From 2-inches to 6-inches: A man’s musing about size

By Guest Blogger N.C.E

Size does matter – that’s what people have been saying. And bigger is better, too. But is there a limit to it? Is there no end to our yearning for the larger? I mean, how big should it be to be sufficient for its task?

Before we dwelve further into these mind-boggling questions, may I suggest taking a detour to lighten ourselves first? Let’s ponder over an interesting question posed by a friend some time back: Can you re-arrange these five alphabets – PNEIS, to form the name of an important part of the human body that is most useful when erect?

Well, I think the answer is quite obvious. It’s our SPINE, of course. Those who came up with any different answer ought to get their heads checked.

Now, coming back to the subject on-hand, allow me to make a bit of clarification regarding the title of this post, before people start wandering off with their minds again. I am referring to the now-ubiquitous device called smartphones and our seemingly insatiable thirst for larger display screens on them.

If you’ve seen some advertisements or read some reviews of the current and upcoming flagship products from the leading manufacturers, you probably would have noticed the trend. Almost all flagship phones nowadays have screens larger than 4.5in, except for the iPhone. On top of that, we have the ever popular so-called phablet category of smartphones with screen sizes of 6-inches and above. It is really blurring the line between a smartphone and a tablet.

My personal experience with smartphones has somewhat mimicked the market trend. Beginning with the 2-incher Nokia 6120c, I’ve then moved on to the 5800xm which has a 3.2-inch screen. The subsequent Lumia smartphones that I’ve bought have also followed the same path: from 3.7-inch for the Lumia 710 to a full 6-inch for the Lumia 1320.

Some say that it’s inevitable, we’re doing more stuffs with our smartphones these days, so our need for more screen real estate is a given. But for those of us old enough to remember the days before the smartphone era, when buying the latest Nokia is the rule rather than the exception, miniaturization was actually driving mobile phones in the opposite direction. And the obvious reason for that was portability.

So here’s where the conundrum lies: the balance between usability and portability. It’s like having a cake and eating it, you can’t have both at the same time. Or could we? Thankfully, since the dawn of this technology industry, engineers have always broke barriers, creating wonders that defied imagination. Just when we thought we were hitting a wall, engineers have somehow found a door that led us across to a whole new room.

Now, flexible displays and wearable gadgets are some of the conceptual products with the potential to deliver both enhanced usability and portability. Each of them is vying to become the holy grail of mobile gadgets. Regardless of how our desire for size may be, the future devices are set to rock our worlds again, allowing us to do even more with them, while at the same time, taking up more of our conscious time. Unless we could muster enough strength and courage for that divorce.

All abuzz over Apple

By Guest Blogger N.C.E

Working in the technology industry, I’ve always been a watcher of tech trends, especially those related to personal computing and consumer electronics. One of the biggest questions that has baffled me is the success of Apple to market most of their products at significant price premiums. As a techie (I consider this term a compliment), I’ve wondered whether it was purely due to their marketing finesse that has contributed to the ‘premiumness’ of the brand, or was there other explanation from technical point-of-view?

Some time back, I have considered purchasing a Mac Mini as a foray into the world of Mac OS. But after some consideration, I find it hard to even convince myself to go ahead because it violates my personal quest for maximizing bang-for-the-buck. It’s hardly a crusade of any kind, but rather the basic tenet of getting the most value out of every purchase. And for this consideration alone, it certainly doesn’t make sense to pay more than double what the hardware actually cost.

As a case in point, consider the spec sheets for these two identically-priced systems: Apple Mac Mini and HP Pavilion (Figure 1). Both systems pack an Intel Core i5 processor, but the Pavilion’s one is 71% faster than the Mac Mini according to CPU Mark benchmark chart (Figure 2). In addition, the Pavilion has twice the storage space in terms of hard disk, while also having a DVD burner and a discrete graphics card. So it’s clear that from hardware point of view, the Mac Mini is priced at a significant premium.

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Figure 1
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Figure 2

Some might argue that the operating system itself is worth the extra bucks. Admittedly, the MS Windows OS is fraught with viruses and malwares of all sorts, frequent crashes, security loopholes that hackers could exploit and the list goes on. Therefore, Mac OS, owing to its UNIX lineage, proves to be a good alternative for its superiority in these aspects. However, a little known fact is that one can actually get a stable and secure OS for free, if he or she is willing to make the switch to Linux OS, which belongs to the same UNIX family.

Or perhaps the visually stunning interface is the reason Mac OS was able to captivate its users? But then again, if one so desires, the customizability of Linux OS enables one to skin and configure an Ubuntu Linux into something that very closely resembles the MacOS interface (http://www.noobslab.com/2013/05/mac-os-x-theme-for-ubuntu-1304-raring.html or google for ‘Macbuntu’). Besides, I have found the KDE Plasma Desktop interface of Kubuntu Linux to be equally stunning, if not more. It has now become my primary choice of OS.

From whichever way I look at it, there isn’t much that I couldn’t do with a generic PC installed with Linux OS compared to a Mac. The former costs only a fraction of the price for the same computing power.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Apple’s products have actually achieved some kind of cult status. Clever marketing is certainly one of the significant factors for this success, if not the most important one. It’s not unusual to see people brandishing their new iGadgets on social networks. Something which happened at noticeably lower occurrence for those who chose the alternative brands.

Could this be a clue that we may find the answers from social identity theory instead of analyzing their product design? Perhaps their supporters are clamouring for the perception of belonging to an exclusive social group? One which embraces the ‘cool’ factor? Is Apple’s success more of a social engineering effort, akin to what DeBeers has done with diamonds (more on this in the next post) rather than product engineering?

Any Apple loyalists out there who could enlighten yours truly behind your unwavering support for their products?

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Trying out the New InstaCollage iPhone Apps

I was looking for new iPhone games for Little Edison, and I stumbled upon this new InstaCollage Apps where I can frame, decorate and collage my photos with caption and post it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or simply save it into my Camera Roll.

InstaCollage is capable of combining multiple sized photos with creative lay-outs and beautifully designed frames, and allow users to easily add captions, cool and funny sticks on their photos.

You can modify the font type, colour and orientation easily. You can also apply effects into individual photos, shadow each photo, put rounded corners and move the objects around by drag and drop.

I had fun making this picture collage of our boy while he was playing at Hokey Pokey yesterday.

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This is a free apps. The Pro version is being sold for $0.99 now. This is a simple instruction on how to use it.

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It’s the simplest way to do a collage for your photos on Instagram, I highly recommend it! Check it out HERE.

 

Smartphones & Photography Apps

In recent years, smartphones with high-quality cameras have revolutionized the way users take and share photos. Come to think of it, camera phones have really come a long way. I still remember the first camera phone that I bought few years ago – it was a Sony Ericsson (can’t remember the model though).

The pictures that I’ve got were routinely out-of-focus and full of noise, that they were barely usable after I shrunk them into pint-size. Most of the time, I can only used them as my handphone wallpaper but nothing else.

Luckily, as mobile phones continue to become faster and more powerful, the pictures that we get now are as good as taken from a point-and-shoot camera. Now that smartphones come with internet connectivity, users can take pictures and conveniently share them online.

It’s all about the ease of shooting and sharing that makes it so attractive. I like taking pictures with my iPhone too, especially on days when my bag is heavy. I can leave the camera at home and rely on iPhone to shoot.

iPhone Photography Apps

Among all the iPhone Photography apps, Instagram pleases me the most. It is a very simple apps that allows users to take pictures, add preset filters to them and share them online. It is fully integrated with popular social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

I can upload my pictures onto Flickr instantly, and then use them on my blog. It saves a lot of time, without the need to plug a cable and download onto my computer. However, it does irritate me sometimes when it doesn’t function properly due to the poor 3G connection.

Recently, my colleague introduced PhotoWonder apps to me, and I find that it’s really cool. It dresses up your pictures with effects, props, decorations and frames. You can make picture collage with a wide range of templates too.

You can also beautify your pictures by slimming the body and face, making the eyes larger and smoothen the complexion. All these effects can be achieved by just a smudge or tap with fingers. Now, everyone has great complexion and zero acne. Pretty and happy!

If you want a more comprehensive make-over, you can try Photo Makeover apps. I rarely use it because I find that it’s quite complicated. Other apps in my iPhone include Camera+, Photosynth and Leme Camera – but they are all under-utilized because I’m just too lazy.

What is your favourite photography apps? Please share with me. iPhone or Android, both are welcome.

 

His Latest Favourite iPhone Game – Golf!

This is our boy’s latest favourite iPhone game. It’s called the 3D Mini Golf Challenge, a lovely miniature golf game created by Digital Chocolate. It’s available in two versions – free version (lite) and full version at a little cost of US$1.99. Expansion packs are also available for the full version.

At the beginning of the game, the player has to select either a male or female golfer. And so, Little Edison selected the female golfer. Then, he will begin with the first 100 holes of miniature golf fun. He has to compete for points at each hole to unlock more.

In short, the game requires him to visualize the course and figure out on how to manage the obstacles like fire pit, fan, skull etc in each stage. Some of them are quite difficult, even for adults.

He will line up his shot with a swipe of a finger. A handy shadow will appear showing the direction and strength. Once he is comfortable with setting, he will release his finger from the screen to shoot the ball. I remind him to watch out on the strength, depending on the distance of the hole. Now, he’s an expert!

When he’s stuck at certain stage, he will consult us for help. It’s also a good bonding time for us when we indulge in a game at night – usually within fifteen minutes or so before bedtime.

Whenever his ball rolls into the fire pit, he yells, “Aiya, my ball is burnt!” When he managed to complete a stage and unlock the next, he’ll run excitedly to me explaining how he did it.

This is our boy playing with the golf game last week at my parent’s home. And he got Jaerone (his cousin) excited about it too. The two boys love the game so much!

As to fear on whether he’ll get addicted, we will limit the game to half an hour each time. He still enjoys playing with other educational games that I bought for him, and he still wants me to read his Dora and Diego Phonics Books with him. So, I guess it’s still alright now.