REVIEW – AMAZON KINDLE 2019 MODEL (10TH GENERATION)

The main improvement offered by the 10th generation base model Kindle over its predecessors, is the inclusion of an integrated light, which was previously only a feature of the more expensive Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Oasis, and this is a game-changer. The inclusion of the light vastly increases the ease by which you can read the Kindle in various conditions and dramatically improves screen visibility.  

While on the topic of the screen, it is Amazon’s 6″ e-Ink glare-free display, with a PPI of 167 pixels per inch and offers a 16-level grayscale color palette, meaning even comic books and graphic novels are easily readable and details do not get lost.

The Kindle 2019 model offers a comfortable read, with text size easily resizable to user taste and allows for much quicker reading.

The Kindle supports books, comics books\graphic novels, magazines, and audiobooks across the following file formats: Kindle Format 8 (AZW3), Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, PMP through conversion; Audible audio format (AAX). Amazon has also vastly improved PDF support, and reading PDFs is now far less painful than in the past.

The Kindle model reviewed here comes with 8GB of non-expandable storage, enough to hold ample books and comics. However, heavy audiobook listeners might want to look at the 32GB version of the Kindle Paperwhite or Kindle Oasis instead.

A Bluetooth audio device is required (Headphone, Speaker, etc.) to listen to audiobooks, and the Kindle does allow the user to switch between reading and listening rather seamlessly.

The Kindle is entirely Wi-Fi enabled, and once online, it seamlessly integrates into the Amazon ecosystem.

Amazon claims a battery life of up to 4-weeks, obviously depending on usage and light brightness selected. I found the Kindle needed to be charged once every ten days or so with moderate usage (1-2 hours a day), and the light turned up to roughly 80% brightness.

The Kindle weighs in at 174g without a cover, making it shockingly light for its size, definitely contributing to its reading comfort.

The Kindle 2019 model retails on Amazon for $89.99 with the special offer enabled (ads show on the device lock screen) and $109.99 without the special offer. I find the special offer unintrusive, especially if you use a cover that obstructs the screen when not in use.

Amazon’s Kindle e-book readers are pretty much the de facto standard for e-book readers, with Amazon controlling over 80% of the e-book reader market, and it is easy to see why. From the ease of use to simple convenience, Amazons Kindle Devices and Ecosystems are hard to beat.    

REVIEW – AMAZON KINDLE 2019 MODEL (10TH GENERATION)

BOOK REVIEW – ZERO TO MAKER: LEARN (JUST ENOUGH) TO MAKE (JUST ABOUT) ANYTHING BY DAVID LANG

Zero to Maker (originally published in 2013) chronicles David Lang’s journey into the Maker movement and documents the learnings and many of the experiences he had along his journey.

David Lang is one of the founders of OpenROV, a low-cost remote-controlled underwater robot, and his journey of becoming a maker is tightly intertwined with this project.

As part of his journey, he visits numerous maker spaces such as Haxlr8r, Maker Faire, Noisebridge, TechSoup, and FabLabs, and explores the topic of gaining access to tools and skills through these spaces.

The book also covers a wide variety of other topics, from the new world of collaborative making and Do-It-Together to Digital Fabrication Techniques such as CAD, 3D Printing, and Laser Cutting. Another interesting subject covered is turning maker projects into businesses and the numerous challenges faced during that process. Possible ways of overcoming these challenges, such as funding your undertaking using a crowdfunding platform such as Kickstarter to how to handle larger batch manufacturing by leveraging maker spaces and their community of makers, are also examined.

The last chapter focuses on educating future generations on the skills and mindset involved in making as well as the numerous benefits associated therewith. Many great initiatives currently underway at numerous schools and other institutions teaching children how to make is covered, and it is a very inspiring read.

The book is a fascinating read that gives some good insight into the maker movement at a high level.  However, It does not provide detailed instructions on any of the skills explored, and if that is your expectation coming in, you will leave disappointed. I recommend Zero to Maker as a light, informative read and found it a pleasant way of spending a few afternoons.

BOOK REVIEW – ZERO TO MAKER: LEARN (JUST ENOUGH) TO MAKE (JUST ABOUT) ANYTHING BY DAVID LANG

REVIEW – COOLER MASTER MM710 PRO-GRADE GAMING MOUSE WITH HONEYCOMB SHELL AND ULTRAWEAVE CABLE

The Cooler Master MM710 is an ultra-light gaming mouse in the same vein of the now famous Glorious Model O mouse. It is currently listed on Amazon at around the $50 price-point, making it a fair bit less expensive than the Glorious Model O. It weighs 53 grams and as someone who usually prefers a heavier mouse, it feels completely weightless.
The Honeycomb shell has a very comfortable ergonomic shape, and the ultraweave cable combined with its ultra smooth PTFE feet makes using the mouse absolutely effortless.

The mouse pictured below is the matte black option, however, matte white, gloss black and gloss white options are also available.

Here is a technical specification breakdown of the MM710:

MM710
Year Released 2019
DPI 16000dpi
Buttons 6
Connectivity Wired USB
Weight 53g
Sensor Pixart Optical
Additional Features

Ultra-Lightweight

Ultraweave cable

Omron Switches

The MM710 was the first ultra-lightweight gaming mouse I have tried, and I found using it very comfortable and precise, saying that I am not quite ready to give up the Logitech G603 as my daily driver as I still find it more comfortable. A large part of this relates to the muscle memory I have developed by using a heavier mouse for many years now, and it will take time to get used to such a lightweight mouse.
The MM710 is an excellent product at a very reasonable price, and it is worth considering if you are looking for a lightweight mouse.

REVIEW – COOLER MASTER MM710 PRO-GRADE GAMING MOUSE WITH HONEYCOMB SHELL AND ULTRAWEAVE CABLE

3D PRINT FINISHING

When a 3D print completes printing, it seldom looks like a refined and finished item, from support material that needs to be removed to rough edges that need to be smoothed, quite a bit of work is required to make a 3D print look acceptable.

Here is a quick guide of how I finish my 3D prints to look less like 3D printed items and more like professionally produced commercial products.

Let us first look at the tools I use in the finishing process:

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Wire Cutting Pliers and Long Nose Pliers – These are useful when removing support material from 3D prints.

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Wire Brushes – Perfect for a first pass cleanup on newly printed items to remove any stringing and excess material.

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Needle Files – Useful for smoothing rough spots on prints, especially in small confined areas.

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Craft Knives – To remove any stubborn unwanted material from 3D prints.

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Model Sanding Block – For standing confined areas of 3D prints.

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Heated 3D Print Finishing Tool – Perfect for removing stringing and extra material from 3D prints.

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Sand Paper – Used for general smoothing of 3D prints. It is best to wet sand 3D prints as it prevents the print from melting and getting ruined by the heat created from sanding friction.

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Wood Filler – Used to fill any unwanted gaps and holes in 3D prints.

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Spray Paint Primer – This is used to prime 3D prints for painting. Priming also hides small imperfections on 3D prints. Use a primer that is plastic friendly.

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Model Paint and Brushes – I like Tamiya model paint and brushes, but any model paint supplies should work great.

Now let us look at the finishing process.

Step 1: Select a model and 3D print it.

It is very important to note that the better your 3D printer is maintained and configured, the better the end results will be. Here is an example of the same model 3D printed and finished. The first was printed before I replaced my hot end and did some basic maintenance on my 3D printer (the nozzle was worn, and the heater cartridge started giving issues, I also tightened the belts). The second was printed after I completed the replacement and maintenance.

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The print lines in the first print are clearly visible, even after sanding, while the second model has a smooth finish even with minimal sanding.

Step 2: Remove support material, initial sanding, and filler.

Using wire brushes to do a quick pass over the 3D print to remove any excess material, then sand model using wet sanding method (using sandpaper and water). When sanding the 3D print, start standing with coarse-grit sandpaper (60 grit) and work down to a finer grit (220 grit). Finally, fill any gaps using wood filler.

Step 3: Final Sanding.

When the wood filler has dried, go over the print one final time with very fine grit sandpaper (400 grit).

Step 4: Priming the 3D print

When spraying the 3D print with primer, it is important to hold the spray can at least 30cm away from the 3D print and do long even passes over the model, starting and ending each pass to the side of the 3D print and not directly on the print as it will result in droplets forming.

Step 5: Painting the 3D print

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After the primer has completely dried, it is time to paint the model as desired. Using a wethering technique like black-washing brings out the detail of 3d prints amazingly. Black-washing is done by mixing black (or dark color) paint with some paint thinners, then painting all over the model, putting particular focus on getting the paint into all the nooks and crannies on the print. Then finally wiping away most of the paint with some paper towel. This gives the model a weathered realistic look.

Step 6: Done!

And finally, display your newly created item with pride.

3D PRINT FINISHING

MOVIE REVIEW – MAKER: A DOCUMENTARY ON THE MAKER MOVEMENT

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Maker is a documentary film directed by Mu-Ming Tsai that focuses on the maker movement and the wide variety of topics it entails, such as 3D printing, electronics, biotech, etc.

Numerous interviews with different individuals within the movement are shown and clearly shows the passion they all have. And the film really presses the message across of getting people away from being consumers and becoming makers.

Throughout the documentary, the filmmakers visit various maker spaces and even one biotechnology maker space, and it very interesting to see the facilities on offer.

Two companies formed out of the maker movement, Pebble smartwatches, and OpenROV are also visited, and both illustrate how it is possible to establish companies on the principles of the maker movement.

The film also examines Crowdfunding and how it can provide the financial means for anyone to turn their creations into a consumer product and a successful company.
As an avid supporter of the maker movement, I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and it is an excellent mechanism to introduce people to what the maker movement is. I highly recommend this film.

MOVIE REVIEW – MAKER: A DOCUMENTARY ON THE MAKER MOVEMENT

LEARNING PYTHON AND DEVELOPING A GAME

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As I mentioned in my Surviving Lockdown post, I started upskilling on Python, and when upskilling on a new programming language, I usually do a project to build on and enforce the things I am learning.

For my Python-based project, I decided to use PyGame to develop a small game. One piece of advice I can offer when developing a game is that it is better to develop a small and basic game that you finish than a large and ambitious game you never complete. I believe everyone who has tried some form of game development has at least one over-ambitious project they never completed, so it is better to start small.

The game I developed is called “Space Octopus Invasion” and here is a video of the game in action:

The tools and resources I used in the development process are as follows:

  • Trello
    I used Trello for task tracking and planning.
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  • PyCharm
    PyCharm is my favorite Python IDE developed by JetBrains, and it offers a free community edition.
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  • PyInstaller 
    A great utility to package a python application into an executable file.
  • InstallForge 
    A free installer maker that allows you to create a professional-looking setup wizard to install your game.
  • GameDevMarket.net
    I am not an artistically inclined person, and typically I use art, sound, and music assets when developing a game, I recommend GameDevMarket.net as they have a great selection of assets available.

The Installer for the game can be downloaded here: Installer.

And the source code can be downloaded here: Source Code.

LEARNING PYTHON AND DEVELOPING A GAME

MOVIE REVIEW – INDIE GAME: THE MOVIE

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Indie Game: The Movie is a Documentary Film initially released in 2012. It takes a look at the Indie Game industry and follows the creators of three successful indie games at various stages of the game development process.

The main indie games followed throughout the film are Super Meat Boy developed by Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, Braid created by Jonathan Blow, and finally, Fez created by Phil Fish.

Around 2008 a surge in the number of indie games released into the market started, mainly due to the rise of digital distribution channels, which removed the barrier of entry related to physical distribution indie developers struggled to overcome in the past. This growth in the indie games released has resulted in a healthy and robust indie game industry today, filled with many passionate and driven people chasing their dreams.

The film features numerous interviews with these individuals throughout the development process and gives incredible insight into the enormous passion, sacrifices made, and challenges faced by Indie Game Developers. Throughout the numerous conversations with these indie game developers, one thing becomes abundantly clear, and that is that the games they work on are far more than simple games, but rather a way of deep and meaningful self-expression, sharing a part of themselves and exposing personal vulnerabilities.

Indie Game: The Movie is a must-see film for anyone interested in the video game industry or game development in general, and it is one of the best films on the topic.

MOVIE REVIEW – INDIE GAME: THE MOVIE

BOOK REVIEW – BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN

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Batman: The Long Halloween is a 13 issue comic book series that was initially released between 1996 and 1997. It was written by Jeph Loeb with artwork done by Tim Sake.

The story in The Long Halloween takes place at a time when Batman was still relatively new and inexperienced in his crime-fighting career. In the Story, Batman, with the assistance of Commissioner Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent hunt for a killer who kills on notable holidays, such as Halloween, Christmas, New Years, Mother’s day and so on.

Various members of Batman’s Rogues gallery make an appearance including the Joker, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, and Catwoman, to name a few, and the story also covers the transformation of Harvey Dent into Two-face.

Batman: The Long Halloween is widely considered one of the definitive Batman stories, but saying that it is not one of my favorites as there are numerous plot holes and logic leaps that I find detracts from the overall story.

It is still a very enjoyable read, however, if someone is interested in getting started in the Batman comic series, I would instead suggest Batman: Hush or Batman: Year One as a better starting point.

BOOK REVIEW – BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN

MOVIE REVIEW – NOT FOR RESALE: A VIDEO GAME STORE DOCUMENTARY

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Not For Resale: A Video Game Store Documentary is an interesting and informative film directed by Kevin J. James. It is a documentary film that examines the place of brick and mortar video game stores in a world that is increasingly becoming exclusively digitally focused.

The film focuses on a variety of Retro Game Stores, including two I have had the pleasure of visiting 8bit and Up in New York City and Pink Gorilla Games in Seattle. Numerous owners and employees of these stores are interviewed about the future of these local “Mom and Pop” shops in a world where physical media is becoming increasingly unfashionable and demand for physical retro video games is decreasing year on year (partly due to these retro games being made available on new platforms).

The documentary also examines the rise of the digital distribution of video games and how that affects the customer from a product ownership perspective. From a positive perspective, the digital distribution of video games has removed a massive barrier to entry for smaller and indie developers, who can now release their games alongside the big corporations. There are, however, also negative points. These mainly focus on the possibility that a customer can lose access to a digital product they have purchased if it is removed from the digital distribution platform. Digital products can be removed from digital distribution platforms for a variety of reasons, including the lapse of licensing agreements.

The film also examines the preservation of video games and video game history, an important task undertaken by various organizations, including the Video Game History Foundation and the National Video Game Museum in Frisco, Texas. These organizations strive to preserve all things related to the history of video games, not just merely the game itself but all source code, design documents, and marketing material. The documentary also discusses the Library of Congress of the United States’ video game section, where video games are stored for historical purposes in a similar way to which the Library archives films and books.

Not For Resale: A Video Game Store Documentary is an enjoyable film that, at its core, looks at the impact video games have on our lives and the way this important part of many of our lives will be affected in the future.  Not For Resale: A Video Game Store Documentary is an excellent documentary that comes highly recommended.

MOVIE REVIEW – NOT FOR RESALE: A VIDEO GAME STORE DOCUMENTARY

SURVIVING LOCKDOWN

I had to travel for work to New York City for a week at the end of February (returning early March), and upon returning, I became ill with the flu (I was tested for CODID-19, and luckily tests came back negative). Nevertheless, I was placed on doctor mandated self-isolation. On the 26th March at 23:59, the government of South Africa put the country on lockdown, meaning that you can only leave your house to buy food, get medication, or seek urgent medical assistance. The Army was deployed to assist the police in enforcing the lockdown, and leaving your home for any other reason than the ones mentioned above can result in you being arrested.

This does mean that I have been at home, except a handful of exceptions, for over a month now, and have kept myself busy with a variety of things, such as playing video games, watching some movies, doing a few Python courses and 3d printing a few things.
From a gaming perspective, I have been playing the following games:

Legend of Zelda Link’s Awakening (on the Nintendo Switch)

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I thoroughly enjoyed Link’s Awakening, and it is an amazing remake of the Gameboy classic. The game has buckets of charm and is very enjoyable. It is not a challenging game, except for the last boss that can be a bit tricky. I highly recommend Link’s Awakening, and I enjoyed every second from beginning to end, and it took me about 15 hours to complete.

Animal Crossing New Horizons (on the Nintendo Switch)

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I have been absolutely obsessed with Animal Crossing New Horizons, and I must have logged over 40 hours of gameplay to date, and I am still far from done with this game. It is the perfect game while stuck at home, and it is a fantastically fun and feel-good game.

Afterparty (on the Nintendo Switch)

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A delightful adventure by Night School Studio, the creators of Oxenfree. I enjoyed this game, and I love the art style. The game is about 6 hours long, and I am now busy with my second play through doing alternative paths from my first playthrough. Afterparty is a must for anyone who loves adventure games.

Doom 64 (on the Nintendo Switch)

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Doom64 is a tremendous classic fps, and it plays fantastically in Switch Handheld mode. Initially released in 1997 on the Nintendo 64, it has now been re-released on modern platforms. All the enemies and weapons received a redesign from the original Doom games, and I love how enemies look in Doom 64. Doom 64 is a must-play for any Doom fan.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (on the Nintendo Switch)

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I am busy playing through Mario Kart 8 again, I have finished the game on the WiiU previously, but I am casually playing through it again between Animal Crossing sessions. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch is the definitive version of Mario Kart 8, with all the DLC included and with enhanced graphics (and a fixed battle mode), it is the best Mario Kart game to date.

Doom Eternal (on PC)

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Doom Eternal is a beautiful game, and it definitely amps up the difficulty from Doom 2016. All the enemies received a redesign from Doom 2016, with the new designs being more closely inspired by the original Doom games (Doom and Doom II). I love the redesigns of the enemies, and thus far, I am enjoying the game. The game has more strategy compared to Doom 2016, with some enemies having specific weak points that can be exploited, and certain kills (glory kill, chainsaw and flamethrower) providing specific pickups (either health, ammo or armor). The game truly looks amazing and performs great, and I am having no issues running the game at 144fps on Ultra Nightmare settings at 1440p on my 9900k and RTX2080. A definite must-play for FPS fans.

I have also watched a fair number of movies, including:

Not for Resale: A Video Game Store Documentary

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I enjoyed this documentary about Video Game stores and physical media, and I will be posting a full review soon.

Indie Game the Movie

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An entertaining and informative look at the indie game industry, a must-watch for anyone interested in the process of creating video games. I will also be posting a full review of Indie Game the Movie soon.

I have also kept myself busy 3D printing a few things, mostly using the CCTree PLA Wood filament. I have had a few requests from colleagues and friends for Baby Groot and Pikachu models, so I printed out a few of each to give away.

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SURVIVING LOCKDOWN