Motorized Trailer Cell Booster

One of the more techie projects for the trailer I’ve done is to install a WeBoost cellular booster as most places we camp don’t have the greatest cell reception. The typical way to solve the problem is with a cell booster on the roof. In my case, I wasn’t content to just install the outside antenna to the roof rack of the trailer in a fixed position because our trailer is already tall so it would have to be a fairly short antenna length and the higher you can get the outdoor antenna the better your reach since it can see further out.

After quite a bit of searching I landed on the Diamond Antenna K9000LRMO, which is a motorized antenna mount used in the CB radio world. To the best of my internet searching I’m the first one to combine this antenna mount and the weBoost Drive OTR outdoor antenna together.

At first I was concerned that the K9000 wouldn’t have enough torque to lift the antenna as on the Drive OTR most of the weight is actually near the top making it have significant leverage on the K9000. It’s also a few inches taller and few ounces heavier than the K9000 spec sheet says it’s rated for. After getting all the parts in and assembling it together it worked!

On the roof rack of our trailer, it looks like this.

Since the roof rack is a good 4 inches or so above the roof of the trailer, I cut a PVC sewer pipe section in half length wise to make a sort of cradle for the antenna during transit. My thinking was that would provide more security for the long antenna mast during travel and also prevent the antenna from damaging the trailer roof or itself. Overall it worked really well I think.

Antenna tray for protection during transit

The great thing about having the motorized mount is that once we get to camp, I can put the antenna up to the full height in about 5 seconds all from inside the trailer. The K9000 comes with a wired remote but it’s ugly and the buttons felt cheap. I know I could do better and also integrate turning on the cell booster at the same time. I also worked it so that the power to the K9000 is fully disconnected when the booster is off providing a margin of safety during travel to not have the antenna raise accidentally.

I have a basic wiring schematic drawn out somewhere I’ll try to get cleaned up to post here.

Electric Car Takeover

So far all the major manufacturers have been focusing on sedans and pickup trucks. I can understand why they are doing that as those are some of their highest selling models and this transition is just now really gaining steam. What I really need is for someone to make a good 200 mile range fully electric minivan by the time I need to replace the family 2016 Kia Sedona in 2027 or so. It’s used for lots of around town trips, errands, etc. so it would be a perfect use case for an electric car. All of our long distance road trips usually mean we are towing our Discover trailer with us which is what our Ford Expedition is made to do. I don’t envision being able to replace the Expedition with an EV anytime soon as it’s quite energy intensive to tow and we aim to drive 325-375 miles in a day if we are trying to get somewhere far.

My wishlist for an electric minivan:

200+ miles of range

Power doors – sides and rear door

Apple CarPlay

Heated front seats and side mirrors

DC fast charging – so if we did want to drive to the other side of WA state a 30 minute lunch stop would let us finish the drive

Covid Tests

If you had asked me in “the before times” if I would develop a preference for a brand of COVID-19 tests, I would have asked “What is COVID-19?” and yet here I am with an array of COVID rapid tests at home, some from Washington State, some from the US Government, some from my health insurance company, some ordered online.

Harry Potter

I finally read the Harry Potter book series in a bit less than a month. Overall it was pretty good. The first 3 felt easier to read than the later books but the later books for sure were more engaging with more depth. At the end of it all, Neville Longbottom was the real hero in my opinion. Yes, Harry, Ron, and Hermione were the central figures and had a lot of the book’s focus on them but Neville proved many times to be a loyal friend to Harry and one willing to do the hard or dangerous task when it mattered most. All of that without any special abilities or assistance.

The Importance of USPS

How important USPS really is:

5 brand new Apple MacBook Pros shipped directly from Apple’s factory in China via DHL Express. DHL Express “forwards them” once in the US to USPS for final delivery. When I call DHL to find out what that means they said they “handed them off” to USPS and it is up to USPS to actually deliver them.

Problem:

DHL has only 1 USPS tracking number, which says the items have been delivered, but I only have 4 MacBook Pros in my possession. Naturally I call DHL to track down the missing laptop. Nope, they only have the 1 USPS tracking number “for the whole group” and basically say it’s on me to call USPS and “they can help you out.” In reality each of the MacBook Pro boxes has a unique USPS tracking number on it, which I can prove since I have 4 in my possession, yet DHL can’t give me the 5th one to actually track it with USPS.

So yeah, allowing the USPS to be defunded/scrutinized/raided/crippled/etc. is stupid and will do nothing but hurt people actually try to live their lives and conduct business while increasing costs for shipping for worse service.😡

OpenRC F1

I finished printing my first OpenRC F1 car, designed by Daniel Noree, and it was a great learning experience in building a large project with 3D printing. I went with the 2017 version of the car and I’m planning to print the 2018 version as well that includes the new “halo” that current F1 cars have. I also chose to purchase the Tamiya F104 tires rather than try to print my own from TPU. Printing flexible material seems rather tricky and I wanted to complete this first build without TPU printing challenges as well since I don’t see myself printing a lot of that material in the near term.

These were some of the largest pieces I’ve printed to date. Most of them I was able to print without supports owing to the great work Daniel did in designing them for printing. I was amazed by the quality of the parts when they were done. Everything fit together perfectly.

I used Prusaslicer to slice them for printing on my Prusa i3 MK3S. I used Hatchbox Cool Grey, Printed Solid Jessie Bold Blue, and Prusament Jet Black PLA filaments.

There are some things I will improve for the next build but overall I am super happy with the way this came out.

3D Printing

With our Federal tax refund each year, my wife and I allocate a portion so that each of us has some “fun money” that we get to use however we want, no conditions.

For me that normally means acquiring gear for a new hobby or interest. 2019 was a DJI Mavic Air drone. This year it was a 3D printer, a Prusa i3 MK3S kit. I bought the kit as it was cheaper and also the recommendation from most people is that it’s worth assembling your first printer to learn how it’s put together and to be familiar with the components as you will most likely need to adjust/maintain them over time.

I’ve been watching the evolution of 3D printers for the last 10 years or so, waiting for the machines to get more reliable, easier to use, and more mature. The time finally felt right to jump in. The Prusa has a number of features that make it much easier to get a print you want, and not have to fiddle with it all the time. The removable PEI-coated print bed is really nice and definitely a must have feature for me.

So far I’ve been mainly printing small models I’ve found online as I figure out all the skills and techniques needed for getting reliable print results. Most people use a test object they are familiar with printing so they can test new settings or new filaments. I’ve settled on a model called Niko the puppy so far. It’s a cute little model that shows off different filaments and how they print. Only downside so far is my daughter is quite found of the models so they get recruited for playtime quite often.

Niko the Puppy by MakerBot - Thingiverse
Niko

I haven’t started creating my own models yet. CAD is something I’ve found interesting for quite a while, at least since college, but have never spent much time in as I didn’t have any personal projects that would use it. Not having a way to design something and then generate a physical result inexpensively seemed less than satisfying to me.

Anticipate seeing some models from me in the near future.

Reduction in Force (RIF)

Pet care startup Rover lays off 41% of workforce due to COVID-19 impact

Tuesday, March 31 2020. A last minute meeting invite to a large group of people. There was no chatter I had heard of to this point that was helpful in knowing what the meeting would be about. One of our C-levels was on, looking like they had been crying recently, telling us that there was an immediate Reduction in Force and that if we were on this call, we were not part of the group that was impacted.

Not impacted. I know what they meant by that phrase but everyone at Rover was impacted. We immediately lost coworkers, teammates, friends. The departments/groups that were lucky lost around 30% of their people, the ones worse off lost nearly 100%. Being part of the IT group I was better situated that most to know the full extent of the cuts and could see the automations being run to turn down hundreds of Gsuite accounts. Posts in Slack about people having trouble accessing some system or another only to a minute later show as deactivated in Slack, a casualty of the account turn down automations.

Initially I felt shock and an immediate loss of confidence in my job during this global pandemic. I felt immediately vulnerable both personally but also for my family. What if I lost my job, maybe not today, but down the road, depending on when the economy was able to try to recover from all of this? Were my emergency funds enough that we would be okay for a while? When was the last time my wife and I sat down to discuss finances and how much we could trim back if we needed to? What about my daughter, how would this change her life, with her just turning 3 earlier this month?

Already this pandemic is being compared to The Great Depression in how it is impacting the economy and people’s lives. I can only hope there are some lasting lessons to be learned from all of this and we are wise enough to embrace them.

COVID-19 Pandemic

I’m currently on hold in the midst of canceling all the RV park reservations for our Grand Canyon RV trip. The confirmation emails I’m referencing are from August 2019. 7 months ago I was excitedly making plans to go on a 2 week RV trip with my family and in-laws and now I am systematically cancelling it piece by piece. It feels sad and disappointing but with all the restrictions, health warnings, and experiences we wouldn’t get to do it made sense.

We will shelve all the planning materials for the trip in the hopes that we can rebook everything at a later time when COVID-19 is hopefully something we know of only from a vaccine and we forget the Spring/possibly Summer of 2020 we lost.

IF Journey

SW: 276 / CW: 268 / GW: 230

Starting after the holidays I began trying Intermittent Fasting (IF). I’ve been following a 16:8 plan where I fast for 16 hours and can eat for 8 hours. For me that works out as fasting from 8pm to noon the next day and being able to eat from noon to 8pm. I’ve never been one that needs to eat breakfast and would regularly skip it by choice.

I find that on this schedule, I have a cup of coffee in the mornings. That gets me to about 11:30 before my stomach starts to rumble. If I push through that I can actually make it to about 1 or 1:30 before needing to eat. I might have a small snack around 3, Skittles at work maybe if I’m feeling like I want something sweet. Then I get home and have dinner with the family about 6. Depending on when my daughter goes to bed I might have a snack of frozen fruit at 8pm or just have a glass of tea with my wife while we watch a show together and relax at the end of the day.

Only in the last couple of days have I started to see any progress when I weigh myself each morning.

I find myself enjoying coffee more in the mornings. I have a good insulated tumbler at work or at home I’m using my Nanopresso to make espresso into a KeepCup I got as a vendor giveaway. That serves as enough of a taste start to my day. Tea in the evenings is something to sip on for taste while watching TV or browsing the internet.