Monday, November 10, 2014

Interstellar: My Thoughts

Absolutely became a fanatic and ended up seeing it three times so far...last time being genuine IMAX!

This film compels both my heart and mind to become mesmerized by its worthwhile script, practically flawless cast performances, thrilling visual effects, AND captivating music by Hans Zimmer!

While I easily consider this film as a masterpiece along with other personal favorites (Gravity, Cinema Paradiso, Life is Beautiful, Like Water for Chocolate, The Help), no film is 100% perfect. One caveat of Interstellar could be the time it took for the story to unfold, but I prefer to sit through nearly 3 hours of well done cinema versus 1.5 hours of mindless drivel enhanced by *unnecessary and gratuitous* violence split into multiple parts for the sake of revenue. Don't get me wrong, I am capable of enjoying my fair share of action packed explosions and gore, but there still must be a balance. One cannot survive efficiently on "junk food" alone!

I've been turned off from going to the movie theater whenever I felt there was endless peddling of junk, but Interstellar has (at least for now) renewed my enthusiasm for great cinema! Kudos to the cast and crew for such a notable delivery of substance on-screen...and I'd GLADLY spend money for a fourth ticket!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Nexus 6: My Initial Thought

Nexus 6. That's $650 for the 32GB and $700 for the 64GB. 

I'm sorry, but even with all the specs, the new Nexus just seems like a big a** Moto X without the Motorola software features...and there's hardly any premium in that. Maybe I'll find myself to be wrong when seeing it in person, but who knows. 

When I saw and felt the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, I TOTALLY get paying $700 for a high end device like that. Another thing is that iOS finally arriving on larger screens is new territory, making the new iPhones all the more appealing. At least there's a choice between a large and larger display with the 6 and 6 Plus. 

Android has been on large screens for years, and to me, Nexus phones were always dependable for a unique design with stock Android at an affordable price. When you had a previous Nexus, it felt like a special niche device. This time around, it seems Motorola and Google got lazy and said, "F**k it! We'll just take the Moto X, enlarge the hell out of it, throw in greater specs, and hike the price WAY up! REAL Google fans will STILL buy that, for real for real!"

Really? I'm sorry, but I have no interest in spending top dollar for what seems to be a Kardashian-ized Moto X. Affordable pricing AND comparable specs had won me over for the Nexus 5, but Google really tried it with this Nexus 6. Just sayin'.

So far, the Nexus 5 size and Android experience has been absolutely perfect for me. If I were to remain with that to eventually adopt Android L, I wouldn't mind that one bit. 

End of rant.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Random Thought: Motorola

After the Moto 360 internal components scandal, I can't help but think if it was desperation instead corruption that caused Motorola to make such a decision.  As a friend of mine said, it's a cutthroat industry, so it wouldn't make sense. However, I wonder if Motorola is simply doing all it can to maintain its pace in what could easily become a losing race with manufacturing juggernauts with deep pockets.

Staying relevant after a failed MOTOACTV (which I still own AND use) and a previous Moto X with lesser fanfare than competing flagships in its time may have been a huge challenge, but some folks seemed to stay focused on a solution: just keep striving for great hardware that supports Android software with virtually no overlay fuss.

The Moto 360 was introduced and people (including myself) lost their minds with wonder and awe. Its overall construction stood apart from the competition and thrust it into the spotlight as a must-have item...until a detailed internal study in addition to questionable battery life brought the hallelujah chorus to a screeching halt. Was there trouble in paradise? Hell yeah. Was Motorola to blame? Maybe not entirely.

As an end user, I recall when the likes of Nokia (Symbian) and BlackBerry and Palm seemed to rule the consumer world...but not anymore. It can surely be a dog-eat-dog world, and some companies, software platforms, and services have ended up skewered, basted, and roasted on an open fire before the suppertime bell. Harsh, but true.

What if Motorola is truly struggling with its last breath to make a name for itself amidst Apple, Samsung, HTC, LG, Sony, etc and simply shot itself in the foot? Could those Moto 360 internal components be the incriminating man and lady bits making those Sweeney Todd pies taste SO damn good? Who knows.

Either way, I wish Motorola all the luck in the world as it embarks on releasing its newest Moto X may need it.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Rant on Humanity

An article puts life into perspective for me and reminds me why I have plenty of reasons to be thankful in such a cruel the midst of my own misfortune as well as my contentment. Other people on this planet go through MUCH worse due to the harsh side of human nature or unfortunate happenstance.

As I take in the brutality of media stories like this, I can't even fathom the countless amounts of atrocities that fall through the cracks of mankind's awareness. From people being burned and eaten for RELIGIOUS differences to people fighting over POLITICAL differences to people dividing over SUPERFICIAL differences to people watching an ARTIFICIAL sunrise on a big screen due to severe smog pollution...I cannot comprehend the scope of all this madness of humanity and not be tempted to weep.

But my tears or anguish won't do anything to save the world...not one thing. Nonetheless, that still does not alleviate my desire to make the best of this one life that I have been given. Holding tight with loyalty to those who love me, forgiving those who may not care for me, and being thankful for the good AND bad that helps me to learn each day...that's what comes to mind as I sit here and ponder life.

NOTHING lasts forever...even the sun has an expiration date. As mankind, we are not the rulers of our domain, we are simply a part of a complex circle of life that connects us ALL with every aspect of this Earth. The concept of unconditional love may be a cliché taken for granted, but I'm going to continue to try to not make that so within my own existence. Whether it's the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mother Teresa, Ghandi or even Rodney King...peace, love and understanding are forces that are sorely needed.

Here is the link to the article I was referring to:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Headset Search

For the sake of acceptable vocal audio on future Trent Sense videos, I decided to adopt a microphone other than the one on my Canon VIXIA camcorder. At that moment, what was available on my desk were two bluetooth headsets (Jaybird JF4 & Sony DR-BT50), one USB studio condenser mic (Samson C01U), and one USB headset with a boom mic (Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000). I am partial to the headset look, for it reminds me of my past involvement with TV broadcasting and Air Force weather, so the USB headset was a sure winner. However, random interference from static plagued shoots taken with my MacBook Pro camera. Even though I managed to get control by positioning the inline audio remote, I simply wanted to have a brand new headset…and Christmas was only around the corner!

Being taken on an impromptu visit to Best Buy on the day after Christmas was a pleasant surprise, but there was very little time with an upcoming event to attend. After grabbing a Google Chromecast and a Logitech Anywhere MX mouse, I reached for the first decent looking USB headset I saw before rushing out the double doors. WRONG IDEA! Later that evening after my nerdgasmic introduction to the Chromecast, I had an underwhelming unboxing experience with the Logitech H540 on-ear USB headset. From its flimsy construction, I figured it would only be worthwhile for mediocre Skype chats. That is when I realized I needed a gaming headset that would grant me a bass-infused music experience with a boom mic for the best recording quality of my voice. Upon my lone return to Best Buy for an exchange, I spent nearly two hours in the gaming section with my Nexus 5 reading reviews on potential choices.

I was drawn to the Turtle Beach Z22 and Tritton Kunai Universal on the shelf. Z22 hardware seemed more robust, comfortable and sound worthy, but the glossy white Stormtrooper-like finish on the smaller Kunai kept tempting me. A huge advantage for the Kunai was compatibility with gaming consoles in addition to PC/Mac and mobile devices, so that opened up a whole new world for me! Cautious of smaller ear cushions for prolonged usage, I leaned toward Turtle Beach and learned an important fact from an online user review. Model names on Turtle Beach headsets in most cases depicted console compatibility: for example, X42 and XL1 for XBOX, PLa and P11 for PlayStation, N11 for Nintendo, and then XP400 and PX22 for both XBOX and PlayStation. Once I turned around in that gaming aisle, a Turtle Beach demo display of four models seemed to serendipitously appear. The cheapest model among them was the wired PX22 at $80, and after reading promising reviews, I was excited to try it out.

The nerdgasm from my Turtle Beach PX22 unboxing came to an ABRUPT halt once I plugged the headset directly to my iPod Classic. Where was the bass I was expecting to rock my world?! Well, this was where the inline amplifier came in to save the day at least in one aspect. For PS3 gameplay via RCA in-line connections to my Bose surround, it rocked absolutely! Having control over bass, treble, mute and various volumes in addition to an audio jack for connecting an MP3 player or smartphone was AMAZING!! Background music or voice calls over the headset as I partake in some online Soul Calibur matches? Don't mind if I do! The sizable (and breathable) cushioning which encased my ears was conducive to prolonged periods of comfortable gameplay without soreness. Unfortunately, audio quality on the mic sounded muffled and not as clear as what I remembered from the old Microsoft model. A friend via voice call remarked that I sounded far away and not clear at all, rating the PX22 at 5 out of 10 with 10 being the best. With that on top of the anemic music experience without the amplifier, it was back to square one in considering a separate purchase of the Tritton Kunai Universal model.

Sure, there was plenty to be happy about as it seemed to take forever to undo the packaging puzzle of the Kunai, but I reserved judgement until I heard my iPod. The twerk-inducing intro to Criminal Intent by Robyn was blessed with loads of bass, and Tritton DID NOT DISAPPOINT...and yes, I did attempt to twerk! With that said, I was free to revel in the glossy white craftsmanship in all of its Stormtrooper/Apple polycarbonate-like glory! A detachable mic, the convenient 90 degree angle that allowed the ear cups to lay flat and the removable magnetic plate on the outside of those ear cups added more appeal. The included in-line audio controller with two volume controls, a mute switch, and XBOX chat input was a downgrade from the PX22 amplifier, but it did its job in granting sound to my PS3 gaming nonetheless. Liking the bass received from music playback on my iPod and Nexus 5 yet still missing the enhanced gameplay audio from Turtle Beach was unexpected. Anyway, what was destined to happen next shocked me...and not in a good way. The connection from the headset to my MacBook Pro via the in-line audio controller produced mic audio with interference that was HORRENDOUS...ATROCIOUS! At around the 40 second mark on practically every video segment shot with my Mac front-facing camera, static would gradually increase until my voice could barely be heard. Two video tests were pristine with this connection and revealed just how clear and concise the Kunai mic could be in recording my voice. Unfortunately, I chose to removed the audio controller altogether and connected the headset directly to the Mac headphone port. After checking the Sound settings and placing the external mic input to 75%, I had a winner! Another voice call with a friend resulted in a good impression of the Kunai's mic audio quality. It was said that my voice was clear and sounded as if I was still talking on my Nexus 5, earning that model 9 out of 10! Very impressive indeed, but another concern in addition to the horrible experience with my Mac haunted me: hardware longevity. Upon conversing with folks via Facebook who had owned previous Trittons, it was apparent that malfunctions would occur anywhere from 1.5 to 2 years in the lifetime of the device. One experienced a broken connector to an XBOX controller while the other would often lose sound from the detachable mic, and I did have to face the fact that the Kunai did exhibit a cheap feel that invoked caution in being too rough with usage. What finally put the nail in the coffin for me was waking up at 3AM after falling asleep amidst PS3 gameplay to sore ears.

Later that morning, I looked over the Best Buy online stock and came across a model with a flashy (borderline gaudy), yet interesting military look. It was the Razer Battelfield 4 BlackShark Elite headset, and the top user review me hooked when it stated that heavy bass was the first thing noticed! I WAS SOLD! Even if I had to pay the difference for its $120 price, I was getting that headset ASAP! I showed up at Best Buy and made a beeline to the ONLY model on the shelf and grabbed it as if I was Smeagol going for his "precious" (some random kid nearby did look at me like I was insane, but I gave not one, single f***)! As I stood there reading the specs on the box, I was compelled to do one last look on the gaming shelves just to make sure there was no other potential candidate available. I was SO glad I did! After skipping over all things Turtle Beach, snubbing the poorly-reviewed Logitech G930 and feeling sorry for the unloved and unassuming SteelSeries 3H V2, I found the original Razer BlackShark Expert 2.0 headset for $90!! With its black and neon green color palette that was more acceptable for my taste, I was glad to see the high quality detailing of its build through the clear packaging. After having a brain fart and becoming tempted by the Sony PULSE Elite wireless headset, I came to my senses from its reviews claiming poor battery life and subpar mic quality on PC. After waiting in line at customer service, I was finally going home with my new Razer!

Once again, unboxing the Razer BlackShark was a chore, but seemed well worth the effort. First thing was to plug it into my iPod Classic. My ears were ROCKED with bass...and I LOVED it!!! Metallic framing of the headband, earcup supports, and DETACHABLE boom mic were refreshing departures from the ample plastic on the two previous models I had used. The high gloss of reflective onyx black in contrast to soft leather cushioning framing neon green inserts was MORE than what I could ask for, and Razer even included a magnetic metal cover to be used whenever the mic was removed! Hardware definitely felt top notch even down to the green cord (which didn't have any amp or in-line controls), and there was no need for me to use the included audio splitter cable. With that said, I did give up gaming console compatibility with this model, but I was fine with that since I am not full-time gamer anyway. I would get more use out of playing music from my iPod and recording vocals via the mic on my Mac camera, so no harm, no foul. What finally sealed the deal for me was the mic audio test with my MacBook Pro. With a direct connection to the headphone port, mic audio was not only extremely clear, but it surpassed the Tritton Kunai headset! A phone call with my friend started with a "WTF" expression and ended with him rating the Razer at 9.5 out of 10!! Following the call, I sat at my desk in the early evening at 7PM, plugged my Razer into my iPod Classic and started typing this blog via an online document on my Google Drive. Just shortly after 10PM, I was sitting in the glow of an illuminated USB keyboard and HD display next to my elevated Mac...and the Razers were still on my head with the iPod going strong.

At that moment as the final choral notes from Totus Tuus, Op 60 by The Sixteen soothed my ears, it was search was over.

Trent Smith

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

iPhone 4S, So Far

Portability + solid build + Siri + iOS 7 = 4S nerdgasm honeymoon. What I appreciate so far is that this phone feels like a premium, intuitive accessory to enhance daily life. Even S3 feels huge now! 

True, there's no large screen or additional UI customization methods, but it remains sufficient. The scary part is that iOS Google apps are acceptable enough to where I am not terribly missing Android as bad as I expected...and I could be open to selling my S3.

With 64GB, I'm more excited to have my entire iTunes audio library with me instead of a few HD videos. For that, I'm fine with Netflix or even hauling my 15inch MacBook Pro for tethering. 

Even though I'm open to trying the Moto X for it's accommodating form factor, I worry about Google Now functions in comparison to Siri. From past experience with that in addition to S Voice, Siri simply feels more "human" and overwhelmingly intuitive...especially when combined with the smooth look and performance of iOS. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

End of an Era: Microsoft Buys Nokia

Here I go on my Freedom Pro BT keyboard I was suddenly compelled to pair to my LG Optimus G Pro device. After just now hearing the breaking news of Microsoft buying Nokia, I must write my thoughts while they are fresh and palpable.

Well, it is all out there now in the Internet amidst the tech blogs...Microsoft pretty much buys out ALL of Nokia in regards to its phone dealings. It was just moments ago when I was first alerted about this via an email from Nokia Connects, and yet I am still somewhat numb. Not angry. Not happy. Just numb.

Now that I think of it, if there is one emotion that grabs me right's sadness. Yes, sadness. This stems from the nostalgia of what Nokia used to be in its Symbian-driven past with iconic devices emerging from the memorable N-Series and E-Series product lines. While the acquisition of Windows Phone over Symbian felt like the beginning of a "phasing out" of the past generation, this recent news simply feels like the nail in the coffin. The old Nokia+Symbian that I had grown to love seems officially gone and buried as Microsoft starts to build anew over its remains...I can't help but feel that from the core of what I've become as a mobile tech fan. Getting my hands on that Nokia E62 in that Cingular store was the one milestone that would lead me to begin the Trent Sense tech blog which ran for a few great years. I was just a simple guy inspired to go on camera and talk at length about my thoughts on my Nokia gadgetry. I was just a simple guy eventually contacted by Nokia Connects (formerly WomWorld) to review even more Nokia handsets. I was a simple guy who had the pleasure of meeting fellow smartphone fans on trips around the world sponsored by Nokia Connects. I was a simple guy who felt like an integral part of something genuine as the mobile industry continued to evolve and move forward.

Overall, I am certainly aware that this recent news could work out to be in the best interest of Nokia. Honestly, Symbian and MeeGo could only do but so much in an ever-changing industry to keep the company relevant, so Windows Phone (as much as I may not prefer the OS) has been a huge godsend in a number of ways. Even though I made the first move in leaving Symbian for Android on the Nexus One, that doesn't mean I don't ever miss it at least a little bit from time to time in reminiscing. While current and new fans of Nokia and it's Lumia line may be parading in the streets, I am taking a moment of silence to mourn the loss of what I used to know. Nokia's "reinvention" is indeed a wonderful thing, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't find it bittersweet.

The past generation may be gone away, but I still have my memories to hold on to from unboxing such memorable Nokia gadgets...and MOST importantly meeting such memorable people through Nokia Connects. With that said, I wish nothing but the best for Nokia as it strives to succeed in the mobile industry via the Windows Phone OS.