Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Assa London Korean restaurant review

Assa is a small restaurant on St. Giles Street, a short walk from Tottenham Court Road station. It serves Korean food, and judging by the number of Koreans who dine there, authentic ones too. With the open plan kitchen right at the back, the restaurant has an 'Asian feel' to it, a far cry from the increasing number of pretentious modern Asian restaurants popping around Soho.

We've been coming here regularly since first reading about them on a copy of Time Out: 1000 Things to do in London for Under £10 I got from Nicola a couple of months ago. The place is regularly packed, a good sign of a good restaurant with loyal customers. Assa's speciality lies in hot pots where the food is cooked in a broth on a gas cooker in front of the customer, though there are plenty of other dishes on offer. Be warned that Korean food can be a bit spicy, so asked first! We personally recommend the Bibimbap, Kimchi pancake, Rabokki (noodles with rice cake) and one of the many hot pots on offer.

Two side dishes and tea are always offered for customers. The price isn't too expensive, and there's a special lunch menu (for example, a good portion of rice and beef for around a fiver). The decor of the place is rather mismatched, but gives it a homey feel to it. There is also a karaoke room in the basement, but never tried it. The toilets are also worth a visit, if only to admire the eccentric murals around it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Diana F+ Hong Meow unboxing

After a couple of weeks of deliberation, I've finally convinced @hardij to take up Lomography. On Sunday she placed an order for the Diana F+ clone Hong Meow, and two days later it is finally here.

For those who do not know, the Diana was originally a toy camera that uses 120 rollfilm (medium format) from the 1960s. Despite the toy nature of the camera, the characteristic soft focus and vignetting of the plastic lens made the Diana camera popular among photographers who loved its ability to shoot lo-fi dreamy pictures.

The limited edition Hong Meow is a Diana F+ clone created to celebrate the birthplace of the original Diana, Hong Kong. The box is well made and is adorned with pictures of some person in a panda suit having fun around Hong Kong, obviously shot with a Lomography camera of some sort.

The content of the Diana F+ Hong Meow edition includes the Diana F+ camera clone with unique colour scheme (black and white paint job based on the panda with green strap based on its bamboo diet), electronic flash, coloured gel flash filters, lens cap, two plastic frames for shooting format and hardcover Diana F+ photo book.

As mentioned earlier, the Diana+ uses 120 rollfilm. It can shoot in three size images: 12 large square images, 16 small square images or endless panorama. To do this you will have to insert one of the plastic frames (or none for large square images), slide up the film format switch on the back and load a fresh roll of 120.

The Diana F+ comes with an electronic flash (it takes a single AA battery) for low light photography. It is effective between 1-1.5 metre from the subject with a ISO 400 film. Obviously you can use the included coloured gel flash filters for crazy effects. You can also use other flash like the Colorsplash or Ringflash.

The Diana+ is incredibly customisable. The default plastic lens on this is the 75mm, and you can replace this with various lens like the fisheye, 38mm for super wide angle photography, 55mm for wide and close up or 110mm for telephoto. Or you could go lens-less and shoot pinhole images. The Diana can also be fitted with a 35mm back so it can take the easy to develop film format or Instant back for use with Fujifilm's Instax Mini format.

As I write this I can see that Jenni just can't wait to get some fresh films and start shooting this weekend. It would be great to write more about it then, but as this is an analogue film camera, it may take a while to get through a couple of rolls of film before sending it off for processing.

In any case enjoy the final picture:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nokia N8 impressions

I recently had a couple of hands-on with Nokia's new Symbian^3 'flagship' device, the N8, at Nokia World 2010. I wasn't planning on writing this, as I spent way too little time with the display devices and was overwhelmed by my other times with the E7, C6-01, C7, X3, X2 and the new HTC Desire Z and HD.

But on Monday I happened to be at #LeStudio52 and had a chance to play around with Julien Fourgeaud's N8 running on pre-production none-release firmware, which he recently won in an Orange tech competition. It was nice to be given the chance to spend a little bit more time with it and this time without all the usual crowds you get at Nokia World.

The unique and sleek metal body of the N8 just scream quality. It feels great in my palms, and definitely feels and look like the premium device it is. The battery is none-removable, but a couple of N8 owners I talked to reckoned that it could last about a day on the none-removable 1200mAh battery.

The OLED screen is lovely and matches AdonisDemon's HTC Desire in colour saturation and has the same wide viewing angle as you can see from the comparison side-by-side pictures I've taken (note: the HTC Desire's brightness is set to maximum and the N8 was at 50%). The HTC Desire obviously trumps the N8's screen in terms of resolution.

Powering the Nokia N8 is Symbian^3. As far as I know Symbian^4 will not be made available on this device, so take that into consideration when considering the N8. The UI feels and operates much like Symbian^1, but is far quicker no thanks to OS optimisation, quicker processor and the removal of double taps. Gallery and web has pinch to zoom feature and suffered from very little slowdown in rendering.

The N8 was able to play 720p video files with no problems. We've had no issues playing 720p .mkv files. This is great news as the N8 features HDMI out, which works really well as demonstrated at Nokia World. Angry Birds on a HDMI telly? No problem!

The Nokia N8 is due out next month. You can pre-order it here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pouring the perfect Stella Artois pint

Last week I received an invitation to the Stella Artois' Masterclass evening event in London. I thought hmm, am I now a real boozer? I was planning on quitting alcohol for one month before my birthday, but then thought the better of it. Free food and booze - sign me up!

The event was held at the swanky The Cuckoo Club yesterday evening (so exclusive the bar did not have a sign outside!) near Soho, London, and was attended by a couple of London bloggers. Some I've met before (like Andy), but many I have not - so it was good to be able to talk around. It was also great to meet @cowfish there. The last time we spoke in person was at the Tube Relief after party, more than five years ago! Billy has a booze blog as well, make sure to check it out.

The purpose of the event was to allow us to witness and learn about art of pouring a pint and to publicised the Stella Artois World Draught Masters finals event in Old Billingsgate Walk, London on 28 October, where bartenders from across the world compete the pour the perfect pint. Stella Artois also showed us the new glasses that will be making their way to pubs and bars across the country.

Out tutor was Marc Stroobandt, a master beer sommelier, who demonstrated the pouring ritual that would result in a perfect pint of Stella Artois. These steps are easy enough in theory, but requires plenty of practice to perfect.

A clean glass is important. If the glass has a logo on it, make sure if faces forward towards the customer. Then tilt the glass 45 degrees forward and pull the tap open quickly and fully. Once the glass is 3/4 filled, tilt it back upright but do not allow the spout to touch the lather. This will create a nice 1 1/2 inch foam. Allow it to overflow a bit, before turning off the tap quickly, before skimming the top lather off.

Each of guests were given a one-on-one workshop by Marc himself, and I am proud to say I thought I did good (I am pretty sure @cowfish had video evidence of it).

Finally, here's a video of Marc pouring two perfect Stella Artois pints:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's all about people

This is final part of a series of tech and social related posts relating to last week, of which I now dub - the week of awesomeness. The previous were about Nokia World 2010, HTC London event and the meet up organised by the new Three Mobile social media team.

So the best bit of last week? The people. Okay, I was pretty stoked that my twitter comment got firked as well, but seriously it is all about the people. Nokia and HTC can show off a device that actually did came equipped with kitchen sinks and it wouldn't matter if you can't share the excitement with wonderful friends.

The pre-Nokia World event at 1000Heads/WOMWorldNokia tower was pretty epic as I finally had the opportunity to meet people I've known online for some time but never able to put a face with their online handler. So kudos to everyone involved in organising the meet, including James Whatley of 1000Heads and Micky of Also massive cheer to WOMWorldNokia for hosting us, and apologies to the rest of 1000Heads for creating so much noise. Head over here for pictures of the meet.

Equally awesome was the Nokia World evening party in Debut London, I mean friggin iced vodka and gin & tonic cloud room. I've never had a headache as bad as after the party, and it lasted up right through the HTC event the following day... Just so you know, I've already drawn up a plan to quit drinking for a month, but alas this failed on the first day... Still I am determined to see through this plan before my birthday next month. 

If you've been following my tweets for the past couple of weeks, you would have seen me occasionally tweeting from #LeStudio52. It is about making things happen and using our collective power to do so. In any case watch the #LeStudio52 hashtag on twitter for more info, and watch this space. We already have Heather from GiffGaff (a virtual mobile network on o2) coming around and distributing sim cards. If anyone would like one, ping me on twitter and I would be happy to give you one.

Also successful was the #4sqLDN night of ping pong and golf. Well I didn't attend the table tennis bit as I was running a bit late from Nokia World (I even decided to give the HTC meetup a miss), but the golfing bit was brilliant. I haven't touched a golf club for over ten years so the night was a display of massive golfing fail. Cheers to City Limits Golf for putting up with us noisy lot and to David and Diana for organising this.

Pasar malam in Trafalgar Square

This Friday Trafalgar Square will host a traditional Malaysia night market (Pasar Malam). The event starts from 3pm to 10pm and Malaysia Kitchen has promised that there would be about 20 Malaysian restaurants with stalls serving up delicious food for Londoners to sample.

If you are planning to attend I suggest to sample the beef rendang, satay (hopefully they have them properly grilled unlike the tacky oven based stuff they serve in London-based Thai restaurants) and laksa. There will also be stalls selling authentic ingredients like spices and pastes.

I will be there with some mates, hopefully throughout the evening. If you want to meet up @ on twitter.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Three UK meetup

Last Thursday I was invited to meet the new Three 'social media' team. If you haven't heard, Three has decided to create a new in-house team. While it was sad not being able to work with Michelle again, at least not within Three, the new team are raring to get into business with forming a relationship with bloggers. And what better way to break the ice than having a meetup! Having said that, we hope they will extend this relationship to you loyal readers as well.

They had the new MiFi for trial and as you would have known from this review you will know I love it. I was given another trial MiFi 2 to play with and this was stolen on Saturday while I was travelling in a packed Tube. The team was kind enough to arrange for another MiFi to be sent out the next day! So yeah, @ThreeUKLatest = amazing people!

One of my regret of the evening (the other being there was little time to talk to everyone) was not spotting the iPad competition on the window. I guess I was busy making sure I was at the right place as I thought the meet was supposed to be at Meza but was in fact was held at the cigar bar next to it! Still a massive congratulations to Melinda for winning it!

Also was great to meet other bloggers, most of whom I've already met before, including Abul of, Dan of World of Nokia, Richard Lai of Engadget, Marc Flores, John Wood of, Stephen Wing, Ben Smith, Chris of, Christiano Betta and of course, Melinda of

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

HTC London event

This is part two of a series of tech and social related posts relating to events I attended last week. I debated whether to post them as one whole long post, but I felt better breaking them up into separate posts. The previous was about Nokia World 2010 - this is about HTC London event.

The HTC event in London proved to be a little more exciting, if for all the wrong reasons. I arrived at Old Billingsgate to be greeted not by HTC representatives but by a team of Nokia employees (or models) carrying red balloons advertising the virtues of Ovi Maps.

Those who have followed me on twitter will know what I am talking about, but those who haven't - well I was given a Nokia lunch box which they dubbed the HTC survival kit. Inside contained a ham, tomato and cheese sandwich (HTC sandwich, geddit?) and some other little toys, like an eye mask that read "I am dreaming of an N8". Well I am *still* dreaming of an N8.

I've seen some criticism and defences on the web about how Nokia behaved at the HTC London event and can respect both sides of the argument, but I will be honest here - when I first saw the balloons I chuckled. I knew nothing about the bus that HTC sent to ExCeL (I was on Internet blackout when riding the DLR from ExCeL to Monument).

Other than that I have absolutely no opinion whatsoever about whether Nokia was right to send lunch ladies to greet us or whether HTC was right to send buses to Nokia World. At event launches like these it is all about the devices.

HTC announced two new devices at the event, the HTC Desire HD and Desire Z. Both runs on Android kernel 2.2 (aka Froyo). The Desire Z is a great looking device with neat looking sliding QWERTY keyboard that feels better than the E7, and features a 'Z' hinge that is said to improve typing experience. The hinge looks sturdy enough and the device passed by squeeze test.

The Desire HD has a 4.3" screen, which makes the device a little too large for my liking. It is fast. Well both devices felt quick. The Desire Z has a lesser processor but honestly I did not detect any slowdowns compared to the Desire HD.

Both these devices will be ready to go on sale in the UK from next month, when the N8 hits the market, and when the E7 doesn't... A HTC UK rep told me that they expect both devices to be available for free on a £35 a month 24 months contract, but wouldn't be able to commit on it. I expect it to be true, but you would be crazy to lock yourself into a 24 months contract. I yearn for a time when 12 months contract were the norm.

In any case, I am seriously considering getting a Desire Z next month. While not a five row keyboard, it feels better than the one on the Nokia E7. I will publish a more detailed hands-on in due course once I have the time.

There is last thing I want to add before I sign this post off. Something I will forever remember at the HTC event (besides the Nokia stunt) that irked me so badly I actually live tweeted it the moment it reached my ear and my inner self exploded in rage. It was when a HTC designer blurted out that people do not want plastic watches. This is quite simply the stupidest comment I have had the misfortune to hear (apologies to the guy seated next to me when I moaned loudly).

It is nice that HTC thinks we all need premium metal in our phones - lord knows we need our phones to be more expensive and use up more battery to hold onto a cell signal - but they ought to pay more attention to hardware quality control. All my past HTC devices, either HTC-branded or OEM have failed one way or another (XDA IIs, the all metal Palm Tungsten T3, imate JAM etc. - usually the touchscreen). My £10 Casio and £30 Swatch lasts way longer than any of my past HTC devices!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Nokia World 2010

Last week has to be one of the most intense week of my life. I've only had a couple of hours a sleep a night and am completely exhausted by the end of the week. But as the new week dawns I think it is about time for me to post a few thoughts. This post forms the beginning of a series of tech and social related posts relating to the events from last week. The next post will be about the now infamous HTC London event.

Nokia World 2010 has come and gone, and while I am impressed by the N8. My first hands experience with the device confirmed what I thought - it has a fantastic hardware, the camera is amazing and it is a multimedia heaven. But I won't be getting it, and here's why: No Symbian^4 upgrade path for it. Do not get me wrong, Nokia has done a great job with the N8 with Symbian^3 and hardware is fantastic. It's just while I may be a geek, but I am not a rich geek who has loads of money to throw around.
Next up is the E7. Nokia describes it as a Communicator. *Cough* but that is a load of bollocks. It is a lovely device but what I (and some others I've talked to agree) saw was a Nseries device rebadged as an Eseries, basically an N8 with an alright keyboard and lesser camera, a successor to the much maligned Nokia N97 than the brilliant E90. Nothing I have seen from the E7 could convince me that this is the real deal. Nokia made a big deal about the E7 being BIG, but apart from a big screen (which isn't that BIG), it isn't that BIG a deal. I am sure (or at least I hope) that Nokia has plans for a proper E72 successor and E90 successor, but for whatever reasons they are not announcing them yet. Fingers crossed we will see the real deal soon.

Moving on. The new(er) C6-01 which bears no resemblance to the new C6 just launched last month (an example of Nokia's colossal fuck with the the new naming scheme) and C7 are fantastic. If priced correctly, they are winners. They are cheaper than the N8 and would target a demographic who probably would not care about Symbian^4, so the lack of upgrade path does not matter. The screens are fantastic, and are better than the N8, and contains most of not all the features that the average smartphone users would demand in 2010. What I find mind boggling is that Nokia decided not to include the same screen to the N8, the supposed 'flagship' Symbian^3 device.

About the Touch and Type phones. Well they look good, but anyone who knows me would know I don't give a hoot about S40 so let's just leave it at that.

After lunch (when I got firked for complaining about the lack of knives), I took the chance to attend a few of their Developer Summit sessions. The QC process of getting apps onto Ovi Store is interesting. Nokia has a content guide for apps that features bare chested male models and women in bikinis - these apps would not make many countries including Malaysia. The certification process takes a maximum of 5 days, so, baring any issues, developer or publisher can expect their app to be up in store in less than five days. In-app ads are also allowed as long as it they respect the content guide and does not point to another app store. As you may have known, app signing is free now for both native and Java apps. Nokia will not be taking any share monetary shares from generated via operator billing.

I also attended a session on Qt on Symbian^3 where Daniel Rocha of Nokia demonstrated the development, debugging and packaging of apps, including the latest Qt Mobility API. This session is interesting. Despite coming from a none-programming background, the session demonstrated the ease of Qt Creator in compiling apps for targetted devices (in this case the N8), and I walked away convinced.

The morning of day two of Nokia World was spent watching the keynote speech by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. If there ever was a god, this would the guy. Thanks to him I have been on the web for more than 15 years. He pointed out that while 80% of the world population have access, only 20% are connected to the Internet. A crazy figure by any means and one that has to do more with barrier to entry than anything else.

Sir Tim spoke about the importance of geo location sharing and the responsibility of providers to find a balance between privacy issues and providing a service. It made me think about how I did not get my swarm badge on both days of Nokia World, despite the large presence of mobile geeks. Maybe because there is no official Foursquare application on Symbian!

Nokia World closed with some developers contest. I am not familiar with many of the apps on display, but one shown was beyond cool. It uses the phone's front camera to unlock the phone based on facial recognition. Nokia's new CEO stressed the importance of developers, and this I agree. The issue is whether Nokia can convince developers to develop for Symbian and Meego. Not taking any commissions out of apps sold via operators billing is a first step, but the next is to get the word out and I am not convinced Nokia is doing their best to do just that.

So is Nokia back? Well they've never been away. But they do have a lot of work to do to win the mindshare of stuffy tech journos. I myself am planning on taking a break away from Nokia for a year (still feel free to send me trial devices to review though!), or until Symbian^4 or Meego phones are ready. Next month is my birthday and I'll be temporarily defecting to Android or Windows Phone 7 with a new smartphone. Moving away will give me a fresh perspective of a fast changing mobile landscape. Not that I am counting Nokia out yet. As I said earlier I'll be back for Symbian^4 or Meego.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Nokia phone bench

Last Wednesday I spent some time with Katie of WOMWorldNokia and Benny of Pink Pegion checking out the making of park benches made of recycled Nokia phones at Artem, a cool art studio specialising in special effects for clients in the TV and film industry (they did the effects in Hot Fuzz, the Gremlins in Gremlins, the bunnies from Sony's Bravia "Playdoh" ad).

Anyway, this is a project initiated by Nokia. The park benches, which are to displayed at Nokia World in ExCeL London, are made of the ABS plastic from old Nokia phones. Park benches may sound boring compared to Gremlins and Hot Fuzz, but they still look good and I love the paint job on them. It is a good start, and time will tell if initiatives like this will spur more people to help recycle their old gadgets into something a bit more useful, like a rollercoaster. ;)

Oh Nokia, since me and Katie did some work on them, perhaps you peeps can arrange to deliver one to each of us? Please?!?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hello loyal readers!

Apologies for the lack of updates. It will only get worse as I'll be taking some time off and camping in New Forest next weekend. But I promise some exciting stuff are going to happen soon!

I'll be at Nokia World 2010 (where the N9 will be announced, surely, no?) and HTC London event (where we expect to see the launch of the HTC HD2/Vision/whatever and their first Windows Phone 7 device) from 14-15 September 2010, covering for Fone Arena. So follow me at @jonchoo for the latest updates as I will be live tweeting from the event. Once I have the time the report will go onto Fone Arena (obviously), though you may see some of the more personal vocal opinions here. :)

And that's that!