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December 15, 2019 - Episode 545 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Google's up for a Chat, Microsoft's making a tower, and Hulu's not bingeing on ads.

RCS Chat has finally arrived to bring advanced messaging to Android

It has been a long time coming, but support for the Rich Communications Service Universal Profile protocol, better known as RCS Chat, has finally arrived in the US. Chat is a more open version of Apple's iMessage, which brings a number of the features that we've come to expect from modern messaging systems that SMS and MMS have not been able to support. The most obvious features will involve status indication of a conversation: typing indicators and delivery/read receipts. It's an interesting paradox when you consider that the smartphone revolution made these features ubiquitous, the most ubiquitous messaging system has been without this feature.

In addition to status indications, RCS Chat will also bring the ability to attach data other than photos and videos. Some of the types of data that could be most useful to transfer will be truly mobile-first types, such as mobile boarding passes. Also, the ability to include programmable features, you could go so far as to select your seat on a flight through your messaging app. Possibly most importantly, Chat messages can and will be sent over data (including Wi-Fi), rather than traditional SMS and MMS.

The important thing to remember here is that Chat is hardware and platform agnostic, meaning that, while Google is the first company to support it completely, it could eventually come to the iPhone as well. While dreaming is nice, let's stay focused on reality and what is needed to make your Android phone compatible with RCS right now. First, you're going to need a toolkit called Carrier Services. This toolkit has no UI and no settings, but it brings the capabilities to your device. Next, you need to install Messages, the newest version of the Android texting app. With these two pieces in place, you are ready to try out the advanced messaging features.

December 8, 2019 - Episode 544 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, the world's becoming more augmented, Steam is getting more modern, and Quibi is looking towards the law.

Build or Buy Your Next PC? - Episode 211 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch discusses the ups and downs between buying a pre-made PC from a vendor or building your own from components. It's the age-old question in computing - do you save the time and buy a PC, or save the money and build it yourself? As it turns out, the price differential between a pre-made and a custom-made PC is not as great today as it once was. In fact, in Avram's research, there is only about $100 between the two options.

However, there is more to consider than just the price. On the side of buying a PC, there is definitely the time savings. Under a lot of circumstances, you have the ability to customize some of the components of your PC, without having to physically touch the machine. That can save a lot of time and effort in the process, not to mention frustration. But, you do not usually get the ability to choose every option, such as the brand and model of RAM or storage. Those components can make a huge difference to performance, but they are usually out of your hands.

On the other hand, building your own PC comes with the ability to handpick everything, from the make and model of components to the specific batch number, if you feel so inclined. This level of customization comes with the ability to fine-tune your machine to the exact specification you want, but it also means a lot of time investment, both in researching the components and the actual build process.

So, since cost is not the factor that it used to be, the real differentiator is your purpose. If you are looking for a PC for standard usage, buying a standard PC is probably the right way to go. However, if you are a creative, a gamer, or in another field that requires tuned hardware, building might be the way to do.

AR is where the investment is, with Qualcomm & Niantic going all-in

It's no secret that, in the world of ultra-portable computing, the Qualcomm Snapdragon platform is the preferred choice. It's partially because the processors are the best in the market (even driving Intel to abandon their product line), and partially because they are incredibly easy to integrate. The chipset offers more than just a processor, as it includes radio technologies as well. This makes designing a device easier, as there is no need to try and integrate various components.

At Qualcomm's Snapdragon Summit, the company announced a new generation of its mixed reality system, the Snapdragon XR2 Platform. With this new model, Qualcomm has brought 5G to the augmented reality and mixed reality world. AR/MR has had one of its biggest limitations, and the introduction of 5G on a Snapdragon processor designed for the technology could finally alleviate that limitation. While the company's spec hardware may not be anything visually spectacular, it's designed to show hardware designers what can be created, not to be a consumer-facing device.

However, as part of the announcement for the platform, Qualcomm announced an important partner: Niantic. The company that has made augmented reality a household technology that is approachable for everyone is officially developing their AR headset powered by the new Snapdragon XR2 Platform. This will mark a transition point for the concept of standalone AR hardware, made popular by Microsoft's HoloLens and highly marketed by Magic Leap. Unlike Microsoft and Magic Leap, however, Niantic hardware will almost certainly come with the added benefit of an absolutely killer app (Pokemon GO, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, Ingress Prime). Also, unlike Magic Leap, Niantic will be able to position their hardware as a must-have for consumers, enthusiasts, and professionals.

To sweeten the pot, Niantic also announced that its Niantic Real World Platform will be made available to developers, both on their hardware and other platforms, to help bring new shared experiences to the world. As the company that made these shared experiences possible and popular, it is a great idea to make that platform available to other developers because it will make it easier for developers to bring more experiences to their hardware.

Monster IlluminEssence LED Strip Mood Light Kit (PLuGHiTz Live Unboxed)

It's Black Friday, and that means some new products are available. This year, Monster has made available a new SKU in its IlluminEssence product line - a single LED strip. We've reviewed all of the other products, and expected that this new SKU would work the same way. But, after thousands of views in a few hours and dozens of comments, it was clear that we were wrong. So, we braved the crowds and headed to Walmart to purchase the last unit in our local store so we could try it out.

Unfortunately, this new SKU was definitely produced separately from the standard SKUs. The packaging is slightly different, and the manual is completely different. But, does that mean that the product is different? We find out!

[Black Friday] Use the Monster IlluminEssence LED Strip (PLUGHITZ Live How To)

It's Black Friday, and that means some new products are available. This year, Monster has made available a new SKU in its IlluminEssence product line - a single LED strip. We've reviewed all of the other products, and expected that this new SKU would work the same way. But, after thousands of views in a few hours and dozens of comments, it was clear that we were wrong. So, we braved the crowds and headed to Walmart to purchase the last unit in our local store so we could try it out.

Unfortunately, this new SKU was definitely produced separately from the standard SKUs. The packaging is slightly different, and the manual is completely different. In this case, the product seems to be defective. We were able to power it on (by plugging it in), but could not get the included remote to work with it, even after following the pairing instructions. We also weren't able to use one of our working remotes with the new strip. There is definitely a problem and you are NOT CRAZY!

November 24, 2019 - Episode 543 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Huawei is leaving networks, Half-Life is coming to VR, and Apple is temporarily skipping theaters.

Sphero RVR Coding Robot - Episode 210 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch shows off the newest STEAM toy from Sphero, the RVR (pronounced Rover). This new vehicle separates itself from the already crowded programmable vehicle kits in a variety of ways. First, and most obvious, is that the vehicle is designed for all terrains. That means that it isn't limited to being used inside, but can be used outside, and even in the grass.

This isn't the only aspect of the RVR that makes it versatile. As is, the RVR can be controlled through the Sphero app. You can also use the app to program it, using the block-based programming system. This can be a great learning system for kids and adults to get familiar with the included aspects of the RVR. However, this vehicle is almost infinitely expandable because you can add external control boards to the top.

Whether you want to explore the capabilities of the Raspberry Pi, Arduino, or Micro:bit controllers, you can use any of them with the RVR. By adding one of these boards, you can introduce a whole host of sensors, controllers, and external resources. This expansion can allow the RVR to go from a STEAM toy to a sophisticated robot. platform. You can use it as a roving security camera, an environmental scanner, and so much more.

In addition to the additional sensors, you also get expanded connectivity options. Let the RVR stream live video to YouTube, or report sensor readings to Microsoft Azure. You can also combine external resources, like weather data, with local readings, to make decisions. All of these features can be used either as a learning experience for new hardware developers or as a pre-built robotics platform for more complex projects.

The Sphero RVR is available now. As of the time of this video, it is on sale on Amazon for $199 (regularly $249).

Setup a Monster IlluminEssence LED Strip (PLUGHITZ Live How To)

The idea of consumer LED strips is a fairly new one, and that sometimes causes some confusion. The good news is that we're here for you to show you exactly how they work. Making sure the strip has power is not entirely straight forward. The important thing to know is that the Monster logo and the LEDs represent the front of the devices, and must be plugged in with both facing the same direction. From there, it's as easy as plugging in the power cord, either to USB or a power outlet (depending on the model you have).

Another common question is whether or not you can cut the strip to length. The good news is that you certainly can. Simply find one of the cut lines (indicated by a clack line through 4 copper connectors) and cut. It is important to remember that once they are cut, they cannot be put back together. The new length is now the maximum length for the strip going forward. Before cutting the length, consider alternatives, such as tucking the end behind something or doubling back the length.

If you want to learn more about the product line, you can check out our reviews.

IlluminEssence Large Space LED Mood Light Kit

IlluminEssence Small Space LED Mood Lighting Kit

IlluminEssence 2-LED Bulb Mood Light Kit

IlluminEssence 16.4-ft LED Strip Mood Light Kit

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