Mazda 3 2.0R Sedan

2014 was a really good year for me. I guess it was a pay-off of my generosity for 2013, and damn it came back way more than ten folds. A sudden windfall happened and it changed my life! My priority back then was to find a better, bigger space to rent. After transferring to my new apartment, the idea of getting was the next thing boggling my mind.

Quest for a car!

Initial budget was sub-P1M. I was already okay with Hyundai Elantra but I was met with heavy opposition from my parents as they don’t trust Korean cars that much yet. My dad and my younger brother asked me to check out Mazda 3 and it had me at love at first sight (via Google Images). I got excited with the HUD and infotainment system, which I’ll discuss later.

There was a slight problem though, the variant that I wanted was pricier than my budget. Their 2.0R sedan variant costs P1,195,000.00. I tried justifying the price for its awesomeness until I convinced myself it was the perfect car for me without even seeing one in person! I immediately searched for the nearest Mazda dealership and got in touch with a Sales Advisor (contact details below). I paid for the refundable reservation fee (which will be deducted in the car’s total price or the other fees) the same day.

Sales Advisor

LJ Santos
Sales Advisor at Mazda Quezon Avenue
0915 583 5274

Since that day, I received constant follow-ups from the SA I got hold on to. He invited me for a test-drive but I was hesitant to do one since I don’t have confidence in my driving skills yet. No one wants to damage a test vehicle! Tried calling different driving schools but found their prices too steep so I decided to ask a friend to teach me how to drive.

I also started calling different banks to apply for a bank loan. Out of all the banks I tried applying to, only Unionbank approved my loan request since I had prior banking relationship with them.

It was time to get my new car. All documents were ready but the weather wasn’t too cooperative. I decided to have my unit released after the upcoming storm. By July 17, I finally went to the dealership to pickup my car.

There were butterflies in my tummy while signing the paperwork at the dealership. I was just signatures away from getting my first car and it felt surreal. By the time I was done, the keys were handed to me by my service advisor and asked me for a ceremonial photo-op of the turnover.

Turnover of Mazda 3 2.0R Sedan

First drive, impressions, etc

I bought my friend who taught me how to drive when I picked up my car. I honestly didn’t know how to ignite the engines that time since it had keyless ignition. I was told to depress the brake pedal while pushing the ignition switch. The Mazda 3 2014 roars quite loud when starting the engine cold. I later learned that it was designed that way to warm the engine faster. It revs up to about 2,000rpm for less than 30 seconds, then revs down back to normal.

My first observation was that braking was a lot more sensitive than I expected since it has a linear pedal response. I eventually learned how to play with the brake pedal to have a smooth brake.

With auto-headlights and rain-sensing wiper, it was a good beginner car. I didn’t have to mind switching on the headlights when it’s dark as it turns on by itself. Same is true with the wipers! It also has a walk-away autolock feature where it locks itself when the you move away from the car.

The sunroof was a welcome addition. Aside from the sunroof, the 18″ rims was what set aside the 1.5L variant to the 2.0L (engine). I loved the way things were so up to now everything is still stock.

Mazda 3 2.0R Sedan

My first long drive

I always drove with a companion for almost two days. I tried doing a solo drive on my second night. This was the time I decided I’m confident enough to do a long-distance drive.

On the third day, I decided to drive to Republic Wake Park in Canlubang, Laguna. I had the chance to play with it on the expressway. Upon reaching Republic, I learned that their still cleaning up their lakes due to the recent typhoon so I decided to go to Lago de Oro in Calatagan, Batangas instead. With its powerful Skyactiv engine, zooming to 100km/h was effortless. I tried to push it much further and enjoyed the responsiveness of the engine and the steering. That time, I almost forgot that I was a n00b driver a week earlier.

Mazda 3 2.0R Sedan Fuel Efficiency

The car and my lifestyle

I’m a laid-back guy with a completely remote work. I don’t have an office to go to daily so I basically just use the car whenever I have nightouts, when I just feel like driving or when going out of town for wakeboarding. I registered my first 1,000km in just a little more than two weeks.

Mazda 3 2.0R Sedan and my wake gear

The trunk of this car was a lot more generous than I thought. I can load two (2) wakeboards, a wakeskate and our other wakeboard stuff. On a full load (four passengers and a driver), there’s a slight degradation in performance but it has never been an issue for me!

My friends tell me that I’m trigger happy. I love revving up the engine when the road’s clear and safe. I take the car’s top speed more as a challenge and not just another data. So far, my fastest I’ve zoomed is 180km/h out of the top speed 212km/h.

i-Stop and i-Eloop

For a P1.2M car, it was technologically advanced. It had the i-Stop and i-Eloop technologies – basically buzzwords to describe the generative braking technology. When the braking either by pedal or engine braking, the lost mechanical energy is charged to a capacitor. The charge in the capacitor is then used to power stuff such as headlights, the infotainment system and the other car electronics. It helps boost fuel efficiency since those auxilliary electronic components doesn’t need to suck power all the time from the engine.

i-Stop, in a nutshell, turns off the engine when coming to a halt on a flat surface with the steering wheel aligned to the center. It is really helpful especially in Metro Manila traffic – no need to burn fuel while waiting for the stoplights to go green. Engine start-up after releasing the brakes is amazingly fast that in most cases you won’t notice it!

Fuel efficiency

Engineers at Mazda worked hard in bring the SkyActiv technology to Mazda 3. They made it lighter than its predecessor and reworked on the shape to minimize air drag. On a long drive, I easily get 6-8L/100 km (12.5km/L to 16.7km/L). In a downhill drive from Tagaytay to Sta Rosa, I once got a fuel efficieny of more than 25km/L!

I average a 6L/100km or 16.7km/L fuel efficiency on weekday night drives (8pm) from Katipunan Avenue to EDSA-Ayala (via Boni Serrano then EDSA). For medium traffic, I average 8-10L/100km (10-11km/L). On really horrible traffic, I get horrible fuel efficiency for this beast as well. I’ve tried traversing C5 on a really bad night and got as low as 25L/100km or 4km/L!

Beast mode!

Infotainment System and the HUD

Honestly, the main reason I chose this car was the HUD or the heads-up display. I was thrilled by the idea of having a HUD while driving. It has always been my dream to be a pilot and having a HUD in the dash makes me feel like flying a jet fighter.

With the HUD, the speed is overlayed in front of you so there’s no need to look down on your dash. This is helpful especially when driving in places with speed limits such as Commonwealth Avenue.

The infotainment system is also superb. I have compared it to the one in the new Honda City. The user interface for the Mazda 3 is way better than the one in Honda City.

Music can be played via Bluetooth or the built-in two USB ports. So far, I’ve tried pairing several phones (Android, iOS and Blackberry phones) and they paired flawlessly. It also has an excellent integration with iPods, you can scroll through your albums, songs, and playlists via the infotainment system.

For communications, you can place and receive calls easily. Answer and hangup buttons are strategically located on the steering wheel. You can also receive and let the car read incoming text messages. You can save predefined messages in the car as well so that you can easily reply to SMS. It doesn’t allow you to type messages while typing for some obvious reasons.

The infotainment system also has an app called Warning Guidance. It helps you determine what those warning lights in the dash mean. It also has a Maintenance app where you can ask it to remind you when you’re due for maintenance! You can also configure other car settings via the infotainment system. User interface is basically straight-forward so it’s really easy to find your way to what you’re looking.

The only thing I hate about the infotainment system is the lack of Navigation SD for the Philippines. There’s actually a compatible Navigation SD for the Philippines but it’s way outdated so they decided not to sell it. From what I’ve heard, they’re still looking for other map providers that has a more up-to-date data.

Final words

It is undeniably my best purchase of 2014! I can’t compare it much with other cars since this is my first car. There’s a sense of exclusivity in owning this car since it’s not that mainstream!

Since it’s almost a complete redesign from its predecessor, teething issues are expected. Sometimes I hear creaking sounds when driving by humps when it’s raining, but I heard it can be easily fixed by generously greasing the struts.

I can’t wait to attend my first meetup with my fellow Mazda 3 Skyactiv owners so that I can compare the difference of my unit to theirs – if things are going normally on mine or not.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.

Ever since I started in my job at Scrapinghub, I realized that I stopped doing side projects – projects that I love to do on my free time. One of the main reasons I haven’t been doing them is poor time management. I get guilty doing side projects without completing my required number of hours at work.

Since the start of this week, my ex-Bright officemates who are now my colleagues at Scrapinghub started going to a co-working space near us. I noticed that I’ve been far more productive ever since thus eliminating the guilt to do side projects.

I’m still interested in doing the stuff I used to do before, such as maintaining UP student number databases for my personal consumption. My new interests include archiving or weather data via Project NOAH, archiving traffic data from MMDA and getting all sorts of potentially useful data. I’m interested in making analyses from those data and find interesting patterns from them.

Good luck to me and my new endeavor!

I must admit that HTC smartphones are aesthetically-pleasing. The build quality is at par or better with the iPhone and obviously no match to the flagship phones of Samsung which looks pretty much the same and has the plastic feel. But before buying an HTC device, you might want to consider their poor aftersales support.

TL;DR timeline

  • March 2014: phone conked out
  • April 10: sent phone to WSI PhoneCare and was given estimate that my phone should be ready in one (1) to two (2) months.
  • May 2014: called service center. Most calls left unanswered. Was given an estimate that my phone should be ready by June.
  • June 10: called them. Phone still waiting for parts. Expecting shipment of parts by July.

Last April 10, 2014, I sent my HTC One (the first iteration) to WSI Phonecare (contact details) for repair. My HTC One, out of the blue, just won’t turn on despite having 40-60% battery. I tried charging it for hours using two different chargers, the bundled charger and my friend’s HTC One charger. After they assessed my phone, I was told that they don’t keep parts so they still need to be backordered. I was given an estimate that my phone will be released within one (1) to two (2) months.

After the first month, I tried calling them to ask for follow-ups. Most of the time, my calls were left unanswered. I was fortunate to contact them once May and was given an estimate that my phone should be ready by June.

Earlier, I called them again to ask for another follow-up. I was told my phone is still awaiting for parts and that they are expecting a shipment this July. I asked if lend out service phones but I am yet to get a feedback from them.

This frustrated me so I decided to call HTC Philippines (contact number) to report my case. The agent I talked to (I was not sure if it was Grace or Kris, employee number: PH000089) was nice and courteous but I realized she’s not in the perfect position to resolve my issue so I asked her to transfer me to her supervisor. Unfortunately, her supervisor wasn’t available that time and was offered a callback within the day.

I am not sure if HTC Philippines is aware of the situation of their service center or not – if they are aware that their partner service center don’t stock parts. During the time I sent it, the new HTC One still wasn’t released in the Philippines yet. My phone, the older HTC One, was still their flagship phone so it makes no sense not to stock parts of a flagship phone. Moreover, lending a service phone during the repair process should be a standard. It’s such a huge inconvenience to have no smartphone to use.

I’m not convincing you not to buy a HTC smartphone. In fact, they’re the best phones I owned (except for the subpar camera compared to other manufacturer’s flagship phones). It’s up to you if you want to play safe and avoid them (to avoid the headache of their aftersales support) or enjoy their wonderful phones and hope it won’t suffer the same fate as mine.

Contact Details

HTC Philippines
PLDT Toll-free: 180014410789
Globe Toll-free: 180089086588
Business Hours: 9am to 9pm Mondays to Saturdays, 9am to 6pm on Sundays

WSI PhoneCare, Inc (service center)
8th Floor Don Pablo Building
114 Amorsolo St, Legazpi Village
Makati
Phone: (02) 4038951

Drop-off Points

Quezon City
UG Floor of Ali Mall
Araneta Center, Cubao
Quezon City
Open from Mondays to Sundays, 10am to 9pm

Makati City
UG of WSI Corporate Bldg
Kakarong St Metropolitan Ave
Makati City
Open from Mondays to Fridays, 8am to 5pm

Batangas City
2F Robinson Lipa
Lipa, Batangas City
Open from Mondays to Sundays, 10am to 8pm

Cebu City
Door C
345 M. J. Cuenco Ave cor L. Tudtud St.
Mabolo, Cebu City
Open from Mondays to Fridays, 8:30am to 5pm

Davao City
Unit 11 Plug Holdings Bldg.
141 R. Castillo St.
Agdao, Davao City
Open from Mondays to Saturdays, 9am to 6pm

HTC One

I have been an HTC fan ever since. I’ve had the first commercial Android phone released to the public, an HTC G1. I tried to get myself a Google Nexus One before but it was too much of a hassle so I got myself it’s twin, the HTC Desire, instead. My latest HTC phone was the HTC One.

I bought my HTC One last December when my phone that time died on me. As usual, I was very satisfied with the phone except for its disappointing camera. It did the job for me for my day-to-day tasks. It was the phone I brought with me to the US, good thing I bought an unlocked version. I used it to snap photos of my trip so most of my photos were there since I did not bring any camera with me.

A few weeks after I came back to the Philippines, my One just died on me. I just left it on my table at work with around 40-60% battery then realized it won’t power on anymore when I came back. I read stuff on the Internet on how to fix the problem. I tried charging it overnight, pressing a combination of buttons for more than 10 seconds and flashing a bright light on the proximity sensor, and other things that worked for others but didn’t work for me.

It was the cue that I had to bring it to the service center. I tried to go to one of their service centers in Ali Mall. I was told that they’re gonna wipe all my phone’s contents so I decided not to leave it there yet. I tried to revive the phone on my own but to no avail until finally on the 10th of April I decided to bring it in WSI PhoneCare in Makati.

I was told that they’ll be wiping my phone’s contents and it would take them one (1) to two (2) months to service my phone since the parts still need to be shipped here in the Philippines. It was disappointing since they don’t stock parts here even for their flagship phone. I was left with little to no choice so I eventually agreed. For me, it meant ‘goodbye photos taken in the US’ and no smartphone for up to two months.

Since the first month of my phone in the service center, I’ve been trying to reach them on their hotline 4038951. I’ve been calling them for an entire week already but no one’s answering their phones. I’m stuck with the interactive voice response (IVR) system and getting on-hold indefinitely waiting for a human to talk to me.

I read similar feedback from other customers on HTC Philippines’ Facebook page. There were even cases when their phone has been with the service center for four months already and can’t get an update from WSI PhoneCare. Others were fortunate enough to talk to a human being to get an update on their devices, only to be told that their devices are still waiting for parts even though it’s past the two months that was promised. 🙁

I really like the design and build quality of HTC phones, but I hope they improve their aftersales support here in the Philippines.

If you can handle the stress of poor aftersales support, then I’d definitely recommend getting an HTC smartphone. If not, consider other phones such as Sony, Motorola or LG. I’m never a fan of Samsung’s boring design.

MRT3 website

MRT3 has been all over the news lately, from the long queues, not enough trains to accommodate the riding public, the extortion scandal exposed by a diplomat – among others. Unfortunately, most, if not all of them are bad news.

That’s what made me think on what app to build to help the riding public. I tried to brainstorm. First thing to do was to do an inventory of data available to me. Unfortunately, it’s next to none. The only thing that I found was the CCTV live footage from the stations.

I pondered on what information I can extract from the footages until I had this idea of getting frames every certain number of seconds, compare them with a relatively empty platform and use that to get the relative number of people in the station. I started researching what tools to use then tried to extract the frames from the website.

As I was trying to study the HTTP requests to get the frames, I found something unusual in the responses.

HTTP Headers of MRT website

As you can see, the ‘hackers’ intentionally left trails in the headers. (X-Powered-By: hampaslupa, X-Powered-By: AnonymousPhilippines, MyHeader: -= busabos =-, MyHeader: hampaslupa) I’m not sure if these headers were set on the webserver level (in this case, Apache) or via PHP. It also seems that their website doesn’t use any CMS at all. I just wonder if MRT is aware of this or not. 😛

P.S. I did not push through with my endeavor. Can’t seem to get a continuous stream of images, times out from time to time. 🙁

Boeing 747

Since Philippine Airlines is now retiring their Boeing 747s after the Philippines got upgraded back to Category 1 (FAA), I’m doing a flight review with my first and maybe only flight with their 747.

My super awesome bosses at my previous job flew me to our office in  San Francisco last February. The US Visa I had was the first thing that devirginized my passport, then the next one was the departure stamp at NAIA.

As usual, PAL’s San Francisco to Manila flight  was a night flight. I arrived at the airport a little bit earlier than usual since I didn’t want to run into any trouble since it was my first time to fly outside the country.

When I arrived at the airport, I immediately went to the direction of Mabuhay Class check-in counters. One of their friendly staff extended a hand and asked where I’m flying to and I told her San Francisco. She guided me to the check-in counter but I told her I’ll be checking in in the business counter.

Since I was there early, I spent a long time at the Mabuhay Lounge.  I  filled my stomach with some arroz caldo and other stuff at the Mabuhay Lounge since I did not have anything prior to going to the airport. Also tried a handful of stuff, a can of soda and beer for myself since we didn’t start boarding on-time. 

The restroom at the Mabuhay Lounge was nice as well. I had an intimate interaction with the place since the stuff I had did not mix well on my stomach.

Then time for boarding the plane. There was a long queue for the security checks at the gate, then another queue for actually boarding the aircraft. Good thing Mabuhay Class passengers and those with elite frequent flier status had a special lane.

I was seated on the upper deck, 14A. Behind me was the emergency exit. I was welcomed with a welcome drink, and was asked what I wanted for dinner. We were supposed to depart by 10:30pm but for some reason I can’t remember we weren’t pushed back until about 11:15am. I just wanted to sleep by that time but didn’t want to do it until we finally take off – which happened past 11:30pm. As usual, the roar of the engines were orgasmic but not in an NSFW sense.

When we were up in the air, I decided to play with my J seat – trying the different configurations and finding the most comfortable one. It was a nice seat. The only trivial issue I have is that the other controls were hidden under the armrests (where you stow the meal table). I slept but not for long since they started serving our dinner right about that time.

It was my first time to have a ‘real’ in-flight meal that’s why I can’t compare it to others. Personally, it was good – especially the dessert! I love the chocolates that they serve – plus the ice cream!

After dinner, I tried to play a bit with the IFE. Tried to watch Gravity but the copy wasn’t so good. Made me think it was a “CAMRIP” but my brain refused to agree with my gut feel. The selection of movies weren’t that great, especially the music library. The only Filipino pop album was DJP by Daniel Padilla so nevermind. I also had this issue with their so-called in-flight radio. If you switch channels and go back to the previous one (usually the case when you start hearing a song that you don’t like and decide to go back), you have to start all over the same song. I almost memorized Yeng Constantino’s Josephine that time since I kept switching back to Filipino Pop.

I just decided to tune to the real-time flight map and stats. I eventually got tired and slept again. The longest sleep I got was two hours at a time then I would wake up and try to do something else. 12 hours seemed like forever. In the middle of the flight, I got myself some arroz caldo!

Around an hour and a half before landing, I woke up again. Others were already eating their breakfast. One of the cabin crew asked what I wanted for breakfast. While waiting for my food, I filled out the customs declaration form. I got myself some Beef Tapa – and it was good! As usual, it was the dessert that I enjoyed the most.

The last hour of the flight was one of the longest hours in my life. Maybe because I’ve been counting down since we left, or maybe I’m just too excited for San Francisco. There were a lot of thoughts in my mind. It was such an exciting experience since it will be my first time in America, and first time outside the country.

When we were on our final approach, I locked my eyes on the window. I was expecting lots of tall of buildings, but I was partly disappointed. The landing was smooth enough that I only noticed that we were only on the ground when the nose gears touched the ground.

I wanted to visit the cockpit but I was hesitant partly due to fear of rejection. I’m also not sure if there’s an FAA regulation prohibiting civilians to enter the cockpit while docked in the gate.

Upon leaving the aircraft, it was cold but not as cold as I imagined. Proceeded to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) where I was greeted by a long queue. Apparently, Korean Air and China Southern Airlines landed just a few minutes ahead of us.

I tried to connect to the airport’s free wifi and it was blazing fast! I broadcast-ed to the world that I’m in San Francisco via a Foursquare check-in!

After about an hour, it was my turn. I was asked a few questions, had my hand and finger prints and a photo. I was asked to go to a room on on one end of the CBP. There weren’t any instructions on what to do inside the room so I just asked a fellow passenger there. She told me to just put my passport on the trays in front of the immigration officers.

Based on signages inside, I realized that I was up for additional screening (Secondary). I saw some people being called and led to a room. Saw two different instances when someone got out of the room crying, maybe to be deported back to the home country.

At the secondary, I met another Filipino a little bit older than my age. We had a short chat and I discovered that he’s working in the Bay Area on an H1B visa. He also pursued his college degree there on a work visa. That time I realized I did not have to fear much since even someone who keeps going in and out of US gets selected for secondary screening, too.

My name was called, headed to the officer in front. He told me that I’m cleared and I can now get my baggage and leave! Was quick to spot my baggage since almost everyone else got theirs already.

Met with Nick, my boss that time (and one of the best bosses out there). We headed out to the parking area of the terminal. The moment I stepped outside of the terminal itself, the cold breeze caught me in surprise! That’s when I realized the entire airport terminal’s heater was turned on the entire time!

I immediately asked Nick “Does it get colder than this?” and to my relief he told me “That’s about it” and explained to me that it’s been really cold recently. It was 46F (8C) when I arrived there.

Overall, it was a good flight!

Sample summary

I’m mostly a PHP guy, I admit it. But for the past few months, I’ve been diving into Python – mainly since I need to use it at work. Fortunately, Python isn’t the hardest language to learn.

AlternaTeaser is one of my attempts to be familiar for using Python for web. Basically, it’s a rip-off of TextTeaser – an article summarization awesomeness by Jolo, a former colleague of mine.

AlternaTeaser is powered by the Python port (the PyTeaser) of the original TextTeaser which was written in Scala. It also uses Flask framework for processing the web requests, nginx as the web server and MongoDB to keep all the metadata and summaries. For the frontend, I used Bootstrap and jQuery.

The source code is uploaded in GitHub (mikkogozalo/alternateaser). Left to do in the near future are:

  • “read full article” link,
  • shareable image with the contents of the summary,
  • changing the way it handles articles that are already summarized. Instead of summarizing it again, return the summaries right away!

In the horizon are:

  • REST API for AlternaTeaser,
  • WordPress plugin for generating excerpts,
  • keeping stats of word frequencies in all summarized articles for identifying popular subject words.
  • and others that I might think of in the future!

I’m also interested in creating a PHP port of TextTeaser, just for fun!