With Sony’s announcement of PlayStation VR coming in at $399 for the headset and corresponding gear to connect the solution to the PlayStation 4 (adjunct accessories sold separately), we now have the price points, feature sets, and solutions that will be available this year. Facebook-owned Oculus and the HTC Vive had announced their offerings prior to GDC 2016 at $599 (Oculus headset – controllers sold seperately) and $799 (whole solution included) respectively. If one takes a cursory look at the initial price tags, it would appear that PlayStation VR hit the sweet spot with their announcement. However, the further accessories required for a comparable overall experience will add to the final cost and are contingent upon support from the game developers. Realistically, an immersive stereoscopic experience for $400 doesn’t require many concessions as long as the realization is made that the motion control aspect that further enhances the reality of VR won’t be available at this price point. Oculus hasn’t provided pricing for their touch controller, which may mitigate the upfront price differential between the Rift and the Vive. Our last experience with VR was in the 90’s at a VR arcade at the local mall. The games, running on PCs and requiring clunky input devices that were tethered to a fixed station, was an impressive yet expensive experience. The dramatic resolution and frame rate boost afforded by modern GPUs will hopefully accelerate adoption, acceptance, and lead to improved economies that ensure mass market adoption.
The fine folks at PC World have published an article regarding a class action lawsuit against Seagate related to the viability and longevity of their 3TB Barracuda-based storage solutions. The supporting evidence from customer reviews and Backblaze’s experience with these drives on a large scale align with our own personal experience. Five of these drives were procured to populate a flash accelerated and lightly used Drobo 5D in April of 2013. At this time,
three four of these drives have failed under a usage pattern that doesn’t come close to that of a Backblaze storage pod. Unfortunately, one of the three drives failed one month after the paltry two-year warranty had expired. Packaging, or the lack thereof when drives are sold bare, doesn’t appear to be a factor in the overall failure rates. Firmware versions are not necessarily to blame for the failures of these models either. If you’ve experienced a premature failure on the specific models noted in the article, head on over to the Hagens Berman Seagate Hard Drive class action lawsuit page.
Today’s market for wireless routers, access points, and mesh networks provides an overabundance of choice for consumers. Perusing options online or walking through a local brick and mortar retailer can be a headache inducing experience. Selecting the right solution requires considerable research, evaluation of benchmarks or reviews provided by reputable review sites, and a pinch of luck related to not receiving a lemon or incomplete product. Sometimes, manufacturers may “pull a Volkswagen” with respect to the validity of their test results or operational capabilities. Cheaters never win, and the associated penalty for doing so always incurs some cost.
The level of support by the various manufacturers for remediation of security vulnerabilities, performance problems, and general stability issues can be a sore spot in overall satisfaction when investing in such a solution. If a manufacturer gives up on forward support for a given model, there have been viable open-source alternatives that can be flashed to replace the subpar standard firmware. Solutions such as Tomato, DD-WRT, and OpenWRT can breathe new life and improved performance into legacy wireless routers. Our personal experience with DD-WRT on a Cisco (a.k.a. Linksys) WRT120N router resulted in the remediation of connectivity issues with VPN solutions, operational capability to successfully use AirPrint with a wireless Canon printer, and a lack of daily reboots for the device.
Although the upgrade process and use of the granular controls within these potent alternative solutions may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the fact that they exist and offer up all one could ask for at a prosumer/SMB level is an effective means to avoid the potential to generate e-waste via a “rip and replace” migration strategy. However, there can be unintended consequences related to providing granular control over aspects of a system that is designed or planned to adhere to guidelines established by the FCC.
Back in September, the FCC communicated its desire to restrict open source firmware application due to the potential for modifications to interfere with frequencies that are normally restricted. While it may be solely advantageous to ensure the transmission capabilities of one’s wireless network have enough strength to mitigate neighboring pollution in areas with dense population of people and competing wireless networks, the overreach that is afforded with a modified firmware may introduce the risk of also stomping on neighboring frequencies that are not normally utilized for consumer-grade Wi-Fi.
TP-Link decided to get an early start on complying with the FCC’s requirements and has formally announced their strategy for adherence. Of all of the available wireless solution providers in the market, it is our opinion that they’re not in a solid position to do this. As was noted in the linked Ars Technica article, TP-Link does provide country-specific firmware. Attempting to access the parent tplink.com site within the US (sans any browser protections) will redirect you to tplink.us. Firmware differs considerable between the two, and missing dependencies between the Tether smart phone app and legacy firmware will either not function correctly or result in an unexpected reboot of the router.
The tplink.com firmware has a myriad of fixes that have still, as of this writing, not been replicated in the tplink.us firmware. This same situation exists for other makes and models within their product line (excluding their Google OnHub wireless router for obvious reasons). If there’s any vendor that DOES benefit from the capability to implement a more robust open-source offering, it certainly is TP-Link. Unless they’re planning to turn around their inconsistent nature of firmware support for the devices that will be produced moving forward, there’s a good chance that value-conscious consumers will look elsewhere for their wireless fix.