reviews

Kubuntu Focus M2 Linux laptop review and MacBook Pro comparison

A few months ago, I replaced my Core i9 MacBook Pro with a Raspberry Pi 4 model B with 8GB of RAM for a day, and I made a video and a blog post about the experience.

Obviously there's a vast difference between a new Core i9 laptop with 32 GB of RAM, a dedicated GPU, and a 2 terabytes of fast storage and a tiny Raspberry Pi running ARM. So it wasn't a fair fight, but I could do a lot of things well enough, and every generation of Pi has gotten better.

Kubuntu Focus M2 Linux laptop

A few weeks ago, someone from Mindshare Management asked me if I'd like to do the same test, but this time with an almost one-for-one replacement laptop: the new Kubuntu Focus M2.

Review video: Check out the video that goes along with this review:

The Raspberry Pi 4 has a fan now - the Case Fan

Last year, I wrote a blog post titled The Raspberry Pi 4 needs a fan.

And in a video to go along with that post, I detailed the process of drilling out a hole in the top of the official Pi 4 case and installing a 5v fan inside.

Raspberry Pi 4 Case with Fan drilled into top of case

But that solution wasn't great. The fan was a little loud and annoying, and would stay on constantly. And who wants to damage the nice-looking Pi Case by putting a hole right in the top?

The Raspberry Pi 400 - Teardown and Review

Today Raspberry Pi Trading announced the Raspberry Pi 400, the latest in the series of small education-focused computers that started with the original Raspberry Pi in 2012.

For years, people have come up with creative ways to hack a Pi into keyboards, like the Original Pi in an old Mitsumi keyboard, or the Pi 3 A+ in an official Pi Keyboard.

But the Pi 400 delivers something many have desired: an official Pi 4 board built right into a Pi Keyboard, in a space- and performance-efficient way.

Raspberry Pi 400 Back Ports - Hero

The Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 Review

Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4

Introduction

Six years ago, the Raspberry Pi Foundation introduced the Compute Module: a teensy-tiny version of the popular Raspberry Pi model B board.

Between then and now, there have been multiple revisions to the Compute Module, like the 3+ I used in my Raspberry Pi Cluster YouTube series, but they've all had the same basic form factor and a very limited feature set.

But today, that all changes with the fourth generation of the compute module, the Compute Module 4! Here's a size comparison with the previous-generation Compute Module 3+, some other common Pi models, and an SD and microSD card (remember when the original Pi used a full-size SD card?):

Review: Nikon Z50

I've been shooting Nikon DSLRs since the D40 came out, and currently shoot with D700 and D750 FX bodies which have served me well for years.

In the past, I've rented a Z6—Nikon's first foray into pro-level mirrorless cameras—for a couple events, and I also own a Sony a6000 and have rented a Sony A7iii for a couple events. I have been very interested in the relentless march of technology in photography. From a couple old nice film bodies I started with, to the earliest digital cameras which had terrible IQ but the ability to instantly review and share photos, to DSLRs which quickly surpassed the quality of 35mm film photography, it has been an eventful 25 years.

The Raspberry Pi 4 might not need a fan anymore

tl;dr: After the fall 2019 firmware/bootloader update, the Raspberry Pi 4 can run without throttling inside a case—but only just barely. On the other extreme, the ICE Tower by S2Pi lives up to its name.

Raspberry Pi 4 cooling options including ICE tower cooling fan and a case mod fan
Three options for keeping the Pi 4 cozy: unmodified Pi 4 case, modded case with fan, and the ICE Tower.

A few months ago, I was excited to work on upgrading some of my Raspberry Pi projects to the Raspberry Pi 4; but I found that for the first time, it was necessary to use a fan to actively cool the Pi if used in a case.

Two recent developments prompted me to re-test the Raspberry Pi 4's thermal properties:

Review: Choetech T535-S Dual Wireless Qi Charger

After holding onto a dying iPhone 7 for as long as I could, I finally decided to trade it in and upgrade to the now-current iPhone XS early this summer. When I upgraded, I was mainly hoping for a better screen, camera, and battery life. Outside of those three features, I don't care much, as the iPhone 7 met my needs very well.

The XS does well on all three counts, but one new feature (I think in the iPhone 8/X generation) I didn't even remember existed was wireless charging. Qi wireless charging allows devices to be charged inductively, placed on top of a charging mat or pad. The standard has been around for a while, and other devices had it before Apple's iPhones, but I never thought much of it.

Well, a few months ago, someone at Choetech emailed me and asked me if I'd like to try out their T535-S Dual Wireless Qi Charger in exchange for an honest review (which you're now reading). I was about to respond I don't have any devices I could test it with, but then realized my new iPhone would actually do it!

Review: AUKEY Mechanical Keyboard Blue Switch with RGB Backlighting

This is a review of the AUKEY 'Blue Switch' mechanical keyboard, available for a little over $50 on Amazon.

AUKEY closeup of RGB blue keycap mechanical gaming keyboard

For years, I've used the various versions of Apple's USB and Bluetooth keyboards, mostly because they lasted forever (I still have a couple spares that have most of the home row letters worn off), and they're pretty comfortable for my typing style. Also, they're pretty quiet. And the switches are robust. And the body is sturdy aluminum so there's no flexing while typing (a lot of plasticky keyboards have that problem).

Review: Night soccer with the Nikon 300mm f/2.8 VR II

There are a few events every year which I'm privileged to be asked to photograph, and one of them is the annual Souls and Goals soccer cup, a soccer match between priests and seminarians in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

This soccer match is held on a (usually very cold) night in November, at a stadium with less-than-stellar lighting. For last year's game, I rented a Nikon D500 (D500 review here, and used it with my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens (roughly 300mm equivalent on the D500 body). It was very nice, and the focus system on the D500 (borrowed from the penultimate sports DSLR, the D5) is second-to-none.

But I wasn't thrilled with the low-light performance on the D500. And I wanted to try something new this year. So I rented monster lens—the Nikon 300mm f/2.8 VR II:

Review: Wosports Trail Camera for Hunting and Wildlife

For the past few years, I've been tweaking a few different camera rigs for wildlife and outdoor photography. I have set up a few different time-lapse rigs using my Raspberry Pis with Pi Cameras, and I've set up my Nikon D750 in a few different ways with its built-in intervalometer, or with a wireless remote.

This is great, but I've always wanted to set up the Pi with an infrared Pi Camera, as well as a motion sensor, so I could capture wildlife at night. I know there are some animals that peruse the seeds in our yard around the bird feeders, but it's well nigh impossible to capture them with my other non-infrared cameras... and they tend to come out when I'm asleep.

Wosports contacted me and asked if I'd like a discount on their 'Trail Camera' to give it a test, and I thought it was a great opportunity to check out the basic/low-end of trail cameras, so I took them up on the offer.

Wosports Trail Camera