Zojirushi Coffee Mug – 5 stars

I’m always on the hunt for a great coffee mug. Recently The Sweet Home published their research on travel mugs. For at home we drink coffee in Bodum Bistro Double Wall 10oz mugs  We really love those as they keep coffee warm for in home sipping. The only problem with them is we break 1 every 6 or so months.

I’ve been looking for a great travel mug so that I can take coffee to work with me. I had no idea that these new vacuum sealed mugs can keep coffee hot for up to 8 hours. That means I can make a pot of coffee for myself (600ml of coffee, one cup to drink at home, and one to drink on the way to work or during my first morning meeting). My home brew coffee now is quite incredible so why not have those benefits go with me to the office?

My challenge with mugs is that I’ve always been looking for something small. My colleague, Chris Jones, has this Vessel 8oz mug I’ve been admiring for a while now (matte black even) but 8oz while perfect for a short latte, is not enough for a cup of joe.

That’s when I saw the 10oz Zojirushi SM-SA36-BA Stainless Steel Mug.

It comes in 4 colors and 3 sizes.



















I absolutely love this mug. And so to Amazon buyers

The cap is dish washer safe and it’s easy to take apart it’s 4 pieces to clean. The body needs to be hand washed.

I make my coffee, which is around 200 degrees and about an hour after I place it in the mug, it’s still too hot to drink so I actually let it cool down a bit in the morning.

The mug is spill proof and small so I can place it in my bag without any risk of it leaking.

Exceptional. A spectacular product.

OmarKnows Newsletter – 1st Year In Review

A year ago (with some encouragement from friends and family) I decided to start the OmarKnows Newsletter. Many of you know that I’ve been blogging for the last 14 or so years, but last year I decided to focus on reviewing items that I purchase in the normal course of my life and share those perspectives.

I started a newsletter (you can sign up here – or visit omarknows.com) to make my reviews more accessible, but also to force me into a schedule and rhythm. I’m happy to say that I’ve managed to post a review almost every week for the past 12 months (43 reviews in total)! It’s my new Sunday morning ritual!

As of today, I have 180 subscribers and have averaged a 70% open rate and 12% click rate. That’s pretty great as it means a lot of you like what I’m writing about. Most of the growth to-date has been 100% word of mouth and I really appreciate all the folks that have shared the newsletter!

The blog side of things has also been pretty positive with 27,000 visitors this past year and 44,000 page views.

The thing is, not only have I enjoyed writing, but I love the feedback I’ve been getting from friends and family who have subscribed. I love the emails I get and words of encouragement.

In that vein, I though I would post an annual look back at what I’ve written about and any thoughts on the reviews. For those of you that joined recently, this will give you a quick overview of anything you may have missed.


What I use 2015 – a post of all the stuff I use that’s important

How I make Coffee – A history of how I’ve made coffee over the past few years. We love our Wilfa machine.

How to hit Inbox Zero every time you check email – I did not publish this to my newsletter as it’s not really a review, and more of a How-To but I thought I’d include here in case you are interested.


You Need a Budget
 – ★★★★★ – my budgeting / financial management / software.

1Password – ★★★★★ – Software you must have to manage your passwords


Limefuel USB Charger – ★★★★★- still love these chargers

Logitech Harmony Smart Control – ★★★★★- could not be happier with this remote. It’s worked flawlessly since the day we got it, and I’m considering upgrading to there latest model and using them for our 2 other TVs.

Sony BCG-34HLD Battery Charger – ★★★★★ – it appears Sony has discontinued this model, this Panasonic BQ-CC17SBA looks like a good replacement

Google Chromecast – ★★★★★ – Since Amazon has come out with the Fire TV Sick, I much prefer it. The only issues with the Fire TV Stick that I have trouble with are the fact that it needs occasional rebooting (which the Fire TV does not) and I can’t get HBO on it since Comcast HBO is not supported. Hopefully when HBO Now is release, this is moot.

Doxie Flip – ★★★★★ – In this past year I have scanned 1300 4×6 photos from my childhood with the Doxie Flip. I continue to use it for the occasional photo someone gives us. Very handy.

Fluxmob BOLT Portable Battery Backup and Wall Charger – ★★★★★ – I keep this in my bag at all times. In the past week though my charger died. For $60 I’m pretty unhappy about that.

Sony RX100M3 – ★★★★★ – This little camera is still a marvel. I have since gotten a Fuji X100T and am using that as my daily camera which means the Sony isn’t seeing much action these days.

Normal Ears – custom 3d printed headphones – ★★★★☆- I’ve since stared using my Bose headphones a lot more, but I still keep these in my daily bag.

Microsoft Band – ★★★☆☆ – I stopped wearing this guy a long time ago. It got uncomfortable and I got a bit tired of it.

Dropcam –  ★★★★★ – These things are really incredible. We’ve used them a number of times on vacations to check up on our house. The alerts are handy too for when packages get delivered.

Amazon Fire TV Stick – ★★★★★ – Better than a Chromecast. The Fire TV is still better than the Stick if you have room for it.

Tile – ★★★★☆ – have come in handy to find our keys!

Logitech Ultrathin Magnetic Clip-On Keyboard Cover – ★★★★☆- no changes here, my wife is still using this on vacations.

Bose SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones – ★★★★★ – These are one of my favorite purchases of the past year. I just came back from a vacation where I used them a few times a day. Highly recommended.


Kuhn Rikon Dual Edge Slice and Serve – ★★★★★ – this continued to be a useful addition to our kitchen

Supermechanical Range Smart Thermometer – ★★★★☆ – neat toy, can’t say I’m using it much any more.

Epicurean Utensils – ★★★★★ – our go to utensil

Duralex glass food storage – ★★★★★- still love, best food storage system

Joseph Joseph Salad Bowl  – ★★★★★ – still love, used almost every day

Menu Dining Bottle Grinder – ★★★★★ – still love

Zyliss Easy Spin Salad Spinner – ★★★★★- still love, used almost every day to clean lettuce


simplehuman Sensor Mirror – ★★★★★ – Lora uses this nearly every day. We’ve charged it 3 times in the past year. Totally amazeballs.

S’Well Water Bottles – ★★★★★- these are still amazing. We have 6 of them, and we got small ones for our kids. LOVE these things. I’ve since backed the Kickstarter Fred Bottle, and am looking forward to reviewing that.

Vornado 660 Whole Room Air Circulator – ★★★★★- we used this every day in the summer and just started it up again as we’ve had a few warm days.

Wool Comforters  – ★★★★★ – had this for a few years now and we still love our wool duvet

Simplehuman Sensor Pump – ★★★★★- love

Picturewall – A wall full of photos in a box – ★★★★★ – love. It’s the one thing most visitors to our home comment on

Leifheit Wall Dryer – ★★★★★ – awesome

August Smart Lock – ★★★☆☆ – still like, but still needs improvement. August came out with a small plug in wifi device that lets you control the lock outside your home. Also there have been numerous software improvements and auto-unlocking is very reliable now. Still not 100% though.

Dyson Cordless Vacuum Cleaners – ★★★★★ – love

Battery Recycling Container – ★★★★☆ – love


The Week Magazine – ★★★★★ – we have moved 100% to the digital edition which I read on my iPad.

Quartz – My favorite daily news publication – ★★★★★ – still reading every day, but I also subscribed to theSkimm


Kenu Airframe – Mounting your Phone in your Car – ★★★★★ – We have one for every car and I continue to use this almost every day. Since getting the iPhone 6 Plus I had to upgrade to their larger edition.


The Greatest Hoodie Ever Made? – ★★★★★ – many friends are sporting these now. Lora loves their t-shirts!

Capsule Wallet – ★★★★★ – still my daily carry wallet. Love this thing, and the quality is fantastic.


Trakdot – GSM location based luggage tracking – ★★★☆☆ – reliability has improved and it works flawlessly in the US. Not sure if international coverage / bugs have improved.

Hard Sided Spinner Luggage – Victorinox Spectra 2.0 –  ★★★★★ – these  bags are bomb proof. After a year of trips, we continue to think they are the best luggage for the price.

1Password – 5 stars

Hi readers! We are coming up on my 1 year anniversary of the OmarKnows newsletter! Thanks for coming along for the ride. This past week I wrote an article on how I do my email (and manage to have zero message in my inbox all the time). I won’t be publishing this to the newsletter since it’s not a review, but more of a “How To”. If you are interested, feel free to read it here.

If your idea of managing passwords is one of the following:

  1. Memorize a few and use them for all your logins
  2. Write them all down
  3. Something other than using a password manager

You MUST take action and do something about this. At the very least you need to do the following: Protect the password of your email account by using Two-Factor authentication. Outlook.com, Gmail, Yahoo, and any credible email provider supports this (if you are still using AOL, you should really do something about that). Your email password is your most important password. It’s the keys to the kingdom. If someone can crack your email, they can reset and take over any other login you have.

Here is a common password that I used to use many years ago for everything….

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 9.29.07 AM

Try yours out. You’ll be shocked.

So, what do you do?

Well, I have 449 logins. Each one is different. Why is this important? Well if a website gets hacked, I only have to change one password. If you use the same password everywhere, then you have a lot of work to do.

Each of my passwords is at least 24 characters of random gibberish (if possible).

Here is an example:


What does a Password Manager help you do?

  1. Capture your existing logins – this will be your first step, login normally for a few months and build up a list of all the websites that you use.
  2. Create secure passwords for every new login – for new websites, create secure passwords
  3. Lets you update / change all existing logins to be secure – once you feel that you’ve captured all your passwords from step 1, then go and change them all. This will take a few hours but is worth it.
  4. Fills in all your passwords across web and mobile – a convenience of a password manager is that you can carry your passwords with you on your phone, and protect them with Touch ID or a secure PIN
  5. Protects all your passwords behind one very strong password and in many cases a second factor of authentication – no point in using a password manager if your password to unlock it is not strong. So take the time to invest in one strong password and memorize it.

Which Password Manager to use?

There are a few Password Managers out there. I have used the following in my life:

They are all better than nothing, so it doesn’t much matter which one you use.

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 9.51.36 AM

My personal preference and favorite password manager is 1Password. Here is why:

  • They have native 5 star applications for Mac, PC, iPhone, Android
  • Their apps are beautiful, well crafted, updated often
  • If you are on a Mac / iPhone their product is really well integrated into many other applications making mobile sign in much easier
  • All the passwords are store in a single file, making it very portable
  • Sharing passwords among a couple is easy. I have my password file and my wife has her password file. You can easily switch between them in the app.
  • You can share a password over iMessage, email, or within the 1Password app. This is hugely important to us since we share certain passwords like Netflix, Amazon, etc

However, I have many friends who use and love LastPass, and it’s also excellent. It’s a big geeky and the user experience could use a lot of improvement.

I used Dashlane for a few months, as an experiment. My biggest issue with Dashlane was that it’s full of bugs. The Windows Application is a real piece of junk, and their browser extensions stop working all the time. But they have a great user experience.

It’s obvious to me that the folks at 1Password take a lot of pride in their software. They act and behave like a small family who cares deeply about education of their product, crafting their experience, and supporting the customer. For this reason their product costs money to get to all the features you’ll use. I honestly just paid them as much as I could and got the bundle on Mac/PC/Mobile. For $69.99 you can get the complete bundle.

Once you use 1Password you can then start storing things like:

  • Driver’s licenses
  • Passwords
  • Frequent Flyer numbers
  • Software serial numbers
  • Credit Cards
  • Bank Accounts
  • Social Security Numbers
  • Passports

In short, the most important information in your life.

1Password is a piece of software that I simply cannot live without. And you shouldn’t either.

Exceptional. A spectacular product.

How to hit Inbox Zero every time you check email

It’s been over a decade since I have been practicing the Getting Things Done methodology. Getting Things Done is essentially a productivity movement that was started by David Allen. There are a lot of concepts that you learn, some of the most important ones are around Inbox Zero and Context.

Dealing with email is The Struggle. For me it’s been one of the biggest struggles I’ve dealt with. At Microsoft, email is a fire hose. And if you don’t figure out how to tame it, it will eat at you and make you less effective.

It’s unlikely you will read this and adopt a methodology that works tomorrow. It’s taken me a decade of practice and trying to get here. However, I do feel that some of the concepts I’ve found and written about below will get you on your way. From that point on it’s up to you to figure out if you get enough value from an ongoing investment in Inbox Zero.

10 years ago, email was done on PC and usually in specific locations like “Work” or “Home”. Today, we carry computers in our pockets and can do email triage any time we care to. But email has also followed us around every where we go.

What once was a novelty (You’ve got mail) is now The Struggle.

I’ve found that if you can end each day with zero messages in your inbox, you’ll enjoy the time you have with your family more. You’ll sleep better at night. You’ll enjoy your vacations more. You’ll improve your quality of life. This is something worth investing in as it will pay dividends for the rest of your life.

However, the Getting Things Done methodology hasn’t really kept pace. The world is different. And your secret weapon is your phone, a great mobile email app and taxonomy for your energy level.

I spent a few days in December 2014 updating my outdated methodology for email triage and since January 1, 2015 I have hit Inbox Zero every single time I check my mail. No matter the device. And most email sessions on my phone lasts under a minute.

I clear my inbox every single time I check my email.

I’ve experienced slow weeks, hard weeks, gone on vacations and not done any email on those vacations. My inbox has remained at zero every time I’ve engaged with my email client.

I don’t know many people that experience this. And you know what? It’s quite easy. You just need a workflow and discipline. A couple of small changes and you can do the same.

And I can go a whole day just using my phone and get all my email done. I don’t find this awesome or anything, but possible. And it makes me productive anywhere. How do I do this? Well I have a few things. A phone with all day battery life, an awesome mobile email client (Outlook), and apps like OneNote, Evernote, Office Mobile and the Apple HDMI lightning connector mean that I have a real laptop replacement in my pocket. I carry around a tool that does as much as a PC. That’s the biggest change in 10 years.

Prior to this, I might hit zero once a week. It was a constant battle that I lost each day only to have a half victory and no sense of accomplishment for even trying.

The feeling from this renewed experience has been life changing for me. And I put very little effort into processing email now. It doesn’t weigh heavy on me. I put more energy into my work product. Which is not email.

What I have done is put each email into an energy folder. That is, I triage my email into different buckets that I can do depending on my mood, time, and attention. I don’t worry about how many emails are in that folder. I just put them there and drive those to zero when I can make the time.

In a world where you can do your work from anywhere, the thing that varies the most is how much attention you can afford. And what kind of mood you are in. Building a system about these realities was the biggest breakthrough in my methodology.

Now lets talk details.


First you need an email client. I use Outlook on a PC and Mac. My email is in the cloud. And I use Outlook on my iPhone and iPad. I also recommend a read it later app like Pocket.


First, and most importantly. When in an email is in your inbox, you only read it once. Not twice. Once. Read that again. Once.

If you violate this rule, then you may as well give up. It’s the “leave it in my inbox and mark it unread” that gets you in trouble. The reason we read an email more than once is that we don’t know what to do with it. For me, this has been a struggle and I’ll explain why in a second.

Every email has an action

  • Delete it - not very email needs a reply. Delete without prejudice
  • Do it - reply to the email if it takes under 2 minutes. Just Do it then and there.
  • Archive it – place in your archive folder
  • Delegate it – it’s not your’s to follow up on so assign it to someone else to do
  • Defer it - either it’s going to take more than 2 min, or you can’t do it now so you’ll defer it

This stuff isn’t that complicated and comes straight from Getting Things Done. When I started using this framework 10 years ago it was a great framework. The biggest challenges I faced were sticking to the “only read once in the inbox” rule and having a good framework for Deferring emails.

Getting Things Done teaches you about Deferring and using physical contexts. In this mobile first world, that’s not going to cut it.


Instead you’ll think of Contexts based on energy or attention. I first read about this from a friend and have since read an article on Simplicity is Bliss that goes into a lot more detail than I care to.

Energy simply refers to the level of attention you can devote to the tasks. We can do email from anywhere and so we should be able to 100% rely on our phones.

I use the following contexts for email triage:

  • @Quick Hits – takes 2-5 minutes to get done and required little to no attention. Normally I would just do this, but I may not have the time as I’m walking to a meeting.
  • @Full Focus - Generally I need to have time blocked off or at least 10 minutes so spare. This will include reading and responding with feedback, reviewing material, writing a lengthy response to an email
  • @Brain Dead - stuff that is easy to do but I can’t do it right now and requires no energy. Examples include filing an expense report, schedule a meeting, etc. It needs to get done, and I can do it without much thought
  • @Someday – I may or may not ever get to this. No guilt.
  • @Thinking – Ideas I may collect to generate new insight, update strategy, formulate an idea
  • @Waiting For/Agenda – for each person, I create a context and then assign stuff to this context that I need to follow up on (because I’ve deferred it) or because I need to talk to someone about something. When I meet with the person I will go through their folder and look up the relevant email.

The Process

I’ve mentioned how you can and should use your phone to process and triage email. That means you can’t rely on any features that aren’t available from any endpoint. In the past I relied on things like categories and tasks and project lists to manage triage. Which meant then when I used my phone to do any email I was actually throwing a wrench in the whole system. I ended up reading emails more than once, leaving stuff in my inbox to “triage” later on my PC and so on. My system had huge gaps in it.

So my contexts are simply folders. If there is one thing that works everywhere it’s folders. So rather than get fancy, I move messages into folders, and then I go through some of those folders a few times a day.

Remember, only look at an email once in your inbox, and then act on it once. At that point your triage is complete and you are free to do anything else, including process email.

Act on email

I have a folder for every context underneath my inbox. For every email I decide on the Action: Do it, Delete it, Defer it, Archive it, Delegate it. That’s it. Every time I check my email, I clear out my inbox to zero. I do this every single time I check my email. No exceptions.  Nothing gets read twice or gets marked unread. Inbox Zero does not mean you have done anything yet, it just means your mind is now clear from distractions… where this behavior if often the norm when a new email arrives.

I’d add that I get a lot of links to read. I highly recommend a “read it later” service. Anytime I see a url that is worth reading, I throw it in my “read it later” service which I can do anywhere. I happen to like Pocket.

Quick Hits

Once I finish with the Inbox, and I have some time, I go to the Quick Hits folder. Then I work on that till it gets to zero. I usually read oldest to newest and process all the email.

Full Focus

When I’m done with that, I go to Full Focus and clear that out. Since I can get most Inbox triage and Quick Hits stuff done anywhere, that’s what I do. For Full Focus stuff, I just block time on my calendar. I have 2 hours on Monday and 2 hours on Friday to go through stuff. That’s where I curate my task list and project list and also think about what I need to get tone that takes calendar time.

I don’t care if there are dozens of things in my Quick Hits and Full Focus folder. Because I can only get through them in as much time and energy as I have. But my Inbox is empty. Not full of stress and the unknown.


Your Calendar and Task List are now tools in your drive to actually do work. Email drives two things into my calendar:

  1. Time to get through my Full Focus folder – 2 hours on Monday and 2 hours on Friday cover a lot of ground for me. I will sometimes allow this time to be scheduled but I generally guard it
  2. Time to work on projects – I block time to do specific things that are often generated via email workflow

The rest of the time I do “email sprints” using my phone. I can power through a few emails while waiting in line for lunch, or waiting for someone to figure out how to use the projector in a meeting. There are lots of 2-3 minute spots in the day waiting for you to be productive.


Any kind of project that I identify in email goes into my task list (I use Todoist . I then Archive the email.

Some Gotchas

I’ve found that it helps to organize your emails by conversation. One handy feature that Outlook has (Desktop and Mobile) is that you have filed something in another folder, like Quick Hits, and a new message in that conversation comes in, you can see that you have older messages in those folders. This helps you know where to file those messages quickly.

Zyliss Easy Spin Salad Spinner – 5 stars

I’m not sure if everyone owns a salad spinner, but we’ve owned one for as long as I can remember. Since I was little, salad has been a core part of almost every meal. And we eat our salad after our main course. Kind of like desert.

I never really though much about this device. For almost a decade we just brought it out, used it, and then washed / rinsed it. One day I noticed some mold. Upon inspection I found that there was tons of mold inside the cover of the device. After years of washing, water would get in and never dry out. Kind of like your front loading washing machine  If you don’t know you need to leave that door open other wise there is mold in places you can’t see. And run the sanatize cycle with a cleaner every so often. We do both.

Anyway, it turns out that inaccessible crevices + water will provide a happy medium for mold to grow. Eeeew.

I went to find a better salad spinner. I noticed the Zyliss Easy Spin Salad Spinner at our local cooking store.

The main attraction to me was:

  1. It’s completley clear – no where for anything to hide
  2. It can be completley dissasembled – the lid can be taken apart and cleaned
  3. It’s dishwasher safe

You can see in this photo how the lid comes apart

We’ve had this spinner for over a year now and it looks functions like the day we got it.

The product comes in clear and green and in two sizes. We have the large size and we use this almost every day.

5 stars! ★★★★★
Exceptional. A spectacular product.

Battery Recycling Container – 4 stars

This is a bit of a strange product to review, but I’m doing it anyway.

Our household uses a lot of batteries. Where we can, we’ll use rechargeable batteries. I’ve written about this before.

But there are many good reasons to use good old batteries. We have things like garage door openers, security devices, and some items that really just prefer alkalaine batteries.

When finished with a battery you are supposed to recycle them, not throw then in the trash. This is also true for many small electronics and other such products. To solve this problem I purchased this brown plastic recycle bin to store all our battery and electronic recyclables. Once a year I’ll take it to the hazardous waste dump or an electronics recycling location.

I hate running out of batteries BTW, and recommend getting a box of these Maxell 48 pack AA batteries and keeping them at home.

The Battery Recycling Bin, 2.4 Gallon can be purchasd from Amazon. They are often out of stock but it appears they have a bunch now. It’s $26 and we keep ours in the garage. The kids know about it and so when they are discarding batteries they know where to throw them.


Great. Worth purchasing.

Bose SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones – 5 stars

I’ve been on the market for some wireless headphones for a while. I already have the amazing noise canceling headphones (Bose QuietComfort) which are reserved only for air travel. So I determined to find a great set of wireless headphones to acquire.

It’s important to know something about wireless headphones and noise cancellation. Each technology brings with it a set of tradeoffs. You should be aware of this. A reason I don’t combine both wireless and noise cancellation is you are making the worst set of tradeoffs by taking both at once in the same headphone.

So, I have a pair of headphones that I only use for flying. They have the best noise cancellation technology available (and are pretty much renowned for this). But noise cancellation comes at the cost of audio quality.

And guess what? Wireless headphones comes at the cost of audio quality. But not for the same reasons as noise cancellation, for different reasons. Wireless headphones generally use Bluetooth, which can be a mixed bag.

I got a pair of wireless headphones to mainly to keep by my bedside. I wanted a headphone I could use to do some lightweight video and music listening while my wife was sleeping (or while she wasn’t, but to avoid disturbing her). I was looking for a head phone that:

  • Was “on ear” – in ear headphones are uncomfortable and fall out
  • Small – don’t want some huge thing
  • Great battery life
  • Good controls and usability
  • Can be used with more than one device
  • Portable – I can take with me on vacations or use around the house

I settled on the Bose SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones based on a number of reviews and factors.

They look great

They travel light, are super compact with a great case


  • Are really light, which is important
  • Have 15 hours battery life – and can be used with a regular cable if the battery is dead
  • Have Great controls for volume and pause/playback
  • Can be paired with 8 devices and used simultaneously with 2 devices at once (Phone and iPad).

I’ve had them for 2 weeks now and am super happy. I can grab them from my nightstand and by the time I’ve put them on my head, they have automatically paired with my phone and iPad. I can see the battery status in the iPad notification bar which is neat.

It’s a wonder that I can just put them on my head and they work. No fumbling in bed for a cable, no need to plug in. No need to decide which device I want to use! It works with 2 at the same time.

It’s honestly hard for me to explain what it’s like using wireless headphones. It’s weirdly awesome. It reminds me of the first time I used WiFi on my laptop. It was so freeing.

Like anything, this technology will just continue to improve. So what I recommend today will probably not be the same in 2 years. But for now, the compromise you have to make to have freedom from a wire for audio is almost none.

Welcome to the future.

Bose SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones – 5 stars

Exceptional. A
spectacular product.