Gaming PCs

A buddy asked what’s a decent gaming PC. This is a great time to buy one as the nVidia GTX-1080s are coming down in price and UHD is coming out, so Techradar had a good overview http://www.techradar.com/news/computing/pc/10-of-the-best-gaming-pcs-you-can-buy-in-2015-1304263:

  1. Alienware Aurora F5. $800. This is Dell’s premium line. It is tiny min ITX and very fast with a GTX1080. Nice looking and from Dell.
  2. Lenovo Ideacentre Y900, this is Lenovo and a decent one too. It’s a little expensive compared with the Alienware. See https://www.amazon.com/dp/B014644GZU/ref=asc_df_B014644GXC4643646/?tag=hawk-future-20&creative=394997&creativeASIN=B014644GXC&linkCode=df0&ascsubtag=hawk-431213384-20&th=1&tag=rich20-20

There are other specialty brands too although building one yourself is really the funnest option!

Datacolor Spyder3 Glitch

I’ve been using the Datacolor Spyder3Studio for years now to get a good calibration on monitors. Despite the fact they are up to Spyder5, this has really served me well even with out of data software.

However in trying to calibrate a Monoprice UHDTV display, a 28 inch TN monitor, I had my first trouble. Running on Sierra MacOS, the color kept getting redder and redder. Also, the readings were inconsistent. I would get the display to show 200 cd/m^2 and then during calibration it would turn redder and redder.

I finally had to delete the Spyder calibration and start all over, this seemed to help. FWIW, the sRGB out of the box calibration is actually very close to the 6500K, 2.2 Gamma that I normally use, so if you do not want to calibrate this, just set it to sRGB color space and take the brightness defaults gets you to 200 cd/m^2. That’s pretty bright, but works in high ambient light rooms. If you want a good display for color print photography, they you want it much darker and more like 120 cd/m^2.

 

Netflix 4K and Amazon 4K

I’ve had a chance to use Youtube, Netflix and Amazon on three 4K screens in the last week! I just wish one of them were one I actually owned. Here’s what I learned:

  1. The in TV applications work really well. I tried it 0n a Samsung 6300, a Sony OLED and a Vizio. All late model. Right now, it does seem simpler to just use the in television applications rather than an outboard box. It removes one level of complexity for most users.
  2. If you do not have an the Amazon and Netflix 4K in your television, then you should get the nVidia Shield, it is the only box that does 4K HDR and has Amazon, Netflix and GEForce.
  3. Getting Netflix 4K to work is a little complicated. You need to sign up for the UltraHD plan, you need to set (on the web interface only!) that you want HIGH for data transfer and not auto. Then you should see a new category called Netflix 4K and these are mainly Netflix originals. A good collection. To really make sure it is 4K, most of the these TVs have an Info button to see that you are getting 4K (aka 2160).
  4. For Amazon, there is nothing you need to do, you just get this list.
  5. Youtube is also confusing, the onboard applications on TVs do not seem to call it out, so you need to search for 4K to see things.

Note that Netflix and Amazon 4K content only works on devices like these with DRM. A vanilla MacBook even if it speaks 4K will on have it available. Youtube works on all systems though.

Setting up a second access point Apple homes

Ok let’s say that things are going great. You have a s ingle wifi router like the soon to be extinct Apple Time Capsule but now want a little More coverage say in your basement. What’s the easiest thing to do short of living on smallnetbuilder.com

Well, it’s surprisingly easy and hard to make it all work but here’s the simplest way and some of it is unintuitive.

  1.  I’m assuming now you have a wired Ethernet jack where you want to put it. Normally you want to put it where the signal is weak from your current setup. Like your basement or attic. 
  2. Go buy an identical wifi router like the Time Capsule. You already know how to use and configure it. 

  3. Do not connect it to your home network! Instead plug it in and turn it on and connect your laptop to it. Either via Ethernet cable or on the default wifi.

  4. Start the airport utility and go to the network tab and turn off routing. Otherwise when u plug it in it will conflict with the existing router. Now go to the wireless tab and use exactly the same network name and ssid as your. Make sure you say Create Network and not extend network. You do not want to say the seemingly logical extend because what that does is use a bunch of wireless spectrum for Backhaul. You want to use the wired Ethernet for that. 

3a. If you don’t have an Ethernet connection where u want to go then you do have to use extend and you want to put the router “halfway” to the dead zone. If you put it all the way in the dead zone it won’t have enough signal to use wifi to get to your main router. 

  1. Now go plug in and turn it on. What happens now is that both access points will radiate the same wifi name. Clients will connect to whichever signal is stronger. This works great as long as your PC or phone stays mainly upstairs or downstairs. They will “roam” if one signal grows weak enough which is good enough in most cases. 

Time to retire that old iMac 2008 Spontaneous Reboots and Hangs

Well the thing has been super trustyworthy but lately there have been two problems:

  1. Graphics driver crash. The screen locks up and you can see blocks of pixels flashing. Feels like an nVidia driver crash in Sierra. I’ve heard that the increased use of the GPU can cause crashes in old hardware. Sigh. I’ve tried keeping the temperature down with SMCFanControl and that seemed to help a little bit. Read that somewhere
  2. Spontaneous reboots. You can just stare at the thing and it will reboot itself. Looking at the console’s system.log I see that there is n0o special message. It says “logd: Flusing contents to disk due to sleep event” and then “com.apple.xpc.launchd: Service exited with abnormal code: 75”. The confusing thing is that I have the thing running at never sleep. Ryan seems to have a similar problem and it never returns with a Panic happened message.

Editing Date, Time and Location of a Mac Photo

I used to use Geotag and then Picasa or iPhoto to make these kind of EXIF changes, but each has sadly died. Geotag doesn’t work anymore. Picasa was cancelled as was iPhoto, so there go the free options.

The only one I’ve found that works reliably is Adobe Lightroom, but it’s a little complicated:

  1. Import your photos into Lightroom
  2. Select the Photos and in the Library tab, choose Metadata/Edit Capture Time. One of the convenient options here is to shift time zones (the usual problem).
  3. Go to the Maps tab and type in the location of the photos, or get close and then you can drag and drop groups of photos onto the Map
  4. Now the data is correct in Lightroom’s internal database, so now you update the actual data in the photos themselves by going back to the Library tab and choosing all the photos and Metadata/Save Metadata to File

Bluetooth Headphones

With phones dropping the 3.5mm jack its time once again to look at wireless headphones. 

One sad thing is the Amazon reviews are pretty worthless. They are filled with fake reviews (I sure hope someone over there is working on this problem). 

The review sites are equally useless. Even wirecutter doesn’t do such a great job. Their favorite jaybirds seem unreliable. 

I’ve found the best sites are the user forums like head-fi.org. There is always someone who really cares.

IMore iBfree. For just $59 you almost have to give it a try. Wirecutter likes the x2 but amazon users find it unreliable. These are in the ear so of course fit is the issue. 

Pendulumic Stance S1+. I just love these small manufacturers. At $199 this is a relative audiophile bargain. These are around the ear so bulkier but easier fitting. 

V-Moda Crossfades wireless. These are relatively cheap at $270 but have great sound quality. As an aside the wired M-100 at $184 is dearly loved by audiophiles and Amazon reviewers alike for sound quality. 

Sony MDR-1000x. These are supposed to be even better than the Boss for noise cancellation. Expensive at $400 but now Amazon is offering 15% off with their store card through this December 10 so that’s quite a deal $340. 

Finally if there are headphone you love there are two high quality adapters that are Bluetooth on one side and a 3.5mm adapter on the other. I have a few of these $25 adapters but these are an audiophiles delight. They use Bluetooth with all the bells and whistles and then a very good dac and amplifier:

A&K XB10. Yes it’s $180 but super high quality.

Noble BTS. This is a tiny 10 gram thing that can fit in your pocket.  

Stocking stuffers for geeks

Well it sure does look like someone is doing Christmas shopping now and taking notes. Here are some great ones for geeks with a hat tip to 9to5toys.com and to wirecutter.com for the USB-C things as well as Nathan at Google’s recommendations

  • Aukey Dual Port 2.4A Car charger. These are $12 with a coupon. They are flush with the 12V port so they actually look nice.
  • Sugru moldable glue. This let’s you make hooks or anything else and then it hardens for $15.
  • Aukey USB-C to USB/A USB 3.0 adapters. These are little numbies that fit perfectly in a MacBook Pro case. They are 2 for $5.
  • Cablematters USB-C to DisplayPort 4K 60 Hertz adapter. This is the only one which supports full 60 Hertz and is locking. It’s available December 14th, so close if you are interested in getting it for christmas
  • JScreate USB-C to USB-C JUX-01. (B&H) Note you want the JUX01 not the JUX03 which is *not* compatible
  • iFixit Toolkit. Really the best set of screwdrivers for taking apart anything electronic cost $48 but worth every penny
  • LED bias lighting. These are small lights you connect to your USB outlets of your flat panel. Makes blacks look deeper
  • USB DAC. As a true geek you want to use your own digital to analog converter. The best ones cost just $99