New Video: Plex Hardware Transcoding on AMD Ryzen

Plex is a long time sponsor of the channel. Each month I produce a sponsored post on a feature of aspect of the product. This month we take another look at hardware transcoding of video content. You can watch my latest Plex video here.

In the past I’ve always recommended that people run their Plex servers on Intel hardware that supports Quicksync technology. Intel builds this into even their lowest end chips and it allows for nearly realtime transcoding of video to reduce bit rate and resolution on demand. For a long time that was about all Plex supported.

But recently a mysterious note appeared on the Plex hardware transcoding support page that indicated some limited support for AMD GPUs:

So I wondered.. Would this work on a Ryzen based Mini PC? It turns out the answer is YES! I took out the Beelink SER4 I reviewed few weeks back, installed the Plex Windows server on it, enabled hardware transcoding, and it started successfully transcoding a BluRay MKV file to a 1080p 8 megabit stream in hardware with minimal CPU utilization. The (hw) in the screenshot below indicates it’s running in hardware mode:

The Beelink SER4 is running with an AMD Ryzen 4800U processor with the latest AMD drivers. As Plex says “your mileage will vary” so I can’t say definitively if this will work on other AMD devices as well as it did here. But it is good to see hardware transcoding compatibility expanding.

Last year we tested it on the Macbook Air M1 and found that it was able to hardware transcode running the Intel version of the Plex server! Plex just announced an official Apple silicon version last week so we’ll give that another test in an upcoming video. Stay tuned!

Links for Today

Metal Jesus’ Map of Seattle Area Retro Game Stores – Google Maps / Metal Jesus

AYA Neo Air Plus is a $289 gaming handheld with an AMD Mendocino processor – Liliputing

Steam Deck Parts and Repair Guides – iFixit

After 30 years, the world can now play the lost Marble Madness IIArs Technica

1st look: NASA visitor complex to open ‘Gateway’ to future of space travel – Space.com

Tom Cruise’s Top Gun Maverick’ Opens to $124 Million at Box Office – Variety

All of the Sci-Fi

The Mandalorian has baby Yoda and Obiwan Kenobi has “kid Leia.” The young Leia depicted in this series is a real spitfire. The series is off to a good start and its great to see Ewan McGregor reprise the role. The prequels are viewed quite differently vs. how they were upon release. I think the animated shows helped to smooth things out for fans.

Strange New Worlds had another solid episode this week. By far the best Star Trek show we’ve had since Voyager. Also a new Stranger Things season just dropped on Netflix, the Orville returns on June 2, and Apple TV+’s awesome “For All Mankind” starts its third season on June 10. There’s some other shows I’ve been meaning to check out too. It’s a great time for sci-fi fans!

80’s Japanese Tech Was So Cool

Check this cool watch I saw in a Facebook Group post today. It’s a watch but it’s also a TV! This was back in the days of the Sony Watchman.

Unfortunately to get the TV component to work you needed to hook up this walkman size contraption that contained the tuner. But the watch itself was running with a liquid crystal display.

There was even this Casio watch that in the 1980s which not only had a touch screen but could recognize numbers drawn on its face for the calculator function.

This kind of tech was so magical to me as a kid and there never seemed to be an end to all of the cool new innovations coming out of Japan. My Dad traveled to Asia frequently and would always come back with stories of all of the cool tech he saw in the shops.

New Retro Video : Gameboy & NES Manual Estate Auction Haul!

Last week I told you about the impulse buy I made from a local estate auction website called AuctionNinja. I learned of the site from a funeral director friend of mine who often has to help families liquidate collections of the deceased.

I picked up a lot that consisted of a Gameboy with its original box, a half dozen games, a bunch of NES game manuals along with (oddly) a NES RF adapter and a four way multiplayer device. They didn’t pair the manuals up with the games which were all sold in separate lots.

As it turns out the condition of everything (except the Gameboy) is great – especially the original gameboy box. I couldn’t believe how pristine it was. Yes it’s just a box but it’s one of those things that takes you back to being a kid excited to get the latest game console. The condition of it is far better than anything I’ve seen for sale at game stores and conventions.

The Gameboy itself has seen better days. The adhesive for the screen window came off so I’ll need to reattach it. I am also going to need to take a soldering iron to the screen connection to get rid of the vertical lines that appear on screen (a very common problem with the original gameboy). It looks like a fairly easy fix.

Stay tuned for a Gameboy repair livestream! If I can’t fix the display I’ll replace it with a modern IPS one.

But unfortunately this video isn’t doing very well and that makes me sad :(.

It’s funny sometimes these throwback videos do really poorly at first and then at some point the algorithm tests it with a wider audience and it takes off. This one I did about a demo disc on the 3DO had a similar starting point but later took off an accumulated almost 65,000 views:

So check out the video if you’re so inclined to help add a few views 🙂. Thanks as always for your support!

Today’s Links

Broadcom to Acquire VMware in $61 Billion Enterprise Computing Deal – NY Times

‘Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey’ Director Teases Slasher Film Plot: ‘Pooh and Piglet Go on a Rampage’ (Winnie the Pooh is now in the public domain) – Variety

What I Recommend for Non-Profits Looking to Live Stream

I don’t do much consulting work these days but every once and awhile I help an organization (usually a non-profit) livestream an event or meeting. My approach is to train people in the use of the software and equipment so they can be empowered to go live whenever they need to without the need for additional staffing or expensive consultants.

I’ve found that most organizations don’t need to do something for mass consumption but rather for small to medium sized groups of members, congregants, etc. In those instances Zoom really can’t be beat for that purpose.

Zoom automates a lot of the stuff that can add to complexities on other platforms (especially when it comes to video encoding and audio levels), and it’s very forgiving when there’s a technical hiccup that happens locally or over the Internet. Zoom also has a webinar package that prevents unmuted participants from disrupting meetings. The biggest issues I’ve encountered with it usually involve scheduling meetings and getting the right Zoom links out to participants.

One of the things I recommend for volunteer organizations is that they have one person in charge of the video switching and another in charge of the Zoom (I call them a Zoom operator). The reason is that if they’re not opting for the more expensive Zoom webinar package they need to police the participants and be ready with the mute button! It’s also helpful for that person to monitor the chat for AV issues but also questions coming from the audience.

As far as hardware is concerned I like the following:

The ATEM Mini

ATEM Mini Pro

I love the ATEM Minis. They are super affordable and amazingly full featured. They come in three flavors with the lowest cost option starting at around $295. They allow for live switching of HDMI video sources along with titling, green screen, overlays, and all sorts of neat stuff. The best part is that once it’s configured it boots up and works the same way every time – all a volunteer needs to do is push buttons.

The ATEM interfaces with a PC via its USB port and the video output shows up as a webcam on the host computer. It plugs right into Zoom and works reliably every time. Can’t beat it.

I’ve done a full series on the ATEM Mini line here.

Cameras

As for cameras there are many options – pretty much anything with an HDMI output will work so often I recommend people start with what they already have. You can also run computers through the ATEM’s HDMI ports to get its output on screen.

For those with a little more money PTZ (pan, tilt zoom) cameras are a great choice. I like cameras from Birddog and PTZ Optics – both offer cameras that can be controlled remotely and support video output via HDMI along with NDI for more advanced video production switchers.

Audio & Microphones

Microphones can be a bit trickier. The ATEM has analog audio inputs so you can plug mics directly into it if your cameras don’t have external mic support.

Sennheiser’s AVX System

If you have deep pockets I love the Sennheiser AVX system which is a wireless system that has both handheld and lavalier microphones available. See my full review here. It’s truly a bulletproof system. I’ve used this system for about six years now and have never, ever had a problem with it – even in busy places like CES and other large events.

More recently I looked at the DJI Mic system from the popular drone maker. It’s a wireless microphone system that integrates the mics along with a recorder and wireless transmitter. It’s super simple to use and a low cost alternative to the AVX system.

Going Beyond

I always recommend groups start with the “minimally viable product” and slowly build up their capacity based on need. All too often I see groups budgeting for huge equipment buys that go underutilized. Many groups don’t need a broadcast level production but rather need something that just works to get the word out to their staff, membership, congregants, etc.

When you are ready to take the next step I recommend going with Vmix. It’s a software video production tool that delivers performance on par with super expensive Tricasters at a fraction of the cost. It runs great on gaming laptops for portable productions.

In the photo at the top of this post we were running Vmix on a Lenovo Y740 laptop for a high school graduation stream. We used NDI to bring in three camera feeds into the laptop so we didn’t need to use any capture cards! I detail the whole production here:

No Right or Wrong Way..

The bottom line is there is no right or wrong way to stream something. If it works and your audience gets the information they need you’re good! Starting off in the simplest way possible will grow your confidence, give you some ideas as to how to improve the next stream, and help build your skillset as you progress.

Today’s Links

NASA, Boeing Complete Starliner Uncrewed Flight Test to Space Station – NASA

Smashing Pumpkins’ 1988 Appearance on a Public Access TV Show – YouTube

Streaming Was The Star Of This Year’s Upfronts – AdExchanger

The inside story of Chernobyl during the Russian occupation – The Economist

New Video: The $99 Acer Chromebook 311 – CB311-9H-C1JW

We may be in a period of crazy inflation but we’re starting to see some tech gear that was in demand at the height of the pandemic now getting liquidated as demand tapers off.

Like the Lenovo ChromeOS tablet I reviewed back in January, Acer is unloading their 11 inch Chromebook 311 laptop at a super low price of $99 at Target stores in the USA (affiliate link). It normally sells for around $200.

This Chromebook 311 has an Intel N4000 processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 32GB EMMC for storage. It has a decent enough IPS display running at 1366×768 (essentially 720p) and seems to perform at the upper end of the performance curve vs. its competitors.

The best part of this machine is that it has two full service USB-C ports. It can drive two 4k displays independently at 60hz along with the internal display! Not bad for $100.

In the video we booted up System7.app – a super cool web based emulator of a 68k classic Macintosh running System 7.5. This is the same OS my $1700 Powerbook ran in 1993. It’s crazy to think that adjusting for inflation this significantly more powerful computer would have cost $50 in ’93 – about the price of a Sega Genesis game!

Check out my full review of the laptop here.

Starlink Goes Mobile for RV Owners

Starlink is now available for RV owners and others who find themselves always on the road in need of good connectivity. The new RV service plan will allow for users to start and stop service as needed and will cost $135 monthly. This is compared to the $99 service offering that’s locked to a fixed address.

Starlink’s Service Availability as of May 24, 2022

While the service is available throughout many parts of the world there are pockets without connectivity. In the map above a good portion of the central United States is currently not available for service. So it’s possible RV owners will still find pockets where they can’t get connectivity. The service map can be found here.

Service availability will improve over time as SpaceX continues to launch large batches of satellites each month.

SpaceX is also working on getting Starlink installed on aircraft which should be a significant upgrade over current satellite and ground based systems on commercial airliners. But SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that service for vehicles in motion is not yet reliable enough to roll it out to a larger customer base.

$99 Chromebook Livestream Replay

Yesterday we did a livestream getting ready for my full review of the Acer Chromebook 311 that’s currently selling for $99 at Target (affiliate link).

It performs quite well for the price point. Yes it has an older N4000 processor but it’s quite versatile – it even played back 4k 60 video through an external display without may hiccups.

I still have a few more things to test this morning but I should have the review up by this evening or tomorrow at the latest. Watch the livestream replay here.

The “SMART” Copyright Act is a Pretty Dumb Idea

This week we take a look at a dangerous new bill that will stifle the voices of independent creators under the guise of copyright protection.

We all know how broken automated copyright bots are. But that isn’t stopping Congress from investigating a new law called the “SMART” Copyright Act to have them work across the Internet. If passed a corporation can not only remove content but prevent anyone, anywhere from seeing it by blacklisting them from every ISP in the USA.

It’s SOPA / PIPA all over again.

As any YouTube creator knows, false ContentID copyright claims are a very common occurrence. Sometimes a small piece of music playing in the background will trigger one. Other times big media organizations fail to apply the proper duty of care and automatically claim ownership of public domain footage or other media they don’t own.

Now just imagine all of those issues getting applied to the Internet at large. That’s exactly what this proposed law will do. It will have the Library of Congress deploy an army of copyright bots that will not only pull down content from websites but also require ISPs to block traffic going to those sites. A master blacklist with no recourse for a creator to appeal.

It’ll also stifle speech. Here’s a great example:

YouTube creator PushingUpRoses often does funny commentaries on classic TV shows. Each time she makes a video about “Murder She Wrote” for YouTube it’s immediately flagged and blocked by NBC Universal even before she hits the publish button. She has to file an appeal – essentially asking for permission – to publish a piece that is clearly within fair use.

Now think about this example applied to the rest of the Internet. Want to criticize a big corporate media outlet? You need to ask permission first. And they’ll have the power to effectively take you off the entire Internet – not just YouTube – if they don’t like what you’re saying.

So far the bill hasn’t made much progress but I expect the big money corporate interests behind this to quietly push it along. Big media sees an opportunity to silence independent creators now that big tech companies are not as popular among members of Congress as they were a decade ago during the SOPA/PIPA debate.

Keep up to date on what’s happening with the EFF. This fight is only first beginning.

What’s on Tap for the Week of May 23rd

Another week is here and I’m planning out content for the week ahead. After I take the dog for her morning walk I’ll be starting on the Weekly Wrapup. This week we’re going to take a look at a new effort by big corporations to apply copyright filters to the entire Internet. This new effort by the same cast of characters reminds me a lot of the SOPA/PIPA debacle from a decade ago.

We’re also going to take a look at that $99 Chromebook that’s on sale at Target (affiliate link), do a mini-haul video of a cool retro video game lot I bought at an estate auction, start working on reviewing a new Thudnerbolt 4 dock from HP, and maybe do a bit more with the MiSTer project now that some new 32 bit cores have come out. Beyond that component shortages have left me short of new stuff to review!

See you tonight!

New Extra’s Video: DJI Mic & External Mics

One of the reasons I set up the Extra’s Channel is to have a place for doing supplementary content that won’t overload subscribers with too much Lon.TV stuff all at once. This weekend I uploaded a snippet from a recent live stream I did on the DJI Mic to demonstrate how external microphones sound through the transmitter.

I left that out of the initial review as the sound quality of the external mic will vary based on the mic being used! While it’s easy to demonstrate the built-in mics as every user will experience the same thing, it’s much harder to give a clear example when there are so many different types of mics that can be plugged in.

But I had a ton of questions about it and many more “thumbs ups” on those questions. Thankfully I had a great livestream the other day where we tested the feature and I was able to pull the video from that.

If YouTube would allow us mere mortals to replace an already posted video I would have totally done that here. But hopefully those looking for a demo will be able to find it on the Extra’s channel.

Links for Today

Communicating with orbiting amateur radio satellites with a handheld! – Work-Sat.com

Why have aliens never visited Earth? Scientists have a disturbing answer – Space.com

Star Wars designer behind the Death Star and X-wing dies aged 90 – Sky News

New Video : DJI Mic Review

DJI is known for their great drones and camera systems but they are venturing into a new area of content creation: audio. This very simple new wireless microphone system has two transmitters with built in mics. It instantly provides dual or single channel audio for interviews to smartphones, cameras, and PCs. Just make sure you don’t lose all of the little parts it comes with.

The system works similar to a pair of Airpods in that the included case also charges the components. The system can operate for about 5 hours on a charge. Unfortunately the batteries are built-in and not swappable or replaceable but USB-C ports on the receiver and transmitters allow for external power or batteries.

The receiver connects to cameras with a 3.5mm line out and to smartphones with included USB-C and lightning adapters. Those are the tiny pieces you don’t want to lose.

The transmitters each have internal storage that can hold about 15 hours of audio. This is a good safety net should something go wrong in the field so you can fix audio issues in post production. There’s also an option to record a -6db safety track to prevent clipping for your louder guests. The units connect to a PC via their USB-C ports and the storage will pop up like a USB thumb drive. But it stores the audio in 30 minute increments. The recordings are seamless but a two hour production will result in four 30 minute files that you’ll have to stitch together.

Audio quality is decent out of the built in Mics but they are omnidirectional and as such will pick up a lot of ambient noise. They also sounded bassier and a little muffled as compared to my more expensive Sennheiser lavalier mics. The DJI microphones will not work well in noisy environments like busy streets, convention floors, etc. The transmitters work over the very busy 2.4ghz radio spectrum and will be prone to interference in busier environments like urban offices, etc.

Each transmitter has a 3.5mm audio input for attaching an external microphone. I was able to get my Sennheiser lavalier to connect through the DJI system without issues.

For a first generation product this feels incredible polished. So much so that I am going to hang onto these for when I need something simple for a field production involving my smartphones.