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Review: Nokia Lumia 520 (and Windows Phone 8)

I got myself another phone just two weeks ago. A Nokia Lumia 520.
Because it's been almost two years since the last post on Windows Phone I've thought it's time to see what has changed in the meantime and whether Windows Phone gets a better mark than last time.

First a few words on the phone itself.
Nokia is known for making good quality and especially very stable phones. I haven't dropped mine so far but I can say that the phone feels very worthy of the price.
While holding it in the palm of your hand you wouldn't be able to tell that it costs less than CHF 100! There are phones by a big Korean company (I don't want to mention the name) which cost a lot more and feel cheaper.
It's not only the enclosure which is very well made it's also the rest of the phone.
The phone features very good specs. It's powered by a Snapdragon S4 processor, has 512MB of RAM, 8GB of built-in storage (which is expandable with a microSD card), a 5MP rear-side camera (which doesn't have a flash though), a high-sensitivity touchscreen (which means you can use the screen with some pens or while wearing gloves), and a lot more.
So far the phone is a steal, there are a few cons though. The capacitive buttons aren't back-lit, the phone doesn't have NFC, a camera flash, or a front-facing camera.

But these are minor details compared to what the phone has.
If you decide to get a Lumia 520 you also get the latest and greatest operating system (Lumia Amber, which is based on Windows Phone 8 GDR2) and an almost lag-less experience!
Very very nice!

Now let's see whether Microsoft has improved its Windows Phone system.

Two years ago I criticized the notification system.
Unfortunately it's still the same. It was and still is pretty much useless.

On the other side I liked the music player and I still do.
It also is pretty much the same (though it plays FM radio now). A few design improvements. Still very good, except for the imho very annoying Xbox ads everywhere. Google does the same with their Play Services on the other side, so it was to expect that they'll be offering some "value-adding" service.

The picture gallery was pretty well-made already two years ago and it has also advanced a bit.
You don't get your Facebook feed on the first page anymore which is a good thing if you ask me, but instead you have access to your pictures (which was probably what you wanted) with just one tap.
Nokia has also developed a very very good camera app called "Nokia Pro Cam". Officially it's not available for the 520 but you can still get it installed if you really want to.

A thing I really hated two years ago was the browser. It wasn't able to display a single webpage properly, but fortunately this has changed.
IE still is not my preferred browser, but I have to say that IE 10 Mobile is definitely useable. It gets almost everything right.
So a huge step in the right direction here. Great work Microsoft.

Buying advice?
Definitely, if you're looking for a reasonably priced device and you don't need an endless collection of apps.
The main thing that's stopping Windows Phone enjoying huge success is the app collection. While you can get most apps you need, you just can't get them all.
If you're ready to relinquish some apps, you get a very good device for what you pay.
"Bang for the buck" is definitely there.

written by: Takashi Yoshi
Tags: opinion, Review, Windows Phone

Billophones - How awesome are they really?

If you're like me you like cheap low-end smartphones for less than 100.- CHF. Let's call them billophones.

It's self-explanatory that they can't keep up with flagship devices like the HTC One or the Sony Xperia Z1 on the spec sheet.
Flagships have quad-core processors, 2 GB RAM, 16+ GB storage, 8-42 MP cameras, LTE, NFC, 5" screens with 400+ ppi and whatever.

And it's clear that you can't expect all that stuff you get in 600+ CHF devices in one 60.- CHF device.

But do billophones have qualities flagship devices don't have I asked myself.
I've come up with five things billophones do better than their expensive counterparts:

  1. SIM card
    Expensive devices use micro or even nano SIMs to "save space".
    Billophones mostly offer a normal mini SIM slot. So you can use your elderly SIM cards.
    Smaller providers often only provide mini SIMs. You can put them into a billophone while you would have to cut them into pieces to work in your flagship device (and you maybe destroy the card by cutting it).

  2. "Bang for the buck"-ratio
    While you can't expect all the performance you get from a flagship device from a billophone you get an incredible amount of technology for next to nothing.
    Of course you buy most of these phones on a pay-as-you-go plan which is why they are so cheap, but you can unlock most of them for less than 10.- CHF.

    So overall they're well worth what you pay for them.

  3. Battery
    Most billophones come with a battery around 1500mAh. This is not much compared to 2300mAh or even more you get from today's flagships but if you realize that billophones don't have power-hungry DC-HSPA+ or LTE radios, a smaller screen, a slower processor, less memory, etc. which all consumes power, you can still get a day or more of juice out of these batteries. Which is more than you get out of some much more expensive models.
    Another plus is that if your battery goes empty, you could just open the back, put another battery in and get another full charge.
    Of course you could get a battery-pack for your flagship and recharge your battery on-the-go, but you have to charge your battery-pack to charge your battery with it, which means that you have to wait and it's not very handy to have a cable at your phone all the time. It's also very stupid to charge a battery to charge another battery with it. Which means that you lose (a lot of?) power.

  4. Storage
    Most flagship phones come with a certain amount of built-in storage and that's it. Since Android 4.0 most of them have a huge data partition which means that you have to transfer your data using MTP.
    But with billophones you get maybe 2-4 GB built-in storage and you can extend its storage with microSD cards. And the best part of it is that most of them still have a separate data and sdcard partition. Which results in you having two SD cards but you can mount both of them using the standard USB mass storage mode, which is just AWESOME.

  5. Durability
    Because most billophones are made out of plastic they should be a lot stronger than devices like the Sony Xperia Z which is made almost completely out of glass.
    Smaller displays (and thus handsets) reduce the chance of getting your glass broken, so overall you have a pretty durable phone.
    And if it breaks you just get a new one because they're so cheap.

So there you go! 5 reasons why billophones are better than their counterparts for maybe 10x the price.

Billophones I can recommend are e.g.:

There are many more available. Just check your local phone store.
Of course it depends on your local carriers whether they have something to offer, but if they do, I'd get one ;-)

written by: Takashi Yoshi
Tags: Windows Phone, Android, opinion

Kommentar zu: "Adieu, Aufklärung - hallo, Bevormundung!"

Dieser Post ist ausnahmsweise wieder mal auf Deutsch, da es sich hierbei um einen möglicherweise etwas zu lang geratenen Kommentar zum Artikel Adieu, Aufklärung - hallo, Bevormundung! handelt.

Grundsätzlich stimme ich dem Artikel zu, auch dem Fazit.

Sagen wir besser «hallo, Aufklärung - adieu, Bevormundung!» und bedienen uns ganz im Sinne Kants wieder unseres Menschenverstandes «ohne Anleitung eines anderen». Übernehmen wir besser wieder Eigenverantwortung mit allen Risiken und Nebenwirkungen und denken immer daran, dass die Freiheit des anderen immer auch die eigene Freiheit ist.

Im Artikel geht es um den Verstand bzw. die Vernunft nach Immanuel Kant.

[Kant] definierte den Verstand als das an Sinneseindrücke gebundene [...] Erkenntnisvermögen.
Die (theoretische) Vernunft ist nach Kant die Fähigkeit, Schlüsse zu ziehen, sich selbst zu prüfen und unabhängig von der Erfahrung zu den apriorischen > Vernunftsideen (Seele, Gott, Welt) zu gelangen (Zitat Wikipedia)

Nun wissen wir zwar, was Vernunft ist, aber so einfach ist es dann doch nicht. Wie die Geschichte gezeigt hat, ist es doch etwas komplizierter als einfach zu sagen "Wir bedienen uns jetzt unseres Verstandes!".
Schon in der Zeit der Aufklärung bestand ein ähnliches Problem. Viele Leute fanden es einfach bequemer, sich regieren zu lassen als selbst Initiative zu ergreifen.
Damals gab es glücklicherweise aber genügend Leute, die meinten, Verstand zu besitzen und gewillt waren, etwas zu verändern.
Aber gut, damals waren die Einschränkungen auch durchaus anderer Art. Die Nicht-Freiheit griff damals bis tief ins Privatleben ein (u.a. Kleiderordnungen, Leibeigenschaft).
Heute sind es eher Detailfragen, die reglementiert werden wollen. Ob der Alkoholverkauf von 22-6 Uhr jetzt verboten ist, oder nicht, ist nicht wahnsinnig entscheidend für's Leben. Sich morgens um 3 ein Bier zu kaufen ist eher ein Seltenfall (für die meisten).
Anderenfalls kann man im Gegensatz zu den damaligen, unausweichlichen Einschränkungen doch an sein Bier kommen, in dem man früher in den Laden geht.

Allgemein gesagt, kann man sich auch nicht einfach so seines Verstandes bedienen (wie es der Artikel rüberbringt), da dies voraussetzt, dass man überhaupt Verstand besitzt und in der Lage ist, vernünftig zu handeln.
Vor einem Vierteljahrtausend gab es nur wenige, die überhaupt irgend eine Ausbildung genossen und folglich gab es auch nur wenig Leute mit Verstand.

Heute hat zwar jeder mal die Schule zu besuchen, aber führt das automatisch zu Vernunft?
Ich wage zu behaupten, dass auch heute nur die wenigsten Leute wirklich Verstand besitzen.
Verstand ist etwas, das man nicht einfach lernen kann, wie Grammatik-Regeln.
Verstand muss erarbeitet werden!

Um Verstand erarbeiten zu können, braucht es einen Anstoss von aussen, ausserdem ist es wichtig, eine Ausbildung genossen zu haben, die es einem erlaubt, (kritisches) Denken zu fördern.
Erst durch kritisches Denken ist es möglich, Vernunft und Verstand zu trainieren.
Aber wo sollen die Menschen denn die Gabe des kritischen Denkens erhalten, wenn nicht in der Schule?

Aber in der Schule wird einem genau das Gegenteil eingetrichtert. In der Schule lernen die Kleinen, ruhig dazusitzen, auch wenn sie lieber draussen spielen würden, sie lernen den Anweisungen des Lehrers Folge zu leisten, nur zu sprechen, wenn sie gefragt werden.
Der Stoff, der ihnen vermittelt wird, ist nicht zu hinterfragen, denn für die nächste Prüfung heisst es, diesen Stoff auswendig zu lernen und dann wiederzugeben. Mit Antworten, die sich nicht ausschliesslich auf den Stoff beschränken oder über den Stoff hinausgehen haben leider viele Lehrkräfte Mühe.

Und nach der Schule gibt es noch Hausaufgaben zu erledigen, um "den Stoff zu festigen" heisst es oft.
Aber aus eigener Erfahrung ist es oft so, dass man den Stoff eh schon beherrscht und die Hausaufgaben nur qual sind oder man den Stoff eben nicht beherrscht und die Hausaufgaben nicht lösbar sind.

Schule ist auch überhaupt nicht individualisiert. 20 Menschen erhalten den selben Stoff zur selben Zeit, ohne Rücksicht auf persönliche Präferenzen, Neigungen, etc.
Die Schüler müssen ja verglichen werden können.
Ein Schüler ist besser als ein anderer, weil er bei den Prüfungen Lösungen hingeschrieben hat, die eher den Erwartungen des Lehrers entsprechen als ein anderer.
Die Schüler lernen, deren Lehrkräfte zu durchschauen und so zu lernen, dass bei der Prüfung eine gute Note herausschaut.
Ob der Stoff nachher beherrscht wird, ist dezentral, denn die Prüfung ist erledigt.

Bereits von klein auf wird uns beigebracht, dass wir das zu tun haben, was uns von oben gesagt wird, dann wann es uns gesagt wird, so wie es uns gesagt wird.
Und damit das auch ja in den Köpfen bleibt, müssen von jedem und jeder 9 Jahre Pflichtschule abgesessen werden.
Woher soll denn daraus Verstand hervorgehen?
Nirgends im Schulsystem wird kritisches Denken gefördert und ein Anstoss gegeben, sich vernünftig zu verhalten.
In der Schule werden wir stattdessen auf ein zukünftiges Leben aus Verboten vorbereitet. Wen wundert es, dass dann nur noch alle nach Verboten schreien?

Dass viele Schüler überfordert sind, mitzudenken oder selbst einmal etwas zu erarbeiten, zeigt sich bei den leider zu seltenen Gruppenarbeiten.
Die Schüler werden zusammengewürfelt in eine Gruppe gesteckt und sie haben zusammen einen Auftrag zu erfüllen.
Eigentlich sollten Schüler dadurch lernen, zusammen in einem Team etwas alleine zu schaffen. Aber klappen tut dies selten.

Aber es sind nicht nur immer die Schulen Schuld. Oftmals macht man es sich einfach zu einfach, wenn immer die Schulen die Suppe auslöffeln müssen.
Wo im Alltag wird denn Verstand von uns verlangt?

Nur schon alleine die Tatsache, dass Werbung so beliebt ist, zeigt doch schon, dass Verstand ein seltenes Gut ist.
Manchmal muss man sich schon Sorgen machen, auf was für Lügen Werbesprüche Leute so reinfallen.

Von der Seite der Wirtschaft wird Verstand definitiv nicht von den Leuten gefordert.
Hätten die Leute Verstand, könnten sie besser abwägen, welches Produkt sie brauchen und welches nicht.
Aber will das jemand? Natürlich nicht. Die Leute sollen kaufen und nicht nachdenken!

Auch in der Politik hat man es bequemer wenn die Leute sich nicht ihres Verstandes bedienen.
Leute mit Verstand würden politische Entscheidungen hinterfragen und falls nötig ihren Unmut ausdrücken.
Aber dies macht die Leute unberechenbar.
Berechenbar ist aber viel einfacher. So kann durch geschicktes Verhalten praktisch jeder Entscheid durchgebracht werden, denn es wird sich nie jemand gegen die Politik auflehnen.

Wenn weder von der Seite der Politik noch von der Wirtschaft Verstand gefordert wird, wieso sollte den Leuten denn der Anstoss zu kritischem Denken und damit zu Verstand und Vernunft vermittelt werden?
Es ist unsere Aufgabe, zu fordern, dass Verstand gefördert wird!
Es ist die Aufgabe von JEDEM EINZELNEN und nicht nur vom Nachbar!

written by: Takashi Yoshi
Tags: opinion

My Opinion On: PRISM

It's been two months since Edward Snowden gave information to The Guardian. Let's recap what has happened since then:

To be honest, it's not much. While most people now know they're being spied on they don't really seem to care.
Some say "I've got nothing to hide" or that we have to stop terrorism, but all we know is that this is not going to end the whole thing.
But what we also know is that it's not just the Americans who do it, it seems that everybody is doing it.
The British do it, the French do it, ..., and in Afghanistan there's also something called "Prism".

Apart from that, most governments have started their "research" about what's really happening, because, as they say, they didn't know what was going on before.
But it's getting quieter and quieter. It seems most people have already forgot it and the governments don't really want to do something because it would stop their own plans, who knows.

The plan seems to be the same all over the world. More and more surveillance for our own security.
But security isn't free, security has a price and the question is whether we're willing to pay it.

First I think it's important to understand how surveillance won't help you to uncover any terrorists.
Wiretapping millions of connections means having millions of pieces of data. No human being will be able to go through that amount of data and filter it, so we have to make machines doing it and they just look for keywords.
Also computers won't be able to make an educated guess if person #457297372 is suspicious or not.

But which people do get into the filter after all? As far as we know it's you and me, the people who use Twitter, Facebook, various Google services, send unencrypted emails and store their data in the cloud. It's very very easy for intelligence agencies to wiretap our connections because we don't use an end-to-end encryption and store our data in the data centers of huge companies. There's always one point where every packet of data goes thru and that's where they intercept the connection.

But if we want to uncover terrorists, the question is, what do terrorists do?
I'll tell you, they won't do all that. I haven't seen a single terrorist who tweets: "Yay! Bomb is placed. Visit me on 42 2nd St.". Why? Well, you can get it by yourself.
Terrorists also don't write unencrypted emails and they don't download their bomb cooking guides without using at least 3 VPN servers. If they use forums at all they won't publish on Such forums won't be online on the same IP longer than a few days.

What I want to say is: Terrorists know how to hide themselves. If they don't, they won't be a threat anyway ;)

So let's see:
No Twitter, no Facebook, no social stuff -> all these black boxes the NSA stored in big data centers are useless
Encrypted emails -> the same, because if they use Gmail, an encrypted email is useless to intelligence agencies if they cannot decrypt it.
Anonymized internet connection -> data preservation is useless, because the only thing they'll see is an encrypted connection to server So they don't know what data has been transferred nor do they know where the data has eventually arrived.
Forums which don't live long -> until they have found the server on which the forum was running, everything is deleted already.

So you see, most of what intelligence agencies do, won't help us at all. The only ones who are being watched are the innocent.
Another fact that proves me right is that since they started the whole stuff in the 90's they didn't detect a single attack. They didn't stop 9/11, the Boston marathon bombing, the London bombings, or Breivik just to name a few.

Also why do they have to meet in secrecy? We should make all of our actions public while they classify everything.
Why can't they be open too? Do they have something to hide?!

But if they don't stop any terrorist, why are they doing what they are doing then? Isn't it wasted money?
This is a good question. I don't really know why they're doing what they're doing. Nobody except for themselves really knows, but maybe the target was to watch us. Maybe the terrorists only were a pretence.

Also we have to understand that the chance to die in a terroristic attack is almost zero.
In Switzerland e.g. the last attack was in the 70's and killed about 250 people. Of course that's 250 people too much but if we have a look at how many people have died in traffic since then the difference is just immense.
Why do we spend such big amounts of money on stopping terrorism then and not in making cars more secure, for example.
And the point is that these huge amounts don't even have a guaranteed effect. It's just something they're trying to do. Maybe it helps, maybe it does not.

So we have to take a look on why they could want to spy on us.
I don't have any idea to be honest. Now it's your turn! Make your own thoughts!

The only thing that comes into my mind is a bit conspiracy.
They want to increase the amount of surveillance until they know about everyone to finally drop democracy and build a dictatorship all over the world. A New World Order, maybe.
I do not have any proofs for this idea, it's just a mind experiment (which sadly works).

As history shows, every reformer/future dictator increased the amount of surveillance, mostly because the rest of the world was apparently dangerous and they needed to keep the country secure of the evil.
But the truth was that it was needed to keep the people under control. If someone wanted to stand up against the regime, he was publicly shot to make an example.
Surveillance also allows them to block each site on the net that criticizes the system to prevent people from getting stupid thoughts at first.

If you're interested in this subject, I can recommend the books "1984" and "Animal Farm" by George Orwell to you.
They show similar subjects in great detail.

Finally I want to make a note on why surveillance is so dangerous.
It's very simple. You don't see it. People don't notice whether their connection is wiretapped or not.
If you don't notice it, you will not stand up against it.
But what they're really doing is walking into your digital living room. Would you tolerate that in reality?

Some say, why not, if it helps to make me more secure. "I have nothing to hide!"
And this is completely wrong. Just because you think you have nothing to hide today, it doesn't mean it has to stay like this forever.
Law changes and maybe in the future you have something to hide.
"Having nothing to hide" also means that you will have to accept what your governments decide forever.
Standing up against the government might be something you wanna hide in the future, like I stated before.

Because of that it's important to stop them now before it's too late.
After they've passed a certain point of surveillance it won't be possible for us to stop them anymore.

Who knows what the future brings us. We should not ruin our future because of a fear of today.
Let's not decide on fear. Fear is never a good idea to make decisions on. Just make a list of positive effects and one for the negative ones. And decide by the longer one.

"Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one."
- Benjamin Franklin

written by: Takashi Yoshi
Tags: opinion
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