So a friend organised for eight of us to go to an Escape room venue that also hosted VR games.
I really liked the fact that you had a laptop on as a backpack that gave you the freedom to move around the room without cables trailing around. It really helped with the immersion. The game its-self had fairly average puzzles to work out (or our team found them average as we took only 30mins) but the usage of lifts and teleports really made the game feel expansive as the other two players in your four-person team would suddenly be away on another platform or completely removed from vision while they worked on puzzles in another room via those transport mechanisms.
It was also fun at the end when you finished and ended up at a beach bar with an archery range and as a team had to get a high score shooting balloons, that was a nice touch while you waited for the other team. I think we got a top 6 score for that.
So essentially, I highly recommend going and trying it out! We paid around £30 per person for the experience.
So this is turning into a bit of a pilgrimage. Each yeah the company I work for has a sales summit in the USA, prepping the organisation for the year ahead. It just so happens that the last two have been in Denver and flights to turn up on the Monday have been really expensive from the UK. So coming in a bit early gives the opportunity to sneak in some skiing, This is from Winter park which I highly recommend! Really nice wide slopes and some very fun ski runs. We also did a day trip to Keystone which is also a brilliant resort!
So it seems that the Organizationally Unique Identifier (OUI) part of the MAC address of the bluetooth device is using Nintendo’s assigned address space to get around being blocked on MAC.
This is the initial part of the MAC 7C:BB:8A on the Go-tcha I have. Pop that into https://www.wireshark.org/tools/oui-lookup.html and you’ll see: 7C:BB:8A Nintendo Nintendo Co., Ltd. as the result. I suspect they might have gone even further to try and not get them blocked and tried to narrow down allocated address space in the rest of the MAC address for the Pokemon Go accessories range. It’d be a decent way to circumvent Nintendo blocking as this method could affect genuine product purchases.
So this shuttle PC used to be my main gaming PC way back, maybe 5+ years ago. It’s seen various graphics cards come and go and even been modded a bit to deal with the sheer heat some of those said cards put out. I’m still impressed with how Shuttle put these barebones PCs together. They really crammed a lot in there, trying to make as few compromises as possible.
The Configuration until recently was: Intel Core2 Quad Q6700, 4GB (2x2GB Kingston HyperX), 2TB 7200 RPM Seagate and a VTX 7870 Tahiti (which ran hotter than the sun!). Its still not a bad gaming PC under reasonable circumstances considering its age but I wanted to repurpose it as a HTPC. First up was the GPU’s age giving it the disadvantage of decoding certain media formats so that had to go! As I didn’t want to spend a ton on a GPU I did a little research and an Nvidia 1050 would suffice. Better yet I managed to get a Palit NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB KALMX Passive Graphics Card for £100 second hand Dec 2018 off eBay:
As it was replacing this:
I didn’t think twice about it fitting in the Shuttle but actually the height clearance almost proved to be an issue as the 1050 Ti went above the PCB height!
Luckily for me it went in:
This picture doesn’t do it justice. It actually looks kinda roomy in there but trust me when I say it was a delicate job to get that in and not do damage to the motherboard. Almost more impressive was that this think took a 7870 and didn’t explode into a ball of flames (it did overheat at times so I took out the top second HHD tray and modded a 120mm fan into the roof (with blue LEDs and a grill).
I also added a 256GB I had spare for the OS so the 2TB is for storage only (nothing fancy. I’m OK if I ever lose the content, pictures etc are in the cloud).
All in all it’s a capable little system. The system fans could be a little quieter, but they are not unpleasant in the same room and I’ve also replaced the 2032 mobo battery as well as bumping the CPU to a Q9550. I got for that for £25 from CEX as it increases the clock speed slightly but also the L2 cache (8>12MB). Essentially traded that for the 7870 which was just laid to waste on my desk so the bump was free! Anything past that didn’t seem economical or would increase temps/fan noise. I was a bit disappointed to see that I could only stick 4GB in this motherboard as I have 2 spare slots still for RAM but as well. Not going to need more than that for movies..
So I only tend to use windows 10 for my media PC and my gaming PC. Work and everything else is Ubuntu or macOS so I’m a bit rusty with Windows these days…
I find myself doing most quick remote connections via SSH for SFTP so with Windows 10 facing me… I was glad to see that a native SSH server is now an option, although with some mild configuration required:
Enter: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-server/administration/openssh/openssh_install_firstuse which isn’t as popular a result on DuckDuckGo as I might have expected! Glad I found them thought!
There seems to be really positive tones coming from Microsoft these days, Ubuntu support without a VM is pretty cool too!
So Black Friday came around and I made an impulse buy. For £150 odd you could get a Nvidia Shield with remote and games controller + £10 Steam credit in the UK. Not a bad deal as I was in the market for a streaming device that could do both Amazon Prime and Netflix (as well as more). Something my NowTV box was unwilling to currently do as although they recently added Netflix, there is no Amazon App. For thati’d need a Roku stick which is what the NowTV hardware is based and subsidised off.
Now I know there are streaming devices that can do these apps for cheaper (or just use a laptop) but I was also curious by Nvidia’s games streaming service (akin to the ill-fated OnLive service) so caved in and grabbed one of these!
Design: So the controller felt a little cheap to me at first but it has one main saving grace. It has a headphone jack! Might sound dumb but I really like this. Short story, I and my partner have a baby, we use a Bluetooth device that plugs in via 3.5mm or Optical out to use multiple headphones for the same source. The shield doesn’t have either output on the main unit. So the controller redeems the device here and allows us to both use paired Bluetooth headphones (with ease as there might be a way to pair both headphones to the unit but I bet its as painful as a Mac is).
Other comments about the controller, the joysticks seem to have a fair amount of give before you feel the resistance so I do think there is much initial accuracy. There could be a more uniform resistance to them. Also they seem expensive to buy more / replace!
The main unit itself is fairly discrete and you can turn the green LED down / off. One this I don’t like is the customer power connector. USB-C would have been fine here like with the Nintendo Switch. Same goes for charging the controller. USB-C, please. I’ve not heard the main unit yet so maybe I’ve not pushed it hard enough so in terms of sound, this thing has been good!
The remote is nice, bigger than an apple TV remote which is a good thing but the volume slider is a little sensitive. Apart from that. No complaints here.
The Interface: It’s a lot smoother than the branded NowTV Roku player I have. The controller not being IR (although there is the option for controlling other devices via IR) is probably a noticeable difference in speed here. The layout could still use some refining for Android TV but you can generally find what you require and its pretty remote friendly, even most keyboard input sections. I’d still say that if you use long passwords via a password manager, not all apps gracefully offer you an alternative means of logging in / verifying your account. So you might want to break out a keyboard to fly through the various initial logins for apps. Steams input entry was particularly clunky and worthwhile having a keyboard for.
Gaming: Via Nvidia’s streaming platform. Its good but you’ll need to be considerate of your network and internet contention. By those I mean, Ethernet into the router is ideal and not having anyone else on the network using up the downstream or upstream (sometimes it’s easier to contend the upstream which has a knock-on effect). If you can deal with these and keep them performant then a 40Mbps down and 10Mbps up service should be more then good enough, which is fairly standard in the UK now.
Streaming: I’ve only got a LG OLED HDR TV and its app inetgrations for comparison but a lot is on par with that in terms of Netflix. It can be tricky with just the Shield to determine the quality at times but that generally down to the apps. With the amount of units in the wild and with the amount being sold over BlackFriday / CyberMonday i’d expect app developers to be giving this platform the attention it deserves. By deserves, I mean its got decent specs and hardware and next to Roku, is a great impartial device so that you can have nearly all of your streaming services in one place (excluding Apple stuff of course).
Other: Casting, i’ve not played with this yet. It seems a little hidden away but i’ve not cared to look. Instead I opted for hooking up my Plex media server which works nicely. Its important to note here that limitations can lay with your NAS and network connectivity, especially if you are pushing some seriously large files to the Nvidia Shield.
The Nvidia shield also has the concept of adopting storage where you can plug a disk in via USB and have it act as part of the units main storage. This can be handy if you need fast local storage.
I think for me, the device is an agnostic streaming win and with the home media connection capabilities it’ll have some life in it for a while. I’ll likely revisit this once i’ve done a decent amount of gaming on the system but as of right now i’ve not been drawn in by the appeal. It’s a solid: buy, from me though!
So with a 30% through Vitality healthcare I decided to make the upgrade from the Garmin Forerunner 235 that had been my trusty watch for just over a year.
First impressions, This was smaller but a bit more elegant. I was looking forward to having a more modern looking watch akin to an Apple watch (without it being an Apple watch).
Being familiar with the Garmin’s Android Connect app, the initial setup was fairly quick. There is a lot of data in there and the main learning curve was around the UI on the watch itself as the watch only has a singular side button in addition to the touch screen. Having had many watches I think this is a great thing as usually the first thing that goes for me after a while of wearing them (on my left wrist where the crown can get pushed upwards if my wrist is bent back).
Garmin Pay: I mentioned the initial setup was quick. The Garmin Pay part was a nightmare! I was getting going to the section in the app for Garmin Pay and not seeing the ‘create wallet’ as the instructions indicated I should. Holding the icon for the hand with watch over a payment terminal revealed that my device / Garmin account did not have a Fitpay account which must be provisioned in the background. Garmin support seemed just as baffled and it involved me uninstalling the app, unpairing the phone and literally starting over before the app would show me the option. I’m still not sure if that’s what did it or if Garmin support made changes to my account, although the didn’t indicate that to me if they did. Aside from that, once it was up and running the payments went through OK and i’ve had no issues with that since setup!
Music: I’ve not tried this yet even though I spent a little extra for the Music version of the watch. None of the apps apart from Deezer ring any bells. Amazon Music and Spotify wouldn’t go amiss if they were on there so that’s a shame not to see them. Connecting the device to your laptop does allow you to load music on which is what I suspect i’ll do, rather than stream.
Connectivity: As this was an impulse buy I hadn’t done my research fully. I didn’t realise this had wifi as well as Bluetooth so that was a nice touch. My one bugbear is that the cable for charging and data transfer is a custom connector so if you want to be able to charge this at work as well as home, you need to take the cable with you or buy another.
The battery life varies depending on usage but I think we all expected that so don’t take the 7 days quoted as under intense usage.
GPS / tracking: The step counter is well… like any other decent one, and Garmin does a decent job of showing you the info and history via the app. The goals can be adjusted manually or by your historic activities Garmin’s metrics it uses to define your target. This also tries to indicate your stress levels which I didn’t have on the Forerunner. The jury is still out on this but I like that they are experimenting with this although without blood pressure I’m not sure how effective this is… With the GPS I’ve only used for cycling and linked the app to Strava which seemed to work flawlessly as you’d expect from a Garmin GPS device.
One particular feature I really like is the ‘find me phone’ feature which is surprisingly useful with a kid around the house. The simplistic but effective UI really does lend its self well to not being too fiddly while carrying some decent functions. It’s not trying to replace your phone, but be a good companion. Overall it’s a decent bit of kit and I would recommend it for those who don’t need something as expensive or flashy as an Apple watch.