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. 

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.

ATSC 3.0 Patent Fight Continues – Industry Tells the FCC to Stay out of It

The FCC’s ATSC 3.0 docket lit up this week with stakeholders urging the FCC to stay out of a patent dispute that threatens the emerging over the air television standard. I summarized some of these filings in my latest video.

Here’s the background: a few weeks ago LG announced they were removing ATSC 3.0 tuners from their new televisions. This decision came as the result of lawsuit that found LG in violation of a patent owned by a small company called Constellation Designs. This was a significant development because LG is one of the key partners who helped developed the ATSC 3 standard, and the patent covers how the ATSC 3 broadcast signal works.

In announcing their decision, LG asked the FCC to seriously consider enforcing “reasonable and non-discriminatory” (RAND) practices for all patents related to the ATSC 3.0 standard. RAND terms ensure that even if a technologies that make up the standard are developed by competing companies everybody is treated equally and fairly when it comes to licensing that technology to implement the standard.

In the case of ATSC 3.0 there are patent pools that roll-up all of the patents with each manufacturer paying a very reasonable fee to license everything. You can learn more in my video on the topic.

RAND practices have been a part of the ATSC 1.0 standard from the beginning, with the FCC adding them to the regulation in 1996. But with ATSC 3.0, broadcasters and TV makers asked the FCC to allow them to regulate RAND behavior outside of government regulation. This means that the ATSC 3.0 standards body, not the FCC, enforces RAND requirements.

The only penalty for not complying is getting kicked out of the ATSC association. But in the recent patent case against LG, Constellation Designs was never a part of the association in the first place so they had nothing to lose. And now Constellation Designs will collect royalties for their single patent that are 6 times higher than the cost for licensing the entire patent pool.

The industry’s response to LG’s suggestion of FCC regulation of RAND practices is one of vehement opposition. The National Association of Broadcasters, the Consumer Technology Association, One Media LLC (a subsidiary of Sinclair broadcasting) and even one of the patent pool administrators all registered their strong opposition. They believe that the transition to ATSC 3.0 should remain voluntary and market-based even with the risk of patent trolls coming out of the woodwork.

So, what’s next for the ATSC 3.0 patent fight? I think it’s likely that one of the ATSC principles will buy Constellation Designs to remove them from the equation. However, the threat of other potential patent holders finding their way to court remains. Without regulation around the RAND requirement, there’s room for groups to exploit potential loopholes – especially as there is no penalty from patent holders outside the ATSC group from suing.

For now, LG will wait things out as they file an appeal and perhaps hope for a friendly suitor for Constellation Designs. Until then, their new televisions won’t have ATSC 3.0 tuners.

As this story unfolds, I’ll be here to keep you informed. Stay tuned for more updates on this evolving topic.

My iPhone “In the Field” Video Production Set Up!

Every so often, I venture out of my usual workspace to cover events in person like last week’s Pepcom New York City tech event. My workflow for these events has evolved significantly as portable video technology has improved.

These events used to be a two person job using a much larger camcorder, but a year or two ago I switched to a GoPro that allowed me to operate as a “one man band.” For my latest trip I experimented with using my iPhone 15 Pro Max which has superior video options versus the GoPro.

You can see how I used it in my latest video. I also have a list of everything I used up on Amazon (compensated affiliate link).

The iPhone’s versatility, especially with its camera options, make it an attractive alternative to the GoPro. The iPhone boasts ultrawide, standard, and telephoto cameras, providing a range of shooting possibilities along with the ability to switch between them even while recording. The video quality, particularly the ability to capture fine details, is a significant advantage over the GoPro. The iPhone’s optical and digital stabilization features also do a great job keeping things smooth and steady.

The foundation of my setup is a small Manfrotto “pixi” tripod, which doubles as a handle. This tripod’s adaptability make it easy to switch between handheld and stationary shots. To secure my phone, I used the Glif, a robust phone mount that I’ve come to trust over the years. Its sturdy construction ensures the phone remains in place, regardless of movement or angle. Unfortunately the Glif has been sold out for quite awhile and I’m uncertain if its manufacturer, Studio Neat, intends to make more of them.

Lighting is crucial for any shoot. I employed an old Lite Panels LED light that I’ve had for well over a decade. Its brightness and compact size, powered by AA batteries, make it a reliable choice.

Sound quality is paramount, and for that, I turned to the Sennheiser AVX handheld mic. Its reliability in congested areas, like trade shows, is unmatched. The cardioid head I added to the mic better isolates my voice from the surrounding noise, ensuring clear audio in the final footage. Note that the AVX handheld comes with an omnidirectional head. You can see an example of both microphones in a trade show environment here:

However, connecting the microphone to the iPhone presented a challenge. The iPhone’s lack of a headphone jack meant I had to use an Anker USB-C to headphone adapter, coupled with a TRS to TRRS adapter. This setup ensured seamless audio integration with the video.

While shooting, I primarily used the iPhone’s standard camera app. The absence of audio monitoring meters was a minor inconvenience, but the overall experience was smooth. The transition between shots, especially when switching from a subject to myself, was slightly rocky, but manageable. In terms of storage, the iPhone’s 256GB capacity was more than sufficient for the footage which I was recording with the phone’s HEVC codec.

The iPhone’s battery was surprisingly good throughout my coverage. The event spanned roughly two and a half hours, and by its conclusion, my iPhone still had about 75-80% battery left. To be fair I wasn’t shooting for the entire time but I did have the phone on the camera app, unlocked, for most of it. For added assurance, I carry an Anker battery pack, offering rapid charging via its USB-C output.

Overall I was pleased with how well this set up worked for a solo operation. For the next outing I’m going to use the awesome new (and free) video BlackMagic Camera App that provides much greater manual control along with on-screen audio meters. It apparently was released just a day or two after my live shoot!

A $379 Windows Laptop – Lenovo’s Ideapad Slim 3i Review

As the year winds down, we’ll be seeing more and more laptops getting reduced in price ahead of holidays. I came across this Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i the other day that is currently selling for $379 at B&H (compensated affiliate link). For those on a budget, this 15.6-inch display laptop seems to offer a lot of bang for the buck. Lenovo let us borrow the laptop for this review.

The first thing that struck me about the IdeaPad Slim 3i was its display. While it’s not tailored for creators seeking impeccable color accuracy, the matte finish IPS 1080p panel with 300 nits of brightness is impressive for its price. The review loaner they sent us was equipped with a touch display as well, but I’m not sure if all configurations at this price point will have one.

Under the hood, the laptop is powered by an Intel i3-1315U processor with 8 GB of RAM. A potential downside is that the RAM isn’t upgradeable, which might limit some high-end tasks. Storage-wise, it boasts a 256 GB NVMe SSD, which can be upgraded if needed.

In terms of build, the laptop is predominantly plastic, which means it lacks the polish of pricier Lenovo models. It’s not a 2-in-1, and the display can be a tad wobbly. Weighing in at 3.57 lbs, it’s also on the heavier side vs. more expensive devices. Battery life is decent, clocking in at around 6 to 8 hours, depending on usage.

It does have a backlit keyboard, which is a pleasant surprise for a laptop in this price range. The inclusion of a number pad is a bonus, although the number keys are slightly smaller than the letter keys. The trackpad, however, feels a bit springy and doesn’t match the quality of Lenovo trackpads found on their mid-range and premium devices.

In terms of connectivity, the laptop offers a decent array of ports, including USB-A HDMI port, and a full-service USB-C port. The USB-C port can also deliver power to the laptop if using a docking station. Additionally, there’s a headphone jack, a full-size SD card slot, and another USB-A port on the other side. For added security, a fingerprint reader is integrated for biometrics.

The 720p webcam is serviceable but not spectacular. It struggled slightly with LED lighting, but it’s adequate for basic video calls. A manual shutter allows users to block the lens when not in use, ensuring privacy.

Performance-wise, the laptop handles basic tasks with ease. Websites load quickly, and videos stream smoothly. However, when it comes to more demanding tasks like video editing, the limited RAM becomes a bottleneck. Gaming performance is decent for less demanding titles, but newer, resource-intensive games might pose a challenge.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i offers a mix of pros and cons. Its display and keyboard are standout features, but the non-upgradeable RAM is a limitation. For those on a tight budget, it’s a viable option, but it’s essential to weigh the trade-offs.

Lots of New Tech From My Latest NYC Dispatch!

On Thursday I hopped on the train to New York City for the latest Pepcom tech showcase event. I love going to these because they are media-only events that have several dozen tech companies in one place making it very easy to collect a whole lot of content in a very short period of time.

You can see some of the more interesting things I found in my latest dispatch video!

In the video you’ll see about 16 different things that cover a wide gamut of the consumer electronics space. Everything from arts and crafts devices to finger sensing table saws! I also spent some time talking to the folks behind the emerging ATSC 3 standard to relay the concerns that we all have with their DRM encryption. I’ll have more on that in an upcoming ATSC 3 update video.

At CES there’s always a “Mega Pepcom” that has several hundred companies set up like this. It’s one of my favorite events as it gets us access to many big brands all in one spot!

You can check out all of my prior dispatch reports from the field here. In addition to these trade show events I have ISP tours, rocket launches, and a whole lot more!

Amazon Tech Haul Episode 3!

I am a member of the Amazon Vine program and which gets me access to a lot of interesting tech gadgets for sale on Amazon.

What’s fun about the Vine program is that it surfaces devices that are not from well-known brands. Over the last few months I’ve been doing a series of fun tech hauls where I unbox and test out a bunch of devices in a single video. You can find my latest episode here!

This episode had a few hits like a neat portable charger/battery for the iPhone, Airpods and Apple Watch, and a huge dud of e-waste that is the “HaoPapa” game console.

I’ll have another haul in the near future so stay tuned!

Disclosure: These products came in free of charge through the Amazon Vine program. I had no contact with the manufacturers, no one reviewed or approved this video before uploading, and no other compensation was received.

Review of the Crucial x9 and x10 Pro USB-C SSDs

In my latest video I take a look at Crucial’s newest external solid-state drives: the X9 Pro and the X10 Pro. Unlike their previous drives that traded performance for a low price point, these new drives deliver read and write speeds comparable with premium offerings from Sandisk and Samsung.

While it’s always wise to check current pricing due to fluctuations, my initial observations found these drives to be competitively priced, especially when compared to offerings from giants like Samsung, SanDisk, and WD. In my video link above you can see what the current prices are on Amazon.

Distinguishing between the two models can be a tad confusing. The silver X9 Pro supports USB Type-C Gen 2, boasting a theoretical bandwidth of 10 gigabits per second. The black X10 Pro supports the USB 3.2 2×2 standard, which, in theory, should deliver double the performance of the X9. However, the catch is that most computers currently on the market don’t support this faster interface. This means that unless your computer is equipped with a USB-C 2×2 port, you’re unlikely to notice a significant performance difference between the two drives. USB-C 2×2 is an optional part of the spec and manufacturers are not required to include it.

When tested on a Mac and a Lenovo X1 Nano, the drives showcased similar speeds, with neither computer supporting the 2×2 standard. Yet, the performance was commendable for portable SSDs, making them suitable for recording high-quality video formats. This includes both sequential and random read and write operations.

Both drives are sturdily constructed, lightweight, and made of metal. They come with an IP55 rating, which suggests they can handle being splashed but not immersed in water. The solid-state nature of these drives means they’re devoid of moving parts, making them more resilient to drops and rough handling compared to mechanical drives. Both have an activity indicator light, which blinks when the drive is being accessed.

In terms of gaming, while these drives are compatible with game consoles, newer games designed for the latest consoles like the PS5 or Xbox Series S/X might not support running from USB media. However, older games should run fine.

Crucial also bundles some software trials with the drives, including a month of Adobe Creative Cloud and a special version of Acronis True Image. The latter, though, is limited in its functionality.

These are great performing drives that are every bit as good as competing products from the other big names in the marketplace. Although X10 Pro promises higher speeds, the majority of users won’t be able to realize that faster performance. Save your money unless you know your computer can support the USB-C 2×2 standard.

Disclosure: Crucial provided these drives free of charge to the channel. But they did not review or approve the video before it was posted nor did they provide any financial compensation for the production of the video.

Meta Quest 3 Review

The Meta Quest 3 VR headset, the successor to the popular Quest 2 is now available and is the subject of my latest review. You can find a Quest 3 headset here (compensated affiliate link).

In terms of design, the Quest 3 is notably more compact than its predecessor. The balance of the device has been improved, which could potentially offer users a more comfortable experience during extended use. The display quality has seen significant enhancements, with 30% more resolution than the prior edition. Each eye now gets a 2064×2208 image.

The device comes in two storage variants: 128 GB and 512 GB. The choice between the two will largely depend on the user’s app library. Most games at the moment max out around 10 gigabytes or so with many much smaller than that. Unfortunately Meta does not include an SD card slot so if you want more storage you’re going to pay a much higher price tag.

One of the standout features of the Quest 3 is its mixed reality capabilities. When I first donned the headset I was presented not with a virtual image but a 3D camera view of my environment. Although it was not at the same resolution of my actual eyes, I did not experience any disorientation and was able to walk around the room naturally.

The Quest 3’s Mixed Reality sensors can map out the user’s environment, identify potential obstacles, and set boundaries for safer use when using virtual reality games.

There are also games and apps that run in a mixed environment. Meta includes a pack-in title called “First Encounters” where the player’s environment is blended with a virtual one as little creatures invade the room and portions of it get destroyed to reveal a virtual scene of an alien planet.

But there’s not much yet that supports the Meta Quest 3 directly. Although the headset has a more powerful processor along with these new mixed reality features, the Quest 3 launched without many games enhanced for it. In fact Meta doesn’t even offer a means of filtering their store by Quest 3-only titles.

The controllers for the Quest 3 have been redesigned and are now smaller and more ergonomic. The also lack the plastic ring found on the prior iterations which should make them less prone to damage. Additionally, the Quest 3, like its predecessors, offers hand tracking, allowing users to interact with the virtual environment without the need for physical controllers at all. But not all apps and games support this feature.

For media consumption, the Quest 3 offers various environments, from virtual theaters to computer desktop replications. YouTube and Netflix have their own apps for consuming content on their platforms. But with battery life a short 2 hours or so, it may be hard to get through an entire movie.

The Quest 3 can also connect to a more powerful PC via a USB-C cable or over its Wi-Fi “Airlink” feature and run more robust PC titles. In my initial testing this feature was not working properly, but after I published my video it began working after a software update. The added resolution makes a big difference. Half Life Alyx, a real VR masterpiece, looks spectacular on the Quest’s new display.

The Meta Quest 3 is an amazingly engineered piece of technology, especially considering the hardware limitations its designers have to work with. Unfortunately consumers have yet to adopt VR tech at the levels they have with game consoles like the Playstation and Xbox. While the new Quest brings several enhancements over its predecessor Meta has longed struggled getting consumers to actually use the headsets after purchasing them.

Still when people are looking for a fun VR headset the Quest line are the only ones I recommend. They’re simple to use, completely self contained, but also have the capacity to work well with a PC too.