Ethereality News & Weblog

June 29, 2012

GPS and used car

The next run of the Becoming A Better Artist workshop has sold out again, and we’re going to allow five more students to squeeze in before we cut off enrollment, so hurry if you want to make it to the July run of the workshop.

Ever since I started using a GPS back around 2005, I couldn’t live without one. I’ve become completely dependent on the GPS–not just for driving direction, but to search for nearby shops, parking, gas station, etc, or even to mark where I parked my car so I could find it later if I forget where I parked.

The previous unit we used was a Magellan RoadMate 860T, and it was nicknamed affectionately as our “Guide Dog.” It wasn’t the best GPS–it had trouble tracking whenever we were in a city with large trees or tall buildings blocking it’s direct line-of-sight to the GPS satellites up in orbit. Now in 2012, the seven year-old 860T has been discontinued, and I can’t even buy an updated map for it, so I decided to upgrade.

After doing much research (reading online reviews, and watching Youtube videos demonstrating/comparing different models), I ended up using my iPhone as an GPS, and I have to say, despite my initial skepticism, the iPhone turned out to be an excellent GPS–much better than the RoadMate 860T we used previously.

The top three GPS apps on the iPhone seems to be Tom Tom:

Navigon (now owned by Garmin):

and Magellan:

All three happen to be the three biggest hardware GPS companies on the market. Garmin has its own GPS app called StreetPilot, but since Garmin bought Navigon, I would have to assume Garmin wasn’t feeling very secure in the quality of their own GPS app.

After trying out all three, I settled on Magellan’s app, because it has the features I preferred, such as the audio signal for when you should be making turns, the fast one-touch menu, and more updated POI (Points-Of-Interest) when I tried searching for restaurants and stores nearby.

I used to rely on the audio direction a lot, but now that I’m also using my iPhone as a jukebox while driving, the constant automatic raising and lowering of the music’s volume whenever audio directions are given, got a bit annoying. After trying the GPS without the voice/audio guidance, I realized I really didn’t need it. The visual cues are more than clear enough, and if I was paying attention while driving like I should, there’s no reason to need to voice/audio guidance.

The Tom Tom app is also very good, although at the time when I tested it, the POI search wasn’t as up-to-date as the Magellan app.

Navigon is actually my favorite in terms of GUI design, but it takes forever to bootup every time, so I won’t even consider it.

The amount of data these GPS apps use while navigating is very little, because they come with the maps already installed, so you don’t have to stream the map like some of the cheaper or free GPS apps do. I think a solid month’s of usage only added up to a couple hundred megabytes of data. The Magellan app also allows you to navigate even if cellular data is turned off, while Tom Tom and Navigon both require that you have cellular data turned on.

I got the iOttie One-Touch Dashboard Car Mount for the iPhone, and it works perfectly.

It even has a gel-type suction cup that works on the textured surface of the dashboard, instead of only on the smooth surface of the glass.

I especially like how all the GPS apps I mentioned have iPod integration, allowing you to control the iPod app right from within the GPS app. This makes it easy to skip and pause the music without having to switch to the iPod app. These apps also have pedestrian mode, so you use them while walking instead of driving. I also really like how I can search a POI and then can just call up the place right from inside the GPS app–very convenient. If someone calls you while you’re using the GPS app, it’ll allow you to accept or decline the call, and you can even keep the GPS app running while talking (of course, using a Bluetooth headset is highly recommend, or at least use the stock earbud with the microphone and volume button built right into the earbud wire).

There’s no way I’m going back to dedicated GPS apps, or the criminally expensive in-dash GPS that comes as options for cars. Spend less, get more, and have a GPS like right in your iOS device. An easy choice if you ask me.

If you’ve ever dealt with used car salesmen, you know just how rare it is to find one that didn’t reek of the sleazy “Hey, TRUST ME, I won’t lie to ya!” aura. Well, I had the pleasure of meeting the very first used car saleman who didn’t give off that vibe (and I’ve met many). In fact, he was such a pleasure to do business with because he was honest, sincere, courteous, and not pushy. It helps that he was quite young–only twenty years-old, and was studying at the university when his family business needed his help.

The kid’s name is Alex, and the fact he didn’t naturally gravitate towards selling cars as a vocation (he tried to avoid it) was probably a factor. He also had his own personal moral code that he brought with him to the used car sales business, and it’s very obvious when you talk to him. I felt like I was talking to an enthusiastic, friendly, and honest college kid instead of a jaded, slick, veteran jackal what was just waiting to empty my wallet. I also had a chat with his uncle while there (it’s a family business), and he seemed like a nice fellow too.

If you are looking for a used car and live in the Sacramento area, I highly recommend you talk to Alex, at Sacramento Auto Sales Center Inc.

Oh, and I ended up buying a 1997 Lexus ES300 from him. It’s going to be our temporary ride until our new home closes ESCROW, and my lender allows me to finance a new car (we’re buying a house in Lincoln, California). I put a new Pioneer CD Receiver in the Lexus (the stock CD changer was broken), and with the auxiliary audio input and my iPhone as the jukebox, I think this 15-year old Lexus is actually a pretty comfortable ride. I might even hold off on getting a new car if the Lexus remains problem-free for a few more years.

I finally finished Mass Effect 3, and overall, it was my least favorite of the trilogy. It was the least satisfying in many ways, and had the most WTF moments where you wanted to reach out and smack the game designers/writers. Along with Dragon Age II, I keep feeling like these two games marked the downward spiral of the Bioware we’ve known and loved. It’s very easy to just point a finger at EA and say it’s their fault, and why shouldn’t we? After all, it was after EA acquired Bioware that these recent problems with Bioware games began.

My main issues with ME3 were:

-The Geth and Quarian dilemma felt contrived, as if the writers forced a situation that didn’t feel logical or natural, just to create some kind of dramatic tension.

-The bad voice acting of Jessica Chobot and the old man after the credits really stuck out among the much better voice acting of the rest of the cast. In fact, that reporter character was completely unnecessary and probably shoved into the game as some kind of marketing gimmick.

– The ending sucked. There are countless discussions and articles about this on the web already, so I’m not going to say more–other than that I agree with the people who were pissed off about the ending.

– The Allusive Man’s entire storyline was predictable from the first moment to the last. Was it ever a mystery to anyone that he was indoctrinated? (No, I’m not going to make a spoiler warning about this–if you have half a brain then you’d already guessed from the very beginning that’s what’s happening with the whole Ceberus situation.)

So did I like anything about ME3? Sure. I thought EDI’s storyline was great, and the budding romance with Joker was cute. I enjoyed the combat, and some of the bantering between characters, like when Garrus and James were having their combat experience pissing contest, or when Garrus got me onto the roof of the Citadel and we had our own sharpshooting pissing contest. There were other storylines that I enjoyed. If only the overall framework of ME3’s narrative didn’t have glaring problems, it would have been a solid conclusion to the trilogy.

BTW, this is what my Shepard looked like this time around:

Quickie movie reviews:

Game of Thrones (season 2) One of my favorite shows on TV currently (along with Madmen, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and The Office). I had decided after watching season one that I wasn’t going to read the books and ruin my enjoyment of the TV show. There are tons of other fantasy series I could read that don’t have TV shows or movies being made for them, and I don’t see why I can’t go on enjoying the TV show without any preconceived notions, and read other fantasy series in the meantime.

Season two was just as intriguing as season one, and ended on one hell of a cliffhanger–especially for a huge zombie fan like me.

What I love about Game of Thrones is that you like all the characters, regardless if they are villains or heroes, kind or cruel, smart or stupid. The only character that’s so impossible to like for me is Joffrey–God I want to rip his head off his neck and drop kick it into a pool of lava.

While watching an episode, Elena, who’s been working hard on learning English, suddenly turned to me with a pout and said, “I just want my dragons back.” I was so proud.

Capitalism: A Love Story – There’s nothing in this film you don’t already know if you are educated about modern global economics. If you’ve seen a Michael Moore documentary, then you already know there’s always going to be emotionally manipulative scenes involving one of his predictable, mawkish antics. His messages are never bad–but how he delivers them is what irritates his critics.

Cop Out – This kevin Smith-directed cop buddy comedy had some surprisingly funny scenes, and it’s actually surprising how he finally got a handle on directing after all these years (whereas previously, he was more like a funny writer who did an half-ass job on directing). Red State, the movie he made after Cop Out, also displayed far better directing chops compared to his previous movies.

Baraka – Visually stunning, and there’s a sort of vague visual narrative involving various aspects of our civilization and our relationship with Mother Nature. It’s not the kind of movie you watch for a plot–it’s more like images and sound that form an abstract emotional response that has a defined theme. Definitely not for people who must have explosions in their movies, or don’t have the mental capacity to observe and contemplate on a philosophical level.

Bridesmaids – Hilarious, gross-out bromance movie, but with female characters instead.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher remake) – I have seen the original Swedish version, and thought it was pretty good. although the plot-twist was already spoiled for me, I wanted to see how Fincher would tell the same story. Despite the inconsistent tone of the opening credits that has almost nothing to do with the actual movie stylistically, I enjoyed Fincher’s version. I think Rooney Mara is a better Lisbeth than Noomi Rapace, and I actually enjoyed the fact that Fincher humanized her more in his version, which is more in-tune with the book, whereas in the Swedish version of the movie, Lisbeth was colder and less relatable.

Columbiana – The critics ripped this movie apart, and I didn’t think it was that bad. There are plenty of really idiotic and badly made movies that critics have given higher scores to. Those of you who liked The Professonal/Leon and La Femme Nikita might enjoy this, although it’s not on the same level.

Act of Valor – It’s not a very good movie at all, with wooden acting (by real SEAL operators) and mediocre screenplay, but if you are a fan of special forces and want something that’s realistic and true to how the operators really do their thing in the field, then this is for you.

John Carter – Very disappointing. The story was so compressed, that the characters were switching motivations with lightening speed, instead of actually portraying a credible, logical arc that’s shaped by events and internal struggles. The premise itself is also very dated by today’s standards–sci-fi/fantasy has marched on miles ahead by now, with far more sophistication and inventiveness. The John Carter legacy should have been left in the realm of classic pulp novels. The fact that the literary superstar, Michael Chabon wrote the screenplay, only makes it even more depressing. I honestly expected far more from a Pulitzer and Hugo award winning writer.

Space Battleship Yamato – Another disappointment. It was juvenile, simple-minded, illogical, and stuffed to the brim with insufferable, maudlin melodrama. Compared to the recent reboot and reimaginings by Hollywood, it’s very primitive in every way–be it storytelling, special effects, acting, or directing.

Gantz / Gantz: Perfect Answer – I hate to sound like such a sourpuss, but these were yet another disappointment. Over the years I’ve gotten very disappointed by how shallow and juvenile the whole anime/manga world has become–it’s nothing like the stuff I grew up with. Gantz and its sequel, Perfect Answer, are basically just another situation where a mangaka with no real understanding of storytelling foundations lucks out and makes it big because of the juvenile action and gratuitous nudity he includes in his manga, then the manga is adapted into anime and live-action movies. Like so many other Japanese sci-fi movies, it’s mainly just an exercise in style-over-substance, and whatever little substance it has, is quite simplistic and shallow.

21 Jump Street – Although the comedic take on the famed TV series is a refreshing reimagining, the movie itself was just okay. It’s got a few good laughs but nothing near the level of an “instant classic” like some of better comedies in recent years.

Safe House On its own, it’s a decent action/thriller, although you can’t help but compare it to the Bourne trilogy. As soon as you do that, Safe House becomes just an inferior imitator. The acting is really good though, and that’s to be expected from the caliber of the two leads.

June 25, 2012

Create for the love of creating–not for money or fame

Filed under: Arts & Media,My Life/Musings,Writing — Rob Chang @ 8:10 am

Recently, I wrote a post in a forum thread that was discussing the chances of today’s makers of short film (including animation) getting picked up by Hollywood and “making it big.” The discussion was a bit of a downer because some people were pointing out that for every person that wins the proverbial lottery, countless others never get anywhere, and despite creating with their blood sweat and tears, entering film festivals, promoting their work online, they remain stuck in obscurity. It made me think of something I’ve been thinking a lot about, and I wrote a post that seemed to have resonated with others who feel the same way.

The following is what I wrote:

In all the storytelling mediums–be it novels, comic books, songwriting, indie filmmaking, theater, etc, the general advice has always been to create something for the sake of creating it, and if you do it with the sole intention of getting picked up by Hollywood (or a big record company), then you’ll likely end up disappointed and feeling like you’ve wasted your time, energy, and money. But if you create for the love of creating, then it wouldn’t matter if the result ended up becoming a runaway commercial success and gained huge popularity, or only a small group of people supported it. Success would just be icing on the cake.

I was at the bookstore with my wife yesterday, and I was telling her that every time I look down the long aisles of novels, shelf after shelf, literally thousands of titles, I couldn’t help but think that there’s a lot of dreams that turned into ashes on those shelves. Each and every one of those novels took a damn long time to write (well, there are a tiny minority of writers who are absurdly fast–like a novel every few months, but they are not human. Most writers take years to write a book). Many of those writers had dreams of becoming popular and making the top selling lists, or winning literary awards, or getting picked up by Hollywood and made into movies, TV shows, or even video game adaptations. But none of it ever happened. Their books just wither into obscurity on the shelves until the bookstores don’t even stock the titles anymore and printing stops altogether. And many of those books are actually quite good–good enough to be on some people’s list of favorite books of all-time. In the end, all that remains are used copies circulating in used books stores, and second printings are never made. Those authors never even were able to make a living as writers–they all kept working day-jobs. They might have a dozen books published, but they still can’t make a living with just writing, and some had to stop writing because their day job takes up all of their time.

Imagine how that feels.

If you create solely for the sake of wanting to make it big, then you’re already damning yourself to a very high possibility of disappointment and heartbreak–even bitterness and depression. Maybe it’ll even kill your desire to create altogether. But if you create for the love of it, and for the sake of expressing your heart and soul, telling stories that have meaning to you, then you are doing it for the sake of creating.

One analogy I always give my students is the “guy singing in the shower.” A guy can thoroughly enjoy himself every time he belts out tunes at the top of his lungs while in the shower. There’s no other distractions and complications to detract from his joy of expressing himself and having a blast. He doesn’t care if anyone heard him and thought he sucked. He doesn’t care if record companies or American Idol comes knocking on his door wanting to give him more exposure. He doesn’t even need to make Youtube videos to share his singing with the world. He’s just doing it for the love of it. And you know what? He’s probably much happier in the purity of his love for what he’s doing. But the minute he starts to complicate things and wanting this and that for his singing, the happiness and joy he once felt could very easily be replaced by anxiety, disappointment, self-loathing, anger, depression, and multitudes of other negative/destructive emotions that come with being rejected, ignored, unappreciated, and criticized.

Obviously, if you want success and fame, then you have to endure the pressure and face possible disappointments, but I think what’s tragic is that many people lose sight of what it’s all about–that original love and passion. In the end, it all goes back to the love of creating and expressing yourself. If you never allow others to destroy the purity of the love you have for what you do, then the rest doesn’t matter all that much. You go on creating and expressing yourself simply because it brings you joy, and because it’s as natural and as necessary as breathing to you.

June 19, 2012

Audioengine A2 (small desktop speakers) review

Filed under: Audio & Music,Computers & Gadgets — Rob Chang @ 5:23 am

While staying at our temporary apartment in Sacramento, California (we’re here shopping for a new home), I badly needed a pair of small desktop speakers for my laptop. After much research online, comparing reviews and assessing the specifications, I ended up with the Audioengine A2‘s.

Here’s how they look in our current temporary apartment:
Audioengine A2's

Audioengine A2's

In the past, I usually travel with a very old pair of Altec Lancing ACS-90‘s I scrounged from the storage room scraps, when I contracted briefly at Broderbund/Red Orb in the late 90’s as a texture artist (working on Prince of Persia 3D). They used to be my designated traveling speakers, since the size is small enough to travel with and the build is fairly sturdy, and they actually sound quite good for their size. The sonic signature isn’t fatiguing, and there’s no annoying bass bloat like many of today’s speakers that try to impress typical consumers who don’t really care about fidelity and accuracy. Unfortunately, the power switch no longer works and I couldn’t fix it.

Because my Alec Lancing speakers are no longer working, I only took my Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphone and my Westone 4 in-ear-monitors on this trip. Now, I’m obviously a headphone lover, but the truth is, as much as I love headphones, they will always be secondary to speakers in my life, because speakers are just that much more dimensional, natural, and convenient to listen to; there’s nothing on your noggin that could fall off, or prevent you from hearing important audio cues like phones, doorbell, neighbor screaming for help, and it’s much easier to share music with others.

After enduring only being able to use headphones for a couple of weeks, I just couldn’t stand it anymore, so I hopped online and searched for current small desktop multimedia speakers with excellent reviews. After weighing the pros and cons (size, weight, cost, portability, sound quality) and reading a bunch of professional and customer reviews, I ended up choosing the Audioengine A2.

My main reasons for choosing the A2’s were:

1) In the range of highly rated tiny speakers, they are one of the smallest, yet has the sonic signature of larger, serious speakers (audiophile/pro audio grade, as opposed to typical consumer grade). This was according to all the rave reviews out there from professional reviewers as well as consumers.

2) Stereophile has a review for the A2’s that’s practically foaming at the mouth about how incredible they are.

3) They’re the only tiny desktop speakers out there designed and manufactured in a way that’s unlike typical small multimedia speakers that use plastic and harsh sounding tweeters. The A2’s use MDF cabinet, silk dome tweeters, and Kevlar woofers, which is usually only used for larger speakers. I’ve never seen this type of design/construction used for tiny desktop speakers.

None of that makes any difference at the end of the day though. The only thing that truly matters is how they actually sound. So let me cut straight to the chase.

Yes, these are nice speakers, and for the most part they do sound very good–better than you’d think they ought to at their size, but they have two severe flaws. First, look at the frequency response graph that came with the same Stereophile review that many people like to refer to.

The bass at around 180Hz is prominently exaggerated by around 6 dB or so, and if you use a parametic EQ with modereate bandwith/Q and cut the bass at 180Hz by about -6 dB, you’ll hear what neutral/accurate is supposed to sound like. With EQ’ing it sounds much better, with more clarity and definition in the lower frequencies instead of muddied, boomy mess. Then, turn off the EQ and it’ll be painfully obvious how colored the A2’s are, after having heard the more accurate/neutral EQ’d correction.

I’m surprised by how many people out there are claiming these speakers have tight, clean bass. Can they tell the difference between neutral/accurate frequency response from colored/skewed response? Apparently, most can’t, because if you look at the reviews on Amazon, only a tiny minority of the customer reviews criticized the exaggerated bass that muddied the overall sonic signature. Even the professional reviewers who are supposed to be pro audio/audiophile experts, seem to have glossed over this severe flaw.

I don’t know why Audioengine chose to color these speakers with muddy, exaggerated bass. They actually tweaked the EQ of the DSP chip inside the speakers to get that sound, as the speaker driver/cabinet/port design is not capable of producing that kind of exaggerated bass on their own. Such a shame. These speakers could have been brilliant, but as is, they are marred by the aggressive EQ/DSP tweaking by Audioengine for what I believe, an attempt to please the typical consumers who grew up with exaggerated bass that’s so common in today’s consumer audio.

Here’s something interesting though–the A2’s actually smooth out in the bass if you aren’t listening to them in the normal listening position (with the speakers placed directly in front of you, on either side, in equilateral triangle, angled 30 degrees towards each ear). So if you are just using the A2’s to play music while walking around the room, instead of sitting between the speakers as one normally would, then the A2’s actually sound better. Maybe that’s why Audioengine colored them that way, but I doubt it, since most people listening to desktop speakers while sitting at a desk–that’s why they’re called desktop speakers. If they wanted to color the A2’s for general room listening, they could have added a bass-boost switch, so those who do listen sitting down at the desk and turn off the bass boost.

Aside from the coloration in the bass, I do like these speakers a lot. The mids and treble are very nice and smooth, though at around 900Hz and 4KHz, it could use around 3 to 5 dB of boost with moderate bandwidth/Q, in order to reach better accuracy/neutrality. But most speakers that aren’t high-end would display some kind of dip or peak in the mids or treble, and the A2’s overall frequency response in the mids and treble is good enough that I would feel fine not EQ’ing them. But because I must EQ the bass, I might as well take care of the mids and treble too.

Here’s the EQ correction I use to make the A2’s more neutral/accurate:
Audioengine A2's

In terms of visual design, the A2’s are really nice to look at (the white version is especially striking), and they’re also constructed very well; they feel just like professional studio monitors, but shrunken down to miniature size. Anyone who’s familiar with the general quality level of small desktop speakers on the market can immediately tell that the A2’s are much higher quality than the typical plastic toys out there.

Here are a few official photos from Audioengine:
Audioengine A2's

Audioengine A2's

They coms in black as well:
Audioengine A2's

Audioengine A2's

The A2’s use an AC adapter for power supply, and that’s totally fine by me. I personally never understood why some people hate the power blocks. I think they’re far better than wall-warts, and also better than adding bulk to the product’s size. Some reviewers like to point out that the A2’s use “real speaker wires,” but I’m not sure if it’s really relevant, except for maybe that you can use your own custom-length wire if you need to space the speakers very far apart (which isn’t a good idea anyway if you want to maintain any semblance of decent stereo-imaging).

The only other thing I dislike about the A2 besides the exaggerated bass, is the fact that the volume knob is placed in the back. Seriously, that’s just a really bad idea, because most people who would buy this type of tiny speakers aren’t using monitor/speaker controllers, and controlling volume with the computer software is just too dangerous; you’re one computer/software crash away from blowing out your speakers and damaging your ears permanently. Audioengine says that there’s no room for a volume knob in the front, but why can’t they think outside the box? I’d have preferred they charged a little more and provided a separate volume controller knob that’s plugged into the speaker, with about a foot long of cable (sort of like a wired remote control).

Overall, I would say that I have mixed feelings about the Audioengine A2’s. On one hand, it’s a quality product that’s rare in the world of tiny desk top speakers. On the other hand, the exaggerated bass can be a deal breaker for some (unless you EQ the speakers like I do). But once EQ’d, the A2’s do sound damn good, producing a balanced, pleasing sonic signature, and can reproduce low frequencies meaningfully down to about 60Hz without distortion. That’s no easy feat for a pair of tiny speakers. If Audioengine had voiced the A2’s without the bass exaggeration, it would have been one of the best price vs. performance ratio products I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Luckily for me, I don’t mind using EQ to refine my audio system–it’s something I do all the time anyway in my studio with all my speakers and headphones–all of them are fine-tuned for ideal neutrality/accuracy. If I’m doing that to my $7,000 reference studio monitors (using IK Multimedia’s ARC System and additional EQ), then perhaps I shouldn’t expect a $200 pair of tiny speakers to perform perfectly without any EQ.

In terms of competition, there are maybe about two or three competitors out there that can match the Audioengine A2’s in terms of sound, construction, and looks, but they tend to be either bigger in size, or too small to have any meaningful bass, or more expensive. Off the top of my head, here are a few alternatives (2.1 systems don’t count, since they include a separate subwoofer):

Audyssey’s Media Speakers

JBL’s Control 1 Pro

Bose’s Computer MusicMonitor

In terms of accessories, Audioengine sells angled speaker stands for the A2’s (it’s the black wedge under the speakers you see in some of the photos). At $29, they are expensive for a couple of rubber wedges. If you are handy with tools, you could build something similar with wood or plastic. They also sell wireless adapters/receivers, wireless DAC, and other quality products.

Audioengine makes a subwoofer (the S8) that you can get for the A2’s, and on paper, the subwoofer’s specifications look really good (only 11″ cube, with 8″ driver, and reaches down to 27Hz). I’m probably not going to get one, because the only reason I got the A2’s is for portability during traveling, and the A2’s by themselves already weigh far more compared to typical small desktop speakers (roughly 6.7 lbs. for the pair, not including the AC adapter). I might consider getting the sub to keep it in the studio though, so that I can use the Audioengine A2’s with the sub as a complete 2.1 system, acting as a third opinion (the first being the Klein+Hummel O 300D’s and the second being the Logitech Z-5500). But that seems a bit redundant, since the first two opinions already cover all of my needs (critical high-end audio, and surround sound). Maybe I can put it somewhere else in the house–I’ll have to see after we finish moving into the new home.

Here’s a related tip for those of you that want to EQ the audio output of Windows OS (instead of EQ’ing just the media player audio). You can google for “RTLCPL.exe,” which is part of the AC97′ driver bundle, and is compatible with most of the computers running Realtek AC97′. This is what it looks like:
aC97 equalizer

There are instructions on the web on how to make it work with your computer, and once you’re done, you can then use it to EQ the audio output of your Windows OS, which means the EQ will affect any typical situations like videos and audios streaming off the web through your web browser.

You probably noticed the tan-colored object next to the speaker in the first photo of the A2 review. That’s actually the new iPhone case I got recently to replace the previous one that’s fallen apart. It’s made by a company called SPIGEN SGP, and they make some really nice high-end iPhone cases. Here are a few photos:
SGP iPhone case

SGP iPhone case

SGP iPhone case

You can order it from their site here.

I like the suede leather look and feel, and it’s certainly a much higher quality product compared to the flimsy plastic case it replaced. I got the version without the “S” on the case, and it looked a bit too sparse, so I gave it a bit of contrast by writing the URL of my website and my signature in black and white–just to add some visual interest. The suede surface makes it harder to clean though, so keep that in mind.

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