Review #55: Lethal White ★★★☆☆


Having grown up reading the classic whodunits, I can never restrain myself from a good mystery. Ironically, this also means that until now I had never followed a series as it was being written. This accolade falls to the "Cormoron Strike" series, though not particularly for its literary prowess.

Had it just been Robert Galbraith, I imagine that I would have never picked up the series since time is the biggest constraint to choice. The media speculation following the revelation of the author is what got me to give this series, then only a book, a go. Even then, the choice of medium oddly fell to audio, as an accompaniment to my daily journeys. Since then, it has become my medium of choice for the series.

To digress even further, Robert Glenister does a stellar job of bring the narrative to life and in my humble opinion, makes the work much better than it is. Albeit a different medium, I can draw a parallel to the work of John Thaw who elevated the character of Morse to a much higher level in the TV series than envisaged by Colin Dexter in his books. Speaking of TV, the BBC series on the book isn't as captivating as it could be because of the source material, but Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger certainly do a good job of salvaging what they can.

I appear quite cynical of the literary aspect of the series and can't justify it otherwise. My perception is based on hearing the unabridged audio version of the book and I can only imagine a reader going through the emotions simply to get to the end. While the audio book can be a good accompaniment to long, boring journeys; the same cannot be said of a printed book being read on the couch. I imagine authors will always try to get away with as many words as the editor will permit, but it is not something a reader begrudges.

Length aside, it seems that the series has fallen in to a rut and the fourth book brings about a dreaded sense of "more of the same". It plays safe and does nothing to further the age-old whodunit template, but what makes it worse is that it ashamedly follows the template established in the earlier books. So, what you get is the intermingling of the unusually chaotic personal lives of its protagonists with a slow churner of a case involving broken relationships, upper-class idiosyncrasies, long-drawn conversations, staying in friend's houses, Land Rover rides and a made-for-TV, action-packed climax.

Somewhere in all the drama, there is a story, and this leaves me to reminisce of the days when whodunits were all about the mystery. An Agatha Christie classic would develop a character to lead and mislead the reader in pursuit of the case whereas over here it is more of a means to have a nine-book or nine-season series. A well-placed drama within the context of the story can still be ornamental but unfortunately that is not the case here. The need to artificially generate it towards the end falls extremely flat and one can be forgiven for mistaking it to be a screenplay. It might be a reflection of the times or simply economics, but a lot of readers would be worse for it.

To give credit where its due, Rowling manages to intricately carve a scene which gets the imagination running. I had never read any of the Harry Potter books, but I can imagine its effectiveness in a make-believe world, if it works so well with real-life locations. Having never been to London, I do regret being unable to generate a mental map of a place, but the descriptions substitute for it quite well. However, this alone does not redeem the book when the content fails to live up to expectations. As a result, I don't feel it obligatory for a reader/listener to part with their hard-earned money in favour of this book.

Review #53: Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro (with iOS) ★★★⯪☆

Update #4 (Oct 31, 2018):  I have come to realise that my previous optimism was unwarranted. iOS 12, as a matter of fact, still doesn't support the GF2 Pro.

My previous GF2 Pro detection on 12.0.1 came about on account of the device being already paired on iOS 11 prior to the update. However, unpairing the device caused it to no longer be detected on 12.0.1. Worst still, nothing has changed after the update to iOS 12.1.

Since iOS 11.4.1 is no longer signed by Apple, this means that my GF2 Pro is left to operate as a standalone device till the time either companies decide to do something about it, which going by the recent turn of events, might be never.

Edit: Turns out that it may be more of a Samsung software issue more than anything else. A full reset is usually a last resort and even when that didn't result in the device being detected, it seemed all was lost. However, resetting the Gear Fit2 Pro while also reinstalling the Gear Fit app did the trick as the new device setup finally popped up on the app, following which it is working as usual.

The issue seems to be a mixture of buggy Samsung software and the manner in which iOS operates. As always, it for the consumer to bear the brunt of this unholy alliance.

Update #3 (Oct 8, 2018): I paid more attention to the iOS 12.0.1 change log than I normally do for any iOS release and there was one entry that particularly caught my eye:
  • Addresses an issue where Bluetooth could become unavailable
As a result, I initiated the update from 11.4.1 with more than just hope and sure enough, my belief was rewarded. Incidentally, I had filed a bug report with Apple and would like to believe that it played a part as well, though that's unlikely. Anyway, all's well that ends well and in this regard the frequent update schedule for iOS is certainly beneficial.

Update #2 (Sep 21, 2018): The GF2 Pro isn't detected on the iOS 12.1 beta either. However, it works normally after downgrading to 11.4.1. Surprisingly, it seems that the original GF2 has no compatibility issues with iOS 12 which makes this situation even more curious. Samsung hasn't yet responded to any of my communications through the App Store, Twitter and e-mail, so one can only hope that a fix is in the works.

Update #1 (Sep 13, 2018): With a new iPhone launch comes a new OS. While iOS 12 is a welcome relief for iOS 11 users, it spells danger for Gear Fit2 Pro owners.

I updated to the iOS 12 GM release (16A366) yesterday which is what will be released to the general public on September 17th and it breaks compatibility with the Gear Fit2 Pro to the extent that it is not even detected as a Bluetooth device. All other Bluetooth devices are detected fine on iOS 12 and the Gear Fit2 itself is detected by other Bluetooth devices.

To top it all, there was no forewarning that this would happen as even the last iOS 12 Beta release worked fine with the Gear Fit2 Pro. Hence, it can only be construed that Apple made a change that hampers competing wearable devices, or at least this one from Samsung.

I have already shared the incompatibility details with Samsung and hope that they would release an update soon to address this issue since it seems Apple has already drawn the sword. Prospective owners should wait it out till the GF2 Pro becomes compatible with iOS 12.

P.S.: To follow-up on my previous post-script on Unicode 11.0, I have included the 'Star with left half black' as the fourth character in my star rating. You would be seeing a hollow block until your browser supports Unicode 11.0 which might not happen until the end of 2018 at the earliest, but that's the price you pay for writing in to the future.

Review #54: Credo Protective Case for Amazon Fire TV ★☆☆☆☆

If there is one thing I miss ebay.in for, it is for the access to multitude of cases pertaining to all sorts of devices. Since its closure, Amazon is the only logical recourse left, especially for Amazon device accessories. This particular case pops up at the top of Google's search results and hence became the natural choice as a cover for the Gen 3 Fire TV remote.

Review #52: Tale of three (make that five) 3-in-1 cables


Cables are like humans, more than one can imagine. Looks can be deceiving and it is what's inside that matters. However, one can only perceive what one can see and hence the truth lies largely concealed. Thankfully, that is where the similarities end since marketing buzzwords like "gold plated", "tinned copper", "braided nylon" wouldn't really work well as complements for humans.

My tryst for the holy grail of cables started some time back when I started off with the Flome 3-in-1 cable, which, for the record, left me thoroughly disappointed. I have resigned myself to the fact that as long as reputable brands don't get in to the game, the possibility of expecting the ultimate phone charging cable to come from no-name brands in China is as large as catching the unicorn at the end of the rainbow. However, that hasn't deterred me from trying.

Since my last look at charging cables, I have added a couple more 3-in-1 cables, one from Baseus and another from "Fake Mi". The Baseus brand has proliferated quite a bit and I had my first go at it when I purchased a tempered glass for my iPhone. As it turned out, the mention of glass for the product was an euphemism but even then, the brand gets full marks for design and half for deception. I had a good experience with Mi's 2-in-1 cable which I had received with the Mi Power Bank Pro and although there is no mention of a 3-in-1 cable on Mi China's website, I went along for the ride by placing an order for the "Fake Mi" 3-in-1 cable. In this case, it was better to judge the cable by its cover since the package was branded as "Zaofeng" but the product could easily pass off  as an official Mi one.

Along with these three "the last cable you will ever need" cables, I have roped in two "not so in name but in function" pseudo 3-in-1 cables in the form of the Mi 2-in-1 and the EasyAcc Micro USB cable. In case you are confused, then don't be, as technically any Micro USB cable can be used as a Lightning or Type-C cable with the help of adapters. Sure, you don't get the official certifications, but it can get the job done as far as charging is concerned. In this case, the adapters came from the cannibalisation of other cables. After all, all's fair in love, war and charging.

Here's the fate of the contenders after being put through the trial with an Anker PowerPort 4 charger.


It is easy to draw some quick observations/conclusions from the above.

  • As expected, none of the 3-in-1 cables are up to much good, though the Baseus one seems to be the best of the lot. The finest option yet, as far as charging goes, is to get a good quality Micro USB cable and then use adapters to switch between devices.
  • The adapter quality can affect charging as can be seen by the performance difference of the Lightning one between Flome and Zaofeng. They are available for a few cents and can be jerry-rigged to function like a 3-in-1, though I presume at some point someone will release adapters with clasps. Cannibalisation from existing cables is always an option.
  • It is not a co-incidence that the shorter cables are usually the best. You should get a cable that is only as long as you need it to be. As I had mentioned previously, the longer they are, the easier they fail.
  • While not visible in the table above, the iPhone current draw was markedly different from the Mi devices. While the Mi devices charged flat out at the same current level irrespective of usage, the iPhone switched between 0.9-1.7A  depending on how the device was being utilised. I could draw the maximum current only by recording in 4K. This indicates that the iPhone maintains a preset charging rate for the battery while utilising additional current draw from the charger for on-screen activity. I guess these benefits come through the utilisation of much more expensive power management ICs.

Review #51: Amazon Fire TV (Gen 3 - 4K HDR) ★★★★☆


Normally, whenever I get a new device, the instinct is to analyse it in depth. Unfortunately, certain constraints prevent me from doing so with the Fire TV 4K, primary of them being that I have no 4K display devices at present. However, a lot of thought had gone in to purchasing this device for a 1080p non-HDR TV, even though it is not officially available in India. So, I would like to share these thoughts along with the experience of setting it up so as to get the most out of it. Thus, this article will straddle the line between a tutorial and a review, but I have decided to classify it as the latter since this article, while being instructional, is still appraising the product.

Review #50: RHA MA650 Wireless Earphones ★★★★☆

When wireless doesn't mean getting less! 


Bluetooth headsets have always been a matter of convenience for me rather than a technological evolution over wired headsets. For a long time, I preferred to use wired headsets whenever possible and took recourse to Bluetooth headsets when on the move. However, the abysmal performance of Bluetooth plug-in headsets like SBH54 and the Fiio BTR1 left me extremely disappointed and finally set me on course to finding a standalone wireless earphone.

Review #45: Mi A1 (Updated with Oreo impressions) ★★★★☆

An A1 Choice


The Android One programme was launched in 2014 with the intention of being the entry point for budget conscious users. Perhaps it was the choice of hardware or OEMs that ultimately made it a stillborn venture. On the other end of the spectrum, the Pixel hasn't quite turned out to be the iPhone killer that Google might have envisaged. However, Google isn't one to take things lying down and hence we now have the reinvigorated Android One programme. This time Google has taken a much more hands-off approach, with this being no more than a branding exercise and the entire onus of the device specification as well as updates following squarely on the shoulders of the OEM.

For an OEM like Xiaomi that is well entrenched in MIUI, it certainly came as a surprise when it was mentioned as the first partner of the new avatar of Android One. At the same time, it seemed a logical choice considering the stranglehold that various Mi devices now have at the budget segment of the market. I had already "upgraded" the Redmi Note 3 of one of my family members to LineageOS to make the device more usable and while getting another Mi device, it was a toss-up between getting a Redmi Note 4 and flashing it with LineageOS or getting the Mi A1 with stock android on board. Ultimately, the novelty of the dual camera setup as well as a manufacturer supported implementation of stock Android justified the premium.

While the review is focussed on the Mi A1, I found it a good idea to compare it with the other phones I have at my disposal which is the Redmi Note 3 and the iPhone 7. The Note 3 should be a good comparison coming from the same stable but based on a year-old higher performance chipset while the iPhone 7 acts like a good benchmark.