Camille Blogs a Bit

Writing about design, technology, maybe philosophy, and daily living (in Singapore)

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Category: Technology (page 1 of 2)

Almost a week with an LG G4

I’ve been pretty content with Android since switching to a Xiaomi Redmi Note late November last year. Material Design is pleasing to the eyes, so it’s still refreshing to get an Android design point of view when using apps (with the benefit of still getting familiarized with Android patterns). I still miss the iPhone camera and the latest beautiful apps that get launched on iOS first, but I feel very strongly that our team needs more design diversity so I decided to get a better Android phone. Something that’s more than a budget phone but won’t burn too huge a hole in my pocket.

In comes the LG G4, only around SGD $650 on average in Carousell, the lowest being SGD $550 in the marketplace. It got a pretty decent score on The Verge’s review, and above average reviews when I googled. Suffice it to say, I was pretty sold.

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My Android x Windows 8 Setup

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There’s been a lot of excitement for the upcoming Windows 10 recently, but I’m more wary of how the current ecosystem works for me and the other devices that I use. I’ve been exploring how to make Windows more than just my gaming system and for now I’m not so convinced that I should invest in Windows. The Surface looks quite pretty from the outside, and I’ve enjoyed using a Windows Phone for several months before I was forced to abandon ship due to the lack of apps. Some days I think about trying out a Windows PC/tablet so for a while I’ve been testing the waters (although I’m not ready for an expensive Surface, unless it comes for free! Keeping my eye out for more budget-friendly alternatives). How will Windows fit into my current lifestyle?

I have a company-loaned MacBook Air along with my own personal MBA so having two Macs didn’t make much sense. 😛 So I decided to Bootcamp Windows 8 on my personal Mac. Tweaked it a bit to have reverse (“natural”) scrolling like on Mac. If I can find alternatives for my design apps that isn’t Adobe, then I will remove my Mac partition to make more space for Windows. 😛 Installing Windows was also something that Guild Wars 2 has driven me to do (mainly because the Mac port of the game is too inferior to the Windows version that I can only play in low settings on Mac, whereas I could play max settings on Windows).

Windows 8/8.1 is still one of the worst OS experiences I’ve had primarily because the Desktop/Touch experience on Windows 8 is so jarring and frustrating. They forced touch design so much that the desktop+mouse experience has been severely affected, and in a very bad way (my most hated are the hidden, corner-triggered menus and the sudden desktop-to-Metro switching!). It’s like they forgot that most people use a mouse instead of touch and keyboard shortcuts. Unfortunately for me, I am using Windows 8 on a keyboard-only laptop, so I feel the terrible mouse experience keenly. Despite my anger and frustrations, I still try to explore the Windows Store part of the ecosystem (Windows apps that run on RT, if I understood it correctly) because it is new and I am curious. I also want to understand this direction Windows is going, since people will be stuck with this company for at least another decade.

I’ve been trying to integrate Windows 8 with my daily workflow/use, particularly with Android (which has been my mobile OS for the past couple of months) so I’m making a list of the apps and stuff that I use on both platforms, with a brief overview of my other daily devices.

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Wireless is Addicting: my wireless hoard in 2014

Once you go wireless, it’s hard to go back. From home to my commute to the office, I try to keep my things and my workflow as wireless as possible. Here’s my own personal wireless list: from computer setup to apps to photo management to headphones and speakers.

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Making the most of my Xiaomi Redmi Note

I’ve been using a Xiaomi Redmi Note (4G/LTE) for almost a month and I can say that for the value of the phone, it’s been doing really great for me. Admittedly, the cheap price point comes with limitations (camera quality and storage size) but I’ve been able to work around them with some apps and I think everything has been impressive so far (given the said limitations). I’ve brought the phone around with me when my boyfriend came to visit Singapore and we went around like tourists, going out all day. I took pictures, used Google Maps, checked in places, kept my data on, browsed the web to look up info. Some days I would keep the hotspot on hours at a time to share my net with my boyfriend. For these few days that we were out and about, the battery would last me all day long. It’s been a dependable phone and for the most part, I have no complaints.

Because Google made some changes to how Android manages storage by default, I had to tweak things a bit to expand my storage (which is necessary because 6GB of available storage space is just impossible for me to live with). Tweaks included linking apps to expand my storage size with a 64GB micro SD card (which requires root permissions), and some necessary apps so I could automatically store photos (taken by Google Camera) and .obb game files to the external sd card. Here’s a quick list of the things I needed:

  1. Native Root via Updater app (Root permissions without booting to Recovery)
  2. a 64GB class 10 microSD card
  3. MiniTool Partition Wizard (free)
  4. Link2SD
  5. Xposed Installer
  6. Switching default apps, pretty apps, and just apps

I will talk about each one extensively under the cut, with some other apps I love and use that has really made me enjoy using my Redmi Note.

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Back to Android with a Redmi Note

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G became available on the Mi Singapore store recently and I managed to get one, yay! At S$229, it wasn’t bad (around PhP 8k). I wanted to get a bigger phone since it seems to be a trend and I want to study/understand/experience it myself. The Redmi Note seems to be a mid-range phone which performs decent enough. I’m not listing down specs because specs are only ingredients to the experience, so I’d rather talk about how I feel about using the phone.

(You may also want to read: How come the iPhone’s 1 GB RAM is touted to be able to compete with more than 2 GB RAM of Android phones?)

As a phone, it’s waaaay better than my old Alcatel (which I very rarely use for testing stuff, before it housed my PH sim after moving to SG). Let’s just say my Android experience benchmark is low enough that I really found the Redmi Note to be a huge upgrade, haha. My iPhone 5’s battery also only lasts me 4-6 hours at a time with 3G on, so trying out a new device seems like a good idea at this point in time.

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How switching to pocket wifi changed my workflow

My Old Plan

My two-year contract with SMART was a mix of good and bad. Bad because my iPhone 4S broke a month after the 1-year warranty (CRY!!!) but good because my experience of their services has been smooth all throughout. I’m sure there are horror stories out there, but I guess I’m lucky enough that my experience was smooth as a duck. I paid all bills online so I was never late, and I never went a few hundred bucks from my PhP1.5k UnliData plan. I was very careful with my data settings when I traveled (I actually had it on airplane mode all the time for the first few trips just to be really sure, but last time I was in HK I only made sure that Data Roaming is off and didn’t receive any extra charges).

I learned my lesson when my iPhone 4S broke though. Apparently updating it via 3G would fry the wires that connect to wifi, or whatever it is that happened that broke it, so now I’m much careful with how I use my iPhone 5 (this thing is so frigging expensive, it’s worth all the caution). I also computed how much I’d save and getting it outside of the contract is cheaper because I still paid some cash-out with that plan.

My New Plan

My contract just expired so I downgraded to SMART’s ALL-IN 500 plan, where I only have to get TRINET400 (500 mins to SMART, Sun, Talk ‘N Text and PLDT Landline + 2000 texts to all networks + 150MB worth of mobile browsing for 30 days) and have PhP 100 extra for all those Globe people. Then I got a separate Smart Bro Pocket Wi-Fi for PhP599 (50 hours) or PhP999 (once I exceed 50 hours) per month because I wanted to be able to use my Nexus 7 on the go.

(Why not LTE? Because I don’t really need it given the current pricing and 5GB cap on the cheapest pocket wi-fi plan. Weird when there’s a PhP 999 unlimited LTE for the phone plans.)

So now I could either (1) pay a few hundred bucks less than my old plan if I kept my 3G usage to 50 hours or (2) pay around the same amount as my last plan, but I could connect both my phone and my tablet (or other devices).

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Negatives 

Not all is cool with this set-up because:

  • a pocket wi-fi is an added device to bring around, to possibly forget or lose
  • SMART’s pocket wi-fi (a rebranded ZTE model) only lasts around 4-5 hours with continued usage. But this is not a usual downside for me because I do go to work either at home or at an office most of the time.
  • it also heats up really quickly (but is also not a big deal because I always have a bag/purse to keep it in)

Positives

  • being able to use my Nexus 7 in the car or anywhere else actually is GREAT (this could be any tablet). It’s easier doing a number of things such as: searching for design pegs or inspiration, reading news and blogs online, and reading or answering email. My Nexus 7 is no longer some brick I use only to watch Korean drama or read e-books.
  • I don’t have to switch from reading on the tablet to doing online stuff on my (3G) phone because of the above.
  • My iPhone’s battery doesn’t get drained by 3G so it lasts longer (yay)

I recently got a power bank so I use it for the pocket wi-fi when I have to. But in between home – work – hanging out at Charlie’s in Eastwood, there were only a few times when I feel frustrated with the pocket w-ifi:

  • I still can’t figure out if it is slower or faster than when I was using my iPhone as a hotspot.
  • I’m not sure if it’s harder to get signals because of the device or because the signal is actually weak.

Before making the switch, I searched for reviews online, most of which were frustrated users who hated the slowness of their connection. Most of those who complain were using the pocket wi-fi as their main internet connection at home and I did not have that kind of expectation for it (it is 3G so I’d keep my expectations low) so I decided to just jump ship for better or for worse.

I’ve tested the 3G in a couple of places: in transit from my home to Katipunan or Eastwood, different places in Eastwood (Eastwood Mall, Citiwalk: specifically Tokyo Bubble Tea, Starbucks, Army Navy, Le Grand Tower 1). Most of the time it works well enough that I can load sites, keep connected to apps, reply to emails, etc. It’s just some specific areas that the signal seems weak. To be fair, even when I was using my phone as a hotspot while hanging out at Tokyo Bubble Tea, it’s nearly impossible to go online if I get a table inside the shop vs. a table outdoor. So maybe it works just as well as my old connection (which I was content with anyway). I just need to test if it’s as fast as when I’m at home because I used to do Apple updates over my SMART 3G because it’s faster than our PLDT DSL at home (so sad).

Workflow changes

Actually, the biggest change was the increased tablet usage. To an extent it made me more productive even while on the go because it’s much easier to do small tasks or work on the tablet. For better or for worse, my Nexus 7 has fewer addictive games than my iPhone, so I’m less likely to do something unproductive. 😛

My phone is also my most important device (when it comes to being worried about power running out). Having internet, say, while working remotely on my laptop while not thinking about running out of battery on both laptop and phone at the same time gives me less to worry about. The Macbook Air’s battery life is beyond amazing and I could work without plugging for 4-5 hours and the iPhone lasts way longer with 3G turned off (and in the end, I just need the power bank for the pocket wi-fi to keep up with Apple’s amazing battery life).

I’ve been going around with this set-up for nearly a week and it’s been pretty good so far. Just the occasional frustrating lack of signal inside some stores, but otherwise switching still seems like a good move.