Turn Backaround: Revisiting the Nintendo Switch

This is a quick return to the Nintendo Switch I thought would be interesting to those of you still on the fence about picking up a Switch. It turns out sales of the console have started to decay and there has been news of Nintendo bringing out an updated version in the near future.

So far the Switch is the console I have most used in this generation since I changed my trucking job a couple years ago. I don’t have a lot of time to play my XBOX One S or my Playstation 4 as I am only home for usually one day of the week. That usually leaves me time to do a podcast and play a little on my computer “ZPM”.

So mobile has become very big for me and that’s saying a lot as before this I had dabbled with the Nintendo Gameboy, DS, and 3DS (and Sonys PSP and Vita) but they were never more than Pokemon machines for me.

The Switch is something different. It has a ton of great console grade games that I can take anywhere with me on the road not requiring a television of any kind. That’s not to say the experience on TV is bad. It’s not. It’s just not where the Switch excels.

The battery life leaves me a bit wanting but other than that I am incredibly happy with the Switch. Games like Octopath Traveler and Super Mario Odyssey look incredible on the small and big screen alike and the games themselves are great.

Right now, if Nintendo had better third party support, I would tell you to buy a Switch. Period. No question. But the third party support is lagging. Yeah there are some newish games out there but when a game like Skyrim is like a big thing to be released on your console when the game itself was released in 2011 that really isn’t a big deal.

One does have to wonder why Nintendo still bothers with their 3DS/2DS line of handhelds. I can only surmise at this point that they are on life-support. I am guessing at this point if there is new Switch hardware in the works they will be giving us more battery life and going fully mobile with perhaps the option to still dock it if you want to play on the big screen.

What has your experience been with the Switch? Or are you still on the fence?

When the Internet Goes Down

Internet. We love it. We hate it. Either way we need it. Just this past week I took my first week off for vacation in seven years and looked forward to doing a lot of work on this website and podcast rss feed. Yes work on vacation.

I did take the first few days as relaxation however and that proved to be a bad idea. On Thursday morning a furniture delivery to a house just down the road proved to be too much for the cable line running from across the road to our house. The truck apparently was high enough that it ripped the line right off our house and our neighbours house taking our eaves-trough with it. That spelled the death of everything connected in our house. Continue reading “When the Internet Goes Down”

“We skipped over that minute to instantly arrive at this moment in time.” Looking back at 2017.

A lot of things happened over 2017. We went up to producing more than one podcast (then subsequently I got so busy with work I had to slow down production). We picked up dedicated studio recording hardware as well increasing the quality of our podcasts.

AMD vs Intel in 2017

As for tech news there was a lot. Team Red AMD finally came back in to the forefront with the release of their much anticipated Ryzen cpus gaining back an impressive market share from Intel. Team Blue Intel respectively did an emergency release of their 8th generation Core cpus with more cores to compete with AMD. AMD shot at Team Green nVidia as well with their new Vega video cards. Sadly they have and are plagued with supply issues and are hardly even competitive when it comes to price/performance. nVidia poked back with the 1070ti and not too long ago released their first prosumer volta based gpu in the new Titan V.

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A new player has jumped in to the fray as well. Qualcomm had joined with Microsoft to build PCs running Windows 10 on Qualcomm Snapdragon cpus opening the doorway to a possible multi-day battery life for on the go laptop users.

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2017 was also a bad year for hacks and malware. The year began with a huge infestation of malware that locked computers and held their data hostage until you paid ransom. Then Equifax released that nearly every American with credit had their personal data exposed and in Canada while less of a big story several were also effected.

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Last year was also the first time Amazon acknowledged that anyone other than the United States and Britain existed by releasing many of their smart devices in Canada and a hundred other countries world wide. In Canada we received Amazon Prime Video and Music, Amazon’s Echo Dot, Echo and Echo Plus as well as their FireTV stick.

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Sadly we’ve had some losses as well. Towards the end of last year we lost what used to be Canada’s premier online PC hardware store NCIX to bankruptcy. In hind site it was easy to see coming with things not being out of stock or constant back order on their site but they will be remembered as one of the best tech stores for pc enthusiasts as we see Memory Express and Canada Computers move in to NCIX’s old domains.

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In gaming and entertainment we saw Warner Bros finally release a good DCU movie with Wonder Woman. We also saw the release of Thor Ragnarok and Star Wars the Last Jedi. There’s also a new Doctor Who in town being played for the first time ever by a Woman by Jodie Whittaker. Nintendo’s Switch has sold impressively well, and even I (Jeff) ended up picking one up despite warding off Nintendo for their incredibly dismal introduction of their NES and SNES Classic (of which there still is not freaking stock of in Canada).

I’ll put all the links to the stories and a few bonus ones just after this next bit. I wanted to share with you my favourite video games of 2017, besides World of Warships. And I’ll mention my biggest disappointment.

Favourite Games of 2017 (What I played the game on)

  • 5) Call of Duty World War II (PC)
  • 4) Fire Emblem Warriors (Switch)
  • 3) ICEY (PC)
  • 2) Persona 5 (PS4)
  • 1) Sonic Mania (PS4,…. and uh, PC, and uh,… yeah, uh Switch)

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Biggest Disappointment of 2017 (What I played the game on)

  • AMD Vega 56 and 64. Oh that’s not a game…
  • Mass Effect Andromed (PC and PS4). This game was so disappointing that I wrote a whole post about it.

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https://www.techpowerup.com/230891/amd-reveals-ryzen-7-family-pricing-and-radeon-vega-logo

https://www.techpowerup.com/230926/nvidia-counts-down-to-geforce-gtx-1080-ti-launch

https://www.theverge.com/2017/2/8/14548376/e3-2017-open-ticket-sales-public-february-13

Zelda will be Nintendo’s final game for the ‘end of life’ Wii U

https://geektyrant.com/news/wonder-woman-is-now-the-highest-grossing-dceu-movie

http://hexus.net/business/news/components/107524-amd-cpus-took-nearly-10-per-cent-share-intel-far-year/

https://www.gamezone.com/news/doctor-who-bbc-reveal-jodie-whittaker-as-first-female-doctor-3455561/

https://www.engadget.com/2017/07/21/amazon-buys-sellers-inventories/

http://www.pcgamer.com/playerunknowns-battlegrounds-player-banned-for-team-killing-a-team-killer/

https://redbluegreen.ca/2017/09/09/gaming-lounge-009-andromeda-killed-gaming-for-me/

https://www.techpowerup.com/237136/7th-gen-core-kaby-lake-wont-work-on-300-series-chipset-motherboards

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/equifax-says-100000-canadians-affected-by-cyberattack/article36296560/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

https://www.techpowerup.com/237116/pirate-bay-mines-coins-in-your-browser-revenue-model-of-the-future

https://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/Intel/Core_i7_8700K/

https://www.theverge.com/2017/10/6/16435690/aim-shutting-down-after-20-years-aol-instant-messenger

https://www.techpowerup.com/238585/amd-confirms-raja-koduris-departure-ceo-lisa-su-interim-rtg-head

https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2017/11/7/16617286/amazon-fire-tv-stick-basic-edition-new-countries

https://www.techpowerup.com/238594/bioware-celebrates-10-year-anniversary-of-mass-effect-with-ten7-event

http://hexus.net/tech/news/cpu/112550-intel-readying-first-mobile-i9-processor-core-i9-8950hk/

http://hexus.net/tech/news/mainboard/112331-intel-aims-end-legacy-bios-support-2020/

https://www.pcper.com/news/Mobile/Qualcomm-Showcasing-Windows-Snapdragon-and-Snapdragon-845-Mobile-Platform-Tech-Summit-Li

https://www.techspot.com/news/72137-ncix-files-bankruptcy-after-closing-all-retail-stores.html

Why I Still Use Bluray

Since the launch of the phonograph (and Edison’s wax wheel thingamabob) humankind has enjoyed listening to and eventually watching what was on those different types of media. Some of the most popular media formats in audio include the vinyl record, eight-track, cassette tape and the compact disc.

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On the video side we’ve had a bit of a shorter history. There were many kinds of film formats that were used for personal video camera recording but video as a consumer thing really took off with VHS. Looking back at VHS it amazes me we put up with the less than stellar video quality being put out on those tapes. From that we moved on to DVD and eventually Bluray rose above HD DVD to become the high definition format of choice.

Of course millennials and others would have you believe the only way to watch video nowadays is to pay for a digital download or streaming session. Here’s the thing, while I do see these digital services as useful for renting a video, in most cases they just don’t have the quality.

Most of you reading this probably just took a double-take on that last sentence. Don’t have the quality? Are you mad?

No. No I’m not.

You see, while the videos are far less compressed than they used to be (thankfully to better internet connections now available), a digital download can be decent experience with a relatively sharp picture and good audio. However, more often than not you can see artifacting especially in scenes with a lot of movement. The colour depth tends to be lacking especially in the dark bits of film as well. To me this is incredibly distracting.

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You’re now thinking I must be watching these digital videos on a less than stellar display. Well sometimes I will watch them on my Zowie 24 inch monitors but they actually have pretty good colour depth. Yes you are right, sometimes my monitors will show a lack of depth but my 32 inch Samsung 1080p hdtv has one of the best displays I have ever seen. Digital downloads on my Samsung will show a lack of colour depth as well. Believe me, this is hard to make that television do as I have it dialed in perfectly.

I never have a problem with colour depth with Bluray. When they make the transfers to Bluray the studios or whoever is doing the transferring seem to take better care when they do the compression to 1080p.

Yes it costs more to own a copy of a movie on bluray but here’s the thing. It’s good value. Most Blurays are sold with the Bluray, dvd and a digital download. Pretty good really. What’s a digital copy cost? Well often the same as the Bluray or a bit cheaper. Of course renting is available in digital as well but five to ten dollars to rent every time can add up pretty quickly.

Though I suppose that’s the weakness to my argument now as well. Most millennials see movies and music as disposable now. See the movie once and many don’t care to see it again. But perhaps that’s a deeper flaw in movies being released nowadays. They just aren’t good enough that people want to see them again. That’s a topic for another day.

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Perhaps the greatest reason to buy a physical copy of a movie is that you will always have access to that movie to watch. If you rely on a digital media service like the ones on Xbox One, Playstation 4 or even on Netflix you can never be sure whether you will be able to watch the movie you want when you want to. This is because licenses to these movies, and tv shows for that matter, are always changing and one day the service may offer Back to the Future and the next day they pull it due to not having the rights to stream, rent or sell the movie.

It’s the same reason physical media is still great to have for console gaming. In fact recently one of the best examples of a game being pulled from sales is Alan Wake. This was pulled from Steam recently due to the music licenses in the game expiring making the game ILLEGAL to sell. That is an older game of course being released in the PS3/XBOX 360 days and if you owned it on physical media from those eras you are good to play the game as long as you still have a PS3 or XBOX 360 (not sure if that’s available as an XBOX One backwards compatible title).

So they cost more usually but, in a world where things may not work because of a licensing technicality, owning a visually superior Bluray is really the only way to go.

The Blurays I own will always work. Same with my DVDs (even if their quality is much more questionable).

So the next time you decide you want to watch a movie, consider buying a Bluray. You won’t regret it.

Cars and Tech

I am getting within a year or so of the end of my current vehicle’s car loan coming to an end and getting excited as to what I may buy next. Since I purchase my 2012 Honda Civic Si sedan cars have changed a lot. Well not really physically but the technology inside has made a huge leap forward.

In 2012 it was cutting edge to be able to connect your iPod usb and phone via bluetooth. Oh and the ability to connect to satellite radio was a big option as well. Voice activated controls were still sort of in their infancy, at least at Honda.

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Now they have “infotainment” systems in cars that will allow you to reply to texts and twitter posts by talking back to them. To have a car without bluetooth compatibility is unheard of now even on most base model cars.

Often now what separates different trim levels on vehicles are the technology installed. There are still the traditional differences as access to difference paints (which usually nowadays includes 3 white 3 greys, black and perhaps blue or red), some different wheels and sometimes even a different engine to choose from.

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What’s really interesting is the push towards smaller engines with turbos. In fact one vehicle where this exact thing has happened is the brand new Civic Si. A mainstay of the Civic Si has always been to have a high revving VTEC engine that makes a lot of noise. Now they’ve dropped the awesome 2.4L four cylinder engine from my car for a smaller turbo engine. No more i-VTEC sticker. No more saying “VTEC YO”! A lot of purists that bought the Si are pretty unhappy about this but sadly its a reality of the future.

Smaller engines with turbos are here to stay. Even Ford has moved the might Mustang from a V6 and V8 only affair to a car that sells more four-cylinder turbos that a naturally aspirated car. Really a shame.

But it’s par for the course. As long as the EPA keeps demanding more miles-per-gallon the only thing to do is make engines more efficient.

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Hybrids are a good step in the right direction especially here in Canada. While everyone says electric is the only way to go I don’t see it that way here in Canada. We are rural enough here it makes electric cars less useful. They can be great in the city but their finite range and no easy way to recharge on the road (Ontario still hasn’t installed chargers at their On Route service centres on the 400 and 401 like promised) really makes them less than useful.

The plug-in hybrid is really the best solution right now if one is concerned about economy and are environmentally conscious. You get a long range on batteries to start and then you can rely on a small gas engine to recharge those batteries as you go. Well to be fair only the Chevrolet Volt does it that way at the moment. Typical plug-in hybrids will charge by a small engine while that engine also propels the car giving it a little extra bump in performance.

So now that I’ve gone all over the place with this story where do I go from here?

Fundamentally, I need to choose between technology, environment concerns, and, well, fun.

The only environmentally conscious cars on the market right now is the Tesla Model S and presumably the upcoming Model 3. They both are incredibly quick due to their great all electric powertrains. Sadly those are both really out of my price range. While the Model 3 may be easier to buy in the United States the price commanded by the Canadian dollar kills any chance of buying one of those. Of course the S is even more expensive.

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I am told, but have no personal experience, that the new Chevrolet Volt is actually somewhat dynamic to drive.

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The Prius line from Toyota is a study in how boring can we make getting good gas mileage be?

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There are others like the Nissan Leaf and so on but they all have one thing in common. They all look like crap. Apparently the only way you can join the club of super mileage vehicles you have to buy a car that looks absolutely retarded. Seriously, have you looks at the Toyota Prius? I don’t know how that design got off the drawing board.

I’m afraid the only choice I really have is to go the traditional route. A car with a large block of metal in the front that produces highly controlled explosions and converts them directly into forward motion.

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Which leaves me where I started. Civic Si, with a turbo? Ford Mustang, with a turbo? Sigh… Good thing I still have time.

Canadian Data – WTF?

So as I sit here at a truck-stop in northern Ontario that has no power this morning in a truck that has apparently decided to continuously flush it’s radiator coolant on to the ground (i.e.. broken down) I am reminded again of what it’s like to have no internet. IT SUCKS!

As a technology enthusiast almost everything I do requires an internet connection and when I don’t have a connection it becomes incredibly difficult to do anything I regularly like to do.

Why don’t I just hook up to my phone and use my phone’s data? I’ve hit my data cap, that’s why. We still have these stupid ridiculous data caps for insane amounts of money here in Canada. Right now I pay an EXTRA $100 CAD just to have the “privilege” to use 7GB of “4G” freaking data. 7GB! To put this in to perspective I pay under $100 CAD (can’t remember the exact cost at the moment and I can’t look it up because NO INTERNET – EDIT $62.95 for 60 DOWN 10 UP UNLIMITED) for a 60mbit down and 10mbit up UNLIMITED connection at home.

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The Canadian phone companies still haven’t been given enough of a push to start offering better data plans on their phones for reasonable rates. The CRTC earlier this year managed to do something great for the consumer. Guarantee net neutrality. This means no more offering free data for special services that the big companies like Rogers or Bell get a kickback for. This means all data is treated equal. This should in turn force companies to offer better data plans for better prices but I fear that the Canadian telecommunications companies are so full of themselves greedy that they may let the Canadian public suffer.

And this is exactly what these communications companies want. They want us to be afraid of them. They want us to feel that we owe them something even though we pay them quite well for their services.

A representative at Rogers was one asked if they offered unlimited data what would be the problem? The rep answered that their network wouldn’t be able to handle it. HAH!

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Here’s the thing. If you take that record amount of money you make every quarter and invest it in your network like American communications companies do maybe we’d have a country-wide data network to be proud of.

The best thing that could happen at this point would be for the federal or provincial governments here in Canada to declare the internet a utility. Yes people get scared by this but it’s the only thing that makes sense. Once the phone companies were privatized there was very little done by any of them to improve our nationwide network.

Why in July 2017 do I still have to worry about breaking down in my truck going between Longlac, Ontario and Hearst, Ontario (210km or 126mi) because there is no phone signal? In the summer it’s not as big of an issue but in the winter without heat you can literally freeze to death. At the very least there should be a strong signal along all of our roads no matter what.

If the government was still running things yes it would not be run as efficiently but they would be continuously upgrading our network. Mind you I am not so sure about this today as our current governments only care about social minded things and green initiatives.

It’s a damn shame that instead of being a leader, Canada has dropped back to being a follower again. Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots’s to like about this country but our data infrastructure is the actual pits.