Sunday, April 28, 2013

Crysis 3 multiplayer - new tactics

When I was playing Crysis 2, I was predominantly using Marshall and all the stealth mode. But in Crysis 3, one of the important suit modules that helped my Stealth play went missing. That module is no other than Energy Transfer. With that and Stealth Enhance and Mobility Enhance modules set me up for the ultimate combination of suit modules to go along with the Marshall. My K/Ds improved from a 1.4ish to 2.35 after that. Considering the fact that I already had a lot of deaths to begin with when I found this godly combination, that was a significant improvement.

With Energy Transfer, you could shoot while you were in stealth mode and kill someone and go straight into stealth mode back again because the energy was restored because of the kill. But you cannot do that anymore in Crysis 3. You have to either switch to stock mode or armor mode. Switching the suit mode quickly hasn’t been my strongest points. If you look at my Crysis 2 stats, even Crysis 3 stats (before a couple weeks ago), I’ve made most of my kills in Stealth mode. But with Crysis 3, my K/Ds are quite crappy. I’ve managed to get to 1.8, but it hovered around 1.5 mark for a long time.

After seeing a few YouTube videos, it seems the best combination is Scar Mod 2 for the weapon, Weapon Pro, Maneuverability and Rapid Fire modules. I use Reflex Sight and Extended Magazine as weapon attachments too. But the most important thing is, you should switch to armor mode before going up against an enemy, even if you shooting from behind – because you never know if someone else is close by to avenge his mate’s death. Armor mode will absorb a lot of damage, and with enough movements you can get away from enemy fire.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Finally the real AMD Radeon HD7990 comes out!

AMD certainly took all of their sweet time to bring out their dual GPU behemoth – namely the HD7990 (or codenamed Malta). Before this official release, Power Color and Asus had dual HD7970 cards out and they even used the official HD7990 in their product names. But they were not well done. They needed three 8 pin PCI-E power connectors to juice up. That’s a lot of power. The new card – the real thing – needs only two of them. Probably AMD cherry picked the best GPUs coming out of the TSMC (or Global Foundry? or both?) fabs, thus using less power and even overclocking better. The card is rated at 375W TDP, as all the dual GPU cards that have come out in the last couple of years. Nothing surprising there. Perhaps AMD couldn’t fit it into 375W before the process technology matured. Now it is that time.

Not only you are getting pretty much the fastest graphics card in the world (maybe not as fast as the Asus Ares II – but it is the same blood that runs within the veins of both cards), you are getting 8 (you read it right, 8) free games with it. They are not shabby games by any means; most of them, it not all of them are the flagship games that came out in the end of last year and this year so far.

AMD-Radeon-HD-7990

But is anyone interested about it? I am not. Because this card basically runs in Crossfire mode and according to the suite of reviews we’ve seen that come out in the last few months about frame latency and such, Crossfire is doing horribly in most games. You might see higher FPS numbers with this card compared to the GeForce Titan or even the GeForce GTX690, but game play isn’t smooth. Hence the HD7990 couldn’t have come out at a worse time.

Note: I do know how bad Crossfire was because I had a couple of HD6950’s in Crossfire before I moved to a single GTX670. Yes, I know it is slower on paper. But in reality, it is not. The gaming on a single card is so much satisfying. I know what I had was old generation cards, and it is true that I don’t have first hand experience when it comes to HD7000 series cards in Crossfire, but a lot of people are complaining about it. It is about time somebody did something about it, instead of saying that these problems are inherent to multi GPU setups and there isn’t anything you can do about it.

But…there is good news. AMD is actually making progress in fixing this issue. There is already a prototype driver given to the reviewers to test, and it certainly does the trick. There seems to be a small performance penalty – but it is actually not. Because the performance was much worse to begin with – the real performance I mean. And according to preliminary results posted on PCPer.com, it seems AMD have done it. Yes, this is just a prototype driver and there are a lot of things they need to do before pushing it out to the customers. But I like to see that there is some hope. Now that AMD is on right track, I just hope the review sites will show them some respect.

But as of this day, HD7990 is not a good buy. Wait a couple of months and see how things go. I know it cannot get any worse and AMD can only rise up from this mess.

Read W1zaard’s review here.

There is no escape - I will have to buy a DSLR after all

Couple of months after arriving in Japan, I bought a Canon SX1-IS point and shoot camera because I didn't want a DSLR because I didn't like the idea of carrying multiple lenses with me all the time. Even though this was a point and shoot camera, it was not compact. it was bulky. I have to agree that it wasn't the smartest choice by me. I should have bought a small point and shoot camera or a bulky DSLR camera, but instead I went with something that didn't have the inherent advantages either category. (i.e. quality vs weight) I guess I was misled by the amount of zoom it provided. However, the picture quality wasn't what the reviews suggested. The photos were kind of washed out or over exposed.

Then I sold it for around half the price and bought a Canon S95. It was very small and that was the camera I should have bought in the first place. The picture quality is great and very pocketable (although I carry it in a pouch that it fix to my belt) as well. But the zoom is small so I cannot capture any close ups of far away objects.

But now my wife sees that I don't take great photos and she thinks that it is because of the camera. Everyone else has a DSLR and how can my point and shoot be a match for those heavy guns? But I know better. The biggest culprit is me. I am not a good photographer. It's not my thing. Nor is photo editing. I hate when my wife asks me to edit a photo to post on Facebook. Why cannot she just learn it and do it on her own? It's not as if she is working full time. Why does the man have to know everything but the woman can simply tag along for the ride?

I asked my wife if she will carry the DSLR and the lenses when we go out. She said no. She asks me why I cannot do that if everyone else can. (Typical women!) But everyone who has a DSLR doesn't want to carry the DSLR. They do it because they don't have any other choice. How would anyone in their right mind, let a woman that kind of responsibility - at least when it comes to gadgets? That's the truth.

But the decision is made. I have to buy a DSLR. This kind of the is best time to get one because of the devaluation of Japanese Yen. This is not the time to buy products made outside of Japan. The prices within the country have hardly changed. All the best consumer grade DSLRs are made in Japan. So you get the point, right?

Which model? That's the big question.

I'm not selling the S95. That will definitely stay and play the supporting role. Perhaps I will give it to my wife.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Podcasts that I’m listening to these days

Few years ago, my main source of information was reading the articles (reviews mostly) posted on tech sites such as Anandtech, Tomshardware etc. but who read anymore right? Podcasts are my main source of information these days. Most of it is on Leo Laporte's Twit network.

When I moved to Japan, I started listening to lots of podcasts. About a dozen shows and I always ran out of shows to listen to. Podcasts were my radio. They played when I was cooking, browsing the  internet and even having a shower. Even when I went to sleep, I played Twit Live. The laptop was right next to me on the bed. Sometimes it was something I had already listened to. But that didn't stop me from listening to them. When I ran out of things to listen to, I watched YouTube videos on new  products especially TinyTimLogan's long reviews on coolers and cases. It's funny how I ran out of podcast listen to because I was a heavy gamer back then. Maybe because there wasn't two
of the most important podcasts out by then. Anandtech podcast and PocketNow podcast.

Things have changed a bit now. Now I cannot listen to them at home all the time. But I do that when I have to do things in the kitchen all by my own. (Things like doing the dishes, vacuuming the floor and making tea in the morning because my wife is lazy. Most current generation women as like that it seems.) In addition to that, following those Coursera courses took out part of that Podcast listening time.

So right now I'm listening to the following podcast. It still seems like a lot but I don't listen to every episode of all of them.

* not watched regularly

I download them from iTunes. That's the only thing I like about iTunes. Now that iOS has its own podcasts app, some of the podcasts get automatically downloaded to the phone without me needing to intervene. But for some reason, the podcasts on iTunes and podcasts on the phone don't sync properly. Sometimes, the podcasts that I have finished listening to, are synced back to the phone as a new episode. Duh!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Now you can buy Microsoft Surface RT directly from the Japanese Microsoft Store

Surface Pro was announced more than 2 months ago but Japan only recently got the Surface RT model which was released more than 6 months ago. At least now you can buy the Surface RT directly from Microsoft’s Japanese Store. The prices start from JPY49,800 for the 32GB model (57,800 with touch cover) and JPY57,800 for the 64GB model (JPY65,800 with touch cover).

Amazon Japan was selling them for a high price – like JPY60,000 range even when the USD was about JPY80. Even the Expansys.jp website is selling them (the 32GB model) for JPY62,000 (with the touch cover) and they only offer like 3 month warranty. Duh!

No thanks to the new Japanese government, the currency has been devaluing ever since and it has dropped by a whopping 20%. Now the JPY sells for 1USD = 100JPY. Sucks! If Microsoft made the Surface RT available in Japan before this devaluation, the price would have been around JPY40,000. More people would have bought it I guess. I still wouldn’t, because especially back then, there weren’t many apps. The situation hasn’t changed a lot, but at least there are legacy apps if you really want to get something done. In my case, playback of MKV and FLV. The built-in XBOX Video app doesn’t support those, surprisingly, popular formats.

When is iPhone 5S coming? I cannot wait! :)

Well, I don’t want the iPhone 5S just because I want another iPhone. I want LTE mainly. I can go with the iPhone 5, but why bother, when the next one is coming out in a couple of months. Or, at least, that’s what the rumors suggest.

I know my contract doesn’t end before that, but I want the new thing as soon as possible, so that I can use it for a long time without getting it outdated soon. Just like when I got my iPhone 4S. :)

I would probably upgrade my wife’s iPhone as well, because it would make things easier, especially because of the new lightning cable. The current plan is to sell the old iPhone 4S(s), for cheap – unfortunately, because they are carrier locked. Nobody would want to buy them in Sri Lanka, right? Hmm… But the phone would have much higher value if an unlock would come around someday. I can give it to a relative then than sell it off cheaply.

I should probably get it from Sofmap or Dospara, instead of directly from SoftBank because then they would have an easier way for me to trade in my old phone and get a new phone. SoftBank also offered such a deal when the iPhone 5 came out, but you had to mail the phone to their HQ and get an evaluation and then receive the cash back. It felt tedious.

The decision right now is the get the iPhone 5S whether it comes with drastic differences or not. I need LTE and a speed bump would be a bonus. If the rumors are true, the iPhone 5S will come with a Quad Code CPU, 2GB RAM and a 12MP camera. I don’t really care about the latter, but I wouldn’t mind the improvements. But I really hope that iOS7 will have a lot of good things up in its sleeves.

Creative X-Fi Titanium audio card went missing in action

I wake up early in the morning to play Crysis 3 before my wife woke up and what do I get? There is no audio. The audio icon in the system tray is crossed out which indicates either the mute button has been pressed or the device is not available. It was the latter.

I rebooted. No go. Dammit!

Then I uninstalled the drivers of my Creative X-Fi Titanium (PCI-E) audio card, cleaned up the remaining clutter using Driver Sweeper and reinstalled the latest PAX drivers. No go! Device Manager wouldn't show that a card even exist. Weird.

Then I removed the audio card from the PC. Rebooted into Windows to clear out any erroneous statues in OS/software/drivers. (No idea if this would make a difference, but I did so anyway. ) Then I plugged back the card and rebooted into Windows. Before installing the driver, I checked device manager and there was the audio card, with an exclamation mark. I didn't worry about it too much at that point and reinstalled the drivers. When I came back to Windows, the audio card was nowhere to be found. :/

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Will Microsoft bring back the start menu in Windows Blue/8.1? Hope not!

They shouldn't and I don't think they will either. But they'll probably let you boot directly into the desktop, if you are on a PC. Instead of bringing back the Start Menu, they will try to make the Start Screen more usable and that's the way to go. Who knows, there definitely should be people who prefer the Metro interface even on the desktop. A PC should be without restrictions and they should not restrict people to Start Menu. People should have a choice. If you want restrictions, go buy an iPad or an iPhone or even a Mac.

We already know that Microsoft is adding smaller tiles and improving search in Windows Blue. That's how they are fixing the deficiencies that are present in the current design. There maybe other tweaks coming too. I certainly hope so. We really want to see what Microsoft has been doing during the past year.

How about adding folder support? Like what you get in iOS? That would allow most people to reduce the amount of scrolling required to find what they need. Not every app supports live tile view and some don't need that. There is no reason why you cannot group them in folders. But they will have to do something about tiles that have live views when grouped in folders. Maybe disable live tile view for those apps or do something innovative. I would prefer the latter.

Also it would be great if we could assign custom icons to apps on the Start Screen. This would be beneficial for legacy apps that ruin the looks and feel of the Start Screen. Quarter sized titles will fix this to a certain degree but most icons will still look out of place.

Latest leaked build shows that there is a new app launch animation coming. While I don't mind these stuff because it shows how fluid the UI is, I would also like to be able to disable animations completely - just like you can disable animations on the desktop.

A lot of cool stuff are coming and people only care about the Start Menu. Shows how much people don't like change.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Started two new courses at Coursera


With work and married life, following a post graduate course is almost impossible here in Japan. But there are things I can do to improve my skills and knowledge. Doing nothing is inexcusable. So I started taking free online courses offered by the Coursera network at the beginning of this year. I managed to successfully complete all 3 of them that I started. (Algorithms: Design and Analysis, Part 1, Cryptography 1, Game Theory) Finding time wasn't easy, but I got through. I watched the lecture videos on the train and at lunch hour and at home. But I decided to take it slow from there onwards - take one course at a time. I didn't have many games to play during that time; Crysis 3 was only released after most of it had finished; so that helped a lot!

I gave myself a month long break before starting a new course. I played enough Crysis 3 during that period. And for the next session, I enrolled for the Machine Learning course which is supposed to commence next week. But a friend then told me that he is taking the course on The Hardware/Software Interface and asked me to join. The course content looked familiar and interesting. It was pretty much like the Operating Systems course I took in level 2 at University of Moratuwa, but not identical. Since I know C and I have an interest in this area, I enrolled for the course. It started yesterday (Monday) and I have already started watching the videos.

Edit:
I have already watched the 1st week's videos on The Hardware/Software Interface course and now I am doing the assignment. The assignment doesn't seem that hard but I had to setup the virtual machine that we were provided with, to start the assignments. We are supposed to do the assignments in that environment and submit the work using a script supplied with the VM. It might be easier when everyone sticks to the same environment, but lack of freedom is not a good thing. 

This time I intend to correct the mistakes I made last time. I need to finish watching videos and doing the assignments as soon as possible. They all piled up towards the weekend and it was so stressful. Also, I need to take notes while watching the videos because I didn't do that last time and I had to go through all the video lectures once more when I was preparing for the exams. Wasted time!

I intend to do the part 2 of Cryptography and Algorithms when they are offered. I have already enrolled for those two. In the meantime, I have to learn some Python. Last time I did everything in C, C++ or C#.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Did NVidia price the GeForce Titan too high?

DSC_9605
The recently released NVidia Titan graphics card is the most expensive single GPU graphics card out in the market. US$1000!!! That's in the same ballpark as their flagship dual GPU graphics card, the GTX690. And it is not even faster than the GTX690 except in cases where the 2GB frame buffer (per GPU) comes becomes the bottleneck. That usually happens in multi display setups that work at a huge resolution.
 
What would have happened if NVidia dropped the prices of the entire lineup and released the Titan at around $700? I know that would open up a whole new opportunities for the consumer but what would have happened to profits of NVidia?
 
So Titan priced at $700, GTX680 priced at $400, GTX690 priced at $800, and rest of the line up following the same pattern.
 
Why they should have done it?
 
  • The chances are that everyone who's got a 1440p screen would settle for one or few Titans instead of GTX680s. High resolution is where the Titan shines because of its 6GB frame buffer.
  • People who are settling for one Titan might even buy two Titans without much hesitation. Or even three. Heck, we even see people running Titans in SLI at the current price.
  • Even people who have previously bought a GTX 680s would upgrade to the Titan. That means NVidia would be able to sell two products in the same generation. That usually never happens. Even I might consider getting a Titan to replace my GTX670. But $700 is still a little too steep for me.
  • NVidia would be able to grab a portion of AMD sales - at least initially. Not because they priced Titan lower, but because they dropped the prices of the entire line up. AMD would have to fight back with more price cuts.

Why I think they priced it correctly (or why they shouldn’t have done it)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

GeForce 700 series is seemingly coming in 2014

Most people were hoping to see the next generation of graphics cards from both AMD and NVidia within this year because it has already been more than a year since both companies released their current generation cards. Even if they launched the new cards towards the end of this year, it would still conform to the usual 18 month product cycle. But few weeks ago AMD said that they are not going to release the 8000 series this year because they are in the opinion that if they did a rush up job, people would crucify them for releasing a new product without a significant increase in performance over the current generation. Things would get even worse because NVidia's next generation architecture seems to bump up the performance significantly - at least performance to watt ratio wise.

Today Tom's Hardware reports that NVidia is also delaying their next generation to next year for some unknown reason. Both of these companies don't really need to release new cards because the current generation is more than competent enough to tackle the games available today. Unless 2560x1440 resolution becomes mainstream - which is unlikely to happen anytime soon - there is no need for more power in the "sanity circle" (i.e. mainstream segment) But there are people with 2560x1440 screens and triple display setups and they really need the future horse power today. But for those people, there's something called SLI and Crossfire, if you haven't already heard.

Even though you can combine multiple graphics cards and make then work together to gain a boost over a single card, AMD has a problem with their design. Ryan Shrout at PCPer.com has recently found out that AMD's multi GPU solution does not deliver better performance than a single card in many of the games out there. The cards do their work but the frames are not properly spread out to give the fluidity and that 2nd card's work is not perceived by human eye. The fix is not a simple driver fix but they'll probably find a temporary solution for this problem in the coming days. NVidia has a mechanism in hardware to tackle this problem so NVidia does not have this problem. I'm sure the HD8000 series is already past its design phase and they cannot use the same trick as what NVidia is doing in the HD8000 series. AMD will have to find a way to fix this probe in the driver or they would lose performance in the enthusiast segment who uses multiple high-end cards in their rigs.

Back on to the topic. Are you really mad that the next generation cards are delayed? If you are building a new PC, maybe you are. But if you already own a high-end card like the GTX670/680/690/Titan or HD7950/7970, you should be happy that $400~$1000 card won't be outdated for another year, right? I am glad that mine isn't getting outdated soon. It's not that I have to upgrade even if they released the new generation. I don't play a lot of games. Right now I only play Crysis 3 and nothing else. If I disable AA, I can get 60fps in it, so there isn't really a need to get a newer card. But there is the upgrade itch. When that happens, there is no going back.

So all in all, I'm glad that newer cards aren't right around the corner. I probably can spend that money on the Haswell upgrade if my wife doesn't have any fancy plans.

Crysis 3 crashing - GPU overclock to blame?

In the last few days I had been getting a lot of crashes while playing Crysis 3 and finally I felt I had to do something about it. All this time I was blaming the game for buggy code and NVidia for releasing sub par quality drivers.
But yesterday I tried out something new. I lowered the overclock on the GPU (Palit GTX670 Jetstream) from +70MHz boost to +65MHz. I played Crysis 3 for like 2hrs since then and didn't get a single crash! I know it is too soon to come to any conclusions but looks like,
  • either the GPU was not completely stable at +70MHz boost or
  • the newer drivers have lowered the overclock potential of the card or
  • it could be the new GOP supported firmware that I recently flashed the card to get Ultra Fast Booting with my motherboard on Windows 8 or
  • it could be that the room temperatures have risen in the last few weeks because it's no longer the winter season anymore or
  • It could have been purely coincidental!!!
I can live with a 5MHz drop in the GPU clocks. It won't even be noticeable in game play. It won't drop the fps by even 1fps. So as long as the game is stable, I cannot be happier. Heck, I won't lose my stats abruptly because the game crashed.
2013-04-10_19-31-34
I will update this post if the game crashes again. It could either mean I have to lower the overclock further or something else is the culprit. Glad it is not the CPU because I had to work so hard to find the settings that would run the CPU @4.5GHz stably.

Edit:
Yesterday, the game crashed while loading the game. It could be anything but I haven't had a single crash while playing the game in the last 4-5 hours. This could be it. I will give it a week to see how it works out.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Tackling iOS Auto-Correct

I don’t have a problem with iOS’s auto correct when it comes to English – in fact I’ve gotten used to it so much that I can use it to assist in my typing instead of cursing every other second. I don’t even try to correct the misspellings for certain things that I know – from experience – that iOS would be able to automatically and properly correct eventually.

But when it comes to typing in Singlish – that is, typing in English Roman characters that sounds like Sinhalese – iOS’ auto correct feature gets completely confused. I have to virtually correct word after word manually. I use Singlish when writing SMS.

After the OS update, somehow my dictionary didn’t get synced to the phone from the backup. It had a lot of custom words that I had saved into the dictionary. Well, iOS adds words that I type and don’t correct into the dictionary so I didn’t actually do anything manually. Funny thing is though, some of the words that got saved the last time did not get saved this time.

I searched for a way to edit the custom dictionary, but I found an easier option. You can actually use the “keyboard shortcuts” feature of iOS.

 IMG_0319

Contrary to what the title says, you don’t necessarily have to add shortcuts. You can just add the words and those words will constitute your custom dictionary. Using keyboard shortcuts such as “ty” for “thank you” is purely optional.

Wi-Fi browsing and a small dinner beneath the Tokyo SkyTree

On the way back home from seeing the Tulips, we came through Oshiage station which adjoins Tokyo SkyTree. The Tokyo SkyTree is the worlds 2nd tallest tower and it was build only last year. We didn't get to the top of the tower because there wasn't enough time to see everything and it was almost night. But I was happy to see that there was free Wi-Fi connectivity offered by SoftBank. The free Wi-Fi service is a facility offered by SoftBank customers. There is a profile saved in the iPhone that automatically logs into the network called "0001softbank". You can connect to "0002softbank" access point as well. (There is a total of 5 networks supported by their service.)


I ran a speed test on their network and this is what I got. Browsing the Internet was comfortable with those speeds.


Tulips at Sakura Furusata Square - Japan (April 2013)

According to the weather forecast, we were supposed to have terrible weather - typhoon!!! - today in the Tokyo area but when we woke up, the sky was clear. It was very warm, considering we had cold weather about a week ago. Friends told use that they were going out to see Tulips and we only had about 1hr to get ready to go with them. We weren't planning to go out today because of the weather so we slept till late. I usually wake up early in the morning because that's the only time I get to play games without making my wife angry. Even I slept till 8:45am.

We somehow got ready in time and bought breakfast from a McDonalds and we were off to see the tulips. We had to travel to Keisei-Sakura station, which is in Chiba Prefecture. It took us about 2hrs to get to the station, and from there we had to take a taxi. There were 6 people, so we had to go by two taxies. Actually, we had to use the same taxi and the driver came back for the 2nd group, because there was only one taxi near the station at that time. Only 3 people are allowed to go by the taxi at one time. That’s a law.

So after about 2 and a half hours, we got to the location. The place is called Sakura Furusato Square. It is actually only few minutes away from the Narita Airport. That's the airport we use when we come to Sri Lanka.

Here are some photos I took at the location. These are all unedited, because I suck at those stuff. I wish I could buy a proper DSLR, bu

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Crysis 3 patch 1.3 released

Few days ago, Crytek released the patch version 1.3 for Crysis 3 with a lot of bug fixed in single player and multiplayer modes. While the improvements were necessary, they broke an essential part of multiplayer mode.

People were seeing a massive performance drop only in multiplayer mode. For example, I was playing with High settings because I wanted to get all the FPS I could so that it reduces input lag, and prior to this patch I was getting around 80 ~ 120FPS. But after the patch, the frame rate didn’t rise above 50FPS. Funny thing was, I was getting the same 50FPS in all Medum, High and Very High graphics settings. There were many posts on the forums and for some people the game had become completely unplayable. I can see how that would drive people insane, especially because every one who is playing the multiplayer has bought the game legitimately.

But Crytek released a small update the next day and it fixed the issue. Now I’m getting the same 80 ~ 120fps as before. Phew!

In case you are wondering what the improvements in version 1.3 are, click the following image.

Crysis 3 All-Platform Patch 1.3 Notes

The Windows 8 tablet experience - web browsing

Browsing and watching videos are the two most important things that I do with the tablet. If either of these experiences are sour, the entire tablet experience become sour for me.
 

Google Chrome

I was planning to use Google Chrome when I received the tablet, because that way I could get the full browsing experience that a full blown desktop browser offers. I could integrate LastPass, sync my bookmarks and settings with my desktop PC, block ads (the screen is not large enough to allow ads on a tablet, even though I'm not against advertising) and integrate Internet Download Manager to download flash video off the streaming sites.

But those plans got irradiated the second I found out how pathetic the Google Chrome's UI was as a touch UI. The interface is very slow as well. (I have noted on PCs too, if you have a fast PC the UI feels fluid, but if you are using an ancient PC from the Pentium4 days, the UI performance starts to crawl.) You cannot zoom with two fingers without using the f-word. The Metro version is no better. Metro version is pretty much the same thing as the desktop version, only made to run under the Metro environment. Nothing's done to improve the touch experience.
 

What about Firefox? They have a Metro version too right?

Then I checked Firefox Nightly build that comes with a Metro version alongside the desktop version. It wasn't that great either. There definitely were some attempt to improve the touch experience, but the UI wasn't smooth -or responsive- enough. And the UI acted erroneously most of the times. For example, when I set focus to the address bar, the virtual keyboard wouldn't come up. Also it is currently lacking a lot of features. Add-ons are not supported yet. Until they start supporting add-ons there is no way I can recommend Firefox over IE10.

But since Firefox is at least on the right track-on the UI perspective at least, I will continuously monitor how their Metro version of the browser evolves. Who knows, I might end up ditching Chrome on the desktop and completely switch to Firefox, if Mozilla gets their Metro version of the browser right, because I want uniformity between the devices I use.
 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

My next phone – looks like it’s gonna be another iPhone

Seems like it's going to be yet another iPhone. That's means it's going to be my 3rd iPhone. Hopefully I will be able to get the one that's coming out this year as soon as it comes out. "Hopefully", because it all depends on what SoftBank have to say about upgrading my existing iPhone 4S. The current 2 year contract period - which is actually 26 months - is only going to end at the end of November. And the rumors are that the new iPhone is coming out in July. That's about 4 months before my contract period ends.

Wasn't that the same with 3GS to 4S upgrade?

Something similar happened when I got my iPhone 4S. There was a long way to go until the contract period for my iPhone 3GS was over, but at that time SoftBank launched a campaign to waive off the remaining contract months if I switched to the iPhone 4S straight away. I'm sure they did not do it for us. They possibly wanted to keep the existing customers loyal to SoftBank because KDDI was also getting the iPhone 4S. But it was a win for me. I hope they will come up with a similar campaign this time too.

Why do you need to upgrade your phone this soon?

Some people must be wondering why I wanna upgrade an iPhone 4S, which performs pretty well for most people. Two reasons.

  1. You can get the iPhone for free in Japan. At least, the base model is free. So why not get one while we can?
  2. Once my 2 year contract ends, SoftBank will renew the contract for another 2 years. If I need to get out of the contract, I have to pay a fine of JPY10,000.

Note:

If I renew the phone before the 2 years, the contract gets renewed for another 2 years. While I don’t have to pay for early termination – because there is no termination – I have to pay back the discount (Remember, the phone is free. That’s the discount.) otherwise we would have got if we used the phone for the complete 2 year period.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What I want Microsoft to fix in Windows Blue

I believe you all know that there is something called Windows Blue coming out in a few months. I believe that the amount of changes in this upgrade will make it sit between a service pack and a completely new version of Windows.

Few days ago, a current build of Windows Blue leaked into the Internet. While Microsoft might show that they don't like the idea, in their hearts they know that it is free marketing for them. The Verge compiled a list of changes found in the leaked build in the form of a video.


So, it seems the changes are mostly, if not solely made for the Metro portion on the OS. Right now, that's what I really want them to do because I now have a tablet and some of deficiencies of Metro is killing the great tablet experience.

What else can Microsoft change/add in Windows Blue?

1. Ability to enable a more aggressive mode of auto-correcting, at lead when you are using the virtual keyboard. I don't understand why this should not be an option that the end user can choose for themselves in the first place. While the layout of the virtual keyboard, especially in the landscape view is great, the lackluster auto-correct functionality is not making me wanna use the keyboard too much. I'm not the only person having this problem. It is not as if Microsoft doesn't know how to implement proper auto-correct functionality because Windows Phone seems to do just fine in that area. Just like a dumb design goal it seems. (Edit: I've been writing a part of this blog post on my tablet and actually I'm not so mad about how autocorrect is working. But it seems that the contextual mistakes are not detected properly. For example, if I wanted to say "I'm not so mad..." but typed "I'm not domad...", I would expect it to correct it as "I'm not so mad..". But it doesn't fix it properly. It corrects the mistake as "I'm not do mad". Funny thing was that iOS fixed it as "I'm not Donald". Well, at least it came up with something that made sense. Not praising or blaming anyone, just saying.)

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