REVIEW — Microsoft E3 2019: You Had One Job

By Tashaun “JerzeeBalla” Brown | @JerzeeBalla9:50 PM EST, Tues. July 16, 2019
Every year, gamers across the globe celebrate a holiday in June known as Electronic Entertainment Expo, also known as E3. It’s a glorious occasion that is full of wonder, excitement, disappointment and surprises. This year’s #E32019 received a huge blow when Sony announced that they wouldn’t be attending. That news pushed all the attention squarely towards Microsoft. Of course, there were other companies with products to show off, but Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are the companies we are always most interested in. 
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REVIEW — 2018 iPad Pro: A Good Get If You Know What You're Getting Into

By Marcus “MajorLinux” Summers | @MajorLinux | 5:30 PM EST, Thurs. May 16, 2019

Eleven years.
It’s been 11 years since I first set foot into the modern Apple ecosystem, better known as the “Walled Garden.” Back then, I wouldn’t have considered myself a part of that walled garden. I made great strides in avoiding that label. I got really heavy into Linux. I bought, exclusively, Android devices. Then, in 2013, things changed. In the span of six years, I’ve done the following:

  • Bought an iPad Mini 2
  • Bought my wife an iPhone
  • Bought two Apple TVs
  • Bought my own iPhone
  • Bought a MacBook Pro
  • Bought an Apple Watch
  • Took a job that gave me another MacBook Pro
  • Upgraded all the iPhones

All of this has led up to this moment. Because both my iPad Mini 2 and personal MacBook Pro was starting to show their age, I figured it was time to upgrade. But, instead of upgrading both devices separately, I remember there was one device that had the amazing size and portability of a tablet with the computing powerful of a small laptop.That device is the iPad Pro.

(Photo Credit: Major Linux)

The model I picked up (pictured above) is the 2018 11-inch iPad Pro. This model has 256 GB of internal storage and is LTE enabled. I picked this up through Verizon and was discounted almost $200 since I was updating my wife’s iPhone 7 to the iPhone XR. I picked up the Smart Keyboard Folio the next day. I also picked up the second generation Apple Pencil later on that week. Due to the time in which I picked up the Pencil, my thoughts won’t cover much of it (even though I delayed writing this to get some quick thoughts using it).
These past couple of weeks have been pretty good, but it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. Let’s dive in, shall we?

The Good

The first thing you notice with this device is that it’s nearly all screen. Now, while it’s not an iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy S 10, or even the recently announced OnePlus 7 Pro, for an iPad (or any tablet currently available), it has the highest screen-to-bezel ratio of any tablet on the market. All the front facing cameras and sensors are hidden within the bezel and you might have a tough time finding them.
Speaking of the “hidden” sensors, because you may never know where they are, Face ID works in both landscape and portrait. Also, if you are trying to unlock the iPad Pro in landscape, your hand could possibly be covering the sensors. The iPad will let you know if that is the case, will point to where the sensor is and let you know that it is being obfuscated by something.
Once you’re logged in and ready to work, everything functions similar to an iPhone X in relation to navigating around. One of the best new additions to iOS 11 for iPads are the awesome multitasking features. I missed out on some of these features because they were not available for the iPad Mini 2. Of course, I’m talking about Slide Over, Split View, and Picture in Picture.
While I hardly use Slide Over and Picture in Picture, Split View has been the the absolute best. The second day I had it, I used it to do some routine maintenance on one of my servers while watching the stream pictured above. It was at that point that I wanted to see how far I could push it. Two days later, I sat down and deployed an entire website using nothing but the iPad Pro. In fact, I’m using Split View right now to write this review!

(Photo Credit: Major Linux)

Going back to the physical side of things, the iPad Pro is the second Apple product line and 1st iOS product line to use USB Type C. This was definitely super helpful as it finally gave me a reason to break out my old Nexus 6P cables and chargers. As an “owner” of a 2017 MacBook Pro, it’s nice that I’m able to share chargers with it. Also, this is the first iOS device that lets you charge other devices from it, which is very convenient.
Then, there are the accessories. In order to really get some work done on the iPad Pro, you’re gonna need a keyboard. You can pair any Bluetooth keyboard to it or you can get the Smart Keyboard Folio from Apple. It has a really good, keypress feel for a portable keyboard. It also adds PC shortcuts like Alt+Tab, Cmd+Space for Spotlight search, and Cmd+H to get quick access to the Home screen.
And, in my opinion, no iPad Pro can be complete without the Apple Pencil. The Pencil is now in its second generation and only works with the new iPad Pros. For the naked eye, the tracking is flawless. I’ve been using it while at work to take handwritten notes during some trainings and it works really well to capture my actual handwriting as if I was using pen and paper. Pairing and charging are also super simple. All you have to do is magnetically snap it to the side of the iPad Pro.
Now, I hear you all asking: “But it can’t be all sunshine and rainbows, right?”
(Photo Credit: Major Linux)

(Photo Credit: Major Linux)

The Bad

And you’d be absolutely right!
Let’s start off with the Apple Pencil. I’ve had some issues with it when writing. While it does track very well, it doesn’t do it 100 percent of the time. There are times when it glitches out and stops writing. I don’t know if this is a Notes app issue, but I found myself having to back out of the note I was writing in and coming back to a working Pencil.
Sticking with the Apple Pencil, you may want to pick up a carrying case for yours. While it does attach magnetically to the iPad Pro, it’s not a real permanent solution. I was able to shake the Pencil off the iPad, but I had to really shake it. However, the real issue is in transporting the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. I feel it would be really easy for the Pencil to come right off. So, you might want to invest in something like the Belkin Case + Stand.

(Photo Credit: Major Linux)

(Photo Credit: Major Linux)

Switching gears over to software: There are some big glaring omissions when it comes to iOS on it’s tablet side. The most glaring issue is the lack of mouse support, especially for the iPad Pro. For this to be their professional tablet, it’d be nice to see them add it.
For the hardware they do have, there seems to be some issues with it when combining it with the software. Some applications don’t “respect” the presence of the physical keyboard. There have been countless times where I open an app and the virtual keyboard just takes over a good chunk of the screen.
Then, there’s the UX, also known as the user experience. While I’ve become very familiar with the gestures on my iPhone X, these gestures combined with the gestures that were specific to iPads can become quite a nuisance. There are three different actions that happen when you swipe your finger from the bottom of the screen:

  • Pulls up the dock while in an app
  • Pulls up the multitasking view
  • Goes to the Home screen

This becomes an issue as you’d have to be near perfect in moving your finger (and only your finger, the Apple Pencil doesn’t work here) to get the desired effect.
Then, there’s the overall price. Now, I’m a big gamer, so I’m going to share this little meme to explain my point:

(Courtesy Photo: IMGFlip)

While still coming to grips that the base price for an iPad Pro starts off less than an iPhone XS ($799 (WiFi) or $949 (cellular) vs $999), it’s kind of an intriguing prospect. However, when you factor in the additional costs of a keyboard ($179) and Apple Pencil ($129), it starts to add up. And, no, you can’t use the cheaper Apple Pencil 1st Generation ($99) on the newer iPad Pros. You can do fine without these peripherals, but you can also pick up cheaper laptops with proper multitasking and mouse support.

Conclusion

For someone who wasn’t really setting out to frolic in the “walled garden,” I’ve enjoyed my time with Apple and their products over the past few years. It’s not because I believe Apple is the best. They’re far from it, especially given my beliefs in Free and Open Source software and support for “Right to Repair” legislation. For me, Apple is a company of convenience at a time when I’m spending time supporting other people’s tech and working on big projects and don’t want to be hampered by the client devices I use to work on them.
I know what I’m getting into when I go the Apple route. I know my wallet sure does hate me for it from time to time. There are times I do get frustrated by it’s limitations. However, I know the devices, software and services Apple provides serve a particular purpose. It’s why I still run Linux servers and still game on a way more powerful Windows PC. It’s why I look to Android to assist in serving content in my office.
The iPad Pro is by no means a necessity item for those who won’t portable power. There are other devices for that. For me, it gave me the ability to consolidate some equipment and a new perspective on how I experience technology and the world around me.For its shortcomings, I’m glad I picked up the iPad Pro and am hoping this becomes my new daily computing driver.

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Marcus “MajorLinux” Summers is a Linux system administrator and part time content creator from Raleigh, NC. When not consulting on the technical end for The Cookout, he’s either gaming or staring intently in a Linux terminal. You can find him streaming at twitch.tv/MajorLinux.

REVIEW — "The Promised Neverland" Gives Perfect Anime Experience

By King Ether | @_kingether | 5:30 PM EST, Tues., April 9, 2019

“Surrounded by a forest and a gated entrance, the Grace Field House is inhabited by orphans happily living together as one big family, looked after by their “Mama,” Isabella. Although they are required to take tests daily, the children are free to spend their time as they see fit, usually playing outside, as long as they do not venture too far from the orphanage—a rule they are expected to follow no matter what. However, all good times must come to an end, as every few months, a child is adopted and sent to live with their new family… never to be heard from again. However, the three oldest siblings have their suspicions about what is actually happening at the orphanage, and they are about to discover the cruel fate that awaits the children living at Grace Field, including the twisted nature of their beloved Mama.” –Yakusoku no Neverland (The Promised Neverland) Synopsis (Written by My Anime List)

The idea of a place where you don’t grow up into an adult world sounds like heaven to most children. That’s why Disney’s Peter Pan and his adventures in Neverland became so popular to both kids and adults who enjoyed the fictional story of the hero Peter Pan, as well as the other protagonist, Wendy Darling, and her brothers. CloverWorks’ Japanese manga turned anime series “The Promised Neverland” took this concept and put their own dark twist on it. The Promised Land television series adaptation premiered this past January to March of 2019.

STORY: 10/10

The Promised Neverland started great and got better as the debut season premiered. While not going into too much detail, every piece of the show from the visual artistry to the audio production did a good job working together to add more weight in each second of run time.  The show opens with what you would expect in a show that has “Neverland” in the title: Happiness. There seems to be nothing, but good times in this orphanage house with a surprising amount of land. That illusion is quickly short-lived as the main characters Emma, the typical happy shonen protagonist, and Norman, an intelligent and caring child, find out that all is not what it seems. The show does a fantastic job of giving just enough information to keep you interested while still remaining a total mystery. It’s very parallel to show gruesome violence.  The fact that you only see what the kids see and it doesn’t build much on the world around them gives you enough clues that make you want to learn more. By the end, the show didn’t bother to give viewers answers to many of the questions one might have had asked. The show’s intentions I believe wasn’t to answer lingering questions, but in turn, was something I didn’t find myself bothered by. With it all said and done, I felt satisfied with how the season ended.

ART: 10/10

The art in the series is very unique. With it being different, not everyone will have the same opinion on this I’m sure. For me, the slightly, deformed look of the characters threw me off at first, but after a while, I found myself enjoying the art style of the original character designer, Posuka Demizu. Her art really helped emphasize the moods of the characters…whether that be from happiness to pure terror. The visuals also really helped immerse me into their world. I was on the edge of my seat when the characters themselves were figuratively on the edge of their seat.
Since the animation was unique to the series, it made scenes with a lot of fast moment, such as running through the forest, look really good.  Another observation was that every character all looked very different from one another. The main characters look really fit them all in terms of presentation. From Emma’s bright, orange hair, which fit her happy personality, to Ray’s Black hair matching his Sasuke-like demeanor. While the computer-generated imagery (CGI) looked good, it showed up in the last seconds of the show. This didn’t make much sense to me since that was the scene that would take the least amount of effort to draw out animation-wise.

(Source: YouTube)

SOUND: 10/10

CloverWorks studio hit it out of the park with their voice acting selections. I didn’t feel myself being taken out of the immersion of the story by bad voice acting. Mariya Ise, who has worked in shows such as Fairy Tail and Code Geass, was slightly better than her peers for her portrayal of Ray, as I felt that it was a match made in heaven. I enjoyed the selection of “Touch Off” by UVERworld, as it helped set the mood for the show and was overall a good song in general. Especially in the tense moments, the background songs helped enrich the mood of the scenes. In particular, I found myself sweating with my heart beating fast along with the characters in those tight situations.

CHARACTER: 10/10

Every character that had a decent amount of screen time felt alive. The three main characters, Ray, Norman and, Emma, besides being drastically different in terms of looks, all were different in personality. Norman stands out as the character I enjoyed the most because of the way he logically thought and definitely cemented himself as a character that I won’t easily forget. While the main characters had their personal strengths and weakness, the character that shined the brightest was the caretaker of the kids: The Mom. Their humanization was something that by the end of the 12th episode, I found myself empathizing with them.

ENJOYMENT: 10/10

The Promised Neverland is a show I think everyone can enjoy. This show has replay-ability based on the characters alone and being able to see their growth was fantastic. The show could be easily compared to the abstract strategy game of “Go” with both sides attacking and counter-attacking. I think this show might even make into other peoples’ top 10 animes of all-time. As of right now, it is one of the top shows from this past winter season.

OVERALL: 10/10

The Promised Neverland hits every point just right. I felt fully immersed in the story. I was in that house with the kids trying to make sure we worked towards solving the problem. This show told its story very well and made it enjoyable to watch. Every single episode was fantastic and got better as time went on.
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King Ether is your everyday nerd just trying to write about the things he loves in life. You can find him streaming on Twitch at www.twitch.tv/king_ether.