Odds and Ends

November 6th, 2007

Well, the big day is getting closer. I still don’t have an exact delivery date from Conibear, but we expect the camper sometime in the next week or two. Meanwhile, we’ve got only three weeks left in our apartment.

We’ve canceled cable television and internet service. There’s still way more television being broadcast in the area than we really need. Quite frankly, I wish we watched even less television than we do.

For internet we’re using Sprint’s wireless data service. We have the new Novatel U727 usb modem. One of it’s big selling points is the built-in GPS. Unfortunately, the GPS is pretty lousy. Most of the time, you can’t even get it to lock onto satellites in a vehicle. Perhaps it would work better in the open air, but I rarely walk around with a laptop and actually need a GPS.

At least the internet service works pretty well. It took some fiddling with the EVDO settings and finding a good place to put the router, but we’re getting about 800kbps downstream. There is not currently an external antenna cable available for the U727. Hopefully it will take less trial and error with locations once we can permanently mount an antenna on the outside of the camper.

I’ve been very happy with the EVDO router. Its a Cradlepoint C350. It acts as a wifi hotspot and NATs the IP address that Sprint assigns. The interface is pretty intuitive and packed with a ton of features. The only real problem we’ve run into is trying to get WDS to work properly between this router and the Linksys access point we’ve been using. Since the C350 is wifi only, a fair portion of our network is currently unable to reach the internet. We’re making due with a couple of PCI wifi cards I had laying around from another project and multi-homing our workstations so we can still reach the NAS.

Switching ISPs has forced us to move along with some other things as well. The biggest one so far has been relocating our email and web toys to a domain hosting company. For the past ten years or so, I’ve run all the services for my vanity domain and Jenn has done the same with hers. Its a bit of a change letting someone else deal with all the root level things and rather frustrating when you have an issue that you could solve in five minutes if it were your box but instead have to ask someone else to look into.

We’re using Hostgator as our domain host and so far I’ve been very impressed with their customer service as they dealt with some dumb questions and some more esoteric technical issues.

The other big thing we need to deal with is our phone service. We have VOIP through our company, but we’re planning to switch to Skype. I’m still in the process of researching wifi VOIP phones. I also haven’t been overly impressed with Skype’s website interface or their customer support when we ran into some website problems. Hopefully we can resolve that issue and get set up. In the meantime, we’ll use cell phones for a bit longer.

The last bit of setup this week has been our mail forwarding service. We’re using Good Sam’s mail forwarding service. So far, it’s been a nightmare to get set up and taken far longer than I expected. If you want to use Good Sam mail forwarding service, save yourself a lot of headaches and just call them instead of trying to sign up online.

It’s been a pretty hectic time for us as we try to get all of this sorted out. There’s still a ton of things to do before we get as far as moving into the campground for a few months. As I have more time, I plan to go into a bit more in depth review of the products and services we’re using. In the meantime, if anybody is using a good wifi phone for Skype, let us know about it!

Some Tech Specs

September 24th, 2007

Still got a bit of waiting to do, but we’re trying to finalize some of our technical gear.

On the power side, we’re going to start with 380 watts of solar panels. These are big honking 3’x5′ 24 volt panels, so we can only fit two without some extra work. If we find we need more watts, there is a possibility of putting a third panel without any major modifications or wiring smaller 12V panels in series for 24V. We will probably be supplementing this with a small generator – I still haven’t decided on a 1000W or a 2000W. Either should run the A/C, so I’m leaning towards the smaller genset for weight and efficiency reasons.

For power storage, we’re going to start with at least 4 12V group 31 batteries. These pack roughly 120Ah each. I’m still up in the air on AGM versus regular old lead acid. The AGM cost about twice as much, but should charge a bit faster and have the capability to be mounted upside down and sideways as well as indoors. The deciding factor may end up being how much junk we are going to haul outside versus inside. A battery stored indoors will have less Ah lost during cold weather, so indoor AGM’s would be a nice way to go.

Continue Reading »

Can you hear me now?

July 30th, 2007

It’s funny how the bleeding edge folks often miss the train. For instance, Jenn and I have spent a lot of time working on VOIP networks. Jenn single-handedly ran the NOC for a small VOIP provider and I wrote a software package to do large-scale wiretapping of VOIP networks for a CLEC. In spite of all this, we had never used Skype until last night!

In researching our communications options we decided that we wanted internet and voice communication that would work pretty much anywhere and of course we want it as cheaply as possible.

Continue Reading »