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TheoryBoard Unboxing

Here it is!

I am so impressed by the people who designed and developed the TheoryBoard. They launched a successful Kickstarter campaign and they not only delivered, but they really increased the value of their product by taking it from prototype to production while adding features and refinements all along the way.

Straight out of the box

I was able to quickly connect the TheoryBoard to my MacBook Pro, open Cubase, and begin recording. The USB cable is all you need if you are using a PC or Mac. I did test it with both external power and USB power only. It works really well!

Powered on and connected via USB

Since I didn’t watch the tutorial yet, here is me just exploring a little. ūüôā

Select a scale and test

What I like:
– plug and play
– excellent build quality
– plays chords and scales that sound great without any knowledge of music theory
– light weight and easy to carry
– non-slip base
– pressure-sensitive lighted buttons

What can be improved:

– the symbols for the central display buttons that affect the current scale are not documented in the boxed literature or within the menu system, I’ll have to go online to learn more

– the lighted buttons are pressure-sensitive but require some finesse that I don’t yet have. Sometimes I was able to get the results I desired but there were also times where the result was louder or quieter than expected. Changing the algorithm used for debouncing these inputs might be able to improve this

– the central display indicates when a button is pressed but the lighted buttons themselves do not, it’s personal preference, but I’d like the button I press to dim or turn off for a moment so I know the press was registered there as well

Take aways:

I love this MIDI instrument. My only concern is that I won’t get used to the somewhat finicky response of the lighted buttons. Again, that might be user error, but it definitely has room for improvement. This has been a great first user experience and the bonus of following along with the development of this product has made this a great Kickstarter experience as well.

I’ll try to post again after I have had enough time to really learn how to use this instrument, but if you have the chance to pick one up sooner then I highly recommend you do!

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Review of Rhino 5 3D CAD Software

I am looking for a 3D CAD software that is simple to learn and affordable. Three things I am looking for in particular are: able to work in quad-view (top, front, side, 3d), able to enter dimensions using the keyboard, and able to snap to grid and objects during object creation and editing.

Rhino 5 is a very full featured CAD software. I was able to quickly get started creating boxes and editing dimensions. I had to search the forums for help on getting objects to snap to each other but it was frustrating because I had to explicitly type the command to use each time I wanted to move or resize an object. It was also difficult because the only way to begin the snap operation was to press the left mouse button, which had to be pressed each time a different snap location was selected. This made editing a very slow process.

Retail pricing at the time this was written (Oct 27, 2017) was a little on the high side and also weird. Windows version was priced at $995 USD while the Mac version was priced at $695.00 USD. There was no mention of a different feature set so this was a very steep cost to run on Windows.

One last thing, when I was ready to remove the evaluation copy of this software I found that I had to uninstall 5 separate packages on Windows. This is not unheard of, but it could have been better.

Overall I would recommend trying Rhino 5. It is worth the time to evaluate and, like I said, is very fully featured. Unfortunately, it just did not meet my needs.

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Skreens review

My first impression of Skreens is positive, but it is very rough around the edges because it strives to do so much in it’s first major release.

It was super easy to setup!  I connected Skreens to a switch that is connected to my wifi router.  My iPhone found the device immediately.

I rotated the phone to landscape mode and could see the layout of the HDMI sources.

The virtual track pad works, but it was not obvious for what purpose until later when I was able to open the web browser interface and add a web window.  The iPhone app cannot do as much as the web interface yet.

Here you can select the HDMI source to use for audio. I am not sure how to mix sources yet.

Here you can see my Windows PC and Wii U are on Inputs 1 and 2. ¬†I don’t have anything to connect for inputs 3 and 4 yet.

From the settings in the web interface you can choose to do an automatic firmware update.  The message is a little unprofessional looking but the process itself worked.

I started moving things around.  It works wells but is difficult to resize windows that overlap, especially on the iPhone.

I do think it’s great I can save layouts, capture the low-level descriptor, and even get layouts shared online. ¬†It all works really well!

Here is part of the settings window.  You can see the Skreens device on the cabinet below.

I can’t figure out how to make the device output 1080P60. ¬†My Panasonic AE8000U is reporting only 720P. ¬†Honestly, it still looks really good. ¬†I can’t wait to get the full 1080P and see how much more amazing it can get!

The box has a very bright green light that changes to blue sometimes but I am not sure why.  I hope that means they can add a software feature to disable the light ::hint hint nudge nudge::

The fan is quieter than my media center PC but not just a whisper.  Although I could not tell during the unboxing, the device does have an air vent on the top.  It is not warm at this location so it must be there to pull in cool air.

If you cover this vent the noise level drops significantly to an almost imperceptible level. ¬†The device has 2 side vents so I don’t see why this one is necessary. ¬†Don’t worry, I am not going to keep it covered, that would probably be a bad idea ūüėČ

Overall I am happy with Skreens.  I look forward to future firmware updates!

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Skreens unboxing

I am so excited to receive the Kickstarter edition of Skreens!  The package arrived in the mail today, a short 10 months since the project was funded.  Huge congratulations to Team Skreens!

Here is what we got:

1. Nice, simple box

2.  Power supply and quick start guide on top

3.  Here is everything taken out of the box

My first impression is that this is a well thought out package.  It includes everything needed to install the device and begin using it with existing equipment: HDMI cable, power supply, power cord, and the device itself.

I am a little disappointed that the device itself is in a plastic housing, with no standard mounting options, and a strange unlabeled button in the front.  But since this is a Kickstarter edition, I am also impressed at how much this already feels like a retail product.

Here are some more details:

The device itself is 8 inches wide. There are air vents on both sides so you’ll need at least 12 inches of width to keep the air flowing smoothly.

It is 4 inches deep, but watch out for that tiny white button on the front.  It is easy to bump it so I’d suggest giving the front a good half-inch more space and the back is where the wires go, which I always leave a minimum of 3 inches.  I’d recommend at least 8 inches of depth to allow for all of the wires and space in front to avoid any accidental button press.

The heighest point in the curved face of the unit is just shy of 2 inches.  If you are really tight in space I would allow for 1 and 7/8 inches.  There is no need for any additional height.
As for the power supply.  It is a typical power brick, but it is nice that this switching supply supports a large input range for those of you outside the USA.  This one has an output rated for 5V up to 4Amps, which means you won’t be powering this off a USB port.

That’s it for now.  Here is a quick look at the quick start guide.  I plan to install and test everything as soon as possible and will report my findings in the next post.

Oh, and here is a screenshot of the Skreens app before I have the device connected.

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Sad Review of Solar Winds IP Address Tracker Tools

I was hoping to find a good, simple, tool for tracking IP address assignments. My first choice was Excel, but I thought someone must have an easy to use program for this common task. After a quick Internet search I found, Solar Winds

I installed the Solar Winds Free IP Tracker using their installer “SolarWinds-IPAT-FreeTool-v4.3.exe” but was never able to run the program. It seems to install. I definitely see a lot of background processes running for it. I just can’t get the program to launch without an error.

I contacted Solar Winds to report the problem but it has been over a week and still no response. I am sad to say all of this and must recommend that you Do Not Use Solar Winds products.

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PS4 cannot play 3D movies (No Wait, Now it CAN!)

Update!  It would seem as of firmware v1.75 the PS4 can play 3d movies.  I have yet to have time to try it, so hopefully it works and is amazing!

I needed a blu-ray disc player for my PT-AE8000U projector.  I was using a PS3 that I had moved from downstairs and thought that I would buy the new Playstation 4 for the theater room.  News Flash. As of System Software Update 1.62 the PS4 is still unable to play 3D blu-ray.  That is correct, the old PS3 can but the new PS4 cannot.  Who would have guessed?

While I am at it, I must say I am disappointed with the movie playback of the PS4.  The controller L2 and R2 buttons are so easily pressed by accident that I dare not touch the controller while watching a movie.  It is also annoying that a notification pops up over the movie when the controller automatically disconnects (no this particular notification cannot be disabled).  When you want to reconnect the controller to pause the movie, it takes out the entire screen to make you select the user for the controller.

Don’t buy a PS4 to watch blu-rays, not right now. ¬†As of March 19 2014 the XBox One doesn’t play 3D blu-ray either.

I recommend a PS3 ūüôā


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Quick Review PT-AE8000U

I wanted a big screen display that was at least 1080p and good for games or movies. ¬†I also wanted to try 3D since it can be a lot of fun to watch. ¬†The problem was that I didn’t want to have to carry a huge TV upstairs.

So I got the PT-AE8000U Home Theater Projector.  Its not heavy or huge so I can move it on my own.  It was easier to carry upstairs than my 2 year old.

I was considering the Epson 5030UB because it had similar specs and looked cooler (I know, that shouldn’t matter right?). ¬†I went with the Panasonic because it had less expensive, lighter, 3d glasses. ¬†It had better refresh rates. ¬†And it was on sale for $450 less than the Epson. ¬†Granted, I had to purchase glasses separately, but because they are less expensive the whole system was still a better deal.

I am currently projecting from about 16 feet away onto a white wall with orange peal texture.  It looks amazing!  It looks so good that I am having trouble deciding if I ever want to get an actual screen.

3D works well. ¬†The projector documentation says it can handle up to 200″ screen for 3D and all I can say is, the bigger the better! ¬†3D needs the biggest screen you can manage to make the effect more entertaining.

My projector has one stuck blue pixel off center to the upper right.  I can only really see it when the image is completely black.  Rather than return this unit for repair, I will just live with it.  I got a 1 year extended warranty so if it starts getting worse I can get it repaired later.  In the mean time, I would rather enjoy the projector and not have to worry that it gets damaged further in shipping or that they do a poor job with the repair.

I have not bought a spare lamp.  My sales guy says I should wait a few months, then buy one and put it in immediately.  The old lamp will stay good and the new one will be sure to work as well.  I am not sure if I am going to do this.  I will periodically track lamp price and availability to make sure there is no problem sourcing a new lamp.

I am using the projector with a PS3 and a PC and have also tested with a MacBook Pro.  All 3 look perfect.  I am a happy customer.

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Mississippi Cheese Straws anyone?

I stopped at Cracker Barrel the other night and got some snacks. ¬†The Sunkist Fruit Gems were a no brainer, I always like a good gummy snack. ¬†The Cheese Straws looked interesting so I picked up a box of those too. ¬†They aren’t straws. ¬†They look like chicken nuggets from a fast food place. ¬†They taste a little like the cheddar cheese in the ingredient list, but they are dry and have a gritty coating. ¬†There is also a bit of a kick to them as Cayenne Pepper is the last ingredient on the list. ¬†It was nice to try something new but I don’t think I will get them again.

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Here comes toast

It has not been long now that we started using a Breville toaster oven, but I already know it is my favorite small appliance.  The metal is cut well, with no sharp edges.  There is an easily removable drip tray.  The timer is spot-on and easy to use.  I highly recommend this product.  Now for some more toast.

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Lots of socks

I purchased enough socks to replace my aging collection of holy misfits.  I gave a try and so far am very pleased.  It was only $37 for 12 pairs of white and 12 pairs of black socks.  The white socks that were shipped to me were the wrong size so I emailed their support and they responded the next morning to let me know the correct socks had been reshipped and that I should just keep the wrong ones.  I guess I can use them for sock puppets, or maybe one of my friends can use them.  Either way, I am a happy customer and can recommend to the rest of the Internet looking for socks.