# Saturday, 14 August 2010

Look here!

Not often that I get to take pics with WZ.


Saturday, 14 August 2010 17:34:08 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Thursday, 12 August 2010

The recent launch of the Apple iPad has fueled a hunger for keyboardless tablet browsing appliances, and who better to feed such a hunger than your favorite ODM manufacturers in China. Armed with the availability of the relatively free Google Android OS, those guys have been churning out many an Android tablet with various functions and looks. (Check some out here!)

I've recently acquire one such Android Tablet, it's called the eFren and is an Android 1.5 powered tablet made rebranded by local company Mi-Store.

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Yes, it looks like a extra large iPod.

Here is their brochure for the eFren. (Presented to you by Zoom.It!)

So... what can you expect to find from a company that couldn't even put the correct URL of their website on the brochure? (The Mi-Store website URL is www.mi-store.com.my, the brochure says www.mi-store.com )

Pretty much a standard job of just ordering a couple of thousand units from China and slapping your company logo on it. As a web browsing tablet the eFren is pretty decent.

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It's 800x480 screen means that you might have to scroll horizontally for wider sites but at least it's better than a VGA (640x480) or worse.. QVGA (320x240) screen. The screen is a single touch resistive touch screen, so you won't be pinching to zoom on the thing anytime soon. Responsiveness is ok for something of this quality but I have some problems with the lower right corner sometimes. The Chrome (lite I believe people call it) browser has pretty good Javascript support, but as I've seen recently when testing Zoom.It browsers that use touch panning don't work well with javascript code for dragging and dropping.

Also because this thing only has Android 1.5, it can't run Flash on web pages so you can't use it as a portable Farmville device.

It has the following ports running on the side where the On/Off button is... oh yeah... that center button? That's the on/off button. Yup... that's what you get for trying to copy the iPad in design and functionality.

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You get a mic, Micro SDHC slot, a USB client port, HARD power switch, another USB client port, headphone jack, and the charge port. The first problem that the eFren has is that it CANNOT CHARGE FROM THE USB PORTS. I tried with my 5V2A charges and various cables and none of them delivered juice to the eFren contray to what their support people are saying on the Facebook Page

One good thing about the eFren is that it comes with a PROPER USB OTG cable (What does PROPER USB OTG cable mean? Check here) So you can connect thumb drives to the eFren and consume files from it. It DOES NOT have enough current to power a hard disk, so only low power devices. It's supposed to be able to recognize a few USB 3G Modems and use them for internet connections, but I don't have one ready on me to try out that feature. Seems to be hit or miss based on the feedback from the Facebook page though.

If you look back to the eFren brochure on top you'll see them touting their WIDE RANGE of media support. Well.. I can tell you that it plays RMVB files PRETTY WELL, that's probably due to the fact that if you want your device to be able to survive in the Asian market you NEED to have RMVB support nailed down. The eFren is not able to play 720P content smoothly, and here the deception of an OEM Chinese device shows, the eFren contains a DEMO clip with the filename of "Coral Reef Adventure 720P.avi" allowing the salesman to show potential customers that the eFren plays 720P video properly. But... in reality the file's video resolution is just 848x480 and has some pretty weird video/audio bitrates. Check it out in the video below.

The brochure as well as the YouTube video below mentions that H.264 is supported.

The video is PARTLY TRUE, the E-Fren's video player CAN open MKV files. But when I gave it an MKV file with a H.264 stream, I heard audio but I see no video. (For those of you unfamiliar with how video files work, MKV is just a container, inside the container you can have video and audio streams of different types of encoding, H.264 just happens to be what they usually use with MKV files) Given that they've proven they WILL lie with the Coral Reef video, I'm pretty sure the MKV file played here probably doesn't have a H.264 video stream.... hmmm.. maybe it's an RMVB file in an MKV container? UPDATE : I threw a 480P H.264 video into the thing, and it can be played, so it means that H.264 support is there.. but fickle, so be warned.

Now, misinformation like this is pretty much PAR for these kind of products. So there's no use crying foul over something like this. Given that it has a pretty decent web browser, and a pretty decent RMVB player if those are the 2 main functionalities you were looking for. I would have told you the eFren is a pretty good choice, since you're buying a low quality rebadged product which might break down at any moment, buying it locally instead of online means you can replace it... hopefully.

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It's small, it's portable, it surfs the web. Normally I would have said "If you find the price satisfactory, and it meets your requirements go ahead and buy it!" But this time I'm just gonna flat out say DON'T BUY THIS!

Not because it doesn't run Froyo, not because of the lies of video support. But because the eFren shipped with a TERRIBLE design flaw.

You can't set the screen brightness to MAXIMUM.

At close to maximum (95% on the brightness bar) the screen is pretty decent, but you'll need 100% brightness if you want to even TRY to use it in direct sunlight. At 100% brightness the screen actually looks quite good.

At 100% brightness the screen flickers like hell on battery power!

Now that's just ridiculous! You'd think that when they accepted the good they went through a proper phase of testing to make sure something as simple as setting brightness to 100% would work properly. What pissed me off more was that when I was shown the device at the store I saw the sales person fiddling with the screen brightness, at first I thought it was because the device had a low battery charge and he just dropped the brightness so it could be used for a while. But after I found this flickering problem I guess it's highly possible that HE KNEW ABOUT THE PROBLEM and choose to conceal it.

And because of this simple little problem I must say that "No, the Mi-Store eFren IS NOT WORTH the RM599 price tag!"

Just wait a bit more if you're looking for a web surfing MID, Froyo devices should be hitting the market soon and maybe they'll work better than the eFren.


Thursday, 12 August 2010 22:46:33 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Sunday, 08 August 2010

PC Fair used to be a place where you can get some nice deals, and see some nice gear on sale. But... in recent years it has just devolved into nothing might just a great big waste of time since things aren't any cheaper at PC Fair, in fact there're instances where things are more expensive then what you can get at Low Yat. While it is true that you get more freebies at PC Fair, you have to ask yourself if it's worth the time and effort of getting over to KLCC and making your way through the crowd.

So.. I made this short video detailing the PC Fair experience. It's short and boring... kinda like going to PC Fair yourself.


Sunday, 08 August 2010 15:05:48 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, 06 August 2010

When Silverlight 2.0 was released, it came with the ability to view image pyramids built in. The feature is called Deep Zoom and it's a very interesting function, you can find GREAT examples of Deep Zoom usage over at www.deepzoomstudio.com.

Deep Zoom at it's most basic form is to allow you to see BIG pictures without downloading the whole thing at once and killing your bandwidth. For example, this knife picture below is a demonstration of Deep Zoom.

This is the RAW untouched file of the image I used in my Leatherman Style CS review, straight from the camera its 4592 x 3056 in size. And it's of course unheard of to upload the raw image onto the web for viewing purposes. But thanks to Deep Zoom and the spanking new http://www.zoom.it it's no longer a problem.

All you have to do is first upload the big original image into a PUBLICALLY ACCESSIBLE location like Flickr or Live Photos, then go to Zoom.It and drop the URL of the picture into it and it'll spit back up a link or script which you can use to show people your extra large image file all nice and viewable in a zooming viewer.

Deep Zoom has a few issues in practical applications, The Semi Pro feels that it encourages WAAAY too much pixel peeping if you apply it onto a normal picture. For example... here's a panoramic shot straight from the NEX-3 in WEB safe resolution.

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Generally looks fine, and people won't care too much about the stitching imperfections etc. etc. But... if I allowed the viewers to see the ACTUAL image, what would happen then?

What happens when they can see all the imperfections? Pixel peepers would just use it as an opportunity to find problems in your equipment and editing among other issues.

The other problem... is the FEMALE issue. If you told your model that you're going to allow people to be able to inspect every SINGLE, MINUTE DETAIL of the picture you're taking of her, that any minute flaw that your lense is able to pick up, viewers will be able to see? Most likely they'll tell you to never call them again! This is because all the beauty is gone when you look at them up close! Can you find the mole on her left arm and leg?

This is not the best example... just be thankful there's no one around to take a picture of my face with the 50mm Macro. Smile with tongue out

Zoom.it also work on webpages as well, so do check it out even if you know that if you used it on pictures of anyone, they'd probably kill you. And to cap it off, here's a self stiched panorama that's 9154x2395 in size. These are things which you really want to use Zoom.It on!


Friday, 06 August 2010 02:21:31 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, 03 August 2010

I always criticize that Bing Maps (http://maps.bing.com) is so bloody useless for Malaysian maps because they have ZERO street data on Malaysia. Google Maps (http://maps.google.com) become more useful a few years back when they finally added Malaysian maps data to their DB. So imagine my surprise when I loaded up Bing Maps today and saw....

 

And that was a BIG surprise for me, their map data looked more like street only data, let's compare it with Google Maps of the same area.


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Google has more of the localized building names, if you go to the full map you'll see that Digital Mall is marked on it already.

Routing is already supported on the maps so they obviously have real road data, though Bing Maps location DB is very very limited, you can search for street names well enough, (My bad, while the street names do show up when you get driving instructions, you can't SEARCH for them yet) but buildings? Not so much, doesn't even know where One Utama is.

But it's a good start, at least it means someone actually cares enough to provide us with map data now. Also, I do like one simple little feature in Bing Maps which I just don't understand why Google Maps can't do properly.

 

For me to put a pin in a Bing Maps embed, all I had to do was right click in the map window and select "Place Pushpin Here!"


View Larger Map

Where as for Google Maps I had to right click and select What's Here BEFORE I even create the embed link, not to mention it brings in some additional search results as well. I understand that Google Maps's embed feature is very powerful, allowing you to include search results and other information on the embedded map, but they should realize that sometimes users just want to be able to tell people "X marks the spot!"

Other than the lack of location information, Bing Maps seems to have multiple map source images. After I discovered that the WEB was working I immediately tried using the Bing Mobile application on my phone, but alas, they were still getting the OLD useless maps like this.

Hopefully they'll synchronize and update the map DB before the launch of Windows Phone 7 here so we can actually have SOME sort of map application!


Tuesday, 03 August 2010 22:15:57 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  |