November 22, 2019

Mac Mini Dock - Satechi Hub

Price: $80 USD

If you use a Mac mini (2018), you know it’s nice to have so many ports on the back for connecting lots of peripherals. The only issue that comes up is with reaching around to the back to access them. Most of the things I plug in stay connected permanently, so no big deal for those. Sometimes you need to plug something else in and having ports on the front would be a convenience. Fortunately, I think I have found the perfect solution! The Satechi Aluminum Stand Hub for Mac mini.

The unit sits perfectly under the Mac mini and looks great. The space grey aluminum color differs slightly from the Mac, but it‘s close enough. It includes vents for air flow and has non-slip feet. This may not seem like a big deal, but the bottom of the mac mini is slippery on my desk, so now it stays put if it gets bumped.

The hub uses only one of the USB-C ports on the back of the Mac mini and adds the following ports to the front for use. Check out the photos below.

  • 1x SD Card Slot (They go in upside down for some reason? It has a nice click when inserted.)
  • 1x Micro SD Card Slot
  • 1x 3.5mm Headphone Jack
  • 3x USB 3.0 Ports - 5GBps (The ports are very loose when inserting a cable. Connection is fine though. It’s actually kind of nice to not have to pull so hard to get a thumbdrive out.)
  • 1x USB-C Data Port - 5GBps

*All the front USB ports do appear to provide charging, although I am not sure how much power is being provided. I plugged in an iPhone 11 Pro with a USB-A > Lightning cable and a USB-C > Lightning cable.

The build quality is very nice, and the convenience is fantastic!

Satechi Mac mini Hub

Satechi Mac mini Hub

Satechi Mac mini Hub Photos: Satechi.net

Mac Mini
November 19, 2019

Raspberry Pi 4 + Touchscreen

Whether it’s HomeBridge, a Minecraft Server, a Network Wide Ad Blocker, a Home Weather Station, or something else entirely, the Raspberry Pi has you covered. The Raspberry Pi has always been an amazing tool since it first launched, and the latest unit is no exception.

I recently picked up a new Pi and a few accessories so I could move my HomeBridge setup from my Mac mini to the new Pi and tuck it away. This project is not terribly different than other Pi projects I have done, but one difference this time is connecting up a small touchscreen to the unit so it’s still headless but has quick access without the need for connecting a keyboard and/or mouse in case of any errors that may occur.

Here is what I got for this project:

  1. Raspberry Pi 4 Model B - 4GB RAM ($60 USD)
    More Info

Raspberry Pi 4 Schematic

  1. Raspberry Pi 4 Touchscreen Kit, MazerPi 3.5 inch ($30 USD)
    Amazon Link

Raspberry Pi 4 Touchscreen Kit

Some other items you may need if you don’t have them around already.

  • USB-C Power Supply
  • Micro HDMI Adapter

It’s pretty neat having a Pi, a case, and a small touchscreen all packed together in one small cube. To be able to have an entire computer with touch input, that can run off a USB power bank is just plain cool!

Raspberry Pi 4 Touchscreen Kit

I am running this Pi with plain old Raspian (version: September 2019), so you may have better or worse luck with different OS options on the Pi.

A couple shortcomings of the LCD

  • Some windows just can’t get small enough to entirely fit on the screen, so you will want to make sure you have some kind of remote connection available (VNC, SSH).
  • After enabling the LCD, it disables both of the HDMI outputs. Which is fine if you were planing on running the unit headless” but if you were looking to use this as an aux screen, that’s a no go with this unit.
Raspberry Pi Touchscreen HomeBridge
November 14, 2019

Playing Games - Luigi’s Mansion 3

Luigi Photo Credit: Nintendo

Luigi’s invited to the towering Last Resort hotel, but when Mario and friends go missing, our green-clad hero will have to conquer his fears to save them!

-Nintendo.com

With so many solo games out there to play, I was very eager for this one to hit the eShop. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a proper co-op game that is packed with fun! This game instantly feels like a Nintendo classic that pushes all those buttons that Nintendo is so good at. Although this is the third installment in the series, the game feels fresh and new in almost every way. All the mechanics not only feel good from a control standpoint, but they add delight to the whole experience.

Gooigi

Photo Credit: Nintendo

The addition of Gooigi as the second player works very well. I like that it’s not just an exact copy of Luigi but he performs his own unique moves and actions, meaning it’s not just an optional character, but an essential one. Because of this, you do also have the option to play solo and switch between the two depending on what abilities you need for a given challenge. One of my favorite things is how much of the environment you can suck up with the Poltergust! (Most of the stuff you don’t need to suck up, but you want to just for the fun of it!) 👻

Graphically, the game is beautiful and runs great on the switch. The game has smooth transitions, and solid load times throughout. The art style is delightful, and the detail is quite rich in each environment.

Mansion Photo Credit: Nintendo

Slam, blow away, and vacuum up ghosts with the all-new Poltergust G-00, and join forces with Gooigi to overcome the puzzling contraptions and mischievous boss on each themed floor. And that’s just the Last Resort. Enter the ScareScraper for 8-player local wireless or online co-op gameplay.

-Nintendo.com

Available in both physical and digital! It’s a solid get!
nintendo.com/games/detail/luigis-mansion-3-switch/

Luigi’s Mansion 3 Game Box

Games Nintendo Switch Luigi Gooigi
October 29, 2019

HORI Nintendo Switch Split Pad Pro Ergonomic Controller

Price: $50 USD

As much as I love the concept of the Nintendo Switch, playing in handheld mode is not what I would consider enjoyable. The Joy-Cons are ok for very short stints of play, but for me, they are crippling after a very short time using them. I play the Switch in TV Mode’ 98% of the time using a Pro Controller.

The Split Pad Pro on the surface looked to be a merge between the comfort of the Pro Controller but attachable to the Switch like Joy-Cons, so it was worth a shot to give them a try.

I have been using them for about a week, and here is what my takeaways are. (Keep in mind, this is for me, so it may be different for your needs!)

  • They are not Bluetooth and will only function attached to the Switch.
  • The joysticks are pretty solid and feel good.
  • The A, B, X, Y buttons are suitable, not too mushy.
  • The +, -, Home, and Screenshot buttons are rubber for some reason. I would rather them all be hard plastic.
  • There are Assign” and Turbo” buttons on each controller. I don’t have any use for them.
  • The controller is branded for Daemon X Machina, but I am not sure why?
  • Because of said branding, the X” button is stylized, and that makes it kind of weird to look at.
  • The shoulder buttons are just ok.
  • There are additional FL,” and FR triggers underneath where your middle finger would rest. I don’t have a need for them.
  • Overall the controllers feel very hollow and light.
  • Although they are labeled Ergonomic,” they still aren’t anywhere near as comfortable as a Pro Controller.
  • When attached, the Switch is MASSIVE.

Bottom Line For Me: They are somewhat better than Joy-Cons but worse than a Pro Controller. I can see this fitting a very specific need though, so it may be worthwhile for you to give them a try.

Split Pad Pro Attached to Switch

Split PaD Pro Not Attached to Switch

Split Pad Pro Not Attached - Back Sides

Games Nintendo Switch Hori Controller
October 21, 2019

Making A Board Game - Part 4

It’s been a little while since the last update, but I have made a little bit of progress in a few areas!

  1. I now have a name for the game creation company! 🎉
    (This isn’t really necessary, but it was fun coming up with a name and logo)
  2. I have ordered the first set of play testing printed components to try this thing out with actual people. 😱

I am so excited to see the components and actually hold them in my hands. Up until now all the components have been hand made and printed out at home with a laser printer.

I decide to hold off on printing game boards this round for two reasons. They are quite expensive to create as one offs and until I am sure about the actual gameplay mechanics, I don’t want to finalize the boards in case they need to change due to the interactions with the other components.

Obligitory Teaser Screenshots 😉
Board Game Blurred Teaser Photo

Board Game Blurred Teaser Photo

Board Game Blurred Teaser Photo

Previous Updates:
Making A Board Game - Part 3
Dusting Off An Old Project - Part 2
Dusting Off An Old Project - Part 1

Project Board Games
October 21, 2019

Playing Games - RiME

RiME Header

RiME is a relatively short game but felt like the right length to accomplish the storyline. The music was beautiful and thoughtfully executed. How the game art is styled and colored gives it a unique feel that gives you a great visual experience to enjoy as you play through. The play-through gives you the right mix of puzzle and story throughout. I enjoyed the storyline quite a lot and appreciated how little clues were given throughout, but not enough to spoil anything.

The problem that this game suffers from was the performance. I played this game on the Nintendo Switch, and it was an atrocious experience. Horrific frame rates and stuttering throughout. Every time I found myself being immersed in the story and character, the frame rate would seemingly crawl to 3 fps and ruin the whole experience. This port was not ready.

I would recommend the game to someone to check out, but be sure to play it on some other platform (PS4, Xbox One, Steam).

http://www.rimegame.com/

RiME is a single-player puzzle adventure game about a young boy shipwrecked on a mysterious island after a torrential storm. Players must use their wits to decipher the challenges and secrets of an expansive world strewn with rugged terrain, wild creatures and the crumbling ruins of a long-forgotten civilization. With subtle narrative, colorful artwork and a sweeping score, RiME offers players a meaningful journey filled with discovery.

RiME Screenshot One

RiME Screenshot One

RiME Screenshot One

Games Nintendo Switch RiME
October 18, 2019

Transfer Nintendo Switch Screenshots Wirelessly To iOS Photos

If you use a Nintendo Switch and have ever used the screenshot function to capture a cool moment that just happened in a game, you have no doubt run up against the monumental pain in the ass that it is to get that screenshot off the device. Sure, you can post to Twitter and Facebook🤢 natively with the Switch, but what if you don’t use either service and prefer something else, like, oh, I don’t know, Micro.blog. 😉

I finally have a pretty ok way to do it! I won’t say it’s fantastic, but it’s reliable and is a heck of a lot better than the alternative: Turn off your Switch, remove the Micro SD card, plug the SD card into the computer, transfer screenshot, put SD card back into the Switch, and finally turn the Switch on. 🤬

Ok, so what am I doing now? Here is what I set up to get a screenshot from my Switch to Photos.app on my iPhone/iPad/Mac.

Remember, it’s not 100% perfect or ideal, but it is functional.

  1. Create a trash Twitter account (if you don’t have an account), and log in to that account on your Switch.
  2. Go to IFTTT and create a new recipe using the Twitter and iOS Photos ingredients.
  3. Setup the rule to trigger:
    If New tweet by twitter_username with hashtag #NintendoSwitch, then Add photo to album.

note: I left he part with the hashtag since the Switch puts it in every post, and I wanted to make the process as quick as possible.

That’s it! Now when you post” a screenshot to this twitter account, it triggers IFTTT to copy the photo to Photos.app.

Current issues with this setup

  1. It only grabs photos and not the 30-second clip videos. If you try it with a video clip, it will come through as a photo of the first frame of the video.
  2. You do have to have a twitter account since it’s one of the only two ways to share with the Nintendo Switch currently. If you already have an account, you are set. If you don’t, you would need to set up a trash account as I did.
  3. The resolution is not great. Need to figure out a way to pull a higher resolution version of the screenshots from Twitter.
  4. It’s not immediate, but SO MUCH better than the alternative I mentioned above!

🎉

IFTTT Recipe Screenshot

Nintendo Switch Photos Screenshots iOS
September 25, 2019

iPhone 11 Pro & Apple Watch Series 5

Prior to September 20, 2019 I was using the iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 4. I haven’t skipped an Apple Watch generation so far, and the iPhone XS was the first iPhone I have ever skipped. The announcements at the September Apple Event had me very excited to upgrade to the new iPhone and watch this year.

There is no shortage of real reviews” for both devices so I will not try to replicate that yet again, but rather provide some bullet points that may be interesting to both current users or prospective users.

What I Got:
📱 iPhone 11 Pro - 256GB - Midnight Green
⌚️ Apple Watch Series 5 - 44mm - Titanium

With that background out of the way, here is what I am thinking and feeling about both the phone and watch!

iPhone 11 Pro 📱

  • Battery life. WOW!
  • The super wide angle camera is so useful.
  • The three camera system is fantastic!
  • The night mode photos are UNREAL! Voodoo!
  • The Midnight Green is gorgeous.
  • FaceID does feel a bit faster. Not like 2x, but faster.
  • The matte frosted glass on the back feels great and looks awesome.

Apple Watch Series 5 ⌚️

  • The titanium looks great!
  • Having an always on screen is very nice for glancing.
  • The titanium felt much lighter than my Series 4 stainless steel at first, but after a week or so I don’t notice it.
  • The compass isn’t something I use with any regularity, but having better directional walking directions is helpful.
  • If you have a Series 4, you probably don’t need to upgrade, but anything prior to Series 4, I would say absolutely upgrade.

I will add any other little things I come across, but in the meantime if you have any questions, shoot them my way and I will do my best to answer them for you!

My Series 4 is for sale if you are looking for one one in great condition!

Apple iPhone Apple Watch
September 8, 2019

The Apple Card Experience

A fairly thick unmarked white envelope with what is obviously a plastic card on one side is usually what you find in the mail when you sign up for a new credit card. This type of mail hits mailboxes every day across the globe, and no one cares or gets excited about it. Do they need to be excited about a new credit card? Probably not, but what would it be like if you were?

Ordering and receiving the new Apple Card is meant to be a memorable experience, no different from any other Apple product you purchase. But Apple Card isn’t a product, you say. It sure is a product, just in a different category. There is speculation on both sides as to whether Apple should be in this market. As far as I am concerned that is all based on opinion, and you know what those are like; everyone’s got one.

Apple Card Packaging - Closed

From the build-up, to launch, to receiving the card, it was Apple style and elegance all the way. Sign up was as simple as entering a few pieces of information into your iPhone, and you are presented with an instant decision and credit limit info. At this point, you can immediately begin using the card via Apple Pay until your physical card arrives in the mail a short while later.

The physical card is not even close to any card you are carrying today. There are cards out there made of materials other than plastic, but the titanium Apple Card has a few other surprises up its sleeve. Starting with information on the card, or lack of information may be a better way to put it. No credit card number, no expiration date, no CVV codes. Just your name on the front. Someone can take your card, but they won’t know any of the relevant information. A would-be thief can of course still swipe it, but given the ease with which you can disable the card from your phone, it won’t take long to shut them down.

Activating the card is a simple tap of your phone on the packaging. Avoiding the back and forth of calling phone numbers and entering numbers or waiting on hold to talk to someone. The photo below shows the packaging and the tap to activate’ portion of the packaging.

Apple Card Packaging - Open

The magic happens when you start using the card and reviewing your purchases with the Apple Wallet app on your phone. Purchases are broken up into categories, and everything in the statement is clear, concise, and human-readable. Each type of purchase has a color associated with it, and your card will begin to take on a beautiful pattern of colors as you use it each month. Paying it off at the end of the month wipes the card clean, and you start with a clean canvas for the next month.

Apple Card iPhone App Screenshot

Love it or hate it, it’s here, and I feel it’s a great product, and this can be a helpful step in changing the ugly world of credit into something beautiful.

Apple Card Rewards

  • Daily cashback deposited into your Apple Cash account.
  • 3% Cash Back on Apple purchase (in-store, App Store, iTunes Store, Apple Services), as well as selected partners.
  • 2% Cash Back on all Apple Pay purchases.
  • 1% Cash Back on all purchases made with the physical card.
Apple Credit Card Apple Card
September 7, 2019

Playing Games - GRIS

I have finished GRIS, and it was a beautiful Journey. This game feels like being at the intersection of and art exhibit, a short story, and a calming soundtrack. It isn’t a long game in terms of gameplay hours, but it is a well thought out game with the right balance between art, music, and game mechanics. GRIS is a fantastic departure from the general gameplay we find within the various platforms, and I appreciated that. GRIS doesn’t try to be something it isn’t and should be applauded for not trying to conform to the game recipes of today.

As I write this, GRIS is available on the following platforms: macOS, Windows, Nintendo Switch, and iOS. I played on the Switch, and if possible, I would recommend playing this one on a larger screen with good sound. The audio and visuals are stunning, and given the right play environment, I found it to be very immersive and beautiful.

I highly recommend picking this game up to experience the wonderful world that NOMADA Studio has built. This is especially true if you are looking for something different from your typical game mode.

Gris is a hopeful young girl lost in her own world, dealing with a painful experience in her life. Her journey through sorrow is manifested in her dress, which grants new abilities to better navigate her faded reality. As the story unfolds, Gris will grow emotionally and see her world in a different way, revealing new paths to explore using her new abilities.

GRIS Screenshot One - NOMADA Studio

GRIS Screenshot Two - NOMADA Studio

Games Nintendo Switch GRIS
September 2, 2019

The Leica Q2

I still can’t quite believe I am typing this, but here it goes, I am now the proud owner of a Leica camera! 😱

It took a while to get here since it was on backorder, or as they put it, limited release. I placed my order on April 21st and it arrived on August 22nd. Four months almost to the day! Crazy, right!? It was definitely not the normal process of ordering electronics and camera gear, but it was for this particular model. 🤷‍♂️

I ordered it from B&H Photo Video and even though I only got the standard shipping, it shipped with 1 day shipping, so it got here very fast once it shipped. An interesting aside, each camera comes with info on when it was made, and mine was made on July 30, 2019. It definitely wasn’t sitting around long before it went from the factory to B&H and then on to me!

📷
The Leica Q2 is a digital 35mm compact camera with a fixed lens.

Here are some of the figures:
Sensor: Full Frame 47MP
Lens: Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7
Viewfinder: OLED 3.68 MP @120fps
LCD Panel: 3″ 1.04 MP LCD Touchscreen
Environmental Protection: IP52
Connectivity: WiFi (802.11 b/g/n) & Bluetooth (4.2 BLE)
Battery: Leica BP-SCL4 (1860 mAh)

A couple accessories I got to accompany the Q2.
-SanDisk Extreme Pro SDXC UHS-II Memory Card
-Gordy’s Camera Strap
-Leica Q2 Handgrip
-Peak Design Cuff

The unboxing of this camera was unlike any other camera I have purchased (at any price point). You can tell the company takes pride in their work and want you to have a true experience when unboxing your new camera. Some photos of the unboxing below. (Including the shipping box with a giant hole in it that gave me a heart attack when I first received the box! 😱)

Leica Q2 Unboxing

Leica Q2 Camera

During my first week, I have had time to get aquatinted with the camera and I have to say I am absolutely satisfied with my purchase. The camera build quality is fantastic, the image quality is exquisite, and the overall functionality of the camera system is great.

I am looking forward to getting out and about with this camera to capture images under the constraint of only having a 28mm lens.

It can’t all be rainbows and sunshine, can it?

Of course, nothing is perfect, but when comparing to my expectations, it nails it. If I have to nitpick about things I would like to see different, they would be:

  • A USB-C port for offloading photos as well as battery charging.
  • Having folding power prongs on the charger as well as the long cord it comes with.

Maybe I will come across some other things as I use it, but so far, that’s it. I am very happy with the purchase and it was definitely worth the wait!

Updates:

  • The lens cap is made very well and looks great. BUT, functionally it is terrible. It falls off with almost no force.
Camera Photography Leica
August 28, 2019

Elevation Labs - FamilyCharger

A really cool product and idea. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us..

Everything about this product sounded great but after putting it in place, some things came to mind that made us think it wasn’t right for our needs.

In our living room we have an Anker PowerPort Speed PDpower brick. It gives you one PD USB-C port and four PIQ USB-A ports. A really nice product that allows us to have a collection of plugs within arms reach for charging whatever needs it. The only downside is that you then have 5 different cables getting tangled up and looking pretty terrible.

I came across the FamilyCharger from Elevation Labs and thought this was exactly the solution for the clutter problem. It is a single large cable that terminates into five connectors: three Apple Lightning , one micro USB, and one USB-C. The other end is an interesting custom five USB-A connector head. I plugged this end into an Anker PowerPort 5 that we already had. You can also get the wall adapter from elevation lab if you don’t have one.

So everything is great now and the problem is solved? 😔 no..

So, what’s the problem? The USB-C Cable is the problem. It doesn’t click in and stay in the device like every other USB-C cable. So you plug it in, get no confirmation that it’s seated, then pushing harder, to the point that you think you are going to break something and after all that, the plug just falls out of the device. (This has since been resolved, although I am not sure what changed to make the cable start working correctly??)

A couple other things have come to mind as we have used it a bit.

  1. We may be too far into the transition from lightning to USB-C for this to make sense. Being that it is one cable, these are the only plugs you get.
  2. Following the item above, this means If one cable goes bad, nothing you can do about it.
  3. The USB-C connector is not PD.

We are going to go back to our old setup for now until I find something else.

Even though it didn’t work out for us, I wanted to post this in case it happens to meet the needs of someone else!

Power Charging Elevation Labs Anker
August 7, 2019

Making A Board Game - Part 3

After a bit of a gap in momentum, I am back to making progress! I now have all my .psd templates set up for the various card components. When I started this project, I was using Photoshop for the artwork design files. My Creative Cloud subscription came up for renewal recently, and I decided not to renew as I was not utilizing enough of it to make it worth the cost. I am doing all the card design work in Pixelmator Pro. Pixelmator has always been able to do what I need, but inertia kept me in Photoshop. Having all the files set up and getting all my layers named and organized has helped get over my creative slump.

Next Steps:

  1. Card design V1 (~2 weeks)
  2. Board design V1 (~2 weeks)
  3. Get an alpha set printed to aid in play testing (~3 weeks)

Onward! ⚔️

Hint..? 🤷‍♂️
Board Game Hint?

Series of Posts
Dusting Off An Old Project - Part 1
Dusting Off An Old Project - Part 2

Project Board Games
July 18, 2019

An Everyday Backpack

I have a confession. I am addicted to bags. Backpacks, messenger, camera, you name it. Part of this comes from the eternal quest for the perfect bag.” It seems that every bag ends up falling below my ideal in some way.

I am not going to drag you through a bulleted list of all the things I want in a bag, but instead, I want to talk about the bag I have now that could be the one.

Ok, so tell me what bag it is already!

Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L - Charcoal 🎒

Peak Everyday Backpack, Charcoal

This bag has an impeccable design, and the quality of materials is top-notch.

From the first interaction with the packaging, it was clear that a great deal of thought and care went into this bag experience. As I began going through the various compartments and features of the bag, it felt as though I must have been in the room giving feedback along the way when the bag was being conceived because so much of the design felt familiar and perfectly suited for me. Each feature of a product should be scrutinized before adding it to the inclusion list. One failing of many bags is the seemingly random collection of pockets, clips, straps that aren’t of any real value but lend to the illusion of versatility. Each feature within this bag serves a purpose and had to justify its existence before being added, and it shows.

Although this is technically a camera bag, that is not the primary purpose I wanted it to serve. There are a lot of camera bags that are great at holding camera gear, but not so great for daily use in other areas. The Everyday Backpack strikes just the right balance for my needs. Part of what I need is a safe place to store my camera (whenever it gets here.. #StillOnBackorder 😕), and traditional bags are terrible at protecting camera gear. This bag allows for storage of a camera and plenty of space for other items. There are dedicated slots for a laptop and tablet, as well as a quick access top pouch for items that are needed in a hurry. There is easy access to the contents via the side openings or the top. And let me tell you, the clasp for the top portion is a thing of wonder. It has multiple attach points to allow for the bag to grow and shrink to hold contents and is just so damn satisfying to open and close — a mix of hardware clasp and magnets.

The bag is excellent, and I feel good about it, but of course, it’s been 24 hours. I will be using this as my daily backpack going forward, and I am sure I will have updates that I will add below as we progress.

Good products are made; great products are designed.
They have earned the right to put Design in their name, in my opinion.

Peak Everyday Backpack, Charcoal

Backpack Design
July 9, 2019

Siri Shortcuts - Episode 11

Shortcut Name: Apple Reminders Packing List
Revision: 1.0
Add to Shortcuts! not available yet

What does it do?
A quick and simple shortcut that creates a new packing list in Apple Reminders. I use this to create a quick packing list with all the standard’ items I usually need for a trip.

How does it work?

  1. Creates a list of standard packing items.
  2. Creates a new reminder for each list item in my Packing List” Reminders list.

Source Code”
Shortcut 011 Code Screenshot

Check out other shortcuts

iOS Shortcuts Siri
Jason Burk | 1999-2019
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