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Lego with Friends: Phil Broughton, Part 4

If there's one thing you can take away from this week's LEGO with Friends, it's the story of south pole's "sh*tberg". Quality storytelling continues along with steady LEGO building--Phil's a total natural. Hope you're enjoying it! Newcomers can catch up and follow along with us for the rest of this build by signing up for a Tested Premium Membership here!

The Talking Room: Adam Savage Interviews Traci Des Jardins

The Talking Room returns! This season's first guest is Traci Des Jardin, an award-winning chef and restaurateur. Traci was a finalist on Top Chef Masters and a semi-finalist for this year’s James Beard award for Outstanding Chef. Adam invited Traci to The Talking Room to talk about her cooking ethos, the challenge of managing restaurants, and her approach to crafting new recipes.

Testing: Ares Quadcopter Accessories

A few weeks back, I presented an overview of a few quads from the Ares brand. Overall, I was quite impressed with the quality and flying traits of the Ares birds. Since performing my testing, I have acquired some of the accessory items that can be utilized with the Ethos QX 130 or the larger Ethos HD. I'll show you how these add-ons work and why they might even help your flying skills.

There are five accessory units to choose from: a camera ($29.99), winch ($12.99), rocket launcher ($12.99), water blaster ($12.99), and bubble machine ($12.99). I had already experimented with the camera during my initial review of the QX 130. I found it to be consistent with all of the other tiny cameras that are mounted on some mini-quads – not very good. This time around, I'll focus on the remaining four options and see how they measure up.


Each of the accessory units features a simple clip-on mount that secures it to the bottom of the quad. They also have a wire pigtail that must be connected to the quad's control board. When connecting to the QX 130, the body must be removed to expose the plug sockets on the top side of the control board. With the Ethos HD, the control board is oriented with the sockets on the bottom side. While the body can stay in place, the plugs are more difficult to access. I used a small plastic flat-blade screwdriver to push the plugs into their sockets and also to pry them out.

This view of the Ethos QX 130 control board illustrates where the accessory units must be plugged in (bottom edge). The layout is similar for the Ethos HD, but the board is inverted and access is slightly obscured.

Every accessory package also includes a set of helicopter-like skids with carbon fiber legs. When added to the QX 130, these parts raise the ground stance of the quad so that the underslung add-ons stay out of the dirt. It isn't necessary to raise the Ethos HD to clear any of the accessories.

The accessories are operated using one or two of the four buttons located on the lower-right face of the transmitter. This works okay except that you have to release one of the control sticks to press the desired button. It would be nice if the accessory buttons were located on the rear of the transmitter so they could be actuated without releasing any of the controls. I've considered hacking one of my Ares transmitters to install rear-mounted buttons, but it hasn't happened yet.

Maker Faire 2015: Justin Gray's Armored Robots

In experimenting with converting farm equipment to electric vehicles, fabricator Justin Gray has created a fleet of remote controlled robots that are as beautiful as they are tough. Heavily armored and uniquely sculpted, these robots looked like they rolled off the of the Mad Max set. We chat with Justin about his robots and how they each have a personality of their own.

Android M Rumor Roundup: Privacy, Android Pay, and More

Google turned Android upside down last year with the unveiling of Lollipop, known at the time only as Android L. Just one year later, Google is set to move on to another sweet treat, this time starting with M. With Google I/O just days away, the rumors are swirling.

What can we expect from Android M? Let's go over the possibilities.

A Privacy Overhaul

Android has become successful because it offered a distinct alternative to the Apple way of doing things. Android fans have responded positively to that over the years, but one place everyone seems to wish Google would borrow more from Apple is in the realm of app privacy controls. Android has none, but iOS puts that power in the users' hands.

A few years ago, Android's system of application permissions was seen as superior to iOS. When you install an app, the Play Store shows you what system permissions it wants. That could be something as innocuous as accessing the vibration motor or as serious as reading your contact list. The problem is there's no way to selectively deny permissions. If you install, the app gets everything it asks for. on iOS, the device pops up a notice when an app asks for access to sensitive information like your location or contacts. It's not the most elegant solution, but you can turn simply block it and still use the app.

There was a hint that Android had the capacity to do more with permissions when the AppOps permission control interface was uncovered in Jelly Bean a few years ago. However, that was just an internal dev tool, and it was subsequently pulled from public builds. The damage was done, though. People wanted this kind of functionality. Android M could finally give it to them.

According to several rumors, the next version of Android will include an overhaul of how permissions are managed on Android. This is a tricky thing because apps need to fail gracefully when you block a permission. AppOps could break things, but whatever Google does needs to support legacy apps.

There aren't currently details on how this would be handled, but I'd bet Google won't go so far as to clone AppOps for Android M. That tool was far too complex for average users to make heads or tails of. More likely is a series of toggles in the app management interface. Maybe you'll be able to selectively disable the more sensitive permissions like location access and read/write to the internal storage.

Searching for Home Theater 3D Audio That Doesn’t Suck

Dolby 7.1 surround sound was pretty easy for me to resist; $700 plus for a new AV Receiver and another $700 in speakers to add two more channels behind my head? Nope. I'm good sticking with 5.1 surround sound. So to even think about 9.1? Hah!

But Atmos, Dolby's latest sound technology seems a lot more impressive, and may be a lot harder to resist. Think of it, literally, as 3D audio. The system is designed to deliver sound from above you, not just around you. When utilized properly, it fills a room with sound, and gives filmmakers the tools to place individual sounds exactly where they want them in the theater space and move them around.

And, unlike 3D movies, I don't think it's a sucktastic gimmick. (All due apologies to Mr. Cameron and Avatar, but, most movies didn't do 3D nearly so well.)

That said, this was going to be a really simple column. Dolby Atmos sounds really cool, but my fear was that you would have to spend a grand or more on a receiver that supports Atmos. And then you'd have to mount FOUR speakers in your ceiling. And there's not much content mixed for it yet. Like 7.1, it could be an easy pass.

Turns out I was wrong on two of those counts. You can have Atmos even if you a) don't have all the money, and b) aren't allowed to cut holes or pull cable through the ceiling (with caveats). But before we talk bargain receivers and Atmos enabled speakers, let's talk about the Atmos technology itself.