Leica M10 Monochrom Is A RM 38,400 Black & White Camera; Now Available In Malaysia

Majority of us snap photos in colour but there are quite a number of people out there that love to capture in black and white instead. If you belonged to the latter group, then you might be interested in Leica’s latest creation, the M10 Monochrom.
Essentially a rangefinder camera, Leica stated that the new M10 Monochrom comes with a new 40MP full-frame sensor that was designed specifically for black and white photography instead of being a modified colour sensor. Not only that, the sensor also has a broad sensitivity range from ISO 160 to ISO 100,000.

Also equipped with a 3-inch color display on its back that is protected by Gorilla Glass, Leica also claimed that the camera shutter on M10 Monochrom can barely be heard, so that photographers are able to capture image discreetly. Whether that is creepy or useful, we’ll leave that to you to judge.
Even though the M10 Monochrom was only unveiled by Leica, you are already able to order the new camera from Leica Store Malaysia immediately. Price-wise, it can be obtained for is RM 38,400 but mind you, that is just for the body alone.
(Source: Leica, Leica Store Malaysia.)
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myBAS Ipoh Now Officially Supports Touch ‘n Go Cards

Even though Touch ‘n Go (TnG) card has been one of the primary cashless payment system in Malaysia for so long, only a handful of public transportation companies outside of Klang Valley actually supports it. The latest in the list is Perak Transit who has officially announced the support for TnG cards on myBAS Ipoh buses earlier this week.
Despite this week’s announcement, myBAS Ipoh has actually supported the cashless payment system since October 2019 according to Perak Transit’s Facebook page. The deployment of the TnG card support was done through the implementation of Automated Fare Collection System (AFCS) from NEC.

Aside from collecting fares, AFCS also allows Perak Transit to gather additional statistics including the number of passengers that board and alight its buses, down to the specific stops and time of the day. The data will then be used by the company to improve its services and future planning.
With 16 routes that cover a distance of more than 310 km and monthly ridership of around 163,000 passengers in 2019, the support for TnG card payment seems to be a long-time coming for myBAS Ipoh and Perak Transit. It came at the right time as well, since the government has begun to promote the adoption of cashless payment system in a more significant manner.
(Source: Perak Transit.)
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Is The Marvel Cinematic Universe Good For Cinematic Creativity?

Recently, we’ve covered some news regarding director Scott Derrickson leaving the production of Marvel Studio’s first horror film, Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. He cited creative differences as the main reason for his departure and I couldn’t help but call into memory the time Baby Driver director Edgar Wright left the production of Ant-Man. He opened up in an interview stating that while he was willing to “make a Marvel movie”, Disney wasn’t too keen on collaborating with his vision of what the film should be. So this sparked in a question: Is Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) a conducive place for auteurs and experimental cinema? Believe it or not, the answer to the question is actually a lot more complex than it seems. I’m aware that I’ve always set myself up as someone of a cynic of media empires, especially when it comes to Disney.
However, it wouldn’t be fair to merely deride Disney’s work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as yet another soulless, profit-driven project without at least examining the franchise. It’s time to dig deep and find out whether there truly is any creative magic to Marvel Studios’ process.
Same Story, Different Setting
There are two particular hallmarks to any thriving and healthy artistic medium, in this case, a film franchise: diversity and innovation. There should be tonal and narrative differences in every film in a franchise that helps each instalment stand on its own merit and identity. No one should ever confuse Fellowship of the Ring with the Two Towers just as no one should ever confuse your previous film with its sequel.
What links this diversity together and keeps it from becoming disparate is a sense of innovation or progression. Every sequel should build on the foundation of its predecessor if not reveal another aspect of it. The differences are meant to reflect growth, or perhaps the illusion of it. With that in mind, we can begin to address the MCU. Does the MCU reflect these twin values? On some level, yes it has.

During the first phase of the MCU, the only thing that truly set the films in that era apart were the settings. Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk were set in the grounded reality of the military-industrial complex, Thor with its world of magic and gods and Captain America: The First Avenger in the European front of World War II. Nonetheless, nearly all of them were centred around the fairly standard monomyth of a hero.
Most of the heroes in their respective films are broken, damaged individuals who undergo some sort of life-changing event that makes them see the world in a new light. They must confront their personal demons personified in the form of a twisted version of themselves. Iron Man facing against his mentor, Hulk against a rival monster of equal power and Thor against his brother. They defeat the evil and become better people for it. The only exception here is Steve. His story is mostly a flat arc with him going through a whole “ugly duckling” story about his inner strength coming out in the physical.

Then we have 2012’s The Avengers, a film that forever changed the cinematic landscape by launching one of the largest cinematic crossover event in history. But beyond the contribution of The Avengers, it’s hard to say that any individual film in Phase 1 did anything truly groundbreaking.
Disney’s Deconstruction
So as far as actual narrative diversity and progression in the first phase, not so much. Then the second phase came around and the MCU was actually making an effort to add some flavour to their films by bringing more obscure Marvel characters to light. We saw intergalactic outlaws travel around the universe searching for cosmic artefacts and saving worlds in Guardians of the Galaxy. We also had the first comic book heist film comedy in Ant-Man. As for innovation, I’d argue that a good chunk of Phase 2 could be defined by deconstruction. This theme is carried throughout this phase, especially in films with familiar characters.

In Iron Man 3 we saw Tony Stark come to terms with the pain he’s wrought with his hubris and arrogance both before and after coming out as Iron Man. In Winter Soldier, Steve wrestles with his faith in the American Way as he witnesses systemic corruption and the enemies he once fought creep into the country he loves so dearly.
Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man went the anti-hero route almost as if Disney thought it was something brilliant and innovative. It’s not but hey, one of it made for a fun film. As for Thor: The Dark World…that was pretty much just set up for Thanos’ quest for the Reality Stone. Bland, mediocre and utterly forgettable.

Then in 2015, the MCU’s deconstructive streak would finally reach its crescendo with Avengers: Age of Ultron. A film that examined the real-world political and social implications of leaving our lives in the hands of a bunch of flawed, superpowered guardians. The heroes that were supposed to protect the world were the ones responsible for the destruction of a small nation. The events of the film would have far-reaching consequences that would alter the entire dynamic of the Avengers. Now while some might argue that Phase 2 ended with Age of Ultron, I’d argue that its true ending came in Captain America: Civil War.
If Phase 1 was marked with the birth of the age of modern superheroism, then the second would end with the death of a dream. Civil War was that fatal strike that brought Phase 2’s theme full circle. The consequences of Sokovia in Age of Ultron catches up with our heroes. Allegiances are divided, friendships are broken and, if I may quote a dangerous man, an empire was toppled from within.

I truly enjoyed Civil War. It’s dedication to telling a mature, timely story about idealism, foreign intervention and oversight was a breath of fresh air. It was a fitting end to the MCU’s Phase 2 and thankfully the MCU didn’t try to rehash this sentiment with future films. No, Phase 3 I can say was a whole other affair.
A New Age
I cany say without a shadow of a doubt that Phase 3 of the MCU was by far the most diverse in the whole franchise. Where do I even begin? Director James Gunn did a space action-adventure family dramedy with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. What We Do in the Shadow’s Taika Waititi made Thor a quippy, down-to-earth bro in a what is essentially a fantasy comedy film.

Seriously, the number of jokes packed in Ragnarok far outnumber the dramatic moments, sometimes to its detriment. Credit where credit is due, I appreciate Waititi’s fresh approach to the Thor mythos, dispensing with the novelty of magical gods and supplanting it with a goofy intergalactic adventure. I’d say that these two films were the more character-driven instalments of the MCU franchise. I liked the fact that Disney took the time just to make a couple of fun films without having any major set-ups for Infinity War.
Right, now let’s talk about the new guys! Since the events of Civil War brought an end to the status quo of the Avengers, Disney decided to take the time to expand the world of the MCU with new settings and through the eyes of different characters, with fresh talent. Some of them made groundbreaking work like Black Panther, a film that made the first afro-futuristic superhero film.

Creed’s Ryan Coogler was responsible for the project, proving the man is able to tell powerful, personal human stories with impressive fantastical elements. We got a chance to see horror director Scott Derickson try his hand at making a comic book film with Doctor Strange and though the film erred on the comedic side of things, it boasted mind-bending visuals and a fascinating world worth exploring.
Beyond the aforementioned films though, the rest left a bland taste in my mouth. Ant-Man and the Wasp was a rehash of its predecessor’s comedic formula with its novelty wearing thin. Spider-Man: Homecoming was a safe, relatively forgettable film fleshing out Peter’s high school life. Captain Marvel was a generic action film with a wooden protagonist and a serviceable premise. Where films like Doctor Strange and Black Panther felt like a step forward for Marvel Studios, these three feel like a step back for them. As if they’re still clinging on to their safety net for the sake of turning a profit.

Alas, we come to the MCU’s supposed magnum opus, the conclusion to the Infinity Saga in the style of a Deathly Hallow two-parter, Infinity War and Endgame. Look I know I’m going to catch a look of flack for this but frankly there just isn’t anything really compelling about these two films except for the scale. Infinity War managed to bring all the heroes we’ve come to know and mostly love into one big epic showdown. However, this is done at the cost of any of their diverse personalities and histories shining through.
The family dynamic built up Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2? Irrelevant in the film. Wakanda’s awakening as a global powerhouse nation at the end of Black Panther ever touched on or discussed? Nope, they’re cannon fodder, which by the way I found really annoying. Why would T’Challa risk the entire fate of his nation in such a reckless manner? Did no one think about informing other countries about Thanos or his invasion, or maybe enlist some foreign aid? Suddenly all these interesting characters with different journeys and struggles are thrown on screen to be part of a cavalcade of cameos.

In Endgame it seemed like Disney learned from the mistakes of Infinity War and decided to keep a tighter team dynamic this time around. The first and second half went for a more sombre tone and used the element of time travel to explore our characters’ regrets and woes. There was gravity and weight to their experiences and we felt the crippling lows before being treated to some dizzying highs in the final act. Though it’s not exactly the Battle of Helm’s Deep, the Attack on the New Avengers Facility was a glorious sight to behold. At least for the first 3 minutes. After that, it developed into a CGI covered mess. Still, fans were given a satisfying and heartfelt end.
It’s time to answer the question: does the Marvel Cinematic Universe set a good precedence for cinematic creativity based on everything we’ve seen? Truth be told, the MCU has been a source of inspiration for blockbuster franchises. In spite of the fact that it doesn’t quite champion the indie, experimental spirit of auteurs, it has shown that there is a place for it in mainstream cinema as long as the artist is willing to play ball.
At the risk of sounding blasphemous, perhaps if not for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s controlled attempts of experimentation in the comic-book genre, Warner Bros wouldn’t ever have had the boldness to craft a masterpiece like 2019’s Joker. By no means was every single one of their ventures perfect, or completely original for that matter, but it did set a trend. Not many film franchises can claim to have constructed, deconstructed and realize an entire genre. I wonder where they’ll go from here?
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The POCO Brand Is Now Independent Of Xiaomi

Pocophone has declared its independence from its parent company, Xiaomi, and rebranded itself simply as POCO. The announcement was posted on Twitter by Manu Kumar Jain, the global vice president of Xiaomi and Managing Director of Xiaomi India.
The brand first came on to the scene back in August 2018, when it launched its first ever device, the Pocophone F1. Designed and catered as a mid-range device, the phone’s hardware was anything but; the phone came fitted with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC – the best of its kind at the time – a minimum of 6GB RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. In addition, it was powered by a massive 4000mAh battery and came with a dual 12MP + 5MP main camera array.
Needless to say, both the brand and its maiden device were received with massive fanfare in the APAC region, even more so in India.

Excited to share: #POCO will now be an independent brand!
What started as a sub-brand within Xiaomi, has grown into its own identity. POCO F1 was an incredibly popular phone. We feel the time is right to let POCO operate on its own.
Join me in wishing @IndiaPOCO all the best.
— Manu Kumar Jain (@manukumarjain) January 17, 2020

At the time of writing, the POCO brand has yet to make any official announcement about its next device. Although evidence of a trademark application believed to belong to a 2nd generation Pocophone was discovered online. On top of that, the individual who made the discovery alleges that the launch of the POCO F2 could be launching sometime during the second half of this year.
In any case, these are just speculations and hearsay at the moment, so we don’t advise you to spend too much time dawdling around them. At least, until POCO’s next major announcement.
(Source: Twitter)
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Netflix Has Just Received Its Own Ice Cream Flavour from Ben & Jerry’s

A household name throughout the world, Ben & Jerry’s is not only known for its delicious ice cream but also its sense of humour. For many years, the company has produced flavours that were inspired by celebrities and TV shows but for its latest flavour, Ben & Jerry’s turn to a popular streaming service instead.
The said streaming service is none other than Netflix which is also another well-known name across the globe. As you can see from the image above, the flavour is also called Netflix & Chill’d which is a direct adaptation of a very well-known slang that was inspired by the streaming service.

According to Ben & Jerry’s official website, the Netflix & Chill’d flavour is a peanut butter ice cream that has been mixed with sweet and salty pretzel swirls as well as fudge brownie. In case you wondering, yes, the ice cream is made with official participation from Netflix.

Even the lid of the ice cream tub showed “A Netflix Original Flavor” and it certainly doesn’t get more official than that. Now we hope Ben & Jerry’s Malaysia is going to bring it to our shores soon, so that we can enjoy it during our future Netflix binge session.
(Source: Ben & Jerry’s.)
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Facebook Reportedly Abandons Plan To Include Ads In WhatsApp

Facebook previously unveiled plans in 2018 to include ads on its popular WhatsApp messaging service. The move was decided in order to generate revenue from the app, but it seems that the company has reportedly abandoned the plan altogether.
According to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal, individuals familiar with the matter have revealed that Facebook has recently dissolved a WhatsApp team dedicated to figuring out how to best integrate ads into the platform. Additionally, the team’s work was reportedly removed from the app’s code as well.

However, it appears that Facebook is still planning to introduce ads to the platform at some point. Cnet reports that a company representative had confirmed that the social media giant may include ads to WhatsApp’s Status feature, but did not reveal a specific timeline for the move.

For now, Facebook has shifted its focus to generate revenue from businesses by allowing them to communicate with customers on the messaging service platform. An update introduced to WhatsApp Business back in November allowed customers to browse product catalogues sold by businesses.
(Source: WSJ / Cnet.)
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Sony WI-1000XM2 Neckband Headphones Now Available In Malaysia

Sony’s WI-1000XM2 have officially arrived in Malaysia. First announced at IFA 2019, the wireless neckband headphones were one several audio products announced at the annual event last year.
The WI-1000XM2 is a direct successor to the original WI-1000X that launched first launched back in 2017. Like all headphones under the 1000X line, the WI-1000XM2 come chock-full of Sony-esque features. Including the adaptive noise-cancelling Sense Engine, the latter brought about by Sony’s QN1 HD Noise Cancelling Processor.

In terms of performance, the WI-1000XM2 supports Digital Sound Enhancement Engine HX (DSEE HX) which upscales compressed audio files to quality as close as Hi-Res Audio. Sadly, much like Sony’s WF-1000MX3 true wireless earbuds, its neckband brethren does not come with support for Qualcomm’s aptX codec.
As for its battery, the WI-1000XM2 is capable of continuous play for a total of 10 hours on a single charge and like the over-ear WH-1000XM3, comes with support for quick-charging. Also, the device considerably light on the neck, weighing in at just 58 grams.

The Sony WI-1000XM2 can be purchased at all authorised Sony stores and retailers. The earphones retail at an SRP of RM1299 and are available in two colours, black and silver.
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SOCAR Expands To Ipoh And Introduces One-Way Intercity Service

Car sharing service SOCAR has announced that its now expanding its services to Ipoh, as well as introducing a new One-Way Intercity service that allows its users rent a car to travel from one city to another. But before we move on, the company notes that the Intercity service is currently unavailable in Ipoh at this current time.
SOCAR’s services are now available at various pickup points in Ipoh such as KTM Ipoh, Tesco Ipoh Garden, Caltex Jalan Kampar, Caltex Canning Garden and Caltex Jalan Pasir Puteh. The company is also planning to deploy additional cars to Ipoh Parade in the weeks to come as an effort to encourage more Malaysians its car-sharing service.
Users in Ipoh will be able to choose various car models including Honda City, Perodua Axia, Perodua Myvi, and Toyota Altis. As a promotion to its expansion to the city, SOCAR is offering the first 3 hours off on each of the first 2 bookings from 17 to 31 January 2020.

On the other hand, the car-sharing service’s new One-Way Intercity feature allows users to book one-way reservations to and from cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Johor Bahru without any additional one-way fees. Intercity zones include Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur, Bayan Lepas in Penang, and Ah Yit in Johor Bahru.
Last month, SOCAR previously included over 52 Petronas stations across the Klang Valley, Johor and Penang to its list of readily available pickup points for its car rental service. To find out more about the company’s new intercity feature and available locations, please visit their official website.
(Source: SOCAR [1] [2].)
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PLUS Highway To Reduce Toll Fares From As Early As 1 Feb; Promises No Hike Until 2058

The Prime Minister Office (PMO) has announced that the Cabinet has decided that the government will reduce the charges at all highways belonged to PLUS from as early as 1 February 2020 onwards. According to the announcement, the fares will soon be 18% less than existing rate.
As an example, the fare for North-South Highway will be reduced to 11.15 sen/km instead of the existing 13.6 sen/km. Hence, the fare from Jalan Duta to Alor Setar will become RM 45.50 as compared to the existing rate of RM 55.50 while from Jalan Duta to Skudai will be reduced to RM 38.50 from RM 47.00.
The upcoming fare reduction will also be applied to the New Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE), North – South Expressway Central Link (ELITE), Malaysia – Singapore Second Link (LINKEDUA), East Coast Expressway Phase 2 (LPT2), Seremban – Port Dickson Highway (SPDH), Butterworth – Kulim Expressway (BKE), and Penang Bridge.
Meanwhile, the announcement by PMO also stated that PLUS highway concession has now been extended from 2038 to 2058 in order to ensure that PLUS able to operate and maintain its highways without depending on the government. At that same time, the extension of the concession also included a clause whereby there will be no toll fare hike from now until 2058.
Through the new arrangement which will see Khazanah Nasional and EPF remain as PLUS shareholders, the government will apparently able to save around RM 20 billion throughout the duration of the concession.
(Source: Tun Dr. Mahathir @ Facebook.)
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A Company Has Successfully Created Augmented Reality Contact Lenses

Augmented Reality (AR) may not have been getting as much attention as Virtual Reality (VR), but safe to say, the medium is still very much around. Recently, a company by the name of Mojo Vision was has done the seemingly impossible and created a pair of contact lenses embedded with AR.
Known as Mojo Lenses, these contact lenses contain microdisplays with 14000 pixels-per-inch, wireless radios, images sensors, and motion sensors. All within the space of a product no bigger than a paper clip. According to IEEE Spectrum, the first generation of Mojo Lenses are also powered wirelessly, while the next generation will have batteries of some kind built into it.
Specifically, the Mojo Lenses are accompanied by a small external pack that, apart from its primary purpose of supplying power, sends information to the lenses. Mojo Vision calls the wireless relay technology Invisible Computing. As to how the device works, Mojo Lenses reportedly highlights shapes and objects in the real-world in bright green. Notifiying the wearer to their proximity of said things.

At the time of writing, the Mojo Lenses have been designated as a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Breakthrough Device and as such, clinical studies of the device are already underway. Further, Mojo Vision has also entered into a partnership with the Vista Centre for the Blind and Visually Impaired to develop new applications to the contact lenses.
It isn’t just the FDA that has given its unconditional backing to the AR contact lenses. The company has already roped in more than US$105 million (~RM426 million) in investments from some major technology companies, including LG and Google.
(Source: Mojo Vision via IEE Spectrum)
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