Sunday, January 1, 2012

What I did on my Winter Vacation

For a variety of reasons, rather than take off for a snowbird escape right after Christmas to a warm and sunny destination, I had to stay home for my winter vacation this year.  But I got a lot of miscellaneous stuff done and got to play with some new Tech toys in the process!

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The View is finally home!
And, thankfully, not covered in snow like it was two years ago when it spent the holidays in the driveway.  For most of the past 3 months, the View had been in  the shop for a nagging and mysterious generator problem.

This past summer, the generator began “acting up” by not starting.  The starter panel would always come on like normal, but when the start button was pushed, some days it would start right up just fine, and other days it would completely ignore the request (absolutely no engine sound or attempt to start).

The dealer’s first fix was a new Control Board (“only” $800 installed, yippee!).  On my next camping trip, when the generator began it’s tricks again, back we went to the dealer for a second fix—this time, a new Remote Start Panel, which was looking like it’d be another $800 fix until the nightmare got worse.

The new starter panel still didn’t fix the issue (thankfully, the View never left the shop when they realized this). So, it then took another 2 months of back and forth between the dealer, the Onan distributor, and Cummins Onan themselves to figure out problem and who would pay for it.

Thankfully, all ended well.  Cummins Onan offered to pay ALL generator-related repair costs…even the initial $800 repair I had already paid!  The culprit was a $5 set of wires deep within the engine assembly that had been misrouted and badly crimped when initially assembled at the factory. Over time, the crimping had corroded the wires to where they’d no longer transfer 12v power to the starter properly.

Of course, in the meantime, my electric step motor decided to conk out and my fridge went into a blinkedy fit again, so I ended up paying some repair bills afterall, but thankfully, the really expensive generator work was covered.  So, fingers are now crossed that the View’s “terrible twos” are behind us and 2012 will be a better year.

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I finally ditched my PC for a Mac!
Speaking of “terrible twos”, the fancy Sony Vaio PC I bought 2 years ago had been slowly frying out for the past few months as well.  When it started continuously pretending to press keyboard keys, I had had enough…time for a new laptop!  Off I went to the local electronics store to look at the current crop.  The thought of spending another princely sum to get just “more of the same” low quality plastic parts, and a desktop loaded up with “bloatware,” was not winning me over though.  So I headed over to the Apple Store to check out the Macbook Pros again.  Previously, when I’d looked at them, I guess they hadn’t been configured the way I would have wanted (screens could never go “full-screen”, and mouse clicks always required pressing down and clicking the trackpad rather than just tapping).  But after spending a bit more time with the new Lion OS, I saw that it now could do all those things and much more.  So, I decided to go for a 15” model with the high-res anti-glare screen (better for photo editing).

Macs are still a lot more expensive than PCs, but with a bit of online shopping and simple DIY installations, I managed to save $850 vs. the local Apple Store!  I’ve used B&H Photo for my photo gear purchases for years, and now that they sell Apple, they were a no-brainer to go with.  While their laptop prices were the same as the Apple Store, B&H also threw in Parallels 7 (the software that lets you run Windows from a Mac) for free, and a 3-yr Apple Care warranty for less than 1/2 price.

I knew I wanted a faster “solid state drive” (my work laptop has one and they are AMAZING!) and wanted more RAM, but rather than pay the inflated Apple prices to get these pre-installed, I bought the components from OWC and Newegg and installed them myself.  If you can use a screwdriver and watch a few videos, you too can easily do these kinds of upgrades as well! 

The OWC website has excellent videos and even provides the tiny magnetic screwdrivers that make the process simple.  OWC will even let you send back the original components for a small rebate if desired.  I decided to buy their Data Doubler, so that I could move the original 500GB drive over to DVD’s drive bay, and then put the DVD drive in a USB external enclosure should I ever need it again.

The new Mac is amazingly fast and yet, built like a tank.  The Lion OS has obviously taken some getting used to, but just about everything I could do in Windows 7, I can do with Lion and more.  And if I ever get stuck, a quick internet search usually finds me the solution (and if all else fails, flipping over to my Windows 7 instance running on Parallels will bring me right back to my comfort zone). 

Best of all, the new Mac works seamlessly with my iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.  Steve Jobs might have been a real SOB to deal with as a person, but I’m so glad he stood his ground and pushed so hard for product quality and integration.  I can’t believe I waited so long to finally make this jump!

3 comments:

  1. Please keep us updated on your experience with your Mac. I've been a Mac owner since the mid-80s, and my current MacBook is so old I can't put Lion on it. I'll be needing another Mac soon, so keep the Mac comments and observations coming! I, too, have an iPhone and Apple TV. Love the integration. Yes, it can probably be done with PCs, but I'm not very tech savvy, and I'm able to do everything myself. Enjoy your new computer!

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  2. Congratulations on getting a Mac. I replaced an aging Mac with a Macbook Air with the solid state drive, and it's quick. I also second the ease of using OWC stuff, having recently upgraded the memory in my older MacBook.

    You have an interesting blog, with great photos.

    Signed, a fellow Skinny Winnie owner

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  3. Hi again - can you tell us more about your satellite TV system? Cost, components, ease of use and anything else you think might be of interest.

    Also, is the system one that might be easily moved to your next RV should you choose to buy something else?

    I ask because it's no fun missing all my favorite shows. Local TV is OK but just barely.

    thanks!

    -Don

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