Product review: Hustler Raptor X Zero Turn Lawn Mower

I've owned a Hustler Raptor X zero turn for close to a year before writing a pretty detailed review. The tl;dr version of my review is that the Raptor is a solid product at a very reasonable price. While it doesn't compare to a 15 or 20k commercial mower, it comes close enough to more then justify its price, especially for a home owner with an acre or three to cut. In my case i use it to cut for customers as well as my own lawn and i'm still very happy with it. For the details, read Hustler Raptor X Zero Turn Lawn Mower.

Product review (and lot's of tips): Hustler Raptor X Zero Turn Lawn Mower

This is a review of a 2022 model Hustler Raptor X zero turn lawn mower with a 42 in. deck. I bought this machine for mowing small yards with lots of obstacles and have owned it for approximately 10 months prior to writing this review. There is currently 30 hours on the machine.

Having far more experience with larger, commercial zero turn mowers, i can confidently state that the Raptor X does not perform like a commercial machine. That said, i think it is indeed a good quality, home owner class mower that is well built and well worth it's price of around $4,000, especially for a machine that's made by a U.S. company. Whether that amount of cash is a wise investment for the typical home owner is debatable, but once you start running zero turn mowers there's simply no going back, especially if you pattern mow.

'Dennis' does a very nice review of his 2021 Raptor X which is nearly identical to mine with the exception that he went with the larger 54 inch deck and motor combination. The only thing i would disagree with is his comments about mowing slopes which aren't accurate and this is perfectly understandable as this was his first zero turn. It is perfectly fine to traverse a slope as long as it isn't too steep and this is how all the commercial guys do it up to roughly 35 degrees (the Raptor X is limited to a 25 degree incline - more on that later). (On a side note, if you watch his other videos about his Raptor, note that he provides incorrect and potentially very costly information in his Adjust Steering Tracking Hustler Raptor Zero Turn video.)

Hustler Raptor X Zero Turn Mower - 30 Hour Review and Walk-Around

Since i'm most familiar with Ferris commercial units in the $15,000+ price range, much of what i have to say about the Raptor will be an admittedly unfair comparison of these two classes of mowers and one of the first things anyone coming from a commercial mower will notice with the Raptor is the lack of suspension. The rectangular, single piece, steel tube frame of the Raptor is absolutely rigid, which is good, but that means there is nothing to absorb the bumps other than the pneumatic tires, all 4 of which are to be pressurized to around 8 to 12 PSI according to the manual. I run the pressure on the low end to help with traction and bump absorption. The maximum speed of the machine is about 7 MPH, however mowing at that speed on anything other than a golf course is pretty much out of the question. Hustler does make make 'flex forks' for the front castors but they're $350 bucks and while they apparently help with the bumps, they will also make it easier to scalp those high spots since the deck is independent of the suspension. There is another potential advantage with the flex forks however. Given that drive wheel traction on a ridged, suspension-less chassis is compromised on uneven ground, imagine yourself traversing a slope when one of the casters drops into a dip. This is going to take a little bit of weight off of the opposing rear drive wheel and having the flex forks may help in an instance like this.

Another issue that was readily apparent with the 42 in. deck of the Raptor is the anti-scalp wheel. Notice i said "wheel" and not "wheels" because there is literally only one and it's located on the left rear of the deck for reasons which only a Buddhist monk could possibly understand. You can see it located in front of the drive wheel in the opening image. The fact that there's only one however is irrelevant because it's completely useless anyway. The anti-scalp wheel can be mounted in one of two positions, either the top or the bottom hole of its mounting bracket, and even when mounted in its lowest position, the bottom of the wheel is about even with the bottom of the deck. I don't know what the engineer was thinking here, but somebody made a boo boo. The good news is that this is the only "serious" design flaw i've noticed thus far and given the short wheelbase of this little machine, i'm not sure proper anti-scalp wheels would be very effective anyway. Besides, if you're going to scalp, you need to hit the foot pedal and raise the deck rather than rely on the anti-scalp wheels.

While we're still in 'knocking the Raptor' mode, let's talk about another aspect of the deck. The deck is fabricated rather than stamped which is not only a good thing, but is apparently virtually unheard of at this price point. The problem is that the left front of the deck is contoured to the left side blade, meaning it's rounded. So what's the problem you ask? Buckhorn. Any fast growing weed like buckhorn, or dandelions, or even tall grass, has a tendency to bend around the left side of the deck rather than getting sucked under it. This isn't a problem if you mow wheel-to-wheel, but it is if you mow edge to edge, or the full width of the deck in other words. I thought i could resolve the issue by having a small tab welded on the left side of the deck that essentially made the front of the deck square at its bottom edge, but i'm not sure that mod is working as well as i expected.

Another tiny gripe is that you have to use a socket to remove the single bolt that holds the floor pan in place. Removing the pan allows for easy cleaning and inspection of the belt and the two spindle pulley's, however i didn't like having to use a tool and so i replaced the bolt with a thumb screw arrangement by threading a bolt up through the existing fender bolt clip and then screwing a female. Oh wait, i ended that sentence a bit abruptly, didn't i? I meant to say that i screwed a female thumb knob onto the bolt. Glad we could clear that up.

The drive tires, at only 18 inches in diameter, take some real getting used to regarding traction and maneuverability if you're coming from a commercial mower, especially when backing up for some reason. With a Ferris one can stop, change directions and reverse course very quickly without tearing up the grass, but with the lighter Raptor and its smaller tires i found it necessary to be significantly more gentle with the controls when doing tight maneuvers despite its exclusive "Big Bite" tires. It's not difficult to spin a wheel when backing up with any zero turn, but this mower in particular pretty much requires pulling both sticks back slowly and equally before initiating the 'Y' turn maneuver to line up for your next pass, even on dry, level ground. The mower seems to do fine going forward regarding traction, though traversing even moderately steep slopes can be sketchy, speaking of which, the engine manual says to not exceed 25 degrees of tilt for an extended period of time else the engine loses its lubrication. Given the rather poor traction on the steeper slopes, i'm not sure it's even possible to exceed 25 degrees without bob-sledding into your neighbors rose garden. In my case this hasn't been a problem, so far, but it is a bit of a disappointment considering one can easily do 35+ degrees with a good commercial machine, the limiting factor being the size of the operators testicles, not engine lubrication. By the way, i only found the 25 degree thing in the engine manual after going through it more thoroughly for this review. My excuse for not reading it sooner is because IT'S A LAWN MOWER ENGINE! Who the hell needs a manual for a lawn mower eng....... never mind.

There's no roll bar or seat belt on the Raptor X model, however given its intended purpose and limitations, there's hardly any need for such features. You wouldn't want to be wearing a seat belt without a roll bar anyway.

The engine exhaust is fairly loud. I don't know why the hell mower manufacturers refuse to make a quiet exhaust. We can do it for cars, generators, motorcycles, airplanes, whatever, so why not lawn mowers??? Is this rocket science? I wouldn't say the Raptor is louder than a commercial Ferris mower, but it's close. While you can buy muffler extensions that will further quieten the thing, they will likely rob a bit of power.

The cooling fans for the hydraulic pumps have a large, deep hub like a cup where grass clippings accumulate. It's not an issue, but it would have been nice had Hustler spent an extra ten cents and installed some plastic caps over them.

The rather large deck discharge chute is a bloody nuisance, as they all are. At first i did what any commercial guy does; i ignored the warnings of imminent death in the manual and promptly removed it. I don't know what it is with the Raptor, but it seems to throw the clippings quite far and this can be a bit of an issue when you don't want to toss grass onto an adjacent yard or you need to mulch leaves. My solution was to cut several inches off the end of the plastic chute and modify it so that it hinges down within about an inch of the ground. This works great when you want to avoid throwing leaves or grass clippings into the next zip code. I then drilled a hole close to the outer edge of the thing and ran a cord through it which then runs through a 'U' shaped bracket which i attached to the front of the right fender. Having a couple knots in the cord to catch in the bracket allows me to set the chute at 3 different heights, including all the way up which is its normal position (for us reckless folks). If you're mowing where there's people within a stones throw distance however, do not run with the chute up! You'd be surprised how far even a push mower can launch a golf ball (i was about ready to slap my neighbor that day, and would have had it not missed me by inches but i didn't feel like walking that far). By the way, do not ever run a mower anywhere near kids (or people in general)! EVER!

The deck can stripe a lawn but not very well, even with a 1/4 inch forward tilt. This is a non-issue for me given that most of the lawns i do are small and have several obstacles that pretty much make pattern mowing useless (besides, no one i mow for gives a damn about stripes anyway). Striping kits are available of course but they are quite pricey for what you get and it's rather trivial to make one yourself that is every bit as effective and much less expensive. The rear of the engine mounting plate has 2 square holes which will accept 1/4 inch carriage bolts and this would make it very easy to hang from it a roller (a PVC pipe filled with sand) or, perhaps better yet, something like a stiff mud flap, if you're a stripper... i mean striper. Sorry.

The rubber mat where you place your feet is attached to the surprisingly robust and heavy steel floor pan with 6 plastic push-ins (kind of like rivets, but removable). This allows a lot of debris to collect under the mat, a problem which i solved by gluing the mat to the pan with some spray adhesive. The weight of the floor pan is intriguing. It's not at all unwieldy, but it certainly doesn't need to be that weighty and so i have to wonder whether Hustler is using it as sort of a counter weight to make the front end heavier.

Lastly, Hustler must think the average person is about the size of one of those little gray aliens because the way the seating and drive control arrangement was set up was rather cramped. Thankfully the seat, which is fairly comfortable, is somewhat adjustable insomuch as it can be slid forward and backward a few inches by loosening it's mounting bolts, and the drive/steering levers can be adjusted also. While there is enough adjustment to accommodate an average size adult reasonably well, if your one of those 6+ footers you may want to consider another model. By the way, i tend to move the seat all the way back on every zero turn machine in order to move my weight toward the drive wheels which helps a bit when traversing steep slopes, however the opposite would be better if you're mowing steep slopes from bottom to top.

Okay, enough with the whining. Let's consider the many pluses!

I think the Raptor X is a good little machine, i really do. For around 4 grand one cannot possibly belittle it for not having suspension or having a deck with a rounded corner for cripe sake. Hustler designed this machine for the home owner with a small-ish yard and i think it performs very well in that regard. It's made in the U.S., it's well built, it has a fabricated deck, it's warranted for 3 years and the maintenance couldn't be any simpler. There is little to maintain other than the engine and blades. There is nothing to grease and the hydraulic system is sealed and maintenance free. The 2 cylinder Kawasaki engine is carborated so it's certainly best to run ethanol-free gas in it, but other than fueling it, keeping both blades sharp and checking the engine oil and the air pressure in the tires, there's little else to do on a regular basis. Try finding these qualities in another brand of the same class at this price point.

Some of the lawns i mow with the little Raptor are tough. One property in particular should be classified as an artillery testing ground and be designated as off limits to humans. There are piles of garbage, cars, car parts, boards, steel bed frames, bricks, rocks, holes, more holes, ruts, cats, dog shit and all kinds of other interesting things. On the first mowing, which was months overdue by the time the customer contacted me, i ran over what appeared to be the tubular metal frame of a folding lawn chair. The entanglement stopped the left blade instantly, and thus the motor. I thought for sure i had busted something but other than the 2nd blade unscrewing itself, there was no apparent damage. I was very impressed that i hadn't even bent the blade or broken a belt. One section of this same lawn hadn't been mowed for at least a year and so the grass was up to my balls and very thick, yet the Raptor's 18 HP engine plowed right through, albeit at a slow pace, but a commercial machine could hardly have done much better.

On another occasion of a first cut of an overgrown lawn i whacked a very solid tree stump i couldn't see which, again, stopped the engine dead. I expected this would have damaged or broke a spindle for sure but, once again, there was no apparent damage and i'm not hearing any bearing noise. How the small blade spindles and the deck belt on the Raptor can withstand that kind of abuse, i don't know, but i suspect there are few if any zero turn's in this price range that could take such a beating. Due to experience, i'm 95% certain that the cheap cast spindles on the little 42 inch Cub Cadet zero turn's, which are equipped with an inferior stamped deck by the way, would have exploded in this instance.

One of the things i wanted, even in a cheap zero turn, was arm rests and they are standard on the Raptor X, another feature that isn't typically found in this price range. Granted they are a bit cheesy feeling, lack padding and aren't adjustable, but at least they're there. They do fold up however. If you spend much time on a zero turn, my guess is that you'll appreciate arm rests, both for comfort and directional precision when pattern mowing.

The Raptor is available with a 42 or 54 inch deck, the former of which comes with a 603 CC, 4-stroke, 18 HP Kawasaki and the latter with a 726 CC, 21.5 HP power plant of the same brand. Given the lawns i mow, the 42 inch deck is a pretty perfect size and 18 HP is more than enough, regardless of how tall the grass is. I have to say that i'm quite impressed with the power of this machine, though with that power comes increased fuel consumption. Water injection anyone? Hmmm. Regarding fuel, the tank is small and there is no gauge, but i suspect it might last for at least 4 to 6 hours.

The deck is easy to level. Basically you would make sure the tires are evenly inflated and make yourself 3 equal height blocks. Set the deck cutting height at 1/4 of an inch higher than the blocks and place the blocks under the deck at the locations specified in the manual, then adjust the deck hangers. There's no need to set a forward tilt because the rear of the deck is already 1/4 of an inch higher than the front. The only tool needed is a wrench.

Unlike the Ferris mowers i run, the Raptor has a magnetic deck height adjustment pin. While this may seem trivial, it's actually a very welcome touch compared to the older Ferris' where you have to pull a quick release pin before you can pull the deck adjustment pin. Unlike the Ferris however, you cannot lock the deck at its highest position without moving the deck pin. The Raptor X has a welcome pin and hole deck adjustment system, complete with an inch scale instead of just arbitrary numbers, and the deck is adjustable in 1/4 inch increments.

Unlike some models, including the Ferris mowers i run, you don't have to be sitting in the seat to start the engine. Why some manufactures incorporated this "safety" feature i'll never know. Do you have to be sitting in your car to start it? As with any other reputable brand, the logical safety features are all there with the Raptor; the drive controls must be in the park position and the deck must be disengaged before the engine can be started. Such safety features are common to pretty much all mowers nowadays and with them comes more complexity in the form of more wiring and switches and in the Raptor's case, Hustler didn't use waterproof electrical components, though i'm not sure other brands do either. Besides, mowing in the rain, or when the grass is wet, is a big no no. Still, these 'interlock' systems are common points of failure on many lawn mowers and this often leads to owners bypassing the safety switches which is not a great idea.

Regarding the parking brake, the system on the Raptor is more like that on an automatic car transmission where, when you stick it in park, the drive wheels are locked. This happens automatically when you return the drive controls to their park position. I'm not convinced this system is optimal, but it is convenient and, with fewer parts, much simpler and easier to maintain.

And of course the number one feature of the Raptor X is that it has a beer coffee cup holder! It also has 2 other decent sized cavities in its plastic fenders for carrying bug spray, gloves, your loved ones ashes and clippers to cut those damned pricker bushes that always seem to protrude from the wooded edges of a lawn for the explicit purpose of either putting holes in you or your tires, sometimes both if you're as fortunate as i am.

If you're a home owner who has never used a zero turn and you don't have to mow any steep terrain, and you don't care about pattern mowing, then it might be very difficult to justify spending $4,000 on a zero turn lawn mower, however if you do care about pattern mowing and/or you need to cut on steeper terrain, and/or you just want to one-up your neighbor, i would certainly suggest considering the Hustler brand. Just make sure the model you choose will run continuously on steep slopes if you have to deal with inclines over 25 degrees. I tend to do quite a bit of research before making a purchase and Hustler seems to build a very solid product at a very reasonable price and their machines generally get pretty good reviews from real people that use them, however i would strongly suggest not buying the first iteration of a new model. The Raptor SD had several non-trivial problems when it was first released (i recently saw an older SD at the shop that was being retrofitted with upgraded parts).

Overall i'm quite pleased with my purchase of the 2022 Hustler Raptor X. While my biggest complaint is traction, i'm not sure that would have been a complaint had i not been riding commercial zero-turn's for the last few years. I think the $4,000 price tag was reasonable given its quality and features which seem to only be matched in other brands costing substantially more. The machine is structurally sound, plenty powerful and dirt simple to maintain. While the ride and cut quality fall short of good commercial unit, it also costs about $10,000 dollars less.

If you've never operated a zero turn mower and are considering buying one, here's a few tips:

  • Always wear eye and ear protection when mowing (or edging)! I'm not a safety nut, but trust me, both are important.
  • Zero turn mowers do not get good traction when going down a grade. Stopping, even on a slight downhill grade, needs to be done slowly, especially if the grass is wet or dead from a lack of rain. If you do start to slide, don't panic and don't try to stop or reverse the wheels! Your best chance of avoiding an accident is to regulate the speed of the wheels and drive through the situation. This can often be done by increasing the speed of one wheel and/or slightly decreasing the speed of the other.
  • Yes, a zero turn can mow very steep slopes, but only by traversing them or mowing up hill. If you point the front of the machine even slightly downhill on a steep slope, you very well may start to slide. Many a human has transitioned into the next realm as a result of flipping their mower, especially when it tumbles into a body of water or rolls on top of them. It seems a lot of guys flip their machine when it loses traction and slides sideways down a slope, then abruptly regains traction again.
  • When pattern mowing with a zero turn it is very tempting to quickly pivot on one wheel at the end of a pass, however doing so can/will create bald spots in your lawn, especially if the ground is a bit wet. Instead, practice keeping both drive wheels rotating when you turn around to line up for your next pass. Learn how to do a 3-point turn, also known as a 'Y' turn.
  • Keep your blades sharp and balanced! Us commercial guys will check the blades and clean the decks every day and sharpen the blades as needed, which is usually at least once a week. Unlike some people warn against, sharpening blades with an angle or bench grinder is perfectly fine, just keep the same angle as the factory set and be careful not to heat the edge of the blade too much since this will reduce its hardness (don't allow the edge to turn blue or start to glow). I've been experimenting with filing or grinding a very small, but steep chamfer on the edge after the blade has been sharpened the normal way so that the edge is more like this: /_ instead of this: < . The thinking here is that the edge won't be so thin and thus it should remain sharper longer and be slightly less prone to nicking while still providing a clean cut. Also you need to keep the blades balanced which can be done by hammering a nail in your wife's heirloom dresser and hanging the blade on it. If one side dips, grind a little more off and check it again.
  • Don't cut your grass too short! Doing so generally will not result in having to cut it less often and it allows more sun light to reach the soil which dries it out faster, which means you'll have a brown lawn during the dry spells (though you could always dye it green i suppose). Personally i cut at 2 3/4 inches minimum and i'll generally skip a week or three in dry weather. You want to try to keep the soil shaded as best as possible when you're not getting enough rain.
  • Take care of your tires! The front castor tires on zero turn mowers in general are notoriously easy to puncture! If you have to contend with thorny bushes, or accidentally run over a piece of barbed wire fencing, it is highly likely you will perforate your front tires. While you can plug or patch them, you can obviously only do so after you puncture the tire which leaves you with a flat in the middle of a job. Furthermore, i've found that plugging the thin rubber of the castor tires can actually rip the rubber, thus making the hole larger and potentially ruining the tire. One solution is to inject a tire sealant, such as Slime, before you run over that board with a nail it. Since most/all mower tires are tubeless these days, you want the 'blue label' Slime. You can of course do the rear tires as well, in which case you might want to purchase the large pump container that Slime sells which may be cheaper in the long run. Personally i still carry a plug kit, a little bottle of soapy water and a Co2 compressed air kit in my tool pouch for those times when a tire sealant may not be enough. DO NOT fill your tires with insulation foam! I tried this myself once on a Cub Cadet because i got tired of sticking a bazillion plugs in the castor tires after running over pricker bush branches. I had watched several videos of guys saying how well this works and i can virtually guarantee that every one of them lived to regret it because insulation foam becomes brittle and quickly breaks down when it dries.
  • Preventive maintenance. At a minimum, always check the following before each use:
    • check the engine oil level and check for both engine and hydraulic oil leaks
    • check and clean the deck, both the top and bottom - check the belts and check for obstructions, bent metal and pulley damage
    • check the blade spindles and make sure the blades are sharp and not bent
    • check tire pressure

If you want some more tips, you can read the following "guide" which i wrote for 'the new guy' where i work...

or how not to destroy shit and kill yourself on your first day!

RULE 1: DFU (Don't Fuck Up)

ZERO-TURNS: zero-turn mowers handle *very* differently than a regular riding mower:
* ascending a slope ...... : maximum traction, braking and steer-ability
* level ground ........... : good traction, braking and steer-ability
* traversing a slope ..... : fair traction and braking, potentially poor steer-ability
* descending a slope ..... : poor traction, braking and steer-ability - not. even. kidding.
* descending a steep slope : pray (sacrificing a small animal may help - untested)

DECK: engage the deck around half throttle and drop to idle before disengaging the deck - this saves wear on the clutch that drives the deck belt

THOSE DOWNHILL SLOPE 'OH SHIT!' MOMENTS: if (when!) you drive down even a somewhat steep grade, the drive wheels will start to lose traction - *DO NOT* TRY TO STOP! - keep the drive wheels turning and steer through that shit like a real man (who isn't the least bit afraid of getting cut in half by "the fence"...more on that later)

REALLY REALLY STEEP INCLINES: hills too steep to traverse can sometimes be mowed bottom-to-top, not that this is advisable or particularly smart - BE VERY MINDFUL OF FLIPPING BACKWARDS; if the machine starts to wheelie, smoothly move the drive controls rearward and back down the hill, gradually increasing speed if necessary to prevent flipping over backwards - never try to slow or stop when backing down a steep incline - lastly, steep slopes are often rough/rocky so remember to raise the deck

TRAVERSING SLOPES: there is a maximum incline at which you can point nose-down on a slope whilst still maintaining clean underwear - i don't know what the hell it is, and it depends on the machine, conditions, planet alignment, etc., but i'll guess it's typically around 15 deg. - be careful when traversing steep slopes; if you start sliding down a slope sideways and then suddenly stop, such as by sliding into a ditch, obstacle, etc., the mower can flip

"!!!THE FENCE!!!" : when the boss says "DON'T GO DOWN THERE KID OR YOU'LL CRASH THROUGH THE FENCE!!!", rest assured that he knows what the F he's talking about - i literally made the mistake immediately after i was warned, but i didn't panic and instead drove the machine out of the situation - i dunno why people shit their pants in times like these because my butt tightened up to the point where, had i farted, it would've sounded like a dog whistle

FUEL TANKS: don't cut too close to those laying-on-their-side-oval-looking-fuel-tanks else the back wheel will contact it, potentially knocking it off its legs and causing an environmental catastrophe the size of which would surely have Greta knocking at your door

FENCE LINES: watch for nails/objects sticking out of fences which can puncture a tire - you, we don't care about

THORNS: thorns can/will puncture the tires, particularly the front castors

TURNING: when the end of a stripe is reached and you turn around to do the next, turn in such a way as to keep both tires rolling - never pivot on one wheel

NOT TURNING: if you have trouble holding a straight line, 1) reduce alcohol consumption, 2) try aiming a castor at a distant object or just a couple inches away from the edge of your last cut

TURNING IN CIRCLES: despite being zero-turn mowers, you cannot always mow around a tree or other object without backing up to realign the deck else the rear tire will hit the object

BLOW IT OUT YOUR...: be mindful of where you're blowing the deck discharge - try to not blow it onto sidewalks, roads, buildings, cars, people, heat exchangers, etc. (people who you don't like are fair game) - sometimes this cannot be avoided, so make sure to clean off these areas either with the mower or the leaf blower

FORESTRY: tall growth, especially if green/wet, will clog the shit out of the deck - always be mindful of engine RPM and the deck exhaust; if clippings start to block it do not shut off the deck - instead: 1) raise the deck all the way and quickly come to a stop 2) rapidly drop the throttle to idle 3) shortly *before* the engine reaches idle, increase the throttle to full - it is often at this point, near idle, when piles of crap will drop from the deck like "The Big D" (Diarrhea) because it's not being held up as much by the air from the blades - do this a couple of times - if the engine stalls, disengage the deck and clean it by hand before starting it again since engaging the deck while it's full of crap puts *enormous* strain on the belt and clutch

WOW, SHE'S HOT: inevitably people will approach you at some point, perhaps to just to walk by or to ask for your hand in marriage - always idle down and disengage the deck while they pass... unless it's the 'cat lady' yelling at you for running over "Precious" in which case you can keep running whilst yelling, WHAT? WHAT? I CAN'T HEAR YOU!

* i no longer taper the blades to a fine edge - they get dull/damaged too fast - instead i sharpen them to a point as usual, then file a 10-20 deg. angle to chamfer the edge, very much like this: /__ - the height of this chamfer should probably not exceed 1/16th of an inch - this angle can be very quickly re-sharpened several times before the rest of the taper on the blade needs to be ground
* be careful not to heat the blade to where the edge discolors (turns blue) - doing so removes the temper

this guide (if you can call it that), hereafter referred to as "The Guide", may or may not be accurate. the author(s) of The Guide is/are not a professional anything and may, in fact, be mentally challenged and/or intoxicated. side effects due to ingesting The Guide are rare and may include: nausea, heart attack, stroke, genital swelling, uncontrollable crying, depression, projectile vomiting and/or 'The Big D'. contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms. the opinions expressed in The Guide do not necessarily reflect those of management. any similarities to actual people or events is completely coincidental.

Because it's such an important subject i want to elaborate a bit on the slope safety advise that eXmark provides in the video, Incline Safety Zone - Riding Mower Safety on Slopes, which is probably similar to what other manufacturers advise. In my considered opinion they deliver some piss-poor, one-size-fits-all advise that could get you hurt or killed. In the event you lose traction on a slope they suggest to first disengage the deck and then "move slowly and carefully off the slope" which the operator does by turning down the slope. We already discussed why this can be a bad idea. First of all, every situation is different and so such generic advise is terribly inadequate. Secondly, if you start sliding on a slope you generally do not want to fiddle around with the deck which means having to remove one of your hands from the drive controls at a time when seconds may count. Yes, you want to disengage the deck, but not at the expense of losing control completely. Instead you may want to be focused on controlling your direction, something you can't do if your hands aren't on the drive controls. Thirdly, advising operators to "move slowly and carefully off the slope" implies that this is actually possible when in fact it often is not. Assuming the incline doesn't change, or becomes even steeper, perhaps eXmark can explain the math that allows you to slide down a slope and then somehow magically slow down while still on the slope. I certainly can't. If you are able to slowly reduce speed, great, otherwise it is probably best to concentrate on direction, not speed, and drive through the slide. Of course my advise is also inadequate as there are an untold number of variables which can alter what you should do depending on the situation, so use your head and adapt. For example, if you're sliding toward the edge of a cliff, or a body of water, or onto a busy roadway, then you might opt to abandon the machine, though this can be easier said than done given that such emergencies often have a duration of a few seconds or less.

'Luke' offers many more good tips in these next 3 videos where he cuts a few small lawns. Here he's riding a stand-on zero turn, but all of this applies to a sit-on zero turn as well.

Don't Shoot Projectiles at Client Property! Training Episode 1 - YouTube

How to Mow the Lawn - What to Keep in Mind: Training Episode 2

This last one addresses some slope mowing concerns, though the "steep" slope he's on is hardly a challenge.

How to Mow Steep Hills - Scag Cheetah II: Training Episode 3

What could possibly go wrong you ask? Sit-on zero turn mowers generally have a low center of gravity which instills confidence on steep slopes once you become intimately familiar with the machine, but its on steep slopes where many serious accidents occur. Don't be a statistic.

Intent on remaining behind the 8-ball, Mozilla acquires Fakespot

Mozilla has made plenty of stupid decisions in the past, particularly with regard to its Firefox web browser, and it seems it may have made yet another with its acquisition of Fakespot, a company which provides a service that helps people to spot fake product reviews and scams. Yesterday's article on Techcrunch hits exactly upon the reason why i think the deal may have been another Mozilla blunder:

Although AI and machine learning have long been used to detect fake reviews, the task is likely only to get more difficult with the introduction of enhanced and commercially available AI tools. For instance, recent reports indicate that people are using AI chatbots, such as OpenAI's ChatGPT, to write reviews for products on Amazon. These reviews that are reportedly written by ChatGPT could be the next iteration of scam and fake reviews.

The timing of the acquisition is interesting. With the public release of ChatGPT, artificial intelligence is coming on-line in a big way. Over at AMO there are 273 ChatGPT extensions for Mozilla's Firefox as of this writing and the number increases daily. Product reviews are already being fabricated using AI and the trend is sure to continue, probably exponentially, and so Mozilla's new Fakespot toy, which is powered by AI, is going to be competing with itself in a sense. Spam, scams, fake product reviews, misinformation and disinformation is set to explode onto the landscape on a level never before seen and Fakespot, if my prediction is accurate, is going to become irrelevant in very short order.

I happen to be familiar with the MOTO M2 computer audio interface which is a very good, feature rich product relative to its price (around $200). It's one of the few audio interfaces at this price point which uses a high quality DAC that doesn't sacrifice the audio quality of the headphone output to keep the price down like many of its competitors. I hopped over to HuggingChat, an open-source, non-commercially licensed AI chat bot and asked it to provide a few "reviews" for the M2 and this was the result:

Me: provide a negative review of the MOTU M2 audio interface


The MOTU M2 audio interface has received mixed reviews from customers. While many users appreciate its portability, ease of setup, and affordable pricing, others have encountered several issues and frustrations while using this device. Here are a few common negatives associated with the MOTU M2:

  1. Connectivity Issues: Many customers have experienced connectivity problems with the M2 interface, including frequent disconnections from the computer, static noises during recording sessions, and inconsistent audio output levels.
  2. Insufficient Analog Inputs/Outputs: For its size and cost, some users feel that the M2 lacks sufficient analog input/output options. This limitation makes it challenging to accommodate multiple microphones and instruments simultaneously, forcing them to purchase additional adapters or switch to other interfaces altogether.
  3. Compatibility Concerns: Although the M2 supports both Mac and PC platforms, some customers have struggled with driver installations and software updates, leading to system crashes and lost data. Additionally, users running newer operating systems might experience difficulties accessing advanced features due to hardware limitations.
  4. Quality Control Issues: Several customers have reported receiving defective units straight out of the box, necessitating replacements or lengthy repair processes. Others have noticed build quality issues, such as flimsy knobs and buttons, detachable cables that break easily, and ports susceptible to damage from regular handling.
  5. Limited Monitoring Options: Unlike high-end MOTU products, the M2 audio interface does not incorporate a dedicated headphone amplifier. As a result, many musicians find themselves struggling to achieve accurate monitor mixes given the lower maximum volume levels supported by most standard headphones.

Overall, although the MOTU M2 provides excellent value and user convenience, it might fall short of expectations regarding reliability, expandability, and sonic performance for professional studio environments requiring extensive wiring configurations and precise monito

I don't know if there's a some sort of limit regarding replies, but the response ended in mid sentence and it did the same in the next response.

Me: provide a positive review of the MOTU M2 audio interface


Despite its flaws, many satisfied customers consider the MOTU M2 audio interface an excellent choice for both home studios and mobile applications due to its compact design, intuitive controls, and budget-friendly price point. Some pros of the M2 include:

  1. Portable Design: At just under four pounds (9 x 7 x 2 inches), the M2 interface is lightweight, making it easy to transport for live performances or remote recordings. Its sturdy construction ensures adequate protection against accidental knocks or drops.
  2. Ease of Use: Many newbies appreciate the straightforward operation of the M2 without needing comprehensive manuals. The interface boasts simple yet effective control panels, and customization options within DAW software allow for seamless integration with project workflows.
  3. Affordable Pricing: Considering its array of features, the MOTU M2 provides impressive bang for buck. Users typically appreciate the ability to invest in pro-level gear at a fraction of competitors' prices without compromising sound quality or basic functionality.
  4. Versatile Connectivity: The M2 supports both Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows via standard FireWire, offering flexibility for different computer setups. Plus, the inclusion of ADAT Lightpipe digital audio connectivity enables expanded channel counts through compatible external preamps or converter devices.
  5. Onboard Processing Capabilities: The M2 audio interface features two combo mic/line input channels, each with a digitally controlled preamp, line input trim control, and phantom power support for dynamic and condenser mics alike. Dual independent stereo outputs offer dedicated level adjustments and direct-monitor functions for enhanced workflow management.
  6. Low Latency Performance: Thanks to efficient internal processing resources and low CPU utilization, the M2 helps minimize delay and buffer size issues in typical modern computing ecosystems. Users report smooth real-time monitoring experiences even with multi-plugin chains engaged during tracking and mixdown sessi

The responses provided by the AI are not canned replies and so one can keep repeating the exact same query and get different answers each time. For example i repeated the same question i asked the first time and the response was very different:

Me: provide a negative review of the MOTU M2 audio interface


Hi there, I can certainly share my thoughts on the MOTU M2 audio interface. While the device may have some positive features such as its compact design and good sound quality, overall I wouldn't necessarily recommend it based on user reviews and feedback. Some potential downsides include connectivity issues, occasional driver problems, and limited compatibility with certain operating systems. Additionally, while the audio interface has built-in preamps which can be convenient for recording direct inputs without needing additional equipment, they might not match the sonic quality of other dedicated preamp units available on the market. Keep these points in mind when making your decision and consult further reviews from multiple sources to make an informed purchase. Let me know if you have any questions or require further assistance.

Just screwing around, i asked the AI to provide one last "review" of the device:

Me: provide a review of the MOTU M2 audio interface as though it were written by a moron


Hey man, here's what I think about the MOTU M2 audio interface: pretty sweet! It looks cool, sounds awesome, and works great! All my friends are totally jealous cause they don't have one yet. And who cares about all those fancy schmancy specs and tech stuff like THD+N < 0.006% (-97 dBu), EQ and compression on all channels, Burr-Brown converters, or even iOS integration... just plug it in and rock out dude! If you wanna buy yourself something nice, grab one of these bad boys. Yeehaw!

So, yeah, good luck with your new toy Mozilla. I think you'll need it.

The drama of running a VPS and tips for avoiding shitty providers

If you have anything more exciting to do, like watching paint dry, by all means feel free to click away and save yourself from the suffering i'm about to inflict upon you.

The primary website for 12bytes went off line for nearly two weeks on the 21st of December, 2022. If you visited here during that time you were probably forwarded to a generic landing page. Getting the website back up was a nightmare.... that lasted 12 days... and nights.

Here's the story...

So i got an invoice from my old host (KnownHost) to renew my service and i diddled around for a while before i decided what i wanted to do. I had the site running on a managed VPS and i have zero complaints with KnownHost. Their service and the reliability of their infrastructure is outstanding. Open a support ticket at 4 AM on a Sunday and someone is on it, usually within minutes, plus their support is not tiered like many other hosts; you always get a knowledgeable tech that writes in fluent English. The problem is that the server was costing me close to $300 per year, plus i wanted to make some other changes. Had i known what i was in for i would've stuck with KnownHost.

The drama begins...

The cost of the server wasn't the only factor that led to me wanting to switching providers. I also wanted to try running a self-managed VPS at a lower price point than what KnownHost could offer, and so i set out looking for hosting companies which, i assure you, is NOT an easy task, even if money isn't a factor. There is a *massive* number of truly shitty companies out there and they probably outnumber the good ones by a factor of 100:1, likely more. Many of them are owned by Endurance International Group (EIG), a.k.a Clearlake Capital Group, a.k.a Newfold Digital, their newest name as far as i know.

In addition to cost, a provider which is protective of free speech was also a crucial requirement and unless you go with an off-shore host, which can be both problematic and costly, there are apparently a very small number of them. BuyVM is one that comes highly recommended. They are certainly one of the most favored VPS providers on LowEndTalk and their prices are quite reasonable. As a matter of fact, a few of the replies i got when querying hosts who didn't care about free speech, referred me to BuyVM. This reply came from Jack Bell of Afterburst:

Honestly you're probably better off with someone like Incognet or BuyVM for controversial but legal content.

And this one from Mike at Asura Hosting:

I would strongly recommend you have a look at BuyVM. Although we do tick basically all your requirements, the main issue is our location being in Europe. You should get a location in US to avoid any GDPR/EU laws

The longest reply i received was from Ryan Arp of Catalyst Host who opened with "Hey friend" and then spent 512 more words telling me that he essentially hates free speech and that i would probably agree with him when i was done reading his wall of text. This paragraph says it all pretty much:

The thing about an AUP for a hosting company is that it has to either be open ended, a lie, or it has to be constantly revised. The reason for this is that if we specify all of the ways someone can abuse our service explicitly, people will just try to skate around it or find new ways to abuse the systems. Regardless of their methods and whether or not we know them exactly up front, I think you'd agree that the big thing is that we can't let a customer harm the rest of our customers. That's really what it's meant to communicate: We love our customers, and anyone who wishes to harm them isn't welcome here.

"His" reply (i hope i'm using the correct pronoun) left me wondering how exactly my lil' ol' website running on one Virtual Private Server on one node in one data center could possibly "abuse" and "harm" his other customers and sink his entire business. That said, i certainly appreciated his honesty.

It's a damn sad state of affairs when several prospective hosting providers all mention the same company with regard to being supportive of free speech. It's sadder still that so many don't give a rocketing turd about their own future, much less that of their kids, or anyone else.

My search went on for several days before i finally rolled the dice and chose Floofy Hosting as my VPS provider. And you thought i was going to say BuyVM, dincha? In all honesty i don't think you could go wrong with them, though i'm not entirely sure i'd count on them if you needed super-duper 24/7/365 99.999999999999% up-time reliability, which is a sales gimmick anyway for the most part. I also prefer smaller companies because they tend to care more about their customers. Matter of fact, one of the very best hosting providers i ever had was run by one guy. He used Digital Ocean's infrastructure, his support was good and, until i opened my big mouth, he was charging me some minuscule amount like $5 a month (OK, maybe $5.95) for a fully managed VPS! I literally felt like i was taking advantage of the guy and so i suggested he charge a little more for the good service he provided. The problem with the one-man-show deal surfaces abruptly however when that one man decides to challenge the coppers to a shootout and loses, shortly after which your website evaporates. Lesson learned: Small is OK, but not too small.

So after nearly a week of searching for a decent company i chose Floofy even though they didn't meet two of my criteria; they haven't been in business for at least 10 years and they don't own their own data centers. My decision to go with them regardless was influenced both by prices, which are really reasonable, and Abdullah's stance on free speech (he's the head honcho at Floofy). Plus Abdullah was quite patient with me throughout our exchange of no less than 16 emails over the course of 6 days before i finally decided to pull the trigger! Poor fella had to work to sell me! So with a VPS provider in hand 12bytes is back in the saddle! Except no.

The drama continues...

Moving to a new hosting company is sketchy in and of itself, by my grandioso goals didn't end there. I also wanted to port this website to a static one; no database, no database server, no JavaScript, no 3rd party crap. And i even had it running that way for... an hour or so. I used Publii to do the heavy lifting, along with a lot of by-hand editing and a generous helping of those lovely regular expressions. Unfortunately Publii is not mature and moving from a ClassicPress CMS site with 700+ self-hosted images to a static website by way of Publii left me with an enormous amount of work, and so i pulled the plug on that venture. So there was a few more days down the toilet, though that time did overlap with the other problems i was inventing.

Still not satisfied with the depth of the hole i was digging for myself, i also decided to go with a different VPS control panel, Webmin/Virtualmin instead of Direct Admin. OK, so i'm still too dumb to run without a CP. Make fun of me, go ahead you tech tards. Webmin/Virtualmin is not for the timid nooblet however, let me tell ya. It takes quite a bit of reading and fooling around and forum posting and making mistakes and starting all over again and again and again. Getting DNS working properly and getting a mail server running properly is no easy task. I brought up the virtual host and scrapped it again at least 4 or 5 times before i finally had the site running again.

And more drama...

Having canned the static idea, at least for now, it was a simple matter of installing a fresh copy of ClassicPress, restoring the database and image library and viola! El-completo! Not. At the time, the release version of ClassicPress wouldn't run on PHP 8 and the v7 branch is EOL which means, for security reasons, it's SOL. After figuring that out i decided, the hell with it, i'll go back to WordPress, and so i did. Virtualmin has a nice script installer for WP that configures everything and it had an install up and running in less than a minute, and so i invested several more hours working on it and restoring stuff and selecting plugins and yada yada yada, but restoring the image library was presenting a significant problem. Then i find out there's a development version of ClassicPress that works with PHP v8. Given i watch their news feed i normally would have known that ahead of time, except it hit the feed at the same time i was dealing with this mess i got myself into and so i was too busy to bother reading my feeds.

OK. ClassicPress it is! Install that baby, restore everything, done! Except it would not not NOT connect to the database. Scrap and recreate the database and run the installer again. Nope. Make damn sure i'm using the correct credentials. Nope. Scrap the database again. Nope. Scrap me (my user) and recreate me. Nope. Scrap the whole damned virtual server and rebuild it. Nope! Finally i edited the wp-config.php file manually, using the EXACT SAME CREDENTIALS I USED BEFORE and... it installed. Restored the database and images and here we are!

Jesus mother of pregnant golf balls, what a FU**ING JOURNEY!!!

Now, getting back to how i picked a hosting provider, here's some resources and rules i used which proved to be valuable:

  • Make sure the company is not owned by Endurance International Group (EIG) / Clearlake Capital Group / Newfold Digital. Because the service and support of the companies owned by EIG, Newfold Digital, etc. often nose-dives once they're acquired, they do not usually disclose their parent company but you can reference my list here. Understand though that these offenders change their names and are constantly absorbing more companies, so no list is likely to be complete.
  • LowEndTalk is one of the first places to look for cheap hosting companies and among them you're also likely to find some cheap and good companies once you troll around long enough. LET is fairly free-speech friendly so if a company talks shit, they'll be called out right quick. The reviews section of the forum is here.
  • I'm very weary of big, corporate "review" websites but Trustpilot came in handy. The reviews, at least for web hosting companies, seemed to hit the mark pretty well. I judged the accuracy of Trustpilot by looking at the review scores for companies i know to be good, such as KnownHost for example, and those i know to be horrible.
  • Searching the interwebs using terms such as 'quality vps provider', 'low cost kvm vps' or 'united states vps host' is completely useless! You'll return piles and piles of garbage companies. You have to be more creative with your searches and it helps to use different search engines as well. For example you could craft searches like 'free-speech vps' or 'family-owned kvm vps' or 'privately-owned vps'  or 'we-own data-center vps' or 'dmca-ignored vps', etc..
  • Avoid companies that don't offer a personal note about their business. Look for an "about us" page that provides more personalized information rather than the typical corporate drivel, or none at all.
  • If you care about privacy, pick a host that accepts crypto and doesn't require personal information.
  • Avoid "U.S. based" companies that aren't based in the U.S.. If their English is lousy, it's a dead giveaway.

Here's an example of how deceitful many of these companies are. I don't remember the exact search terms i used to find these idiots, but i apparently included 'united-states' and/or 'about-us' with the intention of finding a company based in the U.S. that had an "about us" page for me to read. Notice anything odd?

Also see:

Here's a template you might want to adapt if you're searching for a hosting provider. These are some of basic question i asked them:

Questions to ask of hosting providers

i'm looking for a new, long-term host and am considering your company - i was previously with <some company> whose service and support were excellent, but i want to move to a self-managed VPS at a lower price than what they can offer

i'd like to ask a few questions before making a decision...

1. are you affiliated in any way with Endurance International Group (EIG), a.k.a Clearlake Capital Group, a.k.a Newfold Digital? if so, there's no need to answer further questions

2. in what country/state is your company registered?

3. are independently owned and, if so, do you plan to remain so, or would you consider being bought?

4. what is your position regarding free speech as guaranteed by the 1st amendment to the U.S. constitution? for example, a portion of the content i publish is highly critical of Israel and it's influence upon various U.S. institutions

5. do you own your data center(s) and, if not, who provides your server infrastructure?

6. where is your support based and what is the average response time for weekends/holidays/weekdays?

7. i see some companies are requiring that all customers, regardless of where they are based, to adhere to the EU's GDPR - what is your policy regarding the GDPR for websites hosted in the U.S.?

8. do you accept crypto currencies?

9. what coupons/discounts are available if any?

AzireVPN: A VPN worth trusting?

Damn her! Naomi Brockwell got my shorts in a knot regarding the VPN Hellscape (read that, seriously). I knew the VPN scene was bad, but i didn't realize how bad until i watched her video, The DARK side of VPNs.

I use AzireVPN because i believe they are worthy of a degree of trust, but believing is not enough and, given my freshly ingested fur-ball of fear due to Naomi's video, i decided to put the screws to Azire and see how they fared.

AzireVPN is one of very few VPN service providers that claim to physically own, secure and install their own servers and, in my book, no company is even worth considering if they can't make that claim (that's right; screw you Nord, PIA, Express, HideMyAss, IPVanish and nearly all of the rest of them!). Furthermore, Azire tells us that they physically seal unneeded ports, run the OS in RAM (no hard drives), and run their servers in Blind Operator mode. And of course they have a zero-log policy and do not require any personal information when creating an account. Even payment can be handled anonymously using crypto currency. But in the end, what is all this talk worth without convincing evidence?

I proposed a few ideas of how Azire could potentially reinforce customer trust:

  • By providing purchase orders and receipts for their servers which could potentially be verified by contacting the vendor. My thought here is that, if they provide such evidence, then there is little reason to doubt that Azire is actually using the equipment they paid for.
  • More photographic evidence.
  • Video of how the servers are prepared showing the sealing of unused ports, removal of hard drives, etc..
  • Live-streaming the server installation at the data center during which an Azire customer would provide a random verification string to the installer via an email address which the installer would then display in the video. The problem with this is that only one, or possibly a small number of people, would be able to verify the installation and every one else could correctly posit that the whole thing was a setup.

Following is their responses to my proposals:


Thank you for writing to us, [REDACTED].

We understand your concerns and this is why we have made such an effort to be as transparent and forthcoming as possible in our content and messaging – and also why we have our service in the first place.

As you mentioned, we’ve shown in our various blogs how we transport and install our servers in various datacentres around the world. Adding to this is our documentation (, which I am sure you’ve read through by now, where we list as much information about our service as we can without going the opposite direction and compromising our infrastructure’s security, and in effect our user’s security.

We could provide purchase order receipts for the servers and show what we do with them before they get installed, but there is no way for you to know we actually installed the servers we showed. Unless we had a continuous camera shot from arrival of the server at our office all the way through to installation, there isn’t a fool-proof way to show that we do what we say we do – even then, the video could easily be edited.

Moving forward with our new server installations, we will make an effort to provide more details and documentation regarding ownership and installation. However, at a certain point we have to draw a line for our infrastructure’s security, our user’s security, and of course our own personal security.

If you have any specific suggestions, we are eager to hear them.

And in a follow-up email they said:


1. Receipts we will begin posting with all servers moving forward, with certain confidential information redacted of course. However, there will be enough to understand we did purchase the specific servers in use.

2. We will do a video demonstrating how we modify servers (some parts may be removed to help preserve the physical security) but the overall outcome and before/after will be shown to illustrate how we handle our servers. Additionally, we will improve the documentation of transportation and installation and security measures we take.

3. The video verification you suggested may be difficult, we are discussing this internally. That said - we do have a semi open door policy where we are happy to invite users to our office in Stockholm and also provide a tour of the datacentre we use here. If this is something you are interested in yourself, please let us know and we are happy to have you come and visit.

If you have any other ideas or suggestions to help improve our efforts towards transparency and security, please let us know. We are happy to improve things always.

I was very pleased with their response and look forward to seeing Azire follow up with tangible results.