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Archive for January, 2010

Apple iPad – something like iPhone and also tablet PC, but…

January 30th, 2010

There have been much discussion about the Apple’s new Product – iPad.

Apple introduced its iPad as the most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.

In a sense, it is very honest and accurate as speculators expected their iPad would be somewhere around $999 but it’s officially announced to be selling from $499 only. Well, $499 is for the lowest specifications, and it’s priced between $499 to $829. So in some way, it’s pricing could be unbelievable.

And in case you did not know, the name iPad selection was also a popular joke in the cyberworld and among geeks once it was announced. News on that can be found on yahoo, msn and gizmodo as well.

To be fair, it’s like a notepad, so with products like iPhone, and iPod, the name iPad is actually quite suitable, probably better then iTablet.

I wasn’t particularly amazed by it’s features though. The slimness and design of it, as much as has been expected, is just like a bigger size of iPhone.

If you go through the iPad’s features page (and check out the Specs too, I wouldn’t need to reproduce them here), things like Safari, Mail, Photos, Video, YouTube, iPod, App Store, Notes, Calendar, Contacts, Home Screen and Spotlight Search are not something that surprises me.

It’s just the form factor, a larger screen for use, a bigger iPhone screen, without the phone capability.

A few things that I think would be fun and interesting, is playing games that uses accelerometer, which is small on the phone, now gets bigger and better on the iPad. Now that YouTube provides video in High Definition, watching HD videos on a bigger screen will definitely beat the 480-by-320-pixel on the phone too.

Have you seen the accessories yet? I am particularly interested with the Keyboard dock and the iPad case. They seems to make typing (that supports wireless keyboard) and watching video easier, and does it looked like it multifunction like a iMac too?

Which then brings me to the question: What is the target market of this device? Who would actually want to buy them?

Due to the fact that Apple has been very successful with products like iPhone, iPod, iMac etc, and now iPad (which is the most revolutionary product as introduced), I am a bit interested to know.

Of course, there are so many Apple fan boys and fan girls.

How about its usability?

Until I see an actual iPad, which probably would really amaze me, but from what I have seen and read up until now, I can’t help but wonder on these features:

Battery

Sure, the battery can last 10 hours, which is a good one, but why built-in battery again? Taking iPhone for an example is my best guess, but if it’s suppose to take the lead like a tablet computer, most, if not all tablet computers have removable batteries, like a laptop.

Flash Player

After the many years of iPhones without Flash Player, this revolutionary device also does not incorporate Flash Player support. It’s no more a 480-by-320-pixel screen, but still no Flash.

No multi-tasking

Again, just like iPhone, this iPad doesn’t multi-task, probably also the reason why the battery can last 10 hours because you can only run one task at a time. If you’re reading ebook means you can only read, no listening to songs, and while watching video, do not do anything else?

No HDMI output

Not a major problem that I see, but if you are selling it as HD device, it would be better to be able to output the device screen to a HD TV, right? Well, probably Apple leave this as room for improvement for the future generations of iPad.

Operating system

Now, I think this is the main problem that I see in this iPad. Why would Apple make a new OS for iPad, and not use Mac OS? Ok, maybe not exactly a new OS but iPhone OS, since currently iPhone developers can start to make apps with the iPhone SDK 3.2 beta today.

I mean all tablet PC are using Operating system that is the super set of their PC compatible OS. Like Windows XP Tablet PC Edition is actually the superset of Windows XP Professional, the difference being tablet functionality, including alternate text input (Tablet PC Input Panel) and basic drivers for support of tablet PC specific hardware.

But Apple chose to use iPhone OS. Fine… but?

No Phone capability

If you’re using iPhone OS or getting your developers to use iPhone SDK, why don’t Apple just make the iPad runs like a phone too?

I know, i know it’s sickening to start seeing people sticking their ears to the iPad screen to make phone calls.

iPad comes with 3.5-mm stereo headphone jack, built-in speaker and microphone, wouldn’t those work?

Now some iPhone developers might need to make two versions of their apps if they uses camera and phone. Why? Because iPad has got no camera and phone capability. Now you know why iPad will run almost 140,000 apps from the App Store. iPad will work with almost all of the apps designed for the iPhone.

I might be offending many Apple fans with this post. Somehow, I just couldn’t get pass it, why a bigger iPhone without phone functions and not a smaller iMac instead?

Just so you know, there already exists an iMac after-market device which is an iMac in tablet form. It’s called the Axiotron Modbook. The iPad with Mac OS.

Maybe it’s the pricing factor, but to me the Axiotron Modbook might be more appealing than the iPad now.

What do you think?

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Bangkok infamous Grand Palace tuk-tuk Gem Scam

January 29th, 2010

The previous post, Places to visit and things to do in Bangkok – Part 2 mentioned about Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew.

The photos taken was actually the second trip to Grand Palace.

During the first trip, it was intercepted and I was diverted to somewhere else. Participated in Ocean’s 11 5.

One fine early morning, I walked to the Grand Palace and it appeared to be closed.

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Although my sixth sense told me I probably went to the wrong side and that the entrance should be somewhere else, a fine young man passed by and politely asked if I was visiting the Grand Palace and if I’m a Thai.

He said that usually the palace is open for visit from 8.30am but on that particular day, there was a ceremony and only Thai people are allowed to enter. I should come back at 12pm.

At the meantime, he recommended a few places nearby which are Standing Buddha temple, Sitting Buddha temple and a wholesale factory.

He also informed me that the Thai Tourism is running promotion for tourists, and Tuk-Tuk gets free gasoline from the government to bring tourists around at a mere 20 baht per hour!

He easily flagged a tuk-tuk that passed by and told him the places to visit and for three hours to charge me 60 baht only.

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At such a cheap fare, I hopped onto the tuk-tuk without any second thought! Thanking the ‘Good Samaritan’, the photo above shows him continuing his journey while I went on board for temple visits.

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First stop was the Standing Buddha temple, which is actually Wat Indrawiharn. There weren’t many visitors, a few European tourists and some locals too.
The tuk-tuk driver was still waiting outside when I got out.

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He then dropped me at a Sitting Buddha temple. I have no idea what is the actual name and this time, there weren’t any visitors in the temple, save for a ‘security person’ that take cares of the place. The temple actually consists of two sides with the Buddha statues in both of them. Each has a ‘security person’ and in short, both recommended a visit to the factory that sells jewellery. It is a wholesale or factory that is usually not open to the public.

It is now open to public for a seven day sale to attract visitors as the number of tourists to their country are diminishing through protest and bad economy. The sales are tax free and they are certified jewellers, and the goods can be refunded in foreign countries through Thai embassy.

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Since it wasn’t that all interesting to visit any other temples, I then told the tuk-tuk driver that I would like to pay the factory a visit. The driver acknowledges and drove straight to a gem store.

I had photos of the temple ‘security person’ with a wide smile, the tuk-tuk driver and the gem store entrance. However, I figure this time around I shouldn’t publish them.

Gem Store or Factory
Upon arriving the gem store, a sales person opened the door, invited me in and briefed that they are certified and their goods are meant for wholesale, usually sold to shops in shopping complex (MBK) and not to the public directly.
He asked what is my budget and I told him I was only looking around, but long story short, I selected some and swiped my credit card for them.
Their service is so good that the sales person offered to secure my purchase there for safekeeping and to send a driver to pick me up before my return flight to collect them.
He advised that I should not take tuk-tuk or taxi as they will be given commission if they send me there. I proceeded to seal and sign the envelope and then left the shop.

On the way back with the tuk-tuk, although I had some doubts about the purchase and the so-called promotion, I figured if it is a scam and the it started in the early morning from the first person I met at Grand Palace, that would be an Ocean’s 11 (ok, five only) type of scam.
Don’t you think so?

And I did told you earlier that I participated in the Ocean 5. Yes, it was an elaborate type of scam.
I cannot believe myself that they are all linked! A syndicate.

Reveal of the Scam
The turning point was when I went back to the hotel, I :
1) Asked the receptionist if there’s such thing as tuk-tuk promotion for tourists (they said no, and most likely is a taxi or tuk-tuk group that run such campaign)
2) Got into the room and called Grand Palace number, they said they are not closed in the morning and open everyday!
3) Search the internet with the gem store name and boom…. list of tourists asking if the Gem Store is legit and they got diverted in their tourist attraction and cheap tuk-tuk trips to temples just like what happened to me!

Realization
I am now CONFIRMED a fool.

Well, to my consolation, I did not take the goods earlier and I thought I could just cancel the transaction and everything will be fine.

Another PITA
I made a call to Maybank (long haul call, from Bangkok to Malaysia) gone through the automated voice system for ‘Credit Card’ and got waiting for 15 mins.
I got impatient as I knew it like the back of my hand that I will have to wait for cows to come home for calls to be attended to during working hours.
Next thing I did was I selected the Report Lost Card option and told them I got a fraud transaction and heck they transfer me to the ‘Credit Card’ department again. This time I waited for one whole freaking hour. 60 minutes to be exact!
I called Maybank and selected the Report Lost Card option again and started to raise my voice that I’m calling from Bangkok and I took one whole hour waiting without anybody attending to me. This time the customer service at the other end diverted me to the next available personnel for credit card and I was then attended to.
Unfortunately, the transaction has been posted. That’s quick considering some merchants only post the transaction at the end of the day or the next day. So the only way for me is to call the merchant requesting them to void the transaction. 🙁
Just so you know, the calls to Maybank costed me more than 1000 baht, yeah, just to WAIT for them to attend to me, because the operators are STILL busy, and they will attend to me SHORTLY while all the operators are always STILL busy, and I will be attended to SHORTLY….

So, the next most important thing to do is to call the Gem Store requesting them to void my transaction. This is tricky. How do you get back to the person who made such a elaborate scam to get your money and then for them to refund you back?
Do or die.
They did ask me what was the problem and I just said I need my credit back into my card, and since the goods are still with them, I wouldn’t be travelling over to the store get a refund.
Luckily, the second call to them was successful and the guy at the other end confirmed that the transaction has been voided.

I did a check with Maybank again (only successful the next early morning around 6am) to verify that the transaction doesn’t exist anymore.

Beware
So I’d just like to share my foolishness to you, as a lesson for all, that while you do search for places to visit on the internet, try searching with SCAM keyword too.

Apparently, this Grand Palace and Gem scam has been dated as old as 2003! I only have myself to blame.

When I Googled for the scam stories, it seems that many had fallen into such scams and some even had more trouble getting their money back. I should be considered fortunate.

Some of those worth reading:
Top 10 Scams in Thailand
Bangkok Tourist Traps
Bangkok Warnings
The Great Tuk-Tuk Scam!
Bangkok and the gems set up…
This Ain’t No Magic Carpet Ride…

I have learnt my lesson, please do not fall into the same trap. 🙂

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Bangkok Trip, Travel and Fun – Part 2

January 22nd, 2010

This post is a sequel to Bangkok Trip, Travel and Fun – Part 1.

Chatuchak Weekend Market / JJ Market

If you’re planning a holiday to Bangkok, make sure if falls on a weekend or at least for a Saturday or Sunday!
This is because you must pay a visit to Chatuchak Weekend Market or better known as JJ Market. Your Bangkok shopping trip will not be complete without this.

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Image from thailandforvisitors.com

Chatuchak market open only on weekends and the stalls are open by 10am till evening. It is easily accessible and within walking distance of Mo Chit station of the BTS Skytrain Sukhumvit Line.
Taking the BTS train that you will be awed by the size of the market, with the view of it from the skytrain.

Notice the number of taxis and vans parked by the road from the photo below. (Can you see something else that is wrong with the photo?)
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The place is quite compact and the pathways are narrow. There are too many shops for you to shop around in a day.
The stalls are categorized to sections but you can still see different types of goods sold everywhere in the market.

Tips for visiting Chatuchak weekend market:
Wear light clothes, do not wear long pants as it is extremely warm. Do go early.
Bargaining is expected, if not mandatory, at Chatuchak and the prices are generally substantially cheaper than the shopping centers and street stalls on Silom and Sukhumvit.
Beware of pickpockets and careful of your belongings.

If you’re one that thinks the price and value of your purchase ranks higher than your comfort during your shopping, this might be your shopping heaven. The prices of goods are cheapest here as compared to the city’s shopping complex or roadside stalls. Learn how to bargain!

Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew

The Grand Palace of Bangkok served as the official residence of the Kings of Thailand from the 18th century onwards. The Grand Palace is now opened for public visit ever since the present King of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, relocated permanently to the Chitralada Palace.

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Clockwise from topleft:
1. The entry sign that shows DO NOT TRUST WILLY STRANGERS. We had an interesting misadventure on that, and more on that in the next post.
2. Many mythological giants like these that guard the temples.
3. Palace guard that does not move (except his eyes).
4. Ticketing counters before the entrance. Thai enters for free. Remember to wear decently before your visit.

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The Emerald Buddha (fourth from left) sits high up on an altar of gold designed to represent the traditional aerial chariot (Busabok, Sk. Pushpaka) attributed to Hindu gods on the murals of this country.

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Before you exit the Grand Palace, there is a Wat Phra Keo Museum that display samples of architectural temple fragments that have been replaced by new ones.
Cannons (above) are all lined up in display.

Chinatown / Yaowarat

Chinatown is Chinese community centric area and is a colourful, exotic and busy area, packed with market stalls and probably the greatest concentration of gold shops in the city.

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Most of the vendors here are able to speak Mandarin.

In Chinatown, I visited Lao Li (now Overseas Restaurant – 海外天) for a small bowl of claypot Shark Fin’s soup.

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Learn more about Bangkok’s Chinatown here.

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Central World shopping center and Bangkok’s traffic.

Baiyoke Tower II

Baiyoke (bye-yook) Tower II is located on 222 Rajprarop Road in the Ratchathewi district of Bangkok, Thailand, and is the country’s tallest building.
It contains the Baiyoke Sky Hotel, the tallest hotel in Southeast Asia, with an open-air 360-degree revolving roof deck on the 84th floor.

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While the revolving roof deck is open 1030 – 2230 daily, I figured that Bangkok’s skyline at night would be much better than the morning view.

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You might want to have your dinner at the tower as there are quite a number of restaurants for your choosing. Do make early reservation and you might want to ask for window seats. After your dinner you will still have time for a skyline view of Bangkok at the revolving platform on 84th floor and the observation deck at 78th floor.

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Photo above is the Central World shopping mall viewed from Baiyoke Sky. Notice the heavy traffic in front of the mall.

To get to Baiyoke Tower II, you can take the BTS to Chit Lom of Sukhumvit line, follow the signboard to Central World and you may choose to take a taxi or tuk-tuk if the traffic permits. Walking is also possible and the distance is around 1km. It is advisable to walk as the heavy traffic might costs you both time and money.

My preferred drink:
OISHI Green Tea (green cap – the others are not as good)
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No, this is not advertorial but the Oishi Green Tea is what replenishes the dehydration of the body during the entire trip, besides having plain water and coconut.

Holiday in Bangkok?
In my opinion, Bangkok is a holiday destination that is value for money.
It is a very attractive city for shopping and the local people are nice and friendly.
However, the locals might speak very little English except for hotel staff.
Do take caution though as there are some things you should learn being tourists in Bangkok.

Have you been to Bangkok and is there anything you liked or disliked there? Please comment below this post.

Up next : The misadventures in Bangkok.

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