How to park your car

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Yesterday night while I was backing up into a parking spot at city centre I felt that the car behind me was closer then usual. When I finished parking I went to investigate and that’s how this car was parked!

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Goodbye trees

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Yesterday night a truck unloaded a tractor into a tiny bit of green space that remained in front of my bedroom window. This morning the tractor pulled up all the trees to make way for what I assume to be a new building… I don’t get why don’t they take those trees and plant them somewhere else! Why do they need to destroy them! Instead of planting new trees in Lebanon to fight deforestation let them make laws that force construction companies to relocate the existing trees instead of savagely removing them!

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Skydiving in Lebanon – kind of

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One of the activities you cannot do in Lebanon is skydive. During the last two years a company managed to bring in a skydiving team and performed tandem jumps for a couple of days but the experience was expensive and I’m not sure of how good it was.

In order to skydive you have to travel abroad and that’s what I did on two occasions, once to Turkey and once to Dubai.

In my opinion everyone should skydive at least once! It’s an awesome experience and believe me when I say that it is not scary!

To skydive the weather has to be good and this is what makes traveling to skydive a little risky. Two of my friends had their jumps canceled at the last minute because of bad weather. So in order to maximize your chances of jumping try to do it as soon as you get to the country. This way if the weather turns out to be bad you’ll have the possibility of postponing the jump for another day.

I performed my first tandem jump in Ephesus, Turkey 2 years ago. I went skydiving with a friend, we payed around 1000$ per person. The price included the Beirut – Istanbul – Izmir 2 ways tickets, the hotel (3 days) and the jump. When I contacted the dropzone in Ephesus they asked me to contact Skyline Group in Lebanon, they took care of all the reservations for us so contact them if you’re interested.

Video sound muted by youtube

My second jump was in Dubai. That jump was SO much better in my opinion. The free-fall time was longer and overall it was a better experience. Skydiving in Dubai costs more but it is worth it. Contact Skydive Dubai if you want to skydive in Dubai.

Describing the experience is a little difficult to do and I won’t even try to do it, but I hope the videos above help you choose where you want to go to for skydiving. What’s certain is that those are not your only options, if you are traveling search for a dropzone in the country you are visiting and jump, You won’t regret it!

 

شربل يوقع اول عقد زواج مدني في لبنان

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Finally!!!! Mabrouk to all the Lebanese!

The Cheesecake Factory Lebanon opening in August

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cheesecake-factory-lebanonLast week I managed to meet one of the Cheesecake Factory’s future manager and asked him when will they finally open the first branch at City Centre. Apparently the restaurant will open in August. I asked if they knew when the other restaurants are going to open but they did not know. I’m currently waiting for two restaurants to open in City Centre, The Cheesecake Factory and Shake Shack, hopefully Shake Shack will open soon too! Check this post to see the full list of restaurants in City Centre.

Guy behind fake bomb detectors used in Lebanon jailed

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Everyone has seen the bomb detectors used at the entrances of the Hotels, Malls, Clubs in Lebanon. It’s been known for a long time that those devices do nothing, cost a fortune (around 40,000$), yet no one has moved to stop them and a lot of the “security” around here is based on them! Today the guy behind this device has been convicted of three counts of fraud so let’s hope we stop seeing those “bomb detectors” in Lebanon!

ICOO D70 Pro II review

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Usually you only find online reviews of tablets made by established and known companies. You read those reviews to decide which company deserves your hard earned money. A 500$ tablet is not always a good tablet as demonstrated by plenty of reviews, but could an 85$ one be good? To find out I decided to buy, test and review the D70Pro II from ICOO.

D70 Pro II review

The D70 Pro II is a 7-inch tablet running android 4.1.1 with access to the Google play store. The ICOO runs a clean version of Android with no custom launchers. It comes with a couple of additional apps, one for file browsing and another for watching videos.

Personally I own a MacBook Pro running Mountain Lion and Windows 7, a Toshiba Satellite that mainly acts as a home server running Windows 7, an iPad2 with iOS6, a Samsung Galaxy Nexus running the latest Jelly bean 4.2.2. So I don’t think I am biased towards any company and hopefully my first review will be a good one.

Hardware

The ICOO’s case is entirely made of plastic, that’s expected from an 85$ tablet. The plastic’s quality is not great but it’s not bad either. I chose to buy a white version of the tablet so the back of the case is white but the screen bezel remained black.

ICOO D70 Pro II case

The edges of the tablet are rounded making it comfortable to hold in one hand. While holding the tablet you can feel where the front of the case meets the back of it but that’s not very annoying, you can consider it a feature that helps you grip it more easily.

The tablet weights 297 grams, around 10 grams less then the 329$ iPad mini, it’s also smaller at 182*113mm. The iPad mini is thinner though at 7.2mm compared to the 13mm of the ICOO.

The bezels on the ICOO are 1cm wide on all 4 sides, which gives you enough space to comfortably hold it without having to place your hand on the screen.

The D70 Pro II has 3 physical buttons, a power/sleep-wake, a volume up and volume down buttons. All 3 buttons are located on the top right side of the tablet. Clicking the buttons feels a little like clicking buttons on a 1990s TV, they register the clicks quickly but you don’t get the same feel you get on more expensive gadgets.

The right side of the tablet (bottom if you’re holding it vertically) contains 3 ports, a micro USB one, a micro HDMI one and a 3.5mm headphone jack. A Micro SD card slot is also present on this side enabling you to expand the tablet’s storage by 32GB.

D70 Pro II ports

Strangely the tablet comes with just a USB cable that can be used to charge it or transfer data to it. You have to use your PC or another phone/tablet charger to charge it. If you have more then one device at home that’s not really an issue since you probably have a lot of chargers lying around but if you only own one device it can get pretty annoying.

The tablet only sports a front 0.3MP camera on the front at the left of the screen (horizontally). The speaker sits behind the camera and produces a very mediocre sound quality.

Display

Don’t expect to find a retina display on the tablet. The display has a 552*1024 resolution, this gives us a pixel density of 160ppi, which is not really bad for the screen size. In comparison the iPad 2 has a pixel density of 132ppi while the iPad mini is really close with a 163ppi density.

ICOO D70 Pro II vs iPad 2

But what makes the display the major problem in this tablet is that color reproduction in it is really bad, colors are really washed out in whatever brightness setting you choose (there’s only 2) and viewing angles are really narrow. You never feel like you can find an angle in whish all the colors are correctly reproduced so you always have to keep moving the tablet in order to view images and text on different areas of the screen. So don’t think you’ll be able to line up as many friends as you like to watch something on the tablet.

Performance and battery life

The ICOO D70 Pro II is running a dual-core 1.6GHz CPU with 1GB of RAM, AnTuTu Benchmark v3.3 gives out a 11494 score for the tablet.

benchmark antutu icoo d70 pro2

These numbers make the tablet a pretty fast one. Apps are up and running within a second and when it comes to general web surfing tasks the ICOO easily kept up with your taps and swipes. So, performance is good, but battery life is really bad! Charging the device takes a lot of time while emptying is really fast! During every day usage it lasts around 3 hours but watching something on it will empty the battery in 2 hours max. Standby time is around 24 hours. In addition to this the tablet has a weird battery saving technique, it just turns off the Wi-Fi when the screen is off so don’t expect it to beep when you get an email, instead expect to receive a 100 notification when you unlock it.

Camera

As mentioned earlier the ICOO has only one front 0.3MP camera that can be used for video chatting, the quality of this camera is really crappy as shown in the picture bellow.

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Accessories

No you won’t find a smart cover for the ICOO D7o Pro II. I don’t think you’ll be able to find any cover for it actually, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a few accessories you should buy for it. First thing to buy is a USB charger in case you don’t happen to have an extra one lying around. The second charging related accessory to buy in my opinion is a long USB cable (I got a 3 meters one). As you previously read, the battery life on this tablet is really bad so having a long cable will give you a little more freedom to move around while charging it. The ICOO D70 Pro II accepts micro SD cards so in case the 8GB of included space is not enough for you, get more storage space for it. The tablet can also use the micro USB port for expansion. If you need to plug a keyboard, 3G dongle or an external HDD to it, get a Micro 5pin to USB Female OTG Data Cable. Finally in case you want to mirror the tablet’s display on your TV get an HDMI mini to HDMI adaptor.

ipad 2 nokia lumi 920 iphone 4s icoo d70 pro

Wrap-up

The ICOO D70 Pro II is an interesting Tablet. It’s fast but has poor battery life; it allows you to play the newest games on android but on a low quality screen.

Should you buy it? Only if it will not be your only media consumption device. It’s OK for quickly checking emails or Facebook but it cannot be a laptop or even an iPad replacement. If you have kids it can be a great cheap first tablet for them and that’s the only scenario in which I would recommend the tablet. For other usages check out other 7inch tablets some of them cost 3 times as much but the battery will last you all day and you’ll be able to comfortably read books, watch videos or just surf the web using them.

Screen Shot 2013-04-21 at 3.46.35 PM

 

Weirdest news today

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So I was browsing Twitter now and this popped up “خير الدين : وحيد القرن لم يهاجم صحناوي”! WTF!? we’re used to weird news in Lebanon but that’s a first!

اوضح  وزير الدولة في حكومة تصريف الاعمال مروان خير الدين ما حصل مع وزير الاتصالات في حكومة تصريف الاعمال نقولا صحناوي بعد نشر خبر يفيد بانه اقدم على انقاذه من وحيد قرن في احدى غابات افريقيا .

ولم ينكر خير الدين انه كان في رحلة عائلية مع الوزير صحناوي وآخرين في افريقيا، مشيراً الى انه من محبي الصيد، وما حصل بحسب خير الدين ان الفريق الذي كان معه الوزير صحناوي قد صادف وحيدا للقرن لكنه لم ينقذه لانه اصلا لم يهاجمه.
واستغرب خير الدين في حديث تلفزيوني توقيت نشر الخبر ولو على سبيل المزاح يأتي في سياق تهميش انجازات صحناوي، خصوصاً وان الرحلة حصلت في فترة عيد الميلاد .

Drive a 7-Segment LED with an Arduino

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Last week I took a day off work and started experimenting with Arduino. Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform that enables anyone to create interactive objects. During the week I started doing basic stuff using simple components such as blinking LEDs and playing tunes with a buzzer, and yesterday I experimented with multiple LEDs. After that I wanted to try and do something with a 7-Segment LED display so I found this tutorial that enabled me to make the circuit and learn the code that should drive the display.

Unfortunately the provided code did not work and I had to modify a lot of parts to finally get the display to work. I had to invert the “HIGH” and “LOW” params in all the function calls and change the way the constants are defined in the beginning.

I can’t really explain to you why there is such a difference between my working code and the code provided in the article I based myself on since I’m still a beginner. I might be using a different display and a different version of the IDE. When I’m advanced enough to figure that out I’ll make sure to update the article. If you can explain the reason to me please do so in the comments.

Here’s the updated code, I also created an additional function that plays a little “snake” animation on the display. (more…)

List of stores and restaurants in City Centre Mall Lebanon

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I tried to look online for info about the stores in the new City Centre Mall in Lebanon but couldn’t find any list containing the stores that opened or that are about to open in it. So I decided to compile that list myself. If you see any mistake please let me know. (* = Opening soon)

Restaurants in City Centre Lebanon:

Dining – Cafes / Specialty foods

  • Brioche Dorée
  • La Maison du Café by Café Najjar
  • Castania Nut Boutique *
  • Dunkin Donuts
  • GNC *
  • Häagen Dazs
  • Lina’s
  • Moka & More *
  • Patchi
  • Pinkberry
  • Second Cup
  • Starbucks
  • Teavana *

Dining – Fast Food

  • Attila Mongolian Grill
  • Burger King
  • Chopsticks *
  • Cinnabon
  • Fat Burger
  • Food Style
  • Kabab-Ji
  • KFC
  • McDonald’s
  • Pappa Roti *
  • Pizzaro *
  • Saltwater
  • Steak & Cheese Factory
  • The Pizzeria *
  • Zaatar w Zeit
  • Zahar Al Roumen

Dining – Restaurants

  • Ana Ahwak by Abdel Wahab *
  • Crepaway *
  • GiGi *
  • Moka Lounge *
  • Nasma *
  • P.F. Changs *
  • Roadster Diner *
  • Scoozi *
  • Shake Shack *
  • Sushi Ko *
  • The Cheesecake Factory *

Stores in City Centre Lebanon:

Banks/Financial Services

  • Halawi Exchange

Books/Cards/Gifts

  • Hallmark *

Cosmetics/Perfumes

  • Abdul Samad Al Qurashi *
  • Bath & Body Works *
  • Body Shop
  • Clarins *
  • Faces
  • MAC
  • Make up 4 Ever
  • Parashop *
  • Victoria’s Secret Beauty Accessories

Department Store / Hypermarket

  • Carrefour
  • Centrepoint
  • Marks & Spencer *

Electronics / Home Appliances / Mobile Phones

  • Bose
  • I style
  • Samsung *
  • Stars Mobile

Entertainment / Music

  • Magic Planet
  • VOX Cinemas

Fashion – Children’s / Maternity

  • Baby Shop
  • Jacadi
  • Mama’s & Papa’s
  • Mothercare
  • Original Marines
  • Tape A L’oeil
  • Zahar Kids

Fashion – Ladies

  • Bebe *
  • Betty Barclay
  • Bomba and Lola *
  • Carlos Miele Jeans *
  • Clauda *
  • Coast *
  • Esprit
  • Dorothy Perkins *
  • Fornarina
  • Gerry Weber
  • Hoss Intiopia *
  • Jennyfer *
  • Jessica
  • Juicy Couture
  • K Lynn
  • Karem Millen *
  • List
  • Liu Jo
  • Max & CO
  • Miss Selfridge’s *
  • Persona *
  • Romance Intimi
  • Valege
  • Wallis
  • Warehouse
  • Zeki

Fashion – Men’s

  • Paul & Shark
  • Rectangle Jaune
  • State of Art

Fashion – Unisex

  • Aizone
  • American Eagle Outfitters *
  • Benetton
  • Brooks Brothers
  • Colin’s
  • Cotton On *
  • Desigual *
  • Diesel
  • DKNY
  • Express *
  • F & F *
  • Geddes and Gilmore *
  • Giordano
  • G-Star Raw
  • Guess
  • H&M
  • Jack Wills *
  • Jack & Jones
  • Lacoste
  • Lufian
  • Max Fashion
  • River Woods
  • Splash
  • Sport et Loisir
  • Springfield
  • Ted Baker
  • Tom Tailor
  • Tommy Hilfiger
  • Top Shop / Top Man
  • True Religion
  • US Polo ASSN *

Fashion Accessories / Handbags / Footwear

  • Agatha
  • Bata
  • Clarks *
  • Claire’s
  • Crocs
  • Five Fingers
  • Florsheim
  • Gioseppo *
  • GS Shoes
  • Guess Accessories
  • Kiplings *
  • Maria Pino *
  • Milano *
  • Pablosky
  • Payless shoes
  • Pieces
  • Primadonna
  • Shoe City
  • Skechers
  • Socks
  • Tanos *

Home Furnishings

  • Lifestyle
  • Pottery Barn Kids *
  • Villeroy and Boch
  • West Elm *

Jewellery / Watches

  • Atamian *
  • Citizen
  • Dalya *
  • Damas *
  • Frey Willie
  • Rossa Nero *
  • Moukarzel
  • Rovina
  • Romance Time
  • Swarovski
  • Zoughaib Jewelery *

Optical / Sunglasses

  • Beyond Optics *
  • Grand Optics *
  • Hallak Optics *
  • Magrabi *

Services / Speciality Stores / Kiosks

  • Bare Salon & Spa *
  • Beauty Express *
  • Kurban Travel / Avis

Sporting Goods

  • Adidas
  • Columbia
  • Foot Locker *
  • Nike & Converse

Toys / Children’s Interests

  • Early Learning Centre *
  • Joué Club
  • L’Atelier Art Lounge *
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