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17
Sep

The best handheld vacuum


By Liam McCabe

This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer’s guide to the best homewares. When readers choose to buy The Sweethome’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

We’ve looked at 50 different hand vacuums over nearly 100 collective hours of research and testing in the past five years, and think that the Black+Decker Max Lithium Flex Vacuum BDH2020FL is a great pick for most people. The flexible 4-foot hose and clip-on attachments help it comfortably reach spots around your home and car that other hand vacs at this price struggle with, or can’t touch at all.

Who should get this

The most compelling reason to buy a good handheld vacuum is because it can reach places that bigger vacuums can’t, like the interior of a car or surfaces around your house that aren’t the floor. Handheld vacuums are also convenient for quick cleanups around the house because they’re battery-powered and compact enough to sit on a shelf or countertop between uses.

How we picked and tested

group

Photo: Liam McCabe

We’ve researched about 50 models since we started covering this category, searching for a handheld vacuum that made tidying small messes—or messes where a regular vacuum couldn’t easily reach—as easy as possible. We looked for the following criteria:

  • An 18-volt battery or greater. More voltage does not necessarily mean more cleaning power, but 18 volts is a good baseline for decent suction.
  • A lithium or lithium-ion battery.
  • Attachments or at least extensions for easy cleaning of tricky materials and hard-to-reach areas.
  • Strong user ratings of at least four out of five stars on average.
  • Battery life and recharge time, though most vacuums have enough juice that this is a nonissue.

I tested the contenders around the house for a few weeks, mainly for everyday tasks like picking up random tufts of cat hair, cleaning crumbs off countertops or the kitchen floor, and tidying my car after moving sports equipment—most of the typical uses for handheld vacuums, in other words—to get a feel for the real-world pros and cons. Sometimes I used two contenders side by side for these cleanups to see a more direct comparison.

I also set up an informal test to gauge suction. I poured out six lines of coffee grounds on a countertop, used each finalist to suck up one line each, and then made notes on how easily each model accomplished that task.

Our pick

black+decker bdh2020fl

Photo: Liam McCabe

The Black+Decker Max Lithium Flex Vacuum BDH2020FL is our favorite handheld vacuum because the flexible 4-foot hose and clip-on attachments help it reach and clean awkward spots around your home and car where other handhelds struggle. The suction is strong enough to handle most common types of debris. It has a 16-minute, no-fade run time, which should be enough to give most cars a thorough tidy-up, and its 20-volt battery offers plenty of suction for most household jobs.

The Max Flex Vac’s hose accepts attachments and comes with three tools: A combo tool, a crevice tool, and a pet-hair brush. The combo tool has bristles that can help grab clingy particles. The crevice tool is helpful as a wand extender, but it also makes it easier to get in tight nooks and crannies. If you’re a pet owner, the pet-hair brush is also a big help. It’s nothing fancy, just a rubbery surface with nubs, but it does help corral fuzz in a way that most handhelds struggle with. Once you’re done cleaning, the Max Flex Vac’s dirt canister is easy to empty: Pull a latch on the side of the vacuum’s body, tip it toward the garbage can, give it a whack, and you’re done.

Of course, the Max Flex Vac has flaws. There’s the price: It often costs $120, which is a lot for a handheld vacuum, but we think that the Flex Vac’s versatility and solid suction make it worth the price for people who will use it a few times per week. We also noticed the filter gets dirty very quickly, which can cause drop-offs in suction as quickly as two battery cycles. This is a common problem with most handheld vacuums, so you’ll need to be diligent about knocking the dust loose.

An almost-identical runner-up

The Black+Decker Max Flex Vac BDH2020FLFH is the same vacuum as our main pick, with the same useful clip-on attachments, plus an extension wand and floor tool to turn it into an ersatz stick vacuum. Though the floor-cleaning kit sounds like a good value, it’s actually totally worthless, because the suction becomes too weak by the time it reaches the end of the extension wand to be useful at all. We recommend buying whichever version of the Max Flex Vac costs less when you’re shopping.

A budget pick for quick cleanups

black+decker chv1410l

The Black+Decker CHV1410L is a typical DustBuster-style handheld, with a better battery than most others at this price. Photo: Liam McCabe

If you need a regular DustBuster-style handheld for quick cleanups, buy the Black+Decker CHV1410L. It’s a perennial best-seller, and one of the most affordable vacuums with a strong lithium battery. In our testing, the CHV1410L had no trouble sucking up crumbs and dirt off of bare surfaces like countertops, tile floors, and windowsills. Though the 16-volt battery is smaller than our top pick’s battery, we found the CHV1410L was about as effective for small cleanups. We clocked a 12-minute run time, but have heard reports of shorter life spans.

The main downside is that the CHV1410L can’t clean carpet or upholstery effectively. Debris clings to fabric, and the CHV1410L has neither the suction to offset the clinging, nor any tool that can agitate debris out from the fibers. Also, because the CHV1410L has no hose, cleaning the kinds of odd angles that our main pick excels at is a hassle.

The most cleaning power

dyson v6

Photo: Liam McCabe

If you’re willing to pay for the strongest handheld vacuum possible, get the Dyson V6 Car + Boat. It has much more suction by a wide margin than any other handheld vacuum we’ve tested, including our main pick. It also has more battery life than its competitors, with a run time of 20 minutes. Several V6 variants are available, but we think that the Car + Boat has the best set of attachments. The V6 Car + Boat is very expensive, and probably overkill for most people, but no other handheld vacuums comes close to its power and versatility.

The Car + Boat comes with a flexible extension hose (like the one built into our main pick), crevice tool, combo brush, stiff-bristle brush, soft-dusting brush, and a mini motorized brush roll. The mini brush roll is especially useful because it lets the V6 pick up the kind of clingy debris that every other handheld we tested left behind. If you don’t think you’ll need all the attachments included with the V6 Car + Boat, consider the V6 Top Dog instead. It costs a little less most of the time, but still comes with the mini motorized brush roll.

This guide may have been updated by The Sweethome. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from The Sweethome: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

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17
Sep

Sony X900E unboxing and setup guide: Give yourself the 4K TV treatment


In a market flooded by feature-rich 4K TVs, the Sony X900E still manages to stand out. If you recently picked one up, we think you’ll find this handy set-up guide helpful. Our Sony X900E unboxing and setup video, and the outline below, will give you step-by-step instructions on installation and key picture settings.

What’s in the box?

In addition to the TV itself, you’ll find the following in the box:

  • Quick setup guide.
  • User manual.
  • Stand and pedestal.
  • 8 screws.
  • IR blaster.
  • Remote with included batteries.
  • Power brick and cable.
  • Protective cardboard — Do not throw this away!.

Several items are not included with the TV. You will need to buy HDMI cables to connect your TV to other devices. The easiest way to ensure you have HDMI cables is to buy the AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI cables at the same time you buy your TV. If you do not buy the AmazonBasics HDMI cable, make sure that the HDMI cables are rated as “high speed” cables so they can accommodate the large amount of data 4K HDR content requires.

Additionally, the TV does not come with any wall mounting hardware. For information about wall mounting check out our wall mounting guide video.

Hardware setup

Be sure to open the top of the box first. You’ll find a quick setup guide there that will tell you where all the accessories are located in the box.

Begin by assembling the stand. The legs of the stand are labeled “1” and “2,” corresponding to the “1” and “2” on the large main stand piece itself. The legs slip onto the stand over the screws. Push the legs up so the screws sit in the small notches, and the empty screw holes are exposed. From there, simply use the included screws to fasten the legs in place.

Next, lay the TV face-down on the protective cardboard. Slide the assembled stand into the slots on the bottom of the TV, then use the four remaining screws to attach it.

Next, we’ll get power to the TV. Plug the supplied AC cable into the power brick, then plug the lead from the power brick into the port located at the lower left side on the back of the TV.

Almost all of the X900E’s inputs reside on the right-hand side bay. These include three HDMI ports (including one with ARC), three USB ports, analog video and audio ports, Ethernet port, and antenna connection. A second, smaller recessed bay includes another HDMI port and legacy inputs.

The legs of the TV stand are hollow, with slots for stringing your cables through so they aren’t visible when connected, resulting in a clean look.

Features and design

Since Sony broke out the power supply into an external power brick, the profile of the Sony X900E is thin. There’s still a little bump out in the back — much like you’ll find on many TVs — but expect a clean look when wall mounting.

The black matte bezel is thin, at about a half inch, and the stand is only 20 inches wide, which should make the X900E easy to set up in any entertainment center. Factor in the stand’s built-in cable management, and you have yourself a great looking TV.

Keep the viewing angle in mind when placing the X900E. The picture is great, but if viewed too far off angle from the “sweet spot” of dead center, the picture will wash out. Make sure your TV and seating arrangement are angled for the best possible picture.

Software setup

The X900E runs Android TV smart TV OS, which provides a quick setup wizard when you turn it on for the first time. Software setup starts with configuring your Wi-Fi connection if you’re not already connected to the internet via Ethernet cable. After you’ve connected to the internet, the TV will offer to scan for TV channels if you have an antenna connected, or it will program itself to control your cable box. Since this is an Android device, be sure to log in with your Google account if you have one. This will open up features like personalized recommendations or access to content you have already purchased through the Google Play Store.

If you’re planning to use the X900E remote’s voice controls, this needs to be enabled in the settings menu first. You’ll then be able to control the TV with OK Google. Users with an Amazon Alexa device can also control the TV through an Echo speaker. Finally, content can be cast to the TV via Google Cast-compatible apps.

For picture, we prefer the Cinema Home picture preset. It provides the best contrast, with solid brightness and great color. Two other settings are also worth mentioning: Cinema Pro, which darkens the picture a bit, making it great for dark rooms, and the Standard setting, which we recommend for those watching in brightly lit environments, such as a sun-filled room.

We hope this Sony X900E unboxing and setup guide has been helpful. Enjoy your new TV!




17
Sep

Enjoy your new 4K TV faster with our Sony X800E unboxing and setup guide


So you’ve gotten your hands on a brand-new Sony X800E 4K smart TV and you’re ready to set it up. Not sure where to begin? We’ve put together this handy Sony X800E unboxing and setup guide, which will give you step-by-step instructions on installation, starting from the moment you crack open the box all the way through finalizing the software setup.

What’s in the box?

In addition to the TV itself, you’ll find the following in the box:

  • Quick setup guide.
  • User manual.
  • Three stand pieces.
  • Eight screws.
  • IR blaster.
  • Remote with included batteries.

Several items are not included with the TV. You will need to buy HDMI cables to connect your TV to other devices. The easiest way to ensure you have HDMI cables is to buy the AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI cables at the same time you buy your TV. If you decide not to buy the AmazonBasics HDMI cablse, make sure that the HDMI cables you do have or buy are rated as “high speed” cables so they can accommodate the large amount of data 4K HDR content requires.

Additionally, the TV does not come with any wall mounting hardware. For information about wall mounting check out our wall mounting guide video.

Hardware setup

Inside the box you’ll find a quick setup guide that will give you helpful hints for assembly. Be sure to give this a read as it includes some helpful indicators as to where key parts reside within the box, as well as how to best position the TV when attaching the stand.

Begin by assembling the stand. The smaller pieces stand vertically on the inner arms of each base piece. Align the dimples on the base arms, with the flat portion facing toward the solid finished part of the base. Secure both pieces with two screws each.

Next, plug the TV in to a wall outlet. The AC power cable is hardwired into the back of the TV, so you won’t have to go searching for it.

There are three different input bays on the back of the Sony X800E. On the side bay are two HDMI ports, three USB ports, and a coaxial input for antenna or cable connection. The smaller right-hand bay has another pair of HDMI ports, an optical digital audio out, and a 3.5mm aux analog audio output. The large center bay includes legacy component connections and the Ethernet port for hardwired internet connection.

Features and design

The profile of the Sony X800E is interesting. While the display panel itself is notably thin, the back bumps out about halfway down the side. This shouldn’t affect stand-mounted setups, but it will cause the screen to jut out a bit from the wall when wall mounting.

The black matte bezel is thin, measuring about half an inch, and the stand is only 20 inches wide, which should make the X800E easy to setup atop most any entertainment center.

Software setup

The X800E runs the Android TV smart TV OS, which provides a quick setup wizard when you turn the TV on for the first time. If you’re not already connected to the internet via Ethernet cable, software setup starts with configuring your Wi-Fi connection. After you’re connected to the internet, the TV will offer to scan for TV channels if you have an antenna connected, or program itself to control your cable box. Be sure to log in with your Google account if you have one — since the X800E utilizes Android software, this will open up features like personalized recommendations or access to content you have already purchased through the Google Play Store.

If you’re planning to use the X800E’s voice controls, this needs to be enabled in the settings menu first. You’ll then be able to control the TV with the phrase “OK, Google.” Users with an Amazon Alexa device can also control the TV through their Echo speaker, as well. Finally, content can be cast to the TV via Google Cast-compatible apps.

We hope you found this Sony X800E unboxing and setup guide helpful. Happy watching!




17
Sep

Sony A1E OLED TV unboxing and setup: Uncomplicating your new centerpiece


The Sony A1E OLED TV was easily one of the most talked about TVs of the year. That said, the setup for this TV can be a little complicated. To make it easier, we have created a video explaining the Sony A1E OLED TV unboxing and setup. Follow along with the video for tips and tricks to setting up your TV.

Unboxing Tips and Cautions

Before you start unboxing your TV grab a friend to help you. This TV is heavy and you will need help moving it around. When you first open the top of the box, there will be a setup guide with detailed instructions on how to install the TV. The big takeaway from the guide is that you will be using the box to prop up the TV later. That said, still read the guide to get more information.

Near the bottom of the box there are four plastic squares. Remove these and then lift the sides of the TV box from around the TV. You will see the TV sitting on a base of cardboard and Styrofoam – it will be much easier to remove the TV from this base later.

What’s in the box

  • A piece of ballast.
  • A support rod.
  • Screws.
  • A plastic cover piece.
  • A power cable.
  • A cover for the power cable.
  • A back cover.
  • A remote.

Not included items

Several items are not included with the TV. You will need to buy HDMI cables to connect your TV to other devices. The easiest way to ensure you have HDMI cables is to buy the AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI cables at the same time you buy your TV. If you do not buy that specific cable, make sure that the HDMI cables you do buy are rated as “high speed” cables as they’ll need to be able to handle the large amounts of data 4K HDR content requires.

The TV also does not come with wall-mounting equipment. For more information about wall mounting, check out our wall-mounting guide video.

TV setup

The stand for the TV takes three steps to set up. First, fit the piece of ballast and the support rod together by sliding the support rod into the piece of ballast and secure the pieces together with two screws. Second, pull the tabs on the cardboard out in order to lay the cardboard down and easily remove the center piece of Styrofoam. Third, pull up the latch on the back of the TV and pull out the back portion of the stand. Carefully lower the stand and connect it to the ballast. Secure the ballast to the stand with two screws on each side.

The power cable is not hardwired to the TV, so locate where it says “AC In” on the stand and insert the power cable. Use the cover for the power cable to secure it in place. To the right of the power cable are all the inputs. There are four HDMI inputs, two USB inputs, and an Ethernet connection. Below the inputs, there are channels for cable management to keep your cables organized.

The last step is to cover the back of the TV with the supplied decorative cover.

Design Features

Looking at the TV from the front, it becomes apparent why the easel style stand is in place. There is no gap between the bottom of the TV and the entertainment stand — all you see is the screen. Sony was intentional in its design of the Sony A1E OLED TV, wanting it to be a form of art as well as a TV.

At first glance, there does not appear to be any speakers. That is because the screen is the speakers with Sony’s acoustic surface technology. On the left and right sides of the screen, there are actuators connected to the panel. When the actuators vibrate so does the panel resulting in sound. There is not much bass with this setup, which is why there is a subwoofer on the back of the TV.

Set up connections

When you first power on the TV, Sony will lead you through a setup wizard. The first step is to pick a language and then you will be told to connect to Wi-Fi. There will be a slight pause for updates and then the TV will scan for channels either through an antenna or channel box. Once you accept the terms of use and privacy policies, your TV will be set up.




17
Sep

How to remove watch links from the strap on your new watch


Your new smartwatch is in front of you, but you can’t wear it because the metal link strap is sized for someone with arms like tree trunks. What you need is to remove watch links from it. Time for a trip to your local jeweller, right? Not if you’ve planned ahead, because adjusting metal link watch bands isn’t difficult, provided you have the right tools, some patience, and a little time.

Acquiring the tools and knowledge to remove links from the band yourself will help for any future watch or cool strap purchases you make, and likely make you popular among watch-owning, but less skilled, friends too. Here’s how to remove watch links from a metal watch strap.

The right tools

This is important. You can’t adjust the strap with a hair pin and the hammer you used to hang that picture. However, you also don’t need to buy equipment that cost more than the watch. For our demo here, we are using the Mudder Watch Band Link Remover, purchased from Amazon U.K . for 7 British pounds. Oddly, it’s not in the U.S. Amazon store, but there are many other options. This similar watch toolkit from Bluedot is $7.50, while this SE Link Pin Remover Tool is less than $4.

Inside the box will be a selection of pin punches, a little hammer, and a watch tool for securing the band. There are other band adjustment options available with a winder attached to the tool, instead of using a little hammer. While these look easier to use, they can be more complicated to line-up during the pin removal process, and the pins are easier to lose straight after removal. Either system will do the job, but we’ll focus on the hammer-and-pin-tool system here.

The only other tool you may need is a pair of needle nose pliers. This isn’t essential, but sometimes the pins have a habit of getting stuck, and you’ll need a strong grip to get them out. We also suggest a small container to put the links and pins in after you remove them, so they don’t get lost.

The environment

You need a flat surface, and lots of light. Don’t do it in the middle of the night, or anywhere people want quiet, because hammering the pins out is a surprisingly noisy process. Make sure you’ve got plenty of time, as by rushing you run the risk of damaging the pins, links, or the watch itself. You don’t want a more expensive visit the jewellers.

How to adjust the strap

Step 1: Put the watch on and assess how many links need to be removed before it fits properly. With the clasp done up, pinch it at the side and see how many links gather together. This gives you an idea of whether two, four, or six links need to come out.

Step 2: Remove the watch and look at the underneath of the strap. You should see tiny arrows on one side. The direction they point in is the way the pins securing each link needs to come out. Generally, the pins go back in the opposite direction when replacing them.

Step 3: Grab your watch tool kit and select a pin punch and the small hammer. Fit the watch strap in the watch tool. The arrows should face down, with the pin destined to be removed over one of the small holes in the tool’s base. This allows the pin to drop down into the tool, but not roll away never to be seen again.

Step 4: Let’s assume you’re taking out four links in total. This is two from either side of the clasp. Locate the pin next to the clasp, and place the pin punch on the top. With the hammer, tap the punch with the hammer until the pin pops through. This takes a little force, but don’t go at it like you’re Thor holding Mjölnir.

Step 5: Remove the watch band from the tool and extract the pin. This is where the needle nose pliers may be needed to finally extract the pin from the strap. The watch strap will now be in two, and you need to repeat the process with the pin securing the required number of links to the rest of the strap. When you’re done, you should have two removed links, and a still separated strap. Keep the pins safe, you’re going to need them.

Step 6: Most pins that secure watch straps are alike, but there are differences. In our demo, we adjusted the strap on the Emporio Armani Connected smartwatch. It uses split pins, which if mistreated will bend and may get stuck in the strap, so be careful. If you’re adjusting the metal band on a Casio watch, the pins will have little metal ferrule. They’re tiny and easy to lose. Don’t forget to put them back in when refitting the pins as otherwise the pin will just fall out later on. The point is, pay attention when removing the pins on your watch strap, and be prepared for surprises.

Step 7: Now it’s time to attach the strap back to the clasp. Put the watch band back in the tool, but this time with the arrows facing up. The pins need to go in the opposite way to which they came out. Put the pin in the hole. It should go in a short way without a fight, but will need hammering home. Take your time.

Step 8: The strap should now be one piece again. We’d suggest trying the watch on again to make sure you didn’t misjudge how many links needed to be removed. Provided another two need to come out, repeat steps two to seven above on the other side of the clasp. When you’re done, your new watch should have a strap that fits your wrist.

That’s it, a watch strap adjusted without leaving your home, and you’ll have the tools to do it again in the future.




17
Sep

PlayStation VR add-on experiences ranked!


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PlayStation VR add-on experiences deliver new content in ways you might not expect.

There are already plenty of new games available on PlayStation VR, but what you might not expect are the new VR add-ons to PlayStation 4 games you’re already playing. There aren’t many of these floating around, but we’ve got the details on each PlayStation 4 add-on experience here today.

Read more at VRHeads.com

17
Sep

Ben Heck’s mini pinball: All about the control board


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So here’s where the team is at with the control board for their miniature pinball machine: Felix has put together a prototype board with the Arduino and Teensy microcontrollers, which will control the solenoids and take input from bumpers, buttons and other mechanisms that Ben is designing. Ben had to reprint the disc for the pop-bumper, though, and now it will fit with the conductive metal rings to give us a circuit that can help rack up the points. Let us know what you think about the build so far over on the element14 Community, and please do share any comments you have about C++ programming.

17
Sep

The winery of the future looks like something Bruce Wayne would run


When winemakers a century from now look back on the technology that changed the game, one winery is going to stand out: Palmaz Vineyards in the Napa Valley. Though ordinary in appearance at first glance, an amazing array of custom-built technologies lurking in a subterranean lair bolster the winemaker’s craft with exacting science.

Located on 610-acre parcel located northeast of downtown Napa, the vineyeard is run by the Palmaz family, who originally came from Argentina. They purchased the property in the mid-90s and had to start from scratch, as the previous owner had let the ground go fallow.

When they set out to make the winery, the Palmaz family wanted to take the land into account. They drilled 4,900 core samples around the property to understand the various soil compositions, then tailored the entire layout of the vineyard around the findings – a departure from the simple rectangular parcels that dominate the surrounding area.

Another goal was to have access to as many available options at the time of blending as possible.

“What if we could build a facility to leverage all these unique regions and never allow them to be combined until the moment of blending? Then, to take that one step further, never make consolidations of any kind,” Palmaz says. Take these two elements, throw in three years of planning, seven of construction, and two of finishing touches, and a winery was born.

Look beneath the surface

With fifty-four full-time staff, including two winemakers, the winery produces around 9,500 cases of wine per year split between Cabernet Sauvignon (the premier grape in the Napa Valley), Chardonnay, and other varietals only available at the winery.

From top to bottom, the winery stretches to a depth of 240 feet—the equivalent of a 22-story building, of which 18 stories is underground.

The number of cases, though, pales in comparison to the sheer size of the operation, especially when you look at the winery. For those 9,500 cases, current CEO Christian Palmaz says they have around 110,000 square-feet of working space. It’s all underground, in space that looks a bit like a nuclear missile launch facility. Twenty-four different fermenters, each with different specifications, are tailored to the specific grapes the land provides.

And one more thing about those fermentation tanks: They rotate on a carousel-like system. The mobility allows the crew to carefully insert the grapes into the fermenter from above without worrying about moving the grapes from where they were brought in and risking damaging them in the process.

From top to bottom, the winery stretches to a depth of 240 feet—the equivalent of a 22-story building, of which 18 stories is underground. This great depth, Palmaz says, allows them to “gravity finish” their wines, making them the only winery in the world to do so.

“Throughout the entire winemaking process, we never use a pump. From where our barrels are stored on Level 3, we use the additional 133 feet to naturally create the pressure needed to filter and bottle in the same movement,” Palmaz says.

The difference in the data

Upon entering the area where fermentation takes place — a domed cavern that houses the fermenters — it only takes a moment for the dome itself to come alive. A series of projections pop up: graphs, charts, statistics, everything you could think of that might be useful to the winemaking process.

The system that handles these projections is named FILCS (pronounced Felix). Short for Fermentation Intelligent Logic Control System, FILCS “excels in the mundane,” allowing the winery’s two winemakers, Tina Mitchell and Mia Klein, more freedom during the creative process that many see as the art behind winemaking.

“You essentially tell the system what the plan is going to be and then adjust as you go. The system builds a trend line and will make minute adjustments in temperature every second to modulate the rate of fermentation,” Palmaz says.

“You essentially tell the system what the plan is going to be and then adjust as you go.”

A significant amount of technology went into creating FILCS, including the adaptation of a special probe — a sono-densitometer — that measures the speed of sound between two paddles in the bottom of the tank. The speed of sound is then used to equate density which provides the brix, the sugar content in the wine.

“The goal is to give the winemaker back her time so she can spend it with the only real instrument a winemaker likes to use, a glass,” Palmaz says.

FILCS can finish a wine on its own, even down to the zero minute of the (standard) 28th day of fermentation. It is that dialed in.

“That doesn’t guarantee it’s a great wine, just a great fermentation. What makes a wine great is when the winemaker happens to be there when something great happens. Something you can see, smell, taste, et cetera.”

It’s that second part — the one that is harder to explain — that pushed Palmaz to learn from other fields and adopt technology capable of measuring the temperature of the wine at 3.2 million different points – data which is projected on the dome above as a graphic.

“Data is great, but useless unless they can interact with it at the time they’re working. By projecting it on the ceilings around them they can leverage all of the data,” Palmaz says.

This is where the workspaces come in. Using a Radio Frequency Identification system (RFID) that registers who is standing in front of a specific tank automatically, FILCS will project the information for that tank 180-degrees behind them, as well as the last four tanks that person worked on. When that person moves, the images shift accordingly to the new tank. If only one winemaker is present, she can choose what to display on the dome using an app on her phone.

“All of this allows the winemakers to have pretty tight controls over everything going on while being able to disconnect from the worrisome part of winemaking and focus more on other elements,” Palmaz says. “If you find something you like, FILCS can hold the conditions in order to extract more of that specific component.”

Another set of displays show parcel maps of the vineyards created using another technological innovation of the Palmaz family, VIGOR.

VIGOR, or Vineyard Infrared Growth Optical Recognition, is data obtained from a device attached to an aircraft that, twice weekly, they send up to pass over the winery at around 10,000 feet, taking infrared images of each plot. Those images map the NDVI — normalized difference vegetation index — which assesses the evenness of the plants’ growth by studying amount of chlorophyll in the leaves (translating to how much water might be needed in a certain area at a given time).

With two flights per week, Palmaz and his team are able to assess and adjust, then check to see if their adjustments were beneficial. This technology is then put into the cloud of data feeding FILCS, allowing the winemakers to see the patterns of growth for the grapes that are now in the fermentation tanks.

The craft isn’t dead

“All of this data helps winemakers make decisions quickly when it’s game time,” Palmaz says.

Using all of the data, FILCS is able to learn and grow with each harvest. With two full harvests and a test season under its digital belt, FILCS has already begun to adjust according to patterns in data that it has observed.

It can, for example, understand temperature propagation.

The point is to elevate the human element so that they’re not spending their time concerned with mundane details.

“FILCS knows, for example, that heat transfers through the cap of skins differently from the juice below or airspace above. We can model all of that in real time and control each area independently,” Palmaz says.

All of this data production and analysis has caused ire among some other winemakers.

While some, jokingly or not, talk of killing the romance that is winemaking, Palmaz argues that they’re doing the opposite, in a way. “The point is to elevate the human element so that they’re not spending their time concerned with mundane details.” They’re not making synthetic wine, after all.

This means more risk-taking, being more creative, and being able to push the envelope because of the higher situational awareness they have in regards to the wine.

“They’re far less stressed.”

It helps, too, that FILCS is able to understand when a problem is going to occur, sometimes up to 30 hours in advance. This allows the winemakers to make the appropriate adjustments and not risk losing an entire batch of wine due to, for example, an oxygen deficiency.

The Palmaz’s technology is the result of years of research and development. That being said, there’s always room for improvements in his eye.

With those two areas of the winemaking process covered, there’s really only one left that could use a futuristic boost, and Palmaz says they’re well on their way.

Their next innovation? Barrel awareness technology, able to scan individual barrels during aging to monitor a variety of conditions. Palmaz says they hope to unveil the new technology in the next year or two.




17
Sep

Facebook hands Russia-backed ads to election investigators


Those Russia-linked Facebook ads are more than just a reason for concern — they could play an important role in one of the largest investigations in recent memory. CNN sources understand that Facebook has supplied the ads and “related information” to special counsel Robert Mueller and team after they obtained a search warrant. The move will theoretically help Mueller’s investigative team find out who was behind the ads and whether or not they played a role in Russia’s bid to skew the 2016 US presidential election. And reportedly, this only comes after other attempts to get the info fell flat.

The insiders claim that Facebook rejected House and Senate Intelligence Committee attempts to get the ads. The site’s policy, in line with the Stored Communications Act, requires a warrant before it can hand over search data.

Mueller’s spokesperson declined to comment, and Facebook would only say that it continues to “work with the appropriate investigative authorities.” Don’t expect to learn many specifics, then. All the same, this both highlights the breadth of the election interference investigation and the nature of these sorts of investigations circa 2017. Who’d have thought that social media ad spots could play a substantial role in a case like this?

Source: CNN

17
Sep

Action Launcher and Nova Launcher take different approaches to Adaptive Icons


Google’s Adaptive Icons has popular launcher developers solving problems in innovative ways.

With their most recent versions, popular third-party launchers Action Launcher and Nova Launcher are approaching the implementation of Google’s Adaptive Icons in different ways.

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Nova Launcher’s latest beta offers users the opportunity to dynamically reshape existing icons, which doesn’t always work out but looks great a lot of the time. The upside? No custom icon pack necessary.

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Action Launcher’s latest version does the opposite, launching a paid icon pack called AdaptivePack that promises to build a bevy of Adaptive Icon-supported icons for popular apps. To his credit, developer Chris Lacy promises near-weekly icon updates through the app’s request feature, which should plug some of the holes in the initial release.

Both solutions allow users on older versions of Android — Lollipop and above — to take advantage of one of Oreo’s most popular, and divisive, user-facing features. It also allows the few number of Pixel and Nexus users on Oreo an opportunity to fill in the gaps where developers have not yet turned to updating their icons for the new shapes.

Which implementation do you prefer?

What are Adaptive Icons and why do I want them?

Android Oreo

  • Android Oreo review!
  • Everything new in Android Oreo
  • How to get Android Oreo on your Pixel or Nexus
  • Oreo will make you love notifications again
  • Will my phone get Android Oreo?
  • Join the Discussion

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