Where to get a dashcam from

Post by Mark

I’ve been using a dashcam now for four years and even though I haven’t caught anything interesting yet, I still would recommend people have one installed in their cars. Dashcams are small video recorders you mount on your front windshield and they record everything that happens in front of your car. They’re great for capturing accidents that aren’t your fault and are used in a lot of countries for insurance purposes.

The other day while visiting A-Store in Shuwaikh I noticed they were selling a bunch of different dashcams including the brand Aukey. Their prices were more expensive than Amazon but if you don’t want to go through the hassle of ordering from Amazon then they might be a good choice.

Their store is in Shuwaikh across from Tilal [Google Maps] but they have the cameras listed on their online store which you can check out [Here]

If you know of any other places in Kuwait that sell dashcams, let me know.


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F1 TV in Kuwait Update

Post by Mark

In my last post on accessing F1 TV in Kuwait, I wrote about how you can access it if you used a VPN and that it would probably start working with SmartDNS soon. Well two weeks later and my prediction came true, F1 TV now works in Kuwait using Smart DNS!

You no longer need to use a VPN which in my case improved streaming speed considerably. I’ve only tried it with my smartdnsproxy.com service (the same one I use for Netflix, HBO, Hulu, etc..) so not sure if it works with another provider. [Link]


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Local Video Game Vloggers

Post by Mark

Last week there was a slightly controversial post in the Kuwait sub on Reddit. Basically, a user wanted another user to stop sharing his gaming vlogs because he didn’t think anyone was interested in them. I personally wasn’t a fan of the videos, but I thought that request was pretty shitty. Just because I didn’t like the videos or the majority of people didn’t like the videos, I don’t think its fair to muzzle someone who is actually taking the time and making the effort to create content. Good or bad, at least they’re active and doing something.

So I decided I’d share the two local video game vloggers I’m aware of in this post. I’m not a fan of either of them but I do appreciate the fact they’re doing what they love to do and that deserves some recognition. So if you’re into video games, check out the two vloggers below:

DarkWolf80s
I find DarkWolf80s super cheesy and his video titles are 100% clickbait, but I have to give the guy credit, he does love his video games. DarkWolf80s has released 11 videos this year alone covering various topics, mostly super geeky ones which I like, it’s just the videos themselves I don’t like. So if you want to check out his channel, click [Here]

DarkraiQ8
If you’re into Pokemon then you’ll have to check DarkraiQ8’s YouTube channel so you’ll realize you’re really not into Pokemon. The guy is like Pokemon fan level 40 which is why I don’t watch any of his videos. I think they’re really boring but the guy is super dedicated publishing a new video every few days. It’s definitely for Arabic speaking die-hard Pokemon fans. So if you’re a Pokemon geek, check out his channel [Here]

Know of any other local video game vloggers? Let me know in the comments below.


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Google Home Mini vs Amazon Echo Dot – Which is Better?

Post by Mark

A couple of weeks ago I got back from LA and brought back with me the Google Home Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot. I actually got two Amazon Echos, I put one in my bedroom and the other in the kitchen while I put the Google Home device in my living room. After using them for two weeks I sadly can’t tell you which is better because I don’t think there is a clear winner. But what I’ll do is explain how I’ve decided to use them and the issues I have with both of them and hopefully, that will give you an idea on which one you should get.

Firstly for those of you who have no idea what the Google Home and Amazon Echo are, they’re voice-controlled devices like Siri on the iPhone. Amazon’s assistant is called Alexa while Google’s is simply called Google Assistant. Recently Apple released the HomePod which uses Siri. The reason I didn’t get that instead is the price. At $350, the HomePod would be pretty expensive to add to every room in the house plus, I already have a legit speaker in every room of my apartment anyway the HomePod would make them redundant. On the other hand, both the Echo Dot and Home Mini cost $50 each, so the three I got cost less than half the price of one HomePod. I connected the bedroom Echo to my Bang & Olufsen Beolit 12 speaker and the kitchen one to my Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A2 speaker. I left the Google Home as is because I wasn’t planning to use it to play music.

Let me take the opportunity now to explain how I’m using the devices.

In the morning I tend to wake up and play music on the BeoLit 12 in my bedroom. Before I got the Echo, I used to launch Spotify on my phone and then AirPlay the music onto my bedroom speaker. My phone also used to be my alarm. Now on the other hand, I set the alarm on the Echo and when I want to play music I just go “Alexa, play music everywhere”. Everywhere is a group I created that includes my bedroom and kitchen Echo. So now I get music playing in my bedroom, and my kitchen downstairs. Then just before I leave my house I go into the kitchen, get my car keys and say “Alexa stop” and it stops playing music in my apartment. I also have Alexa setup to work with both my Amazon Music account and my Spotify account. When I say for example “Alexa play jazz”, it will connect to a jazz radio station on Amazon Music, but when I say “Alexa play music” or “Alexa play my discovery weekly playlist on Spotify”, it will either continue playing where I last stopped on Spotify, or play the specific playlist I asked for.

While I use Alexa for music, I use Google for questions, like I do on the web. I have it set up in my living room where I spend 90% of my time in. So far it’s been super helpful while friends were over. For example, I was sitting talking to a friend and they asked me how long the flight from NY to LA was. I estimated at around 5 hours but then I was like “Hey Google, how long is the flight from NY to LA?”. Within an instant, Google replied that a non-stop flight was 6 hours and 15 minutes long. Another time I was watching a movie and someone mentioned a banana daiquiri. I was curious to know what alcohol is used to make a daiquiri so I was like “Hey Google, whats in a banana daiquiri?”. A second later google responded back with the ingredients of a banana daiquiri. I’m picking up my phone to google stuff a lot less now because I can just ask Google a question verbally. And unlike with Siri, it just feels more natural to talk to Google. It just understands normal dialogue like a real person while with Siri I sometimes feel like I have to talk to it knowing she’s an AI. Not only that but Siri barely understands me sometimes and a good example is now while typing this post, I just asked Siri whats in a banana daiquiri and she responded with the weather report. Like WTF Siri?!

Another cool feature with Google Home is it can tell me if there is traffic on my way to work. Since Google knows where I live and where my office is (I had this setup on Google Maps from before), I can just ask “Hey Google is there any traffic on my way to work?” and it will respond with an answer and then tell me which is the fastest route to take and how long it will take me to get there. Not only that but I could ask it where the closest McDonalds is and how far it is to walk to and it will tell me!

I haven’t really asked Alexa a lot of questions but I did try the banana daiquiri question on her and she struggled. She struggled mostly to understand what I was saying and then told me what was in a daiquiri but not a banana daiquiri.

So you’re thinking Google Home is clearly the winner here. It’s not since I’ve had some weird issues with it. Firstly I can’t seem to set Spotify as my default music player so when I tell Google to play music, it replies saying I need to set up my default music player. But when I go to that section in the app, it won’t let me pick Spotify. To play music I have to say “Hey Google, play music from Spotify” which is annoying cuz its easier to just ask “Hey Google, play music”. Then the worst part is, Google Home doesn’t work with G-Suite. Since my Gmail account is connected to my 248AM domain I have a G-Suite account and it won’t work with Google Home. I can’t connect Google Home to my Calendar or email which is so bizarre. Amazon’s Alexa, on the other hand, connects to both my Gmail and Google Calendars! How weird is that? Alexa also has a ton of plugins so say we had Uber working in Kuwait, you could install the Uber plugin and then be able to call an Uber by talking to Alexa. I’m using Uber an example here but there are plugins for everything imaginable.

So which device to get I really can’t tell you. I like having both. Between the two, the Google Home Mini sounds a lot better than the Amazon Echo Dot but really if you want to use it as a speaker, both Google and Amazon have much better-sounding devices. You can also do a lot more with both devices like control home automation, have them tell you the news and with Google Home you can even play games with it or use it as a doctor (say “hey google, virtual nurse”). But my needs are very simple as you can see above. Both Google and Amazon devices are available in Kuwait, Xcite sell both at KD20 each and you can most likely find it at other stores as well. If you have any questions, let me know below.


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Google Home Mini vs Amazon Echo Dot – Have Any Questions?

Post by Mark

While in LA I picked up a Google Home Mini and a pair of Amazon Echo Dots. They’re voice-controlled devices which I’ve now placed around my apartment so I could write up a comparison review for the blog. A few days in and I’ve already started developing an opinion on them but I wanted to know if there was anything specific you guys wanted me to try or if there was anything you wanted to find out in regards to both these devices. Traffic updates for Kuwait work with the Google Home device for example but doesn’t work on the Echo.


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Kuwait Fighting Game Community

Post by Mark

A fighting game community (FGC) is a group of video gamers who get together to play fighting games like Street Fighter and Super Smash Bros. FGC Diwan is one of Kuwait’s first fighting gams community with a dedicated streaming and tournament room.

Even though they’ve been open for around a month, they’ve already hosted their first event, a Dragon Ball Fighter Z Tournament where 13 entrants competed for first place.

Pricing is pretty reasonable:

2 Hours = KD 1
7 Hours = KD 3
12 Hours = KD 5

If you’re interested in fighting games and competing, check out their instagram @fgcdiwan

They’re also active on Twitch @fgcdiwan


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A Weekend with the iPhone X

Post by Mark

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).


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CAPSULE Virtual Experience Center

Post by Mark

Yesterday I got invited with my brother to pass by CAPSULE, a new virtual experience center thats opening next week. A virtual experience center is a place that allows you to experience virtual reality games, basically something like a VR arcade. My only previous experience with VR was using the Sony VR headset, so I was curious to see how much different and better this experience would be.

The moment you walk into the place you’re already in a different world. The interior of CAPSULE was designed to resemble a spaceship and it really adds to the whole VR experience. After getting a brief tour of the place and the different kinds of games they have, I let them know I tend to get motion sickness with VR games. They told me we would start off with a standing game which had a less chance of getting me motion sickness. So they strapped a rumble pack onto my back, handed me two motion controllers to hold and strapped on a VR headset so I could get started right away. I wanted to play a shooting game so they put on a game called Space Pirate in which I have to shoot down droids before they shoot me. My first impression before I even entered the game was wow. I started off in what looked like a living room, I looked down to my hands and I could see the controllers I was holding inside the virtual world. As I moved them around in my hand they were moving in the VR world as well. I then took a few side steps and I was now moving inside this VR world as well. This was exciting because I hadn’t experienced VR this way before, I could walk around in real life and my movement would be replicated in this VR world.

They loaded up Space Pirate for me and I was now on a platform in a space environment with two laser weapons in my hands. If I took my left hand back behind my shoulders and brought it back forward, my weapon would turn into a shield. When I didn’t want the shield anymore I’d take it back behind my shoulder again. As the droids started flying towards me and firing at me, I was moving around shooting them down with my two weapons. When the fighting was getting intense I’d use the shield on my left hand to help avoid the lasers they were shooting towards me. Sometimes as I’m about to get hit by one of their laser beams, the game would slow down matrix style to give me a chance to move out of the lasers way. To move out of the way you literally physically have to move out of the way in the real world. The VR system they have setup can track your movement so on multiple occasions I ducked, or jumped left or right out of harms way. I was immersed inside this virtual world and I finally understood what all the fuss with VR was about. And the best part was, I didn’t get motion sickness.

After playing around with the standing VR for a few minutes I then decided to try one of their virtual racing sims. I asked them what tracks and cars they had and they basically told me nearly all of them. I asked if they had the Bahrain GP circuit and they told me they did and that I could race around it in my Lotus if I wanted to. Since I had raced around the track in my Lotus before I was really interested to compare it to this VR experience. The whole setup is meant to be as real as possible from the seats, to the steering wheel and even the gearbox they’ve installed for these car sims. I sat down, put on the VR headset and suddenly I was inside my Lotus, even the interior color of the car in the game was similar to mine. Once I was done looking around my car I stepped on the gas and headed down the pit lane so I could get onto the track. Once I was out of the pit lane and started turning I started getting motion sickness right away. I figured it might go away and tried to continue on but I just couldn’t take it anymore and removed the headset. I was so disappointed since I really wanted this to work. They told me to take a bit of a break and then they’d put me into their extreme race car sim which tended to cause less motion sickness.

Their extreme race car sim is meant to simulate the experience of driving an F3 race car. It has a replica steering wheel and even two fans that blow wind into your face as you go faster. They were right about the fact it caused less motion sickness and I was able to experience it for a longer duration then the first race sim. But, I think because I was already feeling sick because of the previous sim I couldn’t get through this one. In the end I took off the VR headset again and decided racing sims just weren’t for me.

The whole experience was great and I’ll definitely be going back again to play around with the standing VR unit again. CAPSULE is located in the same building as MAS Arena in Al Rai near Avenues. Here is their location on [Google Maps] and they’re opening this coming Sunday. If you’re interested in checking the place out then follow them on instagram to stay posted on their launch @capsulevec


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Azgardian – The Comic Book Store

Post by Mark

If you’re into comic books and graphic novels you really don’t have that many options in Kuwait. Azgardian is a small store dedicated to just comics and according to them, they’re the first comic book store in Kuwait. The store is located in Rihab Complex but they also have a delivery service if you don’t want to drive into Hawalli. For more information and to check out some of their collection, visit their instagram account [Here]


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First Impression: The DJI Spark Mini Drone

Post by Mark

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]


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