New popup camper article on Wikipedia

I am now officially a Wikipedia contributer. Tonight I submitted my article on popup campers on Wikipedia. I’m surprised that no one had ever written one up until now, but hopefully my submission will be deemed worthy and not deleted. I included a couple of pictures of our popup, since it’s easiest to use your own “work” (otherwise getting permission is a bit more convoluted).

This is my first real contribution to Wikipedia, and I’m neither a professional writer nor a world-wide expert on popups, so help out the article if you can!

Top offline iPod Touch apps

This past summer I got an iPod touch, and it’s easily the coolest gadget I’ve had in quite some time. Despite being pocket sized, it’s somehow big enough to do just about anything computer-related that I want to do. While the hardware itself is nice, what really makes it useful is all the applications available for it.

Now keep in mind, I have an iPod Touch, not an iPhone. Whereas an iPhone can be connected to the internet at any time, an iPod Touch is only internet-enabled when you’re in range of a wi-fi connection. What this means is that I’m largely interested in offline apps that can make the most of an occasional internet connection. Since I’ve been fooling with it for months now, I figured I’d share which of these apps I find the most useful. Here are my top 5, in no particular order.

Dropbox

Website
App Store
Free

Dropbox is an online service that allows you to store files and sync them to multiple computers. I use it and it works great, but the iPod app provides a notable feature that is missing from the iPod Touch: the ability to store and view PDFs and other file types offline. When you set up a Dropbox account and sync the iPod app to it, you can mark some of the files as “favorites.” These favorites are stored locally and available offline.

Byline

Website
App store
$3.99

Byline is an RSS reader for the iPod/iPhone that syncs with your Google Reader account. What this means is that you can add your favorite blogs, news sites, web comics, etc. to Google Reader and view them aggregated in Byline. My favorite feature is the offline support. When you have a network connection, hit the sync button in Byline and it will download all new entries, including embedded images and snapshots of the linked web pages. Then, when you’re away from a network connection, you’re still able to read the full articles (especially useful since some feeds like CNN put very little content in the feed and instead expect you to click over to their site). Next time you sync, the entries you read will also be marked as read in Google Reader.

Toodledo

Website
App store
$2.99

If you’re looking for a way to keep your to-do list organized and to help manage your time, I’d recommend taking a look at Toodledo. It’s a web-based task list with lots of useful integration with other services. The iPod app works with the free Toodledo service and syncs tasks between web and mobile using push notification. I used Remember The Milk for a long time, but when I discovered Toodledo I quickly switched over.

Dictionary.com

Website
App Store
Free

One of the great things about having a mobile web device is being able to look something up wherever you are. If you don’t have a wi-fi connection, you’re a bit more limited but you can at least look up definitions using Dictionary.com. It’s based on the Random House dictionary, and takes a fair amount of storage space, but doesn’t require a connection.

WordPress

Website
App Store
Free

Not everyone will find this useful, but if you have a blog based on WordPress, the WordPress app lets you do some limited work on your blog even offline. Right now, I’m editing this post on my iPod using the “local draft” feature. When I get back to an Internet connection, I can publish it to my website or save it as a draft for further editing.

Honorable Mentions

That’s about it for my must-have offline apps, but if you have a good one I didn’t mention, please comment! I don’t want to miss out!

Refinancing again

Just a quick note for those of you who have mortgages but maybe haven’t been paying close attention: home loan rates are pretty good right now. Over the weekend, the rate for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage at our credit union dropped below 5%. That’s first time I have seen it do that, and since I’ve had an alert set up to notify me when the rate reached 4.875% for quite some time, I’m inclined to believe that this is a new low for at least as long as I’ve been a homeowner.

We have an appointment to refinance since the drop is significant and the payback period is reasonably short (since we can just do a straight loan modification). Obviously, your rates and costs may vary from mine, but now might be a good time to run the numbers and see if you’d benefit.

PVC Water Gun

Just in time for fall… here’s the PVC water gun I designed and built:

It’s powered by air pressure, which is created by the water pressure in the garden hose. It cost about $10-12 to build. Full instructions are available on the project page.

The good news is, this time of year, some of the parts are on clearance at the home improvement stores. Build one today, and be ready for the jack-o-lantern smashing kids this Halloween!

Broke the 40 MPG barrier

Tonight we drove home about 58 miles in our Mazda 5. Ours has a 2.3L engine with a 4 speed automatic transmission. The car was hauling the four of us and a fair amount of luggage, etc. We took exclusively 2 lane state route highways and had to stop twice for potty breaks. I ran the air conditioning about 10% of the time.

The result (according to our Scangauge II): 40.3 MPG.. Now, I should mention that I drove 52 MPH (or the posted speed limit in towns) the entire way, but I was still pretty happy to break that barrier in a non-hybrid 6-seater.

For those of you who can’t stomach driving below the limit, Dusty drove the same trip (but on a different day and taking a different route including 20 miles of interstate) driving the speed limit and got around 37 MPG.

The Atterberrys in AgriNews

On our last camping trip a lady from a local paper talked to us and took a few pictures while we were setting up camp. I didn’t hear what paper she was from, but my mom found the article in Illinois AgriNews.

P.S. The Amboy Pharmacy mentioned in the article was really neat. I had an old-fashioned phosphate made with Green River syrup. I wanted to try another made with peanut butter syrup, but the soda jerk talked me out of it. I don’t blame her.

Camper bunk night light

We like to take our kids camping in our popup, but one problem I hadn’t solved yet was the lack of a night light. Evan likes to have one, and it’s nice to be able to see a little bit when sharing a “room” with kids. What I did was modify an existing light in the camper to add a night light feature.

Bunk night light

Once I figured out what to do, it was a fairly easy project. Check out the project page for more information.

Peg Perego tractor

Dusty had the good fortune to find a Peg Perego Power Pull ride-on tractor on Craigslist recently. The price was right, but unsurprisingly, it needed a little work. We found a new battery for a good price, but there were also some cracks in the chassis. Both the front end and rear ends have succumbed to the impacts a novice driver is likely to administer.

In only an hour, I built a PVC frame to reinforce and repair the chassis. Since the back end was toast, the new frame also provides sort of a hitch as well. Visit the project page to read more.

Peg Perego tractor