Let’s talk about USB-C, & e-Waste – Jul 22

The EU this year finally ruled on USB-C being the charging standard for all Smartphones going forward from Fall 2024. The rule will also apply to other electronic devices including tablets, digital cameras, headphones, handheld video game consoles, and e-readers. Laptops will have to comply with the rule at a later date. Source: Verge Article – USB-C will be mandatory for phones sold in the EU ‘by autumn 2024’

This would bring about such an amazing development in the Apple Ecosystem where we do not need a separate cable to charge the iPhones and Airpods we own; if only this applied to smart watches as well and the single cable for all tech dream would be finally true. But why does apple just not want to fully commit to USB-C, even though they have already seriously committed to it on the Laptop’s and iPads, something that perplexes most people; most think it is backward compatibility with existing cables that users already own, however that does not hold as true today as it did 3 to 4 years ago as almost all other devices have already standardized to USB-C or have committed to it.

There is a caveat here tho – in specific the EU’s press release says the new legislation applies to devices “that are rechargeable via a wired cable.” This means the previously mentioned dream of Apple Devices going portless is a possibility as well, which would be extremely unfortunate.

  • Why did the EU do this?
  • Will the world follow suite?
    • The EU is a usual stalwart when it comes to making sensible rules that supports the well being of consumers and the world in general and hence is a good standard to follow. For example their rules on GDPR and on CyberSecurity are rules that have pushed the industry in general to hold better standards toward privacy and security of data and people. It is also worth considering for tech companies in particular that making a region specific product creates production problems and logistics issues for them and their customers as well – hence it follows that if the EU rule is a sensible one with a positive global goal, might as well follow them for the longer positive impact on the companies image as all we the bottom line.
  • Will Apple follow suite as the largest smartphone maker?
    • This however is a trickier question, as the motivations at Apple are obviously very Apple specific and not very widely known to the public. Would apple rather go the wireless way 2 years down the line rather than put in a USB-C. Was MagSafe cases and chargers for the phone and the new MacBook Air with M2 signal the move to the MagSafe strategy rather than a USB-C. Only time will tell and USB-C is not a given by any means. And Apple fans are loyal enough and tied to the ecosystem enough to follow suite.

Apple has taken positive steps such as active recycling and recycled parts and no chargers in the box which have been successful steps to reduce e-waste and also successful due to others following suite. And logic would dictate that USB-C is the best way forward for all, but is it for Apple – that remains to be seen.

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WWDC 2022 & the ‘Meta’verse

This year’s WWDC was not a game changing one, it was a rather iterative update on all things Apple, and probably the way Apple likes it. Post the M1 in-house customer silicon and the upgrades of M1 Pro and M1 Max, they did come up with the M2 which is more powerful and helps a battery last longer – can’t wait for the time my MacBook Pro gets old and I can upgrade to the latest at the time; kinda sad that I got the most powerful 13″ of the intel generation with all the bells and whistles just before they switched to M1 – that is what I would call unfortunate timing. Still love all my Apple gadgets.

Source: Apple.com

All of this only gets me thinking of what’s the next big step, is the update only iterative or is it a piece of a bigger puzzle that we do not yet see. Think about it, all that power in a little chip with the efficiency & battery life in that small form factor – could it be to power some other experience apart from just being an efficient video & photo editor. And that brings us to the next big thing on the horizon, the Metaverse – Virtual and Augmented worlds of the future which will be the next iteration of Social Media and bring it to a whole new digital level.

The way I see it the overall journey is a long way away –

  • first the world builds virtual worlds, as that is a lot easier first step as I understand it
  • then we get better at building those worlds in terms of resolution, quality and our interaction with the virtual world
  • all this buys us some time to develop the augmented tech that would better understand how to place digital objects in real life i.e. are we projecting into the world or into our eyes so we see it in the world or is there a 3rd option we haven’t even thought of? The answer is very unclear as we have a lot more to develop in order to get there
  • next with augmented tech comes new challenges to overcome such as interaction, how to better understand depth perception, interaction of the digital with the real
Source: Facebook.com

Such exciting things to look forward to and some people betting their companies on the promise of such a massive business case that the risk is worth the reward to be the first mover in this technology and industry. And the industry that makes the first foray successfully ends up defining the market. And that really bothers me some days, our entire virtual worlds formed and defined by a company that makes money currently via social media and selling our personal information – shudder at the thought. Talking about Facebook (now Meta) incase you are still left wondering. They are a software company that are making the biggest push in hardware ever in a ‘bet the company’ moment their CEO is having.

On the other hand we also have a contender in Apple, that says it is all about privacy which ensures some scrutiny on them ensuring they follow that path. It is a company that builds good technology and believes in privacy, if these two are my only choices then I of course choose the latter. However, it still feels the world is quite helpless that we have only the big juggernauts that can take a crack at this problem and even if smaller disruptors enter the market with an actual feasible challenge, they most probably get bought up and absorbed by the big players. It’ll of course be unbearably expensive, but any product that Apple makes in the Virtual or Augmented reality space will be an amazing contender based on their track record of hardware, software and their integration.

As my first foray into testing this technology out I am looking forward to the Playstation VR2, a new and improved version of the Playstation VR that promises a higher resolution, eye tracking and better interaction capabilities via new design of controllers. Might seem like a small insignificant step in gaming but it is the best use case as of today for Virtual Reality and its success propels the success of the industry.

As glued as we are to our screens, this technology will probably have the biggest impact on our lives as this will be the next screen we use to meet friends, watch movies, play games, work and experience new places and things. Looking forward to what happens next!

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DJI Mavic 3’s are out! – Travel Tech – Nov 21

The weather’s improving, a good time to start traveling plans locally and globally – a key part of travel tech? Those awesome drone shots that just zoom out and around you. Let’s see how the DJI’s new drones help us novice’s become pro videographers!

What got launched?

  • DJI Mavic 3 @ $ 2,199 (Fly More Combo)
  • DJI Mavic 3 Cine @ $ 4,999 (Cine Premium Combo)

Whoa! Expensive – Yup, this lineup is definitely not for the casual traveller but rather the enthusiast and the travel vloggers amongst us that are rather increasing in numbers of late due to the influencer ‘epidemic’ so to speak. Haha.

What do we get for that price?

DJI Mavic 3

DJI Mavic 3 Cine

  • 4/3 CMOS Sensor Dual Hasselblad Camera System
  • 4K at up to 120FPS
  • 20MP Photos
  • Hybrid Zoom 28X Digital
  • 162mm at F/4.4
  • 46 Min Flight Time compared to 31 min of Mavic 2 & Air 2
  • Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing
  • Apple ProRes 422 HQ Footage at 5.1K uptown 50FPS
  • 1 TB SDD Inbuilt
  • Plus everything on the Mavic 3

The new drones have some great camera improvements and also an improved omnidirectional object avoidance that can detect objects 200m away. This enables some incredible features such as advanced RTH (Return to Hand) that finds a better route back, better active tracking to follow and chart a path around you, APAS 5.0 (Advanced Pilot Assistance System) that help guide it effectively past complex path’s as it follows and an Explore Mode that uses the tele camera to effortlessly scout and plan your shots.

This coupled with Wi-Fi 6 quick transfer and a great accessories ecosystem makes this the drone to beat. The combo’s packs provided for the price mentioned above also make it a complete package in one for travel.

The DJI RC also helps make it as effortless as possible to maneuver the drone, the portable charger, wide angle lens and the cellular transmission dongle help make it more portable and travel further than before.

If you are considering a drone and have the money to spend, you cannot go wrong with this one!

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One Phone to rule them all? – Pixel 6 Launch – Oct 21

Google finally did it! They launched an actual smartphone worthy of competing with the big shots in the industry. Though their focus is on their technologies – AI-based – it shows some actual interest in competing, which should excite all of us. Read on for more.

We should not mistake this for a full-blown competition with the smartphone market leader, not yet at least, as the iPhone has an ecosystem backing it which makes it sticky i.e. makes it difficult for someone to leave the iPhone behind. The way it works with the AirPods, the Apple Watch, the Mac. There is evidence for this to actually happen though as there are products in the market and all we need is software to make it all work together – which might very well be the next most logical set for Google to pursue. Which in all honesty is exciting! The Pixel Slate, the Pixel Book, the acquisition of FitBit, Google Buds – it all makes sense now! Let’s get back to the topic du jour for now – the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro – Google’s new flagship phones that have dedicated large scale marketing dollars promoting it, something rather rare for Google to do.

The Pixel 6 & Pixel 6 Pro

Launched mid-month in October, this is what they look like …

Pixel 6

Pixel 6 Pro

The difference between them is quite minimal, to be honest for the price difference – both of these are still are compelling buys:

Pixel 6 from $599

Pixel 6 Pro from $899

  • Screen
  • 6.4″, FHD+ OLED, 90 Hz
  • 6.7″ , QHD+ OLED w LTPO, 120 Hz
  • Battery
  • 4614 mAH with fast charge, fast wireless charge, battery share
  • 5003 mAH with fast charge, fast wireless charge, battery share
  • Camera’s
  • Rear: 50MP Main, 12MP Ultrawide
  • Front: 8MP
  • Night Sight, Portrait, Super Res Zoom, Motion Autofocus, Motion Mode, Magic Eraser, Face Unblur and more
  • Rear: 50MP Main, 12MP Ultrawide, 48MP Telephoto
  • Front: 11.1MP Ultrawide
  • Night Sight, Portrait, Super Res Zoom, Motion Autofocus, Motion Mode, Magic Eraser, Face Unblur and more

The Good?

The big announcement here isn’t even the phones – it’s a custom SOC (System on Chip) – called Tensor, similar to how Apple has the A-Series chips for its iPhones. And this chip will help make this a pure ‘Google’ phone – faster processing for AI-enabled features such as image and video processing, Live Translate for conversations, Dictation, Google Assistant, faster performance, and better gaming.

Google already had one of the best camera’s since the Pixel launched with a frankly bad image sensor which hadn’t changed for the past 4+ generations of the phone, this time around they have updated this sensor so expect much better photos and videos – though this is a work in progress as the software still needs to be tweaked further a little bit to take better advantage of the new sensor. It still has tough competition from the iPhone as it hasn’t necessarily competed in the market for a while and had been absent from the premium phones lineup completely for a while.

There is a new motion mode to have objects in the background with long exposures and a magic eraser in the edit mode to remove subjects from the photo that you do not want there. Both of these features alone are going to make the Pixel 6 series the standout phone for photos.

The more google features, however, work better than ever – you can now have flawless and fast transcription with good grammar too without effort; you can also speak much more fluently with someone whose language you do not speak. Live translate via the camera works blisteringly fast too.

The screen has a 90 Hz display for the Pixel 6 and 120 Hz for the 6 Pro now too for that smooth scrolling action and gaming. This coupled with a fast charge (50% in 30 min), Adaptive Battery, Underscreen Fingerprint Unlock, Extreme Battery Saver Mode, IP68 Water & Dust Resistance, Titan M2 Chip for security, battery sharing, and higher peak brightness only make the case to buy this more compelling at the price.

The Bad?

This would be an empty section if not for Google’s claim that this is the new smartphone king contender – well, not in those exact words, but almost that.

The expectation from Google’s photography capabilities are some of the highest there are – due to the benchmark that the Pixel 2 set. However, now with the new image sensor, they are still auto compensating for the images as they would with the old sensor; this needs to be improved upon and something that can be done with just software and hopefully soon.

The Material UI feels unpolished and needs to be improved upon to feel cohesive with the overall capabilities of the phone to make the OS simpler to use. The default assistant features when you slide to the side need to show more useful information.

The Ecosystem is lacking overall – however, with the Pixel Buds, Slate, PixelBook, FitBit – there is an obvious and real opportunity to make a real contender against the Apple Juggernaut.

The Verdict?

If you are looking to switch from an Apple Ecosystem and have the money to do it – the case hasn’t been made as of yet. But if you are in the market for an Android Phone – this is the best there is, hand’s down. It’s the most Googley Google phone out there and you simply could not do better. We just need to see some long-term commitment and investment from Google to make it all work cohesively and also that this isn’t one of those side projects that Google is just trying out as it has with Pixel in the past.

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Return Of the Mac! – Apple Event – Oct 21

Techtober is in full swing as of mid October as we had long awaited product reveals from Apple and Google, all of this in one week too. First up, we look at the long awaited MacBook Pro event where Apple announced their new lineup of M1 MacBook Pro’s and the new generation of AirPods (3rd Gen).

What did they announce?

  • MacBook Pro 14″ & 16″ with the M1 Pro & Max Chips
  • AirPods 3rd Generation

Though the event was for the MacBook Pro’s the real stars were the new M1 Chips designed for the Pro’s – the M1 Pro and the M1 Max – WHY? Because these chips beat the already industry leading M1 MacBook Air’s which in turn leave almost all laptops in the same price range in the dust. And not to mention Mac’s last you twice or thrice as long as Windows Laptop’s on average.

Oh and yes, they brought the ports back .. the new Pro’s come with HDMI and SD Card Ports – apart from Thunderbolt and MagSafe Ports. Yup, MagSafe charging for Laptop’s is back too now.

Overall, these laptop’s are amazing value for money if you are someone who already have an older MacBook Pro and do a lot of video editing or programming that needs performance. The only thing missing now is gaming and games compatibility for AAA Titles for these laptops.

They also announced new AirPods – and try not to confuse this one. If you remember the original AirPods then these are the next (3rd Gen) of those. Yes, they look like the AirPods Pro and you could also call them cheaper Pro versions too, sure.

The main thing about these is the improvement in battery life as well as the introduction of Spatial Audio – which is awesome I tell ya. The only thing missing is the Transparency and Noise Cancelling modes which are still a Pro feature.

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Windows 11 is here .. well, kinda! – Oct 21

They said Windows 10 was the final version of Windows, they said it would just be updates from here on out! But lo and behold – here’s a refreshed visual design of Windows being called the next generation of Windows .. read on to know more.

What’s new?

  • New Start Menu & Visual Changes to the interface
  • New Widgets Menu – with quick glance information
  • New Settings Menu – easier to use
  • New Snap Assist Tool – to easily position your windows into sections of the screen
  • New Microsoft Store & XBox Apps
  • Work in Progress updates:
    • Support for Android Apps
    • Support for Direct Storage for Games
    • Performance updates for Games

Should you update?

As tempting as it may be to update, I would recommend that you wait a few months for all the bugs to be smashed and for the teething issues in the interface and guts of the software to be sorted.

To summarize as of now though, there is not much in terms of new and noteworthy in the performance or the visual redesign.

If you have a 3 years or older desktop or laptop however, I would recommend to definitely hold as there are some compatibility software updates that need to be resolved. Even probably

The Details? Mostly good, some bad.

As much as the Windows team have tried to ensure that they do not copy MacOS, there are quite a few ideas taken straight from there. However, as soon as you click that start icon – which now is in the bottom center of the screen – you see that you are still using Windows.

  • Start Menu:
    • The center start menu now opens up to an app gallery where you can pin favorite apps right up to, it also features a search bar right up top with buttons to take you to all apps installed and also a button to get you to recommended i.e. recent files.
    • Plus the Shutdown, restart button and settings icon – all of which can be customized along with shifting start to the left similar to the old way.
    • You can also pin apps to the taskbar for easier access similar to Windows 10.
  • Visuals:
    • Rounded Corners, refreshed icons, emoji’s and overhauled + simplified look
  • Widgets:
    • Widgets now slide from the left side out and has some prebuilt widgets – however, something I rarely used (called tiles in Windows 10), and I don’t see the appeal, function or use of it still – time will tell.
    • Currently you can add the below, but no 3rd Party apps:
      • Outlook Calendar
      • To Do
      • Photos
      • Tips
      • Entertainment
      • Family Safety
      • Weather
      • Watchlist
      • Plus a newsfeed at the bottom
  • Settings Menu:
    • Easier to use and Navigate compared to before making it faster to change via the quick access to the left side of the window
    • Light Mode and Dark Mode Options + plus switching without reloading the window like before
    • You will also be able to switch on Auto HDR if you have a monitor that supports it
  • Snap Assist:
    • This is something they have copied from the Mac and improved upon in my opinion where the windows snap as before as well as you have snap layouts that fit your open windows into some useful preset options
  • Microsoft Teams and Messages are now one app:
    • They have updated Teams to now handle SMS messages so you can send and receive messages from the app on your desk
  • The Bad Stuff:
    • Cannot drag files into the task bar folders and apps as before
    • There are still barebones of Windows of the past still visible via the Command Prompt, Task Manager and some other windows some of which do not even switch on the Dark Mode switch
    • Only the primary monitor displays the easy access icons on the bottom right such as time, date, battery, bluetooth etc. The rest of the monitors do not.

Work in Progress updates !!

  • Performance Improvements:
    • There were supposed to be performance improvements with the introduction of Windows 11, however, as of now this doesn’t seem to have made any noticeable changes
  • Android Apps:
    • This is purely a workaround, but there will soon be an Amazon App Store that will have it’s own collection of Android Apps that you will be able to access via that store; how well these apps work and perform however is something that we need to wait and watch
  • Direct Storage Access:
    • Provided Games support it (which most don’t currently) the data can be loaded directly from the SSD via the GPU rather than the CPU which would result in much faster load times, which will have a significant boost incase you do not already have SSD’s

With all of this and more, hopefully Windows has a much better time going forward – keep in mind, every alternate version of Windows has been a disaster – Windows 8, Vista, ME; so this has a lot of history going against it.

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Cheers! 🙂

Tesla in the Middle East? – Oct 21

Have always been a techie at heart and one of the things I have been pondering on lately is a wish list item – A Tesla. I always push myself to have goals for fear of being bored by life in general – be it a skill, spiritual or materialistic. And now that my Mustang is about 5+ years old and I think about my next goal – my love of technology, cars and want for being sustainable – a tesla seems to check a lot of boxes for a worthy goal.

After a bit of research, here’s a summary of findings that you might find useful to either satiate your curiosity or if you, like me, are also pondering such things.

Tesla at a Glance : S3XY (Oct 21)

Tesla At A Glance, Data courtesy Tesla.com UAE, summarized by @robinbmac

Which one should you get?

  • Budget Conscious?
    • If you are budget conscious first and foremost, this car is probably not for you as even the cheapest of the lot is quite so very expensive. But if you still do want to get one, then I’d recommend sticking to the Model 3 or the Model Y.
      • The Model 3 if you are either single or have a small family and do not need to carry around too much when shopping.
      • The Model Y if you have a regular size family and also do need space when traveling or shopping. Waiting for a 7 seater model to be available in UAE however, which isn’t the case as of now.
  • Tech Savvy?
    • If you are Tech Savvy, any of these machines would actually do depending on the space you need for yourself or your family. It is completely stocked with tech from a mobile app, self-parking, sentry mode to other cool things. Maybe even spring some extra money for the full self-driving.
  • Traveler?
    • If you love to travel, then definitely consider the long range models of the car that you prefer as it would most definitely come in handy in the ‘long-run’ (get it, haha – sorry I had to).
  • Best of the Best?
    • If you only want the best of the best, you have to consider the Plaid versions seriously – why you ask?:
      • Quickest accelerating and highest torque
      • 3 High Performance Motors
      • Torque vectoring (Torque vectoring is a technology employed in automobile differentials that has the ability to vary the torque to each half-shaft with an electronic system. This method of power transfer has recently become popular in all-wheel drive vehicles.)

Other things to keep in mind?

  • Firstly, the Tesla isn’t cheap (even the cheapest of the lot) and to be able to use it regularly you definitely need to know when and where you can charge your car. So if you do not have a house where you can overnight charge or an area where you have multiple fast chargers you can access – this is not the car for you.
  • If you can wait, please consider that the deliveries take up to 2 quarters (4-6 months) on average; also check out the competition from Ford, Porsche and others. Tesla definitely is a tech company before anything else and they are learning how to manufacture cars and consider ranges etc., however, car companies producing electric cars have much more experience with what car owners expect. So expect a bit of a shock on how a car functions when buying from Tesla. One example of such a case is – when Tesla is approaching 0 km in distance to empty, consider fueling up asap as zero is actually zero and sometimes earlier; whereas a Ford Mustang Mach-E even at zero has some way to go before it stops fully.
  • If you have a place of your own, consider getting a Tesla Powerwall and also some Solar Panels – consider going fully green, this would be great for your bills (car & home) in the long run and the planet. 🙂

Go to Tesla.com to learn more and maybe order one for yourself if you are the impulsive type.

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Cheers! 🙂

Ski Days @ Gudauri, Georgia – Apr 2021

Ever had that feeling of being in snow because you’ve had enough of the desert for the last 20+ years; okay maybe not that latter part, but at-least the want for the snow. Well if you live in the Middle East or Europe – Gudauri, Georgia might be that spontaneous break you might need. This was our second time in the country and still an amazing one.

We had a similar feeling back in April this year, and after a year and then some of being stuck at home – and we did, thanks to my wife ‘the amazing vacation whisperer’ us and two friends dashed off to the snowy side of Georgia for some sun, snow, ski and fireside pizza on the slopes of Gudauri. If you are itching to do the same, read on – details on what we recommend.

But First, the checklist:

  • Visa Related – for UAE Residents there is visa on arrival
  • Travel Essentials:
    • Toiletries – the usual depending on hostel or hotel stay
    • Tech – just your phone+power-bank would do apart from a universal power adapter; GoPro, Drone, Insta360 if you love good video captures
  • Snow Gear – the usual snow jackets with a hoodie, pants, socks, shoes, gloves at the minimum
  • Thermal Underwear – Trust me, do not go cheap on these, totally worth the spend; and get more than one as things don’t dry as well in the snow – even indoors.
  • About 50 Georgian Lari or GEL (local currency) per day – depending on how much exploring you plan to do – does not cover hotel stay. 1 Lari = 1.18 AED (Sep 2021) plus some extra for the Covid Test you might have to do based on the length of the stay and for the exit out of the country. Skiing is relatively cheap in Georgia.
  • Translator App – since most don’t speak English well, though do expect quite a few english speaking people even if broken english, the Georgians are a very kind people mostly we’ve found
  • Roaming Data or Local SIM – would be useful out of the airport to use the Bolt App (similar to Uber/Careem) for transport, really cheap compared to Taxi’s & booking.com travel service + there’s a cash option to pay. Also keep in mind once you get to Gudauri, there is no bolt so better make friends with the local cabbies – cheaper than hotel transport I assure you.
  • Also read up on the most current Covid Regulations to be aware – during our time, curfews started at 9pm i.e. no one outside after 9pm or else you get fined. And no restaurants open on the weekends (Saturday & Sunday) and I mean none of them.

The Flight & Drive to Gudauri

The Flight is a relatively short one from Dubai International Airport to Tbilisi International in Georgia clocking in 3 Hours 30 min. And if you are traveling from the Middle East to Eastern Europe, it is a frequently travelled route that would cost in the range of AED 1000/- to AED 1,600/- on average in 2021 depending on the time of the year. Though if it is specifically for snow days then best to go between December to April.

If you go through the slide show on the left, you would see that once the scenery passing your window shifts to pink lakes and then snow you know you are in Eastern Europe. And then finally it is a 2 Hours 30 min drive from the airport till snowy Gudauri that cost about 60 GEL (Georgian Lari).

Day 1 – Walking around in snow

Once we landed and drove down to Best Western in Gudauri, we rested up for a bit, got into our snow gear and walked up the mountain to the ‘Drunk Cherry’ restaurant – always look to Google & Trip Advisor Reviews to find the best places.

Slide show on the right showing the snowy areas around our hotel and the scenic snowy mountain sides; the walk up towards Drunken Cherry and finally the delicious food there.

Was a first day well spent, we even ran into cops on the way down back to the hotel as we were a little bit past curfew. The cops were sweet enough to tell us not be out past 10pm and to plan our outings accordingly. The curfews of course are in place due to the Covid pandemic and impact not only evenings but also the weekends – when no restaurants are to be open. Apart from that it’s pretty free up in Gudauri.

Day 2 – To Ski or not to Ski

When around on the first day we did enquire around about the rental’s for the ski equipment and for the ski slope pass to use the snow lifts. So as we began the second day we had a plan after breakfast on where to go and what to do. Surprisingly enough the ski equipment and the slopes were relatively inexpensive. We even got a training instructor each in order to learn the right way to ski. I decided to learn snowboarding whereas the rest chose to ski.

The Bill for Skiing comes up as below:

  • Ski Pass x 2 Days = 80 GEL
  • Ski Gear x 2 Days = 80 GEL
  • Ski Instructor / Hour = 60 GEL

Apart from the above to consider would be the food and drink to get through the day as it does get quite exhausting, especially when considering the effort exerted when learning and more importantly when you see kids 5 years old that ski effortlessly and want to be half as good.

The pictures to the left don’t do justice to the actual view in person – but seeing that the pictures itself are so good that the in person view is truly magnificent. Some good restaurants along the slopes as well to satisfy the appetite that comes along and you get to meet some amazing friends along the way too.

Other things to do before you head out

There are other restaurants that we visited during our time there apart from Drunken Cherry, VITA MIN and the food at the Best Western.

We had some good food and drink at the Platforma Restaurant and Varstla Restaurant as well. These places were good too; not great though. Platforma was such a good ambiance and service comparatively though for a big meal and some variety. Varstla was more a home cooked feel though the variety wasn’t the best.

In particular there is a Sparkling Pear Lemonade popular in Georgia that you have to try; quite a unique taste that most might really like in my opinion.

Also keep in mind to make friends with the local taxi drivers as the hotel transfers are always far more expensive – i.e. double if not more.

Last but not the least, we chose Best Western primarily because of the Hot Tub Jaccuzi on the roof in the open snow, which was definitely an amazing highlight of our evenings and nights there. Something about being in the snow in hot bubbly water that is just plan enjoyable.

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Cheers! 🙂

The Surface that could – Microsoft Sep 21 Event

The market is in such bad a state that it is currently only a monopoly that could aspire to break up another monopoly. Microsoft took a well deserved hiatus from mobile hardware to focus on the cloud but now that their cloud act is at the top of it’s game they have been focusing on the Mobile Products division with the help of Panos Panay. And so the Surface Strategy is back with a new line of up of products to tempt you away from the iOS or Android Monopolies that you are already a part of and these are the products they announced.

The Surface Duo 2

Yup, Duo 2’s the name and it isn’t Deja-Vu. The second iteration of the Surface Folding Phone – all improved with a curved center edge, a thinner and lighter form factor, a slimmer pen and a new camera line up. Better specifications to boot as well. A pure ‘workaholic’s’ & Multitasker’s delight in my opinion. The only thing I would consider to replace my iPhone but only during work hours and not anything else.

Link to Technical Specifications here

The Refreshed Surface Laptops Line-Up

Next up is the refreshed line-up of Laptops and at first glance all you see is that they have upped the specifications and not much else for all except the Surface Laptop Studio which apart from the specs also had a new form factor to go with it.

Surface Laptop Studio

The screen is quite an amazing achievement, it also folds from it’s center back position to lay flat over the entire body so you can use the pen that hides under it’s mouse pad to write, draw and more. However, an overall bulky device with a box underneath for ventilation via fans and vents. Unsure how this performs in the market with better value for money options that are more powerful.

Link to the Technical Specifications here

The rest of the devices are nothing to write too much about, we have the Surface Pro 8, which is probably the best of the lot for its power for form factor ratio and also the detachable keyboard with the hidden pen slot. If you need a windows laptop + tablet for portability and work – this is the device for you. Well worth the spend just for the portability alone. The upgrades on this are nothing more than the spec’s tho.

You also have the Surface Go 3 if you need a budget friendly device, however the sacrifices it makes ensures it isn’t a great value for money. For this price range there are definitely better deals from other manufacturers out there. An new iPad would be a much better value for money with lower cost in this case.

Oh and yes, just to tick the box of being environmentally conscious, they also released a mouse made of recycled ocean plastic. So there’s that. Awesome, I guess.

Would you recommend buying one?

At this time, the only one worth recommending is the Surface Pro 8 in case you are looking for a portable windows machine with the emphasis on portable. The Surface Duo 2 can also be recommended if your work productivity is front and center in your list of priorities especially if tied into the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. Apart from that the rest are not ready for prime time and do not justify the price for the value they deliver.

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Cheers! 🙂

How do we perfect perfection? The Apple Sep 21 Event

So we just went through a whole week where we had anticipation before the event and then disappointment after, and this brought me to think over the weekend about why Apple took this route – and most of this might be glaringly obvious and some of it might not at all. But here’s my thoughts on why Apple had the product launch it did. Read on.

So .. What happened?

Apple launched iterative updates for all its products in a sense implying their products are quite perfect already and they could just get away with improving on the things that matter such as the display, camera and the battery – some would say this is the right way to go but as always there are also quite a few that disagree and call this a slowdown in the pace of innovation as compared to their Android competitors. Below summary details on the products launched and the updates made on these products:

  • iPhone 13 / 13 Mini / 13 Pro / 13 Pro Max – With improvements in the processor, camera and the battery life for the 13 & Mini + the additional telephoto camera and the 120 Hz Display for the Pro versions

  • iPad / iPad Mini – An updated standard iPad for a relatively cheap option with an Apple Pencil, an updated Mini that is just an iPad Air in a smaller form factor for those who prefer it

  • Apple Watch – A slightly bigger + brighter screen, more durable and faster charging (with a USB-C connector now)

  • Apple TV+ & Apple Fitness+ – New shows and seasons for the TV and new + better workouts for the Fitness App

Why would Apple do this?

So why does Apple think they can get away with only iteration and a lack of innovation. So many theories, such short attention span’s to contend with.

  • 5G – Let’s start with the biggest incentive of all to have an event in the first place, sell product+service. With carrier partnerships all across who want to promote their 5G networks and are ready to subsidize your old iPhones to give you new ones – there’s no better time than the present to launch a shiny new phone, iPad and Watch even if the updates are only iterative.

  • Why mess with perfection? – The phones and the ecosystem as they are, are pretty amazing and at the #1 charts across the world in Phone sales. So why take risks by putting in an innovation that might not be well received. Which is why it makes sense to just make the safest of updates to improve products that are already good.

  • The Supply Chain? – There is a robust supply chain that has parts sourced for the massive demand for Apple products worldwide. So it makes sense to stretch out the parts for more years which results in price optimization and more importantly profit optimization.

  • Legacy – There is a whole world of legacy, Apple approved accessories that have to pay Apple for the usage rights to be apple certified; all of which goes away then they switch away to more open technologies such as USB-C. There are also other devices in the eco system that still have to switch over such as the iPad and the AirPods. This creates a kind of lock in as well for the accessories ecosystem of Apple’s most popular product, the iPhone. Revenues for which it needs to find ways to compensate for.

Would you recommend buying one?

This is subjective and relatively straight forward – if you own one of these products from 2 to 3 + generations ago, this is an amazing upgrade to get and well worth the money. If however you have all the latest from last year – definitely do not spend and either spend it on something else you might need or save for next year.

What next?

There is of course innovation in Apple’s future, purely because the market forces would enforce innovation lest they perish similar to the likes of Nokia and Blackberry. What can and will they do next? Thoughts below:

  • Competition – Apple is currently a market leader despite the lack of innovation it seems to display. If you hear the experts discussing this you would mostly hear that Apple usually implements innovations after they have been tested and proven in the market, and they they innovate on top. There are innovations and technologies that are still in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd generations that still need to prove themselves, a few to name as below:
    • Foldable Screens
    • Underscreen Fingerprint Scanner
    • Underscreen Selfie Camera’s
    • USB-C for the iPhone’s
    • Stylus for the iPhone

  • Augmented Reality – One of the big focuses for Apple post the Services push (Apple TV+, Apple Fitness+) has been augmented reality. Current speculation is that this would result in a Mixed Reality Headset that incorporates both Virtual and Augmented Reality; however very little is known on the final product they plan to release as well as when they plan to release it. However, they have started working on this with the Lidar sensors added to the phone and AR apple such as Pokemon Go etc.

  • Apple Car – the edge of the rumor mill is always the Apple Car, speculation stating that Apple will eventually get into Tesla’s business using its design philosophy and computing chops. However, we are still to see proof on how this shakes out eventually since this isn’t something the company will take lightly and would want to refine and get approvals for before they roll a product out.

Looking forward to the next Apple Event for the MacBooks and who know’s what else which might happen in the October/November timeframe of the year.

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Cheers! 🙂

Pictures courtesy Apple from the Apple Event on 15 Sep 21

So Much Hype @ Playstation Showcase Sep 2021

After all the XBox acquisition announcements over the past year it was quite certain that the Microsoft Console had an amazing future ahead of it and that it would give Sony Console a worthy competition. That followed by a rather lackluster Playstation 5 Game lineup put in question the Dominance post the PS4’s reign. But the showcase last week ensured the future is bright for PS5 and still a worth competitor in its own right!

What was announced?

  • Insomniac Games pretty much carried the bulk of the weight in terms of heavy weight announcements with:
    • Marvel’s Spiderman 2 as a PS5 exclusive in 2023 – a followup to the critically acclaimed Spiderman and Spiderman Miles Morales where you get to play as both and now have a new villain in Venom and we are sure others
    • Marvel’s Wolverine as a PS5 exclusive with no release date and no details, though this has gotten all Marvel fans and playstation gamers very excited
  • Developer Santa Monica Studios put up an exciting showcase with the God Of War: Ragnarok first look and the followup to the amazing God Of War Saga surely has many excited for the continuation of the storyline of Kratos and Loki in 2022.
  • Square Enix announced an original IP in Forspoken which is an interesting take on magical powers and taking bands due to release in Spring 2022.
Forspoken courtesy Square Enix
  • Next up are the PS5 remakes of old with:
    • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) by Aspyr for PS5 with no release date confirmed
    • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Lost Legacy by Naughty Dog for PS5 in early 2022
    • GTA 5 & GTA Online for PS5 by Rockstar Games in March 2022
  • Other games announced in the showcase:
    • Project Eve sometime between 2022 and 2023
    • Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands on March 25, 2022
    • Alan Wake Remastered on October 5, 2021
    • Gran Turismo 7 on March 22, 2022
  • Other announcements in the showcase:
    • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction gameplay that releases on September 16, 2021
    • New Ghostwire: Tokyo Trailer and it looks rad
    • Another Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Trailer
    • Another Deathloop Trailer
    • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodhunt coming to the PS5

And some others that I’m not as excited to mention. What do you think about the showcase and if you don’t have a PS5 yet does, this make it a good ..

.. Time to get a PS5?

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Cheers! 🙂

Azerbaijan – Aug 2019

‘We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.’


For the first post we explore the latest trip this August, Azerbaijan. The best part of the trip was the coincidence of having a friend being in the same country at the same time – isn’t the world a small place. A great short trip with some amazing landscape and tech explored.

To help Navigate I’ve created sections so that you can navigate to the section you are interested in: The Pre-Trip checklist, Our Journey Summarized and specific location based details and experience. This way you can focus on and jump to sections you are interested in. I have also mentioned the time in brackets, for ex: Gobustan (1 Day Trip) or Gobuland (1 Hour), to give you a thumb rule of how much time you should aim to spend at each location.

Minimal Pre-Trip Checklist for August travel:

  • Visa Related – for UAE Residents there is visa on arrival
  • Travel Essentials:
    • Toiletries – the usual depending on hostel or hotel stay
    • Tech – just your phone+power-bank would do apart from a universal power adapter; GoPro, Drone, Insta360 if you love good video captures
  • Umbrella / Rain cover
  • About 100 Manat (local currency) per day – depending on how much exploring you plan to do – does not cover hotel stay. 1 Manat = 2.15 AED (Aug 2019)
  • Translator App – since most don’t speak English well
  • Roaming Data or Local SIM – would be useful out of the airport to use the Bolt App (similar to Uber/Careem) for transport, really cheap compared to Taxi’s & booking.com travel service + there’s a cash option to pay.
  • Clothes for rainy and humid weather mostly + 1 hoody or jacket for cable car ride to the top in Gebele.

Our Journey

Day 1: Baku Fountain Square Stroll > Sea Side Walk > Crazzy Bear (Conceptual Pub)

Day 2: Fountain Square (Starbucks, Morning Coffee) > Fountain Square (Koz Plus Doner, Lunch) >Yanar Dag (Fire Mountain) > Heydar Aliyev Center (Abstract Art Museum) > Old City Baku (La Mangerie, Dinner)

Day 3: Tour Day 1, Gobustan – Mud Volcano > Rock Art Cultural Museum > Rock Art Landscape > Bibiheybat Mosque > Great Mardakan Fortress > Fountain Square (Coffee House, Break) > Little Venice > People By Eleven (ISR Plaza, Restaurant & Lounge)

Day 4: Tour Day 2, Gebele – Gobuland (Breakfast with a view) > Jummah Mosque > Garagaya Rope Bridge & Mini Trek > Nohur Lake (Lunch with locals dancing in the background if you’re lucky) > Tufandag Mountain Resort (Cable Car ride to the top with a view) > Fountain Square (Bayramoglu, Dinner)

Day 5: Morning Flight back to Dubai


As soon as you land or before if you the proactive type download and install the Bolt app for all travel in Baku & other major cities in Azerbaijan – it’s their Uber! Compared to any Taxi or Travel booking service this is way more convenient to use. Also helps if you don’t speak the language.

Fountain Square at Night

Also recommended is staying somewhere central to the city, we stayed near Fountain Square – very easy to just walk around and find things to do, places to eat as well as walk to the Sea Side and Old Town. If you are from or familiar with Dubai you are more likely to find this place like home with all the regular shops, places to eat, coffee shops, shisha spots, bars and clubs – one key difference though, all of these places are a short walk away. The fountain square area comes alive in the evening with droves of people just walking around, sitting, chatting and catching up. Lots of cartoon character mascots, men with monkeys you can pet, pet friendly. Lots of tourists from the Middle East to be found here. The city goes through extra effort to keep clean and maintain order.

Some great places to just chill in Baku Central that we can recommend are:

  • Little Venice, Sea Side near the Carpet Museum – exactly what it sounds like, a mini version of Venice with restaurants and shisha lounges on either side and boats passing through.
  • La Mangerie, Old City – great restaurant ambiance and decor, great place for some snacks, drinks and a chat. A little on the pricey side though.
  • Koz Plus, Fountain Square near Hard Rock – Great Doner and local food options.
  • Starbucks, Fountain Square near Hard Rock – Morning Coffee and yes before you ask, I’m biased on this one.
  • Bayramoglu, Fountain Square near McDonalds – Good Shawarma and decent shisha
  • Crazzy Bear, near Fountain Square, Google it – Can not recommend this place enough, make reservations if possible or go early (around 6/7pm) if you can’t – good food and once evening turns to night the place comes alive with music and dance. Amazing decor and ambiance too!
  • People By Eleven, ISR Plaza, Fountain Square – Music, dance, food; make reservations early on (the bouncer here is pricey) decent crowd if you’re willing to get the party started.

Yanar Dag or Fire Mountain

One of the most underwhelming points of the trip was the visit to the Fire Mountain. Yes, there’s fire but not there’s no mountain on fire. Due to natural and plentiful availability of natural gas and it seeping into the atmosphere from the porous rocks there’s a small subsection of the rock side on fire. This was accidentally discovered by a shepherd when lighting a fire near here and now serves as a tourist attraction. There’s a bridge near here taking you to the top of the hillside – don’t go there with high hopes though, no more natural fires to be seen across the hillscape.

Heydar Aliyev Center

This Center in Baku (2 to 3 hours) is a sight to behold, the architecture alone will have you mesmerized for a good while – inside and outside. A building architects keep in their bucket list to visit!

The contents inside are no less, from the abstract art sculptures on the ground floor all the way till the heritage floor, toy floor, 3-D Building Model floor and the art & history floor – there’s something to capture everyone’s attention; even the non-musem goer’s.

My favorite was the toy floor, the detailing on some of the toys and models was spectacular. There were even abstract toys around. An artform to behold in my opinion – the building and the contents inside.

Gobustan or Qobustan (1/2 to 3/4 day trip)

Mud Volcano Pit

Before you head out of Baku Central do keep in mind to have a good guide with you who speaks both English and Azerbaijani for trips outside the city – will definitely save a lot of translation time plus you help out the tourism economy a little.

Gobustan is an interesting place to visit, the way here too explains clearly the rich and easy availability of crude oil and natural gas in the region. The Mud Volcano’s (3/4 hour) are an interesting visit, bubbling mud pits and hundreds of them small and large spread across the landscape. People believe the mud to have properties good for the skin as well in case you are in the mood for a mud bath or take some home in a bottle for later.

The next stop could be the Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Center (1 to 2 hours), a UNESCO World Heritage preserved site for its rock art collection from the past 40,000 years! Do ensure not to spend too much time in the Center though (unless you’re into that sort of thing) and head on over to the actual path through the eroded hillscape for the real thing. Art through the ages depicted across the walls here for you to admire and ponder over what the Azeri ancestral society of that age was going through when carving these out.

Drone’s aren’t allowed here, so ensure to get some really long selfie sticks if you want to get a heightened view or get up close for some shots.

There’s also some good look out points where the rocks fall off towards the landscape.

Bibiheybat Mosque & Great Mardakan Fortress (part of the Gobustan Trip)

The Mosque (1/2 hour) isn’t that impressive considering you are from the Middle East or a Muslim influenced country. Though once you get to the inside is where this is totally different – shiny green tiles, gold center, beautiful architecture and design; something pictures cannot do justice to. Comparatively a short stop unless you want to also look towards Caspian Sea and the dock below.

The Great Fortress (1/2 hour) a little ways away is one of five that you can look at, a strategic viewpoint in it’s heyday and currently just a view point to a suburb from days past. A stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Baku Central.

Gebele, Gabala or Qabala (1 Day Trip)

We decided to start our tour mornings early (7am) so we could get more done, take our time and also maybe get back early – for this day, didn’t quite work out that way but was a good day nonetheless. This was the day though that we realized the importance of a tour guide who spoke both languages, since ours didn’t show up.

We started the day with a great big breakfast at Gobuland (1 Hour)! Totally recommend it just for the view. A deck balcony overlooking a small (probably man-made) lake. The staff here don’t speak the language so be careful of what you end up eating since there’s no menu. They usually bring a set menu to the table which is a whole host of things from bread and butter to honey and olives – send back what you don’t need as soon as it is set on the table. Can also ask for some other items apart from the breakfast set if you’re still hungry. Also, very much recommend the honey.

The Jummah Mosque is a quick stop (1/2 hour) with a great history and some good reconstructed architecture.

Garagaya Rope Bridge & Trek (part of Gebele Trip)

Save most of your time (2 to 3 hours if you chose to trek as well) for the Garagaya Rope Bridge on the way to Gebele! Not only is the crossing worth it over the flowing stream below, there’s hot tea waiting on the other end (not free of course). The most exciting thing is the trek around the hill and downwards towards the water stream below. Some cold gushing water, a great rocky river bed and a breathtaking view all around. Can also try to head to the little village up top for something to drink (something we regretfully did not find the time for). The trek is an easy one if you are experienced and a medium difficulty one if not. Keep in mind a local at the bridge entrance charges about 1/2 Manat per person.

Nohur Lake (part of Gebele Trip)

It might have been timing or just plain luck that we ended up here for lunch (1.5 hours) in the open ground Sahil restaurant during the Eid Break. A whole host of locals took to dancing on a makeshift stage – men, women and kids of all ages having the time of their lives; a better look into their culture we couldn’t have asked for and that too while having some delicious local food.

Tufandag Mountain Resort Cable Car Ride (part of Gebele Trip)

Another exciting part of the trip for us (2 to 3 hours), would recommend to go for the 3 line cable car ride to the top and also be prepared for cold weather – check the local forecast. Depending on when you travel (usually evening if you are coming in from Baku) you’ll see fog covered mountains great cold climate, maybe even some rain on your ride to the top. There’s also a restaurant up top should you feel the need for a hot cup of coffee or tea. They charge about 22 Manat per person for the 3 Line Cable Car rides.

Hope this helps plan your next trip to Azerbaijan! Use the comments section to let us know your experience. Can also follow my exploits on Instagram or reach out to me on Twitter – links on the Home Page!

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