macOS Sierra: Disable Mouse Acceleration with SteelSeries ExactMouse

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The Acceleration panel, one of the solutions on the internet that didn’t work for me. Photo credit: osxdaily.com
Do you hate mouse acceleration? I do. Coming from decades of Windows use, the steep acceleration curve that macOS defaults for mice has always been intriguing to me – the inability to have precise control over my pointer movement actually decreases my productivity. It might be because of the fact that I’ve used a Razer mouse (with acceleration turned off via software) for years, but still, I would really appreciate a way to switch off acceleration.

Up till last year, many users have used SmoothMouse to end their mouse acceleration troubles, but the release of macOS Sierra rendered the software incompatible due to the removal of system calls necessary for the software to work. Another reliable trick is via the terminal command (followed by a re-login or restart):

defaults write .GlobalPreferences com.apple.mouse.scaling -1

This has worked for me until the latest Sierra update (10.12.4) along with Command Line Tools 8.3 – which somehow broke the ability to retain changes in the Tracking Speed setting in System Preferences –> Mouse. It’s really frustrating because the pointer speed now slows to a crawl. The exact problem is described in this StackExchange question. The author mentioned that updating Xcode solved the problem for him, but I didn’t even have Xcode installed!

I was really frustrated due to my inability to continue doing my work in the office properly. After long hours of Googling, I finally found an easy solution – SteelSeries ExactMouse.

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Switch to “On” to fix your woes.
It was as simple as installing and launching the software. Ta-da! My pointer is now acceleration-free. And you don’t need a SteelSeries mouse for the software to work.

(I’ve noticed that it does screw around with your trackpad acceleration as well though, so you might want to switch it off when not using a mouse.)

While the command line solution definitely works better as it doesn’t conflict with the trackpad’s acceleration (which, ironically, I find necessary for the best experience), the ExactMouse tool is your best bet before Apple fixes the bug.

Hope this helps!

I Miss Android

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Zenfone 2 with CyanogenMod 13. Photo credit: xda-developers

I miss being able to adjust the speed of the phone’s animations. The iPhone might present its interface in a fancy, elegant way, but after a week or so they often felt like intentional delays to hide the phone’s inability to keep up with my mind. I would like Android’s ability to adjust the animation speed (after turning on Developer Options).

I miss the ability to change my launcher. To be able to position my most frequently used apps on the main screen and keep the rest stashed in the app drawer. It’s the equivalent of stowing away your less frequently used junk away in the cupboard, instead of needing to spread them over a long, wide springboard.

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Material Design. Photo credit: material.io

I miss Material Design. A consistent language in user interface creates a unified, pleasing experience on the smartphone, the one device that the average person checks 54 times a day. A streamlined and standardized user experience that reduces the time required to learn how to use new apps. An enriching feeling that you are part of a huge ecosystem.

I miss the seamless integration of Google Services into the operating system, and its better implementation of its core apps on Android. Hangouts suck on the iPhone with its non-responsive buttons. Google’s one-touch sign in did not require me to switch apps on Android. Rapid backups and processing of my photos on Google’s photos app.

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Photo credit: techrepublic

I miss OK Google. The entire process of using my voice to create reminders, do searches, launch apps and call an acquaintance is much better implemented in Android. Siri’s voice recognition is lackluster, especially in noisy environments where it thinks the ambient noise is my voice. And honestly, Google’s calendar and notes implementation trumps the folks at Cupertino, especially if you don’t own everything Apple. (For the record, I am using a MacBook and an Apple Watch.)

I miss how I can launch customized apps from one another to share rich data, instead of being limited to a standardized small scale data sharing implementation. Launching Pocket to save an article from Feedly. Using the actual WhatsApp app to share a screenshot instead of a half-baked, restricted interface. Being able to actually choose which browser I want to use, which is not Safari.

I miss Android.

This is purely an opinion from a user who’s very comfortable with Android and Google, and any suggestions to improve the experience on iOS are welcome.

Featured photo credit: android.com

Apple Watch Series 2 – A Review

The Apple Watch is an expensive productivity play toy.

This was a necessary purchase in order for me to experience the complete Apple ecosystem working in unison; or so I thought. After my stellar experiences with the paper-thin Macbook, the iPhone 7 Plus did not match my high expectations; and thus I treated the Apple Watch as a one-time luxury purchase that I would not be giving in to again. Surprisingly, the Apple Watch does have moderate value.

Warning: Long review ahead!

Design & Construction

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My Apple Watch is a Series 2 Aluminium 42mm, with a Gold body and dark brown strap. In contrast to Google and the rest of the OEMs, Apple played the safe card by restricting its watches to be strictly square in design; this allowed the Apple Watch to circumvent many display issues that are currently present in the Android Wear watches, like the Moto 360, where certain text on the screen are cropped off by the round display. Thus, you’re left with a more consistent experience but on a square face, which is a matter of personal preference – I think the Apple Watch itself is attractive and reliable enough from a design standpoint.

The Apple Watch varies in prices from S$400 – S$2000++ depending on the series and the watch body and strap materials; and my watch has already suffered a dent at the bottom left corner of the watch body. I expected a little more from Apple in terms of sturdiness, but oh well.¬†Weight-wise, the Apple Watch is heavier than all the other watches I’ve owned, but I got used to it after a while.

The inclusion of the digital crown is one of the smartest, but ill-executed decision from the folks over at Cupertino. This provided a sense of familiarity to watch wearers and made me feel more like I’m actually tinkering around with a proper watch; however, I find the user experience a little unintuitive. The speed of the digital crown adjustment often did not match the rate of change on the elements of the screen, leading to a frustrating situation of trying to get the correct minute for my alarms. Nevertheless, it is a familiar concept on a modern device like this.

Display and Basic Use

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Having owned an LG G Watch for a week last year, I know the definition of a sunlight-illegible screen; basically, on a hot sunny afternoon in Singapore, you need an extra hand to cover the watch face to see anything at all. Impressively, the Apple Watch does not have this problem – the screen remains effective under direct sunlight, and I haven’t encountered any situations where I couldn’t read the screen, except in cases due to reflection on the glossy surface, or.. when the screen did not light up as I twisted my forearm.

One of the biggest annoyances I have with the watch is with the inconsistency of its raise to wake feature. This is especially apparent when I have a non-standard posture (such as a semi-lying position) and flicks my wrist without moving my arm. Granted, these positions are not exactly the standard use cases of looking at a watch, but it does get frustrating when I have to use the other hand to tap the screen, or to repeatedly flick your wrist in an attempt to see the time – and I do look like a retard in the process.

Also, do yourself a favour and apply a screen protector if you decide to buy the Apple Watch. Three weeks in and I already have a large scratch on the top right corner of the Ion-X Glass. ūüė¶

As a Watch

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Unreliability aside, the Apple Watch is a fun and customizable device to own. You get a variety of watch faces, from the standard analog and digital presentations to their latest additions of Mickey and Minnie telling you the time with their hands. The colors of the watch hands or digits can be chosen from the Apple-curated color palette. The changeable shortcuts on the home screen is an intuitive feature to suit your personal needs, and I found the alarm shortcut the most useful, as it also shows the of the next alarm beside the shortcut icon.

Previous grievances about the Apple Watch centered around its sluggishness in user interface navigation. From my experience, the Apple Watch is smooth enough for normal, non-smart usage, though launching many apps takes a really long time Рthe amount of time it took to search for a place and navigate on the Maps app was enough for me to take out my phone and do the same. Also, there is a slight but noticeable delay between pressing the digital crown and the app returning to the home screen Рnot that it impacts usage, but still slightly annoying.

The home screen with the app bubbles looks nice, but is honestly difficult to navigate. Most of the time I either have no idea where my app is, or I just don’t have enough apps I want to use on the watch (more on that later).

As a Smartwatch

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The biggest strengths of the Apple Watch comes in the form of notification mirroring and Apple Pay.

I found notification mirroring especially useful when I’m occupied with things – carrying heavy objects with both hands, or when in a meeting such that I do not want to use my phone as it is an intrusive action. The notifications allow me to take a quick glance and respond if necessary, and I found the most success in this when I am in a dance rehearsal, where my phone is definitely not with, but near me. Furthermore, the ability to customize which apps on the iPhone mirror notifications to the watch is a great plus, meaning I only allow, say, non-work apps to¬†ping me on my wrist.

However, one shortcoming of the mirroring system comes when¬†I¬†get spammed by chat app notifications when in the middle of doing something with the watch, like setting the alarm. The notification popup on the Apple Watch reminds me of the iOS 3 days, where the entire screen is covered by the notification and basically I have to keep swiping them up to ignore them. It gets irritating at times, and I do hope Apple can figure out a solution to intelligently make them less intrusive when I’m using the watch.

The issues aside, I’ve grown really accustomed to receiving alerts on my watch, and¬†I feel weird whenever I’m not wearing it and need to take out my phone to check for notifications. I guess that’s the magic that Apple does.

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Apple Pay, on the other hand, just works. Double tap on the side¬†button, and you’re ready to pay – easily a comfortable and convenient experience in payment. It’s too bad that contactless credit card payment adoption in Singapore hasn’t reached saturation point, but I can imagine Apple Pay working really well in places like Australia.

Due to the slowness of the apps mentioned above, other apps’ features are honestly not worth mentioning in the review. They are just too slow for the experience to be anything but frustrating – let’s just wait to see if Apple can fix this problem, but meanwhile, I’m happy with the Apple Watch being not as intrusive. Meanwhile, if you would like to play around with Apple Watch apps, here’s a curated list to get started.

As a Fitness Tracker and Health Monitor

Apple has been touting the fitness capabilities of the Apple Watch Series Two – with Tim Cook going as far to call the Apple Watch a device¬†“for a healthy life”. Personally, I enjoy the passive tracking of my movement, exercises and standing times through the Activity app – they provide a non-intrusive reminder of the daily requirements for a healthy lifestyle, and the gamification factor provided by the goals and badges is a nice touch that encourages me to complete them.

The Workout app, on the other hand, doesn’t really provide a lot. It calculates the calories burnt, and.. that’s it? I’m not entirely sure how that helps, maybe a record of my daily workouts would be nice, especially to health-conscious individuals who control their calorie intake every day. I don’t really see a point in recording them, though. (This is strictly personal opinion.)

The Breathe app is a nice addition to the fitness capabilities of the watch, reminding you to practice mindfulness through focusing on your breath for small periods every day. I find the length of each breath too short to my liking, though, and there seems to be no way to customize that at the moment – only the total duration of the breathing exercise.

Battery Life

I never needed to use Power Reserve. Photo credit: apple.com

I actually think the Series 2 watch has good battery life. On long days with a reasonable amount of workout calorie counting, I can get home late at night with about 50% battery remaining. That’s far better than my expectations, but of course it would be nice to have multiple days battery life so that the watch can actually track your sleep (or act as your morning alarm) for once. For now, I try to charge it the moment I reach home, then wear it to sleep – I really love the vibrating alarm as it is non-intrusive and as I am staying with housemates in the same room.

Conclusion

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Photo credit: apple.com

So is this worth the S$600? No. That’s half the price of the 128GB iPhone 7! As of now, I believe that Apple has not found the right combination of software and hardware to provide an intuitive, integrable experience on the watch to complement one’s daily life in the Apple ecosystem. While¬†the watch¬†has¬†executed certain use cases flawlessly¬†(Apple Pay for the win), watchOS is still an immature platform that needs time to figure things out. Until then, hold your horses on this one, unless you¬†won the lottery and have some extra cash to spare or something – and as long as you’re willing to admit that this is a luxury product that you would like to own (like a mini Rolex), you would be surprised and appreciative of the little¬†conveniences the device brings you.

Featured photo credit: apple.com

iPhone 7 Plus Review, From an Android User

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Making the decision to switch to the Apple ecosystem wasn’t an easy one. The lack of commonality between integrated services on iOS and Android made it more difficult for things on the iPhone 7 to work like they did on Android; I had to work around certain quirks on the iOS that might seem normal to its users. Nevertheless, here’s a review from an Android user’s perspective.

Design, Construction, Display

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The first thing I noticed when holding the iPhone 7 Plus in my hand, surprisingly, was how heavy it felt. Notice that I use the word felt instead of stating a fact – I don’t think 188g counts as heavy – but the overall weight distribution of the iPhone 7 Plus made the phone slightly unbalanced when held in my hand. My previous Zenfone 2 (5.5 inches) was lighter and easier to hold with one hand, as is my friend’s Galaxy Note 7. Honestly, even if Apple had to cram many features into the phone, this is something that’s unforgivable, as we use our smartphones everyday and dealing with the flimsiness of the grip everyday isn’t the best experience I expect from Apple.

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Photo credit: apple.com

Design wise, what you get is standard fare from the iPhones; a flat phone with round edges. It can either be the basic design that you go back to everyday, or too mainstream for the hipster. I’m more for the latter, but looking at the phones in the market nowadays I don’t expect much breakthrough in design, maybe except for HTC.

Apple claims that the iPhone 7 produces a wider range of colors from its screen when compared to the previous models. Now I don’t really have a case for comparison, but the display works brilliantly; definitely much better than my previous Android phones, and Apple’s got the automatic brightness adjustment done accurately as well.

User Interface

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Basic.

The iPhone 7 Plus is fast. Like really fast. It zoomed through my application switching in a breeze, and loaded new apps with Flash-like speed; something that even top Android phones struggles with (I’m looking at you, Note 7). I have absolutely no complaints about how responsive this beast is.

However, the efficient processor is let down by iOS’ operating system design for background apps, which only lets each app occupy CPU time briefly while it is in the background. This causes many apps with notifications (instant messaging for example) to only update when the app is launched – leading to a load-on-switch behaviour that can be irritating, especially if you come from Android. Granted, this probably makes the phone speedier, but I think with the processing power available Apple should have come up with a solution to this disharmonious experience.

The other issue I have with iOS is the lack of customization of the home screen, a versatile feature Android offers and impresses. Basically you are stuck with a grid of applications with minimal customizability, with only a page for widgets; many people might prefer to have a one page overview of their calendar events upon unlock, without swiping. Heck, sometimes I just want to rearrange the position of the clock.

Camera

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Panoramic shot

I’m not even going to write much about this. I believe the iPhone 7 Plus carries arguably the best smartphone camera in the market right now. It is reliable and fast, allowing you to capture the moment with ease. It produces great pictures in almost all lighting situations.

The 2x zoom? Pretty gimmicky if you ask me. It does allow you to get clear shots or certain situations where you can’t get too close to the subject, but 2x zoom is really not a lot. Let’s just wait for Apple’s implementation of post processing of photos when it’s out.

App Store and Apps

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Wow, I didn’t know how much the Google Play Store content has improved in quality and selection.

The main drawback of the iOS app store is its limited selection of good free apps, or even paid apps with lite / ad-supported versions. I was trying to find a good Markdown app and stumbled across several expensive apps before settling on MarkLite (I’m writing this post on it), which I’m not entirely satisfied with. I would really love the ability to try apps before I buy them.

Also, data sharing between apps felt more limited than the experience on Android. Although basic data sharing is available, deeper integration is lacking – in Android I could click on a link in Gmail to have my article saved on the Pocket app.

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Still getting the hang of GarageBand..

What iOS app shines in, though, is its good selection of beautifully designed apps with an emphasis in user experience. Trello definitely works better in iOS. Many apps offering a niche feature, like Singapore Airlines or the American Express app, presents¬†a more fluid interface. From my experience with iOS and Android development, it is indeed easier to develop on the Apple ecosystem; hardly a surprise due to the heavy segmentation on Google’s phones.


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So is the iPhone 7 worth it? If you want something that just works, yes. If you are a power user, don’t pay more to be handicapped. For me, I bought it because of the camera, my employee benefits, as well as to experience this first hand. And I wasn’t disappointed, but not impressed as well.

Ultimately, I feel that the mobile phone platforms have evolved into such an app-based ecosystem, that aside from the hardware differences (camera, look and feel), you’re getting standard fare in terms of function. So using that to decide which phone you should get should be a logically accurate method.

WhatsApp and Privacy: Get The Facts Right

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I’m pretty surprised that WhatsApp’s official website hasn’t updated its screenshots.

The hoo-hah over WhatsApp’s changes to its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy has caused quite a stir recently, with many groups calling foul to WhatsApp’s doings as a sly move in an attempt to make more money. I certainly thought that it was a bad move on WhatsApp, but in light of recent discussions I’ve seen from friends in our conversations and on Facebook, I decided to dive into the situation to shed some light on the actual facts (instead of the erroneous claims that is often seen on social media).


Yes, WhatsApp is sharing your phone number with Facebook, but that doesn’t mean random people can see your phone number.

I was initially skeptical about this, but it turns out that this is indeed happening, despite what WhatsApp claims in the “Account” page:

Your chats and phone number will not be shared onto Facebook regardless of this setting.

I believe that it’s clever wordplay intended to misguide users here – “shared onto Facebook” probably means that your personal information will not be, in any way, visible to the news feed, or any feature on Facebook that can be viewed by other users¬†in a social context.

Your phone number, however, will still be imported into¬†Facebook’s systems, through a two-tier approach implemented by the opt-out feature (the checkbox in your Account settings):

  • If you do not opt-out, your mobile number will be used for future value-added services, as quoted from the WhatsApp blog post:

    Whether it’s hearing from your bank about a potentially fraudulent transaction, or getting notified by an airline about a delayed flight, many of us get this information elsewhere, including in text messages and phone calls. We want to test these features in the next several months, but need to update our terms and privacy policy to do so.

    And by connecting your phone number with Facebook’s systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them. For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you’ve never heard of.

  • If you opt-out, none of that will happen to you,¬†but your phone number is still being shared into Facebook’s systems for other services that do not impact you on a personal level:

    The Facebook family of companies will still receive and use this information for other purposes such as improving infrastructure and delivery systems, understanding how our services or theirs are used, securing systems, and fighting spam, abuse, or infringement activities.

While this may potentially introduce spam calls and messages, I think the services that WhatsApp is planning to implement seem exciting enough for me to remain opted in – after all, who doesn’t want their life made simpler?


No, your chats will not be readable by WhatsApp.

In addition, when you and your contacts use the latest version of our app, your messages are end-to-end encrypted by default. When your messages are end-to-end encrypted, only the people you are messaging with can read them ‚Äď not WhatsApp, Facebook, or anyone else.

That’s that. No privacy concerns here.


Yes, WhatsApp did not honor its promise of upholding privacy as a priority.

When WhatsApp was launched in 2009, its founders promised not to sell your personal information to anyone. They reaffirmed this in 2014. Guess not.


Ultimately, I wasn’t surprised at the bold move – after all, we are using a free service, and WhatsApp using these information to build a better ecosystem (and earn money, I guess) should be expected. Of course, them going back on their word is another matter that will definitely make people lose their trust in WhatsApp.

Mobius Final Fantasy

While everyone is enjoying the mobile craze that is¬†Pok√©mon GO, I’m one of the few that remains uninterested at the game – primarily because the game felt more like a tech demo without any cognitive benefits to playing it. That’s for another blog post though! For now, I’ve been engrossed in the mobile game Square Enix released a few days ago, that is Mobius Final Fantasy.

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Photo credit: gamerant.com

Unlike the previous mobile offering from Square Enix, Mobius Final Fantasy drew me into its world due to its fully 3D graphics, a feat that’s seldom accomplished in a free-to-play mobile RPG game. Though my phone (Zenfone 2) wasn’t able to render the game at full quality (and stutters sometimes through the game), the world that Mobius Final Fantasy created, Palamecia, still attracts me with its realistic interpretation of a¬†Final Fantasy-esque¬†world, with its monsters, elements, characters and spells.

Which brings me to one of the most unique aspects of the game – it’s played in portrait! I was pleasantly surprised as most RPG games required you to play the game in landscape, which usually means with two hands. The controls are touch-optimized and I really felt that I was playing a proper mobile game with a touch of the¬†Final Fantasy experience.

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Boss battle against a Fire Dragon.

Battles are turn-based, which might disappoint players who are used to the Active Time Battle (ATB) system that various flagship titles from the series have employed. However, the combat experience still offers enough complexity, in the form of using elemental orbs you acquired from enemies for either offense or defense; using an element for defense will affect the probability of drawing the particular element for subsequent turns, which is a key strategic element that I really enjoy.

“You need to put on some clothes.” Best dialogue ever.

The story is written by the mind behind Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy X, and while I have only played the game for a short period of time, the initial setting was intriguing enough to keep me captivated Рsome of the dialogue is beautifully written.

Outside the main storyline and battle elements, character customization is in the form of a pseudo-deck building system that involves collecting cards from enemies and levelling them up. This aspect of the game is the most confusing and complex to me, as there are many different benefits from equipping a single card and the tutorial kinda vomitted the entire system in one go – it can be intimidating at first but I’m still trying to get the hang of it! At least there’s jobs that you can switch around, which is a nice touch.

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Social elements – renting cards from other players for spells

As mobile games are often played on the go, many of us would switch the sound off, especially if we are not wearing earphones. However, I strongly recommend playing the game with sounds on – composer Mitsuto Suzuki has done a fantastic job in crafting the perfect ambient soundtracks for the game, and most of the dialogue are also voice-acted in pure¬†Final Fantasy¬†fashion. It’s a beautiful, quaint touch that makes¬†Mobius Final Fantasy¬†stand out from the crowded mobile game industry.

Of course, the game isn’t without its flaws – the constant requirement for an internet connection can be infuriating at times, especially when loading times are long. Also, the game has crashed on me multiple times, but luckily not too much to turn me off.


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Photo credit: androidauthority.net

All in all, I would recommend the game to casual gamers who miss playing old RPG games like the old¬†Final Fantasy¬†playstation titles. You might just find it a more¬†intelligent¬†time waster compared to¬†Pok√©mon GO. ūüôā