Category Archives: Technology

TEDx

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My company held a TEDx event at Victoria theatre today. It’s the third time this takes place in Singapore and I got to say it was a pretty good day. The theatre is an awesome place for an event like this and even though most of the talks were not necessarily great, many were pretty good or even exceptional.

I like that every session started with an artistic performance. The first one was a Singaporean Acappella group, called The Apex Project.

Those kids are really good, but I thought it’s a pity that their performance was a long best-of medley of Beyoncé songs (from Destiny’s Child to current). This was so obvious after a while that it made me laugh because it was sort of ridiculous. Still – pretty good.

Then the talks: the morning session was really good, with two weak kick-offs but then some really good talks about social media, entrepreneurship and realizing your dreams. That last one was a talk by Richard Browning, a guy who talked about building a real life Iron Man suit. Not only did he talk about that – he also demonstrated flying it in front of the theatre. A million people took movies of that. Here’s mine:

Very impressive. Actually, I was impressed enough to take a selfie with him…

Then there was lunch. Then the next session was kicked off by a stunning performance of Deluxe Cirque – very nice:

Session 2 started with a fantastic talk of Steve Winter who is a photographer at National Geographic and is well known for his photos of big cats. I did not know his name, but I was stunned that I recognized one of his photos as one of the standard background images of MacOS X (not his best photo, mind you, but still cool that I knew it).
This was followed by some more or less solid talks.

Then we had a coffee break which I chose to spend with friendly people at the nearby Starbucks versus the crowded place where everybody else went:

The final session was kicked of by Fire Dancers, which were okay, but did not impress me as much as the other two artistic performances.

I left early after that – in fact after Singapore’s Uber CEO who did not have anything interesting to say, to be frank. I missed the talk of Google’s Head of Global Strategy AR and VR, but it go late and I wanted to see my kids. I admit that would have been interesting, especially given that it feels like Apple has just eaten Google’s lunch when it comes to AR – but Google is obviously always a company to keep an eye on.

Maybe another time.

So, overall a very good day and I had a lot of fun.
Worthwhile going next year, too.

Edit August 2:
Here’s news coverage of Richard Browning’s flight.

Token of appreciation

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One of our Coke bottles we bought at RedMart lost all of its gas in storage.
I complained to Coke Singapore via Twitter and they sent me as an apology two of these token coins here which apparently can be used in any Coke vending machine in Singapore.

I did not know this existed…

Beaming with joy

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I was looking for someone who could lend me a saw so I could take the remains of the bed frame apart and stuff them into the condo's trash bins. I recalled that Hsien is quite the handyman and indeed: when I was asking for a simple saw, he said he did not have one. What he did have, however, was a wonderful set of power tools.

Not only did he and Linda invite us for brunch this morning but Hsien even passed by our place with his car, so we could bring the beams easier to their place. Super nice! He showed me how to use the mitre saw…

… and then I had a go at cutting the beams into little pieces.

Quite fun, I have to say.

IKEA porn

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After finishing Thomas’ bed there was of course also the sleep sofa we’ve bought at IKEA waiting for assembly. This is one of those sleep sofas where you can create a bed for two by pulling out a hidden bed frame. Overall a little more complex to set up than the children’s bed.

First there’s that hidden frame to build.

Then comes the actual frame of the sofa in which that first piece is going to be hidden in.

Now these can be combined. Here’s a view halfway in…

… and with the second half of the bed fully pushed inside.

Nice. There are two big drawers, too.

Nearly done. This is how this will look like as a double.

And back to sofa mode.

We bought two mattresses too, of course. They came tightly vacuum-packed and apparently need 72 hours to suck in air and develop their final shape. Right now they are softer than what I recall from the try-out at the store, but I assume this will change in the next few days then.

Sweet.
We’re likely going to use this for the first time when Lamia’s parents are visiting in August.

Fully decked out iPad Pro 12.9″ (2017) – ’nuff said!

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I’ve bought the 12.9″ iPad Pro a little more than a year ago, including an Apple Pencil and a Smart Keyboard. And this iPad has proven to be a pretty good laptop replacement for me. Sure: I still cannot do everything I want to do on the iPad alone, but drawing and sketching is just amazing. And though Lightroom Mobile is not yet a full replacement for the desktop version, it really gets close.

As a result, I use my laptop maybe once a week. Likely less and some of the stuff I do I could do on the iPad, too, if I got my shit together with my email account setup. In stark contrast, I use my iPad Pro virtually every day. I don’t travel anymore with my laptop – it’s always the iPad. This justifies for me the upgrade to the new one (and it’s magnificent, thanks for asking). I guess for most people the 10.5″ iPad Pro would be the one to get here, but for me there was not much of a discussion: the 12.9″ option is way better if you want to draw and enjoy that extra space. It’s also nicer when it gets to put two apps next to each other on the screen.

What happens to the old one? I might sell it eventually, but I have another plan for it right now: I will test out how well an iPad can meet my needs in the office. So I’ll install all the Office stuff you can think of and let’s see how this goes. Speed won’t be the problem: the new laptop I got a few months ago at work is a piece of shit and even my first iPad Pro is likely as fast or faster. We’ll see…

A new box is always exciting…

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We bought a Buggy Board, an little platform with wheels that can be attached to a stroller so an older sibling can piggyback when they are tired. We have to see how well this works, but for Oskar and Thomas it’s exciting enough that there is a new box in the house which of course has to be claimed and explored.

Apple Store at Orchard Road

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After Oskar and Thomas’ swim class we went downtown and I had the chance to visit the recently opene Apple flagship store at Orchard Road. In fact, it’s the first official Apple Store in Singapore. There were plenty of other dedicated Apple shops around, of course, and it should not come as a surprise that two of them which were closely located have been already shut down a while ago, arguably anticipating that they would not stand much of a chance against Apple’s own offering.


Right or wrong, I am quite happy that we finally have a “real” Apple Store in Singapore. This will make dealing with technical issues (yes, they happen with Apple gear, too, thanks for asking) much simpler in the future.

The store has two levels but I did not visit the upper floor because I went inside with Thomas in the stroller and did not bother to take the elevator. By and large, this shop looks a lot like any other flagship store, I guess, and I like they also put trees inside this one here. I took a few photos and then played with an iPhone 7 Plus to make use of the double camera system that enables portrait photos with shallow background, much akin to a DSLR with a very fast lens. I took a few photos of Thomas and was impressed – this is pretty great. I was less impressed that when I tried to transfer the photo to my own phone via AirDrop the 7 Plus crashed and restarted. And because it’s a demo phone any photo taken was erased this way. 

Really a pity, because I had taken a really nice photo of Thomas.
Well, I know for sure that next time I buy an iPhone it must have this functionality, though…

o.Bike

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This is new. These bikes were standing just in front of our condo and I think they must have been put there only recently.

I have seen this in other cities, but it’s the first time I see such a service in Singapore.

o.Bike“, huh?
Interesting. I have to admit, we as a family currently do not have much use for such a service, but I like the principle idea and I hope they’ll succeed.

Höhenpark Killesberg #5: Killesbergbahn

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There is a lovely train running through the park area, and different from the fun but rather basic one at Blühendes Barock in Ludwigsburg, this one is the real deal.


The tracks circle pretty much all of the park and the ride is really nice. There are two kinds of trains running on the tracks: a more modern Diesel engine and a classic steam engine (which is the one everybody wants to ride on, really).

We bought tickets and then we had to wait till it was our turn.


I just love how Oskar and Fabian are interacting. Fabian is really sweet and patient with smaller kids.
Eventually, the train arrived:


Yeah, I know: isn’t this awesome?


Before the ride continues, the engineer is checking everything’s okay with the engine.


And then off we went. Oskar was sitting with Fabian, Alex and Silke and he clearly enjoyed himself.


Thomas was sitting with me and Lamia one compartment further and I could not get a good angle to take a photo of him. But he seemed to enjoy himself, too. Not sure he did as much as Oskar, though. Look at him…


Maybe the love for trains that runs in part of the family will manifest itself in him, who knows?

After the train ride we walked back to the cars and drove home.
Thank you as always to Alex, Silke and Fabian to spend this time with us and showing us around – this was a beautiful morning and afternoon.

A day at the Apple Store

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Yesterday I called Apple Support in Germany. I was bracing myself for the worst: in Singapore, my experience with Apple Support is hardly pleasant and the people I usually get connected to are often utterly clueless or simply don’t seem to care to give a proper answer. Granted, in Singapore I have made the mistake multiple time to think that chat support is quick and easy. And then I always spend 20x more time than I think I would and I am always angry when it’s finished (and yes, I know that they won’t be located in Singapore).

So I called Apple in Germany. Lamia’s iPhone 6 has serious battery issues and this needs fixing. The replies and the cluelessness of the idiotic chat support in Singapore had been epic and the only thing they came up with was that it is perfectly normal that a phone battery does not have full charge anymore after 18 months usage. And I would agree, but the behavior of Lamia’s phone was not that of a battery losing charge due to age. Instead, it simply crashed from 80% to 0%, just to be back at 79% when connected to a power outlet. There is no Apple Store in Singapore (yet), so the only option to have this fixed wa going to an authorized service center and I did not feel like doing that. Sindelfingen, however, which is not that far from where my parents live, has an Apple Store and given we were in the region, I thought I have this issue fixed once and for all.

The intent of my call was hence simply to make an appointment at that Apple Store. The person on the phone was listening carefully to what I talked about, did not give me that typical US bullshit paragraph that should assure me they understand how upsetting it is that my little shiny device is not working, and actually said right away that this behavior clearly was not okay. Now look at how refreshing this was…

He asked me to run an online test (which is smartly built into the iPhone, in case you did not know – I didn’t), stated that he could see the results from the tests I had run with his colleagues when I was in the support chat and then said to my big surprise:

Apple Support: Ah, I can see my colleagues ran this test before as well and already concluded it failed…

Erg, what?
That’s not what they told me…

He ran the test again, confirmed the same result and made an appointment for me at the Apple Store in Sindelfingen. To be honest, this was likely one of the best Apple Care experiences I’ve ever had. Not because he said Lamia would get a replacement (he did not), but simply because he clearly understood the problem, was competent in explaining details and what to do next and swiftly made an appointment for today at 12 pm.

Fast forward to earlier today: we arrived at Breuningerland Sindelfingen around 11:30 am, did some clothes and shoe shopping and then hit the Apple Store at 12 pm. Here’s a photo I took in the store while we were waiting for our support (not a great photo, but it’s the only one I took):


A friendly support person listened to the issue and then ran another check. His analysis showed that while the battery was not defect as per Apple’s definition, there were clearly cells which had been utterly depleted and did not work anymore. After quickly checking the phone in the back, he also confirmed that part of the battery had expanded. Long story short: he told me he could not replace the battery under warranty, but he offered to provide Lamia with a brand new (not refurbished) iPhone 6 at the price of a battery replacement (89 Euro).

We took the deal.

Replacing the phone had been something I had predicted as possible outcome of this, so we had made sure in the morning that Lamia’s phone backup was up to date. It’s also important to disconnect the Apple Watch from the old phone before resetting it, because otherwise it might not be able to connect to a new phone (I am not sure this is still true, but I’ve read something about this in the past and wanted to make sure we did not miss anything stupid). I also wanted to make sure we completed the principle set up of the replacement phone in the Apple Store in case we’d run into unexpected issues. This should have been a reasonably quick process.

It wasn’t.

There were several things that gave me trouble:

  1. When we wanted to activate the new phone with Lamia’s SIM, it did not accept the SIM – arguably because it’s from Singapore in Germany. We circumvented this by using a dummy SIM from the Apple Store (and I congratulated myself for the foresight to stay in the store and set up the phone).
  2. Then I wanted to set up Lamia’s Apple ID, but I had not considered that the 2-factor auhorization would make this a little challenging. At this step, one of Lamia’s other devices (iPad or Mac) would show a code, but we did not bring any of these. After some hard thinking, I realized I could call my mom and ask her to look on Lamia’s iPad This worked, even though it required some work to explain which device to grab (not Lamia’s battle ship of a work laptop) and where to press (reminder to self: the Home button might be on the left or right, not the bottom, if the iPad is in landscape mode). We eventually got the code (thank you, Mom!) and continued the installation.
  3. Then a software update had to be installed (sigh).
  4. And once this was done, iOS was setting up the system and probably downloaded Apple ID related files. This should not take forever, by the way. Maybe 20-30 minutes. So I waited.
  5. And waited. Lamia took Oskar shopping.
  6. And waited. Lamia took Thomas shopping.
  7. And waited.
  8. And waited.
  9. And wai…

Oskar: Papa – peepee!

Erg… what?! Now? Didn’t he go like 20 minutes ago? Hum, hum. Okay. Luckily the toilets were just around the corner of the Apple Store, but I of course lost the Wifi connection on the way there and the process bar on the phone paused. Oskar peed, then we returned and the process bar eventually continued. Good.

Lamia eventually came back and it was still not done. By now, I was easily waiting for more than an hour and it did not seem that this phone would want to get to the point where the Home screen would show (which would have meant that it now downloads the apps, i.e. the point in time where I would have said we are okay to finish at home). After 1 1/2 hours Lamia pushed me to talk to the Apple staff. I would not have done this, but it’s likely a good thing I did.

When it was my turn again, the support person shut down the phone, restarted and indicated that the issue might have stemmed from the little break in Wifi connectivity that occurred when I took Oskar to the toilets. At first everything seemed to be okay and after rebooting the phone seemed to be in the expected state of showing the Home screen with apps starting to download. I wanted to make sure, however, that Lamia’s Apple Watch would not only install nicely on the new phone, but also show all the activity credits that she had earned to date. And then it happened: the screen of the phone became unresponsive and it was virtually impossible to do anything. This is when the support agent was checking on me.

Apple Support: How do things look like?

Leo:
 I thought good at first, but the phone is not responsive now… looks like touch disease to me…

I don’t know whether it was touch disease, because this seems to me more a problem of the iPhone 6 Plus. And maybe it was just sluggish because it downloaded so many files in the background. But the moment where the puzzled Apple Support person took the phone in his hand without so much as touching the screen, it crashed and restarted.

That did not look good and was asking him rather annoyed whether they had given me a broken phone as replacement.

Without much discussion, he grabbed the phone went into the back and came out with… a new one. I had to sign a few times and then he replaced the replacement phone with another replacement phone. Wow! See, on the one hand side I thought this was pretty awesome and good service. Then again, I had just wasted nearly 2 hours on this. And that’s a long time when your wife and kids have to wait, too (you can only play at the iPad kids table for so long, after all).

And of course…

  1. I had to borrow the dummy SIM from the Apple Store again.
  2. I had to call my mom again to give me the code on Lamia’s iPad because of the 2-factor authorization (you would think my mom would be faster on second try to figure out how to find the code, but she wasn’t… uh: love you, mom! :) ).
  3. Software update.
  4. Download.
  5. Waiting.

Now, in all fairness, the steps seemed to go faster now. Either the Apple Store’s Wifi signal got stronger in the course of out little visit or something had been seriously wrong before. It still took what felt like ages. But this time the installation went through as expected. Lastly, I successfully installed Lamia’s watch and then we were finally ready to go.
We had then spent something like 3 1/2 hours here, which is pretty much 2 1/2 hours more than I had planned for. Nevertheless, Lamia got a new phone for a reasonable price. And while we were setting up the new phone for the first time, I remembered that my iPhone was eligible for a free battery replacement. So I had that done in parallel, too (in fact, it was long complete before I had Lamia’s phone up and running).

Anyway. That was a bit much Apple, even for me.
But we both have now new phones and / or batteries – and that’s a good thing, when you are ~18 months into owning your phone.