Review: Canon G11

Posted by Mark

I’ve had the Canon G11 for just over a month now and after using it practically on a daily basis. I did a lot of research before choosing to go with the G11 and I don’t regret my decision. I have mostly great things to say about this camera and will go through the different categories one by one.

Battery Life
I got my Canon G11 on December 11th and I charged it that same day. Its now January 15th and I still haven’t charged the camera since then. Not only that but the battery meter is still showing that the battery is full. This is perfect because it means when I travel I don’t need to pack the charger or buy an extra battery.

Usability and Feel
The camera doesn’t fit in my pocket so I spend most of the time either carrying it in my hand or in my bag if I am carrying one. It comes with a strap but it isn’t long enough to wear across the shoulder just around the neck which isn’t practical for me. The camera feels very solid and it’s also a bit heavy so it gives it a very durable feel. I love the dials on top and I use them a lot. I always keep the camera on “P” (Program Mode) which automatically adjusts the aperture and shutter speed but control the exposure (make the shot brighter or darker) I use the dial on the left to control that. On the right there are two other dials, one for the ISO which I also use a lot and the second to swap between the different programs. Other than the regular programs which you find on most cameras like aperture priority, shutter priority, automatic mode etc.. there are two custom modes called C1 and C2. These two positions contain your custom camera settings. For example I have C1 set the camera to “P”, change the format of the image to JPG, the dimensions to wide shot and the color setting to vivid. That’s the mode I use mostly when taking shots for my blog. C2 on the other hand sets the camera to “P” but then changes the image format to RAW+JPG and at full resolution (not wide). I use that setting in case there is a beautiful shot I want to capture at the highest quality. There are a ton of other settings you could also set for each mode as well but I won’t get into them here. I really wish my Nikon D90 had a custom mode feature and dials on top to control the iso and exposure.

Image Quality
It’s great for a point and shoot camera but no competition next to a good DSLR. The noise at fairly high ISO’s is pretty decent and I find myself often using ISO800 with no worries about the image coming out noisy with ISO1600 also being very usable. The only issue I have is with the white balance. Sometimes when indoors the images come out a bit too cold for my taste and that’s actually the only issue I have with the camera.

Swivel Screen
One of the coolest features in the camera for me is the swivel screen. It allows me to take pictures without having to hold the camera up to my face. I also like the fact that when the camera is not in use I fold the screen to face inwards which protects the screen while in my bag. For people who don’t like the swivel feature they can rotate the screen towards them and fold it in and keep it that way like a regular camera.

So overall I really love this camera. There were a lot of occasions where I wished I had purchased the Panasonic GF1 but in the end I realized the reason I got the Canon G11 is to use for my blog and when I travel and the GF1 although a great camera isn’t as practical (and also twice more expensive). I highly recommend this camera to anyone that is looking for small highly controllable and fully featured camera. I am going to give it a 4.5 out of 5, it looses points for the white balance issue I faced and the fact that it doesn’t fit in my jeans pocket.

If you’re interested in this camera it’s available in Kuwait for KD228 but I purchased mine from Amazon for just KD127.
Here is the link to the Canon G11 on Amazon [Link]


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Burger Review: Napket

Posted by Mark


The Best Burger in Kuwait Challenge
Yes the burger challenge is still on, I didn’t forget about it I just took a little break. There are a lot of new places that opened up since the last time I reviewed a burger and I will start visiting them one by one soon. First from this new bunch is Napket. Although they’ve been open for awhile they just recently introduced a new menu which includes among other things, burgers.

I had three burgers to choose from, Napket Signature, The Western and Mushroom & Swiss. I decided to go with the Signature burger which has roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions and cheddar cheese. The burger comes with french fries on the side but since I don’t have fried food anymore I asked for alternatives and ended up going with roasted potatoes instead.

The burger took a while to come and once it did it looked overcooked and charred. I was hungry and really looking forward to a good burger but, the forecast wasn’t looking good. Luckily I was wrong. I took my first bite into the burger and got completely surprised. It wasn’t burnt, it wasn’t dry, it was delicious. The beef patty was the perfect thickness and there was this sauce that was slightly spicy but added a lot of flavor to the burger. The caramelized onions were also a great addition, I’ve really started enjoying them in my burgers and in this case they added a very nice touch of sweetness that went strangely very well with the spicy sauce. It would have been perfect except for one major flaw… the roasted tomatoes. They were just too juicy for the burger, so juicy that the bottom bun had become extremely soggy and the whole burger was dripping. It was easily the messiest burger I’ve had since the start of this challenge and I’ve mentioned it before how much I hate messy burgers.

The burger cost KD3.500 which is fairly decent for a dish at Napket especially since it also comes with roasted potatoes (or fries) and a small portion of green stuff (I think they call it salad). The final score is a 3.5 out of 5. Everything was great except for the sogginess and mess that came with it. I told the waiter about the problem and he said he would pass my feedback on to the chef so hopefully it will get fixed. Next time I am going with the Mushroom & Swiss instead.

Napket is located in Avenues
The cost of the Napket Signature Burger was KD3.500

Here are the burger places I’ve reviewed so far:
Applebee’s
Bredz
Burger Boutique
Fuddruckers
Hashi
Gaucho Gril
Gourmet Burger Kitchen
Johnny Rockets
Munch
Papa John’s Burgers
Prime & Toast
Ruby Tuesday
Slider Station
Sheraton Hotel
Smoke House
The Burger Hub
The Butcher Shop
The Little Oven
Wimpy


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Review: Poshcafe

Posted by Mark

I’ve been wanting to pass by Poshcafe at the 360 Mall for sometime now since the place looked trendy and interesting and today I finally did for lunch. They don’t have a large menu but they do mix it up with variety like salads, soups, pastas, burgers, sandwiches and desserts. Their burgers are actually sliders made with Angus beef and I was really tempted to try it but decided instead to start with a Mushroom & Gruyère soup followed by a healthy Posh Club sandwich. Nat had a salad as usual.

The mushroom soup came first and it looked good but although the soup looked like it contained herbs, I couldn’t taste them and the whole thing turned out to be a bit bland. It wasn’t bad but I think it just tasted very average. The Posh Club which is their club sandwich was served once I had finished my soup. Presentation wise it looked really good and when I took my first bite I tasted something that seemed interesting. They use a “special” sauce with their club sandwich which I think is similar to the tahina sauce you get with meat shawermas. Although it tasted interesting at first by the third sandwich I realized the sauce was too heavy and turned what was supposed to be a light lunch into a heavy one and I didn’t like that since I might as well have gone with the sliders.

For the final score I am going to give them a 3.5 out of 5. I really liked the style of the place, the waitress was very friendly and they have a huge selection of desserts (which I didn’t try) that looked really good. My only issue is with the food I ordered, both of which I wouldn’t have again because they were just so average. Price wise they’re decent but maybe a bit on the high side with some items. Nat thought her salad was expensive since for the same price she could have had the salad bar at Le Notre. I thought the soup could have been a bit cheaper but the club sandwich was priced just right. The next time I go back I would probably try their slider and have a dessert instead of a starter.

Small mixed salad: KD2.750
Mushroom & Gruyère: KD2.450
Posh Club: KD2.750
Here is their [Menu]


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Review: Avatar

Posted by Mark

Last night I went and watched Avatar in 3D at the movies here in Lebanon. I’ve been trying to watch it the past few nights but it’s always sold out except for yesterday when I managed to find two seats empty.. first row on the left. Horrible location but I figured if it was really bad I could just walk out and come back another time.

It was the first time I watch a movie in 3D, actually the second time since the first was JAWS when it was released in Cinema Salmiya back in the early 80s. I wasn’t looking forward to wearing 3D glasses and actually wanted to watch Avatar in 2D because of the stupid glasses but it was only showing in 3D so I didn’t have a choice. That turned out to be a good thing.

I loved the movie and I loved the 3D. 3D theater technology has come a long way since JAWS that’s for sure. Even though I was sitting on the first row and to the side I still managed to enjoy the movie and the 3D effects. I had a major neck cramp by the end of the movie and I really wished I was sitting in a better location but that still didn’t change the fact that this movie is EPIC. I wasn’t expecting to be impressed since from the trailers the movie looked normal but honestly the trailer doesn’t do it any justice. You need to watch the movie on a big screen and you NEED to watch it in 3D.

I heard that Cinescape is having technical problems with Avatar in 3D and so they’re only playing the 2D version for now. I think I read on Gizmodo that a lot of theaters worldwide are having similar technical issues so its really not their fault. I personally think you should wait until they fix their problem and then watch it in 3D. It would be a shame to watch it in 2D especially if you haven’t watched any 3D movie before because this would be the perfect one to start with.

I didn’t have any problems with the movie, nothing to complain about. The story was great, the length was perfect and passed by quickly, the movie was just perfect. The final score is a 5 out of 5. Keep in mind I watched this movie from the worse location possible so everyone else should have a much better experience. [YouTube]


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Review: Fiio E5 Headphone Amplifier

Posted by Mark

The fake iPod Shuffle looking device in the picture above is the Fiio E5 Headphone Amplifier. For the past few years I have been using earphones (the kind you stick deep inside your ear) for traveling. They’re great because they isolate a lot of the airplane noise and if there is any kid screaming next to me I hear nothing. Now the disadvantage is after using these earphones for over an hour they start getting uncomfortable. They also aren’t practical to put on and take off every time you need to communicate with someone.

That’s why I ended up getting the Sennheiser PXC 250 sound isolating headphones back in July and since then I’ve used them a few times while traveling. They are very comfortable and cancel out the engine sound pretty well but I didn’t find them loud enough. In fact, my last trip I ended up using my older earphones instead. So, I decided to get a headphone amplifier to help increase the volume for when I find my headphones too low. I didn’t want to pay a lot and was looking for something portable. My two options ended up being either a homemade cMoy amp I could purchase from eBay or the Fiio E5 which was recommended by some users on Head Fi. I went with the Fiio.

Read the rest of this entry »


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Logitech X-230 Review

Posted by Mark

I needed some small speakers for my desktop computer which I use every now and then when I want to copy mp3s to my iPod. The computer has a tiny built in speaker but its too weak and you can barely hear anything so I wanted some affordable external speakers I could connect to it so I could hear some of the songs before I move them to my iPod. I looked at some bookshelf stereo speakers but after some research I ended up getting the Logitech X-230.

The X-230 is made up of two small speakers and a sub that fits under the desk. I read a lot of positive feedback on them online and a friend of mine who has the smaller X-210 told me his speakers sounded really good so I imagined the the larger X-230 sounded even better. They did.

I am currently sitting on my desktop computer typing this post while I am listening to some music coming out of the speakers. Its really hard to believe these speakers cost me only KD15. The sound is pretty balanced and there is some proper bass being pumped out by the sub although it gets a bit boomy every now and then but hey, they are KD15 speakers. Everything is sounding pretty good coming out of these speakers and for the price I paid I think they are a steal.

So if you’re looking for speakers I would highly recommend the Logitech X-230. You can get them from the local Logitech website for KD14 with delivery but I ended up getting them from Hawalli for KD15.


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Archos 7 Review

Posted by Mark

I don’t know where to start this review because I’ve got a ton of good things to say about the Archos 7 but an equal amount of bad things. I guess I will start with the bad things.

The Archos 7 is extremely buggy plus I think I have a problem with mine. There are three brightness settings on my A7, low, medium and high. When I put the brightness on high the back light flickers between low and high constantly. I checked online and some people faced this issue when the screen was set on low brightness but I am the first to report this issue with the brightness set on high. Luckily for me I don’t have any problems when the brightness is set on low or medium, the two settings I will be using most while traveling. I read this issue could get fixed with a firmware update but so far since I got the device over a week ago there’s been two firmware updates and both haven’t solved the flickering issue.

As I mentioned earlier the device is also buggy. I haven’t used the A7 much but so far its crashed with me while watching a movie once. At times it just crashes while getting charged or while its on sleep and I need to reboot it, a quick process but nevertheless it shouldn’t do that. I had it connected to my Mac for over a day now and it was working fine until awhile ago I tried to turn it on and it wouldn’t. For some reason it wasn’t charging over USB which it should have been and the battery got completely drained. URGH! The last negative thing I have to say is that the Archos is pretty heavy. I love using my iPhone after I am done with the A7 since it makes my iphone seem tiny and ultra light. Oh and one more thing, I can’t seem to remove the battery, its like jammed or something!

Yeah there are A LOT of issues but… I still love the Archos 7! I love the screen, the battery life, the ability to just drag and drop my movie folders onto it, the way it plays ALL my files without needing to convert them, the touch screen, the browser, the web TV, web Radio, the stupid flash games, the little stand on the back of the device, the way Archos keeps improving the device with firmware upgrades and finally the fact that I can stream videos off my main server at home over wifi and watch them on my Archos from anywhere at home. When I bought the device I didn’t know I could do that but it turns out I can and easily. I just browse my home network from the Archos, find a video file, double click it and it starts playing instantly.

When I purchased the Archos 7 it was because I thought it was the best portable video player on the market but now I know it is. As of this post I am not aware of any other device on the market that has the same features and abilities as the Archos 7 and thats why I have no regrets. Final score is a 3.5 out of 5. Yeah it has a TON of issues but at the end of the day all it needs to do is play movies for a very long time without running out of battery and that it does perfectly. Of course I am hoping Archos will work out whatever bugs I have with the next firmware update.

160GB Archos 7 is for $272. [Amazon Link]
320GB Archos 7 is for $412. [Amazon Link]

By the way there is also a smaller version called the Archos 5 which sells for $280. Its the same as the Archos 7 in every way except the screen is a 5inch and the battery lasts around 5 hours. [Amazon Link]


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Burger Review: Smoke House

Posted by Mark


The Best Burger in Kuwait Challenge
Smoke House is a place I heard about recently from a friend. They opened up just two months ago in Mahboula and I posted about them a few days ago. Everyone who visited the place had good things to say about it so I got there with high expectations only to feel let down once I saw the place.

Smoke House is a very tiny restaurant with a very lame looking exterior and a pretty uninspiring interior. There is no love at first sight here more like what the frak brought me to this place! I passed by with a friend of mine and when we arrived 2 out of the 4 tables were occupied. We sat down and were greeted by a very friendly waitress and were given the menus to look over. I quickly decided to go with a chili cheese fries for starters, a Smoke House Burger (medium well) with cheese for my main dish and a side order of mashed potatoes with gravy. My friend ordered the lamb chops with a side order of coleslaw and sweet corn and butter. For drinks I decided to order root beer since I noticed one of the other diners was drinking root beer out of an A&W root beer jug so I decided I would have one also.

My burger arrived awhile later and I was totally shocked. It had to be the best burger presentation I had ever seen and I don’t mean just in Kuwait. The plate had a very gourmet like presentation to it and the burger looked very appetizing, I quickly took my shots before I bit into the burger. The burger didn’t come with any lettuce or tomatoes just a bit of thinly sliced onions and cheese. I think I’ve mentioned this before but I don’t think lettuce or tomatoes belong in a good burger, it takes away from the flavor which in this case was great. The patty was thick (not too thick) and very juicy. The bun was soft, looked wonderful and although was surrounded by some juice when it arrived it wasn’t soggy. The only negative thing about my burger was the fact the cheese wasn’t melted properly.

I went to Smoke House expecting a good burger but I didn’t expect this. I’ve decided to give this burger a 4.5 out of 5 making it the highest rated burger in my burger challenge so far. The root beer I ordered by the way tasted like crap. Turns out they weren’t using A&W root beer just their mugs but the waitress was nice enough to swap it with a regular coke and I wasn’t charged for the root beer. Other than that issue the sweet corn and butter was great, the coleslaw was very good, my friend’s lamb chops were supposedly also delicious and the quantity was huge. For dessert I had an apple pie and I ended up really liking that too. They really need a nicer and much larger place but according to the waitress if they do good for 6 months then they will be opening up a bigger place which makes good sense. The prices are also very affordable if anything maybe a bit under priced and I liked the way they dealt with my complaint, very professional. I’m actually going back there tomorrow with another friend and I am going to try and convince myself to have something other than the burger, maybe their Philly cheese steak. Good stuff.

Smokehouse is located in Mahboula
The cost of the Smokehouse Cheeseburger is KD1.950


Update:
It seems they’ve changed their burger! Not sure why anyone would do this but their new burger doesn’t taste the same as the one in the review.


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Burger Review: The Butcher Shop

Posted by Mark


The Best Burger in Kuwait Challenge
A friend recommended I try The Butcher Shop burger for my Burger Challenge so I passed by a few nights ago to give it a shot. I’ve been to the Dubai branch before but haven’t been to the Kuwait branch one since they launched so I was looking forward to it especially since my friend told me their burger was “amazing”.

I passed by The Butcher Shop the night there was the big dust storm so they only had two tables occupied. All of Avenues was empty which I actually found pretty cool. I quickly flipped through their menu looking for the burger section and then told the waitress I would have the cheese burger medium well and a coke to go with it. It was around 8pm and I hadn’t eaten a single thing all day since I was busy with work so I was really looking forward to the burger.

The burger arrived shortly thereafter and to my disappointment it didn’t look very appetizing. The presentation was pretty dull and I actually had a hard time taking a good shot to use with this post. Looks aren’t everything of course and I was hoping the taste would make up for the presentation. It didn’t surprisingly. The bottom of the bun was very soggy while the top bun was dry. The patty although thick and tender didn’t have any flavor. It was a really boring burger even though it was the only thing I had eaten that day.

The cost of the burger is KD2.950 which is fairly decent for a place like The Butcher Shop but I wouldn’t have it again. I was thinking of giving it a 3 out of 5 but the fact that I was extremely hungry without food all day and still managed to find the burger unsatisfying and flavorless dropped it down another half point to 2.5 out of 5. If you’re at the Avenues and are looking for a good burger have Johnny Rockets or Ruby Tuesday instead.

The Butcher Shop is located at The Avenues
The cost of the Cheese Burger is KD2.950

Here are the burger places I’ve reviewed so far:
Applebee’s
Bredz
Burger Boutique
Fuddruckers
Hashi
Gaucho Gril
Gourmet Burger Kitchen
Johnny Rockets
Munch
Papa John’s Burgers
Prime & Toast
Ruby Tuesday
Slider Station
Sheraton Hotel
The Burger Hub
The Little Oven
Wimpy


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Review: easyHotel Paddington

Posted by Mark

Last year when I traveled to London and Paris I found the hotels to be very expensive. They ate away a large chunk of the vacation money along with the plane tickets. This year with the cheap British Airways tickets there was a good chance the hotel budget would even exceed the cost of the plane tickets so I started searching for a solution. I needed an affordable hotel that had the following:

– Internet Access
– Location close to Oxford Street
– Location close to underground
– Cleanliness
– Security
– Modern looking

I found a ton of cheap hotels in London but none fit all my criteria and majority had gotten negative reviews on TripAdvisor.com. By chance I found out about a new easyHotel branch that had opened up in Paddington late last year and most if not all the reviews online were positive.

easyHotel is a no frills super budget hotel. To keep its prices down the rooms contain only two very essential things.. a bed and a bathroom. Thats it. No closet, side table, shelves, carpet, phone, mini bar, or anything else non essential. There is a flat screen TV but you have to pay for the remote control and thats the only amenity. According to the reviews online the hotel was very clean and in an excellent location so I decided to give it a shot. Four nights cost me only KD79 which is around KD20 a night. Compared to KD60 a night I paid for a normal room in an average 3 star hotel last year, this was a steal.

I took the regular subway from the airport to the hotel. It was around a 45 minute journey. I had an Oyster card which I recharged to use for a whole week (zone 1 & 2) so I paid only 1.5 pounds to take me from Heathrow to Paddington station which is a 2 minute walk from the hotel. If you don’t have an Oyster card the cost is around 4 pounds for a ticket.

When I arrived to the hotel I was given a choice of either a room on the 3rd floor or one in the basement. Since I wanted a bit of sun light I opted for the 3rd floor room. This meant I had to carry two bags (mine and Nat’s) up 3 flights of stairs since the hotel doesn’t have a lift. The bags were light on arrival so that wasn’t a problem but after all the shopping the bags more than doubled in weight so carrying them back down was exhausting and I nearly busted my knee. Once we got to the room I was actually impressed. Yes, the room is very tiny but it was spotless and bright. There was barely enough room to fit two bags side by side on the floor at the foot of the bed but even without any bags two people can’t move around the room very freely.

I liked the room and I really liked the hotel. I don’t think I can stay in the room for more than five days and with all the shopping we practically filled up all the floor space with bags but it was actually fun. We would get to the room late, watch a bit of TV, sleep, wake up early, leave the room and not come back until it was very late again. So really the room was serving its purpose. They had a special offer and gave us the TV remote control for free, there was also cheap wifi at 20pounds for a weeks use, AC/Heating was available surprisingly and best of all the hotel is a 2 minute walk from Paddington station and around 6 buses from Oxford Street stop right in front of the hotel. The hotel staff were also very friendly and helpful. Last day we were planning to take the Heathrow Express to the airport (16 pounds for a one way ticket) when the hotel employee advised us to take the Heathrow Connect (approx 6 pounds for a one way ticket). Turns out the Heathrow Connect is around 15 minutes slower but less than half the price so even more savings!

The final score I would give the hotel is a 4 out of 5. Its a very very excellent value hotel, just be prepared not to expect much from it in terms of size and amenities. I highly recommend it and will definitely be staying there again myself.


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