SideShow “Shouldn’t-A-Bought” Showcase

Sideshow Toys is killing me. As a kid I loved action figures I could play with and now, as an adult, I love action figures I can’t play with. Some of the stuff they put out is just too much for me to resist. Like this Infinity Gauntlet. Seriously, who doesn’t want one of these floating around their home:

And over on the work side of things I added a few more statues from various shows, movies and games that I like: The Captain America solider (stealth version), Iron Man (Mark III), and Ken from Street Fighter II.

I’d love to say these make the office a bit more classy… but that’s not really the effect they’ve had.

I moved a couple of the Primes over to work and added the Prime 1 Studios Megatron. I hate to admit it, but I think he’s a cooler figure than the Prime 1 Optimus. In general, and despite my weird nerd junk, I feel like the office is coming along well. I need to get my art put up. I’m so happy they let me have an office. I should totally go work there sometime (maybe sooner than later).

Prime 1 Studios makes some really badass stuff. Can’t wait for their next Robotech release.

YouTube progress- 500 Subs. Progress in General?

It’s not a huge deal, but I’m finally up to 500 subscribers on my YouTube channel (actually over 600 at this point).  If I ever reach a thousand there’s a good possibility that I could become monetized again. While I didn’t make a ton of money from my channel before ($90 in three years) it still felt pretty bad when they decided I was too small to participate in the ad program. There… publicly sharing my feelings makes me feel soooo much better :/

Recently my Hue Light video gained some steam (it’s at about 128K views) and I think that drove people to my channel. In 2019 I’m going to work harder on building quality content and get my channel in a position where I can earn a few bucks again. I’m not big on the idea of being “putting myself out there,” but who knows what will happen (actually I know- with higher expectation I won’t make anything at all).

Speaking of silly accomplishments: I earned Elite Plus status again at Best Buy (hooray for me?). Their Best Buy credit card and reward system has actually kept me coming back. Now that Amazon collects sales tax and Best Buy is willing to match Amazon’s prices I do almost all my electronics shopping at Best Buy. If you don’t care about rewards but need to buy some electronics hit me up and I’ll buy your stuff & give you some cash (almost nothing)!

*This was accomplished with some business purchases in addition to my own frivolous spending. It’s probably crass to post this. But I am crass so…

Something Goes Bump in the Night (and Day). Porsche Repair

It’s been awhile since I made this adjustment, but I wanted to a second and memorialize just what I’d done. It’s probably been a year since I first noticed the bumping noise coming from behind me. It was a rapid and systematically occurring thumping sound aggravated by uneven roads. I accused the seats, seatbelts, various tools stored in the back of the car and even my imagination before I finally found the real culprit. I wedged myself into the back seat and tapped on everything until I finally discovered a piece of interior trim knocking against the car’s frame.

For context: You’re looking at the A-pillar that holds the rear right seat belt (the belt is still attached to the frame). The back window of the car is visible in the top-right.

Removing the interior trim along the right A-pillar was unpleasant. Even after I found the parts that were hitting each other I wasn’t able to determine what parts of the parts were making contact. I tried various sound deadening fixes like felt, molding tape and strong language. Eventually I hit the sweet spot and the noise was radically reduced. Zipping things back up was even more work than taking them apart but I got it done (and it was done right). One less noise in the cabin – easily the largest offender – has been eradicated! This makes me want to revisit my efforts to cap off the engine noise being pumped into the car. One day.

2019 Razer Blade Stealth 13″ 4K Laptop

For Christmas this year I picked up a Razer Blade Stealth 13″ laptop. Recently I have found myself needing a more mobile laptop solution and even the Razer Blade 15″ was somewhat cumbersome to transport (which is crazy when I think back to hauling around the 17″ Pro). I admit that I didn’t need the Stealth but I was very interested in trying it out. No regrets so far!

She’s Got the Look:

Razer has nailed their “We are the Apple of the PC world” strategy (at least I assume that’s their strategy). The look and feel of this laptop is just off the hook. I can’t get over how compact it is and the the smaller bezel size is a huge improvement over their previous generations.

Below is a video showing the unboxing experience and showcasing the Stealth 13’s options and my initial impressions:

One of the Stealth’s optional highlights is the 4K 13″ screen. In some ways the screen is overkill but it looks amazing. I remember about seven years ago when I picked up a Sony 13″ laptop and it had a 1080p screen. The resolution seemed unreal at the time. Fast forward to now and the 4K resolution on the Razer 13 seems unfathomable to me. Here is a more in depth look:

Performance:

It’s a little strange to see a new laptop run slower than a laptop from almost 4 years ago, but I suppose it’s also indicative that the rate of technological development has slowed or, at least, doesn’t have a need to progress as rapidly. Regardless, the Stealth 13 does everything that a modern computer needs to do. I fired up Doom and, speaking anecdotally, it plays respectably at 1080p with medium settings. Without the GeForce MX150 the 2019 Stealth wouldn’t be much of a fighter so I’d definitely recommend it as a purchase option. In some ways the 4K screen option is just beautiful bling as no game will be playable with the 4K settings. I’m not quite certain why the 3D Mark scores have validation errors- as far as I know everything is up to date (probably the custom driver builds that the 13 Stealth uses). Still, the scores should serve as a solid comparison metric.

Pros:

• In terms of attractiveness and size I don’t think anything compares to the new Blade models.
• With Windows 10 GUI scaling the 4K screen is usable and the sharpness / crispness is at another level.
• I am very impressed with the four speakers in this laptop- it’s louder than the 15!
• Non-illuminated logo on the laptop’s cover (I don’t miss the green).
• I am delighted they finally illuminated the alternate characters on the keyboard. Hooray!
• I love how small the power adapter is. I suppose when you don’t need a ton of power you can get away with that!

Cons:
• Needed a driver update (unavailable on Razer’s website) to correct a fairly serious speaker static issue.
• I’m not a fan of the reduced keyboard size. I suppose all things considered I’d rather have a smaller keyboard than a larger chassis.

Neutral Opinions:

• I’m working with a Chrome browser open to a WordPress website while playing Pandora and I’ll probably get 4 hours of life. Not bad, not great. There are probably several things I could do to optimize battery life.
• The travel on the keyboard is shallower than I’d prefer and it takes a little getting used to (I miss / skip a letter pretty often).
• I still wish they’d find  way to include a network jack and an SD card reader. But USB peripherals get the job done.
• After using the laptop for several hours it’s warmer than I’d like but not uncomfortable.

Conclusion:

As an “Ultrabook” the Razer 13 Stealth shines. I think Razer should refrain from advertising it as a “gaming” laptop because it’s not. But as a great looking portable powerhouse (relatively speaking) I think it’s awesome. I wrote this post on the Stealth 13 and, aside my unfamiliarity with the keyboard it’s been awesome.

Specifications: 
OS:
Windows® 10 Home (64-bit)
Processor:
Quad-Core 8th Gen Intel® Core™ i7-8565U Processor
Graphics:
NVIDIA® GeForce® MX150 (25W) 4GB GDDR5 VRAM
Display:
13.3″ 4K Touch w/ 4.9mm slim side bezel
Storage:
512GB
Memory:
16GB dual-channel (fixed)
Battery:
Up to 8 hours (53.1Wh)
Keyboard:
Single-zone RGB powered by Razer Chroma™
Finish:
Anodized black finish, tone on tone Razer logo
Dimensions:
0.58″ x 11.99″ x 8.27″ / 14.8mm x 304.6mm x 210mm

Other Laptop Links:
Review: Pulse 17
Review: 2014 Razer Blade
Razer Blade Pro
Razer Blade 15

2020 Porsche 911 (992) Unleashed.

I was hoping to get around to this post yesterday but, as always, time got away from me. I watched Porsche’s live 992 launch event and found it quite enjoyable (was it just me or did everyone seem slightly uncomfortable)? It was fun to see all the different 911 models parading around and listen to the designers’ thought processes and inspirations.
My initial impressions are mixed. I recall not being particularly awed by the 991 when I originally saw it, but now I think it’s far and away the best looking 911 ever made… so there’s probably some hope for me.

When the 991 replaced the 997 it didn’t seem like much of a jump. Initially the exterior changes required a double take to figure out which model you were looking at. In comparison the move from 991 to 992 feels eve smaller-  just a hop…until you see the back of the car. Good or bad, no one will mistake that light bar for anything but a 992. While the light bar feels okay to me the third brake light seems like a bad design choice. The car itself has a slightly more hatchback feel, reminiscent of the Panamera. There’s definitely something less cutesy about the 992 which makes it an additional step removed from it’s cousin, the Beetle. I will be extremely curious to see the Turbo version of the 992.

The interior has changed more dramatically. At first glance I thought the changes added additional elegance. As I studied the interior further I started to wonder what the impression would be like in person. I loathe the new shift knob. Do they think guys want to shift with their shaver? I think those center vents must be for the people in the back seat; I know I’m not interested in having air blown on my stomach. That being said, I’ll withhold final judgement.

Now that the car is officially unveiled I’m excited for the onslaught of reviews that will provide user-related insights and driveability impressions. It’s conceivable that this car could grow on me. And yet… would it ever be enough to make me trade in my current car? In the meantime the McLaren 720s has planted a few roots in my heart.

Razer Blade / Windows 10 Adaptive Brightness Problem & Solution

For the most part I love my Razer Blade 15 and it’s been a reliable Clydesdale workhorse that looks like a thoroughbred Arabian. However, once in awhile some small issue will pop up and drives me nearly insane. This latest issue has to do with the adaptive brightness “feature” that’s included in Windows 10.

In case you are unfamiliar with the adaptive brightness setting here’s the gist: your screen backlight is automatically dimmed when anything on the desktop is a darker color. The effect is extremely noticeable in an application like Photoshop (the GUI is dark-themed) and the screen dims to the point where white looks like gray and it’s difficult to do any real work. Why anyone would choose to have the adaptive brightness enabled is beyond me.

In theory it’s very simple to turn the setting off. You simple open your “power options” then navigate to “change plan settings” and the click the “change advanced power settings” link. This brings you to a pop-up box and under the “Display” options you can switch adaptive brightness on or off. Easy right? Not so fast…

When my Razer Blade is plugged in Windows respects the setting and everything is just fine (well, usually- sometimes I do have to restart my laptop). But when the laptop is operating on battery power the adaptive brightness setting is completely ignored. I searched and searched online for an answer to my problem and came across an excellent article suggesting a myriad of different solutions:
https://windowsreport.com/adaptive-brightness-windows-10-wont-turn-off/

The root problem appeared to be a power management setting for the integrated Intel graphics. This setting was a redundant adaptive brightness routine that was overriding the Windows 10 version. Eureka! Only there was an issue…

…I didn’t have an option to access the Intel graphics settings. The registry edits suggested by the article also proved impossible because the corresponding file location wasn’t present. No amount of rooting through Windows 10 allowed me any access to any Intel-related graphic settings. Additionally, no amount of online searches brought me any closer to finding a solution. A few articles suggested the only way to fix a problem like mine was through settings in the BIOS. Did I even have Integrated Intel graphics?

I already knew the answer to that. I’ve installed a few games that haven’t recognize the Nvidia GPU, defaulted to the Intel chip and had to be manually configured (i.e. Transformers: Devastation). A quick peek under the advanced display settings and it was clear the Razer Blade was using an Intel UHD Graphics 630 while on battery power. Okay, so it was still there and it was working.

So what on earth could cause my Intel control panel to be missing? Maybe that there was software that I could get directly from Intel. No dice. Intel’s website suggested contacting the OEM if the Intel Graphics Setting option is missing. I imagined trying to get Razer to help me with my problem chuckled. Okay, so maybe I had the wrong driver installed.

I racked my brain and it hit me. I had swapped out my hard drive and that necessitated a Windows 10 installation. Maybe I had missed something when I was reinstalling my drivers! It certainly couldn’t hurt to reinstall them again.

I downloaded the Intel Graphic Driver file from Razer’s Support page. I ran the installation (side note: Windows Defender repeatedly warned me that threats were detected during the installation, but it completed just fine). And then:

After the installation and a restart there was the “Intel Graphics Settings” option right where it was supposed to be. I held my breath and opened it.

Under the power settings there is an option to disable “Display Power Saving Technology.” Click it, hit apply and voila!

This fixed the problem. Now on battery power the laptop will respect the Windows 10 adaptive brightness settings. I suppose part of me understands why the power saving is enabled by default but what an absolute pain the neck.

Summary Version: If you can’t turn off adaptive brightness then you need to disable the power saving feature in the Intel graphics settings. If the Graphics settings aren’t visible make sure you have the correct OEM driver installed.