Thinking About the Year Ahead

2023 will be a year of uncertainty with many different external factors impacting the type of content I’ll be producing. Navigating these complexities is the subject of my latest weekly wrapup video.

There are two major forces that will drive things this year. The first is the economy – specifically the economics of the consumer electronics industry. Consumer needs in 2023 will be very different as we climb out of the pandemic disruption.

As noted in my video both PC sales and smartphone sales are down significantly. With less consumers shopping for phones and computers, views to my channel and others covering these devices will be down as well. PCs made up most of my top 10 videos of 2020 and 2021 but not one made it to the 2022 list.

Another factor involves YouTube’s plans for growth which center almost entirely around their new “Shorts” feature. Shorts monetization will begin tomorrow, February 1st, incentivizing creators to produce more of the short form videos. YouTube is determined to claw back market share from TikTok meaning they’ll be doing more to promote shorts vs. longer form content.

I have been experimenting with Shorts a bit on my channel and have seen them attract new subscribers to the channel each time I post one. My plan is not to start singing or dancing but rather supplementing my tech coverage with short previews of longer form content.

Here’s one that previews a review of a trackball I plan on uploading soon. It was a good way to gauge viewer interest in the topic.

This one is of a Hallmark Sega Genesis Christmas ornament I picked up for $5. This is something that wouldn’t work well as a long form video but works great as a fun short review:

And here’s one I shot at the Kennedy Space Center of the launch of Artemis 1 – I was able to upload this while I was still editing my longer form piece:

My friend Metal Jesus Rocks posted an example of a great Short with this look at an officially licensed Halo game for the Atari 2600. It’s informative, interesting and enhances his brand. This is the kind of thing I hope to do on my channel too:

But to be clear I don’t plan on becoming a Shorts channel. I still plan to upload multiple long form reviews and analysis every week. The trick will be finding the right topics and products to cover in what will very likely be a challenging year ahead for tech content creators.

Have suggestions? Let me know!

MuffinTerm is the Best Way to Access Retro Telnet BBS Systems on a Mac, iPad or iPhone

Computer Bulletin Board Systems, aka BBS’s, were how many of us “went online” back in the days before the commercial Internet. Thousands of systems were set up all over the world and many were even connected to one another in massive hobbyist networks like FidoNet. I covered the basics of the BBS world in this video from seven years ago.

The other day I stumbled across a great post on the Byte Cellar about a new app called MuffinTerm. This is the subject of my latest video.

Muffinterm is a free telnet client that runs across the Mac, iPad and iPhone designed specifically to connect to retro BBS systems complete with full ANSI and IBM PC graphics support. It also supports Commodore PETSCII systems (something I never experienced back in the day). Some other formats will be added to it in the near future.

The BBS system I profiled in the piece is called “Captain’s Quarters II” which is run on the more modern Mystic BBS platform. It’s a great example of what a good BBS looked like back in the day: an active community with a great file section and a fun assortment of games.

BBS systems largely died out in popularity in the mid 90’s when the Internet made the entire world accessible without long distance telephone charges. It was pretty crazy how fast everyone pulled up stakes and went on the ‘Net. If you missed this era of computing I do suggest to check out Jason Scott’s excellent documentary on YouTube. It not only covers the history of computer bulletin boards but also has interviews with some of the people that made it all work.

MuffinTerm is available in the Mac and iPhone/iPad app stores. For PC and Linux users Syncterm is great client. A browser based alternative called fTelnet is another good solution. And if you’re looking for a BBS to connect to the Telnet BBS Guide maintains a list of active bulletin board systems that can be filtered down by BBS software. You’ll even find bulletin boards running on original retro hardware!

Razer Specs on New Edge Handheld Incorrect

We saw the new Razer Edge at CES earlier this month. You can see it in Dispatch 3 at the 7:57 mark. Like the Logitech G Cloud Android gaming handheld we looked at recently they are gearing this towards game streaming, however the Snapdragon processor inside has some decent horsepower according to its specs.

But it looks like Razer messed up in communicating those specs to users. Today I received an email updating me on the status of my pre-order – apparently Wi-Fi versions of the Edge have 6 GB of RAM whereas their 5G version has 8. Initially Razer said both versions had 8GB of RAM:

Is this a big deal? Probably not.. I don’t think there’s any Android game that requires more than 6GB of RAM but this might limit some of the multitasking possible on the unit if a demanding game or app is running in the background.

My Wi-Fi version should arrive sometime in the next two weeks so we’ll find out for sure. Stay tuned! I’ll likely do a livestream when it arrives.

Using Docker to Add RTSP Functionality to WYZE Cameras via a Synology NAS

Yes this headline is a mouthful! But I stumbled across a great solution for Wyze camera users who want to keep their cameras up to date yet still use them via RTSP to their own security NVRs. Setting this process up is the subject of my latest “how to” video.

With Wyze pulling their official RTSP firmware some super smart community members figured out a way to build a “bridge” that takes video out of the Wyze cameras and makes that video available as an RTSP, RTMP or HLS stream that can be used by any compatible security DVR/NVR. It does this through the use of a Docker container that can run on just about any compatible Linux based device.

Once installed and logged into your Wyze account, any compatible camera on the same network as the computer hosting the container will be available. Your security NVR will connect to the stream on the container which will in turn bridge the video from the camera. Since this process mostly passes a relatively low bandwidth video stream it’s not very resource intensive and even a Raspberry Pi can get the job done.

As of the time of this writing it’s compatible with most Wyze cameras with the exception of their new “OG” cameras and their Video Doorbell Pro. It’s likely Wyze is disabling whatever loophole existed in their older hardware to prevent this circumvention around their subscription services on newer devices. You can learn more about their push to subscriptions in my recent video on the topic.

In my Docker how to video we connected my cameras to Synology’s Surveillance Station – a pretty robust NVR that’s included with most Synology NAS devices. I did a tutorial series a few years ago on it. But this should work with just about anything including some of the popular open source projects.

Docker is something I’ve been learning about over the last year or two and this is a great first project to play with if you’re interested in dipping your toes into containerizing applications. Synology has a great graphical Docker interface that helped me wrap my head around how it all works.

If you’d like to learn more about Docker I found this video from Networkchuck to be a great summation of its power and potential.

Wyze Cam Pan V3 Review

Our look at some of the new Wyze cams continues with a full review of their Wyze Cam Pan V3. This latest iteration of their pan and tilt camera is nicely improved over prior models but it loses a lot of the free functionality those had. See my full review here.

The biggest changes here have to do with its industrial design. The camera now has a wider range of motion (a full 180 degrees vertically) along with an improved image sensor that has great infrared night vision along with a low light color mode.

The camera’s motor, while still audible on recorded clips, is much quieter than before. It also has a neat privacy mode where the camera shuts down and also points itself at the base for added privacy.

Missing though are a lot of the free out of the box features of the prior versions. This model does not support RTSP nor will you get any cloud video storage without having to pay an additional fee. And it’s not compatible with their “name your price” subscription plan called Cam Plus Lite. We detailed most of these changes in my video from last week.

I also got in the new Wyze Cam OG and OG Telephoto. I unboxed both on the Extra’s channel the other day and provided a quick look at their image quality (spoiler, it’s not good). Both of those cameras have the same restrictions for non-subscribers so unfortunately a lot of the value proposition Wyze delivered with their new cameras is not going to continue.

Synology DS723+ Review

Synology released a couple of new NAS devices that we saw at CES 2023. They sent along their two drive unit called the 723+ for me to review. You can see the video here!

Synology addressed some of the feature requests users had for a smaller more affordable plus series device, but not everyone will be happy in the implementation of them. First they added 10 gigabit ethernet support but you’ll need to purchase an additional $150 Synology manufactured adapter for that.

This drive also includes dual NVME SSD slots on the at the bottom for caching or using as a separate volume. Volume use, however, requires the use of official Synology branded NVME drives that cost a lot more vs. non-Synology ones. I tried using a WD branded drive and was presented with this message:

The new 723+ NAS includes 2 GB of RAM which is expandable to a whopping 32GB. However Synology only recommends using their branded ECC memory and will not support configurations using off-brand RAM.

Performance-wise this is a big step up over previous models using the NVME storage and 10 gig network adapter. In my testing we were seeing transfer speeds easily 7-8x what a typical 1` gigabit NAS can achieve off of the NVME volume. We saw slightly faster speeds when we configured the NVME as a striped RAID 0, with read speeds topping 1 gigabyte per second. From a practical standpoint I was able to edit a 4k Final Cut Pro project completely over the network.

The biggest problem here is the processor Synology chose for the 723+. After years of exclusively using Intel processors they switched to an AMD Ryzen R1600. While the processor is adequate enough for the types of small and medium sized business users might need, it lacks the built in video encoder found on an Intel processor. The result is that this will not work well as a Plex server because it’s not able to do any hardware transcoding of video. It’ll be fine for in-home streaming but any out of the home streaming requiring a transcode will grind its processor to a halt.

That issue aside the 723+ delivers an endless number of features. This class of Synology NAS gets you access to a bulk of their enterprise apps including advanced backup solutions we looked at in a recent tutorial series. It also has a nice docker client, virtual machine manager for booting up other OS’s and even an office suite that replicates many of the features of Google Workspace. You can see more about all of the features here.

In summation this is a solidly performing unit but long-time customers will be disappointed with the processor choice and limitation of having to use only Synology branded RAM and NVME storage. I hope Synology will re-think their decision to limit RAM and NVME choices as these restrictions can very easily be lifted in a software update.

2023 Off to a Great Start!

Just a quick note to thank you all for a great start to 2023. After a pretty lousy December our CES coverage kicked off a nice boost to channel viewership and growth this month. I’ve also prioritized a few reviews and topics based on what I’m seeing subscribers are showing more interest in.

Thank you as always for your support!

Is the Wyze Free Ride Over?

Last week I got in the new batch of cameras that Wyze is rolling out, including their “OG” camera and the latest Pan Cam. One thing I noticed right out of the gate was that functionality that was once free on their old cameras now requires a subscription fee. I dig into that in my latest video.

The biggest change is that their new cameras will no longer get any free cloud storage. In the events feed you’ll only see a still image – not a video clip. In the past the cameras would store 12 seconds of video clips in the cloud each time a motion event triggered something. Additionally the older cameras also benefited from some of Wyze’s AI technology which could cut down on false alarms by only triggering when a person was detected for example.

Wyze went through some financial difficulties during the pandemic as their business relied upon hardware sales for solvency. When component supplies became constrained they couldn’t sell cameras and they had a hard time paying the bills for their cloud server overhead.

Their solution was to create a “name your price” subscription plan called “Cam Plus Lite” for their existing camera line. Customers could declare a price of 0 and continue using their cameras for free, but they did require everyone with an existing camera to sign up for the plan in an effort to reduce the load on their cloud services.

Wyze’s new cameras are not eligible for Cam Plus Lite. The only option is to subscribe to their “Cam Plus” subscription plan. Cam Plus currently costs $1.67 a month per camera but subscribers can also opt for the “unlimited” option that costs $99 a year and connect as many cameras as they’d like.

Competitively it’s fairly reasonable but I think many loyal Wyze customers will feel like the rug is being pulled when they buy a new camera and find it won’t work the way the prior ones did without coughing up a few more bucks on an ongoing basis.

Additionally Wyze has stopped development on their RTSP firmware that allowed their cameras to work with security NVRs like Synology’s Surveillance Station. While old cameras with the RTSP firmware installed will still work, the firmware is no longer available on Wyze’s website for download. There are no plans to offer it with the new cameras.

Stay tuned for reviews of the new Wyze cameras! I wanted to get this piece out first so people knew what to expect. In the meantime I have some first impression videos up on the Extra’s channel.

Amazon Kills “Deep Linking” Impacting Plex, Reelgood, and Others on Fire TV

Over on AFTVNews my friend Elias Saba reported on a new development on the Fire TV platform that will impact Plex (affiliate link), Reelgood, Just Watch and other third party content search engines. Amazon reportedly will be disabling “deep linking” which is the practice of having one app link to content inside of another app. This topic is the subject of my latest video.

What this means is that if you’re maintaining a watchlist in Plex you can still maintain that list and find new content in the Plex database on FireTV, but Plex will no longer “drop you off” in another app to watch. You can, of course, use Amazon’s built in search which will continue to deep link into supported (paying) apps. This new Amazon policy mirrors a restriction Roku has had in place for its devices.

Why are they doing this? Because home screens and platform integrated search engines are a big business. Amazon and Roku can require providers to pay to be a part of search and/or get a higher position in query results. If you’re using a third party provider to find stuff to watch that impacts the bottom line. Those third parties apps can also charge for placement in their search engines which is a competitive activity.

Roku’s business model is no secret – most of the money they make from you using the device – not buying it. That’s why Roku and Amazon devices are so inexpensive. You can learn more in this video I made a little while back diving into Roku’s financial statements.

Like everything I do on this channel I went down a rabbit hole yesterday testing how deep linking works across all of the major platforms. Here’s how the others stack up:

Roku: No deep linking allowed but their built in search has good results (for now) that will deep link elsewhere.

Android TV / Google TV: Deep linking is still allowed but I’m finding that it’s broken for the most part. Linking into Netflix works ok but many other providers don’t seem to work reliably. Some deep links bring the user to the Google Play store even if the app is already installed.

Apple TV: Apple TV’s deep linking appears to work the best right now. Most of the apps I tested work through Plex and Reelgood. Apple TV is the most expensive box because the hardware isn’t as heavily subsidized vs. the other platforms making Apple less reliant on monetizing user activities.

All that said I still think third party watchlist apps are worth using to keep track of all of the great content we have available to us these days. You can see some prior coverage I did on those apps here.

Hallmark’s Sega Genesis Ornament

I have never been much of a Christmas ornament guy (my wife has more of them than we have trees for) but the other day I found one that I just couldn’t pass up. My friend Smokemonster let us all know on Twitter that Hallmark’s Sega Genesis ornament was marked down to just under $6 from its initial $30 price tag:

The ornament arrived yesterday and it’s glorious. They based it off the American version of the version 1 console, the one I got in 1989 that has been the centerpiece of my YouTube set since I got into this business. Unlike the original it includes two controllers but of course in this implementation they are not functional.

But what is functional is the little power switch that works just like the original. When the included batteries are inserted, flicking the power switch lights up its red power indicator and it then plays some digitized sounds from the original Sonic the Hedgehog game including the iconic “SEGGGAAAA” and a minute or two of music from the game.

The speaker, as you can hear in this YouTube Short I posted this morning, is incredibly loud for a little thing like this. Smokemonster tells me that an earlier SNES ornament is also quite the noisemaker.

Retroarch & Emulators on Retail Xbox Consoles Including Series S & Series X

Xbox consoles, even some of the older ones, make great emulation devices. In the past getting emulators onto a game console would require circumventing DRM controls but lately things have become a bit easier.

My project this weekend was getting Retroarch installed on my Xbox Series X. The good news is that the process was so easy I spent more time playing than configuring!

This process initially required setting the console into developer mode but this new method allows any retail console to work without modification or mode switching. I found this guide at to be pretty helpful. If you’re somebody who needs a little more of a visual step-by-step ETA Prime has a great tutorial that you can find here.

The Xbox Series consoles have pretty powerful CPUs that can handle emulation of nearly every supported core that Retroarch offers. That includes even more complex consoles like the Playstation 2 and Gamecube/Wii. You can even load the games up on a USB flash drive which is detailed in the tutorials linked above.

The MiSTer is still my go-to retro device but for certain things like more recent game consoles and Sega Super Scaler arcade titles Retroarch on the Xbox is a great combination. It was awesome playing Afterburner 2 on my 65″ OLED with its awesome soundtrack pumping through my home theater audio. And although I will probably re-map some of the controls the general experience I found to be excellent insofar as compatibility, gameplay and performance are concerned.

If you’re curious about Retroarch and why it’s so popular, check out this interview I did with a member of the Retroarch team a few years back. They do some amazing work making emulation less complex for the masses!

Airmoto Portable Air Compressor Review

I always like to check out gadgets that are heavily advertised on Facebook. My latest acquisition is this portable air compressor called the Airmoto that was heavily promoted on my feed. You can find it here on Amazon (compensated affiliate link).

As smart devices go it doesn’t overdo the intelligence. You set a maximum PSI, turn it on, and it will turn itself off when it hits the desired amount of air pressure. There are a few different categories of things to inflate and it’ll remember settings for each category. There’s no phone app to control it or any kind of privacy stealing service to sign up for which is kind of refreshing!

The compressor is noisy and slow but I found its battery was sufficient to add about 8-10 PSI to all four of my car’s tires. It has a USB-C port on board but it will not charge on a USB-C PD charger like you might use for your laptop or smartphone. It will need to be plugged into a standard USB-A 1 or 2 amp 5 volt charger.

The built in pressure meter can measure in half PSI increments. It’s not entirely accurate and I found that you may need to set your desired goal pressure slightly higher to hit the mark. In addition to PSI it will measure in BAR & KG/CM squared.

The unit comes with a short hose (which is a bit too short for car tires IMHO) along with a Presta adapter, a pool float inflater, and a needle for balls.

Overall I found the Airmoto to work as advertised. It runs at about the same speed as less expensive DC powered air compressors but you gain the advantage of portability here with its own built in power source and compact size and weight.

Wyze Cam Pan V3 Unboxing & First Impressions

On my Extra’s Channel I unboxed the brand new Wyze Cam Pan V3 – a sizable upgrade over their prior edition pan & tilt security camera.

In the video we take it out of the box, set it up and get some initial first impressions under ideal lighting conditions. Over the weekend I’ll be testing more of its features and will have a more detailed review early next week.

Wyze is taking a harder stance against those who opt-out of its subscription services. You’ll find that the Cam Pan v3 offers far less functionality versus their prior cameras unless you cough up the monthly or annual subscription fee. More on that in my review. Stay tuned!

See more of my Wyze videos here.

Unihertz Atom XL Review – a Phone with a Built-in Two Way Radio

I don’t think you’ll find a more creative smartphone maker than Unihertz. They make a lot of different phones and no two are alike. Some cater to Blackberry fans with physical keyboards and others cater to those who want something really tiny. All of the phones they make are super rugged and built like tanks. You can see my full playlist here.

This latest phone in their lineup does something I’ve never seen a smartphone do by adding a full function two-way walkie talkie radio to the mix. This is not some app that works over Wi-Fi but rather an actual radio transmitter that will interoperate with other radios on the same frequency. It even works with the digital DMR standard. See my full review here!

As a phone it seems to perform well – good battery life, adequate enough performance (but definitely on the low end) and compatibility with T-mobile and Verizon here in the United States. It has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage with the option to also add an SD card to the mix. Without the SD card installed it’ll support two nano sim cards.

The phone is waterproof and super rugged with a nice compact 4″ display. It’s small but not tiny and I think would work well for those looking for a supplementary phone while traveling. It’s not all that expensive either at around $340 unlocked.

The two-way radio feature delivered far more features than I expected but users need to be mindful of what frequencies you’re operating on to avoid being fined by the FCC!

The radio is tunable from 400-480mhz – a huge swath of the “70 centimeter” band. Only a sliver of this band is accessible to unlicensed consumers in the FRS frequencies. Licensed amateur radio operators can use it between 420 and 450 mhz in the United States but should follow the ARRL’s band plan for proper operation.

But if you’re not licensed you need to spend some time programming the two way radio function properly. Unihertz provided no documentation or warnings in the box nor was my phone programmed with FRS frequencies out of the box. In fact it was operating on channels the US government uses for satellite communications and work its way into amateur frequencies that are not authorized for non-licensed use.

Although the phone is not type rated for the unlicensed FRS frequencies those are the ones that you should operate on being mindful of not using the phone’s two watt transmission power on channels 8-14.

The phone offers some additional features for amateur operators including support for repeaters with differing input and output frequencies, CTCSS tones, etc. I was surprised that its support for the DMR digital standard is extensive and worked with my local DMR repeater along with my Anytone handheld DMR radio. I was also able to send DMR text messages.

Overall this is another fun and quirky phone from Unihertz that delivers a lot for a low price. But users need to be very careful to program its two-way radio feature to avoid being fined by the FCC.

Dispatch: Lenovo’s CES New Product Announcements

My last video from CES 2023 is a bonus dispatch from my visit to Lenovo’s suite at CES 2023. Watch it here!

Lenovo introduced a bunch of interesting concepts here that will actually be shipping products. That includes a dual screen Yoga 2-in-1, another laptop that has both an e-ink and OLED display, and a powerful new Android tablet device designed for media consumption and creative work. That plus refreshes of many other popular devices in their product lines.

Their suite was located at the new “Resorts World” hotel. Like all of the other Vegas hotels this place is enormous with its own shopping mall attached! Check out this huge spehere-like advertising display in the shopping area. In addition to still images like this donut ad it also could do full motion video.

Resorts World also had its own stop on the underground convention center tunnel. Maybe next time we’ll stay there! Pretty convenient and a lot nicer than the run-down Excalibur we stayed at this time.

This bonus episode will do it for my CES 2023 videos. I was very pleased with the viewer response to our coverage this year and I have some ideas to make it better next time. In hindsight I wish I stayed one more day as I think I could have been able to get an additional dispatch put together.

Another CES is in the Books!

Producer Jake and I went out to Las Vegas this week to cover the annual CES show. This year’s spectacle was a little more than just another CES as it was the first “back to normal” show since the pandemic began.

We managed to put together three dispatches from the event along with a bonus fourth episode publishing Monday or Tuesday from a Lenovo product preview I attended. You can see them all here or individually: Dispatch 1, Dispatch 2 & Dispatch 3.

As a two person operation we are at a significant competitive disadvantage covering a show this large. So we do what we can and try to put ourselves in places where we can find a good amount of interesting stuff without having to waste too much time in transit or wandering around.

My dispatch format is something I settled on after years of visiting CES and other similar events around the globe. Viewers like the fast paced format and we try to get as much shot in a single take as possible to avoid having to do a lot of editing.

What we look for are products that are things that people can actually buy vs. the prototypes and concepts that are also on display throughout the show. Trends are cool but I am more interested on what these companies can actually deliver.

In year’s past we used to spend a day or two wandering the show floor looking for stuff but this year we were a little more strategic about it. So we actually got more done this time but spent less time at the show. My hope for future years is to find another sponsor or two who can help fund a stringer to look for things while we’re out reporting.

I’ll likely do a wrap-up video encapsulating my thoughts on this year’s show. Stay tuned!

CES 2023 Dispatch 2 – More Tech from the Pepcom Digital Experience!

My second dispatch from CES 2023 is up! You can watch it here.

In this edition we attended the “Pepcom Digital Experience” where well over a hundred tech companies gathered to show off their new gear. This event is similar to the CES Unveiled event from my first dispatch but this one has different companies exhibiting.

We got some first looks at new HP PCs and then found a whole bunch of cool stuff at varying price points. There’s definitely something for everyone in this latest dispatch so check it out!

This footage came from our activities on Wednesday. We have at least one more dispatch coming up from all of the things we did on Thursday! Stay tuned!

CES Dispatch 1 is Posted!

CES officially kicks off today but there’s a bunch of pre-show activities that take place before the doors open at the Las Vegas Convention center. In our first dispatch video we take a look at CES Unveiled, an event where well over a hundred tech companies gather in one place to show off their products. Watch it here!

Yesterday I visited Lenovo’s suite to get a look at a few new things they have on the horizon for next year. They had some cool stuff that demonstrates that there’s still a lot of new ideas to be had in the PC industry. I’ll have the full video of my visit up on the Extra’s channel in a day or two with a few selected items making their way into Dispatch 2 or 3.

Last night we went to my favorite event of the show, Pepcom. Pepcom is similar to CES Unveiled and we had another 3+ hour marathon running from one table to the next to find some more hidden gems of the show. That video will go up maybe tonight but most definitely tomorrow.

Today is our 12 hour sprint.. This morning we’ll be headed down to the show floor to see what we can find and then it’s off to one last showcase event called Showstoppers.

So it looks like I’ll have at least 3 and possibly 4 videos from the show this year. Stay tuned!

CES Trip Day 2 Update!

I just posted my second live update from CES here in Las Vegas!

Last night we attended a pre-show event called CES Unveiled. This has never been a great event in past years but this year it was filled with a lot of stuff I found interesting. So if everything cooperates here we’ll have our first dispatch video posted this evening! Stay tuned for that.

I am heading over to Lenovo’s CES suite in a little bit to get a look at some of the products they have planned for the coming year which will be part of Dispatch 2.

This evening my favorite CES event, Pepcom, will be taking place at the Mirage Hotel. There are close to 200 companies there so we should have enough to finish up our second dispatch video this evening.

Yesterday I had to go out and buy some things I forgot to pack with me – specifically a battery charger for my on-camera light and my Apple Watch charging cable! Generally I’m a much better packer but we just got back from a family vacation less than 24 hours before I had to leave for Vegas.

Thankfully there’s a photo store in Vegas called B&C Camera (not to be confused with B&H) that had what I needed at a close-to-market price. It looks like this place caters to photo and video professionals who forget to pack things as they had a good selection of gear.

Tomorrow is going to be a non-stop crazy day. We are going to hit the show floor first thing and stay out there until they close. That will be followed by the last showcase event called Showstoppers that should have a good number of exhibitors. We fly home Friday afternoon. My hope is to try and get Dispatch 2 up before we leave. Wish me luck !

Made it to Vegas!

After a harrowing journey we made it to Vegas! I did a quick livestream update video on what our plans are for the next few days. Check it out here!

The harrowing part of the journey had to do with Southwest Airlines. In order to get to Vegas we first had to fly from Hartford to Chicago. The Chicago flight had a two hour delay which would put it on the ground long after the Vegas flight departed.

Oddly Southwest did not cancel the flight or rebook me. When I called customer service the advice I was given was go to the airport because they might figure out a way to get the Chicago plane out on time.

Tracking the flight via Flightaware I noticed that the aircraft for our journey was actually arriving in Hartford on time yet the connecting flight was not leaving for well over an hour after its scheduled departure.

I arrived at the airport just as flight 1424 pulled up to the gate well in advance of the Chicago departure time. At the gate was a ramp agent who directed the exiting flight crew to gate 4 where a new aircraft would continue the flight on to Chicago.

I struck up a conversation with ramp agent and he was very helpful in trying to come up with some options. During the course of the discussion he looked up the reason for the equipment change, citing a maintenance issue on the aircraft. He said that under the circumstances I should be eligible for a hotel voucher and he checked with his supervisor who concurred.

Armed with this information I walked over to the ticket gate and had a conversation with the supervisor. I am never aggressive in these types of interactions especially now given all that Southwest’s employees have been through. Sadly this manager could not have been more condescending to me – asking me why I decided to leave for the airport if I knew the flight wouldn’t make it and telling me my options were to pay for a hotel out of pocket or sleep in the airport.

She then looked up the reason for the delay and said it was an ATC delay due to weather – not maintenance – that was delaying the flight. While that was true for the replacement aircraft, the reason why there was a replacement aircraft was because of a maintenance issue!

She then rebooked my Chicago to Vegas flight for the following day and refused the hotel voucher along with denying me a refund on my “early bird” boarding fee. I ended up with a high “C” boarding number which is the worst possible number to get when boarding a Southwest flight.

But we had to get there and Chicago overnight was the only way to do it. So I booked a hotel room at Midway and got in line to board. When we were walking down the jetway the ramp agent I spoke with earlier along with his supervisor ran up and said when I get to Chicago take it up with the manager there and use their names. They were adamant that this was eligible for a voucher as it was a Southwest logistical issue – not weather – that landed me in this predicament. I really appreciated these employees going that extra mile.

But it all worked out in the end. As we were flying to Chicago my Google alert pinged a delay for that original Chicago to Vegas flight. Sure enough when we arrived it was still there and by luck it happened to be in the next gate over. Somehow it was still there after I got off the plane and the gate agent there was able to get us on right as the door was closing. A win!

It’s clear Southwest is going to need a serious overhaul. Their reliability has gone downhill over the years because they have not made the proper investments in their IT infrastructure. Thankfully they still have a lot of employees (minus the condescending manager) who do want to truly help customers. I hope the company realizes how lucky they are to have these people on the frontlines and equip them with the tools to help them do their jobs better in the future.