It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s optical disc drives, PS/2, digital audio players, or CRT monitors, there always seems to be an enormous group of people who gain some sense of superiority by deriding what they perceive to be old technology, even when the older technology, to anyone who actually knows their ass from a hole in the ground, far surpasses newer technology in either in some key aspect or in nearly every aspect. There are tech enthusiasts and there are those who masquerade as tech enthusiasts. I sometimes call them the RGB casuals when it comes to computer hardware and I suppose you could call them the Bluetooth casuals as they relate to all other tech. It’s easy to root one out: Just mention optical drives, PS/2 ports, or CRT monitors in their presence and they will reflexively scoff. Alternatively, whip out a digital audio player and they’ll be quick to poke fun at what they invariably assume is an iPod. They cannot help themselves. They will not pass up any opportunity they get to speak from their ass in a pathetic attempt to impress us all with how savvy they think they are.

 

I used to work in a computer store. I’m all too familiar with the type. People used to come in with the sole intention of impressing the sales staff with their knowledge or to try to shame us for our lack thereof. The actually knowledgeable customers tended to mind their own business, get what they came for, and leave. Only those who knew less than dick ever felt the need to flex and it might have worked at Best Buy, but I had several coworkers who were actually fairly knowledgeable and who were intellectual giants compared to 99% of the customers they served. Some of my coworkers, however, were just as guilty of talking out of their asses. Some of them tried to belittle me for something as fucking innocuous as having an optical disc drive in my computer(s).

 

I don’t have optical disc drives in my computers anymore because computer cases stopped coming with 5.25″ bays, but I just assembled my own external optical disc drive and I use optical media on a constant basis. I’ve had guests who have come to my house and actually made nasty remarks about my DVD and Blu-ray collection, thinking that they’re gaining some kind of nerd points when all they’re doing is exposing their ignorance and being an asshole. You don’t gain any nerd points with me by revealing that you’ve given up on ever owning anything or that you foolishly believe streaming is comparable in quality to a Blu-ray or a CD.

 

You don’t gain any nerd points by stupidly thinking that USB is somehow superior to PS/2 or that your expensive “gaming” monitor somehow outperforms the supreme responsiveness of a CRT. You don’t gain nerd points by being unable to differentiate between an iPod and a modern digital audio player. Just because a technology is older does not automatically render it inferior. Maybe you could have made that argument in the past, but, in the year 2019, we are bombarded with so much useless technology every day that that’s just not the way it works anymore. It’s not about improving our lives anymore, it’s about selling you a bunch of useless plastic shit with Bluetooth that’s going to wind up in a landfill a few months from now. It’s about capitalism run amok.

 

My mother has a refrigerator from the 1950s in her garage that works better than any modern refrigerator I have ever encountered, including the ones with screens so you can see what’s inside your refrigerator without opening the fucking door, and the only reason it gets hidden away in the garage is because it’s not pretty to look at.

 

Also, as far as the iPod goes, I just want to say that, while it lacked solid-state storage and didn’t offer particularly great audio quality, even the most ancient iPods still boasted a better user interface than any digital audio player on the market today. Somehow though, if you don’t have all your music on your phone or if you don’t just stream everything, you’re considered old fashioned. Well, I’ve never cared much for being in fashion. I’ve been wearing nothing but black slacks since I was fourteen years old and my hairstyle hasn’t changed since I was about ten.

 

No one gives a shit about quality anymore. That’s why they reject optical media and modern digital audio players in favor of this convenience culture. Sure, we’ve seen a backlash with the reemergence of vinyl, but I see that as more of a fashion statement for hipsters. There just doesn’t seem to be much room for a middle ground. To be clear though, I don’t use a CRT monitor and I reserve my PS/2 port for emergency use only (i.e., when USB isn’t working because USB is unreliable as fuck), but I also recognize the merits of these technologies. Technologies like CRT and PS/2 have taught me to be suspicious of new tech, to not blindly accept it, and to assume that any new tech is probably just trying to harvest my personal data. The real technological developments in recent years have just been the new and innovative ways in which corporations can violate your consumer rights and privacy with impunity.

Vantec NexStar DX Review

NST-536S3-BK

While I have never previously purchased or owned a product from Vantec, I am also no stranger to Vantec products. I sold them nearly every day for three and a half years, after all. Back in my days working in the build your own PC department at Micro Center, we had half an entire aisle full of nothing but drive enclosures from every brand under the sun and they sold like hotcakes. Up until recently, I never had any use for a drive enclosure, but, when I sold them, I gently nudged my customers toward Vantec enclosures. They were reliable, they had good build quality, and they often boasted faster interfaces than their competitors.

 

One of the products I sold was the Vantec NexStar DX or some previous generation equivalent thereof. It was a slightly more unusual enclosure in that, unlike the 2.5″ and 3.5″ enclosures that accounted for most of my sales from that half of the aisle, it was designed to accommodate 5.25″ optical disc drives. It wasn’t particularly cheap and there were plenty of external optical disc drives on the market in various form factors. You could say it was a product ahead of its time, a product that makes more sense today than it did a few years ago, because external optical disc drive pickings have grown slim.

 

When I recently decided I was overdue to rip my entire film library to MKV, I was, for the first time in awhile, in the market for a big external Blu-ray drive with external power (i.e., not USB powered). I was surprised to see that they had almost completely vanished from the market. Yes, physical media is growing scarcer by the day, but, with so few computers having internal optical disc drives nowadays, I’d have expected a bit more demand. In any case, it left me in a conundrum, but, because I am me, I was fortunate enough to have a spare internal Blu-ray writer lying around and that’s when I remembered the Vantec NexStar DX, a product I never would have even thought of it I hadn’t worked at Micro Center. Not being particularly welcomed at Micro Center after burning some bridges upon my departure, I ordered one from Amazon.

 

As many of these devices as I sold over the years, I don’t recall having ever opened one up, so the unboxing experience was fresh. It’s packaged quite nicely with high quality foam inserts and nice, thick bags for all the pieces. The provided instructions were simple, clear, and straightforward. Most people will be fine without them, but I found that they actually saved me a bit of time.

 

The enclosure itself has a quality aluminum build, the same quality build for which I remembered Vantec drive enclosures. There are, however, a couple of plastic pieces at either end of the enclosure that I wish were also made of aluminum. I imagine this allowed them to save money on tooling, not to mention materials. There is also some pretty substantial branding on the side of the enclosure that really draws away from what could have been an elegant minimalist appeal.

 

Inside, the capacitors on the small PCB are rated for 105°C, which is good, though I would like to see some solid-state capacitors. The two biggest disappointments were the internal SATA cable and the screws. The internal SATA cable seems really long for the size of the enclosure, which means you’ll almost certainly have to bend it in a way that is less than ideal for the cable itself and, even more worryingly, in a way that places unnecessary stress where the cable is soldered to the PCB. The screws, meanwhile, are perfectly fine, but they only provide six of them. The two black screws seal the enclosure. The four silver screws hold the optical disc drive in place, but an optical disc drive takes four screws on each side, adding up to eight screws. I would like to have seen eight of the silver screws included. Without the extra four screws, I had to fasten the drive, an LG WH16NS40, in place with two screws on either side. I have plenty of spare screws at home with this threading, but they’re not the same flat-headed type used for this enclosure and they’re likely somewhat shorter in length.

 

Installation, however, was a breeze and the finished product looks nicer than a lot of preassembled external optical disc drives that used to be on the market. The blue power LED is a bit much though. I would have preferred a classy white LED, but, frankly, there is no reason it needs an LED. The drive itself has its own activity LED after all.

 

With the enclosure assembled, it’s simply a matter of connecting it to power and a PC using the provided USB A to B cable and wall wart. The USB A to B cable is of good quality. It’s a nice and flexible USB 3.0 cable, though it doesn’t have any ferrite beads, which I feel would have been a nice touch.

 

Now, what you’ll have to bear in mind that the bottleneck of this device is neither the SATA nor USB interfaces, it’s, more or less, how fast the disc can spin without shattering into a million fragments, so don’t think you’re going to be seeing 5 Gb/s because that is never going to happen. This is what I always had to explain to my customers and they hated me for it because I trampled on their dreams or, more precisely, their delusions.

 

I’m pleased to say that the device works and I have experienced no problems while ripping multiple Blu-rays. Beyond that, it’s difficult to rate the performance of a device that more or less functions as a glorified SATA to USB adapter with dedicated power. If I experience any issues with the device in the near future, I’ll be sure to update this post.

 

Given that many preassembled external Blu-ray drives retailed for $100 or more, the Vantec NexStar DX isn’t actually a bad value. An internal Blu-ray reader or writer plus the $43.54 I spent on the enclosure will be comparable in price with a much sturdier build. You just won’t get any of the useless bundled software that any sensible person simply discards anyway. It may be a niche product, but if it’s what you need, the Vantec NexStar DX will hit the spot.

You can rely on the ignorant masses to have bad taste, but, every now and then, our tastes overlap. My taste in television can oftentimes be fairly mainstream relative to literally anything else. I hate American movies, but we make some damn fine television. Sometimes, I am late to the party as I was with Breaking Bad, which I only watched after the entire series had wrapped up. In the case of Game of Thrones, I jumped on the bandwagon shortly after the end of the second season. I binged the first season in more or less a single sitting. I binged the second season the next day.

 

For a couple of years, I had been declaring Game of Thrones the greatest television series ever made. I still love Game of Thrones, but things change. Nothing changed on my side, mind you. It was Game of Thrones that dropped the ball. The first indication that things were entering a downward spiral was when we caught a glimpse of Varys on the ship with Daenerys Targaryen in the very last scene of the sixth season. I actually think the episode, The Winds of Winter, is my all-time favorite Game of Thrones episode as a whole, but the day that final scene aired was the day Game of Thrones stopped being the greatest television series of all time.

 

Now, I have no qualms with Varys. I think he’s a fascinating enigma of a character, but the fact is he had just been in Dorne earlier in the episode. Somehow, in the very same episode, he teleports to Meereen in a journey that would normally have spanned several episodes. One of the things that used to be great about Game of Thrones was how vast the world felt. That single scene shattered that illusion and maybe I could have forgiven it if that wasn’t also the manner in which the entirety of the seventh season would be conducted. Suddenly, with season seven, the whole pacing of the show was thrown into chaos. It felt rushed. It felt wrong.

 

Season seven had its moments, but it was by far the worst season of the series and, with only six episodes remaining, I cannot foresee the series concluding in a manner which will leave a favorable impression on me. We saw it with Lost back in the day and we’re seeing it all over again with Game of Thrones. As much hype has been surrounding the final season of Game of Thrones, I have felt none of it. I will watch it, but I will do so with dread in my heart. I just hope Jon Snow dies a gruesome death. That self-righteous pretty boy fucktard needs to burn.

 

For me, Game of Thrones has become a sideshow or an appetizer as I eagerly await the fourth season of The Expanse, which usurped Game of Thrones as my all-time favorite television series, but the same thing could happen to The Expanse, so perhaps I shouldn’t speak too soon. Meanwhile, the next season of Silicon Valley, the show that The Big Bang Theory (I wince whenever that show is even mentioned) should always have been, has been delayed until next year and, with AT&T’s acquisition of HBO and the greedy decisions they have already been making in an apparent effort to drive their own acquisition into the ground, I have no confidence that Silicon Valley will continue to be any good.