I’m still here!

Yes, I am still here and playing with consumer tech/mobile gadgets. I’ve also gone off the deep end in building my boardgame collection. The majority of which, have gotten their start in Kickstarter (that I’ve purchased through retail channels by coincidence) and many others I’ve personally backed. 2015 was a huge year in crowdfunded boardgames, and for me, a big year in consumer tech.

Just an update in the tech space:

I’m still married to Samsung, not so much as a fanboy. But as it turns out, those of us who have only experienced the best in Touchwiz (notably in the Note 3 and beyond), there’s a lot to be enjoyed in the most recent Samsung devices. I went from a Note 3 and skipped ahead to a Note 5. There are still no other phablets that can support one-handed use as well as Touchwiz and their latest flagship phones. I’m loving the improved battery life (I never really took full advantage of removable batteries, though I had 3 at one point) and even having my 32Gb Note 3 + 32Gb microSD card wasn’t much advantage since the majority of the time, KitKat effed up apps installation on the memory card. I have of course, picked up the 64Gb Note 5 and while I’ve only had it since September 2015, it is almost always more than half full of photos and home videos. That’s very easily manageable with cloud storage, but now I’m wishing for the optional external card slot which I hope Samsung will being back for future phones. Meanwhile, I am searching for my next phone *without a stylus. The S-pen is awesome. It really is. Even for an occasional user as myself. But I would prefer to not feel tethered to any particular brand.

Since my interests have shifted mostly to boardgaming, I’ve since broken my last, remaining iOS device. Not intentionally, mind you. Who would do that, except those stupid people doing incredulous drop and abuse tests? I did drop something on my iPad…. twice. It’s a short story to tell, but too long to type out. Just know it wasn’t on purpose and I would be elated to have a hand in both major app stores again (Android/iOS). I have owned 3 wearables. I believe my first was the 1st gen Samsung Gear, which I thought was a novelty and turned out to be very impractical for my own use. I went on to get a 1st gen Pebble, which I think is still the best wearable accessory in the market. It’s a great addition to having a smart phone (intercepts sms/texts, alternate controls for other apps/functions like Pandora and photo/vidcam triggers). I’m currently sporting a Gear S2 which I have mixed feelings about. I think Samsung had a great product that they ruined by sticking Tizen onto it. I mean, what a truly garbage OS. Seriously Samsung. At least allow Android sideloads…. I’m not touching the latest Gear S “round” or whatever it’s called. The first Gear S is still better, even if Tizen sucks. And let’s see…. my latest tech device is another proprietary Samsung toy – the Oculus/Gear VR. If you *already own a recent/current Samsung flagship phone and you like 3d games but are not quite ready to plunge into current gen consoles, the Gear VR is a no-brainer. If you don’t plan on upgrading to a newer flagship S-phone, don’t bother. It’s not worth even finding a used flagship phone + $100 (cost of G-VR). Wait another 6+ months for something similarly priced that can accommodate most other phones (or get Google Cardboard). The games are pricey, like something you’d buy from Steam for PCs. Most are the same type (spaceships and/or shooter games). 3d movies are possible to watch, but is not a method readily accessible to just anyone. There are videos on YouTube you can watch how to allow such viewing. But for me, it’s too much trouble than it’s worth. Hopefully Samsung will make that easier in the future. Also 360 video, as hi-res as they’re recorded as – by the time 360 playability is applied, the final image is so disappointingly lo-res. It’s still quite a gimmicky experience but it’s also such a fun gimmick.

I want to stop here. You can probably tell, I’m not a professional writer. But I hope it was somewhat informative. I will certainly return with more personal commentary on my current slough of devices. I will likely add a section of boardgame reviews/commentary that entails learning new games (new to me), that will supplement my unboxing videos. Yes, I have a YouTube channel where I unbox my latest acquisitions! If they become somewhat popular at all, maybe I’ll link those videos here.

If you’ve read all through my ramblings, thanks for doing so.


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I Never Thought I’d be in This Position

But I’m still here, and I’m still screwing around with mobile consumer tech. I’m not off meeting up and geek crushing on my favorite tech peeps in the tech world, but I am still able to play around with some really exciting tech toys. Since my last post, I’ve really dabbled in lots of things, from my brief obsession with power bricks to my latest foray in mobile phones and also my growing obsession with Kickstarter projects. It’s been a wild ride and I don’t think I’ll get off anytime soon. I may however, start up a new blog. I’m not sure yet. Because I still want to document my experiences. I know nobody reads this except for me (and maybe a select few who stumble across my occasional post). But there are so many things I want to write about. But all in due time.

Tomorrow marks another landmark event in my tech world. I am leaving iOS (and an over-inflated cell bill) for the Galaxy Note 3. I want to snatch one up while it’s still “the new hotness.” Freaking Android phones (especially from Samsung) are released en masse, it seems. I mean, the Note 2 isn’t even a year old yet, is it? And now Samsung is releasing the “Round” phone, which is a Note 3 without a stylus… So I’m not concerned too much about that. Plus it’s only being released in Asia for the time being…. Anyway, I am typing this up on my HP Envy X2 (yeah, I got me a Windows 8 convertible – go figure. It’s not the best around, but I have my reasons for getting this particular model) and after tomorrow, provided there are some in stock, I will be blogging from my new phablet. I’m already enjoying my new LG HBS-730 headphones. Don’t believe all the negative reviews on Amazon. Granted, I’ve not experienced the 700’s but for $50, you can’t beat the price:value ratio. I purchased mine from Radio Shack @ $69.99 for the fact that if these buggers performance worsens while using with the Note 3 (I currently have these headphones paired to my iPhone 4S and iPad 3), I still might return them. If I picked them up from Amazon, I may not be able to exchange them with as much ease as simply returning them at the store I physically purchased them from.

Speaking of price:value ratio, the headphones I’m replacing are my Porta Pros that I picked up from K-Mart for…. I want to say $35 but I think I paid closer to $38. It doesn’t matter. They sound phenomenal as I expected. Thanks to the high recommendation from @Audiophiliacman, @MalusBrutus and CNet’s 404 Podcast.

You see? So many great tech experiences I have been to busy enjoying, instead of blogging about. But before I get ahead of myself, I will break here. I will continue my journey from my phablet as I stated before. After all, I gotta squeeze all the use out of that S-Pen that I can.

(hello – why does the time stamp of the autosave say 5:35 am? It’s 10:30pm where I am…)

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Boxee Box is not Obsolete!

Boxee may be pushing their live TV + unlimited cloud DVR *service, but the market for the Boxee Box is still alive and kicking. It’s not as simple out of the box as I had once thought, but for the seasoned and the initiated, it is still a valuable piece of tech.

I have been a long time fan of Boxee media manager. I had been preaching it as a powerful media manager for years to my friends and family. In fact, I had been a fan of the all-in-one device from way back to the (original) XBMC. I still have one of the earlier mods on a first-gen Xbox tucked away in a closet somewhere. I had been torn between the two media managers because I loved the responsiveness of XBMC, with its dedicated community and reputation (not to mention limitless customizability). But Boxee had managed to tie in my growing love of streaming media. The only drawback being, at least in my experience, Boxee Media Manager was a bit sluggish on my computer. I don’t know if it was just the build of my machine or the software. I was pleased with it overall, regardless.

But then we grow up. Life happens and our needs (and wants) change. I have always been budget minded and have prided myself of building powerful computer systems on the cheap. My last project was to create a gaming desktop that I could use to create and edit video and also use as a DVR. Fast forward 3 years and along the way I discovered I really didn’t want to learn After Effects (nor pay for, or acquire by other means, Adobe CS5). I also had little interest in plunking $60 (or more) per new video game that a friend would be getting anyways. I never finish them and probably only get $10 worth of quality play per game. Yeah, big waste of money for me. I still had my great interest in up and coming movies and television programming though. I put my PS3 away for a year, only to use it as a bluray player. Up until recently, I had been purchasing about 1-2 BD per month. Then inflation happens, cost of living rises while recession continues, I remain employed but with little increase in pay. Oh, did I mention I enjoy eating out too?

Anyway, before I start retelling my entire life story, I just want to say I’ve slowly been returning to my old spending/saving habits. A great portion of cheap entertainment is staying at home and enjoying what I have around me. I read very occasionally, but I may rewatch my favorite programs and movies much in the same fashion a literary person will whip out their favorite book. But still some changes need to be made.

My desktop supposedly is built into one of the most compact, quietest and airflow efficient cases designed for budget HTPCs (I think it’s an Antec something or other). Unfortunately, the reduced footprint (it’s the size of a medium case) and uniquely designed innards only allowed me to be able to choose from 3 motherboards and only one CPU fan would fit. There would be no passive (massive) heatsink and to this day, my computer howls like a beast. Not only that, but it generates enough heat to raise whatever room it’s in by 5F-8F and probably uses more than 2x the electricity that my (fatty) PS3 ever did (we all remember the comparison between the PS3’s energy consumption and a standard sized refrigerator right?).

So what of the Boxee Box? I am a little disappointed in the device’s limited capability. Obviously it was not exactly designed with a power user in mind. But fortunately for me, my buddy is an enthusiast that can afford to get whatever toy strikes his fancy. You’d think he’s a gadget reviewer but he’s just a big kid that likes his toys. He’s got a device for Google TV (I think it’s the Logitech Revue, a Boxee Box and I think he might have the Western Digital device). He recommended the Boxee Box to me (even though I initially turned his attention to it during its initial press release) because he said it was the best of all the set tops to stream both online content and local media. Since I had collected and created quite a collection of movies, tv and music, and since I simply have always just wanted the Boxee Box, I finally picked one up when the price dropped again. I don’t care much for live tv. I am not a sports fan and do not have cable television (never had anything beyond basic). All my needs in those respects can be covered with OTA broadcasts. I love YouTube and various audio and video podcasts and all my favorite tv shows keep getting canceled. So I continue to lean on recorded tv shows and my dvd/bd collection. Pandora is my favorite radio station and Netflix…. I gave that up last spring.

The Boxee Box is a fantastic device and even though I just started using it a couple of days ago, I know it’ll get plenty of use. I love it for its ability to play all my archived stuff and for the variety of free content available through it. I will appreciate the miniscule energy consumption and already I am loving its nearly silent cooling fan. Right now, all I hear is the fan of my laptop as I type.

A significant drawback so far is I’ve already experienced 3 significant, negative incidents. Upon first reboot after the latest firmware update, my Boxee Box froze and had me seriously rethinking my purchase. Then, up until now, I’ve experienced 2 video hang ups. Sure, it could be network hiccups as my Boxee is not wired into my router (they are in separate rooms), but that is hardly an excuse. I have an iPhone, an iPad, a Touchpad and a laptop that I’ve been switching between with little or no issue. My laptop is due for an overhaul and is the only other thing that crashed on me. Seeing as how both the Boxee Box and my laptop are both running (and crashing) on linux, I will take extra care to shut down my streaming device more regularly.

As I mentioned, the seasoned and initiated are IMO, the ideal market for this particular device. It is us who might whine about its shortcomings but still have the patience to work with it. We will bitch about its simplicity but also praise it for the very same.

The Boxee Box is far from obsolete for this gadget enthusiast. I may not be able to recommend it to my parents as I had initially intended. But it will get plenty of use and praise from me. Those who are seriously considering the “Boxee killer,” the Boxee LiveTV thing, remember – it costs just a little less than a Boxee Box (I think I got a really good deal on mine at about 25% less than most retailers are selling it for) and requires a paid subscription to the unlimited cloud DVR function that is *only available in select cities at the time of this commentary.

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The Truth Comes Out

Just a little background on me, for those who don’t know. I’m a tech enthusiast who, not too long ago, became entranced with mobile tech around the time the first iPod came out. Sure, I’ve had plenty of personal gadgets before. I owned several portable cassette players, and when they were first released, the Sony Discman. I owned the first and second generations of those. I moved with the tech and picked up on mp3 players. I got a free one with our DSL service thru Big Red many, many years ago. It was one of those Creative Labs things that was basically a AAA battery case attached to a flash drive with a headphone jack built in. It had a whopping 128Mb capacity. Then the iPod Shuffle came out. This is where I was intrigued by the little device, but also turned off. I didn’t like the premium price and I certainly didn’t like the non-replaceable battery. “Apple is moving towards making these expensive toys disposable!” I cried. I still think that is the case, but I have since been working a much better job and I have more disposable income to entertain myself with.

Fast forward to today. I still am intrigued with Apple’s innovations but I’m also still turned off by the premium price of many of their products. There are still alternatives to get, but now that I’m in the midst of mobile tech, those alternatives are no longer cheap knock offs. They’re serious competitors to Apple and each other. I’d like to mention here that I declared webos fanboyism, officially and shortly after HP’s acquisition of Palm. But I never was a fan of HP. I left T-Mobile to get my hands on webos and the only thing I’ve ever bought from HP was the Touchpad. And no, I didn’t buy it after the fire sale. I thought it was very much worth the $400 I initially paid for it. That’s not to say I couldn’t appreciate the refund of the difference after HP killed the product line.

But now I’m ready to move forth. I love webos and everything it’s done to appease my attention deficit. Yes, multitasking is what I crave. Rather than learning to focus, I’ve been indulging in a more scattered workflow. It’s not the most productive way to approach things, but I don’t use these gadget for work. They’re purely for my entertainment. I’ve accepted that there’s no reason anyone would again, purchase a dead (and very mismarketed) technology, excepting the obvious – Palm’s patent portfolio would be handy in this age of patent infringement. HP may not care to use it to generate revenue, but one of their former competitors might.

So before I get lost in my ramblings, I shall begin my rant.

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I Finally Took the Plunge

It looks like I’ll have some things to post coming up. I finally shelled out the 2 bucks for the WordPress app for webOS 1.4.x (Poster). I don’t buy many apps,, so even though I know there are free options elsewhere, I’m glad to make this purchase if it means more quality apps in the future.

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Easy Come, Easy Go…

So this is my first evening without the iPad. Aside from a minor flub, post jailbreak, the darn thing worked like a charm. As much as I wanted to find fault with it, all I really did was enjoy the heck out of it. It was in my possession for the greater part of a week and I finally got it working the way I liked it. Yeah I know. I got a little attached to it. But I’ll get time with it whenever I visit mom and dad. And when I get my hands on an HP TouchPad, I’ll be preoccupied once again.

In the meantime, I an get back to my Scrubs marathon, a la Netflix. Also, I’ve got to rent as many BDs as I can before September 1, when I’ve got to choose – disc or streaming? It’s a crock, besides. I think they could have at least waited until after Labor Day weekend to enforce the new payment plans. I mean, not everyone goes camping for Labor Day, and as an act of good faith to their long-time customers (who got shafted with the 60% price hike), could have let folks indulge in movie marathons and such before they kiss their disc+streaming rentals goodbye.

Now, even if I end up enjoying the HP TouchPad, until Netflix creates an app (or some how Silverlight becomes usable on webOS), I will have to keep my hacked Nook to keep wathing Netflix. And I kid you not, going from Android OS to iOS wasn’t much of a stretch until I had to return to Android OS from iOS. It’s like going from DVD (480p) to BD (1080p) and back again. You BD fans can relate to that, can’t you?

Whatever. My brother upgraded to the Droid 3 over the weekend and I was less than impressed. The hardware is spectacular, but it’s running that dang Android OS, which I really hate using. I had a 7″ screen on the Nook Color and I don’t put many widgets on it. I have one home screen dedicated to widgets and I always ignore it. I can’t imagine being able to slap widgets all over several home screens on a 4″ (or smaller) device.

Ahh well. To each their own I suppose. If webOS dies before I can enjoy the next evolution of tech, I’m getting an iPhone 4. F*** 4G. I don’t want it. I use more than 6Gb/month as it is, from my Pre+ (3G). I an only imagine how much data I’ll use if I can get it more than twice as fast. I’ve been grandfathered into my unlimited data plan w/ Big Red. I will certainly be flagged as an abuser for sure, if I am put on a ligtning fast plan like LTE/HSPA+/4G…. Heck, I’m proably flagged as an abuser now :/

That’s all I care to say for now. I thought I’d miss the iPad, but I’m pleased to be back watching movies and I’m typing this post from my phone. There are not many thousands of apps in HP’s app catalog, but there are plenty that matter. That’s all I care about.

Netflix and Nook (B&N) apps. That’s all that’s missing from HP’s catalog for me. I picked up a Nook, and so of course I indulged in some Nook reading. So please HP, I don’t want to lose my books. But if you want me to devote my time completely to webOS, you gotta give me a way to read my books. I think Netflix has already been requested by the masses, so I’ll just give my +1 on that vote.

Wifey became bored with Rango. I watched it last night already. Time to seal it up and mail it back. I can still get a few more movies before the end of August and still stream more Scrubs in between rentals. So I’ll get back to doing my thing now…

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So I began to see the Light

I just finished my daily two hours of Scrubs marathon (Netflix). I’ve been on this iPad all friggin day and only took a few moments to break from it during the day. Right. Oh, and I took a short nap too, to give my brain a break from all the time wasting goodness.

So what was I getting at again? Oh yeah. My phone was charging this whole time too, which made me realize this toy was actually useful for something. Even though I stopped doing something purposeful hours ago, I was able to enjoy one thing at a time, for the first time in a long while. It was a good exercise for my brain. I have terrible short-term recall, which makes learning difficult for me. I’ve also developed a bad case of attention deficit. Now, whether it’s clinical or habitual remains to be diagnosed.

Since using this iPad the past few days has been somewhat of a challenge. Take now for example. I’m listening to Pandora and I want to make sure I give the current song a thumbs up, but I can’t because I’m typing this damn post. Don’t get me wrong. It’s forcing me to actually focus AND finish my current task before doing something trivial in its stead. I’m prioritizing and that’s good, isn’t it? Of course, this means I would be getting less done during the day, if I were using this for work. Or would I be learning to work harder, faster and finish with higher quality work?

Whether this is helping me or I’m just convincing myself that I should keep one for myself (and get another for my parents) is still a toss up I guess. I really don’t have the money to get another one or any other device like it. Not right now. I’ll have to save up for another few months.

I still would like to pick up a TouchPad. That’s still a device I can really enjoy, but with the smaller app catalog, I would really have to determine its usefulness. Would it be more toy than tool? Would it be worth it to pony up the extra cash, to be able to feed my desire to flip between tasks continuously throughout my day?

Apple really has something here. Something their competitors do not, and I’m sure they know it. They have a no brainer. Meaning, this iDevice doesn’t have to be a production tool. It doesn’t have to be a consumption device. It doesn’t have to be anything because the hardware is a doppleganger – it can be virtually anything you want it to be, with the right software (and the right accessories). So the only question is, “is it worth it?” For most of us, the question, more specifically is, “Is it worth one month’s rent/car payment/childcare…?” Because really, there’s an app for that. I want to stick a pen in my brain for thinking that but it’s true. Okay, maybe it can’t literally pay your bills, but there ARE apps to help you do that, and for just about anything else you can think of.

I shall enjoy this wondrous device for another week or so, then I gotta sell it to my mom. I know it’s a gift, but as curious as my mom is about tech, she’s still resistant. Rather, she’s intimidated by new and different things. Still assuming these things have to be difficult to use to get the full enjoyment out of them. My dad? He’s a much easier sell. Especially if my mom already accepts it. Usually, if my mom’s in, then he’s in.

That’s a wrap…. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some music to rate.

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