Giving thanks

By | Thursday, November 24, 2016 at 8:20 am

I kept thinking about this post, over and over, wondering just what to write, knowing I’d probably leave out something or someone important, and that would bug me.  Do I just thank everyone and everything I can?  Just the “really” important stuff, or go on and on, giving a sermon about what Thanksgiving is supposed to be compared to what it has become today?

Let’s just get that out of the way right now:  I am thankful for my family, my friends, my job, and just the ability to have one more day to enjoy it all.  The older I get, the more I realize just how precious our time is on this planet.  It can be taken away in a flash, be it an accident, disease, or on purpose.  One day you’re here, the next, maybe not.

Many people say “Live each day as if it were your last.” We can try, but human nature causes us to revert back to our regular behavior quickly, and we soon forget that “golden rule,” and drop back into our old routines,  And depending on exactly how you interpret that golden rule, it could be as simple as being happy and enjoying every moment, or you could be overdoing it and risking everything to make sure you complete everything on your bucket list before the inevitable happens.

Just try to enjoy the time you have, whichever way you have to, and be thankful, especially today, that you’re able to.

Drone

By | Monday, November 21, 2016 at 5:01 pm

home-from-droneThis weekend Matt stopped by with his new drone!  Wow, what a piece of technology!  I was a little curious at the start, but much more so once he was flying it and showing us the features.  He bought a rather expensive model (at least in my book), and it has some pretty sweet features and specs, including a nice gimble & camera.  The gimble allows for beautifully smooth movement of the camera while shooting up to 4K video or 12-megapixel snapshots.

He started it up in the driveway, got up between 200 and 300 feet to clear everything tall in the neighborhood, then flew it around.  I must say, it scared me a bit knowing how much that little toy costed, and watching it zoom out of sight over the neighborhood.  It has a decent range, but I still found it scary.  It probably would have felt even worse, had I been the one who paid for it!  He mentioned getting to a certain point where the video starts to cut out…sheesh, now THAT could give me heart issues… but there’s a nifty little “Go Home” feature and calls it back and it comes right back to your location.

After some flying around and recording (both from my cell phone and from the 4K camera on the drone) until the drone’s battery was nearly dead and getting pretty chilly in the 32-degree weather, we came back inside to warm up and figure out how to view the footage as quickly as possible.

I transferred the videos to my PC and could view them there, but we wanted to watch them on the big TV.  It’s 1080p though, so we couldn’t actually view them in full 4K quality.  I used my laptop, which already has a dock connected to the TV, and the video looked awesome!

The video on a MicroSD card is limited to 4GB file sizes, so our footage was split into two files – one about 8 minutes (4GB in size), and the other about 6 minutes (about 3GB in size).  I wanted to use ShareStudio, an app on the PS4, to edit the video, but unfortunately, the PS4 didn’t recognize the video file format that the drone used.

After we finished ogling the fine footage, I dropped the videos into my YouTube channel to start uploading them to the internet.  After a few hours they completed, and the footage still looks quite impressive there, and now we can share them with everyone easily.  Take a look if you want.  Here’s Part 1 and Part 2 from the drone, and my cell phone footage.

I want to be able to edit those three videos into one nice one, complete with cuts back and forth between be shooting the drone, and the drone shooting me, when we were playing with the “Follow Me” feature of the drone, but I tried doing so in Corel VideoStudio, but it didn’t work out so well.  The resulting video, which I wanted to save as a 4K video, was horrible with dropped frames throughout and full choppiness, rendering it unwatchable.  I might try it again at 1080p, just to see if it’s the 4K it can’t handle, or if my PC’s just not powerful enough to handle the job.

 

Geeks, TWiTs, and Tech, oh my!

By | Saturday, November 19, 2016 at 7:32 am

Anybody else remember TechTV?  Ah, the good old days of having a channel just for us geeks… I remember it very fondly, especially The ScreenSavers with Leo LaPorte and Patrick Norton.  I used to watch that channel quite a bit until it disappeared.  I learned a lot from those guys…and still do. Today the content that was that single channel is spread across everything.  Maybe geeks are finally becoming mainstream.  Yikes! We’re multiplying at an alarming rate, somebody stop the madness!

Seriously, tech and those that know how to use it, is everywhere now, and you have to know it (or at least enough bits of it) to get by.  Is your microwave still flashing “12:00” at you?  If it is, you might not be a geek…And I’m no Jeff Foxworthy, so I won’t continue with that joke.  But with today’s smartphones, small computers, tablets, smartwatches, internet everywhere, etc., etc., it’s clear the world is getting more and more tech-based all the time.

I began in IT in 1981.  It’s still hard to believe it’s been that long ago (36 years. You’re welcome, Kev), but then I look at how far the tech has come and it’s mind-boggling.  My first computer was a Radio Shack TRS-80 – a “Trash Eighty” as it was known as, with a whopping 4K of RAM (that’s 4,000 “characters” or “typed letters” it could hold in memory).  It came as a somewhat-small black * white CRT monitor, which–and I can’t even remember this part clearly enough–also contained the computer components–or at least “some” of them.  Need a visual? Here, have a flashback.  The rest of it was a big, bulky keyboard, which I believe held the rest of the components to round out the entire computer.  But with just these two small pieces, you had an entire computer and you could actually DO things with it!  SAVING what you did on it was an entirely different animal–just as it is today.  Back then you had to buy a cassette tape drive if you were on a budget, and you’d save and load your programs and data from cassette tapes (yes, just like those old music cassettes you heard of, and might have actually seen or used on occasion,from the olden days) that were high-quality, fragile little storage units.  Read and write errors–even with the highest-quality, most-expensive tapes–were frequent, and the loss of dozens or even hundreds of hours of work was almost common.  And God forbid if you had a magnet in your house!  Those who weren’t on such a budget could splurge and pay thousands of dollars for a newfangled “floppy drive”.  They offered a ton more space, were much much faster, and with them you were much less likely to have all of your hair gone (pulled out) by the time you turned 25.  I won’t even go into hard drives.  Those didn’t even appear on the map for some time later on.

But looking at those details you can see how far we’ve come.  As a comparison, the power in that huge, very heavy computer from back then is now fully contained in just a small chip in your smartwatch.  Not even the whole watch, just a chip inside it. Mind-boggling, as I said.  But our society is fast becoming more and more tech-savvy as all of these gadgets continue to spread, evolve, and shrink.  So we’re ALL pretty much becoming “geeks” to one extent or another.  Maybe only in certain areas, but geeks nonetheless.

Where I am going with this, I have no idea.  I just woke up this morning, this was running through my head, and I needed to write.  Like most things in this blog, it’s just random thoughts and memories that come to me.  (he says, as he straps on his Moto 360 while listening to his Windows 10 PC connected to his 55″ LG TV, streaming classic 80’s songs from a Amazon Music…) Geek on.

 

PS4

By | Friday, November 18, 2016 at 6:31 am

I recently got a PS4.  The world of console gaming has changed quite a bit, so I figured it was about time I started catching up…at least for a while.  I’m sure I’ll soon be behind the times again and this brand-new console will be considered “old”, but until then, I’m going to enjoy it!

One of the big changes with today’s consoles is digital versions of games.  Every game can now be purchased as digital, which means you no longer need a CD or–God forbid–a cartridge–to play a game.  When you purchase a digital game, you simply download and install it directly on your console’s hard drive, and can play it whenever you want.  This also means you can install it on multiple consoles, and as long as you’re a user on that console, you can play it there.

Today’s games can sometimes be ENORMOUS, however, so the digital versions can consume a lot of hard drive real estate quickly.  Even most disc-based versions of today’s games require installing to the hard drive anyway though, due to the speed advantage it provides when loading and playing the games, so there isn’t even much benefit gained by having a disc-based game over a digital version.  If fact, these days I find it much less convenient to have to insert a disc to play a particular game rather than just choosing it from a menu to play–just like today’s digital movies.  I haven’t played a physical DVD or Blu-Ray disc in AGES, it seems like!  But that convenience doesn’t come without a price: SPACE…the final frontier… Having all digital games will quickly consume all of the hard drive space you have on your console, requiring you to either upgrade to a larger-capacity hard drive or you’ll have to remove older games you aren’t currently playing to make room for the new ones you want to play.

Luckily, right now hard drive prices are ridiculously cheap compared to what they were in the past and the amount of space they provide.  It would cost me less than $100 right now to double the size of my PS4’s hard drive, and eventually I’ll probably do that.  Right now I’m at about 50% full on my 1TB drive.

Sony also makes the process as painless as possible, only requiring the removal of one screw to pull the hard drive out and replace it.  Re-installing all of your data and games is another story.  You can’t simply copy your installed games from your old hard drive, even if you install it in a drive enclosure and connect it to your PS4 via USB.  Sony doesn’t allow this.  Only your game save data and settings can be backed up and restored from USB media.  All of your games and addons have to be re-installed from the Playstation Store…or they can be transferred over your network from another PS4 system.  The latter is the easiest option, if you have another PS4 on your network.  The data and game transfer is blazingly fast–much much more so than re-downloading everything from the Playstation store–so if this is an option for you, it’s definitely recommended over the re-downloading option.  Remember when using this option, however, that anything that you haven’t purchased yourself–like any games or addons that were purchased by another user–will appear as “locked” on your PS4.  You will have to either purchase that content for yourself in order to use it, or that user can still use that game or addon when they are using your PS4.  You’re also free to uninstall or delete any locked content on your PS4 at any time as well.

There is one odd way that two PS4 users can share purchased content, but it only works with exactly two people–and you better trust that person very much too, because you’d be opening up your entire account access to them.  You just have to activate the OTHER PS4 (the one the other person uses) as your PRIMARY PS4, and activate YOUR PS4 as the other user’s primary PS4.  Then you just use your account on your PS4, like normal, and since it’s his primary PS4, his purchased content is playable by all users on your console and you can play your own purchased content on it as well.  And because his PS4 is set as YOUR primary PS4, he can play his content on his PS4 as well as yours.  It works great.  But like I said, just make sure you trust the other user completely, because they have full access to your account and content!

Trump Trump Trump

By | Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 12:21 pm

Everything’s Trump.  We all know he won, all the polls were wrong, and everything’s turning upside-down.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  We have until noon on January 20th, 2017 before he takes office and all hell breaks loose.  We’ll see what happens.  I’m not complaining.  The guy is in, enough people wanted him in to change things up, and there ya go.  Democracy.  It’ll be interesting, to say the least.  Let’s see what happens.  There’s lots of creative ways to use the word “trump,” and this is just the beginning.