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Tested in the High Arctic, Day 4

A short check-in today as we take an excursion to the sunny town of Uummannaq in northwest Greenland. Norm calls out a little bit of the landscape, including the sled dogs that blend into the hills.

Shout Session! With Brian Ward - Episode 48 - 9/16/16
On this episode of CreatureGeek - Frank and I welcome Brian Ward, the Senior Director of Video Production for Shout! Factory. Shout! curates TV shows and movies for the collector in all of us - shows likes MST3K, Freaks and Geeks, and the 1982 version of The Thing. Brian talks about his podcast The Arkham Sessions, EPK documentation (basically behind the scenes stuff) and much more. If you're digging this show, please head over to and support us with a few bucks. Also, thanks to our sponsor ScotteVest!
00:00:00 / 01:06:06
Tested in the High Arctic, Day 2

On our second day of the trip, we move up the west coast of Greenland and make our first daytime excursion to the city of Sisimiut. Joey and Norm explore the picturesque city, try some of the local food, and make our first drone flight up north!

Bits to Atoms: Designing a Custom 3D-Printed Lightsaber

We've been using the Formlabs Form 2 SLA 3D printer since its release and have loved our experience with it so far. The Form 2 produces high-resolution models using liquid resin cured via laser. Formlabs recently introduced new formulations of most of their resins and various software and firmware updates, which I wanted to put to the test. So when the opportunity came to create a custom project with Formlabs, I wanted to see how far I could push the detail and precision of the Form 2.

Since I've always wanted to make a Star Wars lightsaber and love seeing how things work, I proposed the Cutaway Lightsaber Project. The first decision was choosing what kind of lightsaber to make. The movie sabers have been done many times over, so I decided to design my own--like a true Jedi... or Sith. The lightsabers from the Star Wars prequels tended to be more sleek and refined, but I wanted the chunkier look of the original movies that I grew up with. As most fans know, many of the original props, including the lightsabers, were designed from found objects such as Graflex camera flash handles. Additional details, known as greeblies, were added to complete the prop and make it look appropriately sci-fi. With my background in film & TV repair, I have collected a lot of oddball and cool-looking parts, so I decided to start in the same way.

Cobbling parts together with Luke's replica as reference

I used Luke's Return of the Jedi saber replica as a size reference and started cramming my junk parts together until I had a rough lightsaber that I liked. There was a little of everything: optics, camera parts, hard drive spindles, electrical connectors and miscellaneous gears. I knew this wasn't the final form, but there were a lot of features that I liked. I started recreating approximations of these in 3D, adjusting as needed to accommodate size and other features that I wanted. Early on I knew I wanted to include what I refer to as 'Death Star Grate' which many will recognize as the distinctive pattern of cutouts used as windows, lights, grates, etc throughout the Star Wars Universe. Typically it's used in facilities of the Empire, so I figured this was going to be a bad guy's saber. I wanted it to be beefy and look like it could mess you up even when it wasn't ignited--kind of like a D&D mace.

Tested in the High Arctic, Day 1

For the next two weeks, we're going to be rolling out videos from our recent trip to the high arctic aboard the Russian Icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov. On the first day, we board the ship after a long flight to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, and prepare ourselves for life away at sea.

Towing Tiny Aerial Banners

One of the things I love most about RC airplanes is that so many aspects are scalable. When I want to try a new idea, I can whip up a small proof-of-concept model cheaply and easily. The results of that first prototype will often determine whether I want to invest the time and money to build a larger version.

Things were a little different when I decided to try banner towing. In this case, going small was the end goal rather than the first step. I already knew that towing banners is a plausible idea. People have been doing it with full-scale and RC planes for years. In fact, I had a friend with RC banner towing experience jot down some of the basics so that I could build a banner rig for myself. The only problem was that the sizes and materials he proposed were only suitable for very large and powerful models. His banners are made of fabric and actually have the letters sewn on individually. I took the fundamental design parameters and interpreted them into a much smaller banner that is easy to make and easy to tow.

The tow plane I used is the Dromida Voyager, a very well-built and attractive ultra-micro RC model that easily handles the additional burden of towing the banner. (Bryan McLarty photo)

Dromida Voyager

Before I get into the actual banner, I should introduce the airplane that I used to tow it, the Dromida Voyager ($90). After a few successful test flights of the airplane by itself, I thought that the Voyager would make a worthy banner tug. So I sized my banner components to complement the model's capabilities. Since the Voyager is a newly-released product, I'll also provide some information that prospective buyers may be looking for … even if they're not planning to use it as a tow plane.

Google Play App Roundup: Conscient, Outfolded, and Bit Bit Blocks

Your phone or tablet might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new, and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.


Automation apps have been one of the best selling point for Android as a whole over the years. With a little setup, you can make your phone respond to your real world situation in a very cool way. The apps that do this have varying levels of complexity. Tasker is popular for instance, but it's very difficult to learn. Conscient aims to make it quick and easy to setup simple automation features without a heavy service running in the background. Interested? It's free to try.

Conscient uses the Google Awareness API, which means the app itself doesn't need to run its own service in the background to keep track of what you're doing. That means better performance and battery life without any of the bugs you see with third-party implementations. Google's Awareness API can relay various device conditions (contexts) to the app like headphones plugged/unplugged, running, walking, in a vehicle, and cycling.

To set up a "fence" in Conscient, you have to choose a context or a combination of contexts. You might want to have something happen when headphones are plugged in or you're in a car. There are also options for things like running and headphones plugged in. The next step is picking an action to trigger when a context is activated. You can have an app or shortcut launched. This is not as powerful as what you can get with other automation apps, but it's not supposed to be. If you use another automation app like Tasker, you can plug activities from that into Conscient as the trigger.

There are two ways to launch fences in Conscient; immediate and notifications. The default is notification, which pops up a notification when a context is active you you can launch it in a single tap. The immediate version simple triggers the action.

I've tested Conscient with a number of different settings, and all of them see to work reliably. It sometimes takes a few seconds for the app to recognize that I'm in a vehicle, for example, but that's down to the Awareness API more than the app. I haven't noticed any impact on battery life, either.

The free version can run up to three concurrent fences at a time. After that, you need to upgrade to the pro version for $0.99 (but you can pay more if you want to support the dev). It's worth checking out if you're in the market for a simple automation app that won't murder your device's performance.