An Epic Eclipse at my Brother’s Maple Syrup Farm!

Last week we drove up to my brother Josh Seidman’s maple syrup farm to observe a full totality solar eclipse! I anticipated this trip for years knowing the eclipse would go right through his town on April 8th.

You can check out some cool time lapses and footage I took in my latest video. Sadly the YouTube algorithm doesn’t think my subscribers want to see this so hopefully you’ll give it a watch from this post!

Witnessing a full solar eclipse was an amazing experience. It is not only seen – it is also felt as the temperature drops, the wind shifts, and everything takes on an other worldly weirdness as the world get progressively darker. My favorite moment of the eclipse was watching my kids experience it!

Totality was stunning both in its beauty but also its very sudden arrival. As long as there’s a little sliver of sun there’s still some illumination, but once the moon fully covers up the sun it immediately turns to night. We could see solar prominences poking out for the three or so minutes that the eclipse was in totality. Then as quickly as the sunlight faded out, it began to fade back in as the moon moved out of the way.

The eclipse also coincided with the maple sugar season and Josh went right back to work in his sugar shack. In previous videos we took a look at how the maple sap goes from the trees into his shack, but this time we got to see the evaporating process in action! You can see it all in the video above.

Josh’s process is a mix of science, art, chemistry and flow control. It’s far from a mechanized process to get a perfect batch of syrup – it requires lots of focus, attention and a loving touch to get things just right.

You can check out Josh’s syrup at RuggedRidgeForest.com. His most popular offering is a sampler of different grades that can help you find the taste you’re looking for!

Logitech MX Brio Ultra HD Webcam Review

My latest review is of the Logitech MX Brio Ultra HD 4K Webcam. Having been a long-standing fan of Logitech’s cameras, my expectations were high, especially with my trusted C910 still in use after 14 years.

The MX Brio, priced at $199 (compensated affiliate link), is undeniably a premium offering. For the price you get a nice heavy metal design and glass lens.

The camera attaches to its mounting bracket magnetically. When detached you’ll find a tripod mount on the bottom of the camera. To secure the heavy camera on the back of a laptop, the mounting bracket features a micro-suction adhesive that helps keep it in place. The adhesive does not leave a residue and can be easily swapped from one display to the other. If it gets dirty a little water will refresh it.

Connectivity is seamless for computers with a USB Type-C port, and the included cable matches the camera’s level of build quality. But there is no USB-A adapter, so you’ll need to get a USB-C to USB-A cable or use an adapter.

Upon setup, the MX Brio’s image quality immediately stands out, delivering a maximum of 4k at 30 frames per second. 60 frames per second can be reached with a 1080p resolution. However, I encountered a challenge with LED lighting. Despite efforts to minimize flicker, banding was noticeable under my LED household lights. Turning off the camera’s HDR setting improved the situation but reduced the overall image quality.

Banding from LED lights

Particularly intriguing is the “show mode” for overhead demonstrations, an innovative feature for educators and presenters. When the camera is tilted down it flips the image to work as an overhead camera.

The microphones impress with crisp, clear audio that also have some noise reduction features. You can hear a demo of the microphones in my video above.

The Logitech Options and G Hub apps revealed a number of settings to fine-tune the webcam experience including exposure levels, white balance enhancement toggles and focus.

Despite its strengths, the MX Brio’s LED banding issue is a significant drawback for those in production. Yet, for Zoom meetings or casual use, it performs nicely, adjusting well to various lighting conditions. Logitech’s history of updates gives me hope for a firmware solution to the banding issue soon.

Frndly TV Review – A low cost “skinny bundle” streaming service

In my latest video, we take a look at Frndly TV, a service that positions itself as an affordable option for those looking to cut the cord with traditional cable services.

One of my biggest issues with TV streaming services is that they are not all that much more affordable versus a traditional cable subscription and ultimately have channels the consumer will pay for but never watch. Frndly picked out a few popular channels that are sometimes not found on other services and positioned themselves as the “add-on” to complement other streaming subscriptions and OTA watchers.

The service’s pricing structure is straightforward, offering annual billing options that provide a discount in exchange for a commitment. The entry-level “basic” plan streams only at standard definition and lacks DVR capabilities. The “classic” plan is the better value, offering HD resolution, two simultaneous streams, and 90-day DVR retention. The classic plan currently retails for $95.88 if purchased annually.

You can see a full breakdown here (compensated affiliate link).

The channel lineup of Frndly TV, though limited when compared to more expansive streaming services, includes a mix of popular channels such as A&E, History, Lifetime and the Hallmark Channel. The full channel lineup can be found on their website. (affiliate link)

Frndly TV has apps for a wide array of devices, from Android and iOS mobile devices to various smart TVs and streaming sticks. Unfortunately LG televisions are not supported right now so a low cost Roku or Fire TV would be needed.

The service promotes ease of use, featuring a traditional channel guide for live television alongside features such as a 72-hour lookback, which allows viewers to access recently aired content without having to set up a recording.

Frndly does not offer profiles, meaning all users on an account share viewing preferences and recommendations. This lack of personalization might detract from the experience for those accustomed to more sophisticated streaming platforms.

The on-demand and DVR capabilities of Frndly TV offer flexibility in content consumption, with options to record future episodes of shows or access a range of on-demand content from specific networks. It neatly organizes recorded, lookback, and on-Demand content into TV show landing pages with an easy to navigate interface. You can see how it all works in my video above.

Overall Frndly fills a void for those looking to piece together their cord cutting solution by offering a few specific cable networks. At this price it’s unlikely the service will expand much beyond its current offering but if they’re able to sustain the offering over time it’ll be a nice part of the ecosystem.

GMKTech K8 Nucbox Mini PC Revew – With Ryzen 8845HS Processor

My latest review is of the GMKtec K8 “NucBox” Mini PC, featuring a Ryzen 8845HS processor. Priced around $649—with potential discounts available on platforms like Amazon—this mini PC merges notable performance with a compact form factor. But it has some shortcomings in networking and USB 4.0 performance.

Upon unboxing, I found the K8 to lack the metal design of some of the other Mini PC’s we’ve looked at lately. However, the real appeal of this device lies beneath its modest exterior. Equipped with that Ryzen processor, 32 GB of DDR5 5600 RAM, upgradable to 64 GB, and a 1 TB NVMe SSD with room for expansion, the K8 provides great performance for its price point.

Connectivity options on the K8 are similar to other Mini PCs, with a mix of USB 4.0, USB 3, and USB 2 ports, alongside dual 2.5 Gb Ethernet ports and multiple video output choices. However, during my testing, I encountered issues in the performance disparities between the Ethernet ports and found the USB 4.0 port’s throughput to fall short of its advertised 40 Gb/s capability.

The K8 comes with an activated copy of Windows 11 Pro. Like many PC makers, GMKTec found a loophole in the Microsoft licensing process which means that you will only be allowed to create a local account when first booting up.

The K8 proved itself as a capable for video editing, handling a simple 4K 60fps project effectively without any hiccups or lag running DaVinci Resolve.

Gaming on the K8 was a pleasant surprise; titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 and No Man’s Sky ran well at 1080p, showcasing the integrated GPU’s capabilities. While we couldn’t hit consistent 60 FPS rates, most games are comfortably over 30. Emulation performance was equally impressive, with the Dolphin Emulator running demanding titles at full frame rates.

Benchmarking further validated the K8’s performance credentials, positioning it alongside more expensive systems from just a few years ago equipped with dedicated GPUs. The stress test results showed minimal thermal throttling under load, though fan noise became noticeable during intensive tasks.

The K8’s versatility extends to Linux compatibility, with my tests on Ubuntu showing excellent hardware support out of the box. This adaptability makes the K8 a suitable candidate for a range of applications including home labs.

While the K8 may not be the perfect fit for users with high throughput demands for external storage and networking, its performance, upgradability, and competitive pricing make it a decent option for a variety of users. As with any purchase in this category, prospective buyers should weigh the balance of performance, price, and potential compromises to determine if the K8 meets their specific needs and expectations.

Disclaimer: GMKTec provided the Mini PC to the channel free of charge. However they did not review or approve the review before it was uploaded nor was any additional compenstation received.

Wyze Cam V4 Review

Last week Wyze released the latest iteration of their low cost camera, which they call the “The Wyze Cam V4.” I checked it out in a recent review.

Like before it retails for around $30. That purchase price used to get a lot more bang for the buck, including cloud storage and AI features but those added functions now cost extra.

The Wyze subscription is priced at $3 per camera per month or via an unlimited subscription at $99 a year. In fairness the subscription isn’t all that expensive, but many original Wyze customers are put-off by once free features that are now locked behind a paywall. Wyze still gives customers the option to use an SD card for continuous or event-only recording to avoid the subscription fee.

The camera’s design maintains its plastic weatherproof design, allowing it to withstand outdoor conditions. It operates through USB power, with the package including a sufficiently long cable, though longer options are available for outdoor setups. A notable upgrade in this model is the visual quality, transitioning to 1440p resolution from the previous 1080p, enhancing both daytime and nighttime surveillance capabilities. It also now has an LED spotlight that can help its color night vision features extract more visual information.

Through the accompanying Wyze app, users can control the camera and review footage easily. Wyze subscribers can review footage in a single tap, but SD card footage review takes a few more taps and requires a connection to the camera be established. In addition to the lack of off-site cloud storage, non-subscribers also do not get the very useful AI detection feature for persons, pets, and vehicles.

I found the image quality to be a nice step-up from the previous iterations of the cameras. They are so inexpensive that it doesn’t take much of an investment to cover an entire property or add more to existing infrastructure. They’re also compatible with IFTTT, Amazon and Google so they can be integrated with other equipment too.

We’ll have some more Wyze related product reviews coming soon. Stay tuned to this playlist!

Disclosure: Wyze sent these cameras to the channel free of charge. However they did not review or approve this video before it was uploaded, and no other compensation was received.

Hagibis Magsafe NVME SSD Hard Drive Enclosure Review

I recently had the chance to review the Hagibis external solid state drive enclosure, a device that magnetically attaches to the back of an iPhone—or an Android phone with an adapter—allowing for video recording directly onto an external drive. You can see my full video review here.

The enclosure is designed to house a 2230 NVMe SSD which is not included. The choice of NVME SSD is important as the iPhone as very strict power requirements for externally attached drives. Hagibis put together a helpful video with a number of popular SSDs to see which ones work best. The enclosure itself is equipped with a sizable capacitor to mitigate potential power issues.

In my research, I learned that not all NVMe drives are created equal in terms of power consumption. A Kingston drive I initially considered was too power-hungry for the iPhone’s restrictions. But I did find a Lexar drive (compensated affiliate link) that, despite not advertising its power consumption, performed admirably within the setup.

The Hagibis enclosure also offers external power input through an additional USB-C port, a feature that ensures recording isn’t interrupted by power issues. This provides the option to mount additional accessories, like a battery pack, to provide the drive adequate power and charge the phone while recording.

But that power port doesn’t work for data transfer, so users looking to connect external microphones or other peripherals will need to explore alternative solutions like a USB-C hub.

Recording video directly to the SSD is an easy process now on compatible iPhones. Enabling Apple ProRes in the camera settings allows for external recording to automatically occur when the drive is attached, although the size of these files are enormous. During my tests, the Lexar drive and enclosure combo maintained its performance without any noticeable hiccups or frame drops, even during extended recording sessions.

Blackmagic’s awesome new (and free) camera app also supports recording externally with the drive. In addition to providing additional manual controls the Blackmagic app also allows for compressed video formats to be recorded vs. just ProRes on the native Apple app.

Testing the enclosure with Android devices revealed similar flexibility and functionality. Open Camera, an app I used on a Pixel 8 Pro, supported external video recording to the SSD. I’m sure there are other apps available too.

The Hagibis enclosure is a promising tool for video enthusiasts looking to expand their recording capabilities without being tethered to the limited storage of their smartphones. Its magnetic design, combined with the practicality of external SSD storage, brings a lot of convenience and efficiency to mobile video production.