Today’s Links

Amazon is launching an invite-based ordering option, starting with the PS5 and Xbox Series X – Techcrunch

Musk Threatens to Walk Away from Twitter Deal – AP

Sega Has Considered Dreamcast & Saturn Mini But Is Worried About Extreme Costs – Nintendolife

‘No Man’s Sky’ is Coming to iPad in Addition to Mac Later this Year – Touch Arcade

Alien Wreckage on Mars

Of course the aliens in this case are us! An aerospace engineering student on Twitter put together this neat 3D model of the Mars rover’s back shell and parachute crash site.

Last year NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory released some amazing footage of the entry, descent and landing process where you can see the parachute and sky crane system working to safely drop off the nuclear powered golf-cart sized rover on the surface.

On Tap for This Week

On tonight’s wrapup we’ll be looking at how mobile phone makers like Apple may run their own low bandwidth satellite networks to bypass carriers. Receiving satellite signals, especially from low orbit, is easier than one might think!

As for reviews next up will be a look at a new Ryzen powered Lenovo Yoga 2-in-1. It’s running with a 5000 series processor (not the newer 6000s) but these machines are always fun to look at nonetheless. I also recently got in the new Synology router and hope to start working on that soon for a review later in the week.

Later today I’m getting in some new parts for my handheld ham radio to start my adventure into packet radio! Once I have a better understanding of how it works I’ll likely do another video in my radio series.

And when I get a little caught up I’ll pop on for a livestream on both YouTube and Amazon to repair that Gameboy I picked up two weeks ago. It should be a fairly easy fix but it will involve a soldering iron. If you like watching auto racing for the wrecks you’ll probably enjoy this one!

And of course we’ll look at whatever other shiny objects show up. Stay tuned!

8bitdo Ultimate Wired Controller for Xbox Review

8bitdo released a new game controller for the Xbox (affiliate link) called the Ultimate Wired Controller for Xbox. You can see my full review here.

Unlike their last Xbox branded controller that didn’t actually work with the Xbox, this one will work on any Xbox One or Series console along with Windows PCs. I also found it to work with Raspberry Pi’s and the MiSTer project. It does not, however, work on mobile phones or Android TV boxes.

As its name implies this is a wired only controller but its cable is a little short at 3 meters (about 9.8 feet). This might have been ample length back in the 80’s and 90’s but it only got about 3/4s of the way to my couch from my Series X console. While it has a bluetooth radio on board that is only used for its configuration app. It will not function wirelessly.

In my game controller latency test (done by shooting a screen and the controller at 240 frames per second) I found this to be one of the least laggy I have ever reviewed. It was even a little quicker than the first party Xbox One controller connected via a USB cable.

The control sticks have a little more travel vs. the first party Xbox controller so you may notice a larger dead zone in some games. Most Xbox game developers are targeting the Xbox controller for their controller dead zones so you might find yourself having to push the stick a little further to get the same movement vs. the stock controller.

The directional pad looks a lot like the SNES inspired one of the 8bitdo Pro 2 controller. But it doesn’t feel as a precise – I encountered a few errant diagonals when moving my character back and forth in the legend of Zelda. But the d-pad here is definitely better than the stock Xbox controller.

The rest of the controller feels pretty nice. It’s a little smaller than the stock xbox controller but I like the way it felt in my medium-sized hands. Buttons are solid and it even has two buttons on the lower portion of the controller that can be configured.

The configuration software is really the killer app here. It’s possible to configure the controller with your phone and remap its controls while it’s active in a game on the Xbox or PC! You can find that demonstrated in the video – it’s something I’ve never seen on a controller.

It’s possible to configure the controller with a phone while it’s plugged into an Xbox or PC!

While it doesn’t allow for macro functionality you can remap any button on the controller, adjust the sensitivity and deadzones of the control sticks and analog triggers, and invert the stick controls. It stores those settings in one of three profiles that are stored on the controller.

For the price point I think this is a solid offering for more casual gamers who are not looking to spend $100+ on a controller.

Minor Errata on HP Dock Review

Just a quick update on the HP Dock video – the details of the video are correct but I referenced it as the “G2” dock when it is in fact the new “G4.”

I really wish YouTube would allow us mortals to replace existing videos! I won’t be reuploading it but have added a pinned errata comment to clarify which version of the dock that was reviewed.

The Quickbooks Price Increase and Why I Hate Subscription Software

I like bookkeeping… In fact I love bookkeeping. I also

I learned the art as a kid working at my Dad’s business where I helped process accounts payable, receivable, payroll, invoicing, etc. If you stay on top of it you always know where your business is at with just a glance and Uncle Sam will stay off your back.

When the YouTube channel started making some money I purchased a copy of Quickbooks for Mac to balance the books. Over the years I’d have to upgrade to the newer version mostly because Intuit, the makers of Quickbooks, would require upgrades when new versions of OS X came out. They never added any substantially new features but it’s really hard to add new features to the practice of bookkeeping that’s pretty well established.

A few months ago Inuit announced that Quickbooks for Mac was moving to a subscription model. I was not happy – if the last ten years were any indicator this was more of a money grab vs. an effort to improve the product.

I started looking for alternatives but sadly I couldn’t find anything.. Intuit really cornered this market. So I did some research and determined that Quickbooks Online’s entry plan was going to be less expensive and offer the functionality I needed. It would also let me work across multiple computers a little easier than the desktop version. So I bit.

Transferring data was a nightmare. Importing from Mac Quickbooks was broken at the time and nobody from Intuit said anything so I wasted a few hours trying to get it to import. I eventually borrowed a friend’s Quickbooks for Windows, imported the file, and then sent that over to Quickbooks Online. Not a good first impression. Oh and they started charging you regardless of whether or not your data makes it there.

The interface is a little different but the entry level version of Quickbooks Online does the job for me. I kinda like being able to keep my books up to date from my phone too.

Just like before nothing really changes with the product month-to-month. In fact it’s exactly the same as what it was when I first subscribed back in November. Yet Intuit extracts $25 a month for the privilege. What’s worse is the constant upselling I get when I log in, hoping I’ll take one of their loans, apply for their checking account, subscribe to their payroll service, etc. I feel like they should be paying me!

Some example ads

Yesterday I got an email from Intuit telling me that they’ll now be taking $30 a month vs. the $25 I had been paying. Am I getting anything new for that? Nope. Just more money for the marketing department desperately trying to upsell me.

This is why if I have a choice between a purchased license and a subscription I almost always choose the purchase option. Developers can get lazy when they’re guaranteed income every month. I’m happy to pay an upgrade price for new and useful features. I dropped Adobe when they moved to subscription and found great alternatives like Pixelmator.

So why not switch? There are some alternatives out there like Wave Accounting but none of these alternative services import data from Quickbooks. So in order to move I either have to manually key in all of my history or abandon it. That’s a no-go for me. You’d think if a company was serious about competing with Quickbooks they’d develop a migration path!

So I’m stuck. But I’ll keep looking.

The EU May Decide Phone Charging Standard Next Week

Reuters reports that the European Union is likely going to meet next week to solidify a common standard for charging smartphones. That standard will of course be USB-C which means the lightning port’s days may be numbered.

According to the article it looks like lawmakers are also trying to codify a laptop charging standard too.

I covered this topic in detail last year when this effort started gaining steam.

Links for Today

Ring announces new features, raises its basic subscription price for the first time since 2017 – TechCrunch

iPadOS 16 preview: Rumored features could bring Mac-like capabilities to the tablet – Macworld

New bookstore owners discover secret subterranean room with tunnel down the street – Boing Boing

Mariah Carey Sued For “All I Want For Christmas Is You” By Louisiana Country Songwriter – Deadline

New Video: HP Tablet 11 Review

This new 11″ Windows tablet from HP is a bit costly when factoring in all of its accessories but it does have one creature comfort that most tablets don’t : the ability to use its keyboard in portrait or landscape mode. You can see my review here.

It also has a single camera that can rotate from the rear of the device to the front as needed with a button push. Its angle can also be further adjusted via its software interface or manually.

Beyond that it’s a run-of-the-mill Windows tablet running with a lower end Intel N6000 processor. This is a “Jasper Lake” chip which is Intel’s family of low end processors that typically appear on devices like this along with Mini PCs and NAS devices.

For the sorts of things that most consumers use a tablet for the performance is adequate. The bonus here is that it is running Windows 11 so most Windows apps can be installed provided you take the machine out of Windows “S” mode.

At its current sale price of $399 (affiliate link) a fully decked out tablet with keyboard and pen will run about $587. This is competitive against a 9th generation iPad with a keyboard cover and Apple pencil. But the iPad will get better battery life, better performance for comparable apps, and has a much better camera system.

The optional keyboard attachment worked nicely. The trackpad is accurate and not too springy and the keys, while small, are well spaced with nice travel.

Pen support is here too but I found the pen to have more latency than I would like and the screen is a bit slippery when writing. The Apple pencil on the iPad is a much better experience.

But for those looking for a Windows device in tablet form this is one worth checking out. See my other tablet reviews here.

The Apple Newton Turns 30

I have always been a gadget nerd and when I first heard of the Apple Newton I wanted one.

At the time it was a totally new and different product category – “the personal digital assistant.” The device fit in the hand, was operated with only a pen, and had the ability to work with PCMCIA modems just like a laptop for sending faxes and email to online services available at the time.

In many ways it was ahead of its time and struggled almost from the get-go. The biggest problem beyond its $700 price tag (the equivalent of $1,400 today) was that the handwriting recognition wasn’t good enough for the average consumer. When it worked it was great but when it didn’t this digital device was far less efficient vs. a pad and paper. It was famously lampooned in the Doonesbury comic strip but also had mixed reviews in the press.

Apple actually released two Newtons – one was an Apple device, the other came from Sharp. But both were effectively the same device inside. Neither was very successful out of the gate.

Apple retooled and released an updated “Newton 110” the following year. That was the device I bought back in the spring of 1994. It had an updated operating system vs. the original device and worked a little better, but still wasn’t up to where consumers wanted the device to be.

It went through a number of iterations over the next four years culminating with the Newton MP2100 in 1997. But by then cheaper and smaller Palm Pilots took over the marketplace while Newtons got larger and more expensive.

Apple of course got the last laugh with their insanely profitable iPhone and iPad lines. They certainly learned from their mistakes.

I own a few Newtons in my retro collection. Here’s a video I did last year looking at how Apple’s iPad borrows a lot from the Newton’s approach to pen interfaces.

Today’s Links

Code execution 0-day in Windows has been under active exploit for 7 weeks – Ars Technica

John Deere Still Sucks On ‘Right To Repair,’ Despite Years Of Promises – Techdirt

Coffee Drinking Linked to Lower Risk of Dying, New Study Finds – The New York Times

OpenSea executive used NFTs for insider trading, prosecutors allege – The Washington Post

Physicists just rewrote a foundational rule for nuclear fusion reactors that could unleash twice the power |

The Steam Deck’s Docking Station has been delayed indefinitely – PC Gamer

New Video: HP Thunderbolt Dock G2

We have look at a lot of docks here on the channel but the HP Thunderbolt Dock G2 (affiliate link) is probably the most attractive looking of the bunch. It works with any computer with a Thunderbolt 3 or 4 port (and presumably a compatible USB 4 port) and provides a number of ports, 100 watts of power, lots of display output options, and a Thunderbolt passthrough port. You can watch the review here.

What sets this dock apart for PCs is that it can support four displays if the right combination of resolutions and ports are used. You can see all of the different combinations that work on the product specifications PDF. In the review we were able to get three independent displays active off of a Samsung laptop.

For Mac users it’s more limited. Even though the dock has three active display outputs only one of them will work because the Mac doesn’t support DisplayPort Multi-stream Transport or MST. So on the Mac you’ll need to use the Thunderbolt passthrough port to use a second display.

But from a price standpoint it’s costs about the same as other Thunderbolt docks and delivers great flexibility and performance.