Tag Archives: aprs

Will the check engine light stop the dreamstreamrs?

We’re on the move again — enroute to Lake Junaluska NC for a NOMADS project.

Jim said this morning we’ve never completed such an exhausting get-ready checklist. Yet this is our first transcontinental drive we didn’t first unpack and reload the truck’s bed. Our detailed checklist was comprised of trailer repairs and refinements desired before we start on a seven month tour.

Mesa AZ is a great place for a lot of things (that’s a blog post by itself). Anything we needed we could find locally in Mesa or Phoenix. Jim was glad to work on his truck and trailer projects in between his times on the tennis court. The weather was almost always outstandingly fine and we were on a level spot. Gee, why’d we leave?

Because we’re due March 31 in Lake Junaluska, the Methodist Church’s largest retreat and conference center in the U.S. We, along with several other NOMADS couples, will be doing maintenance and cleaning tasks requested by the maintenance director at the center. We’ll be there three weeks.

Today we stopped in Las Cruces NM and don’t yet know where we’re going tomorrow. Debbie’s working on tomorrow’s driving directions while Jim fixes the APRS beacon on our truck’s ham radio. We thought it was working today but hadn’t checked to be sure. Nope — no position location.

Jim fixed a drink, asked the laptop why the radio wasn’t sending, and immediately learned he simply hadn’t pressed the beacon key. One more casualty of not traveling regularly — we forget some of these small details.

Good news, we inflated the trailer tires to 65 psi yesterday and the highest they ran during towing today was 68. Seems to show the tires are running happy and lightly loaded. That’s what we want to believe.

Not good news, our check engine light lit up an hour into the drive immediately after a rest break. We were pulling a hill and saw a likely place to stop for a few minutes. Visited the airstream’s wash room, restarted the truck, and the check engine light is on.

All the dash gauges are reading normal range. Sometimes we wonder if they are real — they read so constant, rarely changing. Deb looked up the check engine light in our owners manual and found it is a drivable condition until something else happens. We were only 20 miles from Globe AZ and so drove on.

Debbie called Las Cruces’ Chevy dealership and spoke to the service writer who said they couldn’t look at our truck until Monday morning. We have a couple of zero days but didn’t plan on spending them yet. When we pulled into Globe we found an AutoZone car parts place on the highway.

Did you know they will bring their diagnostics reader for your car’s computerized control and tell you what the codes are? AutoZone read our on-board diagnostics (OBDII?) and printed out two codes and explanations for us. Even better, they called until they found an auto repair shop open on Saturday and gave us directions.

So we drove into downtown historic Globe and stopped at Earth Movers tire and repair center. The check engine light had by now turned itself off. Chris listened to our tale of woe, then sent a mechanic with a bigger OBDII reader to our truck. Cool thing, they were able to read for codes history (the two mentioned earlier), any pending or active codes (none), and clear all these for us.

Final word is, for now, the mass airflow sensor detected a too lean fuel mixture during our climb and stop. We had increased altitude by a couple of thousand feet (not a new thing for us) but this time something tripped and the engine computer wasn’t happy about it. But it got over it and so have we.

We might have the throttle body cleaned when we are in Kannapolis in May, and check the sensors. We’ll see how the rest of the trip goes.

A good first day — let’s go eat supper!

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©2007-2012 Dreamstreamr

Is an Apple Mac in our immediate future?

Shhh! We aren’t ready for our Dell computer to hear we might be planning it’s obsolescence. Most of our work career depended upon IBM-compatible machines. All our applications, for a very long time, were Microsoft DOS then Windows processes. And we would give this Dell up so easily? Not just yet, but. . .

You may already know where we are, if you follow us — our locate us tag at the bottom of our blogs seems to be pretty reliable. A little less reliable in Indian Country, the APRS system relies upon our finding ham radio digipeaters within range of our radio/antenna. While we have darned good range, every now and then our signal just isn’t heard by the right kind of receiver.

Sometimes you may wonder what we’re doing there when we say we’re here. Gee, sounds kinda like what you wondered when your kids said they were here, and you thought they were some there else. Not exactly like “The Library” in LaCrosse, Wisconsin (and similarly named bars probably in most other college towns, too).

We are here, and through Sunday morning the locator will show us at the edge of beautiful Lake Powell in Page, AZ. We arrived yesterday and have enjoyed a very peaceful setting 3/4 mile from, and approx 100 feet above, the lake’s edge.

Most of the other 62 caravanners are on a Lake Powell boat tour and hike to Rainbow Bridge (someone said, “Tenth Wonder”, but I don’t know). Your faithful reporter walked with Debbie to the resort office/gift shop/marina to meet up with the tour group, then I walked back up the hill to start my BIG project for the day.

Everyone else absent is a blessing for me, right now. I am attempting to salvage certain files from our Dell laptop which three days ago suffered crash-dumped memory. I can attend to this project, catch up a little on emails, do a little housekeeping, and keep an eye on some of our caravanners’ rigs.

The project, searching for a few very important files to save to a portable hard drive, is going slowly. The problem is I must attempt to recover tens of thousands of files so I can cherry pick the Quicken data folders and the most recent four weeks’ picture folders.

Our last back-up was, perhaps, a month ago just after completing taxes and just before this caravan. We will face, if we cannot recover any files, loss of the best pictures and our personal expense entries from our caravan’s first month. The pictures are somewhat replaceable. Oddly, our laptop’s recycle bin had almost 2,000 pictures, mostly from this same caravan.

Our camera allows shooting bracketed f-stop exposures (e.g., selected exposure plus -1 and +1 f-stop). We choose the exposure we like best and trash the other two exposures. Fortunately these extra shots survived the operating system’s crash by hiding out in the recycle bin.

We pulled the recycle bin contents into one of our portable hard drives (not the one with the most recent data backups). This morning we downloaded to another laptop a copy of PC-Tools’ “File Recovery”.

I only want the most recent one month’s pictures plus the Quicken files. This lengthy process is yet another instance of the old adage, it takes less time the second time around. Our favorite examples are the instructions for installing desktop computer internal components, replacing the hitch receiver under your pickup truck, and assembling children’s bicycles.

Invariably, it seems, they say the process can be accomplished in 40 minutes or less. And this may be true. But we are comfortable reporting most people will not approach less than five times this time frame on their first try. And the instructions might not include the time required to first remove the existing component or equipment to prepare for installation.

How lengthy is this recover process? I can’t yet say. Three and one-half hours ago I started running the file recovery utility and it has inventoried over 20,000 files thus far. And it may all be worthwhile if we can re-acquire the desired files.

What’s next? We’ll try to save the dozen folders we’re hunting to the portable hard drive. I’ll shut down the laptop, remove the keyboard and bottom cover, and gently blow compressed air throughout the motherboard and components. We imagine our laptop feels an extra few pounds heavier and needs to have a bunch of dust removed.

Everywhere we’ve been over the past several weeks has been incredibly dusty and windy. The blowing dust and sand we’ve encountered has spread throughout everything in our trailer. No doubt, the laptop has tried to store its share too.

Files recovered (or not), dust removed, machine reassembled, then we hope it again works. If it does, we’ll do low level format on the drives and start over with info from our back-ups. If it doesn’t work, we’ll see if there are any parts we want to salvage for some good future trailer or ham radio project.

Friends on our caravan advised us the laptops’ mean time between failures is three years. Two weeks ago our power supply started acting buggy. I’m pretty sure it is a broken wire in the attachment to the power transformer, and I can take this apart and effect some sort of repair. And now this problem with the User Profile Service not in service?

Will we change our back-up schedule? Darned tooting, at least until
we forget this incident. Some of you remember the old back-up procedures we maintained at work. I vaguely remember keeping six daily sets, three weekly sets, and two or more monthly sets of diskettes for our office’s computer.

We ran eleven completely different sets of diskettes, all labelled, and handled very frequently. How far we’ve fallen — Debbie and I were backing up seasonally and recently increased it to monthly. Now we’ll probably go to weekly.

Does this loss of laptop (and vast amounts of data files) affect us? Notice there aren’t any pictures in this blog (loads much quicker, doesn’t it?). We’re tracking expenses with pencil and paper. We can’t look stuff up (a habit I love). We cannot edit our pictures. And we’re vastly behind blogging. Mostly though, we’re experiencing a little separation anxiety toward our Dell laptop.

We’ve been browsing, very casually, new laptops. Didn’t want to upset our current one, you know. Well that’s out the window now! We’re full-on looking for this machine’s replacement. Our kids and friends use Macs. The appeal has grown in the past several days.

Until then, I’m watching our Dell undergo the PC Tools Fire Recover process (up to 21,850 files and counting). And I’m hoping I will find the few folders we want. I hope I’ll complete the gutting, cleaning, and formatting process sometime this afternoon. And start rebuilding — or find an Apple store down the road somewhere.

We’ll see you down the road, or perhaps in an Apple store!

Jim and Debbie
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©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr