Consumer Tech: Nintendo Switch

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Once in a while I like to talk about the consumer technology I use or my family uses. Like my Airpods recommendation a few weeks ago, I want to delve in another slice of consumer technology: Nintendo’s home/portable console hybrid, the Switch.

I’ve owned my Switch since launch day, so I’ve been able to assess the system and give a full impression/review (in as few words as possible).

I’ll preface this by saying that in my household we have the following gaming consoles and portables along with the Switch: Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, New 3DS XL, 2x 2DS consoles, PS Vita, and a dedicated gaming PC. Being a lifelong Nintendo fan and gamer – and passing along that lifelong enjoyment to my son – I’ve been fortunate to have owned and played most of the Nintendo systems released since the original NES and Game Boy. The Switch in a way is a culmination of what Nintendo has learned in both the home and portable space; the pace of technology has finally caught up to that vision.

It’s too early for me to say if the Switch is one of my favorite consoles ever, let alone a Nintendo-developed one, since its gaming library hasn’t fleshed out yet. However, it’s truly one of the best designed entertainment devices I’ve ever used as the balance of power, portability, and ease of use is easily apparent. For example, the Joy-Con controllers, while they do take some time to get used due to their quirkiness and size, are truly brilliant as they give many games instant local two-player action. Together they roughly make a traditional controller, but the beauty of the Joy-Cons is using them separately for quick pick-up games. Look, there’s nothing like playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in the park, car, at work, or wherever and being able to immediately play with another person. The Switch has, in my mind, immediately revitalized the value and fun of playing with people side-by-side. It has carved a unique niche for itself that no other device in the market can do. Yes, we have iPads and other tablets, but the Switch is designed from the ground-up to be a pure gaming experience anywhere with little to no compromise.

So far, I’ve enjoyed “Zelda” of course, but you have gems such as Lego City Undercover (originally released on the Wii U exclusively) and Puyo Puyo Tetris that take full advantage of on-the-go multiplayer. Once the Switch picks up more momentum later this year with new game announcements, everyone is going to want one (if not already).

I must also quickly note that the Switch Pro Controller is simply one of the best traditional gaming pads I’ve ever used – easily on par or better in some cases than the Xbox One Elite Controller, which is twice the price. The Switch Pro Controller is very comfortable and the buttons/directional-pad just ooze quality.

There’s much more I could say about the Switch, but I’ve laid out the points I wanted to make. Again, as a console/PC gamer who has played/owned nearly every Nintendo system at one point, I highly recommend buying a Switch. It has and will continue to singlehandedly rejuvenate social gaming. When modern society often feels isolating and lonely, the Switch helps to bridge the gap between people and – for once – have fun together.

Defensive Security Podcast

I’m an avid podcast listener, especially with my nearly three hour commutes to and from work. Also, I’m still a total n00b when it comes to cyber security in general. A few weeks ago I recommended one security-focused podcast I like. Another one I’ve been listening to is Defensive Security. It’s two guys in the security industry discussing security-related news and security strategies (with some humor thrown in for good measure). It’s not nearly as entertaining or as engrossing as Security Now! but it’s informative in its own right. Worth a listen, considering the glaring lack of good podcasts covering cyber security.

A Quick Intro to HDFS

After a busy and eventful week leading up to Easter Sunday, I’m back to talking about tech, security, and all things related.

Today, at work, a client was having issues with HDFS service running in Cloudera, in particular with namenodes. Again, part of the difficulty of supporting Hadoop systems is the relatively large number of services you have to know – at least on the surface level. HDFS, which stands for Hadoop Distributed File System – originally inspired by the GoogleFileSystem –  is the part of the overarching Hadoop architecture that is designed to store very large files across nodes within a cluster and achieve redundancy of those same large files. In the whole Big Data scheme of things, HDFS is what makes very large storage requirements possible, as one could theoretically take commodity hardware, each with large amounts of disk storage, and make each piece of hardware a node in the cluster.

To get further acquainted with HDFS – as I’ll need to do myself – here are some links to get started:

https://wiki.apache.org/hadoop/HDFS/
https://www-01.ibm.com/software/data/infosphere/hadoop/hdfs/
http://www.tutorialspoint.com/hadoop/hadoop_hdfs_overview.htm
https://hortonworks.com/apache/hdfs/

Zookeeper: The ‘Glue’ of Hadoop

Part of what makes working with big data difficult is the number of services and platforms that need to work together. You need Flume to ingest data, Hbase to store the data, HDFS to distribute the data across multiple nodes, Solr to index the data and make it searchable, and many more other pieces in between. Hence, that is why you have Apache Zookeeper as that service that gets the other services talking to each other. It’s that intermediary between the services that makes working with all these services far less complex (but even with Zookeeper, it’s still very complex).

To read up on Zookeeper from the source, here is the “official” documentation: http://zookeeper.apache.org/doc/trunk/

Consumer Tech: Apple Airpods

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I love audio. It’s just that buying higher-end audio equipment is incredibly expensive. I already have a video game and photography hobby, so spending too much on reproducing high-quality audio recordings is a no-go for me.

So nowadays I just focus on convenience rather than sheer quality when listening to music, talk radio, and podcasts. I especially like bluetooth wireless headphones. I’ve had a number of them through the years and my most recent pair before getting the Airpods is the Bose SoundLink II. I enjoyed them because they were comfortable, but they lacked bass response and overall volume. Not too mention, took up quite a bit of space in my bag since they’re traditional headphones.

Enter the Airpods. When Apple first announced them, I didn’t think much about them because they simply looked like cooler wireless versions of their wired earbuds. However, I began reading some rave reviews about them and wanted to get a pair. I knew supplies were strained, but I didn’t know the extent until I realized an order would take about six weeks to ship. To this day, you have to wait until sometime in April to get these since they’re all sold out. I managed to snag a pair from a shipment earlier this month. After trying these myself, I understand the demand for them.

To me, the Airpods are Apple’s coolest new product in recent memory, including the Apple Watch. What impressed me about these is the sound quality and the ease of use. The carrying case – I didn’t know this – acts as a portable battery for each individual Airpod. When you remove one Airpod, it’ll pause your audio automatically; put your Airpod back into your ear and the audio starts playing again. It sounds all gimmicky, but these features work and are very useful and practical. I’ve experienced some weird audio glitches here and there (as you would expect with a fully wireless product), but for the most part I’m amazed by how the audio is kept in sync, pumping out acceptable to great audio quality that rivals the wired earbuds – at least to me. No, they’re not as good as my 12-year-old Audio-Technica A900 ART headphones, but for being fully wireless, they’re second-to-none in its product category.

For those with iOS devices looking for a pair of reliable wireless earphones, this is a no-brainer. Just have to wait a bit for the next shipment, but it’ll be worth the wait.