October 19, 2014

$500

If you follow Apple announcements then you've heard the brouhaha about the iMac with 5K Retina display (5K, 5K!, which is one more K than 4, starts at $2,500) and the iPad Air 2 (thinner, lighter, more powerful, starts at $500). But there never is any brouhaha about my favorite compromise that will put a real Mac on your desk for as little as $500: the Mac mini. This is what I have, but my model is a year old. It's not as powerful as an iMac.

Processor speeds:
iMac1.4 GHz2.7GHz2.9GHz3.2GHz3.4GHz3.5GHz4.0GHz
Mac mini1.4GHz2.6GHz2.8GHz 


Graphics:
iMacIntel HD Graphics 5000Intel Iris Pro GraphicsNVIDIA GeForce GT 750M graphics processor with 1GB of GDDR5 memoryNVIDIA GeForce GT 755M graphics processor with 1GB of GDDR5 memoryNVIDIA GeForce GTX 775M graphics processor with 2GB of GDDR5 memoryNVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M with 4GB of GDDR5 memory.NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M with 4GB of GDDR5 memory.AMD Radeon R9 M295X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory
Mac miniIntel HD Graphics 5000Intel Iris Graphics 


Base prices:
iMac$1,099$1,299$1,499$1,799$1,999$2,149$2,499$2,749
Mac mini$499$699$999 

But I'd guess that if you don't know how much power you need, then an iMac is likely to be more than you need, unless, of course, you are modeling global weather or nuclear warfare.

Yes, the display, keyboard and mouse are extra on the Mac mini, while they are included with the iMac, so you've got to add that cost to the Mac mini. But that's actually another advantage for the Mac mini. You've got a wide range of products and prices to shop from. When you need to upgrade either your display or your CPU, those are separate purchases, but with the iMac the display and CPU are all one unit. If you need to upgrade or replace either, you've got to purchase both.

Small side benefits nobody ever mentions are that the Mac mini is more portable and more easily physically secured - unplug it, lock it in a drawer. Try that with an iMac.

Still, there is that 5K Retina display (with "organic passivation" - a new term to me that I plan to misuse as often as possible). If you're a professional photographer or if you've got the money to spend to impress friends, then get it. Here's a soft video (no real tech, but lots of gee-whiz) that I believe will play only in Safari or on an iOS device. Hey, Apple writes the rules, not me.

permalink | October 19, 2014 at 07:01 PM | Comments (1)

October 10, 2014

Sale On GoPro Hero3+ Black At Costco

If you've been lusting after a 3+ Black, the introduction of the 4 has brought you a deal. Costco is selling a Hero 3+ Black for $350. It comes with a few basic mounts, the waterproof case (of course), and an additional battery (total of two batteries). The battery alone costs $18. This is basically the same kit that B&H is selling for $400 ($418 with the extra battery).

The Hero 3+ Black was the top-o-the-line GoPro until they brought out the Hero 4 last week. Nearly all of the impressive GoPro videos that you've seen over the last year have been shot with a Hero 3+ Black. It's a great camera - and now cheaper. The list price of the Hero 3+ Black was $400 and the new 4 Black is $500. I wouldn't expect new Hero 3+ Blacks to go much (if any) lower. They sold well so there are probably no warehouses awash with old 3+ Blacks.

The holidays are coming and if your kids don't have to have the very latest thing, they can have last year's very latest thing at $50 off.

SD card required and extra. But Costco's got a deal on those too. Get the 64 GB microSD card. Get two, they're cheap.

permalink | October 10, 2014 at 06:35 PM | Comments (0)

September 4, 2014

Grilled Cheese?

You are so behind in your technology if you still actually grill your grilled cheese sandwiches. You need a Boska Holland Toastabag (only $9.94 for a set of 3).

This smart little video will answer almost all your questions:

Unanswered question deserving some research: what happens if you put a couple of scoops of ice cream in the bag and toast that? Do you get ice cream that's crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside?

The real advantage, as I see it, that will appeal to the young single man (which seems to be their target audience) is that any grease that drains off the item being toasted stays in the bag so that you can pour it out and onto your food, assuring that you will always get your daily need for fat.

permalink | September 4, 2014 at 11:23 AM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2014

Soundsight

$3 billion for Beats. GoPro stock worth $4.8 billion. If you could combine the two that would give you something like $7 billion at least, right? And you don't even have to do a good job at it, because people will buy any old crap as long as you make your website slick enough, right?

Soundsight Headphones will make Bluetooth headphones with a built in video camera. Pre-order for $350. Regular price will be $500. They should hit the market in time for Christmas. Let's look at the specs. They don't tell you much, but they do say this in at least a couple of places: "1080p HD Recording 720p at 30 fps." I've never encountered that kind of a spec before, but I'm pretty sure it means 720p. Period. Other active cameras for the same price or less are claiming at least 1080p and some offer 4k at 60 fps.

In answer to the question, can it take still photos, the answer is "Yes. The camera can take high-definition (1080p) pictures." While 1080p is considered high-def for video, it's an image that's only 1920 x 1080. Pack a lot of those together into a video and it can look great. But just a single shot at 1920 x 1080 is only about 2 megapixels - the same capacity as the first digital camera I bought in 2000. Not high def.

The battery is rated at 800 mAh and they say it's good for four hours with "Activated features on." I don't know what "Activated features on" means, but if it means shooting video, 4 hours is really, really good. In fact it's unbelievably good considering the small capacity of that battery. The camera for the GoPro Hero3 and 3+ is rated at 1180 mAh, and they've never claimed anything like 4 hours of battery life. The battery in Soundsight is recharged via USB.

What about the experts? They've got a link labeled "What the Musicians Are Saying" where they quote Eddie Fisher who says a Soundsight would be a great asset on a tour. [Emphasis added.] (This Eddie Fisher is only 40 years old and is the drummer with One Republic.) Under the link "What the Video Pro's [sic] Are Saying" Rosco Guerrero was happy to say this while cashing his paycheck: "The image quality, dynamic range, color depth, and RAW ability make this camera an outstanding device for any form of motion picture capture." It can shoot RAW video?! That would be something they should put on their website...along with an explanation of what RAW video is. The third link is "What the Audio Pro's [sic] Are Saying." Alexey Dolgushin cryptically says "On our mission to provide the ultimate sound experience on Earth we needed the best components the Earth could give us, that's why we chose HiWave...clean and warmful sound with detailed bass is a cherry on the top of our years of work." Incidentally, Alexey Dolgushin is a co-founder of Soundsight, so totally objective and fair. There's no explanation of "HiWave" on the Soundsight website, but it may refer to this company.

And there's a video of a UFC fighter wearing Soundsight headphones. My guess is that they chose him and that video because Rosco Guerrero (video pro cited above) had already shot a video of him.

They say the camera has 8 GB of RAM and they don't mention any cards, so I think that means you are absolutely limited to 8 GB. Shooting at 720p, 8 GB is not too limiting, but I think you will fill up the memory before that battery is dead.

They allege the audio quality is not impacted at all by listening over the Bluetooth connection. Really? Here's an article about how audio over Bluetooth doesn't suck as much as it used to. Maybe Soundsight has accomplished a major breakthrough with Bluetooth, but if they had you'd think they would brag about it.

But all of that is just hot air theorizing, right? A few good sample videos should convince any reluctant customer to open his wallet. The only trouble is, there are no sample videos. That is a serious flaw in a website that markets a new video camera. One might wonder if they've done anything more than assemble an empty prototype for promotional purposes. I encourage readers to shell out that $349 and get back to me when you've had some experience with your Soundsight headphones and camera.

permalink | July 12, 2014 at 01:40 PM | Comments (0)

July 5, 2014

The Desert Hot Springs Walmart Petitions

Rumors of petitions abound, but just try searching for them. Even knowing they are at Change.org doesn't help. A search there for "Desert Hot Springs" turns up all the names of people from DHS who signed other petitions, but not any Walmart petitions. Even Google can't find them. Fortunately another search engine (Michael Burke) told me where to find them.

Pro-Walmart

Anti-Walmart

I could spend a very pleasant afternoon helping both petitions by picking at their flaws, but I'll only say this:

The pro petition doesn't use the words "Desert Hot Springs" so using the most obvious search term will not help anyone find it.

The anti petition describes the large number of shoppers and the increase in traffic so magnificently, it makes it sound like one giant gold mine of economic recovery for this city. Send me to the yes petition.

permalink | July 5, 2014 at 04:06 PM | Comments (4)

July 1, 2014

Get Your Sugar On

Jack's Wholesale Candy Warehouse has moved to new, larger digs at 777 S. Central Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90021. Wholesale prices, but open to the general public. They even have free parking. If you want to shop for candy by color, they make it possible. (I want all my candy to be leopard-spotted.)

And, they've got a Facebook page.

permalink | July 1, 2014 at 02:26 PM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2014

A Change At Apple

Has Apple ever before now introduced a cheaper, less powerful version of a computer? They have now. The newest iMac is $200 cheaper at $1,099. It's been reduced from the 2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz to the 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz.

You can compare iMac models here. The hard drive is cut from 1Tb to 500GB (for $50 they'll upgrade it to 1TB).

permalink | June 18, 2014 at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

Amazon Fire Phone

Amazon has introduced its Fire Phone.

I've watched the videos and read down the long page of features and it sure seems to do a lot of nice stuff. If only it had some way that you could make it connect to another device at a great distance so that you could, I guess, talk or sump'n to the person who has that other device. That'd be neat, but I guess that's some crazy futuristic thing we have to wait for.

Here's the product announcement video. The contrast between the excitement level of an Amazon audience and an Apple audience is really striking.

The phone appears at the 14-minute mark.

permalink | June 18, 2014 at 08:35 PM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2014

"Is that communism?"

That's the rhetorical question asked by TheStreet in reference to (get this!) Costco.

The Glassdoor survey of Costco wages show a pretty flat salary curve, with pay ranging from $10-$23 an hour for cashiers and just $22-24 an hour for supervisors. No position averages much more than $22 an hour, but none averages less than $11 an hour either. Even the guy who checks your receipt and the woman who sells the cheap hot dogs take home a decent wage.

Yes, every time I see that case full of big roasted chickens at only $5 each I say to myself, "This must be communism!"

The article says cashiers at Sam's Club are paid as little as $8/hour while supervisors get an average of $25/hour.

Here are a few of the Costco wage ranges listed in the Glassdoor survey:

  • Cashier: $10 to $22
  • Supervisor: $20 to $24
  • Food Court: $10 to $15
  • Pharmacy Tech: $12 to $22
  • Pharmacist: $58 to $62 (this is the highest pay at Costco)
  • Cashier Assistant: $11 to $13
  • Cart Pusher: $11 to $12
  • Hearing Aid Dispenser: $23 to %$30
  • Licensed Optician: $23 to $28
  • Meat Cutter: $22 to $24
  • Meat Wrapper: $10 to $14

North Korean Chicken
This is what a communist chicken looks like. It takes one Supreme Leader and two high-ranking military officers to kill a communist chicken.

permalink | May 29, 2014 at 11:59 AM | Comments (0)

May 6, 2014

Handheld GoPro Stabilizer

Only $269, requires batteries, looks like it works. Effective A-B comparison video here. The price is not out of line for an inexpensive gimbal aimed at the amateur market. But, naturally, I took a poke at Amazon to see what they offered.

For $245 you can get the "Feiyu G3 Steadycam Handheld Gimbal Gopro Hero 3" which is the same thing. There is only one customer review (dated May 5, 2014) and that customer got a lemon. Maybe Feiyu is selling the ones that get a "B" grade from quality control. The customer also thinks the device was designed for a Hero3 and doesn't work as well with a Hero3+. But Feiyu seems to have nice people working for them, because they do offer a kindly remind:

"Kindly remind you: You should first amount the GOPRO to gimbal, then put on the batteries and power on. Otherwise it will cause the phenomena of gimbal disorderly shaking."

Don't be in a rush to buy. The EasyGimbal, made by some fine folks in Wyoming, is due this spring, too. They estimate the retail price will be $599. Ouchy. Let's see how fast that gets moved over to Asian manufacturing.

permalink | May 6, 2014 at 07:16 AM | Comments (2)

April 29, 2014

Apple Breaks

Breaks with tradition, that is. For as long as I've been using a Mac, the base price for the cheapest laptop has always been $999. As technology advanced, Apple just kept improving it to hold that price. But now, now for the first time, Apple has dropped the prices of MacBook Airs by $100, across the board. The cheapest is now $899. This is despite the fact that they have upgraded the processor.

For $999 you can get the 13-inch Air. The top o' the line Air, 13-inch with 256 GB drive starts at $1,199. Naturally, you will want to double the RAM to 8 GB for $100 more. You can also get a faster chip ($150) and double the storage ($300).

They really like that 100 number at Apple, because they dropped the price in the UK by £100 which is $168.31 today. The starting price there is £749 which equals $1260.64, so no need to rush over there to try to score a bargain.

permalink | April 29, 2014 at 01:46 PM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2014

Breaking Into Quadcopters Without Breaking The Bank

If you have felt the urge to get up there and start shooting aerial videos and you want to go with the right equipment like a DJI Phantom 2 with a GoPro Hero3+ Black mounted on a Zenmuse H3-2D Gimbal with live FPV (like this) and have done your shopping research, you too will have found that the whole kit is more complex and expensive than you may have thought. And maybe you found that one of the best deals is this kit at B&H which includes everything - even a hardcase (but no propeller guards) - for $2,208.95. That is, by my calculations, about $100 less than what you would pay if you bought everything separately, but with the B&H deal they assemble it for you, sparing you the task of some soldering.

And then you would have thought "Do I want to send $2,200 skyward when I've never flown anything fancier than a kite or paper airplane?"

Well, lookie here. Reader 'b' sent us that link to a page describing some toy quadcopters for less than $100 that are good for practicing and crashing with no heartbreak.

Check out this video (is that Morro Bay?) shot on a Wltoys V222. The entire kit, including built-in camera (640x480) is only $67.99! Descriptive video here.

I'm still looking for one that's mostly pink or that I can spraypaint pink.

permalink | April 14, 2014 at 06:14 PM | Comments (0)

April 2, 2014

Are You Not Getting Enough TV?

Amazon Fire TV, available now, $99.

It pleases Gary Busey.

A chart comparing the Fire TV to Roku, Apple and Chromecast prepared by Amazon, so we know it must be complete and accurate.

permalink | April 2, 2014 at 02:28 PM | Comments (1)

March 30, 2014

A Distraction

I just found out about an entertaining little controversy that can momentarily distract you from stories about Crimea, Afghanistan or the Affordable Health Care Act.

First, there's this ad for the electric Cadillac (which is basically a Chevy wearing Cadillac duds) that seems to be targeted to the Dodge Ram truck consumer:

Then there's this Ford ad for its electric model:

BTW, French snails produce an excellent manure.

Maybe we can blame Kia for starting this.

permalink | March 30, 2014 at 12:43 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2014

Empty Handed and Too Early

Zappos thought a couple of sparkle ponies showing up empty handed and too early on the Black Rock Desert playa would help sell shoes.
Zappos on the Black Rock Desert

The Man burns in 160 days.

permalink | March 23, 2014 at 06:26 PM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2014

Another Review Of Action Cams

Outside has published a short A-B-C comparison of three action cams: the GoPro Hero3+ Black edition (of course), the iON Air Pro 3, and the JVC GC-XA2 Action Camera. They do the right thing by mounting all three cameras together and shooting all three simultaneously. But the following video is all you need to see IMO. In fact, all you need to see are the last 8 seconds.

At first you were probably noticing that only iON made that snow look perfectly white, which might be a plus. But in the crash at the end only the GoPro stayed mounted. GoPro mounts have been tested a million times by thousands of people. You do not get prize-winning photos from a camera that you have lost or that fell off or broke as you were cavorting in your preferred sport.

permalink | March 20, 2014 at 01:06 PM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2014

Commercial Drone Deliveries

QuiQui says they will start [no date specified] delivery of drugstore items (even prescription drugs) by drone in the Mission District in San Francisco. You will place your order via smartphone. When the drone arrives with your delivery it will signal your phone, you will walk outside, and with your smartphone order the drone to drop your delivery. "Drop it, drop it boy!" The drones will never fly lower than 20 feet, so either the drugstore will pack it so it can land without breaking, or you will catch it on the way down.

The only prank thing that I can think of right now for this system is to spot someone sitting outside who looks like they'll stay put for a while. Either sidewalk dining or a homeless guy on the sidewalk is what I'm thinking of. Phone in an order for something nice - candy maybe. When the drone arrives above that person, it calls your phone and you order it to drop the load. Do it right and it could be a sort of automatic piñata thing.

Or when there's one of those big street fairs going on (like Folsom), you could have drones dropping all kinds of fun stuff all over the place.

permalink | March 17, 2014 at 12:42 AM | Comments (0)

March 8, 2014

Shop Michael Sam

The Michael Sam Shop. Buttons 10 for $25. T-shirts $22 each. Shipping is a flat $5.

permalink | March 8, 2014 at 03:25 PM | Comments (0)

February 6, 2014

The "IKEA Effect"

Studies suggest that people will pay more for an item they have to put together than for a ready-made item.

I especially enjoyed this comment:

Americans love the IKEA store because it's like a Las Vegas casino version of a Northern European Socialist Utopia. It gives us the naughty, illicit thrill of pretending, for a few hours, that we're living in a rationalized economy where everybody is happy to participate in manual labor and nobody goes without coffee and cinnamon rolls.

permalink | February 6, 2014 at 10:09 PM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2014

One Drive-In Movie Theater To Be Re-opened

It's the dual screen Paramount in (where else?) Paramount.


7900 All America City Way.

Here's a link to the Paramount Swap Meet.

permalink | January 24, 2014 at 10:21 AM | Comments (0)