AsiaLIFE gets up close and personal with Mac whisperer Brian Caleda, founder of the popular iKnow computer repair store in Thao Dien. Photo by Romain Garrigue.

You were born in the Philippines, went to school in Indonesia, went to university in Hawaii and studied biology. How on earth did you end up running a computer repair store in Vietnam?

I ask myself the same question at times! I was working in environmental conservation in Hawaii after I graduated from university. In 2007, I purchased the first iPhone which only reinforced my addiction for bright, shiny tech devices. It sparked my interest in seeking employment with Apple, which led me to a position in corporate sales, mostly dealing with schools. By chance, in 2010, there was an opportunity to deploy tech workshops at the international schools in Saigon using the iPad, which was essentially the start of iKnow.

You’re about to become a dad for the first time. When are you going to introduce technology to your child? What do you imagine their life as an adult, considering all the tech changes you’ve seen so far in your lifetime?

Screen addiction is a scary but true reality for kids. In my personal experiences, I’ve seen this happen all too many times and it is something that I want to avoid with my own kids. It’s interesting to note that Steve Jobs didn’t allow his kids to use the iPad at all.

For me, I will try my best to keep my own kid away from any screen before the age of three. Which is a bit daunting as it also means that I need to limit my own screen time, so I don’t set a double standard. As a person with a business in the tech industry, this sounds easier said than done.

With all the advances in tech I’ve seen in my lifetime thus far, I can’t even imagine what to expect for the next generation. There’s a series on Netflix called Black Mirror – it’s a dark and uneasy series that examines the dystopian future and unanticipated consequences that new technologies could potentially bring to modern society. I really hope that this isn’t what my kid should expect!

Many people only seek help with their devices when they’re on the verge of blowing them up in anger. How do you stay calm when technology doesn’t do what it’s *insert swear word of choice* supposed to?

I’ve found that a quick Google search produces numerous hits for forums, groups, posts and websites for many issues and can provide a solace for tech-rage. Most of us are capable of DIY tech fixes, whether we know it or not. Once we know how to be more savvy with tech, we can avoid frustration that results from not understanding how tech works. However, if all else fails, there’s this shop on 94 Xuan Thuy, called iKnow, that may convince you that throwing your iPhone against the wall may not be as satisfying nor cost-effective as you think the experience would be. You should definitely go over there if you need assistance with any tech-related mishaps.

How many devices do you have at home, and what do you use them for?

This question made me realise how embarrassed I am to admit how much tech I actually have at home. Let’s just say that I am somewhat of a collector and own a few Apple devices that would make it into the Apple Museum in Prague.

You do a lot of work around town educating people about technology. What do you think is important for people to know? What are the basics you think everyone should know?

I think a good tech tip for everyone to know is not to overcharge their devices. You can avoid many hardware issues on all devices by making sure that you charge your device properly – once your device hits 100% charge, don’t leave it plugged in longer than necessary.

Technology is only as good as the person using it. Many times, people buy tech as a novelty but don’t necessarily know how to use it to the extent it was designed for. Spend some time getting to know how your tech can work for you, so you don’t spend time getting frustrated using your tech.

You’re a believer in following your passion. What’s the best general life advice that you’ve ever been given? What advice would you give to young people today?

When I was in university, I worked at the multicultural centre with a lady named Judy, who eventually lost her ability to speak because she got tongue cancer. She once told me that life is a collection of experiences that is built around your interactions with people, places and food. This really resonated with me and I live my life believing that the more people we engage with, the more places we see in our lifetime and the variety of food we taste gives us a fuller life. Hence, the advice I would give to young people today would be to get out into every crevice of the world, absorb as much as people coming your way have to say and eat your way through life.

Many parents worry that their kids spent too much time with screens. Yet, getting a handle on technology is going to be important for their future lives. How do you find a balance when it comes to technology and kids in the modern world?

Acceptable screen time for kids is a debatable issue. Most credible studies say that one to two hours per day is appropriate, depending on age and what they’re doing on their devices, as schools nowadays require homework to be done digitally. The real danger is non-educational, leisure screen time. In addition, I think there should be a 3:1 ratio when it comes to outside activity vs. screen time – three hours of activity to every one hour of non-educational screen time. Equally as important is to establish limits and rules on tech usage before exposing kids to it.

Even though I am a tech enthusiast, I believe in digital etiquette. In today’s digital world, we abuse tech usage all too often – texting while on our motorbikes, checking Facebook while we are having dinner, Instgram-ing every plate of food, taking selfies everywhere. I think not only should we establish limits on screen time, but it’s also important to teach kids tech-etiquette and acceptable use of devices.

What life skills can tech teach?

Technology is ever-present and pervasive in our daily lives. It is all around us and certainly, learning about the tech that surrounds us can make us understand how to use it practically and empower us to use tech to make life easier.

I think tech can teach skills such as productivity, time management, efficiency and logic. When you understand tech, there’s a certain logic that you develop. When you learn how to use tech to assist you with day-to-day tasks and activities, you learn how to be more productive and manage your time to be more efficient.

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