4K Gaming for Dummies: from $15,000 to budget

The picture above is of the crazy $40,000 (not joking) Samsung 85-inch UN85S9 4K Ultra HD TV running Tom Clancy’s The Division. It’s worth reading the (fake) reviews on Amazon, they are quite hilarious.

4K is a new standard which is higher resolution than standard HD, it has 3840 (horizontal) x 2160 (vertical) pixels. This extremely high resolution makes modern games look stunning, but also requires pretty serious hardware in order to run them well. Keep in mind, that 4K gaming was not possible at any budget last year, and now is. Also, prices will continue to fall on the hardware and displays able to run 4K games.

As a side note, neither the Xbox One or the PS4 come even close to being able to run anything complex at 4K resolution, in fact current games on the console have difficulty running at 1080p which is normal HD. For now, this relegates 4K gaming strictly to the realm of PC gamers.

Here is the minimum setup for playing today’s most demanding games at 4K resolution:

  • CPU – I would recommend an Intel Core-i7, the 4770k should run most of today’s games fine.
  • RAM – 8GB of RAM is a minimum, but go with 12GB to be safe.
  • Video Card – I would say a dual Nvidia GTX 780 Ti  setup is going to be very smooth. You can get by with just one, but your frame rate will be jerky in demanding situations.
  • Monitor – So there are a couple of options here. If you are on a strict budget then the Seiki 39-inch 4k TV is your best bet at a tad under $500. But any TV you use will only be able to give you 30 frames per second because of the limitations of HDMI 1.4 which is the input standard they all accept.  Your only option for full frame rate 4K gaming at the moment is Asus’s 32-inch 4K monitor which splits the signal over 2 cables.

$15,000 Setup

digital storm aventum ii

If you have money to burn, and need nothing but the best, then the combination of the Digital Storm Aventum II Level 4 and the Asus’s 32-inch PQ321Q 4K monitor is for you.  The Aventum II level 4 comes fully equipped with everything you would expect from a $9,861 (without many options) gaming system and more. It has 3 Nvidia 780 GTX Ti graphics cards, which collectively can render the most challenging games at 4K way above 60 frames per second.  It also has all the usual stuff you would expect in a ultra high end gaming PC such as a 6 core top of the line processor. The Asus monitor (as mentioned above) is the only 4K monitor or TV (at the moment) which will allow you to go above 30 frames per second.

The real magic here, and the reason you are paying so much for the Aventum is that it has an unbelievable custom liquid cooling system which has 2 benefits:

  1. All the components will always run at their full speed.  In a normal system with 3 extremely hot high speed video cards packed this tightly, the video cards will start to slow down to avoid overheating. But with the cooling inside the Aventum you have no such problem.
  2. Since the cooling is so extreme, you will be able to overclock your CPU and graphics cards significantly, thus getting even more performance out of them. Digital Storm claims to have Aventum’s normally running between 4.5ghz and 4.8ghz, that is up to 20% higher than stock performance for it’s high end CPU.

Not only is this cooling system utilitarian, but it is beautiful too. It’s copper pipes are nickel plated so it looks like a well tuned machine. In addition, the pump and reservoir used to store and circulate the liquid are of the highest grade.

Good luck getting your 4K gaming system up and running. If you have any questions please leave them in the comments.

Advice from my 30 Years of Air Travel

Unlike most people, I find flying to be extremely relaxing. I was not always this way, but over the years I’ve developed some habits which remove all the stress from any trip I take. I’ve finally decided to write them down, and share them below.

To tell you a little about me – I fly all the time. Fifty two flights in the last four years, and I’ve been traveling at more less the same rate for 30 years. Several of those flights each year are trips longer than 20 hours to Asia where much of my family lives.

Please let me know if you have any other tips in the comments below and I will add them (if they are good) with credit to you.

Baggage and Packing

suitcase_export

(Photo edited from Suitcases v2 by Malias under this license).

  1. I avoid waiting for baggage at my destination – instead I pack a carry on which fits in the overhead bin, the largest standard size is a 22 inch suitcase (but inside the US you may be able to fit a larger one). I greatly recommend a 4-wheel carry on, they are more maneuverable, and hence need to be carried less  (I personally use this one). For example, a 4-wheel carry on can be wheeled down the aisle of a plane, a 2 wheel one cannot.
  2. Whether I just bring a carry on or (on the rare occasion) check in baggage, I attach baggage tags at home before I get to the airport. One less thing to think of while I am there. These are cheap and work well for me.
  3.  I pack a sweater and a light travel blanket in my carry on. Nowadays, most airlines do not give out blankets except on ultra long distance flights, and I always prefer not to be freezing over a long journey.
  4. For longer flights, I pack a toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste in my carry on. I also pack my pajamas for anything overnight. Being able to brush my teeth before I sleep on an overnighter helps me sleep better, and being able to brush on arrival helps me feel fresh and energized when I arrive at my destination. Pajamas also make all the difference in my quality of overnight sleep, and leave my clothes fresher for arrival.
  5. I pack a change of clothes in my carry on for any flight longer than 6 hours, it’s always nice to put on fresh clothes before disembarking or during transit.
  6. Always pack a phone/laptop/tablet charger in your carry on. Flights get cancelled, and you may find yourself stranded in a place you never expected. (Thanks Thomas McCall in the comments below)

Before Leaving the House

  1. I check in online as early as I’m allowed to (normally 24 hours). Most US airlines and  some international ones assign your boarding zone based on when you check in. So the earlier you check in, the earlier you get to board.
  2. I weigh my luggage before I leave the house. Knowing when my baggage is overweight before I get to the airport avoids awkwardness and pressure in-airport to repack while other people are standing in line behind me. Talk about airing dirty laundry. This scale makes weighing luggage a lot easier on the road and at home.
  3. I put on lots of lotion – This may be an odd one, but the air in airplanes is very dry, and my skin often gets itchy. This is more the case on trips longer than 15 hours. I find if I put on some extra lotion before hand, then my skin stays moisturized for the whole trip.
  4. I wear lots of layers – I often wear a t-shirt, then a sweater, then a light jacket. This is because I have no idea in advance how what the temperature of the airplane and the transit airports will be, and it easy to put on and take off layers.
  5. I avoid caffeine and drink lots of water – Caffeine makes you go to the bathroom more often than necessary, which is a pain while on a plane trapped in between other people. On the other hand, it is easy to get dehydrated while on a plane because of low humidity, so I make sure to drink lots of water.

At the Airport

The dramatic wood ceiling of Madrid Airport
Madrid Airport
  1. I put anything metallic into my carry on before I get in line for security. This includes my belt, wallet, keys and cell phone. That way I can breeze through security without any rush to empty my pockets, and I don’t have to worry about losing anything.
  2. I keep my boarding pass and ID easily accessible during security. This is another place where people often fumble and stress, I just keep both in my back pocket while going through the line.
  3. Because I’ve checked in online early, I have early boarding and will avoid being stressed when finding a place to put my bags.
  4. I avoid alcohol – Drinking alcohol on the flight may seem like fun, but because of the low air pressure on the plane I pay double afterwards in terms of hangover.
  5. I put earphones on – Often, I don’t want to talk to the person next to me. I find the most effective way of doing so is putting earphones on whether I am listening to anything or not.

Hopefully these tips can help smooth your trip. Bon Voyage!!

Satoshi One Billion

Congratulations Mr. Nakamoto, at today’s exchange rates, you are worth just a tad under $1.4B US dollars. For those of you not in the know, Satoshi Nakamoto is the elusive creator of bitcoin, the world’s current favorite crypto-currency. Thanks to the excellent forensic work of Sergio Lerner, we can reasonably say he is also the holder of 1148800 BTC (bitcoins).

At today’s exchange rate of USD 1200/BTC, that makes him worth $1.378B, which would put him at no. 1086 of the world’s richest people. Yes that is right, Satoshi Nakamoto is the 1086th richest person in the world!

That said, he would have a very hard time getting a significant amount of fiat currency for his bitcoin. The leading exchanges are notoriously cash poor, and are unable to come even close to giving all their client fiat currency in any reasonable amount of time. As we also know, the velocity of money of bitcoin is very low, (but increasing slowly), which may bode badly for it’s future as a stable currency.

In Horizon’s opinion, there are 2 possibilities here:

  1. This is a temporal singularity event. In other words, there is dramatic and exponentially accelerating migration from fiat currencies to crypto-currencies going on. In this case, the value of 1 bitcoin is equivalent to the world’s currency supply divided by the number of bitcoin available.
  2. This is a bubble. There is too much liquidity at the moment, and that money has to go somewhere. When this liquidity corrects, crypto-currency values will crash much like all other assets whose values have ballooned.

(Disclaimer: I hold ~150 litecoin today)

Target Black Friday Trick: iPad Air for $355

Target’s Black Friday ad shows an iPad Air for $479 with a $100 gift card. What the ad doesn’t mention is that if you have a Target Red Card you can get a further double discount. First, you will get 5% off your purchase due to the red card. Then you will also get 5% off whatever you eventually buy with the gift card, making it more valuable. Let’s do the math:

iPad Air with Black Friday Discount $479
Gift Card (which is saved for later) -$100
Red Card Discount -$18.95
Additional Value of $100 gift card when used with Red Card -$5.26
Total Cost to You once you use the $100 gift card on another purchase $354.79

Good Luck!

The iPhone 5s can give you several things money could not previously buy

There are several aspects of the iPhone 5 which make it more valuable than any amount of money. It allows you to capture moments you can’t get back much better than you could before, it gives you more time and security, and lastly makes your life more convenient.

Moments you can’t get back

Beach Resort Sunset taken with iPhone 5s
A beautiful sunrise captured with the iPhone 5S

When you hold down the shutter button while taking a picture, the 5S takes 10 photos per second until you let go. What this means is that you can capture the elusive 1/10 of a second where everyone was smiling their best smile and looking at the photo, or the moment where your child is perfectly poised and about to set her high jump record. After the shot, there is a very simple interface to pick your favorites from the stream of photos you just took, and delete the rest. Not to mention, it’s enhanced optics, electronics and sensor capture photos better than most much larger cameras.

In short, the camera on the 5s allows you to capture memories that you couldn’t have otherwise, in a package you can keep in your pocket.

More Time and More Security

The 5S introduces Touch ID  allowing you to unlock your phone with your fingerprint. This has two implications:

  1. If you never locked your phone before because it was too much of a hassle, now you can. Instantly protect your private information in case of a lost or stolen phone. Remember, that this includes your email, and you can often access a bank or brokerage account by resetting the password in a link sent to your email. So protecting your email with touch ID extends to the many other password protected web sites you use every day,
  2. If you have always locked your phone, then touch ID will save you time. The average person unlocks their phone 110 times a day; entering a passcode at each unlocking takes approximately 3 seconds. That means in an average year you spend 110 times x 3 seconds x 365 days = 33.5 hours unlocking your phone. If you make more than $17 hour then buying an unlocked iPhone 5S will pay itself back in 1 year. If you make $50/hr, then an iPhone 5S can save you over $1600 worth of time a year.

Siri Saves You Time and Makes Your Life Easier

An example of using Siri with Find My Friends.
My wife is still shopping at the mall!

Siri is not an exclusive feature of the iPhone 5S, but she works much better with it’s ultra fast processor. In iOS 7, Siri is much enhanced and much more useful. Some examples of her newfound convenience:

  1. Siri can now open Apps – This functionality is especially useful with Touch ID. For example, you hold down the home button on your phone and say “open Notes”. If you have touch ID, your fingerprint has already been used to unlock your phone, and your notes are in front of you. I use this functionality at the supermarket to bring up my shopping list instantly.
  2. Siri can now find your family – I use Find My Friends with my family so that I know where my wife and family are without asking them. Siri on iOS 7 is fully integrated, so I can say “Where is my wife?” when I’m waiting for her at an appointment and I don’t know if she is stuck in traffic. This is way more efficient than calling her, and saves us both time and hassle.

In short, the iPhone 5s improves your life in a number of subtle ways which were previously not possible. You can capture your most valuable memories more clearly and definitively, you can save time, and be more secure, and it makes your life more convenient.