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Old 06-20-2010, 08:57 PM   #221
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Witness the power of this fully operational death star, err, I mean Bunk Beds…

Yes, the bunk beds are complete. It took about 3 weeks of evenings and weekends, which is amazing because it is such a simple design. Then again, much of that time was spent waiting for paint to dry. I painted all the pieces outside the truck on racks, one coat of primer, two finish coats of white semigloss latex, two sides, it all adds up. That and there are lots more pieces to bunk beds than you might think.

As always, I have uploaded pictures under keyword “Stealth”. You can see the bunk beds as they appear from inside the truck looking forward. It’s pretty basic except that the two holes in the upper right of each sleeping bay are for small exhaust fans. I decided to move the entertainment electronics to the foot of the bed where they can be closer to the TV. Since those things can generate significant heat, especially the PS3, I added an exhaust fan to eject the heat at the source and try and keep the rest of the bunk more comfortable.

From inside you can see the head of the bed with the sliding headboard. It sits in an aluminum channel, 1/2” inside dimension. It is angled back 30 degrees from vertical and the top of the headboard leans against the wall. The idea is that you can throw a pillow up against the headboard and recline for TV viewing or game play. You can slide the headboard to either side for access to the storage behind for things you might normally put on a night stand like an alarm clock. You can also lift the headboard out and set it aside for full access. It doesn’t fully close the space like you could with two sliding doors running in parallel channels. It just closes most of the space, with sliding access to either side.

At the foot of the bed you can see another 5” space beyond the wall that traps the end of the mattress. This allows room for the PS3, VCR, or whatever, and the TV will be mounted on the wall up near the ceiling. The extra room will also reduce the chance of accidentally kicking the TV (I hope).

Yes, it’s a pain to make the bed and I am still experimenting with better ways to do it. I need to go buy some new bedding as the blankets I have are all for larger beds (queen or larger) and there is no hang down space for extra bedding as you would have for a free standing bed.

It’s a bit short on headroom for just sitting in there, but you can recline with pillows on the headboard comfortably, and of course sleeping is fine. It’s all designed around a standard “twin” mattress (39” x 75”). The mattress length is fine for me, but I imagine anyone over about 5’10” tall would want a longer mattress.

I ended up using 19/32” plywood throughout. My original plan was to use ¾” ply, but it is considerably more expensive (and heavy) and I don’t think the strength is needed. The bunk beds are just a big self reinforcing box and fully integrated into the existing wall, ceiling, and floor structure, so it couldn’t be much more rigid. In straight compression, even ¼” plywood would probably be strong enough, but that would look really odd.

It’s pretty much all put together with aluminum L channel and sheet metal screws through the plywood. I used lots and lots of screws, one every 4” or so on average, resulting in lots of surface area to distribute the load. The bed rails along the unsupported span between the two partial walls are 2” by 1/8” steel L channel so they are plenty strong. The partial wall panels are mounted to the floor, walls, and ceiling with 6 each of the 2” by 1/8” aluminum L brackets I made. They are a bit industrial, but are nicely painted and will be largely hidden once the closets are built.

The bed base panels are made of 4 separate pieces to simplify installation, and also to ease access to the floor safe under the bottom bunk. It’s one thing to lift up one 2 foot panel and the mattress to get to the safe. It would be much harder to lift the entire bottom bunk. I ended up needing to leave a small gap between the base panels, otherwise they rub against one another as you shift around in bed and creak like crazy.

Mattresses turned out to be more of a challenge than I expected. It turns out that there is no standard thickness for mattresses and they can vary from just a few inches all the way to over a foot thick. All I wanted was a simple foam mattress about 5 ½: thick, or in other words, the same as what I already have in my guest bedroom. It seems simple foam mattresses aren’t that popular anymore. Everyone wants to make something fancy, and thick, with metal springs and possibly a layer of memory foam on top. I don’t want all that thickness, and I am perfectly happy with the simple foam mattress I have had for years. I slept on it myself for many years and after 20 years it is still perfectly fine. I really don’t see why people claim that foam mattresses don’t last. It sounds like a vast mattress conspiracy to me ;-)

As I was building the bed my mattress space got compressed to 38 ½” (not 39) due to some interference issues with the TV antenna. (Poor planning on my part.) As a result I was happy to see that Truck Matresses come in many sizes including 38” by 75”. I figured the slightly narrower mattress would allow a little more room for bedding. I ordered one from…

http://www.mattressinsider.com/truck-mattresses.html

for what I thought was a reasonable price of $189. The mattress came rolled up tightly with a plastic outer wrap but expanded to full size when opened. Somewhat to my surprise it measures 38” wide but about 78” long. (It was supposed to be 75”). It jams into my 75” opening OK but is a little tight. Then again, it helps to hold the bedding in place, so perhaps it’s not a bad thing.

Upon further research I also found

http://www.comforthouse.com/innerspace1.html

and they have a twin mattress that is 38” x 75” and 5.5” thick for $159 which is, theoretically at least, exactly what I wanted. I have ordered one of those as well. I will have to tell you which I like best after they both get some serious sack time. Thus far my 20 year old foam mattress is still my favorite (softer), but I am trying to keep an open mind. I consider the bed to be very important as I expect to spend a third of my life (or more) in there.

The next step is the closets. They are nothing fancy, just a clothes rod and some shelves, but they are next in the sequence moving from the front to the back of the truck. Then comes the fridge, kitchen sink, and toilet. Those are all along the right wall. At that point, assuming I install the microwave, I will have met all the requirements for a “California House Car”. Then I can try and get it re-registered and insured as an RV, instead of as a commercial truck, even while I finish out the computer nook, range, desk, and boot-coat area on the left side.

To be continued….
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Old 06-21-2010, 05:56 AM   #222
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www.foambymail.com will custom size foam mattresses. that's where I got mine and they are surprisingly comfortable.

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Old 07-04-2010, 11:06 AM   #223
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Slowly I built, step by step, inch by inch….Niagara Falls!

No, I haven’t given up. It’s been 3 weeks of steady work, evenings and weekends, to build two closets. It just takes a lot more time than you might think owing to the fact that there are lots of pieces, shelves, doors, etc. to be made and painted before they can be installed, caulked, and painted again. I suppose it would be faster to buy prefabricated cabinets, and to some they might even look better, but I don’t know how you would ever make really efficient use of the space. There is so little space in the Stealth Camper (or any RV) to begin with, it would seem a shame to waste any of it.

I have uploaded pictures under keyword “Stealth” (as always). It’s nothing special to look at. They are just closets after all. You can clearly see my “tailgate” door design and how it gives maximum access with minimum “swing out”. You can also see how it eliminates the need for door handles.

There are no doors on the closets themselves. They just seem unnecessary to me. You can see how the empty space under the bar for hanging shirts and pants is partitioned with lots of shelves. You can also see how every shelf has a generous lip to keep things where they belong. I may ultimately need to augment this with a bungee or similar solution. We will have to see how it works in actual use. Eventually all the shelves will be lined with that soft waffle rubber mat to further reduce the impact damage.

You may note that even the floor is a useful “shelf”. The right side closet (not shown) has a toe kick board that acts to keep things on the “floor shelf” back where they belong. The left side has no such feature as I need free access to the makeup air inlet and the louvers that control airflow.

The top shelf above the clothes rod on the left side had to be notched out to allow access to the crank handle for raising and lowering the TV antenna. Note that when the shelf door is closed it is pretty much hidden from view.

The next step is a simple single shelf cabinet to hold the refrigerator. This one should go a bit more quickly, as there are fewer parts. The only concern is that the Sunfrost RF-12 is heavy so I need to make the cabinet that holds it plenty strong. I am considering the addition of a small 12V fan to make this already very efficient refrigerator even more efficient. It’s not something I need to work on right away though. I can always retrofit it later.

Meanwhile my 2nd mattress arrived. It fits the bunk beds fine, though a little snug on width and a tad short on length. I don’t know how all this will work out in terms of ease of making the beds. I will need to live with for a while and report later. In the mean time, it is even firmer than the other foam mattress I bought. I am not sure if I like that…

To be continued….
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Old 07-11-2010, 08:58 PM   #224
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Refrigerator Cabinet

It only took about a week to complete the refrigerator cabinet, mostly waiting for paint to dry. The refrigerator bay is probably the simplest bay in the truck with the possible exception of the coat hangar – mudroom nook right next to the entry door. It only has one shelf which holds the refrigerator about 16” off the ground. I added some 1.5” x 1.5” vertical braces below the shelf to help carry the weight down into the floor. The vertical cabinet walls are 5/8” plywood like everywhere else in the truck. The shelf is 5/8” plywood as well.

The Sunfrost RF-12 weighs about 200lb so it is anything but light. I expect the 5/8” plywood shelf would sag under the weight except that it will be screwed directly to the bottom of the refrigerator.

I called Sunfrost and they informed me that the bottom of the fridge is made from ½” plywood. As it comes from the factory it has legs made from 1 ½” by 3 ½” by 1” tall particle board. The legs are screwed and glued to the bottom of the refrigerator. They are actually pretty strong and would be fine for a normal stationary installation, but I don’t need them for what I am doing. I considered making brackets that bolted to the legs but the guy from Sunfrost suggested that I just chisel them off and screw directly into the plywood on the bottom of the fridge. I like that idea because it is simple, stronger than brackets bolted to particle board, and saves an inch of vertical space for more storage.

I realize that screws into the ½” plywood bottom of the fridge won’t have a lot of pull out strength, but if I use about 10 of them they should be fine. Normally those screws won’t have any stress on them to speak of as gravity will be pushing the fridge down onto the shelf. The weight of the fridge will try to bow the shelf down away from the bottom of the fridge in the center, so the screws will have to help hold the shelf up in the center, but that won’t take much force, especially given the short lever arm where the edge of the fridge is only ¼” away from the supporting wall where the shelf mounts.

When I hit a big bump the dynamic load of the fridge pushing down into the floor could be up to 1,000 pounds or more. That’s why I added the 1 1/2” square vertical braces under the shelf, where they can help support the plywood cabinet walls. I anticipated this extra load and replaced the ½ R-Max foam insulation under the ½” plywood flooring with ½” plywood, so it is solid wood or plywood all the way down to the 1.5” thick wooden floor boards.

Immediately after the bump, the fridge and everything else in the back of the truck could go zero G before crashing back down. That means I also need to hold the fridge down, but only a few pounds of force will be needed in that direction. The screws up through the shelf into the bottom of the fridge should suffice for that. Then the shelf itself will be tied into the 5/8” plywood cabinet walls with 5 each of my 1/8” thick aluminum L brackets. Each of those has 2 each #10 screws into the plywood cabinet walls, and another 2 each screws into the bottom of the shelf and all the way up through the shelf into the bottom of the fridge. All that should hold the shelf and the fridge down. Since the cabinet walls go from floor to ceiling, are wedged tightly in between, and are screwed to the inner plywood floor, walls, and ceiling with 6 more of those aluminum brackets per cabinet wall, the whole thing should be pretty solid.

On top of all that, the fridge comes with a couple of heavy steel brackets that are intended to be screwed into the back wall for earthquake safety. I will screw those into my ½” plywood wall so the fridge will be held solidly both top and bottom.

Compared to the vertical loads, the side loads from acceleration and breaking should be pretty minor. If I ever put the truck on its side all bets are off though. The whole structure in there is pretty solid, but not that solid. I doubt there would be much to do after a rollover accident other than set fire to the whole thing…

You may note that there is nothing shock mounted here. I am depending on the truck suspension to smooth out the bumps. I am also depending on the structure of the fridge itself to take the pounding. It seems to be a heavy plywood box so I am thinking it is pretty strong. Most of the components within the walls are fully surrounded by insulating foam, so the stresses are well distributed. The compressor and radiator cooling are wide open on top and well mounted. The doors are well supported with heavy full length piano hinges, so I think it will take whatever reasonable abuse I might give it.

The one thing that worries me is the internal shelves. They are nice looking glass shelves and they mount on rather flimsy looking plastic mounts that plug into holes in the walls. I assume that they are tempered glass and probably plenty strong for whatever static loads they might encounter, but I worry about something hard and heavy bouncing around inside the fridge. That and they are smooth glass, so of course things can easily slide around on them. They can also slide fore and aft on the shelf mounts, and could even fall off the shelf mounts and fall down inside the fridge. I split some model aeroplane silicone fuel tubing and pressed it onto the edges of the glass, and then wedged the shelves in place on the plastic brackets. At least they are now held snugly in place. I may have to replace them with some sort of wire shelves or possibly pad them with some of that rubber waffle mat that they use for shelf liners though.

The refrigerator doors are held firmly closed with magnetic latches. It takes a pretty good tug to open them. Even so, I am not sure that they will stay closed as I bounce down the road. I may have to add safety or travel catches of some sort, but that will have to come later.

The next step is to build the kitchen counter and sink bay. It is probably the most complex of all, so I expect it will be several weeks as I work through it. I still have a lot of little detailed design work to do. I will also be laminating my own Formica counter tops, making custom drawers, and installing the small amount of plumbing that this project involves.

To be continued….
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Old 07-22-2010, 06:42 PM   #225
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To sleep, perchance to dream…

As with every other part of the truck, when completed it gets tested, so I have been testing the bunk beds most every night for the last week or so.

I was getting a little cold just before dawn, so I invested in a 12V heated mattress pad for $89.95

http://cozywinters.com/shop/ew-rvhmp.html

So far it works great. I wanted the heat down towards the foot end of the bed but it isn’t quite long enough to cover the twin mattress from foot to head, and the head end has heavy input wires that run the width of the mattress pad. I didn’t want those wires running under my shoulders, so I flipped it and put the head end of the pad at the foot of the bed. Since there are no heating element wires in the last 4” of the pad on that end I attached the pad to the ribbing on the bottom side of the mattress. That way the pad wraps around the foot end of the mattress and the heavy wires are between the bed frame and the mattress, not under my feet. Turning the pad head to foot forced me to extend the wire between the controller and the pad with some lamp cord, but that was no problem. I can solder and I have shrink tubing. I also replaced the cigarette lighter style connector with an Anderson Power Pole connector to match the outlets in my truck.

The instructions warn that it must be pinned to the mattress so it can’t bunch up and overheat. They provide large safety pins (like the kind you would use for a cloth diaper). I pinned it to the heavy ribbing at the edges of the mattress, not directly to the thinner areas of the mattress cover. It stays nice and flat that way. I can’t feel the top edge of the pad under my shoulders, or any hint of the heating wires inside. It feels like any other mattress pad.

It doesn’t get super hot like some 110V AC units but it does get warm enough to do the job. I like the energy efficiency of producing heat under the covers where it can keep me warm without heating the whole truck. I also like not being buried under a heavy pile of blankets. If you want to get into a nice warm bed, you need to turn it on full blast 30 minutes early though. It only draws about 6A when running flat out so that’s only 72W.

The heated mattress pad comes with a thermostatic controller, which is to say it has a single knob like most simple electric blankets. It doesn’t regulate the temperature of the mattress pad but it does provide more heat to the pad when the controller is in a cold environment and less heat when the controller is warm. This is the standard mode of operation for most electric blankets. It all works fine, but there is no light or led to remind you that it is on (or off) and you can’t see the numbers in the dark. I haven’t found this to be a problem though. The knob has progressive tension as it is turned on and you can literally feel how far it is on. Also, it has a very broad range of adjustment so I have not had any difficulty finding a comfortable setting even in the dark.

After a couple of nights I decided that the foam mattress I bought was just too firm, so I picked up a piece of 1½” memory foam and slipped it under the heated mattress pad. I also added a regular mattress pad on top of that to help protect the heated mattress pad and keep it clean. Also the heated mattress pad doesn’t have a full fitted skirt to contain the memory foam but the regular mattress pad does. The memory foam seems to have solved my problem and it is now in a range that I can live with.

Making the bed is still a bit of a pain, but I am figuring it out. At this point I am just jamming the bedding in between the mattress and the bed frame, which mostly means between the mattress and the wall. It seems to stay pinned there nicely, so I only have to make the bed when changing the bedding. I don’t tend to mess up the bedding when I sleep, though I know some people do.

I did go out and buy a bunch more sheets and blankets. I figure I need at least 4 sets of bedding so I can have 2 on the bunk beds and 2 available to be washed. I haven’t bought a heated mattress pad for the top bunk yet.

For the moment, the Platinum Cat catalytic propane heater isn’t installed yet. The truck is very well insulated, and once the heater is installed I may not even need a heated mattress pad. I do like the idea of being able to turn everything off at night though, at least everything but the heated mattress pad.

It does get very dark inside the truck at night. I have no windows and the only light that comes in is through the fan vent cover. Fortunately I like it dark. Pitch black is fine by me. I get plenty of light in the morning to let me know that the sun is up, almost too much for napping during the day.

I have noticed that the refrigerator is a bit loud. It’s not the compressor. It hums away pretty much as you would expect. It seems to be the boiling of the liquid in the evaporator that is making all the noise. It has an on again off again quality every few seconds that is annoying. I may have to give the folks at Sunfrost a call and ask if this is normal. It’s nothing I can’t get used to, but it is unexpected. I don’t remember it being this loud when I tested the fridge after I first got it. Then again things tend to seem louder when it is otherwise very quiet.

To be continued….
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Old 08-13-2010, 07:52 PM   #226
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Now I have everything including the kitchen sink….

It has taken about 6 weeks, but the kitchen sink bay is now completed. As always, pictures are available under keyword “Stealth”.

It all went pretty much as planned, though everything always takes longer than I would like. The kitchen sink bay is the most complex bay in the truck. I made my life more difficult by designing it with an angled shape to maximize counter space. That required making drawers with angled front faces and some angled surfaces on the shelves and cabinets. It all went together fine, but getting everything to fit properly was a bit more difficult.

I did my own custom counter top out of ¾” plywood and Formica laminate. My original intent was to look into Corian or a similar material, but the home improvement stores refused to make it to my required dimensions unless they installed it themselves, and they refused to install it in an RV, so I had no choice. They probably saved me a bunch of money and I am happy with how the Formica came out, so it’s their loss.

The sink is a standard stainless steel model, 12” x 17” x 8” deep. It’s rather large for an RV, but I don’t consider the stealth camper an RV so much as a small home on wheels. It’s big enough to stick my whole head in to wash up and deep enough to keep the splash to a minimum. It had two holes for mounting the faucet, but I have no faucet in the conventional sense, so I installed two pump dispensers. One is for soap and the other will be filled with rubbing alcohol. The Fresh water “faucet” is actually a garden hose type “spray gun” with a spring loaded trigger handle. It feeds through 3/8” clear vinyl tubing and siphons water from the 5 gallon fresh water bucket mounted on a shelf near the ceiling. The pressure is low and the flow rate modest, but that is in keeping with using water very frugally. There is a 2nd 5 gallon bucket on the shelf right next to it so my total fresh water supply is 10 gallons. Both buckets have tight fitting lids and the one providing water to the “faucet” has an air inlet through a short length of 1/4” vinyl hose. All the connections are via plastic barbed T fittings through tight fitting holes in the lid. I used the T fittings to make a sharp 90 degree bend and plugged one side of the T with Goop. Hopefully water loss due to splashing in transit will be kept to a minimum.

My original intent was to have the sink drain directly into a 5 gallon bucket. I ended up using a combination of standard sink drain fittings and standard garden hose fittings to drain the water into an internal 5 gallon bucket, or dump it straight overboard near the right rear wheel. I realize that dumping water overboard might be unacceptable in some situations, but it is really no different than the grey water that is dumped on the ground when you wash your car. I used a standard garden hose screw on Y fitting with two ¼ turn ball valves to direct the flow. There is no need for a P trap as there is no sewer to make foul odors that have to be blocked from backing up the drain. There is also no need for a ceiling vent since there is no P-trap to gurgle while drawing air as the water runs out. The idea is to let everything drain clean and dry, that way it can’t smell. It’s all very short, simple, cheap, instantly repairable and replaceable using standard hardware store fittings, and all plastic so it can’t even rust. It was a bit interesting adapting standard drain pipe to standard hose fittings but I found some pieces that happened to fit pretty well and a generous bead of Goop did the rest. The short length of 5/8” hose to dump the water overboard drains very quickly with less restriction than the plumbing in my home.

All the various buckets are held firmly in place, in one way or another. The fresh water buckets are held firmly on lipped shelves with cradles and a clamping board across the front. The waste water bucket is trapped on three sides by the lower cabinet, and blocked in the front by the trash bucket, which is further blocked by the base board. It is also held loosely at the top by the garden hose that enters through a tight fitting hole in the lid. The waste water bucket also has a short length of 1/4” vinyl tubing to act as an air vent and prevent unwanted splashing.

The microwave is bolted to the shelf from below with 3 #10 sheet metal screws through the chassis. I opened it up to make sure the screws were no where near any vital components or live circuits. The anti-tamper screws they used are only a slight annoyance to a man with vice grips. Mounting the microwave under the water buckets wasn’t my favorite idea, but it solved many other problems including making a lot more counter space available.

I mounted my cheap little 12V florescent task light under the kitchen cabinet where it can provide additional light over the kitchen counter. It only draws about ½ amp and probably provides about 25W of light (florescent bulb equivalent). I also added a small towel bar, and of course every kitchen has to have a paper towel dispenser.

My drawers are a very simple design. Just lap joints with glue and panel nails, which have rings for extra holding power. The drawer pockets are 5/8” plywood which is ridiculously strong and heavy, but provides more thickness for maximum gluing surface. I have found that I can screw thin sheet rock screws into the edges of the plywood without splitting which makes extra strong joints. I do pre-drill whatever I am screwing through, but there is no need to drill the receiving piece. The drawers are also 5/8” plywood front back and sides with ¼” plywood bottoms. Rather than mill the front faces, I made them with an additional ½” plywood outer face that is glued and screwed to the 5/8” plywood front, which is glued and screwed to the side rails. They are a bit heavy, but very strong. They do not ride on rollers or rails. Instead I used some of the clear plastic L extrusion, that is normally used for sheet rock corner protection, on the bottom corners. They slide on the plastic easily enough but with some friction to help keep them closed. I also used dual magnetic catches at the back of the drawers to help keep them closed.

The cabinet doors are my standard “tailgate” design with self closing hinges and magnetic catches on both edges. The doors on the 2 lower shelves are rather long so I used 3 hinges instead of just 2. There is a ton of shelf space under the sink and it is all accessible, though some of it is way back there. The stuff in the back had better not be needed too often. The floor is also a shelf with the toe kick providing a large lip to keep everything in place. In some places I cut the toe kick lip down to 2” because it doesn’t make much sense to block half of an 8” opening with a 4” lip.

My trash can is a 5 gallon bucket that sits in front of the waste water bucket. There is no cabinet door in front of it. I have never liked the idea of hiding the trash. It seems I am always opening the cabinet door with dirty hands to throw something away. I would much rather have the trash bucket be wide open for easy access. It may not be pretty but that’s how I like it.

I could easily install the toilet and finish the right side of the truck but the plan is to install the computer bay on the left side next. The reason being, I really want to install the range but I need to finish the computer bay before blocking access by installing the range. The computer bay should be pretty simple by comparison to the kitchen. It has a Formica table top and shelves, but they are all of a simple rectangular design. I just need to make sure that all the various equipment will fit as intended. That includes the computer, monitor, printer, scanner, DVD player, etc.

The bay for the stove (range) is my main concern. The stove itself has already been mounted and removed, so the design is set. I still have to work out the details for the filtered fan, overhead light, and range hood. Once the range, toilet, and heater (under the computer desk) are installed, I will be 98% done, and more than meet the requirements for a “California House Car” I am looking forward with hope and some trepidation to re-registering this thing as an RV. With a little luck, and enough free time, the basic build out will be complete sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Then I can begin the “moving in” phase including installing and in some cases buying the electronics including the computer related equipment and the entertainment stuff including 2 TV’s the PS3. The flow of cash has to slow to a trickle eventually, or at least that’s the theory…

To be continued…
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Old 09-14-2010, 04:06 PM   #227
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I ended up going with a custom memory foam truck mattress from MattressInsider.com. It cost me around $290 all together and it feels more comfortable then the mattress I have at home. The mattress came compressed and rolled in a box and it was pretty easy to setup. I also ordered their truck mattress encasement to protect it from spills, stains, bugs, etc. The protector took a little longer than I hoped for delivery, but then again...it was custom.
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Old 09-14-2010, 06:26 PM   #228
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Looking great RanD. I got confused tho. How do you switch between the 2 fresh water buckets? Are they plumbed together so the water drains from both? Do you have to take them out to fill? I'd want to have a way to pop a hose in from the outside to fill them. Maybe you do and I missed it.

I don't think those magnets are going to hold the doors shut. I put a magnetic holder on my bedroom door and it didn't hold on the bumps. Then I put another one on and the two of them hold okay but it'll still slam shut on huge bumps. And the ones I put on have really strong magnets. Surprised me that the one didn't hold. Maybe if yours give way you could rig up some sort of bar or something to secure them while underway?
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Old 09-16-2010, 09:53 AM   #229
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Bob86ZZ4, for the moment my water bucket design is as simple as it gets. I have to physically pull the buckets down off the shelf, and pop the lids to fill them. I also have to pull them down to pop and swap the lids to bring the spare bucket into play on the left side, which is where the hose hangs down into the sink most conveniently.

I may end up adding enhancements for external fill as you say. I would need to be careful to avoid over filling the buckets since they are vented at the top and it would make a mess inside the truck.

Part of my thinking with using buckets was to make them easily accessable for cleaning inside. I may have misjudged the convenience factor though. I suppose I will learn a lot when I live with it for a while. I will admit that putting a 5 gallon bucket on a modestly high shelf is a bit of a strain on the old back.

We will see how the magnets do as well. My doors are not large or heavy. Since they hinge on the bottom, if they pop open they will stay open so I will surely know. I figured if I have a problem I will just add more or stronger magnets. I want to minimize as much as I can the travel prep. requirements. I just know that if there is a list of 20 things I need to check before taking off that I will forget 2 of them. I also expect to need to bug out in a hurry on occasion so I want to be travel ready at all times if possible.

I will post again soon. I am still making steady progress most every single day, but I wanted to complete a discrete chunk before reporting.
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Old 09-17-2010, 01:53 PM   #230
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ADD VELCRO STRAPS JUST IN CASE THE MAGNETS GIVE OUT.....$ 1.29 a package and will work every time ....geofkaye and the Rivercity Girlz
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Old 09-22-2010, 08:08 PM   #231
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The Left Side of The Truck is done. Well sort of…

The closets and bunk beds were already done on both sides, so all I had left to do on the left side was the computer bay, the range, the desk or secondary kitchen countertop bay, and the little tiny coat hangar area at the rear.

The computer bay was pretty easy. I laminated my own desk top and built my own drawers, but everything is rectangular so that simplified things a bit. There is only one little tiny cabinet under the desktop with a fold up door. The space above the desktop has shelves, but no fold up doors. That is because they are intended to hold my printer scanner, DVD player, and anything else of the sort. I didn’t want to have to open doors to get to those things, so they are just open shelves with generous lips to make sure nothing falls off. I will ultimately strap, or glue, or otherwise tie everything down as well. Of course, none of the electronics is installed yet.

I had originally intended to install my current home desktop computer, but it is getting pretty old, so I have been thinking about buying a modest laptop. I will rarely use it as a laptop, but I figure those things are made for travel, so they should work well in an RV. I also figure I may end up turning my AC power off at odd times, and I don’t want to forget to power down properly and frag my disk drive. With a laptop, they are running on internal battery power anyway so it should be tolerant of my occasional senior moment. I will get a docking station and a real keyboard and mouse, as well as a nice big LCD monitor so the computing experience should be pretty much the same as my desktop.

I reinstalled my Platinum Cat catalytic heater, hopefully for the last time. I opened up the hole through the floor to give some clearance for the gas line. After it was installed I filled the gap around the pipe with some fiberglass insulation and then caulked it from the bottom with silicone. The 12V and thermostat had previously been installed, and the system was already fully tested, so it went back in quickly. I still need to add some polished stainless steel on the side wall near the heater under the computer desk. I ran the heater for a couple of hours and it was getting pretty warm to the touch so I figure a reflector is a good idea.

The range went in pretty much as planned. I was double checking the manufacturers installation instructions and I realized that I was violating the safety keep out zones for flammable surfaces above the stove top. As a result, I decided to line the entire area with .040 aluminum plate that I recycled from one of the trucks original side doors. I also lined the entire back wall behind the stove with aluminum flashing all the way to the floor. I was a little worried about the vinyl flooring under the range, but I have since run the oven up to 350F for several hours and then put my hand under there to see if it gets hot. I needn’t have worried. There are a couple of layers of steel, and heat rises, so it barely gets warm under there.

My original intent was to install the fan-filter cartridge above the stove with some sort of a hood, but I realized that it would be in a bad location where I needed head room to be able to lean in over the stove. I could have mounted it up near the ceiling, but I figured it would be so far away from the cooking food that it wouldn’t capture much of the tiny grease droplets and might as well not be there.

There was a space above and behind the stove that I couldn’t use for storage due to the heat so I decided to put it there. I reworked my LED light to shine down at an angle, and built ducting in to the wall to blow the filtered air back out near the bottom of the upper cabinet. The fan unit does not exhaust to the outside because I didn’t want to make any more holes in the walls or the ceiling, so it is just a filter box. Besides, the overhead exhaust fan is just a few feet away.

I also installed the desk and drawers that doubles as additional counter space to the left of the range. It was my 3rd custom laminated countertop in the truck, but I am getting pretty comfortable with laminating Formica on plywood. The drawers have angled faces to match the shape of the countertop so they were a little harder to make, but not too difficult. There are also 2 shelves below the countertop and 3 above, each with fold up doors. Making and mounting cabinet doors is a little more work than simple shelves but I pretty much know the drill by now. I even ground a special molding cutter for my table saw so I could shape the bottom edges of the doors to provide clearance for the hinges. It was ultimately much easier and more precise than sanding the doors to shape, even with a belt sander.

I installed one of my cheap little 12V florescent fixtures for task lighting above the desk. It doesn’t make much light, and it practically screams cheap, (truth in advertising) but it works fine. I may upgrade it at some point, but for now I am on a mission to get this done.

The last little bay, my coat hangar area and boot storage, was really simple. All I had to do was mount the coat hooks and put in a toe kick plate to keep the boots from sliding out into the walk way.

The only remaining aspect of the basic buildout is 5 shelves and corresponding cabinet doors above and behind the toilet. Then there is the installation of all the computer and entertainment electronics. The endless flow of tweaks and improvements aside, I would say that I am now about 98% complete. It’s been a long haul to this point, and I am starting to get a little tired of having all my free time tied up in truck building. As always, pictures can be found under keyword “Stealth”.

To be continued…
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Old 09-30-2010, 07:23 PM   #232
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The Stealth Camper Basic Buildout is Complete.

It’s been a long time coming, but it’s basically done. The essential structure and infrastructure is complete including all the walls cabinets, major appliances, etc. I could essentially hit the road tomorrow if I had to (but I wouldn’t want to).

The next phase is what I would call equipping, or possibly furnishing. The first order of business is to install the TV’s, computer, and related peripherals, and of course I need to get it to all play together including the external WiFi and whatever internal wireless and wired network I come up with. The conduits are all there, so mostly it is just a matter of spending money and hooking it all up. There will also be a learning curve with various software packages, but in theory at least this is all pretty standard stuff.

Beyond that there is an endless list of tweaks, improvements and loose ends that will probably continue for as long as I own the truck. Some of these include…

1. Steel covers over the flexible propane pipes under the truck bed.
2. Finding and stowing a collapsible ladder under the truck for long term maintenance
3. Improve the shelves in the refrigerator so stuff won’t slide around and fall over in transit.
4. General travel prep. of cabinets to keep things from bouncing around.
5. A 2nd heated mattress pad for the top bunk
6. Get the truck to the Mitsubishi dealer to fix whatever the various recall notices are all about.
7. General truck maintenance, lubrication, and new front tires.
8. Build a baffle wall ahead of the left rear tire to reduce the possibility of generator exhaust gasses traveling under the truck and getting to my fresh air inlet.
9. Adding remote valve stems to the rear wheels to make them easier to fill and check air pressure.
10. Think about tie down points for possible roof storage.
11. Possibly add a tow hitch and wiring for flat towing a small car.

After the furnishing phase comes the moving in phase. You get the idea, food, clothes, lawn chairs, etc. Then comes the living in the driveway phase. I think that might be the most important of them all. It will give me a chance to really live the life while still having the safety net of my sticks and brick house. Mixed in with that is the moving out of the house phase. That may well be the hardest one of all. I have way too much junk to load in the truck and it will be hard to sell, give away, or take it to the dump. You can imagine my reticence to give up my tools, so some things will go into storage, but that is mostly just an expensive way to delay the inevitable.

In the mean time, I need to swallow my fear and make a trip to the DMV. It’s time to get this thing registered and then insured as an RV.

One last thing… I just installed my smoke detector, propane and CO detector, and mounted the fire extinguisher. More on that later….

As always, pictures can be found under keyword “Stealth”.

To be continued….
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Old 10-01-2010, 07:40 AM   #233
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I'm happy it's come so far. For sure you've got to get it on the road and start enjoying the fruits of your labor. I was at a large tool store (www.7corners.com , I live very close to this store) last week and saw a neat ladder. http://www.7corners.com/catalo...04&products_id=43663

Maybe that's something that would work for you?
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Old 10-02-2010, 03:33 PM   #234
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Bob,

You read my mind. That is the exact ladder I was lookiing at. It's a bit pricey but looks to be a quality unit and very compact. It's really my only viable choice. I have seen some that fold up accordian style, but they end up much bigger.

On a different topic, I completed my refrigerator mods to minimize food sliding around and falling off of the shelves. It was surprisingly easy to make out of some 1/4" aluminum rod, 1/8" bungee, cable ties, and some of those self sticking cable tie mounting pads. I won't claim that it's a great idea though. It remains to be seen how well it works, how long it lasts, and how convenient it is to use. I have added Pix under keyword "Stealth" as always. They tell the story better than words. The bungees can slide back and forth on the rods to accomodate different sizes and placement of food.

I didn't do anything to prevent sliding on the "floor" of the fridge. I figure stuff can't fall off the floor. If things start sliding around enough to bang the doors open from the inside, or tip over and make a mess, I will have to add similar provisions down there. I plan to live with it a little while first and see what happens though.

To be continued....
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Old 10-03-2010, 08:56 PM   #235
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The scales of justice are blind…

And the guy at the truck stop who controls the scales is apparently stupid….

I won’t say where, but I drove about 45 minutes to get to a truck stop with scales that was open on a Sunday. I’m no trucker, so this was all new to me. I went to the service counter and told the man I wanted to weight my truck, total weight, and also front to back and side to side. His immediate response was, “We can’t do that”. Confused, I decided to go ahead and at least get the truck weighed as a whole and get the necessary form for the California DMV ($9 for the official signed weight ticket). When I got the truck on the actual scale I could see that it had zones for different axles so I figured I could at least get the front axle and back axle separate. When I got back to the counter the guys boss was there so I explained that I wanted the weight by axle. That he understood and said he could do it for $1 more, but I had to go put the truck on the scale one more time, which I did. When I went to get the forms I asked the guy if I could drive just the right side wheels of the truck on to the scale. He basically said it was my responsibility to put the truck on the scale. (In other words, he thought I was nuts). So I put the truck half on the scale for the 3rd time and finally got everything I wanted. He charged me another $9, but I didn’t care about the money, I just wanted the data.

Here is how it came out:

Weigh Station Results 10/3/10 (No Driver, No Passenger, No Cargo)
12,320 Gross Tare Only, Ticket Number 831814,
4,180 Steer Axle, Ticket Number 83985191
8,120 Drive Axle, Ticket Number 83985191
12,300 Total Axle, Ticket Number, 83985191
5,700 Total Left Side (Calculated)
6,600 Total Right Side, Ticket Number 83985190
46% 54% Left Right Bias calculated X/(100-X)
1,960 Steer Axle Left (Calculated)
2,220 Steer Axle Right, Ticket Number 83985190
3,740 Drive Axle Left (Calculated)
1,870 Drive Axle Left per Tire (Calculated)
4,380 Drive Axle Right, Ticket Number 83985190
2,190 Drive Axle Right per Tire (Calculated)
47% 53% Stere Axle Left Right Bias Calculated X/(100-X)
46% 54% Drive Axle Left Right Bias Calculated X/(100-X)
34% 66% Front Rear Bias by Axle (Calculated)
51% 49% Front Rear Bias By Tire (Calculated)
14,500 GVWR (Maximum) from Door Jam
85% % of GVWR max when empty (calculated)
2,180 Remaining GVWR (max cargo) Calculated
5360 GAWR front max from Door Jam
78% % of GAWR front max when empty (calculated)
1,180 Remaining GAWR front (max cargo) calculated
9,880 GAWR rear max from Door Jam
82% % of GAWR rear max when empty (calculated)
1,760 Remaining GAWR rear (max cargo) calculated

To be continued…
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Old 10-04-2010, 05:45 AM   #236
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Looks pretty good to me. You're not probably going to have a ton of food and clothes when you're on the road.
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Old 10-04-2010, 07:10 AM   #237
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I just finished reading all 24, best description of a build - ever. but I think you will need "positive mechanical" latches on all the cabinet/refrigerator doors.(picture how I found out)..what happened @ the DMV ?...J
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Old 10-05-2010, 12:01 PM   #238
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Jerry,

Thanks! My DMV appointment is on 10/19. I will lete everyone know how it goes....
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Old 10-17-2010, 09:05 PM   #239
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Stools and Chairs

The stealth camper is a little unusual in that it doesn’t have a couch or any sort of a space that is like a “Living Room”. It does have two work surfaces though, one that doubles as the computer desk, and one that doubles as kitchen counter top space. The computer desk is low, normal desk top height, or close to it, 28”. The kitchen counter top space is 36” high, which is normal for a stand up work surface.

The computer desk needs a normal office type chair. I have one that I have used for years with 5 wheels, no arm rests, and a fitted base. It’s not even very expensive as these chairs go, but it is the most comfortable of all the chairs I own. The only problem is that wheels work great on level surfaces but will tend to roll downhill too easily when the stealth camper is on a grade. Remember, the Stealth camper will most often be parked on the side of the road, not in a level space. I don’t have leveling jacks and have designed things so I won’t need them. My solution was to buy some cheap plastic “caster cups”. These are normally used on a couch or some piece of furniture that has casters for moving, but doesn’t need to be moved in normal use. They also help to distribute the pressure and protect the floor. In my case I just glued them to the bottom of the chair wheels with a generous amount of Goop. (AKA, Amazing Goop, Shoe Goo, Plumbers Goop, etc.) The plastic pads were a little too “grippy” so I added a base of self-sticking felt. Now the chair slides reasonably well without damaging the floor, but will not easily roll downhill.

For travel safety I have added a Velcro strip along the left side of the seat base. I used the loop side on the chair so it wouldn’t catch on my pants. I placed the corresponding hook strip on the side wall underneath the computer desk. Now all I have to do is slide the chair under the desk and up against the left side wall and it is firmly held for transport. In order to help the Velcro stick to the cloth chair cover I glued it on with a base of Goop. On the wall side I added some screws through the Velcro into the wall to help out the adhesive.

Since the heater is also under the desk on the far right side, there is a possibility that the chair could be left in front of the heater. The Platinum Cat heater produces radiant heat, meaning it shines heat outward like a flashlight. Fortunately the “heat beam” mostly shines under the chair seat base (butt plate) and over the chair feet. For fire safety I covered the black plastic 5 star wheel base with aluminum tape. Likewise, I covered the underside of the seat base and any exposed black plastic anywhere in between. I wasn’t concerned about looks, but it ends up looking like the wheelbase is made of a polished aluminum casting. Just to keep it all looking nice and shiny I gave it a coat of the TREWAX Gold Label Sealer Wax I wrote of in an earlier post. I set the chair in front of the heater in the worst possible position for an hour or so and nothing got more than warm. The shiny aluminum parts were dead cold.

By the way, I have tried working at the computer desk when the heater is on. When I get cold, my legs and feet get cold first. It feels really good to have the heat right where I need it, and when it gets to be too much, I just turn it off.

The kitchen counter space also serves as a desk. At 36” high, a normal chair sits too low for comfort. I had always assumed that I would buy some sort of a tall chair, probably adjustable height, with a gas shock. As I got ready to buy the chair I realized that a normal chair with a back would block at least one of the drawers under the counter top. Also, the countertop is not very deep, and a chair with a large base would not fully tuck under the countertop, creating a traffic hazard, and a potential safety hazard. At some point I realized that what I really needed was a bar stool and this is what I bought.

http://www.barstools.com/count...ivelcounterstool.cfm

At $80 it’s not overly expensive. The round nonskid base is surprisingly stable. I like the cloth seat because it breathes, though I will admit that the grey material looks dirty even when it is clean. I really like the gas strut because it not only allows me to set the height for comfort, but it also solves the stowage problem. When not in use, which is most of the time, I can shove it under the counter and pull the lever to let it rise up and wedge itself under the countertop. It doesn’t block the aisle or the drawers, and it is very solidly held for travel. I probably wouldn’t want to sit on it for hours on end, but it is surprisingly comfortable as well.

The only other sitting space is the edge of the lower bunk bed. While it’s fine for putting on your socks, I would not want to sit there for very long. The upper bunk is too low, and you have to lean too far forward.

As always, pictures are available under keyword “Stealth”.

To be continued….
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Old 10-17-2010, 09:08 PM   #240
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Computer and Entertainment Electronics Install

I have been busy installing the various entertainment electronics in the Stealth Camper. I bought 3 identical TV’s, the 22” Naxa, NX563, from:

http://www.12volt-travel.com/1...d-player-p-8566.html

They have all the normal bells and whistles you would expect from a modern LED/LCD TV plus a built in DVD player. They come with a 12V cigarette lighter plug as well as an AC Adapter. My original intent was to use standard AC powered TV’s but when I went to FRY’s and started looking, I noticed that a lot of the AC powered TV’s were actually 12V or 24V DC with an AC adapter. That prompted a little more internet research which led to the Naxa for $331.15. I put one at the foot of each bunk bed, and the 3rd one doubles as my computer monitor. I hooked them up to my Winegard antenna with Wingman focusing elements and amplifier and immediately had about 60 digital broadcast channels. What really surprised me is when I lowered the antenna flat on the top of the truck and still had almost all the channels with a good strong signal.

http://www.pplmotorhomes.com/p...ntennas-winegard.htm

http://www.pplmotorhomes.com/p...winegard-wingman.htm

For the computer monitor, I used a standard NEMA articulating wall mount, in addition to the standard TV base. It sits on the desk top with the wall mount hidden behind the TV and is firmly supported for travel, but I can still swing it out to get access to the cable inputs. There is also an audio input that comes from the PC so I can use the speakers in the TV.

I made my own custom wall mounts for the TV’s in the bunk bays. They are flat to the wall and do not articulate. I was not happy with the idea of using just the 4 mounting screws in the back of the TV. They are just metal inserts into the rear plastic cover. They would probably be strong enough in a stationary application, but I am afraid that they might not hold up to the vibration in the truck. When I removed the stand I realized that I could also make a bracket that ties the stand mount into the wall. I have included pictures of the result under keyword “stealth”. It is a pain to plug and unplug cables when the TV is mounted flat on the wall, but I don’t expect to be doing that often.

Since the TV and antenna all run on 12V I can watch TV without turning on my inverter. The TV’s are also very efficient and only draw about 3A (41W) each.

I also bought a new Toshiba laptop from Walmart online.

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Tosh...rrying-Case/13341716

Nothing fancy, just your basic laptop with Windows 7 Home Premium. It managed to piss me off for a while (as computers always do), but I got it working in my house and talking to the internet via my wireless Ethernet. I took it out to the truck and installed it with my Wave Magnum USB Amplifier and crank up antenna which includes a 11.8db omni and a 14 dbi Yagi combined with a splitter.

http://www.radiolabs.com/produ...less/wave-magnum.php

http://www.radiolabs.com/produ...2.4gig/14eleyagi.php

http://www.radiolabs.com/produ...-network-antenna.php

http://www.radiolabs.com/produ...s/2-way-splitter.php

Within short order I had access to the internet inside the truck via my wireless router inside the house. I can also see about 20 other Wi-Fi access points, and about 4 of them have no password or other security. Just for fun I connected to one of them and started watching a movie on Netflix. I didn’t watch the whole movie because I just wanted to see if it would work (and because it’s a bit rude to steal bandwidth). It is encouraging to know that I have so many free paths to the Internet though…

Just for fun, I was monitoring the signal strength (5 bars) and I lowered the antenna. Even lying flat on the top of the roof I was getting 4 bars. It will be interesting to see how far I can drive the truck and still pick up my little wireless router in the house, especially once I start pointing the Yagi.

I made a special mount for the laptop. The screen portion is held to one of the side walls by some loose fitting plastic brackets. The base, or keyboard portion can fold up flat against the wall to maximize table space, or it can fold down flat on the table top for access to the keyboard. Either way, all the cables to the monitor/TV, antenna, audio, and USB expander remain connected to the PC. The USB expander then feeds the keyboard, mouse, laser printer, and color printer/scanner. For the moment, I have to turn on the inverter to power the USB expander and the printers, and also to charge the batteries in the laptop, but if I make a little 5V regulator for the USB expander I will be fully functional without AC. I won’t be able to print, and the laptop batteries will run down eventually, but basic computing will only require 12V. I could have used a wireless keyboard and mouse, but I would rather not have to replace the batteries all the time.

I still have a bunch of work to do on the computer, loading files, loading applications, but the basics including Microsoft Office, E-Mail, and the anti-virus stuff is all working. I even tested the printers.

I struggled a bit getting the Ethernet working inside the truck. My original intent was to use Wi-Fi to pass internet connectivity to the PS3 and my internet enabled Blu-Ray DVD player. It turns out that is not possible. The hardware supports it, but the operating system doesn’t allow internet sharing between two wireless ports. As a result I ended up using Cat5e cable from the Ethernet connector on the laptop to a Gigabit Ethernet switch and then to the PSP and DVD player. I struggled a bit with Windows configuration, but it eventually worked. I can simultaneously watch two different movies via Netflix, one in the lower bunk via the DVD Player, and one in the upper bunk via the PS3. I could probably watch a third directly on the computer, but how many movies can one person watch?

Pictures are available in the photo gallery under keyword “Stealth”. To be continued…
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