Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Geeky Halloween!

To all my readers, Happy Halloween!

For those geeky enough to know the reference... 

I'm NOT a zebra! ;)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Thank You! Salamat! Merci Beaucoup! Vielen Dank!

I was very happy when my blog reached it's first 1000 pageviews per month.

I was very happy when it reached it's first 1000 visitors per month.

I'm now happy again to see that number almost double in all aspects since last month! :)

To the 700 new visitors to my blog, and the 200 new regulars...

Thank you!
Merci beaucoup!
Vielen Dank!
बहुत धन्यवाद!
Stort Tack!
Hartelijk dank!

Friday, October 28, 2011

There's Still Time!!!

To grab this month's copy of C! Magazine!

For my fellow Philippine readers... My 4th article for C! Magazine, head out and get your copy now so you have something to read over the long weekend!  Be safe everyone!

Long weekend here in the Philippines, 29 Oct until 1 Nov... 
yes, that's how we roll...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Apple Virus Warning!!!!

It's a very wide spread misconception that Macs are immune to viruses (or virii if you're 1337). This is NOT (nor has it ever been) true. There are far fewer viruses that can infect Mac, yes... but they are still out there. The main issue is that the complacency of the end users make them the easier target.

The bigger immediate threat at the moment is a new backdoor trojan that has been detected out in the wild. Named Tsunami, it allows a cracker remote access to your Mac and make it do horrible things (Such as download porn!)

Sophos, one of the leading Apple Anti-virus software providers has detected it and has issued an update for their anti-virus software package. For Mac users that haven't downloaded an anti-virus yet for their Macs, you can get Sophos' free home version here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Where Do You Want To Go Today?

Google Maps will help you find the way!

This isn't new to those in the US, but here in the Philippines, GPS Navigation has been restricted to just map and coordinate data.  Google has just recently deployed their Map Directions feature (not yet Google Navigation, but that's coming real soon now that Directions is active) Simply head on over to Google Maps and search for your destination.

Select the appropriate location on map, and click [Direction]

By default, Google Maps will show directions from your current location but you can drag this icon to any starting point and the route recalculates.

The turning points may be dragged to suit your preferred route as well. You may also select an alternate route from a list.

Driving directions will be displayed on the left pane, while the map will show the routes and turning points.

This also works on Android phones!
(BTW, for those geeky enough to know, yes, my title was a Microsoft slogan)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Little Friday Tech Humor

Persistence is key...

My apologies if you don't get the Mario Bro reference... but this is funny!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Things To Come : Upcoming Android Phones

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

See? If pressed (and sued), mobile phone design teams don't have to be lazy and can design great looking phones that DO NOT look like the iPhone. That's always been one of the main reasons I like Ericsson / Sony Ericsson, they haven't done an iPhone clone yet.

Samsung and Motorola have announced their new flagship phones.  The Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Motorola Droid Razr.  Both phones carry impressive specs.

Motorola Droid Razr

The Motorola boasts being only 7.1mm thick (with a lump measuring about 10.5 mm at the top, near the camera) while Samsung's measures 8.9 mm,  sporting a first-of-its-kind curved screen.

While both phones have 4.3" AMOLED screens, the Galaxy Nexus has an incredible 1280 x 720 resolution making it a true HD phone and one of the few in the 300+ ppi range.  The Droid Razr is no slouch though, sporting a 960 x 540 resolution putting it above most current Android phones which have 854 x 480 displays.

Both will be sporting 1.2 GHz dual-core CPUs as well.  But the biggest advantage of Samsung is that it will be using Google's latest Android version, Ice Cream Sandwich.  Although I'm pretty sure Motorola will be getting the update shortly after since they are owned by Google now.

The next few months leading up to the Holiday season are gonna be very exciting!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Android Tip Of The Day: Facebook

Facebook has recently updated their iOS app. It works a lot better and has a much sleeker interface. Android users however, are still stuck with the old version. And no word on when the Android version will be updated. Perhaps they're waiting for Android 4.0 to be released before issuing a major update.

Either way, there's a quicker way to enjoy the new layout of Facebook on your Android device.

Simply point your Android browser to

And log in!

It's not quite as polished as the new iOS app since it's browser based...but it does retain the new look and features. Up until the Android app is updated, I now use this version all the time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia ray - Accidental Camera Tip

Ok, my movie playback review is long over due (that's still coming up)... but I've been playing with the camera of the ray in more situations and this may interest some readers.

I've found that when a bright light source is hitting the ray from the side (effect is more pronounced if the light source is coming from the left - where the lens is closer to the edge) there's very slight ghosting visible in the photo.  You can simply change the angle you shoot at, cup your hand over the lens, or make a very small/short lens hood.  The X10 Mini Pro didn't have this problem as the lens was recessed further into the body.

I made a crude one out of electrical tape, just to see if it would work.  The cleanest way I've found is to get a cone shape slope as close to the lens as possible (reverse of a regular lens hood) to minimize the visual change in the phone.

Slight ghosting visible on the upper left

With the lens hood, slight improvement

My initial idea was to blacken out the silver ring

Electrical tape

Cut a hole slightly smaller then the silver ring

Tweezers make the job a lot easier

The tape slopes and floats a little above the lens

Extending the lens hood to about 1-2mm improves the effect, I'm guessing a small rubber O-ring would do the trick as well.

Over-all I decided to remove my lens hood despite the effect simply because I felt is was only in certain lighting conditions that it had an effect.  YMMV, so you may choose to improve on this concept or ignore it all together.  Just wanted to share my discovery.

App Of The Day: Handbrake

For great videos on the go with you iPhone, iPod Touch, or Android... use Handbrake!  Yes, it is an odd name for an app... with an even odder icon... but it works great!

One step video conversions to allow easy playback on your iOS or Android device.

Some would prefer downloading an app that plays all formats, but I don't really like wasting storage space with a 15GB movie, when you can't really appreciate 1080p on a mobile screen.

The iPhone 4 preset works on almost all devices, or create a higher 720p preset if your mobile screen supports it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

kik me!

A while back, I wrote about kik Messenger, one of my fav IMs for iOS and Android.  Initially offered on Blackberry as well, RIM got scared and decided to pull it out of App World.

Well, kik has been trying its best to get back into BB... FINALLY, the wait it over!!!

kik is back on Blackberry!!!!!

For everyone out there affected by RIMs BBM outage, download kik and sign up now!!!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia ray Review: Part 4 - TimeScape, Facebook and UX

Continued from Part 3

A while back, when I first got my X10 Mini Pro, I commented on the promise, and limitations of Sony Ericsson's TimeScape interface, cool looking but not ready for public use just yet.  Two Android generations later, and Sony Ericsson has learned quite a bit from their past mistakes.

TimeScape w/ Infinity button
TimeScape used to be heavily integrated into their version of Android.  This, in theory, was supposed to make it better, but instead made the interface slow and very difficult to update.  This in turn slowed the development of the X10 family and despite the positive feedback on the phones, the quickly outdated software became a huge ball and chain.  Today, I'm happy to report that TimeScape is more like an app, rather than a core system.  This means that it doesn't bog down the system nor does it hamper software updates.

Running on Android Gingerbread, the new TimeScape looks gorgeous, and allows much better plug-ins like RSS, other Social Networking sites, and email integration via 3rd party plugins available in the Marketplace.  The new widget is also live, unlike the older TimeScape which only showed the newest message, the current one allows you to scroll through messages without having to launch the app.

It now also integrates the Infinity button for messages received from contacts, pressing it will bring up a separate 3D stream of messages from that particular contact.  No need to look through your call history or email history to see your correspondence with someone.

Graphics are a lot smoother, thanks in part to a faster CPU, but mostly to much more efficient coding.  Gingerbread is supposed to have a 400% increase over Eclair, and TimeScape itself has been cleaned up... all these things combined really has improved the over-all user experience (or as Sony Ericsson wants to call it, UX) and enjoyment of using the app.

Facebook integration
Facebook Inside Xperia is another neat (or annoying, depending on your view of Facebook in general) feature.  I'm a heavy Facebook user, so this level of integration is great for me.  What once took 3-4 apps on my X10 Mini Pro, now is all built-in the UX of the Xperia ray.  Contact photos, numbers, status updates, and other important info are all automatically synced and updated.  Your phonebook cards can now contain all the info on that particular person's Facebook page.  Twitter is also integrated, just sign in with TimeScape.

Some people aren't fond of social integration, you don't have to use them.  Just don't log into your Facebook or Twitter accounts.  One caveat is if you're on Google+, unlike Facebook and Twitter, you need to log into your Google account to use your Android phone, Google+ integration is AUTOMATIC, and must be disabled if you don't want your phone to automatically update your status and upload photos.  Or you can just not download the Google+ app.

A few issues: This integration overlaps with Facebook's own app sync... so you will have 2 Facebook apps using up your data connection.  The other is purely aesthetic, the app seems to try to sync even when  mobile data is off, so you always get this annoying red triangle saying "Facebook Sync Failed" when you're data connection is lost, even when the app is set to manual sync.

SonyEricsson has been really slow the past few years... fumbling about for a unique fingerprint to put on Android.  I think they've found it with TimeScape and Facebook Inside Xperia.  Let's hope that future software updates and upgrades won't exclude previous generations so quickly.  For now, good job on the big improvement!  It makes looking through status updates actually fun!  Hahahaha!

Up next - Movie Time!  Video formats, playback, and the built-in gallery

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia ray Review: Part 3 - Smile! You're On Exmor R Camera!

Continued from Part 2

Since the introduction of the celfone cam, people have documented every single moment of their lives (both drunken and sober) and has caused a boom in digital photography.

The latest generation of mobile phone cams boast specs that exceed most professional cams a few years ago... but do specs tell the whole truth?  Numbers are quite easy to fudge, and test parameters can easily be biased to favor one manufacturer over another.  I've found that most of today's mid-to-high end devices are all comparable to each other.  This review is to give a real-world comparison and evaluation compared to point-and-shoot cameras.

Most phone cam lenses are fixed at around 28mm (in full-frame DSLR equivalent) this gives the most practical field of view for group shots, parties, and roughly 95% of the events people use their phones to take pictures of.

The Xperia ray sports an 8 megapixel Exmor R sensor which is supposed to be excellent in low-light situations.  I'm not fond of using a flash, on any of my cameras... so this was something that caught my attention.  Along with the claimed f2.4, this should make the ray perfect for capturing events at concerts, clubs, parties, candle-lit dinners and other things that happen in the dark...

But does it really work well?  How does it fare against the previous generation X10 Mini Pro?  Against a decent point & shoot camera?

The following marco are shots taken in automatic mode.  Photos were not processed, but resized using Adobe Lightroom, minimal jpeg artifacts were added so that isn't really going to affect over-all photo quality.  **edit: my apologies, I forgot to mention, these are zoomed crops to show both the detail, and flaws of the camera.  Original uncropped photos can be viewed here.**

Panasonic Lumix ZS3
The first shot was taken using my Panasonic Lumix ZS3.  This is one of the better all-around point and shoots on the market with a focal range of 28-300mm and a Leica lens.  It shoots in 720p HD so this will also be the baseline for the video comparison.

Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro
This was taken using my X10 Mini Pro.  As you can see, colors are a bit washed out compared to the Lumix, but general detail is preserved.  A noteworthy observation is that the grill on the car looks more 'detailed' with the X10MP, but it's just heavier post processing on the phone's part.

Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
And finally, the shot taken using the Xperia ray.  Bokeh is slightly nicer on the ray... not by much, but if you look at the car in the background, the rims have stronger lens blur.  Color accuracy on the ray is also closer to the Lumix which is a plus.  I initially thought that the X10MP was sharper, but it turned out to just be stronger sharpening post processing.

With the absence of a dedicated camera button however, it is harder to take a shot with the ray.  Touch focus doesn't always work and can sometimes give a completely blurry shot.  Auto focus gives decent results most of the time, but limits compositional freedom.  Over-all the ray has a better camera, but without a dedicated camera button, it takes longer to take a shot.

Forget the front camera... it's sad.  Washed out and very soft focused.  Flashback to an 80's webcam.  It's there.  But don't expect iPod Touch/iPhone 4 quality video calls.  But there is hope for self-portrait fans.  Sony Ericsson's "Smile Detection" allows you to use the rear camera, then the phone automatically takes the shot when you smile.  Although this doesn't guarantee it's framed properly.

Now onto the video.  The Xperia ray records in 720p HD.  Movies are in the standard MP4 format and trimming recorded clips is possible on the phone itself.  I did find it nice that the phone records in stereo.  Utilizing the back mic for the left channel, and the phone mic for the right channel.  The odd position of the mics does create an issue for users that are unaware that both mics are on.  If you're holding the bottom part of the phone, you may be blocking the "right" mic and thus audio may sound weak.  Because the mics are farther apart than on most point and shoot cameras (like the Lumix ZS3), stereo separation does sound more prominent on the ray.

The following video was taken at night using only automatic settings.  This is how most people will be using the camera on this phone so I decided to make a direct comparison with the ZS3's HD capabilities as well.  Audio on the left channel is from the ray, audio on the right channel is from the ZS3.

As you can see, the Exmor R sensor does an excellent job of low light recording.  Not much noise is added, and detail is quite good.  Focusing is ok, but not great.  Clarity is still better on the ZS3 of course, but I would have more practical use for the ray's shots than the ZS3.  And a little post processing on the Xperia to improve black levels and the shots taken would actually look better than the ZS3.  Audio is decent for a device of it's size.  I didn't notice any weak audio, I suspect that early reports either had different firmware, or were accidentally covering the right channel mic with their hand.

Video verdict?  The Xperia ray is a very capable video recorder.  The Exmor R sensor does work and can be used in very difficult lighting situations.  Make sure you have a lot of storage though because HD video does chew up quite a bit of space.  I can now leave my ZS3 to the dedicated task of just scuba videos.  The Xperia ray will now be my everyday video device.

**A usability tip: There are different camera shortcuts that you can add to your homepage for easy access.  I added the Camera and Video Camera shortcut.  It may not be a dedicated button, but it's a lot easier than scrolling through a menu!**

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia ray Review: Part 2 - Pump Up The Volume!

After seeing how great the Xperia ray's screen in my Part 1 review was, naturally I wanted to check how good its media capturing capabilities are.  Does the Exmor R camera really deliver?  How's the audio during video recordings?  What about music and movie playback?  Or are they all just marketing stickers on the box?

First up, audio/music playback.  Test was conducted using the ff:

I decided to compare it against my X10 Mini Pro as a reference playback unit.  I used a 256kbps mp3 of Dave Brubeck's famous Take 5.  The results from switching from one playback system to another are:

  • Included headsets aren't great.  Better than Apple's stock earbuds, but not by much.  So I won't bother giving a detailed review of these.  But these choke the sound quality of the ray to about 40% of their capabilities.
  • The Xperia ray's volume is about ¾ of the X10 Mini Pro.  This makes it quite weak, even with efficient headsets.  Although volume levels are loud, some people may feel it isn't loud enough.  Personally I find it's well within the safe db levels of listening even at maximum volume.  I would however, recommend using a headphone amp.
  • Xperia ray has an annoying clicking while NOT playing any media, this can only be heard through my reference K240DFs, not the K324P or the included headphones.
  • The Xperia ray has much cleaner bass frequency response than the X10 Mini Pro, bass notes are fuller at lower frequencies without being muddy or overpowering.  Treble on the ray seems more balanced than on the X10MP, which may make the MP seem 'clearer'.
  • xLoud feature on the Xperia ray only affects the built-in speaker, and not headphone playback (good call!)
  • The X10 Mini Pro built-in speaker is much louder and much fuller than the Xperia ray.
  • Both the Xperia ray and Mini Pro built-in speakers sound 'clearer' than the X-Mini 2, albeit a lot weaker.
  • xLoud feature on the Xperia ray makes ringtones sound just as loud as the X10 Mini Pro.
  • Xperia ray built-in speaker sounds best 1 notch below maximum volume, at maximum volume, you get a resonant buzz from the casing of the phone itself... this resonant buzz is not present on the X10MP, I'm assuming this wasn't by design, but just basic acoustics.  The sheer volume of the X10MP gives the built-in speaker a larger 'cabinet' to work with thus making it sound fuller and louder.
  • EQ has a few presets, I'm not an EQ kind of guy, but they work better than the ones on the iPhone 4 or iPod Touch 4 which to me introduce way too much distortion.  The ray's EQ is acceptable... although I would still recommend leaving it flat for the best audio quality.

Over-all, I'd say the Xperia ray has average music playback capabilities.  Nothing bad, nothing great.  I find it cleaner and clearer than the older X10 Mini Pro, but the lack of volume output makes using a headphone amp almost necessary, which negates the convenience of a small phone.  Although using it in the car is quite nice and I prefer the output going into my car headunit.

It won't win any audiophile awards, but then again, neither will any mobile phone... will you be happy with the music playback capabilities?  I would say yes.  Unless you like listening to your music at ear-bleeding volumes, it's quite decent for most users.  It sounds better than the 2nd gen iPod Shuffle, but not as good as the iPod Touch 4.

Final verdict: Average music playback.  Decent frequency response and respectable bass extension.  Low volume output, not a deal-breaker, but some may find it a bit too soft.  The included earbuds aren't isolation buds so they do let in a lot of ambient sound, which drowns out the already weak volume of the ray.  So unless your unit came with the LiveSound headset, I'd seriously recommend getting a better pair of cans.

Next up - Say Cheese!  It's picture time!  The big deal behind Sony's Exmor sensor.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star...Trek...

Not to leave out my Trekkie friends...

Julie also made My Star Trek Quiet Book

No one is too young to join Starfleet!

Julie's future projects include Harry Potter, LOTR and the Beatles (Hey, looks like my friends Vic & Bex are next!)

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star...Wars...

A short break from tech reviews, I just wanted to blog about these baby books that I saw online.  For Nino, Michelle and Bella...

My Jedi Quiet Book was made by Julie.  It's one of the most adorably geeky baby books I've seen.  Perfect for the young Padawan!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia ray Supplemental Entry - My Weather App Widget

Ok, I've been getting quite a few inquiries on which weather app I use on my home screen...  Of all the things, I wasn't expecting my photo of my weather widget to get that much attention... but it is a beautiful app...I highly recommend it, and even purchasing it if you prefer the other skins only available in the Pro version! :)

It's called Fancy Widgets

Then I download the free MIUI weather skin,
and the free Fancy Digital Clock skin.

Sony Ericsson Xperia ray Review: Part 1 - The Screen

From my initial review of the Xperia ray, the next few entries will be a more in-depth review of each aspect of the phone.  This review will be about the Reality Display.

Since the death of my P1i, Android has been my mobile OS of choice.  The expandability and flexibility has met all my communication needs since Symbian's UIQ.  Now, it's been a little over a year since I got my Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro.  I've enjoyed having such a small phone, and all the new larger phones don't really appeal to me as much.  Which is what led me to the Xperia ray and it's 3.3" Reality Display.

With my new Xperia ray, the first feature you notice is the beautiful new screen, dubbed Reality Display.  With a pixel density of 297ppi, it's much higher than my X10 Mini Pro's 156ppi, and quite close to Apple's Retina Display of 326ppi.  (On a side note, PCs run at 72ppi, most Macs run at 96ppi and the Apple iPad runs at 132ppi.)  Which is just my way of saying, at this level...this IS nitpicking.)  This makes images and video look incredibly crisp and clear.  Combined with Sony Ericsson's Bravia Engine (which only works on video and photo playback), the Reality Display is the single most stunning feature of the ray.

The following are close-up shots of the ray's screen against the iPod Touch 4, and the X10 Mini Pro.

Xperia ray screen

iPod Touch 4 screen

X10 Mini Pro screen

iPod Touch 4 vs Xperia ray
Xperia ray vs X10 Mini Pro

The level of detail on the ray is quite high and comparable to Apple's Retina Display.  Although no one will ever really read text at these sizes, it does make pages and icons look sharper and more vivid.  It also has a tendency to have a warmer hue than both the Retina Display and the X10 Mini Pro.

The other great quality of the screen is the contrast.  Blacks are very nice and deep, thus making the other colors stand out very well.  If you look at the ray vs X10 Mini Pro, you'll see that the Mini Pro doesn't really show black, it's more of a dark gray.  Color rendition on the ray is quite excellent as well. Gradients are smooth and there isn't any noticeable banding.

Another great aspect of the screen is that Sony Ericsson has made it from Scratch Resistant Mineral Glass which keeps the display nice and new looking.  I wouldn't keep my phone in the same pocket as my keys, but I'm pretty sure it can handle daily wear and tear.  So no need for a screen protector.  Due to it's glossy nature, the ray's screen is a fingerprint magnet.  On that note, my X10 Mini Pro did have scratch resistant coating and it held up decently, but being a plastic screen, it does have micro scratches visible after only a year.

Now, some people are asking if the screen is too small.  It's not.  There are bigger screens out on the market, and there are smaller screens.  It all depends on what apps you intend to use often... if you use your mobile communicator as your primary entertainment device, then you will be better off with a larger screen... or even a small 7" tablet.  The 3.3" screen of the ray is more than adequate for surfing, email, SMS, and casual video playback .  Games are pretty decent to play... but the screen size does make finger accuracy an issue with Angry Birds... hahahaha...

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