Friday, November 21, 2014

Amazon Fire TV Stick


Amazon Fire TV Stick

- Pretty darn amazing for $20 when they were on sale (now $40).  The setup experience is pretty excellent with my amazon account already setup for me.  After setting up wifi and a firmware update I was up and running.
- I really like the UI.  This is my first fire product, and I like it.  Everything feels fast and responsive.
- Having an actual remote and local storage for android apps is nice.  There was a bit over 5.5gb left for apps.  There was even a setting to allow side loading which I'll dig deeper later.  It seems like you push apk's from your pc over the lan.
- Prime video looked great and output dolby digital 5.1 plus.
- The other apps I briefly tried all performed well: netflix, youtube, plex (change the default bitrate to max and it looks a lot better), twitch, tunein.  Everything was responsive and looked good.
- fire tv remote control app is only on android for now.  The iOS version isn't out yet.  I tested it with my nexus 7 2013 and it worked fine.
- Sonic games won't work without a controller.  It doesn't work with the remote.  I tried pairing my dualshock 4 (hold down share then ps button until it flashes to put into pairing mode).  The fire tv would discover the controller but pairing would fail every time.  I tried some other game called unpossible with the remote and it worked fine.
- Mirroring with my nexus 7 worked ok but was just an overall pretty crappy experience like pretty much every time I tried mirroring under android.  Minecraft: mirroring fails.  Facebook: worked fine.  Chrome: failed after a while.  Sky Force: worked ok but serious performance issues on the tablet made it pretty unplayable.

For $20 I'm super impressed.  Even at $40 it's probably not that bad of a deal.  The hardware feels snappy and you have quite a good selection of apps.  With the addition of side loading that opens up a lot more possibilities (maybe xbmc).  At $20 I would have picked up a couple of more at that price if I knew these little sticks were this nice.

UPDATE:



-Wow that took all of 5 min to side load the latest firefox and kodi beta xbmc apks. I enabled both developer options.  Apps that you side load show up in settings | Applications | Manage all installed.

Installed 1.3 ADB:
http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?p=48915118#post48915118

kodi arm beta xbmc:
http://kodi.tv/download/

firefox
https://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/mobile/releases/latest/android/multi/

tutorial:
http://sideloadfiretv.com/sideload-apps-amazon-fire-tv-windows/

- Streaming 1080p mkv dts play just fine.  Looks really smooth.  Upped the audio output to 5.1 and my receiver shows multichannel so I guess xbmc is doing the decoding.

So ummm yeah $20 for xbmc, browsing (used the nexus 7 as the keyboard), and android apps.  Wow, best $20 spent ever.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mechanical Keyboards

- So for the past few years I keep reading about the advantages of a mechanical keyboard but mostly thought people were nuts to spend $100+ on a keyboard.  Well, I understand completely now.  The real tangible improvements to the typing experience can't be overstated enough.  You just have to try one (and longer than just at a store) to fully appreciate the improvement.
- I'm not the fastest typist out there but I do ok with around 85 wpm on typeracer.com.  I love this site.  It's like my new favorite game since getting the keyboards.  Yes, that is plural.
- mechanicalkeyboards.com is a good place to purchase but they tend to sell out quite often.  Just make sure you check the Incoming and Just Arrived links on the front page to get an idea what's available and when.
- Below are my posts from QT3 as I journeyed deeper into the never ending money pit that is mechanical keyboards.  I ended up with 3 keyboards all with cherry mx browns and the red o-rings:
CM Storm Quickfire Rapid-i TKL ($135).  I have this on my gamer box.
Ducky Zero TKL (DK2087) ($91).  Computer in the study.
Ducky Zero DK2108 ($92).  Taking this one to work.
- For more information check out:
http://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/ (especially the wiki)
http://geekhack.org/

Logitech G710+ (returned it)


- So My first taste was the Logitech g710+
- Tried a few different ones and liked Cherry mx brown the best.
- o-rings make it nice and quiet which I prefer. Though it does feel a bit mushier I guess.
- Man this thing is heavy.
- Cheaper and locally available. Only $105 at best buy so if I don't like it back it goes. I was eyeing the corsair rgb k70 but those aren't even out in brown yet (just red).
- It actually works just fine with my usb linkskey 4 port kvm. I was really surprised by this. Macros work too on the gamer machine with the logitech software installed.
- Works fine with my macbook pro too through the KVM.

I hope the keys don't break or the LED lights burn out but other than that I'm really happy with it. At least it has a 3 yr warranty. Hard to believe I've been using a membrane for the past 20+ years. I had no idea what I was missing out on.

UPDATE 1:
- Still really enjoying the g710+ but mostly coding this week.
- I looked at the code keyboard but was hesitant on using clear vs brown. I've never felt a clear so I'm not entirely sure I would like it.
- Ordered the Cooler Master QuickFire Rapid-i TKL from newegg since I have free shoprunner (american express deal) which gives me not only free 2 day shipping but free return shipping too. This should arrive tomorrow. It was kind of pricey at $130 (after $10 MIR). I don't really need all the fancy lights but all the cheaper ducky TKL ones were pretty much out of stock in the brown. The older cheaper CM was also out of stock.
- Ordered the Ducky Zero DK2108 Mechanical Keyboard (Brown Cherry MX) from mechanicalkeyboards.com for $92 shipped. Now that I'm spoiled I can't stand typing on a membrane at work so yeah this will be my work keyboard. I went with full size since I mouse left handed at work but right handed at home. Yes it's odd but I do that to stop some RSI issues I was having. It only took me a year to train my left hand to mouse. So the 10 key pad isn't really an issue at work.

So I'll use the CM and the g710+ for a week and decide if I prefer TKL or full size and return one of them. I'm thinking for home I'll probably prefer the TKL.

So my advice to everyone is if you don't have like $200+ to blow on freakin keyboards just don't ever try a mechanical....EVER!

UPDATE 2 (CM Storm Quickfire Rapid-i TKL):


Got my CM Quickfire Rapid-i TKL. It's so much smaller than the g710+. Without the o rings it's quite a bit louder and the longer travel distance is going to take a bit getting use to. Maybe I'll buy some o rings if I don't get use to it. I have so much deskspace now. It is nice to have my mouse closer and the keyboard centered directly in front of me.

One thing though I couldn't power this keyboard + my logitech gaming mouse at the same time through my usb kvm. It worked fine with the g710+ though. Once I swapped in my logitech m510 on the kvm it worked fine. I moved my gaming mouse to be hooked directly up to my gaming rig so all is good. I'll try and put in some time in with this TKL over the weekend and see how I like it.

WTF: o-rings are $18?????? Are these people high? Man the g710+ really is a bargain.

UPDATE 3:
Early impressions. I'm really digging the TKL form factor. It's so much more comfortable to have the keyboard centered in front of me and the mouse still close. The CM is definitely quite a bit louder especially the space bar. But since this is my home keyboard I don't mind so much. I might have to get o-rings for the ducky that I'm bringing to work just so I don't drive the co-workers crazy. The lights are kind of neat to mess around with. The key caps pick up finger oils easily so it looks shiny and feels a bit slippery. I actually like the more matte finish of the g710+ which I think looks and feels better. As far as how the typing feels I think I slightly prefer the o-rings though it really doesn't make that big of a difference to me. I tend to bottom out so it's a bit harsher on the CM without the o rings.

So what I want is a TKL version of the g710+ without the macro keys. Decisions decisions....

UPDATE 4 (Ducky Zero DK2108):

Ducky Zero DK2108 in the house! I like it!!!! You can toggle 6 key or nkro which is nice for compatibility, and it plays nice with my KVM. You can also disable the windows key if you want. I like the key caps better than the CM. It has a slight texture to it and doesn't feel as slippery. Also, the spacebar is quieter so I guess the stabilizers are different? Actually, overall the ducky is quite a bit quieter than the CM. I'm not sure why since they both have cherry mx brown. I guess it's the sound made when I bottom out. 

So after a few more rounds of typeracer.com it seems I actually type faster on the CM (about 5 wpm on average). Not sure why. The two keyboards do feel different in subtle ways.

I'm going to give these o-rings a try:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AZQ3966
I also considered these at half the price:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0051XWXCE/...EIL715NS&psc=1

but in the end I went with the red ones which are a bit softer (40A vs 50A) and thinner (.2mm vs ??? but reviews say they seem thicker than .2mm) to preserve the feel as much as possible.

Also, I like wrist rests so I have one of these for the ducky:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004D8PYE2

and I just ordered this shorter one designed for TKL:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FPDAU6Q

The thickness is just right.

And to get rid of the rattle in the CM spacebar I'm going to follow this guide:
http://imgur.com/a/lhLqo
and this grease:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CZIZBTK

Nice keycap puller:
http://www.amazon.com/WASD-Keyboards-Wire-Keycap-Puller/dp/B00AZCGF7K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414693168&sr=8-1&keywords=key+cap+puller

OK, I'm DONE spending money on this. Well, until I pick up another keyboard sometime in the future for the study. But that is lower priority. I must really stop now.

Oh and the g710+ is boxed and ready to be returned. I really do like the TKL length a LOT. 

UPDATE 5 (o-rings):
I have a fun evening ahead. It's like quality bonding time with my keyboard.

UPDATE: Took a bit less than an hour but I'm loving the o-rings. So much more quiet, I like the little bit of spring I get, and my wpm went up about 5. Oh and my spacebar doesn't rattle nearly as much anymore.

Update 2: finished the ducky in about 30 min and that was with more keys so yeah I got faster.

UPDATE 6 (Ducky Zero TKL):

My ducky zero TKL finally arrived. I've already put the o-rings on this time I carefully seated each one with tweezers. I went back and spot checked the other 2 keyboards that I already put o-rings on and they seemed fine with the put it on and mash the keys to seat the ring method. 

Anyways, I really think the ducky is a great value. For $91 it has all the critical features I look for including win key disable and NKRO/6KRO toggle. It has LEDs on all the keys that toggle. It works great with my KVM too. Granted, I think the cm storm feels a bit nicer, has a nicer finish, and is heavier to boot. I also like how it feels to type on better. It's subtle but different from ducky even though both use cherry mx brown and have the same o-rings. But is it $40 better? IMO, no.

iPad Air 2 (128GB, WiFi)



- My youngest is still on an iPad 2, and it is REALLY slow on iOS 8.  My old iPad 3 actually felt ok. So this upgrade was as much for me as it is for him.
- Super light and thin.  It's so thin it's getting a tad hard to hold.
- It's really fast.  Unlike the mini refresh this one got a new CPU, and man can I feel the difference.
- TouchID FTW.  I LOVE touchID.
- I've ordered the the iCarbons back only Titanium color this time.  I also picked up an apple smart cover.  I find this combination gives me some nice scratch protection with minimum weight added.
- I picked up this tempered glass screen protector from ebay for around $11.  I hope it has good adhesive.  I should have tomorrow.

Highly recommended.  It's a really nice iPad but it's more of the same.  If you need some product refreshing around the house like I did I say go for it.  I wish they would come out with an iPad Plus since I use the iPad for all my sheet music.  A little larger model would be nice.

Playstation TV


- $100 at amazon.
- It's tiny.
- Stuck my old 4GB vita memory card in there and tried out Thomas was Alone (local native vita game). Worked fine.
- Paired up with my dualshock 4 without issue. This means no more compromises as far as controls go when streaming from the ps4.
- 720p/1080i max resolution so it seems a bit comically low res for a streaming box. Everything is gigantic on 720p in the menus. In game it's not so bad.
- Streaming Shadow of Mordor over gigabit ethernet on both ends. It's about as smooth as you can hope for but for a game like this I think it's very sensitive to input lag. I'm not sure why but the input lag feels worse than the vita. Maybe it's the added extra ms lag that happens when going through a receiver and to an HDTV. I'll try it on a different TV later tonight when I move it to it's permanent home. At least it looks and sounds good though.
- Tried velocity 2X for a bit over streaming and it felt quite a bit better though the input lag is still noticeable but not nearly as bad.
- There are barely any apps right now, not even netflix. I think there are like five and I only recognized crunchy roll.

UPDATE 1: 
- I power cycled all my network equipment and switches just in case.
- FYI, I did update the firmware to latest (first thing I did after initial setup).
- There are some framerate issues. I'm not sure if it's just the bigger screen so it's more noticeable or because the client is rendering out to 720p vs whatever the vita screen resolution is but it's quite noticeable. Think chromecast when casting a tab (but not quite that bad but you get the idea). I have resolution set on auto so I need to double check to see if it's using 720p. I'll try forcing 1080i and even 480p later tonight to see if that makes a difference.
- The input lag feels closer to say 80-100ms. < 40ms = local for me and > 130ms = modern hdtv's NOT on game mode. So it's definitely noticeable but depending on the game it has a different impact. I played some Tomb Raider definitive edition and it was pretty playable except you have a bit less time to react to QTEs. TD on cod ghosts was a bit of a mess. The reduced framerate makes aiming a bit jerky combined with the increased input lag makes this a pretty horrible experience.
- I think it supports up to 2 controllers. 
- It has 1 GB of internal storage but as soon as I popped in the 4 GB vita memory card it basically disables the internal memory. So you can only use one or the other but not both.

Yeah, not sure who this device is targeted for. If the streaming performance was better I would probably pick up a few more to sprinkle around the house. If you want to play vita games then you really should just get a vita which has full app support. Right now I can't really recommend this little box for anything really. Having full dualshock 4 support is rather awesome though. I have my fingers crossed that maybe forcing 480p output will improve things overall. I'll trade resolution any day if I can smooth out the framerate and responsiveness.

What is odd thinking back to when I tried sniper elite 2 on playstation now during closed beta using the ps4 as the client THAT experience felt better than streaming locally to the ps tv. It almost feels like the ps tv doesn't have enough juice to be a proper client at the given output resolution. I'll also test the ps tv on wifi just for completeness though I don't see how wifi is going to beat out gigabit ethernet.

interesting read:
http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2014-hands-on-with-playstation-tv-remote-play
Here's the interesting aspect though - re-running the latency test to measure the amount of time between the same frame being rendered on PS4 and PlayStation TV still produces a lacklustre six-frame deficit: 100ms. The difference is that the lurches in response are significantly reduced. Moving from a wireless to a wired connection simply gives us the fastest speed possible from the hardware and consistency in the transmission and reception of data.
HAH! My off the cuff latency spidey senses are working well. They measured 100ms.

UPDATE 2:
- Forced it to 480p. No real noticeable difference in feel except things are uglier.
- Tried out last of us hd and it was ok. These 3rd person action games are definitely more forgiving of the lag. I went back and tried some more tomb raider at 480p. Verdict is just leave it at automatic (720p).
- Tried out Killzone mercenaries. It plays well but with the graphics blown up it looks like a low res ps3 game that was up res'd to 720p with a lot of aliasing issues. it's not pretty but very playable.

Yeah, I'm tempted to box this thing up and return it. I might keep it in hopes that after a few firmware updates the streaming gets better but I'm not hopeful. 

Very disappointed. Maybe this is for people who are less sensitive to input lag and slightly jumpy framerates but apparently I'm not one of those people.

I'll do one last test when I move it downstairs. I know the onkyo receiver I have it hooked up to while testing does the upresing to 1080p. I'll be curious to see how it is on my yamaha receiver which will pass through the 720p to the tv.

UPDATE 3:
NOT Recommended.  Tested it downstairs in it's final location.  No difference.

Macbook Pro 15 Retinal (mid 2014)



- So I picked up a new macbook pro to replace my old mid 2010 15".  The main reason is I really wanted proper dual monitor setup and the old 2010 just doesn't have it.  It has only 1 mini display port.  I tried one of those Diamond BVU195 USB to DVI adapters which worked ok but since it uses your existing cpu/gpu to virtualize another video card it killed performance.  If I did anything on the usb display my cpu would spike to 90%.  If you are doing some light computing I guess it was fine but I was planning to start some Swift development and I need more cpu cycles for compiling while looking at reference and video tutorials on the other monitor.
- I thought hard between the 13" and the 15" but finally decided to go 15" since I'm planing to use this for development and the extra screen relastate when not docked to my 2 X 27" asus ips monitors would be helpful.  I also wanted the biggest cpu jump I could get and I had to go 15" for quad core.  I custom configured a top of the line one with the 2.8 ghz core i7, 16 gb ram, nvidia 750m, and 512GB ssd.  I couldn't quite swallow the $500 upgrade price to that 1 TB ssd.
- I'm using the amazon basics mini displayport to hdmi adapter and the built in hdmi port.  It works well including audio over hdmi.
- Performance was quite a nice speed bump.  xcode builds nice and fast now.
- I also run a full visual studio development environment inside a virtualbox vm (windows 8.1 enterprise) and that runs great too on the ssd.
- I tried a few games like guild wars 2 and diablo 3 and both run well on the 750m.  I ran borderlands 2 off the usb 3.0 external hard drive on the exFAT partition, and it ran great.
- I picked up a seagate backup plus slim 2TB.  I decided to install bootcamp onto an external drive and save all the ssd space for osx and vm.  I followed this guide which is quite a few steps but does indeed work.  I used a real windows 8.1 machine for all the windows steps though.
- To get imagex.exe I grabbed the windows 8.1 ADK. You only need to install the Deployment Package which is really small to get the imagex.exe.  I used a msdn windows 8.1 enterprise iso which I installed to a 1TB partition.  I created a second 1TB partition and formatted it to exFat so I could share between OS's.  I figure I could install some mac steam games on the exFat partition.
- Speeds aren't bad over usb 3.0.  They keep up with the 2.5" hdd just fine.
- I bought a second 2TB external drive.  I got a good deal on a seagate expansion drive.  These aren't quite as nice or as slim as the backup plus slim one but it's still nice.  I formatted this one hfs+ and use it for time machine backups.
- I picked up a suction cup hanger.  What you do is stick it to the external hdd then hook it over the top of the macbook screen.  That way it's easier to move around with the mbp and the hard drive just goes with you.  It's a bit ghetto but it works.
- Actually, a sticky car dash mount might be a better solution.
- Upgrading to Yosemite went smoothly.
- I love Karabiner which is a great keyboard remapper.  If you use a pc keyboard with a mac and want your navigation keys like home, end, and windows, alt keys mapped properly go install this.  It has some nice pc keyboard specific settings that make this a snap to remap and setup.
- The bottom of my old mac kind of got scuffed up so I'm going to try a top+bottom iCarbons set on the new one.
- The screen is sharp and beautiful and you don't see any scaling artifacts.  It really does look perfect.  If you want to run at native give SwitchResX a try and get ready to hold the mbp about 5 inches from your face to be able to read anything.  Display Menu in the app store is pretty nice too and there is a free version.
- This ikea napkin holder makes a nice dirt cheap vertical stand.

Hightly recommended.  So far I really like it.  It was really pricey, and I probably wouldn't have upgraded if my old one had dual monitor support.  Good thing apple products maintain really good resell value.  I expect this one to last a good long time.  I felt the time to buy was now since broadwell is pretty much delayed until next year so I don't expect a mbp refresh anytime soon