29 March 2013

The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane

I've just watched The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, which I think is an excellent movie. It is about a thirteen year old girl named Rynn who is taught by her father to isolate herself from the world, that is, become a hermit, so that she can protect herself from the depravity of humankind. There is plenty for her to protect herself from, including pedophiles preying on her.

But at the same time, living a life of isolation leaves her feeling lonely, and in the movie she does fall in love.

This movie really connected with me because I have had similar feelings. I am really tired of how shallow, materialistic, hypocritical, and cruel people are, and I wish I can one day escape it all and become a hermit. At the same time, I am susceptible to loneliness.

It's tiring when you distance yourself from the world. There is so much lying and hiding. You feel you need to lie to survive.

Don't Get a 30-Year Mortgage

How to loosen the mortgage noose

This article from the AFR talks about most people underestimate how much interest they end up paying when they sign up for a 30 or even 25 year mortgage.

I will not get a mortgage, not even a small one. I would rather invest in bank shares and rake in massive dividends.

The main reason why I am anti-mortgage is because I believe the modern long-term mortgage is simply a more evolved form of slavery. When you take out a mortgage, you will sign a contract so long and convoluted that you will not read it, and the terms of the contract will be in the bank's favour. If nothing goes wrong, you slave away at your job for the next three decades, living in fear of being fired and sucking up to the boss. If things go wrong, you lose your job and the bank will quickly sell your home, which can result in massive capital losses for you. Unlike in America, Australian banks can pursue you for your debts no matter what. You cannot walk away from your debts.

My recommendation is, while you are young, to live with your parents or rent and share with many people to divide the costs. Then save aggressively and buy two cheap homes in the country, one that you leave empty and the other that you rent out to produce rental income. If things go wrong in your life, you have the security of knowing you can drive into the country, live in a house, and have another house producing income to feed you.

My Experience with the Sony Xperia Z

For years, Sony Ericsson has made bland and boring phones while Apple and Samsung dominated the smartphone market to create an effective duopoly.

Sony has cut ties with Ericsson and wanted to make a phone that signalled to the world that Sony was serious about smartphones. The Sony Xperia Z was born.

I've had the Sony Xperia Z for a few days now and overall I can say that I am very happy with the phone. I purchased it online via Kogan and had to wait about two weeks before it was sent to my house. I love buying goods online because of cheapness, but it is terribly difficult waiting for a phone that I really desired. Nearly every day while waiting for the phone, I went on YouTube and searched for the latest videos on the phone. This kept me interested as I waited. I absolutely loved Sony's advertising for this phone.


My old phone was the HTC Desire HD. I've had this for about two years and it has served me well. The main problem with the Desire HD is the battery life. The phone's battery capacity is around 1230 mAh (compared to 2330 on the Xperia Z). I would charge the phone overnight, use it on the train when commuting to work, and use it intermittently for email, messaging, and calling throughout the day. By around two in the afternoon, the phone would be dead! The battery was that bad. I was able to partially fix this problem by getting a $2 USB to micro-USB connector from eBay and charging the phone at work from my computer. This was also useful because it allowed me to easily transfer files from work to home if I wanted to. I didn't need to carry around a USB flash drive. I could live with the Desire HD's poor battery life, but I preferred a phone that lasted for a whole day, at least.

The Xperia Z's battery life, I have found, is phenomenal. I charged it overnight and, when using it normally I have found that the battery is around 60 to 70 per cent full by the time I get out of work. It easily lasts the whole day with normal use and will probably last two days as well. The Xperia Z's 2330 mAh is nothing revolutionary, especially compared to the Samsung Galaxy S4's 2600 mAh battery and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2's massive 3100 mAh battery. However, the Xperia Z comes with a built-in power management software called Stamina Mode that automatically turns off power-intensive features like mobile data. Stamina Mode is customizable, so you can specify which programs are not affected by it. For example, if you use Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger to keep in contact with family and friends, you can customise Stamina Mode to ignore these apps.


The killer feature of the Xperia Z is its aesthetics. It is a beautiful phone, a work of art. While the Samsung Galaxy S4, I am sure, is technologically superior, its design is similar to the S3 and is getting boring. The new Blackberry Z10 looks like an iPhone 5 with a plastic back. The LG Optimus G Pro is starting to look like there Galaxy phones as well. The Xperia Z, on the other hand, does away with curved designs and opts for a minimalistic thin and sleek black slab with sharp edges, symmetry, and shiny, reflective glass. Whenever I take this phone out of my pocket at work or lay it down on a table, just about everyone says, "wow!" "whoah!" or something similar, and typically want to touch it and play with it. The phone comes in black, white, and purple. Black is best.

The Xperia Z is not as thin as the iPhone 5, but the two are very similar, and to the naked eye the Xperia Z looks slimmer and better proportioned because it is wider. The width and tallness of the Xperia accentuate its thinness. The iPhone 5 is simply a taller and thinner version of the 4S. In their attempt to maintain better one-handed operation, the iPhone 5 looks too tall and anorexic. It is a feminine and emasculating phone compared to the manly Xperia Z. The iPhone 5 has a really small 1440 mAh battery, which is pathetic, but the iPhone has a blurrier display compared to the Xperia Z, so its power consumption should be lower.

I am using my Nexus 7 tablet to write this blog, so the pictures of the Xperia Z I have posted here use the Nexus 7's low-resolution front-facing camera. Unfortunately the Nexus 7 has no rear camera.
Another issue with the phone is that it attracts fingerprints and dust like a magnet attracting metal. Be prepared to wipe it all the time.


The Xperia Z is waterproof up to one metre. This means you cannot go swimming or scuba diving but you can use it in the shower or bath tub. The waterproofing is excellent because you never know when someone will push you into a swimming pool or lake. You may also drop your phone into the toilet. I take my phone into the shower with me and place it in the shampoo rack. When people call me while I am in the shower, I can tall to them, and theoretically I could Skype people while in the shower as well, but I am hesitant to try this.
Taking the phone into the shower also allows me to clean the glass panels of the phone to remove fingerprints.

That being said, the downside of waterproofing is that all ports, such as the micro-USB port and micro-SD port, have plastic flaps covering them, and you have to constantly detach and reattach these flaps if you want to charge or even put headphones into the phone. I will be getting a charging dock for the phone, so charging is not an issue. If you are into music, you will probably need to invest in expensive NFC-enabled wireless headphones. That being said, I am willing to tolerate this I'm order to get waterproofing.

Although the Xperia Z is a beautiful phone, it is not comfortable to hold. My old HTC Desire HD had a rounded aluminium back that fitted well into the hand. Likewise, my Nexus 7 has a curved rubber back that feels really nice. The Xperia Z, on the other hand, has sharp jagged edges and flat glass surfaces, which feels uncomfortable compared to the Nexus and HTC. Once again, I'm willing to tolerate this, but others may not.


Much was said about this phone's poor colour contrast and viewing angles. I can attest that the viewing angles on this phone are far from perfect, but who looks at a phone screen on an angle? My experience is that the display is fine. The fact that it is Full HD, 1080p is a plus. It makes images and text crisp and clean. I read a lot on my phone, so high pixel density and big screens are non-negotiable.

24 March 2013

My Experience with the eCoffeeCard App

I love my coffee. At some coffee stores I visit, there are loyalty cards where you can get a free coffee if you buy, say, 10 coffees. However, for one area I go to, they have encouraged their buyers to use eCoffeeCard, a smartphone app that keeps track of how much coffee you've had and notifies you when you're due for a free one.

I installed this app on my Android phone and used it for a while. My experiences have been negative.

Technology is supposed to make life simpler and easier. It is supposed to make you more productive. I have found that eCoffeeCard has done the opposite.

Normally when I pay for coffee, I use cash, and if there is a loyalty card, I hand this card with the cash and the barista signs the card or punches a hole in it. The barista then hands the change and card back to me. It's quite simple.

However, with eCoffeeCard, I have to pay separately with cash, then I have to take my phone out of my pocket, I have to turn it on, search for the app icon, wait for the app to load, and then I have to scan the QR barcode, and then wait for the app to recognise the barcode. Using the smartphone is significantly slower!

Normally when I buy coffee, there is a queue, and being slow means you hold everyone up.

I don't know what the solution is. Perhaps Google Glass will fix everything because you will only have to look at the barcode rather than bother with taking out your phone, etc.

15 March 2013

First thoughts on the Samsung GALAXY S4

The Samsung Galaxy S4 (or Samsung Galaxy S IV) was released today. It was released in New York, which meant that here in Australia it was released at around nine or ten in the morning, which coincided with when I was at work. I got out of work at eleven today but missed the opportunity to watch the Samsung presentation live on YouTube.

The Galaxy S4 is nothing surprising. It pretty much looked exactly like the leaked pictures. The hardware specifications are what were expected. It has a five-inch super AMOLED display with full HD, 1080p at 440ppi. The display size and pixel density matches phones like the Xperia Z and HTC One but what is great about Samsung phones are the fact they use AMOLED displays rather than conventional IPS LCD displays. AMOLED displays give deeper blacks and more vivid and bright colours. Some people do not like th vividness of AMOLED displays, saying it is unrealistic. It's a matter of preference which one you prefer, but I prefer AMOLED.

The Galaxy S4 has an unprecedented Exynos 8-core processor. The octacore processor has four performance cores and four economy cores. When performing power-intensive tasks like gaming or watching videos, the performance cores are used whereas the economy cores are used when you are engaged in mundane tasks like web browsing. Along with the 2 GB of RAM, this allows the S4 to achieve an unprecedented 26,000 score on the AnTuTu benchmark, which is 6,000 higher than the runner up HTC Buttery's 20,000 score. This makes the Galaxy S4 the fastest and most powerful smartphone yet.

There are numerous other features on the S4, far too much to digest in this blog post. Many people claim that these features are not "proper innovation," or evolutionary rather than revolutionary features. But this is subjective. I happen to believe the octacore processor and AMOLED screen are highly innovative, but others may not think so. Many believe Apple's first smartphone, with touchscreen-only input and apps was innovative, but closer inspection reveals they are evolutions of Microsoft handheld devices like the Palm Pilot. Apple simply improved the specs and marketed the product very well.

In my opinion, the Galaxy S4 is technologically superior to any other phone on the market today. Where the S4 is criticized heavily is in the plastic material is uses for its body. Samsung have good reasons for using plastic. For one, it absorbs shock better, which means dropping it will damage it less compared to, say, a glass phone like the fragile Nexus 4. Metal phones, such as the iPhone 5 or HTC One, tend to scratch easily. Most people, when they buy a metal or glass phone, put a plastic case on it anyway for the very reason that they don't want to damage the metal or glass. Premium material is only a concern for those with so much money that, if they crack a glass phone or scratch a metal phone, they can simply afford to buy another one. Many people, when criticizing Samsung phones, refer to the "build quality." I hate it when people use this term because plastic Samsung phones don't break. The plastic actually improves its build quality. Instead of using the term "build quality," we should call it what it is and use the term "snob appeal." Samsung's plastic phones are technologically superior to any other phone out there, but lack snob appeal because plastic is perceived to be cheap and nasty.

That said, I do not mind owning a nice-looking phone. The benefit of Android is variety. For those who want glass, there is the Sony Xperia Z, which is by far the prettiest phone yet. For those who want aluminum, get the HTC One. For those who want value for money, get the Nexus 4.