Operating System

Next Generation Consoles: Will you make the Switch?

I’ve been playing video games for about as long as I can remember. If you’re experience was anything like mine, your first gaming experience was with a Nintendo, or maybe your mom just called your console a Nintendo. The first game I remember playing was Tetris on the Game Boy Color, and now Nintendo is working on their next release.

In late October Nintendo announced their next big release with the following video. [youtube][/youtube]

The Nintendo Switch is taking the next step forward in console gaming. The Switch is a unique hybrid of a powerful home console and a portable gaming system. As seen in the video, the multiplayer capabilities of the console are also available while using it as a handheld console.

Two of the games prominently featured in the video were The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the remastered version of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Both games are open world games, and boast large map sizes. The Legend of Zelda is a title owned by Nintendo, but Switch is being developed in partnership with Bethesda Game Studios, the developers of Skyrim and the Fallout series. In addition to Bethesda, Nintendo partnered with Activision, Capcom, Electronic Arts, Havok, Konami, SEGA, THQ, Ubisoft, and other game developers.

Nintendo Switch is predicted to launch in March of 2017, but price information is not currently available. For more information, you can visit the Switch wepage at

Android Apps Google Apps

Organize your life with Taskary

Calendar apps are a popular way to organize your schedule and keep track of upcoming events and deadlines. One issue I have often had with these sorts of apps is that they tend to consider everything as an “event”. For example, if all I really need to know is that a paper is due on November 20th, I don’t really need to build in an arbitrary hour long “event” that’s happening on that day just to remember that my paper is due.

What I really want is a To-Do list, in this case, and that’s where Google calendar comes in. Even though the default item you can add to a calendar is an “Event”, with a start and end time, if you click beside it on “Task”, you can just add a single item with a name and a description.

Screenshot 2016-11-17 at 1.31.43 PM

Then, all it has is a checkbox for you to select once you’ve done it. No notifications about “upcoming events” or anything of the sort, just simple items on a calendar.

However, one downside to this is that the Gmail calendar apps don’t sync tasks. For Android, there is a solution. The app “Taskary” is a great choice, with both a free and premium version, to sync tasks to your phone. You can quickly look at your schedule of to-do list items, as well as check them off once you’re done. And it all syncs back to your google account.

Screenshot 2016-11-17 at 1.48.37 PM

For iOS users, or Android users who don’t want to install another app, the browser version of Google Calendar should let you access your tasks as well. But if you’re looking for a simple way to plan your schedule and deadlines, and have it accessible in a quick app, Taskary and Google Calendar are a great choice.


Quick Tips: Remembering Complex Passwords


This XKCD comic notes a popular strategy to password security, using a series of words rather than a single word with special characters. But is this the best way to come up with a secure password that you can remember? Depending on what you create, the password may still not be very secure if it is low in complexity and the words you chose include common words like “password” or “umass”.

But remembering random letters and numbers is difficult, and might cause you to find yourself writing down passwords or forgetting them entirely. Another strategy is to come up with a phrase of words, like “correct horse battery staple”, but then only use certain letters. If you only think of the phrase in your head, and then use something like the first letter and last letter of each word, you keep the ease of remembering a simple phrase, but now have “cthebyse” in your password. Adding some special characters to this will make a very strong password.

Longer passwords are even better, so if you can come up with a scheme like this for a long phrase, your password will be even stronger. “Mary had a little lamb its fleece was white as snow” is easy to remember, and the first letter of each word produces “mhallifwwas”.

You won’t find this in a dictionary attack, and recalling this complex string as you type it out is as easy as remembering the lyrics in your head. Just make sure you add any special character and case requirements to the password, and you’re good to go!

Monroe, Randall. “Xkcd: Password Strength.” Xkcd: Password Strength. N.p., n.d. Web.
…..17 Nov. 2016.

Operating System

iOS 10 and Mac OS Sierra

Apple recently released its latest computer and mobile operating systems, Mac OS Sierra and iOS 10, both bring improvements and changes that are sure to please some and upset others.  

iOS 10 looks and feels very different with a new lock screen, notification center, and control center and updates to apps like Messages and Music, but as with any software updates there are bugs including a bug where trying to update the machine over the air cause it to crash and boot loop(although this has been fixed since then). This is just a reminder that day 1 software may have bugs and it is never a bad idea to hold off a week or two for all the issues to be ironed out.  

Mac OS Sierra brings along a new naming scheme, gone is OS X and in is Mac OS, some are speculating that this is a way to bring iOS and Mac OS closer, although for now they look to be separate and distinct OS’s.  Continuity however bridges the gaps between iOS and Mac OS, with a universal clipboard between apple devices, and now Siri is in Mac OS.


iOS 10 brings many small but convenient updates and changes. The slide to unlock (present since the first release of iOS) has been replaced by pressing on the home button to unlock. Many of the stock applications have received a couple of new features here and there, and a lot of focus went into tying separate applications to make for a single fluid system. One such example of this focus on context driven capabilities is transferring events, and contacts found in emails to calendar and contacts respectively. Messages also received a considerable change with the addition of new stickers, and animations to emphasize the expression of your texts.

One trade off of iOS 10 is the implementation of API’s (Application Program Interface) to help the programmers design applications. One API was removed that allowed low level access to information about hardware; such as the battery cycle count or charge voltage. But Apple implemented three new APIs allowing for more access to iMessage, Maps, and Siri which allow for integrating new tasks such as restaurant booking from maps or larger and emotive emoticons and emoji’s.  



macOS Sierra borrows many of its new features from iOS. From the integration of Siri to the adoption of Apple Pay online, the influences of iOS are clear.  Disk Utility has the option to setup raid arrays, a feature that was removed in 10.11. While not a widespread use case, it is nice to have the ability to set up special storage options. In stark contrast Apple has really limited the security options for Gatekeeper. Whereas before if you were trying to install a program from an unidentified developer (like Cloudpath) all you had to do was change a setting in System Preferences to accept all 3rd party apps, now you have to run the application, and then go into system preferences to give it explicit access to run, additionally you can also right-click it and hit “open” to provide the necessary permission to launch the application. In some cases it might be a few extra clicks, but the general security improvement is a interesting trade-off to consider.

iCloud also has a new trick, which affects Mac OS. Older files (such as documents/voice memos) can be moved to iCloud to save space on the machine. This allows Apple to charge for iCloud server space and use smaller storage solutions in machines, a formula popularized by Google’s Chromebooks. This optional feature is designed to free up space on machines as an alternative to using external drives.

Sudo also changed how it works, if you authenticate one tab in Terminal if will not authenticate the other tabs, meaning that you have to re-authenticate the sudo command in each tab.  


Overall the iOS 10 and macOS upgrades do not provide any world changing features, but what they do provide is many smaller changes that should make devices easier to use and more feature rich, from the changes to apple music to the new lock screen, this update feels like a step closer to a “perfect” experience. Looking to the future, Apple released a preview of their new file system, Apple File System (APFS), which is designed to provide better support for solid state drives and implements software tools such as trim, snapshots, and cloning as well as overcoming many of the limitations of HFS+. While not an exciting visible change, this backend change will allow for new features and hopefully better performance to enable a better user experience.  

Hardware Operating System

Bluetooth Headphones: Are you ready to go wireless?

The time has finally come, and Apple has removed the 3.5mm jack from it’s newest line of iPhones entirely. While this will lead to a new generation of lighting connector based headphones, it will also considerably increase the popularity of bluetooth headphones. Like the electric car and alternative forms of energy, bluetooth headphones are something that everyone’s going to have to accept eventually, but that’s not such a bad thing. Over the past few years bluetooth headphones have gotten cheaper, better sounding, and all around more feasible for the average consumer. With the advent of Bluetooth 4.2, the capacity is there for high-fidelity audio streaming. Think about it: as college students we spent a lot of our time walking around (especially on our 1,463 acre campus). Nothing is more annoying than having your headphone cable caught on clothing, creating cable noise, or getting disconnected all together. There are many different form factors of bluetooth headphones to fit any lifestyle and price point. Here are a few choices for a variety of users.

Are you an athlete? Consider the Jaybird Bluebuds X

bluThese around-the-neck IEMs provide incredibly sound quality, and have supports to stay in your ears wether you’re biking, running, or working out. Workout getting too intense and you’re worried about your headphones? Don’t sweat it! The Bluebuds are totally water-proof, with a lifetime warranty if anything does happen.

Looking for portable Bluetooth on a budget? The Photive BTH3 is for you

photiveWell reviewed online, these $45 headphones provide a comfortable fit and a surprising sound signature. It’s tough to find good wired headphones for that price, yet the BTH3s sound great with the added bonus of wireless connectivity and handsfree calling. When you’re not using them, they can fold flat and fit into an included hard case to be put into your bag safely.

.High performance import at a middle of the road price.
s700Full disclosure: These are my headphone of choice. At double the price of the previous option and around 1/4th the price of the Beats Studio wireless, we find these over-ear bluetooth headphones from the makers of the famous ATH-M50. With a light build, comfortable ear cups and amazing sound quality, these headphones take the cake for price-performance in the ~$100 range.

Have more money than you know what to do with? Have I got an option for you.

vmoda What you see here are the V-MODA Crossfade Wireless headphones, and they come in at a wallet squeezing $300 MSRP. With the beautiful industrial design and military-grade materials, it’s an easy choice over the more popular Apple wireless headphone offerings. Like other headphones in the V-MODA line, these headphones are bass-oriented, but the overall sound signature is great for on the go listening.

Operating System

How to Build an Electric Longboard

My name is Kirs. Maybe you’ve seen me on campus. I’m the guy who rides around on an electric longboard. I’m usually wearing sunglasses and earbuds and sometimes even a helmet, but what makes me stick out of the crowd is when I zip past you at 25mph with a 3.5 horse power motor buzzing under my feet. The culprit of these sounds is an electric longboard that I had built over the past summer. Building an electric longboard was one of the best decisions of my life. However, electric longboards are new pieces of technology so I’m writing this to clear up some of the misconceptions and maybe teach you how you can build your very own electric longboard.


Why get an Electric Longboard?

So an electric longboard or “e board” is just another type of electric vehicle, there is no gas engine; the energy comes from a battery.The amount of energy required to charge my board is just pennies for a full charge and can last me for miles. Not to mention that I am reducing my carbon footprint by not being reliant on gas. You might be asking, why not just use a normal longboard or skateboard? The answer is simple, an e board can take you further and faster then a traditional board could ever take you. Riding an e board is it’s own type of fun, and is honestly more enjoyable then tirelessly kicking around campus on a traditional skateboard. It feels like you are always going downhill.

So an e board can transport you for miles, at speeds as up to 30mph, and doesn’t use gas; that sounds a lot like a bicycle. I’d have to say that e boards and bikes are very similar. They fill similar transportation niches and cost very comparably with prices ranging from $300 all the way to $2000 and up. I personally prefer the e board, obviously, but that’s just my opinion. They both have their pros and cons and I highly recommend people to consider the options and make a decision dependent on your needs.

Bikes are safer, better at rougher road conditions and never runs out of battery life. E boards don’t require any of that peddling nonsense, allow you to go as fast or as slow as necessary, and don’t need to be locked up every time you go inside a building. The biggest drawback with an e board is that you have to carry it everywhere you go, but that also means that you can easily switch from pedestrian to “cyclist” which lets me zip around campus very quickly. There have been many times I have stepped out of my dorm on Orchard Hill, zipped to my class in Herter Hall, and ran in, all in under 3 minutes. I don’t have to walk to the bike racks behind my building and unlock and lock my bike every time I go inside. My vehicle is at my side at the ready. Many times I’ll zip from classes, dining halls, and dorms but will find myself in situations where I need to walk. Let’s say I’m getting lunch with my girlfriend and we are headed to Hamp dining hall, I’d just pick up my e board and walk along next to her. Bikes are great at getting from one place to another, but electric longboards make every journey an adventure.

How to build your very own E-Board

So I have you convinced that you need an electric longboard (Or you just skipped to this section), and you want to know how to build one. Let me get one thing straight before you begin planning. There are two things that you need to keep in mind, effort and money. The more work you decide to put into the board the more you can customize it and also reduce costs. You could go as far as to CNC your own aluminum mounts and carve your own deck out of maple tree you cut down yourself, or you could go the zero effort route and just buy a Boosted Board V2 for $1600 and call it a day. I did something in the middle. For my build I didn’t require anything more then a power drill, some allen keys, and a soldering iron. It can vary a lot depending on what resources you have. So keep these things in mind when planning your build.

I had no experience in motors, electrical wiring, batteries, or anything ‘DIY’ before this build. I was just some freshman with a highschool level of physics under the belt and a problem that needed fixing.You don’t need to be an electrical engineer to build an electric longboard, you just need some passion, time, and money. So I’m just going to spit out the specs of my board, but I’ll explain it after so don’t get worried if you don’t understand.

  • Board – Beercan Boards 40″ Kegger DTP
  • Motor – DIY 6355 (230kv, 2650W, 12S, 80A)
  • Battery Pack Cells – 10s1p 8,000mAh LiPo
  • ESC – VESC
  • Wheels – 83mm Wheels (Black)
  • Drive Pulley – 13T Motor Pulley
  • Wheel Pulley – 36T Drive Wheel Pulley
  • Belt – 255mm High Torque Timing Belt
  • Controller – WiiMote

So my board costs about $900 which is middle of the road in terms of price. If you just want a campus cruiser to get you to class then you could easily get a build done for $400. Be aware that going on the cheap in terms of certain parts can really hurt your performance, range, and reliability of your E board. Let me give a breakdown on all the parts and what the importance of each one is.

Board – The actual deck is very important. This is the part that you will be strapping all your electronics to. You can buy a new board or use a board you already have. You don’t need a weird aluminum deck like mine, wood will suffice. I recommend longboard decks, boards of length of about 36″ or more, over normal skateboard decks because it allows for more space for mounting things underneath. You can get pretty creative with this part and find a board that’s unique.

Motor –  Motors come in all shapes and sizes so you should checkout a hobby shop or hobby parts website. This is where things get all “engineer-y”, it’s not that bad though. What you are looking for is a brush-less out-runner motor with a kv rating from 170 to 245 and watts between 1500 to 3000. So think of your kv rating as how much toque your board will have, the lower the kv the higher the torque. Watts is how much power your motor will have, more watts is generally always better. My 230kv 2500watt motor is pretty beefy and is more then enough for a single drive build.

Battery – The battery determines how far you can go. You will want a battery that is compatible with your motor. My battery is 10s1P LiPo which means I have 10 LiPo cells in series with 1 parallel line. That means the voltage of my battery is (10 x 4.2) 42volts. My motor is rated for 12s or (12 x 4.2) 50.4volts and I am running 10s, so that’s all kosher, don’t have your battery voltage exceed your motor max voltage. The capacity of the battery is measured in mAh and that determines how much juice your battery will have. I have 8,0000 mAh and with this you can determine how much energy you have in watt hours.

The formula is (current)*(voltage)/1000 = (Energy) or (mAh)*(V)/1000 = (Wh). So for me that is…

(8000)*(42)/1000 = 336wh

So for every wh of your battery you tend to get 1km of distance on your board. As you can see, my board goes very far.

Here is a great Guide to Understanding LiPo Batteries which I highly recommend you read. LiPo is a great but can also become dangerous so it is very important that you follow all the safety protocols.

ESC –  The ESC is the electronic speed controller and is the brains of your build. It connected to your controller and the battery and determines how much juice to give the motor. The one I use, and recommend, is the VESC which stands for Vedder’s ESC. Some guy in Scandinavia designed the VESC as an ESC for e boards and has become the industry standard for e boards. Just get this one.

Here is a walk-through of what the VESC is and how to use it.

Wheels, Pulleys, and Belts – So your wheels, drive pulley, wheel pulley, and belt all have to fit in together into what is referred to as a drive train. The ratio of the wheel pulley to drive pulley is called the “gear reduction ratio”. You want that to be around 2.5, but can go as low as 1.5 or as high as 3. Generally a lower reduction ratio is better. Bigger wheels mean more clearance, faster top speed, and more stability, however they also mean less torque and acceleration.

Read through this Guide to Building Your Own Drive-Train to learn more.

Controller – This is the device that you hold in your hand to control the ESC which controls the motor. I used a Wii Nyko Nunchuck but it is more common to use an RC controller because it is more reliable and does not require a soldering iron (Up until this point you haven’t needed one). I would not recommend anyone to get the Wii Nunchuck for fear of it not being set up correctly and possibly getting you hurt.

Once you have order all your parts ordered then all you have to do is assemble everything. You will still need little bits and bobs for your build. Things like screws, wires, and glue. This is just an intro to get you started and I really recommend learning as much as you can about e boards before diving in. and are great forums about the e boards and has a great community full of people who can answer any questions you have.

Here is a list of websites where you can buy parts.

Building an electric longboard is not that difficult and can be a fantastic way to learn about motors, electricity, and batteries while also creating a fantastic transportation device. I hope to see more on the roads.









Android Apps Hardware iOS

Today’s Virtual Reality Headsets

The world of Virtual Reality has had a dramatic increase in popularity in recent years. The technology that people have been waiting for has finally arrived and it comes in the form of a head-mounted display (HMD). There are many brands of HMD which range in their ability to achieve total immersion. The low-end forms of VR use a smartphone and a pair of lenses, like Google’s Cardboard:

The Google Cardboard costs $15 and is about the cheapest form of VR you can find, assuming you already own a compatible smartphone.

The cheapest versions of VR use the same same lens-enclosure method of delivering VR. Users are limited to apps they can find on their phone’s app stores, which are buggy at best. Still, if you’re unsure whether or not you want to buy a more immersive HMD, this is a great way to get an idea of what you’ll be buying. The real immersion begins when the display and the technology inside is specifically designed for VR gaming.

The best VR experience while still keeping your wallet happy is from Samsung Gear VR, but it requires that you already own a recent Samsung Galaxy smartphone:

Samsung Gear VR

AT $60, the Samsung Gear VR has some more intricate technology than the Google Cardboard allowing for a better experience. You could also add the Gear 360, which allows for “walk around the room” immersion for $350 but if you find that price point reasonable you may be better off in the high-end territory. The Gear VR has its own app store with games designed for use with it.

If you don’t have a Galaxy Smartphone, but you do have a PlayStation, you may be interested in what 25818482705_8a1bb716bf_bSony has been working on. Their VR HMD is the Playstation VR. At $400, the PSVR connects to your PlayStation for use with VR-enabled games. The PSVR is meant to be used with the Playstation Move Controllers which will add another $100 to your total. A Sony executive says plans to make PSVR compatible with PC may be in their future.

The high-end forms of VR include the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive:

HTC Vive

These HMDs are designed with PC games in mind. They provide an experience far superior to the cheap options but will run at a high price of $599 for the Rift and $799 for the Vive. The Vive includes two hand controllers which allow the user to have virtual hands for interacting with VR objects. Oculus is working on a similar device, the Oculus Touch, which is available for pre-order as of October 2016.

Oculus Rift

Many companies are investing in virtual reality and creating their own devices to compete with the front-runners. It is expected that the VR market will expand much further, especially once the price point of the high-end HMDs comes down. Virtual Reality is in a state of great potential; the applications of these headsets goes well beyond gaming. The military is interesting in them for training purposes. Educators can use them to teach students. Doctors can use them to treat psychological conditions. I have no doubt that Virtual Reality will eventually become part of our everyday lives.


Comparing Samsung and Apple Cameras

This year, Samsung and Apple both released a new generation of devices. If you don’t have a particular operating system preference and photography is your thing, then this article is for you.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge both have the same cameras with the following specifications: Dual Pixel Auto Focus 12 mp rear camera, F1.7 aperture, Records in UHD 4K resolution(3840 x 2160) @ 30fps, flash on rear camera.

Dual Pixel Auto Focus was introduced on smartphones for the first time with the Samsung Galaxy devices. All of the pixels in the camera’s sensor are allocated to phase detection and sensing light, whereas in previous smartphone cameras less of the pixels were used for phase detection and auto focus.

Aperture is the opening of the lens and it is measured in F-stops. These numbers correspond to the size of the opening in the lens. A smaller F-stop is a larger opening in the lens, and a larger F-stop is a smaller opening. With an aperture of F1.7, the 7th generation Galaxy devices have the largest smartphone aperture. This enables the camera to take in more light, resulting in better low-light photos.

The rear camera on the Samsung devices records in 4K resolution, which is the resolution that newer consumer TVs display in..

This information about Samsung devices and any further specifications can be found on their website at

Unlike the seventh generation of Galaxy devices, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus have slightly different features, but they also have many similarities.

The iPhone 7 camera boasts the following features. For ease of comparison, the features that can be most easily compared to the Samsung Galaxy devices have been bolded.

12 mp rear camera with F1.8 aperture                                                                           Digital zoom up to 5x                                                                                                         Optical image stabilization
Six‑element lens
Panorama (up to 63 megapixels)
Sapphire crystal lens cover
Backside illumination sensor
Hybrid IR filter
Autofocus with Focus Pixels
Tap to focus with Focus Pixels
Live Photos with stabilization
Wide color capture for photos and Live Photos
Improved local tone mapping
Body and face detection
Exposure control
Noise reduction
Auto HDR for photos
Auto image stabilization
Burst mode
Timer mode
Photo geotagging
Video Recording
4K video recording at 30 fps
1080p HD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps
720p HD video recording at 30 fps
Optical image stabilization for video
Quad-LED True Tone flash
Slo‑mo video support for 1080p at 120 fps and 720p at 240 fps
Time‑lapse video with stabilization
Cinematic video stabilization (1080p and 720p)
Continuous autofocus video
Body and face detection
Noise reduction
Take 8-megapixel still photos while recording 4K video
Playback zoom
Video geotagging

In addition to these features, the iPhone 7 Plus also features a telephoto lens with an F2.8 aperture. 2x optical zoom and digital zoom up to 10x are also available.

The F1.8 lens is a slightly smaller aperture than the 7th generation Samsung devices, but it is a very small difference. The additional telephoto lens and optical zoom on the iPhone 7 Plus make it capable of taking better pictures at a distance.

This information about Apple devices and any further specifications can be found on their website at

Digital and optical zoom both accomplish the same job, they just do that job different ways. Optical zoom is based on the lens itself. Different parts of the lens move to zoom and focus, which is why smartphone cameras have limited optical zoom. Digital zoom is entirely computer based, so it’s very similar to zooming in on an image you could find on Google. The processing unit is what manages the zoom.

Overall, both manufacturers make very capable cameras. The information is available on their websites and here for you to compare. For me, the decision would ultimately come down to operating system preferences and preference of user interface.