Tomtoc Ultra Slim Sleeve for 13 inch MacBook Pro

Choosing a suitable sleeve for a MacBook Pro can be a headache, especially when the variety out there is endless. There are so many different kinds of sleeves for different needs. When I bought my MacBook Pro, I initially did not consider the need to get one. I imagine myself putting the laptop in my AER Backpack and it would be sufficient.

As I received my new MacBook Pro, I forgot how gorgeous the laptop looked like. And having blemishes on the aluminium exterior right about when I’ve gotten hands on it, would be a disaster. Every scratch, dent, or any other blemishes through some other means would be very obvious against the pristine, space gray build of my MacBook Pro.

So I sought out online to find a simple, but good looking sleeve to safely house my new Laptop. That was when I spotted the Tomtoc Ultra Slim Sleeve for the 13 inch MacBook Pro.

The Tomtoc sleeve is not available in Singapore. So I ordered online on Amazon. But even that, Amazon doesn’t ship the sleeve overseas, to Singapore. So I had to employ the services of EZbuy to receive my package and ship to Singapore for a small shipping fee.

It didn’t take too long to arrive and I wasn’t in a hurry to get one since I had to serve my annual ICT for about a week. This means that I would not around to recieve the package and enjoy the product. But the timing was impeccable. As soon as I reached home upon completion of my ICT, it arrived.

My first impression of the Tomtoc sleeve was that it feels better than it looks. I mean it looks gorgeous already. Anyone holding this sleeve is bound to turn heads. It’s not a design that you see every day when it comes to laptop sleeves. Most of them are generic black, or gray with no character at all. All function, leaving not much room for aesthetics. The Tomtoc sleeve is different. Very different.

Workmanship is pretty solid. Stitching is straight and consistent, with not a single stray thread at the end of a stitch. The thread matches the leather or the gray felt material, where ever those materials are present on the sleeve, which is a nice touch and shows the attention to detail when it comes to designing the product. The felt material feels luxurious, without having too much fibre strands sticking out and all wooly-like in texture.

The size of the sleeve that I bought fits perfectly with my new mid-2017 13-inch MacBook Pro. The sleeve offers a snug fit, without feeling too tight, although it can be a little bit tight if you fill or squeeze stuff inside a separate, easy-access pocket. I tried putting my Moleskin notebook in the separate sleeve in addition to the laptop in the main compartment and it works wonders. The additional sleeve allows you to put thin objects, like cables, tablets, e-readers, notebooks, or even small magazines and stationaries. The additional sleeve is definitely handy and adds quite a bit of functionality to the sleeve.

The sleeve is closed by 2 magnets places on the left and right side of the sleeve. It’s not too strong or too weak, giving a nice solid latch. The magnets are also covered by a felt mesh which will definitely add longevity to the use of the sleeve, and also to prevent any unintended scratches you might get when putting your notebook inside.

Overall, I really love the sleeve and I made a terrific purchase for my MacBook Pro. The overall design of the sleeve provides a highly unique, yet subtle style when carrying my laptop.

Cow Play Cow Moo

Yesterday evening I was at Suntec City, walking around and doing some window shopping when I stumbled upon a video arcade game shop called Cow Play Cow Moo. It is a weird name to name one’s arcade game shop. On the other hand,  it is also a pretty crafty name to name one’s arcade game shop, a clever word play based off a Hokkien vulgar phrase which I shall not type here.

Anyways, video arcade game shops are a pretty rare sight in Singapore nowadays. But what struck me profoundly was how different it was compared to other arcade game shops past and present. It was very crowded when I was there and I noticed many people carrying small baskets filled with coins to play the arcade. I also noticed that the people there who were playing were accumulating a massive amount of tickets as a result of playing the arcade. And I really mean massive, like a basket filled with reams of tickets. These people were playing to win many many tickets in the hopes of being able to redeem something from collecting all those tickets.

It felt almost like these people were gambling. The fact that you can get so many tickets simply from playing the arcade games really feeds into their addiction into playing more so that they can win more. The feeling of instant gratification is almost palpable when I was at Cow Play Cow Moo.

There were many things that you can redeem the tickets you win. It could be as low as 2000 tickets for small trinkets, to 200 000 tickets for a cheap smartphone. 200 000 tickets. That is insane. I cannot imagine what 200 000 tickets would look like in one’s basket, meant for collecting those tickets you’ve won.

When I was there, I saw a maid helping the kids carry the basket full of tickets, following them around as they tried their hands on the various arcade game machines in the shop. I wonder what the parents were thinking, allowing their children to spend the money on such frivolous stuff just to get ‘high’ on winning. Don’t they realise that this is just one form of gambling? It is no different from playing the notorious Japanese gambling machines, Pachinko, seeing various metal balls dropping from various obstacles, pushing them this way and that, in the hopes of hitting the jackpot so that you can earn back some of the winnings.

On the other hand, I can kinda understand why some people would pursue such a mind numbing hobby. Simply to pass time is one reason. Another could be that for a small group of people, spending money to play these games over and over again, and winning something is a stress buster. With no expectations, other than seeing bright lights flashing right in front of you, as you see the fate of the ball, puck, or obstacles in your way, to accrue whatever meager winnings you might get, or the remote possibility of hitting the jackpot, accelerating your winning so that you might have a small chance of feeling better and accomplish than before you started playing them.

ProMotion display on the new iPad Pro.

ipad pro 10.5Although I do not have the new iPad Pro 10.5 inch in my hand right now, I had the opportunity to check it out at the official Apple Store at Orchard Road. Of all the many new features touted by Apple on the new iPad Pro, I was most intrigued by the new display, specifically the ProMotion technology.

The ProMotion technology advertised by Apple on its latest iPad pro is just a term conjured up by the marketing department to give the technology substance. Basically the LCD display on Apple’s new lineup of iPad Pro (both the 10.5 and 12.9 inch version) features a 120hz refresh rate. Conventional LCD display on all tablets released thus far only goes up to 60hz. The faster refresh rate apparently makes every UI animation within the iPad Pro butter smooth. I never got the chance to see first hand until I saw an actual iPad Pro at the Apple Store. All the reviews on YouTube about the new iPad Pro’s incredible display couldn’t capture the butter-smoothness animation because of the slow FPS when watching videos. Truly, this is one feature that despite its awesome rave reviews, you have to see it live in person with the new iPad Pro in front of you to understand why it’s amazing.

As I was at the store and holding the iPad Pro for the first time, the first thing that immediate struck me was how sexy the device looked like. The thinner bezels on the sides made the iPad Pro so much more sleeker. The bigger display (without considerably increasing the overall size of the tablet) is now even more capable of absorbing you in, focusing on it’s colour accurate display without distractions from the other parts of the iPad.

Colour accurate and wide colour gamut display is the main stay of the iPad Pro’s feature. But once I interacted with the tablet, swiping left, right, up and down, going through the various menus, website and general UI, I was truly amazed how smooth the interaction was. 120hz display really does makes a profound difference in the overall experience when using the iPad. Again, you really have to try it out for yourself to really understand what I am saying. There is no competition out there so far. The faster refresh rate is to me, personally what stands out from the rest of the competing tablet makers out there.

For some reason, in addition for the display to capture your attention due to its overall area occupied on the tablet, the faster refresh rate of the display now really really absorbs you in completely. While you interact with the screen, your eyes just cannot peel away from it’s butter smoothness operation.

At the store as I played around with the new iPad Pro, I was quite surprised (though not unexpected, since Apple products always sell like hotcakes regardless) that there were a lot of iPad Pro purchases. Everywhere around me in the midst of the crowd in the store, there were all the Apple Geniuses tending to some customers’ purchases. And under their arms, there will almost always be a box (or two or some accompanying accessories) of the new iPad Pro. The iPad Pro was selling like hotcakes!

Hyperdrive, Thunderbolt USB-C hub for MacBook Pro

Ever since I got my swanking new MacBook Pro about a week ago, I had to deal with Thunderbolt 3 ports. The problem is, there is nothing I can do with Thunderbolt 3 ports on my MacBook Pro, since I have no peripherals at hand that uses them. So I can’t connect my external drives, my SD cards, charge my iPhone, or use my thumbdrives.

Getting the Hyperdrive Thunderbolt USB-C hub for the MacBook Pro seems like the most economical way to expand my ability to connect my ‘legacy’ devices using ‘legacy’ ports.

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I purchased off from their Indiegogo website and within a week and a half it arrived at my doorstep. The Thunderbolt USB-C hub allows me to connect to an external monitor via HDMI, has an SD card and MicroSD card slot, and offers 2 USB 3.0 ports in addition to Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports just like what the MacBook Pro originally provided. The good thing about this hub is that it allows power passthrough, meaning you can charge the laptop while this hub is connected directly to it. The strange thing however, is that the hub uses both Thunderbolt ports to connect the hub. Once connected, only the top Thunderbolt port allows for charging and not the bottom one.

But still this hub greatly expanded my abilty to connect with other devices like I mentioned just now.

Another aspect of this hub that I really like is that the design of the hub is such that it sits flushed right next to the laptop. Buy the hub that matches the colour of your laptop, and it looked pretty natural – like an extension to your already great looking laptop. It doesn’t look bulky, or out of place and the build quality is pretty good, all aluminium, with pretty decent parts. Plus, it comes with a nice, snugly little leather pouch to safety store your hub away when not in use.

Dealing with such hubs can be annoying, but it is a necessity if you wish to walk down a path, using a laptop with nothing but Thunderbolt Ports. So for those who wish to walk down this path, know that you need a little bit more investment in choosing the right dongles or hub so that all your devices you currently have play nice with your new Macbook laptops. The Hyperdrive Thunderbolt USB-C hub manages to tick all the right things when it comes to portability, design and build quality without breaking the bank (US$69).

Amazon has ended its unlimited cloud storage. Reverts to 1TB for US$59.90

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Recently Amazon announced that they will no longer be offering unlimited cloud storage through Amazon Drive. Instead, the company will be offering cloud storage starting at 1TB for US$59.00 a year and the cost increases accordingly for each 1TB needed for up to 30TB.

This is disappointing news for me as I have been relying on Amazon Drive (since the announcement of unlimited cloud storage) for a safe place to store and grow my photo collection.

As someone who picked up photography as a hobby, I have amassed almost 100,000 photos and I need a safe place to store them apart from my usual portable hard drive as my main repository of photographs. That amounts to almost 900GB. I am almost hitting the 1TB limit and now that they announce that additional 1TB of storage would cost another US$59.90, I would have no choice but to shop elsewhere for a cheaper alternative to store my expanding collection of photos.

I have started migrating some files that are not photographs or pictures to my OneDrive account (I have 1TB courtesy of the Office 365 account and intend to keep it in the long term) They are mostly pictures taken from my smartphone, past and present (I am sentimental, although a majority of them are rubbish photos sent via WhatsApp and stored on my phone). They don’t constitute a large portion of the space required, just maybe 20Gb or so.

To make the migration easier for the thousands of documents and smartphone pictures stored in various folders, I employed the use to MultCloud, a cloud migration web app, that assists you in migrating swathes of files from one cloud to another. It is free to use and allows you to transfer up to 2TB of data. For VIP users (in a form of a subscription) you can have an unlimited transfer to multiple cloud storage services at one go and also speeds up the transfer by transferring multiple files in parallel.

I can clearly see the benefit of subscribing to the VIP services for a month, as the transfer can get quite slow. It is definitely easy as you simply tell the web app which folder you want to transfer from one cloud to another. But before you do that, you have to map all your cloud storage services under the MultiCloud interface. That way, it will recognise all the cloud services you have and it will then initiate the data transfer. Other than file transfer, MultCloud allows you to synchronise data between two cloud or simply use MultCloud as a one stop app to access all your files across multiple cloud services under your wing.

Once the file migration is complete I will close down Amazon Drive and will no longer use its services.

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My next solution is to start backing up the hard drive with all my photos using BackBlaze. BackBlaze primary feature is to create backups of your PC or Mac, especially your personal files. For a flat fee of US$50, you have unlimited data for backing up your files from ONE computer as well as any attached portable hard drives that you have. This means that BackBlaze allows me to backup my portable hard drive containing all my photos (and some video files).

This is not the best solution as it solely serves as a backup repository but since I rarely access most of my photos taken during my photography session, there is no need to access those files from BackBlaze’s servers. So long as my portable hard drive is still functioning, I will continue to use that and not disturb any of the files that have been backed up in BackBlaze. Should my hard drive fail, then I simply get a new one then restore all the files from BackBlaze.

coconutBattery

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CoconutBattery is a must have app for any mobile Mac users out there. It provides a comprehensive look at the overall health of your mac laptops, be it MacBook, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. In addition to telling the amount of juice you have left, it also tells you the temperature, number of charge cycles the battery’s been through and overall condition of the battery. The app doesn’t just tell you the stats, it can also record the battery health on a regular basis, providing a longitudinal snapshot of the battery’s condition over time.

Personally, the neatest part of the app is that it also tells you the age of your laptop and the battery separately. From the moment the laptop was assembled and left the factory floor, coconutBattery is able to tell you the age of your device. For my MacBook Pro that I recently purchase a few days ago, as of today, it is telling me that my MacBook Pro is 27 days old. Meaning that the MacBook Pro was assembled 2 to 3 weeks before being shipped out and sold to me. The battery on the other hand is 38 days old, a little older than the MacBook Pro. It sounds logical, considering that the battery is just one of many components that makes the laptop and parts have to be ordered, produced and shipped to the factory (somewhere in China no doubt) only to be assembled into the final product. The battery that I have comes from a battery maker, Simplo. A simple Google search tells me that it is a taiwanese company specialising in battery manufacturing for small and large devices.

I used the same app for my MacBook Air many years ago. I tracked the battery condition over time. I noticed it deterioated after a year due to my extensive use over time back during my undergraduate days. I used it the whole day, every day without bringing the power adapter with me, often draining the battery from 100% all the way down to 10%-15%. Naturally, that kind of torture wears out the battery really fast. And because of coconutBattery, I was able to replace the battery before it does further harm to my laptop. All in all, I logged more than 1100 days with the laptop. I used that laptop for more than 3 years, before passing it on to my dad to use. Today, it is still very much in use, all thanks to the SSDs, that helped in keeping the laptop fast enough for normal use despite its age.

The rationale behind the Macbook Pro purchase.

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Yesterday my Macbook Pro arrived. I ordered the laptop 2 days ago, which is just a couple of days after it was officially announced. On the day I placed my order for the new laptop, I put my Lenovo laptop up for sale on Carousell. I was pleasantly surprised to receive multiple offers to buy my laptop second hand. I finalised the deal with one of the buyer and decided to meet later during the night to complete the transaction. Meanwhile, it was a race against time to backup all my data and reset the laptop to its original factory settings. I had around 3 hours to do all that before our agreed upon meeting time and place.

Ever since getting my laptop, I have been reflecting deeply behind the true motivations in clicking that buy button. Why did I click it? My Lenovo laptop was perfecting fine. I like that laptop quite a lot, especially the keyboard. The keyboard is a joy to type on, and no doubt one of the best keyboard available out there on a mobile device. So what compelled me to click on that buy button?

Impulse is definitely at play here. It was a snap decision. Rarely do I make large purchases without thinking through it carefully first. It will take me weeks, sometimes months to finally make my decision, going through carefully every pros and cons. This time however, I immediately bought it after the official announcement at WWDC. But then again, one can argue that I buy because I know that Mac products are top notch. You can’t go wrong when it comes to Apple products. Having owned and used the Mac Mini (my first foray into the Mac ecosystem) and then upgrading to the MacBook Air, it feels natural to finally be part of the big league and get for myself a MacBook Pro. My gut instincts told me that this is a great time to get a new one. Despite only a spec bump and a new generation of CPU, the overall design of the MacBook Pro, in my opinion, is already highly refined. And the machine does look extremely beautiful and elegant. I had no problem with the weight, as the design philosophy has been adopted from that of the MacBook Air. So it seemed natural to sacrifice just a little bit of weight for a rather large increase in overall computing power.

Another reason might be the fact that deep down, I miss the Mac. It has been a couple of years since I passed on my Macbook Air for my dad to use. Ever since then, I’ve never used that laptop any longer. Then I got myself a DIY gaming rig, which I love it to death till this day because it was built with my own two hands. I have no intention of upgrading that PC or getting a new one anytime soon and expect that PC to last a very long while. So as far as a desktop PC is concerned, I have it covered even though its a Windows based PC.

My Lenovo was bought on a budget, with the rationale that it would only be used for school. Ever since I started my Master’s Programme in NUS, that laptop has served me well. The laptop is just 7 months old when I decided to sell it off. Like I said it’s perfectly fine. It’s all plastic, which is again, fine, but now that I have the Macbook Pro, the design and build quality is miles apart. Holding the MacBook Pro in hand in hands and on my lap, reminded me once again at the level of care and attention to detail when designing their products. There is just something magical about their devices. It may not be the most powerful devices and it don’t come cheap, but you are well assured that its a quality product. That X-factor of art and technology coming together to create a product not just to use but to enjoy and experience. That is something you don’t encounter everyday with other tech gadgets and products.

Will I regret splashing two thousand dollars on a laptop on impulse? Probably not, since I know Mac products really well and they have never disappointed me so far. Will I enjoy this laptop for many years to come? Hell yeah.