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2017

January 2, 2017
Wow, I just realized something. I've been updating this site since December 1996. (First 3-4 years was a different adress before I registrered this domain, but same site) Yes, I just crossed the 20-year line! Congrats to me then, ey? ;-)

It's the one time in the entire year that I still take the time to sit down and do a proper 'blog' entry if you like. I talk about the year that was with a particular focus on technology as that's one of the things I'm interested in and usually have an opinion about. 2016 was an interesting year for a lot of reasons, but lets start with the less important stuff..
Did I get any cool upgrades to my computer etc? Well.. Almost, but no. I build my computer(s) myself so when I do I usually put stuff in it that will age gracefully. And indeed, the oveclocked (4.1GHz) intel i7 CPU still does the job after, I think, 3.5 years. I also got 32GB RAM back then so its still plenty. But I decided it was time to replace the graphics card. Ordered an ASUS Strix nVidia GF1070, but alas, I had serious fan/noise issues with the card so I returned it, and then decided I'll simply wait to see what AMD's Vega architecture will do to the market in early 2017. If nothing else, it should force nVidia to lower its prices.
For a couple of years now I've been hoping that 'this will be the year' when I can finally find that 'perfect' 4k monitor that you simply can not argue against... (argue against it being a worthwhile upgrade over my current 24" 1920x1200 IPS Dell Ultrasharp). Well, so far I've been constantly disappointed with everything on the market until very recently. A couple of weeks ago, LG announced it's upcoming 32UD99 monitor. Might this be the one that will bring balance to the force? ;-) (Yes, Star Wars lingo) The monitor promises 4k, HDR10, Great color accuracy, 32" size.. The unknown factor is the price. If its decent, then this might be the one.. Or I'll be back next year complaining on the slow progress of 4k computer screens. (I mean, at one end of the spectrum you can get a curved 65" 4k TV for less than a decent ~27" 4K computer monitor, and as if the high dot pitch was the problem, well, take a look at the ridiculously dense mobile displays. In fact, my 5.3" Phone has a higher resolution than my 24" Dell Ultrasharp. The phone, an LG G5 has a resolution of 2560x1440 giving it a pixel density of 554ppi. Remember when Jobs used to call iPhone's 326ppi 'Retina display'. I have no other explanation for the lack of good computer monitors at sane prices than pure economics of supply and demand. The PC market is shrinking while smartphones sell in the billions and the world and his wife simply need a large 4k TV even though 98% of the content they watch on it is probably still 720p or worse. So come on 2017, I'm counting on you don't make me come back with another rant next year. ;-)

About the smart phone situation. Last year I was quite certain I'd be upgrading in 2016 and I did. After a bunch of years with Samsung phones, ppl around me were probably expecting me to show up with an Galaxy S7, but no. I looked at a couple of parameters that I considered vital: Replaceable battery, decent camera, extended storage option and a fair - not too inflated- price. The S7 does not meet the first and last criteria, so I simply picked up an LG G5 at a very reasonable €400 without a contract. Camera is not great tbh, but the rest is fine.

Moving on to gaming consoles. What's going on there. 2016 was actually a bit special. Sony did something that has not really been seen in previous console generations. They upgraded the PS4 with better hardware (about 50% more graphics oomph) and slapped a 'Pro' sticker on it. Microsoft released a redesigned Xbox One but with only marginal changes to the hardware. They did however announce 'Project Scorpio' which is going to top the PS4 by some 25% more power.
So why is this happening now. The PS3 and Xbox 360 were around for a long time getting no hardware improvements of the kind. Well.. One answer is VR. The VR hype has been strong since 2015 and 2016 actually saw 3 major VR launches, but more about that in a while. Sony's own VR solution, previously known as 'Project Morpheus' simply screams for more power, because obviously, VR is generating a stereo image, so it wants (roughly speaking) twice the power. The PS4 Pro actually only gives 150% of PS4, not 200% so it's not the perfect solution from that point of view. It also gained HDR capabilities giving developers the option to make some neat HDR effects if you happen to own a HDR capable TV. Now.. Previously, the console being one single hardware setup to worry about used to be its main strength compared to PCs where there are practically endless hardware combinations possible, forcing devs to make tons of settings available to users so they can tweak the experience best fit for their hardware. On consoles it was just 'start game and you know it will run fine' (more or less anyway). Now, Sony are not stupid, they know fragmentation of the market would be a very bad idea, so they came up with a bunch of rules for devs. All games simply must run on both PS4 and PS4 Pro. No exclusives are allowed. The extra power is to boost the visual fidelity and nothing else.
It is expected that Microsoft will implement a similar policy with its upcoming 'Scorpio' revision, due this fall / xmas.
And finally we got an announcement from Nintendo about their NX console. Well, its now time to forget the NX moniker and remember the real name, which is 'Nintendo Switch'. It will launch in March this year but the exact specs are actually still unknown at the time of writing. Nintendo did not talk about them in the announcement. The unofficial story is that it's powered by a customized nVidia Tegra X1. The Switch console itself is a stationary/portable hybrid not seen until now. Although if you look at Wii U, its a logical evolutionary step. The console consists of a portable screen with detachable controllers on the side and a stationary dock into which the screen is inserted at which point the console seamlessly switches to your big screen TV. Interestingly, the hardware running the games when docked is inside the portable screen, not the dock. The main processor however, runs at different speeds depending on if its docked or in portable mode. Its an interesting concept, and Nintendo having a fairly loyal fan base, I imagine it won't flop. If its a big or moderate success remains to be seen however...

Ok, now lets re-visit the VR revolution. Or is it? Well actually, no, its 'evolution' at best. But the big question is, will it 'stick' this time? I think that in a way it already has. But not because of the expensive Oculus Rift (that revived the whole VR head-mount idea) and competing HTC/Valve Vive. Of the big kits, Sony's Playstation VR probably is reaching the biggest user base, but the real difference, I think, is caused by the millions of cheap cardboards and plastic variations of it coupled with reasonably capable smartphones. As mentioned earlier, the ridiculously high dot-pitch in new phones actually comes to good use in VR devices.
Mass availability, low prices, these devices have great reach. The big expensive kits only reach the rich nerds ;-)

Last year I mentioned I had a 'low-key' site up and running, and yes, it's still around. It's called 'exretro.com' and still not ready for the public. However, I have exposed parts of it to the public at certain forums. It's supposed to be a nice source for retro gaming. My 5 cents is the pix I take of my old old computers and consoles. So at least that is a source of original content. More to come in 2017, I'm sure. I just don't know at what pace, so I better not say much more.

Moving on... Actually I'll just leave last year's text here: A few quick words about my photography because it's still something I do, time permitting. Gear-wise, it was frankly a stand-still year and for reasons not easily explained, I've been totally crap at updating my official photo-site. But as usual, the Instagram gallery here is still getting some attention.

That will do for the tech-stuff in 2016. Now a couple of words about my personal life. During 2016 I got used to the idea of being a dad for not one, but two kids. It's strange how quickly you adapt to new conditions. My son is just over a year old but I can barely remember how it was before he entered our lives. It's a fascinating journey and being part of them growing up and learning new stuff is rewarding to experience. Looking forward to 2017.

Now, I usually stay clear of politics and such, not because I'm not interested, but because it's an aspect I do not find appropriate to discuss in such forums such as this. But I will say this, 2017 will be an interesting year to follow from a political viewpoint too as I imagine we will face some previously unseen stuff. ;-)
Wether its related to the current state of the world, I don't know, but I found myself dig into a bunch of conspiracy theories all around on the internet in 2016. Compared to old times, its now easy to consume a lot of info in a short amount of time. The answer to the question 'Why' is something like the ending of that movie 'Life of Pi'. In a choice between boring reality(-ish) and a more spectacular (would be) truth, its -if nothing else- at least more entertaining to believe the more colorful stuff. :-)

OK, apparently my last last year was a bit of sports... More specifically about Liverpool. In 2015, Jurgen Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers as manager and it started of with both ups and downs. 2016 however has been mostly positive. The Reds are currently in 2nd place in the Premier League. With January transfer window now open (I think) we might get some more reinforcements. For now, things look good, but a lot of battles still to be won.

Ok then... For some 2016 was a bad year with war, various terror attacks on civilians around the world, and unusually many celebrity deaths. I agree, it was not the best year from that perspective. I wish you the best possible 2017 however. We don't know what's coming, so lets try to do the best we can. Remember, the year is just a number, what you'll be looking back at in 2018 is up to you. Over and out...


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