Categories
recommendations

Gaming hardware – google Stadia on sale

I’m much more in the buy-nothing camp than the Black Friday camp, so I debated posting this. Allow me to explain – like many, I gamed in school, with my office mate and friend introducing me to the fun of network games, particularly FPS such as Quake and variants. For years, the combination of parenting and terrible Mac support has deterred me, but recently I found this Dappered gift guide post in my RSS feed.

I used to be much more of a gamer. I truly enjoy it. And before I bought this for myself, I just hadn’t found as many windows to get back to gaming since becoming a dad. It happens. But the Stadia solves every issue I had with that “time” factor. It’s cloud-based, so my games are ready to go when I turn on my controller, which instantly connects to my TV via the included Chromecast Ultra. I can also play on any computer (pictured above) or on my phone. I’ve been able to fit in dozens upon dozens of hours of gaming because of the take-it-anywhere-ness of Stadia. There are no files to download, no waiting for the console to update after leaving it dormant for a few months, no more does that precious hour window get whittled down to 20 minutes. With Stadia, I pick up the controller and I’m playing in less than a minute. Take that, impossible-to-find PS5!

https://dappered.com/2021/11/the-dappered-gift-guide-for-the-dappered-dad-2021-edition/

That sounds appealing, and $80 bucks isn’t bad. However, right now Google is selling them for $22!

Twenty two bucks! Damn, that’s cheap.

Oddly, extra controllers are $60, so I just ordered two Stadias. I hope to be able to play against a kid or friend.

It could well be that Google will discontinue Stadia, they have a long history of axing projects so there is that risk. Still, for this price I thought it worth sharing and a reasonable risk. Can’t wait to try some games again!

Categories
Food Random recommendations

Pistachios and cashews are gangster

Imagine yourself a sea captain, sailing from port to port with cargos of food. Which ones are a risk?

So a cargo of pistachios seems harmless, doesn’t it? It’s totally not – they can suffocate you, set themselves on fire in two different ways and might, for bonus hazard points, explode.

Cashews? They’re covered in toxic irritant irushiol, which has to be burned off before they’re safe for consumption. That’s why you’ll never see cashews in-shell.

I learned both of these and more at the latest issue of The Whippet, which I recommend to you. S/he finds interesting stuff.

Categories
recommendations

PSA: Don’t buy Synology with Atom CPUs

Expensive mistake that their site encourages: only the models (typically the ‘plus’ ones) with Intel CPUs can run Docker and the much-improved btrfs. My DS1817, despite having 10gigabit Ethernet and eight drive slots, cannot and that’s an expensive and frustrating mistake.

Their site ellides this when shopping so, caveat emptor, and save yourself money.

Categories
recommendations Uncategorized

Internet speed tests

So you’re online and you wonder how your network is doing. How do you measure it? I’m here for you.

  • (Updated 11/2021) Ubiquiti’s oddly named http://wifiman.com is my new standby – cleanest UI, most consistent at measuring up to gigabit.
  • Fast.com is my go-to for quick checks. It measures using only Netflix connections so bypasses some ISP fuckery with DPI and slowdowns. Elegant UI.
  • Speed.cloudflare.com is excellent. Detailed and capable of saturating my 1 gigabit downlink. Lots of details.
  • Testmy.net is decent but uglier.
  • Speedtest.net is ad laden.
  • Sourceforge.net/speedtest is ok and used to be my favorite. Lots of ads now.

As explained in my series of gigabit posts, making a fast, reliable network takes time and effort, and these sites don’t magically make it happen. However, having a way to measure your changes is super helpful, and I probably use these weekly.

I got an email 11/28/2021 – if you’re having WiFi speed issues, sometimes you need to change the frequency or band used by your access point/router, and Bill Hess wrote this nice how-to here, for both Mac and Windows.

Categories
EVlife recommendations Uncategorized

First ebike ride

My neighbor is in our COVID-19 pod and kindly let me try out his Specialized Turbo Vado. It’s his commute bike.

I just finished a 16.4 mile ride with 1,300 feet of vertical and I feel great. This would have left me mostly dead if not for the motor.

I’ve been wanting the Luna bikes Enduro X-1, mostly based on this review as well as this one by a man who’s nearly my height at 6’9”. Sold out now but I am feeling the want. It’s magical to blast up hills again. At 3 to 5 thousand for a nice one, they’re expensive but as I said, I’m a convert.

Categories
recommendations

Inexpensive indoor air quality monitor

These are $38 on Banggood. It measures temperature, humidity and airborne particulates. Laser light scattering technique, the same as in my more expensive Purple Air I wrote about previously. These are display only, two screens, no connectivity but perhaps that’s all you need for something you place on a shelf.

Thanks to my friend Roger for finding these. I bought two and loaned one to our neighbor who promptly used it to check in vs out and verified his AC filters.

Anyway, it’s well made and cheap, so if you want one I say get it.

https://m.banggood.com/PM1_0-PM2_5-PM10-Detector-Module-Air-Quality-Dust-Sensor-Tester-with-2_8-Inch-LCD-Display-for-Monitoring-Home-Office-Car-Tools-p-1588436.html

Categories
recommendations

New cable modem

Maybe it was getting old, or maybe the much-increased traffic from pandemic WFH caused problems, but for whatever reason our Spectrum-provided cable modem has been a problem. I’ve had to power cycle it a few times to clear slowdowns. Symptoms – speed tests dropped down to under 10 megabits, and on reboot would rebound to over 200. (We’re paying for 400/25 and seem to be provisioned for faster.)

Having seen similar problems before, I first narrowed the suspects down by power cycling the (apple) access point and (Mikrotic) backbone switch and (ER-4) router; none sufficed but a modem cycle did. I found the Spectrum supported modems page, did some research and bought the Netgear CM1000v2 direct from the manufacturer and installed it today.

Install was painless. I called Spectrum’s activation line (877-309-5869) and waited for a callback. The tech took the MAC address, waited patiently for the power, sent down an activation packet and waited for reboot and DHCP to the router. Easiest install I’ve ever had with any ISP!

Now things are back at line speed and I’m a lot happier. I’m spending hours a day on Zoom and BlueJeans and now Google Meet, so fast and reliable internet is rapidly becoming essential.

fast.com is a great test
Admin interface is basic

The CM1000v2 isn’t their fastest – they have ones that can gang 2 or 4 gigabit ports together. I decided not to bother, as 1G is the max available locally and going faster than that would cascade to needing a new router and possibly multipoint wireless. I’ll wait.

New gear

I considered the other supported modems, but the Arris ones ran hot and some had the problematic Intel Puma chipset; hard pass. Do your research if you’re thinking of buying an Arris SB8200 Rev 4 or Arris SBG8300.

Categories
Covid-19 recommendations

1080p webcam for Zoom for $40

Fact 1:In the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re all on Zoom et al quite a lot.

Fact 2: Apple webcams are 720p resolution and quite low quality.

Fact 3: Nerds want to be helpful.

Consequence one: Good webcams are sold out universally.

Consequence two: The people behind the cheap and awesome WiFi webcam brand Wyze have written custom firmware to convert a wireless security camera into a very decent USB 1080p webcam. And it’s free.

Hardware requirements

  1. Wyze webcam v2 – vendor, or Amazon. $26 bucks as of today.
  2. 8GB or so micro SD card. You might have one around if you use Raspberry Pi. I bought this two-pack of overkill 32GB cards, since that’s a useful size for Pi project. $14.
  3. USB3 A to A cable. These are unusual and I had to order one. I bought a two pack so I can have a spare. $12, and cheaper versions exist. Note that your computer needs to have a USB3 port with an A plug – I’m using the one on my LG monitor.

Flash the firmware

Instructions are here on their site – TL;DR is to unzip the download and copy demo.bin into the root directory. Power up holding reset for five seconds. Pretty do-able even for the less technical.

Results

There are two Wyze cameras, basic or a $35 pan/tilt/zoom. I already had two of each, because at $20 to $35 each, they’re in my hobby budget and have been delighted with ’em. I chose the base camera as I see no use for PTZ.

Here’s the built-in webcam from my MacBook. It’s the 2018 15″ model, my work computer.

Now here’s the Wyze:

Color is a bit off, but resolution is a huge amount better. it’s also wide-angle, with strong curvature at the edges.

I was just in time for a Zoom birthday party.

Why yes, my family does look sharper than everyone else. And wide angle was perfect for this use. Sometimes you get lucky. You can kinda see my low-rent mounting:

I’ll leave it that way for now, as it makes it quick to move around and try other lighting.

Overall – recommended. Pretty cheap, the parts are versatile, and when this ends you just re-flash the camera to get back to a nice smart camera/IoT device.

Categories
recommendations Uncategorized

China Law Blog is outstanding

www.chinalawblog.com/2020/02/chinese-coronavirus-solution-more-government-control-trumps-more-medicine.html

is about how Xi is responding to the coronavirus outbreak, but I’ve been reading their RSS feed for a few months and highly recommend it. It’s especially educational for anyone considering outsourcing to there, e.g. micro brand watchmakers. Go read about the IP on injection molds, for example.

Categories
Computer science Random

Ten gigabit home networking

This will be a series of posts. I upgraded my NAS to a model with dual 10G ports, and the compute server already had 10G so I had an excuse.

Old setup – 4-bay Synology DS416play and a USB3 drive caddy for a temporary backup solution. TP-Link 16 port switch, all ports in use.

After some searching, I found this Mikrotik switch for $142 on Amazon. 28 ports of 1G plus two 10G ports. Most switches with 10g are either $100 per port or have fans – this one is 19 watts, no fans, and cheap. Note the “sfp+” notation – it means you need more pricy bits to finish the job, but you can use other media like fiber optic links. So total cost of almost 2x.

Switch in and waiting for NAS backup to complete:

Power usage went down by 20 or 30 watts. Always something I pay close attention to. Here’s semi-final:

Next week I get the SFP+ transceivers and rewire a bit. Trunked dual 1G links for now. Power usage is back to where it was, maybe down a watt or two. The new switch is only 19W (the old was around 30) but the larger NAS uses more power, so even under heavy load with 5 disks going.