Hot off the press today is my review of hands-on throttle and stick (HOTAS) controllers for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.
Mind you, FS2020 is not really a game but rather a realistic flight simulator, which means that staying aloft on those rippling breezes is not easy. One thing that can make the experience more enjoyable is flying your virtual airplane with a set of controls that mirrors the setup a real pilot might use in a real airplane. There are many options for realistic flight controllers, and I looked at several that work well with FS2020, including a simple joystick, a few hands-on throttle and sticks (HOTAS) controllers like those in military jets, and a flight yoke that approximates what you would find on a small aircraft like a Cessna.
Just published at Wired is this roundup of alternative SBCs to the Raspberry Pi, looking at devices that are cheaper, more powerful, or more Windows-y.
We’ve picked five single-board computers (known as SBCs) that offer more power or flexibility than the Pi, more inputs and outputs, and more of what your project might need. Which alternative is right for you depends on what you want to do with the device. For homemade robots and other projects that don’t need a screen display, it’s hard to argue with the low cost, processing power, and profusion of in/outputs of the PocketBeagle.
Just published at Wired is a review of cell phone keyboards that I wrote a few months back. To my surprise, my long-suffering editor at Wired let my description of the overweight Samsung Note 10+ as a chonker through.
My top pick was the Arteck HB066 Bluetooth Keyboard, a small keyboard that combines a nice foldable design with a consistent key size and a layout that will immediately feel comfortable. None of these choices are as comfortable to use as a full-size keyboard, though, so be prepared to compromise some luxury in the name of portability.
Mechanical keyboards are beloved of serious typists everywhere (including me) for their click-clacky goodness. So what’s the difference between a cheap one and an expensive one? I found out for my latest Wired column…
Sometimes a family runabout is all you need, though, and the Rosewill is far superior to laptop keyboards or the cheap rubber dome keyboards that come with desktop computers. So, it’s not a bad investment for those who write a lot or play games…. If, like me, you spend every day clacking through thousands of words, I’d recommend spending the extra money on the Das Keyboard Ultimate S. The cost is much higher, but it pays off in typing speed, comfort, and the satisfaction you get from using a tool with superior build quality.
Stepping away from tech for a bit, I tested out two fountain pens: a cheap $25 Lamy and a $125 Delta.
Cynics will dismiss using a fountain pen these days as a needless hipsterism, a tacky bit of retro nostalgia that serves no real purpose. I disagree. A good fountain pen is a piece of precision engineering and design, and will serve you well for many years. Using a fountain pen is about making a deliberate choice to buy something that you can use repeatedly, rather than something you use once and loose. If you want to write casually, get a Bic disposable and throw it away when you’re done. But if you want to have something that looks cool and is a pleasure to use, get a fountain pen.
For Wired I reviewed the FLiR One Infra-Red camera, which fits onto the iPhone 5.
The FLIR One is certainly an interesting product, but I found myself constantly saying “if only” when writing this review. If only the charger could recharge both the device and the phone at once, it would be easier to keep both charged. If only the temperature range of the sensor was a little wider, I could use the spot sensor to check how far below freezing the food in my freezer is. If only it could be used to take IR photos of small objects. If only the final images and videos didn’t have a FLIR logo in the corner all the time…
Just posted at Wired.com, a column on the differences between a $350 and a $1500 SLR camera lens.
A good photographer takes the time to understand their equipment so they can get the best image, irrespective of how expensive their kit is. If you spend $350 on a lens and really learn how to use it, you’ll be closer to the ideal of photographers like Cartier-Bresson, who used good equipment to take great photos.
Just posted at Wired.com, a column on cloud data storage services, and roll-your-own vs commercial versions.
That makes Dropbox a better solution for those who just want to install and use it, although you can end up paying a lot if you need more space than the free version. For those who don’t mind getting down and dirty with the technical details, ownCloud may be the better option, as it gives you more flexibility and lets you take control of your own data in the cloud.
Just published on Wired: a look at low- and high-end SD Cards, and what the differences between them are.
So you’ve just bought yourself a nice new camera. You’ll need an SD card to store all those images on. Do you save some scratch and go with the cheapest SD card, or do you splurge and opt for one of those expensive versions that come with names like Ultra or Extreme? At first glance, it seems like a no-brainer: The cheaper cards offer much more space for less money. So, why would anyone spend more on a smaller card?
For the first installment of my Wired.com column High/Low, I look at Gaming PCs.
These rigs are built to handle the incredible demands modern games put on them, rendering state-of-the-art graphics quickly and smoothly to create a realistic gaming experience. At least, that’s the theory. The conventional wisdom is that a cheap PC will produce a jerky, low-resolution image that ruins the immersive effect of modern games. However, we found that a $700 computer was more than capable of running one of the most demanding games out there at high resolution, and that most gamers don’t need to spend more than this.