Ruten Japan offers free shipping to 13 countries

Sixty million Japanese products. Available in 13 countries outside Japan. Free shipping for orders above U$50. This is a no-brainer. If you’ve missed travelling to Japan, it’s time to head to Ruten Japan.

For the uninitiated, Ruten Japan is a leading online shopping platform in Japan. And the e-commerce site has just opened up to the rest of the world — 13 countries to be precise, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Indonesia, and New Zealand.

Ruten Japan carries a massive 60 million products, including most of the popular products that we buy from our Japan sojourns. Royce chocolates, Ishiya Confectionary white chocolate, coffee jelly — you name it and it’s likely to be there.

Better yet, a quick check on Royce’s potato chip chocolate showed a price of US$9.04 (S$12.36). This is an 18 percent savings from buying from Royce’s outlet in Singapore where a similar pack costs S$15.

And if you say “Wait, what about shipping cost?” Every order above US$50 comes with free shipping. Delivery is expected to be about seven working days later.

So, if you’ve been missing Japan and things Japanese dearly, you can do the next best thing — hop on to Ruten Japan and relive your memories.

Huawei MatePad T8: An entry level essential

This week has been filled with all the razzmatazz associated with Apple’s new iPads, which incidentally are really good devices for those who need them.

I own an iPad (the 2012 edition) and all that it has to offer. There hasn’t been a need to upgrade that since as I have other devices to play with (oops, I mean use). And this goes to show how good the iPad is.

When Google launched the Nexus 7, I happened to be in the US so I ordered one — just for kicks. OK, seriously, it was because I wanted to see what Android OS is about.

Since then, it has been many years of tablet silence — that is, until this month.

And no, I did not go for them new iPads. Instead, I was drawn to a new low-cost Huawei tablet. Huawei was busy making announcements on smartwatches, headsets and notebook computers this September. What stood out (for me at least) among all these was the Huawei MatePad T8.

More to the point is that I felt that the S$198 price point makes it worthwhile to satiate my desire to try out Huawei’s ecosystem with Google pulling the plug on the China tech giant.

The 9/9 offer sweetened an already good price as the package comes with a cover and Huawei bluetooth speaker worth a combined value of S$86.

Surprisingly, my order from Lazada Singapore (where Huawei’s official store resides) arrived in two days — even though the expected delivery was a week later. Talk about under promising and over delivering.

Setting up was easy. Everything was in English. And at first glance, it looks just like any Android tablet — the device runs on EMUI 10 which is based on Google’s OS.

After using if for a week, let me share my experience:

  1. AppGallery is limited. While it is said to have 96,000 apps, many of those I need were not there. Other than Telegram, there weren’t Facebook, WhatsApp and the entire range of Google apps. Credit must be given to Huawei for recognising this and providing a workaround. Under the built-in Petal Search, I could find most of the apps I wanted — Facebook, Messenger and Netflix. If the app is not there, there are alternatives. For instance, while Google Maps is not available, there’s a Tom Tom GPS app, which is pretty good. Also in AppGallery are many Singapore apps such as banking, food delivery, government, and online shopping.
  2. No home button. The on-off and volume buttons are the only ones available. Huawei has kept design simple without a home button. I’ve learnt to get used to just swiping up, down, left, and right to do what I need to do. It’s not difficult — just a bit of learning and getting used to.
  3. Face and password unlock. Where this device scores is that it comes with a decent face unlock for security. In poor lighting condition, it’s accessible using a six-digit password.
  4. Good battery life. This is a good device to bring around for an entire day. The battery seems to go on forever. OK, that’s just an expression. I got around 12 hours of usage before rejuicing.
  5. Enough grunt. The octacore Mediatek MT8768 is nothing to shout about but delivers enough performance for work and watching video. The 2GB of RAM and 32GB of memory are unlikely to be able to handle graphics intensive games but that’s really because this tablet is not built or priced for gaming. And there’s a card slot for bumping up memory using microSDXC.
  6. Connectivity counts. Surprisingly, the MediaPad T8 comes with LTE connection on top of wi-fi and bluetooth. This matters lots to me because I can pair it with our family’s Xiaomi MiJia Youth Projector to cast movies on our 100-inch screen. The resolution’s not that great but it’s watchable for most.
  7. 3.5mm jack delight. While wireless earbuds are the in-thing, nothing beats having a 3.5mm jack to plug in a wired headset or external speaker.

Overall, I enjoyed using the tablet and experiencing the Huawei ecosystem. On a personal note, I love it that the tablet and cover both come in blue — one of my favourite colours.

While iOS and Android may be more established, Huawei can become a strong competitor with its own HarmonyOS and ecosytem of partners. It is certainly working hard at winning customers outside of China. This message in the photo above probably answers questions on privacy — the security issue that the US has been trying so hard to raise.

At its price point, the Huawei MediaPad T8 is great value for money and can handle essential tasks well. But, if you’re into gaming and doing stuff that demands more performance from your tablet, look elsewhere.

Verdict

Price: 👍👍👍👍👍

Performance: 👍👍👍

Overall: 👍👍👍👍

Do you need a new iPad?

By Edward Lim

Apple unveiled two new iPads early this morning — the 8th generation iPad and 4th generation iPad Air. If that has gotten you excited, it’s understandable because the specifications and features are amazing.

Just take the new iPad Air. It has impressive credentials. A secured touch screen with 10.9-inch liquid retina display. A powerful A14 Bionic chip that can capture and edit 4K video. An array of colours to choose from. And who could not be attracted to the 2nd generation Apple Pencil?

Of course, it packs much more than these but let’s focus on these for now.

Are these good enough reasons to dunk your current device for this newbie? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not putting down the new offerings.

I’ve owned the first and third generation iPads and am proud of Apple for their innovations. In fact, it’s because of the reliability of Apple’s products that I’m still using the third generation iPad bought in 2012 today. It does everything I need it for. Whatever it cannot do, I will use my notebook or smartphone.

7 reasons not to get

Here are seven reasons why I won’t be getting a new iPad.

  1. My current device is still working fine. It’s a testament of Apple’s quality.
  2. I can still do what I need with my well-used iPad.
  3. I don’t play games that require graphics grunt.
  4. I don’t need a more powerful device — the old chip is fast enough for what I need to do.
  5. I don’t need an iPad in another colour — I can always buy a cover of any other colour. Admittedly, it’s harder to find these today but not impossible.
  6. The display is good and bright enough for me.
  7. I don’t shoot and edit 4K videos on my iPad.

I can think of many more reasons but these seven are good enough to convince me not to part with my cash to get more dash.

And 7 reasons to lay hold of a new one

To be fair, I will also provide seven reasons why you should consider getting one.

  1. If you’ve not owned an iPad, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s the original tablet and leader of the tablet pack.
  2. If you intend to make the iPad your primary device. Gone are the days when the iPad has to play second fiddle to the notebook computer. I know of people who use just the iPad for work and play.
  3. It can handle tons of stuff.  The new chip is powerful enough for Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoship CC and even games that require graphics grunt.
  4. The Apple Pencil is a game changer. If you’re the creative sort, it’s all you need to bring around with you on your sojourns.
  5. Weighing just 458 grammes for the wi-fi version, it is light and thin — plus points for bringing around anywhere.
  6. If you’re into shooting 4K video, this is it — you can even edit your videos on this device.
  7. If you’re an Apple ecosystem fan, this is a must-have to complete your collection. Everything works seamlessly across the Apple products.

So, whether to buy or not really depends on your needs. I don’t need a new version at the moment but your needs may differ from mine.

The light giant

Look at the massive cake

There are pandan cakes. And great pandan cakes. Like everything else, not all pandan cakes taste alike though the ingredients are similar for most.

As someone who has tried baking pandan in my teens, I know that while the recipe seems simple, getting it right is not so easy. After several attempts, I decided that it’s better to buy than bake — eating a good cake makes the calories more worthwhile.

At a recent celebration, I was intrigued by a huge chiffon cake. One bite and I was sold.

So, I had to find out more about it and order it for my family to try.

Turns out it’s called The Giant Chiffon and home-baked by Mama Soh.

According to the website, they “work with local suppliers to source the freshest and most authentic ingredients, and use old-fashioned techniques to ensure the highest quality. The ingredients we use in all our cakes are 100% natural, with no preservatives, no chemical.”

“Our goal is to make your tastebuds happy and your belly dance,” it read.

I like that. I’m no belly dancer but it

We ordered one only — the cake costs S$35 plus $13 for delivery — but couldn’t wait so went to pick it up ourselves.

Here’s what I like about the cake:

  1. Light and fluffy — Getting the cake baked right takes lots of know-how. If not baked properly, pandan cakes can turn out dense or have the bottom denser than the rest of the cake. This cake is just right.
  2. Pinchable — I love it that the cake can be pinched without being squashed.
  3. Rich taste — My tastebuds were certainly happy.
  4. Lovely smell and colour — What’s a pandan chiffon cake without pandan, right? The smell is just nice, without being too overwhelming. And the colour is the right shade of green — neither too light nor dark.
  5. Lasting — Since it doesn’t use preservatives, the cake is best eaten fast. But with its ginormous size, it does require quite an appetitie even for my family of four plus helper to finish it at one or two gos. Even after a few days in the fridge, it still tasted just as good.

At S$35 per cake, it is pricey compared with others in the market. But with all that goodness and the sheer size, this cake is really worth every cent.

Overall, I give this my double thumbs up (top rating). You can order it from The Giant Chiffon to check this out yourself.

Drive hunger away on World Food Day

For a food secure nation like Singapore, it’s hard to imagine that there are people who wonder when their next meal will be. In fact, one in 10 in the island-nation faces food insecurity challenges.

Armed with passion and guts, The Food Bank Singapore (FBSG) has made it its mission to eradicate food insecurity in Singapore.

From October 16 to 18, FBSG is targeting to receive 100 tonnes of food donations for 360 beneficiary organisations that feed more than 300,000 individuals.

It is rallying car owners and clubs to “Drive Hunger Away” by donating, collecting and delivering food items to FBSG on those three days.

“With many unable to work and some losing their jobs during this season, the observance of World Food Day is of extra significance this year as we raise awareness on prevalent hunger issues in Singapore and ensure that vulnerable individuals and families do not go hungry,” said Nichol Ng, Co-founder of FBSG.

Other than staples and non-perishable food items such as rice, oil and preserved food, FBSG is looking for donations of healthier food items such as canned protein, whole wheat products and bread spreads.

Members of the public can make their donations at collection points in malls and Shell petrol kiosks across the island, where cars will collect from and deliver the food items to FBSG.

Among the car clubs that are supporting this initiative are Breakfast Drive by Assure Group Insurance, Eagles Car Club, Jeep Owners Club Singapore, Outlander Passion Club (Mitsubishi), and Tridente Automobili (Maserati).

If you’d like to do your part in tackling food insecurity, contact Margarita Seah at margarita@foodbank.sg by September 30, 2020.

Countering facial recognition

Source: Sand Lab

If you’re reading this, you are probably using social media as well. One of the biggest worry about social media is the loss of privacy. Every photo that you post of yourself and your loved ones are processed by artificial intelligence (AI) tools that enable facial recognition. In case you’re never wondered why, this is what lets Facebook suggest names to tag when you upload a photo.

Facial recognition works by establishing invisible relationships among the pixels that make up a computer-generated picture of a face. It then compares it with other photos available online to look for matching ones.

This makes tagging photos in Facebook or looking for photos in Google Photos convenient and easy. However, it may also be used by others — organisations and individuals — to do likewise, venturing into the domain of personal privacy.

The good news is that researchers at the University of Chicago have developed an algorithm that counters that. Named “Fawkes“, it alters your photos slightly to deceive the facial recognition software.

Fawkes uses a process called image cloaking to make tiny, pixel-level changes that make it difficult for facial recognition software to connect your photo to other images.

Altered images look the same visually but the subtle change fools facial recognition software, protecting your privacy in the process.

Caveat. I’ve not tried it myself but if you’re keen to check it out, download the free algorithm (for Mac and Windows) at http://sandlab.cs.uchicago.edu/fawkes/#code.

Discover your fashion style

If you’ve been wondering where you can get that jacket that the actress wore, look no further because help is at hand. Check out StyleCrush, which has just been rolled out in Singapore.

StyleCrush is a style discovery platform that uses AI technology to let you find clothes and fashion items, including shoes and bags, that caught your attention.

All you need to do is to upload an image or paste a link of the item that you’re looking for and the AI system will connect you to the relevant shopping malls where you can purchase the products conveniently.

You can also create a wish list of the fashion products discovered through the search and place them in an album. It’s like a curation of your tastes where you can come back to and browse at a later date.

The platform is developed by Korea’s Odd Concepts, which is collaborating with Suggesty and Sta1 of Korea, and Qoo10 of Singapore to provide you with a wide variety of fashion styles.

Suggesty is an online mall selling AI-curated Korean designer brands internationally and will share its database and apparels with StyleCrush. Sta1 has more than one million products from over 6,000 brands.

Odd Concepts will work with more fashion and apparel e-commerce partners in Singapore and ASEAN countries to provide consumers with access to a greater variety of fashion styles.

Do check out StyleCrush the next time a fashion item catches your eye.

Samsung T5: No more storage woes

Light and lightning fast

Digital storage is so important in today’s world. With digitisation and digitalisation, many things are now stored in soft copy — from data and documents to photos and videos.

When my WD portable hard disk drive (HDD) started acting wonky last year, my heart began working overtime. My work, life and family stuff were all stored in that drive. Thankfully, my notebook computer had another set of the contents. Otherwise, I would have been in some hospital’s emergency ward.

Having survived the ordeal, I decided not to take any chance and began scouting for an alternative portable HDD. My search ended with the Samsung Portable SSD T5 (1TB), which I managed to buy from http://www.qoo10.sg. At S$169, it was a bargain that I could not pass up.

Guess what? After ordering the SSD, I managed to revive and reformat my old WD HDD and reload my data.

The new purchase has been in my drawer since September 2019. It was only when my daughter needed a storage device to transfer data to her new notebook that it saw the light of day. My daughter was highly impressed with its speed and portability so I simply had to check it out myself.

Here are five reasons why my storage woes are no more:

  1. Small and light. It’s so compact — smaller than a business card and weighing just 51 grammes. With a thickness of a fraction over one cm, it is a lightweight wonder that can be easily handled and brought around.
  2. Lightning fast. Actually, I don’t know how fast a lightning is but the Samsung Portable SSD T5 transfers at up to 540MB/s, nearly five times faster than most portable hard disk drives. My 17GB Outlook file took under a minute to copy. As a matter of reference, it used to take more than 10 minutes with my old portable HDD.
  3. Very safe. With no moving parts, the aluminum-clad SSD offers peace of mind. I’m safe in teh knowledge that it can handle up to drops from two metres.
  4. Lovely colours. My 1TB version comes in bronze colour while the 250GB and 500GB models are said to have an alluring blue body.
  5. Easy connectivity. The box packs two cables — USB C to USB C cable and USB C to USB A cable — so the T5 can connect to a wide range of devices.

In conclusion, I think the Samsung Portable SSD T5 is nifty storage device that fits lots of lifestyle — whether it’s for work, travel, photography, or as a video library. The price can vary quite a bit (it currently lists for S$100 more than what I paid for) depending on when you buy and where you buy from. My suggestion is to keep a lookout for good deals during shopping seasons, which these days, feel like every other week.

Rating: 4/5

Cool respite for hot days

Cool respite for hot days
The P9S was listed as a Xiaomi cordless remote control foldable stand fan

Think of portable fans and what comes to mind? Those that you can hold in your hands? Cute but not entirely functional? I’ve been blessed to have one of such portable fans which can be held in the hand or placed on a stand, is cute and very functional. It’s the So-love N-9 which I love so much but is now used by one of my daughters.

When a friend posted on Facebook that he had bought a portable fan that can be extended to one-metre tall, I was intrigued.

A quick check online saw the fan listed as a Xiaomi cordless remote control foldable stand fan. There’s no Xiaomi branding on it but I guess it could be because it probably looks like something from the China lifestyle device maker.

I read the specs, reviews and price and decided to give it a shot. At S$36.90 (without delivery), I figured it was a low risk bet.

The recessed area at the front is great for putting a smartphone or a pair of spectacles.

The Qoo10 order arrived the next day and I could see why it was described as a Xiaomi brand. With its all-white body, the fan looks like most Xiaomi devices.

Setting up was easy. No manual was needed. It’s just a case of plug and play. The P9S is about the size of a short stack of dessert plates.

It unfolds easily and can sit nicely on the table or be extended to stand unobstrusively on the floor.

Standing tall

Here are seven reasons why I really like this portable standing fan:

  1. Practical. With its ability to extend from 41 to 106cm, the fan is so versatile and can be used anywhere in the house or outside. The fan head can be tilted up to 180 degrees.
  2. Portable. It really lives up to its name. The P9S is so portable that it can fit in a backpack and be brought around and used anywhere.
  3. Powerful. In most cases, portability comes with a price. The smaller the device, the less powerful it is. But this fan has the right balance of portability and power. It comes with four fan speeds — soft wind, cool wind, strong wind, and natural wind. Admittedly, the fan can be a tad noisy at its most powerful setting.
  4. Painless. If moving to the fan to adjust settings is a pain, the P9S provides the perfect anesthestic. The bluetooth remote control lets the fan be controlled from up to five metres away.
  5. Precise. A timer lets you set the duration you want the fan to be on.
  6. Protective. The fan will deactivate when an object jams the blades, ensuring that no one gets hurt from any accidental poking at the blades.
  7. Priced right. At S$36.90, the fan is a little pricey when compared with hand-held models but it is better compared with desk and standing fans.

Charging is via a USB-C. It takes about 5.5 hours to be fully charged but can last up to a day of use depending on fan speed.

Easy to clean

Perhaps the clincher for me is the ease of cleaning. Just twist the cover and unscrew the fan blade cap and the parts can be easily washed.

The price varies depending on where you order from. From my research, I won’t pay anything above S$40 inclusive of shipping.

After using it for three weeks, I’d recommend it to anyone needing some cool respite for hot and humid days.

Rating: 4/5

MOFT X: A must-have smartphone stand if you can get it

The Moft X phone stand is a great product.

Smartphone stands come and go. Over the years, I’ve used so many different phone stands that I have lost count. One reason for the constant change is the evolution of smartphones — with each generation comes a new size that renders the previous generation’s mobile stand obsolete.

Hence, I was intrigued when I heard about the version that MOFT (Mobile Office for Travellers) has on Kickstarter. To put into context, this was in the second half of last year, when I was travelling a bit.

On flights, especially budget airlines where there is little or no in-flight entertainment, I would usually watch movies on my smartphone. This can be a tiring task if held on the hand. Imagine holding a smartphone (no matter how light) at a steady distance for more than an hour. The alternative is to put it on the tray table in front. Unfortunately, no matter what I use to prop the phone to the right angle, it just slides down after a while.

So, back to MOFT X phone stand. I read the specs:

  • Can be placed in 40 degrees landscape and 60 degrees portrait modes
  • Fits three cards in a back slot
  • Just 0.5cm thin
  • Comes with a magnetic car mount

These were enough for me to provide my credit card details for two in September. The stands arrived two months later, which was OK considering that it was a Kickstarter project.

Love at first sight
It was love at first sight. It was everything I had imagined it to be. Not only me, but my family loved it!

I’ve bought tons of products in the past. Many come with interesting designs and highly touted features but when put to use, are quite impractical, such as a travel jacket (also bought from Kickstarter).

My latest order with new colours now available.

Epitome of practicality
But this MOFT X phone stand is the epitome of practicality. Let me share just six reasons:

  1. Lightweight. It’s so light that it doesn’t add much weight to my smartphone (I’m using a Google Pixel 3). That’s very important because I prefer my smartphone and its coverings to be light — that’s why I picked the Google 3 and not the Google 3XL.
  2. Stickability. The sticker clings tightly to my smartphone backing and can be detached and resused.
  3. Mountablity. Another perpetual pain is finding the right car mount. The original order of the MOFT X phone stand came with a car mount magnet that can be stuck on the dashboard. It is unostrusive and really strong — the magnet holds very well. This magnet must now be ordered separately.
  4. Versatility. With the MOFT X, the smartphone can be viewed at 40 degress landscape (good for watching videos) or 60 degrees portrait (great for putting on the table). The portrait mode is excellent for meetings as it offers greater privacy by letting you point the phone to yourself so others cannot see your screen, unlike when a phone is placed flat with screen up on the table during meetings.
  5. Convenient. The slot fits three ID/credit cards or a small stack of name cards comfortably.
  6. Security. The RFID protection at the back ensures that the cards are well protected against skimming.

One reason why I delayed writing a review of the MOFT X phone stand is because I wanted to assess its durability.

After three months of normal use, it showed signs of wear and tear. The folds became flimsy and the edges started flaring. And it’s not just mine but my family members’ as well. All of us use it differently but the results are the same after a while.

Another pain point is the delivery. As I really loved the product, I have made three subsequent orders, the latter two of which gave me great pain.

On both occasions, the tracking notification came quickly after order. However, the elation was short lived as the packages were stuck somewhere in China — once because of the magnetic mount and the second time because of COVID-19.

The customer service is responsive — at first at least. Typical early reply is to wait another week for signs of progress before getting back to them. That’s BAD customer service. They should have tracked the package themselves and get back to the customer, instead of the other way around. And if nothing happens after a week, the standard reply is used again — please wait another week (Grrr…)

On both occasions, the oders arrived after lots of chasing and about a month plus after the initial chaser.

Other that the durability and the delivery pains, the MOFT X phone stand is a must-have. MOFT has a well-designed product on its hands. It just needs to get the material and customer service right.