Sunday, December 09, 2018

Can stand-alone Philips Hue Smart Light work with Alexa Echo?

The short answer to whether you can configure a standalone Philips Hue smart light directly to Alexa Echo Plus Zigbee hub, without needing the Hue hub is - Yes, you can do that! 

So, during this year's Black Friday, Amazon Australia had a sale on Echo Plus 1st Generation at AUD$99. Not only that, they provide a Philips Hue smart light for free with every purchase. I bought this Echo Plus as my second Echo Plus mainly because I wanted to set up a set of speaker pair, to get glorious stereo sound (that works beautifully, btw and very easy to set up).

Unfortunately, the free light, which cost AUD$20 is just a single colour - I can use Alexa to brighten or soften the bightness. not changed the colour


Turns out, I don't need the Hue hub (hurray!) because Echo Plus, which has a built in Zigbee hub, is able to accept and discover the Hue light.

Set up is super easy as illustrated below:

1) start Alexa app and tap Setting - Devices
Tap Add a Device


2. Tap Philips Hue when asked what type of device you are setting up?


3. Power on your Philips Hue light and tap "Discover Devices" and Alexa will start discovering
 

4. Discovering.. once it detected, it will take 45 seconds to complete the installation and you are good to go. REALLY simple!
 

 5. Start asking Alexa to "turn on lights" or "change brightness of light to 10% or 50% or 70%"


Fun things you can do - set up a routine such that you can say "Alexa, good morning" and Alexa will
a) dim light to 10%
b) set volume to 30%
c) read the weather
d) read your calendar

Very cool!!

Monday, October 29, 2018

The iPhone Xs review from a iPhone 6 Plus user


I use this photo as my Twitter avatar for years! I pulled out my iPhone 3G from the jeans pocket, just as Steve Jobs pulled out the iPod nano from his jeans to demonstrate how small the nano was.
I am an iPhone user since the first iPhone was sold in Malaysia - the iPhone 3G. I was one of those fans who went for the midnight launch in KLCC. That was how much I wanted the iPhone after watching Steve Jobs’ keynote for many times over. Since then, I have upgraded to a iPhone 4, 5s and finally a 6 Plus and I have been using the 6 Plus for the longest time, around 4 years. The 6 Plus was a leap in the iPhone experience - simply because it transitioned into Big Screen. 

When the iPhone X was launched last year, I was really close to buying it. It was a new iPhone experience - full screen edge to edge, OLED screen (as opposed to 10 years of LCD), no Home button (new gesture-base navigation), Face ID vs Touch ID. It wasn’t the camera or improved photography that made me want the X because those functions already existed in iPhone 7 and 8. I didn’t upgrade then, so I don’t think the camera was a good enough reason. But the whole new experience of using a iPhone? Sign me up!
Can you imagine the lust I had for the X back then? I imagined myself buying the white version and finally being able to pull a new white iPhone X from my jeans pocket, just as the photo above. And finally getting to update my Twitter avatar. That would have been be a perfect time to leap into a new iPhone experience and the new photo would be the perfect homecoming. But alas!  I didn’t go with X simply because I read that physically, the width of the iPhone X is the same as the iPhone 7 or iPhone 6s, not the Plus model. That means, the keyboard will be smaller for a 6 Plus user. And some claimed that 6 Plus users made more error typing on the X phones because of the smaller size. This was a major deal breaker for me!
When the iPhone Xs Max was announced this year, there is no doubt in my mind that this is the iPhone that I wanted. Even though Apple announced a new Xs (which is the same size as the X, a no-go for me), and a slightly bigger Xr (it is smaller than a Max and it is a LCD screen), both of these phones felt like a compromise.
And so, I went with the Xs Max, 256GB and Space Grey. I wanted the white and the stainless steel silver band looks absolutely gorgeous. But seeing it in person, the shade of white Apple chose looked like dishwasher water white. Instead of the bright, pearl white that was the 3G, they went with a muted and more "dirtier" white. It really does look like dishwasher water. The gold was a tad too bling for me, although the muted gold colour is quite nice in person. Space Grey is safer.

I chose 256GB due to more high res photos and videos I expected to take with this new phone. I wouldn't mind 128GB, it would have served my need (a strong plus point for the Xr), but alas, 256GB is the only logical version.

So what do I think?

1. the OLED screen was freaking amazing!!! The colour was just so bright, so livid and so beautiful. Twitterrific in all black, true black, was just eye popping! Many a times, iPhone users prior to X envied Samsung OLED phones. Now, we could get the same experience. 

Full screen edge to edge made the iPhone feels totally like a new device. It's like Apple had a new device, totally different from what they have and it's not about being able to see more iMessage or more WhatsApp messages or more of your favourite website but just holding a screen with no bezels feel so different and awesome.

2. the speed - ok, I expected that this iPhone is fast since I am coming from a 6 Plus which lagged and crawled but I never expected it to be so fast and so smooth! When I multi task in the 6 Plus, whenever I switched from one app to the next and then back to the app, the earlier app have to be reloaded from scratch. For instance, I could be in Tapatalk and looking at a forum, I multi task out to answer a WhatsApp and then back to Tapatalk. Tapatalk kicked me out of the forum and I have to start all over from the main interface! The iPhone Xs has 4GB of RAM, a lot of memory for app to swap into and stayed there temporary while you jumped into another app.
I used iOS 12 Screen Recording, then used Siri Shortcuts to convert video to GIF  (sorry for the low res and lower frame rate. I don't think Blogger can take video)
Face ID was super fast. When I tried to login to a website, I can now tap to get my user id and password from Keychain or Lastpass, it doesn't matter which. Face ID immediately recognize me and grabbed the userid/password and filled up for me. Look at this screen recording, which btw, is a new cool feature in iOS 12. With Touch ID, there is a very small delay for the dialogue box to come up to instruct you to put your finger into the Touch ID. Then, there is a delay as you start to put your finger onto the home button. With Face ID, it was instantaneous because you are already looking at the screen!

3. the delightful experience - (1) and (2) above worked hand in hand to help with the experience of using the Xs Max. Everything was buttery smooth. You remember a time when using Apple products and things are just very zippy and fast (I remember seeing a Steve Jobs keynote where he was snapping his fingers and saying zippy)? Over the years of using the 6 Plus, I have resigned to a slow experience when using the phone. Tap on the Phone icon and there is a 0.1 second delay before it appear. Tap WhatsApp and there is a delay. Scrolling, multitasking, flipping from app to app, running workflow/shortcuts, pull down on notification, work on the notification on the spot, etc ... just so fast and very productive for a busy person. It's really night and day from the 6 Plus. I felt I have wasted productivity time in the past.
There's a few little touches that made this phone such a delight to use. When turning the volume button on and off, there is a slight haptic feedback. When you pull down to refresh or when you upvote on Reddit, you get a haptic feedback. When some apps support True Black and you turn that on and it feels like a different app, that was nice. When the phone rang and you picked up the phone and the ringtone volume starts to tone down (this feature is called "Attention Aware Features" in Face ID settings). Siri works much, much better because of the speed. Lots of little touches which I discovered made me glee like a child with a new toy. I was also relieved when two of the apps that I used often, CamCard and Scanner Pro, does not crash anymore due to the clunky camera in the 6 Plus.

4. the other good stuff - water resistant - no more fear of dropping into the pool or long-kang. Superb stereo speaker and recording video in stereo sound. The 2x camera but I think it's better you read Daring Fireball review - Portrait mode, computational photography. 

5. the bad - I only have a couple of complaints:
a. it is heavier as compared to the 6 Plus. I think the reason is due to the stainless steel band, which is heavier than aluminum. I also think the battery is thicker, maybe - or it has the wireless charging thingy which added the the weight.

b. the price - yes, it is the most expensive iPhones ever! Even with telco subsidy with 2 year contract, it is just too expensive for a phone. I rationalize by the fact that Apple phone can last for 4 years and so the ROI, if I take care of it well, will be recouped. 
P.S. there have been a few recommendations from the forum I frequented and the podcast I listened to on the Apple leather case. While it is not cheap at RM199, it wasn't terribly expensive either and so, I decided to trust the forum people and podcaster and bought the Saddle Brown leather case. Firstly, the leather feels really nice. The case fits the phone snugly and you feel assured that the phone is protected. The metal buttons on the case are anodized  in brown and they feel nice to press, not plasticky at all. And with leather, it will only aged gracefully and the longer you use, the better the leather will break and age. Let's see how it is one or two years later. The only problem is that, like all Apple cases (including the silicon ones), the bottom are exposed. I guess they have to expose it so that you can plug the lightning connector and that the speaker grille are free to blast out beautiful sounds.

Why not Xr?
Friends asked me this questions. Many reviews are touting Xr as being the best value for money iPhone of this generation. You get full screen experience, you get Face ID. It is fast because all the internals are the same as Xs (the same A12 Bionic chip, neural engine, bla) and it is much, much cheaper!

I knew all these before I bought the Max and here are my rationale: I'm not young and already have "lou fah" where I will need to use reading glasses to see properly. If this phone is going to last me another 4 years, by that time, my eye sight who have deteriorated further and I will not be able to enjoy OLED screen. I might as well enjoy that superb OLED screen now!

Secondly, I love taking photos of the kids. So, having good camera and beautiful pictures are what I want now. The Xs has the best camera in the phone, period. And I wanted that.



Friday, October 19, 2018

iPhone XS Max Pre Order - NOW!

It's available now... and surprise, surprise... it's kinda reasonable as well ...
this is the iPhone XS Max 256GB Plan
It's not the RM6,000 Retail price. The subsidy by the telco is quite good .. they subsidize $1,400.

And maxis also offered installment plan, so with a 24 month contract, I just needed to pay RM220/month with my current plan of RM$128/month call and data.

But... $220x24months is $5,280. Comparing to paying upfront of $4,658, it is more expensive by $622! The dilemma is whether I want to do installment or to do upfront payment.

I am also torn between white or space grey. While I am usually a space grey person, white will be in spirit of my first iPhone 3G which has a white back. I read elsewhere that the white is not pure white but looks like dishwasher white .. and I worry that it will turn yellow as time passed... so it is very likely I am sticking to black.

Hmmmmm!!

Ok, I compiled the prices:

XS - 64GB

XS - 256GB

XS - 512GB

 

XS Max - 64GB

 

XS Max - 256GB


XS Max - 512GB


XR  - 64GB

XR  - 128GB


XR  - 256GB

Pre Order iPhone XS and XS Max today @ 3.01pm!

If you are a maxis user, here is the pre-order page. There are some steps to get yourself ready, so check out the page early.

maxis' advertisement is already up....

This photo is taken by user will_chs from Lowyat forum. I believe it was taken in Jalan Ampang

I am excited... but I am not sure I can afford it at this moment. The price is really ridiculous.. I am eyeing the XS Max 256GB and I believe the price is almost RM$6,000K if buy direct from Apple. With telco subsidy, it could be RM$5K. At that price, you can buy a laptop or a MacBook or a super, duper powerful PC desktop that can play state of the art game... or a 38" LG monitor.

Perhaps a trade-in program?

UMobile already have a promotional page up:
Customers looking to get the iPhone XS will be able to purchase the 64GB model for RM3,799 (save RM1,200), 256GB for RM4,299 (save RM1,300) and RM512GB for RM5,299 (RM1,350) under the Unlimited Hero P99 postpaid plan.

For RM99 a month, customers will get unlimited data and calls to all networks. On top of that, they will also get 3GB roaming data and 30GB hotspot data.

I think that is a pretty reasonable price...

Come on, maxis... don't be greedy. Make me bite. I want to bite... please give me a damn good reason to do so!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Luckily, the LG UltraWide did not have Backlight Bleeding

A biggest fear of buying a new, expensive monitor is backlight bleeding. The way LCD monitors work is that the monitor screen is lighted from the back. There is a panel in front of the backlight that blocks the emitted light, thus creating different colour per pixel. A complete blockage produces the black colour. Normally, around the bezel, the panel have issue blocking the light. This is due to the pressure from the bezel itself or pressure created when you are pressing the screen too hard when moving the monitor. This causes the panel to fail to block the light completely and thus, it bleeds around the panel.

Fortunately, this LG 38” have good manufacturing process or a very good QC. 4 days after using it, I decided to test it for backlight bleed.

1/ Testing is a simple procedure of loading up a full screen black wallpaper.. or you can just go to this website and click a link to load up a black screen. 

2/ switch off your room light so tbe room is in darkness. This is so its easier for you to spot any inconsistency in the screen. 

3/ The result? Judge for yourself (the middle white dot are actually the mouse cursor):

I set the monitor brightness to 40, which is what I am using most of the time (for reading)

Surprisingly, though, the MacBook Pro 2017 from work, with a Retina display, demonstrate some degree of backlight bleed. See top left, bottom left and top right? There are traces of light that seems to bleed out of the corner, an indication that the front panel failed to block the white light completely. Hmmmm....

Setting Brightness to maximum.. and still looks ok! Phew!

I am pretty relieved that my monitor is free from backlight bleed... so far. I need to handle the screen tenderly. No pressure especially when moving the screen!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

LG UltraWide Monitor 38WK95C Review

I bought this today. It was not an impulse buy. I spent months researching and then two months of waiting for stock from LG Malaysia.

So beautiful and wide .. although I have to say it is not as sharp as a MacBook Retina display
Trust me, it is not easy to buy a modern monitor these days.

I have a few criteria:
  1. ultra wide screen regardless of size - can be 32" or 34" or even 34"
  2. it must be IPS screen, not TN or whatever the other one is called
  3. it must have USB-C to charge the MacBook Pro and also to extend the display of the MacBook
  4. it must have good speakers. Not the puny ones that some Dell monitor shipped with. Really good ones. I hate having to plug in the speaker jack from PC to monitor
  5. it should have G-Sync support
  6. bonus - it has nice legs that doesn't take up space
I have searched high and low. I looked for Asus, I looked at Dell and Alienware.. none of them ticked these checkboxes, particularly that USB-C one..

I realize that I really wanted the USB-C and good speakers. I don't really care about G-Sync because even though I still play games, I spent more time surfing, reading, watching video and listening to music on the PC.

The LG UltraWide 38WK95C Monitor met all of the criteria except the G-Sync.

Left column: USB-C (upstream), DisplayPort, HDMI x2. Right column: USB 3.0 x2 (downstream), headphone and power

About the USB-C

I will repeat this because not many YouTube videos or written reviews were very specific about the USB-C. This monitor DOES charge the 2017 MacBook Pro 13" via the USB-C cable that was provided by LG. It also extend the display of the MacBook, meaning it will be a secondary display to the Mac. In fact, it gives out 60W of power via the USB-C PD (Power Delivery). There you go. You can rest assure it works. Even the box has the words "Laptop charging" printed on it.

Photo of the back - USB C at the top for the Mac; below is DisplayPort to connect to the GTX1060 on the PC
Use the USB-C cable provided by LG. I don't think you can use the one provided by Apple
When I connect the USB-C to the Mac, even with Windows running, a dialog box pops up
The PC can be connected to the LG via DisplayPort. The moment I plug in the USB-C, a dialog box appear asking me that it detected a USB-C connection and whether I wanted to display it. If I pressed on the joystick at the bottom of the monitor, the screen will swap to macOS. If I leave it, it will time out and switch back to the PC. Even if it switched into the PC, the Mac continues to charge. I can switch to the Mac anytime by changing the Input selection in the monitor menu.

There is another interesting thing about the USB-C. If the monitor goes to sleep, for instance, you sleep the PC and so they monitor blanks out, the USB-C continues to charge the Mac. However, the USB 3.0 which has a 5V, 0.9A charge capability, will stop charging. Btw, you can connect and charge an  iPad or iPhone with the USB 3.0, strange that it couldn't charge an iPad Air.

I don't have a MacBook Pro 15", so I can't test but one video I saw in YouTube claimed that the 60W is able to charge the 15".

USB hub

There is a USB hub built into the back of the monitor - the USB-C cable served as an upstream port and the two blue-USB 3.0 port is the downstream port. What this means is that I can plug my mouse and keyboard into the USB 3.0 provided that:
1/ I plugged the USB-C into the MacBook. Then the keyboard+mouse can drive the MacBook.

2/ I attached the USB-C cable into a usb-C to usb-A adapter (that is included in the accessory box) and then plug this adapter into the PC's USB 3.0 port. Then the USB behind the monitor become a USB 3.0 hub and the keyboard+mouse can drive the PC.

This also means I must physically plug the USB-C cable into the Mac or a PC in order for the keyboard+mouse to drive the Mac or PC. My other option is to use software to simulate a KVM switch and LG does provide a software - they called it the Dual Controller. It simulates key and mouse press via tcpip. I am not a fan of this simulation as I believe there will be lag.

10Wx2 Bluetooth speakers

Shot taken from the bottom of the monitor. Notice those vents? This is just one side of the speaker. There are two of them.
There are two speakers at the bottom of the monitor, located at the air vent on the base of the screen. This is a 10W speaker and there are 2 of them! 10W speaker is loud - as loud as modern TV speakers.. if not better. LG said these speakers came with Rich Bass - the bass is really deep and strong. I am loving them very much! I also do not need additional cable to plug from the PC/Mac into the monitor. The USB-C itself does power graphics+sound from the Mac to the monitor. The DisplayPort (or HDMI) also power graphics+sound from the PC to the monitor.

Also, the speakers itself has Bluetooth capability, so I can cast sound from my iPhone or iPad into the speakers wireless across the room.


Mission Impossible from iTunes - full screen and no black bars!

This monitor is a 21:9 - meaning it is able to play wide screen video from edge to edge, without having the black bars. I played Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation from iTunes and it went edge to edge. Really, really nice.

The curve doesn't bother me much but you must sit a bit further from the monitor because it is just so huge. I do find myself having to move my head to one side if the window is there. I have to say though - if you are used to the super retina resolution from the MacBook Pro, you will find that this LG screen is not as sharp. It doesn't cramp a lot of pixels into a smaller inch. Really, it's just like any other monitor. I am just being spoiled by the MacBook Pro.


The box is nice

Another view of the box. Very nice design.
If you are looking for a UltraWide screen to improve your productivity (work with the Mac) and then yet have an option for fun (chill out with music or watch a 4k video or, even gaming with the PC), I think this is the right monitor for you. It's what I do. I connect the PC to the DisplayPort to relax. And when I need to work, I just plug the USB-C to the Mac and with a flick of the joystick, I could flip the screen to the Mac for work... well, except that I don't have a keyboard and mouse switch to connect to the Mac at this moment (I will have to look into this).. anyway, great monitor and I'd highly recommend it!

Follow up article - backlight bleeding? Thankfully, no.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Philips Hue in Malaysia

Have you ever thought of having smart lights in your home? You know, ability to adjust different intensity and colour? Or, if you are like me, you have Amazon Alexa, then ability to tell Alexa to set different mood for you room.

I have been doing some research on Philips Hue and this is what I found:
1/ If you have Echo Plus which has a built in home automation hub, Philips Hue lights work with Echo Plus, without needing to buy the Philips Hue hub. That means, you can just buy the lights and Alexa will be able to discover the bulbs.

2/ The Philips Hue bulb come with E27 screws. That's the Thomas Edison standard screw size E27. If you owned a Ikea standing lights pictured here, you are in luck because will have the E27 plug base. You can buy the Philips Hue directly from their official store in Lazada. I envy you!

This Ikea floor lamp has E27 Edison Srew light plug

E27 Edison Screw

3/ However, if you are like me, and have the smaller sized plug, you will have the E14 size. Normally, for E14, you will need a bulb that looks like a candle. And if you only have E14 size, you are shit out of luck. The only way to buy Philips Hue E14 is from UK and they only launched this size in 2017. Here is the link to buy from UK or this amazon.co.uk link.

I took down the light bulb from my wall lamp and saw that I have a E14 Edison Screw. Sad panda.
4/ Some people tell me that Philips is too expensive and I should consider Xiaomi Yeelight. But these are also only available for E27 size and not E14. Grrr....

I am not sure what other option I have. Maybe I should wait for a few years until E14 come to LazMall in Malaysia. We'll see.

Update: can you setup Philips Hue standalone with Amazon Echo Plus with Built in Hub without needing Philips Hue hub?

Feedback on DSA - DSwim Academy

It's raining, it's pouring.. and if there's thunder, usually the horn will blast and everyone gets out of the pool

My recent feedback which I have written to DSA - D Swim Academy, Malaysia. They prided themselves to be the best swimming academy in Malaysia because of their affiliation with AustSwim. AUSTSWIM is Australia’s national organisation for the Teaching of Swimming and Water Safety.
This is what I wrote:

I have two girls who are enrolled to DSA in One Club, Bandar Utama. I have two feedback which I'd like to write in formally.

1) Our girls classes are on (time and date redacted). At (time date), there are thunderstorm happening. We called DSA and was told that the previous class was already cancelled. When we asked about my kids class, the girl on the phone was not able to tell us for sure if it was cancelled or not. Instead, she insisted for us to come to One Club first to see if it rained. I feel that this creates inconvenience for parents as we have to drive all the way there and to try our luck to see whether the class is on or not. Why not let us have an exception and postpone since there is already thunder and impending rain?

2) Unlike the previous management, Advance Aquatic, DSA is not as flexible in terms of replacement classes. Sometimes, children get mild fever or flu and are not able to go for swimming lessons. However, DSA requires a doctor Medical Certificate in order for the postponement of classes. Often, when it comes to mild fever or flu, we don't go and see a doctor but will instead give them a dose of panadol or flu medicine which we have in stock. Unfortunately, we are not able to get any replacement if we don't let the girls go for a swim.

Advanced Aquatic allows parents to complete 8 times within 10 weeks which means that we get 2 times of flexibility. That allow parents to cater for unforeseen circumstances such as mild sickness or traveling. Unfortunately, DSA has no such flexibility and penalize their customers unnecessarily.

I trust the management of DSA will take into consideration the two feedback above and provide their customers with convenience and peace of mind.

Sometimes, a little bit of customer care goes a long way. Unfortunately, for some organization who thought they are too good in the market, they have forgotten how to put customers as priority and instead, they looked inward on their costing as the main guidance. Sad.

Thunderstorm, with sun...

Monday, October 01, 2018

Great ATP podcast on Apple Watch Series 4

I am a Apple Watch Series 3 owner, and I owned the Nike+ 42mm Apple Watch with the black sports band. I am very happy about the Watch and while I do like to think about the new Series 4, I think I will pass this round. Every ringgit saved will be used to contribute to the XS Max that I REALLY, REALLY wanted.

Anyway, I want to point out this excellent podcast by Marco Arment, John Siracusa and Casey Liss, Accidental Tech Podcast, where they talked about the Series 4 Watch, specifically describing which size you should choose. Marco, who is also a resident, fancy mechanical watch enthusiasts, talked about two things you should look out for when choosing the right size for your wrist. As Asians, we have smaller wrist and we are also pretty fashion conscious, so I thought his piece was excellent.

Go ahead and listen to this podcast…
http://atp.fm/episodes/293

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Amazon Alexa in Malaysia - does it work well? A review...


Feels like Christmas in September. Thanks to Doktor Cinta, my friend who live in Australia.
Back in July, Amazon Australia had a Prime Day. I joined the trial using my usual Amazon account and ordered an Echo Dot, Echo Plus (the taller one with a built-in hub) and a Kindle Paperwhite, shipping them to a dear friend in Australia.

My friend visited Malaysia and brought the Echos with him two weeks ago. You can imagine my thrill to get my hands on Alexa and start using it... in Malaysia.

As a side story, sometimes, you can't believe how events are aligned properly to prepare my place to be a connected home - I bought a superb new mesh network router, eero (by the way, I'd say it's one of my best electronic purchases after an iPhone! It is that good), which acts as a strong WiFi backbone as it blanket my double storey house with a reliable and fast WiFi. Then, maxis launched Fibernation program which let me to upgrade my internet from 6 Mbps (pathetic) to 100 Mbps with just an additional RM10/month! Now, my super reliable router is connected to fast, fast internet! And now I have Echo devices and additional Blink camera systems connected (and this is where the eero excels - with so many devices connected, you need a damn good router), my house is full of automation and modern gadgets. I am just waiting for a price drop on Philips Hue lights and I will have some smart lighting.

Not only that, I ditched Apple Music 3 months ago and subscribed to Spotify. If I had Apple Music, the Echos will be close to useless as it cannot connect to Apple Music.

My network setup: eero base station next to the fiber modem and also the maxis TP link, which act as a PPPoE bridge.

Anyway, I digress.  So, I set up Echos - the only hiccup I faced was to download the Amazon Alexa app. I needed a US iTunes account to download it and once that is done, setting up the Echos are done in the mobile app. Once set up, I can start asking Alexa to do things. What surprised all of us in the household is how accurate Alexa is in picking up our accent. I mean, we have two adults and two young kids and she understood everyone of us, even the kids. We have tried talking to Siri before and it's almost "sky and earth" differences. Siri is dumb, in comparison.

We can ask Alexa to play any songs in Spotify. We can ask Alexa to set timers, reminders and to-dos (and with IFTTT integration, the to-dos created by Alexa is automatically updated in the Culture Code's Things 3 app in my iPhone). We asked Alexa about the weather (not that it matters in Malaysia). I am also trying to set up Alexa to arm or disarm my Blink cameras but unfortunately, that is US only - somehow, Blink automation can only work in the US region, which sucks.

You can also talk to Alexa on the iPhone app, which acts as another device.
We can also ask Alexa to tell us the traffic from home to work - and it works - I suspect it looks up Google Maps, which supports Malaysia, so that is not too bad.

So far, asking Alexa for telephone number of restaurants or places is not so good here. I tried asking for TGV, McDonald's and Dominos and none of these are returned. Alexa said that she is working to put more local references into her database - so, does that mean Amazon is keeping a directory in itself and is not looking up to Google? That's weird because if this is the case, it also means Amazon will be limited in terms of knowledge vs what you can get from Google Home, with Google search backing it up.

Alexa can also make phone calls but unfortunately, that's US again. I believe when Skype is available for Alexa, we can then use Alexa to connect to Skype to make phone calls. Here's hoping that will work.

Basically, I think our country is not yet ready for Alexa. I am not sure how good Google Home fares here. Just that day, I saw Google Home being sold in Gamers Hideout in One Utama. Does that mean Google Home is officially supported in Malaysia or is Gamers Hideout just imported those device from overseas?

But, for hands free setting timers, reminders, playing music, setting to-dos, update Google calendar to set appointments, Alexa is pretty good.

Echo Plus besides Blink sync modules. The speaker sounds great. Very deep bass and strong treble.
Most importantly, for me, Echo Plus is a great wireless speakers. I have always wanted a "Bluetooth" JBL boombox speaker but they are usually very expensive. Echo Plus filled that gap. For that price, I have a great speaker and yet an intelligent AI. I think that itself is a great bargain. Will Alexa be the future item in this household or will Google Home takes over, we will see what the Malaysian market demands. I have a feeling Google will be more popular, since this is an "Android" country.

I am sad for Siri and Apple, though. Siri is so far behind ...

Echo Dot is just the right device for the bedroom. Small enough and sound okay for a smaller room.

Update: can you setup standalone Philips Hue smart light to Amazon Echo Plus without needing to purchase Philips Hue hub starter kit?


iPhone 5S is still awesome after iOS 12

I am using 2 phones now. My 4 year old iPhone 6 Plus is my main phone and a 6 (or maybe 7) year old iPhone 5S. I recently installed iOS 12 and did a clean reset of the iPhone 5S. I can't believe Apple still updates the iPhone 5S with iOS 12. And boy, what a surprise update this is.

The iPhone 5S has only a few apps running. I purposely kept it lean. It has the default Mail and Calendar, which I configured to only retrieve Push email from my company server. I put in the latest Waze which worked with CarPlay, Castro podcast app and Spotify. That's it. I deleted the rest of the stock app.

The reason I am using this phone is because I want it to have a permanent place inside the car, as a dedicated device for Waze, podcast and music player. Since Apple CarPlay required a wired connection, I don't care if it bad for the old battery.

Waze in CarPlay is just so, so nice!
What I find amazing is that the speed of which this 5S launched Waze and play Spotify is at least TWICE as fast as my 6Plus. It made using Waze and CarPlay a really nice and pleasant experience. I have tried using 6Plus in CarPlay and everytime I launch Spotify or Waze, there is at least a 5-8 second delay before I can interact with them. This is not the case in the 5S.

I am not sure why though. Is it because there are less apps for the phone to manage? Is it because of the small screen size, thus needing less memory?

But what amazes me is that new technology such as iOS 12 and the latest Waze which JUST supported CarPlay a week ago is still able to run on a 7 year old phone!!

Apple truly gives you value for money, if you take care of the product.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Looking forward to iPhone X Plus

For a huge iPhone fan, I am embarrassed to admit that I am still using a iPhone 6 Plus, the first batch of iPhone which went big screen, almost 4 or 5 years ago. The phone is pretty durable, battery life is still superb (although I will take advantage of the Apple Battery Replacement program) and the phone performs very well. However, I am missing out the innovations brought by the X - FaceID, no-home button, OLED screen, new user experience. Naturally, I am pretty excited for the end of the year launch of iPhone X Plus! Here's hoping the rumors are true, the phone will reach Malaysia by year end and that it is affordable under maxis.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Why an Apple fan switched to Spotify?

Yup.. I recently dumped Apple Music and switched to Spotify. The monthly prices are the same. So, why does a self professed Apple fan blogger sees himself switching? My wife wondered aloud too and so I am here to tell you why.

I have two iTunes accounts - a Malaysia account and a US account. Actually, the US account was my first - I had songs purchased from iTunes Music Store years ago. And I have tons of TV series (especially Games of Thrones) tied to the US account. I also have US-only iPhone app - most importantly Kindle. Often, I find myself switching stores so I can access my content. Trouble is, whenever I switched, Apple Music wiped off all my music and playlist from the device whenever I switched. When I returned back to iTunes Malaysia, my phone or iPad have to redownload or resync the playlist. It become a chore and annoyance when this happens too often.

Secondly, I really dislike the idea that when you stopped subscribing to Apple Music, Apple will keep your playlist in the cloud for only 3 months, after which they will wipe it away. Come on, Apple, playlist does not take a lot of space. Keep them there. When you threaten your customer that way, I don't like the feeling of being held hostage. I tried Spotify years ago and then I stopped subscription. A couple of years later when I resume my subscription, all my playlist remained. I was so pleased I don't have to rebuild them. Screw you Apple! Seriously, what were you thinking?

Update 9/30: Siri does not support Spotify, so I cannot ask Siri to play songs in Spotify while I am driving. That is so cruel, Apple. 


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Watching Live Telecast from Padang Timur

Never in my life that I'd expect to see a change in regime in Malaysia. That the Opposition is now the government. I'd never have thought to see this in my lifetime. And yet, it happened, a week ago... what an exciting moment for Malaysia. We have been suppressed and under a cruel regime for so long.... and no, there's hope for a better Malaysia. A hope to return us to our greatness!

More importantly, I have utmost admiration and respect for Tun Dr Mahathir. He seemed to have unlimited energy and his mind is still as sharp as ever. For a 93 old man, he is so sharp, so full of energy and so strong. How many 93 year old can go through the ordeal he went through the whole of last week? It's just so amazing and so motivating. Lots of things to learn from the old man, huh?

Let's hope Pakatan will truly transform the country and make Malaysia a safe and progressive country! Maybe we don't need to migrate after all!


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Apple Watch Orientation

I wear my Apple Watch on my left wrist. Instead of the digital crown on the right side, I turned it the other way around. Its unconventional but please hear me out.

The mic and speaker are on the opposite side of the Digital Crown. When wearing it the conventional way, I have to put my arm across my mouth to speak or to raise my arm higher so that the speaker is at the same height as my ear. It looks funny and odd because of the way I hold out my arm.

By turning the Watch around, I can speak and listen at a natural arm position - as though I’m resting my chin at my knuckle, in a thinking man posture. In this position, the mic is just right ubderneath my mouth and the speaker will blast upwards to my ear. I can just speak and listen to the Watch in a natural way.

note: I need to swap the strap so that it is the way it was. I don't have to learn new way of wearing the watch.

green arrows showing where the mic and speaker are

Friday, April 27, 2018

Wisdom

In our daily life, we need a lot of wisdom because we made a lot of decisions. Wisdom allow us to make the right decision. But oft times, we did not exercise the right wisdom and make a wrong judgement. This is where fortune comes in. Or a high life state to handle the erred decision. These two things - wisdom to decide and a high life state or fortune to handle a wrong decision, these are stuff that we pray for every day when we chant in front of the Gohonzon.

Case in point today - super heavy rain on a Friday evening. I was on my way to father in law's house in Kota Damansara to collect dinner. I used the Persiaran Surian way - and if you recalled a few months back, there were viral videos and photos showing flash flood around the Pelangi Utama condominiums. And I was there today. Some cars decided to make a U-turn, going into the One Club to escape. I was trying to decide if I should make a U turn or should I continue. My wisdom failed me and I decided to go ahead - I was observing the cars in front - if the sedans could make it through, my CRV should be ok.

And as I tackled the rushing water, I regretted my decision. If my car stalled or if the down pour doubled down within that 5-10 seconds as I was zooming through, I would be doomed. And my brand new CRV will be useless.

And this is where fortune comes and I was thankful. Truly thankful today - because while I was foolish, I had protection such that the water did not rise higher. Maybe, some where the monsoon drain did not get stuck and was able to flush the water fast enough that it didn't collect.

My car made it safely. But it is a lesson learned. Never, ever, gambled or take the risk, especially since that place was known to flood. There were tons of videos and photos to proof it. So, why not make that U turn and escaped through One Club?



Saturday, April 07, 2018

How durable is the Apple Watch Series 3?

The Apple Watch came with a fixed number of watchfaces. There is no third party watchface support. So, getting the Nike+ is a better bang for your buck as you get additional 2 watchfaces and I must admit that the Nike+ watchface is one of my favourites!

I recently bought a Apple Watch Series 3, Nike+ edition and I am pretty pleased with it. While the battery is not as long lasting as my Pebble watch (5 day vs 2 days for the Apple), the brightness of the OLED screen, the heart-beat sensor, the size and how well it works with the rest of Apple devices (Mac, iPhone, Airpods) made this a must-have if you are heavily into the Apple gated garden. One thing I was extremely worried about is how durable is the aluminium body? I have seen MacBook Air or iPads get dented over a drop. Imagine a watch on your hand which is super exposed to hitting doors, tables, walls .. and having a dented aluminium watch body is glaringly ugly on the wrist.

Well, it seems I might not have to worry so much because it is pretty durable:
From iMore:
First, Apple has chosen to use a harder aluminum alloy — 7000 series. While the standard 6000 series aluminum is plenty strong for a watch, 7000 series aluminum offers roughly double the hardness and twice the tensile strength, approaching figures typically seen in mild steel. This means the anodized surface will have a much harder underlying structure to resist scratches and dents.
More importantly, Apple has deployed some advanced anodizing technologies. Anodizing is an electrochemical process that "grows" a uniform layer of aluminum oxide across the surface of the part, and there are a number of different methods for making this happen. In anodizing, the raw aluminum part is placed on a metal rack and (after a quick acid bath to clean the surface), is dipped into a tank of sulfuric acid. While in this tank, a positive electrical current is passed through the metal rack and the anodizing parts, while the negative end of the circuit is located in a metal plate inside the tank. This current causes oxygen molecules in the sulfuric acid to bond to the outer layer of the aluminum, creating a skin of aluminum oxide - a ceramic material that is far harder than the underlying aluminum.
Sounds pretty convincing, isn't it? How about impressions from other people? Read this thread from QuarterToThree:
I have a Sport series 0 I got day one 3 years ago. Couple of minor dings and I wear it every day.
or
My Sport 0 had no scratches on glass or body of every day use for 2 years. 
or
If you are worried about durability of the Watch, don’t be.
finally, one person's view of the Series 3:
For my most recent purchase I went with an aluminum Nike edition Gen 3, just because didn’t want to invest too much since I wasn’t sure I’d use it any more than my old one, and despite being concerned about durability. I needn’t have been concerned in either case; I use it a lot more than my first Apple Watch, and it’s currently in perfect condition after a few months.

And if you think about it, there was no scratch-gate outcry associated with Apple Watch. I think it should be safe and ok! Let me know if you have heard otherwise.

Additional photos and captions below:
The Nike+ comes in a black box. It's very classy!
I was surprised to see that Apple include a shorter writsband in case our hands are smaller. Very thoughtful of them. I am using the shorter one as my wrist are not big.

The Apple Watch Series 3 Nike+ edition has a nice Nike+ logo etched behind it.
Very small, subtle, not very loud.
The back says Apple Watch. Series 3. Nike+. 42mm.
Aluminium Case. Ion-X Glass.
Composite Back. GPS. WR-50M.
And I'd really recommend browsing this article below:
The best Apple Watch face and complication combos

So we've put together our own watch face and complication combinations grouped by activity. Going flying? We've got you covered. Want the perfect face for your morning commute? We know just the thing. Love the hell out of Siri? Here ya go. 
There are what feels like hundreds of more combinations out there, and the ones you'll find below are just some examples of mixing and matching apps and designs. 


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Honda Malaysia CRV 2017 Recall - No Need to Panic

So, it seems there is a product recall which affected the new 2017 CRV. You can refer to this website to see whether you car is affected => https://productrecall.honda.com.my/


I am one of the 1st batch of 2017 Honda CR-V owners as I took my car in July 2017. Two days ago, I received a call from Honda Malaysia (*) regarding this recall and then I went to the website and entered my Chassis Number and sure enough, it was listed as being affected in the website. I suggest you checked yours if you haven't. The Chassis Number can be found in your car registration card.

So I made appointment with Honda service center and send the car for inspection. The service agent told me that during assembly, some batches of car did not have a certain drummet (spelling?) installed onto the electric steering wheel motor and as such, water could potentially seep in and causes the motor to degrade and jam over time.

When they inspected my car, they told me that my car was ok because the drummet is in place and so, they do not need to replace the steering wheel motor. That motor cost MYR$1900, but of course, Honda will replace FOC for you if your vehicle is affected.

Please go and check and call Honda to service. You don't want your steering wheel to jam while driving! Very dangerous.

(*) I saw in forum that someone else received a letter from Honda Malaysia. Your mileage may wary.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

It was 23C a month ago

I meant to blog about this. We had bizzare weather just last month. For almost a week, our weather was around 23C and wet. I remember sleeping without a/c or ceiling fan for almost a few days straight.

Many of us wish Malaysian weather were like this for long. But I hated the wet. Every morning, we had drizzle, so it was a mess and it was such an inconvenience when sending the girls to school.

I guess you can’t win everything.

I joined The Club, Bandar Utama

I decided to join The Club, Bandar Utama, as a member of their sports club. For just RM$750 a year, I get access to their gym and their gorgeous, amazing Olympic sized swimming pool, every day, all year round. Parking to the club is free, of course. And I can bring guests - adult is just $11 and $7.50 for kids. This make it the most cost affordable for the girls to be able to practice their swimminf on weekends.

The girls are learning to swim and swimming needs practice. They don’t have any avenue to practice. While The Club is opened to public on weekdays, and they do opened up till 10pm, so technically I can bring the girls for their practice on weekdays, it’s just not practical because I only left office at 6.30pm.

Being a member, I can bring them for a dip during weekends. And we tried that last weekend. I can tell that being able to “play” creates a lot of self confidence in them to be comfortable in water. When they have their lessons, that's not play. That’s listening strictly to teacher and performing to a certain expectations. When playing, it’s all fun and being able to swim as they play just made playing in water extremely joyful.

Not only that. While they are having their one hour lesson, I could just go for a quick 30 min lap as a form of exercise. This is a great motivation for me to get some workout.
I have access to gym and I’m even thinking of asking my friend to go for a once a week gym session with me.

Lastly, I wanted to kick myself for not joining as club member earlier - as a member, we get 10% off in house lessons. I’m already paying $330/month for both girls’ swimming lesson. 10% less means $33 savings which is half the monthly price of membership! It’s almost a no brainer to be a member if you have two kids taking swimming lessons there! Duh!

If you are already a One Card holder with season parking, they combined everything into just one card, which is smart.