Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

The Busy Bee Syndrome

In the same way that a 1960 Cadillac is a motorcar, this vintage Holiday Rambler Aluma-Lite travel trailer brings a touch of magnificence to the concept of Wretched Excess. I’ll have to ask what length and year it is, but it looks like 33′ at perhaps 10,000 pounds loaded. Unlike the prestige nameplates of today, in its prime the quality of Holiday Rambler materials and construction was high, and upscale meant more than gewgaws posing as “amenities”. The brand has since been bought and sold a few times, and the current owner manufactures only motorhomes now.

It really has been an activity scramble here, more so than upon arrival “home” in past years. I’ve been reviewing what has and hasn’t worked out well on the road, then researching each area and addressing it in some fashion. That review ranges from rig hardware, devices and software, to myself. The Four Wheel pop-up truck camper itself was notable for its pronounced absence of issues and inconveniences. The solar system I added on worked, yet didn’t perform as hoped for. I’ll detail that once I physically fix the problem.

The Corsair Voyager Slider X1. Read speeds are okay, but God help you when you need to write data to it. And this is the replacement I received when the original scrambled and went unreadable two weeks in.

My laptop, used among other things to edit and store photos and videos, was positively glacial in how fast it could call up, process and transfer data files. That was my doing, because I’d been having to rely on using an external USB3 thumb drive as the hardest working drive, the internal drive being very fast but too small in capacity to hold all that’s needed. The USB drive proved fine for simple file transfers, but when thrashed hard while programs pulled and pushed data to “live” libraries, it suffered constipation (not to mention abdominal cramping and gas) from the get-go. Simply closing or quitting my photo editing program took minutes for it to button itself up, instead of seconds. Sorting through some halfway affordable solutions took quite some time, as did the “how-to” of replacing a main drive with no risk of losing anything. (Hint: always have a Plan B available for when Murphy’s Law kicks in.) Updating the operating system in a majorly way sometimes causes one or two third-party programs to pass away, so you then have to find another way to do the same things. But I got all that sorted out…I think.

OWC (Other World Computing) offers this kit, and you select the drive type and capacity. I put the 500GB SSD into my laptop and stuck the old 256GB SSD into this enclosure for miscellaneous uses. Because I don’t keep videos or photos on the internal drive, it doesn’t need to be real spacious.

I swapped in a higher capacity internal SSD (solid state drive) and now run the programs of interest off an external 2TB 5,400 RPM Firewire 800 hard drive. That’s supposed to be a very slow setup compared to USB3 and either a 7,600 RPM HDD or any SSD, but it’s plenty fast enough for my tasks, is less expensive, has no need for a separate power supply to drive it, and the Firewire connectors have proven to be more reliable than any form of USB (which means there’s less chance of scrambling a hard drive). Using Firewire also frees up one more USB port for other tasks. It is also able to use USB3 in a pinch, so there’s that. The best solution isn’t always the fastest one.

This OWC Mercury external hard drive came with FireWire 800 capability, so that and its 2TB capacity make it the actual workhorse.

The same software updating issue existed with my big-screen desktop, which is now old enough that it has to wheeze a bit to handle all the wonderful new features that the updated operating systems offer. These improvements are sometimes referred to as feature bloat, and are mostly notable for never actually being used by the average owner. But their presence always absorbs more system resources while they stand by, waiting to be used by some Technoid, somewhere. Me, I’m just gettin’ shit done, old school style.

As mentioned in earlier posts, the Evelo Aurora e-bike has gone through a tire (since replaced), and is down to one working battery that is very near the end of its service life. Unfortunately, that very small fraction of onboard Scottish DNA lurking somewhere inside my body is causing me to see Evelo’s $700 replacement battery cost and clutch my little plaid coin purse ever more tightly.

What I would actually do with this vintage coin purse, Ah dinnae ken (I don’t know).

After much online research, I’ve purchased and received an alternative battery pack that is almost compatible electrically but not compatible physically with the Aurora, so much work lies ahead to graft it into place and see how well it works. That will get its own write-up once it’s completed. Maybe a chain cleaner tryout, too. The mid-drive drive’s pedals can be turned backwards, but the chainring itself cannot. Chain cleaner gizmos depend on the chain being able to run backwards, and being held level. The Aurora comes up short on the first and, if you’re going to try to drive the chain forward instead, is too heavy to hold the rear tire off the ground with one hand. Maybe I’ll video whatever I figure out.

My travel trailer, kept full-time in an RV park near Yuma Arizona, had its own needs to address. I’ve mentioned the vent covers as well as the plumbing issues, but not mentioned so far is that the simple faucet swap turned into a Big Deal when later seepage inside a bathroom cabinet defied efforts to stop it. There were consistent plumber scheduling issues (better referred to as overscheduling issues), which limited what I could do while I sat around, waiting. The second visit tightened up a coupler that wasn’t as tight as it could be. Over time, though, seepage was actually faster and then suddenly tapered off the day of the third visit. Cars do this all the time when they go to a mechanic. For me, plumbing has always proved indifferent in anticipating a plumber’s visit, but since this plumbing is installed in a vehicle, then maybe vehicle rules apply. I’d been having to go out and turn the outside water valve on and off as needed throughout the day, so when the plumber found that the seal in the trailer’s 1994 plastic coupler had deteriorated, he took the nuclear solution.

The romance of plumbing. Almost sensual in its texture, isn’t it?

That amounted to replacing it, which required a line extension to make up for the small pipe length removed to fit up a new one. Since he was going to be adding a length of flexible hose to close the gap, he also mounted a shutoff valve at the supply end so that the flex hose can be swapped out if ever that is needed. Seriously, I doubt that I or the trailer will still be around when that moment occurs. He did all this because if he has to drive the 30 miles out from Yuma to fix the same leak again, he may be fired. Who knows if this would be okay in a home, but we’re talking RVs here, and it’s good enough for who it’s for. There’s absolutely no way to access or fish in a new, longer supply pipe in this thing, and rigging up a stubby pipe extension has its own challenges. The bottom line is that I now have water again, and only in the proper places. If there’s one thing that separates life here from life on the road in my truck camper, it’s hot water and plenty of it.

I finally broke down and got an “action camera” to supplement my ancient Canon GL1 digital videotape cam and my iPhone. I feel so faddishly fashionable, but it offers new capture opportunities not available with my existing photo/video hardware. That’s a fancy way of saying that I can’t currently get the kinds of video footage I want. Since I’m not about to hang my $600, mission-critical iPhone off the side of the Mighty Furd anytime soon, those kinds of shots were out. My old Pentax K-7 DSLR camera came out when DSLRs capable of capturing video just started, and the limitations of what you can successfully capture are so confining (even with modern DSLRs) that there isn’t much it can do for me. Superb results within the envelope, but useless garbage when outside it. The Canon videocam can technically hang outside or inside the rig, but it’s a bit bulky, heavy and vulnerable to dust for that. It wants to rotate and change the view when mounted on its tripod, thanks to weight and inertia. What the Canon is uniquely good for is for capturing field events, where its strong zoom capabilities and excellent viewfinder can be put to use. You’re never going to get anything even remotely close to high definition out of it, but it’s plenty good for a blog with a small format, like Strolling Amok. Research took quite awhile, both due to the expense of these things and anguished complaints about awful sound quality on the GoPro5. To me, sound quality is what makes a video pop, not screen resolution. The latter certainly helps, but I have no practical use for 4K video, and even if I did, a 4K video with murky, indistinct audio is more distracting to me than a comparatively fuzzy Standard Definition video with full, crisp sound. The eyes adapt, but the ears don’t.

Ya seen one action camera, ya seen ’em all.

The previous model, the GoPro4, had no sound issues and could be obtained “refurbished”, but for the money, why move backward to a less capable model? I reviewed other, less visible brands. The action camera market seems much like the dashcam market, only more-so. Makers of other products jump onto the action cam bandwagon simply because there’s money to be made there. Garmin is an example for dashcams. They’re not the worst of the bunch, but they are quite obsolete before they hit the market, and buyer enthusiasm is lukewarm. Oddly, this is not the case with Garmin in the action cam market. It’s a near-clone of the equivalent model of GoPro5, but with additional capabilities built in and a distinct lack of owners carping about quirky behavior or reliability. That can always be attributed to not selling very well, but what owners there were, did seem to respect the product. Between that, pretty good basic editing software in an edition that works on Macs, and an ability to use both GoPro mounts and its own extensive line of Garmin mounts, talked me into trying the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30. I love the names on some products. You know that the next upgrade will be “VIRB Super-Ultra Whiz-Bang 40”. What also interested me in it is Garmin’s “G-Metrix”, a system that collects and overlays data about your activities onto your video, if wanted. Of course, you need to use their editing software to be able to show things like speed, direction, altitude and g-forces on your footage, but I found the many capabilities interesting despite the fact that no one cares if you manage to sail up to 1/2 MPH on a rocky trail from the usual 1/4 MPH. I’m hoping to do more with this camera than selfies and dashboard work, but those would be a good start. After a lot of hand-wringing over what mounts, peripherals and approved memory cards to get, it’s the learning curve for me! …Before too long, anyway.

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3 thoughts on “The Busy Bee Syndrome

  1. jr cline on said:

    I look forward to your action cam vids.
    Plumbers are like magicians. I have never mastered the magic of plumbing. Leaks for me.

    • I look forward to its videos too…as long as they eventually get to where they’re worth posting because they’re worth watching! I have a very low threshold of entertainment, so it can be hard for me to judge my own video work.

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