Wednesday, August 29, 2018

On rare occasion, the sounds of silence aren't loud enough to drown out the neighbors

And the sight of those neighbors might not be something to swoon over either.

This is why humanity invented entertainment systems. And curtains.

I had already installed a monitor and Blu-ray player, but it was a real hassle to also include music sources, or to easily switch between the various sources.
Worse, the only speakers were in the monitor, and they sound awful. But still, better than the neighbors.

So I entertained myself by making an entertainment system, so we could be entertained when we couldn't hear the sounds of silence.
I hope you are as easily entertained by my rambling as I am.

The Blu-ray and monitor are both designed to run on 110V, through the MS2012's inverter or shore power transfer switch. I don't want to run the inverter when we don't actually have a 110V device, because it's parasitic current draw is relatively high.
But we would want to play music at any time, probably for hours on end.

So I needed to find an amplifier that could switch between the video HDMI source, and some source of MP3, or on-line music source when in range of cell towers. This amplifier also needed to be controllable by remote (signal source, volume, etc.), powered by Annie's house 12V system, and have a low power sleep mode...so it could be wakened via the remote.
It also needed to be cheap.

I could not find a car entertainment system that could do all that...especially support Blu-ray.

We suffered in abject misery for months.😭

But finally, my google-fu kicked in and I found a likely suspect prospect.
It is a Pyle PFA 540BT. Cost under $90. Supports HDMI in and out, 5.1 surround, and Bluetooth. With IR remote. (Plus FM and aux inputs, which we won't use.)
It is nominally a 110V unit, but it's actually powered with 12VDC as supplied by a wall wart.

The question is if it could handle the expected range of battery voltage we'd see in Annie without letting out its magic smoke.

I figured it was cheap enough to risk a bench smoke test. Brought it into my lab and checked it out.
You may notice that I follow the philosophy of Einstein's apocryphal quote: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

It works fine, all the way up to 15.5V, at which point it exceeds the max voltage rating of our fridge, and besides, I chickened out. 

Sleep current is about 12 mA, which should be fine for our 400AH batteries (Although if Annie never got those batteries recharged, they'd be down to 50% in about 70 days. Think we can live with that.) 

The Bluetooth easily connected to an older unused phone, which I'll use as an MP3 & WiFi player. I'm using 2 leftover Logitech speakers (shown)...from a fairly decent 5.1 computer sound setup, that we're only using as 2.1.

So, now we've got music, we've got amplification, we've got good speakers for a small space. I also verified that it played nice with our HDMI setup. We're ready to install.

It's going in the space between our nifty new driver side overhead, and our closet.
Here, I'm mounting one of the speakers.


Building the shelf for the amp


And mounting it in Annie

Wired everything up, and made sure it all worked.

Built a back panel with a 12V and a dual USB set of sockets.
The USB socket is where the MP3 phone will always be plugged in.

Neatened everything up, and done...almost.

Last step was to program a universal remote that had codes for the 3 electronics.


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Doing the duffel shuffle

Now that the passenger seat swivels, it's not so great as a duffel bag holder once we're camping. I mean, why swivel the chair just to look at a stack of bags?
So I added more rear overhead cabinetry. This time on the driver side. The plan is to use it for my clothing duffels, and spousal unit will store her stuff on the driver side.

I'm using the same frame design as the passenger side, but there is one difference to deal with.
See that black plastic cable conduit snapped onto the driver's side wall?

The passenger side cabinets (and cabinet wall) can fit up flush against Annie's side wall.

But the driver side has to accommodate the cabling in that conduit. There was really no good reason to build around the conduit, since it's only there to protect the cable. So the first step is to cut away the conduit.

There will be 2 cabinets, mainly to provide a center support point. Overall length will be 4.5'.

Now to build the cabinets. This time, instead of the rear wall on the outside of the frame, I'm putting it inside the frame. The cable will run behind it. Once the cabinet is assembled and glued up, we'll cut the frame (where the blue tape is) so the cabling can pass behind. That cut is already done to the cabinet to the rear.

Next, I added some support for the top of the rear wall.

The cabinets are hung to ceiling rafters at the face and rear top, and to Annie's sheet metal at the bottom rear.

I made up a quickie jig to angle the upper rear screws correctly. There was no easy way to set up a jig at my drill press, so I just cut a piece of scrap at the right angle and clamped it down.

Then I edge banded the cabinets and started mounting them. (Not what it sounds like...this isn't dogwood.)
First cabinet is attached to the ceiling.
The front screws are spaced for a piano hinge, if I decide I want to add doors. But since the goal is to stuff soft duffels up here, I'm hoping that cargo netting will do the job.

Both cabinets are up, bottom screws are installed. I ran power in case I ever want to add some under-cabinet lighting.

Added command hooks to hold the cargo net, added our signature mushy rubber trim, and as the last step, test fit a duffel bag.

While all this was going on, the aesthetics committee convened, and determined that an additional dimmer/strip light would be aesthetically pleasing above the sink.
So I installed one.

Stay tuned for our next thrilling adventure, where we attempt to improve our sound system on the cheap.


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Our heads are spinning

They're spinning, not just because of the latest White House activities, but because our butts can now spin, and one ideally wants to maintain a good connection between the two.
We installed a Scopema passenger swivel seat.

It's a pretty straightforward job.

First, I'd suggest raising the seat to it's maximum height, and all the way back. Makes reaching under it a bit easier when it comes time to put it all back together.
Unbolt the seat from the base. It's attached to the base with 4 8mm bolts.

Unplug the seat. If it's a power seat like ours, the connector has a hex bolt that attaches the cable to the seat. It can lay on it's back.

Remove the bottle jack. It won't be accessible with the swivel installed.

Find a handy place for the bottle jack, after verifying that it really works. I've read some folks complaining that their jack was defective.
This will leave a breadbox sized storage area in the seat base, for things containing bread-like substances, like that box of 25 year old Hostess Ding Dongs you've been hanging on to.

Install the swivel, using the countersunk flatheads provided by Scopema.
Before bolting down the swivel and re-connecting the seat plug, you may wish to remove one of the strain relief zip-ties holding the cable to the base.
We found that there wasn't enough slack to allow the seat to move fully forward and back, after the cable was fed through the swivel's center hole. Now there's enough slack.
Mount the seat on the swivel. Scopema provides 4 hex bolts, washers and nylocks.We found that rotating the swivel a bit let our fingers reach the mounting holes. It takes a bit of fiddling to get all 4 bolts properly lined up.
Plug in the seat, and screw it down.

Next, you will need to cut off the child seat tie down loop. It interferes with full seat rotation. Hacksaw works fine.
Actually, it may be possible to simply bend the loop down, but I didn't think of doing that until I cut the loop off. So you will have to needlessly mutilate your project as well.

Finally (at least if you have a power seat), you will need to trim some of the plastic from the side panel holing the seat adjusts. The base has some guide pins that aligned the seat forward. They won't clear the plastic side panel when the seat is being rotated.
WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT LET THE AESTHETICS COMMITTEE SEE THE FOLLOWING  PICTURE.


We find that in order to clear those pins, the seat needs to be raised as high as it goes. We also find that moving it as far forward as it can go without hitting the center console sets up less interference between the pins and the plastic.

That's pretty much it, except taking it out for a spin.

 Now, since you have nothing better to do, you have all your tools out, and your head is still spinning, cut out the cable cover above the bed.
It may mean war to trade a peaceful conduit in order to Putin the upper storage over the bed on drivers side but that's the way things go in today's world...
At least that's what I did. I won't demand that you do the same, but anybody who's everybody says it's the biggliest, bestestest, thing a very stable jenius can do.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Tripping in Annie #2 - Okanogan


This is the second of what will eventually become an occasional, yet interminably long series of "Tripping in Annie".

We've just returned from a visit to the east side of the North Cascade crest, from up the Chewuch/Chewich/Chewack River (wars have been fought over how road and motel signs should be spelled, and to how to pronounce the name), to the Tiffany highlands, and down to the Twisp River.

Be warned: We have cameras, and are not afraid to overuse them.

We chose the Chewuch  as our first stopover on our way to the higher country.
The mighty Chewuch/Chewich/Chewack:

The Okanogan N.F. is very open to dispersed camping. They just ask that you don't blaze new roads, and don't trash the vegetation.

Our first spot, above the mighty Chewuch/Chewich/Chewack. Between a few blocks and Annie's airbags, we were able to remain very level headed:

Lots of springtime flowering happening above the river bank.
What's up Tiger Lily?

Lupine and paintbrush sharing the land in peace.

Falls Creek feeds the mighty Chewuch/Chewich/Chewack.

Kya heard about something feeding something, and wants to join the action.

We then headed up to the Tiffany Highlands, up at about 6-7000 feet altitude. It's a steep climb on a narrow, rough road. Forest service says "trailers not recommended", and they are right.
The whole Tiffany area, was heavily burned in 2006, and is still just recovering. So the land is very open.
We had hoped to camp at the Tiffany Springs campground, but there was only one decent spot, and that was taken up by one of these things:
Nothing says "don't blaze new roads, and don't trash the vegetation"...not to mention "don't squash the occasional Ford Transit", like that vehicle.
There was absolutely no way we could camp there and avoid looking at that large white thing.
So we decided to camp elsewhere.

We found a nice hunter's campsite in Tiffany Meadows, by Boulder Creek.
Annie sniffed out the site:
And found it acceptable, so we set up camp.
Prepared a well deserved meal. Thanks, Renee!
And settled in to supervise the meal prep:

Exploring the surroundings:


and failed to heed the "no selfies, ever" rule:

Woke up the next morning to nice views:

and breakfast

And so it went, exploring the recovering countryside, and visiting the springtime wildlife.


For our last stop, we went up to the very end of the Twisp River road, and set up camp at the  strangely named "Road's End Campground". No idea why they named it thus. It was the only official campground we stayed at.

This is truly in the real Cascades, with the Twisp River cascading right by our campsite
High country surrounding us, and lush plant life in the camp.

Finished off with some hiking on official trails, making an official end to the trip.