Monday, June 14, 2021

Lenovo Legion 5 Pro Review (2021)


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Wireless Apple CarPlay Dongles


New model on the left, older one on the right

So my Honda Civic si 2018 has wired carplay but doesn't have the new wireless carplay.  I recently discovered there are dongles that act as a wireless to wired bridge.  This of course only works if your car already supports wired carplay.  

The first one I bought was apparently an older model even though it is labeled as carlinkit 2.0.
It seems to work fine and is around $100 currently.  

The newer TRUE 2.0 model is also around $100 with the current coupon.

The main differences is the newer model has a detachable usb-c cable and a much easier to see status LED.  Having a removable cable might be important to you especially if you have specific placement needs.  Both seems to boot in around 30 sec and both seem to perform about the same with responsiveness very similar to wired.  The newer version is suppose to be faster but with the price about the same just go for the newer one.  They both have a usb pass through port if you want to still go wired.

Setup is basically the same.  Just plug it into your carplay usb port and pair over bluetooth.  After that, every time you start your car everything just works.  I've heard it can crash occasionally requiring you to unplug and replug the adapter into the usb port but I haven't had it long enough to experience any issues.

Updating is done by navigating to in safari.  I had to update twice to get to the latest version.  There are some reports of bricking so proceed with caution.  I did notice the website would say update is complete but it actually wasn't.  Accessing carplay on the head unit would show that it was still updating and the same with the status lights.  So just make sure it's completely updated and carplay is tested and working before shutting off your car or unplugging it.

So far this thing is amazing.  It's such a nice quality of life change especially if you have wireless charging built into your car.  Now I just start the car and toss my iPhone XS Max onto the charging pad and carplay just starts working automatically.  I probably won't be using the phone holder much anymore.  Well worth the $100.

Recommended apps:

  • Maps
  • Google Maps
  • Waze
  • Spotify
  • Audible
  • AVSub with airsonic server running on a raspberry pi 4
  • Podcasts
  • Apple Music
  • Zoom
UPDATE: 4/25/2021
Took a day trip so about 5 hrs with the wireless carplay adapter.
Carplay is a combination of bluetooth and wifi.  Bluetooth is what is initially used to establish the handshake over wifi passing credentials and such.  Once wifi connection is established the bluetooth connection is no longer needed and dropped.  All audio/video is transmitted via wifi to the head unit.  All this happens seamlessly in the background.
So while I had my wife's phone plugged into the usb passthrough odd things happened.  First, it seems it's for charging only and my phone was still the one in use with carplay.  About every 15-30 min the head unit would just go blank.  Rebooting the carplay adapter would fix it but then it would eventually go blank again.  Either the usb pass through is pulling too much power or something weird was going on having a different phone plugged in vs the one that was paired.  Either way once I no longer used the usb passthrough it seemed to work fine for the most part.
2nd issue,  once during a 2.5 hr drive I had audio drop out while listening to the avsub app.  It just dropped to phone speaker.  After rebooting it held the rest of the drive.
While doing all this my iphone was in the wireless charger and the phone got pretty hot but was charging but slowly.  Overall still pretty satisfied but it does have a few glitches.

UPDATE: 5/24/2021
Ok, the usb pass through is indeed very glitchy.  I recommend you do NOT use it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

AMD Ryzen 9 5950x Nvidia RTX 3090 FE PC Build

So it's been over 7.5 years since I've done a a completely new desktop PC build for myself.  With the huge generational leap in CPU (zen 3) and GPU (RTX 3080) and Cyberpunk 2077 release I figure it was the perfect time to pull the trigger on a new pc.  It was the best and absolute worst time to build though.  Great as far as technological advancements and a target application/game that can take advantage of it creating a perfect storm but horrible from a product availability standpoint with demand way out stripping supply and scalper bots gobbling up a lot of the scarce inventory.  

I have to say Best Buy really came through for me.  It is where I was able to get both the PS 5 and Xbox series X pre orders in, rtx 3080, and now finally the ryzen 5950x.  The cpu took almost 2 months to finally acquire.  I'm so glad I was able to buy everything at retail prices.  I did use alert bots (does NOT auto buy, just alerts) like this one running on a dedicated pc with mullvad vpn with kill switch on.  There are also several discord shopping bot servers like this one.  Finally, I wrote my own bot because I could.   

In the past I've typically targeted mid to high end with a budget of $1300 or less. This time I kind of went all out.  The hope is this PC will last a LONG time with the typical GPU upgrade every 2-3 years.

Here is the complete parts list:

This is by far the most insane and expensive build I've done clocking in at $3,100 and after taxes closer to $3,355.  But it runs Cyberpunk 2077 so totally worth it! Seriously, I'm loving it with 60 hrs in so far and still in Act 2.  

Some notes on the parts I chose:

  • Rzyen 5950x: Pretty much overkill for purely gaming but I want this cpu to last a long time and to use it for more productivity tasks, virtualization, and coding.  First cpu I had was a 5600x which partially  broke in the first 4 hours.  You can read more about my painful experience if you are curious.  I know  the 5600x are the lowest bin parts but I think this one fell out of the bin, got smashed under the bin, was found and shipped to me.  So far the 5950x has been working great though.
  • Noctua NH-D15: It's massive but so effective, quiet, and surprisingly really easy to mount.  Just a really well designed cooler.  Worth it if you've got the space but again probably overkill if you are running stock (which I plan to for quite a while).
  • Arctic MX-4: Spread method for LIFE.
  • Asus TUF Gaming x570 pro.  Has all the headers I wanted to plug in all the connectors for my case including front usb-c.  Wifi is pointless so that part is a waste but I like having bluetooth built in.  It was a bit more than I wanted to spend.
  • Corsair Vengeance LPX 32 GB 3600:  Went for higher speeds vs lower latency since higher clock speeds directly impacts infinity fabric in a 1:1 scenario.  
  • Samsung 970 evo Plus 2TB: Got a pretty good price and I wanted to fill all the nvme holes since filling it later would be difficult with that Noctua in place.  I stuck a cheap little heatsink on it since the motherboard only came with one nvme heatsink.  Not sure if it helps all that much but might as well.
  • Sabrent Rocket 4.0: Gen 4 speeds for the boot drive
  • Evga RTX 3080 XC3 Ultra: It's a 3080.  DLSS and ray tracing were very important features for me.  I run a 4K 32" display so the more GPU the better.  
  • Phanteks p500a: First time working with a phanteks.  I love the overall build quality with a lot of nice cable management features.  I HATE that this particular model is missing a HDD LED and reset button which I had to add on myself and just have it tied to one of the gpu pcie power cables.  The phanteks fans are really nice too and having all the RGB synced up is cool.  Good Temps, Good looks, Good low noise levels.  If you find it a bit confusing on how to wire up all the fans and rgb take a look at this video.
  • EVGA 850w: Spent a bit more here for more headroom to accommodate any future gpu upgrades.
  • Seagate 16TB: Immediately shucked it and installed it internally.  It's always nice to have a large amount of local storage.
Bios Settings (currently on version 3001).  Download latest from here:
  • Install latest chipset drivers directly from AMD.
  • Start from optimized defaults
  • AI over clock tuner: DOCP
  • SVM Mode: enabled
  • Wifi controller: disabled
  • Resize BAR: ON
So there wasn't a huge difference between gen 3 and gen 4.  Gen 4 isn't really cost effective right now but I got one just to be more future proof.

Gen 3 (Samsung):

Gen 4 (Sabrent):

CPU Temps:
Cinebench R23 multi core:




Additional Parts:
  • Ducky One 2 Midnight TKL Double Shot PBT Mechanical Keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches
  • Logitech G Pro Wireless Gaming Mouse
  • SeelSeries QcK mouse pads
  • Grifiti wrist pad
  • Xbox Series X Controller in Shock Blue with wireless adapter.  I think it has lower latency than bluetooth.
  • Jabra Evolve 40 Mono headset.  I prefer to keep game audio on speakers and only have chat through the headset.
  • 32" 4K 60hz monoprice monitor with freesync.
  • Cheap HP and LG 1080p 60hz IPS 27" monitors (each were around $100-120)
  • Logitech Z-5300e THX-Certified 280-Watt 5.1 Surround Sound PC and Gaming Speaker System.  I don't have the rear speakers hooked up just because I don't have a good place to put them.
  • Logitech c920s webcam

Overall I'm super impressed with this rig.  I thought my old machine still felt pretty fast but this machine is so much faster.  Highly recommended if you have the money and the patience to get the parts.

UPDATE: 05/24/2021
  • I picked up a RTX 3090 Founders Edition from Best Buy at retail price.  I got pretty lucky.  I gave my son the 3080.  Now there is literally nothing left in my system I would want to upgrade.  It's about as top of the line as it gets for me at least.  I think it's time I stop fiddling and enjoy the system.
  • Updated pcpartpicker list.  Now it's up to $3842.  So around a bank breaking $4160 after taxes.  Uggg!!!

That 3090 is a beast compared to the already large 3080.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

New Consoles - Xbox Series X, PS 5, Nintendo Game & Watch


Xbox Series X - Arguably the most powerful console well at least on paper anyways.  Feels fast, polished, complete, finished.  Seems very stable.  Silent.  Nothing really to play since it really doesn't have any big exclusives since Halo got pushed back to next year.  Amazing backwards compatibility.  Game pass is probably the best value in gaming right now (netflix of gaming).

Playstation 5 - A behemoth!  Also fast and silent.  Less ssd space (667 gb usable).  Buggy, rushed, unfinished.  Currently it is recommended you do NOT use an external hdd and also disable rest mode.  I had one power shutdown the first night when I had my external hdd connected.  It actually has good exclusives like Spider-Man (performance mode FTW), Demon Souls remake, and Astro's playroom which is free and really really good.  Amazing haptics on the controller that feels truly next gen.  Hand candy!  Badly needs a firmware update to fix issues.

Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros - Nintendo doing its own thing.  It's my favorite desk clock.  Cool easter eggs.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Casio Digital Piano (CDP-S150)

So we normally play on our Kawai KG2 Baby Grand which is really an amazing instrument.  We've had it for over 20 years now, and it still sounds really nice for the most part.  The hammers are hardening a bit making higher notes sound a bit off but other than that it is still pretty great.  It's a bit heavier action especially when compared to like a Yamaha.

So why a Digital Piano when we already have a nice piano?  Mostly it is to have a portable option.  We wanted something we could bring to the parents house and our kids could still practice if they wanted to.  My youngest is now much better than  I am.  We also wanted something that could be battery powered so that limited our options much further.  If the power ever goes out you can still play!  Also, having headphone option so as not to disturb the rest of the house is great too.  No need to tune it every year either so that's quite a nice maintenance cost savings.

We first tried a Roland GO:PIANO88.  It sounds good and has some great modern connectivity options like bluetooth midi and speakers.  It has semi weighted keys and well if your are intermediate or better I would say that's just not going to cut it.  The weight and action all just felt way light, cheap, and plasticky.  Remember, we are coming from only really ever playing on that Kawai so for a beginner who hasn't had much play time with a particular piano this might not be that big of a deal.  So I returned it and grabbed this Casio.  It has fully weighted scaled hammer action keys and they feel SO MUCH BETTER.  I really like the texture on the keys too.  Everything felt so much more premium.  It costs and weighs quite a bit more than the Roland but I feel it is definitely worth the money.  Also, it can run 6-13 hrs on 6 X AA batteries.  I didn't like the sound quite as much and I felt the samples were way too short but those are pretty easily fixed.  The one thing you can't fix/upgrade on a digital piano are the keys so I think that is where you should spend the money.  The short pivot point does make it bit harder to play deep into the keys but it wasn't that bad and with a bit of practice you get use to it.  

Full Setup:

  • Casio CDP-S150: $479.
  • M-Audio SP2 Sustain Pedal: $25.  The included pedals on all these cheaper pianos are hot garbage.  Definitely get an upgraded one.
  • PageFlip: $90.  A must have if you use an iPad for all your sheet music.  I use my left foot to turn pages with this incredibly handy bluetooth device.
  • Yamaha UD-BT01 - Wireless MIDI Adapter: $55. This will convert the standard usb midi on the Casio to wireless bluetooth midi to easily work with iOS devices.  If you have a newer iOS device then this is must since you will need to use a lightning to headphone jack adapter.  Works well with GarageBand and Ravescroft 275.
  • Piano Stand: $119.  Built for this piano model.  Pretty sturdy though there is still a little bit of front to back movement.  Side to side is very stable.  Uses 4 big oversized thumb screws to attach the piano to the stand so it's very easy to remove by hand.
  • Piano Bench: $45.  Cushioned, lots of height adjustments.
  • ForScore: $15. Amazing iOS app for all your sheet music needs.
  • Ravenscroft 275: $36 Amazing sounding piano samples.

So to overcome the short samples and sound of the Casio (which really isn't that bad to begin with) I use the Ravenscroft 275 app.  It can run in the background.  I have an iPad Air 2 connected to the keyboard using the bluetooth midi adapter.  Just go into the midi settings in the ravenscroft app and connect to the UD-BT01.  Then, make sure you tick the checkbox.  If you don't check the device after pairing it won't actually use it.  This had me stumped for a while.  After that just use a standard stereo 3.5mm cable to connect it from the ipad headphone jack (or lightning adapter) to the aux in on the keyboard.  Turn the volume all the way down or change the midi setting on the keyboard so you only hear the sounds from the iPad which is then piped into the keyboard aux in and out the built in speakers.  I leave everything at default settings in the app. It sounds really good especially on headphones and the samples are nice and long for much better sustain pedal use.  It does occasionally glitch in sound with a bit of crackle but it's very rare.  It could be it's because this is a pretty old model of iPad.  Overall, it's a very noticeable improvement over the built in keyboard sound.  I use around 10% iPad battery for about an hour of practice.

I spent around $760 total for this setup (some things I already had and are also really useful with the real piano).  I've done a few long practice sessions with it, and no it's still not the same as a real piano but it's darn close and really quite good for the money.  Any practice on this setup will translate very nicely to a real piano.

UPDATE 10/31/2020:
So for the ultimate low latency solution you can go all wired:
  • a cheap usb sound card like this one.  I haven't tested that particular model but I had a logitech one lying around and it worked fine: $8
  • USB 3 camera adapter: $39
  • I had this cheap little unpowered usb 2.0 hub sitting around but I'm sure any usb hub would work: $8
So lightning to usb (didn't need to add power.  worked fine without).  Then the usb hub and finally connect the casio and usb sound card to the hub.  Then headphones to the sound card.  It all worked great and I was able to use my newer iPhone XS which I'm happy to report produced a clean glitch free sound.  I still use my iPad but only for forscore now.  It's a little less convenient than the bluetooth midi dongle, and really it's still only one lightning cable you need to plug into your iPhone, but overall I feel the results are worth it: Zero lag and cleaner sound!