Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Sticky Stuff - Tape And Its Myriad Of Uses

Close To The End Of The Season...Sad!
    Duck Tape. Yes, "DUCK" not "Duct." In the ancient history of war, a company came up with an adhesive-backed cloth strip that was watertight, mainly used to seal ammo cases during WWII. The cotton cloth was known as cotton "duck." Much later on HVAC workers used this stuff to seal the joints in air ducting to prevent leakages. Hence the DUCT name. Worked pretty well and the name stuck. For years I had been gently correcting folks who called it DUCK tape. Not any more! Over the years this stuff has become one of the most useful and versatile things on the planet. If you search around, you'll find some fascinating jobs it's been used on. I've even seen Clothing made of the stuff that doesn't look half bad. I always keep a few different types around the RV...comes in handy...a lot!

For any aspiring MacGyvers out there, the ability to fix something on the fly is a time-honored tradition. This tape makes many of those spontaneous repairs possible. Got a sliding window that won't stay closed, a strip of tape along the top and bottom will hold it until you can buy a new latch. Have a piece of fiberglass or plastic that's falling off your RV body? Tape it! Have a crack in a skylight or vent cover and rain is coming in? Tape it! Of course there are places that it will not work. If it doesn't stick to the surface, it's not going to do you any good. For everything else you can imagine, I'll wager it will.

There Are Lots More Colors Available!
There are MANY brands of this stuff available. Some are very basic and can be used to make quick, temporary repairs. Some are much more robust, 100 in./lbs. of adhesive (or more) and almost impossible to tear. I've seen that stuff used to repair airplane wings and fuselages! Some may remember the nickname "100 mile-an-hour" tape. It was. Maybe even faster! There was a TV show named "Mythbusters" that really liked duck tape. There were several episodes about it. They even built a working sailboat that they sailed in open water. Well, in the San Francisco Bay anyway. Pretty impressive, if you ask me. Not impressive enough? How about a working Black Powder Cannon. Yes, I said CANNON! It launched full-sized bowling balls 700+ yards! Wow! Now that's amazing. Not that I would ever NEED a duck tape cannon, but it's still pretty amazing for a simple piece of tape.

I always keep several rolls of various strength on-board the RV. You never know when you might need some.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Pests Be Gone! Electronic Repellers -- Do They Work?

Safely Stored
    Just because I don't really enjoy cleaning at all, doesn't mean I have a dirty RV. I've figured out how to minimize cleaning time by doing a bit at a time. Small bites, you know! So I was dismayed to discover I had a critter sharing the tiny space that is my RV, with me. Quite a shock to see it peek out in the passenger foot well while driving. I had just two questions. How did it get in and how can I get rid of!

Hunting the rodent down inside the RV and killing it was really not an option. They are tough to find and it seemed a bit overly violent to me. Besides, I'd have to clean up the mess. Far easier to make the space less comfortable for it and "persuade" it to move out. I had heard about Ultrasonic pest repellers, but was (and still am) skeptical about their effectiveness. When a coupon code arrived in my email inbox making the cost of one of them only $9, I figured, "Why not?" So I ordered it.

The Generic Box
When it arrived, it was obviously from a non-English speaking country as all the labeling was, essentially, indecipherable English sentences. How about this one; "The upgraded reinforced type repeller applies the physical principle to repel rats, bats, mosquitoes, flies and cockroaches." Ummm, I sort of get what they are writing about, but since there were no instructions inside the box, it was difficult to figure out how to actually USE the device. It has a single button that, when held for a couple of seconds, turns the device on. Subsequent clicks change modes(?)...maybe. There are all sorts of lights that flash or burn steady when various numbers of clicks are tried. I have no idea what they actually do. I can barely hear differences in the sound it emits if I get VERY close to the speaker. There are only two different sounds, so I figure the lights are only for show. I finally figured out that the two sounds were, CF or Constant Frequency, good for Rodents and other small mammals, and VF or Variable Frequency for Insects.

Note The Speaker Grill
Now be aware this device only works on 120V house power. For me, that's OK, since when I store my RV near the house I always leave it plugged into shore power. Besides, that's where it picks up hitchhiking critters in the first place. Likely, from the shore power cord opening. I recently put some steel wool around the slender opening. Hopefully that will help as well. Keeping them out in the first place. There are several versions available that run on 12 Volts as well, so can be installed and hard wired into your RV to work even when 120V isn't available. They are far more expensive, and I don't like using anything that is powered on all the time. Conservation is a good thing when boondocking!

Doing Its Thing
So, does it work? In a word, maybe. Scientifically, it has been proven that mice and other small mammals can get used to any sound over a long period of time. So for ongoing pest control, probably not going to work. To get rid of a single critter or a few...maybe. Just make sure you find the point of entry and plug it up so you don't get them back. I will be testing this gizmo over the next few weeks and update this article accordingly. My expectations are low, so if anything happens at all I will be a bit surprised. Even if it doesn't make them run screaming from the RV, at least the light show can be entertaining.

I've got my fingers crossed!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Importance Of Backing Up - Your Computer!

    I just avoided a catastrophe....barely. I had an old laptop that had a bunch of documents and software on it that need an older version of Windows. I keep it around to program radios and other older devices I still use. A few days ago, I needed to add a channel to a few radios and when I booted up the laptop it warned me that the hard drive was going to fail...soon. I'd never seen that exact message, so I thought backing up would be a prudent thing to do. Boy, was I ever right! Sometimes the universe smiles upon us and the stars align to avoid a major hassle. This was one of those times. I am most grateful!

Since it is an older laptop and I don't have many applications on it, there was only about 43 gigabytes of data on its small internal drive. So I attached an external 500 megabyte USB drive I had around and went to do a backup. This laptop gets some additional attention since it is required to program some devices that won't work with later versions of Windows and REALLY want a regular old-fashioned serial port. Not one of those Serial to USB adapters. The built-in backup tool from Windows XP is awful. I needed something a bit more robust that would allow me to restore the entire drive when the old one finally fails. That's where this adventure begins.

Typical Backup Screen.
Picking the right backup tool is critical. A quick search online for "Free Windows XP (or whatever version you have) backup" will garner MANY results. I narrowed it down to two of them. EaseUS Todo and Macrium Reflect. After researching both the back up AND the restore processes I chose EasUS Todo. Why? Well, because when I really need to get back up and running after a catastrophic failure, I don't want to have any additional stress. It's bad enough to have the hard drive fail. It's another thing to have the restore process cause extra problems. It should go smoothly with the least amount of pain possible.

Now on to the backup process. With EaseUS it was mostly point and click. Download and install the program. Start it up, choose a drive to backup and a destination for the data. Click start. That's it. It will take a while to finish. A lot longer if you have a very large hard drive to backup. I suggest you make an emergency disk or Flash drive in case you need to restore in a...well...emergency! Coincidentally, the following day when I went to boot the laptop to finish the radio reprogramming it wouldn't boot! I had a spare 512gb 2.5" laptop drive so I pulled the failed one and installed the new one. Booted from the emergency disk and restored.

Bingo, I was back up and running in about an hour, with additional hard drive storage space as a bonus. I can't tell you how nice that was. I mean, it's always a hassle when a hard drive fails, but when you plan for it...not so bad. Of course I didn't lose ANY data because I had JUST backed up... but depending upon how often you make a backup, you may lose something. Believe me, it will be better to have the majority of your programs and data available for the restore than none at all!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Even The Simple Things - Cell Phone Tempered Glass Screen Protectors

Comfy, Huh?
     I have a "smart" cell phone. It has a large-ish screen that gets dirty all the time AND is prone to scratches in day-to-day use. For a long time, on previous phones, I was using the plastic stick-on screen protectors. They were ALWAYS difficult to put on without lots of bubbles underneath and I wasn't all that thrilled with what they did to the screen clarity and brightness. Of course, back then, there were very few choices for a substitute. Lately, Tempered Glass Screen Protectors have become commonplace. They are VERY thin slices of glass with glue around a very tiny portion of the edge and a bit wider at the bottom where you don't have your screen "real estate." I was convinced they were fragile and wouldn't last a day. I was wrong, very wrong.

My Essential PH-1
When a few brands went on sale for my new Essential PH-1 phone (about $8.00 for 3) I jumped at the chance to test them out. With low expectations, mind you. When they arrived, the first thing I noticed was the completeness of the installation kit. You got the glass itself, covered by two plastic protectors of its own: one on the outside and one on the side that would eventually attach to the phone. It had a screen cleaner wipe for each protector and a microfiber cloth for cleaning. The directions...well, you know...they were not really written by someone who speaks English as their native language. But, I got the gist. The pictures helped a great deal. The microscopic print did not!

The Complete Kit
Installation wasn't all that tough -- MUCH easier than a traditional screen protector. First you clean the screen with the included wipe. Then remove the back plastic protector from the glass (the side that actually sticks to the phone). Then carefully place it over your screen, being careful to line up the edges all the way around. In my case, the soft cover I had has a lip the goes all the way around the phone to keep the screen off any surface when it's face down. This oriented the glass sheet perfectly for me. Once in place, take the soft cloth and push down the protector from the bottom to the top in long gentle passes to make sure no air is trapped that could hold the cover away from your phone. Then simply remove the top plastic cover and you are done.

Another Phone Picture
It's a good thing I have had this in place as I already see some scratches on its surface. I can always replace the protector for little money...the phone's screen, not so much! Is it all hearts and flowers? No. In my case, after about 10 months of use, the adhesive is beginning to weaken, sometimes the protector drops off or slips. Pressing it back in place is a quick temporary fix, but it's getting worse. I understand that the glue has to be strong enough to hold in place, but easy enough to remove that it will not damage the phone....but it's still a pain. I figure once a year I will replace the protector with a new one. For those of you keeping track, that's $2.66 a year.
Not so bad!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"