The Robservatory

Robservations on everything…

 

General

Stuff that doesn’t fit in any other category

Revisiting Intel’s geeky CPU tool, Power Gadget

I wrote about the Intel® Power Gadget back in 2015—it’s a little app that reports on your CPU’s performance in a few categories. I still run it on occasion, and noticed that my version was a couple years old.

I downloaded the new version, and discovered that it now has a built-in software update check (hooray, though it doesn’t appear to be automatic), they’ve improved the graphs’ appearance, and added a new Utilization chart; here’s a new (left) vs. old comparison:

If you like CPU stats, it’s great to get them right from the source, and I think the nicer-looking graphs (and new Utilization chart) improve on this already-useful geeky tool.

When products play hide-and-seek with serial numbers

I recently bought a set of PowerBeats Pro, which I generally love (more on the headphones in a future post), but today, while trying to register my product with Beats, I ran into a clear example of form trumping function.

To register your Beats, you need the serial number; Beats provides a graphic that shows you where to find it…

Seems simple enough, so I flip open the case…

Umm, where is that serial number?

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Travel from the Earth to the Moon in high def

Way back in the late 1990s, HBO aired an amazing miniseries called From the Earth to the Moon. Produced by Tom Hanks, the 12-episode series covers most of the key events in the Apollo program, including the Apollo 1 fire, the first moon landing, the Apollo 13 crisis, and much more. In total, 30 of the 32 astronauts in the Apollo program are represented onscreen during the series.

Each episode runs about 50 minutes; Wikipedia’s entry on the miniseries includes a nice summary of each episode that doesn’t give too much away.

I’ve watched it at least a half-dozen times, and up until this summer, every viewing was at DVD resolution—eventually upscaled on higher-resolution TV sets, but still not the greatest video experience.

This summer, however, HBO re-released the series after remastering it in HD. They also reworked many of the special effects to take advantage of advances in that field over the last 20 years. If—like me—you’re a physical media person, you can pick it up for only $23 from Amazon…or if you’re fully digital, you can get it from the iTunes Store for $30. (Yes, a physical copy with media and packaging and shipping1and it includes a digital copy! is $7 less than a series of 0s and 1s written to a file. What a wacky world we live in.)

The visual changes are dramatic, as you can see in these shots from the two versions.

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ADP’s payroll check security absurdity

Warning: The following is nothing but a rant—no charts, no photos, nothing but text—about a piece of security absurdity I ran into the other day. I am 100% in favor of strong security in general regarding financial matters, but when it’s false security that does nothing more than inconvenience legitimate users, that’s when I get mad…and that’s exactly what this was: a security absurdity.

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My daughter Kylie recently got a part-time job; her employer uses ADP to process its payroll. When her first check arrived, it was actually a debit card—which we didn’t want to use—so she had to write herself a check (using a blank they provided), which she could then deposit.

Because Kylie had a busy day ahead of her (school then work then a post-work thing), I told her I’d write the check for her, then she’d just have to sign and deposit it. But to make the check usable, I needed a six-digit authentication code that ADP provides via a phone call. And that’s when I entered a hellhole of security absurdity thanks to ADP…

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Don’t buy a Subaru Ascent if you car camp or tailgate or…

When we owned a boat, we used a 2008 Toyota Sequoia to pull it. The Sequoia is a great truck—it pulled the boat, had tons of room for stuff and people, and rode quite nicely. But it was also incredibly efficient at converting money into gasoline fumes—even when not towing, it only got around 12mpg in town. It’s also huge.

With the boat gone, we wanted something smaller, with better mileage, yet with room for seven people and capable of some towing. After a lot of research and a few test drives, we chose to lease a 2019 Subaru Ascent.

Reviews for the Ascent have been positive, with Consumer Reports scoring it at 96. In general, we’ve been happy with the car…until we took it on its first car camping trip last weekend.

It was there that we learned that Subaru made an incredibly stupid design decision with a vehicle targeted at those who use their vehicles for camping and exploring:

The rear hatch is not designed to be left open.

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A new set of Hubble deep space iMac retina desktops

Back in 2015, I created a set of 5120×2880 deep space desktop images for my then-newish Retina iMac, using images from the Hubble space telescope.

Recently, the Hubble team released the absolutely mind-bogglingly-massive Hubble Legacy Field image

The snapshot, a combination of nearly 7,500 separate Hubble exposures, represents 16 years’ worth of observations. The ambitious endeavor is called the Hubble Legacy Field. The new view contains about 30 times as many galaxies as in the HUDF. The wavelength range stretches from ultraviolet to near-infrared light, capturing all the features of galaxy assembly over time.

The image mosaic presents a wide portrait of the distant universe and contains roughly 265,000 galaxies. They stretch back through 13.3 billion years of time to just 500 million years after the universe’s birth in the big bang.

Despite those staggering figures, this image still represents only a tiny portion of the sky, covering roughly the area taken up by the Moon in the night sky.

I downloaded the 700MB 25,500×25,500 PNG version of the image, and set to work making some new 5120×2880 desktop images. You can read more about the process in an upcoming post, but for now, here are the resulting images…

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An unexpected ending to an electrifying car story

If you weren’t reading along this week, I spent the last four days—parts one, two, three, and four—talking about my Tesla Model S and how much I love it.

Today’s surprise ending is this: I sold the car. What I’d replace it with? This…

Obviously that’s another Tesla Model S—a used Model S. It is, in fact, a 2016 Models S 90D—yes, basically the exact car I had, but not really—more on that in a bit. My wife and I call it the unicorn car; read on to understand why, and why I made this trade. (As I was writing this, I learned that others had already used that phrase for this particular vintage of the Model S.)

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An electrifying car story – part four

This is Part Four of a four-part series on our 2016 Tesla Model S. In Part One, I covered why we chose the Model S, the cost of the car, and a bit about Tesla the company. In Part Two, I listed some of the things I love about the car. In Part Three, I listed more of the things I love, plus those things I hate. In today’s Part Four, I’ll discuss what it’s like living with an electric car, cover a somewhat long road trip I took last fall, and offer a few thoughts on the future of auto electrification. Finally, tomorrow’s Part Five will provide an unexpected ending (of sorts) to the series.


Living with an electric car

My two-plus years with an electric car have been basically a non-event. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that I work at home, and that we have non-electric vehicles, so the Tesla doesn’t have to do everything. (But even if I commuted, with the car’s range of 280 miles, I think it’d still be a non-event.)

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An electrifying car story—part three

This is Part Three of a five-part series on our Tesla Model S. In Part One, I covered why we chose the Model S, the cost of the car, and a bit about Tesla the company. In Part Two, I listed some of the things I love about the car; today’s Part Three has more of the loves, as well as the not-so-loves. Part Four will discuss what it’s like living with an electric car, and my thoughts on the future of auto electrification. Finally, Part Five will provide an unexpected ending (of sorts) to the series.


Continuing with the things I love about the car and its infrastructure, and then getting to the not-so-loved things…

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An electrifying car story—part two

This is Part Two of a five-part series on our Tesla Model S. In Part One, I covered why we chose the Model S, the cost of the car, and a bit about Tesla the company. In today’s Part Two, I’ll discuss some of the things I love about the car; Part Three will have more of the loves, as well as the not-so-loves. Part Four will discuss what it’s like living with an electric car, and my thoughts on the future of auto electrification. Finally, Part Five will provide an unexpected ending (of sorts) to the series.


What I love about the car

Everything. OK, that’s not true. But there is a huge list of stuff that—even after nearly three years—helps make any drive in the Tesla an enjoyable experience. The list is generally ranked by order of importance to me, though a lot of these would be ties if I had to absolutely rank them. Most of these things are particular to Tesla’s cars (and some to the Model S in particular), though a couple are generally true of any electric vehicle.

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