Skip to content

Review: Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus (13.3″ QHD+ Touch / Core™ i7), my new laptop

After 3 years and a half of using a MacBook Air 13 inch as my personal laptop I finally decided to upgrade and went with an Ultrabook and Windows 8. After using a Surface Pro as a tablet I really started to like Windows 8 a lot. This new Ultrabook has  an Intel Core i7 4500U with a speed of 1.80 GHz and with a Turbo Boost of 3 GHz.

ATIV book 9 Plus

Look and feel

Yes, this laptop feels and looks a lot like the MacBook Air, and that is not a bad thing. I owned a MacBook Air for over 3 years and it definitely shaped my way of thinking about laptops. The first time I saw the ATIV Book 9 Plus it caught my attention, without even looking at the specs it made me want one, yes it is that good-looking. I’ve never owned a Samsung computer but the design and overall build quality of this Ultrabook is outstanding. The ATIV Book 9 Plus is only 0.54 inches tick and weights only 3.06 lbs (including the standard battery) and everything is wrapped in a sturdy yet sleek aluminum body. It feels solid and it looks great, the only thing I did not like about it were the stickers which I removed right after getting it out of the box. This Samsung Ultrabook is extremely light and much more powerful than my previous MacBook Air, it was an easy decision for me.

Portability

The ATIV Book 9 Plus is thinner than the MacBook Air. Its width, depth and height are 12.58″ x 8.78″ x 0.54” while the MacBook Air is 12.68″ x 8.94″ x 0.68“. However, the MacBook Air is slightly lighter weighting only 2.96 lbs while the ATIV Book 9 Plus weights 3.06lbs. If you have a MacBook Air you won’t notice the difference. This IS the Ultrabook that you want to carry with you at all times. It feels like carrying a magazine and it fits perfectly (if not loosely) in your messenger bag or backpack. I took this laptop with me a few weeks ago to a Hackathon in San Francisco and my backpack was so light that sometimes I had to open it just to make sure my laptop was still there.

Battery life is really good, I have been able to go without plugin it to an outlet for about 7 hours with programs like Visual Studio, the browser, email and a few other applications running. I am sure I could get it to 8 hours if I lowered the brightness and closed some of my applications.

ATIV Book 9 Plus thin

The sleek aluminum body is also really sturdy and I have proof of that. While at the hackathon, I left this laptop on my chair for a moment then I sat down on it by mistake for about a minute until I jumped from the chair terrified remembering I have left the computer on this same chair. While nothing happened to it, I do not recommend you do this.

Screen

The ATIV Book 9 Plus comes with a 13.3″ LED QHD+ 3200×1800 screen. And it is a touch screen. This is one of the best features of this laptop, right after the portability of it. It is true that once you are introduced to touch-enabled devices is hard to go back to devices that don’t have touch-enabled screens. I am sure all laptops will have touch-enabled screens in the near future. The ATIV Book 9 Plus packes 275 pixels per inch into its stunning 3200 x 1800 high-resolution display. The Quad HD+ touchscreen is 2.8 times sharper than Full HD and with true-to-life color SuperBright technology, it’s a 13.3″ eye-opening experience. The resolution of this Samsung Ultrabook is incredible and I don’t miss the 1440 x 900 resolution of the MacBook Air.

ATIV Book 9 Plus QHD screen

The Good

It is very fast, very light. The ATIV Book 9 Plus I’ve got comes with an Intel i7 processor, 256GB SSD, 8GB RAM, 2 x USB 3.0 ports (one of them is a sleep-and-charge), micro HDMI, headphone/mic combo, 3- in-1 (SD/SDHC/SDXC) multi card slot, backlit keyboard, a 720p HD camera, and Bluetooth 4.0! Needless to say, it is certainly a lot of power in a very sleek and light package.

Some of the applications I use the most in this computer are gimp and Visual Studio and they both run great. Visual Studio starts in just a few seconds cold and that to me is impressive.

The  Bad

The touch pad and the mineral ash black finish. Don’t get me wrong, I love the color and finish of this laptop but my fingerprints are all over it, they are very visible and it bothers me. I know, first world problems. Also, the touch pad seems to always get in the way as I type, I have made some adjustments and it will take some time for me to adjust to it but that is just me. Some people complain that with such high-resolution in this laptop some programs in Windows 8 end up looking very small, with very tiny fonts and menus but that has not bother me a bit and there are ways around it.

ATIV Book 9 Plus touch pad

I bought this laptop at the Microsoft store as they had a $200 discount for a while and I couldn’t resist. Another great benefit of buying from the Microsoft store is that it comes with the Microsoft Signature Experience which means that all junkware, trialware and any other pre-installed manufacturer’s software is removed before you take it home. I recommend to uninstall any Samsung software if you end up buying this laptop from any other place.

Conclusion

If you are shopping for a new laptop and have considered an Ultrabook but are afraid about loosing some of the power and performance that you are used to with your big laptop or desktop, think no more. This Ultrabook is as powerful and fast as it is light. Also, the smaller screen is not an issue for me as I was used to it with the MacBook Air, but trust me when I tell you that you do get used to the smaller screen and is not an issue at all. My daughter was very happy to get my MacBook Air and I am very happy with this Ultrabook. The ATIV Book 9 Plus has become both my personal and development machine and it comes with me everywhere.

Discovering creative ideas in San Francisco – CapitalOne 360 Cafe

capitalone360 3This is the 4th time I come to San Francisco this year, I just love this city and the weather (yes I love Summer in San Francisco!). I was lucky enough to get invited to Y Combinator’s Startup School this year, it was great and I had the opportunity to learn insights from founders from many companies, you can learn more about that here. However, the part that I really like about traveling is to discover cool places in cities I visit. This time a quick search in Yelp brought me to Capital One 360 San Francisco Cafe (it used to be ING Direct Cafe), it is a very interesting concept that Capital One has launched in about 8 cities including San Francisco – and yes I asked one of the Capital One employees why not in Austin and he told me that they are actually working on it at the moment, so brace yourselves as we might get one of these electronic-only transaction bank/Cafe/Coworking space in Austin, this will rock big time!

capitalone360 1This creative concept for a bank branch is awesome, there are no lines, no counter, no “numbers” to talk to a representative, etc.. and instead they have created a very cool open space filled with desks, power outlets, beanbags and an excellent WiFi and coffee drinks – oh, there is also good background music like nothing you have ever experience in your local bank. Also, if you have a CapitalOne card and you pay your coffee with it, they only charge you half of the price so in other words you can get a regular size latte (and very good!) for about $1.50 – this is pure genius.

I have never thought that a bank such as Capital One would do something this creative and out of the norm, but they are and apparently I am not the only one who loves the concept of a bank branch that also serves as a coffee shop and free co-working space as the place was filled with people working with their laptops and drinking coffee and I am sure someone was also doing some electronic banking as well… It might be hard to rate the success of such a concept but if what they want is to bring people to the place and raise awareness about their brand, this is a great idea that probably costs much less than other not so creative marketing efforts.

capitalone3602So there it is, this last trip to San Francisco allowed me to discover and actually work from this place called CapitalOne 360 Cafe which is on 101 Post St. San Francisco, CA 94108 (Post St and Kearny St) and it is the place from where I wrote this post and did some work for BedandBreakfast.com. At some point I would love to have places like this pop in every city branded as The TechMap work spaces, it would be awesome, perhaps in the future. Until next time.

@ricky

 

Tips for the Deskbound

The definition for deskbound from different sources:

  • restricted to working in an office, rather than in an active, physical capacity.
  • engaged in or involving sedentary work, as at an office desk
  • restricted to work at a desk
  • unfamiliar with actualities or practical matters outside one’s own job:  deskbound executives who can’t grasp production problems.

You get the idea, being deskbound is not really for the active or adventurous types but chances are that you spent countless hours at your desk, even if you don’t like it. However, if you have the privilege of working in a position where you can work remotely then there are some things you can do to minimize being deskbound.

Work from home

Many people today have the privilege of being able to work from home, at least a few times a week. Working from home is not for everyone as many people need to be around other people to do their job well. If you are able to work from home and you like it, let me show you some things you can do to avoid being deskbound to the same place at home. You can change your scenery, at least a bit. For example, while you work from home try alternating between your table kitchen, dinning room, home office or even from your back yard. Just by making these small changes to your scenery you’ll find yourself refreshed and ready to get some work done. Give it a try.

Work from a coffee shop

This is nothing new, today many professionals around the world go to coffee shops to do their job, even if they have an office at home or at an office building. Now, if you make small changes such as splitting your days between different coffee shops, you might find yourself re-energized and motivated like you probably did the first time you worked from a coffee shop. There is also no doubt that working from a coffee shop has many other benefits such as the potential of meeting new people, unlimited amounts of great coffee, fewer distractions and the potential of increasing both productivity and creativity.

Just remember to consume more than just a cup of coffee while you are there, don’t become a laptop hobo. Lately, there has been many complaints from coffee shops about laptop hobos who seat down for hours, using the wi-fi and power outlets while consuming just a cup of coffee or nothing at all.

Work from a co-working space

Just like working from a coffee shop, having the ability to do your job from a co-working space offers great opportunities to meet like-minded people, a sense of community and sometimes good coffee as well. If you are in Austin I suggest you visit any of these places, most of them offer working space on demand. Also, most co-working spaces are designed to increase creativity and innovation and this is of course always a good thing! While you are there try rotating desks a few times a day or at least try seating at different areas within the co-working space every time you visit, this will help you meet new people and also change your scenery.

Next time you have a chance to work from home, from a coffee shop or anywhere remotely, consider picking different spots and places, this will help you change the routine and avoid being deskbound, at lease from the office desk.

If you are a freelancer, I hope some of the tips above help you a bit and if you are interested in working in handpicked projects that pay well and on time checkout our new marketplace and request an invite today.

Use your time wisely, it is a finite resource

Everybody talks about productivity and optimization these days. The get things done (GTD) popularity has been around since I can remember and most of us are still suffering of constant distractions that affect our productivity and concentration to perform our professional or personal tasks effectively. Also, there are many tools these days that claim they can help you by organizing your email, helping with to-do lists, notes, etc… Some of those tools can be helpful but they require commitment and some of them have a learning curve, and so these GTD apps and tools just become part of the daily distractions.

I recently read a study in the journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing that showed that most people have developed a habit of checking their smartphones multiple times a day without having a real need to do it.Continue Reading →

Entrepreneurship has become too fashionable

It used to be that people who ventured with startups were hardcore entrepreneurs, those who did it out of necessity or because the idea of having a college degree or a successful career was in some cases not even an option. Many times what drove people to start companies in those days was a strong belief in something and the urge to make a difference or simply the need to survive. Today, entrepreneurship has become too fashionable; a large number of students coming out of college or people working at boring jobs are taking a stake at entrepreneurship and sometimes for the wrong reasons.

The fact that being an entrepreneur is very popular these days makes it hard to differentiate hardcore entrepreneurs that are trying to make a difference in this world or their own life from the ones that are in it because it is cool and popular. Unfortunately, the startup ecosystem is filled with many people who are creating startups and working on ideas for the wrong reasons such as: becoming wealthy, to be famous (or internet famous), avoiding working in a regular job, etc… and there is nothing wrong with any of these as long as the passion is there to make it happen. If the entrepreneur is not truly driven by something, then it creates a problem because it is hard to filter out these wannabe entrepreneurs from hardcore entrepreneurs which for the most part are trying to build a company from nothing knowing that it will take lots of effort, hard work, consistency, sacrifices, patience and lots of luck. Having entrepreneurship be so popular these days also creates lots of opportunities because there are many people drag into the startup world looking to start or join one; unfortunately this also makes finding the right people incredible hard and it creates noise in the startup ecosystem.

Things have gotten easier and more cost-effective for people wanting to jump into entrepreneurship and that is great for our communities, cities and our country in general. Unfortunately this has made many people believe that it is easy to become an entrepreneur and thus we have lots of uncommitted, not hard-working people throwing ideas around and many times getting lucky and gaining the attention of investors, customers and media when in reality they just don’t have what it takes. Even worst, many other people are benefiting from the popularity of entrepreneurship and startups to make money out of people by selling them “tools” and “secrets” that will allegedly help them become successful entrepreneurs, this is just wrong.

Startups have a very low chance of succeeding in fact, that is both known and well documented, click here to read an article from Business Insider about this where they found out that about 93% of the companies accepted by Y Combinator will eventually fail. Y Combinator and other accelerators are having a very hard time trying to select the real entrepreneurs from this ever-increasing pool of wannabe entrepreneurs. And this might the reason many of these accelerators keep saying that what they really care about is the “people” and not the “idea”, it all makes sense now – doesn’t?

Hardcore entrepreneurs with bad ideas are not a bad thing as the idea can always be improved or changed completely. I n the other hand, a wannabe entrepreneur with a good idea will more likely fail and give up because of the lack of passion, commitment, motivation, etc… eventually they either don’t execute well or just give up.

I am not a successful entrepreneur yet, I like to think of myself as a connector helping people connect with others so they can build out that great idea, I run a meetup where I have been connecting people since 2010 because it feels good to help when you can. It is very motivating to see people wanting to create something or be part of something bigger than themselves. These people work hard, have ideals, know what they want and nothing will stop them until they get there, these are the hardcore entrepreneurs I am talking about. We need more of these people now and in the future, these are the people who make things happen and go on to build companies that generate jobs and changes lives in many ways, inside and outside of the companies they create.

Think hard, really hard about becoming an entrepreneur and do it if you really have what it takes and are committed to it. If you decide you don’t want to after all, that is fine too! there are many great jobs out there in need of people with skills and talent, and there is a lot of money to be made at these jobs as well. The worst thing you can do is to play entrepreneurship when you know you are not ready or committed to lots of work without pay, long hours, and many failures.

If you are unsure about what it takes to be an entrepreneur then don’t, please go find a job, and help hardcore entrepreneurs a bit by not being part of that noise. Entrepreneurship is a hard thing, it was never intended to be fashionable.

Be the person where the problems die, be the finisher and people will notice you

Many people often ask and wonder how or why they don’t get promoted, or even noticed at their jobs. Here is some advice I got from a VP of Engineering at a very prominent tech company in Austin, TX:

Be the person where the problems die, be the finisher and people will notice you

While simple this is such great advice, it basically tells you that if you want to be noticed and advance in your career, you need to take ownership and get things done, that’s it. This is very interesting because even when we think we are great executors and sometimes even brag about how much we get done, the truth is that only a few people really take ownership and full responsibility when given a task or a problem to solve.

take ownership and get promoted

 

If your manager is able to hand you a problem and you have the capacity and tenacity of figuring out the problem and complete the task, you’ll probably be a clear candidate to promote and give more responsibility when the time comes because your manager will know you can get the job done. In other words, they know you are a finisher, problems die when they come to you, you are trustworthy and naturally they’ll be willing to give you more responsibility.

Remember, it is not so much about office politics or friendships, it is about getting things done and have an impact because that will look good on you, your boss and your company.

 

 

Tips to have success as a remote worker

I still remember when I first had the opportunity to work remotely, it took some convincing but my employer at the time understood and agreed to give it a try, it was 2002. Nowadays is very common to find professionals, especially developers and designers doing some of their work remotely. There are even some successful companies where not only some employees work remotely but almost their entire work force is remote, in these companies working remotely is just part of the culture.

Tips to have success as a remote workerBelow are some of my own experiences as a remote worker, and although I have never been a 100% remote worker, still think some of the following tips might help some of you, and if you have additional tips please feel free to share it with us in the comment’s section.

Have a schedule and let co-workers know about it

Unless you work remotely 100% of the time, you should let people know in advance about the days and hours you are working remotely, that way no in-person meetings are scheduled and no expectations of you being physically at the office are set. Your company and co-workers will appreciate this.

This also helps you plan for personal things such as running errands, doctor appointments, walking the dog, going to the gym, or whatever it is that you do when you are not attached to specific working hours during the day. The real benefit and very productive thing about working remotely is having the ability to work when you are the most productive, not necessarily from 9-5PM.

Work when you are the most productive, avoid the 9-5

Most people benefit from working remotely because if done correctly, it truly gives you a chance to balance your busy life with your work. Unfortunately many employers and professionals do not understand this and instead request that people working remotely work the same hours as if they were at the office, and while this might be seemed as a good idea it isn’t. Working the same hours while working remotely does not let you realize the full potential of working remotely, and it also brings the same problems you tried to avoid by working remotely such as constant distractions by coworkers pinging you, and the pressure of not being able to work when you are the most productive which in many cases is not from 9-5PM.

Make yourself unreachable

That is right, be unreachable. The whole point about working remotely is so you can be more productive and you can only achieve this by eliminating distractions. If you are in a position where you can work remotely, then you can certainly make yourself unreachable for a day or two. If you or your employer feel uncomfortable with this, then none of you are ready to work remotely or to have a remote workforce. Here are some tips to make yourself unreachable and to train people around you to understand that you are not openly available while working from home, a coffee shop or anywhere you decide to work from:

  • Only read and reply to very important emails that truly require your input.
  • Do not answer the phone if the caller is unknown.
  • Do not engage in online discussions in IM, Twitter, etc…
  • Avoid phone conferences while working remotely.
  • Disable email, IM and other automatic notifications.

Give yourself permission to decline interruptions, and set expectations with your team about this.

Use the right equipment

A good laptop, good internet connection and plenty of electrical power is absolutely needed to succeed as a remote worker. Having two computers such as one sitting at work and another one at home won’t cut it, trust me I tried and failed miserably. Also, remember that working remotely doesn’t mean working only from home, there are going to be days when you decide or need to work from another location such as a coffee shop, a hotel or a co-working space, and you’ll need to make sure that you have all of the above… laptop, fast internet connection and a source of power. Caffeine is in my list of must-have as well.

If possible, have an extra battery (charged) for your laptop, a cell phone and all of the cables you need to power up your devices, never leave home without them.

Use the right software

This advice really varies depending on what you do and who you work for. For example, if your company provides remote access to network shares, and other resources within the company’s network then make sure you have access to it as well as the security software and knowledge to connect to it. For example, most companies will require you to first connect to a virtual private network (VPN) before you can access your email, network folders, databases, etc… Another good idea is to know how to access your company’s email using a browser (webmail) since there are going to be times when your VPN connection might not work when you need to read or sent an important email message. It will happen, trust me on this one.

Here are some other applications that can prove to be very useful while working remotely:

In summary, make sure you test all of your software while at home and confirm that you have everything to do your job remotely.

The above list is what comes to mind based on my experience as the basics for successfully working remotely, and I am sure that depending on your company and the type of work you do there might be the need for other software or equipment to make this happen. If you have other tips or suggestions please add them in the comment’s section below.