12 January 2016

Pebble Time Round

I've always been skeptical about smart watches. Don't we have loads of variations from Apple and Android wear manufacturing companies that dole out the features included in this devices supposedly tiny and to live on your wrist? To me, it's another complication to add to my life plus, they all seem to scream out "smart watch! look at me!" from the get go.

I don't need a ton of features from a smart watch; those are what my iPhone should do. What I want from a smart watch are 2 things:
  • A reliable watch
  • Some smart features like notifications and fitness tracker

Then Pebble released Pebble Time Round and it fits the two demands I spelled out above just nicely.

It's a stylish watch with an always display thanks to its e-paper technology. Works perfect with the ample ambient light inside the office - I don't have to flick my wrist or fibble with the button to turn on the back light to see what time it is. Using e-paper meant that it's even much brighter and easier on the eyes in direct sunlight where other OLED based smart watches would leave you scrunching your eyes to check the time.


I opted for the 14mm band because I didn't want the hour markings along the white bezel that the silver 20mm version had. Although the 14mm band was just right for my wrist and the 20mm would've swallowed up my wrist whole, I'm still worrying about finding a good strap replacement. Most replacement bands are available in 20mm.

Currently, I'm still loving the stone colored soft leather that comes with the watch by default but I'm on the look out for a silver Milanese-like mesh loop in 14mm.

People would say the Pebble watches are too low tech compared with the other offerings already available and at around the same price point (I got mine during the holiday sale with USD 199 instead of USD 249). However, I do believe that the Pebble Time Round still holds its ground and delivers adequately and beautifully.

Due to Apple's locking down of its watch API, features on notifications interaction are more limited for iPhone users than Android users.

It doesn't claim to the "be-all-do-all" niche that most other smart watches seem to try to accomplish, having an identity crisis in the end: "Am I a smart watch or a phone?". 
What Pebble does is clearly define what it wants to be and do, and then it makes sure it ticks all those items nice and squarely, even the buttons on the watch give off a satisfying tactile click and pressed.

If you're looking for a gorgeous watch that functions flawlessly as a watch, comes with ample battery life, and performs perfectly on notifications and some added features to get organized and fit, then look no further than the Pebble Time Round.

28 November 2015

Pipo W4

I'd like to take this oportunity to pay respects to MacBook Mini; the HP Mini 311 I purchased on a 12-month installment scheme back in 2009 or something, when all the rage was on netbooks. I'd installed Mac OS X Snow Leopard on that little machine that I loved and even created a blog - this very blog - so that I could spout sonnets to the whole world about that love.

I'm grieved to announce that MacBook Mini has passed away. It has been acting up on my dad for quite some time now, shutting down when its fans whirred away, unable to tolerate the heat that would build up over a period of use that shortened as days went by, until one couldn't use it without blasting at least a fan towards its direction. Well, I blame myself partly because I subjected it to hackintoshing. Ok, I don't think I would've bought it in the first place if I couldn't hackintosh it. Me thinks it's the fact that the DSDT may not have been optimal for the hardware in terms of CPU throttling and heat dissipation. Add that to the fact that it's just so very hot in the Philippines and the HP Mini 311 was not getting any younger.

Although I did try to remedy the situation by installing Windows 7 on it, believing that the heat issue will be addressed by giving it to the OS it was designed to run in the first place. True enough, it did happily chug along after that and I was able to give it away to a young university student who needed to have a laptop for school. I was certainly convinced that heat issue was gone. Low and behold, only a few months with its new owner, HP Mini 311 breathed its last.

I'll be forever thankful for the wealth of hackintoshing knowledge I garnered and now have forgotten through that machine. However, the pressing issue remains: What will the university girl (which my mom and dad along with their Bible study group support through college) use for school now?

To find the solution, I racked my brain and thought: What if I were back in university - what gadget would I appreciate? Now, I certainly love working with the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 and now that is has a Zaggkeys Folio case, I'm really enamored by the portability and the added productivity I get with Microsoft Office 365 (thank you to my current company who gave each of its employee a good license bundle which allows me to install Office in other mobile devices aside from my office laptop). In fact, I wrote this entire post from my Note 8.0 + Zaggkeys Folio.

I just knew that giving "our scholar" anything less than that same convenience I now enjoy is not the answer.

She has to have a tablet for portability. But one that can let her write her school papers and create powerpoint presentations for class projects and stuff and install other full desktop applications. Android and iOS are already out the eligibility list.

That leaves one option: Windows tablet. And I have just the right soluion for that: Pipo W4

It's an 8" tablet with Windows 8.1 and Office fo 1 year. And I got a great bargain from Lazada Singapore at only S$99 (free shipping). It's the perfect size for her to carry around for consuming media and stuff.

How about the productivity part? Obviously the 8" screen won't offer the best experience for a student who will juggling several applications side by side, very unlike the way I use my Note 8.0 now.

Remember the Motorola Bionic Lapdock I bought for my Raspberry Pi experiment, which sadly didn't bloom into the coding heaven I envisioned partly because of my lazyness to learn coding seriously? We'll it's got everything to turn the Pipo W4 into a decent laptop.

Keyboard. 11" screen. Trackpad (serviceable but one is better off using a mouse instead). 2 additional normal-sized USB ports (female). Headphone jack. Micro HDMI (male). Micro USB (male).

Unfortunately, the Micro HDMI and Micro USB ports are oriented the wrong way on its cradle connector section and do not match up wit the Pipo W4's port arrangement. It's a good thing that I already have a micro USB extender cable and a micro HDMI to regular-sized HDMI cable as surplus from my Raspberry Pi experiment.

I only had to get an HDMI to micro HDMI adapter (S$1.69) and voilà! The Pipo W4 is now an 11" laptop.

I'm wrought to part with the Motorola Bionic Lapdock because I consider it my handy partner in Pi experimentation since it provides me the screen and input I need. But then, is it healthy for a 30 year old woman to be still playing with toys??

17 November 2015

Android Love Affair

I will always be a Mac girl at heart. It will always be my default go-to machine, my choice of a daily driver. That is, if I were given a choice. My office machine is a Windows 7 Dell laptop which is company issued so there's really nothing I could do but use it 5 days a week. Not that I have any personal (and might I say, unjustifiable) grudge over non-Mac / Apple gadgets - I am long past that phase as a geekette - so I'm very much open to all platforms.

In fact, I do like tinkering with Android quite a bit. The toys, err hardware, involved are way much cheaper than the equivalent Apple ones. Let's just say I'm much more ready to risk bricking my Xiaomi Mi4i than my Apple iPhone. Although for some reason, even up to the individual cells in my body believe that I could never brick the iPhone. I would liken it to trying to customize one's fridge to turn it into a fridge with frying abilities, only to find out that the customizations one is able to reach are really just skin deep - like stickers - and well, that fridge remans a fridge, unable to fry anything, in the end.

I did buy a Galaxy Note 10.1 N8000 about 2 years ago, in late 2013. It's now with my parents who use it hooked to the TV in the living room where they stream Korean dramas with an app. The Note 10.1 was just way too bulky and heavy for me to integrate it in my life. (cue: dramatic background music).

Then, in 2014, I realized there was a hole in my tech existence which could only be filled by a tablet but I knew it couldn't be a 10" screen one. So along came the Galaxy Note 8.0. You guessed it right, the compelling factor was the S-pen. I'm an old-school-note-taking kind of girl so the integrated Wacom digitizer lured me in. That meant I couldn't get an iPad even though the polish of iOS and the hardware were tempting. Plus, being the geek I am, I just had to get something of a different platform since I already had an iPhone.

More than 18 months after purchasing the Note 8.0, which was released late in 2013 itself, I'm now stuck with a gadget that's more than 2 years old. Without any valid hardware upgrade from Samsung, I couldn't find a replacement : 8" tablet with a stylus that worked magnificently. Yes, you could say there's now the Tab A with S-pen but the specs of that are cringe-worthy. If only Samsung would release Lollipop and slap in a recent version of their TouchWiz UI for the Note 8.0, I'd be a happy camper. 

But a geek does what a geek does in times of trouble. With the warranty period over, I therefore proceeded with rooting my device in hopes of customizing it. There are plenty of custom ROMs for the Note 8.0 but sadly, the N5120 or 4G LTE version that is so prevalent here in Singapore is always left out of the supported devices for this wonderful development efforts of the Android community. I only see the WiFi versions being more actively worked on.

Nonetheless, I'm still quite happy to go on with my little Note 8. Thus I souped it up to better equip it as my writing machine on the go. Enter: Zaggkeys Folio.

What's great about still owning an outdated gadget which was once famous is that a few years after your purchase, you are able to get accessories at super low prices as resellers dispose of their old over stock of the item. The Zaggkeys Folio for Note 8.0 originally retailed at USD 99.99 or around SGD 140. I got mine at SGD 61 shipping included. Actually, the keyboard case itself cost me USD 24 on ebay but the shipping was exorbittant as always.


                                         

And it's got a backlit keyboard too!! I think Amazon has more offers for even as low as USD 17 - shiping to US only or shipping may add considerably more to the price.