Blog consolidation day. And then there was one.

I’m a tinkerer.  I tinker, that’s what I do.  I poke at, and try out new technologies regularly. And to date, that has led me to start three different blogs.

One has a WordPress backend http://sean.novak.us, another is on Drupal http://snovak.com/blog, and the last is on ghosts with a node backend as opposed to the lamp stack, http://blog.snovak.com

I originally started on Drupal as it was my preferred framework for developing websites. And it works very well but has fewer tools for the everyday blogger as opposed to WordPress. Drupal is a great platform for developing custom websites. But, frankly is a bit more difficult to set up as a blogging platform.

In addition, I’ve been using a lot of node.js lately. This led me to fire up an AWS instance, install node and ghost, since node is not offered on my shared server account. Its a well-designed system, a pure blogging platform.  However, it has a few shortcomings that makes it less usable than the formerly mentioned platforms.  The killer for me, in this case, was the fact that it made mobile authoring a real pain.  For some reason while in edit mode the backspace buttons won’t work.  I’ll come back later.

Some people have mentioned that WordPress has deviated from its roots as a pure blogging platform. But in my experience over the last few years, it is still on top as an easy to use, easy to install, and easy to maintain blogging platform.

Marketing

I’ve been doing a little investigation, reading, and listening to tips on game marketing today, and yesterday.  It’s a good thing I did too, as I nearly committed to the cardinal sin of developing in a bubble **gasp**.

So, I’ve been systematically consuming the information found in this very helpful link, http://www.pixelprospector.com/the-big-list-of-indie-game-marketing/.  And, here I am once again visiting my dev blog.  So, I’ll probably use this site as a repository to log my progress from here on out.  And, “hopefully” this helps draw some much needed attention.  No really, I’m really starting to get a bit of cabin fever here.  I’ve gone from a big web dev position, with a big team, and lots of folks to talk to,,,,, to an RV, alone.  My wife still works her 9 to 5 until I can get this game done and out.  So……. pipe up people!

Makerbot starts to pay for itself!

Today I did a repair on my Newmar motor home.  The mechanical retracting/extending step up decided to stop working.  I wrote about it in depth over on IRV2.com, a great RVers community and resource.  

The sweetest part of it all,,,, I got to use my Makerbot to fix this one.  This is the first time the Makerbot has started to pay for itself.  In the end, this plastic piece is designed to let go before any other parts of this motor assembly.  The thing is, you can’t buy this cheap plastic piece.  You can only get the entire motor assembly, which costs $200 easy.

Here’s the link to the manufacturers parts page. http://www.strombergcarlson.com/store/products.php?categoryParentName=RV+Steps+%26+Step+Accessories&categoryName=Electric+RV+Steps

The step motor part number is 300-1406.  For anyone else who is having the same issue, Contact me, comment on this post, below.  I’m happy to print you out the same parts I’ve used.

Great success!

Technical Details

True to form, it’s been far too long since I’ve last written.  This is partly because of the pace that life has taken since we’ve moved into the RV.  There have been a spattering of mixed feelings, success and headache since our transition in late April.  Our first weeks of fulltiming were spent largely working on issues with the rig.  There wound up being a bunch of issues that were quickly uncovered with our, then recent, purchase.  We would spend our first months in Tracys parent’s driveway.  This gives me a great place to straighten away some of the issues we were experiencing.  Firstly, we needed power to run the A/C.  So, I started researching different ways of getting power to the coach.

While, we had the RV parked at our previous house, I thought I might be able to use 2 lengths of 15amp extension cord with this adapter.  Basically, this adapter is meant to bring in two legs of power, one 30 amp, one 15 amp.  I thought I could adapt the 30amp leg down to 15, to total 30 amps to the coach just using readily available 15amp power feeds (on different circuits, of course).  I quickly realized something wasn’t working when the protected socket kept tripping when I plugged in the second leg.  Rather than forcing it, I just stuck with the single 15 amp leg plugged in while at the old house.  This made for some sweaty work, moving boxes in and out.  It seemed like those days moving were the hottest and most humid days of the year.

Since we would be spending some time at the in-laws, I started looking into the wiring for a 50amp outlet.  Turns out, it’s not a huge deal.  Especially, when your father in-law is an ex air conditioning business owner.  The wiring is not a huge deal.  Running the wires to an accessible location is another thing altogether.

While we had been figuring out the wiring there were some heavy storms coming through South Florida.  One of which had been dumping on us for the last few hours.  Eventually, we were ready to test the connection for the first time.  As my father in-law threw on the power in the fuse box and I awaited the power at the inverter panel in the rig, I hear a little tap, tap, tap, behind me.  I turn to find a few dark spots on the carpet, then look up to see a couple more drips of water hanging from a seam in the ceiling.  As the power came flooding into the RV, I simultaneously find my next task, sealing the roof.

I know from a previous incident with my parents RV that you have to keep a careful eye on the roof seals.  When your bumping down the road in a movable apartment, there’s a whole lot moving, flexing, etc going on.  All that moving tends to loosen up things like roof seals, besides the Florida sun beating down on it everyday likes to make the seals brittle.  Once I got up to the roof, I realized that these seals probably haven’t been attended since the coach was manufactured.  **Gasp**  My heart sunk.  No matter how well an RV is built, they are no match for water leaks.  I wound up ordering 100ft of Eternabond sealing tape after doing a bunch of research on the web.  That also bought me two days on the roof of the rig in the sun.  It was actually enjoyable work, cleaning, prepping, and laying the tape, as well as, filling all the remaining seams with Dicor and RTV sealant.  In all reality, I miss this kind of work.  With the sun, sweat, and physical labor, I kept thinking, “It’s better than a day at the office.”  And it was.  Since then, we’ve been through a number of heavy storms, and all is dry inside.  So far, so good.

The other big issue I needed to tackle was the Norcold refrigerator.  I knew going into the purchase that the fridge in the rig was a candidate for a very large recall where there was a possibility of the cooling unit catching fire.  A faulty weld could break and spray an ammonia, hydrogen, water mix all over introducing the potential for ignition.  Many many RVs have met their last days to this cooling unit busting.  At the time of purchase I did make sure that all of the recall work had been completed.  Beyond that, I guess I wasn’t very thorough.  I did notice that the A/C (as in alternating current, or shore) power to the refer wasn’t working when I went to pick up the RV. I had to leave and come back after it was fixed.  Later, I assume it was just plugged back in for the next time I came to pick it up.  Their bad for giving me the slip.  My bad for not catching their deception in any case.

After some figuring I discover that one of the heater cores had over heated and charred it’s power wire.  Another $200 later, I have the bad heater core replaced and the fridge is now cooling, as it should.  The folks over at iRV2.com forum have been a HUGE help.  Here is a link to the thread where we tackle the Norcold heater core issue.

The fact remains, however, that this fridge is a liability.  Many folks on the forums have swapped out the Norcold for a more reliable residential refrigerator.  I intend to follow suit.  That will probably be the most “invasive” mod that I will undertake.

Next mod up is the inverter/charger unit.  From the factory we are equipped with a Xantrex RV2012GS, which is a 2000W modified sine-wave inverter.  With the planned additional power loads, such as the fridge, and desire to run the A/C (as in air conditioner) from the batteries, I opted for a 3000W pure sine-wave inverter from Victron.  These new loads on the inverter all have compressor motors, which really have a hard time with the modified sine inverter.  In fact, they are almost sure to fail eventually.  The pure sine that comes form the Victron is sometimes more clean than being hooked up to shore power, which will ensure that those motors are running for a long time to come.  In addition to cleaner power, the Victron has a feature called boosting.  Chris@Technomadia turned me on to this inverter with his article all about boosting and it’s benefits.

Lastly, one thing continues to be a little buggy.  I bought the RV with an older KVH R5 in-motion satellite dish.  The first problem is that there was no receiver box included with the RV.  I guess the previous owner thought I didn’t need it.  Looks like I need to do my homework,, again.  I know, from a manual left in the coach, that they formerly had DirecTV hooked up.  But, after some research, I come to find out that with this satellite, I could only receive DirecTV in SD, not HD.  Dish, however, used a different technology that would allow me to receive an HD signal.  After some more time scouring the net, I figure out which receiver I needed for HD viewing, and ordered that as well.

Upon arrival, the receiver did not work right off the bat, of course.  The dish and the receiver didn’t seem to want to talk to eachother.  For some reason, no signal was being picked up at all.  I figure the fault is somewhere in the dish, so I start there and discover that it is possible to update the firmware in the satellite hardware.  But, this thing is so ancient that it is using a Serial connection interface in order to communicate with my computer.  Oh, and the software is only available for windows, of course.  :-/  The serial to USB cable from RadioShack sets me back another $30 and I run Windows in a VM on my mac.  But remarkably, I’m able to create the connection.  It turns out the satellite uses the old Telnet protocol and you can send it commands via a command line.  COOL!!  It also gives you some feedback about where it’s pointed, things like that.

Long story short, I get the main board, and the RF board firmware updated.  Then, I ran check switch a couple of times…. BAM!!!  The broadcasting comes on through.

Granted, it’s not perfect.  From time to time, it loves to start moving the satellite around even when we’re not moving.  And, the signal gets lost and it sucks..  But, for a temporary band aid, I just run the processes to point the dish, then turn off the power to the satellite motors, and it stays put.

NEXT UP, I just got my WifiRanger in……

In transition

For those of you who’ve seen my April 1 (fools day) post on Facebook….

…. it was intended to be confusing.  Joke?  Not a joke?  Allow me to clarify…

Over the last 4 days, with the help of our family, Tracy and I have sorted and moved all of our belongings out of our house and into a 40 foot motor home.  It’s no joke.  We are changing our lifestyle from one of plenty to one of simplicity, less “stuff”, in search of a certain quality of life.  Often transitions can be painful.  This is the case…

Reaching this sort of simplicity has proven a jarring experience for Tracy and myself.  Over the last couple of months, we have been selling off and giving away most our belongs, which we would no longer need.  Every thing from couches and bedroom sets to my motorcycle have been dispersed between our loved ones, new owners, and a (hopefully temporary) storage unit.  Even still, the last 4 days has been full of back breaking work and mental/emotional distress.

Last Monday, April 22 2013, I handed over the keys to the house that I’ve lived in for the last 24 years.  It felt similar to the death of a family member, we were all heart broken.  As with a person, this house, an object, has been a part of our lives.  As with a person, it has brought joy and problems.  It has been our shelter, kept us safe from powerful hurricanes, the rain, cold, and the brutal humid heat of the Florida summers.  We have poured our hearts, money, sweat and tears into it’s care, maintenance, and upgrades.  In turn it has seen me grow from and young boy, into a man, into a father.  This house was indeed a part of our family; A part of our lives.  And now, it will serve another family, an entire Catholic parish!

You see, my neighbor for all of these years has been St Boneventure Catholic Church and their school.  Over the years, the area has boomed!  Davie, what was once cow pastures, orange grooves, and open land are now expensive housing communities, complete with yuppy moms and Mercedes.   The streets are clogging up during the busy hours.  The church has been growing with the influx of new population.  They grew,, and grew,, and as they grow they come ever closer to the house, they grow louder, more often.

Our backyard fence opens to the Catholic school’s rec yard.   At any given time, that rec yard is host to approximately one hundred screaming grade schoolers.  The purchase of the house was prime opportunity for the church to expand even further, and for us to escape before being overcome.

Our neighbors on our west side were also difficult to deal with.  They were often inconsiderate.  Their small yappy pug-datson mix pups were constantly barking.  Their loud late night parties and pot smoking, is nothing we would want Eva to grow up with.  The mix of the two made the back yard smell like and old bar and dog crap.  All of these encroaching inconveniences are now gone;  Along with the house that we so dearly loved.

For so long I have focused on the goal of starting a new life, unencumbered by extraneous possessions, and full of new experiences .  Parting with the house was difficult.  As we grieve for our loss, finding ourselves house-less is a clear shock to our system in addition.  We are reeling….  However, as the reality of our grieving process takes its course, I am looking towards the future.  I FEEL the progress of the planning that we’ve set in motion.  We are in pain, and alive.  As with the birth of a child; the pain and the risk is rewarded with the great joys that come thereafter….  We are in transition.

Dream Catcher

What happened to your dreams?  Did you ever have any dreams?  I do.  But, I haven’t caught them.  They linger always at arms length.

I fret, fluster, and huff that I haven’t yet grasped the life that I wish to attain.  For barriers keep Shangri-La just past my finger tips.  Self imposed, implied, and solid like rock.  Some Illusions.  All complex.

Everyone is looking for stability, safety.  That, too, is what I seek.  But, today the world is not stable.  Most seek safety in numbers.  They resolve to follow the crowd.  Like Sheep off a cliff.

Who has the mind to reexamine the options?  For they change often.  And, are becoming numerous in this new world.  I think we only need the eyes to see them.  New perspectives.  And Shangri-La suddenly materializes out of the fog.

You may find yourself.  A stranger in a strange land.

 

Desktop Manufacturing

There’s a lot of buzz about how a certain movement is getting a lot of traction.  The 3d print, Desktop Manufacturing, or otherwise referred to as the “Maker Movement”.  I was officially christened a “Maker” when I bought my Makerbot Replicator 2 about a month ago.  One of a few people who see this new wave of technological possibilities creeping up to take the world by storm.  I believe we are going to watch a similar revolution as to the PC, when it got traction with Apple and IBM in the 70’s and 80’s.  Born in ’78, I was too young to observe the beginning of this movement first hand, but I sure remember playing some of the first video games on the Apple 2 and macintosh.  And, I believe that nearly everyone who lived through it can understand the implications that the PC has had on the human race since.

I believe it’s a mistake to dismiss the significance of the “Maker Movement”.  Relative to the PC movement, we’re currently in the 70’s.  Right now we see, small groups technically oriented early adopters getting into the game.  Some of these hobbyists are building and improving their own 3d printers based with plans that can be found on http://reprap.org.  Alternatively, those with the money, and less time to undertake the lengthy process of piecing together their 3d printers, can buy theirs ready made.  A company that I liken to an early Apple, called Makerbot, is attempting to make 3d printing consumer ready.

So, today, an individual with one of these early desktop 3d printers can do things like print out simple objects.  There are loads of “things” to keep your plastic flowing on Makerbot’s Thingiverse website.  However, most of these things are just that.. “things”.  Not of much use.  Nothing significant enough to really make jaws drop and instill in people the true power that is “Desktop Manufacturing”, which is where this whole thing is headed.

“Desktop Manufacturing”, now there is a name that reveals the potential that lays in wait for the world.  Where now you can print out simple gears, toys, even unreliable gun parts.  The world of 3d print is evolving at a break neck pace.  More printable materials are coming available, more content creators are coming online, more engineers are making improvements to existing systems.

The thing that I am most excited about is emerging conductive plastics.  Not yet extremely available, there are plastics that are reaching the conductive capacity of copper.  Big deal.  No, really, this is a big deal.  Let’s consider that this unlocks the potential to print your next cell phone, or tablet PC, or laptop.  Think open sources devices.  No longer the proprietary property of large technology companies, your electronics are “your electronics”.  You make them.  Surf the net, browse for a device you need, download the file, print it out, and add the electronic components (battery leads, capacitors, resistors, processors, LED screens, etc).  Agreed, not everyone today would have the desire or technical ability to undergo the later part.  But, we’re talking about a movement here.  Give a 10 year old the ability to print out his favorite action figure, which is completely possible today.  10 years from now, that young man is printing out electronics.  This I promise you.

 

Get busy living, or get busy dying.

It is a common Buddhist meditation , Death.  They say that Death is the ultimate motivator. To imagine yourself next to Death.  How will you feel.  The aches, the pain, the rickety knees, the arthritis.  Will you greet it?  Will you fear it?

Death puts life into perspective.  Where, I feel life is commoly lost in the daily drudge of modern existence.  These Budhists really got it.  No, I don’t plan on fully accepting Buddhism into my life.  Just as I don’t fully accept Christianity, or any other spirituality or philosophy,, or whatever.  But, I find value in much of each of their teachings, thoughts, and rituals.  And, I hope to conduct my life by the best of what each has to offer.

I am caught in a modern existence as well. Not a hum drum eixtence either.  One fueled by burning hot ambition to do something big with my life.  To make a mark.  To avoid the typical zombie existence.  But, I still questions that too, in favor of a more simplistic existence.  A life where I am mindful to sap every last sweet drop from the fruit of life, so that when death comes; I will be content.  That is my meditation.