Owning a Windows Phone, in the past

I stumbled upon this video, and it brought back memories that I had while using a Windows Phone.

My first and only Windows phone

I owned a Nokia Lumia 820, when I first got it in early 2014. It was running Windows Phone 8. You can refer to the phone specs here. I spent more than RM800 (USD200+) for it, which was not cheap for such specs, compared to other mainstream Android phones at that time, e.g. Samsung and Sony.

However, it ran a mobile version of Windows, which I thought was quite cool.

Screenshot of a reminder for an upcoming test in November 2014. I liked the simplicity of the user interface (Windows Phone 8.1).

Problems in the ecosystem of a great system

Life on a Windows Phone was not bad, but the app ecosystem itself? Wasn’t too good. While communicating with others, I used WeChat, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger most of the time. I used WeChat frequently, and quickly realized the features were not up on par with its iOS and Android counterparts.

It lack certain features that caused minor inconvenience to me, such as the inability to view rich media, compared to the Android version (I owned a Samsung smartphone prior to this). Hence, I would be “left behind”, and the person who I was communicating with would felt slightly frustrated due to me unable to capture what he/she wanted to convey via the rich media sent.

Other apps, like YouTube, worked okay on Windows Phone. Although it wasn’t as rich as its counterparts in iOS and Android, it did its job well! Although the inclusion of Mobile Internet Explorer was not a fun one, as it was crash-prone when modern websites were loaded, but it did its job.

Despite the mediocre app ecosystem and apps largely offered on the platform weren’t on par with other mainstream mobile operating systems (e.g. iOS, Android), apps running on it rarely crashed or felt sluggish. The user interface was clean and simple, and I liked it very much.

The Nokia Lumia 820 received Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 Mobile updates too. I personally liked the time when it ran the stable builds of Windows 10 Mobile, which looked cool.

A photo captured using the Nokia Lumia 820 in August 2014 while attempting to reset my Dell PC. The photo quality was good.

Saying goodbye

Alas, I stopped using it when its display had suffered physical damage beyond repair. I couldn’t get a spare parts readily available within the country without having to purchase a replacement unit overseas, which, in my opinion wasn’t worth the money.

The Nokia Lumia 820 then was survived by an Android smartphone after it was being used more than 2 years. It was then kept safely in a box somewhere.

Kyoto-Nara trip: day 0

This trip was done in the autumn of 2020 (November 2020). I had long planned to visit the Kansai region, especially Kyoto and Nara prefectures (due to the temples, deers, etc.) via plane. Furthermore, it was the time period when autumn leaves 🍁 were visible almost everywhere, especially in Kyoto. Without further thinking, I booked a plane ticket from Peach Airlines and flied from Tokyo (Narita) to Osaka.

This was a weekend trip, so the itinerary list was short but jam-packed, especially when I had only 2 days to explore these places.

Day 0 (Friday) – From Tokyo to Osaka

This day, I worked at home, so there was little rush in heading to the airport. As soon as I submitted my daily work report, I grabbed my backpack, left home, and hopped onto the limited express train bound for Narita International Airport.

Somewhat empty pathway leading to the domestic terminal portion of Narita International Airport.
Queuing up to board the Peach Airlines plane at Narita International Airport.

I chose to fly with Peach Airlines, a first for me. I was surprised to know later that you cannot do online check-in, and you can only perform check-in at its kiosk or counter. I learned later that an online check-in service was not available because they did not have one in the first place! It may be due to cost cutting (why bother spending money on unnecessary stuff, right?) (source, Japanese only).

The plane interior. It resembles a AirAsia’s domestic flight plane, but this plane is slightly better, and has a purple color scheme instead of AirAsia’s red color.

I arrived at Osaka International Airport sometime after 9 pm after an hour and a half long flight. However, I did not planned to stay in Osaka, but Kyoto, its neighboring prefecture. I hopped onto the local train lines and managed to successfully arrive in Kyoto (specifically JR Kyoto station) after midnight.

A sign of one of the train station lines heading for Shin-Osaka and Kyoto. This was at JR Osaka train station.

Along the way while making the transit (involving changing to different railway companies and track platforms), I managed to grab a quick bite (I hadn’t had proper dinner!) of sandwich. I also noticed how big the Osaka train stations were. Totally comparable to Tokyo’s JR Shinjuku, in my opinion.

I finally arrived at my place of stay sometime after midnight, which is a ryokan (旅館, Japanese inn). It was pretty cheap (about 2000 JPY per night) as it was heavily discounted during the Go to Travel campaign period. I took this opportunity to stay at a comfier place.

The ryokan room that I had stayed in (1 pax).

As it was quite late (near to 1 a.m.) and I wanted to wake up earlier the next day to explore Kyoto before the tourist peak hours kicked in, I went to bed after a quick shower. After a combination of long flight and train journey, I was quite exhausted, yet satisfied due to the beginning of a new trip.

That was it for day 0, I will write more about day 1 soon!

Meeting and sunset 🌅

I attended a meeting today with my superior where it was held in a meeting room, along with other stakeholders and colleagues who joined the meeting online. In the room, there were windows with the outside view clearly visible from inside. It was less than an hour to sunset, so the layered view of the blue, orange, and purplish sky was breathtaking (in my opinion). Of course, I was there to attend a meeting, so my attention was naturally shifted to the large television screen.

More than half an hour had passed, and the sky outside the window had turned increasingly dark. The beautiful layer of blue, orange, and purplish sky had gradually faded, and darkness took over. The building lights and lamp posts were automatically turned on as dusk finally set in. It was moments after my regular work hours had ended.

Yesterday, it rained heavily from noon until evening, with the rainfall at its peak sometime after lunch. I had guessed that I wouldn’t be able to witness a clear evening after the whole rainfall and layers of cloud, but it had cleared up just before I headed back home.

I managed to see this awesome view from the top floor of the office building where I worked.

Sunset view seen from the top of the office building where I worked.

Hope your day stayed awesome, just like how this view had me cheered up, dear reader.

13年前的这个星期六

13年前的这个星期六,你伸出那善意的一手,提出恢复这个已受损的关系。

然而,数个月之后,聆听他人的劝告,我愚蠢的将这个善意亲自的把它弄毁了。

不怪他人,唯有自己错在先。至今,我依然为那个决定和动作感到后悔不已。

再多的悔过书,也改变不了过去。

只想说,这一天的那个动作,我非常非常的高兴。要说该举动彻底的影响了我的一生并不夸张。

不知你当天的心境是如何?

在不断播放历史的回忆带中,至今,我只增加了对你的各种感谢。在远处的你,现在过得怎样?

祝你 新年快乐,平平安安。

2021新年快乐

读者们,配合牛年,祝你恭喜发财,Happy 牛 year!

星期四,年三十/除夕

由于世界COVID-19疫情的情况尚未改善的关系,今年没有回乡过年。这也成为了我第一次身在海外过年。除夕的前一天刚好是日本的国庆日,我和马来西亚的朋友聚在一起吃一顿团圆饭。我们约好的地方是东京的郊外,因此和都市区的东京比较起来没有那么热闹。

其实,在早上一早从家出发到朋友的地方时,日本各处就如平时一样,对春节没有特别的概念。位置在东京南部的横滨中华街(唐人街)也据说在今年不会有大规模的庆祝和舞狮表演,让今年的农历新年变得更加寂静。除夕当天,住在东京的一位台湾人朋友也跟我分享说,她和几位朋友聚在一起吃了烤肉作为团圆饭,听了直羡慕!

星期五,年初一

这一天是普通(在家)上班日。早前被上司推荐今天请假(若有请假的话,就可以享有四天连假。),但是我决定不请假,在家上班。在海外的华人朋友也纷纷在Instagram上分享年初一照常上班的心情,我看了也直苦笑。过去几年的这一天,我早就忙着向家人亲戚,甚至向到朋友家拜年吧。

“有家人在,哪里都是家。”,我从某处读到这一句。每一年,庆祝新年的地方也跟着改变,尤其是新年气氛。有几年在出身地/老家的东马,有几年在亲戚都聚合在一起的西马。在东马庆祝农历新年的时候,我都有机会和中学朋友见个面喝个茶。

在2019年农历新年除夕前的傍晚,我从东京起飞,在首都吉隆坡转机,最终抵达了家乡的机场,接着就回家放下行李之后,就匆匆到离家不远的一间超市内的餐厅和朋友们聚会。“从日本回来之后就马上跟你们见到面了!”,我自豪的和他们说。

今年,我在离东京有一段距离的自家,在乌云密布的早上开始度过了年初一。公司电脑启动着的Skype也显示着在线中的同事。我一边在手机(链接到电视)播放农历新年相关的节目,一边开始上班。“真是一个特别的年初一!”,我不禁这样想。想必,在疫情情况依然严峻之下在前线站岗的朋友们在这一天也不能放松下来吧。

“新年快乐!”

下班后,我到离家不远的超市买较为丰富的晚餐,和一些年货。超市内卖着华人料理的中华料理店「北京楼」也布置了一些灯笼,炮竹和春联,为较为平凡的超市添加了色彩。我到该角落买些中华料理便当时,有一位较为熟悉的工作人员向我说声,「新年快乐!」。我也那样祝福她。他们如常营业,也没有卖春节相关的食物。以前和他们聊起天时曾经忍不住问说她们会不会在春节期间卖些特别的食材或食物,等等。

「在日本没有庆祝春节的习惯呀。」,她这么回答。

那倒也是。中华料理在日本很受欢迎,但是配合着佳节卖新东西的话,反而顾客不会太主动买(毕竟日本人没有庆祝农历新年。)。我听了也忍不住点头。

离超市不远有一间中华店铺,里面很像一个小市场,摆着来自中国,台湾,马来西亚等的食材。昨晚鼓起勇气第一次进入该店铺,发现了有好多美食!所卖的东西可谓包罗万象,有麻辣火锅的食材,来自台湾和马来西亚进口的食物,冷冻着的鱼丸和汤圆等,在一般日本超市都很难找到的东西。

离开那间中华店铺前,我顺手买了一包鱼丸和一盒凤梨酥。在结账之际,也不忘向站在柜台的华人祝贺一声新年快乐之后,就满心欢喜提着沉重的购物袋回家去。

“牛”转行大运

今年是牛年,自然的许多人玩起和「牛」谐音的词汇和成语。去年圣诞节前夕寄新年明信片给亲朋好友时,也不忘玩了这个游戏。比如,我写了一句「May this year be a “moo”-ving one for you!」(愿今年会是一个会让你感动的一年!)。

中文的话就更加好玩。我在看某个台湾新闻台的时候,新闻主持人和不同嘉宾都用「“牛”转乾坤」,「“牛”转行大运」等等的祝福语来向观众拜年。我也忍不住在自己的Facebook上如此祝福亲友们。

尾声

读者们,今年的农历新年,各位都怎样过着呢?

再次向各位拜个年,祝你们身体健康,平平安安,愿各位都能顺顺利利度过此次疫情!

Happy Niu Year!

The “New” in the title is deliberately misspelled as “Niu” (牛 – Chinese for “cow”). That’s because this year is the ox year!

Dear reader, happy Lunar New Year!

I celebrated Chinese New Year, for the first time, at a place other than my home country. Japan doesn’t celebrate the occasion, so it is like a usual day today. I stocked myself with some mandarin oranges and hotpot items for later.

Insert photos without uploading to WordPress into your blog

No further uploads required

If you are an OneDrive user, you can embed the photos that you’ve uploaded by using the Embed feature. It also gives you the flexibility to choose the image size and the final code to be used to embed into the blog post/web pages of your choice.

Usually, if you want to embed directly a photo into your blog post, you can leave the “Include HTML tags” checkbox unchecked, and directly copy the URL located below the checkbox.

Photo embedding feature in OneDrive. You can choose a different image size, generate a HTML tag which contained the URL of the said photo, and copy the full URL of the said photo.

I believe other storage providers, such as Google Drive and Dropbox provided a similar feature, but they will have a different implementation than that of OneDrive. And, Google Photos does not allow one to directly embed an image, which made me switched to OneDrive.

Beware of the photo metadata (i.e. personal information embedded in your photo!)

Beware, however, of the metadata (data that describes other data, of which in this case, is your photo) that is embedded in your photo, especially when your photo is uploaded from your smartphone. Sensitive metadata, such as GPS location of the captured photo, camera model used, etc. is usually included for ease of search in your phone. This, however, is risky to be exposed to the internet.

Fortunately, you can confirm whether the metadata is included in your photo by downloading the photo to be embedded by accessing the URL above. This will download a copy of the said photo into your local device, where you can verify it by right clicking your photo and navigate to the Properties tab (or its equivalent in other systems).

Warm beginning, 2021

Picture of a city during the dusk with a train passing by and several vehicles on the road.
Dusk scene near where I stay. (Taken at January 2021.)

Time flies, and it is now the second month of 2021. I jokingly referred this month as the 14th month of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic had not ease up all over the world.

State of emergency, again

In the Greater Tokyo area, the state of emergency was declared again in early January, originally lasted until today, but was ultimately extended until March 7 when the confirmed cases in this region and the Kansai region did not decrease as anticipated, as well as the condition of increasingly worrying confirmed number of hospitalized cases in these areas.

I had planned to take advantage of the JR East Welcome Rail Pass and travel the Tohoku region before its validity runs out end of this month, but ultimately decided to postpone the idea when the state of emergency declared with the Go To Travel campaign being postponed since the end of last December.

I wonder when such an awesome rail pass would be offered again in the future.

Warm winter, cold winter

The winter this year was said as the return of the normal winter season, as the winter was warm in 2019. That might explained why winter in Taipei was like the autumn season in Japan. However, the temperature of these days were comparable to the one in early April (highest temperature today in Tokyo was 17 C). Perhaps it’s due to the spring silently approaches.

It greatly helped as the sun is shining brightly these few days along the Pacific Ocean. The sunshine gently shone through the building surrounding my area of residence as the sun rose at 6:30 am, and left with a unblocked, direct shine through my glass door as the sun set at sometime after 5 pm. During the day, the bluish sky was clear of clouds. I felt it was a waste staying indoors when the same scenery can be enjoyed at different parts of Japan.

If it not weren’t for the pandemic.

Updates in January

Not much has happened in January. When the state of emergency was declared last month, travel plans in the short term were temporarily put on hold until the situation stabilizes, of which I forecasted will occur by the end of this month. However, this also meant that change of season will take place too. I welcome the warmer temperatures, but I also hoped that I could visit northern Japan when it still snows.

A friend of mine is going back to Malaysia next month, and planned to further studies in neighboring Taiwan. I was amazed by her decision to continue furthering her studies. I almost envied by her decision to do so – becoming a student once again. I truly missed the university days. Another friend of mine also had moved to another prefecture, albeit not far from Tokyo, due to the workload and happenings within the friend’s company. We had the conversation above in a Facebook group call in a Saturday afternoon.

When dusk approached, I asked them to take a photo of the sunset from their window and share into the group chat. Here is what I managed to take:

Picture of a sunset.
Sunset as dusk quietly approached. (Taken at January 2021)

I jokingly mentioned that this scene would be one of the major factors why I wouldn’t want to return home, of which my friend seemed to agree with me. I could not help but to stare at this wonderful sight everyday, observing the variations in the sky.

The same dream…

If I dreamed the same thing with new scenes introduced, is it still the same dream?

A few days ago, I woke up thrice to the same dream. The first time I woke up, the details were still fresh and vivid, especially the new scenes where I was introduced to the significant other related to the person appeared in this dream. Then it got deteriorated in my subsequent wake-ups as I struggled to hit the postpone or turn off button on my alarm app.

It was the same dream that I had seen for the past few years. It still did not fail to put a smile in me. So near, yet so far away…

Happy new year, 2021

Happy new year, dear reader!

Counting down to the new year

My friends, my girlfriend and I did a virtual countdown event over Skype/Line where we were separated physically in different time zones (Japan, Taiwan, and Malaysia) during the new year’s eve.

We ended up celebrating the new year twice due to the one hour difference between time zones. In between were the usual chit chats with occasional thoughts of travelling again internationally once the COVID-19 pandemic gradually subsides.

Waking up, later than usual

I woke up to a nice treat from my neighbor, a zoni, which is Japanese soup with mochi rice cakes. She reminded me to empty my stomach for breakfast as zoni that she prepared can be quite heavy. It was.

The zoni (right) prepared by my kind neighbor, along with some side dishes (left). Quite heavy for a breakfast!

This year’s new year is significantly different than last year’s – no large scale countdown events were held in central Tokyo. I visited Shinjuku this afternoon, and I saw fewer people in the streets. For a new year’s day, I must say it was quite bizarre to see Tokyo with this few people.

COVID-19 still casted a long shadow across the country. Tokyo today reported over 780 cases, which marked a bitter beginning of the year. It reported over 1300 cases during new year’s eve. The television shows contents were largely new year oriented, unsurprisingly.

Tokyo in the New Year

Avoiding the crowd, I wandered into parts of Tokyo, one was nearby the Diet building, the other one was the Raiden Inari Shrine and Tokyo Metropolitan Shinjuku High School, closely related to Ryuichi Sakamoto (who I personally call Professor, after the affectionate Japanese title fans gave him, which is 教授=kyoju) and his former band Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO).

I read somewhere that the shrine’s name is not related to one of the hit tracks in the album Solid State Survivor, Rydeen (notice a somewhat similar name?). I was inspired to visit these sites after a member of the Facebook group dedicated to Sakamoto (a fans group) visited these places earlier.

“Rydeen” from the album “Solid State Survivor” by Yellow Magic Orchestra, 1979.

I made a detour on my way to Shinjuku while taking the subway to visit the Japanese National Diet building, a place that I had planned to visit quite some time ago. “So this was the place where all the politicians gathered.”, I thought.

The National Diet building from the middle of the street. This area is closely guarded and often patrolled by police.

Upon arriving Shinjuku, I went to visit the sites closely related to Sakamoto, particular his alma mater, Tokyo Metropolitan Shinjuku High School, and the shrine next to the school.

Tokyo Metropolitan Shinjuku High School building. Sakamoto’s alma mater. Closed due to New Year.
Raiden Inari Shrine located next to the school. Entrance is free.

Closing

Although it was just a simple visit, I felt recharged after a pray in the shrine. Time to begin wrapping up for the upcoming working days…

I hope this year will be a better year for you, dear reader!

Looking back, 2020

This year was a hectic year for everyone. The COVID-19 pandemic ravaged almost the entire Earth surface, and caused major inconveniences to wide majority of the human population.

Prologue to a long fight and journey

It all began with a hint of unease when I read about the news of airport and relevant authorities tightening rules of entering Taiwan, especially for those who came from Wuhan, China in the early week of January this year due to the-then unknown pneumonia cases breaking out there while I was in Taipei. I also took note of the proximity between China, Taiwan, and Japan, and had wondered if this could escalate out of hand.

It did. As of this writing, all international travel plans were effectively cancelled, and I had all my flight tickets successfully refunded. The same goes to the various accommodations I booked ahead of time. My friends and families suffered the same fate. With regulations requiring one to be tested COVID-19 negative AND undergoing weeks of quarantine, the thought of casual travel became a thing of the past.

State of emergency and the imposed limitations

When I headed for a haircut in the first half of this year, I had a casual chat with a female barber assigned to me regarding the pandemic. This was when Japan was still under the state of emergency declared by the-then Prime Minister Abe. “So, has the corona (short for “novel coronavirus COVID-19″) impacted (you) in any way?”, the barber asked. After a while of hesitation, I answered, “not really.”.

She retorted, “Are you sure (you are) not impacted? It’s quite a big deal for everyone, though.” She was right. People lose jobs, lost source(s) of income, and had to deal with various degrees of inconvenience. I was lucky enough to still be able to work from home. I could not imagine what she had gone through at that moment.

“Whenever I turned on the television, if it is not about news about the number of new daily confirmed cases of COVID-19, it’s about the other news that were indirectly related to the current situation, it’s kinda depressing.” I said to the barber, continuing our conversation.

During our weekly family WhatsApp call, we often exchanged thoughts of meeting each other again. The hope of another reunion this year quickly diminished as time passed on, along with stricter regulations and requirements implemented by Japan, Malaysia, as well as other governing authorities. I looked at flight tickets for 2021, yet remained undecided despite the availability of empty seats and the ability to reschedule dates free of charge.

All things domestic

Ever since international travels became severely limited (practically banned), I turned my focus on domestic travels. I had the chances to travel to parts of the northern and southern regions of Japan using various transportation modes. I immediately was blown away with the beauty and awesomeness of various areas that I visited. This reminded me the reason why I came to Japan in the first place.

Awesome places do not only confine in Tokyo.

With friends, we managed to climb to the top of certain mountains within the Kanto region. After Mt. Fuji in 2018, this year I began with Mt. Tanzawa. After such a long climb, the muscle pain in the following day was weirdly satisfying. The iconic mountain in Tokyo, Mt. Takao, had also been conquered in a rainy weekend day. My friend (and her friends) are definite experts in this field.

Memories replay

Old memories kept on replaying, as if they were on loop. With each iteration, I took a look on each replay, tried to dug the details and fragments, and attempted to piece each of them together. The attempts were met with little success, but they did not failed to make me smile.

Those are still good memories.

Wishing for a better year

With the COVID-19 pandemic being the main topic this year, and the situation getting worsened day by day, I still remained optimistic that the condition will become better in 2021. But, I still don’t know, under present circumstances, how Tokyo will hold its delayed Olympic 2020 in July next year.

Nevertheless, I wish you have a good year of 2021 ahead, dear reader!