Remembering Super Cheap and Super Fast Shipping in the Pre-Internet Early 90s

One of the many feeds in my RSS reader is from the Internet Archive’s Computer Magazines collection. Every so often they’ll dump a bunch of scans of popular computing and gaming magazines into the archive.

This morning some new (old) Mac User magazines made their way to the archive and I virtually thumbed through a few editions. One of the ads reminded me of one of the coolest parts of 90’s computing: super fast and super cheap overnight shipping from mail-order retailers.

One of my favorites was the “Mac Zone” and “PC Zone.” They were located on the West Coast of the USA. With me being on the East Coast I could call them at 4 p.m. my time and often have items delivered to me here in Connecticut by the next morning. The best part? Shipping was only $3! Even adjusting for inflation that’s still super cheap for next day delivery.

Other retailers like the Mac & PC Connection also had attractive freight rates like this. Most of them used “Airborne Express,” a competitor to FedEx (known as Federal Express back then). Airborne Express was later acquired by DHL.

The Mac and PC Zone is still around today. Known simply as “Zones,” they mostly cater to the B2B market offering IT equipment and services. They still have the same toll-free number! The PC and Mac Connection is also still around. They too pivoted more towards the B2B market.

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.

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!

    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.

    ATSC 3.0 DRM Absurdity Continues with Zapperbox’s DRM Plans

    I just received the below email from Zapperbox .. Apparently it will soon allow for decrypting DRM protected over the air TV channels.

    BUT – existing customers need to have Zapperbox customer service log in remotely and unattended to enable it. Yes – you essentially open full control to your Zapperbox (an Android TV device underneath) and give a stranger full and unattended access at at a time that’s convenient to them.

    Presumably they have some root level control of it too. I’m more than a bit nervous about that since they don’t tell you when they’ll be accessing it or what kind of access their customer service representatives will have to the device or your local network.

    And after that ? You guessed it – you need an active Internet connection to watch over the air TV. And it won’t record DRM protected channels initially. A future firmware update will not require an internet connection they say. But in the near term, Internet will once again be required to watch over the air television using an antenna.

    If you’re curious about the Zapperbox you can see my initial review here. I’ll be updating my box to the DRM capability and will do a followup soon.

    Recent Media Appearances

    In addition to the work I do on my own channel I also show up in other places too! Last week I appeared on WTIC AM radio here in Connecticut talking about Amazon’s Prime Deal Days along with a number of other topics.

    And as I announced a few months ago I started working with the folks at NASASpaceFlight.com on some of their live coverage of Space related events. On Friday I covered the launch of the Psyche mission aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket.

    And earlier today I co-hosted their livestream of the Annular Solar Eclipse that took place across portions of the United States today!

    My Longest Ham Radio Contact Yet!

    Every morning when I’m having my coffee I like to make a few amateur radio contacts with other operators throughout the world. This morning I noticed that my signals were reaching into Australia from my home here in Connecticut!

    These signals were being logged by other amateur operators running the WSJTX software that listens for transmissions generated using the FT8 protocol.

    I immediately sent a Tweet (or whatever X calls them these days) to my friend Hayden who runs the awesome Hamradio DX YouTube channel. He’s located in Tasmania, an island off the southern coast of Australia. He fired up his rig and we were able to reach each other!

    FT8 is a specialized digital communications mode that can send limited messages over very long distances. The combination of the signal’s characteristics and the WSJTX software makes these transmissions readable even when a human listening may only hear static. Hayden’s software reported receiving my signal at -15db which is actually pretty good given the distance involved.

    What’s most impressive is that these signals are not being relayed through satellites or the Internet. This is a direct point-to-point communication with the signal bouncing off the atmosphere. These super long range communications won’t happen every day, but when atmospheric conditions are right these long distance contacts are possible as we demonstrated.

    To find out more check out Hayden’s channel where I learned a lot about radio technology when I was just getting started out. And of course you can take a look at my growing playlist of amateur radio topics including a video where I detail how FT8 works.

    ADTH Tuner Firmware Update Still Does Not Encrypt the HDMI Port

    Last week I reviewed the new ADTH ATSC 3 TV tuner, the first external device that can decrypt DRM protected TV stations.

    I discovered in the review that the ADTH is not protecting the HDMI output which is required according to the ATSC 3.0 DRM specifications. Some asked if recent firmware updates corrected this oversight.

    After updating my box this morning my Windows laptop equipped with an Elgato Camlink USB HDMI capture device is still able to record encrypted stations:

    Tesla’s New Model 3 Has a ’93 Ford Probe Interior Vibe

    When I was a kid I had a 1993 Ford Probe. I loved that car – it was affordable, durable, and looked great both inside and out. The 1993 Probe was a significant update from the version of the car Ford sold from 1988 through 1992.

    One of the signatures of the ’93 Probe was its wrap-around interior, with a cool red line that circled interior of the car. Check it out:

    Earlier today Tesla announced their updated Model 3 that features an interior refresh that looks a bit familiar!

    The Tesla being 30 years into the future uses an LED accent light for its wrap-around trim vs. the Probe’s static piece of plastic. But having spent six years in that Probe throughout high school and college it was hard not to immediately see the resemblance!

    TechHive Picks Up our ATSC 3.0 Encryption Story

    As many of you know Tyler the Antennaman and I have been on a mission to inform the public about the rapid encryption of what used to be free over the air television. To date we’ve had 7,600 people sign our petition to the FCC and added 2,000 new comments to the FCC’s docket about the issue.

    TechHive this week covered the issue with an extensive piece that uncovers just how restrictive the DRM will be:

    • For DVR, broadcasters can set expiration dates on recordings or even block them outright. It’s unclear if broadcasters will do this, but ATSC 3.0 gives them the capability.
    • ATSC 3.0’s DRM has latency restrictions that effectively block out-of-home viewing from networked tuners such as the HDHomeRun Flex 4K.
    • Users will need an internet connection to stream local broadcasts around the home, for instance from an HDHomeRun tuner to a Roku player, and an occasional internet connection might be required for external tuner boxes.
    • Recordings won’t work without the original tuner that captured the programming, effectively preventing users from transferring programs they’ve recorded on a DVR to other devices, such as a laptop or tablet for away-from-home viewing.
    • With an HDHomeRun tuner, third-party apps must get independently certified to play encrypted ATSC 3.0 content. It’s unclear if programs such as Channels and Plex will do so.

    It’s clear to see that broadcasters are eager to only provide the bare minimum live viewing experience to antenna viewers who don’t want to pay their exorbitant broadcast fees.

    Let’s not forget that these stations don’t own the public airwaves that they want to turn into a toll road. We the taxpayers do. How does this serve the public benefit?

    Read more in the TechHive article.

    I Upgraded the Storage on my Production PC with a Great Crucial NVME Prime Day Deal

    Ever since I switched my production workflow to 4k I’ve been meaning to upgrade the internal storage drive on my Vmix computer to a higher capacity drive. It’s not unusual for a single recording session to rack up 200GB or more of raw footage.

    I’ve been using a 1 TB Samsung SSD for the job and it has performed admirably since I built my system three years ago. But during Amazon Prime Day I got a great deal on a 4 TB Crucial NVME drive. It’s still pretty reasonably priced now too.

    Crucial has carved out a nice segment of the SSD market for people looking for high capacity storage that don’t necessarily need the fastest performance. This drive is very much in that market segment, delivering reads and writes at “only” about 2.6 gigabytes per second.

    Newer drives running on the Gen 4 and 5 standards are almost exponentially faster, but this much capacity in drives that fast are prohibitively expensive for this YouTuber who works out of his basement. And as you can see here this low spec device can easily handle the 4k 30 video I record and beyond too.

    Crucial also makes portable SSDs in this lower cost market segment. For example their X6 drive is priced very close to similar capacity spinning hard drives and delivers many of the speed advantages of an SSD. Are they as fast as some of the gaming and professionally oriented drives out there? No, but for many consumers they are more than adequate for the task.

    Crucial is a sub-brand of Micron Technology, a well established chip maker that was founded in 1978. Micron manufactures the flash memory in their drives which helps keep costs in check. They used to make some pretty nice and affordable PCs in the 90’s too. In fact my very first PC laptop was a Micron XKE-233 that I reviewed a little while back on the channel.

    I’ll be shooting some video on this new drive tomorrow so we’ll see how it holds up in the production environment. Stay tuned!

    Happy Prime Day! Livestream Schedule

    It’s Black Friday in July as the Amazon two-day sale event has kicked off. I will be livestreaming on Amazon today at 10:00 a.m. eastern for a great deal on a Ryzen 7735HS 32GB RAM Mini Gaming PC followed by an unboxing of some neat Plugable Accessories at 2:00 p.m. eastern complete with a live interview of their CEO, and we’ll wrap things up with a 7:00 p.m. stream detailing Amazon devices – including a live demo of their new 11″ Max Tablet. 

    You can follow me on Amazon by clicking any of the above links or visiting my Amazon page here. I’ll also be simulcasting on the YouTube channel. 

    The makers of the mini gaming PC passed along an additional 5% discount code which brings its price well below $500. If you can’t wait for the stream the code is LONTVLLC.  You can find the PC by going to the livestream page

    Back to the Echo Chamber: All That’s Wrong with Threads Right Now

    User counts don’t matter much when comparing Threads to Twitter. Quality is what matters and I’m not seeing much of it on Threads at the moment.

    Instagram has over 2 billion active users a month so it’s no wonder why Threads has as many users as it does already. Twitter is considerably smaller at only 237 million. It’s surprising Threads’ number isn’t larger given how little friction there is for existing Instagram users to set up an account.

    The iPhone is a good comparative here: Apple has only 20% of the smartphone market yet makes sizable profits and drives much of the industry’s innovation. You don’t need to the biggest to be the best.

    So why is Meta doing this? It’s the quality and level of influence that Twitter’s much smaller user base has, with a bulk of those users driving what the media talks about. Will these Twitter users jump ship? Likely not unless Meta builds something that’s better than Twitter to attract those users.

    It appears as though Meta is putting its algorithmic fingers on the scale already in an effort to lock these influencers in, picking and choosing the winners here by promoting content from “verified” celebrity and media accounts over the rest of us. Every time I open the app that’s all I see on my front page, mostly from accounts I’m not following. This is no doubt a means of trying to demonstrate to celebrity users that they’ll have similar reach on Threads that they currently enjoy on Twitter. But it’s artifical.

    These same celebrity users were complaining when Twitter’s new CEO Elon Musk put a stop to a similar strategy that stifled independent voices. The existing “blue checks” all threatened to leave but few did and Twitter’s traffic and engagement actually increased.

    Meta’s verification process is as arbitrary as Twitter 1.0’s process where most smaller independent creators are left out of algorithmic recommendations. It’s also not clear if paying for Meta’s verification program gets you better placement in the algorithm. Either way it appears as though Meta’s strategy here is to build back the echo chamber lost when Twitter changed hands.

    Will it be enough to kill Twitter? Probably not but they’ll likely build a decent ecosystem of Instagram users who want to share external links – something Instagram currently restricts.

    My Local Media Appearances Talking About Threads

    Meta/Facebook/Instagram’s new social media app Threads dropped the other day and has already attracted tens of millions of users. This is partly because the sign up process for existing Instagram users requires just a single click to get going.

    Yesterday I appeared on WTIC-AM radio and WTIC/Fox 61 here in Connecticut to talk about the app and whether or not Twitter has anything to worry about.

    Here’s the Fox 61 appearance:

    And my radio interview with Brian Shactman on WTIC is here: