HK

Wow the crazy news about HK’s anti-elab protests, and the entire situation, is entering into Week 11 and shows little signs of abating. This weekend protests have spread to other cities around the globe, and today the main flashpoint has been Mong Kok.

Mong Kok

The previous weeks and protests have been spread over many other areas of HK, from Central, to Sheung Wan, and more, including Hong Kong International Airport.

Of all these, HKIA I’m fairly familiar with, having passed through en route to USA, or just to enter HK itself. I’ve even registered as frequent visitor, though after that I didn’t get to use it much.

For many many years, as a Singaporean I’ve always heard of HK as a destination, but never been. And then I went once, to shop, and then many many more times in the subsequent 4 year period from 2014 to 2018, for work and leisure.

We’ve always preferred to be in Mong Kok, where we loved the vibe, and felt most comfortable. Never caught the hang of Central and Hong Kong Island. Kowloon is where it’s at!

We’ve also always preferred to stay in Mong Kok, only once in Central / Causaway Bay. From the first memorable dingy tiny AirBnB (our probably first AirBnB experience, but with lovely hosts), to our go-to hotel. Near to food, shopping, MTR, near to Pokemon Go hotspots, near (enough) to work, Local Guide meetups and more. Yeah I’ve literally walked the ground alot in Mong Kok and nearby areas.

Notable spots: Avenue of Stars, Star Ferry Pier, Hong Kong Harbor City, entire stretch of Nathan Road, Signal Hill Garden (up the darn hill), East Tsim Sha Tsui station, Hung Hom station, Whampoa station, almost every small street in TST, Chungking Mansions, K11, iSquare, Jordan MTR, Yau Ma Tei MTR (so much), CityView Hotel, Sai Yeung Choi st, the entire shopping area, Argle st, Argle shopping ctr, Langham, Prince Edward for food, Sham Shui Po for computer and hardware shopping, Lai Chi Kok Park (pokemon), Morse Park (pretty residential area), and so many many more.

So, I miss this HK, and my gosh the reality is that it’s going to change forever after 2019. It’s going to be so very very very different. No longer the peaceful, fun, delicious food destination. I mean, HK has never been super glamorous, or polite or beautiful in the made-up way, and it’s always got it’s direct attitude of the restaurant servers, the cramped seats, the table sharing, the quick meals, the gritty Mong Kok roadsides, the dripping aircons.

But it’s something that’s been so comfortable, and even gotten homely. I’m going to sorely miss that, especially knowing it’s going to change drastically. The undercurrents were always there. My HK friends worry about it and make plans, my colleagues tell me about the housing prices, cramped conditions. It’s really crazy of course.

But wow. All these memories of walking around at night in Kowloon / MK, all these photos, it’s really going to be history. I’m glad I got to experience a good amount of it before it’s gone.

HK

dix ans

It’s been a long, and crazy, ten years.

Well perhaps not crazy enough, but it had it’s moments.

Here’s to the next big ten years, which will be so very different. It’s about time.

Work, home, house, family, travel, tech, bake, and so much more.


Since school days I’ve liked this chinese song by Eason Chan 十年10 years . I probably don’t appreciate the lyrics properly, but I liked the tune. Anyways.

dix ans

Why the Pixel isn’t as great as it could be

As they say, focus, is the key to an incredible product. Search is Google’s focus. Search/Ads anyway. Everything else is and always has been icing on the cake.

If iPhones or S10s had an issue, that’ll be the top headline for Apple and Samsung. It’s such a central part of their identity. But Samsung is such a huge conglomerate with huge businesses in their TVs, home electricals, and even many many other industries. Apple naturally now derives most of their revenue from the iPhone base. Though there’s also substantial sales of Mac computers, iPads, Appstore purchases that are not small, but just dwarfed by iPhones.

On the other hand, big headlines about Google are about 1. freedom of speech, 2. human rights, 3. internet freedom, 4. privacy, 5. some china-US thing, 6. US politics, 7. LGBT stuff, 8. Cloud competition, and so many more. Mobile phones, especially Pixel line, is big, but not that headline hogging for a Google CEO, and naturally for the Google company and employees. Not to say that they aren’t attempting to work hard at it, but it’s on a whole other level when the entire company is aware and focused on delivering an excellent product, optimizing everything to get the profit margins, manufacturing margins, design competitiveness and every single aspect to a world-class competitive level that Apple and Samsung has made themselves into, in order to survive the competition over the past 10 years of mobile wars.

The only and biggest benefit Google has, is that they have the army of software engineers who made Android, so they can make the most perfect version of phone-android that any manufacturer is capable of. But still, as an entire hardware spec / service / price / everything package, the Pixel still has so much that can be squeezed out of it in order to be on the level of iphones and samsungs.

But you cannot deny that the deep pockets of Google has given a product where very little is held back in terms of user privacy, security, warranty. Privacy and security in the way that no additional loopholes other than the original Google metrics are added in. So currently, to me anyway, the price premium is about paying for this. The extra frills like Pixel-exclusive features don’t really apply to non-US customers anyway.

So, Pixel phones are still a difficult sell outside of US, the pricing difference between US price and International price is silly, the features are not well distributed, and the whole package, while vastly improved in 3 years, still has a good way to go.

We can only hope it gets better.

Why the Pixel isn’t as great as it could be

an oddly high class weekend

It’s most hilarious, and utterly coincidental that we had one of our more ‘high class’ / ‘high ses’ / atas weekends, while a survey report came out about perceptions of class and what high class entails.

So, first, our lovely weekend.

  1. Short films at Botanic Gardens

Heard about SAM showing past year Imaginarium shorts as part of Botanic’s heritage fest or something. We came down with our improvised picnic. Couldn’t and didn’t really prepare beforehand except for hurriedly digging out a picnic mat in the morning before work. Grabbed cheese and crackers from cold storage, sandwiches from Four Leaves, and apricots from NTUC. lol. cheap and fancy at the same time. It’s good that we don’t need to worry too much about having fancy food, but just simple selections of things we enjoy.

It was a lovely setup, cool and clear weather, free popcorn/potong/muahchee, and just a small comfortable crowd. Really haven’t had a picnic in quite long.

1.5 hours of different types of short films was really quite ALOT. Fun but also maybe a bit long. And then there’s that creepy part about leaving botanic gardens in the dark night time. Only my second time inside at night and I always found it creepy.

So yeah. picnic in botanic watching artsy film and eating brie. =)

2. Poetry Festival 2019

We looked at the lineup few days back but didn’t manage to find anything that really caught out eye. Rueful. The marketing was really horrible as well, it was difficult to get any details without logging into facebook or peatix. UGH.

Thankfully, on the day itself, S’s friend was offering up comp’d tix cause she’s like in the performance. Woot, here we go. Even though my knees and ankles were still so tired and painful from the previous day, I could not pass this up.

It was a really really delightful performance. I have to say I liked it more than I would have thought. It was a mix of singing, dance, musical (I’m starting to appreciate these more), a segment of spoken word (I miss our days going out to spoken word events. haiz. Oh to be young, careful, energetic and have all the free time again..). It was really nice. Loved it. Definitely love the vibe a bit more than the musical community. But maybe it’s a bit quiet compared to lit festival.

3. ArtScience museum

So friend told us about this free event, which I knew nothing about but just wanted to see ArtScience for once. Never felt it was worth the entrance fee to go in.

There was a fair crowd, but we survived the balloon madness. Ok it wasn’t that bad, still fairly chill.

So that’s our little weekend of surprisingly high class events, in a low class and low budget way. All the events were free, and we spent pretty little on food as well. haha.

It was a great throwback to the past years of us being crazy into stand-up, poetry, arts, literature, music, shows, museums, poetry slams, discovering spoken word on youtube, going for multiple festivals, night fests, going to comedy clubs in NYC!

In a way these are not that common activities unlike going to the movies, but they aren’t also that inaccessible (I feel / I thought), it’s not like $100 musical theatre shows at all, just that the content is quite more obscure – no-dialogue short films, poetry dance about immigrants, instagrammable moon balloon.

The other day I was joking about the quote about living on love and fresh air.

Sure all these are privileged pursuits, that don’t put food or money on the table, and not found at your neighbourhood community centre (which I do frequent as well!). Sure you need to have a great command of English to follow along the content, and american accents.

But it wasn’t expensive, gated, out of reach. You just have to dare to step in the door, listen, and just appreciate it a little.

And I’m glad we both, despite our other differing interests, can enjoy these beautiful moments together.

an oddly high class weekend

Are they listening

Saw a pretty good summary by a commenter on a forum:

ConcernedNot concerned
Don’t understand ML‘I bought this device and now people are listening to me.‘I have nothing to hide’
Understand ML‘How can we train models/collect data in an ethical way’‘Of course, google needs to label its training data’

Quite interesting way of describing it, and yes the situation is far from perfect, lots of overlaps, lots of confusion, lots of vagueness in the situation of what is going on, how much to trust etc.

The discussion and battling is good, it drives the industry forward, we’re getting better. The tech is getting better, the controls are getting better (hopefully), and people learn to live with it.

I guess this is probably the defining moment of the 2010-2020 period. The overwhelming rise of ML/AI pretenders.

I still get the number of people who say/joke that your phone is listening to everything and targeting ads at you. It’s most easy to show or explain or appreciate how pervasive the online ad profiling and tracking can be, nor do I really know how powerful it is, but I can imagine how it is sufficient to perform lots of ‘magical’ linkages to show you that relevant/irrelevant ad. Sometimes you just need to see how dumb the ad can be – eg showing you something after you’ve just bought it.

Are they listening

Why Sundar has failed Google

Wow ain’t that a controversial title, and perhaps a tad too much to blame it all on one person? But then, as the saying probably goes, it’s always the CEO’s fault isn’t it? At some point between the janitor and CEO, the reason stops mattering. or something.

What I’m about to say probably is more of a whole-google issue, or a company culture issue, and could just as well more be inherited from the original founders and leadership teams of Larry Page, Sergy Brin, Eric Schmidt and the top management, but now that Sundar is (kinda) the CEO of Google, albeit with Alphabet looming above him, he has kinda inherited the responsibility, power, and paycheck.

So what’s the problem with Google?

The symptom is that Google has lots of weird products, some successful, some unsuccessful, many of them poorly supported, not completed, and never seems to really dominate the product category despite being the big gorilla in the room and full of money and manpower resources. This has led to many people being frustrated and jaded about using Google products and apps, instead switching to other providers. It is the power and goodwill of Google’s branding that people even care and continue to give them a huge benefit of doubt.

Example: google+ closed down, google reader closed down, Allo, Hangout chat closed down, Google Trips app closed down, and so many more.

Lots of people have also remarked that the only really successful product that has made money is Google Search, while everything else were frills and hobbies that keep users in the Google ecosystem. Even Android and Pixel doesn’t make appreciable amount of money for them.

While we could go into the design behaviour and competitive landscape of each product and design flaws etc, it doesn’t really matter. The only reason that so many products can fail is that the culture and company structure is not appropriate.

Many have often said that internally Google engineers can only be promoted or rewarded when they demonstrate the launch of a new product or feature. Preferably product. This leads to older projects and products being abandoned. Products require continuous refinement, perfecting, improving, integration and polish in order to keep on being better. Google’s products are pretty good, but far from perfect. It is so obviously short, and so obvious what the next step is, and yet they don’t take it. Many easy products that just needs to be that bit better, where there are already lots of users, users who are willing to pay for it, but Google is not interested in the income, or the liability of supporting it, so they abandon it, close it down.

If the culture remains this way, Google isn’t going to advance. Other companies are just going to chip away at each segment one by one. We the users are forced to spread to other apps, in a fragmented way. Ouch.

If Google doesn’t recognise this as an issue, and so far I’ve not seen or heard any rumour of this indication, then it’s quite sad.

Free products and unimportant income streams just wouldn’t matter to a company, they wouldn’t care about you, and you wouldn’t get the long term dedicated support, growth and improvement that a competitive product that needs to keep their users happy and engaged.

eg. companies are willing to pay for Slack instead of free alternatives, pay for Zoom, pay for so many other alternatives which aren’t technically so impossible to create.

Microsoft turned their culture and image around drastically, can Google do the same with a new CEO and new culture change?

Why Sundar has failed Google

Google Chrome

Wow I don’t even remember this, imagine how old this possibly is (it’s more retro-looking than it actually is. But remember when Google Chrome came out to knock IE and Firefox on their heads and say move faster!

https://www.google.com/googlebooks/chrome/small_00.html

The new/current Google Chrome has evolved so much, became mainstream, defaults on many Androids etc.

Although it has it’s share of detractors and complaints with all the Google integration and ad-related issues.

Now even new Edge is using the Chromium engine, Firefox has evolved alot too. It’s good that there are still options etc. Keep the web open, have competition etc.

Google Chrome

Seletar

The evening golden hour is always beautiful. A pleasant relaxed stroll in one of my favorite spots in Singapore. There is a sort of beauty in this that is so much harder to capture in video, and doesn’t really need many words.

Us.
Seletar

Updates

Another round of Unifi updates, Windows updates, and many more.

How often does your phone and devices update? goodness I really wish I didn’t have to bother with maintaining laptop and server versions sometimes.

Updates