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    Maker Faire 2016: FLUX Delta 3D Printer/Scanner/Engraver

    We take a look at the Flux Delta all-in-one machine at Maker Faire 2016. This device is a 3D printer, but you can swap out its print head to make it a model scanner, laser etcher, or plotter. After a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014, it's finally shipping to backers.

    Google Play App Roundup: Boomerang Notifications, Tiny Tower, and Crashing Season

    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.

    Boomerang Notifications

    It always strikes me as weird that there are so many apps out there that seek to improve on Android's notification system. At every stage of the game, it's been the best notification scheme of any platform, but there are always edge cases that encourage someone to try something different. Sometimes it's even a cool addition, as in the case of Boomerang. It turns your notifications into recurring reminders and archives them for you.

    Boomerang plugs into the Android notification listener service, so you'll be asked to enable that during setup. All modern Android phones have this feature, and it's used by a lot of apps. It uses this access to read and save the text from your notifications, but not all notifications. Boomerang makes the most sense when you choose specific apps for it to manage. These will probably be the apps you get the most notifications from like Gmail, your messaging app of choice, and social apps.

    Once you've selected active apps in the list, Boomerang will monitor for those notifications. When you swipe away a notification, Boomerang will pop up a notification asking you if you want to save it for later (this will go away on its own after a few seconds). You can also choose to add a reminder in addition to saving. This is the "boomerang" part of the app -- it comes back to you. There's also a persistent notification for Boomerang that shows you the current number of saved notifications you have. I'm not crazy about persistent notifications, but this is the sort of app that really needs one to make sure it operates as intended.

    When you open Boomerang from the notification or shortcut, it shows you the saved notifications. Tapping on them launches as if you'd tapped on the original notification, and a long press lets you set a reminder. This can be handy in the event you need to reply to someone later, but you don't want to deal with it at that moment. Boomerang saves you from messing around with launching other apps just to set reminders about a notification. This is just one step.

    Boomerang Notifications is free, which is a little surprising. I would have at least expected some sort of premium version in-app purchase. There's no reason not to at least give this a shot.

    Testing: GeForce GTX 1080 Compute Performance

    Can Nvidia's new flagship compute? Sure it does. But how well?

    Out of idle curiosity, I ran a couple of OpenCL compute-oriented benchmarks on the GTX 1080 and three other GPUs. Bear in mind that this is more quick-and-dirty benchmarking, not rigorously repeated to validate results. The results, however, look interesting and the issue of compute on new GPUs bears further investigating.

    The Setup

    These tests ran on my existing production system, a Core i7-6700K with 32GB DDR4 running at the stock 2,133MHz effective. I used four different GPUs: GTX 1080, Titan X, GTX 980, and an AMD Radeon Fury Nano. The GTX 1080 used the early release drivers, while the other GPUs ran on the latest WHQL-certified drivers available from the GPU manufacturer's web site.

    As you can see from the table below, all four GPUs ran at the reference frequencies, including memory. When I show the results, I don't speculate on the impact of compute versus memory bandwidth or quantity. As I said: quick and dirty.

    GPUGTX 1080Titan XGTX 980Radeon Fury Nano
    Base Clock1.6GHz1.0GHz1.126GHz1.0Ghz
    Boost Clock1.73GHz1.075GHz1.216GHz1.05GHz
    Memory Bandwidth320GB/s336GB/s224GB/s512GB/s

    CompuBench CL

    The first benchmark, CompuBench CL from Hungary-based Kishonti, actually consists of a series of benchmarks, each focusing on a different compute problem. Because the compute tasks differ substantially, CompuBench doesn't try to aggregate them into a single score. So I show separate charts for each test. CompuBench CL 1.5 desktop uses OpenCL 1.1.

    Maker Faire 2016: Pocket CHIP $49 Portable Computer

    Last year, we were impressed by Next Thing Co's $9 CHIP computer. At Maker Faire 2016, we were able to check out their PocketCHIP housing, which puts CHIP into a portable console package that runs Linux and indie game console Pico-8. Here's what you can do with the $49 system!

    Avoiding RC Transmitter Switch Mistakes

    At the most recent meeting of my RC club, several pilots got into a discussion about the embarrassment of accidentally flipping the wrong switch on their radio transmitter. The consequences of this mistake ranged anywhere from scuffed paint to a full-bore crash into the turf. Given the complexity of modern radios and the forest of protruding switches, it's easy to understand how even a seasoned pilot could mistake one switch for another. It is even more understandable when you realize that many pilots are reluctant to take their eyes off of their aircraft. The myriad switches are often navigated purely by muscle memory and feel.

    Nearly everyone had a story to share about causing damage to a favorite model from an absent-minded switch throw. Most stories were followed by a description of what was done afterward to mitigate the risk of future mistakes. The majority of pilots chose to modify a critical switch in order to differentiate it from its neighbors.

    Modern RC transmitters are often complex. Hitting the wrong switch can cause an embarrassing and costly mishap.

    For many pilots, their target switch to modify is the one which activates retractable landing gear. Obviously, you want to be able to easily locate that switch so that you can safely lower the gear when it's time to come in for a landing. This is especially true if you're already dealing with an in-flight emergency such as a dead engine.

    Correct operation of the landing gear is also vital when the model is on the ground. One pilot relayed an incident where he intended to retract the wing flaps while taxiing his expensive jet model. He inadvertently hit the landing gear switch instead. As the landing gear tucked itself away, his jet belly-flopped onto the hard runway, causing considerable mechanical and cosmetic damage. Another flyer talked about the time he accidentally retracted a model's landing gear while the engine was warming up. His transgression ruined a very costly propeller.

    You want to be able to quickly identify switches by feel.

    Many multi-rotor models have switches that control flight modes and/or the 'return home' function. Changing either of those could fundamentally alter how the model responds to your control inputs. Correct positioning of the switch is vital.

    Whatever your hot-button (or two) may be, the intent of modifying the corresponding switch is the same. You want to be able to quickly identify that switch by feel so that you can move it when you need to and leave it alone when you don't. What follows are three proven methods to modify a critical switch.

    In Brief: Pebble Announces New Watches, Core Accessory

    Even though Apple reportedly corners half of the smart watch market, Pebble is pushing forward its lineup with new watches and an interesting accessory on the horizon. The Pebble 2 and Pebble Time 2 are the logical follow-ups to the low-power watches, adding heart-rate monitors, extending battery life, and expanding the screen size by 50% in the color model. But the more interesting product looks to be the $70 Pebble Core, a display-free pocketable puck that has GPS tracking, Spotify streaming, audio out (including Bluetooth), and even 3G sim card support. Steven Levy examines why the Core may be a smart move for Pebble on Backchannel. Pebble is also once again turning to Kickstarter for early bird pricing pre-orders--pay in 35 days and you'll get a new watch by the end of the year.

    Maker Faire 2016: OpenROV's New Trident Drone

    We catch up with OpenROV at Maker Faire to learn about their new Trident underwater drone. This new model is faster, has a better camera, and is built to be ready to dive out of the box. It also has a unique towable receiver buoy that floats and lets you pilot the drone remotely.

    Tested: Mechanical Gaming Keyboards

    What makes a good mechanical keyboard? And why are peripheral companies releasing new gaming keyboards so frequently? Patrick and Norm discuss the state of this essential accessory, and how the switches in new keyboards from Corsair, Razer, and Logitech compare. Which type of switch do you prefer?

    Testing: Jaybird Freedom Wireless Earbuds

    Our favorite wireless headphones from last year were Jaybird's X2 earbuds. These Bluetooth earbuds packed all the electronics and radios in the ear pieces, requiring only a flat cord to connect the two ends behind your head. I thought they were great for bike riding and jogging, and the interchangeable tips (supporting plastic ones or Comply foam tips) made them comfortable for me to wear. The 9 hours of battery life was pretty good, too. But for some people, they X2's design was still too bulky; the weight distribution of the electronics made it necessary to use the "wingtips" to wrap the earbuds around your ear to keep them in place. Jaybird's new Freedom earbuds solve that problem completely.

    The new Jaybird Freedoms are significantly slimmer than the X2s, while retaining the same 6mm driver that gave the X2s really good sound quality (for earbuds). It's almost shocking how small the new design is, which now can completely fit into small ears without sticking out and dragging off the lobe. Jaybird (which was recently acquired by Logitech) accomplished this in two ways: incorporating a tapered driver design so that the tips are smaller, and putting all of the battery, electronics, and radio into the volume control module along the cable. The redesigned driver and relocation of the electronics don't appear to have changed the sound quality (and there's still a built-in microphone), and Jaybird is also pushing a new companion app that allows for real-time EQ adjustments and downloadable presets.

    Maker Faire 2016: 3D Printed Open-Source Telepresence Robot

    We kick off our Maker Faire 2016 coverage with this awesome telepresense robot made by researchers at the Galileo University in Guatemala. The robot's body is based off of the open-source InMoov project, with remote control via an Oculus DK2 headset and Perception Neuron motion capture system. Telepresense with some sense of proprioception!

    Google Play App Roundup: Science Journal, Air Attack, and Assassin's Creed Identity

    Android devices do a lot of neat stuff out of the box, but you can always load it up with new apps to make if do more stuff. And maybe some games for good measure. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new on Android. Just hit the links to head to the Play Store.

    Science Journal

    Your smartphone is bristling with sensors, so why not use them to do some basic science? Google has released a new app that helps you run simple experiments with your phone called Science Journal. It's mostly aimed at getting students interested in science and the process of running experiments, but everyone can learn a little something.

    Science Journal accesses three sensors in your phone: the light sensor, accelerometer, and the microphone. In the main interface, you can switch between each of these outputs to see live data as a single number or a graph. In addition, the accelerometer data is split up into X, Y, and Z axis readings. Of course, the app is a super-slick example of material design with bright colors and cool animations.

    Down at the bottom of the screen is a toolbar and timecode. This is where you record your data. Simply hit the record button and the sensor data will be archived. You can organize each data set into different experiments and add notes to them as well. The graphs (both live and archived) respond to pinch zoom gestures.

    You might be surprised how sensitive the sensors in your phone are, especially the accelerometer. Because this part is designed to measure g-forces, it reads gravitational acceleration at rest, and it's pretty close to the 9.8m/s^2 number we all learned in school. We often think of acceleration in terms of velocity relative to the ground, but this app encourages you to think about it a little differently. For example, in freefall, the Z-axis reads 0 instead of 9.8-ish. I was even able to use the accelerometer to measure my heart rate by laying the phone on my chest.

    At the top of Science Journal is a button that links the app with external devices. You probably don't have any of these, but the Google Making and Science Initiative website lists some kits Google helped to design with companies like Sparkfun that will connect to the app, usually via an Arduino. All the data acquired through the app, via both internal and external sensors, can be exported as a CSV file.

    The app is free and fun to play around with if nothing else. If you have kids, you might want to use this as a learning opportunity.

    The Best of Google I/O 2016: Android N, Daydream VR, and More

    Google I/O is now in its 10th year, and Google brought it back to the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View where it started. I/O is always big on news, especially in the last few years as Google announced developer previews of upcoming versions of Android. This year, we already have the Android N dev preview, but that didn't stop Google from showing off some cool new features. There are also big changes coming to Chrome OS, messaging, and more.

    Let's take a look at all of Google's I/O 2016 highlights.

    Android N

    The existence of Android N wasn't the big reveal this year. We're actually getting quite familiar with this pre-release OS after two developer previews. The third preview was released at I/O, and Google also talked about some more features coming to Android N.

    There were, of course, demos of things like multi-window and the revamped notifications. We knew all about that, though. Possibly the most interesting new tidbit about Android N is the support for what Google is calling seamless updates. If you've ever used a Chromebook, it'll be very similar. In fact, the Android team borrowed some code from Chrome OS to do this.

    Right now, getting an OTA update, though joyous, is a pain in the butt. You have to restart your device, wait for the OS to unpack and install, then sit through the app optimization process. Devices that ship with Android N won't have to do any of that. Instead, updates will happen in the background as soon as they're available (like a Chromebook). The next time you restart, your phone or tablet will simply boot into the updated OS and that's it.

    So how is this magic possible? Android N will support dual system partitions. The one you're actively using will be online and the other will be offline. When a system update is ready, it will be installed in the offline partition while the device is still in use. Upon reboot, the offline partition becomes online and online becomes offline. Not only is this a faster way to do updates, it provides a fallback in case a bad update breaks something. The device can just boot into the old system and try the update again.

    The Great Tested Garage Sale 2016

    Surprise: we're moving offices! We've been in our current San Francisco office for almost four years now, having moved in when Will, Joey, and I first teamed up with Adam and Jamie. Back then, we shared the office with some engineers (who have since left for other projects), so we didn't maximize the space for our varying production needs. Our lease ended this year, and with more opportunities to shoot videos with Adam, we decided to move to a new location closer to his shop. We're really excited about it!

    Less exciting is the task of moving all of our stuff to the new office. We've accumulated a LOT of stuff over the years, and aren't going to take it all with us. So our hoarding is your gain. On Sunday, May 29th, we're hosting the first ever Tested garage sale to sell everything we're not taking to the new location. That includes collectibles, quads, LEGO, artwork, old projects, equipment, and even office furniture. The sale will take place at our current place (790 Brannan St, San Francisco), between 1 and 5PM. We'll take credit card or cash, but definitely no trades (we don't need more stuff!). All the money we raise from the sale will go to renovating and building out our new studio. Come by to hang out, buy a piece of Tested history, and say goodbye to a space that's served us well for so many years. BYOB. We may even livestream it!

    Once we're settled in the new space, we'll shoot a tour video to share with you. There's a lot of cool new technology that's available now that wasn't possible in 2012, so we can have some fun with virtual tours. What do you all think of a telepresence machine? In the meantime, I've dug up the tour videos from when we first moved into this office four years ago.

    Loyd's Travel Gear: PC, Camera, Power, Bags

    Let's talk road trips! I'm sitting in a hotel room in Austin, Texas as I write this, during after-work time on a business trip. This topic seemed like a timely one. But, I hear you ask, what kind of road trip? Long? Short? Vacation? Business?

    Good point. Rather than try to address each of these as a separate trip category, I'll talk about the stuff first, then how I change what I carry depending on length of trip. For me, time spent away tends to change my travel kit more than the type of trip.


    I carry a laptop most trips, but that laptop has been shrinking over the years. I used to feel I wanted a very thin, relatively light 15-inch notebook — something on the order of a Macbook Pro 15-inch or Dell XPS 15. I've come to realize I mostly use laptops for communication, writing, and super-basic photo editing. I bought a Lenovo Yoga when they first shipped, with a 13.3-inch screen. Even that became too bulky over time, so my go-to travel PC is now Microsoft's Surface Pro 4. The 12.3-inch screen is adequate, and the new Type Cover keyboard works amazingly well. Best of all, it's treated as a tablet by TSA in most locations, so getting I can just leave it in the bag when going through airport security.

    I find myself traveling without a mouse more frequently, though if I plan on using Photoshop, I'll throw a small Bluetooth mouse into the bag. I sometimes also carry an iPad Air 2, but not for shorter trips. The combination of iPhone 6 and Surface Pro 4 addresses most of my computing and browsing needs, but the iPad comes in handy for tablet games and some movie viewing. However, I always carry my Kindle Voyage, which offers weeks-long battery life, useful backlighting, and handles much easier than the iPad for reading.

    How To Fly Illuminated RC Models at Night

    The first time that I flew an RC plane at night, it was illuminated by a few chemical glow sticks that had been hastily taped in place. Unsure of success, I used an old model that wouldn't be missed if things went badly. It was a seat-of-the-pants, half-baked experiment by any measure. Looking back on that experience, it's hard to believe that the soft light of the glow sticks was adequate for me to see the model very well. Yet, the concept was sufficiently proven, and so began my still-active interest in night flying.

    The E-flite Brave is a newly-released ARF night flyer using foam construction. (photo courtesy of Horizon Hobby)

    These days, modelers can choose from a variety of very bright off-the-shelf lighting systems to illuminate their favorite airplane. There are also several Almost Ready to Fly (ARF) models with factory-installed lighting systems. Today, we'll take a look at some of the choices that are available for a moonlight stroll around the flying field.

    Lighting Choices

    The easiest method to make a model suitable for night flying is to add LED light strips. Many electric models already have a 12-volt power source for the lights. (photo courtesy of Hobbico)

    My use of glow sticks was limited to just a few experimental flights. I soon moved to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to brighten my night flyers. LEDs are ideal because they are adequately bright, very efficient, and they are available in a wide variety of colors. My initial experiences with LEDs required that I pair each diode with a resistor to establish the desired amperage. Setting up a simple model with a couple dozen LEDs required a little Ohm's Law and a lot of soldering.

    Before long, prefabricated strings of LEDs became available. These lights have the LEDs and resistors integrated together on a flexible strip with an adhesive backing. You just snip off the length of light strip that you want and attach a 12-volt DC power source. LED strips are not an RC-specific product. They have been embraced by the DIY crowd for custom PC cases, car accents, home theater lighting, and many other applications.

    While they are not the only lighting option available, LED light strips make the task of creating a night flyer a real no-brainer. Many electric-powered airplane models use a 3-cell Lithium-Polymer battery, which has 12.6 volts at full charge. It is a simple matter to tap into this battery to also power the lights.