The Northeast Electric Aircraft Technology Fair (NEAT Fair) is a gathering of RC hobbyists who enjoy designing, building, and/or flying electric-powered models. I like all three of those things. So I've been itching to attend NEAT for a long, long time. I finally got my chance to stop in this year and experience this unique event. Since I could attend for only one day, I decided that I would leave my models at home and just observe.
The inaugural NEAT Fair was held in 2000, a time when electric-powered flying models were still a fringe element of the RC hobby. The motors, batteries, and electronic widgets available to electric-minded hobbyists were all rather crude by today's standards. Any measure of success required forethought, ingenuity, and daring. NEAT provided a rare opportunity for those early innovators to compare notes and show off their latest breakthroughs.
Things have certainly changed in 18 years! Electric-powered aircraft are now a huge facet of the hobby. The availability of off-the-shelf models with great performance means that you no longer have to be an expert just to get off the ground. Even so, there are still modelers who are constantly nudging the state of the art and trying new things. For them, the NEAT Fair remains a Mecca.
NEAT is officially a 4-day event. This year's show ran from Thursday, 9/14 to Sunday, 9/17. Some eager participants began setting up as early as the previous weekend. When I arrived on Saturday morning, the entire flightline was filled with pop-up canopies and tents. Event director, Tom Hunt, told me that more than 300 pilots were registered.
The event takes place just outside of Downsville, a quiet town in the Catskill Mountains of New York. More specifically, NEAT is held at the Peaceful Valley Campsite along the Delaware River. This location presents an interesting dichotomy for NEAT goers. Upon arrival at this event celebrating technology and innovation, participants will likely find that their cell phones and other modern electronic leashes are mere paperweights in this remote valley. Yet, no one that I spoke with seemed to mind spending a few days off the grid.
Two areas of improvement for today's virtual reality headsets are display resolution and field of view. Pimax, a VR company based out of Shanghai, are hoping to solve those with its 8K headset that it's launching on Kickstarter. We go hands-on with their 8K prototype to see what game and text content look like under this display, and how immersion is improved with a 200-degree FOV. Here are our impressions and an interview with Pimax's CEO.
Your phone or tablet might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new, and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.
Fenix 2 was my go-to Twitter client for a number of years, but there was some drama related to Twitter's third-party app limits in 2016. That was worked out eventually, but the developer has since embarked on a complete rewrite of the app. The result is Fenix 2, which has just launched after a few months in beta. This is a new app with a new listing, so you will have to buy it again, even if you already bought the first one. It's worth the price, though.
Twitter clients are pretty well fleshed out at this point, so I'm not going to tell you that Fenix 2 is breaking any new ground. However, it has all the features you could want in a Twitter client, and it looks great. Not that the old Fenix didn't look good, but it was adapted to material design after the fact. Fenix 2 was born into it. There are multiple light and dark themes with various accent colors, and you can set a schedule for switching from light to dark. The great design extends to the widget, which is scrollable and includes various themes.light and dark themes with various accent colors, and you can set a schedule for switching from light to dark. The great design extends to the widget, which is scrollable and includes various themes.
Like many Twitter apps, Fenix 2 uses multiple columns in the main UI to make all your tweets, replies, and other content available. You can change up the default arrangement, and even add new columns like saved searches and lists to feeds. The way you interact with tweets (eg. taps, swipes, and long-press) is configurable as well.
I'm particularly fond of the way Fenix 2 handles conversation views. Some apps make it hard to tell who a reply is directed at, but Fenix 2 has a clear "in reply to" header for each block of tweets. Replies to your tweets are delivered as the app updates in the background, and you can, of course, choose how often that happens. However, Fenix 2 also supports intercepting notifications from the official Twitter app. That app has special push notifications from the Twitter servers, so you can get faster pings via Fenix 2 if you have both installed.
Fenix 2 is priced at $1.99 in the Play Store, which is a fantastic price. A lot of comparable Twitter apps cost $5 or so. This is an excellent purchase if you're not feeling great about your current Twitter experience.
I have a motley collection of small action cameras. Most of the time, I use them to capture in-flight video with my RC aircraft. I stopped using some of these cameras as they developed problems and annoyances over time. I finally decided to address each of the issues and get all of my dusty gear up and running again. This required me to perform some repairs and a few upgrades. I'll show you how I cracked open these little cameras and got them back into service.
Mobius Battery Replacement
One of my Mobius cameras had developed very short battery life. A fully-charged battery would last only a few minutes. I opened up the case to have a look. The 2-piece case is attached with tiny Phillips screws in the front and plastic latches in the rear.
The Mobius is powered by a single LiPo battery. Dead (or dying) LiPo cells will often swell up like a balloon, but this one had no obvious physical defects. I detached the power connector from the camera PCB and charged the battery on one of my hobby-grade LiPo chargers. This allowed me to rule out any problems with the camera's built-in USB charging circuitry. My run time results were still way below normal, so I was confident that I had a dud battery.
I ordered a replacement battery from Buy Mobius for $7. Both of my Mobius cameras are from an early production batch and were equipped with 520mAh batteries. The factory later switched to 820mAh cells for longer run time. My replacement battery is the 820mAh variety. The newer battery has almost the exact same footprint as my original. It's just a little thicker.
The stock battery was held in place with a small square of double-sided tape. I was able to pry up the battery with my finger using gentle pressure. Even the tape was salvageable. The new battery fit into the same spot without any modifications. Since the replacement battery has the appropriate power connector, I was able to simply plug it in and the swap was complete. This cheap, quick fix gave me a brand new battery with more than 50% greater capacity than the original. But I wasn't finished just yet.
Last November we reviewed the PowerUp FPV, a clip-on module that turns a paper airplane into an RC model you can control with your phone. It even has a First Person View camera to give you an onboard perspective. The PowerUp FPV and the PowerUp 3.0 that preceded it were funded by (very successful) Kickstarter campaigns.
The latest variation on the PowerUp theme hits Kickstarter today. The new Dart introduces aerobatic capabilities to their paper airplane fleet. They say the Dart has adequate power and control authority for loops, spins, rolls, and other maneuvers. It also has landing gear for rolling takeoffs and landings.
Dart kits will start at $50 and are scheduled to be available by Christmas of this year. Kickstarter backers can get discounts. We have a review sample on the way. We'll see what this baby can do! In the meantime, check the Kickstarter page for more details.
A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.
Android 7.0 added support for split-screen apps, and it's relatively quick to get two apps up on the screen as long as you've had both of them open recently. If not, you have to launch them, and then go into split-screen mode. It can be a bit of a pain, but Split-screen Creator is here to help. This app lets you make shortcuts to instantly launch two apps in split-screen mode, even if they aren't running.
Split-screen Creator itself has very little interface. There's just a single page of settings and a page for settings up shortcuts. The app uses Android's widget system and accessibility controls to make its split-screen magic happen. As long as you enable accessibility from the app's settings, everything should work fine. It almost goes without saying, but you need to be running Android 7.0 or higher for Split-screen Creator to function.
To create a new split-screen shortcut, simply open your home screen widget menu and add Split-screen Creator's 1x1 widget. The settings page will appear, asking you to choose which apps you want the shortcut to launch. You can choose any installed app you want, but remember that not all of them work in split-screen mode. Additionally, Split-screen Creator warns that certain apps like Chrome and the Play Store don't like being launched in split-screen via the shortcut. However, I've tried both and they seem to work fine. The last step in setting up a shortcut it to pick a name.
When you tap on the shortcut, it will launch your chosen apps in split-screen mode. Sometimes you might need to reverse the order to ensure they open correctly, but I've seen very few issues in my testing. Be default, Split-screen Creator generates an icon composed of the two apps you've chosen. However, you can pick a custom icon via icon packs. That's a premium feature, though. It only costs $0.99 to unlock the full version, but there's not much else to it. There aren't any ads in the app, so you're mostly paying to support the developer of an app you (presumably) like.
One of the next frontiers for virtual and augmented reality headsets is inside-out positional tracking, a problem that's yet to be fully solved. We visit the offices of Occipital--makers of the Structure Sensor--to get a demo of their inside-out tracking system that can work with a single camera, and chat with Occipital's CEO about their approach to this computer vision challenge.
In some ways, there's never been a better time to buy an Android phone, but I mean that in the grand scheme of things. It's hard purchase a phone that you end up hating, but it's still possible you'll make the wrong choice. With the price of phones ever-increasing, you need to think things through carefully. That's what we're going help you sort out. Let's get the lay of the land and see which Androids are worth getting, and which are a skip.
If you want to get a phone directly from your carrier to take advantage of various deals and financing options, the Galaxy S8 is still the best device to get. That's not to say the LG G6 is a bad phone. In fact, it's the best phone LG has ever made. The Galaxy Note 8 looks like a beautiful, capable smartphone, too. However, several ongoing developments lead to the GS8's continued dominance.
The Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch curved display, but it also comes in a 6.2-inch curved "Plus" variant. They both have a resolution of 1440 x 2960 pixels, among the highest you can get on a smartphone. Despite the large screen sizes, the tall aspect ratio and small bezels make the phones easy to hold. The Plus variant is just a little too tall to be used in one hand, even with the incredibly narrow bezels. Samsung's AMOLED displays are still the best you can get, and DisplayMate confirms that Samsung's GS8 panel has the most accurate colors and highest brightness. The phone works with both Daydream and Gear VR, too.
This phone is very comfortable to use with the symmetrically curved front and back glass, although the rounded glass frame means it's very exposed should you ever drop it. Broken Galaxy S8s are apparently common, and the glass back is so slippery. It's a bummer you pretty much have to put a case on such a lovely piece of design, but it's sort of mandatory with this phone.
Samsung has finally ditched the physical nav buttons on the GS8. Now, they're all on-screen, and that means you can change the order to the "correct" one. The home button is also accessible at any time thanks to a pressure-sensitive region on the screen. Even if the button is not visible (like the phone is asleep or playing a fullscreen video), simply pressing harder will trigger the home button. I really like this feature, and I find myself missing it when I use a different phone. I'm not so pleased with what happened to the fingerprint sensor that previously occupied the physical home button. It's on the back way up next to the camera, which is not a very comfortable location. Even when you find the sensor after fumbling around and smudging your camera lens, it's not very accurate. The iris scanner makes up for that a little bit, but it's not ideal and won't work in some environments.
We go hands-on with Star Wars Jedi Challenges, a $200 mass market Augmented Reality system that works with a smartphone and positionally-tracked accessories, including Lenovo's "Mirage" headset. We discuss its image quality and tracking fidelity and our hopes for this kind of AR implementation.
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.
Waking up in the morning is not likely to be anyone's favorite part of the day. Thus, the app that wakes you up can become a source of scorn and maybe even outright hatred. It takes a lot of careful work to make a likable alarm app, but Clockwise Smart Alarm has a pretty good shot. This app includes plenty of thoughtful features and you can give it a shot for free.
When you first start setting up an alarm, Clockwise Smart Alarm seems like any other app. You can pick from various sounds, use your own music, and control on which days the alarm is active. I'm not overly thrilled with the app's UI, which doesn't conform to any Android guidelines I've ever seen. It's usable, but the locations of menus and other features are not intuitive. You'll get the hang of it, but you shouldn't even be worrying about this stuff. That's what design guidelines are for.
At any rate, after you've created the alarm, you can add modules. This is what sets Clockwise Smart Alarm apart from the competition. There are currently ten modules listed in the app that will trigger each time the selected alarm goes off. These are all alerts and bits of info that are read to you after the alarm. For example, you can have the app read off the weather forecast or list the top titles from your favorite subreddit. These require setup, but there are simpler ones like a fact of the day and this day in history.
The modules don't just trigger instantly once the alarm is dismissed, but there's a notification you can tap to begin the playback. Keep in mind, the order of modules can also be changed. If you want to snooze your alarm, Clockwise Smart Alarm has a neat feature called Quick Snooze. Rather than looking at the display and tapping something, all you need to do is put your hand over the top half of the screen. It uses the proximity sensor to activate snooze and get you a few more minutes of blissful slumber with a minimum of fuss.
Clockwise Smart Alarm Is free and full featured, but there is an in-app upgrade. $0.99 gets you the full version of the app, but the only difference is no ads. In the free version, full-screen ads will occasionally pop up on the screen while you're using the app. That's a bit annoying, but the upgrade is cheap.
Frank runs many 3D printers at his shop, and goes through a lot of filament for this big fabrication projects. But when using big filament spools, he needs to properly store and maintain print material to keep print quality consistent. Here are a few ways to do that.
Modern aerial-photography (AP) multi-rotors have a lot of pilot-assist features that make them relatively easy for complete rookies to fly. Some practically fly themselves. Yet, people still crash their drones all the time. Many of those expensive pile-ups could be avoided with a little time dedicated to learning the rudiments of flying. It is also important to practice managing the various features of your multi-rotor, so that you do not get flustered.
A computer-based simulator is one of the most effective and convenient tools to improve your piloting skills and confidence. It's the best way to gain flight time and emulate a practical workload without any actual risk. You can practice when the sun goes down and without regard to weather conditions. The best part of using a simulator is that the damage from a crash is instantly repaired by hitting the restart button!
There are a few flight simulators on the market with varying capabilities and price points. I recently checked out a new sim called Zephyr. Many users will be happy to know that it is compatible with Windows and Mac.
While there is a lot of overlap with the features of other simulators, there are also several unique aspects to Zephyr. I think that the most significant unique attribute of Zephyr is the Learning Management System (LMS). For budding pilots who are learning in a classroom setting, LMS allows an instructor to assign specific training tasks and track the progress of each student. The instructor can even monitor a training flight real-time from another workstation. Zephyr is also available for single users.
A number of different controllers can be used with Zephyr. The version that I tested comes with a FlySky FS-T6 transmitter, which is an off-the-shelf 6-channel unit made to actually control an RC model. A USB adapter (also included with the sim) allows the transmitter to interface with a computer.
A different sim/controller bundle is available as well. It includes the FlySky FS-i6S transmitter. The big difference between the FS-T6 and FS-i6S is the throttle control. The FS-T6 throttle stays where you put it when you release the stick, while the FS-i6S throttle is spring-loaded to return to center. You'll want to choose whichever style mirrors the transmitter for your multi-rotor.
You probably want more apps, but more than that, you want the right ones. That's what we're here to deliver with the weekly Google Play App Roundup. This is where you'll find the best new and newly updated apps and games on Android. Just click the link to head right to Google Play.
Android has support for work profiles, which can be used by a business to deploy and manage apps on employee devices. This keeps personal and work data separate, but you can also leverage these features for personal use with Island. This app creates a "work" profile on your device that can be managed to copy apps and run multiple copies in parallel.
Setting up Island is easy, but a little counterintuitive. It creates a "work" profile, but it's not attached to any corporate accounts, and there are no "administrators" who can access your data. The app uses the metaphor of an island to make usage easier to understand. The "island" is where all your cloned apps live. They use the same binary as your "mainland" apps, but the data and accounts are totally separate.
When you start using Island, you get a few stock apps in the list including the Play Store, contacts, and downloads. These are all empty until you start using them, and you will need to log in with your Google account all over. Remember, no data carries over from the mainland. A folder is placed on the home screen with all your Island apps, but you can get rid of that if you don't want to use it.
You can manage apps in your island using the Island app. Use the drop-down at the top to choose either mainland or island lists. To create an island version of a mainland app, just tap on it in the list and hit the "plus" button. The Android package installer pops up briefly to install the app into your island, and that's it. Island apps can be run from the home screen folder, or you can use the app list in the Island app itself. The apps also appear in your app Drawer with a work badge to indicate which icon is which. Apps in your island can also be frozen, preventing them from running until unfrozen.
Island allows you to test different settings and configurations in an app without screwing up your main installation. You might also want to use a cloned app for privacy purposes, keeping that data sandboxed from other apps and services. It can be used to run a second instance of an app side-by-side with the first as well.
Island is a neat app with a lot of potential utility, and it's completely free. It's still in beta, so it's possible some paid features will be added later.
For this special episode of Projections, we finally get our hands on Valve's prototype SteamVR "Knuckles" controllers! FOO VR's Will Smith stops by to give us a demo of this experimental interaction model and shows us what he's been working on at FOO and virtual reality TV shows. It's super cool!