Sunday, 28 February 2010

Ooh, I Think You'll Like This.

I know I keep blabbering on about my blog (, for the uninitiated/new Facebook friends), and how few visitors I get over there because my blog posts get syndicated onto Facebook.

Well, just to keep my blog alive, I'm doing some minor updates to the blog skin.

Well, when I say minor, it's actually quite significant, as you can see, when you get there.

a) widened the text area, and 
b) really centred the text, rather than just fixing it at a certain number of pixels away from the left, regardless of screen size. Also,
c) this new layout should be more iPhone-friendly, too (I hope). I'm increasing the text size just to make it more readable and touch-able. Oh, and just to haunt myself every time I visit my blog, 
d) I posted my 2010 Resolutions on the 'frontpage' section.

Hope you like the changes!

Friday, 26 February 2010

On the iPlayer and the whiny cinema directors.

Just been flipping through today's papers. Read one article that got me flipping (i.e.: upset), and another that gave me an idea.

First, the flipper.

If you haven't heard, some cinemas in Europe have chosen to boycott Tim Burton's latest creation, an adaptation of "Alice In Wonderland". The reason? Because Disney Studios were planning on releasing the movie on DVD 12 weeks after the release of the movie, instead of the standard 17 weeks. Odeon, one of the largest movie chains in the UK, gave the excuse that they've invested into the latest 3D technology, and now Disney is ruining their game by pushing ahead with an earlier DVD release. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but from what I know, you don't get 3D on a DVD, and even if you do get it on a Blu-Ray, the typical consumer still can't enjoy it in the full 3D experience. So what has Odeon got to worry about? Why are they so afraid of people not going to the cinema just because they know the DVD version will be out earlier?

Just to clarify, most movies stop screening in a cinema by the 12th week. Then consumers hear nothing about the movie until its DVD release. From the studio's perspective, I understand why they want to try and get the movie onto DVD earlier - so they can take advantage of the momentum etc. But what about the cinemas? Why did they choose to go so far as to boycott a hotly-tipped movie, jsut because it'll come out on DVD earlier? I mean, do what you like, but it'll be a lose-lose situation. If the cinemas don't screen the movie, they lose out on revenue. People don't get to enjoy the movie in 3D. The creators don't get to share their hard work with anyone except themselves. Then the studio don't earn anything from the box offices. But they can still sell the DVDs, and consumers get a compromise - they get the DVD and not the 3D, but with the added benefit of a lower price.

Bottom line: European cinema executives are arrogant control-freaks who don't know how to do business.

Now let's move on before I erupt into a mega-rant.

I was reading an article on how the BBC heads might be scaling back the corporation. Amongst the things mentioned (e.g.: cutting Radio 6 Music, axeing 25% of the web team), one that caught my eyes was their plan to somehow halve the iPlayer site.

Now, the article didn't mention how this was goign to be executed, but as a tech-head, I thought I could offer some suggestions to the Beeb on ways it could streamline and improve the iPlayer.

Firstly, HTML 5. They must start looking into the future. Google has started experimenting with HTML 5, so much so that they actually abandoned their efforts in Google Gears (their application to let users use the other Google Apps, such as Google Docs, offline) as their sign of confidence in HTML 5 as the web standard of the future. I can go on about the benefits of HTML 5, but honestly, I think the iPlayer must get off Flash. It cripples people's computers, especially with the HD programmes, and it's not open.

Secondly, the encoding. The BBC already has H.264 streams for the iPhone and many other mobile devices. If it could somehow reduce the number of files they host, such that there's one version that's suitable for various platforms, I think they could save on not just the amount of data required to run iPlayer, but also the encoding time to get from tape to web. Think about it -

  • one encoding for the Mobile (iPhone/iPod/Blackberry/Android/PSP/Archos) platform,
  • one for the desktop/SD platform (PC/Mac/PS3/Wii),
  • and one for the HD-ready (PC/Mac/PS3).
In this way, each show only needs 2-3 versions (Mobile H.264, SD H.264, HD H.264), instead of the multiple versions we have now:
  • iPhone OS,
  • Windows DRM for WinMo/Archos,
  • Wii iPlayer,
  • Flash webpage,
  • Adobe Air,
  • HD Flash webpage,
  • HD Adobe Air,
  • etc. ...

Thirdly, host elsewhere. Get deals with YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook to host your content. Offload some of the burden on third-party video content companies. Channel 4 has already done so by putting up their shows on YouTube. The BBC should try doing the same if it wants to reduce its own bandwidth costs.

Well, these are just a couple of ideas that twirled in my head. Of course, there will be the issue of control - DRM, piracy, and the BBC's strange 7-days-before-we-remove-this-content policy. But if Apple could put DRM on digital music, surely the BBC can make sure only license fee-payers get access to those YouTube streams...

Well, that's just my penny's worth...

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Maybe I should

pose Ryan Lee by posting really short, 1-sentence blog posts to inflate the number of blog posts that I published this year.

Why do I take these New Year Resolutions so seriously?! Urgh!

What to do...

Right, I need help to decide on something. Me being the indecisive person that I am, I'm having problems planning on what on earth I'll be doing this Easter break.

I have 2 weeks off (26 March - 11 April), but I know certain things are confirmed:
-Moving stuff on 1 April
-Packing stuff prior to 1 April
-Easter Service around Easter

And that's about it.

I'm thinking of visiting a number of places - Manchester, Portsmouth, London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, or maybe even outside the UK (Amsterdam, Switzerland, US?) But the thing is that I have no idea what to do in these places (other than London and Portsmouth, since I've been to these places before).

So, if you can help with suggestions, do comment/tag. If not, pretend I'm thinking out loud here.

So many things I want to do, yet so little time...

Monday, 22 February 2010

That darn New Year's Resolution...

First thing I want to get out there - I'm giving up coffee for Lent. 

Also, because I kind-of added this as an after-thought, I'm also forbidding myself from anything above 6 units of alcohol over the 40 days. It's not a complete ban, because I had alcohol during communion, and I drank on day 1 of Lent (Owl City concert). 

To put into perspective, the UK government's limit is 2-3 units a day, and 21 units a week. 10ml of alcohol = 1 unit. So far, I've done 4.1375 units. So, let's see how far I'd go!

Ok, back on topic...

I'm trying to think of how I should execute my plans for the short film project. In the first place, I haven't even drawn up a really concrete plan. And the fact that I've got school + "work" to juggle with kind-of isn't helping either. So that might be one new year resolution that I'll have to put on hold for now.

On a related note, I'm thinking of investing in a Yamaha Tenori-on and Akai APC 20 as my mixing rig. But these'll probably have to wait a while, as I try to clear my personal budget deficit from my iPhone app.

Oh yeah, should probably explain. I use this iPhone app to manage my expenses for each week. Normally, I set myself a certain amount a week for my expenses - food, clothings, books, gadgets, phone top-ups, music downloads, iPhone apps, you name it. I record my transactions (approximately) and make sure I try not to go over the set budget. Hey, if I want to be an accountant/auditor, I have to be good with my own finances, right? 

Anyway, I kind-of went on a spending frenzy last week, because I had to pay off in advance for my practical driving test - I don't have my own car, and even if I do, I'm not allowed to drive on my own because my provisional license means I must be accompanied, so I'll have to use a driving school. That aside, I bought new clothes (really loving this short-sleeved hoodie shirt that I got from Topman). And I did some retail therapy on my birthday (a DJ book and a lomocam).

Man, I really need to stop this BBB syndrome.

Oh, btw, have you checked out my YouTube channel recently? I uploaded the videos from the Owl City & Lights concert. Be warned though, sound quality's rubbish. But visually, it's better than most camera-phone videos out there (because it's shot on an iPhone).

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Tip of the moment: HTML 5 Youtube

Not quite sure how many of you have heard, but YouTube has introduced HTML5 onto their site not too long ago. This is actually great news for people who are getting sick and tired of Flash eating up CPU cycles.

So, what's the difference? Well, for one, you're substituting Adobe Flash, a proprietary technology that's developed by Adobe, with HTML5, a open standard for web design. One major benefit of HTML5 is that because it's more up-to-date and designed with today's internet usage in mind, it's geared better towards things like YouTube HD than, say Adobe Flash, which has only been building up more and more complex features since its conception in an unsustainable manner.

Just did some eyeball (non-scientific) tests here, and I found myself going from ~77% CPU usage for YouTube HD on Adobe Flash to less than 15% when on HTML 5. That means I still can do other things SMOOTHLY while the video is buffering.

Youtube's HTML5 implementation is still a bit experimental at the moment - You can't do fullscreen, and it won't be loaded on videos with ads. (You'll still see Flash for such videos). But when you fire up a HD, ad-free video like my montage of my visit to SG, you'll be enjoying it without taxing your CPU too much.

Also note that it's only supported by the latest HTML5-compliant browsers with h.264 codec., like Google Chrome (or IE w/ Google Chrome Frame) and Safari 4.

I recommend giving it a shot if you hate Flash, like Mr Steven P Jobs.

Also check out for other work-in-progress BETA stuff!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Albums to look out for...

Been looking through the newsletter from a local CD store (yes, I still visit those things, even though I never buy anything from them). Seems like there's quite a lot to look forward to over the coming few weeks...

15 Feb: Owl City - Ocean Eyes.

For everyone outside the UK, stop laughing at us (as in the people in the UK). We still don't have Owl City's album. But that's about to change next Monday, when Adam Young & Co.'s music finally gets released on a full album, both physical and digital. For those of you who are completely baffled by the term "Owl City", it's the name of a project/band that's mainly centred around this insomniac from Minnesota who goes by the name of Adam Young. He taps away at his laptop and musical instruments in the basement while awake, mixing up some awesome tunes, uploaded to Myspace, got really popular, and is now on charts and sell-out concerts. Typical MySpace Cinderella Story.

22 Feb: Marina & the Diamonds - Family Jewels.

Half Greek, half Welsh, and slightly obsessed with American/Hollywood Pop Culture. Seems like female solo artistes are developing the habit of adopting a stage name that fits the format "[First name] and the [noun]" (Florence and the machine, Marina and the diamonds, what's next? Diana and the Roses, which sounds a bit like "Diana Ross"?) Naming aside, Marina has the potential to become one of the big names in 2010, as predicted by pundits who were nominating people for the BBC Sound of 2010 title (She was a runner-up). Judging from the singles that she has released so far, she sounds cheeky, perky and fun. A nice change from the emo stuff we've been having from Flo+TM, I guess.

1 Mar: Ellie Goulding - Lights

Remember me talking about the BBC Sound of 2010 award just 2 paragraphs ago? Well, this is the winner. Ellie Goulding, an artiste whom you probably never heard of before, but if things go well for her, she might just be the next Little Boots! Now, describing her music is not easy, since there's only 3 tracks that I can find at the moment. I would compare her to Regina Spektor and Florence & the Machine - she has airy vocals (though it's not too bad), and her range does go quite high.

8 Mar: Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

I must confess, I'm not really a big fan of Gorillaz's music (with the exception of Dare and Feel Good Inc.). The only thing I like about them is their music videos and their use of those cartoon characters. But hey, it's the Gorillaz, and they're back after 3-5 years of 'silence' with a new album. Worth checking out, I guess. Especially if you're a Gorillaz fan.

22 Mar: Jónsi - Go

Jónsi, for those of you who aren't aware, is the lead in Sigur Rós, the Icelandic band responsible for one of the most beautiful piece of music in the last decade, Hoppípolla. Yes, the falsetto guy. He's been working on some solo stuff, and it'll all be revealed on 22 Mar. For now, you can look around YouTube and listen to (or if you're lucky/late enough, view the MV) to one of the tracks from his album, "Go Do". Really bizarre, yet in a Lady Gaga way, fascinating music video.

Jónsi - Go Do from Jónsi on Vimeo.

By the way, I think he's singing in English. I think.

Right, that's what I'll be looking forward to over the next few weeks!

By the way, 16 March is the Brits Award. Look out for that, too!

Friday, 12 February 2010


This will be a short one - I promise.

I look at Google today, coming up with all these new 'social networks' like Wave, Buzz, etc. But somehow, it doesn't excite me as much as, oh, I don't know, Facebook and Twitter.

Maybe I'm being overly critical and pessimistic, but seriously, does anyone outside 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway use these things? If you do, I'd be really interested to hear how you use them, and how often.

My problem is that whatever Google comes up with, none of my friends really use them. Sure, it may be superior over Twitter in a million ways, and it's much cleaner than Facebook, but I just don't see myself using it to socialise, because it's a ghost-town there! At least I have a few twitteratis on Twitter, and 401+ friends on Facebook. But on Google Wave? Less than 5. And I doubt Buzz will do any better.

And as I tweeted before -Buzz seems to have some privacy issue. I was on the bus, on my way home, and out of curiosity, I logged on to Buzz on my iPhone. What was the first thing I saw? A map of recent 'buzzes' from a guy who didn't like a light show down at the Pier near where I was, from 15 hours ago. That's a bit too much open-ness, if you ask me. And I know Twitter has the same feature, but at least the UI is quite clean, so you know roughly where to look if you want to turn of Geotagging. On Google Buzz? I don't even know how I read my friends' Buzz Profile page!

Oh, on the topic of Google, I'd love to see them build a 1Gbps Fiber network.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

iPhone App Reviews...

I promised Ryan (Ren Yuan) that I'd do an iPhone app review blog post.

Well, to be honest, I don't know what a good format of an app review post should be. (Hey, this blog is experimental, after all.) So I'm going to play around with the format. AppJudgement has their "Download/Don't Download" judgement, and I, well, have a phletora of options to choose from. But as a first post (and because I'm on the school PC, which means I can't hook up my iPhone to get screenshots), I'll just do a quick bout of app names, what they do, a couple of thoughts/opinions, and a score, plus a "usage frequency" rating - how often I actually use the app in my day-to-day life.

So, here goes!

App: Moodagent
What it does:
Generates Playlists based on 5 different 'mood' ratings - think of it as Genius playlist generator with mood.

You need more than 25 non-obscure songs to use this app fully. In my experience, the app is well-thought-out. Once you generate a playlist, you can save it, or even play the playlist when you leave the app (it plays in the iPod app), or if you find another song from which you want to generate a playlist, you can select an icon next to the song, and it'll make a playlist with the same mood as that song. Otherwise, play around with the scales and the app will create a playlist.

The scales' significance can be a bit vague at times, but otherwise, it works as well, if not better, than Genius, as long as you don't listen to really obscure stuff.

Pricing: Free (as at time of posting)
App Score: 4/5
Usage frequency: rarely - I don't make playlists that often, unfortunately. I just set it and forget it.

App: Riddim Ribbon
What it does:
It's a new game from Tapulous, the creators of the ubiquitous Tap Tap Revenge that every iPhone or iPod touch has probably had on its home screen at least once in one iteration or another. This game is still music-based, except that it tries to emulate DJ Hero rather than Rock Band. You tilt the phone from side to side as you try to keep a ball on the track (ha! no pun intended). Stray off or hit the obstacles and you lose energy, which means you can't jump over to the next stage in the music.

The 'Fail' system in this game can be a bit harsh and demoralising for new gamers (and let's admit it - that's a lot of us, considering how new this genre is). If you hit one of the obstacles jsut before the checkpoint, you'll lose energy and fail automatically - this is compared to its cousins, Guitar Hero, where if you miss a couple of times, regardless of section, you can still try to fight your way back to the green while the crowd jeers at you.

Also, maybe it's just me not gaming enough on my iPhone, but there can be a steep learning curve when trying to play this game. As a guide, think of the two dotted lines in the track as fulcrums. If you keep your phone in the normal position, you'll be in the exact middle of those two dotted lines. Tilt slightly to one side, and you'll get on the dotted line. Tilt further, and you'll stray out and onto the outer lane. A bit like changing lanes on a highway, except you have to keep the phone tilted to stay in a lane.

Oh, one more complaint - This game has been in development for some time now, why are there so few music tracks to play with? Only 3 BEP tracks and a few downloadable Tiesto tracks? Where's the Gaga? Owl City? Come on! Bring them over from TTR!

Pricing: £1.79 in the UK as at posting. Downloadables approximately £0.59.
App Score: 4/5. If they had more tracks to play with, I would give 5/5.
Usage Frequency: Often - I'm hooked on this game!

App: Sleep Cycle
What it does: In 3 words: Glorified Alarm Clock. More specifically: It uses the accelerometer in the iPhone (apparently, not iPod touch compatible) to detect movements while you're asleep. Based on these movements, it interprets whether you're in your deep REM sleep, awake, or dreaming. When it senses that you're in your 'light sleep', it sounds the alarm.
This app will not suit everyone. You'll need to be able to put your iPhone on your bed, next to your head, and it should be charged unless you want a flat battery the next day. (oh, and if you have a Tempur bed, this app won't work.) And let's not even get into the radiation talk. Also, maybe it's just me being pedantic, but this morning, the app woke me up at 7.26 - that's 19 minutes before the time I intended to wake up! I wanted a nice snooze after I saw the time, but no, the app asks for me to get off my lazy bum, even though I only had 5 hours sleep the night before.

Also, a bit TMI, much? Why do I need to see that I dream at 2-3am?

But I have to say, for someone who's a bit OCD like myself, this app is fascinating in the "I want to know everything even if it's dumb or inaccurate" sense. And from what I see, it appears to work on me.

Pricing: £0.59 (look out for the LexWare Labs AB one. That's the one I tested, so that's the only one I can tell you about.)
App Score: 4/5 - The radiation is a concern for me.
Usage Frequency: Nightly. I'm really interested in how this app works and analyzes my physiological patterns when I'm sleeping/about to sleep/getting up. Even though I'm exposing myself to even more radiation, on top of what my MacBook Pro emits.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Sexism? The Man Rules.

Oh, I had to share this.

Found it on Mr Ho's blog. Read it!

Someone should give the author a Nobel Prize!

The Man Rules 
At last a guy has taken the time to write this all down
Finally , the guys' side of the story.
I must admit, it's pretty good.)
We always hear
 "the rules
From the female side.
Now here are the rules from the male side. 

These are 
our rules!
Please note ..... these are all numbered "1 "
1. Men are NOT mind readers.

1. Sunday sports It's like the full moon
or the changing of the tides.
Let it be.

1. Crying is blackmail.

1. Ask for what you want.
Let us be clear on this one:
Subtle hints do not work!
Strong hints do not work!
Obvious hints do not work!
Just say it!

1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

1. Come to us with a problem
 only if you want help solving it. That's what we do.
Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for. 

1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument.
In fact, all comments become Null and void after 7 Days.

1. If you think you're fat, you probably are.
Don't ask us

1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the 
other one

1. You can either ask us to do something
Or tell us how you want it done.
Not both.
If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

1. Whenever possible, Please say whatever you have to say during commercials. 

1. Christopher Columbus did
 NOT need directions and neither do we.

1. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings.
Peach, for example, is a fruit, not 
A color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

1. If it itches, it 
will be scratched.
We do that.

1. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," We will act like nothing's wrong.
We know you are lying , but it is just not worth the hassle. 

1. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, Expect an answer you don't want to hear.

1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine... 
Really . 

1. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as football

1. You have enough clothes.

1. You have too many shoes.

1. I am in shape.
 Round IS a shape!

1. Thank you for reading this.
Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight;
But did you know men really don't mind that? It's like camping out. 

Pass this to as many men as you can -
to give them a laugh. 

Pass this to as many women as you can -
to give them a bigger laugh.

Friday, 5 February 2010


Just updated the links section of my blog (If you're reading this on Facebook, you might want to open in a new tab, then clock on the links section in the navigation bar.)

Obviously, there's more and more "dying" blog. Just to explain one more time, a blog is defined as 'dead' in my books when the last post by the owner of the blog was:
a) more than 6 months before the time of check, or
b) showed clear intention of killing the blog (e.g.: Bo Mun's blog), or alternatively
c) made private.

Technically, if a blog is made private, it still exists, just that you might not be able to access it, so I crossed it out anyway.

Updates aside, I just wanted to point out something.

It appears that the Facebook and Twitter trend has been at the expense of blogging.

Years ago, people were enthusiastic about keeping their blog up-to-date with their latest rants, gossip, opinions, etc. But today, people prefer to comment on each others' status updates, or @reply each other, or socialise using #hashtags. They don't find it enjoyable anymore, drafting an entire blog that nobody reads because it isn't shoved in the face of your friends via a "news feed". Which is a pity, really, because although blogging is a bit of a geeky undertaking, I still think there's something fun about putting your journalistic cap on and tapping away on your keyboard for hours upon hours.

I know this isn't the first time I'm talking about blogging as a dying trade, but seeing the increase in the number of dead links just made me have this thought in my head - a thought that I need to let out. And why not do it in a blog post?

Just my 2 cents' worth.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

NMFTM Chart!

Yes, it's that time of the week when my fingers feel a little itchy, and my eardrums thirst for music. It's a New Music For The Moment Chart.

Oh, by the way, from now on, my usual music chart will have the word 'new' in the front. Very simple reason - I (almost) always ensure that anything that goes on my chart was released in an album or as a single/made it to a major chart (e.g.: Billboard, UK Top 40, etc.) recently. I might even post some obscure stuff to show my support for independent, unsigned artistes/bands.

So, let's move on, shall we?

NMFTM Chart - 3 Feb 2010

Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)
Jay-Z, Bono, The Edge & Rihanna

Owl City

If We Ever Meet Again
Timbaland feat. Katy Perry

This Momentary

3OH!3 feat. Katy Perry

Rude Boy

All The Right Moves

Under The Sheets
Ellie Goulding

Marina and the Diamonds

Empire State of Mind
Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys

Bubbling Under
The xx
(worth mentioning, since it might not have a chance the next time, since it's not very new anymore.)

And yes, I'm into Owl City, but I'm also into darker electronica music now, like The xx and Delphic.