Posts About: Accessories

How USBs Could Shape VR

Virtual reality has become a major tech phenomenon largely on the backs of high-powered computing and gaming systems that already existed. That is to say, while devices like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR are all still relatively new, you still need a high-end gaming console or in some cases even a powerful PC to run them. They are merely headsets, as highly capable as they may be; they need a little help from more robust systems.
While this may be true, however, it’s also true that the VR market – particularly for games – is expanding to include far more than just those experiences you might download on a PC or game system. Smartphones are certainly getting in on the action, such that mobile developers are now creating their own VR experiences on a regular basis. We’ve also learned that some online game developers are creating VR versions of long-established slot games, with NetEnt leading the way. These two developments actually cover quite a bit of the gaming industry. Mobile apps and online casino games can bring enormous numbers of users into the VR fold.

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Khanka Travel Case for Fire Stick

Because I’ve been somewhat footloose my entire life, I place a high value on things that are small and portable.  It’s the main thing that attracted me to Stick Computing in the first place.  The idea of being able to carry your computer in a shirt pocket was something I dreamed about for years.  Of course today we have many ways of achieving that same goal with either phones, tablets or Mini PC’s.

In addition to hand-held mobile devices, I’ve always been a fan of Laptop computers.  My first “laptop” was actually not called a laptop, but a transportable computer made by Compaq.  I purchased a Compaq portable in the spring of 1984 for a stunning $3,000 and change. It boasted a single half-height 5¼” 360 kB diskette drive and a whopping 10Mb hard disk.  At 28lbs, it was just barely what could be called portable and definitely not laptop.

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4TB My Cloud Personal Network Attached Storage

Stick Computers and TV Boxes add another dimension to your online life. If you’re reading this, you probably already have a number of ways to access your media, be it local or on the Internet. Most of us have at least some sort of phone, smartwatch or tablet for accessing content on the go, a laptop, PC or console for more complex tasks, such as writing or playing games and perhaps a smart, Internet connected device such as the Amazon Dot to make routine tasks even easier.

No matter what devices you own, they all share one thing in common, and that’s a need for storing and accessing data. If your primary device is a tablet or phone, then you’re probably already committed to the idea of using cloud storage for your data needs. Even though your phones and tablets can have storage expanded locally, they don’t come close to storing the file sizes required by large music or video libraries. Cloud storage, on the other hand, is virtually limitless if you have the funds to rent the space.

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Using your Fire Tablet as a Controller

I’ve written previously on the Amazon Fire TV Stick and several other of their home devices, including the Echo Dot. Although this blog is about Stick Computers and TV Boxes, as any owner of these devices can tell you, there’s plenty of opportunity to interface with your mobile devices. A phone or tablet paired with a TV Stick is a powerful combo.

Like many early adopters, I can get stuck with equipment that is rapidly obsoleted as companies rush to resolve first gen issues. I have a first generation Fire TV Stick, and aside from the abysmal control the navigation ring provides, it’s also lacking voice control input. Since it leaves a lot to be desired, I’ve tried various controllers and hybrid solutions to manage the Stick.

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Raspberry Pi 3 Kit

When it comes to computers, I’ve always been a do-it-yourself kind of buyer. I’ve been building my own PC’s for many years, and while I can’t claim that I’ve ever saved a lot of money doing so, I’ve always been able to get exactly the components I want and thoroughly enjoyed the process of putting it together. When it comes to builds, shopping for parts is half the fun.

In the Stick Computing category, there’s not much room for DIY in the systems themselves. You have to rely on external expansion possibilities to get your home-brew fix. Thankfully the USB port gives us a highway to Mini PC upgrades. If you add a USB hub to your Stick, you can add nearly anything that you can to an ordinary PC. I look forward to the day that even memory, processor, and graphics upgrades are possible. After all, with Thunderbolt interfaces, we’re nearly there.

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Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

I like to listen to music while I work.  I don’t know what I’d do if I ever had to work in an environment where I couldn’t listen to music all day.  My tastes have changed quite a bit over the years, and while I still enjoy a variety of music from Classic Rock to Jazz to Classical, for my working days I prefer to listen to what the broadcasters refer to as “Chill”.

My favorite Chill artist, and the one whom I’ve built my listening channel around is David Arkenstone.  Many gamers know Arkenstone for his contributions to Blizzard Game’s World of Warcraft and Starcraft.  He’s recorded a variety of other styles of music, including the Ah Nee Mah albums he created with then-wife Diane.  His haunting Celtic music is among my favorite.  If you don’t know about David Arkenstone, you should check out his work on Pandora or Spotify where it’s plentiful.
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HDMI Right Angle Adapters

The introduction of Stick Computers to the home entertainment family of products has opened the door to a whole new set of add-ons and accessories.  Some of them are indispensable and some are just nice to have.  A good keyboard, for example, is indispensable – while a good set of speakers is simply nice to have.  Depending on your particular viewing setup, a Right Angle connector can be a convenience or one of those Mini PC indispensables.

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Logitech S150 USB Speakers

If you’ve had difficulty running Bluetooth speakers while also having paired input devices like mice and keyboards – as well as streaming over the WiFi, you are not alone. I have a nice set of  speakers that are just sitting on the shelf because I can’t get them to work reliably with my Android PC.  You see, my favorite Stick Computer has only single-band WiFi, and it’s more common for devices in the 2.4Ghz range to get interference from Bluetooth devices.  For that reason, it’s better not use a Bluetooth speaker to stream audio from your single band WiFi connected stick.

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Micro SDHC Memory

If you’ve owned a Stick PC for any length of time you’ve probably encountered your share of quirks and limitations connected to the format.  One of the more constricting aspects of Mini PC’s is the small amount of storage that comes built into the device.  Up from 4 GB and 8 GB of the earliest units, the more recent crop have 16 and sometimes 32 GB of Flash storage.  While this may be fine for some, and if you’re simply streaming media it may not be a limitation, but for those who prefer to keep things local, or install games and apps from their favorite web store, the need for expansion comes quickly.

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Keyboards for Stick Computers

No matter how much research you put into finding the right Android Stick PC or TV it will all be for nothing if you don’t have the right controller.  There are many options in keyboards, keypads and game controllers and finding just the right one for you is an important factor in getting the most from your Stick PC.  In case you haven’t looked into any of the many varieties of keyboards and controllers, I’ve compiled a short list of your options so you can hopefully find the right product for your needs.

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