Think Twice Before Illegally Hosting Apps

Two men plead guilty as the Department of Justice investigates the rampant piracy plaging the Google Play Store. Nicholas Anthony Narbone and Thomas Allen Dye are accused of creating an app “black market” called

Apparently, over 1 million applications have been illegally obtained and the DOJ is currently looking into other pirated websites.

No news as to whether or not the federal government is tracking down those downloading the files. However, it’s perhaps too little too late to stop the sharing of copyright materials from the Play Store.

Good luck for those trying to get the new Dragon Quest games yet to be released in the U.S.

Related Sources: 

Justice Department lands first ever convictions against mobile app pirates (The Verge: March 24, 2014)


Three Years Old: The Tecsun PL-660 Still Rocks

If anyone paid attention to the last blog post, then I mentioned my change in listening habits. To clear the air, I have not & will not abandon the shortwave hobby. 20140223_131624

The article merely points out how shortwave listeners like myself are adjusting their habits. I wanted to gauge how other SWLs felt about the rise of internet radio and if it has (or will) replace the hobby.

While last month’s post seemed negative, there is a lot of fun to have as a shortwave listener. As I am typing this entry, I have my Tecsun PL-660 with me…with intentions to tuning to stations after work. I listen to internet radio more than ever, but I still go back to my shortwave radio every now and then.

This universally acclaimed radio is what this month’s post is all about. When first starting this blog, one of my early articles was about the PL-660.

If readers go to it now, then they will see a dead video. You can thank YouTube trolls for thinking they are Steven Spielberg while posting negative nitpicks on video production (With that, I am not longer doing video reviews, but I’ll upload my catches). However, I had a positive experience using the PL-660 when I first ordered it on Amazon in 2011.

20140223_131653It has been about three years and I am proud to admit that it works the same as it did on Day One. The only problem I had was a broken antenna hinge after it fell on the floor. The antenna has been replaced and there’s no permanent damage to the unit luckily.

Performance is still great across the bands. I can still pick up local stations well and distant ones boom. Even though more international broadcasters have left the air, the remaining ones like Radio Australia, WRMI, and Voice of America are received loud and clear.

Synchronous detection still locks and holds fading signals and audio sounds great for a portable radio. Anyone who is looking for a shortwave radio can find this gem for less than $85. Surprisingly enough, it is about $120 on Amazon, which is roughly $20 more expensive than when I bought mine.

For a radio capable of getting all that you want out of shortwave, the Tescun PL-660 is still a great performer and holds up after three years.

20140223_131715I am content with keeping the Tecsun PL-660 for its lifespan. Even if shortwave “goes away” and the radio inevitably “kicks the bucket,” I will probably replace it with another PL-660 if it’s still in production.

Some of the SWLs reading this post might ask, “What about the Tecsun PL-880?” Surely, it appears to be a fine radio and seems better than the PL-660 in most areas.

I can’t really stack both radios up to comparison because…well, I don’t have the PL-880. I swore to myself that PL-660 will be my last shortwave that I will buy. It’s not because I am giving up on shortwave; but it is probably the best radio I’ve used and most others don’t compare well against it.

Except maybe the Tecsun PL-880, but that’s not on my shopping list until the PL-660 finally breaks down.

Time To Retire From Shortwave Or Not

It has been a while since this issue has come across my mind. As international broadcasters transmitting to North America continue to dwindle, I wonder whether or not if I should still listen to shortwave radio.

Most of the stations I listened to left this medium and have found the internet. To be honest, I’ve found myself listening to internet radio and podcasts more frequently than my shortwave radio. Broadcasters such as the BBC, Radio Australia, Voice of America, and Deutsche Welle can be found on the web.

Instead of grabbing my Tecsun PL-660, I am using my HTC One as my radio. Using apps like TuneIn Radio, iHeartRadio, and PocketCasts, I am listening to content that I would have normally heard on the HF bands as a kid or perhaps would never hear (shows like “Stuff You Should Know “and “Umm Yeah Dude”). Even one of my favorite Radio Netherlands programs, “The State We’re In,” survives not on shortwave but as a podcast.

I rather connect an audio line-in cable to my phone and HD Radio/Phone dock instead of listening to static. Sound quality and content is what matters to me,  not the device I am hearing it on.

With content leaving shortwave, is it even worth listening to anymore? As of this writing, I am tuned to some jazzy tunes on CBC Radio One via TuneIn Radio. Aside from Radio Habana Cuba, extreme right-wing religious broadcasters, ham radio operators, and stations transmissions targeted to regions far from North America…it seems like I should close this fun, exciting chapter of my life.

However, I am not simply giving up on a fascinating hobby just quite yet. Yes, internet radio is awesome but shortwave radio is here to stay for just a little while longer.

There are some smaller stations like PCJ Media that are expanding their HF presence, thanks to the free space in the bands. In addition, I have two big annoyance with internet radio: buffering and connection caps (thanks Comcast). Hence, this is a reason my Tecsun radio is turned on and not my TuneIn Radio app.

Regardless, I find it hard to recommend a shortwave radio to anyone who has not bothered to have an interest in the hobby. For people interested getting into international broadcasting, internet radio works just fine.

I am also set on the Tecsun PL-660 being the last shortwave radio that I’ll ever buy. Aside from listening to local and national stations, I won’t have a use for it as SW broadcasters continue to leave the airwaves. tunein-300x246

I haven’t abandoned the hobby but it’s getting time to “throw in the towel.” It’s been fun and there are some great experiences that will stay with me.

I even have a nice collection of QSL cards, but this 16 year-old hobby has ran its course. It’s time to fully move onto the wonderful world of Internet radio.

Despite the change in my listening habits, I did manage to catch Radio Romania broadcasting on 6145 kHz on 1/20/2014 around 0100 UTC. This transmission is being received in Memphis, TN USA. Sorry for the blue tint as this is recorded from my HTC One, which has a camera glitch that causes a blue tint to most photos and video (not a white balance issue).

Guys Speak Geek Podcast Coming Soon

Hey everyone. Some of you may or may not know this, but I am going to produce a podcast soon called “Guys Speak Geek.” Yes, the title speaks for itself. I think it’s going to be something worthwhile…at least in my head anyway. It’s a work inprogress, but I have a blog site on WordPress up at least. You should expect the first episode sometime next week as the show talks about the HTC One, the Android experience, and T-Mobile’s JUMP! program.

Check out the site now at

Final Fantasy III Android Mini Review

There is confusion among the order of past Final Fantasy games. Once upon a time, FFIII was actually the Japanese version of FFVI on the Super Nintendo while FFIV was FFII in the U.S.

Since then, Square-Enix has cleared up this oddity by re-releasing the games Western audiences missed out on. The actual Final Fantasy 2 & 3 were originally on NES.


In 2006, S-E eventually brought Final Fantasy III to the States and other regions on the Nintendo DS. Since then, the game has been released on other platforms including iOS, PSP/Vita, and Android.

The Android version is nearly identical to the DS remake, sans dual screens and opening cinematic. Instead of NES sprites, this version is presented in 3D with polygons and all. In fact, the graphics might make one compare it to the PlayStation era Final Fantasy games.

Unlike the DS version, FF3 on Android is in high-definition and looks good whether using a smartphone or 10 inch tablet.


Controls are something of a mixed bag. While Google’s OS supports gamepads, this game does not so you are forced to use touch screen virtual buttons.

I prefer to use physical controls, however the touch screen interface is not bad, and much easier to use than most other games on mobile devices. After all, it is a RPG and works with the platform.

Most Android devices support FF3 so it should run very well on phones and tablets at least a 2-3 years old. I am using a Nexus 7 and gameplay runs smooth without a stutter.


Final Fantasy III’s gameplay is very good and holds up well against some newer games in the series (here’s looking at you, FF13). This game first introduced the job system FF fans have come to love. As you progress in the story, your party gains a variety of classes with their own unique abilities. For example, dragoons can jump, mages use magic, and monks can retaliate to counter enemy’s attacks.

If you are looking for a challenge, this RPG will give you one. With numerous random battles and difficult boss battles, this game will make you pull out you hair or, God-forbid, throw your Android device against the wall.

With that said, it’s not too hard that no one can beat it and a little level grinding goes a long way. For a greater challenge, I would say use the Onion Knight class, which can use all black & white magic and equip all weapons/armor. It nurfs your stats, but proves very rewarding once your party exceeds level 90.

The story isn’t horrible, but it is lacking substance. It is a simple premise: four Warriors of Light must find the crystals and save the world. These characters have short backstories but after their initial introduction, there is no further development. To be fair, this is one of the earliest Final Fantasy games (originally released in 1990) so don’t expect something on the caliber of FF6 or FF7.

I also wish pricing was a little better on this title. While iOS and PSP/Vita owner can get this game for less than $10, Final Fantasy III is a whopping $16.99 on the Google Play Store. It’s a tad expensive for a mobile game. However if you consider that the Nintendo DS version cost $40 when it released, then the price for this version isn’t all that bad.

Overall, Final Fantasy III on Android is great and I am still enjoying it. If I had to criticize it, it would be for lack of a story and high price point for a mobile game. I’d score this classic RPG 8 crystals out of 10.

The Many Releases of Final Fantasy

Just announced, Final Fantasy V is coming to iOS at the end of March in Japan. Android users will get it shortly after.

In recent years, portable gaming has been greatly expanded. In addition to Nintendo’s & Sony’s handheld consoles, mobile games have flooded the smartphone & tablet landscape.

It can be argued that Apple iOS & Android could replace dedicated gaming devices or vise versa. In any case, major third-party developers are bringing hardcore experiences to mobile devices. Square-Enix is one of these companies that is supporting these platforms.

In the past three years, the famous JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game) maker has brought well-known franchises such as Chrono Trigger to iOS and Android. It has also release new software such as Chaos Rings. Notably, Final Fantasy games are available on both operating systems.

FF4 is out for iOS but should be available on Google Play this Spring. This version of the game is from the DS remake.

Currently, the first four installments are on iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad alongside Final Fantasy Tactics and Dimensions. Android has only FF I-III and Dimensions (FF IV and Tactics have yet to be released). Final Fantasy V (based on the GameBoy Advance version) is coming soon to smart devices with some graphical tweaks.

This flood of Final Fantasy remakes has some fans criticizing “Squeenix” about their strategy. The most common complaint is that there are too many re-releases, especially Final Fantasy IV. After all, the game is playable on Super Nintendo, PlayStation 1 & 3, PlayStation Portable & Vita, Nintendo DS & Wii, GameBoy Advance, iOS, and coming to Android this Spring.

Rather than seeing dozens of classic 2D-era games, some fans want more recent titles remade such as the ever-popular Final Fantasy VII.

Would it be awesome to play this gem on your smartphone or tablet? Unless you have an PS1 emulator, FF7 fans will have to wait for this classic to be released on iOS and Android. Until then, you can play it legally on PSN or Steam.

Although there is some merit to S-E’s many releases, I believe what they are is doing is not a totally bad idea. By expanding their library into the App Store & Google Play, more people will experience the series. This is especially great for those who either missed the series or too young to get to enjoy it.

My only criticism against Square-Enix is its app pricing. On both Google Play and the App Store, the cost of each game far exceeds any program. Compared to other developers, S-E charges a hefty price for newer content. As opposed to the budget $1 apps, most games are roughly $15-$20.

Check out Final Fantasy III for example. As of this writing, the game is $16 on Android and $9 on iOS (although it released at the cost of $16). Furthermore pricing isn’t consistent between platforms, especially comparing with PlayStation Network and Nintendo’s eShop where games are significantly cheaper (by about $5-$10).

However, I must admit the premium price tag holds value in S-E’s offerings. It is still much cheaper than console titles (which costs $60). In comparison to handhelds, they retail normally $40.

After all, Final Fantasy III (remade originally for the DS) costed $39.99 when it released in 2006. Once ported over to smartphones and tablets, it was about half the original price.

Plus, Square-Enix usually offers discounts and sales on their games on the digital marketplace. Final Fantasy I and II have been sold as low as a dollar on some occasions. Final Fantasy III was marked down by half  a year after its release on the App Store. This is just food for thought.

All this aside, I am excited for the Final Fantasy IV & V re-release on Android this year. The only thing I wish for is being able to use Bluetooth joypads. The virtual touchscreen controls are good, but using a controller with physical buttons would be swell.

Taking A Look At The Tecsun PL-390

pl390-4Before starting off, special thanks are given to Keith Perron and PCJ Media for providing the receiver reviewed in this article.

The Tecsun PL-390 is among the plethora of Chinese radios to flood the market in recent years.  For roughly $60 US on Amazon and Universal Radio, it provides the performance of expensive sets without breaking the bank.

The radio has the standard AM/MW & FM bands and includes shortwave and longwave. For single-sideband hobbyists, the PL-390 does not have SSB.

The receiver is bundled with a carrying case, external wire antenna, and an auxiliary plug. Batteries not included.

It has a line input jack should anyone want to listen to an external device like an iPod or tablet. The radio is also powered by batteries and AC via an USB cable. For complete specifications, visit

Those hoping for synchronous detection are out of luck, but it has DSP, or Digital Signal Processing. The technology works much the same way by helping reduce interference and fading while providing an audible sound.

Speaking of audio, the speaker quality on the Tecsun PL-390 is good for causal listening. As always, a pair of decent headphones or external speakers would perform better, but the built-in ones should suffice.

The radio allows the user to switch multiple bandwidths between 6, 4, 3, or 2 kHz steps. While most receivers have two settings (wide & narrow), the Tecsun PL-390 gives the listener more options to adjust sound quality.

pl390-1The default setting works best, however the other steps still provide an audible signal. Keep in mind that the 6 kHz sounds better but may be flooded with static while the 2 kHz step reduces the noise but also sacrifices quality.

Performance-wise, the PL-390 is possibly one of the best radios out there. Between the lineup of Tecsun receivers, it works just as well as the more expensive models.

In comparison to the PL-660, the 390 picked up everything the other radio tuned to on all

For example, Radio Australia on 9580 kHz (during 1100 UTC/ 6 a.m. Central) is received very well on both receivers with very little static and fading and no interference. In fact, it sounded better on the PL-390 than PL-660, which costs $40 more.

While it does not compete to the more DXing rigs, it holds its own against others over the $100 price point. This review does not belittle the value of radios such as the PL-660, Sangean ATS-909X, and Eton E5. Those radios are great for multiple reasons.

However, the PL-390 is a great travel radio with the same performance and half the price. It lacks features like SSB and sync detection, but sound quality, reception performance, auxiliary audio ports, and DSP more than make up for it.

In addition to the review, here are some comparison audio files between the Tecsun PL-390 & PL-660. The stations tuned to these radios are Radio Australia and Radio Habana Cuba.

Radio Australia – 9580 kHz (0800 UTC)
Tecsun PL-390
Tecsun PL-660

Radio Habana Cuba – 5040 kHz (0030 UTC)
Tecsun PL-390
Tecsun PL-660

Nintendo 3DS XL Short Impressions & Review

I haven’t posted in a long while. Mainly, I have been busy with work at FedEx and WUMR-FM so very little time has been afforded to me. Whenever spare time is available, some of it has been spent on gaming, mostly on-the-go or trying to finish Assassin’s Creed III.

A couple of weeks ago, I traded in some old, unplayed games and upgraded to a Nintendo 3DS XL (Flame Red) at GameStop. I am not a stranger to 3DS gaming since I used to have the original that released March 2011, so everything is familiar.

Off the bat, the portable device has some tweaks that make the XL the system of choice between the two. The big difference is screen size, which is 90% larger than the original 3DS but keeps the same resolution. One may think that games look crappy, but I honestly couldn’t tell the difference in quality. Both seem to be the same and games look great on the 3DS XL, especially with 3D turned on.

Speaking of, the larger 4.88 in. top screen makes 3D gaming much more bearable. The eyes do not get as strained and it is much more easier to focus the effect.

The bottom, touchscreen is also bigger (4.18 in.) and makes it easier to interact with games like signing a name, choosing items, menu navigation, etc. Also, it is noted that the stylus has been moved to the right side (as opposed to the top) for easier access.

Other little tweaks include slimmer size (in terms of thickness), heavier but matte plastic finish (less prone to scratches and fingerprints), more responsive analog nub and buttons, and actual physical menu buttons (Start, Select, and Home). Everything that was included in the first 3DS is still present in the XL version. Sadly, there is no second analog stick, but most 3DS games don’t need it and Nintendo has an attachment to remedy that problem.

Also, customers would be glad to know that the 3DS XL comes with a 4 GB SD Card (in addition to the 2GB built into the system), instead of 2 GB. The memory should be more than enough, but the handheld can be expanded to 32 GB SD cards which can be purchased for roughly $30.

Anyone who knows Nintendo is aware of some quality titles and the 3DS offerings are not disappointing. At last year’s launch, the company failed to bringing worthwhile games (the high price point of $250 didn’t help either). Since then, that promise has been fulfilled. Super Mario 3D Land, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Kid Icarus Uprising, New Super Mario Bros. 2, Mario Kart 7, and Paper Mario are just a few great first-party titles. Third-party companies like Square-Enix, Capcom, and Konami have brought triple A franchises like Kingdom Hearts, Resident Evil, and Metal Gear Solid to the 3DS as well. Even more game series like Super Smash Bros., Castlevania, Dragon Quest, and Monster Hunter are on the horizon. Then there are classic and current games available on the eShop.

If that doesn’t satisfy, the 3DS and 3DS XL are compatible with DS titles. For example, Pokemon Black & White 2 work well and even having the system opening more options if one downloads the Pokemon Radar App.

I could go on-and-on, but I must compare it with its rivalry…the PlayStation Vita. Even though the Vita has many elements that could make it successful, it lacks great games. Granted it has some, but 3DS has more…possibly because it has been out a year longer. With that said, the Vita is the best handheld I’ve owned from a hardware side, but lacks a huge library to keep most people interested.

Plus, price is a big factor. Even with the XL, the Nintendo 3DS is a much cheaper alternative to the PlayStation Vita. The lowest entry for Vita is $250, while the highest for Nintendo handhelds is $200. Also, you don’t have to buy a separate memory card for the 3DS. Nearly all 3DS games save directly onto the game card. It even comes with system memory and and SD card. For all those features, the Vita lacks memory and even a 4 GB stick will cost $20. Should anyone need to expand 3DS memory, 16 and 32 GB SD cards are widely available and very cheap. While it cost nearly $100 for the max amount of memory for Vita, it is about $70 cheaper for 3DS owners to upgrade.

I am not suggesting either system is perfect or completely flawed. Both 3DS and Vita offer some unique  and wonderful experiences. However when it comes to price, the 3DS has a better deal. There are some truly great games, which Nintendo has always been successful with when it comes to portable gaming.

If I would have to suggest between 3DS and Vita, it depends on what you’re looking for. For better graphics, hardcore games, and better controls, the Vita is a good system but expect to spend a lot of money and possibly wait a while for more good titles. For those on a budget who want quality games that play well and look decent, the 3DS has plenty to offer for all different types of gamers. Those who think it is too kiddy might be right, but the games are still pretty enjoyable.

Anyone looking to get a 3DS this holiday season should consider a 3DS XL. The bigger size actually makes the system much better. Those who already own a 3DS wouldn’t need to upgrade, but newcomers may want to look into the XL, especially since it is slightly more expensive ($30 more) than the original 3DS at $170.

Review of The Worldwide Listening Guide

It has been a long while since my blog/online portfolio has been updated with posts. Nonetheless I am committed to writing articles, especially those related to radio, video games, and photography. With that said, there is something I want to share with you, the reader.

As a shortwave radio listener (SWL), I am aware that some major broadcasters have stopped their transmissions. In fact, the last post explained how Radio Canada International signed off permanently. Additionally, Radio Netherlands Worldwide stopped broadcasting as a whole. It’s nothing more, but a website claiming to promote free speech.

Newcomers to the radio hobby might wonder if there is anything worth tuning into anymore. There is a book that would tell you that so much programming is still available on shortwave. Heck, you don’t even have to listen to it to enjoy this piece of literature.

The book I am referring to is The Worldwide Listening Guide by John Figliozzi. It is among many radio hobbyist literature including World TV/Radio Handbook, Monitoring Times, and Popular Communications.

I actually had an older version of this book back in 1999/2000 when they were sold in Radio Shack. The edition I have now is the 5th Edition, and has served me well since it was purchased January 2012. While it’s not advertised in Radio Shack, it can be purchased on Amazon, eBay, Universal Radio, and C. Crane for about $25 US.

A word of caution: this book is mainly intended for radio hobbyists living in North America. While it can be used by any region, The Worldwide Listening Guide tailors it to this audience. Many sections reference North American time zones, cities, local broadcasters, and even broadcast mediums available in this continent.

However, I can say this book is like TV Guide, but…for radio. First of all, it covers every single way radio is received in North America. Coverage includes shortwave, AM/FM, Satellite, Podcasting, Internet, and even HD Radio.

In the front, there are several sections for each broadcast medium, which gives an overview, types of equipment, content available, advantages & disadvantages, etc. The meat of the The Worldwide Listening Guide is the program guide. This large section covers nearly every radio show broadcasted. Starting at midnight UTC (or 2000 Eastern time), the pages are filled with program name, station name, time and day it airs, frequency or platform, and program type.

To look for a specific genre of radio program, the “Classified Program Lists” will guide you. Say someone wants to listen to rock music shows or sports talk, the book lists that category and follows with a list of programs, the time/day they air, and which station to find it on.

There are other reference pages like the Program Name & Description List, Glossary, and even Listener Log pages where you can fill in details about your listening experience. You don’t have to be a shortwave listener to enjoy this book.

Having owned this for about 9 months, The Worldwide Listening Guide is a great companion to have while listening to your favorite shows and what to figure out what to listen to. While some information does get a little outdated, the author provides a web link for an updated addition to the existing book until the next edition rolls out.

I would not say The Worldwide Listening Guide is any more or less better than the other competing radio hobbyist books out there. It’s more of supplement to the experience. All these books deserve some attention.

With that said, I recommend The Worldwide Listening Guide for the new shortwave or even just radio hobbyist. It’s easy to read: simple but very detailed & informative.

So Long, Farewell RCI

For those people who listen to shortwave radio, it is getting time for Radio Canada International to sign off permanently. Thanks to budget cuts, the international broadcaster is eliminating its shortwave and satellite radio programming on June 25th. The last broadcast will feature its listener feedback show, Maple Leaf Mailbag which is normally hosted by Ian Jones. As many listeners are doing, I am writing one last e-mail to one of the first broadcasters I have tuned to initally on shortwave back in November 1997. Below is my final letter…

Hello MLMB,

   Greetings from Memphis,TN, this is Chris Freitas who has now finished his journalism degree at the University of Memphis. I am saddened to hear that Radio Canada International is shutting down its shortwave and satellite services. Does this also mean that the station will end its streaming audio and podcast services as well? Several broadcasters have left or in the process of leaving the traditional radio business for good. Recently, Radio Netherlands Worldwide has decided to terminate all English broadcasts, including its online services. Do the powers that be realize that they are silencing the only voice to the rest of the world? I love internet radio as much as shortwave but there are still many people worldwide that lack of web access or even a computer. It seems very silly that those in charge of these stations, including RCI, would rather save a buck and lose their audience than staying on the air.

   Regardless, I have enjoyed listening to RCI since I first began listening to shortwave in 1997 on a Sears multiband radio. After reading an article in Boy’s Life magazine, Canada was one of the many voices I heard on the HF. If I recall, the frequency was 9740 kHz. Anywho, I really enjoying tuning to Maple Leaf Mailbag, especially when both of you guys were running the show. I realized that Ian has been the host since I have been a SWL. These past 15 years have been eventful to say the least.

   Should RCI end its web services, I can still listen to CBC for all things Canada but RCI will be missed dearly. After all, it was one of my first stations I ever listened to on shortwave. I am sad to see many great broadcasters are leaving the medium. Thankfully most of them are online and I still can listen to those voices, but it’s not quite the same as tuning in on a portable radio that doesn’t require a web connection. Internet radio doesn’t hold the joy of trying to find distant signals thousands of miles away from the point of origin. As the curtain closes at RCI, I will remember the fond times tuning in and listening to great stories from Canada to the world…to my home. It has been a friend that is always welcome. I wish everyone at RCI success in finding new employment and future endeavors.

   I also wish fellow listeners to not be discouraged about these developments in the HF bands and give internet radio a chance…should you have a internet connection. I am saddened that stations like RCI are leaving shortwave, but many are still alive and well on the worldwide web. After all, it is the content that really matters…not how it is being broadcast per se.


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