Smartphone Debate: Android or iOS4?

August 30, 2010 2 comments

Let’s set the record straight from the start: I’ve become an Android fanboy, joining the open source, community friendly, hardware superior side of the argument with the purchase of my Nexus One.  Although to be fair I’m not familiar with ios4 so I can’t draw comparisons accurately, just from superficial general knowledge.

(Image credit n/a - it's open source demmit)

Where to start? From the unpacking of course. You can use an android straight out of the box without any itunes nonesense.  Syncing it with my Google account and I immediately have access to all my contacts, no need to start from scratch or import.

Next, the software.  Over the air, hassle free system updates – you don’t need to wait for the next phone model for the latest OS version. Greater choice of free apps, which now can also be automatically updated instead of going through them one by one.   The app market isn’t as restrictive as Apple’s.  There isn’t the fear of having your submitted app rejected by some mysterious review board.  For those living in the states there’s also GPS guided turn-by-turn voice directions to drivers. Take that Garmin.  A budding voice-to-text capability – any text input field can be filled in by voice, although the success rate isn’t very high and you still have to review the transcription.  Then there’s Google Goggles, the awesome image recognition beta app.  It allows you to shoot something and then returns search results based on what it recognises.  Applications of this include: taking pictures of products in shops and then searching for information or other prices, shooting landmarks and having relevant information returned on the search, business cards can be scanned and entered directly into contacts.

Next, the hardware. Changeable battery, SD card support (on which you can now store apps, not just media), arguably faster processor, wifi tethering, noise canceling dual microphones, oh and no need for a rubber band around it to keep from dropping calls.

The only thing I’ll concede is that apple products and apps (i.e. the UI) are sexier design wise. But that’s what captivates the audience.

I’d say that the argument between apple and android is ultimately one of impulse/desire vs logic. And in the end, the fan bases on both sides are not easily convinced to switch. It’s like the point of contention is so close to heart that to concede any ground would be akin to admitting a deep personal flaw.  Of course there are those well funded enough to be able to “try out” the other systems, only to to say that they prefer their previous phone and revert back to it (or the latest version thereof).

Update: this webcomic sums up nicely the apps possibilities of the two OS. If you don’t know what a custom ROM is, see my next post.

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Interlude

August 17, 2010 1 comment

Taken a break from writing (as if it’s my full time job).  I’m not feeling motivated to write much.  Besides, there’s so much inspired writing going on around me (try: the heart felt Mich Cafe, or Shelina’s insightful Ramadan post), that I feel that I cannot contribute much to the blogosphere.

It’s currently Ramadan here in the UAE and in the rest of the Muslim world.  This is the second time I’m experiencing it, but it’s a bit easier this time round since we’ve moved to larger premises at work and I no longer share the same space with my Muslim colleagues.  So I can munch away in wholehearted content without disturbing their fasting.

Until next time.

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Excuse me sir, there’s a leak in your room

Unlikely as it may seem the above words were the prelude to the best hotel experience I have ever had.

I booked us a couple of nights at the Atlantis on Palm Jumeirah to satisfy our desperate need for a short holiday, without the hassle of going abroad.  Having heard of many people who used it I decided to try booking.com for the reservations, and indeed found very good discounts.

We set off Thursday afternoon, after work, and after the inevitable last-minute packing.  In order not to lose time both my wife and I decided to skip the shower at home, so the first thing we did after settling in our room was enjoy a long hot shower each.  Later we pondered our dinner options and chose the Kaleidoscope (international buffet), not really knowing what to expect.

It turned out to be a really well-stocked and laid out buffet, and the selection boasted a Maltese dish (which was rabbit stew – no, we didn’t try it).  I will not bother to go into lengthy descriptions, I would not do it justice.  As is required in such occasions, we decided to take our time and take the small-portion-from-each-course-route.

Half way through the third course I received the fateful phone call from Guest Services.  Apparently the leak was originating from our room, but affecting the service areas.  Our room was still dry.  The lady went on to explain that the whole floor’s water supply had to be shut down until they could fix the leak, and could we please come asap to our room to move our stuff to another room.  Before I had time to explain that I had methodically unpacked and used every storage space available in the room, I was politely interrupted and told that we were going to be upgraded to a suite.

The weight of that immediately sank in, but I still didn’t want to let it go without a fight.  I thanked her and assured her we would have our things ready within the next 20 minutes.  Next I called for the restaurant manager, making a fuss about how we couldn’t continue our meal due to something that was beyond our control.  Without raising any protest or trying to sleaze out of it, the man made me pay only for the bottle of wine, and instructed me to call once in the new room to order items for room service delivery (together with our still-unfinished wine) at no extra cost whatsoever – I ended up not paying for any food at all.

We scrambled back to our room, half expecting to find an army of workers waiting by our door, with their arms crossed, tapping their tools impatiently. Relieved that it wasn’t so, we threw everything in our cases in record speed and waited. Ten minutes passed, nothing. I called, they would be there shortly. Another twenty minutes.  By this point I’m already putting together another complaint, about how we could have easily finished the meal and what was the rush. Then the porter came, took our bags and grinning said, “you’ll like your new room.”

And was he right.  Big living room, big bedroom, 2 TVs (one in each of the mentioned rooms), huge bath, shower, walk in closet, smaller closet, 2 toilets, big balcony, wonderful views.  I had to play the video-camera-tourist this time, so you can see for yourself:

From our balcony we could see the big aquarium, and it’s a truly memorable sight, at night seeing those fish and rays swimming in the back-lit water.

Atlantis aquarium

The aquarium doesn’t look too big from above, but to have an idea here’s the aquarium from the Ambassador Lagoon viewing gallery (which now costs AED 25 to access):

Ambassador Lagoon

View down the Palm

It had finally happened, we could no longer pout that the we were always unlucky in these sorts of events. We spent the following day at the Aquaventure water park, and still flush with the excitement of “it happened to us” we decided to take it a step further and booked a slot to swim with the dolphins.

My god what an experience! It felt like the fulfillment of a dream I didn’t know I had.  Together with a another group of 3 we spent 30 minutes swimming, hugging, kissing, stroking, dancing, and being pulled through the water (with the dolphin of course – her name was Alice).  It is highly recommended.  Forget the cost, where / when will such an opportunity present itself again?

Eurovision

Last Friday a friend asked me about Malta’s entry into the contest, how come we hadn’t sent a fat lady, and what was with us and fat ladies.  I went on to explain to her how the fat lady figures in our history.

I asked my wife who was our entry, and she said a name but it didn’t really register.  Later I heard that Germany won.

And that was exactly the ideal level of exposure I had this year to the Eurovision Song Contest.

Bliss.

Behind the numbers

April 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Today we heard the tragic news of a hot air balloon accident in Al Ain.  There were two deaths and one serious injury out of the total fourteen persons on board.  I was shocked, both because we had seriously considered doing the activity while the family was here, and because we had actually been to Al Ain two weekends back. 

For some reason while writing this up I visualised myself in a hot air balloon, tumbling in the rough winds and finally crashing to the ground, and realised that it is all too easy nowadays to look at the numbers – deaths, accidents, injuries.  But just give the it some thought and put yourself in the situation.  I assure you the result will give you a new perspective on traumatic incidents, and your reaction to them. 

Imagine yourself lurching from side to side in the balloon’s gondola. The panicked face of the pilot is not reassuring.  Your stomach reacts to the sudden drops.  Visibility is bad, there is lots of sand and grit.  Then all of a sudden – you hit the ground. You are thrown off your feet, hit something hard, feel excruciating pain.  If you’re lucky you’re on solid ground, but in Al Ain there’s a chance you hit rocky outcroppings (sometimes referred to as mountains), in which case there would be further tumbling and crashing.  At the end of this you can barely move, or you can barely breathe, or your eyes won’t open for some reason.  Your insides are violently displaced, and there is a strange taste in your mouth. You may have released your bowels, but that’s the least of your problems.  There are moans and cries of pain.  Or silence. 

If you are lucky you make it.  If not, you are a number for the media.

Of course even if you make it, it does not stop there.  There are many issues to deal with – trauma, shock, hospitals, insurance, family, work disruption, repatriation, the chill that goes down your spine when you see another hot air balloon in the sky.

Fujairah Bull Butting

March 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Last Friday we were invited by friends to go down to Fujairah to watch the bulls fight.  I was immediately piqued, but the wife needed some selling.  It’s not like the Spanish bull fighting (hence the term “butting”), but rather two bulls wrestle against each other.  There’s no blood that I could see.  Apparently it’s quite an old tradition, dating from the times of the Portughese colonies in the area.

I’m still not sure how the rules work and how the winning bull is declared so.  But it’s fun to watch nonetheless, because when the bulls are done fighting one of two things can happen.  Either their “reins” are picked up by their handlers and they are taken away, no fuss.  Or they make it more interesting by running towards the rows of people within the large ring, giving their handlers a harder time.  Oh, and this can be safely observed from behind the fence, so there isn’t too much crowd involvement.  The following pictures should explain in better detail.

I also tried to take some video. The siren noise you can hear is when the match is declared over (I think).

You can find more details on our friends’ blog here, with additional videos.

Spot the difference

February 28, 2010 Leave a comment

image

image

The malevolent eyes are a bit of a giveaway.

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