4 Last-minute gift ideas

Posted on Dec 16, 2012 in Hints, iPad, iPhone, Opinions, Reviews

Last-minute gift recommendations

Still haven’t found that perfect gift? Here are a few last-minute ideas for new products that I’ve had a chance to give or receive this year.

1) Sony Xperia tipo – low-end Android 4.0 smartphone: €100

While I’m not really an Android fan, I do understand that not everyone is willing to spend close to €650 on a smartphone. If you have a family member still using a feature-phone, the Sony tipo is a decent, affordable Android phone for a first-time smartphone owner. If you’re in Europe, you can use this SIM-unlocked phone with any cheapo provider.

Sony xperia tipo

Sony tipo at Amazon.de

Sony tipo at Amazon.com

2) tizi beat bag bluetooth speaker: €79

(Full disclaimer: this is an equinux product, so I’m completely biased.)

We researched a lot of bluetooth speakers while developing tizi beat bag, and I can honestly say that I’ve yet to hear one that offers more bang for your buck.

Nice and loud, very nicely balanced sound, bass reflex-chamber for some moderate (but not exaggerated) oomph, replaceable li-ion battery for ~10h listening on-the-go, bluetooth support for all your smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc, aux-in jack for anything that doesn’t have bluetooth…

If you already own our tizi TV receiver, you’ll also be glad to hear that it uses the same tizi battery, so you can easily swap.

And it has a snazzy handle, so it’s ideal for grabbing to use in the kitchen, out on your balcony, at your next garden party…

tizi beat bag at Amazon.de

3) Fender Squier USB & iOS Stratocaster: €199

I saw the Fender when it hit the Mac sites a few weeks ago, but wasn’t able to find much information about it. My amazing boss heard me raving about it and decided to get one for our office instrument collection.

It looks like any regular full-sized Squier strat, except that it has an additional back plastic panel on the back and a mini-USB and headphone port at the bottom of the guitar. In the box you’ll find a regular USB cable and a 30-pin cable for iOS devices.

And it’s amazing: plug it into your iPad, fire up Garageband and start jamming away. The guitar plays really nicely and the flexibility that the iPad offers you is great.

You’ll need a lightning adapter to use it with the latest generation of iOS devices, but it works fine.

Squier USB strat

Available exclusively from Apple’s online store.

4) Gordy’s Cameras straps: ~€15-25

Ideal for any camera and photography enthusiast, Gordy makes incredibly durable and robust leather cameras straps. They are all hand-made and look and feel much more substantial than the stock straps that come with most cameras. Plus you don’t feel like such a tourist with one of Gordy’s excellent wrist-straps. There is a wide selection depending on personal preference and camera model, so you may want to do this one as a voucher and let your giftee choose the colour and exact model.

gordy's camera straps

Gordy’s camera straps

That’s all folks! Granted, not the longest list you’ll find on the interwebs this time of year, just a few personal recommendations for products I’ve enjoyed.

Happy Holidays!

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Alfred Extension: Open in language…

Posted on Aug 26, 2011 in Hints, Mac

As part of my job as product manager at equinux, I frequently tweak strings and messages in our applications. As most of our apps are available in multiple languages, it’s often necessary to check changes in multiple languages, e.g. to ensure that the string isn’t too long.

There are a number of utilities available that make it easier to launch apps in a specific language, however they all usually require a number of extra clicks and typically only work with apps in your Applications folder — making it cumbersome to open development builds that aren’t installed there.

I’m a big fan of the keyboard launcher tool Alfred and was thrilled to see that the developer recently added extension support for Alfred Powerpack users (at just £12 / $19 the Powerpack is a steal – highly recommended).

I’ve written a collection of Alfred extensions (basically shell scripts) that will allow you to quickly open an app in the language of your choice:

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DIY iPad Wedding Photobooth

Posted on Aug 21, 2011 in Hints, iPad, Opinions, Reviews

When we were planning our wedding, we saw lots of wedding photo booth ideas. You can either rent a traditional photo booth, or there are various DIY setups involving digital cameras.

I started thinking and thought it would be cool to have a setup that would allow people to see their snaps rights away, without having to go around to the camera itself. With a DSLR that supports remote control from a laptop, that is fairly easy to set up, but as it turned out, my cameras don’t support remote control over USB. So I started looking into alternatives and soon hit on the idea of using an EyeFi card and my iPad. (A few weeks after I started planning our photo booth, a story popped up on Engadget about a similar, albeit more professional, setup.)

What you’ll need

  • A digital camera with remote shutter release (I used the Panasonic GF-1 with a cheap wireless remote shutter release from eBay)
  • An EyeFi SD card in the camera (make sure it’s a newer EyeFi card with support for “direct mode”)
  • An iPad connected to the EyeFi network running the free EyeFi app
  • A tall tripod
  • A table or stand of some kind for the iPad
  • (optional) A frame, backdrop or props of some kind for guests to pose with

Camera, remote shutter, iPad and EyeFi card

With this setup, guests could take a snapshot using the remote shutter and almost instantly see it on the iPad a few seconds later. To speed up the wireless transfers, I configured the EyeFi card to wirelessly transfer the JPEGs only, whilst keeping the large RAW files on the card. This also allowed us to place the camera somewhere out of the way and still gave the guests a way to view their pictures.

The photo booth setup – the iPad is just off to the side on a table

One of the snaps from the photo booth

Other Tips

  • Turn on face recognition if your camera supports it and make sure the autofocus is correctly detecting your guests.
  • Turn off any power saving options on the camera and iPad.
  • If your setup is indoors, connect the iPad and camera to AC adapters, if possible.
  • You’ll need a fairly tall tripod or something to stand it on to get the camera up high enough. Ours was a bit low so I ended up adjusting the perspective using Adobe Lightroom.
  • Explain the setup to someone beforehand and ask them to keep an eye on things to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Our guests had a lot of fun with our DIY photobooth and I love the way the pictures turned out, highly recommended!
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Prepaid 3G data in Malaysia

Posted on Aug 21, 2011 in Hints, iPhone

We went to Malaysia for our honeymoon a few weeks ago. We had booked hotels and internal flights for the first five days of our holiday, but wanted to be somewhat flexible so needed to book more hotels and flights on the go.

Getting a SIM card and choosing a carrier

I spotted a Maxis booth in Kuala Lumpur International Airport and headed over to purchase a prepaid SIM card and data plan. Maxis, Celcom and DiGi are the three largest providers in Malaysia and from what I have read, Maxis has the best 3G coverage. Their prepaid plans are marketed under their brand “Hotlink“, and you can find shops selling Maxis/Hotlink top-ups all over Malaysia.

The helpful staff at their sales booth had a micro SIM cutting tool and configured the data plan for me using the “day plan” option, which comes with 500MB of data a day. I assumed it would auto-renew and the total cost would be about €20 for 2.5 weeks.

My wife booking hotels on the iPad at Kuala Lumpur airport with Maxis 3G and personal hotspot

Pick a data plan

It turns out that the day plan needs to be renewed every day after exactly 24 hours, which is a bit annoying after a while. Plus, if you forget you’re charged by the megabyte, which will quickly wipe out your prepaid credit.

Fortunately, while topping up credit in a mobile phone store in Melakka, the dealer recommended I switch to the “internet broadband 1 week” plan instead. I think it’s intended for laptop users with USB 3G sticks, but it worked fine with the iPhone as well. The one week option comes with 1.5 GB of data, which should be more than enough for casual use on holiday.

Coverage & Cost

Coverage was brilliant, with 3G service and full bars nearly everywhere we went – the only time I couldn’t get 3G was on a tiny tropical island 45 minutes off the mainland. There’s no way we could have travelled around as much as we did without a data plan and access to TripIt, TripAdvisor, Agoda.com and other services.

Overall I think I spent about 120 ringgit on the SIM card and various top-ups (about €28/ $39). That’s a bit more than necessary, as I lost quite a bit of credit the first few days due to not renewing the day plan in time.

Don't forget your iPhone SIM tool

Worth it?

If you’re planning a trip to Malaysia, I’d definitely recommend picking up a Maxis/Hotlink prepaid card for your stay. Hotel wifi was often flaky and sometimes only available in rooms near the reception desk, so I ended up using Maxis 3G almost everywhere. Be sure to look up the best data option on their website – the day plan is easiest but not necessarily the most affordable.


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Open iPad GarageBand files on your Mac – a workaround

Posted on Mar 27, 2011 in Hints, iPad, Mac

Update: That didn’t take long! Apple has just released an update for GarageBand on the Mac that officially adds support for iPad projects. It’s 181MB and seems to include add all the software instruments found in the iPad version that were missing


So ignore the workaround below, update GarageBand and you’ll be all set.


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How to renew your MobileMe account

Posted on Sep 15, 2010 in Hints, Mac

If you have a Mobileme account that is about to expire, you can often renew for far less by purchasing a boxed version on Amazon or elsewhere online. But how do you enter the activation code? I recently renewed my account, here’s what you need to do:

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