Review: Alpine iXA-W407

Posted by Mark

Here is a quick review of the Alpine iXA-W407.

It works great with the iPod as expected. I previously had the Alpine iDA-X001 installed in my Wrangler and one annoying thing in the X001 was searching for an artist. It doesn’t get much better in the W407. You can’t search using an onscreen keyboard to type an artist name for some reason instead you need to scroll down to the artist u want. You can scroll down by letter as in if you are looking for Smashing Pumpkins you can press “page down” when u r at A and it will take u to B and u keep pressing till u get to S. A painfully long process which I do not recommend while driving. Once you get to S you then have to scroll down regularly by pressing “down” untill u get to Smashing Pumpkins. Takes forever and not practical at all.

On the bright side, that’s the only negative thing I found. The multi display screen is very cool (see picture above) which basically allows you to display up to 4 different kinds of information on the same screen. I Just wish there were more widgets to add out of the current 6 including calculator and sound adjustment which are not pictured above. What I would have liked to have seen is a weather widget (could use my iPhone’s internet connection for the date) or an RSS reader.

The W407 has Bluetooth built in. Once I get into the car my iPhone connects to the Alpine automatically and whenever I want to call someone I bring up the phone number on the Alpine screen and call it. When I get a phone call I can either answer it on the Alpine or if I want privacy I can talk directly on my iPhone. Now all thats pretty normal but my favorite thing is the fact that I can stream music from my iPhone to the Alpine using Bluetooth. Like my iPod and the Radio I have Bluetooth as an audio source. When I select Bluetooth as a source whatever sound my iPhone makes I hear it on the cars sound system. Other than listening to your iPod’s music wirelessly or playing games and have the sound blast out of the cars sound system, another cool feature is the fact I stream music from the web over 3G and onto my car stereo using bluetooth. I’ve got the iPhone app WunderRadio (which I’ve posted about before) and I use it to tune into radio stations in Lebanon and stream them into my car. I don’t have any problems streaming the Lebanese radio stations since they broadcast in EDGE but Ministry of Sound UK for example streams as 3G and after a minute or so the music cuts off and I have to buffer for like 10 seconds which is very annoying. But, I am going to be upgrading my iPhones internet connection from 600kb to 14.4MB at the end of the month which should solve my problem.

I really like the iXA-W407 and if I had to do the purchase all over again I would in a heartbeat. The final score is a 4 out of 5. The lack of a decent search feature and the fact there aren’t any extra widgets I can download and install are the reasons it’s not perfect. If anyone has any specific questions regarding that Alpine unit or the install just ask it below and I will try to answer it. Regarding the PAC TR7, it worked perfectly with the W407. With the TR7 install I can watch videos and change the stereo system settings while I am driving. Without the TR7 I would have to put the car in PARK and raise the handbrake. I also had the PAC SWI-Jack installed which allows the Alpine to be controlled with the FJ’s steering wheel buttons. The PAC SWI-Jack works on a number of cars and with a number of sound systems.

I ordered all my items from Amazon, here is the list with links:

Alpine iXA-W407 Digital Media Station $554.48
Alpine HCE-C107D Rear View Camera $176.99
Scosche TA2076B 2007 Toyota FJ ISO/Double DIN With Pocket Kit $19.58
Scosche Stereo Wire Harness Toyota FJ Cruiser $12.31
PAC TR7 Multi control interface bypass module $23.26
Total: $829.52

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iPad in Kuwait

Posted by Mark

No not really. It’s actually one of the really old Toshiba laptops displayed at the Toshiba dealer in Kuwait City. This one’s from 1993 called the T100x Dynapad. It had a 25MHz CPU, 4MB of RAM and came with a 40MB hard drive. The Toshiba dealer has this amazing display of old laptops from the 80s up till the 90s. It’s like a mini museum.

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Review: The iJacket

Posted by Mark

Over the weekend I picked up an iJacket while I was shopping in Bahrain. I originally posted about it back in 2007 and then totally forgot about it until I saw it at the store.

Firstly just to be clear, I got the jacket because the jacket looks good. I was not interested in the iPod connectivity, thats just an extra benefit for me but not the reason I bought the jacket. I am not the type of person that walks around listening to music and so I won’t be using the controls on the jacket a lot. Now since I did get the jacket and I do own a number of iPods I figured I might as well give my feedback.

The iPod has a special transparent and water proof pocket on the inside of the jacket. There is a regular iPod connector in that pocket and you connect your ipod to it. The pocket also has a small opening for your headphone cable to pass through. The controls on the jacket sleeve are fairly basic, volume up and down, pause/play forward and reverse. The idea is that when its cold outside you don’t want to unzip your jacket and pull out your iPod every time you want to perform a simple command and that’s where the controls on your sleeve come to play. Without unzipping your jacket or removing your gloves you can control your iPod by just touching the buttons on the sleeve. Although I call them buttons they’re not really buttons. The part of the sleeve where the buttons are located feels exactly the same as any other part of the sleeve. No bulge or anything of that sort just the shapes of the buttons imprinted on the sleeve.

When I first tried using the controls I thought I had a malfunctioning jacket since the buttons didn’t work. Then I found out that the jacket auto-locks the controls after 8 seconds of no use and to unlock the controls you have to hold down on the unlock button for 5 seconds. That’s the biggest issue I have with the jacket… the auto-lock feature. It makes the jacket unpractical. Imagine you’re listening to music and then a friend wants to tell you something. To pause the iPod you need to hold down on the unlock button for 5 seconds and then hit the pause button. So it takes at least 6 seconds to pause the iPod which is silly. You know how sometimes one track plays a lot louder than others? Well you need to wait 5 seconds for the buttons to unlock before you could quickly lower the volume to a decent listening level.

That’s why I’m giving the jacket a 2 out of 5. The auto-lock feature is the dumbest idea ever. There is no reason to have it since I can’t imagine the buttons being pressed accidentally unless someone grabs you from your arm and how often does that happen? I’ve already emailed Zegna asking if there is a way to disable the auto-lock but I doubt there is. As a jacket the iJacket is very comfortable and great looking. As an iPod controller it sucks big time because the auto-lock makes it impossible to use. Now a cool feature I would use a lot if it was included would be iPod/iPhone charging. I know there are a few jackets out there that do that but currently the iJacket doesn’t which sucks. I’m hoping if there will ever be an iJacket 2.0 it will.

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Drobo Update

Posted by Mark

I got my Drobo tonight and just wanted to post an update on how much it ended up costing me including shipping.

Price of Drobo: KD100
Price of shipping to DHL mailbox: Free
US Tax: None since it shipped to my DHL mailbox
Shipping to Kuwait: KD31
Customs and handling fee: KD8

Total price of Drobo: KD139

It looks very cool and the size isn’t that big. My 1.5tb hard drives just arrived to Kuwait tonight so they should be ready to pick up tomorrow so I could install into my Drobo. You don’t need a voltage converter, the Drobo adapter is 100-240v.

Here is the link to the Drobo on Amazon [Link]

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Cheap HDMI

Posted by Mark

I don’t know why I have this obsession with cheap HDMI cables. The last time I found a good deal was at Ace Hardware. They were selling the 2 meter HDMI cable for KD2.100 and the 3 meter for KD2.600. Since then they completely sold out of all their cheap HDMI cables and just have the expensive ones left. So the cheapest HDMI cable I have found recently is at Geant. They’re selling the 1.5 meter long cable for KD2.500.

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Wooden LED Clocks

Posted by Mark

Ace Hardware surprisingly are selling these wooden LED clocks. I had previously seen them only online and they look pretty cool. They’re priced very reasonably with the small ones for around KD5 and the big ones for KD6.

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First Impression: Acer Aspire Revo

Posted by Mark

I am a huge fan of XBMC which I believe is the best media playing software out there. I first started using it on my original xbox, then I installed it on the AppleTV and now I just moved over onto the Acer AspireRevo. XBMC on AppleTV was great except for the fact it couldn’t play 720p and 1080p videos.

Two weeks back I found an article on Gizmodo about how XBMC installed on an AspireRevo could handle 720p and 1080p video files with great ease and best of all it cost only $199. So after failing to find one for sale in Kuwait I placed an order for one on Amazon and got it via Aramex.

Installing XBMC was super easy and after I set it up I copied all my settings from my AppleTV and started experimenting. I can’t believe how easily this thing plays HD files! I have trouble playing HD files on my Apple G5 yet this little thing which is slightly smaller than an AppleTV can play it without a hitch. It has HDMI out, its small, its super silent and streams HD movies from my server with great ease, I love it.

I ordered a remote control for it but it hasn’t arrived yet so I am using my browser or iPhone to control it. Shipping with Aramex cost me KD18, no tax since computers no longer get taxed.

If you want to get one here is the [Amazon Link]
If you don’t know what XBMC is click [Here]
Here is a guide to install XBMC on the Revo [Link]

Update: This is the remote control I bought for it [Amazon Link]

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Posted by Mark

I don’t remember how I found out about this application but its pretty cool and I use it a lot. Dropbox allows you to share a folder across different computers. The way it works is very simple, you install the software at home and it will create a folder on your desktop called Dropbox. You then install the software at work and it will create a folder on that desktop also called Dropbox. Now whatever you dump into that Dropbox folder at home will show up on the same folder at work and whatever you drump into that Dropbox at work will show up at home. I even have the iPhone app so I can view the contents of that folder on my phone. It works on Macs, WIndows and Linux computers. Here is the [Link]

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NBK introducing pay with your phone

Posted by Mark

I just got an email from a friend at NBK about this new service they will be trying out in Kuwait which is payment via NFC (near field communication). Instead of paying by cash or plastic cards you could pay by just waving your phone. The service is going to be called Bouky and they’re launching a 6 month pilot which you can sign up to if you’re interested (link at the end of the post).

This service is already used in places like Japan and the Far East but it will be the first time here in the Middle East. Another cool feature will be that you could wave the phone in front of “smart” posters and redeem offers or download free pre-paid visa cards. My friend signed me up for the 6 month trial so I will get to try it out. During the trial period I will be able to pay by waving my phone at some 100 outlets in The Avenues. If you’re interested in trying Bouky out they will be choosing only 500 customers for the trial period. To sign up follow this [Link]

Note: You need to be a Zain mobile user to beta test this service

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A visit to Pro-Hobbies

Posted by Mark

Tonight I passed by a shop called Pro-Hobbies in Dajeej. I needed some paint for my Tamiya crawler and the Tamiya dealer had run out so they recommended I pass by Pro-Hobbies instead. It was my first time there and the place turned out to be really cool. While Tamiya specializes in on and off road electric cars and buggies, Pro-Hobbies specializes in helicopters and nitro powered race buggies.

While there I also got to check out the KHR-1 Robot. I had seen this robot before on YouTube playing football so it was very exciting to see the robot live. They aren’t selling them yet, they just got one to try it out and see if there is a market for it. The robot costs around KD400 which isn’t cheap but the way it moves is just incredible. It’s fully programmable and is driven by 19 servos (motors) which explains the hefty price tag considering a single servo usually costs around KD12. I took a video of the robot which you can see below. It was running out of batteries and the floor was slippery but you can still see how cool it is.


If you want to pass by the store they’re located in the mall behind Showtime in Dajeej. Here is a link to the [Map]. They have a website but it’s still under construction. [Link]

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