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Mars Ingenuity Helicopter's First Flight to Occur Soon

NASA says it will launch no earlier than April 14th

Wednesday, April 14, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Life, the Universe and Everything


Image courtesy of NASA

Back in February, NASA's Perseverance rover landed on the surface of MarsPerseverance is equipped with all sorts of amazing tools and gadgets - including the first ever Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity.

Originally, the helicopter was scheduled to attempt its first flight early Monday morning, but data that NASA scientists received late last week have caused them to postpone the flight to no earlier than April 14th (that's today - wonder if we'll get an update soon?). In any case, whenever this little 4-pound helicopter does attempt its inaugural flight, you'll be able to watch via NASA's livestream.

Last week, scientists at NASA located a spot on the surface that was flat enough and free of obstructions and plopped Ingenuity there to prepare for its first flight. Mission controllers have spent the last several days making final adjustments to prepare, including a test of the motors and the releasing of the helicopter's motor blades.

The JPL team will transmit flight instructions to Perseverance, which will then relay the info to Ingenuity. There were many factors that could potentially delay the flight - including high winds or other inclement weather - but according to NASA's press release, there was a different reason for holding off on the launch.


Image courtesy of NASA

"During a high-speed spin test of the rotors on Friday, the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a “watchdog” timer expiration. This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from ‘Pre-Flight’ to ‘Flight’ mode. The helicopter is safe and healthy and communicated its full telemetry set to Earth," NASA said in a release on their website.

"The watchdog timer oversees the command sequence and alerts the system to any potential issues. It helps the system stay safe by not proceeding if an issue is observed and worked as planned."

During a press conference, Ingenuity operations lead at JPL Tim Canham said that we should expect about 40 seconds worth of data. Ingenuity is equipped with a downward facing camera that will snap photos during the flight, snapping images about 30 times a second. The camera, in addition to documenting the flight, will serve as an altimeter to help mission planners localize the chopper's landing spot. The Perseverance will also attempt to capture images of the test flight via its Mastcam-Z camera.

Assuming the flight goes well, this the first time in history that NASA - or any other space agency - has successfully attained power controlled flight on an alien planet. The success of this mission could introduce an entirely new dimension to exploration of the Red Planet.

If you want to make sure you don't miss the test flight, you can keep an eye on NASA's official schedule here. I know I'll be keeping an eye on it - how about you? Science is cool!


A concept art piece of Ingenuity in flight. Image courtesy of NASA

 

 

Spring Themes for a Seasonal Desktop!

Monday, April 12, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News

We've mentioned spring desktop wallpapers recently, but of course there's much more you can do for spring than just change your wallpaper. 

One of my favorite skins to use for spring is from don5318 called Simple Green. This is a nice WindowBlinds skin that has an overall minimal design, but with beautiful touches of spring colors sprinkled in.

Not specifically designed for spring, but Reality by LightStar has a perfect color scheme that matches well with a bunch of spring and nature themed wallpapers.

There's no shortage of spring animated wallpapers for DeskScapes, but one you should definitely check out is Spring Falls from AzDude which has a beautiful waterfall scene.

 

Stardock's Virtual Trivia Night

We're all still at home, so we decided to have some friendly competition online!

Thursday, April 8, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel! Vaccinations are rolling out and we’re all one step closer to being back together in person at the office. I know I don’t just speak for myself when I say that we’ve missed each other so much. 

We’re still not quite ready to gather in person yet, so we’ve been taking our game nights online for the last year or so. A couple Fridays ago, we hosted an online trivia night using Discord. We offered a $20 Amazon gift card as a prize, worked on the honor system that no one would use Google (or any other search engine, for you loop-hole searchers!), and had a grand old time. I teamed up with Raeann, our awesome administrative assistant, and together we wrote the questions, chose the categories, and organized the entire affair.

 

The Tools

As I mentioned above, we used Discord for voice chat. Back at the start of the pandemic, we created a company server where we hosted other virtual game nights for things like Jackbox, Among Us, and plenty of games on Tabletop Simulator. Discord is nice because it has a huge room capacity, so we didn’t have to worry about anyone being left out, and Raeann was able to stream her screen with the trivia software (more on that next) easily to everyone in the room.

We needed a way to keep track of the score, the timing, and have everyone be able to answer and participate. We discovered a website called Kahoot!, which is used commonly by teachers for class trivia and quizzes. Raeann and I wrote all of the questions in a shared Google doc and then she spent the time (thanks, Raeann!) putting the questions into Kahoot for the trivia night.

 

The Trivia

First, we came up with categories about two weeks in advance and just filled in a question or two here and there as we thought of them or had free time. Then, about 2 days before trivia night, we discovered that we had completely avoided categories like Math that we both wanted nothing to do with. We figured, why write questions for a topic we hate? New topic! So we added a second miscellaneous category and ran with it.

There’s about a ten year difference in age between Raeann and I, which I found really entertaining to see when we got to any questions about pop culture - it was like two different worlds! It was also fairly obvious by the time we got to trivia night which questions I had written - I can’t help it, I’m wordy! 

 

The Team Building

We had a lot of fun together that night. The competition was friendly, the jokes were abundant, and the laughs were nonstop. Even though some of the questions were total misses - as in, no one got it right! - there was usually a question at least one person knew the answer to.

In the end, Sarah from our dev team absolutely dominated the night with an impressive total score of 29,680 and around a 70% answer rate. Second place was another member of our dev team, Xander, with a score of 19,278. Sarah took an early lead and held onto it with an iron grip - it was inspiring to see how much trivia she knew!

 

Let’s Have a Little Fun

I want to share a smattering of trivia questions with you. There are no prizes, no big to-do, and nothing to stop you from using Google, but I encourage you to try to answer these in the comments without looking up an answer. I will post the answers in the comments (or let you know when you're right!) next week. I’m picking some of my favorites from each category - I hope you all enjoy guessing as much as we enjoyed writing!

CATEGORY 1: MISCELLANEOUS

1. What do Noodlers catch with their bare hands?

2. This number, one of the first 20, uses only one vowel (4 times!)

 

CATEGORY 2: TV & MOVIES

1. The Electric Mayhem band was a regular mainstay on The Muppet Show, which aired for 120 episodes from 1976-1981. Name 3 of its 5 members. Bonus if you can name all of them!

2. Which video game franchise had frequent segments on The Super Mario Bros. Super Show?

 

CATEGORY 3: VIDEO GAMES

1. Video game sound design can often lend itself to finding sound sources in some unusual places! The Ghast enemies in Minecraft were portrayed with sounds from what real-life animal?

2. Any video game fan will tell you that a game’s music is one of the most important aspects of immersion. Composer Christopher Tin is the first musician to win a Grammy for a song written specifically for a video game. Which game was the song written for? BONUS POINT: What was the name of the song?

 

CATEGORY 4: SCIENCE

1. Humans aren’t the only beings who have been to space - they brought man’s best friend with them, too! The first animal to go to space was a dog, aboard Sputnik 2 in 1957. What was her name?

2. Which jungle animal, when in a group, is known as an “ambush”?

 

CATEGORY 5: GEOGRAPHY

1. Vienna is the capital of which European country?

2. What is the only New England state with no Atlantic coastline?

 

CATEGORY 6: LOGOS

1. Identify the company this logo is from.

2. Name the company this logo belongs to.

CATEGORY 7: TECH

1. What does "NFT" stand for?

2. What was the name of the very first computer virus?

CATEGORY 8: HISTORY

1. What piece of technology did IBM develop in 1973 that they nicknamed Winchester?

2. What was the name of the first social networking site launched on the internet in 1994?

CATEGORY 9: MORE MISCELLANEOUS

1. In the movie The Princess Bride, the characters Wesley and Inigo Montoya duel with rapiers on a cliffside. During the battle, both confess the same secret to one another: what is the secret?

2. What race of Star Wars creatures originate from the planet Kashyyyk?

CATEGORY 10: LITERATURE

1. This book series, which started in 1984, features iconic fantasy characters like Tanis Half-Elven, Raistlin Majere, and Sturm Brightblade, among many others. The books began as a Dungeons and Dragons Campaign. What is the series?

2. In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, the White Witch offers Edmund hot chocolate and a sweet treat when she finds him standing alone in the cold. What did Edmund eat?

 

I am looking forward to hearing your answers. Have fun!

Beautiful Spring Color - Electric Tangerine

Wednesday, April 7, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: OS Customization

I get a lot of emails from creative and design websites, but this one caught my eye because orange is a favorite color of mine and I like this one. Creative Market is calling this the "color of season" for spring, and I think it would be a nice choice for some skins and themes. 

HEX: #FF825C
RGB: 255, 130, 92

"A mid-century revival with a bright red undertone and high chroma, Electric Tangerine feels both vintage and futuristic. Nostalgic and hopeful. This punchy hue captures the renewal energy many are starting to feel."


I think a Curtains themes would look great with some of this color incorporated into it. What do you think about this color? Would you like to see some themes with this?

 

Share Your April Desktops with the WC Community!

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News

Spring is here along with a new month and that means it's time for another desktop screenshot thread! Are you rocking a spring theme this month? Something more sci-fi, maybe? Well post a screenshot and let us know what skins and themes you are using!

Post your desktops to the monthly thread here: https://forums.wincustomize.com/504372/

(This is a news thread and will be locked. Screenshot taken by Chasbo)

 

 
 

It’s April Fools’ Day! Let’s talk origins and great geeky pranks

Thursday, April 1, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog

I absolutely love a good joke.

As long as the joke doesn’t hurt or disparage someone, I’m 100% for April Fools' pranks. While some corners of the internet are to be avoided on April 1st, I personally always look forward to some of the funny prank products that game and tech companies come up with for that day. 

I got curious about the origins of April Fools' Day, so I did a bit of searching online and found a few different accounts. The most credible explanation of its origin is on History.com, which claims that although its exact origins remain a mystery, there is an early account on April 1, 1700 of English pranksters playing practical jokes on each other, thus popularizing the tradition.

Some historians speculate that the tradition dates back to starting in 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. People who were slow to receive the news or failed to recognize the start of the new year had moved to January 1, and continued to celebrate it during the last week or March through April 1, were suddenly the butt of many jokes. 

From History.com: “These pranks included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as poisson d’avril (April fish), said to symbolize a young, “easily hooked” fish and a gullible person.

April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain during the 18th century. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event, starting with “hunting the gowk,” in which people were sent on phony errands (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool) and followed by Tailie Day, which involved pranks played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them.”

Now that the history is covered, I thought we’d take a look at some of my favorite gag products and posts from game and tech companies from the last several years. This is by no means an exhaustive list - there are tons and tons of these, and I’d love to hear which ones are your favorites, too!

Blizzard Entertainment - Crabby the Dungeon Helper

Back in 2011, Blizzard introduced a little April Fools' joke of their own: Crabby the Dungeon Helper. This little azure crab would offer helpful tips and tricks for tackling those tough dungeons - not unlike Microsoft’s Clippy, who was absolutely essential for writing those tough college essays, right?

Blizzard has had quite a few great jokes over the years, but I think Crabby is by far one of my favorites - and I’m not even a World of Warcraft player! 

Duolingo - The Duolingo Pillow

Want to learn another language, but finding the time is tough? That’s okay, the Duolingo Pillow has you covered! With this incredible product, you can learn a language overnight and wake up bilingual in the morning. 

The Duolingo pillow offers 3 languages - Spanish, French, and Italian - with promises of adding Japanese in 2039. The website for this prank is actually very clever and entertaining to look through. The joke first debuted for April Fools' Day in 2016.

YouTube - Rickrolled

You know Rickrolling - who doesn’t? It’s one of the oldest jokes of the Internet, and I’m sure at one point or another we’ve all either been Rickrolled or have unleashed it on an unwitting friend or family member.

In 2008, YouTube took the joke to an entirely different level by redirecting all featured videos on its main page to the famous Rick Astley clip. Considering the huge amount of traffic YouTube had, even back then, I think it’s fairly safe to say that they essentially succeeded in Rickrolling the entire internet. 

Thinking about this one still makes me laugh!

Google - The Screen Cleaner

I love it when a company really commits to their jokes - and back in 2019, Google absolutely did. Not only did they have a fairly large volume of gags, but their execution was meticulous, flawless, and funny. I love this trailer for the screen cleaner who lives inside of the Files app!

2019 also saw Google introducing several other gag products, including Snake in Google Maps, the Google Tulip, and Spoon Bending for Gboard.

Walt Disney World - Snears

They’re not a tech or gaming company, but I found these while I was doing my searching and I got a great giggle out of them. What better way to enjoy snacks at Disney than out of a set of Mickey Mouse ears on your head!? 

You can see the link to the tweet containing the silly video in the header above. Hilariously, I read lots of comments about people who wished this product was real - I guess they gave Disney quite an earful.

I’m not sorry.

ThinkGeek - Literally Everything

Ah, ThinkGeek - I miss that website so much. You can still find some ThinkGeek products over at GameStop, but it’s not the same and doesn’t have nearly the same amount of selection. I was devastated when that site shut down; for the longest time, it was the only place I could get quirky nerd apparel and decor. 

What I loved about ThinkGeek so much was their humor - especially around April Fools' time. They had some pretty epic pranks over the years - some of them were so beloved that they eventually became actual products! I’ve selected a few of my favorite prank videos and included them below, but you can see the full list linked in the header above.

The Technomancer hoodie actually went on to become a real product! 

This never became a real thing, but I have to admit: if it was, I'm that weirdo who'd hang it up in her house.

What a bunch of geeks - I love it so much.

Saved the best for last! This one also went on to become a real product and is one of my favorite ThinkGeek jokes. 

April 1st is an awesome time to enjoy some good, clean fun online. What are some of your favorite April Fools’ Day gags? Share with me!

Future Windows 10 Update Targets Optimum Device Performance

The "Device Usage" feature was originally announced back in October

Wednesday, March 31, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Personal Computing

I've been a Windows user for a long time. 

Admittedly, that's rather by default - Windows was what came with my family's first PC and is the most accessible OS for most consumers, so it's obviously a fairly natural choice. It's been interesting to see Windows evolve over the years, although I, like many others, abhorred some of the changes (let's just ignore Windows Vista, shall we?).

Back in October, Microsoft announced a new "Device Usage" feature they were working on for a future Windows update. This feature would allow users to optimize the performance of their device for a range of uses, including gaming, business, and schoolwork. The idea is that users would select what they intend to primarily use their PC for during the setup process, and then the software will tailor how it operates in order to ensure the best experience.

Image from Microsoft's Windows Insider Blog

The feature first appeared in preview build 20231, which Microsoft discussed in a blog post stating that it was frequently requested by users. Recently, the feature has been undergoing internal testing and is even available to some preview build users now, which indicates a possible release for it later this year.

According to Windows Latest, which has been able to access the feature, the Device Usage tool offers a number of ways to customize your Windows 10 for specific cases. Currently, the options that are offered are:

  • Gaming - Play and discover games, keep up with new releases
  • Family - Connect with the whole family, edit safety settings, and give everyone their own profile
  • Creativity - Bring ideas to life - from novels and presentations to photos and videos
  • Schoolwork - Take notes, write essays, and collaborate on projects
  • Entertainment - Watch videos, browse the web, and connect on social media
  • Business - Track expenses, manage customers, and run your business

Toggling one or more of these options at setup will allow Microsoft to access your data in order to create "personalized experiences," which could include suggestions for tools and services to download from the Windows store. Right now, there's nothing that indicates that this optimization extends anywhere past just a software solution - for example, it probably won't help solve your RAM-hogging applications or battery draining very much.

Ideally, selecting what you intend to use the machine for might cut down on annoying or unnecessary suggestions from Microsoft, as well as making prominent apps like conferencing or presentation software more visible for first-time users.

Do you tend to give preview builds for Windows a try before they're released, or do you wait for the updates? Tell me about it!

 

New Triggered Animated Wallpaper Content!

Monday, March 29, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News

We have been producing some additional triggered animated wallpapers for DeskScapes. Some of these are video based .dreams and some are more dynamic using still images that will change over the course of a day. 

There are more coming out, but I wanted to highlight a few to start the week off.

See more animated wallpapers for DeskScapes here.

Looking Up at the Sky

Day and night sky triggered animated wallpaper of a "looking up" scene in the mountains.

Day at the Beach

Triggered animated wallpaper showing 3 different beach scenes for sunrise, afternoon, and sunset.

 

 
 

Checking Out Vertical Tabs in Microsoft Edge

Friday, March 26, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing

I've been using Microsoft Edge as my main browser for quite a while now, and I've been quite happy with it. I really like the Collections feature and I really haven't had any issues with the browser overall.

A new feature that came out earlier in the month I believe is vertical tabs. It's a simple idea but for those of us who have been using "regular" tabs for years, might be not so sure about it. That's where I am with it. Using tabs in a browser is just natural now, and I don't even think about it, but now this puts the tabs in a vertical layout and now I don't know what's right with the world.


I'm glad it's an option now, but I just need to try it out some more and see if I like it better than the normal tabs in a browser.

Have you tried vertical tabs yet? Let me know what you think!

 

A Tour of Multiplicity KVM

Thursday, March 25, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog

One of the most common questions I think I get about the Multiplicity software is: why are there 3 versions and what the heck is the difference between them? It’s a fair question - one that I also had personally when I started learning about our software - and I’m here to help answer it.

A while back, I wrote up a guide to setting up Multiplicity KM. Multiplicity KM is the version that is included in Object Desktop, and lets you control 2 PCs with a single keyboard and mouse. This version, while enough for most average users, does have some limitations that Multiplicity KVM expands past.

Just for starters, let’s take a quick look at the 3 versions of Multiplicity and the differences between them, which are depicted in this convenient chart below.

There are a few pretty big differences between the KM and KVM versions of Multiplicity. KM is great, but what if you’re a user who has more than 2 PCs they’d like to connect and wants to make use of the other options? KVM has you covered.

Multiplicity KVM has more options for seamless mode

First off, let's answer the question: what is seamless mode? 

You'll need to have both PCs nearby and within your field of view in order to take advantage of this. If you use a multi-monitor setup with one PC, seamless mode works the same way in concept, except you can do it with 2 computers instead of just one. You'll be able to move your mouse cursor from your main PC's monitor right to your second PC's monitor as if they were the same machine. 

You can connect a single PC using multiple monitors to another PC using multiple monitors, too! Since I’ve been working from home I only use one computer, but my work setup has a main PC with two monitors, plus a secondary PC with one monitor. I can work seamlessly between them, which is just so convenient.

Multiplicity KVM will let you do more when utilizing seamless mode. In all versions, you can copy and paste things from one PC to another, but only KVM and KVM Pro will allow you to drag and drop files between computers while they’re connected with seamless mode. With KVM, you can also connect up to 9 computers (the primary PC + 8 additional) seamlessly, whereas with KM you can only connect 2 (primary + secondary). 

Two computers is more than enough for me personally, but if you work in fields like financial services, industry analysis, or many others, you might just need all the extra computing power. Wouldn’t it be nice to move easily between them with just one keyboard and mouse?

KVM allows for remote connections

Multiplicity KVM allows you to access one PC remotely outside of seamless mode (you can use your remote PC in tandem with all of your seamlessly connected PCs also!). From your primary designated PC, you’ll be able to connect to another PC remotely over network or VPN, and copy and paste files easily between them. 

You can view an active thumbnail of the remote PC easily, plus you don’t have to worry about security - security options include connection access security codes, AES-256 encrypted connections, and a connection audit log. 

Multiplicity is versatile

With Multiplicity KVM, you don’t have to worry about differences between your PCs. Are two of them running Windows 10 while another runs Windows 8? No problem - Multiplicity is compatible between multiple PCs with various versions of Windows. 

Different screen resolutions and monitor sizes won’t negatively impact using Multiplicity in KVM mode, either. Here’s a quick look on compatibility and what you’ll need to run the program:

System Compatibility

  • Keyboard and mouse, wired or wireless
  • Video monitor (VGA, SVGA, HDMI, DVI, USB, DisplayPort, PS/2)
  • Windows 10, 8, 7 and Vista; 32 and 64-bit; Windows XP 32-bit only
  • Windows Server 2003 / 2003 R2, 2008 / 2008 R2, 2012 / 2012 R2
  • All PCs must be accessible on the same network or router, wired or wireless
  • PCs on different networks must be accessible by VPN or crossover cable

Want to learn more? Here are some resources

If you've decided to download Multiplicity and are ready to install it, check out our handy quick start guide here. If you run into any issues, there's pretty thorough help to be found in our support center here. Our longtime software guru IslandDog wrote this handy FAQ too - most of your questions can be answered there!

Are you a Multiplicity fan? Let me know what you use it for!

 




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