Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Apple TV

As I mentioned before, I got a hand of Apple TV few weeks back. Honestly, I've not used any paid function so far. i.e. I've not bought or rented any movie from iTunes yet. However, based on the free functions that I've used, I really like this piece of Apple gadget. 

First of all, the UI is clean and very intuitive. I already ditched the remote that came with the device. Instead, I downloaded the 'Remote' app and got that on both my iPhone and iPad. It is much easier to use them as remote, particularly taking advantage of the touch screen to scroll up and down, back and forth, and the search function which is a must for me in my mostly used function - YouTube! I just love using the YouTube on my Apple TV, to see the HD content on my 42" LED TV is really nice. 

Besides that, I also like to use it to view Trailers and the Vimeo which has a large collection of 'odd' video clips. I don't know if those clips are also found in YouTube or not, but somehow they just selected a bunch of interesting clips and put them under Vimeo. I've not used it much, but it looks interesting. 

 I tested out the Airplay function to access my music/photo library in iTunes on TV, it is nice, but I doubt that would be something I would use often. I also tried to airplay games from my iPhone/iPad on TV, it looks just OK, but I don't see that I would use it often neither, cuz my games are mostly simple boardgames, not some HD action games which would look nice on TV. Also, I don't really see the need to show games on TV in general. But, at least I tested it out that it works. 

I learned that I can use the Apple TV to view videos from some video streaming apps. However, I've not tried them yet. I would love to use it, but the only problem that I've encountered so far discouraged me to use that function. It is the slow download speed that I've experienced while streaming those HD videos on YouTube. It took minutes to download a music video. I don't know if it is because of my modem speed or ISP provider's speed that made the damned thing so slow. Besides that, I'm happy with this new addition to my Apple gadget collection. I think as I'm getting deeper and deeper into the Apple ecosystem. I just don't see leaving it for the Android camp in foreseeable future. But the most important thing is that I'm happy with what Apple is providing to me so far. Looking forward to Sep 12, 2012.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

I saw The Dark Knight Rises over the past weekend. To be honest, I've read reviews of this movie before and even know the major spoiler as well. Heard that people do like the last one, The Dark Knight better, and complained that the middle part of the movie is just too long, etc. So, my expectation of going to this movie wasn't as high as before. However, am I wrong about that? This movie is much better than I thought and I think this movie is definitely rated 'up' there with many great movies. The more amazing about this movie is that it is the last dance of a trilogy. We all know that so many other trilogies ended badly. Since I put Toy Story Trilogy as one of the best of all times, then this one is very much up there. I would say that I enjoy this movie very much, the complaint about the length is just nonsense. To me, the pace is just right to give time for the characters to act, to let the story unfolded, let the relationships run deeper, so that audiences can immerse themselves to the epic much better. I do enjoy The Avengers, that movie did balance the timing of each characters well, but the truth was that The Avengers does not have as much depth as The Dark Knight Rises. The former one was much more a popcorn flick that was done really well, but this one is much more ambitious, the story has many layers and Christ Nolan does try to cover a lot of things. Is this movie perfect? No, but it is good enough to make me wanna see it again. 

Unlike other movie reviews that I wrote before, I'm not gonna have the 'Goods' and 'Bads' section. Cuz, there isn't any noticeable bads that worth writing a section. So, I'm just gonna talk about my views (mostly good) and thoughts of this movie. First of all, I've not seen The Batman Begin. That's something that I think it would be even better to do that before going to this movie. However, I found that doesn't really matter, cuz that allows me to see The Dark Knight Rises as a stand alone flick but with common characters across 3 movies. In that sense, I think The Dark Knight Rises is about the continue evolution of Batman. What a crime-fighter would think and do given his role in the society. I think the director really want to deal with the pain of a dark hero, how he has to respond to the outside world while dealing with his inner emotions of fear, sorrow, loyalty, love and hope. The environment that Bane built up also significant in the movie. It is not as simple as a bunch of gangs that led by the crazy Joker in the last movie. Instead, it is like a bunch of social rebels with common political belief that want to change the society to a state that remind me of Communists, Revolutionists, Fascists, etc. Especially about those scenes showing the rich/capitalists being dragged from their homes, and put in court for sentencing. The implied political and social meaning is deep. That's something we just don't see it other comic book movies.

In terms of the characters, I think the Catwoman is surprisingly being well used in the script. She isn't much a villian, but more like a Robin to Batman in this movie. Anne Hathaway is very likable. I think she acts well in the movie and she is definitely not a liability to the movie as some people worried about. The other Inception actors/actresses fit the roles in this movie very well. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is believable as a good cop. He is set up to have a bigger role in future Batman story if the current series will ever continue. Put that aside, I think his role as Blake in this movie provides a good supporting human role that is basically for other characters to reflect what they think. Marion Cotillard is the surprise in this movie, the wild card character that usually found in M. Night Shyamalan's movies. Anyway, she played a decent character that is critical to the story. Her background and her dialog at the end basically tied up why the movie was trying to say from the characters point of view. Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine do just what they suppose to do in the characters. Gary has a bigger role in terms of helping the story to move along, Morgan has a smaller role, and Michael Caine as Batman's butler Alfred add a nice touch to the emotional side of the story. Tom Hardy as Bane is tough character to play. With a mask on, Bane can only act with his bulk which has shown to be very effective in establishing this character. Also, his dialog has helped to show that Bane is by no mean dumb, really a great opponent to Batman. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne has to act as much as he can without the mask. He did fine I think. Actually, it is always difficult to play a hero in this kind of movie, cuz the villian usually gets most of the spotlight. However, I think Christian Bale did enough to stand on his own, especially what the script has allowed him to act out the pain and fear that the character has to display in the story. 

The actions of this movie are good, not excessive. The batpod is amazing, the batwing is nice. Also, I like to sound of the movie very much. I think Hans Zimmer has done a great job for that. There is just really not much to criticize on the technical side. 

Nevertheless, there are few questions that I obviously have after seeing the movie. That's why I didn't say this movie is perfect. These are small things, but I still would like to point them out and wonder if anyone has the answers. 

1. Why Batman doesn't use much of his gadgets to fight Bane? Instead, he just go man-to-man fist-to-fist with Bane who is much bigger in size. I don't think I will ever get an answer to that, I think it is just part of the story as why Batman doesn't use gun. 

 2. How Blake find the 'base' at the end of the movie? He was running in the woods with a backpack and a GPS thing of some sort, then suddenly, he found the 'base'. I know why that happen, but I couldn't tell how he find that place. 

3. What is the blood transfusion in the plane-hijack all about? Why that scene happened? 

4. Where is that 'Hell' hole that Bruce Wayne was locked up during his recovery? If that's in a foreign country, how the hell Bruce get back to Graham city on time? That place doesn't really look like New Mexico or Texas to me. 

Anyway, these are minor trivial questions that whether they are answered or not wouldn't affect anyone from enjoying this movie. I would sincerely recommend this movie to anyone who like to be entertained and think afterwards. Surely, NOT a waste of time!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

How Much Does it Cost to be Batman and Iron Man?

MoneySupermarket decided to look into this and created an infographic for each character, showing the costs of not only the costumes, but also the weapons, vehicles and facilities.

The total cost of being Batman ended up at $682 million, but the cost of Iron Man landed at $1.6 billion.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How Android will fix it problems in smartphone market

Well, I don't have a thorough tech or market analysis on the captioned subject. However, I just have some very preliminary thoughts on one of future possibility of what might happen in the current 'war' between Android and iOS.

Yes, Android's activation figure have already outpaced iOS given the fact that it is a many-against-one situation in the smartphone market. However, the current criticism on Android remains, i.e. (i) the fragmentation in Android versions due to multiple handset manufacturers and (ii) the malware problem of Android apps. I think these 2 are the biggest problem for Android. I think what Google can do something about them. However, I think Google should not do that in a big bang but rather doing that discretionary in next 2 years or so. The reason is that, in order for Google to fix those 2 problems, it has to go somewhat the Apple way, to have a tight grip of its ecosystem. I don't think Google will go all the way like what Apple does, i.e. to do everything in house. But the problems are really the consequences of given freedom to let the market to choose which have resulted with the good (explosive growth in adoption) and the bad (those 2 problems). Thus, if Google really want to fix the problems, it has to somehow take back some of the freedom that they gave out.

So, why 2 years? That has nothing to do with Apple, cuz, Apple is not gonna change its way until it is not working. The 2 years is my guess for Micorsoft to demise in the smartphone market. Window 8 has all the potentials, but I still think that MS is just too late in the smartphone game, it will go just like how Zume went before. I predict that MS will still stay in the mobile OS game, but more for the tablet market, not in the smartphone one. Thus, Google should wait till the MS smartphone is almost dead, then it can make a bigger push to control the release of Android codes. In that way, handset manufacturer's freedom to manipulate and customized Android for their sake will be limited, but they can't complain because the alternative of jumping in the MS camp will no longer be available. So, they will have to either live in the mercy of Google or exit the smartphone market altogether. Google can impose more restrictive demand on the handset requirements for using Android, either through licensing or else. In that way, I guess the fragmentation problem will gradually go away in 2-3 versions of Android.

In terms of malware, it is really the problem of Google's control of app marketplace. Yes, everybody can download Android apps anywhere. Google can't control other distribution channels. But, what Google can do is to promote its own distribution channel and market the hell of it using its big wallet. Also, put control and review the apps in its own distribution channel, so as to ensure their quality and make them bug-free. That's more-or-less the Apple way, the difference is that it will still let other legal distribution channels exists in the market, Google will beat them in the market and ultimately become the winner of it. I can't think of the details, but I can guess that Google can put a '*' sign on the icons of those apps that approved by Google in its markeplace, so users can distinguished that from the rest in terms of security and quality. In that way, as users will have their preferences in safety and quality, app developers will follow, they would rather be submitted to Google's control, than going on their own. Namely, put the app in Google's distribution channel than putting that in their own.

I guess the above development trend is possible, time will ultimately tell. Anyway, for being an iOS user myself. If what I guess come true, iOS will have a tough fight with Android. So, what I guess Apple has to to do is to lock in as many iOS users as quickly as possible, so it makes it even harder and costly to switch ecosystem down the road. It is what Apple is doing it now, but I think they need to continue with bigger effort, particularly in the first 2 years of their upcoming push of the 'iTV' market.

By the way, the reason I've the above thoughts are coming from reading the following article:

IDC Appcelerator survey reveals what app developers love and hate the most

International Data Corporation (IDC), in partnership with mobile platform company Appcelerator, announced results of a global survey of Appcelerator developers on Tuesday, The survey created a detailed profile of developers' outlook on the market, with a particular focus on development for enterprise.
At a high level, the survey showed that developers believe Apple is leading the charge in the enterprise mobile deployment; see Android only as a consumer opportunity; are excited about remote cloud service integration; and are cautiously optimistic about Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets; but see Windows Phone as disappointing.

iOS in Enterprise
A significant 53.2 percent of developers believe Apple iOS will "win" in the enterprise market, versus 37.3 percent of developers who believe Google's Android platform will. The most common reason for this belief is the already regular adoption of the iPad as a tool by both executives and workers. Also noted are the IT challenges of dealing with Android fragmentation and potential malware. Lastly, the survey found that enterprise developers question the value of Android deployment outside of traditional business verticals, such as in machine to machine communications.

They want Windows 8 to be good, but...
Most developers are polled as being cautiously optimistic about Windows 8, and find Microsoft's Metro UI to be especially compelling. An impressive one-third of all developers say that they are very interested in Windows 8 tablets. Yet devs have voiced concerns about the move to ARM platforms with Windows RT tablets. Developers, the IDC report notes, have distinct needs when porting ARM-based mobile apps to x86-based devices like Windows 8 tablets, which include the ability to support consistent user experiences and the ability to reuse as much code as possible, with tools to assist porting between architectures. If Microsoft can not provide this, Windows on ARM might be a bad venture for them.

Windows Phone *yawn*
Another hard fact from this report is that developer interest in Windows Phone has dropped sharply. The amount of developers "very interested" in Windows Phone has dropped from 37.0 percent in first quarter of 2012 to 25.0 percent in the second quarter of 2012. This was not unexpected, given disappointing WP7 handset sales to date and Nokia's recently reported competitive challenges. But they might have wiggle room to turn it around based upon the loss of developer favor for Android. In any case, turning around that sharp drop will take massive efforts on Microsoft's part.

The cloud is crystal clear
Mobile developers are committed to the cloud, and 83 percent of all developers in the survey plan to use cloud services in some capacity for their applications. For back end deployment, 50.4 percent of developers say they will use Apple's iCloud, and 49.1 percent say they will use Amazon's cloud platform. Microsoft's Azure trails with somewhat colder interest; yet another sign of Microsoft's weak mobile presence.

Tools of the trade
The survey reveals that two thirds of mobile application developers use multiple platform development tools to build apps now. This is mostly due to the sheer number of mobile operating systems in use. Most developers do not have the resources to develop a different version of their application for multiple platforms, so finding an all-purpose development toolset is paramount.
Therefore, significant momentum has been made for mobile HTML5-based apps that can be used on any platform. Using HTML5 allows for easy development of cross-platform apps that still support native push notifications, social integration, and authentication for cloud services.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Stephen R. Covey

I just read the news in Google that Stephen R. Covey, a former Brigham Young University business professor who blended personal self-help and management theory in a massive bestseller, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," died Monday at a hospital in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He was 79.

I don't know much about him except through his 7 habits book. To be honest, I bought that book many years ago and still have not finished it. I think I stopped reading after the 4th habit or something. Based on my recollection, the book is really a good book that stimulate my thinking to look at things differently, and subsequently do things with new approach. I hope I will have time to pick up that book again to have a quick read just enough to pick up some new ideas to do things. I think I need that again.

Anyway, thanks for his great work, and he will surely be missed! Wish him rest in peace!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Few Recent Thoughts in personal life

Long time no blog!

Just busy, but today I find some breathing minutes to let my thought loses. Here are what I'm wanna say.

New Gadgets - I bought Apple TV today at lunch time. Excited to get that set up back home. Will talk about it more in near future. Also, bought a 2.5" external Seagate harddisk last week, it is for backing up my music as it has grown so much that my existing 500G one is gonna filled up soon. Hopefully, the new 1TB one would last me for a while. In addition, I'm gonna put my photo archives and ebooks on it as well.

iTunes Podcast app - Apple separate this function from iTunes app and I don't like that much. Perhaps it has something to do with the resources it takes to run. It is just dragging! It crashes at worse, and just damn slow most of the time. Also, the download button is too sensitive that the preview function got run easily if not click it precisely.

Weather - It is so damn hot lately. At home is fine, but it is brutal on the street, especially when I'm in my work clothes. Would love to find time to go swimming, but too bad, my older son is too scare to even play in pools! Hard to make him join me means that I won't be go swimming as I need to baby-sit him.

Home front - busy and tired but the worst has not yet come. I mean the combination of preparing my older son's portfolio and application for primary school, spending time with younger son to give him proper stimulation, and other family man activities. Furthermore, our housemaid is gonna take trip to visit her family for 2 weeks in Aug. It's gonna be brutal to take care of the kids, running family errands, taking my older son to summer classes and prep-talks from prospected primary schools to prepare him for interview. Just gonna be a hell month!

Movies - No time for movie recently. Would love to see Amazing Spider-man though my expectation is low. Also, The Dark Knight Rise is coming, gonna make time for it somehow.

Google Drive - Just love it! Meanwhile, I still building up my drive in 115.com. I've almost 30GB!! Yay!

Spare time - still hard to come by as mentioned above. Listening podcast most of the time in traffic or on the road. As my podcast library has been efficiently cleared up recently, i.e. fast consumption than new files piling up. I start to diving in some of my music archive recently. Besides that, most spare minutes here and there are spent on web, just read news/fun articles, go to FB/forums/Weibo/Twitter and watching youtube. Would love to read books, but it is just too much of a luxury. Would love to catch up with friends outside FB, currently that remains a wish! Would love to go to concert, a wish again! : (

That's about it!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


I found the following interesting information in a forum that I visit often. Just wanna share with anyone that is interested and may find it useful if needed.

嘛呢叭咪吽梵文:ॐ मणि पद्मे हूँ,oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ是觀世音菩薩願力與加持的結晶,故又稱為觀世音心咒「六字真言」