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I must do this now…



Well, I used to blog back in 2003, then I stopped in 2013 and here I go trying again.

I have been building websites since Geocities ever existed back in 1994, creating content since Facebook Groups started in 2007, designing social media campaigns/apps before they went mainstream and online moderating mIRC channels for a very long time.

Often referred to as a “walking-encyclopedia” or the creep for being an out-of-this-world character, why?

I think it’s because I’m so dwelled in the digital world and I live by it. The minute something new is out, I try to be the first to know it well; and share my knowledge across.

Welcome to my audacious world.

and… Mario Kart Live is here!

Nintendo pulled off a surprise last week, announcing a flurry of new Mario games to celebrate the 35th birthday of the world’s most well-known “Italian” plumber with a moustache. The biggest announcement is Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit.

  • The new Nintendo Switch game enables you to race real-life RC cars through custom tracks in your home. When you buy the game, it will come with a physical kart with a camera on board to add the mixed realities together as a sort of AR racing track with the Switch itself.
  • The race track is set up using gates, and it looks like you’ll be racing against non-physical AI if you have one kit, but combine a couple of kits and you can have real-life races, Nintendo noting you can play with up to four players in local multiplayer mode.
  • My worry is… how big of a room do I need to move into for this? Do I need to move house just to make a bigger track? What happens if your cat walks in and stops your kart?
  • It’s out with either a Mario Set or Luigi Set, on October 16th for $99.99.
  • So, $100 gets you one Kart only, so playing with four Karts seems like it’ll run you $400… and that’s without a Switch for each. So, invite your friends and their Switches and their carts and rent a wedding hall?

Those other Mario games?

  • Yes, there’s more too.
  • Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection, confirming rumors that Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy will be making a re-release return on the Switch. 
  • Some retro comebacks: Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels, Super Mario Bros 2 and Super Mario Bros 3 will make it to the Switch in a re-release of Super Mario All-Stars. (The non-3D version.)
  • There’s a Mario Battle Royale because of course there is, playing against 35 others.
  • And Nintendo rounded out its victory lap with a novelty retro handheld (Game & Watch), Mario themed-crossovers over the next months. For example, in March 2021, Animal Crossing: New Horizons will get a new set of Super Mario furniture.

But this is not a Mario echo chamber! Kotaku gets it right by pointing out that Nintendo’s new Mario games have a weird purchase-by deadline, and it sucks. You only have five months to buy some of them. For no real reason, except Nintendo!

Dubai Lifts Veil on Debt, Showing It Owes Less Than Thought

Dubai made a rare foray into public bond markets, revealing along the way that its debt burden is now a lot smaller than estimated by analysts only months ago.

A prospectus that accompanied Dubai’s planned offering of bonds and Islamic securities on Monday showed the government’s outstanding direct debt stood at 123.5 billion dirhams ($33.6 billion) as of June 30. That’s about 28% of last year’s gross domestic product, according to the document seen by Bloomberg.

In a report last September, S&P Global Ratings put the government’s direct debt at $65 billion, equal to 56% of 2018 GDP. Bank of America Corp. in May said it reached an estimated 65.6% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, from 47% in 2011, and warned it was “likely to increase further.”

dearth of timely statistics has made it hard to get an accurate read on the state of Dubai’s economy and finances, and the emirate’s absence from markets hasn’t helped. Unlike Gulf neighbors that increasingly opted to issue public debt in recent years, Dubai has mostly looked to raise capital by means of private placements and bilateral loans. It last sold a sukuk in 2014.

Dubai’s Department of Finance didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The disclosure in the bond prospectus fell short of providing the full picture on the emirate’s liabilities, saying “there is no official information on either the aggregate amount or maturity profile of the indebtedness” of Dubai’s government-related entities, or GREs.

Virus Exposure

Dubai’s GRE debt is concentrated in sectors exposed to the coronavirus impact

Source: Moody’s Investor Services

S&P analysts last year estimated GRE debt at about $59 billion, equal to 52% of 2018 GDP. Moody’s Investors Service has said that Dubai’s GRE debt is concentrated in aviation and real estate, according to an April report.

In the case of Emirates NBD PJSC, Dubai’s biggest bank, its aggregated loan exposure to the government and related entities stood at almost 162 billion dirhams as of June 30, down slightly this year, according to its latest financial report. It provides no further breakdown and doesn’t specify how much is directly borrowed by Dubai’s government.

Just over a decade ago, Dubai needed a bailout from oil-rich Abu Dhabi, the biggest of the seven sheikhdoms in the United Arab Emirates, to support state-controlled companies through the global credit crisis.

Virus Crisis

As Dubai detailed its financial information, it also offered a glimpse into how government finances adjusted to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus. The economy is heavily dependent on tourism, trade and retail, sectors hardest hit by the emergency. The global pandemic forced Dubai to delay this year’s World Expo.

Source: Dubai’s Department of Finance

The government revised this year’s budget revenue to 44.2 billion dirhams, according to the prospectus, down more than 30% from what it originally envisaged. It also decreased its projected expenditure to 56.2 billion dirhams for 2020, leaving a deficit of 11.9 billion dirhams.

Revenue from value-added tax was also revised lower to 9.4 billion dirhams from 11.7 billion initially budgeted for 2020. The levy generated 11.4 billion dirhams in revenue last year.

Revenue Shock 

Dubai’s revenue in 2020 is set to drop to the lowest in at least four years

Dubai owes a total of $20 billion to the Abu Dhabi government and the UAE central bank, an amount it used to support strategic entities that required financial assistance.

The Dubai government’s debt also includes more recent borrowing to fund the expansion of airports as well as infrastructure needed to host the city’s planned Expo. It put 7.3 billion dirhams into Dubai’s flagship airline, Emirates, since the coronavirus pandemic brought global air travel to a near halt in March.

Other highlights from the presentation:

  • The government in April raised 7.7 billion dirhams in a 10-year Islamic loan, which has been partially drawn down to fund the financial support provided to Emirates; the rest may be used for other purposes, including Dubai’s Expo-related expenditure
  • It entered into a $275 million seven-year bilateral term loan facility to fund its assistance to Emirates
  • Authorities also agreed on an eight-year bilateral term loan for 1 billion dirhams, which has been partially drawn down for Emirates; the remainder may be used for other purposes, including Dubai Expo-related expenditures

Finally, the first under-display camera smartphone comes from ZTE

Here’s something: ZTE’s Axon 20 5G smartphone will be the first in the world with an under-display camera, launching Sept 1. Finally, we get one in a consumer device!

And yet again it’s China:

  • China-made devices tend to be first to bring new tech features and innovations to market. 
  • It’s not necessarily because they’re far ahead in R&D in the space. It’s because these brands appear more willing to take risks.
  • We’ve seen that with in-display fingerprint sensors, pop-up cameras, huge megapixel sensor cameras, 5G devices, and so on.
  • While Samsung and Apple wait until the tech is mature enough to appear on their flagships, other brands spin up new devices that sometimes don’t make it out of their home region.
  • And it’s likely the ZTE Axon 20 5G selfie camera will be bad! The first phones with in-display fingerprint sensors had cool factor but were slow. The first 5G devices were crazy expensive and burned through the battery fast. But still, it’s going to be very interesting to see if that is the future.
  • There’s no secret the reason many brands have looked at selfie cameras being hidden under the display is to give you 100% full-screen, no holes or notches.
  • The concern is those lovely displays packed with pixels don’t let a lot of light into the sensor.
  • In June, Chinese brand Visionox unveiled its solution, mixing improved transparency in the camera area of the screen, and an “industry-first drive circuit and pixel structure design” (according to machine translation) to minimize interference, plus algorithms to minimize diffraction, glare, and reduce the “fogging” effect that this camera placement holds.
  • There are still trade-offs to be expected, and second-gen usually crushes first-gen. But finally, we have it now.

Axon 20 5G details:

  • We know a little more about the rest of the Axon 20 5G details, but it’s fairly standard stuff compared to the hopes for this camera.
  • The device’s specs, spilled by TENAA, show a larger-sized 6.92-inch display, a triple rear camera array headlined by a 64MP snapper, and a 4,120mAh battery. 
  • The selfie camera should be a 32MP sensor hidden away beneath the display.
  • Who knows how good or bad it’ll be, but I’m looking forward to finding out.
  • ZTE is first, how fast the rest follow will be fun to see.

Instagram tweets about Reels and TikTok slaps them “harder than a father would”

Yep, in brief; Instagram tweeted this

So, TikTok – replied with this:

Bruh, I’m on the floor.

Samsung’s #GalaxyUnpacked: The Verdict

The biggest announcements from yesterday’s Samsung Unpacked 2020 event were not exactly under wraps if you’ve been following the leaks, news and my previous post.

But Samsung came to the party with the Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra, the Galaxy Tab S7 tablet series, Galaxy Watch 3, and the Galaxy Buds Live, also known as Beans. 

  • There was one big surprise with Samsung announcing it’ll increase its device support to three years, matching what Google offers and beyond the usual two years of availability.
  • That’s great news for many reasons, both for supporting longer life-cycles but also just reducing unnecessary obsolescence from devices that keep working beyond 24 months.

I want to start with the device not mentioned above, the Galaxy Z Fold 2. It’s the device that has the tech industry buzzing most. 

Galaxy Z Fold 2

  • The announcement of the Galaxy Z Fold 2 came right at the time, but it was its best device. This is bleeding-edge technology that improves upon the controversial original Galaxy Fold and makes it look like a true first-gen device.
  • This second-generation Fold now has a full-size outer display, at 6.2-inches, and it unfolds now to a bigger 7.6-inch inner display, and the chunky notch at the top is gone.
  • It also features a 120Hz refresh rate, and it’s protected by ultra-thin glass, doing away with the problems of plastic in the original Fold.
  • The hinge is improved, too.
  • Samsung, probably cleverly, didn’t announce full specs, pricing, or availability. I think that’s smart because it’s still probably going to be about 5000 AED (yes, it is about 5249 AED for the Note 20 Ultra 5G – 512 GB/12 GB RAM). Announcing it in full would’ve detracted from Samsung’s other devices.
  • Make no mistake. All my tech friends and true geeks are super excited about the new Fold. That’s because the original was actually a great device.
  • Early gadget-guy excitement doesn’t always tell the full story. Niche devices do stay niche. But sometimes that does overflow into the mainstream. 
  • I don’t think the Fold 2 will, based on the expected pricetag alone, but with the compromises fixed, it looks great.
  • The Fold seems to be the new Note series. Samsung used to push the boundaries further with the Note, one of the first popular big screen devices.
  • We find out all the details on September 1st.

Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra

  • There’ll be a lot said about where Samsung has positioned the Note 20 range now, because figuring that out is not easy. 
  • The new Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra devices remain super-premium, with the focus on the huge screen, refined design, S-Pen, a Swiss Army knife camera system, and top specs including 5G.
  • Which, ahem, is also what the Galaxy S20 was about this year as well. The Note 20 is a flat 6.7-inch device, the Note 20 Ultra is a more curved 6.9-inch device, 120Hz refresh rate, and all the best specs you could want.
  • So why Note 20? Well, actually, I’m not sure about the base model. It will retail for 3549 AED for the 4G model & 3949 AED for the 5G model, and it’s slightly smaller in display and drops back in resolution, and offers 60Hz refresh rate only, and fewer camera lenses. And it features a ‘glasstic’ back, doing away with glass and going for a glass mimic, with plastic. It may be durable, but it may not be that nice at that price. We await full reviews.
  • The Note 20 Ultra, though, looks like everything you could want. But you’ll have to pay 5249 AED to get it, and that value looks stretched even with all of Samsung’s efforts to make this the best.
  • I look forward to reviews that will have to balance the price with the performance. In any case, it goes head-to-head with the OnePlus 8 Pro, the LG V60, the S20 range of course, and the iPhone 11 Pro, plus the top-spec iPhone 12 is out within a month or two.

Galaxy Tab S7

  • I’m impressed with the new tablet from Samsung. The Android ecosystem isn’t amazing for bigger screen Android devices, but this tablet is amazing, with 120Hz refresh rate, and 5G support. 
  • The 11-inch S7 is an LCD panel, and brings high-end specs, S Pen, and Samsung’s productivity software, with an 8,000mAh battery.
  • The 12.4-inch S7 Plus brings all that plus AMOLED display, and a 10,090mAh charger.
  • These look so, so good, but of course, the iPad range is the killer tablet experience. I await to see how these stack up.
  • The Samsung-Microsoft integrations may count. That includes being able to run Android apps on Windows 10, but you’ll probably need to buy the keyboard-trackpad accessory for another 350 AED to get the most out of it.

Galaxy Watch 3

  • The Watch 3 is now lighter and much more powerful than the original, with a bigger 1.4-inch round screen, at 41mm and 45mm sizes. 
  • Big three improvements: additional health and safety features that will even give the Apple Watch more competition than before, including VO2 max, SpO2, and deeper sleep tracking, along with smartwatch functionality.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live

  • Samsung’s successor to its Galaxy Buds range are these bean-shaped devices, now with 12mm drivers. hmmmm. 

Last time I reviewed a device for Samsung was a year ago and it was the S10+ then… I might review the new Note 20 If I get my hand on it.

Stay tuned.

Expectations, promises and assumptions ahead of the next Samsung Galaxy Unpacked: August 5

It’s official: Samsung has announced its next Galaxy Unpacked event for August 5, at 6pm UAE time, a fully virtual and streamed event, of course, which will see a different approach to Samsung’s usual stadium-like events held in Brooklyn, New York City, and Berlin before that.

What to expect:

  • The big one will be the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 series, which is both right on time for release and is seeing a bunch of leaks emerge, too.
  • That should mean a Note 20, a bigger Note 20 Plus, and a Note 20 Ultra, loaded with all the right features.
  • The latest leak on the Note 20 front is that the S-Pen will now be able to be used as a handy digital pointer in presentations and the like. (Sadly, not as a laser though.)
  • Is that enough? Samsung’s recent products haven’t had dynamite new features in a difficult, expensive pricepoint. The S20 is likely to be almost as good, but without an S-Pen. 
  • Is that enough to sell a new Note? What else can Samsung bring?

Also:

  • In addition to the next Note, Samsung should roll out the Galaxy Watch 3, while the next Galaxy Fold devices should emerge too. And, maybe, Galaxy Bud Beans true wireless earbuds?
  • The Galaxy Fold 2 is expected, a full successor to Samsung’s original Fold which was a super expensive, super fancy device with all those problems now long behind. The details emerging point to the next great foldable, with bigger screen and 120Hz refresh rate, and updated camera, as opposed to a Fold refresh. 
  • Very early reports suggested only a small discount on the original pricing which was 7200 AED, with suggestions in a range around 6900 AED.
  • There’s also talk of a refreshed Galaxy Z Flip 5G, to now, er, support 5G. Reportedly, it’s a tiny bit thicker and taller, and more of an improved edition.
  • Here’s the official invite, hinting at the S-Pen and the new ‘Mystic Bronze’ color expected across Samsung’s new range.

Keeping up:

  • Samsung’s Unpacked events have always been at this time (August 7 in 2019, August 9, 2018, etc). 
  • That suggests that even during this pandemic, Samsung’s South Korean supply chain and its factories have been holding up. 
  • Or does it? Release dates will matter more than event dates, and Samsung isn’t afraid of announcing devices up to a month before release dates.
  • As reference, the Note 10 was released August 23, 2019, the Note 9 on August 24, 2018.

Let’s wait and see. I registered and I can’t wait.

Instagram, you are not testing your features; you are testing our patience

So, Instagram are known for testing their features, but honestly the lack of care and acknowledgement of a reason that spends tons of money in advertising in a market that has the lowest organic engagement levels pisses me off, and many others.

Features that are STILL activated not in the Middle East:

Instagram Music: Launched in June 2018, Instagram Music only works in the region if you’re on a DNS changer or VPN with locations outside this part of the world. Otherwise, you’re faced with muted stories with a caption that says: Instagram music isn’t available in your region yet. It’s ben 2 years. and WE still don’t legally have it.

Instagram Stories New Fonts: So, I had to randomly connect to a DNS changer to set my location to the UK for a few days to have the feature enabled for me, yet the fonts disappeared the moment I flipped back to the Middle East. This was launched on April 29th, 2020 and half of my friends around the world have it, not a “small” number of people.

Instagram Stories (Two rows): So, I also had this for a few days on my Android while connected to a DNS changer (was working on a remote freelance project and had to have my phone setup that way to get that feature running) and thankfully, I lost it since I moved back to iOS. What a horrible feature. I also had the option to expand stories to a full screen.

And these are some features, other struggles vary – like Anghami not given the same privilege as Spotify & Deezer to get to play songs from stories on feeds. Pride stickers, other stickers like Black Stories… Also, Fundraisers (which I understand are against the law here)… etc

Instagram, care to curate some Arabic fonts into your regional strategy & give a damn about this region?

Samsung’s 6G research shows, brace for 2028

According to Samsung, 6G is coming by 2028. You can move on.

Samsung has delivered some of the first widely published detail into 6G, in a white paper [PDF] available now.

Yes, yes we’re still waiting for 5G in mid-2020, but 6G isn’t just about the next barrier of speeds:

  • “While 5G commercialization is still in its initial stage, it’s never too early to start preparing for 6G because it typically takes around 10 years from the start of research to commercialization of a new generation of communications technology,” said Sunghyun Choi, Head of the Advanced Communications Research Center.
  • “Samsung defines three categories of requirements that have to be met to realize 6G services – performance, architectural and trustworthiness requirements.”
  • The company will begin 6G research in “full-scale” this year, said Choi, with aims to have work done on defining and developing technical standards started in 2021.

Examples of Samsung defined 6G performance requirements

  • A peak data rate of 1,000 Gbps (gigabits per second)
  • Air latency less than 100 microseconds (or 0.1milliseconds)
  • Which amounts to around 50 times the peak data rate and one-tenth the latency of 5G, in an ideal world. 
  • Other requirements: twice the energy efficiency of 4G, and extreme reliability for near-zero data errors (10^-7)
  • The diagram below compares key performance requirements between 6G (darker blue) and 5G:

So how can 6G be used in the near-future? 16K VR and holograms of course:

  • Samsung provides use cases for the tech, including truly immersive XR (AR/VR/mixed reality), jumping from current 4K tech to 16K VR streaming which requires downlink speeds of 0.9Gbps. Samsung notes that current 5G connections can’t provide this speed.
  • Samsung says streaming AR to an 8K display currently requires 55.3Mbps, and believes “truly immersive” AR requires 0.44Gbps speeds.
  • On high-fidelity holograms, Samsung suggests a hologram display over a 6.7-inch mobile device display with 11.1 Gigapixels form-factor require data rates of ‘at least 0.58 Tbps’.
  • Another angle is a ‘Digital Replica/Digital Twin’ technology, to replicate people, devices, places, and more, which further requires speeds of several Tbps, according to the firm.
  • The idea of a full-scale digital hologram on a 0.1ms delay isn’t bad. And probably would’ve been very useful during COVID-19 lockdowns!
  • Samsung is not on its own in looking at 6G, but the detail here is significantly more than previous acknowledgments of 6G research from other players like Nokia and Ericsson.
  • But this is the first time we’ve seen widely published tech specs, and a timeline other than ‘6G is ten years away.’ 
  • I’m probably not going to remember if Samsung was right about 2028 in 2028, but it’s still important to get an idea of the coming future to shape your thoughts.