Domo Arigato Mr. … Himoto?

[Recovered: Original post date August 5th 2012]

If you sell things on Ebay, you’re going to end up with PayPal cash burning a hole in your pocket. And they you’ll be tempted to buy stuff back off of Ebay. And I’ve been selling things on Ebay…

… which is how I ended up winning a bid on a Himoto MegaE XB10 4wd buggy roller. It was in rough shape and I wasn’t really looking for a 4wd buggy… so I lowballed $20. And won. 🙂

Here it is, all beat up.

It looks like the previous owner stripped the front drive gear at some point, and instead of repairing it they pulled the center driveshaft, front diff and front dogbones and ran it 2wd (and didn’t cover the holes in the front gearcase, it was full of dirt 🙁 . The front of the body was snapped off and replaced with a chunk of plastic, then painted on the outside flat-black. And a number of other parts were missing. It looks like it was run in 2wd mode until it was finally crashed and the front hub and carrier broke… then it was put up for sale.

With the generous help of Eddie @ HimotoRacingUSA.com I was mailed the parts I needed, and now have this!

I had all the electrics already on the shelf: a FlySky GT3R receiver and Turnigy Nano-Tech 5300mah 2s lipo:

…and an EXI D227F servo, BrushlessHobbies 120a ESC, and an old Castle 4600kv sensorless motor:

I’m still waiting on a couple more small pieces to finish it off, and I may eventually put on ST/SC/MT tires for more clearance, but other than that it’s done. Time to drive and enjoy…

Heart of the Leopard [2] – Bypass Surgery

[Recovered: Original post date July 15th 2012]

A couple of weeks ago I put a larger motor in my toy car. After running a few battery packs through it I noticed it occasionally making a “tick” noise when braking.

Then a few ticks if I stopped hard.

Then I started to hear it in reverse too. I thought it was because the drive cups were wearing and when I was in reverse (or slowing) they would bind… so I placed an order for new ones and crossed my fingers I could drive until they arrived.

Today by the time I went through three packs it was more of a full-on ratcheting sound when I reversed. I tried spinning all the driveshafts by hand but couldn’t detect where the problem was. Until I watched the wheels when I braked hard: the backs could lock up but the front tires would continue to roll. Since RC cars don’t have antilock front brakes… something was slipping in the front gearbox.

The stock grease in that gearbox is red, and the fluid in the sealed differential is clear… so I knew it was bad when I opened things up and saw grey. The metal gears are grey 🙂 . Both the main driven gears had teeth worn down and bent sideways:

It was hard to see how many metal flakes had been worn off and mixed into the lubricant: but when I turned on the flash in the camera they really stood out: silver everywhere.

What happened? I had shimmed the diffs so there was no free play… but when I pulled the center driveshaft I could see the problem right away. Ball bearings aren’t supposed to sit on a shaft at an angle:

The innermost bearing was hollow: it has self-destructed and dumped its little bearing guts into the gearbox. The outer bearing was heavily damaged but intact… it looks like it kept the shaft in place well enough it would “dig in” to the larger gear when moving forward, but would deflect away and ratchet in reverse.

Bad luck with a dodgy stock bearing? Design weakness made worse by the stronger motor? First thing’s first: see if it’s repeatable 🙂 – a complete gearbox with bearings/differential/drivecups is only $20. I just have to wait for the mailman to bring it to me…

Heart of the Leopard

[Recovered: Original post date June 25th 2012]

Months ago when I was looking for a new motor for my Redcat Caldera SC-10E I saw a forum post and video for what claimed to be the best deal ever: a Tacon 3674 motor. Alas… it was also out-of-stock for months after that video… so I bought the next best thing for a bit more money: a Leopard Hobby 2650kv 3674 sensorless brushless motor.

I knew even before ordering it that it would be a bit of a project. Why? Because it was about 1/3rd longer than the green Tacon 3500kv that I currently owned:

…and the space the motor fit in was too short. About 1cm behind the Tacon motor was a grid-type pattern of plastic molded into the chassis: apparently as reinforcement. But I owned a Dremel, so I figured I could trim it down and wedge the big red Leopard in there 🙂

But first I had to take everything apart. The RedCat is very modular: 13 small screws come out of the top of the center blue aluminum chassis brace…

…and the brace comes off with all my electrics. That’s not the regular location for the radio and ESC, but I’ve been fiddling with the Caldera enough it was a convenient spot to place them. Plus I was using a larger 1/8th-scale ESC temporarily… as the original model was mounted about 3″ above the ground when it was driven into about 4″ of water in a stream (not by me) 🙂

The front and rear ends are also modular: with the suspension, bumpers and body mounts attached to the gearboxes. Four screws for the rear, eight screws for the front, and seven screws for the center diff and the entire truck basically falls apart… leaving me with a chassis that needed some gentle love from my favorite rotary tool.

Now that things were apart I could easily measure how much of that grid pattern needed to be trimmed away:

Did I mention the RedCat was modular? 🙂 Even the chassis is built of three pieces, so I could detach just the edge I needed to work on:

And here’s the result after some Dremeling, cleaning, and reassembly. I had initially nibbled away a 3×2 pattern, but it wasn’t quite long enough, so ended up sawing off 3×2.5 blocks:

While I had the chassis apart I mounted the new motor with a 5mm 32p 13t pinion. It’s easy to adjust the mesh: instead of trying to get at the motor-mount screws while the center diff is in the truck you can take out the top front+rear brace screws, and the bottom center-diff screws – which leaves the diff firmly attached to the aluminum plate with extremely easy access to the motor. You basically get the guts of the powertrain on a stick:

Here it is all mounted back up…

…and a final shot of the new shiny red Leopard ready-to-run. I just finished the heart transplant before bed, but will take it for a drive tomorrow.

I’ll be running the new setup on higher voltage (11.1v vs. 8.4v) to offset the lower KV motor, and with the 13t pinion the gearing should give me a 10% increase in top speed. But I didn’t gear it for speed: instead I’m hoping for much stronger acceleration. Mashing the throttle should either break all four tires loose, or have it try its best to flip over backwards 🙂

20% More Red, 10% More Cat: Shredder SC

[Recovered: Original post date May 14th 2012]

On the weekend I lucked out and won a new Redcat nitro buggy: but since I only use electric RCs right now the friendly folks at Amazing RC Store let me use it towards an upgrade: a 1/6th scale Shredder SC! It’s the big brother to the Caldera SC 10E I bought from them about 2 months ago. It’s huge!

Here it is with the 1/10th scale Caldera for comparison:

Here it is beside two of my other cars (L to R) 1/10th Caldera SC 10E, 1/8th Associated RC8Te truggy, and the 1/6th Shredder SC:

..and finally beside the body. Note that it has 4 aluminum rods sticking out from the side of the chassis: they poke through from the inside (with body clips just on the outside of the plastic tub rails to keep them from getting pushed back in), and they’re drilled for 2 sets of body pins on the outer ends. The body only ships with clips on the outside of the body (preventing the sides of the truck from bending out, but not in). I added a second set of clips on the inside as well. The body has 8 clips holding it on: 4 on the ends of the posts, and 4 in the traditional place on the body mounts

The tires are large, with a strange size of rim (at least I had never seen it before). Instead of a regular 4″ truggy or monster-truck rim, they’re 4.5″ in diameter. From left to right: a Losi LST tire on a Pro-Line Tech 5 (4″) rim, then the Shredder SC tire, then a standard Pro-Line truggy tire on 4″ Associated rim (4″ as well). The Shredder rims are larger, but the rubber is a low profile: making only slightly larger than the truggy tire. But it does use a standard 17mm hex.

The foams in the tires are firm, and the profile isn’t rounded at all: they’re flat straight across. I was expecting a very hard RTR rubber… but actually they’re fairly soft (compared to the rubber Traxxas likes to put in their ‘wears-like-iron’ Talon tires). The tread pattern has blocks about the same size as what’s on a Pro-Line Badlands 2.8″, except obviously many more blocks, with a slightly tighter spacing. Here’s the stock Shredder tires compared to the Losi LST rubber:

The tires have scuffed up nicely after about 3 sets of batteries: I think I’m going to like them! Although when they wear out I may just go back to standard 4″ rims to get a wider selection of aftermarket rubber, since I know I can keep the larger profile buy getting MT tires. Something like the Losi 420 pins look nice for bashing 🙂 . Note: You’ll want to use 1/2″-offset rims, as I found zero-offset truggy rims would touch the steering arms (i.e the LST tire mounted on the left in the image below is on a zero-offset rim, and is too close to the chassis and will bind with the steering arms).

But getting back to the rest of the truck: it comes with the standard rebranded FlySky GT2 2ch 2.4GHz radio and receiver (second best bang-per-buck budget radio, eclipsed only by the FS-GT3B). There’s a paper manual for the car and to program the ESC, as well as a 2s/3s balancing slow lipo wall charger (which I’ll probably never use).

It comes with an 80a HobbyWing ESC: which sounds a bit small for a car of this weight, but pushed it around fine and didn’t even get warm.

It has a 1500kv sensorless 3674 motor with Mod-1 pinion and spur (turning a standard shaft-drive front/center/rear sealed gear-diff drivetrain). Remember that motor in case HobbyPartz goes out-of-stock: it’s a very popular size for the price and if HP doesn’t have it ordering this one as a spare part from a Redcat dealer may be the way to go. I don’t know if it’s rated for 6s (ships with 4s worth of batteries), but I’m going to try it! 🙂 The motor comes with a heatsink and large fan: I like to see the bigger fans since they don’t seem to die as easily as some other small fans I’ve had before.

Speaking of batteries: it comes with 2 20c 3200mah 2s hard-case lipos, and everything (including ESC) are wired with common 4mm bullet connectors (which I replaced with Deans). They also have the worlds shortest balancing leads?

There is lots of room for the batteries: the straps that hold them in are adjustable, and there’s plenty of room in front/behind/beside the battery trays for larger setups. You could trim down the sides of the battery trays, Dremel slots through what’s left to hold velcro straps, and mount some impressively large packs in there. I have a few 5000mah 4s packs that I use in my truggy: I could easily dump two of them in there with a bit of trimming and just swap the series harness (2 x 2s) for a parallel Y-cable instead. Hello runtime! 🙂

Finally it comes with a 9kg metal-gear steering servo. It’s plenty strong and I had no problems with turning radius or ability to turn the tires at speed, but it did feel a bit slow (but I’m comparing it to a Savox SC-1268SG on 7.4v in my truggy, which isn’t apples-to-apples). It was actually a nice surprise, since the Caldera is running identical steering components (with shorter arms) and it had lot of binding out-of-the-box. The Shredder steering was smooth without any fiddling with it.

Another nice thing compared to the Caldera: hex hardware all around – no self-tapping screws! I couldn’t find a single Phillips screw anywhere, hooray! But even though the screws and bolts were upgraded, there was a lot in common with the other Redcat “10E” and “8E” (1/10th and 1/8th) vehicles. First, the pan chassis is a stretched version of what comes with the 8E cars: including the same center-diff: (see the 1-foot yellow plastic ruler for scale)

The shocks are upgrades: long-travel big-bore threaded aluminum, and the suspension comes out-of-the-box with swaybars (paid upgrades on the 10E’s), but everything else was the same.

Here’s the Shredder (left) nose-to-nose and tail-to-tail with the Caldera (right). Same front and rear plates: almost the same bumpers (Shredder’s is a bit longer, but same mounts), same front and rear diffs and shock towers. Body mounts are the same style (can’t see them, but the Shredders are simply taller). Same hub carriers and front hubs (but Shredder hubs are the upgraded metal versions). Same servo saver bellcranks, and steering racks (Shredder gets the aluminum rack, Caldera has plastic). A-arm pin braces are identical etc.

Other than the center diff and motor mounts (and motor/ESC etc) the powertrain on the 1/10, 1/8 and 1/6 (10E, 8E, and Shredder models) are identical except for the length of the driveshafts. It should be easy to keep these two SCTs running, since in most cases if I have spares for one it means I have spares for the other 🙂

Finally, here’s the Shredder SC beside my RC8Te, just charged up and waiting for the first drive.

I’ve only put a couple pairs of batteries through it so far but I love how it drives. My 1/8th truggy drives nicer than my 1/10th models, and the 1/6th Shredder drives even nicer still: very easy to control during powerslides, and the back only comes around if you either chop-or-punch the throttle on gravel, or if you back off about 25% throttle on pavement. The huge chassis is very easy to clean: totally wide open so if you just flip it over and shake it 90% of the dirt just falls out (compared to my Caldera, with a chassis that’s 10% functional, and 90% nooks-and-crannies that trap dirt, mud and gravel). The radio was bound properly out-of-the-box, the batteries are putting out their rated capacity, and the steering and ESC trims were perfect without fiddling with them.

So far I love it, and the huge size turns heads when I take it to the local park. After telling you about all the good things, I do have a couple small nits to pick:

Issues

I’ve run into a few things already, and have a hole punched through the front of the right front fender, from a relatively minor disagreement with a cement post. Not sure if I’m unlucky, or if the body is a bit thin or brittle?

  • The 4.5″ rims are a bit strange, though I like the tires. Would have preferred 4″ rims, but because they’re standard 17mm hex I can’t really complain
  • From the tiny bit of residue I can see around the drive cups on the diffs, they’re filled with the same red sticky grease as on the Caldera. Standard silicon oil would have been nice.
  • The body sticks out over an inch from the front and rear bumpers. I’m going to add the secondary bumpers from the Caldera to take up the space and give a bit more cushion. They bolt right on so they would have been nice standard
    The side body holes that the aluminum rods go through aren’t drilled in the correct place. You can still put the body on easily, but when the Shredder is upside down it looks a bit goofy, since some of the posts don’t come out from the center chassis at a 90-degree angle. Sort of looks like you bent them.
  • Steering servo is slow, but perfectly functional. Still a huge upgrade from the plastic-gear 3kg model that shipped with my Caldera (Note: Redcat support quickly replaced it with a newer 6kg model)
  • It’s a bit oversprung straight out of the box: even with the batteries loaded it had zero droop. But it’s easy to adjust it – the shocks shipped with the ride height collars cranked up a bit, so you can back them off.
  • Pinion has a brass appearance: like on the SC 10E. If it’s the same metal as the Calders pinion it’s going to wear quickly
  • That’s all the notes I have time to make for now: I’m going to take some driving pics and hopefully video as well, soon. I’m going to drive it stock for a couple weeks, then consider putting the Shredder XT truggy body on it (like the open-wheel look, and gives me room for LST tires)… maybe swapping in my 150a Xerun ESC to try it on 6s, and if the servo is bugging me I’ll try my Savox 1268MG from the RC8Te to see if it would make a good upgrade.

    Other than that, drive the wheels off 🙂

    Racing Redcats, Reloaded…

    [Recovered: Original post date May 13th 2012]

    Wow, that was fast! Yesterday I attended the second 2012 Amazing RC Store racing and customer appreciation event: it felt like I was just there doing donuts in the parking lot with my toys a couple of days ago! 🙂

    This time I spent so much time talking with others I didn’t get any good video, so all I have is a few photos. The weather was perfect this time: over 20 degrees and just slightly overcast – much much warmer than at the last event. The DJ was already set up when I arrived, and they were putting together a mini almost-oval track this time:

    There were more nitro than electric this time too: especially the Caldera/Volcano monster trucks:

    This blue one is the monster truck version of my Caldera SC 10E: well it’s 99% of that version: minus a couple inches of the rear of the body 🙂

    I forgot to take a good picture of my cars. In the bottom left you can see the back of my Caldera (yellow buggy with a racing stripe), and to the right (orange flames + blue) is my Associated RC8Te truggy that I was driving around for fun:

    There were some very interesting races: here’s a brand-new 30cc gas 4wd buggy on the left vs. a 1/8th nitro buggy on the right. The 30cc put up a good fight: getting an early lead and it was so big it looked hard to pass – but the 1/8th got it in the end 🙂

    Here’s a pair of 1/10th nitro MT’s ready to go at it:

    And here’s a pair of similar 1/10th electrics. This was a fun race because it’s two similar Redcats, both the same scale and both brushless, but Redcat OEMs them from two different manufacturers. So they’re both carrying the Redcat logos but it’s still a “battle of the brands”!

    The racing was all for fun, with smiles all around no matter who won or lost:

    In the end I got lucky: I won a AmazingRCStore Tshirt in my first race, and managed to win the Grand Prize: a new nitro buggy! It was a great looking car, but since I drive so much in the long grass of the local parks, and because I don’t have any of the extra nitro bits you need… ARCS was willing to let me pay the difference to upgrade to a larger brushless model, perfect! I’ll be posting pictures of it soon.

    I had a great time and met even more new people that in the last event: can’t wait until the next one. Thanks to Amazing RC Store for putting on a great show!

    Racing Redcats…

    [Recovered: Original post date April 21st 2012]

    Just over a month ago now I bought my first new RC car in almost 20 years: a Redcat Caldera SC 10E from AmazingRCStore.com. In the past weeks I’ve been driving it a couple times a week, and ordering some new parts to make it even better. But before I tried anything that really might break it I had to attend the first 2012 Redcat Race Day put on by AmazingRCStore. It was a drag race, which didn’t fill me with confidence since I had a hard time accelerating straight (you’d think it would be easy 🙂 ) – but in prep I put on a set of road tires that came with a Traxxas Rustler I used to own. Here’s the Caldera dropped about 1/2″ with street shoes (which turned out to be a poor choice):

    I arrived about 15 minutes before the start of the event: the parking lot was already filled with other people – with lots of little nitro cars whizzing about and music playing. Pamela from ARCS signed me up, and we were ready to go!

    Everywhere you looked people were tuning their cars…

    …though it was mostly those people with nitro… the electric guys just stood around comparing notes since we had nothing to fiddle with 🙂 . Lots of chatting and eyeballing each others cars with our hands shoved deep in our pockets and jackets zipped all the way up, it was cold!

    Then the races started: 2 cars at a time, with the winner of one race staying on to race again. I think the classes were 1/10th and 1/6th electric, and 1/10th and 1/8th nitro.

    DJ Major from Players Sound Crew kept the tunes pumping while the announcer called out the races.

    I got knocked out after 2 rounds: the first had me slide across the finish line sideways and get pinned under the front fender of a spectators Nissan:) – the finish line wasn’t that far from the end of the parking lot… so the faster you were going the less time you had to stop before you plowed into the front of the nearest parked car. Round two I also spun out at the end of the run… and around the far corner of the building. I couldn’t see my truck so I didn’t touch the radio… when I got there it was sitting with it’s belly in 2″ of water in the only puddle in the parking lot 🙁 . That knocked me out of the action for about 20 minutes while I shook all the water out of the electrics. (by the time we left I was running again). Gave us lots of time to compare vehicles while the final races were run and the draw for the mini-crawler was held.

    At the end the three winners lined up for photos and congratulations (3rd place is Mark Droog on the right, who gave me lots of tips on how to maintain my Caldera)…

    …then everyone either clumped up to chat about RC for awhile, ran the drag strip a few more times, or retreated to the warmth of their cars for the drive home. I had a great time, even if it was chilly enough I could barely feel my fingers while driving 🙂 . Thanks to the team at AmazingRCStore for running the event! If it sounds interesting check out their homepage, or watch their Facebook page for updates!

    When I got home I took a closer look at the truck, and noticed some body damage on my rear fender… from my brush with the SUV. Nothing some Shoe Goo and drywall tape can’t fix. Can’t wait for the next event!

    Using 3TB drives in your D-Link DNS-323

    [Recovered: Original post date June 24th 2012]

    I’ve been using my D-Link DNS-323 as a place to store backups in our apartment, but space has been getting a little tight. Hard drive prices haven’t come back down to their historic lows, but as 3TB (3TiB?) models can be found for $149 here in Toronto I decided to pick up a pair to use in the upgrade.

    There was one problem: the DNS-323 was designed and shipped back when 1TB drives were the norm, and it couldn’t “see” any larger than 2TB. How to get around this? Aftermarket firmware to the rescue! The “Alt-F” project provides new firmware with many new features, including the internal software versions required to use large drives.

    First I logged in to the admin interface (with the old D-Link v1.10 firmware) and pointed it to the “Alt-F-0.1RC2.bin” file I had downloaded, then clicked Apply and rebooted it when complete:

    When it came back up I logged in again, but this time the D-Link web theme was gone, and replaced with the Alt-F admin pages. After stepping through a first-boot wizard that asked for things like timezone, IP settings and hostname/workgroup I was glad to see it had picked my old drives (sda and sdb, the old 1.5TB SATA models)

    I used the System–Utilities page to shut down the enclosure, and swapped in my two new 3TB drives. I chose the Seagate Barracuda (ST3000DM001) SATA3 64MB-cache versions, which I was going to run as a mirror for redundancy. Booted up and there they were: showing up with “3000.6 GB” of space:

    From reading the Alt-F forums I knew the admin UI had issues running the standard disk utils on large drives (see forum instructions here), so I SSH’d in directly using Putty (user: root, password: same-as-web-ui). These are the commands I ran against the first disk (“/dev/sda”)

    # sgdisk –zap-all /dev/sda
    Creating new GPT entries.
    GPT data structures destroyed! You may now partition the disk using fdisk or
    other utilities.
    # sgdisk –set-alignment=8 –new=1:64:+512M –typecode=1:8200 /dev/sda
    Creating new GPT entries.
    The operation has completed successfully.
    # end=$(sgdisk –set-alignment=8 –end-of-largest /dev/sda)
    # sgdisk –set-alignment=8 –new=2:0:${end} –typecode=2:8300 /dev/sda

    The operation has completed successfully.
    # sgdisk -p /dev/sda
    Disk /dev/sda: 5860533168 sectors, 2.7 TiB
    Logical sector size: 512 bytes
    Disk identifier (GUID): D07A22ED-A279-4FC8-B0F6-133DF4450139
    Partition table holds up to 128 entries
    First usable sector is 34, last usable sector is 5860533134
    Partitions will be aligned on 64-sector boundaries
    Total free space is 30 sectors (15.0 KiB)

    Number Start (sector) End (sector) Size Code Name
    1 64 1048639 512.0 MiB 8200
    2 1048640 5860533134 2.7 TiB 8300

    I then repeated the commands for the second disk (“/dev/sdb”):

    # sgdisk –zap-all /dev/sdb
    Creating new GPT entries.
    GPT data structures destroyed! You may now partition the disk using fdisk or
    other utilities.
    # sgdisk –set-alignment=8 –new=1:64:+512M –typecode=1:8200 /dev/sdb
    Creating new GPT entries.
    The operation has completed successfully.
    # end=$(sgdisk –set-alignment=8 –end-of-largest /dev/sdb)
    # sgdisk –set-alignment=8 –new=2:0:${end} –typecode=2:8300 /dev/sdb

    The operation has completed successfully.
    # sgdisk -p /dev/sdb
    Disk /dev/sdb: 5860533168 sectors, 2.7 TiB
    Logical sector size: 512 bytes
    Disk identifier (GUID): 674BA261-9F48-47A4-9A19-8C63889CAFA8
    Partition table holds up to 128 entries
    First usable sector is 34, last usable sector is 5860533134
    Partitions will be aligned on 64-sector boundaries
    Total free space is 30 sectors (15.0 KiB)

    Number Start (sector) End (sector) Size Code Name
    1 64 1048639 512.0 MiB 8200
    2 1048640 5860533134 2.7 TiB 8300

    Then I activated the swap partitions on both disks:

    # mkswap /dev/sda1
    Setting up swapspace version 1, size = 536866816 bytes
    # mkswap /dev/sdb1
    Setting up swapspace version 1, size = 536866816 bytes
    # swapon /dev/sda1
    # swapon /dev/sdb1

    Next, I couldn’t tell from the forum if I should even try using the web UI to mirror the disks (since the page showed an error), so I mirrored them from the command line. Note: This command uses the latest metadata format that is too new for the OEM D-Link firmware – if you think you may want to go back to the original firmware one day don’t use this command! (and use the next one below it instead):

    # mdadm –create /dev/md0 –bitmap=internal
    –chunk=64 –level=raid1 –raid-devices=2 /dev/sda2 /dev/sdb2

    mdadm: Note: this array has metadata at the start and
    may not be suitable as a boot device. If you plan to
    store ‘/boot’ on this device please ensure that
    your boot-loader understands md/v1.x metadata, or use
    –metadata=0.90
    Continue creating array? y
    mdadm: Defaulting to version 1.2 metadata
    mdadm: array /dev/md0 started.

    If you wanted to use the older metadata format that would allow you to flash back to D-Link defaults, add the “–metadata=0.90″ flag, like this:

    # mdadm –create /dev/md0 –bitmap=internal
    –metadata=0.90 –chunk=64 –level=raid1 –raid-devices=2 /dev/sda2 /dev/sdb2

    You can check if the two disks are starting to be stitched together with the “cat /proc/mdstat” command. You should see the word “resync” with an estimated finish time. (Note: it may take hours, but you don’t have to wait for it to complete before performing the next steps).

    # cat /proc/mdstat
    Personalities : [linear] [raid1]
    md0 : active raid1 sdb2[1] sda2[0]
    2929741087 blocks super 1.2 [2/2] [UU]
    [==>………………] resync = 11.3% (331414528/2929741087) finish=41952.7min speed=1031K/sec>

    Next I switched back to the Alt-F web UI to create an EXT4 filesystem on top of the new /dev/md0 mirror. (Think of /dev/md0 as the name for the combination of your /dev/sda and /dev/sdb disks). This also could have done from the terminal, but I wanted to use point-and-click 🙂

    Because the two disks are still being joined, filesystem creation can take a long time (for me about 45 minutes). You can see that it’s working by running “top” in your terminal and looking for “mkfs.ext4″:

    You can also monitor the progress from the status page:

    After it completed I made one last change: I ran a command to prevent the enclosure from saving so much extra space (almost 150GB) for the “root” user. On regular Linux system space is reserve so even if regular users fill the disk an admin still has room to fix things… but that doesn’t really apply for home use since even if the DNS-323 gets full it’s not booting from those disks so there’s little consequence:

    # tune2fs -m 0 /dev/md0
    tune2fs 1.41.14 (22-Dec-2010)
    Setting reserved blocks percentage to 0% (0 blocks)

    Success! The status page shows the formatted base-2 capacity of the mirror as 2.7TB (and you can also see the resync on md0 is still happening under-the-covers)

    Many people are done at this point, but I needed to share the new space back out to my network using the same share name as when I was running D-Link firmware (“Volume_1″)

    Note: If you hadn’t been using “user” accounts with Samba and the old firmware, you may need to SSH in one more time to run this command to let people save files to the share.

    # chmod 777 /mnt/md0

    Warning: This command effectively says “anyone can change anything” on the share. Probably OK for home use, but not the type of security you would use in a business.

    Finally: I could see it in Windows, hooray!

    Special thanks to Joao Caroso from the Alt-F project and the other users that figured all this out before me in the forums!

    Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue…

    [Recovered: Original post date March 17th 2012]

    … no, I’m not getting married. After getting back into Radio Control last summer I had only been buying used RC cars, since there were some great values out there. But I wanted to try something different: back when I first played with these cars in my teens Traxxas was the new-kid-on-the-block… these days Redcat is one of the underdogs – so I decided to give them a try!. The Canadian distributor that’s doing the most to grow the Redcat market is Amazing RC store, about 30 minutes away from me, so I emailed in an order and picked up a new toy on Friday. A Caldera SC 10E.

    First Impressions

    The box showed generic Redcat branding, with stickers to show the model and Amazing RC Store as the distributor.

    At first glance the truck looked like it would just tumble around in the box and get damaged during shipping, but it was secured to a cardboard baseplate with two loops of ziptie. All the other extra bits were in their own box off to the side, with the transmitter wrapped in bubble wrap. The was also a manual and other assorted paper bits sealed up in a bag: but I haven’t opened it yet 🙂

    Electrics

    The transmitter and receiver are rebranded FlySky GT2 2.4GHz systems (usually purchased here or here). I’ve owned one of these before: a sturdy radio with range farther than you can see to drive (Google for reviews). I’d say they’re second in value only to the FlySky GT3B… since you get quite a bit more features with the GT3B for only $10-$15 more. The GT2 gives you standard servo reversing, trim on both channels, and steering dual-rate (which became important later).

    Under the cover it looked pretty much like I expected from reading the online sales page: 380-rotor-in-finned-540-can 3570kv brushless motor with a small HobbyWing ESC, 3800mah NiMH battery with bullet connectors, and a 3kg servo. It also came with a trickle wall charger with bullet connectors… but I decided to use my existing quickcharger instead. The 4mm battery connectors had to go: the rest of the RC universe is using Deans or Traxxas connectors: I soldered on Deans before I drove 5 feet.

    Drivetrain

    A 32-pitch central spur gear (no center diff) feeds front and rear gear diffs using dogbones, which then span out to the wheels using CVA’s (hooray, no dogbones to pop out when you crash!). Everything looked sturdy enough:

    Protection

    The body is thick yet flexible: in fact it’s more flexible than either of my SC10 bodies. I can’t tell if the SC10 bodies are thicker, or if they’re just a harder blend of Lexan. The front and rear have identical main bumpers, but the front has a second much more pliable bumper as well. It was soft enough you could bend it back to the primary by pushing on it firmly: it felt like it would act as an effective crumple zone in any crash. The main bumpers are a bit worrisome: they’re made of extremely firm plastic… I tried to bend them by hand and I think they would crack before bending. We’ll see how they hold up.

    If you were going to take this model to a track to see if you liked beginner racing you could mount a secondary bumper on the rear as well: since SC trucks tend to “parachute” and land rear-first, and you’re more likely to get hit from behind when driving with others: for solo bashing you wouldn’t need it. I also noticed it didn’t have any side bumpers – I’ve never taken any hard side hits with my SC10, but side-bumpers are a staple of every other Short Course truck out there… so I don’t know if that will be a problem or not.

    The body mounts are adjustable, shipping at the second-highest setting. But I think I’ll have to raise them up that one extra notch. The tires hit the inside of the body at about 75% of their travel, then bend the body up after that. After my first battery the tires had already stripped the paint from the inside rear fenders:

    Suspension

    The suspension has all the adjustability you could want: shock position top and bottom, camber-arm position inside and out, threaded-body “big bore” plastic shocks etc. Steering and camber arms are all metal turnbuckles: no fixed-length plastic links. The stock springs seem OK, maybe a tiny bit soft… but the stock dampening is much too firm: like they used honey for shock oil. You can push the chassis to the ground and let go… and almost count to two as the springs struggle to raise it back up again. I’ll replace the stock oil with 40wt… and if that’s not an improvement I’ll drill another hole in the pistons. You may be able to adjust rear toe and anti-squat, but I haven’t looked into it yet.

    As for travel, the arms can move through their full arc without binding the dogbones. I mention this because other off-brand RC’s that are based on an on-road chassis can have the problem of the dogbones bottoming out before the chassis does (Exhibit A). Not a problem on the Caldera SC.

    One nice touch is that the A-Arms come with ride-height adjustment holes and tabs on the chassis (but no screws included). If you spend a lot of time racing or on flat surfaces the screws let you lower ride height externally (instead of placing internal limiters under your pistons, or buying shorter shafts). There are also mount points for a rear swaybar (purchased separately).

    Finally, the front and rear hinge-pin braces are metal. I only mention this because when I started taking my B4 buggy to the track the plastic brace was the weakest point in the whole car.

    Wheels

    The wheels are standard SC 12mm rims with a fairly large offset: I measured them to be almost exactly 1cm wider per-side than SC10 4wd stock rims (and about 3mm wider than HPI Blitz stock rims). Since I own a SC10 2wd I can make some comparisons: first the tires:

    (Stock Caldera SC on top, bottom-left is stock SC10 4wd rims with Schumacher mini-pins, and bottom-right is stock HPI Blitz rims with OEM SC10 rubber)

    Although the rims have the same internal/external standard-SC diameter, the stock Caldera SC rubber is higher profile: about 13mm larger diameter in total. All else being equal, that taller tire will give slightly more clearance and a slightly higher top speed: not a bad default for a target market that probably bought the Redcat for bashing. It has a tread pattern very similar to the stock SC10 rubber, but with slightly firmer foam, and a slightly more rounded profile:

    If you’re running on a track that doesn’t have strict width rules for SC trucks (i.e. ROAR rules), or if you’re just looking to make your truck a bit wider for stability, the Redcat SC rims will get you a few more mm than Blitz rims, and they’re cheap (about $20 a pair with tires+foams – not sure if you can buy just the rims).

    Size

    I wanted to compare truck length, since the stats from Redcat can make the Caldera SC sound short: short enough some forum postings suggest it may not be allowed on most tracks. Here’s 3 bodies: SC10 aftermarket on the left, Caldera SC in the middle, and stock SC10 on the right.

    So far the Redcat looks the same as a regular SC truck. Next, mounted: SC10 on the left and Redcat on the right. Here you can see the RPM bumper on the SC10 stick out the front, and the stock bumper peeks out the back (I cut out the back of the SC10 body due to damage). The Caldera SC is a bit shorter: though it would gain some length back if you mounted the secondary bumper on the rear as well.

    Here they are undressed: SC10 on top and Caldera SC on the bottom. From the front of the front tires to the back of the rear tires they’re almost identical in length because of the taller Redcat tires.

    As an apples-to-apples comparison: here’s both with the same rubber (SC10 stock up front, Schumacher mini-pins in back). The SC10 (top) is using the stock SC10 4wd rims, while the Redcat is using HPI Blitz rims. (I didn’t want to remove the stock Redcat rubber yet so I used HPI rims: that means in real life the Caldera SC would be about 6mm wider than in this picture, using its stock rims). The Redcat has about a 1cm shorter wheelbase when you view it like this.

    Fit and Finish

    There are some nice touches:

  • A metal antenna mount with a threaded collar to cinch down the plastic antenna tube.
  • Small foam washers to spread the load on each body mount
  • 8mm locknuts on each wheel with serrated backing to grip the plastic rims
  • Overall the parts seem to be of quality manufacture: very few pieces had extra flashing showing. The battery holddown mounts are a bit strange: 2 separate pieces held on with body pins… but the pin holes are at different heights for each mount. The battery isn’t held tightly, and the mounts also aren’t held snug with their pins… so if you pick up the truck and shake it the mounts rattle around. My fix was to wind the battery/ESC wires under each mount to take up some slack. Finally, the chassis is compact and slender… but has little room for extras: the stock HobbyWing ESC just barely fits in the radio tray: anything bigger would probably have to be mounted on top of the center brace.

    First Drive

    I charged up the stock battery and 2 more of my NiMH’s and took it for a drive. I went to the park near my house where there’s large grass fields and packed dirt walking paths lined with trees on both sides. The radio was pre-bound, the ESC had forward/neutral/reverse correctly set, and the steering trim was almost perfect out-of-the-box. The truck was faster than I had expected: easily faster than any brushed system I had ever run.

    With 4wd and the extra clearance from the taller SC tires I didn’t get it stuck anywhere: but while it was more than fast enough to have fun (almost too fast for a beginner) it didn’t accelerate as hard as my other brushless RC’s. When I first noticed that it had a full body in the rear (rear bumper inside the body) my first thought was that the body would soon be torn as it dragged the ground during wheelies. I haven’t tried the Caldera SC with a lipo yet… but while it accelerated with authority, it never pulled the front tires off the ground. You don’t want to wheelie when you’re racing, and 4wd allows the front wheels to pull making it less likely, but I thought with the lack of center diff it may have at hopped the front up on pavement, just because it’s fun to see 🙂

    As for handling… it was fun to drive and it went where I pointed it, though with the thick shock oil it would chatter over rough terrain at speed. Other than a slight wander trying to go straight (see problems below) I never had issues with turning speed or radius, so I think the servo is powerful enough for this truck (it’s strong enough to move against the servo saver if you hold the front wheels stationary). There was a slight bit of oversteer at high speeds where if you gave the steering a weave the back would want to come around. That meant you had to be a bit gentle accelerating for speed runs on pavement, with smooth steering, or you could fishtail… but it was a blast in the dirt. Off-road you would just accelerate… then slightly back off the throttle for a second and turn… and the rear would smoothly slide out in an arc as you poured the power back on. Looked awesome! I’ll try thinner shock oil first to see if it will be more planted on stock tires, then try softer tires.

    I clipped a couple of fences and cartwheeled over a few rough sections of trail, but made it back from the first run under my own power. The right-rear CVA did bend slightly and the front-right lower shock mount came half-way out, but the CVA tweak was very minor and the mount screw snugged right back in (and may have been loose out-of-the-box). And I gave that nice soft front bumper a workout! 🙂

    Notes

    After running down the NiMH batteries I wanted to give lipos a try, and I ran into a problem. The battery mounting on this car is a bit strange: the battery is mounted sideways because the chassis is too narrow for it to lay flat. Not a problem with NiMH with wires coming out the end, or soft-pack lipos with wires out the side: but a big problem for any standard hardcase lipo with wires out the top (or bullet connectors). Even if you soldered a 90-degree bend on your connectors there’s no room to face the battery outwards:

    I think the best you could do would be to nibble out a notch on the inside of the battery tray, (facing the driveshaft and top brace). There is about 2cm of clearance, enough for short bullets or 90-degree bullets into a hardcase. If you’ve got a stack of hard lipos and don’t want to modify the battery tray, this isn’t the truck for you.

    Another thing I noticed after running in the dirt is that the chassis isn’t smooth on the bottom like on most other SC trucks. All the screws are countersunk, but there are cutouts under the motor and where you would mount 6-cell saddle packs in an onroad car (both allowing you to mount those components lower, to lower the center of gravity). But for me it meant any time the chassis bottomed-out the cutouts acted like a dirt cheese-grater, spraying the inside of the chassis with sand: and by the time I came home each hole was half-filled with damp soil.

    Issues

    Other than over-dampened shocks, the only out-of-the-box problems I found were all related to steering:

    Steering Issue #1: That nice soft secondary bumper up front is too close to the wheels: it rubs on both sides before full lock. Suspension travel isn’t the issue, I was hitting the front tires driving around my kitchen:

    If you mount a more standard sized tire (like stock SC10 shown below) then you have clearance:

    But since I wanted to use the standard tires, I devised a different fix: chop off both outside extensions with a Dremel. Perfect!

    Steering Issue #2: Steering was initially very slow and sluggish. I’ve read other people complain about the servo being too weak… but the problem I found was that the steering rack was binding at the servo saver. There is a machine screw that goes down through the top blue aluminum brace into the top of the servo saver steering post… and if it’s tightened down it adds a lot of friction to the steering. I backed off on that screw just the tiniest bit and the steering moved much more freely. I pinned that screw down with threadlock for now.

    Steering Issue #3: The ball-ends are extremely tight out-of-the-box: they’re tough to move by hand. This is something that I’ll live with for now, since I think they’ll loosen up quickly after a couple of packs. If not, I’ll add a drop of oil and keep them clean. When you disconnect the servo the entire steering assembly should be able to move freely: right now it doesn’t because each ball at the end of each rod is pinched and doesn’t want to spin.

    Steering Issue #4: The servo had a bit too much throw out-of-the-box: it would pull the inside steering arm tight to full lock, and still try to pull some more. So at full deflection you could hear the servo whine and see it struggle against the servo-saver spring. Solution: dial back the dual-rate a tiny bit from the radio: fixed!

    Steering Issue #5: Poor servo centering. When you steered to full lock left or right and let the servo return to the middle of it’s travel… it wouldn’t come back to the same place. I.E. if neutral was at 0-degrees.. and you turned right 45 degrees… when you let go of the steering it would return to about 2-degrees (always returned a bit off-center going left or right). It did this with the wheels off the ground, so I don’t think it’s a servo strength issue.

    You would notice it when driving when you tried to go straight: you’d always be going almost-straight… veering a tiny bit in the direction you last turned.

    Maybe playing with toe settings up front would help the servo center better while moving, I haven’t fiddled with it yet. I only noticed it when trying to hold a narrow straight line for a long time at mid/high speed (like following a sidewalk).

    Steering Issue #6: At about 95% full deflection the servo horn would hit the battery tray… then whine as it hopelessly tried to move that final 5%.

    Solution? When I dialed-back the dual-rate to fix problem #4 it made the servo not try to travel as far into the battery, but it still hit. I could have just tuned the dual-rate back more and lived with slightly less steering, but instead I cut a notch out of the tray. Just the width of the plastic of the tray was enough (the servo doesn’t hit the battery)

    Here’s a video of the centering and travel problems:

    Thoughts After Day One

    The Caldera SC 10E can be found for about $250-$270 Canadian online, all-in, including taxes. For that you’re getting 4wd, 2.4GHz radio, and brushless electrics. The most direct comparison with Traxxas would be to the Slash 4×4 VXL which comes to about $440 all-in. That’s at least $170 more: for that you get waterproof electrics, a more powerful motor+ESC, huge aftermarket support, the ability to buy parts in almost any hobby store, and moderate resale value.

    Is it worth it?

    Well, for a RC novice looking for a small new truck, neither are great values. The best bang-per-buck models are brushed 2wd with AM/FM radios: something like the ECX Torment, Duratrax Evader ECX2, or Redcat Twister XTG. All three of those vehicles are close in price: about $50-$70 less than the Caldera SC 10E. Do I think an extra $50-$70 is worth it to step up to brushless electrics, 2.4GHz radio and 4wd? Absolutely! That bump in price is a steal for what you get in return… but for someone new who’s not sure if they’ll even be interested in RC next month… they’re better off pocketing that money… buying a slower old-tech truck… and keeping a small slush fund for parts until they know RC is a long-term hobby.

    So where does that leave the Caldera SC 10E? Not the perfect beginner RC (though it gives you a lot for your money), and not really something you would race because your local hobby store may not have parts in stock (though parts are cheap online). What I think it’s great for is a second or third RC: something with 4wd and brushless power for a more experienced driver… but cheap enough you don’t mind handing the transmitter to a friend so they can go try to wrap it around a tree. Exactly what I’m looking for: something to flog mercilessly knowing I have a backup car if I break it 🙂 – I’m going to turn mine into a bit of a project.

    To Do List

    – Drop in a $25 Tacon brushless motor to see if I can light the fire (or melt the stock ESC), or drop in a smaller pinion to trade off top speed for better acceleration
    – Swap in a $15 EXI D227F servo to see if more speed and more power improve the steering
    – Put thinner oil in the shocks
    – Mount cast-off tires from my SC10 to see how the handling changes
    – If I put Gorilla Tape on the inside of the bottom chassis holes and filled them flush with JB Weld, would it hold?

    Update – March 24th 2012

    Redcat support has been very helpful, and is addressing my servo issue. While that’s being sorted out I wanted to install the EXI D22F, but didn’t have a proper metal servo horn for it. While that’s on order I’ll use my universal standby servo: Hitec HS-5645MG: (Redcat stock servo on the left)

    The servo centers much better now, but there’s still too much free play in the steering. I tried ordering the metal steering rack… but it’s backordered from Redcat. For now I’ll shim the loose rack pivot arm (the one that’s not the servo saver) to make it a bit better. Next I may open the servo saver up to see if it can take a stiffer spring (i.e. from a RC10B4/SC10 rack).

    I also wanted to look in the diffs to see if they had any oil, and to make sure they were shimmed properly. I did the rear diff first: it was super easy as the entire backend of the truck came off with 6 screws (4 through the bottom pan into the diff, and 2 through the top aluminum brace):

    Soon enough I had the diff open: no silicon oil but lots of sticky red grease. I ended up filling the front diff with 10000wt and the rear with 7000wt. I also placed 2 Traxxas teflon 0.5mm shims behind the main drivecup and both sides that went out to the axles. Before the shimming you could press the cups inward and feel a grinding in the gears: now with the shims they can’t slide into the gearbox at all. I’m not sure if that will help gear life, but it made me feel better.

    General bashing is still fine, but I’m trying to tune it to accelerate straight when you punch it. Right now if you nail the throttle from mid-speed or a standstill the back end will come around immediately.

    Update – April 2nd 2012

    I took out the Redcat for a bash session with my boss and his son (who owns a 2wd brushed Stampede). Everything came back in one piece, though driving 3 RCs to our meeting place took some juggling of controllers 🙂

    Then for some minor fixes. I found out why the servo saver post was binding when the top chassis plate was screwed down correctly. The top of the servo saver had a bushing installed properly (flush)…

    …but the bottom had the bushing pushed half out:

    I could see there was a gap behind the bushing… so I nudged it in deeper with the loving caress of a hammer.. but it’s still not perfect. I ordered some real bearings from RCMart.com… hopefully they fit. If the bottom one doesn’t go in all the way… I can try to put the saver in a vise and nibble another 1mm out of the bottom with a drill… but I’m not really equipped for precision drilling. I may just live with it.

    Next up was the pinion. After about 10-15 packs, mixed 6cell NiMH, 2s and 3s lipos the teeth on the stock 13-tooth 32-pitch brass one were worn razor thin.

    I bought a few cheap Traxxas steel pinions (15t is about max that will fit, maybe 16) and took everything apart to replace it. 13 screws take off the top plate, and 7 more come out to release the spur+motor mount from the bottom of the chassis. A nice surprise: the mount isn’t entirely plastic as it appears from the outside: it has a metal plate embedded – that should help keep the gear mesh perfect!

    I haven’t actually broken anything yet, but placed a parts order just in case. Redcat parts are cheap, even compared to the Associated and Traxxas bits I normally order.

    Update – April 5th 2012

    There have been some forum questions about the size of this truck, so I took the best measurements I could with my trusty ruler:

    Wheelbase: 305mm out-of-the-box (300mm with the ride height reduced, which pulls the front arms back a bit)
    Length: 530mm (front bumper back to as far back as the body goes)
    Width: 300mm (from the outside of the tires: about 310mm from the outside of the fenders on the body)

    Based on the ROAR rules for SC trucks the Caldera SC 10E is a couple mm too wide (300mm vs. 296mm – narrower-offset rims would fix it), a bit too short (530mm vs. 540mm – a different body would fix this), but the wheelbase is 15mm too short (305mm vs. 320mm) (My SC10 just squeaks over the line at 327mm). Unless you extend the chassis another 1.5cm, or find front+rear A-arms that can sweep out another 8mm each… you can’t race this truck on tracks using ROAR rules.

    Not a problem for me: I’ve only ever gone to one track and they don’t enforce ROAR 🙂

    Not-So-Unstoppable Force vs. Immovable Object, Fight!

    [Recovered: Original post date March 17th 2012]

    One of the reasons I bought a Short Course (SC) truck was because they’re so durable: bumpers on all sides and a large body to spread out any impacts. However, as I learned at Universal Raceways yesterday… after screwing up a jump for about the 20th time… they can still be broken.

    Very broken.

    You can only land the truck on it’s back bumper on concrete so many times before something has to give. A new chassis is only a $21 part: the real pain is moving all the rest of the bits over. Bah!