iPad, do you… ?

Technology January 30th, 2010

Before I could even complete my sentence, I was interrupted with a curt “no”. Well, it can’t be blamed that the latest iPhone-MacBook intermediate had a pretty unfortunate name of being called the iPad, resulting in many jokes coming out from it. In fact, there were so many jokes about it, I am just going to create some of my “variations” of iPad that I can probably envisage in the not-too-long term:

1. iPad Maxi – comes with additional firewall to ensure that your data remains safe in your iPad. You can leave your worries behind when you carry your iPad with you, without ever brooding over whether your data will be leaked.

2. iPad Overnight – need that extra boost to help you tide through the night? Get that iPad overnight that will ensure that you have enough power to last you through the night (12 hours for regular consumption, power may drain faster for larger consumption)

3. iPad Wings – ever wonder if your iPad will slip off? Worry no more with iPad Wings to give you that extra grip whenever you need it, wherever you go. Ultra grip means that you get your iPad in regular size with that extra hold that ensures that you’ll never have to worry giving it the slip!

4. iPad UltraSlim (thanks @Winterfirz) – the slimmer version of the same, fabulous iPad! Rumored to be launched soon after they have conducted enough Blue Test – a secret measurement of the reliability of the iPad. It’s so slim, you won’t even feel it when you bring it around in your bag (it’s been also rumored that it could be called the iPad-Air).

Yes, I can see the iPad being avoided like the plague by male punters. After all, they still have their iPhones to give them their 4D/Toto updates in Hokkien 🙂


I was going through my daily doses of tech information when I came across this. If you have dreamt of having bodily vital stats displayed like a Heads-Up Display (HUD) in front of you without a monitor (too much Transformers?) or still being able to work on a PC with your eyes closed, then this might be the future for you.

Apparently, a “semi-transparent array, including an LED” has been embedded into a contact lens. What this means is that displays, or computer images, can be sent wirelessly to the contact lens, which will then appear in your vision (and making you feel like a cyborg, which could really be a cool thing). This miniature device, which requires about 330 microwatts, can apparently be powered wirelessly from a nearby RF transmitter.

Of course, there is no mention of a power-surge protector.

The only thing that is missing from all these, besides connection from a GPS and perhaps your mobile phone, is a motorized pair of shoes that allows you to travel at 90km per hour (any faster and you might get a ticket for speeding violations in Singapore). And oh, a rocket-pack would be good too.

[via SlashGear]


I got hold of a Verbatim ExpressCard/34 64GB SSD from Sim Lim Square today to fill up the ExpressCard/34 slot that’s otherwise left empty for a while on the MacBook Pro. At 120/35 MB/s read/write speed, it is much faster than other USB-based ExpressCards, which typically runs at 35/23 MB/s. With it’s PCIe interface, it’s no surprise that it can outperform other ExpressCards at the same price point.

I would have gotten a FileMate Ultra ExpressCard/34 48GB SSD, if not for the confusion that Amazon.com presented while I was trying to place it in my cart. Apparently, it always tells me that the item is no longer available whenever I tried to place the item in cart. I am not sure, but I suspect there is a little glitch at the backend with regards to Prime Members. Anyway, I have taken myself off the trial because I gathered that I’d have to do 30 non-free shipping purchases in order for the annual membership of almost US$80 to be worth it.

Nonetheless, the purchase of the Verbatim ExpressCard/34 SSD was to take up the challenge (or rather, personal curiosity) if a MBP could indeed boot from an ExpressCard/34 SSD. Upon insertion of the SSD into the ExpressCard/34 slot, I knew the answer. It was an astounding “NO”.

Apparently, the Verbatim ExpressCard/34 SSDs require a Mac driver update, which basically means that it is not recognised when it is first plugged into the MBP. Only a driver installation will get it to mount. Needless to say, the loading of a vendor driver at Startup is *unheard of*, so it is not possible for the ExpressCard/34 to be booted from. There are, however, 2 solutions to this: either the startup is hacked for the drivers to be loaded, or the interface of the ExpressCard/34 is changed. Since neither of this is probable, it is highly unlikely; if not impossible, that the Verbatim brand of ExpressCards/34 SSDs can be used to boot up a MBP.

Despite this, you will still be able to install Mac OS Snow Leopard when you are already booted into the OS (i.e. no installation from DVD drive on bootup); only to be disappointed that the installation cannot continue after it boots for the first time after the first phase of the installation. This was certainly a great letdown.

That was indeed an expensive experiment, but the silver lining in this is that I can now make the Verbatim ExpressCard a Mac OS Extended (Journaled) *and non case-sensitive* partition for Adobe Photoshop and Parallels Desktop for Mac. For some reasons, my MBP came with the OS installed on a Journaled and Case-sensitive partition, which made installation of Adobe Photoshop impossible (Ed: Adobe Photoshop can only be installed on non case-sensitive partitions).

At the same time, running Parallels has became incredibly fast as long as the PVM (Parallels Virtual Machine) file is located on the SSD. However, at just 30MB/s write speed, it will be good to hold your expectations a little because this is probably just about as fast as transferring data to a FireWire drive when you carry out write-intensive tasks.

While it was a little disappointing to find out that my MBP is not blazing across the highway anytime soon, I got to experience SSD read/write performance, which is really better than its USB thumbdrive cousins. As I continue to explore what else I can do with this possibly white elephant, I am also anticipating the Filemate 48GB SSD in my mailbox in the next 2-3 weeks.

Till then, let’s hope I can find more useful things that I can do with my ExpressCard/34 SSD.

This is a personal review of the Verbatim ExpressCard/34 64GB SSD. No fees or gifts had been received as a result of this review.

In my last few trips overseas, there’s always been request to send home some photos while I was on the move. It would have been quite an easy task, except that sending a few megs or gigs of photos over email may not always be possible, and there’s always this thing of having to look through all the photos to choose the best – since the cost of the use of the Internet isn’t always affordable.

The other thing was, after the mail is sent, my parents at home would have to download the files again – and while opening several emails just to download files may be an easy task for most people, it may be an agonizing wait for those who are not tech-savvy.

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It’s always nice to write about non-political stuffs. I am threading on safe grounds and can probably compliment (or slam) a product as much as I want. Yes, I am talking about technology posts.

Microsoft has slated it’s latest operating system – the Windows 7, to be released within this year – the same time as it’d be released in the US. For once, I am looking forward to the release of the new OS because the current one is almost unbearable.

First, the memory leaks and is left as it is until I *manually* release the memory by terminating the apparently resident application via Task Manager. Even then, the computer seems to be running out of memory every now and then. Mind you, I have 4 GB of RAM installed, but to be fair, I open many windows as well.

Aero was nice, but eats up memory as fast as DK eats up a BK burger (or a Carls Junior Burger when he doesn’t feel like eating anything that sounds like his initials). So, Aero is probably only good for the first few days or weeks, following which, many would have turned it off. This is quite unlike the Mac OS which has totally fabulous interface. What I wanted to say is that Mac OS FTW, but I think “FTW” is overrated and overused.

I hope the Internet Explorer is nothing like IE7, or IE8 Beta for that matter since both have memory leak problems – amongst a whole list of other things. I do hope that when a dialog window pops up (e.g. Browse for a file, Browse for a location to save a file, etc.), I will be able to do Shift-Tab and key in the starting alphabet to go to a particular sub-folder. Currently, I am not quite sure what it does.

While Hibernation seems to work so far, I hope they will be able to keep it steady. Asking me to shut down/reboot every time I end my work for the day may not always be possible because I sometimes do not really want to open up all my files again and not every program supports a Workspace feature. So yes, if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, please. “Standby” has been fantastic so far, so I really hope they don’t do a Kamikaze on it.

Everything else seems ok – as long as it doesn’t involve the GUI. Aero, again, doesn’t seem to work, unless – I suspect, I have 16 GB of RAM. Then again, it may not be sufficient if the OS is leaky. Everything else is good, but I hope they OS is backward compatible with device drivers. That, is usually a headache.

Having said that, I hope Mac OS releases an OS for other non-Mac machines. Jail break versions don’t count since *a lot* of patching is usually required. However, they are probably pretty fun to use while it lasts.

In the history of Microsoft Operating Systems, those that I’d dare say makes the mark will include the first ever Windows 3.11 with Workgroup, Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows XP. Everything else in between doesn’t work that well and sometimes seem to screw up the system. Windows Vista seems to be one such version. I was tempted to get the Ultimate version, but I think I will hold my horses and just wait for Windows 7.

I do not usually dive into new operating systems (it took me months before I got onto Windows Vista – and that’s because it came together with my notebook and there was no release of Windows XP on it), but the Vista is unusually bad (somewhat like Windows ME) that I am desperate to get out of it.

I hope Microsoft did their Gantt Chart correctly. =)

Windows 7 here this year

By Chua Hian Hou

MICROSOFT’S upcoming computer operating system, Windows 7, will be available to Singapore users here at the same time as it is launched in the United States.

The software giant’s Windows software runs on most of the world’s computers, and Microsoft has promised that the new version will be faster and more efficient than its predecessor, Vista.

Vista has been slammed for being overly taxing on computers resources. Third party reviews of test or ‘beta’ versions of Windows 7, by sites like ZDNet, have reaffirmed this.

Microsoft senior director for its business and marketing organisation Haresh Khoobchandani declined to say how much Windows 7 will cost, or if it will also extend its ‘technology guarantee’ programme to Windows 7. With previous operating systems, Microsoft offered consumers who bought computers a few months before the launch of a new operating system a free upgrade to the new software.

That said, Microsoft ‘will not jeopardise the customer experience’, said Mr Khoobchandani. Windows 7 will be launched within the year.

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_325590.html

Article extracted on 14th January 2009

I laid my hands finally on the delicately crafted Lenovo IdeaPad U110 that was couriered from Lenovo a few days back. I didn’t want to rampage through the bag on what’s inside because I wanted to do the customary unpacking photos. So, here you are. The. Unpacking. Photos. On. A. Crumpled. Bedsheet. =P

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This is rather unglam, so I will change it at the earliest possible moment.

I am currently out with the IdeaPad and it seems that I would have to get some software installed before it is ready to hit the roads. Some of the things that I can’t go without will be:

  • Microsoft Office – it seemed to be installed but it asked for my licence key… hmmm…
  • Microsoft Visio – need it to make all my flow charts and presentations
  • Adobe Creative Suite 3 – for all the photo editing stuffs
  • Windows Live Writer – to blog on the road
  • Windows Live Messenger – to chat on the road
  • DivX + AC3 filter – to watch movies on the road
  • Nokia PC Suite – to connect, backup and be hooked onto the 3G network

Yeah, I guess that’s about it since they already have Norton installed in it.

My first experience with the IdeaPad was electrifying. Literally. Apparently I was able to feel the “current running” on the touch pad, which was rather strange since everything should have been grounded properly. The colours on the flushed screen was radiant and the keys were such a darling to type on. I am also a big fan of touch pads and it’s a nice surprise to have them squeeze in one in the IdeaPad. 

I have not tried the speakers but I have read reviews that it could do better. I am not sure about the battery life yet but at 99%, it still continues to charge and I am not sure if it is bad for the battery in the long run. When all the software are installed, I guess that’s when the real test will come. =) Also, the battery seemed to have contributed a fair bit of weight to the notebook because the IdeaPad is almost feather light without the batter, although this probably doesn’t make any sense. There are some minor aesthetics which are excellent – such as the hidden panel above the keyboard, the LED lights below the screen as well as the intricate design of the laptop, however, there may still be some small parts that need getting used to – like the position of the Fn and Ctrl keys. Yeah, minor stuffs, but the other author at Simply Jean loves it (she’s an IBM fan).

So, while the software is being installed, we are appreciating the nice shiny face, the rubbery texture of the bottom and the smooth reflections on the keyboard.

Do stay tuned.

I was lucky enough to get a unit some time back to review. Yes, it was almost a few weeks back that I got the pair of easyKey dongle; but because I wanted to make sure that what I am getting is the real McCoy, I tested it inside out, outside in, and flip it around a few times for good measure. My data was secure, it was virtually hack-proof (virtually because if you have all the computer power needed and all the time, then yes, you can probably hack it – but I am not sure if you’d still be around to see it).

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While I will go through the installation at the bottom of the post, I would like to highlight some mechanisms on how I thought it worked. When you first install the software, you will be prompted to create a drive. This drive that you are creating doesn’t really exist, but is really a .sdf file on your hard disk. The .sdf file is something like a .zip file except that it’s not really compressed although it is really encrypted.

When you plug in the easyKey dongle on on another occasion, it will prompt you for a PIN, following which the .sdf file will be "opened" up as a drive on your computer. Needless to say, deleting the .sdf file means that you will lose all data that you stored in this virtual drive. It is also noteworthy to mention that the dongle itself is not a thumb drive and the size of the virtual drive you create during or after installation is really taking up space on your hard disk.

What if your hard disk runs out of space – can you still create an encrypted virtual drive to store all your confidential stuffs? The good news is, you can. When you run the easySafe application, it will prompt you for your PIN; following which, it will prompt you for your easyDrive Name (which is like a volume name – for the techies), an easyDrive Size (which is the size of the virtual drive which is really the size of the .sdf file) and an easyDrive Location. Now, this location does not have to always be at C: or D:. In fact, if you have a USB drive, you can plug your USB drive in (assuming that you have at least 2 USB ports) and store the encrypted .sdf file on the thumb drive instead. Of course, doing so means that you’d have to insert both the thumb drive and the easyKey dongle everything you like to access your encrypted data.

In a nutshell, the easyKey dongle provides a 2-prong approach to data security. It is firstly a physical dongle – without which, there’s no way anyone can gain access to your data; and even if someone does manage to get hold of it, it has a second-level security by asking for a PIN. Without either, your encrypted data is safe even in the hands of others.

Many have also asked about why there are 2 easyKey dongles. The reason is quite simple. If you lose one dongle, there’s always another one. If you lose both… hmm… I hope you have a back up somewhere.

FAST easySafe is really the only hardware cryptography product available in the market with unique features. It protects all sensitive information in your computer, external hard disk, USB flash drive, SD card and other removable media.

And now, if you had been dying for the step through, here you go. (Click more to continue)

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Yes, I find myself yet again, in another unique position of having both the Starhub MaxMobile service as well as the M1 Broadband service running from the same computer. Not at the same time of course, since the active connection can only come from either source. However, because my laptop has an internal SIM card slot and I have the M1 Broadband dongle as well, I save the trouble of having to replace SIM cards when I want to test either connection.

Prior to connecting my Starhub MaxMobile for the first time, I experience bad connection problems with my M1 Broadband. Not only was the connection slow, but the graphics seemed distorted as well. Initially, I thought I needed a new driver for the display, but in an unusual twist of events, I realised that it was a graphic degradation due to slow downstream speed. Of course, it’s easy to push the blame to M1.

To me, 99.98% coverage means nothing to me if I am having problems getting a connection. To me, it was 0% coverage. Probability doesn’t work here. It’s not as if I am getting 99.98% uptime from my 0% coverage location. Don’t you just hate statistics?

So, here’s the golden question. Which is the better choice? To some people, it might be even a platinum question, but I digress.

One of the better ways to compare is to do a speed test – upload/download and ping from a particular site. On 29th April 2008 at 19:17, this test was done – but it seemed like a particularly bad day for testing because all the speeds were down – way down from being optimal. Perhaps it’s the feng shui.

Date: 29th April 2008

Time: From 19:17

  Download Upload
M1 Broadband 395 kbps 263 kbps
Starhub MaxMobile 682 kbps 182 kbps
Wireless@SG 4702 kbps 473 kbps*

*The upload for Wireless@SG was not successfully completed on multiple tries.

There’s a caveat to this test though. The M1 Broadband is subscribed under the lowest band, which is up to 1.8 Mpbs while Starhub’s MaxMobile is under the 7.2 Mbps plan – since they only have a single plan. For a rare moment, Wireless@SG outperformed both mobile broadband services. Of course, I didn’t mention about frequent dropping of connections.

However, it is also known that different areas have difference coverage. For me, the place where I spend 10 hours a day at has 0% coverage from M1 Broadband, and barely GPRS speed at home; while Starhub MaxMobile provided better coverage in the day and night for me. For me, it’s quite a clear cut choice.

One thing’s for sure. Ever since M1 went unlimited with their M1 Broadband, it was all down the drain.

In a closed invitation preview, a group of bloggers were given a first-hand view of the HP 2133 Mini Note PC. Weighing no more than 1.3kg, which is probably half the weight of your phone book, and a size smaller than your foolscap pad, this new baby is probably beginning to win hearts over. When I laid hands on it, I was amazed by the sleekness of the notebook. I would have expected some features to be compromised, but I was so wrong.

By now, the HP Mini Note would have been widely reviewed by many bloggers, so I’d just highlight some things that amazed me… that you should also look out for.

The first thing that capture my eyes was how nicely the 8.9" LCD screen was nicely flushed with its awesome speakers. It fitted so nicely that it seems that I will no longer have to worry about dust getting stuck between the LCD screen and the plastic panel. In fact, the LCD is over fitted with a scratch resistant acrylic that will minimize any heartaches with that close brush with my house keys.

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L-R: An overview of the HP Mini Note, The Right Profile of the notebook – here’s where you find one of the USB port as well as other network ports, The Left Profile of the notebook – here’s where you find the audio ports as well as the other USB port, The cover of the notebook – this is fitted with a Garskin, The front of the notebook – the blue light is the slider for power while the orange is the slider for Wifi radio

Still, I think I’d still get a screen protector for it.

The next thing that captured my attention was how feature packed the HP Mini Note is. Given it’s smaller than A4 size, it surprising how they managed to squeeze 9 ports and slots – including 2 USB 2.0 ports and 1 Express Card slot into the machine. The HP Mini Note comes with 2 types of batteries – the 3 cell and 6 cell batteries, with the larger one purportedly to run for 4 hours. While the 3-cell battery lies flushed into the curves of the notebook, the 6-cell version comes with a protruding section that seems to fit nicely to raise the back of the notebook such that the keyboard is comfortably slanted to relief strain on your wrists from typing too long in a cramped and enclosed space.

If you think that a notebook lacking in this size is going to whine, you are so wrong. The 2 speakers aligned by the sides of its crystal clear LCD screen boasts audio of high-fidelity quality for a notebook of its size. Instead of stereo speakers that you have to strain your ears to listen to, it speaks right in front of you, in your face. In fact, given the noisiness of the surroundings of the bloggers’ preview, it’s surprising that I can still hear music playing from it. Imagine what i can do in a quieter environment.

Aesthetically, the HP Mini Note is pleasantly presented in a nice, plain top that gives the sleek and sophisticated feeling. If plain isn’t your cup of tea, HP has tied up with Garskins for customized skins that fit your HP Mini Note snuggly. They come in various designs and styles to fit your personality. Indeed, the HP Mini Note is not just a mobile work station. It’s about defining you.

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L-R: Skin fitted onto the demo HP Mini Note PC, Difference skins from Garskins, Denim Jeans skin!

The power and wifi buttons are conveniently located at the front of the notebook and comes in the form of sliders. A slight push turns on the notebook as well as the Wifi radio. The HP Mini Note also has also moved away from convention by place the left and right mouse buttons on the left and right sides of the mousepad. While it is quite intuitive for me, it might take some getting used to for some people.

For a notebook of such specifications, one would expect to pay close to S$2000 to S$3000 for it. However, it comes at an extremely affordable price of $999 for it’s SuSE linux version and just about S$200 more and above for its Windows Vista cousins. The optional DVD writer comes at about S$400. One would start wondering if it’s competing for the same share of the market as the Asus Eee PC, but given it’s configuration, it really belongs to an entirely different market.

For the features packed into the HP Mini Note, it’s worth that S$999 for the SuSE version. It’s reported to come with 2.5G (GPRS), but this feature wasn’t brought to my attention during the launch. For more information, do drop by at http://h10010.www1.hp.com/wwpc/us/en/sm/WF25a/321957-321957-64295-321838-306995-3687084.html (note that prices are in US dollars).

Simply Jean was invited to the showroom of the BMW Hydrogen 7 which is being showcased in Singapore since March 7. The exhibition is located in a futuristic, glass-and-steel pavilion located at the corner of Beach and Ophir Roads and opens daily from 9am to 5pm till March 23, when they will move on to other parts of Asia.

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First impression of the BMW Hydrogen 7 was that it was similar to any other BMW 7 series in that it matches the aesthetics of the latter that gives the same feel and look of the superior sleekness of a BMW. However, beneath the metallic body unveils an entirely different architecture of the fuel system. The BMW Hydrogen 7 is a part-hydrogen, part-petrol machine that runs 200km from a full liquid hydrogen tank and hits 500km on a full petrol tank. The liquid hydrogen is stored in a thick steel cylinder that’s been crash tested against weight, impact and temperature. The result of using hydrogen is that only water is produced instead of Hydrogen. In fact, BMW even bottled up the water to give it to their guests at the showroom.

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Images from Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Back of the distinctive BMW Hydrogen 7, the liquid hydrogen tank, the 12V engine, the hydrogen refuelling valve, the steering with push-button to switch to hydrogen and back, the sleekness of the back wheel, the BMW Hydrogen Power illuminator, and Hydrogen 7 brand

Safety is one of the top consideration in the design of the BMW Hydrogen 7 – just like how LTA implemented the recent taxi rule in the CBD. As such, any vapour that is given out during combustion is channel through 2 valves – one at the roof of the car and another at the bottom – in case the car topples. Locks at the door are translucent with LEDs that blink should hydrogen leakage be detected within the car. In such a situation, all windows will automatically wind down.

The BMW Hydrogen 7 is powered by a 12V engine and has both hydrogen and petrol lines. The maximum torque of the car is modified so that there will not be an obvious jerk when the car switches from hydrogen to petrol or vice versa. This option is available either through the push of a button at the steering or when hydrogen or petrol runs out – during which, an automatic switch is triggered.

The test drive along Beach Road was good and comfortable and the switch from hydrogen to petrol and vice versa was only noticeable through the sound of the click of the valve. This 7 series, like it’s petrol-based cousin has good handling and shields passengers from noisy roads. In fact, a decent conversation went on despite a bus and a lorry rambling on its side. As this is a foreign registered car, the GPS system wasn’t activated. If you weren’t being told that it’s a hydrogen-hybrid, you probably can’t tell the difference.

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Images from Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Front of the distinctive BMW 7 series, the back passenger LCD panel, the control knob for the back passengers, the flushed side handles, the top light and control panel for back passengers, the flush-hidden mirrors, comfort and control by the door, and the BMW Hydrogen 7 back view

However, because we didn’t really have a chance to drive the BMW Hydrogen 7 at top speed, I can’t comment on the car’s ultimate performance. However, given the track record of BMW’s, there’s no doubt on what it can do.

The BMW Hydrogen 7 is committed to making clean energy a reality. By working with organizations to provide the basic framework and architecture for producing and supporting clean energy fuel, BMW hopes to make hydrogen fuel a reality for consumers.