OctoPrint and the Prusa i3 MK2S

octoprint logo

I ran the Prusa i3 Mk2S for a couple of weeks by copying files to the SD card and then printing from there.I could have also printed directly from a computer plugged into the printer, but that computer would need to stay connected and powered on while printing. Either one of those solutions work well enough, but I really wanted to be able to print from multiple computers while not dedicating a laptop or desktop to printing, and most of all I wanted to be able to monitor the printer remotely with video.

OctoPrint is a web interface for 3D printers that can use a Raspberry Pi or similar inexpensive computer. With a Raspberry Pi 3 it allows for the sending of prints, controlling the printer, recording time-lapse videos, and viewing the printer in action remotely.

I used a Raspberry Pi 3 and installed OctoPi and connected a Raspberry Pi camera with a long ribbon cable along with camera and board mount that I found on Thingiverse. It all went together very easy.

I highly recommend watching Thomas Sanladerer’s “Getting started with OctoPrint” video, it will get you through most of the setup process.

I setup a domain name with No-IP so that I can reach the OctoPrint server from anywhere in the world, following the steps was very easy. There is even a Linux Dynamic Update Client that will keep my IP address updated.

I also installed the TouchUI plugin to get a better user interface when using OctoPrint on my phone, which is totally awesome.

The time lapses created by OctoPrint are very cool. By having the camera attached to the camera bed the point of view moves with the object being printed which makes it look like it is standing still while the printer and the room behind it are moving back and forth. I like this much better than having the camera stationary while the printed object is moving back and forth in the video.

If you are using a 3D printer and want to control and monitor it remotely and/or capture video of it printing, I highly recommend giving OctoPrint a try.

Prusa i3 MK2S 3D Printer

Assembled Prusa i3 MK2S

I spent a lot of time and energy researching 3D printers before finally buying one, and even then I am not real happy with the first one I bought, but that will be another post. This one is about the second printer I bought and love, the Prusa i3 MK2S Kit.

The Prusa i3 MK2 is a very popular and highly rated printer, Make Magazine gave it their Outstanding Open Source, Best Value, and Best Overall awards in 2017. Thomas Sanladerer says “The Original Josef Prusa i3 MK2: It doesn’t get any better than this!

You may have already done some reasearch and found that it takes up to 2 months to get this Prusa kit ship shipped to the states, I ordered mine on February 13 and it did not ship from the Czech Republic until March 31st and I received it a few days after that.

The total I paid for the kit with shipping came to $781.26. In the world of good 3D printers with auto bed leveling, a heated build plate, 8 inch by 8 inch by 8 inch (it’s actually bigger than that) build area, and quality components like the E3D V6 hot end, is an amazing price.

Prusa i3 MK2S kit parts

I could have bought it assembled for $200.00 more, but I believe you should have the experience of building from a kit as you WILL be taking it apart to maintain it if you are going to be serious about 3D printing.

Putting the printer together was not that hard, Prusa provides wonderfully detailed directions online in a format where you can ask questions and get clarification quickly. Many times someone at Prusa will even update the instructions based on feedback within a couple days of a comment being made. I used an iPad to view and follow the instructions, it worked great.

There are also many videos on YouTube, some as long as 12 hours, with people building their Prusa i3 MK2 kits. Also there are many video reviews, troubleshooting help, and timelapses of prints in progress.

After 6 weeks or so of printing about 18 hours a day, something went wrong with my printer. I am still not sure exactly what went wrong, because I bent the heat break tube while trying to fix it. I ordered a new tube, nozzle, and boden tube from the MatterHackers website. I then proceeded to make some mistakes when re-assembling the E3D hot end which triggered a chat session with Shane at Prus who patiently helped me troubleshoot the issue.

I led him down multiple wrong paths, I kept thinking it was an issue with the extruder motor, but eventually we figured out the issue was the filament cooling where it shouldn’t be. I spent some time with the E3D V6 Assembly instructions, figured out what I was doing wrong, took it all apart for the fourth or fifth time, and carefully assembled it following the E3D instructions to the letter. Then BANG! I was back in business.

If you are looking to get into 3D printing and want a printer that will last a long time, is easy to fix and maintain, will print almost any filament, and are willing to spend around $800.00 to get started, I recommend the Prusa i3 MK2S kit over anything else on the market.

P.S.
The MonoPrice 3D Printers are getting great reviews and prices cannot be beat. I have been tempted by them, but I think I would save up and get another Prusa with all of its features instead.

E-flite Radian

E-flite Radian

This Radian is the larger sibling to the UMX radian with a 2 meter wingspan, there is even a larger version, the Radian XL that has a 2.6 meter wingspan. So this is the middle sized, although still quite large, Radian.

After flying the UMX Radian for awhile I decided I was ready for its big brother. I have heard from many places that the larger E-flite Radian flies just like the little one, well as an inexperienced pilot I have to disagree.

I think the big difference between the 2 is the AS3X system in the UMX which provides a lot of stability and helps keep the plane flying level and smooth.

Radian battery compartment

With the larger plane and the lack of AS3X I find it much harder to control, to the point that I have put it nose-first into the dirt twice now. Yes, on my first maiden flight, about 2 minutes into the flight I lost control and put it into the ground at high speed. It broke the fuselage in half and crumpled the nose to the point it could not be repaired.

It is very nice that a replacement fuselage is available for less than $30. It took me about an hour and some E6000 to strip the parts I need from the old fuselage and get the new fuselage ready to fly. It was easy to do with some patience and care.

The second flight was even worse than the first. I did not keep it in the air much more than a minute when it felt like it was not responding to my commands. I think it was responding but I just had no idea what to do to get it to pull out of the dive it was in. So BANG, back in the dirt. At least this time I think I can glue it back together and not replace any parts, we’ll see.

My plan now is to find someone at the airfield who can buddy-box with me and give me some lessons in flying fixed wing planes. To tell you the truth I could use that kind of help with multi-rotors and ground RC.

Even though I have had my issues with the Radian, I would still recommend it to anyone looking for a starter powered sailplane, but not as a first plane.

E-flite UMX Radian

E-flite Radian UMX

After a couple of years flying multi-rotors I decided to give a fixed wing plane a try. At some point I built a Flite-Test Trainer which I never really got to fly due to my total lack of experience. Then I did some research and decided to buy an E-flite UMX Radian.

There are many versions of the Radian and the UMX is the smallest and cheapest of the bunch at around $90.00 for the Bind-and-Fly version, meaning you have to supply your own transmitter to fly it. There is a FPV version that comes with a camera and transmitter, along with much larger version all the way up to the Radian XL with a 2.6 meter wing span.

The UMX Radian has been a great plane for me to get started with, the AS3X system does an amazing job keeping it level and steady even in a moderate amount of wind. But I feel like the AS3X system is not allowing me to learn the skills I need to fly larger planes that do not include include it. More on that in a later post.

And most amazingly, this little plane is able to catch thermals and ride them until the plane is a dot in the sky. The first couple of times I caught a thermal and took it up and up it was a real thrill. Even with the 150mah batteries I regularly get 10 full minutes of flying and every now and then I get as much as 20 minutes.

The plane is so docile and easy to fly that I am usually sitting in a chair in the shade while flying it, but once it becomes a dot in the sky it is best to stand up and pay a bit more attention, but one of the really great things is that it is so light that even if you plant it into the ground you most like won’t break anything.

I highly recommend the UMX Radian to anyone looking for a small inexpensive docile flyer that can take a bit of wind and take some bad landings without breaking.

DragonCon 2016 Pictures

Alan Tudyk at the Firefly Guests panel at DragonCon 2016

Jason Isaacs in the Wait Until My Father Hears About This! panel at DragonCon 2016

Tori Belleci in the Confirmed: An Hour with Tory and Kari panel at DragonCon 2016

I had a great time at DragonCon this year, actually got to play Dungeons & Dragons Adventure League on 3 mornings in a row!

More pictures are over at my SmugMug site.

Team Black Sheep Vendetta Tips

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I have gone all in with the TBS Vendetta, I have put the ZMRs and the Shendrones Krieger away. I am now exclusively flying a pair of Vendettas that I have named McCoy and Hatfield.

The Vendetta is not perfect and it is not indestructible. It is a multirotor for experienced hobbyists and it is not for beginners. I would only recommend it to someone who has built more than 2 difference quads of their own and gone through the experience of tuning, flying, crashing, and breaking.

If you are a beginner I recommend you either buy an ImmersionRC Vortex 250 Pro or take the time to build one of your own from parts you ordered online. Look for locals that will take you under their wing and help you out, sometimes it only takes an experienced pilot seeing your plane fly in person for a minute to tell you exactly what you need to do to fix it.

The Vendetta

You can learn more about the Team Black Sheep Vendetta on the TBS website and there are a lot of great instructional videos that various people have put together. I am not into making videos so I am going to offer my suggestions via this blog post.

I bought the Vendetta because I was no longer having fun building and maintaining quadcopters. I rebuilt my ZMRs 5 times and built a Shendrones Krieger that I was never able to get to fly right, don’t get me wrong, I think the Krieger is one of the best frames on the market and capable of being the most agile and fastest plane out there, I just don’t want to spend any more time rebuilding it or tweaking on it.

The Vendetta comes almost ready to fly, add a receiver, set it up via a couple of pushbuttons and you are ready to fly.

The 3 things you may want to change with the Vendetta as soon as you get are replacing the camera, securing the rear LED cover, and adding a 5V power connector.

Camera

I do not like the ZeroZero camera, I do not like the inability to change its settings without opening it up and clipping wires to it and I do not like the quality of the video it outputs. TBS has updated the camera and I have one of each, an updated one that came with a little orange sticker on it and one without, and I do not like either of them. So I have replaced the camera with a Runcam Swift.

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This is my first time using the Swift, but I have used the RunCam Sky many times before, in fact I have 5 of them on various planes and still in the box. The Swift offers very similar performance to the Sky and to the HS1177/PZ402M. It is easy to change the settings and easy to install it in the Vendetta.

The Swift comes with many different methods for mounting it, for the Vendetta you can use the flat back plate and the brackets that are on the ZerZero. But first you should harden the Swift to protect it from crashes, I have been known to hit trees head-on at over 30 miles an hour with my quads so it is important for the FPV camera to be tough.

I use E6000 to and a bamboo skewer to glue down the capacitor and the sensor, doing a Google search can show you a lot of other people recommending this and there are other methods and other adhesives you might want to use.

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I do not recommend gluing the circuit board to the housing, issues can arise where the circuit board ends up crooked in the housing, which would cause a fuzzy picture. But I do recommend adding a bit of foam tape to the back plate to hold the circuit board in place while making it easy to remove.

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Once the Swift has been toughened and it is time to remove the ZeroZero from the Vendetta and remove the video cables from the 4-pin micro JST connector, I use an X-Acto knife to gently pry up the little piece of plastic holding the cable and then pull it out. A Google search will get you some good videos showing this in action. Then do the same with one of the cables that came with the swift so that you have an empty 3-pin connector.

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WARNING: The pin-out for the Swift is different than the ZeroZero.

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Now place the wires from the Vendetta into the 3-pin connector being sure to get it right. For the white cable I wrapped it in a bit of electrical tape to keep it from shorting out on something in the plane.

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Next take the brackets off of the ZeroZero and put them on the Swift, it is an easy swap and easily fits. Make sure you have an antenna attached to the Vendetta before powering it on, ALWAYS ATTACH AN ANTENNA. In fact I keep an antenna attached at all times to my quads, I only take it off when I have to. Back in the day I burnt out 3 $75 video transmitters by not having an antenna attached.

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This is the time to setup the camera, out of the box Wide Dynamic Range is not turned on and that is the most important change to make. I also lower the contrast and sharpness as I feel it make it easier to see small tree branches and other thin objects.

Now time to put the camera into the plane and get ready to fly.

LED Cover

In my opinion the LED cover is the only real design flaw with the Vendetta, it is a piece of plastic glued to the carbon fiber frame, the glue gives out with the smallest bump, even a soft landing can cause it to pop out. I replaced it a couple of times, I really like the looks of having that translucent cover over the LEDs. The LEDs and the circuit board they are on is fragile and needs protection.

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The best solution I have found is to drill some holes in the cover and use small zip ties to hold it in place.

Transponder Power

For the Drone Racing Club races I participate in I need a 5v female servo lead to connect a transponder.

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The easiest place to get this from is the Servo output on top of the Cube, I was able to solder these wires without taking the Cube apart. Use a nice long cable lead and you can run the cable and connector to the front of the quad and hide it inside the frame behind the camera and front bumper when not in use. I choose to leave the signal cable unconnected for now.

I also think you could use this connector to power a RunCam HD 2 or other action camera, I haven’t tried that yet, but plan to soon.

WARNING: Do not do anything that makes the Cube taller, you will want that space between the top of the Cube and to top of the frame for when the screws holding the front arm sheer off and you need to push the tray up into the frame to get those screws out.

Overall

I really like the Vendetta and plan on it being my exclusive multirotor for a good long while. I like the way it flies and it is easy enough to repair.

Here is a video of me chasing some wings at the Pecan Patch.

ZMR250 Multirotor Frame

ZMR250 Multirotor Racing Drone

ZMR250 Frame

My first 250 size quadcopter frame was a ZMR250 which I have been told is a clone of a Blackout 250. The Blackout costs $150 from GetFPV while the ZMR is available for as low as $20 from various sources. I got my first one from Banggood in May 2015, it required some drilling to get the 2204 motors to fit the arms and the SMA VTx to fit through the top plate, but I was pretty happy with it overall.

My initial build included:

  • Banggood ZMR250 Carbon Fiber Frame
  • SimonK 20Amp ESCs
  • SunnySky 2204/2300kv Motors (I think they were knock-offs)
  • 700tvl Sony Board Camera
  • ImmersionRC 600mw VTx and Spironet Antennas
  • Naze32 Flight Controller
  • Home-made Power Distribution Board

I chose black and orange as a color scheme using orange shrink-wrap and propellers. After making a lot of mistakes and burning myself with the soldering iron a dozen or more times I decided to name the plane “Orange Pain”.

Since May I have rebuilt the machine a number of times due to burnt out or broken parts. I have gone through a Naze32, two 600mw VTx, a very expensive board camera, a top plate, three motors, three SN20a ESCs, and a ton of props. I bought an FPVModel ZMR250 and built it as a second plane but have since parted it out.

The current iteration of Orange Pain includes:

  • A mixture of Carbon Fiber parts from the original Banggood frame and a FPVModel ZMR250 V2 frame
  • RotorGeek RG20A ESCs
  • SunnySky 2204/2300kv (I think these are real)
  • Fatshark 250mw VTx
  • 600tvl Sony Board Camera PZ4020
  • Naze32 Flight Controller
  • DYS Power Distribution Board

I think this is a great setup for an intermediate racer or daily basher. I am currently struggling to get the tune on it right and am ready to pay someone else to tune it for me.

After rebuilding the machine a number of times I have learned a few things.
The expensive FPV cameras are not worth it, stick with the $30 Sony PZ4020 or PZ4020M with or without a case.
600mw Video Transmitters are not needed and the extra heat can greatly shorten the life of the unit. A 200mw or even 25mw transmitter may last a long longer and provide a signal that is comparable to the higher-powered transmitters at racing and public park distances.
If you short out a flight controller it is probably ruined. It is good to have an extra on hand.
Spend the extra money on 2 sets of drivers, keep one set in a toolbox at home and carry the other set with you.

I really enjoy my ZMR and recommend them for people getting started who want to build their own. The FPVModel ZMR250 V2 is made of a much higher quality carbon fiber than the Banggood frame, but the cheaper frame is not a bad buy.

ImmersionRC Vortex Pro-Tunes

Vortex 285 – FPV Race Quad

Vortex 285 – FPV Race Quad


The Vortex comes with 10 “Pro-Tunes” that were developed by sponsored pilots before its release. I did a bunch of Googling after buying the Vortex to try and find more details about these varoius tunes and found nothing more than a short video from UmmaGawd about the Vortex.

So here are all the tunes as of October 2015. I hope they add some new ones soon that are specific to newer motor and prop combinations, especially DAL props.

Preset 1

Pilot: AntohonyRC
Props: Gemfan 5040
Motor: T-Motor 1806
Pack: 4S
Camera: Mobius
Style: Easy Rider

Preset 2

Pilot: BewweB
Props: Gemfan 5030
Motor: T-Motor 1806
Pack: 3S
Camera: Mobius
Style: Beginner

Preset 3

Pilot: BewweB
Props: Gemfan 5030
Motor: T-Motor 1806
Pack: 4S
Camera: Mobius
Style: Intermediate

Preset 4

Pilot: BewweB
Props: Gemfan 5040
Motor: T-Motor 1806
Pack: 4S
Camera: Mobius
Style: Race

Preset 5

Pilot: BewweB
Props: HQ 5x4x3
Motor: T-Motor 1806
Pack: 4S
Camera: Mobius
Style: Howler

Preset 6

Pilot: BewweB
Props: Gemfan 5040
Motor: T-Motor 1806
Pack: 4S
Camera: Mobius
Style: Freeride

Preset 7

Pilot: BorisB
Props: HQ 5045
Motor: Cobra CM-2204/32
Pack: 4S
Camera: GoPro
Style: Acrobatic

Preset 8

Pilot: Nocomp
Props: Gemfan 6045
Motor: T-Motor 1806
Pack: 3S
Camera: Mobius
Style: Freerider

Preset 9

Pilot: Porco777
Props: Gemfan 5030
Motor: T-Motor 1806
Pack: 4S
Camera: Mobius
Style: Extreme

Preset 10

Pilot: UmmaGawd
Props: HQ 50540
Motor: T-Motor 1806
Pack: 4S
Camera: GoPro
Style: Precision

In the next couple of weeks I hope to experiment with each of these tunes and see how each performs with the props described and with various DAL props.

Immersion RC Vortex First Flights

Vortex 285 – FPV Race Quad

Vortex 285 – FPV Race Quad


I have seen a handful of people flying Vortexes around the Atlanta area and after rebuilding my ZMRs like 5 times I decided to give the Immersion Vortex a try.

I bought it from Atlanta Hobby along with both the Carbon Fiber Crash Kit and the Plastic Crash Kit. I also got a cable to allow me to easily connect a Spektrum Satellite receiver without having to make a cable of my own.

I got it home, took it out of the box, connected it to a computer and installed all the updated and such, then was ready to fly. It took me a couple of weeks to have the time and place to fly it, it rained 3 weekends in a row.

Once I finally got to fly the experience was very good. I started out with the Gemfan 5030 props that came with it, Turnigy Nano-tech 3S 1300mah batteries, with a RunCam HD, and used BewweB’s Pro-tune number 2. It flew really well and was a lot of fun. Not what I would call fast or agile, but still fun.

Next up I put a Glacier 4S 1300mah battery on it with DAL 5030 props, it was much faster and a bit more agile. Then I swapped the props out for DAL 5045 Bull-Nose props, but they were too aggressive and drew more amps than I was willing to risk.

Right now I feel like the Vortex’s largest issue is the proprietary 12 amp ESCs. 12 amps is not enough to run 6 inch props on 4S batteries without burning them up very quickly, and right now you cannot get replacement ESCs and without doing something extreme you cannot use larger ESCs.

After 7 flights with a mix of 3S and 4S batteries the ground cable to the FPV camera broke at the connector. I fixed it by cutting up a cable from a RunCam FPV camera and soldering together with the Vortex FPV cable. I also popped the cap off the video transmitter’s antenna, found it and popped it back on, but I plan on gluing it on before my next flight.

Overall I think the Vortex is a decent quad, the trends have changed a lot since its creation and so it has fallen out of favor in comparison to smaller multirotors like the Shendrone’s Tweaker and Krieger, but that does not mean that it is not a good quad. I think it is suitable for fun-flying and even racing at a beginner to intermediate level.

Sorry about the lack of video, the RunCam HD was not at enough of an angle so about all you could see during my flights was the ground. A quick Google search will lead you to many videos of pilots much better than me flying the Vortex.

Great Planes RealFlight 7.5 Review

RealFlight is an RC flight simulator that you can use to practice flying RC planes, helicopters, and multirotors (drones). It is a lot cheaper to crash in the simulator than in real life.

RealFlight is a good flight-sim, I feel like there are other sims out there that have better physics and are more realistic, but RealFlight feels like the most polished and has many more options than any of the others. But to get the most out of it you will have to turn to the community around it.

There are many versions of RealFlight available and it can be very confusing picking the right one. You can get just the software, with a cable, or with a controller. To make it a bit more confusing there is more than one cable available. I went to my local hobby shop and bought Great Planes RealFlight 7.5 with Wired Interface which is currently $129.98 at Amazon.

If you buy this version you will also need a controller, I use the Spektrum DX6 controller (transmitter) and like it a lot. It is available on Amazon for $199.52 right now, which is a great price.

A great feature of RealFlight is that you can install it on as many computers as you want, but to use it you have to have the Interlink cable with its built in reset button to run it.

RealFlight will not run on MacOS so I primarily use Bootcamp and Windows 8 to play it. But I sometimes use Parallels with Windows 7 or Windows 8, it works but requires a fast Mac to work.

Community

After getting the software installed and you’ve taken a couple of test flights I recommend going over to RCGroups.com and downloading the RCG online field and then the RCG Killer Quad. After installing them and giving them a go you can see if RCG is hosting the field for multiplayer to have some fun with other RC Group members.

If the field does not offer you enough challenges you can open it up in the editor and make it more challenging. I added more gates and removed the stadium seating from mine.

The next place to stop is the Knife Edge Software Swap Pages. These are aircraft and airports created by other players.

Troubleshooting

The only problem I have had with the software is that when I load a new multirotor and try to fly it the plane flops around until it is crashed. This is fixed by flipping the auxillary switches, ‘Y’, ‘U’, ‘I’, and ‘O’, for me it is ‘O’ that usually does the trick.

Improvements

I hope that that next version of RealFlight includes more realistic physics, more realistic graphics, and a simpler interface.

Competition

Phoenix RC is the direct competitor and has its own flaws.
FPV Freerider is a multirotor FPV specific sim with a handful of maps.

Give them all a try, it is a lot cheaper than wrecking and rebuilding your planes.

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher


I have re-listened to this series a handful of times now and it just gets better every time. I burnt through my credits on Audible faster than usual this year so to delay spending more credits I decided it was about time to listen to all 15 books in the series, I skipped Side Jobs this time.

Harry Dresden is such an amazing character and the world Jim Butcher has created is fantastic. But what makes the series so wonderful are the supporting characters, they are as unforgettable as Dresden.

James Marsters does an AMAZING job narrating these books, you owe it to yourself to listen to the audiobooks even if you have read the books yourself. He adds so much to them!

“PARKOUR”
“Polka will never die!”

I rate the series a 10 out of 10 and recommend everyone give Storm Front a try.

DragonCon 2015

We had a good time at DragonCon this year. It was a strange year and I felt kind of off the whole show. But I had a good time talking with friends and taking pictures.

The Costume Contest and Masquerade were great, seeing the BSG folks and Karen Gillian was great, and listening the Jim Butcher is always fun. Steranko was a crack-up and the American Horror: Freak Show folks were a blast. The Georgia Philharmonic Orchestra was amazing and Rasputina was delightful.

DragonCon 2015 Photos


American Horror: Freak Show


Costume Contest


Battle Star Galactica


Steranko


Georgia Philharmonic Orchestra


Rasputina


Jim Butcher


Masquerade

Getting into RC Helicopters

Last year I saw a video of a guy flying a remote control helicopter upside down… A HELICOPTER… UPSIDE DOWN!

I watched that video and others like it over and over. So I started saving my money and researching what kind of equipment I needed to learn how to do that myself. I started off with a cheap toy helicopter, then moved to a more expensive one that was much more powerful but still a toy and then finally with a hobby-grade collective pitch heli.

There is such a huge difference between a “Hobby-Grade” and a “Toy” RC vehicle. Mainly it is the ability to fix it and upgrade it, you usually cannot do that with a toy, and hobby-grade usually also means more power.

I bought a Spektrum DX6, not the DX6i, but the new DX6 with the really nice gimbals, voice, and 250 plane memory. It is my first real transmitter so I do not have anything but toys to compare it to, but I really like it.

The helicopter I chose was the Blade Nano CPX, it is a tiny (nano) collective pitch helicopter that is capable of flying upside down. But a funny thing happened. As soon as I had the Nano CPX I started watching videos of guys racing quadcopters through the woods.

Racing through the woods flying quadcopters in first-person view while wearing goggles is so amazing! So immersive! Better than any video game could make it. But there I sat with all this money sunk into a helicopter.

I decided to learn to fly the helicopter until I could successfully fly it upside down, then I would move onto quads.

After crashing a lot and spending a lot of money on replacement parts I broke down and bought the Phoenix RC software because it has the Nano CPX in it. I was really impressed by Phoenix because I crashed the heli in the app in the exact same way that I crashed it in real life. I spent a hundred hours or so practicing in the software and slowly got better with the real thing.

I never got good at flying the helicopter; it was too fast for me to fly it indoors but so light that it was difficult to fly outside. And the cost of repairs was crazy, I spent more on replacement parts in a couple of months than I spent on it new. At that point it just wasn’t fun.

I went to a couple of local events with guys flying large helicopters doing all kind of amazing tricks, their skills are amazing and exciting to watch. But my desire to fly helicopter is totally gone.

I was able to fly it upside down a couple of time successfully and I will probably never fly it again. I will probably sell it and all of the parts I have for it soon. Let me know if you are interested.

Now I am on to flying quadcopters. More about that soon.

The Fold by Peter Clines

What the heck is Joe Ledger doing in a Peter Clines novel, haha, I jest.

I really enjoyed 14 by Peter Clines and when I saw his new novel The Fold in Audible I grabbed it and gave it a listen. The audiobook is narrated by Ray Porter who also narrates the Joe Ledger series by Jonathan Maberry so when I hear his voice I hear the voice of Joe Ledger. But this book is not much like the Ledger series.

The lead character, Mike Erikson, is a really smart guy with a photographic memory and Peter Clines does a great job of making him likeable and relatable.

This book didn’t get me too excited, I enjoyed it, but it fell like a compilation of other sci-fi books and movies. There is nothing new here if you have been reading and watching science fiction for awhile. But it is a solid effort, the narration is great, and the characters are fun if a bit predictable.

From the publisher:

Step into the fold. It’s perfectly safe.

The folks in Mike Erikson’s small New England town would say he’s just your average, everyday guy. And that’s exactly how Mike likes it. Sure, the life he’s chosen isn’t much of a challenge to someone with his unique gifts, but he’s content with his quiet and peaceful existence. That is until an old friend presents him with an irresistible mystery, one that Mike is uniquely qualified to solve.

Far out in the California desert, a team of DARPA scientists has invented a device they affectionately call the Albuquerque Door. Using a cryptic computer equation and magnetic fields to "fold" dimensions, it shrinks distances so a traveler can travel hundreds of feet with a single step. The invention promises to make mankind’s dreams of teleportation a reality. And, the scientists insist, traveling through the door is completely safe. Yet evidence is mounting that this miraculous machine isn’t quite what it seems – and that its creators are harboring a dangerous secret.

As his investigations draw him deeper into the puzzle, Mike begins to fear there’s only one answer that makes sense. And if he’s right, it may be only a matter of time before the project destroys…everything. A cunningly inventive mystery featuring a hero worthy of Sherlock Holmes and a terrifying final twist you’ll never see coming, The Fold is that rarest of things: a genuine pause-resister science-fiction thriller. Step inside its audio and learn why author Peter Clines has already won legions of loyal fans.

©2015 Peter Clines (P)2015 Audible, Inc.

I rate The Fold a 6 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone who has run out of other books to read.

The Martian by Andy Weir

I have been hearing about The Martian from a lot of friends over the last couple of months and it sounded to god to be true so I put it off. I really shouldn’t have.

I bought the audiobook from Audible and listened to it about as fast as I could. It has a lot in common with the many recent stranded stories like Gravity and Cast Away, but it is so much better than them.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever dreamed of Mars, being an astronaut, an engineer, or a space botanist. Really I recommend it to anyone at all, it is a great story and R. C. Bray does a fantastic job narrating the audiobook.

From the publisher:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive – and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills – and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit – he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

©2012 Andy Weir (P)2013 Podium Publishing

I rate The Martian a 10 out of 10 and recommend everyone give it a read.