Tech: Infinitec Pocket TV review

After a few months of thumb-twiddling, the long-awaited Infinitec Pocket TV finally arrived, handed over in a Fedex parcel.

Here’s a first look.

The box, the Pocket TV and the air keyboard.

You can’t see it in this picture, but the HDMI connector has a cap that’s attached to the unit with string, very nice touch for us absentminded folks.

Setup
Very easy. Plugged Pocket TV into one of the TV’s HDMI ports, connected the USB cable to power point with adapter. An Australian power adapter was not provided though, so I had to use one of my own.

Here’s a look at the Pocket TV’s UI running on a Sony Bravia LCD with 1080p output.

  • Big clock display with Wi-Fi strength indicator at the bottom right (along with notifications.) Connected to my Wi-Fi WPA2 encrypted network with no problems.
  • Back, Home, Recent apps at the bottom left.
  • Apps list on the Top right. Menu also appears on the top right (if available).

Overall, a pretty clean interface.

Air keyboard
It might be me and my long fingers, but the air keyboard< is too small to hold comfortably. It's about the size of an iPhone 5, maybe a little longer. Flimsy feel, probably because of the compact build and the thinness on the parts, which doesn't allow solid construction. One thing I didn't like: the keys are not very responsive, most especially the space bar. It would randomly repeat a keystroke at times, not certain if this was because of me hitting the key too hard.

Obviously for the air keyboard to work, there has to be a transmitter/receiver setup. The air keyboard's transmitter is hidden in the back of the air keyboard, with some finesse required to prise the lid open. Handle with care, the cover is delicate and very likely to break if too much force is exerted.

Google account removal
I had problems removing the first Google account I added, a dumb move if I might say so. I most certainly did not want my personal Google account (including emails) being accessible from the TV, so it had to be removed one way or the other. Gave it my very best shot and failed spectacularly, so I ended up doing a factory reset on the unit and setting up a new Google account for the Pocket TV.

Testing it out
I want this to replace the laptop I have hooked up to the TV at the moment, so the Pocket TV had to be able to do a few things:

  1. Watch YouTube (For Elly)
  2. Watch YouTube (For V)
  3. Watch NBA League Pass (For me and Stan)
  4. Stream videos from the living room desktop, which is a cheapo version of a home NAS right now.

YouTube performed excellently with no problems, even at high quality.

1. PASS. Cue checked box for Elly’s Mickey Mouse episodes

The catch here is the YouTube clips V watches are often embedded content on webpages. That means Flash on the browser, and Flash became an unofficial sort of thing after Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0).

So the next question begins: how the hell do I get Flash?

Using Flash on Pocket TV

  • Installing Adobe Flash, download from Archived Flash Player versions. I used version 11.1 for Android 4, seeing as the Pocket TV is running on 4.0.4.
  • Opera Mobile allows Flash content to be displayed, get it from the Google Play store.

Not too hard, but it took a bit of research for the answer to surface.

2. PASS. Ellen’s dramas were playing with no problems so that’s one box checked.

The next problem became obvious, right after I had the Flash licked.

Hardware
The hardware is slow due to it being a single core processor. Well too slow for NBA League Pass, which is apparently pretty hardware intensive even when streamed at 800kbps.

When run full-screen, the Esc key (used to exit full screen mode) did not respond no matter how I mashed the damn button. Workaround: hit Home to exit, then get back to Opera and pause the video when it was back to the normal browser window.

Video streaming from PC
Used VLC Direct to play videos from my living room desktop. It was a bit of a PITA while working out how the .hosts file was to be modified to allow LAN access; turned out the one thing I missed was restarting VLC after applying the changes.

After all the setup issues were ironed out, I did experience slight buffering issues while testing video playback on a 170 MB AVI file.

It could be due to Wi-Fi connectivity though, so I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt here.


Summary
It’s honestly not a bad unit (3.5 out of 5). Obviously with the low price tag a quad-core processor would have been out of the question, but I would have liked the processor to be beefed up to a dual core.

China appears to have the pocket TV market well in hand, with similar units being sold for about a heavily discounted price in Singapore. (USD$150 compared to SGD$90, quoted from NZ).

To quote David Tan from Infinitec’s Facebook page:

i think by the time you receive this pocket tv, you would be disappointed that it’s a singlecore and not quadcore that’s most likely will be mass produced by the time you this arrives at your doorstep. what they’ve shown you are simple stuffs that doesnt require multiple cores, but after seeing demos on the same chip they(infinitec) used which were used by many previous gen (refer http://tvbox.geekbuying.com/ ) you will see the difference. Im not against this company in any way, but just against the idea of such crowdsourcing a product which is widely available now. what they did is just a redesign of the case, the internals are practically the same, but last generation. You and many others, are paying a premium high price for the sexy case, waiting time, and such. Oh and The airmouse aint new just so you know, it resembles too much of what was already existing few years ago.

I pretty much agree with what he said, but that’s the way things roll. You can never expect to win against China’s copy-and-mass-produce tactics if the specs are widely available. With the huge price leverage commanded from mass manufacturing, it’s always a struggle for startups to produce something unique and affordable, especially on a tech product that relies on open-source software (read: Android). Infinitec chose to crowdsource, and this is but a natural consequence.

I still think they have a good product here though, the advantage being if they continue to improve on the firmware and make their own implementation of the Android UI better progressively. Otherwise, it will slowly but surely end up becoming just another generic Android device out there.

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Review: How DriveBender Voltrons your hard drives into one

I saw this offer on OzBargain for a $10 purchase of DriveBender, so I thought hell, why not? I was looking to try this on my PC, I like reviewing new technology and I can afford to blow ten bucks on this.

(And it’s high time I did my bit towards supporting Australian developers.)

Summary
DriveBender basically works by pooling all your drives into one. So if you had a stack of hard drives in your PC with varying sizes, you could use DriveBender to add all the drives into a pool, and mount it as a single drive. You can add more drives as you go along, which makes expansion really easy.

The good thing is, existing files do not need to be deleted – you can merge the drives the way they are. Formatting is an option, but not necessary.

It also provides redundancy by writing data to two drives simultaneously, similar to how RAID would work. The setup is much easier on this one though.

If you want to stop using DriveBender, there is no catch. The file system is still NTFS, so your files will still be readable after removing the drives from the pool.

Here’s the full feature list.

Example
I have a couple of 1TB hard drives (F: and G:), and a 2TB drive (H:). By using DriveBender, I pool them all into a single drive letter F: that has a total capacity of 4TB.

Caveat
It works on Windows.

Review
Installation was quite straightforward. .NET was downloaded as a supporting component, I had to restart the PC for the .NET install. Everything carried on automatically from there, no fuss no hassle.

Setting up the pooled drive was another kettle of fish altogether. It looked really easy, but I took five tries to get it right. I mucked things up by adding the 1TB drive first, and adding the 2TB drive after. Somehow or other, I ended up with a new drive with no files inside. The DriveBender manager however, showed that the files were still in the drive (somewhere).

So I had a second go at it, removing the drives from the pool, creating a new pool just to be sure I did things right. The thing about creating a pool, you have to restart the manager application. So there were these little hiccups here and there that made things a little messier than it had to be.

The good thing was that everything worked perfectly, soon as I did it right.

Tips on using DriveBender

  • Use the wizard – it makes life much easier.
  • Use the default pool.
  • Always add the drive with the biggest capacity first.
  • If it mucks up and your files disappear from the new drive, do not panic. DriveBender does not delete files unless you ticked the box for a drive format. Remove the drives from the pool and do it again. A little patience sorts things out.

If you have tried DriveBender as well, I’d be interested to hear how you fared with it. For now, I would recommend it as an easy means of merging physical drives into a logical drive at a low cost (with redundancy).

Why the Kindle is the best ebook reader ever.

So.

After a year or so of using the Kindle, I realised that I have never, ever blogged about the things that attract me so much to the Amazon Kindle. About time I got started!

Slight disclaimer: I know the Kindle Keyboard that I own is an old product by now, but I still love the thing more than I would say the Kindle Touch or the Kindle Fire.

Skepticism – ebooks, really?
I started out like everyone else in my generation, as a paperback reader. No hardcovers (or large paperbacks!) for me, the size and weight was just too much to bear. So it stayed that way for years, up till Aloysius suggested that I get a Kindle. I was kind of skeptical at the start – how good could an electronic device be, against the look and feel of a real paperback?

The good side

  • Convenience: granted, the amount of ebooks available on the market was a huge draw. And even if the books aren’t available on Amazon, you could always convert a book into the MOBI (.mobi) format and load it up onto the Kindle via USB – easy!
  • Space: and of course, space savings. It’s hard to build a library when you have a small apartment. And the mountain of books makes moving house a PITA at times. Really.
  • Price: $129 (at my time of purchase) seemed affordable. Like really affordable.

Taking the plunge
I took him at his word though, and bought the Kindle during my trip to New York last year. When I was unwrapping the Kindle, I went now, what can I say? Even the Kindle’s box felt like some serious thought had been put into it. The Kindle (or the Kindle Keyboard as it is known now) felt lightweight, portable and well-designed.

Flipping the pages
I call it good design, because I was really impressed with these two buttons on the left and right. What those buttons did, was for you to navigate between pages. Previous page, and next page. One button for each function, easily located so you could use either hand to “flip” pages.

Brilliantly inked
The e-ink technology that was used for the Kindle, is in a word mindblowing. People who have never seen the display up close, cannot understand how magical it is to see the text displayed in something that looks almost exactly like real ink. That, essentially was the clincher for me.

I’m not sure if it goes for everyone, but reading from a backlit display made my eyes ache after a while. This was what I concluded, after many afternoons of reading on the iPhone. Which is exactly why I never really got into reading on a computer; fatigue just seemed to set it pretty quickly.

Lighting it up
E-ink on the other hand, handily solves the fatigue issue while creating another – how the hell do I read at night in bed? A quick check on Amazon gave me this:


Behold, the Amazon Kindle cover for the Keyboard edition.

The cover is not an earthshaking idea, it’s the amount of thought that went into it.

  • Good design: It has a built-in light at the upper right corner, that extends out to light up the reading area perfectly. Unobtrusive when unneeded, easily used when needed.
  • Engineering at its best: It has these little hooks that you use to attach the Kindle to. Is that all there is to it? Not really. You see, the light on the cover needs a power source, and where does the power come from? The Kindle itself, via the little hooks. This is such an elegant solution, compared to something clunky like using external batteries on the cover.

Sorry if it doesn’t sound like much to you, but I’m a sucker for elegant little answers to life’s everyday needs. I bought the cover together with the Kindle, and it’s been a handy little companion ever since.

Lasting the trip, and beyond
And one of the best things about the Kindle is its battery life. I read for about an hour or two everyday, and I recharge the Kindle on an average of once a month. Ladies and gents, we all know how power hungry electronic devices are these days, our smartphones require charging on a daily basis. For something to be this power efficient is truly a miracle – are we all agreed on this?

Granted the usual YMMV applies, but you shouldn’t be too far off the mark.

Are we all impressed now?
So I’ve said my spiel and sold the product as best as I could, it’s really up to you to decide if the Kindle is a worthwhile purchase. In my opinion, the savings in physical space, convenience in purchase, power efficiency are big factors that make it a good idea to switch to using an ebook reader, and most especially the Kindle.

Note: I’m just saying all these because I think the Kindle is an awesome product, no commission and shit involved.

On to the N9!

So.

After a month or so of humming and hawing, I finally powered off the HTC Desire. Took the micro SIM out from the adapter, and placed it into my Nokia N9.

(Got it at a real steal at $288 from Harvey Norman, awesome buy for something I’d been eyeing it for months.)

Meego, we are good to go.

Lots of good things about this product; for its price range and hardware it’s a real bargain. With Meego (a Linux-based OS) a relatively unknown and zippy mobile operating system running apps on a 1 GHz ARM Cortex A8 CPU, I would seriously expect the phone to perform tons better, given a dual core processor.

Bits of the N9 that I really like:

  • Aesthetics: an intuitive and visually pleasing interface that is right up there as a competitor to Apple’s iOS. A unique font face (Nokia Pure) that looks so beautiful, coupled with the cute squircles. A button-less navigation that operates on swipe alone. Smooth scrolling. It just makes you feel like real effort has been put into the design of this product.
  • Preloaded useful apps (Twitter, Facebook, Skype), saves time right out the box.
  • A real GPS (Nokia Drive). You can actually download maps and use them without 3G, wins Google Maps. I could have really used this on our trip to the States last time!
  • A really cool stock music player that looks great, is easy to use and reads MP3s (plus ID3 tags). No iTunes shit BTW, just dump the songs in via good old USB transfer.
  • Contact sync and merge from Google, Skype, Facebook – very useful, similar to HTC Sense.
  • Internal storage has been divvied into operating system and user space, so you have a pre-allocated amount of storage for songs and stuff. Sort of throttles the impulse to dump your lifetime library into the phone, and have to delete some for app downloads later.
  • Task manager view – you can actually close running apps as needed. How awesome is this? Check it out below.


An excellent capture of the task manager view, watermarked tinhte.vn and source.

Check out this mytechn.com N9 review and this video review from phoneARENA.com:

If we want to be really critical about the bad side of things, it’s got to be the fact that Nokia dumped Meego into the backburner and wants to move ahead with Windows for the foreseeable future. This in turn, leads to a major lack of third-party apps for the platform.

From WhatsApp to WazApp

An unfortunate side effect is the lack of that famously popular messaging app, WhatsApp for the Meego platform. I would imagine that this unfortunate lapse is causing a great obstruction for other mobile users to switch to the N9.

Thankfully, a community version called WazApp has been developed by Tarek Galal (@tgalal) with support from other developers in the maemo.org forum. WazApp is available for download at the official WazApp site, and the real downside to it (barring core functionality tweaks) is that multimedia support is not yet available; that means pictures and videos cannot be sent/received on WazApp yet.

Random sidenotes for fellow N9 users:

  • Learn about changing input languages on the fly via the manual.
  • Adding text input languages: Settings – Time and Language – Text input – Installed input methods – (pick language)
  • Stock browser does not support Flash, download and use Firefox.
  • To add a custom ringtone to a contact: go to Contacts, touch the contact name and hold, select Edit. Touch the down arrow, scroll down and click Ringtone. Pick music from Select from My Music (search for it if needed because default display is limited).
  • Apple iPhone hands free does not work with the N9 (connector variances). You either use the stock earpiece, or use a headset that uses the usual audio plug.
  • Very trivial downside: Lock screen wallpaper needs to be sized precisely before it displays in full resolution, anything else will be resized based on aspect ratio.
  • Recommended apps list (part 1, part 2) from EverythingN9.com
  • A comprehensive Google Doc on tips and tricks for the N9

Review: You Are The Apple of My Eye (那些年, 我们一起追的女孩)

Kicking this off with one sentence: rave reviews from countless peers.

So.

I finally got my hands on it (thanks to Stan and Randy), and spent the evening watching it with the family.

《那些年,我们一起追的女孩》

一个充满少年青涩恋情的故事。校园时期的初恋片段,总让人勾起从前的回忆。看着两人一天一天的笑着,一点一点的吵着。恋情,在无忧无虑的日子里默默萌芽。浪漫的追求,羞涩的约会。爱情最美好,最完美的时期,就是在两人暗恋着,未肯定对方爱意的日子里。

电影里素描的平行宇宙,让人想起过去的种种问题,种种的可能。在从前,因犹豫而错过的遗憾。另一个世界的我,是否鼓起当时的勇气,坦然面对而改变,而获得另一种幸福,另一种人生?

科幻这东西,实在奇妙。Only the wings of one’s imagination, can ever govern the limits of one’s mind in flight.

反而,本人其实比较喜欢胡夏所唱着的电影主题曲:《那些年》。 人,曲,词 – 完美的结合,完全符合电影想带出的味道。

也许,是自己对片子期望太高。电影结束过后,有那么一点失望。对我而言,片尾当然是个现实世界中必然的结局。到了最后,只能坐着。抱着心酸与无奈的祝福,望着爱人跟别人走上红地毯。只是多了那一点点冲动,让憋了多年的情感爆发。既然是故事,为何不把平行宇宙的因素融合,把结局变得更加完美一些?

If only.

Basketball: First season, over at long last!

So.

After five long months, the season has finally concluded with us being the worst team in the league with zero season wins, and at the same time the runners-up.

.. This doesn’t make sense does it?

It kind of is about the way they structured the postseason; they separated the teams into two brackets, grade A and grade B with champion and runner-up for both grades. Which means four out of seven teams get something, and we were lucky enough to win our first postseason game which placed us into the running for grade B’s first two spots. So we lost tonight’s game and still ended up getting a trophy.

Thoughts after a long road.

  • We lost a lot of guys along the way, not 100% if it’s worth it. But playing in a league takes first and foremost, the determination to carry on no matter how bad the going gets. Shit happens, everyone hates everyone, fingers are pointed et cetera. But you have to try to move on and play on looking forward.
  • I don’t feel like we have really improved as a team. Individually, yes. For example, Hin has vastly improved on 1-on-1 transition offense. David has learnt to give hard fouls and work within zone defense. Julian knows to be more patient and not rush the set. But teamplay, no. Plenty of problems to sort out on both ends, like offensive spacing, lack of communication on defense. Things improved tremendously with Anthony and Jason joining in towards the finale, because they provided a lot of toughness in rebounding and Jason is an top-notch player on the transition break. But it feels like us guys who started out at the beginning still have not worked out our kinks very well. Winning covers a lot of things, but they are still things we have to work on when the next season starts.
  • People are entitled to yell whatever they like at the sidelines, but it is up to you to do what is right at that moment. The only wrong you can do, is to repeatedly act like a selfish asshole who doesn’t contribute.
  • Like I told Stan at supper – basketball is a means to prove my own worth; that I am never going to back down to the person in front of me because of fear. If you lose, you move on and try harder the next time. 篮球,就是一种身心的磨练,对自己宣誓永不退缩。绝对不能因胆怯而投降,退后。
  • I revamped my shot through the course of the season, changing it from an overhead shot to the conventional one placed in front; am able to shoot jumpers at three point range now – amazing! Better Basketball rocks.

I should really be getting to sleep, thanks to everyone who has come down for the games over these months. The training sessions and actual games have taught me a great deal, and expanded my horizons considerably. Looking forward to the next season in Feb 2012!

Until then, Team SHOHOKU.

Tech: Jetpack is way cool.

So.

I just activated Jetpack on the latest WordPress version and it is in a word, awesome.

  • The sleek integrated Stats alone is worth drooling over, goodbye to my old friend WordPress.com Stats plugin.
  • And then we come to Sharing. Described as “The most super duper sharing tool on the interwebs.”, no shit you got that right. This allows for a row of funky sharing icons to appear at the bottom of my posts, something I have been thinking of adding for the longest time. When something like this works even on my ultra-hacked and deprecated version of Hemingway (which does not support widgets by the way), you qualify as super duper x 999.
  • The link shortcut on the post editor, which now allows me to tick and have the link open in a new tab. After all these years, I can finally stop typing target equals blank.
  • The fullscreen shortcut on the post editor is worth a mention too; very certain this will help a lot of people focus on their writing. Thumbs up guys, well done.
  • But no, no automatic proofreading thank you. I like my Hokkien and mangled Keinglish to appear just the way I typed them.

All right, I’m barely ten minutes into Jetpack and here’s the end of the post; I won’t post an extensive review but suffice it to say that WordPress is keeping me a loyal and happy blogger for now.