Journal of a Blogger Attending “Showcase Nokia 2009” Event

The New Nokia e75

I always enjoy attending Nokia events.  With a brand valued at $36 billion, as a consumer, I am keen to learn what new products and services Nokia have in store for us in the year 2009.  Nokia has always been more than just a phone to me.  It represents a constant advance of the technology frontier and new concepts, opening the door of possibilities to the end users.  Granted, not all new ideas become instant hits at the first launch.  Nokia always finds ways to improve.  That’s why I like the brand.

Arrived at ZIRCA formerly known as Ministry of Sound 15 minutes before the start of the media registration, by the Singapore River I took half an hour break and finished reading the book sent by McGraw-Hill.  As their book review blogger, I try to publish one book summary a month.  Some asked how I find time and energy to do all the things that I do – at least from what you read in here.  I guess if we actively manage our time, there are a lot we can accomplish.

When I entered the venue, I recognized some familiar faces from the local blogosphere as well as one overseas blogger from our friendly neighboring country.  Then I learned that “Showcase Nokia 2009” is a regional event and Nokia flew in the media teams – traditional and new – from around the region.  There was one from Vietnam too!

At around 7pm, Chris Carr, VP Sales of Nokia took the stage (event photos below).  The anticipation was high; cameras were ready; the video camera from the local news station was in position.

The first new phone that took the stage was the e75.  For those who want the best email experience and are into office productivity applications, this e-series baby is no stranger.  It looks slim and stylish and I took a picture of it as featured on top of this post.  I have tried out the QWERTY keyboard and I love the feel of it.  It is not ordinary rubber, yet there is this anti-slip feel to it.  The red color model is very striking.  e75 is planned to hit the store in Q1 this year.

Next was the e55.  Up to 28 days standby time, imagine spending a month in Timbuktu without the need to charge the phone!  e55 comes with a somewhat slightly extended keypad and it is dubbed the smallest Nokia messaging device.  In this small island that the residents are so in love with email and messaging, this could do well.  9.9mm is a pretty slim phone.  Scheduled to release on Q2.

Remember the days of the good old “banana” phone that the film Matrix has made famous?  Nokia 6720 Classic (Q2) and 6710 Navigator (Q3) are interesting additions to the family.  OK, they are not quite like that good old phone that Neo used to step in and out of the Matrix.  They do have the ergonomic design that curve slightly to our faces.  With the Nokia 6710 and 6720 Classic, you can pre-plan your trip at your computer via the OVI Map (I tried that last night and it works), get plugged into your phone and be awed by the high resolution aerial images, 3D landmarks, terrain maps, weather service, traffic warning, and for those who tend to get lost on foot or inside a vehicle like me, a compass is provided (that I haven’t tried).  I really shouldn’t mention that Navigator may even have the knowledge of where the speed cameras are.  Beware!  Agent Smith is around the corner!

The highlight of the evening is perhaps the new Nokia N86 8MP (Q2).  The press related information was embargoed until yesterday.  I previously had a N80.  This N86 is a pure beauty.  For those who are into taking good photos with your phone, check this out.  Wide-angle 8MP Carl Zeiss Tessar optics with variable aperture to cater for low light condition, N86 comes with a premium authentic design: scratch resistant glass front face surrounded by prestige metal details.  It looks good on day one.  It may still look good when you take it to Timbuktu and back.

I met Damien from Helsinki in the event.  He is the man behind the new OVI Mail initiative.  OVI Mail is an interesting new service targeted at those countries that may not have a high Internet penetration.  In Singapore, email is part of our daily lives.  But that may not be the case elsewhere – like the remote towns of Indonesia, India, Vietnam, and etc.  So what Nokia has done is to integrate OVI Mail into the new series of low-cost phones.  I was at the counter and Damien proudly handed me one of the new phone and said, “Try it and see how easy it is to create your mailbox!”  I tried it on the spot and the registration is very straightforward.  No guessing of what my ovi.com email address is.  With email integration and support to a dozen native languages, these devices could be a life changing experience to many.  Imagine the first experience of email ever, on a wireless phone.  I have travelled to remote towns in the region that do not have a decent Internet connection.  It is easy to take whatever we have around us for granted.

I reckon some of you may be interested to see how the new Nokia 2009 lineups look like.  I am a simple guy so what I have done is to dump all the press images into OVI.  Enjoy!  As always, thanks to Nokia and Text100 teams for the invite.  Supriya and Felicia, good to see you in the event.  You both look fabulous!

External Link: OVI by Nokia

Auditioning Female Models for Upcoming Brüttal (Lingerie) Fashion Show in Kuala Lumpur

One of the African Models

OK, enough of serious blog entries these days and I need something sexy, something light to spice up my life site.  Believe me, it was a hard choice between:

  1. Staying in Singapore and accepting an invitation for a (free!) photo shooting session at the Singapore Zoo as well as to cover the finale of the River Hongbao event over the weekend
  2. Driving up to Malaysia and help out my friend Adeline to audition the female models down to their underwear with my … camera.

Cynthia and I couldn’t cancel the hotel booking at the last minute so we stuck with the original plan even though the circumstances have changed.  I am actually glad that we went because:

  1. Our friend needed emotional support that evening and we were there for her.  Talked with her till 4 in the morning (and Cynthia insisted on waking up early the next day not to miss the breakfast).
  2. I did have a role to play because Adeline couldn’t have photographed these candidates as she was busy showing them what to do.  It is good to refer to the photographs after the audition.

Below are the pictures taken during the audition.

… Nah!  They are PG rated.  Wait till we go for the actual Fashion Show with the actual Brüttal products.  Super chick n sexy lingerie that Brüttal carries.

So how was the experience?  Broadly summarized as follows.

  • Stressful.  It is hard to frame and capture the moments.  It is even harder if the models are inexperience.
  • Nervous.  I was the only guy in the VIP room.  I was worried that I might be eaten up by the girls.
  • Exciting.  Actually only one moment of excitement.  It was when all the models stripped in front of me down to their underwear, at the same time.

Now, why Africans?  I don’t know why the club “China White” is a popular place for the Africans and why Adeline goes for such a theme.  Maybe Africa is in these days?  Think about the next World Cup hosting country, the current F1 champ, and the new American President …

I have no clue how Adeline is going to train these brand new models for her Brüttal Fashion Show in March.  I am keen to cover the event for Brüttal and perhaps I may need a telephoto lens when that time comes (any one wish to lend me a 50mm f/1.4G?!).

(Perfectly) White Balanced Portrait Photos of Cynthia at River Hongbao

Cynthia loves this picture the most, not sure why ...

Though I have received one good suggestion from a good friend of mine that I shall host my photo albums elsewhere until I am good enough to have them hosted here in my website, I thought it is good to show y’all my journey thus far.  Besides, I treasure constructive feedback from the seasoned photographers on areas that I can immediately improve upon.

Almost immediately.  As I do have to wait for the White Balance Reference Card to arrive from US.

One of the (many) tips my (mentor) Mathew has shared with me is that the white balancing is off in my photos.  What it really means (I think) is that the white color is not quite white from the photos I publish.  Fair enough.  Getting the properly balanced white color in digital photography can be a challenge under different lighting conditions.

Especially at the River Hongbao where there were lots of yellow and red and strange color cast onto the lovely face of my model.

You know, it took me a while to convince Cynthia to be my model at the Floating Platform.  I was there just days before this shooting session doing a media coverage for the opening ceremony.  I know all the angles and backdrop.  And I desperately needed a model to fulfill my dream.  Below are the photos taken to demonstrate the white balancing effect.  For high quality photos, visit my photography page.

This is extreme white balancing in action.  All but one photo showcased above or in my photography sub-site are individually white balanced.  See if you can tell which one is the odd one out.  Most of them are shot as-it-is with standard touch-up.  A rare few I have used a film effect to accentuate a certain artistic viewpoint.

Here is how I did it.  Because it was pretty crowded, I have to be creative in finding a right spot to take photo.  Having a wide angle lens help because the distance between my camera on tripod and my model can be pretty close.  Noticing the direction of the human traffic helps too.  Need not to say, it is better to align with the flow and not perpendicular from it.  The last thing I want is to have someone knocks onto my tripod or get in between my camera and my model accidentally.

Composition with tripod is hard.  Some say that shots with tripod is pretty boring.  It is of course not as flexible as hand held composition.  But hey, if I want to expose the photo for up to 1/2 second, I don’t really have much choice, do I?  I would take one photo with Cynthia posing in front of the camera and another one with her holding a White Balance Reference Card close to her face.  That latter photo I would use to take the reading for white balancing.  Extreme white balancing in action, why?  Because I did it for every photo – one for real and one for the card.  I keep the first one and throw away the second one.

I reckon I can still do a much better job with better flash lock for off-centered composition and perhaps a faster shutter speed (1/8 sec or faster?) compensated with higher ISO sensitivity.  Oh well, till the next time I guess.

PS. This is not a sponsored post on WhiBal.

Related Links: High Quality Photo Album of This Entry, WhiBal Card (external link)

Facing Off Sheylara At Symantec Gaming Tournament – Hands-on with Norton AV 2009 Gaming Edition

Norton AntiVirus 2009 Gaming Edition

Previously, I teamed up with Sheylara on that blogger challenge of … erm … national significance.  This time, I had to team against her at the Symantec Gaming Tournament.  My first time playing a Counter-Strike lookalike network game.  Sheylara had planted so many bullets on my back that it was no longer funny.  And she was physically sitting one row behind me with her virtual gun point right at my real back.  So how did the tournament go?  Hang on for a moment.  Let’s talk about this new Norton AntiVirus 2009 Gaming Edition first.  And I have more (surreal) photos to share later in this entry.  The one with the classic Sheylara post is probably my favorite.

Of Norton, AVG, McAfee, and … Norton

Coincidentally, just days before I received the invitation to this blogger event, I was curiously staring at this yellow box of “Gaming Edition” at one computer store one fine afternoon.  As an avid gamer, I am excited to see Norton from Symantec listens to the gamers’ needs.

The concept of computer virus always bugs me, though I am a computer scientist and engineer by training.  I wish I could visit the Norton lab one day and see how it works.  Norton has a business because of the virus makers.  Do they recruit virus makers to kill off the virus?  How do they get into these people’s heads?

My love affair with Norton as such.  Companies use Norton products so as a home user, I too bought Norton products to protect my computers.  That was quite a while ago.  Back then, Norton products were resource intensive, countless updates that required countless machine restarts.  So I ditched Norton and went for free products like AVG.  Didn’t work out so I went for McAfee.  McAfee seemed to work for me but it didn’t.  When a virus did strike (how often right?), it failed to quarantine.  And I have to keep signing on every few days or so to have my account verified.  Enough is enough, so I went back to Norton.

Last year, I was shocked by Norton 2008’s superb performance – both in terms of product installation and the on-going protection.  I was told that 2009 edition is even faster.  Wow!  And since I need to get my hands dirty for this blog entry, I uninstalled my Norton Internet Security 2008 that still has 2 months worth of subscription and give this Gaming Edition a try.

Norton AntiVirus 2009 Gaming Edition

Norton AV Gaming Edition Skin

The box says that this Gaming Edition will install in less than a minute.  Are you for real?!  Surprisingly it does.  If you come from the dinosaur age like I do some people do, that is just hard to believe.  Even the update did not take long (note: if you notice the CPU usage meter, I was running a full system scan and Norton is transparent enough to let me know how much resource it was using).

Gamer Mode

So, what so special about the gaming edition?

When Norton AV Gaming Edition detects a game launched in full screen mode (or in my case because I run World of Warcraft in Windows mode, I can click onto the system tray and switch on gaming mode), certain protections are turned off, including the suspension of alerts and notifications (see picture on the left).  Underneath the hood, there are options for you to decide if you wish to turn off (1) AntiVirus, (2) Advance Protection, (3) Intrusion Prevention, and (4) Automatic LiveUpdate when the gaming mode is switched on.  Neat!  And if you own an online gaming account like I do, I was told that this product will safeguard you against intrusion too.

Symantec Gaming Tournament

That night was the first time I played what appeared like a 3-on-3 Counter-Strike network game.  All those years of World of Warcraft training seems to have help.  It is quite a fun game to play.  There is a terrorist team to pick and a counter-terrorist team too.  I find it is much easier to play the terrorist.  Go in, plant the bomb, and get out.

The professional gamers were in the house.  Gaming as a profession?!  I thought only gold farmers in MMORPG makes money.  Amazing.

In Closing

You know you need to protect your computers against virus.  The question is which product to use.  There are alternatives out there and it doesn’t take much research to realize that Norton is the way to go in terms of reliability, ease of installation and use, and performance.  The only consideration is pricing.  For the Gaming Edition, Norton from Symantec has taken one step further.  It requires less than 6MB of memory (8 times less compares to competitors), opens only 2 processes, and add less than 3 seconds to boot time.  If you are an avid gamer who is looking for a virus protection tool, you shouldn’t settle for less.

There are much to cover for the Norton 2009 products.  Perhaps another post when I get a hold onto the Internet Security 2009.  Stay tuned.

A big thank you to the Norton folks and Text100 folks in making this event fun. I am happy to have learned so much more and in depth about the Norton products.  Yes, our team has won the tournament and thanks for the prize!

River Hongbao 2009 Opening Ceremony – A Media Coverage

A sample of photos taken during the River Hongbao 2009 Opening Ceremony

I am honored to be invited as part of the media crew to cover the River Hongbao Opening Ceremony.  Having no prior experience to cover event of such scale and significance, I followed closely to EastCoastLife, the president of our Association of Bloggers (Singapore), listening to her advice on who is who, what to anticipate, and the general tips to cover events and etc.

In this blog entry, I am going to share two photo albums with you. 

  1. Click here (or onto the image above) to view my personal favorite collection created using Nikon Capture NX2
  2. Scroll down to view the event collection created using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.2

On the Event

From now till Feb 1, there are many reasons to visit the Floating Platform just off Marina Square.  First, you get to walk around the platform built originally as a temporary location for the National Day Parade.  The last time I visited the same location was during the National Day Parade Preview back in 2007.  One fine piece of work built by the Singapore Armed Force, MINDEF, and DSTA.

Second, there are lots of photography opportunities.  Beautiful light with lots of color.  At the center of the Floating Platform is a performance stage.  Check out the show schedule here.  Lots of talents.  EastCoastLife and I enjoyed the cultural performance thoroughly.

Third, admission is free.  The venue is well organized and secured.  Tripods are allowed so bring your family and friends and take some memorable shots!  If you drop a link of your photo album here, I will gladly take a look.  Let’s learn from each other.

A Media Crew’s Journal

It was the first time I stepped into a Press Conference.  We were side by side with the traditional media.  And I am happy that my camera is of an industrial standard as compares to what the pros are using.  We are all Nikonians, we are friends immediately without the need to exchange words.

Peggy Chen, our friendly media point of contact, walked us through the program in Mandarin.  I tried very hard to understand what she said (I am a Cantonese) because she did give out useful information on what to expect, where to take your best photo shots.  I think I understood about 70% of what she said.  When she repeated the information a second time in English, I was in tears of joy.

The professional photographers move very fast.  We were dashing ahead, turning around to take some killer shots, and dashed out again – as our VVIP (very-very important people) walked amongst the crowd.  Over 800 shots were made on that evening and I am amazed on how Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Wong Kan Seng managed to smile in almost every photo I took throughout the entire event.

I was told that firecrackers were banned in Singapore and now recently lifted.  When EastCoastLife asked the security guards if we could get up close to the firecrackers and they were shocked, politely said no.  After seeing how explosive those firecrackers were, I personally am glad that I was nowhere close.

As you can see in the photos here, the performance was beautiful, professionally done.  Apparently, EastCoastLife has seen the preview and was tipping me on what shots to take.  Neat!  My personal favorite of the entire collection – besides the picture of a very pretty Chinese girl on stage – is the 6 men stacking up in the form of a totem

Sharing of Photography Experience

I have many photography mentors to help me with this learning journey.  So, I wish to thank Ken for the wonderful tip on: bring more than one lens for the event and change on the spot.  Because of this tip, I brought along my telephoto zoom lens as well.  I am so glad that I did.  I would have missed quite a number of shots that turn out to contain some of my favorites.

I also wish to thank Mathew to convince me that there are industrial strength battery chargers out there and with the right batteries, my camera can perform as though it is on steroid.  And just the day before, I invested S$200 for a charger and countless batteries (12 high capacity ones and 8 free not too high capacity batteries that come with the charger).  That makes my already heavy camera even heavier.  But that is no big deal, just need to do more weightlifting.  With all the quality batteries, my camera was shooting at 8 frames per second with the flash gun to match.

Two awesome tips!

Besides the two lenses – wide angle and telephoto – I brought my tripod and shutter release cable as well.  That night was also the first evening I tried the MUP (mirror up) function to minimize the mechanical vibration caused by the movement of the mirror inside the camera.  MUP only makes sense if you have a shutter release cable.

I have nearly underestimated the number of photos I would shoot especially with high speed shooting mode.  My 8GB Extreme IV memory card was barely enough (for over 800 shots taken).  I have completely depleted the 8 AA rechargeable batteries on the grip.  And I reckon my flash gun would need new batteries really soon.  Hence, lessons learned are:

  • Always anticipate where the VVIP will be heading.  And keep dashing forward (without knocking anyone down!).
  • Observe where the professional photographers stand (great tip from EastCoastLife).
  • If you can’t afford an extra camera body (like me), bring extra lenses for the event.
  • And if you are using one of the entry level dSLR cameras, do yourself a favor and get the 18-200mm lens (for my D700, I use the 24-70mm and 70-200mm, both at f/2.8).  It costs S$1,000 but you can almost shoot anything from any distance especially with the flash gun mounted.  Not large enough aperture is seldom an issue with flash.
  • Bring extra memory cards and batteries.  Even if you may not need to use them, they offer a good peace of mind.
  • Bring along an assistance to help you with your gears.  Better still, bring a pretty one so that he or she can be your subject if need to too.

Afterthoughts

As a blogger who participate in the New Media movement, I can certainly see the benefit of being part of a legal entity that complies to the Singapore Societies Act.  Much like how bloggers – myself included – get into company events through the PR companies, an association for the bloggers get us in touch with the events of national significance. 

Being bounded by the Societies Act does have its restriction, especially in the areas that touch onto Singapore politics.  But the upside is that not only the government, but also other established associations acknowledge our existence.  More doors will be open for us to “promote, protect, and educate” our members.  And inevitably, our key stakeholder list will expand beyond the Blogosphere – for the better I reckon.

At times I wonder how many active societies are there in Singapore.  I think in time to come, there will be more and more associations for the different groups of bloggers to cater for different special needs.  Is there a one size fits all?  Probably not, in my personal humble opinion.

Related Link: Personal Photo Collection – River Hongboa Opening Ceremony (A Highlight)