Tech & Stuff (2016 Edition)

Some of the coolest and most useful items that I came across in 2016. Enjoy!
(in no particular order)

ELECTRONICS HARDWARE

MacBook Pro Touch Bar 💻
Why: There is no reason to have a touchscreen on a MacBook. Touch makes sense for an OS designed for touch (iOS). Adding touch to a ‘point and click” OS (macOS) is a mistake. Enter Touch Bar, the proper way to advance a traditionally static input mechanism. I find new ways every day that Touch Bar delights me. It is just really damn useful!
Link: Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro

Snap Spectacles 😎
Why: Every so often a product is launched that seems silly, but upon closer inspection is actually quite amazing. Snap Spectacles came out of nowhere, and took much of the tech world by storm. Every piece of the puzzle was new and unique. This is definitely a case of don’t judge a book by its cover. The way in which they have implemented the circular video within Snapchat is very cool! Find a Bot near you!
Link: Spectacles by Snap Inc.

iPhone 7 Plus Camera 📱
Why: Every year we get a new iPhone, and every year there is one little extra bit that pushes it over the top. This year it was the camera on the 7 Plus for sure. The dual lens system gave you so much bang for your buck. You got a wider angle lens and a more telephoto lens, allowing you to have 2 distinct focal lengths optically, rather than having to resort to the lesser digital zoom. This system also gave you Portrait Mode, which yields beautifully blurred backgrounds that no standalone app on your single lens phone can touch. It kills me that the larger phone causes me pain in my hand.
Link: iPhone 7 Plus

Apple Watch 2 Edition ⌚️
Why: Since Apple Watch launched, I have not taken it off. This time we got updated software and hardware that really gave us a killer digital watch. Top that with the new ceramic material on the Edition and it’s bliss. I absolutely love my Apple Watch and truly enjoy wearing this series 2 every single day.
Link: Apple Watch Edition

AirPods 🎧
Why: Simply the best overall set of headphones I have used. Not just this year, but ever. You cannot really understand AirPods until you have used them. SO GOOD!
Link: AirPods

Apple TV 4 📺
Why: The Apple TV is the hub of our living room. We are an Apple household so this of course makes sense. I am finding more reasons to love the Apple TV, and the newly launched TV app is yet another. Such a great and versatile living room device.
Link: Apple TV

Osmo Mobile 🎥
Why: I have been taking photos in one form or another for many years, but video has always been in my peripheral. No one likes watching shaky cam footage, so hopefully the Osmo will help with that. It turns any mobile phone into a super stable video rig. It’s going to take some practice, but so far the results are very impressive.
Link: Osmo Mobile

UE Boom 2 🔊
Why: It sounds great and it’s waterproof! I keep this speaker in the shower for music and podcasts. It is really portable as well, so I can throw it in a suitcase when traveling for quality sound in a hotel room. It comes in a wide variety of fun color schemes too.
Link: UEBOOM2

Anker 60W 10-Port USB Wall Charger 🔌
Why: We all have a ton of stuff to charge nowadays. Stick one of these in a central location and CHARGE ALL THE THINGS!
Link: Anker PowerPort 10

SOFTWARE

CarPlay 🚙
Why: First time using it this year, and I instantly fell in love. No car maker on the planet makes a good (or even decent) in-car entertainment interface / system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto fix this so well; why don’t automakers understand?
Link: Apple CarPlay

Spark ⚡️
Why: Email apps come and go, but this one feels like it could be here for a while on all my devices. One strict requirement I have for email apps is that they are on all my devices so I have a seamless transition between those platforms. This year Spark was launched for macOS, completing the triangle!
Link: Spark email for macOS and iOS

Bear 🐻
Why: Notes are tough, and I have used pretty much every app and system there is when it comes to capturing and storing note data. Bear came out late in the year and I have been giving it a go. It has a lot going for it with its 1.0 release. I am still using it, and in fact I am writing this post in it. Bear has a ton of thoughtful features and fits with my note taking really well. Like email, this kind of app needs to be across all my devices and have the same functionality, and Bear has it!
Link: Bear – Notes for iPhone, iPad and Mac

Setapp 🖥
Why: Although not officially launched yet, Setapp is an intriguing way to get and use Mac apps. It’s a subscription of sorts that allows you use any and all apps in the Setapp directory for a flat monthly cost. It’s an innovative idea for sure, and I would like to see it exist as an option, providing it works out for the developers involved. New apps have been added pretty regularly since I started using it. It is a really cool alternative to the more standard App Store model.
Link: Setapp | Your shortcut to get the best apps for Mac

GAMES

Pokémon Go
Why: I don’t think I have ever witnessed a game of any kind create the kind of mass joy that Pokemon Go has. To see so many people outside roaming around with each other searching for Pokemon is absolutely the reason technology should exist.
Link: Pokémon Go

Blackbox Puzzles ◼️
Why: When so much of the App Store is copycat apps that mostly play off the same themes and ideas, this game comes out of left field and crushes you with awesome! Words cannot explain the creativity and genius that went into making this game. Pause right now and go get this game. Now!
Link: Blackbox

PlayStation VR
Why: My first go at ‘modern VR’. I went in blind and purchased it without trying it first, and I was not disappointed! I am sure there are more immersive systems, or systems with better specs, but having a PS4 already, the PSVR system is an awesome entry point.
Link: PlayStation VR

Overwatch
Why: I have been playing this game all year (well, since it came out in May) and I still love playing it. Think of it as a new twist on Team Fortress. It’s a heck of a lot of fun and definitely worth trying if you aren’t playing already. I am on the PS4 as ‘grepjason’.
Link: Overwatch

Stardew Valley
Why: Sometime you just need to escape to a more simple life. Stardew Valley is a game that does just that for me. It’s a low stress game where you live in a town and interact with people, while taking on various tasks. It’s a fun game to play over a long period of time and jump in at any time for a little escape.
Link: Stardew Valley

Left Center Right Game
Why: This simple game was found by somewhat of an accident at a local Target. It’s a super small game that can travel with you anywhere, and is very easy to pick up. It has all the necessary game pieces in a small tube; just add people!
Link: Left Center Right Dice Game

Ticket to Ride
Why: A classic board game for all ages. This game comes in several varieties, spanning across different countries. Building railroad tracks across the country may not sound immediately fun, but once you get into the mechanics of the game you will be hooked. It’s a great group game.
Link: Ticket to Ride

Yoshi’s Wooly World
Why: When you think about game consoles, the Wii U isn’t usually first on your list, but Nintendo always has some great first party titles, and Wooly World is one of them. It’s a a great co-op game with a fun and new artistic style. I wouldn’t buy a Wii U just for this game, but if you have one sitting around, it’s a definite play.
Link: Yoshi’s Woolly World for Wii U

Super Mario Run
Why: A first party Nintendo title on the iPhone? Sign me up! Super Mario Run is exactly what a Mario title should be on the iPhone. It is a thoughtful and very well executed design that will give you joy to play.
Link: SUPER MARIO RUN | Nintendo

HOME

Vacuvita
Why: Wasting food sucks. This handy item helps you keep a wide variety of food for longer periods!
Link: Vacuvita | Vacuum Storage

Microtech Ultratech Knife
Why: No one really needs this, but it’s a really neat automatic deployment knife AND it’s Boba Fett themed! Quick video I made of it .
Link: Microtech Ultratech Bounty Hunter OTF Automatic Knife

GameFrame
Why: Sometimes you just need super cool visuals, and the GameFrame delivers! Awesome pixel art display to amp up the cool in any room you put it in.
Link: Game Frame

URB-E
Why: I researched all over the web when looking for a “last mile” vehicle, and the URB-E looked to be the best quality and provided a great set of features. I use this electric scooter to get from my house to the train station, and then from the train station to work. It’s a great little electric scooter and the build quality is fantastic.
Link: URB-E Foldable Electric Scooter

Simplehuman Soap Dispenser
Why: Your desk is organized, why not your shower? I found this thing on Amazon, and it has been a shower game changer. Keeps your shampoos and soaps organized and you always know exactly how much is left.
Link: simplehuman Triple Wall Mount Shower Pump

FOOD & BEVERAGE

La Croix
Why: I need to be consuming more water, heck we all probably do. From the second I tried one of these tasty beverages, I was hooked! For the first time in my life (except for maybe military basic training), I am now drinking the proper amount of water, and loving it.
Link: LaCroix Sparkling Water

Philz Coffee ☕️
Why: It continues to be my favorite coffee joint on the 🌎!
Link: Philz Coffee

CLOTHING

Reebok Men’s Zprint Run 👟
Why: You shouldn’t wear shoes if they aren’t comfortable. These Reeboks are the most comfortable shoes I have worn in a long time. So much so that I bought 4 pairs in various colors. They are available in Men’s and Women’s.
Link: Reebok Men’s Zprint Run

Hickies Lacing System
Why: Life is short, stop tying your shoes. Turn any shoe into a slip on, and add fun colors while you’re at it.
Link: HICKIES – No Tie Elastic Shoelaces

Stance Men’s Boba Fett Crew Socks
Why: They are Star Wars socks, what more do you need to know!?
Link: Stance Mens Boba Fett Socks

Analog Game Nights

‘Therapy’ comes in all shapes and sizes, and is different for everyone and every situation. When you are obsessed with technology and the digital world, it can be easy to forget about the importance of analog human interaction sometimes.

Analog game night is a great way to gather with people around a table and solve problems with “the most powerful processor known to man, the human mind!” -Moss.

We have done game nights in the past at our house and they were a blast. We recently went to a game night at someone else’s house, and it was really fun and very theraputic for me. Working on strategy, problem solving, and team work through board games and puzzles is a fantastic way to change up my static digital life. Even though groups and crowded places are not what I would call my ‘favorite’, pushing through the barriers and changing scenery is very good for me to reset mentally a bit.

If board games and puzzles are your thing, get out there and go to a game night! If they aren’t your thing, go anyway, maybe they are your thing and you just don’t know it yet!

I Thought I Was Done With Consoles. #PS4

“I am going to skip this generation of consoles and just game on the PC.” – Jason

This is what I said after looking into the features of the three newest consoles (Xbox One, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Wii U) as they were announced and available at stores to be messed with. On the surface it just didn’t seem like there was any need to have any of the new offerings. At the time of the launches we were in possession of an Xbox 360 and a Nintendo Wii. The Nintendo Wii mostly sat by the TV unused, and at one point didn’t even have power connected to it, and you wouldn’t have even noticed. The Xbox 360, on the other hand, was quite heavily used. In fact, Xbox has always been my go-to console throughout the last ten or so years. The Xbox has always served me well: great games, comfortable controller, and powerful.

Of the three new consoles, here was the breakdown of our feelings on them.
Nintendo Wii U
– Barely a refresh of the Nintendo Wii, which was already not being used in our house.
– More gimmicky controller interfaces that we wanted nothing to do with.
– In typical Nintendo style, we knew we would play a couple of first party titles, and then the console would be useless.
– Slow, slow, slow!
– We are not dealing with that stupid, wonky sensor bar again.

Xbox One
– The mandatory use of yet another gimmicky control interface (Kinect).
– New controller is pretty good.
– That same gimmicky control interface had to be out and present by the TV at all times.
– Large footprint. Big console, a giant power brick AGAIN, and that Kinect thing.

Playstation 4
– Looked to have great controllers.
– No need for extra gimmicky control interfaces.
– Camera and all that crap is optional.
– Integrated power supply!
– Cool looking design of hardware.

Now, if it is not obvious by the above feelings, the Playstation was clearly the frontrunner in the race for us. I haven’t had a PS since the first one, so I have become VERY comfortable with the Xbox way of doing things: menus, controls, etc. (The only exception was the ever increasing annoyance at Xbox Live doing stupid things and being a barrier to just playing a damn game.) So, going to a Playstation would be a pretty interesting transition.

So how did we end up with a console again? Well, after looking at the 360 and Wii sitting there being unused, and further discovering that the Wii was not even connected and we had zero Xbox 360 games in the house, it was clear that it was time for those two consoles to go! We commenced cleaning them off, wiping the data, and packing them up to go sell. Doing the Gamestop dance, we ended up with a fairly decent amount of money from the games we had left and consoles themselves. With that, we decided it would be worth giving the PS4 a shot!

Every step of setting up the PS4 was really well done; from physical connections to account setups, and navigating the menus to set the console up. Sony really nailed the experience on this new console: everything feels super fast, and I get the feeling someone actually used it and tweaked it before shipping it to customers. To continue the story of things being super fast, we tried some streaming video from Amazon (which is not something we usually do since we primarily use an AppleTV for video content) and the results were amazing. The video loaded very fast and the 1080p quality was the best I have seen on a streaming device. I suspect we will be watching quite a bit of streaming content on the PS4 going forward. On the other end of the streaming spectrum, live streaming of your gameplay on Twitch (my Twitch channel) is great as well! One button and you are able to setup and stream out your live gameplay. I never thought this would be a feature that interested me (too self conscious, mostly) but it is pretty cool to know I can do it, and because it is so easy, I suspect I will do it more often.

Ok, so what gives? You said no new console, and then you buy a PS4? Despite what many think, myself included prior to this purchase, there is something to be said for the couch experience. PC gaming is great, but sitting on your comfortable couch in front of a 70” TV with only a controller to worry about makes for a really great experience. PC gaming will never go away, but because of this couch experience, new hardware like the Steam Boxes are going to be huge, I think, as they are a merging of the two worlds. Finally, I have to touch on the lifespan of these consoles. It seems like every 6-12 months there is some new graphics card to buy for your computer to ensure you can play the latest games, but I could not believe it when I read that the Xbox 360 was almost 9 years old! Nine years old and still has plenty of life left in it. That says a lot about the staying power of consoles, and I suspect we will have the PS4 for quite a while as well.

P.S. The experience of the PS4 has been so good, I am now going to get one of the new slimmer, lighter PS Vita systems to see what they are doing in the handheld area. There is, of course, the nice bonus of the two systems working well together with features like remote play, where you can play your PS4 games on the PS Vita.

P.P.S. There is also a Playstation app for iOS and Android that lets you connect to your PS4, control it, and manage your PS profile. Nice added bonus.

UPDATE ADDED 2014-06-19I decided to upgrade the Hard Drive in the PS4 and it was so refreshing to see that Sony designed the unit so the replacement was trivial! Our PS4 is now rocking an SSD and load times have improved quite a bit! I highly recommend it.

State of Mobile Apps. Please Trend This Way.

It is no secret that the state of mobile application software has been trending into a dark and terrible place in the last few years. This is, of course, hugely driven by consumers with warped perceptions of the value of quality software. A large population of app consumers feel that a developer’s time is worthless and everything on the internet, including apps, should be free, and this is the number one reason why the internet at large is a trashy ad filled gutter of filth. Because of this lack of perceived value, developers are now pulled into this terrible practice of lacing an application with ads, or being forced to give the app away by limiting the full experience and enjoyment of the app with in-app purchases. These practices do nothing but further degrade the value of software as a whole. These trends are starting to jump the gap over to desktop software as well, because to most people, software is software no matter the platform. To the uninformed consumer, a shoddy free mobile game is the same as a PC game which took 10 months to create. I do hope that this trend changes, and in a hurry! Every so often I come across a game or application that is doing it right and it is a glimmer of refreshing hope. Most recently the game Monument Valley landed on my iPad. This game is beautiful, intriguing, fun, and something that felt like truly a new idea. Best of all, they are charging $3.99 for it and it is quite popular! It is a one time purchase, no in-app purchase crap to unlock levels or “pay to play”, just a quality game at a very fair price. I hope this type of transaction becomes the rule rather than the exception as we move to a more mobile world.

Quick Xbox 360 Game Review: Unreal Tournament III

Another installment of Unreal! Totally rad, right!? Well kinda. The game was pretty good, but the single player story line mode got stale rather quickly. I like the idea of there being a story line if you want something a little more that just straight deathmatch. This seemed like a good idea in theory, but in practice it just wasn’t doing it for me. It started out pretty good, but then quickly went into a very short rotation of ideas. There was a standard capture the flag mode, straight deathmatch and a mode where you must advance while maintaing control of previously captured zones. Unfortunately the single player story really was nothing more that a bunch of deathmatches against COM players all linked together. Overall the graphics looked pretty good, and you got to play around with some cool vehicles so that added some value. I wouldn’t say this game is a buy, but throw it on your Gamefly Q and frag the hell out of your friends over a weekend, then return it when it gets boring.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=tw00d-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=B000O5K3TO&fc1=FFFFFF&IS2=11=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=b7e715&bc1=222222&bg1=222222&f=ifr&wmode=opaque

[rating:3]