A Tour of Silicon Valley

I recently did a self-tour of Silicon Valley, and as someone who works in the field of technology, it was a fantastic experience.

The first stop of the tour was Apple Park, the Head Quarters for Apple Inc. The only section open to the public is the Visitor Center, which mainly consists of a massive apple store (which was insanely busy as it was 2 days after the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro launched) as well as a sizeable Augmented Reality display of the Apple Park Campus and the famous UFO looking Apple Ring building. This AR display consists of a large model, shown in the photos below, that you can interact with using an iPad Pro which the staff hand out to guests entering the display area. On the iPad Pro graphics are superimposed over the model showing not only a realistic aerial view of the campus but also showing various bits of information relating to the design of the ring building such as how the ring building is designed in a way to take advantage of the environment (wind, etc.) to cool itself in an ecologically friendly manner.

The next stop was the Apple Garage, which is the garage at the house in which Steve Jobs grew up. It is commonly considered the birthplace of Apple. Steve Wozniak (Apple co-founder) has said that this is a bit of a romanticized myth, but it was still great to see.

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Next came the Computer History Museum, a truly amazing museum with items covering the entire history of computers. From the abacus to mainframes and supercomputers to the current day smartphone, the items on display are truly astonishing. Below are some photos and descriptions of some of the items on display.

Numerous Abacuses on display, one of the oldest forms of calculation tools.

A variety of mechanical calculation machines.

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A Curta Calculator, also known as the Pepper Grinder Calculator. One of the most advanced handheld mechanical calculators ever created.

A Selection of IBM Mainframe Equipment.

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A model of ENIAC, the world’s first general-purpose computer.

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A Selection of Fortran Programming Books and Promotional Material.

A PDP-1 Display, Spacewar! one of the first video games ever was programmed on and ran on the PDP-1.

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A 486 DX motherboard.

A display showing the advancement of transistors, microprocessors, silicon wafers, and Moore’s Law.

Various Robots on display. Including expensive toys, industrial robots, and research robots.

Numerous bizarre and unusual computer peripherals on display.

Video and computer gaming displays, with various consoles and games on display.

Apple I, Apple II, Apple Lisa, and Original Macintosh computers.

IBM PC Model 5150 and an Altair 8800.

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A boxed copy of Windows 1.0.

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The NeXTcube workstation from NeXt Computers. NeXt computers were founded by Steve Jobs after leaving Apple in 1985, and Next Computers were acquired by Apple when Steve Jobs rejoined Apple in 1997. The NeXTStep Operating system became the foundation for Mac OSX.

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Waymo Self-Driving Car.

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A scale model of the Mars Rover.

World of Warcraft exhibition.

An exhibition showing the rise of MP3s and the rise and fall of Napster.

The next stop after the Computer History Museum was the Googleplex, the massive headquarters of Google. The Googleplex, which is mostly open to the public, has various significant things to see, such as the Android Statue Lawn, where retired Android statues representing previous versions of the mobile operating system are on display. From volleyball courts to Massive Statues to vegetable gardens, it is easy to see why the Google Campus has a reputation as the best working environment. Here are a few photos of the Googleplex.

The last stop in Silicon Valley was Stanford University, a University that amongst its alumni has various famous people. Stanford has a beautiful Campus, as can be seen in the photos below.

A Tour of Silicon Valley

BOOK REVIEW – EVERY TOOL’S A HAMMER: LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT BY ADAM SAVAGE

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Every tool’s a hammer is an amazing and slightly strange book, being a part how-to guide, part biography, and part philosophical. In short, it is a book about the journey Adam Savage undertook to become a maker.

The story starts with Adam’s first creations as a child, then continues through his time as a theater set builder to working for Industrial Lights and Magic, to Mythbusters and eventually becoming one of the worlds best-known celebrity Makers.

Throughout this illustrious career, Adam’s philosophies of learning and gaining additional skills is very apparent, showing the true value of being a polymath, something I also strive for personally. Except for collecting skills, Adam is also a collector of things, these things range vastly in category and type, from film props to Curta calculators, he has a genuine love for these objects and the stories they carry with them.

The book also has various how-to sections, covering things like different kinds of glues and their uses, to tools, to workshop setup and different crafting materials.

I found Every tool’s a hammer to be an inspiring book that fueled my creative flame and filled me with the need to start making something new. This book is a must-read for any fans of Adam Savage and Makers of any kind.

BOOK REVIEW – EVERY TOOL’S A HAMMER: LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT BY ADAM SAVAGE

MOVIE REVIEW – BATMAN VS TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

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Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a 2019 DC animated movie based on the comic book miniseries Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles written by James Tynion IV and drawn by Freddie Williams II.

This movie is a great deal of fun and is more light-hearted than many other DC animated movies. The version of the Turtles in this movie is a mix between the 1987 cartoon and the Turtles from the comic books by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, keeping the colored face masks from the cartoon but being significantly more violent as in the comic books. It is worth reiterating that Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a lot more violent than the cartoon show, with the Turtles drawing blood in fights and Shredder killing quite a few people, the foot soldiers are also people like in the comic books and not robots as they where in the cartoon.

There are numerous homages to the 1987 cartoon in the movie, such as a scene from the cartoon shows opening sequence recreated in the movie, as shown in the screengrabs below.

Without spoiling the story, it centers around Shredder and Ra’s al Ghul teaming up to execute some evil plan and Batman teaming up with the Turtles to stop them. A great selection of Batman’s rogue gallery makes an appearance, such as the Penguin, Bane, Mr. Freez, Harley Quinn, Two-Face, Scarecrow, and the Joker,  and some of them even get a unique TMNT twist. There are some truly amazing scenes with these villains, like when Leonardo is exposed to Scarecrows fear toxin, or when Bane tries to break Donatello’s back the same way he broke Batmans back (It didn’t work out so well for Bane, with Donatello having a shell).

There is also an epic scene where the Batmobile drives side by side with the Turtle Van and another great sequence where the Turtle Van fires manhole covers painted like pizzas, a reference to the 1989 Pizza Thrower Toy.

The voice cast does a fantastic job with Troy Baker voicing Batman as well as the Joker, and although he does an amazing job and has performed these roles before, he never quite reaches the levels of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill.

This movie is a joy to watch, and both fans of Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will love it. It is one of my favorite DC animated movies and one of the most enjoyable movies I have watched this year. Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes highly recommended and is a must-watch for fans of either of the title characters. And to finish off, it is worth mentioning there is a post-credit scene that might hint at a sequel…

MOVIE REVIEW – BATMAN VS TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

3D PRINTING REVIEW – CCTREE CARBON FIBRE PLA FILAMENT AND 3D PRINTER UPGRADES

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The CCTREE Carbon Fibre PLA filament is a 1.75mm PLA filament infused with Carbon Fibre, resulting in a filament that can produce prints that are much stronger than standard PLA. This filament is thus ideal for high-wear and load-bearing prints.

This higher durability does come at two significant tradeoffs. Firstly CCTREE Carbon Fibre filament costs approximately double what CCTREE standard PLA filament costs. Secondly and probably the largest problem with this filament is that it experiences significant bowing as it cools compared to standard PLA filament.

This bowing can result in prints separating from the print bed, which occurred more than once during my testing, and below is a picture of the consequences of one of these bed adhesion failures.

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I found that the Carbon Fibre filament worked best when printing smaller items as the bowing occurred much less on a small surface area.

Here is a picture of some items I printed using the Carbon Fibre filament to upgrade my Wanhao Duplicator i3 Mini.

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On the left in the image is a filament guide that prevents the filament from grazing against the printer body and ensures smooth filament movement. On the right are bed stabilizers that prevent unwanted bed movements that result from slight shifts in the bed leveling springs.

I also printed a tool caddy using the Carbon Fibre filament, and this was the largest item I printed successfully using the filament. Here are some photos of the tool caddy.

As can be seen in the Wanhao logo on the tool caddy a good level of detail is possible using the CTREE Carbon Fibre filament. Also note that all prints required minimal cleanup, with little to no stringing occurring.

Here are a few pictures of the upgrades installed.

The CCTREE Carbon Fibre PLA filament is a very useful filament for printing functional parts that require a level of robustness not offered by PLA, but it does require more care and tweaking to print successfully. It is an excellent filament, just not one for beginners.

On a side note, I recently installed a silicon sock on my printer’s hot end. This is a simple and inexpensive upgrade that offer numerous benefits such as helping to keep the hot end temperature constant and keeping the hot end clean. It also a safety measure and prevents burns from accidentally touching the hot end. It is definitely a worthwhile upgrade considering the minimal investment required.

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3D PRINTING REVIEW – CCTREE CARBON FIBRE PLA FILAMENT AND 3D PRINTER UPGRADES

REVIEW – CORSAIR IRONCLAW RGB WIRELESS GAMING MOUSE

The Corsair IronClaw RGB Wireless Gaming Mouse is the first wireless gaming mouse I have used in over seven years, and the main reason for this is that the input delay traditionally associated with wireless mice have been a deal-breaker for myself, overshadowing any of the benefits associated with wireless mice. However, various manufacturers have now developed technologies to overcome this latency, with Corsair’s solution being their 2.4GHz wireless slipstream technology (implemented using their included USB receiver), which promises sub-1-millisecond latency on par with wired gaming mice. I cannot verify the exact accuracy of this latency promise, but I can say that comparing it to the Razer Mamba Tournament Edition wired gaming mouse that there is absolutely no noticeable difference.

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Here is a technical specification breakdown of the Corsair IronClaw RGB wireless:

IronClaw Wireless
Year Released 2019
DPI Adjustable up to 18000dpi
Buttons 10
Connectivity 2.4GHz Slipstream, Bluetooth, Wired USB
Weight 130g
Sensor Optical PMW3391
Additional Features

RGB (iCue configurable)

Omron Mechanical Switches

Battery Rechargeable Lithium-Polymer

Given all the features above it is surprising that the IronClaw wireless is priced at a very reasonable $80 (USD).

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The RGB lighting on the mouse has 3 independent zones with clear and crisps colors, with various predefined as well as completely customizable lighting options available.

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The promised battery life using slipstream and RGB lighting enabled is 16 hours, which is very close to accurate based on my experience and 24 hours with RGB turned off. Using Bluetooth a battery life of up to 50 hours is possible.

The Corsair IronClaw Wireless Mouse overcomes the latency issues traditionally associated with wireless mice while offering good battery life, great mechanical switches and freeing the user of the annoyances of a mouse cable. The IronClaw is a joy to use, and of all the RGB control software applications offered by the different manufacturers, I find iCue by far the least annoying.

The IronClaw Wiress is a great mouse and I highly recommend it, I use it every day and it is one of the most comfortable gaming mice on the market for anyone who prefers a palm grip.

REVIEW – CORSAIR IRONCLAW RGB WIRELESS GAMING MOUSE

3D PRINTING REVIEW – CCTREE METALIFIED COPPER FILAMENT

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CCTREE Metalfied filaments are PLA based filaments blended with high-sheen particles in various metallic colors that result in 3d prints that have a polished metal finish.  It is important to note that this is not a metal-infused filament, such as Bronzefil, which contains the actual metal in question, but rather a PLA filament with a metallic appearance, resulting in a filament that is much easier to print compared to the metal-infused filaments.

The Metalfied filament we will be looking at is the Copper variation.

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I have previously reviewed the normal PLA and Wood CCTree filaments and found them to be of exceptional quality at a very reasonable price, and with the Metalfied Copper filament once again I was not disappointed. The filament prints exactly like normal PLA filaments, and a great level of detail is possible as shown in the photos below:

For reference here are the Cura settings utilized for the prints above:

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As can be seen in the photos of the 3d prints a shiny metallic finish is achieved that looks remarkably similar to polished copper. The filament is an absolute breeze to print with and the end results are beautiful.

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I would highly recommend this filament to anyone who is looking for a metallic finish and is not quite ready or willing to undertake the more difficult task of printing with a metal-infused filament.

3D PRINTING REVIEW – CCTREE METALIFIED COPPER FILAMENT

REVIEW – LUXCOMS RGB SOFT GAMING MOUSE PAD

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The Luxcoms RGB soft gaming mouse pad is an inexpensive, yet surprisingly good RGB extended mouse mat. The mouse mat measures in at 80cm x 30cm, and has a smooth and soft surface which allows for effortless and low friction mouse movement and also has minimal visible branding, with the Luxcoms logo only appearing on the control box.  Additionally, the mouse mat has a rubberized back to prevent it from slipping while in use. The mat surface quality is amazing and is easily comparable to the Razer Goliathus I previously used.

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 The RGB comes by way of a thin RGB LED tubing sewn around the perimeter of the mat, which offers bright and vivid colors with no visible dim spots.  The RGB lighting is controlled via a button on the control box on the upper left corner of the mouse mat, which cycles through the nine available lighting modes, seven of which are different static colors and the remaining two being variations of a rainbow effect (breathing and wave). The mouse mat does remember the RGB setting selected if it is powered off.

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 The mouse mat utilized no software whatsoever and simply requires power via a micro-USB port located on the control box.

The Luxcoms RGB soft gaming mouse pad is available on Amazon for $22 (USD) which is extremely reasonable for a mouse mat of this quality.

This mouse mat is a very easy recommendation for the price and should be a serious consideration for anyone interested in an RGB extended mouse mat.

REVIEW – LUXCOMS RGB SOFT GAMING MOUSE PAD