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 some were 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

BOOK REVIEW – EFFECTIVE PROGRAMMING MORE THAN WRITING CODE BY JEFF ATWOOD

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Jeff Atwood is somewhat of a celebrity in software development and programming circles, he along with Joel Spolsky are the founders of StackOverflow.com, a question and answer website all programmers and software engineers must be familiar with.

The book, initially published in 2012, is constructed from posts on Jeff Atwood’s blog, CodingHorror.com. The posts are sorted into different sections based on an overall theme, for example, hiring programmers, workspace setup, code testing, etc. Thus, making for a coherent and flowing reading experience.  This is where the value of this book opposed to reading all these posts on his blog for free comes in, a more convenient reading experience.

Effective Programming More than Writing Code is one of the best and one of my favorite books on the topic of software development, it is a must-read for anyone who is a professional software developer, and personally, I have read through it numerous times over the years. The book is an easy, quick read and a vast amount of great ideas and concepts are communicated that will keep you thinking long after you have stopped reading.

There are however a few problems with this book, firstly in the print version there are quite a few printing errors where the top line of the page is cut off, this is present on 2 pages in my copy. This is not a problem in the electronic version available on the Kindle store.

Secondly, as this book was constructed from blog posts, numerous hyperlinks and embedded videos are present, which obviously do not work in a printed format. This is, however, more of an annoyance than a problem as this does not hinder the concept being communicated.

Even given these problems, I would still highly recommend this book. So, if you work in or are interested in software development, pick it up.

BOOK REVIEW – EFFECTIVE PROGRAMMING MORE THAN WRITING CODE BY JEFF ATWOOD

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

3D PRINTING REVIEW – CCTREE PLA AND WOOD FILAMENT

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CCTREE PLA Filament

The CCTree PLA filament we will be looking at today is the 1.75mm diameter variety, but it is also available in 3mm. The filament is available in a wide variety of colors, around 25 colors, and is sold in 1kg spools.

The experience with this filament has been great, producing very good quality prints with a great level of detail and only minimal 3D printed object cleanup required after printing.

 During printing the filament has minimal stringing, if any at all, and I have never had a print fail because of a filament issue using CCTREE PLA filament.

CCTREE PLA filament is a very easy filament to print with and offers great value being one of the less expensive filaments available. I would highly recommend this filament for novices and experienced 3D print enthusiasts alike.

CCTREE Wood Filament

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CCTREE Wood filament is a 1.75mm diameter filament consisting of a mixture of PLA plastic and wood fibers that produces prints with a slightly rough wood-like finish, similar to Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF), that can be sanded and stained in a similar way to wood.

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This filament is slightly more challenging to print with and is more prone to stringing (due to the wood fibers) and larger flat surfaces are prone to slight bowing as the print cools down.

It is still however possible to produce prints with a great level of detail, it just requires an extra bit of cleanup and finishing.

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During printing, this filament gives off a subtle wood-like odor.

The CCTREE Wood filament is more expensive than their PLA filament, costing approximately double the price.

This filament is great for prints that benefit from a more natural wood-like finish (for example a baby Groot) and the end result looks fantastic. This is a great filament but is probably not the best choice for a 3D printing newbie to get started with.

 

CCTree filaments offer great quality and value for money, the filaments are available in a wide variety of colors and options and they come highly recommended.

3D PRINTING REVIEW – CCTREE PLA AND WOOD FILAMENT

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

REVIEW – RAZER KIYO WEBCAM

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The Razer Kiyo is a USB webcam that retails for around $100. It is capable of 720p video at 60fps and 1080p at 30fps.

The main differentiating feature of the Razer Kiyo compared to other webcams is that the Kiyo has an integrated LED light ring (with adjustable brightness) and this makes a huge difference to the image quality captured by the webcam.

As with most Razer products it is configured and controlled with Razer Synapse, where things like brightness, contrast, saturation, white balance and auto\manual focus can be configured.

The Razer Kiyo has a strong streaming focus and is fully compatible with Open Broadcast Software (OBS) and Xsplit.

The Kiyo does however have two shortcomings, firstly the auto focus is not well implemented, and continuously refocuses for even the slightest movement, resulting in the auto focus being pretty much unusable. The second shortcoming is that the built-in microphone is not great, this is however a very common problem with webcams.

Even with these shortfalls the Razer Kiyo is a compact and convenient solution compared to alternative camera\lighting solutions. It is a good all in one solution as long as you use manual focus and an external microphone.

REVIEW – RAZER KIYO WEBCAM

REVIEW – CORSAIR HS70 WIRELESS GAMING HEADSET

The Corsair HS70 is a wireless headset which features virtual 7.1 surround sound using 50mm drivers in a closed back design. The headset connects to your PC using an included USB dongle and utilises a 2.4GHz low latency wireless connection.

Additional features of the headset include on ear controls, a detachable microphone and an advertised battery life of 16 hours (although my experience was closer to 12 hours), all of which makes the HS70 a very alluring offer at a retail, price of approximately $100.

The headset is extremely comfortable and the build quality is good. Sound quality is also exceptionally good for a wireless headset, and this is from someone who normally avoids wireless headsets and uses professional grade wired studio headphones that cost about 6 times more than the HS70. The microphone quality is also good and delivers crisp and clear quality sound.

In closing, the Corsair HS70 is a great wireless headset at a great price.

REVIEW – CORSAIR HS70 WIRELESS GAMING HEADSET

The Dark Art of DevOps (and how Azure DevOps fits in)

Here is a Post n wrote for my Companies blog, originally posted here.

DevOps has become a hot topic in organisations over the past year or so. However, there seems to be a lot of confusion regarding what DevOps actually entails. So, what is DevOps?

If you asked a more sales-inclined individual, you may get a response along the lines of: DevOps digitally transforms an organisation’s development department by bridging the gap between development and operations, resulting in higher quality solutions, fewer bugs, quicker delivery times, shorter recovery times, and controlling scope creep.”

This sounds amazing! However, it does not answer the question as to what DevOps really is. So, I will be taking a different approach to delve into what DevOps entails.

DevOps is based on the principal of continuous improvements in the Software Development Lifecycle, and consists of principles, practices and tools that allow an organisation’s development department to deliver projects at a high velocity, while maintaining quality and continuously improving the process associated with delivery. This is where Azure DevOps comes in. Azure DevOps is a selection of tools that facilitate the implementation of DevOps within an organisation.

DevOps consists of five main pillars (which are supported by processes, practices and tools), namely:

1. Plan and Track

This involves planning what development work needs to be completed and tracking progress against that. The tool Azure DevOps offers here is Azure Boards.

2. Develop

This is where your software developers write code and store that code. In the Azure DevOps ecosystem, the tools that used here are Visual Studio, Visual Studio Code and Azure Repos as a source code repository.

3. Build and Test

Automated builds and testing are a very important part of DevOps, as this automation frees up valuable resource time to focus on more imperative tasks. Automated builds can be set up to trigger new builds (compiling source code into executable programs) based on certain criteria (for example, “once a day”), and automated tests can then be run to verify that everything is working as expected without the intervention of a person.  Azure Pipelines and Azure Test Plans are the tools utilized here.

4. Deploy

The next step is Automated Deploy – first to a UAT\Test environment and eventually to production. Doing deploys in this manner prevents unwanted changes being accidentally deployed from a developer’s machine and introduces additional controls to only deploy what is wanted and limiting the introduction of problems.  By automating the deployment of systems deployment times are also drastically reduced and thus system down time is reduced. Azure Release Management is the Azure DevOps tool used to automate deployments.

5. Monitor and Operate

After a system has been deployed, it needs to be monitored and operational activities need to be performed to ensure it is up and running and running optimally. Azure Monitor and Application Insights are the tools available in the Azure DevOps tool-belt for this.

With the tools provided by Microsoft Azure DevOps, as well as industry tried and tested principles, the above five pillars can dramatically improve the operations and output of a development department while driving down operational costs.

Now that we understand what DevOps is and how it works, what outcomes can we expect from mastering the 5 pillars?

  • Better quality solutions
  • Quicker delivery times
  • Fewer bugs
  • Shorter recovery times to resolve bugs
  • Prevents uncontrolled scope creep
  • Improved collaboration and agility in teams
  • Better cross-skilling in teams
  • More automation
The Dark Art of DevOps (and how Azure DevOps fits in)

GETTING STARTED IN 3D PRINTING

Over the last few years various 3D printers have entered the market at significantly lower price points than ever seen before, making 3D printing more accessible to a much larger group of people. One of the companies producing these lower cost 3D printers is Wanhao and I have been using one of their printers, the Wanhao Duplicator i3 Mini, over the last two months.

The Duplicator i3 Mini is a compact PLA optimized 3D printer, weighing just 7kg, with a print volume of 120mmx135mmx100mm. The i3 Mini is extremely easy to get up and running and setup, it comes completely assembled and all the user needs to do to start printing is plug it in and manually level its print bed which takes a few minutes following the included instructions.

The printer ships with an included 1GB SD card with various printable models preloaded on it, so the user can simply insert the SD card and print as soon as the printer is setup. Below are a few photos of one of these models, a little dragon.

The little dragon was printed using CCTree 1.75mm PLA filament.

I use Cura for 3D print slicing, which is the process of converting 3D models into 3D printable formats. Configuring your slicing application correctly for your 3D printer is extremely important and getting this wrong will result in failed prints. Configuring your slicing application involves setting values inside the slicing application that relates to the characteristics of your 3D Printer, for example print volume, nozzle size, filament diameter, print speed and so on. The values for these settings can be found in the printers’ documentation or by simply googling the printer in question and the splicing application that needs to be configured.

Here are some lessons I have learnt so far in 3D printing which might help anyone new to the process:

– Make sure filament diameter is configured correctly, getting this wrong will result in prints failing rather spectacularly.

– Infill is important, but far less is required than most people think, reducing the infill percentage of a print not only reduces the amount of filament used, but also drastically reduces print times.

– When orientating a model for printing in a splicing application, experiment with different orientations and support configurations, sometimes much better results can be achieved with a few minor changes.

– 3D printing is a slow process and takes much longer than most people think.

– Don’t be scared of getting things wrong and having prints fail, it is inevitable and great learnings can be gained from failures.

I will be posting more in the future about my experiences and learnings in 3D printing, but for now I will leave you with a few photos of something else I printed, a USB\SD card holder, which came out great.

GETTING STARTED IN 3D PRINTING