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Understanding Mailbox

An alternative email app called Mailbox was released around 2 weeks ago with a lot of positive words from the press and many negative words from those with a reservation.

Mailbox app for iPhone

The idea is simple, clear your inbox. And keep it that way.

This is something I've actively tried to do since discovering the purpose behind GMail's archive functionality. It helps to keep your inbox clear, but if I'm honest it's really just helped me to keep it tidy. I've had emails sit in my inbox for over a year and never actioned them to the point that they get archived because I know I will never get around to doing anything with it.

For me, Mailbox will hopefully change that. Not only can you archive and delete emails, you can move them to one of 3 dedicated folders; To Buy, To Watch and To Read. This neatly organizes emails that still need to be actioned and keeps your inbox clean.

Later

The killer feature though, is later. Later allows you to archive an email, until later. You choose when and the email will return to your inbox. This has been useful for me as I keep receipts in my inbox until the item arrives, but now I just set the email to re-appear on the day it's supposed to be delivered. And if the item is delivered early, I can always go into the later list and disable the reminder.

I didn't really get Mailbox at first, but after a week, it made total sense. I had already moved the Mail app from the homescreen to a a specific folder for unused stock Apple apps with the view that it would probably be coming back soon. Soon after moving it, I turned email syncing off and within 24 hours, I hadn't looked back.

Download it, try it, love it!

I cannot recommend the app enough, just know that if you download it and once you have access, it can take a little bit of time to get used to. When it comes to later, you have to put a lot of trust into the app and when they did go down for a few hours a week after launch, it was tough going! Luckily, GMail is web based and there is the stock Mail app to get you through any extended downtime.

Old habbits die hard

I filled a feature request and got something back from the Mailbox team. I guess they must be getting a lot of emails about the ability to use your own labels & stars. I have a lot of filters for applying labels automatically to emails from, say Apple (iTunes/hardware purchases) but there's no visibility that they've been applied. Funnily enough, I don't recall any visiblity in the Mail app either, but knowing that the Mailbox app is using a combination of the archive and labels, I still wanted some of the control over this.

It's another feature you have to put your trust into and to be honest, GMail itself does an excellent job at applying labels. If I want to continue to categorise emails into 'folders', then I just need to make sure my filters are as robust as possible. In the long term, this won't be a problem when dealing with the inbox, but loosing the ability will really be noticed when looking for specific emails.

This article was posted on by Charanjit Chana | 1 Comment(s) | 8 tags

apple, iphone, ios, mailbox, app, mail, email, gmail | permalink

The quality of online maps

So much has already been written about Apple's Maps and their apparent uselessness. To be fair, the criticism isn't undue. The quantity and accuracy of landmarks is shocking. The accuracy of turn by turn navigation far less shocking, but still not up to Apple's high standards.

I have actually enjoyed the navigation aspect. Used a handful of times, it's gotten me there or close enough. Dead ends have been routed through by the App, but easy enough to get around.

The reason for this post is to briefly discuss a more important issue with regards to quality. Ever since Google Maps launched, it's been the benchmark and continues to be. MapQuest is ugly, Bing Maps lacks innovation (not that I check it often, or at all) and Nokia's Here app looks terrible on retina devices.

The readability of Google's Maps is just yet another reason to use them before turning to other services, but Apple have actually done a good job, especially with the vector graphics that scale very well.

However, what I don't get is the criticism of Apple's Maps when compared to Google's. When I search Google Maps, I often still check with StreetView to ensure the listing is correct. I've been caught out more than once by a rogue listing and it's now a habbit I have to check that listings are correct. If Apple had their own StreetView, it would make verifying a lot easier, but that is years away, if it ever comes to their app.

To their credit, or maybe to TomTom's, the listings, both in volume and accuracy, are improving. It just shows how well croudsourcing and real world usage can improve a service way more than any amount of ingestion of raw data and QA can.

This article was posted on by Charanjit Chana | 0 Comment(s) | 3 tags

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One month challenge - November 2012

Would I class my November challenge a success. Hard to say. Yes and no.

Let's start with the 'no'. I didn't excercise for more than 10 minutes on many of the days. Granted, I was using weights and doing excercises I learned that were giving my body a decent challenge, and the 10 minutes I was doing was 10 minutes I wouldn't otherwise do. I actually put on weight half way through the month. I need to check my weight now, but I very much doubt it's gone down at all.

As for the 'yes', I did 31 sessions of excercise, making up around 4 days that were missed and the variety of excercise was actually fun. Using the PlayStation Move, much like the Wii Fitness games, gave me a sense of the right things to do and I learnt the right ways to stretch or perform an excercise. Going for walks and running also came into my routine on some days and the biggest 'session' was an amazingly active day in London where we walked pretty much everywhere. I must have covered 4-5 miles that day but it was well worth it.

I think this is a challenge I need to do again in the future, maybe after the Christmas period, but I need to set a more specific challenge to make it worthwhile. 30 minutes using the PlayStation Move for example would really push me into doing excercise.

November

Now that November is here, it's time to pick a new challenge. My first ideas are simple and atainable but could change my habbits.

  1. Read for half an hour every day
  2. Make dinner myself twice a week

The first would mean I actually get through a few books I never find the time to read and the second would hopefully just be fun.

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One month challenge - October

September was a successfull month as far as one month challenges go. The plan was to avoid carbonated drinks, and I managed to it.

I almost sucumbed to a glass of champagne, but was reminded of my challenge so that incident was quickly avoided. Unfortunately, I did have a shot worth of Red Bull on a night out, but no more than that. Although I should aim for no tolerance, I can't let 25ml of Red Bull get me down... I did fell fucking awful once I'd realised some hours later though.

So, to month two.

I previously mentioned that October would see me read for half an hour a day, but as my need to excercise is greater than my need to read, I've re-alligned my goals for October and November.

Throughout October, I will doing at least 20 minutes of excercise when I wake up, every day. I have a few options at my disposal to achieve this.

  1. Running
  2. Swimming
  3. PlayStation Move
  4. Weights / sit ups / push ups

Using the PlayStation Move will be the option I chose for excercise the most. Mainly because it's something I can do without too much noise and that it takes effort while being fun and trackable. Had my timing of challenges not been to coincide with the cold weather, running would actually be my preferred method. I find that it gets me out and I do feel better for it. Weights I'll save for days where I might be feeling lazy and 20-odd minutes in front of a camera are less appealing, I can then combine about 7-8 minutes of excercise with the weights with the PS Move.

Swimming will be reserved solely for the weekends. It will be great to get into the habbit of actually doing it weekly, but the frequency will depend on how much else I have going on as the event that swimming turns into can easily eat up 2 hours.

Future challenges

I will attempt the reading challenge in November. December may be an excellent time to try any of the following:

  1. One sandwich for lunch
  2. No chocolate
  3. No crisps
  4. No alcohol

Small challenges that could make a difference to my overall health. Apart from 4, I don't drink enough to warrant it being a challenge, but any excuse not to drink is probably a good one.

Success

I honestly felt so guilty on Sunday morning when I realised what I had done, but I really can't let 25mil of Red Bull defeat me. I dramatically increased the amount of water I was drinking, drank more milk, rather than juice or fizzy drinks in the evening and enjoyed dreaming about the taste of Lucozade Orange just as much as I enjoy actually drinking it.

My intention now is to stay of carbonated drinks as much as possible. Lucozade Orange really is the only drink I missed having, and as for nights out, vodka & orange or rum & water were all decent ways around the rule.

This article was posted on by Charanjit Chana | 0 Comment(s) | 2 tags

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What iOS need to take from Android

It's barely been 5 days with the iPhone 5 and iOS 6, but there are something I will just never get used to. I never got used to them on my iPod Touch and put up with them, and that was long before I took up Android as my mobile OS of choice.

Moving from Android to iOS is fairly easy. You miss things for an hour or so, but then you're over them. You really are. An example would be the back button. A very nice feature, it just doesn't work in all cases. Having software buttons, like iOS, does. The interface adapts and it's obvious what you have to do. I will miss the back button although I know I'll get used to not having it.

What I really won't miss is very simple.

Two toggles

It's great that Apple now has a notification centre, it's even better that you can tap to tweet or post, but is annoying that are no toggles. I really want to be able to quickly turn Wi-fi or mobile data on and off with as few clicks as possible. The task bar, something I never had on my 2nd gen iPod Touch, makes the move between on and off easier, just not as quick as it can be on Android.

I guess notification widgets in general are missing, which is a shame considering how nicely the weather widget has been thought about.

Habits

My HTC Wildfire was never the best phone to try out the Android experience BUT, when you strip away HTC's awful Sense UI, it still worked pretty well. Was certainly faster without the unnecassary UI. What I really missed, and I didn't know this until I'd set up my iPhone, is that it's inability to play any decent games meant I was consuming a lot more news through apps like The Guardian and I was saving a lot of things to read later because they physically couldn't be read on the screen. Either the data just didn't sit well or the page took forever to load. Twitter's Favorites feature became a real friend. Now on the iPhone, I can read and see a lot more stuff at the time without the need to save for later.

Android is an excellent OS, iOS is just better. 5 years without a major overhaul versus Android's 4th iteration and both excessive & growing fragmentation, it's clear who got it right first time.

This article was posted on by Charanjit Chana | 0 Comment(s) | 5 tags

apple, iphone, android, os, ios | permalink

The iPhone Revolution

It's fair to say that the 1st generation iPhone caused a massive stir within the mobile phone industry. Many called it amazing, but for most it was revolutionary. What's suprising is that Sony & Sony Ericsson, Nokia and many other manufacturers had got their first. Not just for touch screens but for many of the features. FaceTime is effectively video calling. iMessage is a combination of SMS and BBM. Phones have had camera's for a decade now, front facing camera's for over half that.

So how did a brand's flagship phone, without 3G, without MMS, without a front facing camera (no front facing camera for 3 years, until the iPhone 4) and a touch screen interface distrupt the industry so much?

The answer is simple, Apple only included what they could and just did things right. In fact, in many cases, they did them better.

With the release of the iPhone 5 and the aquisitions of so many tech companies over the last few years, Apple are having a massive say in how their devices are manufactured and the features work. More so than Nokia ever did with their usable, but awful, Symbian system.

What suprises me most in the rise of the iPhone though, is the impact it's had in Europe. Granted, similar, if not the same, phones are released world-wide, but did a phone ever get the release an iPhone did. The Samsung series of Galaxy phones may now achieve that recognition across the globe. The scale at which the iPhone is launched is also huge. Topping 2m pre-orders for the 21st, even Google (OK, not a hardware company, but they own Motorola and have worked with both ASUS, HTC and Samsung to release devices) cannot role out devices across the world and in the volume that Apple has now achieved. No mean feat.

Phones released in America were nevery pretty so I can't be suprised at it's popularity there.

Watch any film from the pre-iPhone era and phones are bricky, tacky or cheap. Or a BlackBerry. The only mobile phone I can describe as iconic is the Nokia 8110 after it's appearance in the Matrix (1999), but what's odd about it's iconic status is that it had already been released 3 years previously (1996), it's successor had been announced (March 1999) before the film was released and was released just 5 months after the film was first seen in cinemas (October 1999).

The iPhone is iconic, but for more than it's apperance on screen. The attention and detail Apple put into their products is almost unprecedented.

Simple things like the layout of SMS messages, rather than like email, more like a conversation. A calendar with a summary underneath. These are the things that go unnoticed day to day, but make devices better to use.

Now, Apple are announcing a taller, thinner, lighter phone. Not impressive enough for some, but with an unprecedented amount of devices to be sold in the next week, they can't be doing much wrong.

2007

In all honesty, 5 years ago, I had no idea why anyone would buy an iPhone. My Nokia N97 did more than the iPhone and I ended up on a journey that kept me away from the iPhone until this month. My phone history has never really included the top end but been more about my needs. As it should be.

The one aspect of the iPhone I never really got was why you needed to be online all the time. My phone had 3G and WAP, I could be online if I needed to be, but because of battery life, I chose not to be.

In 2008, I began to understand the appeal of the device, but probably more about iOS than the hardware. I purchased a 2nd generation iPod Touch, which is still going strong despite a greatly reduced battery life, and never looked back. My iPod Mini has had no love for years and until I purchased an Android phone, it got way more love than any other device I had.

Soon after getting the iPod Touch, I realised why you would want to be online all the time. Services like Twitter and Facebook became an integral part of life. Being able to check the weather, when it's only available near WiFi is a pain. So many little things begin to add up and frustrate. They've got you.

This article was posted on by Charanjit Chana | 0 Comment(s) | 4 tags

apple, iphone 5, nokia, mobile phones | permalink

Apple's Lightning

There's surely lots to be said about Apple's transition from the 'traditional' 30-pin connector to their new Lightning USB cable that features just 9 contacts. I for one welcome the change to a cable that, as all others should, can be inserted the right way or upside down. In fact, there are no wrong ways to insert the cable, something that has been lacking in Firewire, USB 1, 2 & 3, HDMI and even the Thunderbolt connection Apple introduced to their Mac line up some time ago. Really, the only thing making it unnatractive is that it doesn't just clip into place like the MacBook's MagSafe connection. Incidentaly, MagSage connections also fit in both orientations.

Apple's Lightning USB cableOne thing that concerns me about their move away from the 30-pin connector is that there's likely to be less strnegth when your device is docked. The 30-pin, while big, took the weight comfortably. The iPhone 5 may be one of the lightest ones yet and I'm sure these considerations will have been taken into account, but how will the device sit cradled loosley on a Lightning connection?

Let's hope the answer to that is that it will be secure.

Even Micro USB connections have pins that must give it's position in the phone rigidity and gives the user some confidence...

I cannot wait to get my hands on an iPhone 5 and see this new cable. I'll certainly be in the market for more of these cables when I'm using the phone for navigation and at work.

Update

Having seen parts of the announcement, demos and Jonathon Ive's tribute to Apple's all round brilliance, the lightning port and cable look far sturdier than I had imagined when writing this piece. Definitely a good thing, but if I find otherwise, I'll be sure to report back here.

This article was posted on by Charanjit Chana | 0 Comment(s) | 4 tags

apple, iphone 5, lightning, cable | permalink

30 day challenges

Or, more accurately, one month challenges are something I will be trying out over the next few months. Matt Cutts has been doing these for a while and it may have taken some time, but his challenges have inspired me to take on some of my own.

Starting small

Rather than take on something that will push me to the limit or will loose my interest quickly, making it harder to attain, my first few challenges will be small. Very small in the grand scheme of things, but big enough that they should make a difference to my life.

Challenge 1

My first challenge, which started September 1st, is to give up carbonated drinks. Not a big challenge really, but I LOVE the taste of Lucozade Energy. I really do love it and that will be the biggest thing I'll miss. It will also mean that when I do go out to drink with friends, no fizzy mixers and no beer (not a big deal to me). Meals out will also mean sticking to water or picking juice, but since fruit juice often contains a lot of sugar, I'll try to stick to water. No matter how boring it gets!

What I hope to achieve is a reduction in sugar intake and an overall reliance on drinks to pick me up. I've already found myself drinking 50% more warter than normal which is a big plus already.

Challenge 2

Challenge 2 has already been set as reading a book for half an hour everyday. Unlike challenge 1, where if I fail once, I've failed, this challenge will allow me to still socialize but I have to pick up the slack the next day.

I have a lot of books that I haven't read, so this will get me reading some, if not all of them. It may even inspire me to write my own. I've started a lot of technical documents that I would like to self publish or be able to distribute, but I often find my tone is wrong or I'm unable to express myself properly. Writing here sometimes helps, but I'm hoping reading more will give me some inspiration.

Keep an eye on the comments or this article for updates to my challenges and what I'll be doing in the future.

This article was posted on by Charanjit Chana | 0 Comment(s) | 1 tags

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A case for Alberto Aquilani

Mascherano, Alonso and Gerrard. What a midfield. I think the Kop even sang a song about having the best midfield in the world. Add Lucas to the bench and that really is some midfield that covers some of the best talent from across Europe and South America.

Unfortunately, Also left for Madrid, Mascherano for Barcelona and we took on an injury prone player from Italy. Lucas stepped up and was sorely missed when he suffered a season ending knee-injury. Charlie Adam was bought in but clearly isn't up to Liverpool standards. The one good signing Roy Hodgson made, Raul Merieles, was good at going forward, but the biggest let down when it came to challenging for the ball. Joe Cole was a let down from day one, getting sent of on his league debut, but may yet be given a chance to redeem himself now that Brendan Rodgers has taken over the reigns. Jordan Henderson is still young and his pass completion is more impressive than his play, but he has the potential to be a good, if not great, Liverpool player.

While Lucas will return and will add some much needed defensive cover in the midfield, it's Alberto Aquliani that could be one of the missing pieces in the jigsaw that is the Liverpool FC midfield.

When he finally started playing after a long delay with injury, he was sharp, creating chances and even took a few himself. As a Roma supporter, I'm sure my judgment in clouded on his suitability and talent BUT you don't play for AS Roma, Liverpool FC, Juventus AND AC Milan if you're not good enough. For all the talk of Joe Cole being given a chance by Brendan Rodgers, I hope Aquilani is too.

It looked like both Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish would allow him the chance, but two failed attempts at loan deals that should have seen him offloaded have failed and the club need to either stick or sell now. I sincerely hope they stick. Gerrard could play deeper or behind the striker, a role he fit so well when paired with Fernando Torres, and Aqulini would quite happily stick in somewhere in between, if not in that advanced role.

A spine of Reina, Agger, Lucas, Aquilani and Suarez is certainly something to look forward too.

This article was posted on by Charanjit Chana | 0 Comment(s) | 5 tags

liverpool fc, alberto aquilani, xabi alonso, javier mascherano, lucas leiva | permalink

The right man

Ever since Kenny Dalglish left Liverpool FC, nothing has been the same. In terms of success anyway. The club have been close, just not close enough and the various boards have splashed the cash. Sometimes not enough, often on the wrong players.

In reality, only one of the 7 appointments since (including Kenny's return) have been anything more than average. Houllier may have won a bunch of cups, but I never took to him and we seemed to make bigger strides when he was in hospital than when he was on the bench.

Rafa Benitez was the biggest success. Forget the Champions League, despite being hampered by a sell-to-buy policy, he bought a lot of undoubted quality to the club. Alonso, Mascherano, Luis Garcia, Torres, Lucas, Kuyt, Zenden, Reina, Agger, Johnson, Insua just to name a few (yes, I geniuinely believe these were/are players of quality). Not only that, but he re-invigerated the youth setup, invested in youth and gave players like Martin Kelly their undoubtedly deserved debuts. Oh, and he brought back GOD.

When King Kenny left, I didn't even touch on the possiblity of Brendan Rodgers taking charge and truth be told, I'm not 100% sure how I feel about it. In a way I'm excited but I'm also apprehensive. In reality, Liverpool are back to where they should be. the board, the manager and the staff should all now be pulling in the same direction. Hopefully the players will buy into his philosphy too. You would think his style would be easier for a team of internationals to adapt than a team that has had to work it's way through the divisions and if it is that easy, maybe we'll be putting creating enough chances that can be put away, rather than counting the number of times the woodwork has been hit.

Sometimes Liverpool fans, and maybe fans of other clubs, come in for criticism when they back a manager unapologetically, but this shouldn't be underestimated. A question I often ask of fans of all clubs is that if *current manager* was to go, who would you get in. Off course, Mourinho's name is often cited, but really? He's had billions to spend at Madrid and he would get nothing like that at Liverpool. £80million for a SINGLE PLAYER? Never.

Fabio Capello has always been a favourite of mine, but then that's probably down to what he did for Roma back in 2001.

After that, there aren't many. There's one name, but I'll talk about that later.

When Benitez left and Roy Hodgson was appointed, I wasn't extatic, but hoped it would be a stepping stone for both parties. It was, just in the wrong direction. Roy is back doing in his rightful place, hopefully Liverpool, having been stabalised under Dalglish, can now push on and challenge for a top 4 spot.

Back to the criticism of Liverpool fans, I would ask United fans to think long and hard about what has happened just a few miles down the M62. When Alex Ferguson decides it's his time to go, they will need a ready made repleacement to take over. Thinking out loud Carlos Queiroz may be that man, but a name that is often touted for the biggest jobs out there is always Martin O'neill. A few years ago, he would have been an excellent choice for Liverpool, Manchester United or even a big club in Europe. Now though, his record points to over-spending, something United, Liverpool and all but Chelsea and Man City cannot afford do.

At a smaller club, he may be able to motivate those players, and do an even better job than Roy Hodgson, but at a bigger club, where success is demanded, motivation isn't enough. Again, look at Mourinho. Where has he been that he didn't spend any money. Maybe the strings were tighter at Porto, but he won the Champions League against Monoco. When will that matching of TWO unlikely finalists ever happen again?

FSG did the right thing by taking their time. Brendan Rodgers may just be the right man for right now, but with time and money at his disposal, and a tactical game that works with the players available, who's to say Liverpool FC won't be pushing for at least a top 4 finish come May 2013?

This article was posted on by Charanjit Chana | 0 Comment(s) | 4 tags

liverpool fc, brendan rodgers, manchester united, football | permalink

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