Today’s Links

The tiniest Raspberry Pi gets a new version with built-in Wi-Fi – ARS Technica

FCC authorizes SpaceX to provide mobile Starlink internet service to boats, planes and trucks – CNBC

Couple bought home in Seattle, then learned Comcast Internet would cost $27,000 –ARS Technica

‘Cryptoqueen’ allegedly defrauded investors of billions – FBI

New Video : Plex HTPC Overview

Each month Plex (affiliate link) sponsors a tutorial video on the channel covering one of the many, many features of their personal media server and streaming service. This month’s video is about Plex’s recently released an official Home Theater PC (HTPC) client for Windows, Mac and Linux. You can see my review of it here.

This app runs full screen right when loaded and replicates the living room interface experience found on smart TVs and set top boxes. Notable in this release is full support for lossless audio passthrough, client-side “tone mapping” to convert HDR content to a SDR color space on non-HDR displays, and the ability to switch a television into HDR mode for content that supports it.

HDR is a tricky beast with PCs and unfortunately the HDR here is more of a generic profile vs. one based on the metadata of the individual media files. It also does not support Dolby Vision.

Here’s a little more technical detail from the Plex team as to how HDR works:

HDR10: This works when using Windows. MPV creates a Rec.2020 swapchain in D3D11, which outputs to the display. There is a switch in HTPC’s settings to switch the display from SDR -> HDR when you play HDR content.

HDR10 with Static Metadata Passthrough: One of the users in the forums has done a writeup on how to use some of the more experimental features of MPV to do HDR10 with static metadata passthrough. So the maxCLL and maxFall values from the content are sent through to the display. See for more information.

So for the best experience I’d still stick with the most recent Nvidia Shield Pro (the 2019 version). But it’s nice to see Plex showing some love to their most technically inclined users looking to build out their own home theater PC experience.

Wrapup Feedback & Shorts Experiment

I want to thank everyone for their comments on the wrap-up ! I haven’t figured out exactly what I’m going to do with it just yet but we’ll get there soon. I do have a great topic for next week that I think will do well and after that we’ll figure out what to do next.

One idea I heard from those who liked the wrapup was to maybe have it live on its own channel. If I do that I think I’ll have it live on my Snippets channel where I used to post clips from the longer wrapups I used to do. Those clips still get decent traffic depending on the topic.

Another thing I’m experimenting with from a wrapup perspective is testing out using YouTube shorts to preview the week. I posted one as an experiment yesterday – they are super easy to put together.

Shorts are supposed to help drive subscribers but this one cost me 2 of them. So the juries out on this one :).

Tonight’s video will be my monthly sponsored Plex video! We’ll be taking a look at the official release version of Plex’s HTPC client. This supports HDR in a limited fashion along with lossless audio passthrough.

Time to Talk about the Weekly Wrapup

This week’s Weekly Wrapup Video is about the Weekly Wrapup itself! As mostly a commodity content creator I’ve long struggled with the best ways to engage my subscription audience which grows slowly and steadily each and every day.

8 years ago I uploaded the first Weekly Wrapup that received some great comments from viewers at the time. In the video I went through the videos I had posted earlier that week and previewed what was coming next (very similar to my weekly email today). Over time the Wrapup evolved to work in viewer Q&A which is what sparked the topical nature of the show.

That’s when the wrapup started exceeding 30-40 minutes in length and viewers noted that the week in review stuff was eating up about a third to half the total run time. So I cut that stuff out, stuck to the topic, and found that viewership improved.

But even though viewership improved it’s still a fraction of what my regular videos get. And from a revenue perspective my mainline videos run at about 10 times the performance of the wrapup even on the most watched wrapup episodes.

So the show is at a cross-roads. I find myself struggling some weeks to come up with a topic to talk about and many times pick a topic for the sake of picking a topic to fill the Monday timeslot.

This week’s video dives into the analysis and seeks your input on where to go next. I posted a poll with some of the most mentioned ideas which you can find here.

The Week Ahead

June was a blur! Here in the United States kids get the summer off from school before they start in the next grade level. I used to LOVE summer vacation as it gave me time to hang out with my friends, ride my bike, and of course play around with all of the cool 80’s and 90’s tech I grew up with. It was always a bit sad for us neighborhood kids when those summers came to an end.

My two girls, however, miss school and can’t wait to get back in August. I love that they love school more than I did!

This week will begin with a Weekly Wrapup as usual. But we’re going to talk about the Wrapup moving forward as I’ve done some analysis on its performance.

That will be followed by my monthly Plex sponsored video where we’ll explore the new HTPC client. After that I’ll have my review of the Beelink Mini S PC that I livestreamed the other day here. I also got in a new affordable HP Gaming Laptop and a smart smoke alarm with air quality sensors. We’ll probably have a few livestreams in the mix too.

Stay tuned and set your notifications!

Will Valve Deliver my Steam Deck in June? YES!

Last year I put in my $5 deposit for a Steam Deck. Valve was so overwhelmed that day that I couldn’t get my order to accept until late in the afternoon. That put me at the end of the order queue and I’ve been waiting ever since.

Valve has promised me Q2 availability which ends in 3 days. Will they make it? The answer is yes!

A few hours after I tweeted about this I got my confirmation!

Great Photo of the ISS HAM Station

There’s an amateur radio on the International Space Station. Usually it’s configured in repeater mode which is how I was able to contact a fellow HAM in upstate New York. I communicated through this ISS radio in repeater mode which received my signal and re-broadcast it out.

Sometimes the astronauts talk to people on the ground too. This weekend was the National Association for Amateur Radio‘s annual Field Day event where amateurs around the world make contacts out in the field using battery or emergency backup power. Astronaut Kjell Lindgren was participating in the event making contacts on the ground. You can see a list of stations he received on his notepad in the photo.

Dispatch Video from the June, 2022 Pepcom Show!

A company called Pepcom puts on mini-trade shows in NYC for the media every couple of months. As with everything the pandemic really disrupted indoor gatherings like this but they are now getting back to a more normal cadence. My latest video is from the Pepcom event that took place on Thursday, June 24th.

The June show is usually the lightest of the year but there were a few things that interested me. From a gadget perspective the Drop Keyboards were the standout item. These are super high quality artisanal keyboards designed for people who like typing. Their flagship keyboard weighs over 10 pounds and is hand crafted in New Jersey! I also picked up a sample of a Kidde smart smoke alarm and air quality sensor that I’ll likely be looking at this week.

The highlight of this video is catching up with my friend Dick DeBartolo who has co-hosted the Gizwiz podcast for the last sixteen years but also had a long career at Mad Magazine where he was known as Mad’s maddest writer! Dick also appears regularly on ABC News and I grew up watching him on Nickelodeon back in the 80’s.

This is the first of these shows that I shot “one man band style” with my GoPro. I think it worked out pretty well but I’ll probably attach a light to the rig next time. Here’s a livestream I did the other day setting it all up.

You can see all of my previous dispatch videos here. These are always fun to do.

New Video: MeLE Quieter3Q Mini PC

I picked up this fanless Mini PC on the suggestion of a viewer for review. You can see my full review here. It is powered by an Intel N5105 Celeron chip (part of the Jasper Lake family) along with 8 GB of DDR4 RAM in dual channel mode. This model also came with 128GB of eMMC storage as its boot drive.

While it’s not possible to upgrade the RAM you can add a M.2 2280 NVME SSD. It also has a microSD card slot on the back. It supports dual 4k 60hz displays and would work well as a Plex server, but I do not recommend Windows PC as home theater devices these days. The Nvidia Shield is still the best choice for media consumption IMHO.

A few other value-adds here is its built in Wifi 6 radio which performed quite well in my testing along with a fully licensed copy of Windows 11 Pro. In my testing I also found it to be compatible with the latest version of Ubuntu and other flavors of Linux. Just note that right now Linux based browsers do not seem to decode 4k video from YouTube very efficiently.

Performance-wise this is a nice bump from prior Gemini Lake PCs in graphics and CPU performance making this a good choice for old games & emulators along with game streaming. Performance is light years beyond what you might get out of a Raspberry Pi 4 for light server and desktop usage.

The only real downside on this one is their decision to not follow the USB-C PD standard for charging and making the USB-C port only for power. You will need to use its included AC adapter to power it. Other Mini PCs at or around this price point have full service USB-C ports that work with docking stations.

Other than that I can’t find much to complain about here. This is a nice PC that can do a lot of basic PC and server tasks silently with great performance.

Crazy Atari 800 Add-On Device

I am a sucker for cool modern hardware for old retro hardware. YouTube channel The Retro Shack has this awesome and comprehensive review of an “everything” add-on device for the Atari 800 computers called the Fujinet.

What do I mean by everything? It’s pretty much the kitchen sink here with emulation for 8 floppy drives, a modem (connects via Telnet), a printer (writes out PDFs), realtime clock, a cassette deck for cassette based software, and a network adapter that connects via Wifi. Even crazier is that it allows for mounting disk images remotely over the Internet! It’s not all that expensive either at around $80 or so.

The Atari 800 has an innovative serial bus that in some ways works like USB where a whole chain of devices can be attached to a single cable with each uniquely addressable by the system. The creator of this hardware went on to work on the USB standard.

I have an Atari 800 in the basement here. My father-in-law purchased one back in the 80’s for use as a family PC but it hasn’t been booted up in decades. If you’re interested I might do a video or a stream where we power it up to see if there’s any life left in it!

The 800 is of course also faithfully recreated on the MiSTer.

AI Upscaled Wing Commander 3

Per a group called CD1188 Entertainment is working on upscaling the now super low resolution video from 1994’s Wing Commander 3. You can see it on their YouTube channel, it’s looking pretty good given the source footage they are working with!

Wing Commander is one of my favorite games of all time. Wing Commander 3 really pushed the envelope back in its day. It required a pretty fast 486 or Pentium, double speed or better CD-ROM, and a whopping 8 megabytes of RAM at a minimum.

The Wing Commander series was know for being a great space shooter but it also had equally good story elements. In the first two games they consisted of animated cut scenes with a few minutes of voice acting. For the third game Chris Roberts went all out with professional actors (including Mark Hamill, Malcom McDowell and John Rhys-Davies to name a few).

I talked about my love for Wing Commander in this video. You can see how the series progressed as technology improved over the course of its five mainline games and spin-offs.

New Video: Synology RT6600ax Router Review

My latest video is a review of the new Synology RT6600ax router. Synology got into the routing business a few years back with products that by far have the best user interface in the business.

Their previous router was released 5 years ago (wow!) and I found in my review of it at the time to be a solid product. In fact it is still running a portion of my network today. Still, users wanted more out of it including the ability to set up network segmentation using VLANs and of course WiFi 6 capabilities.

The RT6600ax resolves many of those wants but still leaves me desiring more. The good news is that it does include VLAN support with the ability to have five separate networks managed by the device. The even better news is that this functionality is also coming to the prior router too. I also found its WiFi 6 performance to be outstanding.

But it leaves me desiring more.

Oddly the unit only has one 2.5 gigabit port on it. If you have a multigig connection none of your other ethernet clients can connect at full speed. And for a router that supports so many segmented networks it unfortunately only has four ethernet ports on its switch and only 3 if using the 2.5 port for connecting to an ISP. I’m sure cost factored into this decision but it’s a shame its performance potential is hindered by a lack of connectivity options.

Another issue is that Synology doesn’t offer much in the way of meshing options other than buying a second RT6600ax and turning it into a mesh access point. Hopefully they release some WiFi 6 mesh points at a lower cost in the future.

But for a small home or office network it’s a good choice. It’s not very complex even when setting up more complex networks.

RTL-SDR on the Secret of Skinwalker Ranch

The RTL-SDR makes an appearance on the History channel’s Secret of Skinwalker Ranch! They are really fun devices for exploring the radio spectrum through software defined radio (SDR for short). This link will take you to my series on the subject which was my “gateway drug” to amateur radio!

The History Channel show is about a ranch in Utah that is connected to the US government’s studies of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs). Apparently the government spent quite a bit of money trying to make sense of it all. Visitors and residents of the ranch have experienced quite a bit there: UFOs, poltergeist activity, cattle mutilations, strange creatures, you name it.

A recent book entitled Skinwalkers at the Pentagon details some of the work of those government investigators.

Non-Spoiler Review of Kenobi Series

This 6ish hour series probably could have been done better as a two and a half hour feature film but it was great Star Wars nonetheless. Well worth a watch.

It was great to see Vader on screen again with 91 year old James Earl Jones voicing him. I really liked seeing this transitional Vader that still had movements and elements of the prequel films’ Anakin Skywalker. And of course Ewan McGregor was awesome – he really jumped right back into a role he hasn’t played in almost twenty years.

The series enhanced well established characters and their relationships (especially Vader/Anakin) without ret-conning anything. I’d love a season 2 with Ewan McGregor doing Jedi things without messing up the Skywalker timeline.