Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The 4th Generation iPod Shuffle

I have another iPod that I couldn't let go, one that has served me for almost a decade already: my orange iPod Shuffle. I bought that when I decided I wanted to jog outdoors. The iPod 5.5 Gen was so clunky to use while jogging that I decided the Shuffle would suit me best while exercising (the irony here is, the iPhone 6+, which I also use for jogging, is much bigger than the iPod Classic). And back then, I begun to like the color orange, so I decided to get the Shuffle in that color.

It was kind of liberating. I made a smart playlist that is under 1 GB big, with songs that fall under the category "Rock" and which have not been played in a month. (I've since moved to "techno" for my exercise music.) I just clipped the Shuffle to my shirt and started to run.

But, as with all things electronic, the first to go is either the battery or the hard drive. For the shuffle, as with my 5.5 Gen iPod, the battery gave up the ghost. This wasn't really a great problem with the big iPod because I just needed to connect it to a power source and it will play.

The Shuffle battery problem, however, cannot be solved this way. This is because the charging port is the same as the headphone port. So the Shuffle cannot play music and be connected to a power supply at the same time.

This is one of the problems brought by the over-simplification of almost all Apple products. (I see the same thing with the new MacBook: you cannot charge the MacBook and charge, say, an iPhone at the same time...)

That made me sad...

But, it turns out the nephew has two extra iPod Shuffles that he is not using. So I asked him if I could have one and he agreed, but only if I get the pink one. I didn't mind. It's not orange, but for other colors, I really have no qualms. (Apple has also discontinued the orange color for some time already.)

So, I have now revised my playlist. It is now worth 2GB of electronica music interspersed with rock & hiphop. I bring the pink Shuffle with me and I use it at the gym. I even use it while moving about. It's clipped to my shirt and, thankfully, it responds to the new(ish) Apple EarPods with remote.

My problem with this generation of Shuffle? It is hard to clip the thing into anything without pressing the "Back" button. And I can't seem to memorize the button presses required to activate the "VoiceOver" functions.

One solution is to just lock the thing and just control the iPod with the in-line remote on the EarPods. Another way is to put your pointer and thumb on the corners and your middle finger at the back of the Shuffle. However, that solution is really not so easy and I still end up pressing the back (or reverse) button... So, just lock the thing up by long-pressing the Play/Pause button.

And the "VoiceOver" thing? When you buy a Shuffle, you are essentially giving up control to the iPod. It'll play things that are in it. The absence of a display prevents you from knowing what's coming up. That makes the use of a Shuffle very interesting. So I really don't pay that much attention to VoiceOver.

My orange Shuffle? It'll be preserved and will be an heirloom of my house. 

This iPod Shuffle 4th Generation is Highly Recommended!

Photos shot with an iPhone 5s using the app Hipstamatic:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Jedi Mind Trick of Apple

I just had a shocking realization while, of all places, I am in an authorized Apple reseller store here in the Philippines. (As of this writing, there is still no official Apple Store in the Philippines. One of Jony Ive's first stop as Chief Design Officer?)

Anyway, it was a long time coming but I just realized that Apple is doing its version of Jedi Mind Trick with all of us. In a good way.

Let me explain...

When Apple removed the disk drive on Macs, the company got a lot of backlash. The same thing happened when they removed cd drives. And most recently, Apple got a lot of negative reactions when, with the new MacBook, the company decided to put only one USB port on the computer, USB-C, both for charging the device and connecting your other peripherals. Of course you cannot charge the computer and, say, connect a wired USB harddrive. If you want to do that you will have to buy Apple's adapter - one which many people suggest Apple should have included in the box. So, like myself, if you want to use a wired HDD for Time Machine, you will be forced to include the peripheral when you purchase the new MacBook.

I agreed with what the reviewers were saying and I decided, without trying the MacBook, that it is not the computer for me.

Until when the wife lent me her 11-inch MacBook Air...

I want to be mobile. I am not the sort who would like to keep an 8 to 5 job. I don't want to be tied down to an office desk or, like in my previous life, a classroom. I want to be able to move anytime, any hour. And all I need is something to type on. In months past, I tried it with the iPad and I found it really difficult to type on the glass screen. So, I decided to bring my bluetooth keyboard with me. Which I found ridiculous... The combined weight aside, the iPad-plus-keyboard setup is really no different from having a light notebook. And the notebook is really more convenient since it has a higher storage capacity and is more powerful than an iPad. And when I bought the iPhone 6+, I was able to do with the phone what I am able to do with the iPad. The bigger screen of the 6+ afforded me the opportunity to type drafts and outlines of blog posts, edit iPhone photos, and read ebooks more conveniently. I can even watch subtitled Japanese animé on the 6+ without squinting my eyes.

So, with the iPhone 6+, I didn't need to bring my iPad out of the house as often.

Which still does not solve the problem of having a real keyboard...

The wife lent me her 11-inch MacBook Air one time when I needed a computer. (Note that I have a 13-inch MacBook Pro at home which I use for editing photos and videos and not much else. For everything else, I use the iPad/iPhone.) The wife believes that I am old(er) now and I should not punish myself by bringing heavy stuff on extended periods. So, when I needed a computer, she told me to just bring her MacBook Air instead.

I really enjoyed it!

Not only is the MBA much lighter than the MacBook Pro, but with the flash drive, everything feels more flashy (I would have used flashier but it doesn't seem to convey my meaning...). Applications open and load faster, the computer wakes from sleep on a considerable shorter amount of time and yes, did I say it is really lighter?!? I haven't tried using Photoshop on the MBA but I really did not intend to do that. For, me, the "heavier" stuff is meant for my "other" computer...

So, this brings me back to the new MacBook.

I think Apple is easing us up to what is to come. When Apple removed the disk drive, the firewire port, the CD drive, they are just, as Steve Jobs quoted a famous hockey player before, going to where the puck is moving. They don't want to be stuck in the present: they want to show the world how the future will look like - they want to invent the future, and they want to let us use it *now*.

They want to ease us from our dependence on wired connections. They want to tell us that the cloud is the way. Instead of us having "a thousand songs in our pockets" - the iPod mantra of yesteryears, Apple wants to tell us that you can have hundreds of millions of songs in the cloud. And Apple wants to tell us that we don't need a DSLR to shoot selfies (actually, I am repulsed by people who do that...), the company wants to tell us that for everyday use, the iPhone is the best camera to have.

Of course you won't be able to shoot sports, or birds or wildlife with an iPhone, but how many DSLR owners *actually* do those things?

One of my most common concern when I first saw the computer was: how will you be able to charge the MacBook AND, say, an iPhone at the same time? The answer: use the adapter. And where will you place your gigabytes of media when the MacBook only has, at this time, a maximum capacity of 512 gigabytes? Well, you can use an external drive for those, sync some to your iPhone, and leave the external disk at home. That's what I do. I have collected a lot of music and movies thru the years and I don't expect to hear and watch all of them in a week or so. So, I make a playlist for favorites and a separate playlist for songs I have not listened to in, say 6 months, and I put those on my iPhone. I won't need to sync my iPhone for a week and I still would have music that I have not listened to in a while.

With the MacBook, Apple is giving us a glimpse of the future, one that most people will need, one that people with powerful desktops, or laptops, at home can use as a second computer. Apple has shown what mobile bloggers, like myself, would need while in a coffee shop here in Metro Manila; or what a composer needs when inspiration strikes while in a cab ride; or what a photographer needs to edit his photos on the go, one that does not require big applications like Photoshop or the like.

So, despite what reviewers said about the MacBook keyboard (I have learned to get used to it in the brief moment I tried it in store), no matter how many people disparage the machine for having only one port (two if you add the headphone/microphone port), and no matter how many people say the gold version is kitsch, I believe that, outside of professionals, the kind of machine that the MacBook is is what people needs.

On a final note of this musing, I find it amusing that what I feel is the best set up for a mobile person is to have a big phone, like the iPhone 6+ and a small computer, like the new MacBook: I believe this is just the way Apple set it up. And their Jedi Mind Trick is working on me...

And yeah, it had been working on me since that fateful month in 2006...

(Typed on an 11-inch MacBook Air when inspiration for this write up hit me up while I was waiting for the wife and while I was seated in a fountain area.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Madoka & Homura Magica Figures

I am a big fan of Puella Magi Madoka Magica (魔法少女まどかマギカ) and it's a bit unfortunate that the animé is considered "old" already here in the Philippines: Madoka figures and merch are very rarely found... So, when the wife and I went to Japan, I really looked for Madoka figures in stores. I went to the Nishiki Market near our hotel and, lo and behold, there's a shop that sells animé figures!!! Of course! That was in Japan after all...

I immediately looked for Madoka figures and I saw several kinds of all five characters! I wish I could buy all of them then but I didn't have enough space on my luggage to fit the five boxes. So I just bought my two most favorite first Kaname, Madoka and Akemi, Homura.

Here are some photos of the two figures.

The lighting set up was simple: just one speedlite and a reflector. That's it. I just adjusted the positions of the reflector and the speedlite depending on the shot that I wanted to get.

Now, for the other three figures... Have to convince the wife to go back to Japan! :)
Gear used to make this post:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Mizuno Wave Lightning RX3 Review

When the wife and I came back to the Philippines, one of the things that I love to do the most is playing badminton with friends. Our games are slightly competitive but still fun and, of course, you can always get a good workout when you play badminton for two hours or more.

But the thing that I lacked before was a good pair of indoor shoes. I have running sneakers but it could be a very dangerous thing to use when played indoors, on wood, in a very humid gym: the court will be moist and the traction offered by running shoes will not do on a moist, plain surface. Actually, I slipped several times which prompted me to use my basketball shoes. The traction is right but that pair was very heavy.

So I decided to get a pair of shoes that is really meant for indoor sports and one that is not very heavy.

Enter the Mizuno Wave Lightning RX3.

This pair immediately caught my eyes in the sporting goods store. However, the price of the shoes set me back so I decided to try some other cheaper pairs. The other pairs did not agree with my feet, either the arch is wrong or the fit is wrong or the pair of shoes simply isn't comfortable to wear...

So I called up the sales clerk and told him that I wanted to try the Mizuno pair.

That pair of shoes and my feet were a match made in heaven! The pair of shoes felt really comfortable and light. The fit of the shoes around my feet is snug and my feet do not wiggle inside. This may be a hightop pair (or high cut, as it is called in the Philippines) but my lateral movement is not impaired by it.

But of course, the ultimate test was when I started playing badminton with it. And the Mizuno Wave Lightning RX3 performed admirably. I can move easily, the shoes are light, and my feet do not overheat because of the vents around and under the shoes. And more importantly, I do not slip because the gum sole has a perfect grip on the badminton court, whether it be a wooden surface or acrylic mats. I guess I'll only slip with this pair solely due to my own clumsiness. :)

And I don't only use this for badminton. When the wife and I shoot some hoops, I use this pair and I can go after the basketball and "drive to the hoop" with aplomb. Well, with the little basketball skills that I have... :) This pair of shoes is a really nice pair to own!

This pair of Mizuno athletic shoes is Highly Recommended!!!

How the product was shot:

Gear used to make this post:

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Case for an iPhone's Case...

Every time I get an iDevice, the wife gets a headache. Yes, the wife. This is because every time I get a new device, an iPhone, an iPad, even a MacBook, I always agonize about getting a case for them or not. The wife is very supportive and always comes with me to accessory shops (and even go through different online shops when we were still living in the U.S.) to look at different types of cases. She says she's fine with the ordeal but I can sense the discomfort in her every time I say "I just want to look at some cases..." Yes, that's how she loves me...

Anyway, why do I agonize about cases?

This is because Apple devices are so damn pretty!!!

On one hand, you want to protect that beauty, to preserve its pristine condition, to always have it look like new... Cases will preserve this pristine condition most of the time. Also, cases will protect your devices if ever they take a tumble. Yes, the wife's iPhone 5c was dropped and we had it repaired but it doesn't feel the same anymore. It is now creaking and, though the display looks the same, the experience of using it now doesn't feel like it came out of the design labs in Cupertino... (Yes, it was repaired by a third party repair shop here in Metro Manila.)

On the other hand, putting the device also has its set-backs.

Apple spent millions of dollars and hundreds, if not thousands, of man-hours to come up with beautiful designs; I feel like it's an injustice to the Apple design team to put such a beautiful piece of hardware in a case that will make it 10 times thicker (ok, I exaggerate. Or maybe not...). The thing is, you buy an iDevice for its beauty and ease-of-use. Why, then will you suddenly put it in a cage, hiding its beauty and making it harder, even if just a little, to operate? It's like you buying an off-road vehicle but you not wanting to take it off-road because you don't want to put mud on it. Or you getting a beautifully wrapped Japanese candy but you not wanting to eat the candy because you don't want to ruin the packaging.

These do not make sense...

And Steve Jobs himself said one should not put an iDevice, an iPod in his example, in a case because the things that make the iPod yours are, one, the music you put inside it and, two, the dings and scratches you put on it when you use it. The imperfections the iPod suffers because of how you use it make that particular iPod yours. There are some tens of millions of iPods out there but the one with the scratch on its back is yours because you are the one who dropped it.

The ding on one of the corners of my iPad makes this particular iPad mine because it was the wife who dropped it. And my love for the wife wasn't lessened because of that. And I love the iPad more. (Yes there were a couple of seconds of trepidation right after she dropped it but all was forgiven.)

So, did I get a case for my iPhone 6+?


At the beginning, I put the phone in a wallet. As with my previous iPhones (4 & 5s), I didn't put them in a protective case  whenever I use them. However, I put them in a sleeve when I put the phones in my pockets. Why? Because I don't want my keys and coins scratching up the displays. Yes, a few nicks and scratches are fine, but I don't want to add them up deliberately. And in the case of the 6+, there is always that fear of bending it whenever I put it in my bag. The wallet case, with my cards and IDs, acted as an exoskeleton for the iPhone. The wallet, cards and iPhone, collectively, are much stronger than the iPhone on its own.

I put the 6+ in a wallet because I don't want my stuff in my bag bending the phone...

And I am a bit worried about that protruding camera lens...

However, there were several occasions already when I almost dropped the phone. Once, I was walking to meet up with the wife when a teenage kid bumped into me: that almost knocked the phone off my hand! Another time, I was eating some fries while reading tweets one handed and the phone almost took a tumble to the floor; good thing the phone landed on my lap instead!

Now, why did these things happen?

It's a combination of two things: the iPhone 6+ is too damn slippery and too damn big!

Having a bigger screen has its benefits, as I mentioned here, but it makes the phone harder to wield also. This is one of the reason why it is not advisable to use the iPhone 6+ one-handed! Well, at least if you are not a 6'8" athletically gifted person...

So how did I remedy this?

I got a case that is nearly transparent and thin enough so that the beauty of the phone can still shine through. A case that can be easily put on and peel off whenever I want to use my Olloclip, a case that adds some "stickiness" to the phone. With this case, my fear of the phone slipping off my hand is greatly diminish. And yet the phone's thickness is not that much different than if I use the 6+ completely naked...

But of course, this does not make the phone drop nor weather resistant. But I am fine with that.

Am I afraid of accidentally dropping the phone while using it? Absolutely! There is a high chance that that will happen. But this makes me take care of my phone more. This makes me more careful of how I use it. Now, I won't go out of my way and intentionally scratch and drop my phone but I am happy with my choice.

And when I get a new iDevice, I will look at cases again and the wife will have to agonizingly go through those each time. That's just the way I am.  And I don't think I'll change: at the end of the day, I would still wish the design to be the one highlighted, I would still wish to use the iDevices the way they are intended to be used.

And if I ever use a case, a protector, I still would want it to be as minimal as possible. And my friends who gave me advice that I should get a sturdier casing for my phone just have to forgive my, ahem, insolence.

I just hope I don't drop my phone...

(Typed on an un-cased iPad.)

Photos shot with an iPhone 5s using the iOS app Hipstamatic:

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The MeFOTO SideKick360 Review

I love the color orange. And I love my iPhone. So when the chance to combine the two comes up, I almost always jump on it...

Enter the orange MeFOTO SideKick360...

This nifty device is a phone stand/tripod adapter. With this clamp you will be able to do  a lot of things with your phone, like shooting time lapse, long exposure photos, and group photos, of course. And with a reversible tripod and a proper lens attachment, you will be able to make macro photos with your iPhone!

The SideKick360 can be used with any tripod or monopod. You can either use the quarter-inch screw to tie the clamp down, or you can just use the arca-swiss plate-compatible foot of the accessory.

But the SideKick360 is not limited to photography. This clamp can also serve as a stand for your iPhone - you will be able to watch movies, have a FaceTime video call, or just a regular hands-free call.

And yes, this accessory is not limited to the iPhone. If your phone has a maximum width of 2.8 inches, then it will fit.

Though I feel that the so-called phablets are a no-go... And yes, it's not for the iPhone 6+...

On the construction aspect, this MeFOTO product is well-made and is composed of high-quality materials. The screws tighten and loosen smoothly and the screw holes are precisely made. Also, the metal used for this clamp is the same as that of a MacBook Pro! How nifty is that?!?

And it is orange!

This beautifully-oranged thing is very useful both for the iPhone's everyday use and for iPhoneography.

Here's hoping it will be available in the Philippines!

It is Highly Recommended!

Photos shot with an iPhone 5s using the iOS app Hipstamatic:

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