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)

Cashless

Today I left home without bringing my wallet – something I only realized when I was lining up to pay for my lunch. Fortunately, it was before I had received my food so it wasn’t really a problem. I had to go home to get my wallet and I wasn’t far from home. But then a thought occurred to me – this wouldn’t be a problem if I had some sort of mobile payment system on my phone. But even if I did, the restaurant I was at didn’t support mobile payment. It’s already hard enough to find lower-end places that accept credit cards. I think by the time this country has support for virtual wallets nationwide, we would have eyeball or wrist implant wallets.

One one hand, I see why businesses don’t support virtual wallets – there aren’t enough users. However, without any businesses supporting them, people are unlikely to bother signing up for them. It’s a chicken and egg situation. Another issue present is – which wallet does a business choose to support? It’s not like Visa/MasterCard where you’ll find support for either one everywhere. There are so many digital wallet systems available, it’s hard to pick one over the other. Would it be feasible to support all of them? I’m not sure about the paperwork, but I would assume it would be a nightmare to settle it at the end of every month/week/quarter.

On the other, digital wallet support would make it so much easier for consumers to spend money. Instead of lining up at ATMs to withdraw money, people can wave around their phones to pay for stuff when they have no cash on them. People won’t have to worry about getting robbed anymore (everybody has their phone protected these days right?) since they won’t have their cash on them. When you make paying such a simple process, people can spend more money impulsively.

But there’s no telling how long virtual wallets will last, and if it’s going to be the main form of payment (the world of tech moves so quickly – these systems could easily collapse and be replaced by something more efficient any time). But it would be nice to enjoy them in the meantime. Like how Touch and Go is being used by almost every car park today, I’d love to see a greater adoption of convenient technologies.

Scheduled TV Shows

If there’s one appliance at home I use less than the fridge at home, it’s the television in my living room. If I watch a TV show these days, it’s mostly on my tablet or my laptop. Either streamed or torrented. Why? Because I don’t like scheduling my day around a show. Unless something is live or I’m going to a cinema to watch a film, I like to decide when and where I consume content. But life wasn’t always that way.

Back then we had to wait up to catch movies on terrestrial TV because there wouldn’t be any reruns. If a movie was showing too late, we’d have to record it and catch it the following day. Thankfully the VCRs we had could fast forward. I remember having to pause recording during adverts back then if we wanted to record something seamless. It was quite a fun activity to do. You’d have to remember to pause and unpause during commercial breaks (also, why does paid TV still have ads? we pay for it after all). This skill translated to my Walkman days when I used to rip songs off the air. I had to make sure I started and stopped recording before the DJ came back on.

Did you remember catching test cards on TV?

One thing that I’ve learned while working in the content division of a TV network is that programming schedules matter a lot. TV channels will be running shows 24 hours a day, but not everybody is sitting in front of the TV all day long. You need to run your best programs when they’re sitting in front of it. The rest of the day you can put your not-so-hot shows on because nobody watches them. This is why we have terms like prime time. Also, with slightly better than average movies like Peter Rabbit succeeding at the Box Office, it shows us that timing makes a difference.

Despite the existence of video on demand, I don’t think regular TV channels will ever die out. It’s so easy to just turn on the TV, flip to a channel and just watch whatever’s on. There’s no need to think about what you want to watch (a problem I face sometimes). There are a few benefits to this system. Occasionally you’ll tune into a movie that’s showing the best part and hook you in until the end. It could have been a movie that you were likely to skip due to it not being the kind of show you enjoy or a movie with a slow start. It’s also great for older people and younger kids who don’t really know how to search for content. They can literally tune in and tune out.

Maybe in the future, VOD services will have certain channels that autoplay shows tuned to your preferences and every now and then they’ll play something that they think you might like. We need to give them more of our personal data first. Trust me, it’s worth it.

The latest season of Silicon Valley has been great by the way. I’m looking forward to see how Jared’s character progresses as COO of Pied Piper. His monologue about the analogy to horse manure was so good.

Pertinent Layers

After using my 40% keyboard for two-and-a-half months, I’ve managed to map out a layer that works for me. While most of you are probably wondering, why did I bother with such a small keyboard in the first place? I already have a standard sized keyboard on my laptop.

Well, when you’re spending so much time in front of the computer, wouldn’t you want to type on something that feels good? I know I do. The laptop keyboards if definitely sufficient, but it’s not great. Lack of travel, feedback and programmability. And of course, most importantly, a e s t h e t i c s.

The 40% board is great for traveling – I can’t leave my keyboard at work, so having something light and portable is important for me. It may not seem that much smaller than a 60% keyboard but when you have a tiny backpack like me, every cubic centimeter saved is important (gotta pack more bags of drugs in there).

For non-mechanical keyboard enthusiasts out there, you’re probably wondering how on earth someone could possibly use such a tiny input device. Well, after experimenting with many different layouts on the Vortex Core, I’ve come up with something that works for me and the work I do. It’s nothing fancy, but with it I can easily type characters like ‘ and / which weren’t mapped to the non-function layer by default. I’ve also mapped control, alt and windows to the HHKB layout (I’ve gotten so used to it) and moved escape to a function layer so tab is next to Q. I’d love to do a lot more, but I’m limited by the current functionality of the board.

I still miss the number row when entering passwords, but I’m dealing with it. I even put the number row key caps on my keyboard to help me out in that department. Eventually I will have them all memorized. After using this layout for a while, I’ve come to realize that I could even do away with 3 of the keys on the keyboard, which would make something like the Pearl usable for me (damn, those sexy blockers) – something I would have never dreamed of before using a 40% keyboard.

Anyway, here is a diagram of the layout that I currently use. Feel free to use it or offer any suggestions if you think that you can make it better! I didn’t put down the Shift + Fn1 layers since those can’t be changed (they symbols are mapped from !@#$%^&*() on Ctrl to L respectively).

I can’t wait for Vortex to make the Core completely customizable, I already have plans for how I want to tweak this board even more in the future.

Touch Typing

Over the weekend, I was looking up for some tips to improve my touch typing skills and I learned something I can’t believe I had never thought of before: keep your index fingers on the home keys (F and J on a QWERTY keyboard) if you’re using your pinkies to hit keys like escape, backspace, control, tab or shift – this will allow you to quickly return to the home row and reset your fingers in the correct typing position. It was something so simple yet effective. This prompted me to scour the net for more tips that I could use. Turns out, there aren’t many tips available online that I didn’t already know. Unless there’s a hidden cache of advice hidden available somewhere on the internet, the only other thing I’ve managed to takeaway is that practice is everything.

Like playing the guitar or a video game, typing is very much all about muscle memory. Think about words you type very often: your own name, words like you, me, them, they, the – I’m pretty sure most of you can touch type them without any effort. However, if I were to give you a word like adscititious, it would probably take you a moment to type it out. But if you keep typing the word over and over again, you’ll be able to type it quickly. Basically, you have to practice typing until you are at the stage where you’re typing words instead of letters. It’s like being so familiar with a guitar chord that you can press it without having to look at the fretboard, or pulling off key combinations to execute a special move for your video game character.

While I don’t think I’ll consistently surpass 100 wpm anytime soon (I type fast enough for my current job anyway), it’s something I hope to achieve naturally in the long run – once I’ve typed the most common English words enough times to make them all muscle memory. But for those of you who are interested in learning how to touch type, here are some helpful sites.

Keybr– a site that helps you memorize where each letter is on your keyboard and analyzes which keys you’re struggling with.
10fastfingers – a great site for practicing the most common English words
Type Racer – a popular online typing game where you race against other people by typing out a passage of text quickly and accurately