Archive for December, 2008

Using that new camera to best effect

The Digital Photography School has 21 Settings, Techniques and Rules All New Camera Owners Should Know. Learn about those modes and settings on your camera and how to use them, review basic camera techniques, find out how to care for your camera, and get the basics of composition.

7 Digital Camera Predators and How to Keep them at Bay is talking to RV enthusiasts: sunscreen, insect repellent, sand, dust, water, and even getting banged around are hard on cameras.

The post provides a good start to the blog contents and there are links to other pages on the site that will provide information for getting travel shots your friends will want to see.

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SNU Newsletter: January 2009

The January 2009 Newsletter has been posted. See the 2009 newsletters page. Links to photo galleries and additional information mentioned in articles in this newsletter can be found there, too.

Topics in this newsletter include:
* Lunch at J.T.’s
* January at Cabela’s
* Ways you can support the SNU
* SNU Year in Review
* A message from the SNU President
* Death Valley wrap up
* Dry camping with the Wheelers
* Utah Unit rally

Luncheon at Cabela’s

Saturday January 24th will be the first SNU event of 2009 – lunch at Cabela’s. Cabela’s is located off I-80 approx 10 miles west of Reno. Lunch starts at 11:30 am. We have reserved one of Cabela’s meeting rooms for this lunch. It is located right by the cafe. RSVP’s much appreciated. Email hq (at) or call HQ.

Check Zephyrs to find out if there have been changes in the October rally and also fond out what else is new on the website


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The RV energy problem

Maintaining a comfortable temperature inside an RV is a significant energy problem. The RV is often exposed to the elements and cannot devote a lot of space to insulation or machinery.

The rule of thumb for furnaces is that an RV needs a furnace that will provide 1000 BTU per hour of heating for each foot of length. Air Conditioners provide about half that for cooling but then heating often needs to maintain 40 degrees of temperature difference (from 20F to 60F) while cooling just 20 (from 100F to 80F).

An average office building uses 92 kBTU/sq foot/ year (energy metrics). For an 8×30 foot space like an RV, that’d be 23,552 kBTU/year or 64.5/day or about 2.7 kBTU/hr.

These guidelines provide a range from a peak need of about 30k BTU BTU per hour to a bit less than 3 on average. The ORNL biomass conversion factors can provide an idea about what that means in terms of energy sources. (they also provide data to help you calculate the carbon footprint if you are into that)

See convert units for a very nice calculator for distances, units conversion, and other things.

For Energy: Wood has about 6400 BTU/lb, gasoline 115k BTU/gallon, propane 93k BTU/gallon, and a typical RV battery 3400 BTU (but only half usable). What this means is than an RV might use each day, on average, ten pounds of wood, a half gallon of gasoline or a bit more than that of propane, or twenty batteries worth of stored energy.

For Peak Power: The 30k BTU/hr peak power would mean a consumption of five pounds of wood per hour, a third of a gallon or propane or a bit less gasoline per hour, or ten batteries of energy each hour.

Solar is sometimes sold as an ultimate solution. Consider that the absolute maximum power from this source is 3k BTU per hour per square yard (SMPS – updated 2/23/2013 re Lazar Rozenblat). With a typical 10% panel efficiency this means about 350 BTU per hour from a standard RV type solar panel. That means nearly ten panels would be needed to supply peak power needs and that would only happen with optimal sunlight conditions on the panels.

Note that these calculations are very rough. An RV isn’t an office building and the peak needs don’t consider extreme circumstances or efficiency factors. See the ORNL page for some idea about how these can be considered. Check the arithmetic! The numbers seem reasonable but errors can happen and sometimes reasonable isn’t reality. Peruse the references, find other resources to compare, check the arithmetic and make other comparisons. You’ll gain an understanding about why things are done the way they are and be able to compare your needs to your options better.

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I’net TV

Where to Find Your Favorite TV Shows Online provides some links and tips for using the I’net rather than cable or satellite.

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Shoveling snow: don’t get dehydrated

Consumer Reports has a good tip and reminder:

Cold weather may leave you feeling less thirsty, but it’s still easy to become dehydrated, which can impair your body-heat regulation. As a general rule, drink about one or two cups of water before starting. During the workout—or right after a short one—you should take in as much fluid as you’ve lost in perspiration. For example, drink about one cup every 20 minutes if you’re sweating profusely.

It can be easy to forget you ought to be thirsty and it is easy to overdo the snow removal and other outdoors winter activity. Don’t get caught thinking you know better.

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Lifehacker says Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush Makes Packing a Snap. The reference is to several websites that will help you with trip planning.

Tell Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush where you are going and when, and it will generate a list of potential things you need to do based on your travel type. The to-do list is divided into advanced planning, two weeks before, one week before, the day before, the night before, and as you are leaving for the trip.

You customize the checklist for your particular needs. This site appears to be advertising supported with user registration.

The Universal Packing List is an experienced honed, fill in the conditions, get a list type of website.

Normally people pack their bags the night before. This is a mistake! Give it one day more in advance per week of travel, so start packing three days in advance if you’re packing for a three week trip. This way you will avoid some of the stress inevitable the last day before you leave, and you get some extra time buying (or in other ways get) the things you realize you need. Or remove what you really don’t need.

The About UPL page has some good information, too.

Whether you are heading off on an airplane to visit relatives for Christmas or planning an RV expedition, there is help and assistance available for you to minimize the chance you’ll forget something important.

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Portable apps – safe library computing

If you are on the road and rather short of computing power or I’net connection, a local library might be a solution. Using a public computer can, and should, cause concerns about security and privacy. is finding solutions to these concerns.

Now you can carry your favorite computer programs along with all of your bookmarks, settings, email and more with you. Use them on any Windows computer. All without leaving any personal data behind.

The applications are FOSS – free and open source. This means that you do not have to worry about licensing or use restrictions for them. If the public computer has a USB port and is running MS Windows, like many do, you can install these applications on a memory stick and plug it in to have your own setup.

All you have to do is to remember to dismount the USB stick and take it with you when you end your session at the computer.

An office suite, web browser, and email client will cover most needs., -|- Mozilla Firefox, and Mozilla Thunderbird will cover these needs. Or, you can download a suite and platform. Suite™ is a complete collection of portable apps including a web browser, email client, office suite, calendar/scheduler, instant messaging client, antivirus, audio player, sudoku game, password manager, PDF reader, minesweeper clone, backup utility and integrated menu, all preconfigured to work portably. Just drop it on your portable device and you’re ready to go.

This suite is a 113 MB download and takes up about 350 MB installed. That will easily fit on a 1 or 2 GB USB memory stick that you can buy for $20 or so.

See Using the Platform and Safe Portable App-ing

An important thing to keep in mind when using portable applications is that they can be used to spread viruses between machines. While this isn’t as much of an issue when you own or are responsible for the machines you are using it on (say work and home), it can be a very big issue when you use a portable app on an untrusted or unknown machine (school, internet cafe, etc). For this reason, it is important that you practice Safe Portable App-ing!

Privacy and security are not all you get with this approach. You also gain convenience in storing preferences and in password management.

Also See:

Wikipedia -|- Pendriveapps -|- Top Ten Portable Apps -|- Chris Pirillo’s Top 10

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Oral health and survival dentistry

Survival Dentistry, by The Army Dentist is worth reading for a viewpoint on issues that are sometimes encountered by the RVer.

I would like to present a summary of the caries process and the best way to prevent dental pathology in the first place, a simple way to recognize and or loosely categorize dental symptoms, and some simple treatment alternatives until definitive care can be reached.

A short essay with some hidden gems it will reinforce what you need to do for prevention, basic treatments, and what is going on behind the symptoms you encounter.

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Howto Bake a potato (.com?)

The website is a one pager to do one thing. The advice looks reasonable. At the bottom of the page are links to similar pages for corn on the cob, open a coconut, and some other things.

who? what? why? — Don’t know but might be worth a review

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Remembering: 16 Dec 1944, Europe

Jules on The Bulge.

It began at dawn on Dec. 16, 1944, 64 years ago today, with rapid assaults through the Ardennes forest, as the Germans blitzed one last time, hoping to split the Allied armies and take Antwerp. As Guderian reportedly liked to say, “Man schlägt jemanden mit der Faust und nicht mit gespreizten Fingern.” You punch with the fist and not with the fingers spread.

See the essay for pictures, comments, and links to some good reading about the history of this battle.

The outside thermometer this morning was in the single digits near Reno. Snow covering the ground. Cold. Remember those who were outside in similar weather without a warm RV at hand but only a shovel to find shelter from enemy shells.

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I don’t think Jack gets it.

Gizmodo: Toilet Paper Shovel Provides Easy Outdoor Relief. If you’ve ever been to a campground and had to use the provided facilities, you might find the portable toilet paper caddy quite useful. The shovel with mounted paper holder would be useful for those who do extensive wilderness hiking.

But, if you have an RV, you can enjoy one of its major benefits and avoid these sorts of concerns. Your only problem, of course, is finding an appropriate dump station when you need it.

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Report on wilderness emergency assistance in Utah

Paul Auerbach, M.D. has an interesting review about report on Search and Rescue and EMS in Utah’s National Parks.

For a five year period, emergency medical (EMS) calls, at about 1000 per year, were about twice the search and rescue (SAR) calls. The SAR responses averaged a cost of about $600 each.

In addition to identifying the specific parks needing EMS and SAR support, this study points out that there is a predictability to the nature of incidents, as well the expense of providing support. Interestingly, it was not possible to determine if the availability of mobile (cellular) phones, which were used to initiate 21% of SAR operations, made it easier to seek help and thereby somehow increased the number of operations. In more detailed analysis, the authors concluded that judgment errors, inadequate preparation and experience, physical conditioning, falls, and darkness were common factors contributing to the need for SAR. If for no reason other than this observation, the study is important support for education programs and resource allocation planning for EMS, SAR, and medical support in wilderness recreation areas.

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The excitement builds! Anticipating the first winter storm

The Reno Gazette Journal got out its pre-storm anticipation stories tonight. See A driver’s guide to chain controls, Storm: list of items every home needs, Seven-day forecast for Reno, and Top Sierra Nevada storms since 1950.

It looks like you don’t want to be in an RV on US 395 south of Reno starting Friday and on through Saturday, especially in the parts towards Bishop. The problem will be wind but a bit of snow may accumulate in areas.

You must have chains in your vehicle when you enter a designated chain control area when the sign is up saying “chains required”. If towing a trailer, make sure you have chains for it, too.

As for emergency supplies – check your RV inventory! The stuff, like food and water, that is perishable or can be damaged by cold should be in a handy spot in the house. The key is to make sure you can get by for a few days even if the electricity goes out or the pipes freeze.

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Winter weather outlook worries

The NWS has a special statement out for Washoe County about a change in the weather due this weekend (Change to Winter Conditions this Weekend — SNU meeting weekend – Luncheon Saturday December 13, 2008!). Ontario Weather Service is talking about “SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA – December 8, 2008 ( Rare 50 year Arctic Blast Sets Sights On Southern California.”

This is yet a week out which is long for forecasting. But the weather people do appear worried and it is about time for a winter pattern to set in. Be prepared. Make sure your rig is winterized and everything is set to handle a good hard freeze. Make sure your house is also prepared with windows sealed and whatever else needs to be done to remain safe and comfortable over winter.

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Another Google tip

Did you know you can call Google on the phone when you know who you are trying to call but not their telephone number? Google will find the number for you and connect the call. See ElectEcon “Free” Telephone Information from Google: 1-800-g00g411 for more about this and the comments from some of the users.

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The intersection rule

Bruce Nevin offered a rule of thumb for drivers.

It takes about as long for the car in front of you to start moving as it does for the traffic coming the other way to reach you.

The key point here is that disturbances in traffic propagate and you will be able to better ‘go with the flow’ if you anticipate when starting or stopping traffic is going to impact you. You do this by keeping eye on the horizon to detect when a disturbance starts and then estimating when it will impact traffic near you.

Another rule is to keep a 2 second difference between you and the vehicle ahead. For RV’s it might be better to try for 3 or 4 seconds. At 50 mph, that would be about 200 to 300 feet (10 to 15 typical car lengths).

Note: You can do a Google search for 50 mph infeet per second to find out that 50 mph is about 73 feet per second as Google will interpret the query as a request for a calculation. You’ll get an answer plus a number of other interesting related links to peruse.

Using a time delay for vehicle separation is a lot more reliable than trying to use car lengths or such guides. Just note when the bumper of the vehicle in front passes a paint stripe or road marker and then do a slow count – one thousand and one, one thousand and two – to calibrate your eyeball distance estimate.

You need to anticipate disturbances in traffic so you can make adjustments easily and smoothly rather than as an emergency maneuver. It provides time for those behind you to see that something is happening so they too can take action to avoid problems like running into you.

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I’net on the road

A new class of small, portable computers has shown up in the last year or so. These are called netbooks and are like a shrunken laptop computer. Screen sizes are usually around 7″ and the keyboard has smaller than normal keys closer together. The idea is to keep costs down to under $500.

Gizmodo reports on a Radio Shack add for an Acer netbook that is bundled with an AT&T broadband mobile contract. These cell phone based I’net connections usually run about $60/mo.

If this Radioshack ad is to be believed, the Acer Aspire One will be among the first netbooks to be sold subsidized with a data contract here in the U.S. Otherwise, it’ll set you back around $350 without the data plan (and an untasty $500 if you buy it at RadioShack without the contract)

If you are thinking about cell phone based I’net, this could be a sweet deal available, it appears, during the week of the 14th. If you are looking for something even smaller (but more limited as far as I’net use) with actual cell phone capabilities, then look for the rumors about Wal-Mart selling the Apple Iphone sometime soon.

In the Great Basin it is a good idea to keep in mind that cell phones don’t just work everywhere and which provider has service where can also be an interesting study. So take care and don’t get your hopes up too high without checking your needs carefully first.

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TV on the road with a multi-tasking laptop

Instead of a TV and another display for your computer, how about a twofer? It is getting easier and less expensive to show TV on your computer. If you have a decent broadband I’net connection, you can use that rather than over the air.

Turn Your Laptop into a TV describes the methods you can use. Hardware approaches include TV tuners that plug into a laptop USB port. Broadband approaches include several websites with TV fare.

If you have a satellite TV system, you might look for a converter that will take the TV signal from your satellite tuner and turn it into a computer compatible input. That is a story for another day.

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SNU December Newsletter

SNU Folks,

The December 2008 Newsletter has been posted. Links to photo galleries and additional information mentioned in articles in this newsletter can be found there, too.

Topics in this newsletter include:
* Review of the November Lunch and the Death Vally Rally
* Anita’s Adventures
* Boondocking SNU style
* News from Region 12
* Shopping for SNU logo items


Saturday December 13, 2008 is the date for the SNU Holiday Luncheon at JT’s Basque restaurant in Gardnerville, NV. It is right on US 395 on the south end of town. Lunch starts at 11:30 am. Cost is $15 per person.

**Please RSVP Call Diane at 775 972 9392 or email

Check Zephyrs what’s new to find out if there have been changes in the October rally and also find out what else is new on the website.


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