TV From the Smartphone

The problem with using an antenna for viewing our favorite TV shows is sometimes we can’t pick up the station.  Enter the Smartphone with the appropriate App and a set of wires hooked up to the HDMI port and the phone and it’s charger.

firstHDMIcord

The first set I ordered had an adapter to change 5 pin plug to an 11 pin plug that the Samsung S4 needed.  This worked so well I ordered 2 more sets.  These had a different name on them and didn’t work at all.  I ordered again and this time I ordered the 11 pin plug that needed no additional adapter.  Success!

secondHDMIfront secondHDMIback

With the Apps from ABC, FOX, NBC and CBS we can now watch our shows anywhere we get data.  We have Verizon (unlimited data plan!) so that is pretty much everywhere we go.

Low Hanging Fruit

This has got to be the EASIEST “upgrade” EVER!!!

Counter space is always at a premium in our RV kitchen.  I went looking for a way to hang our produce instead of setting it on the counter.  I had a perfect spot at the end of the cabinet over the sink:

hangingBasketArea

My first thought was one of those three basket hanging things that have been around forever. I found these were way too long.  I found the perfect thing at a Family Dollar store: a hanging basket for plants.  At Ace Hardware my Husband found a great hanger for the plant basket.  The finished product holds produce and/or chips, cookies, and other goodies!

hangingBasket

YUUUUMMMM!!!

RV Curtain

Early on it became clear that we needed something to block the light from the living room if someone wanted to be sleeping in the bedroom.  Enter the trusty spring enabled extension rod.  I bought a set of curtains at Walmart and hung one just outside the bathroom door.

curtainOpen

This curtain also gives us the opportunity to enlarge the bathroom and create a dressing area since the large closet is opposite the bathroom.  Here is the curtain closed.

curtainClosed

This is just one use I have found in the RV for tension curtain rods.

12 V DC Dinette Light

Our dinette is in our slide-out, and had a 120 V AC light. That was working if we had 120 V AC, but was leaving us in the dark when we were boondocking. Literally, in the dark. My very much better half (Caroline), was happy enough with turning on the two closest 12 volt LED lights that cast a dim light in the dinette area. I was not … and so the upgrade to 12 V DC lighting was scheduled for … the infamous “someday”.

The original set-up looked like this:

light120v

You can see the 120 V AC light over the table in the slide-out. Other posts have referred to Caroline’s brother-in-law Bill, and his contributions to our RV. Once again, Bill provided his skills, tools, and abilities, to our everlasting gratitude. He also provided the schedule, as in “Why don’t we do the 12 V DC light fix … now?”. Sure, why not! :-)!

So, a little deconstruction was in order, mostly just removing the various removable pieces that were in the way. That looked like this:

lightDeconstruction

You can see our man, Bill, hooking up the DC power line in the picture above. You just HAVE to love someone, whom works that hard, and does such good work!

You might not be able to see it in the above picture, but there is a 120 V AC outlet tucked neatly into the upper corner of the seat. It is handy to have one there, when AC is available (this dinette doubles as a part-time work desk, unless I am using one of the nifty Lifetime folding tables we got from Costco). So, all that was required was to run 12 V DC to the light fixture, which was where the old 120 V AC one was located. How bad could that be? It was just ONE wire, after all, right? (For you purists out there, one SET of wires: +12V and Ground … but they were in a single cable!).

As it turns out, the good people that built out RV, decided to use a double wide THICK steel box, that had only a single access plate. That means the 1/2 of the box was COMPLETELY encased in the wall. The part of the box that was deeply buried in the wall is where the AC power line entered. Can you say D*&MED hard to get to??? You could if you were there TRYING to make this happen. Since we were going to keep the AC outlet within the seat, AND run 12 V to the new lighting fixture, having a THICK steel box situated in the way, was not helpful. Our guy Bill wrestled it out, without causing much, if any, damage in the process. You can see why we like to have his help! We were camped in Kingsland Slab RV Camp, which is along the Llano River, and just outside of Kingsland, Texas, where they conveniently had an Ace Hardware store. Prior planning for this upgrade was seriously lacking, so we wound up making at least one trip to Ace in each of the three day ordeal, I mean upgrade.

So, where was I? Oh, yes, we had wrangled the old steel fortress / electrical box out of the way, installed a new box, ran a new 12 V DC wire, and hooked it up to the existing wire that ran to the old light. Wire Nuts made the connections from the AC source to the electrical outlet wires, and also from the 12 V DC source to the new light fixture, and also to connect the new 12 V DC fixture to the wiring.

It took some “doing” to get the new fixture to attach to the ceiling of the slide-out, but we got it installed. The picture below shows the new fixture, with a 12 V DC LED light plugged into the socket. We left it hanging (for the moment), in case … some thing (or things) were wrong. (Fortunately, we do good work!).

ledHanging

So, the only thing left to do work-wise, was to route the new DC wiring to the distribution panel that was installed back when we upgraded (and moved) the Progressive Dynamics IntelliPower 4655 converter to reside under our sofa. That meant removing the sofa, and all of the stuffing we used to seal the holes which allowed the external wiring to get into the RV. Then, “simply” stuff the wire up into the hole(s), re-install the stuffing, make the proper connections to the power distribution, (including a 5 Amp fuse), and the putting the sofa back into place, and bolting it down. If SEEMED like a good idea to have the Power Converter box under the sofa when I put it there … but that was when I thought we were “all done” messing with it. Oh, well. it is only 8 nuts to remove, and then some sincere lifting and relocating of the sofa, and the reverse process. Not all THAT bad, I guess. I also added some of that protective cable wrap stuff, both to help reduce direct rubbing on the wire(s), and to hopefully help protect the wires against whatever road hazards find the wiring.

So, after all of that, the final result looks like the below image – note that the light is ON!!!:

light12v

Was it worth it? Oh, YEAH!!! Why? Well, now we will have light over our table when eating, even while boondocking, and of course the MOST IMPORTANT part is Caroline saying,

“Let me be the first to say…you were right Dear!”.

Ah, never was there anything said that sounds better!!!

==========================

Well, not ALL is so good. Somewhere or the other, out there in internet-ville, my LOVING wife (Caroline) posted the eternal question: “How many engineers does it take to install a new light?”. Hmmmmmm. (Cough cough), apparently one, (Bill), but I helped!

How I do the dishes

This is how I do dishes in the RV.  I store a dish drainer and plastic pans for wash water and rinse water in the compartment under the refrigerator.

doingDishes1

I like these dish pans because the counters are low and it hurts my back to try and use the sink.  I have a large cutting board that sits on top of the sinks that I rest the wash and rinse water on.  I put my small dish drainer in the sink and the overflow dishes that I have to dry I place on a towel that is setting on a cutting board that is resting on the stove top surface.

doingDishes3

When the dishes are done I pour the rinse water into a container to be used for flushing the toilet.  I found a funnel that works great in the automotive section of Walmart.  I do not use the wash water for flushing the toilet because our tank treatment says don’t add any other soaps.

doingDishes2

I leave the dish water in the pan and set it back under the refrigerator.  Throughout the day I drop our dirty dishes into the water to soak until I wash them.  I cut down on the amount of dishwashing I do because I have many bowls plates and tons of silverware.  I only need to wash pans I have cooked in during the day.

Computer Setup

Not that anyone asked … but I have had conversations with other people whom wanted a dual monitor setup. On most desktop machines, this is pretty easy to do. Depending on the laptop, though, it might not even be possible. On mine, however, I can attach a VGA or HDMI style monitor, because ACER Aspire machines have those outputs.

Some people, such as my entire family and … uh … my wife, question the NEED for a dual monitor setup. In fact, she questioned this after having seen me working with my 4 monitor setup at home. So, for all of you folks wondering why ANYONE would want, much less NEED a multi-monitor setup, all I can say is, well, I do.

[Side Note:]

Back a long time ago, [when dinosaurs wandered the Earth,] I used to design microprocessor and other semiconductor chips. Once the industry went to a more computerized (yes, I am that OLD), design system, one had to deal with a LOT of different computer programs to get the design done, and simulated. Often this meant using 3-4 programs all at once, and many of those produced output in yet more window(s). When using ONLY one monitor, all those windows would overlap each other, clutter everything up, and generally made things hard to see. So, I started using dual monitors (21″ CRTs!!!), and have never been happy with a single monitor for anything much more than emails ever since. There is a LOT less swapping of windows, and generally it is easier to see everything that relates to the task(s) at hand. Being a thoroughly self-afflicted, uh … nerd … and an electrical engineer, I have hobbies and such that are a LOT cheaper to do through computer simulations. If a simulation fails to perform, I have used only time and electricity to run the computer(s). If I had BUILT something, the costs, and time involved, would be far greater. That, and some things just can not be done with the hardware presently available, but those things CAN be simulated. So, I have a “need” for multiple monitors, and even multiple computers. Oh, by the way, dinosaurs STILL wander the Earth, we call them BIRDS.

[End Side Note]

All that aside, the dual monitor setup I am using, looks like:

twoScreens

The picture shows my Acer Aspire, another LCD screen, and the table-top easel I use to hold the extra monitor. The table-top easel was purchased at Hobby Lobby. It looks like:

tableEasel

This holds the framed LCD display just above the laptop, which I place on the bottom supports. I also reversed the direction that the LCD frame holding part of the easel faces, just to reduce the footprint that the whole arrangement takes. [It now leans backwards, though does not tip over, since I have my laptop on the bottom support frame.]

The bare LCD display is: HSD173PUW1 New 17.3″ LED FHD 1920 x 1080 LCD Screen GLOSSY Full-HD display which I bought through ebay for $79.99:

rawLCD

The LCD picture is pretty nondescript, but it is just a raw 17.3″ LCD. Basically, nothing to see there. I also needed to purchase this: 17.3 inch 1920×1080 LED Backlight LCD Controller Board Kit Laptop screen DIY monitor Driver Board from AliExpress for the LCD. It looks like:

LED-LCD-BacklightController

While at the Hobby Lobby store, getting the table-top easel, I bought a small, thin, wooden picture frame to hold the LCD. I also got some wood strips and sheets to build a housing for the controller. After some gluing and painting, it was mounted to the side of the frame, which I had already cut-to-fit the LCD screen. I also had to slice a small path to allow the Controller wiring to get to the LCD screen. It does not look like a pre-fab plastic LCD screen mount, like the Laptop has, but it works.

While the new LCD display can be “FullHD” at 1920×1080, I usually reduce the resolution to match the laptop’s 1600×900, just to make everything movable between screens without a lot of re-sizing effort. Of course, I could have also purchased a SECOND LCD, and done a little LCD surgery on the laptop, but that is for another time, perhaps! A FULL upgrade to 1920×1080 would  “only” be another $79.99 … hmmmmm! (But then I would HAVE TO find a use for the laptop’s old 1600×900 display! Y’all would not HAPPEN to have any suggestions, for the “old” laptop LCD, would you?).

After using the table-top art frame in the Bobcat for a while, it became clear that the frame was a little tall, almost touching the ceiling in our slide-out dinette. So I built a shorter frame part (the back piece), to be “just tall enough” to hold the LCD framing. The final result looks like:

dual-monitor1

In use, the laptop had a tendency to slide around on the base of the easel. So I (well, she) got a piece of non-skid rubber liner, which really helped keep the laptop in one place. The whole thing is decently portable, as the laptop and extra LCD screen fit in my laptop bag (just barely), and the table-top frame folds into a flat arrangement.

“Custom” Truck Box

We bought ourselves a 3600 Watt Boliy generator, which can be found at: Bottom Line Trading,

BoliyExternalTank

so that we could have power while boondocking. All told, the generator cost in the neighborhood of $1800. Some of the places we wanted to boondock … uh … had a reputation for generators “growing legs”, as in leaving their owners overnight. We are on a pretty limited budget, so that just simply was NOT going to be an option. What to do?

A lockable truck box to contain the precious little gennie … seemed to be the right answer. So, we searched around, Home Depot, Lowes, various Truck Specialty stores, the internet, Tractor Supply … pretty much everywhere we could think of that might have a workable truck box solution.

What we found was that there were not any that matched our requirements. Those being: lockable; large enough in all 3 dimensions to hold the generator; air circulation for intake, exhaust and air flow cooling; and room to hold the external gas tank(s). That, it turns out, is more than the market seems to bear, as there were none that we found that would work. Worse, MAN-OH-MAN, are people PROUD of truck boxes!!! They are terribly expensive (IM(not-so)HO).

Enter my “custom” (ie: home-made) solution.

I knew the size requirements I needed to hold the Boliy. That dictated the minimum interior space. The truck bed dictated the width the box would have. Now, how to make it, at home, with the tools (or lack thereof) I had? As it turns out, both Lowes and Home Depot carry electrical “beams” or support runs, in two different sizes of “C” cross-section. They also have other useful pieces, listed below:

Lowes Electrical Strut Components
superStrutLarge
SUPERSTRUT 10 ft X 1-5/8-in x 1-5/8-in Gold-Galvanized Half Slot Channel Strut – $20.71
superStrutSmall
SUPERSTRUT 10 ft X 1-5/8-in x 13/16-in Gold-Galvanized Half Slot Channel Strut – $16.89
superStrutAngle
SUPERSTRUT 1/2-in Angled Strut Bracket – $3.26
superStrutNut
SUPERSTRUT 3-pack 3/8-in Cone Strut Nut – $4.52
superStrutAngleSm
SUPERSTRUT (small) 1/2-in Angled Strut Bracket – $1.68
superStrutSpacer
SUPERSTRUT 3/8-in Straight Strut Nut – $3.66
superStrutBracket
SUPERSTRUT 1/2-in Straight Strut Bracket – $3.66
flatCornerBracket
SUPERSTRUT 1/2 in. 3-Hole Flat Corner Bracket – $2.71

The larger strut was too big for this application, but I show it because I am sure it can be very useful elsewhere. I should note that Lowes and Home Depot people have been very helpful in my various quests for parts that I am NOT going to use for their intended purposes. Mostly, they do not even laugh, but that would be covered in some other forum, about other hobbies I have.

Ok, back to work!

What I built allowed air intake, was high enough to allow hot exhaust gas out, was lockable – without being obvious, and could be easily opened and closed, since we only transport the generator when boon-docking. So, let’s take a look at the structure, starting at the bottom:

lowerStructure

Just a simple box. I was surprised to find that my truck bed was NOT a nice SQUARE structure. (I know, I know … but in my defense it is my FIRST truck!). Looking a little closer at the various bits, shows the back anchor, and a corner detail:

backMount   detail

On the back mount, I removed the tie point, (2 screws), and did a little bending of a truss mounting bracket that both Home Depot and Lowes sells. It took a little “Arm and Hammer” encouragement, but I got everything to fit decently well. If nothing else, the entire construct is FIRMLY part of the truck bed, as near as I can tell. I also used a small angled strut bracket (shown above), to secure the forward portion of the bottom box. To do this I had to drill through the “paper tissue” wheel well fender, and bolt the angle strut through to the underside with a large washer to spread any stress. My choice of “paper tissue” to describe the wheel well fender metal was on purpose, as I was shocked to find out just how thin that metal really is. It is hard to believe that it would not disintegrate at the first wisp of a breeze. No wonder so many rust away.

From this point onward, it was just a matter of adding more steel, and a LOT more bolts and angled parts. The front section, from the inside of the box looks like:

frontMetal

and from the outside (left and right from the back of the truck, top already mounted) it looks like:

frontViewMetalLf frontViewMetalRt

The whole front (with the top mounted) looks like:

frontSkinless

In the final analysis, I did not need the bottom back rail of steel, so I removed it. Doing so gave me a little more room inside, which helps. What I thought was clever, was to have the locks “hidden”inside. Now, just how clever that really is, depends on whether or not I am actually trying to lock or unlock it, but other than that … who would even look? If nothing else, it is a little tight to access, meaning that one would really have to WANT to get a grinder into there to cut the thing open. Since I stash all sorts of generator related stuff in the box, things like … plastic tanks of GASOLINE, I (for one) would really hesitate to put a lot of HOT sparks into the area.

So, “final” assembled pics look like … uh, well … YUCK. I had originally intended to put a nice bit of aluminum diamond sheet over the top and in the front. But, the places I could find in Austin, Texas, just did NOT want to cooperate, ANY. Not only did they NOT want to do any sheet bending or forming, but they were clearly uninterested in even selling me a sheet for me to work on, myself. I know that from the PRICES they were asking. More on that, later. Much later, as in after we went to Quartzite, AZ. I will get to it, down below. So, the nasty looking wood cover I was forced to go with looks like:

lidOpenFrontView    lidClosed

Even after many coats of silver paint, it did not look like I wanted. Worse, the “wood” was not exactly … sturdy. Fortunately, we decided to just deal with it, and headed off to various places to boondock, eventually including the aforementioned trip to Quartzite, AZ, and the RV Tent Sale. Yes, yes, OH YES! Why? Well, there in the Big Tent, sat KSH Marine! If you get a chance to have something made out of aluminum, go there! They custom fitted some aluminum to my box, and WOW did they do me a good job! The workers came out to ask me questions about how EXACTLY I want it to look, and fit, and made suggestions, etc etc etc. I can NOT recommend these people enough! [I just do NOT accept bad work, and so I feel it necessary to LOUDLY exclaim when I come across REALLY GOOD work. And, the KSH folks came through quite nicely!] The owner sat and LISTENED to me, while I explained just why no other truck boxes would work for me, and having looked at their latest entries on their web page, it is obvious that he took at least SOME of it to heart. Do yourself a favor, and take a look at their offerings (all of them!), as they have some really PRETTY solutions available. I have to say that they also gave me a DIRT CHEAP STEAL on the work that they did for me. Feel free to give them all the work you can, I can not imagine that you would be anything but wonderfully pleased! The KSH folks are located in Lake Havasu, AZ, not far from the London Bridge … which presented a nice diversion and tourist stop for us.

So, with the new “skin” attached via rivets, it now looks like:

skinned

It is nice and shiny, so much so that you can see a reflection of some tie-down straps I have in the back of the truck! I am happy with it, and it has a pretty decent WAF-factor now, too. (WAF ==> Wife Acceptance Factor, always the MOST important factor!).