Order Placed: OCEANBLUe Upgrade

CPU: Intel i5-760
Motherboard: ASUS P7P55 LX
Memory: 4GB (2*2GB) G.SKILL DDR3-1333 F3-10666CL8D-4GBHK 8-8-8-21 1.5V
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GT
Sound Card: Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit

I was given a budget of $500 to bring the system up to speed, and began putting it towards parts that would keep processes humming along nicely for years to come.

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 1600 (Amazon.com)
Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-AB350-Gaming 3 (Amazon.com)
Memory: 8GB (1*8GB) Patriot Viper 4 DDR4-2400 PV48G240C5 15-15-15-35 1.2V (Amazon.com)
8GB of RAM is quite generous for basic computing. I selected this particular module because it offered tighter timings than the competition at the same price-point. I debated whether to go for two 4GB modules over a single 8GB module – in the past, I would have gone with two 4GB modules in a heartbeat because of the theoretical benefits of dual-channel, but real-world benchmarks suggest that the performance improvement is marginal.
SSD: SK hynix SL308 250GB HFS250G32TND-N1A2A (Amazon.com)
OS: Windows 10 Pro

Notably missing from this parts order is a new GPU. OCEANBLUe already has an NVIDIA 9800 GT, and we’ll be sticking with that until it bites the dust. Similarly, we’re holding onto the existing PSU, which has plenty of headroom.

One detail that I wanted to address before finalizing the parts order was the maximum height CPU cooler supported by the Cooler Master Wave Master case. I measured roughly 5.5 inches (139.7 mm) of clearance.

Order Placed: Zhiyun Smooth 3

My awareness of these products began with DJI OSMO Mobile, which I found during a visit to the Apple Store

The DJI OSMO Mobile has been on the market for some time, so I was able to explore reviews and found a slew of products by searching for more generic keywords (gimbal for smartphones)

My awareness grew to include Zhiyun products, and an exploration of Zhiyun website led to awareness of Zhiyun’s latest products catering to smartphone users seeking to stabilize their video captures: Smooth 3 (MSRP $299, Amazon.com) & Smooth-Q (MSRP $139, Amazon.com).

The Smooth 3 is their flagship product for smartphone videography, and it can stabilize devices weighing up to 260g. I looked at comparisons pitting the Smooth 3 vs. Smooth-Q, and decided to pull the trigger on my Zhiyun Smooth 3 purchase after locating a 10% off coupon.

The Zhiyun Smooth 3 uses a 26650 battery, which means that I’ll be able to source my own batteries if I need more. That single battery allows for an impressive 14-hour continuous runtime, which should outlast my iPhone 7 Plus.

One video review that I watched highlighted an issue: optical image stabilization on devices does not play nicely with stabilization from gimbal. This came as no surprise.

Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller (2nd Gen) Review

I placed an order for a second-generation Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller (MSRP $199.99 for 8 zones, $249.99 for 16 zones, Amazon.com) to replace the old sprinkler controller at my parents’ home. I received delivery two days later thanks to Amazon Prime’s shipping benefit.

Installing the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller

Installation was relatively straightforward. Prior to pulling the old sprinkler controller out of line, I noted wire colors for each zone. This wasn’t strictly necessary, but I wanted to retain zone numbering for consistency’s sake.

I encountered a minor hiccup while testing wire insertion. To remove wires from the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller, simply insert a small flathead screwdriver into the slot at the end of the receptacle to release pressure, and pull out.

Once all sprinkler wires were inserted, I wall-mounted the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller, and fed it power.

Basic Configuration

I installed the Rachio app from the iOS App Store, and registered an account from the login screen. The app identifies the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller. I configured it to join the same wireless network that my iDevice was on, though it is possible to designate another network.

A minor quirk: the Rachio mobile app and web application both make reference to a blue terminal on the device. There is no blue color-coded terminal on the second generation Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller! Master/Pump Valve Wire insert into the “M” terminal slot on the second generation Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller, as per the Quick Start Guide (http://support.rachio.com/article/474-installation-guide-gen-2).

Rachio can obtain weather data from National Weather Service (NWS), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); or from Personal Weather Stations (pwsweather.com)

As luck would have it, it began raining moments after I joined the unit to the wireless network. This came in handy as a litmus test of the PWS station located about half a mile away from the house. I checked to see if the PWS had recorded the precipitation (it had), and selected it as the source.

Zone Configuration

Zone configuration within the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller is immensely rich. In order to make the most out of the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller, it pays to do some legwork in this department.

Depth of configuration is impressive. Basic zone configuration populates data that can be refined in advanced zone configuration.

Basic Zone Configuration

  • Vegetation
  • Soil
  • Terrain
  • Sunshine/shade
  • Sprinkler type

Advanced Zone Configuration

Advanced Zone settings are primarily used for Rachio’s “Flex” Scheduling

  • Area
  • Available water
  • Crop coefficient
  • Root depth
  • Allowed depletion
  • Efficiency

Additional details can be found at Rachio’s page on advanced zone settings

Watering Schedule

The Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller offers four schedule types:

  • Fixed Interval – Waters on a set interval or odd/even days
  • Fixed Days – Waters on specific days of the week; i.e. Mondays/Wednesday/Friday
  • Flexible Monthly –¬†Adjusts monthly based on historical climate data; watering duration & interval (frequency) change takes place after the first watering in the following month
  • Flexible Daily –¬†Adjusts daily based on soil moisture; watering schedules dynamically update on a zone by zone basis

Information from support.rachio.com/article/416-creating-a-watering-schedule

These schedules can be used in tandem, and one can designate start and end dates for each schedule.

I started by configuring the Rachio to follow the same watering schedule used by the previous sprinkler controller, a simple fixed schedule that runs on set days of the week.

I want to move the watering schedule over to one of the dynamic schedules, but I need to gather additional data in order to make full use of Rachio’s smart features. Stay tuned: more on this to follow!

Order Placed: Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller, 2nd Generation

The sprinkler controller at my parent’s home (Rain Bird ESP-6TM) was on the fritz, and I’d been aware of suitable replacements for some time. In an effort to modernize everything and conserve water, I selected an 8-zone Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller (MSRP $199.99, Amazon.com).

The Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller meets EPA WaterSense criteria, meaning the controller uses local weather and landscape conditions to tailor watering schedules to actual conditions on the site.

Programming is driven through a mobile app available on the iOS App Store as well as the Google Play Store, and each zone can be customized to account for plant types, soil types, nozzles, and sun exposure. Furthermore, the app can send real-time notifications and report on water usage.

Cloud connectivity means that the sprinkler system can be controlled remotely.

The Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller is available in 8-zone (Amazon.com) and 16-zone (MSRP $249.99, Amazon.com) models.