I’ve heard so many mixed reviews about NO MAN’S SKY that made me wonder what all the fuzz was about. On the surface the game seems to be something I might enjoy, combining exploration on a vast scale, building, crafting and handsome looking graphics. The asking price of $60 promises a AAA title, so when it was on sale the other day, both on Steam and on GOG, I picked it up and had a look at it.
I’m coming into this game cold, not knowing what to expect. I literally had no expectations, other than the hope of having a good time. Sadly that didn’t happen. It can be like that with complex games though, you have to give it an hour or two to get into them, learn the interface, understand what you’re supposed to do. Good games (like any good software) will help you make this a welcoming experience.
NO MAN’S SKY doesn’t do that. It’s not even trying.
I got a newsletter from GOG.com today, and in it was XIII – listed as “new”. Which is weird, because some reviews on the site date back to 2012. It looks like this title was unavailable for many years. I know this because as it happens, I’ve been looking for this very PC version for several years. I’m glad we can legally own it once again! Let me explain a bit more.
I used to love XIII back in the day, both for PC and consoles. I played the Xbox version when it came out, and have consequently bought the PC version (on CD, for only 99 pence back at HMV on Oxford Street, when they had it on sale). The graphical style attracted me, as did the intriguing story line. I had always wished for a sequel, but it never materialised (not counting the ghastly iOS “hidden object” version they made in 2011).
Years went by, I moved continents, and I lost my 99p copy of XIII. But I never forgot this game. One day I picked up the GameCube version to play on my old Wii, and that version just doesn’t compare to the thrill of the PC version, which has its own kind of magic. The comic-like insets of closeups when you shoot an enemy far away, superb (yet sparse) voice acting by David Duchovny and Adam West, the dramatic and adaptive soundtrack, the variety of levels, it truly was ahead of its time.
I’ve recently picked up a new Xiberia headset from Jeecoo for $30 on Amazon. It’s a rather large pair of noise cancelling USB stereo headphones with a built-in microphone. I wanted to use these for streaming without disturbing my wife when she’s hard at work on the desk next to me, while avoiding any echoing that would be induced when using a desktop speaker. I’ve been using for the last week and wanted to share my thoughts on it with you here.
The exact model number is the V20, the exact same model that’s available from Walmart for nearly $120. That’s quite steep, and I’m not sure if it’s worth that much. For $30 however, this is quite a bargain.
I’ve been using my Apple Pencil 1st Generation with my iPad 6 for the last couple of months on and off, and thought I’d share some thoughts on my experiences. I’ve left this review on Amazon.com and though I’d post it here for posterity. Enjoy!
This is the Apple Pencil 1st generation. It’s title doesn’t do it justice, because it suggests that it’s inferior to the 2nd generation, and that it will soon be replaced. The story is a little different as you may know. This pencil is compatible with the 6th and 7th generation of the iPad, or “The New iPad” as every “new iPad” is now called upon release, until a new “New iPad” comes out. To clarify then, this device (1st generation Apple Pencil) works with the non-Pro and Air iPads that came out between 2018 and 2019. It works with a bunch of other iPads too, like the first and second generation iPad Pro (2015-207) and some Minis (like the 2019 version). Later generations of the iPad Pro require the 2nd generation Apple Pencil, which this device is not. They’re different devices altogether, and Apple did a lousy job explaining this to us mere mortals.
The thing works great, although $90 is very expensive for what it is. I don’t deny that there’s a lot of technology going on, and this seemingly magical approach is a lot of fun if you can draw, or if anyone can decipher your handwriting. I’m one of those “creative” types and my handwriting looks a bit like back in the day when doctors wrote prescriptions out by hand. It’s difficult to read by others, sometimes even by myself. I can’t draw either, but I like to doodle sometimes. Still, even someone like me can use this Pencil for highlighting documents or occasionally putting a signature to a PDF document. I like using it, and it gives the iPad a new dimension it was previously lacking.
In this episode I’ll explain how to use the GoPro 3.5mm Microphone to USB-C adapter with your GoPro HERO 5, 6 and 7 (Black versions).
It’s a rugged piece of technology I find incredibly helpful when I make videos on my bike. This little gadget has been getting terrible reviews – probably because there’s little to no documentation available on how to use it, or what settings it unlocks. In this video I’ll show you all.
In this episode I’m taking a closer look at two RUIPU Power Banks, namely the Model 121 and the Q80. Both have the same 24,000 mAh rating, both have an accurate LED display for the remaining charge, both have an anti-slip design, yet there are subtle changes between these models. Let’s find out the differences.
When I do live streams on YouTube, I frequently forget to record my programme locally. I guess there’s just so many buttons to press in the heat of the moment.
Hence I was looking for a way to extract full 1080p HD footage from YouTube, ideally both for my own files as well as those from other users.
Right now (February 2019), YouTube only allows me to download a 720p version of my own clips, and a YouTube Premium subscription is required to download other users’ footage. Either way, my desktop streams are usually 1080p, and that’s what I’d like to download for local archiving.
I hunted around for a solution, and doing a quick Google search presented several contenders – many of which no longer work since YouTube have once again re-jigged some aspect of their operation. Most solutions, online and offline, can handle 720p for free, but again that’s not what I was looking for.
I’ve recently discovered an incredibly cheap HDMI capture device that promises 1080p60 capture for around $80. That’s quite a feat, and exactly what I’ve been looking for to get started with handsome looking game streaming. It’s known by several names, such as
ezcap U3 / ezcap 261
But does it deliver? How would it work? What’s the catch? Why isn’t this thing flying off the shelves? And are the occasional zero-star reviews telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
I had to find out for myself and ordered one. After much testing, firmware upgrading and more testing, I’ve ordered another one. Let me tell you the whole story in this article.
Audio is one of the most aspects of the videos I record with my GoPro. I wanted to get this because I record videos when I’m riding my bike and tell stories while I do. You can check them out on my other YouTube channel, and on the Super Survivor Podcast.
Before buying this adapter, I recorded a separate audio feed on my iPhone, which was additional faff I could do without. When I received a spontaneous 30% discount for accessories on the GoPro website, I bought this adapter – and was pleasantly surprised. I too had read the many bad reviews this gadget got, and I thought I’d give you my two cents on the matter.
What people dislike about the adapter
In essence, what people are commonly bemoaning is the fact that this thing is so big and bulky, and that it’s so expensive (about $50, which is a tad hefty indeed). I do agree with both of these complaints, but let me tell you that the size isn’t actually a game changer – at least not in the way that I’m using it.
From what I understand, this external box is so big because the GoPro HERO 5 and above no longer have an A/D converter built in, a component that converts the analogue audio from a microphone to digital data so it can be recorded. The HERO 4 and before had this integrated, so a simple 3.5mm to USB adapter could record audio.
One of the drawbacks of using the built-in system though was that the GoPro HERO 4 could not be powered externally while a microphone was plugged in. So with this adapter, I guess the company made the decision to not only separate the components out, but also add a functionality to use an external mic AND let the GoPro be charged/powered at the same time. That’s fantastic news for longer recording sessions that would exceed one full internal battery charge.
What I like about the adapter
While many dislike this approach, I actually welcome it. For interviews with separate mics this is great news. Due to the fact that the GoPro is a very power hungry puppy, longer recording sessions do need frequent battery changes – or the ability to be powered externally. This adaptor makes that happen.
The adapter is built very rugged and sturdy, it has a rubberised design with no gaps or openings. If it wasn’t for the actual sockets, it almost feels waterproof.
It has one USB-C output that attaches to the GoPro HERO 5/6/7 either way around, so the gadget will point flat up or down with its angled connector (see my video for details). That way, I find a cable does not interfere with the lens, which is important.
How to use this thing
There is no manual that comes in the box. This means some explanations are in order as to how this thing actually works. Here’s what I’ve found out after a few weeks of use and several tests.
As soon as you attach it, a new menu becomes available in the GoPro, namely under Preferences – Audio Input. You get there by swiping down from the top of the screen, select Preferences, then scroll all the way down until you reach the I/O section. Select Audio Input (which usually reads N/A) and find 5 new settings that tell the GoPro how to use the attached microphone.
Note that this menu does not unlock with inferior non-GoPro adapters, as suggested in some of the reviews.
The settings let you choose to connect the following microphones:
Standard Mic (regular 3.5mm non-powered mic)
Standard Mic+ (same as above, but boosts audio by 20dB)
Powered Mic (for active mics in need of Plug-In Power)
Powered Mic+ (same as before, but boosts audio by 20dB)
Line In (for audio equipment that does not need microphone pre-amplification)
The GoPro will remember your last setting, so it’s enough to simply attach the adapter again and your last choice to be active immediately. That’s a nice touch too. My ZAFFIRO Lapel Mic works great with the Standard mic setting.
You need a regular TRS input, NOT a TRRS input
One super important thing that I’ve not read about anywhere else: you MUST use a 3.5mm TRS input for this thing to work. TRRS connectors WILL NOT WORK. It would have been nice to know about this, I nearly returned mine after testing several mics and didn’t make the connection.
So a TRS connector is one for regular stereo headphones (as in one Tip, one Ring and one… I don’t know ground or whatever S stands for). Whereas a TRRS connector is the one found on most smartphone headsets, one Tip, two Rings and one bit at the bottom. If you have a TRRS connector you’d like to use with this GoPro adapter, you need to use a converter for the sound to be picked up. This is especially important when connecting audio equipment.
From what I can tell, the audio quality sounds great with this thing – apart from the fact that by design, audio appears to be recorded 4 frames late by the GoPro (I’ve worked in television for over 20 years… I can’t help but notice such things). I wish GoPro would add an audio shift feature to the firmware of their cameras, or – dare I suggest it – care about audio sync more than increasing frame rates every year.
If you care about the audio you record with your GoPro and want to use external equipment to do so, this adapter is a must – unless you’re happy to record a separate feed. Speaking of which, if you do need a separate audio file in addition to what’s embedded in the video file, in the GoPro’s ProTune settings you can enable RAW audio. This will record an uncompressed WAV file alongside your video file.
I haven’t regretted the purchase, I don’t mind about the size – all I care about is that it works. I recommend this product for audio enthusiasts.
Buy the GoPro Adapter
Here are some links to get hold of this gadget on Amazon. I get a small commission if you buy via these links (if Amazon feels like it… which is not very often):
I can’t get enough of the RUIPU series of power banks. You can never have enough charged-up external batteries around, especially during hurricane season. Hence I’ve decided to invest into another model by the same company, namely the RUIPU Model 121 as pictured above.
Like my other RUIPU power banks, the 121 is a 24,000 mAh large and heavy external battery, with a micro USB input for charging and two USB outputs to power other devices. It’s about the size of an iPhone Plus / Max or equivalent smart phone with a 5″ screen, just over 1cm or half an inch in thickness. It weighs about one pound, so it’s on par with the other RUIPU models I own (such as the solar Q90 or the white quad-output Q80), maybe even slightly slimmer.