When Your Business Literally Hangs by a Few Threads

I’ve long been a critic of my local utility monopolies because they’ve put their own profits ahead of doing right by customers and taxpayers. Last night was another example of this.

The top of a utility pole owned by electric monopoly Eversource caught fire around 6:00 p.m. due to their lack of attention and maintenance to their infrastructure. The pole was replaced sometime overnight but the communications cables were still attached to the old pole.

Eversource’s solution was to cut the top and bottom off the old pole and tie it with a rope to the new one. I kid you not. The communications backhaul for me and thousands of Comcast and Frontier customers literally hangs by a few threads.

Eversource owns the pole so they won’t reattach the communications cables. Comcast and Frontier outsource most of their fiber optic line work to contractors and lack the staff to actually deal with it in a timely manner. And they can conveniently point to Eversource as being uncooperative. Who knows if Eversource even tried to coordinate with Comcast and Frontier that evening to get the pole fixed correctly?

Part of the problem is that none of these companies feels like they have any responsibility. It’s so much easier to pass the buck – their mutual customers be damned.

And this pole is not alone in my neighborhood.. Five poles down and this is what you’ll see:

It’s been strapped together like this for at least a year or two. The power company added a second pole for power but nobody ever took the communications cables off the old one. Frontier was even coming through here running fiber and left everything on the old pole.

The kicker here is that these monopolies are granted access to public and private property to run the wires that they profit from. In fact I have utility pole on my property and wires running underneath my driveway that go to other homes with a right of way they can use for free in perpetuity.

It’s time these companies put the needs of their ratepayers first and fix this mess. Enough of the finger pointing. For more on why Eversource is the worst company ever see my analysis piece here:

Epson ET-2400 Low Cost EcoTank Printer Review

My latest video is a review of the Epson Ecotank ET-2400 all-in-one printer/scanner/copier. You can find it here at Best Buy on sale right now for only $179 (affiliate link).

Tank printers are often best for people who do a high volume of color printing and want to reduce their cost-per-page versus traditional cartridges. Epson says this printer can deliver 4,500 black and white pages on a single bottle of ink, or 7,500 color pages. The full set of bottles cost around $60 to replace and the printer has a set of windows in the front to indicate how much ink is left in tank.

In the past a tank printer like this would usually cost a lot more – generally in the hundreds of dollars. The reason is that Epson had to build profit into the price of the unit vs. subsidizing the entry cost in anticipation of ink cartridge purchases over the lifespan of the product.

But like other tank printers I’ve looked at in the past you don’t get much for features here. It can’t do automatic duplexing, it has minimal paper capacity (only 100 sheets), it lacks an auto document feeder, and the print engine is pretty bare bones and loud. It prints about 10 pagers per minute in standard quality but only does 5-7 per minute or so in the higher quality mode.

It’s not marketed as a photo printer but it can print photos with an acceptable level of quality. It will do 4×6 borderless prints but nothing larger than that.

All in at its current price point I think it’s a good deal especially as the cost per print is very low. But if you print at a low volume I think a laser printer is still the best option.

One thing I need to look into after hearing from viewers is the waste ink sponge consumable on the printer that apparently cannot be replaced by the user. Epson has a support page about this issue and it seems as though the user has to send the entire printer in for this service which to me looks a bit like overkill.

Xbox Series S Unboxing and Media Player Review

I got a great deal on an Xbox Series S the other day at Target. They were selling them for $249 and the deal came with a $50 gift card! When I picked it up at the store the gift card didn’t process for some reason they took $50 off the purchase price. So I ended up at $200+ tax.

Check here to see if the deal is still on (affiliate link). It does look like they have plenty of stock. I’m also experimenting with a new affiliate platform that dynamically looks for the best in stock price which you can follow at this link.

I made two videos with my shiny new Series S. The first on my Extra’s channel is an unboxing and comparison vs. the much more powerful Series X. The TLDR is that beyond the added horsepower the Series X has an optical drive which is lacking on the Series S. So those who have a large library of older disc based Xbox games will not get much use out of the S as it can’t currently access the discs!

The second video looks at the Xbox as a streaming media device. As we have previously noted the Xbox does do a pretty decent job with Plex so I was curious how it fared with streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, etc.

Unfortunately it falls short in a key area – none of the apps I tested successfully switched the television into 24p mode. Who’s fault is that? Likely the app makers as we know the Xbox is capable of doing this and even has a setting to enable 24p switching!

The Apple TV still reigns supreme when it comes to 24p playback but it’s not so great at Plex. Unfortunately we don’t have a box out on the market at the moment that does everything right !

There is still a Mark on My Twitter Record

Despite being fully exonerated following Twitter’s misidentification of my rocket video as porn, there still a mark on my record. Earlier today I tried to join the community notes program where Twitter users can provide context for people/organizations that are not fully telling the truth. Unfortunately I was denied:

Apparently that 12 hour suspension is still on my record as a recent Twitter rules violation. My concern is that this may also negatively impact my algorithmic placement too.

Mevo Multicam Demonstration with my Kids!

We wrapped up my sponsored series on the Mevo multicam app this week. It’s really amazing when you think about all of this mostly running out of an iPad with the camera feeds coming in over Wi-Fi.

In this last piece we put all of the pieces together from our prior videos and showed how it all works in a real production environment. My kids hosted a fake cooking show while I ran the production from a 2018 iPad Pro. I had three Mevo cameras capturing different angles.

In this piece you’ll see multi camera switching, picture-in-picture and graphical overlays being brought in as we go. You can catch up on the prior videos in the series by clicking here.

I want to thank Logitech and Mevo for their support of the channel!

NASA Details Launchpad Damage

The NASA SLS rocket’s boosters burn at around 3000 degrees fahrenheit / 1649 celsius, so it’s no surprise the mobile launcher that supports the rocket on the ground took some damage. Here’s what it looked like the afternoon of the 16th following the launch:

One thing I noticed at the NASA press site was that the launch tower definitely had a color change after the rocket blasted off earlier that morning. NASA released some images this afternoon that details the more notable damage the tower took at liftoff:

This area is where the rocket boosters take off from – there was some definite damage around the area but nothing critical that can’t be repaired in time for the second SLS flight for Artemis II.

This next photo is likely why it took so long for NASA’s ground teams to clear the area around the pad – the elevator doors for the launch tower blew out due to the massive pressure during launch! This prevented a quick inspection of the launch tower’s overall condition.

But at a press conference held this evening NASA officials said the hardware is working exceptionally well with just a few “funnies” the team are tracking. They currently have more fuel than they anticipated remaining after their recent burn to whip around the moon and they’re generating more power and using less than anticipated.

There’s still a lot of time left in the mission but if things keep tracking this well a crewed flight around the moon won’t be far behind.

See my full Artemis 1 coverage on YouTube here!

HP Chromebook x360 13.3 with ARM Processor Review (with Kompanio 1300)

This week we take a look at an ARM powered Chromebook from HP. This one has a Mediatek Kompanio 1300 processor that delivers great performance (especially for gaming) along with decent power efficiency. You can see my full review here.

As you’ll see in the review its web browsing performance is competitive with Intel machines from a couple of years ago. I was very impressed with its GPU performance especially when it comes to game emulation. Dreamcast and Gamecube performance was great using Android emulators and it will of course have no problem running Retroarch for older systems.

Android game performance and compatibility was also excellent. One advantage of an ARM Chromebook when it comes to Android gaming is that you get better compatibility with popular games like Call of Duty mobile that we demoed in the video.

My only gripe with this system is the build quality. While it doesn’t feel cheap, there was a bit too much flex in the keyboard deck when pushing down on the keyboard. Additionally I felt the trackpad clicking when I picked up the system from the corners.

ARM processors are becoming more and more prevalent on PCs these days with Apple switching to their own custom ARM architecture but also a number of options for running Windows on ARM hardware too. ChromeOS has supported ARM from day one – you can check out this review I did way back in 2014 of HP’s first Chromebook. We’ve come a long way!

Mastodon & Why a Blog with RSS is the Best Way to Decentralize Yourself

With all of the talk of this decentralized platform called Mastodon I decided to set up an account myself. I went with the indieweb.social “instance” as I have an interest in reviving the independent web. You can find me at @lonseidman@indieweb.social.

Mastodon is not a centrally controlled social media platform, rather it’s a network of federated servers that all communicate with one another. You plant your flag on one of them and you’ll have access to all of the users on all of the other federated servers. To some degree this reminds me of how the bulletin board system (BBS) network FidoNet has worked for decades.

But Mastodon has a few weak points. First, can their federated network scale at the volume of Twitter with hundreds of millions of users? That remains to be seen.

A big problem I see is that if your instance goes *poof* so do you. Migrating to a new instance without losing your identity requires the old one being available to release you to the new one according to this post. If your originating instance disappears one day it’s not clear if you have a way of importing your presence elsewhere without having to start over.

I’m also struggling with automating ingesting my content from elsewhere into Mastodon. For example I’m using Zapier to automatically post my YouTube content and blog posts to other platforms, but Mastodon doesn’t work with Zapier at the moment.

My advice for those looking to “cut the social cord” is to get a blog with an RSS feed. You can control it, own it, and because RSS is still largely the connective tissue of the modern internet it’s relatively easy to link it to other things.

That’s why I set up blog.Lon.tv as my base of operations. Everything from here feeds into other stuff like my email newsletters, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. You can learn more about this effort from a video I did a few months ago.

It’s funny how we really solved this federation problem back in the early 2000’s with content management systems and RSS. It’s how podcasts work to this day. And yet we’re still trying to reinvent the wheel every time a centralized platform has a crisis. There is no need to reinvent the wheel IMHO – we just need to make it easier to get started and federate!

Artemis I Launch Dispatch!

I am on my way back from an epic NASA experience witnessing the launch of the first crew-capable deep space vehicle since the Apollo days. Check out my behind the scenes look at the spectacle here!

In the video I take you behind the scenes at the NASA press site and give you some amazing audio of the launch. Be sure to put on your headphones for that part! We also took a trip out to the launchpad later that afternoon.

As usual YouTube doesn’t push out my space content to the wider subscriber base. This is a real frustration because of the effort and expense that goes into these. But really I do it because it’s something I like to do irrespective of the views these things get. NASA is my happy place !

I also wanted to share a great comment I got from Logikgr following the launch. This is exactly why I do these videos!

Twitter’s AI Took Down Astronomy Videos Too

Twitter has reinstated my account after it somehow determined that my video of the Artemis I launch was pornography. They also republished the post they took down back to my feed. You can see it here.

I’m not the only one this impacted. The BBC reports that an astronomer had the exact thing happen to her the other day. However in her case they shut down her account for 3 months, not the 12 hours they hit my account with.

Twitter has an appeal process but they don’t give the alleged violators a link to access those appeal tools. I only found out they existed when I googled it!

For what it’s worth Twitter says “it appears we made an error” and determined that my account committed “no violation.” So I’m now fully exonerated!

Twitter Suspended My Account!

So early this morning I was here at the NASA press site covering the launch of Artemis I. Following the launch I uploaded this video to share the experience with followers on Twitter along with YouTube And Facebook.

Right when the video finished uploading my account was immediately suspended for violating Twitters “rules against posting or sharing privately produced/distributed intimate media of someone without their express consent.” Clearly their AI misinterpreted the scene and threw down the ban hammer immediately.

Twitter does have an appeals process that they don’t make clear unless you Google it. The communications from Twitter basically told me to chill out for 12 hours before I can gain access to my account. Other people can still see my account but I’m completely locked out of the service.

And oh yeah, I am a Twitter Blue subscriber. That $8 is not taking me very far today!

I should be back up by 2:30 p.m. eastern time today, November 16th. But if you’d like you can Tweet to @elonmusk , @twittersupport and ask them to restore the @lonseidman account!

My Twitter Analytics Post Musk Takeover

My Twitter analytics continue moving upward without any real changes on my part beyond going to the Blue tier. This could be due to more overall activity on Twitter, but I suspect the gatekeeping disadvantaged smaller voices on the platform prior to Elon Musk taking the company private and extending the reach of blue check marks. Have a look:

My impressions (how often my tweets appeared in feeds) went up 83.9%, profile visits are up 57.1%, and mentions are up 51%. Over this same period I lost 44 followers – either they don’t like me anymore, left the platform, or were bots that were cleared out.

The Week Ahead

Perhaps I’m a glutton for punishment but I am once again heading down to Florida for the Artemis I launch. The next launch attempt will be at 1:04 a.m. on the 16th which means Tuesday night I’ll be camping out at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. How cool is that?

I was really disappointed my initial video from the Kennedy Space Center didn’t do all that well but perhaps a first person perspective with an actual launch in the piece will do better.

Since so many other outlets (including NASA’s own channel) will have much better close up views, my goal is to show you what it’s like to be there in person. I noted that a live stream I did with my phone showing people around the grounds of the Kennedy Space Center press site generated twice the views with far less effort! I will also present the launch without commentary.

Also coming up I have a review of Twitter’s Blue tier (I paid for it so you don’t have to) along with some balanced analysis of where I think Twitter is headed next. I’m also hoping to shoot a review of HP’s new ARM based Chromebook x360 (affiliate link) later this afternoon before I start packing up gear for my journey.

Stay tuned!

Mevo Multicam Picture-in-Picture and Graphical Overlays Tutorial

The latest video in my sponsored Mevo Multicam tutorial series looks at how the Mevo Multicam app allows the layering of multiple camera angles and graphical overlays all at the same time.

There are few apps that really show off what an iPad can do – this is one of them. During a livestream we managed to have four simultaneous camera angles up on screen at once along with overlayed graphics.

Apple TV 4k 3rd Generation Review (2022)

Enthusiast issues aside, the Apple TV remains one of the top streaming video players on the market. It’s the only TV box that bests the Nvidia Shield TV in performance, has a clean interface devoid of advertising, and integrates tightly with other Apple products and services like Airpods and iCloud Photo libraries. You can see my review of the 3rd generation unit here.

This new edition nudges the platform forward, featuring a more powerful (yet underutilized) A15 processor. While you’ll find a game or two on the platform like Oceanhorn 2 that can show off the prowess of the device, the game library is nowhere near as deep as a Nintendo Switch, Xbox or Playstation.

The new Apple TV is priced competitively vs. other streamers on the market, although Apple pulled the ethernet port out of the lower cost 64GB unit. You’ll need to go up to the 128GB model to get the port which is something I recommend for 4k streaming. The 64GB model also does not have support for the open Matter smarthome standard but the 128GB does.

It handles all of the streaming services I tried well although there does not appear to be any perceptible performance difference vs. the last two generations of the device. The Apple TV is one of the few boxes that can match content properly coming from most popular services, meaning it can switch your television’s display mode to match what the content requires. HDR, Dolby Vision and ATMOS are supported through most streaming apps (with the exception of lossless ATMOS as noted here). This new version also supports the emerging HDR10+ standard which was not available on the prior models.

Should you upgrade from a prior edition? I don’t think there’s enough here to warrant that. I am using the first generation Apple TV 4k now for most of my streaming from subscription services. I like its integration with my Airpods and photo library along with its proper content matching features. The 3rd generation box doesn’t feel much different even though it has a more powerful processor.

But if I were looking for a new box I’d definitely recommend picking up this 2022 version.

Twitter Blue Check Mania

It looks like today is the day that Twitter rolled out blue check marks for anyone who pays for the $8 “Blue” tier of service. I got mine this afternoon.

There was some controversy earlier in the day as Twitter rolled out a two tier checkmark system that would give some people a white “official” checkmark to designate them as a VIP in addition to the blue one they paid for. But that was reversed by Musk later in the morning:

But it looks like Twitter is instead going to embed a description for why the checkmark is assigned to a user if you tap on it next to the username. So for example my check mark says that I’m verified because I’m paying.

But if I look at an official government account like @POTUS, it’ll indicate that “it’s notable in government, news, entertainment or another designated category.”

Is it worth paying $8 for just a checkmark? Definitely not. But I like the idea of treating every user equally insofar as how far their content gets pushed out by the algorithms. Twitter’s prior policies shut out smaller independent creators and put them at a disadvantage. The blue check marks could even choose to ignore non-blue check mark people further deepening their echo chamber.

If Musk is serious about leveling the playing field $8 a month to extend the reach of my content is fine by me – especially if my mainstream competitors are having to pay for it too.

But ultimately I hope they really work to improve the consumption experience for Blue subscribers. The edit button and extended video lengths are a nice bonus but I’d love to have a completely ad free experience and better tools for consuming and posting content.

Twitter is not the only social media platform I subscribe to. I get a lot of value out of YouTube Premium as it provides a completely ad-free experience along with the full YouTube Music library. And the channels I watch are compensated for every minute I watch.

I’m also paying for LinkedIn’s Premium tier that offers a lot of useful benefits and guess what? A gold badge too!

Stay tuned as I’ll be doing a video soon about the added features you get with the subscription now and what I’d like to see out of it in the future.

The New Apple TV 4k and Plex

My latest video looks at how the new Apple TV 4k works with Plex.

The new box wasn’t out at the time I produced my Plex box shoot-out video that I published last week and lots of viewers asked if the new one would do any better. So this weekend I picked one up at a local Apple store to find out!

My testing methodology involves seeing how well a player can handle 4k Blu Ray ripped media. These video files are typically very high bit rate (some exceeding 100 megabits per second), are encoded with h.265 HEVC, and usually have a lossless audio track with Dolby TrueHD / ATMOS or DTS-X.

One of the problems the Apple TV historically has with Plex is that it internally transcodes all audio into lossless LPCM before passing it off to an audio receiver. While this doesn’t present much of a problem for the type of ATMOS content found on Netflix, Disney+, etc. it is an issue for Plex as the Apple TV’s internal encoder does not work with lossless audio found on Blu Ray media.

As you’ll see in the video the new player continues doing this LPCM encoding and therefore Plex has the same issues on this new box that it had on the older one. Plex is also having to transcode the audio before it sends it over to the Apple TV further complicating matters.

So the 2019 Nvidia Shield TV still remains the box to get for Plex enthusiasts as it supports passing both video and audio directly to a home theater receiver.

The Apple TV does though offer some benefits over its competitors when it comes to regular streaming and games which is a topic we’ll cover in my full review of the device later this week!

The Week Ahead for November 7, 2022

First, don’t forget to vote tomorrow (Tuesday, November 8) if you are in the United States! I found Vote411.org run by the non-partisan League of Women Voters to be an excellent resource for voting information.

This week we’re going to take a look at the new Apple TV, likely in two videos. I picked up the new one over the weekend and have already put it through its paces with Plex and general usability. You can watch me attempting to unbox it here. Spoiler alert – it’s not much different than the prior 4k models. I’ll be working on that device today.

Also this week will be a review of the new more expensive “iPad.” Apple used to call their entry level iPad just “iPad.” They still do that but they’re also selling the prior generation one at a lower price and still calling it “iPad.” I bet they’re sitting on a glut of excess inventory of that low-end device.

We’ll likely take a look at the new Roku smart home products that are really Wyze products in disguise. There are a few usability differences vs. the Wyze versions that we’ll cover once I get a few questions answered by the Roku folks. In the meantime you can see me unboxing them here.

I’m hoping to get caught up on reviewing a pile of laptops so look for a review of one of them too.

Finally I’m wrapping up two paid sponsorship projects, one for Mevo and the other for Synology. So you’ll probably see those videos this week or early next.

Stay tuned!

GPD Win 4 Indiegogo Begins Soon

GPD has been making handheld PCs long before coveted Steam Deck hit the market. Their latest device, the GPD Win 4, is going to be launching soon on Indiegogo. We’ve looked at a lot of their PCs over the years, you can see them in my handheld device playlist here.

The Win 4 looks to be a lot smaller than Steam Deck yet should deliver better performance thanks to its Ryzen 6800U processor. There will be a version with 32GB of RAM and a 2TB NVME SSD. It has a 6″ 1080p display that can run at 40 or 60 hz that can be slid out to reveal a physical keyboard. Battery life will likely come in at around what the Steam Deck delivers so be sure to budget for some power banks for longer trips.

GPD Photo
GPD Photo

Also of note is that it will feature 40 gbps USB 4 ports that are Thunderbolt compatible for external GPUs and other high speed devices. The Win 4 will be running Windows 11 so it should be a good companion for Game Pass Ultimate subscribers who want to download games and take them on the road.

No pricing has been set yet but I expect this will likely cost more than Steam Deck if the prior editions are any indication. The Intel powered GPD Win 3 sold for $899 upon its release with an i7-1165G7 processor.

You can find their Indiegogo campaign here.