Rants and raves about stuff happening in and around my life in Singapore

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Breaking free from the iPhone

Yes, I've done it at last. I've got so bored with Apple's pace of innovation and their inability to get the iPhone to where it should be after 6 iterations that I decided to jump ship and go swimming in the Android market instead. And I have to say what was waiting for me there was a pleasant surprise.



I opted for the Google edition of the Samsung S4. And while I have to admit that it took me a couple of days to get use to the interface, I was pretty much blown away with what I found. Everything that Apple has locked down on their iPhones is open on Android. I can download launchers and change the themes on the phone in seconds. I can create my own notification bar and decide what toggles and even application shortcuts I want in there as well (yes application shortcuts in the notification bar). I am free to design and build my own interface and put widgets on any page I want and more, much more in fact.

I upgraded the Chrome browser and ran into errors and at the touch of a button was able to roll back to the previous version. That alone is an awesome ability. I can set and tweak so many things at an individual application level it's unreal.

Yes it is a little more technical I guess, but you know what that's not a bad thing as for the first time in years I am in charge of my phone and not the other way round. And the surprising reality of that simple statement is I hadn't realised it until I had made the switch to Android.

Freedom!

Yes I am at last free from the stupid restrictions that Apple build into the iPhone iOS that has millions of people jailbreaking their phones to add all of the tweaks that they want to have on there to make their phone do what they want it to do.

Freedom!

I can't believe how blind I had become to the Apple iPhone release cycle, eagerly waiting for the next iPhone to hit the market like so many others. Even now people are starting to talk about what new trend the iPhone 5S is going to bring such as fingerprint identification (something thats been tried and failed in the laptop market years ago, so much for innovation). And for the first time in years I find myself not caring in the slightest.

Freedom!

Yes, my contacts, itunes library and photo's have already been synced to my new Samsung S4 google edition phone and I'm loving it. And since this particular model has a built in infra-red port I've also thrown away pretty much all of my remote controls and use my phone to control everything in my home now (yes that's right, my phone is now my remote for all my home devices, you did read it correctly)

In my opinion I have to say that I firmly believe that Android has pulled ahead of the iPhone in several areas already and that iPhone is starting (and struggling) to play catchup to the Android market (something I'm equally sure many Android fans will say was always the case)

Yes, in your face Apple ...... I'm free of the iPhone at last.





Friday, July 19, 2013

One Singapore

August the 9th approaches and for Singapore that means time to celebrate National Day. As always to welcome the event there will be a spectacular show, fireworks and of course a new national day tribute song. There are many national day songs that have stood the test of time (such as Home by Dick Lee for example) and are still being sung today, so with all of that experience you'd expect them to get better each year, alas it seems that the reverse is happening.



This years mid-tempo National Day song is called "One Singapore"  and is sung by Sing A Nation, a choir comprising 68 Singaporeans from all walks of life. The melody (sic) was composed by music director Elaine Chan, and the lyrics (sic) by theatre doyenne Selena Tan.

Having listened to it all I can say is that it's really bad. The lyrics alone are terrible I mean really terrible, including the rap in the middle of the song that it so infantile and misplaced that I struggled to understand why. And while the music (and I am being kind to the midi like soundtrack by labelling it as music) may be mid-tempo and have a good beat that's about all I can that's good about it.

The whole thing reminds me of a cheesy song that's been made up by aspiring "Glee" wannabe school children for a school play with the accompanying cringe worthy factor that such a song brings to mind.

Comments range from "belongs on the Kids Central channel" to "68 Singaporeans can't save this song" to others about "comas" and "bleeding ears" have already been made, and those are some of the kinder ones.

I think what they need to do is a "Eurovision" style contest. Invite people to submit songs. Create a television show around it and let the members of the public vote for the song that they think should be chosen. There are many talented Singaporeans out there who can do a whole lot better.

In the meantime here is the song with the accompanying (and equally cheesy video). Feel free to drop off a comment if you feel inspired, oh and watch out for those gag reflexes!.

Click here to listen to "One Singapore"

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Apple Watch (or not)

I have to admit that I've been waiting for Apple to get their act together and produce a wearable device. The closest they came to that was the iPod Nano 6th generation, although the 7th generation totally closed that chapter which was a real shame.



Still, if the many concept art works to be found online are anything to go by, what Apple are supposedly working on could look rather damn cool. Of course, since it's Apple I really am expecting it to lack all of the functionality that I personally would want in a wearable device. And since it's Apple I'm pretty sure that I won't be disappointed in my assumption. Lets face it, its taken them nearly 5 generations of the iPhone and 7 core releases of their iOS to get even close to what people want, and even still it's not there yet.

So what can we expect. Well, I'm guessing (assuming the rumours are true of course) it will have a bluetooth link to your iPhone and if they do it right (which of course is going to be debatable) then anything that can appear in your notification centre on your iPhone should appear on the watch display. Of course that's what I expect, so chances are there will be some limitations in the 1st generation (sic) watch as its rushed to market and no doubt users of applications other than the default SMS app could be left out in the cold as a result. Total speculation on my part of course, and I'd love to be proven wrong.

But personally what I want is for the Apple watch to be able to connect to my iPhone and a pair of bluetooth headsets (i.e. for the Apple watch to allow 2 simultaneous bluetooth connections) with a pass through so that I can listen to music at the same time without the need for cables. Without that functionality, it's just really a watch and regardless of what pops up on its display you are still going to have to take your iPhone out of your pocket to respond (or to answer a call for that matter), well unless they build in a earphone jack which would look totally stupid and defeat the purpose of a wearable device to be begin with.

This one piece of functionality is the one that would set it apart from the other wearable watch devices out there (make no mistake there are several of them out there already) and make it a must have gadget at least for me. That would be the only reason for me NOT to switch from the iPhone to an Android device.

Of course since I'm ready to be disappointed I doubt I will be greeting the eventual release of any watch from Apple with any fanfare.

Instead, let me just say that my Samsung S4 Google edition is already on order.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Singapore Hail Remixed

After a week of haze, the promise of rain brought hail to various parts of Singapore, from Jurong to Bukit Batok, and Choa Chu Kang.

Many People sent photos and even videos of the tiny ice pellets that rained down in various parts of the island. And while hail storms are not common in the tropics, it is the first time that Singapore has seen hail since March 2008.



So it comes as no surprise that many were excited to witness such an event. And while there were many uploads to youtube to capture the event none was more to fun to watch than the interview given by Gandhimathi Muthusamy from Jurong West.

The surprise and delight on her face as she tells her story to the Channel News Asia reporter (who just made the surprise and excitement more evident by being so stone faced) stood out like a ray of sunshine as did the wonder in her voice as she explained what experiencing the hail was like in true Singapore style.

I remember thinking at the time that it was a prefect clip to autotune, that effect where you layer a vocal or a video clip to music bending the vocals to fit the music used. And no sooner had I thought about than the very next day one was released by Fallen Superhero (real name Mohamed Yahya),  a brilliant effort that has already received over 375,000 views at the time of writing. And one that saw him get a one page spread in the The New Paper (a local daily newspaper) on Monday 1st of July.

In his own words, "Madam Muthusamy said it in a way that only Singaporeans could understand. You wouldn't hear someone else say it fell from the sky like grapes. Such a strange metaphor" he went on to say that "I did not alter her reaction and I hope people can appreciate it as a creative video and not see it as an insult. Well personally speaking I like many think that it was a brilliant piece of work and applaud the effort.

In response to the video Madam Muthusamy has said she was "very excited and very shocked because now I'm famous already, everyone knows me already".

You can find the links too it below (I recommend the youtube video)

Singapore Hail Remix on Youtube
Singapore Hail Remix on Soundcloud

The Edward Snowden Conspiracy

The name Edward Snowden is fast becoming one of the most searched names on the internet with a lot of stories in circulation. I'm certainly not going to go into them all here but enough to say that he is responsible for blowing the whistle on the alleged information gathering activites of the USA recently. An allegation that probably has seen a gaggle of paper shredders been burnt out due to sudden surge in usage.



Of course it is rather scary if you think about it. There's been no shortage of conspiracy theories about governments prying into peoples personal affairs and a number of hollwood movies have been made on the premiss, but this is the first time that we have gotten a glimpse into these allegations in a real world sense.

The repercussions for the USA if these allegations are proven true will be very interesting to watch. It has in the past (and since the allegations) publicly made stands on its information gathering activities which are (as is to be expected) very differnt from the allegations made. And of course if we consider that what is made public is not the complete picture (after all it would be naive to think that Edward Snowden had access to every inforamtion gathering activity of the USA) the outlook for the USA is looking very bleak indeed.

I wonder how much wheeling and dealing is happening behind the scenes to smooth the many ruffled feathers is this little game of espionage?

And if any of the allegations are proven true (which lets face it is not likely to happen since damage control has most likely already been put in place) it will beg the question is the USA alone in this type of activity? No doubt there has been a few scratch our back and we'll scratch yours moves already played out in the preverbial corridors of power.

How many other countries have ears and eye's in places they shouldn't?

Yes we are living in a much scarier world these days. The information age has it's benefits it has to be said and all of us would struggle to give up using the internet or our various smart phones. But is the ultimate price going to be worth it?

And of course if there was no truth in any of these allegations why is the USA going through such lenghts to get their hands on the person in question?

It would seem he has not very many places left to hide so I'm guessing we can expect a few more reveals yet before this game is played out!

Monday, July 01, 2013

Pink Dot 2013

June the 29th 2013 passed for many as just an ordinary day. Here in Singapore it was the day on which the annual Pink Dot event was held at Hong Lim Park, an event that saw a record breaking 21,000 people in attendance and for the event itself to become the second largest LGBT-affirmative event in Asia in five years, behind the annual Taiwan Pride Parade in Taipei ....


.... Organised by a pool of Singaporean volunteers, Pink Dot campaigns for diversity, inclusiveness, and works to foster understanding for the basic human need to love and be loved, regardless of one╩╝s sexual orientation. From it's early beginnings in 2009 it has seen attendance swell from 2,500 to 21,000 this year and clearly highlights the change in attitudes on the issue here in Singapore.

The event was perfectly timed and to coincide (either by design or chance) with the Singapore National day rehearsals and as the national day helicopter flew past trailing a huge national flag behind it everyone there stood up to sing the national anthem. It was a very touching moment indeed.

This years three-hour event featured a concert by Singaporean artists, speeches by the three Pink Dot ambassadors – popular TV host and actress Michelle Chia, well-known sports commentator Mark Richmond, and acclaimed theatre director and Wild Rice Artistic Director Ivan Heng – and culminated in a giant pink dot formation after dusk with the crowd holding pink LED lights. 

During the dot formation, prominent Singaporean pop icon and singer-songwriter Dick Lee made a surprise appearance to lead the crowd in singing Home, a song he wrote and familiar to many Singaporeans as a National Day song and also the theme of the event this year.

It's unclear yet what this means for the general LGBT movement here in Singapore. Section 377a still remains on the books, with an appeal case pending the outcome of which is by no means certain. But one thing it does highlight is Singaporeans attitudes are changing as more and more people stand up for the freedom to love and for Singapore to be a more inclusive society.

And with Hong Lim Park struggling to hold those that attended this years event, Pink Dot 2014 will be an interesting event to watch!