My Favorites of CES 2016

Post by Mark

ces2016

Last week Huawei sent me to CES 2016 in Las Vegas to cover the experience for my blog. The Consumer Electronics Show is one of the largest electronics shows that takes place during the year and the largest event that takes place in Las Vegas period. If you checked any electronics or gadgets blog last week like Gizmodo or The Verge then you were probably overwhelmed by all the CES related posts that they published. Well I’m not going to do the same here, instead I’m going to highlight just some of my favorite things I saw at CES this year.

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The whole experience was insane since the Las Vegas Convention Center is HUMONGOUS. I thought the watch expo Basel World was huge when I visited it in 2013 but CES is so much larger. It’s hard to explain how big it is, I mean just the lobby of one of the halls was larger than any of the halls at the Kuwait International Fair Ground. CES was so huge that it took me more than 2 hours of fast walking to cover all the halls and then after I left I found out I had even missed one hall completely. There was so much stimulation everywhere I looked that I felt like I was having out of body experience at one point.

Anyway, below are some of the things that stuck out for me, if you follow me on twitter (@mark248am) then you’ve probably already seen most of the below but with less details.

Read the rest of this entry »


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Review: Sphero BB-8

Post by Patrick

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With the release of Star Wars Force Awaken, a lot of new Star Wars merchandise has gone on sale like clothing, Lego’s (the Millennium Falcon is KD170!), new figurines and now a new addition, the Sphero BB-8. Being a big Star Wars I’m pretty much on cloud nine. Not only was The Force Awakens a great movie, the new toys look great and even the clothing isn’t bad at all. So I was excited to test out the BB-8 and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked.

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So what’s so cool about the Sphero BB-8? You can control it using your smartphone and it’s compatible with both iOS and Android devices so no one is left out. This little guy can move fast and can take a beating. When I first tested it out, the first thing that popped into my head was that BB-8 would make a great (albeit expensive) toy for my cat. It was impressive watching it speed across the floor especially that the BB-8’s head is attached to the body using a magnet and two little wheels so it stays in place while the rest of the body rolls. It has barely fallen off, even as I’ve hit the wall multiple times and the legs of chairs. The body itself has an “upright” position that corrects itself with the help of the stabilizers that are part of the internal mechanism. There’s also a gyroscope and accelerometer that will assist in controlling BB-8 by being aware of its movements and make subtle and slight adjustments to help you out.

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If you get tired of controlling it you can set it to patrol mode. Patrol mode works similar to the way a Roomba does. The BB-8 will roam around your room on its own and will move around objects, like chair legs or people. What’s cool is that there is an event log that that lets you know if BB-8 hit a wall or detected an object.

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The price tag for the BB-8 is steep, it costs KD69. Ultimately, this is a cool piece of tech, but it’s not something I would play with everyday. Right now I have it on my shelf next to my Samus figurine and my Super Mario Amiibo and sometimes I’ll tease my cat with it once in a while, but at the end of the day it’s a glorified figurine. House guests will find it impressive and it makes for an interesting topic of discussion. I love the BB-8 and it’s unique in a world of cheap toys. It’s a Star Wars toy that can be enjoyed by kids and adults.

If you’re interested in the Sphero BB-8, it’s available at the Avenue’s branch of Fantasy World which has a new section catered towards adults called THE EDGE. Fantasy World also has the largest collection of Star Wars toys that I’ve seen in Kuwait so far, including nice figurines of Kylo Ren, Finn and Rey.

Post by Patrick

Full Disclosure: The Sphero BB-8 was provided by Fantasy World to review on the blog.


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Ooredoo 4G+ vs WiMD – Part 1

Post by Mark

ooreedoo

A few weeks ago a reader emailed me a screenshot of a speedtest he ran on his Ooredoo 4G+ connection. His result? A download speed of 141Mbps and an upload speed of 40Mbps. I was pretty surprised at the result, I knew 4G+ was a lot faster than regular 4G but didn’t think it would be this dramatic. So I got in touch with my contact at Ooredoo and asked them for a test unit so I could try it out myself.

As I’ve mentioned before, I live in an old building in Salmiya where the max DSL speed I can get ranges from 1Mbps to 2Mbps. Luckily I have WiMD which works much better than DSL at my place, I’ve got a 10Mbps connection which I’ve been happily abusing for the past three years.

Since I had both connections at home I figured I’d run speedtests on both and compare the results.

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Kuwait Server – Ooredoo (Left) vs WiMD (Right)

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American Server – Ooredoo (Left) vs WiMD (Right)

Although I didn’t get anything close to 141Mbps I was still pretty impressed I got a speed faster than my WiMD connection since I didn’t think I had a faster option where I lived. Not only that but the ping speed was considerably lower with Ooredoo which means it would be better for when I’m playing games online. The difference in the upload speed was even more dramatic with the Ooredoo connection being 13 times faster when connected to the US server.

Cost wise, a 10Mbps WiMD connection with a 200GB monthly download cap would set you back KD310 a year. A one year 4G+ Ooredoo connection with a 300GB download cap would set you back just KD132 (even cheaper if you commit).

Since the connection speed of the Ooredoo varies depending on the area, signal strength and time of day, I’m going to continue to use it for the next couple of weeks in different locations around the house and also different places around Kuwait. I’ll then share the results here in a different post. I’m also curious to know how consistent the Ooredoo connection will be. Even though my WiMD connection is slower, it’s been fairly consistent for the past 3 years and I like that.

If you have a Ooredoo 4G+ device and are getting faster speeds, let me know below what speeds you’re getting and in what area you’re in.


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Test the Fastest Internet in Kuwait

Post by Mark

500mb

The local coding school “Coded” is hosting an event tonight with Fasttelco to test an ultra fast internet connection that they claim to be the fastest in Kuwait. The connection will be a 500Mbps fiber connection and everyone is invited to come and try it out. To test that speed you can either bring your own laptop and connect it to one of the available ethernet cables or you could use one of their test laptops. If you’ve got a huge file you’ve been wanting to download or upload then this might be a good way to do it. For more information click [Here]


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Best Local Store 2015

Post by Mark

goodgame

nima

Winner: Good Game
I’ve been seeing a lot of party games at gatherings in recent years. There was Monopoly Deal for a while and then the more entertaining Kuwaiti knockoff. I’m sure a lot of you have heard of Cards Against Humanity, the fart joke of the party game market. Garbage. I seriously can’t stand that game. It’s like watching a compilation of “thats what she said” jokes.

So what better opportunity to tell you about Good Game, a shop in Sanabil Tower specialising in all types of tabletop games. If it has dice, a board, cards, figures or any combination of them, chances are they sell it there. They have an absurd collection of games fillings their walls with varying degrees of difficulty and complexity, they have something for everyone, nerd or non-nerd alike.

The place is great. Everyone who works in the shop has played nearly if not every game and are able to answer questions or recommend a game based what you tell them you like. I love that it became the light to which all nerds in kuwait fluttered. The place is more than a shop, it’s become something more than that. It’s become a community.

Runner up: Orchidaceae
On Mr. Mark’s recommendation, I went to Orchidaceae a few months ago to get flowers for my wife (for my cat to nibble to pieces). It is hidden away in the reinhabited industrial MadMax wasteland that is Shuwaikh. Great design, the staff know their business and they aren’t quick to recommend things they know are impractical. Surprisingly affordable insta-class.

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Winner: Good Game
First full disclosure, the owner of Good Game is a really good friend of mine as well as Nima. Actually, the first time I met the owner is when Nima invited me over to play the Game of Thrones board game with him and a couple of other people around two years back (what a complicated board game that was, I still don’t understand it). The owner loves board games, like REALLY loves them which is why he opened up Good Game in the first place. What I love about the shop and the reason I chose it as a winner is the fact that it has become more than just a place where you go and buy stuff. Anyone with money can open a store but what Good Game has done is create a wonderful community. Pass by anytime during the evening and you’ll find a group of guys sitting in the store playing board games, if you pass by on weekends it’s even more packed. The shop has created a space where people into board games can go socialize and pass time. In a place like Kuwait where we’re always looking for something to do, Good Game is a treasure.

Runner up: Pet Zone
If it wasn’t for the community aspect of Good Game I personally would have chosen Pet Zone as the winner. We really are lucky to have a pet shop this huge here in Kuwait especially considering dogs aren’t really loved over here. If you have a pet and you’ve never been to Pet Zone in Shuwaikh then please make sure you do.

Location: Good Game is located in Al-Sanabil Tower in Sharq, on Mezzanine 2. Here is the location on [Google Maps]


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Catalyst Waterproof Case for iPhone 6

Post by Mark

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Whenever I get a new iPhone I also tend to get a new waterproof case for it. My go to brand for waterproof cases for the past two or three generations of iPhones has always been LifeProof. Their cases are compact, look good and are waterproof down to a depth of 3M. But, all my LifeProof cases ended up developing a leak sooner or later. I kept going back to LifeProof because there were no similar alternatives, the only other case I used was the Hitcase Pro but it’s a lot more bulkier and it doesn’t allow you to access the charging port which is important for me since I my phone is always connected to my BeoLit 12 speaker at the beach.

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Since beach season has already started it was time again to get a new waterproof case and this time for my iPhone 6. While doing my usual rounds of research I found out about a case called Catalyst which all the reviewers were raving about. The Catalyst is very similar to the LifeProof case in features except its waterproof down to a depth of 5M instead of 3M and more importantly the Catalyst comes with a wrist lanyard. The wrist lanyard is a feature I always wished the LifeProof case had because its makes a huge difference during activities. For example when I went paragliding, I had my phone with me to take pictures but I was worried the whole time I would accidentally drop my phone. Now even if the phone slips out of my hand it will still hang on to my wrist. In addition to these two features the Catalyst is a bit cheaper and I personally think it also looks better than the LifeProof case.

I still have to wait and see how the Catalyst performs over the summer, but right now based on my brief experience with the case I’m loving it. If you’re interested you can purchase the case from the Catalyst website, they’re selling it for $70 without shipping. Or, you can do what I did an buy it off a seller on eBay. I offered one seller $60 with shipping and he accepted which was a great deal. For some reason the case isn’t available on Amazon yet. [Link]


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BitFils, the easiest way to buy Bitcoins in Kuwait

Post by Mark

bitcoin

BitFils is a startup based out of Kuwait and comprised of three engineers who worked for over a year to make this project happen. BitFils is a website that allows people in Kuwait to instantly purchase Bitcoins by paying directly with their Knet cards. If you’re interested in getting Bitcoin I can’t imagine a more user-friendly way. Check out their website [Here]


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byebye.london

Post by Mark

bybyelondon

This is pretty cool, someone purchased the domain byebye.london and pointed it to the full video of the classic Kuwaiti play on YouTube.

via nibaq


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In Focus: RTC Electronics

Post by Mark

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A few days ago a user in the blog’s Community asked where they could find all the following items in one shop:

-Soldering Iron
-22 Gauge Wire
-Solder Wire
-30 ohm .25 (1/4) Watt resistors
-SFH485P Infrared LEDs
-AA Battery Case (with switch preferred)

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My answer was RTC Electronics, a pretty large electrical supply shop located in Hawalli right off Beirut Street. I don’t know how long they’ve been open for but I’ve been going there for years.

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The store has become pretty popular and is now a lot easier to find thanks to a large “RTC” sign which they installed outside awhile back. Even though the store is pretty big the actual entrance is really tiny. The store is located in the basement under a bunch of other satellite related stores and the entrance is within a small shop which once you walk into you’ll find stairs that take you below. That’s why it used to be difficult to find before since from the outside it looks just like any other store in the area.

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The store sells everything electrical related with most of the stuff beyond my understanding. They’ve got regular things like tools, cables, wires, switches but they also sell more advanced electrical hardware, Arduino kits, transistors and chips. Their prices are fairly cheap and you can haggle on some occasions. There is even a small repair shop in case you have an electronic item that stopped working.

Finding RTC Electronics is easy since they’re on [Google Maps] but in case you get lost you can call them on 22623286.


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Could Bitcoin be Used to Sell Oil?

Post by Mark

bitcoin

The Kuwait Financial Centre (Markaz), one of the leading asset management and investment banking institutions in the region has been making some waves online the past few days after publishing a research report in which they wrote about the potential for bitcoin in the GCC. In one section they also talk about how bitcoin could save the oil industry time, money and paperwork.

GCC region depends heavily on oil exports, (90% of exports and 75% of government revenue). As a result, they receive payments from all over the world. International payments might take close to 1-3 days or sometimes even more owing to different time zones. Revamping the payment system in line with bitcoin systems will yield in savings in terms of cost, time and paperwork involved. Alternatively the same payment method could be adopted for fund transfers among the GCC regions as well as the whole of Middle East.

The report is 25 pages long and I haven’t gone through it all yet but from what I saw the report covers a large variety of subjects and if you have any interest in bitcoin or want to understand it better than it should prove to be a good read. You can download the PDF from their website but registration is required. Here is the [Link]

Thanks Gary


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