Friday, April 19, 2019

Hello Dummy

Ventriloquist dummies. Ever had one? I had a Jerry Mahony in the early sixties. I learned to keep my lips steady and say whatever in a slightly lesser, more quiet voice.
Fifties years later I found a site for nice quality dummies.

I wanted something unusual, something out of the norm. No, not Charlie McCarthy, no Howdy Doody, no Mortimer Snerd. Okay here is a blue eyed Emmett Kelly?!
Most people wouldn't know him.
In a flash I heard the name D'Emmitt R. Kelly. I still don't know how to work that in without seeming a pig?

He was packed well. It took a good five minutes to unpack. Poor guy, his legs were folded up to his shoulders. That musta hurt.
Arrived quickly as well, if shipping time is important to you.

On the control stick there are three triggers. With this layout I have an issue. Your thumb will move his eyes left and right. The next trigger which your first finger will occupy is his eyebrows, so the most important trigger, his mouth is left to your middle finger. It is more than awkward.
I hope with practice I will learn the muscle memory. But I do take issue with the trigger layout.

Other than that, he's a blast. Clothing, hands hat and hair are well done, You will be able to change the dummies clothes or props. Emmett has a shirt, pants, a vest a tie and shoes. His hat is molded and a tuft of hair is glued on top to simulate a hole. His wig is stiff and not removable since the hat is molded as part of the head.

As a small gripe, the ad shows a blue eyed doll and mine has brown eyes. Throwthings has many broken links embedded in their site so I am not surprised. A tiny disappointment.

These are far from professional pieces but in competent hands they could be very, very good. All in all I am stoked to re-read for the umpteenth time Paul Winchell's tome, "Ventriloquism for Fun & Profit."

Everyone needs a pal, it might as well be your other self.
I see Emmett channeling Don Rickles.
"You hockeypuck, izzat the wife? Ohhh gawd...."

Monday, February 11, 2019


A neckband to hold the remote.
A hardshell case. To carry all the junk to the church lot.
A landing pad - it aids in RTH.
Prop guards. So I don't have to buy as many props. ($5 for 2 props)
Legs. So landings are easier.
Helical 5.8 ghz antenna. Because I gotta try anything different.

I worked in the antenna world for 20 years so when I discovered drones...aka quadcopters I also found there was an aftermarket for antennas - especially if you race your quad.
The helical just touches a sweet spot where no one else can scratch my itch.
It may not help in the least but for a total of $14 I can give it a shot.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Droning On

$25 to Hubsan and I got 8 props - 4 gold and 4 black (2 As and 2 Bs of each).

Okay, maybe they make add on legs? Yeah? And guard for the props?

Now the issue is that it won't fit in the ABS molded case with the legs and guards attached and I am not about to carry a screwdriver and fit parts for every flight.
To come up with a quick connect system.
These first world issues are killer.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

I'll Get You My Pretty, And Your Little Drone Too.

The Contixo was just whetting my appetite for flight.
I flew it a bunch, took pictures and videos and generally learned the basics of quadcopter flight.
There is a lot of muscle memory here.

But it has two downsides.
The flight time is limited to 15 minutes advertised and in  truth that number is closer to 11 minutes and two, you need to use your phone for the video link making a connections through local Wifi.

Which in itself is not such a bad thing, but if you are like me and have a case for your phone, or in my particular situation, a holder and a pair of glasses all affixed to the rear of my phone making it too thick for the holder built into the remote. I have to either remove the phone from the case or I have to be prepared to catch my phone when it inevitably pops out.
No joy.

Okay, enter Hubsan. A Chinese manufacturer of relatively inexpensive drones that pack a surprisingly large amount of features into a small package.

Internal Compass
1080 Video Streaming
1080 Pictures
Auto Home Return (RTH)
Brushless Motors
Altitude Hold
Fail Safe RTH
Follw Me
Headless Mode

Okay...AND, AND it has an integrated video display! The phone is retired!
So for $219.00 you get the drone, the remote and three batteries - two for the drone and one for the remote. And you will want the one for the remote, otherwise you will be burning 8 AA batteries in 10 hours or less. You also receive two sets of propellers, a wrench for attaching the props and a charger for the batteries.

Down to brass tacks.
While it works well it is light and hollow, both the drone and the remote. The drone's only weight is the battery. The switches feel more substantial than the molded form of the remote. The 2.4 ghz antenna has a female connector while the 5.8 ghz antenna has a male connector. I suspect this is so you cannot connect the wrong antenna to the wrong connector and thereby ruin your remote.
A weird aside - the Li-Po battery is much smaller than the battery compartment space provided for the 8 AA's. So it either rattles around or you find something to cushion the battery. (I used a piece of a new sponge - they take heat better than paper will)

The slot for the SD card is not spring loaded, you had better have nice fingernails to remove it.

There is no "one button take off" or "one button landing" function. I did find this very useful when I started flying quads.Otherwise I was soaring and then drifting.
(Watch your roll)

It comes without a case. You will spend another $50 on a hardshell case or be carrying it in both hands and making several trips from the car to take-off pad.

The instructions are sparse and exhibit English as a second language faux pas but is serviceable. If you have flown a quad before this will be familiar.

As far as performance, that will be covered in subsequent posts. I charged batteries and did the pairing process to see some video, but that was it.
There are ton of youtube reviews, so my input may be superfluous. We'll see.

On this past Wednesday I took it up twice and crashed both times. There is technique involved as well as muscle memory. Practice makes perfect etc.
In both cases I came to contact with the ground in a nose down attitude.

The first time I did a header into a roll of chicken wire with no damage.
The second landing was complicated but I got very close when the quad lifted and I reacted too quickly putting it in a nose down attitude and launching forward into a Rubbermaid shed.
Total cost?
The battery cover popped open and the quad suffered three (3) chipped props.

$25 to Hubsan alleviated that issue. I ordered both A&B prop sets in both gold and black (figuring the gold might provide more contrast when aloft ( orientation). - shipping included in that price.

There is an element of sport, personal achievement et cetera. There is also talent and vision in the use of any "new technology."
Obviously...more to follow.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Quadcopters, Drones, Kites Oh My

Yeah, we've all heard about drones.
They seem to be intrusive, nasty little spy things that will invade my backyard.

In truth they are hi tech kites. They sport cameras, GPS, Return To Home buttons and more.

There are a couple of bars to measure:

You want to use your phone as the First Person View (FPV)?
This allows for more money put into the construction of the drone. But the downside is the possibility for delay and lag.
Is the signal 5.8 ghz or 2.4 ghz?
Brushless motors? They last much longer as these things heat up in use.

Is there a camera? If yes, is it gimbaled? If not you cannot adjust the view or the shaking of the copter may be problematic.

There are  a wealth of options. Your budget and interest level will dictate what you buy.
From $100 to well over $2,000 - your choice.
You pay for the bells and whistles in options as well as variables such as flight time. A cheap quad will fly for 5 minutes where a $2,000 quad has forty minutes of flight time per charge.

And of course you'll need replacement parts:

As well as "you need this" items:
Spare battery
Transport case

I waded into the shallow end.
A Contixo F22
  • TONS OF FEATURES FOR ALL LEVELS OF EXPERIENCE - Includes Selfie/Gesture Mode, Follow Me, Headless Mode, Automatic Hovering (Auto Hover) / Altitude Hold, First Person View (FPV), 1-Key Takeoff & Landing / Auto Return, TapFly (Fly by Tapping via Smartphone & App), Point of Interest (360° Following Rotation, Auto Hover in Circular Rotation), Fail-Safe Return To Home, & More!
  • BUILT-IN, INTEGRATED 1080P HD WiFi CAMERA - Allows you to both take photos or record live video. Use your smartphone and free downloadable app to fly and operate your Contixo F22 RC Remote & App Controlled drone, live stream video during flight for First Person View (FPV), Bird's Eye View, etc. Comes with adjustable 2.4 GHz 1080P 25fps Wi-Fi HD camera (100m~200m; 300ft~600ft). Works with both iPhone iOS and Google Android devices.
  • PRE-ASSEMBLED & COMPACT DESIGN - No need to assemble or put together the drone. It is ready to fly right out of the box. The small, compact, and extremely portable design makes it fun to take it anywhere and everywhere you go.
  • INCLUDES CUSTOM STORAGE CARRYING CASE - Made for the Contixo F22 RC quadcopter drone, this exclusive carrying case allows you to safely store and transport your new hobby toy. Never worry about removing and/or uninstalling the propellers or disassembling the drone again. This carrying case makes it safe and very convenient to carry your flying RC vehicle around. 

I will add a caveat that the Facebook page for Contixo has a lot of mostly negative commentary as far as customer support is concerned. I have not tried to access CS so I cannot speak to it but I have emailed for sources for parts. I will update depending on reply.
(Within hours I had a reply although no resolution yet)

For less than $200 you can be flying in minutes.

There are disadvantages to the cheaper product. No guards around the propellers. No real landing gear...just three u bars affixed to the bottom - this means ground clearance is lower than you want. If you land in grass taller than one inch, it'll be a nasty landing. Sexy it is not. Functional it is. (Yoda, is that you?)

It is powerful enough, the app is helpful the pictures and videos it captures are nice. That you can carry it in a hand sized bag is a super plus. You are not packing luggage to bring your quadcopter to the park.

You like kites?

Oh, by the January 2019 the F.A.A. changed registration regulations - you must register ANY drone regardless of weight or size and can no longer fly any higher than 400 feet.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Glasses - ThinOptics Versus Nooz

Chances are you've seen the ads on TV for ThinOptics.
I have.
After I had purchased a pair of Pince-nez glasses named Nooz.

A French firm made them. Great idea in a pair of magnifying reading glasses.
For $25 you get your choice of colors and a case which can be attached to your key-chain if you desire.
(More on that in a bit)

The connection between lenses is a gummy sort of plastic. Very flexible and meant to adhere to the bridge of your nose.
As a pair you can store in a pocket, it is a good idea.

Unfortunately the execution leaves much to be desired.
If you perspire at all, it will not stay in place. If your nose has any oil, it slips.
If you attach it to the key-chain as shown, the glasses will be pulled out of the case as you extract your keys from blue jean pockets.

And the biggest con in the list as far as I am concerned was the magnifications offered.
At the time I ordered them the lowest magnification was 1.50. That has since been lowered to a 1.00 - 1.25 range.

Lucky me that my eyes have remained at a steady 1.25 since I started wearing lenses at all.

Same basic concept with one important addition, the nose clips. Very thin metallic strips that keep the glasses affixed even when sweaty.
(Yay, I can read my phone at the gym?)

Same gummy nose material with the clips. You can bend them in many ways with no damage.

Same magnifications available with a selection of "clever" cases.

A bit of derision since I see the cases as half the selling point.
The glasses are touted as $19.95.
Oh? You want a case? $5 for the regular one with a strip of adhesive to stick your glasses to your phone case. $27 with shipping etc.
(Careful not to obscure the camera or speaker when doing so)

You want the phone case with the holder built in? $30.
The "made for the key-chain" model that requires you to perform yoga to bend the frame into the case.

Huge mehs all around for the cases.
But the strips for your nose make a huge difference in my ability to utilize the glasses.

And that makes 100% difference.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Thrustmaster Flight Stick X

Last Spring I renewed my interest in flying.
I went to the local airport (KPOC) Brackett and wandered into the flight school.
(There are two)

After spending enough time as a hanger on I was offered time aloft for labor.
Washing planes is not easy. I can see why they were willing to trade.
And the crap people leave behind in the cockpit after a lesson?

I've gotten 65 hours in the logbook when I was encouraged to use a flight sim to hone real flight skills.
I own FSX. Flight Simulator X

This was supposed to be Microsoft's crowning achievement in the twenty years since they had first bought the base code from Bruce Artwick of Sublogic.

This is what I saw on my Trash 80.
A six mile by six mile square grid with "mountains" on the northern side. If you "flew" past the boundary in any direction and continued to fly straight you would eventually end up on the opposite side of the map from which you departed. The "world" was a thirty six mile ball with only six miles graphically represented.
Upper left has engine "gauges." Lower left are flight management "gauges." Basic indicators of throttle, roll and elevator or pitch on the right. Airspeed and altitude on the bottom.
Yes, those are mountains ahead. There were two airports. One was the enemy base if you were flying combat and shooting the enemy down.

Today it looks more like this.
I had to dig out my ten year old joystick, a Logitech 3D Extreme Pro. A $30 stick with twelve programmable buttons, a throttle tab and  twist handle rudder control.
However, it had issues since the day I bought it. After searching the web I found I was not alone by any means.
The issue was when you plug the stick in, it very rarely was centered. Usually the '+' denoting the center position on the calibrate screen would show it pinned to a corner.
You would be forced to plug and then unplug the stick until it magically would center.

Enter the Thrustmaster Flight Stick X.
Same twelve buttons that can be programmed. You can save a couple of profiles and switch on the fly. It has an eeprom to store settings even if you unplug the stick for long periods.

Same $30 with free shipping. (That somehow showed up twenty three hours after I ordered it)

Same throttle, although a thumb slide and not a tab or lever.

It has a weighted base. A variable resistance knob to control the free play. And a very long USB cord.

The fundamental difference is this works out of the box. In fact, as the name implies, the stick is pre-programmed for FSX.

Ergonomics - it is larger both at the base and the height of the stick itself. It is also thicker about the handle.

There are things it does not do. You get no sense of the force needed to cause the plane to  rotate or bank. Twisting a joystick does not translate into pulling the yoke in a real aircraft.

Same thing with the twist handle for the rudder control. It feels nothing like pedals.
As you rotate you go, "Heels down," meaning feet are on the floor and not the tops of the rudder pedals. Obviously this doesn't happen when you're twisting a joystick instead.

The "switch view" button is right next to the hat switch so it is very easy to switch views when you meant to look around via the hat.

Overall I am pleased. I am one of those people who do not feel it necessary to spend thousands of dollars to buy a yoke and pedals and every possible add-on.
For what I do with FSX, practice real life procedures, try weather I'd never fly in et cetera this works well.