1.28.2017

In Defense of the Single-Purpose Device

Kindles and Chromebooks have their place


The smartphone is the world’s most ubiquitous device. It’s the once piece of tech gear we bring with us everywhere. Addictively intimate, we spent more time on these tiny appliances than is healthy. The reason we keep coming back to the smartphone is its versatility. But just because these handsets can do it all, that doesn’t mean they can do it all well.

iOS and Android devices are jacks of all trades and masters of none. Sure, you can watch a movie or read a book on your phone but why would you want to? Even a phablet pales in comparison to a proper tablet, laptop, or television in terms of sheer size and a backlit smartphone screen can’t stand up to an eBook reader. A Galaxy Note or iPhone Plus is a compromise. Big phones are a case of throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. The have broad appeal because of the axiom “why should I get a _____ when I can use my phone?” What consumers should be asking is “why should I use my phone when I can get a _____?” 

The _____ in question could be an E-Ink eBook reader, with their weeks-long battery life and frontlit, easy-on-the-eyes displays, a Chromebook (proper desktop browsers FTW) over a tablet or phone for productivity and web browsing, or a set top box (such as the Roku or Apple TV) in place of the poorly aging and lousy built-in apps on a smart TV. The same way a doctor can make more money if he or she specializes in a particular field of medicine, a user can get more out of the digital world by having a designated device for each of their major habits.

"Users can get more out of the digital world by having a designated device for each of their major habits."

Take the Samsung 4K smart television as an example. Really what is appealing about the product is its display; that’s why people purchase TVs. Potential buyers aren’t hooked at “it runs Tizen.” They likely don’t know or even care what Tizen is. That Netflix runs on the TV is table stakes; everything runs Netflix. What is far from a given is how well smart TVs run Netflix and other apps. More often than not, the answer is poorly. Does the Tizen version of the app support 4K? Is it decoded locally or on the server side? How about the WebOS version of Netflix? (LG smart TVs use WebOS.) For the layman, it’s anyone’s guess because that information isn’t easily accessible. 

The best solution in the 4K smart TV example is to bypass Tizen (or WebOS or insert proprietary television operating system here) entirely and get a Roku 4K. If it were an LG 1080p OLED, then an Apple TV would be best. Either way, shelling out the extra $129-$149 is well worth it to get the most out of your $2,000 purchase. The Roku and Apple TV platforms are more robust and have better support and performance. Heck, original Rokus and last-generation Apple TVs are still supported and, in most cases, perform better than the software pre-loaded onto even the most expensive smart TVs.

The lay of the smart TV land is a microcosm for software and services as a whole; what comes out of the box is rarely, if ever, the best experience. Do you read a lot of eBooks? Buy a Kindle, Nook, or Kobo. Do you stream Netflix, Hulu, etc. using your TV’s default software? Strongly consider a set top box. Frustrated by your Galaxy Tab’s mobile web browser? Get a Chromebook. No one device can do it all, and those who try to save a buck by having their iPad be their laptop have only themselves to blame when they try to use a wireless mouse.

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1.27.2017

President’s Blanket Tariff Threatens Video Games

Trump Presidency Considering New Taxes on Entertainment



The Trump administration is considering placing a blanket tariff of 5 percent, or maybe even 10 percent on imported goods. A tariff is a tax on imported goods and services used to make the imported goods more expensive than the same U.S. produced item. This new tariff is almost certain to affect both video games and consoles.

According to Polygon, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is already preparing for the worst, and is preparing a plan to deal with the tariff, if imposed. On Monday, President Trump signed an executive order to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and also met with business and union leaders. The President does not need approval from Congress for a tariff, because he can use existing rules to pass one.

“The tax will only affect games and consoles imported to the U.S., but all three major consoles are manufactured in China.”

The tax will only affect games and consoles imported to the U.S., but all three major consoles are manufactured in China. It will also affect a large number of foreign developers like FromSoftware (Dark Souls series), CD Projekt Red (The Witcher), and Capcom (Resident Evil), as well as many independent developers.

Game prices have been around $50 to $60 since the PlayStation era, (a good write up on video game price history can be found here) but gamers may soon have to pay up to $66 before state taxes per game. Even worse, a $300 console will have an extra $30 or so added to its price tag.

While the Trump presidency hasn’t yet signed the tariff into law, their campaign platform of bringing more jobs stateside makes the tariff very likely. Many are concerned that a blanket tariff could start a trade war with other major countries, and it is uncertain how the tariff will affect the increasingly digital marketplace. A tariff on major digital platforms like Steam won’t necessarily kill those businesses, but they could lower sales and increase piracy.

1.26.2017

Nintendo Announces End of Life for the Wii U

Breath of the Wild to be Nintendo’s last game on the console


The Wii U, released in 2012, is almost finished. Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime told Polygon that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be Nintendo’s last game for the struggling system. "Wе really are аt the еnd оf lіfе fоr Wii U," he ѕаіd.

The Wii U struggled for four years to match the critical and commercial success of the Wii. Despite strong first-party games following the initially sparse lineup, Mario Kart 8 was the best selling Wii U game at about 8 million copies sold. Nintendo has stated previously that the Wii U’s production was ending soon.


As can be seen from the screenshot above, the Wii U is no longer listed on Nintendo’s website. Right now, the console’s “end” is strictly first-party games. There are a few more third-party games expected soon, although they are mostly ports of indie games like Back to Bed and Ultimate Chicken Horse. 

Nintendo sent out its last shipment of Wii U consoles back in November, with the final count at around 13.36 million consoles. For reference, Nintendo shipped more than 101 million Wii consoles. There is some good news, though, Nintendo will continue supporting the Wii U’s online for “quite some time”. It’s assuring to see Nintendo support comparatively successful games like Splatoon, Super Mario Maker and Super Smash Bros.

1.17.2017

Nintendo Direct Round-Up

The Switch Marches On
 

Nintendo’s Switch Presentation took place Friday, but that hasn’t slowed the rumor mill in the least. The long-anticipated press release revealed a lot about the Switch, including its launch date, price, day one lineup and more. Launching for $299.99 in the U.S. March 3, let’s talk about the Switch.

The Switch’s initial lineup will just include five games with only one major title. Nintendo hopes to move consoles with the next entry in the Legend of Zelda series, Breath of the Wild. With an open-world, gorgeous visuals, and new and familiar mechanics, Breath of the Wild could be the largest Zelda title yet. Following Nintendo’s trend of showing what their console can do with a collection of mini-games is 1-2 Switch. Unlike Wii Sports, 1-2 Switch looks like it will be sold separate from the console (for $49.99). Super Bomberman R returns to the top-down mechanics of the original titles, alongside ports of Just Dance 2017 and Skylanders: Imaginators.


Nintendo has more in store for the Switch, but so far only 23 games are scheduled for 2017. Super Mario Odyssey stole the show, with Mario jumping, flipping and swinging through an actual city! An open world Mario has been many fans’ dream, and will certainly sell a few more consoles on release this holiday season. Following the (comparative) success of its Wii U shooter, the follow-up Splatoon 2 will release this summer. Nintendo even has a new intellectual property, ARMS. This Mr. Fantastic/boxing mashup looks like a great way to show off the Switch’s motion controls.


True to Nintendo tradition, accessories will be at a premium. A pair of Joy-Con controllers (which attach and detach to the sides of the Switch) will be $79.99. Should you lose one, a replacement for either can be had for $49.99. It should also be noted that the grips that come with the Switch console can’t be charged, and will need to be removed before charging the controllers. If removing the grip and attaching the controllers to the console is too much trouble, charging grips will be available for $29.99.

“This next one is a big change for Nintendo, charging for online services.”

This next one is a big change for Nintendo, charging for online services. Unfortunately, the full service won’t be available until the Fall, and Nintendo is still ironing out what the service will look like. Good news, though, there won’t be any friend codes, Miiverse or Streetpass. Moving to paid online services isn’t entirely unexpected, since both Xbox Live and PlayStation Network have seen great success. Nintendo will also be rotating free NES and SNES games for their premium subscribers each month, although subscribers will lose those games at the end of the month.

Even with a few ports (Minecraft, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim), remasters (Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Ultra street Fighter II) and indie titles (Has-Been-Heroes, Snipperclips), Nintendo is going to have trouble keeping gamers hooked into a scarce 2018. E3 is still a while away, so Nintendo has until June to mark our calendars.

1.16.2017

Davis's Tech News January 11 - January 18



Editor's note: We previously used Readability, a read-it-later bookmarklet service, to curate Davis's Tech News. However, it shut down at the end of September. Our hearts go out to this phenomenal platform's talented developers. Readability's design language is in the DNA of Davis and the Jake-Man; our gray background (#212324) and serif font, Mercury, were inspired by this wonderful platform that for seven years empowered users to "Read Comfortably."



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1.10.2017

Davis's Tech News January 3 - January 10





"Davis's Tech News" is a weekly digest of #technews curated by D&theJM's Senior Technology Correspondent, Davis.






Editor's note: We previously used Readability, a read-it-later bookmarklet service, to curate Davis's Tech News. However, it shut down at the end of September. Our hearts go out to this phenomenal platform's talented developers. Readability's design language is in the DNA of Davis and the Jake-Man; our gray background (#212324) and serif font, Mercury, were inspired by this wonderful platform that for seven years empowered users to "Read Comfortably."



http://www.davisandthejakeman.com/search/label/davistechnews

1.08.2017

NVIDIA GeForce Now Goes Cross Platform

Cloud Gaming for the Masses?


Last week, NVIDIA announced that GeForce Now was going cross platform. The service originally launched NVIDIA’s shield top boxes, providing a larger library of games for its users. GeForce Now uses cloud computing to run the latest games, foregoing the investment required for many modern PC components.

Gaming on Linux has made great strides in recent years, including multiple successful ports of older games like Left 4 Dead 2. Unfortunately, market share and development costs often make Linux an afterthought, and exclusivity deals such as Quantum Break (Windows Store only) or DRM solutions such as Uplay and Origin, often leave Linux struggling with virtualization programs such as Wine. Apple’s closed nature is even worse, leaving Mac users with pitiful gaming solutions.

NVIDIA’s service uses clusters of high-end gaming PCs which can be rented from NVIDIA at various price points. The service works with Steam and Green Man Gaming, the two largest online game retailers. Right now, $25 gives you 2 hours of gameplay on a PC with one of NVIDIA’s latest GTX 1080 cards. Compare this to the rough $1200 minimum for a PC with similar performance, and suddenly this all makes sense.

The service’s expansion is promising. Bringing Steam on board is no small victory, with a simply massive catalog of indie and AAA titles. Offering users the opportunity to try gaming with the big boys could lead to some more graphics cards sales, or even further expansions in the service. At present, cloud solutions often suffer with low bandwidth and high latency, and NVIDIA’s should be no different,  but for those with reliable internet access, this is an interesting next step in gaming.

1.02.2017

Davis's Tech News December 18 - January 2





"Davis's Tech News" is a weekly digest of #technews curated by D&theJM's Senior Technology Correspondent, Davis.






Editor's note: We previously used Readability, a read-it-later bookmarklet service, to curate Davis's Tech News. However, it shut down at the end of September. Our hearts go out to this phenomenal platform's talented developers. Readability's design language is in the DNA of Davis and the Jake-Man; our gray background (#212324) and serif font, Mercury, were inspired by this wonderful platform that for seven years empowered users to "Read Comfortably."



http://www.davisandthejakeman.com/search/label/davistechnews