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2007/04/30 Faithless @ The Fillmore
π 2007-04-30 23:22 by Merlin in Clubbing

Thanks to my friend Jason, I knew that Faithless was coming to The Fillmore in San Francisco. It's a shame that most people here don't know who they are, but at the same time it was nice to see a full house at The Fillmore.
I have known then for years: 7-8? and they are still unique in their mix of genres from EDM to rap-like. It was a pleasure to see them perform in person.









Here are the other pictures of Faithless at The Fillmore
2007/04/28 Montebello Biking...
π 2007-04-28 16:13 by Merlin in Exercising

It had been a while since I went mountain biking, snow, travelling, and all, so as Xav had recently gotten a new mountain bike, we went to Montebello.
Due to my fault, we started around 10:45, and it was a bit warm by then already. I'm not sure if it was the only reason, but we all sucked getting up Grizzly Flat (26:xxmn for me, and more for them). I guess that even if I'm generally in shape, I need to get more practise climbing that thing again (back to my sub 24mn times).
Either way, it was nice to go again and see how we were doing on it, and at least I didn't suck as much as the previous time I went a few months ago.








2007/04/27 Returned Draganflyer Ti
π 2007-04-27 17:56 by Merlin in Rc

After trying the draganflyer Ti (thermal intelligence) for a few days, I ended up returning it.

It worked really well outside thanks to its thermal intelligence (it had 4 heat sensors that could make the unit self-level by seeking the temperature difference between the sky and the ground).
Unfortunately, without thermal intelligence, indoors, it just wouldn't level that well, which was disappointing for a $1000+ RC device, so I returned it.

You can find a few videos here , and if you are curious, the details of my experience are below (as the reason for return that I sent that company)
Below, I am going to give you details for the benefit of your design
team.
While I have obviously had it for more than 1 month, it was DOA and I only
received a working receiver board last week.
I tried it the next day, and the day after with help and feedback from your
tech support, but ultimately, I was disappointed with it because of its
performance when Ti was not enabled.
Your support folks reviewed test hovering videos in my house, showing how
wobbly the unit was and how hard to control it was. They suggested prop
wash, so I went to a bigger indoor facility and had similar results:
The DF does a bad job of saying level or in one spot without Ti.
I'm sorry, but a $150 X-Ufo does a near perfect job of this until you spill
its mechanical gyro. Whatever your solid state gyros do, is good enough to
run the motors in a way that the unit doesn't flip over or stays generally
level, but they can't keep the unit fully level and hovering without Ti.
The X-Ufo can, and with a solid state gyro upgrade kit from Germany, it does
apparently fine flying outside in winds (which the mechanical gyro can't
quite do).
As things stand right now, the DF Ti does do a great job flying outside with
Ti on, but it's just very disappointing without Ti. Because I typically
mostly fly indoors, it unfortunately makes the unit unsuitable for my use
and I would therefore like to return it after 2-3 days of use/testing.
As additional things that disappointed me and that you'll want to look
into fixing:
- a $1000+ unit shouldn't be using analog transmitters anymore. You should
  at least provide a Spectrum DX7 receiver board as an option. There is
  too much chance of RF interference risk in some of the places I fly in
  and the present is digital DSM2. Analog is dead.
- The new style remote you provide (with the Ti on/off switch) just feels
  cheap. Again, it's disappointing for an expensive device like this.  I
  found that it was very hard to give precise, timely, and small control
  inputs to fly the unit indoors: the remote is not proportional and doesn't
  provide enough precision for very small inputs and corrections
- Again, because you use a cheap remote with no intelligence, I have to trim
  it when flying without Ti, and then untrim/retrim it every single time
  I switch to and from Ti mode. That's just silly and hard to accept for
  a unit that price (and even more so for the multi thousand dollar units)
  Again, allowing for the customer to use his/her own DX7 transmitter by
  putting an AR6xxx receiver on an optional board, would fix this.
- your motor mounting rods should have a pinhole or square pattern that
  would allow for the motors to not spin around the axis and always point
  up. The premounted unit that you shipped me didn't even have the motors
  mounted right, and they were quite hard to adjust.
- Generally, the gyro input or feedback is poor. I know the solid state
  gyros work because the unit wouldn't fly at all without them, but even
  when perfectly trimmed, your unit does not self level indoors with no
  control input. The X-Ufo does.
- Your lipo charger seems slow compared to a real thunderpower charger. I
  have 3 cell lipos that look almost identical to yours, but your packs have
  the balancing connector removed, making it difficult to consider charging
  your batteries or using my own with a real lipo charger/balancer (BTW, I
  did not charge your batteries with anything else than your charger since I
  didn't know whether it was safe, but I also noticed how slow your charger
  was).
- your folding blades are hard to adjust so that they self straighten, and
  when they fold, they get caught into the motor gear and stop the motor,
  which can't be too good for it.
I still believe that your product is probably the best one around for flying
exclusively outside with Ti on, but due to the points above, and the fact
that I mostly do indoor flying, I'm going to go the X-Ufo with gyro upgrade
route.
2007/04/23 First Thunderhill of the year
π 2007-04-23 21:50 by Merlin in Cars

iI usually wait for the snow season to be over before going for the track. April 23rd sounded like late enough. Little did I know that I'd be snowboarding in more than one foot of fresh powder the previous day.
Luckily, the weather was ok the next day. Since Thunderhill was a mere few miles from the Willows general aviation airport, I took the opportunity to fly there. It was about 55mn in the air when flying by Mt Diablo (to avoid crowded San Francisco airspace), and close to 2H if you factor in going to/from the airport, getting the plane ready, tied down, and so forth... That said, it was both more scenic and peaceful than driving there, and I didn't have to worry about cops while doing close to 200mph :)

I was a bit sluggish on my first session, but started getting a bit more awake and precise on my next session and getting more comfortable with the amount of brakes and traction I had, or didn't have. Unfortunately, that's around the time that my brake pads started going out (I knew they wouldn't last the day, and brought spares).
Changing the said brake pads ended up being much more work than expected however. The pin that needed to be slid out was wedged in there quite well, probably due to heat expansion. We did get it out eventually, but the next problem was that the new brake pads I had were too thick, and just wouldn't fit.
After more calls, the advise was to rub them down until they were thin enough to fit. Sure enough, I used some stone to rub them against, and they fit eventually.












After that I had 3 more sessions left (one lost to brake changing), but unfortunately, something wasn't quite right in the pad install, and my brake fluid would overheat and boil. It's scary to have your brake pedal go to the floor with no brakes when you're going over 100mph, and there is a turn coming :) (pumping helped a bit, but was barely enough).
We drained the fluid, which helped a bit, but I still had problem after a few laps each time. Ultimately, we now think that the pads were a bit too thick, and were rubbing on the rotors even when I wasn't braking, overheating the whole system. My car is now getting a full flush and brake check, which should take care of that.
Anyway, I was able to get a few laps that were a bit better (down to 2:11 or 2:10), but still very far from what the car could do. Not only do I still need to learn how to drive it, as it's nothing alike my old turbo miata, but I was also being very conservative on braking because I didn't want to lose my brakes at 120, right before a turn...
That said, despite the brake issues, it was still nice to have a little fun on the track, but I don't feel I got to learn a whole lot this time, especially on my later sessions where I was more awake, but just afraid of pushing it too much and losing my brakes in the wrong place. Unfortunately, I also didn't much time to socialize, or take other pictures. I was too busy changing the pads, and then trying to bleed out the boiled brake fluid... (that said the pictures I was able to get (including 2 not from me) are here )







The flight home was fine (55mn) and I got home in less than 2H door to door, which isn't bad :)









The funny part is how I was trying to shift my M5 with the windshield wipers, which my brain had decided had become paddle shifters :)
Oh, and thanks to Jason for the help :)
2007/04/22 Ending the Season at Kirkwood
π 2007-04-22 22:20 by Merlin in Snow

Needless to say that this year was the most crummy snow season in more than 25 years. Kirkwood had already closed its back side, and what was left wasn't looking good, even though it had already snowed about a foot in the last week (which was the reason for chancing it, and going to kirkwood).





Unfortunately, the snow was only good for a few hours (it started melting a bit, and then froze up before the end of the day). By the time we were about to leave, it started snowing.
After checking a few snow forecasts, we decided to pay the kirkwood ripoff rate of $430/night for a one bedroom, and stayed over for the night (conveniently, Kirkwood didn't have the resources to get their cheaper rooms cleaned and only had the most expensive 1 bedrooms available that night, figures...)
That said, it snowed all night, and we got a good foot with the snow continuing into the next day.








And we got a very nice powder day the second day:







For that matter, it was my first powder day this season. Sad but true... As for Jennifer it was more or less her first real powder day ever. She had fun learning how to board in deeper powder.
Thanks much to Bob who got us there and back. It was nice to board together at kirkwood, like the good old days...

The rest of the end of season at kirkwood pictures
2007/04/08 Brushless upgrade for my multiplex plane
π 2007-04-08 12:07 by Merlin in Rc

After burning the motor on my plane due to overvolting, I upgraded it to a brushless motor (for a bargain of $29). The upgrade was a bit tough since it required a custom wooden piece to attach the motor to (the entire motor rotates around the mount, not just the shaft, it's quite weird).
Anyway, I eventually got it put together, and along with a bigger battery, I went for a few short flights. All I can say is that I'm impressed: first of all, I got a fair amount of flight time from my batteries without emptying them, the new propeller is huge and is generating a lot of trust. The plane is still too heavy to be able to hang off its prop like a helicopter, but the improvement in power is quite noticeable. I went from a plane that wouldn't even move on my carpet to one that darted into the wall and made a small hole in the drywall :)
Thanks to Jennifer for taking a few pictures and a video









Now, I have to do a lot more flying to see wha tthe plane can do and get the hang of the controls, especially the rudder, which I pretty much don't use right now. I guess I can also try to improve my landings in grass (hard since the plane will generally sink in the grass and nose over right away)

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