Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Apple Store experience in China and Hong Kong

Hands-on with the iPhone 6S

It is somewhat of an experience to visit an actual Apple Store and is considered a privilege for people living in the Southeast Asia as Apple is yet to open an official Apple Store in this region (correction: Apple will be launching it's first official store in SEA next year in Singapore, read more on that in my previous blog entry). I can still remember the first time I stepped into an Apple Store, it was totally by accident. At that time, I was merely walking around the Festival Walk mall in Hong Kong looking for some devices which are not available in Malaysia and I unknowingly bumped into the big Apple logo on the first floor.

But that was nearly three years ago and back then I was only focusing on the new iPhone 5 which was still not available in Malaysia. So this year, I am back to document and visit not 1 but 4 Apple Stores in about a 24 hour timeframe. This trip is somewhat of a coincidence as my visa was expiring during the weekend of the iPhone 6S launch and I had the opportunity to head across the border to Hong Kong and visit the three (out of 4) Apple Stores there.

The Apple Store journey begins after the break. I will also leave in directions to each Apple Store location and the time to get there so you can also try out this one-day trip on your own if you are visiting both Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Oaxis Star.21 review: Forming a new habit in three weeks

Is 21 days enough?

Which fitness tracker to choose if you're on a budget? The Xiaomi Mi Band or the Misfit Flash or even the Nabu X, this is probably going to be an ongoing debate as fitness trackers are getting as common as smartphones these days. Trackers in this price range basically do the exact same thing from calculating the calories you burnt from doing 2 hours of shopping to tracking how long you sleep each night.

Just like Razer, Singapore based Oaxis is looking from another perspective for their first wearable device. But instead of being a band that makes you more sociable, their Star.21 fitness band is all about getting you into a healthy rhythm. Sure, it will track your steps and count your sleep like any other fitness tracker, but the company is positioning their fitness tracker as a device that will help you form a healthy habit within 21 days, well that's if you manage to conquer the 'Star Journey' which is a virtual game that advances your position through the completion of your daily step goal.

The Star.21 is actually the first fitness tracker that I have used if you count out the built-in pedometer on my Windows Phone. I have been using the Star.21 for well over a year and there is actually a lot to talk about it since this is my first experience with a physical fitness tracker. So, how does it stack up against step counting thingamajigs currently on the market, well stick around after the break to understand the gamified experience that Oaxis is pushing as the key feature of their Star.21 fitness band.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Hands-on with Xiaomi's credit card sized 10,000mAh power bank in red

Is it red or is it pink? Your pick

Remember the days when phones had dial pads and every phone brand had their own special charging connector? Those were the days, a single charge would be enough for a week's worth (or maybe even more) compared to today's breed of smartphones with power hungry hardware, you'll be lucky to get through a full day. The simple solution to this problem is either to buy a smartphone with an excellent battery life or just learn how to conserve your battery. Today in particular, I will be taking a quick look at Xiaomi's new 10,000mAh Mi Power Bank in this striking red color.

But seriously, it would be nice if smartphones come with a slightly bigger battery for that extra mileage. Fast charging technology is cool and all but nothing beats having more juice in the tank. Speaking of batteries, charging them used to be through a wall outlet but with the move to smartphones, power banks (or portable batteries, external batteries, battery packs, or whatever you like calling it) naturally gained popularity as an essential accessory to carry around even to cater for those 'just in case' moments.

Personally I am not too sure what is the most popular power bank brand (could be Anker) is in other regions but in Southeast Asia, Xiaomi's line of Mi Power Banks have surged in popularity due to it's eye-catching price of just $10 for a quality power bank that also features a premium build quality (something about aluminum that instantly makes tech products more premium). Xiaomi in general prices their products pretty low but the assurance of quality and product innovation is there. Sorry for the somewhat cheesy intro, sometimes I just got to have a little fun writing. On to the more serious stuff after the break.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

What Apple experts say about the 12.9-inch iPad Pro

The PC Killer?

In 2010, Steve Jobs took to the stage to unveil the iPad which was all nothing but a bigger iPhone at that time but with the popularity of iOS growing dramatically over the years, developers started taking interest in designing new experiences specifically targeted at the iPad's larger display. Ever since the original iPad was launched, subsequent iPad models brought into market basically worked as expected. Sure, there is more powerful hardware being included in each iteration but that's well expected for a next generation product. As you can say, the iPad whether it's the mini or the Air is basically the same.

Just like the iPhone, Apple will refresh the iPad lineup every year and while the hardware has been getting more impressive year after year, iOS still feels like a bigger iPhone on the iPad. Currently, there are over 850,000 applications that take advantage of the iPad's larger display but this year with iOS 9, Apple is finally bringing in some well needed software enhancements to improve productivity and multitasking on their beloved tablet.

With the new multitasking features enabled, this is where the next generation iPad comes to play. iPad Pro is what Apple is calling it and just like Apple's own MacBook lineup (which also conveniently has an Air and Pro model), the iPad Pro is designed to be a high performance device that will supposedly replace your computer according to Tim Cook. The big screen is not the only new thing available on the iPad Pro, there's also a new smart connector which is used to attach accessories like a physical keyboard without any wireless connectivity making it a native experience. But is it just a bigger iPad like how the mini is a smaller iPad?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Getting intimate with Microsoft's Bing search engine

When google is not an option

What is the most popular site? That is a pretty simple question to answer, Google is by far the most visited site on the internet. While that might be true in every other country in the world, China is that one exception as their Republic's internet communication with the outside world is filtered through the governments strict policies which restrict access to sites which do not obey their guidelines. Google in particular was filtered out of China's network because they were seemingly reluctant to block certain search terms which goes against the belief of China's government.

But while websites are an important part of the internet experience, being able to search for websites is more important in the sense of allowing the user to discover based on the search term. Google (and many other sites) might well be blocked in China but unsurprisingly, there are identical sets of alternatives built by the Chinese. Baidu in particular is probably the most visited site in China as it is basically a carbon copy of Google but in Chinese. While is the go-to option in China, it is not exactly the best search engine for searching foreign content.

Basically, is developed for the Chinese market and the search engine itself is designed to filter through Chinese webpages and that's about it, there is no English or foreign version of Baidu available. So, if you are trying to get some proper English search results in China, you will need to turn to Google's biggest competition in the global market which is none other than Microsoft's Bing search engine which also powers Yahoo search.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

BlackBerry's first Android smartphone, the Priv arrives

Review of reviews

Two years ago, Canadian smartphone maker previously known as Research in Motion (now called BlackBerry) was on the chopping block (alongside Nokia) as the company was on it's last move with the release of Bla ckBerry 10 OS which was a brand new take of the age old BlackBerry OS which was more than a decade old. When former CEO Thorsten Heins took the stage to unveil this brand new touch optimized version of BlackBerry in early 2013, netizens took the time to condemn that BlackBerry will be a forgotten brand within the next year or so.
BlackBerry 10, what does it mean? My thoughts on the new platform — I was also impressed with BBM which can now do video call to other BBM users and also for the first time natively on a mobile device you could share your screen. This feature may not be a big impact for us consumers but for enterprise users it sure will help. Continue reading.
While none of BlackBerry's new line of smartphones running BB10 managed to get any widespread love from critics and users, the company's most recent offering, the Passport managed to gain some traction by being a unique device that actually does what the company is boasting it to do. The response for the device was excellent with many reviewers praising BlackBerry on the form factor which was pretty optimal for doing work related tasks like reading emails and viewing powerpoint slides on the go.

But despite all the praise about the powerful hardware paired with the unique form factor and the excellent keyboard, the device was still held back by BlackBerry 10. I still remember towards the end of 2012, there were lots of rumors flying around that BlackBerry was planning to build an Android phone and there was even reports saying that BlackBerry planned to dive into Windows Phone for the line of smartphones. All of that clearly never happened and both BlackBerry and Nokia (now Microsoft Mobile) are still making smartphones.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Getting me some Debian Jessie on the Raspberry Pi 2

I am back with another edition of the Raspberry Pi talk, over the last few months, the Raspberry Pi Foundation released quite a number of new hardware accessories for their beloved credit card sized computer. Items like the Astro Pi HAT and the official display module will make life easier for beginners to configure additional hardware to the Raspberry Pi boards but these are optional items.

A few weeks back, the Raspberry Pi foundation officially announced a brand new release of Raspbian which is the go-to operating system for the Raspberry Pi. While there are certainly many Linux (none of which are Android) based options out there which will work with the Raspberry Pi, Raspbian is developed in house by the foundation and you can be assured that someone has your back when you stumble upon a problem.

Being a beginner slash amateur in the Raspberry Pi world, I still rely heavily on Raspbian to guide me to controlling electronics through the GPIO pins from the various tutorials made available on the internet. Sure, I have played around with Windows 10 IoT Core and the OpenELEC system but Raspbian gives me that assurance about the product that I have invested some money onto. It is not just a desktop operating system but it is a learning platform for me.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

New Surface and Lumia, thoughts on the Microsoft event

The WOW factor

It is like the domino effect you know, one comes after the other and Microsoft just concluded the final chunk of hardware offerings for the year. This special October event comes after Google's keynote last week and Apple's iPhone event from several weeks back. These keynotes from tech's biggest giants has shown that the hardware/device strategy is now preceding the importance of software. Sure, software is still an important part of the experience but today, software offerings from Apple, Google and Microsoft are becoming increasingly similar and the hardware is where these tech giants can differentiate themselves from the crowd.

The thing about the Microsoft event today was that it was quite a show because it’s a long time sinc I have tuned into a keynote live about a un-leaked product. I'm talking about the pair of new Surface laptops Microsoft just announced, the Lumia 950 family and also the Microsoft Band 2 has been extensively leaked over the course of the year making it not that surprising and Microsoft didn't spend too much time talking about it. There were reports regarding the Surface tablets but those were just specifications and a sly description of the products themselves. In reality, the actual hardware part was pretty impressive.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The iPhone effect, when two is better than one

When bigger ain't better

Choosing the perfect smartphone is a tough decision, while there will always be that ongoing debate about which operating system should you be using whether it be an Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Tizen, Firefox…the list goes on and on. The software is one part of the equation and the hardware will also play a key role in your choice. Over the years smartphones have evolved into a different kind of device, from the initial thought of combining multiple functions into a communication device into an all-in-one device that fits in our pocket. We are living in the golden age of smartphones with manufacturers constantly pumping out new devices and integrating new features into smartphones to make them…well smarter.

Beyond that, smartphones have also constantly jumped up in size, the perfect example of that is with 8 generations of iPhones which gradually became bigger and bigger over the years. The once humble 3.5-inches I now just a relic of the past and the future is with big screened devices.
Phablet - a mobile device that combines the features of a smartphone and a tablet computer and is larger than a typical smartphone but not as large as a typical small tablet.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

What's next for Samsung?

There's 7 different type of twins and probably the most commonly viewed on is the half-identical twin which basically means that their genes will partly be identical from their mother and the other half will be uniquely different. Why am I talking about genes (or Biology) and what does this have to do about technology. Well, Samsung just unwrapped two new large screened devices namely the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 edge+ which features large 5.7" displays and is categorized under the phablet umbrella.

But as much as how they look is different, they are indeed half-identical twins, their core specifications are very similar but the targeted user base is totally different. The S6 edge+ is aimed towards the mainstream market while the Note5 is targeted at those out there who wants the multitasking prowess of the S Pen. Both the S6 edge+ and Note5 improves on the industrial design introduced with the Galaxy S6 and these devices essentially still feature sandwiched glass on a metal frame.
Samsung's new Galaxy S6 edge+ comes with a big 5.7" curved display — Besides all the hardware and software enhancements, Samsung is also getting ready quite a number of accessories which are uniquely different. Continue reading.
Samsung Galaxy Note5 announced, say goodbye to plastic — The industrial design being showcased on the Note 5 looks a lot like what's implemented on the Galaxy S6 but that's actually a good thing. But Samsung didn't merely enlarge. Continue reading.
With the introduction of these two new phablets, Samsung is rounding up the year with four flagship devices specifically tailored to different kind of users. While it is a debatable whether Samsung needed to release more high end devices, it is clear that the Korean company is no longer harboring the ideas they had last year.

Samsung made a pretty stern statement earlier this year with the introduction of both the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge and the recent launch of the Galaxy Note5 merely just reinforces the idea behind the company's new strategy. While the Galaxy S6 didn't manage to rake up record sales, it still managed to convince reviewers that their design team is capable of coming up with sexy looking hardware. So, now that Samsung is making hardware that rivals the iPhone in terms of premium-ness, what is next in the chapter of Samsung's history?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Windows 10 Day 7: Using Microsoft Edge

Took a break from writing articles yesterday and today I am back to continue on this series by talking about the new Microsoft Edge browser that replaces Internet Explorer in Windows 10. But before I go on, I would like to take the time to sincerely apologize if you are unhappy with my previous update article which was quite badly written. I can assure you that I will try not to write such an article again, probably the first and last time you will ever see such a thing on this blog and if you have not read the previous article, don't waste you time on that.

But before starting off today's slight debate about the new Edge browser that comes with Windows 10, here's a little Microsoft updates since the last 48 hours. The first one is that Microsoft has finally released a Windows 10 update that is dated to August 5. You should see the cumulative update (KB3081424) being downloaded onto your computer and you'll be prompted to install it afterwards. No official word as to what is actually included in this 300MB KB update but it's probably just some stability updates.

Another big new from the guys over at Redmond is that they have finally released Office Sway to the public and there's now an official application to help you create that interactive blog post. In case you don't know what Sway is, you should check out my initial impressions on the new office program here. Also, today Microsoft is also officially launching a new site called which allows users to share their Microsoft office documents online as an interactive project.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Windows 10 Day 6: Does Windows 10 suck?

I am badly running out of windows 10 topics to talk about now and It's not everyday that I am sitting 8-10 hours straight in front of the computer to use all the new features. Frankly speaking I have not closely used some of the new features like the Microsoft Edge browser and also the multitasking features. I have not actually sat down and invest some time to integrate all of these new features into my usual workflow.

So, today I will be talking about a very subjective topic that may or may not offend you as the reader depending on your stance against Windows 10 as an operating system. The topic today is about a trending hashtag on twitter that is called #Windows10fail. I actually stumbled upon this twitter hastag through an article published on Mashable and not because it was trending by any standards. The original article mostly talked about the displeasures that some of the 14 million people running Windows 10 are facing.
Windows 10 Day 5: Using Windows store applications - there are some things that I do extremely love about using Windows Store applications and one of them is the live tiles support. There's just something about the animation of data. Contine reading.
The problems range from simple errors when upgrading to the operating itself all the way to the tiny bugs that cause mayhem to the entire experience. I have personally noticed although the combination of features like the return of the Start Menu and a better experience for keyboard and mouse users does give you that bright smile after installing Windows 10 but that honeymoon period does not last long. Take a look at the trend in my previous Windows 10 update articles, the fact that I have a little bit more bad experiences to talk about windows 10 rather than the good one makes me wonder whether upgrading to Windows 10 this early was a good idea. Or maybe I have talked too much about the good things in my full review of the operating system.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Windows 10 Day 5: Using Windows store applications

In the last few days, I was merely talking about the overall experience of Windows 10 and in this week I will begin focusing on core aspects of the operating system that gives it that unique Windows 10 touch. Sure you have the new and improved Start Menu and Microsoft's personal assistant Cortana, living on your desktop but using Windows is all about being productive. And part of that productive workflow is using applications.

I am not going to bore you by talking about the standard Win32 applications like Chrome and Photoshop that we've been using for a long time. Specifically, I will be discussing about Windows Store applications which has been given a pretty solid upgrade in Windows 10. Unlike Windows Store apps that run in Windows 8/8.1, Microsoft has finally given these applications a window of it's own meaning that these applications will no longer take up your full monitor space when it is actively running.
Windows 10 Day 4: Talking to Cortana - Cortana is Microsoft's very own personal assistant and it has been brought over from Windows Phone and she will be heading to both iOS and Android by the years' end. Continue reading.
However, not all applications will have this characteristics as I have noticed that some games in particular (Age of Empires) still run in full screen and there's no option to resize it to my liking.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Windows 10 Day 4: Talking to Cortana

The thing about doing this daily Windows 10 blog entry articles is that I am able to share what I have discovered over the course of a day using Windows 10 to be productive. Often time when I am evaluating something over the course of a week, some important things will be left behind. Microsoft's new operating system has been out for 4 days now and is reportedly now on 67 million computers worldwide and it's time that I went in a little deeper into the operating system. In the upcoming week I will be looking into some of new productivity tools in Windows 10 and try to form a new workflow with the new features like Virtual Desktops and Task View.
Windows 10 review - Formerly called Project Spartan, the new Edge browser looks nothing like IE other than a few similar design cues. It looks somewhat like Firefox with a Windows 10 theme put over it. Continue reading
But to kick off this weekend edition of my Windows 10 blog entry, I think it is time to talk about the ins and outs of Cortana. In case you missed it, Cortana is Microsoft's very own personal assistant and it has been brought over from Windows Phone and she will be heading to both iOS and Android by the years' end. In Windows 10, Cortana lives in the integrated search bar on your taskbar.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Windows 10 Day 3: Using Windows 10 with a touchscreen

The Windows 10 hype isn't that strong today, while there are still quite a number of articles about it being good or bad, the initial hype about the launch is a bit calmer now. While most of us in the tech community has upgraded to Windows 10, some of the not-so tech savvy users have not claimed their upgrade and that should take place during the weekends as the process does take a hit on productive activities. Just remember that if you have not received the notification for your Windows 10 upgrade, you can try this trick to skip the line and get it now. 

Speaking of upgrading to Windows 10, Microsoft has announced today through their official blog that Windows 10 is now on 14 million computers worldwide. That equates to 162 upgrades every second, pretty impressive number. Additionally, Microsoft also highlighted the moments shared by Windows 10 fans on launch day through the #UpgradeYourWorld hashtag. 
Windows 10 Day 2: Configuring the operating systemEverything worked as is and I even managed to print a file on my printer, No errors, the drivers were supported on Windows 10. Continue reading
Alright, on to today's update which is all about the Surface Pro 3. Like I mentioned in Day 1, previously I was only using Windows 10 on an old laptop which is nothing compared to all the new hardware innovations on laptops today. Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 laptop hybrid is one of them as it comes with a high resolution 12" multi touch display. While Microsoft isn't directly marketing Windows 10 as an operating system made for touch devices like they did with Windows 8, the operating system itself has quite a bit of tricks up it's sleeve for laptops with touch displays. 

Windows 10 Day 2: Configuring the operating system

This is day 2 of running Windows 10 on my main computer and while yesterday was all about upgrading to Windows 10 itself as well as talk about some of the shortcomings after updating. Today's experience is better compared to yesterday but there are still some bug here and the with Windows 10. It is not exactly a perfect experience like it was with Windows 8.1 but that what you get for being an early adopter.

Windows 10 Day 1: The actual upgrade - Using Windows 10 on a big monitor is a relatively new experience for me. On the taskbar I can now fit more than 20 applications without splitting into a separate page. Continue reading.

It was a normal day for me and as usual, I was using the computer all day long and for the most part I was doing the usual things like looking through my Twitter stream, reading new articles, watching videos, and also doing a little social blogging on our social media sites. My workflow remained the same but I did started to use some Windows Store apps like Wunderlist and the Mail app.

But that's not all, I was also upgrading the Surface Pro 3 to Windows 10. Surprisingly, I actually have quite a bit to talk about the whole upgrade and initial setup process for the Surface Pro 3.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Windows 10 Day 1: The actual upgrade

After 9 months of trying out everything good and bad about Windows 10 through the Insider program, today (July 29), I will officially start using Windows 10 on my main computer. Previously, I was only using Windows 10 on a occasional basis which mostly happens when there is a brand new feature or there was something I needed to clarify. That Windows 10 experience was based on an old Dell laptop which initially ran Windows Vista and was powered by a Core 2 Duo processor.
Windows 10 Facts - Horizontal scrolling is dead on Windows 10, OneDrive is now a music streaming service and more. Continue reading
Technically speaking, that didn't affect my review of Windows 10, I was evaluating the software experience and not the hardware performance. But nonetheless, Windows 10 ran quite solidly on my old laptop. With that out of the way, now I have the opportunity to actually put Windows 10 through it's paces with real world tasks and for the next week or so, maybe more, depending on my initial findings I will be blogging about my experience of using Windows 10 as my daily driver.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Windows 10 review

Familiar is the name of the game

Windows 10 is designed to be familiar and has been built with what users want — Microsoft has reiterated that they want to get Windows users to genuinely love the product that they are using rather than loving it because it's their only choice. That is a tall order to ask from all 1.5 billion Windows users out there but as ambitious as it sounds, Microsoft might have just struck the right cord with Windows 10.
We aspire to move people from needing Windows to choosing Windows to loving Windows. Satya Nadella
The highlight feature on Windows 10 is the return of the Start Menu which was absent in Windows 8 but that's not the only thing to focus in this new version of Windows. From the minute you boot up into Windows 10, you can start marveling at the changes made. Sure, Microsoft did re-introduce back the Start Menu but through the taskbar, you can start to notice the changes made like the new search bar right next to the Start button and also several new icons on the task bar like the Task View button.

But, has Microsoft broken away from the poor design choices they made with Windows 8 and after nearly a year of public developmental builds through the Windows Insider program, is Microsoft giving what users what they need in Windows 10? The short answer is yes, but it depends.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Remembering the days of the iPod, a lost world

Apple Music is taking over the iPod

Late to the party by two generations but the new lineup of iPods from Apple are finally here and like most products made by the guys over at Cupertino, this new refresh is simple and straight to the point. The three new 2015 iPod models take up the designs from their predecessors and besides some internal swaps, the exterior look and feel of these new iPods are identical to that of the models Apple released back in 2012.

Both the iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle merely gained three new color options (gold, pink and blue) and that's about it. The iPod Touch in the other hand also comes in the three new color options but Apple also took the time to retro fit the new iOS device with a new logic board which includes the iPhone 6's A8 processor and M8 motion coprocessor. It's also worth noting that it still has a 4" Retina display and a new 8MP iSight camera.

Think of the new 2015 iPod Touch as a supercharged iPhone 5 without cellular connectivity, yeah Apple's trademark TouchID home button is not on the new iPod Touch. So, the question now is; should you invest your money on Apple's new iPods.

Saying goodbye to Windows 8 and all it's mistakes

Everyone is heading over to Windows 10

Ah, it's that time of the decade again, a new version of Windows is being released and this time around, quite a huge number of people will be upgrading to the latest version of Windows. This is because Microsoft is for the first time providing a free upgrade path for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 systems to get Windows 10 at no extra charges. Provided that you previously had a genuine copy of Windows. So, with the official arrival of Windows 10, it's time to bid farewell to Windows 8/8.1.

With a mere 13% market share worldwide, Windows 8 is definitely not Microsoft's most successful version but it's not the worst too. The numbers don't lie and not many have taken their time to upgrade to Windows 8 but if you've bought a new computer in the past few years, it would most likely come pre-loaded with it.

" Windows 7 still holds 60% of the market

Technically speaking, Windows users usually don't upgrade to the latest and greatest version because it seems that the core of idea Windows hasn't technically changed (much) moving forward. Just look at the market share Windows XP had, only in recent years that both Windows 7 and Windows 8 overtook the market share of the 13 year old operating system.