... goal is to get an electric heli....
1. ...looks like my XP8103 is pretty outdated .... don't know what all the new lingo is yet.....dsm2, dsmx, xbus.....yadda yadda.
Good choice, that is the way to get started these days. The power and durations are the same, if not better than nitros in the 500 - 600 class helis.
Your old radio was probably a 72Mhz system. The advantage with that is that as long as you were on the same channel, you could transmit to a Futaba, or Kraft, or JR receiver. That was also the biggest down side. You could not have more than one model up with the same channel at the same time. Now all radios are 2.4GHz technology, with variations on "frequency hopping" so that you can have any number of models up in the air without interference. Unfortunately, as a consequence, each manufacturer has made their system proprietary, and give them names like "FASST" (Futaba) DSM2, DSMX (JR / Spektrum}, HoTT (Graupner). etc. Because of this, the radio you choose, will more or less determine what models you can fly. E-Flite, ParkZone use the Spektrum DSM, others use their own. If you are planning on buying a bind-and-fly (BNF) model you have to make sure your transmitter is compatible, unless you are willing to buy a receiver to go with your radio, and switch out the receiver in your model. I personally like Futaba radios, but they have not done a good job of getting vendors to adopt their 2.4Ghz system; so I just bought a Spektrum DX9 so that I can use it with all my EFlite models.2. Are satellites only used with fbl controllers?
"Satellites" are a way some receivers are designed to avoid interference or loss of signal when the orientation of your model changes. It has noting to do with FBL systems. Spektrum receivers have this feature, and I think a few others do to. Futaba has stayed away from "satellites" and made an ad touting this difference:
Watch at YouTube3. Is fbl the way to go? What is the easiest controller to setup? I have a MAC, so if software is needed I will need MAC support.
Most models are going to FBL, and the FBL systems are getting cheaper. The FBL systems are mechanically simpler, and so easier to maintain. With the sophistication of todays computer radios, receivers, FBL systems, and PC / MAC setup software, they may actually be easier to setup than a standard gyro, listening to "beeps" as you move the controllers on your transmitter.4. What heli? I have been looking at an Align 500L combo, but it comes with a controller. Is that controller acceptable for my purposes? Will it work with the JR stuff? I am open to other choices?
Good size choice. I would not get the transmitter with the model. Invest in a good transmitter up front, and get a "beater" model to learn on. Try the classified section here.5. What type battery packs? Lipo or life?
LiPo. LiFe not ready for primetime in RC model use.6. What size battery should I expect to use on a 500 size?
Depends on model, Stick to their recommendations. LiPo batteries have significantly dropped in price, and there are more vendors, so battery price will not limit your enjoyment.7. What charger are you all using for these big packs?
Too many choices now. Look for one that will do at least a 6S (or even an 8S) battery pack. I have a Triton that only goes to 5S, so limits the batteries that I can charge.
8. Does the radio run off of the motor pack?
By "radio" I presume you mean the receiver on the RC model. Yes, most now run off the same battery. The battery voltage can vary depending on the model, and most servos use 5 - 6 volts (8.5 volts for the High Voltage ones). Many receivers come with a BEC (Battery Eliminator Circuit) built in, which can supply most modest servo requirements. You can get an external BEC to supply more power, if your servos demand it. Some people still use a secondary battery for their receiver and servo power, especially for more complex models, with lots of servos, and for redundancy.My recommendation for you:
Spektrum Transmitter - Most compatible with more BNF models. I would suggest a minimum of 6 channels, but buy the best one you can afford. You don't want to end up needing to upgrade your transmitter when you outgrow it.
Buy a 450 - 550 class heli, preferable from the classified section, so that you don't spend too much on something you are going to crash anyway.Obligator plug: Get a RC flight simulator.
Unfortunately, there are very few native Mac compatible RC flight simulators. AeroFly is the only one that I know of that runs on Macs. Phoenix, and RealFlight can be run with BootCamp or Parallel's desktop (I think - I don't own a Mac, so can't say for sure).
Welcome back to the hobby and Happy flying!