 soundbar (first gen, not the second gen B5) finally died. The speaker's orange LED blinked when attached — it still works — and the speaker did not have power when detached.

The battery had been problematic since day one. The LED often showed orange, meaning it was charging. Philips service centre said there was no problem. The speaker worked and the battery held its charge (but not as long as the left speaker), so I left it alone. I almost never detach the two speakers anyway.

Now that it died, I opened the speaker to find a bloated battery. I called Philips service centre to get a replacement. They said to go down in person to get a quote. When I did, I received a quotation of S$200+ for the battery alone — excluding labour. That's daylight robbery!

So I turned to TaoBao. Only 85 yuan (S$16.40)! However, batteries cannot be shipped. (The only recourse is ezbuy sea shipping.) Luckily, Missus was going to China for a business trip, so I shipped to her China office.


The moral of the story?

All lithium-ion batteries will lose charge over time and die after a few years. And with that, so does the device, even though it is perfectly usable otherwise. It has happened to my notebook, mobile phone and camera.

Replacement batteries need to be reasonably priced! We really need standard-sized lithium-ion batteries. There may be stock after 5 years. But how about 10?

HDD SMART data 2019

DriveSizeDatePower On HoursPower CyclesLoad Cycles
Primary2 TB2014/417,61249771,793
data22 TB2014/41675291
Transporter (ext)1 TB2014/491790762
OfflineStore (ext)2 TB2014/42181971,834
BackupL2 (ext)3 TB2014/412669288
infplus16 TB2016/1138914118
omega26 TB2018/845622

It is time to retire the primary HDD. It is a ticking time-bomb at this point. 65,788 hours = 7.5 years.

Transporter is seldom used now that I prefer to sftp directly to my home server.

It looks like I seldom backup too... OfflineStore, BackupL2 and infplus1 are hardly touched at all.

My current plan is to use omega2 as data2 and the latter as the primary drive.

Unlike the last time I tried it, I'm not going to clone the entire disk using GParted. It took 3 days and it did not work (cos I messed up the config after cloning). And my server was down the entire time.

My strategy this time is on minimizing down-time. It should be up in half a day. :-)

Will Unicron hatch?

6,984 out of 8,000 backers with 4 days to go.

I was thinking it was not going to make it, but Hasbro added another 1,000 global affiliate orders and it shot up from 5,793 to 6,794.

As this still taken from the official transformation video shows, HasLab's Unicron hatches more so than it transforms.

The planet shells are not used in robot mode at all. It really is a shell-former. I won't be surprised if someone manages to take the shells off and, with some additions, display both at the same time.

What about Core Star?

Hasbro was not happy with ZetaToys at all. It took down the offical Core Star transformation videos on YouTube and, in a rare move, told e-tailers not to carry it. ZetaToys felt the heat and removed all their Core Star postings on their Weibo page. We won't hear from them until Oct 7.

The Chaos Bringer

HasLab extended their Unicron campaign until Oct 6. It is clear they could not reach 8,000 by 31 Aug and they really want it to be made. They have invested too much time and money to give up.

Zeta Toys originally planned to unveiled their version on 1st Sep (after the HasLab campaign ended), but brought it forward two days due to "change in circumstances":

(These images are brightened up.)

18" in bot mode. MSRP 1,500元 (US$210). Shipping Dec 2019.

No partsforming and no kibble.

Will this cause people to cancel their HasLab order? I doubt so. But should the campaign fail — it might — this will undoubtedly be blamed.

The Definitive Optimus Prime?

To be released on 31st Aug 2019.

MP-44 Optimus Prime v3, ¥54,000 / US$450 MSRP

This is the third version. The first two are MP-01 (2003) and MP-10 (2011).

Picture perfect from this angle, but he carries a gi-normous backpack. His truck mode is also very panel-ly.

It was originally priced at ¥50,000. With 30% preorder discount, it costed ¥35,000 (US$331 now, but it used to be ~US$315 due to better exchange rate).

Sad to say, MP-44 is soundly beaten by two other contenders.


Released in Nov 2018.

Magic Square MS-01 Light of Freedom, 590元 / US$135 MSRP

Pretty solid in bot mode, but the rear section is way too thick in alt-mode.


Released in Dec 2018.

Transform Element TE-01 OP, 590元 / US$135 MSRP

Very clean in both modes, so much so that it is not obvious it transforms! Only complaint is lack of ab-crunch.

This is easily the figure of the year.

MS-01 and TE-01 are cab-only, MP-44 comes with the trailer and a whole bunch of accessories. Still, there is a big gap between US$135 and US$450.

The Ultimate Unicron

27" tall in bot mode, 19 pounds, US$575.

4,786 out of 8,000 backers, with 5 days to go.

This includes numbers (1,500) from Hasbro affiliates such as TakaraTomy, Hasbro China, Hasbro Asia, but not other independent retailers (number unknown).

I did not back this. It is too big, is too greebly and is a shell-former. And there is too much kibble on the legs.

Zeta Toys teased parts of their long-in-development Unicron in late July and promised to revealed it on 10th August, but they backed out of it and went radio silent. IMO, they made the right decision — no point stirring the hornet's nest now.

No one knew how big nor expensive it would be. It is widely speculated to be 20 – 22".

Endgame, Lepin

On 23rd April, Shanghai police took action against the Lepin entity. They raided 3 warehouses, destroyed 10 assembly lines, 90 molds, nearly 200,000 instruction booklets, 200,000 boxes and 630,000 sets, total worth 200 million yuan (US$29.7mil). 4 people were arrested, including the company owner. O_O

Wow, I did not expect Lepin to be such a large-scale operation. If US$30mil is calculated using Lego prices, then the actual amount involved may be only US$3mil. (Which then seems too little considering the scale.) 90 molds seem kind of little. (Mold is very important. It is expensive and hard to produce.)

This is the direct impact from the ruling last October. Lego won, but that was specifically for 18 sets, so many people did not think much of it. However, in that judgement, the court ruled that Lepin's logo was too close, and that the finished model qualifies for Copyright protection. No more 'bunch of bricks that happen to assemble the same model' argument.

It seems Lepin was unrepentant.

The news came out on 26th April. Since then, most (if not all) sellers have pulled Lepin and other KO bricks off their shops.

This is the end of Lepin as we know it. RIP, Lepin, 2015 – Apr 2019.

KO sets will continue to exist. It is a lucrative market. Just look at Lepin vs the other legitimate brick makers. Lepin is better known (notorious) by far. However, they must be smarter about it. No more blatant copying and reproduction of box art.

The bricks themselves are legal (mostly, some are still patented). It should be possible to sell sets of bricks to build any particular model. The question is, can the instructions be sold? How to message this to retail customers?

The Police responds!

News: NUS voyeur given conditional warning as he was 'assessed to have high likelihood of rehabilitation'

Date: 23 Apr 2019. Source: CNA.

The 23-year-old male National University of Singapore undergraduate who committed criminal trespass and insulted the modesty of a female student at the same school last year was given a conditional warning after being assessed to have a high likelihood of rehabilitation and was remorseful, said the Singapore police in a statement on Tuesday (Apr 23).

The statement has been reproduced in full below:

There have been public discussions regarding the 12-month conditional warning given to a 23-year-old male National University of Singapore (NUS) undergraduate who had committed criminal trespass and insulted the modesty of a female undergraduate at the NUS.

Three things struck me about the statement.

First, it can be inferred that the man turned himself in. Although not stated here, he confessed to the crime and apologized to the victim almost immediately — before he was identified and caught. This may be why the Police considers him remorseful. (It is not as if the Police took him at his word!)

Second, the man has no obscene materials in any of his devices. So the Police do search after all. However, I'm wondering why is this a consideration at all? And then this does not jibe with his explanation to the victim that he was influenced by frequent viewing of voyeuristic pornographic videos. Oops! :-O

(I'm old-fashioned. It's all streaming now.)

Third, the Police stated that a prosecution will likely ruin his entire future, since he would have a permanent criminal record. This is the harsh truth. There exists a gap between a warning (deemed too light by the public) and the lightest sentence (too heavy).

People are no doubt surprised the Police considered his future. Is he special or what? The Police did not explain, but this is a privilege for students — people who have not stepped into the working world. They lack world experience and are still deemed minors.

Well done, Monica, you have made both NUS and SPF respond! I doubt she is happy though. She wants Nicholas to be punished.

The M & N case

The lives of two people changed forever at 1:20am, 25th Nov 2018. But it would come to light only almost four months later. Unsatisfied with the outcome, Monica Baey posted her ordeal online on 19th April 2019:

"I want real consequences for perpetrators that commit such acts and I want to know that NUS will reprimand them seriously so other potential perpetrators know they will face punishment if they commit (such acts)," she wrote in a story on Friday.

The perpetrator was given 12-month conditional warning by the police. In addition, the NUSSU Exco (a student body) meted out: official letter of reprimand, one semester's suspension, barred from hostels, mandatory counselling, rehabilitation and reconciliation, 30-hours of community service and writing a letter of apology.

Naturally, netizens went wild at the light sentencing. What happened to the usual tough sentencing for such cases. Many people thought he went "scot-free". Was it because of his supposedly powerful family?

(It transpired a few days later that his father was a taxi driver and his mother a housewife.)

Here's what I think.

First, even though it is traumatic for Monica, the police has to play it safe. Was it a moment folly or not? You cannot really be sure. Any charge would be very serious. But a second offence? No doubt. (I believe the police would search for evidence of prior offences to his first caught offence.)

Second, NUS takes cue from the police. The student would be expelled for a serious offence. How else can you punish a student? You can only suspend him.

It is all too easy to call for blood.

IMO, the sentence is not without consequence. "Conditional warning" means the police has decided to give you a second chance. It is up to you to cherish it, or not. There is only one such chance in life (I think). Suspension is in effect a fine and disruption — your courses are now all out-of-sync. And there is this pesky notion about rehabilitation.

During his term of suspension, Nicholas found work as an insurance agent. Not anymore:

"We are aware of the recent incident involving Nicholas Lim, a Great Eastern financial representative," the insurance firm said on Monday (April 22).

"He has been placed on immediate suspension and has since submitted his resignation. Great Eastern strongly disapproves of any inappropriate misconduct by our financial representatives and will not hesitate to take the necessary action."

No doubt, this is the real consequence that Monica seeks. Good news, Monica, you can do it again and again. Organizations will not hesitate to drop him like a hot potato at first sign of trouble.

Like I always say, this is a good time for Nicholas to learn who his true friends are. :-D

No doubt due to the outroar, NUS was forced to reveal its "second strike and you are out" policy for sexual misconduct cases. Obviously NUS does not want to publicize this, but this can be inferred from past incidents.

The Education Minister has commented:

From here on, for offences that affect the safety of students on campus, we have to take a tough stand, and send a strong signal to everyone. Two strikes and you are out cannot be the standard application. NUS has to make its campus safe for all students, especially female students.

So, good job, guys. No more leniency.


In his apology letter, Nicholas said he was under the influence of alcohol. He should be barred from alcoholic drinks for ten years, since he obviously can't handle it.

One thing I'm pretty sure would happen is that hostels will be "locked down". Note that both of them were not supposed to be there that night. Beware of the law of unintended consequences.

An Expensive Friday

Season w/ express$208
Child S w/ E$198

$661.12. Good or not, I don't know, but it sure is expensive.

Upgrading to Ubuntu 18.04

Finally, one year later?

There is no standalone 32-bit installer for 18.04, but Canonical allows 32-bit 16.04 to be upgraded to 32-bit 18.04. Hopefully they find a way to upgrade to 64-bit 20.04 seamlessly. (But I may not need this anymore, read on.)

The sudden switch to 64-bit for all major Linux distros caught me by surprise. I thought the transition would take years. I'm also surprised there aren't any breakages. int remains as 32-bit, but long is now 64-bit. My very old code would break, because I used to cast void * (now 64-bit) to int. Later I do the reverse, but even that is not truly portable. It is time to acquaint with size_t, intptr_t and ptrdiff_t.

But I digress.

It is really easy to press ctrl-c when upgrading the packages. Do not panic. Kill dpkg and re-run it:

sudo dpkg --configure -a

The installation was pretty seamless, with just a few config file conflicts (as usual). Except, after it was done, the GUI did not come up. And the kernel crashed after several minutes.

After several hours, I found that the system worked if I entered Recovery mode first, then resumed normal boot. Hmm... could it be related to graphics acceleration?

I added nomodeset to kernel boot command line and it sort of worked. It booted up fine, but there was no local display. (It worked fine in Recovery mode.)

So, the system is limping along now, but I think it is due for a fresh install. It managed to upgrade from 10.04 -> 12.04 -> 14.04 -> 16.04 -> 18.04 (barely). It is time to go 64-bit. :lol: