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    The Volpin Project, Part 9: The Casting Process

    We’ve now burned through a few gallons of very expensive silicone rubber to make molds of every one of the Halo Reach Needler prop's 12 individual parts. There are a bunch of Needler-shaped cavities that need to be filled with something, and in a similar theme to making the molds themselves, there’s a variety of ways to go about doing so.

    Techniques and materials will vary depending on the final use of the piece, but for the purposes of this tutorial we’ll be concentrating on urethane casting resin and leaving out other plastics such as epoxy or polyester. I’ll cover solid casts, hollow parts, and translucent/clear pieces as well.

    The most basic parts to be made will be the solid pour castings. For these parts I’ll be using Smooth-On’s product “Smooth Cast 320” and the detail bit that sits underneath the upper casing will be used as an example (apologies for the process photo, I didn’t have a shot of the completed master before molding.)

    The initial step after removing your master part from the mold will be to apply a powder layer to all facing edges of the mold. Personally I use baby powder, but I have heard other propmakers use talcum as well. This may seem like an odd step, but this will help reduce bubbles in the finished part. You can think of the thin layer of powder like a paper towel over a spilled drink. Just like a napkin will wick up moisture, a thin coat of powder in your mold will allow the resin to flow more easily into detail edges. What you’re working against here is the surface tension of the liquid, which will have a more difficult time seeping into detail areas without this step.

    The Best Waterproof iPhone Case

    Rather than risk losing your iPhone, we think a true waterproof camera or a GoPro or a waterproof camera is the best way to get photos in the water. But if you have to protect yours from impact, liquid and dust, the best tough waterproof iPhone case, overall, is the $80 Incipio Atlas.

    We think the Incipio is the most well rounded phone case, more secure yet just as slim as last year’s favorite.

    It has a depth rating of 6 feet, but was among the driest in our endurance pool tests when many others simply flooded. It even has a 1-year warranty against water damage to your phone.

    But we also have a pick for a sport camera case to turn your smartphone into a quasi-GoPro action sports camera. And finally, I recommend a serious dive case for an iPhone that can go to over 100 feet of depth.

    Why You Should Believe Us (and How We Tested)

    My editor Brian Lam helped me test this case and the competition in Mexico and Indonesia, as well as the ocean and a pool in Hawaii. As an ocean exploration journalist and founder of the Wirecutter, I don’t think any technology writer is as equipped to test these cases as he is.

    He lives in Honolulu and tested all of these cases by verifying their seals were dust free and by swimming a half mile in open water dragging them behind him and roughing them up up to 10 feet underwater during freedives. He also kept them in a pool overnight at six feet of depth, to challenge their seals over time–most cases are only rated for an hour at their given depth so this is a really great way to test minor design flaws that would expose them over time or keep them from going deeper than their rated spec in case you needed to drop down for a moment. He also tested the deep dive case on an expedition as a fellow with MacGillivray Freeman films in Indonesia, to 80 feet.

    For non-water sports, ruggedness, shock absorbing designs and materials as well as build quality was factored in. For action sports camera cases, meant to take a smartphone and transform them into a GoPro kind of camera, things like accessories (mounting options) were also important.

    How To Back Up Your Data (and Access The Important Stuff Anywhere)

    One of the most interesting messages Google tries to get across in its Chromebook campaign is the idea that the hardware is disposable. If your Chromebook falls into a volcano or gets run over or stolen, you're out the cost of the hardware, but that's it. You don't lose any data, and the crook/volcano god doesn't get access to it either. All you have to do is grab a new Chromebook (or any PC that can run the Chrome browser) log in, and you're back in business.

    Photo credit: Alex Washburn/Wired via Creative Commons.

    Most of us can't use a Chromebook full-time. We use programs that don't yet run in a web browser, we play games that require local asset files and don't sync to the cloud, and we have a lot of data we need to hold onto--more than will fit onto a few lousy gigabytes of local storage. But we can take a page from the Chromebook, as it were, and make our data resilient and flexible--resilient, so a hardware loss doesn't mean data loss, and flexible, so that we can pick up pretty much any computer with an Internet connection and be able to work. After all, if you lose your Chromebook, you don't need to find another Chromebook to access your data; you just need to log in to your Google Account from anywhere.

    In order to get Chromebook-level data security on our "real" computers, we need two things: good backup software, and good syncing software. All of your data deserves to be backed up, but not all of it needs to be immediately accessible. With a good backup, your data is safe, and with a good sync setup, you can have near-instant access to whatever subset of that data you deem worthy. The good news is that this is now really easy.

    I'm not just idly pontificating; I just did some spring cleaning, including a clean Windows install on my desktop, and this is how I prepared, backed up, and synced my data.

    Note that this guide is written from the perspective of a Windows user, but the main points are valid for Linux and Mac OS X users as well.

    The Volpin Project, Part 8: More Complex Moldmaking

    Last time, we covered the basics of simple block-style moldmaking. While this technique is versatile and can produce very good results, it’s often not the best solution for molding complex or larger parts. The Halo Needler prop has many parts both complex and large, so we’ll need to look into other methods. But first, a little show off of the completed master sculpts all sitting pretty. Now I just need to make copies of everything!

    I’m going to use the upper casing as the test mule here for showcasing a technique called “brush-on” moldmaking. The basic premise is gradually building up layers of silicone onto a part until the desired mold thickness is achieved. It’s a bit more complicated than just slathering some rubber on though, so let’s take a look at the individual steps.

    First off, you need to determine if your master part will need to be molded in sections; and if so, where should the seam line be positioned. There is a significant amount of spatial organization to consider - most notably where will seam lines be the easiest to conceal and clean up later - but also things like how easily the parts will be to de-mold and how the mold will be disassembled and reassembled after use. For this upper casing, I chose to follow the lower seam line around the base of the part, then follow this hard edge line up the front. Any seam lines will be easy to sand off in these areas, and the resulting silicone mold parts will be easy to remove from the cast part. I also added a section of ¾” PVC conduit to act as a pour spout. This area will be covered up by another part after assembly, so we don’t have to worry about losing any detail here. Non-sulfur clay is used to create the parting seam, and small indentations (registration keys, as we learned last time!) are marked into the clay.

    Tap Emergency Power from a Phone Line

    Make Magazine's Jason Poel Smith demonstrates this nifty hack to tap into the power of a phone line. Even during blackouts, there is a small amount of power that flows through some traditional land lines, which is maintained independently of the electric company. Smith shows how manipulate RJ11 wiring with a voltage regulator circuit so that a smartphone can safely access some of that power to make an emergency call. Pocket this one under "MacGyver plot devices," Hollywood screenwriters.

    Recommended Essential Camera Cleaning Gear

    So you’ve bought an SLR or Mirrorless camera. You’ve got your first few lenses. And you’ve started taking some really interesting photographs. Congrats, that’s awesome! Now we just need to get you sorted out with the stuff you should have to keep all your gear in good condition, so that you can keep on shooting without trouble.

    Photography isn’t a sterile business. Unless you’re shooting in a studio at all times, dust, mist, mud, rain, sea spray, and all manner of other outdoors filth can easily get on your camera. And lets not forget how easily oil from our fingers can smudge a lens. So with this gear guide, you should be set up to clean any problematic dirt that gets on (or in) your camera.

    Photo credit: Flickr user tiagoafpereira via Creative Commons.

    For cleaning the front element of your lens, and a rare scrubdown of your sensor, we recommend the $9 Giotto’s Rocket Air Blaster, a $6 Lenspen, a $10 set of PEC-PADS, a $12 vial of Eclipse Cleaner, and if you need to get into your sensor, a $35 set of Sensor Swabs. Between these different cleaning products, you should be able to keep your images spotless.

    Best Practices

    You know how it goes. An ounce of prevention and all that. The first thing you can do to prevent your lenses from getting dirty and scratched, and your sensor from getting dusty, is to take some basic steps to keeping everything from getting gross in the first place.

    For your lenses, keep the lenscap and rear cap on them when not in use. It’s also worth putting a basic UV filter on the front of your lenses, so that if the worst should happen and it gets damaged, it’s a filter that bears it, and not the lens. The downside of this is that it’s adding an extra element to the lens, and so gives an opportunity for image quality to drop, specifically in terms of getting more lens flare and color fringing. A good general purpose brand for this is Hoya, who offer filters that range from $15 up to more than $100, depending on how much lens quality you’re trying to preserve.

    Photo credit: Flickr user so_wrong_its_kelly via Creative Commons.

    Also, don’t do that thing where you breath on the lens, and then wipe it with your shirt. That’s a really bad idea. Nikon used to specifically recommend against breathing on your lens as they claimed your breath might hurt the lens coating (though the support page no longer says that). What’s probably much more of an issue is what’s on the edge of your shirt that you’re rubbing into the glass. That’s a very easy way to scrape the hell out of your lens.

    Be as quick as possible when swapping out lenses, so that the internals of your camera are exposed to dust and air as little as possible. If your camera has a built-in sensor cleaning tool, see if you can’t set it up to run every time you turn the thing on or off, that way it’ll shake loose any gunk that gets on quickly.

    See? Easy.

    Worklog: Arduino-Controlled Pantry LED Lighting

    I have a pantry that isn’t particularly well lit. In fact, it would be safe to say that it’s very poorly lit. It’s deep and narrow, which makes it really hard to see the stuff in the back and even harder to reach back there. Over the years, we’ve tried adding those cheap stick on LED lights to the underside of the shelves—you know, the ones that turn on automatically when they detect light--but the pantry is so dark that those lights don’t turn on reliably. Even when they do turn on, they don't add enough light to be useful.

    Enter LED strip lighting. For about $15, you can buy a strip of warm white LEDs on a long strip that’s part conductor, part mounting surface. It would have been pretty easy to wire up a few strips of LED lights, and hook them up to a simple circuit controlled by a microswitch that was triggered when my pantry door opens or closes. But once I looked into adding a microcontroller to the mix, I figured it was time to learn more about Arduino.

    I didn't need anything as complex as the individually addressable RGB strip lights Alex showed us a month or so ago, but I did want more than I could do with a simple switch. Instead of using a mechanical switch that would require installation and wear out over time, I wanted something that would work through the floor. Power isn’t a problem—I happen to have a handful of power outlets in the crawlspace directly under the pantry (the entry to my house’s crawlspace and the home run for my home network are both beneath the pantry, so I have power for the Ethernet switch that lives down there). Once I decided to use a microcontroller, I wanted the lights to gradually brighten when the door opens, instead of just blasting on at full power. I didn’t say I had anything vital to do with the microcontroller, sometimes it's the small things.

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (April 2013)

    The next-generation Android phones are upon us, and anyone that’s been itching for an upgrade should be sitting at attention. It’s going to be a tough decision between top devices from the likes HTC and Samsung, but let’s take a closer look at what makes the most sense on each network. This is your chance to get a phone you’re going to be happy with for the next year or two, so you’ll want to cover all your bases.

    Photo credit: Flickr user learnkids2003 via Creative Commons

    This month Verizon takes its time, Sprint catches up, and T-Mobile keeps being different.

    Three Behind-the-Scenes Reasons to Jailbreak Your iPhone

    A few months ago, when the evasi0n jailbreak for iOS 6 devices was released, I quietly jailbroke an iOS device for the first time since before iPhone OS 2.0 was released. Using the evasi0n makes jailbreaking simple for any device running a supported versions of iOS. While jailbreaking is easier, keeping an iOS device jaillbroken can be a little tricky--it's important to avoid iOS updates until they've been cleared by the maker of your jailbreak tool. Why wait so long to jailbreak? Quite simply, I hadn't seen anything worth the hassle. I'm not interested in the instability that typically comes with major UI modifications and I didn't need any of the underlying changes to iOS that a jailbreak can enable.

    That's all changed over the last year. As I've shifted away from using Apple's default web browser, mail client, and maps app, I finally found a good enough reason to bother with jailbreaking on iOS. And once the jailbreak was done, getting Siri to talk use Google Maps for voice navigation and having quick access to Google Now was icing on my jailbroken cake.

    An Awesome Projector That I Would Buy

    If I was looking to buy an awesome projector, I’d get the $2,600 Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5020. I base this on multiple professional reviews, plus my own experience with it and similarly priced projectors. I review projectors for Sound+Vision magazine, and have reviewed and written about projectors for CNET, Men’s Journal, Home Theater, Residential Systems, and other magazines and websites over the past 12 years.

    What Makes a Good Projector?

    Of course the best projectors have good picture quality, but what does that mean? All but the cheapest projectors are 1080p, the same resolution as most HDTVs. They almost all also have colors that look realistic. So all that leaves is brightness and contrast ratio.

    Brightness, also called “light output” with a projector is crucial. This determines how large of a screen you can have, what type of screen you can have (more on this in a moment), and of course, how bright the image is. Projectors don’t need to be as bright as a television, as they’re not normally used in bright rooms.

    Contrast ratio, or the difference between the darkest part of the image and the brightest, is the most important factor when it comes to picture quality. A projector (or TV for that matter) with a low contrast ratio will appear flat, washed out, and boring.

    In many cases, the picture quality of the ultra-large LCD TVs is worse than a comparably priced projector.

    Presuming decent picture quality, why choose a projector over a TV? First and foremost: size. Even with many inexpensive projectors, screen sizes of 100- to 150-inches are possible. In many cases, the picture quality of the ultra-large LCD TVs is worse than a comparably priced projector. Check out Don’t buy a jumbo LCD TV, buy a projector for a direct comparison.

    All high-end, and most lower priced, projectors are 3D capable. All use active 3D glasses, but don’t require a special screen.

    There are a few Ultra HD “4K” projectors starting to hit store shelves. These have four times the resolution of “normal” 1080p projectors. At the moment, they’re all exceptionally expensive (over $20,000). Since there is no readily available Ultra HD content, there’s little reason to consider these projectors at this time.

    Photo credit: Flickr user SFB579 via Creative Commons

    One of the biggest questions people have with projectors is what to use as a screen. Screens can range from free (your wall, or a sheet), to multi-thousand-dollar motorized screens that drop down from hidden compartments in ceilings. Generally speaking, it’s worth spending some money on a screen, as the surface is going to be smoother than any painted wall. Some screens can boost the image brightness, making for a brighter image. Check out screens from Stewart Filmscreen, Da-Lite, Elite, Screen Innovations, dnp, for starters.

    Tested's Podcasting Setup—Hardware and Software

    One of the most common questions we get is “What do you use to podcast?” When we launched Tested, we had a fully-fledged podcasting setup courtesy of Giant Bomb. That setup was perfect for our needs then; we almost always recorded in a dedicated space, we had plenty of ports available for guests, and most importantly, it sounded great. It wasn’t particularly portable though. When we relaunched the site last year, I knew we needed a more portable podcasting rig—at first because we were recording the show at my dining room table, but later because we needed to record Still Untitled around Adam’s schedule. I also wanted a kit that I could set up and break down as quickly as possible. When we have a few minutes to record a podcast at M5.

    My goal was to assemble an easily portable podcasting rig that would fit into one bag, give us the ability to record four XLR mics, and work with Garageband and Final Cut Pro. With that in mind, here’s the hardware we purchased to build out the podcast kit, and the reasoning behind each of those purchases. I’ll also give some lower-budget alternatives at the end of the article.

    How SD Card Speeds Are Often Limited By Slow Memory Controllers

    When shooting digital photographs, you can usually feel the difference between a cheap Class 4 SD card, with its minimum 4 MB/s write speeds, and a faster Class 10 or UHS (Ultra High Speed) card. SD speed classes can be really confusing--Class 10 cards are technically the fastest, with required 10 MB/s minimum read and write speeds, but there's a world of difference between a basic Class 10 card and a Class 10 UHS card, which can operate at quadruple the standard SD clock speed. Slap one of those cards, like the SanDisk Extreme Pro, into a camera, and you'll feel the difference--photos write to the card in a snap and reviewing a shot won't leave you staring at a blinking LED for three seconds.

    The speed of the card makes a difference, but a fast card isn't guaranteed to reach its potential in every device you use it in. Devices like digital cameras talk to SD cards with host controllers, and those host controllers can vary in speed and compatibility. For example, older host controllers only support the SD and SDHC formats, not the more recent SDXC. Using a really fast SD card with a slow host controller is a bit like plugging a USB 3.0 flash drive into a USB 1.0 port. You're not going to come close to maxing out what the card is capable of.

    Unfortunately, age isn't the only factor that accounts for SD controller performance. Last year, while researching SD cards for The Wirecutter, I talked to Nikon, SanDisk, and some photographers, including the experts at Imaging Resource. I also looked at Rob Galbraith's extensive database of SD and CompactFlash performance numbers. Next time you buy an SD card--or anything that uses one--keep in mind that hardware like the memory controller and CPU, even in a brand new camera, may dramatically undercut what the card should be able to deliver.

    Living with Photography: Learning Adobe Lightroom

    Let me take a deep breath, because this is not an simple topic to broach. Since I've started shooting with my Canon 6D, and based on the recommendations of many of you, I've been saving all my photos to both JPEG and RAW formats. My mirrorless camera also could save RAW images, but I never really used it for numerous reasons. Primarily because I was already accustomed to my workflow for quickly posting photos to accompany stories on the site, partly for file storage and management considerations, but also because I knew that adopting a RAW workflow would require both new software and knowledge of new image processing techniques. I simply wasn't ready to tread those deep waters.

    But took the dive I did, and just like the jump from an APS-C-sized sensor camera to a full frame one, it's difficult to see myself going back. Processing photos is a lot of fun, and even therapeutic. So here's what I've learned from dabbling in RAW photo processing for two months, which just skims the surface of what you can do with a RAW file that you can't do with a JPEG.

    A RAW file, unlike a JPEG, is not an image file in the traditional sense. It's not a single standardized file-type that you can open with any image editor or web browser--each camera company and even individual camera models store RAW data differently. Instead of the file denoting the color values of individual pixels, a camera's outputted RAW file encompasses all the light data captured by a camera sensor run through that camera's image processor. Data from different parts of the color spectrum aren't combined and flattened with luminosity settings--that's to be done on your computer. And so special RAW photo software is needed to process that data into a visual image, and lets you tweak that data to manipulate the final image.

    But just as different cameras store RAW data slightly differently, RAW photo editing software have different algorithms in their engines to interpret that data. Adobe's Lightroom and Apple's Aperture will read RAW files in their own way before giving you an image to work with. That's not hugely consequential since all RAW editing software will let you tweak in myriad ways to eventually get your desired result, but it's important to remember that not all RAW converters are created equal. Some are favored for speed, some for compatibility with software suites, and some for unique features like direct camera tethering.

    In my case, I chose to start with Adobe Lightroom 4, which is one of the more popular RAW converters. I chose it because it's cross platform (I image edit mostly on my Windows desktop), and because Adobe dropped the price of Lightroom significantly last year with the version 4 release. Even without an educational discount, you can find it for around $160, and I've seen it drop to below $100 during holiday sales. If you favor another RAW editor, please share why you like it in the comments!

    Lightroom 4 isn't just a RAW photo editor, it's also a very good file manager. The first thing that happens when you plug in a camera or memory card is the import process, which transfers photos (both RAW and JPEG) to the directory of your choosing. As a file manager, Lightroom has many sorting and tagging options. I have it automatically file photos away according to date taken, and then create groups based on events for processing. In tests conducted by DPreview, Lightroom 4 wasn't as fast as some other RAW editors to import photos, but that's because the software also creates high-resolution thumbnails for each image in the library, which are also customizable. Imports can take several minutes for a few dozen photos, but the ability to instantly preview thousands of photos in high-resolution makes it worth it.

    This is also a good place to point out that an SSD is extremely useful for RAW processing. I originally had my photos stored on a 1TB hard disk drive, but the software chugged when calling up 25MB file after file to edit. Now I keep my Lightroom library on a 256GB SSD.

    The Volpin Project, Part 7: Introduction to Moldmaking

    Our Halo Needler prop is somewhere around 15 pounds at the moment, an amalgamation of wood, foam, bondo and various types of plastic. While the shape of the whole thing is spot-on, the prop leaves a little bit to be desired with how heavy and fragile the mishmash of materials ends up being. The parts we’ve got so far have to be molded, then cast in urethane plastic. This will yield a piece that is both far lighter as well as more durable, since it’ll all be one cohesive material through and through.

    There are many types of techniques to make molds, and just as many types of materials to make molds with. The techniques covered in this and the next build installment will give an overview on the processes for making hard copies--that is, a piece that ends up being cast in rigid plastic. First, to those who aren’t familiar with moldmaking, I’ll cover a bit of terminology. Important moldmaking terms will be bolded.

    The part to be molded is referred to as a “master” or sometimes as the “sculpt." For the purposes of this article I’ll be covering molding the grip section of the Needler. The grip here is made from MDF, Acrylic, PVC, Bondo and some epoxy clay. This is the grip master.

    (Of note in the shot above is a little trick I learned from some of the modelmaking guys at the Replica Prop Forum. The little black arrows on the grip were cut at a local sign shop and adhered to the grip before molding. After making the mold and pouring a casting in resin, this will create small raised details in the final part.)

    How To Brew Coffee with the Able Kone Brewing System

    Will shows you how to make a great cup of coffee using the new Able Brewing manual pourover coffee system. Precise timing, temperature, and quantity of both coffee and water used are all important to the chemistry of coffee brewing--here's how to do it right.

    Living with Photography: Reading a Camera Lens

    Adopting an interchangeable camera system, whether mirrorless or DSLR, means that you have an intent to use more than one lens with that camera. Bundled kit lenses are typically good general purpose lenses, but the whole point of going interchangeable is to be able to swap out lenses for different situations and types of photos. Otherwise, you're better off with a good fixed lens compact, like the RX100 or Fuji X100. And while choosing lenses isn't as complicated as deciding on a DSLR body, there are many more lens options than camera body options. Even if you've settled between a Canon, Nikon, or Sony camera--and hence, a lens mount ecosystem--there are many categories and brands of lenses, each with different specs and specialties.

    Most people starting off with a DSLR--myself included--are in no rush to fill out their lens collection. It's best to start off with one or two lenses, maybe kit lens included, and build experience from there. And in choosing those starter lenses, online guides I've read tend to use focal length as the starting point for recommendations. As a refresher, the focal length denotes the field of view covered by a lens, which is determined by a combination of the optics and camera sensor. As we've written before, 35-50mm is a good starting point for a prime lens (fixed focal length), with focal length 70mm or longer being considered telephoto and 28 or shorter considered wide-angle.

    But focal length is just the tip of the iceberg for lens specs, and while it's the most defining characteristic of a lens, it's also probably the least nuanced trait. Today, I want to go over the other specs you'll find etched on the side of a lens, and the important ones that aren't.

    Let's use the kit lens on the Sony camera above as an example. There are three sets of specs listed on the front of the lens--these alone will give you a good sense of what the lens is capable of. Ostensibly, the most important string of text is at the top, so let's parse its components.

    Everything You Need to Know About Benchmarking Android

    The specs of Android hardware continue to increase at an almost obscene rate. Not two years ago a dual-core phone was a novelty -- the highest of high-end. Now we’re on the cusp of eight-core devices with the Galaxy S 4, and the clock speed of ARM chips is beginning to rival those of recent desktop processors. The numbers are getting incredibly large, but what does any of that mean to you? Can you just run the new 3DMark for Android and call it a day?

    Benchmarking devices has been a pastime of modders and enthusiasts for years, but not all benchmarks are created equal on Android. While some have real-world applications, others are merely a distraction. Let’s take a closer look at what benchmarking can tell you.

    The 2013 US Aeropress Champ Recipe

    We didn't make it to this year's SCAA Event in Boston, where the US Brewer's Cup and US Aeropress Championships were held this past weekend. But Sprudge has chatted with Andy Sprenger, the winner of this year's top US Aeropress award, about his winning brewing method (which was also awarded most innovative). Sprenger is a well known name in the coffee brewing competition circuit, having won the past (and only) two US Brewer's Cups in Houston and Portland, and was the close runner up at the World Brewers Cup. This year, he participated in the US Brewers Cup as a judge. He was also formerly the head roaster at Ceremony Coffee Roasters in Annapolis, Maryland, though he recently announced that he is starting his own coffee company in Colorado.

    Photo credit: Flickr user mdales via Creative Commons.

    Sprenger's winning Aeropress recipe marks a return to the inverted brewing method, after last year's US champion Charlene De Buysere won with a normal non-inverted recipe. But Sprenger incorporated something even more unique: an additional Hario V60 conical filter trimmed down to fit the Aeropress to pre-filter 18 grams of coffee before it goes through the standard Aeropress filter and cap. Crazy, right? Of course, the process is a little more complicated and precise than that. The full recipe is from Sprudge's report of the event:

    Place inverted Aeropress on a scale, tare, add 10 grams of coffee. “I used a fine drip grind,” Andy tells us after the competition. Trim down and pre-wet a V60 filter and carefully fold it on top of the Aeropress chamber. Add an additional 8 grams of coffee to the V60 filter.

    Start your timer, and pre-infuse the V60 filter for about ten seconds with 203-205 degree water. Pulse pour 120 grams of water total over the course of a minute and a half. Carefully remove the V60 filter. Add an additional 150 grams of water to the Aeropress chamber (this’ll take around 20-25 seconds).

    Pre-wet that Aeropress paper filter, cap the chamber, invert the Aeropress – and very slowly press it down. Gentle. Pour and enjoy.

    US Aeropress Championship judges pick Andy's cup. Photo credit: Aerobie

    Watch Sprudge's tutorial video of Andy Sprenger's winning brewing method below. Recipes from previous years' Aeropress champions can also be found here.

    How To Choose an All-in-One CPU Water Cooler

    Welcome back, deep divers. Last week, we talked about air and liquid cooling options for your PC. This time we'll dig a little deeper into all-in-one liquid cooling loops, the middle ground between air coolers and fully custom liquid cooling loops.

    I mentioned that a good liquid-cooling loop will have better performance than all but the best air coolers, but Tested member Sweetz brings up an excellent point:

    The thing about the closed loop coolers is that they have smaller thermal range and nonlinear cooling performance as compared to air coolers. Meaning that at CPU idle, when not stressed, they'll generally produce higher temperatures than competitive air coolers. However, when stressed, they can produce lower temps than the same air coolers that outperformed them at idle - again because they have a different thermal performance curve vs air coolers. You have to get used to this quirk when comparing them to air coolers. Ultimately, I believe lower highs are better than lower lows.

    Large radiators do allow lower fan speeds than the entry level models, but the entry level models already allow lower fan speeds than many air coolers in the same price range. Given that air coolers in the same price range is what they'll be shopped against, I'm not sure I see their noise levels vs larger, more expensive water cooling systems as an argument for not buying the entry level models.

    Choosing a cooler has a lot to do with your specific case. The all-in-ones with the best performance also have the most radiator area, and they won't necessarily work with every case. If you're building a new computer, of course, you get to choose a case and cooler at the same time, so make sure they're compatible.

    Let's dive even deeper into the world of all-in-one coolers and discuss the nuances of radiator placement and airflow.

    The Best Wi-Fi Extender (If You're Out of Options)

    There's something important you should know about wireless range extenders before you buy one: they're not very good. If there are dead zones in your house where Wi-Fi signals can't reach, there are better ways to improve your coverage than Wi-FI extenders. But if you're set on one, the Netgear WN2500RP is the least bad.

    You probably shouldn't buy an extender. The first thing you should try is moving your router to a central location in your house, if possible. Better placement may solve all your problems. If that doesn't work and the router you have is a few years old, I recommend getting a new one like the ASUS RT-N56u or the ASUS RT-N66u, our top picks. I'll explain why, and lay out all the alternatives to a wireless extender that I think will work better for you. After the explanation, if you still decide you need a Wi-Fi Extender, I'll tell you why the Netgear WN2500RP is the one I'd get.

    Briefly: The Problem with Wi-Fi Extenders

    Wi-Fi extenders (sometimes called wireless repeaters) seem like the obvious choice for helping a wireless router cover an entire house with Internet access. Essentially, they pick up a wireless signal just like your tablet or laptop, then rebroadcast that signal, giving you a second access point to connect to. But there's a big problem with that, which kind of cripples the functionality of extenders. Networking expert Tim Higgins wrote this about extenders on SmallNetBuilder in 2011:

    "No matter what they are called or technology they use, repeaters start out with a minimum 50% throughput loss. The reason is that a repeater must receive, then retransmit each packet using the same radio on the same channel and with the same SSID. If the repeater is very efficient, then your loss will be close to 50%. But if it's not, throughput loss can be higher."

    Thanks to that 50% loss in bandwidth right off the top, just about all wireless extenders suck.

    Thanks to that 50% loss in bandwidth right off the top, just about all wireless extenders suck. But the technology has gotten a little better in the past year. If you have to get a Wi-Fi extender, it should be the $80 Netgear WN2500RP, which has a dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz radio. The extender can use one frequency to communicate with a router and another frequency to communicate with client devices, which bypasses that 50% hit to bandwidth.

    Even so, a Wi-Fi extender is the last thing you should buy to improve your wireless network. The simple truth is that there are two better alternatives to consider first: