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OmarKnows



Random musings on technology and gadgets



Last Build Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2017 16:50:56 +0000

 



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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Apple AirPodsApple AirPods

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 18:39:14 +0000

I always get nervous about writing about or discussing seemingly simple products that not everyone is immediately interested in. To me, the Apple AirPods represent that category of product.  Yes, they are headphones. Yes they are wireless. Both of those things exist. But they are so much more. They represent a huge technological achievement for Apple (and for us). The miniaturization of batteries, electronics and headphones to look and appear so similar to the wired versions.


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Pro Traveler TipsPro Traveler Tips

Sun, 08 Jan 2017 20:20:38 +0000

For the past two decades I’ve amassed a lot of travel tips and techniques. For context, I travel a decent amount, but I’m not a business road warrior. About half my travel is with the family, and the other half is for business. I fly about 25,000 - 50,000 miles a year (but in seat). As such it makes sense to be wise about maximizing value, time, etc If you are short on time, here is the TL;DR (that’s too long didn’t read): 1. Signup for Nexus or Global Entry ($50 - $100) 2. Signup for Clear ($170) 3. Get a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Amex Platinum Card ($450) 4. Enroll in all the Hotel / Car programs that come with the card benefits 5. Get noise cancelling headphones ($300) 6. Get a 4 wheeled spinner bag ($300 - $850)


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Allbirds Wool SneakersAllbirds Wool Sneakers

Tue, 27 Dec 2016 15:00:00 +0000

I love wool. In the last few years I have incorporated more and more wool into our lives. Items such as our Wool Comforter. I now own a number of wool sweaters, and recently some new wool socks from Darn Tough (I like the standard issue mid calf light). Recently at work I noticed a number of folks have been rocking the new Allbirds wool sneakers. I used to see tons of their ads in my Facebook feed, but never wanted to bother trying them out. Well based on some personal recommendations I decided to take the plunge. It could not be easier to buy them since the Allbirds website uses Apple Pay, making purchase almost too easy.


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Leaving FacebookLeaving Facebook

Sun, 18 Dec 2016 20:18:21 +0000

Facebook has truly been a powerful force in the world and in my life. I am sincere when I say that I really love the kind of connections that I can keep and the people who I can stay in touch with (albeit very passively sometimes).

I've been wondering if I can or should leave or take a break.

(image)

Source: WordStream

This past election in the US has got me thinking  about a few things that I'm going to start trying to do more and do less. Facebook is in the "do less" bucket.

I've become unhappy about how Facebook is jamming my life with stuff that I really don't want to see. It's no longer fun. It feels like I have to do it. Fear of missing out (FOMO) along with unread items and notifications have amplified my thoughts on this topic.

My Facebook replacement plan is the following:

  1. Read different perspectives either shared on Twitter or on mainstream news publications. I'm really enjoying a curated news app called Next Draft and have subscribed to the New York Times. Ironically I think Twitter has won in my mind post election 2016. I don't want an algorithm curating what I see any more.
  2. Message people more 1:1 and stop relying on Facebook for passive communications
  3. Use Snapchat more to talk to people and share Stories
  4. Rely on Instagram for what Facebook used to be about
  5. Keep using Day One as a personal feed of my memories. It does a great job of showing me "on this day" stuff from the past which I do love about Facebook.

I'm not sure how this experiment is going to go. It's unlikely that I will be completely absent from Facebook as there are times where the unexpected may happen and Facebook the best place to stay in touch on some issues. But if you want to keep abreast of me your best bet is going to be:

I know this means that I'll loose touch with some of you. Please reach out or write to me! I already hear from many of you because you have something to say about my Newsletter posts (please keep doing that!) but you can reach me on Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Email etc!

I hope 2017 is an awesome year and that you all prosper!


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The “New” You Need a BudgetThe “New” You Need a Budget

Sun, 11 Dec 2016 19:41:07 +0000

Two years ago I wrote about a piece of software called You Need a Budget . Back then (the dark ages) this was a desktop app and required complex setups to sync to your phone. A year ago, they launched a cloud / web version with some key features such as directly connecting to your bank. But they also had a number of launch glitches and bugs, along with missing features. All these issues have largely been resolved, and so I’m here to highly recommend this product (again). This time with a slick web app, the same great mobile apps, and eve better features. You might be like “WAAAAAH Budgets? Omar why are you writing about this?”. I often get a lot of “why do you bother budgeting”. Good question.


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My first year with Solar PowerMy first year with Solar Power

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 19:23:50 +0000

I've been waiting to write this post for a year. On Nov 15, 2015 my Solar Array on my roof was activated by Seattle City Light. I have been collecting data for a year now and wanted to share how it's working out. But to cut to the chase, I think everyone should consider getting Solar Panels. It's magical to have something on your roof generating electricity. Even in a place like Seattle the numbers make this very sensible. If I had a bigger roof I would have put on an array sized big enough to take us off the grid. But that will have to wait for panel efficiency to double from my current 280W panels to 500-600W or for roof replacement with the Tesla Solar Tiles. What prompted me to get Solar? Getting my Tesla. Once I started on the electrical path to driving, I decided I wanted to drive off the grid. I had a local Solar Installer, Puget Sound Solar, do a bid and decided to move forward. However, there is another critical part of the equation. I replaced every single light bulb in my house with LED lighting. This alone cut down a pretty significant amount of energy. I also invested in a smart thermostat which helped too. 


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Omar's Holiday Picks 2016Omar's Holiday Picks 2016

Fri, 25 Nov 2016 15:46:41 +0000

Like last year, I decided to write down some of my holiday picks for 2016. Many of the items from last year are still great gifts, so feel free to take a look at last year's list as well. There a number of black friday specials to take advantage of. I have marked those as such.


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App Review: Pana - Human powered travel AppApp Review: Pana - Human powered travel App

Sun, 20 Nov 2016 16:48:30 +0000

I'm pretty proficient at travel hacking and general travel research. I've spent a long time getting good at this (post forthcoming). This is why when my friend Angus was raving about Pana I didn't bite at first. However, a few months ago I decided to give it a shot. I signed up Lora and myself for a Team account (two members). Lora uses it for work, and I use it for family travel (also some work).   Verdict? It's unbelievable. Let me tell you why. 


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My Robot ToiletMy Robot Toilet

Sun, 13 Nov 2016 18:05:03 +0000

Back in May, my wife and I spent 10 days in Japan with our friends. Every day, multiple times a day, in hotels, restaurants, trains we got to experience what such a mundane thing is like in a technologically advanced society. When we returned, the withdrawal started. I had to have a Toto Washlet in my bathroom.  What is this you are talking about Omar? Well, you see, in Japan they have these toilets called washlets. They have heated seats, they clean you when you are done doing your business with a hot jet of water, and some of then even auto flush and open / close the seat automatically. The highest end of these devices detect your arrival, and raise the lid. If you don’t sit down right away, they will also raise the seat. They clean you, dry you, and then flush away the stuff, clean the toilet and close the lid. The latest toilets do all this with a single gallon of water to flush. It’s simply amazing. In some cases all of this is 100% automated. High end models even have lighting so that you don’t need to illuminate the bathroom in the middle of the night.


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