North Korea is one of those countries you can barely call a tourist destination. Our idea of it is limited to the picture painted by words of people who have been to Pyongyang, and the photos sanctioned by its own government.
Tours are mostly restricted to the capital, and can only be done through state-owned travel agencies. What many people don’t know is there are ways to see at least three more North Korean cities — the parts the North Korean government doesn’t want tourists to see.
Using my iPhone 7 Plus and the Ztylus Revolver M Series Lens Kit, I got to peak at and capture Sinuiju, Uiju, and Chongsu in North Korea by going along the border city Dandong, as well as the Yalu River, the body of water that separates the two countries.
The 6-in-1 lens system offers the following combos: wide-angle + telephoto, fisheye + telephoto, and macro + super macro. Just to get it out of the way: I don’t find the macro and super macro lenses to be as useful since the phone needs to be pointed at subjects really close — less than one inch away — for the camera to focus.
The best I could do were these small flowers and insects from around Dandong that don’t really say much about the place. The bokeh on these photos is cool, but I’d much prefer a portrait lens especially when traveling.
The wide-angle + telephoto and fisheye + telephoto combos are great though, especially because the telephoto lenses provide up to 4x zoom without losing quality, while the wide-angle and fisheye capture so much more than the iPhone 7 Plus’ main lens.
Three bridges connect China to North Korea but only the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge is being used. Majority of North Korea’s international trade is done between Dandong and Sinuiju through this bridge.
Beside it is this pedestrian bridge that any tourist can use but ends in the middle of the river. Both bridges were bombed during the war, but this one was never repaired. On the other side of the river is a ferris wheel, water slide, and people playing basketball.
Dandong is where the Great Wall of China starts in the east and it sits across a mountain called Hushan.
When climbing to the top, there are a few of these passageways that you can use as resting points.
From one of the windows you can see the remainder of the wall that you need to climb.
Getting to the top is no easy feat but it’s worth it since you get a good view of Uiji county.
Here’s Dandong, China on the left, and Uiji, North Korea on the right.
You can go down through the other side so you can get a closer look at agricultural land and some houses in Uiji.
At the foot of the mountain are signs prohibiting people from crossing the border…
… as well as some North Korean products like ginseng, tiger bone liquor, and soap you can buy as souvenirs. They’re also selling North Korean Won, but they’re most likely counterfeit.
Another way to see North Korea is by taking a van further up Dandong. Speedboats cross the Yalu River past this broken bridge, and bring you to an area that’s already North Korean territory.
Up close you can see houses and buildings in Chongsu, North Korea that look abandoned.
But as you go along the river you’ll find signs of life: cows, farmers walking around, and occasionally, their pet dogs. I even saw a lady doing her laundry along the river.
This is what most of the houses I’ve seen look like. Unlike Pyongyang that has plenty of signs of urban development, this part of North Korea remains mostly rural, with agriculture as one of the main sources of living.
Before the boat turns around, you’ll see this bridge that locals use to cross to another part of North Korea. I saw some kids swimming in this area, and a few people on their bikes wearing clothes that look like they’re from the 1980s.
On the way back, the Chinese guide will try to sell you a North Korean bill, which, again, is probably fake.
Apart from the usual North Korean souvenirs I’ve seen in other shops, the ones sold at the wharf include Matryoshka dolls, plush keychains, and selfie sticks.
These photos don’t tell the whole story, just like a Pyongyang tour isn’t a definitive representation of North Korea. For sure there’s a lot more I didn’t see, both good and bad, beyond these border cities; but seeing North Korea through a different lens, no pun intended, without the state-organized tours is one of those life experiences money can never buy.
Before this trip, I thought I’d see heavily barricaded cities with soldiers constantly patrolling the border. Instead, what I saw were North Koreans living their lives as normally as possible, enjoying the outdoors, looking up and not down on screens like the rest of the world.
5 reasons why you need a smart, home printer
In 2021? Absolutely!
Every year, I would tell myself I need a printer — but end up not buying one. After all, do you really need it? At this age? Where you can sign documents on Adobe Acrobat or another third-party extension through your mail, and scan photos directly using your smartphone.
Regrettably, we all still need a home printer, bud. Regardless of their horrendous sizes and designs, there are still a lot of perks when you have a home printer. Especially when it’s a smart, inkjet printer.
Recently, Brother launched a new lineup of compact, space-saving inkjet printers. Using the latest (and most affordable of the bunch) DCP-T420W made me realize how a printer can make your life fun and easy, whether you’re always out or staying at home.
Hard and soft copies still go hand-in-hand
When life went on pause due to a global pandemic, businesses and other establishments (particularly printing services) closed and shut down. While most documents needed for work are being sent and signed via digital formats, there are days when I struggled not owning a printer when I badly needed it.
Back then, I needed to print copies of sheets and labels as I was shipping an expensive music box to Taiwan. The shipping company required these papers to be attached as part of their logistical process. Banks and government agencies also require physical copies of whatever is sent on their emails and/or websites. The world hasn’t fully gone digital, and there’s still a need for papers and printers.
Save time, save money
Using the Brother DCP-T420W — or having a home printer in general — helped save time and money. I don’t have to scramble to search for printing services, which requires driving around town. And yes, when you drive, you need to fill up the tank. Read: Price hike on fuel and gasoline.
But having your own [ink] tank to fill makes it easier for your wallet and convenience. Brother’s new lineup of printers lower cost per print, which approximately prints up to 7,500 pages in black and 5,000 pages in color. And they print fast. No more waiting on printing services asking you to come back later to get the files you needed.
So far, I haven’t fully consumed my inks even though I printed a bunch of high-quality photos. But if I ever ran out of supply, I know I can easily buy one seeing how they’re affordable and accessible.
Print, scan, and copy in the comfort of your own home
Having a printer means you can do everything in the comfort of your own home. Print some important documents, scan my passport for my visa applications, and copy waybills and signed agreements — I can do all of this even when I’m wearing pajamas.
More importantly, the DCP-T420W is so versatile that it lets my not-so-tech-savvy family use the printer without me assisting them. For the old-school, you can plug the USB cable into your laptop and print using Brother’s iPrint & Scan — which works on both Windows and macOS.
Meanwhile, the tech-savvier young’n can maximize the machine’s flexible connectivity options. There’s Built-in Wi-Fi where an entire group can effortlessly share one device, and you can print directly using your mobile devices. Isn’t that so convenient?
Get creative — and productive
There’s so much you can do when you have a printer. Back then I would always wonder, why would I need one?
Occasionally, you’ll realize the reasons why you’ll feel the need to have a printer at home. But for most people, it’s a fleeting moment — simply because they sometimes forget the endless possibilities in having this machine.
For the most part of the lockdown, I spent time with printables that helped me organize my habits, lifestyle, and my room. I started printing labels, charts to track my goals, and sheets to manage my finances. I have to say I’m halfway through my journey towards self-development, and I’m happy a simple machine like a printer helped me in this pursuit.
Print whatever you like without judgment
Above all, having a printer gives you the freedom to print whatever you feel like. I had a lot of fun printing photos, illustrations, and texts to help with my vision board and manifestation journals. To re-decorate my room, I bought photo papers and printed my favorite photos and moments to remind me how blissful my life is for having all these memories.
Yes, sometimes I get sentimental and with this at home, no printing person can judge me for asking to print weird group photos and travel photos in their shop.
Price and availability
The Brother DCP-T420W retails for PhP 7,650 (US$ 157). It’s available for purchase through Brother Philippines’ authorized dealers and is supported by the Brother Customer Service Center and Authorized Service Centers nationwide. Price is inclusive of prevailing taxes and includes a 2-year Extended Warranty.
There are other models available as well — DCP-T520W (PhP 8,950), DCP-T720DW (PhP11,950), DCP-T820DW (PhP 13,950), and MFC-T920DW (PhP 18,950). For more information, visit www.brother.com.ph.
OPPO Reno5: Ideal upper midranger
It’s a stellar overall package for its price
OPPO’s Reno line has slowly carved out an identity as somewhat of an affordable premium smartphone. Priced at around half of what flagships today cost but offering about two-thirds of the features, the OPPO Reno line has the makings of the ideal upper midranger, and the Reno5 fits that description to a T.
How it looks
The Reno5 (both the 4G and the 5G variants) come in either Galactic Silver or Starry Black. The Black has a more traditional glass finish, thereby being more magnetic to fingerprints and smudges, while the Galactic Silver has a frosted matte finish making it more palatable if you don’t like using a protective case.
The Galactic Silver Reno5 is flashier. The color kind of shifts depending on how light hits it. If you’re into phone finishes that catches the eye, this is totally the way to go.
Button placements are pretty standard. On the right hand side is the power button while the volume buttons are on the left. At the bottom you’ll find the speaker grille, USB-C port, and 3.5mm jack (nice).
At around 180g and with these dimensions (159.1 x 73.4 x 7.9 mm) with a 6.4-inch display, the Reno5 sits very close to my personal sweet spot in terms of overall smartphone size. It’s a little too light to my liking but it never feels fragile.
The ‘Oxygenation’ of ColorsOS
There’s been some buzz about how OnePlus — a sister company of OPPO under the BBK electronics umbrella — is becoming more and more like OPPO. What’s getting lost in all that noise is how OPPO is turning into OnePlus just as much as the latter is being ‘OPPO-fied.’
This is most evident in ColorOS 7.2. From its cluttered and bloatfull past, the UI skin that OPPO layers over Android has gotten more breathing room letting more oxygen come through. The customizations available run deep — everything from light vs dark mode, the shape and size of the icons, to the accent color of the settings menu.
Also present are the gesture shortcuts that longtime OnePlus fans will be familiar with like drawing a V to open the flashlight, O to open the camera, and double tap screen to wake. These are all OxygenOS staples that have found their way to OPPO and sometimes other Android skins too.
Some purists or overly zealous brand supporters might dismiss this as blatant copying, but is it really that big an issue especially when these are all quality of life improvements no matter how subtle they may be?
All things considered, ColorOS is now overall more appealing thanks in large part to applying design decisions first applied on OnePlus’s OxygenOS.
OLED, 5G, and Snapdragon 765G
This section is probably the least contentious about this phone. Its display, performance, and promise of next gen mobile connectivity work exactly as advertised. The 6.4-inch OLED display has a 90Hz refresh rate. It’s nice and smooth with the deep blacks typically found on OLED displays. It could use a bit more brightness when under intense daylight, but it’s in no way unusable under such circumstances.
The 5G variant will cost you a little more and it’s not at all a bad deal considering most especially if you live or frequent areas with 5G coverage. We used the OPPO Reno5 as a hotspot hub for half a day and it did not feel at all like we were on mobile hotspot.
Shifting talk over to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765g SoC, this seems to be the best-performing midrange chip. It won’t leave you wanting in terms of general smartphone use. We didn’t use it a lot for gaming on this particular handset but previous experience dictates it’s pretty darn good for mobile gaming as well.
Battery life is also pretty straightforward. Standby time is great and the 4300mAh will last you a day on moderate usage. That goes down to around five hours when used primarily for gaming and with 5G connection.
Fun with the cameras
The Reno5 sports a quad-camera system: 64MP main, 8MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro, 2MP depth. But all the fun really happens in the software sid of things.
It still features OPPO’s fun AI Color Portrait mode that isolates the subject from the background by draining the color out of the background and putting the subject front and center in full color.
This same feature also works on the 32MP selfie camera.
Even more exciting, this feature is now also available in video mode so there are more ways for you to have fun with it.
Another addition is the Night Flare Portrait that captures your subject in a nice stylized night shot filled with color and creamy bokeh.
More than just portraits
Naturally, the cameras along with the AI engine behind its imaging works not only for these fun and funky portrait images and videos. As a standard shooter for documenting your daily life, it’s more than reliable. Check out these samples:
Is this your GadgetMatch?
The easy answer is yes. The OPPO Reno5’s overall package is the ideal upper-midranger. There’s a lot of fun to be had with its camera features, it looks great, and performs just about as good as any phone in its price range.
It also doesn’t hurt that in the Philippines, OPPO went out of its way to make sure it can be had in may different ways including through TelCos and via installment basis.
The OPPO Reno5 is by no means a perfect smartphone (no such thing exists anyway), but for what you’re getting in relation to its pricing, it’s a stellar option.
How to remove filters in Zoom
Save yourself from a viral cat-astrophe
If you haven’t seen the viral video of a lawyer nervously faffing about when he showed up in a Zoom call on national television as a cat, you need to see this.
And, if you’re nervously giggling to yourself while Googling how to remove filters in Zoom so you don’t embarrass yourself like this, here’s a step-by-step:
Removing Zoom filters before a meeting
Prevention is better than cure. To make sure you save yourself from turning into a cat, you should check on your Zoom setting right meow.
- On the Zoom desktop client, click your profile picture on the top right corner of the screen and select Settings.
- Click the Background & Filter settings.
- Check your video preview to see if you have any filters selected or if you have the appropriate virtual background set up for the call.
- If you have a video filter you want to turn off, click the Video Filters
- Select the box labelled None in the top left corner of the filter selections. You may need to scroll up to find it.
Removing Zoom filters in a meeting
This is for when someone is panicking over being in a Zoom meeting with a filter on and you’re trying to change them back to being human.
- In a Zoom meeting, click the up arrow next to your Stop Video icon and select Choose Video Filter to open the Settings window.
- Select the box labelled None in the top left corner of the filter selections.
Removing third-party filters in a meeting
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