After a one year hiatus, the best of TV series is back. I don’t know why I didn’t have one last year (I probably forgot) but here it is. A lot of these shows are available on Netflix, in fact 7 out of 9 are from Netflix. If you’re still wondering is Netflix any good for RM33 a month, it’s worth every penny, trust me. Some of these shows aren’t actually new but I just found out about them so yeah they’re new to me. And as always, if you haven’t watch any of these TV shows yet, be forewarned that there are spoilers ahead. In no particular order, the best TV series in 2016 according to me.
A story about a bunch of nerdy Silicon Valley tech startup should bore me to death right? Not this one. Silicon Valley is funny, witty and geeky at the same time. It tells a story about Richard Hendricks who coded an awesome data compression algorithm which makes video streaming etc super-fast. Long story short, Richard and his band of geeks went through the ups and downs of the startup business, getting valued to billions of dollars and then later becoming quite worthless when things go south. This show is perfect for every computer and tech geeks out there who wants some light-hearted and fun TV show.
I was late to hear about Mr Robot received rave reviews from the social media as people couldn’t stop talking about it. It tells the story about Elliot Alderson, a cybersecurity engineer and hacker who suffers from social anxiety disorder and clinical depression. Elliot is recruited by an insurrectionary anarchist known as "Mr. Robot", played by Christian Slater, to join a group of hacktivists. The group aims to erase all debts by attacking the megacorporation, E Corp (yeah I actually copied that verbatim from Wikipedia 😆). Basically Elliot is this really cool hacker who could practically hack into anything. He uses his skills to teach criminals and crooks a lesson or expose them to the authority. Once Elliot got involved with the hacktivists though, things started to go crazy. There’s multiple turns and twists in this show that sometimes I struggle to keep up on what’s happening. And also you would have thought that once they successfully erased everybody’s debts from the big evil banking corporation everything would be fine right? As they aftermath shows, it’s not that easy nor rosy for the common people. Despite the complicated plots for this series I would still highly recommend you to watch this one. Rami Malek and the director really did a great job for this show.
Narcos is set during the hay days of the drug warlords in Latin America especially in Colombia. At first I thought the series is only about Pablo Escobar but as you can see from the ending of season 1 when Escober died, it’s a lot more than that. It’s part of a wider story about drug cartels in Colombia and neighbouring countries. I like how they didn’t dub the film from Spanish into English or cast all English-speaking actors outright. It would otherwise ruin the authenticity of the show. Wagnor Moura did a really good job portraying Escobar although he was not a native Spanish speaker (he’s Brazilian). The music, cinematography it all just blends in really well. A must watch TV show if you’re on Netflix (or not).
Set in the fictional 99th Precinct of the New York City Police Department in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Nine-Nine follows a team of detectives headed by newly appointed Captain Ray Holt. Among the detectives is Jake Peralta , who frequently tops the squad in collars despite his relaxed, carefree attitude, much to the annoyance of his more by-the-book colleague, Amy Santiago. Charles Boyle is a capable but quirky detective who wears his emotions on his sleeve, as opposed to the stoic and mysterious Rosa Diaz. The detectives report to Sergeant Terry Jeffords, a devoted family man who is initially afraid to go back to active police work following a near-death experience on the streets. Rounding out the precinct is sarcastic civilian administrator Gina Linetti ), who seems to value everything else in her life over her job. Thank you Wikipedia. It’s been a while since I follow crime and detectives TV show, mostly because they are all predictable and boring. Brooklyn Nine-Nine however is a breath of fresh air. It’s funny while not trying too hard and you got to love the quirky characters and their comical yet tight relationship in the precinct. Go watch it now if you haven’t.
Stranger Things is set in the 1980s in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, and is a homage to 1980s pop culture, inspired and aesthetically informed by the works of Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, Stephen King, Robert Zemeckis, and George Lucas, among others. It revolves around experiments and children with special powers and a bunch of kids investigating monsters from another dimension. Is kinda like X-Files but cuter and more adorable.
From the creators of Jurassic Park comes Westworld, a technologically advanced, Wild West-themed amusement park populated by androids dubbed "hosts". Westworld caters to high-paying visitors dubbed "newcomers" (or just "guests"), who can do whatever they wish within the park, without fear of retaliation from the hosts. Westworld comes with its fair share of plot twists and surprises that will keep you asking for more. And also the fact that there’s liberal amount of nudity and boobs also helped with the rating.
Jessica Jones is a Marvel comic book superhero adapted to the big screen. At first I didn’t find nothing remarkable with “a former superhero with superhuman strength and limited flight, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder” but after a while the show started to grow on me. And lets not talk about Kilgrave. He’s one of the most badass villain you can come up with. Catch Jessica Jones on Netflix for yourself to find out.
Another Netflix original, Luke Cage is a story about Luke Cage, a former cop cum convict with superhuman strength and unbreakable skin who now fights crime. You actually catch Luke Cage in Jessica Jones first where they have a brief but romantic relationship on screen. I like how they feature the unique culture and atmosphere of Harlem, New York complete with an awesome soundtrack.
Have you ever wondered about behind the scenes life of the British monarchy? Now you can find out by watching Netflix’s The Crown. The Crown traces the life of Queen Elizabeth II from her wedding in 1947 to the present day. Dramatized for television, The Crown gives a fascinating peek into the lives and affairs of the royal family. The show is so good that it just won a Golden Globe for Best Television Series - Drama category beating the likes of Game Of Thrones, Westworld ans Stranger Things. The Crown is perfect for the inner anglophile in you.
A few months ago I posted a rave review about Digi’s postpaid plan. Back then it was the best, value for money postpaid plan there is (imo that is). Fast forward to October, I came across this new telco called Webe who offered unlimited Internet, call and SMS for only RM79 (before GST). Basically unlimited everything for 11 ringgit more than my current Digi postpaid plan at that time. Usually if somebody came up with something that’s too good to be true, there’s usually a catch. So what’s the catch here?
As it turn out the catch is, you need to be a TM customer to enjoy the big discount. The normal subscription rate for Webe mobile’s unlimited everything plan is RM199. If you’re a TM customer, i.e Unifi/Streamyx/P1, you get a 60 ringgit discount. Next, if you use your Webe SIM card with a Webe-certified phones - you get another 60 ringgit discount, meaning you only pay RM79 per month for as long as you’re still active with Webe. Now if you’re not an existing TM customer or you own a band 5 LTE smartphones (Webe-certified phones), RM199 is quite a steep price to pay for unlimited everything for the average user. Besides, you can’t tether your Webe line with a computer without first activating the hotspot pass which will cost you RM6 for 2 hours. This may sound silly since other telcos have no such restriction on tethering. But if you think about it, the other telcos don’t offer unlimited Internet with their plans so that sounds fair enough to me.
So being a long time Unifi subscriber myself plus my Webe-certified iPhone, this Webe plan suits me perfectly. Digi has been pretty generous with their 6+2 GB data plan before, not to mention their Music Freedom but compared to Webe’s unlimited everything, it’s a no brainer. Sure I’d wish they would throw in free 1 or 2 hours tethering for their customers in case of emergencies but who knows they might come up with that in the future?
What about their coverage? Webe is the incarnation of P1’s mobile division which was took over by TM. So Webe is utilising their LTE spectrum and has a good coverage in the big cities and urban areas like Klang Valley and the state capitals. For places without Webe coverage, they are utilising Celcom’s coverage which is already proven to be quite extensive. My real life experience has been good so far. I’ve got mostly 3G signal in some really rural areas in Langkawi and Kelantan. In fact during my 8 hours drive from KL to Kelantan, I’ve got almost uninterrupted Spotify music playing in my car save for 15-20 minutes when I got no service deep in the jungles of Gua Musang. Overall they’re quite reliable and consistent for a new telco and they just announced plans to upgrade their Internet speed up to 300Mbps by late next year.
Webe also came up with their iOS and Android app right after launch so customers can check their Webe bills, subscriptions or chat with their customer service straight from the app.
What’s more, they are currently running a promotion where anybody, whether you’re a TM customer or not to subscribe to their unlimited everything plan for only RM79 per month for as long as you stay active. And you don’t even need to use a Webe-certified phone too for this promotion. This promotion ends by the 31st of December so there’s still chance to sign-up or port your existing number to Webe if you’re interested. Honestly, RM79 for unlimited everything? If you don’t care about Internet tethering to your phone, it’s the perfect postpaid plan. You don’t have to worry about finishing your data quota ever again, watch and stream any video you like, listen to Spotify 24/7 and call and text any number for free. Sky’s the limit. For the full detail, terms and conditions, visit Webe’s official website now.
Believe it or not, this blog post is not sponsored or endorsed by Webe in any way. As always, if a product/service is good enough, I will feature it for free on my website.
Posted on Friday, December 23, 2016
This year my company held its inaugural staff appreciation day. It was organized to show appreciation to all the staff who had been working hard for the school for the past year. Staff from both campuses assembled at the secondary school in Equine Park on the last day of the working year to get together, play some games and eat and relax.
The program starts with registration and lucky dip in front of the main hall. We all got shopping vouchers from some hypermarket or departmental store. We were divided into smaller teams within the four houses (Muir, Fleming, Scott & Fairfield) and sat on our tables in the hall. After breakfast, certificates and gifts were given out to employees who had been with the company for 10 years or more. There were over 2 dozens of them from both campuses. Then begin the first game, the post-it note challenge. Each team competes to paste as many post-it notes as possible on a person’s face (or head).
Next we played egg and spoon and balloon pass on the amphitheater next to the hall. The final house team game for the day was the classic tug of war. My team, Fleming (red) lost the first round but succeeded in the 3rd placing. Although the winners only receive chocolates and snacks, everybody took the game seriously albeit in a fun and sporting way. After a sumptuous lunch everybody was free to relax and unwind. You can choose from a range of activities on offer such as inflatables, badminton, table tennis and ice berg in the swimming pool.
Before we conclude the event, there was the lucky draw session. Usually I would just wish to go home right there and then because I never win anything anyway. This one is no different. I could just watch with envy as people walk away with their home appliances, iPads and Samsung smartphones. I understand it’s a lucky draw so not everybody get to win but still I wish they would do an Oprah and give out gifts to each and every one of us.
Was it fun? You bet. I don’t mind the free food and vouchers. I hate not winning anything in the lucky draw though. The house games were okay, I’m sure many folks enjoyed it. At least those who participated. Doubt we would know everybody better in that short 5 hours but it’s a start and something to build on. An ideal setting would be a 2 days (minimum) team-building/holiday and a resort somewhere but to be honest, that's asking too much on everyone. But who knows some day in the future, somebody will make it happen. In the end it was a good initiative by the school to get both teaching and non-teaching staff together. Let's face it, we hardly knew the staff from the other school outside of such events. I certainly look forward for another big get-together like this in the future.
Posted on Friday, December 16, 2016
The last smartwatch that I owned was the Sony Smartwatch 3. It was a decent watch despite it being a bit oversized and totally useless on iOS. Having been an iPhone user since the original iPhone, it is surprising that I haven’t jumped on the Apple Watch bandwagon yet. True, the original Apple Watch was prohibitively expensive but using an iPhone in conjunction with an Apple Watch would be a match made in heaven with all its features complementing each other. And then the elephant in the room. No GPS. For a RM1,749 smartwatch (during launch), not having built-in GPS is totally unacceptable. How do you suppose I track my runs outdoors? Bring along my iPhone? That kinda defeats the purpose for having a smartwatch. I’d be better off getting a Garmin or FitBit.
Then came along Apple Watch Series 2. Officially certified waterproof, better battery life and most of all GPS-enabled. Those by themselves are already quite tempting and then they collaborated with Nike to bring to you the Apple Watch Nike+. Needless to say, I’m sold. During launch day morning, I was amongst the first to queue at a local Apple authorised reseller. I had my eye on the black & ‘volt’ green 42mm version of the Apple Watch Nike+ but unfortunately they don’t have any in stock at that particular store near Low Yat Plaza. So I went to another one in KLCC and the Pavillion and then Mid Valley, no luck. By then it became apparent to me that they’re not selling the black/volt green Apple Watch Nike+ at any of the local stores. In the end I had to order one from their online store. Sure I had to wait another 5 days for that one to arrive but since I’m spending a fortune on a watch, I better get the colour that I want.
5 days later I’m the proud owner of a black/volt green Apple Watch Nike+ smartwatch. Like the previous versions, it came in a long rectangular box. Unlike the previous versions and other Apple Watches versions however, the box is black instead of white. First impression, I’m loving the soft, smooth silicon straps. It feels a bit like my old Pebble but better. And unlike the Sony Smartwatch 3, it really feels comfortable on my wrist, even when I’m sweating it out on the road or in the gym. The 42mm body with space grey aluminum casing also feels just about right, not too big or too small although I wished it could be thinner. If you’re a guy, you definitely don’t want to get the 38mm version which would look tiny on your wrist. One of the main differences of the Apple Watch Nike+ watch is the exclusive Nike+ volt green watchfaces and complications (items on your watchface such as date, weather, battery life, etc). You don’t get those on the regular Series 2 Apple Watches. I like how you can fire up the Nike+ Run Club app straight from the watch face. Other than that, the Nike+ Apple Watch has all the same features as the regular Series 2 Apple Watches.
Setting up and syncing the Apple Watch for the first time is straightforward enough, you just follow the on screen instruction in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and after a few (okay maybe 10) minutes it’s done. There’s tons of watchfaces to choose from from the specialized Apple Watch App Store although I usually use the preloaded Nike+ watchfaces. And compared to Android Wear, there’s definitely a lot more quality and useful apps on the Apple Watch App Store compared to the former. Android users, sorry to say so far there’s no way to use the Apple Watch with Android phones and I don’t think there’ll ever be.
So how does it fares in every day use? Like I said before if you’re an iPhone user, the Apple Watch is the perfect smartwatch to complement your phone. Every notification is instant and seamless. You can make and answer calls, scribble messages and use tons of Apple Watch ready apps on it. Of course there’s a little bit of learning curve for first time users. Swiping down on the screen shows you the latest notifications and you can tap on a specific to reply or dismiss it. Swiping up brings you the control center where you can access some of the most used settings such as airplane mode, silent mode and also eject water from the watch. Swiping left and right however changes the screen to a different watchface design which feels a bit weird at first especially if you’re coming from Android Wear. To actually access the apps with the trademark circular icons, you need to press the digital crown once or by pressing the side button to access the dock where you keep a list of app shortcuts similar to the Mac and iOS. You can use the digital crown to scroll within an app aside from scrolling by swiping up and down on the screen. Then there’s Force Touch which is available in only certain apps which supports it. For example and can force (long) press on the Twitter app to compose a new Tweet, on the Message app to send a new message and so on. It’s a bit confusing at first but you’ll get used to it soon enough with regular use.
In a way Apple made the right move by not including any virtual qwerty keyboard or even worse, the awful numeric keypad like Android Wear for typing on the screen. Scribbling individual letters could be a chore but if you really need to reply something pronto it proved to be quite useful. You can always insert canned response to the list of replies by the way from the Apple Watch app on your phone. I’ve made a list of frequently used response myself and they have become quite handy. Despite a proliferation of apps for the Apple Watch, there’s only a handful that I regularly use. Messages and Whatsapp for obvious reason. Then there’s the phone app. I love how I can receive or make calls from the watch. I use Nike+ Run Club often to track my runs and see how far and long I’ve gone. I can control the currently playing music or video on my iPhone from the watch. Using social media apps on the other hand is not as pleasant as it is on the bigger phone’s screen. The screen is evidently smaller and you don’t want to scroll through your timeline on that tiny screen. In this scenario it’s miles better to quickly fish out your phone instead. Obviously, there are certain things you’d be better off doing with your phones instead of the watch especially if it involves reading a lot of texts.
The Apple Watch is already known to be splash-resistant from Series 1 but they only made it officially water-resistant up to 50 meters for Series 2. The watch works great outdoors, the GPS starts pretty much instantly and the tracking is quite accurate too. The workout out is truly useful for you health junkies out there (or if you’re just starting out). You can choose to track nearly a dozen workouts from running, cycling (both indoor and outdoor), elliptical, rower and stair-stepper machines to pool swimming and open water swimming. If you’ve been skimping and procrastinating on your exercise, this watch is a good excuse/motivation to start doing it seriously. The heart-rate monitor app works great too although you need to have a basic understanding of what a normal resting heart rate is whether that heart-rate during or after an strenuous is normal or otherwise. Cause you know an app like the heart-rate monitor is only as useful if you know how to decipher the readings.
|The annoying breathe and stand up reminders|
Final verdict, if you’re an iPhone user and looking for your first smartwatch, the Apple Watch is a no-brainer. You can get the Apple Watch for as low as RM899 now for the Series 1 (first gen) version although I wouldn’t really recommend that because the battery doesn’t last half as long as the newer Series 2 version. My wife is using the first gen Apple Watch and they barely last her 9 to 5 office hours. And if you’re getting Series 2, there’s the option between the regular Series 2 Apple Watch and the Apple Watch Nike+ version. It’s a matter of preference really because apart from the Nike+ branding and watchface, everything else is exactly the same. The Series 2 starts from RM1,649 for the 38mm size and more depending on the band type. The leather, stainless steel and Hermes bands would set you back from a few hundred to a thousand ringgits more. You can easily swap the bands though. You can always get a different one from the official source or buy one from the many third party and cottage industries of band makers in the market. If you ask me, I would get the Nike+ Apple Watch because of the special Nike+ bands and branding. If you’re bored of them you can always get a different one later.
Personally, I find the Apple Watch to be the perfect fit for me. In a way all my previous smartwatches from the archaic Samsung Galaxy Gear to the Pebble and finally Android Wear is a journey of discovery until I finally found the ultimate smartwatch to compliment my iPhone which is the Apple Watch. The Moto 360 came pretty close to be my favourite smartwatch with its classic round design and I wish Apple had made a similar round Apple Watch too but until they do, the current Apple Watch would be good enough. Apart from being a particularly useful gadget on your wrist, the Apple Watch is also a statement where the owner got good taste in design and life. Price wise, it’s not much different from the latest Android Wear smartwatches out there so you might as well get the best there is.
Posted on Wednesday, December 07, 2016