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    Tested: Yuneec Breeze 4K Quadcopter

    I've left my fingerprints on a lot of different multi-rotors. So it's rare for me to come across a product so unique that it nudges me out of my comfort zone. The new Breeze 4K ($500) from Yuneec is one of those products. It is unlike any quad I've flown before. In some respects, it forced me to rethink my preconceived notions about what an aerial photography platform could be. At the same time, it challenged me with issues that I couldn't overlook.

    The Yuneec Breeze 4K is a compact multi-rotor that is intended to create high-end selfies.

    Who is the Breeze 4K For?

    While it definitely has many hobby-quality attributes, the Breeze is not intended for model aviation enthusiasts. In fact, it seems that Yuneec has tried very hard to remove much of the burden of becoming a skilled pilot. Most of the built-in flight modes involve some degree of automated control over the quad. Just keep in mind that there is still a minimum level of proficiency required. It is necessary to understand and become competent with the software that augments any lack of flying skill. In other words, read the manual and watch the tutorials before you hit the skies.

    It appears that this quad is primarily for people looking to elevate their selfie game. The flight modes are tailored to put the user, more than anything else, in the camera lens. Think of the Breeze as a long selfie stick…a really long selfie stick!

    The marketing material for the Breeze notes that it is capable of outdoor or indoor flight. It has special sensors on the bottom side to improve its indoor capability in the absence of GPS signals. One photo even suggests that it is okay to fly within the limited confines of a high-rise apartment. Personally, I would be very uncomfortable flying a multi-rotor of this size and power inside my house.

    Bits to Atoms: Printing My Custom Cutaway Lightsaber

    With all the design work done for my Custom Cutaway Lightsaber, it's time to 3D print everything on the Form 2 SLA printer. We were lucky enough to get a pre-production Form 2 from FormLabs and had been printing a ton of projects before the official release. We were very pleased with all the prints as Formlabs had upgraded all of the items (and then some) on my wishlist from my time with the Form 1+. The Form 2 had been living up to my expectations but I designed some of the lightsaber parts to torture test it further.

    While the Form 2 was more than capable of printing out an entire half of the saber in one piece, I broke it up into many parts for a few reasons. First, I wanted to show off various resins and designed the saber to make use of the black, grey, clear and flexible materials, most of which had just had formulation upgrades. Second, I wanted to see what the tolerances and fit quality were like for assemblies. Third, as we have talked about before, prints tend to look better when all the parts aren't globbed together but instead printed as individual pieces. Plus, the quality of parts can sometimes be affected by orientation and printing everything as one piece is not always optimal.

    Mesh repair - problem areas highlighted

    Once modeling was finished, the next step was to export all the parts as STL files - generally the standard for 3D printing. The grips and pommel were exported as a whole piece and then cut in half using Netfabb - this was a case of using the right tool for the job. Netfabb (recently acquired by Autodesk) is also my goto program for mesh repair which is a vital part of 3D printing. Any holes, flipped polygon faces or other irregularities can cause a print to fail. Formlabs PreForm software has Netfabb repair functionality built in and will warn you and offer to fix possible issues upon model import.

    Google Play App Roundup: Solid Explorer, One More Jump, and Monolithic

    Grab your phone and prepare to shoot some new apps and games over to it from the Google cloud. It's time for the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new and cool in the Play Store. Just click the links to head to each app's page to check it out for yourself.

    Solid Explorer

    Solid Explorer is obviously not a new app, but it's just gotten a big update, which has been in testing for months. We haven't talked about this app for a long time, so it's time to check in on what is, I think, undeniably the best file manager on Android. Front and center in the latest update are some Nougat improvements and support for fingerprint-based file encryption. This is the most robust implementation of this feature I've seen yet on Android.

    Solid Explorer's original claim to fame was its fantastic multi-pane implementation. You can have two locations open at once, and easily move items between the two. That's still present in the new v2.2 update of course, but there's added support for Nougat's split-screen mode. That means it'll open in split screen without any annoying warnings and will behave itself without any weird crashing or UI errors.

    As for the file encryption feature, there are several reasons I think this is the best implementation on Android. When you choose the file or folder you want to encrypt, the app will pull up a dialog so you can set a password. Encryption is done with AES256, which is essentially uncrackable. The only potentially weak link is your password, but with Solid Explorer, you don't have to worry about that.

    Devices with a fingerprint scanner on Android 6.0 or higher can set the secure unlock method for a file to be the user's registered fingerprint. There's a checkbox in the encryption dialog to allow this. If you enable it, you can decrypt a file simply by touching the sensor, allowing you to use a long and annoying password to encrypt as you don't have to type it in every time. The files you encrypt also keep their file name, simply gaining a .sec extension. That makes it easy to know what you're opening. There's also an option to have the source file scrubbed when you encrypt.

    After decrypting a file, you can open it normally. However, Solid Explorer smartly re-encrypts automatically when you close it. This is not a particularly flashy aspect of the feature, but probably one that makes it actually useful. If you had to re-encrypt files every time, you probably wouldn't use them as much.

    Solid Explorer includes a 14-day trial of all the features, if you want to give it a shot. After that, it's a $1.99 in-app purchase to unlock permanently. If you're looking for a good file explorer and have any interest in protecting your files, this is a good method.

    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.

    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.

    Conscient

    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.

    X-15: The Other Spaceplane

    When it comes to winged spaceships, the list of successful vehicles is rather small. The space shuttle is the most obvious example, with the Soviet Buran also making the cut. Let's not forget the more recent examples of SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo. But there is another, often overlooked spaceplane that began to take shape even before NASA existed. This unsung trailblazer, the North American Aviation X-15, carried eight humans into space (more than Project Mercury). Between 1959 and 1968 the X-15 completed 199 flights and achieved results that far exceeded the project's original charter. The successes and failures of the X-15 program provided critical lessons that shaped the US spacecraft (and numerous airplanes) that followed.

    The X-15 was a rocket-powered airplane that explored hypersonic flight and carried eight test pilots into space. (NASA photo)

    Genesis of the X-15

    The mid-20th century was an era of vigorous research and rapid discoveries in aeronautics. A series of American rocket-powered "X-planes" successively pushed top speeds and maximum altitudes ever higher. In 1952, even before Mach 2 had been exceeded, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA – the aeronautical research arm of the federal government and precursor to NASA) initiated a project to explore hypersonic flight (faster than Mach 5). This effort would ultimately result in the creation of the X-15.

    PlayStation Meeting 2016: Everything You Need to Know

    At a (very) short and concise event in New York City, Sony revealed to the world what it already knew for the most part. Head of PlayStation Andrew House and lead system architect Mark Cerny were on stage to talk about Sony's new hardware.

    First up was the PS4 Slim. It's smaller than the original PlayStation 4, officially hits stores starting September 15th, and will cost $300. It was also mentioned that this will be the new standard PS4 model going forward. Other than that, nothing else was said about it.

    What we really care about though is the long rumored Neo hardware. Officially called PlayStation 4 Pro, this noticeably bigger box was built with 4K and HDR displays in mind. Confirming leaked documentation, the CPU's clock speed has been increased over the original PS4 and the GPU is using AMD's new Polaris technology. It launches November 10th with a 1TB hard drive for $400.

    As expected, all existing PS4 titles will work on the Pro, and all new games will work on both systems for the foreseeable future. Some previously released games will be receiving updates to take advantage of the new hardware, such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, and Sony plans on updating at least six of their own titles, including Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. They also showed upcoming games like Mass Effect: Andromeda and Insomniac's Spider-Man game running on the new hardware.

    When addressing the new potential for visuals with games running on the Pro and 4K displays, Cerny said, "Brute force rendering techniques can of course be used to support these displays, but they have unfortunate consequences for console cost and form factor. So with PS4 Pro our strategy has instead been to foster streamlined rendering techniques that can take advantage of custom hardware. When coupled with best in breed temporal and spatial anti-aliasing algorithms, the results can be astonishing."

    To me that sounds a lot like the Pro won't render games at a native 4K resolution, and will instead use new development techniques to upscale content for these new screens. In fact that makes sense given the new GPU. Earlier this year a lot of technical information was leaked about the PS4 Pro. Now with new graphics cards from AMD out using the same technology as what's found in the Pro, an approximate system using PC hardware can already be tested.

    The Best Unlocked and Carrier Android Smartphone (September 2016)

    It's a tumultuous time for Android phones; new Nexus (or Pixel?) phones are expected in the next few weeks, the Note 7 is exploding, and LG is getting ready to move on from the disappointing G5. If you're in the market for a new phone, you might be wondering what to get. Well, you should probably still try to wait it out for unlocked phones, but on the carrier side the choice is still clear. Let's break it down.

    Carrier phones

    In recent months, I've recommended the Galaxy S7 with the HTC 10 as a solid alternative. Well, the HTC 10 appears to be falling flat. T-Mobile has already dropped it, and the price hasn't really come down to competitive levels. At this point, I think you're much better off getting the Galaxy S7, or you can wait just a little longer for the V20.

    Let's go over what makes the Galaxy S7 a good purchase right now. It has some of the best hardware you'll find on a smartphone right now. Despite being made largely of glass, the Galaxy S7 is a surprisingly solid phone. It's IP68 water resistant, and the metal rim around the edge gives it some heft. The rear glass panel is curved slightly to make it more comfortable in the hand.

    Samsung made the GS7 about a millimeter thicker than the GS6, but that leaves more room inside for a bigger battery now. The slightly thicker frame means the regular GS7 has a 3000mAh battery and the GS7 Edge has 3600mAh. With the aid of Android 6.0's Doze Mode, both these devices have great battery life. That'll only get better with Android 7.0 Nougat, which I'll get to later.

    Google Play App Roundup: CTRL-F, Particular, and CELL 13

    A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

    CTRL-F

    Good old control-f is one of the most useful keyboard shortcuts, though some people still don't even realise it's a thing. Crazy, right? What if control-f existed in real life? I'm sure people would want to know about that. CTRL-F for Android aims to be just that, a real world version of the find command. It won't find anything, but it's pretty good at scanning text and making it searchable.

    CTRL-F is basically a fancy interface for optical character recognition with search built right in. To start using CTRL-F, simply find a document you want to search, and use the app to snap a photo (or import an existing image). Printed text works best, and the font needs to be at least somewhat conventional. Really weird stuff might now be detected correctly. After you take the photo, CTRL-F lets you frame the text for better detection.

    The app then processes the image by straightening the font and reading it. It supports over 50 languages, but I only tested it in English. The entire scanning process takes about 20 seconds for a single dense page of text. The processed image you get looks like a very high-contrast version of the photo you took, but behind the scenes is a full searchable text document.

    The accuracy is surprisingly good for most documents. I've found that glossy materials tend to cause more issues than those on matte paper. Varying fonts also seem to cause issues. Searching is fast and accurate most of the time, though. All the documents you've imported and had scanned will remain available from the main screen in CTRL-F.

    The data in CTRL-F isn't stored as some wonky non-standard file. If you want to export a searchable PDF, the option is available in the overflow menu. I'd like to see some sort of batch processing mode in CTRL-F, but the current functionality isn't bad, especially when you consider it's free.

    Episode 365 - True Trending Topics - 9/1/16
    Kishore & Jeremy are joined by Tested founder Will Smith to discuss the weeks high jinks in pop culture and technology, including the firing of the Facebook trending topics team, a Nest shakeup at Google, our hopes for next week's Apple & Sony events, and a fond farewell to Gene Wilder. Plus an extended Moment of Science segment and our thoughts on newly released VR titles in the VR Minute!
    00:00:00 / 01:57:27
    Checking in: Is Google Now on Tap Still a Disappointment?

    Google addressed several long-standing complaints when it announced Android 6.0 Marshmallow last year including battery life and Android's kludge of a permission model. An unexpected treat was Google Now on Tap. This feature was supposed to provide contextual search and actions based on your screen contents, and it sounded truly exciting. In practice, On Tap has been slow to prove itself useful.

    Maybe you don't bother to look at On Tap anymore, but you might want to take another look. It has gained a few cool features as we move into the Nougat era. You just need to know they're present.

    Promises, Promises

    Google Now on Tap promised to leverage the power of Google's machine learning algorithms to extract context from your phone. When activated, the feature would search the text for actionable items like an address, contact name, package tracking numbers, and more. This saves you from copying and pasting things or running manual searches. Well, it's supposed to.

    How to Replace Servo Gears

    The servos that we use to control our RC vehicles are amazingly resilient little gadgets. Many of us abuse our servos without mercy, yet failures are rare. Most of the breakages that do happen can be traced to a particularly hard crash or some other unplanned shock load that causes the servo's internal gears to strip.

    The good news is that stripped gears are not a death sentence for a servo. Most manufacturers sell replacement gear sets for a fraction of the cost of a new servo. While some people are intimidated by the watch-like collection of gears, the repair process is often quite simple. In this article, I'll illustrate the basic steps for gear replacement with the Hitec HS-55, a very popular servo that is used in countless applications.

    Before I get started with the tutorial, I should point out that most servos have nylon gears. Some heavy-duty servos use stronger plastic, brass, or even titanium for the gears. If you find yourself stripping gears frequently in a particular application, you may want to upgrade to one of those heady-duty types. You may even be able to find upgraded replacement gears for your existing servo.

    Google Play App Roundup: Taskbar, Auralux: Constellations, and Kerflux

    It's time again to dive into the Google Play Store and see what apps we can find. Every week we find the best new and newly updated apps for the Roundup, and this week is no exception. Just click on the app name to head to the Play Store.

    Taskbar

    Android 7.0 Nougat has launched, and with it comes support for split-screen multitasking. There's also a "freeform" window mode that allows a more traditional desktop way of managing windows, but that's limited to Android TV for now... unless you give the new Taskbar app a shot. This is basically a fancy app switcher that works on all Android devices, but on Nougat phones and tablets, it can bring apps up in freeform windows.

    Let's talk about what Taskbar does before we get into the nuances of freeform windows. When Taskbar is running, you get an expandable bar that's a little like a Windows taskbar. It shows recently opened apps, which you can then tap to launch. There's also a launcher icon in Taskbar that lets you access all your apps. Apps that you use frequently can also be pinned to taskbar so you won't have to go digging for them.

    When it's collapsed, Taskbar is just a small translucent arrow in the lower left corner of the screen. I haven't accidentally triggered it at all, so it's not problematic when I'm using the device. There is, however, an ongoing notification when the service is running. It provides quick access to the settings, though.

    As for freeform windows, you will need to be on Nougat, or course. You also need to either toggle a setting in developer options or use an ADB command from your computer to enable the feature. Once enabled, you can trigger freeform mode from your home screen by opening Taskbar and pressing the launcher button several times. This is the first bit of jank, but this is an unofficial feature. That's really to be expected. When the home screen fades away, leaving only the wallpaper, you're in freeform mode. Now, any app you launch will pop up as a floating, resizable window.

    I've tested this with a number of apps with good results. As long as something can run in split-screen, it should be fine in freeform. You can drag them around and change the size as needed to get things done more efficiently. However, kicking them over into split-screen mode will probably break the UI. This seems to be a problem with the system at this time, but again, it's an unofficial feature.

    You can leave freeform mode at any time by hitting the home button, The apps you have in freeform will remain accessible as pop-up windows in your multitasking screen, but you can clear them if you'd like to relaunch in standard or split-screen mode.

    Taskbar is a neat app, even if you're not going to play around with freeform mode, and it's free.