April 3, 2018

Speeding Up Nokia 3

Photo from gizchina.com
The Nokia 3 is powered by a Mediatek MT6737. It is certainly not a fast CPU but that's to be expected on a budget device.

Out of the box, the Nokia 3 handles itself well until you start installing and running more apps in its 2GB of RAM. However, based on my observations, the CPU also contributes to the bottleneck.

I installed TinyCore to check CPU usage during slowdowns. Indeed, the CPU hits full utilization during slowdowns. The RAM maintains its comfortable average of 1.7GB usage.

Here are some tips I tried that made my Nokia 3 snappier without rooting.

Microsoft Launcher
1.) Use lighter apps
I tried both Evie and Microsoft Launcher as replacement for the default Android launcher. These launchers were noticeably more responsive than the default launcher. I personally picked Microsoft Launcher because it displays more information without using widgets (see tip #2).

For internet browsing, I used Puffin browser. This browser offloads website rendering to its servers instead of rendering using the slow CPU of this phone.

2.) Disable widgets.
I also found that widgets causes significant lag when trying to show the homescreen regardless of what launcher you use. Consider disabling widgets to speed up your phone.

Puffin Browser

December 30, 2017

Meizu M5 Note review

I decided to pick up a secondhand Meizu phone to replace the Nokia 3 I bought two months ago.


While somewhat an unknown brand here in the Philippines, this Chinese company actually produces decent smartphones on par with its peers from Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo.

I got this used Meizu M5 Note for 6,000 pesos from TipidCP. It came complete with the box and accessories. The phone felt almost brand new with no dents or scratches.

For a thousand peso less than the brand new Nokia 3, I got a phone that beats the Nokia in most of the item in the spec sheet:

5.5" 1080p LCD screen
Mediatek MT6755 Helio P10 (Octa-core)
3GB RAM, 16GB internal storage
Rear Camera: 13MP with flash | Front Camera: 5MP
Fingerprint scanner
Gyroscope, 4G/LTE
Non-removable 4000mAh battery
Flyme 6 (based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow)

The only things Nokia 3 got going for are its 8MP front camera and the fact that it runs Android Nougat.

Aesthetically, the phone almost looks like an iPhone or Samsung S7 with its metal-lined home button at the bottom which doubles as a fingerprint scanner. Even the arrangement of headphone jack, microUSB, and speaker feels reminiscent of an iPhone 6. Compared to the Nokia 3, it feels just as premium with the 2.5D screen covered with Dinorex glass protection.

The most baffling thing about this phone is the lack of the typical navigation buttons found on all other Android phones. There's no on-screen back, home, or recent apps button. Instead, the lone button acts as a back button when tapped and as a home button when pushed. Recent apps can be accessed by swiping up from the left or right corner of the screen. It took me a while to get used to this.

While the phone is dual SIM capable, the tray is shared with the microSD card unlike Nokia 3's separate trays.

The Meizu M5 Note runs on Flyme 6, a custom firmware based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Unlike with most custom firmware, the phone comes with only a few bloatware from Meizu. In fact, the launcher feels barren as it's missing ALL Google Apps!

This might worry some users as to why there's no Google Play app on their phone. To save you the technical backstory, Meizu is not authorized to ship with Google services.

But fear not as you can get the Google Mobile Services installer from Meizu app store. This will include the Google Play store.

However, this can turn off casual users who are already skeptic because of the Google Play Store's omission. True enough, I did encounter quirks when working with Google apps on this phone. For example, my Gmail app crashes when downloading an attachment. I have to use Google's new email app, Inbox.

The camera is a notch better than the Nokia 3 but still struggles in low light situations like the sample image below. In daylight, it can shoot superb photos. Also unlike the Nokia, the Meizu can shoot videos in 1080p 30fps.

The Meizu M5 Note was released almost a year so it is not surprising if it won't get an Android Nougat update. I definitely miss the multi-window and the timed Do Not Disturb option.

Overall, the Meizu M5 Note is a capable secondhand budget phone if you're willing to jump through hoops just to get Google Play working.

December 4, 2017

Nokia 3 Review

Nokia. Over a decade ago, the name almost became synonymous to stylish and quality mobile phones. This was one of things that ran in my mind as I picked the Nokia 3 as my replacement for my aging ASUS Zenfone 5.

The phone felt premium for a budget smartphone with its 2.5D Gorilla Glass 5-inch screen and metallic frame. There's the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, microUSB port capable of USB OTG, power and volume buttons, 2 microphones, and separate trays for a microSD card and nano SIM card.

On the software side, it runs Android Nougat 7.1.1 and the company promised that the Oreo update is on its way. I'm actually quite surprised with the lack of bloatware and bundled apps save for the standard Google apps. There's no drastic custom UI either - a complete inversion of my Zenfone 5 experience. It is a fresh experience coming from Android Kitkat.

I personally liked the split-screen feature of Android Nougat and the improved battery saver.

Once the initial 'wow' wore off, I saw the compromises they took to keep the phone within budget.

While the barebones set of apps might seem appealing to people who wants to keep their app drawer clean, there are essential apps missing from the phone and the built-in ones just plain suck for the tasks they're assigned to.

For one, there's no sound recorder app built-in. You'll have to pick one from the Play store.

The included Google apps like Drive and Photos acting as the phone's file manager and gallery respectively, feel convoluted and insufficient when trying to deal with local files in the phone. Downloading a replacement for these is a must. I personally picked Solid Explorer and Simple Gallery for this.

But the worst offender of them all is the camera. Do yourself a favor and AVOID using the stock camera. I am serious.

The following three photos are shot using the stock camera app.

I'm convinced the stock camera has focusing issues as nearly all my shots came out blurred. Relying on autofocus is a hit or miss and even if you manage to get a good shot, you'll have to deal with the washed out or over or underexposed photo.

I replaced it with OpenCamera and never opened the stock camera app ever since.

Comparison shots between OpenCamera (top) and stock camera (bottom). Notice the more accurate near-focus and better exposure.

For video, it can shoot only up to 720p at 30fps. There's no image stabilization to speak of. The only good thing I can say is the front camera is an autofocus 8MP shooter.

The Nokia 3 camera felt like a step backward from my Zenfone 5's PixelMaster camera. I definitely miss the amazing night mode feature and less noisy photos from my old phone. Still, I might be expecting a bit too much for a budget phone.

Other notable features of the phone (which I honestly haven't used) are NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, LTE, and dual-band wifi.

Overall, the Nokia 3 is for people who want an updated and unadulterated Android experience, a sturdy and nice-looking device, with little expectations on photography, while not breaking the bank.

January 5, 2016

Cutting the Wrong Corner

A 2007 HP 6510b business laptop and a 2012 Acer Aspire One 756 Notebook

I recently bought a secondhand Acer to replace my ancient HP laptop. The notebook is an improvement in nearly all aspect over the old one:

  • It weighs half as much - important as I tend to bring this to school every day.
  • It's a bit faster especially on the graphics side, thanks to its fairly modern Celeron 877 CPU. Consequently;
  • The battery lasts longer

For 8,500 Philippine Pesos, it does my video editing, music creation, and basic 3D animation reasonably well.

It's also half a decade newer than its predecessor. However despite all the technical leaps in laptop technologies, I noticed a minor but personally annoying trend in recent laptops.

Who thought of the bright idea to combine the microphone and line out audio jack to one?

The emergence of tablets as a laptop killer forced laptop manufacturers to innovate and revolutionize the laptop form factor through touch screens, convertibles, and detachable screens. These are not bad, mind you as some people might find them useful.

Aesthetics must also be considered. No one would buy a laptop that looks like a potato. Manufacturers find ways to make their devices sleeker, thinner, and lighter. Again, not a bad thing.

But the combo audio jack 'innovation' pleases no one. There's no good reason to remove a 3.5mm hole for the sake of 'aesthetics'.

Though for most users, having just one audio jack means they can't accidentally plug their earphones on the microphone jack. But really, after using your laptop for a while, you'll know which one's the mic and earphone jack without looking. No need to dumb it down.

For amateur/cheapskate musicians like me, separate audio ports are convenient if not essential. Built-in laptop speakers and mic are crap for anything other than video calls and phonograph simulation. Entry-level music production demands external audio devices.

I bought a laptop for use as a mobile workstation. A portable desktop computer. Adapting the TRRS (Tip-Ring-Ring-Sleeve) to laptops, notebooks, and netbooks as if it's a tablet or a mobile phone is stupid because however you put it, a laptop is not a tablet or a phone.

A TRRS headphone connector and a TRS connector

It also doesn't help that there are two different standards for TRRS connections. Good luck figuring out which 'standard' your laptop uses, especially if you're planning to buy a Y splitter as a workaround.

Credit: David Miles

My current solution is a USB sound card. Heck if you can splurge some more, you can buy a full blown USB audio interface with multiple inputs and outputs.

But we shouldn't be worrying about this if not for manufacturers fixing what's not broken. Stop this 'form over function' crap.

And don't get me started on the new MacBook.

December 27, 2015

Marikina, handa sa sunog ngayong Disyembre

Katuwang ng BFP-Marikina ang Marikina Filipino-Chinese Fire Volunteers sa pagresponde sa mga sunog.

Pinaghahandaan na ng Marikina City Fire Station ang mga hakbang upang maiwasan ang insidente ng sunog sa darating na kapaskuhan at bagong taon.

Ayon kay SFO2 Stephanie Tabangcura ng Bureau of Fire Protection Marikina, taon-taon nilang ginagawa ang “Oplan Paalaala” kung saan sila ay nag-iikot at nagmimigay ng mga fliers sa mga residente upang malaman ang gagawin kapag may sunog at mga hakbang upang maiwasan ito.  Ang programa ay ginagawa simula ika-20 ng Disyembre hanggang sa ika-1 ng Enero ng susunod na taon.

Ipinahayag din ni Chief Inspector Edwin Vargas ang mga plano ng ahensiya upang mabawasan ang insidente ng mga sunog sa mga susunod na taon. Ilan sa mga ito ay ang mga fire safety inspections sa mga gusali at trainings, seminars, at drills sa mga paaralan at malls. Nakakalat rin sa buong lungsod ang limang fire substations upang mag-ikot at abisuhan ang mga residente.

Sa kabila ng kanilang paghahanda, kakaunti lamang ang insidente ng sunog sa buong taon. Kapansin-pansin na may kaunting pagtaas sa mga insidente sa buwan ng Marso na itinalagang “Fire Prevention month”.

“Dito sa Marikina, wala kang nababalitaan sa TV na malaki [na sunog] kasi in any location sa Marikina dapat within 5 minutes naka-responde na kami,” sabi ni Vargas.

May naitala nang halos 100 na kaso ng sunog sa lungsod ng Marikina simula nang taong 2015.

Naghahanda rin ang lokal na pamahalaan ng ilang direktiba upang maging mas ligtas ang pagsalubong sa bagong taon. Isa sa kanilang mga plano ay ang pag-isyu ng special permits upang makapagbenta ng paputok at paglimita kung saan at kailan lang ito pwede ibenta.

Mga paghihigpit at kakulangan

Kasunod ng insidente ng malaking sunog sa Valenzuela na kumitil ng lagpas 70 na tao, naghigpit ang Marikina sa mga patakaran nito sa mga gusali. Ngunit aniya ay may ilang establisyimento na ayaw sumunod sa mga bagong patakaran.

“Yung iba dito ayaw magpapasok kasi wala yung may-ari. Yung iba naman na-inspect, nabigyan nang fire safety requirements, pero ayaw mag-comply kasi sabi nila ‘ang tagal na naming dito, wala naman nagrerequire sa amin’,” sabi ni Vargas.

Inaayos ng ilang tauhan ng BFP-Marikina ang lumang firetruck na ito upang mapakinabangan muli
Aminado rin si Vargas na kulang sa kagamitan tulad ng helmet at breathing apparatus ang ahensiya. Luma na rin ang mga ginagamit nilang firetruck na nakuha pang segunda-mano mula sa Japan.

“Although functional naman siya pero hindi ganoon kaganda kasi may pagkakataon kung minsan papunta doon sa fire scene, tumitirik siya,” sabi ni Vargas.

Umaasa si Vargas na sa darating na mga taon ay mapunan na ang mga kakulangan nila sa gamit. ###

Ipinamimigay din ng lokal na pamahalaan ang mga brochures na ito upang makapaghanda ang mga residente sa mga kalamidad tulad ng baha at lindol.

August 24, 2015

Quick Comparison between Nodame Cantabile and Hibike! Euphonium

So I just finished watching Nodame Cantabile and Hibike!Euphonium. The anime are about classical orchestra and brass ensemble respectively. I made some quick comparison notes between these two music-based anime. Don't take any of these seriously; these are only my opinions (and note that I am not a regular anime watcher :p ).


The first thing I noticed is quality of the visuals. Both use some CG animation however Nodame switches awkwardly between CG for close ups and traditional for the rest. In CG, you'll notice the models move much smoother than usual. You can't see the performer's face and framing is almost repetitive. It shows a freeze frame when showing a medium or wide shot of a character playing an instrument.
None of these problems are present in Hibike. Most of the time, the CG blends so well, it's almost hard to distinguish.

Nodame: 6/10
Hibike: 9/10
(And yes I'm aware we're comparing 2007 and 2015 graphics here)


Nodame Cantabile is fun. It's a lighthearted view of how its characters face their fears in order to get more out of their musical talents.
On the other hand, Hibike takes a more serious tone. It shows a realistic situation where an amateur band struggles to get in the national competition while reconciling their conflicts along the way.

Nodame: 7/10
Hibike: 7/10

Characters and Ships

Looking at the main characters, Nodame Cantabile has much more variety in character personalities and design. Hibike limits itself to realistic personalities; characters are hard to distinguish sometimes. 
Hibike has a heavily implied lesbian ship. I'm not actually surprised given that majority of the characters are female.
Nodame has it's 'woooo yaoi' moments but the canon ship is still heteronormative. Interestingly Nodame has an openly gay character: Masumi.

Nodame: 8/10
Hibike: 7/10

June 11, 2015

Bronies and Children Flocked on PonyCon

Teens, young adults, and children attended this year's Philippine Pony Convention (Ponycon) held at the Megatrade Conference Center at SM Megamall last June 7.

The convention showcased Hasbro's popular franchise My Little Pony. While it is aimed for the young female demographic, it has also attracted a sizeable number of male teens and young adults who were commonly referred to as 'Bronies'.

According to Benedict Bartolome, one of the organizers of the event, this is the 7th Ponycon and only 3rd Ponycon open to the public.

"Ponycon and the PhBrony group was secret because they don't want other people to know about it," Bartolome said. "But now at least we're open na."

Bartolome said organizing events like Ponycon is a challenge because they are organized by young fans hailing from different places.

"Ito lang yung mga times that they can get to work together at the same time," he said.

Attendees can buy prints or commissions from fan artists in PonyCon
Ponycon featured musical performances, collectible card games, roleplaying, and other activities which the attendees can participate. Fan artists were also present to take commissions and sell their works.

One of them was Brandon Chan, a physics student from De La Salle University. He goes by the name 'BoyInDaHaus' on DeviantArt and 'Ask-Dr-Radical' on Tumblr.

As a male fan of the show, he said some people might find it awkward because males are not the target audience  but there is nothing wrong "as long as the [male] audience doesn't warp the media into something unintended." While majority of My Little Pony fans are in North America, Chan noted that the fanbase in the Philippines is "consistent".

"I wouldn't say malaki pero they're pretty loyal," he said.

Among the many events of PonyCon was a lecture titled "My Little Brony: Fandom is Magic". It tackled gender issues on the fandom while relating them to other popular franchises like Disney's Frozen.
Merchandise such as hats, keychains, shirts, and figures
are available at PonyCon

Carlo Rivera, a junior faculty from the Department of English in Ateneo
de Manila, hosted the lecture. It was his first time attending PonyCon, He was introduced to My Little Pony by another English teacher.

"Society has a very narrow set of things that people are allowed to like and not like," he said in an interview. "Young people are allowed to like this but after a certain age they are not allowed to like this. Old people are supposed to like this but not this."

Despite being a franchise targeted to female children, the teenage male fans of the show proved that even them can enjoy the show and its characters. PonyCon offers card game sessions, merchandises, and comic books for the fans and enthusiasts while children can play with dollhouses, modelling clay, and dolls.

"So what if you're a guy who likes ponies? What if you're a girl who likes soccer? We make it so hard for each other unnecessarily," Rivera said.

"The great thing about fandoms is that they teach us that it's OK to love whatever it is that you love."

Article by: Christian | Edited by: Yves

February 3, 2015

Sarabia Offers Affordable Eye Wear in Diliman

 “Fashionable eyeglasses doesn’t have to be expensive.”
That is the motto of Maria Nella Sarabia, the owner of Sarabia optical shop in the University of the Philippines Diliman Shopping Center. The shop has been in business since the Shopping Center was established in 1974. Among its customers was Jessica Zafra, a renowned Filipino writer and columnist.
Nella’s great-grandfather Federico Sarabia was the first Filipino optometrist. Since the foundation of Sarabia Optical in 1906, there are now over 50 branches nationwide all run by members of the Sarabia clan.
My cousins have 10 or 15 branches,” Nella said. “But I prefer to keep only one so I can personally attend my customers.”
Nella’s store offers lenses starting at 500 pesos and frames at 600 pesos. She gets her supplies from Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and China to keep the products affordable to UP students while keeping up with the latest fashion trends. The products are also discounted to keep the prices down. Earnings fluctuate throughout the year but the shop is particularly busy before enrollment and during Christmas.
The store is open from Monday to Saturday at stall 39 of the UP Shopping Center or call 435-5685 for appointments.

July 3, 2014

Porque VSQx and MP3


Not much to say but this VSQ is designed for Maika (because of extra phonemes).


I used this instrumental.


June 20, 2014

Liturgical MIDI Downloads

We have moved this page to Serafire Music.

The new website will soon contain music sheets, lyrics, and more.