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Product Review: ASUS VivoBook Slim S510UQ-BQ517T 15.6-Inch Laptop

First off, the ASUS VivoBook Slim 15.6 inch Laptop boasts the worst BIOS I have ever seen. ASUS urgently need to change this! They are now trying a ridiculous GUI-style BIOS screen, but they forgot to make this rubbish work: does not recognise external drives, no USB-boot possible, I wasted hours on end only to finally find a few forum posts saying it’s likely not going to work, at all. Without any intention to taint this review right from the start, this is one of the most important factors I had to consider, so I needed to mention it right at the top of this review.

 

Most Important Review Question: Does the Item Deliver?

“ASUS — In Search of Incredible”, but the only thing they found is incredibly stupid. So continue searching, ASUS… They need to do a lot more searching, maybe then at least they re-gain some credibility among just slightly advanced users instead.

It seems as if they did not do any marketing, usability and user-base research.

I am going to look into other important features and noteworthy matters about the ASUS VivoBook Slim S510UQ-BQ517T 15.6-Inch Laptop below. The model I am reviewing and commenting about here has the following specifications: CPU Intel Core i5-8250U, RAM 8 GB, Drive or Storage 256 GB SSD, Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 940MX, Windows 10 pre-installed (the latter is a major downside, see in-depth reasons and comments below).

Quite unlike previous ASUS notebooks I had, this one is finally fault-free, even has a nice and responsive trackpad, working keyboard etc (not at all a common thing at ASUS, according to my own experience). They either fixed their earlier quality issues, or I just got lucky with the unit I received. Note that I still kept the other one (despite its drawbacks, for it was a versatile allrounder otherwise, and I was happy with its -re-configurability and options for modification, OS-replacement, and overall optimization). I am also giving ASUS the benefit of the doubt when it comes to earlier shakiness issues, assuming I was just ‘unlucky’ and they may have been limited to a few items out of a wider range of fault-free ones? So I am overall (maybe overly) ASUS-friendly in my review here, but enough is enough.

 

The (Incredibly Stupid) Push for Yet More Vendor Lock-In

It is sad to see how ASUS screwed up an otherwise very well-built and (at long last) quality unit, simply by pushing for yet more vendor lock-in and making it (intentionally or out of engineering incompetence at ASUS?) hard to use this box for anything but housewife-style computing. Wholly unsuitable for anything remotely resembling professional deployment.

Note that I am not that dumb here and I very well did disable ‘secure mode’, turned off all those idiotic shenanigans, switched back from that hairbrained GUI-style BIOS screen to a more normal-looking one they call ‘advanced mode’, I enabled CSM and tried all sorts of additional steps just in order to make this pile of garbage boot from USB-connected devices like CDROM or a standard USB memory. Nothing. Numerous sources all over the Net also confirm that you’re likely out of luck with this product when it comes to wanting only a tiny bit more than your every-day mass-market consumer or dumb user. Not a good approach for any manufacturer. Certainly not worth our money, so let us wish them better luck in future (they’ll need it)!

 

Overall Layout, Hardware Design

While build quality has considerably improved over previous ASUS products tested and the display is clear, crisp, stable, anti-glare and simply lovely, the trackpad on my unit was responsive, accurate, and very good, and there are many features mass-market and consumer-level users might like about this ASUS notebook, there are other (more important) factors to consider.

They don’t even include any RJ-45 sockets to connect to standard networking without dongles, adaptors, and similar pain. Have they never seen a professional network or even a medium-size datacenter at ASUS?! Have they never heard of the outrage Apple have been causing by scrapping common connectors on MacBooks?! And do note that these ASUS thingies are not even MacBooks, so ASUS would be well-advised to stand a little lower and adhere to what their audience wants and needs. I really don’t know what they have been smoking. Seriously…

I am most certainly aware (also confirmed in the reviews left and right of this one) that most people only seem to care about how ‘good’ the wireless stuff is or whether it displays nice colours out of the box (and, clearly, it should! Instead of complaining, one could also try to fix those graphics issues by finding that usually easy-to-fix driver problem though)! Still, there is that ‘other half’ of users who need all (or some) of what I mentioned, but ASUS are neglecting that portion of the market altogether.

 

Review Result

Meaning, with this (otherwise excellent, really a shame) notebook you’re stuck with that ridiculous Win-10 garbage so many people don’t really want anymore these days. No alternatives. You’re not likely to run Linux on this one. As manufacturers apparently do this on purpose with “Win10-compatible” computers these days, they are not earning my spending money. Plain and simple. Still very frustrating as in time needlessly wasted. I had to send this ASUS notebook straight back to the sellers for a refund and not waste any more time on this ridiculous product.

The unit was bought in order to test Davinci Resolve compatibility, hence the focus on a dedicated Nvidia graphics unit as well as high CPU specs and an Intel i7 processor. Due to the hurdles with even doing a basic OS replacement and Linux install for a professional video editing setup, I could not even get as far as seeing any of the actual purposes and runtime results with a power-heavy professional Video NLE package. While it may be good enough to support the software package for some playing around under Windows, this ASUS notebook (and likely any other one from this manufacturer using this ridiculous BIOS variant and ASUS-style makeover) is entirely unsuitable for this intended purpose.

The ASUS Intel Core i5-8250U, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, NVIDIA GeForce 940MX Graphics, Windows 10 received an overall score of only 1 out of 5.

Lightweight Cameras for Meaningful/Professional Video Production

On great many a camera, the lack of an external microphone input is a severe downside. This can go so far as to overall ruin the usability of an otherwise excellent piece of kit for video production. If you do not have an external microphone input and are forced to use built-in mics in your camera, your video will bear ‘amateur video’ all over it. One infamous example of a camera lacking a mic input is the mostly great Sony a5100 mirrorless CSC, a versatile and affordable APS-C sensor camera. Unlike the almost equally affordable Sony a6000 — which at least has some proprietary input for an external mic (more on that below) — the Sony a5100 neither has that nor a hotshoe at htat. A real dealbreaker against the a5100.

The Sony a6000’s external mic ‘fix’ with the proprietary mic connectors behind the hotshoe still is bad enough, actually it should be treated as an overall LACK of external mic inputs altogether. most serious filmmakers do just that!

I am currently in the process of testing those options on the Sony a6000 though and will report on my findings in more detail later.

 

 

Best Video Equipment for Online, Vimeo, Wistia, or Youtube Video

It is great to find other people’s take on how lousy DSLR default features can be for video shooting. After finding some mention of Canon being not at all good at it, which is very illustrating because — using a Nikon DSLR which is equally not good at it — I thought it might ‘just be me’ or it’s just Nikons performing so badly.

But, as I can now gather from other people’s remarks on the subject, that is apparently not so.

I have also been wondering as to the reasons for some time now. I first came to the conclusion that Nikon — whose products I love and who I used to respect for many reasons as a manufacturer of excellent equipment — appear to have been ‘resting on their fame’ of inventing the first good bayonet back in the 50s, have enjoyed their resulting popularity with still photographers all these decades, had tremendous success with the famous nikon F3 and similar stuff, but have not don much innovation ever since?

Then again, when that very same thing is reported with Canon, it does not seem to be a Nikon-specific problem. It’s rather a DSLR problem in general, it seems, as these still are geared mainly towards the still photography market. Myself having done stills from early high school, I don’t have any problem with that generally — but, come on, isn’t it about time to move ahead and adapt to real life demands some time?! How innovation-phobic can an enterprise be if they miss out on a good part of their markets for decades…

Mirrorless is an exciting solution to many of those problems! However, if they lack external audio inputs of hoy shoes, then they’re pretty much useless for video production. Larger-than-NEX models from Sony are fine though, that is the alpha series. From the Sony Alpha 6000 upward, hot shoes and inputs are there, the a6300 and a6500 even boast 4K capability, if that is required at all (customers usually don’t even know what it is and don’t insist on it — but it’s nice having for ‘future compatibility’ or for ‘ranking better’ on Youtube thanks to that little 4K extra icon you can get on there — but generally a ‘smaller’ one will be more than just fine. At any rate, mirrorless is great for ‘traveling light’ and not carry too much gear around, which often matters. Also not drawing a huge crowd, just like you said, is a big plus!

I also agree with those other reviewers on the pros and cons of camcorders. If one finds oneself a sufficient one with a decent viewfinder, hot shoe, inputs, twin cards — in short something clearly above common ‘handicam’ specs, then tey are an excellent tool. One caveat against camcorders is sensor size though: they often have baby-fingernail-sized ones which are usually inferior to mirrorless, let alone DSLR, sensors and resulting low-light and DOF performance.

So when all is said and done, I would opt for mirrorless or (carefully selected) camcorders fulfilling those ‘advanced’ needs…

As it is a matter of knowing what to look for, all these insights into equipment experience are particularly helpful to everyone starting out or thinking of upgrading their equipment.

The Usual Imbalances with “Revenue Sharing”: YouTube’s “Partner” Programme

When it comes to online video and money-making opportunities using Google AdSense as part of the YouTube video publishing process, it is claimed more often than not that Channel owners allegedly received a 50-50 cut on ad revenue generated.

Unfortunately, this is not so.

Maybe it used to be 50-50 some (rather long) time back, but my most recent Analytics insights on my YouTube Channel clearly show that it’s closer to 70-30 these days (Google, obviously, keeping the better part for themselves, in case you’re wondering)…

Also note that the Google/YouTube de-facto monopoly has now pretty much gotten rid of the small guy altogether. The infamous January 20, 2018 update to “YouTube Partner Programme” terms put the entry bar considerably higher. This is just one of many ‘updates’ tightening the rules and effectively rigging the market in their favor even further (just as they’re constantly doing since 2010, having startied with ‘Panda’ and ‘Penguin’ algo changes back then). The next big — and very bad — thing coming our way will be Google’s requiring SSL certificates or forcing the HTTPS protocol instead of simple HTTP for ALL websites in order to not be ‘punished’ and, eventually, still be listed in Google search results at all — so the overall direction here is pretty clear: screwing everyone by abusing a de-facto monopoly that has never been a good thing. And no, this is not ‘for security reasons’ or anything like that — control is the objective; getting the entire public internet “kill-switch ready”​ because it so happens you need to submit ID proof before you even get a certificate from some of those centralized CAs (certificate authorities) usurping the internet (a medium that was originally a decentralized one)! If unfairly cornering the market wasn’t enough, Google are now adding insult to injury by also unilaterally deciding they want Just a little more (with the very same ‘eloquence’ or lack thereof displayed by David Rockefeller a few years ago).

Does that mean to avoid YouTube, am I saying it was useless to even bother? No, I actually don’t. The reason for this is that establishing a presence on YouTube as something of a hybrid between an internet search engine and a social media platform is still worth it. Also, that notorious ‘income from YouTube’ is, in fact, a composite amount of 9% to 11% AdSense and roughly 90% other (affiliate link and similar) income (so you should have those) and/or ‘real’ or direct brand deals (if you happen to be a larger Channel or name out there). It all depends on ‘doing it right’ and running the right mix on there.

Four Years of Real-Life Usage: Pros and Cons of the Nikon D3300

The Nikon D3300 continues to be one of my favourite low-priced but at the same time very versatile DSLR cameras. Some call it an excellent ‘entry-level’ camera, but it is actually more than that. I am still quite impressed by most of its features after more than 4 years of regularly using it — or, rather, even two D3300 bodies and a handful of lenses. They have all served me quite well and, over that period of time, both positives and negatives have come to light. I will explain some of them below.

The good sides of the Nikon D3300 really dominate. The camera is easy and pleasant to use in most situations — for photography even more so than for video, although being able to record at a full 60fps in HD1808p with such a low-priced camera was one of the reasons for me to get one — and this is what still amazes me today after so many hours of of HD video recording time spent with it.

Other great features of the Nikon D3300 are its featherweight specs which might even make it fly on a medium-sized multicopter for aerial video shooting, if someone is so inclined and looking for a real high-quality solution and relatively big-sensor camera to take to the skies.

In photo mode, the camera can shoot JPG and NEF (RAW format) stills at up to 5 images per second.

The real-life downsides of this camera are there as well, but they are mostly hidden ones. Most of them got to do with video camera handling. For example, if you want to shoot video remotely, you actually absolutely can not, by any means, monitor what you’re shooting: the Nikon D3300’s menu simply does not allow for any control connections while set to LiveView. (That, however, is a pre-requisite for taking video on this camera in the first place though). Very annoying and partly anihilating the usefulness of this otherwise excellent little guy! I believe it is clearly time for Nikon to finally start thinking a bit more about videographers and not continue to ignore this significant market segment altogether (leaving so many chips on the table that way and really playing in to the hands of Panasonic or even Canon with their plasticky and Digital-Restrictions-laden stuff I’d never touch)… Nikon really ought to fight (and think) a bit harder in order to not rest forever upon their past rewards of having invented some great SLR technology in 1957 (their famous lens mount bayonet) and missing out on everything else after that as a result!

Wake up, guys, and turn Nikon around! (Unfortunately, Nikon continues to exhibit remainders of that old thinking even in their latest top-of-the line Nikon D850 model… Really very sad.) While everybody appreciates good still-photography tools, more versatile ones also doing decent video — and appropriate video handling and UX — are needed to keep your position in today’s market.

Edit: there is a much longer and more detailled article I have discovered after writing the above. Curiously, it includes pretty much the same complaints about handling (or actually, the lack of it!) in video mode (as well as the lack of that, as well)! Also, the article continues laying very similar accusations and suggestions at the door of Nikon (and pretty much every other DSLR maker out there) for not getting today’s market anymore. You may want to read the article, which is, in fact, a Nikon D5300 review, here. Please do let me know in the comments section (below) what you think…

Best Solutions for Self-Hosted Contests, Giveaways, and E-mail List Hosting

Finding the best solutions for self-hosting giveaways, contests, and e-mail lists on your own website is gaining importance. Recent changes with may of the established platforms — or even niche offerings — are making it increasingly difficult for small businesses and independent entrepreneurs to find good and affordable solutions for particular marketing tasks in their daily business life.

It is not just YouTube who unilaterally and even retrospectively (and hence unfairly!) for Channels meeting the 10,000 views threshold between September 2017 and early 2018 significantly upped their requirements. Other platforms appear to b e following suit. We just received word of a number of specialist platforms introducing high fees or others ceasing operation of much-liked services altogether.

self-hosted giveaways, opt-in pages, e-mail lists hosting

It appears that, therefore, taking control yourself and self-hosting your business’ core needs, goodwill building functions, and ultimately your property is what makes the most sense in an increasingly locked-down world.

Depending on whether ‘going the extra mile’ is worth it to somebody, there are great entirely self-hosted solutions (hence independent, free from worries about price changes or program cancelations) available. So if you’re like me and happen to like being in control, then look into WordPress-based plugins like ‘Shortstack for WP‘, ‘Simple Giveaways‘, the FatCat Apps Plugin Contests & Giveaways, or add-ons for WooCommerce like WooCommerce Free Gift. The latter is particularly seamless if you already have a self-hosted e-shop.

The above listed, along with other useful functionality like E-mail list management or A/B testing for opt-in or landing pages and other marketing or online-selling functionality, should pretty much take care of all of your online business needs.

Granted, there is a learning curve as well as some admin work involved with using any of these solutions but these may be outsourced, if needed, and the control over your business given back to you by these Plugins is definitely worth the effort. Eliminating any counterparty risk for these parts of your entrepreneurial property is what it all comes down to! There is little use in building a business or goodwill or any other portions of business assets on someone else’s servers where they can all be taken away from you just at the punch of a button.

Youtube Customer-Service Speak: Can You Go Even More Overboard…?

Customer service is all about ensuring customer satisfaction — even for an unsatisfactory (or flat-out bad) product or service. A certain “speak” has been developed as a tool for achieving just that, and users in the customer service and marketing industries have gone increasingly insane with the euphemisms they use, the phrases they develop, and their attempts to brush off legitimate complaints or concerns in order to make their product or service shine, no matter what…

Part of this is the “proud-speak” variant of language where these mercenaries of big or even not-so-big corporations boast their tremendous qualities, insights, and ingenuity for their product or service. Touting customer service dedication and 24/7 availability is, of course, a huge part of that (even as it’s most certainly not done out of compassion for the poor troubled customer, but for corporate greed and promotional reasons only). Google have now gone completely overboard. Topping it of, delivering the absolute maximum, the ultimate in claimed largesse, they apparently cannot help using the following paragraph as part of their instructions among YouTube help topics:

*Please note that flagged videos do not automatically get removed. We have trained internal teams, fluent in multiple languages, who carefully evaluate your flags 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year in time zones around the world.

Actually surprised they stopped short of intergalactic availability throughout multiple gravitational zones and solar systems, but they already manage topping the list of dumb claims and wordings by some margin! (Even if it should be true, although it isn’t, at least for the “trained” teams part as we all know how much these call-centre agents know — or don’t.)

Thank you YouTube. Apart from your latest rip-off policy changes in the YPP (YouTube Partner Program), the 2018 demonetization wave against small Channels and YouTube creators, it gives us additional stuff to talk and post about on our Blogs…

 

Camera Popularity Wars in a Vlogger-Dominated World — Annoying

Camera and product “suitability” questions are increasingly often decided by Spartan-style popular outcry instead of reasonable consideration of actual product features and strengths. I find this quite annoying.

The former is now common in a world dominated by vloggers, full-time YouTubers and similar self-proclaimed “experts” who, upon closer scrutiny, are often using and operating their equipment more like Silly Sally than a tech-savvy photography or video specialist.

A recent (infamous) example can be seen on YouTube here: an actually promising review of an even more promising camera (the excellent Nikon D850, already called “camera of the year 2017” by many!) turniong out to be an idiotic time-waster full of user error, useless anecdotes about what the camera does or doesn’t compared to a smartphone and resulting failed conclusions.

On the positive side, here’s also a Steve Perry Nikon D850 camera review to make things up to you. This one’s by someone who’s a real pro and actually knows the stuff he’s talking abou!

While it may be true that Nikon, indeed, still continue to overly focus on the photography segment of the market (where they came from, you might want to note), neglecting large amounts of features needed for DSLR filming on many occasions, that would not be a very smart strategy on the part of a camera manufacturer. I normally love and do prefer Nikon over Canon all the time, but quite clearly their way of thinking needs to be modernised back home at Nikon HQ. It is not a smart approach in the day and age of “video is king” to still stick with slow autofocus technologies, excessive shutter roll, lack of selfie-mode displays etc on a camera as that will give your excellent products a bad name as a result. Nikon should keep in mind that nowadays vloggers are all over the place, and thanks to YouTube and similar platforms they are the most vocal group (as in Spartan popular outcry)…

Maybe I would not go as far as saying, it’s not even meant for video (or designed) because, if so, they should say so on the packaging or other sales materials :) Also, maybe the entire concept of DSLR-video is overrated as “real” as in “good video” is still done on VIDEO cameras, not DSLRs.

Panasonic might possibly come to the rescue here, single-handedly topping even the shrewdest and most “popular among vloggers” Canon features by orders of magnitude in a single product update :) Actually, Panasonic are doing that with a mirrorless camera though (not strictly a DSLR then).

YouTube Monetization: Revealing the Real Profit Source for Online Video

YouTube monetization may be a nice feature — but it’s also a big smokescreen (or at least distracting most everyone from what posting a video online is all about, and where the real money can be made with it)!

People are barred from seeing the real deal as a result. They are fooled into believing that those measly pennies make much sense earning. So everyone and their grandmother are out to lecture us about Casey Neistat and the likes and what they supposedly “make on YouTube”. Then these smart [ones] come up with all these educated-looking calculations about what a View is “worth” and oh-so expertly do the simple math multiplying the stuff, whereas the lion’s share of income is made NOT from measly AdSense-style or ‘monetization’ payments but Affiliate links — a totally different thing! Many of the true experts in the field confirm that the ratio is roughly 9:1 in favour or the latter.

The real YouTube benefit for “real YouTubers” or full-time video shooters on there is the site’s characteristics of also being used for “search” (albeit a bit ridiculous when actual search-quality really matters — not the way to go) and by posing as a “social platform” at the same time. YouTubes objective here is attracting and retaining people spending their time on there which, in turn, plays into the hands of savvy video producers and online marketers. All this combined together into one big package deal — also including those 11% or so in monetization income if you insist — is what makes YouTube successful, and also useful from a business point of view. Visit an Experienced Online Marketing Consultant to let them guide you to business growth and success with internet marketing and online video.

If you want to go it alone and already have a really neatly working YouTube channel plus everything else in place and are sure you’re not overlooking any of the crucial ingredients, the next thing you may want to set up would be a number of affiliate opportunities. These can either be found on affiliate portal sites or, sometimes the better choice, individual websites onboarding affiliates. (It’s usually at the bottom of the page or in ‘about’ sections, not too easy to find but not too hard either.) It’s always an option to go it alone if you already are sufficiently well-versed in this area, but remember that we’re here to show you how to get farther, faster, so any consultation cost may be money well spent.

Web User Experience: Browser Issues Solved with Opera

Website interaction has become an ever increasing part of overall computer use for most of us. This means that web browsers have even more importance as one of the most widely used application programs on your box. This is true for PCs, be it as a desktop or laptop variant, tablets, and all sorts of mobile devices used for accessing the Worldwide web.

The Google-dominated Firefox browser, derived from the original “Mosaic Netscape” flavors of the olden days, has been the web browser of choice for the majority of web users for some time now. Frequent updates of this browsers mean frequent improvements, but sometimes they may spell trouble or are less popular. This is one of the reasons many users disable auto-updates and try staying with a tested and proven browser version for as long as possible. (It is never a very good idea to auto-update blindly into everything some developer or other forces down your throat without thorough real-life testing by other users.)

The recent Firefox update which introduced a new browser layout (among many other less visible updates) is a good example of a version update many would rather do without. Not only is the new layout not popular with everyone, but the fact that Firefox is becoming more and more bloated and demanding on system resources alone is sufficient reason to be not happy with this. That this version update has been forced upon users even where auto-update had been disabled does not help the measure’s popularity either.

Reason enough for many users to start looking into better solutions than Firefox again.

This is precisely the time when attention turns to the Opera browser which has been well-known for many years now and is always a good option when it comes to solving problems caused by the “big two”, Firefox and Safari (or Internet Explorer, for those who still believe in or for some other reason are stuck with some flavor of MS-Windows).

The Opera browser has a long-running reputation for gentleness on overall system resources as well as “running on all platforms”, i e versions available for all operating systems (which even included Atari, BeOS and IBM’s old OS/2 systems earlier). It is not only worth a try, but Opera is definitely a good — if not better — solution for everyone concerned about general performance and system speed. Opera also includes a highly functional and slick-looking e-mail client. Dissatisfaction with recent Firefox updates — or general Mozilla products, if their dumbed-down attempt of an e-mail client called Thunderbird is included in our considerations here — may serve as a good reason for finally solving the problem with that browser named after a rock on the Svalbard Islands off northern Norway.

Bitcoin, Crypto coins: Breaking All-Time High after High

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Bitcoin and other Cryptocoins have been drawing a lot of my attention again with a truly breathtaking series of price high after price high (measured in dollar and other paper-currency terms). The latest high is $9771 so far, happening last night. Most of the recent highs did not hold for long but were rep[laced by even higher ones, often within hours. Altcoins are doing similarly exciting things. The overall coinmarketcap is now up more than 300% in just six months.

This might be a good time for more businesses to consider accepting Bitcoin as payment for their products or services. Overstock have been the first to do so, introducing Bitcoin payments in 2014 or so. My own images are available for download for Bitcoin and Altcoin payments as well. Current rumors are, that eBay, Amazon and other large online sellers are considering accepting Bitcoin payments, too. The time might be right, as U. S. tax regulations are about to be amended and include a tax-free threshold of $600 for Bitcoin payments, giving Crypto payments the same status as any foreign (paper) currency from an income-tax point of view. (In fact, the amendment might have been brought up by lobbying by Amazon and similar interests in order to give them an easy way to open up additional customer interest by accepting coin payments without having to worry about resulting income-tax implications.)

It should not only be me selling images for Bitcoin and Altcoins but the time for large stock image agencies accepting Bitcoin may be right around the corner. Wouldn’t it be nice if Dreamstime, Videoblocks, Nimia or Shutterstock, for example, started selling stock image downloads for Crypto coins?

On top of opening up new markets, it would also benefit contributors and image buyers alike by reducing payment processing fees as well as sizeable allowances for losses due to credit-card charge-backs priced in to prices these days.