X-peak 3 plus

I've sold my Cockatoo (some setup notes and pics still to come I hope...), and along went most of my other gear, batteries, charger, Tx, two RMG's etc. So I'm slowly replacing everything during the long and dark Finnish winter - hopefully to see an operational new Noux sailing in April '07 or so...

Here's the new charging system - very similar to the one I used previously. The charger is the new updated 'Plus' version of the Jamara X-peak 3. This charger is also sold under numerous other names (swallow, etc.). The plus version has slightly increased maximum charging and discharging current specifications compared to the old one, otherwise it's mostly the same. A backlight has been added to the lcd screen - useful in dark and dim places. It runs off 11-15 VDC so at home I use a switched mode powersupply (black, right) to transform mains electricity to 12 VDC at max 2.5 A. I chose the 30 W PSU for it's convenient size, it fits in the toolbox whenever I go sailing, but it does mean I'm limited to max 2.5 A charging current. The switched-mode circuitry will accept any AC voltage between 100 and 240 V, so abroad I can simply use an adapter (white plugs, bottom). At a sailing place without mains electricity, an adapter for the cigarette-lighter connector in a car (left) can be used.

The new batteries are AA Sanyo cells with a capacity of 2700 mAh. I got the spot-welded from beatcom, much better than risking damage to the cells when soldering by hand. I've fitted a transparent heat-shrink myself - I'm hoping it will allow me to spot any leaking cells or corrosion on the contacts. I got a pack for the Tx also, which with the DX6 voltage regulator mod should last for more than a whole sailing day.

Since a few years now I'm using the Deans Micro 2R plugs. It's a nice system where the plugs are identical, you just switch polarity between battery and charger (in my system the battery + pole is connected to the pin). I like the fact that these have no moving parts, are gold plated, and can be assembled without any special tools (just a soldering iron). They're also small (I understand these are popular with indoor flyers) and are rated for a high current.

A new Shuffle

Based just on images on the web, I immediately decided to pre-order the ultra-cool new Apple Ipod Shuffle.

I got free shipping when pre-ordering, and the good news is that applestore actually held their pormised shipping date - it arrived by courier today !

After just 10 minutes with the unit I'm almost certain it's a 'keeper'. It's tiny, very light, has a built-in belt-clip, and stores up to 1 Gb. One feature I missed on my previous mp3 player was a FF/REV within one song, but that doesn't seem implemented... a keypad-lock similar to cell-phones is a nice touch though.

The manual suggests first installing iTunes, and then plugging in the unit. Without iTunes, I tried just downloading songs onto the shuffle but that won't work, why Apple ? why ? 🙁 . I don't need or want iTunes, so I'm thankful to people like Martin Fiedler who take the time to create workarounds. Martin's shuffle-db worked like a charm !

More 2.4 GHz radios and modules

Predictably, more and more RC-manufacturers are introducing "crystal-less" 2.4 GHz remote control systems.

Spektrum has come out with a new 7-channel system called the DX7. It's not on their website yet, but Horizon hobby has it for sale. This one is supposed to be a radio for 'real' models, not only meant for park-flyers like the DX6. I wonder if there will be a problem with 'CE' approval with regards to the output power - A rumor I heard was that the 'CE' marked version of the DX6 has a reduced output power compared to the US model ??

There's also a new player on the market, Xtreme Power Systems, which will introduce their new xtremelink module+rx combo shortly. They too promise increased range and reliability. In contrast to Spektrum, who talk about either 40 or 80 simultaneous working modules, Xtremelink claims up to 390 000 simultaneous active modules ! Also, up to 1 mile ground based range. Pricing and deliverytime still open.

The Futaba modules I noticed back in January were on display at Model Expo in the spring but the local agent said it would take some time before they come to market. I've detected no activity in the Futaba camp so far...

For the new boat, I've bought myself a DX6. Naturally I'm going to mod it a bit before use ;). I've ordered a switched-mode regulator which supposedly will reduce the current drain of the Tx a lot. Also, I've gotten very used to the 'no antenna' look and feel of the Futaba 3VCS with a Spektrum module (especially usefull when it rains, the whole radio goes inside the Tx-cover, no leaking hole for antenna needed). But the stock DX6 has an antenna that sticks out :(. Cell-phones have had internal antennas for years and nobody buys phones with external antennas anymore - so the DX6 antenna needs to go inside the case too ! I'll report later how that goes...

Temp controller for curing box

Curing epoxy mouldings typically requires elevated temperatures (+ 40 to 70 C) for 4-12 h. Previously we have done this in a cardboard box with a car-heater continuously blowing hot air into the box. By adjusting the number and size of holes in the box the temperature can be crudely varied.

Here's an attempt to create a better heater with temperature control.

Temperature controller with display and input buttons on the left. White temperature sensor in the middle. 200 W heater-blower box on the right.
Continue reading Temp controller for curing box

Futaba strikes back !

One of the most exciting things for a while now in the R/C world has been the 'no crystall' radios operating on 2.4 GHz from both Nomadio and Spektrum

Now it appears that the big players are entering the game. These pics of an upcoming Futaba product were just posted to the IOMICA forum:

The Rx on the right supposedly has two internal antennas (no wire antenna exiting the Rx) and weighs only 14g !

These images were found at
http://data.robbe-online.net/robbe_pic/P1001/P1001_1-F1901.jpg and
but otherwise there seems to be very little information available...

If anyone knows more about this system please post a comment below !

Topfield PVR - inside view

The best thing since sliced bread ! A digital PVR really transforms the way in which you use your TV. If you have digital TV but don't own one of these yet then you are missing out big time !

Boxes with twin tuners for the terrestial network DVB-T were available for some time in Finland but it was only in the spring of 2005 when twin tuner DVB-C boxes became available. The Topfield 5100 was one of the first products on the market - and naturally I had to have it.

The functionality of the topfield can be extended with your own programs and there are large user communities at least in Australia, UK, and Germany.

Here I have taken a look inside the box and tried to describe the hardware. Some of the wilder hackers think it should be possible to run an entirely opensource software(VDR) on the box...