Neo Smartpen N2

I've always been intrigued by "digital ink" or the process of digitizing what I've written. I was a proud owner of an Apple Newton, and since then an original Windows Tablet PC where I would use OneNote to take notes with a pen. Today there are many devices that allow you to do this. I have a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 with its excellent Pen, as well as an iPad Pro 9.7 with the Apple Pencil. None of them really come close to that feeling of writing on real paper, with a real pen. 

One of the biggest challenges I've found with "digital writing" is all the stuff that gets in the way. First there is the fact that you are writing on sometime heavy, usually awkward, with a screen that can get hot, and of course apps that are pinging you with notifications. The beauty of a pen and paper is that there is nothing to do really but pay attention and take notes. I find this rather helpful to focus.

In December of last year I picked up the Moleskine Smart Writing Set. This is a special Moleskine notebook and pen. The notebook contains special paper with small codes in it. The Pen is a real pen with real ink, but contains a camera that will record what you write.

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Omar’s Finds Jan 16 : 15 Finds

01 Gear: Love this new kids backpack from SF DSPTCH - Mini Utility Ruck

02 Apps: Trying out Zinc , a new Video "Read it Later" service ala Instapaper and Pocket

03 Apps: I love Bear a writing app for iOS and Mac. It’s replaced Ulysses.

04 Amazon: Reuse Amazon Boxes for Goodwill donations. Great idea!

05 Clothing: I seriously love these Wool Runners . They have been popping up all over the Microsoft campus.

06 Apps: Excited for Pana to launch a free version of their travel app . I love their concierge service

07 Apps: As a kid I loved simulator games. Mini Metro is super fun. Make a subway!

08 Gadgets: Just picked this up at the AT&T store. Looks like the perfect solution for bedside travel charging: Belkin Portable Valet Chargerfor Apple Watch and iPhone

09 Coffee: I have been waiting a long time for this Grinder. It's everything I've ever wanted - Baratza Sette 270W

10 Coffee: I backed this beauty of a Kettle for my pour over coffee

11 Coffee: Before I heard of acacia I thought my coffee scale was good - acaia Lunar

12 Gadgets: I’ll let you guess if I have already ordered a charging stand for my AirPods 😱

13 Money: Amazon and Chase just announced that you can now earn 5% back on Amazon purchases , up from 3%

14 Food: My brother-in-law introduced me to this amazing hot sauce called Yellow Bird and we love it. Written up in HuffPo

15 Gadgets: Not a lot of kids wearables our there but this looks great for young kids. Sarah (10) has a Garmin Vivofit that she loves.

Apple AirPods

I always get nervous about writing about or discussing seemingly simple products that not everyone is immediately interested in. To me, the Apple AirPods represent that category of product. 

Yes, they are headphones. Yes they are wireless. Both of those things exist. But they are so much more. They represent a huge technological achievement for Apple (and for us). The miniaturization of batteries, electronics and headphones to look and appear so similar to the wired versions.

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Pro Traveler Tips

For the past two decades I’ve amassed a lot of travel tips and techniques. For context, I travel a decent amount, but I’m not a business road warrior.

About half my travel is with the family, and the other half is for business. I fly about 25,000 - 50,000 miles a year (but in seat). As such it makes sense to be wise about maximizing value, time, etc

If you are short on time, here is the TL;DR (that’s too long didn’t read):

  1. Signup for Nexus or Global Entry ($50 - $100)
  2. Signup for Clear ($170)
  3. Get a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Amex Platinum Card ($450)
  4. Enroll in all the Hotel / Car programs that come with the card benefits
  5. Get noise cancelling headphones ($300)
  6. Get a 4 wheeled spinner bag ($300 - $850)
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Allbirds Wool Sneakers

I love wool. In the last few years I have incorporated more and more wool into our lives. Items such as our Wool Comforter. I now own a number of wool sweaters, and recently some new wool socks from Darn Tough (I like the standard issue mid calf light).

Recently at work I noticed a number of folks have been rocking the new Allbirds wool sneakers. I used to see tons of their ads in my Facebook feed, but never wanted to bother trying them out. Well based on some personal recommendations I decided to take the plunge. It could not be easier to buy them since the Allbirds website uses Apple Pay, making purchase almost too easy.

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Leaving Facebook

Facebook has truly been a powerful force in the world and in my life. I am sincere when I say that I really love the kind of connections that I can keep and the people who I can stay in touch with (albeit very passively sometimes).

I've been wondering if I can or should leave or take a break.

 Source: WordStream

Source: WordStream

This past election in the US has got me thinking  about a few things that I'm going to start trying to do more and do less. Facebook is in the "do less" bucket.

I've become unhappy about how Facebook is jamming my life with stuff that I really don't want to see. It's no longer fun. It feels like I have to do it. Fear of missing out (FOMO) along with unread items and notifications have amplified my thoughts on this topic.

My Facebook replacement plan is the following:

  1. Read different perspectives either shared on Twitter or on mainstream news publications. I'm really enjoying a curated news app called Next Draft and have subscribed to the New York Times. Ironically I think Twitter has won in my mind post election 2016. I don't want an algorithm curating what I see any more.
  2. Message people more 1:1 and stop relying on Facebook for passive communications
  3. Use Snapchat more to talk to people and share Stories
  4. Rely on Instagram for what Facebook used to be about
  5. Keep using Day One as a personal feed of my memories. It does a great job of showing me "on this day" stuff from the past which I do love about Facebook.

I'm not sure how this experiment is going to go. It's unlikely that I will be completely absent from Facebook as there are times where the unexpected may happen and Facebook the best place to stay in touch on some issues. But if you want to keep abreast of me your best bet is going to be:

I know this means that I'll loose touch with some of you. Please reach out or write to me! I already hear from many of you because you have something to say about my Newsletter posts (please keep doing that!) but you can reach me on Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Email etc!

I hope 2017 is an awesome year and that you all prosper!

The “New” You Need a Budget

Two years ago I wrote about a piece of software called You Need a Budget . Back then (the dark ages) this was a desktop app and required complex setups to sync to your phone.

A year ago, they launched a cloud / web version with some key features such as directly connecting to your bank. But they also had a number of launch glitches and bugs, along with missing features.

All these issues have largely been resolved, and so I’m here to highly recommend this product (again). This time with a slick web app, the same great mobile apps, and eve better features.

You might be like “WAAAAAH Budgets? Omar why are you writing about this?”. I often get a lot of “why do you bother budgeting”. Good question.

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My first year with Solar Power

I've been waiting to write this post for a year. On Nov 15, 2015 my Solar Array on my roof was activated by Seattle City Light. I have been collecting data for a year now and wanted to share how it's working out.

But to cut to the chase, I think everyone should consider getting Solar Panels. It's magical to have something on your roof generating electricity. Even in a place like Seattle the numbers make this very sensible. If I had a bigger roof I would have put on an array sized big enough to take us off the grid. But that will have to wait for panel efficiency to double from my current 280W panels to 500-600W or for roof replacement with the Tesla Solar Tiles.

What prompted me to get Solar? Getting my Tesla. Once I started on the electrical path to driving, I decided I wanted to drive off the grid. I had a local Solar Installer, Puget Sound Solar, do a bid and decided to move forward.

However, there is another critical part of the equation. I replaced every single light bulb in my house with LED lighting. This alone cut down a pretty significant amount of energy. I also invested in a smart thermostat which helped too. 

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