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    How to Get Into Hobby RC: Exploring RC Drift Cars

    I assume that most of you are at least somewhat familiar with drifting as a popular motorsport. Perhaps you saw the MythBusters episode about drifting or heard Adam talk about his drift-related run-in with the cops. If none of the above apply to you, then I can summarize drifting by telling you that it is a form of driving where the car is rarely moving in the direction it is pointed.

    Much like traditional auto racing, drifting requires a car with plenty of horsepower and a skilled driver. Beyond that, the similarities begin to fade. Whereas a race car driver may view a turn in the track as an obstacle that must be negotiated as efficiently as possible, a drift car driver is likely to view that same turn as a blank canvas where he or she can flaunt their skill and artistry behind the wheel. If you've ever doubted that roaring exhaust, tire smoke and burned rubber are artistic mediums, watching a skilled drift driver will probably convince you otherwise.

    Downsized Drifting

    I began this project knowing absolutely nothing about RC drifting. I did a little research into how drift competitions are run. From what I've read, they are usually judged events. Driving skill is very important, but it isn't really about crossing the finish line first. Drifting style, consistency, and precision are the attributes that will gain you more points from the judges and a trip to the winner's circle.

    After my first few attempts at drift driving, it was pretty clear that I needed some pointers. A quick web search landed me at, which has a lot of helpful info. I also reached out to the staff at Drift Mission to get a better idea of what RC drifting is all about. Here's what they had to say:

    What are the different classes of RC drift competition?

    Drift Mission: There are different types of RC Drifting: 50/50, Countersteer, and Rear Wheel Drive. 50/50 implies that 50 percent of the power is driven to the front and 50 percent to the back. Countersteer is a method to overspin the rear end to enhance the drifting experience, so instead of 50/50 it could be 40/60, 30/70, 20/80…etc.

    Rear wheel drive is the new hotness and the scene is slowly heading this direction. It makes the RC drifting look more realistic and provides more lock [where the front wheels are fully turned in the direction of the drift] during drifting. There is also usually a concours contest to show off the best bodies with the most detail.

    Inside Mike Senna's BB-8 Replica Droid!

    BB-8 replicas continue to impress us! We meet up with droid builder Mike Senna to take a look under the hood of his newest BB-8 robot replica. Mike, who first made a fully animated BB-8 in time for Star Wars: The Force Awakens last year, has now built a static model that is more practical for display and convention appearances. Here's how it works!

    Phil Tippett Launches Hologrid Augmented Reality Game

    Ok, this is super cool. Phil Tippett just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his version of Holochess, the fictional game he created in stop-motion for Star Wars. It's called HoloGrid, and is an augmented reality collectible card game played with tablets and a boxed set of cards, with creatures designed by Tippett (including some sculpted for Mad God) and scanned with photogrammetry. I just backed it, and hope that it'll reach its stretch goal of getting a HoloLens and Magic Leap release!

    Amazon Echo 2.0 Wish List: Visual Feedback

    On last week's episode of This is Only a Test, we discussed the lack of enthusiasm over the Apple Watch, one year into its release. Its user interface lacks intuitiveness and elegance. Its apps aren't exciting. It hasn't made itself indispensable. This boiled down to our agreement that the Apple Watch, along with other smart watches and wearables, lacks an essential use case--a killer app. I argued that killer app should be Siri, just as Amazon's Alexa made the Echo one of the surprise hardware hits of last year.

    But it's not as simple as that. After thinking about it for another week, I'm going to rephrase my argument. New hardware platforms like smart watches and IoT pucks aren't in need of killer apps. It's the other way around: essential services and apps need killer hardware. Amazon's Echo isn't more useful to me than a smart watch because Alexa's knowledge graph is smarter or deeper than Google Now's; it's more useful because you can access it from a device that's better optimized for human interaction. I use Echo more because its hardware design makes it easier for me to tap into Alexa than it is to query Siri on an iPhone.

    Echo isn't perfect, but what it does well it does with aplomb. I use it to set alarms, tune into radio stations, play music, switch off lights, and check for simple facts like sports scores. It's reliable for those few (and increasing) number of tasks it can perform. That reliability can be credited to its always-on omni-directional microphone, 1.5 second voice recognition latency, and audio feedback. Those attributes work together to make Echo a dependable ear for your interactions. It's a piece of hardware designed for listening. I like using Echo because I trust that it'll just work--I almost never have to ask it to do anything twice.

    It's also true that Echo has been effective because Alexa didn't launch with as many features as other digital assistants. Early reviews saw this as a weakness--Alexa wasn't able to tap into as many databases as Google Now, and it couldn't perform complicated tasks like creating calendar appointments or reading email like Siri. But I think it was better that Echo did fewer things very well than more things poorly. You can't underestimate the value of dependability.

    The hardware of Echo was the killer platform for Alexa's capabilities, but those capabilities are expanding rapidly. And at some point, Echo's hardware won't be sufficient to maintain its user-experience advantage. Commanding a digital assistant to do something like modify an appointment is more complex an interaction than asking it to recite a piece of encyclopedic data. That kind of interaction has two essential parts: the AI needs to first parse and understand the command, and then also convey an acknowledgement to the user that satisfies the request. As an optimized listening device, Echo is well suited for the first, but not necessarily for the second. Echo need a user-feedback system beyond just its speaker. I think it needs a display.

    Going Home: The Nikon D500 DSLR

    I've waxed a little poetic about the Nikon D300 I used for several years. So when Nikon announced the spiritual successor to the D500, I decided to return home. I'd been a Nikon user for several decades before adopting the Olympus OM-D EM-1. The Olympus gave me good service, but the D500 proved to be a siren call I couldn't resist.

    I preordered the D500 from B&H Photo the day Nikon launched the camera, around January 5th. Nikon pushed back the delivery date to April 21st from early March. All of B&H's staff take Passover week off as a holiday, but they clearly made a heroic effort to ship preorders on the 21st. Mine arrived about a week later. The external box looked like it had been run over with a forklift, but the thick layer of bubble wrap protected the retail box, which was pristine. I nearly had heart palpitations when I saw the state of the box. The camera itself seems to be working fine.

    D500 with the 16-80 f2.8 – f4 zoom.

    The camera includes a 20.9Mpixel sensor, 10fps maximum frame rate, up to 153 focus points, standard ISO settings ranging from ISO 100 to ISO 51,200, but you can push it to ISO1.64 million, but expect more noise than useful image at that setting. You check out the complete set of specs at Nikon's own web site. If you're curious about the sensor, it seems to be just a bit better in dynamic range than the 24MPixel D7200 sensor, but can push to higher ISOs. You can read a pretty interesting discussion about the sensor over at Digital Photography Review's Nikon Pro DX forum.

    Note that I didn't preorder the kit, even though you see a kit lens on the body above. Nikon refused to discount the bundle, instead just tacking the retail price of the 16-80 f/2.8 – f/4 onto the list price of the body. I ordered only a body, then took advantage of a big Nikon lens sale to pick up the lens for $75 off. Sometimes waiting pays off.

    Building Fallout 4 T-60 Power Armor, Part 3

    For the parts of the Fallout 4 power armor we aren't 3D printing, we'll be creating them with the CNC router. A CNC router is effectively a 3D printer in reverse; instead of an empty build platform that material gets deposited onto, with a CNC router you start out with a large piece of material stock and the router cuts away everything to make the relief of your part. The CNC is a tool that's new to me and one I wanted to really fully utilize on this build. Full disclosure, I am admittedly taking a lot of lessons from I've followed builds from Shawn Thorsson who does a lot of CNC routing for his large scale costumes and props.

    The digital workflow is similar to 3D printing, but still something I am working on really getting solid. You still need to split your model up into sections that will fit within your stock - in my case, sheets of 2" polystyrene insulation board found at the local big box hardware store - while being mindful of any undercuts or concave sections. As I only have a 3-axis CNC, if a part has any concave sections, those areas will not get cut away and my CNC routed part will not come out correctly. For example, this forearm part was cut into several sections, but the gentle concave slope along the back wasn't able to be removed, leaving me with these "steps" that I would have to manually trim or sand away.

    The CNC software I am using is MeshCam which is simple and very effective. MeshCam is used to generate Gcode for the CNC, the same way Cura or Simplify3D creates Gcode for your 3D printer. My only complaint about it is that it doesn't visualize the undercuts so I can't know what parts won't be fabricated correctly. Its built in slicing tools leave a lot to be desired, so I have been using Netfabb to create my 2" slices off of the main model and arranging them so that several slices will be cut at a time. This is still cumbersome and time consuming so eventually I'll be looking for a better toolchain for this step. After I run my slice through MeshCam and send the Gcode to the CNC router for each cutting job, the forearm is ready to assemble and sculpt.

    I used some medium duty spray adhesive to attach the parts together, clamped them together and let the whole thing sit for a couple of hours before moving on to sealing. The polystyrene board I am using is very soft and easy to damage and I wanted to coat it in something rigid so that I can more easily sculpt on it and to make it nice and smooth. It also reacts poorly to just about everything you might normally do this with, including most spray paints, so I need to coat the part in a sealant.. After giving everything a quick sand with some high grit sandpaper to get rid of any remaining CNC artifacts, I coated everything in a couple coats of wood glue. This would not only provide a surface that is non-reactive to the fiberglass and bondo I would be coating it with, but it also gives the part a lot more strength against bumps and scratches.

    Google Play App Roundup: Radon, Exploding Kittens, and Zenge

    We're really getting spoiled these days. There are great Android apps coming out all the time, but it can still be hard to find them amid all the clutter. The Google Play App Roundup is all about clearing the junk out of the way so you can find the best apps. Just click on the app name to go straight to the Google Play Store and pick up the app yourself.


    Google has made a lot of cool APIs available to app developers, and many of them get a lot of use. One API that I think has gotten short shrift is Nearby. The Nearby API was announced about a year ago as a way for devices to talk to each other with a minimum of setup. Radon is a new app that makes sharing content between devices super-easy by using the Nearby API.

    In case you're not aware, Nearby is a set of tools that can allow devices to pair and exchange information using Bluetooth, WiFi, and ultrasonic pulses. It's similar to the guest mode on the Chromecast in that it uses ultrasonic tones to pair with devices that aren't on the same WiFi network. You'll have to approve Radon to use Nearby services when you first start it. After that, you can simply share things to Radon from the system sharing menu.

    Radon is not intended to push large amounts of data, so you'll be able to share things like links, videos, and so on. Radon opens when selected and begins looking for other devices in the vicinity running Radon. The receiving phone just needs to have the app open, and it'll start searching for a sender. When the devices spot each other, the content will be pushed over immediately. The app itself has a snazzy material UI with a purple and pink theme.

    The main barrier to entry here is that both parties need to have Radon running. That means getting people to install it. The app includes quick links to the app and a QR code to help your friends get the app installed. Radon is free, and the lack of any signup process makes it at least feasible to get people on board.

    Hands-On with NASA's HoloLens Mars Demo

    NASA has been working with Microsoft's HoloLens technology to allow its Mars Curiosity rover engineers to visualize Mars and plan missions for the robot. We try a version of this OnSight application and chat with NASA's Dave Lavery about the potential of this kind of mobile virtual reality.

    Airplane Origami: How Folding Wings Work

    I recently found myself with a few hours to kill while in the Dallas, Texas area. On the advice of a Tested reader, I made my way to the Cavanaugh Flight Museum, and I'm glad I did. Cavanaugh is my favorite kind of aviation museum to visit. It has a very eclectic mix of static and airworthy aircraft that spans from WWI to the modern era. Several of the airplanes in the museum's collection are combat veterans as well.

    Of all the various aircraft vying for my attention, the one that I spent the most time with was a humble-looking former navy machine, the Grumman S-2F Tracker. While I had seen various versions of the cold-war-era S-2 at airshows, this was the first opportunity I'd had to get a good up-close look at its wing folding mechanism.

    The many components that are visible in the wing fold of the Grumman S-2F Tracker piqued my interest in the intricacies of folding wing design and operation.

    The S-2F was parked outdoors with its wings folded as if it were on an aircraft carrier. I spent several minutes analyzing the various parts that were visible at the wing folds while trying to figure out the purpose of each. The functions of some components seemed obvious, but most remained a mystery. I walked away utterly fascinated by the intricacies of folding wings and determined to learn more.

    It's All About Elbow Room

    The concept of folding wings is nearly as old as aviation itself. Irish airplane company, Short Brothers, developed a series of biplanes with folding wings prior to the start of WWI. The idea has persevered with most modern naval aircraft, and even the Boeing 777X passenger jet. The goal of folding wings in every instance is to give the airplane a smaller storage footprint when not in use.

    The F4F Wildcat was the first airplane to use Grumman's Sto-Wing hinge design, which mimics how birds rest their wings.

    Wide-spread implementation of folding wings came about during WWII with the emergence of the aircraft carrier as the prime offensive naval weapon. Folding wings allowed up to 50% more aircraft to be stored aboard these ships. By the end of the war, folding wings were standard equipment on nearly every carrier-based aircraft. There have been very few exceptions in the decades since.

    Testing: The LG G5 Android Smartphone

    LG has been chasing its hometown rival Samsung in the Android ecosystem for years now, but it's never managed to beat Samsung. The LG G5 is LG's attempt to address concerns about its materials and design while also keeping the features that set it apart from other Android OEMs. The G5 has an aluminum frame, whereas past phones were plastic. At the same time, it keeps the removable battery and adds a system of modular accessories. Is this enough to make for a compelling flagship phone?

    I've been using the G5 for a few weeks, so let's see how it stacks up to the competition.

    Design and Display

    The G5 is an aluminum phone, which is a big deal for LG. In the past, it has been criticized for sticking with plastic materials while its competition used more impressive metal and glass designs. However, the way LG is using aluminum is probably not the way you would have expected. In fact, there's been a lot of argument about this on the internet.

    So here's the deal: the G5 is a metal phone, but it doesn't feel like one. There's a thick layer of synthetic polymer primer on top of the metal that hides the antennas on the back panel. Most metal phones have those plastic lines across the back (think iPhone), but LG decided it wanted to hide those. The solution seems bizarre to me because part of the appeal of a metal phone is that it feels like metal. The upshot of all this is the smooth back (if you like that), and a more rigid frame that allows for the unique battery system (more on that shortly).

    Also on the back is the power button with built-in fingerprint sensor. The volume rocker has, sadly, moved back to the side of the phone. I quite liked it on the back with previous LG phones. The fingerprint sensor works well enough, but it's not as good as the ones from Google, Samsung, and HTC.

    On the bottom is the mono speaker, which is fine, and the new USB 3.0 Type-C port. The Type-C port will mean ditching all your old cables, but this is the standard of the future. Best we all just get with the program. The addition of Quick Charge 3.0 is nice as well.

    LG has again gone with a 2560x1440 resolution LCD—it was the first mainstream OEM to do that with the LG G3 two years ago. The G4 was an improvement over that phone, and the G5 improves even further. The colors are solid and accurate without any of the blown out reds of some LCDs that are trying to emulate AMOLED. With the high resolution, this 5.3-inch panel is very dense and produces crisp images. The outdoor brightness is impressive as well. Some people are noticing some backlight bleed, but I haven't seen that one my unit.

    In Brief: Hover Camera Drone Folds Up for Portability

    Zero Zero Robotics' just-announced Hover Camera quadcopter is very interesting: it's a 240 gram drone that's designed to unfold and deploy from your hand to take steady photos and videos of you--automatically. The idea of a small selfie drone isn't new (we saw it with the Nixie drone), nor is the idea of a lightweight foldable quad (as we've seen with Vantage Robotics' Snap). Portability and ease-of-use is going to be a big deal for these kinds of small photo quads, but reliability and the ability to take photos/videos that you'll actually care about is the more important thing. I hope that the Hover Camera's makers keep the features simple to ensure that it actually works the way users expect it to. Looking forward to testing the $600 device this summer.

    Tested: DJI Phantom 4 Review

    After flying DJI's Phantom 4 quadcopter for a month, we share our evaluations of this new drone's ambitious features: the new obstacle avoidance system, active subject tracking, sport mode, and increased battery life. Here's why we think you're better off buying last year's Phantom 3 model.

    The Full-Tower PC Case is a Dinosaur

    I'd like to touch on something I ranted about a bit in the April 19 Improbable Insights podcast. The full-tower case is a dinosaur.

    Look, I know some of you out there love your triple-GPU, overclocked, liquid-cooled monster PCs. I love that you love building and using these lumbering beasts, and more power to you. However, most people don't game on triple-4K displays, and the headaches of managing SLI and CrossFire to get a good gaming experience gives me heartburn thinking about it. I know, because I've run SLI rigs, only to be disappointed with lackluster game support, awful image artifacts, and all that heat. I suppose it's a good thing that DX12 offers improved support for multiple GPUs, but game publishers still see multi-GPU setups as fringe cases. (Haha, see what I did there?)

    Unless you're dead set on running three GPUs, you don't need a full-size ATX motherboard. Most higher-end micro-ATX boards implement SLI and CrossFireX support, so you can run your twin graphics cards if you so desire. Micro-ATX mobos typically have four expansion slots; with the right slot setup, you could have your dual GPUs plus another card, be it a PCIe SSD or sound card. You can find a rich selection of micro-ATX motherboards offering serious overclocking support, amenities for liquid cooling, and other high-end features. Only a few years ago, only a few paltry micro ATX boards existed, mainly serving price-conscious buyers. Not so today.

    Mini-ITX motherboards allow you to build even smaller systems, as I did with my itty-bitty gaming rig. As with micro-ATX boards, the selection of mini-ITX boards expanded substantially over the past few years, and even include boards aimed at high end gaming — though you're still limited to one graphics card.

    Google's Virtual Art Sessions Illustrate Tilt Brush VR

    Here's an innovative demonstration of mixed reality: Google recently launched a Virtual Art Sessions Chrome browser experiment, which plays back art being drawn and created in the Tilt Brush virtual reality tool. You can watch the pieces being created in real-time or sped up, but what's even cooler is the use of depth-sensors (Microsoft Kinect cameras) to capture the artists' form as they draw. That gives these demos a 3D point cloud representing the artist, and lets you pan and rotate the virtual camera around both the artists and their art pieces throughout playback.

    Building Fallout 4 T-60 Power Armor, Part 2

    Last time, I shared how we tackled the digital design planning for the Fallout 4 Power Armor build. We extracted the game models using NifSkope, prepared them for our build by increasing their detail in Blender, then finally cut them into sections that would fit on our 3D printers in NetFabb. With our first batch of models are ready to produce, it's time to send them to the machines to create and get them looking nice.

    I'll be using the helmet and the large shoulders to demonstrate the techniques I use to go from raw 3D print to finished master ready for molding. But same process is used whether I'm making something small like a detail piece or a weapon, or the big printed sections of armor. For this build, we'll be using the 3D printer for the interior "frame" pieces, the large shoulders, and the back armor as well as some of the smaller detail bits throughout the armor like the oversized bolts on the knees and the oil filters under the chest.

    I print exclusively in ABS plastic because of some interesting post processing methods available, specifically being able to use acetone to smooth your prints to reduce or eliminate the print "grain" visible at each layer in the printing process. This is not acetone vapor smoothing, which looks really pretty but softens up all of the hard edges we worked to preserve, but rather a solution mixed up and painted directly on to the part. I'll create a batch of "ABS juice" to paint the surface with a brush that both fills in the valleys of the print lines like a body filler, and also acts to soften up and smooth down the high points.

    Photo Gallery: Monsterpalooza 2016

    We spent this past weekend at Monsterpalooza, the annual creature and makeup effects convention in Pasadena. It was an awesome place to meet sculptors, painters, and other artists showing off their personal projects, and in many cases, selling resin kits (I picked up a few). The event was one big mutual appreciation society--the place to put faces to Instagram art accounts and discover many new ones to follow. Frank and Len recorded two episodes of Creature Geek there, too! Here are some photos from the show, and we'll have videos and interviews we shot there on the site in the coming days!

    Google Play App Roundup: Screenshot Join, Redcon, and Warhammer Freeblade

    Grab your phone and prepare to shoot some new apps and games over to it from the Google cloud. It's time for the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new and cool in the Play Store. Just click the links to head to each app's page to check it out for yourself.

    Screenshot Join

    One of my favorite features Samsung built into its newer Galaxy phones is the scrolling screenshot. Whenever you take a screenshot, you have the option of automatically scrolling down and stitching the next screen onto it. Screenshot Join is a new app that gives you similar results on any Android phone. It's not quite as easy, but it seems to get the job done more easily than using a general photo editor.

    To start, you'll need to snap all the screenshots you want to stitch together using your phone's native button combination. With that accomplished, it's time to open Screenshot Join. The app offers the option of exploring just the screenshot folder or using the Android file picker to see all recent images. Odds are the screenshot option will be easier.

    After selecting the first and second photos, you'll be taken to an interface with a split screen allowing you to line up the spot where the images match. It's sort of like sliding the second pic under the first one until the stitch isn't visible anymore. Note, you can pick vertical or side-by-side orientation for the photos. Vertical will probably be more common.

    So, that leaves you with two joined screenshots as one file. What if you want more? Just hit the arrow action button and you'll go back to the image selection interface with the new stitched image as the top photo. Add the next image in the series to the bottom and go through the process of lining it up again.

    You can add as many images as you like to the final product before saving. It's a little more tedious than I'd like, and some sort of finer control while lining the images up would be appreciated. Still, Screenshot Join is faster at this than the alternatives and it's free. You will have to put up with a few ads when attaching images, though.

    Tested: Eero Wi-Fi Router and Extender

    We test a new router system that attempts to eliminate the worry of Wi-Fi dead spots by building a mesh network of hotspots that work together as one seamless wireless network. The Eero does what it promises, but may be too simple for power users who need to heavily configure their network settings.