Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Globe Store Gen3 at Greenbelt 4

Globe Telecoms recently opened the Globe Store Gen3 at Greenbelt 4 in Makati. It's sort of a high end version of their business center where people can go to for various concerns, like questions about their postpaid account, for new accounts, to buy prepaid cards, etc.

This new store is greatly designed with stations for the various promos the company is promoting, like subscription to NBA, games that you can subscribe to, like Clash of Clans, Spotify, and Hooq, a new Philippine-based video subscription service.

They also sell accessories like speakers, headphones, phone cases, just to name a few!

The person who first accommodated my questions was well-versed and, when he felt that I will not go away easily, he typed my name and phone number on an iPad mini. A portable printer was attached to his belt and it printed my ticket. Actually, I felt that the ticket was already superfluous because my name and where I will be assisted actually appeared on several screens. Their system also sent a text message to my phone.

I was entertained at the second floor of the shop and it actually felt like I was going to an Apple Store! There was a long table, stools and people behind the table ready to answer my questions. Oh, I forgot to mention that the person who gave me the ticket took my photo on his iPad. I asked what it's for (my security spidy sense was tingling) but he said it's for the person who will accommodate my queries. He said that photo will make it easier for the one who will assist me to recognize me, even call me by my first name.

So, I sat on the stool and went on with my questions...

After my questions, I told the person I spoke with that the vibe in the store felt like being in an Apple Store. He said it's because the store was designed by the same people who designed Apple's. I have to dig deeper regarding that, but, Apple designer or not, the vibe in the store was a pleasant one.

If only there are no android phones...

So, if you're in the Greenbelt area, I suggest you visit this new Globe concept store. It's a nice experience and, even if you don't subscribe to their network, you will still be able to appreciate the place.

They may even be able to entice you to switch...

Oh, did I mention that there is a Star Wars game where you can play in while waiting?

Photos shot with an iPhone 5c and an iPhone 6+ using the iOS app Hipstamatic

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Philips ActionFit Overdrive Review

Of all my earphones, the ones that usually break first are the ones that I use for the gym. It's either the thing gets shorted because of my sweat, or, and this happens more often, the wire inside breaks because the thing gets yanked whenever I workout.

My latest earphones, the Yurbuds, which I reviewed here, broke and I needed to find another pair. I would have gotten another pair of Yurbuds but I wanted a pair that blocks out most of the noise. I mostly workout in a gym anyway so I don't need to be as conscious of my surroundings as compared to if I jogged outdoors.

So, I decided to get the Philips ActionFit Overdrive.

This pair hooks around the ear and you adjust the hooks based on the size of your ear lobes. This pair has an in-ear design so it makes for a more immersive listening experience. Much of the noise is blocked out though you will not be completely isolated: external sounds are muted but are not totally blocked off. This makes the earphones still useable for outdoor activities.

There is a clip along the cord so you can attach it to your clothing. There are two extra pairs of silicon caps and you determine which pair is more compatible with your ear canals.

There is also a small bag for the earphones though I really couldn't see the need for that...

The hook itself does not stay in place when bent. However, there is a plastic slider that you adjust when you put the earphones on. I illustrate the difference on the photo below. The earphone on top has the slider on the default position, while the one at the bottom has the slider set all the way down. You adjust the slider based on the size of your earlobes.

Sound quality of the earphones is great, the mids are clearly heard. The lows are very distinctive and spoken words are clear and highly intelligible. However, the bass of the earphones is on the quiet side, so if you are into rock or hiphop music, you won't be able to feel as much thump. For a sports-oriented pair, this earphone is great for listening to classical music. And also, since some of the outside noise leak in, you will have to increase the volume of your player.

The Philips ActionFit Overdrive is sweat and moisture resistant so I hope this will last longer than my other sports earphones. The Philips website also states that the wires are "Kevlar-reinforced" so I hope that this new pair will survive the tugging and yanking that will definitely happen.

But overall, the sound quality of the Philips Action Fit Overdrive is great. #TheShyPhotographer Highly Recommends it for workouts, for listening outdoors, or if you just want to kick back.

So get yours here:

Photos shot with an iPhone 6+ using the iOS app Hipstamatic

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Timbuk2 Dashboard Laptop Messenger Bag

I absolutely love good design.

This is the reason why I am very loyal to very few brands:

I love The North Face jackets, Levi's pants, Muji notebooks, Chuck Taylor shoes, Canon DSLRs and lenses, Sony point-and-shoots and mirrorless cameras, etc.

And all things Apple of course. I absolutely love Apple products!!!

Another thing that I absolutely love are Timbuk2 messenger bags.

I had a Timbuk2 bag, one that fits a 15-inch MacBook Pro, which I used for about 7 years while the wife and I still lived in the US. It had absolutely no signs of wear-and-tear that, I believe, I can sell it as a rarely-used item. I gave it to my nephew who was about to enter college and I believe that he will use it till the day he graduates.

And beyond...

But I missed my Timbuk2 bag... And I lost sleep over it and I thought about asking the bag back, though that would have made me a really bad uncle. So, even if I already have a Timbuk2 bag that can fit a full-sized iPad, I decided to get another Timbuk2 bag that can fit a 15-inch laptop.

No, I rarely bring my laptop out of the house these days, but I can always find a use for such a bag.

For example, when the wife and I went to Singapore, this was the bag that I brought. It contained a rain coat (a North Face), an umbrella, a couple of 日本語 (Japanese) books, a MacBook and its charger, my Canon G15, my iPhone 6+, an external battery, snacks and other knick knacks.

I actually wanted to bring my smaller Timbuk2 for those days when we were in Singapore and I actually hated myself a little for not having it with me.

And yes, living in Southeast Asia, where it rains for most of the year, having a waterproof bag is a big, big plus. My Timbuk2 bags perform admirably against rain shower, torrential or not!

Just a couple of tiny cons...

The thing that my small Timbuk2 had over this big one is that there are two inner pockets in the smaller bag whereas there is only one in the big version. That seems very ironic for me... Oh, and the iPad compartment in the smaller bag is built-in whereas for the big one, the laptop compartment is removable. Some people may find that a plus but, for me, I wish that it is built in - it's one small thing that I won't have to think about anymore...

But I love this bag (and I equally love the smaller one). And if ever this breaks down, which I doubt it will, I will definitely get another Timbuk2 bag. And I hope their presence in the Philippines will not waver.

Get yours here:

For the smaller Timbuk2 bag...

Photos made with an iPhone 5s and iPhone 6+ using the iOS app, Hipstamatic:

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tylt Energi

I love the battery life of the iPhone 6+. However, the thing still does not last me the whole day. So, to supplement the phone's internal battery, I got an external battery that connects to the phone via a case.

I got the Tylt case and battery pack.

The case is easy to install: just put the phone in and let the phone snap into place. All sides of the phone are covered, though the mute toggle switch is exposed and, of course, the bottom, where you can find the speaker, headphone jack and the lightning port, is open.

The case also has a non-slip surface making the phone easier to handle.

When the phone runs out of juice, the case has railings where the external battery glides through. The external battery has a casing that is designed to push the sound from the phone speaker forward. This is very nice and it actually makes the sound "seem" louder simply because the sound is being directed towards you.

The battery has a capacity of 3500 mAh so it essentially doubles the battery life of the iPhone. For my usage, this is enough to last me up to at least 11pm at night.

The battery charges the phone at 2.1A so the iPhone charges rather quickly. The downside of this is the battery and phone can get hot.

To check for the charge of the battery, just push the button at the back and four LEDs will light up for a full charge, two for 50%, etc. This button also tells the battery to charge the phone up; yes, it doesn't automatically charge the phone up when you slide the phone in. This, for me, is a good thing. It means you can just leave the phone in the casing and the external battery will be available when you need it. Long pressing this button also turns the battery off, though the battery will automatically stop the charging process when the phone reaches 100%.

The case of the battery is the same non-slip one that is used for the phone case and, when installed, the system acts as one seamless unit.

Oh, and the battery is factory charged so you can use it out of the box without needing to charge it first.

Now, for the cons.

When installed, the battery cannot be removed without pressing the volume and/or the power button(s). Also, when the battery is attached, you essentially lose access to the headphone port. Inside the box is an email address and phone number where you can tell the company that you need a headphone extension adapter. I don't know about you, but I don't know of anyone who would not need an adapter with this type of battery charger. It would have been nice(r) if Tylt included the adapter in the box. So, when I need to use a pair of headphones, I remove the phone, let the headphone jack go through the opening, then re-attach the phone into the battery; it is quite tedious...

Another con: that branding is very confusing for me. I even thought that the brand is LTAL... But that's just me... Oh... And Energi?!?

But overall, I like the battery pack and I like the fact that I don't need to be close to a wall outlet if I want to top up my phone.

The TYLT Energi is Highly Recommended!

Get yours here:

Photos made with an iPhone 5s and iPhone 6+ using the iOS app, Hipstamatic:

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:

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