Archive for the ‘Technoloy’ Category

I got frustrated with the stagnation of Windows Phone and got fed up with Globe Telecoms anti-consumer FUP bs that I, one July weekened, went to Smart to get an iPhone plan. And you know what, I’m happy with this decision.

I supported Microsoft’s mobile offering since WP7. I would have wanted them to succeed, but Microsoft’s propensity to shoot itself on the foot really hurt Windows Phone. A lot of apps were either missing, infinitely inferior, or stagnated into obsolescence – never updated for years on end, and when they finally do get updated, it never seems to be to catch up with features currently available on the leading platforms. Add to that the insult of having Microsoft itself release its own apps (including Cortana, which WP users outside US and select countries can’t even use)  on the competitions’ respective platforms that are often not only better versions, but sometimes even released on the other platforms first, complete with regular updates. Meanwhile on WP, users always got the ‘coming soon’ treatment, which may or may not actually  come to reality. To say this is a frustrating endeavor for someone who supports them is grossly understating it. It’s hard to keep supporting a company which doesn’t seem to value its own loyal userbase, small though it may be.

The Globe Fair Usage Policy is anything but. Well, on Globe’s side it’s proven to be a boon to their bottomline. The users on the other hand are left shortchanged. For months, I have been subscribing to a month-long “unlimited” data bundle, and generally got along fine. A few months ago, I was 10 days or so into my subscription when I apparently hit their daily limit. Before that, I’ve mostly just been tweeting with occasional surfing on the side. The connection slowed down to a crawl, tweets won’t load, websites won’t render. The next day, connection didn’t improved. As it was the weekend after that, I’ve been on wi-fi at home. Come Monday, the connection still was so slow it was unusable. I tweeted about it (not using cellular) and Globe’s army of PR apologists were fast to reply. Their empty sorries just made me angry, their tweets nothing useful or helpful. There I was, barely halfway into my subscription period and I can’t even use the service I have already paid for. That’s when Globe lost me as a customer.

Smart’s signal is not that good at work owing to the place being owned by the same owners of Globe, but it’s tolerable. At my folks’ place, during the weekends I visit, I get excellent reception from Smart that I bought a prepaid SIM that I’d use on the one or two days I was there. More importantly, despite Smart having its own policy, I found they are more lax with enforcing data limits. 

That is what lead me to get the iPhone 2k plan. I figured if I go prepaid I’d be paying Php 1,000 per month anyway. Another thousand more (plus a reasonable cash-out) and I can actually get the 128GB 6+ model. 10GB per month is more than enough for my weekdays commute. Even allowing a couple family members to tether, I barely use half of that.

As I write this I just updated an iPhone 5 to iOS 9. I wouldn’t have been able to do that with Globe even on a plan.

So Globe can shove its unfair policy and suck it.

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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.

Does this mean it’s going to be an animated wallpaper?

 

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(Image swiped from www.geekwire.com)

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!

In Unix and Linux, you can string commands so that they will be executed one after the other, like so:

cd /usr/foo/home; mkdir tester; cd tester

The same can be done in Windows Command Prompt; stringing commands can be achieved through the use of ampersands and pipes:

image

Command A & Command B

Execute “Command A,” then execute “Command B” without evaluating anything. In other words, each command will be executed one after the other.

Even if the first command fails, as in the second instance the command was used here, the succeeding commands still got executed.

 

 

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Command A && Command B

Execute “Command A,” evaluate its exit code (or errorlevel) after running, and if it’s 0, only then execute “Command B”

In the first example above, a test folder was successfully created, which made the “cd test” command possible, which in turn made the “dir” command execute. If the “mkdir test” command fails as in the last example, both the cd and dir commands are not executed.

Command A | Command B

Execute “Command A” and redirect all its output as input of “Command B.”

image

Command A || Command B

Execute “Command A,” and if the exit code evaluates to anything but 0, only then execute “Command B.”

In the example, “world” becomes the input to the second command.

Microsoft had plenty to announce this week – Windows 10, Windows 10 for phone, Project Spartan, and the pleasantly surprising HoloLens. It’s an exciting time for all Windows users.

But those are aimed for the future. What’s the plan for today? After all, despite hanging on to a huge chunk in the desktop stage, the landscape is admittedly becoming more focused on mobile. Despite a good offering, Microsoft hasn’t managed to break through significantly in the mobile space.

The leading problem that Microsoft has to overcome before it could gain any ground is itself. Microsoft is Microsoft’s biggest problem. Its reputation has been so tarnished by its past mistakes and questionable behavior that it completely undermines the good that it does today. Mention Microsoft to almost anyone and the best reaction you can get is indifference.

Compound that with the company’s inability to market itself and its technology, and you find yourself a company that is inching ever further on consumers’ minds and wallets.

Microsoft seems to have solid products on the pipeline, but it needs immediate actions to repair the blemishes that mire its consumer face lest those technologies suffer the same fate as Windows 8.1.

And that would be a crying shame.

I’ve been a long-time Globe user. From my lowly hand-me-down Ericsson unit more than a decade ago, I’ve stuck with this network provider. I’ve witnessed how they introduced GPRS, which was free for the longest time until they became so greedy as to charge 15 centavos per kilobyte of data. I experienced my load being siphoned away by miscreants, exploiting the load-sharing facility, making it appear that I transferred the credits to some unknown number myself. Globe never acknowledged that it was a problem on their side, but I did receive a refund after fighting with customer service for over an hour over the service line, and then only after about a month after the incident.

I did try Smart’s offerings once or twice in the early days, but from where I stand, I see Smart as more profit-focused (read: the hell with customers, we got their money already anyway), at least during those early years.

Fast forward to today. I’m still using Globe. I’m on prepaid. Since getting my Lumia 1520, I’ve been subscribing monthly to their “unlimited” data plan – SUPERSURF 999. It’s enough for my casual needs, to stay connected on the go. Browsing speed is all right, I suppose, peaking at 300 kb/s last time I tried downloading something on the go.

Coverage is good for most of the places I frequent. We have a separate 3-mbps subscription (upgraded from 1 mbps) at the apartment so it’s okay that I don’t get good reception inside. I basically just need to have good connections at work and at my parents’ house for the occasional weekends I come home. Signal at work is perfect, maybe owing to the fact that the place is run by the same owners of Globe. But at my folks’ place, spotty doesn’t even begin to describe it. There’d be signal one moment and then it would be gone for hours, even if I go outside, walk along the nearby high-way.

Back in August, the signal is at least usable most of the time. Speed was sufficient for regular browsing, even with 3 to 4 users tethered to my phone.

The problem is that the gadgets and phones tethered would update their apps at times in the background. Globe, ever on guard with their BS Fair Usage Policy, would immediately alert me that I’ve used so much data for the day and proceed to throttle my connection until the next day.

Then came the opportunity to use Smart’s offering. At the office, we were given Smart postpaid accounts that come with a 500-MB data plan. Which is fine until you realize that there is little to be desired with Smart’s signal at the office, or most places I go to for that matter. I had the handset with me when we went to Batangas in December. At the South Luzon Expressway, the signal was intermittent. It would show that 3G was available, but as soon as I try to use any app that connects to the internet, the signal disappeared. Contrast to the experience with Globe, the signal only got weak once during the whole trip, and even then, not for very long.

Disappointed, I bought a cheap, dumb phone to use with the POS Smart sim. At least the phone can still be used for calling and short-messaging.

The saving grace of Smart is when I went home one weekend and tried the data service there. Lo and behold, the data signal was consistent to at least 3G. Globe by this time is unusable most of the time as even the call signal is barely even there.

This prompted me to buy a Smart prepaid sim in time for the Christmas holidays. I loaded it with enough credits to register to Smart’s UNLISURF promo for a month.

The good thing about it is that it seems Smart’s unlimited promo is truly unlimited. On occasion, data usage for a day would jack up to more than a gigabyte just for app updates alone. I used it to update my PS3, PSVita and Nintendo 3DS, for Windows update, and a lot of phone app updates. It never complained that I’ve been using too much data and I never saw speed throttled during those two weeks. I left the phone at home so they can continue to use it and just today, I saw that the usage has been up to 23+ GB since activating the promo. I doubt Globe would let me use even a quarter of that amount in a month.

If your area has a good Smart signal, by all means go with their plan. I’m stuck with Globe’s offering but I’ll be keeping an eye out for when Smart’s signal becomes better at least at the workplace, and then it’s bye-bye Globe for good!

Update:

Signal strength is not a good indication. It seems to me that Smart has its network oversaturated in the big city. Even when the phone registers strong data signals, it’s still either flat-out unable to connect or if it does, it’s as slow as 90’s era dial-up. My hope of completely dropping Globe won’t be happening anytime soon I’m afraid.