Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ferment Your Brew Keeping the Carbonation

Yep, this is about brewing and fermenting again. I have not written about this topic often, but I believe it is worth sharing a quick tip for guys who make their own beer (and other carbonated alcoholic drinks).

Today, it is all about keeping the carbon dioxide in your brew (the easy way).

My present technique is to brew my mash, let it chill down to about 24 degrees centigrade and infect it with the yeast of my choice. 4 to 6 days later, I should have my young beer. So for, so traditional, you know all about this!

The next steps from here could be either filling the young beer into bottles (glass of what have you) and add some sugar or in a keg (adding carbon dioxide from a bottle).
The cheap chap that I am, I can't be bothered with a keg and all the fuzz with bottles of CO2, regulators and stuff. Too much going on here.
I also hate to clean, prime, fill and cap 50 to 100 bottles when the primary fermentation is done.

So, this is what I came up with.
I am filling (after cleaning and priming) decently sized PVC soda containers with my young beer. Of course, a soda container will never withstand the full pressure of beer in a secondary carbonizing fermentation. Here, today's tip comes in: Pat Mack's Home Brewing Caps.
If you can ferment your brew using those caps and soda bottles in primary, secondary should not big of a deal at all.

So, rather than getting a 20 liters keg for €200 (not including the CO2-system), I use 10 of those caps on 10 pcs 2 liter bottles of soda (bought at the right super-market, are costing next to nothing).

Given advantage: when the beer in the specially capped soda bottled is matured, you can cool and open a bottle at random times, not having to care much about the remainders of the batch, contrary to an entire batch filled into a single 20 liters container.

Cheers, 17!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Surprised by Win10

Yep, this is about Windows!

In my living room, hooked up to my TV, I am running a EeeBox-PC, one that came with Windows7 and 2GB of RAM. The thing was not ideal, but it was ok, running Win7, for displaying Youtube at 360p. And this is what that particular unit was used for.

Some month ago, I got this little tray icon, indicating that I would get Win10. "Why not?" crossed my mind.

Tonight, I finally got Win10 installed on the box, early, I figure. The upgrade was pretty smooth, nothing to report.

The Win10 OS seems to handle OK. Sure, I still got to figure out this and that... However, now, under Win10, the small Atom-based PC shows Youtube at 720p w/o any problems. That alone was worth the (free) upgrade to me.

Just a first time experience. Could be that some updates will spoil the fun... that is was I experienced before with Microsoft products. Fingers crossed that Win10 wont be overloaded in time, ending up as a sluggish OS once again.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Slow Progress on the Van

Haven't done much, lately.
Did some driving to figure out the Diesel consumption. Seems around 7 l per 100 km. Not too bad, could be better though.

The blind-out curtains came as a pair. In a previous post, you have seen installation of one of such curtains on a shower curtain rod. Light suppression was OK and so was sound suppression during driving.
I figured, double that can't be bad. So, I installed the second curtain back to back with the first one. Doing that not only doubles the thickness, it also adds a few centimeters to the total width. The plan is now to pin down the edges of the curtains to the vehicle by means of magnets.

Also, rerouting of the LED chains was overdue. So, I did that, nothing particularly interesting to report here.

All in all, nothing worth taking a picture of though.

And yes there is more, I did buy a "battery combiner". My choice went to a Victron Cyrix-ct 120A relay. This thing, usually used in yachts. It is good for combining a service battery with the starter battery and can be used in either 12V or 24V systems equally. This particular unit does not require the alternator signal. The unit measure the voltage on the start battery terminal, if said voltage is above 13V (or 26V respectively), it switches through to the service battery.
The next steps will be to shop for a deep cycle battery and to build a mount and panel for it.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bluetooth Finally!

It has been a pain in the neck, but finally, I figured out how to pair my mobile phones with the Kenwood radio and Bluetooth gear that came with the van. In terms of communications, at least the cell phone issue is fixed.
I still have to decide if I want to install a VHF radio already in my possession, or if I should go for a digital hybrid. Further more, there is the option of a really cheap Chinese VHF/UHF radio, that covers everything analog.
Also, I am still struggling if I should keep the vehicle as is, or if I should turn it into an officially recognized camper.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Black Out Curtain Installed

Finally, I got the black out curtain installed.
Luckily, the curtain's width matches nearly the vehicles inter width.
To fix the curtain, I used a shower curtain rod. Since the inner of the vehicle slightly wedges, I had to come up with something keeping the rod from falling down. My solution: hooks made from a steel coat hanger.
right side hook

left side hook, with curtain

the curtain installed ... not pretty, but get's the job done

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Reversing Distance Sensors

The previous photos clearly show one feature of the Vito van: no windows in the cargo part of the van. Well, yes, that's what I opted for in the first place. However, reversing is somewhat slow and one need to be extremely careful. The previous owner managed to get a severe dent in the right rear door.
Actually, even changing lanes also needs extra attention, but that's another topic all together.

Reverse parallel parking in front of my house is relatively easy, since I got a nice maple tree in my front yard, which is a perfect visual beacon when looking through the mirrors whilst reversing.
However, some more info would be such a good thing.

Hence, I decided to order an aftermarket distance sensor system. Initially I thought about a camera, however, there seem to be limitation to those cameras. So, a sensor system it is!

After having looked at tons of reviews, I decided go order a relatively simple one from conrad electronics:  Parking aid (corded) Rear acoustic, visual CE

The scariest bit was to drill the holes in the rear bumper. I wanted to remove for doing said task, however, I was unable to loosen the screws, hence, I did it blindly. And yes, I could have oped for marking everything properly and stuff... but that's not me. Holes are in, so so, but who cares?

The hardest thing turned out to find a route for the sensor cable to the inside of the vehicle. For now those cables are just routed from under the rear bumper, over the same and through the left rear door. 
I figure, I will just created a passage through the rear bumper as to better hide the cables. Never the less, those cable will be are routed between the rear door and the door frame.

Photographs will follow! So, stay tuned!

The pictures I promised. The solution is not pretty, as stated above, but, it get's the job done!
the 4 sensors - the dent in the right door was achieved by a previous owner

cable routing - small hole in the bumper, right at the red electricians tape is

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ventilation of the Van

Ventilation is a big issue, I figure, in particular when you're sleeping in your van.
Many options crossed my mind, most of which would deprive the van of its stealthiness. Finally, I decided to go for so called "draft deflectors". Personally, I never liked those devices, since I think they look like a heavy smoker sits in the respective vehicle.
Anyway, those devices not only deflect draft when driving, they also keep out rain when a window is slightly opened. The draft deflectors look unsuspicious too.
So, I decided to buy a pair of draft deflectors. My garage gave me the advice that it would be best to spent 10 more bucks and get the manufacturer's real deal. Trusting my garage, that was exactly what I did.
€70 later, I got a set of draft deflectors. The installation instructions where not all that good and left a lot of guess-work open. Finally, I was able to install the devices.
Reading the instructions already made me fear the worst about closing the windows after installation of the the draft deflectors. The manual advices to "slowly close" the windows. With electric windows, slowly is what the motors figure to be slow... and up 'n down those windows went.
Finally, I decided to rub down the mating parts with petroleum jelly. Several attempts could finally close the windows... I figure that was "slow".

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Quick Tip: LED Lighting

Usually vans got lighting in the back cabin, which is operated from the starter battery. Mine was equipped with a 12V 10W incandescent festoon bulb. 10W at 12V means that there is a current of almost 1A (0.83A) going through the light. Although this is acceptable for sort time use, in my book such an energy consumption is somewhat high for longer evenings.

Modern days know LED lighting, which is about 90% more efficient than incandescent lighting. However, the electronics of some LED light sources cannot cope with varying power, have the light source failing.
There are also some cleverly designed electronics which are tolerant to voltages between 8 and 30V.
The local marine equipment store offers products of the Swedish make B├ątsystem.
My light source of choice was the 94Spool1. Power rating for this source 0.7W (0.66W according to the packaging), resulting in a current of 0.058A (0.055A). Such a low current encourages of using the van's lighting all night long.
The only "problem" with this particular light source is, that it's got only one side that emits light, so orientating the source correctly during installation is important.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Update on the Solar Lighting

Yesterday I posted the quick-tip about using solar charged garden lights for nighttime illumination inside the van.
It seems I got lucky again by the choice of van I made. My Vito got those little tiny triangular window which as windows to look through are entirely useless. Most of the view is blocked by the dashboard anyway...

tiny window
And then it struck me! Windows let in light. If the solar collector is small enough, there actually might be a good use for those tiny windows. Solarvets are pretty small, guess what? The 12 LED version fit just perfectly!
Solarvet sitting in the side window
The trick now is to get the wires into the living area of the van. Since the cable is so thin, it can be squeezed underneath the door's grommet easily.
Wiring through the door's grommet
Next issue to consider, those light only switch on in darkness. Of course, one could imagine to modify the electronics, but for me, that's too much of an effort. On the right hand side of the dash, there is a compartment... so, the solar/battery unit can be just put in there, up-side down.
Lights on position in the right dash compartment
Now to the LED part of the story. To keep things simple, I just wound the LED-chain about the vehicles internal skeleton. Nothing fancy yet, but it get's the job done.
LEDs all shining
I figure, it could be a good idea to add a switch to the cable, somewhere in the living area. We will see...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Alternative Bedding

By now, you may have figured out that my van will be used by one person only: me!
However, I also wanted to cover information I gathered along my path, which allows for a 2 person (stealth) camper-van on the cheap, using IKEA products (read: done work).

In the very first entry on this blog, I explained the requirements for a vehicle to be considered a camper by the Dutch authorities. While considering the possibility of RV certification, I actually do observe options which would actually allow for just that.

To be compliant in IKEA terms, one would need to add a SOLSTA sofa between the back wheel arches. This option will add the required 2 permanently installed seats and the bed dimension.

There is, however, yet another option to fulfill the requirement of The Netherland: the EXARBY. It seems, a similar product is called BALKARP. There also is a slightly larger type called BEDDINGE.
All of which are 2 person beds, which can fold to a 3 person sofa, thereby fulfilling the criteria of the Dutch authorities for a "campeer auto" (camper van).
Due to the nature of those beds, they all have to be elevated above the wheel arches with enough space to actually form the bed.

As you are already aware of, I am not going down that lane (yet).

Charge Your Battery on Solar Power

Right, this is a non-IKEA tip! Actually, the store (kijkshop) is something really Dutch. I figure, similar products are available around the globe.
I purchased this product many years ago, with an entirely different scope in mind. However, today, it comes handy when backing up the batteries in my van.
And here it is:
Once I installed the second, i.e. house, battery, the solar thing will charge it up... at its own pace.

Reducing Noise by a Rug

Another quick tip...
Carpets could be expensive at times. Again, IKEA is to the help. This time, I picked up a rug called HULSIG, which is very inexpensive. The rug fits the living space of my Vito just fine, nicely fitting between the wheel-wells and D-rings which strap down my furniture.
Big thumbs-up for IKEA!

Almost free (solar) Lighting

Here's a quick-tip for you:
IKEA offers some solar powered LED garden lights, called SOLARVET. All things considered, those are really inexpensive (even less expensive in Europe, it seems).
I will use those behind the windscreen, inside the van. This way, I can blind the solar cells, forcing the thing to illuminate. Also, I will insert a switch between the main unit and the LEDs, thereby adding control over the illumination provided by the LEDs.
For larger vehicles, there is a 24 LED version of SOLARVET available.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Phase 1 (nearly) completed

Previously, I mentioned the criteria of registering an RV in the Netherlands. Said process will reduce the taxes to be payed for the vehicle. However, the requirements of said conversion do not actually fit my needs, in particular the thing about the extended hight. Also, presently, I am traveling alone, so what the point of adding another seat in the living space, not even mentioning beds for at least 2 persons. At the end, it all did not make any sense to me, so, I decided to not got for the RV certification.

So, what did I go for? At first, I want to show the the actual vehicle, sitting on my front yard.

MB Vito - short version

In its original condition... internally:

the living area
some of the anchor points to use for tying down furniture (see below)

from the cab

through the back doors

Going on a trip requires some basic storage, independently of if one sleeps inside the vehicle or in a tent outside. Of course, you wish to keep your stuff in one place, in particular when hitting a curve ;-) My choice was to go for a side table having storage. In IKEA terms, that is a "Hol".
And here it is installed in the van:

the Hol, a side table with storage

strapped down, the case itself, the lid too independently

With this particular piece of furniture, I thought it was easiest to just tie it down, of course with IKEA gear Frakta.

The in-van bed, the next important thing to have. This way, I will be able to sleep where ever I park my van. When traveling on highways, those truck-stops are a pretty good choice. Of course you would not set a tent up there...
So, here is my solution: the IKEA "Fliken" futon (out of production).
Strapped down in my van:
Fliken, the "bed" position

Fliken, the "bed" position

Fliken, the "sit-up" position

Fliken, the "sit-up" position

Fliken, the "lounge chair" position, strapped down for traveling

Fliken, the "lounge chair" position, strapped down

with the futon (sun bleached cover)

with futon

Fliken is discontinued, hence, I figure that Lycksele could be a replacement for a one person sleaper.

Concerning mounting, again, the means of my choice comes from IKEA: ratchet Frakta. I figure those could be used on Lycksele equally.

Phase 1 of the camper conversions concludes with the installation of a black-out curtain between the cab and the living area. My choice of IKEA product is Werna.
I am not sure about the way of mounting the curtain(s) yet.
Here is a first test:

experimental fix

cab side view

With the black-out curtain issue solved, I consider phase 1 of the conversion completed.

For additional comfort, in particular when being on the road, phase 2 will be concerned with sound proofing of the vehicle.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Start - Initial Thoughts and Decisions

It has been a while that I have been thinking of building my very own camper van. In a way, building camper vans is in my family. My late father did it, decades ago, from scratch. Every single cabinet he built himself.
Now that I am older than my father ever became, it is my turn to take the plunge.

My dad built the van for 3 people, my mother, himself and me. This was clearly reflected in the size of the vehicle he used as a basis ... sorry, I can't recall what the vehicle was precisely, it was big however.

The van I am planning is for one person only, me that is. Although, this is not entirely true; in order to be accepted as an RV in The Netherlands, the vehicle has to be built for 2 persons.

This first post of my newest blog will deal with the requirements for a van being accepted as  RV by the Dutch authorities.

Minimum requirements

Interior installations:
  • 2 fixedly installed seats
  • a table, which may be easily removable
  • sleeping place for 2 persons:
    • 1 double bed 180cm x 110cm
    • 2 individual beds 180cm x 60cm each
  • closable (lockable?) storage
  • a kitchen-block at least 60cm tall having
    • a prep area
    • a kitchen-sink
    • built-in water supply
    • a faucet
    • a drain
    • a built-in cooker
  • all of the above have to be reachable and usable in a "normal" manner (what ever that means!)

  • the above mentioned installation must in a vehicle of 170cm inter height or
  • if the vehicle make has got an internal height of 130cm (or more) only, a pop-up roof reaching 170cm height having a width of at least 90cm and a length of at least 100cm

Personal Preferences
This is about my very own personal choices.

The RV shall
  • look like a builder's van
  • have a good fuel economy
  • easy to manoever
  • allow for accessing the cabin from the living space
  • have minimum dimensions
  • have regular back doors.
Consequently I was looking for a 2-seater white van having no bulkhead and no windows in the back.
After searching for a while, I found the vehicle that ticked all boxes:
  • Merc Vito 109 CDI (639) compact with portal back doors
Pictures will follow!

Next Steps
  1. insulate the van (acoustically and thermally)
  2. insert the 2 required seats / bed
  3. build and install the required storage
  4. arrange some sort of table
  5. build and install the required kitchen block
  6. have the pop-up roof installed (by some experts)
  7. register as RV

The Plan
What my dad did was admirable. However, I think I am not given that patience and perseverance that my dad had. So, my decision was to look out for "work done", i.e. using modified readily available products.
So, what is better than using the "nearly completed" items provided by IKEA?

Welcome to my new blog "The IKEA Camper"!

Monday, March 16, 2015

HP ProBook 4540S upgrade

It has been a while since I was doing some computer related work. Just today, the CPU which I ordered form my ProBook 4540S dropped in.

I bought the ProBook some years ago. It was equipped with an Intel Core i3 Sandy Bridge (HD3000), 4GB of RAM and a 320GB HDD.

It did not take long and I replace the HDD with a 1TB WD Black drive.

Some time ago, I upgraded to OS to OS-X 10.10 Yosemite. I did actually not write about this upgrade. It went very smoothly using clover as boot-manager. I can only recommend that route!
This upgrade got me to using the ProBook more often, so, I decided to add another 4GB of RAM.

Lately, I was using RawTherapee and the GIMP a lot. Image processing is really demanding on CPU-power, so, I finally decided to give the ProBook a real upgrade: a new CPU!
My choice fell onto an Intel Core i7-3612QM.

The Core i7-3612QM belongs to the Ivy Bridge generation of Intel CPUs, the most power efficient generation. It seems that the Ivy Bridge i7 has got the same power ratings as the Sandy Bridge i3.
For reason of the observation, that the battery seems to drain quicker, I am not sure about this. However, it also needs to be said that the laptop seems to stay much cooler, with no additional fan activity.

Beyond thermal and power considerations, the Ivy Bridge HD4000, contrary to Sandy Bridge, is genuinely supported by modern versions of OS-X.

All in all, quite some money went into the upgrades. Still I believe that my ProBook was a lot cheaper than a comparable MacBook Pro.