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    RC Driving with Nitro Power

    I've owned dozens of RC cars and trucks throughout my lifetime. Those vehicles covered a wide range of sizes, styles, and performance. But until recently, my RC pedigree was lacking in a very significant segment of the hobby. All of my surface vehicles were powered by electric motors. I had never owned (or even driven) an RC car with an internal combustion engine. That box has now been checked in a big way. In this article, I'll share my experiences uncovering the pros and cons of these screaming machines!

    There are a few different types of engines that are used across the spectrum of RC vehicles. The most common engines for RC cars are 2-stroke variants that burn a special fuel containing nitromethane. For that reason, they are often called "nitro" engines. Some modelers also refer to them as "glow" engines because they use a glow plug rather than a spark plug.

    About the Inferno NEO

    My nitro-powered car is the Kyosho Inferno NEO 3.0 ($350). The Inferno is a serious machine! This 4-wheel-drive buggy weighs about 7.5 pounds (3.4 kg) and has a wheelbase of 12.8 inches (325.5mm). Its beefy nylon suspension components are attached to an aluminum chassis. The Inferno has traditionally been Kyosho's flagship 1/8-scale off-road racing platform. But this NEO variant is being touted as a backyard basher. That's great for me since I'm not into competitive racing.

    Crowdfunding Spotlight: Archon Wireless Charger

    We all had a brief flirtation with wireless charging some years ago—Google, Nokia, and a few others equipped their phones with Qi-standard charging. That didn't last long, though. Wireless charging faded away only to come surging back when Apple embraced the technology in 2017. Now, everyone is making wireless charging pads, but they all have the same limitations. That's where Archon comes in. This recently funded Kickstarter campaign turns your desk or table into a wireless charger.

    Wireless charging, of course, still involves a wire that connects your pad to the wall. You just don't have to plug anything into your phone. In the early days of wireless charging, the drawbacks overrode the convenience. Sure, you could set your phone down and it would charge, but it did so very slowly. We're talking 5W or less. Today's wireless charging can be faster—some phones can do as much as 15W with the right hardware.

    PROJECTIONS: Covert, Virtual Desktop, and Oculus Go Recommendations!

    We're back with more episodes of Projections, our show about virtual and augmented reality! This week, we review two new Oculus Go experiences: Covert, an asymmetrical spy game, and Virtual Desktop, the mobile port of the desktop VR app. Plus, a few Oculus Go picks for new users who may be getting this headset for the holidays.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: KeBo Arctos Switches

    I make no secret of how much I like Zealio switches from Zeal PC, but many people in the keyboard community complain that Zeal's switches are too expensive. And admittedly, they do cost several times more than many other switch options. Naturally, there have been various new players trying to offer a refined tactile experience for less money. The latest is KeBo with its new Arctos switches. They look a bit like Zealios, but there are few interesting differences.

    The Arctos switches use a standard Cherry-style housing like many newer switches including the Gateron-manufactured Zealios. They are also transparent like Zealios, allowing underlighting and SMD LEDs to shine up from underneath the switch. They support through-switch LEDs as well. The bottom of the housing doesn't have mounting pins, so Arctos switches are only suitable for plate-mount keyboards at this time.

    Spektrum iX12: An RC Transmitter with Tablet-Like Features

    I've come to accept that the smartphones and tablets in my house require updates to apps and/or the OS nearly every day. That kind of dynamic operating environment is just the cost of having the world at your fingertips, right? The radio systems I use for my RC models, however, are a different story. The software that they come loaded with is typically the exact software they will always have. I appreciate that stability. After all, there are enough intrinsic variables involved with flying RC models. I don't want to have to manage ever-changing software configurations too.

    Spektrum's iX12 combines a 12-channel RC transmitter with an Android-powered interface.

    When the release of the Spektrum iX12 radio system was announced several months ago, I was conflicted. Its primary selling feature is that it incorporates an Android system into a "normal" radio. It's like having a hybrid of a tablet and radio system. While I could easily imagine the potential capabilities of an Android-powered radio transmitter, I was concerned that the overall system would be too dynamic and unstable for my liking. It is safe to say that I began my ownership of the iX12 (and this review) with a healthy dose of skepticism.

    Crowdfunding Spotlight: The TinyJuice Wireless Charger

    Wireless charging is often billed as a more convenient way to charge your phone, but that's only true if you don't want to use it at the same time. Then, a good old-fashioned cable actually makes more sense. TinyJuice could make wireless charging even more handy, though. It's a small battery with wireless charging built in. That part isn't new, but it also sticks to the back of your phone and includes a finger loop. That part is new.

    Smartphones had a brief flirtation with wireless charging a few years ago, but the trend died off as premium devices shifted to metal bodies. Now that glass is all the rage, everyone is doing wireless charging again. Apple, Google, Samsung, LG, and a raft of others include wireless charging coils in their phones that operate on the Qi standard. That means there are uncountable Qi pads out there that will work with any modern smartphone with wireless charging.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: GMK Carbon Round 2

    For many keyboard enthusiasts, GMK keysets are the gold standard by which all others are judged. These sets are manufactured in Germany by GMK on the original machinery built by Cherry decades ago. That's why we call them "Cherry" profile keycaps. However, all the GMK sets to date have technically been a simplified version of the classic GMK profile. There's a new group buy running now for a set called GMK Carbon, and it's the first to use the true original GMK profile with keys for modern boards. It's a unique set, but also a little problematic.

    I've talked about GMK Carbon in the past—I bought the first round of this set several years ago, and it's still one of my favorites. The cream, dark gray, and orange color scheme is delightful. You can see plenty of pics in my CA66 build log, too. Cherry profile is sculpted, meaning each row has a different shape to make it more comfortable. In general, Cherry sets are a bit lower and sharper than the OEM keycaps that come on almost all retail boards. GMK sets like Carbon, Laser, Hyperfuse, and many others always used to use the same row profile, but that's changing with GMK Carbon R2.

    The $80 C64 Mini Review!

    Launched in 1982, the Commodore 64 home computer DOMINATED the '80s ... and now it's back! Jeremy Williams reviews the $80 C64 Mini, which plugs into any modern TV via HDMI and allows you to play your favorite classic video games.

    Crowdfunding Spotlight: The Wowstick Screwdriver

    You cannot undertake any DIY project without the right tools, and one of the most vital is the venerable screwdriver. There are plenty of fancy driver sets out there, but you've still got to twist your wrist to do the work. The Wowstick is even fancier because it does the twisting for you. This is a super-compact electric screwdriver currently cleaning up on Kickstarter that looks like a pen and comes with up to 56 different bits.

    The Wowstick has an aluminum unibody design with two buttons around where your thumb would rest on a pen. These buttons rotate the bit clockwise and counter-clockwise. The body is 16mm in diameter and weighs about 50 grams. There's also a cap that covers the bit attachment when not in use. At the opposite end, you have a microUSB port for charging. Points for not using a DC barrel or proprietary connector, but a more modern Type-C plug would have been better.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Helio Switches

    Linear switches are a bit of an acquired taste, but the proliferation of gaming-oriented boards has acquainted many users with switches like the MX Red and MX Black. Despite not having a clicking mechanism, linears tend to produce a racket because it's easy to bottom them out on each press. A few silent linears exist to combat this, and keyboard enthusiasts are about to have a new silent linear option from Zeal PC -- it's called a Helio, and you can pre-order some now.

    Helios are part of the Zeal V2 revamp, which includes new Zealios and Zilent switches as well. Those switches have different tactile bumps, but the Helio is an entirely new design based on the Tealio linear switches. They're the silent counterpart to Tealios like Zilents are the silent alternative to Zealios.

    Adam Woodworth’s RC X-Wing Fighter

    I'm sure that most of you have already seen some of Adam Woodworth's Star Wars-inspired handiwork. Maybe it was the video of his RC Snowspeeder taking down an inflatable AT-AT. Or perhaps you caught Norm's interview with Adam about his drifting Landspeeder at Maker Faire. There are many other incredible examples as well.

    I was able to tag up with Adam at the recent NEAT Fair in Downsville, NY. He brought several of the unique and wacky RC flying creations that he is known for (not all are Star Wars-related). The model that seemed to garner the most attention was his X-wing fighter.

    Adam Woodworth carries his RC X-wing fighter following an aerobatic demonstration at the NEAT Fair.

    Of course, the foam spaceship looks great. But Adam also logged several impressive demonstration flights that showcased his design's insane aerobatic chops.

    Crowdfunding Spotlight: The MAKERphone

    Mobile phones have changed the way people live their lives, but how much do you know about how they work? If you're like most people, the answer to that is "not much." You can change that with the MAKERphone, a new project on Kickstarter from the people who brought you the MAKERbuino DIY game console. The MAKERphone is an unlocked GSM phone you can build yourself.

    The MAKERphone looks like a DIY project, and I mean that in the best way. The frame is composed of two pieces of laser-cut acrylic sandwiching the PCB in the middle. A small 1.8-inch LCD sits at the top of the device, and below that, you have a handful of buttons to control the phone's UI. Below that, you have a good old-fashioned number pad. Despite the odd form factor, the MAKERphone probably qualifies as a smartphone of sorts, but it's rudimentary.

    At the heart of the MAKERphone is the ESP32 microcontroller, which sports a dual-core CPU at 160MHz, 4MB of storage, and 520KB of RAM. An iPhone X, this is not. Hey, the audio module has a headphone jack, though. That's something you can't say about a lot of modern phones. The GSM module is a SIM800L, which runs on 850/900/1800/1900MHz bands. In the US, this will work on T-Mobile's 2G network. It's not intended to pull down mobile data, but it can do calls and SMS just fine. It also has WiFi b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.2.

    Of course, all that hardware comes unassembled in the box. As a DIY phone, you need to assemble the MAKERphone yourself. The creators plan to roll out tutorial videos and web pages to help even inexperienced tinkerers build their own phone. You'll need a soldering iron, pliers, a screwdriver, and some insulating tape to get the job done. Oh, and a healthy appetite for making something with your hands.