Welcome To The 2010s, ReviewTechUSA

Rich has once again won himself a Captain Obvious award and made me question his dedication, ironically, to reviewing technology that his YouTube username might suggest.   😛

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo really?  Smartphones are getting enough horsepower and features to double as computers or gaming platforms?  I would’ve never guessed.  :o)  For the record, I maintain the distinction between PC and Console gaming in my categories list here, but I know full well that Gaming is becoming more ubiquitous by the nanosecond and eventually gaming devices much like computing devices will encompass a far wider range of devices than the traditional categories we tend to associate with things like computing or gaming.  Perhaps whenever Rich finally figures this out he’ll quit being so surprised by it and getting “Well Durrr” responses from other techie geek types like myself.  😉

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The….. iWatch?!! =-O

I thought smartphones replaced the old James Bond computer watches.  Apparently nerd watches are going to be popular in the near future.  Hmmm….  Looks like I have a potential replacement for my Casio WR calcu-watches that I tend to prefer these days.  😀

http://www.eetimes.com/electronics-blogs/semi-conscious/4407482/Apple-iWatch-Google-Glasses-wearable-computing-surge

A Treatise On My Utter Hatred Of CMOS Cameras :-P

In my most recent RadioStyle segment on YouTube I mentioned my current camera predicament.  The only viable camera I have for recording any videos now is my Fuji F50fd digital camera from 2007 because my Samsung SMX that was not even 2 years old yet went into the drink.  =(  Yeah.  I was filming a video about cheap food from Ocean State Job Lot with the camera on a spider tripod in front of a Shin bowl of spicy Korean ramen noodles and bumped the tripod, sending the camera head first into the soup.  Oops.  =(  What I should have done was use a regular tripod with the legs near the floor and the giraffe-neck extended way up over the table so if I bumped the tripod the camera would’ve just moved forward a bit and stop as the tripod hit the table rather than tumbling forward tripod-and-all into the soup.  I’m really bummed out about that.  I liked that camera, and to lose it to something so stupid when I’m supposed to be a multimedia geek here was just humiliating.  I know my old AV friends from college would be laughing their you-know-whats off.  =(

I finally decided on a cheap SD Sony Handycam from B&H Photo and Video just to have something besides a digital camera to record YouTube videos with for largely one big reason.  The Handycam had a CCD instead of a CMOS sensor.  CMOS sensors are taking over the world right now, but I happen to be one of the fanatical rebels who utterly despises them and will avoid them like the plague as much as I possibly can.  Why?  Keep reading.  😛

“Tube It Tube It Everybody’s Doin’ It”

This old Renetto video from the heydays of “Celebrity Video Bloggers” on YouTube really sums up the effects of YouTube on the sort of stuff I’ll be talking about here.  😛

Sadly, one of the side effects of the YouTube era has been that everybody and their mother’s uncle grabs the cheapest crappiest camera they can find (usually in their smartphone these days), shoots the cheapest crappiest “guerilla filming” stuff they can manage, and thinks they’re going to be the big Internet equivalent of a huge Hollywood star, then often whines and cries when they aren’t.  😛  I’ve never really been too big of a fan of the whole video blogging craze that took off along with YouTube and made the site what it is today.  I tried generic vlogging a few times, even did a few different video blog series in the late 2000s, then finally saw the fad for the waste of bandwidth that it was, started text blogging instead (much easier and quicker than messing with videos, as this blog has shown this year versus my YouTube activity), and saved my video uploads for more interesting stuff, especially when AT&T slapped their customers with bandwidth caps a few years back for the first time ever, destroying one of the edges their DSL and U-Verse services had over cable companies, but that’s another old rant for another old day.  Let’s just say that nowadays if I do a video that consists entirely of myself sitting in front of the camera talking, something’s not right.  😛

…Then The March Towards Cheap “Craperas” Began…  😛

All of this YouTubing though (as this vlogging is called that of course made YouTube a verb in some cases) has had the nasty side effect of putting downward pressure on camera makers to make cheaper cameras that were only a little less complete crap than the cheap cameras of yesteryear.  When I was growing up, video cameras were for people with money to burn.  They were expensive, bulky, clunky, and rarely seen in the circles I grew up in unless they were secondhand.  😛  Same thing with digital cameras when they first started taking off.  It was cool when my school was able to afford a single Sony Digital Mavica camera in the late 1990s that used floppy disks for storage and my InfoTech teacher used to joke about “hold on I gotta get some more film” when going to the computer room to get more floppies for pictures.  😛  Over time of course the technology matured and things got cheaper, but even when I was first getting into YouTube as it was taking off you were looking at around $300 for a decent palm cam and many of us (myself included) were using crappy video features on sub-$300 digital cameras to make videos with.

This was back during the days when “YouTube video” was synonymous with “crappy video from someone’s cheap digital camera” instead of the commercial high-production-value stuff we see from those generic at-least-quasi-commercial channels these days that beg people to like, favorite, comment, and subscribe every single video.  😛  I started out with a cheap Kodak digital camera, then took the plunge with a Canon Elura DV Tape camcorder ($300) in late 2006 when I wanted to try chroma-keying and when YouTubing had become a regular hobby for me, but even that 1CCD camera was $300.  Nowadays thanks to a deluge of cheap CMOS sensors instead of decent camcorders getting cheaper, crappy webcams are getting more and more upscale and eating up the low end in the camcorder world.  To finish off the history bit, I later upgraded to a Fuji Finepix F50fd on the digital camera front which I recorded all my videos with after the Elura’s tape mechanism broke in 2008, until finally getting a new camcorder with the now-recently-deceased Samsung SMX in February of 2011.

I fear what’s happening with cameras will parallel what happened with computers, similar to how the Megapixel Myth eerily resembled the Megahertz Myth.  All this cheap stuff will become so common and so popular that people will be suckered into thinking the technology’s cheaper when in reality they’re just surrounded by so much crap that said crap becomes the new normal.  😛  Computers used to have price tags around $1000 for a decent system.  Today, $1000 is still the price of a decent system, but most folks don’t notice it because they can make do with $300 crap machines that do the basics for them instead of building a decent gaming PC that’s fast, stable, in a solid metal case instead of a cheap plastic thing, etc.  Likewise, decent CCD camcorders can still be found, at least for now, but these CMOS cameras can go much lower and chew up all that market share, meaning there’s not much reason left to make decent CCD camcorders cheaper because as we’ve seen with other format wars or equipment wars in the world of multimedia, the ignorant mainstream crowd always wins out over the informed enthusiast crowd even if the enthusiasts have a better pulse on what’s the best.  😛

When CMOS Comes To Town…

A quick browse around B&H Photo & Video’s site reveals this malady of CMOS cameras taking over the world.  CCD cameras continue their vanishing act while CMOS cameras take over the scene, slowly but surely eliminating consumer choice in image sensors at various price points, especially on the low end.  The ongoing demise of 3CCD shows this in no uncertain terms.  Once the creme de la creme of video cameras, 3CCD once made its way from the professional video world down to us regular folks’ territory via $400 3CCD camcorders several years ago.  Today, if I want 3CCD, I have to spend $2000 on a low-end JVC professional camera.  😛  3CCD still holds out on cameras with 5-digit price tags though, in case I ever want to have a camera that costs more than some folks’ cars.  😛

So why do I hate CMOS so much?  Because to the untrained masses out there engaging in the aforementioned “YouTubing”, CMOS cameras see differently than CCD cameras or even our own eyes.  They don’t have a global shutter so in situations where the camera is vibrating or even MOVING, you get this ugly rolling shutter “Jello effect” that makes the videos you’re shooting with your camera look like crappy wobbly webcam footage even on more expensive cameras that you didn’t pick up at your pharmacy for $20.  😛  Basically, here’s a nice comparison video.

CCDs, venerable as the technology is in terms of age and power-efficiency, are immune to this crap.  Unfortunately, it’s CMOS that’s on the rise.  Now combine this technobabble with the YouTubing phenomenon I mentioned earlier and try to think of it from an AV Geek’s perspective.  Yeah.  Not good.  😛  Like sloppy pigs, people will be so used to wallowing around in utter crap that they’ll no longer give a darn about whether they can produce anything of decent quality without buying studio equipment.  😛

The Future Of “YouTubing” Is Bleak Indeed

I mentioned Renetto earlier, one of the former hot shot “celebrity video bloggers” from the heydays of such “celebrity video blogging” on YouTube before all this commercial stuff took over.  You know, back when the “You” was still somewhat in “YouTube” and the “Broadcast Yourself” motto was still taken literally by many people as well as actually displayed on their logo?   😛  Has Renetto’s formula changed much?  Not exactly, and he’s completely playing into all the stuff I was worried about earlier, like in this vlog he did earlier this year.  😛

Yes, this was shot in 2012, on a contemporary digital camera with a CMOS sensor.  Get Yo Wobble On every time the darn thing moves!  😛  Oh, but at least it’s “IN HDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!”  😛  This is almost as laughable as HD webcams were when I first heard about them given webcams’ long reputation for crappy internet video quality.  “HD Webcam” for me was synonymous with “Sporty Ford Focus” or something like that.  The two just don’t go together very well.  😛  Well now I can rejoice, because with CMOS sensors taking over the world, soon everybody will have a nice wobbly jiggly “HD Webcam” look to their videos.  Woohoo!!!  😛

Sad.  Just sad.  I’m just wondering when the day’s going to come when I’m going to have to hold my nose and make the switch to wobbly CMOS cameras because there’s nothing else left.  :-\  Right now a major deterrent is that even my digital camera still has a CCD, since the Fuji Finepix F-series from those days had the SuperCCD technology in them which led to video quality on YouTube that was about on par with DV tape camcorders at the time, previously unheard of in a digital camera, which is why I wound up getting one.  🙂

When that camera finally dies….  yeah.  I’ll try not to think about it.  =(  I just hope some other technology comes along that brings back a global shutter look to cameras and kills off CMOS sensors.  Hmmm…  Maybe QuantumFilm?  🙂

The Last Remnants Of TechTV Are Outta Here

Ahhh TechTV, the now-ancient predecessor to today’s G4 network and many of Revision3’s shows, which brought us the monolith of geek culture via some form of mainstream video entertainment, is finally just about wiped out.

I remember the hour-long versions of The Screen Savers and Extended Play which morphed into today’s X-Play while The Screen Savers eventually became Attack Of The Show, and most of TechTV’s top talent eventually moved over to Revision3 or YouTube.  Now, it finally looks like it’s over for even those two shows, so the last remnants of that golden age of geek TV are history.

Quite frankly, I’m not too bummed out.  I really think if TechTV and now these remnant shows hadn’t been ended they would’ve been killed by new competition anyway.  I mean, for geeks like myself who care more about cable internet than cable TV with what broadband can do these days, why mess with traditional TV at all when all this IPTV geek show stuff is on demand online and can be either RSSed or directly-viewed on YouTube or sites like Revision3?

Yet even still, with these changes and G4’s eventual rebranding underway, how much of this old tech vlog that got me into these online geek shows back when I was first getting into YouTube back in 2006 is still relevant?  Any of it?  Times have definitely changed. : -)

Oh well.  Let’s have one last round of the classic Screen Savers theme song just for old times’ sake. : -)

“Now You’re A Computer That I Used To Own…” :-P

BD594 has done it again.  This time with a certain simplistic but catchy song that’s all over the radio here in 2012.  😛

Too bad the scanner is a tad too slow to do the vocals properly lol.  What’s next?  The payphone song?  Maybe he should hook up a decommissioned payphone to some motors or something to get that working.  😀  Kudos as usual to this YouTuber for making old technology into a source of geeky-sounding music.  🙂

Dear Radio Shack and Best Buy – If Folks Like You They Will Come…

Well now.  I’ve managed to combine consumer electronics brick and mortar dinostores and a Field Of Dreams reference.  What could I possibly be up to…..  🙂

I’ve recently been following the woes of Best Buy in the news, but now Radio Shack apparently is in trouble too:

NASDAQ – Can Dinosaur Radioshack Evolve?

Radio Shack?  A dinosaur?  Since when?  If I recall one of Best Buy’s proposed early solutions to their woes that I heard about earlier was to try some smaller store formats to reduce overhead, a.k.a. try being like Radio Shack.  I’m guessing that didn’t work out?  😛

Quite frankly, what these two companies have in common as far as I’m concerned is bluh service.  I don’t know what this NASDAQ article’s talking about with Radio Shack supposedly having “impeccable customer service.”  If they’re really that good I have yet to see any of it around here.  Same with Best Buy.

For example, I’ve always been able to count on Best Buy over the years for miserable service, and things haven’t gotten any better over the years.  They were responsible for selling me the first and worst computer I’ve ever owned that drove me to get into PC hardware and build my first homebrew machine halfway through college when the PC they sold me kicked the bucket then they blew me off when I tried to invoke the service plan we bought for it.  Several years later, my Dad wound up in the same boat.  I haven’t been in one of their stores in years and am in no rush to ever return of course.

Radio Shack, on the other hand, has at least tried to provide decent service once in a blue moon, but for the most part I can usually count on Radio Shack to be quite consistent with things such as taking cheap parts and cranking up the price on them, being out of stock on something I’m looking for, or just plain not having very good stuff in stock to begin with.  During the “You’ve Got Questions – We’ve Got Answers” days I jokingly went around saying, “You’ve Got Projects – We’ve Got Stockouts” because that’s usually how it went with them.  I’d need something and oopsie-doopsie, the local Shack didn’t have it.  😛  Not a good thing when I was working as an in-house tech guy in some local warehouses at the time and was picking up some warehousing knowledge on the side, such as the idea of “stockout” being a swear word to logistics and supply chain folks.  😉

Radio Shack also has the dubious honor of having sold me the worst keyboard I’ve ever had.  Back in the mid-1990s I had picked up an interest in playing keyboards so my folks got me a Radio Shack Concertmate 575 with reduced-size keys in case that turned out to be a phase I went through.  It wasn’t, so they got me a Concertmate 1100 with normal-size keys for Christmas that year, and by the following Christmas, we had to replace the whole thing because keys kept snapping under normal use.  My folks got me a Casio WK-1250 for Christmas that year, and I still have it to this day.  🙂  Here’s a YouTube video I did about it.  🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPiX3FSepE8

Nowadays, it’s kind of hit and miss with them.  I usually go there as my “nerd convenience store” of course for geek supplies, but last time I tried going there for electronics stuff I walked in and the store clerk was being hassled by some rude customer who couldn’t get her smartphone working properly.  Yeah sure the customer was annoying and by the time I went to check out the clerk had to step away from her for a bit to ring everything up, but the clerk gave me a bad attitude even though I wasn’t the one being snotty.  =(  Not too good to take out their frustration on other customers.

All this is beside the point though.  What’s missing from these two companies is decent service and a desire to treat their customers like something other than mindless sheep.  I know a lot of B&Ms like to point at eTailers as a perennial scapegoat for not doing well, but is price really everything, or does service matter?  The worst service I’ve received over the past few years in almost all cases has had one thing in common – brick and mortar stores.  Sure there’s bad service online too, but for the most part it’s offline stores where I run into the most service shenanigans.  Gee.  You think that could possibly be influencing where I want to buy things from?  😉

These two companies shouldn’t disappear – especially Radio Shack, but what they need to do is focus on getting local customers to actually like them again.  Sure some people buy things exclusively based on sticker price, but service still counts for something these days.  That’s why I buy electronics from various eTailers.  I used to play the price games with lists like Pricewatch.com back in the day, but after barely keeping myself from getting swindled on a sound card purchase by an unethical eTailer in Ohio who now thankfully appears to have gone out of business, I started finding good eTailers and sticking to them.  I’d do that with good B&Ms too if there were any around here, but I find most of them around here to leave me feeling neutral/average/ho-hum in terms of service.  It’s the Neweggs, B&H Photo Videos, Monoprices, etc., whose service makes me enthusiastically want to go back even if they’re not the cheapest pricewise.

Hmmm….  Getting people to like you.  Where does that fit in amidst the various quantifiable business metrics out there these days….?  :-\

VWestlife Hits It Out Of The Park :-)

Excellent video from VWestlife about some of the issues with cheap replacement electronics found on sites like Amazon and eBay.  🙂

I personally have wondered about some of the third party stuff I’ve seen on some of these sites, particularly laptop batteries and power bricks like what we’re seeing here.  Sure some of the whole “buying genuine parts” stuff these days can involve paying extra due to buying a name, but there is an element of separating a company who wants loyal customers from quick buck artists selling cheap knockoffs too.

Besides radio interference, this sort of stuff sometimes makes me wonder if it could damage some equipment with how these knockoffs can be so poorly constructed.  :-\