Fixing old posts

Ever since I migrated my blog to something self-hosted, way back when, I’ve hopped across a few hosts and domain registrars. In the middle of all that, at some point, I lost some content. I though it was at the old site where I tried to mirror all the posts but unfortunately most of those where only links back to this blog!

BUT! Thanks to the awesome folks at the internet archive I can restore a lot of the old content. I’ll be doing that over the next little while and replacing the placeholders with the proper articles. snapshot
A colourful past!

On that, note, where are my robots at? Oh wait, looks like I asked that question 8 years too soon, they’re on their way now.

Funny it never occurred to me that I could recreate/replace my posts using the internet archive until at all until today.

Tech overload


The tech space is one of the fastest growing and changing of all the spaces. The amount of innovation and courage in this industry is awe-inspiring to say the least. Staying on top of it has always been a challenge but it seems that the pace is not just increasing steadily – it’s accelerating.

Don’t get me wrong, overall, I think this is a good thing – technology enriches lives in so many ways and the more people are exposed to it the better. The difficulty is that with so much choice, a couple of issues arise:

  1. Analysis paralysis – there are so many things to think about and consider that it slows or even prevents the adoption of particular technology
  2. It’s a more complex space – it’s difficult to know where to begin or where to stop when so many products and services cover so many things, often with overlap
  3. Increases the barrier of entry – as a result of the above a lot of people would just rather not bother or get overwhelmed quickly because it all looks too hard
  4. Feature creep – with increasing competition and demands from people, the products themselves become increasingly complex (case in point, iTunes)
  5. More products are created to simplify the now complex ones (that’s the unbundling of Excel)
  6. …and on and on and back around we go…

So what can we do about this?

One realisation I’ve come to is that a lot of popular systems are good enough. So a good solution is to start with something popular and stick with it for a good amount of time. If it ends up doing everything that you need, that’s great, otherwise I just move on to the next popular thing. This strategy works because it gets your foot in the door, lots of help is available and mastering one thing will make it easier to pick up the next thing.

Of course there are numerous other strategies but in the spirit of keeping things simple (and without getting too meta!) that’s all I will mention. The strategy is good enough and its worked well for me so far but I will probably shake things up in time.

Blogging from a plane…

What a time to be alive! I’m on a flight to Bali at the moment and on the line! The 20 MB limit is not all that great, but enough for my needs.

This trip hasn’t been without incident though. For starters, my Windows installation is not booting all of a sudden. Haven’t really had enough time to figure out what’s happening between checking in and running to the gates… The boot process was taking a while – possibly the result of throttling when on battery power. Windows machines seem to be notorious for throttling on battery – Mac OS X doesn’t have that problem.

The laptop I’m using is the Acer Aspire S5 with 8 GB memory and a core i5 6200U processor. I have 3 OSes installed – Windows 10 on the biggest partition and Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS (booted into this now) and Fedora 28 on 2 smaller partitions. This setup works well for me, I may end up wiping the Fedora partition as I don’t use it much – I boot into it to update it basically.

To get the tri-booting setup working was tricky – Acer seems to have hard-wired the Windows EFI boot directory into the boot process so I have to overwrite the Windows EFI file with a custom file with all 3 OSes. That’s complicated by that the partition is only 100MB and every big Windows update re-writes the file! I created a simple bash script that I run after every big Windows update that:

  1. mounts the EFI partition
  2. deletes the unnecessary language files (so my custom files fit)
  3. copies my custom boot file
  4. backs up the new Windows boot file – just in case.

It’s a long story, I’ll post the details and the script sometime.

Any way, hopefully this post can be published while I’m in the air – I’ll punctuate it with links etc. when I have a better internet connection.

Update: Published mid-air!

The Symbian Advantage

The Symbian OS is powerful. Extremely powerful. There’s nothing that you can’t do on Symbian that you can do on the other platforms. The same can’t be said about the other platforms. Allow me to illustrate.

iOS is not open, there’s no secret about that. Although Apple is becoming more flexible on the kind of apps you can use on the iPhone, there are still a lot of things they don’t allow. That is why the jail-breaking scene is so huge – it allows you to do some simple to complex things that Apple won’t allow. From turning the phone into a WiFi hotspot (coming soon in iOS 4.3 maybe?) to displaying more info on the lock screen or transferring files via Bluetooth – features that have been available on Symbian devices either out-of-box or through apps for ages. We often take these features for granted. It’s when you don’t have them that you realise the central role they play in your mobile experience.

On to Android, the new kid on the block. Just after I got my Android phone, my first after a series of Symbian devices, I noticed something quite disturbing. The APN settings were not copied from the SIM card/carrier or where ever they come from! This NEVER happened with any of my previous Symbian devices from both Nokia and Samsung. Even the ones I imported from around Asia and Europe. I had to go through many hours of searching and trying deferent combinations until I got it right. So much for first impressions. So, you just got an Android phone with a front facing camera. You should be able to make regular video calls over 3G right? Wrong. Android doesn’t support the standard protocol. The same protocol that’s on many feature phones from many manufactures! You have to get apps like Skype or something – major bummer because if like me, you had a deal with your carrier for free/subsidised 3G video calls, you’re out of luck.

On both Android and iOS, data can be used without warning. For the first time I’ve had to get a data plan for my phone. With Symbian, there’s a pop-up with options to choose the network to connect to when a connection is needed. There are no services that use data in the background unless you allow them to, i.e, you have more control.

The connectivity on Symbian is unrivaled. From Bluetooth connectivity (v3.0 on the N8) for headsets, keyboards(Android lacks this) and file transfer(iOS anyone?), to the FM radio(iPhone again) and FM transmitter(both lack it), there is no competition. Some older Symbian devices even have Infrared ports(like the legendary n95).

The Symbian touch UI is probably one of the most complex on the market. People who hate it probably don’t know how to use it. There’s also an advantage to it – if you can use a Symbian touchscreen phone then you can probably use any touchscreen device that has and will ever come out without reading the manual!

There are some major kinks that Nokia/Symbian need to work out on the UI front though. If they are able to sort that out in a huge way, Symbian will become/remain the top smartphone OS of them all.

3D Phones? Come On, Really?

Maybe 60 years ago the headline was Colour TVs? Come On, Really? And a few years before that it was Sound In Movies? Come On, Really? But seriously, come on, really? My point is, 3D at the movies and especially 3D in the home, hasn’t really taken off. What gives them the impression that it will work on mobile phones? Google certainly doesn’t support 3D in Android yet and there aren’t many apps(if any) that have anything to do with 3D in the Android Market.

LG Optimus 3D

LG is going to unveil the worlds first full 3D smartphone capable of 3D photography and video recording at Mobile World Congress(MWC) 2011. The phone also features a glasses-free LCD 3D display. The thing about 3D is that it’s not everywhere. Where are you going to view these movies and photos? On your phone’s ~4″ screen only? On the 3D  TV that you probably don’t have yet? Granted, there are some 3D TVs, photo-frames and laptops on the way and already on the market, but they cost a lot. This 3D phone is like an invitation for an expensive ride that’s going to crash.

It’s future proof though, right? Not even close. First, there’s no guarantee that this 3D phone thing will take off. We might remember it as one of the great flops of 2011.  Second, 3D hasn’t really been standardised. So the kind of 3D that this phone produces and displays may not be the one used by everyone else, making it redundant.

The ultimate questions are, does a 3D user interface have advantages over 2D interfaces to justify the price? Are videos or pictures that much better? Like the difference between black/white and colour, SD and HD, day and night?

Phone screens are small and you interact with them; tap, flick, swipe, long press etc – effectively obscuring your view of the display partially. They are also flat; 2D with a width and a height. Introducing depth in the UI without extra screen real-estate is a formula for disaster. Unless it’s just a cosmetic change and that makes whole thing pretty pointless.

3D phones are a gimmick not worth paying for. I wonder when coffee making holography phones are going to be announced? It’s about time!