Argh Mavic Pro is cool but beware

Well there isn’t any doubt that DJI has the best drone on paper with the Mavic Pro, but here’s what to watch out for:

  1. Hardware issues. Out of the box, the brand new Mavic controller would not pair with the drone. I’m sure they are selling like hot cakes, but this is the first time a $$$$s is completely broken out of the box. Fortunately there is a DJI Authorized Repair center there and they verified the controller is dead (it stays on connecting and it does beep when you press buttons). More frightening is that they tried 3 other controllers and one was dead. The manager said, yes this was a common problem, so unscientific, but a 50% failure rate doesn’t exactly breed a lot of confidence. I’m going to return the Mavic and rebuy from the local dealer.
  2. Net, net, make sure that if you are buying a drone, to get one from a local dealer because it is pretty likely you are going to have to get it replaced.
  3. DJI Repair plan. That is not what it is called, but for an extra $99, you can get a destroyed bird fixed for $99 or so and then another in the first year. However, be aware that you have to activate the plan within 48 hours of using your drone. The guys I bought from were good, they activated the plan with the now dead bird. I’m unsure, but hopefully I can return this thing and still get the $99 back.
  4. Customer Service. Well, I sent them email and after a week, still no reply. This is a common complaint on the forums.
  5. Acres of firmware updates and deep user interface. Man, for a consumer product, they sure ship lots of firmware updates, you have to update the battery, the drone, the controller and of course the iPhone itself. Make sure that when you get one, you leave half a day to get all this done. Many complaints on forums where you go out and try to fly but you need to do an update first, so make sure to update before you fly.
  6. Flight modes galore. This thing has so many different modes it is hard to keep track and the forums are filled with experts talking to noobs, the user base is not yet large enough to have every question answered

Net, net, the drone thing is moving rapidly and hopefully customer service and product quality catch up. In the mean time, if you have to have one, make sure to get one from a local dealer who also does repairs (e.g. not Best Buy). You need someone who is willing to fix the thing.

Bike gadgets and apparel

Well if you are getting back into cycling, it’s a great time to instrument up and DC Rainmaker has the best reviews and for apparel the most important thing is a good big with a good pad

  1. Bike computer. I have an old Garmin Edge 800, but many folks are loving the new Wahoo Elemnt Bolt. This is also the computer that Brad likes ūüôā
  2. Bib. There are many, but I’ve used Castelli for years. The Aero is a decent value at $150 or so and the Mondiale is a splurge at $300, but I’m sure you feel fast!

But the coolest thing to figure out are the sensors and mounts. The main thing to decide is if you want just ANT+ or want Bluetooth LE as well for maximum compatibility. I like the idea of BLE so:

  1. Scoshe Rhythm+. An optical wrist band, so no more chest straps and it is dual ANT+/BLE. This thing works really well if you don’t have an Apple watch ūüôā
  2. Speed/Cadence. The Wahoo BlueSC2+ is both but is bulky. If you want small, then the Garmin is tiny and uses accelerometers and no magnets but is ANT+ only. Or, you can if you have a Shimano Di2 system, you can get an ANT+ and BLE transmitter so you get both gearing (with Garmin 810 or later) as well as cadence, so you only need speed.

Then there are the expensive items, Power Meters. The main issues are reasonable cost (that’s relative, these are $600-$2K items), but then there is portability and battery life not to mention accuracy. The big issue is left/right differences and weather it is measuring just one side. And it is literally raining crank arms, so a complex market:

  1. PowerTap hub. The grand daddy of them all, but you need to change your hubs, which is you have a fancy wheel set (Topolino, ENVE) could be. a problem. Also you have to swap wheels if you have have lots of bikes. If you want these, you need to build a wheel set, so for instance, the ENVE 3.4 Disk for just the rears are $1K.
  2. PowerTap P1 pedals. The easiest to move, just move the pedals, but you had better like Look style pedals. it is however DC Rainmakers favorite. At $1.1K, they are expensive, but reliable and of course dual feet. These are about a 250 gram penalty over basic pedals, but work super well. Main thing is easy to assemble and works seamlessly with a Garmin 800.
  3. Chainring systems. PowerTap C1, Power2Max and Quarq units all in the same boat according to him, the main issue is compatibility with the rings you have and of course, it is way harder to move them to different bikes.
  4. Stages. Obviously cheaper at $600 since it is left only (but you can also get the Powertap P1S for the same price). But you also get to use your own pedals for those of us who like something else (like Shimano) or Speedplay (for float).
  5. 4IIII Precision. The new kid on the block and just $400 for a single side, so a value leader, but new.

Battery packs for laptops and things

Well you do run out of power all the time, then here are some good choices:

  1. MacBook Magsafe and special tip. This is the only system that I found where you have a plug in and it works directly to charge a MacBook Pro MagSafe (pre 2016). Also this system uses a five pin adapter, so it also works at lower power for USB C (but the one below is better).
  2. USB C 30 watt power delivery. This is perfect to rapidly charge or keep charged a MacBook Pro 2016. Most USB C chargers are limited to 10-15 watts, but this one does 15 volts at 2 amps. Way faster
  3. 12V and 19V for Windows laptops. It is expensive at $200, but comes with a whole host of tips and is great for the oddball Dell and other machines with their custom tips.

Best SD Cards

Time once again to look at SD cards as on a shoot you don’t want to run out or have ones that are too slow. The main news here is the increase in performance to U.3 UHS II which is 250MBps way above the previous 80-100MBps on U:1 UHS I.

In looking at the reviews, the main thing is pay for a lifetime warranty and don’t buy a counterfeit card:

  • Wirecutter recommends the Sandisk Extreme Pro XDSC is a reasonable choice. Make sure you do not a counterfeit card, so try to buy directly from Amazon and run Crystalmark when you get it to make sure you have the speeds you want. It’s a very reasonable $32 for 100MBps 64GB cards.
  • EPhotozine recommends the Lexar Professional 2000x SDXC as the best UHS II card with sustained 250MBps read and write. This is enough to keep up with the very fast UHS II cameras that are out now. It does cost you though with $95 for a 64GB card.
  • Finally if you need a micro SD card for your drone then Lifewire recommends the Sandisk Extreme PLUS microSDXC U:3 UHS-1 card which is 90MBps in that tiny form factor

Wow cool Thunderbolt 3 accessories

Well now that I’m settling down on USB C connectors, time once again to look at various peripherals:

  • Mantiz Venus. Ok this is expensive at $400, but it a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure with room for an nVidia 1080Ti graphics card for instance. It also include full 87 watt power delivery on the USB C cable. And it acts like a docking station as well with 4 USB 3.0 USB A ports as well as Ethernet. So you just need one cable to connect your MacBook Pro to your powerful graphics card and monitor.
  • JXU01. This is a 1 meter cable that supports the full 100 watts power delivery as well as 20Mbps Thunderbolt 3 speeds. Very solidly built.
  • Apple 2m cable. This looks one of the few that supports the full 100 watts.
  • Cable Matters USB C to Displayport. This $24 cable really does work and gives you full 4K at 60 hertz

As an aside, if you are curious how much power is supported, then go to the Apple menu and choose About Mac and click on System Report. There is an item called Power that tells you the AC Charger Information and how much it can provide and you will the full 87 watts.

Then there are some conditional recommendations. Good quality, but performance is one notch below:

  • Satechi HDMI/Ethernet/Three USB C ports. This is a well made system that is lightweight and looks good. but the HDMI is only 30 hertz.

Stupid Dropbox tricks

OK, so this is a dumb one, I was looking for a shared folder that someone had sent me, a couple of notes:

  1. When you get a share, you want to make sure you choose Share and do *not* create a link and share that. The former semantics are that this is a synchronized copy. But the later is that it is a one time snapshot.
  2. When you get it, the shared folder does *not* appear in the Dropbox files that are synchronized down. Like Google Drive, you have to manually choose “Add” from the web interface. When you do that, the folder becomes part of your disk quota. So only Add things that you really want to change.
  3. When you add it, if you accidentally move the file down, it will seem to disappear, but in Dropbox land, moving a folder somewhere in your hierarchy doesn’t change anything. I “lost” some folders that I accidentally copied down and they seemed gone, but you can move them anyway, they don’t need to live in the root.
  4. Finally, there are some strange semantics where you can share a folder to yourself. If you then choose Add, you get this bizarre case where you have two folders names the same (actually one has a “(1)”) suffix.

Setting up a Unifi Router and AP

OK, just went through this again and I blogged it, but here are some of the quick notes:

  1. When you get the Edge Router, the first thing you should do is to upgrade the firmware. The EdgeRouter POE installation didn’t have any Wizards, so you need to go to the System menu at the bottom then you click on the link to Download. The EdgeRouter has lots of similar names, but the EdgeRouter X is not the same as the Edgerouter POE. And if you select incorrectly, the firmware will refuse to load.
  2. When you reboot the Edgerouter, you won’t see the web interface come up for maybe a minute, so be patient. Remember you manually set your computer to¬†and then browse to¬†and make sure you are on Eth0. And also make sure after you configure to move to Eth2-4 as Eth0 is the WAN port and it won’t seem to work.
  3. The EdgeRouter POE needs to be set to supply POE to the different ports. Make sure you read what your AP accepts so you don’t burn it out. For instance the Unifi AP AC Lite needs 24V, but the Unify AP AC Pro needs 48V.
  4. When you setup the EdgeRouter make sure to use Chrome. The above setting causes an error on Safari.
  5. Once you have this up and going, go to the Wizard, we had the most success with the 2WAN case, so if you ever want to setup a failover, you can do it by putting it on eth1
  6. When you connect it all back together, at least on Comcast, it takes a while for the cable modem to give it DHCP so be patient.

For the Unifi AP, you need to:

  1. Install the Unifi access software your machine.
  2. Then you start a browser
  3. You will see the network configuration at the lower left in the gear icon and that is where you setup the network.
  4. Then you browse to the dashboard and find the AP.
  5. There are lots of settings like Bandsteering that you can play with but the defaults work pretty well.

Finally if you are hooking this up together, you can do something pretty cool:

  1. The EdgeRouter X is a passthrough POE device, so you can setup the AC Adapter of your Unifi AC Lite and connect the POE end to the Edge Router along with the WAN connection. This will power the Edgerouter
  2. Then you can set eth4 to be a POE passthrough and stick your Unifi AP AC Lite on it and it will get power through it saving you an entire wall wart. Pretty cool huh?

This is meant for remote installations where you want some LAN connections and you want wifi, perfect for the remote location in your home or office.

Pretty slides with Sketchapp for PowerPoint and Google Slides via Drawing

Well the world has moved way beyond the clipart of Microsoft PowerPoint, so now what’s a person to do if they want really great artwork and beautiful slides.


First get pretty icons to with Gsuite, you need to export them to WMF and stick them in Google Drawing

  • The Noun Project. This is *the* place to get beautiful icons. They come in SVG format which is the format of the future. Its pretty clear you want a set of assets in SVG format¬†into Google Drive.
  • Install Sketch and make sure you have Sketch Cloud, party away making incredibly cool diagrams. Then when you are ready export it
  • Now from the web interface, you want to open this with Cloudconvert and choose it when you right click and choose Open With on the SVG and select the WMF export format and hit convert and have it save it back to Google Drive. Note that there is a bug where there will be a big black box on top, just ungroup and delete it.
  • After a little bit, you will. have a WMF that you can Open With Google Drawing. Note that you cannot import this, you have to open with Google Drawing and then copy and paste it.
  • Once open in Google Drawing, it gets saved in GDraw format and you can now copy and paste to Google Docs, etc.
  • When you are done doing the edits in Google Drawing, which you need to do because you will get the right dimensions, then you export it back with a Save As SVG.
  • Then on your Mac, you can copy it to the GDrive and open it in Sketch. Sketch will then create it’s own file format and you’ve rounded tripped!

To make it work with Mac PowerPoint:

  1. you use the same Inkscape to do a command line conversion to EPS or PDF and this will import directly so it saves a step you don’t need to have it in separate drawing application.
  2. This does not work with EMF or WMF as you get a big black box on top¬†way, so Microsoft is way better (but lacking on collaboration in real time on the web). Also unlike Google Drawings, this comes as a single object, you can’t edit the pieces.

The ugly details

Where these beautiful drawings should go is the biggest factor because the two biggies only import certain formats. The main thing is to make sure it doesn’t just convert it to a bitmap (e.g. JPG, or BMP) because that means you lose all the resolution and get rasterization errors plus the size is huge. The net is that EMF seems like the lingua franca across all these tools, so the strategy is to keep the documents in read/writeable SVG and then export into read-only EMF

  • Google Slides. They unfortunately don’t import SVG¬†nor does it¬†support EMF, SVG, EPS or PDF imports but it does support WMF via Google Drawings, instead, you have to have a running web app to copy from so bizarrely you have to have Windows Office to make this copy work or you have to use Google Drawings and copy and paste from there.
  • Mac Office. Annoyingly, only the Windows versions of PowerPoint support SVG natively. It does however grok EMF and EPS (although it does a bitmap conversion).
  • Windows Office¬† has SVG directly so it is a single step from Sketchapp (although this is Mac only)
  • Google Drive. It knows how to deal with SVG directly but only as a readonly object. That is it only has a viewer.

Give that, what are the choices for drawing applications and storage. You ideally want a format like SVG which is read and written and then you might have intermediate form. Looking at this list, the best choices seem to be Inkscape or

  • Sketchapp also supports EPS and PDF and SVG export from it’s native Sketch format, EPS is not a bad one. We don’t use the more general PDF. because Google Slides doesn’t support that kind of import. It does cost $99 though but is way prettier.¬†So to get to Mac Office is a one step create EPS.
  • for instance which does this. But Install Cloudconvert as a Google application for Google Apps. Note that when doing WMF conversion, any colored object just comes out black on top, so you need to ungroup it and then underneath you will find the document. Also note that text boxes are turned into individual letters. The black box is a problem¬†with Cloudconvert and also Inkscape.
  • Mac application like Gapplin to do this.
  • You can also do this from the command¬†like with Inkscape
  • Inkscape. This is the open source version of It does require XQuartz to run. You can install with Macports or Home brew. It has¬†EMF export using Inkscape Save As or use EPS as the secondary format as this is something that Mac. However, it doesn’t seem to import SVG properly, I get an error from the Homebrew installed version. Plus it is an ultra ugly XQuartz applications.¬†PowerPoint does understand. It’s native format is SVG so a pretty good choice.
  • Google Drawing. This is an editor like but is web based unfortunately it only support SVG and PDF as an output, so not super useful unless you add another translator¬† to convert it into EMF for consumption by PowerPoint and Google Slides but this is an extra step. It is web-based though, so that’s attractive. It also does not import SVG so you can’t use it with other libraries
  • Google Autodraw. This takes any doodle and turns it with AI into a beautiful chart but it’s just a demo and only outputs PNG.

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.