My Ford Explorer 2012 Experience

Posted by Mark

I was contacted by Ford recently to test drive their all-new 2012 Ford Explorer. The last time I had driven an Explorer was ages ago and it was on a road trip from Montreal to New York and all I remember was how comfortable it was. Their new car looks a lot better and more exciting compared to their previous model which is why I was looking forward to trying it out.

The first thing I noticed when I started the car was the combination of an analogue and digital dashboard. The speedometer was analogue while the information on both its sides were digital which I thought looked very cool. The second thing I noticed was the large screen in the center console which turned out to be touch sensitive and featured something called SYNC which I’ll go into detail in a bit. So first impressions wasn’t bad at all.

Since I had the car with me all weekend I drove it down to Bnaider and as expected the ride was very comfortable. The Ford is pretty big and spacious with three row of seating with the last row of seats having ample leg room. When the last row is folded down you also end up with a pretty large and spacious boot which I like to call IKEA friendly. The model I had (XLT) came with a rear view camera which was practical although I wish it also came with a front cam or at least front sensors since the front of the car is pretty long and high. While we’re on the subject of wishes there are two things I really disliked in the Explorer. The first is the touch buttons on the center console. For some reason Ford decided to have all the physical buttons touch sensitive but I have something against touch buttons because I can’t tell if I’ve pressed them or not specially when my eyes are on the road. Although you hear an audible alert when you touch a button I always prefer to actually feel a button being pushed in which doesn’t happen with these buttons. The second thing I disliked about the car was that it was front wheel drive. I thought that was odd for an SUV especially since it was full time front wheel drive and didn’t have an option to flip into four wheel drive. That turns out is an extra option which the car I drove wasn’t equipped with.

Other than those two quirks I didn’t have any other major issues. The SYNC feature which I mentioned earlier is very cool although I wasn’t able to fully take advantage of it. Right below the center console is a small compartment which can easily hold an ipod or iphone with accessories. In that same compartment is an SD card slot, two USB ports and RCA (video and audio) inputs. The car also has built in bluetooth and Wifi. I’m not sure why all the cars don’t come fitted with Wifi, it should really be a standard feature nowadays. I was also able to connect the car to my phones 3G connection using bluetooth but the car can also connect to internet using USB 3G modems and Wifi. You could also have the car connect to your phones internet via bluetooth and the car can then share the connection over wifi for other passengers to use. My problem is once the car connected to my internet I didn’t know what I could do with it. I’m guessing I need to download apps or widgets but since it wasn’t my car I didn’t spend too much time experimenting.

The car I drove had a pearl white exterior with a beige interior. If I was getting this car I would definitely go for a gray or black interior since it would make the car interior look a lot trendier but I’m not sure if they carry those colors locally. The starting price for the new Ford Explorer is KD9,999 and goes up to KD14,000 depending on the features and model. For more information on the Explorer click [Here]

Ford if you’re reading this.. I WANT TO TEST DRIVE THE RAPTOR!

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Kuwait Airport App

Posted by Mark

This is a very simple app which allows you to track incoming and departing flights at the Kuwait Airport. Back in the old days (I’m talking around 2001-2002 here) the Kuwait Airport website was terrible (kinda like now) but it had one very cool feature. When you accessed the airport website from a PDA browser, it wouldn’t take you to the regular website but instead take to a very simple white background site with just a list of incoming flights on it. It was PERFECT! A lot of times when I needed to check the arrivals list it would usually be when I’m on my way to the airport and from a mobile device. That simplified version of the website made things very practical and I was actually really surprised the airport website had that feature. Sadly, this cool feature disappeared years ago without a trace.

Which brings me to this app. It’s fast and focused. It’s actually the fastest launching app on my iPhone right now. So fast I actually had a VERY difficult time capturing a screenshot of the splash screen. Once the app loads it downloads the list of arriving and departing flights and you’re set. You can then scroll down the lists or search for a specific flight number or airline.

There are no negatives other than the fact the app isn’t free. You can download it from the App Store by searching for Kuwait Airport or by following this [Link]

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iBadala vs Urban Moon

Posted by Mark

I have a habit of installing apps on my iPhone and then only using them a handful of times and never again. Over the years I’ve accumulated a ton of useless apps to a point where finding one I needed became a hassle. So I decided to do some spring cleaning and delete the apps I hardly use anymore as well as apps that do pretty much the same thing. For example I had two apps that I used to re-size images on my phone, two apps to listen to internet radio stations, two RSS readers and so and so. I also had two apps which I used to find numbers of local businesses, iBadala and Urban Moon. So which did I decide to keep?

First I’ll state the obvious, iBadala looks terrible. The app feels like it’s stuck in a bad design time-warp somewhere between Windows 3.11 and the Pontiac Aztek. It’s not a pretty app while Urban Moon on the other hand looks a lot cooler and feels trendier. It has a pretty icon and a nice start up splash screen that really helps with the first impression. So in the looks category, Urban Moon wins hands down.

When it comes to functionality though, things are completely different. Although Urban Moon is the better looking app of the two and one that feels like it should be easier to use, it isn’t. When I run either one of these apps it’s usually because I’m looking for a number, usually a restaurant to call and check if I can reserve or see how long the line to get in is. Whenever I run Urban Moon I first need to wait for the app to check for updates, and if any are found I have to wait for them to download before I can even start using the app. Depending on how fast my internet connection is at that very moment this could take 5 second if there are no updates (on my 4s) or 10 to 20 seconds if there are any updates. The thing is, even 5 seconds is too long since it makes the app feel sluggish right from the get go due to the app freezing on the start up screen until it’s done checking for updates.

iBadala on the other hand takes just 2 seconds to launch and is then ready to use right away. While Urban Moon has all the numbers built into the app, iBadala grabs a number for you from an online database. Although that sounds slow in reality the search can take as little as under a second depending on how fast your connection is. The disadvantage here is the fact that if you don’t have an internet connection you can’t find any numbers.

It wasn’t that hard really to choose between the two. Even though iBadala is an ugly app, I constantly found myself using it instead of Urban Moon to find numbers quickly. Even if there wasn’t a long wait at the start of Urban Moon I still had to enter a section (another 1 second lost) before I could get to the search box. In any case both apps are free so you could download both and try them out and see which you prefer. I actually got Urban Moon back when they were selling it for $3.99 but they’ve recently made it free (but added advertising) which I think is a better way to go about it.

Here are the links for both apps:
iBadala App
Urban Moon App

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Turkish Airlines Lounge

Posted by Mark

The last thing left to talk about my trip to New York is the Turkish Airlines Lounge. On the way to New York I spent an hour in the lounge which wasn’t much time to experience it but on the way back I had five hours to kill so I then managed to properly check everything out.

The Turkish airport itself is pretty nice. There is a good amount of restaurants and cafes with a bunch of known stores like Hermes and Burberry and then the usual bookshops, electronic stores and souvenir shops. It’s not as big as the the Bangkok airport which I always compare to a mall, but still a lot better than most if not all the airports in our region (I haven’t been to the new Emirates terminal in Dubai). The lounge is pretty sweet, you enter by scanning your boarding pass and once you’re in you’re inside a different world. There’s a lot of seating all around the lounge with different moods and seating styles in each section. You’ve also got a lot of food stations scattered all about, some serving dessert, others freshly baked items a couple of hot food stations as well as four salad/snacks/fruit bars located in the different sections. I spent most of the time in a space at the back of the lounge sitting underneath a tree with a grand piano playing by itself in the background. It was very peaceful and cozy away from all the airport hustle and bustle.

Other than the different seating areas they also have a pool table, a kids games room, a mini movie theater, showers, sleeping rooms and a business center filled with iMacs. They also had a masseur who walks around offering complimentary massage as well as the usual free WiFi.

Overall I thought the lounge was pretty well done. You could even leave the airport from within the lounge bypassing the busy immigration counters in the airport. I don’t remember where but I read that they also offer guided tours of the city if you have a long stay over which is what I should have done since five hours is just too long to spend in a lounge no matter how nice it is.

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Turkish Airlines – Istanbul to New York

Posted by Mark

I should be posting about the Turkish airport and the Turkish Airlines Lounge but because I only spent around an hour at the airport I didn’t really have too much time to explore it. Since I’ll be spending more time at the airport on the return flight, I’ll post about the lounge once I get back to Kuwait. So instead, I’m going to post about the flight from Istanbul to New York.

The total travel time from Istanbul to New York is around 10 hours and 50 minutes and we flew in their Boeing 777-300ER V2. The business class setup on this flight was the latest one which is made up of just 4 rows split up as 2-3-2. One of the first people to greet you once you enter the business class is the chef which kinda sets a level of expectation on the kind of food you’ll be served during the flight. There’s obviously a ton of legroom in business class and it’s needed since the chairs turn into 180 degree flat beds. I wasn’t sure at first if they would be true 180 degree “flat beds” or instead be “lie flats” which are seats that turn flat but are slightly angled. I’ve experienced lie flats on two other airlines and they’re not as easy to sleep in and I always feel like I’m going to slide off them. Thankfully, the Turkish Airlines seats were proper flat beds which made sleeping really cozy.

Since the flight was long we were served two meals, one around an hour after take off while the other around 2 hours before arrival. The chef handled everything related to the food including handing out the menus which I noticed were customized with our names. It’s a little thing but gives the meals a very personal touch. The first meal we started off with were light appetizers which they rolled out on a trolley. You just tell the chef what you want and he’ll fill up your dish for you. Once we were done with the appetizers we were served soup which they only had one option called the traditional Turkish wedding soup. I had it and it tasted kinda like the Lebanese dish called “kebbeh bi laban” and that’s probably because think they both involve the same elements, beef and some sort of creamy sauce. After that we were presented with three options for main course, Swordfish Brochette, Grilled Beef Tournedos or Artichoke Ravioli. I went with the beef, Nat with the fish. She didn’t end up liking her fish much but I loved the beef. Once we were done with lunch they rolled out the dessert trolley which had a lot of different goodies. I was pretty full so I just went with ice cream. For my second meal later on in the flight I had a pasta dish and it was also superb.

The flight was very comfortable and I didn’t have any issues falling asleep on the flat bed. I’m actually not sure how I can fly economy knowing how much more comfortable it is in business. On short flights it’s not as important but when you’ve only slept for 3 hours and you get on board a 10 hour flight, the thought of being able to fall asleep comfortably on a cushy bed is priceless. Actually not priceless, just a lot more expensive than economy. We had large screens in front of us with a ton of movies and tv shows to watch. One disappointing thing was the fact internet access wasn’t active yet and was still “coming soon” according to the message I got on the screen when trying to access it. On the other hand they did have live news feeds available. Power sockets and USB sockets were available of course. If you have a USB stick or hard drive loaded up with movies you can watch them on your seats screen via the USB port. Not sure what movie formats their media player handles but I would be safe and not take any 720p or 1080p movies with me.

There’s an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry and Elaine’s flights get cancelled and they had to rebook on another flight. They end up finding two seats left, one in first class and the another in economy. Jerry explains to Elaine how she should take the economy seat since she’s never flown first and really wouldn’t miss anything but he on the other hand has and so he could no longer fly economy. Well that’s me right now, next time I fly economy I’m going to be thinking about all the cool things I’m missing from business.

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Turkish Airlines – Kuwait to Istanbul

Posted by Mark

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I’m flying Turkish Airlines from Kuwait to New York Business Class courtesy of the airline. The trip is divided into two stages, the first is a short flight from Kuwait to Istanbul while the second is the longer journey, Istanbul to New York. One of the main reasons Turkish Airlines wanted me to review them is because they’ve gotten a brand new plane for the Kuwait – Istanbul leg of the journey which they’ve recently entered into service.

The new plane is an Airbus A321 and I think it was entered into service around a month ago if I’m not mistaken. First thing I noticed once I boarded the flight was the trendy color scheme of the seats which were dark gray and had minimal red accents and bright turquoise pillows. The seats have built in power sockets, USB ports, a large pull out screen and a remote control. Since the flight is a short one the seats don’t fold down flat into beds but they do recline back a good deal with leg supports as well. Since this was business class there was lots of legroom as well.

The trip going to Istanbul is 3 hours and 20 minutes long. One of the advantages flying with Turkish Airline to the States or any other European airline is the fact your journey starts by flying west which results in a quicker overall trip since you don’t waste time backtracking your flight path (if your journey started by going east for example).

Breakfast was served on this trip and even though I was told by some readers the food would be great I actually wasn’t expecting much for this first stage of the trip. I was wrong since the food turned out to be pretty good. They started of breakfast with some cheeses, labneh, tomatoes, cucumbers and olives. A light combination which I’ve noticed Turkish Airlines likes a lot since there was a similar setup at different stages of my trip (lounge and Istanbul-NY flight). There was also a bit of turkey, freshly squeezed orange juice, fruits, jam, butter and yogurt. Once I was done with my starter I was served a cheese and tomato omelet which was also very good. The whole meal actually made me look forward to the one I would be having on my next longer flight since there would be a chef on board on that one.

It was a pretty good start to my trip. My only quibble and I’m being picky here is the lack of a phone network on-board. The only planes I’ve been on where I could use my phone while flying to check my email and chat on BBM are the Wataniya Airways ones and I’d like to see other airlines introduce this feature as well. Below are some pictures I took on this trip.

Note: I will be posting about my Istanbul to New York flight as well as the lounge in separate posts.

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Review: Muvi Micro Pro, Atom and HD Pro

Posted by Mark

Earlier in the month I posted about my quest to find a good car cam, a camera I can use to record what’s happening on the road while I drive. My thinking was I might one day capture something interesting that I could later upload onto YouTube and post about on the blog. I was looking for something affordable with decent video footage and after a bit of research I was leaning towards the Muvi Micro camera. A reader then pointed out that X-Cite were selling the same brand so I emailed my contact and managed to get 3 cameras sent over to review.

Muvi Micro Pro vs Muvi Atom
I’m going to start the review comparing these two cameras since they are priced similarly and offer nearly the same quality footage. Both these cameras are extremely small, if you look at the picture on the top of the page, they’re the two tiny cameras in that photo. The Atom is the smaller of the two and comes with slightly more accessories but both come with the very important clip. The clip snaps on to the back of the cameras and you can then clip them anywhere including your rear view mirror (if it’s not very thick).

Both these cameras don’t do HD but at this price point and with this physical size I wasn’t expecting them to. The video footage from both cameras is practically identical in terms of quality. The only difference I found is that the Micro Pro’s footage was slightly sharper when compared side by side with the Atom. But, the Micro Pro also has an annoying time-stamp that’s imprinted on the bottom of the video which killed it for me. Battery life for both these cameras is not that great, the Micro Pro lasts for around 90 minutes while the Atom just 45. On the bright side they both can be powered by USB and record while charging at the same time.

If I had to choose between the two I would most likely go for the Atom just for the fact that it doesn’t have the time-stamp on the video. The footage from both the cams aren’t that great but for YouTube they should work out fine as you can see in the sample videos below. I uploaded two videos shot simultaneously so you could compare the quality of the footage between the two cameras. I start off the video in an underground parking lot so you could see the low light performance and then I’ve got outdoor footage after that.

Veho Muvi Pro Sample Footage
Veho Muvi Atom Sample Footage

Muvi HD Pro
The HD Pro is larger than the other two cameras but it’s really not that big, it’s just that the other two that are really small which is why the HD Pro looks more bulky. Unlike the other two cameras the HD Pro has an LCD screen so you can actually see what you’re shooting instead of just aiming and hoping for the best. The HD Pro also shoots full HD (1080p) and has a battery that lasts up to 3 hours. So that’s three major advantages over the other two. The camera also comes with a ton of accessories most of which are mounting adapters including a windshield mount. You’re paying for all these extra features and accessories though since the HD Pro is double the price of the other two cameras. There is a more affordable option called the HD10+ which is the same camera but comes with less accessories and the price ends up falling between the HD Pro and the other two cameras.

Check out the comparison videos below between the HD Pro and the Muvi Pro.

Veho Muvi Pro Sample Footage
Veho HD Pro Sample Footage

Originally I was leaning towards geting the Muvi Micro from Amazon (a step down from the Micro Pro featured here) but after seeing the difference in quality between the Micro Pro and the HD Pro I realized it’s better to spend and get the best quality footage I could afford. With that mindset I ended up ordering the Contour+ which I’ll post about once I test it out. If you’re looking for an affordable camera to shoot video with while driving, walking (you can clip the Micro and Atom to your pants) or maybe mounting it on your RC car, then these cameras are worth looking into.

All the camera’s in this review were supplied by Alghanim and their prices are listed below: (They’re more expensive than Amazon)

Veho HD Pro KD89
Veho Muvi HD10+ KD69
Veho Atom KD40
Veho Muvi Micro Pro KD39

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Review: Digumz Video Game Rental

Posted by Mark

Digumz is a local video game rental website which I posted about back in March. Three weeks ago I decided to sign up and try them out and I’m really loving them so far.

Registration was a pretty simple procedure and I had two options for payment, K-net but I would have to leave a deposit or credit card and no deposit. I opted for the credit card payment and once the account was setup proceeded to order my first game. I went with Gears of War 3 and they managed to deliver it the same evening. They drop off the games and pick them up when you’re done and there are no delivery charges which is fantastic.

Their website is really easy to use and practical. Ordering a game is pretty simple and quick. You flip through their site, find a game you want and then click on the “Rent Now” button and it will be added to the queue list. If you don’t have anything on that list the game will be dispatched to you immediately. You could then continue to add games to your queue list and arrange them according to your priorities.

When you want to swap a game you go to your “Games I have” list and click on the “request game exchange” button and the next game on your list gets dispatched. In case your first choice isn’t available they will dispatch your second, if the second isn’t available the third and on and on.

Now there really aren’t any negatives, at least not for me since when I signed up their prices started at KD7 a month. For that price I can rent as many games as I want per month but only 1 game at a time. A couple of weeks back though they increased their prices and now the most affordable package starts at KD15. Lucky for me and everyone who signed up before the price increase, our memberships will continue to be renewed at KD7 a month which is great. At KD15 a month I don’t think I would have signed up since I am probably going to be renting only 1 game a month. For KD15 a month I might as well buy a game a month instead of renting. If you are planning to rent at least two games then KD15 a month would make more financial sense. They also have other packages in which you could rent more than a game a month but of course those packages also cost more.

Here is the link to the Digumz website [Link]
They also have another website where they sell games, here is the link to that website [Link]

At KD7 a month I’m really loving Digumz.

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Audi A1

Posted by Mark

Last week just before Eid I was able to get a hold of the new Audi A1 from the dealership to test drive over the holiday. I had been nagging them for a test drive since June but since I wanted the car for more than a day I wasn’t able to get my hands on it until now. I’ve always had a thing for hatchbacks but I also got interested in Audi’s recently and even more so after watching Truth in 24 which is a need to watch movie if you love cars.

The car a fuel efficient 2.0l engine pumping out 122hp which doesn’t sound like much on paper but in reality I found the car pretty zippy. That probably has a lot to do with the 7-speed automatic gearbox that comes standard with the car. The first day I drove the A1 I was actually pretty annoyed with the gearbox since whenever I stepped on the gas pedal for just a bit more power the car would dramatically drop down 3 or 4 gears which I thought was overkill. But, by the second day I had gotten used to it and started appreciating the gearbox a lot more. It’s very smooth and really does make the engine power more readily available which is why the car felt zippy. Still 8 gears is a lot of gears and if you use the paddle shift then you’ll be doing quite a lot of clicking.

I’m around 6 feet tall and found the car cozy with a very adjustable seat and steering column. It was actually pretty comfortable… that is as long as you’re sitting in the front. The car is a 2-door and I tried sitting in the backseat and found it too claustrophobic for my size. I wouldn’t mind sitting in the back for a 5 or 10 minute ride but I definitely wouldn’t want to sit there for a trip down to Bnaider. The trunk is also pretty small, you could fit one large travel bag but barely. But since it’s a hatchback the back seats fold down and you end up with a much larger carrying capacity.

Tech wise the car I drove came with LED lights which I think helps give the car an eye catching look. The car I drove didn’t have navigation (it’s an extra option) but it did have a popup screen and a pretty good sound system which comes with two SD card slots to use for MP3s. You could also purchase an iPod cable or even stream music from your iPhone to the car using Bluetooth which is what I was doing most of the time.

Overall I had a lot of fun with the car. I drove it all the way to the junkyards at the end of the 6th ring road and even through Bin Khaldoun Street traffic so I managed to experience a wide variety of environments. It’s easy to maneuver as a hatchback should be but the car also feels really well built with a nice thick steering wheel and great feeling buttons and nobs. Most importantly the car looks great which at the end of the days is probably the most important thing. The starting price of the Audi A1 is KD6,995 but the car I drove costs KD8,995. If you’re interested you can call them up for more information on 1811118.

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Garmin Forerunner 305 Review

Posted by Mark

Since I’ve started running and biking I was using the Nike+ GPS app on my iPhone to calculate the distance and amount of calories I was burning. But it had limitations and a few bugs so I decided to invest in a watch that would do a better job at it. The first watch I looked at was the Nike+ SportWatch GPS but it wasn’t cheap at $200 and it didn’t come with a heart rate monitor which was another $70. It also wouldn’t work well with biking. After a bit of research I finally ended up getting the Garmin Forerunner 305 for a number of reasons while I will list below.

The Forerunner 305 has a built in GPS, a very large screen and it comes with a heart rate monitor. The amount of information it can collect during a run (or bike ride) is overwhelming. For example, you can find out the distance traveled, your top speed, average speed, max hear rate, average heart rate, amount of calories burned, the elevation, the duration, the length of your rest breaks, what zone your heart rate is in and a few more details all of which you can be uploaded onto the Garmin Connect website and get it displayed as maps, charts and numbers.

The 305 has a large screen which as a result allows you to display a lot of information on it. The screen can be divided into 4 sections with each displaying information of your choice. For example I have it set up to show me:

– The current duration of my run
– The amount of calories burned
– The distance I’ve traveled
– The current time

All the above in one screen and if with a press of a button I can flip over to a second screen with 4 more pieces of information. If that’s a lot of information you could also divide the screen into 1, 2 or 3 sections. I also got two accessories with the watch, one is a bike adapter so I could mount the watch onto my bike and have the information in front of me. The second accessory I got is a velcro strap since it’s thicker then the rubber strap that comes with the watch and personally I think looks much better.

There are two negatives about the watch, nothing major but ones that are worth mentioning. Because of the GPS, the battery on the watch lasts for just 10 hours before needing a recharge. 10 hours is more than enough time since my runs are a lot shorter but I already have too many devices I need to charge and don’t really need another one. The second issue is the way it looks. This is not the best looking watch out there. But on the positive side it is very light and I would rather have an ugly watch with a large screen over a good looking one with a smaller one. But still, this watch would probably rank high up in my Top 10 Ugliest watches ever list.

I’ve saved the best thing till the end which is the price. This watch cost me just $128! It’s literally a steal right now since the newer Forerunner 310 came out. This watch originally cost over $400 and at $128 I don’t think there is any other watch in the market with similar features at this price point. This is a good deal, just ignore the way it looks. You’re not supposed to look good working out anyway, if you do then you’re doing it wrong.

Here is the link to the Forerunner 305 [Amazon Link]

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