Exposing More Brands Behaving Badly on YouTube..

My latest video shows another example of how influencer agencies pay YouTube creators to make “reviews” that are actually advertisements.

This video was sparked by a tweet from Mike Rose, CEO of No More Robots, a game publisher. Rose expressed his frustration about how nearly every YouTuber he reached out to wanted to be paid to review his game.

As you can imagine Rose’s tweet stirred up quite a bit of push-back, with some respondents saying it’s entirely possible to make an “honest” review when also being compensated by the game developer or brand.

But is that the case? Let’s take a look at influencer agency Crowdcreate and how they recently communicated with me in regards to a review they wanted done for a client. They approached me with an offer to review a product for payment that directed what should be covered in the review and required the brand’s pre-approval before the video was uploaded (among other things).

Transparency should be key in this industry. Viewers deserve to know if a video is sponsored, if the product was received for free, or if the brand had any editorial input. This transparency is not just a matter of ethics but also a legal requirement in many countries. Unfortunately most of the reviews Crowdcreate solicited on behalf of their client were not disclosed properly by the creators.

The underlying issue here are the changing dynamics of content creation and consumption. In the tech space as products become more integrated and less groundbreaking, capturing audience excitement becomes more challenging. This, coupled with the algorithmic nature of platforms like YouTube, makes organic content reach to followers and subscribers increasingly difficult. Creators are thus pushed towards more lucrative, yet potentially less ethical, forms of content like paid reviews.

To be clear I have no problem with creators doing paid sponsorships – in fact I do them on occasion too. But what I do have a problem with are creators who do not adequately disclose to the audience the nature of the relationship with the brand and how the brand influenced the content. This, in my opinion, crosses the line from an honest review to a paid advertisement, a distinction that is not always made clear to the audience.

You can read more about my ethics and disclosure policy here.

Fact Checking Warnings about Apple’s “NameDrop” Feature

I appeared on my local Fox affiliate today after a number of law enforcement agencies expressed concern about Apple’s new NameDrop feature.

NameDrop allows two iPhones in close proximity to share contact information. Here’s what most of the Facebook posts I’m seeing today leave out about how the feature works:

1. Both phones need to be unlocked. Your phone won’t transmit your contact info when locked.

2. In order to transmit contact information you need to push a button on your phone to send contact information to the other phone.

3. This only works when the phones are in close proximity, pretty much touching each other.

For users concerned about their phone leaking information I suggest spending some time in the “Privacy and Security” settings to see which apps have access to your private information, location data and more.

Plex Dash 2.0 Adds More Server Configuration Options (sponsored post)

In my latest monthly sponsored Plex video, I explore the latest update of Plex Dash, an app that allows users to manage their Plex server from a smartphone. This update brings a bunch of new features, enhancing the app’s functionality and user experience. The app is free and available to those who have a Plex Pass subscription.

If you need a Plex Pass, — Plex is having a Black Friday sale for 25% off a lifetime Plex Pass. You can find it here (compensated affiliate link) – use code FUZZYFRIDAY to get the discount. The code is valid through November 28th at 7:59 AM UTC.

Plex Dash, available on both iPhone and Android, initially served as a monitoring tool for Plex servers. The update, however, extends its capabilities to server administration, previously only accessible via a web browser. This development is particularly beneficial for those who need to manage their servers remotely.

As before you can monitor servers in real time to see what media is currently being played back and what kinds of transcoding processes are taking place. This new version of the app expands some of these metrics to include tasks the server might be doing in the background along with enhanced charts to monitor CPU, RAM and network performance.

Plex Dash has also expanded its library administration capabilities. Users can now adjust library settings directly from the app. Server settings can also be adjusted through Plex Dash, with most options from the web interface now available in the app. However, settings for remote access still require the web interface.

A notable new feature is the ability to browse server logs in real-time and download them for later review. This functionality is particularly useful for troubleshooting and monitoring server activities.

While the update significantly enhances Plex Dash’s capabilities, there is still room for improvement. For instance, the ability to edit metadata directly from the app is currently limited to just changing thumbnails. Expanding this feature to include full metadata editing would be a valuable addition for users who manage extensive libraries.

The updated Plex Dash app is a robust tool for managing Plex servers on the go. Its enhanced features bring a level of convenience and efficiency, especially for users who frequently need to administer their servers remotely. As the app continues to evolve, it will likely become an even more indispensable tool for Plex server administrators.

Disclosure: This video was part of my monthly sponsorship from Plex. However they did not review or approve the video before it was uploaded.

Gen X-ers and Boomers will Love The Atari 2600+ — If they have a boxful of Atari games in the attic

My latest video is a review of the Atari 2600+, a replica of the original beloved gaming console that works on modern HD televisions. It’s designed for those who still have a collection of Atari cartridges, offering a way to play these classic games on modern televisions.

The Atari 2600 Plus is about 80% the size of the original console, featuring a similar build quality with the characteristic fake wood paneling and stiff switches that are reminiscent of the original. It comes with an HDMI output, replacing the RF output of the original, and includes ports for original Atari controllers, including paddles. The package includes one controller in the box that’s a replica of the original 2600 version that also works on the original console too. The system outputs at 720p and includes switches to go into black and white mode along with a widescreen mode.

The console operates via emulation, using Stella for Atari 2600 games and ProSystem for Atari 7800 games. The emulation quality is high, with seamless controller compatibility and no need for button mapping or menu navigation. The system takes a little longer to boot up vs. the original console as it has to boot its OS, dump the ROM off the cartridge, and then load up the emulator.

Playing a game like “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back,” a cartridge from my childhood, on the Atari 2600 Plus was a smooth experience. The sound and visual quality were impressive, capturing the essence of playing on an original Atari, albeit with the modern convenience of HDMI output.

However, the console does have its limitations. It requires original cartridges to work, and there’s no option for loading games via SD card or USB. This means that for those without a collection of Atari games, the Atari 2600 Plus might not be the best choice. Additionally, flash cartridges like the Harmony cart are not compatible with this console.

Despite these limitations, the Atari 2600 Plus stands out for its authentic replication of the original console’s feel. The tactile experience of inserting a cartridge, flipping the switches, and using the controllers is remarkably close to the original. This makes it an excellent gift for someone who cherishes their Atari memories.

The Atari 2600 Plus is a well-executed blend of nostalgia and modern technology. For those with a trove of Atari cartridges, it’s a fun way to rekindle childhood memories. But if you don’t have a collection already there are far better ways to explore what the 2600 had to offer.

HP’s Black Friday Laptop Review – The Pavilion 15 15t-eg300

A few days ago I reviewed HP’s Pavilion 15 laptop as it is currently on sale at a large Black Friday discount. HP is taking $450 off any configuration of this model (compensated affiliate link). The specific configuration I examined is priced at $529, I think a decent price for someone looking for a nicely performing laptop who doesn’t need many bells and whistles. You can watch my video review here.

The HP Pavilion 15 features a 15.6-inch 1080p display, although it’s not the brightest at about 250 nits. The model I reviewed had a TN display, which I found to have limited viewing angles. However, the Black Friday deal includes an IPS display option, which I would recommend for better viewing quality.

Internally, the laptop is equipped with an Intel i7-1355U processor, Intel Iris XE Graphics, 16 GB of dual-channel DDR4 RAM, and a 256 GB NVMe SSD. The RAM is socketed, but it’s unclear if it can be expanded beyond 16 GB. The SSD can be replaced for more storage, offering some flexibility for future upgrades.

The build quality is mostly plastic, and the laptop weighs 3.86 lbs (1.75 kg). While it’s not the most robust construction, the performance does make up for it. The keyboard is decent with large, well-spaced keys, and the trackpad is functional. A notable feature is the fingerprint reader, which adds convenience for logging in.

Port selection is good, with an HDMI 2.1 port, a USB-A port, a USB-C Gen 2 port (which supports power, display port 1.4 out, and data devices), a combined headphone/microphone jack, another USB-A port, and a barrel connector for power. However, there’s no card reader for additional storage or camera cards.

The webcam is only 720p, suitable for basic video calls but not exceptional. Battery life is estimated between 6 to 8 hours, depending on usage, which is reasonable for a laptop in this price range.

Performance-wise, the HP Pavilion 15 excels in basic tasks like web browsing and video streaming. It handles 1080p videos well and is equipped with Wi-Fi 6 for a smooth online experience. The speakers are average, but external headphones or speakers can enhance the audio experience.

For more demanding tasks like video editing, the laptop’s i7 processor and 16 GB of RAM allow for smooth operation in applications like DaVinci Resolve, especially for basic to moderate editing tasks. Gaming performance is adequate for casual gaming, with the ability to run demanding titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 at lower settings at around 30-35 frames per second.

In benchmarks, the laptop scored well, indicating it can keep pace with other laptops in its generation. However, it does experience some thermal throttling under heavy load, which is common in laptops at this price point.

Lastly, I tested the laptop with the latest version of Ubuntu Linux, and it performed well, with all hardware components being detected correctly. This makes it a viable option for those looking to run alternative operating systems.

The HP Pavilion 15, especially with the Black Friday discount, offers a solid value proposition. It’s a practical choice for those needing a capable laptop without breaking the bank. While it’s not the top-end in terms of build quality or features, its performance for the price is commendable.

My Next WhatNot Sale Giveaway is November 25 – Win an Atomis Alpha Scooter!

It’s time for another WhatNot Sale and Giveaway! This will be a fun one with a huge giveaway of an Atomi Alpha Electric Scooter (provided free of charge by Atomi), some cost of shipping giveaways of a bunch of items including a laptop and some Lenovo tablets, and I’ll be selling a bunch of stuff too. It all takes place Saturday, November 25th at 2:00 p.m. eastern time.

Here’s the scoop:

1. Sign up for a Whatnot account if you don’t already have one at https://lon.tv/whatnot (affiliate link). Signing up with my link will get you $15 of credit to spend on your first purchase! Be sure to follow me after signing up on my Whatnot profile.

2. If you’d like to participate in the cost of shipping giveaways, be sure to submit your Whatnot profile name on this form so we can load the randomizer ahead of the stream. You do need to be present on the stream in order to win.

3. You can pre-bid on the auction items by visiting the link I set up for the stream here. Note that you need to use the WhatNot mobile app to bid on items ahead of time. You don’t need to be present on the 25th to purchase an item – if your pre-bid is the high bid you’ll be billed automatically when the auction closes on the 25th. A list of items being sold is below – note that I may find some more things ahead of the sale. I’ll notify folks on my store alert email of any additions. Sign up for that list here!

    Here’s a list of items I’ll be selling:

    Zagg Pro Stylus 2
    Backbone Controller (Lightning) along with iPhone 13/14 adapter
    Robo and Kala Windows ARM PC
    Startech Thunderbolt 3 mini dock
    Tablo 4th Gen Tuner (2 tuner model
    Oculus/Meta Quest 2
    Atari 2600+ (review coming tomorrow!)
    xScreen for Xbox Series S
    Xbox One X Console

    If you have any questions shoot me an email at lon@lon.tv. Look forward to seeing you Saturday!

    Peertube Part 2! Questions and Answers

    Last week I made a video all about Peertube, a federated self-hosted YouTube alternative. That video generated a ton of discussion and I received so much that it helped inspire my latest video that continues our exploration of this topic.

    PeerTube operates on a federated model, allowing content from one server to be accessible across other servers or platforms like Mastodon. Comments are posted and views are counted no matter where they come from. This approach contrasts sharply with the centralized nature of platforms like YouTube, offering a unique blend of control and community interaction.

    A key concern for content creators considering PeerTube is the cost and scalability of hosting their own content. My exploration reveals that these costs are surprisingly manageable. For example, a typical server setup can run on a modest budget (in my case only $5 monthly) with videos being reasonably sized after transcoding. PeerTube’s efficient bandwidth management, which breaks videos into chunks and utilizes peer-to-peer transfers, significantly reduces server load.

    Monetization, crucial for creators, is not a direct feature of PeerTube yet. However, the platform’s neutrality on monetization means it doesn’t restrict the development of plugins for advertising, suggesting potential avenues for monetization and advertising options in the future.

    Regarding legalities, particularly around copyright, it’s important to note thatn anyone hosting a Peertube instance needs to adhere to copyright laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) here in the United States. Even in a decentralized network like PeerTube, content creators and server owners must ensure they don’t infringe on copyright.

    User adoption is a significant challenge for platforms like PeerTube, which struggle to compete with the vast user base of YouTube. However, I believe there is potential for decentralized platforms to coexist with larger platforms. One great example is podcasting, a decentralized medium that has thrived without a singular controlling entity. While Apple and Spotify may dominate the listening apps, serving podcasts requires only a webserver and RSS feed.

    My investigation into PeerTube reveals a platform with significant potential for growth and innovation in the content creation space. While it faces challenges in user adoption and monetization, its decentralized nature offers a compelling proposition for creators seeking more control and ownership over their content. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, platforms like PeerTube could play a significant role in shaping the future of online content distribution.

    You can check out my Peertube instance at https://lon.tv/peertube.

    The Making of Karateka Review

    In my latest video I take a look at “The Making of Karateka” from Digital Eclipse, a virtual museum exhibit that explores the popular classic computer game Karateka developed by Jordan Mechner. In addition to some neat documentary content is also has a number of playable games including some prototypes from Karateka’s development and a modern refreshed version of the game.

    Karateka, originally released on the Apple II, was a groundbreaking game known for its animation, storyline, and music. It featured a karate protagonist on a mission to rescue a princess locked in the dungeon of a temple. The game’s animation was particularly notable, as Mechner used rotoscoping to capture realistic movements, a technique that was later expanded in his other famous game, Prince of Persia.

    One of the fun parts about making this video was testing out my original copy of Karateka that is still working 35+ years. At the beginning of the video you can see it booting up on my Apple IIe.

    What makes this new compilation from Digital Eclipse intriguing is not just the modern refresh of Karateka but also the extensive exhibit of Mechner’s development process. It’s like walking through a museum, showcasing the journey of Karateka from its inception to its final form. This includes Mechner’s early attempts at game development, his meticulous documentation, and the evolution of his ideas.

    Mechner’s first game, Asteroid Blaster, and his subsequent project, Death Bounce, which faced multiple rejections before Karateka, are also part of this compilation. These games reflect the perseverance and creativity of a young developer navigating the early gaming industry. The compilation also includes interviews and footage that provide insights into the animation process and the collaboration between Jordan and his father, who composed the game’s music.

    The modern version of Karateka in this compilation is a testament to Digital Eclipse’s dedication to preserving gaming history. They’ve updated the graphics and smoothed out the animations while staying true to the original’s essence. This modern version, alongside the prototypes and earlier versions of Karateka, offers a unique perspective on the game’s development and the technological limitations of the time.

    This journey through the making of Karateka is not just a trip down memory lane for those who grew up in the 80s. It’s a comprehensive look into the creative process of game development, the evolution of gaming technology, and the enduring impact of classic games. It’s a reminder of how far the gaming industry has come and the innovative minds that paved the way.

    Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar Mini Review

    Sennheiser has carved out a notable niche in the premium soundbar market with their amazing (and expensive) AMBEO products. Their latest offering, the AMBEO Soundbar Mini, brings that premium sound to a more “entry level” – by Sennheiser’s pricing standards – product. You can learn more in my latest review.

    The AMBEO Soundbar Mini sells for $799 (affiliate link), and is designed for those who may not have the luxury of a spacious living room but still desire an immersive audio experience. Sennheiser also offers a bundle that includes the AMBEO subwoofer for an additional $399. In my testing I found it works best in smaller spaces like apartment living rooms or a small bedroom.

    The AMBEO Soundbar Mini relies on your television’s audio return channel (ARC) HDMI port for its audio input. For those with newer TVs supporting eARC, the soundbar can also handle lossless audio formats like Dolby TrueHD ATMOS and DTS:X. However, for TVs without eARC, it supports compressed audio formats including the ATMOS audio delivered over most major streaming services. Unfortunately there are no other physical inputs.

    The soundbar does offer wireless audio options, including Chromecast, Bluetooth, and AirPlay 2. However, it’s worth noting that audio quality over Bluetooth or Airplay will not be as crisp as it will be over a wired connection.

    Internally, the soundbar boasts six speakers with a total output of 250 Watts RMS, covering a frequency range of 43Hz to 20kHz. The optional subwoofer, which I found enhances the audio experience significantly, operates wirelessly and adds depth to the lower frequencies that the soundbar can’t handle on its own.

    The setup process is straightforward, requiring a connection to Wi-Fi and some initial automatic calibration to optimize the sound for your room’s acoustics.

    In terms of performance, the AMBEO Soundbar Mini impressed me with its immersive audio quality. I tested it in different room settings with various compressed Dolby Atmos content from Disney+, and the soundbar consistently delivered an enveloping sound experience. It’s not quite on par with a full home theater system with discrete speakers, but it’s remarkably close and certainly a step up from other compact soundbars I’ve reviewed.

    For music lovers, the soundbar might fall short due to its lack of direct audio inputs and reliance on compressed audio sources. It does attempt to upmix stereo sound to create a more immersive experience, but dedicated audiophiles might want to seek more robust options.

    The soundbar’s operation is intuitive, with a remote control for basic adjustments and an app for more fine-tuned settings. You can control volume through your TV remote and switch audio sources or adjust sound modes via the soundbar’s remote or app. The app provides deeper insights into the audio being decoded and allows for more precise adjustments to the soundbar’s settings.

    The Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar Mini is an excellent choice for those with smaller living spaces looking for a significant upgrade from standard TV speakers. While it may lack extensive input options and requires a commitment to the Sennheiser ecosystem for the full experience, its performance in delivering immersive audio in compact environments is the best I’ve experienced to date.

    Disclosure: Sennheiser provided the sound bar free of charge for this review, however they did not review or approve the content before it was uploaded.

    PeerTube: The YouTube Alternative Nobody’s Talking About

    In my latest video, I share my insights on a lesser-known yet intriguing option in the realm of video sharing platforms: PeerTube. This open-source application offers a unique approach to video hosting and sharing, diverging from the centralized control typical of major platforms like YouTube and instead opting for a “federated” approach like Mastodon.

    What does “federated” mean? Each “instance” of Peertube operates on a self-hosted server that are spun up by individuals or groups similar to how a web server might work. But what’s different here is that Peertube instances can talk to each other, giving a user on one instance access to content across many other instances.

    In this image you can see my personal subscription feed where the top three videos are uploaded to my server, but I’m also pulling in a channel called “Veronica Explains” that resides on TILVids.com:

    So even though these videos reside on different servers thanks to federation users can enjoy an experience similar to that of a centralized platform. Playback data will even get sent back to TILvids.com.

    As a viewer, the experience on PeerTube is quite similar to that of YouTube. The interface is user-friendly, and videos are chunked for efficient streaming. A notable feature is that Peertube employs a peer-to-peer bandwidth sharing feature, which reduces server load by having viewers simultaneously watching a video share chunks of data among themselves. This not only enhances efficiency but also keeps hosting costs manageable.

    While there’s no direct monetization through ads at the moment, creators can link to their support pages, offering an avenue for viewer contributions. The platform also supports plugins, potentially opening doors to various customization and monetization options in the future.

    Setting up a PeerTube instance is surprisingly straightforward, especially with tools like Docker. This ease of deployment means that anyone with basic technical knowledge can start their own video sharing platform. The administrative interface of PeerTube is robust, offering a range of configuration options from appearance settings to user management and video transcoding settings.

    PeerTube’s potential extends beyond just an alternative social media platform. It can be an excellent solution for corporate intranets or educational institutions needing a private, controlled environment for video sharing. The platform’s adaptability makes it suitable for a variety of uses, from hosting corporate training videos to creating a community-driven video sharing space.

    Behind PeerTube is Framasoft, a French nonprofit dedicated to decentralizing the Internet. They are not just focused on video sharing but are developing a suite of tools to replicate the functionality of popular internet applications, all with a focus on privacy and user control.

    In my exploration of PeerTube, I’ve found it to be more than just a YouTube alternative. It’s a statement about the direction of the internet, a throwback to the days when the web was a patchwork of individual sites and communities, each with its own identity. PeerTube brings back that sense of individual ownership and control, blended with modern technology and the interconnectedness of today’s platform-centric Internet.

    Will it replace YouTube? Of course not. But what it does do is offer an alternative and an example of how a better Internet might look.

    Lenovo Legion Go Review

    Over the last year or so I’ve had the opportunity to review the current crop of name brand handheld gaming PCs, including the Steam Deck and the Asus ROG Ally. Recently, I spent some time with the newest entrant in this space, the Lenovo Legion Go. It is the subject of my latest review.

    The Legion Go starts at $699 for the 512GB version (compensated affiliate link). All configurations at the moment are powered by an AMD Ryzen Z1 processor that can run at a 30 watt TDP, 16GB of LPDDR5X-7500 RAM, and a replaceable NVME SSD.

    Its larger size, compared to competitors like the Steam Deck, is thanks to its 8.8-inch IPS display, offering a 2560×1600 resolution, 500 nits of brightness, and up to 144Hz refresh rate. Just remember that most AAA titles won’t fully utilize this display’s capabilities, often running at 60 frames per second or less. The good news is that the display does support variable refresh rates.

    What sets the Legion Go apart are its hardware features that are lacking on its competitors. The detachable controllers, which work wirelessly when detached, are most noticeable. The built-in kickstand adds convenience for multiplayer and tabletop gaming, and the inclusion of two USB-C 4.0 ports, compatible with Thunderbolt devices, allows for easy docking and connection options for external GPUs.

    Running on Windows 11, the Legion Go supports a wide range of gaming platforms, including Microsoft’s Game Pass, Steam, GOG, Epic and just about anything else that runs on Windows. However, navigating Windows through a touch display can be clunky at times. The device’s performance can be customized, with options to adjust the TDP (Thermal Design Power) and fan speed, catering to different gaming needs.

    In terms of controls, the Legion Go features hall effect thumbsticks, which are more durable and less prone to drifting than traditional potentiometer-based sticks. However, they suffer from a large dead zone currently, which negates many of the advantages the Hall Effect technology provides. A software update should address that hopefully in the future.

    Another stand out feature is the ability to turn the right-hand controller into a mouse when it’s switched into “FPS mode.” The controller docks to a small stand that turns it into a mouse that feels like a joystick. It works – especially for gamers that want the convenience of a mouse without having to bring an extra device on the road.

    The directional pad, unfortunately, it not great. While it’s an improvement over the ROG Ally’s d-pad, the Lenovo version is slippery doesn’t have much travel to it. I’d recommend extending the kickstand and using an 8bitdo controller for retro gameplay.

    Battery life is a consideration, with the device offering around 90 minutes at 30 watts and may aboue two hours at 20 watts. This is typical for many handheld gaming PCs, where power source proximity is essential. Note that some games are more demanding than others – so longevity will be determined by how much load the game places on the system.

    In benchmark tests, the Legion Go performs admirably, comparable to some laptops with discrete GPUs. It’s a testament to the advancements in portable gaming technology. However, when it comes to real-world gaming, adjustments are often needed to balance performance and visual quality. Unlike the Steam Deck that will automatically optimize games for the best performance, the Windows-based Legion Go will require a bit more tweaking.

    Comparing the Legion Go with its competitors, it stands out in terms of build quality, control options, and docking capabilities. However, it’s bulkier and heavier than the Steam Deck and far less comfortable than Valve’s offering. The Steam Deck, with its more integrated feel and lighter build, might still be the better choice for casual, on-the-go gaming. In contrast, the Legion Go shines as a more versatile device, suitable for docking to a TV or even functioning as a desktop PC when not on the road.

    The Legion Go is a significant addition to the handheld gaming PC market, offering unique features and powerful performance. Its versatility makes it an attractive option for gamers who want a device that can transition from handheld to a docked gaming experience. As the market for these devices grows, it’s exciting to see how each brand brings its strengths to the table, offering gamers more choices than ever before.

    Disclosure: Lenovo provided the Legion Go free to charge to the channel for this review. They did not review or approve the review before it was uploaded.

    Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 Review

    My latest video is of the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34, the second Chromebook Plus we’ve looked at since the new Plus standard was announced by Google.

    The Chromebook Plus CX34 is part of Google’s initiative to define a new hardware specification, ensuring that devices carrying the ‘Chromebook Plus’ label offer more than just basic functionality. This includes mid to upper-range performance and the promise of future OS updates incorporating generative AI features, which are not available on lower-end models.

    Priced at around $399, with occasional discounts bringing it lower, the CX34 is an entry-level Plus configuration featuring an Intel i3-1215U processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage. The display, its standout feature, is a 14-inch IPS panel with a matte finish. It offers a 1080p resolution at 250 nits of brightness, delivering a satisfactory viewing experience for its price range. However, it’s important to note that it covers only about 45% of the NTSC color gamut, making it less suitable for creative professionals.

    The build quality of the CX34 is decent, with a plastic body that feels sturdy enough for everyday use. The pearl white color is enhanced by a speckled finish. Although it’s not a two-in-one device, the laptop’s display can fold flat, offering some flexibility in how it’s used.

    The keyboard and trackpad are surprisingly comfortable for a device in this price range. The keyboard is backlit although the backlight can sometimes wash out the keycaps in brighter settings. The trackpad is responsive and supports smooth navigation.

    In terms of connectivity, the CX34 is well-equipped. It features two USB-C ports (one on each side of the laptop), USB-A ports, an HDMI output, and a headphone/microphone jack. The USB-C ports support power delivery, display output, and data transfer, although at a lower speed of 5 Gbits per second, which is adequate for a Chromebook.

    The webcam is compliant with the Chromebook Plus requirements, offering 1080p resolution and operating system-level image enhancement features, such as blurring and lighting adjustments. These enhancements are compatible with various applications, including Zoom and Google Meet. However, the device lacks facial recognition and fingerprint sensors for quick unlocking.

    Audio quality is average, with downward-firing speakers that provide decent stereo separation but are not exceptional, especially for music. Battery life is reasonable, with about 8 hours of usage on basic tasks like web browsing and video watching.

    Performance-wise, the CX34 handles web browsing and media playback smoothly, thanks to its Wi-Fi 6 capability. It scores well on browser-based benchmarks, indicating its competence in handling everyday tasks. However, it’s important to note that streaming services like Netflix or Disney Plus should be accessed via the web browser for optimal resolution, as the Android versions on Chrome OS are limited to DVD quality.

    For gaming, the CX34 is not a powerhouse but can handle Android-based games like Roblox and Minecraft satisfactorily. It also supports game streaming services like Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, offering a way to enjoy high-end games without the need for powerful hardware.

    In conclusion, the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 represents a solid choice for those seeking a mid-range laptop. It balances performance, build quality, and price, making it a viable option for everyday computing needs, from web browsing to light gaming. While it may not satisfy the demands of power users or creative professionals, it stands as a competent and affordable option in the Chromebook market.

    Hallmark Dreamcast Ornament Review

    Hallmark, known for its detailed and collectible Christmas ornaments, has released a Sega Dreamcast ornament, and it’s a fun little replica that captures the essence of the original console.

    This now joins the Sega Genesis version I bought last year and the NES one that I reviewed last week.

    The ornament itself is a faithful recreation of the Dreamcast console, complete with a non-removable controller and a visual memory unit (VMU). It’s impressive how Hallmark has managed to encapsulate the details of the Dreamcast, right down to what looks like a Rumble adapter along with the 56k modem port.

    Installing the three included button cell batteries brings the ornament to life. With a press of the little power button you’ll be greeted with the familiar music from Sonic Adventure, along with the power light and the backlit VMU illuminating. This is similar to what the other Hallmark ornaments do.

    The ornament isn’t without its flaws, though. My piece came with a small blemish on the left-hand side, and overall this one doesn’t feel quite as nice as the NES and Genesis versions.

    For those considering adding this Dreamcast ornament to their collection, it’s a fun piece that captures the spirit of the console and the season in which many of us were gifted a Dreamcast as younger humans.

    ATSC 3 DRM Update: No Plan for Gateway Devices and some DRM Certified TVs Don’t Work..

    Our campaign continues against the encryption of over the air television signals with my latest video.

    The broadcast industry’s DRM implementation restricts how viewers can consume TV content within their homes. Despite the outcry, broadcasters continue their efforts to encrypt over-the-air television, which could potentially limit consumer freedom in how they access and record content.

    Here’s the latest news on the topic that I cover in the video:

    Petition / Docket Update
    The petition on Change.org to stop DRM has garnered over 9,000 signatures, reflecting a growing concern among the public. This petition, along with over 2,200 citizen submissions to the FCC’s official docket, demonstrates a clear message from consumers: they do not want DRM.

    New York City Finally Gets ATSC 3.0 Broadcasts, but with DRM..
    In New York City, the largest TV market in the United States, ATSC 3.0 broadcasts have finally arrived. However, half of the available channels are already encrypted, which means unless a TV is directly connected to an antenna, viewership options are limited.

    The Industry Touts 10 Million ATSC 3 Tuners in the Market But..
    The NextGen TV group announced they are on track to have 10 million ATSC 3 tuners in consumer homes by the end of the Q4 this year. But most of these are built into televisions that require a direct antenna connection, or a TV tuner box that requires a direct antenna AND an Internet connection to work.

    The Antenna Man, a well-known figure in the cord cutting community, has discovered that many devices that claim to work with DRM-encrypted signals are failing to do so. This includes televisions that either don’t tune channels at all or experience random lock-ups.

    New Industry Rules on DVR Recording
    The A3SA, a separate standards body responsible for DRM encryption, released broadcast encoding rules that, on the surface, seem to be consumer-friendly. These rules include allowing viewers to decrypt and record broadcasts, make unlimited copies, and use features like pause, rewind, fast forward, and ad-skipping.

    But these rules are limited to devices that have been certified to decrypt DRM content. And none of the currently shipping devices on the market seem to be able to do anything that these rules allow. What’s worse is that these rules only apply to ATSC 3 signals that are simulcast on the older ATSC 1.0 technology. This leads me to wonder if they will put these restrictions in place once the 2027 transition is complete.

    Zapperbox Gets Certified for DRM
    The Zapperbox, a digital tuning device, has been certified to watch live encrypted content but not record it. Like the ADTH box I reviewed a little while back, the Zapperbox will require an Internet connection to watch DRM encrypted content for the time being.

    The process to update the Zapperbox for DRM compatibility requires allowing unattended screen sharing access to the device to install the security credentials, which raises security concerns. New Zapperbox devices will come from the factory with these security credentials preinstalled.

    SiliconDust Says DRM Rules Haven’t Contemplated Gateway Devices..
    SiliconDust, the makers of the HDHomeRun, have noted that there is no formal approval for gateway products that allow for in-home streaming of encrypted content. This means that consumers cannot stream content to multiple devices within their homes, a significant step back from the current capabilities with ATSC 1.0.

    ..Yet Consumers Want Gateway Devices that Replicate Streaming Service Functionality
    The broadcaster E.W. Scripps, after acquiring network gateway tuner manufacturer Tablo, canceled the development of an ATSC 3.0 product that would not work as a gateway. The product they did end up releasing, the 4th generation Tablo tuner, does not have ATSC 3.0 support and only works through connected smartphone or smart TV applications as a gateway device.

    When I asked why a hardware device owned by a broadcaster shunned the new standard in favor of the old one, here’s what they had to say:

    “The fourth-generation Tablo device is optimized for the ATSC 1.0 broadcast standard. We’re excited about forthcoming Tablo devices that will take advantage of the 3.0 standard. We are currently working with the ATCS 3.0 groups to ensure Tablo (and other recording devices) will be compliant and work with the new content protection standards that are part of ATSC 3.0.”

    Their statement and actions as a consumer electronics manufacturer indicate that the industry really didn’t contemplate gateway products or is purposely leaving gateway usage out of the specification in an effort to steer consumers into pricey subscription plans.

    Where’s the FCC?
    As for the FCC’s role in this, it seems they are waiting to see how the situation unfolds before stepping in. With the transition deadline set for 2027, there’s still time for the industry to experiment and potentially fail, which could prompt corrective regulatory action. The irony of all of this is that the private sector rule-making here feels more onerous than government regulation!

    What do you think?
    The question remains: what is the best outcome for consumers? Is it the complete elimination of DRM, or is there a middle ground where encryption exists but with the flexibility that consumers currently enjoy via gateway devices? Let me know what you think in my latest poll on my YouTube channel.

    I will continue to follow this topic closely, providing updates and insights as they emerge. The advocacy against DRM is gaining traction, and it’s clear that the voices of consumers are starting to be heard. The industry and regulatory bodies will have to take these concerns into account as they navigate the future of television broadcasting.

    8bitdo Controller Buying Guide

    In my latest video, I take a look at four of of 8bitdo’s premium game controllers: the Ultimate 2.4 & Bluetooth, the Pro 2, and the SN30 Pro.

    8bitdo was originally known for crafting replicas of classic gaming controllers. Over the years, 8bitdo has matured its product line, offering a premium gaming experience at a reasonable price. You can follow their progression in my 8bitdo playlist.

    The Ultimate 2.4 and Ultimate Bluetooth controllers are similar in design, resembling the layout of an Xbox controller. Both are compatible with PCs supporting X-input devices, including the Steam Deck, Android devices with X-input support and emulation devices like the Raspberry Pi & MiSTer.

    However, the Ultimate Bluetooth controller is also compatible with the Nintendo Switch, while the Ultimate 2.4 works better with Android and Apple devices. The Ultimate Bluetooth controller is also equipped with superior control sticks that utilize hall effect sensors. This provides a smoother experience compared to the traditional Alps type of stick in the 2.4 controller.

    But the Ultimate Bluetooth controller defaults to the Nintendo Switch layout when it’s switched into Bluetooth mode, and the labels printed on the buttons are in the Nintendo Switch layout which differs from the Xbox. These default settings can be changed with 8bitdo’s configuration software.

    Both controllers come with a convenient charging dock that has a USB 2.4ghz receiver installed at the bottom. The receiver works inside of the dock provided the dock is connected to a computer through its USB-C port. But the receiver dongle can be removed for a more portable solution. Additionally the controllers can connect to a device directly via their own USB-C port. They can also charge through that connection.

    The Pro 2 controller, designed in a PlayStation layout, is my personal favorite. It combines the best of a Super Nintendo layout and Sony’s analog stick and handle design. The Pro 2 is more versatile in its compatibility, with a switch that allows easy transition between different modes, such as Switch, Android, Direct Input, and X Input. The Pro2 also works with the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV.

    The SN30 Pro, a smaller version of the Pro 2 that lacks the handles, offers similar features but lacks analog triggers. I found it works great for classic games but the lack of handles makes it less comfortable for games that rely on the analog sticks.

    8bitdo’s Ultimate Software allows users to fine-tune their controllers. From button remapping to adjusting stick sensitivity and trigger dead zones, the software provides a granular level of control. However the software is only compatible with the Ultimate controllers and the Pro 2 – not the SN30 Pro.

    Despite their strengths, these controllers do have limitations. The Ultimate Bluetooth controller’s compatibility is not as robust as the Pro 2, and none of these controllers work with Xbox or PlayStation consoles. Nevertheless, 8bitdo has come a long way in developing controllers that offer great features, performance and compatibility.

    Disclosure: The controllers featured in this post and video were provided to the channel free of charge by 8bitdo, however they did not review or approve the content before it was posted. 

    First Impressions of Lenovo’s Legion Go Gaming Handheld

    Last night I was invited to Lenovo’s launch event of their Legion Go handheld gaming PC. They sent me home with a review unit so I’ll have more to talk about soon, but I thought I would deliver my first impressions after playing with it for a little while. You can find it at Best Buy (compensated affiliate link) starting at $699.

    First and foremost this is a much better Steam Deck alternative vs. the Asus ROG Ally that I reviewed a few months ago. In my review I felt the Ally was “unpolished” but its performance was certainly a leg up over the Steam Deck especially as it could run many games at 1080p with decent framerates. The Ally also was running Windows which is especially attractive for those subscribed to Microsoft’s Game Pass service.

    Lenovo seems to have paid close attention to the market with the Legion Go and built a handheld with features that so far have been missing from the other big name handhelds.

    First it has a much larger 8.8″ display vs. the 7″ display on the Ally and Steam Deck. I didn’t think the Ally benefited much from its 1080p 7″ display, as even 720p games look pretty good on a screen that small. Like the Ally the Go has an AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor and performs roughly the same.

    What I like most about the Legion Go so far is that it adds some nice creature comforts missing from the current crop of PC handhelds. It has detachable controllers that work wirelessly. The right hand controller can even function as a joystick style mouse thanks to its optical sensor on the bottom. The Go has a sturdy kickstand that folds out from the back for standing it up on a desk or table.

    But the standout feature for me so far is that the Go comes equipped with two USB 4.0 ports running at 40 gigabits per second each. There’s one on the bottom and one on the top of the display. USB 4 is backwards compatible with Thunderbolt 3, so it’s possible to dock the Legion Go with an eGPU enclosure to boost its graphical performance. The ROG Ally had a fast expansion port but it only worked with proprietary Asus docks. The Lenovo device should work with just about anything.

    I still have a bunch of testing to do before I’ll be ready to post a review but my first impressions so far are very good. This is definitely the better Steam Deck alternative.

    Disclosure: I paid for my travel to the Lenovo launch event but they did provide me with a review unit free of charge. They did not review or approve this blog post before uploading.

    Hallmark Keepsake NES Ornament Review

    I am not a Christmas ornament collector, but I find myself continually drawn to purchasing these keepsake ornaments from Hallmark, especially when they tap into the nostalgia of my Gen X roots. Recently, Hallmark reissued one of their popular ornaments: the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). You can see it in action here in my latest review.

    Upon unboxing the ornament, I noticed the attention to detail that Hallmark has put into replicating the NES console. I have previously acquired the Sega Genesis and Dreamcast ornaments, and this NES one will fit in very nicely with the others. The ornament comes with pen batteries for sound and light, and the hook for hanging it is placed on the controllers, which are fixed to the top of the console.

    The ornament is a striking resemblance to the real Nintendo console. It includes a non-removeable Super Mario Brothers cartridge inside, complete with a working door. The power button works and will illuminate the LED power light and play some sounds from the original Super Mario Bros. The reset button is just for show. The back of the ornament features all the ports in their correct places, making it a very accurate representation of the retro console.

    The quantities of these ornaments are usually limited, so it’s wise to pick one up before they sell out. This NES ornament has quickly become one of my favorites in my collection.

    Value Packed Laptop: HP Pavilion Plus 14 (2023 / 14z-ey000) Review

    In my latest review, I take a look at the HP Pavilion Plus 14, a laptop that I think has a nice balance of cost and features.

    This laptop, which has just been released, starts at $799 (compensated affiliate link), with the model I reviewed priced at $919 (compensated affiliate link). It boasts a vibrant 14-inch OLED display with a 2.8k resolution (2880 by 1800) and a variable refresh rate of up to 120Hz. The display’s 16:10 aspect ratio provides ample screen height for web browsing and document editing, although it lacks touch capabilities.

    Inside, the HP Pavilion Plus 14 loaner we received is powered by a Ryzen 7 7840U processor, accompanied by 16GB of DDR5 RAM, which is soldered onto the motherboard. The entry level version also has 16GB of RAM but has a lower performing but still very capable Ryzen 5 7540U.

    The model I explored comes with a 1TB NVMe SSD, which is upgradable. Weighing in at 3.19 lbs and featuring an all-metal design, the laptop feels lightweight yet fairly sturdy. The keyboard is comfortable for typing, with well-spaced backlit keys. It lacks a finger printer sensor but it does support facial recognition through its 5-megapixel webcam.

    Speaking of the webcam, the onboard Ryzen processor supports some of Windows’ AI driven “studio effects” that bring OS level enhancements to the webcam image. This includes “eye contact” that attempts to nudge your eyes up higher when looking at the screen instead of the camera. You can see that in action in my review.

    In terms of connectivity, the laptop offers a modest selection of ports, including two USB Type-C ports, two USB-A ports, and an HDMI 2.1 port. The speakers deliver a surprisingly rich sound, and the laptop supports Wi-Fi 6E for fast and internet connectivity.

    During my testing, I found the laptop’s performance to be great for both work and casual gaming. Web browsing was swift, and the device handled basic video editing tasks smoothly in DaVinci Resolve.

    Gaming, too, was a pleasant experience, with titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 and No Man’s Sky running adequately at lower settings. The laptop’s 3DMark TimeSpy benchmark score was 2,712, indicating a performance level comparable to some dedicated GPUs from a few years ago.

    The laptop’s battery life is reasonable, offering 8 to 10 hours for basic tasks on the OLED model, although this can be significantly reduced during more intensive activities or with higher screen brightness. The LED display on the lower models might have slightly better battery life.

    The fan noise is minimal and usually only noticeable during heavy loads. It’s not very loud, especially compared to similar performing gaming laptops from a few years ago!

    I also tested the laptop’s compatibility with Linux and found that it ran Ubuntu seamlessly, with all key components such as Wi-Fi, video, Bluetooth, and audio being detected and functioning properly.

    In my experience, the HP Pavilion Plus 14 offers a solid value, especially considering its higher-end Ryzen processor, 120Hz OLED display, and portability. While it may not be categorized as a budget laptop, it finds its place as a reasonably priced mid-range option. Whether you opt for the base configuration or the higher-end model, you’re likely to find a device that balances performance and price effectively.

    Disclosure: HP loaned to the laptop to the channel for review. They did not review or approve the video before it was uploaded.

    Tutorial: Accessing Your Plex Server on a Personal VPN Like Tailscale

    In my latest sponsored Plex video, I delved into accessing a Plex server through a personal VPN like Tailscale. This curiosity was sparked by Apple’s recent update that allows the use of VPN clients on the Apple TV hardware natively, eliminating the need for any special hacks or tricks. Native VPN support is not exclusive to Apple TV and extends to several Android TV devices as well.

    The motivation behind using a personal VPN for Plex is simple: added security. For someone like me, who only shares the Plex server with myself, there’s no need to expose the server to the Internet. One of the advantages of Tailscale is that it works without exposing any ports on my router to the outside world.

    In the video I demo an Apple TV connecting to a Synology NAS located about 10 miles away at my mom’s house. This NAS, securely locked behind a router with no open ports, is inaccessible to the outside world but it is running the Tailscale VPN client.

    Once connected through my Tailscale network, the Plex server, which was previously inaccessible, became available. The experience was smooth, with a Blu-ray MKV file playing at 19 megabits per second over the internet without any transcoding. My mother has Frontier’s 500 megabit symmetrical fiber optic service at her house which worked seamlessly.

    Tailscale offers the advantage of limiting access to specific devices. For instance, I can choose to share only my Plex server with others without exposing the entire local network. Tailscale is free for up to 100 devices, making it a cost-effective solution for most users.

    Personal VPN clients like Tailscale are also available on mobile devices, providing the same seamless experience on the go. The compatibility with TV boxes makes it easier to take your Plex server off the public internet without losing functionality. It works well with Android TV, and while it’s doable on Fire TV, it may require sideloading. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with Roku at the moment.

    Personal VPNs are an option worth considering for Plex servers, especially for people who don’t share their Plex server with many people. It offers control and peace of mind, allowing you to enjoy your content wherever you are while keeping everything locked safely behind your firewall.

    Disclosure: This video was sponsored by Plex but they did not review or approve it before it was uploaded.