Why I went Mac – my Macbook Pro experience

fzSkinned with my favourite Van Gogh painting
Skinned with my favourite Van Gogh painting

After years of resisting Apple’s computers, I finally swapped my self-assembled desktop Windows PC for a 13.3 inch MacBook Pro.
“Finally!” “I’m so proud of you!” Of course, my Mac fanboy friends just had to comment.
Truthfully, I’d never been enamored with Apple’s PC hardware. The pricing usually made my eyes bug out especially considering you could probably get a pretty decent desktop for half the price of an Apple iMac. Being in the tech mag industry, I’d tried and tested notebooks of all sizes and shapes from every existing manufacturer in the market. I knew what I wanted. I knew what I could get with my money. Apple’s proposition was just too hard to beat.
If you want value for money in the desktop arena, I’d still say get a non-Mac PC instead. The new MacBook Pro range, however, is a whole different story. I wanted something that was light without skimping on the screen size. It had to have a great keyboard. It should have good enough specs to handle basic image editing, the odd video processing, a game or two, and good battery life. The MacBook Pro had it all.
I chose the lower end model 13.3 inch MacBook Pro which set me back a cool RM4.5k. Not cheap. My more frugal friends would have argued for non-Mac laptops. Yes, they’re cheaper. But they didn’t come with Mac OS X, iLife ’09 and funky touch commands. They didn’t have a lovely backlit keyboard that’s even better to type on than the ThinkPad range’s. Then there’s the nearly seven hours of battery life.
To top it all off, it’s a stunningly beautiful machine. It is. It’s the supermodel of ultraportables. Not as skinny as the MacBook Air, but at least it makes up for it with its specs.
With BootCamp, I can have my Windows gaming cake and eat it too. Since I’ve left the MMO world, the only game I have on the Windows partition is the Company of Heroes anthology. Three of my favourite males cajoled me into it so WWII RTS-ing I go. And you know what? It installs and runs like a dream on the MBP.
It’s a great laptop, which just happens to be a Mac. But you know what makes it better than 90 percent of the ultraportables out there? It doesn’t come with unnecessary vendor bloatware. Dudes, you make great machines but your vendor software? It sucks. OS X, fortunately, doesn’t. Next up – waiting for the Snow Leopard upgrade which only cost me RM39. Yes, I love my Mac and I probably ain’t going back.

Engaging bloggers for (PR) dummies

So this PR person (not a Textie) asked me: "How do we engage bloggers?" Part of me wants to say: if you have to ask, you shouldn’t even try. That’s the cynical, mean part.

But I suppose I should add my own two cents to the blogger/PR debate which blew up oh-so-nicely last week. Before I joined PR, I was a rarity – a journalist who also happened to be a blogger. It’s certainly an advantage for me in my current job. I can honestly say to journos and bloggers that I know where they’ve been and where they’re coming from. It also makes me rather peevish when I see clueless PR blindly attempting to ‘engage’ bloggers and making a right royal flub at it.

Bloggers are not journalists. While journalists can be bloggers as well, the reverse does not hold true. You do not ‘pitch’ bloggers the way you do journalists. But there are certain things you do with journalists that you can do with the New Media crowd:

1. Find out their niche. What do they cover? What are their interests? Don’t just send any pitch or release willy-nilly. An example of what not to do? Send Paul Tan a pitch about hydrophonic plants instead of about cars, and you deserve to be tarred and feathered.

2. Politely make contact, introduce yourself and what you do as well as who you represent. Don’t wait until you have something to pitch to make New Media friends. Importantly, ask them how they would prefer to be contacted. When I was an editor, I preferred IM or emails. If a PR person had to, then call me at work. My mobile phone was off limits except for absolute, dire emergencies. Press releases and invite attendance did not fall into the latter so I did blow my Fiery Editorial Pissy Breath on clueless PR person. Don’t get me started on the Kaspersky rep who called me at 8pm at night.

3. Work on building a relationship. Don’t treat them like one night stands. Use, abuse, chuck. Malaysia’s small. The media circle is small. Heck, even the PR industry in Malaysia is pretty tiny which is how my appointment got blown up as big PR industry news. Make the effort. Play your cards right and you’ll be regarded a reliable source at best or at worst, angry bloggers won’t be crucifying you on their blogs.

What you don’t do with bloggers which you can with journalists:

1. Send them unsolicited releases. No, no, no. Yes, Gmail may give you lots of storage space but most bloggers do not want releases from absolute strangers in their inboxes. Get in touch with said blogger first, ask politely if blogger would like to receive news about your client, then send them. Just don’t bother sending releases to Shaolin Tiger unless you want to see him do a Hulk Rage. He blogged quite a few times about receiving unsolicited PR writeups. And he’s still getting them, the poor sod.

2. Invite them for events and expect them to write about them. Journalists are obligated to write about news or if your client advertises (sad but true) but bloggers are free agents. You want a nice big writeup on their blogs? Contact Nuffnang or Advertlets for blogger advertorial rates. If you call up a blogger and ask him what angle his blogpost is going to have, quit your job now. Please. You’re the type who makes the rest of us look like morons.

Bloggers aren’t a different race or breed of people. Heck, even Tun M blogs. Treat them like people, relate to them, reach out to them and don’t just consider them a ‘means to an end’. What if the shoe was on the other foot? A journo I knew once said this in passing about a PR friend: "Pity she isn’t more useful." Ouch. What PR needs now is authenticity, sincerity and earnestness. The days of spin and fakeness are over. I’ve said this before – I believe there is a way to be good again. Even for us so-called PR flaks.

How relevant is LinkedIn?

LONDON - MAY 31: Party revellers pose with a n...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

So it’s 1.30am and on a whim I decided to update my LinkedIn profile. It’s weird that though I got the hang of the new Facebook interface (quit whining about it already, people), LinkedIn befuddles me.

The thing about LinkedIn is that you only really ‘get it’ once you’ve filled in your profile and tweaked with things such as your public profile. I like the ability to include apps on your profile such as blog feeds. Right, now I can distract myself by reading blogfeeds within LinkedIn too!

I’m surprised so many people I know are not only on LinkedIn, but have fairly recently updated profiles. Is it a sign of job insecurities? People just preparing or looking out for the next gig, just in case this one falls through?

Why then am I updating my LinkedIn? It’s just one more thing I need to do to manage my ‘online identity’. When you’re on the Web as much as I am, managing the way people perceive me online matters. I have a website, yes. And a Twitter account. Plurk too. Facebook – do you really need to ask? A MySpace somewhere and all this adds up to quite a lot of stuff you can find when you Google my name. No, I don’t Google my name. That’s what Google Alerts are for.

Since I’m now making a career of public relations, it would be patently unwise to be unmindful of my own online fingerprints. At The Agency, I’ve had a client read my blog entries to see what sort of inappropriate content I should desist from writing from then on. It’s a reminder that yes, the Internet is a place where employers will do research on you. So those drunken MySpace pictures? Take them down. Embarrassingly bad high school poetry? Well, that’s what a lot of new pop songs sound like so that won’t matter much. Unless you’re applying to teach poetry at a college or university. Then, hide the evidence of your own amateur ramblings.

LinkedIn, I think, is trying to be the grown up, business minded person’s Facebook. No Zombie apps here, thanks very much. Instead you can share more enlightening things like slide presentations and your professional/corporate blog. I have to admit, though, that I’m only on LinkedIn because, like Facebook, I just caved to end the constant stream of invites.

I just wonder if LinkedIn has proved a valuable tool in career search  or headhunting. Have not heard any “Oh, I got an interview offer from LinkedIn stories!” What would be nice is if LinkedIn and Facebook hooked up. So you’d have a public profile for employers and a private, personal section for friends and family. Should something like that emerge, there had better not be any Zombie/Werewolves/Leprechaun crap. 

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

DiGi – the better mobile broadband bet

“If you think this is as good as it gets, I swear you ain’t seen nothing yet.” *

Corny sounding, yet rather appropriately describing what DiGi brings to the mobile broadband table. Got invited to another blogger’s event (might be my last one for a while, more on that in some other post) to the DiGi Broadband briefing for bloggers.

I have Streamyx, two DiGi EDGE accounts and Maxis Wireless Supposed Broad-But-Really-Crappyband. So I do have some basis for comparison. Of all the telco providers I’ve used, I’ve found Celcom to have the widest coverage but the worst customer service, Maxis the spottiest 3G connections and DiGi the better rates with an EDGE connection more reliable than all the men I’ve ever dated.

IMG_2136

To be frank, I was disappointed DiGi decided to roll out a wireless broadband service before upgrading all us loyal EDGE users to 3G. We kept the faith, after all, when DiGi was denied a 3G license and we still refused to mass migrate to Maxis or Celcom.

Though I had the chance to get an early preview of the service a few weeks ago, I decided to see how the service evolved before jumping. My experience with Maxis Wireless Broadband was painful, to tell you the truth. Frequent disconnects, clueless technical support and speeds that were plainly ridiculous for what I was paying.

DiGi claims that it’s ‘managing expectations’ by being upfront about its plans’ average speeds as well as the bandwidth cap. I’m all for bandwidth caps, really. Torrenting is something I find patently annoying and I really hate the thought of someone hogging the bandwidth to get illegal film copies, making it hard for people like me who just want to watch YouTube or check email.

turtle

There are three plans, each with differing bandwidth caps. After you pass your caps, your speed is throttled to EDGE speeds and for the cheaper Discover and Explore plans, you’ll be charged for extra data. Fortunately, those charges are capped to RM138 so you’ll never pay more than RM138 no matter how much data you end up using on those plans. More information can be found on the plans at this URL: http://www.digi.com.my/broadband/

I was wary about the latency issues, what with my horrendous Maxis Wireless experience. Nazim from the DiGi Broadband team said that they were working on ensuring that latency would be kept around 70-100ms. Of course that would be tougher when it came to international links, but for certain sites DiGi would be using technology like caching or sites like (Edit: Akamai) to deliver better customer experiences. Hopefully they have Facebook on their list since Streamyx takes forever to load it these days.

DiGi’s trying to be more transparent, likely learning from Maxis’s poor attempt at dodging all the uncomfortable questions about its bandwidth caps. At least someone’s getting that overpromising and underdelivering just doesn’t work.

Would I recommend the plans? I’d say that DiGi’s broadband is a nice alternative for those wanting a second or backup line, or don’t mind paying a little more for reliable light surfing. If you don’t use broadband for more than email, IM, surfing and the occasional YouTube video, you might find DiGi a better bet than the hassle which is installing Streamyx.

Now I eagerly await DiGi 3G for my mobile phone. I’ve been faithful enough and resisted the temptation of switching to the other two, even when one dangled the JesusPhone as motivation. Not happening – you’d take my Nokia 5800 over my dead body.

IMG_2138

DiGi Broadband’s gotten off to a good start with a lot of positive buzz in the market. So now the challenge is to build on that momentum and show the return of investment on taking over TIME’s 3G spectrum. Keep listening to your customers, don’t overhype, stay transparent and keep providing good support and service.

Just one thing: my friends would like you to improve your coverage because they’re tired of hearing ‘this number is not in service’ when I’m pretty sure I paid for Call Waiting. Otherwise, great start, DiGi, and you have my number when you start rolling out 3G for phones.

*Lyrics from my new favourite Brian McKnight song, The Rest of My Life.

No excuse not to pick up your guitar

I’m picking up the guitar again. Hopefully I’ll get past Slightly Muddled Beginner to Slightly More Clued-In Intermediate level. Since all I have is a Yamaha C-60 Suanie helpfully passed along to me when my guitar got sold, I’ve had to get used to the wider neck and slightly softer strings. My folk guitar got taken in a burglary along with my black leather jacket; I’ve never had the heart to replace either.

The Internet’s made it somewhat easier. There are more guitar resources online now – lessons, videos, tabs. I’ve mostly cheated and played most of my songs as slow, fingerpicking versions. Because I suck at strumming so much it’s not funny.

Am having the most problem with barre chords. Just when I get my barres right on the folk, I now have to figure them out on the classical guitar. With a classical guitar, there’s no room for bad form. You need proper finger placement, correct posture and sloppiness is so much more apparent. But the good thing is – I can practise longer on a classical than on a folk because the strings don’t cut into my fingers as much. Despite the calluses I have on my fingers, steel strings still slice into my fingertips to the point the pain just stops me from playing more than 45 minutes at a time.

So the impassioned pain you hear on my Tracy Chapman cover was real pain – from having to replay the song from scratch for the umpteenth time. Once I’m done with season-friendly songs, will put this song of Dave Barnes on my list because it’s one of my favourites from his new album – When A Heart Breaks. The lyrics unfortunately are far too descriptive of what I feel right now so I’ll refrain from dwelling on them too much right now.

Life, for now, I’ve come to fear
You’ve dropped me off and left me here
With nothing here to find my way
But the lights you take as you pull away

No one ever told me
It would come to this
What began with such a promise
Would end with such a twist

I lean into the whisper
But I don’t hear a thing

It’s a tear in the dark
All alone in the car
In pieces, in pieces
It’s the sound of mistake
As I lie here awake
Sleepless, sleepless
This is the sound that made
When a heart breaks

Everybody’s laughing
Maybe that’s just me
Does something unrequited
Mean it will never be

I lean into the whisper
But I don’t hear a thing

It’s a tear in the dark
All alone in the car
In pieces, in pieces
It’s the sound of mistake
As I lie here awake
Sleepless, sleepless
This is the sound that made
When a heart breaks

Please don’t leave me here

Life, for now, I’ve come to fear
You’ve dropped me off and left me here
With nothing here to find my way
But the lights you take as you pull away

Far ahead the brush is moving
There’s others here and good is proving
Nothing’s wrong, it’s in my mind
Nothing’s wrong and I’ll be fine

It’s a tear in the dark
All alone in the car
In pieces, in pieces
It’s the sound of mistake
As I lie here awake
Sleepless, sleepless

Selling stuff the Simplifieds way

simple So a month ago, I got in on a super-sekrit website beta program. It was called Project Greenfields, and proved an ambitious undertaking to create a buy/sell site to rival the likes of eBay and the current ruling site – Mudah.com.my.

Well, the embargo is off and I can now talk my mouth off about MySimplifieds.com and the beta program. It’s definitely something that could be a candidate for next year’s Technology Campaign of the year, just saying.

It was ambitious – take a pool of bloggers, consummate online sellers and give them carte blanche to pick apart a website and say what makes it tick. Online networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter were used to get feedback on the site, but it was probably the Facebook group that got the most participation.

There were plenty of posts with suggestions for tweaks as well as new features. What amused me was the general consensus that the original logo just didn’t cut it, which led the developers back to the drawing board. We beta testers then got to vote for our favourite – which of course is now prominently used on the site.

And the result? A cleaner, more user-friendly site that I find far more intuitive than what the current competition has to offer. Personalised profiles, Facebook and favourites options are neat, but right now I’m happiest with the site’s stability and decent loading times. My experience with Mudah.com.my wasn’t exactly awesome, to tell you the truth. Selling stuff on Lowyat.net was far easier than trying to navigate the headache which is Mudah.

And eBay Malaysia? Hear my loud raucous laughter. Punctuated with a snort of extreme derision.

It was a unique experiment which was fun for the participants involved, giving us plenty of incentive to say our piece on what would make MySimplifieds.com an effective online marketplace.

Moral of the story:

1. Extensive user testing is always the way to go. Otherwise, just do it the lazy Google way and just slap ‘Beta’ on it.

2. Beer smoothens all things.

3. Text 100 still wins the Most Able To Connect With Bloggers without sounding like jackasses Award.

There’s a contest running for best/most creative Classifieds Ad. Unfortunately, I have nothing left to sell after divesting most of my crap. But hey, perhaps you could win yourself a snazzy new phone or PSP or one of those delectable goodies up for grabs.

Of course, right now I’m more distracted by the pre-order of the Nokia 5800. Yes, Nokia is finally having pre-orders for phones online in Malaysia. On MySimplifieds.com!

If I could marry a phone, I’d be Mrs.Nokia Music Xpress 5800. Yes, I am that besotted with it.

So if you have anything to sell or are looking for bargain gifts for the coming Christmas celebration, then head on over to MySimplifieds.com. And order me the damn phone while you’re at it.

Congrats, Text 100 and Nokia Insider!

Last night was the Malaysian PR Awards and the Nokia Insider:Engaging Malaysian Bloggers won Technology Campaign of the Year. Congratulations, Text 100!

I’m stoked about the win because TBH, the campaign set the standard for engaging bloggers. It’s created visibility for the bloggers involved while generating a huge amount of buzz for Nokia locally.

They asked me to hand in a testimony to recommend the campaign and mine was rather brief, yet said everything I wanted to say about the campaign. Am reproducing it here:

“Nokia pretty much sets the bar for blogger relations programs. It’s
demonstrated an understanding of new media and how it operates. By
soliciting opinions and creating opportunities for bloggers to try out
Nokia products without overt pressure or manipulation, it’s a win-win
situation for both. Bloggers are exposed to new tech, Nokia gets
valuable feedback as well as a firm foothold in bloggers’
consciousness.

What makes the program work is the clear communication between Nokia,
its PR agency and bloggers. Nokia’s proven open to feedback and is
quick to respond to blogger concerns and questions. It’s great getting
to play with new devices, but the more exciting bit is being kept
up-to-speed with mobile innovation. New Media is still discovering its
boundaries and Nokia’s proven to be a company that’s just as excited
about pushing the limits.”

I think that sums up (for me) just why the campaign deserves an award.

Choosing the Symbian side

s60

(picture from S60.com)

So I’m coming clean here and disclosing that I’ve been a Symbian S60 ambassador for the past month or so. A post of mine made ‘Post of the Week’ for the Symbian Files campaign so I might as well out myself early.

Symbian? Of all the things I want to champion, why this? I could go for Google’s flavour of the month Android, join the mindless iPhone hordes or attempt to resurrect Windows Mobile.

My favourite OS for the phone has always been Palm’s. I love Treos and spurn RIM’s service locked-in CrackBerries. But after reviewing countless phone models and thinking about what I want and need in a phone, I want Symbian to succeed.

Windows Mobile phones, IMHO, are pieces of expensive hardware struggling to run a bloated OS with poor boot times and expensive third-party apps. I loved how there were so many free Palm apps while for WM, you pay for everything. Call me cheap then, but I want my high quality freebies!

With Symbian eventually releasing the code (under restrictions, of course, not quite GPL here), it’ll make it easy for manufacturers and hobbyists alike to start making apps for the platform.

Am also heartened that mobile phone heavyweight Nokia is willing to invest the resources it has for Symbian and the Symbian Foundation. I like what I’ve seen of the upcoming new version on the Nokia Music Xpress 5800 and with a bit more polish, I foresee a great future for handsets running the new version of the OS.

Technorati Tags: ,

Beer and betas

It’s a brave new world where the Web is concerned, and where PR and tech converge, new approaches inevitably come to fruition.

I’m in on a new beta testing program. Am not the only one – seems rather exciting, the whole concept and hopefully I’ll have more to write about soon.

But right now I’m tipsy and I have a writein to organise for tomorrow’s NaNoWriMo meet. Am also a little sad because for the first time in four years of being Malaysia’s Municipal Liaison, I’ve encountered trolls.

There’s this one angry teenager hellbent on using the forum to attack a ‘famous’ blogger. Take your hate elsewhere, kiddo. The NaNoWriMo forums isn’t your place to insult others.

Then there’s this user who is trying too hard to correct me, second-guess me, question everything and basically backhandedly insult me at every turn. I’m doing my best, and the people who matter know that.

But I still can’t help feeling a little down that this user is just so keen on cutting me down, questioning what I do, and worse – defending the forum troll, calling it free speech.

If I was hosting the TGIO party and one Wrimo went to another and spit in her face, I would step in and break it up. And censure the spitter as well. It’s my job, after all. I wish they would all get that.

What’s the point, really, of being ML and donating my time and energy for the cause, just to put up with users like these?

Perhaps it’s because I believe in NaNo. And I owe it so much.

Speech Recognition – white elephant?

== Summary ==

Image via Wikipedia

My carpal tunnel’s resurfaced recently, making typing a pain. Writing is already something I find hard to do.

“Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” – Gene Fowler

Replace forehead with wrists and you’ve got my experience. So I’ve tried ergonomic keyboards, different mice, experimental seating or desk arrangements.

Invariably it all boils down to not spending too much time at a keyboard. I miss my trusty Thinkpad R52 – IBM made the best keyboards for those laptops and I probably did some of my best writing on my old laptop.

So I’ve been experimenting with WSR or Windows Speech Recognition. It’s come a long way from its beginnings; I remember when just leaving your microphone on could lead to all sorts of gibberish on your document. Now, the word recognition is far more accurate and dictation is more intuitive. The WSR tutorial is also very well-done and I found it quite enjoyable going through the training module.

I am dictating this blogpost right now, and it certainly gives me a new perspective on the whole composition process.  Yes, it’s not exactly an error-free process, and I do find that I have to slow down and correct mistakes manually. 

But I think that dictation is a means of writing that is more fluid, achieving a style closer to how you would actually speak.  I think it is a great tool for speechwriters and perhaps even poets.  Most important, it gives my wrists a rest.

I don’t think it will completely replace typing for me, but so far it’s proving to be fun.  Who knows what the future might bring?  Perhaps speech recognition might actually come to the mobile phone and save me hours off transcribing notes.  Maybe then I’ll start to like interviewing.

 

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]