My Top 10 Gadgets

The other day through Twitter @ignacio_valdes pointed me to this post I wrote in 2007 and asked me what computers I was using right now. It’s been almost 5 years and I am still using the Mac Mini I mentioned back then. The interesting thing is that lately more than “computers” to carry out several different tasks, I tend to use devices dedicated exclusively to a specific use or purpose.

I believe that having different devices to perform different tasks is better in order to be able to focus in a specific task. For example, it is difficult to read a book in PDF in your computer screen while knowing that you are one click away from YouTube or your favorite blog, or when suddenly a chat window pops up. If you have a Kindle you realize that when you arrive home and feel like reading it’s much easier to switch on the Kindle and plop down on your sofa than sitting down at your computer and finding yourself endlessly browsing the web just when you were about to open the PDF ebook you were intending to read.

Yes, I know that with an iPhone or an iPad you can do almost anything you can imagine, but as you will see next I am trying to find specific purposes for every gadget I own so that they can improve my “workflow-lifestyle”. Any advice you have is welcome!

These are the Top 10 gadgets/electronic devices that I use the most along with the specific purposes that I give to each one of them.

1.- iPhone 4 – For communication, taking photos (Instagram, Hipstamatic), schedule (Calendar, Wunderlist, Evernote), train schedules

When it was released I thought I didn’t need it but I eventually caved in. I have been using it for a year and a half and, as of now, I wouldn’t change it for any other smartphone.

I am quite a minimalist and I only have apps that I use frequently (if I notice that I haven’t used an app for 15 days to 1 month I delete it). Why do I do this? I am trying to make my iPhone a tool to make my life easier and more fun, while avoiding making it a gadget that makes me consume hours and hours fiddling with apps, games, etc.

These are the apps that I have installed right now, 14 in total, not counting the iOS default apps.

– Instagram: I have been only using it for about a month and I love it.
– Hipstamatic: here you can find my impressions about it.
– Pocket Light Meter: I use it to measure the light when taking pictures with my film cameras Hasselblad +500C/M and Kenko KF-2N
– Kotoba!: Japanese dictionary.
– Jorudan Norikae: app for checking train, planes and metro schedules in Japan.
– Genius Scan: a very useful app to scan documents. You take a picture of the document and it helps you correct the perspective and eliminate noise. I usually use it to store information and save it in Evernote.
– Evernote: not only I use it on my iPhone but also in all my computers and in my iPad. It is the best way to have all my information centralized, organized and accesible from any device.
– Amazon: to buy stuff on Amazon. I usually use it to buy milk and cereals. I buy my books in my Kindle.
– Sleep Cycle: the best alarm app I know.
– Twitter: along with Instagram it is the only social network I use in my phone.
– Skype: Skype on your pocket? Wonderful.
– Skype Wifi: I use it on airports when I am abroad. It allows me to use the Internet via wifi paying with my Skype Credit, very useful if you don’t want to waste money using “roaming”.
– WhatsApp: to communicate with mobile phones from outside Japan.
– Tokyo Amesh: to see rainfalls in real time in the Tokyo region. It is quite useful on rainy days, if you check this app you can see more or less if it will stop raining soon or not. Link to iTunes.
– Wunderlist: until recently I had been using a notebook in Evernote to do my TODO list; but now I am trying to change and start using Wunderlist. The advantage of using Wunderlist is that it allows me to focus visually and intuitively on the tasks that I have to do.

2.- Mac Mini – To watch movies (the old one), to write and retouch pictures (the new one)

I have two Mac Minis. One bought in 2007 and the other one in 2011. I use the 2007 one as a media center plugged to a 42 inches screen and even though it is 5 years old it runs smoothly under Mac OSX Tiger. I bought the other Mac Mini last year with 2Gb of RAM, but I soon upgraded it to 8Gb. Opening up the Mac Mini is easier than ever. I have it plugged to a 24 inches screen, I use it to retouch photos and write.

”Mac
The Mac Mini is hidden behind the screen. You can easily place it vertically.

”Mac
This is the old Mini which still works perfectly.

3.- Mac Book Pro 15″ – To code

I also own two. One bought in 2006 and the other one in 2011. I think I will soon retire the old one as I was thinking to use it as a typing machine with IAWriter but I am barely using it. The 2011 model has a SSD hard drive and 8Gb of RAM, it is plugged to a 23” Cinema Display; I use it mostly to code. Php, Python and lately I am learning Xcode/iOS to create iPhone and iPad apps.

”Mac
I use a Mac Book Pro 15″ to work.

4.- Nikon D800 – To take photos

I had been waiting and saving for years to own this camera. It is my first full-frame camera, a totally new experience for me and a natural evolution after many years learning photography with the Nikon D90 I recently sold. I am still learning how to use it, I will let you know how my learning goes and I will be uploading pictures to my Flickr.

Nikon D800
I’ve had it for a few days and I’m already in love with it!

5.- Kindle – To read

I got it as a present around a year ago and it quickly became an indispensable gadget in my life. Since I have it I almost don’t buy books in paper and the most interesting thing is that… I read a lot more! As it is so small, easy to handle and easy to use (you take it, turn it on and in barely two seconds you are in the last page you were reading) it makes the reading experience so much better and makes you feel more like reading.

Kindle
Since I own a Kindle I read more.

6.- Nintendo DS – To review my Japanese and play

I use almost exclusively to review kanjis (I forget them easily!) with a software-game:なぞっておぼえる大人の漢字練習完全版 (6.- Learning Japanese with the Nintendo DS). I have been looking for a similar software for my iPad but I still haven’t found anything convincing enough, most I have tried are quite bad at recognizing strokes of complicated kanji. Sometimes I use it to play but not a lot; the last game I played was Dragon Quest VIII and I didn’t finish it :)

Nintendo DS
Lately I use it less and less, but I still find some uses for it, like studying Japanese.

7.- Canon S90 – To take photos

My compact camera for almost three years now. I almost retired/sold it when I saw the great pictures I could take using my iPhone 4 but I decided to keep it as it is much better than the iPhone in low light situations and it also gives me much more freedom when choosing the settings I want for the photo. It is the camera that I have used the most during the last six months: these are some photos I took in Panama a few days ago and these other photos in Nueva York.

Canon S90
Almost three years rocking!

8 – iPod Nano – To listen music

I don’t listen to music much, but when I do I use iTunes in my computer or an 8Gb iPod Nano, which I love because of its ease of use.

iPod Nano

9.- Flatbed Canon CanoScan 9000f – To scan negatives and documents

Flatbed Canon CanoScan 9000f scanner
A scanner always comes in handy.

I bought this scanner because it was really cheap and it allows me to scan 35mm and 120mm negatives. I scanned all these photos with my CanoScan 9000f, I am quite happy with it but I have to say that I was expecting to get more information (dynamic range) when scanning 120mm negatives.

10.- iPad – To read news (Flipboard plugged to Google Reader), do quick searches in Google, draw, sketch… I still haven’t defined how I am going to use it, any advice?

I bought the new iPad one month ago and I have to say that… I am hooked to it! It is my first iPad, I always thought that I didn’t need it because I am a person that enjoys more creating information than consuming it. But I was wrong!

Flipboard
Flipboard is the app I use the most on my iPad.

I am still a little bit lost, trying to find how I am going to use it and testing many different apps. Up until now the app I am using the most is Flipboard, which is much better than I could have ever thought. If you are using RSS feeds to read blogs, I would dare to say that Flipboard is a good enough excuse to buy an iPad. In five minutes I had my Google Reader, Instagram, Flickr, Twitter, etc. in my Flipboard and I could read everything as if it were a newspaper. The app design is beautiful, it eliminates any element that could distract you so that you can focus on the reading experience.

Apart from Flipboard I am trying different apps but I still haven’t found any app that I use on a daily basis… mmm…. I am lying… I am also hooked to Draw Something ;). I have also noticed that it is specially useful to skype when I am home. Any other app recommendations for my iPad? How do you use it on a daily basis?

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Visiting Panama

Last month +Carlos Donderis guided us around Panama where we relaxed and enjoyed the country and their people. Although it is a total different place, I found it having many similarities with Thailand: tropical weather, slow lifestyle, big income difference between the city and the country side population; and a general feeling that they could be one of the most advanced countries in the world but their people don’t really want to… they are more or less happy with what they have and their current lifestyle and maybe they don’t want to make the extra effort.

Panama

Panama City reminded me of Asian financial cities like Singapore or Shangai, but somehow being less developed. The Panama City skyline is beautiful, I guess most of those skyscrapers where built by banks and financial institutions (Panama was a fiscal paradise until 2010).

Panama

In Panama City we visited the Casco Viejo, one of the oldest areas of the city that was designed to protect settlers against pirate attacks. Although most of the architecture was Colonial, sometimes I felt I was walking around in a city located in southern Europe.

We visited the Miraflores Locks. We all know about the Panama Canal, but I had no idea about its history. One of the most interesting things of the visit to the locks is the museum. I learned about how the French (leaded by Ferdinand de Lesseps, the same person who built the Suez Canal) failed to finish building the Canal and that is why later the United States finished its construction and owned it until 1999.

Panama

We also learned how the locks work at Miraflores and how the new locks that are currently under construction have been designed to use much less water each time a boat uses them. The construction of the new locks seems to be one of the most important things going on in Panama right now.

Visiting the locks was educational but seeing the rainforest around the Gatún Lake (inside the canal) was much more fun. We saw a crocodile, we saw monkeys, iguanas and beautiful birds (I forgot the names). I wish I had my old Nikon D90 with my 200mm lens with me! I could not take any decent picture of the animals in the wild with my compact camera Canon S90.

Panama

Everything awesome and beautiful, but the best part of the travel was visiting the Atlantic side. We started the trip crossing the jungle from the Pacific Ocean side to the Atlantic side with a 4×4. I thought I could manage talking Spanish in Panama but I was wrong!

At the north east of Panama, their people speak the Kuna Language. It is a Native American agglutinative (like Japanese) language spoken by the people from the Kuna Yala region. I only learned the word kuwedi “good morning”.

Kuna Yala

More interesting than their language is their lifestyle. Most of the 35.000 Kuna people in the region are living in 400 little islands. We visited one island that was around 300x200meters with a population of 350 people. The people in the island seemed to be happy and enjoy their simple life. They have a library, a school, a doctor etc. In one of the libraries I saw a kid learning Spanish with a book. They seem to live thanks to their fishing skills.

Kuna Yala

We stayed in another island where we were half of the population :) We almost owned the island for three days. The other inhabitants of the island were a Kuna family and four other tourists. We had the sea, coconuts, sand, two toilets in the whole island, pelicans flying around, lots of wind 24 hours a day, two kindles and… NO INTERNET! I relaxed and enjoyed, now I’m back to Tokyo replenished with positive energy!

More pictures I took during the trip in my flickr.

Panama

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Hamburger With 1050 Pieces of Bacon

There’s a promotion by Burger King Japan that gives customers the option to add 15 pieces of bacon to their Whopper for an extra 100 yen (around 1 euro / 1,25 dollars). The promotion “has become viral” and yesterday it was the main topic of conversation among my coworkers. Of course somebody had to test the limits of the promotion and ordered 1050 extra pieces of bacon. The amazing thing is that the bacon tower didn’t crumble down… Check out the video below! Quite disgusting! 😉

Hamburger with bacon

Burguer with 1050 bacon strips
Advertising by Burguer King explaining the offer to add 15 extra bacon pieces for 100 yen.

Via Rocket news 24

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Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Koganei park, north from Musashi-Koganei station in Tokyo, is located near the workplace of Studio Ghibli artists. Part of the park is occupied by the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum (江戸東京たてもの園) where there are several streets with reconstructions of houses of the Edo era. Not only the outer part of the houses is faithful to the Edo era architecture, but also the inner part of the houses carefully represents the houses of the time.

During the production of the movie Spirited Away, master Hayao Miyazaki visited several times the museum taking notes and drawing sketches.

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum
This is one of the houses that Hayao Miyazaki likes the most when he visits the museum.

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum
Does this train sound familiar? It is located at the entrance of the museum.

What I like the most about this museum is that, apart from Edo era buildings, there is a commercial street with shops from the Edo era. For example, you can see how a pharmacy or the public baths were 150 years ago in Tokyo.

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

How to get to the museum.

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Aibo Smartphone – Bandai's Smartpet

Bandai has just released (only in Japan at the moment) a new accesory to turn your smartphone into some kind of Aibo robot. The name of the gadget is SmartPet (スマートペット) and it’s on sale at Amazon Japan for around 55 euros / 70 dollars. It works combining the gadget with an application developed by Bandai. The Smartpet can dance, walk and you have to feed it once in a while.

Aibophone

Aibophone

Bandai Smartpet TV commercial:

And this is a video that shows in more detail how it works and everything you can do with a Smartpet:

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Ozawa Camera

Ozawa Camera is a store in Ebisu that has been selling film cameras for more than 40 years. You can find it right at the exit 3 of Ebisu station (Tokyo Metro). They only sell film cameras and second hand lenses. It is the place where I go when I have to develop photos that I have taken with a Hasselblad or with my Kenko.

Ozawa camera

Hasselblad photo

Hasselblad photo

Hasselblad photo

Hasselblad photo

Hasselblad photo

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Japan Airlines President Routine

Japan Airlines (JAL) is one of the top 10 airlines in the world by passengers. Although Japan Airlines has a lot of clients, the company is having a lot of financial troubles and in 2010 they declared bankruptcy.

Japan Airlines is the largest company in Japan, however its CEO since 2007 Haruka Nishimatsu commutes to work by bus every day and earns less money than any pilot at his company. He earns around 80,000 euros/100,000 dollars per year, he eats in the company restaurant with other employees and works in an open space with the rest of his team. On the other hand, the president of Lehman Brothers Japan used to commute by helicopter to get to his Roppongi Hills office until the company went bankrupt and sunk the world economy along with it.

Japan airlines

Japan airlines

Japan airlines

Japan airlines

Via forocoches

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