iphone homescreens

via daring fireball, Michael Lopp, an engineer at Slack, wrote an article about apps on his iphone and how he carefully curates apps on the homescreen, then he asked people to share their homescreen on twitter. There are some really interesting designs and use philosophies. Here are the ones I like out of the submitted screenshots.

Extreme minimalist, with the majority of apps in one folder in the dock, from @grinder:

Another minimalist, with a beautiful wallpaper and other apps in one single folder on the second page, from @michamore:

Beautifully arranged according to colours, from @daniel_whiting:

Another artistic one, from @lyle:

Black, from @jasonbaum:

I notice a number of minimalist screens, with only a few apps that are presumably the most heavily used, that have probably resulted from reading this post. Someone had all apps in alphabetical folders. Someone else had a picture of their dog and just one app.

The twitter thread then became a contest of the largest number of unread email, as theads like this are wont to become. I identified with the comment by someone who had none because notifications are all off except messaging apps.

Many people have the same set of apps–google maps/waze, instagram/snapchat/twitter, pocket/instapaper, spotify, overcast, strava/fitbit. Hardly anyone has facebook although one person has a folder called time wasters with the usual social media apps. I’m taking notes on apps I don’t have that seem worth downloading:

  • 1password: I’m still on the fence about password managers, seeing the number of people with it is making me think more
  • bear: an evernote replacement. I’m not an EN power user but I use it a lot especially for travel research. I’ll have to look into bear
  • carrot: weather app with funny comments
  • discord: because that’s likely where it’ll be, when fb gets overwhelmed by advertisers and old people
  • fantastical: a calendar app that looks much more feature-rich than the native calendar app or even google calendar
  • iA writer: clean, clutter-free writing app
  • mega: ostensibly a dropbox alternative, but with its history of being created by Kim Dotcom…I’m not giving away secrets
  • reeder: rss reader, can be used with feedly
  • snapseed: I think I may actually have it, should install it

new router


One of the errands last week was to go to the internet company and ask about better wifi. The long and short of it is, we have a new router. It’s supposed to give us better range. The technician moved it to the living room and I’m able to get 2 bars wifi in my room. It also means there’s wifi in the living and dining rooms.

Unfortunately he disconnected the cable for the tv and I don’t have a LAN cable long enough. The whole setup is now back on my desk so we can watch tv. I’ll have to go get a longer cable then start again with everything outside.

Our building is old and the infrastructure simply isn’t there to get better internet. The cables from the street are limited and there are no spare outlets to use the home wiring system. The 8Mbps speed is the max we can get; speedtest pings give me 6Mbps. We can’t even opt for HD channels because it’ll take up too much bandwidth. Sigh.

which big tech to drop first


NYT asked which of the 5 tech giants would we drop.

If an evil monarch forced you to choose, in what order would you give up these inescapable giants of tech?

My choices are in a different order than a typical American, I suppose. Here’s my order, with explanations:

  1. amazon — I order from amazon once a year, when I go to the US. I’m not a prime member, I don’t read using a kindle, I have no intention of getting an echo and I don’t use any of the services owned by amazon like goodreads, audible, zappos. So it’s a no-brainer to drop amazon first
  2. microsoft — the NYT warns that dropping microsoft means no windows and I’m like, I don’t care. Not having ms office is a pain but there are alternatives. I skype with Carleen almost weekly, but we can switch to another service
  3. facebook — not because of facebook itself but because of whatsapp and, to a certain extent, instagram. Whatsapp is how almost everyone in my RL communicate with each other, so we’ll have to switch to something like line–and have to educate mum
  4. alphabet — obviously losing google, google maps and gmail is a big deal so I’ll try to keep google products as long as I can, the alternatives aren’t up to scratch
  5. apple — on my desk within easy reach: mba, ipad, 2 iphones. It’s not just the hardware, it’s ibooks, which is how I read

Poor yahoo, not in the cool 5 club. Which is a saviour in this exercise, because it means I still have yahoo mail and flickr.

flickr explore | old websites

Tim Carmody who is standing in for Jason Kottke this week has been asking interesting hive-mind questions, like best wesbsites that are gone, hidden gem websites and best things in the history of the internet. The hidden gems list is interesting by itself.

Matt Haughey, in response to the best historical internet questions, wrote about flickr explore. Flickr has been through a lot, especially since it was bought by yahoo. Most of it negative as users abandoned it for other sites that offered more instant gratification. As an image repository, it’s been overtaken by facebook. As a social app, it’s been replaced by almost everything–snapchat, instagram, facebook again. The flickr explore page isn’t perfect, there are too many landscape pics, too many macro pics, and too many overly HDR pics. But there’s at least one that is inspiring and unlike instagram, no one is trying to get me to follow them or sell me something.


I just clicked on the page. Random pics and I daresay I find something pleasing in every single one.

p.s. he also asked about great websites that are gone and the top one is google reader. For me, it’s google reader too, but I won’t forget about harpold.com

iphone case is an android phone


I have 2 phone numbers: a personal number and a public number. Two sim cards, two physical phones. It’s becoming more and more unnecessary as telephone call usage has decreased to almost zero. I never answer an unknown number on my personal phone and only if I’m expecting a call (electrician or delivery) on the public phone. That said, sometimes it’s useful to have 2 phones.

This is being reported everywhere recently: guardian, indy, engadget, mashable: an iphone case that is an android phone. The project is fully funded and the makers claim an impressive list of features:

a 5 inch display, battery power, up to 256GB storage, SIM slots, an IR blaster & wireless charging!

The case is bulky, and I’m guessing vulnerable to cracking as both sides have a glass screen. Most of the reporters are puzzled at why anyone would want to pay $95 (wifi only) or $129 (mobile) when it’s essentially, as the verge pointed out:

duct-taping an Android phone to the back of your iPhone

The only use I can think of is for people who have multiple phones and want to consolidate. Or people who want to run apps that are only available in either the google playstore or itunes store. It’ll be less bulky for me to have to carry 2 phones, but for everyday use it seems overkill. If the price were lower or if I spotted it during the super early bird period when it was offered for $69 I might have considered it. To be fully useful for me, I’d have to go for the $129 (which will go up to $189) version and I don’t think I want it that much.

iphone connection


I’m not getting any internet when connected to the phone network (wifi is okay). Tried swapping for my other sim card and the Three UK card and they both work so it’s likely my primary carrier. Have to get it fixed, I just renewed and there’s no point using them if it doesn’t work.

Edit: so, quite embarrassingly, it turns out I’d used up my data allocation. Probably when I was tethering to upload pics. It’s easy (too easy) to buy an additional 1GB for local$ 50.

iphone 10th anniversary


Ten years ago, 9 January 2007, Steve Jobs revealed the iPhone. To say it was revolutionary, that it would change the world, is not an exaggeration. Before that, I had a series of Nokias and I was super happy with them. I didn’t get the original iPhone when it came out because it was US and Europe only initially. I also had to wait till I had an address in Chicago before I finally managed to get my first one, the 3GS in 2009. Aside from that S model, my progression so far has been the even numbered versions: 4 when I moved to London and 6 when it got water damage and I had to get a new phone.

There’s a brilliant 10 year anniversary in pictures that gives a nice description of all the models. It’s also interesting to look back at what the original reactions were. Have to laugh at NPR:

It’s a cell phone, it’s a music player, it’s a camera, it’s a Web-enabled device, and much more. Ask yourself if you really need all that high-tech bling

Naysayers included Steve Ballmer at Microsoft (duh), my favourite Guardian and Techcrunch, with such a confident headline:

We Predict the iPhone Will Bomb

Others were more positive, taking a long view that even if this particular device failed, it would pave the way for a changed tech landscape. CNET:

this is about more than Apple. Even if it’s a flop–perhaps even more so if it’s a flop–the iPhone will change the way mobile devices are designed

And of course, it won Time’s 2007 invention of the year, because it took computing and platforms and design and usability to the next level:

computing doesn’t belong just in cyberspace, it needs to happen here, in the real world, where actual stuff happens

So, looking forward. I’m excited about the rumours that iphone 8 may be made from forged stainless steel. Drool.

anz data sim

Past cruises I got by with whatever free wifi I was able to find while onshore. There was one time a hop-on-hop-off bus was parked next to the ship and I was able to tap into the network sitting at the side directly over it. For the upcoming Australia and NZ cuise I wanted to see what options are available at the stops.


Pocket wifi for 19 days is very expensive, especially to destinations like ANZ. Data roaming on my iphone is even more exorbitant. I can get local cards when we arrive, but I don’t want to spend the time traipsing around trying to find a shop. There are a variety of international data sim cards available. The one that caught my eye was one for US, UK, Europe, Australia and NZ offered by Three. It’s actually part of the feel at home roaming package for UK customers. Three extends this to both contractual and pay-as-you-go customers, which means anyone can use this service and roam to 42 countries.

I found an online shop that sells the 30 day 1GB card for local $138, but I thought I’d go to the computer street to check if I can find alternatives. Turns out, this is the only card available, but the street seller was selling it for $60 (that’s £6 at current rates). No brainer, really.

The seller says speeds up to 4G, but reviews say 3G at most in ANZ. That said, the partners are Telstra, Optus and Vodafone in Australia and Spark and Two Degrees in New Zealand. Coverage should be okay. There’s uncertainty about whether tethering is possible. Again, the seller said yes and some reviewers said no. We’ll see. It’s so cheap that even if it doesn’t work and I have to get local cards it’s worth the experiment.

I looked at the back of the card when I got home and I actually get a UK number. Calls and texts to the UK are free, just like if I were using the card in the UK. That’s one benefit.

Aside from the 30 day card, they also have a 90 day 3GB and a 360 day 12GB card. If I’m happy about the set up, speeed and ease of usage whilst in ANZ I may get the 360 day card to cover the summer US trip and possible UK/Europe trip next year.

wifi mesh networking


The wifi at home is atrocious. I have the router sitting on my desk and sometimes my ipad has issues connecting. Poor mum has to sit in the dining room to get a signal sometimes since it doesn’t extend to the living room. Where the tv is, there is zero signal.

In my flat I use a devolo powerline that extends wifi using the electrical wires. Here it’s not possible because there are not enough sockets. The powerline must be plugged into a socket and not an extension cord. I tried buying a second router and extending but couldn’t figure out how to set it up.

Something worth keeping an eye on is the development of wifi mesh networks. Mesh networks allow

different types of devices to piggyback off each other as nodes in a network, each node spreading the radio signal a little further than the last

The newest offering is from eero, with a kit at USD500 that includes 3 nodes. Plug one into the modem and place 2 strategically around to get maximum coverage. Everything can be managed using an app. Sounds really good, except for the price tag. Hopefully it’ll go down soon and I can think about getting one. It’d be great to watch netflix or get an apple tv.

p.s. as an aside to how atrocious our wifi is, I finished reading the lifehacker article and was about to save it to instapaper when the entire connection went down, including tv which mum was watching. Took about 5-10mins for it to come back on and I had to restart the modem. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to restart the modem. Seems quite appropriate, just as I was reading about mesh networking.

clever phone bot confuses scam junk callers

No one I know likes junk calls. Many countries have a Telephone Preference Service / Do No Call list, but scammers ignore those and use spoof numbers to fool would-be victims.

I have a crowdsourced app where people report the numbers and nature of cold callers which is then written to my contacts list. When one of these numbers call, I can see from caller ID that it’s a beauty centre or fake loan company or whatever scam-du-jour.

There are different variants in different countries. The newest champion of consumers is Roger Anderson, who created a bot called the Jolly Roger Telephone Co. The bot is remarkably human-like, its intention is to fool cold callers that they are talking to a human being. It responds with a “hello” to get autodialers to respond and transfer to humans. It converses using ambigious “yeah” “uh-huh” and “right” responses. If the caller starts to get suspicious, the fun starts:

it responds with a few different things, like telling “honey” it’s on the phone right now and asking the telemarketer to repeat, or going into a short story about how it just woke up and needs some coffee

Giz called him a hero and points out that

before you feel bad for the people making these calls, it’s important to remember that they’re often using spoofed numbers to get around the FCC’s do not call lists.

Calls are recorded and posted for our enjoyment. This one is from “PC Solutions” about a virus on his computer. I love love love when the bot says there’s a bee on his arm but the caller should keep talking. Hahaha.

There’s now a kickstarter to expand the service to more voices and comments as well as to pay for the bot’s phone line. In the meantime anyone in the US or UK can forward or conference junk callers to the bot by following simple instructions: US | UK.

It’s a small dent in the fight against scam junk callers, but it’s a start. Plus, it’s amusing.

us sim mobile broadband


Trying to look for a way to stay connected whilst I’m in the US, both for the cruise and for the con later. There will be voice roaming on the ship but I’m not paying $69 for 100mins internet, especially since shipboard internet is notorious for being slow. It’s mainly for when we’re ashore, driving and at Seattle and Vancouver but mostly it’s for the trip to Chicago and Portland.

I’m not worried about voice, roaming isn’t expensive, calls are short and people will only call in an emergency. It’s getting wifi while on the go. In almost any major city in the world, it should be possible to walk into a telco store and buy a iphone-ready sim and a pre-paid data plan of some sort. The one potentially problematic country, Japan which isn’t on the GSM network, proved to be no problem at all because of the widespread usage of pocket wifi.

Oh, the biggest exception to this case is the US. I’ve come to the conclusion, as several have commented, that there is no such thing as a cheap, prepaid SIM in the US. There are 2 HUGE stumbling blocks: a) half the country isn’t compatible with the rest of the world, with Verizon and Spring on the CDMA network; b) AT&T, which is on GSM and the primary network provider as far as iphones are concerned, doesn’t like prepaid plans and, like most things US, doesn’t care about non-locals.

A bit of digging around shows that AT&T has a prepaid service called GoPhone that works out to be around $50-60 per month for 1GB data. The setup sounds very complicated and there are reports that they may refuse to sell the SIM for iphones, partly because of legacy monopoly issues and partly because they really want you to buy one of their phones.
There are AT&T powered companies like H2O, black, readysim, straighttalk that sell SIMs online, sometimes at stores like Best Buy, Walmart and supposedly can deliver to hotels. Cost is the same as official AT&T so I’m not sure what the difference is. The other GSM carrier is T-mobile, which also has a prepaid data plan costing around the same.

So $50-60 a month average. That’s steep. They are all phone oriented and not really user friendly. One other option is mobile broadband. There’s some good comparisons. After the initial cost of the hotspot, usage is generally cheaper. And several devices can be used. Seems like a lot of people use Virgin’s plan currently at $25 a month for 1.5GB. The device runs from $70 to $99.

The conclusion is, I’m still undecided. For the cruise I’ll probably just rely on whatever wifi I can catch and for the con, there’s time to research further.

how were you using the internet in 1999

Prompted by a picture of an old AOL free trial disk, gizmodo asked, how were you using the internet in 1999. Their comments are filled with tech types who were already coding or building websites or chatting in chatrooms but mostly playing games.

In 1999 I had dial-up at home and a performa 6200 which stumped the techs at the ISP because they had zero experience in dealing with macs. All they knew was how to rebuild the desktop, hahaha. Actually even now, some techs are still stumped by macs, but they have been rendered irrelevant since we can google most problems.

How was I using the internet in 1999? Definitely not spending a lot of time online. Browsing experience was frustrating because almost all the population used PCs, Windows and IE. Optimising for Netscape (no firefox yet then) wasn’t something webmasters did then. I wasn’t, and am still not, a gamer. I played a few simple games, that was it. Other than that, I was on ICQ. Yeah, ICQ. Mainly just with mm, although we spent most of our chats arguing, we weren’t in a very good space then.


I moved in New York in the summer. Didn’t take the performa with me, bought the then spanking new iMac SE as soon as I got settled into my apartment. This is the iMac that people use as fish bowls nowadays. I had a one bedroom apartment with an enormous open living room that could be divided up and one corner became the study.

I did pick up one of those free trial disks to get online initially. AOL or Earthlink or Mindspring. I didn’t want to continue using them though, so I searched for other ISPs, trying to find a free one. I was still using yahoo search (google just starte), buried a few pages deep into the search was metconnect, who provided free ISP service for New York. All I had to do was sign up and dial a 212 number. Amazingly, they are still around.

best smartphone pic

Lifehacker asked, what’s the best picture you have taken on your smartphone? Interesting. Mostly I use the iphone to instagram food pics so there are not that many that I would say come under the “best of” category.


One of the few unedited ones I have. Coast scenery whilst on a walk with mm. Nice colours and composition but, gasp, it’s vertical, ugh.

emptypianostage inst001kettle

Of the ones on instagram, the piano at concert has atmosphere and the kettle (instagram #1) has a still life quality to it.

brief disconnection


Home, after a long travelling day. We got woken up by the tv guy calling to tell us he was arriving, which to his credit, he was on time and fixed the cable box quickly. We did all the check out stuff — turned off water, electricity, made sure everything was locked — then headed out for brunch. Couldn’t find the place we wanted so ended up at the same dim sum restaurant as yesterday. Ate just as much.

Stopped off at the gas office for more errands, then walked to get snacks and biscuits. Note that we were both carrying pretty heavy bags filled with sweet potatoes, sweetcorn and fruit alreadyy. Lots of weight-lifting exercise.

The return coach was at 3.30pm and we got back in town around 7pm. Quick dinner then we each got a taxi home. Normally I would just take the bus, but my bag was getting heavy and I was tired.

Showered, unpacked, packed up for going back to parents’ tomorrow, did laundry. Watched tv, yay Nigella and Nigel Slater and Ramsay and Grand Designs. Then, and only then, did I turn the laptop on.

I just spent 36hrs with no internet and, actually, it was okay. I’m not obsessed with checking email, and people don’t email as much nowadays. The few games I’m playing, I’m not at the addicted stage where I have to login and declare war, or proceed to the next stage of candy crush, or build the museum in pokopang, or train up my ninja. I had my kindle, and I was happy to limit my activity to reading.

People talk about disconnecting from technology, from social media. I didn’t have internet on the cruises last year, and I did miss it a little. I’m okay with a day or even a weekend. The hour or so when the ship was docked next to a hop-on-hop-off bus that gave me free wifi was like a godsend because that was day 9 on the trip already. Total disconnection with technology, that’s difficult because it means no ebooks, no games, no evernote, no a lot of things. It’s amazing how much I, like so many others, have become completely attached to my idevice.

iphone power pack


The iphone battery has been acting up lately. Either it doesn’t charge or it never reaches 100%. I don’t know if it’s the age of the iphone (3 years), the charger, the usb wire, the power strip, the socket, the electrical circuit, or some other reason. I bought an external power supply for travel, but what has actually worked is this power pack that slips over the iphone just like a regular case. Charge up the pack, put the iphone inside and I’m good to go for the whole day. Probably a little thick to slip into my jeans pocket but better than the external power pack. And best of all, it came free when mm bought a couple of bulk packs of batteries.

transitioning from google reader


I was horrified when I read that google reader will close in July. My first rss reader was bloglines and by the time it closed in 2010 (I think), I’d migrated to greader, which was part of the reason bloglines got left behind. Thing is, there’s no better reader than greader, so that’s not the reason it’s being chucked. Actually, as one of the few who used the service day in day out, I still can’t get my head round to why.

The Indy article suggested that perhaps it’s the rise of twitter. Most newspapers and big sites have twitter feeds of their articles, so perhaps. But twitter can never replace greader. One of the best descriptions of how most greader users use the service is that they


web content in a highly personalised manner. For instance, my subscriptions include big names like boingboing, gizmodo, lifehacker, kottke and simply recipes; I also follow my own friends as well as smaller sites dedicated to food, gardening, design or writing—sites that don’t necessarily have a twitter feed to announce new content. Besides, I can read the full article on greader and not have to click on a tweet.

Which brings me to a thought—rss full feed may also be a factor. Full feeds are great user experiences—no need to get distracted by advertising or other stuff on the main website. You’re not even going to the main site, meaning no trace or cookies left behind. But lots of site owners don’t like it for the exact reason—every view on an rss reader is a click, aka advertising opportunity, lost. It’s moot in this age of ABP or ghostery, and besides rss is old tech, but the suspicion runs deep. I’ve noticed more and more sites switching to excerpt or truncated feeds whilst closing down their full feeds. If it’s a site I normally just skim, I’ll unsubscribe. Their loss.

No matter what google’s reason is, the fact is that greader is going away. And since I don’t want to rely on just twitter, time to find alternatives. My criteria: web-based, can show full feed, uncluttered. One of the most written about is feedly. What sold me was that all I needed to do was to sign in using my google account, and that was it. I’m guessing this is a temporary feature, to capture ex-greader users. Once the greader API goes away, feedly will run their own and hopefully the transition for users will be smooth.

So far, I like it. I can toggle between a compact headline view, the traditional full feed view and a flipboard-like magazine view. Simple UI, clean lines, and I can use it anywhere. This is the great thing about the internet; if a popular service shuts down there will be others willing and able to step into their shoes. We saw it happen with picnik, and now with greader.



Finally, the technician came again and I’m all connected. It goes to show Apple’s advancement, when I first got broadband and cable, in the late 1990s, they were the only company I could use to connect my mac (an ancient Performa relic, wow!) and their customer support hotline only knew to tell me to force quit and rebuild desktop if I had problems. I learned to troubleshoot and fix problems myself. Today, the technician had no problem setting up the wifi network on my second machine (a less ancient first gen mbp). I’m connected.

Also opted for a few tv channels — discovery pack, BBC pack, AXN (for TAR) and WarnerTV. There’s Fox, Universal, Sony and Warner channels, all separate.

silent and immediate


So, sms turns 20. Lots of OMG being sent in celebration. I much prefer texts than calls, much less intrusive, gets to the point quickly, no need for greetings or small talk. Arranging a dinner with someone over the phone:

me: hello
them: hello
[small talk]
me: so how about dinner?
them: okay.
me: when?
them: oh, let me see, I can’t do Wednesday. Thursday I have piano lessons, Friday I have a conference call. Saturday?
me: no, Saturday I have lunch with my sis
[another 3 minutes discussing when both are available]
me: so, where?
them: I dunno, where do you want to go?
[another 5 minutes deciding on where to go]

Texting goes:

me: dinner, fri or sun? you say where
them: sun better, Jap place
me: ok cu

On the phone, there is the temptation and tendency to talk more, discuss, argue. With texting, speed is the driver. Decisions are made faster, even taking into account time needed to think of a response. It’s more immediate and more convenient. Problem is, it’s being taken over by spammers and trigger-happy vendors like banks.

I only text people who are, um, less progressed on the tech adoption curve. The others have all migrated to whatsapp, I got a quote from a contractor via whatsapp, and the van guy I hired to move the fridge asked me to whatsapp him my address. Agreeing and arranging dinners with friends are done through group chat. Mainstream media finally caught up, the guardian had an article about whatsapp as if it were the newest thing, hahaha.

Increasingly, I’m using line with mm, basically because she likes the cute stickers. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a sticker is worth a whole line of text. Line is free, they make money through in-app purchases — additional stickers, games, other novelty stuff one would expect from a Japanese product. It has VOIP too, we’ll try it out one of these days.

still no internet


I got home before 1pm and started sorting the kitchen and the study. Time flew by, and it was already 4pm. I thought the internet guy was coming at 4pm, so I called up the office and yelled at them. Turned out that the appointment was 2-6pm, which I wasn’t aware of. More yelling. The technician eventually turned up close to 6pm. And then we discovered I can’t get the fibre optic cable in my flat. By that time I was so hungry and dejected that I had no strength for yelling. I have to reschedule another appointment next week to install regular, non-fibre optic internet.

Sigh. Internet and cable companies are all the same, anywhere in the world. The biggest ones have an almost monopoly, they charge whatever they want, they don’t keep their appointments and installation is a PITA.

two times lucky


WTF. First I get up on the wrong day for a race; and now today I got rescheduled by the internet people. I went earlier in the week to sign up for internet and cable tv, the appointment for the technician to come was 2-4pm today. So I was on the bus at 1pm and they called, regrettably, to reschedule because the technician had transport trouble. The customer service person said he either had an accident or car trouble. I wasn’t pleased at all, because it wasn’t as if I was at home, waiting around.

Anyway, I had to continue on because the curtain person was also supposed to come to measure the windows. Thankfully, he was on time.

So now I have to go back tomorrow for internet and tv. I signed up for the 300Mbps service, my building doesn’t have the 1,000Mbps fibre yet. I’m hoping the 300Mbps as quick as they claim.

fun with bluetooth


Mum uses a basic Nokia, and I keep my old 6300 around for disposable numbers. For some reason she decided she needed a few songs on her phone. It has a USB port, but I couldn’t get it to mount to the mba. Well, there’s the old fashioned way — I bluetoothed the mp3s one by one to her phone. Actualy didn’t take very long, about 10 seconds each file. Heh. Remember when every pretentious git had a bluetooth earphone glued to their ear? I remember standing around in a circle of friends sending files to each other. Like I said, old-fashioned.

flickr down


flickr was down for almost 2 hours on Thursday. They tried to be humorous and posted on their blog something about the servers being uncomfortable and then later

our chiropractors have found the spot and are applying gentle [massage] pressure right now

Thank goodness for twitter. As soon as I got the connection refused message, I went to check #flickr and lo and behold a lot of people were reporting the same problem. I appreciate them trying to lightened up the situation, but a major site like flickr going down has dire consequences, however much they apologise. I have 11,488 pictures and videos stored there. True, they are backed up on iphoto, but imagine if I had to reload them if something goes wrong. That’s inconceivable.

That the internet and the cloud has become so integral to our lives is no surprise to anyone. IMHO, it is a utility, just like electricity or gas or water. Prolonged outage will cause major stress.

wifi via home electrical circuit


The useless virgin superhub wifi signal barely reaches the kitchen and not at all in the small bedroom, so I’ve been doing research on wireless extenders. The obvious candidate is a time capsule + airport express combo, but I thought I’d expand my horizons to beyond Apple. A little more digging led me to devolo, who makes products that sets up a home network using the electrical wiring system. I’d never heard of this method, and was skeptical until I read all the reviews on amazon.

I walked over to PCWorld after work, because they were selling the wireless starter kit for £89.99, even cheaper than amazon. My thinking is that if it doesn’t work, I can always return it.

Setting up was incredibly easy, took all of 5mins:

  1. connect the extender (smaller unit) via an ethernet cable to the modem and plug it into a wall socket
  2. note down the security ID at the back of the adaptor (larger unit)
  3. plug the adaptor to the wall in the remote room
  4. search for the “devolo” network and enter the security ID

That was it. Basically attach a cable and plug 2 things into the wall. The adaptor also has 3 ethernet ports to connect non-wireless devices like printers or tv and there is dashboard software that gives more functionality like configuring the network. The only minor disadvantage I can see is that both units have to be plugged directly to the wall — using an extension cord will degrade the signal. May be a problem for houses with insufficient wall outlets.

Overall, both thumbs up. Not particularly cheap but worth the money. I’m blown away by the simplicity of setup and the strength of the signal. I’m getting full bars in every room and no drop in signal. This means I can start using the small bedroom as a study and switch between the mbp there and the mba in the kitchen. I was able to make a little progress in the LL rewrite over the Easter weekend, which can only be a great thing.

firefox 4


I finally upgraded to firefox 4. It’s fast, I was about to defect to chrome with the slow and clunky 3.xx versions. I’m still going to use chrome a little bit more, but for the time being I’m staying with ff as my main browser. I have to get used to the tabs at the top of the window, and the open new window / open new tab sequence swap, I’m positive they do that to test us. In the meantime, I’m waiting for some of the add-ons (coughsearchbarautosizercough) to catch up to 4.

writing instruments


I kinda want to start writing a little again, but need to get one of these first. Alright, I don’t need a time capsule to write, it’s just that I’ve set up the mba in the kitchen and the mbp stays on my desk and I thought I can make the study (ie use the mbp) as a writing area. The wifi isn’t that strong in the study so a time capsule as router plus an airport express as repeater will expand the network to the back of the apartment.

Did that sound like a lame babbly excuse to buy even more apple products?

server ADHD OCD


xkcd pokes fun at the “newly” designed gawker mobile site, or well, other mobile sites. How very true. The same goes for sites that try to be location specific, like google that directs you to its Thai site when you’re in Thailand but can’t read Thai, and gawker sites are one of the worst, I can’t get into the general US site without clicking over and over again. No, I don’t want uk.lifehacker.com, I want lifehacker.com. I and I alone am the judge of which site I visit.

iphone 4


I blame the American practice of locking phones. It’s so alien and moronic and all the other words for stupid. My iphone has been stuck in airplane mode since December, and I’ve been using my blackberry. I worked out the costs. If I get an iphone 4 in HK, even with a plan that I’ll only use once or twice a year, it’s still cheaper to get it and then get a SIM only plan in the UK.

So that’s my new toy. Not synced yet cos I didn’t bring my external drive. Not bothered, I downloaded cover orange, it’ll tide me over till next week.

useless dongle


So that I’m not completely cut off from the world, I got a mobile broadband dongle from O2. £30-ish for a month, including £20 for the device itself. Absolutely useless. Speed is slower than dial-up just for gmail, facebook and mafia wars. I would click, then go do something else like clear the bathroom or bedroom. Another 2.5 weeks of this, it might drive me crazy.



Signed up for sky bundle package — tv, internet and phone. Phone was mandatory for the broadband service I wanted, so there was no choice. I may not even plug the phone in. The choice was between sky, virgin, BT or getting the services separately. Virgin tv isn’t in the area yet so it was natural to get sky.

This is the one service that is comparable to chicago in terms of price. The whole package will cost me £62.50 a month, compared with around $100 for RCN without phone.

vox not


So vox is closing down as of 30 September 2010. I’m sad but sadly indifferent. I can’t remember the last time I logged into my account. Oh, it’s a nice idea and elegantly designed as usual by six apart, but as Sarah Lacey pointed out, they are too diverse without one strong brand image:

They were essentially a software-as-a-service company for media with MovableType, a Web publishing tool with TypePad and a consumer Web 2.0 play for teens with LiveJournal and for adults with Vox.

I hope it’s just grammar to use past tense because I still think SA is a good company. Not great, and certainly hasn’t lived up to its potential. I’m not just saying it because I have a certain dependency on them — the entire website is built on MT. I stayed with them even though they were being overtaken by WordPress, and to use a cliché, je ne regrette rien.

new number

A stupid, annoying number has been calling my iphone 3 times a day for the past 2 weeks, always at the same times. Silence when I pick up, and unreachable when I try to call back. I think it’s a fax or modem or something automatic that got programmed wrong. Finally I couldn’t stand it and I called at&t. The rep and I tried to think of possible solutions. There is a blocking plan but it costs $5 a month. Finally I said, why don’t I just change the number. Seeing that only 6 people have my iphone number, it’s no big deal.

In any case, I’m switching to my google voice number so I can have better control. I can block numbers in gvoice, as well as get notifications inside gmail. I’ve been juggling multiple numbers for a while, I seem to have gathered a horde of them:

  • iphone — secret number only 6 people know
  • google voice — “public” number
  • pre-paid plan I use for the nokia — disposable number for services etc
  • office
  • blackberry

Ironic, since I never answer if I don’t recognise the caller and the only people I call are my parents and mm. Looking at my account, I’ve used up all of 9 mins this month. Shock.

state of the interwebz


[via giz]

Akamai just published their 3Q09 state of the internet report, and it’s interesting reading with lots of stats. A couple stands out. Globally unique IPs grew by 17% yoy, but China alone grew by 30%. Yep, my opinion that China is a self-sufficient single market still stands.

The other stat is the average broadband connection speed. Growing in the technologically advanced countries like Korea, Japan and in Scandinavia. But decreased in the US. Another sign of decline that unfortunately no one seems to be surprised about.

google chrome

Talking about google, I’ve been using google chrome on the netbook and at work. The official work browser is still IE6 (yuck) so for personal stuff I use another browser. It used to be firefox, now I use both.

I really like chrome. It’s fast and uncluttered. The thumbnail page of recently visited pages is brilliant, as is the search directly at the address bar, which google calls omnibar. It’s already overtaken safari in certain browser market share measurements. When it gets more plugins, most importantly ad-block plus and I’m sure Gina will make some Better google extensions, I’ll make it the default browser on the netbook.

Unfortunately it’s only available for 10.5 and later, so I’ll stick with firefox on the mbp. Reminds me of the old days of firefox 1.0 when I was on system 9 on the pb2 and couldn’t use it. Man, I was using netscape then. How far and fast browsers have come in just a few years.

google nexus one

don’t get me wrong, I’m forever an apple fanboi, but omg is the google nexus one fantastic or not? I’m so tempted to get one because: a) it gets full 3G support in US, UK, HK and Singapore — my 3 primary locations are all there; b) it fully integrates google voice!!! c) android is bringing serious competition to apple but mostly d) I have 4 sim cards but only 3 phones, this is the perfect opportunity (excuse) to correct that anomaly.

24 hours with the iphone


I can’t get away with just yesterday’s one line post about the iphone right? Of course not.

So, i’ve had 24 hours with it, is there anything new I can add to the millions of words already out there about the device? No, not really. All I want to do is add this: SQUEEEEEEEE!!!

In a way, I feel like I have 2 years of catching up to do. That I couldn’t be a part of the early adopter crowd, or the 3G excitement last year, only to partake vicariously. But, c’est la vie, I wasn’t living in the correct part of the world. Then again, I am glad that this is my first, that I won’t be holding onto a 2G or a 3G and wishing I can get a 3GS.

Early impressions:
pros — fast, fast, fast. apps. easy to use. easy to sync. apps. beautiful. great functionality (see that apps wall at WWDC this year?)
cons — my fingerprints are all over the screen! luckily i have one of those sticky protectors. and it’s a bit big for my pockets, especially when wearing work clothes, i probably need to get a holster.

Basically, I can see why Apple sold 1 million in the first weekend. I know i’m guilty of disdain / contempt at people who’ve recently jumped on the Apple bandwagon — that i’m no longer the anomaly with the cool computer — i guess it’s either swallow my pride and be one of the masses or get on another train. I suppose I could have gone the Gina Trapani Android route, if it were any manufacturer but Apple i may have. As it is, I’m seeing a long and mutually enjoyable relationship with my iphone(s). And I haven’t even been tempted to jailbreak it yet.

iPhone 3GS


I was following the liveblog of the WWDC keynote. Price reduction on mbp! Snow Leopard out in a few months! All very exciting. But of course everyone was waiting for iPhone news. That there’d be a 32GB model, compass, video, cut & paste, new OS…it’s all been leaked already. But it’s still nice to have it confirmed. Now the question is, how soon after 19 June can I wait?

US mobile


I finally got a US mobile, after months of procrastination. I don’t have an address or credit card yet, so I opted for the easy option and got myself a prepaid plan. After looking around, I went for t-mobile’s $100 for 1000mins plan. It’s already the most value for money, which frankly totally sucks. I mean, back home I pay equivalent to US$10 per month and I get 1000mins. Just shows how much more expensive telecoms is in the US.

The second thing that sucks is that there are all of 4 phones to choose from. 2 basic (1000-series) nokias, another basic nokia flip phone, and what I eventually picked, the samsung black stripe. And only cos at $29.99 it was on web special. I really couldn’t face owning a basic nokia. I suppose I can get the sim card and put it in my existing phone, but well I need to still use it.

The black stripe is also a basic phone. Very light, feels like a toy. I will use this as my disposable phone, for real estate agents and shops that ask for phone numbers. It has its purpose.

yes to text


I’ve been thinking of which phone to get in Chicago. The heart says iPhone, but I hate the prospect of going through the whole pwnage process. The android G1 is tempting, as are the new blackberries. I will have a bb from work, so it may be weird to have two.

In any case, the thought is that a landline isn’t necessary so I will need more functionality and I know the plans in the US are not competitive, especially since I will only consider the GSM networks. Still, I doubt I’ll change my behaviour even if I get super-duper smartphones:

  • I don’t give my number out
  • I won’t answer a call if it’s a number I don’t recognise
  • Even if I answer, I will let the other party speak first and hang up if it’s not a legitimate call
  • I will not use voicemail, if it’s part of a bundle I’ll not activate it and certainly won’t respond

I don’t understand why when a phone call comes in, I have to drop everything I’m doing and attend to it. And calls where the caller ID isn’t displayed is plain rude. I mean, with most forms of direct interaction—be it a letter, email or ringing the bell at the door—I, the recipient, can usually see who is sending/initiating the contact. Why phones were developed without caller display is baffling. Even so, why stop at just displaying a number? Even with unstored numbers all callers should be forced to display their name and purpose for calling.

And now there is hope. A new invention, truecall, intercepts all calls. It has a pre-programmed white- and blacklist. If the call is from the whitelist (the inventors call it the star list) the call is let through automatically. If from the blacklist (or zap list), it is rejected. An unrecognised number will receive an automated enquiry that asks for name and purpose for calling. It will then ask you whether to let the call through or not. The white- and blacklists are remembered. £99.99, which I’d be willing to pay to be rid of nuisance calls.

The best way of hacking through and possibly getting a response will be to text me. I like sms, because it’s not intrusive, gets the message across, and is free of the needless small talk that is necessary in a phone call. I’m glad that my feelings are vindicated. wireless and mobile news reports on a Sprint-sponsored study that:

a text is far more likely to elicit a quick response than voice mail. In fact, those under the age of 30 are four times more likely to respond within minutes to a text message compared to a voice mail, and 91 percent respond to a text message within one hour. Adults 30 and older are also quick to text — and are twice as likely to respond within minutes to a text message as compared to a voice message.

The older you are, the less likely you will respond to a text. I guess it’s the resistance to change — older people have gotten stuck in the habit of listening to a human voice. Even though we all know that speaking is less concise. As giz pointed out:

Why listen to your friend Jane hem and haw about a good time to meet up [on voicemail] when you could’ve spent three seconds reading “Im in da city. U free 2 meet?”

death to voicemail

I read the techcrunch article about how voicemail is dead the other day and I found myself nodding in agreement.

I hate voicemail. I delete them and never reply. I haven’t activated the feature at work or on my cellphone. I think it’s the whole paranoia about being being contacted and people’s false sense of urgency about everything. Besides, I can see who called by looking at my missed calls log.

Lifehacker set up a poll, and to date, those in agreement that voicemail should die has the highest vote. One of the best remarks in the comments state simply:

My cell phone is not a leash. I may not get back to you immediately.

I can’t help but think that we are slowly rebelling against being constantly available. Even though the crackberry phenomenon is well known and documented, where the ‘blame’ is on the user, it’s only a matter of time before the blame shifts to employers and the expectations of bosses and colleagues. Disputes and unions may get involved.

There is nothing, baring family emergencies, that require our immediate attention. The world doesn’t stop if things are not attended to within a minute.

a week with firefox 3


One week of using firefox 3, what do I think?

Is it faster? I can’t tell. Sometimes it’s very fast, but other times it loads and loads and loads and times out. Whether or not it’s firefox or a poor connection at the apartment I don’t know. I have to reserve judgment till I get home to a connection I have confidence in.

The good stuff — supposedly it’s more secure, which makes me feel good. The text is a little more scrunched together, which maximises the view area. Rounded buttons. Tags for bookmarks is a bit late, cos most of my bookmarks are on delicious anyway. The way bookmarks are handled could be good, but I need to get used to the menu. The awesome bar, I can’t see myself cheering about it. There’s a little tweak to improve colour handling.

The bad stuff — I have to revert to the default theme cos I can’t see any scroll bars. It’s not saving my passwords, even though I tell it to allow passwords to be saved. It imported an older version of my firefox 2 bookmarks.

Like all new things, it’s a matter of giving it time to stablise. Would I have waited before upgrading if I’d known? I think so, especially with the scroll bars and password issues. It’s a little disappointing.