Netherlands Travel Guide, Tulip Country

September 19, 2016 by

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The Netherlands, formally known as tulip country, or the flat country, is a beautiful travelling destination in the European Union, with a population of 18.1 million and a land surface of 41,528 square kilometers.

Metrics aside, the Netherlands boasts its colorful and vivid tulip fields, its peculiar canals, one of the most revered coast lines in the world and in Northern Europe together with its sophisticated and cosmopolite cities.

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If you’re an art and culture buff, the Netherlands will feel like home, as you’ll be able to discover and explore the birth place of Rembrandt, Vincent Van Gogh, Mondrian and many, many other big names.

The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy, having a king for the head of state, and that goes back hundreds of years ago. The consequence is that many of its big cities are dominated and enriched by majestic palaces, the likes of Amsterdam, the main city and Hague, the capital city.

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Amsterdam is veritable mecca for youngsters from all over the world, being a very romantic city, very well known for its ubiquitous bikes, the step gabled houses, the luring red light district and “purple haze” coffee shops, where you can sample forbidden (in other parts of the world) pleasures.

Also, Amsterdam is bisected by a mind boggling network of waterways, of which many are spanned by awesome latticed bridges.

In the south part of the Netherlands you’ll find Rotterdam, a historic port city now heavy industrialized, where you can also enjoy two fundamentally opposite things: some of the best museums in the country and the city’s recently discovered affinity for hip hop.

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Grand Hotel de l’Empereur – Maastricht

In Maastricht, together with the resented Limbourg region you’ll find which is called by many as being arguably the best bookshop in the world, and I am referring to the Selexyz Dominicanen. The city itself has that sort of delicate beauty and it’s filled with churches and also traversed by a mighty river.

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The coast of Netherlands can be described as featuring the almost stereotypical Dutch landscape, i.e. endless fields of tulips dotted with windmills and dairy farms which are the engine for the country’s world renowned wheels of cheese. The Dutch countryside is abundant in charming little villages and towns, the likes of Haarlem, Edam (here you can find a kick-ass cheese, Edam cheese that is) or Leiden, which are basically unchanged since the medieval period.

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Zeeland is called by the locals the Caribbean of the Netherlands, a 400 miles stretch of beautiful sandy beaches, being the shiniest part of the country obviously and the favorite choice for the locals to spend their summer vacation. If the weather is not so great, you can always go cycling or explore the local museums. It’s a win-win situation.

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But the most interesting place to visit while in the Netherlands is definitely Amsterdam, the country’s emblematic capital which oozes with culture, romance and kicks. You can take your best half in a candle lit boat cruise along the city’s wonderful canals, and if you have a vivid imagination, you can think you’re in Venice, as you pass by the narrow fronted buildings along the canal, which date way back from the city’s glorious moments when it was the world’s trading centre. Also, Amsterdam is the place to be if you want to admire the original painting of the famous Dutch masters which are available at Rijksmuseum.

Amsterdam Arena is home for Ajax Amsterdam, the famous football team and while in Amsterdam, maybe you can enjoy a football game here or at SV’s Philips Stadion in Eindhoven, or, why not, even at De Kuip, in Rotterdam. Football is the national sport in the Netherlands, together with biking and eating all sorts of cheeses.

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And speaking of cheese, don’t forget to enjoy the awesome spectacle of Holland’s cheese markets. The best ones are in the town of Edam and Waagplein, in Alkamaar.

As per Visa requirements, don’t worry, the Netherlands is a member of the European Union and it also signed the Schengen treaty. Getting a Visa for Holland is easy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, Best Bang for the Buck!

September 19, 2016 by

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The Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 is that kind of a device which sets the benchmark in the best bang for the buck category. Basically, to describe it in just a few words, this droids comes with lots of features and incredible performance way above the price asked.

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 is the proud successor of last year’s Redmi Note 3. The latter was powered by a Mediatek Helio X10 system on chip and, just a few months after its initial launching, a special edition was revealed, featuring a Qualcomm Snapdragon architecture. Well, this baby broke all the records in terms of sales figures in India, which is arguably the largest emerging market in the world, China aside (the home-turf for the company).

This is the device we’re reviewing today, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 Snapdragon edition, which even if it was launched a few months ago, it should be on your radar if you’re looking for dirt-cheap performance sans a celebrity tag on your smartphone. I mean, this is not an iPhone nor a Galaxy S X, but if you’re looking for true performance and buckets of features without having to put a second mortgage on your home, keep reading.

Besides the improved chipset, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 features a new camera sensor, with a 16 MP resolution. Despite the fact that it’s limited to full HD recording, 1080p, that’s not a drawback in my view, because 4k videos are immense and there are relatively few TVs and laptops to offer that native resolution. And watching 4k videos on a smartphone display is kind of pushing it, right?

Another difference or upgrade, however you want to call it is that the Snapdragon version of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 has a second SIM card-tray which can also be used as an expansion port, i.e. it supports micro SD cards.

Now, let’s takea closer look at Xiaomi Redmi Note 3’s key features and specs, shall we?

To begin with, this droid features a beautiful aluminum unibody design and it has the exact same dimensions of the original Mediatek-powered Redmi Note 3, i.e. 150 x 75 x 8.7 millimeters and it weighs 164 grams. The finish and fit are quite good as the smartphones feels durable and well built. For a mid ranged device, a metal clad unibody design is always cool to have, especially given the asking price of the Redmi Note 3, no complaints in this department.

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The front panels is covered in a sheath of black glass, protecting the 5.5 inches wide display, a LCD IPS Full HD/1080p variety, with 401 pixels per inch density. Thing is, we don’t have any kind of intel about what type of glass was used, if it’s scratch resistant or any other information whatsoever.

One of the coolest things about this baby is the beefy 4000 mAh power plant, which is not removable by user but I doubt it will be an issue with this smartphone. Given the humongous capacity of the battery, the Redmi Note 3 boasts an impressive 93 hours of endurance rating, which should please the pickiest user.

As the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 chipset, connectivity is top notch, including LTE, tri band GSM, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the whole nine yards.

The user interface is provided by Xiaomi’s Global MIUI 8 beta, on top of Android 5.1 Lollipop, but unlike other custom made UIs, this one really improves overall performance. And speaking about performance, the QSD 650 system on chip really get the job done with flying colors, being a hexa core architecture which consists of 4x 1.4 GHz Cortex A 53 CPUs and 2x 1.8 GHz Cortex A 72 ones, together with an Adreno 510 GPU for handling the demanding graphic applications.

There are 2 models to choose from: a 16 GB of native storage which comes with 2 GB of ram and a 32 GB variety with 3 GB of RAM. I would advise you to go for the latter.

The camera in the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 was upgraded and now it comes with a 16 MP sensor, phase detection, an f/2.0 aperture lens and a 2 tone dual LED flash. The performance and the quality are very good considering the price tag and the interface is very simple.

Bottom line, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 offers great value for day to day users looking for a very capable yet relatively cheap mid-ranged droid, offering good specs, top notch build quality, a decent display, excellent battery life and above average performance at a competitive price tag.

 

 

 

Belgium Travel Guide,The Heart of the European Union

September 18, 2016 by

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Belgium was regarded back in the day, and maybe still is, who knows, as a relatively boring country, and that’s what today’s article will try to remedy. Truth be told, Belgium is a really interesting place, a melting pot of cultures and traditions and it makes for one of the most underrated traveling destinations in the European Union.

If you’re a first time visitor and a city slicker, you may very well begin your “spiritual” (pun intended) journey in Belgium trying the country’s best of features, the likes of beer, moules frites and chocolate, but while Belgium is a place where you can drink and eat well, there are many other things to sample.

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If you want to see a movie which will make you want to jump into a plane and visit Belgium ASAP, just watch In Bruges, you’ll thank me later. Bruges is an awesome medieval city in Belgium but it’s not the only one. Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels alike (the country’s capital, the European Union and NATO headquarters) are some of the most interesting cities in the world, boasting their stunning architecture and their rich culture and history, including a glorious military legacy which covers the last 300 years easily, ranging from Waterloo, the place where Napoleon was taught a lesson by Nelson to War World 2.

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One of the biggest advantages of visiting Belgium is the fact that the country is compact, with an excellent infrastructure which makes it very easy to travel around. Also, in Belgium you’ll be able to visit sixty UNESCO world-heritage sites, and that’s reason enough to pay a visit here, don’t you think?

Belgium is divided into three main regions, which are very different being almost separate countries, as it follows: Flanders in the north, where the predominant language is dutch, Wallonia in the south, where french is lingua franca, and then the Brussels region, which is a veritable tower of Babel. If you’re thinking about a multicultural city, it doesn’t get any better than Brussels, believe me folks. I am not saying that’s a good thing necessarily and I would advise you to stay away from the Muslim quarters, the likes of Molenbeek.

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Thing is, Belgium is a country that’s pretty much split down its linguistic lines and even true-blue Belgians will tell you after a couple of beers that they don’t regard Belgium as a homeland per-se, as Belgium is more or less an artificial construct (as in an artificial country).

However, in many ways that’s what gives Belgium a special flavor and makes it really unique, at least in this writer’s opinion.

Flanders is the place to visit if you’re a culture buff, a place which is incredibly rich in medieval architecture and museums, with a countryside which boasts its white washed hamlets and countless miles of cycling paths.

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On the North Sea coastline you’ll have the experience of a life time if you’re an adrenaline junkie, the likes of kite surfing or land boarding. If you want a slower place, you may try Wallonia, a region with towns boasting their elegant French heritage and steeped in folklore, making for the perfect jumping off points if you’re into exploring the rolling hills of the Ardennes, which also is imbibed in World War 2 history, being a place where major battles took place.

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Both halves of Belgium are abundant in extremely beautiful landscapes and a warm and friendly populace. But by far, Brussels is the place to visit, a city making for an unique melange of art nouveau architecture and state of the art sky scrapers, flea markets and art galleries, not to mention local chip stands and Michelin starred resorts and restaurants.

Brussels is composed of nineteen communes, all of them very different and interesting in their own way, with different personalities, but just get there and Belgians will do the rest.

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Huawei P9 Plus Review, Nec plus Ultra

September 18, 2016 by

 

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The Huawei 9 Plus, though as now widely known as its regular P9 sibling is aimed at consumers looking for the best of the best. Basically, the Huawei 9 Plus is the higher-end P9, featuring a bigger AMOLED display , more memory and a beefier battery, together with the cool Press Touch gizmo (a pressure sensitive technology) for appealing to power users.

The idea behind this baby is that if you want bigger, better, faster, more, the Chinese tech giant is here to deliver it.

Together with high end tech specs, the Huawei 9 Plus is built with the same (almost maniacal) attention to detail as the regular P9, featuring a wonderful unibody design and a full metal jacket built. Under the hood, you’ll find the same in-house made Kirin 955 system on chip as in the P9, with 4 GB of RAM and a standard 64 GB of native storage capacity.

Also, the Leica camera technology is still there, as the Huawei 9 Plus features dual twelve MP sensors on the rear panel, but the auto focus and lens aperture were upgraded.

Now, moving along with the review, the Huawei 9 Plus is not significantly larger physically speaking than its sibling, having just a 0.3” of extra screen  which made the chassis to be bumped in terms of width by 4 millimeters and in height with 7 millimeters. The Huawei 9 Plus comes with an incredibly low profile, being only 7 millimeters thin, but the bigger screen real estate and the bumped up battery added some 18 grams of extra weight, which is very ok as the phone stands at 162 grams.

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As per design and build quality, the Huawei 9 Plus really shines, being a beautiful piece of hardware from any angle. Truth be told, Huawei did a masterful job with this baby, the smartphone feels and looks as premium as they get, being comparable to any modern-day flagship. That’s a great achievement for the Chinese tech giant, as they managed to make huge progresses in just a few years and, most importantly, they managed to keep the prices way down low compared to the likes of Sony, a company that already suffers from its Chinese competitors.

The bigger 5.5 inches wide display in the Huawei 9 Plus switches from the P9’s IPS LCD to AMOLED technology and that’s awesome, featuring a full HD 1080p resolution and 401 pixels per inch density, being a Samsung made variety and just as good as any Galaxy display I’ve put my hands on.

In terms of accuracy and colors, things went from good to excellent in the Huawei 9 Plus vs the regular P9. The battery is a juicy 3400 mAh power plant, sealed unfortunately, which supports rapid charging and it manages to score a 69 hours of endurance rating, which is pretty good. As per connectivity options, this smartphone comes well equipped, featuring dual-band 2.4/5.0GHz Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, LTE, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS, Glonass, a 3.5 mm jack and all the bells and whistles you would expect in a modern flagship, sans an FM radio though.

The Huawei 9 Plus runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box, with Huawei’s Emotion 4.1 user interface on top, while the finger print sensor is always on, lightning fast and one of the most secure on the market, due to its Level 4 3D detection technology.

Performance wise, the droid runs on Huawei’s own Kirin 955 system on chip, which consists of 8 Cortex A72 CPUs clocked at 2.5 GHz max, running alongside a Mali T880 GPU and 4 GB of RAM. If you want to get an idea about the Huawei 9 Plus’s performance, after synthetic benchmarks it proved to be just as good as a Galaxy S7 Edge built on an Exynos SoC.

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In the multi-media department, the Huawei 9 Plus comes with a dual camera setup, 2 x 12 MP snappers, featuring Leica technology, which offers almost flagship-grade quality for stills and 1080p video recording capability.

Bottom line, if you want a decently priced premium droid, with an excellent screen, a great camera, awesome design and build quality, stellar CPU performance and an overall impressive experience, the Huawei 9 Plus is definitely worth a shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norway Travel Guide, Fjord Country

September 17, 2016 by

Norway is a beautiful little country located in Northern Europe with a population of just 5.2 million people and a natural beauty which can’t be overstated. Also known as fjord country, Norway is a wondrous place to travel, due to its crystalline fjords, its precipitous glaciers and the unspoiled wilderness of its Northern territories, where the Sun never sleeps during the summer season.

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If you’ll be visiting Norway in the winter, you’ll be able to stand in awe admiring the magnificent Northern Lights which light up the sky in an eerie way.The south of the country is home to picturesque cities, the likes of Trondheim, Oslo and Bergen, which are boasting their new-age buildings and vivid night life, being as cosmopolitan as they get.

Oslo is Norway’s financial center and the country’s capital, while Bergen is “the second best” sort to speak, being an old school and very picturesque former trading port, also a true gateway for tourists looking to pay a visit to Fjordland. Norway is a rich oil exporting country and Stavanger is the quintessential “oil city”, the focal point of the country’s oil industry. Trondheim is Norway’s former capital and an established pilgrimage destination for Christians, and more recently a high-tech research centre, something like Palo Alto in California if you know what I mean.

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Trondheim is world renowned for its shimmering harbor and the vividly painted wooden warehouses, which are actually on UNESCO’s list, though the weather in Trondheim is rather bleak for the most part of the year. Oslo’s waterfront is very similar and equally beautiful to Trondheim’s, boasting its newly built Opera House that can be compared to the one in Sydney with flying colors.

Even if Norway’s cities are stunning, the real treat for the country’s visitors is represented by the great outdoors, the glacier covered sub polar peninsula of Svalbard in the far North, which is one of the few left in the world where you can admire polar bears in their natural habitat (in the wild that is). Also, you can take a trip on Norway’s hundreds of miles of Arctic tundra, which is the best spot in the world for skiing and/or sight-seeing the Northern Lights.

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One of the world’s highest ranked and prettiest water-voyages is the ferry trip which takes you along the Geirangerfjord, where you’ll be delighted by the icy green waters and the waterfalls, which make Norway’s fjord land strikingly beautiful and majestic.

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Ålesund is a relatively overlooked travelling destination for Norway’s visitors, a place to be if you’re into modern architecture, as the century old city is home for a unique collection of epic Art Nouveau buildings, after its older edifices were obliterated by an epic fire.

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The natural phenomenon of Aurora Borealis also known as the Northern Lights can be admired only from the Arctic region of Norway, between October to March, so plan ahead if you want to see the light-show produced by the magnetized particles  from the Sun hitting the troposphere.

Norske Folkemuseum is the place to be for imbibing in Norway’s traditional folk culture, dance, music and food. The museum holds regular summer events being an open air collection of historic buildings located just outside Oslo.

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Fredrikstad is an impeccably preserved (the best actually) fortress town in Scandinavia and while here you can also pay a visit to the nearby Hvaler archipelago, which is basically a collection of hundreds of tiny little islands, making for a summer paradise and Norway’s marine national park.

Jostedalsbreen is the biggest glacier in Europe and the ideal place to visit for hiking aficionados,a true mecca for outdoors enthusiasts and nature lovers alike, which offers plenty of opportunities for adrenaline junkies .

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Food and drink in Norway revolves around fish, which is the national staple, along with meat, potatoes and root veggies. The most popular hot snack is a kind of sausage named pølse while breakfast, as the most important meal of the day, consist of huge amounts of meat, fish, cheeses and bread, served with hot strong coffee and salads. That’s understandable in harsh climates where you need beaucop calories to stay functional. As per beverages, you can try Aquavit schnapps and Pils.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moto Z Droid Review, Lenovotorola!

September 17, 2016 by

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The new Moto Z Droid is part of the new line of smartphones built by Motorola after its acquisition by the Chinese tech giant Lenovo. Now, regardless of what you want to call it, Lenovotorola, Motonovo, Hello Moto or simply Moto, the Moto Z Droid is the latest member of the refreshed and revamped (old) Moto X lineup, a proud successor and part of a new generation which has many promises to keep.

 

Unlike the old X series, the Z doesn’t feature the Moto Maker feature anymore. With the Moto Maker, you had the capability of customizing in terms of aesthetics your Moto smartphone to suit your personal taste. That’s been phased out unfortunately, as the new Chinese leadership doesn’t want the trouble anymore. Or at least that’s my opinion, the reason may be purely commercial.

So, as I already told you, the Moto Z Droid represents the birth of a new successor, part of the Z line up which consists from the regular Z, depicted here, and the Z Force. These 2 devices are almost identical and speaking of Verizon models, both come with the same XT1650 moniker/model number, the only thing differentiating them being -01 and -02.

Thing is, the Z Force has a bigger battery, a 3500 mAh power plant and a shatter proof screen, along with a 21 MP main camera. The rest of the deal is the same, give or take.

Now, the Moto Z Droid is a flagship droid, running on a state of the art Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset, just like the Samsung Galaxy S7, the HTC 10, the Xperia X Performance or the LG G5, being available as we speak on Verizon for $625 or on a monthly plan ($26 per month for a 2 year contract). But let’s take a closer look at the tech specs, shall we?

In terms of design, the Moto Z Droid is very sleek and sexy, being also incredibly thin, that’s the first thing that will get your attention. As far as built quality goes, there are no concerns in this department, except for the fact that you’ll have to put this baby inside a protective case, as it will make it way more comfortable in daily use (the wooden shell looks and feels awesome) and it will also protect the device from accidents.

The display is 5.5” wide, a beautiful AMOLED variety with quad HD resolution which offers an immersive experience and it’s flagship grade, being a really nice thing to look at from any angle. In the connectivity department, the Moto Z Droid offers a 3.5 mm headphone jack, a USB Type C, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, A GPS, Wi Fi Direct, NFC, and obviously the Moto Mod dock connector which will allow you to enhance your baby with various gadgets.

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The battery is the Achile’s heel, having a capacity of only 2600 mAh which is rather pathetic for a flagship as it comes with an endurance rating of just 53 hours. In real life, if you’re a power-use, you should consider yourself lucky to get it through the day on a single charge. However, Moto comes with a Turbo charger in its retail box, which can resurrect a dead battery to 52% in just half an hour.

There are Moto Enhancements and Moto Mods available for the Moto Z Droid , including a high quality JBL speaker, an expandable battery pack and even display mirroring via the Insta Share projector.

Now, as we’re talking about a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 architecture under the hood, the Moto Z Droid performs top notch when it comes to synthetic benchmarks. Needless to say, IRL performance is stellar, as the Moto Z Droid also comes with Motorola’s Mobile Computing System and an Adreno 520 GPU, together with a healthy 4 GB of RAM. Everything runs buttery smooth and the Z is a clear upgrade when compared to the previous generation.

The main camera has a resolution of 13 MP and it offers great sharpness and great color reproduction, but truth be told, there’s room for improvement in terms of performance (focus speed and stuff like that). There’s also a 5 MP unit for selfies and video calls, while the video capabilities are there: 4k@30 FPS, 1080p@60 FPS.

Bottom line, the Moto Z Droid is a true flagship, with a thin and minimalist design, a good camera (though not the best out there), sub-par battery life, a beautiful AMOLED screen, being a firm flagship choice if you’re ready to search the internet for a good deal (currently Best Buy has it at $200 off, which is as hot as it gets).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Travel Guide

September 16, 2016 by

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Today’s article is about Canada, which is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and yet, not so hot as far as tourist destination go. If you’re wondering why, well, I don’t really have a valid explanation.

But, if you remember that awesome scene from South Park, the song about “Blame Canada, it’s not a real country anyway”, you may be starting to get an idea. Of course I am kidding, as Canada is the perfect place to be travelling if you’re an adrenaline junkie or a city slicker seeking to discover the country’s cutting edge culture, not to mention wild life aficionados.

Canada is a huge country with a ridiculously low population (density), meaning that the vast majority of the land is uninhabited. Just to get a sense of proportion here, Canada is world’s second largest country, behind Russia of course, making for a place featuring an astonishing diversity both in terms of landscapes and wild life.

Travelling to Canada just once in this life is a must-have experience for globe trotters, but once is not enough, not by a long shot. The country boasts its vast prairies which rise steeply to glacier covered mountains, unspoiled and rugged coast lines which give way to gargantuan forests and emerald-green lakes. Also, Arctic has its special charm, as it waters lap upon Canada’s frozen tundra.

If you’re into wilderness and solitude, Canada will really tick all your boxes. However, just the opposite is alo true, as the country is also boasting some of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, together with genuine indigenous settlements and quirky towns.

Canada’s inhabitants, which are just under 40 million in a country with a land surface almost 10 million square miles are just as diverse as the landscapes. Quebec is the francophone region, which is populated mostly by French expatriates, while the Arctic’s inuit people and the flourishing Asian community make for almost 20% of Canada’s foreign born population (not so much for the inuit though).

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For the city slickers, Canada has a lot to offer, as the country’s cities are vibrant, progressive and vibrant, being found regularly on those top-ten best place to live, you know what am I talking about, right?

Toronto for example is a veritable melange of charming neighborhoods and boasts its epic beach-side location on Lake Ontario’s shore, while Ottawa, Canada’s capital is home for a number of fantastic museums, not to mention the charming Rideau Canal, which is perfect for ice skating during winter.

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Montreal has a beautiful skyline which resembles the city’s French heritage, but at a closer inspection you’ll be delighted by its old customs and cobbled streets. Calgary is another interesting place to visit, being in the near vicinity of the Canadian Rockies, a place which is booming due to its recently found oil wealth and flaunting its historical cowboy traditions (check out Stampede).

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Vancouver is a chill out place if it ever was one, which also has it all from a tourist’s point of view: beaches, mountains, an incredible park located in the center of the city, together with  a fabulous cuisine.

If you’re looking for something wilder, British Columbia has some of the world’s best ski chutes. Or you can go kayaking in Nova Scotia’s secluded bays where you can admire whales in their natural habitat in the process. If you’re hard core, just try to learn the fine arts of lasso visiting an Albertan ranch, if you’re from Texas it will feel just like you were born again hard.

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For National Geographic fans, Canada has the real thing in store, just for you: just imagine capturing grizzly bears on camera (of course) in the Yukon, watch the majestic mammoth icebergs as they drift quietly past the Newfoundland coast or go in an epic journey (Via Helicopter) and soar over the epic sights offered by the Niagara Falls. Or dig for clams, after touring vineyards, after all that feel giddy watching the Northern Lights.
Canada is a place where the options are endless, just “get here and we’ll do the rest”.

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Galaxy Note 7 Review, The Emperor

September 15, 2016 by

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The latest Samsung Galaxy Note 7 may very well be the company’s swan song. And I mean that with regard to the latest Boom-Gate scandal concerning the respective flagship.

In case you don’t know what am I talking about, Samsung basically issued a recall for the Galaxy Note 7 due to a very serious issue with the battery which tends to burst into flames and even explode when charged.

The issue is due to a design flaw which makes the anode and the cathode of the battery to “touch themselves” in an impure manner (just kidding), provoking a short circuit. The idea is that if you have an “old” (it was just released unfortunately) Galaxy Note 7, you should return it as soon as possible and you’ll be rewarded with a brand new one in the shortest time plus a bunch of gifts and freebies.

Preamble aside, the Galaxy Note 7 makes for one Hell of a phablet, featuring that iconic stylus which is specific to Samsung’s Note line of smartphones. Another cool addition to the latest gen of Note is the fact that it comes wit IP 68 certification, meaning that it’s dust and water proof.

Basically, you can “write” your notes under water with this baby and even if that doesn’t sound like a plausible scenario, it’s pretty cool to have a smartphone that will resist at least accidental spills and toilet-drops (it happened to me twice this year).

Scribbling under-water aside, the new Galaxy Note 7 makes for a radical design change in the Korean giant Galaxy line of flagships, featuring a stunning dual curved design which makes the display to appear border-less along with making the phablet to look smaller than it actually is.

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Unlike the Note 5, the new Galaxy Note 7 is available world-wide and that’s great news for the fan-base, don’t you think? In terms of design and build quality, this baby is almost perfect, being outstandingly symmetrical, with both left and right sides being similarly (identically is the word) curved on the back and front.

Truth be told, the Galaxy Note 7 is maybe the best piece of high-end hardware ever, putting even Apple’s best in their corner. The phone is a tad thicker and taller than the Note 5, but you couldn’t tell just looking at it.

The Galaxy Note 7 feels pocketable despite is generous dimensions and both front and rear panels are protected by the latest gen of Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5, making for a metal and glass sandwich which looks and feels awesome.

The display of the Galaxy Note 7 benefits from special treatment this year, featuring a dual curved screen, a super AMOLED variety 5.7 inches wide and 1440p resolution. Also, the smartphone is among the few devices to support HDR video. Needless to say, the quality of the display is phenomenal, being maybe the best on the market today.

In the battery department, the Galaxy Note 7 comes with a sealed 3500 mAh power plant, offering an excellent 90 hours of endurance rating on the Exynos 8890 chipset version and 81 hours for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 flavor. Basically, if you want more battery life, the Exynos version is the way to go.

The Galaxy Note 7 excels in the photography department with its dual pixel technology and the 12 MP camera sensor, being more accurate and faster than anything on the market today.

There’s also optical image stabilization and all the bells and whistles you could wish for in a 2016 flagship from world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer. Also, the phablet shoots perfect 2160p videos at 30 FPS.

The Galaxy Note 7 runs on Android Marshmallow 6.0.1 with Samsung’s own Touch Wiz User interface on top and needless to say, it’s lightning fast and smooth. As I already told you, there are 2 versions, an Exynos run Galaxy Note 7 and a Qualcomm Snapdragon powered variety. Both of them feature 4 GB of RAM and performance wise, they’re almost identical, give or take. Except for the autonomy difference, both SoCs will make any gamer happy.

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Bottom line, the Galaxy Note 7 is more than a face-lift in case that’s what you’ve been waiting for, making for a true beast of a phablet with an incredible design and top notch hardware. If you’ve got what it takes, money that is, the Galaxy Note 7 is any nerd’s wet dream, sans the BoomGate issue. I really hope the company will get over this problem easy and will continue to delight us with great pieces of hardware like the Note 7 in the future.

 

 

 

Macedonia Travel Guide

August 16, 2016 by

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Macedonia is a tiny country located in the heart of the Balkans, with only 2.1 million people and a land surface of 25,713 square kilometers. If you know that saying, that strong essences are kept in small bottles, you may get an idea about where this travel guide is going.

Truth be told, Macedonia is hugely under-explored and also under-rated from the Westerner traveler’s point of view. And that’s a real shame, because what you’ll be dealing with (if travelling to Macedonia that is) would be a beautiful mountainous nation, sprinkled with shimmering lakes and lush valleys, being the perfect place to spend your vacation if you’re passionate about solitude and the great outdoors.

In case you did not know it, Macedonia boasts it deep Hellenic heritage. Alexander the Great was from Macedonia, check that out folks, and he created the greatest empire in the history of mankind.

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For most of Macedonia’s visitors, the adventure begins with the country’s capital, which is Skopje. The city’s skyline (if I may use the word here) is composed from a concrete jungle of incongruous buildings and huge statues built in the neo-classic style.

Truth be told, the city looks a little bit freakish, but you’ll get over it once you start to mingle sort to speak. There are also lots of monolithic apartment blocks built in the country’s socialist era, sitting right next to grandiose monuments, which were built in two years ago during an ambitious yet weird government scheme under the moniker Skopje 2014.

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The pre-communist/socialist architecture which still stands is composed of Byzantine and old ottoman edifices. Also, visiting Skopje you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the plethora of clubs and buzzing bars, together with the city’s vivid  night life.

If you’re not much of a city fella, just go explore the rural Macedonia, which is far easier for a Westerner’s eye. The countryside is absolutely untouched and unspoiled, as Macedonia was blessed with an awe-inspiring diversity of landscapes. One of the most inspirational and serene areas in the rural Macedonia is Ohrid, which sits serene on a lakeside, offering glorious relief if you’re to be confronted with the sizzling Macedonian summer.

The area is filled with dreamy lakes where visitors can kick back and relax, spending their lazy summer days visiting the region’s outstanding churches, impeccably preserved, while the evenings can be best spent quaffing the local wine which is produced in the area’s nearby hills. Basically, Macedonia’s hill country is nothing short of splendid, reminding me of Martha’s Vineyard.

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You will also have the time of your life while travelling in Macedonia by visiting the endless green pastures of the mountains dubbed Sar Planina, a place where tranquil and old glacier lakes magically mirror the surrounding mountain peaks, offering a picturesque view which looks like it was shot in Lord of the Rings. You can also go trekking the mountainous regions in the Pelister National Park, Macedonia’s pride and joy, which can be easily compared to the Swiss Alps, but at a fraction of the price if you know what I mean.

If you’re an outdoors junkie, the remote hinterlands of Macedonia will make your skin crawl in the most pleasant of the ways, as you’ll be able to see more wildlife than on National Geographic whilst enjoying the hard life of the mountain people. Truth be told, you won’t find too many luxury resorts in Macedonia, as the country has modest means but it’s as authentic as it gets. However, the rustic inns are very affordable, welcoming and comfortable, just don’t expect miracles, alright folks?

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During the winter, Macedonia offers its travelers phenomenal snowboarding and skiing opportunities, especially in the Mavrovo area.

While visiting the aforementioned Pelister National Park, make sure you don’t miss Bitola’s Byzantine ruins. The pretty city of Bitola is Macedonia’s second biggest town and it’s very close to the Greek border, harboring the ancient ruins of Heraclea and being a former and important headquarter  of Ottoman rule.

If you’ll be getting hungry, rest assured as Macedonian cuisine is pretty good, being a melange between Mediterranean and Balkan flavors and cooking styles. Specialties include spicy roast pepper and aubergine relish, bread rolls with feta cheese flavored with paprika and other spices, bean stew cooked using a skillet and flavored with paprika, minced meat sausages called kebapci, an ubiquitous relish made from paprika, red bell peppers and garlic, flaky pies filled with a combo of cheese, ham, ground beef and spinach, thick stews cooked in clay pots and fried dough rolls filled with nuts and honey. As per drinks, don’t forget to sip Mastika and Rakija.

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To visit Macedonia, you’ll only require a valid passport but no Visa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro, Locked and Loaded

August 16, 2016 by

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If you have any notion about the old Xiaomi Redmi 3, i.e. that it’s still one of the best smartphones out there in terms of price vs performance, you must know that the Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro is even better than that.

Thing is, Chinese tech companies have a lot to catch up with the big names in the industry and once in a while they release a smartphone which is nothing short of incredible, i.e it offers a lot and costs almost nothing compared to its Western rivals.

The same recipe was used in the case of  the Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro. Basically, Xiaomi took an already great smartphone, improved it a little bit in its essential points i.e. they added some additional bells and whistles (more RAM, more internal storage capacity, a fingerprint scanner) and they released it in the wild to fight with the best.

The similarities with the older gen (sans the Pro particle) include the same conservative 5 inches wide display, an IPS LCD variety of HD/720p resolution, an aluminum-made chassis (which looks uber cool), a Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 system on chip, a 13 megapixels main snapper and an amazingly beefy 4100 mAh battery, all these for a price of under $150, which means contract free, SIM free, no strings attached. I mean, the Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro is as good as it gets folks. But take a load of this:

The droid features a hybrid dual SIM / micro SD card slot, 3 GB of RAM/ 32 GB of native storage and the camera now comes with hybrid phase detect auto focus and it captures video at full HD 1080p resolution.

The old Redmi 3 was quite popular due especially to its very affordable price tag and excellent built quality, but the Pro will be a true hit, mark my words folks. Especially in China and India, which are huge emerging markets and folks can’t usually afford to buy a 700 bucks smartphone, this under $150 droid will make some waves.

In terms of design, the new Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro features the same unibody chassis made entirely of aluminum with curved edges, with a smooth and clean finish.

The display is almost Retina like in terms of pixels per inch, featuring 294 ppi, being crisp and with excellent sunlight legibility. But the best thing about the new Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro is arguably its mammoth 4100 mAh battery which comes with an endurance rating of 104 hours, which means 4 days plus or 14 hours of web browsing/12 hours of video playback.

Connectivity wise, the Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro offers quite a lot: seven LTE bands, quad band 3G, Wi-Fi b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS with Glonass, Beidou and even an FM radio.

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Being a Xiaomi droid, the Redmi 3 Pro comes pre-loaded with Android Lollipop flavored with the company’s proprietary MIUI 7.3, an ecosystem focused on their own apps and software and away from Google, which is kind of not so popular in China, to say the least.

When it comes to performance, the Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro comes with the same hardware architecture as the previous generation, i.e. a Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 offering 8 Cortex A53 CPUs clocked at 1.5 GHZ/1.2 GHz respectively (2×4 cores). There’s more RAM than in the regular Redmi 3, 3 gigabytes respectively while the gaming department is taken care of by an Adreno 405 GPU. All things aside, the Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro has enough power to run anything on 720p resolution, including high end mobile graphics and modern games.

The 13 megapixels snapper is basically the same one found in the regular Redmi 3 being equipped with a single LED flash. Talking about bells and whistles, the Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro’s multimedia department offers phase detection/hybrid autofocus and a fairly simple and intuitive user interface, manual and automatic settings for the camera and the whole nine yards, there’s nothing to write home about really, except that the picture/video quality is really good considering the smartphone’s price tag.

As per my final words, the question is if the Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro is worth the upgrade from the basic Redmi 3. Well, if you want more RAM, a great built quality, an awesome battery and a finger print sensor, the answer is yes, the Pro is worth the stretch. If you’re out there looking for a new droid at an affordable price, the Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro is hard to beat.