Posts tagged #tech

It's Time For E3

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It’s that time again. The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo or E3 is the premier gaming expo to see what the next year or more in games has to offer. Starting on May 11, 1995 it’s the largest gaming news expo of the year in North America. In years past it has lost some of its momentum but it seems like in recent months I’ve been hearing more hype around the show with developers holding press conferences before the expo I.E

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EA – June 9 at 11am PT As you would expect from EA you will get announcements for your normal sports fair such as Madden 19, FIFA 19, NHL 19 and NBA Live 19. A new Battlefield is coming to the forefront. The next iteration will take place during World War II and includes new features such as fortifications, and a return of co-op modes. Also another title is Anthem EA is describing it as "a shared-world action RPG where Freelancers challenge the wilds past the wall, exploring a vast world filled with savage beasts and ruthless marauders, but also teeming with amazing technology and forgotten treasures".

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Microsoft – June 10 at 1pm PT. Microsoft is primed to show a new Halo, Gears of war, Forza, and maybe a glimpse of the delayed title Crackdown 3.

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Bethesda – June 10 at 6.30 pm PT besides more Fallout 76 footage who knows what we will see. Maybe a new Elder scrolls title?

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Ubisoft – June 11 at 1pm PT It would seem we will get to feast our eyes on the new Assassin's Creed Odyssey. Who knows what else Ubisoft has to offer.

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Square Enix – June 11 at 10am PT. The Keyblade is back in the wildly anticipated 3rdinstallation of the epic crossover that is Kingdom hearts 3. Its Final fantasy meets Disney. Speaking of Final Fantasy maybe we will get the FF7 we have all been waiting for.

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Sony – June 11 at 6pm PT. Shawn Layden has confirmed that the presentation will focus on four main Sony exclusives: Death Stranding, Ghost of Tsushima, Spider-Man and The Last of Us Part 2, and brand new PS4 and PS VR game called the Tetris Effect, and upcoming zombie survival title Days Gone.

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Nintendo – June 12 at 9am PT. Nintendo has confirmed that Smash Bros will be a big focus for the show. Metroid Prime 4 could appear as well as a new Switch-based Pokémon. We now know that this core Pokémon RPG on Switch will launch in late 2019. So lets hope we can catch a glimpse of this at E3. With maybe some more info about Pokemon Let's Go Eevee and Pikachu.

What are you most excited about for E3? Let us know down below! Personally I can’t wait to see the new Switch Pokémon title until then I’ll guess we will just have to wait and see.

Posted on June 9, 2018 .

From the Boom to Bluetooth; 20 Years of Mobile Electronics

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Adult Doug: So, you are turning 16. Once you get a car, what is the first thing you want to do?

15 year old Doug: I want a huge stereo system!

When I was in high school, a loud stereo and a trunk full of subwoofers were envy of kids across the social spectrum. It was the cool thing to do. What had been a thing only seen in music videos had started to spill into high schools everywhere. I don’t know when it bit me, but I caught the bug, hard. In fact, I had an Alpine CD player on layaway even before I had a car.

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While working my minimum wage job, I slowly built my system. Paycheck by paycheck, I chipped away at it. I always had something new on layaway. I can say, without reservation, I had the loudest, best sounding 1986 Ford Taurus around!

Here is a gem of a video from the IASCA Finals in 1994. Erik and I both happened to be at this same event as wide eyes teens, Be warned, this video contains many mullets.

 

Well, as I was putting my idea of a perfect stereo system together, my best friend down the street was by my side doing the exact same thing. He was hooked just as I was. His story is a quite different from mine though. What had been fun hobby for me, turned into a full-fledged obsession for him. So much so that he made a career out of it. While I may have different priorities now, I still love the technology and have seen the industry change dramatically in the past few decades. I decided to take an in depth look and sit down with Erik to see how he industry has evolved.

 

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Erik Ervin is the owner of Vaughan’s Mobile Electronics in Arlington, Tx. They specialize in everything from window tint to a full system build out. He has been in the industry for over 20 year.

 

Doug- Erik, tell us about how you got involved in the mobile electronics industry.

Erik- It all started with my buddy, Doug. Younger kid, eager to drive, 14 -15 years old. You were a little bit older and already had you car and was into it. I’d have to say you are the one who turned me onto it.

D- Where did you get your start and what steps or events lead you to owning a shop of your own?

E- Started out at Grand Prairie Audio. Basically a shop rat, gopher. Some sales. Eventually just worked my way up. After about a year, year and a half of doing that, I was doing alarms. That’s kinda what separates a regular radio installer from a full fledged car audio installer. Spent several years working for a bigger corporation. Then finally in 2010, I quit and went out on my own. First couple years were really rough. After the second or third year it got a little easier. It gets a little easier every year.

D- Talking on that, what is the biggest advantage of owning your own shop over working for a larger corporation?

E- Being able to tell somebody no. Being able to turn away things you couldn’t turn away at a big box store. On the flip side of things, you can take in things a big box store wont. It kinda goes both ways.

D- It seems you have the ability to get creative with some of the larger jobs. What are some of the more memorable installs you have done?

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E- We did a Tahoe a few years back that was 6 13s on a B pillar wall. In a 2005 Tahoe. That’s one of the loader builds I’ve done recently. We have had several, high end, exotic cars come in for the higher end laser/ radar detectors. Those are always fun. Currently, we are building a shop demo Astro van. The plans are to have 4 15 inch subs with over 20,000 watts of power using all DD Audio equipment.

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D- Shifting gears, let’s talk about the industry as a whole, In today’s market, what does the typical customer look like?

E- Typical customer is anywhere from 18 to 40. They usually have a car that’s a few years older that may not have an auxiliary jack or Bluetooth. I get a lot of middle aged guys around my age that now have a good job, they have money and they never got that system in high school or college.

D- How has that changed from when you started in the business?

E- When I started, pretty much every kid had to have something.  Not so much anymore. What keeps us afloat, keeps us steady is new cars. Vehicles that don’t come with remote start, backup cameras or backup sensors. That’s the steady stream.

D- What is the current trend in the market?

E- Right now, Apple Carplay, Android Auto. That’s the big thing now. Some of the newer cars are starting to come with them as an option. But that’s something the aftermarket world has driven. So that’s defiantly a big one.

D- How the market changed in the past couple decades?

E- You went from starting with your head unit. So to speak, front to back. Start with the front of the car and end up in the back with your sobs and amps. A lot of newer vehicles, its not worth changing out the factory radio. You may already have factory navigation, factory Android Auto or CarPlay, or the AC controls my be built into the radio. So its just not worth it to change it out. So its more of a trunk forward design.

D- Lets say your average high school aged kid comes in. What is it they are looking for?

E- Usually someway to have their phone or their mobile device play their music. Whether is aux jack or Bluetooth. I’d say the Bluetooth is probably number 1.

D- What about an adult, your middle aged guy. What is their typical request?

E- If they have kids, usually a video system or something like that. If it’s for their personal vehicle, it usually to upgrade sources to Android Auto, Car Play. Maybe a backup camera.

D- Since Apple Car Play and Android Auto are pretty standard in new vehicles, how has that changed the in-vehicle entertainment experience?

E- Its driven a higher demand for those features and manufactures are starting to realize that.

D- What are some other technologies that are commonplace now that didn’t exist when you started?

E- Auxillery jacks. Being able to plug in your phone.

D- Has that made things easier, harder or just different?

E- Just different. Nobody carries a case of CDs around anymore. Everythings on your phone.

D- To sum things up, where do you see the mobile electronics industry as a whole going?

E- Its not gonna go away. There is always gonna be somebody building that custom car. That has to have the layers and greatest. There has always been something that comes along that saved it. In the early 2000s, the iPod saved it because none of these cars were able to play your iPod in them. We had to evolve to where you could do that. There is always going to be room for improvement.

As tastes and trends change, so must the industries that serve them and the mobile electronics industry is no different. Even if you are content with the stereo your vehicle came with, take a spin into your local stereo shop and see whats out there. Just be careful, you might get bit.

 

Posted on February 6, 2018 .

The Apple Newton- A Retrospective

Sometimes product ideas are so ahead of their time, they are doomed to failure. Case in point, the Apple Newton.

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In the early 90’s, Apple was on the upswing, but in a bit of a technological rut. It was Michael Tchao that pitched the idea to Apple’s then CEO, John Sculley. While rudimentary by today’s standard, they set out to not just create another peripheral to use with computers. What they sought out to do was create an entirely new class of computers. The PDA (a term coined by Apple) or Personal Digital Assistant was to be a pocket sized device for storing contacts, managing your calendar, and sending faxes among other things. However, the real game changer was to be the handwriting to text translator. In theory, you could sit in your meeting and with the use of a stylus, write down any and all info and have it converted to text.

This was a monumental undertaking to say the least. In the early 90’s, miniaturization was a far cry from what is possible today. Plus, all off the shelf parts were made to fit into a square case. The ambitious  Newton was anything but square. Sculley was adamant that for it to succeed, it had to fit in the pocket. There was no backing down from that. It is said, the design team had such a hard time, and they joked of sneaking into his house and replacing all his pockets with larger ones. Eventually, they were put a working prototype together. In 1992, the Newton was debuted at CES to a roar of applause.

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The problem was, while it worked, if was highly flawed. The handwriting translator was a problem from the get go. Character recognition was fair at best and more time was spent fixing errors than actually writing the notes.

They kept at it though and version 2.0 of the software was released. It had become a well functioning handwriting translator but, the damage was done, the public lost faith and interest.

While it was a technology that could have been salvaged, the death blow came quick. Jobs was able to regain control of the company from Sculley and one of the first things he did was kill the Newton. He absolutely hated it.

“God gave us ten styluses,” he would say, waving his fingers. “Let’s not invent another.”

In the biography titled Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson, he is quoted saying,

"If Apple had been in a less precarious situation, I would have drilled down myself to figure out how to make it work. I didn’t trust the people running it. My gut was that there was some really good technology, but it was fucked up by mismanagement. By shutting it down, I freed up some good engineers who could work on new mobile devices. And eventually we got it right when we moved on to iPhones and the iPad."

That was it. The Newton was discontinued on February 27, 1998

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While gone, it has not been forgotten. A vast amount of technological knowhow went into creating the Newton. While Apple did go on to create world changing technology in the iPhone and iPad, the Newton is undoubtedly the grandfather of them all.

 

Posted on January 16, 2018 .

My Journey Through The Cellular Revolution.

So, I ran across an article the awhile back about a micro generation called Xenials. They are a group, not quite Gen X, not quite Millennial. Born between 1977 and 1983, they are also referred to as the Star Wars Generation.

Hi, my name is Doug and I’m a Xenial. I was born in August of 1977. I am (shudder) 40.

The article I read was about how Xenial helped shape technology as we know it. We are a Generation that was born into tube TVs and rabbit ears and spent our adolescence evolving and adopting new technologies into our lives. While kids these days are born with a screen in their hand we had to fight and fumble our way through all of it. It was our feedback and ability to adapt that helped shape how technology progressed. This is my take on 40 years of technological evolution.

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I still remember the TV we had when I was a kid. It was one of those giant console TVs. A faux, wood grained beast. We had to change channels by turning a knob! Can you imagine?! You had to physically get up and grab this big, plastic knob and turn, and turn, and turn, until you found something with decent reception to watch. It really didn’t take long though, there were only like 5 or 6 channels. With every chunky turn of the knob, you were treated with a blast of static and a brief snowstorm on the screen.

One day there was a magical man at my house. He was referred to as the ‘cable guy’. He climbed up on a pole, and ran a wire to our house. Once he plugged that in to the big, also faux wood grained box, on top of the faux wood grained TV, and then hooked the 2 faux, wood grained boxes together, (seeing a pattern here? It was the early 80s. everything was wood grained.) we went from 5 or 6 channels to 20+!! It was like TV being piped into the house, and it was wonderful. Granted, most of the channels at the time were absolute crap, the clarity was better. That is, as clear as a SD behemoth could be. But hey, its all that was available and it was all anyone knew. I had snow free cartoons and the clearest reruns of Green Acres I had ever seen.

Going forward I am going to focus on cell phones. I thought about reminiscing about all tech I have encountered, but I’m sure you don’t have all day. You’re welcome.

Show of hands, who knows what a pager is? No one, ok, I’ll explain. In the 80s and early 90s, it was a device used by doctors, drug dealers and captains of industry. I still remember, if you saw someone with a pager (they looked like old school garage door openers) and they weren’t wearing a suit or scrubs, they were a drug dealer. A gross exaggeration, I know, but I was a 12 year old suburban kid who liked to watch the news. Remember the ‘War on Drugs’? It was big back then. Pager = Drug Dealer.

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Well, perceptions changed quickly because in 1995, I got a pager. It was great! Now my parent could get a hold of me whenever they wanted! Sigh… It was a sweet Motorola number with a big screen and a clip you would slide it in and out of. You could buy aftermarket cases in a rainbow of colors. I went with clear clip and black pager.

Let’s fast forward to 1999. I have a decent job and cell phones are finally getting affordable. They gone from heavy brick where you basically paid by the minute so something you could get a decent plan for and fit it in your pocket. I remember waking up one Saturday and driving down to Circuit City to get myself the beloved Nokia 5110.

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That thing was practically indestructible. Phones back then did 2 things. You could call people or send text messages. You never did much of either though since cell plans were very limited. Once you used all your minutes or messages, things got expensive fast. One thing I don’t ever remember doing with that phone though is charge it. I swear, it seemed like it had an infinite battery life. Granted, the battery was about the size of 2 D cells. The great thing about Nokias in this era is everything could be customized. I remember I had a friend, Mikey, he had one that he replaced everything, including the antenna, to clear and when it would ring, it had dozens of multi colored LEDs that would flash like crazy. You could see it go off through jeans at night. Frankly, it was stupid, but to each their own, right?

 
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In 2002 or so, it was time to ‘upgrade’. I use the term loosely because this is when phones went from indestructible bricks to fragile garbage. I went back to Circuit City and picked myself up a Nokia 3310. Now, phones didn’t have external antennas, although they should have. The reception was awful. They still did only 2 things, make calls and send texts, but data plans were starting to get better so you did more of both. You still called way more that text though. When you have to hit the number 7, 4 times, just to write and S, you just call the person. This model and others like it were some of the last to be customizable. I have to say that is mostly for the better. If you dropped phones in this era, the case would come off and the battery would pop off. It wasn’t uncommon to see someone sitting at a table or bench reassembling their phone.

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Turn to 2004 and head with me back to Circuit City. Time for a new phone!!! I got myself the Sony-Ericsson T610, and it was a huge mistake. I was enticed by the fact it had a camera. It was a garbage camera on a junk phone. Horrible reception, dropped calls and awful pictures. If I remember right, you could get some form of internet on the phone, but it wasn’t real webpages and completely useless. Ok, I don’t want to talk about this joke of a phone anymore. Too many bad memories.

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After the last debacle of a phone, I had even lost faith in Circuit City, so in 2005, I headed to Best Buy and scooped up a shiny, new Motorola Razr V3. It was a sleek, thin flip phone that was perfect for the pocket. It was a great phone. Had great reception, was durable and did everything a phone of the time should. If I had to have a phone that could only do phone type things, it would be a Razr. I liked it so much, I got another!

In 2007 I knew a guy that worked at a stereo shop that did phones also. He hooked me up with a brand new Razr VXX. The phone was free, but they pretty much all were back then. He threw in a Bluetooth earpiece and some extra chargers. It was great. I miss that guy. RIP Josh.

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Ok, I need to side track to those stupid Bluetooth headsets. They were and still are, absolutely obnoxious. Look, I get it. They have their place. If you are in a car, or working at a desk, use it, they are great! Let’s face it, holding a cell phone up to your ear and holding it with your shoulder isn’t going to end well for your neck or the phone. But for the love of God, if you are sitting at a restaurant, take that shit out of your ear. You’re not that important and you look like an idiot. If you go to someone’s house, leave it in the car. You are there to visit presumably, so take that shit out and VIST LIKE A NORMAL PERSON!!!

Sorry about that guys. Back to the Razr VXX. It was even better than the V3. Better screen, better reception, better battery life. As good as the V3 was the VXX great. Then it happened, I killed my first phone. It met a watery grave. It was just a quick dunk, but the damage was done. I would never again hear my beloved Hawaii 5-0 ring tone.

At this point, I was done going to stores to get phones. Why leave the house when you can get it delivered! I get on my AT&T account and look to order another Razr, only it was nowhere to be found. My beloved Razr was no longer available. I didn’t know what to do. I hadn’t prepared for this outcome. By now, the iPhone was out and a few generations old. I was very resistant to the trend. I thought it was highly unnecessary. Who needs the internet in their pocket! That’s absurd! So, what was I to do? After looking at all the available options, I realized everything besides the iPhone and Blackberry was garbage.

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Guys, in 2009, I got an iPhone 3G. Guys, I had the internet in my pocket. Guys, it was amazing. In all honesty, it changed my life. Not right away, but the Smartphone slowly worked its way into virtually every aspect of my life. So focusing on the 3G, it was great, it really was. Made and received calls without issue. Fast for its time processor. Finally, a camera that was functional. But the internet, my God, it was like cutting a tether. Any information you wanted at your fingertips. Pocket email! For those of you reading this born in the late 80s and beyond, this is something you will never fully appreciate.

2011. Two more years have passed. You could still get free upgrades so that’s what I did. Ordered a nice new iPhone 4S. In my opinion, it was just as good as the 3G, just a little more polished in every way. Better screen, faster processor, better camera. It was just, for lack of a better word, better. By now, the Smartphone is fully ingrained into my life. I use it for everything from Facebook to mobile banking. I literally don’t go anywhere without it. I can without a doubt tell you where my phone is at all times. Of all the things it does, there is one thing I rarely use it for, making phone calls. Just text me. Who has time to talk on the phone? Obviously that’s an overstatement; calls are still important, but just not nearly as necessary as they were in the past.

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Guess what? Its free upgrade time!!! (And the last free one I will get) In 2014, I became the proud owner of the iPhone 6. Just like the 4S, the 6 was just plain better in every way. I have nothing ill to say about this phone. Always performed what was needed and never broke a screen. By now, I have a vehicle that has Bluetooth capability, so hands free calling in now the norm. While I still don’t like talking on the phone while driving, it does make it much safer. I have now embraced Spotify and podcasts and at this point, that’s all I listen to whether I am at my desk at work or in the car. Even when I am working in the garage or out by the pool, I just break out the Bluetooth speaker and my ears are fully entertained. Sadly, like all tech, the 6 started to show its age. While it still performed like it should, it just wasn’t fast enough to handle some of the more modern apps and websites. It never really crashed, it was just very sluggish. Also, the battery was getting killed. At 3 years old, it was really showing its age. Guess it’s time to look at upgrade options. (As I was writing this, the story came out that Apple is intentionally slowing down older phones. Looks like I didn’t need to upgrade like I though. Not cool Apple, not cool.)

I decided to go with the Ferrari of cell phones. That’s right, in November of 2017; I became the proud owner of a Space Grey, iPhone X. This phone is fast. Like lightning fast. And the battery? I can hammer that thing all day at work and I’m still at 75+% life. It’s incredible. Everything about the X is top notch. I can’t get over the display. The pixel density is ridiculous. 4K video is flawless. The cameras on this thing take amazing pictures and the on board editing is all you need. I am still learning what the X is capable of and I’m sure I don’t use it to its full potential, but at $999, I plan to keep this thing for quite some time.

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The smartphone is often called the greatest technological innovation in history. And while that can be debated, it is easy to make a compelling argument to that statement. Let take a look at all they ways I use it on a daily basis. It’s my watch. While traveling, it’s my alarm clock and white noise machine. It’s my calendar. I check the news and Facebook. I keep in touch with friends and loved ones. I use it as my GPS when necessary. It’s my camera. I find new restaurants and check out the menu and reviews before I go. If there is a question or an argument that needs an answer, Google solves it. I can watch Netflix if I’m in a waiting room. While at work or in my truck, it constantly plugged in so I can listen to Spotify or catch up on podcasts. Plus, using Apple CarPlay, it is integrated into my touch screen display. Utilizing Apple Pay, it’s even my digital credit card. When bad weather is imminent, it’s my mobile radar. It’s my time killing gaming device. I use it for mobile banking. I use it to monitor my security system and surveillance cameras. On a cold day, I use it to start my truck so the windows are defrosted and I am nice anf toasty for my drive home. I have even fixed some pool equipment by watching YouTube videos. And shopping! Oh the shopping. If I want/need something, I order it. I honestly haven’t been to a mall in over a decade. If necessary, I can even make a call.

Seeing this technology advance from my childhood through adulthood is a unique experience that no other generation will have. It’s been a hell of a ride. Now, where’s my phone…

Posted on January 2, 2018 .