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Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin ‘Baja’ Build

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The Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin was introduced last year to rave reviews from the motorcycle press. Bucking the trend toward ever-larger and less off-road-capable Adventure Bikes, the Africa Twin set a new course for the industry with its compact, mass-centralized design. And with a package that includes a torquey 998cc parallel-twin engine, off-road wheel sizes […]

The post Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin ‘Baja’ Build appeared first on ADV Pulse.

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mxm23
13 days ago
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Go BDCW!
San Rafael, CA
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Testing the Fat Shark Transformer HD FPV System

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Not so long ago, purchasing the ground equipment for First Person View (FPV) flying meant that you had to decide between a tripod-mounted monitor and wearable goggles. Recent developments have removed that fundamental decision. New systems, like the Fat Shark Transformer HD ($249), give you both viewing options with the same equipment.

The Fat Shark Transformer HD allows you to view FPV video as a standalone high-definition monitor, full-screen headset, or binocular viewer.

Actually, the Transformer offers three viewing possibilities. I suspect that this adaptability is the root of its name. The system's display module can be used as a standalone monitor. There are also two different ways to use the monitor with head gear. The full-panel viewer masks out the rest of the world and gives you a 720p view of your video stream. Using the binocular viewer provides an even more immersive experience with a 55-degree field of view. If using the full-panel viewer is like sitting in the middle of a movie theater, the binocular viewer is like being in the front row.

The Monitor

The heart of the Transformer is a high-definition (1280x720) LCD monitor with a 5.5-inch (140mm) screen. Female ¼-20 threads on the bottom of the housing let you mount the monitor on a tripod. Using a standalone monitor is great for flyers who are just getting used to FPV flight. They can alternate between FPV and line-of-sight flying just by deciding whether to focus on the model or the monitor. Monitors are also perfect for giving spectators a taste of FPV.

The integrated 5.8GHz receiver utilizes two antennas. Using different antenna types betters your chances for a clean signal.

You can choose from three video input sources. When using the monitor for FPV flying, you'll take advantage of the built-in 5.8GHz video receiver. There are two antenna mounts for the receiver. The idea is that you can simultaneously attach both a high-gain directional antenna and an omni-directional antenna. This gives you the benefits of both antenna types since the system automatically uses the best signal at any given time.

As I write this, the Transformer HD bundle does not include antennas for the receiver. I used an ImmersionRC omni-directional antenna and an ImmersionRC Mini Patch Antenna. I am told that future bundles of the Transformer HD will include antenna options.

The monitor also includes a mini-HDMI input, allowing it to display high-definition video from any HDMI-equipped device. There are even a few multi-rotors on the market (or coming soon) that transmit an HD video feed and have an HDMI output from the video receiver. The Transformer HD can tap into those signals.

The monitor does not have a built-in speaker. There is, however, a 3.5mm audio output jack that you can attach to headphones or powered speakers. You'll just want to make sure that your audio device has volume control because the monitor's audio output level is not adjustable.

The third input option is a 3.5mm A/V jack. This folds in most analog video sources. Although the Transformer monitor does not have a built-in DVR, there is also a 3.5mm A/V output jack. You can pipe the signal to an external recording device.

The Transformer bundle includes a battery holder meant for two 18650-sized Lithium-Ion cells.

The monitor is powered by an external 2-cell Lithium-Ion battery. The battery is not included, but Fat Shark does provide a case for holding two 18650-sized cells. These batteries are popular and easy to find. I have a stash of generic 18650 cells and all of them that I have tried worked perfectly in the Transformer. If you're buying new Lithium-Ion cells for this system, make sure that you get a charger as well.

Full-Screen Viewer

When you're ready to take the next step in FPV flying, you can install the monitor into the full-screen viewer. It simply clips into place. Those of you who are familiar with VR gear will have an easy transition to the full-screen viewer. The form factors are very similar. The viewer fits over your eyes and blocks out the rest of the world, leaving you to focus on the view from your model.

Both the full-screen viewer (top) and binocular viewer have a foam liner where they meet your face. They are comfortable to wear despite being larger than standard FPV goggles.

The viewer is essentially just a plastic box for holding the monitor. It has no electronics. Foam on the front of the viewer provides a comfortable fit against your face. Well, it's comfortable against my face. Your experience may vary. Adjustable elastic straps hold the viewer in place on your head. A pocket on the rear of the straps holds the battery. A power extension cord is included to connect the battery to the monitor.

One thing that I immediately noticed with the full-screen viewer is that its positioning is much less critical than with my traditional FPV goggles. When I use my goggles that have individual eye cups, I often have to fidget with them before I get everything in a position that doesn't mask part of the screen. With some goggles, that non-interference position is a pretty small envelope. The Transformer's full-screen viewer has a much wider tolerance for positioning. This makes it easier for me to get prepped for a flight. I also worry less about the goggles shifting while I fly.

The full-screen viewer has a significantly larger footprint than traditional FPV goggles. I don't think it's a factor when flying. Yet, they are more obtrusive when not in use. I don't usually slide the viewer up to my forehead between flights like I do with my other goggles…it's just too big. The viewer does fit easily in the 4-pistol cases that I normally use to carry my flight gear.

Binocular Viewer

At first glance, the binocular viewer appears to be the same thing as the full-screen viewer. In fact, the basic elements are very similar. They're both plastic boxes that isolate your view to the monitor. The primary difference is that when using the binocular viewer, the screen is split into separate right and left images.

When that split screen is combined with the magnification of the viewer's eye pieces, the screen fills your view. It's a totally immersive feel. Fat Shark's specs indicate that the field of view when using the binoculars is 55-degrees.

While you can use the binocular viewer with an HD source, the split screen prevents you from seeing it in full HD. Each eye gets a 640x480 view.

Using the Transformer HD

The Transformer is easy to operate with any of the different viewing options. The monitor is powered on by plugging in the external battery. The only controls are on the back side of the monitor. Two buttons allow you to scroll up or down through the receiver channels. There is also a small joystick. Within the first ten seconds of being powered on, pushing inward on the joystick will cycle though the input sources. A long-press of the joystick will invert the screen image. Directional movements of the joystick allow you to adjust the screen's brightness and contrast. That's all there is to it.

The Transformer provided my first taste of using a high-definition FPV monitor. I'm not taking full advantage of the available resolution since none of my FPV systems output a HD video signal. However, the image is still crisp. The only downside with the monitor is that it does not come with a sunshade. Glare could be a problem if you're using it on a tripod outdoors.

The monitor includes ¼-20 threads for mounting on a tripod.

Both the full-screen viewer and the binocular viewer are comfortable to wear. I expected that they would be front-heavy and a little awkward, but that has not been the case. Using an external battery rather than an internal unit certainly helps with the weight distribution.

So far, most of my experience with the Transformer has been flying indoor quads. Even though the video transmitter is putting out only 25mW of power, reception has been perfect. I can fly into the basement, through doorways, behind walls…it doesn't seem to matter. My experience with more powerful transmitters in outdoor quads has been equally glitch free.

I'm still trying to decide whether I prefer flying with the full-screen viewer or the binocular viewer. The full-screen option is sharper, while the binoculars make you feel like you're right in the thick of things. Both have their high points. Since it only take a few seconds to alternate between each setup, I suppose I never really need to choose a favorite.

Final Thoughts

With so many different FPV goggles on the market, it can be difficult to choose a set that fits your needs. That's especially true if you're just getting started and don't even know what your needs are. The Transformer HD lets you explore the fundamental viewing options without ever having to commit to one type.

Using the either the full-screen viewer or the binocular viewer provides an immersive FPV experience. The full-screen viewer has a sharper image while the binocular viewer (shown here) has a wider field of view.

Once you factor in the accessories that you have to buy (antennas and battery), you're probably looking at a $300 investment for the Transformer HD. That puts the this unit squarely in the middle of the current price range for FPV goggles. Less expensive competitors tend to offer lower resolution, while higher-priced models have extra features such as built-in video recording. I've found no other units (at any price) that have the monitor/full-screen/binocular viewing capability of the Transformer. The system's adaptability means that it can be configured to suit the preferences of many FPV flyers. It is a nice all-in-one system that doesn't demand many compromises.

Terry is a freelance writer living in Lubbock, Texas. Visit his website atTerryDunn.organd follow him onTwitterandFacebook. You can also hear Terry talk about RC hobbies as one of the hosts of theRC Roundtablepodcast.

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mxm23
60 days ago
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This is relevant to my interests. :-)
San Rafael, CA
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Testing Small Power Connectors for Hobby RC

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Whether you're talking about aircraft, cars, or boats, one of the keys to success with electric-powered RC models is using high-quality power connectors. The electrical connection between the battery and vehicle is critical. A sub-par connector can cause poor performance or even be the root cause of a crash.

Early battery-powered RC models borrowed Molex power connectors from the electronics industry. It didn't take long to figure out that those connectors were far from ideal for RC. They simply weren't designed to handle the high amperage, countless connection cycles, and dirty conditions that RC vehicles endure. Although Molex connectors can still be found in some beginner-oriented kits (often called "Tamiya" or "Kyosho" plugs), numerous RC-specific connectors have emerged over the years. There are a lot of high-quality power connectors for RC drivers and pilots to choose from. That is, unless you like small models.

I used a simple test rig to stress the JST and XT30 plugs and combine their relative performance levels.

When I talk about "small models", it's not a well-defined category. Let's just say that it encompasses cars and boats that are 1/18-scale or smaller and aircraft that weigh less than a pound. These little RC models have comparatively few connector options. Many small models come factory-equipped with a connector commonly called the "JST plug". It's another carryover from the electronics industry. Like Molex connectors, JST plugs are a poor fit in the RC world.

The Lowly JST Plug

Although called the JST plug in RC circles, this little red connector is actually the RCY-series plug made by the JST company (Japanese Solderless Terminal). That's an important distinction to make because other JST-manufactured plugs are also found on RC items, namely the balance connectors on multi-cell lithium-polymer batteries. It's worth noting that those plugs are completely adequate for that application. Just to keep things simple, I'll stick with the tribal terminology and refer to RCY-series connectors as JSTs.

JST plugs are indeed small. A mated pair of plugs measures around 23x6x4mm. Each plug has two contacts (positive and negative). The plastic housings are keyed to prevent them being plugged in backwards. Every JST plug that I've ever seen came with a pigtail of factory-crimped wires, but I assume that it's also possible to buy them in raw form.

The JST datasheet indicates that the maximum current rating is 3 amps when the plug is connected to 22-gauge wire. Several of my JST plugs have 20-gauge wire attached to them. Such a configuration is not reflected on the datasheet. But that's not an issue. The point is moot even if the larger wire allows another amp or two of current. JST plugs are frequently bundled with RC models that demand amp draw far outside of that window. I've had models that pushed more than 15 amps through a JST. That's just asking for trouble.

JST Alternatives

The relative sizes of the JST (top), XT30 and Ultra Plug also reflect their power handling limits.

The plug I use for most of my larger models is the Deans Ultra Plug. It is simple, robust, and can handle a lot of power. Unfortunately, it's just a little too big to be practical in most small models. I used the Ultra Plug's smaller cousin, the Deans Micro Plug, for several years. The Micro Plug is great for small applications in terms of size and performance. I eventually abandoned it, however, because the contacts have a disturbing tendency to pull out of the plastic housing. Not good…dangerous, actually.

Since ditching the Deans Micro Plug, I've been making do with JST plugs. I briefly considered trying E-flite EC2 connectors, a mini-sized version of their popular EC3. The one example that I had worked great. However, at $4 per pair, it would cost a pretty penny to retrofit my fleet of small models and related batteries with EC2s.

One of my recent multi-rotor acquisitions came equipped with XT30 connectors. Like the EC2, the XT30 is a downsized version of a popular connector…in this case, the XT60. For what it's worth, there are larger versions of both plugs available as well (for BIG models)…the EC5 and the XT90. My first glimpse at XT30s was very promising. Although a little larger than JSTs, the XT30s are sufficiently small for all but my tiniest models. More importantly, the large contact pins suggested that they would handle much more current than JSTs.

I needed a few XT30s to build charging leads for my new quad, so I also ordered some spares to experiment with. I was pleased to see that five male/female pairs of XT30s cost less than $4. It's hard to complain about that.

XT30 plugs are easy to solder and readily accept 16-gauge wire.

Once I had the connectors in hand, I soldered the charge leads that I needed. I also soldered a few simple jumpers that would allow me to analyze the connectors' performance. The exposed contacts on the XT30 are easy to solder. The half-pipe area of the contacts tins quickly and helps hold the wire in place. I soldered examples using 16, 18, and 20 gauge wire. I insulated the solder joints with heatshrink tubing.

Testing XT30 Connectors

There are lots of ways to analyze the performance of an electrical connector. For my purposes, I figured that the most direct path was to put the plug in its intended environment and see how it compares to the competition. I made two pairs of jumpers that allowed me to alternately put XT30 and JST plugs in the same model. I did my best to limit the variables by using the same lengths of identical wire on all of the jumpers.

I used these jumpers in my Tower Hobbies Racer Red P-51 model, which is already equipped with Hobbico Star plugs (compatible with and equivalent to Ultra Plugs). I don't consider the Mustang a small model. However, its stock power system pulls about 25 amps. This is the ceiling of what I expect my small models to be capable of. It's way more amperage than I would expect a JST to tolerate, but it provides a handy data point for comparison.

The XT30 is a micro connector that addresses the shortfalls of other power connectors for small RC models.

Using my ElectriFly PowerMatch meter, I took a set of baseline readings using only the Star Plugs. The PowerMatch takes a snapshot that displays the simultaneous amperage, voltage, and power output of the system. I then took several readings with the JST and XT30 jumpers in place. The test was also repeated with a smaller propeller bolted to the Mustang (to lower the amp draw).

The results surprised me. The XT30s performed almost as well as the Star Plugs. Power loss was only 4%. Some of that loss can certainly be attributed to the two extra Star Plugs and 20-gauge wire in the XT30 jumpers. Based on those results, I have no reservations about implementing the XT30s in applications up to 25 or 30 amps. The only remaining question is how well they stand up over time with frequent use. That analysis is ongoing.

An ElectriFly PowerMatch provides a snapshot of data to compare each connector.

The poor little JST plugs actually held up pretty well to my abuse. During data collection, I only ran each configuration long enough to get a stable reading…usually 5 seconds or less. With JSTs in the loop, amperage and voltage values were consistently lower than the XT30 and Star Plug readings. Since power equals amperage multiplied by voltage, watt levels were down as well.

In the most extreme case, the difference in power between the XT30 and JST plugs was 31.9 watts (11.5%). The concern here is not so much the reduction in power caused by the relative inefficiency of the JSTs. This P-51 would certainly fly just fine on the 244.1 watts remaining. The issue is that the watts aren't actually missing. They are manifested as heat at the source of the bottleneck…aka those tortured JST plugs.

My results explain why JST plugs sometimes fail from overheating. It also suggests that XT30s are adequate for all of my small models.

I was curious how quickly 31.9 watts would heat up the JSTs. So I ran the system at full throttle for 30 seconds. The connectors were too hot to hold in my hand for more than a second or two. I've read of instances where JSTs have melted together during use. Now I see how easily that can happen.

A look at the male contacts on the JST (left) and XT30 illustrates why the latter is able to handle more amperage.

Again, none of this is intended to be a knock against the JST RCY connectors. Their use in RC vehicles pushes them well beyond their stated capabilities. My testing nudged them even further. My goal was simply to find a practical alternative to JSTs in small models. Thus far, it seems that the XT30 will be a nice fit.

Terry is a freelance writer living in Lubbock, Texas. Visit his website atTerryDunn.organd follow him onTwitterandFacebook. You can also hear Terry talk about RC hobbies as one of the hosts of theRC Roundtablepodcast.

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mxm23
60 days ago
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I guess I'm old school. I was taught to never use the word "amperage" -- it's "current." But language evolves. Sigh.
San Rafael, CA
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Trump just fired FBI director James Comey

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Trump fired FBI director James Comey today, effective immediately.

From NYT:

President Trump has dismissed the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, said Tuesday.

ABC News:

President Trump has previously been critical of Comey, suggesting that his actions helped Hillary Clinton during the campaign, while Clinton blamed Comey and his late announcement about the FBI's investigation into her email server contributed to her electoral college loss.

Image: Brookings Institution

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mxm23
74 days ago
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To be hired by a Trump front company for quadruple his FBI salary.
San Rafael, CA
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Uber President Jeff Jones Is Quitting, Citing Differences Over ‘Beliefs and Approach to Leadership’

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Kara Swisher and Johana Bhuiyan, reporting for Recode:

Jeff Jones, the president of Uber, is quitting the car-hailing company after less than a year. The move by the No. 2 exec, said sources, is directly related to the multiple controversies there, including explosive charges of sexism and sexual harassment.

So was Uber’s toxic culture a surprise to Jones? Or was it even worse than what he was braced for?

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mxm23
112 days ago
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Or is he the scapegoat?
San Rafael, CA
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Can you get a 25/25 on this advanced grammar test?

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I got 25/25. “You must be an English scholar because only 4% of Americans can get a perfect score on this test.”

∞ Read this on The Loop

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mxm23
140 days ago
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Guess what Doofus? I took it twice, once trying to get the right answers and one getting them wrong deliberately, and I got 25/25 both times. Rigged.
San Rafael, CA
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