Archive for December, 2022

Top Five

After literally tens of thousands of new and/or experimental electronics over the years that I’ve handled/tested/owned/broken/disassembled, I’ve distilled this mind-boggling, enormous list down to my not-so-objective “Top Five”, that looking back, improved or changed my life. Each of us could list a few that had that effect, but as card-carrying geeks, “we” are particularly sensitive to world-altering tech changes and have a tendency to look beyond the obvious. Here’s my personal list as of today, and with it, zero promises it will stay that way beyond today.


1)   The Alienware Portable Computer – OMG, arguably the world’s most powerful portable (and not-so-arguably, probably most expensive) leaves any other laptop sucking air as this thing I call the “Beast”, is a sledgehammer of a computer (notice I don’t say laptop) that’s more powerful than anything that I’ve tried to choke it with. I’ve NEVER found a single task that caused it to even slow down. One hundred and fifty tabs open in Chrome? No problem. Video/audio compression and complex editing is simply not an issue … Other than weight, I sincerely don’t know how it could be improved, performance-wise. This unequivocal King-of-the-Mountain monster may be as close to perfect as a computer can be with current technology. Why can it run for so many hours with this much power, is in itself an indication of its dominance.

2)   Samsung Note Phones – IMHO, the “Alienware” of phones. The most coveted of all phones for geeks also has the most fanatical following of any produced today. Stupendously powerful, almost incomprehensively flexible/programmable, that is remarkably tolerant to users that have never used a phone that isn’t dumbed down like an iPhone. Highly programmable, it reeks of an almost Star Trek device with options that make it really the only “phone” to own if you’re a geek. Not designed for the elderly or 12-year old girls, it’s the the 800lb gorilla of phones, that regardless of what difficult task I’ve assigned to it, it crushes it and moves on. You want 8K video or 108 mega-pixel images or the ability to shoot, in color, in almost complete darkness is nothing short of mind-boggling. Extreme is singularly the best description of all the Samsung Note series.  Also, of “note”, I still occasionally use a 2013 Samsung Note 3 for certain tasks. Even by today’s standards, it can hold its own for certain uses. Although Samsung doesn’t make a per-se Note for 2022, the S22 Ultra essentially is a Note … albeit lacking a provision for a micro SD card and the “Note” moniker. Fingers crossed on the 2023 Samsung S23 Ultra having the micro SD card slot reinstalled.

3)  Tesla – While this may seem an out-of-context item, it can be best described as a rolling cellphone … just one that also happens to be the world’s fastest accelerating production car ever tested. I’ve owned fast, and I do mean shockingly fast dream cars … but, Teslas are simply another world. Brutal acceleration beyond almost anything beyond a top-fuel dragster, the safest cars ever tested, contains cutting edge tech that is completely incomparable in the car industry. These “cars”, despite what the ignorant Tesla-hating media portrays, is what every car maker on the planet wishes it were. Gasoline cars are dead and this is what killed them … beyond cool sounds, there is nothing a gasoline-powered car can do that a Tesla can’t do better … in some cases, much, much better. Approaching almost 18 months of ownership on my first Tesla, my maintenance cost has been exactly zero … not because the car company is paying for the first few years of service … but because there is nothing beyond tire pressures, windshield cleaner fluid and cleaning that Teslas require. I have to remind myself to touch the brakes every now and then to knock off the rust on the brake rotors, since the number of times I’ve actually had to use the brakes can be counted on less than ten fingers.

4)  Amazon Alexa –  The original, actually-functioning Swiss army-knife of controlling the modern home. Owning a smart home almost totally controlled by voice isn’t “Blade Runner” future tech. Lights, alarms, locks, timers and even controlling the temperatures inside the parked Teslas can be done purely by voice. And … it’s a useful companion for trivia. I’m always asked about whether or not I’m worried about being monitored or recorded … I always reply if anyone is really concerned about what I’m thinking/saying, I’d have been arrested by the liberal thought police many years ago. That being said and using common sense, I would never have one in my bedroom.

5)   Nest Thermostat – It’s made my home more comfortable, my energy bills less, is totally controllable remotely and thanks to Amazon’s Alexa (or whatever name you’ve programmed it to respond to) it can be controlled by simply talking. Simple, effective and elegant is an accurate description. There are many, many competitors … but there is only one original and it’s still the best. Again, there’s nothing even close to it on the market.

One can never tell what “must to own” is on the horizon, I’ll keep an eye out for you … the 2023 CES is less than a week away.



Cardboard Memories

Digging around in my attic’s electronics graveyard, I came across the box from my now long gone (but still much loved) first HD TV … A Hitachi CMP5000WXU 50” plasma. It came to me in a rather odd way as this tech was still fairly rare in 2003.








It’s actually a commercial Pioneer unit made for TV stations, just re-labeled for Hitachi as they had zero ability to make anything remotely like this at that time. I found a pro dealer in the Seattle area that had a few for less than the $11,999 suggested price, for “only” $7500 plus the cost of the mandatory input card ($800) that allows VCR’s and other devices to be shown on to it. FYI, converted to today’s dollar value, that’s over $13,500. Bear in mind, the exact same model with Pioneer’s name on it was even more expensive. The box in which it was shipped, by today’s standards, was overkill in the extreme as these things were hard to get and fragile compared to today’s LCD/LED models. You could safely put six modern flat screen LCDs in it, side by side. Also due to the rarity, they air shipped it to me. Bear in mind, it weighed a little south of a VW due to the sheer amount of glass and the amount of electronics. Well, it sure seemed that much when I tried to pick it up. The cabinet in the media room had to be hacked up to fit this giant screen in the given space of the previous 36” CRT TV.

When fired up the picture was amazing, as I’d never seen such a sharp and clear image outside of experimental units at the CES shows. Of course, the only thing I could watch in HD at that time was PBS, starting at 8pm showing nature films. But people would come to my home to be blown away by the stunning picture, even if the main attraction was squirrels, insects and the occasional story about the US Postal Service. However even a regular DVD looked totally different compared to CRT TV’s … I actually found myself going back and watching videos I’d seen a hundred times … I wasn’t disappointed. It was like watching them for the first time. I seriously didn’t know how much I had missed by watching traditional low-def TV’s.

There were some things that weren’t expected … first, vertigo … it became EXTREMELY disorienting because the picture quality was that good. I’ve only owned the world’s best cathode-ray tube (CRT) TV’s up to that point for 20+years, but plasma TV’s are simply a different level of sharpness and detail. Second, the heat it generated could actually heat the room during winter. I still wonder how much it cost me in electricity.

This January, I’ll be at the (still crippled by the China virus) 2023 CES in Las Vegas. I’ll see the latest 8K sets far larger than the size of an RV, but I still remember looking back in wonder at that very first HD set. In complete sincerity, I’d still love to have one now. Even though it’s only a 720p set, it evokes fond memories like your first car, a crazed run down an Olympic bobsled track or sailing down the Grand canal in Venice. That’s how profound it was for me.

I was conversing with a friend about this, and posed the question: I can now buy a 65” 4K flat-screen smart TV, less than half an inch thick, that is so efficient it can almost run on batteries, in a Walmart Christmas sale for $199 … Why isn’t that happening with cars?

The next time I see Musk … I’ll ask him.