Monday, August 13, 2018

Apple macOS High Sierra Upgrade

macOS v10.13 High Sierra - Downloading and Installing Upgrade

Some of you might be using Mac for your multi-rotors and drones, so I thought I would post my notes from my recent High-Sierra upgrade here.

I'm not one to upgrade my Mac's macOS that quickly. Maybe it's because this is an older Mac-Mini(Late 2012) or I currently really only use my Mac for iOS-App development.
However, I don't like to be more than one-version behind, so I at least like to upgrade before the next new final version is released. Let's get started.

Using Apple-Software-Update, make sure all applicable updates are installed to your existing/installed macOS first.

To download High Sierra for use with a bootable installer, be sure to download from a Mac that is currently using:
- High Sierra
- Sierra 10.12.5 or later
- El Capitan 10.11.6.
Enterprise administrators, please download from Apple, not a locally hosted software-update server.

Click the Upgrade button on top High Sierra banner of Updates page.
- After it downloads, the button will say DOWNLOADED. Installer-file is about 5.25gb
- If Installer auto-starts, close Installer for now.
- The macOS-Installer (*.app) file's normal download location is the Applications folder. There might also be a new Icon in LaunchPad for it.

Create macOS USB Recovery Drive
The best time to create this is after downloading installer/updater, but before installing it.
It seems that after it is actually (later) installed, the large 4-6gb file will be automatically deleted from your local HDD/SSD.

Disk-Utility and Terminal are located in the Applications/Utilities folder
Open Disk-Utility, and erase (format) a 16gb flash-drive as "MacOS Extended-Journaled" . Name it "MyVolume" .

For High Sierra, enter into Terminal:
sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ High\ --volume /Volumes/MyVolume --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ macOS\ High\

Press Return after typing the command (copy and paste also works).
When prompted, type your administrator password and press Return again (Terminal doesn't show any characters as you type your password).
When prompted, type Y to confirm that you want to erase the volume, then press Return.
Terminal shows the progress as the bootable installer is created. (It takes a while)
When Terminal says that it's done, the volume will now have the same name as the installer you downloaded, such as "Install macOS High Sierra".
You can now quit Terminal and eject the volume.
This seemed to have worked fine.

- Notice that as "createinstallmedia" starts, it again erases/formats volume as "MacOS Extended-Journaled".
- There is a 5.25gb installer-file on the drive now. The flash-drive is renamed and also made bootable.
- If you try to use this macOS Recovery drive later (and it does not work) you might have to temporarily change the Mac's date to now.
- Notice that Apple says you now need 11-12gb space on destination volume for High-Sierra. So, you must use a 16gb flash-drive this time
- - I think it writes the file twice, compares both checksums are correct/matching, and then deletes one (or similar actions).
- - This might help explain why it takes so long, and why you need double-the-space

Before starting actual upgrade:
If a Mac desktop, be sure it is connected to a good UPS (like an APC).
Disconnect un-necessary peripherals.
Made sure all applicable updates are installed to existing macOS first
- I noticed that this time it was still showing 2 INCOMPATIBLE Updates (Xcode 9.4.1 and iMovie 10.1.9). Another sign it's time to upgrade.
Be sure a TimeMachine backup has run recently, but is NOT currently running.
- I decided not first run a SuperDuper full-image this time (or mess with updating SuperDuper just yet). Might do later, afterwards.
- I set SimpleControl Hub App to not start on boot for a while

Installing macOS v10.13 - High-Sierra (as overlay upgrade).

Reboot and make sure no other applications are running.
Start the High-Sierra Installer/Updater.
- Agree to the license and install to your main drive (usually named Macintosh HD).
- Enter your admin login-password so High-Sierra can add Helper-Tool.
- You Mac will reboot and upgrade will start (even with a SSD, this phase takes about 45 minutes).
- Login normally
- Enter your password for Apple-ID. If you have more than one, take note of which one it is asking about.
- - iCloud might ask to make changes to your account. Enter your Mac's admin login-password
- Setup finishes and desktop appears.
- About-this-Mac says macOS High-Sierra (v10.13.6) is installed
- Restart/Reboot to start-fresh. Boot-speed seems about the same.

Look around a bit and test your favorite programs. Seems fine to me.
Check that your old data-files are still there (stuff you save in your named User Folder). Still there for me.
If you use iCloud, you can do a quick check by making sure your Contacts and Notes are there and still syncing with iPhone/iPad. Also, OK for me.

Go to App-Store.
- First, click on Purchased, and make sure you can see your Purchased Apps from over the years.
- - If you use a different Apple-ID for App-Store/iTunes Purchases, you will have to enter that other password now
- Now, you can go to Updates, Mac will be scanned, and you can install those final updates for Xcode and iMovie (and any others).
- Xcode updates are usually large and take a while, so I update Xcode separately.
Failure to do it this way will likely result in constant App-Store "wheel spinning"
- However, it might just be because I use two different accounts (a sharing-solution setup long-before Family-Sharing was an available feature).
After any of these primary Apps/Programs get updated, I usually run them once to make sure they still work and to see what's new.

Be sure your TimeMachine backup is still working. It might take a few hours before it's reporting properly.
- Eventually, it should do a large backup of arounf 10gb (takes about 60 minutes to complete).
- Seems fine to me (with no intervention required).

Noticed that my main macOS partition (on my Kingston SSD) has been migrated to APFS.
My USB TimeMachine HDD was not (still MacOS Extended-Journaled)
My BOOTCAMP partition was not (still NTFS)

Restarted MacMini (and held-down Option-key at chime) to boot native Windows-10/64bit (v1703) on my BootCamp partition ... seems to work fine. SIP is still Enabled (like its always been).
While I was in there, ran Apple Software Update (you might have to run it 3 times before it finds updates). Installed the newly-available "WiFi-Update for Boot-Camp".
Shut-Down Windows and restarted MacMini to automatically default-boot back into High-Sierra again.

I'm calling my High-Sierra upgrade successful and done. Hopefully this helps someone.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Alexa Echo Dot - Kids Edition (by Amazon )

Looks like the Alexa Echo Dot - Kids Edition (by Amazon) has been recently released. Watch the video from left menu. They also announced the FreeTime feature (free and paid) .

We like our 1-year old Echo Dot. So much so, we decided to go Multi-Room.

Now we have a Echo Dot, Echo v2, and a Echo Plus Hub ... one of each. Yes, while music sounds OK on a Dot ... I think it sounds much better on the larger models.

Other that the obvious uses for Alexa (which is pretty nice herself) ... I also use my Echos for Home Automation voice control with Simple-Control.  If you still have some IR-based devices in your Home Theater, you will likely want to pickup a Simple Blaster.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

PixRacer Advanced Setup (PixHawk - ArduCopter Latest Stable)

My first PixHawk (PixRacer) build starts here.

FRS FrSky S.Port 
This should enable a lot of Telemetry to now run over the FrSky's 2.4ghz main link/channels, instead of using a dedicated SiK telemetry radio (for example).

On FRS connector, connect both signal lines together, and then connect to the S.Port line at X8R. Also, connect GND (black wires) but NO RED (Power) WIRE (X8R is already powered by PixRacer through RCIN connector).

Upgrading Tarasis to OpenTX v2.2.1

I had to upgrade my older OpenTX version before the newer "Discover Sensors" was even available for use on Taranis.

It seemed to work fine going from old Open-TX v2.0.12 all the way up to v2.2.1 (all at once) on my FrSky Taranis X9D. Rememeber that you must also upgrade your OpenTX Companion for Windows to version 2.2.1 (so they match exactly):

I followed DKEmxr's forum-post instructions and also some tips from Oscar Liang at this page. I backed-up first, but luckily, I didn't seem to lose any existing models or programming.

As I recall, I used these Settings in OpenTX Companion v2.2.1:
My Radio
FrSky Taranis X9D (specify exact model)
en (English for me)
lua and luac (only those checked, I dis-liked the way sq5font looked, so i re-did it)
AETR (what ArduCopter uses)
IIRC, I also erased the SD-Card and loaded a new set of files from
And finally toward the end, I found and reinstall Amber (for Open-TX v2.2.x) .
Ok, now all it right with the world :)

With Open-TX v2.2.1 installed, now the "Discover Sensors" option is actually there. But so far, it reads RSSI (for RX) and RxBat (the default ones).

In Mission-Planner, the PixRacer's FRS (FrSky) port is Serial-4. So, set Baud = 57 and Protocol=4. Save that and Reboot PixRacer. Now, when you Discover-Sensors on Taranis, many (all ?) should now populate the List of Telemetry Sensors.

In the Model's Telemetry screen, you can assign Sensor fields to Main Page Flying Screen.

PixRacer ESP8266 WiFi Module

Since it's not "keyed" be careful to always connect like this little WiFi board this way. Be sure it's turned like this, and always use the 8 right-most holes.

On mine, the SSID was "AI-THINKER_code" by default. This is a good sign that the firmware is out-dated. While I could connect the laptop's WiFi to it, I was unable to establish a connection through it with Mission-Planner. DKEmxr says this tiny ESP8266 must be flashed with better firmware before it will work properly.

It apparently must be flashed to v1.1.1 (or maybe at least v1.1.0) . I used NodeMCU-Flasher. It will set SSID to "PIXRACER". It will also set the ESP8266's WiFi AccessPoint to be password-protected now (pixhawk). After running it, you should (might) be able to do further Firmware upgrades "Over the Air". While working with NodeMCU, it might help to disconnect from Internet and connect laptop only to ESP8266 SSID (AccessPoint/ HotSpot) via WiFi.

If your FTDI-wiring is correct, but you have trouble getting NodeMCU-Flasher to work, try swapping the wires for TX and RX (nothing should blow or fry just swapping those two lines). This ended-up being the reason my ESP8266 couldn't initially get MAC addresses in NodeMCU (and finally initiate the Firmware Flashing process). I followed the (simple) cable pin-out exactly so I think that maybe the silk-screened TX and RX labels on my new 3.3volt FTDI-USB Interface might be incorrectly swapped-around.

Communicating with PixRacer using Mission-Planner over WiFi (ESP8266 Module)

In the top right corner of Mission Planner, choose UDP. I don't think baud rate matters. Click the CONNECT button. If it asks for the Local port, enter 14550.

While I haven't tried it yet, I've read that it also works with QGroundControl.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Eachine E010s FPV Indoor Quadcopter

Winter is here, but that doesn't mean you have to stop flying :)

After comparing several inexpensive indoor FPV racing-drones, I found this Eachine E010s quad. It has a nice camera and F3-class Flight Controller. The 65mm ducted-fan design also provides prop-guards (to save the pets, furniture, and walls). Sure, it has brushed (core-less) motors and matching ESCs, but that helps to keep the price and weight down. I've since read the pilots call it a cheap Tiny Whoop or Inductrix clone. It's even Bind-and-Fly so you can use your favorite hobby-class transmitter. I have a Taranis, so I got the FrSky RX version.

 Eachine E010s FPV Drone

While the directions are fairly-poorly translated (no surprise there ... but we are used to it, right :), there ARE some good specs and tidbits of info. These are readable if you open them in a new window (and zoom-in). Hopefully this blog-post will fill-in the missing pieces and get you started in the right direction. I know the Blue-LED is for the FrSky (PPM) RX radio. Additionally, Red-LED appears to be Power, and I think the Green-LED might be the F3-Evo  Flight-Controller (complete with brushed-ESCs).

Radio Setup

I thought the setup was easy or fairly normal (if you have some previous experience with FrSky and CleanFlight).

First, you Bind the RX to TX and setup a new model on the Taranis. The Mode is D8 and Channel Range is CH1-8. I saw some pilots thought the Binding procedure was difficult, but I think it was easy and like any other FrSky Bind. Like always (with any FrSky equipment), the E010s should not be too close (within 3 ft) to Taranis or you might have communication problems. These FrSky radios are tuned for long-range.

  1. When you start, the E010s' Blue-LED for RX will be flashing (means it's un-bound).
  2. At Taranis, select Model. Go to Model Setup and click Bind. Taranis will start Beeping
  3. Carefully, hold-down tiny button on E010s FC PCB and apply power (connect it's battery completely). Blue-LED will turn off
  4. Stop the Bind-beeping at Taranis
  5. Cycle power on E010s (disconnect and re-connect it's 3.7v 240mah 45c 1-cell LiPo battery).
  6. The Blue-LED should now be solid-on (indicating it's successfully Bound).
  7. On the Taranis display, you should now be getting basic FrSky Telemetry and it will show the E010s' battery voltage (similar to your full-sized FrSky RX equipped multi-rotors).

Like other quads with F1-F4 based FC, the actual programming at the TX radio is fairly basic. You just need TAER1234. CH1-4 is TAER for main-control and 1234 are for any (AUX) switches you want to assign to CH 5-8.

I'm used to setting up for SBus (not PPM), but this seems to work (including switches). TAER is the important part. If you wanted to lock it into Angle-Mode, I think it might fly with as little as 4-channels.

CleanFlight 1.x Setup

Like many older F1 (Naze32) and even smaller current F3-based quads, you should use a CleanFlight 1.x. Even if you already have a newer v2.x version of CleanFlight installed, the old v1.x can also be installed or "side-loaded". v1.x can be installed as a Google Chrome App in Extensions Developer Mode. I still use CF v1.2.2, but I've also read about pilots using v1.2.4 (which is the last stable v1.x release).

Of course, (since you are using CleanFlight) you also have to install the SiL-CP210x Drivers (in my case, for Microsoft Windows-10). You will know that they are correctly installed when the (USB connected) quad appears in "Devices and Printers" with a Comm-Port at the end of its name.

Remember that while using CleanFlight ... after you make a change on any page, scroll to the bottom of that page and click Save. Also, I'm not really going to document each setting here now (especially if it's a default that is already set correctly). After you get CF installed and running, select your Comm-Port and then click Connect (top right).

  • Setup
    • Backup is the first thing I suggest you do. This should be the E010s' current "shipping defaults" ... to a file for safe-keeping.
  • Ports
    • Nothing to change here. Remember to never change or mess-with the first (UART-1) line, or you will lose USB communication with the FC :(
  • Receiver
    • Channel Map change to JR/Spektrum (and then click Save) to get TAER1234. At this point, sticks on Taranis radio should be moving the proper channels.
    • Direction say to set Serial Receiver Provider to "SPEKTRUM1024". It's the default first item so no changes required. However, since this quad is setup on PPM, I'm not sure it's even relevant.
    • I've never been able to find an actual "radio calibration" in CF over the years, and it seems to work fine without it. Of course, the Taranis itself is already calibrated (but that's not something you would do in CleanFlight).
  • Config
    • Mixer stays on Quad-X
    • Receiver Mode changed to RX-PPM . As far as I can tell, no SBus on this one (but it's not like we need the extra channels anyway).
    • The directions say to set Serial Receiver Provider to "SPEKTRUM1024". It's the default first item so no changes required. However, since this quad is setup on PPM, I'm not sure it's even relevant.
  • Modes
    • Aux-1 (aka 1st assigned switch on TX). I used Angle (flight mode) for all 3 positions
    • Aux-3 HeadFree. Set to the 3rd assigned switch. Bar takes-up 2/3 of line so it's active when the switch is in Position 2 or even Position-3
    • More experienced pilots might want other modes (like Acro) assigned to different switches and position. I probably add that or similar later.
    • I didn't have any problems Arming the quad the normal way (Throttle stick down and to right for a few seconds), but some pilots apparently do. They assign a switch to Arm.
  • CLI
    • I see a note in the directions-sheet to SET motor_pwm_rate=1000. Actually, I did NOT set this yet, but I'm thinking it's already set correctly because the E010s flies fine.
  • Setup
    • Setup screen one last time and calibrate accelerometer. It's real easy in CF since quad just needs to sit still on level surface for a few seconds.
    • Backup final settings to another file (since it's setup properly now).
    • AFAIK, there is no barometer, magnetometer (compass), or any other sensors to calibrate on this quad.

Plastic Body (Protector Shell)

Yeah, it's a strange looking robot head, but this is Quadcopter-Robotics :) Seriously, I thought it was a good idea to install it to help protect the camera, antenna, and FC-PCB. Installation is self explanatory. I did have to shave-off about 0.5mm of the two top guides to allow the camera to slide into place completely (you want the front of lens pretty close to flush in front). I think it also does a good job of supporting the camera/antenna.

I'm surely not taking off the body any time soon. I don't expect needing the Bind button again soon. However, it might be a good idea to carefully Dremel a little slot for the USB plug. I also saw a mod that puts a "arch protector strip" or loop over the antenna (for additional protection).


I tried Angle and HeadFree flight-modes so far, and it flies good for me indoors. Even for beginners ... while some simulator-time is a good idea, the Eachine E010s should also work nicely as a FPV trainer (when indoors or even outdoors with no wind).

Blue-LED (on steady) = FrSky RX and TX R/C radios are bound and connected
Green-LED (on steady) = F3-Evo Flight Controller is Armed (also visible thru body)

If I do any more mods to it I will try to post them here with an edit.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Hobbico Rise RXD-250 Racing Quad - FPV Trainer

I saw this for $50 (new-in-box) over at the RCGroups Classifieds and could not resist :). Here is what it looks like so far. I'll add more later.

It has an (older) CC3D (6DoF) and they suggest you use LibrePilot. Sure, why not ... What is that now ... 3 or 4 different GCS ... what is one more ?! :)

I'm currently using the included JST-SH_ 8pin-to-Dupont-RC RX cable with a FrSky-X6R and it seems to work good. I do find it strange that the manual and included cable steer you toward using a larger (non-SBus) RX, but they really don't provide much room to install it (between the FC and battery wiring) ... the X6R barely fits.

I think there might be a way to set-it-up with Sbus, but for now ... I used the included PWM cable, and connected each plug to a separate channel.

I bound the X6R to the Taranis with the "No Jumper Required" Mode-5 D16 CH1-6.

Model-04 at Taranis:
Mode: D16
Channel Range: CH 1-8
Receiver No: 04

Like my EB-185 and/or Tyrant-180 (they also have STM32-F1 based FC's) ... I setup basic Model Inputs as TAER, and Mixes as TAER1234 (1234 are your favorite 2-3 position switches on TX).

I installed and used LibrePilot v15.09 because that's what was shown in Hobbico Manual and I didn't want to mess with possible Firmware mis-match or upgrades right-off the bat. First thing I did in LibrePilot was to Export current UAV-Settings (including the Yaw-90 and 2-motor-swap). I think I also read in forums to not use the Setup Wizard (so I didn't, which is fine).

After I calibrated the TX, it let me Arm the motors to do a little motor-test on the bench.

Camera & VideoTX Install

I added a Foxeer HS1177 v2 600tvl CCD Camera and Aomway TX001 600mW 40ch 5.8ghz vTX.

Here are some pics of HS1177 Foxeer camera's mount. After test fit, screws must be cut to the proper length.

Installed the props for the first time. Armed quad and did a basic "control surfaces" run-test while carefully holding by landing-gear.

Maiden flight was hovering around the back-yard (aka, obstacle course) in the cold-dark night. It flies fine and fairly stable in Angle-Mode. Flew-thru a battery and did a little grass-mowing :-)

Eachine Blade 185 - RX upgrade and GPS install

I needed the FrSky-X6R for another project, so I installed a smaller FrSky X4R-SB in the EB-185. The X6R was really just for testing anyway (but I did fly it that way several times). I think the X4R-SB (also using SBus) is a better match. I mounted it with a square of black HobbyKing Zeal-clone. The blueish silicone tubing is just long enough to contain the 2 antenaas. It's wire-tied to the edges but away from spinning props.

Like before, connect cable from EB-185 PCB to the RX. That's the supplied cable with the little white 3-pin connector (SBus w/ Power) to FrSky X4R-SB using the black DuPont-RC plug on the other end.

On the Taranis:
Mode: D16
Channel Range: CH1-16
Receiver No: 03

I bound it in D16 Mode with Telemetry (CH1-3 SBus). That is the "No Jumper required Bind" and is comparable to the similar Mode-5 (D16) on the X6R/X8R.

Hold-down the F/S button on X4R-SB and power-it-up (plug-in EB-185 battery). IIRC, it's LED will be red. On Taranis' (Model-03) program screen, click Bind. Power-cycle EB-185. LED on X4R-SB should now be steady green (showing it's Bound). The EB-185 should also stop beeping now.

I also installed a GPS-unit I ordered for it a while back. They said it was for Naze32 (Rev6 10DoF) and had the proper connector already to PnP on this EB-185. I thought I would try it first on the low-deck where it's protected and there is plenty of room. I thought it might get a good-enough signal from the sides and even the top a bit. If not, I'll create and install a little platform for it behind the battery.

I plan to get back into CleanFlight and add some new Flight Modes and see what's up with the GPS features. I'll add to this post later if I come across anything interesting.

The Eachine Blade 185 is still flying good. My skid-plate mod seems to be keeping the VTX and its all-in-one PCB from getting damaged.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

PixRacer Bench-Testing and Setup

I flashed my PixRacer to ArduCopter v3.5.4 with Mission-Planner v1.3.50.

So, with nothing else connected, it seems this is the order of the two internal compasses
1. MPU-9250 IMU
2. HMC5983 dedicated compass chip (internal, on PixRacer PCB)

I say that because:
1. Calibrates with high offsets or sometimes completely fails to calibrate at all.
2. Always calibrates fine (but one axis is usually around +/- 200)

So, in the above case, you would Disable #1 and make #2 the Primary. Personally, I think it's good to try to calibrate just the Internal ones first (even if planning to add an External one). Not only as a preliminary test (find early which are troublesome), but also to help identify them later by extreme axis offsets.

When you connect an external GPS/Compass, it becomes #1, is auto-detected as External, and they all shift one number across.
1. External HMC5883L
2. MPU-9250 IMU
3. HMC5983 compass chip (internal)

It's actually pretty easy to see (watch for similar extreme offsets). So, in this case, I Disable #2 and make #1 the Primary. Coming from APM, I like the idea of having a redundant something if possible (especially something important like a compass). This is my current testing config.

Notice that with the PixRacer and latest ArduCopter, you can calibrate them from MP, but it's actually facilitated by the PixRacer FC itself. I just slowly turned quad on all 3 major axis, and then moved around randomly a little more.

I fixed this old Beitian GPS/Compass combo unit and it works great now (both the Compass and the GPS). I cut-off the old Pico-Blade connectors and soldered on the included PixRacer 6-pin cable.

I used this pic (thanks Gervais from RCGroups) to wire the GPS/Compass cable for the RixRacer and it worked the first time. Basically, you connect:
1. Power (VCC and GND) to Power ... "straight-across".
2. The two compass signals to the same compass signals on PixRacer (again, straight across).
3. It's the GPS's signals (TX and RX) that get criss-crossed to each other (TX-RX and RX-TX).

While new (and possibly a little hard to find) ... I'm really liking the new PixRacer connectors. They are smaller and with a higher pin-density that the old PixHawk-style Molex Pico-Blade connectors. Also, much easier to insert and remove (but still lock-into-place nicely).

Radio Setup
Like my APM and full-sized PixHawks, I bind (X6R and/or X8R) RX to TX in Mode-5 D16 (with Telemetry). I setup basic Model Inputs as AETR, and Mixes as AETR5678.

Note: I plan to add to this post as I come across something new or important.