# Monday, 09 July 2012

I took WZ to see the Dinosaur Live exhibit at the National Science Center. Taking my Sony A550 with me since I knew the exhibit would be in a dark area and thinking I had a better chance with better shooting control than the Sony NEX. And I learnt a few things doing so.

Autofocus doesn't work well in the dark

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To the camera, it's pretty much pitch black in the exhibit. Autofocus couldn't pick out any details at all, and the fact that I was using the F20 which doesn't strobe as a focus assist light didn't help. The solution would be to switch to manual focus, or as I figured out after a while, use a flash light to help your camera focus (I used my HTC Radar's flashlight for this)

Shutter priority is a better choice in the dark

One of the first things the Semi Pro taught me when I first got my camera was that it'd be easier for me if I just used aperture priority in my shots, since usually when you're shooting with people you'd probably care more about the depth of field. And that has worked pretty well for me. But in a dark area, it's more important to control how long the lens is opened so you can control the lighting effect.

Fire the flash in rear sync mode.

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Not really a new thing I learnt this time around, but just as a reminder from last time. If you want to take photos which shows the ambience of weird colored lighting in the environment, set you flash to fire in rear sync mode.

Remind your wife that it takes time to setup the camera to take nice photos when you don't have practice.

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The night before I say my wife down and told her "Honey, I'm going to take the DSLR tomorrow when we go see the exhibit, it's probably gonna be in a dark area and I'm gonna need some time to tweak the camera and learn what's the best way to shot a picture in there. So it doesn't help if you keep complaining about why I'm taking so long for a shot."

Yes, I'll probably get killed if my wife reads this, hence WZ's expression is highly suitable for this tip. And if you don't understand what's the big deal about something like this, you're not married then are you? :P


Monday, 09 July 2012 00:10:28 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 02 July 2012

When Microsoft announced the Microsoft Surface tablet a few weeks ago, although I was surprised that Microsoft had the brass to make their own hardware I pretty much understood it had to be done. As I mentioned in the previous post, I'm no stranger with small, fully functional PCs so it doesn't surprise me to see one. And most people seem to forget.

This isn't Microsoft's first time trying to make a point for small fully functional PCs.

That honor belongs to the long forgotten Project Origami or rather.. the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) form factor. But of course, then Microsoft didn't make any actual hardware, then as per usual Microsoft advised the OEM partners on what would make a great UMPC and hoped they could do a great job. When the product (or should I call it... the project?) launched, the complaints were basically circling around the expensive price, comparatively lower performance than notebooks of the same price, and battery life that was not useful for the mobile lifestyle companion it was supposed to act as. Oh.. and of course the usual Windows XP wasn't meant for touch comments. (Which was more justified then cause Windows XP really didn't have much touch optimization compared to Windows Vista which came later)

Edit 19th August 2012 : Hey look, I found out I posted about Project Origami... way... waaaaaayyy back!

A comment which I remember reading from Microsoft was that even though those things were a factor back then, given a few years they would not be too much of a concern anymore. And I guess a few years is now. Let's see what do we have now? Given around the same price of a UMPC back then, we can now have an Intel Core i5 that is no slouch in performance, a potential of 5 hours of realistic battery life (My older generation i5 could do 4 hours, I doubt the new ones are gonna be any worse) and a touch screen + pen digitizer combo. And of course, what else has happened?

Windows 8 happened.

If you look back to a post I made when the Apple iPad launched. (And I DID tell you guys to save the post!) I mentioned that Windows 7 Touch Will NEVER Be Better Than The Apple iPad! And that Windows purpose is "to provide a platform for developers to create apps that are designed for touch interaction, and more importantly to allow users to use as many of their applications as possible even though the apps are NOT MEANT FOR TOUCH OPERATION." If you look at the duality of the existence of the Metro interface as well as the traditional desktop in Windows 8, the statement is pretty much ringing true right now. Of course funny thing is now that the Metro UI is taking the center stage right now, instead of users bemoaning that Windows can't be used properly with touch controls (If you have a touch capable Windows tablet and you think that, please refer to this link), now they're complaining that Windows can't be used properly WITHOUT touch controls! The irony! (And something I hope to help with when Windows 8 RTMs)

So finally at this point in time, we're able to get a highly capable PC in a lightweight, portable form factor and with an operating system that can run effectively through a touch interface. And that's essentially what the Microsoft Surface Pro (I'm not talking about the ARM version here) and the many other ultrabook spec'ed Windows Tablet which are coming out are going to deliver...

The UNCOMPROMISING PROCESSING CAPABILITY OF A REAL PC.

As I mentioned before when the Apple iPad launched, it is not meant for me. And the main reason being that anything I need to make a decision into whether to take it with me or not better be worth it. Whatever I would want to do on an iPad, I could do on my phone so how could I justify carrying something around in a bag when the thing in my pocket works just as well? For those of you who are silently thinking "I don't need a bag to carry my iPad, it's light and thin, I just hold it like a small brochure in my hands or tuck in under my shoulder, no biggy." My response to that? Have multiple children, then get back to me on how well having one less free hand works out!

There are those who say that with Microsoft Surface, Microsoft is just trying to stuff a PC into a tablet form factor. To those people I'd have to say that with the Surface Pro at least, there isn't a differentiation. A Windows Tablet is basically a Windows PC, whatever you can do on a Windows PC, you can do it on a Windows Tablet, because.. it IS a PC.

  • Download ANYTHING via ANY protocol? Yep.
  • Watch any video, using any number of weird codecs and formats? Yep.
  • Run the favorite browser of your choice to access browser dependant features? Yep.
  • Use REAL Adobe Photoshop? Why not?

If you're a Windows user, and you're thinking about getting a more portable system you really should wait for Windows 8 hardware to drop and check out all the Windows Tablet devices that are bound to show up.

But of course If you regularly take cross continental flights and need something to keep the days you're up in the air. By all means, get an iPad and load up with batteries.

One final note that I have to point out about how well designed the Microsoft Surface Pro is. It was enough for my non gadget head wife to order me to get one when possible. To me, that's simply amazing!


Monday, 02 July 2012 01:43:06 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Today Microsoft announced that they were going to make their own Windows 8 devices as well. And it's going to be called the Microsoft Surface.

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Personally, ever since Windows 8's features were announced, and seeing the OEM's really gung ho about making Windows Tablets again in Computex 2012, I was already expecting to be able to buy an Ultrabook spec'ed Windows Tablet in the future. What I didn't expect was that it might turn out to be a Microsoft branded Windows Tablet.

Specs wise it brings nothing new to the table for me, as I've been using small and lite Tablet PCs for a while now so seeing the latest greatest notebooks at petit sizes don't really excite me anymore. I'm more surprised that Microsoft themselves are doing it. Some people have likened this to Google giving an OEM early access to their Android builds and coming out with a Google Nexus phone as a lead phone for an Android version. But that's Google telling an OEM "Here are the plans to the next great thing, we're giving you an advantage to build the next great phone first but you must follow the plans to the letter." That would be akin to Microsoft ordering Samsung to make the Windows 8 Developer Preview Slate PC.

But this is not the case here, this is Microsoft partnering with an ODM and making their own hardware. This is basically Microsoft telling the OEMs "We've always been advising you guys on the great ways you can make a Windows Tablet, now we're showing you how to make a great Windows Tablet!" And that's what excites and worries me at the same time. It's exciting because the OEMs HAVE been dropping the ball when it comes to making great Windows Tablets, everyone has just basically been trying to beat the ARM tablets by trying to make a Intel slate and install Windows on it and you end up with lemons like the Fujitsu Q550 and Dell Slate ST. Of course there are also the great ones like the Asus eeeSlate and aside from the Q550 misstep (which I guess can be attributed to Intel's fault) Fujitsu is pretty much the ONLY OEM that's been constantly pushing out Windows Tablets.

What is worrying to me is that Microsoft can't give this Surface endeavor the 110% of the effort they want to. They can't really market and priced the Surface and give it a better advantage compared to the other devices the OEMs are going to come out with, that'd just be inviting the usual anti competition problems. Of course MS could also encourage OEMs to build the same type of device with similar capabilities by offering them the same discount for licenses.

As for the big question of will I be getting one myself? Well, first of all I'm definitely going for an x86 Windows Tablet PC, there's no doubt about that part. The only remaining question which I have for the Surface tablet is the pen. (pic from Engadget)

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Being a seasoned Windows Tablet user, all he funky terms like high DPI ink, palm block ability, etc. etc. Basically translates to pressure sensitive digitizer pen, and since Microsoft seem to be only putting the best stuff into the Surface, I'm gonna bet that we're looking at Wacom technology here.

The problem here is that the pen is mentioned as an OPTIONAL input device. That would mean that there might the Surface itself does not have a storage silo for the pen. I HATE the idea of a digitizer capable device not having a slot that can protect and store it's own pen properly. So this is one of the issues that's holding me back on going all "Microsoft, take my money nooooowwww!" on it.

Update : They expect people to latch the pen to the charge port via a magnetic connector. That is NOT a proper and even effective way to store something you don't want to lose!

The other issue is that, this is a PC we're talking about. And I'm pretty sure right now our local Microsoft subsidiary isn't setup to handle support issues for a PC, and like some have already pointed out that Microsoft doesn't have the proper distribution power to perform a global launch. So it's very likely that there's little chance the Microsoft Surface is going to show up on Malaysian soil unless some miracle happens.

So... don't disappoint me Fujitsu... show me what that New Detachable Performance Slate is! And it better have a stylus silo!


Tuesday, 19 June 2012 13:33:41 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 06 June 2012

I came across a very interesting blog post today, important enough for me to decided to repost it here.

How To Stop Sucking And Be Awesome Instead

One of the key points is that you should stop being afraid of sucking if you want to be awesome.

And this is a VERY good point. Too often do I see programmers who can't come out with solutions just because they're afraid that people might think it's a stupid idea, that other people might look down on them if their idea didn't work out. They keep walking down that path and they'll never gain any extra experience because learning from our mistakes is surprisingly effective.

A programmer should never be afraid of making mistakes or that worrying if their code isn't the right way to do something. In programming there are many paths to achieving a solution, and if you don't have the guts to walk down those paths you'll never know which one was the best one.

When other people come to me for advice on something and I see that they're about to fall into a hole based on their attempted solution, if the situation allows it I'll always let the person drop into the hole first. After which I pull them out and ask them to think about how they got to that point and discuss about the alternatives available, I find that this helps instill the lesson a bit more deeper.


Wednesday, 06 June 2012 23:03:44 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, 25 May 2012
Things I learnt during my short visit to Tokyo and from what my friends told me before I got there.

Friday, 25 May 2012 23:46:12 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  |