Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Quick Visit

We had a quick visit to the boat on Saturday last, as part of a general tour! On Friday, Mike had a meeting at Winchester but Christine was especially keen to visit Andrew and to stay in his new house at Devizes. On Saturday we had been booked on grandparent duties, although in the event we only had to look after Alice for the day whilst Joanna went on an OU conference in London.

This gave us the excuse firstly to 'go shopping' - which Alice enjoys - and then to visit the boat. In Maplin we acquired a GPS receiver for the laptop (alas, we subsequently discovered that the laptop does not have the bluetooth connection which we understood it to have when we bought it last year, but that is easily remedied we hope. At least we were able to check out its operation on Andrew's newer laptop). However, the salesman put us off buying the camping sattellite dish so that matter is still under investigation.

At Lower Heyford we had a most enjoyable lunch in Kizzie's - Alice on best form - before inspecting the work so far done on the lighting. We spent some time comparing different LED bulbs - as well as putting back the curtians which we had taken away at the end of the last trip for cleaning.

The lighting remains unclear (!): for the bedrooms, the LEDs should provide sufficient light but in the main cabin something else will be required. The background is that we were having considcerable difficulties with the cabin services power supply with the batteries losing power before an evening was out. Even the radio ran out of steam(!) David Dare's analysis, confirmed by investigations, is that the batteries are being charged OK and will retain their voltage when everything known is turned off (ie there is no unknown drain on the battery) However, the total wattage of the lights. combined with the stand-by and other items, such as the fridge, is excessive and probably beyond the capacity of the batteries to sustain over a long winter evening. We have thus turned to seeking more efficient lighting solutions as they ceiling halogen spots (at least nine in the main cabin) are the worst offenders.

We have ordered a battery remote monitoring system to be fitted as this should give us a better means of working out just what is going on, but meanwhile we will need to make some interim decisions about lights.

In addition, we discovered last trip that the heat from the halogens had caused their supply wiring and connectors to deteriorate to a dnagerous state (at least we looked at three, all the same) The boatyard have established that the same is true throughout so work will have to be done to rectify that problem)

We continue to work on an improved IT solution. Trevanion House is about to experiment with mobile broadband and we will do likewise if that works out OK. The aim is to have:

* GPS receiver attached via bluetooth to laptop to integrate with our own software

* IPAQ PDA for use whilst steering etc to record log info (times and locations etc)

* Wireless access point to connect IPAQ to PC

* PC with mobile broadband for better access to email and also allow on-board look up of Waterscape, Google Maps/Earth etc, without having to wait for a pub with wi-fi)

Last year we used the IPAQ (one was lost in the breakin and the other refuses to display on screen but we bought another second hand on Ebay for £41 plus postage) but only had a very simple logging system, based on sync'ing files between PC and Ipaq - text files with the times manually typed in on the Ipaq. The obstacle to doing something even a little better has been that the Windows Mobile Excel and Word only have a function to insert the date and not the time (as in the full PC versions) Writing a small application for the Ipaq is stymied by the fact that Visual Studio Express no longer supports Mobile development - and we are too mean to shell out for a full version of VS!

A possible line of development - which so far has fallen down with limited skills on setting up the appropriate network comms and web site management - might be to provide a web interface to the PC and its canal database and GPS feed. All the separate ideas are in place but the most difficult bit is to link them all together at the same time!

Still, if it all ever works it should make life just that bit more interesting.