I Am Now A Google Pixel User

I have been a long time Windows Phone/Mobile user, so it was hard for me to make the switch to something else.  In the end Verizon made the switch for me, since there are no longer any good Windows 10 Mobile devices on their network.  It was time to branch out anyway, so I am now a Google Pixel user.

There are things I love about this phone.  The fingerprint reader on the back is perfectly placed, so every time I pick up the phone it is instantly on.  The Pixel is fast and responsive.  It takes decent pictures extremely quickly, so there is no waiting around for focusing or anything like that.  Then of course there are the multitude of apps to play around with which I never had on Windows Mobile.  Thankfully Microsoft has Android versions of all my favorite Windows apps.

There are downsides as well.  It looks like a bad iPhone knockoff, but then to keep from getting sued they put a plastic square on the back, and an ugly flat plastic cover on the front.  Which is even more maddening since there are no buttons on the front of the Google Pixel.  It is all wasted space.  My other problems are just normal Android problems.  Like the fact that all the settings are not centrally located, so you have to hunt around to change something (I just want Gmail to stop making noise!!), or that Facebook and Android no longer sync photos.

In the end the speed and the apps make up for just about all of its shortcomings.  The Google Pixel is a good phone that works well.  I just miss Windows Phone’s flare and live tiles.  One thing I didn’t get to try, but I want to, is Google Daydream VR, but since I don’t have $80 to spare, that will have wait until a later date.  If you are on Verizon and want a fast phone with a good camera, the Google Pixel might be just what you are looking for.

I Hacked My T-Mobile CellSpot And Got An Asus RT-AC68U!

T-Mobile decided that it would be a good idea sell fantastic routers at a great price to try and then use those routers to expand their cell coverage, and you know what?  It is a good idea.  Unfortunately for them they decided to repurpose the very popular Asus RT-AC68U to do it, so everyone and their brother used Asus’ great firmware tools to flash the T-Mobile CellSpots to either stock Asus firmware or high end custom firmware.  This of course displeased T-Mobile since the whole point of selling routers cheap is to expand their cell range, so they had Asus make the routers harder to hack, but guess what?  Nerds like me are still hacking these routers and they work great!

I am not going to go in to detail on how to hack a T-Mobile CellSpot since there are a great many good guides online, but I will say if you buy a CellSpot now you will need to follow this step first: Press All The Buttons, and then I followed this video:

Until he put custom firmware on it.  Instead I went the ‘official route’ and flashed the router to firmware version 376.3626 with the Asus Recovery Tool to change the memory size to 64 MB from 32 MB, and then after that simply applied the most recent firmware from the Asus site.  You can download everything you need from the links included on this page: SlickDeals Asus Page.

Overall this router has been a major step up from my Asus RT-N66U.  Everything is just faster, plus there are more options, and it feels good knowing that I got to stick it to the man a little bit by only paying $60 for a $150 router.  Though I think this model is still worth it even if you pay full price and don’t want to bother rewriting boot loaders.  If you haven’t got an AC router yet, there aren’t many consumer routers available better than the Asus RT-AC68U.

The 2016 Roku Stick Proves Good Things Do Come In Small Packages!


I previously raved about my 2012 Roku 2 XS, but recently it started acting up a little bit. I think it was just getting too slow to run the new apps.  Well for $50 or less you can get this year’s Roku Stick, and you should!  I streams everything the bigger Rokus do, but in a small little package.  It is fast, and the streams look great!  It even lets you stream the audio from the stick to your phone so you can watch TV without waking up your two year old.

Roku continues to show the folly of getting a Smart TV.  Why spend $100s extra when you can add one of these to any TV for just $50.  Better yet you can find them all over the place for $40.  At that price you don’t need to worry about the tech getting old because you can simply upgrade it in a couple of years.

If you are looking for a way to get your streaming apps on your TV, but don’t want to spend a lot of cash, the Roku Stick is totally the way to go.  The only reason to get something else would be because you are heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, so then you would have to get an Apple TV.  Still even if you are an Apple Fanatic, for $40 you get access to everything else the internet has to offer as well.  The Roku Stick is a great device at an even better price.

AMD Is In Trouble!


Yesterday AMD had their big Computex product announcement, and it was not great.  Last month NVIDIA launched two amazing video cards: The GeForce GTX 1080 which blows every other video card out of the water, and the GeForce GTX 1070 which for under $400 is as fast or faster than anything in their pervious generation.  It was an amazing month for NVIDIA, so what was AMD’s response? A card that has the same speed as their cards from two generations ago.  Sure it will be cheap, starting at $200, but that doesn’t instill a lot of confidence that their new architecture has a lot of head room.

Then on their processer side they announced that their long awaited follow up to the ageing FX line exists.  They even held one up, but it will not be out for awhile.  This is just days after Intel announced their new faster and more efficient chips.  It is great that their new chips will have tons of cache and now do hyper-threading, but I would like to know when I can buy one and about how much they will set me back.  Not that at some point in the future that a chip may come out.

Then to top it all off there are rumors that all the video card guys want to jump ship to Intel because AMD’s upper management doesn’t care about the graphics division.  My take on that is that AMD is just out of money and time, so they can’t care.  Especially when the new card is so slow the only way they can sell it is to sell it cheap.

All of this displeases me greatly.  I have loved both AMD processors and ATi Radeon graphics cards from way back.  Heck I put their kit in my latest rig, so to see them struggling to get product out the door is hard to watch.  Intel and NVIDIA need competition to keep innovating, and AMD was that competition.  If AMD falls I am not sure who will or even could take their place.  Not to mention fans like me will be more than a little sad to see them go.

Sony Manages To Fumble Their Mic Drop!


A couple of weeks ago I said that Sony needed to launch Project Morpheus now known as PlayStation VR for $499, but they did one better and launched it for $399.  Well except that they didn’t.  You can get it for $399, but to use it you will need a $59 PlayStation Camera, and for a quite a few of their 50 launch titles you will need a couple of Move controllers for $40 each, so the grand total will be $540.  Though for now you can get PlayStation Cameras and Move controllers cheaper than MSRP if you look around, so not so surprisingly the total would be about $500.

Now Sony’s reasoning for launching the VR without any of the necessary accessories was that most of their first adopters will already have the Camera and the Move controllers, which is probably true fanboys tend to buy everything (ask me about my Kinect), but the $399 price was still pretty bogus.  They should have just announced two SKUs at their event, $399 for the base headset, and $499 for the bundle.  Boom!  Problem solved!  They still get to have their VR solution be $200 cheaper than the Rift which also doesn’t come with motion controllers, and even with the bundle they still would have been $100 cheaper.  It is all win.

Now later in day after Sony was getting hammered for their misleading $399 price point they did say that they were going to announce a couple of PlayStation VR bundles.  One with headset and all necessary accessories, and one that also includes the PS4.  I can understand not saying anything about the PS4 bundle because by October the PS4’s price will have dropped, so to announce the price of that bundle would giveaway how much the that drop will be, and that announcement is usually saved for the lead-in to the all important Holiday buying season, but not announcing the Camera and Move bundle was just odd and ill-advised.

Sony still got to drop the mic as far as price goes for their VR solution, but instead of getting to enjoy it they had to deal with the wrath of a lot of confused and angry gamers.  Now granted confused and angry seems to be the native mental state for a lot of gamers, especially ones that hang out on the internet, and people were always going to be mad that the PlayStation VR was ‘too expensive’, but they could have saved themselves a lot of grief by just acknowledging upfront that the PlayStation VR was going to be more than $399 for a lot of people.  You know, more like $499 like a certain blogger told you it would be.