Sunday, 26 June 2016

Roomba and Braava in Action

I have been decluttering the platform of mainly Baby's stuff, especially toys. As it was occupied with too many toys and other items, and thus not fit for human activities, the platform had been a place of neglect. As a result, it became very dusty. The gaps in between the wooden planks were, unfortunately, the perfect places to hide age-old dust.

So I decided to pick out the stubborn dust, paper bits, beads and dirt in the gaps and got Roomba to strut its stuff.

The dust and dirt dug out
I switch Roomba to 'spot' cleaning mode so that it concentrates on the area by circle-cleaning it.
 

How the area looks after the spot-cleaning
The white spots on the wood are mostly scratches.
 
 The size of the platform
 
The collection of dust in Roomba's bin
 
The actual amount of dust and dirt
 
The hepa filter traps the finer dust
 
The amount of fine dust from the hepa filter after tapping it repeatedly on the corners
The 'clean' hepa filter after the tapping


How Braava 380t mops: back and forth in a systematic manner
You don't have to watch the whole two-minute video. Just get an idea of how Braava moves will suffice. You will also know what I mean by 'absolutely quiet at work'. The children playing at the void deck were making a ruckus compared to Braava.


How Braava manoeuvres and fits into a corner
It may seem Braava is not doing a complete job at cleaning the corner here but eventually it returned to clean it quite thoroughly. Unfortunately I had captured that using time-lapse mode below, so it may not look obvious.


A quick look at how Braava cleans the corner and one of the sides
 
Dirt mopped up by Braava
Quite impressive, I thought, after Roomba had done the vacuuming.

Friday, 24 June 2016

My Kinda Guys: Roomba & Braava

 

For a long time, I have always wanted to blog about the two very important guys in my life but never got down to it.

The Grandmother's Story

I had read tonnes of reviews on Roomba and secretly harboured hope of acquiring one, way back 6 or 7 years ago! The cheapest model then cost about $500 to $600? It was, and still is, a lot of money for a vacuum cleaner. For this kind of dough, I had checked out other vacuum cleaners, cord or no cord. From Philips to Dyson to Miele, I still came back to the attractive idea of owning the best robot cleaner in the world. 

We had a bulky corded traditional vacuum machine when I was young. At first, we loved to 'play' with it. We liked to see how the staples and other small objects disappear magically under the suction nozzle. For little children, it felt kind of 'powerful' to do that kind of chore. The vacuum cleaner also came with a electrical cord that returned to its nook at the press of a button. We loved to play with that one too! We would deliberately pull the cord to the farthest we could and then run back to the machine to press the button just to see how fast and furious the cord snapped back to the body!

But it was a heavy monster. 

Before we got tired of playing with it, we were willing to lug the heavy nozzle that was attached to a wriggly and bulky hose around. By and by, the novelty wore off and gradually none of us wanted to play with it anymore. It became even lonelier when the button to recall the cord spoiled. 

After that, I was never keen to get a vacuum cleaner as the bulk and clumsy part of our vacuum cleaner was better etched in my memory than its ability to clean the floor. None of us was keen to get one actually. No one ever mentioned anything remotely about getting a vacuum cleaner. We stuck to Magiclean wipes for many years.

After I got married, I went with the wipes too for many years. Dry wipes for sweeping and wet for mopping. But it was labour-intensive and I found that they were ineffective floor cleaners. William and I often fought over who should clean it. It got to a point where I gave up fighting and let the floor be - dusty and full of hair. I still tried to Magiclean it using the dry wipes but it could only get rid of the obvious dust and hair. You know the floor is not quite clean even though you have cleaned it. Quite depressing.

The decision to get a vacuum cleaner was sealed last year when I renovated the girls' bedroom. Magiclean wipes just don't cut it when it comes to cleaning up the invisible sawdust. For a few weeks, I kept having that irritating feeling of minute particles stuck to my soles. Every time I felt the sawdust on my feet, I whipped out my Magiclean sweep and wet wipes to wipe the floors, but they were no help. It was like a never-ending chore.

My kind neighbour lent me her corded Dyson vacuum cleaner to suck up the sawdust and it was a lifesaver, but I still did not like the bulky hose and the restrictive cord. That was when I made up my mind to get a Roomba.

I had been looking out for iRobot sales for a long time but I was also concerned about the fact that the older models were using bristles or brush rollers. They pick up hair but the hair gets tangled on the bristles which you have to spend time disentangling them by the bin. I shuddered to think that I could end up picking hair out from a brush for hours. It may be fun when you do it once or twice but it becomes very painful to do it every time you run the robot.

So when iRobot's Singapore exclusive distributor held a sale at the IT Show 2015, I decided to go and take a look.

I was pleasantly surprised to know that the latest model then, Roomba 880, had rubber roller brush instead of bristles. It's supposed to suck in the hair as well as fine dust, what with the hepa filter to capture very fine dust.

The demonstration also included showing Roomba sucking up a $1 coin and 50-cent coin. The promotion had the desirable robot going at $1098. I thought it was pricey as my budget was about $500-$700, but since I had been thinking about getting a Roomba for so many years, I decided to grit my teeth to get it.

At the same sale, quite a few people were looking at Braava 380t. It was also a new product then and was priced at an attractive $450. I was impressed with its intelligent ability to mop systematically and decided to buy it together with Roomba 880.

Both robots came with some freebies. For Braava, an extra detachable mopping device, a piece of sweeping cloth and two more pieces of micro fibre cloth were given; and for Roomba, an extra hepa filter and an $80 voucher for accessories.

Roomba 880

Roomba comes with a few cool features such as a remote control, the ability to schedule cleaning from Monday to Sunday, 2 lighthouses-cum-virtual walls that either guide Roomba to the rooms you want to clean (lighthouse) or block off Roomba from the rooms you don't want it to enter (virtual wall).

But I stopped using these features after a few times as I really just need to carry Roomba to the room I want it to clean and start it running there. As simple as that. How lazy do I need to be? I also realised I don't need the floors to be vacuumed every single day, so I stopped setting the weekly cleaning schedule. Another reason for me not to set the schedule is because I find it a bit eerie that a robot is coming out of the room on its own. A case of watching too many horror flicks, I know, but ...

The first time I ran Roomba, a red light indicated that the bin was full when it was half done. I was surprised that it was filled so quickly. However, I soon realised that my living room must have been so dusty and filthy that Roomba was filled up that quickly. After that, the rate that Roomba's bin was full gradually decreases. At first, it got filled up at the end of one run. I had to clear the bin every single time I ran it. Nowadays I can wait for a few runs before it's filled. It tells me that my house is getting cleaner by the day!

The best thing about Roomba is its ability to go under my bed. For so many years, the floor under the bed was very dusty. It was hard to reach the centre under a king sized bed! And dust built up at an incredible rate. I always dread to look for things under the bed as I would expect to see a thick layer of dust staring back at me.

With Roomba, I am happy to look under my bed! No more dust, and even cleaner than when I had Magicleaned it!

One thing, though. Although Roomba sucks in some hair, a lot of hair tend to roll around the sides of the roller brushes. I have to remove the brushes to get rid of the hair that would be rolled up in a coil. However, even though I did not read anything about that, it doesn't bother me much as removing coiled hair is definitely easier than removing tangled hair from bristles. If I had known that such was part of the maintenance required, I would still have gladly bought it.

Unlike some of its competitors, Roomba starts out  cleaning the floor in a circular mode. As it moves in an expanding manner, it inevitably hits something and changes to a haphazard mode. There are areas it over cleans and others it touches and go, and yet others, misses totally. However, it cleans about 90% of the floor area and I am more than happy with it. It actually cleans better than I do!

When it first came home with me, we were all amused at how Roomba was moving. I said it behaved like a human being who is capable of finding its way while Coco thought it was like a blind dog running all over the place and getting itself trapped under a chair. It also pushes light objects left on the floor such as curtains and shoes. Once, it played with Coco's dirty laundry and left it outside the bathroom. I said in jest that Roomba was getting to be more and more like a man.

Braava 380t

I adore this little guy. It's absolutely quiet and goes about its work systematically. I have read that it has a dry-mop function but most of what it does is to push the dust to the sides of the room while its ability to mop is similar to wiping the floor with Magiclean wipes. It doesn't scrub the floor like the legendary Scooba but it's more efficient and energy-saving (literally) than human effort.

I just need to:
1) pour a little bit of cleaning solution with water into the pro-clean reservoir pad, which is a fancy name for the detachable mopping device that contains the solution
2) stick the damp cloth on the pad
3) snap the pad onto Braava's main body
4) place Braava on the floor at a corner of the room
5) put the Northstar Cube, the guide, on a table, and let the system run

Braava is primarily a wiping device, so you need to make sure the floor is vacuumed or swept before setting it to work. Otherwise, the cloth will be collecting lots of dirt under it and it will bring the dirt everywhere it goes.

Unlike Roomba's haphazard moving pattern, Braava maps the room and cleans the floor methodically in a back and forth manner. When it hits an obstacle, it usually moves around it and continues with its systematic cleaning.

It is shorter in height than Roomba and goes under the bed too! Guess what? Like Roomba, it cleans better than I too! I could not reach the nooks and crannies under the bed but Braava can!

Verdict

I think there isn't a better invention than Roomba and Braava. I can't imagine my life without them ever. As for now, I list them down as life's essentials, like a washing machine. When these two guys bid me farewell, you can be sure I am going out to get their more advanced siblings. 

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

KidZania Singapore - Kidz Haven

Despite the online uproar at the exorbitant prices of the tickets, we visited KidZania Singapore in the second week of the school holidays.

KidZania opens at 9am. We reached there at 9.30am and the crowd was thin at the queue.

For the initiated, KidZania is a theme park that allows kids to try out different kinds of jobs and earn make-belief money, in the form of kidzos.

However, there are some jobs that require the kids to pay and usually such jobs involve food or pleasures such as KFC, ice-cream making and driving.

I bought the two kiddos' and my ticket online two days before for peace of mind and Coco's was bought over the counter as online tickets had sold out the day before our arrival.

Only entry tickets bought over the counter come in the form of air tickets. Online tickets look nothing out of the ordinary - a piece of paper.

However, the same Maybank discount was given over the counter as with those sold online.
Kids are given 20 kidzos for a start and they are given an ATM card-lookalike with 30 kizos deposited inside. They need to go to the bank to activate their cards and 30 kidzos.

The kids had some ideas what they wanted to attempt but I coerced them to join the Fireman queue. 
Fireman job was the hottest job at KidZania Kuala Lumpur and we didn't stand a chance at it at all over there in 2013. If it's so popular, it must be fun. So I insisted that the kids give it a try.
The queue at the Fire Station was awfully long. It was an estimated wait of 50 minutes so I asked Coco to wait in the queue while the two kids went to the bank to activate their cards. However, it was a bad move. The queue at the bank was ridiculously long and it took them 20 minutes to get it done. By the time we went back to the Fire Station, the kids were asked to re-queue.

When it was finally their turn, they put on their uniform and sat through a short briefing.

After that, the excited kids sat on a Fire Engine to get to the burning destination.


The most exciting part of being a Fireman

By the time they queued for their second job, they had spent about 2 hours queuing and working on the Fireman job.
The Optical Shop had the shortest queue

The kids were getting impatient and a little tired queuing for so long for one pathetic job, they decided to go for the shortest queue.

It turned out that kids come to this shop to get their eyes checked and get their eyesight certified fit for driving.

Baby and her cousin were asked to wait for the other kids to get their eyes checked and certified before they could enter to become an optometry consultant and get their own eyes certified fit for driving as well.

Fiddling with the eye-check machine

On-the-job training

Certified 'fit for driving'!

Over here at the Driving Station, kids need to pay 16 kidzos in total (6 for being a trainee and 10 for driving on the road). They also need to be at least 120cm in height.

Learning about road safety

Finally driving!



The kids were famished after their third job.
Every cafe or restaurant were full of patrons. 
We had to settle for this cafe as it had just enough seats for four of us.

Fish and chips
Herb-grilled chicken that looked too charred for Coco

I asked for a a new dish but it came back similarly charred, and it made the cashier very displeased with my 'demand'.

The portions were miserably tiny. Even the ones who eat like birds had to have side dishes.

This was mine - some ayam nasi dish, a piece of dry chicken breast meat with some curry drizzled rice
Models and actors required but you need to come back for the third or fourth session which was 2 hours later, and please come back at least 50 minutes earlier to wait.


Coco wanted to try couriering. The kids had no objection.
It was a 'short' 30-minute wait.
They were grouped in threes and were tasked to collect parcels from three shops.

The fun part of the job was pushing the trolley, I figure.

Baby and the cousin wanted to be surgeons.
Surgeons they waited to be.

Unfortunately, I could not take a picture of them in the surgical gown as they were directed to the second floor for the task.

According to Baby, they implanted a kidney onto a male body.

Coco sat at the opposite queue to be a baby expert. She handled a baby doll by rubbing powder and baby oil over its body.

Next, they joined the police queue
The cousin found the job silly as they had to do 'stupid actions'.

After the briefing, they were taken out onto the street to patrol.

At the end of the day, the kids went to the bank to check their balances in their ATM cards. They hoped to buy something from the Kidzania's department store which is only accessible to kids. Adults are not allowed. They could have also checked the balance at the ATM machines but for withdrawal, they have to go to the teller.

I asked them to withdraw everything they had as the store only allows kidzo transactions.


It was a very long queue at 7pm, the closing time of Kidzania!

They went in excited but found they had nothing worthy to buy as the cheapest and smallest item cost a good 40 kidzos and they each had just over 70.

I asked them to save up for the next trip and they were happy to do so.
The counter

We will be back!

Baby and Coco had been to KidZania Kuala Lumpur in 2013. While Coco had her fill of fun, Baby was too young then to appreciate the variety of jobs. In fact, she cried when she realised she had less kidzos than her sister. I tried explaining to her that she had paid some kidzos for ice-cream making and sushi-making jobs but it fell on deaf ear.

There are definitely some differences in the jobs offered by both outlets. KidZania KL for example, had Judge as an occupation but I did not see it in the one in Singapore. On the other hand, Singapore's had Museum Curator but KL's had nothing like that.

Queues are comparable but in KL, manual jobs like couriering and window-cleaning had fewer kids going for them while in Singapore, every single job had super long queue.

Something I was displeased about, besides the awful food, were the inadequate information given at the counter and the photography at KidZania Singapore.

The counter staff did not inform that I should get the younger kids' Pazport ($18 per kid) done so that they could chalk up stamps for privileges. One job will entitle you to one stamp.When 30 stamps are accumulated, you get special privileges such as having 2 additional kidzos for each job you do. Each of the kids would have got 6 stamps if they had the Pazport done at the start.

I am also miffed that the photographers in KidZania Singapore are less active and less professional compared to their KL counterparts.

I did not manage to get any surgeon shots of the kids as they were hidden from the public eye. I had expected the photographer to capture them in their surgical gown. Unfortunately, Coco's image was terribly overexposed:

and Baby and her cousin did not get an individual picture at all! Not only that. Baby told me that they had a group photo done but the image that was supposed to be captured and linked to a bracelet the kids were wearing did not appear. 

How disappointing. The kid queued for long time to be a surgeon but there was nothing to show.

Well, sometimes luck counts. But the kids enjoyed themselves anyway.

Some pictures I bought. 6 for $100: