I found myself floundering a bit after passing the General exam. I had been in “study” mode for a few weeks and not having anything to study left me feeling… odder than usual. So I decided to start studying for the Amateur Extra exam, why not?
So far I have read the ARRL Extra Class License Manual cover to cover. I found it much harder to read than the Technician or General manuals, not because the content is more complicated or detailed, but because the writing and editing are not up to the same quality as those other manuals. There are many errors and many passages that are written in ways that confused me.
Now I am on to reading and listening to the The Fast Track to Your Extra Class Ham Radio License by Michael and Kerry Burnette. You may recognize the title and authors from the book I used to study for the General exam, but this is for the Extra. I really enjoyed the General book, both on the Kindle and on Audible so decided to stick with them for the Extra.
This time I have also purchased The Fast Track to Mastering Extra Class Ham Radio Math along with the recommended Texas Instruments TI-30XS. Statistically, memorizing all of the formulas and being able to do all of the calculations is not necessary to pass the test, but I have decided it is something I would like to learn. There was a time in my life that I really enjoyed math, let’s see if I can rekindle that flame.
The Fast Track Ham website https://fasttrackham.com/ is also a great help with a handful of videos to help explain some more of the math and practice exams for each chapter of the books. I really like the way the “by chapter” practice exams build upon the previous chapters. That works well for me.
And to round out my studies I am also using HamStudy.org website by SignalStuff to do even more practice exams. I really appreciate how HamStudy allows you to work through all of the exam pool and use flash cards to find your weaknesses and concentrate study time on them.
My plan is to take it slowly and learn the material well and hopefully take the test sometime in November. Wish me luck.
I have gone all in with the TBS Vendetta, I have put the ZMRs and the Shendrones Krieger away. I am now exclusively flying a pair of Vendettas that I have named McCoy and Hatfield.
The Vendetta is not perfect and it is not indestructible. It is a multirotor for experienced hobbyists and it is not for beginners. I would only recommend it to someone who has built more than 2 difference quads of their own and gone through the experience of tuning, flying, crashing, and breaking.
If you are a beginner I recommend you either buy an ImmersionRC Vortex 250 Pro or take the time to build one of your own from parts you ordered online. Look for locals that will take you under their wing and help you out, sometimes it only takes an experienced pilot seeing your plane fly in person for a minute to tell you exactly what you need to do to fix it.
I bought the Vendetta because I was no longer having fun building and maintaining quadcopters. I rebuilt my ZMRs 5 times and built a Shendrones Krieger that I was never able to get to fly right, don’t get me wrong, I think the Krieger is one of the best frames on the market and capable of being the most agile and fastest plane out there, I just don’t want to spend any more time rebuilding it or tweaking on it.
The Vendetta comes almost ready to fly, add a receiver, set it up via a couple of pushbuttons and you are ready to fly.
The 3 things you may want to change with the Vendetta as soon as you get are replacing the camera, securing the rear LED cover, and adding a 5V power connector.
I do not like the ZeroZero camera, I do not like the inability to change its settings without opening it up and clipping wires to it and I do not like the quality of the video it outputs. TBS has updated the camera and I have one of each, an updated one that came with a little orange sticker on it and one without, and I do not like either of them. So I have replaced the camera with a Runcam Swift.
This is my first time using the Swift, but I have used the RunCam Sky many times before, in fact I have 5 of them on various planes and still in the box. The Swift offers very similar performance to the Sky and to the HS1177/PZ402M. It is easy to change the settings and easy to install it in the Vendetta.
The Swift comes with many different methods for mounting it, for the Vendetta you can use the flat back plate and the brackets that are on the ZerZero. But first you should harden the Swift to protect it from crashes, I have been known to hit trees head-on at over 30 miles an hour with my quads so it is important for the FPV camera to be tough.
I use E6000 to and a bamboo skewer to glue down the capacitor and the sensor, doing a Google search can show you a lot of other people recommending this and there are other methods and other adhesives you might want to use.
I do not recommend gluing the circuit board to the housing, issues can arise where the circuit board ends up crooked in the housing, which would cause a fuzzy picture. But I do recommend adding a bit of foam tape to the back plate to hold the circuit board in place while making it easy to remove.
Once the Swift has been toughened and it is time to remove the ZeroZero from the Vendetta and remove the video cables from the 4-pin micro JST connector, I use an X-Acto knife to gently pry up the little piece of plastic holding the cable and then pull it out. A Google search will get you some good videos showing this in action. Then do the same with one of the cables that came with the swift so that you have an empty 3-pin connector.
WARNING: The pin-out for the Swift is different than the ZeroZero.
Now place the wires from the Vendetta into the 3-pin connector being sure to get it right. For the white cable I wrapped it in a bit of electrical tape to keep it from shorting out on something in the plane.
Next take the brackets off of the ZeroZero and put them on the Swift, it is an easy swap and easily fits. Make sure you have an antenna attached to the Vendetta before powering it on, ALWAYS ATTACH AN ANTENNA. In fact I keep an antenna attached at all times to my quads, I only take it off when I have to. Back in the day I burnt out 3 $75 video transmitters by not having an antenna attached.
This is the time to setup the camera, out of the box Wide Dynamic Range is not turned on and that is the most important change to make. I also lower the contrast and sharpness as I feel it make it easier to see small tree branches and other thin objects.
Now time to put the camera into the plane and get ready to fly.
In my opinion the LED cover is the only real design flaw with the Vendetta, it is a piece of plastic glued to the carbon fiber frame, the glue gives out with the smallest bump, even a soft landing can cause it to pop out. I replaced it a couple of times, I really like the looks of having that translucent cover over the LEDs. The LEDs and the circuit board they are on is fragile and needs protection.
The best solution I have found is to drill some holes in the cover and use small zip ties to hold it in place.
For the Drone Racing Club races I participate in I need a 5v female servo lead to connect a transponder.
The easiest place to get this from is the Servo output on top of the Cube, I was able to solder these wires without taking the Cube apart. Use a nice long cable lead and you can run the cable and connector to the front of the quad and hide it inside the frame behind the camera and front bumper when not in use. I choose to leave the signal cable unconnected for now.
I also think you could use this connector to power a RunCam HD 2 or other action camera, I haven’t tried that yet, but plan to soon.
WARNING: Do not do anything that makes the Cube taller, you will want that space between the top of the Cube and to top of the frame for when the screws holding the front arm sheer off and you need to push the tray up into the frame to get those screws out.
I really like the Vendetta and plan on it being my exclusive multirotor for a good long while. I like the way it flies and it is easy enough to repair.
Here is a video of me chasing some wings at the Pecan Patch.
RealFlight is an RC flight simulator that you can use to practice flying RC planes, helicopters, and multirotors (drones). It is a lot cheaper to crash in the simulator than in real life.
RealFlight is a good flight-sim, I feel like there are other sims out there that have better physics and are more realistic, but RealFlight feels like the most polished and has many more options than any of the others. But to get the most out of it you will have to turn to the community around it.
There are many versions of RealFlight available and it can be very confusing picking the right one. You can get just the software, with a cable, or with a controller. To make it a bit more confusing there is more than one cable available. I went to my local hobby shop and bought Great Planes RealFlight 7.5 with Wired Interface which is currently $129.98 at Amazon.
If you buy this version you will also need a controller, I use the Spektrum DX6 controller (transmitter) and like it a lot. It is available on Amazon for $199.52 right now, which is a great price.
A great feature of RealFlight is that you can install it on as many computers as you want, but to use it you have to have the Interlink cable with its built in reset button to run it.
RealFlight will not run on MacOS so I primarily use Bootcamp and Windows 8 to play it. But I sometimes use Parallels with Windows 7 or Windows 8, it works but requires a fast Mac to work.
After getting the software installed and you’ve taken a couple of test flights I recommend going over to RCGroups.com and downloading the RCG online field and then the RCG Killer Quad. After installing them and giving them a go you can see if RCG is hosting the field for multiplayer to have some fun with other RC Group members.
If the field does not offer you enough challenges you can open it up in the editor and make it more challenging. I added more gates and removed the stadium seating from mine.
The only problem I have had with the software is that when I load a new multirotor and try to fly it the plane flops around until it is crashed. This is fixed by flipping the auxillary switches, ‘Y’, ‘U’, ‘I’, and ‘O’, for me it is ‘O’ that usually does the trick.
I hope that that next version of RealFlight includes more realistic physics, more realistic graphics, and a simpler interface.
Phoenix RC is the direct competitor and has its own flaws. FPV Freerider is a multirotor FPV specific sim with a handful of maps.
Give them all a try, it is a lot cheaper than wrecking and rebuilding your planes.
Last year I saw a video of a guy flying a remote control helicopter upside down… A HELICOPTER… UPSIDE DOWN!
I watched that video and others like it over and over. So I started saving my money and researching what kind of equipment I needed to learn how to do that myself. I started off with a cheap toy helicopter, then moved to a more expensive one that was much more powerful but still a toy and then finally with a hobby-grade collective pitch heli.
There is such a huge difference between a “Hobby-Grade” and a “Toy” RC vehicle. Mainly it is the ability to fix it and upgrade it, you usually cannot do that with a toy, and hobby-grade usually also means more power.
I bought a Spektrum DX6, not the DX6i, but the new DX6 with the really nice gimbals, voice, and 250 plane memory. It is my first real transmitter so I do not have anything but toys to compare it to, but I really like it.
The helicopter I chose was the Blade Nano CPX, it is a tiny (nano) collective pitch helicopter that is capable of flying upside down. But a funny thing happened. As soon as I had the Nano CPX I started watching videos of guys racing quadcopters through the woods.
Racing through the woods flying quadcopters in first-person view while wearing goggles is so amazing! So immersive! Better than any video game could make it. But there I sat with all this money sunk into a helicopter.
I decided to learn to fly the helicopter until I could successfully fly it upside down, then I would move onto quads.
After crashing a lot and spending a lot of money on replacement parts I broke down and bought the Phoenix RC software because it has the Nano CPX in it. I was really impressed by Phoenix because I crashed the heli in the app in the exact same way that I crashed it in real life. I spent a hundred hours or so practicing in the software and slowly got better with the real thing.
I never got good at flying the helicopter; it was too fast for me to fly it indoors but so light that it was difficult to fly outside. And the cost of repairs was crazy, I spent more on replacement parts in a couple of months than I spent on it new. At that point it just wasn’t fun.
I went to a couple of local events with guys flying large helicopters doing all kind of amazing tricks, their skills are amazing and exciting to watch. But my desire to fly helicopter is totally gone.
I was able to fly it upside down a couple of time successfully and I will probably never fly it again. I will probably sell it and all of the parts I have for it soon. Let me know if you are interested.
Now I am on to flying quadcopters. More about that soon.
What the heck is Joe Ledger doing in a Peter Clines novel, haha, I jest.
I really enjoyed 14 by Peter Clines and when I saw his new novel The Fold in Audible I grabbed it and gave it a listen. The audiobook is narrated by Ray Porter who also narrates the Joe Ledger series by Jonathan Maberry so when I hear his voice I hear the voice of Joe Ledger. But this book is not much like the Ledger series.
The lead character, Mike Erikson, is a really smart guy with a photographic memory and Peter Clines does a great job of making him likeable and relatable.
This book didn’t get me too excited, I enjoyed it, but it fell like a compilation of other sci-fi books and movies. There is nothing new here if you have been reading and watching science fiction for awhile. But it is a solid effort, the narration is great, and the characters are fun if a bit predictable.
From the publisher:
Step into the fold. It’s perfectly safe.
The folks in Mike Erikson’s small New England town would say he’s just your average, everyday guy. And that’s exactly how Mike likes it. Sure, the life he’s chosen isn’t much of a challenge to someone with his unique gifts, but he’s content with his quiet and peaceful existence. That is until an old friend presents him with an irresistible mystery, one that Mike is uniquely qualified to solve.
Far out in the California desert, a team of DARPA scientists has invented a device they affectionately call the Albuquerque Door. Using a cryptic computer equation and magnetic fields to "fold" dimensions, it shrinks distances so a traveler can travel hundreds of feet with a single step. The invention promises to make mankind’s dreams of teleportation a reality. And, the scientists insist, traveling through the door is completely safe. Yet evidence is mounting that this miraculous machine isn’t quite what it seems – and that its creators are harboring a dangerous secret.
As his investigations draw him deeper into the puzzle, Mike begins to fear there’s only one answer that makes sense. And if he’s right, it may be only a matter of time before the project destroys…everything. A cunningly inventive mystery featuring a hero worthy of Sherlock Holmes and a terrifying final twist you’ll never see coming, The Fold is that rarest of things: a genuine pause-resister science-fiction thriller. Step inside its audio and learn why author Peter Clines has already won legions of loyal fans.
I have been hearing about The Martian from a lot of friends over the last couple of months and it sounded to god to be true so I put it off. I really shouldn’t have.
I bought the audiobook from Audible and listened to it about as fast as I could. It has a lot in common with the many recent stranded stories like Gravity and Cast Away, but it is so much better than them.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever dreamed of Mars, being an astronaut, an engineer, or a space botanist. Really I recommend it to anyone at all, it is a great story and R. C. Bray does a fantastic job narrating the audiobook.
From the publisher:
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.
Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive – and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.
Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.
But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills – and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit – he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
Hard Luck Hank is turning into a great series; Steven Campbell keeps the action and the humor coming in the second installment.
There really isn’t much more to say about Basketful of Crap, it is more of what made Screw the Galaxy so good.
From the publisher:
Hank was a dying breed on the space station Belvaille. The criminal gangs that had once made their homes there were forced out by the corporations that had taken over since the facility became an Independent Protectorate. Instead of the gentlemanly gang wars that had once dominated the scene, and made Hank’s services prized as a negotiator, the city was now plagued by the clash of corporate armies using heavy weapons. Even tanks roamed the streets regularly. Most everyone from the olden days had either fled the station or was killed due to the organizational changes. Changes that Hank personally brought about when he had negotiated Belvaille’s status with the Navy. As Hank contemplates whether he can survive in this increasingly hostile environment, he realizes that things aren’t as bad as they seem – they are quite a bit worse. The constant power plays among corporations might have further reach than just the alleys of a backwater space station at the edge of the galaxy.
Hard Luck Hank by Steven Campbell really scratches my Sci-Fi itch. Straight-forward science fictiony goodness with plenty of humor and action.
The writing reminds me a lot of the Stainless Steel Rat series of books. Lots of good nature humor, although with Hank there is a lot more smashing and crunching involved instead of the happy go-lucky larceny of the Rat.
The narrator Liam Owen does a great job with Hanks character, he brings a sense of toughness to him without taking away his humanity.
I really enjoyed Hank and the other citizens of Belvaille and I am excited to have found another series of books to dive into.
From the publisher:
Hank is a thug. He knows he’s a thug. He has no problem with that realization. In his view the galaxy has given him a gift: a mutation that allows him to withstand great deals of physical trauma. He puts his abilities to the best use possible and that isn’t by being a scientist.
Besides, the space station Belvaille doesn’t need scientists. It is not, generally, a thinking person’s locale. It is the remotest habitation in the entire Colmarian Confederation. There is literally no reason to be there.
Unless you are a criminal.
Because of its location, Belvaille is populated with nothing but crooks. Every day is a series of power struggles between the crime bosses.
Hank is an intrinsic part of this community as a premier gang negotiator. Not because he is eloquent or brilliant or an expert combatant, but because if you shoot him in the face he keeps on talking.
Hank believes he has it pretty good until a beautiful and mysterious blue woman enters his life with a compelling job offer.
Hank and Belvaille, so long out of public scrutiny, suddenly find themselves the epicenter of the galaxy with a lot of very unwelcome attention.
Jonathan Maberry and Ray Porter do it again with another Joe Ledger audio book. Code Zero is everything I love about the Joe Ledger series, action, action, and a bit of angst.
The highlight of Code Zero for me was the inclusion of DragonCon, I met Mr. Mayberry at DragonCon 2014 and got a couple of great photos of him. His panels were very interesting if a bit heavy on the talk about zombies and meeting him just made me want to read more.
From the publisher:
For years the Department of Military Sciences has fought to stop terrorists from using radical bioweapons – designer plagues, weaponized pathogens, genetically modified viruses, and even the zombie plague that first brought Ledger into the DMS. These terrible weapons have been locked away in the world’s most secure facility. Until now. Joe Ledger and Echo Team are scrambled when a highly elite team of killers breaks the unbreakable security and steals the world’s most dangerous weapons. Within days there are outbreaks of mass slaughter and murderous insanity across the American heartland. Can Joe Ledger stop a brilliant and devious master criminal from turning the Land of the Free into a land of the dead?
Code Zero, a Joe Ledger novel from Jonathan Maberry, is the exciting direct sequel to Patient Zero.
I showed up a bit early and met a great guy in the parking lot who would be helping with the testing who had a remarkable radio system setup in his car. He told me that he had talked with people in Russia from the unit in his car that is pretty cool. After awhile other began showing up.
There was only two of being tested that morning; we began around 9am after the retelling of a number of stories about our experiences in the military. Most of us had been in the Navy.
The technician exam went fast and after being told that I had passed I was offered the chance to take the general exam. That sounded like a great idea so I gave it a shot. Sadly I did not pass that one, I had not studied for it and did not know the terminology used in the test.
I recommend that if you are going to take the technician exam to spend some time also studying for the general exam, you may be able to get both of them on the same day.
So that was on Saturday, on Monday afternoon the examiner called me to let me know that I was in the FCC database and I could begin transmitting!
I am now known as Dave Kilo Mike Four Julliet Whiskey X-Ray (KM4JWX).
Amateur Radio Exam Prep: Technician is an iOS app for iPhone and iPad to help you pass the ham radio technician exam. I am taking the exam to get my license so that I can legally use 5.8GHz video transmitters for first-person view remote control flying.
This app with a good study guide should easily get you through the technician exam. I read a study guide and took about 100 practice exams before taking the test and only missed 2 questions.
I think the best feature of the app is the ability to see the questions you have missed after taking a bunch of test exams so that you can see exactly where you are falling short. That was invaluable to me and the only reason I did as well as I did.
If I decide to take the general exam I will definitely be buying the app for that test also.
I rate Amateur Radio Exam Prep: Technician a 10 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone preparing to take the Technician exam.
To legally use a 5.8GHz video transmitter in the U.S. you need at least a Technician Amateur Radio license. It is not a hard test, but I wanted some study aids to make sure I only had to take the test once.
A little bit of searching on Amazon led me to The No-Nonsense Technician Class License Study Guide (2014 edition): For tests given starting July 1, 2014 [Kindle Edition] for a very reasonable price.
It is a very good book covering only what you need to know to pass the test without a lot of fluff that many of the other study books include.
I rate this book a 10 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone who wants to quickly learn what it takes to pass the Technician license.
I passed my test only missing 2 questions after reading this book twice and using an iPhone app to take around 100 practice tests.
I really love the characters and world that Larry Correia has created with the Grimnoir Chronicles and Bronson Pinchot has done an amazing job bringing them to life.
I didn’t think there was much new ground covered here, but Tokyo Raider is a solid addition to the series.
From the publisher:
With the Japanese Imperium at war with the Soviet Union, and the United States watching cautiously on the sidelines, Second Lieutenant Joe Sullivan of the U.S. Marines is sent on a dangerous mission to Tokyo. The Russians have Summoned a demon of epic proportions to attack the city, and all that stands in its deadly path is an untested Japanese super-robot. Now, Joe is at the controls, his gravity-spiking Power at the ready. But that is one huge, mean Demon….
I love me some Veronica Mars, it was one of the few non-sci-fi shows I watched in real time. Kristen Bell and her friends just work for me.
Kristin Bell narrates the audiobook and does an amazing job, I felt like I could hear the actors from the show laughing about her impersonations of them. She really nails some of them and gets close enough with the others that it made the story even better.
The story written by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham is a solid one that could have easily been of handful of TV episodes. The Veronica Mars vibe is alive and well.
From the publisher:
The first book in an original mystery series featuring 28-year-old Veronica Mars, back in action after the events of Veronica Mars: The Movie. With the help of old friends – Logan Echolls, Mac Mackenzie, Wallace Fennel, and even Dick Casablancas – Veronica is ready to take on Neptune’s darkest cases with her trademark sass and smarts.
I am working on a personal side-project for some friends and decided to build it using Node, Express, Mongo, and Passport.
About the time I was working on the database architecture I received a coupon via email for the Udemy course “All about Node.js” taught by Sachin Bhatnagar. The full price for the course is currently $150 but it comes up on-sale from time-to-time and coupons are often available.
The course is 64 lectures with 8 hours of video and a handful of quizzes. It took me 3 weeks to work my way through all of the lectures as I was also reading a couple of books on Safari Books Online and Learn All The Node http://www.learnallthenodes.com/.
Sachin’s class is great; the lectures about using Amazon’s CloudFront and EC2 alone are worth the full price of $150. He is very articulate, easy to understand, and does a great job breaking complicated systems into easy to digest lessons.
From the course description:
“My intent is hand hold you all the way from writing your first NodeJS app to deploying production level apps on the cloud.”
What am I going to get from this course?
Over 64 lectures and 7.5 hours of content!
Build High Performance and Scalable Apps using NodeJS
Use NodeJS Streams to write a Web Server
Use the Node Package Manager (NPM) for managing dependencies
Use the Express 4 Framework for building NodeJS Apps
Use the Hogan Templating Language
Understand MongoDB as a NoSQL Database
Create & Use MongoDB Databases using services like MongoLab
Create Realtime Apps that use Web Sockets
Upload & Resize Images using NodeJS
Integrate Authentication using Social Media Sites like Facebook
Structure the NodeJS app into modules
Create and Deploy EC2 Cloud Server Instances on Amazon Web Services
Create and Use Amazon’s S3 Storage Service with NodeJS
Use Amazon’s Cloudfront Service
Using Amazon’s Elastic IP
Configure Security Groups, Ports & Forwarding on Amazon EC2
Deploy a NodeJS app on the EC2 Instance
Deploy a NodeJS app on Heroku
Deploy a NodeJS app on Digital Ocean
Install & Deploy NGINX as a Reverse Proxy Server for NodeJS Apps
Configure NGINX as a Load Balancer
What is the target audience?
Software Developers who want to build high performance network applications.
PHP, ASP.net, Perl, Java & Ruby coders wanting to leap onto the Node.Js bandwagon.
Anyone who wishes to get hands-on training with setting up an Amazon EC2 Instance with a host of other services like Cloudfront, Elastic IP and S3
Anyone who wishes to get hands-on training with deploying a NodeJS app on the cloud
Computer Engineering students
Tech Entrepreneurs who want to get their hands down and dirty with Web Coding & App Development.
Anyone who wishes to stay on the forefront of technology!
I rate the Udemy Course: All about Node.js a 10 out of 10 and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn Node.js and its surrounding technologies and frameworks.
Changing pace yet again I decided to binge on some Cory Doctorow goodness. If you don’t know who he is check out Cory’s Wikipeida entry, he is an interesting character. His politics are about as far from mine as they could be, but he is a really great storyteller.
You can download and read Cory’s books for free and even remix, mash-up, re-write, and mangle the contents to your hearts content following the Creative Commons Attrivutions-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license. You can get his books at Craphound.com.
For The Win is an attractive story to me because I enjoy playing video games, have played a lot of different MMOs in the past and look forward to playing them again with my son when he is old enough. I also really like the international viewpoints the story presents, the U.S., China, India, and Russia all come together.
I found the book to have a lot of lectures in it, at times I felt like I was being treated like a child in a schoolroom sitting at one of those little desks with the attached chairs. I tried to tune a lot of that out because the story itself is really good, the characters have a lot of depth and I found myself rooting for most of them. This is a really good story if you can get through the lectures.
From the publisher:
It’s the twenty-first century, and all over the world, MMORPGs are big business. Hidden away in China and elsewhere, young players are pressed into working as “gold-farmers,” amassing game-wealth that’s sold to Western players at a profitable markup. Some of these pieceworkers rebel, trying to go into business for themselves—but there’s little to stop their bosses from dragging them back into servitude. Some of them, like young Mala in the slums of Bombay—nicknamed “General Robotwallah” for her self-taught military skill—become enforcers for the bosses, but that only buys them so much.All the way over in L.A., young Wei-Dong, obsessed with Asian youth culture and MMORPGs, knows the system is rigged, knows that kids everywhere are being exploited. Finally, he and his Asian counterparts begin to work together to claim their rights. Under the noses of the ruling elites, they fight the bosses, the game owners and the rich speculators, outsmarting them with their street-gaming skills. But soon the battle will spill over from the virtual world to the real one, leaving the young rebels fighting not just for their rights, but for their lives…
I rate For The Win an 8 out of 10 and recommend it to any Cory Doctorow or gaming fan.
Freedom is book 2 in the Daemon series of novels. It continues right where Daemon left off, more of the same.
I enjoyed Freedom, there are a lot of subplots in it that I really enjoyed, but it is not as good as Daemon and I found the end wanting. I would like more, I would like more of the subplots to be wrapped up. I just want more.
In one of the most buzzed-about debuts of 2009, Daniel Suarez introduced a terrifying vision of a new world order, controlled by the Daemon, an insidious computer program unleashed by a dying hi-tech wunderkind. Daemon captured the attention of the tech community, became a New York Times and Indie bestseller, and left readers hungry for more.
Well, more is here, and it’s even more gripping than its predecessor. In the opening chapters of FreedomTM, the Daemon is firmly in control, using an expanded network of dispossessed operatives to tear apart civilization and rebuild it anew. As civil disorder spreads through the American Midwest, former detective Pete Sebeck, now the Daemon’s most influential yet reluctant-operative, must lead a small band of enlightened humans in a populist movement designed to protect the new social network. But the private armies of global business are preparing to crush the Daemon once and for all.
In a world of conflicted loyalties, and rapidly diminishing human authority, what’s at stake is nothing less than democracy’s last hope to survive the technology revolution.
I rate Freedom a 6 out of 10 and recommend to anyone who read Daemon.
I don’t remember how this series by Daniel Suarez came to my attention. It could have been as simple as the title of the first book, “Daemon”, or my proclivity for techno-thrillers that get most of it right.
I burnt myself out reading Jack Campbell space battles one after another for a couple of months and needed a break. Daemon is about as far away from The Lost Stars as I could get.
Daemon is a great story of a madman who leaves behind a legacy of malware that has infected thousands of machines around the world holding corporations and governments hostage.
I really enjoyed this book, the pacing is good, the characters are believable, and the technology is pretty sweet. Suarez takes many liberties with the details of the technology, but they all worked for me. The security issues that are highlighted by the author don’t really bother me that much, apparently many people find it controversial, it just feels like a near-future reality with better internet.
Daemon brings readers on a harrowing journey through the dark crawl spaces of the modern world. It’s a cutting-edge high-tech thriller that explores the convergence of MMOG’s, BotNets, viral ecosystems, and corporate dominance—forces which are quietly reshaping society with very real consequences for us all.
It all begins when one man’s obituary appears online…
Matthew Sobol was a legendary computer game designer—the architect behind half a dozen popular online games. His premature death from brain cancer depressed both gamers and his company’s stock price. But Sobol’s fans weren’t the only ones to note his passing. He left behind something that was scanning Internet obituaries, too—something that put in motion a whole series of programs upon his death. Programs that moved money. Programs that recruited people. Programs that killed.
Confronted with a killer from beyond the grave, Detective Peter Sebeck comes face-to-face with the full implications of our increasingly complex and interconnected world—one where the dead can read headlines, steal identities, and carry out far-reaching plans without fear of retribution. Sebeck must find a way to stop Sobol’s web of programs—his Daemon—before it achieves its ultimate purpose. And to do so, he must uncover what that purpose is…
I rate Daemon an 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone who likes techno-thrillers or sci-fi.
This is the Raspberry Pi book I have been looking for. Instead of trying to push some advanced scripting language or Linux distribution, this book shows you how to use the most widely used distribution, Raspbian, and good old Bash scripts to do useful things with a Raspberry Pi.
Now 3 years old the lessons in Learn Raspberry Pi still hold up. Raspbian has been through some major updates and the new Model A+ and B+ computers have added to the Pi’s capabilities, but the Linux/Unix commands, SSH and VNC techniques, network information, Web Server installation (LAMP), and a decent chapter covering compiling XMBC on your Pi.
This book does not cover any topics in depth, but it includes enough information to give you an idea of what to enter into Google to find out more. This is one of the greatest features of Linux and the Raspberry Pi, once you know what to search for, there is more information available for free. The community is made up of millions of people from all over the world that want to share what they have learned and what they have created.
From the publisher:
Learn Raspberry Pi with Linux will tell you everything you need to know about the Raspberry Pi’s GUI and command line so you can get started doing amazing things. You’ll learn how to set up your new Raspberry Pi with a monitor, keyboard and mouse, and you’ll discover that what may look unfamiliar in Linux is really very familiar. You’ll find out how to connect to the internet, change your desktop settings, and you’ll get a tour of installed applications.
Next, you’ll take your first steps toward being a Raspberry Pi expert by learning how to get around at the Linux command line. You’ll learn about different shells, including the bash shell, and commands that will make you a true power user.
Finally, you’ll learn how to create your first Raspberry Pi projects:
Making a Pi web server: run LAMP on your own network
Making your Pi wireless: remove all the cables and retain all the functionality
Making a Raspberry Pi-based security cam and messenger service: find out who’s dropping by
Making a Pi media center: stream videos and music from your Pi
Raspberry Pi is awesome, and it’s Linux. And it’s awesome because it’s Linux. But if you’ve never used Linux or worked at the Linux command line before, it can be a bit daunting. Raspberry Pi is an amazing little computer with tons of potential. And Learn Raspberry Pi with Linux can be your first step in unlocking that potential.
What you’ll learn
How to get online with Raspberry Pi
How to customize your Pi’s desktop environment
Essential commands for putting your Pi to work
Basic network services – the power behind what Pi can do
How to make your Pi totally wireless by removing all the cables
How to turn your Pi into your own personal web server
How to turn your Pi into a spy
How to turn your Pi into a media center
Who this book is for
Raspberry Pi users who are new to Linux and the Linux command line.
I rate this book an 8 out of 10 and highly recommend it to anyone looking to make a project with a Raspberry Pi.
I think a review in CycleWorld led me to buy this hardcover book; it tuned out to be the most disappointing “motorcycle” book I have ever read.
The full title is “There & Back Again To See How Far It Is: Cultural Observations of an Englishman Aboard a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Across Small-Town America”
Just a really boring read with lots of semi-interesting tid-bits pulled from Wikipedia and Google Maps. I found very few “Cultural Observations”, information about a “Harley Davidson Motorcycle”, or feel that the author and his wife had travelled very far throughout the book.
Take a pass on this one.
I rate this book a 1 out of 10 and do not recommend it to anyone.
What is the difference between choking and panicking? Why are there dozens of varieties of mustard-but only one variety of ketchup? What do football players teach us about how to hire teachers? What does hair dye tell us about the history of the 20th century?
Here is the bittersweet tale of the inventor of the birth control pill, and the dazzling inventions of the pasta sauce pioneer Howard Moscowitz. Gladwell sits with Ron Popeil, the king of the American kitchen, as he sells rotisserie ovens, and divines the secrets of Cesar Millan, the “dog whisperer” who can calm savage animals with the touch of his hand. He explores intelligence tests and ethnic profiling and “hindsight bias” and why it was that everyone in Silicon Valley once tripped over themselves to hire the same college graduate.
“Good writing,” Gladwell says in his preface, “does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else’s head.” What the Dog Saw is yet another example of the buoyant spirit and unflagging curiosity that have made Malcolm Gladwell our most brilliant investigator of the hidden extraordinary.
I rate What the Dog Saw a 9 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone.
How to make a new folder icon for your MAME games is pretty easy with a handful of steps. This is the process I followed; there are other ways to do it using other tools. I used Preview, Adobe Photoshop, and Xcode’s Icon Utility.
Download the icon set, unzip it, take a moment to read the readme file, and then find the folder icon you want to use as a starting point, I used GenericFolderIcon.icns. Right-click the Icns file and open it in Preview.
Step 2: Export the Base Icon
Now that you have the icon set open in preview you can see that it is made up of 10 different graphics. By opening the Inspector (Tools > Show Inspector or Command i) you can see the details for each graphic, like the first graphic is 1024 x 1024 pixels in size at 144 dpi.
Right-click the “1” graphic and choose Export As…, change the Format to PNG making sure the Alpha checkbox is checked. I kept the default name of GenericFolderIcon.png.
Step 3: Editing the Graphics
Now I download the super large version of the MAME logo from MAME Dev. This is what I want to put on the front of my folder icon.
Open both the GenericFolderIcon.png and the MAMELogoTM.jpg files in Photoshop.
On the MAME logo in the Layers panel click the padlock icon to convert the background to a regular layer.
Using the Magic Wand tool with a Tolerance of 12, Anti-alias checked, and Contiguous unchecked click the black background of the logo.
Click the Delete key to remove that black background then Command D to cancel the selection.
Open the Levels panel (Image > Adjustments > Levels… or Command L) and under Output Levels make both sides “0” which will make the entire logo solid black.
Then Select All (Command A), Copy (Command C), then switch to the GenericFolderIcon graphic and Paste (Command V).
Initially the MAME logo will be huge compared to the folder so you will need to transform it to fie. Transform (Command T) then while holding down the shift key to keep the ratio of the logo locked start resizing the logo until it looks good to you.
In the Layer panel switch the mode to Overlay.
Create an “fx” layer with an Inner Shadow, I like the settings Blend Mode: Mulitply, Opacity: 36%, Angle: 128, Distance: 9px, Choke: 0, Size: 21px. Play with it until you find something you like.
For my tastes the MAME logo is still too strong, I want it to more closely match the Apple Applications folder Icon. So back in the Layers I turn the Opacity of the logo layer down to 38%.
Save that PSD file early and often so you have something to go back too if there are any problems or you want to make adjustments later.
Back to the Image Size panel adjust the size to 72 DPI Resolution and sized 512×512 (easier to make the changes in that order as adjusting the resolution will change the width and height). Resample should be set to “Automatic” or “Bicubic Sharper (reduction)”.
Save this one as icon_512x512.png.
Now do that another 8 times adjusting the size and saving based on the file names above.
As the icon graphic gets smaller you could change it up to keep it distinguishable from other icons. Instead of using the full MAME logo you could use just an “M” or you could darken the logo, or anything else you can think of.
Step 5: Building the Icon Set
I am using the Icon Utilities tool that comes with Xcode. There are a lot of icon tools out there, the App Store is full of them, but I happen to have Xcode installed and decided this was the easiest way for me to create the finished icon set.
Open the Terminal app and change the directory to where you have the MAMEFolderIcon.iconset saved. For me that was “cd /Users/dnelson/Documents/Folder\ Icon\ Post/”
Then run the Icon Utilities app “iconutil -c icns MAMEFolderIcon.iconset”
And BANG! You have your very own MAMEFolderIcon.icns icon set.
Step 6: Put your New Icon Set to Use
Find the folder you want to give your new Icon Set to and get ready for the magic.
Select the folder, click on it once, than then Get Info (right-click and choose Get Info or Command I).
Now drag-and-drop you new icon set on top of the folder icon at the top of the Get Info dialog box.
And you are done!
It is a tedious process, but it is nice to have custom icons like this, especially for folders in the Doc. This process will also work for making icons for your game launching files.
Sometimes you want to be able to launch a game by double-clicking an icon rather than going through MAME’s interface or using the Terminal. This method has the added benefit of letting you easily launch MAME with various options.
We are going to write a small shell script, save it as a command file, and make it executable.
If you have followed the directions in my previous post “MAME on Mac OSX Yosemite” you can follow these instructions exactly, if you have made changes or modified any steps, keep that in mind while working through these steps.
First off we write the shell script.
1. Open the Documents directory and create a new folder named “MAME Games”.
2. Open Applications > TextEdit and click Format > Make Plain Text
3. On the first line of the document enter “#!/usr/bin/env bash”. This is known as a shebang and tells the computer that we want to use the Bash shell to run our script.
4. Then for readablility’s sake skip a line and enter “cd ~/Documents/mame” on the next line. This changes the directory to your mame folder inside of your Documents folder.
5. On the last line enter “./mame64 robotbwl” which launches the MAME application and loads the Robot Bowl ROM.
6. Now save the file naming it “Robot Bowl.command”. The filename extension of “command” tells Mac OSX that this is a Terminal shell script.
We have created our script now we have to give it permission to be executable.
1. Open the Terminal app and end enter “chmod +x ~/Documents/MAME\ Games/Robot\ Bowl.command”, this modifies the permissions of the “Robot Bowl.command” file by adding the Executebale for everyone permissions to it.
2. NOTE: The back slash “\” in the code escapes the spaces in the directory path and file names, without those back slashes the code will not work.
That is all there is to it, you should now be able to double click on the Robot Bowl file to launch MAME and the Robot Bowl game.
Now we are going to create a file that will launch the Robot Bowl game with the screen much brighter than normal. This can be really handy if you have a screen or a game that is dark.
1. Copy the Robot Bowl file we created above and name it “Robot Bowl Bright”. By copying the Robot Bowl file the copied file will have the original’s executable permissions.
2. Open the Robot Bowl Bright file in TextEdit and add the brightness option to it by changing the last line to be “./mame64 robotbwl -brightness 1.5” and save it.
Now launch the new Robot Bowl Bright file and you can see how much brighter it is, the background has become gray. Hit the Escape (esc) key to quit and launch the original Robot Bowl file and you should see that the background is black when launching the game from that file.
In the docs directory there is a config.txt file that contains many other options you can use to configure your launchers. The ones you will probably use most often are the joystick options.
To make launching games even easier you can drag the MAME Games folder onto the right-hand side of the Dock by the trashcan. I don’t like the default view of folders in the Dock so I right-click the folder and choose “Display as Folder” and “View content as List”. Now I can click the folder in the dock and choose a game from the list.
You could get creative with this and have a different folder for different types of games or with different options enabled for the games.
Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) is a free and open source application used as a reference of the inner workings of arcade gaming systems. A side effect of this is that MAME can be used to play old arcade games if you can find the games. MAME uses data dumps from the Read Only Memory chips (ROMs) that were used in the original arcade games.
You will have to use the terminal app and the console to get MAME working, but it is very easy following the steps below. You will also need admin privileges on the computer, this is not absolutely necessary to run MAME, but that is how I am going to cover it here.
These instructions are for SDLMAME version 0.156 64-bit which was released on November 28, 2014.
Double-click the SDL2-2.0.3.dmg file which will mount it as a drive.
Open the Terminal application Applications > Utilities > Terminal
Enter “open /Library/Frameworks” into the terminal window, this will open a window for the Frameworks directory
Drag the “SDL2.framework” file from the SDL2 window into the “Frameworks” window, you may be prompted to enter an Admin username and password to authenticate your desire to modify the Frameworks directory. Click “Authenticate” and then enter an Admin Username and Password.
Back at the SDLMAME page click on the “SDLMAME v0.156 64-bit” link and save the file to your computer. I am placing it in the “Documents” directory.
Double-click the zip file, when finished you should now have a folder named “mame0156-64bit”, now rename this folder “mame”, keep in mind that case counts so make sure the folder name is all lower-case.
Open the “mame” folder and take a look at the contents
Over in the Terminal app, enter “cd ~/Documents/mame” and then “ls -al” to double-check that you are in the right directory
Now to create the MAME configuration file enter “./mame64 -createconfig” this will create a “mame.ini” file in the “mame” directory
Click on “I understand…” and download the game to the Documents/mame/roms directory
WARNING: ROMs are saved as zip files and they should stay zipped. MAME will handle unzipping them and using the contents inside. If you use a web browser that automatically unzips files when you download them you will need to change that setting to preserve the original files.
In Yosemite the keyboard does not use the function keys on as F-1 through F19 the way other operating systems do, they are assigned all kinds of other functions. You can hold the “Function (fn)” key down everytime you want to use a function key or you can open the System Preferences > Keyboard and check the “Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys” box. If you check this box you can use the “fn” key to utilize the special functions of those keys. That is my preferred method.
Now to launch MAMA and give Robot Bowl a try
In the Terminal enter “./mame64”
Use the arrow keys to select “robotbwl Robot Bowl” and tap Enter
You may see a screen warning about using ROMs that you are not legally entitled to play, give it a quick read and know that you have been given permission by H.R. Kaufmann, president of Xidy, the original ROM images for Robot Bowl have been made available for free, non-commercial use. On your keyboard the left then right arrows to move on.
Then you may see a message that there are known problems with this game. The sound emulation isn’t 100% accurate. Click the left then right arrow keys again to move on.
Now the game should be playing its attract animation of a stick figure coming out to bowl.
Tap the “Tab” key to bring up the in-game configuration menu and choose “Input (this Game)”
NOTE: I prefer not to change the “Input (general)” controls from the default. By keeping the general defaults tutorials and other help I may use in the future will work without me having to translate which keys to press.
This is really cool, when you look at the input controls for a specific game, it shows ALL of the control options for that game making it very easy to learn how to play that game and re-configure the buttons and controls for it.
For Robot Bowl the default controls are:
1 Player Start: 1
Coin 1: 5
P1 Left Button: Left arrow key
P1 Right Button: Right arrow key
P1 Button 1: Left Control key or mouse button 1 (left mouse button)
P1 Button 2: Left Alt key or muse button 3 (right mouse button)
Hook Left: Z key
Hook Right: X key
You can use the arrow keys to navigate to any of these and change them by tapping the Enter key then tapping the key you want to use; you can have more than one key assigned to a single control.
And that is it; you now have MAME up and running on your Mac OSX Yosemite computer.
You can find a lot more information about customizing MAME in the ~/Documents/mame/docs directory, especially in the config.txt file.
In Extinction Machine Jonathan Maberry has Joe Ledger and Echo Team delving into the mysteries of ancient alien artifacts.
This is yet another, the fifth one in fact, exciting adventure of Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Science. I hope there a dozen more. I enjoyed Extinction Machine more than the last one, I find the subject more interesting and a little bit different than other books I have been reading lately.
From the publisher:
Audie Award Finalist, Science Fiction, 2014
In Extinction Machine, the fifth Joe Ledger book by Jonathan Maberry, the DMS must go up against someone – or something – in search of new technology that could bring about world war.
The president of the United States vanishes from the White House. A top-secret prototype stealth fighter is destroyed during a test flight. Witnesses on the ground say that it was shot down by a craft that immediately vanished at impossible speeds. All over the world, reports of UFOs are increasing at an alarming rate. And in a remote fossil dig in China dinosaur hunters have found something that is definitely not of this earth. There are rumors of alien-human hybrids living among us.
Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences rush headlong into the heat of the world’s strangest and deadliest arms race, because the global race to recover and retro-engineer alien technologies has just hit a snag. Someone – or something – wants that technology back.