I wrote about my experiences with drone ownership some time back, a multi-part story about a technology that looked promising, but eventually became a somewhat disappointing experiment for a number of reasons. It wasn’t that the drone experiment was a failure from a technical point of view, but failed from what could be called a practical or aesthetic point of view. I became reasonably competent with the very basic drone that I bought and a move to a much more capable and higher end drone would have been an easy transition. However, I’m very glad that I did buy a simple and inexpensive drone from the outset as I realised that drone ownership wasn’t what I had anticipated, nor which I would find overly useful in the long term. A $140 drone, rather than a $1500 drone was the best investment that I’ve made for a long time, even if that drone now resides in a cupboard unlikely to ever see the light of day again.
The onslaught against the internal combustion engine (ICE) continues apace in Europe, with a grand plan to replace them all with electric motors by 2040 to save the planet. So not to be left out, Australia now has its own evangelists shouting from the pulpits that Australia must follow suite, if not lead the way (as always). Australia’s Greens were the first to announce a plan to end the use and export of coal, as well as the sale of all ICE powered vehicles by 2030. Now the National Roads and Motorists Association (NRMA) of NSW has called for the abolition of all ICE powered vehicles as early as 2025. And following quickly on their heels is the ALP who want to impose a slightly watered down version by 2030. I’m not sure where this 2030 date came from, but we are apparently lagging the rest of the world in this endeavour to return to the 1800s and only immediate and severe action will save us all.
One of the most annoying aspects of managing a blog is the incessant spam comment that you get, which can total in the dozens per day if not more. These spam comments are usually generated by robots promoting just about any sort of crap that you can imagine and attempting to place links in your blog comments and, in the worst case situations, attempting to hack your website. These robots work on the basis that comments are just added automatically without any form of intervention and hope for a lucky break. While easy enough to ignore, send to the sin bin and then delete these obnoxious weeds, they can be an administrative pain in the first instance, as well as potentially having an adverse effect on your site if your hosting service begins to be affected. Most hosts have some form of spam filter, but these don’t always cater for what gets through on blog comment forms on a poorly secured website and that’s when problems can arise.
While going through the toil and turmoil of trying to understand and get the Android phone working the way I wanted, and address all manner of security and privacy issues, I happened upon an event that made me wonder about technology and how George Orwell’s 1984 novel about a future society may already be here. While looking for an app on my PC, using Google, that would allow my Android phone to be answered more easily than in the standard way, I came across one that might have been the answer. So I then went into the Google Play Store on my phone to search for this app, but when I opened the store, that app came up without asking. That took me aback somewhat, as my PC and phone are not synced, nor had I logged into my Google account on either. That was one of those WTF? moments. It seems that I’m not the only one to experience these moments.
For someone that uses a computer a lot and after years of various frustrations using a regular computer mouse for my daily work, I finally had enough of my current Microsoft wireless laser mouse. The wireless on the mouse worked fine, but I was forever having to replace and/or clean the mouse pad, and always looking for an alternative pad that would keep the mouse working properly. No matter what I tried, the surface would eventually begin to wear, develop a shiny or dirty surface and the mouse would stop working or jump about erratically. I was using hard surface pads, but cleaning didn’t seem to make any difference, as the shiny spots that appeared on even the best of surfaces would cause the mouse to misbehave. It got to the point that numerous times during the day I’d be swearing and ready to throw the mouse at a wall because it became so frustrating. It was time to try something new.
As we slowly risk becoming de-industrialised as effective, efficient and cheap energy sources are supplanted with the complete opposite, we now have to deal with an energy market that treats every customer with utter disdain. Energy providers are like banks, where they assume that existing customers will simply remain as customers because it’s too difficult to go looking for change. In many cases that may well be true, especially with the way banks provide information and when you’re often committed to credit card accounts, loans etc where to change means having to amend numerous payment accounts and experience other difficulties. Even the regular credit card replacement involves some angst as you sort through the necessary changes. When it comes to utilities, it’s a ‘little’ easier as you’re only transferring from one supplier to another and not changing your bank account, but that doesn’t mean it’s painless.
Just when I thought I’d finished this particular series, I decided to do an additional modification to the MJX and so it would have been completely remiss of me not to detail what I did and how things worked out. As I mentioned in Part 4, I’d been modifying the camera mount to try and get more stable shots and, even though my flying was improving, there was no way that I was going to produce smooth and steady video with these rigid mounts. I really did need a motorised gimbal and so that’s what I ended up getting, a two axis gimbal (to control pitch and roll) that kind of ticked all the important boxes and didn’t cost a ridiculous amount of money. I thought of getting a three axis gimbal, but with the type of video that I wanted to produce, a two axis should fit the bill quite well.
Following on from Part 3, just when I thought things were going quite well with the MJX the dash cam stopped working. So while waiting for a replacement camera I did some more work on improving the camera mount and I also put in further flying practice. While my flying skills had started to improve, I was still a little prone to flying into trees, though far less than earlier. In fact, I’ve managed to improve so much that I was recently able to walk the MJX about an area at Mossvale Park that is quite closed in and with more than enough trees and large overhanging branches that would have instantly taken out the MJX a week or so ago. That surprised me greatly and I had a bit of fun manoeuvring the MJX about before I moved to the large open area for some more vigorous flying and tuning. I guess I’d finally started to get the hang of things and it also helped that there was no wind about on this particularly cold morning, so I was looking forward to more of the same.
When I thought the MJX was utterly lost in that large gum tree, as I noted in Part 2, I immediately ordered a second one because of the trip into the High Country we had planned for the end of Easter. I really wanted to have the drone along to capture some aerial footage of the surrounds and get in more practice away from civilisation. But since retrieving the MJX, I still can’t believe how tough this drone really is, almost unbreakable. I’ve watched videos of drones crashing and being totalled at first strike and someone said that I should have bought a cheap $30-$40 drone because as a first timer I’d crash and break them, so better breaking a $30 drone than a $130 one. Given the number of crashes so far, I think I would have exceeded that $130 in cheap drones in the first week.
One of the things I found with learning to fly the MJX, following on from Part 1, is that I mastered the basics fairly rapidly and was able to control the drone far quicker than I had anticipated. Muscle memory started to take over the management of the controls joysticks and I was more gentle with the movements and so could control the MJX far more precisely. However, that didn’t help when something went a bit awry, such as the MJX heading towards a tree, where I would then do something silly rather than measured. That’s what happened around the end of my first week when I was about to land the MJX. I was at Mossvale Park and one of our hounds made a bee line for the MJX as it was descending, causing me to take it up far too fast, which took it towards a large gum tree across a nearby river.