The Press

The press used to have so much power that people tremble at the sound of the word. As if it were some bad juju, like blurting out Voldemort. They have the attention of countries across the world and have the power to influence people’s thoughts. And you know it’s true! I’m a dumb person and I know it’s true. It’s such a great responsibility to become journalists.

And it is a power that is easily abused. I’ve not been a journalist long. Five years and counting. I can’t speak for the experiences of others, especially the veterans who have devoted their lives reporting. But in my case, you do feel you have that kind of power. I’ve been pulled over at least three fives by traffic enforcers and upon seeing my reporter’s ID hanging around my rear view mirror, they dismiss me without checking my license. While riding with my boss, he was able to take an illegal left turn, and my other boss ran a red light, and the police didn’t bother to come after us.

I’m a technology reporter. I never tried to abuse my status over others. It would be a great disrespect to the profession. I hear stories about beat reporters going out to find stories on their own, with strict deadlines. There are quotas as well that must be met, a certain number of articles that must be submitted before 2pm–2pm because that is the time where editors gather around in a tiny circle and discuss among themselves what articles they are going to use–whether or not it will be published. And it has to be considered “good” articles, so you can’t just pick some random stuff in police reporters.

These days, how our paper runs, reporters are urged to seek out more interesting stories. Oh, standard reporting remains. Politics and business. Other stories, drama is needed. For instance, I read a slug about a drug bust and it turned out, one of the drug dealers was the son of the officer in charge of the entire operation. That’s some drama shit. I can’t confirm its authenticity though and I don’t know if it was even published.

In any case, I have great respect for field reporters. They seek out stories, charm the right people, gather information, in span of hours, to write a comprehensive article that would/might engage readers. They go into battle zones to document the events that unfold. They go to dark places and talk to dangerous people. They put their own lives at risk. In case you haven’t heard, journalists in Mexico have a low chance of survival.

It’s scary shit, alright. Far as I know, it’s not common for reporters to get shot in this country. But still scary.

As I was told, once a story is done and over, the reporter rushes back to the office, sits in their desk, and demolishes the typewriter in minutes. Can you hear the typewriter sound? Chik-chik-chik-chik-chak-chik-chak-DING! Beautiful.

The video above doesn’t even do justice to what older typewriters can make. Anyway, desperate cases, which I was led to believe, stories were dictated over the phone. These days you just got to find the nearest Starbucks, get yourself a Java Chip venti, and get their Wi-Fi.

But you know, there are good journalists, and there are bad journalists, those with no ethical standards. Maybe they had, once upon a time, when they were starting out, believing that they are being the eyes of the public, the watchdog of the fourth estate. And yet, when an article is published, usually political, these journalists or the paper itself is harassed and being called out for bias reporting, while these people themselves do not see their own biases.

I’m edging too far from my original point of thought. The media has a lot of power. They know it. The public knows it. It’s a scary thing.

Again, I’m a technology journalist. I don’t go out and seek stories. I get invited to events, sometimes fancy ones where everyone lady wore a dress and men in coats. I’m lent smartphones and gauge it, if it’s worth anyone’s time, and once in a while I do get bashed and called out. Writers do develop thick skins. It’s a necessary survival skill. It’s the first thing any writer should learn. That, with charm, patience, and perseverance.

In short, I’m a little bit pampered at my job. I do my best to meet people halfway, because as a journalist I don’t want to shove people around. The pay is really shit though. And benefits have been cut out, in response to declining newspaper sales.

So, to finally get across what I’m getting at: It baffles me in a way that I stare at a killer clown swinging a big-ass ax onto my face, lodging it deep into my skull, and drag my twitching corpse around, that some technology reporters have the balls to complain.

I have met some reporters and some bloggers who, unsatisfied with the event they have just attended or crashed in uninvited, to flail like a spoiled child at event organizers and public relations agents about: “The food sucks,” “Why didn’t you arrange my parking?” “Oh, you’d have me fall in line the buffer?” “I know I arrived late but I expected to have my meal ready,” “Don’t you know who I am?” “Why does he/she get a loot bag, where’s mine?” Those are direct quotes, among a few more.

It’s rather disgusting to hear those words so senselessly blurted out. It disrespects the profession. None of us are getting shot at. None of us interview grieving family members, which is, I imagined, a near-impossible task to do. None of the hardcore stuff that field reporters do. As technology journalists, we’re blessed.

A field reporter once came to the office to ask for help in some of his devices, asked how long was I in the field, before being assigned to a specialty area, which in my case, technology. A modicum of shame streaked my face when I told him none, that this was my first job, and it was where I was assigned on the spot. And yeah, he was vocal about his opinions that I should consider myself lucky then. They’re going through hell everyday.

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Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ goes into orbit

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For this article, images of the Samsung Galaxy S8+ are used.

With a lot of love and support from people all over the world, I was loaned Samsung’s newest flagship phones: The Galaxy S8 and S8+. And impressions over it have far exceeded than what we had expected.

After the entire Galaxy Note 7 disaster, Samsung comes back strong and hitting hard with the Galaxy S8 and the S8+. During their Unpack event, which was held in March 29 at New York, Samsung executives spoke at length about the new screen.

They call it: The Infinity Display. It sounds like Samsung is cashing in on Marvel’s next year’s almost-guaranteed hit “The Avengers: Infinity War.” In reality, the Infinity Display is just a fancy name for an improved dual-curved, pseudo-bezel-less screen. It’s OLED, meaning the pixels popping out of that screen emit their own light, which, in paper and in the ears, sounds cool. And honestly, it is.

You can even configure the screen into three different settings: 720p (HD+), 1080p (FHD+), and 1440p (UHD). Samsung even warns you that tuning up the screen into UHD with increased brightness will drain battery life faster. Well, no shit Sherlock. That’s among the reasons for giving us fast charging and fast wireless charging, right?

Part of what makes up the Infinity Display is the absence of a physical home button. This allowed Samsung to design the new Galaxy S phones with a much larger screen without bloating them up to incredulous levels. The home button is not missed as much as I thought I would, as the basic home, back, and menu buttons appear on screen already. If you think about it, a physical home button that does the same thing as the one on screen is a bit of a redundancy, right?

In the right side of the screen is a virtual drawer that you can slide out and bring out some Edge features, like People Edge and Apps Edge, which acts as shortcuts. It’s something that I personally never found useful, as there are simpler and faster ways to reach your favorite contacts list, and apps shortcuts can be sorted out anyway. Suffice to say, the People and Apps Edge only gives you a nice-looking, more organized way of navigation.

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I am a huge fan of stock Android. Just plain, bland, boring vanilla Android, for reasons that should really be obvious if you know your tech. And it finally seems Samsung has started listening to people. The Galaxy S8’s UX is all Samsung. And yet it looks so much like stock Android, simple and clean, it makes it hard to let go.

You can bring out all your apps by swiping up or down, which is really damn nice. Again, everything feels so clean and simple, navigation has never been this smoother on a phone. Also, it’s nice to point out that Galaxy S8 has 3D touch features. Tap and hold on to the app to bring out a pop-up menu that allows you to do choose a couple of things. Though, there is still a lot of room for further developments here.

My major complaint about the Galaxy S8 and S8+, and this is something I’m not alone, is the placement of the fingerprint sensor. Look, Samsung, we understand you have your own thing here, and you refuse to join the club of putting fingerprint sensors at the back of the phone, right beneath the camera, so instead, you put your sensor on the right side of the camera. It’s rather brilliant really. Actually – it isn’t. It’s annoying. I’m a left-handed person and it takes my hand a bit of a stretch to reach the fingerprint sensor. This is an even bigger concern for people using the Galaxy S8+, which is a bigger phone. However, when using my right hand, I didn’t find any problem with using the sensor, at all. So I suppose Samsung expects you to meet them halfway, eh?

There are even concerns that before people will be able to hit the fingerprint sensor, they would end up smudging their camera with prints. This wasn’t the case on the unit lent to me. I squeezed out the grease between the microscopic creases of my fingers and rubbed them all over the camera and it didn’t affect the picture quality.

However, the unit, black, or whatever bullshit shade Samsung has decided to call their version of black, is a fingerprint muncher. Only mere moments of admiring the phone, running my fingers along its glass finish, it was smeared with prints all over. It’s quite a nasty thing to look at, which is a shame, cause when cleaned, the Galaxy S8 and the S8+ look fucking good.

It’s amazing to note that the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ are the first phones to integrate Bluetooth 5.0.

Thus far I have not encountered issues with the fingerprint sensor, unlike my experiences on other devices, where it takes repeated tries for the phone to unlock. This is based on a single 24-hour experience with the phone. Nonetheless, I found the fingerprint sensor to be the most effective and convenient layer of security. I dislike the facial recognition and the iris scanner tech that Samsung is so proud of, simply because it makes you look like you’re taking a selfie. It might be Samsung’s way of gamification of things, but I just don’t like it. I’m not into selfies and it bugs me that Samsung is actually encouraging me to.

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Oh, speaking of selfies, picture-taking, whatnot, Samsung has integrated their own Snapchat-ish features onto their camera, both in the 12MP dual-pixel rear camera and the 8MP front camera. We don’t know why can’t you just use the other apps that does the exact same feature. In the light of things, I suppose it’s because Samsung is trying to save you time, effort, and memory space by providing something on the get-go instead of downloading them first in the Google Play Store.

It’s amazing to note that the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ are the first phones to integrate Bluetooth 5.0. This means a lot of things for the future. This means your paired devices can have a much farther range from each other. It also means fast wireless transfer speeds. But the best of them lot, is having enough bandwidth to allow two of the same device to pair to the phone. For instance, you can pair two Bluetooth headphones on a single Galaxy S8 unit. No need to share earpieces with your significant other. You can also pair two different speakers. It’s a technology geared toward the bubbling developments of the Internet-of-Things.

One of my least explored features of the phone is Samsung’s own digital assistant, Bixby. It functions the same way as Google Assistant and supposed to be better than Apple’s Siri, and something to go head-to-head against Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. Bixby is like the old S Voice that everyone hoped would just die and Samsung buried it long before that happened, hoping no one would even remember it. But Bixby is different. So Samsung says. Considering Bixby is Samsung’s own design, the AI is designed to do a lot more in in your phone such as change settings. In the Samsung website, it listed Bixby as “It’s constantly learning your ways so it can get better and better.” That’s so vague and scary at the same time.

In the left side of the phone below the volume rockers is a Bixby button. For Samsung to go this far as to put a physical button to summon the AI, we get the sense that Samsung has the intention to blow minds here. I get the sense that Samsung here intends to create a smart hub, integrating all Samsung electronics: TVs, refrigerators, washers, etc… into your mobile phone, with Bixby at its heart. My concern with Bixby is, do we really need it? Anyone who might want to connect their Samsung appliances to their phones, maybe. But for other people? I doubt everyone will want to use Bixby, let alone any digital assistants, save for a few bored questions. And in such cases, I wish Samsung had allowed the customization of the Bixby button into another application that you’d rather use most of the time. Going in-depth about Bixby requires an article of its own, so we’ll let this simmer down a little and go back into admiring the phone.

Under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the S8+ packs the best Android hardware you can have. Four gigs of RAM, Snapdragon 835, and 64GB internal storage that can be expanded using microSD card. It’s a flagship device, so of course everything in it was put together to give a full-throttle experience. It’s also IP68, so yup, take that phone with you to the pool.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 and the S8+ is a great phone. Our local telcos will be happy to create promos and plans to rip you off when it launches in the country, which isn’t too far now, especially with pre-orders starting real soon. And if you pre-ordered, you can even get a wireless Bluetooth speaker. Give Samsung a clap folks. If the Galaxy Note 7 had damaged Samsung’s reputation, the Galaxies S8 and S8+ will redeem them.

Computex 2016

Alright, hello! I was in Taiwan until Thursday, checking out this year’s Computex, an exhibit where companies showcase their newest hardware PC components. It’s for hardcore techies. And I am no hardcore techie. Four years devoted as a technology journalist, and I still have no idea what the hell is a PCI card. (I had thought those things were extinct.)

Anyway, here are some of the crazy rigs that I saw.

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A Meteor-inspired rig with a Perfect Grade Gundam 00. According to the guy with me, the builder didn’t have a PG Freedom Gundam, so 00 was used instead. Also, there was supposed to be a mount where the Gundam was meant to be docked in the rig. Sad that didn’t happen. Still, this is one awesome PC.

 

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I wish I could list down the names and specs these PCs have. However at the time of the event, I was more concerned in talking to the right people and collecting business cards. It’s a failure on my part to be unable to multitask. Anyway, this photo here was inspired by the classic ’80s Ghostbusters.

 

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I… have no idea what this is. It looks like an alien spacecraft.

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BenQ is known for bringing out some nice monitors to keep your eyes healthy, among other things that I’m not completely aware of. But this is just nuts. These girls take like 15-30 minute breaks, but for the most part, they’re on the bike all day just to showcase BenQ’s new fitness stuff.

Thus far, the three biggest booths I’ve seen in Nangang Exhibition Center was Acer, ASUS, and MSI. There were other huge booths there too, but none as big as those three. While at Taipei 101, Gigabyte reigned supreme in there with a huge ass booth with a driving simulator. You’re required to wear a Gigabyte uniform and show the whole crowd how bad or awesome of a driver you are. They give you a can of Red Bull to wash off the shame.

Microsoft and Intel showcased some interesting cool stuff too, it’s just a little sad I wasn’t there to see it personally.

Insofar, the biggest deal about Computex was the gaming segment. How could it not, when e-sports is gaining huge traction. Actually, it’s already full speed speed ahead to whatever it is going. Millions of fans tune in on Twitch and YouTube just to watch other people play videogames. Of course this is going to be a huge market. Nvidia showcased the GTX 1070, which is budget-friendly, and powerful enough to run most of the latest games and supports VR.

Speaking of VR. It is the direction where everyone is going. Not just in the gaming segment. But businesses are using VR for architecture and engineering. VR isn’t a gimmick, it’s an option that people can select whenever needed.

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MSI is taking it to the next level. A Backpack PC for VR gaming. Like, holy shit mahn.

Now, taking it outside Computex. I was able to explore Taipei a little bit more. The people I was with, often left me alone, and I always crawled my way around to get back to the hotel. (The Computex Media Pass can be used as an electronic ticket for trains, for free, for 7 days.) What I really loved about this place, is how easy commute is. People were disciplined, no one shoved each other around in tight spaces, people prefer not to seat in trains – and based on my observation, are quietly reserved for elders when they enter the train. Bicycles are left on the street without locks – man, in Manila, even in friendly provinces with damn low crime rate, you can expect bicycles disappearing in the first 10 minutes when left unattended.

Finally, now that all the dust has settled, I will be able to get back to my WIPs. Sadly, my main project, Ashes, is stuck on a different computer. Therefore, I have began working on my second project. Since I’m superstitious with titles, for now, while it’s still in its early writing stage, it’s code named “Project Sherlock.” It’s not a detective, hardboiled, or a crime story. At least, it isn’t, as far as I’m aware of, but it could be.

I have only about 2K words in but I am already immersed into completing it soon. It’s a whiff of fresh air to write something lighter, compared to the grimdark of Ashes. The story will feature more action and an attempt to bring out a dynamic duo. More details in the following months.