Too Many Choices

Thanks to the advent of fast internet connections, I’ve been spoilt for choice when it comes to things I want to waste my time on when I’m in front of the computer. Previously, I was limited by the amount of space I had in my hard drive. Terrabytes weren’t a thing yet, so I couldn’t store all my favorite MP3s and movies. Then came CD-ROM burners, which helped, but not as much as external hard drives. Those used to cost way more for less storage than you get now, and beyond the occasional thumb drive (to replace the lost ones I got for free from events) I haven’t purchased one in ages.

my local MP3 collection

Now I don’t even back up most of my files on physical media anymore. Thanks to Google Drive and Photos, there isn’t a need. Not to mention, Google does a great job of automatically sorting and tagging your photos (I know people care about their privacy, but I enjoy the convenience of typing noodles in the search bar to remember where I’ve been). Machines have come a long way thanks to all the captchas we’ve been doing.

Google Photos

If you want to watch a movie these days, just load up Netflix, or your favorite streaming site, type in a movie name and click watch. It’s that convenient. If you want to listen to music, just load up Spotify or YouTube, type in a song name and there you go! No more waiting for songs to download to your PC and launching them in a media player to listen to them. I still do the latter for music, but streaming services are great to check out new artists I have not listened to before.

But like with all things, there are good and bad sides to them. While people might see it as a ‘first world problem’, it’s a problem nonetheless – having too many choices makes it difficult to decide what you want to consume. Yes, that’s right. You ever sit down in front of your TV, and browse Netflix endlessly looking for something to watch? I know I’m guilty. I see a show I think I might be interested in but I don’t watch it immediately. I add it to ‘My (neverending) List’, and look for something else that I might want to watch. Repeat this for maybe half an hour and decide that I’d rather do something else instead of watching a show. Come back to Netflix a week later and repeat the same process. It’s the same with Spotify. I have playlists of countless unwatched shows and unlistened music.

my Netflix playlist

While it’s not an issue having large playlists of unconsumed content, it could be a problem one day – when record companies or movie distributors lose the rights to the material, leaving empty spots in your playlists. And then you kick yourself for not checking them out earlier. Fortunately, there’s always the alternative coughpiratebaycough but most of the time you’ll look for something, download it and end up forgetting about it (at least that’s what I do).

I guess it’s more of my consumption habit than a problem of too many choices. I should learn to pick and choose and stick with it. Which is why I’ve been choosing not to finish some games in my Steam library. When I feel a game is more trouble than it’s worth to complete, I uninstall and move on.

my Steam library

I’ve been doing the same thing with music and shows too. If I don’t absolutely enjoy something, I turn it off and jump to the next in line. I don’t have that much time in my life, shouldn’t I spend it on something else that I like instead? This philosophy has helped me to clean up my playlist (it’s still long but I’m getting there) and it is also why I play so much Dota 2.


Also, interesting video about choices:

No More Asus Laptops for Me

I shall start with a disclaimer: this is purely anecdotal. It’s what happened to me over the past two years with my ASUS Zenbook (UX430U).

What kind of laptop charger has a breakable ground pin?

As you can see from the image above, that was the icing on the cake of my terrible experience with this device and ASUS Malaysia’s service center. Let’s start from the beginning.

ASUS Zenbook UX430U

I purchased this Ultrabook after leaving my previous job as I needed a laptop to work on. I only had an old Linux machine at home to use with a dying battery and keyboard (despite be replacing the battery and hard drive earlier, it didn’t help much). I know I wanted something slim, lightweight and powerful enough for me (I hate slow laptops, there’s never an excuse for it). I didn’t need to game on it, so an ultrabook with no discrete graphics card seemed right up my alley.

After doing some research and shopping around, I settled on the ASUS Zenbook UX430U. It had everything I wanted, and the price tag wasn’t unreasonable. Bought it, and started using it daily. I loved the weight of the machine and the performance I got out of it. It was a joy to use – until the first problem reared its head up less than a week in.

1) The laptop’s charging port stopped working for no discernible reason. It just stopped working, and I couldn’t charge my laptop. Now, you might say this is a case of bad luck, but the fact that I couldn’t get a replacement laptop on the spot was annoying. They wanted to send it to the service center to get it checked up and fixed. It only took about a week and was good to go. I was unemployed then, so it was acceptable to me even though I was unhappy about it, but I should have taken that as a sign of things to come.

2) Fast forward to about a year into having the laptop – everything was fine and dandy. Until I noticed something odd about my device – one of my USB ports wouldn’t charge my vape when I plugged it in. It could read files off drives and my phone fine, but it wouldn’t provide any charge. This bothered me as it was a laptop with limited ports (only two USB 3.0 ports and a USB C port), I had to make sure they were fully functional. I sent it to the service center to get checked out and fixed, which resulted in me in not having a laptop for a couple of days.

3) When the laptop was fixed, I noticed something odd with its display. It was randomly showing grey dots and lines on the screen, which was especially noticeable on black/dark backgrounds and images. It took another trip to the service center and a week to be fixed. This time the laptop took another week to fix.

4) My laptop’s speakers stopped producing sound. I normally listen to music using headphones, so this was something that took me a while to notice. I had to send it to the service center again, and they got it fixed within a few days. They said there was an issue with some connection.

Not detecting my SSD
The Blue Screen Of Death

5) The straw that broke the camel’s back. A couple of weeks ago my laptop was having issues with my SSD. It was an issue that I had encountered in the previous months, but it was usually fixed with a reboot (sometimes multiple). My laptop would somehow stop recognizing that I had an SSD installed and give me the BSOD while I was working. Sometimes during boot, it would fail to recognize that I had an SSD and throw me to the BIOS. This time around, restarting the laptop wasn’t doing the trick, so I had to send it to the service center again.

I informed the staff of the issue clearly – verbally and by writing it down. The lady at the ASUS service center acknowledged it. I passed the laptop to her and went off. I received a message the following day telling me that my laptop was ready for collection. I thought that was strange because I’ve never had a one-day turnaround from them before.

Reached the service center and asked them what the issue was – they told me that they formatted the laptop and it should be fine. I was distrustful of them. I told the lady that this was not a software issue, why would a format fix it? She just told me to go back and use the laptop and to come back if there were any problems. She also told me that one of the screws holding the bottom case of my laptop was missing. No shit, Sherlock. Why did you tell me that instead of just putting in a new screw? Were they short on screws?

Anyway, as I expected, the same SSD issue happened again. I even sent them photographs of the problem (at their request). Drove my ass to the service center, passed them the laptop again, with an “I told you so” look on my face. The lady apologized and said they’ll get it fixed as soon as possible.

About a week later, I collected the laptop from them. I turned it on at the shop (it was on sleep mode), and everything seemed normal (the missing screw was still missing). The lady told me that they replaced my SSD to solve the issue. Everything seemed normal to me until; I got back and rebooted my laptop after updating some drivers.

Hello Trojan!

The first thing that pops up on the action center is Windows Defender telling me that my machine was infected with a trojan. I did some digging through the Defender logs and noticed that it wasn’t the first time the trojan was detected. There was a backlog of when the warnings started appearing, and what files caused the trigger. Turns out that Windows Defender detected the trojan on the thumb drive that was used to install Windows updates on my laptop.

This meant that whoever was installing Windows on my laptop was clueless or had a complete disregard for basic PC security. I’m pretty sure it is completely unacceptable to be using an infected thumb drive while working on a customer’s machine (correct me if I’m wrong). That technician had also deliberately ignored Windows Defender’s warnings and continued installing files off that infected thumb drive. What kind of fucking moron does that? I’m pretty sure I said “are you fucking kidding me?” aloud to myself. I was furious.

I sent photos of the message to ASUS and told them that they had an incompetent technician. They had the cheek to tell me to just restart the PC. Holy shit, whoever ‘fixed’ my computer deserves to be fired and be hit by a car on the way home, with their box of belongings in their hand.

If by some chance you’re reading this, technician, fuck you.

Instead of sending it back to them and risk my machine falling into the hands of another idiot, I fixed this problem myself (created a bootable Windows 10 install on a USB drive, and wiped the SSD before installation).

For almost two years, I’ve had to visit the service center way too many times. This is not okay for a device that you rely on for work daily.

In the future, I’m not going back to ASUS if there’s an issue with my laptop I can solve on my own, and I’m not purchasing another ASUS laptop. They’ve taken more than enough of my money and my trust. I still have faith in their hardware like graphics cards and motherboards (haven’t had issues with those yet) but their laptops are a definite no from me. Based on my experience, I will never recommend an ASUS laptop if you need something reliable.


Side note: in addition to all the time spent waiting for the laptop to be fixed, there was a lot of time and fuel spent driving to service centers, paying for parking and tolls, and loss of productivity from not having a laptop to work with. Oh yeah, I had to back up all my files and remove my logged-in accounts every time I sent it to be serviced (huge pain in the ass).

Also, if you remember, I purchased a tablet to serve as a working machine during the various times my laptop was out of commission and it’s been a lifesaver (it’s still running great btw!).

Blog Security

Ever since my blog was attacked multiple times last year, I’ve done a lot of things to improve its security (except switching away from wordpress because I didn’t want to bother learning a new blogging platform) and I’ve become aware of how much my blog is being targeted.

Every day I get notifications about attempted logins to my blog (that have been successfully refused), along with attempted injections and so on. Previously, I didn’t have any security and wasn’t aware of any attacks.

a snapshot of my inbox

I’m aware I’m not some big time blogger or anything – it’s probably just random bots scouring the internet looking for websites with vulnerabilities they can exploit. Regardless, I’m glad I’ve made the changes to improve the blog’s security.

You know the feeling of using a computer after a fresh format? Or a brand new laptop after you’ve uninstalled all the bloatware? (speaking of, I’ve got a rant about ASUS laptops I’ll publish in the future) That’s how it feels like to have a website that’s completely safe to visit. Feelsgoodman.

Also, to anyone out there thinking of hacking this blog – there really is no benefit for doing it. You’ll gain access to my 30 or so daily readers (thank you guys) who probably wouldn’t even care if this blog died. I’d be inconvenienced, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

I would be bothered because I have years of writing archived on this space. Tons of thoughts, memories, ideas, and all sorts of random shit. It’s nice going through them, like a stroll down memory lane. Except that it is more accurate than a memory because my words don’t change (unless I intentionally change them, which I don’t – however I have updated an older post that still gets traffic – yes, don’t ask me why people still find my blog when they search for whorecraft – it’s still one of the most common search phrases people use to get to this blog).


This post was written a few months ago to celebrate my blog’s anniversary – but I had forgotten that I renewed it for 2 years the previous year, so the reminder to renew my blog didn’t come in this year which resulted me in forgetting to post it. Today, received a spam comment on my blog which reminded me about this post.

lul

Even if the comment was legit, no I’m not interested in monetizing this blog. No thank you. Anyway, happy belated birthday to blorgy.net – 12 years and counting. You’re almost a teenager now!

Funny story: saw a comment on reddit saying that my URL was blocked at a person’s workplace – probably due to orgy in the URL. That was the first time I thought about changing the domain name of my blog in a while. After all, it was a reflection of who I was many years ago when I first registered it. I don’t think I’ve matured much since then.

1UP Keyboards HHKB (kit) Review

1Up Keyboards HHKB Kit

After using the Tokyo 60 and Tofu for a few months, I realized that they’re not as portable as I’d like them to be. Even though they’re not heavy like a full-sized keyboard, you start to feel the difference in your backpack – I could tell whether I had one of them inside by the weight of my bag alone. While I have a regular HHKB, its lack of customization (without a Hasu controller) annoys me sometimes, especially because I love using mouse keys when working on my laptop.

I’ve been keeping my eye out for a lightweight HHKB custom keyboard, and when 1Up Keyboard’s Hotswap HHKB Kit flew into my radar, I knew it was what I wanted. Here’s what I ordered: clear plastic case, carbon fiber plate, hotswap Tsangan PCB, and stabilizers. I got my switches and keycaps elsewhere.

Side profile

Firstly, I want to shout out about the purchasing experience on the 1Up Keyboards site. It’s been the best purchasing experience I’ve ever had on any keyboard shopping website. It was so easy to make sure I got everything I needed for the keyboard. There are easy-to-use drop down menus to select what you want, with prices listed clearly and total price updating live. All the options are selectable on a single page, and they make sure you can only choose compatible parts. Even though I didn’t need it, I can see how easy it would be to recommend to people who are building their first keyboard.

Back to the keyboard. It arrived undamaged, in no frills packaging that was sufficient to keep it protected. No complaints there, I also received a whole bunch of stickers to use. I assembled the board with no issues. I have never used a carbon fiber plate prior to this, so I expected it to be extremely flimsy – I was so wrong. Switches snapped in nice and snug. It worked just like a normal plate that was very light.

I put on Box Navy switches with Maxkey SA keycaps on this and was surprised to feel that it was even lighter than my HHKB (I don’t have a scale that’s accurate enough to measure the difference – my test was holding one keyboard in each hand, so I could be wrong). I was very impressed by how light it is. I suspect it would be even lighter with different (shorter) profile keycaps on. Regardless, it met my requirements of a lightweight, programmable MX-style HHKB.

Exposed carbon fiber plate

First thing I noticed about the typing experience was the flex. While it didn’t feel like I was bending the PCB, my keystrokes felt more cushioned compared to typing on a metal plate. Then again, it could have been the effect of a tray mount vs. integrated plate (which the Tokyo60 and Tofu HHKB use). I would probably need to use more plates and mounting styles to come to a conclusion. In my opinion, the switches and keycaps that you use will probably have a more noticeable effect than the type of plate but this is coming from someone who’s relatively new to the hobby. More experienced people would probably tell you otherwise. As to whether this feels better or worse – I’m indifferent. Flex vs no flex is a personal preference, and I don’t have a preference for either.

Typing on SA keycaps on Box Navy is a pretty enjoyable experience. The thick clicks are definitely amplified and people know when you’re hard at work, or gaming. I’ll be trying out different switches in the future (the positives of having a hotswap board) to see if they work better with the flexible plate.

The underglow is BRIGHT

The underglow lights on this thing is bright – especially when paired with a clear case, you can easily illuminate the surface around the keyboard. Fortunately, you can easily disable them if you find it distracting (I only turn on the underglow for photographs as I rarely use it when I’m working). You get the standard RGB modes and colors you can access through QMK, nothing out of the ordinary here.

Programming the PCB was easy – just like any other QMK PCB. However, I’ve been seeing an issue with the board pop up a couple of times on the 1Up Keyboards Discord: my PCB arrived unflashed. This meant, I couldn’t input any keystrokes on the keyboard when it was first assembled. I had to use the physical reset button (fn+b wasn’t working for me) to get it into bootloader mode before flashing my keymap. This isn’t a big deal for most people, but some sort of default layout would have been helpful for those who decide to screw the board into their case before flashing it (you can’t access the reset button without removing the PCB from the case). I’m not sure if it’s an issue for all of the PCBs they sell, or me and the people who complained were only the minority.

Issues: I won’t lie – the silver carbon fiber plate is hideous. I should have gone with black or red, though I can’t expect it will look much better. I’m not sure if it’s possible, but a texture-less version of the carbon fiber plate would have been more up my alley. This is my biggest problem with the keyboard. Yes, you read that right. I love everything else about it.

So was the board everything I wanted? Yes. I set out to build a lightweight keyboard and I got exactly that. And to top it off, it’s affordable (your choice of switches or keycaps will affect the base price). It’s also an in-stock item that you can purchase any time from 1Up keyboards instead of having to wait for a group buy (unlike the Tokyo60). Oh, it also comes with USB C.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with the 1Up Keyboards HHKB and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anybody looking for an easy to assemble, lightweight and affordable keyboard. It is also available in other styles (standard ANSI and Win key-less) if HHKB isn’t what you’re looking for.

Here’s a sound test of the 1Up Keyboards HHKB:

No Rat Glue for the New Year

Earlier today, I received an email from Lazada Philippines telling me that my order of a hair straightener, rat trap, and rat glue was being processed. Hmm. Very strange, I thought to myself – considering that I had no need for any of those items and the fact that I don’t shop on Lazada Philippines. The email was legit, so I knew it wasn’t some sort of phishing attempt. But it was sent to an email address that I don’t use for Lazada.

Curious, I decided to log in to the account (using the forgot password option). Funnily, the email address wasn’t even verified to begin with. I had to verify it in order to reset the password. Fine, I thought – I verified my email address and reset the password.

After logging in, I noticed there was another order that I wasn’t informed about via email: a ladies bag. I checked out the profile attached to the account – there was a name, address and phone number of a lady living in the Philippines. I guess she has a rat problem and likes to keep her hair straight.

Anyway, I did the only reasonable thing I could think of: cancel the orders she made. Unfortunately two of the four orders were already shipped out so I could only cancel the other two (rat glue and handbag).

Why do people use email addresses that don’t belong to them? On a side note, Lazada – why do you let people make purchases without verifying their email addresses? I’m not going to do anything else with the Lazada account and all the personal information I have but someone else with malicious intent would probably have a field day with all this stuff. Hopefully that lady learns a lesson about using other people’s email addresses to order stuff online.

Imagine if it was some live-saving medication that I cancelled (assuming I was unaware of how important the order of medication was), and the recipient died because they didn’t get it. Would I be considered a murderer? Or would the judge say, “all this could have been avoided if the recipient had used their own email address. It’s not that hard to get an email address. Also, it is free. There is no excuse not to have an email address of your own.”

Lady – here’s to hoping rats continue plaguing you until you realize your order of rat glue has been cancelled. And that you don’t have a bag for going out to celebrate the new year. Please use your own email address next time.

Goodbye Unifi

Yesterday I handed in my termination application form and returned my broadband modem to Telekom. I’ve been using Telekom’s Unifi service since I moved in to my current home in 2011 so you could say I was a pretty loyal customer. I never had any problems with the service – my download/upload speeds were good enough for gaming, streaming and torrenting. The network was rarely down – I didn’t have any issues with the service at all.

So why did I terminate my account? I was happy with my internet service. It was Telekom’s very own marketers that pushed me over the edge. About a month or two ago some dude called me up and told me that because I was a long-time customer, I was eligible for a “cheaper price promo”. I told him that was great, and I was interested in switching to it. But he told me that I couldn’t just switch my account to that new price – I had to cancel my account and sign up for a new account to get this new price point. We got into a debate over how absurd that was and I ended the phone call with him after about 20 minutes without agreeing to take this “promo”. Immediately, I went online to do some research about TM’s current price offerings.

My plan then was RM179/month for 30Mbps (which was supposed to be upgraded to 100Mbps for free this year but due to my condominium’s network cable limitations, it wasn’t going to happen) – a plan that they don’t offer anymore (you have to Google to get to this page, it’s not even linked from their homepage – why is it still up?). If you check their website, they currently offer: RM129/month for 100Mbps (unlimited) or RM79/month for 30Mbps (limited to 60GB a month). This meant that I was paying an extra RM50/month for my current plan. Now, who in their right mind would want to do that?

My 2-year contract had already long expired – couldn’t they have just reduced my monthly fee to match the current price? Why did I have to cancel my account and sign up for a new one just to pay the correct price? They aren’t selling my old price plan anymore, it doesn’t make any sense that I have to keep paying for it since I was no longer bound to a contract.

I wrote them a lengthy email about my situation and they didn’t answer my question. They kept harping on the fact that I had to cancel my account to get the correct price. They marketed this ‘new’ price as a promotion. How the fuck is it a promotion if it is just the correct price for a service I’m overpaying for? If I had to guess, they probably wanted me to commit to another 2-year contract, or they wanted me to contribute to their number of sign ups for the year.

Since Telekom wanted me to cancel my account anyway I decided it would be a good time to give Time a shot. I signed up for an account over one afternoon at Seng Yip’s house (the sign up process is a stupidly simple and quick process, big props to Time for making the transition so easy) and scheduled a date for them to come over. That day was yesterday and after successfully upgrading to Time, I drove to the Telekom center nearby my house to terminate my account.

I hope Time lives up to its reputation – based on my friends’ experiences I’ve made the right choice (and for the past 24 hours I’ve been very very pleased with it). When the billing date comes around, I’ll be happy with the lower price and the fact that I won’t be charged for a service I never use (looking at you HyppTV).

Also, this switch comes one year after I shut down a Time telemarketer almost a year ago. Does this mean his call worked?

Transitioning: Tablet Life

I’m amazed at how far technology has come. I remember when I first got my iPad, I was struggling to do anything remotely productive on it. Sure, I was trying to type on the on-screen keyboard, but the fact that I couldn’t have multiple windows open, use decent copy/paste functions and cloud storage made it such a hassle to use. This was back in a time when transferring documents meant connecting my iPad to a computer and dragging files out from it. I decided not to ever use it for productivity and it turned into my gaming/video streaming device.

Fast forward about 8 years now, and I find myself using a tablet to do my work and holy shit, the experience is amazing. So much has changed since then. “Why am I not working on a laptop?” you ask. My laptop is currently at a service center for repairs (one of the USB ports isn’t functioning properly) so I needed another computer to work with (for when I’m outside or in the office). I decided to pick up an Android tablet (Galaxy Tab A10.5) as my backup computer – since I could use it to replace my dying Android tablet at home anyway. After spending the past 24 hours with it as my working machine – I think it could replace my work laptop instead.

I don’t want to spend paragraphs gushing about the device, so I’ll just summarize my thoughts on the device. The kind of work I do doesn’t require a very powerful device: a lot of word processing, the occasional spreadsheet or presentation, checking and responding to emails and research on the internet.

Why the tablet works for me:

  • Having multiple windows open on the tablet’s display is a breeze to do (you can have split screen apps and/or floating windows), with no noticeable slowdown or lag. I can easily have multiple documents open to work with at the same time.
  • I can easily plug in any of my keyboards to the tablet (via a USB A to USB C converter) to use with the tablet, and a lot of shortcut keys remain. Even better if your keyboard has mouse move commands as that lets you have an onscreen mouse so you never have to touch the tablet display if you don’t want to.
  • Long battery life – according to what I read, I think it should last 15 hours – which is plenty of time. Longer than a regular work day for me which means I don’t have to worry about charging it as long as I charge it to full before I leave the house.
  • Because Android/Google is awesome, I have all my Drive files easily accessible to me without having to do any additional settings. I just log in to Google and I’ve got everything I need.
  • The 10.5” display is more than sufficient for my tasks, and when I’m not working, it doubles up as a great video player.
  • All the apps that I use run smoothly on this machine. Don’t think I’ll be gaming with it anytime soon, but I doubt it’ll be a problem if I ever decide to game on it in the future.
  • It’s friggin light. Having to carry it around in my backpack feels wonderful compared to the laptop I was lugging around previously.

What sucks:

  • WhatsApp for some reason doesn’t allow you to run the app on multiple devices with the same phone number. I have to resort to using WhatsApp web on the tablet. It’s not the end of the world, but I don’t see why I need to rely on such workarounds – it’s 2018, everyone has multiple devices. Please implement support for it. Then again, this isn’t the tablet’s fault but I thought I’d bring it up anyway since I use WhatsApp a lot for work.
  • The screen is a fingerprint magnet – but it is only noticeable when it is off, so not really a big deal.

That ended up being longer than I thought. I’ve only spent 24 hours with this tablet, so this piece is only a first impression, I’m sure I’ll find additional things to say about it in the future. If anyone has any experience with the transition or has recommendations about must-have apps or tricks I need to know, feel free to chime in!

Curated Feeds

It’s been a while since the introduction of in popular social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. While I’ve always been a huge proponent of UI updates and redesigns, I was initially upset. I liked viewing stuff chronologically – it was something I was used to. However, after a while, I stopped bothering with trying to get my updates sorted chronologically, and just accepted that the algorithm knew what it was doing. So far, it’s been alright. I hardly check out updates in order anymore, since the more relevant posts do pop up on top.

But after a while, I discovered that I kept seeing posts about things I was interested in (let’s not forget the ads as well) – it was no longer showing me random stuff that I used to encounter. It has turned my feeds a little stale. Sure, it’s great to know that what I want to know is readily available – but what about all the things I never knew I wanted? It’s all buried under this circlejerk/echo chamber of a news feed. Don’t get me wrong – I like the fact that after months of me filtering my feed, Facebook now doesn’t show me things I don’t care about – but I now miss out on stuff that I might care about because I don’t know about them.

If I want to discover something new – I have to intentionally look for it – a harrowing task when I don’t know what I’m looking for in the first place. Imagine missing out on something revolutionary and life-changing because it wasn’t on your radar in the first place? You now have to rely on people you see to hopefully keep you abreast of whatever that is. I haven’t gone back to browsing my news feed chronologically (Facebook still offers the option but Twitter and Instragram removed the option unless you were viewing individual pages) – it was just something I realized not too long ago.

These days I get most of my updates from Reddit, fortunately I don’t think they have algorithms to tailor your front page according to your profile – you just get highly rated stuff from subreddits you’re subscribed to. Hopefully in the future we’ll get options to see the news however we like it – chronologically or curated. I think having the option is always a good thing. Imagine getting your email in a curated order, with no way to switch it back – that would be such an annoying feature.

Life with a Smartwatch

Excuse the potato shot

For most of my life, I haven’t been one to wear a watch. I don’t know why, but for some reason I always felt like it was a big hassle just to put it on every morning. In fact, I stopped wearing watches for such a long time that having one on my wrist felt unnatural and I would constantly leave the house without putting it on. However, that has changed over the past two months. At the end of June, I got myself my very first smart watch, and now it’s something that I miss whenever I walk out of the house without wearing it.

I avoided the smartwatch craze for a while because the idea of having to charge your watch every night seemed unappealing to me. I mean, who wants to do that right? Since then, smartwatch battery life has improved and you can go for a couple of days before having to charge it (at least with the higher end ones). I decided to get one after reading rave reviews about this entry-level watch from Ticwatch – the Ticwatch E/Express. It had a reasonable price tag (RM 699 on Lazada), ran on Android Wear, and looked pretty nice. Since I had no experiences with smartwatch prior to this one, I thought the cost wasn’t too high to give it a shot.

Setting it up was pretty straightforward – install Android Wear on your phone, sync it up with the watch and you’re good to go. Look around for some watch face apps if you’re unhappy with your current theme and download it to your watch. I’m currently running a modified version of this Adventure Time Watchmaker theme and I think it’s pretty rad. I had some issues getting data to work when not on wifi, but after troubleshooting via the official forums and Reddit I did a system reset and it has been working fine ever since.

Since I’ve been using the watch for about two months, I thought I could give some of my opinions on it, for those of you interested in getting one for yourself.

  • My watch has about 33 hours of battery life based on my usage – it’s not great, but it’s not bad either. It definitely has enough juice to power through a full day (even with heavy usage) but if you don’t charge it, it’ll die in the middle of the following day unless you decide to charge it at some point before that. It’s definitely not 48+ hours as advertised (or I have a defective model – I’m not sure what the case is).
  • The fitness features are useless for me. It was fun to play around with the heart rate monitor or check how many steps you’ve walked initially, but as time went on, I stopped using those features. I’m sure if I lived a more active lifestyle, they would be really useful. As it stands, I had no use for them. The reminders every hour to get out of my seat to walk around let me know it’s time for a cigarette.
  • Phone notifications without pulling out your phone – very useful. Responding to messages without using the canned responses: not so great. Writing text by tracing letters out on your watch is too cumbersome to be useful. Especially if you have a long reply. Responding with your voice is a step better – it works well, however the times when I have to use my voice instead of typing them out on my phone’s keyboard are very limited. When you’re in public, you don’t want to be speaking replies out loud – not to mention, sometimes it’s just too noisy as well. When you’re in a meeting and looking at messages on your phone instead of your watch, you’re definitely not in a place to be responding with your voice.
  • My favorite feature so far – making reminders or phone calls with my voice. Now that’s a feature I can get behind. Especially if you have a headset on, you can do those things without pulling your phone out of your pocket. Great when your hands are full or when you’re on the move.
  • Using it as a navigation device is pretty nifty as well. It’s definitely better than walking around with your phone in front of you. The screen’s display is also bright enough to be used outdoors during the day.
  • The watch is pretty much more of a notification responder than a full-blown mobile device. I understand its limitations due to the hardware and software, but I think this will improve in the coming years. In the future, it’ll probably be good enough to replace your smartphone by itself.
  • The performance of the watch definitely leaves a lot to be desired. Especially when you don’t leave it in always-on mode – it takes a couple of seconds to wake up. While it may not seem like a long time, it does add up over time – especially if you’re like me and forget the time very often. To solve this issue, I just leave my watch on always-on mode and have a dim display for the idle mode.
  • I like the fact that you can change the display to pretty much anything you fancy – assuming there are themes available or you’re savvy enough to create something on your own.
  • I’ve gotten used to charging an extra device every night. It’s not a huge hassle, but the watch’s proprietary magnetic charger might be a pain point in the future if it ever stops working. I think having a regular micro USB port would have been a better idea.

Those are my thoughts on my smartwatch so far – I know a lot of people have more uses for it than me (i.e. controlling presentation slides) so depending on your usage habits, it may or not be more useful. I’ve only had two months with it so my opinion might change in the future. It’s something that’s nice to have, but definitely something you can live without.

Mobile Hotspots are Underrated

If there’s one thing that people don’t use enough of these days, it’s turning their phones into mobile hotspots. Gone are the days where if you visit a cafe and it has no WiFi, you can’t do your work there. All you have to do is turn on the hotspot feature on your phone and you’re good to go. Unless you have a terribly limited data plan (which most people don’t have these days), using your phone to tether your laptop/tablet to is something you should do – unless you have terrible reception on your phone.

Benefits? You get to use 4G speed, which is better than the WiFi you get from a lot of places in KL. Especially when a cafe/restaurant is busy and full of other people leeching it as well. Better security – while most WiFi networks are usually pretty secure these days (gone are those days of Firesheep), it just feels better knowing that you have traffic going through your own cellphone instead of through a router that the public is accessing. You can use it anywhere and anytime you want. You’re no longer bound to venues and their opening hours. Sit in your car or on a park bench somewhere to work if you feel like it.

Sure, on some phones it might affect the speed of your battery drain, but if you have a decent phone (something that most people already do these days), it shouldn’t be much of an issue. You can always use powerbanks or charge your device with your laptop or a power outlet.

Also, if you don’t use up that phone data, what else are you going to use it for? At least in my experience where I have WiFi at home and in the office, my data goes underutilized on most months and I end up spam watching HD YouTube videos before my data renewal date just to feel like I got my money’s worth. In case you’re not sure about how to turn your phone into a hotspot (there are a thousand different phones out there so I can’t give you a guide here) you can do a simple Google search to find out. It usually falls under Settings > WiFi > Hotspot/Tether on Android phones.

Now go out there and enjoy your freedom enabled by your mobile devices! (though some people may say the ability to work anywhere is a curse, and not a blessing)