Latest StoriesTech
    Tiny Circuits' Playable Arcade Cabinet Kit!

    We love this tiny arcade cabinet kit from the folks at Tiny Circuits. They've managed to put a powerful arduino board, memory, and display into a laser-cut cabinet that's striking and charming at the same time. And it plays games!

    Restoring Showbiz Pizza's Animatronic Robots!

    Jack Turner is obsessed with Showbiz Pizza's iconic animatronic robots. He and his father have scrounged up these old characters to restore them to their music-playing glory! We chat with Jack about his project and how he learned to rebuild these robots to animate the same way they did in the 80s.

    How Home Mesh Networks Beef Up Your Wi-Fi

    The devices we use today are reliant on wireless communications. Smartphones, computers, and even video game consoles all access the internet through signals known as Wi-Fi. However, due to the complexities of radio signals, a single access point for Wi-Fi doesn't cut it in some situations. Mesh networks provide more coverage while also maintaining speeds. They have been utilized in the enterprise space for years now, and this technology has finally made its way to the home.

    Wi-Fi

    In order to understand mesh networks and its importance we need to know what Wi-Fi itself is and how it works.

    The majority of wireless communications and data transfers are done via radio waves; a type of electromagnetic radiation that propagates in as many as three dimensions through the environment at the speed of light. Artificial radio waves can be tuned to a wide range of wavelengths and frequencies which are sectioned off for different purposes and regulated by government agencies and international groups of experts. Radio communications in their simplest form involves a source transmitting data and something tuned to the same radio wave specifications to receive the transmission.

    The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE, typically pronounced "eye triple-e") is the body responsible for the 802.11 standards our Wi-Fi capable devices use. Most devices made today support the 802.11n revision at either 2.4GHz or 5GHz, or the more recent 802.11ac revision which only operates at 5GHz. Each new version of the standard makes some sort of improvement, generally coming in the form of better throughput. The 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies are the radio bands that Wi-Fi is allowed to operate within, and is broken down further into channels that operate within tens of megahertz of the band.

    There are pros and cons to using Wi-Fi at either 2.4GHz or 5GHz. Most channels for 2.4GHz overlap with one another, which can cause interference. And while 5GHz 802.11ac may be the new hotness, most devices still use 2.4GHz which causes more congestion. Then there's the fact that other technology, such as bluetooth and microwaves, operate at 2.4GHz as well, which causes interference. The 5GHz band tends to have much faster data speeds. However, due to the faster propagation of the wave it also breaks down faster, especially through solid objects, and so the 2.4GHz band has a longer range.

    For years there have been ways to mitigate the shortcomings of Wi-Fi signals.

    Prusa i3 3D Printer Upgrade Prints 4 Colors!

    The Prusa i3 was one of the best reviewed 3D printers of the past year, and we check out their newest upgrade that allows for 4-color printing with just one hot end. Sean chats with Josef Prusa himself to talk about how multi-filament printing works and why it's no easy feat.

    Microsoft's New Surface Pro: What You Should Know

    The fifth generation Surface Pro is finally here. After waiting for over a year and a half Microsoft has refreshed their most popular Surface device. They've dropped the number scheme, made a few tweaks, and the new Surface Pro will go on sale worldwide on June 15th. Been waiting for this refresh? Here's what you should know about it.

    The Surface Pro 2017

    Upon first inspection the new Surface Pro is nearly identical to the Pro 4. It has a 12.3 inch screen with a resolution of 2736x1824. And for better or worse it has all of the same ports in the same spots, including a USB 3.0 A port, mini DisplayPort, a microSD card slot, and the magnetic Surface Connect port.

    Inside of course are the latest Intel Kaby Lake processors with a Core m3-7Y30, i5-7300U, and i7-7660U. Now not only is the m3 model fanless, but the i5 one is as well. The 1866Mhz LPDDR3 RAM ranges from 4GB to 16GB, and SSD options from 128GB to 512GB. It still has a front facing camera for Windows Hello facial recognition, and the speakers have been upgraded too. There will also be an LTE option available later this year.

    The new Surface Pro features a next generation kickstand, and now moves up to a 165 degree angle. The new Surface Pen has seen a huge upgrade, now sporting 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity (up from 1,024), latency has been cut in half down to 21ms thanks to a new Pen coprocessor, and it can even recognize tilting. Microsoft is claiming this is the best digital pen ever, so we'll have to see how it stacks up against Apple's Pencil. The new Surface Pro will also work with the Surface Dial on screen. Finally, the new Type Cover is made out of alcantara, just like the previous Signature Type Cover and the Surface Laptop, and comes in burgundy, cobalt blue, and platinum.

    The Surface Pro now has more hidden costs than ever before.

    Microsoft says that the new Surface Pro starts at $800, back down from the price hike that the entry level Pro 4 saw. However, the Surface Pro now has more hidden costs than ever before. It still doesn't come with a Type Cover and the new version costs $160. (You can use the slightly cheaper Pro 4 cover at $130 if you wish.) Microsoft has also made the decision to take the Pen out of the box, costing you an additional $60 if you want that. That makes the "real" cost of a Surface Pro starting at $1020. A new Pro with an i5, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD is $1300, but after tacking on a new Type Cover and Pen it really comes out to $1520. That's more than the Surface Laptop with identical specs. Sure, the Pro is more difficult to engineer, but the average person won't know that.

    Eric Harrell 3D-Prints Mechanical Engine Models

    We meet Eric Harrell, who brought his collection of functional 3d-printed car engines and transmissions to this year's Maker Faire! Eric shows us his 1/3rd scale engines, which he designs from reference schematics and measurements to highlight how real engines work. Eric has also made his files available online for anyone to make their own replicas!

    No More Drone Registration for Hobbyists

    Last Friday (5/19/17), a federal court ruled that the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) drone registration policy for hobbyists is illegal. The immediate effect of this decision is that hobbyists no longer need to register with the FAA or maintain a current registration. It is not, however, a blanket exemption for all hobbyists. Recreational flyers must meet a few stipulations to be relieved from registration (more on that later). Those who fly RC models for commercial purposes must still register as well.

    It is important to understand that this decision only impacts the registration aspect of RC model flying. The rules of safe and responsible flying have not changed. Nor does this case completely remove hobbyists from under the FAA's umbrella. The FAA still has teeth to go after modelers who endanger others by flying recklessly or in prohibited areas. We still have to follow the rules.

    A federal court ruled that the FAA's drone registration policy for hobbyists is illegal.

    Genesis of the Lawsuit

    When Congress passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, it included wording that specifically addressed model aviation. Section 336 of the bill stated that the FAA could not introduce any new rules related to model aircraft. While the widespread proliferation of RC multi-rotors was causing alarm in the halls of the FAA and even among long-time hobbyists, the agency would have to work within the bounds of any existing policies to address their concerns. For this reason, many were surprised when the FAA announced in late 2015 that it was introducing a requirement for RC pilots to register in a national database.

    The FAA's stance was that the policy was not new because model aircraft are still aircraft by definition, and aircraft registration had long been a requirement. That the agency had never previously demanded modelers to register could be attributed to them simply exercising enforcement discretion. Several legal challenges were filed, but none had sufficient traction to halt the registration program before it went into effect in December of 2015.

    The challenge that eventually struck down registration was filed by John Taylor, a hobbyist and attorney in the Washington DC area. The crux of his argument was simple: the FAA had created a new rule for modelers after Section 336 forbade them from doing so. Federal judges ultimately agreed.

    While it seemed obvious to many that the FAA was blatantly ignoring the letter and the spirit of Section 336, few were confident that Taylor would prevail. There is a precedent for courts giving leeway to government agencies in interpreting grey areas of statutes (Chevron deference). Apparently, the judges in this case felt that Congress' intent in Section 336 was clear and allowed no wiggle room. In fact, the written decision states, "Statutory interpretation does not get much simpler."

    The Stuff of Maker Faires - Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project - 5/23/17
    We welcome special guest Ian Cole this week to recap another amazing Bay Area Maker Faire! Along with Adam, Ian is on the board of Nation of Makers, and organizes maker spaces in Florida. We discuss the culture of maker faires around the country and highlight some of the great things we saw over the weekend.
    00:00:00 / 32:47
    Tested: Fujinon MK 18-55mm Cinema Lens

    Joey tests and reviews the Fujinon MK 18-55 zoom lens, which is notable for its price as a entry-level cine lens. Using it on a variety of location shoots and Tested productions, Joey demonstrates how professional cinema lenses operate and perform differently than still photography lenses for video, and why you would want to use one on your camera.

    Google Play App Roundup: NOISE, Lode Runner 1, and No Stick Shooter

    If you're going to be supporting app development on Android (and you should), you might as well pay for the best content you can. That's what the Google Play App Roundup is all about. This is where you can come every week to find out what's new and cool on Android. Just follow the links to the Play Store.

    NOISE

    You may not be a great composer, but you can probably put together a neat little tune with NOISE, a new music creation app from Roli. They make the Blocks modular music pads, and now you can use your phone to do some of the same things. This app is still in the early stages, so it's a little unstable and not all phones will work. That said, it's already a really neat experience.

    There's a quick tutorial when you first open NOISE, which you ought to pay attention to. There's very little in the way of instruction within the app itself. The gist is that you have four sets of loops for each project. One is for rhythmic sounds and the other three are for the melody. Each square in the song view is a loop, which you can tap to queue up during playback. It's a little confusing, but I found it informative to play around with the pre-made sample track included with the app.

    The song view is where all your loops live (you can have up to won from each line playing at a time). You can swipe down to the instrument view to make new loops. Simply tap a square to select it, then pick an instrument. All the instruments come in the form of digital touch pads, and there are a few dozen of them in the app. You can tap on the pads to produce sounds for the loop, or just drag across them. There's also a number of other effects and ways to control the nature of the sound, all of which are admittedly beyond me.

    My first attempts at making songs in NOISE are… not impressive. If you've got a better sense of rhythm than I do, the app has the tools to make some cool stuff. It gives you a 4-beat count before you start recording a loop, and you can even keep a "click" going in the background to keep you on the beat. Should you own any Blocks device, you can even connect them to the app via Bluetooth.

    Eventually, your creations in NOISE will be exportable to the noise.fm community. The app has a little way to go before it's ready for prime time, though. Right now, you'll need a device with robust audio processing capabilities like the Pixel, Galaxy S8 or LG G6. it's completely free if you want to give it a shot.

    Episode 399A - Not Hot Dog - 5/19/17
    Due to "miscalculation", we're not quite at episode 400 yet! But this week, Kishore is back with Jeremy and Norm to share his thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy 2, discuss all the announcements from Google I/O, and get hyped up on the science of moving trees. Plus, we disagree on opinions for the new Star Trek show and do a real-time test of Google's drawing recognition system.
    00:00:00 / 01:39:20
    Show and Tell: RIVER Mobile Power Station

    Simone and Norm have a new gadget at the Tested office--a massive mobile power pack by EcoFlow. The RIVER has a capacity of over 400Wh, and can output 500 watts over AC and DC. We put it to the test by plugging in some heavy duty electronics and tools from around the office!

    The Best and Worst Things about Samsung's Galaxy S8

    Samsung used to be known for making plastic phones that felt cheap and ran the least desirable version of Android. Then, things changed after the poor performance of the Galaxy S5. Samsung started paying attention to the design and features it pushed on consumers, and it has released some of the most attractive and solid Android phones in recent years. There have been bumps along the road, like the Note 7 with its defective battery. Samsung hopes the Galaxy S8 can smooth all that over, and the early results are good. The Galaxy S8 is getting largely positive reviews, and none of them have exploded. That's always nice.

    You've probably heard plenty about the Galaxy S8, but most reviews don't get past basic evaluations of the features. Let's drill down deeper and go over the best and worst things about this phone.

    The Good

    Looks aren't everything, but they are definitely something. The Galaxy S8 has good looks to spare, too. It's like a slightly more compact version of the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7 with the same symmetrical front-back curve. It's an extremely comfortable phone to hold in both the standard 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch Plus varieties.

    I'll get to the new AMOLED panel in a moment, but the shape of this phone is an important milestone for Samsung. There won't be a version of the GS8 with a flat screen, which frankly concerned me at first. While curved AMOLEDs have sold better and generally look really neat, Samsung's palm detection needed work. With the GS6 and GS7 generations, curved AMOLEDs suffered from a lot of "phantom touches" on the edge as you were holding them. The Galaxy S8 solves that problem. No longer do I find my hand setting off touches on the edge of the screen.

    Microsoft Lays Out Its Vision for Windows at Build 2017

    As Microsoft continues to transition and transform under the leadership of Satya Nadella, its annual BUILD developers conference is the best barometer for what direction they're taking. Windows 10 is on a biannual update cycle, and we now have the first details of the fall update. Microsoft is also introduced their own VR motion controllers, and talked a lot about cloud computing.

    Windows Mixed Reality

    Some of the biggest news to come out of BUILD was the announcement of Microsoft's own Motion Controllers for their Mixed Reality platform.

    Similar to the Vive wands and Oculus Touch, the controllers feature a touchpad, thumbsticks, a grip button, a trigger, a menu button and a Windows button. The controllers are tracked through the ring of white LEDs at the top. Unlike Oculus and Valve's solution for tracking, which requires external sensors and additional setup, Microsoft opted for inside out tracking for Windows 10 headsets. That means the sensors on the face of headsets will track these controllers as well. This also means they'll only be tracked so long as they're in view of the sensors.

    The motion controllers will start shipping this August with the Acer developer headset for a combined cost of only $400. This hardware is identical to what will ship for consumers this fall. That's $100 less than the PSVR bundle, and at least $200 cheaper than any other PC VR headset+controllers offering out there right now.

    Alex Kipman told everyone to stay tuned to E3 for Microsoft's holiday Mixed Reality plans. The obvious implication there is that Project Scorpio's VR solution will be Microsoft's own, and not an existing PC headset as previously suspected.

    Google Play App Roundup: Flick Launcher, Injustice 2, and Spaceplan

    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.

    Flick Launcher

    You interact with your home screen more than any other app, but some devices ship with rather annoying launchers. You can swap them for a better launcher, but which one? There are so many options, including the new Flick Launcher. It's still in beta, but Flick looks and feels like a good stand-in for the Pixel Launcher with more customization.

    Out of the box, Flick Launcher is designed to look like the Pixel Launcher. It's possible to get a similar look by customizing other launchers, but this one goes for the pure stock look right away. That means you have a vertically scrolling app drawer that is opened with a swipe. It even has the predicted apps and search bar at the top. Launcher shortcuts are present as well, so you can long-press an icon to get quick actions. Developers have to add support for this, but a lot of apps are already on board.

    This launcher is very snappy, much like the Pixel Launcher it's emulating. You don't get that Google "pill" search widget, but there is a custom rounded search box that jives with the launcher's style better than Google's rectangular one.

    Flick Launcher has two features that set it apart from many other launchers. One if swipe gestures, which some third-party launchers have but no stock ones. You can set one and two-finger swipe gestures to launch apps or change settings. Then you have password and fingerprint locking of, well, everything. Flick Launcher lets you lock any apps from being launched unless a password or valid fingerprint is entered. If you have the pro upgrade ($1.99), you can also create folders that cannot be opened without the right biometrics or password.

    There are plenty of other standard launcher features like support for icons packs, custom grid sizes, icon sizes, unread counts, and more. You don't get as many features in Flick Launcher as something like Nova, but this is a much newer app. It's off to a good start as it currently stands, and most of the features are available for free. There are no ads or "suggested apps" lurking around there either.

    Show and Tell: Makey Makey Invention Kit

    For this week's Show and Tell, Simone brings the Makey Makey invention kit to the office to teach Norm how to turn everyday items into keyboards and game controllers. High fives and furious banana slapping contests ensue. Just another day at the Tested office!