Getting a DJI Phantom 3 Pro back to life

This drone has been sitting around for a year, so now it’s time to see how to get it back to life. It isn’t super easy as all the firmware is out of date, so here’s goes a long evening of fixing things:

  1. Getting the batteries charged, there is a charger with two outputs, pop the battery out of the drone by pressing the tab and connect to the charger, then plug the controller in as well.
  2. After all is charged, put the battery into the drone, connect your iOS or Android device to the USB port of the controller.
  3. Now turn the controller on, all DJI devices have the same safety, you have to quick press the power and then press and hold for two seconds and the controller should come on.
  4. If you plug it into an IOS 10 device, it will throw up a monstrous list of applications that work with DJI, look for your model. Note that there is a DJI Go and DJI Go 4 (for Phantom 4 and later). So make sure to pick the right one.
  5. If your firmware is super old, the application will tell you (and give you a terribly wrong URL referring to the Inspire 1 and not your Phantom 3 Pro) you have to start with your controller. Find a USB key and then download the latest firmware onto it. You have to make sure it is the only thing on the USB key. Confusingly, it does not want you to install the latest one (1.10), but the older (1.3) and if you put the wrong in, it will not work.
  6. The only debugging is to take the USB key out and look at the TXT files that are left. It will actually get confused and tell you the latest firmware is already in the controller. Ignore that and just load 1.3.20.
  7. Now power plug the USB key into the USB port of the controller and the red light will turn blue and it will beep really loudly. After a couple of minutes, the light goes green.
  8. Now make sure to power cycle the controller and get back to that ominous red. Plug your phone in and turn on the drone (use the same double press).
  9. Now when you connect, it will start to download firmware. The older firmware required you to use the USB key, but getting to 1.3.20
  10. The next time you plug it in, the remote controller will update through the application itself.
  11. If you want to see what version your controller is on, this is pretty confusing, you click on the top menu bar the application then click on status. If you get a blank screen then this means it is up to date. You can look at the About menu to see what version controller you have. Right now that is 1.8.
  12. As an aside, the software load is asymmetric, the new drones (Mavic) have a Mac application called DJI Assistant, but not the older drones
  13. To update the drone, camera and battery firmware. Yes, they all have separate firmware, you go to the download site.
  14. First make sure to have a fan pointed at your Phantom 3 Professional, the gimble will actually overheat during updates?!
  15. Now insert the microSD into the side of the camera, put the battery in and then do the quick click and hold for two seconds. You will see a tiny LED on the camera which flashes red, it is actually flashing red and green, but you can only see this looking head on. It also kind of chirps every half second or so and there are lots of lights.

At this point I’m in a weird state:

  1. The Phantom flies. if you click on the status bar, you can see it is all connected
  2. If you click on the right side three dots, you can scroll down to About and you can see the firmware is updated.
  3. However, there is no image transmissions. The gimbal works and you can even try to take photos and videos and when you pull the MicroSD, you do get images

There are lots of folklore about this but it seems as if it is the video transmission that is broken.

  1. If the memory card isn’t formatted correctly, then remove it and see if you can see the image.
  2. The cable connecting the drone to the gimbal could come loose. To remove the gimbal, you have to push the plastic parts. You can actually swap out the ribbon cable as well.

So how do you get this fixed:

  1. You could just buy a new Gimbal for $300 and install it yourself, but what if it is in the drone itself?
  2. If you are lucky there is a DJI authorized repair place, then you don’t have to send it all the way back to DJI. There are even DJI Factory Stores now, so you might be lucky enough to find one of those.
  3. You can also drop a note to DJI and see if they can debug it. They have chat and email (quite a change from two years ago, where you waited on the phone for hours).

Screwing around with Unifi

I’ve been using Unify for home installations for a while now, so here are some notes on how to use them:

  1. Do not just hit the buttons willy nilly. Some like UAPSD can cause big problems as the Wifi access points power down.
  2. The admin console is pretty nontraditional, basically, you have a dedicated machine which manages all the access points. (Remember this stuff is designed for enterprises). This machine runs a little web server, so you access it via that (you can also tunnel through via the Ubiquiti cloud service to get to it). For most mortals, these are so robust, I just configure it at home and then plug it in at the remote site. If you remote home ever wants to manage it, they can adopt it if I send them the password (please do securely via iMessage or WhatsApp)
  3. The interface itself is even more confusing because the main configuration information is in the gear settings, you care about a few things like WLAN network, you can have a host of SSIDs that represent a single logical LAN. This is useful if you want your company devices to just work on your home network.

Stripping audio from a movie file

This seems like it would be so easy, you can do it if you load it into iMovie, but if you want to do it really quickly, you have to use 5 year old software. mpegstreamclip does this, you just load the file and choose Extract/Video and it works.

Useful if you want to just look at the video clip and don’t want to import it into a real video editor.

Interestingly, the old QuickTime Player 7 also used to do this, but that feature was lost with Quicktime Player 10. You can still download it though.

Then there are commercial products like Video Editor MovieMator that try to upset you.

Installing telnet on windows 10

Well windows has sure gotten more complicated. Getting telnet running take three steps 

  1. You need to run the Super Administrator mode for the command line. This is pretty hidden right now particularly if you are Running a windows tablet and it is not clear how to right click. The trick is to long press and item and then that is interpreted as a right click 

  2. Go to the Cortana menu which is the text box on the lower left and type ‘Cmd’. Then Long press and you will get a context menu so choose ‘run as administrator’ 

  3. Now you need to run their download manager dism. And you want to enable the feature with ‘dism /online /Enable-Feature /FeatureName:TelnetClient’

  4. Then if you want to capture a telnet stream it is as simple as ‘telnet ip adress socket‘ > output.txt

Capturing multiple videos on a mac

Well if you want to capture multiple videos from a Mac and potentially mix them here are some applications to try:

  1. Capturesync. Best Software has this, in experimenting, it is nice because it puts all of the video into a single file. Since it is recasting files it is CPU intensive. Works fine with three uhd feeds and five hd feeds at 5 fps on a MacBook Pro (2014). 
  2. ScopeBox. This monitors feeds and then turns it into video. This has a nicer interface, but doesn’t scale beyond a few inputs and seems to hang.
  3. VLC. Remove audio is one important thing and VLC does this pretty easily. 

Some standard dimensions:

  1. Logitech C920. 1080p30
  2. Logitech Brio. 4Kp30

Mavic Pro and all the goodies

Well it seems pretty clear the Mavic Pro is the most awesome drone right now, but as usual, you need a host of accessories. The drone was really hard to get a launch, but now there are bunch of places which will set you back about $1500 mainly for the batteries.

  • DJI Mavic Pro. This is $999 from Amazon and most other places. There is a $1300 prop bundle that is kind of a decent deal because it has 2 Extra batteries ($180), 2 Extra propellers ($20), 1 charging hub, 1 car charger, 1 battery to power bank adaptor and a shoulder bag. But most folks think the shoulder bag is too tight.
  • DJI Refresh. You definitely need this, For $99 at Amazon, it gives you repairs and even if you land your drone in the water as long albs you can recover it you can get a new one.
  • Replacement propellers. Because you will certainly destroy them and for $25 at Amazon, it’s cheap insurance.
  • Extra Batteries. These are $90 each from Amazon and you need at least three given the 20 minute time and the length of time it takes to charge. So you need a total of four batteries to keep it flying continuously (one in and three recharging).
  • 5 in 1 charging hub. This will charge three batteries at once in about 60 minutes. The main thing is that to charge three batteries at once, it is huge and has a big fan. It’s a true parallel charger
  • Hood. You need your own cell phone for this thing, but you need a hood in bright sunlight. for $14.
  • Leg Extenders. Most folks recommend these $10 accessories because the drone is too low to take off from gravel or grass.
  • Prop guards. These are $13 and keep your props from chewing up trees for people for that matter.
  • Hard case.

Getting 8% on Amazon purchases and 11% off Netflix too

Well since I’ve been buying so much now’s a great time to ask how to optimize for purchases. Two pointers:

  1. Amazon. You can get 3 JetBlue Points per Amazon purchase just by clicking through. That’s about a 5% discount. You can also get a straight 5% off by using an Amazon Store Card, so that’s pretty easy. An even more aggressive way is to buy Amazon Gift Cards from Office Supply stores like Staples and then apply it. This gives you 5x from Chase (so about 11% off in Chase points). It’s kind of wash when you think about it as to what’s better, personally, I like the JetBlue Points plus using your regular credit card if you have one that earns it.
  2. Netflix. Turns out that Netflix counts as an 5X merchant. So switch to that with your Chase card because it has a

Building out a simple home backend

OK, for the third time this year, I’m outfitting someone’s home with enough of a backend that they should be relatively stable, here’s a guide to how to do this:

The right NAS

Synology DS216J. There are a host of models that Synology has, but even the most basic $170 computer gives you a RAID-1 configuration. And with a pair of 4TB drives, it is a great deal. I’m not sure if this is the perfect DS216 (they have a confusing list, but I picked the second from the bottom which is I’ve found usually a pretty cheap one). But it should saturate a gigabit Ethernet and it has a one disk redundancy.

The right hard drives are 4TB or 8TB

Seagate Enterprise Capacity. I’m really over provisioning here, but I’ve found that you really want a drive with a five year warranty because it will last longer as they use higher quality drives. Right now the best price/performance is the 6TB Drive. I normally buy these on Newegg.com as they have the best reviews and good prices. Make sure to sign up for their loyalty program and use cashbackmonitor.com to get a rebate. You really want three drives, two go in and one is a hot backup. So if a drive fails, you can plug the new one in and with RAID-1 it rapidly rebuilds. But with 4TB at $160 at Amazon, pricing is extremely linear at $40/TB all the way up to 10TB! ($420 at Amazon).

I normally get a drive that’s much bigger than I need because things always fill available demand. Right now the cheapest is 8TB at $39 or so if you can afford it, having a 10TB effective server isn’t such a bad thing for your home, it’s going to store a lot of videos! It will set you back nearly $1200 for the disks though, so if you don’t need that much, the $480 for 4TB may be more reasonable.

Even the 10TB is pretty reasonable at $42/TB and the density is incredible although if you think about with the 8TB at $316, you do pay a big premium for 10TB ($102 extra or $50/TB), so perhaps better wait.

Making a USB Boot Drive for MacOS Sierra

Well it’s time once again to make USB boot disks, I’ve been using Diskmaker X forever, but with Sierra, there are some idiosyncratic things:

  1. Download from the Mac App Store the Sierra download. This will take a while as it it is over 4GB, but this is the image that Diskmaker X uses.
  2. Make sure that you reformat the disk completely before starting. It doesn’t seem to like already formatted disks and crashes with an error about not being to make things.
  3. You now get notifications as it moves along which is pretty cool.

 

Tranferring files from Android to a Mac

For a while I could not get file transfer to work from an Android phone. Tried:

  1. Take a movie and use Google Photos to upload, this was incredibly slow trying to get 4GB up there.
  2. Same with a OneDrive upload
  3. Airdroid uses Bluetooth to do the same and it was way too slow
  4. Trying Android File Transfer had never quite worked, but I gave it another try and it did!

So here are the tips:

  1. After you download, when you connect your USB cable, you have to set “File Transfer” enabled. Otherwise it just draws power. The only place I’ve seen this come up is by swiping down and looking for an Android System notification about USB state. Not easy to find and it doesn’t seem to be sticky so you enable it each time.
  2. Also if it draws too much, the Mac will shut it down, I’m not sure how to prevent this.
  3. Now with that set, run Android File Transfer and you see a window open up that shows the Android file system. The photos live in the super obvious DCIM/Camera folder.
  4. Also do *not* delete from the Android File Transfer application, this causes the phone’s Photo application to be super confused since you do not delete the meta data about the files.