Category: .


R.I.P.

Today, November the 9th of 2022, we mourn the passing of one the most useful electronic devices ever sold to the public: The Slingbox.

There is a great article on arstechnica explaining the history and the convoluted ways gluttonous media tried to kill it.

 

The Slingbox was introduced at the 2005 CES by Sling Media and its founders – Blake and Jason Krikorian. They were looking to deal with money-grabbing multimedia companies. They mused why should I have to pay my cellular company for data and then pay again to MLB for the right to watch the San Francisco Giants, when it’s free in my hometown, just because I’m traveling? So, the Slingbox was born. It allows you to watch anything remotely from your cable/satellite/over-the-air broadcasts from your main TV as though you were sitting in front of it, complete with a picture-perfect, functioning working image of the remote that controls one of those devices, on your mobile device or computer. Or, if you prefer, you could hook up a camera.

At the 2005 CES, they had a tiny booth as I remember, and the device looked literally like a silver brick studded with tiny holes. In complete sincerity, due to the absolute absurdity of the amount of new products shown at the show (5000+), I wasn’t able to fully grasp the implications as I ran through over 18 miles of aisles, from booth to booth.

When I was CompUSA in early July of 2005, I saw it on an endcap and grabbed one of the last ones. Even though I knew it was a genius product, it wasn’t until I began actually using it did I really appreciate it’s full potential. It became more than just a way to watch TV that I’ve already paid for …  it became a link to home when I was out of the country for weeks at a time. I could watch live satellite broadcasts or my recorded shows. I fondly remember being in a small cafe’ in Spain and watching on my Samsung Note 8 a truly crappy hometown football team get  slaughtered (as expected) while quaffing beer and chomping on Serrano ham. The only drawback was being unable to spit loud explicatives at the lousy team and their poor coaching. Looking at it from a later perspective, now I realize that Europe is the home of soccer, and more than a few borderline psychotic fans, so perhaps they would have understood.

Regardless, I consider it one of my top five, favorite electronic devices. But again … CBS, AT&T and other piggish multimedia companies tell us we shouldn’t be able to watch what we’ve already paid for … somehow being anywhere other than our living room negates our ability to watch TV. These are the same people that have tried repeatedly to stop us from recording shows for later viewing, ’cause that’s “criminal intellectual theft” somehow.

Of course I’ll find another way to do what the Slingbox did, despite the unquenchable hunger of CBS and its ilk to rip off their consumers. But the Slingbox has left us and with it the easy way to stay in contact with life at home.

No matter how these unethical companies try to restrict, prevent, control, monetize the limiting of data, the more obvious it becomes that they’re losing.

Tech waits for no one … seems these companies have never heard of Aristotle … and paraphrasing him, more than ever, in the tech-world, nature/physics abhors a vacuum …

2003, 2013, 2023 … and counting

Another year has almost passed and we need to look back to see forward. This will be the first time I’ll be comparing advances ten and twenty years past. So much has changed it’s actually a bit hard to believe how things were “back then.”

The year of 2003 was an amazing period of gestation for life in 2022. Some ideas, products, concepts and visions were “spot on” and others were victims of poor judgement, limited tech and a total lack of common sense (see XM satellite radio reference below).

Motorola, founded in 1928, was trying to expand into areas it really had no business messing with. Short sighted administration of what they were actually good at, resulted in them being only a brand name subsidiary of a Chinese company. A historically important company is now nothing more than another American company being turned into nothing more than a marketing name like Packard Bell, Polaroid and Fisher.

Sony said we needed a low-definition mini DVD camcorder (DCR-DVD 300) that cost $1000.00 for the cheapest version that didn’t even have a one megapixel camera and a usable LCD screen. A fragile disk spinning at about 1600 rpm only a millimeter or so away from a laser isn’t the best choice for an action video camera.

Samsung introduces its first LCD computer monitors (Syncmaster 152N-$349, 172N-$599, 192N-$750) foretelling the demise of hernia inducing fifty-pound CRT monitors.

Monster Cable was in its heyday and actually had Earth, Wind and Fire perform at CES, if you were lucky enough to get a ticket … I wasn’t.

Camera manufacturers were saying that 2003 was going to be the year of the three mega-pixel digital camera. At that time a three+ mega-pixel with a decent lens could easily cost over a thousand bucks. Today you can’t even buy a $100 phone with specs that bad. Personal CD music players were still hot and were getting really cheap (<$70). Seventy-two percent of all homes owned two or more DVD players. Recordable CD’s and DVD’s were everywhere and Blu-ray was only on a blue print …

XM satellite radio came out with a boom box that couldn’t be used indoors. Satellite reception and an indoor boombox … am I the only one who sees a problem? The guy that greenlighted that idea probably got fired and went to Motorola, Nokia or helped Sony develop a DVD camcorder.

Jensen thought this was the solution for different sources of music in a car. How you’d drive fiddling with this half-thought out kluge still evades me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tablet PC’s averaged $2000 and PDA’s (remember these?) around $300.

Panasonic introduces the first one-gigabyte SD card … perfect for those three megapixel cameras.

This was becoming the year-of-the-flat-screen TV, and if you had a fat wallet, Optoma introduced the world’s largest 46” plasma for $6995. Yeah, I’d never heard of them before or after this show either.

Samsung, not to be denied the title of the craziest priced TV at the 2003 show, introduced a 46” LCD 720p (LTN-468W) television for an eye-watering $11,000 … this low level of TV performance isn’t even available at Walmart now.

Bill Gates opened the show with his keynote address oblivious to the tech around him showing him that Microsoft was already behind in technology …. Waaaay behind. In 2003, it was only a year away from Apple’s “Project Purple” which would change so much of how we live to this day … the iPhone.

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Let’s jump forward a decade and see what’s different.

At the 2013 CES there was a huge scandal with uber-liberal “we know best” CBS suing Dish Network for devices that allow the “jump-past commercials” feature it acquired with the purchase of the bones of ReplayTv and that their satellite receiver allowed time-shifted viewing of recordings. Had these “good liberals” had succeeded, we wouldn’t be allowed to record a show to view at at later date.  This time-shift viewing was settled years earlier with the lawsuits over VCR’s, I guess they thought everyone forgot. The geniuses at CBS pressured CEDIA to remove Dish Networks receiver as the winner as “Product of the Year.” So much for free speech … I guess it only applies if you’re left-biased and love money more than your reputation or customers.

It was Polaroid’s 75th anniversary and amazingly, it still soldiers on to this day in one form or another.

Panasonic was the only TV company still mass-producing plasmas. They even made them in 32, 39, 42, 50, 55, 58 and 65″ models! Sadly, everyone else had phased them out or only had a few models remaining.

Amazingly, LG showed it’s first 1080p HD OLED sets … it seemed at the time they were “a day late and a dollar short” as the more common LCDs were displaying 4K sets, despite the fact there was zero, and I do mean zero, 4K content. There were still discussions whether to call it 4K or UHD … Notably, even in 2022 there’s not a single over-the-air 4K broadcast in the U.S. that I’m aware of.

LG was lamenting that customers weren’t using the smart features they began installing in their TV’s and was redesigning the interface. My question was this … how did they know? In China, your TV can rat you out for watching counter-revolutionary material and actually watch you with factory-installed cameras. I really don’t think LG is that voyeuristic, but to to this day, their EULA says if you connect your LG smart TV to the web and use its features, they have the right to see what you’ve been watching, complete with screen captures … as shockingly intrusive/abusive/creepy as it is, at least they admit it upfront.

The top TV’s were Samsung’s, Apple had the top selling laptop, the best selling stereo receivers were made by Yamaha, the most popular headphones were made by Monster who had Alicia Keys perform at the show and the top selling portable radio was Sony … that pretty much says it all about what has happened to Sony.

My choice for the dumbest “tech” item of the year, and I still stand by that decision now, is the “smart fork”. You can read my review of it in the December 2013 blog. I’m betting you’ll agree after you read it

I picked the “plasma” treating process for electronics such as your smartphone & your car’s computers … it renders them impervious to water as the most significant winner, but bizarrely even I underestimated the greed of the electronic manufacturers. The axiom they apparently have is: if it gets wet, it dies and the customer HAS to buy another one. Literal waterproofing of anything electronic, which today costs about a nickel per piece, is still a “no-brainer”. Would you pay a nickel more for your smartphone to be absolutely 100% waterproof? You’d think that of all the manufacturers, it’d be Apple who would be the first to adopt this tech to “save the planet” … but once again, it’s about the money stupid. Greenbacks over fake ethics …

I can’t help but wonder if the inventors in 2013 considered just how big tech/media would try to crush any product/idea that they deemed a threat … For every couple steps forward tech takes, there’s always someone who may try to crush advances like CBS or Toyota. But time is against them unless people are willing to go backwards in tech …

I just don’t see people lining up to ditch their smartphones or Teslas.

“Teslageschwindigkeit” … will it displace “Gesundheit” as the most common German word?

Last Saturday brought a new member to our family … after almost a year wait, we have a new Tesla Model Y Long Range to park next to my Model 3 Performance. So, it’s goodbye to our beloved AMG-equipped Mercedes.

While the M-B still is a fantastic ride, it feels like an anachronism when you drive it … as though you’ve stepped back to an earlier time when gas powered cars reached their pinnacle. I’m so surprised even though I’ve been driving an electric car for only a year, that the Mercedes feels so old. It didn’t when I ordered my first Tesla. Is this what people felt when they got their first telephone instead of using mail? Regardless, the difference is stunning … despite the power of the M-B, it feels amazingly slow and more like a museum piece. I assumed I’d be going for Tesla’s $2000 optional “acceleration boost”, and I was wrong. I’m having a bit of worry thinking if everyone had a car this quick, there’d be more accidents until folks realized they had to use more common sense. This kind of power was previously only reserved for sports cars … even the so called “supercars” … and this is a “grocery-getter.” OMG!

 

This 2022 Model Y has the new upgraded computers, so I may be ordering a new Model 3 Performance with the upgraded computers, after seeing how amazing it is. It’s essentially using the chips normally used in gaming rigs, so it’s crazy fast. No other car in existence has ever had this level of computing power before. Incredibly smooth screen, responsiveness and sheer speed of performance reminds me of an Alienware laptop more than a car screen. While every car tester/reviewer complains about the screens for every other electric car, Tesla again shows the world how it’s supposed to done. The performance difference between the Porsche screen and Tesla is laughable. The screens in VW’s and Toyota’s are almost unusable in comparison.

While I’m a sports car “kinda” guy, I have to admit this Model Y may the most perfect everyday car.     If you can only have one car, this should be it. No wondering it’s already sweeping the world as the best-selling car in many countries. Not electric car, but best-selling car, period. A digital car for a digital world …

Musk says that the upcoming truck will be truly game-changing … I can’t even guess how much better it’ll be. Interestingly, while picking the new “Y” up, I met a guy getting his fifth new Tesla and he has SIX trucks on order. Tesla cars seem to breed these kind of people … true believers. I wish I could jump a decade into the future and see what Musk has done.

The Germans have a new special phrase now … “Teslageschwindigkeit” … translated, it’s called “Tesla Speed”, which means the future is coming in on Musk’s schedule … and he has his foot planted to the floor of a speeding Tesla. Somehow, that expression makes sense on several different levels.

If Johannes had only known …

A big upgrade for my 3D printing habit … a new model capable of printing in two colors or different materials at the same time. Amazon had the Sovol SV04 model I was looking for, on sale for Prime Day, which saved me bucks … quoting the jailbird Martha, that’s a good thing.

 

All my older printers are restricted to a single filament at a time, and for 90% of my printing, it was enough. But as for more complicated prints that required dissolvable supports for the item I’m printing, a dual-filament printer (IDEX) is mandatory. Imagine the letter “U” upside down … you can’t print the curved portion when there is nothing underneath it, so a disposable scaffolding (supports) section is needed to hold it up in the middle. There are filaments used for supports that dissolve in water or chemicals, leaving a perfectly smooth area where they were previously attached. This is exactly how NASA built a missing wrench on the ISS for a mission that would have mandated a rocket launch to replace, by simply emailing them the build file. And yes, you can get that free file and print it at home with the Soval SV04. Think about that for a moment …

This unit also has auto bed-leveling, which is a blessing as it almost guarantees a level build surface. You can imagine how your build would look if it wasn’t. Imagine your residence built on a slant … you get the idea. It also protects the build in case the power goes off or you run out of filament mid-print. It will start again exactly where you left off. Normally, this means a print is headed for the garbage.

It’s definitely not a beginner’s model as there are literally almost an infinite number of settings that can be altered to tailor a perfect print. And when you’re a newbie, you absolutely don’t want/need this. But eventually as you get deeper into the skillset, you’ll need something more capable. Having owned several printers over the years, even I was taken aback by the number of options. One of the unique things of an IDEX printer is the ability to print two different (or identical things) simultaneously, or even print a mirror image.

You need to have the room for this particular model as it’s about a yard tall with filament rolls installed and therefore quite impossible to deny to my spouse I’ve gotten “another one.”  And the build bed needs around 30 inches of clearance for its fore & aft movement. Yes, it’s a big one …

Despite there being so many models of 3D printers, essentially almost all are based on just a couple of brands and this one is roughly based on “Creality’s” offerings. It has a few tweaks that I preferred and the reviews, including my unpaid one, are very positive. Very literally, it can hold its own against printers at three to four times more money. IMHO, I believe this one of the very best models in its segment.

Prints, after setup/calibration, are darn near perfect. It doesn’t seem to care about the material used (PLA, TPU, TPE, HIPS, ABS, PETG, WOOD, PC, PA, PVA, ASA), but if you’re looking for a chocolate printer, this isn’t it. Joking aside, if you need to print plastic-infused metals like copper/bronze/steel/brass/iron you either have to mod the Sovol or use a more specialized printer. At the very least you need to upgrade the heated nozzle to accept the abrasive metal filaments.        I’d recommend stainless steel, nickel-plated brass (better heat transfer), or other hardened alloys, since brass nozzles wear out much faster from abrasion.

I sincerely feel I’ve entered a new chapter in 3D printing with the Sovol. Prints that were simply not possible due to size/filament restrictions are now only a few yards of filament away …

I really don’t think the 15th Century polymath Johannes Gutenberg could have dreamed his mechanical ink printer would morph from printing ideas, to actual things.

What is past is prologue

A dozen years ago I tried out (and blogged about) the newest wireless internet access system called “Clear” using “Wi-Max” that eliminated cable/ISDN/satellite connections and promised unlimited download limits along with decent, if not terribly impressive speeds, and an added plus was that it was cheaper than my current provider. Using an external modem, I simply put it near a window and it would tie into my router via ethernet. But, the biggest thumbs-up was that I could cut the cord with the hated Comcast system. Sadly, it was a total disaster …

Fast forward to 2022, and the wireless companies are constantly screaming the 5G!!! network is the answer to internet access for the home, and T-Mobile’s offering of what “Clear” failed at. On paper it seemed too good to be true … by late Dad always said “there’s no Santa Claus” … what a prescient phase that turned out to be. T-Mobile’s 5G half-priced offering compared to Xfinity was steeped in problems from the moment I opened the box. I found they had either glued in the SIM card or it was soldered in.  Regardless, the new wireless 5G modem was DOA without a removable SIM card to access their network as the modem couldn’t access it without having the SIM card moved/replaced/rebooted. I had a hunch that this wasn’t going to be the last time I’d be talking to their tech folks who clearly knew less, (much, much less) than I did about their own product. Solution? Send a new one … that only took ten days and more phone calls. The new unit worked, sort of … compared to my Note 20 Ultra as a hotspot, it was barely passable as broadband. Then the fun began when I tunneled into it to shut off ports and such. T-Mobile doesn’t want you to be capable of accessing that feature on their modem, so they lock you out. That forces you to use their system, basically unprotected, at the modem level. That’s simply unacceptable as I’ve seen as many as 10,000 probing attacks against my IP from fun places like Russia and China … in ONE day. The T-Mobile tech read from a script while I described the issue … they literally had no clue about what I was talking about. Their resolution? Five+ days later their solution showed up and still didn’t work … more calls and I decided I didn’t need any additional grey hair. So as per my conversation with their “tech”, I returned it to the closest T-Mobile store only to be told they could only allow a single item return at their stores, and I’d have to find a box, pack it and drive to a UPS store … my experiment with T-Mobile allowed me to hear my Dad’s voice as clearly as he was standing in front of me … after an hour of waiting for help in the store, I wanted to say “do I look like I work for UPS?”  My sarcasm obviously wouldn’t be productive, so the “Great Box Search” began. There’s no happy ending here as the concept of viable wireless internet access is still as fruitless as it was in 2010. No wonder they say Musk is a genius, because other than politicians, no one gets hated upon deservedly as much as TV and internet providers … he’s trying to fill that void with Starlink … sigh … if only it was available in my area. I’ve a feeling we’ll see footprints on Mars before this is solved …

The Future is Measured in Volts

 

April 7, 2022 for Tesla is a watershed moment as this was the official opening date of the Tesla Austin Gigafactory. Although Mr. Musk didn’t grace me with an invite, I attended all the other events (including TeslaCon) meeting the fanatical (occasionally nuts) Tesla owners, YouTube “celebrities” and visited all the “earth-friendly” displays at these events.  The “earth-friendly” folks actually believe they’re saving earth, they just want to do that by selling you a $7,500.00+ electric bicycle to drive to your office 25 miles away in the rain/100 degree heat. Then they leave in a HUGE nine-MPG air-conditioned diesel truck with their planet saving bike in the rear, for a 2,000+ mile trip to Oregon … wearing $350 Chinese-made Nikes and drinking from disposable plastic bottles and carrying away their huge polyethylene tents and plastic tables.

Anyway, I digress … the energy at these events was amazing and the owners, without exception, are the “true believers” of Tesla. Most are stock holders and many have Tesla solar roofs/panels/powerwalls and came to experience the largest gathering of Tesla owners in the world. The common consensus among these folks is that Tesla/SpaceX/Boring/Neuralink/OpenAI is the future, and are excited to be part of it. You can feel that something truly amazing is happening and we are fortunate to be alive to see it … Musk is giving humanity the kick in the ass it needs to jump forward.

 

My trip from the Houston area, around Austin and back home wound up costing me exactly $12.78 in electricity, where as one of my other cars, at four dollars a gallon, would have cost just under a hundred bucks (excluding Mercedes-Benz maintenance). My biggest expense with the Tesla was the hotel parking at almost $60, and about 20 minutes of my time at a Tesla Supercharger, which was actually interesting as the other cars being charged had owners wanting to talk about how much they love their cars. Experiencing all the events truly laid bare how antiquated gasoline-powered cars are. There are some folks who will laugh at this as they “rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic,” but every day makes you realize just how much better the all-electric Teslas are, over any car, at any price, you’ve ever owned. Hopefully, this new factory will cut delivery times as the order of a new Model Y has about a one year wait. Worth noting, that the new top-of-the-line, $119,000+ Jeep will literally drop several tens of thousands of dollars the very moment you drive it over the curb as opposed to a Tesla that may be worth as much as ten to fifteen thousand more than you paid for it.

Yeah … ain’t gas-powered cars great?

Just a FYI: Porsche just released their $450,000 street-legal racing supercar, and that has been already beaten by a $60,000 Tesla with $3,000 of upgraded brake pads and tires … Porsche’s gas-powered car is dial-up internet, in a Tesla fiber-optic world.

As I’ve said repeatedly, tech waits for no one …

Giga is the correct word for the new Tesla factory in Austin

I had a chance to fly over and around the Texas Tesla Giga factory with my fancy drone and that name seems more appropriate now that I’ve seen it in person. It came be seen in the distance due to its sheer size as we drove to it. I had to go there in a Tesla of course, as anything else is tech-blasphemy. I may post a “Star Wars” version of it … sort of like the opening scene when the evil battleship is shown passing by … it really is that crazy.

The ride there almost never touching the steering wheel was far more relaxing than my normal driving habits. Tesla has the car speed limited while under “Autopilot” mode and even though I was slower than the surrounding traffic (85+ mph, or waaay more, after all, it is Texas), for the first time it didn’t really bother me. For someone who has only owned sportscars/supercars/ponycars my entire life, being the slowest guy didn’t bother me.  This is really hard to explain as it wasn’t expected or wanted since I didn’t get my first Tesla to be “green” or any other such nonsense. I bought it specifically because of what it could do performance-wise. The performance is stunning, easily surpassing Ferraris and Porsches at four times the price, and yet with so much usability and practicality. Had I been in my thirsty Dinan-modified BMW M3 my fuel cost would have been easily over $200 for this trip … with the Tesla … it was zero. The parking lot cost for dinner that night cost more than 400+ miles of driving. I had free Tesla Supercharging that made the entire trip amazingly painless. I’d hate to be in any other electric car and have to hunt for a charging station, which are still relatively rare, and even more rare is a working one. Some estimates are as high as 90% of non-Tesla chargers DON’T work in most US markets. Every time I take a long trip in it, I’m more amazed … even when I have to begin paying for the Tesla Superchargers, the amount is trivial compared to a gas car. And despite the folks who may say “electric cars may be great, but they just won’t work for me because (insert your own answer here … I’ve heard them all … and they’re all wrong).

I did take the leap into the unknown buying a Tesla, and I never expected that I would fall in love with a car so completely. I just can’t wait to see what they do next … Hopefully at the world’s largest owners gathering at “Teslacon” in April, we’ll have a roadmap of the future.

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Pics from the 2022 CES that were interesting … part two

This is Vinfast from Vietnam and I have to admit, the build quality was almost “Mercedes-quality”.    The panel gaps and overall impression of their cars was extremely positive and impressive. I’ve never seen ANY American car with this kind of build quality and that includes US-made Japanese vehicles. Far less bucks than almost any other electric car maker for an alternative to regular gas-powered cars for customers that aren’t looking for something like a cutting-edge Tesla. Think “Toyota Camry or SUV” for the masses using batteries … absolutely exciting as a refrigerator … for people who just want transportation and couldn’t care less about the driving experience or features … but are tired of maintenance and paying for gas. As is the case for most of the new electric cars, they blatantly rip-off the appearance of the Tesla screen and that’s a good thing. They are coming to the US this year supposedly, and I haven’t a clue on their reliability or of any of the other 100+ new electric car startups. But I have to admit, for the market they are aiming for, they hit the bullseye.



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Although not as exciting as a Taser spoon, this company came to the right place for tech-weirdness.   I can only assume their market is the perpetually late riser for work who only had time for coffee and dreams of fruit …

Pics from the 2022 CES that were interesting… part two

This is just a few pictures I found interesting … or confusing.

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Robots were everywhere, and essentially useless for a home despite what they were saying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An electric motorcycle from Canada that literally costs as much a Tesla … who thought this was a good idea?

 

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Uhhhhhh … perhaps they could pick a different image not so invoking of the Bezos flying p…s

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The new Togg electric car from Turkey. What could possibly go wrong with this? Beautiful, but I can only imagine the phone calls to customer service in a language that only lags behind Finnish in utter “gibberish-ish” for an English-only speaker.

 

CES 2022 – Covid edition

In my 20+ years of attending the CES show in Vegas, this one will go down as the strangest ever. Ranging from bizarre Covid rules and its utter lack of common sense, having to deal with Biden and his entourage in my hotel, and then the “silver lining” of finding the singularly coolest thing I’ve ever seen at a show.

There were a few items that for some unknown reason, seemed almost everywhere in the show … dog monitoring collars and robots of every style, most of which seemed utterly ludicrous for their uses. Most of the robots reminded me of an old patent from the 1930s for a machine that dunked your donut in your coffee for you. Ah yes, they were that helpful.

The show entry requirements were the strictest I’ve ever encountered and the most counterintuitive at the same time. Mandatory “CLEAR” app, vaccination and masks … but, CTA decided to shorten the show by a day. That caused the attendees that had flown in from across the globe to panic and jam in much, much more closely as they couldn’t space the show out over an additional day. That meant crowds where there shouldn’t have been. That in turn caused the few remaining exhibitors to panic on the last day and begin packing up early. Some people were so freaked out by the media hype that “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!” that one guy decided that he needed gear appropriate for the moon for his safety. And yes, even in the world’s largest high-tech show, where weirdness is a staple of the industry, people were laughing …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As a Tesla owner, I was really excited to finally ride in the Elon Musk tunnel.  I thought it would be a true thrill … I was wrong, because that was the wrong way to look at it. I considered that when using public transportation, I don’t want excitement. I want efficiency and safety. (And oh yes, free … because free is good.)  That’s precisely what I got. The typical Musk haters were saying things that only a true low-information Musk-hater could say, because the tunnel was an absolute model of safety/comfort/speed. Reading the negative comments about it made me shake my head.

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BMW showed a car wrapped in eInk similar to what an Amazon Kindle uses. Except the installation of this unique material, at the world’s largest high-tech show, was clearly handled by a ten-year old as it was peeling off and bubbling everywhere as a clear demonstration of what is happening at BMW.      As usual they had excellent snacks, but that didn’t hide how their cars reeked of old tech when you sat in their latest designs. As an decades old BMW fan/owner, this sadly showed me just how far behind Tesla the company has fallen. The entire display was, to put it politely, a mess of awful “art” and other things that simply didn’t belong at a tech show.  If you weren’t told that you were in a BMW display, you’d have no idea. I was struck with the feeling that maybe they forgot they were going, and just took whatever they could get their hands on. Quite frankly, I was shocked that they showed their “latest” car. It reminded of just an “ok” car from 1998, with imitation carbon fiber stickers on the door sills and cheap materials inside … not a tech/performance marvel like the Tesla that is poised to overtake them in world sales in late 2022 or early 2023, as Tesla possibly will with Mercedes and Kia.

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Samsung showed a fun item called the “Freestyle.” A fully self-contained $900 HD projector that had multiple optional adapters that allowed it be used in ways you’ve probably never imagined. You could mount it on a little stand to project on your desk/table in lieu of a normal monitor or attach the light bulb screw-in adapter to project whatever you want below, such as the floor or simply use it for movies. Projecting onto any surface doesn’t get any simpler than this. Regardless, it looked like a fun addition for any geek.

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Now comes the unveiling of the undisputed winner of the show and you’ll understand why I believe it is, to date, the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen at the show. You’ll be amazed also because I’m one of this company’s harshest critics for their boneheaded decisions causing it to slide into mediocrity. Sony displayed their satellite … no big deal, right?  However, this isn’t like any other EVER launched.  These new low-orbit satellites (there may be as many as four) are fully controllable by ANYONE!  You can access it for 10 minutes a time to point it anywhere you want, zoom in/out and take picture and videos. This has NEVER been available to individuals, only governments and the occasional academic. With gyros to maneuver the camera, which uses zero fuel, and small thrusters to keep it from heading to a flaming destruction, it promises another stepping stone for “regular” folks into space.    In another example of the democratization of space, I was told that it may be Musk’s SpaceX launching it into orbit.

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Every show has items that make you wonder if the “inventor” showed his latest gadget just to evoke giggles.

I watched the inventor as he dipped his “special” spoon into yogurt, and watched the look on his face when it began shocking him.  Apparently, even he hasn’t adjusted to having his tongue “electrically stimulated” to improve the flavor of food. He visibly winced when the volts hit … then he had to fight gagging when he dug back in for another go. I quickly stepped back … after all, I didn’t want to wear yogurt spit on my freshly-pressed slacks for the rest of the day. One must ask … exactly how is a Taser spoon going to help your meal? But as I said many times before, you can’t stop progress.        So, I guess we’ll be carrying a battery to dinner to recharge our silverware for a multi-course meal.   Or will you be a pretender and use only a dead battery version when in polite company?

Is he hoping that there will be a Tesla-branded version?  So many options …

Regardless, when queried, he said his strawberry yogurt tasted like chicken. (Insert you own joke here.)

I walked away as I was bent over and choking on laughter … he didn’t notice, though his eyes were excruciatingly wide-open when the spoon’s voltage screamed “let’s dance MF’er” … and he obeyed as his face pulsed with voltage …

 

Back to the Future in 2022

As much as I look forward to attending the 2022 CES in person after last years’ hiatus, I find I enjoy it more when I reflect on where the tech industry was a decade previously. CES 2012 was more of an incremental type of show, however there were a few items of substantial importance and one of incredible impact.

This was the year of Tesla introducing the Model S, their first whole car of their own design and build … and my god, it was awful. The blog I wrote at the time is still available on this site. But, let’s just cut to the chase … it was a horrible car. The construction was pathetic and I kept wondering why on earth they would choose to show such “construction horribilis” in a world-wide exhibit that showcased their ineptitude.

(this is the actual original brochure from the show)

I wasn’t kind in my description at the time and that opinion still stands for their 2012 model … jump to 2021 and now I own one with two more on order. It’s the most fantastic car I’ve ever owned and I’ll never buy another gas-powered car again.

The CEO of Ford and Mercedes were at the 2012 show and I’m absolutely certain they weren’t impressed either … now the current CEO’s are freaking out over Tesla’s success and tech as they fall behind at an increasing rate daily.

Amazingly Nokia won “Best of Show” for their Lumina 900 phone. I doubt if any GenZ people even know who they are today.

Samsung showed their 1st OLED TV and promised it was going on sale shortly … they lied. They discovered they didn’t have the technical expertise that LG had and canceled production.

At CES 2012 they unveiled the “Eureka Park” section that highlighted only startup companies … this is my fav part of CES today, as it embodies what tech can do to improve lives and is where the actual future can be glimpsed. Of the 88 companies shown at that show, I’m not aware of even a single survivor however.

The top consumer electronics companies in the world were, in decreasing order, GE, Samsung and Sony. Apple was in 11th place and is first today with Samsung still in 2nd

Apple’s newest phone was the “4” … remember it? No? It was one of the last, smaller iPhones and was a huge improvement over the cool, but slow, 3GS model. I’ve always thought the 3GS was the first serious iPhone, and have one to this day in my collection. But the “4” displayed the true usefulness of a smart phone.

Tablets were new and Apple didn’t even release their first iPad until March … at the time of the show, Android tablets were the only choice and Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) was the OS.

The TV manufacturers were unhappy with less than expected sales of 3D, backlit and smart televisions. While 3D is clearly gone, it’s almost impossible today to buy a large TV without the other two.

Basically, if you bought a camera that wasn’t a fancy model, it was a 16mp model for a couple of hundred bucks.

Of course, it isn’t CES without a few weird things … a company called Ecko Unltd showed a portable speaker that looked like a spray can and somehow, they thought that’s important.

I’m considering doing a 20-year anthology for future CES in addition to the ten-year edition … it really shows how our lives are not just different, but radically changed due to advancing tech … for better or worse. Tech, like essentially everything else, can advance the human condition (Tesla) or be a cancer eating away at people’s lives (Facebook) … it’s up to each of us to choose how we embrace the future. If you can’t look back, you’re blind as to what’s coming, and, if it’s actually valuable or damaging.

I’ve said it a thousand times …”tech waits for no one.”

360 degree headache

While at CES I always love using the 360 degree VR goggles and seeing the world in a whole new way. While you can use your mobile and sheets of cardboard to make them, it really ain’t the same. The CES demos are always impressive and have huge lines to experience the VR world through a purpose-made headset. The defacto VR standard is the now “not-a-start-up” Oculus brand. Started in 2012 and sold to perpetually privacy-stealing Facebook for 2.3 billion dollars. Forget the reviews you may see … here’s the truth.

 

As I got a good deal (I never use disingenuous “free, or on-loan items”) on the newest version of the Oculus headset, it seemed the time to try it in the wild, so to speak, rather than a one-off show model. The unboxing looked promising with a nice presentation after opening the box. It was all downhill after that. First, Facebook mandates you have an account with them to track EVERYTHING you do with it. Secondly, it’s mucho uncomfortable and heavy to the point that I got a headache from the figurately cinderblock weight pulling my head down/forward and the blurry images. There is zero adjustment for focus, which automatically guarantees bad viewing and eye strain. And blurry it is … it uses Fresnel lenses which mandate absolutely NO movement on your head to see anything in some fashion of focus. If the headband isn’t crushing your skull, it won’t stay where the lenses allow you to have a modicum of visual clarity. Ok, this isn’t quite what I expected.

 

The Advils had better be close after thirty minutes of squinting and straining … I couldn’t find a single free viewing source that wasn’t blurred to the point of pain. Many times I couldn’t tell what was going on in the video except for the sound. Additionally, there are times where what you are trying to watch is behind you and there’s no way to pivot it around to where it’s comfortable for you watch despite using the controls that say it will. If you wear glasses, it gets worse … I felt like my face was in a heated vice with a huge weight pulling down on my neck muscles.

There are so many flaws: weight, heat, poor controls, blurry images, information-stealing, high purchase price. It just get worse after you realize that essentially Facebook has turned a potential life-experience sharing device into a crappy gaming machine. There are almost a total dearth of experiences beyond stupidly expense and boring games. After a very considerable period of time I found a Mount Everest and Florence video. The one from Italy showed in glaring detail the absolute failure of its promise. Having been there so many times that I’ve lost count, watching the walking tour and using my memory to fill in the blurred images, I was transported to my seat on a balcony overlooking the entrance to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and watching the crowds … Zuckerberg unsurprisingly managed to turn something potentially truly amazing, into a unmitigated mess.

Brandon says China first at any cost

We are now seeing a boom market in the stock market (for BEV production) that has only been seen once in my lifetime … the “dot-com” craze. But, unlike Pets.com, this probably isn’t stopping. As I write this, in the last two weeks, Tesla has jumped nearly $400 a share. All stocks related to any aspect of BEV’s are rising. From chips to batteries, these are the hottest stocks since Apple. And unlike Apple, they’re not running out of gas. BYD (world’s 2nd largest BEV maker), Xpeng, Nio and other Chinese companies are growing as GM, Ford, Toyota, BMW and other car companies are completely freaking out as their market shrinks. Toyota and BMW are actually saying that buying BEV’s are actually bad, as they can’t compete with Tesla. Legacy car makers are poised to be crushed by cheaper non-union Chinese cars even as Congress tries to punish the most American car-maker … Tesla. As of this point, the trillion-dollar Tesla company is worth more than the other nine largest car companies … COMBINED. Musk is publicly mulling selling a tiny bit of his stock due to taxes, which ironically could buy a 50% stake in Ford. I don’t think he needs a hobby, which is what Ford would be for him.

So clearly, he knows how to make a business work, unlike government.

Instead of supporting Tesla, the Democrat congress and Biden is literally doing everything it can to hurt Tesla by trying to prop up the shoddy build-quality, union jobs by offering a “union-made tax credit.”. By doing this, they actually help the Chinese car companies by damaging the only American car company capable of competing with them. Wait, doesn’t Biden and his family have substantial business interests with the Chinese government? I’ve wondered why Tesla just doesn’t buy the mostly Mexican, Canadian and Chinese made GM and Ford brands to combat this. Fire everyone there and turn the plants into building something more modern like the upcoming $25,000 Tesla auto. This cuts the legs out from under Biden political cash cow, punishes the utterly corrupt Dems and forces the new employees to build something more worthy of “Made in the USA” moniker.

Ah, we can dream …

Is Musk, Mr. Ford reincarnated?

Looking at one of the biggest transitions in modern history is fascinating. I wasn’t alive when flying became possible for the masses or when Mr. Edison showed his light bulb. However, I’ve seen computers, jet planes, cell phones and the internet become old news. There are people in the job market who have never known a world without these items. So I can’t help but smirk that the bulk of Millennials and Gen-Z, who think they own the future, don’t see the next huge change in their lives … BEVs. (Battery Electric Vehicles)

I just took a trip to San Antonio in the new Tesla Model 3 and my total cost for travel was … zero. The parking garage I used had free charging. Had this been any of our other cars it’d have been easily well over $100. This is at a time where gas in California has hit $8.49 a gallon for “super.” I sincerely have to admit I didn’t expect it would be this painless using an electric car for long distance travel. The Model 3 charged so fast at a Tesla-only Supercharger stop that I couldn’t finish my sandwich. It really didn’t need the charge after only about 150 miles of travel, but I was curious about the experience. I would have stopped anyway after a few hours of driving. And it couldn’t have been more positive. Literally, I backed into a stall, stepped out and plugged in the Tesla charging plug and walked away through the other folks standing at the pumps paying almost four bucks a gallon for fuel for their pickups. I had to restrain a laugh at a few Hybrids buying gas. Twenty to thirty miles on purely electric is absurd and that’s why that market is dying and countries are revoking “green” vehicle status for them. It’s entirely feasible to travel coast-to-coast for zero dollars. I’d never do that as I absolutely don’t have the patience for using the slow(er) chargers. But, it IS possible. Previously, only the hobos trainhopping could do that. I don’t see this continuing to be as common in the future as more people discover the advantages of electric cars. But, for now at least, the owners of BEV’s are enjoying this gift. And we only have one person to thank for this … Elon Musk. Due to unions, oil companies and politicians this wouldn’t have happened in the lifespan of Boomers or Millennials … perhaps not even for the Gen-Z folks when they hit social security. That’s why this is so life-changing. No need for gas stations, mechanical repair places, mass petroleum drilling, people who make engine blocks and air filters and so many other ancillary businesses that I’ve lost count. In many ways, it’s as equally significant as when the car replaced the horse, and businesses created over a century ago from the rise of Ford, will simply disappear in just a few years. We’ve turned that corner, and now it’s unstoppable … the only question remains is which car companies will survive, and that’s worthy of several blogs. Right now, looking from a 2021 perspective and knowing what I do, darn few …

Ironically, I believe Henry Ford would understand.

Asleep at the Wheel

On September 30th, VW, the world’s largest car maker had an almost precedented occurrence … ALL of the top managers/executives in Germany were called in for can only be described as a true “Come to Jesus” moment. The CEO told all in attendance that VW is serious trouble. And I’m not talking about the bogus “diesel-gate” episode. The CEO explained that VW is so far behind Tesla that something has to be dramatically changed for them to survive. Tesla can produce three cars in the time it takes VW/Audi/Porsche to make a single car. And that single inferior car LOSES money for the VW group. Tesla’s cars, being better engineered, are hugely profitable and basically funds the entire Musk empire. The VW boss says he is tearing down the old VW factories and he hopes they can begin building electric cars in 2025! Not in the next few months, but almost half a decade in the future, IF everything goes to plan. One of the world’s top car engineers (Sandy Munro), if not “the” top guy, says that every car company in existence is five to ten years away from any kind of parity with Tesla today. Imagine where Tesla will be in just two years … It’s further proof that many of the car companies we have today, won’t exist in five to ten years. Toyota is frightened, as they literally have nothing to fall back upon, that they are trying everything it can through politics, lawsuits and PR to try to slow down the Tesla juggernaut. I always get amused when I talk about EV’s that some people say “it’ll never catch-on, or they’ll never drive one as it doesn’t meet their needs.” They may have not heard that almost every single car company on the planet has stated that they have set dates of total elimination of internal combustion engines (ICE). That’s a unimaginably huge problem as NO company has ANY infrastructure to support their electric cars … only Tesla started with the stations for their cars before mass production. That means in simple terms, ALL car companies will have to rely on somebody, somewhere to put a few charging stations available to the other brands. Tesla has almost 30,000 charging points exclusive to their cars. With the very probable failure of “Electrify America” as the lawsuit money is almost gone, it means an unmitigated disaster for every other car company. What good is their electric car that you can’t drive more than 50-100 miles from home with?

With literally almost no maintenance, incredibly cheap “electric fuel”, mind boggling performance, cutting-edge tech and the highest safety ratings that any car has ever achieved according to the NTSA, no wonder that the waiting list of several months for a new Tesla is getting longer daily. I’ve had Cadillacs that were “worn-out” and scrap pile worthy after only 70,000 easy miles … the projected lifespan (this is only speculative … that I’m currently aware of, that no Tesla has worn out yet under normal use, since the initial Model S production in 2012) is over 200,000 miles. When the new Tesla 46-80 batteries are in full production, the price for their batteries will plummet. So even when a car with +200,000 miles may need batteries, the replacement will be far, far cheaper than any other company and back on the road quickly as a new battery pack replacement only takes a couple of hours, for another 200,000 miles or even more as the Tesla battery-tech marches double-time forward into the future. Imagine you’re truly an amazing engineer … do you go to Ford/GM/VW or to the company that owns SpaceX, The Boring Company, Neuralink, OpenAI, Solar City and is branching into insurance, Tesla-branded stores, mass electric generation/storage, HVAC home systems, robotics and even electric quad-runners? Why work for Toyota or Ford, when they clearly don’t have a clue about what is happening to the car market or how to stop their share slide.

For a bit of fun perspective, Porsche’s car to compete with the $60k Tesla Model 3 performance is a $150,000+ car festooned with so many buttons/switches/panels that it looks like something out of a Mel Brooks’ sci-fi movie. In contrast, the Model 3 is more like a Japanese washitsu … stark, and yet functional. They certainly don’t want to compare the Porsche with the Tesla Plaid Model S as it’s the current world record holder for an unmodified, actual production car at the Nürburgring track in Germany, which is the world’s standard for measuring performance. And, it’s tens of thousands dollars cheaper. Just an FYI, the Plaid+ has been confirmed … yet more bad news for Porsche and Ferrari. There is a car company claiming that their car is faster by about one second (which has yet to produce a single car) for only 1.7 million dollars. This is a car, that the taxes alone for their completely hand-made 1.7 million dollar, two-person “supercar”, will buy the four-door, dog-friendly Tesla sedan. This shows again just how far EVERYONE is behind …

The new electric Mustang, using batteries that Ford has to buy from another company, has been involved in recalls and failed safety tests. The thing has over 60 feet of fluid tubing, four pumps and 37 connection points cobbled together to prevent the electrics from melting. Amazingly, this is considered the 2nd best system as the VW and others are far worse. The Tesla, on the other hand, has less than a third of the length of the Mustang tubes and almost no connectors. Apparently, “Job One” at Ford is seeing how many feet of rubber tubes they can jam into a bad design. Just wait until those 60+ feet of uniquely-shaped tubes and 37 connectors begin to go bad. Can you imagine the cost not just in parts, but in labor! Chevrolet is recalling ALL of its Bolts due to the company making their batteries not being able to stop the Chevy’s from spontaneously bursting into flames. And the Volt is now cancelled too. Chevrolet has no battery manufacturing plants and is hoping that the very company that made the defective batteries, will help them build batteries. This is the best that GM and Ford can do against Tesla, despite the fact that GM started building electric cars 25 years ago and then cancelled the production over the livid protests of the drivers! They decided there was no future for EV’s …

Does this mean we will see Tesla buying VW, Toyota or Ford and GM? Just a few months ago, Tesla became more valuable than Toyota, Volkswagen, Mercedes, and General Motors, plus China-based BYD and NIO brands … combined. They are well on track to be a multi-trillion dollar company and sales are continuing to decline for competitors. … currently, Tesla is worth MORE than ten times the value of GM and almost 16 times the value of Ford. The value of their stock is projected to hit $4000 (approx. four trillion dollars) … should that actually occur, that would mean Tesla is worth more than the top ten car companies … combined. Now, you see why every car company is freaking out? In some countries, such as Norway, more people buy Teslas, than all other EV car companies by huge margins …. And it’s the number one selling car, EV or gas, at almost a third of all sales in September alone. Tesla is also the number one EV seller in Spain and Israel by large margins. The new German plant will open in a few more months, so these numbers will jump in 2022 and simply leave all other companies choking on their dust. This combined with the Texas plant opening in a few weeks will mean Tesla selling about 20% as many cars as VW … that’s between 2 and 2.5 million cars. And, they will have done this with the Model 3 and Y in less than four years, with only four factories. Toyota sells ten million cars a year using over 100 plants and currently, not a single one makes EV’s. And, no other company has even the remotest ability to make the batteries, or amounts required to match the Tesla-produced ones.

As I’ve said repeatedly before, tech waits for no one … someone should have told that to VW and Toyota … reminds of an old favorite band of mine, “Asleep at the Wheel.”

UPDATE 10/25/2021 – The current waiting list for some of the cars has now hit eleven months! Crazily, some are worse … my tri-motor Cybertruck delivery is scheduled for Oct 27th …. 2024!!!! The price for this Cyberbeast is in “flux” … in other words, who knows? We’re considering another Tesla for my wife, and I’m thinking a Plaid Model S may be necessary as a replacement for my Model Performance 3. But the wait for a long-range Model Y is a minimum of TEN months. Yes, that’s a long time … but not as long as waiting for anything else from any other company that’s as good as a 2016 Tesla. Tech and time wait for no one …

Stealerships Vs. Musk

I finally was able to pick my Model 3 performance at the Tesla “facility” as they aren’t allowed to have an actual dealership/stealership in Texas because Musk (rightfully) refused to play the well-established corruption game as it’s played in Texas. The state bans all manufacturers from selling direct to the public so that the “stealers” can really get rich at the publics’ expense. I was in this business for years, and saw firsthand, the games that the car dealerships play. Quite simply, it only exists to extract more money from customers … in other words, if customers don’t have a huge budget for lobbyists, like car dealerships do, possibly doing things that might be illegal or at the very least disreputable, it’s certain that those customers are going to pay more. It’s easier to pay bucks to a political campaign and be “protected” rather than to be honest about what the dealerships are doing and passing a bill to stop it. Why this hasn’t been contested in court is absolutely beyond belief … This has been going on so long that Texans accept this as normal … but, it’s not … they’re using politicians to keep them rich by allowing practices that every new car buyer has experienced, for already crazy-priced new cars. In insane California, at least they DO allow direct sales. It’s shocking that a deep-red state like Texas would allow this level of blatant legalized theft. It’s such a restraint of trade that it beggars belief … but in Texas apparently you can buy yourself a protected business free of any real competition. Does anyone honestly believe the few dealers don’t have an “under-the-table” agreement to fix pricing?  As I said earlier, I was in the biz … and the answer is yes. As more stealerships are owned by a rapidly shrinking number of owners, prices go up. That’s just common sense … a monopoly means you pay more … it’s just simple economics. Musk simply bypassed this nonsense by using the web and using a delivery service to bring your out-of-state purchase to Texas. Yes, you have fixed prices, but the pricing for what you get is more than fair. Buy a new GM or Ford product and when you roll over the curb, your new baby loses 10 to 20% of value … A used Tesla costs MORE than a new one, sometimes, a lot more. The wait, as of this writing, for the Tesla “S” is EIGHT months!  If the Feds pass a new tax credit for electric cars, it’s been predicted that the wait will probably be over a year for ANY Tesla model.  My Cybertruck order very probably won’t be fulfilled until 2023 or 2034. Inferior products, old tech and the “good old boy network” guarantees people realizing they are being screwed and they don’t have to play the dealership games any longer. A better product, bought simply with cutting edge tech that’s been shown to be a full decade more advanced than even Porsche or Mercedes can provide could change the unsavory way Texans have to buy new cars. The sales show the number of people fleeing traditional cars is well on a pace to make the Model 3/Y the largest selling cars in history.

But all is not perfect in Musk’s Tesla vision. There is NO phone number to speak with ANYONE at Tesla. You are at the mercy of emails. Under his program, you do things at his pace, not yours, and you have ZERO input. The payment to hold your spot in line is simple enough, but if you find a savvy owner, he can tell you how you can cut weeks off your delivery dates. While the cars are, to put it simply, just fantastic, it’s not all beer and skittles. The process of delivery, to put it very mildly, is hairpulling. There are seemingly endless lists of things to do that are required by Tesla … skip one or don’t do it in time and your order is canceled. I was threatened on more than a few occasions by Tesla HQ that if I couldn’t pick the car up on the EXACT date and time they demand, my car (which was already fully paid/insured) will be given to the next person in line. Even after explaining that I was going to be out of town for a week, they said it didn’t matter … they will NOT hold the car. Only after I went to the facility in person and with extreme effort restrained my anger, did they pay attention … but the threats continued unabated from Tesla HQ by phone and emails. Only after I finally did lose my temper, did the local facility agree to hold the car regardless of what I’m being told by Tesla HQ. In this respect, it was the worst buying experience of my life. It’s a vague, impersonal, frustrating, moronic process that didn’t have to be that way.

But, here’s the twist … I don’t blame Musk … I blame the state of Texas.

In my opinion, this mafia-like corruption that the state allows by banning direct purchases is at fault. Since there is NO ONE in any position of actual authority in Texas for a company bursting with orders, it’s going to create huge problems. Tesla can’t run an actual dealership, with sales consultants (who, incidentally currently receive no commissions), finance/registration departments and a service department where you can talk to a service manager and buy official Tesla parts. Instead, you wind up with an absolute mess for customers which is exactly what the stealers want. Can you imagine trying to hawk a Nissan, Lexus or Dodge that technically is ten to fifteen years old compared to the amazing, rolling electric wonderland that is Tesla, on a level playing field?  Hopefully, this will force an unexpected/unintended victory for consumers that wouldn’t have happened without Musk.

And people think going to space is complicated …

Did Musk forget to pay the bill?

I hope the irony of this isn’t lost on you. I just received an email from Tesla that I won’t be able to pick up my new car tomorrow, because the electricity is OUT at the dealership. ‘Nuff said. Let the laughing begin.

Taking a leap of Faith

It’s becoming patently obvious that the electric car is going mainstream. Admittingly, the new electric Mustang is an overwhelmingly awful decision by Ford, but, it signals a surrender by them to the reality that gas-powered cars are “on their way out.” As a certified geek, one must have the hottest tech … and there is literally nothing hotter than Tesla right now. For an example, a one-year-old used Tesla Model 3, sells for MORE than it costs buying it straight from the factory new! Only Ferrari could previously boast this. So, out comes the checkbook. But, the buying experience is nothing I want to go through again. The best description of the buying process is clumsy, impersonal in the extreme, vague, confusing and uninspired. The dealers don’t even have business cards as to “save the planet.” I’m here to buy a car, I don’t think eliminating a few grams of paper filled with useful info, qualifies as saving anything but money for Musk.

I’m not sure how a probable 5,000+ lbs. tri-motor truck saves the planet, but I guess we’ll see. With a couple of Tesla’s on order currently, I can only hope that the new Tesla manufacturing plant in Austin is done soon. I’m being told by Tesla that the truck I ordered probably won’t be delivered until 2023 or 2024. Who knows how the car market will have changed by that time.

In “geek time”, that’s more than a lifetime.

Faraday, nah … Tesla was the better choice for a name

When Tesla first began, I wasn’t a fan to say the least. Having borderline Yugo build quality & with some of the interior materials used, to put it mildly, being utter trash. If we’re totally honest, literal indoor/outdoor carpet, peeling dash materials and dripping glue everywhere don’t inspire confidence in build quality. The ones I saw at CES stunned me with build ineptitude. Fast forward to today and things have changed, in a good way. They rely on Mercedes Benz now for much of the car and it shows. From a personal connection to MB over decades, I can tell you those folks know a thing about quality. If you drive a MB, you’ll be able to pick out the parts at a glance.

Today I drove another new Tesla (the 3 performance model) and there wasn’t a single rattle or squeak and although the carpet definitely isn’t MB quality, it’s better than the Home-Depot outdoor patio stuff they used earlier. The car felt more solid than my current Cadillac (more on that later.) The power was hugely addictive, and despite being capable of humbling Ferraris and Lambos at a stoplight with ease, it can be so mild that it acts like a grandmothers’ grocery-getter. The interior is “California-chic” which means an almost Japanese-esc vibe of austerity. Just a big tablet in the center and an odd control here and there … Sometimes good, sometimes annoying, like when you just want to open the glovebox … Do I really need to go though a menu?

The Musk-mandated electromagnetic regenerative braking does take a bit of practice to keep it from throwing anyone not wearing a seatbelt, through the windshield if you jerk your foot off the gas quickly. Setting aside the antiseptic-styled interior and the regenerative braking, it drives like any other car you’ve ever driven. But the power … OMG, the power. You don’t have to slam your foot down to pass as ALL the torque it has, is always available instantly. No production car, of any price or marque, is as instantly powerful as this … period.

I must admit I love the prospect of never visiting a gas station again, and filling the batteries to max capacity of over 300 miles for only about seven bucks. In comparison, my Shelby (which could only out-accelerate the Tesla when equipped with slicks at a race track) would require 47 gallons of premium gas and four cans of octane booster at $15 a pop, to get a total range of about 40 miles … now that’s real range anxiety. This is assuming I could get it to go in a straight line as it’s as happy going in circles if you blink … So tech comes to the auto geek world with a vengeance using essentially the same 18650 lithium battery cells I have in flashlights. Doing a kilowatt to horsepower/torque conversion, after testing by independent source, we’re talking about a verified 523HP and 707ft/lbs … that’s a leather wrapped, air-conditioned dog-hauler that will literally suck the headlights, even driving backwards, out of a new Corvette with your grandmother driving.

I could literally pen a tome about the experience of driving one … But one thing is clearly obvious, the future is electric. I’ve gone from a harsh critic to true believer … for whatever perceived problems electric autos may have, as nothing is totally perfect, Musk has shown the world what the future will be, just like Steve Jobs. I know there’s no such thing as man-made climate change, oil shortages or any other chicken-little rant that can be made to stop the use of petroleum unless we prefer the Dark Ages again, but when a particular tech is better, it simply is … Laconically put, I’m having a hard time seeing any future for gas/diesel transportation for personal transportation in just a few years. I’m waxing romantically even now for the passing of what powered America for over a century, but as I’ve stated in a previous post, you can’t stop progress.

Because of this drive I took today, tomorrow, the Cadillac goes away, making it probably the final new, petroleum-powered car, I’ll ever purchase again. Who would have thought that 20 years ago? When I drove the legendary GM EV-1 in the late 90’s I could see the potential despite the typical, unrelenting GM problems … In five to ten years, today will be the “good ‘ol days”, when it comes to driving using gasoline. Get nostalgic now, for tech waits for no one …

Where is the volume knob???

I’ve been on a quest for so many years that I’ve lost count for the best IEMs (in-ear-monitor) for the bucks. Maybe, just maybe, it’s been found.

I’ve personally had 40+ earbuds/IEMs in this search. Just a FYI, I refer to standard, unimpressive versions as “earbuds or buds”, because an IEM isn’t the same … it’s such a different level of performance. A la’ Prius vs. Porsche. And yes, I’m really picky after all the years I’ve spent in tech.

I’ve had some great headphones from Klipsch, and they are always a good buy, but for an affordable noise-blocking IEM, the Tin HiFi T2 is pretty much the standard. After you try them compared to wimpy Bluetooth (BT) models like Bose and Beats, you’ll be impressed. Being wired, they don’t suffer from the #1 reason that BT headphones, quite frankly … suck. Good IEMs require POWER … and the BT models would be dead in literally a few minutes to deliver this level of performance.

To get the absolute best from them, you’ll want foam ear tips and a good DAC external amp (I use a tiny UAMP) as they are a bit power hungry … even the Alienware laptop beast I use can’t give them what they truly need. But, OMG, they’re worth it. Bear in mind I’m not saying they’re better than a Planar or electrostatic IEM, but at five to twenty times cheaper, and with benefit of noise blocking, they’re hard to beat for the budding audiophile. Although TIN makes more expensive versions, for the under $100 crowd, this is almost impossible to beat. I’ve never heard an IEM for under $300 that is really much better. My stupidly expensive electrostatic IEMs are audibly untouchable by almost any standard other than a set of full-blown, even more stupidly expensive, full-sized electrically-powered electrostatic headphones, but, they’re effectively useless in any area with any noise whatsoever. In a bar, airport or any area with noise the TIN2 is unbeatable. It’s time to hear what you’ve been missing …

Canceled by China

Due to the Chinese virus, the 2021 CES show has been canceled. Although I tried the virtual show, it really wasn’t the same … there’s no substitute for strolling the isles and gawking at the new tech.

I was going to look for the zipper guy (near the bottom of the link) to see if he’s still “with us.” Everyone, has one thing they really look forward to for, and for the genuine geek crowd, CES is it.

As I’ve said earlier, this is the only place you can see tomorrow.

Hopefully, 2022 will bring a tech-thirsty boy home to the electro-oasis.

Home, James

For the last several years, BMW showed new tech at CES that may be added to its cars at some point. This year it wasn’t the tire shredding capability of an M-car, but more of a concept display and it included some of the best snacks at the show. (Although the Dell/Alienware area takes top prize on snacks and beverages.)

BMW also did something unprecedented for CES; they gave rides anywhere you wanted to go in Vegas much as an Uber/Lyft. But not in any standard BMW. There were a few prototype i3 “Urban Suite” cars for this purpose. The i3 is one of their two true electric cars … the only car under six figures probably sold anywhere on the planet that is totally constructed of carbon fiber. That is mainly the calling card of Ferrari and Lamborghini. Crazy expensive, but probably the future of all cars due to the extreme strength and lightness of carbon fiber. I have a wallet made of it and titanium that is so light it’s easy to forget it’s in your pocket.

The Urban Suite (I’m betting) will never hit the production lines and that’s a shame … I’d buy one. In Asia and Europe, big shot execs commonly use extra length cars that are essentially rolling offices as they are chauffeured around.  Extra long BMWs, MBs and Audis are the norm for this type of use. The i3 prototype is a mini version that can actually maneuver around tiny streets in Asia and Europe. It even has a desk! (oh, and an electric footrest!)

The car itself is dead-silent as it gets around and the size is perfect for congested streets. I was struck by the “common sense” this thing made. Safe, practical (at least for BMW) and within the ability of most folks to own one. Super cheap to operate … Essentially there is almost NO maintenance beyond keeping it clean, along with tires and wiper blades replacement. Many of the better designed electric cars do require an inexpensive battery cooling system fluid flush every five to ten years. Beyond that and a new air freshener, there’s really not much to do to keep it running.

Note: A chauffeur may add some cost …

Size matters

It’s exceptionally odd when I find the winner of a CES show in just a few minutes, but, that’s exactly what happened. After leaving the enormously packed LG area, I wandered towards the Samsung display. Immediately, I knew something was going on … I couldn’t get close to the entrance. After the usual bit of pushing and fighting the crowds I saw why. On display was the rumored 292-inch MicroLED (quantum dot) television called “The Wall.” Upon first impression it was truly jaw-dropping. The more I watched I realized it wasn’t perfect compared to an OLED set, but to the best of my memory I can’t remember an OLED this huge. Additionally, there is NO size limit … only the limit of the size of your wallet. I got to the front row and as I watched, the video of a semi-truck came roaring straight at me. While I knew it was only a video, I still found myself flinching when it sped directly toward me. It was that overwhelming. At this point, the size stops being a draw as no normal home would hold anything larger than that … and it’d still have to be a large multi-story home. And to make a 1000-inch unit would need a stadium (current stadium screens are comparatively crude) and would actually be less impressive than standing 20 feet away from this particular “Wall.” It represents a quantum shift in how we can view TVs … As the prices begin to drop these things will become more common. Oh yeah, it’s going to take more than a few years, but the “writing is on the wall”, so to speak. 

As you look at the picture below, bear in mind the entire picture you’re seeing is the TV.

Dear 2009 … how things have changed

If there was a year that really seems dated from the perspective of late 2019, it is 2009. Many trends that were hot then are essentially gone. There was a major shift in several tech areas that were just getting a toehold in the future at that 2009 CES show. Just for fun, let’s see what was hot then and is it missed?

The top consumer electronics company on the planet was GE … yep, that’s changed for today. Apple which was eleventh then, is #1 now. Samsung is still second, but LG has actually given up 3rd to Amazon.

Circuit City was still around and looking for a buyer while it closed even more stores.

In top TV’s, plasmas still ruled with an iron hand. The Pioneer Elite Kuro Pro-111FD made even the best LCD sets look primitive. However, at $5000, it only appealed to the videophile that had deep pockets. Remarkably, it was less money than many of the top-of-the-line LCD sets. I saw it in person and to this day I’d absolutely love to have one … it was that good … so good in fact, that I have a hard time seeing how it can be surpassed.  And coming from a hardcore OLED fan, that’s quite a compliment. Sadly, it cost too much to build and the mass market wanted ever thinner & cheaper sets, so only a few were produced. I had an earlier professional version (before the Kuro name) in 2003 ($8000+) and to this day I miss it.

The developer of the VHS video tape system, JVC, stopped production of their machines.

McIntosh was confused and assumed that we needed an $18,000 video projector from a company that didn’t actually make it, and that excited fans would snap it up solely based on the famous name … ah, nope, didn’t happen.

There were still TONS of iPod accessories … even after over 8 years of production.

There was lot of talk about streaming, but there wasn’t anyone that had a good grasp of just how big it would become or how to implement it.

This definitely was the year of transition for over-the-air TV folks … conventional analog TV was going the way of the dinosaur in just a few months and there were endless adapters for the handful of people that actually used “rabbit ears” for their TV’s.

Digital picture frames really were being hotly hyped (and improved), but this, like the iPod trend, was “one foot out the door” … but the manufacturers had no idea. Consequently, when you hear this is the “year of the … etc.”, take it with a grain of salt as only a few years later in perspective will give you a clear picture.

The porn industry had its awards and trade show at the same time as CES again and your CES badge will get you a $25 discount … dropping to $107. After seeing a few of the “stars” walking around actually in CES, clearly this wasn’t so much of a good deal. That $107 would have gone a long way in buying some Apple stock … It’d be worth over $1100 today.

Now that’s some real bang for the buck!

Mistbox Redux

On August 21st of 2015, I reviewed the original “Mistbox” which is headquartered in one of America’s hottest cities … Houston. By god these people have a great test-bed for their prototypes. Using superfine sprayed water into the condenser coils of an outside A/C, it increases the efficiency of the unit under stressful conditions. The A/C runs less, uses less electricity as a result and cools faster … the “Holy Grails” of a comfortable homeowner.

It’s hasn’t been smooth sailing as my original Mistbox unit failed and the replacement was even worse … So why am I still even “messing” with it and still optimistic about it? Because, when it works … it makes a difference. I was dealing with an almost $1200 a month electricity bill. That’s a house payment for some folks. We’d replaced the A/C’s themselves, had thermal shielding installed in the almost a third of an acre of roofing, installed Nest thermostats and installed aforementioned Mistbox. Each made a difference and now the bill has been more than cut in half. The amount of bucks spent paid for the entire upgrading in less than three years. Literally even during the worst summer heat (100+F with 100% humidity), the house interior temps can drop to where a blanket or jacket isn’t an option.

The newer Mistbox is so different that it could be from a different company. No more internet connectivity required, which was a huge problem for us as it was so far from the outrageously powerful modded router that we had to use signal extenders. Now it uses a cellular signal. No more external water filter/treatment canister. The solar cell is gone as many A/C units are in shadow … it’s charged by a wind turbine atop the condenser fan. You also now have an annual fee to keep it maintained and running correctly, but for it’s benefits, I believe it’s worth it. I’ve seen competitors trying to offer the pluses of the Mistbox for less bucks … they work to some extent, albeit in a crude way. By spraying when not needed (it ALWAYS comes on) such as at 2am just wastes water, provides small breeding ponds for mosquitoes and can cause the A/C to rust prematurely. There are times when simple, just isn’t best.

I have to sincerely compliment Mistbox on honoring it’s “lifetime” warranty … they “stood” behind it for me, replacing my defective old units, completely unaware that I run a tech site, as everything I test, (much to my spouse’s chagrin) … I buy … no freebies here. (Hello Alienware, I may make an exception for you)

Here are a few photos …

Upon opening …

All the goodies

New vs. old spray bars

No more leaking, cracking and breaking

Cutting off old spray bars

Mounted on A/C with magnetic cover off

Mounted on A/C with magnetic cover on

The Most Significant Ignored Item at the 2019 CES … perhaps even in the shows’ history.

While CES has had its “firsts,” an item overlooked by ALL the mainstream tech sites will be a game-changer or more precisely a quantum life-shift in the near future. This is singularly the most important thing shown in the history of CES or (depending on your age) your lifetime. You may possibly have heard the term “Blockchain” (originally called “Block Chain”) but like the first time you heard about email or even the internet, you didn’t understand its full implications. Well, this is one that will affect your life in the very near future (one to five years) and you more than likely don’t have a clue what it is. It’s truly an almost invisible revolution. This is your wake-up call from the future.


To start, it’s already begun … and its eventual full-scale use to affect our lives has irreversibly begun. In the modern history of man (say, the last 500+ years or so) there have been exactly four events that have fundamentally changed society everywhere. Those are: 1) the printing press in the 1500’s freed knowledge; 2) the engine eliminated the need for back-breaking manual labor and slavery; 3) the automobile allowed quick distant travel for the masses; and 4) and the computer/internet made the world a much smaller place. Each of these addressed a problem that couldn’t be resolved previously.

Blockchain is the answer for the next problem … trust and security. Should you own property, have money or have medical records (as we all do), the last thing you want is for them being easy to change or falsify. Blockchain puts a very permanent end to that.


Among the businesses expected to be literally wiped-out or damaged by Blockchain are banks, credit reporting companies and title companies (it is a really long list, so this is just an example of a few of the most significant) as it effectively does away with 95% their need. (Bank of America has 50+ Blockchain patents currently and JP Morgan-Chase Bank is currently moving to Blockchain.)

What is needed is an immutable solution to storing information securely and that’s what it provides. Not even a quantum computer can permanently hack it. Once a baseline is established, from that point going forward, fraud is essentially impossible. (unless you’re willing to spend $256,000.00 an hour for the leased computing power to TRY to crack it.)


For example, a title search can take days to weeks and cost thousands of dollars. With Blockchain it’s measured in microseconds and pennies. A currency transfer can take a week (did the Nigerian lottery commission get my prize redemption fee?) Less than a second can tell you if you actually have the money in your account … foreign currency transfers are especially vulnerable to fraud and fluctuation.


Well what is it??? This system uses distributed computing to spread the data across the web with each and every file having a special “key” that is linked to every other file linked to the special “key” created before and after it was created. Should one key or more be hacked, upon its attempt to be opened, it knows it’s wrong and goes searching worldwide for the innumerable matching keys and erases/replaces the false one.

This is a very, very simplistic explanation, but effectively makes the data absolutely trustworthy. No more middlemen to verify the info is accurate. This will be how you pay your taxes in a just a few years … direct transfer to the government, bypassing the banking system. Eventually, ALL transactions other than cash in-hand will be done via the Blockchain system. No more bounced checks, credit fraud or middleman costs. Credit card fraud will be substantially eliminated, and, it will expand to even mundane things such as school grades, automobile records, photos and software to things of extreme value like the stock exchange. Companies like Western Union for money transfers will simply be unnecessary and redundant.
As every seminal man-made event that has changed our lives has gotten more complicated, Blockchain is the most complex, but in some ways, one of the most simple. You will be depending on it in the future to determine the accuracy of almost everything of any value to you — from buying a home to how many “stars” you have at Starbucks …


At the 2019 CES lines were being drawn for who will dominate the Blockchain universe. Several companies were lining up to be the next big thing and despite being only being around a few hundred square feet of display space out of the almost three million available, it was the truest harbinger of “things to come.” ALL major companies will use it in less than a handful of years and it will be the standard of trust in our lives. The next tech billionaires will probably be Blockchain company starters … the money rush in investments has already started. The “gold rush” for Blockchain in the tech investment field is a virtual stampede. Almost half of the world has no access to a bank, but through Blockchain, will have access to the rest of the world’s economy.

Give that a thought for a moment … the world’s getting smaller every day.

The 2019 CES winner

LG’s amazing roll-up OLED TV … world’s best picture, bar none, combined with crazy abilities like hiding in a long narrow box. Just when the other OLED makers thought they had caught up … this happens.

If you’d like to see the video of it in action … here’s the link: LG Signature Series

If you want to see the video of their incredible folded OLED 4K screen entry to their area, click here. I’d recommend turning the volume down.

Show pictures … in no particular order

Only one display made me hungry … enter the “Breadbot!”

Ever wonder what the drone looked like that you see flying in formation for a night light show? This is the drone that set the record for most drones in simultaneously synced flight … 2018 of these!


They wouldn’t let me take off my shoe to use as a reference …


Perfect for those beach outings when the kids playing in the water won’t stop screaming.

No, it won’t play “Call of Duty” or “Halo” … I tried …

Six Rotors, No Waiting for Uber

This isn’t like the cobbled-up prototypes at the previous CES shows … this is built by Bell … as in Bell helicopters. And yes, it flies. And no, they wouldn’t tell me what it costs.

Should we open voting?

Should we have a poll for the most effective human Cuisinart?

I think the last one is my choice … give it to the one Dubai cop who refuses to do the donuts run ….

Wrong again …

As usual, the establishment tech-reporting media got it wrong … and they missed it by a mile this time. They’ve called this show as the “Year of 5G”. But in reality, there was almost nothing at the show to back it up, not the least of which is the fact that 5G isn’t available except in minuscule areas of the US.

If a single item defined the show, it was partial/full self-driving auto technology along with its accompanying infotainment systems. Literally, there were almost an entire hall’s worth of car makers, LIDAR companies and other car navigation related tech … this would have been great had this been the Detroit Auto Show. But it isn’t, and it’s not. Everything they showed wouldn’t work in “real life”. This is the reason why there have been so many deaths in Teslas while in the self-driving mode. The sensors hanging off the cars to make them function better than Tesla system are actually dangerous to pedestrians or look so absurd as to be a central character in a Japanese animated cartoon.  In complete seriousness, it reminded me of a “Transformer” movie car with huge spinning sensors on the roof and projections sticking out of the car sides. It would have been comical if it were supposed to be a joke.

This kind of display doesn’t inspire confidence in the tech … they’d be better off if they had stayed away and didn’t show everyone just how far they had to go.

Thinking back and dreaming forward

Yep, that time of the year again to gaze backwards at the tech of yesteryear as we look forward to the 2019 CES in Las Vegas. This ten-year retro view will give you a peek into tech considered ancient by today’s standards.

Microsoft was betting on new “home server” software and equipment … did you buy one? … didn’t think so. Don’t feel bad as no one else did either. Server tech is so far beyond the average user even if “dumbed down” that I can’t even begin to explain. And if “dumbed down”, the neophyte user can mistakenly open a bag of worms that they really didn’t want.

Skype finally appears on Android devices.

TV manufacturers were wondering why people weren’t using their smart TV’s for things like ordering pizza and such. I can only guess those guys were still using flip-phones as the rest of the world was moving to smart phones/tablets/laptops for such things. Oddly, even as late as the 2018 CES, they were asking the same question. I’m expecting the same question at the 2019 CES.

Digital “photo frames” were hot for the sellers, but not so much for buyers. Who knows how many of the things are still stuck on retailers’ shelves or backrooms?

McIntosh was celebrating its 60th birthday and released it’s first tabletop stereo system … and yes, you can’t even afford it even in used condition now.

Circuit City was circling the drain, if not already past the financial P-trap in reality.

Things in the back of the “Central Hall” at CES were junk then … nothing has changed. How many 59 cent headphones does anyone need?

“Personal” GPS trackers were becoming mainstream … perfect for stalkers or just your average paparazzi.

Mitsubishi unveiled the first laser projection TV … available in 65”. One of the two major sizes of an average flat LCD TV. Only many, many times thicker and heavier … yeah, I don’t understand their thought process on it either.

Sony released a $1500 1080p camcorder (HDR-XR520V) using a hard disk for data retention … what could possibly go wrong with a portable video camera using a mechanical hard drive, other than just about everything?

Smartphone makers blame the U.S. celluar carriers for the “slow” adoption of the new phones … by gouging customers. They charge for almost everything that make the new phones worth having/using. By late 2009, smartphone still only accounted for about 25% of new phone sales.

The first Google phone (G1) is released … to be kind, we’ll call it a “work-in-progress” … didn’t even have a headphone jack. It had only 49!!! apps available at the time from the “Android Market”.      Having only a 3.2-megapixel camera and NO video or flash, reviewers at the time politely called it “unfinished”.

Laptops in 2009, even the most expensive ones (like the dual-core Sony VAIO VGN-TT198UBX – $4344), to put it politely, are incredibly weak by today’s standards. Here in late 2018, the CPU manufacturers are in full scale nuclear war with each other again as chip design has taken almost unbelievable jumps in just the last year. Ninety-six core desktops are available now for the price of a new Kia. We may see 48-core laptops with far faster clock speeds in the near future (Alienware probably, and being the Ferrari of laptops, beyond frighteningly expensive … but mainstream only a few years later.)

Regardless, looking back only ten years seems the “good old days”, where we were on the cusp of the explosion of tech that isn’t even given a second thought by users today. When Google didn’t know our underwear size or where we had dinner last night. When you couldn’t buy lumber on Amazon.

But as a friend once asked me, “if our tech is so advanced, where is my teleporter?” It will not be in my lifetime, but who can realistically forecast tech 100 years in the future, when we look back only ten years and see how quaint technology was “back then”.

Going down the never ending rabbit hole of tech upgrades

GoPro released the Hero “7” Black just a couple of months after I took delivery of a Hero “6” Black (reviewed earlier) … so, I had to have it if for no other reason than to see what has changed. Immediately, you notice on the side of the camera in bold print “7” so as not to be confused with the “old” model … God forbid people think you’re using the old, worn out tech of April 2018! I’m not joking that some tech sites complained there was no huge nomenclature to identify it as the newest/priciest model.

Basically, the cameras are similar in appearance, use the same accessories and are still as heavy as though it was made out of lead. But there are some very real improvements … most notably the incredible smoothness/lack of shake the new camera exhibits. The Hero 6 Black was outstanding, but after seeing the improvement, the “6” is headed to eBay. My distaste for gimbals continues unabated and this new model just hardens my opinion. A heavy, complex, expensive and cumbersome gimbal to smooth a few bumps is simply unnecessary at this point unless you’re shooting the new “Indiana Jones” movie.

GoPro does make a “Silver & White” version of this camera … but trust me on this, forget it.            They are for the posers who want to flash the GoPro “image,” but don’t want to spend the bucks.        In complete candor, I’m at a loss why they even make these. If poorer video quality is your goal, just buy a $35 Chinese camera. Why spend $300 for a lesser GoPro, when effectively, it’s dumbed down to the video quality of the aforementioned Chinese clone.

The new menu threw me for a loop the first few times I used it and even now, I still prefer the older menu of the “6”.

It now includes “SuperPhoto” … it applies three different technologies to produce the best still image ever from a GoPro.  You really, really don’t want me to explain this in pure geek talk.                        Just note, it works …

It will now shoot in the vertical mode for posting on certain vanity (eg. Instagram Stories) websites.

The new “TimeWarp” will capture super-stabilized time-lapse videos while you move around.            It’ll increase the speed up to 30x to turn longer shots into anything you may want to share and yet, not bore your friends. (eg. original video is 10 minutes, but is sped up to be viewed in only 20 seconds for those with millennium-short attention spans.)

The sound quality is slightly improved … due to a different waterproofing membrane primarily.

Should you want to live-stream, it’s available now, but restricted to the personal data grabbing “Facebook” & “YouTube” and a few others.

I have noticed better low-level light sensitivity, better definition and color saturation.                          While complained about on some websites, I’ve always thought it was better than it should be for the lenses it has.

But ultimately, it’s the impressive smoothness that leaves you amazed that you’re that good of a videographer.

I now await breathlessly for the “8”.

Picture (96%) Perfect

After so many camcorders that I’ve lost count, ranging from amazingly good-for-the-bucks, cheapy Chinese action cams to professional Canons, I think I may have found a perfect compromise. It won’t accept external lenses and isn’t exactly what most would call cheap ($380+), but for my purposes it clicks essentially all of the “most needed” boxes. The new GoPro Hero6 Black is a winner. It fits in my pocket provided I don’t need accessories … and OMG, are there accessories! It shoots 4K video in 60 fps (for top quality, that’s mandatory) and high-res 12MP stills. It won’t boot quite as fast a modern digital camera, but the end results are what matters. No wonder this is the standard of the industry … literally everyone else is screaming…me too, me too!!! But ultimately, to quote Highlander, there can be only one. Jaw-dropping video quality, truly tiny size and extreme flexibility are only a few of its merits. I wore it on a chest mount for the toboggan sled down the Great Wall in China with stunning documentary-quality results.

The body of the camera does not require a case for water-proofing down to about 33 feet and you can live stream to a tablet or phone as a monitor (and control it) depending on the level of resolution you’re shooting at. At 4K and 60fps, the processing is just too extreme to allow that … but you can set it to watch before you hit “record”. The lens has two settings … wide and narrow. It comes with stabilization, impressive night performance, time lapse, stereo audio, rear touch screen, lossless professional RAW format, HDR, optional long-distance remote, true slo-mo …  when you hold it in your hand for the first time you notice the weight, this ain’t no cheesy “me too” toy.

This is one serious piece of kit.

 

(Shown with my highly-recommended silicone case)

 

(and, IMHO, the not-so-optional remote)

Additionally, there are simply so many accessories for this thing that it defies description … just check out eBay and look for GoPro stuff … it’s mind bending how much is there. There is an abundance of cheap non-official add-ons … I have probably over 50 … and my total investment is less than 30 bucks. Virtually all generic cameras use the GoPro mount. As a result there are thousands of add-ons.

Not to put a damper on the party, buuuut, there are two issues. Firstly, while in the factory-supplied bracket, there is NO access to the charging input. And anything this powerful loves juice … so you can’t use an extra battery pack with the bracket. I’m thinking of using a Dremel to resolve this issue. The next issue is an issue ONLY if you haven’t taken the time to read the fine print, so to speak, in the instruction manual. You must, as in ABSOLUTELY MUST, use the memory cards they “recommend”. Even high quality, fast cards can’t keep up with the data flow. Failure to do so will result in hair loss when you’re in the middle-of-nowhere and it won’t run. You’ve been warned …

I have additional batteries and a specialized charger for them. By the way, I’ve found I get around 40 minutes in time lapse without an external battery.

The old saying ” a picture is worth a thousand words”, may have to be changed to ten thousand when it’s from a GoPro 6 … yes, it’s that good.

Imperfect Vision

Shaky hands are not only bad for surgeons. If you have binoculars, and actually use them quite a bit or under demanding circumstances, most people find they can’t hold them still for very long. Usually a brace of some kind or even a tripod is in order. (I use one with my uber-heavy “astronomicals”).      The solution is a stabilized pair. They’ve been around for a few years, but the prices have been prohibitive for the bulk of users. The military depends on the M25 manufactured by the Fraser-Volpe Corporation … and as with anything the government does, it ain’t exactly cheap. I’ve seen pairs for over $6500. A more consumer-friendly version by other companies is actually affordable. One such standout model is the Canon 8×25 IS. It’s usually available online for $250-$300 shipped to your door.

The very first seconds you use it, you understand why ALL other binoculars are rendered obsolete by this tech. It won’t matter if you have a wider field of view or greater magnification if the subject is blurred. When the button on the top is held down, the image suddenly snaps still … very startling for a seasoned binocular fan. This has been around for years in camcorders and is time-proven, so it won’t matter what type of optical stabilization is used (active or passive), the point is … it works.

My around-the-world, 30+ year old travel Nikons aren’t missed. Don’t believe the reviews about the less expensive models … while the binocular reviewers may be more discriminating/demanding, many don’t understand binocular use in the “real world.” A $1000 pair simply isn’t necessary for the bulk of users. The entry level Canons will perform far beyond most people’s expectations. If you need more than a pair like this, you have specialized needs.

 

The Canon comes with a nylon case, strap and eyepiece covers, but oddly doesn’t include primary lens covers. So I designed my own and 3D printed them.

My 3D .stl file, should you want to print your own, is available for download here.  I used just a few feet of PLA filament and a connector I found laying around to keep them together.

Like the old axiom says … seeing is believing.

The Winner of the 2018 CES and it ain’t a Robotic Dog

As I’ve frequently said … CES is the only place on the planet where you can see tomorrow. This show had an item that I think is earthshaking. Star Trek had its universal translator and the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” had its’ “Bablefish” … now it’s becoming real.

A startup called “Mars” had what looked like a couple of Bluetooth earbuds. The owner of the “buds” puts one in his ear, and the other goes to a person speaking a different language. In almost real time, the phone app translates the conversation into the wearers’ native languages.

Does it actually work? … The robotic voice in your ear aside, it works so well that it may be life-changing for some people.  I used it to talk to someone whose native language is Korean and was stunned. It was effortless to carry on a conversation. I simply can’t count the ways it changes everything for anyone who deals with people from multiple language backgrounds. From business to a more personal nature, this can actually convey your meaning as accurately as though you could really speak Mandarin Chinese. It’s going to be available in several languages and there’s no reason why it couldn’t eventually work on ALL languages. A data link to the web is required … for the moment.    The projected price is about $250 or so.

This is one of those “ah-ha” moments that demands you take a minute and think about what this could mean …

So when you meet someone and they brag about being fluent in six foreign tongues, you reach for your MARS and tell them … “only six?”

Notable Odds and Ends of the 2018 CES

With over 20K+ of new items every year, I try to distill the show down to a few items that were worth taking a second look at. This as you may guess, not an easy task … but here we go.

What is old is new again … a good idea won’t die. Despite the proliferation of the digital camera, the old-school Polaroid still is pertinent.

 

A notable “sci-fi” show is introduced for the second year in a row. This one is “Altered Carbon” from Netflix … If you’re a fan of the sci-fi genre, I won’t tell you that this is the last word in science fiction, but does make you think about what is coming and the consequences of not being prepared. Obviously a very expensive show, and a showcase of how to do a super-premium futuristic … I’ll tell you up front, it’s not what you are expecting. When it’s over, you can see it’s roots firmly in Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler novels. Should nudity and a dizzying plot be a problem for you … this ain’t your kind of show … and don’t even think about watching “Black Mirror” on Netflix that has a similar future tech warning. It’s Altered Carbon on steroids and very well may the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen on the idiot tube.

 

Under the heading of “don’t ask what it costs” is this beast … all carbon fiber and packed with tech, this is a drone that makes you wonder if insurance is available in the event of a “fly-away” or serious crash.

 

Omron showed its automated ping-pong player. While an interesting exercise in AI, it’s a glimpse of what forms the basis of robotic warriors.  Here’s my short video of it in action that will open in a different window.

 

One of my favs at the show was this “pocket drone” from AEE. Essentially it’s about the same size as a “battery-case” and contains a fold-out drone run by your phone … brilliant, simply brilliant. Pull it free from the back of your phone, fold out the motors, link it to the drone app and you’re ready for almost ten minutes of flight. Less than 200 bucks and everything most people would want for a vacation … for some people it will become a EDC.

 

Washing to a Brighter Future

It seems everyday I read the news, there’s a shortage of fresh water.  In areas where salt-water desalination is used, fresh water is truly expensive. In particularly drought stricken states like California and Nevada, they impose strict limits as to how you can use water, even though the “Hollywood elite” doesn’t follow these rules, and simply pay the fines or pay for water tanker trucks to get around rules implemented for us common serfs who can’t wash their cars in the driveway, have a grass lawn or let their kids play in the sprinklers. The “comedian” Amy Poehler in 2016 used a staggering 170,000+ gallons at only one of her residences in 60 days. The ultra-liberal entertainment mogul David Geffen was claimed to have been charged more than $30,000 for consuming 1.6 million gallons!!! In areas like Houston, a tremendous amount of the flooding occurred due to pumping out too much fresh under-ground water and the land actually sinking. So you’d assume anything that would provide a noticeable drop water consumption would be fairly high on the short list of civic improvement items.

While touring the show I ran into a company from Australia and UK that may be able to do just that … Xeros.

A standard washing machine can use more than 40 gallons for a single load … how about a machine that only uses a gallon or so and far less detergent to achieve better results?  Additionally, imagine how much water is used for the laundry in hotels/hospitals? Think of Vegas hotels with hundreds of thousands of sheets and towels being washed everyday.

Their tech involves a seemingly simple solution, but in reality, is a technical marvel. It involves using a white polymer bead slightly larger than a BB. These beads do far more than just remove stains … you can operate with temperatures far cooler (less electricity/gas) and it’s far less damaging. So much so that firehouses using it report their Nomex fire suits don’t wear out as fast … about doubling it’s life. Last time I checked a fire-proof suit isn’t cheap and the cost of those suits come out of the public coffers.

The beads you see in the above picture last indefinably. Even if you had to replace them through normal usage, I’m told it’s about fifteen bucks.

And oh yeah, … it filters the waste water so your that the city has less cleaning chemicals to remove from the waste water. If you live in a rural area that means less chemicals that will eventually filter down into your well water.

Fantastic idea, and such a common sense improvement on a basic necessity of modern life … so of course the big washing machine companies like LG/Samsung/Whirlpool would jump on it in a heartbeat? However in face-to-face discussions with those folks, they claimed they’d never heard of it. Initially I assumed they didn’t want any part of such a superior system they didn’t invent, but I quickly realized they had no idea what I was talking about. The folks at Samsung basically stuck their nose in the air and told me if it really worked, they would have been using it.

Amazing that at the largest tech show the world has ever known, some of the largest companies on the planet could be so blind to game changing technology that literally was within walking distance. Everything about the Xeros technology was win-win-win-win-win … less water, less chemicals, less energy, better cleaning and cleaner waste water. I’m hoping after that my discussion with them about Xeros they sent a few spies to see what CES is about … the only place in the world where you can see the future. I’m hoping they brought their glasses …

Not the winner of the 2018 CES

One prominent tech site chose the Sony’s Aibo as the top item of the entire 2018 CES show. Clearly they’ve been visiting the local cannabis outlets as a Sony mechanical dog isn’t new, or news. Their mechanical pets have been around since Bill Clinton was in office. Nothing the “pup” did was anything other than what you’d expect. The ladies at the booth were clearly bored with Sony’s $1500 creation as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another amazing disappointment was the Samsung booth, which was unquestionably the worst I’ve ever seen in almost two decades from a major company. The entirety of the giant booth was cut into tiny glass-enclosed areas that literally showcased … nothing. That is unless you’re really, really into refrigerators. There were none of the famous phones, cameras or literally anything else except refrigerators, washing machines, dryers and some poor guys trying to get the “Alexa/Google” clone “Bixby” to do ANYTHING. I actually don’t know what they were trying to say by such a display … They should have taken five minutes to go the LG area and its jaw-dropping curving OLED canyon.

Another completely uninspiring booth was Panasonic … but that’s pretty much the case every year.    It’s just that this year, they must have hired the same conceptual adviser as Samsung as it was even more of a totally boring mess. After fighting for ten minutes to get through it, I stopped and tried (& failed) to think of anything worth even discussing.

 

Out of ideas

The speaker industry, as I’ve stated earlier, is out of ideas to make a better sounding speaker. The only things they’re promoting is a very 70’ish earsplitting volume level, beyond absurd pricing and trying to make it look like anything but a speaker. This Chinese company felt it better to have it look like … well, you can draw your own ideas. My guess is near the bottom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A chair?

Not quite a fingernail tatoo

Tech at CES is moving in so many directions that it’s getting hard to think of anything not being impacted (for better or worse) by the march of chips, sensors and cameras.  Beauty products aren’t anything I’ve had any interest in, but I can appreciate how even this field is changing. In one booth in particular I couldn’t help but notice the tech used was straight out of inkjet printers. Called “O2nails” it used a multi-layer process to actually print anything you can think of on a fingernail. Of course, on such a small palette, any image must be chosen carefully.

This process isn’t as cheap as the printers begin at about $500. So more than likely, it’s intended for nail salons.

I chose one of our terriers in her holiday garb for a nail of mine, and due to the printer’s excellent image quality, she looks as unhappy as the full size image.

Pain and Pleasure of DJI drones

After having had a half a dozen or more “training drones” as I like to call them, I splurged and bought a top-of-the-line DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone. While it may not have all the tech of the new “4”, it’s definitely the hot-rod of the DJI drones with almost 2.5 pounds of lifting power.

The sheer power allows it to fly in winds that would sweep almost any other drone in existence to the next county tout-suite! My faster 60+ mph racing drones, in high wind or at higher altitudes, just don’t have the muscle like this thing. The gimbaled 4K camera is phenomenal in it’s stability in high winds, and truly remarkable image quality.  The stability, power, drone community support, available hardware hacks, camera quality and simplicity of flying easily make this the “#1” drone to own. So, no wonder it’s the world’s best selling drone brand.

The only real problem is the company itself. They impose so many mandatory updates and restrictions on where it can be flown that it’s mind-blowing. And heaven help you should you be mandated to do a firmware update … you could just as easily “brick it.” That’s the tech slang expression for turning a perfectly running piece of electronics into a doorstop with an update because the manufacturer has informed you of “safety issues or potential software bug squashing.” Imagine buying a new car that automatically slows down in traffic to a crawl because it thinks that’s what the infallible government wants. Well, that pretty much is what they do with all their drones in “restricted airspace.” Which by the way, is basically every city/town in the country with over a few thousand people. They limit the height it can fly. Literally, you are bombarded with quizzes, warnings, repeated popup messages and mandatory phone-texted “code” unlocking that will make the entire experience more than a little unpleasant. They’re so fearful of the feds they cripple the features that are so important to the owners. You get around 25 minutes of flying time, and it can take more time than that just to unlock it so you can fly. In all sincerity, if I did this for a living, I’d never use a DJI product as you can’t tell when it simply decides that it’s not your decision as to when/where you can fly. (Literally, they could mandate a firmware update that would disable every DJI drone in the country within a few days if the government wanted … perfect for dictatorships! … and oh by the way, as cars become more drone-like and are “connected”, they can all be shut off too). And after Obama imposed patently absurd rules on a couple of pounds of flying plastic that the courts later ruled illegal … and then Trump deciding to reinstate it, makes the water muddier about what exactly is going on with mandatory registration and flight restrictions. Because it’s clearly not safety, if you actually understand drones. People who don’t have the faintest clue about a piece of tech shouldn’t be allowed to make rules about its usage. You can’t “Make America Great Again” by crippling technology that is changing the information age. It’s a form of censorship hiding behind absurd and outdated government rules.

Driving While Blind

One of my chief complaints about car manufacturers (with the exception of really expensive cars) is lousy lights. The plastic headlight lens fogging problem you see everywhere aside, the deficient of candlepower is really the biggest culprit. I’ve always replaced the bulbs with far more powerful ones … you’re less likely to hit something if you can see it. With new tech comes more options and that has come to headlights. The older halogen bulbs are going away as high-powered LED’s replace them. That means the “yellowness” of said bulbs are going away as well. The newer bulbs are more like natural daylight, which means better definition and thus, improved safety. My daily driver is an older car having headlights with so little output, that a couple tea candles in front would be an improvement. Driving at night with zero street lights had become a really iffy proposition. The first thing I did is replace the headlights themselves with an eBay purchase that was so cheap, it was shocking. I then put in the most powerful bulbs that they would accommodate without melting them. And it helped … but just a bit. I’d seen HID replacements for years but they’re expensive, run super hot and can require cutting the headlight cables and other rather unpleasant mods … so that was out. As a huge German car fan, I noticed that LED headlights are becoming the norm with the newer models. Like HID headlights when they first came out, were about a $1500 option. I did a little research & found eBay had aftermarket LED lights. So cheap, it defied logic … so a test was in order.    I ordered a couple of sets after specifying daylight temperatures (how color of lights are measured) around 65ooK. The first set was a cheap Chinese pair for less than 15 bucks. Literally it took five minutes to install … more on this later. At night, I hit the headlight switch and lo and behold … let there be light!!! For the first time I could actually see an improvement. Any brighter and they’d have to be illegal off-road lights. So, we have a super cheap fix for “driving while blind.”                              (with apologies to ZZ Top … if you know the song, this absolutely isn’t what they were talking about)

(Should want to try this, I needn’t warn you about careful aiming or you’ll fry the eyeballs of oncoming traffic.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now the flip side to this, is the pair I tried to put into a newer German car. Those cars very frequently have what is known as a CANBUS system that monitors everything in the car. So if you try to put in a pair of newer LED bulbs, either the computer will freak out or simply not allow the lights to work.     So … you’ve got to have a CANBUS adapter. German cars, being engineered to the nth degree, don’t make replacing bulbs a five minute fix. One of ours actually required taking off a wheel and pulling out the inner fender-well lining. Fortunately, I checked the bulbs before going to that extreme and found the CANBUS adapter didn’t work. Consider this story a caveat. When it works, it’s fantastic, and worth every penny and minute of your time to install. So paraphrasing President Reagan, trust, but verify before installing.

 

Sounds Familiar

The annual trek to Vegas arrives in early January of 2018. I expect a show full of optimism … not necessarily breakthroughs, but more of incremental improvements. Oddly, this exactly describes the 2008 CES show as well. The earthquake known as the iPhone, introduced at the same time as the 2007 CES, was finally making its mark in history. So everyone was playing “catch-up” and throwing out as many cases and accessories as possible for the new phone. Everybody who produced phones at that time were, to put it mildly, shell-shocked, confused and lost. The future path for much of the technology that would become commonplace, was firmly established. Admittedly, the phone was a terrible, limited device … but demonstrated what was possible, by what it lacked. And that’s what was truly important.

At that show there were a few notable ideas and products worth mentioning. One I really liked was liquid-crystal window. It’s basically a LCD film over normal glass windows that go opaque with a touch of a button. Amazingly, this has not really taken off … I believe the price and being forced to use a few standard window sizes were the main issues, as the tech (at least by today’s standard) is nothing special. The tech to do this ten years ago was utterly absurd, requiring seven layers of plastics, adhesive and glass. Today, only a single sheet of glass or polycarbonate with a single sheet of LCD film is required. Adding color would be simple as well. If an OLED skin (and the appropriate electronics) was used instead of a cheaper LCD version, you’d have a 4K television too. And with the introduction of the ability to produce fully functional bizarre LCD shapes (example: new digital dashboards), no standard sizes are required of windows. So a retrofit should be possible. Think of car windows, all of which have laminated glass, having this LCD film. When you lock your doors, all the windows going opaque to prevent anyone seeing inside, reducing heat and reducing UV interior damage. Residents in towers no longer having to have drapes or blinds for privacy, just a beautiful view only when it’s wanted.

 

MBL gets the award for the weirdest speaker at the show with what is basically an inside-out speaker. Taking an entire month to produce the four handmade towers and almost costing as much as the GDP of a small country, they sounded ….. ok ….. yep, just ok ….. For a speaker system with that many zeros in the price tag, I expected more. But, they would look perfectly at home in a rapper’s crib.

 

 

Really small laptops were out in force and even by today’s mobile phone standards, pretty weak. Gaming laptops only had a video card with a half a gig of RAM and two gig or less of main RAM. In comparison, my new Note 8 has six gig of main RAM. And in comparison to what we call the “Beast”, my new Alienware gaming rig, it’s laughable.

The major tech of the foreseeable future was coming … mobile devices. The show was odd in that many still didn’t fully understand that. Those who didn’t, aren’t at the show any longer …

Spreading some light

A few days before Harvey hit the Gulf coast, it became obvious that there was going to be damage to the electrical grid where I live. Since a warm breeze with a few cups of water falling from the sky usually results in either a total loss of electricity or the lights flicking on and off, I decided to perform maintenance on my flashlight collection. This was going to take a few hours due the size of it and decided to hit a local store for batteries. After all, who knew how long we’d be without lights. While there I discovered one of the most amazing flashlights. This particular light wouldn’t be possible without modern LEDs. There really isn’t anything else on the market like it. An ordinary flashlight projects a focused beam, or if it has an adjustable lens, it may be a bit broader at the substantial sacrifice of light output. This light by “Dorcy” (Model #: 41-4346) has the focused beam (with four smaller LED’s) and on each side of the main powerful LED are 16 smaller SMT LEDs sending out a wash of remarkably bright light spread out to 220 degrees. It even has a “dimmer” mode if necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(you can see the beam spread in this photo)

 

 

 

With the absurd ratings that all manufacturers use to rate brightness (this one is Dorcy-rated at 850 lumens), I’ll skip that discussion for the moment and just say it’s exceptionally bright. Enough to shame any Maglight in existence. If you need more light than this, you’re going to need a spotlight. It’s been said it’s perfect for the security business due to almost no dark areas in front of you … I have to agree. Most people need a small flashlight and a more serious one every now and then. Well, this is the flashlight for that “every now and then.” I’d go so far to say this is the “King of Flashlights” and is the one flashlight everyone should own. Yeah, it’s a bit heavy due the quality aluminum body and it’s not cheap at almost 60 bucks directly from Dorcy. (Mine was about $35 at Fry’s at the time) But once you use it, you can legitimately say, “I’ve seen the light!”

 

Seventy years in “dog years” is an eternity in tech

Fifty years ago the first CES had to move to NYC due to a fire at the Chicago McCormick Center due ironically to a coffee pot. The hottest products were color TV, transistor radios and cassette players. The 110 exhibitors and 17,500 attendees were jammed into only 100,000 sq.ft. … today’s Vegas show is approaching 50 acres, about 3,000 exhibitors and a seemingly uncountable number of attendees.

But if we look back only ten years ago (or seventy in dog years!), it gives a good perspective to see just how far away 50 years really is.

  • First 50” plasma under $2500 introduced from Hitachi. Comparable LCD from Sharp is $5300. World’s largest LCD TV prototype shown at 108”.
  • HD DVD tech was circling the drain despite better technology and half the price of a Sony unit. The Sony PlayStation 3 with built-in Blu-ray made the difference for dominance. An industry mistake with Sony that still plagues us to this day. I have a 2007 Toshiba HD DVD player and yes, it still looks better than any 2016 Blu-ray player.
  • Sony was #1 in sales of television, home audio, camcorders, DVD players and headphones. I’m not aware of any category that they are tops in sales any longer with the possible exception of projection TV’s.
  • The original iPhone was introduced at MacWorld January 9th by Steve Jobs at the same time as the show was going on. Most everyone there discussed it, but didn’t see its importance. Many products at the 2007 CES would be rendered obsolete in only a year or two as a result.
  • Predictions by most highly-placed industry insiders that dedicated portable music players such as the iPod will continue to be popular indefinitely is proven wrong. (see 4th bullet point)
  • The cheapest portable GPS debuts from Audiovox (NVX227) for “only” $399.
  • The Pharos phone with GPS, audio player and PDA debuts … the expression “a day late and a dollar short” may apply here. (see 4th bullet point again)
  • GoPro introduced its newest action camera the Hero 3 for $140. The basic design is still the same today, although the specs are hugely improved on this industry leading cam.
  • Most digital cameras in 2007 were around five mega-pixels (MP), with the high-end stuff at ten MP. A normal Samsung phone is 12MP today.
  • Nokia released a wireless tablet (N800) that had “apps” and could access the internet. I still have one and amazingly … it works.
  • Downloading industry-legal movies are growing slowly as it takes approximately 15 hours to download a movie from Disney or major studios.
  • The cheapest HD camcorder I could find was $699 and only 720p. Versions capable of 1080 were almost unknown.

 

2007 truly was a seminal year for tech even if most people didn’t realize it. We saw the beginnings of legal streaming music and a “Swiss army-knife” phone that would change almost the entire landscape of the tech industry. Digital cameras were becoming the de facto standard for photography. Large flat screens are simply “what-you-buy” when it comes to a new TV. This may be the single most important year in the history of tech and it slipped by us. This is the year that tech started to put its foot to the floor, so to speak. “What’s past is prologue” applies as never before. And this was only ten years ago. Only the introduction of transistors and chips is more monumental. Streaming content, the absolute victory of digital imaging and HD video becoming common … they rule modern tech today, and for the foreseeable future. Yep, 2007 was a year to remember.

When sucking isn’t a bad thing …

I’ve been a fan of robotic vacuum cleaners since their introduction several years ago.

Despite careful cleaning/maintenance, I’ve managed to wear two iRobots completely out. I’ve totally rebuilt them so many times, I’ve lost count. After the fifth or so time of doing that, the fun wanes.     But, hesitant to buy another solely based on the substantially higher prices than originally paid, I just did without. But technology waits for no one, and iRobot has more competitors than ever. Some even well-known brand names have finally entered the market as well. However, I found a unit (iLife V5) that had tech that would put my older iRobot to shame for only $106 shipped to my door with zero tax. The comparable iRobot was four/five times more expensive. So the question you’re probably asking, is the iRobot worth the extra cash?

The only feature lacking on my bargain cleaner was the infrared wall to keep the vacuum in just one room … so I just pile a few items in the open doorway to block it from escaping. As far the cleaning capability, it’s shockingly efficient. Even after deliberately and thoroughly cleaning an area with a Dyson clone, the new robot cleaner found an incredible amount of dirt/hair. I expected that based on experiences with previous iRobots. So my bargain dirt sucker worked easily as well as a far pricier iRobot. I even got extra HEPA filters (only supposed to get one extra, but received two!) and extra spinning brushes. The package also included the remote control and its base station for automatic recharging. It’s fully programmable as well. Cleaning was as simple as it gets … empty bin in trash and I use a can of compressed air to blow the HEPA filter clean (always outside!) to extend its life. Literally one or two minutes and it’s ready to devour dog hair again. Companies mistakenly say these time savers’ batteries will run for two hours. But I have always gotten at least 45-90 minutes on hard surfaces. Carpets will shorten run times for obvious reasons.

ilife-vacuum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some big pluses of the iLife V5 was a HUGE drop in noise levels and the amazing sensitivity of the sensors detecting furniture/walls. Even when it did hit stuff it wasn’t a huge “BANG!!!” as with the iRobot. You can run it in the same room as you’re having a conversation in without effort.

As with all robotic cleaners don’t trust them with stairs regardless of what the manufacturers tell you … these things are persistent as crazed terriers and will find a way to jump to their destruction.

Also bear in mind, these are not substitutes for a full size, plug-in vacuum on carpet, but rather to greatly extend the time between hauling out the corded version. On hard surfaces, it essentially does away with a full-size vacuum … with the exception of mopping. That is unless you opt for a robotic unit that can do that as well!

So when guests say my iLife V5 sucks, I say “Thanks!” ….

When is Crowdfunding only a form of theft?

As a once enthusiastic supporter of “crowdfunding” through sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, I can now say that the experience has left me with a sour taste. There are legit “programs” that have sincerely tried to fulfill their goals, some who were either incompetent or even lacking morals and waaaay more than just a few others, that I have personally participated in, that were just scams. The “Zano” drone scam being the most recent and by far the largest crowdfunding scam to date. I was a victim of this almost 3.5 million dollar fraud as well as thousands of others. They claim “difficulties” caused their demise, but I know otherwise from firsthand knowledge and investigative journalism by a third party that fraud was deliberate and pervasive within the company. Some programs like the “Growlerwerks” lack integrity and morals by shipping products that actually belong to their supporters instead to retailers … effectively using some else’s money to build a product that ultimately may never be delivered to many, if not most of the people who contributed to the project. So, they get the bucks from the retailers for the product and can stiff the supporters. They make twice the amount of money. Immoral or criminal?

I participated in a “smart ring” project with a company called “MOTA” for almost two years. I’ve had face to face contact with them at the last two CES shows, but at the last meeting they told me something that made my jaw drop. They actually told me to my face that the project wasn’t “hot” anymore and they were shifting to building drones. Problematically, drones that they had on display, like the ring mockup, didn’t work either. The Attorney General of California may have to decide as I’ve filed a complaint of fraud with them. I also notified Indiegogo of another ongoing scam and their (paraphrased) response was “Fraud on guys!!! No recourse!!!”. In my view, this is the actions of criminals. But who here are the crooks? Indiegogo for knowing it was a scam, refusing to acknowledge it and allowing it continue? Or the crooks who knew that Indiegogo, once they got their bucks, would claim ignorance and let them run away with the bucks?

Pix and picks from the show for coolness

Just a few pixs from the show that I thought worthy of a look.

This is the LG booth:

LG at 2016 CES

 

Printing with a 3D sugar printer. They just get more amazing ever year.

It’s worth noting that the spoons themselves are 3D printed ceramic.

Sugar 3D Printer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full color 3D printing … Honestly, I thought this was years aways, but here it is … cheap? Ahhh, nope.

Full color 3D printer

 

This is at the Toyota booth with the Kikai concept car:Kakai #1

Kakai #2 Kakai #3

2016 CES Winners Revealed!!!

The craziness known as CES has passed into history for this year. So, we must select a few winners from the show that actually mean “something”. It needn’t be a specific product, but can even be a category that is finding its feet, so to speak.

FYI, it’s notable that almost exactly ten years to the day of the introduction of the Blu-ray player, the first Blu-ray 4K players are shown.

And for those curious about the creepy “zipper guy” … he was a no show this year.

Clearly, and without any reservations, I do hereby proclaim “VR” da’ winner. It was simply everywhere. From the major players like Samsung, down to the guys who deal in cardboard goggles that hold a smartphone. It was being integrated into everything from the 360° degree camera crowd , to the drone market and everywhere in between. Only the refrigerator/washer & dryer/oven manufacturers haven’t figured a use  … yet.  And the clear winner, in terms of the VR usage, is Samsung with probably 95% of the VR headsets at the show. Should you have a current Galaxy smartphone, all you need is a $99 plastic headset, the free software and you’re ready to rock. If you’re a cheap SOB, you can always do the cardboard thing if you don’t mind paper cuts. VR Goggles at 2016 CESAdmittedly the resolution is not exactly 4K quality, but the experience of using it can’t leave you with anything but the distinct feeling “this is the future”. This “thing” extends waaaay beyond the gaming crowd. It’d take more than a few beers at the local pub to fully explain it to your bored, bleeding ears. But I’ll give you a tiny idea … imagine instead of sitting stone-still in front of your 105” 4K OLED, you just have your VR goggles and a 360° experience that may eventually wind up giving you neck problems as you whip your head around to see what you heard behind you. Imagine the new Star Wars movie in a fully immersive experience. And you thought the folks who stood in line for a week for tickets in costumes were imbalanced … wait till they see this. Talk about a schism in their grasp of reality. Institutionalization will probably be required.

 

The runner-up had to be drones. And I thought last year was a huge year for them. This was the year that the idea of drone ownership truly went mainstream. The sheer amount of them available for purchase was dizzying to say the least. Prices range from $20 to well over $20,000 … that should give you a small idea. Interestingly, not a single person I spoke with was willing to pay the Obama drone tax and refused to “register” it as though it were a firearm. King of Drones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was even was a drone that would carry a person a la’ “flying car”.

The video of it flying around in Dubai was exciting, but not as much as the thought of them firing the thing up in the show, and the Chinese software discovering a glitch and deciding the show wasn’t where it thought it was supposed to be with eight four-foot Cuisinart blades powered by huge electric motors. When someone got into the thing and I saw the power umbilical would allow it to reach into the crowd, I headed for anywhere-but-here.

 

GoPro 360 RigMy honorable mention has to be 360° cameras. When I saw a guy with (no kiddin’) with at least 16 GoPro Hero4 cameras on a special aluminum 360° mount w/1.19 panoramic fish eye lens walking around CES (around $11,000),     I thought there has to be a better way … and there is. Among my favs was Ricoh Theta again with dual 1080 cameras for about $300. Couldn’t be much easier to use and a brilliant design.

Have a bad day? Think about the last vacation you filmed with it and 1080p 360° VR. Reach for the rum and coke, pop on the VR goggles and chill … it’s so … very 21st century.

Is the search over???

For more than 30 years I’ve been on what turned out to be an expensive quest for the absolute pinnacle of television perfection and it’s been quite a trip (that’s a story unto itself) … leading to where I really think we’re extremely close to the end of “the search.” (Unless 32K tele-holography becomes available in my lifetime.) I’ll share why I have that opinion in a few moments. I’m not going to show pictures as it would be meaningless … I’ll provide the appropriate links.

For over three months I’ve been watching what essentially all tech reviewers agree are the two best sets money can buy. The top-of-the-line Samsung LED SUHD and LG OLED TVs. Both are frightfully expensive if you pay extra to get the correct version and avoid the very real and onerous panel lottery. Especially the LG. Since the prices are as stable as the weather, I’ll just say you can buy a nice used car for less bucks.

The testing is taking place in my media room, therefore, I don’t have the issues you’d have in someplace like your local electronics mega-store. These are not some “amped-up” loaners from the manufacturers …. I bought them and had them shipped in from across the country. So this is a real world test. And don’t worry, I’m not going to launch into some kind of technical diatribe about LG’s OLED vs. Samsung’s SUHD screen.  To totally cover these two sets versus each other and all other sets, would literally take pages and pages of boring tech stats and endless explanations what each meant. Suffice it to say that OLED technology is similar to LED TVs and hugely different at the same time. Shockingly, it took almost 65 years after the discovery of OLEDs to bring it to the consumer. Simple it ain’t.

First the Samsung. If I didn’t have the LG as a reference, I’d be inclined to say it’s about the best picture I’ve ever seen that can actually be purchased. Fantastic color, best ever remote, smart menus and a literal plethora of options just make it that much better. Not to mention a direct interface with DirecTV for 4K. (and its wildly ridiculous charges to view even 40+ old movies even after the nightmarish DirecTV install) Everything just exudes quality. Here comes the “but” … The longer I watch it the more it becomes obvious that the black levels, regardless of how the set is back-lit, are lacking. If you have a normal 1080p set, it’s a world of difference better … but in this company, with what’s being paid, it should be better. The single biggest issue however is the moiré patterning. And it has a very real issue with it … when dimly lit scenes appear; the dark areas display the typical LCD issue of grayish-black square/rectangles appearing. If you’ve never had anyone point this out to you before while you’re watching your TV, don’t let them, as you’ll never watch it again without noticing it.       For any set that is in the thousands of cubic dollars, that’s a fatal flaw. FYI, “Game of Thrones” is shot with ARRI ALEXA 4K and RED Dragon 6K cameras … using a single candle for ALL lighting in some scenes. You can see why that moiré patterning can be especially annoying. Huge floating chunks of grey and black blocks don’t make for a great viewing experience.

Now for the baddest TV of all time … the LG OLED. Firstly, its black levels aren’t something that can’t be really explained … you have to experience it in person. Simply put, when something is black … it’s dark hole black. That makes the contrast difference between black and other colors shockingly different. The fact that the LG is a 10bit set gives it a broader range of colors than 99.99999% of all other TVs. And it’s already HDR ready … that’s the next major step in TVs. (more than even 8K!) HDR deals with increasing contrast (difference between black and white) … No normal set can do this … period. As of this writing, excluding the LG, there are only about five sets actually for sale that are ready for this and all of them have the Samsung’s issues. With an almost non-existent frame, in a dark room it appears to floating in mid-air. Other than a minor tweak of the menus and better wall mounting options, the only significant complaint is a wee bit of judder in extremely fast scenes. I can deal with that seldomly seen issue to have the amazing picture. Is it worth the extra couple grand over the Samsung? The answer is an unequivocal yes. I’d be staring at the Samsung, noting every flaw and it’d drive me crazy. I know that the HDR is rare except if you have Amazon Prime. I know that 4K shows are far and few between. I’m trying to somewhat future-proof my media room. A few more bucks now will equal savings in the future as these become common place. Should you think that’s many years away, note that 4K sets are selling like crazy and remember that the amazing 1080HD set you’re watching now only took a few years transition from the old cathode ray low-def sets. Virtually all  TV shows and movies are now being shot in either 4K, 6K, 6.5K or in some cases, 8K. And have been for a few years now. The future is much closer than you think.

To look forward, check the rear view mirror first

I just received a notice that the 2016 CES show is two months away and it asked … am I prepared?       I must admit, yes. I’ve had the CES adrenalin rush since well before August. I even had a mentally “must take” list before then. If you’ve read a particular earlier blog here, you’d note that it’s a “big deal” for me and an extensive list is a “geek must.”

But as usual, I need to keep things in perspective and absolutely nothing will do that like looking back to the previous show of 10 years ago. Briefly, here is the scoop on what was hot waaaay back then.

Samsung was introducing their first Bluray player for $1000. It’s notable that the superior HD DVD player from Toshiba was half that cost. AND, it allowed ripping to any type of player you owned. That of course, was the kiss of death as all consumers are thieves in the eyes of Sony. The momentum moved Sony’s way as “under the table” deals spelled the end for the better format. Notably, I still own a HD DVD, and yes it still looks and sounds better than any Bluray player I’ve ever run across.

Digital cameras were peaking at about 8 megapixels and InfoTrends (a marketing research group) claimed that digital camera sales had peaked. And as usual, these types of groups were wrong. That didn’t happen until well after 2010 … and that was only primarily due to the dominance of the smart phone with the built-in camera.

The biggest thing by far at the show was the change to 1080 over the half-as-sharp 720 sets. TV’s with the higher resolution were everywhere. They averaged about a grand more than the 720 sets. Recently I bought a Sams’s Club 26” Hitachi 1080 set for my kitchen for $149. In a very simplistic comparison, the top of the line Sony projector in 2006 was $30K. And an absolute top-of-the-line 57’ Sharp LCD was $16K.

Sony was showing its new 1080 sets like everyone else, and true to form, thumbed their noses at the U.S and had already released a 4K set in Japan, memorably called the X series KDL-40X1000.

The iPad accessory market was hot also, but no one had any idea how vast the accessory market would be until June of 2007 with the original iPhone release. But, that’s a story for the 10 year reflection for the 2017 CES.

Ain’t no sticky fingers here

It’s rare to have a truly game changing piece of tech that’s stupid cheap ($20-25). But I’ve found exactly that in a product that has finally floated down to the consumer from the industrial sector.

It’s called “Bondic”.

Bondic

While virtually every person of the planet owns a tube of “superglue”, this may replace it in almost all uses. First, it’s not a glue. It actually welds plastics. Or even dissimilar synthetic materials.

I’m going to list just a few of the differences … you’ll be convinced too.

Your skin will NOT bond together after touching it … so it may not be the best choice for office pranks. It only bonds after a UV light source is introduced.

It will even bond underwater… no kiddin’ folks.

It will fill cracks and fissures, can be layered, sanded, milled, polished, varnished and painted. And since it will fill an opening and be layered, it can behave like a tiny 3D printer to fill gaps in the broken item.

It’s insulating and can even be colored. And we all are aware that when you open a tube of superglue, you do it with the full knowledge that you’ll probably only get one use out of it before it either dries up or seals the top so firmly that only a band saw can remove it. Bondic will last well over a year … and I’ve read that even two years is not out of the question. Maybe even three if still sealed.

This info is directly from the FAQ section of the Bondic website … they have a great description that I don’t think can be improved on:

How is Bondic® Different than other glues or UV cured adhesives?
Glue in principle is an adhesive that allows two fractured parts that fit together perfectly to stick together and become one. However, glue doesn’t replace missing pieces, nor does it provide 3D properties. Glue also cures when exposed to air or in the case you mentioned, UV light and generally requires pressure between two parts to work. Bondic® has adhesive properties but it is essentially plastic in a liquid format, you don’t need perfectly fitting parts for it to work and you can actually fabricate a missing part out of thin air so to speak so it is truly a different category.

This is only a taste of what it’s capable of. To paraphrase Yoda … “space age stuff, this is”.

Using it is simple … put on a few drops and turn on the included UV light for four seconds. Be prepared to be amazed.

I’ve repaired cables headed for the trash with only a couple of drops. The more I use it, the more convinced I am that superglue was designed as some sort of perverse torture device … bonding my fingers together and seemingly everything I glued still wound up breaking.

Beats the heck out of boiling down the talking horse Mr. Ed …….

UPDATE: Seems this tech is getting attention as telemarketers are hawking a copy of Bondic for about half price. Is it exactly the same or will it work as well? Who knows, but realistically there can’t be a huge difference as the principle and use, is exactly alike.

Another UPDATE: I just tried “Lazer Bond” and found it to be almost the exactly the same. I’ve found the liquid a bit more sticky though. A few pluses: Half the bucks of “Bondic” … dries significantly clearer … far better designed UV activating light … much brighter UV light too. Shame it doesn’t have a case of some type to put it into.

 

Cooling is cool, or, a cool way to cool

Ever the intrepid geek, my curiosity got the best of me when I saw “Mistbox” on a crowdsourcing website. This is one of those “why didn’t I think of this before?” items. But, actually I have. I had a fan fail on the outside compressor unit of the A/C on an extremely hot Texas summer weekend. Trying to get an A/C guy there on a Saturday would cost dearly. I knew that some commercial A/C’s use (water) evaporative cooling. So I crafted an old plywood sheet I had laying around with one of those cheap fans on top of the A/C unit and set a sprinkler on low to spray the condenser coils … and it worked surprisingly well until the repair “guy” came on Monday.  Effectively, the Mistbox is an extremely refined version of my water cooling scheme. Cleverly, they computerized the evaporative cooling and adapted it for a typical home system. Essentially it’s comprised of the solar-powered computer, water filter, plastic tubing and a few plastic spray bars. I literally had it installed in 10 minutes after I had the computer programmed with my wireless network password. It’s that easy … I could do it again in less five minutes now. When the A/C turns on, the computer knows (via vibration, magnetic field, sound, temperature and ambient light) and begins spraying a very, very fine mist into the condenser coils … if you put your hand over the blowing fan you can’t even detect even the smallest amount of moisture. The water usage is negligible. So no fear of flooding the yard or wasting water. I couldn’t measure the amount it uses daily under the volcanic Texas summer heat, but it’s probably less than I give my tomato plants each day. They claim about 7.2 gallons per hour … but after using it, I don’t see how it could be that much.

Mistbox

Here’s why it is important.

Using two different thermal guns, I measured the exhaust heat of the condenser fan and A/C vents inside the house. There was a consistent five-degree difference between the pre and post Mistbox install. That means the A/C isn’t running as much because it’s more efficient … that means the house cools sooner and saves bucks on electricity. If you have an intelligent thermostat like a NEST, the savings can really add up. And literally there’s almost zero service, save the annual filter change.

Before you ask, yes … there’s an app … only iOS phone … for the moment. Android app is on its way.

Simply put, it’s one of the most useful, common-sense inventions to come along in years. It appeals to treehuggers, geeks, tightwads and anyone with a desire to stay cool. Due to the bizarre governmental tax laws, the solar cell on the computer qualifies for a tax credit … it’s a win-win scenario for anyone who has ten minutes to spare.

Such a cool idea …………….

The Polar Express to Hell

This is a story about dipping a toe into the new technology. Unfortunately, it resulted in just sore toes.

While exploring 3D printers at the 2015 CES, I came across Polar3D. Made in the U.S. (they claim) and having a very novel method of moving the platform on the X&Z axis instead of the head jerking to and fro. The extruder still worked on the Y axis (up and down). It has a full metal body, which is really rare at the price point of $800 ($600 for students).

However, turn it over and the magic disappears. The entire precision mechanism for the X&Z axis is out of plastic. You don’t have to be an engineering genius to figure out what will happen after a bit of use.

Now the fun begins … Paid for in full, no product for over a month with absolutely no contact about when I could expect it. (this was a harbinger of things to come I realize now). Only after countless calls/emails and apologies did it finally show. Setup wasn’t really all that hard and I had a test guitar pick in just a few minutes. What differentiates this unit from the mainstream units is the ability to control it via the Polar3D website. That decision was disastrous. The web site is so riddled with problems that I’d have to devote an entire page to it’s woes. More calls to Polar, problems persist … soon it begins leaking molten plastic around the extruder. They say tighten it. But more than a fraction of an inch breaks the wires to the heating elements. They apologize & say a “few” units got out without being tightened. The screaming of the moving metal pieces is really irritating me now.      I grab white lithium grease. They say a “few” units got out without being lubed. Now, the leaking is out of control … a call to Polar & I’m told they’ll get a new unit to me ASAP. Two weeks later, I call and find they forgot to send it as it was sitting “behind a door”. More apologies. New unit arrives … screaming metal moving pieces again. I lube the wear prone plastic gears too. The drive screw for the Y axis (and this is not a joke) was connected by a plastic tube reministic of a “Home Depot” plumbing part to the stepper motor. Every day the printer had some issue. While this is still a relatively new technology, I was dumbfounded at the basic mistakes made at almost every turn by Polar3D. I’d call them and explain what new problem I found and they would claim it must be “user error” as no one else was having these issues.  I can only assume they don’t read their own support comments. Literally every issue I was having seemed to plague others. Eventually after another firmware update, the printer decided that it would only print from the extreme edge of the platform.

Wouldn’t be a problem except the head is now ramming into the platform and refuses to print in the center, no matter what is done. A call to Polar and they say a “few” of the units have this issue. At this point I’ve had as much “fun” with the Polar3D experience as I could and ask for a refund. They agree … if I pay for the return. A poster child for lousy customer service. I burn rubber for the UPS store.      I have no clue why I thought they would be different when it came to the refund. Sure enough, over two weeks later and no refund … another phone call. Polar3D is the gift that just keeps giving.

Legalized Theft

I’m going to climb back upon my soapbox for a moment now. Basically everyone, including the “Obamaphone” sect, has a smartphone. While it can do things that would be considered sci-fi a couple of decades ago, it’s also turned into a privacy stealing savant. ANYTHING  you have on your phone is subject to being viewed and stored for all perpetuity by any programs you have downloaded on your phone. We’re not talking hackers, but businesses you use everyday.

Take a look at what one of the most popular “free” GPS programs (Scout) wants access to on my phone:

Info sealing app

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why exactly do they need access to my camera, photos, what else I have purchased, who or what I have texted or my contact list? This is extremely common … don’t believe me?

SB2

Starbucks wants access to your photos too. Why exactly does a coffee shop need unlimited access to my photos? Is it really too hard to believe that their requests aren’t as benign as they would have us believe? Bear in mind this is Android … should you have an Apple device, it’s even less obvious what they are stealing from you. Personally,  I don’t see any use for this data except for what most consumers would consider nefarious use.

Maybe it’s time we asked them why.

Making a silk purse out of a pig’s ear? Part two …

Obama’s commitment (depending on which way the wind is blowing) to “net neutrality” may force what are possibly the #1 most hated companies in existence, to stop throttling internet bandwidth or from striking deals for preferential treatment for the companies they blackmail into cash kickbacks … like the Comcast-Netflix deal. The “protection racket” that the internet providers run, on any level, should be considered a crime and punishable as such.

Imagine that you go online to book a flight with United or try to bank with Chase Bank, and since they don’t have an agreement with Comcast, you actually can’t access them, or the connection speed is so slow it makes you quit. That is a very real possibility as this kind of madness starts to expand.

The results of this over time begins to throttle the economy also … Should this be allowed to continue, the entire use of the internet, now a fundamental of a modern society, will be completely unrecognizable in a few years. Effectively it would be the approximate equivalence of Sony’s dream of having a coin operated slot to access anything through the web. Want to check movie times at your local theater? Please insert five bucks.

This isn’t going to happen overnight … think about Mark Twain’s story of how you boil a frog … to paraphrase: you put him in comfortable water and slowly increase the heat until it’s too late. The cable companies, drunk on mountains of cash, combined with unprecedented levels of corporate insanity brings to mind the Dilbert cartoon where the morally corrupt and inept CEO of their company had his private helicopter deliver Louis Vuitton trunks of custom Rolexes to his super yacht, despite a mediocre product.  The CEO of ATT, a publicly held company, is paid annually (before expense accounts, health clubs, private jets and other assorted perks) over 23 million and the CEO of Comcast steals 29 million from his stockholders. Judging the quality of cable, cell phone and internet service, does anyone think they’ve earned it? At what point do we realize we are being overcharged in what is effectively a monopoly? Want to change your broadband supplier? …. Good Luck.  In most cases you really only have a single choice. Or take a gigantic hit in speeds or even more insane costs. Thinking about changing from cable to satellite internet providers? Be prepared for a truly shocking drop in speeds and gigantic cost increase. Going DSL? Great technology … in 1996. So the cable companies can wave the middle finger at you with complete abandon. “What’cha going do?  Leave us? …  now ya’ shut up and pay”.

Democrats aren’t alone in blind greed and stupidity … the GOP has its share of morons supporting DRM and DMCA.  An all-invasive way to stifle competing technology. Waaaay to complex to fully explain here, but let’s just say, it’s really, really bad law that costs you money almost everyday of your life. (the DMCA laws were one of the excuses that cell phones weren’t being unlocked)

Historically speaking, even Bill Clinton’s perpetually scandal ridden presidency had one silver lining – the accuracy unlocking of the GPS satellites. That one executive order in 1996, permanently changed how America moves around. Think about that the next time you use your smartphone for directions or the GPS in your car. The previous rules, at best, wouldn’t allow accuracy within several hundred feet. Amazing that such a stained presidency wouldn’t bring us to our knees.

Making a silk purse out of a pig’s ear? Part one …

This two part story is going to be a bit breathy, but hear me out … While this may come as close to common sense heresy as one can come, Obama in two cases may have inadvertently actually benefited Americans. Here’s the first example:

Cellular carriers refused to unlock the cell phones that were paid for in full at the end of the contract agreement. Effectively, that locks you into that carrier, or you have to go buy a new phone with some other carrier … and that can cost hundreds of dollars.  Hey, no one has ever said the cell companies weren’t predators. Is it any wonder why they are among the most hated businesses worldwide? Well, since the cell companies failed to shower Obama and his cabinet with enough buckets of cell phone users blood money, you can now request an “unlock”, and change to another carrier which operates in the same frequencies as your existing phones. For some, a truly huge savings.

The cell companies won’t do this for you automatically, you have to ask for it. Additionally, it may require a re-installation of the operating system (a reset for some) for it to take effect. So if you’re not jonesing for the latest, greatest phone, you can really save.

As a practice, you should contact your cell carrier every six months to see if there’s a cheaper plan that’s become available. You don’t have to re-up just to get this discount as you are still under contract for a two year term.

Check out Obama’s next unexpected positive stance in my upcoming post. It should be very enlightening as to what could possibly be in store for all Americans.

 

Party like it’s 2005!

Ten years ago. In “dog years” that’s around 70 … In “tech years”, occasionally it’ll seem longer. Change can come and sneak up on you. After a while you look back and go “whoa!” … it really was like that back then. In human terms, ten years just doesn’t seem that long until you take a look at cutting edge tech of the day.

Samsung just released the HPR8072, a 80″ plasma for the bargain price of … $39,999.
And they released (according to CEDIA) a “monster” 57-inch LCD for $19,999. It’s a wonder anyone
bought any. But thank heavens, someone did, and now these giant flat screens are everywhere
and affordable for anyone with a decent credit limit on their card. And to watch on those giant screens, “Catwoman”, voted the worst movie of the year.

Toshiba was just releasing their new HD-DVD player for $999. Unfortunately, we all know how that worked out.

This was a truly big year for the satellite biz and they dove into the HD pool without their floaties on for the first time. HD DVR’s were easily available, although the technology to stream it in HD to other TV’s in the house wasn’t.

Lots of accessories for the now quaint, if not antique by tech standards, original iPod. Some things never change.

A portable GPS with maps of the whole US stored on a small hard drive (as Cobra pointed out, just like the Apple iPod) for the still shocking price of $1299. Today a demonstrably better unit can be had for around $30.

Panasonic showing it’s newest mp3 player, that could possibly play as many as five of today’s .FLAC high resolution audio files, for $139. But in all fairness, if you’re not too discriminating, 256MB could hold many more low-res songs. Around fifty. Such a deal! Free streaming music was a very, very distant dream. And YouTube didn’t start until February the 15th of that year.

And at the show, Monster Cable had the best official CES party. This year was a private event with Rod Stewart … and no, I wasn’t invited. Just an oversight, I guess.

Exactly, how black is black?

How black is black?

Well, evidently far more than you’d imagine. How about not being able to see something held in your hands directly? Only the edges around it can be indirectly seen, as it absorbs all forms of visible (and probably invisible to the human eye) light radiation. Only .035% of light is reflected. So basically, it’s the closest thing to a man-made black hole. Point a flashlight at it, and you’ll be checking to see if the batteries are dead. Now I know you’re asking the next big question … what’s it good for?

A couple of ideas come to mind immediately … like lining the inside of telescopes to eliminate unwanted reflective light and of course, a coating for military aircraft and such. However, a more sinister use may be imagined. How about on Halloween night, wearing a full suit of this nano-fiber material you come walking down the street with only your disembodied head floating above the street. Years of nightmares for the kiddies you encounter.

This bizarre stuff has been named “Vantablack”. NASA’s homegrown version of this stuff called “super-black” isn’t even as “invisible” as this.

It’s actually grown on a sheet of aluminum foil by stacking carbon nanotubes. (About 10,000 times thinner than a human hair) You’d think it’d be furry, but apparently that’s not the case.

Stylists say that the color black is slimming … So beware, that girl you just met in a dark club with a great personality, may be hiding a big secret.

What is “Crowdfunding”????

In the past when someone had idea for an amazing product and wanted to start a company with zero or limited capital, you had to either give away a substantial chunk of the idea to vulture capitalists or hock the family jewels. Although the “Crowdfunding” idea dates back to the 17th century, it took the web to give it a life of its own.

Basically, it’s a means to have a large group of people give a few bucks each, for some measure of reward, whether it be tangible or visceral, to fund a startup. There are now more than a dozen such sites. These sites do take a percentage of the take in compensation. I won’t bother with any names as any search engine will find them for you. This is about the risks associated with this. I’ve had companies disappear after “investing”, which I was very lucky to get back. Bear in mind we are talking tech, and tech ain’t cheap sometimes. You can easily put in thousands into these attempts with zero guarantee they will actually produce a product. So it’s a wee bit like tossing the die in Vegas.

Of about the dozen or so companies I’ve “funded”, exactly one in the last three years has actually shipped me a working product. Remarkably, I still have faith in the concept. The biggest issue is the lack of a whip that sites should provide to force the startup entrepreneurs to get busy and actually make a product in a reasonable time. I actually have one well-established company, not a startup, dragging its feet for almost three years!

The fact that most of this stuff is cutting edge, and as such, gives you substantial geek cred … but really, three years for a streaming audio device?

The sites also fund just about anything you can think of. From indie bands and artists to heart-wrenching pleas from the desperately ill seeking financial help. Just skimming the sites will tell you about modern society and just how much it’s changed (or not) more than just about anything you will ever read. It’s an unfiltered example of the march of human nature and technology. Invest or not, it’s worth a look.

Slinging, and we’re not talking monkey poo

Several years ago as I wandered through a late CompUSA store I found a new toy. Called Slingbox, it claimed to make video streaming of your personal devices such as cable TV, DVD, satellite, security camera, etc., easy to view through your computer. You could watch it from anywhere in the world that had an internet connection. Later they added smartphones to that mix although the app cost a crazy thirty bucks. (the complete absurdity of the pricing forced them to lower it to $14.95 per device) Not the first way to do this, but by far the easiest. Now they’ve released the newest version for HD viewing. Not surprisingly it’s notably a far better picture. The utter simplicity is gone, but can be done by a determined novice.

The older unit actually had an image of the device’s remote that functioned exactly as if you were sitting there holding it in your hand. The newer HD units lack that amazingly adept display that gave Slingbox some of it’s usefulness. Now the functions are delegated to standard menus that oddly don’t highlight the power button. So after the install you would keep getting the “no video found” warning ….. until you dig around in the menus and find the switch. The poor menu layout is the biggest problem with the whole unit. This need to be fixed!

The 500 model, as opposed to the cheaper 300, has built-in wifi, so a wired connection isn’t mandatory.  And frankly, it looks cooler … isn’t that worth a couple of bucks more? Oh and by the way, if you’re brave enough to use your 4G/LTE connection, this thing eats bandwidth … so be prepared to pay the price. Ten gig of data a month can be obliterated almost as fast as Takeru Kobayashi devours hot dogs.

If you have a protected content issue as with movie channels on satellite/cable, the new 500 series has a work-around … RBG cables to bypass the HDMI mess. You see the content companies are convinced you might steal their “stuff” with your fancy tablet or smartphone, so this allows you to watch the content you paid for on your tablet or smartphone. There may be a loss of resolution, but on a small screen you’d need better eyes than mine to see the difference.

You can access photos, videos and movies as well if you attach a USB hard drive to it.

They still charge for the app and EVERY device must have it own paid account. So if you have an iPhone and iPad, they force you to purchase it twice. However, despite the truly lousy menu layout, this is really the only game in town when it comes to quality images and (relatively) easy installation. If your have Dish Network, some of their receivers have this function built in and the app is free. You can always watch it for free on a regular computer as well.

Regardless of the issues with Slingbox, it’s an impressive piece … something that every geek should own. I’d go so far to say it’s one of the top ten devices any true geek must own to claim that moniker.

Green is good, in a different way

Not one of my favs in Vegas, but you gotta give The Cosmopolitan Hotel kudos when deserved.

In their parking garage, above each and every parking space is a sensor that activates a green light when it’s empty and red when it’s not. This is an idea whose time has come. They can tell you on a “parking availability board” exactly how spaces are available on each of the several floors as you enter. It however, remains up to you to actually find your car in the ocean of concrete once you’ve had a few drinks.

Garage

Lost in Translation

Well the 2014 CES is here and as usual, I’m totally overwhelmed by the enormity of the show.

While this is supposed to be the largest in its history, I have to admit that I’ve become more than just a bit jaded. This paragon of geek nerdidity has lost a sense of community that I experienced in earlier shows. I can’t chalk it up to any single cause, but the show has taken a more “hard-core” business attitude. This is still the only place on the planet where you can actually see the future, but that loss has taken its toll on enjoying the show. I can’t help but wonder if it’s just me.

When I take a noob to the show, I get to see it through their eyes … and there’s simply no way to express how that affects them. Their tech life is sort of like stumbling around in the dark with a dim incandescent flashlight and suddenly having a thousand watts of of 6400K LED lights come on … a blinding experience. In my experience, no one has a full grasp at their first visit to fully understand what they are looking at and how it will affect them in the future. It’s up to me to share why it “matters” … and I’ve found unexpected introspection, and as to how much enjoyment that brings me. Admittedly, there’s a certain amount of information “lost in translation” as any proper geek will understand.

So tech marches on ……

I keep reminding them that nowhere on the planet demonstrates more my favorite saying of “what’s behind you, doesn’t matter”.

The Rolling Stones were right, time waits for no one

Anyone with a modern phone can’t have but noticed the full fledged war between Samsung and Apple. Having had more than just a few of the late Mr. Jobs creations, I was more than slightly hesitant to jump onto the Android ship. However since texts are such a huge part of my job, I was amazed at watching someone with an Samsung S4 use the “Swype” function. I had always wondered how people were able to text so fast back to me that I had trouble following the conversation. They literally could send me three or four perfect short texts faster than I could send a single error-filled one.

They never raised their fingers off the “keyboard”, but just swished to back and forth over the keys and the phone selected the correct word. Simply amazing. It really made my iPhone feel primitive. So jump I did, selecting a couple of the Note 3s with the unique detachable pen. The pen allowed me to do things I couldn’t even begin to think of with a iPhone. The larger “Full HD Super AMOLED” image was simply in another league. You can actually use it surf the web and see it without squinting. Throw in a 64gig micro SD card and you’ve got capacity too. The unique “widgets” capability was something that took a little getting used to, but what it offers is just another example of how Apple has fallen behind. My Note 3 is far more organized than any of my iPhones due to its split app functions (most used and everything else, in two different places).

One huge advantage was being able to give iTunes the finger and just use Windows file manager for managing audio, video and pictures … wow, what an improvement!!!

All is not all beer and skittles in the Android world as I have an anti-virus scanner that was never needed with the locked down Apple product. And not to be over-looked is the learning curve, and for some it may be actually too steep to flee the Apple compound, as it requires you think in a different and perhaps seemingly strange way, but it’s more logical. And once learned, I can’t imagine going back … it’s really that much of an improvement. It can’t help but leave me with the impression that this is what Steve Jobs really wanted for the iPhone.

The Rolling Stones were right, time waits for no one ………..

Most Holy Day of the Year

As we approach the most solemn day of the year, we must remember that it is a day of celebration too. Of course I’m talking about Geek Pride Day. This is the day that all self respecting geeks must gather at the local Fry’s and walk the floor looking for the newest tech. Should there not be a Fry’s close to you, then browsing for a few hours on the Newegg or Amazon websites will have to do.          Highly caffeinated beverages are of course, sacrosanct.

For those without pocket protectors, May 25th was the release date of the first “Star Wars” film “Episode IV: A New Hope” in 1977.

We have a winner!

There were was absolutely nada in most categories that would merit this distinction this year. No TV, speaker or anything electronic at the world’s largest electronics gathering could earn my special achievement badge. Who would have guessed? While there were incremental improvements in all areas, this special award goes only to those who have clearly set a new high-water mark (no pun-intended … you’ll see soon)  for their vision of the future.

The clear winner this year at the 2013 CES is the plasma treatment of mobile devices. In English, this means a treated phone/tablet could be dropped into a pool and could be pulled out with no damage. Or use your imagination as to what liquids could do to a running smartphone/pad, and then stop worrying. This would put a permanent end to fear of rain or bathrooms shorting out your valuable electronic life. To imagine that the manufacturers would endorse this is unlikely. But have hope as the cell carriers usually have to eat some of the cost of replacing your water-soaked device. The pressure they put on Apple and Samsung may be the proverbial grease for the squeaky wheel. This invisible nano-coating, induced in a vacuum with hot plasma proprietary gases, provides the water resistance. To say it’s impressive, is an understatement. One company simply tossed a $800 iPhone 5 into a fish tank and pulled it out and continued to use it. Again and again. For days … with no ill effect. You can NOT tell it has been treated either. I saw a nano-treated Kleenex that was completely and absolutely waterproof. Not too much help for your nose during an allergy attack, but it give you an idea of it’s effectiveness.

Coming soon to a mall (they claim) is a franchised company that will be to do this to each and every hand-held device you want protected against water induced damage. If all electronics were coated (TV, DVR’s, phones, computers, etc.) and your house flooded, your electronic device loss would be exactly … zero. Think of how much better a car would resist being destroyed by flooding if even the carpets refused to get wet, much less the electronics. Of course the engine may not fare as well, but that’s another story. But if it’s an all electric car … almost indestructible to the elements. It’s feasible that a company could make a totally waterproof car. The hard cost from what I’ve been told is minimal for a $50,000 car … far less than replacing it. A $2.00 gas canister can coat 25 to 50 iPhones at one time. As the technology matures, it can only get cheaper. But will building a device that is getting continually more impervious to damage something companies will want? Add a really good protective case to your phone and it could last easily a decade or more (unless you are a die-hard Apple fanboy … then a year is just too long to wait for the next BIG thing).  Of course, you may need a new battery at some point. Regardless, this is a technology that is long overdue and the value of it can’t be overstated in the new mobile society.

Each time I went to a booth with this technology there was a crowd. I’ve never seen this in almost 15 years at the CES shows. And I actually lost count of the number of companies who were promoting their own proprietary nano technology. That should give you an idea of how ground-breaking this is, especially to the techno crowd who understands the reach this nano coating has into the future. While there are different chemicals or size of the plasma chamber with each company I visited, the basic concept is the same. As smartphones and tablets continue to worm their way into every little nook of our lives, this nano coating probably will be so mainstream in a few years, that you won’t even think about it … and that says it all.

 

A Picture Is Worth …..

At CES there is certain crowd that say that it’s a primarily male-dominated experience and that there no job opportunities for the opposite sex.

I disagree and here’s the proof:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please no hate mail …. Believe it or not, this is for a company called Hyper. For anyone who cares, they make batteries for charging iPhones and such.  And yes, no seemed to notice what they were selling at the show either ….

It took the better part of a day to recover from blindness from all the electronic flashes.

Who knew there were so many photographers at the show?