Author: Jack M.

Why I Love My Asus Zenfone 2

Why I Love My Asus Zenfone 2

I’ve had this phone for about a year now and would like to say that I know it pretty well. Reviews on the tail-end of a phone’s lifespan seem less important (I would recommend buying a Zenfone 2 now–go for the 3 instead), but they do give an idea of long-term satisfaction that some people may find helpful when settling on a brand. So here’s what I like:

  1. Reliable. I’ve dropped this phone several time (I have a clear TPU case for it), but it’s never stopped working. I do occasionally have to reset the sim card if it jiggles loose when I drop it, but that’s the extent of maintenance.
  2. Nice camera. It has a 13MP rear camera that takes photos like the one below, and his has a 5MP front-facing camera that takes decent selfies.Jpeg
  3. Software updates. Asus has consistently pushed updates to this phone, most recently on June 29th. It is nice to see a company take time maintaining their software for customers, over two years after the phone’s release in March 2015.
  4. Hardware. The 4GB of RAM is ample (too much almost), and even though the Atom processor inside isn’t bleeding edge, it’s still plenty fast for everything I’ve ever wanted to do (messaging, web browsing, Chess, and even Pokemon Go!). Plus, you get to be part of the 2% (maybe less now) of the smartphone market that runs not on ARM but on x86. This architecture is also the reason that it is possible to install Windows 7 on this phone. Why you’d want to, I’m still not sure…

The only real drawbacks to this phone are the size and battery life. The phone has a 5.5 inch display, which for some people may be ideal, but is a tad bigger than I like for a phone. Also, the battery life can be spotty if you’re a heavy user. I tend to keep my phone in power saving mode, and doing so allows me to end a 14 hour day of light usage with over 40% battery life

REVIEW: Dunkirk

REVIEW: Dunkirk

This film almost needs no introduction, but here goes anyway: Christopher Nolan tells the story of the miracle at Dunkirk. With Allied forces encircled by the German army and not enough transports to move all the troops off the coast of France, over 400,000 troops are trapped on the beach between the ocean and the German army. The film is the story of how they survived, told in a nonlinear format from the perspective of soldiers on the beach, rescuers in their boat, and airmen defending the army from the skies.

This movie was everything I expected from watching the trailer–the word that kept coming to mind when I saw previews for it was “documentary.” Which isn’t a bad word, but not one I associate with Nolan. It looked like it would tell the story of Dunkirk in a dramatically real, documentary-like fashion.

That is what the movie did, and this is both good and bad. Nolan’s penchant for realism and big-screen cinema means that the dogfights are thrilling, the theater humming with the sound of the Rolls Royce Merlin engines that power the Spitfires.

It’s grand cinema, but it left me wanting something more, and not in an entirely good way. As a dramatic retelling of an important chapter in history, it is peerless. But it didn’t grip me as a story the way Saving Private Ryan did. Instead, it left me cold.

Which I feel bad to admit. While some people praised the nonlinear style of the film, I found it borderline gimmicky (i.e. “this story is a bit dull…hmm, I’ll just hide that by putting the scenes out of order!”) and found it difficult to connect with most of the characters. Of course, the RAF pilots were incredible, and I cheered along with everyone else at the heroism displayed in the film. Also, the film was well-acted. No question. But again, the film left me cold.

So that is my review. With a 93% critical approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, I know my opinion won’t be a popular one, but I foresee that Dunkirk will be remembered as a well-made, factual, realistic film that few will every want to watch more than once or twice.

REVIEW: Tokyo Ghoul

REVIEW: Tokyo Ghoul

What happens when college student Kaneki finally goes on a date with his crush Rize? Well, she turns out to be a ghoul and tries to eat him. When the smoke clears on this situation, Kaneki is part-human, part-ghoul, and has to figure out how to navigate as different person–holding to his “human values” (not eating people, etc.) while fighting his nature (only human flesh can satisfy his hunger).

It’s a philosophical sort of manga, with references to Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Herman Hesse (“Who would be born must first destroy the world”). Volume 1 was super-interesting, and if the following mangas are as engaging, I’m going to be reading this one for a while.

Small Premium Smartphones (My Ideal Smartphone)

Small Premium Smartphones (My Ideal Smartphone)

One niche market that I’d like to see more growth in is the high-powered sub-5″ screen Android phone market. Currently, the Xperia X Compact and its predecessors are the main players in this market, which also includes some other older phones like the S5 Mini.

I think in general it’s an untapped market, however. Apple’s iPhone SE has proved popular–for people who have smaller hands or who want a phone that can easily fit in their pocket, phones in the 4-5″ range are ideal. But 5, 5.5, and 5.7″ displays seem to be the norm for a lot of premium handsets–it would be nice to see more premium phones in a smaller form-factor.

REVIEW: The Coldest City

REVIEW: The Coldest City

The Coldest City is a sparse, slow-burning, noir graphic novel set in Berlin near the end of the Cold War. A missing list containing the identities of all secret agents operating in Berlin (on both sides) is the linchpin around which this story moves.

As a spy thriller, the graphic novel is well set up, but knowing that it was a spy novel, I found some of the plot revelations predictable. Unfortunately, with spy novels, that’s half the fun–getting my mind blown by plot twists. That said, the graphic novel has an interesting set of characters and enough layers that, even with a somewhat obvious conclusion, it’s still worth the price of admission.

Also, The Coldest City is apparently the inspiration for an upcoming film? I did not know.

 

My Summer Reading

My Summer Reading

I’ve been reading an assortment of books this summer; my goal was to read more, and lately I’ve been finding more time to read (since exiting college and beginning work).

  1. Born Again, Chuck Colson
  2. Scary Close, Donald Miller – excellent book on relationships and the author’s journey from “public isolation” to a life of intimacy
  3. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Stephen King – this was a fun, shorter novel
  4. A Symphony of Sol, B. L. White
  5. The Coldest War, Sam Hart