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Tested: Kyosho RC Surfer 3 Electric Surfboard

I really dig unique RC models, and Kyosho's RC Surfer 3 definitely fits that description. While it looks just like a model surfboard--right down to the handsome dude riding on top--it is also part powerboat. It can ride waves at the beach or make waves of its own further inland.

A Powered Surfboard

RC surfboards are not a new thing. As the name suggests, the RC Surfer 3 ($230) is Kyosho's third variation on the theme. The basic design is a carryover from earlier models, but there are numerous equipment and cosmetic updates that make the most recent version more contemporary.

The surfboard itself is comprised of a molded plastic hull. A waterproof servo actuates a rudder at the tail of the board. This unique rudder resembles an inverted "U" shape. I'm not sure if the intent of this shape is to allow the rudder to double as a kickstand when RC Surfer is on land, but that functionality is there.

Kyosho's RC Surfer 3 is an updated version of a design that has been around for years. It can be driven at the beach or on a pond.

The onboard electronics are an interesting mixture of old and new technology. Propulsion is provided by an old-school brushed can motor with a direct-drive link to the prop via a solid shaft in a stuffing tube. It is undeniably low-tech, but also dead simple and reliable.

A modern ESC is provided for throttle control. Like the steering servo, this device is also waterproof. The ESC has two physical jumpers that are used to enable/disable reverse capability and to choose low-voltage cut-off for NiMH or LiPo batteries.

Effects Artist Howard Berger on Creatures and Makeup

Academy Originals continues to kill it with its profiles of the craftspeople and artists behind Hollywood films. KNB EFX co-founder Howard Berger walks us through his work as a special makeup effects artist, giving a demo of the sculpting, molding, casting, painting, and application of a prosthetic makeup.

Why You Need a Dedicated Testbed

I admit to a certain laziness in my advanced years. When I was editor of ExtremeTech years ago, I maintained a certain rigor about having dedicated testbeds for graphics and CPU. A dedicated test system requires some specific tender loving care to ensure you get reproducible results. In addition, you want the test system to allow the component under test to shine. So several key aspects need to be maintained:

  • You need to keep the OS fairly clean. In the era of Windows 10 and SSDs, the OS doesn't need to be pristine, but you need to be sure you don't have a lot of background stuff running. That may seem obvious, until you realize that performance testing these days often require always-connected service applications such as Steam or Adobe Creative Cloud. If any of this class of apps start downloading updates in the background, that directly affects performance testing.
  • The same goes true with Windows updates. If you're testing on Windows 10, you really need to use Windows 10 Pro so you can have some control over update scheduling.
  • Check to make sure no extraneous applications might be running while you're running performance tests. For example, installing AMD Radeon graphics drivers often happily default to recording game videos while you play, which will adversely affect benchmarking.
  • Check for VSYNC anomalies, such as Nvidia drivers with adaptive or fast sync enabled.

I've been out of the benchmarking game long enough that I needed to run performance tests on my production system, which is not ideal. While I've been careful to disable or mitigate performance-sucking background apps, doing so proved tedious every time I needed to run a performance test. An interesting side effect of swapping out numerous graphics cards included the need to re-authenticate Steam and Origin, as well as Chrome and some other online apps.

So I'm building a duplicate system as a dedicated test system. I believed with all sincerity that modern PCs running Windows 10 would result in highly similar benchmark results on identical systems, even if one system included applications cruft. I discovered I was wrong — the clean system generates performance test results roughly 5-7% better than the older system. On the other hand, I experienced some sense of relief when I found that the relative order of the results remained unchanged — the differences were 5-7% across the board.

Knowledge and Expertise - Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project - 6/28/16
Adam, Norm, and Simone chat about how to approach acquiring new skills and expertise, as well as Simone's trip to the Shenzhen electronics market. Plus, our thoughts on the Seveneves movie announcement. Place your recommendations for what bits of American culture that Simone should know about in the comments below! (Thanks to TunnelBear for supporting Still Untitled!)
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Shop Tips: Respirators vs. Dust Masks

This week, Frank explains the difference between a dust mask and a respirator, and shows us the proper way to put them on. It's a simple yet essential tip--safety never takes a vacation! Post your own shop tips in the comments below!

Google Play App Roundup: Calendar Widget: Agenda, Rodeo Stampede, and Zombieville USA 2

Another week is upon us, and that means it's time to check out the state of the Google Play Store. Your phone is only a shadow of itself without the best apps, so it's a good thing we're here to save the day. Just click on the app name to pull up the Google Play Store so you can try things out for yourself.

Calendar Widget: Agenda

A few years ago, Candl Apps released the "Month" calendar widget, and it was a pretty big success. Now, the developer has published Calendar Widget: Agenda. You can probably guess what it does from the name. Like Month, this app comes with a multiple skins and a couple extra features but directly related to your schedule.

There's no entry for Agenda in your app drawer after installing. It's settings are only available from the widget after you've placed it in there home screen, so go ahead and do that. There's only one size in the weather list, but it's resizable to add small as 2x2 or as large as whatever your device's maximum grid size is. To change the theme, tap the settings gear on the widget.

There centerpiece of this app is the assortment of neat themes for the widget. A few look like tweaked versions of the stock Google Calendar widget, and none of them are super-weird or unattractive. I particularly like the ones that separate the days out as cards. When selecting a theme, you also have the option of tweaking the colors and opacity.

Like other agenda widgets, you can scroll through to get a look at all the event coming up on your calendars. In the settings, you can choose which calendars you want shown on the widget if you've got more than one attached to your account. There's also an option to have weather shown next to each day. This is part of the full version upgrade, though.

You get a handful of themes in the free download. Most of them are the note generic ones, but for $1.49 you can get another dozen themes and the aforementioned weather feature.