A Visit to the National Association for Amateur Radio (ARRL) Headquarters!

My journey into the world of amateur radio continues. This week we took a tour of the ARRL headquarters in my home state of Connecticut. We ended up with so much footage we had to split this piece into two parts!

In this first video we look at W1AW, also known as the Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station. Maxim was the co-founder of the ARRL and an early pioneer of radio technology. You’ll see one of Maxim’s radios towards the end of the video. It still works but it’s rather dangerous to use around modern electronics due to the electrostatic fields it generates.

W1AW is where the ARRL transmits their morse code trainings and digital bulletins and is known throughout the world as an important entry to get into contact amateur logbooks.

W1AW is open to licensed amateurs and the public to operate from too which is what we’ll do in part of the series!

Audiobooks on Plex?

I had a viewer reach out to me recently asking about the best way to host audiobooks on a personal media server. And that question became the topic of my latest sponsored Plex video!

Plex does not have direct support for audiobooks but its music library feature works pretty well especially if the audiobooks you are ingesting have good data inside of their audio files. The most important setting is “store track progress” which will remember where you last left off. This is typically off by default for music libraries so you need to make sure that is enabled in the audiobook library you’re setting up.

Your audiobooks will playback just fine through the Plex app and Plexamp but some users have found third party apps that work with Plex to be a better option. The most popular app by far is Prologue on iOS which brings in some audiobook features missing in Plex apps. On Android Bookcamp and Chronicle are two similar options.

If you have a huge audiobook library you might want to check out this guide on Github with some additional scripts and agents you can install to help quickly organize a large block of audiobook files.

And if you’re looking for free audiobooks check out the Librivox project that is building a great library of books read by volunteers throughout the world. Oftentimes you can find multiple versions of the same book!

Eufy Solocam S40 Review – Solar Powered Notification Camera

My latest video is a review of the Eufy Solocam s40 outdoor camera.

First things first on this one – it’s more of a “notification” camera vs. a “surveillance” camera. The reason is that because it needs to operate on minimal power it can’t provide a constant recording like a wired camera will. Depending on what settings you choose you’ll only get a short clip when motion triggers the camera to activate.

That puts this camera in the same market as the Wyze Outdoor cam and Blink cameras which cost significantly less. Is it better than those? Yes in many ways, but the other devices are far less expensive even if you add an optional solar panel for those devices.

But the solar panel works exceptionally well on this – I mounted the camera on top of my wife’s garden which is under direct sunlight for a large portion of the day. I purposely didn’t charge the camera when I received it and my battery less than a week later went from 40% to 75%. This is summertime right now so I’d imagine winter will be a little harder to maintain charge, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

Unlike the Blink and Wyze cameras this camera does not require a base station and will connect directly to your Wifi. This might be an issue if you don’t have a good wifi signal where you want to place the camera. The only fix is to get another wifi access point and move it closer to the area. So this means you need to find a spot that gets good sunlight (without a lot of afternoon shade) AND gets a good Wifi signal.

The spot where I have the camera mounted is able to get both a good signal and good sunlight and I’m pleased with the experience so far. The camera alerts quickly and gets thumbnail images delivered to my iPhone and Apple Watch wherever I am. I have no trouble accessing the camera over the Internet.

I like that there’s no monthly fee here and everything is stored on the camera itself. Cloud storage is not even an option on this camera. You need to download video clips manually to keep them permanently. The camera’s 8GB storage should be able to hold a lot of event clips but it will eventually overwrite the oldest clips to make room for the newest ones. And if anyone walks off with the camera you can’t access anything you haven’t downloaded.

Visual quality is great especially during the day. Nightvision with the infrared illuminators also works great and shows a ton of detail. It also has a built in spot light that’s bright enough for a front door vestibule but not quite enough to illuminate over a garage.

For night images you have an option of using the spotlight to get a color image or leave the light off and capture infrared. I recommend using the infrared mode as the spotlight mode tends to blow out faces of people that get close to the camera.

Overall I’m pleased with this one as a notification camera. At the rate it’s operating I don’t think I’ll ever have to bring it in for a charge. If you’re on a tighter budget the Wyze outdoor camera will deliver similar results with free (albeit slightly limited) cloud storage for far less money.

Those in need of more robust security should consider a wired option with a security NVR.

Disclosure: This camera was sent to me for review on my YouTube channel and here on Amazon. However the brand did not compensate me for the review nor did they have any input into the review or see it before it was uploaded. All opinions are my own.

How Apple PR Controls the Narrative

Here’s a great video from John Rettinger on how he was blacklisted from Apple PR when he reported his experiences from one of their products. Apple was unhappy and called him up to lambast him and demand the video be taken down. After that he was never invited to another event again.

This was a topic was something I covered last year in one of my Weekly Wrapup videos in regards to the practice of “early access journalism” where companies hold the prospect of access to early products and information over the heads of outlets reporting on that information. Piss them off and you lose that access.

It also looks like there’s some tiering to the pecking order too – Rettinger was invited to Apple events but hadn’t yet made it to the upper tier where he’d actually get early loaner product as some YouTubers and journalists do.

This is exactly how Apple picks winners and losers. Those they hand pick get early devices and lots of traffic and revenue as a result. And because these reviews are early and devoured by millions of people they tend to be the first video YouTube and other algorithms recommend for future viewers looking for review videos. Rettinger also insinuates that Apple controls some of the narrative of these early reviews and restricts what can and can’t be covered.

There’s tremendous value in having a phone review packaged up and ready to go two weeks before anyone can buy one. Losing that access costs outlets real money as it likely equals millions of eyeballs. Few outlets disclose that Apple gave them this early access. It makes you wonder how many of them coordinate their content with Apple to prevent getting blacklisted like Rettinger did.

Playing with the ThinkPad X13s Today

Back in March I was at a Lenovo preview event for their summer releases and they had a very intriguing ThinkPad on display with a new Snapdragon ARM processor. They sent me a loaner unit this week so I’m going to begin playing around with it today on a live stream.

Set your notifications! I’ll probably pop on YouTube and Amazon.

Google Pixel 6a Review

Google’s Pixel 6a phone is a value packed device for folks looking for some flagship features without paying a flagship price. I think most consumers will find this to have everything they’d want in a phone: a nice display, great camera, and excellent performance on par with their flagship phones. You can watch my full review here.

The Pixel 6 series phones are the first to use Google’s new Tensor processor which is tuned for some of the AI work and computational photography that Google integrates into their products. The new 6a also has a Tensor and it performs identically to the flagship 6 and 6 Pro phones.

Tensor doesn’t best its Android or Apple flagship rivals on performance benchmarks tests but what’s notable here is that there isn’t a performance penalty for choosing the lower end phone. Apple’s iPhone SE by comparison is powered by the same A15 chip as the iPhone 13 Pro but Apple throttles the SE’s performance to keep it from besting their top of the line product. That’s not the case here with the 6a.

The camera system is excellent here thanks to Google’s advancements in computational photography. The phone has two cameras on the back – one ultrawide lens with a 114 degree field of view and a wide angle camera. Photos look great in most light and the portrait mode gets better and better every year. The phone will also shoot clean and optically stabilized video at up to 4k at 60 frames per second. You can see some examples of photos and videos in the video.

So what’s missing from this phone vs. the 6 and 6 Pro? A few things. The 6a does not have wireless charging, the 6a’s back is made out of plastic vs. glass, it has a lower resolution wide angle camera (12 vs. 50 megapixels), its display is running at a 60hz refresh rate vs the 90 & 120 hz refresh rates on the 6 and 6 Pro, and it lacks the telephoto lens found on the 6 pro. Despite all that it doesn’t feel cheap nor does it feel lacking in any way.

I have long been a fan of the “a” series Google phones and this one is a nice upgrade over prior models. If you’re still running with the 3a this one will be a huge upgrade.

DISCLOSURE: Google sent me the Pixel 6a free of charge but this is not a sponsored review. Google did not have any input into the review nor did they review or approve it before it was uploaded.

The Week Ahead

It’ll be another busy week here at Lon.TV!

Tomorrow we’ll have the already completed review of the solar powered Eufy camera. It works pretty nicely and is already up to 100% charge just sitting out in my yard. You can see the review on Amazon if you want to watch it now.

Today’s projects will consist of me shooting the Wrapup video and a review of the Google Pixel 6a. I’ve been playing around with the phone all weekend and like it quite a bit.

Tomorrow we’ll be spending most of the day at the national headquarters for amateur radio here in the US! It happens to be located less than 45 minutes up the road from me in Connecticut. We’ll get a tour, play with some of their crazy radio gear, and learn about why amateur radio is still relevant in our broadband internet age! Look for that video later this week.

Also this week will be my monthly sponsored Plex video. It’ll likely be about managing audio books with Plex based on a viewer suggestion unless they drop a new feature before the week is out.

Lots to come so stay tuned!

Busy Weekend on WhatNot!

I’ve really enjoyed playing around with the live streaming auction and sales platform WhatNot over the last two weeks. It’s crazy addictive both for buyers and sellers. I sold and gave away a trunkfull of stuff this weekend!

Even with a small number of viewers I’m finding retro games selling at or near market prices. They’ve done a good job of building small niches of collector communities so there’s always buyers lurking. They tapped into the FOMO aspect of collecting for sure.

This weekend we did a cost of shipping giveaway with viewers that was a ton of fun. I’ll likely do another one soon so be sure you are signed up for my store alert email!

I’ll likely do a video on Whatnot this week. In the meantime sign up with my affiliate link and you’ll get $15 to spend on the site. Be sure to follow me there too as I’ll be doing more of these sales and giveaways !

I Got Free TV Over the Air with ATSC 3.0!

One of the overarching themes of this channel is me trying to solve my own consumer tech problems and save some money along the way. No problem has been as challenging as trying to cut down on the cost of television in my home. I simply couldn’t receive many over the air signals here. The funny thing is that I don’t watch all that much TV but as a child of the 80’s I think it’s ingrained in my head that you need to have some way to get it.

I scored an initial victory when I found the HDHomerun Prime that enabled me to get my cable TV subscription without having to rent equipment. But as noted in one of my recent videos the CableCARD that powers the Prime may soon be phased out as the cable industry undergoes significant changes.

But there is hope thanks to ATSC 3.0 otherwise known as NextGenTV. All of my local broadcasters are now located on the same tower using the same frequency using the technology, which broadcasts highly efficient HEVC video vs. MPEG-2 from the prior generation.

Receiving those over the air signals is the topic of my latest video.

I am using an HDhomerun Flex 4k as the tuner which can receive two of these ATSC 3.0 signals along with another two ATSC 1.0 channels simultaneously and provide programming to devices on my network.

The big issue right now is audio compatibility. This new TV standard ditched the decades old Dolby AC-3 protocol and instead uses the newer AC-4 standard. The problem? There’s not a lot of widespread support of AC-4 audio right now. Plex doesn’t support it yet at all, and other apps rely on the host hardware’s ability to decode AC4 audio. The HDHomerun app has a workaround that has their cloud servers transcode the audio back to AC3 and send it back down over the Internet.

In my testing my iPhone, Nvidia Shield TV, and Apple TV 4k’s all decoded AC4 successfully using the Channels App. But those are all higher end devices. Consumers will struggle when this transition begins – I expect a lot of older perfectly useful TV sets getting tossed out.

That issue aside things look great so far – much better than what my cable system provides. My signal is pretty good too although I think the antenna I am starting with here is just a little too small for the task. Viewers have sent in some suggestions on a larger antenna that might work better which will be the subject of a later video.

There will be more to come on this topic so stay tuned!

New Extra’s Video: Pixel 6a Unboxing

Google’s new Pixel 6a phone hits the market next week and they sent me a unit free of charge to review on my channel. I’ll have the full review up next week but yesterday I did a 2 hour+ live stream unboxing and running some tests on their new mid-range phone.

I uploaded the unboxing portion to my Extra’s channel too.

I’ll be playing with it over the weekend and posting a full review soon. Stay tuned!

Fake JWST Photo Persists

The other day I posted about a Texas-based meteorologist who misinformed his viewers about a photograph he claimed was taken by the James Webb Space Telescope but actually came from an artist interpretation of another mission.

That same photo is popping up all over Facebook, with the same verbiage, getting shared thousands of times. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s been seen by millions of people at this point.

Many of the accounts sharing it are fake accounts pretending to be Neal DeGrasse Tyson and the James Webb Space Telescope itself.

Twitter is not the only platform with a bot platform.

I tried to correct the record on the post. See it here and then read all of the toxicity that follows. This is what Facebook profits from – the dumbing down of humanity.

Today’s Docket

I am getting in the new Pixel 6a a little later this morning so I figured I’d do a livestream unboxing it and testing it! From the specs this has much of the same guts as the regular Pixel 6 phone.

So far the only differences I can see in the specs on the 6a vs. the more expensive regular 6 is a lower resolution wide angle camera, no wireless charging, gorilla glass 3 vs. the more advanced victus on the regular 6, a 60hz vs 90hz display, and 6GB vs 8GB of RAM. Check out the full spec comparison here at GSMArena to see if I’m missing anything. 

The new phone sells for $449 here in the USA unlocked and at similar prices worldwide. Pretty reasonable I think given its capabilities. 

Look for the stream around 2 p.m.ish eastern time both on my Youtube channel and Amazon! 

ATSC 3.0 Video Coming Tomorrow Night

My video on ATSC 3 will be coming up tomorrow! It was a fun experiment that involved a huge antenna tripod I bought for my new amateur radio adventure. The video is shot and ready to go but I’ve found videos published on Friday night do very poorly here on my channel so you’ll have to wait a day :). 

New Video : Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 Review

Whenever I review a laptop I look at who the target market is for it. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon series (now in its 10th generation) is a very popular device even though it’s known not to be at the top of the performance curve. It’s a successful product because it gives its target audience what they want.

You can see my review here.

This is what I think of as an “executive” laptop: the device the boss uses because he or she doesn’t want to lug around a heavy laptop but needs a large screen that can quickly run business related tasks. The X1 Carbon does these tasks exceptionally well and comes in at just 2 and a half pounds.

But for the enthusiasts out there this isn’t much of an upgrade over the prior edition. The battery life savings promised from the new 12th Intel chips have yet to be realized and the cooling system doesn’t allow the system to run at full performance under load for an extended period of time. So other laptops with the same chip will perform better.

But this is not a computer marketed to enthusiasts, and for the target market my benchmarks found the computer is in fact zippier doing “bursty” office related tasks than its predecessor. So for the executive this is another solid laptop even if it disappoints enthusiasts looking for the ultimate 14″ two and a half pound laptop.

My Cost of Shipping Giveaways to Return on WhatNot!

I have a lot of tech gear I’m looking to get rid of. I used to do “cost of shipping giveaways” that required a ton of logistics on my end to manage but I think I’ve found a new way of doing it that might be kind of fun too.

I recently came across a new platform called “WhatNot.” It’s a live streaming auction and sales platform that is beginning to get some traction in the retro gaming and collectors communities.

How I’ll be using WhatNot is putting up products for sale at a marginal $5ish price + shipping and the first click gets it. I have asked them to implement a random selection process for the buyer and once that’s implemented we’ll switch to that model.

If you sign up for Whatnot using my http://lon.tv/whatnot affiliate link you’ll get a $15 credit that can be used on any seller’s livestream. 

WhatNot might ask you to become a “verified buyer” using a government issued ID through their Stripe payment processor. For the cost of shipping giveaway streams I will not require that so you can skip that step. Other sellers may require that verification, however. I will be requiring verified buyers on streams where I’m selling items vs. doing these cost of shipping giveaways. 

The Lon.TV Store is not going away – I plan to use WhatNot mostly for the items that were provided free of charge to the channel for review. 

If you follow me on WhatNot you’ll get notified of upcoming streams. I will also be announcing the dates and times of streams in my Store Alert email blast.  

I may pop on with a test stream selling off some retro gaming stuff to that community later this afternoon. I’ll look at doing the first giveaway stream later this weekend. 

Looking forward to seeing how this experiment works out!

The Trouble With Netflix..

..Has been their business model relying on borrowing against future subscriber revenues. CNN business has a good synopsis of how critical this week’s earnings report will be for the company.

Unlike their studio-backed competitors Netflix started with less than a decade of content they actually owned, and they lost a lot of their most popular content when studios clawed back the streaming rights.

Retention, therefore, is key to maintain the company’s value. And to retain they need a constant stream of quality content. But to get more content they need to borrow more money against future revenues.

Given the company has reached a critical mass with hundreds of millions of customers, it’s hard to grow the revenue without raising prices. Which they did multiple times. But now the subscribers are leaving because it’s too expensive.

Netflix is not a takeover target, yet. But they’re going to have a hard time competing against studio streaming services that cost less with much deeper catalogs of IP.

The Week Ahead

Another week is upon us! I have two videos pretty well planned out so this will be shot first. The first is a review of the new Thinkpad X1 Carbon from Lenovo with a 12th generation Intel i7-1260P. It looks like a nice revision over previous models.

I’m also going to continue a topic I started two weeks ago regarding CableCARD. My local broadcasters are now transmitting on the same tower (and same frequency) making it possible for me to finally get everything over the air. We’ll hoist up an antenna and see what happens!

I have a few other things in the hopper including a smart smoke detector and air quality sensor, that Hollyland microphone system, and a solar powered camera from Eufy that just came in.

I’m also likely going to move the shorter Weekly Wrapup to Sunday evenings as I think a weekly preview is best posted on Sunday vs. Monday.

Stay tuned!

For this Weatherman It’s All About the Clicks..

On the scale of things this misinformed post by a local meteorologist won’t impact the scope of world events. But members of the media have a responsibility to get it right and correct the record – even if their incorrect post goes viral and gets them thousands of likes and shares.

“Chief Meteorologist” Ken Johnson from KAUZ TV in Texas shared this picture depicting a storm on Jupiter on his Facebook page and said it came from the James Webb Space Telescope.

The problem is the image didn’t come from Webb, nor was it even a photo. A quick Google search took me to this Smithsonian magazine article from 2020 where a caption describes it as an artist’s depiction of what a storm might look like on the gas giant.

As of the time of this writing the post has over 23,000 reactions and over 7,300 shares. Thousands of people are believing this trusted voice and getting misinformed.

It just goes to show how fast false and misleading information can spread especially when shared by a trained member of the media with a scientific background who could have taken a few minutes to fact check it first.

Now the question is – will he correct the record? Let’s see.

UPDATE: The post has been deleted, but not corrected. Better to pretend that it never happened vs. being accurate?

Weak Signals Go Very Far!

Got some new radio gear last week. I’m learning the art of “weak signals” that send tiny bits of data through the air over very long distances – no Internet required.

Using the 10 meter band (the lowest frequency I’m allowed to operate on with my license) I managed to be heard all the way in Australia! Somebody in Hawaii also picked me up.