A Message to Brunei Website Owners – Do you value money or people?

Step 1: Build website
Step 2: Fill page will ads
Step 3: ????
Step 4: Profit?!?!?!

My main issue is ads that seem to fill many Bruneian websites. I understand the need to make money, but when I see multiple and obtrusive ad spots all over your page, it really turns me off. To me, it conveys that you value the money from your advertisers more than you value my experience (as a customer / viewer) on your site. I’m sure everybody is familiar with one of the biggest offenders in Brunei which is BruDirect. Going to the page and I’m greeted with 4 huge ads and no content. I’m not sure how everybody else feels about it, but I for one tend to boycott these sites by not going to them.

I would also like to raise the question as to why so many Brunei websites do this and if there are any globally popular websites that do the same kind of obtrusive ad marketing. I personally can’t name any (perhaps because if I did run into it, I probably boycotting it =p). But either way, I would like to know your thoughts on this matter and, if you would be so kind, do answer the questions below and leave your reply in the comments. Add any additional remarks or comments as you wish.

  1. Do you find ad filled pages in Brudirect ok?
  2. Do you find them annoying?
  3. Do you still read the website?
  4. If you find them annoying and still read the website, why do you put up with it?
  5. How many ads is too much?

Note: I started this post several days back when I ran into a new website (can’t remember the exact URL) that had all those "Your-ad-here" spaces which seemed to litter the page. I’m not against ads as a whole, just website owners who seem it is best to fill the page with all of them. I took some time to let this post sit here so I can simmer down with my utter disdain for the act of ads littering a page. Maybe I’m too idealistic, maybe I just want a better experience when viewing websites or maybe I’m full of it. Let me know in the comments.

I’ve been Ubuntu’d, have you?

Ubuntu Logo

So I have finally made the full time switch to Ubuntu as OS X just doesn’t cut it for me any longer on this 2008 13″ MacBook Pro

Now I will miss things like the OS X trackpad integration and usability, OS X’s easy Internet Sharing and podcast tools such as LadioCast, CamTwist and Soundflower but I can always boot into OS X when it is needed thanks to rEFIt.

Some notable happiness items since I’ve switched from OS X to Ubuntu

  • Home, End, Page Up, Page Down now all work as they are supposed to (or rather as I’m used to)
  • The ease of window management by alt+dragging windows to move them is just so easy
  • Compiz Fusion plugins such as Wobbly windows and Ring Switcher and GUI tweaks/eye candy that I just can’t seem to get enough of. I don’t usually like eye candy for eye candy sake, but I guess it makes me happy (which I guess is what some people get from using OS X, but sadly I’m not one of them)
  • Compiz Fusion plugins such as scale and zoom that mimic OS X’s Expose and desktop zoom are nice usability features to have along with the Opacity plugin that let’s you make any window transparent. I use this quite a bit: to see text in the browser when I have the command lind / terminal full screen
  • The general speed and responsiveness is such a joy
  • Much faster sleep and wake times
  • Upgrade apps or the OS by just “apt-get upgrade” or “apt-get dist-upgrade” is just so convenient

Now not everything is all fine and dandy and some issues are:

  • Battery life taking a hit. This is probably due to Compiz Fusion effects but also that Linux is not typically good at power management.
  • Trackpad usability has taken a step down from OS X (right clicking with 2 fingers works but is not perfect and touch to click has a slightly longer delay than I would like
  • General lack of application support: no SugarSync / Evernote native clients
  • All in all, I think I’m a happier computer user not having to wait all the time for the operating system to catch up to me and beach balling me all the time. I would highly suggest everybody try Ubuntu, even if it is just for the fun of it (you can burn it to a CD or copy it to a USB drive and boot from there without needing to install it).

    Why I Won’t Recommend a *insert-manufacturer-here* Android Phone

    There is nothing worse that seeing a person get new gadget only to be disappointed in it after a while. While this post only covers a few aspects, I hope it helps inform of some things to look out for. This post is targeting more of the mid-range / high-end Android phones for several manufacturers based on some observations I’ve seen repeated over and over again.

    HTC

    • Typically only dual band UMTS support: meaning you may not be able to get 3G when overseas depending on the frequency used. There is nothing worse that having a great phone and not being able to get the maximum potential out of it, just because the manufacturer decided to save a bit of money by not giving you a better radio supporting more frequencies. Acceptable for budget devices, but not for midrange / high-end ones.
    • They seem to make a new flagship phone very quickly after one another or that their flagship phone is not really clear. For other manufacturers the flagship phone is typically the highest-end phone with the most capabilities and it is pretty clear which device it is.
      • Samsung – Galaxy S, Galaxy SII.
      • Sony Ericsson – Xperia X10, Xperia Arc.
      • Motorola – Droid / Milestone, Droid 2, Droid 3

      Based on Wikipedia Announced dates of previous HTC phones which I consider their flagship device:

    Sony Ericsson

    • I won’t recommend higher end phones because they have only 320MB for app storage (Arc, Neo, Pro, Ray). For budget phones like the Xperia Mini or Mini Pro this amount will be pretty good but not for mid-range or high-end phones. I think HTC has solved this problem with their higher end phones, but ask any HTC Desire owner now, and I bet they have been utterly annoyed at the meager 140MB+ free after a factor reset (now only 128MB after the Gingerbread update). Other competitors have at least 1GB, which I think is the absolute minimum acceptable.

    LG

    • Bad support: i.e. no updates. As an owner of the LG Optimus One there was first talk of it not being able to be upgraded to Android 2.3 a.k.a. Gingerbread, but then in December they said it would get the 2.3 upgrade. While it seemed to be rolled out in Romania at the start of July, it is still not available to me. Note that this is their budget phone and according to the Facebook note the higher end models like the Optimus 2X will receive the update only after the Optimus One update is completed. So would this continue in the future? Higher end LG phones get updated after the budget ones?

    Acer

    Any Manufacturer that doesn’t use stock Android

    • This is mainly due to the fact official updates will take longer if they do not use stock Android, meaning that they have customized things such as the launcher or interface (e.g. HTC’s Sense UI, Samsung’s TouchWiz). This is due to the fact that they would have to update their customizations before pushing the upgrade. There was a long delay for the HTC Desire to get Android 2.2 which would aid the lower app storage space by allowing moving apps to the SD card.

    Samsung, Motorola and Huawei are the other main Android manufacturers that I don’t really have any beef against. There is a mention of Samsung breaking some core functionality but that is for any non-stock Android device and so far there doesn’t seem to me much complaints / responses to the post so may be an non-issue or affects a small minority (or people just think Android is broken), but is is something to note.

    All being said and done, while some manufacturers have issues with their devices they can still be recommended based on price and your usage scenarios. Below are some phones I do recommend based on the different price ranges.

    B$200 – B$300: LG Optimus One @ B$250 (a bit old, don’t expect updates)
    B$300 – B$400: Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro @ B$368 (my current budget phone recommendation)
    B$400 – B$500: HTC Chacha @ B$418 (no competition in this price range)
    B$500 – B$600: HTC Desire S @ B$562, Samsung Galaxy S Plus @ B$578 (no flash)
    B$600 – B$700: HTC Incredible S @ B$612, Samsung Galaxy Tab @ B$648 (a tablet and phone and thus bulky)
    B$700 – B$800: HTC Sensation @ B$758
    B$800 – B$900: Samsung Galaxy SII @ B$858

    Corner Geeks 9: Live Streaming setup for Ran8adidas

    Corner Geeks Logo beta 2
    MP3 link (right click > Save Link As…)

    Show Notes

    What we wanted

    • Live streaming of the event
    • Video
      • multiple cameras if possible
      • perhaps one overview shot
      • one on-the-go camera following events like the Twitter hunt. Follow contestants around “Amazing Race” style
    • Sound
      • clean sound from the mixer for opening ceremony / speeches
      • also want to capture atmosphere/sound around the camera
    • Internet
      • need for streaming
      • simplest of them all. 3G dongle
    • Master control at the laptop controllilng the stream / switching audio and video accordingly

    Mobile video

    • DSLR / camcorder approach:
      • Possible but need wireless transmitters making it cumbersome
      • DSLR sensor limited time
    • Keep-it-Simple-Stupid approach:
      • Use smartphones with Wifi and cameras
      • Small, simple, only need wireless access point if needed
      • Possible to attach external microphone to device for interviews
      • Advantages
        • Can move around freely
        • Requires no additional hardware for video capture hardware on computer.
        • Fairly cheap and easy to setup if you already have the devices (more people have smartphones now)
      • Disadvantages
        • Latency
        • Lower quality?
        • Potentially unreliable connection vs wires? Wireless inteference. Network going down?
        • No zoom!
      • Mobile Video apps

        • IP Webcam
          • Android
          • Free
          • Starts a webserver on camera device. Accessible from any computer on the network. View and listen in a browser
        • PocketCam (Desktop software)

          • iOS / Android
          • US$4.99 / BND$6
          • Windows or OS X software to be installed on the host
          • Creates video and audio device driver on host. Once connected access like a webcamera and USB mircophone
          • Audio lag!
        • WebCamera
          • iOS / Blackbery / WinMo / Symbian
          • US$2.99 / US$19.95 / US$19.95 / US$9.95
          • Works similar to PocketCam: Windows or OS X software to be installed on the host
          • Used iOS version that can take video and photo from camera and it will send it to host computer
        • There are other apps for Android and iOS but many do not provide audio which is what we wanted
      • Multiple Camera feasibility study
        • IP Camera: separate VLC instance for each video and each audio for each camera. Gets complicated very fast
        • Pocket Camera / WebCamera: only one PocketCamera / Webcamera host software allowed to run at one time on one machine
        • Not possible to use multiple cameras using only one app. Mixer and match is possible
        • Needed proper communication between in-the-field camera user and master control

    Sound

    • Input from mixer via line-in on laptop (not don’t have get a USB sound card)
    • LadioCast for audio mixing and piping of audio. Can even monitor sound without sending it to live stream

    Internet

    • Needed wireless coverage
    • Used iPod Touch as a WiFi signal monitor. Activated voice control, tap the wireless signal to hear the strength level (probably there is an app for this but did not explore)
    • To forgoe a 3G router: OS X Internet sharing (Connetify.me for Windows)

    Other things we used

    • Phone holder to tripod mount
    • Tripod: can place camera in certain places. Can extend tripod to get different angles
    • Charging cables! Must remember to charge mobile devices. iPod Touch 4G lasted about 2 hours of streaming

    Final Setup

    • iOS Webcamera easiest to work with
    • CamTwist to add overlays
    • Ladiocast to pipe audio. Connected to mixer when needed. Add microphone from the mobile cameras when interviewing / asking questions
    • Tripod to place camera so no need to be there
    • uStream to send out stream and record it

    Other Considerations

    • Phone upgrades:
    • Have a sign that says, “we’re streaming live”. While recording I was thinking of the implications of this for privacy
    • Have a dedicated chat room to interact with the viewers. At least had a screen of some hashtag that we could sometimes show on twitter.
    • Get better upstream for better video and audio
    • Have a dedicated screen / projector / laptop on our booth showing what’s streaming.

    Asus EeePad Transformer

    I came to know of the EeePad Transformer’s existence in Brunei via Goh De No’s article in the Brunei Times last week. The Transformer is an Android tablet but also a ‘laptop/notebook’ with the keyboard dock that adds functionality to make this an interesting device.

    Specifications

    • Android 3.1 (according to Goh De No in the Brunei Times article)
    • 10.1" IPS screen at resolution of 1280×800
    • NVIDIA® Tegra™ 2
    • 1GB RAM
    • microSD card slot
    • miniHDMI
    • Keyboard Dock provides
      • keyboard + trackpad
      • 2 x USB 2.0
      • 1 x full size card Reader (MMC/SD/SDHC)
      • added battery to charge the slate

    More specification details at: ASUS’s Transformer page

    Price: B$899 for the 16GB version with the keyboard dock at C.F. King in Kiulap (no non-bundled price available)

    Android 3.2 is available to this device via the Transformer’s download page and thus adds better functionality and compatibility with applications developed for phones with the new ‘zoom’ mode. This should scale applications up just like the iPad does for iPhone apps. While phone apps should install and run on Honeycomb tablets, the layout may look weird or even broken and this feature should resolve it.

    While I’m saddened that CF King did not offer a price without the keyboard dock, the Transformer is a device that can have some productivity uses with the keyboard dock which allows the device to be used for up to 16 hours (the other 8 hours in the day can be used for sleep!). Damien from Carrypad is actually trying to use the Transformer as an enterprise productivity device and I’m curious to see the outcome of his experiment. Coincidentally he has just posted an article about week 1 of the Transformer usage.

    Another thing interesting about the Transformer is that it will have a dongle to convert the HDMI to VGA output: a great tool if you wish to use it for presentations on the move, as VGA is still much more compatible and widely available on projectors. I believe this is the only other tablet besides the iPad that has VGA output and is something I would recommend for teachers or anybody else who gives presentations and wants to have a minimal yet functional setup with them.

    Read full reviews of the Transformer at LaptopMag, AnandTech, Carrypad (Part 2 here) and Engadget. If you’re interested in the device I suggest heading down to CF King and have a go at the device. One of their staff, Poh, is a nice and friendly guy there, I’m sure he could help you out.

    For other innovating / whacky tablets from ASUS keep a look out for the 10" Eee Pad Slider, 7" Eee Pad MeMO 3D or the 10" pad and 4.3 phone that make up the Padfone. One thing is for sure, none of ASUS Android tablets are typical. As the fore father of the netbook with the Eee PC I salute you!

    Gadgets can be Cheaper in Brunei

    We all hear of how people go overseas to buy gadgets as they are cheaper overseas. While that could most typically be true, it is important to point out there things can be cheaper in Brunei. Thanks to online retailers we can even check the prices in the comfort of our own room. Below are a 2 devices I found cheaper in Brunei than in Singapore.

    While these may be outliers it is worth a shot to check prices to get the best deal. Below are the few places I check with respect to phone prices and if you guys have any others do leave them in the comments.

    P.S. Getting devices overseas, while at times cheaper, can also be an inconvenience if something goes wrong and you want it replaced / repaired. Manufacturers warranties should be fine and could be brought into a local branch if they exist in Brunei. If not you may have to go back to the shop you bought it from or send it to a manufacturer overseas adding to inconvenience.

    The HTC Flyer

    We managed to get our hands on the HTC Flyer at Yappe Computer, Serusop, and it seems like a good 7" Android Tablet: an alternative to the older Galaxy Tab. It’s selling for B$859 (cash price) / B$886 (credit card price) for the 32GB model.


    (YouTube link to video)

    Specifications

    • 7" 1024×600 multi-touch capacitive screen
    • Stylus for use with the active digitizer screen
    • Android 2.3 with Sense 2.1
    • 1.5GHz CPU
    • 32GB storage (~7GB available for apps, ~20GB available as storage)
    • 1GB RAM
    • microSD card slot
    • 5MP rear camera with auto focus (no flash)
    • 1.3MP front facing camera
    • Standard micro-USB (no HDMI out)
    • Wifi: 802.11 b/g/n
    • Bluetooth 3.0
    • Audio supported formats:
      • Playback: .aac, .amr, .ogg, .m4a, .mid, .mp3, .wav, .wma (Windows Media Audio 9)
      • Recording: .amr, .aac
    • Video supported formats:
      • Playback: .3gp, .3g2, .mp4, .wmv (Windows Media Video 9), .avi (MP4 ASP and MP3), .xvid (MP4 ASP and MP3)
      • Recording: .3gp
    • Battery: 4000 mAh
    • Supports Adobe Flash

    (Specifications from HTC Flyer Website, GSM Arena)

    Notes on the Stylus

    • works in apps that support it otherwise touching the screen takes a screenshot that you can annotate
    • cannot be used to ‘touch’ all controls / buttons only digitizer palette brought up by touching the icon with the digitizer (not your finger)
    • requires a single AAAA (yes 4 As) battery which I have not seen in shops
    • has 2 buttons: 1 highlights text, other erases

    Bundled HTC Apps

    • Notes application syncs to Evernote and allows infinite vertical scrolling. Allows text input, photo embedding, handwriting annotation as well as voice dictation
    • Reader application is a reading app linked with Kobo for in app purchasing
    • Watch application allows renting and buying of movies (but doesn’t seem available in Brunei, thus can only watch previews/trailers)

    Other Notes
    While it is a 7" Gingerbread (2.3) tablet instead of Honeycomb (3.x, which is the tablet optimized version of Android) it seems to be the better choice at the moment as apps will run on it with the only issue may be the way it looks. Currently is only one 7" Honeycomb tablet: the Acer Iconia Tab A100 and it was released yesterday. It is the first device to have Android 3.2 which is supposed to provide better support for 7" tablets compared to the regular bigger 10" Honeycomb tablets. However there seem to be some force close issues and app incompatibilities reported by This Is My Next and ZDnet (i.e. more work for the developer to fix problems).

    On the entertainment side it supports 720p video playback, supports quite a few file formats and codecs but there is no HDMI output unless you get the dock to use with the extended microUSB connector on the flyer. The HTC Watch app is a nice feature but not being available here makes it of no use. For office use, there is support for Microsoft Office documents that allows editing with normal text entry and even the stylus (however, not all file formats are editable). Battery life seems a bit mixed with the Engadget review being impressed by it while TechRadar and CNET UK rated it has having bad battery life. BGR and Android Central give it decent battery life with typical use of 2 days per charge.

    Summary
    While I wished they didn’t remove the calling ability of the device, the usability of the pen to annotate and take notes is pretty appealing. A good alternative to the Galaxy Tab if you don’t plan to use it for calling. Smaller and more portable than an iPad it is made more for mobility. The main reason to get this device is the active digitizer and stylus combo or if you just wish for a tablet faster than the Galaxy Tab whose age is showing. Nice to see HTC innovate with the Flyer and hope to see more with the upcoming Puccini, their shot at the 10" tablet category.

    Creating a Brunei Apple App Store Account Without a Credit Card

    As mentioned in our episode of Corner Geeks 8: The Brunei Apple App Store, the video below documents how to create a Brunei account without a credit card.

    Do note:

    1. not all apps seem available (e.g. WhatsApp) but most seem there.
    2. no music / movies / TV shows available
    3. AV mentioned that they currently selling Brunei iTune gift cards

    The gist of the process:

    1. Load the App Store in iTunes
    2. Search for a free app (e.g. Angry Birds)
    3. Download the free app
    4. Sign up from the dialog box
    5. Select "None" as a "Payment Method" section during the registration

    I still think getting a US iTunes Account is still the best option as it is completely unrestricted. You can create a US account without a credit card, using the same method above but select US instead of Brunei. You will need to buy gift cards online though, and I have bought iTune gift cards from both PC Game Supply and Jerry Cards with good results so thus far. See which works best for you and join the ecosystem that has yet to be rivaled (especially outside the US).

    Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro – a Great Budget Android Phone?

    Among my usual habits, I will check availability and prices of phones on Incomm and I was surprised to see the Xperia Mini Pro going for B$378.

    This phone seems to be a phone I would buy, if I didn’t buy my LG Optimus One, as a great budget Android phone which seems to have the least compromises. Check out the video that I managed to get at Incomm as I played with the device.

    Notable Specifications

    • Android 2.3 Gingerbread: the current major version of Android of phones
    • Connectivity: 3G (HSDPA 7.2Mbps, HSUPA 5.76Mbps), WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1
    • 3" HVGA (320×480) screen: a bit small in size but good resolution that is widely supported by all apps
    • Slide out landscape QWERTY keyboard
    • 1GHz Snapdragon CPU with Adreno 205 GPU
    • 512MB RAM
    • 400MB for apps (according to GSM Arena): a bit small but acceptable for a budget phone and sadly (for Arc users) it is the same amount as the Arc based on Sony’s specs which says up to 320MB (Arc vs Mini Pro)
    • 5MP rear camera with autofocus, flash and 720p video recording (auto focus while recording video, recorded in mp4 encoded with h264, aac)
    • VGA front facing camera for video calls
    • Supports Adobe Flash
    • Plays 720p videos (mp4 encoded with h264,aac)
    • Can open PDFs and Microsoft Office documents (doc,docs,xls,xlsx,ppt,pptx)
    • microSD support up to 32GB
    • 1200mAh battery

    Full specifications at Sony Ericsson or GSM Arena

    I really like that this budget phone seems to have practically no compromises for a budget phone: there doesn’t seem to be any major show stoppers. Most budget phones will have no front facing cameras and won’t have cameras that can record 720p. A budget phone won’t have a keyboard nor a 1GHz CPU. The CPU couple with a GPU and sufficient RAM should ensure this device is smooth and usable for the regular user.

    The main issue is the small 3" size of the screen (iPhone: 3.5", Optimus One & Wildfire S: 3.2", Galaxy Mini: 3.14"): a small size coupled with a high resolution may make some text small to read and will make using the onscreen keyboard a bit difficult. Thankfully there is a physical keyboard on the Xperia Mini that should help alleviate this (as long as the keyboard is good and usable). Also the smaller 1200mAh battery (vs 1500mAh of the Optimus One) may give it less battery life, but that also depends on the amount of work being done: with a better CPU, the same amount of work may require less energy from the Xperia Mini. I guess we’ll just have to wait for more in-depth reviews with battery life scores and this is the main unknown factor at the moment. Another compromise would possible be the UMTS frequency band support with it only being dual (900/2100) or triband (800/1900/2100) depending on where it is purchased but I don’t think this will affect many. Most of these issues/compromises are acceptable for a budget device.

    With that said, I think I could tentatively highly recommend this phone to users but only after they take a look at it and try to use the keyboard and check to see if the text is too small on the device; and also after some battery life tests are published – all the features are of no use if the battery life is bad. From my use with it, the screen and text size seem fine but my fat thumbs did have a bit of an issue with typing. It could play 720p video, Flash video and even edit office documents. Overall a snappy device and I’m just very impressed at what Sony Ericsson managed to pack on this device hitting all the right check boxes giving the user minimal compromises. Great job Sony Ericsson, now improve your higher end devices!

    Sample Photos (note front camera was covered with a thin plastic film):

    Sample Video from rear camera:

    B-Mobile Launches ‘Multi-SIM’ Service

    It has finally happened, we have a Multi-SIM service here in Brunei thanks to B-Mobile (Read the Borneo Bulletin article at Brudirect). Multi-SIM basically allows you to clone your SIM card to put in another device. This is great for people with 3G enabled devices: e.g. iPad 3G, Galaxy Tab, etc and want to be able to make calls / use data on those devices without having to sign up for another phone number or resorting to the tedious task of switching SIM cards.

    There is a monthly subscription fee of $8 per SIM card and there are 3 configurations of the service:

    1. Multi IMSI i.e. primary SIM rings only;
    2. Simultaneously i.e. both primary and secondary SIMS ring at the same time; and,
    3. Orderly i.e. primary rings first. If rejected, busy, switched off or not answered, then the secondary will ring.

    Multi-SIM is applicable for the following plans:

    Sadly multi-SIM is not applicable for plans with unlimited data (e.g. Postpaid ZOOM $60 Unlimited & Post-paid Smart plan $65). There is no mention of OMNI users but since it’s an unlimited plan, I presume that it will not be supported either. I guess B-Mobile is worried that people will subscribe to the multi-SIM service and use the SIMs in an unlimited data fashion and thus would congest the network.

    As an a subscriber to OMNI, I hope B-Mobile could consider another plan for users with unlimited data plans: single SIM get you unlimited data, multi-SIM gets a cap (of perhaps 200GB free beyond which they will pay per amount used as the non-unlimited data plans pay). This would at least give users with unlimited data plans an option to subscribe to this multi-SIM service and not be left out with the convenience that it brings.

    So now with B-Mobile supporting this, I wonder if DST will follow