Archive for the ‘Blurbs’ Category

Of the New iPhones and Local Telecoms

Posted: September 16, 2017 in Blurbs

Apple as expected unveiled new models of its lucrative phones this week. I’m sure you’ve seen hundreds of raves and rants by now.

I’m still sporting an iPhone 6 Plus. Had it for a little over two years, and it shows its age in some games. While the 128 Gb capacity has served me well, the processor is choking in some apps and games. Even the iPhone SE (my company phone) runs circles around it in terms of performance.

The phone comes with a data contract that ends in February next year; I am in no hurry to upgrade. This is just as well. As much as I want to have the latest and the greatest that I can and willing to afford, I am underwhelmed by the iPhone X.

The main beef I have are price and the removal of Touch ID.

Apple products in the Philippines already sell for far more money than they do in the United States, exceeding the $1000 barrier that those in the US are currently having a hard time wrapping their heads upon. But now that they are on the thousand dollar levels even state-side, it’s gotta take an arm and a leg to buy them locally.

The convenience of TouchID is such that I immediately miss it on my other devices – an iPad mini 2 and an old Lumia 640.

Now, that convenience is completely removed, and in its place is a new Face ID technology that Apple is heavy handedly pushing, just as it did with the removal of the headphone jack. It might turn out to be just as convenient; but right now I’m skeptical. I’ll reevaluate my view come February, the X doesn’t come out until late this year anyway.

With my Smart contract ending February, I need to make another decision as well. Stay with a shitty coverage provider who is so slow to act and whose service consistently degrades over time in my home area, or move to another historically shitty provider? Well Globe at least now offers LTE here, whereas Smart only provides 3G which I suspect has reached its capacity in the area as its intermittent and unreliable, sometimes even at dawn when it’s supposed to have low traffic.

I can go for a third option. Ditch the contract and go back to prepaid. We’ll see.

Update, 2017 December 27

Smart has upped its game and significantly improved cell service. It finally rolled out LTE and despite some hiccups now and then, coverage is satisfactory most of the time. In contrast, Globe’s signal has been intermittent. LTE is spotty at best, and is like the unicorn now. Even on the rare occasions when the phone displays LTE, the connection goes to 3G or drops entirely as soon as you do anything that requires connection. It cycles between the RATs and No Signal so frequently the battery suffers, and you’re lucky if the page loads at all, even if you manage to get continuous data signal (3G likely).

I buy stuff online. On Amazon, I buy CDs and e-books. You can actually buy a lot of items directly on amazon.com and have them shipped to the Philippines if you’re willing to pay shipping, custom and importation fees and deal with the hassle of our local customs and post offices. The fees could rack up to a sizeable amount though, which is why I’ve limited my purchases of physical items to CDs mostly, as they only get charged the shipping fee and no more.

In comes Lazada, which operates in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore and of course, the Philippines.

The Site

In the Philippines, shoppers can browse through http://www.lazada.com.ph/ or use the mobile app that is available on iOS and Android devices. There are categories that you can select from or if you have a particular item in mind, a search box is prominently displayed for accessibility and convenience.

The Shopping Experience

For my shopping needs, though, I find the selection inadequate or even completely lacking. For instance, there are no one-sixth scale toys to be found for sale. But I admit that’s a niche item. But search for “Superman” and the selection isn’t that great, either.

Still, for most, the selections are plenty enough. There’s apparel, shoes, electronics, home appliances and more.

The great thing about Lazada is the generally lower price. You’ll often find discounts and promotions for various items.

The bad thing is that for some that claim the price is discounted, the original price appears to be inflated. So if you just look at the discount rate, and have no idea how much that item actually retails on other shops, you might end up actually paying more for it. Take this listing for an iPhone 5s for example. Wow, a 46% discount! Sarcastic smile

Ordering, Payment and Delivery

Ordering is simple and straightforward. You shop around, add items to your cart and then checkout when you’re done.

Payment can be made a variety of ways – credit card, bank payment, thru PayPal or even cash on delivery. Not all items, especially those that are imported, allow CoD unfortunately. For those that do allow it, I highly recommend paying with cash over paying via credit card. If you pay thru credit card (or any pre payment scheme) and you happen to be not around when they deliver, they require that you provide the recipient a letter of authority with photocopies of your (and your authorized recipient’s) proofs of identity. But with CoD, even if you’re not there, you just leave the payment, no other questions asked. I understand it’s for security purposes, but it really is a pain in the neck for the customer.

Delivery is where they truly shine, since they have their own network delivery system called Lazada Express (LAX). Next day delivery is not off the table if the item is available and you live in the city. Delivery in provinces may take longer but only by a few days.

Customer Service

I haven’t really needed to contact customer service so I don’t have much to say in this area. But they do notify you via e-mail and text messages the status right up to the actual delivery of the package. So no complaint from me here.

Verdict

Go ahead and shop at Lazada. Just be on the lookout for sketchy deals and discounts. Look at the item reviews if available. And when in doubt, we are still surrounded by (a lot of) physical malls, so shop around. The walk may also do you good.

2015 in review

Posted: January 1, 2016 in Blurbs

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 33 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

It’s Halloween, and so ghostly and horrific stories abound. This year, let’s join in on the fun.

Filipinos have a wealth of our own when it comes to beings of the nether realm. Let’s reintroduce some of them.

Manananggal

Taken from the root word tanggal (to remove, to detach), the manananggal is a being often depicted as a woman who is able detach the upper torso from the rest of her body. The torso sprouts giant bat-like wings that lets it fly to stalk unwitting victims throughout the night. Meanwhile, the lower portion is left vulnerable, so the manananggal is said to find a secluded place, often deep within the woods, where it can be sure no one would unwittingly wander about while the upper body is away hunting. The manananggal is said to devour and drink the blood of its victims. It is weak against garlic and will perish in sunlight if it doesn’t get to its other half by sunrise. The easiest way to defeat it is to find its lower half, pour in salt, ash, or garlic over the area where it separated its parts so that it cannot rejoin itself, and ultimately perish when the sun rises.

Aswang

The Aswang is hard to describe, particularly because it is depicted differently in different regions across the archipelago. Most commonly, it’s said that it’s a vampire-like monster, sometimes  able to take the form of an animal, and fond of eating unborn babies. During the day, they are as normal as the next person. In the dead of the night, it will climb rooftops where a pregnant woman lives, dangle its tongue that elongates, akin to an insect’s proboscis, to suck in the fetus out of the sleeping mother’s womb. It is said that it makes a ticking sound, hence, this particular aswang is known locally as a Tik-tik.

Fun fact, the popular Grimm TV series has featured Aswang in one episode.

Kapre

The Kapre is a giant being who lives in trees and likes to sit atop its branches at night smoking his equally big tabako (cigar or tobacco). The trees it picks are usually big – acacia or balete (banyan), but even lesser trees such as the kaimito (star apple) can serve as its dwelling. The creature is said to be bulky or muscular, clad in the traditional bahag and its body dark-skinned and hairy.

Unlike other creatures, Kapres are not typically harmful, though they are usually fond of pranking travelers. And many a story tells of Kapres falling for human maidens, following them around even if they relocate, promising riches beyond belief.

I know two people who swear they’ve had first-hand encounters with this creature. One, a girl who was sent on an errand at dusk, saw the ember of something burning at a yonder tree. Thinking it strange, she stood by observing what it was, only to be gripped with terror when she finally saw what’s holding the thing that is glowing. The other, a farmer on his way after a long day at the farm. Riding atop his carabao in a dark road, he noticed the animal is becoming agitated as they were approaching a kaimito tree by the roadside. The farmer saw something glow atop the tree, but paid no mind to it. Smack! He felt a giant hand hit him by his back causing him to fall off. It was then he saw the giant, rearing for another blow. Keeping his calm and his wits, he told the creature to have pity on him as he’s been working hard throughout the day and is only passing by, eager to come home to his wife. He apologized if he had offended the creature and supplicated to let him go on his way. The giant did.

Tiyanak

If you’re travelling in the woods and you hear a baby crying, chances are you are being tricked by one of these creatures. The tiyanak likes to take the form of a helpless baby in order for them to attract their victims’ attention. The traveler will hear a baby’s cry and taking pity, will take it with them. Once brought home, it will sneakily attack the members of the household, sneakily killing and devouring – only revealing its true self when it’s too late for the victims.

Christians believe the tiyanak is what happens to a baby who has died before it was christened.

White Lady

The ghost of a woman who is often the victim of a gruesome crime that resulted to her untimely death, the White Lady is a popular myth everywhere in the country. White Lady encounters, despite the scary experience of meeting a ghost, are usually non-fatal. However, accidents do happen especially when it decides to show itself to drivers on a darkened road.

Tikbalang

In Greek Mythology, there is the Minotaur, a half—man, half-bull creature. In Philippine folklore, a similar creature exists, with a horse replacing the bull part.

The Tikbalang is a magical creature, and many believe that its whiskers can serve as anting-anting (talisman) that brings the bearer luck. The creature lives in forests, and likes playing with people by confusing them and getting them lost. They say you can counteract the disorientation by wearing your shirt inside-out, or politely asking the unseen creatures to let you pass without harm (“tabi-tabi po”). Other versions depict them as evil, able to kill people with their hooved feet, especially when antagonized.

Monsters

Posted: October 12, 2015 in Blurbs

Ghost stories frightened me as a child. Storied accounts of ghostly experiences, exchanged in candle-lit nights at a time when electricity was as reliable as a drunk contractor, would switch my mind’s imagination into hyper mode.  I’d lie awake in bed, and the eerie sounds that nighttime lends to even the most innocent of events, such as the rustle of the wind against the leaves of the tree outside, or of the soft hoot of a nesting bird, or a creak of the wooden panels, would jack up the monsters in my mind, until sheer exhaustion sets in. 

Today, those monsters no longer dwell in my head – long vanished with the realization that comes with growing up. Those beasts that my youthful mind conjured in the dead of night that had so frightened me back then, they’d tremble at the face of the real monsters that have revealed themselves in my adult life. 

These monsters are the ones I should be vigilant about. Made of flesh and bones, with corrupted minds and motivations I shall perhaps never understand, they are infinitely more terrifying than whatever an overactive imagination of a child can dream of, for they are real, alive and breathing, and therefore can inflict real pain and suffering. That’s what makes them not just frightening, but outright dangerous.

Battling these monsters is a taxing endeavor. But know this, no monster is going to bring me to my knees, mark my word!

On and off, I’ve dabbled into the Technical Previews prior to the official release of Windows 10 on July 29. I even installed the TP on my Transformer in the early months of the program but the build available back then was too unstable for the hybrid to be usable that I had to reinstall Windows 8.1. I confined TP testing to a virtual machine, but have not been using it much since then.

On Wednesday, I stayed up late to install the release build on the Transformer. I was actually eager to install Windows 10 on my Satellite as Internet Explorer has suddenly inexplicably started crashing Windows when I launch it. No logs, no nothing to work with.

Installation of Windows 10 on my Transformer took more than two hours – even with a fully downloaded ISO.

I had hoped it would not be the case, but Windows 10 still has the feel of an unfinished beta. Bugs abound.

The Start Menu, while a nice comeback, may take a little getting used to. I find it annoying that if you are in “All Apps” view, you won’t be able to type in and search for a program. Rendering bugs still afflict the menu, with tiles displaying in random disarray. Closing and launching the Start Menu usually resolves the layout issue, but that’s still a bad user experience. Even the notification area acted weird on me last night, showing a blank transparent square area at the bottom while the quick-access buttons that are usually found there are MIA. I had to log-out and back in for that to sort itself out.

On the apps front, the Store app has improved. I like the Music and Movies+TV sections. At least they show up and it looks like I can actually buy content this time. If this is because of the unbundling of the XBox brand – and thus, the need for the Xbox account – then I fully support the removal of the XBox branding.

Groove (the music player) is… new. But it looks to be better than the old music app. I haven’t used Movies & TV app much yet, but at least on the store, I was able to ‘buy’ a free episode of a TV Series, giving me hope that Microsoft will indeed enable buying content without the “your region is not supported” downer.

Twitter revamped its app, but it still is a subpar version compared to its offerings on other platforms, with a lot of features missing. Its design is a head-scratcher, wasting a lot of space, without good reason. You’re better off using TweetDeck.

At least the “Metro” modern apps appear to launch and open with less hassle now. Most are actually usable almost instantly.

With all that said, I think I’ll wait before updating my main laptop. I will just have to avoid using IE on my Satellite for now.

Well, not to brag but…

The Twitter Spelling Test Created by Oatmeal

How many germs live on your cell phone?

Created by Oatmeal

Update, 2015-06-15: A few days after the uninstall-reinstall, with the cache data racking up to ~86 MB, the workaround no longer works. I hate Twitter now.


At the start of 2015, a rare thing happened – the Twitter client for Windows Phone was updated.

Twitter

Twitter is a free app that lets you connect with people, express yourself, and discover more about all the things you love.

See what your favorite celebs and athletes are chatting about. Be the first to hear breaking news. Catch a glimpse behind the scenes at the Oscars, concerts, sporting events, and more.

Then join the conversation: Tweet your own text, photos, and video to your followers — and maybe make a few fans along the way.

Get inspired. Be social. Even send private messages to friends. All in real time, as big (and little) things happen, from anywhere you happen to be.

Various bug fixes
This update includes enhancements to sharing and uploading photos.
Tag your friends in a photo to start a conversation.
Capture the moment by uploading multiple photos to a single Tweet.
Tweets with Twitter photos, Vine videos and other select content now show a preview in your home timeline
You can reply, retweet, favorite or follow someone straight from a Tweet in your home timeline.
Share photos through Direct Messages.

As soon as I heard of the update, I downloaded the latest version, eager to try out the “new” features listed in the change log. Personally, I wanted more than anything else to see inline photos with tweets. The experience certainly feels lacking when you have to tap on a tweet just to see the accompanying image. For tweets with pictures, the context is almost always lost if you don’t see the photo.

So the eager-beaver that I am, I installed it on my Lumia 1520, which was on the Developer Preview + Cyan at the time. But no such luck on the one feature I was looking forward to the most. Even when I finally managed to install the Denim update months later, the problem remained.

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The same was true with the Lumia 520, Windows 8.1 + Denim. I was stumped, and of course @Twitter doesn’t respond to mentions, so I let it pass, resigning myself to using the Twitter client for the iPhone instead.

In May, Microsoft launched its Lumia 640 XL, the dual-SIM 3G variant here in the Philippines. I had the perfect excuse to replace my aging Lumia 520 so I went in and bought one. (Bonus, I got a Lumia 105 with the purchase, though it sits in its box at a drawer back home. Still, freebie!)

The 640XL has some niceties – large screen, long battery life, and sporting an updated Windows Phone 8.1 OS (Update 2, Microsoft calls it). So I downloaded my apps and despite the issue with Twitter, I still installed it just for the integration with the People hub.

Much to my pleasant surprise, when I launched the client, it was displaying inline images. I was a happy camper. For the next several days, the 640XL replaced my iPhone 4s as my go to phone. Then, it happened. The inline images were no more. They suddenly just decided to not appear, reverting to that annoying link, where you have to tap on a tweet just to load the image.

Searching online for clues, I found none. I found a few anecdotes here and there, mostly also asking why they were experiencing difficulties, but no solution or at the very least an explanation was offered. Trying to contact Twitter or even an attempt to report the issue is futile. There’s no avenue to reach them regarding issues on the “official” Windows Phone Twitter client. The @MobileSupport handle listed in the app itself I found to be non-existent, and going to support.twitter.com is a frustrating endeavor, with nothing but the most basic help available for Windows Phone users. The platform isn’t even listed on any of their forms for reporting issues. Twitter really drives the message that Windows Phone users are unimportant to them.

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As Twitter is where I get my news on the go, I came back to my iPhone 4s, using the 640XL less and less. Then last night, I fiddled with the 640XL for a while, transferring apps from phone memory to the expansion SD card via the Storage Sense app. It lists the install size as well as the current cache size of the apps. When I turned to Twitter, I found that while the app itself is ~11MB, its cache has accumulated around ~165MB.

Light bulb moment! Could that be the problem?

Firing up the search once more, I began looking for ways to clear app-specific cache in WP. But here Microsoft is to blame, as there seems to be no way to do so but to uninstall the offending app entirely and then to reinstall it. This is a cumbersome workaround and, helped by the fact that I have 2FA enabled, is not an experience I was looking forward to.

The re-download was quick and easy enough as it’s only 4MB. I had to generate an app-specific password on my laptop because Twitter’s SMS notifications are notoriously late to arrive – in the order of several hours!

After all is set, I fired up the Twitter client once more. There they are, the inline images in all their colorful glory, showing once more. All is right in the WP world, that is, until the next time the cache needs clearing again!

That Awful Ad Against Film Piracy

Posted: March 18, 2015 in Blurbs, Movies
Tags: ,

The Motion Picture Anti Film Piracy Council (MPAFPC), Motion Picture Association (MPA) and the Optical Media Board (OMB) has done it again – unleashed a god-awful infomercial that, quite frankly, I am not even sure works aside from annoying paying moviegoers.

If you somehow managed to avoid going to the theaters in recent years and are completely unaware of what I’m talking about, those organizations above, in their attempt to create public awareness regarding the anti-piracy laws, have created cringe-worthy ads such as the unfunny and irritating one featuring Wally Bayola and Jose Manalo, followed by the only slightly more bearable duo of Randy Santiago and John Estrada.

The latest ad is a long-winded action movie wannabe. At slightly less than two minutes (read: too long!), it only manages to depict how incompetent cops are at apprehending suspects, not to mention the recklessness and irresponsibility of firing a gun when it’s totally uncalled for.

Talk about sending the wrong message. What lame-ass keeps coming up with this crap?