Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

Music streaming – Spotify has won?

It seems clear that Spotify won the music streaming battle:

Spotify accounts for 86% of the on-demand music-streaming market in the U.S., according to data shared with music publishers. Its share of the international market is believed to be similar.

I’m an ardent Rdio user. However, they’ve lost songs that I want to listen to (in my playlists). And I just noticed that they’ve also killed Amazon Payments as a method of payment. They’re taking much less than 14% of the market, and were costing me USD$9.99/month.

It looks like I’m moving to Spotify. But I’ll hang in there to see what Apple launches in the meantime (you see, sometimes I might want to listen to some Taylor Swift). My major beef is with playlists — I’ve invested time in curating that experience, and I need to find an easy way out.

Hello Applebot

Saw lots of this in the access logs: - - [08/May/2015:10:37:27 -0700] "GET /blog/archives/2015/02/03/here-and-defending-your-trademarks HTTP/1.1" 200 12324 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_10_1) AppleWebKit/600.2.5 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/8.0.2 Safari/600.2.5 (Applebot/0.1; +"

So its real — there is an Applebot, and it’s written in Go. Apple also has documentation about it now. And of course, you can read Gruber’s piece. Would be nice to find out ways to feed more info to Siri (I mean, it doesn’t work as well as when its in the USA…).

Xiaomi selfies beautify you

I’ve not gotten my hands on any Xiaomi kit (yet; I’ve wanted to grab a Mi4 for quite some time now, and the Mi3 before that), but this piece in the WSJ about the Mi4i (india edition) being available caught my eye (China’s Xiaomi Unveils Mi 4i Smartphone in India):

…its automatic photo-retouching setting for selfies, called beautify, does not enlarge eyes the way it does for the Chinese market, where that feature is popular. The beautify feature will smooth wrinkles and lighten skin tone, as it does in other markets

For one, I had no idea that all Chinese selfies from a Xiaomi phone have enlarged eyes. Or elsewhere, wrinkles are smoothened out and the skin tones are lightened. So you’re not capturing the image as is, but some sort of automatic software edited version. Hmm. Read more on beautify at their page (guesses age, gender, then applies one of 36 beauty profiles — smoothens skin, brightens eyes, slims the jaw and more). Apparently, photography was optimised for lightened skin tones.

I’m glad the Mi4i is tailored to have a really long battery life as well. It’s 1/4 the price of a 16GB iPhone in that market (and most; good luck Samsung). 

Microsoft’s reaction to open

It’s interesting to follow what Microsoft has been doing, especially in relation to their reactions to the open world.

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project was always interesting. It ships with Linux as a default, and it didn’t take long for Microsoft to offer Windows on this device. Though its likely that there were never any large deployments for this.

Now, you find that Microsoft Windows 10 is basically a free upgrade for users from the days of Windows 7. And it looks like upgrades are going to be free going forward. This follows what Apple has done with OSX, and if you look back even a decade, this seemed like an odd choice – there was money to be made with the OS. This will adjust some TCO calculations for sure.

Now there’s the Raspberry Pi 2. It is also the first Raspberry Pi to be able to run Windows for IoT devices. Apparently this will also be free (for makers; whatever that means). You’re buying a $35 computer, and using the SD card as an easily swappable OS.

I should probably also mention that you can run Linux on Azure, their cloud platform.

So all in, it’s interesting to watch Microsoft, the company once the epitome of being proprietary, now learning to embrace open.

Switching costs

When I was a desktop Linux user, I’d just sync /etc and /home to a freshly installed Linux box. When I became a desktop Mac user, I would just rely on Migration Assistant.

With iOS, the trick is to have iTunes make an encrypted backup of your device so that passwords are saved upon backup & restored perfectly with your new device.

However, it’s always rosier than it looks. During my switch I noticed passwords missing from Rdio, audiobooks lost their last played time, and Kindle was completely wiped, thus requiring re-entering a password. These weren’t the only offenders – SoundCloud needed a re-login, Facebook too (and Spotify that depended on it).

You’d think that Apple itself would have figured this out for their apps. On some devices iMessage and FaceTime would get disabled for the phone numbers (so disabling & re-enabling would make things better again).

As I have to update a “fleet” of iOS devices, I wish there was more predictable central management of such devices.

This is another reason I’m very cautious about updating to the latest releases of software, especially iOS or OSX. I depend on these devices and can’t afford downtime. Lately Apple software has been quite bug ridden.

The ecosystem & devices are a charm. But upgrades are expensive as there are switching costs. Imagine switching to a completely new ecosystem?

Taxi safe return home service in Seoul

Apparently taxis can be dangerous for ladies at night in Seoul. So there is a program called the Safe Return Home Service now in Seoul.

How does it work? The assumption is that many people have NFC enabled phones. They just need to tap their phone on this NFC-enabled pad, and automatically a text message is sent to one’s guardian giving the taxi’s model, current time & location, and probably more.


This ensures that you now travel with a better sense of security. Read the press release, which suggests this is a program from SK Planet (I’ve had the pleasure of working with this group in the past).

I think something like this can be really useful in markets like Malaysia, where the taxi system requires a serious overhaul.