25 06, 2019

The Jump to 4K

2019-06-25T09:20:40+03:00Jun 25, 2019|42 Comments

Recently I decided to upgrade my TV life to 4K. It wasn’t something I planned for, I was at Xcite picking up something and decided to take a walk in the TV aisle and got amazed at how sharp the footage was on their 4K TV’s. Since Amazon Video, Netflix and YouTube now support 4K, I decided I might as well get a new 4K capable TV. I ended up with the Samsung NU8000, it cost me around KD260 for the 55″ which is pretty reasonable compared to some other TVs.

So what I didn’t know about upgrading to 4K was that I’d need to upgrade a whole bunch of other things as well to get 4K working. At first, I thought I could just upgrade my Apple TV to the new 4K version and that would be it, but then I found out my sound system receiver which I plug everything into wasn’t 4K compatible. So I had to go out and buy a new AV receiver that was also 4K compatible. Then I found out that my HDMI cables also weren’t 4K compatible (surprisingly 4K HDMI cables aren’t a marketing gimmick!). So I had to go back out and buy new 4K capable HDMI cables. In the end, to get 4K working at home I had to buy a new TV, new Apple TV, a new AV receiver, two new HDMI cables and then on top of that, upgrade my Netflix membership to the more expensive 4K package ($15.99). So was it worth it?

After fiddling a ton with a bunch of settings on my TV and AppleTV (mostly the HDR settings), I finally got everything working the way I wanted it to. Not everything is shot in 4K (or HDR) but most of the new shows and movies are. I think the most impressive things visually I’ve watched in 4K were David Attenborough’s new Netflix documentary “Our Planet“, the documentary series “One Strange Rock” that’s directed by Darren Aronofsky and hosted by Will Smith, and finally the Netflix Sci-Fi film “I Am Mother“. All three were 4K and had HDR so the footage was super crisp and impressive, especially some of the darker scenes in “I Am Mother” where HDR I think made a lot of difference. HDR is a technique used to get a more dynamic range of luminosity in the footage and most TV’s nowadays I believe have it. You can clearly see HDR at work in some scenes, but it’s difficult for me to put in words (but I’ll try). If you’re watching TV in the dark and there is a dark scene and suddenly a beam of sunlight shines through a crack in a wall and hits the camera, the sunlight looks super bright to the point you squint because HDR helps keep the dark areas of the screen really dark. Not sure if that made sense but basically you can get a lot more range of darkness and lightness in the same scene at the same time.

Should you upgrade to 4K? If you’re looking to get a new TV then yes it’s a no brainer. If you don’t have an external sound system or a device like Apple TV and are instead, just planning to use the streaming apps that you can install directly on the TV, it’s not gonna be too expensive to get 4K working. But on the other hand, if you do have a full setup like mine and one that you purchased a while back, expect to spend quite a bit to get 4K up and running properly. If you play videogames you’ll also have the added expense of having to upgrade to the 4K capable PS4 or Xbox as well on top of all the other expenses I mentioned earlier. But, I do think the combination of having 4K and HDR is worth it since it has elevated my TV viewing experience a lot more than when I had upgraded my TV from 720P to 1080P. So do it.

13 03, 2019

Where to buy telescopes in Kuwait?

2019-03-13T09:24:04+03:00Mar 13, 2019|6 Comments

Around a decade ago, maybe more, there used to be a store in Muthana Complex that used to just sell telescopes. That store closed down ages ago and after that, the only other place I knew of that sold good telescopes was Xcite in Avenues. But, they no longer seem to carry them anymore so right now if you’re looking for a telescope, your best option is the Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre (ASCC).

Inside the space museum at ASCC there is a gift shop that sells Celestron brand of telescopes. Below are the models I spotted along with their prices and a comparison to Amazon.

Celestron AstroMaster 70 EQ
Amazon: KD40
ASCC: KD50

Celestron AstroMaster 90 EQ
Amazon: KD67
ASCC: KD80

Celestron AstroMaster 114 EQ
Amazon: KD55
ASCC: KD80

Celestron Ultima 65
Amazon: KD40
ASCC: KD70

The pricing seems pretty decent on most of them especially when you consider the Amazon prices I’ve listed don’t include any taxes or shipping costs. So if you’re looking for a telescope, you should head to the space museum gift shop.

19 12, 2018

Review: iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2018)

2018-12-20T17:05:45+03:00Dec 19, 2018|10 Comments

A month ago I posted my first impression of the new iPad Pro. I got the iPad from Xcite and since then I’ve also gotten the Apple Pencil as well as purchased the Apple Smart Keyboard Folio for it, and an iPad sleeve from WaterField. My setup is basically complete and now that I’ve been using the 12.9″ iPad Pro for over a month I managed to answer the ever so important question, can this iPad replace a laptop? Yes, or in my case at least it has replaced one, and I’ll explain how.

Full disclosure, I have a long-standing relationship with Xcite who provided me with this iPad Pro. They’ve been very active with me and the blog over the years and they’ve lent or given me a number of items over the years to review, as well as hooking me up with discounts. I’m a huge Xcite fan.

As I mentioned in my first impression post, 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 day-to-day 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. What I didn’t mention in that post was that I also had a small 12″ MacBook which belonged to the company I work for. I hadn’t used a 12-inch Macbook before joining this company and I really fell in love with it. It’s extremely compact, its lightweight and battery life was incredible. Instead of lugging my 13-inch MacBook Pro around to coffee shops or when traveling, I’d always prefer to take the 12-inch MacBook. But now that I was leaving the company I decided I wanted to get my very own MacBook, and that was around the same time the new 12.9-inch iPad was launched.

I’ll be honest, I was barely using the iPad Pro before getting the Apple Pencil or keyboard for it. I used the iPad Pro to edit photos in Lightroom but that was about it. I found the iPad Pro too large to use while sitting on my couch and I hate typing on the screen. In bed, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro was also too huge to be practical, so I continued to use my smaller 9.7-inch iPad before going to sleep. But, once I got the Apple Pencil and keyboard, things changed drastically. The keyboard for me turned the iPad Pro into a proper laptop, it really made a dramatic difference and I suddenly found myself using the iPad Pro whenever I had the chance. Even at home, I found myself reaching out for the iPad Pro more than my MacBook Pro when wanting to browse the web while watching TV.

Apple Pencil
I’m not an illustrator, in fact, I can barely draw stick figures, but you don’t need to be an illustrator to make use of the Apple Pencil. I found the Apple Pencil really useful in the photo editor Lightroom, and when using the Photoshop-like-app Affinity Photo. In Lightroom the Pencil gave me more precise control when adjusting the settings sliders while also allowing me to draw my image masks more accurately. In Affinity Photo, the Apple Pencil allowed me to draw my object selections better as well as made erasing backdrops so much more easier. If you can illustrate, then you could take the iPad Pro to a completely different level. I know a bunch of very talented illustrators who dropped their Wacom tablets and shifted to using the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil as their primary illustration tool.

Apple Smart Keyboard Folio
As I mentioned earlier, I hate typing on the iPad screen and I never got the hang of it which is why I also had a keyboard for my smaller iPad. The keyboard on the new iPads though is a much better design. If you have the old keyboards then you know they’re not great to use on your laps because of the way they fold. The new keyboards don’t have that fold at the bottom, it’s one solid piece so it’s a lot more stable on your laps. Typing on this keyboard is great, I haven’t experienced any issues or even a drop in my typing speed either. The only thing I miss is the backlit keys, but that would probably add more weight to the keyboard and I wouldn’t want that since it’s already pretty hefty.

12-inch MacBook vs 12.9-inch iPad Pro
One thing I wanted to know was if the iPad Pro would be a better option for me over the small 12-inch MacBook. The biggest test would be if I could use the iPad to blog from. It sounds like a fairly simple thing especially since you could technically blog from any browser on any device, but that’s not what I mean. I’ve been blogging now for over 15 years and I’m used to blogging in a certain way. For one thing, I like my space, I can’t post from a small screen since it feels claustrophobic. I also need Photoshop because that’s what I use to resize photos so they fit on the blog as well as allowing me to control the compression strength of the jpg.

The most difficult blogging day for me is usually Thursdays because that’s when I post my “movies now playing list” as well as my events list. I say difficult because it involves a lot of jumping around on different pages, lots of researching, downloading of images, a lot of copying and pasting of information and lots of linking. If I could get my Thursday posts done on my iPad Pro, then it would pass the test. Spoiler: It passed.

Last Thursday I did all my posting on my iPad Pro and I was even able to complete my posts at a much faster pace than usual because of the way I can split the screen up and did two things at the same time side by side. My setup during my movies post, for example, had my blog open on the left side of the screen while the cinemas and IMDB websites were open on the right. I could then copy paste the info from the right screen to my left and basically work on my post without having to keep swapping tabs. Simply put, the iPad actually made my job a bit easier. Because the screen is also slightly larger than the 12-inch MacBook, I could also see and fit more information on the screen at once and it just felt a lot less cramped.


Dash Sleeve for the iPad Pro from WaterField

Conclusion
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro with the keyboard is now what I will take with me when I travel and it’s what I will be using to blog from when I’m posting from outside my house. I’m actually using the iPad right now for this post because I’m at a coffee shop and it just makes more sense to post from an iPad when I’m advocating how great it is to post from it.

Both the 12-inch MacBook and 12.9-inch iPad Pro are similarly priced once you add the keyboard and pencil to the iPad. And really, if I had gotten the MacBook instead I wouldn’t complain since I love it so much. But what the iPad Pro is offering is something a bit more. Because it’s a tablet and a fairly fast one, I found I prefered editing my photos in Lightroom a lot more enjoyable than on my MacBook’s. This iPad Pro is actually faster than the MacBook and my MacBook Pro. The Apple Pencil also an extra dimension which the MacBook’s, in general, can’t compete with.

So can the iPad Pro replace your computer? It really depends on your requirements but the simple answer would be yes it can. Right now the only thing I’d really like on the iPad is a full version of Adobe Photoshop but that’s supposedly coming out next year. Until then I’m using Affinity Photo which pretty much has 80% of the things I need from Photoshop. As long as you’re prepared to change your habits a bit, I don’t think moving to an iPad as your primary computer would be that difficult.

The new iPad Pro is now available in most places around Kuwait but I got mine from Xcite and you can find them on their online store [Here]

25 09, 2018

Pelican Cases and Vintage Stuff at FITCO Systems

2018-09-25T12:03:31+03:00Sep 25, 2018|19 Comments

I’m thinking about getting a Pelican case for my camera gear and so the first place I checked was at Al-Sabih. But, not only did they not have the sizes I was looking for, what they did have was expensive, like double Amazon prices expensive. For example:

Pelican 1520 Case with Foam
Al-Sabih = KD73
Amazon = KD34

Then I remembered someone once mentioned a store called FITCO Systems once that also sold Pelican cases. So I googled FITCO and found pictures of what looked like a stationary store / hardware store / electronics store. I asked the guys in one of my WhatsApp groups about the store and a friend told me its a very weird place, so weird that he couldn’t explain what the store sold and that I had to go see it for myself.

FITCO Systems is located in Kuwait City right next to Tatami and behind Solo Pizza. When I first walked in I asked about Pelican cases and they have them. Their prices were also pretty reasonable:

Pelican 1400 Case with Foam
FITCO = KD32
Amazon = KD30

Pelican 1500 Case with Foam
FITCO = KD48
Amazon = KD43

Pelican 1600 Case with Foam
FITCO = KD65
Amazon = KD48

Anyway here is the interesting part. I started walking around the store to see what they sold exactly and they had so much random stuff all over the place. The store has been around since 1986 and I think they deal with businesses and wholesale (B2B) more than with consumers. So the store isn’t really in tip-top condition which is why I kept digging up so much vintage stuff.

The store has a ton of items still on the shelves from when they had opened back in 1986, items that are no longer useful but they’re still selling. The place is like a time capsule and I think I spent an hour flipping through their shelves taking photos of everything from Palm Pilot modems to storage cases for 5 1/4 Floppy Disks. They had brand new Windows 98 boxes as well as Microsoft Plus! 98. They had discontinued FujiFilm FP-100C instant film, old Nikon 35mm film scanners, a whole bunch of 8mm backup tapes and cartridges, old webcams, and just a huge amount of random items piled up everywhere. I shared a bunch of photos on my instagram story @mark248am if you want to take a look.

If you want to check the place out yourself, here is their location on [Google Maps].
They also have a website but like the store, it also looks like it hasn’t been updated since the 90s [Link].

24 09, 2018

RAM Mounts in Kuwait

2018-09-24T13:41:02+03:00Sep 24, 2018|0 Comments

RAM Mounts make some of the best mounting solutions be it if you want to mount your tablet inside your car, or your camera outside of it. I wouldn’t trust any other brand when it comes to mounting my camera outside the car, it’s actually what I use to mount my GoPro on top of my car during track days (pictured above). I know no matter how aggressive my driving will be and how fast I go, the suction is going to hold up. They’re actually known for having some of the most impressive suction cups in the world and most if not all of their mounts are made of aluminum, so they’re super durable.

I’ve previously had to order my RAM mounts off Amazon but I recently found out there is a store in Kuwait that sells them. The store is called Q8 Mounts and they have a huge selection of RAM hardware to choose from. They even have an online website but if you go to the actual store, they have a ton of different mounts available on display for you to play with and check out before getting what you need.

Pricewise it’s complicated. Some of the items are double the price of Amazon, some are exactly the same and some are a lot cheaper. It’s pretty weird because usually, places are either have the same price as Amazon, more expensive prices or cheaper prices, I’ve never come across a place that has all three. If you’re looking for RAM mounts then check them out, they’re on instagram @q8mount, their website is q8mount.com and here is their location on [Google Maps]

5 09, 2018

Where to get a dashcam from

2018-09-05T11:48:52+03:00Sep 5, 2018|14 Comments

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.

28 05, 2018

F1 TV in Kuwait Update

2018-05-28T09:31:30+03:00May 28, 2018|10 Comments

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]

6 05, 2018

Local Video Game Vloggers

2018-05-06T12:45:55+03:00May 6, 2018|8 Comments

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.