Friday, July 7, 2017

Everything Everywhere's slide to oblivion

A couple of years ago I was at the press launch of EE's exciting launch of their 4G network. Things were starting to look up. Now I am posting one final blog post about this dreadful company to warn you against them.

For the past 3-4 weeks, EE (also known as Everything Everywhere) has been down for a lot of people, including me and my partner. They have made no attempts at fixing the issues that has plagued this dreaded network.

Whenever connected to EE's network, we could not use Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and many other apps to upload and view images. In addition to that Twitter and Foursquare apps are not working altogether. Some websites has been blocked as well. Reddit for example does not load, at all. These apps only works while on wifi. This issue can be replicated on two separate EE sim cards, both on PAYG data allowances, and on two separate factory unlocked phones (one iPhone 6S with the latest iOS update, another a Samsung Galaxy S6 with the latest OS update), and in different areas (South London, North London, Central London, Leeds, Heathrow Airport etc.). Network connection has also gotten worse, with frequent drop outs.

This is an ongoing problem with many EE customers reporting the same issue on Twitter. Attempts to reach EE for help has so far been useless as the social media front of EE does not pass on reports to their engineering team and the live chat does not work for PAYG customers! Now we have two sim cards which are essentially useless. We can use apps for basic messaging but nothing more, and anything more we have to hunt for free wifi to use whenever out and about! What use is it to have a mobile data plan then?

Everything Everywhere? More like Nothing Nowhere.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Samsung Galaxy S6 camera resolution defaults to 6MP

If you own a flagship Samsung Galaxy phone and like to take pictures, then you better check that your phone isn't crapping on your images.

While we were away in Greece for two weeks, I noticed while on one of the day that the pictures I have been taking on the Galaxy S6 were of low quality. They looked fine on the screen, but as I was editing and cropping I noticed that it lacked plenty of details. Now, the S6's camera isn't that great to begin with, but images produced were at least usable. These were just crappy. Okay for Facebook and Instagram, but unusable for anything - especially printing.

What happened? Well the S6 is equipped with a 16MP sensor but for whatever reason Samsung likes to have it take pictures at 6MP - a full 10MP less than what the sensor is capable of capturing. Why? Who knows. Best answer is the developers at Samsung are lazy and their managers harbors pure contempt for their customers. As this bug, or feature, has existed since Lollipop, Marshmallow and continue to exist on the latest Nougat firmware, this answer wouldn't surprise me.

Now I always make sure to check that the resolution is 16MP every day, but on one of the day (I believe it was the sixth day), the camera just defaults to 6MP and I forgot to check. So of the hundreds of images I took that day, everything was captured in 6MP. Luckily my holidays aren't defined by the pictures I take, but I was still super annoyed. I paid for a phone that was capable of capturing 16MP of glorious pixels and 10MP was missing from hundreds of them.

Samsung obviously won't fix the bug as it was been known to exist since Lollipop, and also on the Samsung Galaxy S5 phone. For all I know it continues to exist on the S7 and S8 phones as well, not to mention their Galaxy Note and hundred generic Galaxy Prime, Alpha, J7, J3, Max, Grand, On5 etc. phones they have.

So next time check that your Samsung Galaxy phone isn't crapping on your picture. There is nothing you can do except checking in the settings each and every time. No amount of soft, hard reset, cache clearing, cache partition clearing, OS reinstalls etc. will fix this crap.

What can I do? Nothing really. Apart from writing this snarky blog post about how crappy Samsung is and how crappy their phones are. What I do know is that I know which phone brand I will be avoiding the next time I upgrade my phone.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Wallpaper* City Guides

I started collecting Wallpaper* City Guides sometime last year after first stumbling upon one in a coffee shop. After reading tons of white texts on numerous Rogue Guides and Lonely Planet, the concise and design-led manner in which Wallpaper presents its city guides caught my eyes. Text were minimal, but always informative. Suggestions were limited to one venue per page or two, sometimes even three!

Wallpaper* City Guides are supplementary guides aimed at design, style and culture conscience travelers. These are not meant to replace your typical Lonely Planet, which are good for pointing out obvious tourist stuff. Published by Phaidon, City Guides books on the other hand are guides for architecture and design fans seeking a more sophisticated and curated experience on whichever cities they are visiting. For example, a listing in Copenhagen suggested a visit to an Arne Jacobsen designed petrol station about 20km outside Copenhagen.

Our current City Guides collection currently number about fifteen, and growing. We aim to get a City Guides book for every city we visited and those we are planning to visit. Some we've skipped (like Genoa) because we were only in the city for a couple of hours, though we will likely visit again due to its proximity to dreamy Cinque Terre. Despite its diminutive and pocketable design, we do not make it to a lot of the venues suggested - normally out of budget constraints - but that's fine as it means we have to visit again.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Eneko at One Aldwych

This month sees the opening of Eneko Atxa's newest restaurant at the basement of One Aldwych hotel in the Strand. Eneko at One Aldwych is a more casual version of his three-Michelin Azurmendi restaurant in Bilbao, Spain. Azurmendi has recently been rated as one of the world's top twenty restaurants, so we were excited to dine at Eneko's newest restaurant today.
The simplified menu consists of several seafood and land-based dishes, as well as vegetarian options. We had the anchovy tempura and a trio of pork consisting of  mushroom and Iberico ham, suckling pig brioche and crispy pork jowl. The anchovy tempura were served in a cute fish and chip style cone. Despite being a battered dish, I found the anchovy tempura to be light, but the trio of pork (trexxi boda pork festival) stood out for its generous portion and delicious variety of pork.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Visiting the Italian Riviera Liguria and Cinque Terre

The Harbour of Portofino
The Italian Riviera, also known as the Liguria, is one of those ridiculously beautiful places, you have to wonder why it isn't on more lists of places to visit in Italy. Not that we mind. While busy with tourists, both local and international, it never felt like a tourist trap like much of Italy's more popular tourist destinations.

It is here where you will find the Cinque Terre national park, a UNESCO world heritage site. The entire park is only accessible via railway, boats or trails. You could drive within a mile or so distance to a couple of villages, but Cinque Terre is best enjoyed walking. The five villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggioreare are connected via four well marked trails (though two are currently closed due to the devastating floods of 2011), and is via these trails that I recommend you enjoy the national park. There are also other off the beaten path hiking trails around Cinque Terre.
Have a cocktail in Manarola
These five villages are also connected via a railway network to the rest of Liguria. We made our base in Rapallo, about one hour away, putting us somewhere in between the port city of Genoa (where you would normally fly in, or take the train down from Milan) and Cinque Terre. On the east side you have La Spezia which connects the Liguria region to Florence and the rest of Italy. You could also take the ferry to most of the villages (bar Corniglia) from Rapallo, La Spezia and Portovenere. Rapallo is also a good base to stay if you want to visit Portofino, the glamorous harbour village favoured by celebrities on honeymoons.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Thameslink, Still Shit

As you know Thameslink is one of the poorest performing railway franchise in this country, whether they were until First Group or Govia (majority owned by Go-Ahead). On 7 May 2016 we traveled down to St Albans City for a day trip, and aimed to take the 11pm fast train from St Albans City back to South East London, catching the connecting train at London Blackfriars.

Unfortunately the train in St Albans City was delayed due to a passenger trouble at Harpenden, where it took police about 30 minutes to arrive (austerity innit). We managed to catch another train, which was a slow and also delayed train meaning we missed our connection at London Blackfriars. With no way back, we walked to London Bridge station hoping to catch another train home to South East London, only to find that the trains were cancelled there too!

We eventually got back home after paying for a taxi, and submitted a delay repay claim immediately only to find the claim rejected!

Thameslink, rather than connecting people, they would rather con them.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The case of a useless bus lane in London

Sometimes you wonder if the people at Transport for London ever use the buses they provide. Living in South East London, I understand the frustration of being someone who is very dependent on public transport and yet resigned to the fact that Transport for London will never improve the infrastructure here.

If you have ever taken a bus through Brockley Road between 7.30am and 8.30am, and between 5pm to 7pm, you will be aware of how much this road sucks your life. It takes about 20 minutes to cross a half mile stretch of Brockley Road before the buses reach the bottleneck that is Brockley Cross.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Android Marshmallow update available for Samsung Galaxy S6

Finally, after months of waiting, Samsung has released the Android Marshmallow update onto their soon to be ex-flagship phone Galaxy S6 - four months after Android 6.0 was released on the Nexus series.

The update, which is rolling out at snail's pace and on the whim of carriers who rather you buy a new phone than update your current phone, is currently available on only a handful of Galaxy S6 variants. Namely, it is only available for the G920F global variant running in certain regions.

Fed up with waiting for Samsung to update my variant, I downloaded the bloatware-free French firmware (via XDA), and applied the update using Odin 3.10.7 for Windows. The process was simple enough, though it does expose a huge flaw with Android and Samsung's terrible update policy (like why do we need to wait months for firmware updates for certain variants to arrive or be forced to flash our firmware manually).

Here's a very quick guide (insert disclaimer claiming no responsibilities for any screw ups that may or many not happen) on how to successfully flash your Samsung phone with the latest firmware without tripping Knox:
  • Turn off your device
  • Press and hold down the Volume Down and Home button, and then press the Power button until you see a disclaimer, then release all buttons
  • Press the Volume Up button to engage the 'Download mode'
  • Connect your device to your computer
  • Open Odin
  • On Odin, check AP, and select the .tar firmware file you've downloaded and extracted
  • Wait for Odin to verify
  • Then press Start
  • Go and make a pot of tea
  • Depending on how many apps you have installed, your phone would have booted into a fresh new firmware
  • Alternatively, do a factory wipe for a fresh install
In any case, the update brought a fresh breath of new life to my Galaxy S6 (in a much positive way than the disastrous Lollipop update did to my old Nexus 5), and also updated my phone's security update to February (from October).

It is still early days, but the phone just feel faster (probably placebo but a nice feeling regardless) despite not doing a factory wipe and the ability toggle app permissions is a huge welcome. But best of all is the support for manual control of the camera's shutter speed and RAW output. The S6's camera is pretty decent - perhaps one of the best on a smartphone - so the ability to gain more control over the control element is massive.