The Robservatory

Robservations on everything…

 

Technology

Entries related to techology in general…

We have (semi) new robotic vacuum overlords

In late 2019, I wrote about how we were using two Deebot robotic vacuums to help keep our floors clean. And while these vacuums worked well, they had two issues that became more annoying as time passed:

  • They clean using a random path method
  • There's no way to map out obstacles they should avoid

The Deebots are basically non-intelligent robot vacuums. They have the ability to avoid bumping into things, and they won't fall off drop-offs, but that's about where their intelligence ends. They clean using a random path, which works but seems very inefficient. Much worse, though, is that there's no ability to mark areas you don't want them to clean.

For me, that meant I had to close the door to our laundry room so it wouldn't try to clean and get stuck in there. And block off access paths to other areas where it could get stuck. And put one shelf on risers, as the Deebot seemed to be able to get under it, but not back out!? And I had to do this any time I wanted to run the vacuums. That gets old pretty quick.

I wanted to find a vacuum that would clean in a more orderly fashion (using some sort of room map), and to electronically block off areas where they shouldn't clean. The problem was most vacuums that offered these features were (at the time) $350 or more, while the Deebots had cost us only $170 or so. So I kept searching and waiting.

tl;dr version: We bought two Wyze Vacuums with LIDAR and restricted area capabilities, and love them. Ours cost $225 each, but the price today is $267 each. Read on for a much more detailed review, if you wish.

(more…)

Remember, kids, RAID is not a backup!

Major update: The QNAP box failed tonight (Aug 3) after running flawlessly for three days straight. I went out to grab some dinner (I shouldn't leave, ever, apparently), and came back to the RAID offline with just a power light, no USB or drive lights.

I moved the drive from a USB hub on a long cable to directly into my Mac on a short cable. Same problem. I then pulled the drives from the array and dropped each into my drive dock, and they were both fine. (All my data was gone, though—thankfully I had literally cloned the drive just before I went out.)

Needless to say, the QNAP box is going back. I've ordered a different unit, with a different chipset in it, but it won't be here for about a week. In the interim, I've put my new drives in external enclosures, and I'll just use Carbon Copy Cloner to mirror them every 30 minutes or so. I've edited the post to reflect my experience.

I'll edit and repost this once the new box is here and (hopefully) working, though I might wait more than three days after it arrives, just to be sure!

On my iMac, I have a fair amount of data—somewhere around eight terabytes or so spread across 15TB of drive space. Until last week, I had it split between the internal SSD (work and personal files I access a lot), an external 6TB USB drive (archive stuff I want to keep but not regularly access), and an external 8TB RAID box (a whole bunch of music, movies, home videos, work videos, etc.)

Being paranoid, I also had relatively good—but not bulletproof, as I discovered–backup strategies for all of these things. And it's a good thing I did, as last week, my external RAID box died in spectacular fashion. While I was out of town, no less. And that's why they say, "RAID is not a backup!"1Many RAID levels duplicate your data, but if something happens to the RAID box itself, the data is toast.

So what happened, how'd I recover, and what's my new plan going forward?

(more…)

My impressions of the M1 MacBook Pro

I recently received my Apple M1-powered 13" MacBook Pro, which is primarily going to be used for testing our apps on Apple silicon, and supporting customers using these machines. But that doesn't mean this is a work machine; it's a personal purchase as I'll use it for my own needs as well. (Thankfully, it only had a net cost of $33 after I sold my 16" MacBook Pro.)

By now, you've probably read a slew of stuff about both the MacBook Pro and its slightly-lighter MacBook Air cousin. Between unboxing videos, extensive benchmark suites, and multi-thousand-word reviews, there is no lack of coverage of these machines. (However, I will add that I did make a video of my MacBook Pro—with its 16GB of RAM—opening 75 apps in just over a minute. Not bad for an entry-level machine!)

I'm not going to try to replicate those reviews, because they do an excellent job of covering the new M1-powered Macs in a level of detail that I just don't have time to get into. Instead, here's what I'll be discussing…

  1. Why I chose the 13" MacBook Pro
  2. A few benchmark results of interest
  3. Rosetta and non-native apps
  4. Using iOS apps on macOS
  5. General discussion on performance
  6. The future of Apple silicon Macs

So why a MacBook Pro and not an Air?

(more…)

A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part Five

Today wraps up my deep dive into the Apple Arcade. As a refresher, here's what's in each part of the series:

  • Part One: This covers what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: A slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: A slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five: The part you're reading now; the second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

And now, the rest of the keepers…

(more…)

A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part Four

Today wraps up my deep dive into the Apple Arcade. When I planned this, one Part Four post was going to cover everything left…but it was way too long. So I'm still publishing it all today, but I've split the last part into three separate posts. So here's the full series:

  • Part One: This covers what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: A slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: A slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The part you're reading now; the first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five: The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

Before I get to the keepers, though, there were two more games released while I was working on these posts, so I'll take a quick look at those.

All of You In this unique puzzler, your character is a chicken that needs to collect a number of lost baby chicks. Your chicken walks from left to right across the circles as seen at right. One circle can be animating at a time while the others are still. On some levels, you can rearrange and/or flip the circles, too. (In the level at right, you animate the dynamite circle first, so it explodes before you walk across.)

Higher levels have more circles, so there's not so much empty space…and some of the puzzles get a bit tricky. It's fun, but I'm not sure it's a keeper just yet.

(more…)

A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part Three

My new iPad Air came with a surprise (at least, to me): A three-month trial to Apple Arcade. So I decided to look at all 139 games available in the Apple Arcade.

Here's what's in each part of the series:

  • Part One: This post includes what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: A slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: The part you're reading now; a slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five: The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

Here's the second set of nine games that I felt worth more time testing. Obviously these summaries still aren't anything close to a full review, but there's a bit more detail (and screenshots; click for the large version).

No Way Home What starts as a top-down space shoot-em-up turns into more of a mission-focused shooter—collect things for upgrades, take this to that. Lovely graphics and fun gameplay, plus a helpful robot assistant helps you battle. And while it's another dual control, the second control is for firing direction not camera view direction, which is much less of a pain for me.
Operator 41 One of the "sneak about in the dark" games, and the graphics have a nice grainy texture to them. The ground is divided into grid squares, and you move by tapping on a destination grid square. It's a simple concept, but it's well executed here, and some of the moves require impeccable timing—roving guards and rotating security lights make for brief bits of protected space.

(more…)

A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part Two

My new iPad Air came with a surprise (at least, to me): A three-month trial to Apple Arcade. So I decided to look at all 139 141*Two more games were released during the writeup of this series. games available in the Apple Arcade.

Here's what's in each part of the series:

  • Part One: This post includes what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: The part you're reading now—a slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: A slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five: The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

Obviously these summaries still aren't anything close to a full review, but there's a bit more detail (and screenshots; click for the large version).

A Fold Apart This puzzler's unique twist is that the characters are walking around in what is, essentially, a landscape made up of pieces of paper. The paper can be folded and/or flipped over, and solving puzzles involves some combination of flipping and folding in order to complete the path the characters are following. It's colorful and relaxing, yet the puzzles require some creative thinking.

(more…)

A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part One

My new iPad Air came with a surprise (at least, to me): A three-month trial to Apple Arcade.

I thought if I'm going to trial it, I should really trial it. And what better way to do that than by playing everything they offer? So over the last few days, I have downloaded, launched, played a bit of, taken some very brief notes on, and (in most cases) deleted a total of 139 141*Two more games were released during the writeup of this series. games.

Here's what's in each part of the series:

  • Part One: The part you're reading now, it covers what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: A slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: A slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

I am not going to begin to pretend I will post a full review of each of these games. For most of them, in fact, I can provide only a passing first impression based on my one-time testing of each game.

(more…)

Give your iMac a lift

I have a 2019 27" iMac, which replaced a Late 2014 27" iMac. Both of these are/were placed directly on their stands on my desk. I've always felt that the screen was just a bit too low to be ideal, but I was too lazy to deal with solving it—especially as I knew it meant I'd also have to deal with the mess of cables on the desk behind the iMac.

Then last week, I saw MacRumor's review of the Twelve South Curve Riser iMac Stand, and thought it might solve my problem. But at over four inches (10cm) in height, I thought it would be too high for me—with the height of my desk and chair, I'd wind up looking up at the screen. And, at $80 for just a bent piece of metal, it seemed expensive for what it delivers.

However, MacRumors also linked to their review of the Satechi Type-C Stand for iMac (view on Amazon), which rises a more-reasonable 1.63" (4.1cm) from the desk. But what really intrigued me was that for $90—just $10 more than the Twelve South riser—the Type-C Stand includes two card reader ports (at up to 104MB/s), three USB-A ports (5GB/s), a USB-C port (5GB/s), and a headphone jack.

The ports on the front were the deal sealer for me: My Logitech keyboard and mouse both charge over USB-C, and I'd been using my MacBook Pro to do that as I only have a USB-C to USB-C cable. I also do a fair bit with memory cards—my drone uses microSD and my camera uses a regular SD card. I'd been using a regular card reader that requires the fiddly task of putting the microSD card into a SD-sized card holder; the Satechi stand has two separate slots, so that fiddly work is gone.

As for the brand, I have a Satechi Wireless Smart Keypad that's been working flawlessly for five years, so I felt pretty safe making the purchase decision. It arrived on Sunday, and after getting everything set up, I wish I would have done this years ago.

(more…)

Review: Logitech MX Keys for Mac

In April of 2019, I reviewed the Logitech MX master 2S mouse, which I really liked. Earlier this year, Logitech came out with the Logitech MX Keys for Mac keyboard, so I thought I'd give it a try. (I also upgraded to the MX Master 3 mouse at the same time.)

Executive summary: I love this keyboard. I was on a road trip recently, gone for 12 days straight with nothing but a MacBook Air (of the 'broken butterfly' generation). As soon as I got home and switched back to my iMac, I was reminded of just how much better this keyboard is than the one built into my Air…and the one that came with my iMac.

(Note: The "Mac" in the name simply means that you're getting a keyboard with Mac-specific symbols on the Command and Option keys; I'm pretty sure the Windows version would work just as well, but without the Mac-specific look.)

This review won't be quite as thorough as that of my mouse, mainly because there aren't as many nifty features—it is "just" a keyboard, after all.

(more…)

The Robservatory © 2021 • Privacy Policy Built from the Frontier theme