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.
For Christmas, I got a Joule Sous Vide tool made by local Seattle ChefSteps. I know absolutely nothing about Sous Vide, other than, I've had terrific Sous Vide prepared meats at many local Seattle restaurants. I also read a review by Serious Eats on the Joule, and they are big fans.
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.
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.
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):
- Signup for Nexus or Global Entry ($50 - $100)
- Signup for Clear ($170)
- Get a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Amex Platinum Card ($450)
- Enroll in all the Hotel / Car programs that come with the card benefits
- Get noise cancelling headphones ($300)
- Get a 4 wheeled spinner bag ($300 - $850)
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.
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.
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.
Like last year, I decided to write down some of my holiday picks for 2016. Many of the items from last year are still great gifts, so feel free to take a look at last year's list as well.
There a number of black friday specials to take advantage of. I have marked those as such.
I'm pretty proficient at travel hacking and general travel research. I've spent a long time getting good at this (post forthcoming). This is why when my friend Angus was raving about Pana I didn't bite at first. However, a few months ago I decided to give it a shot. I signed up Lora and myself for a Team account (two members). Lora uses it for work, and I use it for family travel (also some work).
Verdict? It's unbelievable. Let me tell you why.
Back in May, my wife and I spent 10 days in Japan with our friends. Every day, multiple times a day, in hotels, restaurants, trains we got to experience what such a mundane thing is like in a technologically advanced society.
When we returned, the withdrawal started. I had to have a Toto Washlet in my bathroom.
What is this you are talking about Omar? Well, you see, in Japan they have these toilets called washlets. They have heated seats, they clean you when you are done doing your business with a hot jet of water, and some of then even auto flush and open / close the seat automatically.
The highest end of these devices detect your arrival, and raise the lid. If you don’t sit down right away, they will also raise the seat. They clean you, dry you, and then flush away the stuff, clean the toilet and close the lid. The latest toilets do all this with a single gallon of water to flush. It’s simply amazing.
In some cases all of this is 100% automated. High end models even have lighting so that you don’t need to illuminate the bathroom in the middle of the night.