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Taranaphobia

Interested - but a bit worried about the "programing"?

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Biggles' Elder Brother - Moderator13/05/2014 10:18:46
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OK - there have been a been a few posts now from people saying they like the look of the Taranis - but they are bit worried that it might be "too complicated". Some even seem to think that Taranis is only for people who are "computer geeks". There have even been suggestions that Taranis users are people more interested in the programming transmitters than flying!

There have been lots of statements about how "different" Taranis is and about OpenTx and how flexible it is. Some of this, I think, is leading to false ideas that somehow you have to be wizard programmer to use Taranis - or any other OpenTx based system.

So I thought we'd start a thread aimed at passing on some real base-level experience with the system and to try to answer questions people might have who are thinking about getting a Taranis, but are a bit nervous that it might in some way be "beyond them".

I'm hoping that other Taranis users will contribute as well - but I do ask them to remember this isn't about discussing advanced features - its about getting into the system and helping people who haven't used it get a "handle" on what its all about and what its like to use. So let's keep it simple.

I'm going to kick off by trying to describe what OpenTx is, and what its not! And attempting to explain what we mean when we say "Taranis is different" - in what way different exactly?

So, here goes,...

BEB

Chris Bott - Moderator13/05/2014 10:31:36
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Great idea BEB.

(Is this the point where we ought to be asking FrSky if they'd sponsor the forum or something? We do seem to be trying to help them to sell more of these excellent transmitters!)

Biggles' Elder Brother - Moderator13/05/2014 10:47:07
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All transmitters are built on complex software. We can think of this software as the transmitter's "operating system" - just like your computer has "Windows" or some other operating system, so do all transmitters.

When you use a computer - you use its operating system. Its how you open files, start applications, delete stuff you don't want etc. etc. Another analogy would be that you are reading this on an internet browser, this is the software that displays the forum, locates different pages etc.

So you are already fully skilled in using software. You know that don't have to understand how Windows works to use it. Just like you don't have to understand how your chosen browser works to use that. They are just "environments" within which you work. they are tools that you use. We don't "program" Windows or Chrome, we just use it. Other specialist, very clever (we hope!) people do the programming to build these systems for us.

OpenTx is Taranis's operating system. Its the sorftware that drives it. And just like windows we use it - we don't program it. There are people who do write the bits that make up OpenTx - but that's not us - well at least its not the vast majority of us!

So, if you think you have to be an expert in Open Source software development to use Taranis - it is not true. We are just using some software that happens to have been developed in an Open Source way - that's all.

So, why is the fact that its Open Source important at all? From a purely user point of view - it isn't. But it does give us two big advantages:

1. Being Open Source means that OpenTx was written by a huge team of volunteer software engineers, mainly professional software developers in their "day job" they wrote (and continue to develop) this system in their spare time. Yes - I know - it seems a bit odd that people who do this for a living would want to come home at night and do this as a hobby as well - but there you are. The advantage of this though is one of numbers - there are hundreds of them - all over the world - who have contributed. A far bigger team than any one commercial manufacturer of transmitters could possibly afford to employ. In fact probably more software engineers than all the mainstream manufacturers added together! But remember, they write the software, they do the real programming - not us!

2. Because of this huge human resource, and the fact that they are not linked to any particular manufacturer - in principal OpenTx could be made to run on almost any transmitter, the designers of OpenTx could start with a "clean sheet". They didn't have to worry about backward compatibility, they didn't have a limited budget that meant they had to reused a lot of existing code because they couldn't afford to write a completely new system. Everything was "up for grabs". They could ask the question "If we were developing an R/C transmitter operating system from scratch - one that could benefit from everything we've learned up to now - what would it look like?"

And that is what OpenTx is. It is just the software that runs on the transmitter which we use to set up our models. We don't write it, we don't program it - we just use it. Taranis just happens to be a transmitter designed to use OpenTx as its chosen operating system.

Now - what exactly did they put in OpenTx that's so different from other system's? That's the next post,...

BEB

Chris Anthony13/05/2014 11:26:43
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For the benefit of others I will testify in defence of the Taranis, having owned one for just over a month or so now. In my case, this is my first real transmitter. I don't know if this is a help or a hindrance, but my experience with the TX has been nothing but positive.

I was concerned about the level of knowledge that many people suggested I would need to make the TX work. For this reason, after finally buying one following much consideration, I set aside a full day to get to grips with it, with two large instruction manuals at my disposal.

Within an hour I had programmed all 3 of my models into the TX, and then proceeded to go flying for the rest of the day. I probably got through just 6 pages of one of the +50 page manuals - that was all I needed to get airborne.

It's good to know that there are heaps of options for me to progress through, and come up with complicated functions for things I don't even know about yet. In this respect, my imagination is the limit. But it's even better to know that this is all optional, and I can improve my technical understanding of the TX at my own pace, and still be able to fly with it in the mean time.

Edited By Chris Anthony on 13/05/2014 11:28:25

Biggles' Elder Brother - Moderator13/05/2014 11:32:17
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If you look at 99% of existing transmitters - for all that they have a different name on the front and offer slightly different capabilities - they are actually all based on the same basic idea where their user interface is concerned. Basically they give you access to the power of their operating system via a series of menus. You work through the menus selecting the features you want.

Now, as a user interface this has many advantages. Principally its quite straight forward to use and once you have used one Tx like this, you can quite quickly figure out another one. Ok the names of the menus might be a bit different, stuff that appears in one menu on one system might actually be in a slightly different menu on another. But overall, the basic concept of how you use this is the same - you select options from menus and set the odd variable to a value. All sound familiar?

But this system has a major drawback. If the designer of the system didn't think you'd need a particular option it won't be there in a menu for you to select it. And that's likely to mean you either can't do it at all - or if you can then you are going to have to be very clever and devious to manipulate the system into doing the thing you want via some complex mix or other trick.

When OpenTx was being designed this is the main limitation they tried to get away from. In reality Taranis doesn't really have menus. And this is the source of the first "culture shock" you get as user. If you pick up a Taranis, or any other OpenTx base transmitter, and treat it like its a standard Tx and say "Right, where is the expo menu then?" You will fail to find it - because it isn't there!

So what you have to do is say to yourself "OK, this is a new way of doing it. I'm going have to learn a new approach." Yes learning this new approach will take you a bit of time - a few hours to get the basics, not days! But the "prize" for investing those few hours is enormous!

I think about my Taranis this way - its all about signal flow.

1. The "signal" starts when I use my finger to move a stick,

2. This signal then gets "altered and conditioned" in some way,

3. Its transmitted to a receiver,

4. Applied to an output channel of that receiver.

5. Passed to a servo, and then that moves the control.

So, and this really is "the key" to understanding Taranis, I get to say exactly how I want each of those steps done.

First, what stick controls what channel? I state that, not the transmitter telling me. And yes - you can have any stick, any channel - your choice. And its dead easy to chose - no complicated programming, you just state your preference.

Second - what do I want to happen to this stick movement - how senstive do I want it to be? Is it 100% - ie full stick equals full signal? Or perhaps only 50% of it is passed on, so full stick will only be 50% of the signal (that's Taranis's idea of rates!). Do I want the relationship between me moving the stick and how much signal gets passed on to be "one-to-one" - ie a simple linear relationship. Or do I want it to be non-linear, perhaps following an exponential function - or a more general curve that I define with simple graph on the screen? All of these I just "say" what I want by typing it in the appropriate tab in the programming interface. Do I want this signal passed on now? Or do I want a delay? Do I want it slowed down? Do I want it linked to a switch? Do I want a voice message when it happens? All these things, and many more, I can simply state that I want to happen.

Third - Ok I have the "signal" sorted out with its rates and expo etc. in the transmitter. How is it going to get to the receiver? What type of Rx am I using, Am I using a module etc.

When it gets to the receiver - what physical servo connection will link to which stick - I can have a Futaba-like AETR (Aileron - Elevator - Throttle - Rudder), or RETA or RTAE, or whatever I want as my channel assignment order - its up to me. Its dead easy to choose - you don't have to "program" it, you just choose an option - but all of the options are there, not just the ones the designer thought you'd want! And how do I want the servo to react to that output? Full range movement? Limited end points? Inverted? Again - I get to state.

So that's all there is too it. You don't pick off menus you just systematically work through from your thumb on the stick to the servo output arm, specifying what you want to happen at each step. Very intuitive, very "flyer orientated" - much more so than any menu system could ever be.

And if you're in a hurry - you can just say to it "make this model like that one" - and bingo, it just sets it up. You can then tweak a few particulars if need be.

So, that's exactly what is different. Doesn't sound much does it? But this approach gives us enormous power to do all sorts of things very simply.

BEB

Eifion Herbert13/05/2014 11:49:57
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Posted by Biggles' Elder Brother - Moderator on 13/05/2014 11:32:17:

But this system has a major drawback. If the designer of the system didn't think you'd need a particular option it won't be there in a menu for you to select it.

Or worse, if the marketing department for a manufacturer thinks they can sell you the "next model up" by limiting a particular capability in the software of the entry-level set - even though it the electronics may be physically capable of doing so, then you'll have to cough up to access that function.

eg the DX6i has a timer, which can be activated by the throttle-cut button or trainer switch. If you want the timer to start automatically when you advance the throttle for take-off you'll need the DX8 for that.

Concorde Speedbird13/05/2014 11:51:05
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Why is this not in the existing Taranis user chat thread? This is a very good description of how it works which everyone will be grateful for, but it almost seems that we are being persuaded to go out and buy a Taranis now. I really enjoyed the magazine article about it, particularly the GPS tracker, but on the forum I have seen at least three threads now about it just raving about how amazing it is. I'm not saying it isn't amazing, it probably is, but at the end of the day it's just a transmitter, and no matter how good it is it's about the pilot. Say I open thread trying to persuade everyone to use engines (remember that?!) and I would be rightly shot down, but it seems okay to do this for a certain transmitter?

If I'm wrong then that is fine, but it is just the feeling I am getting.

CS (Hiding now!)

The Wright Stuff13/05/2014 12:05:17
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I'm following this with interest. BEB, please keep going. There are other threads, but they are not readable enough or concise enough to follow unless you are already familiar with the concept...

Biggles' Elder Brother - Moderator13/05/2014 12:19:28
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So, where does the this fabled "flexibility and power" come in. After all, what I have described so far is a bit different yes, but hardly earth shattering stuff.

Well it comes because of the way you are free to combine things, you can "pick and mix" and use just about any facility with any other facility - in a crazy number of permutations and combinations. Let me try to illustrate this with just one example.

One of the things you can obviously do to a "signal" is mix it with another signal. OK - just like a mix on your Tx now. Maybe our model has flaps and want to mix in some down elevator. No problem, just say that 10% of the flaps signal should be fed to the elevator channel. Nothing revolutionary so far.

But what is revolutionary is this; you don't have to have "10%" hard wired. You could:

1. Combine it with the expo function. So you decide that the percentage should be fixed with a curve and the percentage mixed in varies with position of your flaps. You could have 10% elevator at 40% flaps, but 20% elevator at 100% flaps and a smoothly varying curve in between. Think of it as having "expo on the amount of mix"! Except of course it doesn't have to be expo - it could be curve you define.

2. You could link the mix to a control. Well the obvious one is a switch so you could have the mix on or off. Or even with a three position switch have off, 10% mix and 20% mix. OK, you could do that with a conventional Tx, but the beauty of Taranis is when they say "set the mix from a control" they don't just mean a switch, they mean any control. So, you could make the mix percentage variable - you could set it with a slider or a knob. Wow! That would mean you could alter the mix percentage in the air! Yes - exactly. No more "try 10%, oh not enough, land alter to 20%, oh dear too much, land, alter to 15%, well not perfect but I'll live with it because I'm bored landing and fiddling". No, just fly and tweak the percentage with a knob on the Tx until you're happy. When you land you can read off the percentage you have fixed (or even swisher - set the Tx to tell you with a voice message when you toggle the trainer switch!). And then you can "hard wire" what you know is the right value.

And you can do this sort of thing with just about anything - you can set expo this way too.

And the really important point I want to get across is that doing this isn't difficult! It doesn't take hours of complex programming - setting that up would take you about 1 minute longer than it will take you now to set up a fixed value mix on your current Tx - honestly. And a lot less time doing flights to just set up the flaps - leaving more time for "real" flying!

This is just one example - the whole thing is like this - you can seemly combine anything with anything - very easily! As Chris says above the limitation is your imagination - not your programming capability! And we haven't even touched on telemetry yet!

Some might say - "why would I want all this - I'm happy with what I have". Well if so that's great - but if you're reading this I assume you are at least curious about Taranis? And what I've found, not just with Taranis but with the hobby in general, often we don't know we want something until someone tells us we can have it!

BEB

Biggles' Elder Brother - Moderator13/05/2014 12:25:07
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Ok - that's hopefully "seeded" the thread. The idea is that this is for two groups of people:

1. If you are a Taranis user; share your experiences that you think would help a new comer to the system.

2. if you are thinking about buying Taranis - but you're not too sure about certain aspects and have questions - ask away and we (the Taranis users!) will try our best to answer them.

If you already have a Taranis and just have a specific technical question about something please use either the Taranis chat thread - or start a new thread if you think it appropriate. Let's keep the discussion here about answering questions for those that don't have a Taranis yet - but are thinking of getting one - or are just curious about it.

BEB

Biggles' Elder Brother - Moderator13/05/2014 12:43:43
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CSB - I'm doing it because its a new concept. Its not "just another transmitter" and people are curious, and as TWS has said, yes some of this information is elsewhere but not drawn together and perhaps not laid out in a explanatory style.

We are not "promoting" one Tx, or at least that's certainly not my aim! OpenTx is a departure in Tx design and we are trying to do one of the things the forum is for - helping modellers to follow new developments in their hobby so they can make hopefully well informed decisions.

There is absolutely nothing what so ever stopping someone else from starting a similar thread on, say, the DX9 or any other Tx and indeed when Spekky first came out with 2.4GHz there were many threads dealing with all sorts of issues around that - and quite rightly so.

The only rule I will lay down is - no rubbishing of other transmitters! And it is on that rule that people sometimes fall down.

One final point - remember, no one has to read any particular thread on here - you can pick and mix as you wish. And no thread takes away space from another - unlike in a magazine where space is limited. So I don't see the problem in having a thread to help those unfamiliar but curious about Taranis with some accurate information based on actually using it - rather than opinions based on no first hand experience, which we have been getting. So I hope you find it informative and interesting and take the opportunity to ask any questions about the system you may have. But if you're not so interested - well that's OK, there are plenty of other threads as well just as good!

Anyway - back to the main topic.

BEB

The Wright Stuff13/05/2014 12:52:52
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Thanks BEB, a very useful overview.

My only query is whether you would recommend this approach to a beginner in model flying. I wonder whether I would have had the discipline to keep things simple, and explore and understand my models behaviour incrementally, rather than leaping straight into mixing everything with everything else, just because I could!

Cheers.

Edited By The Wright Stuff on 13/05/2014 12:54:26

FilmBuff13/05/2014 13:03:16
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Posted by The Wright Stuff on 13/05/2014 12:52:52:

Thanks BEB, a very useful overview.

My only query is whether you would recommend this approach to a beginner in model flying. I wonder whether I would have had the discipline to keep things simple, and explore and understand my models behaviour incrementally, rather than leaping straight into mixing everything with everything else, just because I could!

No! smile d

Andy Butler13/05/2014 13:43:09
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Well I hope I can contribute having had a Taranis for about six months. Thanks to BEB for exploding the 'programming' myth. It's really not hard, just different. In fact once you get used to it - and there will be a light bulb moment - it's so obvious.

Just a thought here - how many people use all of the features in Word or Excel? You use the features you need and research others if you need them - but the flexibility is there, just like OpenTx.

The Wright Stuff13/05/2014 13:53:47
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Good analogy Andy!!!

Now I'm imagining a little paperclip symbol that leaps up on the screen and says: "It looks like you are creating a flap mix..." before proceeding to destroy your entire program!

avtur13/05/2014 14:21:52
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What a great idea for a thread BEB, I can't help feel that the gauntlet of Taranaphobia has just landed at my feet!

I wonder how long before curiosity gets the better of me?

I'll follow the thread and see how long I can resist wink 2

Chris Anthony13/05/2014 14:46:51
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Posted by FilmBuff on 13/05/2014 13:03:16:
Posted by The Wright Stuff on 13/05/2014 12:52:52:

Thanks BEB, a very useful overview.

My only query is whether you would recommend this approach to a beginner in model flying. I wonder whether I would have had the discipline to keep things simple, and explore and understand my models behaviour incrementally, rather than leaping straight into mixing everything with everything else, just because I could!

No! smile d

As said in my comments above, I've only had the Taranis about a month. To expand, I'd only been flying RC planes for around a month before getting my Taranis, this was when I used basic Park Fly TXs. I'd say that makes me new enough to the hobby to answer Ian Wright's question from personal experience.

And it is as Andy Butler says very well "you use the features you need and research others if you need them". This applies just as well to the Taranis as any other radio, and indeed anything technical in life, in my experience. I would have had the same temptation to explore mixing etc on any other type of radio, should I have got another type, it is not a temptation that is created exclusively by the Taranis. But the benefit of the Taranis seems to be that it is easier to achieve what you want once you "give in to the temptation" and pursue technical advancement. And to again stress what I said in my first post "this is all optional"!

Edited By Chris Anthony on 13/05/2014 14:48:14

Harry Curzon13/05/2014 15:01:31
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I have had a Taranis from day 1, first batch.

It’s not difficult, just different to the typical Japanese master-slave mixing method.

It’s not complex to do the normal things, but it is capable of great complexity if you want it to.

You don’t need to program it on PC but you can if you want to. I do like doing it on PC but do it on the Tx so I know where to go in the Tx menus when I want to adjust something at the flying field.

Nor is it revolutionary! There’s a good reason the instruction manual says that Multiplex users will feel at home straight away, this is how Multiplex Profi Tx have been programmed for decades!

The hardest thing is not learning to program Taranis/OpenTx, the hardest thing is stopping yourself from trying to program it the Japanese way. Many users keep trying to do the master-slave thing, and it just won’t work.

There is no master control on any channel, and no slave mixed to it. There is no elevator channel, no aileron channel etc.

You look at a surface on your model and ask “What controls do I want to influence that surface?” Then you input all those controls onto that servo (channel). All are equal. There is no master, no slave. You can vary each input’s direction, travel, have them switchable etc. For example you look at an elevator and decide you want it to be controlled by elevator stick, flap switch, rudder stick (for knife edge) and so on. Then you just add a line for each of them to the elevator servo, and set the travels and switches etc as you desire.

Biggles' Elder Brother - Moderator13/05/2014 15:44:12
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The question of Taranis and new flyers is an interesting one - and I think the answer is not as straight forward as just "yes" or "no" TBH smile. Its a sort "it depends".

New flyers have one big advantage where Taranis is concerned - no baggage - no pre-conceived ideas about how a Tx should be programmed. If you have not used a "conventional" Tx - then you probably don't even realise its different! Similarly if you only have very limited experience with conventional Tx's you haven't got much to "unlearn" as it were!

I certainly don't think that Taranis is too difficult for a beginner. Chris and Andy make good points - you can pick up the minimum you need to know quickly and then add to your skills as you go along.

Where there is a potential problem for beginners with Taranis is that there are still relatively few users in the clubs. So if you turn up to learn to fly - and your instructor says "we need to change the rates on this model" then the odds are he's not going to know how to do that! So in that respect - you have to be sure that you can do these things - change the throws, change the expo, reverse a servo, move an end-point etc. Because you are, at the moment, unlikely to get help to do them. But hey, I think a beginner should be able to do those things on their Tx anyway - whatever brand it is. I always say to a learner - "reduce the throw on that control by about 1/3rd" and I expect them to be able to do that. OK - if they can't I show them, but I don't think I should have to. And it always worries me about how well is the rest of the model set up when I have to! smile o

But honestly I think that is the only real drawback for a beginner - and I'm sure, as time goes on, and more Taranis appear in clubs, even that "problemette" will decrease. We can't be far off at least one Taranis user per club now - there are two in mine!

BEB

Erfolg13/05/2014 16:00:57
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Is there a web site with say mode 2 basic template, either as a down load, or instructions to set up a basic set up.

What I am not getting is conceptually how is the menu structured. For example is it a tree structure (with sub branches) or is it totally flat in structure. Or could it be any?

If it can be a user defined tree structure, will not a convention emerge? If this is the case, is the mechanism there to see that will give direction?

If a flat structure surely the listing could get extremely long.

Just one other thought, if all Txs are set up potentially differently, getting help, say at the field, could be an issue. Then again, if you are not inclined to write down your philosophy for setting up the tx and how you implemented your wants, it could take you some sorting out at a later date. Particularly at the field.

Or have I got hold of the wrong end of the stick as to what is going on.

I just think of someone I saw struggling with a new Hott in a lay-by, trying to get it to do what he wanted, so struggles with capable systems are not unique. Of course there is always me, with my pretty basic Tx.embarrassed

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