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

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

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

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

DESK TOUR

After a few posts with photos of my desk, I have received a few questions and requests to do a post regarding my desk setup, so here is a quick desk tour.

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As can be seen in the photos above I run two 27-inch monitors, for a secondary monitor I use the Dell SE2717H, a 75Hz 1080P FreeSync monitor, and for a primary display, I use the Dell S2716DG, a 144Hz 1440p G-Sync monitor.

The full specs of the PC can be found in a previous post here, with only a few minor changes since then that I will cover now.

The first change made was replacing the standard plastic backplate of the Corsair H150i Pro with an all metal one, as can be seen in the image below:

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The plastic backplate that came with the H150i never felt completely stable, and with the new metal backplate, the whole mounting feels much more robust. This backplate is available from Amazon. While replacing the backplate, I also replaced the thermal paste that came pre-applied with the AIO cooler with Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut. This process resulted in the CPU temperatures dropping by approximately 2-3°C.

The next thing that changed was the addition of a Corsair Lighting Node Pro and RGB Strips, as well as a storage upgrade with an additional 4TB Western Digital Blue drive, total storage is now 17.5 TB consisting of 500GB NVMe storage, 1TB SSD storage and 16 TB spinning disk storage of which 4 TB is accelerated with 32GB Intel Optane Memory.

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As the case front panel, Corsair AIO and the Corsair Lighting Node Pro requires USB 2 headers and my motherboard only has two, this resulted in a problem which was solved by installing an NXZT Internal USB Hub.

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I also added Phanteks Halos to my AIO fans, that was covered in a previous post here.

The final change was the switching out of the MSI Gaming X GTX 1080 with the Zotac RTX 2080 Amp Extreme.

The only additional change that might happen in the short term is the addition of a PSU shroud.

Now that we have covered the PC let us get back to the rest of the desk.

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The photo above shows that on each side of the primary monitor there is a speaker, they are Samson studio monitors, the MediaOne BT3. The microphone I use can be seen on top of one of the speakers, the Samson Meteor USB Studio Microphone. And the webcam used is the Razer Kiyo, which is set up on top of the primary monitor.

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On the back of both the monitors and desk, RGB strips have been mounted and the remote to control them is stored in a custom 3D printed housing under the desk.

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Various figures decorate my desk, most of them made by Funko, but somewhere 3D Printed.

From a peripheral perspective, I use the Corsair K70 MK2 mechanical keyboard and Razer Mamba Tournament Edition mouse (although I am considering replacing the Razer Mamba TE with the new Corsair IronClaw Wireless RGB mouse). Both the keyboard and mouse are on top of the Razer Goliathus Extended Speed Edition Mouse Pad. For a controller, I use an Xbox One controller, the Volcano Shadow Special Edition, which is kept out of the way when not in use by Vault Boy.

I use two headphones, one Wireless Gaming Headset, the Corsair HS70, and one wired professional studio headphones, the Samson Z55. I have a Silicon Headphone Anker under the desk to store these headphones when they are not in use.

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I store a precision screwdriver set under the primary monitor for easy access, the Xiaomi Wiha Precision Aluminum Screwdriver set.

My VR Headset and controller are stored on top of the pc case, it is the Lenovo Explorer Windows Mixed Reality Headset. This was covered in a post here.

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I have 3D printed a cable box, for easier access when plugging in the VR Headset.

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Lastly, behind the second monitor is where my 3D Printer is located, the Wanhao i3 Mini.

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DESK TOUR

REVIEW – Phanteks Halos Digital RGB Frame

The Phanteks Halos Digital RGB Frame is an ingenious solution for adding RGB to any non-RGB fans. This is especially useful if you have existing high-performance fans and do not want to pay a very expensive fee just to replace them with an RGB equivalent.

The Halos is available for 120mm and 140mm fans and we will be looking at the 120mm model here.

It is worth noting that the Halos can be used with fans of any colour, the colours do however show best on lighter colour fans.

The Halos frames have the required connections to be daisy chained and multiple Halos frames can thus be powered and controlled with a single controller connection. The Halos Digital requires a 3-pin digital RGB connection to be connected to your system and it is worth noting that certain motherboards do have onboard digital RGB controllers, as is the case with my motherboard the MSI MEG Z390 Godlike which has two digital RGB connectors JRGBRAINBOW1 and JRGBRAINBOW2,  the HALOS does however not come with the required cable to use this kind of connections and this must be ordered separately. Alternatively, a Phanteks Digital RGB controller can be used in the event your motherboard lacks digital RGB functionality.

The Halos is compatible with both Asus Aura and MSI Mystic Light for RGB Synchronization across your entire system.  In my case, I use MSI Mystic Light and it works perfectly.

I used the Halos Frames on the Corsair ML120 fans on my Corsair H150i All-in-One Watercooler and the end result looked great, the fans blend in very nicely with the Corsair LL140 RGB fans I use for case cooling.

Here is a before photo:

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And here is a photo with the Halos installed:

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Phanteks Halos Digital RGB Frame is a relatively inexpensive way of adding great looking RGB effect to non-RGB fans, it is a great product and comes recommended if you are looking to add a bit of colour to your system without breaking the bank.

REVIEW – Phanteks Halos Digital RGB Frame

REVIEW – CORSAIR K70 MK2 MECHANICAL GAMING KEYBOARD

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The K70 MK2 is a mechanical gaming keyboard available with Cherry MX speed, brown, red, blue and silent switches. The one reviewed here is the blue switch configuration as I prefer a clicky tactile keyboard.

The keyboard comes with a detachable wrist rest which is very comfortable.

Some additional features of the K70 MK2 is an aluminium frame, fully configurable RGB, dedicated media and volume controls, additional key caps for FPS and MOBA games (which are colored and textured differently from the normal key caps), USB pass-through and 100% anti-ghosting full key roll-over.

Due to the aluminium frame the keyboard is very rigid and volume roller is one of the most useful features I have ever used on a keyboard.

The Corsair K70 has a reputation as one of the best keyboards available and it is well deserved, it is the best keyboard I have ever used.

REVIEW – CORSAIR K70 MK2 MECHANICAL GAMING KEYBOARD