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    How to Get into Hobby RC: Comfort Mod for FPV Goggles

    I've worn several different brands and models of FPV goggles. While some may be slightly better than others, I've yet to find any goggles that I thought were particularly comfortable. I tend to devote a good bit of time prior to every FPV flight fidgeting with my goggles to get them positioned just right. Their poor fit was something that I tolerated for the thrill of flying FPV. Recently, I decided to take a more proactive approach to the problem.

    A popular modification for FPV goggles is to mate them to the frame of ski goggles. These goggles typically have a much larger frame than their FPV cousins, which makes them more comfortable and easier to position correctly. I tried this modification on my Skyzone FPV goggles and I'm very happy with the result.

    A Proven Mod Method

    I didn't feel any need to innovate with this project, so I searched the web to see how other modelers have tackled goggle mods. I found that Jim T Graham from RC Groups posted a tutorial back in 2013 that also used Skyzone goggles. I used Jim's guide as my starting point and pushed forward.

    I chose to use different ski goggles than Mr. Graham (actually, he used motorcycle goggles). That deviation created significant differences in the challenges of our respective projects. Some aspects that were no issue for Jim required me to think a bit, and vice-versa. Although there is considerable overlap in our processes, I think that they are sufficiently different to warrant a separate overview.

    By integrating my Skyzone FPV goggles with a set of cheap ski goggles, my FPV flights are much more comfortable.

    The goggles I chose are just something cheap I found on Amazon. When shopping for goggles, don't worry about the lens coloring since you'll be discarding that bit in the initial steps of the modification.

    Milling Time: The (Near) Future of Desktop CNC Milling

    Over the past month and a half, we've explored a variety of desktop CNC options, including an affordable ready-to-cut mill, a build-it-yourself hackable kit, and a pricey 4 axis machine. But what does the (not too distant) future of desktop CNC milling look like?

    Things are moving very fast these days. It seems every week there is another new CNC mill project on Kickstarter--a little reminiscent of the desktop 3D printer boom. In the next few months, half of the machines listed below are expecting to start shipping. And new versions of established machines are already coming our way. Needless to say, there are a lot of options out there. I've read up on most of them, and the following mills are the ones I'm most excited about.

    Note: aside from the Othermill Version 2, I have not worked with any of these machines in person, yet. What you are about to read is mostly based on information from the companies, secondhand accounts, or are just my initial takes on what I've seen so far.

    Othermill Version 2

    Photo credit: Other Machine Co.

    ITP got the latest Othermill a few weeks ago, and it has already become a key part of our shop. It does everything the Othermill Version 1 does with some nice additional features. The cutting spindle is more powerful and cuts aluminum beautifully. This model is a bit more enclosed, and this makes a big difference in noise and mess. And now there are T-slots on the mill bed, perfect for fixtures and jigs.

    It's available for purchase now, and costs $2,200.

    Making Miniature Tested Blockhead Figurines

    Editor's note: Bill Doran makes armor, costumes, and space guns as Punished Props, and has written a series of books teaching foam armorsmithing. Bill recently stopped by the Tested office to drop off a few small figures he made, and shares how he made them in this guest article.

    I've had this idea noodling around in the back of my head for quite some time. Since I was going to be swinging by the Tested office this month, I figured it would be a great time to knock out this quick little project: miniature figurines of Will and Norm's blockhead characters.

    I had less than a day to build these guys from scratch, so most of my build decisions were based on whether or not I would have to wait for things to dry or cure. From start to finish, this entire build took less than 8 hours.

    I started by planning out the sizing on all of the figure pieces based on a screen cap from the Tested website. I measured out all of the sides of each piece and prepped my material.

    I ended up going with a high density, urethane tooling foam for this build. I wanted something that was easy to cut and shape, but was banking on not needing to fill, prime, and sand the surface at all, since that would add too much time to the build. This particular foam is so dense that it feels like stone! I got it from a company called 5 Axis a while back. They used to sell their off cuts on eBay.

    The Best Smart Thermostat

    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.

    Three years after the Nest Learning Thermostat's debut, the second-gen Nest continues to offer the best combination of style and substance of any thermostat. Its software and apps are solid and elegant, it learns your routines and the particulars of your house, and it's easy to change the temperature from your phone or computer so you won't have to get up from your cozy spot on the couch. It's (still) the best smart thermostat for most people, though the competition is catching up.

    Why a smart thermostat?

    If you upgrade to any smart thermostat after years with a basic one, the first and most life-changing difference will be the ability to control it from your phone. No more getting up in the middle of the night to turn up the A/C. No dashing back into the house to lower the heat before you go on errands (or vacation). No coming home to a sweltering apartment—you just fire up the A/C when your airplane touches down.

    The fact is, a cheap plastic thermostat with basic time programming—the kind we've had for two decades—will do a pretty good job at keeping your house at the right temperature without wasting a lot of money, as long as you put in the effort to program it. But that's the thing: Most people don't.

    Get a smart thermostat if you're interested in saving more energy and exerting more control over your home environment. If you like the prospect of turning on your heater when you're on your way home from work or having your home's temperature adjust intelligently without having to spend time programming a schedule, these devices will do the job. And if your thermostat is placed in a prominent place in your home, well, these devices just look cooler than those beige plastic rectangles of old.

    The Best Bluetooth Kit for Every Car

    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 want Bluetooth in your car but don't want to spend the money and/or time to install a new head unit, you have three options, depending on your car's setup and whether your priority is making phone calls or listening to music. If your car has an aux-in (headphone-jack) setup, we recommend iClever's Himbox HB01 ($30). If you don't have an aux-in port and value call quality over sound, Motorola's Roadster 2 ($80) clip-on speakerphone is the best pick. If you don't have an aux-in jack, and music quality is more important for you than phone calls, get the Mpow Streambot Y FM transmitter for $37.

    Our picks, from left: iClever Himbox HB01, Motorola Roadster 2, Mpow Streambot Y.

    We spent 20 hours researching the latest version of this guide, comparing 10 new units to the 11 we originally tested, to find the best in each category. If you'd like to dig in deeper into what features to look for in a kit, how to deal with whiny audio cables, or you simply want additional picks besides the three mentioned here, visit our full guide.

    How we decided

    The most important thing we looked for when testing was ease of use and how close each kit came to a built-in-Bluetooth experience.

    The most important thing we looked for when testing was ease of use and how close each kit came to a built-in-Bluetooth experience. With that in mind, we set out to find the most promising candidates for each of the three types of kit. For aux-in kits, we eliminated any that required you to use your car's accessory-power outlet for power without also including a USB charger with at least 1-Amp output for charging a phone at the same time; we also eliminated any that didn't have phone-answering functionality, as well as those that had downright awful user reviews. For speakerphones, we focused on units with FM-transmitter capabilities, native voice commands, and the capability to auto-pair. Finally, dedicated FM transmitters were easier to narrow down because not many people make them anymore, and few have positive reviews; we tested only the ones that earned high ratings.

    The Best Mechanical Pencils

    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 talking to a half-dozen experts, surveying more than a thousand readers, researching 127 different models, and going hands-on with seven of them, we've discovered that the best general-use mechanical pencil for most people is the $5 uni-ball Kuru Toga. Thanks to an innovative internal mechanism, it'll never get blunt as you write, meaning your words and diagrams will always be at their sharpest and most defined.

    But we know that there are various ways in which people use mechanical pencils. If you have other needs, we have a couple other picks below, and even more in our full guide at the Wirecutter.

    How we decided

    We consulted with aficionados from the thriving network of stationery bloggers, interviewing a half-dozen pencil experts who between them have 36 years of experience covering all manner of writing utensils. We combined this with a survey of more than 1,000 readers to get an idea of what really mattered to people, and between the two methods were able to narrow down from hundreds of pencils on the market to just a handful, each of which were useful for different situation.

    Quick Tip: Fixing a Slow Windows Downloads Folder

    Despite its location on a fast SSD, opening the Downloads folder on my Windows machine took a really long time, several seconds. I'd tried everything I knew--emptied the folder, deleted the thumbnail database, moved it to a new location on the drive--to no avail. This morning, I finally fixed the problem, which occurs when Windows incorrectly determines that the folder should contain either pictures or videos. If it does that, it tries to create thumbnails for every file in the directory every time you open it, even if they're file types that shouldn't have thumbnails. All I had to do to fix the problem was open the Properties for my Downloads folder, click over to the Customize tab, and change the "Optimize this folder for:" setting to General items.

    Will 7
    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Small-Scale Cars and Upgrades

    When I first got into RC cars in the late 1980s, the vast majority of vehicles were 1/10-scale. There were a few 1/12-scale carpet racers, a handful of nitro-powered 1/8 scale cars, and some very rare gasoline-powered 1/4-scale jobs – but it was overwhelmingly a 1/10-scale hobby. It was a good fit for the motor, battery and radio technology of the era.

    While tenth-scale has remained king over the years, new technology has allowed other scales (both larger and smaller) to blossom. One of the most popular new scales to emerge is 1/18. These vehicles are small enough that they are practical for indoor use, while still being large enough to handle most outdoor terrain. Best of all, many 1/18-scale vehicles are designed just like their bigger brothers, with the same array of replacement and hop-up parts.


    The Dromida MT4.18 and DB4.18

    To illustrate the inner workings of 1/18-scale, I've tested a pair of vehicles from Dromida, the MT4.18 and DB4.18. Like other 1/18-scale Dromida vehicles, these cars are based on the same 4-wheel-drive chassis, with only wheel/tire, gearing, and styling differences among them. Don't let their small stature fool you. These are hobby-grade products with full-ball bearings, a 2.4GHz radio system, oil-filled shocks, etc. They can be found for around $100 ready-to-run.

    The MT4.18 and DB4.18 (let's just call them "MT" and "DB") are factory-built and ready to run when you open the box. There's just the small detail of charging the included 6-cell 1300mAh NiMH battery. That quickly brings us to my only real gripe of these vehicles. The provided charger is pretty lame. It's an AC charger that takes four hours to charge a depleted battery—four hours!


    The battery can certainly withstand a much faster charge rate. I'm a big fan of multi-chemistry chargers that can do it all, but their expense can be hard to justify for beginners. An inexpensive no-frills charger such as the Duratrax Onyx 110 would be a big step up here. With the Onyx, you're now down to 78 minutes at a 1 amp charge and 39 minutes at 2 amps (which I'd only do occasionally). Also, since it has AC/DC input, you can charge from your car battery if you're away from home.

    The Best In-Ear Headphones Under $40

    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 in-ear headphones on a budget, get the Brainwavz Delta with Mic. After 32 hours of research on hundreds of in-ear headphones under $40, seriously considering 179, and testing 68 with our panel of audio experts, we found the Brainwavz Deltas are the best for the money. Our panel unanimously voted them the best-sounding of all the ones tested in this category, plus they fit comfortably in most ears, and are a steal at $22. They sound better than the Apple Earpods, so if you're looking to upgrade or replace those, or want something decent and inexpensive, these are your best bet.

    How Did We Choose What To Test?

    After doing research on existing professional reviews, I looked to the user reviews on Amazon, Crutchfield, etc. to see what real people had liked and had come out since our last post.

    We then brought in a faceoff panel consisting of audio professionals and musicians who were asked to listen and give me their top picks. From there we took into account price and features, and in the end, chose a winner.

    Milling Time: Testing the Shapeoko 2 CNC Machine

    Over the past few months, I've been working with various desktop CNC milling machines. I first tested the Othermill, which I really enjoyed using. The next desktop CNC machine I tested was the Shapeoko 2. Shapeoko is an affordable, open source CNC kit that has been on the market for a few years. Originally a Kickstarter project, it grew into a robust product originally sold through Inventables, and now the Shapeoko 3 is about to launch--sold exclusively through shapeoko.com.

    Given that the company is on its third generation product, there is already a large online Shapeoko community. Tips, tricks, and mods can all be found on the site’s forums. Numerous videos on YouTube show you everything from step-by-step mill assembly to machine calibration, and even material-specific best practices. That’s a compelling asset.

    My Shapeoko 2

    The mill itself is also very user friendly and lends itself well to modification. If nothing else, the Shapeoko is a very robust X, Y, Z plotter that is incredibly hackable. If you have plans to build your own job-specific machine, the Shapeoko’s parts would be great bones to start with. I have seen watercolor painting CNC’s, DIY laser cutters, even Zen garden sand printers built from this chassis.

    If the Othermill is Eve, then the Shapeoko is Wall-E.

    Building an FPV Racing Quadcopter, Part 4

    The previous three articles of this series were all about getting the Strider Mini Quad assembled into an aerial racing machine. With all of those steps complete, it is now time to put the Strider in the air. I will cover my initial test flights, some configuration changes I made, and my thoughts on flying a quad racer.

    Test Flights

    I planned for my initial test flight of the Strider to be a quick, knee-high hover in my backyard, lasting only long enough to confirm that the controls operated correctly. Things started off well and all of the controls worked perfectly. Things worked so well in fact, that I spent more time hovering than I anticipated.

    A few minutes into the flight, the Strider unexpectedly tumbled into the grass and I heard something bounce off of the fence. In my excitement to get the quad in the air, I had neglected to adequately tighten the prop nuts…a rudimentary task that I really should not have missed. Remember when I mentioned that I was much too astute and diligent to need CCW-version motors? I guess I asked for it.

    There was zero damage to the Strider, and I quickly found the flyaway prop. The offending prop nut is another story. It is definitely somewhere in my back yard, but I gave up looking for it. Lawn mowers are great at finding (and hurling) such things, so it’s only a matter of time before we are reunited. Luckily, I had a pair of replacement prop nuts that, while not the same color, fit the threads on the prop shaft.


    Subsequent flights took place at my RC flying field, where I have plenty of room to let the Strider run free. I began with a few line-of-sight flights in Attitude Mode so that I could get a feel for the quad’s speed and handling. I don’t know how my Strider compares to other racing quads, but it’s fast! Because of the quad’s small size, I had to be very careful to keep it in relatively close, or it would quickly morph into a tiny black blob in the sky.

    I soon became comfortable flying the Strider in Attitude Mode, so I switched to Rate Mode. The stock Rate Mode settings in the CC3D felt pretty aggressive to me. So, I toned down the rotation rates and added about 30% exponential (using Open Pilot GCS) for subsequent flights. Even though that helped tame the quad, I decided that I still wanted an easier transition to Rate Mode. The solution was using Rattitude Mode.

    Building an FPV Racing Quadcopter, Part 3

    Through the first two articles of this series, I assembled the bulk of the Strider Mini Quad frame, installed the propulsion system, and configured the flight controller. This time around, I will concentrate on the components of the First Person View (FPV) system, as well as the camera used to record in-flight videos.

    The FPV System

    The components that I chose for the Strider’s FPV system are quite common. The camera is a PZ0420 with a 2.8mm lens and IR filter. It mounts directly to the camera mounting plate that is provided in the Strider kit. The mounting plate is then sandwiched between the center plate and top plate of the frame. Since the center plate of the Strider frame features an integrated Power Distribution Board (PDB) there are 5-volt and 12-volt power taps for the camera located directly behind the camera mount. There are also inputs for the video and audio (if your camera has it) signal wires from the camera.

    The camera I used does not have audio capability. It includes a 3-wire pigtail for power, ground, and the video signal. I shortened the pigtail considerably to reduce unnecessary wire on the airframe. The camera can accept 5-17 volts, so I plugged the pigtail into the 12-volt tap of the Strider.

    My video transmitter (VTX) is a TS832 5.8GHz 600mW unit. Like most VTXs for FPV, it requires a FCC amateur radio license to operate. I attached the VTX to the bottom side of the top plate using self-adhesive Velcro. The rear end of the Strider center plate includes another set of power taps and nodes for connecting the video and audio signals. I again used the 12-volt tap and video signal.

    I upgraded the stock VTX antenna with a circular polarized model. I also added a 7cm long extension between the VTX and antenna. The extension provides a flexible link between the antenna and its mount on the VTX. This isolates the VTX from the hard knocks that the protruding antenna is bound to endure.

    When you are shopping for VTXs, antennae, and accessories, be sure to pay close attention to the gender of the connectors. Some components use standard SMA connectors, while others use reverse polarity (RP-SMA) connectors. You want your equipment to have the minimum number of connections and adapters, so get equipment with compatible connectors from the start.

    The Best Wi-Fi Hotspot You Can Buy

    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 regularly travel with devices needing Wi-Fi, get Verizon's Jetpack MiFi 6620L. Its battery life is among the best we’ve seen in hotspots, it runs on the largest and fastest U.S. LTE network, and its pricing is competitive.

    Is my smartphone enough?

    Just about every smartphone can act as a hotspot, sharing its connection over Wi-Fi with tablets or laptop. But if you work on the road a lot, a hotspot offers a more reliable data connection than your phone and will run for much longer on a charge than a phone in tethering mode. Think two full days of work versus five hours.

    How we picked and tested

    We started with networks. Our best-wireless-carrier research and outside reports like PCMag’s “Fastest Mobile Networks” and RootMetrics’ testing all pointed to Verizon.

    AT&T, however, isn’t far behind and in parts of the U.S. beats Verizon. It also ended an advertising scheme to track subscribers’ unencrypted Internet use, while Verizon took until January to announce an opt-out.

    The LTE networks of T-Mobile and Sprint, even after recent progress, can’t match the big two’s rural coverage--important in a device used often on the road. (For more on this, check out our guide to the best wireless carriers.)

    Android Tablet Roundup: Which Tablet Is Right for You?

    Android tablets are going through an interesting transition right now. We're seeing the first few hints of 64-bit support, 4:3 screens, and some powerful gaming features. However, these products are still imperfect. I don't think there's such a thing as the perfect Android tablet for everyone right now, but there are a few good ones that might work well for you.

    Let's check out all the top tablets on the market and see what they all have going for them.

    Nexus 9

    If you like having access to the latest software and dig the 4:3 form factor, the Nexus 9 might be an appealing option. This tablet runs on a Denver dual-core Nvidia Tegra K1 chip with 2GB of RAM and 16-32GB of storage. The centerpiece is clearly the screen, which is above average compared to most Android tablets. It's an 8.9-inch LCD with a resolution of 2048x1536, just like the iPad. At 8.9-inches, a widescreen tablet would be awkward to use in portrait orientation, but the the N9 is quite comfy.

    The Nexus 9 runs Android 5.0/5.1 Lollipop without any OEM junk added. This is Android as Google intended with updates more or less guaranteed for at least two years. The Nexus 9 might fall back to second priority in a year or so when new devices come out, but you won't be left to rot on an old version of Android within the expected life of this tablet. There are also full system images for the Nexus 9 and an unlockable bootloader, making for easy modding (and fixing your mistakes so you don't end up with a brick).

    I think the biggest knock against the Nexus 9 is that the build quality simply isn't where it needs to be for a $400 and up tablet. The buttons are a little mushy, the soft touch plastic feels a little cheap, and it's slightly heavy. More recent production runs of the Nexus 9 are much more solid. It still takes a weirdly long time to charge, though.

    More problematic is the state of the Nexus 9's software. It's overall a better experience than many Android tablets, but the N9 still stutters and hangs more than it should. Nvidia's Denver CPU core has a lot of power, but it seems like it's not being fully harnessed in the N9. Hopefully a future software update gives this tablet the extra boost it needs to be a better experience.

    The Nexus 9 is a good tablet, but it's pricey. If you can find one on sale, it might be a good buy. Even if you can't the form factor makes it worth considering.

    Building an FPV Racing Quadcopter, Part 2

    In the first installment of this series, I assembled most of the frame components of the Strider Mini Quad. I also installed and soldered the motors and ESCs. Although the flight controller was installed in the frame, it still required attachment of the various wires and configuration of the firmware within. Let’s focus on those tasks and keep moving.

    Plugging in the CC3D

    The flight controller is the nerve center of any multi-rotor. It takes your control inputs and the data from its onboard sensors and translates it all into commands for each of the ESCs. There are several different brands of flight controllers. Considering all that they do, most of these units are incredibly small. The flight controller I chose is the OpenPilot CC3D (CopterControl 3D), which fits perfectly on the Strider’s stock flight controller mount.


    From a wiring standpoint, the flight controller is situated between the radio receiver and the quad’s ESCs. First I attached the ESCs to the CC3D. The CC3D has a bank of pins that accept the standard receiver plugs found on most consumer RC equipment. The quad’s motors are numbered sequentially as you go clockwise, with the #1 motor being the front left. I attached the plug from this motor’s ESC to the #1 pins on the CC3D and then followed suit with the other ESCs.

    To connect the CC3D to my Futaba R617FS receiver, I used the 8-wire harness included with the flight controller. The colors of my wires didn’t match those on the OpenPilot diagram, so I just referenced the pin order. The first two pins are negative and positive power. The remaining pins are signals for channels 1-6 respectively.


    PPM (Pulse Position Modulation) receivers like the FrSky model shown in the Strider manual, and Sbus receivers like some Futaba models require only one signal wire for all of the channels. The R617FS is a standard PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) receiver. As such, it has three pins for each channel: positive, negative and signal. The positive and negative connections from the CC3D can be connected to any channel on the receiver. The signal wires must be connected to their assigned channels.

    In addition to the connections to the CC3D, I made a signal wire connection from the receiver to a pin on the Strider’s frame. This wire allows a 3-position switch on the transmitter to operate the Strider’s built-in LED lights, lost model alarm, and also toggle crosshairs in the OSD function. I used channel 7 for this, since it was already mapped to a 3-position switch on my Futaba 7C transmitter. By going this route, I did not need the channel 6 signal wire from the CC3D.

    Building an FPV Racing Quadcopter, Part 1

    Racing quadrotors have captured the interest of a lot of people. They’re fast, nimble, and tough. Best of all, having a First Person View (FPV) system installed lets you get a sense of what it’s like to be onboard your speed machine. In the past, we’ve presented a video of Norm building a racing quad with the help of Carlos Puertolas (Charpu). We’ve also given you a buyer’s guide that outlined all the equipment you need for your own racing quad. This week, I’ve prepared a four-part series that will cover each aspect of getting a racing quad built and flight-tested:

    • Part 1: Frame Assembly
    • Part 2: Flight Controller Setup
    • Part 3: Configuring the FPV System
    • Part 4: Flight Testing and Tuning

    A friendly reminder: if you are new to multi-rotors, racing quads are a horrible place to start. Get yourself something a little more sedate to help you learn the basics. Once you’ve honed your flying skills, racing quads are much more practical and enjoyable.

    Frame Assembly

    The quad that I’ll be building for this series is a Strider Mini Quad provided by Red Rotor RC. The Strider is a 250mm-class ship with a carbon fiber frame. There are a few features on the Strider that negate purchasing some of the common components found on racing quads. The Power Distribution Board (PDB), lost-model alarm, and On-Screen Display (OSD) are all integrated into the frame itself. This saves you the cost of buying those components separately, as well as the hassle of installing them.


    Red Rotor provides an online assembly manual, so make sure you are using the latest version. In addition to what’s provided in the kit, you will need a few basic tools and supplies: metric Allen wrenches, zip ties, heatshrink tubing, soldering iron, etc…pretty basic stuff. To prepare for the build, I sorted all of the included hardware in a plastic ice tray. There are four different length screws in the kit and this helped me keep them all distinct.

    The first few steps of assembly are very straightforward. They involve fastening the bottom plate of the frame to the center plate. They’re simple assembly tasks with nuts, bolts and spacers. All of the parts lined up perfectly, so things progressed quickly.