J. Peterson's Writing About Electronics, Reviews, 3D Modeling, etc.

Category Archives: Reviews

Product & Book reviews

Book Review: The Neptune File

The Neptune File: A Story of Astronomical Rivalry and the Pioneers of Planet Hunting

You might expect planet Neptune’s discovery to be worthy of a footnote, or a magazine article at most. Yet Tom Standage manages to bring alive a fascinating story with an entertaining cast of characters from the 19th century around this discovery.

Man has known about the first six planets since ancient times. They’re bright enough to be seen with the naked eye, and their movements across the sky clearly distinguish them from the stars.

Searching the sky with his advanced (for the time) telescope, amateur astronomer William Hershel discovers a seventh planet, Uranus, in 1781. This created a sensation among astronomers, and opened up the possibility of more planets in the sky.

While trying to compute the precise orbit of Uranus, astronomers noted something wasn’t quite right. It was speeding up and slowing down from where it was expected to be. Two astronomers, the brash Frenchman Urbain Le Verrier and the quiet Englishman John Adams begin undertaking the complex calculations to try and predict where the new planet should appear.

With the calculations underway, the race is on to actually find the new planet, an amazing achievement with 19th century technology. The acrimony and infighting resulting from the discovery also makes for a great story.

Tingbot Review

chumby_pandora

One of my more prized positions is was a Chumby prototype, right off the desk of it’s hardware designer.  I won it in one of the designer’s monthly Name That Ware contests. The idea behind the Chumby was to have a box on your desk or nightstand running casual applications to tell the time, weather, photos, or other entertaining data. A back-end service made it easy to download new apps, which were written in Flash (this was in the late 2000’s, Flash was still a thing then). It was beautifully designed, featuring graphics by Susan Kare and a classy soft leather case.

But Chumby, Inc. died. A combination of bad timing (missing Christmas in 2007, followed by the global economic meltdown in 2008) and the introduction of the iPhone – the gadget to end all gadgets – made it tough for Chumby to find a market. Kudos to Duane Maxwell for keeping the remaining Chumbys on life support.

Recently Tingbot introduced a Raspberry Pi based computer with a small LCD display in a nice desktop case.  It immediately reminded me of the Chumby.

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Book Review: Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath

What would happen to a major metropolitan area – say, NY or LA – if the electric power grid completely failed, for multiple weeks at a time? The result isn’t pretty, and this is the topic long-time TV journalist Ted Koppel covers in Lights Out. The book claims the electric power grid is subject to a uniquely new threat: Attack by cyber criminals who can disable huge portions of electric power supply remotely. read more »

Czurtek ET16 Scanner Review

Czurtek ET16 scanner

This post originally appeared on Medium.com.

I like scanners. See, at one time I was really into books. But after a decade or two, you come to the conclusion books take physical space. Lots of it. So when my tax guy showed me his Fujitsu ScanSnap I was hooked. Mine ingested most loose papers, statements and documents. This cleared a shelf or two. I also scanned many books by sawing their spines off, and feeding them to the ScanSnap fifty pages or so at a time. It works great, and this cleared several more feet of shelf space.

However, there are some books I just can’t bear to saw up to feed to a sheet-feed scanner, and this is the niche the Czurtek ET16 falls into. I also had fantasies of using it to replace my slow, clumsy flatbed scanner. So, I signed up to the Indiegogo campaign, for $234.

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