Hey everybody! This is my monthly blog post where I scroll through my Twitter and Instagram feeds and write a few paragraphs about the things I’m doing, working on, or failing at over the last three or four weeks.

I spend a lot of my time at home anyway, so I shouldn’t have expected COVID-19 to have a huge impact on what I’ve been doing. Even so, I expected to find absolutely nothing to write about. I’m usually at home most days, but I’m not sneaking out on random evenings anymore! Surely I’m doing infinitely less stuff than I was in January or February, right?!

Nope. There’s still plenty of stuff to write about.

Holy shirt! I was on a podcast again!

I’ve already written about this here at Butter, What?! and over at patshead.com, so I’ll do my best to be brief.

I had a lot of fun chatting with Jeremy and Max. You should check it out. Let me yoink a list of the things we talked about from one of my blog posts about the podcast!

In case I didn’t already say so, you should go listen to The Creativity Podcast.

Contemplating the dilapidated state of my miniquad fleet

I do my very best to always have two or three identical 5” FPV freestyle miniquads in good working order. I crash a lot. You’re not pushing your skills if you’re not crashing. This causes lots of minor failures, so when one quad gets benched, another quad takes its place. For the most part, my pair of identical quads have lasted me quite a bit longer than a year this time, which is impressive!

Every month that goes by has made it more and more obvious that I’m in need of a refresh. Flying the same 8 motors for 15 months is taking its toll. I’m sometimes hunting down weird vibrations that magically disappear.

Last month, I smashed one of my quads into a metal thing at a bando. One motor’s bearing is definitely toast, and I’m pretty sure an ESC is dead too.

Last week, I smashed my last good Runcam Micro Eagle directly into a tree. They don’t make this camera anymore, and my other remaining Eagles have an oddly dim and muddy image, so I’m sure they’re on the way out.

I’m overdue to just bite the bullet and build two fresh quads. There are some recently replaced components in both of these machines that won’t be replaced, but we’re still talking about at least $600 and quite a few hours’ work to get myself back into a good place and ready to attack the next 12 months.

Part of me is lazy. I don’t want to solder together and tune two fresh quads.

I’m also in a bit of a rut. I haven’t been doing much new in the air lately. Everyone working from home makes this a perfect time to be out flying at spots that would normally be crowded with people, but my gear isn’t up to the challenge. That’s a bit of a catch-22, right?

On top of that, now would be an irresponsible time to go spending money on fresh gear. The virus and the economy haven’t impacted us yet, but who knows what will happen in a few months. I’d feel dumb if I wasted half a mortgage payment only to find out that we really needed that cash, right?!

Putting some work into my 4” micro FPV drone

Some back-of-the-envelope math gave me high hopes for my 4” Kestrel build. 4” propellers can generate nearly twice as much thrust as 3” propellers, but my 4” build only weighs 40 grams or so more than my 3” build. That sounds great, does it?!

When I built the 4” quad, the only propellers available were too aggressive and inefficient, so I mostly shelved the project. Six months later, some newer, gentler props came out, and I got a bit more enthusiastic about the project again.

There are still two problems with my 4” build. The first problem is that the Caddx Turtle just doesn’t hold a candle to a GoPro. This problem can’t be solved. The Caddx Tarsier and Runcam Hybrid are improvements, but they don’t narrow the gap by a huge margin at all.

The other problem is the way my 4” Kestrel flies. Of all the sub-250 gram quads I’ve flown, my 4” Kestrel feels the most like a 5” freestyle quad. All the footage I record makes the quad look robotic. That huge amount of extra thrust it has available means that it goes exactly where it is commanded, and it gets there almost immediately. Just like a robot.

My 4” Kestrel is overtuned. I decided to attempt to correct that. I backed off the P- and I-term quite a ways, and I turned down my rates and bumped up my expo a bit to make the quad less responsive. This seemed to be a HUGE improvement in my front yard.

When I finally got to take the 4” Kestrel out to a bigger space and fly properly, I noticed that I pushed things too far. It was bouncing into rolls, and it wasn’t quite holding a smooth, steady line when cruising. The bouncing was definitely due to the low P-term gains. I figured the wobbles were likely to be the I-term, but it was also a windy day with lots of gusts. That’s just not something a light quad handles well!

I pushed the P-term up a good bit, and the I-term up just a little. I’m certain that if you tried to do some razor-sharp snap rolls, you’d see bounces. I don’t do razor-sharp snap rolls, though. I like to ease back to level, because I think it looks better in the footage, so I’m not worried about this at all.

I’m going to try to make more excuses to fly the 4” Kestrel in the near future.

More miles on my electric unicycle

I’m going to try to be brief here, because electric unicycles (EUC) seem to have been the only topic I’ve really been writing about since COVID-19 started.

Two months ago, I bought the slowest, lightest, cheapest self-balancing electric unicycle I could find: a refurbished InMotion V5F. It tops out at around 15 mph, and I’m seeing a real-world range of somewhere just north of 14 miles on a charge. As I’m writing this paragraph, I’ve put 270 miles on it. By the time I hit publish on this post, I expect I’ll have clocked over 300 miles.

I’m beginning to believe that everyone should own a personal electric vehicle. My friends and I are starting to refer to these as e-things: e-bikes, scooters, skateboards, unicycles, and OneWheels. Each of these has pros and cons: electric longboards have a terrible turning radius, e-bikes are bulky and difficult to transport, OneWheels are expensive, and electric unicycles have a ridiculously steep learning curve.

I like a challenge, and I really like the rest of the specs and range of choices in unicycles. I’m convinced that I chose the right type of e-thing, and at $399, the refurbished InMotion V5F was a steal, and it has been the perfect starter wheel.

Chris and I have been taking rides on our local bike trails four or five times a week. She rides my old Hover-1 XLS scooter, and I ride the unicycle.

There is one thing I feel I should keep saying. I’m 42 years old. I weigh 200 pounds. I’ve never ridden a skateboard. I learned to ride an electric unicycle, and I believe you can too!

Playing Borderlands 3 (Spoilers? Maybe? A little?!)

I’ve been waiting quite patiently to play Borderlands 3. I run Linux, so I was going to have to wait until Borderlands 3 was working with Valve’s Proton in order to play. Progress there was slow, because Borderlands 3 was an exclusive to Epic’s store for months. Borderlands 3 was released on Steam a few weeks ago, then it was workable with Proton a while later, though I had to work out some multiplayer connection kinks.

So how is the game? It is no Borderlands 2, but I’m enjoying it quite a bit more than Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (TPS). The story and overall story-telling in Borderlands 2 was light-years ahead of Borderlands 3. The voice acting in 3 reminds me of TPS. A lot of the time, it is like characters are just speaking sentences, but not feeling like they’re actually speaking to each other.

The mechanics of gameplay feel good. The skill trees seem all right so far, and being able to choose an action skill and adjust the way it is upgraded on the fly is an excellent upgrade. Guns with switchable elemental damage and firing modes is neat, too.

Even so, choice of guns is stupid now. Early in the game, it was easy enough to find decent guns, but amazing guns were rare. At some point in the middle of the game, Loot Tinks started spawning like crazy. You’d kill three or four Loot Tinks in one room, and each Tink would drop three to five legendary guns. At this point, chests and quest rewards became useless. Everything we found in vaults was junk too.

That’s not the disappointing part, though. A handful of these legendary guns are kind of game breaking. I found a gun called The Lob pretty early on, and it just melts everything, even if the gun is 10 levels behind. I don’t really enjoy using it, but the guns I do enjoy require ten times the effort. I don’t feel great about this.

Butter, What?! is fixin’ to be a year old!

I am super excited. I had absolutely no idea how quickly Butter, What?! would grow when we started, but I think I had pretty high hopes. I’m pretty sure it has exceeded my expectations by quite a bit!

Butter, What?! has gone from zero to nearly 500 Google clicks per day in less than a year. That’s not far from where patshead.com was at its peak. Between the Google search traffic and the small serving of traffic it gets from patshead.com and briancmoses.com, Butter, What?! is often seeing more visitors some days than patshead.com!

Butter, What?! doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It wouldn’t be seeing the traffic it is seeing today without all the help from briancmoses.com and patshead.com, but the boost in traffic we’ve given Butter, What?! hasn’t been completely one-sided!

My blog, patshead.com, has seen an 80% increase in daily traffic from Google since we launched Butter, What?!. That means I’ve clawed back most of what I lost when Google started pointing more of the top search results towards YouTube and other gigantic sites. Brian’s blog, briancmoses.com, looks like its daily traffic from Google is up 25% to 30% over the last year, too.

There’s no way for us to know for sure what caused the increase in traffic. I’ve been more prolific overall this last year on both Butter, What?! and patshead.com. I have to imagine that’s why I’ve seen a bigger increase in traffic than Brian.

Butter, What?!’s first contributor besides Brian or myself

I’m excited. It looks like we’re doing a good job. Our intention was to use our existing blogs to drive traffic to Butter, What?!, then use that traffic to help out other content creators. Butter, What?! might earn a dollar our two each day in affiliate sales. All we have to offer in trade for content is potential traffic, right?

I would have felt dumb asking people to write content for us when Google was only sending us a handful of clicks per day. At some point between 0 clicks per day and today, I figured it was time to start talking to someone about creating content for us.

I somehow convinced my friend Jeremy Cook to be our first guinea pig. He wrote us a fantastic article about the TinyHawk II Ready-To-Fly bundle that he recently bought. I’m excited about this, because the TinyHawk II is the successor to my own beloved little TinyHawk. The Ready-To-Fly kit comes with everything you need to fly FPV: a drone, batteries, a charger, video goggles, and a controller.

You should check out Jeremy’s write-up about the TinyHawk II! It is one of the best gateways to our hobby!

The OoberLights prototype boards have shipped!

They’ve been traveling through DHL’s tracking for days. As I’m writing this, they appear to have finally made it through customs in China, so they should be just about ready to begin their journey over the Pacific.

Our Ooberlights boards are blinkenlights for your home server that fit in a 5.25” optical drive bay. Each Ooberlights board has a pair of LED rings. My original plan was to build something like a dekatron out of LEDs, but we went beyond that. Each ring actually consists of multiple concentric rings.

The idea is to be able to send lights spinning around the ring at varying speeds to indicate network or disk throughput or light up contiguous segments of a ring to indicate disk utilization. That sort of thing.

The hardware and software for the Ooberlights project will be open-source.

I’m excited. We have 10 prototype boards on the way. With any luck, they’ll work just fine. We hope! I’d like to get enough software running on the Ooberlights’s ESP8266 to get some lights flashing in some useful way before I start sending any units out to anyone for testing.

Vlogging with the Osmo Pocket while riding the EUC is possible?!

As soon as I figured out that I can drink coffee and ride my unicycle at the same time, I figured I would also be able to hold a camera and ride at the same time. The first thing I did was play around with my GoPro HERO6 Black on a selfie stick.

ReelSteady Go does an absolutely phenomenal job with that footage. For vloggy stuff, I was unhappy with the framing of my test footage, though. I’m sure I could fix that, but the bigger problem is the GoPro’s audio.

The next day, I tried my DJI Osmo Pocket. I’m using the Freewill wide angle lens, so I don’t have to hold the camera at an uncomfortable distance. I don’t need any sort of selfie stick, and this also means the microphones in the Pocket won’t be too far from my face.

I was absolutely amazed at just how usable the audio sounded. I’m cheating a bit. I have a foam microphone cover over the bottom half of my Osmo Pocket to cut down the wind noise. As long as I ride slow, it is definitely usable. Even when I hit ridiculous gusts of wind, I could still hear myself talking just fine. This surprised me, because the wind was strong enough that I had to correct my steering!

I have no idea if I will ever use this. I should post a vlog about the unicycle at some point, and I feel like I have to do at least some of the talking while I’m riding. I’ll have to do this at least once then, right?!

Conclusion

We’re in the middle of self-isolation, so I don’t know what sort of interesting stuff I will accomplish between now and my next monthly update blog post.

My wife ordered an Aventon Pace 350 electric bike. It should be here in less than a week. It’ll be interesting to see exactly how something like that compares to my unicycle and Brian’s electric skateboard. If I’m lucky, this will be worth writing about!

How are you making out during the pandemic? Are you accomplishing as much as I am? Am I accomplishing enough? Did you listen to my podcast?! Let me know in the comments, or stop by the Butter, What?! Discord server to chat with me about it!