Category Archives: This-and-That

Browser OS – the future of personal computing

I was quite impressed with the idea and implementation of Chrome OS last year although I ended up giving up the Chromebook for a new Macbook Air. For me, the reason why I gave up the Chromebook was less about the failure of the OS but rather the shortcoming of the physical hardware. I still believe that Chrome OS is the future of computing. So when Google announced new Chromebooks this year, I was eager to try out the new hardware to see how they would fair with new hardware.

Handwriting for the Android version of Evernote has arrived

Evernote has finally released pen capability for the Android app. The Evernote desktop version for Windows had this ability when they first came and iOS users of the Evernote app have had this capability through Penultimate for a while now. However, it was only recently that Android users finally got a version of the Evernote app that would support pen capability. This was big news for me as the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is my primary mobile device – it’s the device that I use the most. Continue reading Handwriting for the Android version of Evernote has arrived

Todoist – an easy way to productivity

Todoist has become my favourite To Do list after trying a few in my quest for better productivity in the past year. I love the product because it’s simple, intuitive to use and also fits on how I use it everyday. One of the biggest selling factors for me is how interoperable Todoist for me. I’ve always looked for services that are ubiquitous – I demand that my solutions don’t tie me down to any hardware or platform. This means that interoperability for me is key. I love that I can use Todoist on my phone, on my tablet and on my desktop extremely seamlessly.

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2013: A Retrospective

I really like the Scrum retrospective format that I used last year so I decided to use it again this year 🙂 One of the things that I really like about Scrum is the focus on continuous improvement. The retrospective is one the easiest way to allow me to focus on the things I accomplished last year and also think about the changes I want to do for the following year.

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Replacing the Samsung Series 3 with a Macbook Air 2013

Although I really enjoyed my Samsung Series 3 Chromebook, I decided to recently replace it with a 2013 Macbook Air. The reason why I first got the Chromebook was because I wanted something light and cheap to port around to do basic surfing while I was away from the office. Over time, I felt that I needed something that could do more. I bought my Macbook Air as a replacement for my Chromebook and a supplement for my Macbook Pro. I use it as a secondary machine; something that I would be able to use when I’m not at my desk and still feel like I can adequately complete all of the things that I need to do including communicating via Google Hangout, edit documents as well as do some hard core development when needed.

Macbook Air 2013
Macbook Air Unboxing

Continue reading Replacing the Samsung Series 3 with a Macbook Air 2013

The Spare Capacity Economy

I recently came across in a Facebook ad and it caught my interest. It’s another example of something I describe as the Spare Capacity Economy – the marketplace of individuals selling unused resources such as a spare room or unused electronics. The concept in itself is not new; Craiglist, Kijiji and eBay and to a lesser degree have been the dominant players in this space and the space has remained stagnant for quite a while until the emergence of AirBnB. AirBnB is the iPhone of this space – it has turned this space by making it cool to share your space. Outside of AirBnB, there are some interesting and exciting services that have launched recently.

Continue reading The Spare Capacity Economy

Jailbreaking versus Rooting

The topic of jailbreaking and rooting is a hotly debated one for those who are ardent users of iOS ecosystem and Android ecosystem respectively. I’ve used both extensively with a strong preference towards the Android system.

At first glance, both jailbreaking an Apple iPhone and an Android phone accomplishes the same thing – it gives a user access to functionality that isn’t provided and sometimes unintended by default by Google and Apple respectively.

In order to appreciate the difference, you first have to look at not only the product approach each company has taken but also the the mobile phone industry as well. At a very high level, here’s what happens:

  • The OS provider creates the OS and provides it to the manufacturer
  • The manufacturer creates the device, develops the appropriate drivers, loads the OS and loads additional software to differentiate itself from other manufacturers using the same OS and then sells the device to a telecom provider
  • Telecom provider locks the phone and adds their own software to differentiate themselves from other telecomproviders

Apple is in a position where they are both the OS creator and the manufacturer. Where they are truly unique is with the volume of sales, they are able to determine what software is pre-loaded by the telecom provider as well. While Google does own Motorola, they have yet to release native Android OS on Motorola handsets. They have reserved that for their Nexus lines of phones.

So that the context is set, here’s the gist of the difference.

From an end user perspective, Android is probably as open as it can reasonably get from an end-user perspective. Here are some examples of it’s openness:

  • The ability to change your launcher.
    Many people who are new to Android think that the main screen where you see is static to your phone. For instance, Samsung is famous for its TouchWiz launcher and HTC is famous for its Sense UI. However, there are many other launchers that you can load – Apex and Nova to name two of the more popular ones and you can do this out of the box. Apex and Nova lets you do many things including change how many icons you can load on each screen
  • Change your keyboard
    Don’t like the default keyboard? Change it – you can buy SwiftKey or TouchPal from the store. You can change this without rooting your phone
  • Change your own app store
    Some of the manufacturers have their own app store and Amazon has their own as well. You can load Amazon’s app store
  • Side-load apps
    So if an app is not in any app store like for instance Swype (my favourite keyboard for Android still), you can always download it from their site, uncheck a safety setting (do this at your own risk), load it and run it

Manufactures like HTC actually freely give you the ability to root your phone without hassle although by doing so, it would automatically void your warranty. As open as Android is, there are a number of scenarios why you would want to root your phone. The first one is that unfortunately, you can’t delete the pre-loaded apps out of the box. The only way of getting rid of them is to root the phone and then delete them. The second big one is getting the latest and greatest versions of Android before the manufacturer puts them out. You could also do things like change kernels and tweak memory but I find that Android for the most part does that well enough on its own without interference from me.

Apple’s philosophy is different. At it’s core, the primary objective for Apple is to give all of its end-users the best experience. In order to achieve that, it has to be able to have almost complete control over their product by limiting what you can use.

You have to jailbreak a phone to allow you to

  • Unlock your phone
  • Enable multi-tasking
  • Change any of the default apps like your dialer, etc
  • Change your default UI

My conclusion is that one is not necessarily better than the other. It’s really what your goals are for your phone. The one thing that is obvious though – you can do a lot more with your Android phone out of the box without rooting than you can with an iPhone.

* Edit made based on Jason’s comment.

2012: A Retrospective

It’s been a while since I last wrote a year in review for myself but looking back, 2012 was a year with a lot of changes both personally and professionally. Although for the purpose of this blog, I’d probably focus mostly on the more professional aspects of my life – don’t want to bore people to tears after all. Just for kicks, I thought I’d write my 2012 year in review in the form of a scrum retrospective 😀

Continue reading 2012: A Retrospective

Google Apps – Can it beat out Microsoft in the Enterprise in the long term?

I recently read this post through my google feed titled Google Still Doesn’t Get How to Beat Microsoft Office a while ago and thought this would be a great segway to some observations I had about Google Apps. For some context, I’m an avid Google Apps user. I use it for my personal domains (i.e. for both my business as well as my private domains) as well as professionally in an enterprise setting. The feedback in general are mixed like most things – some people love it, some people are ambivalent about it and some people loathe it. No real surprises there. I’m in the camp of those who really like it. Although I have Microsoft Office installed on every device I have – I even pay for a TechNet license so that I can always have the latest and greatest software available – but I find myself using it less and less for most things. For the most part, my needs can be met by using the word processor, spreadsheet and, yes, even the presentation app that they have. They are no where as good as Microsoft Office but for me they do the job. Even more importantly for me, no one has yet to complain when I either share with them my document either in through Google Docs or through the attached documents.

I’m working for a relatively young company now – we’ve been existence for less than a couple of years but we’re striving to grow. While I’m a tech-head, I would say most of my colleagues aren’t but they aren’t afraid of tech either. I suspect that we’re the sort of company that Google is targeting for and it’s a smart play, in my opinion. I suspect that many new tech startups use Google Apps as their default enterprise collaboration software because it’s free and relatively painless to set up. You get a whole bunch of really powerful tools to go with it even if you didn’t intend to use it to start. There are better tools in market than any of the Google Apps products but nothing easier to set up and nothing that works more seamlessly together. This is actually very similar to the Microsoft Office strategy back in its heyday. In a lot of ways, it’s actually a smart play not to worry about backwards compatibility. In the market that Google seems to be addressing, it’s not high on the priority list. And it’s actually one of the things that have persistently hindered Microsoft from growing as quickly as it needed because it was constantly going back to ensure software was compatible to products that are sometimes more than a decade old. In technology, that’s at least 5 generations old – it’s like trying to ensure that we can support horse buggies today.

In short, Google isn’t playing to win in the short term. Google seems to be attacking Microsoft but not head-on. It’s betting on the future and I think it’s a smart bet. It seems to be doing tactically and strategically. It also shows that Google knows it target market and isn’t wasting it’s effort on features that aren’t nearly as relevant as other things in the pipeline for them. I’d love to actually see some stats on this to see if my hypothesis holds.

The Battle for Tablets is not over

Somehow people have associated the death of WebOS as the final victory of Apple in the Tablet War. I believe that the war has hardly begun. It wasn’t so long ago when Android phones were greatly lagging Apple’s iPhone and today it accounts between 40% to 60% of the smartphone market share depending on whose data you use. I’m by no means suggesting that Android will repeat the same success; just merely that history shows us that it is too early to tell.

I suspect what we’ll see is that Apple will continue to be a big part of the entire market but other manufacturers will erode a pretty big chunk of that share; Apple sits at 80% of higher of the share of tablets today. This will be driven largely because people want choice and have different needs. Apple has one way of solving people’s needs; other manufacturers will find solutions for other needs. I am hoping that the patent issues will be resolved without the sacrifice to innovation. Otherwise countries like the US will be the poorer for it.