Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Blade Nano QX

I picked this up last week, along with more batteries.

It's a great, and inexpensive, bird to learn to fly better. It flies well indoors, and out.

It's a great confidence builder to get my 450 3D back in the air sooner. It's all repaired, but still needs adjustments before taking it up.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Second outing with the heli = disaster

Saturday was a beautiful day for flying. Sadly, it did not end well.

I charged up the batteries in the morning but then it got windy by the time they were ready. Later in the evening, the winds calmed down to around 5-10kmh so I decided to take the heli up to the park and get airborne.

The first flight went pretty good. There were a few scary moments, but no crashes. I felt pretty good. Here's a clip from that flight.

The second flight went really well, again with a few scary moments, but ultimately ended in disaster.

I'm not sure what went wrong, but I'm fairly certain that landing with stunt mode turned on was a big part of it. I'm pissed at myself too because I was thinking the whole time that I should turn it off before landing, but I was worried that turning it off might result in a sudden drop in altitude and possibly crash.

Oh, the irony.

The end result was the loss of half of the tail rotor assembly. It flew off when main rotor blade struck the tail boom and bent it. This also fractured one of the main rotor blades. I found half of the tail rotor about 20ft away. Couldn't find one of the blades.

Bent tail boom
Broken tail rotor
The fly bars got bent nearly 180 degrees. I should have taken a photo before I straightened them. It was crazy.

Flybars after I straightened them. They'll need replaced.
That was my initial assessment of the damage.

Later in the evening, I discovered more. The main rotor gear was stripped.

Stripped gear
Last night I placed an order on Great Hobbies web site for pretty much anything that had to do with the tail assembly, since I'm not sure what I'm missing or what, if anything, is salvageable from the pieces I have. I also ordered new main rotor blades, flybars, and the main rotor gear.

This afternoon I dug out the CD that came with the 450 and watched a few tutorial videos on repairs. One of them made me wonder if there may be other damage that isn't immediately obvious. I looked over the injured bird and discovered more damage. :(

The spindle/feathering shaft is also bent. It's not obvious in the photo because you can't see it, but a tip I got from the video showed me how to determine this.

The shaft runs inside the two blade holders.
I also found that one of the servo control arms must have been cracked because when I inadvertently pressed lightly on it and snapped it. I wonder if that was from this accident or the last? It's scary to think that this could have snapped in flight after the upcoming repairs.

Broken servo arm.
Inside one of the other servos, a gear (or gears) sound like they might be stripped. There's a grinding sound and feel when I move that control arm.

Pretty sure the gears inside this servo are stripped.
I found the additional parts on Great Hobbies web site and phoned them to see if they could be added to my pending order. No problem. They'll all be shipped out today.

I don't think I'll be taking off or landing on grass anymore, and while I'm sure it's possible to land while stunt mode is enabled, I won't be trying that again either. It doesn't take much to forget that pulling down on the throttle in stunt mode doesn't mean shut off motor. I think I may have done that. Maybe I'll just leave stunt mode off for this year.

Boys will be boys

I was sitting on the back patio yesterday, tending to the BBQ, when my son came out and sat down on the step.

"Want to scrape any of these?", he asked, showing me a strip of paper roll caps he had in his hand. He then proceeded to scrap a few with a quarter, enjoying the small flash and puff of smoke for his efforts.

"No thanks", I replied.

He has always loved playing with caps, for as long as I can remember. He's still a kid at heart, even at 19.

I thought back to when I was a kid. Sitting on the sidewalk, on a hot summer day, with a rock, a few rolls of caps... that's all we needed to have fun. Sometimes we'd take an entire roll and smash it with a large rock. The loud explosion always gave us a thrill.

I asked my son if he ever did the same. He said he hadn't.

"Never? You've got to try it sometime" I told him, "roll it up tight, find a big rock and smash it hard. After the bang you can look through what's left and you'll probably still have some left to scrape too."

He proceeded to roll up what he had left in his hand.

"Is this enough?" he asked.


I picked up a brick from the patio and handed it to him.

"Now hit it hard, with the end of the brick... flat to squish the roll."

He didn't hesitate.

That was a lot louder than I remembered. My ears rang.

My wife came to the door.

"What are you doing?!?!"  She didn't look amused.

My son and I stood there grinning.

"I was showing Kyle how to explode caps...", I explained.

She didn't say anything. I think I saw her roll her eyes.

I miss being a kid.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Maiden flight not so good

After countless hours flying the RealFlight 7 Sim, I was ready to take the Blade 450 3D out for its first flight on Saturday. With hardly a breeze in the air, the conditions were ideal.

I decided to use my homemade training gear. Unfortunately, the grass up at the park where I used to fly my plane was in need of mowing, and I stupidly decided not to start off on the paved parking lot. This was mostly because it would have put me in view of a group of people at the far end of the lot, and I wasn't ready to have an audience, except for my long-time friend who came along to watch. But long grass meant I had to get more altitude, which defeats the purpose of using training gear. Duh.

I think the flight last less than 3 minutes before ending in disaster. I'll let this edited video speak for itself.

The end result was a broken main rotor blade holder, which cost me less than $10 to repair (pack of two!), and now I have a spare in case it ever happens again.

Green: The part. Red: Where it broke.

Repairing the heli wasn't as easy as I expected. Blade provides you with the tools for the heli, but what they don't do is provide you with two allen keys the same size that are required to remove the blade holders. You need one for each side as you unscrew one, so it doesn't just spin freely. Thankfully, I did have another in my tool box.

After the repair, I ran the prop for a few mins as fast as it would run without taking off, since I was doing this on my front walkway and that would surely have ended on a bigger disaster. It seems to be pretty stable.

So, what's next?

Either I'll try the training gear again, but this time on pavement so I don't need to lift off as high and have more time to get comfortable with the controls, and trim it properly... or, I'll skip the training gear and keep it higher and fly in a circle or oval, rather just hover.

One thing I noticed with the RF7 sim is that I often find it easier to fly around than simply hovering. Keep it moving forward and worry about altitude and and roll. Hovering seems to require more concentration, for me anyway.

As a side note, when I was testing my repair I noticed something odd about two large gears that drive the main rotor blade and gyro. (I don't know their names off-hand)

The two gears, after I removed the obstruction.
 It looked like they were attached so they would spin at the same speed. Now, I don't know very much about the inner workings of these yet, so I wasn't sure if this was by design or if something else was broken. When I turned them by hand, that confirmed that they do not turn at the same rate. Upon further inspection, it looked like something was jammed between the two gears. This is what I removed.

A broken tie-wrap.

I looked over the entire helicopter and there doesn't appear to be anywhere that may be missing a tie wrap. Every wire is secure. I don't think this came off during the crash. If it didn't, then that means it was there the entire time. Could this have affected the stability of the helicopter? Perhaps. The controls didn't feel bad to me, but seeing as how my heli experience up to Saturday was on the sim, I'm not sure if I would have noticed the difference.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

SugarSync is pretty sweet

I've been looking for a file syncing service for a while. I have many backups of my data at home, but I'd like to have an additional backup elsewhere, and have access to it from anywhere.

There are a number of free ones, like Microsoft's OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) and Google Drive, both with options to pay for more storage. But they all seem to require that you put all the files in their special folder. I like to keep my files where they are on my system.

I discovered SugarSync. The free account only gives you 5GB for a limited time, but they let you choose data from anywhere on your computer and tag it to by synchronized onto their cloud without having to move it to a special folder.

I decided to subscribed to their 60GB plan for a year for $75. Since I'm new, they gave me 50% off that for the first year.

I've been using it now for a couple of weeks and have a few different computers all sync'd to their cloud, and so far I'm very pleased with the results. It did take almost a week for my documents and photos to upload from my home computer, but now I have access to them from work and from my iPhone using their mobile app.

Check it out, and if you decide to take the plunge please use this link so I can get a referral bonus:

Learning to fly... again

I picked up a new hobby a couple of weeks ago.

That's not me, but I now own a helicopter capable of such stunts.

About seven years ago, I started flying planes. I used to post videos on my YouTube channel.  For no particular reason, I stopped a few years ago. Helicopters have also interested me, so this year I decided to take the plunge and picked up a Blade 450 3D.

Since the weather has been pretty shitty, I haven't been able to take it out for a spin. I considered flying it in my basement to get my feet wet. I only planned to hover, obviously. It's a good thing I didn't try it.

While I was waiting for the weather to improve, I picked up Real Flight 7. I quickly learned that I greatly underestimated the difficulty involved in flying an R/C helicopter.

I'm sure the software paid for itself in the first five minutes. It was frustrating. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I switched to a Piper Cub, which was similar to my Super Cub, and took it for a flight. My flying skills had clearly diminished over the years, but I had more success with it than a helicopter.

What did I get myself into?

Over the last week, I've spent hours practicing flying a helicopter in Real Flight 7, slowly making a little progress each time. For the first time last night, I was able to fly in a clockwise direction. I tried counter-clock-wise and failed. But it's progress, and that's giving me confidence, and one day — probably not any time this year — I'll hopefully master the controls and be able to fly like the guy in the video above. Or at least flying in a counter-clockwise direction. ;)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pebble E-paper Watch Update

Here's an update about my Pebble watch.

I did eventually receive a reply requesting photos for the RMA. I submitted them and a short time later received an email advising me that the replacement had shipped.

This surprised me because the RMA email advised me that I would receive an email with a shipping label to send the old one back. I never received such a label.

It wasn't long before the tracking advised me that it had been shipped overseas. It sat at customs for a couple of weeks and this week it arrived in my city and at my house at the same day.

I'm pretty happy that I didn't have to spend anything to send the old one back. I wonder if that was because it's a "Kickstarter Edition"? Maybe they thought I'd like to keep it as a souvenir? I don't know.

Regardless, I now have a functional watch and I hope it lasts longer. :)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Pebble E-paper Watch Display Problems

Last year, on April 27, I wrote a review of the Pebble E-paper Watch that I got through their Kickstarter project. You can read that posting here.

Since that time, there have been a few firmware updates, all providing additional features and functionality. I love this watch, up to now.

In December, I clicked a button to get into the settings and the settings menu had a little bit of display corruption. It cleared up quickly simply by backing out of the menu and going back in.

Sadly, it was not the last time it happened.

Since then, it has also occurred for various notifications, as well as the default watch faces.

Option, Settings, Display menu.
Settings menu.

Options menu.

A default watch face?

Another default watch face.


Default watch face immediately after turning
the watch on, I think.

A Google search brings up quite a few hits from others experiencing the same problem. Oddly enough, most of them appear to have occurred after the last firmware update. I concur.

From what I've read, the only solution is to contact their support, provide requested photos indicating the corruption to get an RMA, and get the watch replaced.

I contacted their support, via the iPhone app as someone suggestion, on January 1, 2014. To date, I am still waiting for a reply. I did get an automated reply the same day, telling me that someone would be contacting me "soon".  I guess their idea of "soon" is a little different.

I should note that the display corrupt does clear up after a few button presses, and the watch face remains clean for the most part, so it's not entirely useless — it's just very annoying.

Coincidentally, Pebble has recently announce their "Pebble Steel" for $249. The firmware update that will accompany it looks pretty sweet, but until these display issues are resolved I'm not interested.

This last photo is kinda funny... they tout the original Pebble as having a "scratch resistant lens". Click the photo and you'll see exactly how scratch resistant it is. :)

The scratch resistant lens after normal
daily wear.
An update can be found here.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A new year, but more of the same...

This is the mandatory new year blog posting, where I post everything I'd like to accomplish in the coming year.

That list isn't much different than past years.

  • Lose weight — Maybe this will finally be the year I hit 199lbs? Might be a tough one, considering I put on extra weight over Christmas. I was supposed to lose weight since my last annual physical exam to get my cholesterol back down. I failed. But so far this year, I've been pretty active, and returned to riding my bike on the trainer in the basement, despite how boring it is. I've had more shoulder issues since the summer as well, but with my "good" shoulder. It's only begun to feel a little better in the last week, but the mobility is only about 50%. I'm afraid to try the Nike Kinect again since the pulled calf muscle incident.
  • Pick up my camera more often — I've felt very uninspired in the last year or so. As much as I love photography, and the challenge of getting that one awesome shot, I don't feel the same inspiration as past years. I'm not sure how much that will change while it's still winter, but we'll see what happens when spring rolls around.
  • More cycling — Last year I rode my bike to work often. I hope to do that again this year.
  • Continue to brew beer — And learn more about it. I got a couple of books for Christmas.
There we go. One boring blog post.