With my OmarKnows Newsletter you can participate in my quest to find the best things (mainly gadgets). Selected articles from this blog will be published to the newsletter. Newsletters are delivered no more than once a week (Sunday 12pm PST) on weeks where I have written an article. If multiple articles have been published during the week you'll receive all of them in a single email.
You can also visit the Archive of old articles.
I'm a little late with my Holiday Picks this year, but I hope this helps some of you shop for your family (or yourself).
Let's just get this out of the way. This is the best iPhone Apple has ever made. My first iPhone was the 3G and so this is my 10th iPhone (3G, 4, 4s, 5, 5s, 6 Plus, 7 Plus, 8 Plus). When I think back to the big shifts a few come to mind
- The stainless and glass iPhone 4
- The "taller" iPhone 5 with an extra row of icons and the retina screen
- The Plus sized iPhone 6 which thrust giant sized phones into our lives and faster Touch ID
- The Plus sized iPhone 7 with two lenses and the buttonless Touch ID
- The Plus sized iPhone 8 with true tone and true motion screen
The reality is that for the iPhone 6, 7, 8 Apple has been perfecting something that is a bit over 2 years old. That's not a bad thing, just not life changing. The camera on the phone has gotten so good that in a few more years we'll probably never see point and shoot cameras again. Computational photography will re-define what we think of as "good" and "artistic" and maybe SLRs will get squeezed soon.
But the iPhone X is nothing like the iPhones of the last 5 or so years. It's an entirely new beast.
I have been using an iPhone 8 Plus for a few weeks now and have already gotten used to some of the "new" features found in the X and of course iOS X. So the surprises of the iPhone X are even more profound for me. Yesterday was a magical day of discovery - ways this phone would make my daily interactions better and more delightful. There are months ahead of small things and big things that I will appreciate and come to define a new set of expectations.
In the time Apple meanwhile has already made us use to seamless interoperability of watches, headphones, tablets and computers. iMessages are effortless to read and reply to, headphones work across phone and watch and so on. It's a powerful ecosystem that will command Apple nearly 85 billion dollars in revenue this quarter. That's right, Apple is on path to having a market cap of nearly 1 trillion dollars.
So, let's get into the details on what I love about this phone.
It's nearly impossible to step away from the Gillette Razor machine. Even Dollar Shave Club is now owned by Gillette. I've been shaving with a Gillette razor since I started shaving. In that time I have tried a number of mechanical razors but never loved how it made me feel. I don't find it much of a time savings at all and prefer to have the same shave every day.
For the past few years I have been shaving with a Gillette Razor and custom handle and getting my blades from Amazon Prime, replacing them about once a week. A few weeks ago I saw an add for the OneBlade Core, which looked very intriguing. The quality and feel of this razor looked fantastic and I was also curious about shaving with a traditional single blade.
I have to say. I am floored by this razor. For background OneBlade started out with an exceedingly expensive stainless steel handle called the Genesis. It costs $400.
They then brought to market the Core which is plastic and steel and that brought the cost down to $50.
I took a pretty big break from writing this summer. We did a lot of fantastic travel but I also wanted to maximize the weekends which meant cutting back on my writing time. With fall here, I hope to get back into a regular rhythm, but to set expectations I also have a lot of fall and winter travel so I might end up on a twice a month or monthly schedule.
To kick off the fall I thought I would recap all the interesting things I’ve acquired this summer.
If you haven't heard by now, Equifax, one of the big 3 credit agencies suffered one of the biggest breaches of personal information in history.
If you are affected (they claim 140 million people were) then you need to re-think a lot of things. You can check if you are affected by visiting this link. The credit agencies maintain some of your most important and confidential information about you such as social security numbers, addresses, former names, your mortgage, car loans, credit card(s), spending history, balances, divorces, marriages, siblings name and information, children names and information and so on.
What is really awful however, is that much of this information is used to verify who are who you are. For example when applying for a loan, or doing a wire transfer your bank may ask you a series of questions. Those questions come from your credit report. Take PayPal and Square Cash - they will often use your credit report to authorize higher transfer limits from your accounts.
This information was stolen and it's never going back. Equifax has literally exposed millions of people to future and ongoing fraud and identity theft that they cannot put the lid back on. This is a good reminder of how broken the system is. Too much information, without the necessary protections and a flawed business model. To add insult to injury Equifax has fumbled and screwed up their response and only offered people 1 year of identity theft monitoring.
None of that will matter. This information is in the hands of criminals. This information is valuable for the next decade or longer. The exposure you face to fraud has never been more severe or significant.
So with this in mind, I recommend you take the following actions.
A while ago I wrote up How I make coffee. Since then I continue to use a Ratio 8 automatic pour over and love it to death. We still do 1-cup pour over too using a blue bottle pour over system (replaced the Hario).
For travel though, I have been lugging around my pour over setup which is a tad bulky. I discovered that Espro makes a portable french press mug now. I picked one up the other day and took it to work with me. It's truly a remarkable product. Espro is known for making french press systems that have two filters so less "grit" comes through. They are also compatible with small paper filters which produce a pour over like taste as the filter will keep all the oil out.
I’ve been doing research for a while on getting a whole home water shutoff solution. I previously wrote about the solution I use for the washing machines. I have a 2nd floor washer and this is one of the things that can really mess with your house given washing machine hoses only last a few years and are under high pressure. I’m paranoid about water leaks and water damage when I’m away from home. I’ve always been in the habit of shutting off the main water supply to my house whenever we are gone for more than a day but I was looking for something more automated that I could do from anywhere.
That is when I discovered the LeakSMART. You need to get a version that matches the size of your water supply. In my case I have 1 1/4 inch water supply and LeakSMART did not have a solution till recently. Once it came out I purchased it and scheduled a plumber to install. Well that happened a few weeks ago and so far this has perfectly met my expectations.
Since our daughter was 6 we have followed a simple but effective philosophy for teaching her about money. This was inspired from articles we read (I mean my wife read) about targeting a weekly allowance tied to your child's age, in our case we started at $6 a week. Common wisdom among many parents we knew was to tie allowance to chores and start later than we did. We didn't follow that path and felt that we wanted our kids to have a meaninful amount of money that allowed them to save for things like legos (which are expensive) and also make good choices about small and big purchases. We didn't want to get nagged to buy things for them and wanted them to learn how to save and save up for things they wanted.
If you want to read more about this, I would point you to this article and this book called The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber. About 1 chapter into reading it was already armed with insight and understanding on how to raise kids who thoughtfully consider the value of money.
There are a lot of really good made in America packs these days from Tom Bihn and GoRuck. In fact my son has the perfect backpack, a kid's GoRuck that unfortunately is not in stock till 2018. It is a great size for Kindergarten age kids, and doesn't have that giant look to it. He has the 13L pack in gray and red.
Topo Designs is a Colorado company and make their bags by hand. I picked up two bags from them and they are a huge hit with me and my kiddo.
For a year now my family has been using these compact micro fiber beach towels by Acteon. They take up a fraction of the space that a regular towel does and they work really well in a pinch.