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Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Video Review

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Last month’s macro haul on the Sony RX-100 Mark II

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On Blogging and Character

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Inn at the Crossroads: My new favorite food blog


Quails drowned in butter

“This evening they had supped on oxtail soup, summer greens tossed with pecans, grapes, red fennel, and crumbled cheese, hot crab pie, spiced squash, and quails drowned in butter. Lord Janos allowed that he had never eaten half so well.” (II: 91) Photo c/o Inn at the Crossroads

I have a new favorite food blog and it has everything to do with its theme. Inn at the Crossroads is run by two women, Sarian and Chelsea. And like me, they’re huge fans of the Song of Fire and Ice series by George R. R. Martin. If you haven’t heard of this yet, it is hands down an epic series which you must absolutely read before you expire. It’s so good, the first book, A Game of Thrones has been turned into an HBO series.

Sarian and Chelsea usually follow a formula with their posts — making both a Westeros and modern version of their dishes followed by a commentary on each dish — similarities and differences in preparation and plating. Their blog is truly a work of art.

Difference between HSPA+ and LTE

So over on Plurk I was trying to explain the difference between HSPA+ and LTE. There is a lot of confusion. Without naming who carries what, here’s a simple way of looking at it:

HSPA+ is built on existing 3G technology. LTE is built on an entirely new network. Your iPhone 4 will work on an HSPA+ network because it is 3G compatible. It won’t be able to access the higher speed LTE network. You will need LTE compatible devices to run on the LTE network. These are phones like the Motorola Atrix and the HTC Thunderbolt.

Here’s an example. The BlackBerry 8520, one of the more recent devices being sold today cannot access 3G because it is limited to the 2G EDGE network. A lot of people don’t know this. Did they notice? Actually, no. This is because you don’t need really fast speeds to access email on a BlackBerry — which is what it is for.

Short chart:

2G
GSM –> GPRS –> EDGE

3G
3G –> 3.5G (that’s HSPA which is a combination of HSDPA and HSUPA. “D” and “U” stand for “Upload” and “Download”) –> HSPA+

The HSPA technology is a combination of HSDPA and HSUPA which. D and U stand for Downlink and Uplink which you can just translate to mean “download” and “upload.” SO HSUPA = uploading photos faster and sending email with bigger attachments faster.

When telcos here and abroad say that they have “4G” they are not referring to speeds. They are referring to “next gen” hardware. Based on the ITU standards, the real 4G is considered to be a technology called LTE Advanced, a small step above LTE (it’s like how 3G moves to 3.5G). LTE Advanced isn’t available yet anywhere around the world but rumors say by 2012.

LTE is the closest thing to what we call “4G speeds.” The truth is, the nomenclature doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t.

“I changed my number. Please update your phonebooks.”

PROBLEM??!

It happens with some regularity where we have a friend who changes his or her mobile phone number and sends a big text blast to everyone on the list informing them to change this bit of information. More often than not, I forget to update and the past two days I’ve SMS-ed two friends who have apparently changed their numbers. So it was rather embarrassing (and annoying) to get a “HUS DIS” and a “sn0 p0h i2″ jeje-reply.

There is a way to avoid this though. If you (1) own a smartphone, and (2) make use of mobile Internet on your handset and (3) store your contacts using a sync with GMail, Yahoo! or Facebook you can easily inform your other friends who are also on smart phones that you changed your contact information. In fact, you don’t even need to inform anyone. Whenever you change the information on your Gmail vCard (or Facebook) the next time your contacts sync (which happens often when they’re doing over-the-air Internet), the update takes place. If you enter a new address book contact or make changes to your address book, the change reflects online as well.

So yeah you could say that owning an iPhone, Android or Windows Phone 7 device helps you really stay in touch with your friends not just with reading status updates, but with their contact information as well. Switch to a smartphone now and grab that data plan!

Have you ever wanted to learn how to SCUBA dive?


A pink skunk clownfish (Amphipirion perideraion) hovers above its host anemone while scouting its surroundings. Photo by Jayvee Fernandez

I’m taking a few friends out diving this weekend in Puerto Galera. We’re doing a DSD course, more commonly known as the Discover SCUBA Diving or “Introduction Dive.” It’s a short half-day course for those who are iffy about SCUBA diving. People have different reactions towards being submerged into the flora and fauna of the ocean; it is so much different from snorkeling. The course’s main objective is to help you become more comfortable underwater while breathing from a regulator. The course consists of a classroom lecture about SCUBA, familiarization with SCUBA equipment, a confined water session with exercises and finally, the most exciting part — the dive!

I think SCUBA diving is one of the best ways to get away from the heat of summer as you’re (1) already in the beach and (2) enjoying the warm tropical waters of the Philippines. Puerto Galera is one of the best places to dive as it is very close to Verde Island, one of the centers of biodiversity.

We’re staying at GULI Diving (Facebook) at White Beach over the weekend and I’d like to thank Gus and Lisa for hosting us.

Unboxing the Nokia E7 smartphone … and wow! Nice box!

The E7, you could say is the “E” successor to the N97. What this means is that they took the first iteration N97, which many people loved and converted it into a business phone.

Wow. No wonder it costs PHP32,000. The box is something you wouldn’t want to throw away. Pop it open and it’s almost like a box for your jewelry. it’s covered in felt.

To hold, the E7 feels very much like the N8 combined with the slider mechanism of the N97. The slider itself is a bit slippery to push out but well, this may be due to the fact that I haven’t spent a lot of time with it yet. The keypad is amazing though, almost like the felt finish of the box.

The Nokia E7 retails for P32,000.00. I asked their PR for information about current promos and what they told me is that this phone comes free with Plan 3000 on SMART.

Full review soon.

Enjoy our Tubbataha 2011 Video

Hi! This is a short, 3 minute video summarizing our 6 day, 15-dive trip to Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea. Mantas, eagle rays, turtles, schooling jacks and barracudas and a visit to the ranger station.

video by Chie Clemente
edited by Jayvee Fernandez
music “Summer” by “Ike as in Dwight”

Giant Manta in Tubbataha

A giant manta ray “flying” past our dive group from one of the walls in Tubbataha.

Video by Chie Clemente. Taken with the JVC FM1.

The No Bullsh*t Speed Test of SMART’s LTE (Warning: Video is 25 minutes long)

There is a satellite station for the LTE booth located near my hotel. I heard that they degraded the signal to “divert all power” to the central booths where Rico Blanco performed. I got a bright idea. I decided to do a real speed test. What would happen if we had a degraded LTE signal (without shifting to HSPA) trying to go through several layers of concrete? I was at the Real Maris Hotel. The center stage is located near Aria in D’Mall fronting the beach. That’s relatively far PLUS the fact that my hotel room is located near the road. At the booth I am guaranteed over 50Mbps — that’s about 6 MEGABYTES per second. But in the real world, I don’t think this will hold true given location of you in conjunction to the cell sites and the number of users accessing the signal.

Also, what if we were pinging servers from the USA? Here’s a screenshot of what kind of speeds you are getting if your server is located in Washington and the sites you are accessing from the PH are not cached OR not being downloaded from a dedicated server.

So I ran back to my room, skipped a massage (haynaku), fired up my ScreenFlow and spent the next 30 minutes making this actual speed test. I promised myself that I would post whatever findings I had here — good or bad.

You be the judge!

Mbps is not Megabytes per second but “megabits” per second

N.B. If you’re knowledgeable about this subject, please leave a comment to refute or add to this post as we’re all trying to understand what makes good or crappy Internet.

One of the biggest confusions of consumers when purchasing Internet plan subscriptions is that they think Mbps means megabytes per second when in fact it means “megabits per second” and there’s a huge difference. It’s partly the telcos’ fault as they aren’t very gung-ho about these educational campaigns for consumers. I think they should start helping consumers understand what exactly “2Mbps” means in the real world application. Also they should start including a value called CIR or Committed Information Rate or the average bandwidth per x number of households in a given area. Now that’s useful!

Here’s a tool to help you calculate ideally how many kbps you should be getting with your Internet provider commitment.

http://www.easycalculation.com/bandwidth-calculator.php

In other words, if your telco is selling you a 2Mbps connection, your ideal burst speed (say you’re downloading a torrent) should peak at around 250KBps (that’s kilobytes per second not kilobits per second — remember that kbps is kilobits and KBps or KB/s is kilobytes). But that’s the best speeds. I don’t think it takes into account CIR. So if I’m using my Android phone on HSPA to tether Internet to my laptop and I’m getting 60-120KBps (which I got in Palawan since I’m probably not exceeding the CIR, but not in Manila which is definitely more dense), then it really could mean that my telco is delivering actual average speeds. Please, telcos, I think we should level up the way we communicate our Internet-related products as we move on to 4G technology! :)

A look into SMART’s prototype LTE Dongle by HUAWEI and my first speed test

Greetings from Boracay! I was able to borrow a special LTE USB dongle from HUAWEI. There are only 5 of these in the world made especially for the event and from what I heard HUAWEI really had to rush these to SMART. I have one of the four (oh wait I think Jen Juan also has one). The others are being used in stations around Boracay, shared over WiFi. You may wonder why we’re on the island. It’s because ever since before, Boracay has become a test bed for new technology. I was here in ’07 for their Mobile TV launch and now I’m back for their LTE deployment.

The USB dongle is in no way a representation of the final product. LTE will launch soon and will be deployed across the country. A bit of a technical info here: current SMART cell towers running 3G can easily be upgraded to accommodate LTE and later on, LTE Advanced. You will need “4G” enabled phones to access the higher data network so in the meantime, while the phones are not yet here, let’s be content with the dongle.

I will be doing a series of speed tests throughout my stay. This is the first.

From my hotel which is in a more remote location (and indoors) I am getting 15Mbps. This afternoon, the LTE booth was pushing 69Mbps (LTE promises 50Mbps) and while everyone was sharing over WiFi and stressing the network with HD video streaming, they did a decent ~ 30Mbps, which is still very fast.

Let me put into context what “fast” means. At my current speed I am downloading a 7GB game from the Steam Store at 290-400kbps, streaming the 720p HD version of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead without buffering (full screen) and uploading a couple of files (over 4GB) using my FTP to my server. Plus Facebook, Twitter and Reddit.


So funny! It says “faster than 99% of the Philippines!”

By the way guys, Mbps is not MEGABYTES PER SECOND but MEGABITS. Here’s an explanation. It is confusing so if you still can’t tell the difference I would really just use real world examples which everyone can understand (like the actions I just made above).

I’ll be doing more tests tomorrow as I would like the “real world” challenges such as being indoors / outdoors to affect the performance of speeds. So far I am very content.

LTE dongles will have a separate price compared to the 3G / HSPA ones currently available in the market. LTE is backwards compatible but not vice versa. The name of the LTE service is SMART Evolution.

Oh, just one more thing. The LTE dongle runs on Snow Leopard as well. Here’s a shot of my MenuMeters upload/download:

Wow.

When is the best time to go to Tubbataha?


One of the many sea turtles that rest along the white sands of the reefs. This one was more accommodating and let me swim with it for a few minutes.

OK pardon me for this ultra-SEO’d title :) But Tubbataha Reef is one of the diving highlights of the world and last April 14-20, I joined the second trip of the M/Y Hans Christian Andersen for 4 days of diving: In every dive you’re guaranteed sharks.

Tubbataha National Park is open from April to June. You can’t just “go there.” You need to take a live aboard boat and as far as I know you need to be a diver to go. Tubbataha is not an island. It is a coral atoll in the middle of the Sulu Sea composed of walls with great visibility with two sandbar islands which you cannot set foot on. The vis is so good, there was one point I went down to 138 ft thinking I was only at 80 ft. Great vis! Great diving!

The schedule is literally Eat, Dive, Sleep. Our group did a total of 15 dives. What we saw: schooling jacks and huge barracudas, manta ray, several eagle rays and marble rays, big tuna, turtles galore, more than 50 reef sharks (sharks guaranteed in every dive!) and lo and behold, a tiger shark. There were also sightings of hammerheads but our group did not see them.


One of our chase boats resting on the flat iron ocean surface.


Our dining area / cleaning area / where we load the chase boats.


Let’s do this!

Because of the odd weather patterns we were the first lucky group of the season on board the HCA. When we arrived on day 1, the waves were still a slightly strong but slowly got better come day 2 and finally, flat ironed calm. On the last day we were also able to make a trip to the Ranger Station that guards the reef. Since summer came late, I would honestly suggest booking your trip towards the end of April or maybe even early May regardless if you’re taking the HCA or Expedition Fleet. So yes, book on a later date and not early April. It’s a global warming thing methinks.

Underwater photos in this post were taken using a 18-55 kit lens on a standard Sea & Sea port with surprisingly good results despite having only one strobe. If you want to borrow these shots, I won’t mind as long as you give proper attribution. Thanks! Here’s the complete low res album.


Spawning barrel sponges jut out of the wall. This was a Nat Geo moment for me as when barrel sponges spawn, all others in the vicinity spawn as well.


At 40 ft under a small crevice, we found a lot of lobsters. All of the flora and fauna in Tubbataha are protected by law. No touching. No fishing.


A playful manta ray makes it way towards my lens. One of the tricks to shooting mantas is to pinpoint where they will end up when they make a turning gliding arc. I was lucky!


One of the many white tip reef sharks taking off from a dive site called Shark Airport.


A Napolen Wrasse whizzes by my lens. Happy I was able to take a photo.


In a group, I feel more comfortable going up close and personal with this school of barracudas. If they were solitary, it would mean they are hunting.


A peeping turtle probably annoyed that we disturbed him.


Tubbataha is known for its huge fan corals.

WOW talaga!


Pushing a school of jacks for 30 minutes was a bit tiring but we did it. These guys stayed with us for half the dive.


Jules and Jan chasing the manta for a quick photo op.


Where Tuna Sashimi comes from.

Another shark parked on the white sandy bottom.


Zoomed + Cropped + White Balanced: I shoot in RAW because I really have to do a lot of adjusting afterwards such as removing a little backscatter, and white balance adjustments. Other than that, all photos are as is.


Jules taking her time with the school of jacks.

My Tubbataha postcard shot with a very cooperative turtle.

Costs:
PHP 40,000.00 for the M/Y Hans Christian Andersen (price varies)
PHP 3,000.00 for park fees

Ranger Station
On the last day we were able to take a short visit to the Ranger Station. These are the brave men who stay for 2 months at a time, protecting the oceans from poachers and illegal fishers. The sand bar is amazing. It’s just there right in the middle of the ocean. We came in at low tide.

At the station we gave a small donation of canned goods (MEAT!) and bought some t-shirt souvenirs.

What an amazing trip! Next stop, Palau!

I’m now back in Manila and definitely missing the ocean. It’s lovely out there. I think, for what it’s worth, being away from Twitter and Facebook — and the city — really helps put many things in perspective.

Two weeks with the HTC Desire S

About two weeks ago I was able to nab the HTC Desire S running on Android 2.3 more popularly called Gingerbread. As far as I know, this and the Sony Ericsson Arc are the first two Gingerbread devices that are available in the Philippines running on the latest version of the Android OS. What’s the main difference between this version of Android and the previous? Well, not much really: they cleaned up the UI performance, they added a feature called Near Field Communication (like how in some countries you simply need to tap a commuter card onto a sensor to let you pass) and correct me if I’m wrong, real support for a front facing camera out of the box. Hence, the HTC Desire S comes with a front and back camera.
(more…)

By the way if you still don’t have it, it’s Nathan Azarcon on the cover this month!

UNO rocks out this month with our very special Music Issue, featuring one of the country’s biggest rock stars on the cover: Nathan Azarcon. (This is, by the way, only the second time in the magazine’s nine-year history that we’ve put a solo male on the cover; the very first one was Manny Pangilinan.)

Inside, we combine two of our biggest passions — women and music — in a massive section featuring artists established and up-and-coming, including Lea Salonga, Barbie Almalbis, Celeste Legaspi, Sarah Gaugler, Vernie Varga, Katwo Librando, Kitchie Nadal, Myrene Academia, Armi Millare and many more. Also, editors Erwin Romulo and Luis Katigbak show off their picks for the best local music of the 2000s so far.

Those of you who have daydreamed of dating the hotter-than-hot Jacq Yu (or at least gazing at some incredible pix of her): we’ve got you covered. Also, the lovely Denise Montecillo joins us as we stuff our faces at Mercato Centrale. Jinno Rufino meets the NBA All-Stars, Eric Melendez talks about how we acquire music today, Lorely Trinidad tells us about growing up Fil-Am in a hip-hop world, Caliph8 shows us how to dig for rare vinyl, and Tricia Gosingtian says hello to New York City. That’s not all of course, but you’ll have to grab the issue to find out more.

(UNO’s Music special should be played at high volume, preferably in a residential area.)

[Follow us to UNO Magazine]

SMART Communications launches LTE

By the time you read this post, I’m still in the middle of the ocean, finishing our last day of diving Tubbataha Reef. When I get back, I fly, almost immediately to Boracay. I’m there with my partner-in-crime Andi9 so we’ll be streaming live soon!

SMART is launching LTE technology and doing the entire demo in Boracay.

LTE is a modulation technique that is designed to deliver 100Mbps (DL) per channel and give individual users performance comparable to today’s wired broadband. It was bound to happen. The question was when. To put things into simpler terms let’s have a look at a short history of how mobile phones work:

2G GSM Technology
Remember your Nokia 5110 and 3210? There. Calls and SMS. That was 2G connectivity.

2.5G Technology
This was the first shot into surfing the Internet with your phone but we were using WAP sites. Remember WAP? Yung parang pangit na website designed for mobile phones using GPRS? That was it. Add your ringtones and picture messages. It got a little better when phones started using EDGE connectivity (popular with BlackBerry then) but that was still not …

3G and 3.5G Technology
This is Internet today. It’s workable but not comparable to the wired connections we have at home. You could surf, email, chat, do your social networking, but it was honestly a bit hard to do things like online gaming and downloading huge files.

4G Technology
This is the next generation of connectivity. 100MBPS. On your phone. Built on top of existing technology. No, you cannot use your current phones or USB dongles to access these speeds. The only phone I know that’s capable of accessing this network is the HTC Thunderbolt. Yeah I think SMART is deploying LTE at the same time as Verizon in the USA. Not sure if the Thunderbolt is launching here though because there’s a slight difference in setup with the LTE here and the one in the USA. I heard they’re shipping in dongles.

So yes if you’re planning on buying a new USB dongle for mobile Internet, I suggest you wait a few. That’s because you can practically achieve faster speeds with costs similar to your current plans.

I’m not sure when exactly SMART is making the commercial announcement (i.e. data plans and rates) but if you leave a comment here they will probably get back to you as a number of them read this cute site.

Oh and just one more thing. In case you’re wondering what the difference between LTE and WiMax is, well the former is GSM-based technology: phones. While WiMax involves a completely new set of hardware and is designed for WiMax-enabled devices.

NUDI Interview on ANC Mornings

Jan Acosta and I guested on ANC Mornings to talk about the fast growing underwater photography club in Manila. NUDI or the Network of Underwater Digital Imagers (check us out on Facebook and yep, here’s the link to our site) is an underwater photography club that was formed to get diver-photographers together to share techniques and experiences in shooting underwater.

The Philippines is a biodiversity hotspot and the things we find down there are simply amazing. We talked about diving as a viable hobby in the Philippines, conservation, our gallery exhibits and the SNUPS competition that we’re co-organizing this year.

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