Why I think the iPhone 6s is the best Apple phone bargain

Lets face it…iPhones are expensive.  We are always tempted with the upgrades that come every year with the new iPhones.  In the last few years though not much has really changed with the exception of the iPhone X which I think is just a silly price.  The 6, 6s, 7 and the 8 all look similar.  I think the biggest feature set gain came moving from the iPhone 6 to the 6s.  That upgrade gave you 4k video, 3d touch AND it still had the headphone jack.  Sure, the 7 and 8 improve speed, camera quality (a little) but really not a lot of change.  The biggest upgrade to the 7 and 8 to me is the water resistance which could be a big deal to some.  So this brings us to price…I always consider the refurbished products from apple to be “like new” and I think they are the best buy.  Currently the iPhone 6s 128gb can be purchased for just $450.  Thats a deal considering most Android phones in that price range are considered mid-tier phones and the iPhone 7 with the same memory is $200 more and its only available as new purchase!  Lets not even get into the price for the 8 and X.

Staying a step or two behind the upgrades at Apple can save you a ton!

Use a projector with Sonos Play bar and Surround

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When I first learned about the Sonos Playbar and its ability to connect with other speakers to create a surround sound system I was pretty excited.  I discovered however that the only means of input for sound to the Playbar was via an optical cable.  That means that the Playbar can only be connected to a more modern TV, not older TV’s and Projectors that typically don’t have this type of output.  Or does it…?

I did a little research, forum reading and called Sonos support and found out that others were having luck with HDMI switches.  This is how it works and you may need to glance up at the diagram as I explain.  Since the projector I have doesn’t have optical out, I would need a device that could supply a video signal to the projector and audio signal to the Playbar (optical) and the signals need to travel on separate wires.  So the J-Tech switch has just that ability.  It allows up to 5 HDMI sources to be connected which was more than enough for my needs.  From there it takes the incoming signal and pulls the audio off and sends it back out with the optical output.   You can choose “pass-thru”, “stereo” or “5.1” mode with the optical output.  Additionally the original HDMI input gets channeled to the HDMI out (with audio) to the projector.  Now you have satisfied the Playbar’s needs and supplied video to the projector.

Possible issues could come up from this arrangement.  Some switches might impose a little “lag” or delay in audio which could be distracting while watching video.  Luckily my model did not cause any issues.

Good luck with your setup and feel free to comment or ask questions.

 

PANERA KIOSK ORDERING

In search of a Starbucks this morning I passed by a Panera Bread and decided to go there instead.  I just wanted a cup of coffee.  (Duh, like I needed to clarify that) The line was long but I noticed a small table with a couple computer screens and some coffee mugs.  It was the new Panera Kiosk system.  

  
No one was using them.  Stepped up the the screen, plugged in my order, grabbed a mug and I was done.  All the other tech averse people were still in line while I was halfway through my cup.  If you haven’t tried it yet check it out.  It’s very easy and intuitive.  I’m not sure how long they have been doing this but I like it!

  

Have you ever wondered why your old iPod Video 5g or 5.5g sounds so much better than your iPhone for audio?

The older iPod video 5G and 5.5G have superior audio to the devices that came after them.  The original iPod video used Wolfson audio chips for processing.  These chips deliver a much better audio experience and you can really tell!  Check out this article to get a rundown on the various models.

Source: Which iPod has the best quality audio? – Macintosh How To

Apple Music On Sonos | Sonos

Enjoy Apple Music on your Sonos speakers. Stream music selected from over 30 million tracks by artists, deejays and Apple Music experts.  If you have already read my blog post about Sonos (click here to read) then you know I am a fan.  One of the things that make Sonos so good as a music player is the amount of applications that it uses to bring the music to you.  Just announced is the beta version Apple Music that is now available on your Sonos device.  For those of you who said “no” to Sonos because Apple Music was not available…well you are running out of excuses.

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Source: Apple Music On Sonos | Sonos

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Take a look at the Sonos offerings.

Near Thunderbolt Speeds with USB 3.0

If you do a lot of video or photo editing you will find out quickly how important a fast hard disk becomes.  The ability to read and write massive amounts of data is a must.  Depending on what kind of work you do a simple USB drive may be fine.  For those who need more may need an SSD drive or even a thunderbolt connection if you have a Mac or a PC with thunderbolt.  What is thunderbolt and what is USB…

USB 3.0

Right out of Wikipedia…

“USB 3.0 is the third major version of the Universal Serial Bus (USB) standard for interfacing computers and electronic devices. Among other improvements, USB 3.0 adds the new transfer mode SuperSpeed (SS) that can transfer data at up to 5 Gbit/s (625 MB/s), which is about ten times faster than the USB 2.0 standard.”

Thunderbolt

Right out of thunderbolttechnology.net…

“Thunderbolt™ technology is a transformational I/O innovation that provides a leap in performance over current I/O technologies with 10 Gbps of full-duplex bandwidth per channel. It significantly simplifies the end-user experience by concurrently supporting data (PCI Express*) and display (DisplayPort) connections over a single cable. Thunderbolt products may be connected using electrical or optical cables. Thunderbolt technology enables flexible and innovative system designs by allowing multiple, high-performance, PCI Express and DisplayPort devices to attach to a computer through a single physical connector.

Gbps and Gbit mean the same thing…gigabit per second.  So on the surface it seems that thunderbolt is twice as fast as USB 3.0.  Before we go much deeper lets put the gigabits into a measurement that we can deal with.  I use the black magic drive disk speed test software for my tests and it measures in MB/s or megabytes per second.  So 5Gbps would be equal to 625 megabytes and 10 Gbps 1250 megabytes.  Both are very very fast.  So lets get a relative sense of speed.  Here I have tested a western digital 2.5″ backup hdd using USB 3.0 interface and lets measure some speed.

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So indicated by the Black Magic disk speed test this drive would not be suitable for editing video.  It is able to write 86.5 megabytes per second and read 93.4 megabytes.  It works just fine for moving data, data storage and files that are smaller in size but not good enough for the huge throughput that A/V requires.  The main reason for this lack of speed has nothing to do with the interface.  We know that the USB 3.0 interface can handle more but the drive is a basic spinning disk at 5900 rpm and is slow in todays world.  No matter how much throughput you have the disk will only provide so much.  We are limited at the disk.  Think of it like driving a Yugo on the Audubon.  You couldn’t go 150 miles an hour if you wanted to.

So the obvious next step would be to use the USB 3.0 interface with an SSD drive to reduce the bottle neck.  I did just that.  I found the most highly rated, least expensive, drive on Amazon.

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I mounted this silicon power disk into the inateck case and gave it a whirl.  The drive on the Black Magic now performed very well at speeds of  about 400 megabytes per second.  This is easily enough to edit video except for some of the most demanding resolutions and color depths.

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With the new 4k resolution craze and some new video formats around there still could be a need for even more speed.  I started looking at thunderbolt devices and specifically 2 drive bay cases.  I found out quickly that thunderbolt is very expensive.  Even thunderbolt version one products cost 3-5 times as much as the equivalent usb 3.0 devices.  I decided to try a test to see what kind of speed I would get if I created a raid 0 array with a second SSD drive and case and this is how I did it.

With the Mac and OS X you can actually create various raid arrays through the disk utility and their software controller.  This is called a software raid.  A hardware raid is made by the actual hardware or disk cases having various switches and settings.  Hardware raids are more versatile but I am on a budget.  Software raid it is.

What is raid 0?  Raid 0 is a way to “tie” together two disks and letting the computer see them as one “virtual” disk.  Why would you want to do this?  Allowing the computer to access two disks allows it twice as much space and throughput as the normal configuration.  Example:  lets say the computer has to send 10 pieces of data to the drive.  On a normal single drive system it would send them 1, then 2, then 3, then 4, then 5, then 6, then 7, then 8, then 9 and finally 10.  Now if it had two drives to write to it could send by twos… 1,2 then 3,4 then 5,6 then 7,8 then 9,10.  More lanes, bigger roads easier to drive fast…

Pro’s and Con’s

A risky con…A normal single drive is a bad idea for back up.   If the drive dies, the data dies with it.  In a Raid 0 scenario if either of the drives in the array dies then all of the data dies with it.  Even if the other drive is working it only has pieces of all the data it needs and can’t make any sense of whats left.  So in effect by having two drives represent one whole set of data you have doubled your risk of drive failure because now you depend on two.

Another smaller con is that you use up two usb ports because you’re using two drives and this software raid will only work with the software that created it and not on all computers.

BUT

Lets look at the pros

SPEED…Check this out.

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With both drives in a Raid 0 array they achieved more than 700 megabytes throughput!  That is ready for any kind of video or photo editing you can throw at it.  WOW!

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I literally strapped the two drives together to keep movement to a minimum so cable wouldn’t come loose.

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I then went into the Disk Utility on my mac arranged the two drives as Raid 0.

The new Mac OS x made things a little more complicated for me.  There is no longer a user interface for creating Raid arrays in disk utility.  I had to go to the terminal window and type:

diskutil appleRAID create stripe [arrayName] JHFS+ disk0 disk1

** ! make sure you select the correct drives for the array…mine happened to be disk0 and disk1 yours could be different ! **

Disk0 being one of my SSD drives and Disk1 being the other SSD.  Once I hit return the array was created and showed up as one drive on my desktop with the name I gave it.

 

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You can plug in the usb cables for the array in any order.  They did not however work through a usb hub.  I plugged them directly into the back of my machine.

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Now make sure you don’t just yank the cables out when you’re finished using the drive.  You want to eject the drive first…let it complete the exit and then pull the cables out.  Remember if you corrupt the data on one drive its ALL gone!

Anyway at these speeds I am comparable to most Thunderbolt 1 drives that are similar that I have seen.  Yes there are combinations that are faster but not for this price.  I paid a grand total of $312 for all of this and a thunderbolt drive setup similar would cost double or more.  Its a good option if you’re on a budget so try one on your Mac.

Feel free to ask any questions.

 

Understanding Exposure With The Exposure Triangle

A great video that explains the relationship between Aperture, ISO and Shutter speed.  Once you understand this relationship its much easier to dial in the look you want and get great photos!  A little long winded but stay with it as it is very informative.

 

As nice description below

Exposure-Triangle

My Switch to T-Mobile. A few things you may want to know.

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I have been an AT&T customer for a long time.  A really long time.  Let me first say that my move to T-Mobile had nothing to do with a problem or deficiency with AT&T.  Loved them, still do.  Service was second to none.  Now thats out of the way lets move on.

The AT&T family plan that I was on was affordable but if I were to upgrade phones/devices then my plan pricing would have skyrocketed.  I have 7 lines on my plan and everything starts to add up.  I was sitting at about $255 month for AT&T but heres the thing.  For every phone I upgraded there would be an upgrade fee ($99, $150 or whatever) and then a monthly charge for that upgraded line of like $25 or $35 dollars per month.  I had four iPhone 4s’s, one iPhone 5C and two iPhone 5’s.  So upgrading all the devices would have added $200 per month or more.  Basically unless I purchased my phones outright then my plan pricing was going to be in the high $400’s at least.

I had always discounted T-Mobile.  I assumed it was a struggling 3rd place wanna be carrier that was using gimmicks to lure customers away from their current carriers.  The more I read about them the more I became intrigued.  T-Mobile in the last couple of years has been making a march on their service increasing speeds and overall coverage.  No they aren’t as good as AT&T or Verizon (yet) but keep reading before you judge.  I will give you the rundown in just a minute.

This all started because I wanted an iPhone 6 plus.  So I started crunching numbers.  Here is how T-Mobile is set up.  Family plan $100/month includes 4 phone lines at a level of 2.5gb of data per line for the first year.  Not sure what happens in year two.  Think data probably drops back to 1.0gb with the option to upgrade but the family plan price is guaranteed not to change.  Each line after the four comes at a $10/month additional charge.  The data is handled differently than Verizon and AT&T.  Its per line and not a family “bucket” of data.  There are both advantages and disadvantages to this.  Advantage, when I need more data I can pick the actual line that needs it.  Something very cool is that T-Mobile does not count music streaming as data usage so Spotify, Pandora, 8 tracks and quite a few other music streaming sites can run all day and not cost you data.  Another cool feature is that its teen proof in that if they run over their data limit T-Mobile doesn’t charge you more, they just throttle the data hungry user back to 3g speeds.  I think T-Mobile is also starting a data roll over program where your unused data from the month before gets pushed to the next month.  Cool!

Back to pricing… $100 for first four lines, $10 per for the next three lines (remember I have 7) so $130/month for 7 lines.  Each line has 2.5gb data and unlimited text and talk and free music channels for streaming.  Not too shabby.  Wait, I still have old phones!  Upgrading and purchasing phones is fairly cool as well at T-Mobile.  T-Mobile sells you the phone at full retail and takes the price and streams the amount into 24 equal, no interest payments over the next two years.  You pay zero down on certain versions of phones…IF…you have excellent credit.  I do, so no worries with this.  Its not zero down for every phone.  The more upgraded/features the phone has the more up front money they require but what ever you give them up front comes off the price of the phone and its payments.  You always get what you pay for.  Its fair.  After two years your phone is paid off, its yours and you can upgrade or buy another and sell your old one on eBay.  Nice thing is you don’t have to pay that upgrade fee like AT&T and then pay off the phone too!  The big boys are double dipping.  This chart shows the breakdown of the iPhone 6’s and the upfront and monthly fees.

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Pricing…$100 first four lines, $30 for three more lines, I bought four iPhone 6’s and on one iPhone 6 plus so $140 per month for these.  I increased my personal data to 4.5gb  at $10 a month and picked up insurance on the iPhone 6 plus with early upgrade option for another $10 a month.  Grand total with tax I roll in at about $300 per month for seven lines and five have been upgraded.  I am only $45 dollars more than with AT&T.  Yes, its more but AT&T with the same phones…$480 or more.  They also offer some buy outs and trade ins for your various equipment and current service.  Don’t be fooled there will be some out of pocket expenses cleaning up your old phone account and getting things on track at T-Mobile but it will all come out in the wash in the end.

How is the service?  Pretty darn good.   Not bad at all.  I live in Northern Virginia outside of DC so I have very good coverage.  This is something you will want to be careful with.  If you live in a rural area and T-Mobile service is sketchy then stick with your current carrier.  I get 3-4 bars of 4G LTE in most places near me.  I even ran a few speed tests with my buddy and in some tests I bested his Verizon speeds.  When you get T-Mobile LTE its fast.  When you don’t, you just don’t.  I traveled from DC to North Carolina (rt-66 to rt-81- to rt-77) and two thirds of the trip I was without data.  I could always make a phone call but data was in and out.  One feature to note is that T-Mobile phones have the ability for wifi calling.  That means that if you’re in a location and you have wifi then you can make calls through the internet on the network.  This is good because lets say when you’re home your service is weak.  Well, in the house once wifi kicks on your phone you’re good to go.  I tested and converted only my personal line to T-Mobile for the first month.  I was able to test the service and fortunately it worked out.  I would suggest trying before buying to make sure you’re ok with the service before jumping in both feet.  I expect the service to only get better in the next two years.

Lets talk people.  Fairly impressed so far.  The retail staff seems very competent and the call in phone support is always very knowledgeable and courteous.  I had a problem finding an iPhone 6 plus and one of the support managers went out of his way to chase one down and called me back two hours after the call and let me know he overnighted the phone to me for FREE!  Two thumbs up for that kind of service.  Verizon isn’t even in the club.  Sorry, everyone knows its true.

I must say that so far I am fairly happy.  Out of 5 stars I would give T-Mobile a strong 4.0.  Pricing is great, service is great but I would take away 1 point just to be objective and say that the service when not LTE is not great and I had a tough time finding iPhones but that may totally have been an Apple issue and not T-Mobiles fault.  Give T-Mobile a look.  They might be a good choice for you.  Do your homework first but I can honestly say so far so good.

 

 

Nations Capital Cottage, Clifton VA

Check out our new airbnb cottage available for rent!  Don’t stay at a hotel or suites.  Stay in a real home!

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Nations Capital Cottage, Clifton VA in Clifton

House in Clifton, United States. This home is located in the heart of Northern Virginia. It is convenient to Dulles and Reagan National airports. In addition to the easy access to Washington DC there are many other sights to see in this area. This home will provide the comfort … View all listings in Clifton