The Master Lock 1500iD Speed Dial is the coolest combination padlock we've ever seen. With its shift knob instead of numbers, you can program a code of an unlimited number of strokes. We open ours easily without our glasses on, without looking at the lock, with the lock in awkward locations and even in the dark! Look at this review.
How does it work? Moving the button different directions rotates certain three of the four internal wheels different amounts. When all four wheels are in position the lock can be opened. See it in action with this visualizer.
What is your chance of guessing the code? Here is what we figured for different code lengths:
We installed this GE Model # 15088 automatic digital shutoff timer for our garage light, which we have a tendency to leave on. Pressing one of the five buttons turns the light on/off or sets the light to automatically turn off after 10, 20, 30 or 60 minutes.
The Plantronics Voyager Pro is the best bluetooth headset I have ever owned. The audio is excellent and the noise canceling is phenomenal. When I am driving 70 mph and call my brother he says it sounds as good as when I am sitting in my office at home. It gives six hours of talk time on a charge, gives conditions and driving directions reports in a female voice and has a host of other features that I do not even use. Google "Plantronics Pro" and save some money.
The Samsung Galaxy S II is billed as the top smart phone - and, unlocked (without a contract), probably the most expensive. Some of its features are quad band world phone, GPS, spoken turn-by-turn directions, Voice Command, Voice Search, Voice Talk, dual core high-speed processor, up to 32g micro SD card, WiFi hotspot creation, android Gingerbread OS, automatic wireless synchronizing of our calendar and contacts with Google, our laptop and our netbook etc. etc. If we say, "Navigate to Circuit Specialists in Gilbert," it will find it, plot a course and tell us how to get there from our present location. The screen is the brightest of all. Our HTC Touch diamond smart phone quit working properly, so we went for the gusto.
This Kindle was our reward for getting to bed by 9:30 every night for a month: big challenge (for us) and big reward. We no longer have to worry about a "book" flopping closed on us, reading in the crease of the page, stressing our arms holding a heavy book, having a dictionary handy for looking up words, worrying about a highlighter, going to the store to buy books or finding the instruction manual for one of our gadgets. The Kindle has it all.
Click to see the Auxiliary Power Plan using a single controller for everything.
low-voltage disconnect. To avoid battery damage, it shuts off the load if the battery gets low.
AFTER we configured it on end for use as the house battery in our van,with:
LVD (low-voltage disconnect)
4 cigarette lighter sockets
USB power outlet
cell voltage balancers.
Van Auxiliary Power Project: Here you can follow our development (latest is last) on the Auxiliary Power Project for our van. It has made for an easier life on our trips.
Installation photos (small-screen version) - For 13 years we have used the van's engine battery for all our power needs, which is sometimes a challenge - especially in hot weather when the little refrigerator runs more. That meant an occasional jumper pack start and replacing the battery every year or two.
- This 60 AH 4-cell LiFeMnPO battery accepts a high-current charge and is a light-weight, compact deep-cycle auxiliary battery. When the ignition is on it is combined with the van battery and is charged by the van's 120A alternator.
Development of our thoughts and diagrams (latest/current is last):
1-Calc is the best calculator we could find for our Windows Mobile phone. We bought it for $30 after the 30-day free trial. There are multiple language selections and the calculator is available for your PC and other phone formats. You can customize your own functions and button arrangements. It comes with these calculators:
Basic, with 1/x, Memory Substitute and other useful features
The Granite all-in-one battery charger/maintainer/tester/alarm (click on left image above) does not have quite the output of the Cteck below, but costs less and includes several additional features like a digital display. We actually bought the one pictured on the right (click image for details) with ammeter, deep cycle and battery rejuvenatory among its additional features.
The CTEK MULTI US 7002 is an eight-phase electronic charger for 12v batteries used in autos, motorhomes, and boats. It does special cold-weather charging, is suited for both starter and deep-cycle batteries, charges AGM batteries (like the Optima), is supposed to recover deeply discharged flooded batteries, corrects stratified acid conditions, revives lightly sulfated batteries (breaks down lead sulfate crystals), serves as a 13.6v power supply and goes into pulse mode for indefinate battery maintenance without damage.
CETEK has good infomration about Choosing the correct battery charger size and other topics.
We got our 7002 from SJ Discount Tools.com. CTEK also makes excellent less pricy and less capable chargers such as their MULTI US 3300 12-Volt Universal Battery Charger w/ Pulse Maintenance.
The La Crosse BC-9009 is the best AA AAA battery charger we could find, and not too expensive (best information here from the manufacturer's website, but not the best prices). Our second choice would have been the MAHA MH-C401S, which costs less but lacks some useful features. The BC-9009's features include:
Works with all NiCd and NiMH “AA” and “AAA” Rechargeable Batteries
LCD shows much information for each battery (channel), including capacity when charging is complete
Charges AA & AAA rechargeable batteries simultaneously
Will not charge defective batteries
Select different charging current for each channel
Automatically switches to trickle charge when charging is complete to ensure maximum battery capacity
Automatically defaults to 200mA charge (the optimal setting for prolonging battery life)
Overheat detection to protect over-charging
7 Easy to Use Function Keys select modes and various related information
Watch Sonny Thaper tipping his iPhone to maneuver EdAz's AR Dronequadracopter around the big room at Gangplank and see if he hits the rafters. The quadracopter is stabilized by accelerometers, gyrometers, an ultrasonic altimeter and a ground-facing video camera. It also has a forward-facing video camera. Both cameras are viewable on the controlling iPhone or iPad.
Take a look at this unbelievable video of aggressive maneuvers for autonomous quadrocopters.
When we bought this Spektrum DX7s RC controller, they said it was the last controller we'd ever need for whatever we would be flying (Instruction Manual). We particularly like it's programmability, control curves, automatic timer, SD card and buddy port. Here is some good information from RC Groups about charging the NiMH battery packs.
The Blade Nano CPx, was our fourth RC helicopter. This little guy has true collective pitch. That means the main rotor maintains a constant RPM and lift (altitude) is controlled by the pitch of the rotor blades, as with full-sized helicopters. The Nano (Instruction Manual) is capable of aerobatics and even inverted flight. With many controllers (like our Sektrum DX7s, above) the heli can be set up for a beginner with fixed pitch and docile controls. Had I to do it again, and knowing what I know now, the Nano and DX7s would have been my first and only RC helicopter.
Our next one was thisHeli-Max AXE 100 FP that is slightly larger than the Trex 100x, but with more sophisticated gyros instead of a flybar. We found it quite crashable and breakable, at least until we got used to it, just like we did the Trex 100x. We went to the next level after about a month waiting for parts (rotor linkage) from the manufacturer
Our next helicopter, the radio controlled Align TRex 100X, uses RPMs in place of collective, but otherwise flies like a real helicopter, and, with its cyclic control can fly sideways. It is about 8.5 inches long and is easy to crash until one becomes a more proficient pilot. Get spare parts from Heli Pal or RC Car Max for better shipping options. The remote controls operate as is standard for the larger RC helicopters.
My nephew has a slightly larger heli: the Blade mCP x/2 helicopter without a flybar and with micro collective pitch which allows aerobatics and inverted flight.
Learn to fly with Wacky Hobby's 14 lessons. We found this series of 19 YouTube videos very helpful.
This $30 ee1c ultra-compact scale is so small you wait for the beep and then step off to see your weight. It takes some getting used to but is just right in our small bathroom - or for a purse, they say - or maybe even in the van on our trips. (Added to web page Dec 2012)
This Travelon Micro luggage scale ($25) weighs less than three ounces, has a 110-pound capacity and helps keep us from paying big bucks for going over airline weight limits. It also is useful for a bunch of other things, such as weighing your kites to determine if they are completely dried out or your board to see if it is taking on water. (Added to web page Jun 2010)
This Shadowbox ($500 ) is a GPS unit that attaches to your kiteboard and records everything from your speed and acceleration to jump height and degree of rotation then plays in back in stunning 3-D detail, using gyros, accelerometers, magnetometers and GPS to determine position. (Added to web page May 2010)
This solar-powerd walk light was a rare, pure impulse purchase, but for only $3.88. All the electronics are contained in the hocky puck cap, and the single white LED actually makes enough light to see the walkway. (Added to web page Jun 2010)
This Windtronic is our mainstay for handheld wind measurements. It is sort of expensive but records current, average and peak gust in any of four units, is omnidirectional and comes with a 2-year warranty. (Added to web page Oct 2012)
The Garmin Foretrex 201 is our preferred kiteboarding GPS receiver as of April 25, 2011, when we deposited our Foretrex 401 at the bottom of Laguna Madre.
It lacks a few features compared to the 401 (below), but has a major advantage: It is really waterproof and also is a little thinner. Although the 401 has the same waterproof rating (IEC Standard 60529 IPX7) its battery door tends to leak, saltwater gets in and the connections rust. The 201 is rechargeable so has no battery door. Recharging it is not much of a problem since it charges from a 5 Volt source, which matches a computer's USB output. Also the 201 costs less. (Added to web page May 2011)
The Foretrex 401 is NOT WATERPROOF but has some neat features over the 201's:
2 AAA cells (rather than a built-in rechargeable battery)
High sensitivity receivers
USB 2.0 interface (instead of serial)
Magnetic Compass (electronic)
20% smaller face with the same screen size
It is, however, a little thicker
Stronger wrist strap attachment
Wireless data sharing with some devices
These features the same on both:
500 waypoint capacity
Waterproof rating (IEC Standard 60529 IPX7), however, GET THE 201 unless you are willing to spend some time cleaning and drying the 401's battery and USB compartments after every ride, as water will LEAK and RUST the insides, voiding your warranty.
We bought a couple of these to donate for charity drawings. The Garmin Nuvi 200 is inexpensive ($108 from Walmart.com) and pretty cool. Here is the instruction manual for this basic unit, which is for you if you are on a tight budget and don't have a turn-by-turn GPS. We're savin' up for a Garmin with all the bells and whistles.
Some features on the Nuvi 200 that are not on our old Street Pilot c330 are:
High sensitivity GPS reception is noticeably faster
Driving time appears to be calculated on going about 9 mph over the posted speed limit
Bicycle, pedestrian and off-road (direct) navagation options
Your computer sees it as an external USB drive so no software is needed (use the gpx file format).
More than one via point is allowed (sequence is confusing)
Easily fits in a shirt pocket
Separate language choices for keyboard, text and speech
Selectable keyboard layout
Vehicle icon can be changed
Memory for about 4,000 waypoints according to our experimentation
SD card slot
Picture viewer and slide show
Calculator plus currency and unit converters
World clock (Added to web page appx Oct 2009)
Acute DS-1202 USB Virtual Oscilloscope screen shsot: Channel 1 = 1000kHz calibration signal; Channel 2 = 60Hz body-induced AC
One of our latest toys is this digital storage Virtual Oscilloscope. Regular oscilloscopes are bulky, have a small screen and lots of knobs and controls. This little unit gives you a BIG screen with your computer and is ideal for the Van Life. (Added to web page Oct 2009)
We bought one of these cool Kill-a-Watt power monitors that tells all sorts of things about electrical consumption - cost $20. First uses: check out X-10 idle power usage, our little post fan and good old refrigerator. Then our van refrigerator, computers etc. etc. Fun, fun, fun! (Added to web page Sep 2009)
This digital meat thermometer has a porbe and an alarm. It allows our JetBoil to heat water using very little fuel: 108 degrees to soak a foot, 119 degrees for sipping and 160 degrees to pour over oatmeal. (Added to web page Jun 2010)
This two-button, wireless, optical SMK-LINK Ultra Mini Mouse has a clickable scroll wheel, is a little pricey but is the only way to go if you have a small space for your stuff, as we do in our van. (Added to web page May 2012)
Plug this Vello ShutterBoss wireless timer/remote into your camera's electronic shutter release jack (our Panasonic DMC-FZ150 required an optional cable) and get ready to take pictures without touching your camera.
Sensor size of a digital camera is important... or is it? And why?
Here is an interesting discussion of the formats,
photo samples taken with different sizes of sensors
and a discussion of the types of sensors (CCD & CMOS) and how they work. (Added to web page Feb 2013)
This Canon PowerShot SX20IS, which we bought for the St Lucia trip, has almost everything we wanted in a camera: 12.1mp, fast 20x zoom, wide angle/macro lens with optical image stabilized 2.5-inch articulating LCD monitor, runs on 4AA cells, takes good video and non-interchangeable lens, which means it should do better in harsh kiteboarding environments with blowing sand. Features that make us want a better camera: slow burst rate; shutter lag; electronic viewfinder that blanks out during exposures making it difficult to follow action. (Added to web page Jan 2010)
Waterproof Sanyo camcorder down to 4.5' for an hour. That means it should also be sand proof - important with kiteboarding. All you do is wash it in a bowl of water and dry it when you are through. (Added to web page Apr 2009)
We bought this Corner Office ATC-139 Programable Graphing Scientific Calculator from Walgreens back in Phoenix for $15. It does about everything you can imagine. However the print of the 57-page instruction manual is too small for a normal human to read, so we have enlarged it as a PDF Manual (10 megabytes); our x-brother-en-law, Harold, made an enlargement of the keyboard and we were keeping notes as we read the manual until we hit a brick wall. The calculator would not save programs the way the instruction manual declared. (Added to web page May 2010)