Splyce: Intel NUC as a Host for vMix

Now that my video production activities are all desktop-based, my habit of handling video crosses paths with my long-standing affection for small form factor computers. For the past year I’ve used a fanless Airtop-PC from CompuLab as my primary desktop workstation. It has shown itself to be a very capable host for vMix, which is my very favorite live video production tool.

In considering the purchase of the Airtop I also looked long and hard at Intel’s NUC line-up. There’s a lot to like about the NUCs. In particular, the Skull Canyon NUC, with it’s i7-6770HQ CPU, presented an attractive price/performance combination. Others in the vMix user community have noted that it runs vMix handily, despite the lack of an nVidia GPU.

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My dog ate my headphones

ER-ER5HF5BLACK_2Seriously, it happened last week. One evening I fell asleep listening to a podcast. My phone fell to the floor along with my trusty of Etymotic HF5 headphones. Julio, our 18 month-old Dogo-mix, who very much likes to chew on soft plastic toys, found the earbuds to tempting to pass up. Happily, he did not ingest them. He simply rendered them useless.

You may recall that I bought a pair of OneMore Triple-Driver Earphones back in 2016. These ultimately proved disappointing. Performance-wise, they deliver exaggerated bass. They’re supposedly tuned by Luca Bignardi, a professional musician and recording engineer working in Italy. To my ears, they’re seriously imbalanced.

Further, they don’t fit as well as the ETY’s. The tips come loose, and annoyingly tend to remain in my ears when I take the buds off. When I reported this to the company they reacted with surprise, and sent me another set of tips. however, those tips didn’t change a thing. I’m done with 1More.

There are about a zillion companies now offering earphones, or the more uppity “in-ear monitors.” Most of them complete unknowns.

I’m tempted by the new Etymotic ER4XR. According to InnerFidelity they offer improved bass response over the older models. Sadly, priced around $350, they are beyond my budget.

All this begs the question, what are your favorite headphones?

How-To: Filling in a Wi-Fi Dead Spot on a Budget

For the past year I’ve been on the board of our local civic association. I did this to get me out of the house and more engaged in the local community. As a result I’ve become more aware of some of the IT issues that typically confront our neighbors. Beyond dealing with dastardly ISPs, one of the most common problems is poor Wi-Fi coverage throughout a home. When the question came up again just recently, I thought it worth collecting my thoughts on the matter and sharing them here.

Preface: The Wired

This is, for me, a statement of philosophy. Wherever possible I prefer wired, Ethernet connections to devices on my network. Wires are inconvenient to install, but are extremely reliable, and with the exception of intrusion by the occasional hungry rodent, last a very long time. If you want things to work all-the-time, every time, wired is the way to go. Period.


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Lenovo X1 Carbon: Some thoughts about an old friend

In the earliest days of January 2013 I ordered the first laptop that I’d bought with my own money in over a decade. It was a Lenovo X1 Carbon. I had been carrying an HP 8510P, which was a decent machine, but getting to be very old. Having carried both netbooks and back-breaking portable workstations, I craved an ultrabook, and the X1 Carbon stood out from the pack.

The X1C cost me dearly. At just over $1800, it was the second most expensive computer I’d ever bought, but I don’t regret it for a minute. The fact that I don’t despise it after 5 years proves that it’s been a spectacular laptop.

Except for the CPU, I opted for an i5 vs i7, it was completely optioned. Maximum memory (8 GB) and storage (256 GB.)

It was the first computer I had ordered with an SSD. It contains a 256 GB m.2 2280 SanDisk drive. It was at a transitional point in technology, so it’s an mSATA3 drive. It predates both mPCIe and NVMe.

None of this would be a concern, except that the X1 suffered a failed Windows update a few weeks back. It was rendered unbootable. Fortunately, I had a full system image that was only a couple weeks old. I was able to wipe the SSD, restore the backup image, and get back to business.

This leaves me wondering about the state of that five-year old SSD. SanDisk has a drive utility that reports that the device has 90% of it’s lifespan remaining.

SandDiskDrive Utility

I’m told that’s based upon the limited number of write cycles that flash media can sustain. Lenovo themselves pointed me to a page that projects the lifespan of an SSD into the hundreds of years. This seems optimistic to me. But then again, I had issues with the Crucial SSD in my old desktop.

Also, what about the future of the X1C itself. At this age, should I bother with replacing the SSD? Or just write of the laptop completely? Retiring the X1C hardly seems appropriate. Since I travel very little these days I don’t rely on it for much.

I tend to hang onto computer hardware. In April 2017 I bought the Airtop-PC, which moved my old HP H8 (AMD FX6100) desktop into a utility role. The even older HP DC5750 desktop that I used three-computers-back is currently running Logitech Media Server, serving music to our various Squeezeboxes (and equivalents.) Heck, it wasn’t so long ago that I finally disposed of the Asus Pundit (P1-H1, AMD Athlon XP) that was my primary desktop some four computers ago.

As I ponder the future of the X1C, I urge you to take the lesson from my recent experience. Make routine backups. Spacious portable hard drives are dirt cheap. Most recently I’ve been using the free version of Macrium’s Reflect for Windows. The process is easy. Restoring is also easy. It’s a good habit to have, and a good way to go about it.