Duvalay Review

by Gromett February 24, 2015

I have finally bought one of these much talked about Duvalays.   I am stuck as to why people recommend them so much to be honest.

Up until now I have been using a standard double duvet which I doubled over.  I slept in between it using it as both the base and the cover.

The reason I went for the Duvalay is that it is tricky to get a double duvet into the cover in such a small van.  I thought that the duvalay would make this much easier with the cover and base being zipped up separately.

Anyway,  First impressions were not good.  The material felt lightweight and cheap to me.  It was replacing a cheap cotton cover I got from Wilko’s.  It feels like a mixture of nylon and cotton like a cheap sleeping bag.  The fit feels a bit poor with the duvet internal not really feeling quite at home in the cover.   If you want to have it opening the opposite way you need to turn it inside out which means the zips are on the inside.  I didn’t think this would be a problem but the base cover is not fitted and every night the cover twists round the memory foam base so that the zip ends up running the full length of where you want to sleep.

Over all for £120 I am seriously disappointed.  It is still a small step up from a doubled over duvet but not by much.   I won’t be buying another.

Dell XPS-13 Review

by Gromett February 24, 2015

I have just bought the 2015 Model XPS-13.  To save you having to read the whole review if you just want my conclusion here it is.

The hardware is excellent with my only gripes being with the touchpad.  The only thing that lets it down as a complete package is Windows 8.1.   To put it bluntly it sucks but that is for another article I think.  The main problem that relates directly to the hardware/software combination is that the screen is very high resolution and Microsoft still don’t seem to have gotten a handle on this yet.  Even some of their own Icons appear to be scaled and look really really bad.  It kind of reminds me of the old days of Linux with the dodgy font problems.

There are lots of reviews of this laptop on the internet so I have decided not to do a comprehensive one but just cover the points as they apply to us motorhomers/fulltimers.

First up is the size.  It is really small.  It is just over 30cm wide.  But the screen is much bigger than a laptop of this physical size has any right to have.  The small bezel did worry me when I read about it.  I was worried about impacts from the side cracking the screen.  However now I have it in my hands I can see this is not a issue as the solid aluminium body and lid are tough.

The keyboard is easy to adapt to.  I am a fussy sod when it comes to keyboards having been trained properly as a touch typist.  Yes, I can type while looking at anything but the keyboard.  But considering the limited dimensions of this laptop the keyboard is excellent.  The touchpad is something I really don’t like but I will have to work on getting used to.  The surround on the keyboard is a very nice semi rubbery feel carbon fibre.  It feel really really nice and doesn’t pick up finger prints etc very easily.

The wifi range on it is better than average.  I have been using it in a couple of places where my old laptop really struggled and my phone only just a connection.

The battery life is brilliant for the occasional usage most people will put it through.  I checked my emails every hour or so.  I did some browsing, played a bit of a flash game and watched 2 hours of a film.  This took the batteries down to 56% at the end of the day.  This impressed me.  I also got the extended battery pack but have not needed to use it yet.

In heavy use,  I can just about last a full 9 hour work day with none stop usage.

I would have liked having 1 extra USB port but one on each side is nice rather than having them wedged up against each other.  On my previous laptop I had 4 but could only use 2 if I wasn’t careful about which ports I plugged larger dongles into.

Now the sound on this Laptop is something else.  I have never heard a laptop put out such great sound before.  The base is better than I could have imagined from something so small.  Combined with the amazingly hi res screen it is a great laptop to watch films on.

In summary.  This is an excellent laptop for motorhomers to use on the road.  It is solid aluminium so rugged.  It is small so easily portable and will fit in any motorhome safe without taking up a lot of room.  It is powerful enough for all on the road uses.  The battery life is impressive.  The sound and screen are a real pleasure to use.  The wifi is better than average.  My only hatred of this laptop is for the Operating System.  I am fed up of Windows 8.1 getting in my way when I am trying to do stuff.  Hopefully it won’t be long before the Linux Kernel is updated to include the drivers for this laptop then I will have my dream machine.

Heading towards the end of the winter break and towards my new career.

by Gromett February 22, 2015

I finally decided to get out of the hosting business.  The industry has been consolidating for a number of years now and it is getting harder and harder to compete.  The big boys are getting too cheap to compete with and make it worth doing and the inflow of new rules and regulations are making it harder for the smaller provider to survive.  It is doable but at some point you have to decide that the work load and hours are not worth the return.  In addition to that being on call 24/7 for the last 18 years has taken it’s toll on me and I would like to have a job that doesn’t require me to be on call any more.

I sold my business at the start of the month and got a reasonable price for it.  It has been enough to get a load of new toys and finish the work off on the van that has been outstanding for quite some time now.

I now have to decide what I want to do for my next career and have decided that driving is something that is always in demand.  Having spoken to one of the motorhomefun members who owns a training school I have decided that HGV work is a good choice for me.

The beauty of fulltiming in a panel van is that it is a very cheap way to live.  With that in mind if I can find a job that pays £10+ an hour I can get by on a 20 hour week.  Or I can work for 4 months of the year.  Or variations of this.   I will probably do agency work on short term contracts as and when I need to top up my bank account.

I will also be spending some time on the projects I have wanted to do for quite some time.   I will be attempting to write a book,  create my motorhome hardware project,  write my Android App for motorhomers.  In addition I have some software projects to write.  If the programming business takes off I will be delighted, however having the HGV driving as a backup seemed very sensible.

So heading out of the bad weather I will be back on the road again and doing some travelling prior to taking my HGV test.  I am booked into 3 shows/rallies between now and June.  I have my MOT to do in March and my CPC course also in March.

Over the next couple of weeks I have a huge bunch of articles planned.  Half of these are reviews of new products I have purchased.  There are a few on jobs I will be doing on the van including a big one where I am replacing half the inside of my van and doing a full rewire.  There is a couple of sprucing up the outside of the van and hopefully a few travel articles.

I am in the process of looking for a guitar at the moment so hopefully I will be able to upset a few neighbours in the near future (just kidding of course).

The next few months should be exciting for me and I am looking forward to having a bit of fun….

Must buy a guitar

by Gromett January 29, 2015

I met some lovely ladies tonight and had a great night.  It reminded me of part of the reason why I went fulltiming which was to meet new people and enjoy life.

Amongst all the other interesting chats, I was reminded of my passion for music and tomorrow I must hunt for a new guitar…..

Busy week of problems.

by Gromett January 9, 2015

I was visiting mother on Monday to see how she was and to collect some parcels.  One of which was the tablet screen on the previous post.  I had finally got everything working again pretty much and was set for a week of doing some money earning work rather than catch up work.

Anyway my water pump has been a bit dodgy for a couple of weeks now and I occasionally have to bang the wall it is mounted to to persuade it to work.  I had looked at it previously and decided that it was the pressure switch that needed adjusting.   The reason I didn’t do it straight away was I was waiting until I was in a suitable location to do the work and that the water tank was empty.  When I built this van I built it with a fulltimers mentality and I didn’t put a drain valve in nor did I put a valve on the tanks outlet.

So back to Tuesday,  I woke up in the morning and went to the loo and as I sat down there was a clunk and the toilet came away from the wall.  Damnit was my first thought.  I finished up and went to flush and the water pump didn’t come on.  Double Damnit.

I was booked onto a campsite that day so I didn’t panic overly much. 

Read the rest of this entry »