REVIEW – ADATA SD600 EXTERNAL SSD (256GB)

I recently found myself in the market for a high-capacity high-speed external storage solution and after shopping around I decided to pick up the ADATA SD600 External Solid State Drive as it provided 256GB of storage at a very reasonable price of just under $75 (USD).

The SD600 is a USB 3.1 compatible device, advertising read speeds of up to 440MB/s, very fast compared to more traditional external USB hard drives.

The SD600 utilizes 3D NAND technology, thus offering better performance compared to Solid State Drives that does not.

Below is a performance comparison, using Crystal Disk Mark, of the ADATA SD600, a Samsung EVO 850 500GB internal SSD running on SATA III and a SanDisk Ultra Flair 16GB USB 3.0 Thumb Drive:

ADATA

ADATA SD600 Results

 

Samsung evo 850 Crystal Disk

Samsung EVO 850 Results (SATA III)

 

USB3 Crystal Disk

SanDisk Ultra Flair 16GB USB 3.0 Thumb Drive Results

As can be seen the ADATA SD600 performs much better than the USB 3.0 thumb drive, but does not quite match the results of the Samsung drive running on SATA III. However, for an external storage solution these results are great.

From a size perspective the SD600 is much smaller than a traditional 2.5-inch external Hard Drive and the image below shows the size compared to two USB thumb drives.

ADATA Size

The SD600, however slightly larger than the thumb drives, is really compact and is definitely small enough to be comfortably carried around in your pocket. It is also very durably built and offers a very convenient solution for portable storage.  Thus far, after over a months’ worth of usage the SD600 has given me no problems and serves its purpose exceptionally well. So, if you are in the market for an external storage solution the SD600 offers a great solution at a very reasonable price.

REVIEW – ADATA SD600 EXTERNAL SSD (256GB)

BOOK REVIEW – BATMAN HUSH

hush

Batman Hush is a mainline Batman story arc that was originally published in the Batman Comic between 2002 to 2003, which has subsequently been published in this graphic novel. Hush is a great self-contained story which can easily be picked up by anyone looking for a starting point in the almost endless selection of Batman comics.

Batman Hush is one of the best usages of the Batman Villains’ gallery, featuring a large cast including, the Riddler, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow and the Joker to name a few. The graphic novel tells a great story written by Jeph Loeb, full of twists and a few surprises along the way, it really is one of the classic must read story in the Batman comic series.

The story is beautifully bought to life by the artwork, which is some of my favorite in the long running Batman comic series. The art is the combined work of Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair, being responsible for pencil, ink and color respectively.

I can really recommend this graphic novel if you want to get started in the Batman comic series as it is a great jumping-off point and if you are already reading the series and have not read Hush, then you are really missing out.

BOOK REVIEW – BATMAN HUSH

BOOK REVIEW – LITTLE NIGHTMARES VOLUME 1 GRAPHIC NOVEL

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Needless to say, this graphic novel is based on the game Little Nightmares and contains the first 2 comic books in the series. The series was initially announced to consist of 4 comic books, however at the time of this post book 3 and 4 unfortunately appear to have been cancelled.

Anyone who has played Little Nightmares will know that the world of the game is a dark and mysterious place, with a lot of unanswered questions. This graphic novel builds on this world and provides some additional bits of information about the greater world that was not directly shown in the game.

I really like the ascetics and feel of Little Nightmares and part of its appeal is this sense of unknown, and the graphic novel does not spoil this, providing just enough information to get the reader more curious. For example, the comic books explain how the kids end up on The Maw, the fictional ship on which the game and its DLC takes place, but gives no additional details about the mysteries surrounding the Maw itself.

The graphic novel is beautifully illustrated with amazing artwork, in line with the graphic style of the game.

It is however important to mention that this graphic novel will not make sense to someone who has not played the game. It is very much a companion piece to the game and builds on the world that was established therein. But if you played Little Nightmares and loved the world it built then this will be a great read.

BOOK REVIEW – LITTLE NIGHTMARES VOLUME 1 GRAPHIC NOVEL

WIND POWER BEAST MODEL KIT

IMG_5864

I picked up this model kit from AMAZON when I was in the United States recently. It is an inexpensive kit, priced under $10.

I have always been interested in the works of Dutch Artist Theo Jansen, especially his StrandBeest moving sculptures, and this model is a great way of gaining understanding of how the mechanics of the legs function.

The model is easy to assemble, taking me under 40 minutes to complete, requiring no tools or glue and once assembled the model functions surprisingly well. The one complaint I do have about the kit is that the provided instructions are not always easy to follow, this is in part due to the very poor English translation.

Even given this fact, I would still recommend this kit, not only because of the learnings it provides in walking mechanics, but also as it looks really cool when completed and to top that off it is really inexpensive as well.

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WIND POWER BEAST MODEL KIT

WINDOWS MIXED REALITY

Today we will have a look at a Windows Mixed Reality headset, more specifically the Lenovo Explorer. First let us have a look at what Windows Mixed Reality headsets are. Despite their naming, Windows Mixed Reality headsets are not a mixed reality technology like the Microsoft HoloLens, but are Virtual Reality Headsets and Motion Controllers based on technologies developed by Microsoft and manufactured by OEMs like Lenovo, HP and Dell to name a few.

Each of the manufacturers made minor changes to their headsets, for example the HP Headset introduced detachable cables, which is a great feature, however also reduced the field of view to 95° (Compared to a 110° field of view for most of the other Windows Mixed Reality Headsets) which results in a rather terrible binocular effect. So, part of the challenge is selecting a headset that meets your requirements based on the differences between the headsets in a variety of areas, such as field of view, fit, comfort and weight.

Below are the high-level results of my research for each headset I considered:

  • Samsung Odyssey: Great headset, however at time of making my purchase it was over double the price of the other headsets.
  • HP WMR Headset: Detachable cables are a great feature, however the field of view (95°) is a deal breaker.
  • Dell Visor: Has a terrible fit and has the worst light bleed of any of the headsets from the headset not properly sitting on the users’ face.
  • Acer WMR Headset: Good all-rounder, however I really did not like the visual design of it.
  • Lenovo Explorer: Good all-rounder and more muted design compared to Acer.
  • Asus WMR Headset: Out of Stock at time of my Purchase, also its price is comparable to Samsung Odyssey.

All the Windows Mixed Reality Headsets have a per eye resolution of 1440×1440@90Hz, except the Samsung Odyssey which has a resolution of 1440×1600@90Hz, compared to 1080×1200@90Hz for the Oculus Rift, 1080×1200@90Hz for the HTC Vive and 960×1080@120Hz for the PlayStation VR.

The three above mentioned headsets do however utilise OLED Displays whereas the Windows Mixed Reality Headsets (except the Samsung, which uses AMOLED) use LCD displays, resulting in the Windows Mixed Reality Headsets experience slightly less colour saturation and contrast, however most people would have a hard time noticing the difference if they did not compare the headsets side by side.

Another area in which the Windows Mixed Reality headsets differ from the other major VR headsets is in the way it handles position tracking. In the case of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, these headsets utilize some form of external components, such as the Oculus Cameras, Vive Lighthouses and PlayStation Camera, to track the users position in the virtual world. This is great for tracking accuracy, but it is not ideal from the perspective that additional devices are required, that often must be purchased separately, as well as the additional configuration and cables that need to me managed and kept out-of-the-way.

For many people space is also a problem and setting up a designated VR space is simply not an option and packing up everything between uses is very cumbersome. Thus, with these headsets, although the results are amazing, the setup is tedious, and they are far from easily movable once setup.

This is where Windows Mixed Reality takes a different approach, using what is called inside-out tracking. This technology is based on the learnings and technologies Microsoft refined in the development of the Xbox Kinect. Instead of using external components to track the users’ position, all user tracking happens using sensors, such as cameras and Infra-red, contained within the headset. The results are surprisingly good, with the only real trade-off being that the motion controllers are tracked only if they are in view of the headset. Thus far I have not found a VR game where this resulted in any problems.

As far as configuration is concerned, things are very straight forward and easy with the headset requiring one USB 3.0 port and one HDMI 1.4 (2.0 is however recommended) port.

Microsoft lists the minimum GPU required as an Intel HD620, however what can be run on this GPU will be seriously limited. A more realistic GPU requirement can be ascertained by looking at the SteamVR and Oculus minimum requirements, which lists a GeForce GTX 970, however certain games do require a more powerful GPU. All my testing was done on a GeForce GTX 1080.

Now that we have covered all the hardware related information, let us have a look at some of the content and games available for the headset.

There are three main platforms on which you can get content and games for Windows Mixed Reality Headsets, they are Mixed Reality Portal, SteamVR and Oculus Store.

The Mixed Reality Portal is the Microsoft platform and is designed for Windows Mixed Reality headsets. The games and content available on the Portal is however by far the most limited of the three platforms.

With SteamVR the user will need to install “Windows Mixed Reality for SteamVR” from the Steam Store. Once this is completed SteamVR titles will be playable on the Windows Mixed Reality headset. Titles officially supporting Windows Mixed Reality will have the following icon: wmr_icon

Steam

However, all SteamVR titles I tested, the majority of which did not have official support worked perfectly. So, do not feel restricted to only titles that list official support for Windows Mixed Reality.

To play Oculus games on your Windows Mixed Reality headset you will require an application called Revive. The complete setup instructions can be found here. All titles I tested from the Oculus store worked perfectly.

Now that you know your options regarding where to get games and content, the next question is what to get? I can recommend the following VR games which are my favorites:

  • Batman: Arkham VR
  • Audioshield
  • The Blu
  • Space Pirate Trainer
  • Job Simulator
  • Doom VFR
  • The Brookhaven Experiment
  • Superhot VR

Windows Mixed Reality headsets have a list price of between $400-500 (USD) dependent on model, however most Windows Mixed Reality headsets have been on sale consistently over the past few months on Amazon and the Microsoft store for around $250 and even less if you would consider a refurbished headset.

Given the price of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift (including the Oculus Cameras) is nearly double that, the Windows Mixed Reality headsets become a very alluring offer for anyone wanting to experience Virtual Reality without breaking the bank.

I am very pleased with my purchase and I have really enjoyed the experience with my Lenovo Explorer headset. I would recommend the Windows Mixed Reality Headsets to anyone interested in getting a VR headset who might be scared off by the $500 price tag or the complicated setup. Windows Mixed Reality gives the user a more affordable, more compact and easy to use alternative, with only minor trade-offs, and I would recommend that anyone in the market for a VR headset give Windows Mixed Reality a serious consideration.

Just as a side note, I use the Skywin Universal VR Holder and Cable Organiser to store my Windows Mixed Reality headset and it works great. It is an inexpensive way to keep your headset safe and looking cool when it is not in use.

WINDOWS MIXED REALITY

BOOK REVIEW – MASTERS OF DOOM BY DAVID KUSHNER

mastersofdoomcover

 

Masters of Doom tells the story of the formation of ID Software, one of the most influential companies in gaming. It focuses on the stories of the four founders, John Romero, John Carmack, Adrian Carmack and Tom Hall.

Covering everything from how and where they crew up, to how they got involved in game development, to how they met and started ID Software and eventually as most of them left ID Software, what came next for them.

The book covers everything from the early days when they worked at SoftDisk and started Ideas from the Deep (Later renamed to ID Software). Where they worked on Commander Keen and how they constantly evolved, creating revolutionary game after game, from Wolfenstein 3D to Doom to Quake, transforming the industry and what people thought possible along the way.

This book is by far my favourite video game related book, and I cautious writing any more regarding its contents out of fear of spoiling something. But if you are in any way interested in video games give this book a try. It is an amazing book and comes highly recommended.

BOOK REVIEW – MASTERS OF DOOM BY DAVID KUSHNER

UCTRONICS SMART ROBOT CAR KIT

uctronrobot

The UCTRONICS Smart Robot Car Kit is an easy to build obstacle avoidance robot kit that also allows for direct user control of the robot through either Infrared (using the included remote control) or Bluetooth (an Android App is available on the Google Play Store).

This is a great starter kit as no soldering is required and additionally there is a lot of space on the robot chassis for customization and additions later on. Assembly instructions are provided in full color and takes the builder through the assembly process in a step-by-step manner, which is easy to follow.
A prebuilt Arduino sketch is available for download from the UCTRONICS website to make the assembled robot functional, however nothing prevents the builder from writing their own. This is however one area where I do feel the kit falls short as an educational tool, instead of just providing a prebuilt sketch, it would have been great if a step-by-step guide was provided taking the builder through the process of writing their own sketch, explaining concepts and what is being done and why along the way.
This is however still a great starter kit and I would recommend it for anyone getting started in robotics or Arduino related building.

UCTRONICS SMART ROBOT CAR KIT