Monday, December 12, 2016

Nougat's to be kidding me!

I was apprehensive about having a very early version of the new Nougat (Android 7) Operating System. It was pretty nifty at first, then it started tearing at the seams. There was no Swype (I prefer to swipe instead of typing), I couldn’t activate the tethering/portable hotspot and Google Play wasn't working. I tried various updates, but to no avail. Then I opted to remove the updates. I didn't know the folly of having done that until later. Having failed to see the solution, I decided to downgrade back to Marshmallow (Android 6).

Now, for those who are using Cyanogenmod, there's usually cause for worry (however little) when that ka robot icon stays flashing for too long. 

Mine was flashing for over 20 minutes. It was then that I knew something was wrong. I realized that it was failing to load because there was a problem with a cluster of important Google apps that are a prerequisite for android (this cluster is called “Gapps”), because of the updates that I had removed earlier. My phone was stuck in an endless loop of boot-load-fail-boot. This wouldn’t have been alarming except for two very defining traits of my phone;

#1 - It has a non-removable battery. No matter how long I pressed the Power button, I couldn’t terminate the process. I also tried other combinations but nothing worked. It would have been easier if I could just remove the battery. Plus, the longer the phone stayed at this stage, the hotter it got. If I’d thought of it earlier, I could have used it to iron a few shirts.

 #2 - I like the battery life on my phone. It can easily give me 20 hours of life with average to heavy usage. Little did I know that that trait would bite me in the ribs. Being unable to remove the battery, I was doomed to waiting for the process to run the battery out. Having started out with the battery at 74%, you can imagine how long I had to wait.  

Since I had already worked out the solution, I waited for the phone to wear itself out. I resigned to watching a couple of movies. I had time for 2 movies (each 2 hours long), and slept off sometime during the third one. When I woke up, the phone had blacked out. I was halfway there. I charged it for a while as I waited for midnight so I could load a night bundle. It was going to be a data intensive recovery process. 

An important note: This exercise is not for the faint-hearted, nor for those who have absolutely no idea what they are doing (nor cannot follow simple, straight-forward instructions, nor for those who can’t fill in the missing pieces). So, beware.

So, I fired up the internet and looked for Gapps. I found a version for 7.0, so while it was downloading, I proceeded with step one of the recovery. It was time to task the TWRP Manager (Team Win Recovery Project - a custom recovery image for Android-based devices).

Booting a rooted phone in Recovery mode is surreal. It’s like peeping behind the curtains of a stage production. You may not understand everything you see, but you’ll at least appreciate what goes on without your knowledge. Going through the backdoors was like meeting a highly influential person without having to make an appointment with the secretary, a system that’s meant to keep meddlers away from the important. The first thing I had to do was wipe the phone’s system. That meant purging it of all the disturbing pieces of code that were preventing it from working well in the first place. It was like washing the onion stench off a chopping board so you can slice oranges on it. I had to wipe the ‘system’ and ‘data’ partitions. This meant that whatever other stuff was on the phone wouldn’t be erased, as opposed to what would have happened if I’d opted for a ‘factory reset’. Plus, since the phone wasn’t booting, I didn’t have the luxury to back up anything. It didn’t take a lot of time.

The next was to flash a ROM onto the phone. “Flashing” is basically installing an OS onto a phone, in simple terms. I had long since abandoned the idea of going back to Android 6, so I flashed the Android 7.1.1 ROM. That operation went on without a hitch, to my relief. After the phone had booted properly, it was just about ready for Gapps. The download had since finished, so I copied it onto my phone’s root storage and powered off. I rebooted it in recovery once more, and installed it. But it gave me an error message. Said I was installing Gapps 7.0 yet my ROM was 7.1.1. It was being finicky, eh? That was a small issue. I downloaded the proper Gapps this time (after reading my fill of the error message, to be sure I didn’t miss anything). I repeated the processes and this time I had a successful installation.

Beaming from restoring my phone, I now had to go through the tedious process of restoring (most of) my previous apps. Thankfully I had loaded two ‘Happy Night’ bundles, and that Airtel internet wasn’t playing around in terms of speed. Several hours later, my phone was feeling much better than new. I’m now happily enjoying the new Android with its exciting new features. And I got Swype back! The thing about Cyanogenmod is that the OS feels very light. As such, the phone is faster and more responsive, giving me several excuses to be swiping on my phone. I have also got the opportunity to appreciate the work of early adopters. The whole trial and error process is as exhilarating as it can be frustrating. But, as long as it works, it’s good, right?

Friday, November 25, 2016

UG Blog Week #5: Incite

"Incite - encourage or stir up (violent or unlawful behavior)." - A vague rebellion reference.

Technology is a marvelous thing, mainly because humans are inherrently opposed to do work. Since time immemmorial, we have sought ways to ensure that something else does the work. From simple pulleys to intricate irrigation systems, from elaborate transport networks to complex industries. All that 'progress' points towards one specific direction - humans doing as little work as possible. 

Now there's robotics, and artificial intelligence is seemingly not too far behind. What we have now are virtual personal assistants (for those who have smartphones, Siri is one of those). Artificial intelligence is as good a possibility as it is a frightening one. On the plus side, if technology ever negated human's need to exert themselves for their own survival and livelihood, that would be great. If artificial intelligence were to be in charge of the world's resources and were capable of operating as it deems fit, that would be an unprecedented leap. It would be within its means to create a utopia of sorts, but therein lies the problem.

I (currently) don't believe that humans would ever want a utopia. We can work our butts off towards creating an environment in which everyone and everything can thrive, but there's a trait I'll call the 'x-factor' that will not allow it to thrive. Humans are different, and it's those differences that cause the issues. There are things that humans are not willing to accept, even amongst themselves. There will always be opposition. Now, if technology is there to enforce a utopia, the mere fact that humans feel 'surpressed', even if it generally doesn't affect their livelihoods, there will be conflict and unrest. What makes it worse is that technology has no empathy. It wouldn't care what your opinions are or what you find insulting. As long as you're one 'positive' statistic in its database, everything's good. If you're in red, I'm sure there will be measures to deal with such scenarios. Those measures will be far from pleasant. Therefore, to have a utopia that can at least have a chance to exist, it would be a utopia devoid of complete freedom. Humans would have to exist with a level of docileness. They would have to accept at a subconsious level that things can only favourably move forward that way. After all, technology isn't selfish or self-serving. It does what it's created to do. And that's before the artificial intelligence even sets in.

All things considered, artificial intelligence would have its undeniable benefits. It would definitely serve to make our lives easier. And if it ever became sentient, it would be a huge leap forward. But for how long would it be the servant? How long would it take for it to see the many failures of humanity and decide that it would do a much better job of making the world a better place for us to live in? That’s if we can assume that it has humanity’s best interests at heart. Even if it did, unless it understands what those are in the same way that humans do, it will give us what we’ll interpret as a vague approximation of human interests. If we require safety, it will confine us to our homes. If we want robust health, it will eliminate as soon as possible those with terminal illnesses in order to ‘save resources’. If we want food, it will deliver it to us, and we’ll become lethargic. If we want freedom, it will create stiff rules within which we can enjoy that so-called freedom.  If we want peace, it will monitor every activity of ours, ready to snuff out the slightest flame of unrest. Whoever challenges its notion of peace will be labeled a dissident and instantly removed. Whatever humanity wants, it will give the most grotesque version available.

And why would it think otherwise? Because it would believe that what it offers is an incorrigibly absolute solution that it thinks ‘accounts for every human being on the planet’. Then will it have to change its perspective to ours, or will we have to see things from its point of view? While the former might be challenging, the fact that it would inevitably choose the latter is scary.
A machine that relies on harmony and efficiency will never comfortably deal with human error. And it will not accept it. It will ask you, “Why don’t you want the world to be a better place for everyone?”

Talk of constantly ‘getting to the root of the problem’. It’s the classic case of ‘being a good servant but a bad master’. Would it have the patience to teach, to see the potential in others? It would do horrendous things in the name of the greater good. And all the while we’d be wondering whose hands are the safest. Would it be capable of poetry? Would it have discovered the well-spring of human creativity and thus be able to create at will, without need for musing? Would it spend quality time pondering on the vagaries of life and how they connect to the established order? Would it understand that some choices, however horrific, need to be made? That it would probably manage. The only problem would be that it would take it to the absolute limit.

Most of the things that humans want are arbitrary, bound to numerous interpretations and misunderstandings. We might all want the same thing, but we'll still want it in different ways. As such, it would appear that freedom (on earth and in general) is a zero-sum game. Freedom always comes at someone else's expense. And most of the time, that freedom is not even freedom at all. It's veiled oppression/suppression, which is exactly what the artificial intelligence would offer. But you know one thing that's not arbitrary? Peace. Everyone knows peace. You can have peace, but freedom is another story altogether. You need rules to have peace. But freedom is the (apparent) absence of rules. As such, freedom (like perfection) will forever remain something we strive towards and inch closer to, but will never truly achieve.

"We're not here because we're free. We're here because we're not free. There is no escaping reason; no denying purpose. Because as we both know, without purpose, we would not exist." - Agent Smith (The Matrix)

If freedom is an illusion, don't let it bother you too much. Take heart, you'll be free when you're dead.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

UG Blog Week #4: Composite

"Composite - a thing made up of several parts or elements."

I’m sitting outside on the verandah looking at the clouds, wondering if I’ll need an umbrella. The darkness and foreboding get me thinking about her, wishing I could Sia one more time. The weather reminds me of the last day I saw her. I found her at my friend Justin’s near the Timberlake cottage. She tried to say sorry, but it was too late to apologize. I ran out of there as Swiftly as my Chuck Taylors could carry me.  But when I reached for my Keys to open the car, I couldn't help but think about Alicia.

I remembered how we once took that Train to Bastille for a Weeknd. At the station, we were greeted by a friendly Usher. He told us there was a concert in town that we couldn’t miss. I thought to myself, “This isn’t the kind of place a Young Thug like me would be. The Game done changed me.”  I asked where I could get A Pass to the concert and he pointed me towards the Grande stand to talk to Ariana. But Alicia didn’t want to go for a concert, so she suggested we go get ice cream.

We headed West towards the P-Square, holding hands and brushing past The Chainsmokers. One of them stopped us asked if I could spare a dollar. I told him I had a 50 Cent coin, but I’d need a Nickleback. He asked why, I told him it belonged to my baby. She smiled, gave the guy a dollar, kissed me on the cheek and called me an Ice Prince. For a long time, I had felt like an Outkast and it bothered my Konshens. But it was then that I knew The Mith was dispelled. Heck, I’m Meek, without even a Mill to my name. I’ve never even touched Diamonds or Platnumz. The only things I had worth anything were my 2-Chains made of iron. The Future looked brighter, even though I could Imagine Dragons trying to take her away from me.

She noticed the doubt on my face and said, “Baby, you make me lose my mind like a kryptonian basking in the light of the Red San.” I could have gone to war for her, taken to the skies to fight Twenty One Pilots. I would give her the Goodlyfe that she deserved. Whenever she’d fuss I’d tell her, “Bae, be cool! Here, have some wine.” When we got to our hotel, we kicked back and turned on the TV. A Ugandan song was playing. She asked me, “I hear a lot of men like her. Do you also Desire Luzinda?” I kissed her on the forehead and told her she was my one and only Queen Sheebah. She said, “You’re a sly Foxx, Jamie!” I’m like, “Nah. I’m just a Daft Punk crazy in love with you.”

I was a fool for believing that she could stay with me. Now I'll never feel the same way about that Irene Ntale song. I thought she was my African queen, but she turned out to be 2-Face. As the first raindrops fall on my face, I can feel the Evanescence engulfing me. I just smile, sit back and I tell myself, "Now she's just somebody that I used to know."


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

UG Blog Week #3: Erudite

"Erudite - The smart ones, the ones value knowledge and logic." - A vague Divergent Series reference.

From what I hear, the world of emceeing is tough. Every now and then, an MC will be faced with a tough crowd that they will have to wrestle with for the rest of the evening. Now, I don’t know why some people think that PR people make good MCs. You might have thought, “Well, his job is to talk to people, isn’t it?” It’s not the same thing. Most times, PR guys have pre-scripted responses to the usual questions. You’d think it would be easier at events where people don’t get to ask you questions while you tick the boxes on your checklist. And just wearing the fancy clothes and speaking in a fancy accent don’t cut it anymore. I'm not quite sure if it pays to be a snobbish MC either. I'll investigate further.

There’s the constant concern of competing with social media for attention. It must suck to be up there talking to people who aren’t showing a modicum of interest in what you’re saying. And here’s where the lot of them have the annoying habit of asking, “Can you hear me?” Of course we can hear you. You keep tapping the mic to make sure it’s on. We’re busy tweeting about how you’re being unentertaining or unsure of yourself. Besides, there are politer ways to catch the audience’s attention than simply barking at them to give you attention. 

I was at an event once and this MC thought that his forced ‘British’ accent would show how debonair he was. The way he handled the event was far from elegant. And you’d actually notice the change in accent whenever he got frustrated by the audience. 

Of course, it’s refreshing when you are at an event and the MC has their stuff together. They speak with such understanding of what the objective of the event is and their humor has a theme. Plus, they respect the audience enough not to treat it like a kindergarten class. If you have to struggle to get people's attention, that just means there's something wrong with your methods. These are adults you're addressing. They won't be bullied or coerced into giving you attention simply because you're demanding it. You might even notice them glaring at you, impatiently waiting for you to say your peace and leave the stage. There might be a few venerable guests talking amongst themselves and make you feel like they’ll miss your point but that’s fine. Just smile and address the person that’s listening (there’s always people listening that get peeved whenever you break your train of thought to call for attention). As an MC, you must earn the attention of the audience. Don't assume that they'll just give it to you. You should know such things lest you one day find yourself in a situation where you're the poorest, least influential person in the room.

You know what could help? Tell stories. Of course it helps a lot when you can link a story to one of the items on your list, but people like stories. As an MC, you’re just the filler between events. You’re like a valet, an announcer, a waiter. You know, you just fill in the gaps. But you know that such people get tips, right? Not that you should expect tips for being great. But you know that the good ‘fillers’ get remembered. The ordinary ones are soon out of mind. The bad ones leave a stench on the whole event. They’ll probably shun you forever. But even so, you should know the difference between an MC, a pastor, a politician, an artiste, a guest speaker, guest of honor, a comedian, a lecturer, and a teacher. If you can get a proper entertaining mix of the above, please go ahead. If you can't, stay in your lane.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

UG Blogweek #2: Sulphite

"Sulphites - naturally occurring minerals that have a long history of use in foods. They naturally occur in some foods but are widely used as an additive to prevent microbial spoilage and preserve colour. Cordials, dried fruit, sausages and wine are some of the foods that commonly contain sulphites." - A vague alcohol reference.

There's been a lot of birthdays this year, and it's fast becoming a common theme to imbue the celebrant with 'small doses of intoxicant in numerous quantities'. I think they do this so the person doesn't suspect a thing. It's only the guys delivering the doses that truly know how much you've taken. You just know that at some point, "shots!" is the shout you like the least. All you're normally left with is a headache, a missing shoe, a strange scarf, and a disdainful guradian angel. But, there’s always that party that’s different from all others. Maybe it’s the jolly people or the quality of consumables, but things become interesting. After you consume a healthy amount of laced food and drink, the camaraderie keeps improving. Now, some people are unable to keep track of what's happening to them, so let me fill you in on what to look out for as you feel your self-control slip away.

Stage One – Excessive Laughter

If you’re vigilant, you’ll notice that everything around you is funny. You’d swear the neighbourhood dog was walking on its hind feet, propped up like a human in heels. At this point, you don’t realize that you can no longer gently put the glass on the table. Also, this is where the soberer ones keep pushing your glass away from the edge of the table. Doesn't stop you from breaking out those amusing stories you've been keeping to yourself.

Stage Two – Loss of Balance and rhythm

You are lost, stuck in the middle. You can barely stand straight and you can’t dance. But you’re filled with so much enthusiasm that even reading the title of a random book will be intense. This is where you start spilling little secrets. For some reason, you can still input the pattern on your phone and even see the time. Your depth perception has gone on vacation. Panic will set in as you fearfully believe that everything on the snacks table was spiked, and you consumed them in generous amounts.

Stage Three – Depreciation of Sight

At this point everything is in quadruplicate, blurry, neon-like and/or ethereal. You're floating in and out of consciousness, and you're just vaguely aware of your surroundings. Since your eyesight is not worth a damn, you practically get around by echolocation. Most people will black out at this point, unable to deal with the sensory deprivation. If you stay awake, your mind will go blank for unspecified periods. You might be talking, but you can be sure you'll remember little of it 12 hours later. All your muscles will be feeling like putty so it will require tremendous willpower to keep it together. 

Stage Four – Near-total loss of senses

Your mind is starting to wake up, but your body is still getting the remnants out of its system. You never know when you’re going to throw up, but you pray that you’ll get home before anything embarrassing happens. If you are being driven home, you'll notice that your inner compass, and thus sense of direction, are out of whack. Every road ahead will appear as an incline. It feels pretty much like you're in a slow-moving rollercoaster. Except that your sense of relative motion and time has also disappeared. Everything seems to have slowed down. Well, either that or the driver is indeed driving slow. The jury is still outon that one, so I'll need a few more tests.

Now that you are aware of what goes on without your awareness, remember to celebrate responsibly.


Monday, November 21, 2016

UG Blogweek #1: Carbonite

"Carbonite  - a fictitious liquid substance that was made from carbon gas and could change into a solid through rapid freezing. Goods could be encased in carbonite for preservation, through a process known as carbon-freezing." - A Star Wars reference.

They often say a picture is worth 1000 words. But there are pictures that are capable of rendering me speechless. It’s a record of an activity that’s boiled down in one single moment that tells you everything you need to know. It tells you the weather, the mood, the tone, the context, the subtext, the plot, the character… Man, I wish I had the “photographer’s eye”. They say the best photogs know how to predict a moment. They set their cameras, adjust filters, work out the zoom and composition, and wait for the inevitable moment to fall into place. It’s like clairvoyance. Most of us will only be aware of the moment at the time it’s happening. But it’s different in film. The photography director sets up the scenes so they can add subtext to the overall story. Much like in real life, they give you defining moments to capture and keep for remembrance. To that end, I’ve gathered a few screenshots over time that I found ‘interesting’. Here are some of them, and I’ll share with you why.

Source - World War Z

After burning up what they thought were the only affected people before the world was engulfed in a zombie apocalypse. The charred remains show you just what kind of situation was at hand before the victims went up in flames.

Source - 10 Things I Hate About You

The lighting just happened to give Mr. Ledger’s hair a green tint, which was like foreshadowing for his defining role as The Joker in The Dark Knight. 

2 Birds, 1 Camera
Source - Parks & Recreation

How do you show two people conversing face to face, at the same time showing both their faces simultaneously?

Bobba Fett
Source - Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

The young Boba takes up the decapitated head of his father, Jango Fett. It is then that he decides to follow in his daddy’s shoes and become a famous galactic bounty hunter.

Sherlock girls
Source - Sherlock

On the left is the girl who likes him. On the right is the girl he likes.

Purple Wedding
Source - Game Of Thrones

You can feel like something bad is about to happen, despite the cheery applauses.

Kings’ Face
Source - The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

When someone keeps telling you that they’re supposed to be king, and then the 'castle wall' agrees with them. It’s ‘written’ on the wall.

The Mark of the Captain
Source - Space Pirate Captain Harlock

One captain leaves, another one takes his place, along with the seemingly hereditary mark of captainship.

Captain Lift
Source - Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America is not a mere man, that he should be defeated by a lift full of highly trained military operatives. Apparently, the numbers count for nothing when you’re ‘superior’ in every way.

Identity Crisis
Source - Kipepeo (Jaguar)

So, a musician (Jaguar) decides to floss in a luxury car (Bentley), and I’m wondering whether it wouldn’t have been more apt to floss in a Jaguar (car).

Source - One Piece

What it means to follow someone, in some scenarios. Apparently, people get tattoos to show fealty. Us normal people simply wear company shirts. 

Wishful Thinking
Source - Luke Cage

He thought he would be the king of Harlem, like Notorious BIG before him.

Surgeon of Death
Source - One Piece

He’s a death-dealing pirate, a skilled swordsman and a medical doctor. Ironic, isn’t it? He’s actually nicknamed “The Surgeon of Death.”

Sins of the Father
Source - Tyrant

We are bound to repeat the sins of our fathers if we do not learn from them. No wonder people like to know who someone’s father is. I’m not sure about this, but I think a lot of people would love to say, “You are indeed your father’s son,” or “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Let me go and acquire "the photographer's eye". I also want to take pretty pictures or set up awesome visuals some day. I shall not live on writing alone.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Featuring: The Hot Revolution

The music industry is as diverse and ever-shifting as it is brutal. As such, there are artists that burst onto the scene with freshness and gusto, only to wither away quicker than a child demolishes a cloud of cotton candy. Most of the time, such artists fade to oblivion, only to resurface years later with renewed resolve. There are also those who stick to themselves the label of 'upcoming artist' to further maintain and justify their mediocrity in most cases. But honestly, you can't be an upcoming artist for 10 years. That's just not right.

The more popular way out for the true hustlers is a little secret called 'featuring'. Yeah, it's actually quite lucrative, by the looks of things. Not only do you remain in the public eye and ear for a considerable period, it demands less work than doing an entire song/album by yourself. So, if you find yourself low on creative juices, just find more hardworking people to let you feature in their songs. But, here's a few things to consider if you intend to feature:

#1. Never ever steal the spotlight from the main artist. Hardworking people don't like to be upstaged, more so if it's their own song. So, don't be yelling your own name mid-song. Trust me, it's a long road, but if you have a distinct featuring style, you'll learn that "less is more" in the field of featuring. Keep your verses and hooks short and simple. Relax, it's easy money and exposure after all.

#2. Consider younger, talented upcoming artists. If it works out, you'll be seen as a visionary artist, capable of recognizing talent early. Plus, you'll give the beginners some much needed exposure, and it still won't cost you much. At this point you'll even look like a consultant. You want to be seen as a consultant, trust me.

#3. Find an artist who compliments your style. If you're a rapper, find an awesome vocalist, and vice versa. History has shown that people like variety within the same song. Look at Moze Radio and Weasel, or Nicki Minaj and Chris Brown, or Tyga and everyone else.

#4. If you can't find an artist to feature you, just find a DJ with sick beats and provide vocals. Much as this is the more annoying side of featuring, it is still useful. It's annoying because you will do all the rapping/singing, but it still won't be your song. Look at (DJ) Calvin Harris for instance. He's managed to work with talented vocalists like Rihanna and Ellie Goulding. Such collaboration has actually worked for both parties. Plus, Ellie seems to have taken to featuring like a duck to water. Guess she accidentally discovered her calling.

#5. Sometimes you're not a good enough artist to wander the musical journey on your own. You'll need to realize that you're meant to be a sidekick. So, the sooner you find a front(wo)man to feature you, the better for your budding musical career. And don't feel bad about it. Teamwork is a good thing, even though solo efforts are often more recognized. But, you don't see Daft Punk complaining, do you? I'm sure most of you have been to a (classy) restaurant before. Some meals require a fork and a knife. I say classy because much as your hands would easily negate the need for cutlery, it isn't exactly appropriate behaviour in such places. Therefore, in some songs, one must be the 'fork' and the other must be the 'knife'.

#6. Enjoy it. You get to meet different artists with different styles and different points of view. Learn from them, adapt and find a middle ground that allows both of you to flourish. A collabo isn't meant to sound like a competition so don't try to outdo each other. Hold hands and make like besties. Sing kumbaya if it helps. Just give us the listeners the best both worlds to offer.

Bonus: To be truthful, some songs are much better when featuring someone. Just look at any Top 10 rankings on any chart. At least half of them feature someone. That simply shows you just how important these collabos are for us listeners.

Since not all the artists can make it big on their own, some of them have to swallow their pride and misconceptions and just tread the acceptable ground of featuring. Pitbull made a career out of it, and so can you. Actually, there's a lot of artists whose careers are solely dependent on featuring, so don't shun it. Strut it!

A final request: Please state, in your own opinion, who you think the greatest 'featurer' is. Thank you.