Saturday
Dec132014

After Two Months I still love the Pebble.

For my Birthday back in October my wife got me the Pebble Smart Watch. Taking advantage of Pebble’s recent price drop ($150 to $100) and some best buy rewards zone gift cards; she got it for $80. I admit, I’ve been a little skeptical of the whole smart watch trend. While I wear a watch in everyday life, I didn’t think having notifications on my wrist was a big deal. I don’t mind taking my phone out of my pocket and checking it, since if I want to reply to something, I’d have to do that anyways. Plus do I really need yet another device I have to remember to charge? I already have a cell phone, laptop and two tablets (Ipad Mini, and Asus Vivotab) and I forget to charge the tablets all the time…

So why do I love my Pebble after two months of use?

Well as I mentioned before, I already was a watch guy. So checking my wrist for information was already natural to me.  First thing I did with my Pebble was to find a Watch face that displayed some kind of weather information. Per suggestion of a waiter at a restaurant my wife and I were at right before we bought the Pebble, I downloaded the weather channel watch face. While it was okay, I didn’t like how the weather information was actually larger on the display then the time. So I began looking around, trying several watch faces, then I discovered probably the best watch face for a nerd like me. A LCARs (Star Trek Next Generation computer interface) Watch face that displays both time and temperature!!! This was awesome, and also matches the clock I still use today on my Best Buy Insignia info cast (a device still running the Chumby OS).

 

Next up was notifications.  This was probably something I cared for the least at first. While the occasional text on my watch is neat, it’s really not something that I thought I needed. After about a month with the Pebble I rediscovered the vibrate setting, initially I thought this would be annoying, but it actually turns out to make life with the pebble even better. Here’s how it works for me:

1)      I don’t always feel my phone vibrate in my pocket when it’s ringing, with the pebble vibrating on my wrist, I miss fewer calls.

2)      I am now working a job where I have a lot of appointments to keep, with Pebble vibrating on calendar notifications; I am now seeing the reminders before the meetings.

Sure I still get notifications for texts and emails, and I will sometimes read them on the pebble, but it’s not something I really rely on, or need.

Probably the last feature of the Pebble I use daily is the ability to remotely control the music player on my IPhone. This is great for skipping tracks in the car, when I don’t want to reach for the dash controls or the iPhone itself.  

A feature I’m not using daily of the Pebble is the Battery, with the e-ink display not draining the battery like an LCD, I easily get 4 to 5 days on a charge. This is very convenient as I don’t have to remember to charge it daily like the rest of my stuff.

 

So where could the Pebble improve?

I really wish it had a microphone in it. No I don’t want to do Dick Tracy style phone calls, but I’d like the ability to launch Siri and do voice commands or dictate something, much how the new Microsoft Band has Cortana integration in it.

I’d also love to see color e-ink implemented in the next version too.

Wrap up

The Pebble is now the most expensive watch I have ever owned; I always had relatively cheap (under $40) sports watches. But at less than $100 the Pebble is certainly worth the price. At $80 (Best Buy has had some holiday sales) to $100 the Pebble is a great deal, if you are someone who wears a watch already and wants to just take your watch to the next level. I don’t think I would have wanted one at $150. And I certainly don’t see the appeal of a smart watch at $250 or $350.

 

 

Friday
Nov142014

Is the New Microsoft Work and Play Bundle a good deal?

This week Microsoft released it’s Work and Play Bundle for $199. Strangely you have to buy this in a Microsoft Retail store and can’t online, despite all of these services being online services…  I do have a Microsoft store at the Mall of America, so I began debating if this would be a good deal for me or even a good deal in general?

Short and Sweet… Yes it is.  However, you have to want/need all of the services. If you don’t need the $14 a month skype plan, or $50-60 Xbox Live Gold, then probably not.  

Here is a chart I made using my own personal requirements, plus amazon pricing.

 

Work and Play

Individually Amazon for a year

What I would need

Office 365 Home

x

$70 ($100 Normally)

$70

Xbox Live Gold

x

$50  ($60 Normally)

$50

Skype Unlimited world

x

$168

$35.88  ($2.99 a month)

Xbox Music

x

$100

Don't Care

       

Total

$199

$388 ($428 with out Amazon)

$156

 

So for me personally...? Not really, I’ll just buy these individually. If I was more interested in Xbox Music this may have been a good deal, but I have plenty of other ways of listening to music and I treat streaming services like FM Radio of old: a way to introduce me to songs that I way want to buy on amazon music later.

I should mention that Microsoft also recently changed the Office 365 subscription to now include unlimited storage in One Drive. Which makes the $70 for Office 365 Home a really good deal!!!

 

UDPATE!!!  For the month of December. Microsoft has made the bundle $150. Have to be honest, at that price, I'm doing it.

Sunday
Mar302014

PC Case Review: Cooler Master HAF XB

 

I had been in the market for a new Home Theater PC Case, the Criteria, 2 stacked 5.25” bays to accommodate the Antec Veris Multimedia Station premier (http://www.antec.com/Believe_it/product.php?id=NzEy) I got about 6 months back at Micro Center on clearance for $20 (down from the regular MSRP of $100) The other major criteria, be capable of holding a full ATX motherboard, because I intended to recycle my old Core 2 Quad CPU and Asus P5E Deluxe motherboard from my old desktop PC. The idea being this HTPC would be capable of still fitting inside of my Home Theater entertainment center, while still being able to hold a full ATX board… So I really just wanted a Tardis style PC case (bigger on the inside).

My original thought was to purchase a Cooler Master Elite 360 or 361, but this became difficult as the case had been discontinued and was rather expensive to find and get shipped on Amazon or Ebay. I didn’t want to pay over $50 for a case which had an original MSRP of $40. So I started looking at modern (currently stocked) cases.

Two cases I kept coming back to; the Corsair Carbide Air, and the Cooler Master HAF XB. My first frustration with either of these cases was the placement of the Optical media bays, below the motherboard tray. These cases are tall cubes or double wide mid-towers. In the case of the HAF XB, I realized it was better choice for me because the case was meant to be used a desktop configuration, after looking one day at the Carbide Air and noticing the feet placement was designed to have a wide tower case with the Optical media bays side (which is just weird). The HAF XB also being priced slightly cheaper than the Corsair Carbide was also a plus.

 

 

 

The HAF XB was far from perfect though, I don’t really like open air or mesh grill cases, all of that ventilation leads to dust, and in my case; cat hair clinging to the grills. But I did like the HAF XB’s Hot Swap drive bays. I should mention that some of the reviews I have read claimed the hot swap bays have had problems, and I believe Cooler Master has changed the back plane since releasing the case, because my back plane was different than one I had seen in pictured in those reviews; the SATA cable connectors being on the top of the PCB instead of coming straight out the back.

Okay, what else do I like about this case? The removable motherboard tray! I don’t see this feature enough in cases, and it’s really nice in this case. I also like the front dual 120mm/140mm fan mounts, as this leaves some potential for future radiator mounting.  The additional drive bays in the bottom rear of the case are nice as well. The version I purchased used the dual 3.5” bays, unlike the HAF XB EVO. which has 4; 2.5” bays.  Though ironically I was placing an SSD in that bay, but I still I prefer 3.5” bays (Who is putting 4 SSDs into PCs these days? If you are, I’m jealous).

 

The Power supply bay is a mixed blessing, on the one hand I like that the cage protrudes from the case to accommodate longer PSUs, but if I’m using the smaller PSU, I should have option to not have it protrude and have it flush inside the side case, perhaps the inclusion of a different cage bracket if they revamp the model? I do however love the anti-vibration foam the PSU rests on, and the under mounted dust filter.

Speaking of protrusions, my major gripe with this case is the top panel that has a raised grill from the top of the case; for some reason this case doesn’t want to just be a box/cube…  This protrusion is to accommodate a 200mm fan… Okay so the idea is to have a lot of Air Flow in this case… I should probably mention HAF stands for “High Air Flow”. But I hate 200mm fans; they are just gaudy in my opinion; and I really wish they would have gone with a windowed top… Which Cooler Master does sell for $11.99 (http://www.cmstore-usa.com/haf-xb-transparent-top-window-panel-oem) so I guess I shouldn’t complain… But I’m going to anyways, since the shipping cost on this part from the cooler master store actually exceeds the items itself. And the panel isn’t flat, it still protrudes, and I’m not sure why since there is no fan to mount there, so the panel could have been flat.

I’m not sure how great the cable management in this case is because I don’t really understand how I was to properly manage the cables in my situation. My setup is weird because the Antec Veris panel not only connects to the power supply header, but the on/off switch (and the on/off switch from the front I/O has to connect to it), and a USB port. Also my USB 3.0 header had to connect to PCI USB 3.0 Expansion card; which also required the use of a Molex power tap. I did what I could to keep the cables from obstructing air flow. The case does come with a several mini zip ties, and there are places to use them, but it wasn’t really for me.

I like the case, and the handles on the side panels are a nice touch though, and I do like that it is really easy to remove the top and side panels to get easy access inside the case. The remove-able motherboard tray is awesome, but I wish they would have put some of that same thinking into the power supply cage (why can’t I have a flush mount bracket?). And the top of the case just isn’t for me; I don’t like 200mm fans.  The hot swap bays so far haven’t had any issues, and the mesh grill hasn’t been too much of a dust magnet yet. I don’t regret buying the case, but I’m not sure I would recommend it for everyone.

 Picture of the completed PC using the HAF XB and the Antec Veris front panel all in my Entertainment center.

 

 

Monday
Mar032014

Sale of the Week: A Great HTPC Keyboard.

 

BestBuy has for sale this week, a great little Home theater PC keyboard. Having gone through several bluetooth keyboards, and wireless Keyboard mouse combos, I found this great Logitech Keyboard. I purchased one about 2 months ago and have been loving it. It's fairly small, but still comfortable to type on. Plus the integreated touchpad is very easy to use. My wife and I have been loving it over having the mouse and keyboard be seperate on our Mac mini in our living room.

 

You can click the click the pick for the Link or go here:

 

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/searchpage.jsp?_dyncharset=UTF-8&_dynSessConf=&id=pcat17071&type=page&sc=Global&cp=1&nrp=15&sp=&qp=&list=n&iht=y&usc=All+Categories&ks=960&fs=saas&saas=saas&keys=keys&st=K400

 

Friday
Feb282014

Okay, now is the time to upgrade your monitor.

I know, not everyone wants to drop nearly $1000, on monitor and go Dual 27" 2560x1440, like I did... Yes there is something wrong with me.... At $400-$450 a screen it's a lot... I get it...

 

But that's no reason you can't go to atleast a 1080p Screen, or maybe even two!

 

For $107. The Dell Outlet is offering the P2214H 22" 1080p screen. As long as you use coupon code: WL3XKKV?6$7SCT (Link to deal is here: http://www.dell.com/learn/us/en/22/campaigns/dfo_dfh_deals_page?c=us&l=en&s=dfh&dgc=IR&cid=260728&lid=4699327 )

 

I personally have owned a lot of Dell monitors, and have purchased several from the dell outlet. And they are great deals. Also Tekzilla's Patrick Norton has said the same.

 

What I love how the Proffesional grade monitors, is you get height adjustable stand which is something you don't see enough of in comsumer monitors, and usb hub built into the monitor.  But why are you still reading this. Go! Go buy it now!