HPI Nitro Monster King

Get in the waaaaaay back machine and come with me, 20 years ago, Rose Cottage Inn on the Monaro highway, the second Sunday of every month.

Tamiya Frog

Here you would find me and dad setting up a rickety old cards table and crappy fold up chairs, pulling a car battery out of the boot of the car connecting some wires to it then to another smaller battery. I would then be carefully removing a small 1:10 scale buggy from the boot, in the early days a Tamiya Frog then later a Tamiya Hornet and a Tamiya Hotshot. Checking the battery level of the stick (then later, wheel) radio control unit, chatting with friends, selling my home made battery eliminators, eating terrible half cooked hotdogs from the Inn and finally putting my charged car on the starting line, ready to race.

Hornet

I was pretty good too, in the early days due to the quick reflexes, some driving tips from dad  and enthusiasm of youth and in the later days to sponsorship I managed to secure from a hobby shop (Zanter Hobbies, Google has failed me in finding any trecent trace of them except for this) my car and I were competitive and I still have a box of trophies in the shed to prove it. Unfortunately, despite the sponsorship, skill and enthusiasm the hobby got away from me as more and more adults and their full time jobs and full time salaries joined in, spending more and more money on much more expensive cars than I could afford put me out of competition, the hobby had ceased to be fun and turned in to a business.

Hotshot

Since then I haven’t really kept up with RC technology but have occasionally gone to watch the weekend races hosted by CORMCC Club in Canberrra and casually look at hobby shops to see what sort of cars people were racing/driving these days and it wasn’t hard to tell that the trend which began when I stopped racing has continued and grown since then.

From my little research on local forums and the CORMCC site the racing scene is just as big as it was back in my day, we would regularly get 20-30 racers out on an average day and by the looks of the results page on the CORMCC site they get about the same. The main difference being that back when I was racing there was only really one class of car available, 2WD or 4WD electric 1:10 scale. These days the classes seem split between 1:8 electric, 1:8 Nitro, Buggies and Truggies, and then there is a whole different set of racers for on-road electric, nitro or drift. As far as I can tell Nitro Buggies are the most popular format and a little more research reveals that the average budget for a race competitive buggy would be close to $2000! ….and I thought it was expensive back when I was making my own electronics and buying drive shafts from guys cutting them on a lathe in their garage….crikey!

Just before Fathers Day a friend sent me a link to some cheap RC helicopter a friend of his has bought from RC Hobbies, and while I wasn’t terribly interested in the helicopter I ended up browsing around the site and found this RTR (Ready to Roll) HPI Nitro Monster King, the perfect fathers days present.

I figured for $200 I’d get a fully assembled nitro monster truck ready to drive out of the box, this includes the engine, radio unit and almost everything else you need to get driving, little did I know it needed an additional $150 worth of batteries, fuel, glow plug ignitor, charger and other accessories but it was still a good way to get back in to the hobby, so I figured.

Here’s the beast in the flesh, after going through the quite extensive run-in procedure I am yet to complete the engine tuning process but these are well documented so hopefully I’ll have it fully tuned and ready to belt around the back paddock in no time.

HPI Nitro Monster King

The next stage in the master plan is to get on the ride-on and mow out a track in grass, then carve out a track in the dirt complete with jumps and other monster truck appropriate obstacles (not alpacas).

In the back of my mind buying this truck was mostly to see if driving was still fun (it is!) and if Alex would like it (he does!) with the ultimate aim being that I would eventually be able to buy a competitive buggy (electric or nitro, I’m undecided) and go racing again, giving us something to do together much like my dad and me did all those years ago.

Now that I’m one of those adults with a full time job and a full time income I can go back and have my revenge on the hobby which cast me aside all those years ago, finally, MU HA HA HA *cough* *cough*.

Sync or Swim

This post is about how I have manage to avoid paying full price for most of the iPhone apps I have installed.

Sure, there are some which I have paid full price for and they have been worth every cent (Camera+ -currently unavailable- springs immediately to mind, as does eWallet and SprintGPS) but some apps are good value at $1.19, and even better value at $0 (most aren’t even worth $0 but that’s the topic of another post entirely).

The thing is that quite often iPhone app developers will drop their price for a special promotion, or set the price to FREE for a random 24 hours period to create some buzz, sometimes because they have another app coming out soon and want to raise awareness and sometimes just because they’re batshit insane and like living on two minute noodles and expired beer.

Anyway, it’s not rocket surgery but what I do avoid paying developers for their hard work isn’t completely obvious either, so here’s the deal:

The easy way

As the name would suggest FADD offer one paid app for free every day, most of the apps are only free for one day but some persist for several days and the FAAD app keeps track of them for you.

See, I told you it wasn’t rock science. I used to use an app called AppSniper but it became increasingly unstable and unreliable so I removed it and now prefer to use the method below.

The slightly less easy way

  • Sign up for a Google Reader account
  • Use google reader to subscribe to the appshopper.com rss feed at http://appshopper.com/feed/?mode=featured
  • Check the feed on your iphone using the google app or via your browser on the dekstop, as per the image to the right it clearly shows apps which have dropped in price and even notifies you of new ones as they are released.

The other great feature of Appshopper is that when you view the app page in their site it shows you a price history of the app so you can see when the sneaky developer increased the price from FREE to $5.99 then to FREE again within the space of two days. These are the ones you usually know to avoid because they’re permanently free for a reason (not all free apps are shit, but it’s a generalisation I stand by).

You’ll be drowning in free apps before you have time to say “Chris, you’re a certified genius!”

One Caveat: I have noticed a disturbing trend of once paid apps going free but integrating either micro-transactions or iAds in to their normal flow.Tower Madness is one example. This once $2.99 tower defence app has gone free but now seems to offer upgrades to weapons or new maps, for a price. While I understand the developers need to feed their families I much prefer they do so by offering a product which people will actually want to pay for without using dirty tricks.

So there you have it, enjoy your free apps and remember if you like an app you happen to get for free make sure you support the developer in the future, the good ones deserve your money and encouragement  and who knows, maybe one day the signal to noise ratio in the app store will favour the apps worth paying for rather than 698 fart apps.

yes, 698 fart apps

Time for a new OMGWTFBBQ

Our old 3 burner beast is about to give up the ghost after 15 years of faithful service. It’s had some issues in the past which I’ve overlooked, the flame tamers don’t, there’s rust/other gross stuff where there shouldn’t be, it look generally old and tired and the auto lighter thingo hasn’t worked on two of the burners for years.

The other night the middle burner wouldn’t light so I tried doing it with a match..nothing…I could hear gas coming from somewhere so I just left the match there a couple of second and WOOOF, the section near the dial lit up like Christmas and started happily flaming away, nowhere near where the flame actually needed to be to cook anything unfortunately. Then last night Kristie went to do the same thing on another previously working burner and the same thing happened…this time enough gas has built up to give her arms a little scorch so we decided it’s time to put the old thing out to pasture and look around for a new one.

I’m kind of partial to the new Webber kinda-compact ones like this

Webber Q 300

…but Kristie wants one with a cabinet underneath to hide all the usual BBQ junk in….so something like the …

BEEFMASTER 4

 

This is good because it has an awesome name.

So, anyone gone through this same exercise recently and have any advice to offer?

EDIT: I think I found a winner, I like the idea of the enamel hotplates (rather than cast iron):

Cordon Bleu 4

…despite the utterly gay name.

Cool stuff

Here’s a few cool things I’ve found recently:

Aeon skin for XBMC

This is almost certainly the best looking skin i’ve ever seen for any media centre app, the added bonus for people who don’t give a crap about actually installing XBMC/Aeon is the large collection of movie, music, game and tv show related backdrops all in glorious 1920×1080. For example:

Wallpaper in 1920x1080 example from http://www.aeonproject.com/backdrops.php?cat=bg_movies

Wallpaper in 1920x1080 example from http://www.aeonproject.com/backdrops.php?cat=bg_movies

browershots.org

Skip over this one if you don’t care about creating cross-browser web applications, if are and like me have never heard of this web based tool, time to hit the link above. It’s a web based tool which makes screenshots of any web design loaded in pretty much every browser which has ever existed, it’s not very useful for actually debugging rendering issues since it just gives you a static screenshot but as quick reference to see how your site appears in over 70 different browser versions, it’s fantastic!

and finally …

Kidlandia

Create and customise your own fantasy based map for kids (and you know you’re going to put your name on there too!), they offer a printing service (on rolled or hard canvas) but it’s pretty expensive and the preview mode gives you an image good enough for use as a nice wallpaper. Here’s the one I created:

Alexland from http://www.kidlandia.com/Share.aspx?MAPID=12775

Alexland from http://www.kidlandia.com/Share.aspx?MAPID=12775

Brickquest, it’s HeroQuest with LEGO!

Thanks (again) to Geekdad for posting another great geeky thing which looks like a lot of fun. Brickquest is essentially a HeroQuest-like game where a group of players traverse a 3D tabletop dungeon in search of monsters to kill and rob. I wasn’t fully sold on the idea until I saw some of the photos of the boards which the designer has created from his awesome collection of LEGO, for example:

 

 

I doubt the average LEGO collection would go nowhere near having enough pieces to come close to something as cool as that, I even think my efforts using the LEGO I kept from when I was a kid may just be able to emulate a floorplan like that but it would look like some kind of clown explosion of mixed blocks and colours. Still, it looks like a great idea and best of all, it’s free! (download the PDF game manual here)

More info here: http://gunth.com/brickquest/

Oops, double post

My mistake, oh well, here are the pictures I was trying to upload yesterday.

deer_1 deer_4

In other news:

She doesn’t really look like someone who would keep birds, but whatever. For the record “tits” is not an abstract noun, it’s a concrete noun. Examples of abstract nouns are: Bravery, Relaxation, Dedication and Trust, not Tits.

Do No Evil

If this is the most Evil thing which people can manage to find on Google Street View then I’d say the people responsible for vetting the images have been doing a damn good job up until now.

As you follow the street view scene down Five Points Road in Rush, NY, you can see the deer run out in front of the car, get hit and then see it on the side of the road before the car pulls over. And that’s the end of the Street View data for Five Points Road.

This article (also see it for images, wordpress wont let me upload images at the moment for some reason) mentions the Google motto is “Do No Evil” and I’m sure animal rights hippies are all crying in their organic shaved wheatgrass tea but millions of animals are killed every day on the roads. So, I don’t understand the outrage over these images, it’s not like the driver actually swerved to hit the stupid deer. Google removing the images was more likely a mechanism of their privacy policy than any sort of hippie love bullshit.

Of course, no mention of the good which has come from Street View. The fact that the images for that road stopped immediately after the deer was hit means the driver actually stopped to render assistance, not the act of an evil empire, I think.