Continue Testing

This weekend was the glorious Penny Arcade eXpo, often refereed to as PAX. The authors of Tested.comone of my favorite sites, came up from San Francisco for the event. On Friday night, before the expo gets crazy on Saturday, they held a Tested members meetup. I, as a massive fan of the site, had to attend and meet these internet celebrities who had wandered into my backyard.

There were more people than they planned for so it was crowded. I was able to say hello to Norm after squeezing through the people. I sat down at the table with the only remaining chair and introduced myself to those sitting there. I found the best bit about the meetup was not saying hello to Will and Norm, it was to meet the other readers. Because Tested is a somewhat niche site, everyone at the meetup had a shared a particular set of interests. Being at PAX video games was on everyone’s minds, but after a while the conversation started to go on to other topics. It was great discoursing about 3D printing, virtual reality, and smart watches (Norm joined in on this one) with people as or more interested in the technology as I am.

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Phabulous

This week I got my hands on Android’s new exclusive handset, the OnePlus One. My Nexus 4 is still an excellent phone, beautifully styled and still receiving updates from Google. Sadly that battery was no longer listing me through my average day and I figured I should try this LTE thing out. I have upgraded to a 5.5 inch Phablet.

Oxforddictionaries.com defines phablet as

“A smartphone having a screen which is intermediate in size between that of a typical smartphone and a tablet computer”.
The One with its 5.5 inch 1080p display might not be the largest contender for the title, but it’s certainly in the race. The phone is large, that’s the first thing I noticed about it, but a larger phone has its advantages. The screen is excellent and I find it easy to become completely engrossed in what’s on the screen. The onscreen keyboard is larger, which takes a bit of adjustment, but I find it’s large enough to type fully with both thumbs instead of using Swype like gesture typing. Appropriately I am typing this entire review on the phone. The phone still fit in my man pockets (sorry ladies) so I’m adjusting to the size.

The phone runs a snapdragon 801 which is a 2.5 GHz quadcore arm processor. The spapdragon and it’s 3GB of RAM make everything on the phone smooth and buttery. But that’s something you will get with any flagship phone. A more impressive feature is that this phone has 64 GB of storage! This is the first smart phone I have ever owned that had mor than 16 GB, and this is my fourth phone. Its really sad that since 2008 storage on phones has barely increased. The storage is needed, high resolution displays need higher resolution graphics, apps are becoming more memory intensive, the fact that cameras have more and more pixels; the fact that the original iPhone and the Samsung S5 both come in 16 GB variants is a problem.

The best hardware feature is the battery. The 3100 mAh battery is almost 50% larger than the battery in my Nexus 4. This means I am done playing the will it last game. I am now confidant that my phone will still have some charge by the end of the day no matter what I am doing. As someone who depends on their phone for directions and bus schedules this is important to me. The battery is not user replaceable, so this might not last for long, but with the average day and a half battery life I feel I can take on the world.

If you have thick rimmed glasses, wear skinny jeans and flannel and have some odd sort of piercing, you will love the exclusivity of this phone. While it seems today that everyone has an iPhone or a Samsung some people want a phone that stands away from the others. The OnePlus One is perfect for these people. Its exclusive, as its invite only for now not many people have access to purchase the handset, but is has gotten a lot of press so many will recognize it. For those who see this Phablet monstrosity and ask what phone what phone that is you can enjoy saying “Its the OnePlus One, you’ve probably never heard of it”. The phone can only be purchased off contract so you don’t have to sell your soul to a service provider. The only aspect that makes it difficult for a hipster to love this phone is that it probably won’t fit in their pockets.

So far I am enjoying my OnePlus One, its a quality handset that will hopefully release to the public soon and give the other manufacturers some strife.

Into the Rift

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After a slight SNAFU with the UPS over the delivery I finally have received my Oculus Rift Developer Kit 2! As this is one of the most intriguing, exclusive and amazing tech toys of this year, I was amazingly excited to finally have it in my grasp. Now, if only I could turn it on.

I have an Oculus Rift but lack a computer capable of running it. being still in the process of moving to the Emerald City, my computer has not yet arrived. I have my old school laptop, but after years of uses and having its cooling fan replace three or four times it can hardly handle rendering Netflix, it wouldn’t survive an interactive 3D demo. So I am the very proud owner of the worst pair of ski goggles ever created. But I wasn’t going to just sit and wait for my new nemesis, UPS, to deliver my computer.

With some help from a friend at work, who is still waiting for their pre-order to ship, the Oculus Rift was giving life! We tried out a few demos including Desk Simulator, an immersive desk simulator where one gets to sit at desk in an empty room; Cyber Space, a simulation of a carnival pendulum ride with the added bonus of being flung from the ride at the end; and Helix, a recreation of a real roller coaster at some amusement park.

I was most impressed with Cyber Space, of the three demos we tried that gave my the most gut wrenching feeling of presence. Though the pixels of the display are visible creating a ‘screen door effect’ its not horribly distracting, but it is still present enough that it take awhile tog et used to you field of vision being filled with dots. I think that the depth perception in Cyber Space is what makes it terrifying. The area around you has been filled with houses that are 3D geometry that you eyes can focus on as you swing higher and higher, Helix might have been as enjoyable, but on the computer we were running it on the frame rate was noticeably low. A jittery frame rate really tears one out of the experience. I don’t think we had the V-Sync in the proper configuration to force needed 75 fps needed for the low persistence display technology to be utilized. Another thing to note is that all the demos I’ve tried so far are passive experiences, the play only has the ability to look around and observe the virtual environment, not to interact with it. I have a few games that either have or sill soon have support for the DK2 lined up. I feel that adding interactivity will make presence in the Oculus Rift more easily reachable.

My experience with my Rift so far has been brief, but one I have my machine up and running I will be putting the new technology through its paces and maybe even try my hand at making a demo. After all it is a development kit.