Friday, December 21, 2012

XKCD on recent Instagram kerfuffle

XKCD sums up the recent Instagram outrage

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Duck & Waffle (and Sushisamba) Heron Tower review

Duck & Waffle is a new experimental fusion restaurant on the 40th floor of Heron Tower in Bishopsgate, London. One of the few venues in London that offers even us plebs a chance to dine 180 metres above ground, it is also surprisingly good value. In other countries, we may scoff at the idea of dining more than 50 metres above sea level as anything special. No thanks to London's archaic planning permission law, you get very few choices here.
Despite being opened 24 hours a day, booking is recommended, particularly for peak times (lunch and dinner). Duck & Waffle offers four menus throughout the day. These menus also changes on a regular basis. Their signature dish, if you haven't guessed already, is their namesake duck 'n' waffle, which consists of... a leg of crispy duck confit, waffle and fried duck egg. Simple, and rather neat as well. They also offer traditional English breakfast, though I am not quite convinced by the trotter braised beans.

Auto Trader Ignition

A couple of weeks ago I attended the launch of Auto Trader's ignition interactive magazine on the iPad's Newsstand. ignition is an interactive magazine, one that is made from the ground up to take advantage of our digital time. According to Auto Trader, the publication will be editorial focused and will help users with their purchasing decisions.

Now, I am not really an automobile person. Living close to London, I don't need to be. Still, there is a time in the future when I would definitely need to own a car. But even as a none car owner, I am already aware of Auto Trader for their new and used classified listings. It's the one magazine everyone I know will look first when researching for vehicles. I approached using the app from a perspective of a person attempting to buy their first ever car. You know, searching the classified listings for the most affordable second hand Ferrari, like all first time buyers do.
Back to ignition, during the launch, a version of the app was available to demo on one of their iPad tablets. I was impressed by how well done the app was. I must confessed, I do not own an iPad, so that was my first time reading an interactive publication.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nokia Lumia 920 camera review

Nokia has a lot riding on the Lumia 920. Their flagship Windows Phone 8 device is supposed to be the device to propel them back into recovery. The Lumia 800 which I praised a lot last year had plenty of faults, one of which includes the sub-standard camera expected from Nokia - but hei it was a stop-gap device, one they engineered and got onto the market in nine months. The Lumia 920 on the other hand, is pretty much their first real made from scratch Windows Phone smartphone, one not bound by previous pre-Windows Phone era projects.

Nokia also prides themselves as a big camera company, one that makes smartphones with the absolute best imaging hardware - that many of their fans insists will bring about the downfall of dedicated photographic companies like Nikon and Canon. The Lumia 920, the second of their device to has the PureView brand attached to it, is one such device. Never mind that physics dictates that a device the size of the Lumia 920 can't possibly bet as good as a five year old compact or even the PureView 808, we were told that it was technically brilliant.

No, it isn't.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

KitSound Mini Buddy portable speaker review

There's nothing quite like a surprise present is there. Thanks to the wonderful people at Three UK, this little fellow drop by the post this morning. As it isn't technically Christmas yet, let's just call it a late birthday gift. ;) It's a Mini Buddy portable speaker in the form of a confused looking primate, from a company I have never heard of before, KitSound.

While not quite as exciting as the SoundWave SW50 bluetooth speaker I touched on a couple of months ago, the Mini Buddy at least looks the part. The single large 36mm driver resides at the back of its, uhm, head. It might not look like it, but good lord is this thing loud! Initially believing this to be more of a novelty toy, this monkey looking portable speaker is actually rather good sounding, considering the price.

Inside the Mini Buddy lies a Li-ion battery that can be charged via a supplied micro USB cable. Sadly, the speaker won't work via USB, but the universal 3.5mm headphone jack via a short cable will work on almost every mobile phone and DAP ever released. A simple on/off switch ensures the battery wouldn't be wasted when the speaker isn't busy annoying your fellow bus passengers.

With an impedance of 4ohms, it is rather sensitive. While this allows it to be incredibly loud, there are obvious distortions the louder you go, though still surprisingly crisp for what it is (certainly more so than most laptop speakers I have used). You probably wouldn't want to trade your Klipsch monitors for this!

Still, for £10, these speakers are neat and cute looking portable speaker for kids or anyone who wishes to have something just a bit louder than their phone for a trip to the beach where sound quality isn't an issue anyway. Generally, for kids at least, speakers are safer than in-ear headphones.

Incidentally, the Mini Buddy speaker I received was the Monkey version, which fits me perfectly considering I was born in the year of the monkey. There are loads of other versions too, including a penguin and devil, plus a more expensive deadmau5 version that lights up.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Orange Buffalo review

Food trucks are all the rage these days. Having been to quite a few, many are pretty dodgy, but you do find the odd gem once in a while. One such example, Pitt Cue Co. formerly trading in a cart under Hungerford Bridge, is so renowned for their pulled pork, they can get away with charging 'restaurant prices'. They have since opened a restaurant in Soho, where punters would regularly queue for an hour just to have a sit at their tiny basement room. But it is worth it. (If you haven't figured it out, Pitt Cue Co. - do it!)

Anyway, The Orange Buffalo is another such food joint that is destined to be remembered with equal greatness. Found on the Ely's Yard carpark in The Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, the food cart sells New York style buffalo wings. Now, I have never been to New York, so I can't vouch for its authenticity. But having been to the Orange Buffalo four times, all I can say is that the wings are flippin fantastic, authentic or not.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Nokia Lumia 920 impressions

Believe it or not, this is the first time I've managed to test a Lumia 920 since, well, since it was announced. I have had a very brief hands-on during my disastrous trip to the Windows Phone 8 "launch party" at Victoria House, Bloomsbury, if you remember my tweeting rants from the night. Well never mind about that for now, surely you would want to know more about Nokia's newest flagship.

Since the release of the phone last month, I have done my best to avoid reading any reviews of Windows Phone 8 or the Lumia 920. Naturally, being on twitter, facts from various reviews and opinions from my tech reviewer and blogger friends do somehow get my attention at times. I wanted to approach the OS and phone with a fresh perspective. Now, as a fan of Windows Phone 7 rather unusual but beautiful homescreen, I did not welcome the initial announcement of the redesigned homescreen on Windows Phone 8. In fact, I downright loath it. But like everything else, there's a difference between what you see on your laptop's screen and what you see in real life.
Curve it
Before I continue, these, for the specs-lovers out there:


  • Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 SoC with dual core 1.5Ghz Krait and Adreno 225
  • 1GB RAM and 32GB built-in flash storage (no expansion slot)
  • 4.5" LCD IPS capacitive touchscreen with 768 x 1280 resolution (332 ppi)
  • Quad band GSM and 3G (LTE on select models)
  • 42 Mbps DC-HSDPA and 5.76 Mbps HSUPA
  • 8 Megapixel autofocus camera with dual LED flash and 1080p30 video recording
  • 1.3 Megapixel front camera with 720p30 video recording
  • Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi 802.11b/g/n
  • Contactless charging, NFC
  • microUSB
  • 2000mAh battery

Random International: Rain Room at the Barbican

The power to control the rain is one that many of us wish we have - to let it rain as nature intends, and yet to stay completely dry at all times. Even if technology has somewhat allowed us to partially control the weather, it appears unlikely we will ever wield complete control of the rain in our life time.

But thanks to a recent art experiment by Random International at the Barbican Centre's The Curve room, we can now at least imagine what it would feel like to control the rain. From 4 October until 3 March 2013, visitors has to put their complete trust in the workings of the 'Rain Room', a room where it always rain - except where you stand. Sensors installed overhead allows one to stay dry in a room filled with constant shower of water.

Here I am endangering a Lumia 920

We visited the Barbican yesterday just before opening time where we were greeted with a very long queue. After a 1 1/2 hour queue, we finally managed to enter the room and, in the process of walking towards the rain... I got soaked! You see, there is a slight problem with the installation - if you are wearing a black jacket, it wouldn't work! Once the black coat was removed, the 'rain' would simply switch off wherever I walked.

So there you go, that's my little advice to you. Get down there and experience this great thing once. It is opened daily from 11am until 8pm (10pm on Thursday, plus random closes for maintenance, so check ahead). Entry is free, just don't forget to bring a book as the installation is very popular and queues can last up to three hours. Also, ditch your black jacket.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Samsung Galaxy S III mini-review

 When the Samsung Galaxy S III was announced back in May, I walked away unimpressed by Samsung's efforts. While it was fast and has all the specs to make even the geekiest person giddy with excitement, the design, choice of finish and display was a let down to me. I expected more for the follow up to the mighty Galaxy S II.

Still, would a chance to use it for two weeks change my mind? As part of my #GemaltoNFC challenge, I was loaned one for two weeks. This was mainly to test the NFC payment feature. But for two weeks it also became my main phone where I tweet, check in and Instagram'ed pictures of coffee.

Powering the S3 is the Exynos 4212 SoC. This chipset contains a quad core ARM Cortex A-9 CPU (a now outdated architecture) and Mali-400MP GPU. This is impressive enough, but hardly noteworthy considering the move towards newer more efficient architecture such as Qualcomm's Krait and ARM's own Cortex A-15. The 1GB RAM is plenty, though many manufacturers, Samsung included, has since moved on towards using 2GB of RAM. Overkill for a smartphone? Well, at least you can multi-task easily. 16GB of flash storage can be augmented with a microSD card slot - a endangered feature these days one I am glad Samsung has decided to latch on to. Thanks to Samsung's generosity, you will also get 50GB of extra Dropbox storage.

With quad band GSP and quad band 3G DC-HSDA+ support, the phone is pretty much a world phone. A LTE version has also since been released. It also contains WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, A-GPS support (with GLONASS) and digital compass. Oh, and it also comes with wireless charging capability, a totally useless invention.

I mentioned earlier about how I found the screen disappointing. It isn't so much as the screen technology or colour saturation - all of which are great. The 4.8" Super AMOLED display has a great viewing angle, and works well in both outdoors and indoors condition, and it is very bright to boot. The over saturation isn't to everyone's taste but you can always dial down the saturation level in the settings. Sadly, the use of Pentile sub-matrix kills this otherwise nice looking screen. The screen's touchscreen sensitivity also appeared to be downgraded.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Specialty Coffee Map London

Blue Crow Media's London Best Coffee app is one of my favourite app, and is one my partner use religiously. Alongside my Foursquare list of London coffee shops, the Independent Coffee Book and the app, we've never had a bad cup of coffee in London, ever.

The app is both available on Android and iPhone only, which is a bummer for Windows Phone users like me. Thankfully the developer at Blue Crow Media has decided to release a bog standard paper version. The fold up version costs just £3 and I picked mine up at Rapha Cycle Shop in Soho last week. Ever since then I always carry the paper copy in my wallet.

The two sided map is pocket size and it covers the main central of London including the Soho, Fitzrovia, Bloomsbury, City of London and parts of Shoreditch. As expected, the map isn't that extensive due to the limitation of an analogue medium but it is still good to have a back up with me whenever I am using a phone that doesn't support the app or my phone's battery is dead and I am really dying for a caffeine fix.

About 100 coffee shops and their addresses are listed on the map, though about half of them are 'off map' with a rough direction on where they are located. These includes coffee shops as far away as West Norwood, Forest Hill and Richmond. Only coffee shops using beans from independent roasters such as Square Mile, Nude Espresso, Climpson & Sons, Monmouth, Has Bean etc. are included.

For only £3, the Specialty Coffee Map makes for a nice cheap and cheerful investment for any self respecting coffee addict, or even as a gift for anyone who happens to be living or visiting London.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gemalto NFC Contactless Challenge: Wrap Up

Two weeks ago I embarked on a challenge: to go contactless for 1 1/2 weeks. On some days, I had to go fully on contactless payment for the entire day. On others, I had to tick off challenges issued by Gemalto and my social media followers. To make it a bit more interesting, I was pitted against Ewan of MobileIndustryReview. It was a crazy 10 days, as far as spending money is concerned. If you are interested, you can read my extensive diary of some sorts, detailing the daily challenges I had to endure.

While the use of NFC and RFID is widespread, contactless payment is a rather new thing in this country. If you have visited London, chances are you've used RFID technology, the precursor to NFC, thanks to the prevalent Oyster card. Most new built residential buildings uses a key fob entry system, which are based on RFID technologies. Chances are your passport, libraries and pets have RFID embedded in them. It really isn't that new a technology, but it is evolving into something much more than just tagging.