Android

Crane Game Toreba – I Won A Japanese Toy?

I’m still not sure what I think about this, but thought it was worth sharing:

I saw an advert online to install an app from the Play Store – ‘Crane Game Toreba; win real prizes!’. Out of interest due to a childhood of playing skilltesters, I wanted to check out what it was

logo_toreba_en

I’d been watching a few YouTube videos on arcade games, and the Japanese ones are a bit different to the ones I’m used to in Australia:

 

I installed the app; their main website is toreba.net with links to Android and iOS versions of the app. Weirdly, the app lets you pick a Japanese crane game with a particular prize, and play it. You get 3 shots for free with a new account, then need to start paying for turns.

I say weirdly, because this isn’t an animated game. It’s a real life crane that you control, with two webcam views. Via the internet, you’re remotely controlling an electronic and mechanical crane in Japan, trying to win a prize.

The prizes themselves are very Japanese, of which many I have no idea what they are. You can also win food, or sometimes both; such as a soft toy watermelon slice. Something we all need in our lives.

Here’s someone winning a ‘Grand Blue fantasy Byi stuffed’ with the crane, which again I’m not sure what it is….

I was suckered in after my 3 free shots and not winning, but decided to play a ‘ping pong’ game instead. This is where a ping pong ball is scooped up, and dropped into a second area. You win if the ball lands in a particular hole.

It took a few shots, but I won! They sent me a link of the replay of my win, which you can watch too.

The cost to play incudes free shipping worldwide, which means this thing should turn up on my doorstep in a few weeks:

9443f6b7cd8a0f81e4a354cbc6021aeb_1920_KR

I’m sure my son will have fun with it, being 17 months old. I don’t think I’ll play the game again either, but there’s something both interesting and strange about this whole setup. Remote controlling a silly game somewhere else in the world to try and win a prize seems both so right, and so wrong.

If nothing else, try the game for your free 3 shots. You don’t have to use a credit card, and it just seems to use your Play Store or Google Play account.

Edit: My invitation code had it’s max uses. Check the comments below if you want to try a code to get 1000 TP.

Update 1st August 2016

A few days ago, my prize turned up in a giant box! Here it is on my couch for scale.. makes a great pillow.

20160728_210254

Update 31st August 2016

I decided to play again with some credit I received, and won a ‘Star Master’ which projects a bunch of lights and stuff. Here’s me winning it!

http://www.toreba.net/replay/detail/10493172

 

Oppo R7s Android Phone Review

20160421_165037

Oppo. I’ve never heard of them before, but they’re a Chinese electronics manufacturer, if their Wikipedia page is to be believed. I was in the market for a cheap but decent Android phone, which doesn’t seem to be a common combination – you can either have cheap, or decent.

Luckily for me, I wandered into a Dick Smith store closing down and saw a few Oppo R7s’s in the cabinet:


20160421_144422Bargain!

After googling for a bit and seeing some positive reviews, I decided to go for it, at that bargain price of $317.40AU and I was impressed with the device contained within.

Opening up the box was a standard affair, with the handset itself, SIM card metal pokey device, USB cable and charger, headphones – and surprisingly, a clear soft plastic case. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a phone come with a case!

20160421_165143 20160421_165223Oppo R7s box contents

Specs

This is a pretty beefy phone. From Oppo’s website:

Dimensions/Weight
Height 151.8 mm
Width 75.4 mm
Thickness 6.95 mm
Weight 155g
Basic Parameters
Color Golden, Rose Gold
Operating System ColorOS 2.1, based on Android 5.1
GPU Adreno 405
RAM 4GB
Storage 32GB (Expandable up to 128GB)
Battery Typical Capacity: 3070 mAh (Non-removable)
Processor Qualcomm MSM8939 Octa-core
Display
Size 5.5 inches
Type AMOLED
Resolution Full HD (1920 by 1080 pixels)
Colors 16 million colors
Touchscreen Multi-touch, Capacitive Screen, Gorilla Glass 4
Support for Gloved and Wet Touch Input
Camera
Main Sensor 13-megapixel
Front Sensor 8-megapixel
Flash LED Flash
Aperture Rear: f/2.2
Sec: f/2.4
Other Features 720p/ 1080p videos
Connectivity
Frequencies International Version:
GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
LTE Bands 1/3/5/7/8/20/TD-40
Taiwan Version:
GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
LTE Bands 1/3/5/7/8/28/TD-38/39/40/41
US Version:
GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
LTE Bands 1/2/4/7/17
SIM Card Type Dual-SIM: Micro-SIM Card and Nano-SIM Card
GPS Supported
Bluetooth 4
Wi-Fi 2.4/5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
OTG Supported
NFC No
Sensors
Distance sensor
Light sensor
G-sensor
E-compass
In The Box
OPPO R7s
In-ear type earphones
Micro USB cable
VOOC Flash Charger mini
SIM ejector tool
Documentation
Case

4GB of RAM and a nice Octa-core CPU make this a pretty high end phone. The screen is AMOLED which makes is very pretty to look at, and a 1080p resolution is enough for a 5.5″ screen in my opinion.

It’s running ‘ColorOS’ which is a modified version of Android. That normally is a bad thing, as manufacturers seem to bloat and slow down the user experience, but I found it really snappy to use.

20160421_165638ColorOS

The battery isn’t removable, but is easily big enough for a day’s usage.

There’s also VOOC Flash Charge – this gives you a really quick charging capability. If you use the charger and cable that comes with the phone, you can charge for 2 minutes to get 2 hours of talking mode power. 30 minutes of charge will give you 75% of your battery back, which is really impressive. You can still use a standard MicroUSB charger for slower charging times, so you don’t need to change over all your existing cables.

Another nifty feature of the R7s is the dual SIM option. You can either have two different SIMs in the device, or use one of the slots for added memory via a MicroSD card. A cool option I thought.

 
20160422_082841
Oppo R7s Main Screen

I *really* like this phone. Compared to my Samsung Galaxy S6, I like this MORE, and it cost almost 1/4 of the price on sale. Even not on sale, it’s half the price. It’s snappy to use, there’s no bloatware from Oppo that I can see – they have designed this as a lightweight, easy to use Android phone with some cool features. The camera is really good too. I’m not sure there’s anything better about my Samsung Galaxy S6 compared to this. It feels nice to hold, is light and thin.

If you want a bigger screen, there’s the almost identical Oppo R7 plus which has a 6″ screen rather than 5.5″ and only costs a little more.

I can’t fault it, so if you’re in the market for an Android phone, this is worth checking out!

Media Player Quest

For the last several years, I’ve been on a quest. A quest that has finally been completed.

I can’t remember exactly when it first started, but I remember a happy time. I owned a modded Xbox (the original!) and it had a media player installed on it. It was called XBMC which aptly stood for XBox Media Center. It was an absolute delight to use.

My gaming machine became my lounge room media player. It connected to my TV via S-Video as that was slightly higher quality than Composite video, it had a 100mbit Ethernet port so I could steam media from a PC in another room. It supported SMB file shares which meant no client was required on my Microsoft Windows PC, it just had credentials to navigate through folders and play the videos I wanted. The navigation of the software itself was quick and smooth. I could quickly jump to any point on a video, or fast forward and rewind with ease. I could even easily adjust the sync of the audio and video if my source was out of sync. There was even an official Xbox Remote and IR Sensor that worked brilliantly with the setup, so no death trap cable was running across the living room (unlike the network cable, but that’s another story).

This delightful time ended eventually. Higher resolution TVs came out with their fancy new standard connection – HDMI. The Xbox was cast to the side, as a full tower PC took it’s place. Windows Explorer along with a keyboard and mouse was the easiest thing to use to navigate and play files. A VGA cable simply connected the PC to the new TV and supported 1920 x 1080. Sure, lots of the media I actually watched was still nowhere near that resolution, but there was no other decent solution at the time.

As flexible as a PC is, I wanted something that required less maintenance. I didn’t want to worry about finding the right codecs, or having special cards to output video and audio in different ways based on what TV and sound-system I had. I wanted a native remote to the device, and not sit there mapping out buttons for each function I wanted it to perform. With that in mind, I patiently waited for something better to emerge.

Fast forward a few years and all-in-one media players finally started to emerge. My first experience was a device I can not recall the model or even brand of, but it required the media to be on a local USB stick. It worked mostly, but was still a pain to copy stuff around constantly.

It was at this stage, I decided I really needed another XBMC. How hard could that be?

Late 2009, I obtained a Western Digital WDTV Live for around $100 which was half price of the RRP. It seemed to fit the bill – A remote control. 100mbit Ethernet and able to read from SMB shares. HDMI. Support for pretty much any video format out there… and it was good. Smooth navigation of the interface, it was nice to use. Still no XBMC experience, but I accepted it as being good enough.

It did last a few years, but eventually technology overtook the device again. Western Digital stopped updating the WDTV Live, and newer media formats came out. Newer Operating Systems also came out, which started to cause random issues with being able to see the network at all. I wasn’t the only person experiencing this, many others were too but none of the recommended fixes helped. Rebooting all devices on the network several times eventually kick-started the WDTV Live again, until it was rebooted.

Frustrated, it was time to go back to searching for the XBMC replacement.

I’d kept my eye out looking for a $200 or less device that again fit my requirements, but didn’t find anything suitable for a year or so until Android Media Players started to become popular. Being in Australia, there weren’t any local options for a while until I spotted the Kaiser Bass Smart Media Player which was stocked at a local retail chain.

It ticked off the requirements on the phyiscal side of the device, but it was woeful to use to the point of completely unusable. You can read my review on the link above for the full story, but it was really surprising to have such a poor experience with a store-bought product.

Without a different local Android based Media Player to try, I found a second hand Raspberry Pi Model B for sale which was already in a case, IR sensor attached with media remote, and an SD card for $100. It also had Raspbmc installed, which is a linux distribution with XBMC designed for the Raspberry Pi. Others I spoke to had set up the same and claimed it was a great media player. It sounded perfect!

Except that it wasn’t. It was decent, but not great. Controlling it was slow and laggy – from just navigating around the menus, to playing a video and trying to do basic fast forwarding and rewinding. I put up with it for a week after reinstalling Raspbmc from scratch and hoping it’d get better but it never did. It’s not bad for the price, but the old WDTV Live did a much better job overall.

I was giving up hope again, but someone told me about the Intel NUC. I’d heard about this before – it was a tiny PC, but not a very cheap one. Since then though, a newer generation of the NUC had been released which had two important additions: support for 2.5″ HDDs (compared to the original expensive mSSD or external USB stick only options) and an IR sensor on the front. It ticked all those other boxes I expected too (apart from coming with a remote, but I already had one from the Raspberry Pi to use), so I started to get hopeful again.

They’d also dropped in price, so the entry level Celeron NUC was around the magical $200 mark. Even better, there seemed to be official XBMC support for it! I reluctantly ordered one, while being less than optimistic about the upcoming experience.

The Intel NUC arrived, and I thought I’d get away with using a spare laptop sized 4GB DDR3 stick, but soon found out it didn’t work at all due to the NUC requiring 1.35v rated RAM, which I only had 1.5v. Another $50 later I had the correct RAM, and had a spare SSD to install. The device powered up with a clean looking ‘Intel NUC’ logo, so I proceeded with the install.

Windows 8.1 was installed onto the device quickly, followed by the latest version of XBMC. I found a utility called XBMCLauncher which made some small changes so XBMC auto loaded when the device came on, and much quicker than I thought the box was ready to go.

This time, I was impressed. Menus were able to be navigated smoothly. Videos started up instantly, and rewinding or fast forwarding just seemed to work. It flawlessly played 720p MKV files which nothing else so far seemed to be able to do consistently. I was getting excited.

As mentioned earlier, I had recycled the remote from the Raspberry Pi project. That was in use for a few days, until I discovered that using a smartphone or tablet with the Android Official XBMC Remote or the Windows Phone xbmc remote free was an even better experience than using a IR driven remote, so started zooming around the menus even faster. I could even view my indexed TV shows and movies, and jump straight to them to play.

After a week of this, I was sold. This was actually better than my original XBMC experience due to the amazing smartphone driven remote. I couldn’t fault it, so my quest was finally accomplished. I still find it amazing that I took so many years to get back to where I was with the original Xbox which wasn’t even designed to be a media player. I own a new Xbox One which can barely stream from a DLNA enabled device (it works as long as you trigger it from the other device, you can’t use the Xbox One itself to do anything apart from receive the media content!).

It wasn’t exactly the all-in-one device I thought I wanted, but installation was simple enough and without issue that I don’t mind that. It works, and it works perfectly.

A Brief History Of My Nokia Lumia 920

Hi,

I don’t know where I was going with that title. Approximately three weeks ago, I received a Nokia Lumia 920 to try. My first Windows 8 Phone experience. It was grey, and not by choice – it was the only colour they had available. Still, it looked decent. Coming from using the Samsung Galaxy S III for the last several months, the first things I noticed was the extra weight and thickness of the Lumia. It’s also quite solid, it’s the phone that socks should be filled with if you were robbing a convenience store.

Fast forward a few days and I’ve sent the phone back to the carrier. What? Yes, close that open mouth and share my disappointment with the ear speaker being faulty. Some calls were OK, others sounded really muffled. The actual primary use of a mobile phone was faulty out of the box. I’m now waiting for it to be returned, and back on the Samsung Galaxy S III. I hate to say it, but I like it better.

The few days in between the two above events contained a lot of mucking around on the Lumia. The front screen with the tiles, I really like. At a glance of the screen you’ll see if you have messages, emails, or many other indicators as you deem fit. It’s nicer than Windows Phone 7.5 due to the 1/4 tile option, meaning you can fit a lot more on there without needing to scroll up and down.

The sub menu, which lists all your apps is OK. I’d rather have a screen of icons to swipe through, rather than swipe down a single list. I want lots of information at once! Nothing terrible there though.

Lying in bed, I noticed that the screen changed it’s orientation. As I would have done on the Galaxy, I looked for the option to turn orientation off and on. It doesn’t exist. After some research and complaining on twitter, I found out that the native experience doesn’t have the option, and each app controls it individually. That’s rather disappointing.

OK, so after playing with a bunch of settings (much less than I would of liked – on par with an older version of iOS and way behind Android) it was time to look at some apps. Most apps have a trial which is great, but the quality of the apps currently is rather poor. Both iOS and Android went through this, so it will get better – but coming from either of these devices, you will be disappointed.

A podcast app – surely something that’s easy to find. Several exist, but they’re incredibly basic. Subscribing to podcasts and have apps automatically download is not possible, which is crazy. Some developers have told me this is due to limitations with Windows 8 Phone not allowing background downloads unless very limited requirements are met. There is a native podcast functionality, but not enabled in most countries including Australia.

The official Twitter app is also poor in comparison to iOS and Android versions. You can’t see as much, and there’s not much customisation. That’s really my biggest complaint – customisation. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like iOS for my personal use, I don’t like being restricted. In saying that, Windows 8 Phone I can see working really well in a corporate environment. It’s basic, does a lot, and manageable.

Back to the Nokia Lumia side of things, there’s some extras you get vs other Windows 8 Phones. The most well known are Nokia Maps, which is awesome navigation software, and the high quality camera. I played with the camera and it really does take great pictures. One of the cool features is called Cinemagraph which will make an animated GIF from 5 seconds of video. The cool thing you can do with this is easily animate just part of the picture. Having someone perfectly still, but their hand waving is a creepy thing to see. I also found the autocorrect to be much more accurate than Android.

So, I will give the Lumia a second chance when it comes back with it’s high quality screen, but I’ll also feel crippled. It might be a different transition for someone using iOS and not fussed about many apps, but as it is now there’s more negatives than positives moving from Android. In a few months with some updates from Microsoft, and some more apps from developers, I’m hoping it’s a much closer choice.

Samsung Galaxy Note Review

Hi readers,
I have been trialling out the new Samsung Galaxy Note. For those of you who haven’t heard or seen this phone before – it’s  huge. Huge compared to any other phone you’ve seen with a 5.3” WXGA (1280 x 800) screen. Check out the official specs here: http://www.samsung.com/global/microsite/galaxynote/note/spec.html?type=find

The first thing that came to my mind when deciding if I wanted to test this device was this Dilbert comic:

Source: http://www.dilbert.com/2012-02-23/

So, can a device still be a good phone, while being large enough to be a tablet? After playing around with it for a while, my personal answer is ‘yes’, but it’s still not the best solution for every scenario.

The first thing I noticed about the phone after taking it out of the box, was the size. Suprisingly the phone is quite light, thin and study despite this. After realising I also needed to put the battery in, it was still quite light. Powering on the unit then displayed it’s next great feature, yes the display. 1280 x 800 pixels brightly showing on 5.3″ is a rather decent resolution, and the picture takes up almost the full front face of the phone.

Here’s a comparison on size. An iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy Note and finally an Acer Iconia A500:

Source: Me

As you can see, the Note is still much closer to an iPhone than it is a full 10″ tablet. if I had a 7″ Tablet that would have been a closer comparison.

The next difference is that this phone actually has a stylus. A great addition in my opinion, as you can interchange with using the fingers you’re used to for touchscreen devices, or the very old ‘stick technology’. It  means you can write your own notes/lists on the go, draw diagrams or doodle whatever takes your fancy. For me, the main use I considered was that I could Citrix into my work environment and use the stylus on a Windows desktop, which definitely isn’t designed for fingers. Sadly this didn’t work out the best, but this isn’t Samsung or Google’s fault – after logging in using the Citrix app, it seems that using the stylus on the screen does the same function as pressing the delete key along with what you’re selecting. This made a rather large mess of my mailbox as I deleted about 20 emails. Hopefully there’s a solution to this, but even the Citrix Connector Beta had the same issue.

Using the on screen keyboard is quite nice, due to the screen real estate you’ve got nice big virtual keys to press. There’s some extra functions for zooming/scrolling that I hadn’t seen before, such as putting 2 fingers on the screen (one from each hand ideally) and tiling the device backwards or forward to zoom in and out. Not a bad idea, especially if you’re reading something and already holding the device with 2 hands.

Anyway, I should mention the software. It’s running Android Gingerbread, with an Ice Cream Sandwich update coming out soon. Response times of opening, switching and scrolling are great. It’s a very smooth experience natively. I can’t say the same about the official Twitter app though, the scrolling in that was very jerky and clunky. I’m going to guess that this is the fault of the Twitter app developers, since everything else ran so smooth.

There are a bunch of pre-installed apps and widgets on the device. Nothing seemed to be bloatware, and the widgets are a really nice feature for your home screens. It’s really customisable!

I’ve also set up a full home screen just for my calendar (that was actually there by default) and added, removed and resized others. It really makes you feel like it’s your own device, instead of having screens and folders full of apps (sorry Apple).

Now, if you’re considering the device there’s a few things to think about, especially for men. Unless you’ve got large pockets, you’re going to need a manbag. This is something that I can’t do, but maybe you’re fine with that. My work pants are fine, but I could never wear a pair of jeans and manage to fix the Samsung Galaxy Note in a pocket (gangsta’s probably won’t have this problem). Women, well generally you don’t even have pockets and this will fit nicely in that little red handbag of yours.

In summary, I like it…. buuut it’s too big. I love the screen size, and it’s selling really well around the world, but I think for a single thing to carry around 24/7 I’d rather wait for the Samsung Galaxy S3, which comes in at a smaller but decent 4.6″ screen. Either way, I now look at my iPhone 4S and have size envy.

Update: Since writing this article, I obtained a Samsung Galaxy S3 and have been very happy with it.