New Video: Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 Review

Full confession: I have a thing for 12″ laptops. I was a huge fan of Apple’s 12″ Macbook that remains one of my favorite laptops of all time. The fact that Apple hasn’t made an M1/M2 version of it is downright malpractice at this point.

I liked that Mac for its convenience. It wasn’t pretty slow and didn’t have the best keyboard, but it made up for those shortfalls in its extremely light weight, portability and battery life.

I have not found many computers on the Windows side that come close to that Macbook except the Microsoft Surface Go laptops. I bought it for review a year or so ago and ended up keeping it because it’s become my go-to Windows device for the times when I need a Windows device. Like the Macbook it comes with some compromises: The Surface Go has relatively short battery life, no backlit keyboard, lackluster graphics performance, a low resolution display and a noisy cooling fan.

But the convenience and utility of an affordable fully featured (and well built) Windows laptop outweighed all of it for me.

The second iteration of the Surface Laptop Go, called the Go 2, brings a substantial performance boost in its graphical performance. While not a gaming powerhouse by any means it is able to run many modern games at 720p at or around 30 fps. In my review we were able to get Red Dead Redemption 2, No Man’s Sky, and the Witcher 3 running at decent frame rates. The cooling fan is also noticeably quieter vs. the original too.

Physically it’s the same high quality piece of hardware as before, right down to the non-backlit keyboard and low res display. But it has a fit and finish that few laptops at this price point have – it is engineered with the same attention to detail as Microsoft’s considerably more expensive devices in the Surface lineup.

Bottom line it’s not for everyone. But for those looking for a full featured Windows PC that’s small, lightweight, and functional there are not many other choices at this price point.

New Extra’s Channel Video: Surface Laptop Go 2 Unboxing

Yesterday on the Extra’s channel I unboxed the new Surface Laptop Go 2 (affiliate link) which I will be working on reviewing today. Physically it feels a lot like the old one but they made some major improvements to its graphics performance and fan noise.

You can get a sneak peek at its performance in the livestream I did yesterday testing it out. I’m sure I’ll get lots of price vs. features discussion in the comment stream on the review but I think there’s a well established place in the market for this device and it’s priced right for it.

In the meantime check out the unboxing here!

SpaceX Gets Approvals for Texas Space Port

SpaceX got the go-ahead from the FAA to operate its Texas “Starbase” facility for orbital flights following an environmental impact study. But they put a few conditions in place.

In addition to environmental safeguards the FAA is requiring SpaceX to write a “historical narrative” report on the Mexican War and Civil War events that took place on or around the property.

Like the Kennedy Space Center, which in addition to being a space port is also a national wildlife refuge, SpaceX will be required to coordinate with the US Fish and Wildlife Service on operating a similar refuge at Starbase. This includes opportunities for wildlife photography and monitoring critters via Starlink.

Read more at CNBC. Orbital flights are not that far away!

New Video: Comcast Doubles “Gigabit Pro” Speeds to 6 Gigabits Per Second

About a year and a half ago I installed Comcast’s fiber optic Gigabit Pro service at my home. I documented the process over the course of several weeks that you can see on this playlist.

When the service was first installed in October of 2020 it offered a 2 gigabit connection over an SFP+ circuit along with a second 1 gigabit RJ45 circuit. A few months later they increased the SFP+ speed to 3 gigabits.

This past week Comcast announced they were upping the speed again, this time doubling it to a full 6 gigabits per second over the SFP+ while still maintaining the 1 gig circuit for a total of 7.

But what can you do with that amount of bandwidth realistically? Well, it largely depends on what you’re looking to do along with network conditions and interoperability agreements.

As you’ll see in this week’s Weekly Wrapup, it’s relatively easy to hit the full speed when running a speed test to one of Comcast’s servers, but it’s harder to reach those speeds when testing servers on networks outside of Comcast’s infrastructure. For example when I upload YouTube videos rarely do I see the connection hit 1 gigabit, let alone 6.

Still having a multigigabit connection has been a real game changer for my workflow. I’m very happy with the service reliability and the dramatic reduction in upload times for my videos.

My Apple //c Circa 1987ish

I was playing the “Halley Project” – a game that taught the basics of space navigation. It involved using an included paper star map to find planets that you needed to navigate to. I was very proud of myself for reaching whatever planet I landed on and took a picture (with film!) to mark the achievement.

The Halley Project also had about 20-30 seconds of full speech when the game first booted up! A rarity for sure on the Apple II.

You can play the game here on the Internet Archive, the audio sequence starts right when it boots up.

Today’s Links

Is LaMDA Sentient? An Interview – Medium

The Google engineer who thinks the company’s AI has come to life – Washington Post

Telegram CEO hopes for ‘regulatory action’ over iPhone browser tech block – iMore

MiSTer FPGA News & Updates – PSX Accuracy, GUN4IR, Dragon’s Lair & More – RetroRGB / Lu

The best demos to play during this week’s Steam Next Fest – PC Gamer

Credentials for thousands of open source projects free for the taking—again! – Ars Technica

The Week Ahead for June 13, 2022

Another Monday is here! I actually had a pretty productive weekend doing some upgrades/changes to my production machine. I swapped in a more powerful GPU in preparation for finally going to 4k and making some camera upgrades. At some point I’ll get there :).

I also got rid of a problematic 10 gig ethernet adapter and upgraded to an Intel powered SFP+ adapter. I then ran a fiber patch cable from my equipment room over to the new card for a more reliable connection over the Cat 5e that was going to it previously. I was having some odd problems with this PC locking up my entire network when it was doing heavy volumes of network traffic. It was either the NIC, the cabling, or both. This should fix it once and for all!

You can see what I got and how it’s working in this video. It’ll be published on the YouTube channel later this week.

On the docket for this week are reviews of the new Synology RT6600ax router (affiliate link), a Mele “Quieter 3” fanless Mini PC, and if it arrives the new Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2. As usual whatever other shiny objects come in will also get some coverage :).

Be on the look out for livestreams! Set your notifications! Here’s the latest one I did shooting an extra’s channel video and a portion of the network adapter one.

Have a great week!

New Video : HAM Radio Update!

The last time we talked about my amateur radio adventure I had just passed my technician license exam but didn’t yet have the license! In this latest video I fill you in on all of the things I’ve been doing on the air. Here’s what I’ve managed to figure out:

Contacting the Space Station
The International Space Station has a pair of amateur radios on board and it’s possible with just a handheld radio to communicate through it! Most of the time the astronauts aren’t available but the radio is set in repeater mode so people on the ground can communicate with each other over great distances. In the video I demonstrate how I was able to talk with some 300 miles away using the station as a repeater!

Digital Voice Communications
The Anytone 878UVII Plus radio I purchased works in analog and digital modes. I was able to connect to a local repeater and communicate with the Connecticut ARES group digitally. I’ve found so far that experienced Hams have been very welcoming and helpful with this newbie :).

Packet Radio
I am very interested in sending data through the air without having to use phone lines or Internet connections to do it. In the video I demonstrate how I was able to send an email through a local Winlink server using my handheld radio and a laptop.

What’s next? I need to get a proper antenna mounted on my roof for VHF & UHF communications along with a more powerful base station radio. That’s my next project although I’ll probably hire a professional to install it. I welcome any tips, recommendations and advice !

Newton Makes a Cameo in For All Mankind

I love the Apple TV+ show For All Mankind. It’s an alternative history sci-fi drama where the Soviets landed on the moon ahead of the United States. There’s something for everyone with this show which is helmed by Ronald Moore who previously worked on Deep Space Nine and Battlestar Galactica.

Season 3, which just launched this week, takes place during an alternative 90’s where the Soviets and Americans are racing to get to Mars. And being an Apple show they are of course using Newtons as their personal digital assistants!

Unfortunately the Newton’s screen never looked this good. The best they could do was a green “indiglo” that was popular on some watches back in the day.

Perhaps all of the space age tech that developed out of the alternative space race in For All Mankind made for better displays!

Read and watch more about Newton in this recent blog post.

New Extra’s Channel Video: Unboxing the Wyze Cam Floodlight

As many of you know I use a bunch of Wyze IOT stuff because it’s convenient, cheap, and can work without a subscription fee. I have a long dead motion detector floodlight on my garage and recently came across this Wyze floodlight that has a Wyze Cam Version 3 attached to it.

I haven’t hooked it up just yet (I am having an electrician friend do the work for me) but thought I would unbox it so people who are more handy can see what’s in the box for hardware. The TLDR is not much.

Watch the unboxing here! And see some of my prior Wyze reviews here.

Today’s Links

Microsoft releases Game Pass cloud streaming app for Samsung Smart TVs, announces additional game streaming options for purchased games – Xbox

Vivaldi web browser now has an email client, calendar, and RSS reader built in – Liliputing

Roku Staffers Swirl in Netflix Acquisition Rumors – Next TV

Streaming a Graduation Ceremony

Yesterday I spent the day at my local high school assisting the student TV network with their graduation stream and recording. We had perfect weather for the outdoor ceremony. This year the local cable access television station brought over their Tricaster and simulcasted to their cable station too. It was fun to get all of this stuff working together. We had a mix of SDI cameras and NDI sources. 

Each year we experiment with new gear to up the production value. The school recently purchased a few of these Hollyland Cosmo wireless transmitters (affiliate link) for football games and I was surprised by how well they worked. Even across a soccer field with hundreds of people seated in between it maintained a strong signal throughout. 

I am donating a laptop to the school for Vmix use and we’re going to be building out a portable production setup. I’ll do a video on how we plan to set that up in the near future so stay tuned! 

New Video: Lenovo Yoga 6 (2022) Review

Lenovo’s 13″ Yoga 6 2-in-1 laptop has been updated for 2022 with Ryzen 5000 series processors and a 16:10 1920×1200 display. They’ve packed a lot of value into this one. See my full review here.

They checked all of the boxes here: decent casual gaming performance, that nice 16:10 display, a 1080p web cam, backlit keyboard, a fingerprint reader along with face recognition, relatively quiet fan noise, a thin design that weighs just under 3 pounds and excellent battery life. It also has a carpeted display lid if you’re looking for something a little different from an aesthetic standpoint.

Lenovo loaned me the entry level version for this review that is currently on sale for $599 (affiliate link). Its Ryzen 5500U is fine for most tasks and light gaming, although the 5700U option with 16GB of RAM will provide better performance for games and video editing.

Just note that the better performing Ryzen 6000 series chips are now making their way out to laptops like this one. I have no doubt it a year’s time (or less) we’ll see better performing units at around the same price point as this one. But if you’re need an affordable all-rounder right now, this is definitely one worth looking at.

HAM Radio Update

Still having fun with amateur radio! I’ve made some progress on a few fronts.

Last night I made my first successful contact with another HAM through the International Space Station’s repeater! The person I reached is in Ithaca, NY – about 300 miles from my home in Connecticut. He offered to send over an Mp3 of his side of the transmission which I’ll post here soon!

Typically my radio can reach about 20 miles give or take so having the space station relay transmissions is a huge range booster. What’s remarkable is that my radio only transmits at about 6 or 7 watts and the station is 250 miles up.

What I’m finding with this hobby is that you need the right antenna for the job. So I recently picked up the handheld monstrosity pictured above which is designed for making space station contacts. It’s also useful for regular local contacts until I get a proper antenna installed here.

Additionally I was also able to send my first message through the Winlink email system without using any Internet infrastructure! This is a hybrid email network that can work via local radio receivers but can also route email either from station to station or over the Internet. It was fun to watch the transaction on my laptop. I bought a special device called a “SignaLink USB” which can switch on my handheld radio’s transmitter when the PC sends out the audio.

Once I get an antenna installed I’m going to set up a little BBS on a Raspberry Pi for the local HAMs to use.

I’ll put together an update video soon once I have a few things ironed out!

Chinese Influencer Censored Over a Tank Cake?

A few months ago on the Weekly Wrapup we talked about the growing trend of “Social Shopping.” The best way to think of it is as a modern version of the Home Shopping Network where an influencer talks about products live that are available to purchase. This is something I do on Amazon from time to time.

In the video I pointed viewers towards an excellent video from Bloomberg that shows just how big social shopping has become in China. There it’s an industry worth tens of billions of dollars.

One of the creators featured in that video, Austin Li Jiaqi, has been effectively taken off the air by the government after a guest presented him with a cake in the shape of a tank according to Vice News. The government wants to erase memories of this picture from the Tiananmen Square massacre:

AP Photo

The video happened to take place on the 33rd anniversary of the 1989 event. Jiaqi has not yet reappeared after the stream was suddenly shut down.