FIVE AUTUMN GIFTS #1 – Casio Edifice EQB-501TRC

Casio has come up with the sporty and classy Edifice range that will attract millennials and more.

casioCasio, for those of us who remember the heady days of using a calculator for the fist time, will always be rooted in the 1970s, but the intervening decades have seen this Japanese company branch out into all kinds of technology products, not least watches.

Its Edifice range is a case in point. This reviewer hasn’t haven’t worn a watch since 2005 when my 18-month son dropped my Zenith-wedding-present watch from an upstairs window, but I can see why people wear them… as well as telling the time.

So, somebody sent me a sample of the Casio Edifice EQB-501TRC and I said I’d review it; the first time in nearly two decades that I’ve sent back a sample after reviewing. Things clearly aren’t what they were.

This review, therefore, is completely clean as there is no tacit deal to write a positive one in return for the ‘gift’. No false review here.

The watch looks wrist-made for so-called millennials. It looks expensive and it weighs well on the arm. More importantly it is solar-powered, can connect to Bluetooth and could be described as a ‘half-smartwatch’, although nothing like the real thing.

Personally, I like classic design so the multi-dials and over-features didn’t go down too well, but as I said, it looks expensive and I wasn’t against the feeling of wearing it.

In many ways it felt like wearing a wedding ring for the first time. A bit weird, but something that would be easy to get used to.

At around £400, it’s not cheap (it’s certainly not as much as my Zenith cost) and I fancy many a young person will like the ‘ironic’ ostentation and will buy it for being a watch, not a smartwatch.

As for me, I’m about to put it in a pre-paid envelope and send it back to the company. Even if they had let me keep it, I don’t think I would have started wearing watches again, but I don’t think I’m the market.

Good watch, well made.

Books for Christmas

We’re approaching peak panic-buying time. It’s getting to the time of year where every online purchase elicits a chill as you wonder if something’s going to hit your letterbox (or more like the sorting office) in time.

With that in mind, here are some of the best books I’ve read this year. There’s still time to order online or (better yet) go to your local bookshop and buy a copy.

How to build a billion dollar app by George Berkowski – I have to admit, the title of this book stopped me from buying it for a few weeks. It sounded a little bit too evangelical. The reality is that this is a brilliant book. Berkowski is one of the people behind the global growth of Hailo, so he knows what he’s talking about. Full of useful interviews, interesting tidbits and step by step guides to specific stages that people will hit as they build an app based business, this is an essential read for anyone who thinks that 2015 will be the year they build the next Uber.

Hooked by Nir Eyal – probably my favourite book of the year if I’m honest. This ties in nicely with Berkowski’s book – it’s all about creating habit-forming products, which is the quickest way to get to your billion dollar app valuation. There are tons of insights that I can guarantee will help make your idea or app better. Eyal makes brilliant use of case studies to illustrate his point. There’s also workbooks and tons of online resources behind the book that make it even more useful. A must read – even if you can’t be arsed starting an app but do want to understand the behind the scenes stuff that brings you back to Pinterest or Instagram over and over again.

Don’t call it that by Eli Altman – names matter. This may come as no surprise to you, but you’d be amazed at how frequently people choose almost incomprehensibly shit names for their companies. This book is a step by step guide to picking a name, finding out if it’s available, testing it in the real world and more. It’s also funny, which always helps.

Dataclysm by Christian Rudder – people talk a lot about big data, but it’s never entirely clear if anyone knows what it means. This book is not entirely about big data, but it is about the data we expose about ourselves – whether intentionally or inadvertently. It’s packed with brilliant stats and case studies. It can make for slightly depressing reading if you’re single, but don’t let that put you off…I loved it.

Startup Rising by Christopher M. Schroeder – I do quite a lot of work across the MENA region and the sheer potential that exists there never ceases to amaze me. Schroeder’s book is a brilliant examination of the characters and businesses that are building companies and ecosystems across the region. Fascinating stuff regardless of whether or not you’ve spent time in that part of the world.

No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald – no matter what you think of Edward Snowden’s revelations, the details of how the story broke are fascinating. Greenwald’s book is as compelling as any thriller I’ve read in the last few years. The fact that it’s true just makes it all the more chilling.

Spam Nation by Brian Krebs – spam is a universal plague. Krebs is one of the best writers on cyber-security out there. This book introduces us to some of the characters (mainly Russian) who populate the incredibly shady world of spam. Worth reading if you’ve always wondered where those ads for Cialis come from…

A few others that I’ve already reviewed on these pages – the Dark Net is an incredible look at the obscure and hidden highways and byways of the Internet. Your Brain on Porn is a grim read about the effect that always-on, always available porn is having on people. The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz is a brilliant read about the less glamorous but no less important parts of business – like failure, firing people and more. Made With walks a similar road to Startup Rising – it looks at some of the emerging business across the ‘Interland’ – from Morocco to Indonesia.

In the interest of not being seen purely as some sort of tech/business book reading automaton, it’s also important to flag a few others. Thirty one nil by James Montague is a journey through the world of football’s outsiders. It’s also one of the best football books I’ve read in a very, very long time. Age of Ambition is a compelling look at fortune, truth and faith in the New China. Heaven’s Bankers is a complex, occasionally dense but ultimately rewarding book about Islamic finance. A slightly different side of Dubai is on view in Joseph O’Neill’s The Dog – occsaionally cringe worthy, frequently unbelievable and a quite remarkable skewering of life in the Vegas of the Middle East. Here are the young men is one of the best debut novels I’ve read in quite a while – think American Psycho set amongst a group of middle class, suburban Dublin teens. Amazing. Lastly, City of Lies of a beautifully written book about the Tehran we rarely (if ever) hear anything about in the mainstream media.

If you pick up any of these and enjoy/love/hate them, let me know! Happy reading.

150-WORD BOOK REVIEW: The Dark Net by Jamie Bartlett

Dark Net Cover The Internet that most people use on a day to day basis is a veneer. The part that lies unindexed by Google and unvisited by most is only occasionally glimpsed in tabloid exposes or dodgy pop-up ads on sites people visit for ‘research’.

The Dark Net is about the layers – rotten and amazing – that lie beneath. Free from the academic ruminations or tabloid hysteria that has characterised so many other books on this topic, Bartlett explores this semi-walled garden.

These include Camgirls, Silk Road dealers, trolls, transhumanists, perverts and many others by exploring those people who live and make a living from the more opaque, obscure and occasionally illegal and immoral corners of the Internet.

Not only are the characters perfectly cast, their stories are expertly told. You’ll either be horrified or racing to download Tor afterwards. Or maybe both. Regardless. You’re going to want to read this.

REVIEW: 9.75/10

150 WORD REVIEW: Made With by John Grant

Made With book coverWhat Grant defines as the ‘Interland’ is one of the most fascinating, fastest growing regions in the world. Ranging from Turkey to North Africa and covering everywhere from the MIddle East right through to Indonesia, the Interland is a place where traditional thinking says that ‘East and West collide’. In reality, these are incredibly youthful societies going through some huge changes – socially and economically.

While most books and reports about this region are dominated by religion, conflict and general unpleasantness, ‘Made With’  focuses on creativity, brands and entrepreneurship. The result is a book that is an interesting primer, though perhaps one that perhaps would have benefitted from a tighter focus, more case studies and more interviews and interviewees. The sections featuring these are the ones that really shine, and it’s a shame there aren’t more of them. With that said, ‘Made With‘ is still well worth a look.

150 WORD BOOK REVIEW: Without Their Permission by Alexis Ohanian

Without their permission book cover

Without their permission book cover

Reddit is incredible. In biological terms, it’s one of the Internet’s arteries. It has humour, character, seriousness and solemnity – and much more besides.

It should come as no surprise that the site’s co-founder, Alexis Ohanian has written a book with the same characteristics. Without their permission is at once funny, informative and touching. Writing conversationally is a difficult trick to pull off, but in Ohanian’s case, he does it with aplomb.

Expect lots of brilliant advice, interesting anecdotes and nods to pop culture in a book that is both a memoir of his time at Y Combinator, Reddit and Hipmunk and a how-to guide for startups.

If you’re have a passing interest in where the Internet is going, you’re going to want to read this. The best books are the ones where I’m left with notes after reading. This generated pages of them.  Enjoy.