EVO 1 from Understands

Just to let you know, I am not reviewing an Apple Computer for this. I don’t think I could get the big Apple to send me one, but I was able to get this company known as Understands to send me the EVO 1. It is that wooden thing that you see there.

I have to admit, for an accessory that is made for Apple products, it certainly doesn’t have the usual sterile look of Apple accessories. One would think that a stand would have less wood and more white plastic, but Understands really…understands.

The wooden look of the EVO 1 really works well for Apple, and I am not certain why. Perhaps it is some kind of contrast thing going on. The only thing that could make it not match is your desk, but it will camouflage on any walnut wood desk.

So, besides being a great stand for some elevation, there are some great features. It has a drawer, and this drawer has some holes in back, just in case you want to run some wires through it.

As someone who has reviewed it, I was concerned about one thing: splinters. I found that the edges were smooth, and it is pretty good craftsmanship.

If you want it, you can get it on the Understands website for about $139.

Our Review of the Movavi Video Suite, and How To Make Videos

If you are anything like me, then you have subscribed to a lot of video channels which are nothing more than amateurs who know how to make video better than can. Chances are, all they do is point the camera and edit it, but the mystery of video editing may allude the beginning video user. Fortunately, the Movavi Multimedia Software has you covered.

In case you haven’t noticed, it was brought to my attention that this software existed, and so I did the 7-day trial. From the moment that the software downloaded, the window showed up with a very instinctive interface.

How instinctive is this? Well, I have always wanted to make videos, and back when I was at CES 2018, I wanted to do some kind of video spot on playing Pokemon Go while I was there. Of course, I wanted this to be “raw”, so I just did some footage of me walking down the strip, somewhere near the Palazzo/Venetian/Mirage area. I had seen other YouTubers do this, and I had about 8 or 9 small video clips that I filmed in the order that they are shown.

So the only problem I had was how I was going to stitch these clips together. Thanks to Movavi’s Video Suite, all I did was hit the “Add Video Files” button and upload the clips in a row. They were pretty much stitched together.

All I needed was just a Title Screen, and it was also very easy to make. I just needed to type the right words, and there it was. I probably could have done more work on this, but I was pretty impressed with what it could do in a very short time.

I didn’t really want to make an ending credits sequence, but I remembered that I had taken some video footage of the Bellagio fountain playing “Viva Las Vegas” from the King himself, and I might as well make good use of that. Just to let you know, it was very easy to crop video clips, and the minute and one half of video was down to ten seconds. Again, it was easy to drag and drop that vid in there.

Now, there was only one thing that I wanted if I could get it, and that was transitions. As it turns out, I just hit a button, and the transitions were put in automatically between my clips. What I finally got was something like this:

You can see way below that I was able to save my video project, and then upload it to YouTube. I can tell you that it was pretty easy, and I think it is incredible how easy it is to do this.

I haven’t even got into some of the features. I think it is strange that when I put in a DVD to watch, the first thing that Movavi did was ask me if I wanted to put it somewhere. I am definitely going to have to get into the particulars of transitions like stickers and the like. Hopefully, they won’t give the video a look that is amateurish, but I could probably say that about my current work:

Anyway, I really feel like Movavi is the video editor for me, and I hope to do it on more video endeavors. I might not be the next YouTube star, but hey, at least I have the tools to do so.

Now, if you want the Movavi Video Suite, it costs about $79.95 for a Personal License, and $169.95 for a Business License. I highly recommend heading over to Movavi’s site if you are interested in learning how to make videos and looking over at what else is available to, while you are at it.

The Path of Motus Game Review

I’m going to tell you that The Path of Motus is a very different game, and at first, I thought different was bad. What attracted me to this work is that I suspected this game was made for people on the autism spectrum. After all, there is kind of a thing with Minecraft and people with autism, and if you don’t believe me, do some kind of Internet search. The game looks like Minecraft with its big tree and squares.

If nothing else, I thought the game was for younger players, so I had my youngest son play The Path of Motus. He is also on the autism spectrum, and though we only had a limited time to play, he seemed to enjoy it. What I told him was this was a game against bullying.

In case you don’t know, anti-bullying is like the “just say no” of this age. My oldest daughter has shared with me that she really hates how her school has constant anti-bullying messages. I went into The Path of Motus thinking that it would be a PSA game. After all, there are PSA shows like Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, as well as lots of PSA comics like Captain America vs. the Asthma Monster (look those both up later). I’m pretty sure that you know the drill of these works, as the moral usually comes first and the story is just there servicing it. Its one of the worst way to write, and I was concerned that The Path of Motus was going to end up like that.

Let me just take a brief moment to say that good writing of film, TV, and books has the ability to tell a story and share a moral but not get preachy. For the most part, video games don’t really have morals to share like this. This does not mean that video games don’t make you think about life, as a friend of mine who played Bioshock can attest to. I mean, we should be inspired by what inspires us, like Star Wars or The Legend of Zelda.

Okay, I went off on a long tangent there, so let’s talk about the game. The game centers around Motus, who is this goblin who lives in the middle of this forest. Apparently, this forest is surrounded by a bigger, darker forest, and no one has ever gone through it. Naturally, Motus wants to explore it, and this begins what looks to be a platformer game.

Now, in most platforming games, you face off with enemies, and The Path of Motus has no shortage of that, taking the form of other goblins. These goblins will literally shoot words at Motus, but they can be blocked if you shoot back. I played the PS4 version, and the rule was that you can block a green blast with another green blast, with the triangle button. The same goes for word blasts of other different colors, and these blasts are words like “Hey” or “Stop”.

In other words, you stop words with other words. Say, I think that is a way to stop bullies, right? Of course, the words can take out the bullying goblins, and they disintegrate into a swarm of words. I don’t know if that is a good thing to teach, but there it is.

The issue is that bullying is a very complicated product, and I have to say that The Path of Motus handles them very well. I admire that Motus is a character who likes to be alone and is very creative, and as someone who has been a victim of bullying, those attributes sadly paint a target on your head for bullies. In other words, there is a serious issue going on, but I think that the game is succeeding to teach something great.

One thing I know from McGruff the Crime Dog’s anti-bullying PSAs is that “friends trump bullies every time”. There is a part in the game where a friend helps you out, and you have to do that whole switch-off.

I’m going to spoil a part of the game where you can join the bullies, and end up on drugs. Yeah, I’m serious. You join up with these druggie goblins, and there is nothing you can do but restart the game just before you do this crossroads.

Some of you might remember my review of The Spectrum Retreat that the game is a lot of puzzles with great atmosphere, and The Path of Motus also has these interesting bridge building connect-the-dots puzzles. There are a lot of them, and they are pretty fun.

In short, The Path of Motus is a game that is fun for all ages, and it has a lot to say that is good. In fact, I would say that it is a very deep message that will get a lot of people thinking, without being really preachy.

Our Review of the KeySmart Pro and KeyCatch

Every once in a while, you discover a gadget that is so darn useful that you can’t help but wonder why it wasn’t already invented. I think I would like to say that the KeySmart Pro is the perfect gift and solution to something that everyone has: keys.

This KeySmart Pro has multiple selling points. The first is honestly the most useful, really, as it allows you to group your keys together in some kind of handy Swiss Army Knife formation. I have not other way to describe it than that, but these two screws at each end allow the KeySmart to come apart and store up to ten keys. Unfortunately, your thick car key fob will have to be coupled to the end of it. So much for the big jingle of keys and time to put them in an easy-to-use package.

Now the second selling point: you don’t lose your keys. Thanks to the Tile app, you can find your keys on a map thanks to your smart device. You can even make your keys ring so you can find them easier.

By the way (third selling point), the reverse is true. You can use the KeySmart Pro to find your phone, all at the touch of a button. By the way, if your phone is in silent mode, this cool “find your phone” feature will still work.

Oh, and did I mention the built-in flashlight? It has it, so that makes the fourth selling point, right? Just to let you know, there is a micro USB port for charging that light.

Oh, there is also a bottle opener, which make five selling points. Dang, you can also see on the KeySmart site that you can even get attachments like a 16 GB USB 3.0 drive ($25), a screwdriver, and a knife (both of these $12.49).

The KeySmart is available for $59.99 (and they get cheaper the more you buy). Oh, and I should mention that KeyCatch device in title, as it is a magnetic key hanger. While I don’t think it can hold a KeySmart, they are some stickable magnets capable of holding about 3 pounds.

Weego Jump Starter 22

Oh, this is going to be one of those “we haven’t reviewed one of these products in a while” reviews, isn’t it? Yes, for Weego, we go back three years for a review of Rechargeable Battery Pack. The Weego Jumpstarter 22 is definitely an upgrade of a simple mobile battery, as it can not only charge a phone or tablet, but jump start gas engines up to 5 liters or diesel engines up to 2.5 liters.

I’ve reviewed products like this in the past, such as the one from MyCharge. This Jump Starter 22 is good for jump starting boats, motorcycles, and 95 percent of all cars. I’ve also been told that it has 1700 peak amps and 300 true cranking amps, and I am not really certain what that means.

The Jump Start 22 comes with two Smarty Clamps that are capable of plugging in to the battery, and then the tapered pincers can go into all kinds of places. This Jump Start 22 is good for hot and cold temperatures, and it is also rated IP65 for water, dust, and dirt resistance.

Now, I couldn’t find any info about how many times you can charge your iPad, iPhone, or other USB device, but it takes 2.5 hours to fully recharge. It also has 1000 full charge cycles, and on charge can last over a year without use.

Oh, I should also mention that the Jump Starter 22 comes with a flashlight feature. That is going to come in handy should you need to jumpstart something, that is for sure.

All of this, and it comes in a strange lunchbox, available on the Weego website for $99.99.

CoalPower Cobalt, Carbon, and Power Fast Wall Charger

We had a great chance to review some great Coal Power products right after CES, and when I was able to obtain the great battery known as the Louie.

The Coal Power Cobalt

Now, I had a chance to review the Cobalt, and it is very similar to the Louie.

We are looking at 8,000 mAh with about 2 ports: 1) Type-C and 2) USB 3.0 (5v 3. A). It also comes with Tri-Force cable with micro, lightning, and USB-C to USB.

You can get the Cobalt with its lovely blue color and cool sexy pattern for about $45 on the Coal Power site.

The Coal Power Carbon

So now I’m going to move on to the Carbon. This version that I got to try was the 12,000 mAh version. In addition to the power increase, the color change makes it hard to see the sexy pattern I talked about before.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that this has three different ports: 1) Type-C and 2) USB 3.0 (5v 3 A) and 3) USB (5v 2.1 A). So that means that you can charge two different devices, and I will say that this battery, which fits in a breast pocket, has a lot of juice, no matter which version you have.

You can purchase it for $55 on the Coal Power site.

Coal Power Fast Wall Charger

I am using a small name for this particular product, but I believe that the full name is: “48 Watt Dual port wall charge with QC 3.0 for Android or Apple”. At some point, you have to abbreviate.

Needless to say, it has QC 3.0 for what I am told is a very fast charge. Not only that, it comes with that Tri-Force cord that I talked about in my aforementioned CoalPower reviews.

This particular device is available on the Coal Power site for $55.

One last thing before I close this review. The Coal Power products will be available exclusively on Amazon. So those links I just gave could be…misleading.

Our Review of The Spectrum Retreat video game

The Spectrum Retreat is a first-person perspective game that uses a lot of puzzle-solving. I am told that the creator, Dan Smith, got a BAFTA Young Game Designers Award (YGD) when he was 18, and it is easy to believe. Assuming that this is Mr. Smith’s first effort, it is quite a good one.

I will have to say from the get-go that The Spectrum Retreat is an acquired taste. If I had to compare the game to anything, I would say Myst. Granted, it is not as picturesque as that adventure on the surreal island, but The Spectrum Retreat is thick with elements of surrealism.

To begin, the main character (you) wakes up in a hotel, and finds there is someone at the door. It turns out to be a robot, and the Pemrose hotel seems to have one type of model that you can see in the image. The robot greats you like he was a human bellhop, and tells you to go to breakfast.

Of course, you need to do what the game tells you. Now here is where I have to question the game. You see, since the game is in first person, I cannot tell what the person’s reaction should be within the context of the game. After all, if I were staying at a hotel, and was greeted at the doorway of my room by this automaton, I would freak the hell out. By the way, I like the minimalist look of these robots with their white shell of a skin and speaker for a mouth.

However, I don’t think that I am spoiling the game in revealing that you play a character who has amnesia. I have heard that this is a lazy video game storytelling convention, and done to death because it is easy to write a game in which the main character knows as much as the player about the game’s setting: nothing.

This is one of those games where you have some kind of voice with you to give you advice. It reminds me of The Journeyman’s Project 3 (another cool nineties game), but the voice isn’t funny. In fact, that voice is pretty serious, attempting to guide you through the hotel. In some cases, I believe that the voice gives you too much advice, as she reveals clues that are a little too much. I won’t spoil it like she does, but take my word for it, you will know what I’m talking about when you play the game.

Note that I didn’t say “if you play the game”. I would recommend this game if you like games of the nineties with their point-and-click functionality. Much of the images of game, including the one that I use, show the beautiful art-deco design of the Pemrose hotel. This is a big feature of the game, and of the hours that I have played so far, it appears the main character must go up the floors of the enigmatic hotel while solving puzzles in between.

It’s the puzzles that I really want to talk about. While the Pemrose hotel has a really cool art deco look to it, many of the puzzle levels have a sterile look to them. As the vocal assistant says, much of these puzzles involve changing your PDA/Smartphone/I don’t really know into something of the same color of a wall or a floor to walk through it. Again, this makes sense when (again emphasized) you play the game. You might be disappointed as the visual style of the puzzle areas is such a stark contrast to Pemrose.

Still, The Spectrum Retreat has a backstory that I’ve not finished discovering as yet, but I enjoy finding the clues for it. Again, you can draw similarities between Myst and even Bioshock. The one thing that this game has is that unnerving feeling. I mentioned in my review of The Station how games with no music create an eerie atmosphere, making the player jump with each unknown noise. The end result is nothing short of unsettling, and it works to the game’s advantage.

You can play The Spectrum Retreat on Steam, PS4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch. Again, I’m going to emphasis that you really should do this.

Amber: Your Personal Hybrid Cloud Storage Platform

The era that we live in is strange. Remember back when we took photos on a camera? This was where all our pictures came from, complete with the inconvenience of development. Back then, most of us organized our pictures into an album, or, to a minimalist degree, a shoebox. Now, our pictures are completely out of the box, on smartphones, tablets, computers, and occasionally…a camera, assuming we even own one. So where does that leave us? A place where we have our pictures, videos, and other memory data…in every place. This is where Amber comes in.

What is Amber?

Amber is a way of automatically gathering photos, videos, music, and any other kinds of documents from household devices. It can do this automatically and store them all in one place, and that place is a digital fortress of solitude for our memories.

You can see in the photo below that there is some hardware involved. In the two photos that I have shown so far, there isn’t really a good feel for the size of this hard drive box. I have been told that the Amber box is over six inches in height, which might seem kind of large, but there is a lot of memory (1 or 2 TB) and a router inside. However, I think that what Amber does is worth a device three times its size.

I had a chance to talk with Dr. Pantas Sutardja, the founder, president, and CEO of Latticework, and creator of Amber, his company’s first product. Considering that the user can access their files from about everywhere thanks to a handy Android and iOS app, I asked if Amber was a “personal cloud”. He told me that he wanted to avoid the term “personal cloud”, but the Amber website calls it “Your Personal Hybrid Cloud Storage Platform”.

Copyright Universal Studios

When I asked why it was called “Amber”, his only response was that the name was bright sounding, and implied that this will preserve people’s memories in Amber. Hey, if it worked for dinosaur blood in Jurassic Park, why not? I’m sure Dr. Hammond would “spare no expense” to put his memories of his grand-kids in a digital file in Amber, along with his dinosaur DNA.

Amber Can Be Used From Anywhere

Okay, I probably extended that Dr. Hammond metaphor way too far. However, do I need to talk about the benefits of Amber? I mean, I’ve got a family, and we all have smart devices that are full of pics, videos and other files. It just makes sense to put in them a place that is secure and centralized. If Amber can do that, more power to it.

Best of all, if I want to show someone a video or photo that is on Amber, I can do it from anywhere that I get cellular phone service or Wi-Fi. All I need to do is open up that application, and I can access whatever photo, video, or any file that I want. Oh did I mention that Amber can hold pretty much any type of digital file? It can. I should also mention that Dr. Sutardja told me that Smart TVs should be compatible with Amber. Oh, and don’t worry about privacy, because you will have that too.

While I am the subject of things about Amber that I like, the slogan is the best: “it’s not just your data, it’s your life”. Now to something else that I need to address, this video:

Okay, I have to say that this video brings up a lot of good things, as it is great to have memories. Then the video gets kind of potentially dark as it appears that the father is not in some of them. Especially when it gets all black and white, he’s wearing a fireman’s uniform, and you hear some radio chatter. Then there is the little kid asking about his father not being in the video. All I could think about was how it gave me the serious “feels” more than a Pixar movie, because I thought the daddy was killed in the line of duty.

I had to admit, it was pretty serious, even, dare I say it, “hardcore”. Fortunately, the father was alive and well, and the mother could do a search for his pics with an image recognition software alone. I will admit that I like that, and makes up for the video’s serious…seriousness.

After all, we all have photos and memories that have the potential of getting lost in our daily routine, and if Amber can put them in a place where they are easily accessible from anywhere, than it has paid for itself. This would be a good time to discuss price.

The Price of Amber

According to the Amber website, the device itself (an appropriate black box) costs about $399.99 (early bird price) for the 1 TB model. An upgrade of another TB is about $250, and should be available in October 2018, just in time for the holidays. Oh, by the way, there are no subscription fees, and it is all private.

We at The Geek Church review a lot of devices during the holiday gift-giving season, and if you have a family in mind, this seems like a perfect gift that you might want to order before the holidays really kick into high gear.

The Geek Church is Changing!

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Disney movie Moana. Of course, the film is over a year old and ready to watch on Netflix, so if you haven’t seen it now, you probably never will.)

(Another Warning: This post contains a writer who is trying to make a meme out of something. It’s shameless, I know, but I like spreading good news.)

It’s been a while since I have posted, and that always means that I’m trying to figure stuff out when it comes to the site. For the past year or so, we have been doing our usual product reviews, but we want to really kick it up a notch. Several notches, indeed.

When I started this site about a decade ago, I wanted to create a site that brought the latest in tech to the Christian, church-going crowd. As my wife and I wrote about a year ago, we left the Christian church because we felt they had lost faith in what truly matters, accepting a culture readily available to them that does not embrace the biblical values they think it does.

I’m going to break this fourth wall of being writer more than I usually do in the majority of my reviews. The issue is that I embraced the conservative Christianity of the early nineties because I was sick of the negativity of the world. At the time, it was a great jump-start, but I see now that much of the Christianity has become part of the negativity, and this included myself.

Note I use that in the past-tense. About a year ago, I started a job in order rescue me from drowning in even more debt, even though it was a job I was reluctant to take. I’ll talk about that work in another post, but sometime I discovered the movie Moana.

This was a film that I didn’t want to see, and heard hardly anything about. (The fact that Frozen gets a whole lot of praise and no one talks about Moana is a horrendous crime, by the way.) I dismissed Moana as one of those films that I would see if I could watch it for free, and I found a way. I then found that once I started watching this film, I couldn’t stop watching it.

There was a good reason for this. In the film, Moana is about to become the new chieftain of her tribe, who live peacefully on some Polynesian island in some ancient time. Moana is constantly trying to see what is beyond the reef, but her parents know from experience that it is dangerous to go out too far into the ocean. Eventually, the plants and the fish in the village begin to die, and Moana can no longer accept the false safety of her island, and is forced to leave.

This leads to the typical hero’s journey adventure, and a big part of Moana’s realization of her identity is a symbolic stack of stones. In context of the film, this is how her island passes on their leadership, by placing a stone atop another.

The other day, while I was on the way to work, and I noticed some stacked rocks near the road. It is clearly not a natural formation, and I don’t know who took the time to create stacks of rocks like in Moana. Granted, they are not stacked as high as the one on Moana’s island, but I took advantage of it.

If you have seen the film, then you know that Moana doesn’t put a stone on the stack, but a shell. I remember when I first saw that, I thought: “Now no one can put their rock on that stack of leadership”. Then I realized that this is the point.

The truth is there are times when it is necessary to stop a tradition, and yet still honor it. Yes, putting a shell on top of the stack of rocks stops the tradition right there, but it is a necessary change. There comes a time where you need to embrace the danger, or neglect will take you over completely.

For me, I happened to have a seashell. I honestly don’t remember where I got it from. I think we picked it up at the beach years ago, and I believe my daughter was going to throw it away. Needless to say, I’m attempting to jump-start a meme with it:

Therefore, I’ve decided to dedicate this site to telling positive news. We are going to still do product reviews, but you are going to find a lot of commentary about just about everything. The point is, I’m going to really do a lot on this site, and it is going to lead to some massive growth.

All I can say now is stay tuned, or subscribe, and stuff.