Make Time

Instead of yelling “I don’t have time for this”, perhaps is time for us to make time for it. Being caught in the endless busyness seems like a “thing” for most of us, and sadly busyness has also become a benchmark on how hardworking and important you are in some organization. Juggling a handful of never ending tasks makes you think that you are productive, but doing more doesn’t really matter. What matter is doing “what matters”.

Hence, the book Make Time was born. Written by ex-Googler, asking you to ditch both Gmail and YouTube (haha…) in order to gain back some sanity in your life… well, kind of. The overarching idea is to get yourself out from doing things that don’t matter in your life, away from the “noise”, away from infinity pool of pointless distraction (like YouTube, social media), so that you will have time to work on things that matter to you most, everyday.

The basic concept was simple.

Select a Highlight for your day, something that must be done, something that will make you feel fulfilled when done, something that means a lot to you. It could be work related or something personal. Then put it in your schedule, make time for it and nothing should come into its way throughout the day.

Make sure you are Laser focus when working on your highlight (or anything else). Shutdown all possible distractions, lock yourself in a room if you need to, during your scheduled time there is only one task that you need to worry about and that is to complete your highlight of the day.

As your work on your highlight, your energy level will drop, battery will drain. Hence, it is important to refuel yourself. Power nap, meditation, careful use of caffeine will give you that extra boast to Energize yourself and keep you going.

Last but not least, end your day (or start your day) by Reflecting what works, what went wrong, and what you could do better in the next days or weeks. Tweet your schedule, method or approach accordingly.

A lot of the things mentioned in the book were already in practice by myself, such as avoiding distraction. Although I don’t go as far as to keep only one row of apps on my phone, I have disabled notification for most of the apps and only check on them when I’m free and have nothing better to do. For me, perhaps what I need to start practicing is to set highlight for my day and plan a little harder on my schedule to make time for it. Well, I’m not particularly “short of time” everyday, but often we got caught up to answering people’s request and neglected our task at work. So that’s something I would try out for my work and see if it works well for me.

If you need some help in managing your time, this is a good read for you. Till then.

Ultra wide monitor Q&A

Source: LG official website.

Following up from my previous post on ultra wide monitor, here are some common questions that one may faced when deciding whether to go for ultra wide or not. I’ll try my best to answer them based on my understanding and knowledge.

Will it be difficult to navigate your mouse from one edge to the other?
No, not really. But I guess it depends on your pointer speed and how accurate your mouse is. I always set my pointer speed to very fast speed so I don’t see any problem, delay or slow reaction in moving my mouse from one end to the other.

Does it require high graphic performance on my PC?
Not exactly, but that very much depends on the specification and what you are pushing it to do. For standard refresh rate and native resolution, even my 5 years old company laptop which runs on Intel 6th gen i5 CPU with internal graphic can drive the display without issue. If you are pushing more pixels, higher refresh rate, use it for gaming and so on, I believe you will need a discrete GPU to drive those pixels.

Is 29” too small to be useful?
It really depends on what you use it for and your distance from the screen. If you are not sitting too far away and you usually only need to run 2 programs at the same time, then I would say 29″ is just nice. If you have a deep desk or you prefer to run 3 or more programs at the same time, then getting something with 34″ or higher would be more suitable.

I can’t imagine how will the monitor and aspect ratio be like
It certainly is not easy to imagine. One good way to start is to compare to your current monitor. I found this website useful in giving me an idea what the 21:9 monitor will be like if it was a 16:9 monitor instead. From there, I roughly estimated that a 29 inch 21:9 monitor will have similar screen height as a 23 inch monitor, which is something close to my office’s monitor, and I’m comfortable with this screen height, so 29 inch ultra wide should do the job for me.

21:9 or 32:9?
There’s another breed of wide display dubbed Super Ultra Wide that has aspect ratio of 32:9, which is basically two monitors built as one. They are even wider, gives you even more screen estate, can run 4 programs or more side by side. I have not used one before, but I did saw some users mentioned about the quirks with that resolution as it is not commonly supported. Anyway, no comment. 21:9 is good enough for me at the moment.

Full HD or higher resolution?
This is pretty subjective. For me, I use this for my work purpose only, thus 2560×1080 resolution is good enough for my use. If you do the math it is around 96PPI, which is no where near the density of some of the higher end screen out there. If I work from a distance, I will not noticed the pixel, but I do aware that it is not as sharp (I’m spoilt by my iMac’s screen anyway). So if you need sharper screen, you’ll need to step up to 3440×1440 resolution. You can use this website to estimate at what distance your eyes will not be able to differentiate the individual pixels.

Flat or curve?
Now, this is an interesting topic of discussion. I have not used a curve screen long enough to provide judgement on whether it is better than a flat screen. I guess the merits of curve screen is to provide you with more immersion on your media and at the same time avoiding some glare on the glossy screen. For me, currently I don’t see a need to go curve when using my 29” matte screen, it is very useable as it is. But if you are going for larger screen such as 34”, perhaps it makes sense to go curve… anyway, I’ll reserve my judgement and suggestion for now on this topic.

And that’s about it for now. If there are any other thoughts few months down the road, I’ll share again with everyone. Till then.

Going wide… like ultra wide

Source: LG official website

This is going to be a long one.

As you may or may not aware, Singapore was under “circuit breaker” period for the past months. Similar to lockdown imposed around the world, everyone needs to stay home as much as possible, limiting their contact and exposure to others in order to curb the spread of virus. Like everyone else, I was forced to work from home. My daily work involves juggling between 2 to 3 super long excel sheets and a few power point slides at the same time, and doing that on a 13 inch laptop screen is tougher than mission impossible. I do have a 22 inch Full HD monitor borrowed from office for this period. Although it does help a little, but there are many issues that I ran into with the dual screen setup of monitor + laptop screen.

To put it simple, Windows is just poor in managing screens. That’s what I summed up from my experience thus far. Connecting the monitor, setting it as primary display, yet time and time windows and programs will open itself on the secondary screen instead. Although it is possible to work on this setup, the hiccups and the occasional quirks have hindered productivity. Something needs to be done. I could add another external monitor and stop using my laptop screen, but that will not solve the issue of windows opening randomly on any monitor it wished. After long consideration, I figured that I need to use a one monitor setup. Large high resolution screen came to mind, but considering Windows is so sucks in managing screen scaling, it would still be problematic and I may not be able to really improve my workflow. Hence, came the idea of trying out an ultra wide monitor.

Watching movie in its native 2.35:1 aspect ratio

My aim is to connect my laptop to only one display, and this display should allow me to have a good multi-tasking workflow. I don’t need ultra high resolution screen for my work, as long as I can read the text and graphics I’m okay to see some pixels (anything equivalent to what my current loan monitor will be good enough). After searching high and low, I decided to settle with the LG 29WN600-W. The basic specifications that I bothered for this monitor are as follow:

Screen size: 29 inch
Resolution: 2560 x 1080
Aspect ratio: 21:9
Brightness: 250 nits
Color accuracy: Calibrated, 99% SRGB
Display type: IPS, matte coated
Built-in speaker: 7W x 2
Security: Kensington lock compatible

That’s about it! It does have other gamer centric features, HDR10 support and so on which are not of my concern. All in all, this is a very basic monitor with ultra wide aspect ratio of 21:9, which is around 33% more screen estate than a regular 16:9 Full HD monitor. Reading the specification and looking at the monitor itself shows how “basic” it really is. For example, there’s no height adjustment and swivel on the monitor stand, it doesn’t come with USB-C connectivity, there’s no downstream USB port and the list goes on. But still, I decided to purchase this monitor for a few reasons. It is one of the affordable monitor that grant me access to 21:9 aspect ratio and its feature set meets my need for office use. I’m saying this because if you are willing to pay more, there are much better options out there with much better feature set. If you are interested with this monitor, or you would like to know more about 21:9, feel free to read on.

Multitasking at work

Let’s get the downside out of the way first. Other than those missing features mentioned earlier (which is to be expected for monitor at this price point and not a deal breaker), the complaints I have with this monitor are:

  1. If you are close to the screen or viewing the screen from a steep angle, you may notice the left and right edge of the screen tears a little. Perhaps because the panel is not laminated, or maybe the matte coating, or for whatever reasons, but it is not noticeable as long as you maintain a normal viewing distance from the screen.
  2. No cable management included. I guess it won’t add a huge cost to them by just adding a hook or something at the back of the stand in order to run the cable through.
  3. The base of the stand is rather wide, it supports the monitor well without letting it wobble while in use, but it will take up some space on your desk.
  4. The overall height is pretty low, most probably you will need to use vesa mount or a stand to elevate the monitor to your eye level.
  5. After using it for few days I noticed a little bit of discomfort to my eyes. I thought it was due to PWM flickering, but after I checked it seems to be a flicker free panel. Things got better after switching to “Reader Mode”, but after playing around with the settings for a couple of days, seems like the problem has reduced or resolved. This very much depends on individual, so your milage may varies.

And… that’s about it. Yes, I don’t have a lot to complaint overall. In fact, there are a number of surprises that I did not expect the monitor will deliver, such as reasonable sound quality from the built-in speaker and colours are quite accurate out of the box. So in the end, does a 21:9 monitor solved my problem?

After using it for awhile now, I must say yes it did improved my workflow and productivity. Opening two programs side by side with enough space to see the content and work on them is a game changer, something that is hardly doable with my previous screen. And now since I’m running everything on one screen, it has less annoyance and I was able to work through windows by windows easily. However, if you are running programs on fullscreen, it could be overwhelming at times. Excel is okay as I’m able to glance more columns. Website for example are not optimized for such aspect ratio, so there will be a lot of empty spaces lying around.

Lightroom on ultra wide screen

The same goes to programs such as Lightroom. However, other application such as Photoshop and video editing software which allow you to rearrange the adjustment panel would be able to make good use of the extra screen estate. As for movie consumption, 2.35:1 movies will play in native aspect ratio without the black envelop, however 16:9 movies will play with black bar on the sides. For these topics, I guess there are enough materials covered by various youtubers or reviewers, so you can search around and see if ultra wide screen will benefit on your current workflow. Don’t ask me about gaming… I don’t game!

All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with this monitor. I got it at a good discounted price during the recent “work from home” sales, and there is no regret so far. I do noticed there are a few older models from LG that are available through some other retailers, if you plan to save on a few bucks, perhaps you can take a look at those too. Now, this brings me to another thoughts… should I get myself a 21:9 for own personal use? Not now I guess as I’m still rocking my 3 years old iMac (still going strong), but in the future, it is certainly something I would really consider. If you have any question, feel free to ask and I’ll try my best to get back to you. Sorry for the super long review, I’ll do a follow up post to discuss more on the 21:9 aspect ratio in another post. Till then.

Apple Watch… 5 years on

5 years ago, Apple launched its first smartwatch to the world, dubbed the Apple Watch. In my opinion, the original Apple Watch (now called as Series 1) was pretty flop as a device itself, I remembered looking at it and I was like “there’s no way I’m gonna buy this”. As many have rightly pointed out, the Series 1 was hoarded down by a lot of shortcomings on performance and selling features that appeal to people. It nailed the design, but not the experience… just yet. Although I have dismissed the Series 1, a part of me realized that there’s true potential in it to become great, and oh boy did it became great.

Fast forward to present, the Apple Watch Series 5 has waterproofing, sound level detection, built-in ECG, built-in GPS and compass, cellular network onboard, edge-to-edge screen, always-on display… it is indeed the perfect companion and the most personal computer device Apple has ever built. In just 5 years, Apple has moved the needle of smartwatches so much that made other competitors scrambling to play catch-up. Stories about how Apple Watch has changed lives (and even saved lives) have been circulating across the internet. In fact, Apple has even surpassed most of the traditional watches to become one of the highest selling watches in the world.

Personally, I have been using the Apple Watch Series 3 for more than 2 years now. I’ll admit I was a skeptic initially. Who charges their watch on daily basis! It’s an expensive gadget to upgrade on yearly basis! But once you get over it (you are charging your phone on daily basis anyway?), you will start to enjoy it, like really. After 2 years of usage, I have been enjoying wearing it day in and day out. It tracks my workout, alerted me on abnormal heart rate once which prompted me to went for a health check (everything turns out to be fine and will continue to monitor my status), get me moving throughout the day and get me notified on all the important alerts that I wish to see. And after 2 years it is still working flawlessly, and hopefully maybe it will last me through the third year as well before I even consider to upgrade.

Can I go back to live a life without one? I wonder.

Of course it is not all rosy. Sleep tracking is not available, tracking could be more accurate, the aluminium used could be of better grade to withstand more abuse, more monitoring features are always welcome and so on. So it will be interesting to see what’s next from Apple for the coming generation of Apple Watches. Should everyone buy one? Absolutely not, even if you are iPhone user. It really depends on what you need, some active users might better off getting themselves a dedicated and rugged watches from Garmin or Polar, which are built for outdoor adventure and runners. Those who just want something super simple and cheap that work across multiple platforms will find themselves happy with a Fitbit.

For me and a couple of others, Apple Watch has been the best product from Apple for the past decade. I’m looking forward to see what else Apple has planned for this personal computer that sit on my wrist all day, and let’s see what will the future look like in the next 5 years. Till then.

Shimoda Action X30 Camera Bag: Initial Impression

Credits: Photo from Shimoda website

I’ve backed the kickstarter project from Shimoda for this Action X series backpack. When the project was successfully funded, founder of Shimoda, Ian Miller gave an update that due to overwhelming response, there could be delays in shipping the bags. Since then, there were quite a bit of hoo haa surrounding the delay and a whole lot of mess generated by some backers. I didn’t receive my pack in December 2019 as promised in the project timeline, but I was lucky enough to get one from the second batch which are delivered in January. Well, it is a kickstarter campaign anyway, therefore I have no issue or whatsoever.

There are already plenty of reviews and features rundown on this bag, so I’m not going to repeat those again. I’ll just be sharing what I like and dislike about this bag, and leave it to you to be the judge whether this is the right bag for you.

What I like:

  • Nice balance of size and volume for X30 (30-37 litres)
  • Nice durable materials are used, has a good balance of rigidity and softness
  • Camera access is on the right side (pun intended), I’m probably the few minorities who wants to access camera from the side panel on the right
  • Easily removable core unit and divider allowing bag to double as camera or travel bag
  • Just the right amount of pockets and compartments
  • Beefy and comfortable top and side handle
  • Tripod can be strapped on the side or rear
  • Core unit comes with cover, allowing me to use it separately as camera storage box
  • Not overly engineered with unnecessary features
  • Comfortable shoulder strap (need some times to break-in though)

What I don’t like:

  • Bag is a little heavy when empty
  • Don’t really like the look of the shoulder strap harness (but they are comfortable to wear)
  • There are a lot of zippers, and I wish some of the zipper pulls can be lock down in place for a tidier look on the bag
  • Not a big fan of the look of how the top loader is secured (but it is very functional, nevertheless)

I was contemplating between X30 and X50 during the campaign, worrying that X30 will be too small for my torso length. But X50 is much larger and would be risky to use as carry-on luggage during flight. Furthermore, I do not have that much of gears to pack anyway, so I decided to go with X30 in the end. With maximum torso fit, I’m glad that it fits okay.

This bag is designed for your adventure, for you to go out and explore, and to that extent it does seem to deliver. Of course this is just my initial impression of the bag after using it for my short trips, I still need to use it more often in order to give a full review. If you are interested, you can visit their website to find out more. Till then.