Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Blink XT Camera System

I always wanted a camera system for the house, but I never had a chance to pull it off until now. The main player you see at Costco is the Netgear Arlo Pro but holy shit is that expensive for a wireless setup.

Instead my thrifty-ass got this Blink system since it had 3 cameras and was cheaper. I think the product started out as a Kickstarter and then it developed from there, but I'm not sure if they'll last since their product is lacking... I'm game for supporting the little guy vs a larger company but when a company does have funding, things like hardware, development, and programming come into play for the win. We'll see what happens to Blink, but from my vantage point they are not ready for prime time yet.

The system is OK but there are definitely a few flaws. The first is that you can't have it run for 24/7 streaming and just watch it to see what's going on. You can initiate a manual live feed, but it will only run for like 15 sec or so (never looked up the actual number but it's short), and then it will stop, lag, and you'll need to push the button for a live feed again. Next there is no way to specify tracking areas so if you're pointing one of the cameras towards the street, every car will trigger an alert; that's just lazy. Next, the mounting bracket is very flimsy and the more you take the camera on/off, the greater the chances of it breaking. Next, it having a 2 year lithium battery is cool but there is definitely a downside to remote cameras like this because they are always in a power-saving 'standby mode' and have to be woken up. Usually recordings will either be too short, too late, last too long, or will start at the wrong times.

Yeah if you've tinkered with other home security camera systems you'll know what I'm talking about...you'll begin to notice that there are things that are important and not important but not many products have all the features you want so a lot more research is needed.

For me I want a camera system to record everything to a local SD card in a loop and then copy that data to the cloud. Next, it should send a push notification when there is movement in a specific quadrant, have the ability for 2-way communication, and have night/day capabilities.  Finally nobody wants to run wires so someone has to think of something here...there has to be another way may that be a solar/battery config or a wireless charging/power config. That really sums it up though...is it that hard to pull this off? Evidently it sorta is. Oh and it can't be expensive lol.

Anyway this product seems to have some loftly goals from their website and I have no faith that any drastic changes can be made because of the design. One thing I've learned from my time in IT is that any vendor that doesn't have a feature RFN will probably not pump it out for a long time, so don't buy something based on a future promise.

The search continues!

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Dunkirk (Military Drama 2017)

It's been a while since a real war flick has been this good, but luckily we have Christopher Nolan who is a beast when it comes to quality flicks. This movie was slow. I'll pre-warn you just in case you're looking for a fast-pace flick. It was slow, methodical, and jumped all over the place with regards to scenes and time. You do have to use your brain to put things together but it's all worth it.

The non-liner method of storytelling is a very different strategy, but it really does get the plot across in a good way. I guess it turns into a fulfilling journey to go through for the viewer.

The film is all about the British and some allies trying to flee France after the Germans were finalizing the takeover of the mainland during the start of WWII. This movie followed around several folks during the event and told a pretty solid story. The music was nuts though...very realistic and it totally drew you in; some musical queues were similar to the ones in Interstellar where the sound was odd, but in a good way.

I straight up recommend this movie. Solid film.
Rating - A

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Eye in the Sky (Military Drama 2015)

Well this was a frustrating movie that invoked some pretty intense emotions. It was about all of the red tape that went along with a military operation that crossed countries. Not sure if this type of stuff really happens in the military (I can't imagine it does to this extent) but holy shit. Everyone kept on pushing major decisions up the chain and it took forever and a day to come all the way back down.

I know that the film tried to play with the whole emotions of morality and rules of engagement and stuff, but in all honesty, common sense and collateral damage should be something that can be calculated pretty quickly in a situation like the one shown in this movie.

I see this type of BS all the time in the business world and it's so damn annoying. People need to grow some balls and just make a damn decision and roll with it. If you can't deal with the consequences or what it takes to get results, then you don't need to be in said leadership position. Anyhoo, this is a great movie that shows what red tape is and how much it slows down productivity. All the emotional stuff is valid too but damn...talk about not getting things done. It's like a corporate meeting.
Rating - B

Sunday, July 09, 2017

A Hologram for the King (Drama 2016)

This movie was fair, but it's totally one of those forgettable ones. I wasn't quite sure if it was supposed to be a regular drama film or an existential view of the character's self-evaluation of his life. But either way the movie totally seemed to drag ass. There was a likable taxi driver character but that was about it as well...most everyone else was fairly boring and the plot took forever to get anywhere.
Rating - C

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Comedic Drama 2016)

You know I thought this movie would be a lot worse than it turned out to be, but it wasn't too bad. The film was a direct mix of comedy and drama but it was subtle and not 'in your face'. The plot is exactly what the trailer shows so just watch that and you'll know the general gist of the story. Yeah not a bunch of content but good enough right?
Rating - C

Sunday, June 25, 2017

2014 BMW 320i

I never thought I would ever have a BMW on the payroll, but here we are. We ended up getting this with the FR-S funds because at the time it was hard to make a good decision on any car and I wanted more time to figure things out. Long story short, we got the cheapest CPO BMW with a White/Tan color scheme.

Pros
  • The car isn't as fast as the Volvo, but it does have a much smaller engine in comparison. With that being said it's still pretty peppy and gets 29 MPG mixed, which is pretty darn good considering.
  • The ride is silky smooth; it seriously feels like a Mag-lev train at times, so good job on the suspension and handling.
  • There are no stability issues the faster you go which is much different from other cars I've driven. Usually you will 'know' when you're going near 85 MPH on a decline or something, but in this BMW, the car still has such a solid feel with the road that you don't even notice it.
  • I dunno if it's standard or an add-on, but at night time the door handles have a downward pointing LED on all doors and the inside doors have a hidden, amber LED string that subtlety illuminate the cabin. These are very functional and convenient perks.
  • CPO is cool since you get more years of supported warranty, but the dealership does try to up-sell/scare you will pre-paid maintenance and a tire replacement deal. I'll get to this later.
Cons
  • Everything about this car is expensive. We had to get a tire replaced recently and found out why RFTs (Run Flat Tires) suck ass. Essentially these tires are designed to be resilient-enough to be totally flat and still ride-on for 50 miles at 50 MPH. Bad thing is that they aren't fixable/patchable and can only be replaced. Then you actually have to find a tire shop that is cool with replacing it with non-run flats since some shops have differing policies regarding this matter.
  • We opted out of the pre-paid maintenance and tire package, but I'm guessing it's gonna be hella expensive for even an oil change.
  • The steering-wheel controls for the infotainment suck so much ass. How hard is it to have a 'next' and 'back' button? You instead have this wheel contraption that you rotate around and then you have to press in to select. WTF? So in order to change a radio station or skip to a next song, you have to do 2 steps instead of one. It really isn't intuitive.
  • And lastly we get to the reliability. We've had the car less than a year and we've already had to go into the shop a few times to get things looked at. I'll continue to have a running tally on this page and update it when we bring it in since I'll be interested in a few years what the total will look like after we get finished with this car and eventually move on.
Ongoing Maintenance/Service
  1. Out of nowhere the rear brake light unit broke off of one plastic hinge and was pseudo dangling down. We had to take it in and the dealership replaced it under warranty and said it was a manufacture defect.
  2. An alert came up on the dash saying that the parking light failed. I think this was a bulb that went out somewhere.
  3. An alert came up on the dash saying that we had low tire pressure. I pumped up all tires to the recommended spec and continued on. 1 week later the alert came back up and we went to the tire shop for them to look at. This is where we were schooled on the terrible RFTs. Luckily Big-O was cool with replacing it with a normal tire. AND they didn't try to be punks and sell us 2 tires, just one. I have a feeling that the other 3 tires will get nails in them as time goes on...
Overall
I for one know what a BMW is...my better half may not share the same concerns though. I'd never really get one of these cars if it was only up to me. Renting one temporarily is OK but long-term? Hell no. This car just reeks with the smell of an expensive upkeep.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Bone Conduction Headphones

I came across these headphones while searching for a regular pair and became intrigued at the technology. Bone conducting...does something like this really work well? I bought a pair late last year and have been using them off/on in various locations, so I think now I can accurately report back on their performance.

To get it out of the way, yes, the tech does indeed work. You can put foamies in your ears, put this on, and you'll be able to hear music, Youtube videos, have phone conversations, etc. The unfortunate part is that even though you can hear, what comes out does seem "odd" and muffled. I guess that goes along with the whole biological, evolutionary development of one's real ears and how they function vs. this newfangled tech.

The main positive for this device is that you can hear stuff through the headphone, albeit with only 70% clarity, while fully hearing the rest of your environment with no problem. So if you're in an office environment, you'll be able to listen to music but still hear the phone ring or if a co-worker comes around and starts chatting. Additionally if you're outside and it's not too noisy, you'll be able to be situationally aware.

The main negative is two-fold. First, as I already mentioned, the clarity of the sound leaves a lot to be desired, so if you're a picky music listener and care about quality and clarity, these aren't the headphones for you. Secondly, if there is any sort of background noise you're screwed. Some examples of these noisy environments are airplanes, cars (especially at freeway speeds), outdoors with a lot of people, outdoors with any yard machinery, outdoors with wind, etc. Your first instinct when you can't hear the music through these headphones is to turn up the volume to try to make the vibrations greater to offset the real noise entering in through your ears, but then your ears will start hurting and that whole process seems unhealthy.

So yeah there you go. Unless you have a very specific use case for this device, I'd vote to pass on it. It's good that it exists, but I personally want to listen to good quality music when I'm in the mood vs having mediocre sounds come through.