Posts from the “Multimedia” Category

The Year of Retro Gaming

Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast, Sega Master System, 3D0, Turbo Grafx and more! Playing older consoles, collecting for them and learning more about the older classics has become a thing with rising prices and huge followings.


Why?

Video game have been part of culture for some time now and with many of the generations that were first introduced to gaming growing older, they also been the same group that wants to collect from the time of their childhood. Why? Because these games are truly fun and marked the humble beginnings of franchises we see today. Remember those games that you traded in at EB Games when you were younger?

Bet you want them back now, huh? Not only is reliving your younger years fun, it can be quite expensive due to the fact that some systems and games were released in limited quantities, creating a smaller supply and an absurd resale market in the year 2018. Want a copy of PowerStone 2 for Dreamcast? Hope you’ve got an extra $100 laying around. Want a copy of Pan card Dragoon Saga for Sega Saturn? Sure!? That’ll be $600, please.


Where are the games?

Retro Gaming is essentially any console before the 6th generation (PS2, XBox, Dreamcast and GameCube), although a few people, myself included consider these retro. Games are all over the place, eBay, garage sales and locally.

More and more cities have retro gaming stores. Unfortunately, due to demand, online price guides and more, prices are pretty steady in most circumstances unless you’re buying a wholesale lot or getting a steal from a random yard sale you just so happen to pass.


Final Thoughts

Collecting, playing and enjoying older games is here and is here to stay. From exploding markets and arcades popping up everywhere you’re bound to either know someone or be a collector yourself. My key takeaway as a modest collector myself: Enjoy it.

Logitech Harmony Hub Review!!

One central remote, sometimes it’s a dream we never obtain; however, with technology anything is possible and it’s always fun when you’re incorporating it into a smarthome setup.

Enter Logitech Harmony (model 915-000238).


Design

There are no questions to be asked about the “cool” factor, it’s on 100 and this device gives you and your household the ability to manipulate the devices that are paired with your Harmony Hub.  This little guy works with TVs, Roku, Cable, video game consoles and even Phillips Hue lights (sorry I am on the TP-Link wagon) making this a solid addition to your living you and one that disappears given it’s unassuming look.


Setup

Setting up your Harmony Hub is very easy, it can be done either by connecting it to your PC via USB or simply downloading the Harmony app, which is preferred since you’ll need it to build activities and more later.  Once you have the hub connected to your network and running, you connect your devices.  Harmony will automatically detect devices that are connected and suggest that you add them (eg. Roku, Android TV, Apple TV and others).

Fair warning, simply because setup is easy does not mean that your activities (programmable scenes) will necessarily work all of the time.  Logitech uses a Start/End Sequence builder of getting things done, which work with a wide range of electronics, the only issue that I encountered was being able to consistently turn off and on my TV, with that being said, I created a generic “Activate TV” activity that will always run so that Harmony will always be awaiting my commands.  Hopefully, this is a hack that you do not need and is likely due to the age of my set, nearing 8 years.

HH_StartEndSequenceBuild

Logitech Activity builder.

Additionally, when creating an Activity, Harmony utilizes the Start Sequence to turn on all of the devices required for completion of that activity; however, at the end, during the End Sequence it wants to turn those same devices off — which makes no sense when you are watching Netflix, then want to issue the command “Watch Youtube”, which in the background is using the same set of devices.


Usage

Once you have Harmony setup the way you want, with any hacks that were needed to accomplish this setup, you pretty much set free to control your living room via your smartphone or digital assistant such as Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa.  Personally, I have my Harmony Hub integrated with Assistant so that I can utilize it with Google Home.  Integrating the two is different that most Home Control devices, so to accomplish this say “Hey Google, as Harmony to link my account”, from there you will be presented with a card that will allow you to link the two.

From there if all goes perfect, perhaps you can get an experience like the below (my original video was flagged for the music I asked Google to play, it happens):

Source: Caroline Dunn, YouTube

See the below example of activities I have created for my Harmony Hub setup:

IMG_1552.jpg


Final Impressions

The Harmony Hub is very powerful, but it is not for everyone.  Sometimes things work and other times they don’t….. The sequences that you do build are very powerful to accomplish tasks; however, in order to get simple things done can appear arduous and cumbersome but once things are in place, it is nothing short of magical.

DexJohn’s PC Score: 3.5/5

Your Guide to Instagram Carousel

In the latest update to Instagram, users are now finally able to upload multiple photos and or videos (up to ten) into one post, this is called carousel.  Let’s look at the good.  Not only can this help streamline your timeline of annoying friends, who like to flood your timeline and bombard you with post after post, it also gives you a solid view that will consolidate those multi posts.  However, this adds yet another gesture into Instagram’s once simple mobile application.
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Screenshot of the new carousel feature in Instagram.

When clicking the plus sign now, you simply click the “Select Multiple” option and grab all of the media you want. Simple, concise and easy.  How can you add this into your Instagram workflow?  Here’s a few scenarios that pass: going on a trip and you’ve captured the best photos of “insert museum here”, you’ve went to a sporting event the list goes on.  Here is how the carousel should NOT be used: “I’ve taken 4 shots of this thing and I don’t know which one is best….. “
No, please don’t.  This will make your followers hate you probably more than they already do.
TLDR: Instagram’s new carousel is a value add than can easily be killed by those who trash it and exemplified by those that use it in a more artistic manner.

Late 2016 MacBook Event Recap

“Hello Again” it’s happy time again in Cupertino with another event from Apple all about their infamous Mac product line.  We’ve been expecting a lot, hearing a little through the rumor mill and more — but what did we actually get?
General Updates
Let’s start with a review of what’s been happening in the world of Apple.  iPhone is doing extremely well with adoption of iOS 10 already at 60%.  Recent updates have enabled portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus and Apple Pay in Japan.  Additionally, on October 28th a new Nike branded Apple Watch (announced in September) will be available.  Apple TV now has 8000 apps available to it’s userbase with the popular game, Minecraft, coming to the big screen soon.  New features that are slated to hit boxes before the end of the year are Twitter integration into NFL and NBA coverage, which features a picture in picture styled approached that delivers rich Twitter content regarding the event that’s happening on the large portion of your screen.  A new app called “TV”, which will be coming to the Apple TV, iPhone and iPad seeks to bring into focus all things that you are watching across all of your apps so that you have a centralized “hub” for your media content and new ways to discover content that you may be unaware of.
But you want to hear about shiny new MacBooks, huh?  Well you’ve drug it out of me…
MacBook Updates
The new 2016 MacBook Pro will come in two sizes, 13″ and 15″ featuring a beautiful aluminum unibody design in silver and space gray color options.  As with other items in the Apple lineup, the screen will feature a wide color gamut resulting in a more vibrant and accurate display.  Important to note is that these are some of the thinnest and lightest laptops ever made by Apple with the 13″ MacBook Pro weighing 3 pounds and the 15″ weighing 4 pounds respectively while shaving up to 3 mm of the thickness with the lid closed.
Specs of Late 2016 MacBook Pro lineup as of October, 2016.

Specs of Late 2016 MacBook Pro lineup as of October, 2016.

With new internals that match the sophisticated look, there is also a new feature called “Touch Bar”, which replaces the standard function keys on the two top-end models of the MacBook Pro.  The new notebooks will utilize AMD’s Radeon Pro graphics architecture (15″ model) , which is built to improve upon performance achieved by the last generation MacBook Pro line.  With all of these new features squeezed into a smaller more lightweight body, battery life will not be sacrificed as users can still expect to get 10 hours on the device.  Prices of all MacBook Pro models are shown below.
Late 2016 MacBook lineup as of October, 2016.

Prices of Late 2016 MacBook lineup as of October, 2016.

Touch Bar
Touch Bar is a new spin on the standard row of function keys that we’ve been used to for years — and this spin isn’t a bad one (or at least not awful).
MacBook Pro Touch Bar.

MacBook Pro Touch Bar.

Touch Bar acts as functions keys; however, it is dynamic and shifts to help you control whatever app you are currently in.  If you are editing clips using Final Cut Pro, Touch Bar can allow you to trim clips, scrub the timeline and more.  For those who love to work in Adobe Photoshop, Touch Bar can apply filters, navigate between layers and scrub through all recent changes to your project.  Additionally, for the deejays out there, Touch Bar can completely change the workflow of mixing and take your abilities to a new and different level.  In addition, built into the bar is TouchID, which can be used for Apple Pay.  Finally, for all of the power users, Touch Bar can be completely (yes, completely) customized to your liking by simply dragging a new icon onto the bar from the screen of the MacBook using the trackpad.

Product Video (Source: Apple, Youtube)

Bottom line:  This is a solid update for the MacBook line.  Some are left wondering where are updates to the iMac, Mac Mini and Mac Pro — yes, I am part of that group.  I wonder if the Touchbar wouldn’t be more useful at the bottom of the keyboard so that the user doesn’t have to constantly reach to the top of the keyboard.

2016 Apple iPhone Keynote, Recap

Tim Cook, Pharrell Williams and James Corden appear in a car singing their favorite tunes along with small talk about the new iPhone.  They arrive at a door and Tim gets out and walks onto stage at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium — and it begins.
AppleEvent9_7

Stats from Tim
Apple Music
Apple’s music service is noted to have reached 17 million total subscriptions and features numerous exclusives from various artists such as Drake and Frank Ocean.
App Store
Since it’s inception there have been 140 billion app downloads.  The catalog contains approximately 500,000 games, making up the largest category on the App Store.  This incredible figure makes the iPhone/iPad combination the largest gaming platform.  Due to these feats by the iOS devices, Mario — that’s right — Mario, our favorite plumber will be gracing iOS with a new game entitled Super Mario Run!
Super Mario Run

Super Mario Run

This is the first time that a Mario game has been pushed officially by Nintendo to a mobile operating system and I’d easily say that they made the right choice by pushing it to the App Store.  It is created with one-handed gaming in mind and features competitive features in the mode “Toad Rally”.
Education
ConnectED is a national initiative to bring technology to underserved students.  With this Apple is working to donate iPads to 50K students.  Additionally, we’ve seen updates to iWork with improvements in collaboration similar to other applications like Google Docs where the user can see additions made by other collaborators.

New Products
Apple Watch
The Apple Watch was second only to Rolex in the world for sales revenue in the year 2015 and is the top selling smartwatch overall.
Introducing Apple Watch Series 2.
With these impressive stats Apple has worked to produce Apple Watch Series 2 that is completely redesigned on the inside to provide water resistance.  Additionally, the new wearable will be touting the Apple S2 processor, which garners faster app speeds on the device.  This new mobile processor will also make it’s way to the first-generation Apple Watch, which will still be sold by the company.  Furthermore, with the advent of the new Apple S2 processor, comes the new GPU that is 2x faster than the previous generation.
The display has been updated to be 2x brighter, blasting out pixel at 1000 nits (really bright, this is the brightest display that Apple has even put inside of one of it’s devices).  With new processors built for speed the new drove of Apple Watch devices are poised to be great for new adopters.
Sport and fitness have been some of the highlight features of the Apple Watch and these alone have made it be one of the premier fitness trackers in the industry and with the introduction of GPS things are only going to get better (if the GPS feature is not something that you long for, opting for Series One is still a good idea or even the first-generation without the new processor if you can handle a device that is a tad slower).  GPS tracking is a crucial feature for runners, cyclists and more who want a precise recap of the exact route that they followed.  Apple has also partnered with Nike to create the Apple Watch Nike+.  This specific model is similar to the Hermes Apple Watch that comes with a different band and a new watchface.   The Nike+ watchface will provide a sporty interface in addition the watch will remind the user to run and get active.
The Series 2 device with an additional finish of ceramic will start at $369 and the updated Series 1 (first-generation Apple Watch) will be sold at $269.

iPhone
The Apple iPhone is the best selling product of it’s kind in the history of the world and has sold 1 billion units.  Changes coming to iOS 10 include a newly redesigned Maps app that includes the ability to book rides and more directly from the app, changes to HomeKit, which is supported by virtually every major home automation product manufacturer, that are throughout the Home app that truly integrates home automation unlike any portal integrated into any mobile OS, changes to iMessage for more expression and tweaks and improvements that make this the fastest and best version of iOS to date.  But with it has to come new hardware, right?
Introducing iPhone 7.
The iPhone 7 is coming to us with a slew of new features, which are detailed below:
  • All new jet black and black colors (Apple notes that the Jet Black color option may scratch easily and promote the use of a case)
  • Home button is changed from a physical button to a Force-touch button, similar to the trackpad on the MacBook and MacBook Pro line that works based off of the patented Taptic engine (see below, the removal of the headphone jack allows for this innovation)
Apple home button Taptic engine placement.

Apple home button Taptic engine placement.

  • Water and dust resistant (IP67 certified) with gaskets throughout the housing
  • Camera features OIS on both 7 and 7 Plus models (additional camera features below)
    • F 1.8 aperture
    • 6 element lens
    • 12 MP sensor that is 60% faster than the previous model
    • Quad-LED true tone flash
    • Wide color gamut photos
    • RAW image capture
    • 7 MP facetime HD camera
    • 7 Plus features two 12 MP cameras, one wide-angle and another is telephoto so that the focal length can be manipulated and achieve the bokeh effect — these features will come as an update to iPhone 7 Plus users
iPhone 7 camera details.

iPhone 7 camera details.

  • Stereo speakers (one on top another on bottom)
  • Improvements to the Retina HD display that make it 25% brighter and support for a wide color gamut
  • No headphone jack, lightning ear pods are included (additionally a lightning to 3.5mm adapater comes with every iPhone 7 device)
  • Wireless AirPods, which feature the Apple W1 chip, are wireless buds that require one time setup and sync across all devices through iCloud
Apple's new AirPods, starting at $159

Apple’s new AirPods, starting at $159

  • Apple Pay support in Japan
  • Performance improvements through the newly design A10 Fusion chip, which is a 4 core 64-bit CPU that contains 2 high performance and 2 high efficiency cores (these can help save battery life when doing less intense tasks such as Email, calculator, light web-browsing and more)
A10 Fusion chip details.

A10 Fusion chip details.

All of these features for the same price as the previous generation, with the addition of more storage.  So, starting at $649 you will get the iPhone 7 models that come in either 32, 128 or 256GB configurations with these options replicating down to the existing iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.  The iPhone 7 will be available for preorder on 9/9 and will ship on 9/16.
iPhone Storage Configurations

iPhone Storage Configurations


Bottom line and takeaways:  This is a very solid announcement for Apple and a leap forward for the iPhone and Watch lines.  The camera is certainly the biggest selling feature on this device and with pictures becoming more and more important in our lives — it should be a focalpoint.  The removal of the headphone jack may make some upset, but it’s 2016 — get over it and use wireless devices.  Why tether yourself to a device that is meant to be mobile?  One note is that the AirPods are absolutely disgraceful — they are hideous, if you don’t get the point.  One of the newly released pairs of Beats wireless headphones seem to be a better choice here.  Additionally, revamping the home button is something much needed as that is the primary button on the device and it is known for collecting dust and sometimes becoming inoperable on older devices — this is huge.

Apple Watch Series 2 simply builds on the great foundation that was laid out by the first-generation device.  Now with better waterproofing, a new ceramic case and a faster processor — these updates bring it into 2016 with a bang.

Of course with any update, this is the best iPhone to date, with better storage options, same pricing scheme, snappy A10 Fusion chip — what more could we ask for?


Let’s end with a quick hands on of the newly announced iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 devices below, Enjoy.

iPhone 7 Hands on.

Apple Watch Series 2 Hands on.