VPN Information

Post by Mark

A couple of readers emailed asking on more information about VPN’s so I figured I would do quick write up about it. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and to understand how it can be of use to you I will give you a quick example. There are some sites (mostly media) that require you to be a US resident to be able to either watch videos or listen to music. A quick example is Hulu.com. If you want to watch a video on Hulu you would get the message (screenshot above) that videos can only be streamed to US residents. A VPN would help you get around that restriction.

How VPN works is you sign up to a VPN service (I use StrongVPN) and then you access the internet through their servers. So instead of you visiting Hulu directly from your computer in Kuwait and getting the error I mentioned earlier, with a VPN based in the US you end up accessing Hulu through them so Hulu thinks it’s you in the US. I did a quick illustration above to better visualize this.

With VPN active all the websites you visit will think you’re based in the US. It’s that simple really. It also doesn’t require you to change your browsing habits and unlike proxy websites you don’t have to access the web through a website. Once you setup VPN on your computer you connect to it from your desktop and then just browse the web like you would usually do. The above screen shot is from my Mac, I just click on Connect VPN and that’s it.

I know it sounds a bit complicated at first and maybe hard to grasp but really all you need to know is that VPN allows you to access sites that are restricted to just the US (like Hulu, Netflix, Pandora etc..). As I mentioned earlier my VPN account is from the company StrongVPN. I’ve been using them for over a year now and haven’t had any problems. I’ve also got their cheapest package. Here is the [Link]

If you have any questions just ask below.

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Kuwait Flight Simulation Center

Post by Mark

Yesterday I posted a video taken at Flight Experience in 360 Mall, well there is another place that’s officially opening tomorrow (April 20th) that has a wider range of flight simulators available. The place is called Kuwait Flight Simulation Center and they are located in the basement of Discovery Mall in Kuwait City. I originally passed by them yesterday to take pictures but wasn’t allowed to since there was a miscommunication but the owner told me I could pass by today and take pictures which I did except I didn’t have my camera with me today just my iPhone 4 so apologies for the quality of the shots.

The place looks like a large plane fuselage from the outside. Once you walk in you have 7 simulation capsules on the right hand side, 3 combat stations on the left and right next to them you have a large enclosed room which is a proper full scale flight simulator similar in style to the one at 360 Mall. You also have a small coffee shop, a small shop that sells scale models and another shop that sells flight simulator accessories for PCs.

Today the place is open but it’s invite only, starting tomorrow though it should be open to the public. For more information you could visit their website [Here] or Facebook page [Here]

That’s how the inside of the capsule looks like

The 3 machines on the left are the fighter plane simulators

I think the fighter plane simulators actually move and give force feedback

Thats the inside of the full sized simulator

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GeekFest – Abu Dhabi

Post by Mark

Just an FYI, I’m going to be talking tonight at GeekFest about blogging in Kuwait and my Benihana lawsuit. I sadly won’t be there for the event but I will be presenting via Skype video. If you’re in the UAE and want to find out more about this event you can visit their website [Here]

I think they’ve arranged for a bus from Dubai to the venue twofour54 (hmmm) and there is more info on that in their Facebook page [Here]

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Play like CSI

Post by Mark

Ace Hardware are selling UV flashlights. CSI fans will know what a UV flashlight is and can be used for and I picked one up for that very reason. Lots of warning labels all over the place, I didn’t think a UV flashlight could be dangerous. Now I understand why they wear those orange goggles on the TV show. Price? Just KD2.770

Note: As someone mentioned in the comments, this is not a toy and not for kids. There is a reason for all those warning labels on the package and flashlight.

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SSD Hard Drives

Post by Mark

Awhile back my MacBook was starting to feel sluggish and I was really tempted to buy a newer model but since I was just using the laptop to get online from the couch or for when I travel, I didn’t think it was worth buying a new laptop. Instead, I decided to upgrade my MacBook from a 2.5inch 5400rpm 250GB hard drive to a 64GB SSD.

What is SSD? SSD stands for solid-state drive and to keep it simple its just a hard drive with no moving parts and is around 5 times faster than regular notebook hard drives. I ordered the ADATA 64GB drive from Amazon since based on my research I found it had the best bang for the buck. I also looked at two other brands before deciding on ADATA which were OCZ Technology and Crucial Technology, both of which have extremely fast performance drives but at a slightly more expensive cost.

I could easily review the drive in just 7 words: “It makes all other computers feel slow”. It cut down the boot time of my MacBook to less than half and it also sped up the launch time of all the applications. For example it now takes 1 second to launch Photoshop while other applications like Safari and Microsoft Word launch practically instantly. No waiting or spinning colored wheel just click and they’re open. The SSD drive not only brought new life to my aging MacBook but for day to day use it made it feel a lot faster than all my other computers including my already very fast iMac and Mac Pro.

I got the 64GB SSD and not something larger because the prices became tooooo expensive with the larger drives. For example a 256GB SSD would cost you around $500 which is nearly half the price of a brand new MacBook! The 64GB drive on the other hand cost me around KD35 with shipping to Kuwait and after installing the OS and ALL my software I still had 40GB of free space left. That’s more than I need since I just use my MacBook to surf the web, edit some pictures and for traveling. If you’re planning on storing media like your photo or music library than I highly doubt 64GB would be enough.

I would definitely recommend everyone pick up an SSD drive if you can, it really makes a HUGE difference. But, if you need a large drive and are not in a rush, the longer you wait the cheaper the prices will get. Here is the Amazon link to the hard drive I got [Link]

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InfoConnect starts today

Post by Mark

Today is the first day of the InfoConnect exhibition. If you’re looking to get a new Internet subscription or to renew one, InfoConnect is usually the best time to do it since they usually have the best deals going on. I still don’t have details on any of the offers taking place but as soon as I get them will post them here.

Location: Kuwait International Fair Grounds, Hall 6
Date: January 30th, 2011 to February 5th, 2011
Time: 9am – 1pm and 5pm – 9pm

The entrance is free. For more information click [Here]

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Crowdsourced Activism

Post by Mark

re:kuwait have a good idea which I hope someone reads and decides to implement. A lot of people have phones with built in cameras which can also geo-tag photos. That means you can take a picture and the exact location of where that picture was taken would be stored in the picture. What re:kuwait are suggesting is this:

What if some government entity creates a website where people can upload photos they take of things they feel are broken or wrong, such as graffiti, broken lamps, potholes, whatever. These photos are uploaded to the website by a few people wanting to do good for their community.

The government can then prioritize what needs to be fixed for example and find the location of the problem with the geo-tag. I think that would be an amazing idea. Here is a link to their [Post]

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Kensington Expert Optical Trackball

Post by Mark

I’ve been using a trackball for nearly 6 years now. I used to use a regular mouse before but due to the amount of hours I sit in front of a computer my wrists started to hurt a lot and so I decided to do something about it. I ended up purchasing the Kensington Orbit Optical Mouse back in 2004 which I’ve posted about on this blog before and given it high marks. From day one my wrist issues got fixed and I became a big fan of trackballs. I’ve purchased 3 Orbit trackballs over the years, they never broke down just started looking old and so I would swap them out. But, I’ve always had my eye on the Orbit’s bigger, beefier and more expensive older brother, the Kensington Expert trackball which is pictured above.

While in New York a few months back I got to try the Expert trackball and decided I definitely wanted it. The Expert trackball has 4 buttons, a huge ass ball, a scroll ring and a comfy detachable wrist support. It looks good, I love using it and it makes my old smaller Orbit trackball look like a child’s toy.

I really don’t have anything negative to say about it. You can program the 4 buttons to do a variety of things and the way I’ve set them up, the left two buttons are a left click while the right two buttons are a right click. I’ve then set it up so that while in Firefox if I click the two top buttons or the two bottom buttons together at the same time then it flip between my open tabs. Pretty useful. The problem though is the way I use the trackball I actually only use the bottom left and the top right buttons since these are the two buttons that are under my fingers while using the trackball. I find it uncomfortable to use the other two buttons without changing my hand position so I don’t use them that much. The scroll ring is great and I love flicking it quickly when I want to scroll down a page in a hurry.

Price wise the Kensington Expert Trackball cost’s $79 which isn’t cheap considering it’s younger brother the Orbit costs around $22. But I have to say it’s worth the extra cash since you get what you pay for. For anyone with wrist problems I highly recommend trackballs… any trackballs not just the two I’ve used. They really make a difference.

Kensington Orbit Trackball on Amazon
Kensington Expert Trackball on Amazon

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OrbitShowtime and Dreambox

Post by Mark

Most of you probably already know what a Dreambox is, if you don’t then simply put, it’s a satellite receiver that allows you to watch all the encrypted channels like OSN, HBO, ART, Canal+, Nova etc.. for a flat fee of around KD15 every 6 months. It’s illegal of course since a regular subscription to OSN alone costs around KD20 a month. Well recently OSN have started swapping out receivers and one of the reasons is that they’re changing their encryption from Irdeto to Betacrypt. Once they move over from Irdeto to Betacrypt the Dreambox will no longer be able to decrypt their signal anymore and so you won’t be able to watch OSN. Personally think this is just temporary since everything is crackable but for now looks like the only way you’ll be able to watch OSN is by subscribing through them.

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Lumix GF1 + Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens

Post by Mark

I ordered an adapter online that would allow me to mount my Nikon lenses on my GF1 camera. First thing I did when I got the adapter was to mount the gigantic Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 lens onto the GF1 which as you can see above looked ridiculous since the GF1 is so tiny.

So far I really love the GF1, I think it’s my favorite camera ever. My next purchase for it is going to be the digital viewfinder which should make it look pretty ugly but in a good way. [Amazon Link]

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