Broadcasters seek FCC regulation of streaming providers

Broadcasters in the United States are now petitioning the FCC and Congress to regulate streaming platforms like YouTube TV, potentially driving up costs for consumers. You can learn more in my latest video.

At issue here is the retransmission negotiation dynamics between broadcasters and streaming providers. Unlike cable services, streaming services currently negotiate content fees directly with networks rather than local affiliates. This means local channels like your ABC or NBC affiliates must go through their national networks for re-transmission fees, which they believe sells them short. By contrast, federal law requires that cable providers negotiate directly with local broadcasters.

Even without this regulation the costs of streaming TV services have surged over the years, very much in line with the increase cost of cable. Take YouTube TV, for instance; what started as a $35 monthly service now costs $73. This hike is largely attributed to the rising costs of content—networks charge more, so streaming services must adjust their fees accordingly.

Opposing the local broadcasters are the streaming providers who have joined forces with the broadcast networks. Both sides have created astroturfed websites complete with .org URLs. The broadcasters founded the “Coalition for Local News” in an effort to appeal to members of Congress who like to see their faces on TV, and the streamer/network alliance launched their consumer focused “Preserve Viewer Choice Coalition.”

With both sides poised to fight fiercely, a negotiated compromise might be the path forward, though this, too, will likely lead to higher costs for consumers. The looming question is whether consumers will reach a tipping point, opting to cut not just the cable cord but the streaming one as well.

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.

Fanless Mini PC Review: The Minix Z100-0db

My latest mini PC review takes a look at the Minix Z100-0db, a fanless Mini PC powered by an Intel N100 Alder Lake processor.

Minix’s new offering stands out for its silent operation, courtesy of its robust heat sink that radiates out to the top of the case. The PC feels like a solid block of metal weighing in at over 2 pounds or 900+grams.

It performs surprisingly well given its price point thanks to the N100 inside. Our review unit came with 16GB of DDR4 RAM on a single stick along with a 512GB NVME. RAM, storage, and the WiFi card can be upgraded. It comes equipped with an Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 card.

Port selection on the Z100-0db is adequate, featuring a data only USB-C port along with two USB-A ports running at USB 3 Gen 2 speeds, another pair at USB 2.0 speeds, a microSD card reader, dual HDMI outputs for 4K 60hz displays, and a single 2.5 gigabit ethernet port. The ethernet port worked at the full 2.5 gig bandwidth but the WiFi was running about 300 megabits per second below what was expected on the downstream. Upstream Wifi speeds were fine.

Windows 11 Pro comes pre-installed, providing a clean, bloatware-free experience right out of the box. Given some security issues we’ve seen with other MiniPCs I ran a few full malware and virus scans and everything came up clean here.

The Mini PC handles web browsing and office tasks with ease, demonstrating the capability of the Intel N100 processor to manage day-to-day activities efficiently.

Gaming and emulation tests were also good. This isn’t a gaming powerhouse by any means, it handles older games and emulation remarkably well, running titles like Half-Life 2 and PlayStation 2 games smoothly. Its performance in benchmarks and stress tests further underscores its stability and efficiency under load with no thermal throttling detected.

The Z100-0db also excels in running Linux, with Ubuntu detecting all hardware out of the box and providing a seamless experience for users interested in a dual-boot setup or dedicated Linux machine.

I’ve been looking at Mini PCs for the better part of a decade now. It’s great to see not only performance increasing year over year but also how it’s still possible to get great performance out of a completely silent fanless PC.

See more mini PC reviews here!

Disclosure: The Z100 was provided to the channel free of charge by Minix. However they did not review or approve this video before it was uploaded, nor was any additional compensation received. All opinions are my own.

Serving Plex Media to Legacy Devices via DLNA

In this month’s sponsored Plex video, I explore an older feature of Plex that connects your media to legacy devices like old TVs and media players through Plex’s support for DLNA. This makes it possible to browse and consume media from your Plex server while making use of all of the metadata stored in your Plex libraries.

The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) was established in 2003 by a group of technology companies aiming to create a standardized framework for sharing digital media across devices. DLNA has been widely adopted by manufacturers and software developers in the decades since.

The process begins with enabling the DLNA server function within the Plex web app’s server settings. Once activated, the Plex server can communicate with any DLNA-compatible device on the network, making it discoverable to a wide range of electronics, regardless of their manufacture date.

I conducted a demonstration using DLNA Browser on a Windows laptop to mimic the experience on a TV or audio device. The interface presented options to explore video, music, or photo libraries stored on the Plex server. One key point is that DLNA does not incorporate authentication, which means all shared media on the Plex server becomes accessible to anyone on the same network.

For video playback, Plex’s DLNA server allows browsing by key metadata points like genres, directors, actors, etc. You can of course also just browse media alphabetically and even dive into the folders stored on your server. The server will assign playback history to the main user on the server but will not store playback progress.

The music playback functionality through DLNA stands out, especially for high-quality audio files. Modern audio devices that don’t have support for a Plex client, including my home theater receiver, can access and play lossless audio files directly from the Plex server, complete with album art and metadata. This feature is particularly valuable for audiophiles with extensive digital music libraries. Unlike video playback history is not stored, however.

Despite its benefits, DLNA integration isn’t without challenges. Older devices may struggle with newer media formats, requiring manual configuration for transcoding—a process that ensures media compatibility but may demand a more technical setup.

DLNA is not just limited to legacy devices either. One viewer wrote in to tell me they use it with their Meta Quest headset to access their media. Many modern televisions will also pick up your Plex media server and present it within the native TV interface too.

Plex’s DLNA feature can bridge between past and present technology, offering a practical solution for extending the life of older devices through access to modern digital media libraries.

Backbone One 2nd Generation Smartphone Controller Review

My favorite smartphone game controller was the original Backbone One that I first reviewed back in 2021. The controller was the first product for Backbone and I was impressed with its design and overall quality. But it was designed to only work with iPhones that were available at the time of its release and the company had to rush to produce adapters for newer phones. I had to 3D print my own adapter to get it to work with the iPhone 13 Pro!

To address these issues, and expand compatibility to non-Apple phones, Backbone recently introduced their 2nd generation controller which is the subject of my latest review. The hardware is as good as ever, but unfortunately Backbone is holding back features from users who don’t subscribe to their ongoing Backbone+ service.

The Backbone One 2nd Gen comes with a price tag of $99, although they do go on sale from time to time – for example right now it’s selling for $79 at Best Buy (compensated affiliate link).

The 2nd generation controller is available in a USB-C variant for the iPhone 15 and up and Android phones along with a lightning variant for older iPhones. Its design closely mirrors that of its predecessor, which I found quite satisfactory. This new version, however, extends support to a broader range of phone sizes, especially those encased in protective covers, addressing one of the original model’s significant limitations.

Like before the build quality rivals the Nintendo Switch in terms of thumbstick feel and button responsiveness. The thumbsticks don’t have much travel but they also don’t have much of a deadzone either. I like the D-pad quite a bit and found it to be accurate, responsive and lacking any errant diagonals. I tested it on both iOS and Android and the experience was a seamless one on both platforms. The controller fit very comfortably in my hand too.

The controller has a male USB-C connector that connects to the smartphone, along with a second female charge-only USB-C connector on the bottom of the controller to allow for pass-through charging. There is also a 3.5mm headphone jack on the other side of the controller.

As for smartphone fit, Backbone includes two pairs of magnetically attachable spacers to accommodate various phone sizes. Phones with thicker cases work best with no spacers installed.

But as great as the hardware is, Backbone is locking some of its feature set behind an expensive paywall called the Backbone+ subscription. This subscription, priced variably by region but estimated at around $30 to $50 annually, locks away features such as compatibility with PCs, Macs, and iPads, higher frame rate video capture, cloud video storage and social chat features that were once free on the prior version.

Backbone did grandfather in owners of their original controllers who set up an account with them, but everyone else will have to pay up. While I can understand paywalling cloud video storage, locking out a key hardware feature like tablet and computer compatibility is not a good look for a company trying to establish itself in the gaming market.

Because I was the owner of the previous Backbone controller I was able to get it to work with my PC without having to pay for a subscription. There is a setting to enable that compatibility in the Backbone app on the phone, and the controller then works on the PC when it’s connected through its USB-C port on the base. Once connected it appears as a standard x-input device.

Overall I found the 2nd gen Backbone One controller to be excellent from a hardware standpoint, but I’m very disappointed that the company is locking away functionality behind a subscription paywall. Gamers are some of the most discerning consumers in the marketplace, and this is something that will end up costing them more revenue than they’ll ever gain through a recurring fee.

ATSC 3 Update – The Arduous Zinwell Box Update Process

Navigating the arduous update process of the Zinwell ATSC 3.0 tuner shows just how much complexity ATSC 3 DRM’s requirements have brought to free over the air television. I run through the update in my latest video.

As I referenced in my initial review, the update process is anything but simple. The instruction to press a specific settings key, when the remote itself houses two, sets the stage for a complex journey. The update requires navigating deep inside the otherwise hidden Android interface to initiate a sideloading of the updater app followed by the update itself.

This complexity is magnified when considering their target market are users who are not technologically savvy. This also further erodes the marketing promise that this device does not require an Internet connection to operate. Unfortunately frequent changes to the ATSC 3.0 DRM will require frequent firmware updates to keep the television channels working.

Despite the complexity, the update introduced some notable improvements, such as an up-to-date Android security patch level and a new signal strength indicator. However, these improvements are somewhat overshadowed by the convoluted process required to install them.

The introduction of a slightly simplified update process through its TV tuner app marks a step in the right direction, albeit a small one. The tuner app will drop users off on the same updater apps they currently have to load manually. It does not appear future updates will happen automatically and it’s not clear what the update process will look like in the future.

The complexity and frequent updates required by devices like the Zinwell ATSC 3.0 Box just to maintain compatibility with unnecessary encryption serve as a reminder of the challenges that consumers will face when it comes to tuning free TV in the near future.

If you haven’t already, please reach out to the FCC and register your complaint. They seem very eager to extend their regulatory powers to the Internet, but are showing less of a desire to exercise their existing regulatory authority of the public airwaves.

I met William Shatner and an Astronaut at the Premiere of “You Can Call Me Bill!”

A big thank you to my decades-long friend Antonio Peronace for inviting me along to the premiere of William Shatner’s new movie You Can Call Me Bill in NYC this weekend! One of the highlights was meeting the man himself and getting a picture with him!

The highlight of the day (in addition to meeting Captain Kirk of course) was also getting to meet and chat with citizen astronaut Dr. Sian Proctor, who was one of the citizen astronauts who flew on the first all civilian Inspiration 4 mission in 2021.

A 45 minute Q&A session followed the film mc’ed by Neil DeGrasse Tyson with Shatner and the film’s director Alexandre O. Philippe. Shatner, who turns 93 this week, was just as energetic and sharp as ever. He kept Degrasse Tyson on his toes throughout the session with the audience eating it up.

Their stealthy photographer also caught me enjoying the show with this shot appearing on their LinkedIn post of the event:

My friend Antonio is the new Executive Director of Space for Humanity, a non-profit that aims to send every day people into space. They are a sponsor of the film as Shatner had a life changing experience aboard a Blue Origin in 2022. Space For Humanity sent up their first participant, also on a Blue Origin flight, that year as well.

Asus Zenbook 14 OLED Review Q415MA / Q425MA

My latest video takes a look at a pretty affordable 14″ Asus laptop that comes equipped with an OLED display and starts at $799 (compensated affiliate link).

The review loaner I received came equipped with an Intel Core Ultra 5 125h processor, 8GB of DDR5 RAM and a 512GB NVME SSD. Given what these new Intel chips are capable of, I would recommend the 16 GB variant that will make the most of the processor’s capabilities. For light duty work this model is fine, but if you’re looking to do casual gaming and moderate video editing the $1049 (affiliate link) version is going to perform better.

The laptop’s OLED display, a highlight of the device, didn’t disappoint. Like most OLEDs it has a great contrast ratio and vivid colors along with meeting 100% of the DCI-P3 color space for creative work. It’s running with a 1080p equivalent resolution at 1920 by 1200 pixels at 60hz.

While the display’s brightness peaks at 380 nits it has a peak brightness of 500 nits in HDR mode. ASUS implemented several features to mitigate the OLED’s inherent burn-in risk which I detail in the video review.

Weighing in at a comfortable 2.82 lbs and constructed from aluminum, the Zenbook 14 OLED feels both lightweight and durable. The laptop’s design facilitates easy opening with one hand which is a nice bonus. The onboard 1080p webcam, with its privacy shutter, delivers clear imagery, while the speakers offer surprisingly rich sound quality.

The keyboard and trackpad are decent providing a comfortable and responsive input experience. Port selection on the Zenbook is adequate, featuring two full service Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI output, and a USB-A port.

Performance-wise, the Zenbook 14 OLED navigates everyday tasks quite well, from web browsing to streaming video, thanks to its Core Ultra processor and Wi-Fi 6E radio. While the 8GB RAM model manages basic video editing and playing older games, those seeking to push the device’s limits should consider the 16GB variant, especially for more demanding games and creative work. In addition to the extra RAM capacity the 16GB version’s RAM also runs at a faster clock speed.

Battery life is good, with the laptop handling 8 to 10 hours on a single charge for standard use.

The Zenbook 14 OLED got a failing grade on the 3DMark Stress Test at 93%, which means that under heavy sustained load it’ll lose about 7% of its overall performance. The fan though isn’t too noisy and under most standard use cases it is not even audible.

Linux enthusiasts might face challenges with the latest version of Ubuntu failing to detect most of the hardware. This will likely improve with bios and driver updates in the future. .

In wrapping up, the ASUS Zenbook 14 OLED emerges as a compelling option for those in search of a mid-range laptop that doesn’t compromise on display quality or build. While the base model serves well for general use, investing in the variant with enhanced RAM and processing power unlocks the full potential of this versatile device.

Disclosure: the laptop was provided to the channel on loan from Asus. They did not sponsor the video nor did they review or approve the review before it was uploaded.

No, the FCC Did Not Increase Your Internet Speed.. But they do want to regulate it.

Recently, the FCC made headlines with an announcement that ostensibly seemed to require an imminent increase in internet speeds for American consumers. Yet, the reality is far more nuanced and requires a deeper understanding of what broadband means in a regulatory context, and how the FCC’s declaration has no teeth in a largely unregulated marketplace.

In my latest video, we dive into why the FCC made this declaration and some of the politics driving it.

In the commissions first adopted broadband assessment since 2015, they raised the standard for what should be considered high speed internet to 100 megabits per second downstream and 20 megabits per second upstream. The previous definition was 20 megabits down and 3 megabits up.

But this report is really more about tracking the rollout of broadband infrastructure in the United States, something the FCC is mandated to do per the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Congress set a goal of getting every American connected to broadband that year, and despite billions of taxpayer dollars going to telecommunications companies over the decades, nearly 45 million people still lack access to the minimum broadband specification in their communities. Or do they?

The FCC report excluded satellite services, even though most of the areas not covered by wireline broadband are within SpaceX Starlink’s service area. Starlink’s Internet service also meets the FCC’s newly defined minimum specifications for a broadband connection. The FCC’s two Republican commissioners voted against adopting the report because of this exclusion.

In their dissenting opinions, the Republican commissioners argue that by excluding Starlink and thus making the nation’s broadband rollout appear stalled, the Democrats on the commission are laying a foundation by which they can impose heavier regulation on Internet Service providers. This is because the 1996 telecommunication law requires the FCC to “take immediate action to accelerate deployment” if the agency issues a negative report on broadband access.

And the FCC is doing just that. On a similar 3-2 vote in November, the FCC began the process of re-classifying ISPs under Title II rules. The FCC previously moved ISPs into the Title II category during the Obama administration over net neutrality concerns which was later reversed by the Trump administration.

But Title II regulation can go far deeper than just net neutrality, including regulating pricing, requiring ISPs to provide access to remote areas, and much more. The Republicans argue that the market will take care of these things and no further regulation is needed. The Democrats say that after three decades of “light touch” regulation the broadband rollout has not achieved the 1996 goal of universal access.

But is it necessary to apply Title II everywhere? I think a more balanced approach is needed. In my area we went from one provider (Comcast) to now having five with potentially more on the way – all meeting and exceeding the minimum broadband standards with no data caps. Do we need regulation here? Likely not.

But there are parts of the country that still only have one provider that may not meet the broadband standard, applies expensive data caps on service, and holds back infrastructure investments. Perhaps regulating markets like this and lifting regulations when competitors enter those markets might be a smarter approach.

And it may not be necessary for Title II to apply either. In the 1996 law, the FCC has the ability to impose price caps, remove regulatory red-tape that prevents competitors from accessing pole attachments along with other regulatory powers to encourage competition and market choice. It is not clear how much of those powers the FCC has exercised over the years.

I’m sure there will be more to come on this topic! Stay tuned.

My Latest Temu Haul Looks at $85 Worth of Cheap Gadgets

For some reason online schlock house Temu.com continues to ask me to check out their gadget offerings despite the less than stellar experiences we’ve had in previous videos. My latest haul, consisting of about $85 worth of stuff, found some useful devices but many fall into the “penny wise and pound foolish” category.

You can see it all here. All the links below are affiliate links.

First on my list was a foldable Bluetooth keyboard, priced at $18.70, that caught my eye with its promise of combining convenience and technology. Despite its potential, the reality fell short. The keyboard’s uneven keys and awkward layout disrupted what could have been a smooth typing experience.

My attention then shifted to a mini gaming keyboard for $9.52, hoping for redemption. Though it wasn’t the mechanical marvel I had hoped for, its backlit keys and adequate typing feel offered a silver lining. The backlight was a bit dim but some of the colors were bright enough to illuminate the key caps. Overall this one wasn’t bad for its super low price.

The M1 wired gaming mouse, at $10.79, was next. Surprisingly, it felt right at home under my palm, navigating with precision unexpected at this price point. However, its touted macro capabilities were a no-show, but that’s likely for the best given it probably requires some sketchy software.

Next up was a $14 multifunction vacuum cleaner. Its lackluster performance and unappealing aesthetics served as a reminder that not all that glitters is gold, especially in the realm of budget electronics. But it could suck and blow at the same time, so that’s something.

In my quest to make the most of my budget, I encountered a series of quirky and seemingly arbitrary additions. A $2 USB hub shaped like a banana, and a set of $4 light-up ice cubes were amusing yet underscored the hit-or-miss nature of shopping at Temu.

Also in the mix was a 512 megabyte SD card for $2 and change that was initially mislabeled as having 512GB of capacity. Another was what appeared to be a useful $4 USB hub with integrated card reader that turned out to only run at USB 2.0 speeds – despite its blue colored ports.

The haul concluded on a higher note with a $16.49 DVD/CD burner that doubled as a USB hub and card reader. Despite its outdated USB 2.0 interface, it redeemed some of my earlier disappointments by functioning as promised for CDs and DVDs.

Shopping at Temu requires tempered expectations that sometimes leads to the occasional pleasant surprise. If you shop smart you might end up with something useful.

See my other haul videos here!

Disclaimer: Temu provided me with an $85 budget to pick out an assortment of gadgets from their shop. They provided no additional compensation nor did they review or approve this video before it was uploaded.

Legion Pro 5i Gen 8 16″ Gaming Laptop Review

We haven’t looked at gaming laptop in awhile! I’ve been meaning to get to this Lenovo Legion Pro 5i laptop that’s been on my to-do list for awhile. You can see it in action in this video review.

Lenovo positions their Legion 5 series of laptops in the mid-range market, leaving out features like Thunderbolt ports and more premium build materials. Their higher end Legion 7 devices bring those features. But much like the automobile market if raw horsepower is all you’re looking for, a Camero can often bring the performance at a price lower than that of a Corvette.

These start at around $1,200 for the base Intel i5 configuration and often go on sale especially as we get closer to the fall. Check out the latest pricing at Best Buy and direct from Lenovo (compensated affiliate links).

Our review loaner is a slight step up from the base model, featuring an i7-13700 HX processor but the same Nvidia RTX 4060 GPU. The loaner had 16GB of dual-channel memory and a 512GB NVMe SSD.

Like prior models the Legion Pro 5i prioritizes upgradeability and ease of maintenance. It’s not hard to get inside and once there you’ll find an additional NVMe slot for storage expansion and user-replaceable DDR5 RAM.

Its 16-inch 2560×1600 IPS display, with a 165Hz refresh rate and Nvidia GSync support, offers vibrant colors and smooth gaming experiences, although its brightness peaks at 300 nits, which is adequate but not exceptional. Lenovo’s higher end models will have better display options, but for the price point this is a nice compromise.

Weighing in at 5.1 pounds, the laptop is not the lightest on the market, but it is to be expected for a device packing this level of hardware. The build quality is solid, predominantly plastic but sturdy, with minimal flex. The keyboard and trackpad are responsive and comfortable, with the keyboard featuring a pleasant amount of key travel and a customizable zoned backlight.

Port selection on the Legion Pro 5i is generous, with most ports located at the rear for a cleaner setup. It includes a full-service USB Type-C port that supports DisplayPort 1.4 and power delivery, although it’s not Thunderbolt or USB 4 compatible. Battery life varies significantly with use, but in more power-efficient modes, it can last through a workday on lighter tasks.

Gaming performance is where this laptop shines, handling demanding titles like Starfield and Red Dead Redemption 2 with ease at its native resolution. The cooling system is effective, keeping performance steady under load, albeit at the cost of noticeable fan noise.

One aspect that caught my attention was its Linux compatibility, which was mostly seamless except for some fan control issues that kept the fan running loudly even under light loads. This is a minor hiccup in what is otherwise a versatile and capable machine.

Lenovo Legion Pro 5i Gen 8 might not have the bells and whistles of its higher-end counterparts, but it delivers where it counts, making it a solid choice for gamers and professionals alike who need performance at a reasonable price.

Disclaimer: This laptop was provided on loan from Lenovo. They did not review or approve this video before it was uploaded. This is not a sponsored post.

Exploring Inexpensive Generic AirTag Alternatives

Apple’s AirTag tracker has turned into a major hit due to its low cost (for an Apple product anyway) and the fact that it can operate for months accurately reporting its position without needing a monthly fee or a nightly battery recharge.

In my latest video I take a look at some licensed generic alternatives to Apple’s AirTag that work mostly the same way but can sometimes be found for half the price.

These low cost tags can be found on Amazon by searching for “Find My” trackers. Here’s an Amazon idea list of a few that I featured in my review (affiliate link).

Most of the trackers you’ll encounter are similar in form factor to Apple’s offering, although many come with an accessory like a keyring, dog collar, etc. for less than what you’d pay for an Apple AirTag and accessory combined. Additional savings can be had by seeking out bulk packs of these trackers that are also available on site.

There’s other form factors available too. One device in my video is the same size and shape as a stack of three credit cards and is designed to track the location of your wallet. Another called the Pincard is completely sealed and weatherproof but can recharge using any Qi wireless charger.

While these third party devices share many features with Apple’s AirTag, including utilizing the Find My network for tracking, they lack the Ultra-Wideband technology present on the official device. This means the precision in locating the devices, especially in the critical last few feet, isn’t as refined. Despite this, the presence of audible alerts on most third-party trackers somewhat mitigates this limitation.

None of these products rival the quality of Apple’s offering but they all seem to perform quite well. If you have a number of things to keep track of you can dramatically grow the size of your tracked item list while saving some money in the process.

Disclaimer: the tags in the video came in free of charge through the Amazon Vine program. This video was not sponsored nor did anyone approve or review the video before it was uploaded.

Let’s Build a Gameboy! Funnyplaying FPGA Game Boy Color Clone Review

In my latest video we embark on a fun project: building a Game Boy using a Funnyplaying FPGA kit. This no-solder kit costs around $120 shipped (affiliate link) is easy to assemble and when complete feels almost identical to the original Gameboy Color both in hardware and gameplay but with a significantly better IPS display.

My adventure began with assembling the kit, which included a motherboard, display, speaker, battery, casing, controller components, and buttons. The kit, sourced from the Retro Gaming Repair Shop (affiliate link) is made by a company called Funnyplaying, which manufactures close-to-the-original cases and other replacement parts for Gameboy hardware. You have a choice of many different hardware shells and button color combinations all very reasonably priced.

The assembly started with installing the display onto the casing, attaching the ribbon cable to the motherboard, and setting up the speaker. I found the kit very user-friendly, with the components fitting nicely into place. The kit comes with a rechargeable battery which is charged by the USB-C port on the bottom of the motherboard.

The assembly wasn’t terribly difficult but would have been made easier if instructions were included (they were not). The only real struggle I had was getting the tiny power cable in place.

I was pleased with how close to the original this felt when it was assembled. It doesn’t feel like a cheap knock-off!

I first tried some original Game Boy cartridges, which worked flawlessly, providing both the classic Game Boy and Game Boy Color experiences. I also tested the device with an older Everdrive GB flash cart. The FPGA kit recognized and ran the games from the Everdrive without issues. There is no SD card slot on this, so rom files can only be played through the use of a flash cartridge like the Everdrive.

Initially the Funnyplaying device boots up with its Gameboy Color core which applies a color palette to the original monochrome games. Pushing the volume rocker switch in will pull up an on-screen display that allows switching to the original Gameboy mode. Once in that mode it’ll display the original games in a green-hued color palette closer to the original display.

The onscreen display also allow for changing the color palettes – on the Gameboy Color core it’ll work similar to how the palette can be changed on the original device. In the original core it will allow the selection of palettes that match the original (default) along with a few of the other monochrome gameboy iterations.

Sound quality was great on this and very close to the original. The speaker, while causing slight vibrations in the case, produced clear audio. There’s also a headphone jack for connecting headphones or routing it to an audio capture device for streaming. I have a sound demo in the video so you can decide how close to the original it sounds.

The buttons and controls responded well, giving a sense of newness compared to the wear and tear typically found on original Game Boy units.

The Funnyplaying FPGA Game Boy kit offers a satisfying DIY experience for gaming enthusiasts, blending nostalgia with modern technology. This project, while not reaching the multifaceted capabilities of devices like the Analogue Pocket, provides an affordable, authentic way to enjoy Game Boy classics in a new light.

See more retro coverage here!

Synology BeeStation Review: A General Consumer Focused Self Hosted Cloud Storage Device

I recently had the opportunity to review the Synology BeeStation, a simplified network-attached storage (NAS) device aimed at the general consumer. Diverging from Synology’s typical complex offerings for tech enthusiasts and enterprises, the BeeStation offers a narrow feature set that is mostly turnkey.

Check it out in my latest video.

Retailing at around $199 (compensated affiliate link) with no ongoing subscription fees, the BeeStation offers 4 terabytes of storage, packaged in a design that prioritizes simplicity. Setting it up is super simple; just plug it in, scan a QR code, and create an account with Synology. A direct ethernet connection is necessary, but it supports both wired and wireless connections once it’s on your network.

The BeeStation comes with dedicated apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. The Windows desktop app, for instance, creates a syncing folder on your computer that mirrors the storage on your BeeStation similar to how Dropbox, OneDrive and iCloud work.

There are two BeeStation mobile apps: BeeFiles and BeePhotos. BeeFiles allows users to browse the synced folder and upload new files. On Android users can edit files and have them save back to the BeeDrive but on iOS it’s view and download only. The mobile app also allows for some administrative functions like initiating backups, etc.

The BeePhotos app supports live photos, on-device AI facial and object recognition, and even raw files, offering a local alternative to cloud-based photo services. While not as feature rich as Apple Photos or Google Photos, the core functionality of those services is present.

The web interface of the BeeStation is equally intuitive, offering access to both files and photos. It provides additional functionalities like file versioning, backups, and the ability to sync or backup to cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. The USB backup feature is particularly important for safeguarding your data on the BeeStation against drive failures. USB drives can also be backed up TO the BeeStation.

I had no issues connecting to the BeeStation from outside of my network. This is even with a locked down router with UPnP disabled. It uses Synology’s QuickConnect technology for outside access through firewalls.

From an administration standpoint, the BeeStation supports up to eight users plus an administrator, which is fine for family use.

One important note is that the BeeStation largely depends on an active Internet connection to work. They do have a “local account” option which allows for accessing the drive on the local network without an Internet connection but does not allow the other users on the drive to access their files. There’s also an option to enable the SMB service for more traditional network access to the device, although with certain limitations compared to Synology’s more robust models.

There have been many attempts by many hardware makers over the years to come up with a simple self-hosted cloud solution. Synology’s effort here is one of the better ones I encountered. Under the hood it’s running the same software as their more robust product offerings but they’ve stripped all of the complexity away for every day users. I still recommend their other NAS devices for techies like me, but for the rest of the world this is a good solution that’ll save money on cloud storage subscription fees.

See my prior Synology videos here to get a feel for what their other products can do.

Disclosure: Synology sent me the product free of charge for this review ahead of its release. Synology is also an occasional sponsor on the channel (I have produced tutorial videos for them) but they did not sponsor this video nor did they review or approve my video before it was uploaded.

Free Broadcast TV Streaming Service LocalTV+ Launches in Boston

LocalTV+, a non-profit streaming service, has made its debut in Boston, offering those within a 100 mile radius of the city the ability to stream free broadcast television on their Apple devices. LocalTV+ works off the same legal theory as Locast, a previously shut-down service, by aiming to avoid repeating Locast’s mistakes.

In my latest video, I look at some of the headwinds LocalTV+ faces as it begins to build out its user base.

I am situated just beyond the 100-mile radius required to access LocalTV+ personally. After I published the video I was able to access the service by changing the location settings on my iPhone to provide a less precise address to the app. The video quality looks good and things spin up quickly.

Local TV+ is exclusive to iOS devices – iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs. This choice is because the developer’s expertise with iOS and helps in more accurately determining user locations, crucial for adherence to federal law.

LocalTV+ operates through an antenna situated in Brookline and possibly other locations around Boston. The service captures the ATSC 1.0 signal, redirecting it to users through a Boston-based data center. It does not have DVR capabilities although I was able to pause and restart live TV on-device.

The service’s legal foundation is built on its non-profit status, established under the name Mass Local TV Inc. This positioning is essential for compliance with federal retransmission laws, as it seeks to avoid the pitfalls encountered by previous ventures such as Aereo and Locast.

Aereo launched a commercial service (also in the Boston area) which allowed users to “rent” a tiny antenna at their facilities to pick up over the air broadcasts. The broadcasters argued that Aereo was no different than a cable provider and was violating copyright by streaming their broadcasts. The US Supreme Court agreed with the broadcasters, arguing that there was an insufficient distinction between its offerings and those of a traditional cable service.

Locast took a different approach, setting itself up as a non-profit and depending on a provision in US law that allows non-profit organizations to retransmit television broadcasts. But these non-profits have to it “without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage, and without charge to the recipients of the secondary transmission other than assessments necessary to defray the actual and reasonable costs of maintaining and operating the secondary transmission service.”

Locast asked users to make a “donation” to the service that was around $5 per month. It was possible to access Locast for free, but free users would be nagged constantly with notices asking them to donate in order to watch without interruptions. Locast used the proceeds of user donations to expand the service into other TV markets and grew to over 2.5 million users.

The broadcasters took Locast to court on the grounds that the law does not allow donations to fuel expansion. The judge agreed with the broadcasters and also agreed to make Locast’s founder, David Goodfriend, personally liable for copyright infringement. Locast quickly shut down after that. In a settlement the broadcasters collected the leftover funds and decided not to pursue additional damages from Goodfriend.

For LocalTV+ to succeed where others failed, a delicate balance must be maintained. Its operations need to not step over the line to what federal law defines a cable system to be. This includes avoiding a paid donation subscription model and ensuring that any expansion is not funded by viewer donations.

Looming over this entire scenario is the ATSC 3.0 NextGen TV standard, which is on track to encrypt over-the-air signals. Such a development, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, would make it illegal for non-profits like LocalTV+ to retransmit encrypted signals, potentially rendering this and similar efforts futile.

Enjoy it while you can!