A Visit to Mechanical Keyboards dot com

The entrance to a store

The storefront for Mechanical Keyboards in Fairview Tennessee

After ordering the Pok3r from Mechanical Keyboards I realized that they were located just outside of Nashville Tennessee, like a 4-hour drive from me, so when I got the chance to take a day off I headed out.

Arriving at their storefront at 9:30 am on Monday morning I was greeted by Lee who spent a lot of time with me showing me a lot of different keyboards and answering my questions, and boy did I have a lot of questions.

First off, I asked to touch a lot of different switches. Having tried Cherry Brown, Blue, and Silver and deciding that I don’t like clicky or mushy tactile switches I focused on linear switches while also trying a couple tactile switches. After a lot of fondling I decided I wanted my next keyboard to be a Cherry Black, original or clone. They are very similar to the silver or red, but with a stronger spring.

Counters with keyboards on top

Lots of keyboards to try out!

I am still very interested in the NovelKeys x Kailh BOX Heavy Switches in Burnt Orange, but there are currently no keyboards available with those switches. At some point I may give them a try in a kit or use a couple to replace existing switches in a keyboard.

With the switch selected it was time to try different keyboards. My main interest right now are 60% and smaller keyboards, there are not a ton of different keyboards that fit that description, and even fewer places where you can actually touch them.

Vortex Pok3r

This is the keyboard I already have, I have a Limited Edition version with Silver Switches

KBParadise V60

This is a nice keyboard, but the case is made of plastic making it very light. If you are looking for a smallish keyboard to travel with, the V60 is worth a look. Also, the V60 comes with a lot of switches that are harder to find in 60% boards, like ALPS, Matias, and Fukka.

Mistel Barocco

A 60% split keyboard, very interesting. It doesn’t just split a little, it is two separate pieces with a cord connecting them together. Very interesting, but not my thing.

Tex Yoda II

WOW! WOW! WOW! This is the one I chose to buy, it really blew me away. Review coming soon.

I appreciate the hospitality shown to me by the guys at Mechanical Keyboards, Lee did a great job helping me find exactly what I was looking for. He also let me know that if I wasn’t totally happy with the Pok3r that I bought a couple of weeks ago that I had 30 days to return it and get something different.

I decided to take him up on that offer and when I got home sent the Pok3r back with a plan to replace it with the same keyboard with black switches instead of silver.

If you are looking for a place to check out a lot of different keyboard before you buy, Mechanical Keyboards is the place. And if you are looking to buy a keyboard or accessories, MechanicalKeyboard.com is a great place to buy from.

Vortex POK3R Black Limited Edition RGB LED

Vortex Pok3r

After using the Cooler Master Ten-Key-Less (TKL) keyboards for a while, I decided to take it to the next level, and the POK3R really is something completely different. The Limited Edition RGB LED Black Pok3r keyboard is a great 60% keyboard with almost of all the features a mechanical keyboard enthusiast would want.

I didn’t really like the Cherry MX Blue or Brown switches very much. The clicky noise of the blues overwhelms my senses and makes me nervous, the clicky-ness does help hide the mushiness of the tactile bump. The tactile-ness of the browns feels very mushy to me, I would prefer the tactile bump to be really short and sharp. With all that in mind I wanted to go with a linear switch and see how that felt.

Cherry makes many options in linear switches with red and black being the most common. Black switches have been around for a very long time, they go all the way back to 1984. But I was looking for something different, so I decided to get a new keyboard with one of newest switches, the Speed Silver which are like the reds but actuate at 1.2mm of travel instead of the red’s 2.0mm and only travel 3.4mm compared to 4.0mm in the red. On paper that sounded really great to me, it sounds really fast.

With the switches chosen I researched keyboards that I could get with them. Vortex keyboards came up a lot in my research, the Poker, Racer, Vibe, and Core all seem to be pretty popular boards. The Pok3r is a 60% board which means that it does include dedicated function keys, arrow keys, or a ten-key number pad. It is quite a bit narrower than a full-sized or even a TKL board which means more desk space for a mouse.

I bought the Pok3r Limited Edition RGB version in a black case with Cherry MX Speed Silver switches. It also came with double-shot PBT keycaps that let the RGB light shine through very brightly. To say that I loved this keyboard is an understatement. It weighs a ton (3.06 lbs) and the rubber pads on the bottom of it hold it in place while pounding away on the keys.

The speed silver switches really are fast, in real-world use the shorter travel and actuation distance makes a difference. In fact, it makes such a difference that my error rate on TypeRacer.com shot way up, even a week of regular practicing could not overcome all the mistyped keys. For gaming this keyboard and switch combination would be amazing!

But I don’t game on a PC so much anymore, I am more about the typing. So the search for the perfect keyboard continues.

The Pok3r is an amazing keyboard, the programming options are almost endless, the double-shot PBT keycaps are really nice, the weight of the Limited Edition version is wonderful, and there is a wide selection of switches available. I recommend it to anyone looking to get into a 60% keyboard.

p.s.
The photo is from MechanicalKeyboards.com

Columbus Day by Craig Alanson

Columbus Day Book Cover

I am always looking for a new Sci-Fi series that has a lot of humor in it and after the Bobiverse series I wanted to keep the laughs going.

Columbus Day is the first in the Expeditionary Force series of books by Craig Alanson.

With narration by R.C. Bray, you can never go wrong, and his portrayal of Bishop, Skippy, and the entire Expeditionary Force crew is fantastic.

This the story of a man and his super-duper intelligent beer can of AWESOMENESS. If that doesn’t get you to read the book, then nothing will.

From the publisher:

We were fighting on the wrong side of a war we couldn’t win. And that was the good news.

The Ruhar hit us on Columbus Day. There we were, innocently drifting along the cosmos on our little blue marble, like the Native Americans in 1492. Over the horizon came ships of a technologically advanced, aggressive culture, and BAM! There went the good old days, when humans got killed only by each other. So, Columbus Day. It fits.

When the morning sky twinkled again, this time with Kristang starships jumping in to hammer the Ruhar, we thought we were saved. The UN Expeditionary Force hitched a ride on Kristang ships to fight the Ruhar wherever our new allies thought we could be useful. So, I went from fighting with the US Army in Nigeria to fighting in space. It was lies, all of it. We shouldn’t even be fighting the Ruhar; they aren’t our enemy. Our allies are.

I’d better start at the beginning.

©2016 Craig Alanson (P)2016 Podium Publishing

I rate Columbus Day an 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone looking for fun sci-fi.

P.S.

An 8 out of 10 may seem a bit low, but the books and the stories get better and better.

Mechanical Keyboard Switch Choices

PLANCK Keyboard Frame full of different switches

There are an overwhelming number of different switches for mechanical keyboards available. Linear, tactile, clicky, buckling spring, vintage, and each in a wide range of spring weights and crispness.

From Novel Keys I ordered a 25 slot switch tester with a selection of Cherry MX, MOD, Gateron, and Zealio switches along with a Kailh Sample Pack of another 27 switches. Then from Thingiverse I printed out a PLANCK keyboard frame with room for 48 switches. Now I have a switch tester that I can take around and really get a feel for a wide range of the current switches available.

What have I learned from playing with all of these switches? Mainly that many of them are very similar. As in, there are 12 tactile switches that I cannot feel any appreciable difference with. But that is actually good news. It is common for sellers to be out of certain brands and certain switches, but now that I know they are so similar it should be easier to find a comparable switch.

What do I like?

I like the Cherry and Kailh Silver Linear “Fast” switches, they are super sensitive and I my error rate is high with these than with brown or blue switches, but as I get used to them I am getting faster and more accurate.

I have not gotten to try the following switches on a keyboard yet, but hope to soon.

  • 67g Zealios tactile for the sharp and crisp break
  • Kailh Burnt Orange tactile because the bump is at the very top, really want this one for a space bar
  • NovelKeys x Kailh BOX Thick Clicks for the ridiculously loud click, it would make a wonderfully annoying backspace key

What don’t I like?

I don’t like clicky switches so much, my Cherry MX Blue keyboard I am typing this on is driving me nuts. I will be selling or trading it soon. And I don’t like heavy linear switches with the exception of a spacebar and maybe the home keys.

What are my plans?

I put a lot of thought into building a keyboard from scratch, but after pricing the parts it doesn’t make a lot of sense. So my plan right now is to buy a pre-built keyboard with Cherry Silver switches then swap out the switches spacebar, home keys, and maybe a couple others with something more exotic.

Where the Hell is Tesla? by Rob Dircks

Where the Hell is Tesla Book Cover

This had been sitting in my Audible Wish List for some time, after listening to The Wrong Unit, I wanted to continue the goodness with another Rob Dircks novel.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Where the Hell is Tesla? which was made even more charming by the author’s reading of the tale.

There is not a lot new in this story, I feel like I have experienced all of the tropes before, but they are used to great effect in this time and space traveling experience. And it has Tesla!

From the publisher:

Sci-fi odyssey. Comedy. Love story. And of course, Nikola Tesla.

I’ll let Chip, the main character, tell you more: “I found the journal at work. Well, I don’t know if you’d call it work, but that’s where I found it. It’s the lost journal of Nikola Tesla, one of the greatest inventors and visionaries ever. Before he died in 1943, he kept a notebook filled with spectacular claims and outrageous plans. One of these plans was for an “INTERDIMENSIONAL TRANSFER APPARATUS” – that allowed someone (in this case me and my friend Pete) to travel to other versions of the infinite possibilities around us. Crazy, right? But that’s just where the crazy starts.”

Chip’s Official Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. The events depicted in the collection of emails did not happen. I have never been in contact with a covert government group attempting to suppress knowledge of the lost journal of Nikola Tesla. I have not been threatened with death if I divulge the secrets contained inside. They did not buy me this handsome jacket (oh crap, you’re listening to this – trust me, it looks great on me). They did not come to my place, and liquor me up, and offer to publish this book as a sci-fi comedy novel to throw the public off the trail of the real truth.

Or did they?

I’m kidding. Of course they didn’t.

Or did they?

God, I can’t keep my big mouth shut.

©2015 Rob Dircks (P)2015 Rob Dircks

I rate Where the Hell is Tesla? a 7 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone looking for a fun sci-fi time-travel romp.

The Wrong Unit by Rob Dircks

The Wrong Unit Book Cover
I really needed something humorous to read and The Wrong Unit really paid off.

There is a lot of humor and humanity in this story of a… well wait. This is yet another one of those stories where I don’t want to give too much away. Even telling you the main plot idea in the book would be giving to much away.

Let’s just say it is a very humorous story of the distant future where machines have… You’ll have to read or listen to it yourself to find out.

From the publisher:

I don’t know what the humans are so cranky about. Their enclosures are large, they ingest over 1,000 calories per day, and they’re allowed to mate. Plus, they have me: an Autonomous Servile Unit, housed in a mobile/bipedal chassis. I do my job well: keep the humans healthy and happy.

"Hey you."

Heyoo. That’s my name, I suppose. It’s easier for the humans to remember than 413s98-itr8. I guess I’ve gotten used to it.

Rob Dircks, author of Where the Hell is Tesla? and Don’t Touch the Blue Stuff!, has a “unit” with a problem: how to deliver his package, out in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to guide him. Oh, and with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance. It’s a science fiction tale of technology gone haywire, unlikely heroes, and the nature of humanity. (Woah. That last part sounds deep. Don’t worry, it’s not.)

©2016 Rob Dircks (P)2016 Rob Dircks

I rate this book a 9 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone looking for a good story with plenty of humor.

The Frequency of Aliens by Gene Doucette

The Frequency of Aliens Book Cover

This is the second book in the Sorrow Falls series. The first was The Spaceship Next Door which I read and reviewed last year.

I really enjoyed The Spaceship Next Door and The Frequency of Aliens continues the adventures of Annie Collins as she heads off to college. I really don’t won’t to tell you much more about the story, I feel that the less you know, the more you will enjoy it.

Suffice to say Steve Carlson does an amazing job narrating the book bring all of the characters to life including men, women, ghost, and aliens alike.

From the publisher:

Annie Collins is back!

Becoming an overnight celebrity at age 16 should have been a lot more fun. Yes, there were times when it was extremely cool, but when the newness of it all wore off, Annie Collins was left with a permanent security detail and the kind of constant scrutiny that makes the college experience especially awkward.

Not helping matters: she’s the only kid in school with her own pet spaceship.

She would love it if things found some kind of normal, but as long as she has control of the most lethal – and only – interstellar vehicle in existence, that isn’t going to happen. Worse, things appear to be going in the other direction. Instead of everyone getting used to the idea of the ship, the complaints are getting louder. Public opinion is turning, and the demands that Annie turn over the ship are becoming more frequent. It doesn’t help that everyone seems to think Annie is giving them nightmares.

Nightmares aren’t the only weird things going on lately. A government telescope in California has been abandoned, and nobody seems to know why.

The man called on to investigate – Edgar Somerville – has become the go-to guy whenever there’s something odd going on, which has been pretty common lately. So far, nothing has panned out: no aliens or zombies or anything else that might be deemed legitimately peculiar…but now may be different, and not just because Ed can’t find an easy explanation. This isn’t the only telescope where people have gone missing, and the clues left behind lead back to Annie.

It all adds up to a new threat that the world may just need saving from, requiring the help of all the Sorrow Falls survivors. The question is: are they saving the world with Annie Collins, or are they saving it from her?

The Frequency of Aliens is the exciting sequel to The Spaceship Next Door.

©2017 Gene Doucette (P)2017 Gene Doucette

I rate The Frequency of Aliens the same as I did The Spaceship Next Door, a 9 out of 10 and recommend it to everyone.

Mechanical Keyboards

If you read my review of the 2016 MacBook Pro you know how much I dislike the keyboard on it. Along with that I have been reading Norman Chan on Tested.com, co-workers, gaming sites, and “computer experts” talking mechanical keyboards and how wonderful they are, my interest was piqued.

My goal for a keyboard is for it to be comfortable and to give a reliable amount of feedback for my not-so-fast touch typing. I don’t need it for “gaming” or a crazy amount of n-key rollover. Just something solid, reliable, and comfortable. I would have loved to build a keyboard kit with all the soldering and programming that entails, but I have other things I would rather be doing. So I spent months shopping and comparing every mechanical keyboard I could lay my hands on.

I eventual bought a Corsair K-something-or-other. I quickly figured out that the keyboard required software installed on the computer to work. That is a no-go for me as they keyboard will be moved from Mac to Windows to Linux and I want it to work the same way no matter what it is plugged into. I researched a bunch more keyboards and found that most of the popular ones require software, usually only available for Windows, to do more than act as a basic keyboard.

Then I took another look at the Cooler Master series of keyboards, turns out all of its features are programmed and stored directly on the keyboard. That means your settings and macros are stored and usable even when you switch the computer it is plugged into, exactly what I was after.

Cooler Master MasterKeys keyboards come in many variations, no back-light, white or blue back-light, RGB back-light, also Cherry MX switches in Blue, Brown, Red.

I chose a Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro S, with RGB back-lighting, Cherry MX Blue switches, in a TenKeyless (TKL) design for home use and for the office I chose the exact same keyboard but with Brown switches.

Size

I generally like full-sized keyboards with number pads, but at work I have been using an Apple Bluetooth keyboard for the last 7 years or so and have gotten used to it. When I went looking for a mechanical keyboard I discovered there are 3 typical sizes.

  • Full-Sized – This is the usual keyboard with the number pad
  • TenKeyLess (TKL) – Everything is where it would be on a full-sized keyboard but with the number pad cut-off
  • Compact – A lot like a laptop keyboard with no number keys and the arrow keys are usually below the left-hand shift key
  • Gaming – Usually a keyboard similar to a full-sized one, but with additional macro and media keys knobs and switches

I chose a TKL size as I don’t really feel the need for the number pad and I like the extra space it leaves on my desk. Having that extra space for the mouse is great.

Switches

For my home computer I wanted to go all in with the clicky-clicky of Cherry MX Blue switches, but for the office I went with the Brown switches which do not make the click sound. I then did a blind, or rather deaf, test and determined that the Blue and Brown switches in the Cooler Master keyboard are exactly the same with the exception of the click.

With both keyboards I tend to “bottom-out” the keys, which adds a lot more noise to my typing. I have found the solution to be some inexpensive O-ring switch dampeners that have made typing quieter with the added feature of shortening the throw of the keys.

RGB Backlighting

I need back-lighting so that I can see the keys in darker environments, I don’t really need the RGB and the fancy features that come with it, but I do get a kick out of having the keys light up bright purple when I touch them. Fun, but not necessary.

Ergonomics

Wow, these keyboards are tall! I find it impossible to type on them without a wrist rest. I like the Glorious Gaming Wrist Pad in Full Size. I tried the TKL version, but found it to small as my wrists, especially the left one, sits outside the width of the keyboard. The firmness and height of the wrist rest is exactly what I needed. Ergonomically a keyboard should tilt slightly down and away from you and not up and toward you where your wrist are bent stressing out and leading to carpal-tunnel issues. With my old keyboard I was able to attach supports to the front of the keyboard lifting it, the Cooler Master keyboard is so tall that I don’t think lifting the front would be a very good solution.

At some point I may build a mechanical keyboard from a kit just so that I will have more control over the angle and height it.

Keycaps

I bought some fun keycaps to replace the “Cooler Master” OS specific keys and the escape key with Portal characters. Love them!

Other Options

You can build from a kit, you can build from parts sourced from all over the world, you can buy a ready-made keyboard like I did and customize it with different keycaps. You can get a keyboard like the Planck that has fewer keys but may be faster for a dedicated typer after a transition period. You can even get keyboards that are just a grid of keys for assigning macros to, and not just for gaming, you could create macros to type things for you that are typed often.

Rating

I really like the Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro S RGB keyboards, both the Blue and Brown switches are exactly what I was looking for.

The Phoenix Project by George Spafford, Kevin Behr, and Gene Kim


It’s been awhile since I used Safari Books Online, O’Reilly’s online subscription service, to read something, so I picked The Phoenix Project which was recommended to me on my login page.

The Phoenix Project is a “novel” about DevOps and all that entails being implemented in manufacturing and retail environment where IT had always been seen as a necessary evil. I think a lot of people, both inside and outside of IT can relate to that. The back of the book is full of resources and information about where to learn more about DevOps, continuous deployment, and automation tools.

I have yet to work somewhere where DevOps is a reality, not sure that I ever will, but a boy can dream. I have worked somewhere that was able to deploy multiple times a day, which was pretty great. But most places I have worked only deployed once a month, or a quarter, or in one instance only once every 18 months, when they were lucky. It really shouldn’t be like that.

From the publisher:

Bill is an IT manager at Parts Unlimited. It’s Tuesday morning and on his drive into the office, Bill gets a call from the CEO.

The company’s new IT initiative, code named Phoenix Project, is critical to the future of Parts Unlimited, but the project is massively over budget and very late. The CEO wants Bill to report directly to him and fix the mess in ninety days or else Bill’s entire department will be outsourced.

With the help of a prospective board member and his mysterious philosophy of The Three Ways, Bill starts to see that IT work has more in common with manufacturing plant work than he ever imagined. With the clock ticking, Bill must organize work flow streamline interdepartmental communications, and effectively serve the other business functions at Parts Unlimited.

In a fast-paced and entertaining style, three luminaries of the DevOps movement deliver a story that anyone who works in IT will recognize. Readers will not only learn how to improve their own IT organizations, they’ll never view IT the same way again.

I rate The Phoenix Project an 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone in IT, anyone who manages people in IT, and to everyone who is sick and tired of late-night deployments that always seem to have a lot of problems.

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch Late 2016 Review

After 7 years it was finally time to update my trusty old 2011 MacBook Pro. Due to my dislike of the choices Apple has made with their laptops in the last few years, my first stop was an HP Omen Windows 10 machine with lots of upgrades. After a couple of months of trying to get Windows 10 and Windows software to do what I want in a way that I felt efficient doing it, I gave up and decided to give up on Windows, yet again, and get another MacBook Pro.

I am only going to cover what makes the MacBook Pro different from the HP Omen as they actually have a lot in common. But my main reason for choosing the MacOS product over a Microsoft Windows product is the operating system and not the features. In fact the Omen has a MUCH BETTER keyboard, better storage options, a better video card, and can handle double the RAM of the MacBook Pro. On paper the HP Omen is a much better computer than the MacBook Pro, if I could run MacOs High Sierra on it, it would be a better computer in almost every way.

What I Like

The build quality of the MacBook Pro is fantastic, it is solid with no rattles or cheapness. I have covered it in a case from KEC with a great space image on it which fits perfectly and protects the laptop from scratches while making it clear that it is my laptop and not someone else’s.

The screen is also great, at a resolution of 2880×1800 at 220points per inch, and is super bright when I want it to be. The color reproduction is solid and dependable.

The computer is fast; even with less RAM, a slower video card, and the same processor, it feels noticeably faster for the way I use the computer. This is probably due to the control that Apple has over the hardware and software used with their computers, I think that is still a huge advantage.

The trackpad is pretty great, but with High Sierra I sometimes get confused about the multi-finger gestures and with how large it is I find it difficult to determine if I am on the left-hand or right-hand side of it.

What I Don’t Like

The Touchbar is a distraction that the computer could really do without. The way that it is constantly changing, moving buttons around, is awful. Just talking about something like that around the water cooler, it sounds kind of cool, but even a quick back-of-an-envelope usability test would show anyone that is a bad idea.

The keyboard is the worst keyboard I have ever used! Worse than the chiclet keyboard on the Atari 400. Buttons stick, offer almost no feedback (unless they stick), and is just horrible.

Only 16GB of RAM… just ridiculous! There are very few Windows machines over $1000 on the market that cannot be upgraded to at least 32GB and many of those may be upgraded to 64GB. It is claimed that having 32GB of RAM would greatly reduce batter life, but with the way that most professionals use these laptops battery life is not much of a concern. As long as it would have 3 hours of battery life, that would be fine.

Meh

There are a lot of people complaining about dongles and adapters. I am not one of them. I bought a couple Amazon Basics USB-C to USB 3 cables to replace USB-A to USB 3 cables and a pair of AUKEY USB-C to USB-A adapters that are so small they can stay on the cables I use them with and I am good to go.

I also bought a Sinstar 8 in 1 adapter that includes an SD Card reader, Ethernet Port, and HDMI Port along with some other ports I really don’t use. It gets pretty warm when used but has been great so far.

Software

This is what makes a MacOS laptop work better for me than a Windows 10 laptop. I was able to replace most of these in Windows, but not all of them. When I did find a replacement, it did not work the same or was not as easy to use.

Now that you can install Linux as a subsystem in Linux, there may be some real options there. I’m keeping an eye on that.

Playing Dungeons and Dragons at DragonCon 2016

Logo for Dungeons and Dragons

Before DragonCon 2016 I had decided that I wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons at the convention. Even though I played D&D in high school and went to a lot of conventions where it was played, I had never actually played at a convention before.

In the early 80’s I played Dungeons and Dragons with my friends at lunch and on the weekends along with a bunch of other role playing games (RPG). Most of those games are not played very much anymore, but D&D is now on its 5th iteration which has apparently brought it closer to the first version which is what I remember.

At DragonCon I got to play 3 sessions, 2 of which were great and 1 of which was kind of meh. So much in an RPG depends upon the person running the game, the Game Master (GM) or Dungeon Master (DM), the player characters (PCs), and the module or adventure.

I tend to play “good” characters, with Lawful Good Human Paladins and Chaotic Good Elf Rangers being my preference, and in the convention setting that does not always work with the other players at the table. If everyone else is playing “not-so-good” characters like Warlocks, Thieves, Pirates, etcetera, a Lawful Good Paladin is kind of a stick-in-the-mud, which can actually be fun if the other players are into playing along, but it can also be really not fun if they want to play all serious. That last game at DragonCon was the latter.

Also keep in mind that I had not played since 1986 and never with anyone but friends. So at a convention with a hard time limit with a bunch of strangers was a very different experience.

D&D 5e is a lot like what I remember in high school, apparently previous versions, especially 3.5e, were a lot more complicated. Right now there are only a handful of books needed, actually you could play the game entirely for free using the Systems Reference Document (SRD).

If you are interested in playing D&D I highly recommend checking out gaming at a convention, it was a lot of fun and I was able to learn a lot about the fifth edition rules and how to play the game.

Blade Inductrix FPV

Blade Inductrix FPV

I have owned a few “toy grade” multi-rotors and I have to say that this is my favorite.

The Inductrix was a toy quadcopter by Blade that was special because it used inducted fan style motors and props which protects the propellers and may give a small power boost. Later, some guys created the Tiny Whoop was created by taking an Inductrix style quad and adding a small camera and transmitter to it so it could be flown FPV.

Seeing the success of the Tiny Whoop, Blade created their own version and named it the Blade Inductrix FPV. It is essentially the Inductrix with a tiny camera and 25mw video transmitter. You have to supply a transmitter and goggles or screen.

With 205mw batteries I bought off Amazon and the great STRIX Power Stix 1s Charging Board I get about 3 minutes a flight, which is ok, but not great.

Fatshark goggles with the Laforge diversity modules, a spiral antenna and a patch antenna, I can fly pretty much anywhere in my house and still get reception good enough to keep it in the air.

The frame is a bit fragile, I recommend buying a couple extra and using a carbon fiber or 3d printed x-frame to add some rigidity and reduce the chance of breaking the motor mounts.

I highly recommend the Blade Inductrix FPV to anyone wanting to fly FPV no matter what kind of flying they want to do!

The Spaceship Next Door by Gene Doucette

The Spaceship Next Door audiobook coverI really liked The Spaceship Next Door, it is the first of Gene Doucette’s books I have read and now I look forward to reading/listening to his other books.

I bought this book from Audible and listened to it using the Audible app on my iPhone.

The characters Annie, who is overflowing with teen energy, and Edgar with his G-man attitude are a wonderful mix that makes this a wonderful sci-fi story even though there is really nothing new or ground-breaking.

The narration by Steve Carlson works well, his voice is perfect for Edgar and he does a great job conveying Annie’s energy and nosiness.

From the publisher:

The world changed on a Tuesday.

When a spaceship landed in an open field in the quiet mill town of Sorrow Falls, Massachusetts, everyone realized humankind was not alone in the universe. With that realization everyone freaked out for a little while.

Or almost everyone. The residents of Sorrow Falls took the news pretty well. This could have been due to a certain local quality of unflappability, or it could have been that in three years the ship did exactly nothing other than sit quietly in that field, and nobody understood the full extent of this nothing the ship was doing better than the people who lived right next door.

Sixteen-year-old Annie Collins is one of the ship’s closest neighbors. Once upon a time she took every last theory about the ship seriously, whether it was advanced by an adult or by a peer. Surely one of the theories would be proven true – if not several of them – the very minute the ship decided to do something. Annie is starting to think this will never happen.

One late August morning, a little over three years since the ship landed, Edgar Somerville arrived in town. Ed’s a government operative posing as a journalist, which is obvious to Annie – and pretty much everyone else he meets – almost immediately. He has a lot of questions that need answers, because he thinks everyone is wrong: The ship is doing something, and he needs Annie’s help to figure out what that is.

Annie is a good choice for tour guide. She already knows everyone in town, and when Ed’s theory is proven correct – something is apocalyptically wrong in Sorrow Falls – she’s a pretty good person to have around.

As a matter of fact, Annie Collins might be the most important person on the planet. She just doesn’t know it.

The Spaceship Next Door is the latest novel from Gene Doucette, best-selling author of The Immortal Trilogy, Fixer, The Immortal Chronicles, and Immortal Stories: Eve.

©2015 Gene Doucette (P)2016 Gene Doucette

I rate The Spaceship Next Door a 9 out of 10 and recommend it anyone looking for a fun sc-fi story.

OctoPrint and the Prusa i3 MK2S

octoprint logo

I ran the Prusa i3 Mk2S for a couple of weeks by copying files to the SD card and then printing from there.I could have also printed directly from a computer plugged into the printer, but that computer would need to stay connected and powered on while printing. Either one of those solutions work well enough, but I really wanted to be able to print from multiple computers while not dedicating a laptop or desktop to printing, and most of all I wanted to be able to monitor the printer remotely with video.

OctoPrint is a web interface for 3D printers that can use a Raspberry Pi or similar inexpensive computer. With a Raspberry Pi 3 it allows for the sending of prints, controlling the printer, recording time-lapse videos, and viewing the printer in action remotely.

I used a Raspberry Pi 3 and installed OctoPi and connected a Raspberry Pi camera with a long ribbon cable along with camera and board mount that I found on Thingiverse. It all went together very easy.

I highly recommend watching Thomas Sanladerer’s “Getting started with OctoPrint” video, it will get you through most of the setup process.

I setup a domain name with No-IP so that I can reach the OctoPrint server from anywhere in the world, following the steps was very easy. There is even a Linux Dynamic Update Client that will keep my IP address updated.

I also installed the TouchUI plugin to get a better user interface when using OctoPrint on my phone, which is totally awesome.

The time lapses created by OctoPrint are very cool. By having the camera attached to the camera bed the point of view moves with the object being printed which makes it look like it is standing still while the printer and the room behind it are moving back and forth. I like this much better than having the camera stationary while the printed object is moving back and forth in the video.

If you are using a 3D printer and want to control and monitor it remotely and/or capture video of it printing, I highly recommend giving OctoPrint a try.

Prusa i3 MK2S 3D Printer

Assembled Prusa i3 MK2S

I spent a lot of time and energy researching 3D printers before finally buying one, and even then I am not real happy with the first one I bought, but that will be another post. This one is about the second printer I bought and love, the Prusa i3 MK2S Kit.

The Prusa i3 MK2 is a very popular and highly rated printer, Make Magazine gave it their Outstanding Open Source, Best Value, and Best Overall awards in 2017. Thomas Sanladerer says “The Original Josef Prusa i3 MK2: It doesn’t get any better than this!

You may have already done some reasearch and found that it takes up to 2 months to get this Prusa kit ship shipped to the states, I ordered mine on February 13 and it did not ship from the Czech Republic until March 31st and I received it a few days after that.

The total I paid for the kit with shipping came to $781.26. In the world of good 3D printers with auto bed leveling, a heated build plate, 8 inch by 8 inch by 8 inch (it’s actually bigger than that) build area, and quality components like the E3D V6 hot end, is an amazing price.

Prusa i3 MK2S kit parts

I could have bought it assembled for $200.00 more, but I believe you should have the experience of building from a kit as you WILL be taking it apart to maintain it if you are going to be serious about 3D printing.

Putting the printer together was not that hard, Prusa provides wonderfully detailed directions online in a format where you can ask questions and get clarification quickly. Many times someone at Prusa will even update the instructions based on feedback within a couple days of a comment being made. I used an iPad to view and follow the instructions, it worked great.

There are also many videos on YouTube, some as long as 12 hours, with people building their Prusa i3 MK2 kits. Also there are many video reviews, troubleshooting help, and timelapses of prints in progress.

After 6 weeks or so of printing about 18 hours a day, something went wrong with my printer. I am still not sure exactly what went wrong, because I bent the heat break tube while trying to fix it. I ordered a new tube, nozzle, and boden tube from the MatterHackers website. I then proceeded to make some mistakes when re-assembling the E3D hot end which triggered a chat session with Shane at Prus who patiently helped me troubleshoot the issue.

I led him down multiple wrong paths, I kept thinking it was an issue with the extruder motor, but eventually we figured out the issue was the filament cooling where it shouldn’t be. I spent some time with the E3D V6 Assembly instructions, figured out what I was doing wrong, took it all apart for the fourth or fifth time, and carefully assembled it following the E3D instructions to the letter. Then BANG! I was back in business.

If you are looking to get into 3D printing and want a printer that will last a long time, is easy to fix and maintain, will print almost any filament, and are willing to spend around $800.00 to get started, I recommend the Prusa i3 MK2S kit over anything else on the market.

P.S.
The MonoPrice 3D Printers are getting great reviews and prices cannot be beat. I have been tempted by them, but I think I would save up and get another Prusa with all of its features instead.