Thursday, October 12, 2017

Ditch Your Landline, Save $40 Per Month by Using Google Voice and an OBihai Adapter

I've been using Google Voice for years now, and it is a great, free service.  It used to be called GrandCentral.  Google Voice gives you a universal phone number.  Once you have a Google Voice number, you can give that one number to everyone, and your GV number will forward calls to your cell phones and landlines as you choose.  Google Voice also transcribes voice messages so you can get emails with a transcription of a voice message.  It has tons of other features like the ability to block phone numbers.  Folks can send texts to your Google Voice number, and you can send and receive texts using your email rather than your phone app.  All calls and texts using Google Voice to the US are free (and I believe Canada).  International rates are pretty reasonable. 

I've had one number for Google Voice for years now.  I've also kept a landline with my office number for 20 years.  This landline has been with AT&T for 20 years, and they kept increasing the charge on it -- the last bill was something like $40 just to have a landline, with "long-distance" charges and taxes extra!  I kept it so I could keep the phone number.  Also, with Google Voice, I could go to the GV website, select or enter a phone number to call, and GV would call my landline and place the call -- the call would be place by Google Voice but would ring my landline, and would be at no charge.  It was a good arrangement, until I could not take AT&T continued rate increases. 

I did some research and bought an Obihai adapter -- here's the official name: OBi200 1-Port VoIP Phone Adapter with Google Voice and Fax Support for Home and SOHO Phone Service. 

WOW!  The Obihai adapter was super easy to set up and works great.  I was and remain stunned at how easy this adapter was to install and how well it works.  This little box (about $50 from Amazon) connects via Ethernet cable to my router, and my usual landline phones connect directly into it. 

There's only one port to plug your phone line in.  Here's a tip: phone wires in most houses are two-way.  The source can be plugged into any wall jack, and the other jacks will get the phone signal.  I therefore simply connected the phone port from the Obihai to a phone jack in my guesthouse, and then plugged in my Panasonic's base station up in the main house into the home phone wires.  I've used a Panasonic cordless phone system with my landline for years.  Everything worked fine!

From the Obihai instruction pages:
Note: You do not have to plug the Obi device into the point-of-entry for the phone line; you can plug it into any phone jack in your home to connect it to your home phone network.

Now, I have one physical phone/base station (and the wireless handsets connected to it) that rings differently for three GV phone numbers coming in.  Line 1 is the GV number for my wife's phone.  Anyone ringing her GV number rings on this line at home as well as her cell phone.  Line 2 rings my GV number as well as my cell phone, and has a different ring tone so I know that it is my line.  Line 3 rings my office phone number and has yet another ring tone.  If someone leaves  a voicemail, that voicemail will be transcribed by Google Voice; and I will get those transcripts via email. 

If I want clients to capture and see only my office phone number, I dial "**3" before dialing the client's phone number. 

Everything works almost exactly as it did before, except I can't have GV connect my calls using a computer any longer -- I have to physically dial a number.  I am sure that if I care enough, I could figure this out. 

I wanted to save my work phone number, as clients still use it.  I therefore had to convert my office phone number from a landline to a Google Voice number.  It was a hassle, but a couple of websites described this process: 

http://www.zdnet.com/article/google-voice-a-step-by-step-primer-on-ditching-your-landline-while-keeping-your-number/
Google doesn't normally allow you to port a landline phone number to Google Voice. This step-by-step primer shows you how you can do it.

https://www.oldtownhome.com/2015/3/19/How-to-Transfer-Your-Telephone-Land-Line-to-Google-Voice/
As of today we're saving $45 per month by using Google Voice and an OBi VoIP bridge for our home phone!

The process was a series of simple steps.

Check Phone Number Transfer Capability
Purchase pre-paid "burner" phone or sim card and VoIP bridge
Transfer your number to pre-paid phone
Transfer your number to Google Voice
Setup the OBi VoIP device
Configure Google Voice

****
I did run into a problem that was really just something where I could not wrap my mind around the concept. 

I have had a personal GV number, let's call it 831-375-5555, for years.  It is linked, as all GV numbers are, to a GMail address and also a Google Voice web page.  On the GV page, I could set phones that would receive calls to this GV number, such as my landline, a cell phone, and other options like Google Chat. 

My wife had her own personal GV number. 

In the past, if someone called my wife's GV number, the landline would ring.  The same if someone called me.  When I was gone on a month-long shoot, I'd go into GV settings and turn off call forwarding to our landline.  But I could no longer do this with the Obihai!  I wanted someone calling my wife's GV number to also ring the old landline number, just as before...Duh. 

I did an embarrassing amount of research on this.  My question was how to have a Google Voice number ring another Google Voice number.  It was generally deemed impossible. 

I finally figured out that even though the Obihai adapter had only one phone port, it could handle three GV numbers -- perfect for my situation.  Within the Obihai's setting page, calls to my GV line, my wife's GV number, and my old landline number (now a third GV number) would all ring the same physical phone handsets, but have different ring tones.   Like I said: Duh. 

One last note from a forum:
One word of caution concerning the Obi ATA and Gmail. As I mentioned above, the forwarding phone called Google chat "drives" your Obi ATA and also the Call Phone feature in Gmail. However, only one of these services can be active at a time. If you notice that Gmail rings with incoming calls and not your Obi, log out of Gmail and that will allow the Obi to ring. Do the reverse if you want to use your computer as a phone in Gmail but your Obi rings instead.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ordering from Walmart.com and using Store Pickup? Choose a Store with the Pickup Area in the Front


Ordering from Walmart.com and using Store Pickup?  Choose your store carefully if you don't want to wait in the back for an hour just to pick up a package!


Walmart is competing with Amazon for your online shopping business.  Walmart offers great prices sometimes, with significant discounts for store pickup.  What this means is that you can order an item online, and when you get the notice that your order is ready for pickup, you go to your chosen store and pick up the item. 

Sounds easy, right?  Wouldn't Walmart want to make this a painless experience for the customer?  Of course it would not.  It turns out that different Walmart stores have their online order pickup counters in different parts of the store. 

I ordered a set of IRIS 4" x 6" Photo and Craft Storage Boxes, that hold bare 3.5 inch hard drives perfectly (thanks, Jack and Sue Drafahl for this recommendation!).  Walmart sent me an email that the order was ready for pickup at the store I had chosen, which was close to my summer home in Olympia.  To be specific, this was the store on Martin Road in Lacey, WA. 

This particular store has its online pickup counter all the way in the back of the store.  I had picked up orders from this store, and the one in Marina, CA before.  Both stores had the online pickup counter in the back of the store, and without exception, every time I had gone there to pick something up, it had taken lots of waiting, asking passing Walmart employees passing by for help, pressing the "service" button at the counter numerous times, and wandering around the back of the store seeking help -- before I could get someone to help. 

This time, I set the stopwatch on my phone.  There was no one there.  I repeatedly pressed the "press this button for service" button over 15 minutes, to no avail.  I asked four employees passing by if they could call for help so that I could get my order.  No one came.  I noticed that Walmart had hidden the phone behind a wall, whereas it was previously on the counter, within reach of customers.  Obviously this was a known issue and the management had decided to move the phone out of reach of waiting, irate customers rather than to address the problem -- which had a very simple solution that I won't even bother to describe.  Nope.  Both Walmarts close to my homes have chosen to make the online pickup experience an excruciating exercise in waiting, isolation, and frustration by simply never having anyone in the area to help you. 

Did I mention that I set the stopwatch on my phone to see how long the process took to get my order?  It took 40 minutes before I was able to get my order and start my exit from the store.  In that time, I tried everything, even shouting in the store for service.  Three employees came in the back area and told me that I could not get the order myself (when I tried to point out the box with my name clearly printed on it); that I could not use the phone to call the manager or for help; etc.  Only the third employee could finally figure out how to work the cash register so that I could get a receipt and be on my way. 

Well, here's the surprise and the reason I tried Walmart.com and online store pickup again.  I happened to be in the Tumwater, WA Walmart, about six miles from my Olympia house (the Lacey Walmart is 4 miles in the other direction).  I noticed that the Tumwater store had online pickup in the FRONT OF THE STORE, right in the customer service area! 

I placed an online order soon after noticing this, and when I got the notice that my order was ready, I went to the Tumwater store to pick up my page.  WOW!  I had to ask someone to help me -- the folks at the customer service desk were so seemingly intent on repacking their items or something that they seemingly did not see me -- but once they got to me, I was able to get my order very quickly.  No frustration.  Almost no waiting. 

Have you noticed that every time you buy something or do something these days, the company ask you to fill out a survey asking how they did?  I never fill these out, because good customer service is so dead simple and easy to figure out most of the time.  In this case, it's pretty easy to figure out that you should order and use Walmart's store pickup ONLY if there's a store near you that has the online pickup area at the front of the store, near the customer service counters, where there are always employees ready to help you.  Avoid any store where the online pickup area is in the back, unless you like waiting in dead zones for 30 and 45 minutes at a time. 

PS If you order something from Walmart.com online, and you decide you don't want to go through the agony of waiting in the back to pick up from the store, you can just not follow through on your order.  From what I can find, you won't be charged if you don't show up.

Here's what Walmart's website says:

"Once your order arrives and is scanned in at the store, you will have 14 days to pick it up before it is returned to the distributor. If it is returned to the distributor, we will issue a full refund."

Ways to Extend Internet Coverage Through Two Structures; Wirecutter Reviews are Awesome!

I have been trying various methods to cut the cable TV cord here in our place at the Monterey area. 

My office and "man cave" is in the guest house, about 100 feet from the main house.  I've put up an antenna to get local TV stations over the air (OTA) which I describe in another blog post.  In the guest house, I have a Windows laptop acting as a DVR, using a SiliconDust HDHomeRun TV tuner and Windows Media Center.

I wanted to connect both houses' computers on a local network, so that my wife could share files with the main Mac in the guest house, and so I could watch WMC-recorded shows and downloaded movies on the Windows laptop in the living room that is connected to an HDTV.  This proved to be a difficult, months-long process. 

I've always used Powerline Ethernet adapters from Zyxel, Netgear, and TP-Link from the Mac in my office to certain outlets in the main house.  The problem is that the connection was pretty slow, and inconsistent through the main house.  I believe that this is because the main house's wiring is both old and passes through breakers to get to the guest house.  Most of the outlets in the main hours are still 2-prong outlets, which cuts the performance of these Powerline Ethernet adapters in half.  The only outlet that works well enough so that my wife can watch Hulu videos on her Mac in her home office in the main house happens to be in that room.  None of the other outlets worked well. 

I next turned to wirecutter.com's reviews.  This site is AWESOME.  I've followed a few of their recommendations for products recently, and the recommendations have worked out spectacularly well.  Wirecutter recommended the TP-Link Archer C7 (v2) router, along with the TP-Link AC1750 Wi-Fi Range Extender RE450. 

I've had other routers and range extenders that worked OK.  My old router was a Netgear 3700 and I really liked it, but upon reading wirecutter's review, I realized that it was an old router that used the "wireless N" band rather than the 'wireless ac" band that could reach far longer distances.  Sure enough, after updating my router and range extender to the TP-Link ones, I got great, strong, and fast wifi signals at the main house due to these great range extenders. 

I had to buy an AC wifi USB dongle for my Windows 7 laptops, which are all about 4-6 years old and did not have ac-band wifi capability.  These cost about $10 from Amazon and worked well. 

I was still not able to transfer files quickly from the laptop in the guest house to the laptop in the main house.  It was not a problem with the laptop acting as a server...it served up files just fine to my Macs in the same room.  I eventually put in an Ethernet cable from the main house to the guest house (I had to learn how to drill and install cables through outside to inside walls, and to crimp Ethernet connectors on Cat5e cable, all easily learned on YouTube).  Surprisingly, the laptop in the living room still could not quickly download or even see files on the server laptop.  I tried some suggestions on internet forums and turned off energy-saving mode on the Ethernet adapter in the laptop.  That did the trick!  I am able to record shows on the WMC laptop in the guest house, and watch pre-recorded shows on the laptop in the main house.  I can transfer files from one house to another quickly also.  It's pretty cool.  I am sure that I can make things speedier and better by using a NAS unit, but this is working for me now just fine. 

Now that I have good Internet capability in the guest house and the main house, I look forward to using the antenna to get local stations (the four major broadcast networks) and using streaming packages like Netflix, Playstation Vue ,and SlingTV. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Adding a Bluetooth Keyboard in Windows 7 - When Standard Instructions Don't Work

I have a few bluetooth keyboards lying around, some four years old or older.  I've never really had the time to use them much, and the pairing process was almost always a hassle.  On one of my laptops, an MSI machine running Windows 7, I spent over an hour trying to get a bluetooth keyboard to connect to the laptop -- finally realizing that the laptop did not have Bluetooth!  The MSI is about four years old, and it's astounding to think that the manufacturer did not put in Bluetooth on the machine.  Sure enough, though, I looked up my machine on the web, and discovered that it likely did not have Bluetooth. 

Windows 7 machines are awful about telling you, quickly and simply, if you are connected to a good wifi signal or not; if your wifi is on or not; if you have Bluetooth capability or not.  I have four Windows 7 laptops, and most of them have a function key that turns wifi on and off, but looks like a Bluetooth symbol.  One of the laptops has a function key that turns both wifi AND Bluetooth on and off.  For all my machines, if the function key has been used to turn off wifi or Bluetooth -- then it's impossible to turn wifi or Bluetooth on any other way, such as through Windows. 

It's ridiculous. It should be far easier to figure out if wifi or Bluetooth are available on a machine, and if they are turned on or off.  It should also be FAR easier to select a wired Ethernet connection for internet access, or a wifi connection.

On to my recent experience.  I pulled out one of my dusty Bluetooth keyboards (a Motorola keyboard, designed to be used with Android phones).  I spent a good 30 minutes trying to pair the damn thing with Windows the usual way:

from https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/15290/windows-connect-bluetooth-device
  1. Turn on your Bluetooth device and make it discoverable.
    The way you make it discoverable depends on the device. Check the device or visit the manufacturer's website to learn how.
  2. Select the Start button  > Devices and Printers.
  3. Select Add a device > select the device > Next.
  4. Follow any other instructions that might appear. Otherwise, you're done and connected.
Your Bluetooth device and PC will usually automatically connect anytime the two devices are in range of each other with Bluetooth turned on.


Right. 
As usual, the instructions from Microsoft did not work.  I continually got a window that looked like this, but the window flashed by in an instant, too quickly for me to enter the code shown, and then I'd get an error message.  I tried the above directions about a dozen times, and even pulled out a Samsung keyboard and tried it.  The other options in similar-looking windows that appeared did not work either.  I even progressed to the point where I was allowed to enter a pairing code, but the Windows machine never showed what I was typing on the keyboard.

I've previously added and used Bluetooth keyboards on Macs, iPads, and another Windows 7 machine, so I knew that it could be done.


After numerous attempts, I discovered a site that gave an alternative method:
https://www.wayneandlayne.com/blog/2010/06/14/bluetooth-keyboard-pairing-without-code-entry/

Here's what they suggested, and this worked easily:

In short, instead of following the usual pairing instructions, right-click on your device and select Properties.  Check the box for drivers, and the driver should download.  After that, your keyboard should work with your Windows 7 machine, no pairing needed!


Here's the instructions from the website:
To start, open up the Control Panel, and go to “Hardware and Sound”. Select “Add a Bluetooth device”:


When Windows is searching for your Bluetooth devices, put your keyboard into pairing mode (press the button). When it shows up in the list, don’t double click it! Instead, right-click on the keyboard device and select “Properties”:




In the window that opens, “Keyboard Properties”, wait a couple seconds for the services panel to load. Once it has loaded, check the box for “Drivers for keyboard, mice, etc. (HID)”. Click on “OK” to close the window.



Windows will load the drivers for your keyboard. After everything settles down, your keyboard should be working with Windows. Try typing characters into Notepad, to make sure it’s working properly. Congratulations!

*****
I also discovered another website that gives similar instructions on how to connect a BT keyboard without pairing: 
https://www.raymond.cc/blog/how-to-install-bluetooth-keyboard-on-windows-7/

1. Right click on the Bluetooth icon at notification area and select “Add a Device”.
2. If the keyboard is not discoverable, press and hold the Bluetooth Connect button located at the back of the keyboard.
3. When the keyboard is found, right click on the keyboard and select Properties.
 
Add a Device Properties

4. There will be a checkbox “Drivers for keyboard, mice, etc (HID)” under Bluetooth Services. Check it and click the Apply button. Wait for the installation to complete and then only click the OK button to close the window. 

Read More: https://www.raymond.cc/blog/how-to-install-bluetooth-keyboard-on-windows-7/


 I had the same problems as this website describes! 

Here are some of the problems which I’ve encountered when trying to connect a bluetooth keyboard to Windows 7. The Bluetooth keyboard is discoverable but then fails to connect with the error “Adding this device to this computer failed” with two different error messages:
Adding the device failed resulting in an unknown error. The reported error code is: 0x80004005. Contact your device manufacturer for assistance
and…
It took too long to add this device. Devices usually stay in discovery mode for only a short period of time to prevent power drain. Try adding the device again.
Read More: https://www.raymond.cc/blog/how-to-install-bluetooth-keyboard-on-windows-7/




Thursday, September 21, 2017

Review of Lawn Sprinkers and User Guide to a Gideon Two-Port Water Timer

I (well, not me but a gardener) put in new topsoil and grass on the side of my summer house in Washington state.  I've never done anything lawn- or garden- related before, so this was a new experience. I was stunned at how much water I had to use over the past six weeks. 

For new grass growing from seed, you are supposed to keep the top 2 inches of soil moist at all times.  I had to do this for the past 6 weeks.  I started by watering manually, then experimented with a bunch of different sprinklers.  The side lawn was pretty much rectangular except for a part at the end.  It was difficult for standard, cheap oscillating sprinklers to cover because tree branches hung over the center part of the lawn.  The lawn was about 60 feet across and perhaps 15 feet wide.

The best sprinkler was a pulsating sprinkler, an old Melnor that the previous owner left me.  It was all plastic, but it worked great -- you could adjust the feathering, the distance, and the circular area that the water would cover.

I let the water from one hose go through a "Melnor XT Mini-Turbo Oscillating Sprinkler with One Touch Width Control & Flow Control, and Rotation".  This is a "different" looking sprinker, and it has what Amazon calls "4 Way Ultimate Adjustment."  It was just OK, but better than other sprinklers.  I could adjust the width, distance of the spray, and how far the watering pattern would go back and forth -- but it was a finicky unit.  I spent hours getting the unit to work just right, and it would still leave dry spots of soil right in front of it.  The best part of this small unit was that the water could pass through it to the above Melnor pulsating sprinkler.  Using both of these let me water just about all of the new lawn. 

I tried other sprinklers and was disappointed.  I tried two different (inexpensive) oscillating Gilmor sprinklers from Lowe's and had to return both of them.  The Gilmor sprinklers, including a Melnor pulsating plastic sprinkler, would not work if connected in series with one hose.  My water pressure was fine, and the Melnor XT Mini-Turbo (what a ridiculous name) worked just fine.


To get the very final section of my lawn watered, I bought a "Melnor XT Turbo Oscillating Sprinkler with One Touch Width Control, 2 Way Adjustment."  I could adjust the width and "back and forth" pattern of this sprinkler.  This one also had dry spots and was not perfect, but I did get it to water the area that I wanted.  Instead of placing it in the center of the lawn, I had to place it on the side, because the water pattern always went off to the side (on the return stroke) rather than evenly on the sides of the sprinkler as you would expect.  I put this sprinkler on a separate hose, from the same water outlet.



I then bought a Gideon Two-Port Water Timer and set the timer so the bottom two sprinklers (on their own separate hose) starts at 6PM for 20 minutes.  Then the top sprinkler starts at 630PM each day for 20 minutes, watering the top of the lawn.  This way, each "section" of sprinklers gets the full water pressure available while it is on.




The Gideon timer has been working fine for a week.  I did look online for a user guide but there are none to be found, and the website is really sad.  It seems that the manufacturer is just a distributor of gadgets; no user guides at the website.  I've scanned the user guide for anyone who needs it; here it is.






Tuesday, August 29, 2017

PUMP YOU UP! Ways to Pump Up Your Inflatable Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP)

I bought a Tower inflatable Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) a couple of years ago.  It's a great, fun thing to use in the water.  I am not a master by any means, but I can stand up on it and paddle a while.  It tracks fairly well and moves well through the water.  I enjoy it more than my heavier West Marine Pompano 120 Sit-On-Top Angler Kayak -- which is a really nice kayak (more on this later) but weighs 60 pounds, and being so long and inflexible, is cumbersome. 

Paddleboards, at least in warm weather, are just more fun than kayaks.  I enjoy having contact with the water, and being able to jump off the paddleboard and climb back on.  My chocolate Lab, Moose, loves sitting on the paddleboard -- it was incredibly easy to train him to sit on there. It's pretty easy to get him onboard when he swims up (he does require firm assist from me to get up); the worst part is when he scratches my tender areas when clawing his way up, or when he shakes the water off himself -- no one likes getting sprayed by water! It's hard to get him to leave.






I've found that paddling while standing is a bit hard, but do-able even with Moose onboard.  I usually play around, however, by simply sitting on the SUP with my feet facing forward, as if I were in a kayak.  For some reason, paddling this way does not kill my back -- whereas when I am in a kayak, my back quickly starts hurting unless I have a seat for support.  I also paddle on the Tower SUP while kneeling. 

One nice thing about the Tower SUP is that it is inflatable, and it is light.  I can deflate it, and take it anywhere, even in a small car.  It weighs 26 pounds, and even inflated it is relatively easy for me to carry the SUP under my arm, over my shoulder. 

Here's what I recommend for inflating a Tower inflatable SUP.  I've spent hours figuring out the best way to pump up my Tower SUP, and my recommendations below should work for any inflatable SUP that is rated for a pressure of 10 to 15 PSI. 

Tower supplies a hand pump for its inflatable SUP (I bought the Adventurer 2 package).  Forget using the hand pump.  Trying to inflate your SUP with the hand pump will lead to exhaustion and back spasms.  The only good thing about the hand pump is that it will inflate the SUP to the proper pressure -- which is a pretty high pressure.  Tower states that you cannot possibly overinflate the SUP by using the hand pump, which is likely true.  This is because pushing on the hand pump gets progressively more difficult as you approach the target of 10 to 15 PSI. 

I tried the hand pump and gave up after pumping away for 20 minutes and barely seeing the SUP rise.  I then bought an electric pump and a foot pump from my local Walmart.  Neither of these worked, because all pumps are rated to different PSIs.  The electric and foot pumps that you will find in retailers like Big 5 and Walmart are generally for pumping less than 1 PSI, and will work only to inflate swim toys.  My Tower SUP (supposedly) needs to be pumped up to 10 to 15 PSI, so that it is absolutely rigid. 

I started researching online, and there are electric pumps made to inflate inflatable SUPs, and have a rating of 15 PSI and higher.  They are generally in the $100 to $150 range.  My concern was both the price and the fact that these pumps generally require 110V AC current to work.  I want to be able to drive to a river, and pump up my SUP in a wilderness area without any electricity around.  I could use a pump that works off a 12V DC source like a car battery.  Those pumps, too, cost over $100. 

I started foraging around in my garage and discovered that I had an old foot pump from an inflatable Sea Eagle Kayak (it's for sale, unused BTW).  I love foot pumps.  I love them because they pump a high volume of air, can pump up to a high PSI, and you can use them anywhere -- they don't require a car battery or AC current as a power source.  This foot pump is called a Bravo 7.  It had the right connector on it (a Halkey-Roberts twist-lock valve).  I am able to pump up my SUP with this Bravo 7 foot pump in about 10 minutes, maybe less.  It is not hard at all. 


My first pump, the one from Sea Eagle, broke after a year of light use (the side material separated from a clamp).  I bought another one at West Marine for $30:

https://www.westmarine.com/buy/west-marine--bravo-7-foot-pump--10967644






I used the first pump with my SUP for the past year and had no complaints.  I had been pumping air using the Bravo 7 until the foot pump would just not pump any longer.  I was probably stressing the pump, finally causing the flexible material on the pump to separate from the clamp holding it to the pump.  My SUP was nice and rigid, but not quite as rigid as it could be.  I took a pressure reading, and using the foot pump, it was only inflated to 2.5 psi.  Again, I was perfectly happy using my Tower SUP inflated to 2.5 psi. 

After the pump broke, I had the time to do more research.  I discovered that the Bravo 7 pump only inflates to 5.8 PSI.  Amazon has a listing for a Bravo 9 pump, which pumps up to14.5 psi.  West Marine has two other Bravo foot pumps.  The Bravo 2 is only rated to 2.9 psi.  Their Bravo 10 is rated to 11.6 psi and costs $70...I think.  I am not sure which is the "heavy-duty foot pump" for $70, and why the "medium-duty foot pump" for $75.  These pumps, from the photos on West Marine, don't seem to come with a Halkey-Roberts connector either.  It would be easy to transfer my old connector from my ruptured pump to a new one (the hose diameter would have to be the same) but still...


I did not want to spend $70 on a pump that might fail.  I did not want to spend $100 on a pump that required AC current.  I eventually bought this $18 adapter:

Electric Pump Valve Stem with torque tabs "Patent Pending" for FAST Inflation with Wakooda and Halkey Roberts H3 Inflation Valves
https://www.amazon.com/Electric-Pending-Inflation-Wakooda-Roberts/dp/B071S7FZ75/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1504026815&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=halkey+roberts&psc=1





This is simply a Halkey Roberts H3 valve that has a Schrader inflation valve on it.  Schrader valves are the same kind of valves found on car tires and most bike tires.   I already have a portable tire inflator that works off my car battery (BTW, I’ve found that these draw an incredibly high current, well over 10 amps, and won't work when connected to AC 12V power adapters, battery chargers; and will fry the fuses if connected through a cigarette lighter adapter inside the car). 

I connected an inexpensive Campbell Hausfeld tire inflator unit to this Wakooda Valve and it worked great.  It pumped my SUP up to 5 psi in about 5 mins (after the SUP was already at 2.5 psi using foot pump).  I don't think I need my SUP to be 10 psi but might try that.  Using a higher quality tire inflator would probably inflate the SUP to 5 or 10 psi even more quickly.  Anyone using a power inflator like this should keep a very close eye on the pressure, as it will be possible to blow the SUP up past its pressure rating very quickly.







Here's what an Amazon reviewer wrote about another inflator valve:
The gauge is somewhat flimsy and I don't really use it, but the adapter is a perfect fit for my inflatable TOWER Paddle boards. I now use my air compressor to inflate the boards firm to the touch (< 10 minutes), and then only need about 20 more strokes with the high pressure hand pump to achieve 10+ psi. WARNING: be careful with an air compressor, it's easy to over-inflate once you reach the pressure zone.

Kayak choice:
I still like my kayak.  It allows me to go much faster and farther than I can on my SUP (I am not very good at using either of these vessels).  I did a lot of research and chose my present West Marine Pompano 120 kayak based on the following Amazon review (thanks, Amazon reviewer!).  Here are some excerpts from that review:

Perception Sport Pescador 12 Angler Kayak review from Amazon:
"...This kayak is by far the best deal on a high end kayak out there today...it's one of the few kayaks out there that is at a price point that let's starter's (sic) and people on a budget get into the sport but at the same time is such a high quality and nice yak that you don't realy ever need to upgrade from it ..

"...The best thing about this kayak is that it is actualy (sic) a re-named 2008 Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 with a different label and actually built by the same company as the Tarpon 120. ...

"...this is because Wilderness systems/Perception are owned by the same company which is confluence water sports...instead of throwing away the mold for the old Tarpon 120 they re used it with the Perception brand calling it the "Pescador" and are selling it for almost half the price as the Tarpon 120...

"...West Marine also sells this kayak occasianly (sic) and will match any competitor's price...west marine also sells another kayak that is made by confluence that is identical in design to the tarpon 120/pescador called a "pompano 120"....comes with nice accessories like anchor system,extra rod holders,scupper plugs etc but unfortunatly does not come with the nice pescador seat..."


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

USPS used my photo of a great white shark for the artwork for one of their new shark stamps

Always happy to see my photos being used, although not always willing to toot my own horn -- USPS used my photo of a great white shark for the artwork for one of their new shark stamps:
@USPS to issue #SharksStamps:
https://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2017/pr17_031.htm

The real thanks always goes to the dive operators and shark experts, in this case the Solmar V staff and crew, and Lawrence Groth (one of the real pioneers of shark diving at Guadelupe and the Farallon Islands).



Also, National Geographic Australia recently published one of my African wildlife images.  It's funny, since this is one of the few of my African wildlife images published -- lots of competition!:
http://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/nature/how-2-million-pounds-of-rotting-flesh-helps-the-serengeti.aspx