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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Junk Drawer - What's In There And What Can You Toss?

All Nice And Tidy!
    Admit it....we all have one, a Junk Drawer. That's the one that ends up catching all the odds and ends from all around the RV. Eventually, it fills up and you have to figure out what you need and what you don't. How many times have you gone searching through that drawer looking for something you KNEW was in there only to find out (after you've taken everything out and made a mess on the counter) that it wasn't there! During long (and cold!) winters in the Northeast I like to work on the inside of the RV...the furnace works great and I am hooked up to shore power so I can use electric heaters instead. This week I tackled the junk drawer. Wow, I was amazed at what had accumulated there. I found some things I have been looking for that have been missing quite a while. And I found some stuff that I wondered, "What the heck do I need to keep this for anyway?" Decisions, decisions!
The Magic "Junk" Drawer

My junk drawer, which is tiny, isn't really even a drawer. It's more like a fold out storage bin. When I first bought my RV it was a great place to store a reversible bit screwdriver. Then as time went on it became a great place to store anything and everything! Screws, nuts, bolts, stray bits and pieces from projects, pens pencils, Allen name it, it ended up in the drawer. I even have an extra winterization hose end to attach compressed air to the water system to blow it out. Why it's in there, I have no idea! I'll bet everyone out there has a similar space onboard their RVs. I've written many articles on organizing storage and using smaller plastic boxes to keep things in their place. Why don't I keep up with that advice?

A Bit Better..Still, Why Is The Air Hose Adapter In There?
Probably because I'm a pack rat at heart. I can't bear to toss a part or tool that I MAY use in the future...hey...You never know, right? I know, the first part of solving my problem is admitting I even have one. I don't believe I'm there yet. So many times the so-called junk drawer has come to my rescue (and others too!) with an odd or end that repaired some emergency or annoying problem. It's almost as if the universe is conspiring to make sure, most of the time, you find what you need in that magic drawer. Naaaahh! That's crazy. Isn't it?

For the time being, I believe I will keep tossing random stuff in there and see what happens.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Charge Your Phone And Other Devices - Without Wires!

Too Many Wires Mean Too Many Receptacles!
    I've written quite a few articles about charging your electronic devices while on the road. Typically, it's because of the annoyance of carrying lots of different charge cables around. Less is more. Well, most of the time. What if I told you there was a way to charge your devices without cables at all. No, I'm not talking about Nikola Tesla's broadcast power technology, but merely old-fashioned magnetic induction. I know it has a high tech sounding name, but it's a pretty simple process. Lots of new cell phones already have it built in. The ones that do not can be retrofitted to be able to use it. Mostly. Read on!

A Simple Diagram?
What exactly is inductive charging anyway? Well simply put, it's a couple of electro-magnets on either device. When brought close together and energized with current, the transfer of energy begins and power flows from the transmitter base into the device's receiver, recharging your battery. In practice, it's a whole lot simpler. If you have a phone that has the technology in it, you just place the phone on a pad or dock and it charges. Look Ma, no cables! When this was first introduced to the cell phone world there were a couple of competing versions. Mercifully, one got chosen and we have a standard version now. It's called "Qi." In case you are wondering, that's the Chinese word for "energy flow." Makes sense, huh? There aren't too many devices out there that have it built in, but they do exist and will likely grow numerous as adoption rates among manufacturers increases. Well, what about now?

Typical Standalone Receiver
If you have a device that uses Mini-USB or Micro-USB or even USB-C there are products that will act as receivers for devices that don't already have them built in. My latest phone didn't have Qi charging at all, but since it was chargeable via USB-C I was able to find a thin pad style device that fits on the back of the phone and plugs into the charging port on the bottom. All of this fits inside the add-on phone case and doesn't affect anything at all. Well, you do need to disconnect the receiver if you want to connect your phone to a computer using USB. Bluetooth and WiFi connections are unaffected. Best of all? They were $1.76 Each! That's right, under two bucks!

Now for the catch. Yup, there is one. You cannot charge rapidly with them. They max out at around 5 Volts at 1 amp. That's not very high, but will charge a cellphone overnight. If you just charge at night on your bedstand, this is easy. Put your phone on the charger and when you wake up it's full. Like magic. If you want to get charged quickly, especially with the new Power Delivery or Quick Charge protocols, you'll still need to plug in a cable. I'll wager that, in time, higher power versions will be available and even rapid charging will be available wirelessly soon enough.

Who knows, maybe Nikola Tesla had the right idea? Broadcast power with no wires, never charge up your RV when traveling, unlimited boondocking power reserves. All by using the earth as a conductor. Way cool...not sure if there would be any side effects..but it's still a cool idea! Now, what can you do with all the extra USB chargers?

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Even The Simple Things - Get A Grip!

Even Tougher In The Dark!
    If you are like me, you drop small stuff...all the time. OK, big stuff too, but hopefully less often. When I'm working on and in the RV I have this very real problem of dropping every single tiny part I handle. Screws, nuts, connectors, you name it, I've dropped it. And since Murphy has been at my side for ages, they always end up in an inaccessible spot. I've got some nifty tools to help me retrieve them, mostly of the "magnet on a stick" variety. Sure, some of them extend and retract like antennas on an old (very old!) cordless phone but what if the thing you've dropped ISN'T magnetic? Well, there is a solution and it's old school. NO, I'm not talking about pre-chewed gum on a stick, I'm referring to The Claw!

36" Long And Flexible!
Years and years ago I came across this style of grabber. I was at an automotive service place that had mechanics from an even earlier age. One of the guys exclaimed when he dropped something in a loud and gruff manner (The wording was so inappropriate, I do believe paint was stripped from the car body!) that he had dropped something into the engine bay. As I watched, he went over to his tool box and pulled out what looked like a speedometer cable with a push-button plunger on one end, about 3 feet long. This was inserted into the engine's nether recesses and Voila! out came the part, gripped at the other end by 4 wire "fingers." Very nifty. No magnets needed! The shaft is flexible so it can wind its way down to whatever you dropped.

4 Metal Fingers Grasp Small Objects
It's really a simple gadget. Press the plunger and the claw extends and opens. Release and it retracts and grips. You may have to re-position a couple of times to get a good grip or navigate past an obstacle, but it works easily enough. Once retrieved, just press the plunger back down and the item is released. Try and get your hand under it first or release it onto a flat surface or you'll be retrieving it again! (Yup, don't ask!) I have a couple of these, a long one and a short one I use for electronics repair. I've seen them in all metal and plastic/metal materials, the plastic ones don't exert as much force, so smaller objects (tiny?) is all they can do. Usually, they are only about $6.50 for the long version and much less for the shorter one.

There you have it, another simple idea that just works. Try it, you'll like it. I know I've been using it a lot lately. The cold has made it difficult to use my hands lately. One degree is not warm by any stretch. OK, back to planning for Spring! Oh, and Happy New Year!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

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