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Premium: Fixing Norm's MacBook Air Keyboard

I destroyed several of my MacBook Air's keys in an unfortunate indoor quadcopter accident. But before bringing it into the Apple store to pay to have it repaired, I took a stab at repairing the keys myself with cheap replacement parts bought online. It's not something I've done before, but as it turns out, it's not that difficult!

Alton Brown's Mustard Caddy

Alton Brown demonstrates a smart (and cheap!) solution for storing in place those finicky condiment bottles in your refrigerator door. Not all of them have flat tops that let you easily rest them upside down. Of course, we'd want to 3D-print a long-term solution.

In Brief: Lytro's Illum Looks More like Mirrorless than Monocular

Lightfield camera pioneer Lyto has announced a new camera, the Illum, which takes the technology from its eponymous 2012 camera and puts it in a form-factor that's more familiar to photographers. The Illum doesn't look like a kaleidoscope tube, its body and fixed 30-255mm lens makes it look more like a compact mirrorless camera, complete with 4-inch touchscreen. The new lens (13-element, f/2.0) affords the camera not only a range of focal lengths, but complements the new sensor. Lytro's sensors aren't comparable to traditional digital camera sensors, since they're not capturing and processing light in predetermined pixel grids. Lytro's lightfield sensors are rated in terms of how may light rays it can capture; the Illum has a 40 Megaray light sensor, compared to the original Lytro camera's 11 Megaray sensor. The shifting-focus images still need to be viewed with Lytro's embedded software, and that's Lytro's focus. From The Verge's feature on the camera: "Lytro's ultimate, simplest goal is to turn the physical parts of the camera — the lens, the aperture, the shutter — into software. If it can do that, the camera hardware itself becomes secondary." Watch the Illum announcement trailer below.

Norman 1
The Best SD Card Today

After 15 hours of research and another 15 hours of testing, we determined that the 32GB SanDisk Extreme Plus is the best SD card for most people because it’s reasonably priced and it comes with a lifetime warranty. Oh, and it ended up being the fastest of all the ones we tested after our burst shooting tests, file transfers, and benchmark tests.

The SanDisk Extreme Plus is fast enough to handle 1080p video recording and significantly improves burst shooting and photo transferring over our previous recommendation, the SanDisk Extreme 45 MB/s. Those shooting 4K video and professionals who know they need it should use UHS-3-rated cards recommended by their camera’s manufacturer, but the SanDisk Extreme Plus is fast enough for everyone else.

How we picked

…the most important spec for SD cards is write speed.

The most important features of an SD card are speed, price, reliability, and warranty. Full-size SD cards are most commonly used in cameras for storing image and video files as you shoot them. Because most cameras can take photos faster than they can write them to storage, images are first saved to a small-but-speedy buffer. Once the buffer is full, the images have to be written to the SD card before you can shoot more photos. Many DSLRs have continuous shooting modes—a.k.a. burst shooting—that fill the buffer much faster than the camera can clear it. The faster the card, the faster this buffer clears and you can start shooting again. Therefore, the most important spec for SD cards is write speed.

Read speed is useful for reviewing photos on the camera and emptying the card onto a computer with a USB 3.0 reader. It’s not as important as write speed but is often faster, so manufacturers like to brag about the read speed on the label.

Our finalists, all the SD cards we tested.

Because an SD card holds the only copy of a photo between the time you take it and when you copy it to a computer for editing, it’s important to get a card from a reliable manufacturer with a strong warranty in case anything goes wrong. Many SD cards come with a lifetime warranty.

WonderCon 2014: Todd Coyle's Costume Replicas

Remember Adam's Gladiator armor that we saw at the Cave? It was made by Todd Coyle, a costume fabricator who has created stunning replicas of costumes and accessories from shows like Xena and movies like Indiana Jones. We met up with Todd at WonderCon to learn about his costume building process and to see some of his new work.

The WonderCon 2014 Cosplay Gallery (580 Photos)

This year’s Wondercon was another great convention. We met a ton of great makers, saw some incredible prototypes of collectible props in development, and even found some new comics to read. It’s also where we finally unveiled the completed Zoidberg project and costume—more of that in the coming days. But for now, here’s our annual gallery of the great costumes and makeups we saw in the exhibit hall. Hope you enjoy them, and post your favorites in the comments below! (Know who any of these people are? Email norman@tested.com with "Wondercon Cosplay" along with the photo number in the subject line and help me name all of these characters and cosplayers!)

Google Play App Roundup: Google Camera, Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Hopeless: Space Shooting

There are a ton of great apps and games in Google Play, and they're not just going to download themselves. Are they? If they are, we have something of a mystery to solve. In the meantime, let's see what's cooking in the Play Store with the weekly Google Play App Roundup. Just click the links to head right to the Play Store page and check out the apps for yourself.

This week we've got a new stock camera app, a game with spider men, and a space shooter with marshmallow men.

Google Camera

Google's camera revamp didn't come soon enough to help the Nexus 5 at launch, but now Mountain View's camera app has been updated and launched in the Play Store. That means you can install it on any device, but Nexus and Google Play Edition devices will benefit the most. This app removes some of the more advanced features that had little use and adds afew new things along with a spiffy new interface,

The first thing to address is the capture button, which is pretty big now. This is good as it's easy to press, but some seem like a poor use of space. However, this big button solves a major issues with Nexus device cameras. The Nexus 5 takes 4:3 images (as do most other devices in the line) at 8MP. The old camera app filled the viewfinder, but it's a 16:9 screen. Thus, the top and bottom of the frame were cut off in the preview. This made it very hard to frame a shot well. With this update, the camera viewfinder now has a true 4:3 ratio. On devices that do take 16:9 images, the button is semi-transparent so you can still see the whole frame.

The settings are now off to the left and can be brought up with a swipe. This is where all the main capture modes are found, and also links to the main app settings (not very easy to find there, Google). You have stills, video, Photosphere, panorama, and lens blur. Yes, the lens blur option is new -- apparently that's the hot new thing for a camera to do.

The lens blur effect in the Google Camera is a bit awkward, but the results are pretty good. All you have to do is snap a picture and slowly pan the phone upward, keeping it pointed at the subject. After that you can tap on areas of the photo to focus and apply lens blur behind that point. It's not as easy to capture, but still does what it says. There is also a bit of rendering time for each image and they are scaled down to about 2000 pixels tall.

With lens blur effect

The image quality will vary depending on your device, but I'm seeing a modest improvement on the Nexus 5. The Galaxy S5 doesn't seem to like the focus system in the Google Camera, though. You can still take HDR shots in the still camera and Photospheres are now much higher resolution. Unfortunately, some settings like white manual white balance are not included at this time.

The Google Camera is free and it's worth checking out to see if it does better on your device than the included solution. Of course, anyone running a stock device or an AOSP-based ROM should get on this ASAP.

MakerBot Mystery Build: Sorting It Out

Time for another edition of our MakerBot Mystery Build! This week, Will has the MakerBot print something that he can use at home for fun and games. Place your best guess as to what's being printed in the comments below!