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    Photo Gallery: Adam Savage's Overlook Hotel Maze Model

    A few photos from the build, as well as the pictures from our photo session before shipping Adam's Overlook Maze model off to the next stop of the <a href="http://www.stanleykubrick.de/en/ausstellungstour-exhibition-on-tour/">Stanley Kubrick travelling exhibition</a> in Mexico!

    Biomimetics: Studying the Striking Power of the Mantis Shrimp

    There’s an entire field of science that believes nature and evolution have already solved some of humanity’s most complicated problems. Called biomimetics, the field focuses on studying these natural solutions and attempting to copy them, rebuild them, and use them in ways that can benefit mankind. Over the next few weeks, we’re profiling US laboratories that specialize in biomimicry and highlighting how the animal kingdom is helping humans innovate.

    Not many folks would look at a shrimp and call it the “crown jewel” of their research, but that’s exactly how David Kisailus refers to the Mantis shrimp, a crustacean that’s famous for its ability to, well, punch stuff to death. The unique properties of the animal’s boxing glove-like claw make it the perfect subject for unraveling the complex problem of impact resistance.

    Kisailus, who runs UC Riverside's Biomimetics and Nanostructured Materials Lab, explains: “The organism is smacking with more than 500 newtons of force and it’s only 4 inches long. It’s accelerating underwater faster than a 22 caliber bullet. It’s one of the fastest striking organisms on the planet. It impacts thousands of times. How can it do that and resist failure? That’s why we started studying it.”

    The mantis shrimp isn’t actually a shrimp, it’s actually a crustacean that earned its name from its shrimp-like body. The non-shrimp evolved 400 million years ago as a spear fisherman. It would hunt by shooting barbed spears at its soft-bodied prey. But its prey eventually evolved to avoid the dangers of the pointy killing method by growing shells and exoskeletons. So the Mantis shrimp had to evolve too, splitting off into a group that could use its elbow to smash open the prey that its cousins couldn’t spear. Though some still spear, the clubbing verson’s boxing glove (which still has a vestigial barb at the end) is made up of a series of highly complex and organized internal parts.

    Photo credit: Flickr user wwarby via Creative Commons.

    “It’s not your standard biological composite, which has just one component,” says Kisailus of why he is studying the material makeup of the shrimp’s punching claw. “Within the club are three separate regions and each has its own function.”

    The Costuming Secrets of Samurai Armor

    We visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to explore a massive collection of Samurai Armor. The exhibition featured over 100 pieces of samurai equipment, from beautiful full suits of armor to the more obscure pieces of battle gear. We chat with the exhibit curator to learn about how ceremonial samurai armor was treated as costume, and the interesting secrets of a few pieces on display.

    5 Lollipop Problems Google Should Address in Android 5.1

    Right from the start it was clear Google had big plans for Android 5.0 Lollipop. The entire UI had been rethought and some long-awaited features were finally being added. Sure, there were a few gripes over this or that minor feature, but Lollipop looked like a win. Now that we've got the advantage of hindsight, let's look back at Lollipop and see what Google still has to fix in the impending Android 5.1 update.

    The Infamous Memory Leak

    Google's initial deployment of Android 5.0 seemed to be going swimmingly. Mere days after Nexus devices got their customary updates LG, Nvidia, and Motorola started sending out the first wave of OTAs. Then things got weird and the updates slowed to a crawl, and from what I've been told it was because of memory usage.

    Most Android devices still ship with 2GB of RAM, and that's more than enough most of the time, but Lollipop has a particularly nasty memory leak that doesn't show up in system process tracking. Basically, RAM is not being reclaimed properly after process are closed, leading to a memory constrained environment. Background services that you want running (ex. music playback) are mysteriously closed and the home screen redraws frequently. A device like the Nexus 6 with 3GB of RAM seems to be immune from any ill effects, but it's an ongoing issue for many others.

    This bug has been reported to Google thousands of times and is one of the most "starred" items in the public Android issue tracker. While Google has marked the defect as minor, it's the sort of thing that can ruin a user experience if a build of Lollipop isn't specifically designed to avoid it. This is probably one of the main reasons the Lollipop rollout has stalled for months. OEMs were waiting on a fix, and now there is one.

    Google has listed this bug as "future release," meaning it should be patched in the next major release. That means Android 5.1, as long as it was done in time.

    What You Should Know about FAA’s Proposed Drone Rules

    Drones, quadcopters, multi-rotors…call them what you wish. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prefers the term sUAS (small Unmanned Aerial Systems). As businesses anxious to use the technology have been awaiting guidance from the FAA on what will be legal practice, the agency’s actions have hinted that they intended to rule commercial sUAS users with an iron fist. In response, the drone industry and its advocates have been circling the wagons in preparation for a looming battle against the FAA.

    Even under recent congressional pressure, FAA personnel refused to indicate when they would release their sUAS rules. It therefore came as a surprise when the FAA suddenly announced a media conference call to unveil the details of their sUAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). That the call was hastily set for Sunday on a holiday weekend only stoked fears that the government’s hammer was about to fall. Yet, when the FAA laid their cards on the table, drone enthusiasts had more to praise than to complain about.

    Cliff Whitney is the owner of Atlanta Hobby, one of the busiest multi-rotor dealers and repair shops in the country. In a phone interview following the FAA announcement, Whitney said “The proposal got a lot of things right. The FAA has obviously been listening to the feedback people have been giving them.”

    Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) must be maintained at all times!

    Multi-rotor manufacturers are breathing a sigh of relief as well. Jon Resnick, a policy and marketing representative for DJI, echoed a common response seen all across the internet, “Overall, while it's not perfect, the proposal is far less onerous than many of us expected.”

    The FAA’s proposal is just that--an offering. It will take some time before actual laws are in the books. The proposal will first be published to the Federal Register, where it will be open to public comment for 60 days. The FAA will then need some time to review the comments and incorporate any changes. Optimists estimate that we could see the proposal become law as soon as late 2015. Until then, here's how we feel about the specifics of the proposal.

    Tested Mailbag: Awesome Fan Art!

    A mystery tube arrives at the Tested offices, and we have no idea what's inside! But the struggle to liberate its contents pays off, as this edition of the Tested Mailbag reveals an awesome piece of art that one of our viewers sent in. Thanks so much to stc_doodles for the terrific drawing--we love it!

    How To Make Kill Bill's 'FUCK U' Shoes

    In Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, one detail that appears on-screen for only a second are the soles of Uma Thurman's shoes. Those sneakers aren't off-the-shelf Onitsuka Tigers--they have the phase "FUCK U" molded right into the treading. It's a prop we've wanted to replicate for a long time, and we're finally able to do it with the help of effects artist Frank Ippolito. Here's how you can make your own pair! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us by joining the Tested Premium community!)

    The Packard Merlin: How Detroit Mass-Produced Britain’s Hand-Built Powerhouse

    Few engines throughout history have achieved a near mythical status among its admirers. Fewer still can share credit for the rescue of an entire nation. Perhaps only the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine can claim both distinctions. During the Battle of Britain, it was the Merlin that powered the Royal Air Force Hurricanes and Spitfires that were England’s only effective defense against German air attacks. With the battle won, and the engine’s reputation thus established, the Merlin would become the stuff of legend and the powerplant of choice for numerous other aircraft.

    Even before the 1940 air battles over England, it was apparent that demand for the Merlin was far outpacing Rolls-Royce’s ability to produce them. The Ford Motor Company was asked to build 9,000 Merlins for both England and the US. Ford initially accepted the deal, but later reneged. Henry Ford explained that he would only produce military items for US defense. Interestingly, Ford of Britain in Manchester, England ultimately produced 36,000 Merlin engines, beginning at the same time period. Of course, Ford’s American factories would indeed become vital to the war effort. They manufactured unfathomable quantities of airplanes, jeeps and other war materiel--but not Merlins.


    Following Ford’s refusal to build the Merlin, a similar deal was presented to the Packard Motor Car Company. At that time, Packard automobiles were considered the “Rolls-Royce of America” by virtue of their luxury and quality. The company also had experience producing airplane engines and large V-12 powerplants used in speedy PT Boats. Packard accepted the offer from Rolls-Royce and earnestly began preparations to build Merlins at their Detroit factory.

    Two Countries Divided By A Common Language

    There are many obvious challenges posed by producing a British-designed engine in America. Just the task of converting all of the measurements from metric imperial to US Standard units was daunting enough. This job was made even more difficult by the unprecedented complexity of the Merlin. The 1,649 cubic inch V-12 engine is comprised of more than 14,000 individual parts (knoll that!). It was, and still is, often called “a watchmaker’s nightmare.

    Engineers at Packard soon discovered that Rolls-Royce did not design the Merlin for mass-production. The manufacturing tolerances were much looser than Packard’s standards. This was because Rolls-Royce had never implemented mass-production techniques to their assembly lines. Rather, they employed highly-trained “fitters” to assemble the engines. The fitters filed or otherwise massaged individual parts to achieve a precise fit. They even tightened critical bolts by trained feel, rather than with calibrated torque wrenches. In effect, each Rolls-Royce-manufactured Merlin was a hand-built engine that reflected the company’s traditions of premium quality and craftsmanship.

    Testing: Sling TV Streaming Service

    We heard a lot of excitement coming out of CES for Sling TV, Dish Network's online TV streaming service that promised an a la carte model for live cable channel subscriptions for a reasonable price. The service officially launched late last month, with a $20/month starting package that includes ESPN, CNN, Cartoon Network, and a dozen other channels. AMC was even added to the lineup this morning (though still as yet not available for Sling users). With the service opening up to everybody this morning, I want to share some thoughts from my testing of it over the weekend, as well as answer any questions you may have about it.

    The service as it stands is offered as the aforementioned base package of 16 channels, with add-ons segmented by interest (sports, news, kids) for $5 more each. Anchoring the package is ESPN and ESPN2, but the rest of the selection aren't throwaway channels; there's AMC, TNT, TBS, Food Network, Travel Channel, HGTV, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, ABC Family, Disney, CNN, and a few boutiques. I tested Sling on every device it currently supports, which includes the iOS and Android devices, Windows and Mac OS, and the latest Roku boxes and stick. There's no browser streaming support, and Sling says that Chromecast and Xbox One playback is coming later. You can stream over cellular networks or Wi-Fi, but each account only lets you stream to one device at a time (even if your devices are on the same local network/IP address).

    Testing: Sony PXW-X70 Compact Camcorder

    As I was choosing my video gear to bring to this year's CES, I had several goals: I wanted to go lightweight, carry as few external devices as possible, and use a camera that produced a clean crisp picture requiring very little color correction. I was going to be shooting a lot of videos, and I didn't want to come back to the office with any flat or log footage that would require grading in post. I also didn't want to deal with an external audio recorder (like the one I use with my BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera rig) that would add extra points of failure, especially during an eight-hour convention day.

    Shooting for that long, weight was also a big consideration. I thought back to the previous years shooting video CES. It's not just about the convention floor: I'm carrrying my gear through hotels and casinos, waiting in cab lines, wading through thousands of people, and doing a lot of walking, all before making that trip back to my room at the end of an eight-hour shooting day to unload a 10 pound camera rig that's been weighing on my arm. In the past, I improperly rigged a heavy camera, and paid for it with blisters on my hand and a wrecked shoulder.

    This year I decided to put a little bit of thought into it. I shopped around for a new camera to test at the convention, and eventually decided on the Sony PXW-X70. It's a little tiny ENG (electronic news gathering) style camera that records 1080p video in the XAVC codec, with 4K potential.

    It checked off a number of requirements that I had: lightweight, onboard XLR audio, recorded to SD card (redundant slots, too!), built-in ND filters, and zoom lens. That sounded great, lets try it! We were getting it loaned to us from B&H for a month, which gave me plenty of time to get comfortable with it and take it on the road.

    Taking the camera out of the box for the first time, I noticed that the thing was much smaller than I anticipated. It is about the size of a Sony Handycam, with hot shoe mount on top that locked on the handle with the XLR inputs. Putting it together, the thing felt like it weighed nothing. I shot a couple pieces of test footage with it, rigged a simple shoulder rail with a single hand grip, and packed it up in a tiny bag for CES. It was the smallest gear bag I've taken to any convention, and I was okay with that.

    I had to do some playing around with the custom buttons to get controls where I needed them, but after that, I rarely needed to head back into the menu setting (which, really, isn't that bad especially with the nice thumb stick to cycle through the settings). The rest of the button placement is very similar to the Sony FS700--a camera I have lots of experience with--so finding specific settings quickly wasn't an issue.

    However, the lens handling was at times a bit challenging for me.

    The Snake River Canyon Jump: Redeeming Evel Knievel's Legacy

    If you were a kid growing up in the ‘70’s, chances are Evel Knievel was one of your heroes. A motorcycle daredevil, he was a real life superhero to many kids who wanted to fly on their bicycles and Big Wheels, and he a major icon in seventies pop culture along like Fonzie, Kiss, and The Six Million Dollar Man. Knievel represented virtue and heroism, and he always tried to preach a positive message to the youth of America that we indeed live in a great country, and you can be whatever you want to be in life in you put your mind to it.

    One famous lecture he gave before performing a stunt, which is hilarious in hindsight, warned kids about the evils of drugs, comparing them to race car drivers who cheated by putting nitro in their cars. The cars go faster for five to ten laps, “then they blow all to hell. And you kids, if you put nitro in your bodies, in the form of narcotics, to think you’ll do better, you will, for about five or ten years, then you’ll blow all to hell.”

    Yet like another seventies icon, Billy Jack, Knievel was deeply flawed in his personal life, to where the contradictions of his private and public personas were glaringly obvious. For many years he battled the bottle, he had a violent temper, and his career essentially ended when he beat the shit out of a journalist with a baseball bat over an unauthorized biography that enraged him.

    Before that fateful incident, there was another event that showed the world that Evel wasn’t Superman after all, the Snake River Canyon jump in Twin Falls, Idaho.

    On September 8, 1974, Knievel attempted to fly over Snake River Canyon in a custom built rocket, but the parachute opened early, and he never made it to the other side. Many were under the impression that Evel chickened out and deployed the parachute early, a perception that haunted him for the rest of his life.

    The rocket was built by Robert Truax, and he never got over this incident either. Truax was a famed rocket scientist, but he’s today known for building an infamous rocket that didn’t work. Now his son, Scott Truax, is hoping to redeem the legacies of Evel, as well as his father, by recreating the Snake River Canyon jump, working from the original research and plans, and fixing the rocket’s initial flaws.

    Tested Visits Jim Henson's Creature Shop!

    When we talk about puppets in television and film, Jim Henson is the first name that comes to mind. Henson's legacy endures at his Creature Shop, where fabricators, engineers, and animators continue crafting the art of puppet-making and performance. We're privileged to be able to visit Jim Henson's Creature Shop, where we chat with Creative Supervisor Peter Brooke to learn how modern technologies combine with classic techniques to bring characters to life.

    RC Pilots Gather Indoors for the 2015 E-Fest!

    January 24, 25 – Champaign, IL. RC flyers have traditionally dubbed winter the “building season”. Cold temperatures and snow often keep modelers holed up in their heated workshops, chipping away at projects that will emerge in the spring. The advent of electric-powered and ever-smaller RC models over the last decade has loosened winter’s stranglehold on flying. These tiny, silent, emission-free aircraft let you take to the skies with all the comforts of being indoors.

    E-Fest is an event that allows indoor flyers a chance to shake off the effects of cabin fever, mingle with their peers, and see the latest RC technology – all under a single (and quite enormous roof). The 2015 event was the ninth E-Fest, but it was the first time that I was able to attend. It won’t be the last.


    A Grand Scale

    E-Fest is the largest gathering of indoor flyers in the US. This year’s event attracted more than 200 registered pilots and countless spectators. It takes a big structure to host that many modelers and their airplanes. The Armory Building at the University of Illinois does not disappoint. The main floor of this 100-year-old building measures 300’x200’ with a 98’-high ceiling. Best of all, there are no internal columns to obstruct the flying space! Anyone with an interest in architecture would probably appreciate the story behind this historic building.

    The primary sponsor for E-Fest is Hobbico, the largest hobby company in the world. In fact, the first 100 pre-registered pilots received a free Estes Proto-X micro-quad, a popular product in the Hobbico lineup. They could be seen buzzing all around the Armory all weekend.

    Other distributors, manufacturers, and vendors were also present at E-Fest. Many had booths to display their latest offerings. There were also numerous factory-sponsored pilots in attendance. They put on fabulous flying demonstrations and provided one-on-one advice for customers.

    I’d guess that 90% of the models at E-Fest were made primarily of foam. The remaining 10% utilized balsawood or composite materials. Very few models had a wingspan larger than 36” or weighed more than about 12 ounces. On the opposite end of the spectrum, airplanes smaller than 20” and weighing less than 2 ounces were common. There was a surprising variety of off-the-shelf and homemade designs to be seen.

    LEGO with Friends: Patrick Norton, Part 1

    Here's the first episode of a new series for Tested members: LEGO with Friends! This week, Patrick Norton of TekThing stops by to help assemble a few kits while we chat about his new projects, CES, and why hummingbirds are awesome. Follow along with with us by signing up for a Tested Premium Membership here! (The first episode is free for everyone, but the rest of the series will be for Premium Members.)

    Adam Savage Visits the Hollywood Costume Exhibition

    We spend the day at the incredible Hollywood Costume exhibition currently on display at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles! Adam Savage explores the gallery with his friend and exhibit curator Deborah Nadoolman Landis--the designer of Indiana Jones' iconic costume. They discuss the role of the costume design in cinematic storytelling and the wonderful stories behind some of the 150 costumes on display.

    Hands-on with Sony's $1100 Walkman NW-ZX2

    Sony recently unveiled a new Walkman music player, which plays what they call "high resolution" audio. The noisy booth at CES probably wasn't the best place to demo this $1100 player, but we try it out and ask a Sony rep just why they think audiophiles should buy in to Sony's new music playback ecosystem. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    Hands-On: ImmersionRC's Vortex Racing Quadcopter

    We've shown you how to build your own racing quadcopter, but here's a ready-to-fly kit that can get you flying sooner. We chat with ImmersionRC about their upcoming Vortex 250mm quad, which was designed with FPV flying in mind. It comes bundled with all the essential components pre-installed and integrated--all you need is a transmitter and video goggles. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    CES 2015: Hubsan's Ora X4 Pro Quadcopter

    At CES 2015, we check out the Ora X4 Pro, a ready-to-fly quadcopter with optional gimbaled camera. Ora is made by Hubsan, who we're familiar with as the makers of our favorite entry-level nano quads. The Ora tries to stand out from other RTF quads with a large transmitter (with built-in FPV display) and a parachuting mechanism. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    Why I’m Excited About Windows Holographic

    My absolute favorite part of covering technology for Tested are those rare glimpses of the future. I’m talking about the first hints of a new technology that has a chance to change the world. That's why we started experimenting with 3D printers and tablets shortly after we launched Tested in 2010. That's why we were among the first people to get excited about the latest wave of virtual reality and the rise of cheap multi-rotors. It's why we're investigating potentially revolutionary last-mile travel solutions, like the Boosted Board and Rocket Skates. To me, technology is most interesting when it's brand new, before designers have chamfered the rough edges and the revolutionary leaps have made way for incremental improvements. I love it when I look at a tech demo and can still see the path that led to the creation of a new product or even a new category.

    Each of the example technologies that I mentioned above was the result of multiple advancements being assembled by visionaries at the right time. The decreased cost of LCD screens, flash memory, and high capacity, low-volume batteries made modern smartphones possible. The popularity of smartphones caused the price of the components found within them--solid state accelerometers and gyroscopes, LCD displays, and processors--to drop until technologies like VR suddenly became possible at much lower prices than we ever imagined. Likewise, the rise of low-cost, high-power microcontrollers (Arduino boards and their ilk), combined with inexpensive motors and radios and cheap manufacturing in China caused revolutions in multirotor aircraft and 3D printing.

    These categories are all transforming from hyper-expensive products designed to serve tiny niche markets into mainstream consumer electronics. The people responsible for these innovations have one thing in common. They were able to see the pieces necessary and assemble them into workable products before anyone else saw the same potential. This is what Palmer Luckey did for VR with the early Oculus prototypes and what the originators of the Reprap project did for consumer 3D printing.

    This brings us to Microsoft's Windows Holographic, which Microsoft demoed at a Windows 10 event yesterday. Despite its wildly misleading name (from what I can tell Holographic doesn't use holograms at all), Microsoft's demo showed augmented reality, seemingly working in the real world, with fewer caveats than anything we've seen before.

    If you aren't familiar with AR, it's similar to virtual reality in that it displays information from a computer over your full field of vision. However, where VR is an isolated experience, you put the goggles on and they block your view of the outside world, AR overlays that information on the environment your in. Put another way, VR replaces the world around you, AR enhances it.

    The Camera Gear I Use to Shoot Tested's Videos

    This is part of a three-part behind-the-scenes series on Lighting, Shooting, and Editing for Tested.

    The first camera I ever worked with professionally was the Panasonic HVX-170. It was handed to me, while working as a videographer on a tour bus with a band. I was given the camera, and the user manual, and had to start shooting almost immediately. The camera was easy to learn, in part because during the early 2000's this ENG (electronic news gathering), 3CCD style camcorder became very popular with young filmmakers and students. The cameras were relatively inexpensive, and produced good quality 720p HD footage. More importantly, they also gave the operator all the manual knobs, dials, and buttons they needed, right behind a versatile stock 2-3 ring zoom lens.

    During this period, accessibility of high quality cameras, and editing software coming down in price, meant it was much easier for almost anyone to get there hands on these tools to practice and learn. Many of professionals in video production learned on these kinds of cameras. I was one of these guys. I owned the Canon XHA1 -- a camera I purchased with a portion of my college student loans -- and I spent countless hours cutting my teeth on this thing. When I was given the Panasonic HVX-170, my familiarity of the camera translated over--ENG style cameras were good for that. They were all different in their own way, each had their own nuances, but the form factor and menu control became somewhat universal for that prosumer market. Once you've learned one of these cameras, you felt like you knew, technically, how to operate all of them.

    When I got the job at Whiskey Media (the former home of Tested), our studio was equipped with four of those same Panasonics. Every video you've seen from those days were all shot with these cameras. They gave us good 720p quality video and had SDI outputs to push a video feed for Tricaster live mixing. They recorded to reusable SSD flash media, and produced videos in the DVCProHD codec which was super friendly with Final Cut Pro 7. And, they were lightweight, making all day convention shooting a little more tolerable.

    This is, however, a digital camera that is now about seven years old. The codec is starting to show its age when compared to more recent cameras, and as people clammer for higher resolution video, native 720p might seem a little dated (and before you ask, no, I have no intention of introducing a 4k workflow into our studio. 1080p seems like a good resolution to work with on the web).

    As our video content pushed us out on the road a bit more, to unpredictable locations, with no chance of bringing much supplies or lights (or have the man power to lug that gear), I started looking into other cameras. A camera where I can change lenses to match the style. A camera that would allow me to dial in a higher ASA without introducing too much noise. Something that can handle both low light and have a big enough dynamic range that I don't lose information in light and dark spots, and something with a codec that ins't highly compressed--something that I can take into post and dial in correction setting with out pulling forward all those compression artifacts. It also needed to be ergonomically friendly--something I can hold all day long, with audio recording built in, and enough shoe mounts to hold my wireless kits.

    I have my eyes on a camera in particular, but the timing's not right on that big ticket purchase. Some day, I hope.

    Last year I searched for something that was more in our price range and what I found was the relatively inexpensive Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera. DSLR-like in its form factor, this is not something that I was initially comfortable with. I've used shoulder cams up until now, and putting a brick of a camera on some rods, hooked to all sorts of external devices, kind of intimidated me. However, the features (lean, but effective) on this camera kind of excited me, and it was something I felt I needed to try out, as the climate of prosumer cameras continue to change. Here's how I built out our current Blackmagic rig.