Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Workday improvements.

Today is a workday but as I had to go to Walmart to get a prepaid card for my smartphone, I did a little extra shopping. First off was the Post Office where I had to wait for them to open. I’d arrived at 08:50, neglecting to remember that as my day starts at 05:40 that everybody else lags behind a little. Needless to say I sent my dad his Christmas card. A little late but as I had the flu last week, I didn’t want to risk sending flu virus to him.

Next stop was Lowes (hiss, spit) where I got some frosting spray. That was intended for use with one of my lanterns and possibly all of my lanterns if it works well enough. I sprayed one as a test subject. If that works then I have three others that also need frosting spray. Then those nasty bare LED lantern things might be usable.
As you can see, the frosting spray has had a definite effect. It’s meant for glass but it should work on plastic. I’ll just have to see how effective it is later today or perhaps tomorrow.

Meanwhile, while I was in Lowes (hiss, spit) I found a flapper draft stopper for a 4 inch pipe. My exhaust vents are 4 inch pipe. Well, they had one and I found it in the plumbing section. I needed two but there was only one. Spotting a stray shop worker, I pounced on him before anybody else did and he led me straight to the only other one in the store. Now I have two. I’ll likely have to do quite a bit of work both on them and to my ducting in order to get it all to work but that’ll be well worthwhile if it works as intended. Not only should it work as a draft blocker but it should also stop critters quite successfully.
It was pricy for something that I’ll need to modify but at $7 it is probably worth its weight in gold. I’ll have to trim the flat plate from around the edges in order to insert it into my ducting but that’s not a major problem. I’ll probably have to cut the inserts out of my tubing if I glued them in last time. I might not have glued them but that’s not a problem. I’ve cut stuff out before and sanded the inside of tubing. Worst case scenario, I have to redo my vent ducting totally. Not a major problem!

I forgot and left my 12v battery charging on my solar panel all day yesterday and left it out all night too. I remembered when I was in the shower last night (I shower at night because out here in the countryside, freezing temperatures can mean no water in the morning). Taking it off charge after I returned home from my morning schoolbus run, the battery voltage was 12.9v so I set it to use charging my tablet.
The voltage keeps flickering 11.8, 11.7, 12.1, 12.2 but it’s charging my tablet. I get better out of charging my tablet in the bus because the solar array is connected to the battery. So, having removed this battery from the 5W solar panel, I put my other identical battery to charge from the solar panel. This time I’ll probably leave it a couple of day since the initial voltage was 11v.

I really need to get cracking on doing more welding, wiring and plumbing but don’t want to get involved in dirty stuff before work. That’s a job for the weekend! Incidentally the high this weekend is 51F (11C). That’s pretty chilly for any underbus work.

While I was out, I had a look at some plumbing stuff. I decided I’ll probably use Pex piping for all my fresh water but secured with jubilee clips as opposed to Pex clamps. Various people full of horseshit have told me jubilee clips won’t work but there’s no reason given that stands up to scrutiny. I suspect most that say that are embarrassed because they bought the expensive Pex tool and don’t like others to be getting one over on them by doing things just as well but more cheaply. I am in no way ready to do any plumbing yet.

And Walmart - I totally forgot to go there! My Straight Talk phone was at the end of its month and needed more credit. I’d tried logging on last night to do it online and been through “your password is wrong, reset your password” which I duly did, followed by “password reset. Enter password. Password is wrong. Reset password”. It was a vicious cycle! Anyway since I totally forgot to buy a phone card I had a last ditch attempt this morning after work. After having reset my password at least three times, an old password found in my inbox from January actually worked! So, my phone got paid. I don’t think 2GB of data plus unlimited talk/text is bad value at $39 after tax.

This evening I might test my newly frosted lantern. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be as good for illumination (which it wasn’t anyway) I might just spray the others purely in order to get rid of the glare of those nasty bare LEDs (which was the whole point of the spray anyway). In general I’m not greatly impressed by the vast majority of this artificial lighting stuff. Out of curiosity I measured outside (nice bright cloudless day with a hazy sun) at 50,000 lux. Indoors I measured 58 lux. I have no ideal how accurate my phone’s lux meter is but I’ll hazard a guess that it’s not very. Mind, light measurement is a tricky thing anyway - where do you measure from? That’s a perennial issue for photographers.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The continuing adventures of the 5W panel.

As I happened to be out today performing the heinous act of shopping in Walmart, I availed myself of the opportunity to purchase a tea-light lantern. This will be used as a benchmark for all my future lighting. It takes one tealight and will thus produce one Candela of lighting. In terms of Lux, this is 1.19 lux. In Lumens this is 12.56.

I could heartily wish manufacturers would grade all their lighting in candela - it makes far more sense than lumens or lux, both of which measure things other than illumination. Lumens measures brightness (which is worthless without illumination) and lux just measures the light falling on a particular area. I could put a laser in a box and call it a light and say “oh yeah, this produces 20,000 lumens” but the fact that those 20,000 lumens illuminate only an area the size of a pinhead pretty much defeats the purpose.

I know my candle will produce 1 candela or 12.56 lumens. Doing a quick and worthless calculation, my whooptie-do-dah GE lantern that allegedly produces 350 lumens thus produces as much light as 27 candles. That really does not sound that great! Interestingly, hurricane lamps powered by kerosine can produce more light. A standard domestic unit with a 3/8 inch wick produces 4 candela. A bigger one with a 2.5 inch wick, as used in stores would produce 300 Candela. Now, interestingly I was in Walmart and measured the lux at about 300. In the kitchen in the trailer here, I measured it at 130 lux.
As I don’t currently possess a tea-light, I’ll have to hold off on my investigation as to the brightness of my tea-light lantern. Suffice to say, when I used to travel a lot, I used always to carry tea-lights and a tea-light lantern because it worked out at lighter and better value than a flashlight and batteries. One tea-light provides up to 3 hours of usable, consistent light. I don’t want to use anything flammable in my bus as a matter of routine though. I have fire extinguishers - I just don’t want to have to use them.

Another project today was to try out my 5w solar panel on my 7AH battery. Placing the battery on the hood of the bus and slipping a volt meter into it, I measured the resting voltage of the battery at a shade over 12.1v. In fact the meter kept flipping between 12.1v and 12.2v.
It was a matter of seconds to undo the battery clips and clip on my solar panel, placing the whole lot in the sun. It was placed in situ at about 1:45pm so it’ll be interesting to see how much if any the voltage has risen after an hour or two. I’d imagine since it’s a bright day and that I aligned the panel pretty well straight at the sun that my 5w or 0.4A of power will raise the voltage to 12.3v. A few days and I’m sure the battery would read 12.8v (full). My installed solar panels will be of lower efficiency than stated because they’re fixed in place and not angled correctly at the sun. They do, however, provide plenty power.
The ultimate plan is to link in a 50W portable panel on an extension cord that I can link to my existing solar system. That is one that I can angle straight at the sun. That should provide approximately 3A of power or enough to keep one of my fans running constantly or, buffering, my two fans running 50% of the time. One hour on, one hour off. I wouldn’t want to put a bigger panel on the ground where somebody could steal it. A 50W panel would cost probably about $50-$80. I did see a couple listed at $18 on ebay but given that one was from Sri Lanka and one from Spain, both with vegetation that looked distinctly similar and more Russian then I’d say they’re scams. A look on Amazon proved their cheapest 50W panel was by Renology and was $56 which confirmed my suspicions about the ebay listings being fraudulent. We know the procedure - long quoted shipping periods which gives the crooks 30 days to grab the money and run before anybody suspects anything, leaving ebay out of pocket and everybody pretty much fuming at the waste of time. I had that happen twice when I was buying my IP security camera!

The goal of my small battery plus my 5W panel is to produce something that can be an independent power source for my camera or for cell phone charging. Pretty much it’s a fun little side project that I’m having fun with. I’m certain there will be plenty naysayers out there like always with disparaging comments. In fact that’s pretty much the kind of thing that was one of the topics of one of the work meetings the other day - people that create a toxic work environment. I’d been going to contribute to the fare for the Christmas festivities at work and to participate but having encountered some of the toxic people the other day, I’m having second thoughts about contributing and attending. I certainly didn’t join the Secret Santa thing because I’d rather buy my own stuff.

Eventually, I whipped out the angle-iron that I’d bought a week or so back and cut it with my angle grinder. Then I whipped out my welder and my new Vulcan weding rods. There’s a difference! I’d only been using the older Harbor Freight rods and been struggling. These Vulcan rods sizzled their way to success very quickly and easily. I’m wondering if half my welding issues were related to poorer quality rods.
Now the theory is that should be pretty darned close to 90 degrees and flat. Only time and addition of the other members will tell. (Blogging as I work). The aim is to produce a new, lighter battery base than I made out of the older bed frame steel. Many times I tried to recycle what the hillbillies had used but their choice of materials was so poor that the vast majority of their stuff could not be recycled. Steel angle that was ludicrously heavy, electrics that were woefully underpowered and woodwork that while well made was not of substantial quality. It was as though they’d had the idea, had no idea what materials were appropriate and no idea how to put it all together.

Shortly after that I ran into the usual problem with a weld not sticking and rods not performing. That was compounded by the steel I’d been clamping things to deciding to wobble and fall off its perch. Major cussing ensued for several minutes as everything conspired to confound and frustrate. If the neighbors 200 yards away aren’t now blushing, I’d be very surprised!

The solution to my dilemma was pretty straightforward. Rather than relying upon wobbly supports, I decided to weld my supports together so they won’t wobble. that’ll give me another issue when it comes time to take the supports apart but as they’re not made of steel destined for use in the bus, right now I just don’t care!
At one point, I was even looking to find my thinner rods and had a good hunt but still couldn’t find them. I know I have a ton of welding rods in the bus but they’re being elusive today. Perhaps another day will prove more fruitful.

Anyway, having welded my workbench together more securely I recommenced work on the battery base. Within a few minutes I had achieved my aim and had three portions securely welded together. I’ll need to work more on one of the welds and I’ll have some angle grinding to do but it’s definitely getting there.
I’ll have to trim and weld on the 4th side another day and then try the battery for fit. Currently it’s about an eighth bigger in width than need be. That will facilitate snug installation of the battery.

Meanwhile I had completely forgotten about my battery that was busily charging from my 5W solar panel. Checking the voltage it had crept up to 12.4V. That’s not too bad. I figure a full day of sunshine should see that maxed out at 12.8v. I have no idea when it went dark but it was plenty dark when I put it inside the bus at 6pm.

I’m still quite favorably impressed by the Vulcan welding rods, despite my issues earlier with starting and maintaining an arc. Part of the problem is the rods are so long and harder to handle than my previous rods. I suspect I’ll have to use pliers or something to hold the rod closer to the end. Mind, tightening the sloppy jaws on my rod holder would go a long way too!


Saturday, December 9, 2017

39F and raining!

It probably doesn’t look like it in the photo but that ground is sodden. It has been raining for almost 24 hours and the temperature did not rise much above the 39F I measured inside my bus earlier. This is a day for thinking and not for working. Certainly I could plug the bus in and get my little fan heater going to make it cosy enough to do some work. It’s not light enough to do so though.

Speaking of light, I loaded a lux meter onto my phone yesterday. Today I recorded the light in the kitchen by which it is comfortable to read at 136lux and daylight outside on a cloudy cold day at 8,600 lux. Inside my bus I put two of my LED lanterns onto full power and held the meter up. When the naked LED shines directly on the meter from 3 inches I got 60 lux. From 3 feet away, zero. That should tell you how tremendously pathetic these LED lanterns are! I have a GE lantern that professes 350 lumens but I had my doubts.

Using the same lux meter, with the meter pressed up against the diffused glass I measured 500 lux. Moving the meter away two feet yielded 10 lux. I didn’t bother recording zero at 3 feet. So basically, these LED lanterns are children’s toys. They’re good enough to see large objects faintly or to see your way to the bathroom but that’s it. My measure of light is whether I can read a book, comfortably. None of these lanterns afford that luxury. Whether putting some white, reflective card inside the glass to reflect the light in a single direction would help, I don’t know.

This whole LED illumination thing seems to be smoke and mirrors. If you remember, when the idiots decided to do away with the good old incandescent bulb about 20 years ago, a 7W forescent was alleged to be as bright as a 100W incandescent. It most certainly was not and everybody had to go to 13W and even then the light was lacking a certain substance. Now they’re playing the same game saying that woefully underpowered LEDs are as bright as the 100W bulbs we cannot now obtain. Of course, they are not!

Somewhere I read that 1200 lumens is about equivalent to a 100W bulb. I’m unconvinced but out of curiosity I paid $5 and ordered 3 LED panels from China that claim 1000 lumen output. I’ll bet my bottom dollar that 1000 lumens will be a total disappointment. Having said that, if they do in fact work then I’ll get some of that plastic fluorescent tube diffusing plastic from Lowes (hiss, spit) and put them up as mini fluorescents. As I said though, I have my doubts about them.

One alternative to the miserable 12V lighting would be to put in 120V lighting. That’s not quite as daft as it sounds. If I put in 120V bulbs (incidentally a 40W incandescent lights the inside of the galley nicely) then a 60W equivalent LED bulb would consume 8.5W at 120V. If I were to put an inverter to convert 12V to 120V then that 8.5W would probably be about 2A of 12V power. Quite a power hog but then I never was fool enough to believe LED lighting was going to save any power.

One of the thoughts I’d had yesterday was to spray the nasty unshielded LED lanterns with the white fogging spray I had on my windows before I put tint and blinds up. That stuff was pretty good though patchy. Several coats correctly applied would likely reduce the horrible glare from the unshielded LEDs. Having seen though, how poor those lanterns are, the point of doing so has evaporated.

I keep meaning to do a comparison between these laughable LED lanterns and a simple candle lantern. Indeed, back in my dad’s place I have an old oil hurricane lantern. That produced a decent quantity of light. Not quite enough to read comfortably by but I have a feeling it was way better than what the rather pitiful LED lanterns produce.

Years ago I used to cycle about 8,000 miles annually. Where I used to live, there was a cyclepath from just outside my home to the center of the city. It made sense to cycle because it would take 45 minutes to cycle at zero cost versus 35 minutes by bus or 25 minutes by car (then spend 20 minutes trying to find a free parking space). That meant cycling through a valley that had trees forming an archway over the cyclepath. It was so dark that on a cloudy night it was not possible even to see the path. Thus after trying many different cycle lamps and finding all to be insufficient, I got myself a dynamo light from a dynamo set and put a 6V gel battery on it. That worked wonderfully and illuminated my path for 50 yards. Whether I’d be able to get the 12v version of the 6v krypton bulb I don’t know. I’m sure that would provide me with far more light than any of these LED contrivances.

Eventually I tested my GE lantern and found that was better than the no-name Chinese lanterns from Big Lots but even so, not by much. At 3 feet it was zero lux but at 2 feet it was 6 lux. That light level truly drops off rapidly! I get very much the feeling that unless I can get some form of incandescent lighting in here then I might as well stick with these horrible LED lantern abominations. It’s just too easy to follow the technology path. You do remember the technology path? First you buy something truly despicable then you buy something truly worthless then you buy something half-assed then you buy something that’s just not good enough then eventually after a few more iterations of not good enough you end up with something barely passable.

In a past life I worked for Barnes & Noble where I sold their ridiculous Nook device. The first edition was pure and utter junk. I remember the manager threatening to fire me for calling it half-assed junk. Thy worked out how to palm them off on the unsuspecting public though. Then there was a second edition then came the half -assed Nook Color where the thing just went bananas in even low levels of humidity. Eventually they cycled through a few more iterations before doing what they should have done in the first place and jacking it in and rebadging somebody else’s tablet. Technology always follows that path and it’s never ever a good idea to be in during the first decade of a device’s existence. LED lighting has been around for maybe 7 years. It’s still not a mature field. Maybe by 2020 it will be mature.

If you recall, I ordered LED lights. I also ordered some G4 bulb bases. The thought is that if the LED lights turn out to be as abysmal as I expect then I can simply install my G4 bulb bases and put krypton, xenon or halogen bulbs in the system. Three bulb bases will see my bus fully illuminated.

Meanwhile those of you with memories will recall that I glued a USB/fag-lighter socket to the top of a battery. Well, the glue did finally set. Though it was wet and cold today so I didn’t do anything with it, I can work on the setup over the next few days. There is a half-baked plan to combine my 5W solar panel with my security camera and that battery setup. Who knows - it might even work. If I end up junkingthe battery - who cares - I have another identical battery and no particular use for either.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Another dreary day!

The old refrain still applies - I’d like to have done this today but...

As work ended at about 1pm for me today, the schools having a half day and my day thus being truncated into two driving sessions with a two hour gap in the middle, that meant the rest of my day was free. Had the weather been cooperative and had I not got the remains of something akin to flu then I’d have been working more intensively on the bus. Last weekend as you might have guessed was a dead loss wiped out by the flu.

So, over the last week or two some small new things have arrived. None are in any way spectacular. I still have to get under the bus to complete attaching and soldering some connections on the wire from the bedroom to the back of the bus. I now have the cables for my battery and still have to weld the battery mount together. I have a clearer idea of how it’s all going to fit together now though.

Today I was going to butcher my .50 cal ammunition box to make it into a battery holder for my two 7AH batteries. I started gathering bits to put into it - a fuse holder, a switch, a USB charger and a 12V socket plus a voltmeter when my brain suddenly screamed how much would this unit cost when completed. I have no idea but I’m sure it would be fairly expensive in parts.
It was then that I realized that as this is something I’d probably want to leave outside to charge from a separate solar panel, it would make sense to be as simple and cheap as possible. I located my 12V and USB unit that I bought from Walmart and decided after that I didn’t much like as it had a 12v power socket and that I wanted everything in my bus running off batteries to be USB (aside from my fans and possibly potential lights).

Thus I simply glued the socket to the top of the battery and added spade clips to the ends of the cables. Switching is a simple matter of removing the clip from the terminal. Recharging is simple too. Remember my old 5W solar panel? That has crocodile clips that will clip nicely onto the battery terminals.
That’s an earlier incarnation of my panel - used to run some PCB fans as an experiment. The whole benefit is that if I leave the battery with the USB/12V connector glued on top outside, nobody is likely to steal it because it looks to rednecky DIY. Similarly that little solar panel is pretty inexpensive.

A fuse would have been nice but I’m unlikely to overtax the battery by using it for USB devices. The 12V socket is handy for my 12V socket mounting voltmeter. This is all light, cheap and easy to use and replace. The plan is to use it to power my new 12V remote camera (that arrived a week or two back).

I thought about working on the internal wiring for the bus but decided against as the portable battery thing sounded a more fun immediate reject. The idea is to put the small panel to charge the battery over a few days then to check the battery voltage. I’ll then put the camera onto the battery and see how the voltage drops over say 24 hours. Maybe it’ll all work together nicely as a security system. I don’t know. It’s a thought and I want to play with it.

The weather over the next month does not look good for working under the bus. It’s cold and sometimes wet. I’ll have to wrap up warm and roll underneath one dry day - possibly during the Christmas holidays. I want this project done so I can start using my bus for fun trips etc. I’ve already learned how to drive a bus and can fling longer, heavier busses around the roads like they were mere toys. I can drive them all - busses with sloppy steering, sloppy brakes and hardly any acceleration or power as well as busses that work perfectly. That’s the miracle I achieve most days at work!

One by one my goals are coming to fruition. I got my bus. I built my bus into a home. I’m finishing up the solar electrics right now then the code lock to the door before adding instant hot water and a water inlet. I’ll have to find a new faucet for my sink since the old one has vanished somewhere. It would even be at the bottom of the bathtub that lies forgotten in the yard. The bathtub I stripped out of the old conversion.
The beauty of being where I am is that nothing is ever truly thrown away. It’s dumped in a pile in the yard and then when bits of it are needed or it is needed, it’s usually possible to rescue and revive it. There’s plenty sheet steel from old fridges, old washing machines etc. Sometimes things just don’t seem to have an immediate use such as the old solar panel that I bought off ebay that didn’t work but as the guy said keep it and refunded me, that just got used for target practice. Old microwaves don’t have anything in them worth keeping either. Sure, the transformers and the capacitors might be worth salving but the steel is so thin that it’s not really worth contemplating doing anything with it.
Where I worked in the summer, one person found an old microwave that was going to be thrown out, took it home and found it didn’t work so they took it to a scrap merchant and got something like a dollar for it. It was a far bigger microwave than any of those. Was it worthwhile? Not really. The price of steel is so low that it makes more economic sense to put things out the back and let them rest into the ground than to take them to sell. Dumping them in an official tip isn’t even an option as that’d cost money that could be spent on better things while these things dumped on the land here are harming nobody.

As the glue is still setting on the top of my little battery pack, there’s not really a load of point in trying to get it working. Each time I tried, the glue moved and the charger connectors moved. I’ve got them just where I want them right now. The instructions even say 24 hours till cured and 72 hours til maximum strength. At least I found a use for one of my four small batterie!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

My security camera kinda-sorta works!

For those with long memories, you may remember that for many months I tried to obtain an IP wireless webcam. The first seller took my money and vanished, totally vanishing off eBay after getting something like 200 in negative feedback. After that I got my money back off eBay and ordered again from a different seller. This seller again took my money and vanished, vanishing off eBay after getting more negative feedback. I got my money back eventually. Then I ordered again, making sure to go for a USA based seller. Well, the camera did arrive and then sat on the bedside table for a couple of weeks as I just could not get the thing to work.

Today, having failed totally and utterly to get the thing to work on my phone, I tried the software on my tablet. Well, it worked. The whole thing is slower than a tick swimming through treacle but it works. Interestingly that camera has audio and video. The audio is bidirectional too. I noticed when I spoke through it that I sounded just like a Dalek. Oddly enough, the camera looks like the eyeball on the end of a Dalek’s stalk.
Though they can’t be seen on this photo, there are some ominous looking glowing red lights. What it really needs is cat-eye shaped red lights to make it look really evil in the dark!

Having played with it for a bit, I find the software fairly clunky to use but it does work. It’s probably better run through a network as opposed to point to point as I have been running it. Panning and tilting seems fairly slow and there’s no zoom. Image quality on standard is mediocre whereas on high-quality it’s better. The difference is the whole thing works better in standard quality.
That’s what a screenshot of the tablet looks like with the camera sitting on my countertop, aimed out of the bus window. It’s good enough to recognize people and to see faces etc. I’m feeling it’s a little of a disappointment being so hard to get working - particularly on my phone. I can see that if I left it switched on in notify mode and connected to my phone, it would send messages every time anything passed the window - flirtatious squirrels, randy cats, delinquent rabbits etc.

I’ve always liked surveillance and counter-surveillance gadgets ever since I was a child. In fact that love came in handy a few years ago when a particularly malevolent individual was stalking me. Fortunately they ceased to bother with me after a couple of years. That’s not why I purchased this though. It was because where I’m living, people don’t normally knock on the door. There have been a few knocks on the door of late and it has usually been unwelcome. In fact, one of the neighbors up the road had just such a knock on the door and somebody gained entry to their home, fired a few shots and vanished.

When I lived in my rented rat hole in the slums of Lexington, I had one of those goofy viewers in my door. It didn’t allow me to see very much to be honest and there was no way of seeing who was at the door without opening it. Thus, I used only to open the door with my hand behind my back and my .357 in my hand. I’d have loved to have had some kind of remote camera.

Thinking further about security, it’s an idea to put hidden security cameras in a motorhome since they’re easy to break into. I’m not so bothered about people trying to steal a bus because there’re a lot fewer criminals out there that can actually handle the length and width, let alone manual fuel shut offs, air brakes etc. In fact in some instances the best anti-theft device is a manual gearbox since so few seem to be able to handle a clutch and gearstick. I’ve heard a gearstick referred to as the Millenial anti-theft device. I wouldn’t call this remote IP camera remotely hidden though. I’d call it a nice idea that won’t go further than just being a nice idea. This is, of course, why I bought it on ebay for $15 rather than paying full whack for a good one in a store. Mind paying full whack would have probably got me exactly the same camera in fancier packaging given the ubiquity of Chinese stuff.

I was thinking again about internal lighting. I’ve put the wires in in order to be able to use internal lighting. That’s just in case I decide to go through with it. From what I’ve seen online, it just seems to me that there’re an awful lot of people selling LED lighting, all of which suffers from exposed LEDs.  Exposed LEDs give a false impression of how bight the light is. Looking at them, the light is very dazzling. That gives the impression of brightness. Holding the light up to try to see something is fruitless. In fact on some of my lanterns, the LEDs are beginning to die.
Notice the LED on the second row on the second column? It seems to be very dim. That is apparently what LEDs do - they get gradually dimmer and dimmer. The life of an LED is graded as the time it takes to dim from full brightness to 50%.
This is one of those shower-head looking LED light bulbs. It was way too blue for my liking but as a stairwell light it was OK. I believe it lasted 3 months before LEDs began to fail in a pattern. Where the gap is that you see was all at one time brightly illuminated. I paid I believe $8 or $12 for that bulb. Clearly I wasn’t too impressed with the outcome.

I’m very suspicious of new electronics as usually the bugs haven’t been worked out on them. What I don’t understand is how LED lighting is so completely unreliable when LED televisions and LED monitors and tablets/phones with LED screens are so completely reliable. Look at the destination board fort he next bus or train you see - are all the LED segments that are supposed to be lit actually lit? I’m going to say they probably are not.

Does anybody remember those horrible e-readers that flooded the market a few years ago? I recall one customer in a store reminding their partner who was very enthralled with I believe the first generation of Nook, that it was never a good idea to get the first generation of anything. Now that truly was a horrible e-reader. I played with it for a few minutes until the fiickering e-ink screen gave me a headache. The only e-reader I saw that was any good was actually in K-Mart and it had an LCD screen and took AA batteries. It’s downside like so many was that it needed to be connected by a cable to a computer to download the books. I’m not quite sure what happened to e-books. I think they must have died out a few years after they killed off some of the big bookstores. I rather expect the current surge of exotic LED lighting devices will be historical curios in a year or so.

The reason I went for LED lanterns (about which I complain - a lot) was because the current electrical lighting situation around the world is so utterly miserable. Essentially we have incandescent which produced a lot of heat, fluorescent which contains mercury vapor and LED which doesn’t work. We are getting to the stage since incandescent lights are pretty well banned and fluorescent seem to be vanishing where it’s going to have to be LED or something traditional and reliable. One day I shall avail myself of an oil lamp and a candle and do a comparison test with some of my LED lanterns. I have little doubt that the oil lamp is going to win.

Maybe Saturday next week will be a good day. I should be able on a good day to go underneath to complete installing the bedroom cable including the one join. Now I know how to do it with my mini torch, that’s not going to take long. I’ll measure up for the battery hanger too though I’ll wait on installing the battery cables until I’ve completed, painted and installed the hanger. At the rate I’m going, that might be around Christmas! (Notice I did not say which Christmas).

Saturday, November 25, 2017

When the going gets tocgh, the tough go shopping!

So first I went to JC Penny and bought some nice new fishnet pantyhose then I went to Belk for a couple of new skirts. Then off to Aldi for some new shoes. Then off to AC Moore for some new warpaint. Or... back in the real world... My first stop was Harbor Freight where I got some more cable ties and a pile of little extras that made sense at the time but which will probably have me slapping my face asking myself if I really needed any more tools.

From Harbor Freight I went to Home Depot to look for the wire I needed but they had none. As it was on the way, the next stop was Tractor Supply for some steel angle and some bolts. I’ll have to remeasure under the bus since I’m now going to be bolting to the open section ribs as opposed to welding to the closed section ribs. I ended up with two approximately 5 foot lengths of steel angle that are way lighter than what the bed frames had been made from and much more suitable for my needs. If all goes well, I might weld them tomorrow.

After Home Depot, the next step was Lowes (hiss, spit). There I got two 20 foot lengths of 10 gauge red and black wire. Those will be perfect for my battery connections. If you recall, I’m having to put in two wires to the charge controller because of the insane way that the unit doesn’t seem to want to let me use a common ground. I’m hoping it’ll allow me to do it this way. Otherwise, I’ll be enacting the product of my research into alternatives to using a charge controller.

Having been to Lowes where I still couldn’t get any 14 gauge twin cable, I went to Autozone where I managed to get single cables in different colors. I might be back there for more wire when it is time to do the internal wiring.

Today started with an icky tummy. I’m thinking I’ll have an icky tummy tomorrow too. There’s just something moldy I smell underneath the bus. It’s definitely something in the soil. I’ve tried using those breathing masks but they make my face all wet and make it hard to breathe. I’ll just put up with the icky tummy and make sure I do the underbus stuff solely on Saturdays so I get Sunday to recover before I start work on Monday.

Speaking of breathing issues, my car suddenly came up with a “check engine light”. Having an inkling it might be the engine air filter, I whipped it out and looked at it. It wasn’t as dirty as I would have liked it to be before changing it but I changed it anyway. An hour or so later, the check engine light vanished. Switching it out took all of 30 seconds. Pop the hood, undo two clips, pop the cover off the filter box, flip the filter out, pop a new $16 filter in, close the cover, redo the clips and close the hood. Done. Now, a garage would have charged $50 for the filter and probably $100 in labor. I still think a check engine light for the air filter is stretching it a bit - especially when the filter wasn’t completely black.

Of course, the one thing I forgot to get when I was out was longer self-drilling screws. Now I’ll have to scrounge around the miscellany of screws and parts to find some! One of the things I did get was some 2032 coin cells. Out of curisiosity I put a new one in my anemometer. It seems to work now. I’m wondering if the anemometer is one of those gizmos that one has to leave the battery out of until it’s used. I have a camera like that. It’s an old Canon S1 IS that cost about $500 back in 2004 but which now is utterly valueless. At best, I’d probably get a dollar for it, selling it. The rapid depreciation of electronics and their equally speedy obsolescence is exactly why I don’t do electronics.

In a similar vein, my dad always ranted about people that would buy a washing machine then simply throw it out while it was still good and buy another three years later. The fact is that when a washing machine or any such thing goes wrong, it’s usually better just to chuck it away than to hire somebody to fix it. By the time the standard $50 - $100 call out fee plus parts and labor are included, it’s usually around half the price of a new washing machine. So it makes sense to sell it for a low sum after half its estimated life and put that toward a new one then let somebody else deal with the relic when it finally dies. With anything electronic, when it goes wrong is usually the time to buy another. I had a cheap tablet and the USB charging port broke. Repairs would cost more than buying another. I had a Nexus 7 tablet and the operating system went and corrupted itself. I just woke one day and it wouldn’t turn on and just kept going through a reset cycle. Nobody wanted to repair that even though I’d have gladly paid money since it cost $200. Thus, these days, I don’t throw money at costly electronics and just have the cheapest and trash them when they break.

Well, the icky tummy won today. Just as I was getting ready to go under the bus to get a little work done, it took me to the bathroom for the Nth time today. By the time I returned, darkness had fallen with a thud! All is not lost though, even if I don’t go under the bus tomorrow, there’s always Saturday next weekend. There’s not a whole lot to do with the current cable in terms of attaching and my connectors should have arrived which will allow me to connect the ends of the new bits of cable to the old bits.
One of the things from Harbor Freight was an impulse buy. They had a lightswitch shaped light. It’s held on by Velcro so we’ll see how long that lasts. There are two magnets but they’re such wimpy affairs that they won’t hold the weight of the unit. I might end up having to glue better magnets to it. The crying shame is the battery housing is on the back of the unit so I can’t just glue it to the wall.

Fastened to the door frame on the entrance way of the bus, it really illuminates the stairway well. The light produced is nowhere near perfect but then few of these battery powered things seem to be up to much. Mind that’s my experience of LED lighting anyway. I bought 4 LED bulbs in Lowes (hiss, spit) Black Friday sale two years ago. One of those bulbs that were alleged to last 12 years is still working. The other 3 quit rapidly, turning into disco strobes on their way out. It was at the disco strobe stage that they made their way into landfill.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of LED lighting. Though all the stores and governments are pushing LED lighting, it’s still a developing and emerging technology. It’s not yet out of Beta stage. For at least the next ten years they’ll be testing different versions on people until finally they get something stable enough to actually be worth buying. By then, of course, a realistic life span will be available. It won’t be that pie-in-the-sky 10 and 20 years. It’ll be something like 2 years or no different from the incandescent bulbs that cost a fraction of the price and which can be recycled easily.

This whole concept of recycling is laughable anyway. Aside from a very few somewhat enthusiastic people that have bought into Green propaganda, nobody recycles anything. It’s just not worthwhile. Why should Joe X spend time sifting through their garbage sorting things into the vast array of types and grades of materials when they can just dump the whole lot in a black bag and let the garbage guys take it? Indeed, if there was no garbage guy then you can bet your boots it would be packed into the trunk of the car then emptied into the nearest dumpster or dumped where nobody can see it being dumped.

One of the things I got was 10 gauge wiring. Though I’m not going to be able to install that this weekend, I’d planned on doing it next. Next weekend though, it looks like I’ll be working on finishing what I should have today. Tomorrow though, I should be able to at least start welding my battery holder together. Even if I only do the bottom and the verticals, It’ll be something.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Down and dirty again!

Today being Black Friday, I’m not joining the headlong rush of morons to the stores. From what I’ve seen, nothing that’s “on sale” on Black Friday is without issue. I bought 4 LED light bulbs in Lowes (hiss, spit) Black Friday sale one year and only one of them lasted more than 6 months. Similarly the stuff I see “on sale” on Black Friday is usually end of line and about 3 - 6 weeks after Black Friday will be reduced to below the Black Friday price as they get rid of the final remnants of the stock. So, no - I’m not falling for the Black Friday scam. In any case, stuff I normally buy like fruit, veggies and bread is never ever on sale.

So, the first thing I did today was to crawl under the bus. I measured the channel section ribs at 7 3/4 inches between the inside faces and 10 3/4 inches on the outside faces. Measuring my battery holder bottom (the only part I’ve built), I found that it would fit quite nicely with verticals welded on the outsides of the channels and would fit lengthwise with each end supported from the channel.

Eventually after quite a bit more procrastinating, I went back under the bus and measured where my cable was likely to go. Looking at the cable I found one pair of wires was plenty long enough but the other was woefully short. That basically means I need to buy more wire. While I could join the short length to another length, I’m feeling more that I’d be better to pull it out and put two long lengths in place instead. Having said that, that would be putting off til another day what I can do today.
Looking at what I want to install which is a USB charging socket and possibly a voltmeter then connecting to my existing bedroom fan and to a pair of potential lights (one for the bedroom, above my desk and one for the bathroom, above the toilet), I realized the lights could go to the joined wire since they’re not likely to exceed 1 amp. Assuming I went down the brimstone path and put LED lighting then I gather 8 watts is likely all I’d need which works out at 750mA.

Right now I am definitely not feeling in the getting under the bus and working mood! Still, I looked at the battery holder and decided the best place to situate that is probably not behind the differential on account of the large number of cables I have going between the main chassis beams behind the differential. Thus the best place is likely to be behind the driver-side rear wheel.

Checking under the bus, I found my battery hanger fits pretty nicely under the C section ribs through which I can pass bolts. The hanger I’ve made is way too heavy though and will have to be remade using lighter steel. I really don’t need it as heavy as it is. That’s a job for another day and I’m really glad I don’t have to weld it under there.

Meanwhile I passed the cable through the hole in the floor and sealed it with silicone goop, from both sides. The short cable ends a few feet past the differential so that’s a nice, easy place to work to extend it. It’s a blue twin cable that I probably got in Radio Shack’s going out of business sale. No chance of getting another identical cable, sadly.

By the time I knocked off for the day having done a pitiful amount of work (I did say how much I hate going under the bus, didn’t I), I’d run out of steel cable clamps and had run out of longer self-drilling screws. I was pretty short on the plastic cable clamps too. That means that tomorrow I’ll probably have to do a quick run to Harbor Freight and Home Depot before streaking back to complete or to attempt to complete the underbody wiring. While I’m out I might also visit Tractor Supply since their steel seems much more reasonably priced than Lowes (hiss, spit) or Home Depot. One thing is for sure - I have my underbody wiring well under control. Once the battery is in place and wired, there is no reason whatsoever why I can’t do the interior wiring in rain, sleet, snow, thunder, lightning or a zombie invasion.

As far as I know, I will have to go under the bus to complete my current cable installation, to install my 12v battery and wires and to install the wiring and plumbing for the shower, hot water heater and 120v supply to the hot water heater. Once that is all completed, I cannot imagine needing to go underneath other than for routine maintainance and inspections. I cannot tell you how glad I will be to be free of needing to go under the bus. The other thing I need to do is to retask  the wire to the current battery and use it to power my keypad door unlocker. That way, if I forget or lose my keys, I can still get into the bus. I’m more likely to leave the keys in the bus and lock myself out!

As far as the USB charger power is concerned, I’ve got a couple of nice looking USB hubs that would do the job. One needs to be installed into a box however. If I do that, I can include a pushbutton to power an LED display of the battery voltage and a switch to switch the hub on or off. It has an irksome blue light which I really don’t need to have in the bedroom when I’m trying to sleep!

I’ve been working on this project since probably January of 2015 though I bought the bus in November of 2014 then it was used as a moving van and storage shed for a couple of months. I’d say February of 2015 I started conversion in earnest. That’s gone in spurts - sometimes I’ve done a lot. Sometimes I’ve not touched it for weeks through work, not feeling like it, the weather or illness. I can tell you this though - I shall be so glad when I have Completed the bus to a point where I feel I can retitle it as a motorhome.