s_mack's blog View Details
Posted by s_mack | Aug 05, 2013 @ 06:05 PM | 3,403 Views
If you haven't already heard about it, I want to introduce you to War Thunder! It is a free pc game featuring WWII planes. Its quite a good (but addictive!) game with awesome graphics and plenty of planes to choose from. You'll just have to check it out yourself to see if its something for you. The game is pretty huge, so it takes a long time to download and get playing, but its worth it in my opinion.

Please use this link, if you don't mind: http://warthunder.com/en/registration?r=6451562

It gives YOU a bonus 50 "Golden Eagles" and it also gives me in-game bonuses if you end up liking the game and advance to at least level 5 (but don't go out of your way for me).

Golden Eagles are the only "gotcha" of this game. Certain "premium" planes and other nice things to have (but not required) cost "golden eagles"... and they cost real $$$ to buy. But you CAN absolutely enjoy the game without ever spending a dime.

I really like it. A little too much

- Steven
Posted by s_mack | Dec 09, 2012 @ 06:47 PM | 5,243 Views
I was going to try to keep this a secret, so I recently announced an "idea" last week and had people PM me if they were curious because I didn't want a certain someone seeing it. But I also think a lot of people presumed it was a hair-brained profit motivated scheme I was cooking up, so I think a lot of people that WOULD be interested, just didn't want to bother with my "games"

Plus, communicating en masse by PM is ridiculously ineffective. So how can I keep it a secret and still be effective? Well, I can't. So Mike Blandford... please just put me on your ignore list or make a personal vow to not show your head in here! Seriously... go away.

If you're not Mike B, please continue reading (I mean it Mike... buy bye!)
Posted by s_mack | Sep 05, 2012 @ 03:05 PM | 5,784 Views
I've had about enough!

Of stripped screw holes

If you're anything like me, you've had your 9x apart more times than you can count. And if your 9x is anything like my 9x... you have at least a few screws that do little more than rattle around because the plastic has stripped out.

Well, I said "screw it!" and so should you!

I had an idea: I found some metal screw inserts specifically designed to be pressed into plastic. They go into (supposedly - see "trial and error" below) a 1/8" hole, and provide a machined thread for a #2-56 machine screw! I got some high quality stainless steel socket cap screws like we're used to in the r/c world, and I set off to work.

The procedure is quite straight forward. Drill the hole; rest the insert on the hole; use a flat metal tool of some sort (I used the end of a large hex key) and press firmly until the insert is flush with the plastic. Repeat for all holes and put together using the new screws!

The end result? I'm quite impressed really! And I won't lie and say my first attempt went well. I had a lot of trial and error... heavy on the error. Even still... even with the grossly damaged posts I ended up with... it STILL holds way better than the original screws ever did, even before they wore out! I now have a solid feeling unit with screws that will never strip! Now I know when a screw is fully tight, rather than having it spin forever because its not really gripping

To do the...Continue Reading
Posted by s_mack | Aug 27, 2012 @ 09:41 PM | 4,896 Views
Current batch of SmartieParts programmers arrived with a minor - but extremely annoying - mistake

Starting with Rev 2.2 (we're now at Rev 2.3) the power delivery system was overhauled and the board now gets its power via the 6-pin 9x wire harness by way of a simple jumper cable. Its supposed to look like "A" in the picture. The first batch was done correctly. This current batch - done by the exact same people - showed up looking like "B" in the picture. Spot the difference? One of the connectors is on backwards If I hadn't noticed this and shipped these out... I do believe I'd be responsible for a lot of fried radios! That would be up.

So now I have the tedious task of fixing (see "C" and "D" in the picture) 500 units by moving all the little pins. That's 3000 pin removals and 3000 pins inserts... all... by... hand. Ugh.

- Steven
Posted by s_mack | Aug 16, 2012 @ 09:54 AM | 4,849 Views
Many of you probably have heard of Seeedstudio.com. They have some pretty cutting edge electronics at reasonable prices. They help little guys get off the ground (whether or not they're an asset to the little guys in the long run is debatable). Check them out!

Now... if someone were, ehem (wink wink nudge nudge) to open up a wholesale account with them and were putting in an order for a specific item, that someone could tag on other individual items to ship at the same time. Pretty good discounts could apply. Of course, that wholesale customer wouldn't be allowed to advertise those discounts becaues he's contractually obligated to advertise at the same price (or higher) as Seeed (of course there's a difference between an advertised price and a selling price - you've all seen those sites like Amazon that won't show you the price until you add to your cart - that's why).

One of their most famous products is the DSO Nano. A small handheld Oscilloscope for < $100. Any serious electronics guru will tell you its a toy and not worth anything, but they tend to be snobs It *is* a tool and it has its place.

Anyway, they have tons of stuff. Maybe, just for fun (wink wink nudge nudge), post here what you'd like to get at a discount and maybe someone will mysteriously pm you with a discounted price. Who knows?

- Steven
Posted by s_mack | Jul 24, 2012 @ 07:26 PM | 15,525 Views

I previously announced plans for TelemetrEZ, and the prototypes have now arrived! As the name suggests, the purpose is to make adding Telemetry to the 9x... well... easy

Let's catch everyone up to speed...

Telemetry in a nutshell: The company FrSky makes an inexpensive transmitter module / receiver combo that allows your plane to transmit data back to your radio to give it updates on things like battery voltage, air speed, GPS coordinates, temperature, and RSSI (your signal strength). What data you get from it depends on the various sensors and doo-dads you add and that's beyond the scope of this document. But in general... you've always been able to "talk" to your plane, and with Telemetry it talks back!

Telemetry and your 9x - the problem: Many people have successfully hooked this kit up to the 9x... so its not impossible, but its certainly not easy. When reading the various guides for doing the mods, you'll see no matter what guide you follow, that there is some tricky modding to do. The general procedure is this:
  • Desolder two switch connections from where they currently connect to the radio's cpu (moderately difficult)
  • Solder the telemetry module to where the switches just were (moderately difficult)
  • Re-route those two remove switches to unused pins of the radio's cpu (difficult)

Its that last bit that's particularly worrisome for most people. They are TINY pins and its pretty easy to do some damage.

How TelemetrEZ makes things easier:...Continue Reading
Posted by s_mack | May 23, 2012 @ 11:16 AM | 5,088 Views
I've found myself typing some variant to this several times by email to people who are really new to the concept of flashing a 9x radio with new firmware. I think some people get confused on the terminology that many of us take for granted. We make it more confusing by liberal use of acronyms and synonyms.

Without further ado...

"Hardware" refers to the actual electronics in your radio. In there is the "cpu" (it is often referred to by many names including "mcu", "Atmega", "AVR", "uC", "micro", "microcontroller", or simply, "chip"). Residing inside the cpu is "firmware", which is akin to the software running on your personal computer. While I'm no expert on the history of terminology, I believe they use the term "firmware" rather than "software" to differentiate between code used for "personal computing" and code used for "embedded systems" (hardware that contains a cpu that you don't really think of as a "computer"). However, you'll often see people use the term "software" or "program" or simply "code" instead of "firmware" and that's fine, however I like to suggest that "software" be avoided in this regard, lest it be confused with the host software (discussed a couple paragraphs down).

So when we say we're "programming" (aka "flashing") the cpu,...Continue Reading
Posted by s_mack | Jun 22, 2011 @ 12:14 PM | 8,739 Views
Today Rob sent me an email asking if I could redesign the popular 9x add-on board (programmer + EL backlight) to include an interface for the Frsky mods. It was not the first time it has been suggested, and some of you may recall that I suggested it myself back when the frsky/9x modding was first being discussed. But it never really went anywhere.

The problem, is that I personally have no interest in frsky/telemetry and therefore have absolutely ZERO experience with it. So yes, I can add support to my board if people want it, but I don't know how. I don't have the time to do the research and learning necessary to do an adequate redesign.

So what I propose is that you folks "in the know" banter about it here and figure out EXACTLY what needs to be changed with my design to add it... and I'll add it.

I'm really busy with other work right now, so I'm going to have to be a bit hands-off about it, but feel free to discuss away! I'll monitor this thread and once you've come up with a concensus on how it should be done, I'll get to work incorporating it and getting a batch of prototypes made up to confirm.

- Steven
Posted by s_mack | Apr 30, 2011 @ 12:43 AM | 8,359 Views
Help, by EL backlight doesn't work!
Its been a common theme lately. I've answered the same question so frequently that its about time I post a set of steps for all to see!

First off, please take comfort that the vast majority of problems are not a result of a faulty board or EL panel. Its usually something simple. I test each and every unit prior to shipping. That's not to say I can't make a mistake... I can (and do!)... but even then its usually a simple fix.

Before we get too far into troubleshooting, let's start with the very basics.

CHAPTER 1: Is there even a problem?
Believe it or not, the most common "problems" aren't really problems at all. These are the four that come up the most offen:
  1. The EL panel is installed backwards. Assuming you have the standard blue EL, it is the WHITE side that glows blue. The blue/green side does not glow at all. If you have one of the other colours, then it is more obvious.
  2. The firmware isn't setup. The stock firmware can't control the EL panel. The various custom firmwares can. Please refer to your chosen firmware manual or support group for instructions on how to enable the light and assign a switch for it. Only once you've programmed the firmware into your radio, then assigned a switch in your firmware and then physically flip that switch, will the light come on.
  3. Some people have reported that their radio had some "gunk" or "varnish" on
...Continue Reading
Posted by s_mack | Mar 12, 2011 @ 02:12 AM | 10,305 Views
Any questions or comments regarding my Swarm Charmer app should go here.

I am going to keep this thread tidy as much as possible. I appreciate all comments, but anything that is not specifically related to a CURRENT issue (problem, bug, etc) will get deleted sooner or later to keep it easy to read and follow. Post however/whatever you feel like... I'm not deleting because the post isn't valuable. Just that it isn't valuable AND current

- Steven
Posted by s_mack | Feb 12, 2011 @ 01:17 PM | 14,721 Views
Any questions or comments regarding my Swarm Charmer app should go here.

I am going to keep this thread tidy as much as possible. I appreciate all comments, but anything that is not specifically related to a CURRENT issue (problem, bug, etc) will get deleted sooner or later to keep it easy to read and follow. Post however/whatever you feel like... I'm not deleting because the post isn't valuable. Just that it isn't valuable AND current

- Steven
Posted by s_mack | Jan 29, 2011 @ 12:17 PM | 7,345 Views
Just an update for the few minor changes in the Rev 2.1 boards that have now arrived and are almost ready to ship (waiting on the USB headers to get here):
  1. The overall layout of components is different, so take caution when referencing pictrures of different revisions. However, the markings ("R1, C2, etc") are consistent.
  2. I've changed the USB and EL light connectors. They are significantly different so EL panels and USB cables between revisions are not compatible.
  3. Of course, all fixes necessary on previous revisions are included in the design (hopefully it is now bug free! But we'll see)
  4. I've added two rather large pads for +5v and GND to give a convenient soldering point for... whatever. I've also put little triangle (+5v) and circle (GND) icons on the board to help identify them readily.
  5. I've changed the Thumbs UP graphic to a couple of important folks. 2000 points to whoever can identify them! Admittedly, once printed on the boards they aren't really clear.

Attached is a first look!

- Steven
Posted by s_mack | Dec 16, 2010 @ 05:48 PM | 26,434 Views
*UPDATE* If you're coming here for the first time... this issue has now been resolved. Click here for the recommended fix. If you're ordering a new one, the fix will already be applied for you.

Let's discuss this problem here fellahs. Let's see if we can't come to the bottom of it quickly! I'm sure its something simple.

- Steven

Originally Posted by wheelspinner20
Um, hate to be the one that brings the bad news, but there is an issue.. I will be posting on er9x google issue forum, but just a heads up. I flashed the newest version r284 from today. Installed the S_Mack board and el backlight. The TX randomly reboots when light is either turned on or switches off by either time entered or by manual switch..... It has done this at least 20 times in the last .5 hour, and it will not reboot if light is not activated.

Just keeping people up to date.

Steven has been awesome with me concerning customer service issues. And I am certain this issue will be resolved.

Originally Posted by reacher10
I just installed the stand alone El Driver and panel. I'm getting the same thing. I'm on my way out and when I get back I'll take a closer look but the radio is resetting itself.

Posted by s_mack | Nov 04, 2010 @ 05:36 PM | 10,875 Views
As some of you know, I recently shipped out the first batch of 9x solderless Programmer boards with EL backlight. Unfortunately, in my excitement to get them out, the first 11 were shipped without being 100% complete. As it stands, there is no power hookup!

Thankfully, there is the relatively simple solution.

Once the installation is completed, there needs to be a power connection from the radio to the add-on board. This can be done in one of two ways.

The first way is *NOT* solderless, but some might find it simpler so I'll mention it. On the add-on board are two wire holes marked "Power". Solder a wire into hole #1 and solder or wire-tap the other end to any +5v source on the radio.

The second way involves two wire taps (so it is solderless). All you need are the taps, a short piece of wire, and a pair of pliers. One end of the wire gets tapped to the +5v line of the USB cable and the other end is taped to any +5v source on the radio. Specificaly, I recommend the black wire from the left gimble assembly. It is close to the area in question and it is easily accessible.

So in the picture below, you can see two of the 3M Scotchlock wire taps with a violet wire tapping into the yellow* wire from the USB connector and the black wire from the left gimble.

(*note that it is only yellow in this example - random colors were used for the prototypes! Be sure you are tapping into the "bottom" wire as shown)

If you are unfamiliar...Continue Reading