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    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Telemetry Systems

    One of the fundamental challenges of flying RC aircraft is that you are separated from the machine you are controlling. You must assess the health and status of your vehicle from a distance using only limited visual and aural cues – rarely an easy thing to do. Sometimes the first symptom of a failing system is a trail of smoke that inevitably leads to the ground.

    RC telemetry systems provide the means to accurately gauge certain parameters of your model during flight. Think of it as a remote dashboard. Do you want to know how hot your motor is running? How about an alarm that can warn you when your model reaches an altitude of 400 feet? Telemetry devices can provide those things and more.

    What Telemetry Requires

    There are several different ways to receive telemetry data. Some telemetry systems are standalone units with a transmitter/sensor package in the model and a receiver on the ground. For FPV flyers, On-Screen-Display devices take the data from onboard sensors and overlay it on the real-time video feed. The result is something like a heads-up display found in many modern full-scale aircraft. An increasingly popular form of telemetry system is the type integrated into the model's radio system. The pilot's handheld transmitter sends flight commands to the aircraft while also receiving downlinked data. The same onboard receiver that interprets commands also transmits telemetry data. In this way, both the transmitter and receiver are actually transceivers.

    Telemetry data can be viewed in the transmitter screen, but you'll want to use the tactile and aural feedback options when flying.

    The majority of radio manufacturers offer telemetry-capable systems in their lineups. The example that I've chosen to highlight in this guide comes from Futaba. As of this writing, there are three Futaba aircraft transmitters that are telemetry-capable (10J, 14SG, and 18MZ) as well as a handful of receivers. With these systems, their telemetry features are embedded in the S.Bus2 circuitry of the components. That nuance begs a brief explanation of S.Bus2.

    The Best Windows Ultrabook Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com.

    The $1,100 Dell XPS 13 is the best Windows ultrabook for most people because it has a big, beautiful screen, the longest battery life of any Windows ultrabook, a great keyboard, and a decent trackpad. Above all, it's the smallest, lightest, best-designed ultrabook we've tested. We came to this conclusion after 70 hours of research and testing with seven different ultrabooks.

    The Dell XPS 13 (non-touch) is the best Windows ultrabook for most people.

    Who is this product for?

    Ultrabooks are best for people who need a super-portable, long-lasting laptop and don't mind paying a premium for it. They're overkill if you just want something you can leave on a desk and use for a couple of hours after work. The ideal ultrabook has enough processing power to get work done and sufficient battery life to survive a cross-country flight, while still being slim and light enough to go anywhere.

    Building a District 9 Alien Rifle Replica, Part 2

    Over the course of this month, Punished Props' Bill Doran is building a 1:1 scale replica of the alien assault rifle from District 9 to unveil with us at Comic-Con. Bill's build logs and videos will walk through his design and fabrication process, and his finished piece will be paired with a surprise at SDCC. Place your questions for Bill in the comments below!

    Welcome to the second installment of the District 9 rifle prop build! The project is moving along at a good pace and I've made a lot of progress. While the main body of the gun was made mostly in flat layers, there are a bunch of cylindrical pieces and it would be a pain to build them from flat sheets of material. Instead, I opted to bust out my lathe.

    Working with Foam

    For these pieces, I used a urethane tooling foam called RenShape. It comes in several densities. I ended up using the most dense foam I had. This stuff is so dense that you would think it's made of rock.

    I was also made aware by my pal Harrison Krix that sometimes this kind of foam could cause curing inhibition in platinum cure silicones, so I performed a simple test. I took a small sample of each of the four densities I had on hand and dumped silicone over them all. Sure enough, the two least dense foams caused some inhibition, while the two most dense ones did not. Hence the decision to use the most dense stuff!

    The Best Portable USB Battery Pack for Daily Use

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com.

    Smartphone batteries don't always last through a busy day, but a pocket-size USB battery pack can give your handset enough of a boost to survive the evening. After 40 hours of research and 65 hours of testing, the one we like the most is Anker's 2nd Gen Astro 6400. It fits in any pocket or purse, and it charges phones and small tablets about as fast as any pocket-friendly pack out there. At 6,400 mAh, it has a larger capacity than most, too.

    The Anker 2nd Gen Astro 6400 can slide into a relaxed-fit pants pocket alongside a smartphone, though a jacket pocket or purse will be a more comfortable fit.

    The Anker 2nd Gen Astro 6400 can slide into a relaxed-fit pants pocket alongside a smartphone, though a jacket pocket or purse will be a more comfortable fit.

    How we decided

    We started by looking for packs that could slide into a relaxed-fit jeans pocket without bulging too much. We also wanted a pack that could fully charge power-hungry phones like the Apple iPhone 6, Motorola Moto X, and Samsung Galaxy S6 at least once, and at full speed. From there, we favored packs with the best cost-to-capacity and size-to-capacity ratios and higher-current power output (up to a point).

    How To Make a Handheld Camera Gimbal Mount

    There's no question that motorized gimbals do a fabulous job of hiding the bumps and bobbles when you're using an action camera. They're pretty much required equipment for multi-rotor flyers who want to capture decent footage from on high. Recent reviews of the DJI Inspire 1 Mount and the Feiyu-Tech G3 Ultra convinced me that I needed a gimbal for my ground-based video shoots as well.

    As I was browsing the selection of handheld gimbals, I ran across the Yuneec Steady Grip. Like the Inspire 1 Mount, the Steady Grip merely provides an alternate method to hold, power, and control a gimbal that would otherwise reside on a multi-rotor. The unique pistol-like form factor of the Steady Grip made me realize that I already had most of the parts that I needed to build my own handheld gimbal mount. So I abandoned the store-bought approach and went D-I-Y.

    The basic parts needed for this project are a complete gimbal assembly, a surplus pistol grip transmitter case and a servo driver.

    Gathering Parts

    My prime motivation for this project was the desire to easily swap one of my gimbals between its aerial mount and the handheld mount. Being able to utilize a gimbal I already owned presented a substantial cost savings. Adding a gimbal to the bill of materials for this project would likely make it more expensive than just buying a handheld gimbal system outright.

    I chose to use the GB200 2-axis gimbal from my Blade 350QX2 quad. The entire gimbal assembly can easily be removed from its mount on the quad by lifting a lock tab and sliding the base off of its rails. I had already upgraded the gimbal with the proper frame to hold a GoPro Hero 3 camera.

    To emulate the style of the Steady Grip, I plundered my stash of old RC systems. Among them are several pistol-grip transmitters that I haven't used in years. I located a well-used Futaba Magnum Sport that looked like it would do the trick. It didn't matter that the electronics of the radio were still in good shape. I really only needed the plastic shell. Finding a new use for one of my squirreled-away "treasures" has certainly done nothing to improve my hoarding tendencies!

    The GB200 gimbal used for this handheld mount is the same one that I use on my Blade 350QX2 multi-rotor. I can move the gimbal back and forth between the two mounts.

    I wanted to be able to control the pitch of the gimbal while it is in the hand mount. On the quad, this function is controlled by a channel of the radio. I used a servo driver (also called a "servo tester") to transfer this capability to the hand mount. I'll explain later just how that works.

    Different gimbals may require a wide variety of input voltages to operate. I wanted to be sure that I provided the correct voltage for the GB200, but I could not find any specs that defined what it should be. I measured the voltage output at the gimbal power pins on the Blade 350 at around 4.3 volts. With that value in hand, I felt comfortable buying a 5 volt voltage regulator for the hand mount.

    Everything You Need to Know about RAW Photography on Android

    Android camera hardware has gotten very good in the last few years, but the quality of the images you get are largely dependent on the processing technology that a device maker has chosen to implement. When most phones have very similar image sensors, this software can make a huge difference. Slowly but surely, the power to produce better images is being granted to the users with support for RAW image capture.

    If your phone can capture in RAW, you don't have to worry about substandard processing algorithms in the phone. You can take matters into your own hands. Here's how to make RAW photo capture work for you on Android.

    What is RAW and which phones support it?

    Most Android phones are only set up to spit out processed images that have been compressed into JPEGs. This is usually fine, but you're relying on the ability of the stock software to do the scene justice. A lot of data is thrown away in the process, and a RAW file gives you access to all of that. A JPEG from a high-resolution camera sensor might be 4-5MB on Android, but a RAW file could easily be upwards of 30MB.

    These files come with file extensions like .dng and .nef (Android uses .dng). They contain virtually all the data from the sensor, so they're not ready to be tweaked with a standard image editing program or posted on your favorite social network. You need to work with each file and make changes to the colors, white balance, exposure, and more. It can be a significant amount of work, but you're not doing this because it's easy.

    On Android, RAW image capture can be done in a few ways. Both LG and HTC have opted to add the ability for users to snap both JPEG and RAW with the stock camera app on the G4 and One M9. You don't need to do anything other than pop into the settings to make this work. When you press the shutter, the phone outputs a DNG to the internal storage (or microSD card in the case of the G4) along with the JPEG. Samsung is supposed to be adding RAW support to its stock camera app in Android 5.1 for the Galaxy S6, which should be out in a month or so.

    The Best Multi-Port USB Wall Charger

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com.

    After surveying more than 1,100 Wirecutter readers and using six iPads to test 18 top models, we can safely say that Anker's 36W 4-Port USB Wall Charger is the best USB wall charger for most people. At only $20, it's essentially the same price as Apple's single-port 12W USB Power Adapter, but the Anker model can push out three times as much power and charge four devices at once. In fact, it can simultaneously charge three full-size iPads at full speed while also charging a smartphone. Our readers said they prefer chargers that plug directly into an outlet, and this is the most powerful one we tested to do so. Additionally, Anker's charger allows connected devices to draw the advertised amount of power; some of the competition does not.

    How we decided

    A selection of the chargers we tested.

    We quickly whittled down an initial list of 45 chargers by knocking out those that had only one or two high-speed-charging ports (except for super-compact chargers, mentioned below); had no high-speed-charging ports at all; or had a mix of faster- and slower-charging ports, requiring you to figure out which one is the "right" port if you want to charge your tablet as fast as possible.

    How To Make the Most of Android 5.0 Lollipop's Lock Screen

    If you've picked up any modern Android device recently, you probably noticed the lock screen is all shiny and new on Lollipop. There are notifications, plenty of new security options, and a few features that didn't make the cut. Let's go over everything you can do with Android's updated lock screen.

    Notifications and sensitive content

    The Android lock screen has notifications on it now, which is a change from previous versions. While notifications were accessible by pulling down the shade (only on unsecured devices), now they're staring you in the face every time you turn on your phone. The lock screen has actually become the notification shade in a lot of ways. If you swipe something away on the lock screen, it's gone from the shade too. The quick settings from the notification shade can also be accessed from the lock screen as if you had the standard notification shade open.

    Now that you can see full notifications on the lock screen, you might be wondering about privacy. That's where notification priority scheme comes into play. A sensitive notification will not have the text visible on the lock screen of a secured device, but you need to set which apps count as "sensitive." Note, you have to choose to hide sensitive content on the lock screen when you set your PIN, pattern, or password lock.

    There are two ways to check the setting of your notifications. The standard way is to find the notification menu in your system settings. The location will vary by device, but you should find it if you want to tweak multiple apps. On stock Android it's in Sound & Notification > App Notifications. This menu lists all the apps you have installed, and when you tap one, you get the notification setting. This is where you can set something as sensitive.

    A quicker way to access the settings for a single app is to long-press on one of its notifications. Tap the "info" button that appears, and you'll be in the same notification setting menu as above where you can set it to sensitive mode.

    How To Make a Realistic Horror Skull Prop

    Time for another prop-making tutorial with effects artist Frank Ippolito! This week, we stop by Frank's shop to learn how to transform a cheap plastic skull into a gory horror prop using simple materials. By layering and sculpting cotton and latex, we can simulate gross charred flesh on the skull or any other body part. It's very effective! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us by joining the Tested Premium community!)

    The Best Water-Resistant Bluetooth Speakers

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com.

    If you are looking for the best all-around value in a water-resistant Bluetooth speaker today, the best one to buy is the UE Megaboom. While there are lots of less expensive models, most that truly approach the Megaboom's performance cost about the same, and none that we've seen can offer its mix of sound quality, features and ruggedness. We came to this conclusion after narrowing down 50-some Bluetooth speakers to 13 water-resistant finalists and testing each of them with the Wirecutter AV team and a deep swimming pool. The $300 Megaboom is pricey, but if you have other budgetary or functional needs, we have a few other picks as well.

    Who should buy a water-resistant Bluetooth speaker?

    Water-resistant Bluetooth speakers are intended for outdoor or indoor use. This might seem like a feature everybody would want, but it can come with a price: Most water-resistant Bluetooth speakers don't sound as good as the best conventional portable Bluetooth speakers, which we tested in our Best Portable Bluetooth Speaker guide.

    In general, portable Bluetooth speakers are a great buy for people who own smartphones and tablets, so you can play music from them. The rechargeable battery built into the speakers lets you take them anywhere, and water resistance expands your options even further, especially in the summer months or on vacation near beaches and pools.

    The Best Gaming Laptop Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com

    After looking at all the gaming laptops out there and testing a few ourselves, we concluded that the $1,790 Asus ROG G751JT is the best gaming laptop for most people.

    The Asus has the best combination of raw gaming power and build quality that you can get for less than $2,000. It will play the vast majority of modern graphics-intensive games on high settings at full resolution, plus it has a great cooling system, keyboard, and trackpad. It isn't perfect, but no other gaming laptop can match the Asus ROG G751JT right now.

    The best gaming laptop for most people, the Asus ROG G751JT-DH72.

    Who's this for?

    Gaming laptops definitely aren't for everyone. Desktop computers offer better gaming performance per dollar, and ultrabooks are slimmer, lighter, and have much better battery life. Gaming laptops are a good fit for students, deployed soldiers, and other road warriors who want to play demanding PC games at LAN parties or when traveling.

    How did we pick this laptop?

    We spent a lot of time researching components to come up with an ideal configuration that would play most current games well without being prohibitively expensive. We decided that the "ideal" gaming laptop would cost less than $2,000 and have an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M or better GPU, an Intel Core i7-4710HQ CPU or higher to avoid bottlenecking the graphics card's performance, 8GB to 16GB of RAM (anything more is serious overkill), and at least a 256GB solid state drive and a 750GB hard drive.

    The Best Fitness Tracker Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com.

    If you're looking for the best way to track your activity and exercise, the $150 Fitbit Charge HR is the fitness tracker we'd recommend for most people. According to our tests—which included 60 hours of research and 10 days of real-world testing—the Charge HR is more accurate at counting steps than most other wrist-worn trackers, and it works seamlessly with Fitbit's popular social ecosystem. It has continuous heart rate monitoring for both resting and active use; automatically activated sleep tracking with vibrating alarms; and a legible OLED screen with caller ID. And unique among trackers in this price range, the Charge HR uses a strap modeled after a traditional watch band, which means it won't fall off accidentally.

    For a deeper dive into the full research and testing we did on our picks, (as well as a longer list of trackers we looked at), check out our full version of this guide.

    How To Get into Hobby RC: Short Course Trucks

    'Short Course Trucks' are currently some of the most popular vehicles for RC racing. There are several reasons for the popularity of these designs. First of all, they replicate the full-scale short course racers that compete at outdoor tracks and stadiums all over the US. Perhaps a more significant aspect is that short course trucks are exciting to drive. Many short course designs are close adaptations of the top-tier 2-wheel-drive and 4-wheel-drive buggies that are at the cutting edge of RC off-road design.

    RC short course trucks are not only for racing; they are also well suited to bashing. Their wide tires let them run on a variety of surfaces. It also helps that they have meaty bumpers and full-fendered bodies covering the tires. These help to keep the truck right side up when knocking into things like curbs and other vehicles.

    The Cutback

    My first short course truck is the Tower Hobbies Cutback. Although it has some race-ready features (brushless motor, full ball bearings), the Cutback is primarily meant for bashing. That works out great for me since I haven't raced in years. That being said, the Cutback might be competitive at some local-level tracks.

    This truck arrives fully assembled, with a painted body and a 2-channel 2.4GHz pistol-grip radio. I had to provide four AA batteries for the transmitter and onboard batteries to run the truck. I'll talk more about those batteries in a bit.

    Short Course Trucks are a popular aspect of RC for both racing and bashing. The vehicles emulate full-scale off-road racers.

    This is a four-wheel-drive truck with three gear-type differentials, one on the front end, one on the rear end, and one on the drive shaft. The core of the chassis is a 3mm-thick aluminum plate. Attached to this plate is a nylon tub that houses the electronics and drive components. Other parts such as the suspension arms, bumpers and spur gear are made of molded nylon as well. Interestingly, all of these plastic parts are covered by a 1-year warranty with free replacement.

    The Best Hybrid Bike for Most People

    This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a list of the best gear for your home. Read the full article at TheSweethome.com.

    After 50 hours of research and testing conducted over the past 2 years, we've determined that if you want a versatile bike for riding around town, a performance hybrid like the $490 Trek 7.2 FX is likely the right bike for you. In a world congested with countless nearly-identical bikes, the 7.2 FX is our top choice for the second year in a row, and it can work for anything from short road rides to commuting moderate distances to work. It's nimble, lightweight, and better-equipped for the price than any other brand-name bike in its price range.

    How we decided

    As bike people with decades of combined experience working on, with, and riding bikes professionally and casually, the writers of this guide know a thing or two about bikes. But we also spoke to Sarai Snyder, founder of Girl Bike Love and CycloFemme; David Studner, project manager for Trek's City Bike division; and the staff members at more than seven Bay Area bike shops, including Roaring Mouse Cycles, Missing Link, Bay Area Bikes, City Cycle of San Francisco, Mike's Bikes, REI, and Performance Bicycle. We then spent hours poring over the spec sheets of all the fitness hybrid bikes we could find in the $500 range to pick out the small differences that separate the great values from the mediocre. We then threw our legs over about a dozen top contenders over the past two years to figure out which would be best for most people.

    Tested's Quadcopter and Hobby RC Guides

    We've watched awareness and enthusiasm for quadcopters explode over the past year and a half--this is a really exciting branch of hobby RC. For our part, we've done our best to keep up with the hobby, from testing ready-to-fly quads to building our own multi-rotors. But between that videos that we've produced and Hobby RC guides written by Terry Dunn, there's a lot of material to digest if you're just getting started. So I'm putting all of our multi-rotor and RC coverage on this landing page as a beginner's resource and formal archive of topical content.

    I'll be updating this on a monthly basis, and please use this page's comments section to continue a discussion of all things multi-rotor-related.

    How to Get Into Hobby RC Guides

    This is Terry Dunn's bi-weekly column exploring all facets of the RC hobby, including multi-rotors. A great place to start is his first guide to getting started with general RC vehicles. The following guides cover multi-rotors specifically, with boats, planes, and car guides below it. I've marked what I consider to be essential reading with asterisks.

    Our videos covering some of these topics are embedded below.

    The Best Bluetooth Car Stereo Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com.

    We spent 80 hours researching more than 60 Bluetooth-equipped car stereo receivers, surveyed hundreds of Wirecutter readers, and bench-tested a half-dozen front-runners to see which models were the easiest to use and offered the best bang for the buck. The $100 Pioneer MVH-X370BT is the one we'd recommend for most people. It doesn't have a CD player, but it does have the best Bluetooth smartphone support, easiest setup, and the simplest interface out of any of the six finalists we tested—some of which cost over twice as much.

    How we decided

    I started by reading what few car stereo reviews remain from CNET, CarAudioNow, Crutchfield, and customer reviews from Amazon and Best Buy. I then interviewed experts from Crutchfield, about what to look for and conducted a reader survey to figure out what you wanted from a great stereo. This narrowed the list down from the over 100 available options down to a handful of representatives from each major company that places ease of use, robust Bluetooth capabilities, and value above fancier features like satellite radio and touchscreens. We focused on smaller single-DIN units because while you can use a single-DIN stereo in a double-DIN car, the reverse is not true. Also single-DIN units are the most ubiquitous among the population of cars on the road. Eventually I settled on representatives from most of the major brands: Alpine's UTE-52BT; Pioneer's DEH-X8700BS, DEH-X6700BT, MVH-X560BT, and MVH-X370BT; JVC's KD-AR959BS, Kenwood's KDC-X998 and KDC-X598, and Sony MEX-N5000BT.

    How to Get into Hobby RC: Testing WISE Stabilization

    In our continuing overview of artificial stabilization systems for RC, I wanted to test one of the newest systems on the market. WISE is a stabilization system recently released by Hobbico. Although the WISE module is a discrete unit, it is currently only available imbedded with Flyzone's flagship trainer, the Sensei FS.

    WISE (no, it's not an acronym) is meant to be a training aid for pilots learning to fly fixed-wing aircraft (as opposed to rotary-wing helicopters & multi-rotors). Like other stabilization systems, it uses accelerometers and gyros to sense what the model is doing. Using this data, the system can bring a wayward model back to level flight. It also damps overly-exuberant control inputs from the pilot to avoid getting the model into a bad attitude in the first place.

    The WISE module is factory-installed to a tray in the fuselage of the Sensei FS. It is connected between the radio receiver and flight control servos.

    The Sensei FS

    Flyzone's Sensei is a popular trainer model that has been around for a few years. With a 58" wingspan, it is a sizable airplane with Cessna-like looks. Other than the addition of the WISE system, little else seems to have changed in the new FS (Flight Stabilization) version. The airframe is made of molded foam components and it features a brushless power system.

    The Sensei FS can be purchased as a Receiver-Ready (Rx-R) or Ready-to-Fly (RTF) kit. Both versions are mostly factory-built with servos installed for each control surface and the motor/ESC and WISE module already in place. The primary difference is that the Rx-R model allows you to install a 6+-channel radio system of your choice. Going RTF gets you a Tactic TTX610 radio system with a TR624 receiver. The RTF also adds a 3S-2100mAh LiPo battery and a simple AC/DC charger. Hobbico provided an RTF kit for this review.

    Before getting to the specifics of the WISE system, let's talk a little about the Sensei FS. The quality of the kit is very consistent with others wearing the Flyzone badge. The foam parts are cleanly molded and the components fit together well. Assembly is a nuts-and-bolts operation, so no glue is required.

    The Best SSDs Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the original full article below at TheWirecutter.com

    If I were buying an SSD to replace a mechanical hard drive or an SSD that's running out of room, I'd get the 500GB Samsung 850 EVO. It has one of the best combinations of price, performance, and capacity of any drive you can get, plus easy-to-use software and a long warranty, and it comes from a company that makes excellent SSDs (and all their components).

    Who's This For?

    Replacing your boot drive with an SSD is one of the easiest ways to make an older computer feel newer and faster. If you've never used one before, you'll be amazed.

    Solid-state drives are three to four times faster than mechanical drives when reading or writing large files, and hundreds of times faster for the small random read and write operations your computer makes most during normal use. Since SSDs don't have any moving parts, they use less power, put out less heat, and don't vibrate. The one downside is that they're more expensive than traditional hard drives, but that price gap is dropping fast.

    You should get an SSD like the 500GB Samsung 850 EVO if you have a laptop or desktop that boots from a mechanical hard drive or a cramped, outdated SSD. It's also a good way to save money on a new laptop. You can usually save several hundred dollars by buying a laptop configured with a mechanical hard drive or small SSD and replacing or augmenting it with a high-capacity SSD. Most people should get the highest-capacity SSD they can afford. Right now 500GB is the sweet spot.