17 02, 2019

Zain Beam – First Impression

2019-02-17T10:09:50+03:00Feb 17, 2019|59 Comments

Around ten days back I asked if anyone had tried the Zain Beam internet service and a few of you responded with high praise for the service. Zain also read my post and got in touch with me with an offer to try the service for a month, so I jumped on the opportunity and yesterday they installed Beam at my place.

The installation process is supposed to be fairly simple, they install an antenna on your balcony or the roof of your building, and then run an ethernet cable to your apartment where they hook it up to an LTE modem. In my case the installation process was slightly more complicated and took around an hour and a half because they were having trouble finding a strong signal. My building which back in the 90s was the tallest in the neighborhood is now surrounded by much taller buildings and so it was difficult to find a good signal. Thankfully, just as I was about to give up hope, they found a spot on my roof with ample signal and then ran the ethernet cable from it down to my apartment.

First impression? It’s fast! I asked for the 20Mbps connection and I’m getting around 30Mbps which is similar to what other people are reporting. What’s also great is my upload speed is between 10-20Mbps.

This right now is the fastest connection I’ve ever had at home and it feels strange because I’m so not used to having a fast and stable connection at home. YouTube videos play instantly as well as HBO, Amazon, Hulu and Netflix. The video quality from the streaming services also looks to have improved because of my now faster connection. I also managed to update all the apps on my two ipads plus two macs really quickly. I know all this sounds very normal, but you have to keep in mind, my connection for the past year or so has been terrible and I now finally feel like I have fast internet like a normal person.

For those of you who are gonna leave a comment saying I should get LTE or B Wireless or whatever, those services might be great where you are, but not where I am. I’ve had B Wireless for the past 7 years but you need a direct line of sight to their tower for it to work properly. A few months ago I lost what little line of sight I had which is why I had to look for a B Wireless alternative. Regular internet services from telecoms also doesn’t work properly where I live. Zain Bolt which can easily hit 60-70Mbps at the office barely gets 12Mbps at my place and spends most of the time hovering at around 5Mbps. So I understand you might have super fast mobile or fiber optics internet at your place, at mine it’s a different story.

Its too soon to tell if the Zain Beam speed will remain consistent, but I’m optimistic since Zain are limiting the amount of Beams they install per area. A friend of mine also told me these antennas can be upgraded in the future to work with 5G, so Zain could potentially end up providing much faster internet than their current two options (20Mbps or 40Mbps). Personally, if the connection continues like this for a the next few days I’m not even going to wait for my one month trial period to finish, I’m going to sign up right away.

The cost of the service is KD25 a month for 20Mbps, and KD40 for 40Mbps. With both options you need to commit to 24 months which is a tough pill to swallow. But with no better option, I’m willing to commit. If you guys have any questions about Zain Beam or want me to try anything let me know in the comments below.

21 11, 2018

First Impression: iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2018)

2018-11-22T23:00:39+03:00Nov 21, 2018|16 Comments

Earlier this week Xcite hooked me up with the brand new iPad Pro 12.9-inch that was recently released by Apple. I hadn’t really considered getting the 12.9-inch iPad Pro until I realized it would be a great way to edit my photos using Adobe Lightroom. I’ve had the iPad now for less than a week and still need to pick up the Apple pencil and keyboard, but I wanted to post my initial impression first until I get the rest of the stuff.

My current Mac setup at home is composed of a 27-inch iMac which I use mostly for my design work, a 13-inch MacBook Pro which I use as my daily computer, and a 9.7-inch iPad Pro I use for random things like watching YouTube videos in bed or when I want to chill and browse the web at a coffee shop. Most of the reviews online have been discussing if the new iPad Pro’s can replace your computer, I wasn’t looking to do that instead, I wanted it as a supplementary device to my current setup. My first impression so far? I’m loving it.

The thing that surprised me the most is the thickness and size of the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro. It’s thinner than my iPhone XS and even though I had read that in the reviews, I didn’t believe it until I put the iPad next to my phone. I compared the size of the iPad to various mac devices and you can see some of those comparisons below with more on my instagram acccount @mark248am. It’s clearly a much more manageable size compared to the older larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

So far I’ve mostly been using the iPad to edit the photos I took of the Ferrari Portofino I test drove a few days ago. I’ve been using Adobe Lightroom and the process has been super smooth. Because the new iPad Pro uses USB-C, I was able to connect my Sony A7 III camera to the iPad and copy all the photos easily and I’m loving the experience so far.

Really my only gripe with the new iPad so far is that it’s a fingerprint magnet (more than usual). Both my older 9.7-inch iPad Pro and my iPhone don’t capture as many fingerprints and it really shows on the screen both when turned on and off. I guess things will improve once I get the Apple Pencil but still, this is pretty annoying.

Once I get the pencil and keyboard I’ll post a more thorough review but for now, if you’re interested in picking up a new iPad Pro I think Xcite still have a few left [Link]

6 11, 2018

PEKO PEKO – Japanese Eatery

2018-11-06T12:15:58+03:00Nov 6, 2018|2 Comments

PEKO PEKO is a new restaurant that opened up this past weekend and it’s one I had been waiting to open for a few months now. That’s because PEKO PEKO used to be called RAW before they closed down this past Ramadan for renovations. RAW was one of my favorite sushi places and so I was disappointed they had closed down but also curious to see what they were going to open up instead. The chef is the very talented Abdullah AlYaqout so I knew whatever he was cooking up was going to be interesting.

While RAW was a purely Japanese eatery, PEKO PEKO is a Japanese eatery but with East Asian influences. What this means is you’ll find more than just your typical sushi on the menu. With so many sushi places in Kuwait and some really good ones, they probably realized that they had to do something different to stick out and I think they did a pretty good job based on what I tried. The menu I had was the tasting menu and so was fairly limited and didn’t include the prices, but I pretty much liked 8 out of the 10 or so dishes I tried.

I’ll be heading back there this week again to try their full menu and maybe post about the place properly, but for now, if you’re looking for a new restaurant to try then check them out. They’re in their soft launch phase so they’re currently open only from 6PM to 10PM (but daily). For pictures and a link to their location, check out their instagram @eatpekopeko

16 09, 2018

Hello Sony A7 III!

2018-09-16T15:46:26+03:00Sep 16, 2018|11 Comments

Earlier this year I sold all my Nikon photography gear because I wasn’t really using them. They were large and heavy so I spent more time using my iPhone and compact but full-frame Sony RX1 camera instead. That setup turned out to be fine for 80% of my needs, but over the past few months, I realized how much of a handicap it was by not owning a DSLR with changeable lenses. So I started looking at compact mirrorless cameras, specifically the Sony A7 series and the newly announced Nikon Z and Canon R series. Mirrorless cameras had similar capabilities as much larger DSLR’s, but they’re a lot more compact. I was kinda leaning towards the Nikon Z mirrorless camera, until I found out that AAB World had recently become official Sony camera dealers. That news made my decision easier, I was getting the Sony A7 III.

Full disclosure, I have a long-standing relationship with AAB World. They’ve been very active with me and the blog over the years and they’ve lent me lenses and camera gear to review whenever I wanted and also hooked me up with discounts. I’m a huge fan.

I’ve had the Sony A7 III for around two weeks and I love it so far. My aim with the A7 III was for it to play two roles, I needed it to be compact when I needed something small and portable, but I also needed a full frame camera I could attach various lenses too˙. The A7 III has fulfilled both those requirements. First thing I did after buying the camera was to get the compact Sony 35mm F/2.8 prime lens for the A7 III. With the 35mm lens, the A7 III was not that much larger than my RX1 (check the picture above).

The second lens I picked up was the Sony 12-24mm F/4 lens and now I’m planning to get the Sony 24-105mm F/4 and Sony 70-200mm F/4 lenses. I’m going with F/4 lenses and not brighter F/2.8 lenses because the F/4 versions are lighter, smaller, cheaper and nearly as good for my needs.

The A7 III feels really great in my hands and I’m loving all its features and capabilities. I can understand why many are calling it the best camera of 2018. I’ll be posting a more comprehensive review after I get the rest of the lenses and shoot some more with the camera. But first impressions, the A7 III is great, it’s so good that I’ve actually decided to sell my Sony RX1, something I told myself I wouldn’t do.

If you’re interested in the A7 III, AAB World are currently out of stock but they should getting another shipment soon. Here are their preorder links on their website:

Sony A7 III (Body only) – KD679
Sony A7 III (Kit including lens) – KD749

5 11, 2017

A Weekend with the iPhone X

2017-11-06T16:22:22+03:00Nov 5, 2017|66 Comments

Thursday night I picked up my iPhone X from Digits in Marina Mall. They’d given me early access to buy one so that I could review it on the blog, but they made me promise that I wouldn’t turn it on until Friday morning 8AM. Apple is pretty strict with these things so I understood their concern. I know someone who had gotten an iPhone X a few days earlier, and when they turned it on, Apple sent the authorized reseller he had gotten the phone from a warning that they had 2 hours to shut it down or else. I wasn’t in a rush, I didn’t mind waiting till the next morning to play with the iPhone X, I was just glad I had my hands on one and didn’t have to wait in any line to get it.

I’m not the kind of person that upgrades phones every year, I was actually using an iPhone 6S until last week and was perfectly fine with it until my company handed me an iPhone 8. The iPhone X is the first iPhone in years that I’ve really wanted, and after using it over the weekend, here are my first impressions:

No Home Button
The iPhone X no longer has a home button and I was worried it would take time to get used to the new swipe up to go home gesture. But, I got used to it within the first few minutes of using the phone. To me it feels natural and so much slicker and faster than clicking down on the home button. So goodbye home button, you won’t be missed.

Face ID
This is probably my favorite feature in the iPhone X. It just works. The best way to describe it is that it’s as if your phone doesn’t have a passcode. To unlock your phone, you pick it up and then you swipe up to go home. Super simple, super fast. If for some reason your phone doesn’t wake up when you pick it up, you just tap the screen to wake it up and then swipe up. Again super fast. But Face ID has other advantages than just using it to log into your phone. When I get to a website that asks me to log in with my username and password, the phone checks my face and when it recognizes me automatically fills in my username and password. Another cool feature of Face ID is with notifications. When you get say a whatsapp message on your phone, you won’t see a preview. Pick up the phone and Face ID will recognize you and then show you a preview of the whatsapp messages [Example]. That’s a really smart feature because it means you can leave your phone out in the open and not worry about anyone reading your notification previews, but it also means you yourself can still read those previews. If you’re also wondering, Face ID works under different lighting so if you’re in complete darkness or out under bright sunlight, Face ID will still be able to read your face. Face ID was still able to read my face even though I had sun glasses on and even when my face was half stuffed deeply into my pillow.

The Screen
It’s huge and I’m loving it so far mostly because the blacks are so black. One of the biggest advantages of OLED screens (which is what the iPhone X uses) is the blacks are pure black. That’s because unlike LCD’s, to get the color black on an OLED screen it shuts off the pixels that are supposed to be black. So black is parts of the screen not lit up. Am I making sense? Imagine a room with no windows and one light bulb, to turn the room black you just turn off the bulb. No light = complete darkness = black. The “notch” on top of the screen isn’t annoying at all by the way, in fact I barely notice it. I mean its there, but it doesn’t hinder the experience of using the phone in any way. For those of you who are also concerned that not all apps are yet adapted to take full advantage of the iPhone X, from all the apps I use I think only 2 or 3 still display a black border on top and the bottom of the screen. The rest of my apps all display full screen and so it’s not really a big issue, and whatever apps don’t display in full screen I’m expecting them to by their next update.

Wireless Charging
I picked up a Belkin Qi charger from Xcite for around KD6 and have it on my bedside table. I noticed compared to the iPhone 8 the iPhone X has a larger wireless charging sweet spot. With the iPhone 8 it wouldn’t always start charging when I placed it on the charger but I haven’t had that issue with the iPhone X. If like me you use a magnetic mount for the phone it can still work with wireless charging. I have the metal plate sandwiched between my silicone cover and the phone, but I moved the plate all the way to the bottom of the phone and turned it sideways. That way the center of the phone is clear and the metal plate won’t interfere with charging.

Size vs iPhone 8
The iPhone 8 and X are virtually the same size. The iPhone X is slightly taller and thicker but too minor to even notice.

The Camera
Finally the camera, probably the most important aspect of the phone for me. I was always jealous of iPhone Plus owners since they had two lenses on their phones, the regular wide one and a more zoomed in one. Other than the added advantage of being able to zoom in closer to a subject (while maintaining the image quality), having two lenses allowed Apple to create the “portrait mode” feature in which it blurs the background making it look like it was shot with a DSLR. The iPhone Plus is too big a phone for me so I never considered getting it, but the iPhone X has the same camera system as the plus, with more features like a brighter aperture (f/2.4 vs f/2.8) and optical image stabilisation for both lenses not just the wide one. I haven’t really taken that many shots with it, just a few of my brothers cats and some of my friends and so far I really am loving the portrait mode.

So yeah as you can tell, I’m really loving the iPhone X so far. Although it was a big chunk of change to spend on just a phone, I think its worth it. If you’re looking to pick one up, Digits sold out their stock on launch, but are getting another shipment in around a weeks time. They currently have a waiting list so you can go and reserve a phone. The prices of the 64GB version is KD353 and the 256GB version KD405. A friend also just picked up a phone from Zain this morning but I think you have to sign up to a plan or something to get it (i.e. don’t think you can just straight up buy it from them).

16 07, 2017

First Impression: The DJI Spark Mini Drone

2017-07-16T12:31:18+03:00Jul 16, 2017|41 Comments

I wasn’t planning on posting about the DJI Spark until I got to use it on my upcoming trip, but because of the amount of interest I got on it from my instagram story and twitter over the weekend, I decided I’d at least post my first impression. First full disclosure, DJI released the Spark last month and when I saw Xcite had a preorder page for it, I got in touch with them and asked them if they could send me one over to review. They couldn’t get me a Spark from their first shipment since it quickly sold out, but Thursday they got in touch with me to let me know they secured me a drone from their second shipment and I passed by and picked it up.

The DJI Spark is tiny, like super tiny. Its around the same size as my iPhone 6 and it weighs just 300 grams. But don’t let the size fool you, this isn’t an indoor drone and it’s packed with advanced features of its older brothers. I’m not going to go into too many details since there are a ton of YouTube videos that do that, but I will highlight some things in this post which I think are cool.

There are three ways to control the Spark, either with your phone, with the optional remote, or using hand gestures. The last one is a bit of a gimmick but it works and it can be useful.

Hand Gestures
The Spark has a sensor at the front that will recognize your face and then detect your hand gestures which you can use to control the drone. You wave goodbye at the drone and it will fly up and hover away from you. You want it to snap a photo of you? Just give it the correct gesture and it will take your photo. This is pretty cool because it keeps things simple for those who don’t want more out of the drone other than snapping selfies. You can watch the video above of how this works.

Using Your Phone
The Spark doesn’t come with a remote control, instead you can download an app onto your phone and use it to control the drone using wifi. This means you don’t have to carry a remote around which keeps the Spark portable. The only downside is that the Spark’s flight height is limited to 50 meters and the flight range to just 100m when using the phone due to the wifi’s limited range. The top speed is also limited to 20km/h.

Remote Control
The first thing I did after picking up the Spark was buy the optional remote control. Personally I can’t use virtual control sticks in apps, maybe I’m old fashioned but I like physical buttons and joysticks. The second reason I wanted to get the remote control was because it increases the flight height from 50m to 500m and the flight range from 100m up to 2KM. That’s a HUGE increase. With the remote control you can also put the drone into sport mode which increases the top speed to 50kmh. Really impressive specs for something so freakin tiny. I still can’t believe how high it can fly.

I spent the weekend playing around with the Spark and as a complete drone newbie, I did find the experience overwhelming at first but that’s probably because I didn’t read any instructions and just winged it. Friday morning I woke up early and headed to my favorite open area in the desert to take some photos. There was an overcast so my photos were coming out very flat and dull, but I did manage to take one photo which I added to my instagram story. Saturday morning I decided to take the drone near Scientific Center and fly it there, that was a pretty scary experience because when I told the drone to come home and land, I freaked out because I got worried it would decide to land in the sea. It did’t thankfully and instead came back down to it’s original launching point. That same afternoon I wanted to see if I could fly the drone from my hand and then have it land back in my hand when I was done, all without having to leave my car. It worked! Because the drone is so tiny you could use your palm as a launch and landing pad.

If you’re a beginner like me, the drone has a bunch of automated and smart flying modes that will make your videos look professionally shot including:

Active Track: You highlight the subject you want the Spark to follow and it will follow it
Tripod: Keeps the drone stable and slow allowing you to film cinematic shots
Rocket: Starts filming you from eye level and then flies straight up while still focusing on you
Dronie: Starts filming you from eye level and then angles out and away from you while still keeping you in focus
Circle: The Spark films you while rotating around you
Helix: Rocket + Circle combined

Battery life is my only issue with the Spark so far. The total flight time is just 16 minutes which isn’t a lot especially if you factor in the time it will take you to get to the height you want, position your drone and also the amount of time the drone needs to fly back down to you. You’re definitely gonna need more batteries and I already ordered 2 from Amazon and they’ll be waiting for me in L.A. when I get there end of the week.

Overall I love this little thing. It kinda feels like having an invisible photographer friend with you everywhere you go. When I went out to the desert to take some photos, I tried the active tracking feature and had the Spark follow my car around shooting video of it while I was driving. In the winter when I go snowboarding I could have the Spark follow me shooting video of me face planting all the way down the slope. It’s tiny and light enough to take everywhere with you which is why I’m looking forward to using it on my trip.

If you’re interested in the DJI Spark, Xcite are selling them for KD169. Here is the [Link]

11 08, 2016

My Visit to the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Centre

2016-09-01T10:09:47+03:00Aug 11, 2016|23 Comments

cs1

Yesterday I finally got to pass by and check out the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Center. Those of you who’ve been following the blog for awhile will remember I was the first to break the story on the cultural centre back in May 2014 after my visit to Al Salam Palace. Yesterday was the first time back since then and damn what a difference two years makes.

Firstly the project is basically done. I mean it was done a couple of months ago but they pushed the launch till Q4 of this year so they’re now using the extra time to make sure everything is close to perfect once it’s finally open. I visited all four of the buildings and I’m now even more excited about the cultural centre than I ever was. The whole project is so beautifully designed with each building having a different style interior than the other. I am not sharing a lot of photos in this post because most of the rooms were getting a final coat of paint so everything was covered in plastic and there was lots of scaffolding everywhere. That includes all the theaters but I already shared some great shots last week so you’re not missing out on anything.

cs2

Behind the 4 buildings is a super super long and large corridor that stretches from one corner of the project to the other. One side of the corridor is connected to the indoor parking while the other side connects to the buildings. This means in the summer you can go from your car to the theaters or library without having to walk much under the sun or in the heat. The whole exterior structure is extremely photogenic and I’m very interested to see what photographers will manage to do with the place. Inside the ceilings are very high with lots of large spaces and hallways. I can already visualize large crowds of people gathered waiting to enter a theater or after a show is done, just socializing in these large spaces.

The fact that this project was completed in just two years is insane. I have no idea how they did it, probably by throwing lots of money at it but whatever their formula was, they need to apply it to the new airport. Below are the photos I’m sharing for now, once most of the work is done I’ll pass by again and reshoot. If you have any questions you could ask me and I’ll try to answer it with the best of my knowledge.

4 11, 2012

First Impression: iPad mini

2012-11-04T13:47:11+03:00Nov 4, 2012|20 Comments

Xcite dropped off the new iPad mini for me to play around with earlier today and I’m honestly surprised that I like it. I really wasn’t interested in the iPad mini when it was first announced and didn’t think it made sense until I took it out of the box and held it in my hands. Now I’m wondering if there is a purpose for the regular sized iPad. The new iPad mini feels a lot lighter and slimmer than my now huge iPad 3 and I really LOVE the black anodized aluminum finish on the back.

Once I downloaded Zinio and the latest issue of Backpacker Magazine I realized why I’d rather have my iPad 3 over the mini. The problem with most of the magazines on Zinio is that they were originally intended for print in sizes similar to that of the regular iPad. Since the iPad mini is smaller, all the text in the magazines become smaller as well and makes it a lot more difficult to read. The fact the iPad mini doesn’t have a retina display isn’t helping its case either.

But for a first impression, other than the issue I would have reading magazines on it the iPad mini does make sense. I’ve stopped carrying my iPad when I travel and instead have been carrying my 13″ MacBook Air and my Kindle because it didn’t make sense to carry iPad 3 and MacBook Air at the same time. If I had the iPad mini on the other hand I wouldn’t mind taking it along since it wouldn’t be adding that much weight or size.

If you want to check out the iPad mini yourself, Xcite have them on display right now at their Avenues and Al Rai locations.