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.

Figure 1
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 ( 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?


The year that went by…

By Guest Blogger N.C.E

Entering the new year of 2014, one inadvertently looks back to the past year to reminisce the significant events that unfolded. Arguably one of the most noteworthy is the crowning of the title ‘Word of the Year’ for ‘selfie’. Even the title seems like an understatement of the underlying social phenomenon that took place.

The debate is still on and the jury is still out whether it was the invention of social networks and the subsequent proliferation of selfies that elevates narcissism or was the portals merely an avenue for people to act out on their narcissistic tendencies. It’s the classic chicken or egg dilemma again.

But one thing is sure – the availability of front-facing cameras on smartphones and seamless access to social networks, have been a potent mix for the human nature to rear its ‘beauty’ head. Regardless of the dilemma, any chronic urge for selfie-posting definitely smacks of some degree of self-obsession. An article I came across earlier showed absolute positive correlation between the two. (

Nevertheless, to read about people resorting to selfie-posting, and then stalking the number of likes received to find their self-worth is just sad. At this point, I suspect some may argue that since I don’t partake, or even have the qualities to do so, I’m not even qualified to comment. Admittedly, if I’m more of a tall, dark and handsome hunk rather than a hobbit of complete opposite characteristics, I might have stronger tendencies to occasionally (or even frequently) snap and share a selfie.

But then again, vanity is just that – it’s a hollow obsession. Besides, there’s no absolute measure for it. Ask some people around you who they think is the most beautiful person to have graced the surface of Earth and chances are you’d get quite different answers. But ask them about the smartest person and I’m pretty sure the answers are not as varied.

Some might even argue that all this talk is narcissism after all, the kind of holier-than-thou attitude. Granted, if a discourse about human behaviour is considered narcissistic, then it may well be a kind of positive self-obsession. Civilizations flourished when the people actively debate ideas, not during the time when our cavemen ancestors were competing to be alpha males. Somewhere along the timeline of our existence, we must have crossed the line, securing our position as the dominant species on this planet.

Furthermore, there’s no everlasting beauty. Everyone ages and our imperfections get magnified. But a beautiful idea… that’s a whole different animal there. It can be passed on to generations, it can be refined, enhanced, assimilated… Heck! We wouldn’t even be talking about this topic if not for Einstein’s idea of relativity. It was this idea that flourished into concepts which made semiconductor devices possible, and voila, you get smartphones and the Internet.

In the few tens of years down the road, during the unavoidable final farewell, I would like for people, especially my children, to talk about my ideas and the mind-opening discussions we have had during my lifetime. It’s an unquestionable preference over something like “Oh, he was quite a looker, back in his younger days.”


Picture Credit:


Notes from a Guest Blogger

Please welcome my second guest blogger, N.C.E, to this blog. I’m so happy to have my younger brother on-board to add some varieties to this blog. Variety is the spice of life, and two heads are certainly better than one!

Flower Divider

At times, there are thoughts that came to me and I felt like writing them down. So that I may, in the years to come, recall what has been occupying my mind at certain point of my existence. It’s also a way to communicate with people, to solicit for feedbacks and comments. But where should I post the writings to? From experience, Facebook is definitely not the right channel for engaging in such discussions. It’s almost like people will switch their brains off whenever they’re on social networks. You simply can’t expect them to absorb anything more than snippets of information.

So, I thought to myself: why don’t start a blog? That would seem like the right channel for serious discussions. I figured that people who visit blogs expect to read about thoughts, ideas, discourse about any worthwhile topics. However, after careful consideration, I decided it wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Firstly, what topic should I be blogging about? Politics? Most people are turned off by talks about politics. Leave it to the politicians, they say. What many are not aware is that politics has the biggest potential impact to our livelihood. With one stroke of the pen, we could be stripped of all our possessions, even thrown into labour camps to work our way to deaths. Therefore, political awareness is actually very important to ensure that extreme ideologies like those of Hitler and Pol-Pot be kept in check.

One of the most dangerous phenomena of human behaviour is the bandwagon effect. It’s when people start believing in the wrong things just because their peers seem to have subscribed to them. We’ve seen, throughout history, how good people could do evil things because of it. That’s another good reason to evangelize for political awareness. But still, having said that, I don’t think I have the persuasion skills to get uninterested people to pay notice to such dry topics.

OK, then how about financial topics? Sure, I’d like to argue about Markowitz portfolio theory, whether the market is efficient, what constitutes value investing, and even exotic concepts like greater fool theory. But the fact is I’m hardly an authoritative figure for such topics, so why bother to poison people with my two cents worth?

How about automobiles and gadgets? These are the favourite topics for many guys. Something that we often talk about incessantly at coffee shops. But where do I get the resources for any meaningful post about these two topics? People might as well visit CNET and for really in-depth coverage and analysis of these products.

My last thought was – why not blog about anything under the sun, without adhering to a specific genre? But would there be enough visitors to such un-themed blogs to even bother about writing? If I’m babbling on everything, people will just take my blog for nothing.

Until the other day, my dear sister invited me to be a guest blogger on her rather established blog. It was even featured in The New Paper before, so there should be a steady stream of visitors. I immediately jumped at it because it’s a great honour to share her blog space and I hope I could bring some variety to it.

Furthermore, that’s where everything fits nicely. I can write on any topic that comes to mind, at any time when there’s something worth writing about. Whether her blog visitors would bother to read what I have written, that is of secondary importance. At the very least, I get to exercise some of my dormant brain functions. But it is my sincere wish that some like-minded persons might find the interest and time to read through what I have written and better still, give his or her opinions on the topic. That would really be the best-case scenario for me.


PS: Do check out my inaugural blog post this Thursday!