Our Technology

People often ask about our technology.  Here is some information. Last update 6/2/11.

Cell Phone –  Denise and I both have iPhones on the AT&T plan. They are easy to use, have many very useful apps, and seem to be pretty durable. The longer I have my iPhone, the more things I discover that it can help me with. Having my email arrive in my pocket is especially handy.  Denise is on an unlimited data plan. I got my phone later so I have the 2gb for $20.00 plan. Neither of us use more than 1gb of data per month so it is not a problem. We also carry a prepaid Verizon phone that we can activate if we get somewhere that has no AT&T coverage. So far it has only happened two times. Once for a week in Oregon and the summer of 2010 in upstate NY. For the record, we have also found a couple places where the AT&T phone works and the Verizon did not.

Computers –  I use a Dell Laptop with Windows XP. I leave it in a cabinet behind the front TV and connect it to a 17″ monitor and wireless keyboard and mouse. Our motorhome has a nice pull out work tray in front of the passenger seat so that is my office when we are parked. Denise uses an HP laptop with Windows 7. It has an HDMI port so we can connect it to the TV and watch streamed movies when we are connected to WiFi. We can’t stream on the Verizon card or we will use up our 5gb in a hurry.  All the computers are connected to the 500 gb NAT drive that is plugged into the router. It is our primary backup. The laptops automatically back up to the NAT drive every night if we are plugged into power. Then that drive is backed up to another USB drive. I am concerned about the toll that bouncing down the road will have on my drives so I have redundant backups. We also burn a DVD every couple months and mail it to one of the kids. My VERY important data gets backed up to a 16gb USB  thumb drive that I carry with me.

Internet –  I have a Verizon data card connected to a WiFiRanger router. I get 5gb of data on the Verizon card. That is plenty if we sty away from streaming.  I bought the WiFi ranger because it allows me to use WiFi as the internet source as well as the Verizon card. It chooses which to use automatically. When we are at a park for an extended period of time, I put the Verizon card on vacation mode and save the monthly charge.  Note: When we first started out, I had a Sprint card connected to a CradlePoint router. The Cradle Point router worked very well. The Sprint card work mostly. We spent the  summer of 2010 in a park in upstate NY in a place where only Verizon would work so I switched.

TV – I replaced both TVs with VIZIO flat screen LCDs.  Our signal comes from Dish Networks and All America Direct.  We have the least expensive Dish package and we get 4 networks from NY and 4 networks from San Francisco from All America Direct. Our antenna is a Carry Out portable from Winegard. It takes about 5 minutes to set up and 5 more minutes to find a signal. We opted for the portable version because it gives us more flexibility about where we can park. We don’t have to be concerned about the roof dish being able to see the southern sky. Our receiver is a dual tuner DVR model 722k.   It allows us to record 2 shows and watch 2 previously recorded shows at the same time. The big advantage that I see is that I can use the existing distribution switch to feed signal to the rear TV. I didn’t have to run a cable from the dish and figure out how to put a receiver in the bedroom.  The disadvantage is that the main TV controls which satellite the Carry Out is pointed at. So if the person watching TV 2 wants to watch something on Sattelite 110 and the person watching TV 1 is watching something on 119, TV 2 is out of luck. Since we mostly record our shows and watch them later, this is not a problem for us.  Both the Carry Out and the 722k are HD capable. We have not paid for HD signal. In our opinion, the only reason you need HD is for sports and movies. We don’t watch many movies, and All America does not provide any HD signal for the networks, so no HD for now. We use the wind up antenna when ever we can to access local network content.

Stereo – I replaced the in dash stereo with a Sony that I picked up at WalMart for about $100.00. The feature I was looking for is the USB port. It allows me to either connect one of the iPhones or the iPad to play music stored on theat device, or I can plug in one of my USB thumb drives.  If you plug in an Apple device, you can control the songs from the stereo remote and the song information is displayed on the radio’s LED display.  I have an 8gb drive with a nice variety of MP3 music on it. I also have a 4gb drive that I keep loaded with our current audio book.

Other – We recently added an iPad to our list or electronics to haul around. It is a great device for consuming media such as movies. I like it for reading the news, playing games, doing crossword puzzles. We are experimenting with downloading books. We also own a Kindle which I really like for reading. I have downloaded quite a few books and I find it easy to use and read. The battery lasts about a month per charge using it for an hour at night. I also subscribe to Reader’s Digest on my Kindle.  The dilemma about the Kindle and iPad is we currently get many of our books at the ‘swap a book’ room at RV parks or at senior day at the local thrift store. That make the cost very low compared to buying an ebook from Amazon.  I expect to be able to check electronic books out of the library at some point in the future. In the meantime, there are thousands of free books available online.

I mounted a 10″ digital photo frame on the cabinet above the sink. It holds an SD card that we update from time to time. It’s a great way to look at old photos.  The TV can also show slide shows from any USB thumb drive. I find it’s too much effort to use on a regular basis. We use it if we ware going to look at a specific set of photos from an event like the Balloon Fiesta.

Before we moved into the motorhome, we converted all of our physical media to electronic. We scanned all our photos, ripped all the CD’s to MP3 files, and copied as many movies as we could.

Future upgrades:

  • The WiFiRanger has an optional signal booster available. If I ever get where I can’t get a good enough signal, I will add that option.
  • Wilson Electronics makes several cell phone signal boosters. So far cell service has been reliable when we are at a destination. We get ‘no signal for a day or so while traveling or exploring, but nothing that makes me spend $300.00 plus on a booster.
  • Apple TV is a device that you connect to your TV. It talks to Itunes on your computer and to your iPhone and iPad and lets you play any of the content on your TV
  • I can get a cable to connect the iPhone to the TV via HDMI. That would let me get a Netflix account and stream movies to the TV. We would have to be sure to use Denise’s iPhone since it has the unlimited data plan.  So far we aren’t watching enough movies to justify the Netflix subscription.

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