The Voice: Live Shows

After watching the first live show, I’m, to say the least, extremely disappointed with The Voice.

The Voice started promisingly, and really produced a lot of great artists on the show. Selection of artists were through the Blind Auditions – listening alone (the judges couldn’t see the artists performing), and the show delivered realistic selection of singers from the judges (save for a few). The Battle Rounds were also very well done, the way the contestants delivered fantastic duets while attempting to outperform each other is just mind-blowing.

However, the Live Shows appeared to seek to change everything about ‘The Voice‘ for the worse:

  • Artists are now selected to proceed to the next round based on votes. What? So The Voice has now become a popularity contest, and good voices will go down the drain without America’s votes?
  • The judges appear to be sucking up to the contestants’ asses – this might be personal judgement, but at least half of the contestants obviously didn’t perform well enough to receive “Well done! Fantastic! Great performance!” from all judges; they were clearly not up to the standard to be ‘The Voice’, and some of them definitely performed better during the Blind Auditions / Battle Rounds.

And the judges kinda delivered a not-so-up-to-their-standard performance at the start. At least there were a few better performances from the contestants.

I’m really very disappointed – I watched the previous six episodes with excitement and appreciation of the performances, and this episode really brought it down to the drain.

Kung Fu Panda 2

Was rather awesome.

Jack Black is still as funny as ever, delivering the awesome silly panda experience; the whole voiceover cast return (which is a damn good thing), with newcomers Gary Oldman and Michelle Yeoh. The movie had really good visuals too, DreamWorks worked wonders on the movie; however I thought the 3D effects weren’t very spectacular, and I would probably have enjoyed it equally without the 3D.

For the storyline, it was simple and enjoyable, just that I thought that some parts could’ve been better elaborated; it’s true that I was sucked into the movie the whole two hours, but it feels as if the show is bombarding me with story and more story, like literally ‘action-packed’. In contrast, I felt that the first show, which had more character development (probably as a result of its relatively more slow-paced story), was more ‘right’ for me.

However, my friend Jia Wei pointed out that it’s very possibly because I held a lot lower expectation for the first movie than the second that I felt that the first movie was better, or actually, gave me a better impact. I still remember me and two male friends thinking that Kung Fu Panda (1) was a retarded movie and deciding to watch it for fun, and then coming out of the cinema in awe. Haha.

tl;dr version:

+ Action-packed and interesting
+ Jack Black is still as good as ever
+ Nice effects

– 3D could’ve been better
– Storyline feels too tight

8/10 (because the first was a 9/10 for me) ūüôā

P/S: E3 is going on, and there’s WWDC! I’ll try to post anything really interesting that I’ve found.

Nokia: From Hero to Zero

Pre: This post is two days late.. ><

Nokia. The Finnish brand that used to rule the world; the brand that absolutely gave consumers confidence over the others. I could clearly remember myself using Nokia phones all the way from 2003 till this year.

My zeroth phone, or one shared with my brother, was a green Nokia 3310.


Couldn’t find a green one :/

It was seriously the coolest phone that time; it doesn’t break no matter how you attack it, and the combination of Snake II and Space Impact provided endless entertainment. Power that with a 1-week battery (impossible in the 3G-based world today) and you have yourself a winner.

Then, I purchased the Nokia 6230 in 2005.


The 6230 – one of my favourite

The Nokia 6230 was the first Series 40v2 phone, with an extra center button compared to the first generation. The phone was exceedingly fast – going through the UI was the fastest of any phone I’ve seen up till today, and I remember it playing FIFA 04 in overdrive mode (the soccer players in the game were running too fast). It was also, as far as I remember, the second S40 phone to feature video recording, after its predecessor, Nokia 6220. It even includes external storage via MMC. The Nokia 6230 was, in my opinion, one of the best feature phones in the market during that time.

Then 2007 came, and my phone was stolen. That sucked. And thus, I purchased my first smartphone, the Nokia 6670 running on Symbian OS 7.0s (or Series 60v2).


The Nokia 6670

It was the business version of the Nokia 7610, I thought; aside from the looks (the 7610 being more cool-looking), the specifications are exactly the same, including the 1-megapixel camera, which was truly in its own territory during that time. I loved the phone and the OS; I was able to find a rich selection of application to install, including additional camera effects, a graphing calculator, many games (like Worms World Party!) and much more. It was truly a smartphone during that time due to its rich selection of apps. Nothing could stand in Nokia’s way, and the iPhone that time did not have an app store.

Then.. The phone broke mid-2008, due to my ‘careless care’. And thus I transitioned from a powerful smartphone to a 3310-esque phone, the Nokia 1110.


Nokia 1110

While completely losing my smartphone system, at least I gained a 1-week battery. Of course, Nokia’s build quality was still sturdy, it feels really rock solid in my hand. But I remember Snake Xenzia lagging on my phone – once my score exceeds 1000, the snake begins moving slower than maximum speed.

And before I started my University late 2009, after careful considerations and reviews of various phones, I purchased the Nokia 5800 Рthe first Nokia touch screen phone running Symbian OS 9.4 (Series 60v5).


The Nokia 5800

Nokia was already late into the touchscreen market – it was already dominated by feature phones from Samsung and LG, and obviously, the iPhone (3G). Nokia probably did a clever job introducing their first touch phone in the midrange segment, because this phone is really.. full of faults.

Tapping a selection in a list menu requires two taps instead of one; the resistive touch was not sensitive enough; the home screen leaves a large blank space¬†for the users to completely not utilize¬†in a touch-centric phone.¬†I didn’t regret getting this phone though; as a Symbian lover, I was able to bear with all the UI inconsistencies of the touch version of Symbian. It feels as if the developers of Symbian, instead of innovating a touch-friendly interface of Symbian, simply forced their way through enabling touch usage on the current, outdated Symbian interface. Their flagship soon after, the N97, was an epic fail that didn’t fix anything (and was in fact, slower than the Nokia 5800 due to memory issues).

The app selection in Symbian was also smaller – it was difficult to obtain apps, and they are often of poor quality. By the time I started to actually try to maximize the 5800’s potential as a smartphone, the iPhone app store and the Android Market was dominating the scene. Somehow, Nokia didn’t do a good enough job to attract more good¬†developers to develop for its platform (they certainly have the numbers, but not the quality). For example, I really enjoyed my time with CameraFX, a camera app that adds a multitude of effects to the camera of the older Symbian versions, but a good camera effects app for the Nokia 5800 (and other Symbian 9.4 devices) cannot be found.

Don’t get me wrong, Symbian is a good OS. It does really¬†well at what it can do (from my personal experience), even more than iOS and Android, but it didn’t develop. It gave its competitiors too much time to outshine it, and now it’s left to ruin. The new Symbian^3 didn’t help; it was already too late into the competition, fixing bugs and inconsistencies that should be fixed over a year ago. And at the moment of introducing Symbian^3, Nokia seems to have abandoned 90% of its development on S60v5, the platform with a LOT of users still. Nokia failed to create a favourable environment amidst the competition for developers and users alike to stay.

And that’s why, at the end of this story, my next phone, after owning (counts) 5 Nokia phones through 8 years, is going to run on the Android OS. I’m somewhat excited at the joint Nokia-Microsoft venture, and Nokia’s hardware still rocks as of now, but I can’t wait until Q4 of 2011 for Nokia to deliver a phone that has the hardware of N8 (a phone released a year ago), only running on Windows Phone 7. Nokia’s still playing catch up, and at this rate they can’t win me over anymore.

Goodbye Nokia, hello Android.

On a side note, after announcing that they are going to let Symbian die, now they say they will support it up to 2016. Good move for existing users (which are not much anyway), but they might as well not waste the money and focus more on the development of future phones.

NUS Module Review [AY1011 Semester 2]

Yes, I haven’t had the urge to review everything beforehand, but at least I’m reviewing the current semester where the memory is the freshest, no?

This review is written based on the Semester 2 variants of the modules, and thus might not apply to the Semester 1 variants of the same module.

CS3217 – Software Engineering on Modern Application Platforms
5MC / Non-examinable / 50% Problem Sets + 50% Final Project
Semester 2 only 

Yes, I am a crazy retard for taking this module. Also know as the ‘iPad module’, this module is comparable to CS3216 in terms of workload, if not heavier; to give you an idea of what to expect, I stayed overnight every single weekend in the first 6 weeks to complete the problem sets. Prof Ben has said he will readjust the workload for subsequent semesters as this is his first time lecturing the module, but be prepared. Be very very prepared.

Lecture – Prof Ben only gives a very introductory and surface level material of what you are going to need, so attend the lectures only to get an overview of what’s happening. The rest is up to you to explore. The Apple Developer Guide will prove extremely useful. no webcast
Problem Sets – This is where the hard part comes, and they take up the first half of the semester. You have to pick up Objective-C AND develop an app (in our case, an Angry Birds-like game) within 6+ weeks. Again, let me repeat: do not take this module if you are not prepared for a really tough time. The workload is seriously )(@*#)(*@# heavy and although at the end of the day you do learn a lot, just.. be prepared.
Project – This part is slightly easier¬†in the sense that the scale of your group’s app is roughly equal to that of your app in the Problem Sets, only this time done by a group of 4. Of course, to strive for excellence most of us would do a lot more so it ends up being equal in workload anyway. But since you should¬†already have a good grasp of developing iPad apps, it’s a matter of having a good team, good design of your code and making sure everyone completes their tasks on time.

I am blessed to have a very imba team working with me, they covered my work when I was busy with Chingay and things. I owe them one.

My grade: A
My rating: (*)@#*$()(@*#$ EXTREMELY HARD AND TIRING

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MA2216 (ST2131) – Probability
4MC / Examinable / 30% Midterm + 70% Final

At the start, you will be learning A-level stuff Рstandard probability, P&C, distributions. However, it will get tough when you reach the later part of the course, where double integrals come in (???? was my reaction) during computation of joint distribution variables. Prepare to spend some time understanding the concepts and calculations Рthe final exams are known for killing you merciless (including me >.<)

Lecture – There are actually 3¬†lecturers for this module, I don’t know why, and I got Dr Ho. He’s quite good as he dives into deep¬†detail for everything, allowing newcomers to understand, however he’s a bit slow and boring at times. no webcast
Tutorial – The lecturer will post the answers online, so unless you have completely no idea how to do some certain questions (which you should, towards the end of the syllabus), it should be okay to skip them. The problem is that the final exam questions are NOTHING like those in the tutorial. They are like 100 levels up.

Do not be fooled by the midterm questions (which was rather chicken feet but not good because of that – I got 17/20 and I was the median), because the final exam questions are really really really really¬†hard! Make sure you study past year papers and fully understand them, but even so, it’s difficult to score unless you can fully grasp the concepts well. Prepare well for this paper, because I didn’t and I ended up not getting a good grade for it.

My grade: B+
My rating: Medium (without final) / Hard (with final)

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MA2101 – Linear Algebra II
4MC / Examinable / Homework Assignments + Midterm + Final (can’t remember the percentages..)

VERY HARD. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. The content in this module is very abstract, requiring absolute concentration during lectures to understand. There’s little calculations and it’s really all about proofs; it is very important to remember the properties of all forms and terms¬†and term manipulation skills. You will also be working with matrices a lot.

Lecture – Prof Zhang is extremely good at what he teaches (he solves problems on the spot!), but doesn’t convey it well (and interesting) enough such that I tend to fall asleep half of the time. But do listen to him (or the webcast) because he’s really good and if you can absorb from him it will help greatly. Also, be sure to catch up always because he structures the content such that you can only understand the current chapter if you have good knowledge of the previous.¬†webcasted
Tutorial – Prof Zhang takes on all tutorials, he’s super hardworking. The tutorial is a must-attend; the proving questions of the tutorial are ridiculously hard¬†and listening to him greatly helps in understanding the answers, and actually knowing how to approach the problems.
Homework Assignments – They are the easier parts of the tutorial, usually only 1-2 questions. Be sure to score full marks for them because everyone else will.

The midterm had questions to differentiate those who knows their stuff, as well as easy computation questions. For this final exam, Prof Zhang apparently decided to kill all of us and set a paper with no calculation questions, all proofs¬†– different from the past year papers where there are about 2-3 calculation questions to at least net us some marks. This made the paper really hard, and I literally left 3/8 questions blank. I was lucky that I think the whole cohord didn’t do too well.

My grade: A
My rating: VERY HARD

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PC1143 – Physics III
4MC / Examinable / 5% Tutorial + 15% Lab + 10% Midterm + 10% MasteringPhysics + 60% Final (I think..)

The most dreadful module I’ve ever taken. Yes Physics is interesting, but the amount of content is really heavy like CS2106 that I took last semester – especially for a non-physics student. The whole chapters of electromagnetism, which spans across about 400 pages of the textbook will be tested. And the workload is heavy and frustrating, which I’ll explain later.

Lecture – Dr Yeo is very good, he explain the concepts really clearly and gives good demonstrations of experiments. He also gives a review of what he taught during the last lecture everytime, and use lecture quizzes (not counted) to see what the majority of students have conceptual problems at. I regretted not paying attention; you should. If not, go mug the textbook crazily like I do – I spent the entire reading week on it. not webcasted
Tutorial – Participation is 5% so I guess you shouldn’t skip it. Tutor Andreas tends to digress into his adventures around the world, but he explains concepts well and he tells people how he solves problems, so that can be a good skill to pick up. He doesn’t explain the tutorial questions though, unless upon request. Incomplete answers will be posted, allowing you to work them out yourself. Do note that the tutorial questions are extremely hard, even harder than those during exams.
Lab¬†– The problem with the labs comes with the lab report, where you really don’t know how to answer the discussions the correct way that they want, because there is just no standard way. Plus, there are no past labs for you to follow. This is very frustrating for a non-physics student like me – I ended up scoring mostly Bs for the reports (most Physics students scored A).
MasteringPhysics¬†– The online component that needs to be done every week. I almost always spend more than 3 hours on each, simply because there are too many questions. Sometimes, the questions are in topics that Dr Yeo hasn’t covered, thus you will need to look online in Google for them. Some of the answers are google-able though. This is the part of the module that I probably hate the most – so many questions, but only 1% per assignment (10 in total).

I screwed up my midterm (MCQ) because I was beat from CS3217. Try not to because I think it really makes a difference in your grade; I mugged hard for the finals and could do most of the questions, but I didn’t get a good grade. I think the Physics students are the ones spoiling the bell curve.

My grade: B+
My rating: Hard (content: Medium+, amount: Hard)

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GEM2900 – Understanding Uncertainty and Statistics Thinking
4MC / Examinable / 30% Assignments + 70% Final

No tutorial! And I kind of cheated as I took MA2216 at the same time. But that’s how you survive yo. This module is easy because most contents are from JC – but be very careful of careless mistakes, because everyone else is going to score well. Oh, I took this module also because it satisfies the Arts Gem (Group B) option that I need to take, and I really suck with essays.

Lecture – Ms Chen is very enthusiastic, however she gets boring at times because she explains all the A-level stuff in detail. I actually skipped 50% of the lectures, and was probably surfing Facebook at the other 50%. Do look out for things not covered in the A-level syllabus though, like Simpson’s Paradox.
Online Assignments РYou can discuss this with your friends, make sure you score full marks for everything. I got 1 question wrong :/

The bell curve is very very¬†steep, a few marks lost can mean a drop of a grade. Take this module with the aim of scoring full marks, and don’t make careless mistakes.

My grade: A+
My rating: Easy (Medium with careless, bell curve)

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I really did a lot better than I expected myself to do this semester, mainly because of the iPad module pulling out most of my time to study. Kudos to myself! Hoorah!

HTC Magic ROM: SFM (Salsa ROM)

I started using the HTC Magic about two months ago, and first thing I did was to upgrade its Android version from the old Donut (1.6) to the newest Gingerbread (2.3). The HTC Magic community over at xda-developers are thriving even after two years of release of the phone.


My HTC Magic, with dietGingerbread

That time, I used a custom build called dietGingerbread, based on the stock Gingerbread build (Google recognized my phone as a Nexus S!). However, it wasn’t as perfect as I’ve expected; while the UI was moderately snappy, the thing that plagued me (and made me hate SMS-ing for two months) was the extremely lag keyboard.

The stock Gingerbread keyboard took half a second for every key I typed¬†into the keyboard, making typing anything¬†unbearable. I’ve been looking for a fix, to no avail, and I ended up using Swype, which is the fastest typing method albeit still painfully slow, especially on someone like me with sweaty palms.

And since I was bored at home today, I decided to check out the forum again for any new roms. And I stumbled upon the SFM (SebastianFM’s HTC Salsa ROM port), which is a port of the HTC Salsa rom to the magic. I decided to give it a try and the result is just plain awesome.


The lockscreen (on first startup, not fully loaded)

The rom runs well, with a few hiccups (I had to factory reset once to get my contacts synced correctly), but in general it is very pleasing to use. And this is one of the few roms with the HTC Sense UI on it!


HTC Sense 2.1

I like the look and feel of the rom a lot, and it does its job well, linking all your Google contacts with Facebook and Twitter based on email addresses. The FriendStream app also allows you to view updates from both social networks at the same time, and publish your status to both.


FriendStream

And best of all, the HTC Keyboard doesn’t lag! This solves my two-month frustration of having to deal with a slow typing system. The rom also comes with Chinese support (my previous rom doesn’t :/), which is a big big plus for me.

The HTC applications and widgets are also included (as expected from a rom with HTC Sense), and it feels really complete and like a pre-loaded rom.

Overall, I’m very satisfied with the rom. The only things that doesn’t work according to the person who ported the rom is Bluetooth, key backlighting, and Wi-Fi Hotspot, which I don’t use very often, and the battery appears to drain relatively fast.


Quietly brilliant.

Give it a try!

Requirements:
Radio: 6.35.10.18 or 6.35.16.19
SPL: 1.76.2007
Data wipe