5 Gadgets You Should Buy Now Instead Of Later

Everyday we have lots of news about the latest gadgets from Tech blogs and social networks, and everyday we tell ourselves to wait … wait until the reviews are out, wait until the better versions are out or the prices are dropped. Yes, it’s me; but of course, YMMV.

However, there are times that I cannot wait but go ahead to buy the overpriced, not-well-tested gadgets, then find out I should have bought those earlier because the gadgets are soooooo good. And here are 5 gadgets that I think you should buy now, instead of later.

I traveled a lot and really like to have a pair of headphone that can play good music as well as cancel all the background noises. I have other noise cancellation headphones before, but the Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphone is really the best one. This in-ear headphone is lightweight, delivers excellent sound quality, and extremely comfortable. Many times I would turn on the noise cancellation mode in busy cafe or packed subway train such that I can have some quiet time to read. If you have lots of good songs in your mobile device and like to enjoy those even in a noisy environment, this is for you.

bose-headphone

So you have a good pair of headphone with noise cancellation feature, then it’s probably about time you shall get the Kindle Paperwhite (second generation) to restart your book reading project. The screen is simply stunning, and you can read it under bright sunlight or in the dark. Best of all, your eyes will thank you as the other non-ePaper digital readers really will hurt your eyes.

Kindle Paperwhite

Other than a pair of headphone and a good book reader, another essential travel companion for me is a good DSLR camera. I’m never a fan of Canon, Nikon and Sony, but became a big fan of Olympus about 10 years ago (I really love their E-1). So when they released their excellent OMD E-M1 last year, I bought it without skipping a heartbeat (note that I already got the E-M5, ooops). A solid, weather-proof, and responsive camera that will never disappoint you in terms of image quality.

OMD-E-M1

Another “gadget” that travel with me all the time is the Macbook Air. It’s my work computer, research tool, programming machine and social networking platform. That’s not much you can complain about the great machine, but for me I want one more USB port – to charge my iDevices and without syncing. Yes, I can get one of those power supply plug charger, but instead of getting extra bulk I bought the Twelve South PlugBug World. It’s an All-in-one MacBook global adapter with 2.1 amp iPhone/iPad charger – perfect. And the bonus is, this world edition comes with different plugs for different countries.

plugbug

The last gadget that I wish I had bought earlier is the MIO Alpha I. It is a watch and it is also a strapless heart rate monitor. Yes, you read it right, it is strapless (!!). In addition, it can synchronise the reading to the RunKeeper app with Bluetooth, such that the app can read out the heart rate to you during your exercise. If you like to track your heart rate while jogging or running. Get one, period.

mio alpha

So, those are my picks, what are your 5 buy-it-now gadgets ?

 

Sean Connery – In my life

In My Life is my most favorite Beatle’s song … and everytime in hotel when I see the following TV advertisement (of a real estate development company) on CNN channel, I will stop everything I am doing and watch it … In fact, many times, it’s the only “entertainment” I have during business trips.

The beautiful voice is from famous actor Sean Connery, what a loving and engaging voice … and here is the full version of his voice over advertisement with some pictures.

Touching …

Best Travel books / guides / sites

After I threw away about “two feet of books” (in other words, I don’t know how many) and an hour’s hard work, I have made my travel bookshelf back in shape. After this “shake-up”, now I have “only” 200 travel books, about half of them are in English, and others in Chinese. Compare to my other IT / photography / web design / usability reference books, business books, comic books and novels, it is still quite a lot.

My travel book library

The reason I bought so many travel books is because, believe it or not, I like to “study” travel books … in other words, understand how they were written, how the information is categorized, presented, cross-referenced etc. etc. In Internet’s term, I like to study the information arhitecture of travel books. However, seriously, after studied so many travel books, I still have not found my ideal book.

All along I believe the best way to plan a trip is not to go to Internet to research, as there are too many information in the Internet and you have no way to tell which one is correct and which one is useful for your style of travel. Searching thru travel books and guides are not necessary the better way as well, mainly because it’s hard to search the details in the physical book. In addition, most books are just a long list of attractions but doesn’t tell you how to connect the attractions together.

Out of the 200 books from that mini-library, the best ones so far are the Daytrips series from Hastings House. All these books let you plan your trip day by day with all the attractions, transportation and dining details.

Therefore I think … will it be great if I can go to one single website and plan my all trips, with all the information I need in a day by day fashion (just like the Daytrips series) ? That idea has been planted in my mind for almost 10 years now, and about 3 and a half year ago I wrote this blog post to illustrate the possible database design

Not sure you have the same trouble / idea like this or not but if you believe you cannot buy the best travel book from bookstores or Amazon, and you think you have to make your own travel guides – let me know. May be it is about time to develop the best travel site on earth.

Shanghai, Shanghai

Not the first time to visit Shanghai and certainly will not be the last. Like many famous cities around the world, Shanghai is a photographer’s paradise. This huge city’s  landscape practically changes every few months, but there are still lots of traditional buildings scatter around. If you want to see what an awakened dragon look alike, then go to Shanghai to check it out … seeing is believing.

Some recent photos of the great city – Shanghai. Photos shot by Olympus E-P1, with lens Lumix 20 mm or Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18 mm.

3 years, 2 cameras, 1 new photobook

It’s hard to explain … I have big hard disks to store all the photos, and of course good software to manipulate / view / backup the photos. However, I still like to print the photos out, and then look at them, touch them, smell them … So here is it, my second photo book – Mirror with memory (this link works for iPad as well).

This photo book is a collection of my travel photos in the past 3 years with Olympus E-510 and E-P1.

Enjoy some samples below (for non-iPad browser only) !!

User experience of purchasing a subway ticket

No, I am not talking about purchasing a ticket of the subway in Hong Kong, as you know the system and the vending machines here are really among the best in the world. Instead, I would like to share with you from the experience I had in the Washington DC trip last month.

In fact, I am not the only one get frustrated by the subway ticketing system (they call it “Metro”), there is even a presentation prepared on why there is a need to redesign the Metro ticket vending machine. Following is a picture of the vending machine and according to the official site of Metro, you need to follow these steps to purchase a ticket (they call it farecard):

To buy farecard, you need to:

  1. Select B (single farecard) or C (multiple farecards). If buying more than one, select the quantity you want.
  2. Use the (+) or (-) button to choose the value.
  3. Press C to view your selection.
  4. Press C again to confirm your selection.
  5. Insert money and/or farecard.

Please note that the buttons “A”, “B”, “C” are the tiny buttons next to the big orange color circle labeled “1”. In fact before step 1, you need to search around the ticketing lobby to find the up-to-date map / poster for the correct fare, also check the time as the fare is based on the time of day (!!) and destination.

And for step 2, instead of key in the fare amount (the vending machine is not that smart …), you have to use the (+) and (-) buttons to choose the dollars AND the cents – yes there are two (+) buttons and two (-) buttons underneath the tiny screen in the middle, one for the dollar amount and one for cent amount.

And can you see how confusing of step 5 ? In summary, very very poor user interface and therefore user experience of just buying a cheap subway ticket !!

And talking about User Experience, how can you miss the UX Conference in Hong Kong (UXHK) early next year ? Check out the office site – www.uxhongkong.com for details and register now. Great stuff !!

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