Tale of two…

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This is a tale of two cities… opps I meant two tablets.

Both from Asus, one a Windows 8 tablet and the other an Android tablet.

Both were mistakes (on my part). Praise God that I didn’t lose any money though. I really need to do something about my G.A.S. (that’s Gear Acquisition Syndrome, not the other gas…)

1. Fool me once a.k.a. Asus VivoTab Smart ME400C

Asus-Vivo-Tab-Smart-ME400C

My first Windows 8 tablet. The full version of Windows, not Win 8 RT.

The processor was not sluggish in my opinion. And the ability to install ANY Windows app is really a killer functionality.

But… you knew there was a but coming didn’t you? 😉

a) Windows 8 Metro aka the tablet interface is broken.

The app store would not update apps. I had to update Windows multiple times before this issue would fix itself. And I was unable to fix in purely in Metro, I had to dip into Desktop mode too.

The default News app is crap. Looks pretty but with no ability to go back in a way that makes sense to me.

The lack of critical apps such as Facebook and YouTube. Yeah, I could go to the websites but for me the tablet interface is all about dedicated apps, especially for these functions.

b) Metro / Desktop schizophrenia

Dig deep enough into the Metro beauty and you fall into Desktop land. The problem is that the Desktop paradigm needs big screens, mouse, and keyboard. On a small screen, without those input devices it doesn’t quite work. And you are asking someone who is using this device on the go to HAVE to GO into Desktop mode. For the sake of changing some settings….

c) The aspect ratio

16:9 aspect ratio. C’mon! You tell me that this device, unlike others *ahem* *iPad* *ahem* is meant for creation as well as content consumption. Well you’ve basically knee caped this device with this aspect ratio. You can’t use this in landscape mode. It’s just ridiculous in that mode.

Even Android mostly uses 16:10.

Look at letter sized or A4 sized paper. Is it closer to 16:9 or 4:3? It’s the latter….

Having said that, the device itself is very nice. The display is nice even though it isn’t Retina standard.

The plastic used is nice to hold, not very grippy though.

Thank God I was able to return it to the brick and mortar store I bought it from for a full refund.

2. Fool me twice a.k.a Asus Google Nexus 7 (2013)

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The second device made my Asus. Again, very nice physically. Beautiful screen, simply beautiful (note I didn’t use it outdoors only indoors).

Grippy back surface so not really an issue with dropping it accidentally.

But… *sigh* there was a serious problem with the device. I think it might have been hardware relate ’cause I can’t see how it could have been a software problem. Let me explain.

Processes crashed. Even during the setup process. In fact the hardware reset itself halfway (not at the end) through the setup process.

And once it was set up it continued to have processes hang, and occasionally crashing/resetting.

I flashed thinking perhaps it was a faulty ROM but no luck. It continued to crash.

Again, praise God, I returned it for a full refund.

I think I’m still going to get a Nexus 7 (2013). But maybe after the bugs are sorted out…unless this two experiences are telling me that Asus doesn’t have good quality control and I should steer clear of Asus products!

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Be smart about smartphones

Well today is a Sunday so I thought I’d share with you all something I’m going through instead of expounding spiritual things.

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In my most recent stage in a long-time obsession with smartphones, I have downgraded to a Blackberry.

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Let’s talk about when this obsession started. It all began when I joined the workforce. Initially I had gotten myself a run-of-the-mill phone but then the Motorola StarTac came out. Soon I was caught up in the mobile phone crazy, always desiring the latest and greatest. Perhaps I didn’t always buy it, but I did lust after it.

I remember a phone I had in Japan that had like 3 different backlight colors (this was when having a colored backlight was a modern feature)! My wife’s phone had the ability to use email! It also had WAP which was the equivalent of mobile internet in those days. So amazing!

RIM-history1

Into that arena, you can understand why Blackberry was considered innovative. They had email, and calendering and contacts sync with Outlook!

They didn’t realise that people were becoming addicted to the internet on their desktops and that offering the internet (and later on specialised applications designed for mobile phones and utilising the touch interface) would be an irresistible combination.

Anyway, back to my obsession.

Razr

Even though I had a Blackberry I also bought a Motorola Razr after seeing a colleague use it as a speakerphone during a meeting. I was just blown away by the slimness, as well as the audio and build quality.

white 3gs

I remember how I lusted after the iPhone but waited until my contract was up and signed up for a 3GS.

inq mini

I tried to kick the habit by purchasing a cheap smartphone (an INQ) but it was just too slow and crappy. You get what you pay for I reasoned. I then spent several hundred dollars on a Google Nexus S. That was a great phone.

iphone4s

The romance didn’t last long. The company offered to get me the latest iPhone and I jumped at the opportunity and ditched the Google phone.

HTC One X

Later on, my aging eyes meant that I had to ditch the iPhone and move back to Android for the larger screen (4.7 vs 3.5).

But HTC had implemented an aggressive memory management technique that meant that programs were often killed instead of suspending properly. This was a fatal flaw in the phone for someone who likes to write something, switch apps, and then come back to writing – in the case of the HTC, it loses all your draft work!

I was going upgrade from the HTC to, again, the latest and greatest. “Should I get the Samsung? Or the Sony?”, I wondered to myself “Would the 5 inch screen be too large for me to use the phone one-handed?”.

But somehow God put the idea into my head that I should maybe not get a smartphone. “Ok” I grumbled, “I won’t get a smartphone for now, I’ll wait awhile maybe a month”.

BlackBerry-Bold-9700

So in the meantime I’m back to using a Blackberry. Yeah, it’s not the latest and the greatest and the screen’s a bit puny.

But it does messaging well. It’s not that slow that I want to throw it out the window when I use it.

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And I noticed something scary on the train. Almost every one was hunched over looking that their tablet or smartphone. Consuming and consuming at the fire hydrant of infotainment.

I don’t want to be only a consumer, I want to produce. And I think that using a less capable smartphone is actually helping me to do that, by making it very unpleasant to consume media whilst on the move, giving me time to think, ponder and perhaps blog.

Transitions (Part 1)

It has been more than 4 years now since we moved to Australia.

It hasn’t been an easy transition but God was with us through it all.

It all started out well. Typically people get their permanent residency (PR) approved, quit their job move to Australia and try to find a job. We were so blessed that I got a job even before our PR was approved (important later)! Our relocation was paid for for, and I was employed from the momment we touched down, everything was peachy.

The first couple of months was uneventful but soon after that God started shaking us.

Made redundant

First God removed my job. Then, because of that we had less than a month to leave the country. (Technically one has a month from losing one’s job to leave the country, what we didn’t know then was that the Immigration Department wasn’t very efficient – more on this later.)

So what was initially a source of praise, ie getting a job prior to the PR being granted, meant that we technically had only a month to get ready to leave again.

You can bet we started praying and crying out to God in earnest! We got down on their knees and prayed for God to make a way, for me to get a job before the deadline expired.

God makes a way / Blessings in the midst of trials

Well the good news is that God always answers prayers. It just might not be in the way you expect.

First thing He did was that the company agreed to “fire” me few months later, in the meantime he was technically on leave without pay, but this gave us more time to look for another job. Subsequently the company went into administration so that got pushed out even further.

The weeks passed but there still was no job in sight. Finally I was officially made redundant, we packed our bags and went to stay with the in-laws overseas.

Then God did the second part of His plan. Whilst in another country, through a referral from a brother-in-Christ, He provided for another job in Australia.

So without actively looking for a job, without having to travel for the interview (the interviewer was in that part of the world for business anyways) I got a new job.

What did this show me?

  • God can do it without my help. In fact when I do something FOR God, what’s happening is that He’s allowing me to participate in His Work. Because, seriously, he doesn’t need my help at all.

It paints a picture of how the Body of Christ should work. Just like when Ananias helped Saul.

Sometimes we don’t want to help fellow Christians because they are different from us (e.g. different denomination) or we just don’t like their personality or we think that they are getting help anyways (ie what we’d do isn’t necessary or helpful anyways) or we are just plain embarrased to offer to help.

What I’ve learnt is, we shouldn’t be hesistant! Who knows how many blessings we have withheld from each other just because we are hesitant!

All it took was for my Christian brother to mention my name to the headhunter, then God worked through that for me, and my family to be blessed.

The third thing that God did was that He blessed us with a second child. So even in the midst of trials and tribulations, God blesses. We just have to be able to see them.

Two things showed that God had a sense of humour. One, when we tried to come back to Australia we found that my working visa from the first job was still valid! (see I told you the Immigration Department was inefficient)

Two, a week after we returned, we had to leave Australia again. This was because our PR was finally granted and they had to leave Australia and return to activate it.

Further shaking

But God was not through with shaking us. A year after I got the new job, my hours were cut back and the job because a part time position. Another year after being made part time I was made redundant yet again.

And this was after I got involved in a pastoral care programme at my church. Just goes to show, service does not guarantee safety from trials and tribulations. In any case, service should be the outpouring of a grateful heart, not an attempt to manipulate God’s Hand.

So what did I learn from my second period of redundancy?

God comes through always

Despite the fact that I was saved from my last redundancy solely by God’s power, again I relied on human wisdom. I did contract work – but it did not lead to a full time position. I networked – but it did not lead to a job. I met up with headhunters – but they did not manage to get me a job.

It was a tough time, yet through it all I continued serving – I’m not saying this to boast about my commitment but to make the point that we should not use troubles as an excuse to dropout from our commitments to the Body of Christ. Also, when you see your faithful brothers and sisters in Christ serving – ask them how they are doing. Sometimes they might be going through a tough patch – they may not necessarily need material or financial help, sometimes a listening ear and a bit of time and love is all they need. Afterall they are human too.

Eventually, I sought God’s wisdom, the thing I should have done at the very beginning!

And God came through again, this time through a sister-in-Christ. Yes, we say that God will always come through. But is that just head knowledge or is that something we believe truely, having experienced it over and over again in our own lives?

Further transitions

A new job, which required a move to a new city. Yet more changes.

My final thoughts on transitions:

  • When God moves us like Abraham, like the Israelites, is there a purpose to the journey? Is there something God desires to do in our lives in our hearts, but yet is unable to due to our stubborn nature?
  • Maybe there is nothing. Maybe things happen, and they are incidental to the Will of God. Like what flavour ice-cream you choose at the supermarket. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe there is something to be gleaned from that experience.
  • Don’t you want to know? Don’t you want to avoid repeating the class? (There is a saying that life is a series of classes and if you don’t learn your lesson in a class, you’ll be forced to repeat it – indefinitely!)

Set-up your environment

Was just thinking about why people blog this morning. I guess it’s because they have something to say and perhaps no one to say it to so they just blast it out into the internet. Apart from the minority of bloggers who have tons of followers/readers the majority are either writing for themselves/their friends/no-one.

Blogging is also a good way of communicating asynchronously. In our fast paced modern life it is difficult to sometimes find the time to talk and discuss things in depth and at length with our friends. I guess that’s part of the reason why email, voicemail, blogs, twitter and IM are such popular ways to communicate. It lets us say as much as we want when we want it.

But I digress. I was thinking about blogging and in addition to thinking about why people blog I was thinking about how perhaps the ease of blogging aids in the in blogging endeavor.

Not “blogging is easy” but “how can one set things up so that when one gets inspired one can just start blogging straight away”.

The latter implies that one has deliberately set up an environment that aids in the smooth transfer of thoughts from self to machine. Now this could encompass the physical environment (ie a special room, a good keyboard, etc) or the virtual environment (good software,  hosting site, etc).

This then lend me to consider other “environments”. We can have environments for sleep (i.e. our bedrooms), for work (our offices) and even our hobbies (e.g. a workshop).

Our environments can aid our efforts to achieve whatever it is we want to achieve. Or it could detract from our aims.

Having multiple browsing windows open, an IM program, an email program, AND our work could be a serious detriment to getting anything done as this NYT article shows.

All this is leading me to think that perhaps I need to give more thought to the environments that I find myself in at the moment. Did I end up with them almost by accident? Do I need to change some, perhaps get out of some? Whether it be work, home, church or friends it’ll be good not to bumble along with the status quo but examine life and see how to improve it.

Waiting for Arrandale

I wrote recently about the fact that I’m a recovering shopaholic.

I’d like to talk now about a couple of purchases I’ve deferred. Remembering your victories is encouraging and helps maintain your state of recovery. :p

1) iPhone

I’ve been lusting after the iPhone ever since they released the first one back in 2007 but I only got it this year. How I did I manage to stave off an early purchase? Well, I already had an iPod, actually I had two. A 30GB iPod Photo and a 1GB iPod Shuffle. So I promised myself that I’d only purchase the iPhone when it’s able to replace my existing 30GB iPod as opposed to being an addition to my iPod family. It helped that I knew capacities were doubling pretty much every year (extrapolated from the iPhone and iPod Touch’s track record). I also eBay-ed my old 30GB iPod to help defray the cost of the iPhone. 🙂

2) Xbox 360

I’m a bit of a gamer so I was tempted to get this. But as previously mentioned, I have a backlog of games. So I’ve decided that a couple of things will have to happen before I get this. Firstly, I’ll have to whittle down my PS3 and PC games backlog until it’s about 1-2 games only. Secondly, there must be a change in the form factor, e.g. Ps3 to PS3 Slim. So far I’m still waiting…

3) Big(ger) flat screen TV

I bought a 40 inch LCD TV but have since regretted not getting a larger TV. I just couldn’t stomach paying 30% more for 15% more inches. I should have gone for it. That’s another lesson, if you’re going to spend serious money, you might as well stretch (finances permitting!) and get what you really want.

I’ve promised myself in this instance not to replace or get an additional TV until we move house and even then only if the living room is bigger than the current one, thus necessitating a larger screen! 😉

4) Desktop PC

Whenever I use my desktop I tell myself that I need a new one. The current one is single core and less than 2GHz in processor speed. It seriously chugs! But the reality is that I hardly ever use it (am on the laptop 90% of the time). So there is no need for me to upgrade.

The triggers for this purchase are the release of Win7, and a move to a new house. Rationale about the house is that currently I don’t have a study, so once I get a new study I’d need a new desktop PC to fit it out no? 😉

One benefit of waiting is that if I’d bought earlier I’d only have been able to afford a fast dual core or maybe a quad core, but now if I continue waiting an i7 is not out of the question. :p

5) Laptop

Since losing my job I’ve been reluctant to make any major capital purchases, which is why I upgraded the RAM on my MacBook to 2GB and bought Parallels instead of getting new machine(s). The MacBook is a bit slow with Parallels, perhaps because it’s only a Core Duo not Core 2 Duo.

Despite the occasional slowdown, I’ve held off purchasing a new MacBook Pro thanks to this article I read in I read in AnandTech back in June 2009. I’m waiting for Core i7 Mobile to come out for the Mac! (This is also calld Arrandale hence the title of this post)

With the new lithium polymer batteries and the more efficient Core i7 Mobile chips, the battery life should be amazing! Performance-wise it should be no slouch as well (see this review of Core i7 laptops by Laptop magazine).

Is there any purchase you’re deferring and what are the reasons for the deferment and what are you telling yourself so that you remain patient?

Confessions of a shopaholic

Hi, my name is Awry and I’m a shopaholic.

It’s been 4 days since my last purchase…

Yes, it’s possible to be a shopaholic even if you are male and a bit nerdy.

You don’t need to go to the mall to be a shopaholic, with the internet nowadays all you need to go shopping is a web browser.

My favorite malls are on-line, e.g. Amazon.com, Play-Asia.com, etc

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I would let others tell me what I needed to buy. Women let fashion and other girls tell them what to buy and wear. I let game magazines and websites dictate to me what games to buy and hoard. Top ten lists and Editor Choices dominated my mind.

You might wonder why I said hoard, well that’s because the net result of buying lots of games and not having too much time is having a stack of new or (gasp!) unopened games gathering dust by the wayside.

It’s been hard but I feel that God has been working in my life to curb the urge to accumulate.

First my partner nagged at me to stop buying things.

Then I lost my job.

Then I started to unpack my boxes (our family tended to move a lot) and came across games from 2005 which were unopened much less played. Games like FFVIII, Freespace 2, etc.

I realized that my spreadsheet of games and weekly visits to malls (virtual and real) was unhealthy.

Instead of being a joy, gaming started to become an obligation (to finish the backlog of games).

So I made a commitment to myself not to purchase any new games until I finish off my backlog. It’s been pretty good so far. There have been lapses, e.g. Batman: Arkham Asylum. But I console myself with the fact that I have either traded in my old games for the new ones, or completed these new purchases with haste (as opposed to letting it gather dust).

This has also applied to other purchases in my life. I’m adopting a “good enough” policy, ie unless there’s a compelling reason, I’ll wait as long as I can before replacing or upgrading the gadgets in my life.

I hope that those of you who are buying more than you need ask yourselves whether you’re purchasing because you want to or because you are compelled to. Because once it becomes an addiction, it’s no longer healthy… it’s not so bad so long as you can afford it but if you hit financial difficulties…