Friday, January 28, 2005

Crazy Frog

The BBC has an interesting article on the Crazy Frog phenomenon that is now engulfing the UK and other countries. Read it if you want to know a little history of the brains behind the creation of the annoying little turd with his genitals hanging out.

Source: BBC News

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Book Review: Da Vinci Code

I just finished reading Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code yesterday after a marathon nine hour sitting (with four hour sleep in between).

Normally I would not have read such a novel that deals with pseudo Christian theme. I am not a Christian and therefore has no interest in the religion. However the incredible hype over the book got the best of me and I finally broke down and purchased the e-book version.

The story is very simple - American professor, as the protagonist who is the central character with help of a beautiful French babe tries to solve a murder mystery while on the run from the French authorities. In between they are trying to uncover the secret of Jesus Christ. The settings take place in all exotic places such as The Lourve in Paris and Westminster Abbey in London.


In fact its all too predictable and even comes down to compulsory British villain who unmask himself in the last minute. And the style of writing is very similar to my favorite thriller writer Michael Cricton. Usage of history and flashbacks reminds me of Cricton all the time.

But its not necessary a bad thing. It gives the characters integrity and I love the whole concept. Hollywood has decided to turn this novel into a movie with Tom Hanks as the pivotal character (which I think is a total miscast). They have already gained access to filming in the famous Lourve. But I am curious to see how they film all those background stories.

Now Dan Brown has put a disclaimer claiming that while some of the story are true (facts), the whole story is a fiction. I have read that a lot of attacks were made against the book for propagating false 'facts'. This is all bullshit. As far as novels goes - if all these were in fact true, Dan Brown would in fact has released an academic piece and not in a form of a thriller with characters debating the truth of Mary.

I would not join the debate on the validity of Christian as a religion or whether Jesus Christ was a mortal or deity. However the facts remain that as a thriller The Da Vinci Code is quite good and engaging. If there is one mistake with this book is for some reason the book follows the Hollywood way of narrative with a a few twists on the final 10% of the fiction.

I am not complaining since I truely enjoyed the book even though I can't say its the best. I even bought his previous Robert Langdon based novel Angels & Demons and can't wait to get started on it.


Update: After reading Angels & Demons, I have to add that A&D is the better one with Langdon again as the protagonist. Dissapointigly the style is very predictable. Check out Deception Point if you don't believe me.

Ah...finally I can see the back of Dan Brown. Time to return to Ian Rankin's detective books.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Gamebox Solitaire VGA

If you have one of those great Pocket PCs with VGA screens (HP hx4700, Fujitsu Siemens Loox 720 etc), then you might be interested in this beta version of PDAMill's popular Gamebox Solitaire.

Also, the excellent Flux Challenge is available in beta version for Microsoft Smartphone platform.

In other news, I have been playing Stuntcar Extreme for Pocket PC over the past two days and its damn addictive. The only problem would be there are no way of mapping buttons to the accelerator/brake/view/nitro controls. But its a minor issue and probably Fathammer decided to implement on screen control to ensure compatibility to all Pocket PCs.

There is also a version for Nokia's Symbian Series 60 platform. Both costs US$19.95.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Most Depressing Day Coming Soon

Monday, 24th January 2005 - that would the worst day of the year. According to Cardiff University Psychologist Dr Cliff Arnalls, miserable weather, mounting debt and the lenght of time since Christmas along with failed New Year's resolutions would all combine to produce a devastating depressing day for people.

Source: Yahoo! UK News

Global poll slams Bush leadership

According to a survey done by the BBC World Service, more than half of those questioned in the poll has said that the re-election of George W. Bush has made the World a more dangerous place.

Well you don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.

Source: BBC News America

Thursday, January 13, 2005

More iPod rant

More anti iPod rants but this time not by me...

Andrew Kantor compares the iPod to a Toyota Camry. I fully agree with Andrew and am still perplex with the so called iPod phenomenon. Andrew has been at the receiving end of childlike behaviour from iPod owners.

Creative, who by the way, created the market for harddrive based digital audio player a few years ago, has accused Apple of creating a product (iPod Shuffle) that uses four year old technology. Exactly my sentiment! When I first heard that Apple was going to release a flash based iPod, my thoughts were they were just going to rehash the iPod Mini, make is smaller and use cheap flash memory. I was wrong. It was worst. I still have to ask - no screen! Apple fans has been touting the shuffle function of the iPod Shuffle. Er, excuse me - that is not a new function. And what about that one elusive track that you wanted to share with someone? Without a screen you won't be able to find it!

I have been ranting about Apple for a couple of weeks now, so I will rant about their rival - Microsoft now.

That's right. More security patches coming our way. And these are patches for critical flaws found on Windows 98 all the way up to Windows Server 2003. When will Microsoft learn? Having said that I find Windows XP far more stable than Mac OS X.

Forehead ad auction hits £13,000

£13,000 and 13 hours to go guys. Help his college kid pay his bills by buying an advertisment place on his forehead (non permanent for 30 days). Head to eBay now and bid!

Source: BBC News

IBM frees up 500 patents

IBM has pledge to release 500 software patents into the open source community as it proves its commitment into the Linux operating system.

This is great news. Although IBM will still own the patents, royalties are not expected by developers and users who use them in their open source softwares.

Hopefully the European Union will see fit to reject the pending and controversial uphaul to the EU's way of handling software patents.

Source: Groklaw

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Excited over nothing

As usual whenever Apple releases something, the fans (many of them posers) would praise it. In this case, its the new Mac Mini and iPod Shuffle.

The Mac Mini is supposed to compete with low cost PCs by NOT including a monitor, keyboard and mouse. It comes with a rather pathetic 256Mb RAM and 40Gb Harddrive although to Apple's credit, they did include a DVD writer. Oh wait! No its not included! Instead the optical drive would be a DVD/CD-RW combo drive. It would costs £340 in the UK.

While that sounds cheap, it is not. Comet UK for example sells a Hewlett-Packard A708 base PC with 256Mb RAM, 80Gb Harddrive storage and a DVD writer for only £300. Yeah, so the Apple might look 'nicer', but technology wise, their customers are getting a bad deal for what is essentially yesterday's technology. I have to admit it is small, half the size of the doomed Mac Cube, but there are small PCs out there too.

The iPod Shuffle is even worse! It costs £99 for a 1Gb version. While this is not a bad price for flash based digital music player - this one does not come with a LCD screen! So you can't see what you are playing! In the Sandisk Silver contains a 1Gb drive and screen for £100.

Unfortunately the media seems to be taking Apple just too seriously. Remember the iMac that made a big splash in the 1990s? Well where are they now? The iPod Shuffle and Mac Mini will undoubtly sell to many, especially those ill imformed or too caught up in the hype (trend followers and fashionist). If you really need to use Mac OS X, then by all means get the Mac Mini - however be warned that OS X is not at all polished as it seems. It looks nicer than Windows XP or any Linux distributions but its as buggy as hell (I am forced to use one at work).

Avoid the iPod Schuffle though. There are way better flash based digital music players out there.

Saturday, January 8, 2005

o2 saga part 10

Well o2 has finally credited me for the wrongly billed items. Good for them. However I have a strong feeling that come next month these problems will arise again.

I am still waiting for a personal apology from a senior o2 member with £500 worth of gift vouchers for all the headaches they caused. A free BlackBerry would be nice. Or unlimited GPRS usage for 5 years.

People with no feelings...

To those sending and forwarding pictures or videos of victims running away from the tsunami or pictures of dead bodies found, please stop it! These pictures seems to be originating from Malaysia, Singapore - you know all those countries with residents who just love to forward every fuckin' e-mail they have. (eg. Fwd: Tsunami's Victims Body)

Rather than forwarding pictures of dead children, do something useful instead. Donate your monies to charities involved. Donate clothing. Even better - since you are all so nearby, try to help on-site! And remember, they are not the only victims. Hundreds of thousands of people die in Africa every month due to poverty created by government debts. Do something for them too!
Those forwarding of pictures is just as disgusting as those who play hoax by sending e-mails to relatives claiming that bodies of their loved ones has been found, or people pretending to be
rescue workers looting bodies. What if your forwarded message lands on people's inbox who has relations to those who died in the tsunami?

Donate now:


Thursday, January 6, 2005

Desperate Housewives

Yesterday came the UK terresterial debut of Desperate Housewives on Channel 4. And man its wonderful. It is one of those rare TV shows that come out from America and not much different from Six Feet Under.

For once it features pretty old women which is great compared to the ugly ducklings from Sex and the City (overrated). Teri Hatcher is there as well. Yummy!

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Hardware Review: i-mate JAM

HTC Magician Review

published: January 4th 2005 (last update: January 12th 2005, May 5th 2005)

applies to all models bearing the name: imate JAM, Qtek S100, O2 XDA II Mini, T-Mobile MDA Compact, Dopod 818, Orange SPV M500, Vodafone VPA Compact

I have been using the HTC Magician (i-mate JAM) exclusively for the past three weeks ever since Expansys shipped it (after weeks of waiting). This device runs on Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition for Pocket PC Phone Edition (probably the longest product title in history). It contains a 2.8" 16-bit LCD screen with 320x240 pixel resolution, 416Mhz Intel PXA272 X-Scale processor, 64Mb ROM and 64Mb RAM. The device costs £400 inc. VAT from Expansys.

Upgrading from Hewlett Packard's iPAQ h4150, I was immediately warmed towards the screen. Why? Because this screen does not suffer from yellow tint if viewed from a low angle. And while is did not shipped with a VGA screen the low dot pitch did make everything feel sharper. Despite this I still feel that HTC should have included a 18-bit display instead of 16-bit.

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The processor feels slower than my h4150. This is mainly because the PDA is running the latest version of Windows Mobile 2003 which is more bloated than the vanilla version. Also the processor speed of 416Mhz is not 'sticky' therefore is always scaling down to save battery power. So far no utility has emerged to overclock the processor however Immiersoft is working on updating the popular XCPUScalar application.

Update (10/01/05) : Pocket Hack Master is now compatible with the HTC Magician. The maximum clock speed I can get to is 520Mhz (130Mhz bus). This in my opinion is quite a poor result. However, PHM has only prelimanary support for the PXA27x so hopefully my JAM can soon support 200Mhz bus speed.

The mad thing about this device was the weird implementation of Extended ROM. Extended ROM is where HTC keeps some of its bonus applications and utilities such as PhonePad, Photo Contacts etc. The device will execute each of those CAB installers from the Extended ROM after every Hard Reset and install them into RAM. So by the time you Hard Reset, you would have wasted 5Mb of precious RAM storage. Because the CAB files remains in the Extended ROM, only about 8Mb of ROM storage is available to users.
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Here is a tip. If you think you do not need some of the applications, you can always do a hard reset and go through all the usual Microsoft 'tutorial'. Once you hit the screen to enter the Today Screen, do a warm reset. The device will reset and once rebooted you can access the Extended ROM folder using any file utility program. Once there you can install any of the programs you want to manually. Doing this saved me around 2Mb of space as I did not need the MMS (why isn't this in ROM?) and Java. Right now I am evaluating whether PhonePad is useful or not. Deleting it would save me 1Mb of RAM space.

The JAM comes with Bluetooth v1.2 and uses Microsoft Bluetooth stack. Worst decision ever! I would have preferred that they have chosen Widcomm's excellent bluetooth implementation that resides on so many Pocket PCs.

Some has complained that the JAM lacks WiFi. Being a resident of London, I find that WiFi is pretty much useless due to the lack of free or even cheap WiFi access. I do not want to pay for overpriced coffee everytime I want to check my e-mail. That said, WiFi is useful - but not a deal breaker.

The IrDA is located on the right side of the PDA. A weird location but not as bad as my h4150 (located on the bottom next to the serial connector!). The IrDA is not CIR (consumer IR) based so using the JAM as a remote control is not advisable. It would work but probably at a short distance (1-2 metres). Your milage may wary.

The form factor is very nice. The small size (although quite heavy) is perfect for my hands. I have tried other Pocket PC phones such as the o2 XDA II and found them to be too big. However the i-mate JAM size is similar to Sony Ericsson's P9xx line which I think is the perfect form factor for data centric PDA phones. The sad fact about this device is although the case appears to be constucted from aluminium, its actually plastic. I understand that metal such as alloy hinders mobile phone reception so I shouldn't really be complaining.

Left to Right: palmOne Tungsten T3, Sony Ericsson K700i, i-mate JAM, Ericsson T39m, Ericsson A2618

The speaker is oddly situated at the back of the PDA. I have to flip the JAM backwards if I want to use speakerphone mode if not the speaker would get muffled. Its bizarre for HTC to build the speakers at the back. Maybe its justified as the only space on the front left that a speaker could be situated is the joypad (ala iPAQ), but that sits too closely to the microphone. Maybe they should have built it on the side like some Nokia mobiles.

There are four buttons on the front however two are dedicated phone application buttons. That leaves only two buttons for launching applications. This could prove frustrating to gamers as some games would not recognize the call/end buttons. (For a list of compatible games, see my post at
Compact Jam.)

I also find the lack of keyboard (QWERTY or traditional phone pad) was quite annoying. Sending SMS has to be done via a stylus which I am not too happy with. Imagine standing in a crowded train trying to text someone! The included PhonePad application (IntelliPad) aims to rectify that by imposing a giant virtual mobile phone pad with T9 capabilities. However to get into the Messaging application still requires the usage of stylus.

Update (10/01/05): Those who really need a keyboard, I advice you to wait for the BenQ P50, palmOne Treo 650 or the HTC Blue Angel (QTek 9090, T-Mobile MDA III, Orange SPV M2000, i-mate PDA2K, O2 XDA IIs, Vodafone VPA, Siemens SX66).

Speaking of stylus, this is the worst stylus that has ever had the opportunity to graze my delicate fingers. It is even smaller than the styluses that came with my Sony NR70V. Why can't they design a spring loaded stylus with enough thickness? I suggest the designers at HTC to take a look at palmOne's Tungsten T-T3 line for inspiration on creating a mighty styli.

My JAM features supports tri-band GSM frequencies (GSM900, GSM1800 and GSM1900) as well as GPRS (Class 10). No complaints there and it works on my O2, Virgin and old payasyougo BT Cellnet sim card.

Phone calls quality are at best average. Voices would appear to be coming out from a tunnel. The quality is a little sharper than my former Nokia 7610 but it lacks bass that are apparent on Ericsson mobiles. I can't say I am happy with the quality but I am not mad either. i-mate has stated that they would be releasing a ROM update to address this problem.

The JAM has a 1.3Megapixel CMOS sensor built-in for its digital camera duties. While on paper it sounds nice but the quality is amazingly bad. Even the 7610 with its 1Mp output produces better clarity than this. Needless to say the camera is best used under the sunlight or places with bright lights. Resizing down to VGA on my PC did improve the quality a little bit.

Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition for Pocket PC was supposed to introduce native landscape support and better a better Internet browser. This is all bollocks. Landscape support is crippled. Microsoft mobile division should learn from the skilled engineers at palmOne. The Tungsten T3/T5 landscape support is the best on the market. Pocket Internet Explorer was supposed to be faster too. I did not notice anything faster. I tested loading Compact Jam forum site and PIE took more than a minute to load whereas WebPro 3 on the T3 took about 20 seconds.

Despite some short comings, I am very happy with the device. Right now I am keeping this device for the foreseeable future. I do hope palmOne will release a new Treo that would bring me back to PalmOS's camp. palmOne has yet to release a GSM version of the Treo 650. Even then the Treo 650's lack of memory and fast processor is something I am not too keen with.

There are more powerful mobile phones or PDAs out there. However as far as convergence devices go, I personally believe the i-mate JAM is the best because of its size. Sure I prefer the retro design of Sony Ericsson P9xx smartphone, but it does not come with either Pocket PC or PalmOS. .

Hopefully the next iteration of the Magician would have a 3G tuner inside, 128Mb RAM, 128Mb ROM, VGA 18-bit OLED screen, better stylus, more hard buttons, 2Mp CCD 2x optical digital camera, WiFi 802.11b, FM/DAB radio.

If you have any questions, feel free to post a question on
Compact Jam. My username is jonchoo.

Why I will leave o2 in August...

1. They are still charging me for o2 WAP CSD over GSM which are supposed to be inclusive of my free minutes.

2. Last month they charged me £72 for o2 WAP access which they promised to credit me for this month. They did not.

3. Their customer service are useless.

4. o2 Retail Stores do not have direct line to o2 Customer Service.

5. o2 WAP CSD over GSM (915000) has been firewalled. I cannot download POP3 or IMAP e-mails for the past 4 weeks.

6. POP3 and IMAP e-mails can't be downloaded even when using the expensive o2 GPRS connections.

7. When calling to o2 Customer Service (0870), they tend to rudely hang up on me.

8. The 0800 free call number published on their website is there to instruct you to call a 0870 number.

9. o2 Retail Stores do not receive consistent training. Example: o2 Ealing: Friendly, fast service, good knowledge; o2 Euston: Friendly, slow service, average knowledge; o2 Brighton: extremely slow service, make you queue for 30 minutes before serving, no knowledge at all (their ignorance rivals that of Dixons).

Monday, January 3, 2005

Tsunami thoughts

E-mails has been coming through from some friends who were in Thailand for the Christmas break. Luckily all of them are alright.

Some of them will be staying over or flying to Sri Lanka to help up with the relief operations. I wish I could do more to help by being on-site but unfortunately I could not be there.

Not that it matters because we all can still help even if we are thousands of miles away in Britain. Donate to any spare changes you have. Old clothings, food, duvets and anything else can be donated to Oxfam.

Sunday, January 2, 2005

Happy New Year everyone!!!

Well, Happy New Year 2005 everyone. I am sure there will be muted and guarded celebrations.

The past week has proved difficult to millions of people from South and South East Asian countries particular Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka. I have been glued to BBC News 24 watching in awe on such a tragedy that has so far claimed more than 150,000 human lives.

The press here has been excellent highlighting the terror that has engulfed the region and played a part in urging people to donate. Tens of millions of pounds has been raised so far in Britain alone.

Please donate any spare change you have to any local organizations that involved in the relief operations in the disaster zones. Alternatively you can donate at

I pray that 2005 will bring much luck to those who has seen their lives washed away. Please help rebuild their economy by NOT staying away. Tourists who wanted to cancel their holidays in affected countries should continue with their trip. These people need our help.