Syma X5C-1 Altitude Test. Failed…

Yes, this had the potential to go very wrong indeed.

I’ve been quite impressed by my Syma X5C-1 since getting it at Christmas, but I’ve struggled to find any definitive answer as to how high it can actually go.

YouTube videos have titles like ‘altitude test’ and then show impressive feats of flying, often followed by crashes, but none actually say how high the drone really went. I had a go myself last week, and flew in to a tree

The best I’ve managed to learn is that the range of the quadcopter’s 2.4ghz control is approximately 30m (~100feet), although there’s a good video here on how to increase that range. But that’s the range of the controller, not the height the Syma can fly to.

Syma X5C-1 Altitude Test - failSo I came up with a plan. It mostly consisted of installing an altitude app on my HTC One, then zip-tieing the phone to the quadcopter.

Sadly the phone wouldn’t fit through the landing brackets on the bottom of the drone and strapping it to the top of the craft was out as that would impede the rotation of the blades. So the only place it could be strapped to was the bottom of the feet, effectively turning my rather expensive phone in to landing gear.

Yes, this had the potential to go very wrong indeed.

Fortunately, it didn’t go wrong, as the phone proved too heavy for the Syma X5C-1 to lift, as this video shows.

So, back to the drawing board. Just how high can a Syma X5C-1 fly…?

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Carlsberg don’t do video beer reviews…

Bite & Bottle

Before I get started, please note: I love beer, I love talking about beer, I love other people talking about beer, I love seeing beer on TV, I love learning about beer, I love teaching people about beer.

Carlsberg don’t do craft beer video reviews, but if they did…

  1. They would read the label before turning the camera on.
  2. They would strive to know a little about the subject of beer before pondering aimlessly about what OG means.
  3. They would use a tasting glass instead of a pint glass or dimpled tankard filled to the brim in their attempt to find an aroma.
  4. They would have a vocabulary of words at their fingertips to describe flavours and aromas instead of repeating the same ones over and over and over and…
  5. They would know about the brewing process before making their own assumptions and passing them off as fact.
  6. They would not burp on camera.
  7. They…

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Using the eversion function

One big downside to the Syma X5C quadcopter has to be the instruction manual. It’s poorly translated in to English and quite difficult to understand, so one area of the drone I haven’t played with at all has been the ‘eversion’ function – the bit that makes the toy do flips.

Yesterday, while out playing in a nearby field with the children, I managed to make it flip by accident and then couldn’t work out what I’d done. But this morning, I had some practice, and it’s all to do with this button:

Push this button to make the quadcopter flip

Hold the button on the Syma’s controller and then push the direction control in which direction you would like the drone to flip and, hey presto, over she rolls.

One thing that the instructions do make very clear is that the eversion function will not work when the camera is active. Clearly, this is another piece of mistranslation. It works very well indeed:

The only thing that it remains for me to learn how to do now is reduce the volume on the video when editing in Microsoft Movie Maker!

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More practice needed…

Work, wind and rain have all conspired to prevent me from playing with the quadcopter recently but this morning a glance out the window and some confidence inspiring ‘FLY!’ instructions from the iPad’s Hover app sent me off up the country path to where I thought I had some open space to explore the drone’s capabilities a little further.

For example, I didn’t know how high I could take it.

Or how far away from me it could fly in a straight line.

(Turns out, for a £40 toy from Amazon, both quite high, and quite far.)

Then I tried the eversion mode and, somehow, actually managed to get it to somersault.

So then, I got cocky, stopped concentrating, and flew backwards in to a tree, from which it hung limply until I managed to get it down with some persuasive throttle-on-throttle-off action until it loosened itself from the branch it was caught on.

What the video doesn’t show is that I then flew it straight up in to the air again, and straight in to another tree, which it couldn’t remove itself from. Luckily, I had a teenager with me, and he likes climbing trees.

So, more practice needed then…

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Flying in to the mist

So I’m steadily getting the hang of flying my quadcopter now. Being a low-end model, the Syma X5C has a gyro to keep it level, but hovering requires constant adjustment of the controls as there is no other stabilisation.

Still, it was fun to fly it up in to the mist this morning…

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Dress with your pockets on the outside…

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2015, a year I have been waiting for with baited breath since 1985 (or 1989, if you’re being supremely picky).

This is the year that we’re supposed to dress with our pockets on the outside, our clothes will dry themselves, our pizzas will be hydrated in seconds by a Black & Decker device and, most importantly, the local kids will terrorise the neighbourhood on jet-powered hoverboards.

This Is Twenty-Fifteen!

This is the year Marty McFly will arrive from 1985, buy a sports almanac and return to 1985 to discover his entire present has been changed.

But right now, let’s say goodbye to 2014. It was a year in which we had to say goodbye to my 97 year old Nana, and several others too, but it was also a year in which great friends and family got married, with no less than three weddings to attend before the end of April! An impulse eBay purchase saw us buy a trailer tent and go camping again for the first time in ten years and for work I wrote about giant vending machines, joined professionals in a cook-off, and met Natalie Pinkham.

2015 promises to be even more exciting, with trips to Malaysia and Holland already booked and paid for and big opportunities at work.

As for resolutions, I don’t really make them. I gave up on that a long time and stick doggedly to one resolution each year: to sort out my sock drawer. But I will add one other to the list for this year: to see if I can get some short stories I’ve written published, in one capacity or another.

I’ll keep this blog updated mostly on how I’m getting on with that challenge, and some videos from my favourite Christmas present this year: a quadcopter!

It makes it nice and easy to keep an eye on how the building work is taking place in our back garden, as well as just being fantastic fun!

For now, though, I’ll wish you all a Happy New Year, and leave you with the immortal words of Dr Emmet Brown…

Where we're going, we don't need roads

Image Source: Google Images

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2014 in review

One thing I always love about WordPress is how they produce an end-of-year report on the stats for my blog. It’s always a fascinating read, and it always serves to remind me I must try harder the next year!

I do write an awful lot more than is often seen on this blog and I always mean to reference it here for you to see and usually just end up forgetting.

I’ll be doing a lot more travelling in 2015, both for work and pleasure, and my Christmas present from my wife this year was a drone – a quadcopter with a camera fitted. So with that fantastic toy and lots of great new places to visit next year, hopefully my 2015 stats will be much better than the ones below!

Have a great New Year and see you in 2015.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Felix Baumgartner’s Space Record is Broken

“Scottish Fish Invented Sex, although the cheese grater vagina was probably what killed them off, Formula 1 cars won’t be taking part in this weekend’s American Grand Prix, and Marty McFly and his hoverboard arrive in less than a year…”

This week’s “Things What I Did See On The Internet While You Weren’t Looking” (must think of a snappier phrase for that) is a little delayed because Ali and I took the opportunity to get away for the weekend.

Faced, as we were, by a rather large army of police on our arrival at the train station, we questioned the decision to take a break in Birmingham but, luckily, our hotel was only a few moments walk from Birmingham New Street and it turned out that the police presence was because a thing of football had just taken place.

And home team Birmingham had lost eight-nil.

A quiet night ensconced in the hotel bar lay ahead, then, rather than a night in City Centre pubs!

I’d promised Ali a weekend (mostly) free of Internet stuff soI didn’t get to write this week’s review of things I’d seen on the Internet before we left.

(Not that MY promise to stay away from my usual playground of social media blogs stopped HER from burying her nose in her phone at any given opportunity…)

Still, here are the links I discovered this week…

Google Man Breaks Baumgartner’s Record

One of the defining moments of 2012, for me, was the moment when Felix Baumgartner rose to the edge of space and then jumped, from 127852 feet, back to earth with nothing but a parachute and a space suit to keep him alive.

It was one of the most successful social media activities of our time in the pub. Originally sharing a link on to The Tharp’s Facebook page to let people watch the jump on YouTube from the comfort of their own homes, we also put it on to the pub’s large screens and, before long, the pub was full of people who didn’t at all get bored with watching the balloon take almost two hours to get to the stratosphere.

And then, last week, Alan Eustace, went higher and broke Baumgartner’s record.

Having planned his entire jump in secrecy, Google’s Senior Vice President of Knowledge, went to 135889 feet (25.74 miles) and jumped, successfully, back to Earth.

Baumgartner still holds the record for the fastest speed in freefall, at 843.6 miles per hour.

Scottish Fish Invented Sex

According to international researchers, a type of fish with the unfortunate name Microbrachius dicki is the first known animal on the planet to reproduce by having intercourse rather than spawning.

Living around 385 million years ago in an area we now know as Scotland, Microbrachius dicki was apparently 8cm long (poor chap) and the type of sex they had was probably not very comfortable. Rather than a conventional missionary position, the man and lady fish would sidle up to each other side-by-side and then Mister would push his L-shaped penis in to Missus, who would clamp on to it with her vaginal plates.

That’s correct, I said plates.

According to researchers, putting your man-bits in to her lady-bits would have been akin to inserting your manhood in to a cheese grater.

Unsurprisingly, this technique didn’t last long and fish quickly evolved back to spawning.

I wrote something on the Interweb

Every now and then I do actually write something for the company that pays me – the above blog, this week, is on finding out just how well you’re doing at your social media activities…

Back To The Future

That’s correct. After nearly thirty years of waiting, Marty McFly is finally due to arrive next year. Tuesday marked the last October 21st before Back To The Future Day finally gets here:

More interestingly, though, is the fact that on that day, this company will release the first ever truly working hoverboard. For a measly $10000…

Marussia and Caterham go in to administration

It’s been a tough few weeks for the world of Formula 1. Not only does Jules Bianchi continue to be in a coma following his horrific accident at Japan, but rumours have been rife that Caterham are in financial difficulty.

Administrators had gone in, then they hadn’t as apparently it was all to do with a different part of the business. And then they went in again, this time locking the cars down to ensure they couldn’t travel to America.

Bernie Ecclestone has kindly given the team dispensation to not take part in the United States or Brazilian grand prix. As they are back-to-back races, even if Caterham could sort out a deal with their administrators they wouldn’t be able to get the cars out to Brazil in time.

Then, at the end of last week, Marussia – who have been on the end of some pretty horrific accusations that they had actively encouraged Bianchi to ignore waved yellow flags just before his accident – also announced they had gone in to administration.

They, too, will not be attending the US or Brazilian races.

Both teams have declared they will be back on the grid for the season finale in Abu Dhabi but, with rumours of yet more teams struggling under the financial weight of competing in motorsport’s top formula, it’s looking more and more likely that next year the top teams will be asked to run three cars rather than two in order to make up the numbers.

Plates or Boards

I’ve long harped on about my dislike for the current trend in pubs to serve me food on a bread board. I don’t like it – it might look pretty in pictures but I find it a horrid experience to eat from.

I’ll go in to in more detail in my next blog but, for now, vote in my Google+ poll: do you prefer your food on plates, or don’t you care?

Click here to vote in my Google+ Poll

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Caravans, Giant Inflatables and Electric Cars

Thing I did, read and wrote about on the Internet this week…

Electric Camping

This week I visited the 2014 Motorhome and Caravan Show at Birmingham’s NEC; not something you’d think I’d shout about but, in a week when the car industry is full of news about my current favourite car maker, Tesla, and their all new D model, at the Motorhome and Caravan Show it was quite cool to sit in the world’s first electric camper van…


Although just a concept at the moment, Hillside Leisure have come up with a great vision of the future for people who want to make their camping a little greener, and it’s just about ready for production.

Although I do wonder what campsite owners might make of campers charging their cars up on the site’s electricity bill rather than just powering the caravan’s interior lights…

Dodgy Point of Sale

Exhibitors at trade shows go to great lengths to have the biggest and best point of sale to catch your attention as you wander between their stands, but I couldn’t help noticing that Vango, makers of inflatable tents and caravan awnings, might have not thought through this giant bicycle pump properly…  

I’m not sure Vango thought this point of sale through properly…

View on Instagram


More Tesla

Hot on the back of Tesla announcing their newer, better, faster more efficient version of the popular Model S (see link above), owners of existing Model S cars have been demanding that Tesla fit their cars with all the new tech that’s coming out in next year’s model.

Which is a bit daft – that’d be like me asking Ford to fit Cruise Control to my old Mondeo simply because newer versions of the same model have it.

Beastiality banned in Denmark

If you were thinking of taking your annual pilgrimage to fondle a sheep or two in Denmark, don’t bother. In order to bring them in to line with neighbours Norway, Sweden and Germany, the Danes have finally got round to making sex with animals illegal.

Well, eventually – the ban actually comes in next year, so there’s still time.

Dan Jørgensen, Food and Agriculture Minister, has said that the ban should come in because it is technically an attack on animals. “They cannot say no to going along with it,” he said, “so therefore it should be banned.”

Dodgy Understeer

Sticking with the subject of ‘sex’ for a moment, I spotted this rather interesting explanation of understeer from Formula 1 driver Kamui Kobayashi in this month’s Top Gear magazine.

For those who don’t know, understeer is what happens when you turn the steering wheel to make a car go round a corner, but there is no grip (going too fast, slippery surface etc.) and the car carries on travelling in a straight line.

Or, as the Caterham driver puts it:

Kamui Kobayashi explains understeer

It seems Kamui is mixing understeer up with doggy style.

GoPro cameras are dangerous

If you’re a Formula 1 fan it’s a difficult time at the moment. Jules Bianchi continues to fight for his life following his horrific accident at the Japanese Grand Prix and the sport’s most successful driver, Michael Schumacher, is also continuing a long and slow recovery from a severe head injury.

News came out this week that GoPro, the maker of digital cameras popular with sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts, saw their shares plummet in the wake of a report that it is most likely that the German’s serious head injury was caused by the fact that he was wearing a GoPro camera mounted to his helmet when he fell while skiing.

This is, of course, worrying for anybody who uses these cameras in such a fashion, but I’m not sure why the reaction is only just happening. Investigators voiced their concern that the camera was the cause of the injury way back in January shortly after the accident happened.

Caravan with a boot

Finally, let’s return to the Motorhome and Caravan Show. I’m not a particular fan of caravans themselves, but German manufacturer Knaus had a great concept on display at this year’s show.

With the rear of the van opening like the boot of a car (it seems to be strangely styled on the bootlid of a Renault Vel Satis) the aft of the caravan opens up to take its styling cues from the decks of a boat.

It’s a great idea and looked amazing, although sadly – for caravan lovers – there are no plans to put it in to production. So here are some pictures instead:

Knaus Concept CaravanSleek Knaus Caravan ConceptConcept Caravan by Knaus - with boot


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RIP Vehicle Excise Duty

Today, I feel a little bit sad for workers in tax disc holder factories, a lot sad that I will never again be able to build a big collection of tax discs during ownership of a vehicle, and very amused that nosy neighbours will never again be able to tut roll their eyes when I’m a few days late putting a new disc in the window…

RIP the humble British tax disc:

RIP Car Road Tax

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