The NEW Cycliq Fly6 – In Depth Review

Review of the Cycliq Fly6 rear facing action bike camera combined with a light. I Show how to set up, how to use, with sample videos from the Fly6, along with video from a vehicle dash cam following behind.
Fly6[v] Action Camera, Tail light combination

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Recovering From Knee Surgery

Accidents happen as they say, and I am no different.  Long story short, I recently had a fairly major knee surgery resulting in an extensive knee rehabilitation process that is still a work in progress.

If you ever find yourself in the same situation, there are couple of things that you will certainly need because you are going to be on no weight bearing activity or “NWB” for quite some time(1-3 months), depending on your situation. I would consider these items mandatory.

  1. Carex Bathroom Safety Rail 
    • This was actually a life saver to help out in the shower, also helps out around counters.
  2. Folding Walker with 5-inch Wheels
    • Having a walker around the house or outside can be very helpful, especially if you can rig up a basket for carrying things around.  if you have only crutches, both hands/arms will be required, not allowing you to carry anything around the house like food/drink, cat, etc.  A basket hooked up on a walker solves this.
  3. Crutches
    • Sounds obvious, and you’ll probably get a pair at the hospital following any surgery, but the cost of the crutches from the hospital will be 4 times what you pay on Amazon.  So pick up a set ahead of time.
    • Tip: Take the water bottle cage off the bike that you are no longer using and ziptie it to one of the crutches so you can carry around bottled water, drinks, etc.

Next: The next couple of weeks are going to be tough, real tough.  Keep your chin up and stay positive.  My first couple of weeks (weeks 0-2) after surgery, i was in a locked knee brace, so zero flexion movement.  Tough to get around in with no flexion.  Follow the Dr’s orders here exactly as prescribed.  Namely the following

  1. Keep your leg elevated above your heart to reduce swelling.
  2. Keep the knee wrapped with an ace bandage to reduce swelling.
  3. Consider also wrapping an ace bandage also from below the knee down, including the foot.  You don’t want to have a swollen foot, so address this before it becomes a problem.
  4. Lots of ice compression

After the 0-2 week period you’ll probably have your first follow up with the Dr.  Its at this point, that it becomes all about getting your ROM and Flexion back to the knee.  This is a huge challenge as your knee has been immobilized in a straight knee brace for 2 week with trauma involved. Your doctor will give you exercises.  I am not going to give them here because i am no doctor, but i would say do the exercises as often as you can every day.  Your doctor may  say 3 x per day.  But this is for the masses;  and you want to get your full leg capability back right?  So make it your mission.  Do some of these exercise every hour, or every 90 min.  The key is to move as often as possible.  I can assure you, that even in between 60-90 mins of rest, you will stiffen back up.

A couple of things that helped the most in getting my ROM back.

  • If you have a bicycle, having an indoor bike trainer set up as a stationary bike is a huge help.  Until you get the go-ahead from the doc to have weight bearing activities, you can spin on a bike with the resistance set to zero. There are lots of options out there to choose from.
  • Somewhere around 3-5 weeks after surgery.
  • Rocking Chair –  I know it sounds silly, but I spent 60 mins at a time, sometimes 3 times a day just sitting on the front edge of the rocking chair, having a slight bend in my knee, and then spending 60 minutes just trying to ever so slowly get my knee back to a 90 degree angle.

Again, your doctor or physical therapist will give you exercises to do at certain phases of the healing process. Ex: 2-4 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 6-9 weeks, just depends on your situation.  Frequency is the key to get your mobility back.  So if you have access to a pool, start walking in the pool once you get to the 25%-50% weight bearing, then easy spin on the bike trainer for 20 mins in the evening.  In between all that try and do the prescribed rehab exercises 3-5 times a day so the you are moving every 60-90 mins.  Nothing strenuous at all, but just moving the knee joint.

I really hope someone finds this useful someday.  Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

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BlackVue DR650S-2CH In-Depth Review

Life changed dramatically for me recently as a result of a car accident with a distracted driver. In an instant I was broadsided by a car running a red light at 45 miles an hour. Unfortunately, there were no real witnesses, and no ticket was issued. His word against mine. Months of hospital bills, insurance, and legal bills later, I vowed to never let that happen again.

Enter the Dashcam.  I needed something that I could use just in case another situation were to occur.  It needed to be simple(turns on and records automatically), small form factor, and high enough quality to capture details in most situations.

I purchased the BlackVue DR650S-2CH.  What follows is everything you need to know.

Unboxing:

Once you have removed the contents from the box you only a few items.

  • Quick Start Guide/Warranty Card
  • Front Camera
  • Power Cord(14′ 7″)
  • Rear Camera
  • Rear camera connection cable(19′ 8″) – Plenty for a full size SUV.
  • MicroSD card reader
  • Cable Clip(8) – only needed 2
  • MicroSD Card
  • Pry tool
  • Double-sided tape for Mounting brackets

Installation:

Obviously, the placement of the camera is of utmost importance.  Every vehicle is different in terms of the front/rear window placement.  I wanted to make sure that my camera did not obstruct my view in any way, yet still had good field of view.

  • Tip: Before you install your camera on the front windshield, set up the Blackvue app on your phone so you can get a live video feed of the camera view, trying different positions before adhering to the windshield.

Interior Pano view:

Exterior view:

Driver side view:

Passenger side view:

As you can see, the unit fits quite nicely behind the rear-view mirror.

Next, you’ll want to run the DC input cable.  I am no pro with running cable in an automotive situation, so this something that literally anyone can do.  With the use of the Pry tool, you can easily route the cable around the windshield, to the passenger side, under the glove box, and to the DC power source.  The same process is followed for routing the cable for the rear facing camera(although routed on the driver side).

General Usage:

  • Essentially, you just start the engine, and/or plug in the dashcam to the outlet in the car.  Recording starts automatically, so this really is a hands-free solution. The BV is ALWAYS recording in either Normal, Event, or Parking mode.
  • One Issue – In the product manual it says that the “BlackVue Dashcam will turn off when the engine is turned off.  To record while the engine is turned off, a hardwire kit (Power Magic Pro) is required.”  In my experience, when the engine is turned off, the BV will NOT turn off, rather it will switch to parking mode recording after 5 minutes(just a different recording tag). There may be a difference in the way different vehicles are wired.  But my vehicles have the “Acc Pwr” outlets wired to the RAP(Remained Accessory Power).  In either case, my BV will draw current from the car battery 24/7 unless I have a Power Magic Pro. It’s worth noting.

App Usage:

  • BlackVue Cloud – I should point out that BV Cloud functionality requires you to have a hotspot in your vehicle, like a Verizon Jetpack, Netgear, or similar.  Would be nice not to have this requirement in the future, though I don’t see myself needing use of this function unless i just needed to know where my car was at a given time. In addition to Live Video feed and GPS tracking is the ability to set up 2-way voice communications, video backups stored in the cloud for retrieval and/or playback
  • BlackVue Wi-Fi – If within 10 meters, you can connect via Smartphone directly.  Also has Live Video, historical video clips saved on your BlackVue MicroSD card, along with the ability to change numerous settings(voice, LED, video quality, motion sensitivity to name a few).
  • Internal Memory – Once you have found a video clip via Wi-Fi you can copy that file easily over to your smartphone if you need to save/share, etc. You can also remove the microSD card and view on PC/MAC using the BlackVue Viewer program(already formatted on the microSD card), or by video viewer of choice(.mp4 format)

Video Review with Sample Video:

Summary:

  • Pros
    1. Hardware quality is rock solid.
    2. Video quality is rock solid. FOV is plenty wide to capture events from either side.
      • Front: Full HD (1920×1080) @ 30 fps
      • Rear: HD (1280×720) @ 30 fps
    3. Ease of use.  Start the car and/or just plug in and dashcam just works.
    4. Installation is easy.  No tools required and no need to tear up the interior of your vehicle.
  • Cons
    1. BlackVue Cloud – This has great potential, though is reliant on having hot-spot in the vehicle or very close by(home, work, mobile hotspot). This is very minor in that 99% of the time you won’t need to access anything on the camera, that you can’t also do in Wi-Fi mode.
    2. Battery Drain with Parking Mode.  In reality, if the dashcam is plugged in, it is drawing current for the battery, and recording all the time.  It’s just that the tag on the video is different (Normal, Event, Parking).  This is resolved if you purchase the Power Magic Pro(UPS). Probably not a big deal if you drive every day, though could lead to battery issues if marked for long periods of time(3-5 days).

Found this review useful?

If you’ve found this review helpful, let me know in the comments. I am happy to answer any questions you have about my set up.  Also you can puchase this same product here:

Thanks for reading!

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DJI Phantom 2 Series Replacement Battery from Powerextra

It’s been 2.5 years since I purchased the DJI Phantom 2. I suspect there are quite a few other pilots out there that have a functioning PH2, but have dead batteries.  Unfortunately, DJI no longer sells the accessories for PH2 series drones.  At some point I had a significant crash that damaged the battery and needed replacing.  I purchased some knockoff battery(can’t remember from where), that lasted about 3 flights and then would not hold a charge above 20%.  Since then I came across Powerextra, which is selling batteries for just about anything you can think of.  I checked and sure enough they also carry the Intelligent replacement battery for the DJI PH2 series quads.

Powerextra 11.1V 5200mAh 10C LiPo Intelligent Flight Battery Replacement for DJI Phantom 2, Phantom 2 Vision and Phantom 2 Vision+ – Upgraded

Unboxing:

Size/Weight/Specs:

  • 14.4 ounces
  • 5.1 x 1.8 x 3.2 inches
  • Battery type: Lithium-Polymer battery
  • Output power: 11.1V 5200mAh 57.72Wh
  • Discharge current: 10C (52A)
  • Operating temperature: 0-40 Celsius degree
  • Replacement for : DJI Phantom 2 and Phantom 2 Vision, Phantom 2 Vision+

Misc Features:

  • Advertised Flight Time 20-25 minutes.
  • Real world for me with a GoPro Hero 4 Black and ZenMuse H3-3D Gimbal ~17-20 minutes.  Most flights were in December (30F – 50F), under normal flying conditions.

Wrap-Up:

So far I have charged/discharged this battery about 10 times and have had no issues.  I typically like to have 2 of these batteries for my needs…max flight time of about 40 minutes on any given day.  At $62.99 on Amazon, it is still more than I would like to spend on a battery, but I can now hold off upgrading the quad for a while longer.

Happy Flying!

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Mt. Hamilton, CA

Recently I found myself in San Jose, CA with a couple hours to spare before hopping on a flight back home to NC.  I figured i would have about 4 hours to spare so i called ahead and rented a bike from UDC Bike Rental.  I was able to pick up a sweet Specialized Roubaix, with everything I needed for a good solid ride.

So i met a couple friends from work at 7a.m. sharp, and set out on Mt. Hamilton.  I rigged a GoPro camera  to the bike and set it to Time-lapse mode to take a pic every 1 sec or so.  Throw in a little Foo Fighthers, and we’re off.  Good Times!

 

In my limited travel experience to any of the mountains near San Jose, I failed to pack any warm cycling gear for this ride.  It was about 50 when i started, and about 35F and  really windy when i got to the top of Mt. Hamilton.  At first, it wasn’t too bad, but on the descent, you’re not actually doing any “work” on the bike, so you start to cool off really fast.  In the end, it wasn’t anything that a hot cup of coffee couldn’t fix.

Thanks for Reading!

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My First Scuba Dive

Here is a video from my first Scuba Dive.  We took a trip down to Florida Springs with Gypsy Divers from Raleigh to get certified as Open Water Divers . I must say, i am liking the capabilities of the GoPro Hero4 Black more and more every day.

In short, I absolutely loved the experience of scuba diving.

The experience is different:

  • Breathing under water is something that you just have to experience.  It does take some getting used to, but seemed pretty natural after a couple of minutes.  Floating effortlessly is an awesome experience. Its like being an astronaut just floating around out there.

The people are different:

  • I really enjoyed meeting everyone on our dive trip.  Everyone just seem to be good people, looking to just relax and have a good dive trip.  There was no competition or ego’s or any of that nonsense, just good fun underwater.

The sounds are different:

  • No cell phones, emails, text messages, car traffic.  All you hear is bubbles floating to the surface and the sound of your own breathing as you inhale and exhale slowly and rhythmically.  This is a great place to escape.

The sights are different:

  • I think your sight becomes more keen as you become less distracted and more aware of your surroundings.  You start to notice all the small critters that live under water, along with all of their colors, movements, etc. Tarpon, Gar, Bass, Manatee, Turtles, just to name a few.  Under water, the grass and plant life takes on this living rhythmic movement from the current passing through.

Things that I learned that are the most important for scuba enjoyment:

  • Hover – Don’t ever stand on the bottom, much less touch anything.  I saw several people touch the bottom or flip their fins excessively near the bottom.  In short, this just destroys the view for everyone else because of the dust/particle cloud created from all of the sediment.
  • Visibility – is probably the most important factor on any dive for me.  Since I like to take photos & videos, I am there to actually see as much as possible. If you can’t see more than 5 feet around, how good could that particular dive be?  If you’re trying to be a good dive buddy and keep your dive buddy in sight at all times, this gets pretty difficult in low visibility.  Let’s be honest, you’re just a hundred times more comfortable when you can see 50ft around you vs. 5ft.
  • Buoyancy Control – is perhaps the most important skill you can learn.  This goes back to not touching the bottom and stirring up debris.  If you can become proficient in this one skill I’m certain you’ll never have a shortage of dive buddies.  Learning to just hover horizontally in the water and effortlessly flutter/frog kick was the main thing that i noticed all of the more experienced divers could do well.
  • Repetitive Diving – I definitely understand the importance of keeping track of surface interval time, bottom time, etc.  However, I feel this is more for the hard core diver that is looking to get in as many dives as possible in 1 day or 5 days worth of diving.  For me, I would tend more towards doing 2 dives in a day, and then spending the rest of the day above water exploring whatever interesting location I am in.  This is not to say scuba diving isn’t amazing, but it would be shame to be able to go to Hawaii only once in my lifetime and not also explore the rainforests, beaches, cliffs, wildlife, sunsets, etc.

Thanks for Reading!

 

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DJI Days of Summer

As I write this I am somewhere over the U.S.  Yay for in-flight wireless!  Over the past few months.  I have had quite a bit of practice becoming “proficient” flying the DJI Phantom 2 to see what things look like from above.  Being able to add a GoPro Hero4 Black to a PH2, along w/ Fatshark FPV flying is simply amazing to me.  It’s one of those things I have dreamed about since i was a kid.  My favorite things to video by far are remote areas and the untouched landscapes.  I have been all over the NC inner-coastal areas…not the beaches that most people know about.  The inner coastal areas are very sparsely populated…the kind of place where people still wave when they pass by in the car.   

Here are some of the scenes that I captured, with a little Green Day thrown in as well. 

My experience with flying around people has been one of curiosity.  People who see you fly are very interested, and want to know all about it.  So, the cool thing is that I have met people that I would have otherwise never met.  I had a nice chat with one of the DOT crew members from the NC Ferry boat in the video.  Along with another photographer for Yacht Shots, in Oriental, NC.  He told me about another couple from area that is sailing all over the world, while taking the DJI quadcopter along for the journey.  You should check out the videos. Some of them are simply stunning like this one from Iceland.  

Thanks for watching!

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Learning To Fly

A couple of months ago I picked up one of those DJI Phantom 2 Quadcopters that you have heard about in the news recently.  The “media” likes to refer to them as drones, so they have a much more exciting & negative association.  The media would have you believe that these things will be buzzing outside your window, snooping in on every conversation you are having, and threatening world humanity as we know it.  In reality, it couldn’t be farther from the truth.  These machines are just plain FUN toys.  If you attach a decent GoPro camera, have a small bit of patience(acceptance of failing at first), you can capture some of the coolest video footage that would otherwise cost you the price of whatever it takes to rent a helicopter.

Here is a quick snippet of some footage I captured recently just testing some things out.

A couple of things that I have learned so far:

  1. Practice Practice Practice!  Don’t think that you will be flying around  buildings and other objects right off the bat.  Find an open field and practice there for at least a month.  Otherwise, you will either crash your quadcopter, or you will hurt somebody else. 
  2. Don’t try so hard to fly low around cool trees, etc.  You’ll just crash.  Fly high, above the trees, there’s plenty of room above the trees.
  3. Understand that most of your crashes are self-induced.  No need to bash the manufacturer. Just admit that you suck at flying at first and practice getting better.
  4. Landing:  Don’t worry about landing. Just let the drone( I mean quad) hover at about eye level, and just grab it by the landing skids, and throttle down.  Landing is just an opportunity to crash or drive the props into the ground.
  5. Take-off:  Take off from a grassy surface or field, if at all possible.  If you lose the signal and you fail back to the fly-home feature, I would rather the quad fly back and land in a field, rather than a parking lot.  Just another opportunity to crash.
  6. Don’t fly over people. I know, you can probably capture cool video at an event, but just imagine if things go wrong. 
  7. Fly early in the morning.  The light is better for video at this time of day.  There are less people out and about (see #6).  In my area, wind is usually minimized as well.  This is a great time to practice.
  8. Update your firmware on your Quad.  DJI is often fixing things in software.  So if you are noticing problems with the way your Quad flies, it can likely be fixed with a firmware upgrade, or you just suck at flying(See #3)….and Practice.
  9. Re-calibrate from time to time.  When you take off, try to hover about 20 feet in the air.  If your Quad cannot hold this position, and starts drifting off while in GPS mode, you should try re-calibrating using the DJI software.  Else, when DJI says you may experience unpredictable flights, just know that this means you will crash into something.
  10. Have Fun! By all means.  Just get out there and have fun practicing.

Thanks for Reading!

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Night Lights

Lightning has always fascinated me.  Every time I see a big lightning strike, I am wondering if anyone else saw it.  The flash of light and the strike is so momentary.  Illuminating for split second and then forever forgotten….that is, unless said lightning hits the Pecan tree in your front yard and creates are gnarly scorched, burnt stripe all the way down to the ground.

Recently, Ann and I were across the river from Bath, NC when this spectacular light show of storms was rolling through.  The view was perfect.  We were on the south side of the Pamlico River, and there was a ribbon of storms skirting over the north side of the river.  We had a clear line of sight across the open water. 

Here is what we captured.

I only had my camera phone with me at the time, so some of the shots are a little grainy.  But, I’m not sure if my handycam would have been any better, as it has a tendency to keep auto-focusing, especially as it is getting dark.

Thanks for Reading!

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Raleigh Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Race Report

The below picture is the saddest picture of my bike you will ever see.  It’s almost embarrassing.  Look closely… there are no pedals.  The pedals have been resting in a ziploc baggie since late June….of 2013Sad smile. The last time I rode my bike was in Coeur D’Alene Idaho, but it was awesome!

IMG_20140701_152950_212

In the days and months since, I had this crazy idea to see how fast I could race a marathon.  Not just run it, but race it. So that is exactly what I did for the next 286 days.  I’ve always had this idea of someday qualifying & running in the Boston Marathon, preferably before age 40. So, I created a plan based off several of Hal Higdon’s Plans. This was a 6 day per week plan for 20 straight weeks.  In the past I honestly didn’t want to train as hard as it would take to qualify for Boston.  This year I decided would be different.  The Line was drawn. The time to beat was 3hrs 10min 00sec. I think I only missed 2 days of training.

Training_Plan

Things that changed over the next 286 days of running:

  • I didn’t really worry at all about Heart Rate Monitoring, Zones, etc.
  • The only thing that mattered was getting to where I could run a marathon in 3:10:00, averaging 7:10 pace.
  • I focused on running much slower on my long runs.
  • I focused on running much faster on my short runs/hill repeats, intervals.
  • I had more fun.  Long gone were the death march long runs.  I knew I could complete distance.  My motivation was on the speed workouts, hill repeats, etc.  I looked forward to it.

Race Day!

Start

I had a near catastrophe on race morning.  Driving downtown on race morning, I was only 4-5 blocks from race start line when I realized I had totally forgotten to grab my race nutrition and put in my gear bag.  For a split second, I contemplated the possibility of running without nutrition.  I put the car in reverse and drove backwards up the exit ramp shoulder in standing traffic back onto Western Blvd.  A quick couple of sketchy U-turns and I was heading back home to grab my EFS nutrition out of the fridge.  Long story short, I parked at a church and quickly jogged about 1 mile to the starting line, arriving with under 2 min prior to start time.

So, typically it works best if I break things down into chunks.  For a marathon it helps if I split it up into 4 x 6.55 mile segments.  Mentally it’s just easier; and easier from a pacing standpoint to correct things if your pace starts to slip.  So at each split, I just reset to target my goal pace.

First 6.55 Miles: 7:05 Pace, Check!

Split_1

Second 6.55 Miles: 7:14 Pace, Check!….Avg 7:09

Split_2

Third 6.55 Miles: 7:30 Pace, Oh Damn, trouble ahead!  Trouble with math at this point….Avg 7:15ish pace.  Need to push the last 6.55

Split_3

Fourth 6.55 Miles:7:37 Pace.  No!!!! You can see how relatively smooth my heart rate was during the first 3 splits.  I pushed a bit harder from mile 19-22 to try and get back on pace.  At about 22 miles in, the wheels start to fall off.  At this point I was in a real situation…heart rate was dropping even as I tried to run faster,  then I would slow down, and my heart rate would elevate, just like a yo-yo.  In short, I was bonking.  I took my remaining salt tablets, electrolytes, and a gulp of some sugary sports drink from the nearest aid station.

Split_4

Somewhere around mile 23-24, the 3:15:00 pace runner passed by me.  He asked if I needed a pacer. I said yes, and said I was shooting for 3:10:00 (even though I knew this was evaporating before the road in front of me.  He picked up the pace, and I went with.  A short but agonizing 2-3 miles later I rounded the corner and saw the finish line ahead.  The clock was ticking 3:13:XX and change.  3:10:00 was out(total Boston bummer) today, but my old PR of 3:16:13 from 1998 was going down today!

Finish Time was 3:13:53, Woot!  Good enough for a top 3 in my age group, 25th Overall.

Finisher

After the race I double-checked the Boston Qualifying Website and noticed in the fine print that the qualifying times for Boston are based on the age that you will be on the race day of the Boston Marathon in which you are attempting to qualify.  As luck would have it, I will clicking the big 4-0 this year.  So, I thought my time to beat was 3hrs 10min 00sec (for 35-39 year olds on race day). But, for 40-44 year olds(on race day), the time to beat is actually 3hrs 15min 00sec.  GOAL!!!

Thanks for Reading!

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