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Meet Ryan Nagata's Sci-Fi Ray Gun Collection

While visiting prop maker Ryan Nagata's shop, Adam Savage learns about Ryan's collection of custom ray gun replicas. These beautiful hand props are each unique in their design and inspiration, and would right at home in a mid-century sci-fi serial. Check out the one based off of WETA's Dr. Grordbort Righteous Bison!

Testing: GeForce GTX 1080 Compute Performance

Can Nvidia's new flagship compute? Sure it does. But how well?

Out of idle curiosity, I ran a couple of OpenCL compute-oriented benchmarks on the GTX 1080 and three other GPUs. Bear in mind that this is more quick-and-dirty benchmarking, not rigorously repeated to validate results. The results, however, look interesting and the issue of compute on new GPUs bears further investigating.

The Setup

These tests ran on my existing production system, a Core i7-6700K with 32GB DDR4 running at the stock 2,133MHz effective. I used four different GPUs: GTX 1080, Titan X, GTX 980, and an AMD Radeon Fury Nano. The GTX 1080 used the early release drivers, while the other GPUs ran on the latest WHQL-certified drivers available from the GPU manufacturer's web site.

As you can see from the table below, all four GPUs ran at the reference frequencies, including memory. When I show the results, I don't speculate on the impact of compute versus memory bandwidth or quantity. As I said: quick and dirty.

GPUGTX 1080Titan XGTX 980Radeon Fury Nano
Base Clock1.6GHz1.0GHz1.126GHz1.0Ghz
Boost Clock1.73GHz1.075GHz1.216GHz1.05GHz
Memory Bandwidth320GB/s336GB/s224GB/s512GB/s

CompuBench CL

The first benchmark, CompuBench CL from Hungary-based Kishonti, actually consists of a series of benchmarks, each focusing on a different compute problem. Because the compute tasks differ substantially, CompuBench doesn't try to aggregate them into a single score. So I show separate charts for each test. CompuBench CL 1.5 desktop uses OpenCL 1.1.

Maker Faire 2016: Pocket CHIP $49 Portable Computer

Last year, we were impressed by Next Thing Co's $9 CHIP computer. At Maker Faire 2016, we were able to check out their PocketCHIP housing, which puts CHIP into a portable console package that runs Linux and indie game console Pico-8. Here's what you can do with the $49 system!

Avoiding RC Transmitter Switch Mistakes

At the most recent meeting of my RC club, several pilots got into a discussion about the embarrassment of accidentally flipping the wrong switch on their radio transmitter. The consequences of this mistake ranged anywhere from scuffed paint to a full-bore crash into the turf. Given the complexity of modern radios and the forest of protruding switches, it's easy to understand how even a seasoned pilot could mistake one switch for another. It is even more understandable when you realize that many pilots are reluctant to take their eyes off of their aircraft. The myriad switches are often navigated purely by muscle memory and feel.

Nearly everyone had a story to share about causing damage to a favorite model from an absent-minded switch throw. Most stories were followed by a description of what was done afterward to mitigate the risk of future mistakes. The majority of pilots chose to modify a critical switch in order to differentiate it from its neighbors.

Modern RC transmitters are often complex. Hitting the wrong switch can cause an embarrassing and costly mishap.

For many pilots, their target switch to modify is the one which activates retractable landing gear. Obviously, you want to be able to easily locate that switch so that you can safely lower the gear when it's time to come in for a landing. This is especially true if you're already dealing with an in-flight emergency such as a dead engine.

Correct operation of the landing gear is also vital when the model is on the ground. One pilot relayed an incident where he intended to retract the wing flaps while taxiing his expensive jet model. He inadvertently hit the landing gear switch instead. As the landing gear tucked itself away, his jet belly-flopped onto the hard runway, causing considerable mechanical and cosmetic damage. Another flyer talked about the time he accidentally retracted a model's landing gear while the engine was warming up. His transgression ruined a very costly propeller.

You want to be able to quickly identify switches by feel.

Many multi-rotor models have switches that control flight modes and/or the 'return home' function. Changing either of those could fundamentally alter how the model responds to your control inputs. Correct positioning of the switch is vital.

Whatever your hot-button (or two) may be, the intent of modifying the corresponding switch is the same. You want to be able to quickly identify that switch by feel so that you can move it when you need to and leave it alone when you don't. What follows are three proven methods to modify a critical switch.

In Brief: Pebble Announces New Watches, Core Accessory

Even though Apple reportedly corners half of the smart watch market, Pebble is pushing forward its lineup with new watches and an interesting accessory on the horizon. The Pebble 2 and Pebble Time 2 are the logical follow-ups to the low-power watches, adding heart-rate monitors, extending battery life, and expanding the screen size by 50% in the color model. But the more interesting product looks to be the $70 Pebble Core, a display-free pocketable puck that has GPS tracking, Spotify streaming, audio out (including Bluetooth), and even 3G sim card support. Steven Levy examines why the Core may be a smart move for Pebble on Backchannel. Pebble is also once again turning to Kickstarter for early bird pricing pre-orders--pay in 35 days and you'll get a new watch by the end of the year.

Maker Faire 2016: OpenROV's New Trident Drone

We catch up with OpenROV at Maker Faire to learn about their new Trident underwater drone. This new model is faster, has a better camera, and is built to be ready to dive out of the box. It also has a unique towable receiver buoy that floats and lets you pilot the drone remotely.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind's Surreal Effects

In director Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman plumbs a consciousness-bending story about a man, Joel Barish (Jim Carrey), who attempts to ease the pain of a breakup by undergoing a procedure that will erase all memories of the relationship from his mind. Joel's attempts to interrupt the erasure mid-procedure – all from within his subconscious – set the story in a world that is part reality, part waking dream.

That surreal world was the stuff of visual effects, more than 100 realized by Custom Film Effects. Buzz Image Group took on only 16 shots, but each was a critical depiction of Joel's altered mind as, one by one, his memories of Clementine (Kate Winslet) are deconstructed, abstracted and, finally, erased.

The memory abstractions are sometimes blatant, sometimes subtle. In a sequence early in the film, Joel – in his car – follows Clementine as she walks angrily down a sidewalk. "This was a hand-held, non-effects shot," said Buzz visual effects supervisor Louis Morin, "but in the scene, Jim Carrey says a line about everything falling apart – and Michel wanted to emphasize that feeling." To visually support the idea of a world falling apart, Gondry suggested removing one of Clementine's legs in the scene. "I said: 'Okay, it's possible – but this is a swish-pan, and it is going to be so fast, nobody will see it.' But he wanted to try it; so we replaced Clem's real legs with CGI legs, did 3D tracking and remodeled the sidewalk she was walking on."

Determined to limit the number of visual effects in the film, director Michael Gondry used in-camera trickery wherever possible. For a scene in which Joel transports Clem into his childhood memories, production built a forced-perspective kitchen set to render Jim Carrey child-size.

The first attempt at the shot bore out Morin's initial concerns. "Nobody could see it," said Morin, "because it was so fast. I asked if they had a longer take of Clem walking, and they did – but in that one, she wasn't turning her head properly. So we combined takes in the swish-pan, tracked the head from the first take onto Clem in the longer take, and put in a whole CGI background." In that background, a car crashes behind a fence, unnoticed by Clem. "That was a CGI car and a CGI fence. It was a shocking event to keep the audience on their toes, to say, 'Look – some pretty unusual things will be shown to you in this movie.'"

Tested: Mechanical Gaming Keyboards

What makes a good mechanical keyboard? And why are peripheral companies releasing new gaming keyboards so frequently? Patrick and Norm discuss the state of this essential accessory, and how the switches in new keyboards from Corsair, Razer, and Logitech compare. Which type of switch do you prefer?