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Old 05-24-2013, 10:52 AM   #1
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Computers in eggs :)

I've been building computers for years, and my passion for system design seems to have overlapped with my low-wattage, off the grid egg dream.

If anyone needs help choosing or designing a computer for anything from basic web browsing/office use, media/movies, or gaming (the toughest to get to a wattage that's solar friendly, but entirely possible) pm me and I can offer some guidance. Just let me know what you'll need it to do, and how solar dependent you'll be. Systems can be built with very small, highly efficient DC power supplies for 12v systems... no need to take that inverter efficiency loss!

EDIT: Any advice or service I can offer is always free
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Old 05-24-2013, 12:55 PM   #2
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That sounds like a great offer, Mike. Thanks.

I think some open discussion here would be welcomed by many members, as I am sure there is a broad level of computer understanding amongst the tribe. Always lots to learn with computers these days.
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Old 05-24-2013, 02:10 PM   #3
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I would like to hear what we can do differently in regards to choosing a consumer lap top or ipad for example to reduce charging consumption if anything? Is there are brand of lap top that draws less than another - what should we look for?
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Old 05-24-2013, 02:37 PM   #4
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My son treated me to a Raspberry Pi class last weekend...including a free computer!

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$35! Comes with embedded Linux and has a host of options. I'm thinking of getting a GPS chip and camera and setting the thing to auto-log our journeys .

Our standard computer for the Scamp is a little Sony Vaio Netbook. Lots of videos and music on it. I use a soundbar to kick it up.

All in all, netbook type computers are the way to go if you want some decent screen size AND low power. I'm not going to get into religion here (Apple vs. Windows), but in terms of bang-for-the-book a low-cost Windows machine is best. You can pick up one-generation-old Win7 machines at some pretty good prices at MicroCenter: http://www.microcenter.com/ .
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Old 05-24-2013, 02:42 PM   #5
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I'd love to hear some of your ideas, Mike. Ever play with anything like CuBox or Raspberry Pi? I think it'd be cool to have a small PC built right in to not only handle media and light computing, but to incorporate sensors for all the systems. If the weather ever actually warms up again, I'll get to start designing my add-ons to the Scamp. Hope to maybe run into you around the state and get an eyeball on some good ideas!
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Old 05-24-2013, 02:46 PM   #6
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LOL, Gary, guess we're thinking along the same lines. My son wants a RP to program games for, I'd rather have the GPS and a bunch of other sensors. I like the CuBox simply because it already runs straight Android, because although we're all comfortable with Linux, I think Android would be easier to integrate with our phones to share data or alerts from the RV.
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Old 05-24-2013, 02:46 PM   #7
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An iPad will take care of anything I need. No hard core gaming, but there are TONS of games to keep you occupied. It's 4G, so it picks up its own internet when no wifi is available. It connects back to my computer at home (and at work), so all of my music and movies are available to me. It's also a GPS, a camera, video camera, etc. It takes up next to no room, and charges off the 12v port in the camper, the 12v port in the car, or my solar panel. Tied to an iPhone, you can even use it as a wireless video camera to help you hitch up or back into your campsite!

Also, you can tether other devices (laptops, etc.) to it wirelessly to share its internet connection. Verizon does not charge extra for iPad tethering like some other companies do.
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Old 05-24-2013, 02:52 PM   #8
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My son works at Cray Computer...which makes the fastest computers in the world. His "play" computer there where he tests stuff out is one of the 50th fastest in the whole world. He was at home today and giggled as he told me he logged into his supercomputer with his micro-micro-micro computer. Fun!
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Old 05-24-2013, 03:05 PM   #9
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I have a Mac Mini in my Egg and with TV Monitor and Wireless Keyboard/Mouse I can do almost anything I need or want in MAC OS or Windows and I can even do a lot of things that I don't want to too!

The Mini is perfect as it is so small,efficient and quiet.
I keep a couple of tiny Hard Drives loaded with Movies and TV shows with me and I can Airplay from an iPhone and iPad to the Mini to share Music and Video.

I also use Mini's for Automation every day and there is really no limit to what they can do.

I also have been playing around with R.P. and what a neat platform for Linux and imbedded systems!

Now this is roughing it!
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Old 05-24-2013, 04:26 PM   #10
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Ed, what's the power requirements for a mini?

I just love the thought of what these little devices can do. Wish we had them 10 years ago, would've made some of my projects a lot easier!
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Old 05-24-2013, 04:35 PM   #11
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@ Carol, if you're looking for a true laptop style mobile device with a keyboard, fusedlight nailed it with the netbook suggestion. They sacrifice the raw horsepower of your typical laptop for a much smaller size, cheaper price, and most importantly for solar users or campers away from shore power, decreased power draw. If you need a little more horsepower, an AMD Trinity (dual core) based laptop walks a pretty great line in terms of performance vs wattage requirements... still a good bit more draw than the netbooks though.

One quick and painless way to decrease charging inefficiency is to utilize a charger that's designed for 12v. Most laptops have car chargers sold seperately. Unfortunately, this isn't always a univeral fit from laptop to laptop. If you take a peek at your laptop's power supply, it will tell you the output voltage and amperage. You'll need a 12v input charger with the same output voltage. This is a better route to go than converting from your 12v batteries to 110 via an inverter, back down to whatever your laptop needs (mine is 19.5v)

How you use your device can have a pretty huge impact on power draw too. Only turn wifi, gps, and bluetooth on when you need it... radio signals take a chunk of power to be used. Getting familiar with your windows power scheme (if using windows) is worth the effort. Most computers are idle far more than they are being used.

@ Fusedlight and KevinPete... The Pi is awesome. Unless Linux is an immediate no-go for someone, it fits the bill of solar usage perfectly. It will be my go-to for most of my usage... everything but gaming. I'll have to run a seperate rig for that... in that one, the pico-psu is my new friend.

Also, I never came across the Cubox before, and I'm already swooning a bit. Any experience with it? It is everything it appears to be from my two minutes of hasty research? Because it looks like it will be taking Pi's spot as the jewel of my eye in terms of low wattage electronic goodness.
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Old 05-24-2013, 05:46 PM   #12
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Mike, no paws-on yet, but soon. There are several devices out there for a range of prices and purposes, some that work more-or-less out of the box, and a few that would be great for building right into a panel. Check out Miniand, Gumstix, and Cotton Candy.

I've been playing with Arduino to control my garden irrigation, lights, and security. My tomatoes text me when they're thirsty now! (Then the controller waters them). Nice when I'm out of town, I can call someone to check and see if there's a problem or the tanks are empty. I haven't gotten level sensors for the tanks yet. I love all this stuff, but a lot of the sensors are spendy.

Probably start out in the Scamp with an older laptop for now, still want a DVD drive available. Will probably get a CuBox Pro later in the summer, so by next spring I can have it all ready to go.
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Old 05-24-2013, 05:51 PM   #13
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Thanks Micheal, my laptop I am afraid has an Intel Pentium processor will have to look at that when I replace it but I do have a 12 volt charger for it that I use in the trailer and car as needed although I dont often bring a laptop on trips of less than a couple of weeks anymore (use it mostly for processing photos only these days).

I have a Iphone as well as an Ipad - actually just got a new IPad min - got it free using an air miles loyalty points like it better than the Ipad due to its size - fits in the purse or in the bikes pouch while out looking for free wifi. With the mini no need to carry along a separate e-reader to cut down on book space in the trailer. I havent a clue as to what it eats for power when charging but the battery does seem to last fairly well and I do make sure I turn off all the apps running in the back ground on the phone when traveling as I do have a data plan on the phone and I know it eats up battery power when roaming. LOL actually only found about the double click trick on the Iphone & Ipad a short time again although I have had an IPhone for a number of years and thought I know how to shut every thing down properly Was surprised at how much stays running that I thought I had closed down. LOL
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Old 05-24-2013, 05:51 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinPete View Post
Ed, what's the power requirements for a mini?

I just love the thought of what these little devices can do. Wish we had them 10 years ago, would've made some of my projects a lot easier!
The original Mini run on 19v supplies at around 5a max but they are easy to run on all sorts of small inverters and small supplies and there are Car PC supplies for them too.

The newer and current Mini runs on 12v right out of the box(sort of) and are a lot more powerful but with a lower draw too.

I am more interested in them on shore power really and when boon docking I rarely watch movies anyway but I also carry a Mac portable everywhere too if I need a real low power device.
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Old 05-24-2013, 06:06 PM   #15
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KevinPete, have you checked out the Samsung SE-218BB? It's advertised to function with on the android platform. I'd be curious to see if it works with the CuBox... if so that might be a great answer for you. I haven't found someone that's tried it yet, though (at least in my exhaustive, 10 seconds of googling) but it looks really sexy and @ 30 bucks is not too bad.

Carol, it seems you're well set up for reading with the mini, but if you ever want to add another reader to your collection, the nooks and kindles and generics that use the e-ink rather than LCD use so little power it borders ridiculous. I loved using my Nook with the e-ink (the old, outdated model, before they turned into tablets) very little eyestrain, and the battery lasted weeks.

I have to say though, apple buys seriously high quality LCD's and the ipads do look so gorgeous. Apple doesn't suit my particular needs, but I can certainly appreciate how beautiful they are.
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Old 05-24-2013, 06:07 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carol H View Post
got it free using an air miles loyalty points
Don't you love those miles? I've gotten an ipod dock, my son got his Wii, and my wife has gotten 2 GPS receivers for the car. Those were miles from Delta or United that we had to use up, we usually only fly ANA, and use our miles there for upgrades and hotels in Tokyo.

Thanks, Ed. My handheld radios need 18v AC to charge, so I'm still stuck with a small inverter for now.

If you're a bit savvy, and too skint to buy an ipad, we got a Nook tablet a while back and rooted it to run on the base Android install. There are some limitations, but for a sub-$200 tablet, you can't be picky!

I do all my reading on a Nook Touch now, also rooted so I have other reader apps installed. Only thing it doesn't do well is display PDF's, like manuals and such that have a lot of images, text is fine. I like the black and white screen for text, I don't like reading on a backlit screen for long periods . With a memory card, I have all 4,000 or so e-books loaded up and ready. Best thing is the battery life, without wireless turned on, it will go 3 weeks or more between charges.
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Old 05-24-2013, 06:17 PM   #17
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Mike, I hadn't seen that one before, nice that it's bus-powered, not sure if the CuBox would have the current on the USB to handle it, but for $30 on Amazon I'd try it. I have several external DVD burners, they're a little large, but only need 12v and 5v, plus the one has pass-through USB and Firewire, so it also acts as a powered hub. Some devices get picky going through it, though.

I don't think the Nook is crappy! I'd like a Kindle Paperwhite, but don't think I could root it. I didn't think I'd like the ones with the light, but now I think I'd use it alot. I read a LOT on vacations, sometimes close to 2,000 pages a day, so bringing paper books is out of the question. More and more libraries are loaning e-books, and the best part is you don't need to go to the library to get them! Also check out ereaderlove.com, she lists all the current free books on Amazon, large variety, some do stink but I can usually find 1 or 2 a day that I'd like to read.
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Old 05-24-2013, 06:28 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Bootsand View Post
Carol, it seems you're well set up for reading with the mini, but if you ever want to add another reader to your collection, the nooks and kindles and generics that use the e-ink rather than LCD use so little power it borders ridiculous. I loved using my Nook with the e-ink (the old, outdated model, before they turned into tablets) very little eyestrain, and the battery lasted weeks.
I actually was about to buy a new ereader but that was before the ipad mini landed on my door step. Have to say I am very pleased with how well the mini does work as an e-reader using the Kindle app. We tested it around the campfire last week-end up against a newer Kindle and it was pretty darn close in readability. Its much clearer than the 2 gen Ipad that we have thats for sure - that I would not use as an ereader.
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Old 05-24-2013, 06:36 PM   #19
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Thanks, Ed. My handheld radios need 18v AC to charge, so I'm still stuck with a small inverter for now.

If you're a bit savvy, and too skint to buy an ipad, we got a Nook tablet a while back and rooted it to run on the base Android install. There are some limitations, but for a sub-$200 tablet, you can't be picky!
Which Radios? Most are 12vdc that I have?

I Design/Build A/V and Automation systems and my most high end system is a Mac Mini based design.
I use Ipads and iPhones for controls both In-Wall and free standing.
So the Apple ecosystem is one I am invested in pretty heavily.

Also unlike the others a Mac will run almost any OS you need to and somehow will run Windows better than a PC?

Go figure?
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Old 05-24-2013, 07:24 PM   #20
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Which Radios? Most are 12vdc that I have?
Ed, they're Quansheng TG-UV2's (I think). I bought one two years ago on a whim for $90. 200-channel, VHF/UHF, water-resistant, lithium batteries, and most importantly for me, Part 90 TA. After I abused one for a year without problems, I went and bought 3 more last summer. They have their quirks, for sure; one of those being that there is no DC charger available for them, only a 12v "battery replacer" with the cord and plug permanently attached. Also, the desk chargers make a TV-like whine when first charging, which can be annoying if you still have hearing in those frequencies. The batteries last almost a full week of monitoring and transmitting a few times a day. I bought spare batteries for all of them, never needed them yet, but they were only $10 each.
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