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iPhone 3GS Singapore Launch (or, how NOT to run a launch event)

Posted On: Fri, 10/07/2009 - 19:30 by Alex

The Apple iPhone 3GS is in Singapore! The new back and the un-updated look isn't all that exciting, but it -is- noticeably faster and in my view if you're willing to pay the asking price that feature alone means an upgrade is a great idea.

The Singapore launch happened on 10 July 2009. Prices were reasonable, from a certain perspective - any existing iPhone 3G user (and others on a running Singtel contract) could upgrade by paying an additional 300 Singapore dollars (USD 205) over the normal contract price and signing up for a new 24 month contract (more info).

Singtel, unfortunately, suffers from atrocious, awful, planning. Even though they forced payment of SGD 50 (refundable) for the privilege of reserving a phone, Singtel managed to give out enough reservations or allow a sufficient number of walk-ins, such that a wait of 5-7 hours was probably inevitable. More about this later.

New iPhone 3GS features and box contents

Apart from the speed, the iPhone also comes with a new slim AC adaptor. The US had a very small AC adaptor for the iPhone 3G, but this slim three pin version is new to me.

The iPhone 3GS also comes with headphones which have a volume control on them, and adds video recording/editting, a compass and a new oil-resistant screen coating. In Singapore, we also get (bundled) online video. I'll comment later on other features reviews tend not to focus on (like sound quality), but there are already several good iPhone 3GS reviews up at the usual suspects which are probably worth reading if you're interested in buying.

From Arstechnica: Review: iPhone 3GS lives up to its speedy claims
engadget: iPhone 3GS review

You should also note the news about the new screen wearing off, and the iPhone 3GS overheating.

More about Singtel's launch

The launch was widely advertised in email mailers, snail mail mailers, and when you actually reserved the phone online, to be from 6pm to midnight. This was misleading, sales started only at 8.30pm. Apparently this was clear from newspapers on the day itself. Perhaps I should start reading those. We eventually sat down.

I was sufficiently disturbed at the end of the ordeal (to be fair, Singtel provided bottled water, cakes, and ice cream) that I asked to speak with whoever was in-charge. The person I spoke with was James Askounis, who claimed he was head of Singtel Group customer care. Unfortunately, he had managed to run out of current business cards because he had been "giving them out". I'm sure he's nice enough, but pity James came across as being somewhat condescending (perhaps because I was a tad sensitive after the wait) and was, alarmingly, completely incapable of providing any good reason for the pathetic situation. James said that supplies were limited so they decided to go for a "first come first served" launch, he said that the iPhone 3G first-day launch was similar. The reader is left to consider why those are inadequate responses which border on being moronic (as reasons for a 6-7 hour delay for a paid-for pre-order).

Also, apparently Singtel doesn't put people in charge of particular events. Odd. That's the only time James became a little prickly - when I asked who was in charge (response: oh, there's no one person in charge). Maybe that's the reason for "the suck".

I have the distinct impression that the long queues were the plan, perhaps as part of a press stunt. If so, that's disgraceful. Perhaps Singtel should publish very clear disclaimers so I (and other people who don't like waiting in line for excessively extended periods of time) wouldn't have gone. Or maybe they should use reservations as reservations are intended to be used, by God. They should also invent plausible reasons, but I can't think of any except -not- taking the 50 bucks.

For the record, I was very pleased last year - I waited in line for about 30 minutes, after having made a reservation to pick up the phone at a specific time. I didn't even have to pay in advance. Singtel actually -regressed-! It's somewhat ironic that buying the "speedy" iPhone 3GS resulted in serious time wasting.

Singtel ought to learn that customer care is about actually providing top-class service the first time. James said he was happy to speak with me and politely said he was pleased to meet me after we finished speaking, but honestly, I'd rather be provided such great service that I never need to talk to a customer service representative except when buying a new phone/changing plans/etc. James, I'm sure you'll read this - the service is just not good enough.

Oh, and to rub salt into the wound, there was one thing which did stop at midnight - all the entertainment and background music. I can't actually comment on the entertainment, since I didn't see most of it myself. From LCD screens hanging around, I think there was a local group doing covers, a deejay, and appearances by some Singtel F1 Grid Girls. Maybe Singtel had a public entertainment licence or something which expired at midnight, but whatever the reason - still shoddy.

iPhone 3GS - PASS
Singtel- FAIL

Well. Singtel fails just for the launch event. We'll see whether surfing is actually faster - I'm not sure whether I should be hopeful. I've heard many awful stories about Singtel - e.g. ridiculous termination penalties which -carry over-. Maybe they're worth exploring.

Photos with further commentary

Step 1! Pity there were no indications of waiting time.

The sky was bright when we started

I want, but not enough to wait for 7 hours.

Ooh. Promising. A pre-order queue

This is when I got a little tired of taking photos

This is now empty (compare with the photo immediately above) because the queue has just stopped moving (since sales hadn't started). The "sitting down" photo should be added, chronologically, right here.

ZOMG. Movement!

The wait certainly wasn't 2X faster.

"Just one more queue, not too long, not too short" they said. LIES. DAMNED LIES!!!! Also, guys, a chirrupy deejay who says "Wow, amazing how you've all waited for so long! Keep your sprits up!" right before PACKING UP AND LEAVING, its really a bad idea.

[Photos: Symplification. With a Pentax K-7, DA* 16-50, DA 35/2.8 Macro Limited]

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Puzzle Quest: A quick guide for the old and new versions (or - why use a Druid)

Posted On: Mon, 13/04/2009 - 22:48 by Alex

Puzzle Quest is pretty fun.

If you haven't tried it yet, it's almost definitely available on any platform choice - it's on the Sony PSP, Nintento DS, PC (Intel GMA 950 is probably enough), Playstation Network (for PS3), XBLA (for XBOX 360), iPhone/iPod touch, and most other mobile platforms (although our affiliate Clickgamer unfortunately doesn't seem to carry it).

Anyhow, I've been playing it, on the PC (on which it looks pretty and has a easy mouse interface) although I've tested the iPhone and PSP versions (iPhone is slow, fiddly, PSP interface is not ideal). The PC version also appears to have mods - LINK - note that I have not tried them all.

The game was first released on the DS/PSP in early 2007, and those versions were pretty sweet - you could build characters which could annhilate an opponent in a single round (not luck based). However, at least the PC version has been... reduced, such that the best spells are now quite limited. Having said that, you can still build pretty potent characters, but the methodology isn't obvious from GameFAQs (although it's useful), and the combinations suggested from some type of mathamatical analysis are (generally) wrong.

So, how to build a dreamy character?


While I say "new", I know that the iPhone and some other versions have classes which I will not be dealing with, but in general the same principles (see end of article) should apply. For the PC version, the Knight is in the most difficult situation (although I haven't played one to 50 yet, might decide to, but I just can't see how to overcome luck consistently in the new PC version).

Assuming you don't update to 1.02, the Druid is the best, if you research Death Gaze. (Version 1.02 reduces the strength of the holy lance/unholy lance).

Wizard is second, Warrior is close behind (although both of these don't require you to research anything).


First off, equipment. You can wear four types of items, head, weapon, body and misc. In general the best weapons need to be forged - the one who waits.com has a great section showing what can be made. To figure out where to find specific runes, use the map hosted by Infinite Interactive.

The best items are as follows:

Head: Rune of Jewels (head item) + Rune of Gods + Rune of (pick mana colour).
Body: Rune of (pick any body rune) + Rune of Gods + Rune of (pick mana colour).
Weapon: Firewalker's Staff (warrior/wizard), Holy Lance (Druid).
Misc: Rune of Music + Rune of Dragons + Rune of (pick mana colour).

Changes in the "New"

For the old versions, the key was to have enough mana (from your equipment), right from the beginning, to cast your "best" spell. For Warriors, Deathbringer. Wizards, Flaming Skulls. Knights and Druids, Death Gaze. The only spell which has not changed in the PC version is Flaming Skulls.

If you also have the appropriate skill pumped up (Warriors/Wizards, Fire - Druids, Air - Knight, probably battle), then you'd probably win right away.

Unfortunately (or, fortunately) Deathbringer and Death Gaze are now restricted to creating a maximum of 10 skulls, which means that you had better make sure you are using them only when there is a decent number of skulls (say, 10) or if you have no choice, no skulls, on the board. Otherwise, you're likely setting the opponent up (to pwn you).

To make matters worse, the forged equipment is also worse. Instead of +8 mana, a rune now gives +2 mana.

The weapons have also been toned down. Firewalker's Staff only adds half the damage it used to.

Finally, for spells with recharge, it appears that they recharge only when the opponent takes a turn, not when you get a "free turn".


What do you do? Well, if you're a Druid, you can forge equipment so that you can cast Evaporate immediately, or as soon as you get a blue/yellow 4-in-a-row. Then cast Gust of Wind (you should have at least 40/50 yelllow). Reincarnation is also useful. In any event, because you can fill your mana reserves, you can then cast Death Gaze quite easily, and since Death Gaze doesn't use yellow, random skull matches afterwards will still do lots of damage.

For Wizards, just watch for the 4-in-a-row green/skulls or blue/red and use flaming skulls as appropriate.

For Warriors, look for 4-in-a-row red/skulls, or simply do Beserk Rage to get skulls on the table then hope that a Deathbringer sets them off.

Skill distribution


39 earth (for 45 green mana, note that you can get +2 from a quest)
10 fire (for 30 red mana, note that you get +4 from a quest)
every thing else to Yellow (for Holy Lance).

Warrior/Wizard: everything to Red (for Firewalker's Staff)

So, principles: 1. Find spell/equipment. 2. Distribute experience to maximise the spell/weapon. 3. always have a dragonhorn (rune of music + rune of dragon forged item)

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Vaio P - Sony Singapore pre-orders open from today

Posted On: Fri, 09/01/2009 - 08:52 by Alex

Sony Members pre-order site:

(extra free screen protector)

General information page/pre-order:


The Singapore models (SGD 1299 and SGD 1699) don't have WWAN built-in, but are slightly cheaper. Weight is stated to be 620grams with a 60GB hard disk, or 584 grams with a 64GB SSD (including battery).

The faster model differentiates itself by having the SSD, a 1.6Ghz Atom (instead of 1.33) and Vista Home Premium (instead of basic).

I'm frankly tempted. I probably shouldn't be.

If you want more information about the P other than from Sony, the following may be useful:

Benchmarks: http://pc.watch.impress.co.jp/...9/0108/hotrev395.htm
Photos: http://www.pocket-lint.co.uk/news/news.phtml/20271/NEWS-20271-2a87279ab97c7d615b002249248440cf.jpg#image

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Sony Vaio Z (13.1" laptop) impressions

Posted On: Thu, 11/12/2008 - 06:21 by Alex

First of all - It's generally somewhat overpriced. It's arguable that this is not so true in the US, because of the rebate running until the end of December and especially if you spec out the system more moderately, but the "high-end" options are expensive.

So, anyhow - the laptop has the following specifications (annotated - performance comments later on based on "my" config):
13.1" LED, half-glossy. 100% NTSC gamut screen.
1366*768 or 1600*900 (my) resolution
up to 4 GB DDR3 (my)
up to 320GB 7200rpm HDD (my) alternatively SSD: Sony ships dual Samsung 64GB SLC drives in raid or Samsung 128GB MLC drive, the intel X25-m is an option if you buy from certain authorised resellers
blu ray burner (my) or DVD burner
HDMI port
VGA port
FW 400 (no power) port
Switchable graphics - 4500 or 9300 GS 128/256MB (follows screen res)
alps trackpad
no trackpoint
no dedicated home/end/pageup, down (accessed via fn)
"carbon fibre" body (solid plastic, IMO), aluminium keyboard surface
gigabit ethernet
memory stick reader
sd reader
wireless on/off switch
fingerprint reader
640*480 video
built-in mic (apparently there's a "woosh" sound occasionally, audiable to other party in a skype call)
bundled with adobe elements
dock support
1.5KG with 3-4 hour battery (doesn't stick out).


So - in the 12/13" non-glossy, dock supporting laptop space, there are two classes of laptops. Slow (generally - less than 2Ghz C2D's) and fast (faster than 2GHz C2D's, 2.5" hard disk supported).

In the fast category, there are only: lenovo X200, dell e4300, Sony Z.

I bought the Z because it wasn't (my subjective opinion) butt-ugly (x200) and didn't have awful user reviews (dell e4300 - see notebookreview.com). The e4300 also wasn't selected because it was heavier (1.8kg), with a stick-out (ugly) battery, not a very contrasty display, lousy (supposedly) keyboard feel.

Having said that, the Z has its share of compliants:
1. blu ray drive doesn't burn DL DVD (true)
2. fan is always on (true - i find it irrelevant because even in the quietest environments it doesn't disturb me. Having said that, I use it for office stuff. Not gaming).
3. squeaky keys/double type (hasn't happened to mine)
4. screen resolution too high (pfft. I loves it)
5. expensive (true)

So - because I really hardly do anything taxing on a day to day basis (the most is photoshop elements, which handily comes with it) my general impression is that the machine is extremely fast.

In particular, it's extremely responsive in day to day use, and seems (subjectively) to be as fast as my XP desktop (C2D oc'ed to 2.4GHz, 4GB, 8400GS, 500GB 7200), although the boot time (approx 100 seconds to usable desktop, including finger swipe type) is not that fantastic. Compared to my previous laptop (tx1000, X2 1.9GHz, 4GB, 160GB 5400) it's almost blazing.

The laptop feels solid, except that the screen bends when opening closing. However, this bending is not visible in the display (i.e. opening it and looking at the screen there are no ripples) although if i push in the middle I can make ripples. The palmrests don't creak although it is possible to push them down. The (alps) trackpad works well, with vertical/horizontal scroll zones and a nifty top left edge gesture thing (top left to center closes a window, etc.) The screen is amazing. The pixel density is a little high (higher than all desktop lcds) but.. still. Colours appear very saturated, although this may be fake (not calibrated). The half-glossy display is sufficiently un-glossy that I have no qualms working in a sunlit room (I've got a huge floor-length window behind me at work - where I use the machine). It switches on/off almost instantly (LED tech). The keyboard is a joy to use - while it's an "isolated" design, it's got significant key travel and I had no problems adjusting.

I should add that the laptop runs quite cool. The only part whch gets warm (even after 5-6 hours use where the indoor ambient is 28 deg C) is the vent (air is pushed out rather efficiently) - don't block it. It will warm up whatever is just outside. It's very comfortable sitting the laptop on your lap.

Aesthetically, the Z is pleasing - handsome but not all that flashy. I (subjective) think it's alot more attractive with the premium carbon lid ($50 option). The Macbooks are more attractive in stores - the multitude of stickers really does the Z no favours. Better when removed.

The main thing I would have liked is a backlit keyboard ;) Other "missing" things are accidental warranty (although available in the US) and international warranty (almost completely unavailable - perhaps available for the first year, but not as a 3 year warranty).

Large photos listed below.

Let me know if there is anything you'd like to know. ([email protected]).

Proper reviews of the Vaio Z:

Laptop Magazine - plus video
Trusted Reviews
Notebookreview Forums - Vaio Z Owners thread

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My iPhone 3G / Blackberry Bold comparison - first impressions.

Posted On: Mon, 15/09/2008 - 09:20 by Alex

I've had the iPhone 3g for a couple of weeks now and today I've received a Blackberry Bold.

By way of background, while I had usually stuck with Nokia to satisfy my phone needs (after the Ericsson 388 - in 1997 or so), since I started busy-work I've experienced using a Blackberry (oldish model though - the 7290) and of course I've "defected" to Apple for my personal line. So much for "sym" plification eh?

The blackberry bold is a gift from RIM (bonus for launch party attendees - invite me to the next one too please!) and the iPhone 3G was purchased at retail.

I would say that the iphone has been quite a crappy phone (coming from a Nokia N80, 8800 and 5220), because of a lack of - forwarding messages, cut/paste, and battery life, but amazing as a browsing device and as an iPod. That's not what you're here about though...

First impressions:

Both quite pretty. Size is rougly comparable, iPhone is better, but the difference is not going to help you make the decision.

Screen - size vs. pixel density. Pick your poison.

Call quality seems to be similar. I won't really be using the bold as a phone phone - it's primarily a data line, but I tested it today and there was no big difference.

Built-in Speaker - the bold is LOUD. Very Loud. It's also got slightly better sound quality, but any headphones would be better. The bold also comes with "in ear" headphones.

Accessories - bold comes with a nice (real) leather slipcase, which is nice.

The bold doesn't browse quite as quickly. The reaction time of it's connection seems to be slower, although the rendering of the content seems to be equally quick. Where the bold has a built-in app but the iPhone doesn't, the bold is FAST. (see: gmail).

Bold has proper multitasking! Which enables a non-braindead messaging facility. In addition to SMS, MMS (which the iPhone lacks) you can use blackberry messenger, google talk, yahoo and msn. There might even be an aim client. While the iPhone 3G has custom apps for some of these chat protocols - you might as well not bother. The combination of the battery life (and to my mind firmware 2.1 has not made any difference) and the fact that you can't let the iPhone sleep at all to maintain an internet connection, means that messaging on the iPhone, even if you love the virtual keyboard, is basically a no-go. This -could- change if "push" notifications are enabled, but the bold is still likely to be better (see: physical keyboard, battery life).

Note that you can multitask partially on the iPhone - you'll still receive calls and sms messages while you're in an application, and you can use the iPod application simultaneously (press the home button twice to bring up an overlay on whatever actual application you're on).

On the virtual keyboard - the bold is obviously better, but the virtual keyboard + autocorrect doesn't leave the iPhone that far behind.

Email - bold wins. No question. Now with word / excel / powerpoint editting for extra special fun. It's actually somewhat better -viewing- attachments on the iPhone, however.


The iPhone is better to browse with - it's slightly snappier and the touch interface and larger screen conspire to improve the experience. I would also say it's better as a media player (yet to test this extensively with the blackberry, although I might not even bother because it's not clear how it can actually surpass the iPhone, and I would need to buy a large micro SD) .

Having said that, the iPhone: (i) sucks for SMS (just forwarding would be enough, darnit!); (ii) has a pretty crappy battery life (in absolute terms, I'm hoping the bold is better but I can't confirm yet); and (iii) is not yet the right choice for the enterprise or where email is crucial.

So, for most consumers, the iPhone's advantages might help, but if you have BES switching to an iPhone is like... the dark ages (for communication). Maybe get a bold + netbook - unlike the iPhone, the bold can actually tether.


On a separate note, if you have specific questions on iphone/bold feel free to email me:

You might also be interested to know that I have begun (occasionally) contributing to PhoneArena - here are some recent articles.


Photo credits: Image of bold taken with iPhone, Image of iPhone taken with bold. Both photos kinda suck - but I think there's no autofocus/macro on either, so... (note that the bold has a pretty bright flash).

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I bought an iphone (from Singtel in Singapore)

Posted On: Tue, 19/08/2008 - 11:21 by Alex

Which is not really news, but it might be interesting to note the prices/plans - starts at SGD 56 (USD 40) and SGD 348 (USD 245).

SingTel is making the iPhone 3G affordable for everyone. We're introducing a great new range of iFlexi plans that are loaded with BONUS mobile data for Mobile Internet Browsing, and extended free [email protected] These plans have been specially built for you and your iPhone to deliver fantastic value, make sure you ask for an iFlexi plan when you sign up.

Monthly fee (incl GST)

Bundled data

(3.6 Mbps)

Bundled mins (outgoing)

Bundled SMS

iPhone 3G 8GB

iPhone 3G 16GB

iFlexi Value



200 mins

500 SMS


iFlexi Plus



500 mins

500 SMS



iFlexi Premium



1500 mins

1500 SMS



Data allowance above is a limited offer; only for customers who connect or recontract with SingTel on an iFlexi plan between launch and 5 September 2008.

All iFlexi plans feature free incoming calls.

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Canon wins SED case in the fifth circuit

Posted On: Wed, 06/08/2008 - 20:57 by Alex

Nano-Proprietary (now, apparently APNT), previously blamed for the delays in rolling out SED televisions, has lost what seems to be an important appeal.

The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has found that the “irrevocable, perpetual” licence agreement APNT had granted to Canon could not be terminated by APNT “notwithstanding a material breach of the agreement”. APNT dropped 17% from USD 1.09 on the Friday (25th July 2008) the decision was filed to USD 0.90 on the following Monday.

The court also confirmed that, by virtue of the licence agreement between APNT and Canon, Canon can now grant to its wholly owned subsidiary, SED Inc., a valid sublicence use the relevant APNT patents. Subsequent to APNT's initial claim SED Inc. was restructured from what was effectively a 50/50 joint venture between Canon and Toshiba into a 100% Canon subsidiary.

This is the first appeal. We're not familiar with the US appeals system, but judgment was only filed on 25th July 2008 (which we think makes it likely that it has not yet been decided whether there is any right to a further appeal). There’s a press statement from APNT dated 28th July which states that their counsel is currently considering options.

SED - hello glorious 55" screen with 1ms and 50,000:1 contrast - might yet appear!

[First seen at the Arstechnica forums in a post by Biggiesized]

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Bye! (for now - and thanks for all the clicks!)

Posted On: Sat, 28/07/2007 - 16:34 by Alex

Symplification obviously hasn't been updated for some time, and the way things are going it's likely that they're not going to be.

It's not just the "new" job (and sometimes World of Warcraft, hehehe) - it's also that since that new job started I've been using a blackberry (with an unlimited data plan), and that single device provides basically all of the functionality I need.

For example, I have an N80 - but as it's music playing capabilities were rendered useless by an ipod shuffle (which is about the same size as the adaptor it needed for me to plug proper headphones in - and has much better sound quality through my super.fi 5 pros), the only thing I use it for nowadays is to actually make phone calls. Yeah - not even SMS.

Indeed, assuming you have Gmail App (for email) and the newest version of velvetpuffin (for instant messaging - disclosure, I've acted for the owner of velvetpuffin before) I don't think there's actually any reason to have a smartphone - anything which has data (preferably 3G) and supports those applications will do! So - buying a phone will become something which is almost -completely- about how you feel about the device.

And this is from the perspective of someone who actually uses a smartphone as a smartphone... (which is a whole other reason to think that "smartphones" are a waste).

It is, of course, possible to argue that I've just lost the faith, and it's also perfectly accurate to point out that phones are branching out even more than ever before (GPS, for example) - but unfortunately I suspect that it's all about usability, and the swiss-army knife device is likely to be inferior to the "real deal" (e.g. look how the prices of standalone GPS devices have fallen, and think about how much easier it is to have a nice big screen when being directed; or consider something how the creative zen stone plus manages to have a screen and 2GB in a device basically same size as the shuffle).

So - bye for the moment, and thanks for all your clicks! I'm likely to create some other website soon, because that's kinda fun. Don't know what it'll be about though... hmm. I did recently buy a new camera...

[sorry about that - I was getting too many spam comments - send me email if you have something to say, and I'll update accordingly ^.^]

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