My CMS Sharing our experience about RVing

January 29, 2011

Slow Cooker That Requires No Power

Filed under: Uncategorized — donwood49 @ 9:47 pm

Our $7 Magefesa pressure Cooker
We found a nice Magefesa pressure cooker for $7 at a thrift store a couple of years ago. We just had to get a $15 bobble regulator for it. It does a great job as a pressure cooker but we’ve thought of another use for it. We use it as a no power required slow cooker.

The cooker goes into a blanket cozy Cinch up the cozy
We’ve done beans ans stews that are perfect with it. In the morning just bring the beans and water to a boil. We seal the lid then place the cooker into a triple layer blanket cozy that Lou made. Cinch it up

Place the coooker with cozy into the silver bubble thermal case Put the lid on the bubble case
The cooker in the cozy goes into a reflective bubble container that Lou also made and the velcrow lid is attached. We then sit it in the sink if were driving or anywhere if not. Come dinner time dinner is hot and ready. No power required.

I most definitely would not try it for a roast or frozen items but for small piece foods like beans and stews that can be brought up to a high initial temperature quickly it is ideal.

December 4, 2010

HTC Incredible Android Phone

Filed under: Uncategorized — donwood49 @ 7:09 am

I finally broke down and updated my simple, old cell phone. I’d been looking at the Motorola Droid X at best Buy but on a recent visit there they had a better phone at a better price. They offered the HTC Incredible for free, a price i could no longer resist. I knew the phone had an extensive feature list which included an 8MP camera, HD video camera, GPS, stereo audio player, large high resolution screen and excellent signal reception. What is even more amazing is that everything works better than expected. The camera works much better than my existing camera, the video camera is better than my existing video camera, the GPS is more accurate than other GPS devices I’ve used, the sound quality is outstanding and cell phone audio clear. It works like an Swiss army knife, doing everything. There are thousands of applications that can be downloaded for special features. One that I downloaded is PDAnet, an app that allows the phone to be tethered to my computer and allow full highspeed Internet access. Another is GEObeagle an app for GEOcaching which allows you to download selected GEOcache locations with their location and details and allow posting the results of the searches to the website. The ShopSavvy app allows you to take a picture of a barcode and get immediate results showing the best prices available at local merchants and web merchants. I found a WordPress app to post to my blogs including sending pictures direct from the phone. Another interesting app is DSandroidMapSubmit which allows posting my current location to a map of Datastorm mobile Internet users.

I’m pretty sure that if I think of just about any need in the future, this phone can handle it.

July 5, 2010

Netbooks, Thinking Small

Filed under: Uncategorized — donwood49 @ 8:55 pm

About 2 1/2 years ago I bought a netbook computer. Netbooks are small, comparatively low powered laptop computers. They usually have a screen from 7-10″ in size and a small keyboard. Even with the size and computing power limitations they are more than most people need in a computer. The computing power limitations are relative to today’s high powered computers. They are equivalent to computing power of about five years ago running about 1.6mhz. If you’re a gamer or rather impatient they may not be for you but if you want a computer that is easy to have available, has long battery life and does everything you NEED, then a netbook may be for you.

I’ve been working with computers and have had laptops for too many years but they were all provided by my employer. I didn’t buy my first laptop until just before I retired. I thought I wanted a Cadillac so I bought a 17″ Toshiba multimedia laptop. It’s a nice laptop and I still use it when needed but I find the need less often.

On our last RV excursion I took both the big laptop and my netbook and I never fired up the big laptop. One big reason is that the netbook uses almost no power. We were on the road for six months and always boondocking with no hookups. I could compute all day with our solar charging the batteries and keeping things going. With the power guzzling  big laptop I would have been limited to a few hours.

The small screen and keyboard size hasn’t been a problem. Fortunately I don’t have fat fingers, just normal sized. I just think small and the keyboard works fine. For heavy key pounding I use a USB keyboard. The screen is no problem as well. My eyes aren’t perfect but I normally use the little computer with no problem. When I need a bigger screen I use our TV/monitor in the RV.

I use the computer a lot for word processing, programming and web development. My little netbook handles all these needs with ease. The small size has an added benefit of availability. I can carry my netbook in my fanny pack to use anywhere, anytime.

If you’re thinking of buying a new computer  perhaps thinking small is a big idea.

May 7, 2009

A Good Level

Filed under: Uncategorized — donwood49 @ 5:01 am

You don’t need bubble levels when parking. Our coach needs to be level or slightly tipped to the left for the shower to drain. We also prefer to have our heads elevated rather than our feet. We do not have jacks and don’t try to be perfect. A shower that drains and our head level to elevated makes us comfortable enough.

We have two large bubble levels one mounted on the dash the other mounted under the drivers window. They work well for leveling the coach but aren’t really needed. The bathroom door does the same thing. If it is unlatched and points to the left, the coach is level front to back. If it stays shut, the shower wont drain if it hangs open, the shower will drain. Isn’t technology great.

June 30, 2008

Digital TV Change

Filed under: Uncategorized — donwood49 @ 5:12 pm

With the coming elimination of analog TV come February of next year I knew we would hve to do something eventually. In the RV, hqlf the problem was eliminated when i broke our existing front Tv last fall. We enjoyed seeral months without the TV and barely missed it. Ieventually bought a replacement Tv and it has thee digital tuner built in so half of the problem was solved.

I haven’t broken the bedroon Tv yet so I got an RCA converter box at walmart. It works well. Here at home we get 50 channels over the air so its almost like cable. Most of the channels aren’t worth watching so the quantity helps.

I have noticed an interesting effect of the digital TV’s and converters as opposed to the Analog. The digital TV’s  each preent the picture at their own pace. Two TV’s sid-by-side each show the same program at slightly different times. This has to do with the processing of th signal. Some are fast some are slow so there can be up to a second difference in when the signal arries so if you hae multiple TV’s you can easily get the echo effect due to the delays.

You can easily see the effect when you visit a TV display at the store if they have audio on more than one Tv turned on. Cute. I’m not sure that is an inprovement.

All in all, no real problems in preparing for the change.

March 24, 2008

Solar Charging Thoughts

Filed under: Uncategorized — donwood49 @ 5:07 pm

Our electrical system is described in another article. Here are a couple of additional thoughts.

If you are going to add panels to your system they should be compatible with your existing panels. The wattage of the new panels doesn’t matter. All that does is change the amount of charge current provided. The voltage rating of the new panels is critical. This usually means you shouldn’t mix different manufacturers panels in the same circuit. The charge controller can’t individually optimize for different rated (voltage) panels and the lower voltage panels would not provide as effective an output as the same wattage panel of a matching voltage.

Having panels that can provide more current than the rated output of the charge controller isn’t a problem since the charge controller can limit the maximum output. It isn’t necessarily a good idea though since you may waste some of your expensive solar panel output current. In our case, we do have more panel (400w) than is needed for our charge controller rated output of 25 amps. It does allow us not to have to raise the panels to still get some reasonable charge to the batteries. When our travel style changes to longer stays, a bigger or additional charge controller will probably be beneficial.

If you want to mix panels with different voltage ratings (different manufacturers) you should feed the panels to two different charge controllers either to the same or different battery banks and you’ll get more charge for your panel investment. Assuming two 120 watt panel cost $1600 and you get 75% efficiency due to a voltage difference you would realize maybe 38 amps of charge per day.If you invested another $200 for another charge controller  you would get 100% output or maybe 50 amps of charge per day (more if your charge controller uses MPPT). Pardon the short cuts on math and the wild guesses on outputs. I’ll try to add actual figures when I get a chance but the estimates are close to our experience per my memory.

What this all really relates to is the same thinking as is used to get more output using Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) charge controllers. If you match the controller to the panel you can get the maximum output. The method of matching is using the voltage.
You can choose panels with different wattage ratings from the same manufacturer to allow the panels to fit more easily on your RV’s roof in order to avoid roof top obstacles. Our Kyocera panels are all the same width but the length changes with the wattage rating.

To get the most from your panels and generator use it is best to estimate the potential charge available in the morning (is it cloudy, how much charge have you been getting recently, etc) and run you generator in the morning to bring the batteries up to the point that the solar will top off the batteries. Our freedom inverter/charger charges at 75 amps when I run the generator on discharged batteries. The higher the charge on the batteries, the less output the charger will provide to the batteries. The solar charge controller does the same, as the batteries are closer to fully charged, the charge current is reduced. But, running the generator in the evening for 1.5 hours to top off the last 30 amps at 20 amps doesn’t seem as effective as charging at 75 amps in the morning for a total run time of 30 minutes. The solar charge current is closer to what the batteries want to receive in the afternoon.

December 7, 2007

A Good RVer’s Laptop

Filed under: Uncategorized — donwood49 @ 9:28 am

The eeePC
In November of 2007, I bought a new laptop, the Asus eeePC. It is a small, very small, cheap laptop with all the features an RVer needs. As delivered, it uses Linux rather than Windows but you can load windows if you like. There’s really no need to do that and it will work better and faster if you don’t. The computer boots up and shuts down much faster than a windows PC. It doesn’t have a hard drive rather it uses 4GB of flash memory which is plenty. It doesn’t have an optical drive either. It does have three USB ports, an SD slot, an XGA video connector, Mic in and earphone out jacks, and a LAN port. There is a camera above the screen facing the user and speakers on either side of the screen. It has built-in wireless b and g. The screen is only 7 inches diagonally but plenty big enough for most use. It has a small touch pad as well. The keyboard is reduced in size so it takes a little getting used to but is infinitely easier than a PDA. It has a lithium Ion battery that lasts more than three hours, more if you dim the screen and turn off the wireless.

It comes with all the necessary software Firefox browser, Open Office word processor and spreadsheet, acrobat reader, media player, photo management, and more. These applications are not overly full of features but provide everything that is needed. If you’re near a hotspot you can use Google’s online word processor and always be able to continue your project whether you are on the eeePC or another computer without having to keep all the files in sync. This wont work in the boondocks but WiFi is becoming more and more available. You could easily add USB wireless modem and connect via the cell phone high speed networks.
It is a Linux computer so it does take a little getting used to and may require a little more user technical abilities. But I think it’s worth the effort.

Of course there’s the fact that Bill Gates doesn’t get richer unless you load Windows on the thing and then buy all the related software. But there are more reasons it’s ideal for RVer’s. It’s size and weight are two benefits. It weighs less than two pounds and can be carried like a book with no strain. It will fit in a fanny pack if you like. You can easily take it on a hike.

It is easily carted down to your local WiFi hotspot when not available at your campsite. It’s more durable than most laptops since it has no mechanical drives. It only costs $400 so it’s loss would not cause bankruptcy. Similar sized laptops easily cost 4-6 times as much.

Using the USB ports, you can add an optical or hard drive or just plug in a jump drive.

Pop the SD memory card out of you camera and into the eeePC’s builtin SD slot and upload your pictures for printing at Walmart’s, ShutterFy, or wherever.

It comes with Skype software installed so you can make VOIP calls. With the addition of some upgrded Skype software you could make video phone calls using the included built-in camera.

An additional feature of the eeePC is that it uses very little power. There’s no brick power supply. It has a tiny wall wart with a long cord and folding prongs which is much easier to use. The power supply is small enough to fit in your pants pocket with room to spare.

I did add Picasa photo software, free from Google, to the computer for full featured photo editing and easy upload for prints. It is a beta version for Linux but seems to work well. It took a little research to learn how to install it but all went well and it works great. Software installation isn’t as simple as for Windows but there is actually less potential of one software installation affecting another than with Windows since it has better dependency management. To install a new application you search the web and find a detailed list of the steps needed for installation and it works.

I really like my eeePC. I haven’t used it yet on the road but I am really looking forward to it. It wont be replacing my big older laptop for all uses. The big screen and big keyboard still have their use.

This computer hs only been available for a couple of weeks but there is aready an excellent users group. Of ourse, Asus is one of the largest PC board manufactures around so they have a lot of experience.

More information to follow.

September 13, 2007

Antenna Up Flag

Filed under: Uncategorized — donwood49 @ 8:55 am

There are lots of methods to try to remind RVers to lower the antenna. Here is ours.

RV Steering Wheel Signs
Get some bright Velcro cable ties. I have several, each marked with a special reminder.

  • TV antenna
  • Datastorm satellite dish
  • Wheel Chocks
  • Parking Brake

Just strap them around the steering wheel. You can’t miss seeing them. The only problem is to remember to install them when you raise the antenna, place a wheel chock or set the parking brake.

July 29, 2007

A Better WiFi

Filed under: Uncategorized — donwood49 @ 7:32 am
I wanted to have the ability to easily share my Internet connection with fellow campers when we’re on the road. When I share, I want some access and bandwidth limitation controls though. I hadn’t found a good system that provided a good signal let alone some control, until now.The Meraki Outdoor Repeater seems to be what I need. One of the things I really like is an appliance approach to technology. I just plugged it in and it worked immediately. I then logged in to it’s dashboard and easily setup Id’s, passwords, and features. Nice system.

Meraki isn’t really a WiFi router or access point product. They are trying to setup public Internet access using “mesh” networks. They’re located in Mountain View a few miles from home here in Palo Alto. The goal is cheap ubiquitous Internet access. Google is evidently assisting them get started.

I installed the repeater in the RV and connected it to the Datastorm system (Hughes Satellite Internet). It’s setup to provide for fee access to anyone and provides bandwidth limitation to prevent hogging the system. I still need to see how this affects the Fair Access Policy (FAP) of the Hughes Satellite system that limits the data quantity use over a 24 hour period. It should easily handle polite fellow campers that just need a little Internet and email access. If abused, it can be turned off quite quickly either entirely or for abusive users.

It also has the capability to provide both a private wireless system and the public access at the same time or can have a white list of for free access users while providing fee access to others.

The result will hopefully be a better system providing more features with easier control.

When I’m home, I don’t need to use the Hughes Satellite Internet dish on the RV but do like to use the RV as a quiet office occasionally. The Meraki repeaters can talk to each other and connect into a mesh network. I’ve also installed a repeater at the house. The unit in the RV can get to the Internet via the repeater in the house when parked at home. It can provide wireless connections using the Hughes Satellite Internet connection when on the road.

One other neat thing is that expanding the mesh network is quite easy and cheap. Meraki Mini repeaters cost $49. The outdoor versions ($99) are basically the same but in a weatherproof housing with the power provided over the cat5 cable. A bonus feature of these devices is that they are extremely light users of power.

Since I don’t have a lot of experience with these yet and none on the road, this posting may be edited if my experience proves different than expected and as specification, features and tests indicate. If it works out the Meraki repeater will replace the Belkin “N” system currently used in the RV.

More information links:

Meraki Site
Google and Meraki

December 17, 2006

Contact Us

Filed under: Uncategorized — donwood49 @ 7:44 am

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