reviews

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

Review: Sony 20mm f/2.8 E-mount pancake lens SEL20F28

I've been primarily a Nikon shooter for all my digital SLR life; I started on film with some compact cameras and a Minolta X-700, but switched to Nikon starting with a D40, working my way up through the years to a D750 today. I love Nikon glass, I love the ergonomics, and I am very used to SLR photography and all it entails.

But after witnessing the steady rise in mirrorless camera popularity, I decided to start testing the waters with a Sony a6000. And one of the major benefits (at least in my usage) is that if you choose an APS-C system like the Sony a6xxx series, you can (in theory) have a more compact camera system that performs as well as larger SLR brethren.

In practice, you get what you pay for in terms of weight. The physics of light dictate that fast, good lenses will be pretty much the same size on whatever mount you use, and there are always some 'sweet spots' for compactness vs. performance on any kind of camera lens mount.

Dell XPS 13 (9360) Review from a lifelong Mac user

I've used Macs as my primary computing devices my entire life. And though I continue to use a Mac for my primary workstation for both work and personal projects, my use of computers has evolved in the past few years quite a bit. With more of my stuff moving into the cloud and fewer software applications being exclusively tied to macOS or Windows, it's given me more freedom to do some amount of work from a tablet (currently iPad Air 2), Mac (currently 2015 (work) or 2016 (personal) MacBook Pro), and even my old PC laptop (a Lenovo T420 that I used mostly for testing).

After lugging the T420 with me to an open source conference a couple weeks ago, I decided I'd finally go ahead and acquire a modern, Ultrabook-style Windows laptop, and looking around at options for an open source developer more comfortable in Linux than Windows 10, I narrowed it down to:

The ASUS Tinker Board is a compelling upgrade from a Raspberry Pi 3 B+

I've had a long history playing around with Raspberry Pis and other Single Board Computers (SBCs); from building a cluster of Raspberry Pis to run Drupal, to building a distributed home temperature monitoring system with Raspberry Pis, I've spent a good deal of time testing the limits of an SBC, and also finding ways to use their strengths to my advantage.

ASUS Tinker Board SBC

Raspberry Pi 3 B+ Review and Performance Comparison

Three generations of Raspberry Pi - model 2 B, model 3 B, model 3 B+
Three generations of multi-core Pi: model 2 B, model 3 B, model 3 B+

Whether it's been a 6-node Raspberry Pi cluster running Drupal 8, or a distributed home temperature monitoring application, I use Raspberry Pis for a wide variety of fun projects. The Raspberry Pi model 3 B+ is the latest iteration of the 'top of the line' Pi, with all the bells and whistles, and it still comes in at just $35. This year's iteration improves the CPU frequency, wired LAN performance, and WiFi performance, among other smaller changes, and I ordered one and have taken it for a spin.

What follows are my benchmarks and impressions after a couple weeks poking and prodding the new model 3 B+.

Review: Arc Hub USB-C Adapter

August 2017 update: I just noticed the tech specs on the Arc Hub product page have changed to read: "Arc Hub comes with 1 x Mini Display Port 1.2. Capable resolutions are all HiDPI resolutions, 1080p@60hz, 2560 x 1440 @ 60hz, 3840×2160@30hz." The tech specs used to mention 4K at 60Hz 🤔.

original tl;dr: A capable hub, with some slight design flaws. However, not yet recommended if you want to use it with a 4K monitor, due to compatibility issues with higher refresh rates.

When I bought my 2016 MacBook Pro, I expected a lot of changes. Since I picked the function key model over the more port-laden, but much worse-for-me Touch Bar model, I knew that there would be some growing shrinking pains, going from a generous assortment of five ports on my MacBook Air to two (!) USB-C ports on the MacBook Pro.

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