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

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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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How I decided on which smartphone to buy

Last month I was considering a smartphone replacement.

Before I begin I’d like to say that I’ve own, at various times, the iPhone 3GS, the INQ, the Google Nexus S, the iPhone 4S, and the HTC One X. So l like to think that I’ve experience a wide variety of phones and can speak with some credence.

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Recently my eyes have started to fail me. I can’t refocus as well as I used to, in fact, I have to remove my glasses when viewing something up close. To add insult to injury, I’m actually short-sighted!

It was only a few years ago that I was able to use the 3.5 inch screen of the iPhone with no problems. But after about half a year switching from the 4 inch screen of the Nexus S to the 3.5 inch screen of the 4S I noticed that I would, after using the 4S for 10-20 mins, find it difficult to refocus my vision onto things 3-10 meters away.

For that reason alone I switched back to Android, in this case the One X with its 4.7 screen. I would like something even larger but I find the 4.7 inch screen about the limit of what I comfortably use one-handed.

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My failing eyes means that unless Apple comes up with a decent smartphone with at least a 4.5 inch screen, I can’t consider an iOS device. 😦

Then again, perhaps my failing eyes is God’s way of telling me that I shouldn’t be using my smartphone so much!

So this leaves me with either a Win8 phone or an Android device. Win8 isn’t really a serious contender in my opinion which leaves me with Android.

 

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There is currently a shift from 720 screens to 1080 screens on Android. Having seen the benefits of a high resolution display on my iPad 3, I would rather have a 1080 screen than use a current standard screen which will soon be out-dated. This means that the Nexus 4, despite good hardware and the very real benefits of having a pure Google device is excluded.

The phones I have shortlisted at the moment are:

  • the HTC One (not to be confused with the HTC One X),
  • the Samsung Galaxy S4, and
  • the Sony Xperia Z.

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I did consider briefly even larger phones, the phablets. But when I saw a Huawei Ascend Mate in a store with its gigantic 6.1 inch screen I realised it was too large.

This means that the Sony Xperia Z Ultra is also out with its 1080 resolution 6.4 inch screen.

The three phones on my shortlist fulfil the criteria of haing a large 4.7 to 5 inch with a 1080 resolution. Of the three, the S4 looks attractive given the 5 inch screen in the body of a 4.7 inch screen phone. The Sony was initially a contender for first place, but the quality of the screen has me worried.

However there are rumours that the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is coming out soon (the Note 2 is still 720 so is not a contender). Then there is also the next Nexus from Google.

Given I’m not in a big rush and the possibility of two much nicer phones coming out, I’m going to try to hold off until at least the end of August before carrying out my purchase. At the very least, even if I get one of the three phones that was on my original shortlist, it ought to be slightly cheaper at the end of August.

Knowing me, knowing you. A-ha! (Part 1)

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I’m sure some of you are familiar with the alter persona of Steven Coogan, Alan Partridge.

The character’s obviousness to his own flaws is hilarious and is a rich vein of comedy for Steven to mine.

However when it comes to the real world our lack of is anything but funny, it may appear to be a tragicomedy but in reality is simply tragic.

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It is critical for us to know ourselves. We need to know and understand ourselves and each other (humanity). Culture may celebrate the lone ranger or lonesome cowboy but the reality is unless you are a hermit, we all live in and depend on social groups.

We may not need to be experts or academics on the subject but we should know some basic information on the subject. Basic psychology of individuals and groups should be taught at school.

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One of the reasons for this is that we are under siege. If you know anything about modern marketing you know that they study, sometimes with the aid of MRI machines – called neuromarketing, how consumers make purchasing decisions.

How your supermarket is laid out, the colour of the product, associating emotions and feelings in advertisements instead of merely selling the product itself.

There is a vast machine whose sole goal is to part you from your money.

We need to know and understand ourselves. Understand yourself at least as well as, if not better, than these big corporations

Otherwise we won’t necessarily be aware of the ploys being used to coral us into making one useless purchase after another. Otherwise sporting teams will be able to manipulate us using human tribal tendencies. Otherwise we will fall prey to demagoguery. Politicians will be able to appeal to our racist tendencies to keep us hating each other instead of hating corrupt politicians.

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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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…