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OmarKnows - Product Reviews

Random musings on technology and gadgets

Last Build Date: Sun, 17 Sep 2017 16:34:58 +0000


Equifax Data Breach - how to protect yourselfEquifax Data Breach - how to protect yourself

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 17:40:58 +0000

If you haven't heard by now, Equifax, one of the big 3 credit agencies suffered one of the biggest breaches of personal information in history. If you are affected (they claim 140 million people were) then you need to re-think a lot of things. You can check if you are affected by visiting this link. The credit agencies maintain some of your most important and confidential information about you such as social security numbers, addresses, former names, your mortgage, car loans, credit card(s), spending history, balances, divorces, marriages, siblings name and information, children names and information and so on. What is really awful however, is that much of this information is used to verify who are who you are. For example when applying for a loan, or doing a wire transfer your bank may ask you a series of questions. Those questions come from your credit report. Take PayPal and Square Cash - they will often use your credit report to authorize higher transfer limits from your accounts. This information was stolen and it's never going back. Equifax has literally exposed millions of people to future and ongoing fraud and identity theft that they cannot put the lid back on. This is a good reminder of how broken the system is. Too much information, without the necessary protections and a flawed business model. To add insult to injury Equifax has fumbled and screwed up their response and only offered people 1 year of identity theft monitoring. None of that will matter. This information is in the hands of criminals. This information is valuable for the next decade or longer. The exposure you face to fraud has never been more severe or significant. So with this in mind, I recommend you take the following actions.

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Espro Travel Coffee PressEspro Travel Coffee Press

Sun, 27 Aug 2017 14:32:44 +0000

A while ago I wrote up How I make coffee. Since then I continue to use a Ratio 8 automatic pour over and love it to death. We still do 1-cup pour over too using a blue bottle pour over system (replaced the Hario). For travel though, I have been lugging around my pour over setup which is a tad bulky. I discovered that Espro makes a portable french press mug now. I picked one up the other day and took it to work with me. It's truly a remarkable product. Espro is known for making french press systems that have two filters so less "grit" comes through. They are also compatible with small paper filters which produce a pour over like taste as the filter will keep all the oil out.

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LeakSMART - auto water shutoff for your homeLeakSMART - auto water shutoff for your home

Sun, 06 Aug 2017 15:54:58 +0000

I’ve been doing research for a while on getting a whole home water shutoff solution. I previously wrote about the solution I use for the washing machines. I have a 2nd floor washer and this is one of the things that can really mess with your house given washing machine hoses only last a few years and are under high pressure. I’m paranoid about water leaks and water damage when I’m away from home. I’ve always been in the habit of shutting off the main water supply to my house whenever we are gone for more than a day but I was looking for something more automated that I could do from anywhere.  That is when I discovered the LeakSMART. You need to get a version that matches the size of your water supply. In my case I have 1 1/4 inch water supply and LeakSMART did not have a solution till recently. Once it came out I purchased it and scheduled a plumber to install. Well that happened a few weeks ago and so far this has perfectly met my expectations. 

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Current - Money Management for KidsCurrent - Money Management for Kids

Sun, 23 Jul 2017 16:21:58 +0000

Since our daughter was 6 we have followed a simple but effective philosophy for teaching her about money. This was inspired from articles we read (I mean my wife read) about targeting a weekly allowance tied to your child's age, in our case we started at $6 a week. Common wisdom among many parents we knew was to tie allowance to chores and start later than we did. We didn't follow that path and felt that we wanted our kids to have a meaninful amount of money that allowed them to save for things like legos (which are expensive) and also make good choices about small and big purchases. We didn't want to get nagged to buy things for them and wanted them to learn how to save and save up for things they wanted. If you want to read more about this, I would point you to this article and this book called The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber. About 1 chapter into reading it was already armed with insight and understanding on how to raise kids who thoughtfully consider the value of money.

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Topo Designs BackpacksTopo Designs Backpacks

Sun, 18 Jun 2017 16:29:36 +0000

I've been looking for a great backpack for my daughter for a while now. My friend Kelsi turned me on to two backpack companies: Topo Designs and GoRuck. There are a lot of really good made in America packs these days from Tom Bihn and GoRuck. In fact my son has the perfect backpack, a kid's GoRuck that unfortunately is not in stock till 2018. It is a great size for Kindergarten age kids, and doesn't have that giant look to it. He has the 13L pack in gray and red. Topo Designs is a Colorado company and make their bags by hand. I picked up two bags from them and they are a huge hit with me and my kiddo.

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Acteon Compact Antibacterial Microfiber TowelsActeon Compact Antibacterial Microfiber Towels

Sun, 04 Jun 2017 16:55:13 +0000

For a year now my family has been using these compact micro fiber beach towels by Acteon. They take up a fraction of the space that a regular towel does and they work really well in a pinch.

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Ray-Ban Chromance SunglassesRay-Ban Chromance Sunglasses

Sun, 21 May 2017 16:41:55 +0000

For the past two years, I have been very happy with the two pairs of sunglasses I own. A pair of Maui Jim polarized for driving, and a RayBan Wayfarer Liteforce. You really can't beat the Wayfarer as they are a classic sunglass that work well for most people. I recommend always going for the polarized versions, and the Liteforce are a thinner and lighter series that are great for traveling. I keep these in my work bag and take them everywhere. The Wayfarer is also a great unisex sunglass, and they make smaller sizes for middle school aged kids and even little people.

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simplehuman Foam Cartridge Sensor Pumpsimplehuman Foam Cartridge Sensor Pump

Sun, 14 May 2017 16:33:30 +0000

A few years ago, I wrote about the simplehuman sensor pump. Since that time, I've had a number of issues with clogging. I still have my sensor pumps but 2 of them clogged up needing replacement. The issues seem to arise when you don't use a pump for a long time. Recently, simplehuman release foam based, cartridge pumps.

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Beyond Coastal SunscreenBeyond Coastal Sunscreen

Sun, 30 Apr 2017 16:30:19 +0000

It's almost that time of year.... in Seattle it feels like maybe we will skip spring and go straight to summer?  If you have kids, you know that Summer is filled with creamy white sunscreen applications each morning before the kids go to camp, the beach, or whatever. Having sunburnt kiddos is no fun. Two years ago I wrote an article on my favorite sunscreen, Beyond Coastal. I explained my reasons for why I chose a chemical sunscreen over a mineral one. After years of trying mineral sunscreen I was done. I could not stand how the products felt, were applied, and how they stained my cars, furniture and everything else. I also found a lot of variability in preventing burns and questionable science that mineral is actually, in balance, better. When I have questions about cosmetic products, I usually turn to the Environmental Working Group. They do an OK job of giving you a view on how many cosmetic products stack up. In their mind, Beyond Coastal is one of the best chemical sunscreens out there and I have been a happy customer for 2 years.

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Paul Smith Reversible Leather BeltPaul Smith Reversible Leather Belt

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 17:14:24 +0000

With Mother's day and Father's day on the horizon, I thought I'd write about something for men. I've been looking for a new dressy belt for a few months. I think the last time I purchased a black or brown belt I was in college. Belt shopping isn't exactly how I would choose to spend my time, but when you need something it will warrant some effort. However, my attempts have not produced any results. The department store drive by belt investigation did not land me on a belt. On a recent trip I noticed that my friend Tony East was bragging about how his belt does not set off the security apparatus at the airport. While telling me this he also mentioned it was reversible. REVERSIBLE!!!! you mean the two necessary colors, black and brown, plus a belt you could wear in the airport? I had to know what this magical thing was.  It also turns out that Tony, as a big fan of Paul Smith (I mean who isn't!), found a reversible belt that fits the bill in so many ways. I ordered mine within minutes from the Paul Smith website and had it a few days later. I go the belt in the black primary color since that is what I use most. Brown is he secondary color. It's made of Saffiano leather which is a type of leather finishing that produces that shiny bumpy texture with a cross hatched pattern. It is very durable.

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Quip Electric ToothbrushQuip Electric Toothbrush

Sun, 16 Apr 2017 16:41:57 +0000

Since I can remember, I have used some form of electric toothbrush. In the late 90s it was the Oral-B (the brush head that turns) and later the Philips Sonicare. I've been using the Sonicare for probably 15 years. These tooth brushes come in a dizzying array of options. It's like buying a washer/dryer. And of course, there are always the Costco double pack / special editions. Lately I've been seeing ads for a new Toothbrush called the Quip and I decided to try one out. The quick is a fairly in-expensive option compared to the ones mentioned so far. They start at $25 for a plastic one or $40 for metal.

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OluKai Sandals and ShoesOluKai Sandals and Shoes

Sun, 09 Apr 2017 16:31:48 +0000

For many years I have relied on OluKai Sandals and Beach Shoes. They are simply fantastic. I have spread that love to everyone in my family. Olukai is a California (often confused as a Hawaiian) based clothing company but they are known for their sandals.

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Anker PowerCore+ 20100Anker PowerCore+ 20100

Sun, 02 Apr 2017 16:08:14 +0000

For over a year now I have been lugging around an Anker PowerCore+ 20100 battery on all my trips. What makes this battery special is that it has a USB-C port that can charge a MacBook or other USB-C items such as Android phones or a Nintendo Switch. 

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Foursevens FlashlightsFoursevens Flashlights

Sun, 19 Mar 2017 16:25:00 +0000

As a kid, I always had a Mag Flashlight. They came in big and small, and I remember them always running out. With modern day advances in lighting (LEDs) and Batteries (Lithium) I decided to take a look at my flashlights, including making sure I have an Every Day Carry (EDC) flashlight. Flashlights are very useful tools. For me it comes down to: 1. Home emergency and tasks 2. Bedside (so I can avoid turning the lights on) 3. Travel (finding stuff in my backpack or luggage) 4. Travel (finding my way around an unfamiliar hotel room or house in the dark) 5. Photography (light painting for long exposure) Last year I started testing out some flashlights from a company called Foursevens. They make a bunch of flash lights and below are the ones I've purchased.

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Aura Digital FrameAura Digital Frame

Sun, 12 Mar 2017 17:46:44 +0000

I remember when Digital Frames first came out. Everyone thought our houses would be filled with these things. However, after the first batch of frames, they all devolved to cheap pieces of junk, made from left over LCD parts and generally low resolution and aspect ratios that didn't match your photos. These first generation frames also made it difficult to update photos. Often you had to use a physical memory card and as such the photos never changed. This past year, while shopping at the b8ta store in Seattle (basically an OmarKnows retail store) I stumbled upon the Aura Frame. 

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Peak Design Every Day BagsPeak Design Every Day Bags

Sun, 05 Mar 2017 17:12:37 +0000

I have never found a camera bag system I loved more than the bags made by Peak Designs. Peak Designs got their start on Kickstarter a few years ago, and have run some of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns. They are a fantastic company that makes truly exceptional camera products. I currently own 3 Peak Design bags (in total I have owned 4).

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James Brand KnivesJames Brand Knives

Sun, 26 Feb 2017 15:00:42 +0000

Since I was a kid, I've always enjoyed a nice pocket knife. About a year ago I was introduced to an Oregon based knife maker, James Brand. The first knife I purchased was The County, which comes in a beautiful walnut and stainless steal, but also in other colors such as white oak and ebony with a black blade.  

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ChefSteps Joule Sous VideChefSteps Joule Sous Vide

Sun, 05 Feb 2017 18:31:15 +0000

For Christmas, I got a Joule Sous Vide tool made by local Seattle ChefSteps. I know absolutely nothing about Sous Vide, other than, I've had terrific Sous Vide prepared meats at many local Seattle restaurants. I also read a review by Serious Eats on the Joule, and they are big fans.

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Neo Smartpen N2Neo Smartpen N2

Sun, 22 Jan 2017 18:31:17 +0000

I've always been intrigued by "digital ink" or the process of digitizing what I've written. I was a proud owner of an Apple Newton, and since then an original Windows Tablet PC where I would use OneNote to take notes with a pen. Today there are many devices that allow you to do this. I have a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 with its excellent Pen, as well as an iPad Pro 9.7 with the Apple Pencil. None of them really come close to that feeling of writing on real paper, with a real pen.  One of the biggest challenges I've found with "digital writing" is all the stuff that gets in the way. First there is the fact that you are writing on sometime heavy, usually awkward, with a screen that can get hot, and of course apps that are pinging you with notifications. The beauty of a pen and paper is that there is nothing to do really but pay attention and take notes. I find this rather helpful to focus. In December of last year I picked up the Moleskine Smart Writing Set. This is a special Moleskine notebook and pen. The notebook contains special paper with small codes in it. The Pen is a real pen with real ink, but contains a camera that will record what you write.

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Omar’s Finds Jan 16 : 15 FindsOmar’s Finds Jan 16 : 15 Finds

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 16:00:00 +0000

01 Gear: Love this new kids backpack from SF DSPTCH - Mini Utility Ruck

02 Apps: Trying out Zinc , a new Video "Read it Later" service ala Instapaper and Pocket

03 Apps: I love Bear a writing app for iOS and Mac. It’s replaced Ulysses.

04 Amazon: Reuse Amazon Boxes for Goodwill donations. Great idea!

05 Clothing: I seriously love these Wool Runners . They have been popping up all over the Microsoft campus.

06 Apps: Excited for Pana to launch a free version of their travel app . I love their concierge service

07 Apps: As a kid I loved simulator games. Mini Metro is super fun. Make a subway!

08 Gadgets: Just picked this up at the AT&T store. Looks like the perfect solution for bedside travel charging: Belkin Portable Valet Chargerfor Apple Watch and iPhone

09 Coffee: I have been waiting a long time for this Grinder. It's everything I've ever wanted - Baratza Sette 270W

10 Coffee: I backed this beauty of a Kettle for my pour over coffee

11 Coffee: Before I heard of acacia I thought my coffee scale was good - acaia Lunar

12 Gadgets: I’ll let you guess if I have already ordered a charging stand for my AirPods 😱

13 Money: Amazon and Chase just announced that you can now earn 5% back on Amazon purchases , up from 3%

14 Food: My brother-in-law introduced me to this amazing hot sauce called Yellow Bird and we love it. Written up in HuffPo

15 Gadgets: Not a lot of kids wearables our there but this looks great for young kids. Sarah (10) has a Garmin Vivofit that she loves.

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