Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Android 4.4.2 improves Nexus 5 camera

Having been using the Nexus 5 for over a month now, I can declare that this is simply one of the best Android smartphones you can get for your money. It isn't perfect. For example the lack of expansion slot is a bit of a downer. But the most galling example has to be the camera.
Now, the quality of the camera's output isn't that bad if the conditions are right. But it's auto focus mechanism is iffy, especially on low light, and slow. Despite the inclusion of optical stablisation, you get all sorts of jerks. The white balance can also be a bit off, and the exposure compensation doesn't always work. I have had better pictures taken with the 8-megapixel powered no-OIS HTC 8X than with this device.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Talk Talk now ignores their customer's problems

Yesterday I managed to get Talk Talk, the UK's worst ISP, to give me a callback. This was after they 'diagnose' our problem and concluded that our line is working perfectly fine, despite we trying out every available telephone connection in our house to find this untrue. Never mind that the phone number they assigned to us actually belongs to another household, possibly in breach of data protection act, they downright lied to me about doing any so called diagnosing.
Well I was at home with my mobile phone glued to my head the entire time. It was 12.05pm when I finally received a call but only to get disconnected when I answered (I have full bars on my phone, so the problem is on their end). Now they have logged my issue on their service centre as 'solved', even despite not having bothered to talking to me in the first place. Oh, and the issue isn't solved. I do not have a dial tone on my landline, the internet does not work and lo and behold, the number still belongs to another household.

Thanks for wasting my time once again, you cretins!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Talk Talk assigns someone else's number to us

Well I knew this would bite me in the ass when I decided to return to Talk Talk when we moved to our new home. Talk Talk promised to send a BT Openreach engineer to our house on 21 November 2013 to get the phone line activated. I have received several confirmation text and phone calls from TalkTalk confirming this very fact. I was made clear by TalkTalk that if I wasn't home to receive the engineer, I would be charged for the call out. Fair enough, I thought.

On the day, I received a letter from TalkTalk confirming my new phone number and that the phone and broadband package will go live. But after waiting an entire day for the engineer, no such engineer came. The phone and broadband service that was supposed to go live did not.

I went to twitter to ask their customer service representative, but they were unhelpful, using typical scripted lines. I also used the live agent chat facility on their website, but the agent was unhelpful, insisting each time that my line is okay, which I find utterly insulting. How can an agent, possibly living half way across the world, can ascertain that my phone line is working, when I, despite living here, can't.

The 'live agent' at Talk Talk also insists we call their customer service. Well how can I call when I have no phone line to call? Bloody genius.

Finally I decided to call the number that TalkTalk assigned to this household and found that it belonged to someone else! Someone else who isn't living in this household. So not only is TalkTalk denying me service, I am possibly paying for someone else's phone rental! I am also pretty sure they are breaching some kind of data protection act by assigning me someone else's number, so I hope they get a big fine from Ofcom. But knowing how in bed Ofcom is with ISPs, I doubt so.

So well done TalkTalk, you have convinced me that you are utterly hopeless and can never be redeemed. I am sure you will prevent me from leaving Talk Talk despite breaching your part of the contract by denying me the service you promised, but once the 12 month contract is up, I will be sure to take my money else where.

Monday, November 11, 2013

SGP Spigen Neo Hybrid for LG Google Nexus 5 case review

SGP Spigen's Neo Hybrid is one of my favourite cases for smartphones. Each time a new phone is announced, SGP will normally be one of the first port of calls where I would search for a compatible case. It isn't surprising then that when Google and LG announced the Nexus 5 that I quickly ordered a Neo Hybrid case.

The Nexus 5 isn't exactly a looker, so covering it up in a case is a no brainer. The Neo Hybrid is a two piece hybrid case. It comes in two separate parts: an inner layer which is made of soft flexible TPU, and a polycarbonate skeleton bumper frame, which is designed to go over the silicone bit. It is available in dark grey, silver and champagne gold, which is a bit of a bummer as I would have preferred to get one in yellow.

Simply slip the silicon case over the phone and once that is fitted, you then slot the outer glossy skeleton frame over it. You would not want to be removing this case often as the case is very tight. Not that you would need to as the Nexus 5 has no expandable storage option of accessible battery compartment.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

LG Google Nexus 5 first impressions

Today I took delivery of the new Google and LG flagship, the Nexus 5. As I have been needing a new smartphone since July, I decided it is time to ignore my LG bias and check the device out. After all Google has been very impressive when it came to shipping this out so soon after announcement (next day!). Call this a late birthday present.

The Nexus 5 is a clear design evolution of the Nexus 4. You will find that the same basic shape is retained but the screen has been upgraded to a 5" 16:9 1080p LCD IPS display, which bumping the pixel density up, is simply gorgeous to look at. This is one of the best displays I have ever viewed in door, and that includes the HTC One.

While the removal of the glass back plate in favour of polycarbonate made the Nexus 5 feel cheaper than the premium-feel Nexus 4, it has made the new flagship significantly lighter and thinner as well. Yes, plastic may feel cheaper in your palm compared to glass, but I am sure it will probably be able to sustain a bit more everyday abuse than the crack happy Nexus 4.

I found the power button, which is located on the left side of the device next to the micro SIM card tray, to be a tad too small and too close to the top edge of the device. A power button located in the middle of the phone, similar to those found on Lumia and Xperia devices, would have been far more comfortable. A 3.5mm headphone jack and microphone can be found on the top, while the metallic volume rocker sits on the right side. You will find a pair of iPhone 5-esque loud speaker grills on the bottom with a micro USB sync/charge port in between them.

The backside is a design in simplicity, with a 8MP camera and a single solitary weak LED flash. While the back cover looks removable, I have been told it isn't. If you went for the white version like I did, you will find that the Nexus 5 sports a two-tone colour, which I admit looks rather neat. The camera itself isn't something to write about, especially after my brief affair with a Lumia 1020, and the camera app is still annoyingly basic. With only 8MP of data, you won't be cropping pictures a lot, but OIS and a faster lens for low light photography is a welcome upgrade regardless. Only time will tell if the camera here is a good enough improvement over the Nexus 4's poor camera.

With a top of the range Snapdragon 800 and the latest Android 4.4, the Nexus 5 is mighty fast. In fact it is so quick, you wouldn't have to install a slim down launcher like Nova (though I installed it anyway as I detest the fixed Google search bar). Android 4.4 does not appear to feature any ground breaking innovations as far as the GUI is concern, though the Nexus 5 does sport a voice wake up feature first found on the Moto X.

Overall the Nexus 5 isn't the most gorgeous looking device out there, but it is very functional. Everything is where you expect to find them, and while I would have preferred the power button to be located near the middle of the device, at least it isn't on the top (glares at HTC). As far as 5 inchers goes, the Nexus 5 feels great in my palm. Android isn't exactly a one-hand use friendly OS, but it doesn't become too irritating.

The Nexus 5 is available right now from Google Play, starting from £299, making it one of the cheapest Snapdragon 800-powered smartphones around. It is also available subsidised on various wireless carriers such as Three UK.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Leaving St Albans

Tomorrow will be our final day as residents of St Albans.

Four years isn't a long time to know this former Roman town, and we are still discovering new things to like about this city. But we thought it was time to move on. We have outgrown our one bedroom flat and we wanted a 'forever' home. As house prices in St Albans are notoriously high, getting a house here would mean compromising on location. It would not satisfy our needs as a 21st century inhabitant - the need to be close to a railway station. Don't get us wrong, St Albans is a beautiful dormitory town, which only downside is it is served by First Capital Connect, the mother of all ghastly railway companies. But it doesn't help that we were always city kids, so life in the suburbs isn't quite for us, yet.

We have grown to love the many South Asian restaurants such as Mumtaj, Bengal Club, Koh-i-Noor and Veer Dhara, the fantastic new restaurant Number 23, Soko Coffee who operates outside the railway station in her coffee scooter, the mobile Pudding Stop (whose owner appeared on BBC's GB Bake Off), Dixie's Cupcakery (who appeared on BBC's The Apprentice - much to the chagrined of local people here, but whatever), our two favourite Thai restaurants north of London, Pin Petch and Bua Thai, and numerous Italian eateries here (bar Jamie Oliver).

Verulamium Park, once the site of an ancient Roman city of the same name, is a favourite of ours. Not only does the park host one of the oldest pubs in Britain, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, it is also beautiful what with the number of Roman ruins dotted around and mix of fields and trees. We know London has an abundance parks, but Verulamium is quality. But we won't be missing walking up Holywell Hill!

However one thing is certain, we would not hesitate to moving back to St Albans if and when the time is right. We made many friends here, from good neighbours to amazing twitter chaps of all kinds. So you never know.

Right I better post this before our internet access is cut off. See you on the other side of the river!)

So long, and thanks for all the fish!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Monkey business

This is a monkey
Football isn't something I write about, but this isn't about football. This is more of an observation on how our media reacts to none worthy news. Recently England's football manager made a joke or rallying cry using monkeys in space (because NASA sends monkeys to space) or something. I don't know. All I know is the word monkey was used and media people are furious about this 'gaffe' which isn't really a gaffe.

Remember, these are the same media people who likes to poke fun at said manager's speech impediment. (classy)

What I am certain of however is monkey is the description of a primate who mainly lives in trees eating bananas. You know, that animal thing who looks a bit like us, only a bit more furry and has a tail. Yeah, we kinda evolved from them.

So what do you think of when someone says monkey? Well I think of a monkey, the animal. You see, I grew up in a town where monkeys would frequently raid our mango tree.
3D sucks. Also, racists!
I also think of the monkey king, Sun Wukong, a Chinese folklore god-thing who also happens to be cheeky monkey who likes to beat the crap out of anything (according to a comic I read). This monkey general also happens to be the main inspiration to Son Goku, the character from Dragon Ball who has a tail and grows into a monkey beast during full moon, also known as the greatest comic book hero of all eternity. Take that Superman.

You know what I do not associate monkeys with? Black people. So whenever I tell a story involving monkeys (which I hardly ever do), I never meant to offend people, and 99% of the time people aren't offended. Because people I know are sensible folks who would never associate monkeys with people of certain races.

But you know who associates black people with monkeys? Journalists and 'anti racism' organisations who writes about racism whenever monkeys are mentioned. Like this guy.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Meridian Explorer review

Meridian is a Cambridge based audio company known in the audiophile circle as a good trusted brand when it comes to sound quality. Their products are on the upper end of the market and, as all their products are designed and manufactured in the UK, therefore comes at a premium. The Meridian Explorer is a product aimed at cornering the slightly lower end of the market, and to a different segment of audio lovers.

The pocket size USB DAC is designed for those who mainly listen to music using computers. It is a growing segment of the audio market. Long gone when you need a PC size amp and book shelf speaker in order to enjoy good audio quality. The Explorer in intended to do two things. It is designed first to bypass a typical PC's soundcard (which are normall inadequate), routing the digital file through the USB onto the Explorer's on board Texas Instrument DAC. This by itself will almost always make a difference for the better. The second thing the Explorer does is up sample the audio file.

A CD and MP3 file typically contains audio tracks in 16-bit resolution and 44.1kHz sampling, which is adequate for majority of music listeners. However to some, this isn't enough. You can find albums encoded in 24/192, but these are rare and expensive. The Meridian Explorer on the other hand is designed to take these 16/44 files and resample them. This isn't quite the same as buying audio files encoded in native 24/192, and is similar to buying a Blu-Ray player that is capable of up sampling a 1080p source for playback onto a 4K monitor.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Living in the future

Gemalto has come up with an infographic (yay, I love infographics) depicting how living in a M2M connected city in 2025 will be like. Unlike most future predictions which tends to be a tad way out there, the predictions here are pretty sound. Many of these innovations such as charging stations, smart meters and photovoltaic solar panels are slowly becoming the norm in London while others like underground cycle lanes will likely only appear in new cities (we can't even get HS-2 off to a start yet!).

While it may seem crazy to think that we would be getting LTE in underground subways, I don't think the ability to tweet from the Victoria Line is far off. WiFi networks (albeit paid for, and currently limited to stations only) has already been deployed in deep level stations.
via Gemalto

Friday, September 27, 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pho Cafe lay claim to word pho, ridiculed

This morning the news reached me that almost made me gag over my bowl of instant noddles. Pho Holdings Ltd, the London-based restaurant chain, appears to believe they own the word 'pho' and threatened legal action against Mo Pho, an independent Vietnamese restaurant in Brockley, London.
Ignoring the simple common sense that one can't possibly confuse the brand Pho (logo+Pho) and Mo Pho (geddit?), it is disturbing that IPO would have allowed Pho cafe to trademark the generic term pho, used to describe the popular Vietnamese noodle dish, in the first place. Imagine if Burger King were allowed to sue every burger restaurants with 'burger' in it or Pizza Express taking on Pizza East. It is that ridiculous.

After that huge PR blunder, Pho has back tracked this evening by 'allowing' Mo Pho to keep their name. A huge win for the little people, one who I will be supporting when we move to South East London. But this sorry episode does leave me with a nasty opinion of Pho cafe. Sorry Pho, you should never have attempted to claim ownership on a national culinary dish in the first place.

Source: Brockley Central

Friday, September 20, 2013

London Open House weekend

Panorama view of London from City Hall
This weekend, 830 buildings and sites will be opening their doors to the public as part of London Open House weekend. Some of these (such as 10 Downing Street) will be limited and will be subjected to ballot, but the majority will be first come first serve basis. Among my favourites are the iconic inside out Lloyds building in the City and City Hall in the South Bank. This year we will be aiming to visit the inside of the Gherkin for the first time.

As we are in the process of buying a Victorian terraced house, we will mainly be visiting similar houses that has been given a contemporary face lift. We may be planning a refurbishment sometime in the future, so it will be interesting to see how some owners and architects balance the need to be both sensitive to historical features, whilst also upgrading their homes to modern standards.

Check out London Open House for an extensive list of buildings and sites available to visit.

Three announce pricing of iPhone 5s

Three today announce it will offer Apple's latest flagship iOS smartphone, the iPhone 5s and the cute 5c starting from today. The iPhone 5s will be available from £99 and the iPhone 5c from £49 on a 24-month contract.

Never mind what I actually think about the psychedelic and almost flat iOS 7, Apple does make gorgeous looking phones (from the iPhone 4 upwards). While their persistent on sticking with a 4" display may not set the world on fire, at least the people from Cupertino recognises that not everyone wants a phablet size device as their flagship. This is criticism of companies who purposefully reduce of the specification of smaller devices like the One Mini and Galaxy S4 Mini (glares at HTC and Samsung).

In any case, the iPhone 5s will be available on Three's great value One Plan for those who prefer to go contract, which should play well once they launch their 4G LTE network later this year. Pricing for the Lumia-ish 5c has already been previously announced, but seriously, if you are into the whole iPhone thing, the 5s should be the only iPhone on your radar.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

New Look For Longer challenge

Well, well, well, I have just received a teaser for CBS Outdoor's new #Lookforlonger challenge. Yeees! If the comments on my previous coverage about the first campaign is of any indication, I am sure many of you will be just as excited as I am about this brain teaser sequel (I know I will!).

Watch out for more info at the Look For Longer website on 19 September.

Monday, September 9, 2013

My next phone...

With IFA now over I am now tasked with the horrible first world problem of choosing my next phone. This is by no means easy as I hate spending, even more so now that we are buying a house and are planning on dragging its skinny draughty Victorian ass to the 21st century.

Back when my Galaxy S4 committed seppuke after just barely a week, I considered getting a new Nokia Lumia as a replacement. I have a affinity for Windows Phone where others do not. Sadly the stonking pretty software isn't always matched with very desirable hardware. Still, there were two Lumia models to choose from - the Lumia 925 and Lumia 1020.

The 925 I discounted immediately due to its high price and 2012 spec. I had my eyes set on the 1020, and despite its outdated spec, that PureView camera sure looks enticing. Nokia appeared to have botched the launch of yet another flagship. Two months after its announcement, the Lumia 1020 has yet to be released here. And frankly, with GDR3 hardware (Snapdragon 800 SoC, 2GB RAM, 1080p display) about to hit in a month's time, why bother?

Next up on my hit list is the Xperia Z1. I played with a unit today and to be honest, I am not too bothered about the design. The design, reused from the Xperia Z, appears dated even when compared to Sony's classic Arc design from 2010. Still the specs has almost every box ticked and while the display's contrast ratio is no match for the glorious HTC One, it is a good upgrade over the Xperia Z's pitiful display. I am just not keen on that glass back, though there's nothing a case won't fix.

With Google yet to announce the new Nexus 4 (which I will likely ignore immediately because it has LG etched on it), my reluctance to hand over money to Samsung and Motorola not really bothering about this little isle means I am I a bit of a pickle. As far as first world problems goes, this is a pretty big one. HTC has yet to announce the One Max, which I am sure I will like. The rumoured Lumia 1520 'phablet' will likely take my fancy, but knowing Nokia, it will arrive on our shore in December.

Oh Apple, if only you made a 4.7" iPhone with Boot Camp on it.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Syrian woman rips into McCain

This is perhaps the most powerful video I've watched in recent time. An American Syrian woman, who has a cousin who was killed by al Qaeda Syrian 'rebels', rips into Senator McCain for this support of Obama's campaign to bomb Syria back into the stone age.

Notice how McCain would roll his eyes at her, a mark of how (every) politicians truly feels about their voters. Her opinion meant nothing to a weapons dealer. If this doesn't change your mind about American politicians on both sides of the spectrum, I don't know what will.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

On that Microsoft-Nokia sale

By now you would have read countless of op-eds about Nokia's sale of their phone division to Microsoft. Suffice to say I have nothing to add, except that I am glad that we will still be getting Nokia phones, one way or another. Sure, phones with Nokia as a brand will go away eventually, but that would happen if Microsoft doesn't buy them anyway. 

In fact, this whole sale reminds me of IBM's sale of their PC division to Lenovo. Many ThinkPad fans, like me, were understandably concerned that Lenovo would not have treated the brand with enough respect. Fortunately that hasn't been the case. Long time ThinkPad designers stayed on, and today Lenovo makes some of the best ThinkPad laptops we have ever seen. The same can happen with Nokia's phone division if handled properly.

It will be a while before we will see the benefits from the sale. But here's hoping that Nokia's phone hardware engineers and Microsoft's software engineers will work closer than ever. Past Lumia hardwares has always been hampered by Microsoft's lack of dedication to the Windows Phone platform, so a hardware division that could exert some influence on Microsoft's software division will do some good.

In any case, this sale will at least gives us hope for a Lumia Surface phone with stonking good camera. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Not in my name

Here we go again, the US and UK, together with France, are once again hell bent on destabilising an entire region by planning a premeditated invasion against the government of Syria. Only this time, in support of Jihadist opposition led by al Qaeda. You know, the people who kinda hate us. So it kinda makes you wonder what the fuck is our PM drinking when he comes out to support al Qaeda.

In the meantime, we are slowly groomed by our media, particularly the BBC, Guardian, Independent and Times (thanks to this little Orwellian system known as the DA-Notice), into believing that entering the war is necessary based on a lie. Fortunately many of us still remember when our governments lied to us about Iraq's none-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction program. Again, no solid evidence, just warmongering by governments finding an excuse to justify lining up the pockets of the military industry. Remember David Kelly?

I would think that if anyone used chemical weapons, it would be the al Qaeda rebels, who has access to our government's chemical weapons stoke piles. And since when do we take the moral high ground? US attacks on thousands of innocent civilians using drones are absolutely okay, last I read.

You can't fault al Qaeda for the shrewd way in which they managed to lead every western powers and their media buddies to their cause, especially after how successful they were with the Libya campaign (by bombing civilians with the help of NATO). Convince the US and UK to take down Assad and once he is gone, they can then take over the country and whatever weapons left behind. Hook, line and sinker.

It amazes me that our government is willing to close schools, hospitals and fire stations but they suddenly have billions to go on another jolly war to appease some arm manufacturer buddies of theirs. Still it is hopeless. This unelected government is hell bent on going on another war whether we approve or not. If this sparks World War III, then well, we told you so. Except we would all probably be dead by then.

This is frightening stuff. But I see Barack Obama and David Cameron, like their past predecessors, George Bush and that psychopath Tony Blair, haven't got a clue. Will our governments ever learn? Evidently not.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Flesh & Buns by Bone Daddies review

Flesh & Buns is the newest venture from Ross Shonhan, the brains behind the brilliance that is Bone Daddies, one of London's finest Ramen noodle bars. Located in Seven Dials, Covent Garden, the restaurant is described as a Izakaya-style restaurant (a drinking den that serves food). Not surprisingly, the venue of the restaurant is at the basement of the Thomas Neal's Centre.

Naturally, the drinks menu, populated with choice of sake, whisky, shochu, beer, wine, champagne, cocktails and anything in between, is even more expensive than the food menu. Still this is not what I want to write about. In addition to the usual appetisers and starters (including sashimi), Flesh & Buns serves Chinese-style steamed buns (also known as hirata buns). These buns originated from China or Taiwan or Korea depending on who you speak to.
The buns served here are modeled after the Taiwanese version and made at a Chinese bakery in London so as they are more suited to the British palate. Still, the buns were mostly perfect, soft and chewy enough without getting too soggy and breaks when dipped. The buns also have the right balance between sweetness and saltiness.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Meridian Explorer ears-on first impressions

The Meridian Explorer is a new pocket size USB DAC by Cambridge based audio company, Meridian. The portable audio gear is aimed for those who aims to improve the audio quality delivered by their computers. It is designed to bypass your PC's normally inadequate sound card as the source.

A CD and MP3 file typically contains audio tracks in 16-bit resolution and 44.1kHz sampling. For some people, this isn't enough. Specialist stores do sell albums encoded in 24/192, but these are rare and expensive. The Meridian Explorer on the other hand is designed to take these 16/44 files and up sample them. This isn't quite the same as buying audio files encoded in native 24/192, and is more akin to buying a Blu-Ray player that is capable of up sampling a 1080p source for playback onto a 4K monitor.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My review of a dead Samsung Galaxy S4

Well this is awkward. This blog post should have been a review of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Android smartphone but alas, circumstances beyond my control has lead to this diatribe instead.

About 12 days ago I bought a white Galaxy S4, replacing my seven month old HTC Windows Phone 8X. I didn't need a new phone, I just wanted one. Before yesterday, the phone already had some teething problems but nothing too unusual. It doesn't charge as quick as it should but charge it does. Other problems are typical of a Samsung Galaxy phone - cheap build, scratch easy material and a laggy almost-forked Android OS. This despite a powerful Snapdragon 600 SoC - you know, the same one that powers the incredible HTC One with gusto.

In any case, yesterday I left the phone on the charger after a furious session of Temple Run 2, then went out for lunch. Returning I found a phone that is hot to touch, that refuses to boot up and wouldn't charge. I re-inserted the battery and tried again. Nothing. I switched to another micro USB cable as these cables breaks every other day. I even used a clean toothbrush the clean the S4's USB port (seriously, micro USB is the worse standard the industry has ever forced on us). I tried other USB chargers including one by Apple, another by Sony, another by Motorola and another by Google/Asus. No luck.

So there you go. A dead S4 was all I have to report for this blog post. Fortunately for me, the shop I bought it from refunded me. Still it kinda has put me off the Samsung Galaxy S4 (and its millions of variants) somewhat. I was back in the market for a new phone, and I almost bought a Lumia 925. Still, I think I will be waiting until Nokia announces the Lumia 1020's availability in this country (there is more to the world than the Americas, Nokia), and see what Apple and Google has in store for the next iPhone and Nexus revision.

The camera's pretty good though, despite the narrower focal length.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

SGP Spigen Neo Hybrid for Samsung Galaxy S4 review

The Samsung Galaxy S4 might not be the prettiest smartphone out there, so when I recently acquired the soon to be former Android flagship, I set out to search for a case that would not only protect my investment, but also 'prettify' the phone. It wasn't easy. Fortunately I had an old case I once used on the Galaxy S2 lying around. A quick search on the web reveals that there is a version for the S4.

The Neo Hybrid is a two piece hybrid case. It comes in two separate parts, the inner layer which is made of silicone rubber, and a polycarbonate skeleton bumper-ish frame. This frame is designed to go over the base silicone layer. This gives the case a unique look, as well as offering users a small degree of customisation. In addition to the yellow I ordered, SGP also offers the Neo Hybrid in black, white and red variants. Three jelly bean button stickers are also included.
Unlike the many dodgy silicon cases you find on eBay, the silicon rubber inner case is soft and flexible. Installing the case is easy enough. First slip the silicon case over the phone. Once the inner case is fitted, you then simply slot the outer glossy skeleton frame into place. This isn't as easy as it appears as the frame is very tight and snug so make sure you have your largest memory card already installed. You would not want to be removing this case often.

Baby wants a new 4G network

I am no big fan of o2, but o2 launching 4G LTE this month would be the best thing they have done in a while. Ever since EE announced their LTE network last year and then their disappointing tariffs, we have waited for at least one of the other big UK networks to enter the ring. Not that we needed 4G as Three's DC-HSPA network seems to be doing fine with download bandwidths, but gosh wait until you how capable LTE is with upload (something 3G has always struggled with).

o2's basic 4G LTE tariff starts at £26 a month, which is a fair bit higher than what I normally pay (roughly £10 a month on pay as you go - I've stopped doing contracts and so should you), but hei, if LTE can replace dumb land line pipes then awesome. Sadly I am willing to bet good money that its basic tariff will introduce plenty of limitations. Still I will be glad to be proven wrong, such is our desire to be unshackled by the monopoly that is BT.

In any case if o2 launching 4G LTE means GiffGaff getting it as well, then that would be just swell.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Halo: Spartan Assault review

When Microsoft Studios first announced Halo: Spartan Assault on Windows Phone 8, I almost reeked with disgust. Here was a franchise which gameplay was deeply rooted as a first shooter genre. I admit that I have a deep seated biased against developers who attempt to shoehorn a gameplay designed for consoles onto smartphones. It would be unplayable.

Thankfully, the developer Vanguard alongside Microsoft Studios seems to have realised that and designed the Halo: Spartan Assault around a smartphone's more limited input options. The result is something beautiful and is easily one of the best tactical based shooter available on any smartphone. This isn't yet another Halo first person shooter. The huge difference in gameplay mechanics, not to mention the platform, Halo: Spartan Assault deserves a proper examination.
In Halo: Spartan Assault, you play a series of missions/campaigns using a UNSC training simulator (yes, it's a game withing a game!) fighting off an invasion of a bunch of Covenant thingies. The biggest change over its console and PC cousins is the change from first person's perspective to overhead camera. While there is no analog pad on Windows Phone to assist in aiming or movement, the game makes do with two virtual twin sticks which while aren't as accurate as a proper analog pad, is serviceable. It is by no means a perfect solution to a long standing problem but until Microsoft adopts a universal gaming pad for Windows Phone 8 platform, this is the best we can do. According to Microsoft, gamepad support is coming to the Windows 8 version.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

CBS Outdoor's new London Underground game: 150 Brands

Londoners will know how waiting for their Tube train even for two minutes can lead to utter boredom (such is the fast paced lifestyle we've adopted here), so anything to distract or engage our brains is always welcomed.

So when ad agency CBS Outdoor UK launched the Look for Longer game last year, we all lapped it up. The game, based on cryptic visual clues, was brilliant, addictive and engaging - everything an advertising campaign should be about.

Now CBS Outdoor has launched a follow up game called 150 Brands. It may not be brain teasing Look for Longerer, but after spending a brief time on the game testing my pop culture knowledge on brands, I can honestly say it's a worthy follow up. Just as long as you don't cheat.
Much like the previous game, 150 Brands game will be a cross-platform campaign, featuring heavily on the Tube network as well as the internet. Launched to celebrate 150 years of advertising on the London Underground, the game aims to engage Londoners at guessing the brands based on both products snapshots and strapline-based clues such as 'Never Knowingly Undersold' and 'Think Different'.

Players interested in entering can do so at 150brands.co.uk. Prizes includes to up to a year's worth of free travel, so how about that?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Competition: Kenwood House's Live by the Lake

Kenwood House at Hampstead, North London is one of my favourite public building in London. The former stately home, now owned by the English Heritage, hosts a number of paintings including those by Rembrandt and Johann Vermeer. Sadly it is closed for renovation for the time being, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the Palladian style house from the outside.

Every summer the estate hosts a number of pop and classical concerts called Live by the Lake. These live performances are situated by the lake within the Kenwood House estate inside Hampstead Heath. This year from 23-25 August and 30 August to 1 September, artists and performers such as Suede, British Sea Power, Keane, Laura Mvula, the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and the English National Opera will be performing on the ground. In addition to live music, a film screening of Singing in the Rain will also be shown on 30 August and a live performance of Gershwin starring Michael Ball on 1 September.

We have two tickets to give away to you dear readers. The prize will be a pair of tickets to the Opera Alfresco featuring Latin Grammy Award winning soprano Ana María Martínez on Saturday 31 August.

To enter, simply email the answer to the following question on kenwoodhousecompetiton@gmail.com

Where is Kenwood House located?

Competition closes on 23 August 2013 with a random winner notified soon after via the e-mail address provided. Winners will be responsible for their own travel arrangements and accommodations.

Good luck!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

HTC 8X gets Windows Phone 8 GDR2 OS update

5-10 minutes + 2 hours
To owners of unbranded HTC 8X, you should be receiving Windows Phone 8 GDR2 update now. The OS update is being seeded alongside a new firmware update.

The update would normally take 5-10 minutes to apply, unless you encounter a 'spinning cog' bug, in which case you may have to wait up to a couple of hours while fearing you may have bricked your device. Unfortunately for my 8X, the dreaded spinning cogs bug hit and it took two hours of sweating nervously before the installation was successful. So have patience.

Once the update applies the OS version should read 8.0.10327.77 and firmware version 3030.0.33501.401.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Five Guys & Shake Shack London burger joints review

The last couple of years has seen the rise of good burger joints. The surprising thing is it has took so long for people and restaurateurs to realise that people want good quality burgers with proper meat than the bland we've grown used to from either fast food or pub chains like Weatherspoon. And we are willing to pay for it.

We in the South East are blessed as fine burger joints in the form of Meat Liquor, Lucky Chip, Patty & Bun, Mother Flipper, Honest Burger and many others open shop around London serving their own style of awesome burger. You will never have a bad burger at either joints but they are all different enough to have their own band of burger fans. Just don't ask me which is my favourite as I love them all equally (okay, some more than others but hush now!).

Last week saw the opening of two new burger joints in London. Both are established American chains operating on the upper end of the fast food burger market. Will these two big name burger chains be enough to take on London's burgeoning indie burger scene?
First up, Five Guys. With over a thousand restaurants and a thousand more in development, they are the fastest growing fast food chain in the US. Their new restaurant in Long Acre (on the site of the former The Long Acre bar) is their UK's first and no doubt more shops will follow if it proves to be a success.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Trading up

So, this week was a bit mental. We accepted an offer on our property, so things are moving forward as we planned. Things hasn't worked out well in the past couple of weeks so it is nice to when good news arrive. It also capped an extraordinary week as I also I finally got my application of Indefinite Leave to Remain granted by the Home Office. So yay!

The story isn't without trials and tribulation. A couple of weeks ago we accepted an offer on our flat from a private buyer - that is, we did not go through an estate agent. Instead we inquired from friends if they knew anyone who would be interested in purchasing a flat here. It was an eye opening experience, and one we genuinely believed we were better off. After all the chance to ignore using an estate agent and paying them commission was too much a lure.

This person (who had a good job at a major car manufacturer) was interested and after a short negotiation, we accepted her offer. Her offer was below our asking price, but we also had no estate agent commission to pay. It was a win-win for both parties.

Then came the hard part. It took us a week of communications to get the buyer to exchange her solicitor details with us so we can get the ball rolling. We appointed a conveyancing solicitor weeks ago already so we were dead set on moving forward, but our buyer was dragging her heals. Excuses were given. Emails, text messages and phone calls were completely ignored.

When we attempted to get her friend to get hold of her, well she did, but the buyer still ignored us. The news that she has been replying to text messages but was completely ignoring us proved just too much so we withdraw on the same day. How rude.

Now I dislike estate agents and many of them still rile me up, but we had no choice. Three weeks behind thanks to the time waster, we decided we were no longer going to trust any private buyers. We finally listed our property with a local agent a week later, with instruction to screen their financials first. The name of the time waster buyer was given to the agent and blacklisted from making another offer on our property.

But an end is not quite there yet, and we are aware that things can still go sour, but we are getting there, and I can't wait to moving back to London officially. It's been too long.

On a final note, Gemalto has published their latest Netsize guide, an e-book detailing M-commerce and mobile payments such as NFC. If you are a merchant or consumer interested in the new era of mobile payments, do check it out. You will also find yours truly in the guide, which automatically makes this book a must read.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

iOS finally goes modern (sort of), Sony wins E3

I haven't blog for a month now, which is pretty long I guess. It's been a busy time in my life, but I am planning to get back to blogging here slowly once again. Let's just say that house hunting in London is a little more overwhelming than we should have allowed it to be. I am pretty sure I aged ten years in these last couple of months.

I just want to put a few thoughts about the latest tech news and what I think about them holy hell, iOS 7 looks a heck a lot like Windows Phone doesn't it? I mean it still features a boring old grid design with static icons and inconsistent UX, but look at that multitasking page and flat(er) UI design! The drop shadows and fake 3Ds and textures mimicking real life products are all gone. It finally looks the bit of a 21st century OS. Barely.
O hai modern UI wannabee
Still, it's shift from skeuomorphism to something a bit more modern is something I can accept - after all I have been calling for Apple to ditch their 20th century design paradigm and follow Microsoft halfheartedly into the brave digital world. Even Palm OS, which you know, powered touchscreen smartphones way back in 2002, featured a slightly skeumorphism-less design and nobody had a problem using it. Depending on how Microsoft responds with Windows Phone Blue and how Apple will design the iPhone 5's successor, I might even consider an iPhone. Maybe...
Argh, colour gradient icons! Ew...
...or maybe not. Sorry Apple, must try harder.

Sony has proven again why it is the top dog when it comes to living room gaming with yesterday's E3 announcement. While Microsoft's Xbox One looks like an admirable effort (hardware wise, used games policy - not so much), Sony's new PS4 strategy has confirmed that I will be sticking with them through the next gen. I am no Sony fanboy but I have stuck with Sony and Nintendo for my living room console gaming. Nintendo appears to have gone wayward a bit, and I can't forgive them for the Wii's dire software library, but I can see a future where their consoles or games are still part of my life.
You hideous thing but I still want you
Back to the PS4. As the PS3 is still going strong, I will likely only enter the next gen gaming a year later, perhaps after the first PS4 price drop. This is a strategy I have been using for every console, and while £350 is a good price, we are in this whole house buying... I am also not too keen on the design of the PS4, but hei, it's a gaming device not a piece of decor. After all, the PS3 wasn't exactly a Red.dot winning product. And gaming is exactly what the PS4 appears to be designed for. Good job Sony. You almost lost it in the early years of the PS3 but you have done well here. Just keep all that 3D bullshit to yourself and we will continue being friends.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Itsdagram, an Instagram client for Windows Phone 8

Instagram (update: since renamed to Instance) has finally come to Windows Phone! Well sort of. Itsdagram is the first fully featured Instagram client on the Windows Phone Marketplace to allow direct uploading. In fact, it is the first fully featured third party Instagram client on any mobile platform that will allow you to register, upload, like, follow and comment.

This is particularly impressive, when you consider that Instagram has yet to open up their upload API to the public.
For a first version release, Itsdagram is impressively featured. Apart from Instagram's stock filters, it can do everything that an official Instagram client on iOS and Android can do, and more, including features exclusive to Windows Phone. For example, you can pin hashtags and users to the homescreen for easy access, something the official Android app can't do (iOS don't even support widgets).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Save the Southbank Centre skatepark

Last month Southbank Centre unveiled a masterplan to redeveloped the much loved cultural center of London. The plan includes furnishing the fine example of Brutalist architecture with glass, but that isn't even the worse news you will hear about this so called masterplan.

For those who frequents the South Bank, you will recognise the graffiti-covered concrete enclave as the home to British skateboarding. A tourist attraction in its own right, the undercroft is often seen as the cultural and birthplace of British skateboarding. It is also frequented by BMX bikers. Tourists and Londoners alike, with cameras in hand, flock the side with their children to watch skateboarders practice. Kids watch in wonder, perhaps one day will be inspired to return with their own skateboard of their own.

Sadly, it appears that the directors of Southbank Centre envisions a different future. Following the commercial success of the redevelopment of the Royal Festival Hall, they have now turned their eyes on the enclave of the Festival Wing, below the Queen Elizabeth and Purcell Hall. Plans has appeared to turn the undercroft into high rent retail units, which will finance the redevelopment of the entire Festival Wing. It is ironic to see the directors of Southbank Centre, the center of art and cultural innovations in London, would aim to destroy the cultural center of a sub-culture to sell sandwiches.

Southbank Centre is one of my favourite stomping grounds in London. From lovers of classic music and ballet to urban art and counter-culture, it always attracts a mix of sub-cultures together with no ill-feel, all in the name of progression. For a center dedicated to the arts, the South Bank should not be limited to only the bourgeois - it has to be opened to all.

If you are interested in helping save the Southbank Centre skatepark, sign the petition.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

KeepCup reusable coffee cup review

As a coffee addict, KeepCup has been one of the best investment I've ever made. Originating from coffee cultured Australia, this is the first barista standard reusable cup - meaning it should fit most professional espresso machines. If you drink as much coffee as I do, then this will reduce the consumption of disposable cups, of which billions are consumed and thrown away each year. Less waste = better for everyone. Released in 2011, KeepCup reusable cups has proven to be so popular that even Starbucks is getting into this whole reusable cup business.

KeepCup cups comes in four sizes: XS, S, M and L, which equates to 4oz, 8oz, 12oz and 16oz. Now I don't know about you, but I like my coffee strong, so 4oz and 8oz are perfect depending on the type of drink you like. 4oz cups are for espressos and 8oz are for milk-based espresso drinks like flat white and latte. If you like iced drinks, then either 12oz and 16oz will suit you, and I suspect these two larger cups will be popular among fans of Starbucks brand of bland coffee.
My partner's KeepCup
In fact, you don't even need to like coffee to want to own this - it is fine for any hot beverage including tea, chai latte (whatever that is) or any other trendy hot drink is at the moment. The removable rubber band allows you to highlight your drink preferences, including whether you want sugar or sweetener (or none), soy milk (ugh), low fat milk (double ugh) or your coffee decaf (triple ugh).

Monday, April 22, 2013

London Coffee Festival 2013

This week marks the 2013 edition of the London Coffee Festival. Coinciding with National Coffee Week, London Coffee Festival will be held once again at the Old Truman Brewery near Brick Lane in Shoreditch, London. For three days, coffee snobs from around the world will be descending to sample coffee, attend or watch the UK Barista Championship, learn the art of brewing artisan coffee and take part in many other caffeine related fun. Inside, the festival will be divided into zones, including a pop up coffee shop in 'Soho', a food court in 'Shoreditch' and picnic area in 'Hyde Park'.

Tickets for each session costs from £12.50 on the door with discounts for online booking. Best of all, while you learn to appreciate specialty coffee, 50% of ticket sales will go towards Project Waterfall, a charity which aims to provide safe drinking water and sanitation in coffee producing counties in Africa.

* picture from The Attendant coffee shop in London

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cambodia: Never forget

38 years ago today, Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge. What happened after was the most horrific events in modern history the media has wished we forgotten. In just four years before they were overthrown, between 2-2.5 million lives were lost as a result to Pol Pot's evil and genocidal regime. That is more than a quarter of the entire population of the country. To put that into perspective, that's double the population of modern Birmingham, UK. Dead.

When the Vietnamese liberated Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge, the governments of Thatcher and Reagan, along with China and the United Nations, supported their 'resistance', even against their population's own public opinions. These includes creating an 'exiled' government made up 'reasonable' Khmer Rouge and training the 'resistance'. The result was years of violence, with many still feeling the impact.

Today should mark as a grim reminder of a genocide that should never have been allowed to happen. Instead, the mainstream media, in collusion with the government, aims to revise history today by honouring a homophobic who supported Pol Pot, one of the most evil person to have ever lived. Not to mention Saddam Hussein, Augusto Pinochet, Suharto and Apartheid South Africa. But we will never forget.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Hobbit

So yesterday I finally got to sit down and watch Peter Jackson's first party of The Hobbit. It kinda sucked. Loosely based on Tolkein's classic short children book, the film guts whatever was fun and charming about the book and churn out a fest of mediocre CGI action epic nonsense. Curiously, Bilbo Baggins forgets that he never wanted to be part of all this dwarvish racket, but instead sets out to prove he is action hero. After all, why be the reluctant thief he was supposed to be, when you can be the warrior, John McClaine style, instead.

Almost three hours long, for what is basically 1/3rd of the book. Never mind that there is just not enough content for a nine hour 'epic', even Peter Jackson recognised that, dragging the first film with so much fillers and foreshadowing, you could churn out a new TV series "Dwarves and what they do in their fucking spare time whilst waiting to go on an adventure" and have enough for twelve episodes. In comparison, the Lord of the Ring films were nine hours long but the films were based on six books, and a tons more appendix.
Well go on then. You would be doing us all a favour

Monday, April 8, 2013

BBC forgets its public service remit

This news is about two weeks late, but better late than never, eh? Ever felt that as a license fee payer you don't feel like BBC has your best interest? Well Windows Phone users do. For more than two years, Lawrence Gripper, a developer at Microsoft, has developed and maintained the brilliant none-commercial BBC News third party application. His dedication to bring us the service BBC themselves refuses to provide against their very own charter, should be applauded.

Not according to BBC that is. Allegedly, someone at the Beeb has got their knickers in the twist and decided to come down hard on the app. Perhaps it is because the app is so good (in many ways, even better than BBC's own mediocre official offerings on iOS and Android), they felt embarrassed, maybe. This resulted in the developer being forced to de-list the app from the Marketplace. If you haven't downloaded it yet, tough luck. You will just have to get your news from BBC's rather rubbish mobile site.

According to the developer, the app has been downloaded by over half a million users - a staggering number for a platform that many has insisted is dead. You would think that with such a high demand for a quality BBC News app, Aunty themselves would develop their very own app, or at the very least, turn a blind eye on Mr. Gripper's work. Well you don't need me to tell you how many feels about BBC's own policy towards mobile platform neutrality (*cough* there isn't).

If you are a license fee payer like I am, and feel that the BBC has been most unjust in the way they are treating Windows Phone users, please feel free to send them a polite complaint, perhaps also reminding them that not everyone worships the House of Cupertino and Margaret Thatcher. In any case, the moment we move home, we think our license fee is better spent on something a bit more worthwhile, like Netflix.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

International Pillow Fight Day

It's that time of the year again! The annual international pillow fight day returns this Saturday. For those in London, this means the flashmob will begin at 3pm at Trafalgar Square (for other locations across the world, refer to this handy guide).

Attending your first ever public pillow fight? Well, there are some rules: do not hit anyone who is carrying a camera (it isn't fun having a SLR whacked right back into your face - trust me, I know), or anyone without a pillow. Oh and yes, do pillow fight anyone with a pillow.

As I am bed ridden with an infection, I might have to give this year's a miss. Still I am optimistic (come on antibiotic, do your thing). In any case, have fun!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Auto Trader for Windows Phone 8

I admit I know nothing about cars, apart from it gets you from A to B. And despite not being a keen driver (I haven't drove in ten years), I am rather fond of the Auto Trader people. While the print industry is being embattled, they have chosen to embrace the digital age by creating a slew of neat apps and digital magazines. I have also met several of them, and they are always enthusiast about the industry.

While it appears that their primary development platform is iOS, this is slowly changing. Still there is a bit of good news last week when an Auto Trader app appeared on the Marketplace. In fact last I heard, the parent company of Auto Trader, Trader Media Group, was planning a possible move to the Windows Phone platform. This evaluation has perhaps resulted in a more receptive opinion of Redmond's gorgeous mobile OS.
The Auto Trader app is rather basic, but it touches on the core of what makes Auto Trader such an institution in Britain - their extensive listing of vehicle adverts available from their website. The Windows Phone app isn't a straight up iOS port as the UI here follows the fundamental Metro modern design language. So not only is it pretty, intuitive and fast, it is also nice to see an app developer who respected why owners of Windows Phone went with the platform.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Rewired Reality

Rewired Reality is a new crowdsourcing platform designed to seek and help brands from the industry on coders need. There isn't a lot of information regarding Rewired Reality at the moment and how it works, but they have launched a website that explains a great deal more.

The concept behind the initiative is to highlight the growing need for developers in the country. According to the brains behind the initiative (who are also behind another initiative aimed at creating a network for young developers), there are plenty of unfulfilled software technology jobs in Britain, as coding isn't taught as a skill in this country any longer. This has created a long term problem in this country. Many small business enterprise has no means or resources to employ their own developer as the country has basically ran out of developers, many who has seek pasture abroad.

The idea here is to allow these businesses to seek the brains needed to innovate by creating bounties, which are then passed on to prospective software developers worldwide keen on designing prototypes for them. This is not too dissimilar to crowdsourcing marketplace, Amazon Mechanical Turk, but one more grounded with the needs for coders and small businesses in the UK.

Sony Xperia Z launch party

Sony officially launched the Android-powered Xperia Z on Tuesday at a launch event in Victoria House, London. The event was designed to showcase the Xperia Z's unique feature, and included a ball pit where guests could jump into. Guests can then use the Xperia Z to test out its burst mode ability, which can capture up to 999 9MP image in just over a minute. Impressive? I thought so. If you have an active kid, or an active lifestyle, this may just be the phone for you.

In addition to the Xperia Z, guests were also shown the new Xperia SP, L and Tablet Z, which I had a brief hands-on with. The highlight of the evening were the combination of an art/tech installation and music performance by French DJ Madeon (who at 18 years old, is probably just about legal enough to attend himself!). As if to highlight their Skynet ambition, Sony had two robotic arms installed and made to pour paint over an installation. Combined with a brilliant lighting and laser effects, I thought it was a rather electrifying and vivid display of (loud) music, visual art and technology coming together.

Sony Xperia SP brief hands-on

Sony announced the Xperia SP and L a couple of days ago. While the devices slipped under my radar during the initial announcement (hei, my life doesn't revolve around phones), it was the chance encounter with the new devices at the Xperia Z launch party in London on Tuesday that finally made me notice.

Of the two devices available for hands-on, the SP was the most impressive due to its great value of money when it finally gets launched in the next couple of weeks. Featuring a Snapdragon SoC with dual core 1.7GHz Krait processor and Adreno 320 GPU, the SP is a cutting edge device for those not willing to fork £500 for a phone. It has a 8 megapixel camera with backside-illuminated sensor, all the usual wireless stuff associated a 2013 phone should have including NFC (which will work with Sony Bravia NFC remote controls) and LTE (model-dependent). It will be available in three colours.

The 4.6" 720p display is a clear step up from the Xperia S, and while the pixel density (319ppi) won't blow your mind, it will still challenge your eyes. Unfortunately, the viewing angles is limited again, much like on the Xperia Z. At 155 grams, the SP is rather hefty, but isn't too uncomfortable to hold. The design is a clear evolution over last year's NXT line, conservative and yet has enough design cues to stand out from the sea of Android me-toos. My biggest gripe with the Xperia S was its rather annoying touch-(in)sensitive buttons, which has been fixed here as the buttons are now part of the display.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Attendant coffee shop review

The Attendant in Fitzrovia, London, was recently brought to my attention by the budding London coffee snob community. This lovely new coffee shop's rise to fame is its venue - a refurbished Victorian public toilet, built in the 1890s and closed since the 1960s. For all we know, George Bernard Shaw and George Orwell, who both lived in Fitzrovia once, probably frequented this establishment - so there's a lot history in this place.

Now, the idea of turning an old Victorian loo into usable modern space isn't exactly new. Cellar Door, a cocktail bar in Aldwych is one such example. But The Attendant takes it further by retaining many of the original features. Things reserved  includes the cistern towering above two Hector BTC lamps, porcelain urinals since repurposed into bar tables, where you can have your coffee at; and even the original attendant's office, which now houses a kitchen.
Have a flat white on an old Victorian porcelain urinal
You might be tempted to think this is all just a gimmick, and I won't blame you. Too often have we been conned by new cafes and bars who would rather trade on the the niche of their venues, rather than the value of their food or drink. However, you will be glad to know however that the same care that was put into transforming the venue has been put into their food and coffee as well.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

HTC 8X wins red dot award in product design

Amid all the bad news HTC has been receiving lately (the brilliant HTC One has been delayed due to manufacturing set backs), here's some good news for them. The HTC Windows Phone 8X and 8S has won the prestigious red dot award in product design for 2013.

Having been using the 8X as my main daily driver for close to two months now, I believe that the 8X thoroughly deserves the award (I never reviewed the 8S, but it does look neat). The HTC Windows Phone 8X features a fresh take on smartphone design - it not only looks great, but also feels great. In fact, the soft 'rubbery' texture used on the 8X feels a lot better than the fingerprint-magnet gloss and slippery matte finish preferred by other manufacturers. Well done to the engineers and design team behind the product!

It isn't perfect (nothing is), and if there is one problem with the 8X from a design's perspective, it is the awkwardly located power button. But let's not take away from the fact that the 8X is still a beautifully crafted product, which design complements the Metro design language well. Now, that's not to say that the Nokia Lumia 920 isn't beautiful, but for a design that debuted in 2010, it has somewhat lost some of its freshness. On the bright side, this will hopefully spur designers from both companies to further compete together and with the wider industry, as well as taking the leadership in product designs.

Incidentally, Windows Phone 8 has also been nominated for another design award, this time by London-based Design Museum. Good PR like these aren't dished out all the time, so if only HTC would leverage these and gave their Windows Phone products a bit more push, that would be swell. The 8X deserves a bit more than the indifference given by its own creators and their PR team.

via WPCentral

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

HTC One review

Last year's HTC One X was one of the best efforts put into by HTC. Announced alongside two other HTC One phones at MWC, HTC promised to reined in their portfolio, putting more emphasis into quality rather than quantity. Sadly that was proven not to be the case, as the One series was overshadowed by the release of a dozen of so phones throughout the year, diluting their portfolio and as a result, focus.

For 2013, HTC appeared to have learned their lessons regarding the desire to over saturate the market with identikit phones. Announced just last week before MWC, the HTC One is a flagship deserving of its own spotlight and launch. Sporting a new design, the former HTC M7 looks the part of how a flagship should - it is luxurious, beautiful and premium, and it doesn't skim on the specifications. Not to say that the One X wasn't beautiful (it was), but it is nice to see HTC discarding their typical old habits of recycling old ideas.

Special thanks to Three UK for loaning the device. You can pre-order the One from them now.

Before we head into the review, let's get the specs out of the way, shall we?
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 with quad core 1.7 Ghz Krait 300 and Adreno 320 GPU
  • 2 GB RAM and 32/64 GB built-in flash storage (no expansion slot)
  • 25 GB Dropbox storage for two years
  • 4.7" Super LCD3 capacitive touchscreen with 1080 x 1920 resolution (468 pixels per inch density)
  • Quad band GSM and 3G, 4G where available
  • 42 Mbps DC-HSDPA and 5.76 Mbps HSUPA, LTE where available
  • 4 Megapixel UltraPixel camera with LED flash and 1080p30 HDR video recording, OIS
  • 2.1 Megapixel front facing camera with 1080p30 HDR video recording
  • Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi 802.11a/ac/b/g/n
  • GPS receiver with A-GPS, GLONASS
  • NFC and micro USB with MHL (HDMI out)
  • 2300mAh battery (none user replaceable)
  • Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean with HTC Sense 5.0
  • 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3 mm, 143 g
  • Available in silver or black colour
The biggest upgrade over the HTC One X and One X+ is the screen. The 1080p Super LCD3 display has a resolution of 1080 x 1920, offering a retina-busting pixel density of 468 pixels per inch (ppi), or mind boggling 1404 sub-pixels per inch. To be fair, the jump from 720p to 1080p isn't nearly as apparent as say from 480p to 720p, but there is a very slight difference.
468 pixels per inch: eat your heart out Retina
Still, from a technology point of view, this is incredible. It took many years before PDAs with 240x320 and 320x480 displays were displaced by 480p screens, but it took only a year for 720p to flourish before going fashionably out of date. Suffice to say, you will need very good eyes to notice the difference, and 720p is still more than enough for the majority of people. Even then, from a technology's perspective, 1080p over a panel measuring a mere 4.7" diagonally is amazing.