A Good USB Microscope for Education and Fun (Plugable USB 2.0 Digital Microscope)

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Even though our son isn’t yet three years old I wanted to go ahead and introduce him to some cool science. I had the idea that a USB microscope might be a fun way. We could look at various things up close, including insects. After reviewing several devices I decided the Plugable USB 2.0 Digital Microscope with Flexible Arm Observation Stand for Windows, Mac, Linux (2MP, 250x Magnification) would be a good choice. With a birthday coming up soon I chose to add it to my wishlist rather than outright buy it though at only $35 it’s a great price. Sure enough, someone bought it as a gift.

The only thing I can’t offer a comment on at this stage is how well it holds up as I’ve only had it for a week. I’m impressed by the simplicity of how it works. The device easily connected to my Mac and instead of requiring the installation of driver software it connected as a standard USB webcam. At this point the only software I’ve used to view and capture images is Apple’s built-in Photobooth app.

The microscope has a built-in LED light with a plastic guard surrounding the camera. To view something up-close one simply holds the guard against whatever is being inspected. The focus is adjusted by twisting the middle, rubber part of the camera assembly.

It’s USB only though it wouldn’t take much effort to connect an HDMI cable to my laptop and send the video to a TV. I’ve only used it on macOS though its supported on multiple operating systems.

Here are some sample images:

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Close-up of the threads in the comforter on our bed, including some dyed strands.

 

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This is the smooth, aluminum shell of my MacBook Air.

 

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Threads in a pair of my pajamas.

 

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High thread-count bedsheet, which normally looks dark blue.

 

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A closeup of the bottom side of one of my feet.

Breath of the Wild: The Man in the High Castle (Entrance Shortcut)

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Note: To pull off this trick you must have acquired Revali’s Gale.

I’ve put several hours into playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. But it’s time to wrap up the core experience so I can move onto other games like Super Mario Odyssey. Earlier this week I completed the two remaining dungeons and over the past night and a half I’ve spent time building up healing items, Ancient Arrows and other inventory items that I guessed would be useful in the final assualt against Hyrule Castle.

But after spending only a short amount of time within one of the lower castle entrances my Hylian Shield broke so I temporarily abandoned my quest and returned to Tarry Town to purchase a replacement. After jumping back to the shrine nearest the castle I decided to try a different approach.

Instead, I ascended to the top of one of the spires guarding the castle boundaries and from there I floated almost to the entrance of the last room with only one short stop on the way. It’s impossible to actually climb the spires but it is possible to stand on the various raised designs that cover their surfaces. By using Revali’s Gale I was able to reach the top with the most difficult aspect simply being the wait-time required for the Gale power to recharge after three uses. I don’t remember the exact number of jumps I used to get to the top but I think it was around four; it required two recharge periods.

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Once at the top I climbed on top of a dead Guardian and from there used Revali’s Gale once again, except this time I aimed for the upper areas of the castle. From the spire that I used I wasn’t quite able to get to the entrance in a single glide. I had to stop on a wall not very far away from the entrance. It was a fortunate spot as it provided cover between two Guardian turrets, one above and to my left and the other off to my right and lower than where I was. I still had another use of Revali’s Gale before a recharge so I used it again and glided past the remaining dangers and right into the entrance and hallway to the last room, where the final battle against Gannon begins.

Having not fought my way through the castle I can only assume that this saved me a significant amount of time, as well as inventory.

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Playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for Nintendo Switch

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Note: Minor spoilers about certain items and actions are included here.

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Back in the 1980s I played and beat the original The Legend of Zelda game for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was a fun but challenging game and it’s likely that I used a strategy guide to make it through. Sometime later I tried Zelda II: The Adventure of Link on the NES but it didn’t capture me; I did not care for being pulled into battles without any warning when exploring the overworld map and the side-scrolling was just an odd fit.

With the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) I was sucked into the world of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Just when you think you’ve defeated Gannon you learn that not only did you not beat the game but that there’s a whole other part of the game that was nearly as long as the first. It’s remained one of my favorite Zelda games over the years and I thoroughly enjoyed reliving a slightly different experience on the 3DS with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

In the years since I’ve played the many of the Zelda games at some point, excluding some of the handheld editions. While I’m aware that many may have very high opinions of those games, and I certainly can’t say that they were bad, none have captured my attention for very long and certainly not to the point that I thought I might actually strive to finish those games. I spent several hours enjoying The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess when it was released for the Wii but after complete a handful of dungeons I decided to move on.

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I have discovered that, for me, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a very addictive Zelda game that I expect to finish. I have already put in countless hours within a matter of only a few weeks, typically playing late at night. It’s one of those games where you continuously feel compelled to do “just one more thing” before ending a gaming session.

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The Nintendo Switch: Nostalgia Meets Modern Technology

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Nintendo Switch

First the first time in a while I made a large impulse purchase that frankly I had doubts about whether or not I should have done it. Perhaps the jury is still out on that one but I can say, without any reservation, that the Nintendo Switch is an excellent system. Not only do I recommend it to any long-term fans of Nintendo gaming franchises but I’ll go out on a limb to suggest that perhaps the way this system works is the direction that all other console makers should go, if they’re going to insist on developing and maintaining their own hardware. I’m planning to provide some additional posts about the three games that I currently have and why I think they all represent a great mix of nostalgia and modern technology.

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Fixing GPS and Speed Indicator on a FalconZero F170HD Dashcam

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At the end of December 2015 I started riding with a dashcam in my car. The first dashcam was a TaoTronics Car Dash Cam HD 1080P Wide Angle with G-Sensor WDR Night Mode 2.7″ Screen, which had excellent video quality but earlier this year the battery finally gave out completely and as a result it kept losing settings including the time and date.

In April of this year I decided to repace it with a FalconZero F170HD dashcam. The dashcam has some additional features including a GPS attachment, which the camera uses to generate and save GPS information about each drive as well as displaying the current speed. I’ve managed to record a number of videos worth saving with these devices.

I don’t leave the camera powered when I’m not driving my car (the main reason the battery in the first dashcam died) and this camera also lost all settings a couple of times but strangely enough one of those settings seems to have impacted the speed indicator. It also looked like the GPS itself didn’t seem to be working as the GPS icon was showing an error on the display.

Despite ensuring that the GPS option was set to ON I was still unable to get the speed to display. I even tried checking the GPS attachment connection but nothing seemed to work.

Then suddenly, when I changed the Auto Update Time from off to the correct GMT offset for my area the GPS functions started working again. The speed indicator showed the correct value and the GPS icon was showing that it was enabled. The additional benefit is that since it’s getting the time directly from the GPS signal I no longer have to worry about manually setting the date and time again, whenever the unit is without power for a night or two.

Updated 04/18/2018: Nearly a year later and this dashcam still appears to be working well. I’ve pulled video from it many times and have even made my own, personal compilations of bad driving as well as a couple of time-lapse videos.

Falcon Zero

Replacing a Shark Navigator Power Cord

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OK, this is one of those rare posts in which I’m going to just state that this is a repair that you probably shouldn’t do if you don’t know what you’re doing because if you frak it up you could start a fire or even kill yourself.

But if you are comfortable with electricity and do have some idea of what you’re doing this is a relatively straightforward fix.

A few years ago I purchased a nice Shark Navigator vacuum. At the time we had two dogs. Well, puppies actually, and the same day that I bought the vacuum one of the puppies chewed through the power cord when I stepped away for just a moment. Fortunately it wasn’t plugged in at the time. Unfortunately I could not find a replacement cord and so my only option was to cut out the section from where it connected to the vacuum up to just past the break where the puppy had chewed it. The connection point can be accessed by removing some screws and a plastic plate from the bottom of the cannister along with some additional screws; make sure to reconnect the stripped wire sections properly in there.

Finally, after a few years I was able to find a full-length replacement cord and thus I’m no longer forced to frequently unplug and replug the cord into different locations. The cord for my Shark Navigator model is the HQRP AC Power Cord for Shark Navigator Lift-Away Pro NV355 NV356 NV356K NV357 NV355CS NV356KCS NV356E Upright Vacuum + HQRP Coaster, which cost $17.95 (and an additional $9.95 shipping charge).

Updated 04/18/2018: I haven’t had any problems with the replacement cord. It’s worked great since it was installed.

Kwikset 910 Z-Wave SmartCode Electronic Touchpad Deadbolt

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A while back I decided to purchase a Kwikset 910 Z-Wave SmartCode Electronic Touchpad Deadbolt for one of our properties so I could remotely lock and unlock one of the doors there, which is very useful when you’re trying to sell a house or if Terminix decides to just schedule a day for an inspection without actually confirming that you can be at the property on that day. The 910 currently retails for about $130 though you can find less expensive ones, typically used, on eBay (make sure that it includes the Z-Wave radio module).

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