Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Politics and Police do not mix

So, I've just received my polling card for the Hertfordshire Police & Crime Commissioner election. As this was the first I've heard about it, I quickly read up about this reform (after all the national media has not once made us aware that there was going to be an opportunity to elect a local police commissioner). What I found disturbed me.

Each candidate for the Hertfordshire police commissioner are affiliated to a political party. Worse still, every single candidates are seasoned armchair politicians with no actual experiences in policing! You know, the type of stuff police are supposed to do like catching robbers, investigating bankers, protecting the people, filling tedious paperwork etc.
FFS, even the rosettes are affiliated to the three main UK parties!
Policing should be impartial. The last thing we should want as a democratic country is having the police in the pockets of political party with an agenda. And because of the amount of resources needed to campaign, many independents or actual police who actually know their shit, can't even afford to stump up the deposit (which is more than the deposit required to stand for Member of Parliament!) needed to run. Of course politics and police do mix, they already do at dangerous levels. Quite why any sensible person would want policing to be more political is beyond me.

It's an invitation to an American-style political lobby system (ie. wide spread corruptions) and the only reason this reform exists is likely to create a new class of self serving politicians who will be earning £100k a year, which by the way, more than your MP earns a year.

I would hate to waste my vote and yet I do not want to vote for a police commissioner who is affiliated in any way or form with any political party. But as Hertfordshire will not have any independent candidates I will likely not vote come election day. Political parties and agendas should not influence the police organisation, and I say that as a person who is always suspicious of them, the cynic I am.

IMAX vs lieMAX

Today a friend of mine tweeted into my timeline about IMAX plans for five new theatres across Europe. IMAX claims that this will bring the total amount of IMAX screens in Europe to 132. Milton Keynes will be one of the lucky bearers to receive one of these screens at Odeon & UCI's multiplex. Lucky them, or so you might be led to believe.

Before I start ripping into IMAX, I want to address what seems to be a general confusion within the paying public on what constitutes an actual IMAX screen. There are many who believes whenever they watch a film in an IMAX branded cinema that they are actually watching an IMAX film. Let me clarify.

There's IMAX, and there's IMAX.

More specifically, there's IMAX the experience, and there's IMAX the brand. Many theaters these days contains IMAX branded screens. These may be IMAX branded, but they are certainly not IMAX in the classical sense. These screens, commonly referred to by IMAX enthusiasts as lieMAX, are essentially retrofitted theaters powered by a pair of 2K projectors system. And they costs the same as watching on a real IMAX screen.
IMAX films are shot using a format known as 15/70, meaning they use a 70mm sideways. Each frame is 70mm high and runs on 15 perforations per frame. That's massive, around ten times the surface area of academy 35mm format. Being an analog format, the amount of resolution a 15/70 IMAX film holds is difficult to calculate, but some has estimated a horizontal resolution close to 12,000 pixels. By comparison, a 2K digital format has a maximum horizontal resolution of a parltry 2048 pixels.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gemalto Contactless Challenge

You may have read a teaser tweet or two about it a couple of months back, but yes, the contactless challenge is back on the table. For a week in November, Ewan of Mobile Industry Review and I will be competing against each other in Gemalto's contactless challenge.

First a bit of info about Gemalto. Gemalto is a major player in the international mobile digital security industry, providing services and products such as secure SIMs in mobile phones, e-passport and chip terminals. There is a good chance that if you've visited a bank in the past few years, or if you do online banking, you will have handled a device or went through a system powered by Gemalto.

NFC are the next big thing in mobile, and one of its primary uses is to enable contactless payments. So, for a week from Monday 19 November, armed with a pair of Samsung Galaxy S III, Ewan and I will be unleashed onto the mean streets of London. Like the geekiest scientists you can think of, we will be testing London's NFC infrastructure to its fullest, prodding every payment terminals we can find with our phones.

In simple terms, we will be given a set of challenge to complete to see who can best each other at spending. :) Oh please do not make us purchase train tickets with contactless payment, as I won't be able to leave home!

Expect updates in the forms of blogs and video blogs on here, Gemalto's blog and Ewan's website, as well as our twitter accounts.

Hold on to your butts!

Facepalm: EE 4G LTE tariffs revealed

When EE announced they would be the first mobile service provider in the UK to launch a LTE 4G network, I was genuinely excited. After all, we have been waiting for years whilst other countries speed by us implementing a now very mature LTE network. This is Britain after all, an apparent first world country, and being subjected to delays in LTE was frustrating. The announcement by EE was a light at the end of the tunnel, or so we thought.

Now we wish they never bothered. This morning my twitter feed was full of feedbacks towards EE by fellow mobile tech friends. None were positive. Why? Because EE has just announced their 4G LTE tariffs and it is a damp squib:
The tariffs here are based on 24 month contract, so add another £10 per month if you want to go for a 12 month contract - the sensible thing to do, but not at the price. So there you go, £36/£46 for 500MB of data is the cheapest you can go on a contract if you want a new subsidised LTE smartphone. You do get access to BT WiFi hotspots, but who cares about those?

If you have a LTE phone, you want to use that little LTE radio in it, not some poxy tethered WiFi hotspot, which there are plenty of which are free these days. There are no unlimited data tariffs as well, with the maximum tariff being 8GB for a cool £56. You do get unlimited calls and texts, but didn't EE get the memo that people are using calls and texts less these days, or at least substituting them with Skype and Whatsapp? It makes me question whether the people running EE really understands the market and the data centric devices they sell.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tonkotsu review

Tonkotsu is a new'ish ramen noodle house, founded by the same people who brought us Tsuru Sushi & Katsu. Not quite unlike the more specialty udon-based Koya nearby, Tonkotsu is aimed at people keen to expand their Japanese noodles palette beyond the usual Wagamama chain of bland pan-Asian restaurants without straying too far from the comfort of home.

The pork-based Tonkotsu is served in thin noodles and delicious pork belly. The thin noodles aren't particularly fantastic, though I do love the broth and pork belly (who doesn't?). The Tokyo Spicy ramen on the other hand is a mixture of pork and chicken stock and comes with medium thick noodles (my preference when it comes to ramen), topped with pulled chili pork. Pulled pork, in my opinion, is one of the most overrated dishes to trend this side of the century, but they do taste well here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lag Lag Lag

This is one blog post I am dreading to write, but I had to even if it invites a horde of fanboys over to stampede on the comment section. Last week I received a call from my brother who is now the proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy S3. I asked for his impressions and the first thing he mentioned was there is some lag. Lag? How is that possible? This monster has four fricking Cortex A9 cores. That's two more cores than I have on my laptop!

Then I remember what pretty much every Android smartphones review I ever wrote - each one has noticeable lags even the One X (which I loved - thanks HTC Sense!). Most are fine, and I am sure the Galaxy S3's lag isn't detrimental to its usability. But for a flagship phone with four cores, it shouldn't even lag, at all. Today I played with a friend's Galaxy Note 2, and boy, does the thing lag like it's entering a competition to see whether it can a trophy in lag. Even excusing the amazingly awful lag from the S-Pen stylus (something which never happened with old style resistive touchscreens), the Note 2 was practically unusable.

This isn't an Android witch hunt. In fact, I have been using a RAZR MAXX for more than a month now and since updating the ICS, the handset has been relatively lag free (shocker!). Only on rare occasions would the device stutter, and that's only because I have ten apps running in the background. I know Motorola gets a lot of stick for their lack of support, but I am pretty happy with the MOTOBLUR-free ICS update. Add to the fact that the RAZR MAXX has a massive battery, you would need to pry it off my dead fingers. And this is a device that has two partly Cortex A9 cores.

But, but, but, I hear some geeks protesting, you can install custom ROMs. I am sorry, but that's just no excuse and certainly isn't something one should use to excuse bad support. When one purchase a £450 smartphone, one should always expect that it runs the best as it could. Even as a self proclaimed geek, rooting and installing a custom ROM isn't something I would like to do. I have done my fair share of ROM 'hacking' back in the PalmOS days, and I can think of a thousand things I would rather do (like writing this) than downloading and installing nighties these days. No reviewers should excuse slowdowns because you can root.

Perhaps manufacturers just can't be bothered, hoping against hope that their poor coding could be fixed through sheer brute force. But there is a fundamental problem that, if even through multiple cores, a device would still not run as smoothly as it should. Google is attempting to fix this through Jelly Bean, but Jelly Bean isn't available for every smartphones out there is it? And what's to say that any improvement by Jelly Bean or subsequent version wouldn't be reversed by future iterations of TouchWiz, Sense etc.?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Imbue ArtVend art vending machine

While on a quick pit stop in Brighton on Saturday, we decided to grab brunch at the local independent cafe The Marwood Coffee Shop. Here we stumbled onto a vending machine so brilliant, we actually spent £16 in under an hour (we had to go to the bank to get £2 coins!). The concept is so simple and yet so ingenious and forward thinking, I tip my hat at its creators.

You see, the vending machine ain't just any ordinary vending machine. It's an ArtVend, meaning it despense a piece of art work screen printed on DVD size plywood panels, in this case arts by local Brighton street artist Imbue. Why DVD size plywood panels you ask? Well the vending machines were once used to sell pornographic DVDs, so there!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

EE to switch on 4G LTE this month

EE, the company that resulted from the merger between T-Mobile and Orange, has announced that the UK's first 4G network will officially launch on 30 October 2012. That's right, in just 27 days you will enjoy super fast 4G from the comfort of a compatible smartphone.

After years of unnecessary delay and politics infighting within the industry, not to mention OFCOM's incompetence, LTE is almost here. That is if you are lucky to be living in one of the ten cities EE will be launching initially.

Still, EE has promised that the rollout of their LTE network will eventually cover 16 cities, or a third of the UK population, by the year's end. Smartphones compatible includes the recently launched Apple iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE, Huawei Ascend P1 LTE, HTC One XL and Nokia Lumia 910.

Details such as pricing and tariffs announcement will be made at a later date. In the meantime, you can check out my EE 4G LTE hands-on (ps: it's pretty fast).

Monday, October 1, 2012

Burger & Lobster (Soho) review

Our new favourite food joint, Burger & Lobster on 36, Dean Street in Soho, deserves a short quick review on this blog purely because of how its success is build upon a simple concept - whole lobster meals for £20.

That's right. £20. The menu consists of only three items, a burger, lobster and lobster roll, all of which costs £20. Lobster, unsurprisingly, is the most popular item on the menu though I have seen numerous number of burgers and lobster rolls on tables as well.

I won't comment on the burgers as I personally can't see why anyone, unless they are allergic to seafood, would want to order a burger when you can get a whole lobster for £20, however awesome it may be. Plus Honest Burgers is just down the road if you want a fantastic burger.

In any case let's continue talking about the lobsters. I was told that the £20 lobsters weigh around 1lb 2ozs. You can also go bigger for £10 extra though I've never opted for that. Each items comes with a bowl of chips and salad. Lobsters can be served plain steamed or finished with a grill - and I do suggest you opt for it to be grilled.