The word “incredible” gets thrown around a lot, but virtual reality actually earns that praise: you literally won’t believe how well it works until you see it for yourself. The software side of things has been slow to catch up to the potential of VR headsets, but the technology itself is mindblowing because of the way it lets us interact with virtual worlds like we’re actually there – something that’d only been dreamed of until the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive came out earlier this year. It’s fantastic that Sony’s PlayStation VR headset will allow many more people to have these groundbreaking experiences by lowering the financial barrier to entry, with only a few compromises.

Though the PlayStation VR Launch Bundle  is advertised at only $399.99, that price is misleading because it’s mostly useless without the $59.99 PlayStation Camera, which is sold separately. Additionally, many of the launch games either require or make use of one or two motion-tracked PlayStation Move controllers, which must also be purchased separately for between $20 and $30 each. Bundles (like the one on which this review is based) are available with the full set for $499.99, which is still a major price advantage. The HTC Vive, which includes its two Lighthouse sensors and motion controllers, costs $799.99; the Oculus Rift is $599.99 and comes with one sensor and an Xbox One controller (and its wireless dongle), but Oculus will soon release its Touch controllers for an as-yet-unannounced price that is speculated to be in the range of $200. So, combined with the fact that it hooks up to a $299.99 PlayStation 4 instead of a gaming PC that would cost you $700 or more, the PlayStation VR is by far the cheapest option for good-quality VR with motion control.

Cheaper almost always comes with a “you get what you pay for” caveat, and the PlayStation VR is no exception. But the impact of those differences is less than I’d expected when it comes to what happens when you put the headset on. One of the most important parts of a VR headset is the screen, and having used the higher-resolution Oculus Rift and HTC Vive (which both use two screens for a combined resolution of 2160×1200), I’m impressed at the quality of the PlayStation VR’s 1920×1080 image, which is split down the middle to display a different point of view for each eye. While the resolution is noticeably lower, the “screen door effect,” caused by the faint lines that separate the pixels on a display when you view it up close, is minimal. In-game text is very readable (though it must be larger than on other headsets to be legible). There’s also little or none of the visible radial lens pattern or streaking light effects I observed on the other two headsets.

No matter which headset you choose you’ll see virtual worlds through what looks like SCUBA goggles. The field of view on the PlayStation VR is slightly lower than its competitors (meaning the goggles look thicker) but in the same ballpark; the differences between the three are minor enough that unless you’re directly comparing one after another you’re unlikely to notice.

One of the big questions going in was whether the PlayStation 4 had enough horsepower to run games at the 90-frames-per-second rate that VR demands in order to minimize nausea. So far it has kept up admirably, with no significant frame rate dips in any of the games I’ve tried. That’s in both high-detail games like Batman: Arkham VR or EVE Valkyrie and low-detail ones like Tumble VR or Job Simulator. Again, it will never look as good as a Rift or a Vive on a gaming PC, which are capable of producing sharper and more detailed images, but the PlayStation VR does the job adequately. And with several people in the IGN office playing games on it over the past week, none has reported any unusual problems with nausea.

The other crucial part of a VR setup like this one is the motion tracking, and here is where I felt the pinch most. Relative to the Vive and its two sensors placed in opposite corners of your play area, the PlayStation VR’s reliance on its single camera is a significant weakness. It does work reasonably well thanks to the depth-sensing capabilities of its two lenses, but its field of view is narrow enough that I frequently bumped up against its limits with the Move controllers. With the recommended six feet of distance between me and the camera, I find I have to frequently adjust the angle to cover me when switching between a standing experience like Batman: Arkham VR and a sitting one like SuperHyperCube.

And even in the best-case scenario, it can’t cover your whole body and the floor around you, so if you see something shiny on or near the ground you can’t reach down to pick it up. All the games I’ve played thus far (such as Job Simulator, Tumble VR, and Batman) have accounted for this by simply warping items back to the playable height if you drop them, but it’s jarring to have your hand stop two feet from your target. You can tell someone they’re not supposed to do that until you’re blue in the face, but considering the whole point of VR is to fool people’s brains into thinking what they’re seeing is real, they will still make that mistake from time to time.



The SUNJACK 20W PORTABLE SOLAR CHARGER comes with two 8,000mAh batteries, giving you enough power to charge eight iPhones after 5 hours of sun. If you have your own portable battery, you can also use it with the SunJack, but our battery is optimized for maximum charging speed from the SunJack.

Our secret sauce is in our proprietary USB port and our lithium-polymer battery. We’ve found a way to optimize filling up the battery from sunlight – think of it as being able to get more water out of your faucet faster. The SunJack is able to get more electrons flowing into the battery faster than any solar charger available, which means you get wall-outlet charging speeds in an incredibly portable form-factor.

The battery can also charge from any standard micro-USB plug. This is useful if you’re going on a trip and want to have maximum charge with no down-time. The battery will reach a full charge in about 5 hours.

If you look at a standard Apple wall charger, you’ll see that the small plug is 5 Watts, and the large plug is 12 Watts. The SunJack is more powerful than both of these!

You want maximum solar power because the rating for a solar panel is only for direct sunlight. This means if it’s cloudy, a 5 Watt solar panel isn’t going to provide enough charge, but our 20 Watt solar panel will still have plenty of juice to spare (allowing for charging even under indirect sunlight or cloudy conditions).
A Watt is a unit of power, which indicates how much energy can be transferred in a given second. Most solar chargers on the market (with our form-factor and portability) are less than 14 Watts. Most 20 Watt solar panels are not portable – they’re large, heavy, and rigid. And this is the peak power under direct sunlight, which means a 5 Watt solar charger in indirect sunlight may only produce 3 Watts of power – less than a small Apple plug. When it comes to solar, more Watts = more power!
You can also think of Watts similar to horsepower or CPU speed. You can still get the work done on lower horsepower/CPU speed/less Watts, it will just take longer. With 14 and 20 Watts of solar power, there’s ample power to charge your devices, even with clouds.

If you’re wanting wall-outlet charging speeds of up to 2 Amps of current, you’ll want as much power as possible. Fortunately with the SunJack, even if there’s no sun you’ll be able to rapidly charge all your devices with our battery.

Our solar USB ports provide a full 2 amps of output – which means the 20 Watt SunJack could charge 2 iPads at the same time under direct sunlight!

Our battery also is able to take in a full 2 amp charge from the solar cells, and discharge a full 2 amps – which allows for very rapid energy storage unlike anything else available.

Simply put, our USB ports allow for maximum fast-charging of any device.

The efficiency ratio of the solar cell to convert sun light to DC current is ~19%, which is higher than average due to using mono-crystalline instead of poly-crystalline solar cells. Here’s a more in-depth article on the difference between mono and poly solar cells.

Beyond technical performance, we also care about the longevity of this product. The great thing about our monocrystalline solar cells is that they’ve shown to produce 80% of their power even after 25 years of use. The lithium-polymer battery should hold 80% of it’s capacity after 1,000 cycles – so if you were to cycle the battery every day it should still charge even after three years.


    • ✔ 5200mAh internal battery charges up to 3 smartphones
  • ✔ Unit Dimension: 10.5″ x 1.5″ x 1.5″ (26.7cm x 3.8cm x 3.8cm)
  • ✔ Unit Weight: 8oz / 227 g
  • ✔ Packaging Dimension: 10.5″ x 2.25″ x 1.75″ (26.7cm x 5.7cm x 4.5cm)

Childrens book tells old tale


Though the flood of 1916 may seem an unlikely backdrop for a children’s book, one author with family roots to Madison County found inspiration in the tragedy. Don Harris, an avid fisherman now living in Henderson County, saw all the attention the flood received around its 100th anniversary and thought he’d write an uplifting story around the ordeal.

“I’ve always had an interest in that flood,” Harris told The News-Record & Sentinel in a phone interview.

“Mama’s Quilt” tells the story of a young boy named Buck whose Papa saves, and ultimately adopts, a baby otter. “With the media attention on the 100th anniversary of the flood, and seeing that river otters are making a comeback into Western North Carolina rivers, all the elements fit together for a story of the flood,” Harris said.

After frequent visits to Madison to fish and to visit family in the Rector Corner area, Harris figured Marshall would provide the ideal setting for the story. “The French Broad River has always been a big part of life,” he said. “I’ve fished all up and down the river for smallmouth bass, from the headwaters to way below past Redmon Dam, beyond Hot Springs to the Tennessee line.”

The self-published book features the story told through the eyes of the 10-year old narrator, Buck. “I made the name up,” said Harris. “Later I found up that my family called me Buck as a young boy. I didn’t remember that at all. A cousin told me that.”

Harris’ own daughter, Whitney Wallace, provides the illustration for the story. “It was a great way to connect and get her art out there,” Harris said. “She did extensive research on quilt patterns. We had a lot of people read the story, and then go back to find illustrations as part of baby quilt patterns in the book. It’s part of the story.”

The book aims to engage young readers around the same age as the fictional narrator. “I had elementary school teachers and reading teachers review it,” Harris said. “They said the story could be read to those young as five or six, or by readers eight, nine or 10. My grandson read it at 13 and he enjoyed it.” Harris has shared his work with local readers, making a visit to Hot Springs to share it with elementary school students.

Currently, the book, which went on sale shortly before Christmas, is available at and in Madison County at Artisun Gallery in Hot Springs and Penland & Sons on Main Street in Marshall.

5 Reasons Ecommerce Brands Should Leverage User-Generated Content


Do you know how many sites there are in the ecommerce universe? According to Lemonstand, there are 12 to 24 million online stores — and counting.

As an ecommerce entrepreneur you may find it tough to position yourself successfully in front of your target customers, while knowing that tons of brands are also competing for their undivided attention. So, what’s the secret ingredient to gain ecommerce success? Think social proof.

You’ll be able to stand apart from your competition and skyrocket your sales if you tap into the power of social proof in the form of user-generated content.

But, what exactly is user-generated content? The term (abbreviated as UGC) refers to original, unpaid content created by fans or real users of a particular brand. It can exist in the form of testimonials, pictures, comments, Facebook statuses and tweets.

Why is UGC so important to you? How can it help you achieve your business goals? Here are some of the reasons why you should leverage user-generated content.

1. Nurtures trust through authenticity

Studies have shown that 92 percent of online consumers trust recommendations from others. As an entrepreneur, you can spend a huge chunk of your time running paid ads and creating compelling posts to entice people to buy from you. However, you won’t be able to give customers a solid reason to do business with you if you don’t showcase authentic testimonials from real users.

Social proof is powerful. It helps brands become more transparent and worthy of people’s trust. Consider: When was the last time you bought from an online brand without looking into the opinions of previous customers?

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4 Dumb SEO Tactics That Will Get Your Site Penalized


Is your SEO provider about to get you penalized? Hopefully not, but there is a chance it might. It is too easy to put up a website and advertise SEO services without actually knowing what they are doing. There are also marketers out there who don’t keep up with Google best practices and still use old methods that are ineffective.

If you have never been hit with a Google penalty, let me just tell you it is an experience like no other. Your heart falls into your stomach, you become short on breath and your eyes start to hurt from staring at your computer screen wondering what happened. It’s not a good feeling and one that you never want to experience. Even worse, when potential clients or partners look you up on Google and see you’ve been penalized, kiss your reputation goodbye.

As you plan your SEO strategy for the year, here are four things to watch out for. If any of these are happening, there is a good chance you are on your way to a Google penalty.

1. Linking to your homepage

First, there is nothing wrong with including homepage links into your backlink strategy. However, it must be done the right way.

Some people still believe that acquiring more links to the homepage of your website will help that website rank higher. Those people are still living in 2005. Google doesn’t rank websites. It ranks pages. That is why you need to link to quality content within your website and not the homepage.

A sure sign that your provider is doing things wrong is if they link your homepage to an exact match keyword. For instance, linking the term “SEO provider” to the homepage of an actual SEO provider.

Exact Match Anchor Text + Homepage Link = Road Leading to Google Penalty

Homepage links are fine if they are done naturally. The only “natural” way I see homepage links is if it is branded (e.g., the article is talking about a specific company and links to the homepage of that company) or a quote that links to the homepage of the person giving it (even this is iffy as some black-hat marketers are oversaturating Google links from quotes).

If you only have a homepage and product landing pages on your website, it is time to start reevaluating your marketing plan. Start a blog and generate quality content that people want to read. This is the only way to ensure quality links to your site.

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Will Facebook Marketplace Be the Next Ecommerce Heavyweight?


Circumstances dictate actions, right? Well, that’s especially true in the ecommerce field. By most standards, ecommerce is a young industry. but as the option goes deeper into its 40s in 2017, the slightest hint of an unfamiliar hue turns the dye a completely different color.

The reference is to the Indian marketplace. That country’s emergence in the ecommerce marketplace has it set to overtake the United States in less than two decades, with “digital” sales expected to reach $63.7 billion by 2020.

This offers American ecommerce companies a big opportunity to start exploring more international waters. Amazon has already dipped its toe in — and a big toe, at that — by investing another $3 billion on top of the $2 billion it’s already spent on its Indian unit.

Enter Facebook Marketplace, described at its October launch as “a convenient destination to discover, buy and sell items.” With Facebook Marketplace, the potential for independents to take more sales activities overseas and grab a chunk of that potential business grows exponentially. So far, this new functionality is available only in the United States, U.K., Australia and New Zealand, but it could roll out globally if interest catches on.

Facebook’s edge over competitors

If you’re unfamiliar with Marketplace, you’re far from alone. It’s a relatively new feature on the Facebook app, working somewhat similarly to Craigslist with one exception — you can actually see who is selling the product.

Anything you buy has the potential to be connected by eight degrees of social media separation. Buying something from a friend of a friend adds a certain level of trust, which isn’t often present on the likes of Craigslist or eBay. In short, Facebook Marketplace doesn’t feel like such a gamble.

You’ll also enjoy the added functionality of Messenger. When you want to learn more about an item or haggle over price, Marketplace connects you right to Facebook’s texting app. No need to hop on your email and wait for a reply.

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