Fake JWST Photo Persists

The other day I posted about a Texas-based meteorologist who misinformed his viewers about a photograph he claimed was taken by the James Webb Space Telescope but actually came from an artist interpretation of another mission.

That same photo is popping up all over Facebook, with the same verbiage, getting shared thousands of times. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s been seen by millions of people at this point.

Many of the accounts sharing it are fake accounts pretending to be Neal DeGrasse Tyson and the James Webb Space Telescope itself.

Twitter is not the only platform with a bot platform.

I tried to correct the record on the post. See it here and then read all of the toxicity that follows. This is what Facebook profits from – the dumbing down of humanity.

Today’s Docket

I am getting in the new Pixel 6a a little later this morning so I figured I’d do a livestream unboxing it and testing it! From the specs this has much of the same guts as the regular Pixel 6 phone.

So far the only differences I can see in the specs on the 6a vs. the more expensive regular 6 is a lower resolution wide angle camera, no wireless charging, gorilla glass 3 vs. the more advanced victus on the regular 6, a 60hz vs 90hz display, and 6GB vs 8GB of RAM. Check out the full spec comparison here at GSMArena to see if I’m missing anything. 

The new phone sells for $449 here in the USA unlocked and at similar prices worldwide. Pretty reasonable I think given its capabilities. 

Look for the stream around 2 p.m.ish eastern time both on my Youtube channel and Amazon! 

ATSC 3.0 Video Coming Tomorrow Night

My video on ATSC 3 will be coming up tomorrow! It was a fun experiment that involved a huge antenna tripod I bought for my new amateur radio adventure. The video is shot and ready to go but I’ve found videos published on Friday night do very poorly here on my channel so you’ll have to wait a day :). 

New Video : Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 Review

Whenever I review a laptop I look at who the target market is for it. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon series (now in its 10th generation) is a very popular device even though it’s known not to be at the top of the performance curve. It’s a successful product because it gives its target audience what they want.

You can see my review here.

This is what I think of as an “executive” laptop: the device the boss uses because he or she doesn’t want to lug around a heavy laptop but needs a large screen that can quickly run business related tasks. The X1 Carbon does these tasks exceptionally well and comes in at just 2 and a half pounds.

But for the enthusiasts out there this isn’t much of an upgrade over the prior edition. The battery life savings promised from the new 12th Intel chips have yet to be realized and the cooling system doesn’t allow the system to run at full performance under load for an extended period of time. So other laptops with the same chip will perform better.

But this is not a computer marketed to enthusiasts, and for the target market my benchmarks found the computer is in fact zippier doing “bursty” office related tasks than its predecessor. So for the executive this is another solid laptop even if it disappoints enthusiasts looking for the ultimate 14″ two and a half pound laptop.

My Cost of Shipping Giveaways to Return on WhatNot!

I have a lot of tech gear I’m looking to get rid of. I used to do “cost of shipping giveaways” that required a ton of logistics on my end to manage but I think I’ve found a new way of doing it that might be kind of fun too.

I recently came across a new platform called “WhatNot.” It’s a live streaming auction and sales platform that is beginning to get some traction in the retro gaming and collectors communities.

How I’ll be using WhatNot is putting up products for sale at a marginal $5ish price + shipping and the first click gets it. I have asked them to implement a random selection process for the buyer and once that’s implemented we’ll switch to that model.

If you sign up for Whatnot using my http://lon.tv/whatnot affiliate link you’ll get a $15 credit that can be used on any seller’s livestream. 

WhatNot might ask you to become a “verified buyer” using a government issued ID through their Stripe payment processor. For the cost of shipping giveaway streams I will not require that so you can skip that step. Other sellers may require that verification, however. I will be requiring verified buyers on streams where I’m selling items vs. doing these cost of shipping giveaways. 

The Lon.TV Store is not going away – I plan to use WhatNot mostly for the items that were provided free of charge to the channel for review. 

If you follow me on WhatNot you’ll get notified of upcoming streams. I will also be announcing the dates and times of streams in my Store Alert email blast.  

I may pop on with a test stream selling off some retro gaming stuff to that community later this afternoon. I’ll look at doing the first giveaway stream later this weekend. 

Looking forward to seeing how this experiment works out!

The Trouble With Netflix..

..Has been their business model relying on borrowing against future subscriber revenues. CNN business has a good synopsis of how critical this week’s earnings report will be for the company.

Unlike their studio-backed competitors Netflix started with less than a decade of content they actually owned, and they lost a lot of their most popular content when studios clawed back the streaming rights.

Retention, therefore, is key to maintain the company’s value. And to retain they need a constant stream of quality content. But to get more content they need to borrow more money against future revenues.

Given the company has reached a critical mass with hundreds of millions of customers, it’s hard to grow the revenue without raising prices. Which they did multiple times. But now the subscribers are leaving because it’s too expensive.

Netflix is not a takeover target, yet. But they’re going to have a hard time competing against studio streaming services that cost less with much deeper catalogs of IP.

The Week Ahead

Another week is upon us! I have two videos pretty well planned out so this will be shot first. The first is a review of the new Thinkpad X1 Carbon from Lenovo with a 12th generation Intel i7-1260P. It looks like a nice revision over previous models.

I’m also going to continue a topic I started two weeks ago regarding CableCARD. My local broadcasters are now transmitting on the same tower (and same frequency) making it possible for me to finally get everything over the air. We’ll hoist up an antenna and see what happens!

I have a few other things in the hopper including a smart smoke detector and air quality sensor, that Hollyland microphone system, and a solar powered camera from Eufy that just came in.

I’m also likely going to move the shorter Weekly Wrapup to Sunday evenings as I think a weekly preview is best posted on Sunday vs. Monday.

Stay tuned!

For this Weatherman It’s All About the Clicks..

On the scale of things this misinformed post by a local meteorologist won’t impact the scope of world events. But members of the media have a responsibility to get it right and correct the record – even if their incorrect post goes viral and gets them thousands of likes and shares.

“Chief Meteorologist” Ken Johnson from KAUZ TV in Texas shared this picture depicting a storm on Jupiter on his Facebook page and said it came from the James Webb Space Telescope.

The problem is the image didn’t come from Webb, nor was it even a photo. A quick Google search took me to this Smithsonian magazine article from 2020 where a caption describes it as an artist’s depiction of what a storm might look like on the gas giant.

As of the time of this writing the post has over 23,000 reactions and over 7,300 shares. Thousands of people are believing this trusted voice and getting misinformed.

It just goes to show how fast false and misleading information can spread especially when shared by a trained member of the media with a scientific background who could have taken a few minutes to fact check it first.

Now the question is – will he correct the record? Let’s see.

UPDATE: The post has been deleted, but not corrected. Better to pretend that it never happened vs. being accurate?

Weak Signals Go Very Far!

Got some new radio gear last week. I’m learning the art of “weak signals” that send tiny bits of data through the air over very long distances – no Internet required.

Using the 10 meter band (the lowest frequency I’m allowed to operate on with my license) I managed to be heard all the way in Australia! Somebody in Hawaii also picked me up.

Cord Cutting Followup – Streaming Local Networks Using the Channels App & TV Everywhere

This week’s video continues a topic discussion I began last week with my end of CableCARD video.

A number of commenters on the original video pointed out that the Channels App‘s TV Everywhere feature does support local networks but it has to be enabled first. I tried it out on my installation and it does indeed work! The only network missing from my local lineup is Fox but everything else appears to be working.

Many viewers suggested that I look elsewhere for TV service, so I also did an analysis on my cable bill to see if I’d save any money going to an over the top service like YouTube TV, Sling, etc.

At the end of the video I also did a search on AntennaWeb to see if any of my local broadcasters are using the new ATSC 3.0 format. It looks like they just started around here so that will be the subject of a followup video this week! Stay tuned!

New Video : My Ham Radio Adventure Continues with Base Station Equipment

My latest video is a “haul” of some of the Ham radio gear I picked up to begin building out my base station. For equipment I went with the Yaesu FP-991a which a solid all-round radio that covers HF, VHF, and UHF frequencies in a single unit. It has separate antenna connections for the HF and UHF/VHF sides.

I went with an HF (high frequency) antenna that blogger Tom Costello built for some of the same things I’d like to do with mine – exploring the 10 meter band with a technician license. Technicians here in the USA get a small sliver of that band to experiment on but need a General and/or Extra license to go further into the lower frequency bands.

So far the set up is working quite well – I’ve made some very long range digital FT8 contacts into Europe and South America and even talked to somebody briefly in Georgia from my home in Connecticut!

There will be much more to come on this topic as I get antennas installed and begin exploring the portions of the radio spectrum this new equipment will give me access to!

Until then, 73 KC1RGS.

New Video: HP Victus 15 – Budget Gaming Laptop

Last night I posted a review of HP’s budget gaming laptop, the Victus 15. As I always like to say with PCs if you want a laptop that’s lightweight, powerful and has great battery life you pay a premium.

If you want one of those things, you can get it at a reasonable price. And that’s what the Victus 15 is all about.

The review loaner we received has a 12th generation Intel i5 processor along with a GTX1650 GPU from Nvidia. It performs at the top end of the 1650’s performance curve per our benchmarks and comparison with other laptops – including some that cost a heck of a lot more. They also managed to get a 144hz 1080p IPS display on it too.

So what about the compromises? So given performance is the key factor here all the other stuff is where you’ll find compromises. Battery life is pretty bad on it even for light work (maybe about 6 hours). The display isn’t very bright, the webcam is lousy, the fan is super noisy, it’s mostly made out of plastic, it has no biometrics and it’s pretty heavy.

But if you’re just looking for performance and nothing else this will get you there for well under $1000.

Prime Day Stream and Vmix 4k Experimentation

As many of you know I use Vmix to produce my videos here on the channel. It’s by far the most efficient and highly optimized piece of Windows software ever made. It’s absolutely incredible.

My appreciation of it went further this week during one of my Prime Day live streams. I figured I would do an evening overview of the three TV boxes on sale this week (Fire TV, Roku and Apple TV) and I wanted to get all three running together in 4k simultaneously along with my three 4k studio cameras. You can see the stream here.

My current production machine is a home-built i9-9900KF based Intel machine with 32GB of RAM and a recently added RTX 2080ti GPU. For video capture I have a Blackmagic Decklink Quad HDMI card which can capture four 4k sources simultaneously. I brought the cameras and the Apple TV in through the Decklink card.

But Lon, you had 6 sources! Yes and thanks to the modern miracle of NDI I was able to bring in those additional two sources using a Newtek Spark box and a Kilo U40 (affiliate link). These boxes take HDMI video in and output a lossless video signal that can get ingested into Vmix with minimal latency. Those two sources generated about 500 megabits of bandwidth but Vmix easily kept up.

The most amazing thing about this set up is that my system still had plenty or room left for more. I also connected a 4k display to the back of my GPU and was able independently switch what appeared on that screen. Check out this short I made once everything was set up.

Ham Base Station Acquired

I just ordered a bunch of stuff to begin my amateur radio station. I still only have a technician license which limits a lot of what I can do on lower frequencies but there’s still plenty to explore.

For the base unit I went with the Yaesu FT-991A. I like it because it integrates HF, VHF and UHF bands all in one unit and its powerful enough for the things I want to do. There’s room to grow here as it also works on the frequencies I’m not currently licensed to operate on. For power it can do 50 watts on UHF & VHF with another 50 on the HF bands. Because my HF interests are mostly in the “weak signal” domain that’s more than enough power. And the 50 watts on the UHF/VHF side should be more than fine to do some of the local packet stuff I’m interested in exploring.

Somebody told me that in photography you can’t have enough lenses and in amateur radio you can never have enough antennas! In my case I’m limited to the UHF/VHF bands and a small sliver of the 10 meter HF band. So that helps a bit to narrow things down.

For UHF/VHF I went with what DX Engineering suggested – a Diamond X50A. It’s a simple vertical fiberglass antenna. For HF I found a great blog post from Tom Costello who’s doing exactly what I want to do on HF with a technician license. He built a simple dipole using a pair of MFJ-1610T antennas to make 10 meter contacts. So I bought exactly what he is using.

Because I am not all that handy I will be hiring somebody to mount the antennas and run cable into the house. In the meantime I bought a portable antenna tripod that I’ll set up when I’m exploring the spectrum. I am eventually going to get the UHF/VHF antenna up on the roof but will keep the HF closer to the ground as I’ll be needing a different antenna after I get my General license for the lower bands.

My plan is to try and reach out to a few viewers using the weak signal FT8, JS8talk, and whatever other protocols might work over 10 meters. If you think you are in range let me know and I’ll add you to the list! I’d love to do a few livestreams experimenting with it.

Thoughts on Twitter’s Very Real Bot Problem

I don’t care if Elon Musk owns Twitter or not. But he’s correct on the Bot issue. It permeates the platform and has bifurcated the user base into those with a blue check and those without. Twitter decides who gets a voice on their platform and who does not.

As such Twitter denies independent content creators an equal voice to those the platform has arbitrarily decided gets the mark. They move the goal posts constantly and deny people opportunities to grow their audience.

Blue checks get all sorts of benefits the rest of us don’t: monetization opportunities, longer video uploads, the ability to communicate with other blue check marks, etc.

This is in stark contrast to YouTube. Despite all of their faults, YouTube designed their entire ecosystem around discovery and independent creator opportunity. Arguably Instagram and TikTok do this too but they don’t compensate their creators fairly.

Musk said from the get-go that all users would get verified on Twitter. This would immediately level the playing field as it would make the blue check mark unnecessary.

YouTube already does a similar verification process if you want to monetize. YouTube’s most influential creators are verified real people who earn 55% of the revenue YouTube brings in. And their platform is designed as a market-based pipeline to move aspiring creators to that level vs. an arbitrary system of picking winners and losers.

If Twitter didn’t have a bot problem why split the user base into verified and unknowns?

New Video: Acer Chromebook 514 Review

My latest review video is of the Acer Chromebook 514. This is a surprisingly good Chromebook for its price (especially today as it’s a Prime Day deal). See my full review on Amazon.

The device is powered by a Mediatek Kompanio 828 ARM processor. In the past these chips performed at or slightly below some of the lower cost Intel based Chromebooks. But this new chip performs much better – especially for graphically intensive tasks like gaming.

Other value-adds here include a full 1080p touch display, backlit keyboard, 8GB of RAM and exceptional battery life when doing basic tasks.

In the video you’ll see this thing running demanding Android game emulators like Reicast and Dolphin exceptionally well. Other Android games work great too although some don’t make the translation very well to laptop form from a touch based app.

Chromebooks are also great for running Linux apps and this one is no exception. The ARM version of Libreoffice runs great here and feels every bit as snappy as it does on Intel devices (even the more expensive ones).

What’s missing? Storage.. At the moment only 64GB of EMMC is available which will limit how many Android and Linux applications can be installed. Unfortunately there’s no SD card slot either.

But overall this is a great deal especially at its Prime Day pricing.

Virtual Set Tech Goes from Star Wars to Trek – Are YouTubers Next?

Virtual Set technology is moving in some exciting new directions. It all began with the Mandalorian and their use of the ILM “Volume” to merge virtual sets with physical ones. What makes these virtual sets so unique is that the images are not added later in post-production but are there in realtime with the actors during the shoot. It adds new levels of realism as the light from the volume reflects off of costumes and other props naturally. The set also aligns with the camera’s point of view allowing for camera movements and depth making the background look almost three dimensional.

ILM documented the use of the Volume technology in this YouTube video.

But Star Wars is not the only production making use of this. According to this Twitter post, Star Trek Strange New Worlds has a volume of its own to do similar effects. This might be why the production looks so much more expansive than the other recent Star Trek shows on Paramount+.

What I’m most excited about is this technology making its way to small creators. Many of us with gaming PCs have the processing power already – it’s just a matter of packaging this display technology into something smaller and affordable for us basement dwelling YouTubers.

The Week Ahead

This week’s Weekly Wrapup experiment is a morning posting of the video to have it coincide with this email. We’ll see how it does vs. the usual evening posting.

The big event this week is the two day Amazon Prime Day event which starts tomorrow! It’ll be similar to prior years where there are scheduled deals along with sales running throughout.

I usually own a lot of the stuff that goes on sale so I’ll be doing a bunch of livestreams throughout tomorrow. Be sure to follow me on Amazon!

Also this week we’ll have a review of the Acer Chromebook 514 with a Mediatek ARM processor, an Acer gaming laptop (the Helios 300), a followup on my CableCARD video, and a look at a wireless microphone system from Hollyland. The Acer review is already live on Amazon and I’ll have unboxings of the other two later today up there too.

As I posted the other day I preordered the new M2 Macbook and that might be showing up by the end of the week. We’ll definitely live stream it when it arrives.

One other thing that I’m going to be doing are some fun livestream gadget sales and giveaways on WhatNot. These will consist of items that I received for free here on the channel that will be sold for just the cost of shipping, along with other stuff I am trying to get rid of. I’ll have more information on WhatNot and how to sign up coming in a future email.

More than likely we’ll go back to an evening Wrapup schedule after this week as I have a few reviews to get up ASAP ahead of Prime Day. I may target Sunday night for next week’s video.

The End of CableCARD?

My latest video is about the impending death of CableCARD.

CableCARDs look like the old PCMCIA/cardbus cards our late 90s/early 2000s laptops used but instead plug into cable equipment to access subscription television services. The cards are provided by cable companies to customers.

CableCARD – Creative Commons Image – Petiatil 

For a long time getting cable TV to work on a television was as simple as plugging in a coaxial cable – in the past only the premium channels like HBO were scrambled.

But a lot changed when cable went digital in the early 2000s. Cable companies found a new revenue path renting expensive digital boxes to consumers and most TVs lacked the tuning hardware to get service without one. The FCC allowed this provided cable companies gave consumers the option to use their own equipment to access services. CableCARD was the mechanism for that.

Sadly though consumers tend to drift towards the tyranny of the default and few CableCARD boxes were ever manufactured. The two remaining ones are the HDHomerun Prime and some Tivo boxes.

I have been using the HDHomerun Prime since 2013. It saved me a ton of money (thousands over the last decade) as I was able to use my own Android TV boxes and DVR vs. paying Comcast a monthly fee for the privilege. In fact my original video about the HDHomerun box was one of the main catalysts for my channel’s growth. Silicondust, the makers of the product, later became a sponsor. The open architecture of the HDHomerun equipment allows it to work with other apps too like Plex, Emby, Channels and many others. Channels and Plex are also sponsors on my YouTube channel.

In February of 2020 the FCC lifted the CableCARD mandate which now allows for any cable provider to stop supporting them. A few weeks ago Spectrum Cable notified customers that the end is coming.

Their reason for doing so is to make room for better Internet upload speeds to keep up with fiber optic providers that are putting competitive pressure on the cable giants.

Although it’s digital today, cable TV works pretty much the same way it did at its inception as a “community antenna service.” Think of your cable wire as an antenna that can pick up a range of frequencies. In this case those transmissions are not coming over the air but are rather transmitted over the wire. There’s a finite limit as to how many frequencies can be supported on the wire, which means to add services something has to be taken away.

Internet service needs to share the wire with TV stations that are broadcasting 24/7 each on their own frequencies whether somebody is watching or not. And the process of supporting uploads from many “stations” vs. a single downstream transmitter is very complicated and requires a lot of room on the cable to separate the transmissions.

But upstream speeds need to be increased dramatically for cable companies to remain competitive vs. fiber optic providers. Like any highway expansion there might be some homes in the way that have to be cleared to make room for the road. This is exactly what’s happening with CableCARD – the frequencies it uses on coax cables are in the region that would be allocated for this expanded Internet service. The industry calls it “high split.”

Why are cable companies still using coax? Because they’ve managed to squeeze every bit of value they can out of the wire and are still finding ways to do more. Although much of the local cable backbone is fiber optic these days, most homes are still connected over coax. The cost for replacing the connections for hundreds of millions of subscribers would be astronomical. It’s much cheaper to use the cable differently vs. installing a new one.

So it’s likely in the coming months we’ll be seeing announcements about CableCARD support coming to an end. SiliconDust says they can re-route the frequencies CableCARDs use but I doubt there’s enough CableCARD customers out there to warrant going through the amount of work to make that happen. And at some point cable TV will pivot away from always on broadcasts consuming considerable bandwidth to a streaming on-demand model delivered over IP.

And there are some alternatives now. Cable streaming apps run on most mobile and TV devices. I’ll likely switch to the Channels App which supports TVEverywhere – this works almost exactly like my CableCARD although it streams my subscribed content from Comcast over the Internet. And for those of you lucky enough to receive over the air television (I cannot where I live) tuner devices like the over the air HDHomerun boxes are a great solution.

So times are changing. And it’s funny that the thing driving this change is what we’ve all wished for the most: a more competitive local ISP market. Sadly our CableCARDs will be a casualty of that.

Elon Musk’s Twitter Deal Isn’t Dead Yet

Rarely do my predictions come true but this time I might be on the right track! On May 2nd I suggested Twitter was overstating its value because of its bot problem – an issue that Elon Musk says is a material breach of his purchase agreement with the social media company.

Musk did them a favor by releasing this in a Friday night post-market news dump. This is going to gut their stock price on Monday as it raises serious doubts about the actual number of real, non-bot active users are on the platform. This was an issue I also covered in the May 2 video, where Twitter was forced to disclose that they overcounted actual users by about 1 million due to a software issue.

They really have no way to measure bots on the platform. Why? Because Wall Street demanded user growth. There’s no way engineers would implement any impediment to that growth – it’s engrained in the code and the culture there.

Ultimately user growth is a poor measurement. Twitter’s value I think comes from the weighty influence of the “small” number of actual users it does have. As @davewiner pointed out a few months ago Twitter really is a big newsroom/cocktail party.

My new prediction is this deal is still going to close – but perhaps closer to $25-30 billion which is probably what the company is really worth.