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Old 11-29-2008, 01:28 PM   #57
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Mexray,

I think what Robert was getting at is that he just needed a "subset" of the Cadillac unit and not a fully automated system. My guess is all he needs is something that would "tell him how much lift he needed and where he needed it" so his leveling effort would be KISS.

In keeping with this goal, just assume Robert is backing into his camp site and is getting a costant readout of the left to right and front to rear angle of his trailer. He backs up until left to right says "0", stops, cranks his front lift until front to back says zero, lowers his stabilizers by whatever means he desires and he is done. If Robert couldn't just back into level he would be told the number of inches to lift the left or right side at some location on the ground, drop the blocks at the currentl tire location, back up, move the blocks where they lie but in front of the tires, pull forward watching the left to right come into level, and proceed as if he had previously found level.

Meanwhile the guy next to him is pulling back and forth, putting lifts below his tires, getting in and out checking his level and such while Robert opens a cold one and watches his neighbor. In this case the KISS metric is how long did it take Robert to start enjoying his camping experience versus his neighbor. If he somehow destroys his leveling system I gues he would have to borrow the level from his neighbor.

So I guess what I need to do is put metrics of the "level of KISS" so I know if I am moving in the right direction. So here is my first attempt;

X = number of camping experiences per year

1) If device reduces physical effort it gets a +
2) If device increases physical effort it gets a -
3) If device reduces the "prepare to enjoy camping" time it gets a +
4) If device increases the "prepare to enjoy camping" time it gets a -
5) If device "installation time" is LESS than "X times prepare to enjoy camping time" it gets a +
6) If device "installation time" is GREATER than "X times prepare to enjoy camping time" it gets a -
7) If it never breaks gets a +
8) If it breaks it gets a -
9) If it never requires maintenace it gets a +
10) If it rquires maintenance it gets a -
11) If it breaks and tells you exactly what is wrong it gets a +
12) If it breaks and requires "professions service" it gets a -
13) I need some "cost metric" to use if anyone has any suggestions.

This application does not have a comparison like; a paper atlas versus a navigation system. I think navigation would never sell if that comparison from a financial perspective UNLESS some metric was placed on "time savings", which I don't know that $/hour value to a camper.

If any campers bought a navigation systems perhaps they could provide some reasoning on how navigation was justified? Perhaps non camping time and grief were the justifcation and camping usage was just a bonus? In our house today EVERY vehicle has navigation, where I initially got it in my business vehicle and the rest of the family now all have it and can't live without it. Or perhaps its kind of like heated seats up here in Wisconsin. I could never justify such an expense when I was young, until I had them in the business vehicle, and now I will never live without them. By the way, my daughter got the portable Garmin unit which is FAR superior to those in our vehicles BECAUSE she can set it up in the house BEFORE she leaves and not have to use those TERRIBLE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY interfaces to try to set the destination while in the car. Heck my wife actually has to stop the car to set her destination, which I guess is nice for safety but since even the passenger can't adjust it while she is driving! Sorry about the deviation.

On cost, Mexray bought an electric impact wrench, which if he has one with good batteries, was probably at least $100 and requires he makes sure he charges the batteries before he leaves. He has two uses, like one would with navigation, but my guess is using it to drop the stabilizers is what justified the purchase with "physical effort" having a heavier weighting factor than the cost or the camping time saved (a guess).

Any other KISS metrics would be appreciated, where perhaps a "weighting factor" based upon age is needed. Thus young campers with little money" would never pay for anything like this and thus are not part of this devices market (when I was younger I had far more time than money). Beside, a young camper is probably in a tent or a pop up anyway.

Again, any "buy decision criteria" would be helfpul. This info would be useful for any product decision.

Regards,
Don
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Old 11-29-2008, 02:30 PM   #58
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Thats it...

Quote:
Originally Posted by C5Don View Post
Mexray,

I think what Robert was getting at is that he just needed a "subset" of the Cadillac unit and not a fully automated system. My guess is all he needs is something that would "tell him how much lift he needed and where he needed it" so his leveling effort would be KISS.

In keeping with this goal, just assume Robert is backing into his camp site and is getting a costant readout of the left to right and front to rear angle of his trailer. He backs up until left to right says "0", stops, cranks his front lift until front to back says zero, lowers his stabilizers by whatever means he desires and he is done. If Robert couldn't just back into level he would be told the number of inches to lift the left or right side at some location on the ground, drop the blocks at the currentl tire location, back up, move the blocks where they lie but in front of the tires, pull forward watching the left to right come into level, and proceed as if he had previously found level.

Meanwhile the guy next to him is pulling back and forth, putting lifts below his tires, getting in and out checking his level and such while Robert opens a cold one and watches his neighbor. In this case the KISS metric is how long did it take Robert to start enjoying his camping experience versus his neighbor. If he somehow destroys his leveling system I gues he would have to borrow the level from his neighbor.

Regards,
Don
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Old 11-29-2008, 03:44 PM   #59
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I love the fact that my fridge and my water heater need not power. I am trying to reduce the amount of electric dependence in my trailer. The thought of adding some more computer technology makes me nauseous. Every bit of computer based technology I have run into lasts at most 5 years before it is relegated as junk. It is the bane of my life at work, where I maintain older automatic pick and place and screen printing equipment. Computers to me are the "Wolf" I have to hold by the ears. I for one vote NO to adding any type of automation or circuit boards to my trailer!!!

off the soap box for now.......
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Old 11-29-2008, 04:15 PM   #60
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Quote:
Originally Posted by till View Post
I for one vote NO to adding any type of automation or circuit boards to my trailer!!!

off the soap box for now.......
I guess my objective in all this is to have a stand alone accessory that would not really add any complexity to the coach itself. I do subscribe to the KISS principal, as my Dad used to tell me, keep it stupid, simple.
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Old 11-29-2008, 05:50 PM   #61
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Till,

Are you my straight man? I designed those products that go obsolete for Rockwell and Eaton for most of my career. That is EXACTLY why I created my own company, created a patent pending architecture, where the "interface to all devices, in all markets of all industries" is EXACTLY the same from the network interface, indepndent of CPU or anything. It is the first "real licensed open control" in the business. Thus SAME support tools for every product for any vendor. Any vendor can create their own tool or use someone elses. In fact, you could take the "User Applicaiton Programs" from a 5 year old product, download to a brand new product with the types of inputs and outputs, and it would work! Bottom line is my architecture SOLVES all the problems you describe, and far more. The only reason you have not seen this technology is because NONE of my customers over the past six years allow me to advertise they use my stuff inside. When I started my company I didn't see that coming, as I am obviously not a marketing guy. So why am I doing some of my own product? Since I will be able to describe anything I want about it, demonstrate its full flexibility and so on. This is NOT YOUR AUTOMOTIVE or INDUSTRIAL product crap. It is perhaps the best kept secret in the world of technology. In fact, as you will see, you will be able to take one hardware platform, download different User Application Programs (UAPs) and you will be able to change it into an entirely different product. This is not a "limited PLC" as if they solved all the problems you mention, you wouldn't have made the statements you made. By the way, these UAPs can include "extreme diagnostic programs" and so on. The best thing is as more is learned about a "new fault due to some new scenario" all I need to do is create another UAP to diagnose that problem, add it to the web site, and you then download the best diagnostics we have.

Relative to quality of product, assuming that is why your equipment becomes junk, do I use capacitors with a 1000hr rating or a little more expensive 5000hr rating? Gee, guess what's in your TV and such? So "junk hardware" is determined by you company accountants, not your engineers. Some product we did in "your industry" does things like watching the internal heat, the current draw through power devices, the voltage disspated by those devices and if a short occurs or some other issues that would turn it to "junk" it shuts down and tells you about the problem. Do the engine computers in your vehicle make your life a pleasure? Do they say "replace 02 sensor" or say "leaky injector cylinder 5" or anything like that? Nope, but it does put a smile on the dealership mechanics! If my stuff requires special training for 98% of possible faults, I failed. As far as I am concerned, all this garbage on the market is a "market opportunity". Hey, I tried to create a "user friendly architecture" when working for the "big boys" but as history shows, it must not be in the interst of corporate america. Remember, "if you don't pitch it out, your'e not buying a new one". That is not my philosophy because I am not trying to protect a market. In fact, our customers in your industry can diagnose and download new code to their devices over the existing network if the had to, they just don't have to.

So I hope, once introduced, you give our stuff a try and try to prove us wrong. If we have a problem we will fix it, but we are clearly trying to understand a "customers needs" before we provide a solution, as we believe a device shouldn't fail int he first place so it doesn't require fixing. Of course, that costs us a bit more in the hardware and time to write the software but since it can be reused across all products, not that big a deal. I understand the frustruation as I have all kinds of products around here that frustrate me as well, so I am just trying to fix it.

Regards,
Don
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Old 11-29-2008, 07:03 PM   #62
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User interface.

First I would like to acknowledge that I for one believe you have a good prospective on the issues.

Tank and battery monitor at the low end should be a simple set of LEDs for each for each indicating the level. A press of a button would activate. As others have suggested accuracy and dependablity are manditory. The value is not haveing a messey accident or creating a problem by emptying particularly the black tank too often. Also knowning when to start serious conservation is a benefit.

At the high end would be continous montoring with configurable alert levels. At this level it would provide a check list type of function. Press a button to see if everything is ready to move the trailer. If not identifiy all the functions which are not in a proper state (stablelizers up, light's off, Stove off, etc. This would also be configurable to enable or disable. Default disabled. It should automatically identify moniorable devices during configuration, allowing devices to be added or removed. A remote from the tow vehichel would add some more.

Hope some of this makes sense to you.
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Old 11-29-2008, 11:49 PM   #63
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Kiss

In my view (20+ years in manufacturing) the worst thing you can do is mess up somebody's leisure time...

Ask Johnson and Evinrude how well cutting edge new technology worked out for them...oh wait a minute, it's now a Bombardier phone number
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Old 11-30-2008, 01:59 AM   #64
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Don,
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't have the confidence in most any mid-range RV manufacturer these days to build a lasting, quality product with any increase in the overall product's technology...

IMHO, profits, and investor's ROI rule the roost to the extent that quality control almost takes a back seat...if one finds cosmetic imperfections annoying, just think about those 'imperfections' that may lay behind hidden areas of the product...wiring and plumbing not secured properly, components not attached properly, improper electrical connections, weather leaks in panels, loose or not tightened hardware, etc, etc...Once these kinds of issues are addressed on a consistent basis, it would seem the sky's the limit for an increased 'Tech-level' in RV's...

I sure do agree with you on the importance of a Navigation system for the traveling RV'er...I've owned several Garmin hand held GPS units for years, but it wasn't until taking a cross-country road trip that I bought a portable Garmin NUVI GPS - the greatest thing since sliced bread, as they say!...When in unfamiliar territory, on the road, the newer GPS Nav devices are without peer!...if anyone out there doesn't believe us...borrow one from a friend for a short trip and you will be converted!

My mention of a battery powered impact wrench was an illustration of adapting a good shop tool for additional use when traveling with our AS...I guess I could also hook it up to our hand cranked blender to make our evening Margaritas....

Also, to toss another 'option' into the trailer leveling discussion...I've recently add another new 'low-tech' toy to our traveling gear...It's an 'RV Pillow', a pneumatic heavy, multi-ply plastic 'bag' that you park the low side of the trailer tires onto, in your camp spot...then you hook a 12V air compressor (everyone has one of these for emergences and inflating the kid's toys, right?) to the bag's fitting and inflate till the side-to-side attitude is level...level the trailer for-aft with the tongue jack, and you're done!...Hand me that cold one, after such a 'hard' work-out getting camp set up!
Ray
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Old 11-30-2008, 10:37 AM   #65
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Being inherently lazy, I love gadgets that make life easier, until they break. In the Minuet, when I want to know how much fresh water is left in the tank, I open the hatch under the dinette and look at the tank. Gray water will be the same as soon as I cut a hatch and black water is also easy to check, just turn off the water, open the toilet and shine a light inside. The battery check is a $12 volt meter that plugs into the 12V socket in the galley. This Minuet is 31 years old and the fridge, furnace, toilet, all still function as expected. I don't think electronics are going to help much. Hog tight, horse high, and bull strong along with light weight don't need to be mutually exclusive. Just takes more thought. OK <rant off>
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Old 11-30-2008, 05:41 PM   #66
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tbaugh,

Gee, now your sounding like a "systems guy" which is really where the value of networked systems reside. With a few key monitoring points and a truly integrated system, all kinds of things are possible. In effect, we are going to allow those whom like to "tinker" to actually "modifiy device operation and add their own features if they like". Of course, our stuff will always provide the old "man I really got this thing messed up and return me to default operation" selection.

All electronic stuff in you car wake up due to some event, like pushing the brake or turning on the key. When the key is turned off, after a period of time all the electronics go to sleep (turn off) so they don't consume any power. I planned on waking up when any button was pushed, where by default, would turn off a period of time later. You will see the ability to communicate with the trailer and integrate vehicle info with trailer info, so doing things like knowing when the vehicle is started and something in the trailer is "incosistent with moving the trailer" all kinds of alerts could occur, as well as the alarm points you reference. It appears many campers don't want this stuff to invade their camping experinece, and I can understand that, but for those whom want some convenience items we aim to please.

The biggest problem in automation is sensor, RELIABLE sensors, or knowing what sensor is bad if a problem occurs. Additionally, sensor cost can be an issue. If the sensor to monitor stuff costs too much, its not worth doing. On the leveling a trailer, I can do that cheap. On the water volume, I have "industrial quality electonics" for that stuff, but trying to find an appropriate low cost sensor. I now some low costs ways to get there, just need to make certain they are not patented. That is the only item in front of me on the tanks. Heck, if you wanted to pay a few hundred bucks for a sensor, no problem, but don't thing people would be willing to do that.

Mexray,

On some of the trailer vendors out there, I have a line of people whom would clearly agree with you. One guy told me, and I don't know if it is true or not, that many trailer companines got their start by farmers whom had nothing to do in the off season, pulled out their welders, and made trailers. Nothing against that, if it is true, but the industry is more builders and assemblers than technology driven, so from best I can tell, only the larger trailer companies possibly have the capabilities to do it right. In industry, you have trained technicians. In automotive you have trained technicians. In trailer industry, far as I can tell, you don't. So I can't expect ANY literacy in the application / installation of this stuff, and will be pleasantly surprised when I see it. In my prior life, for a new product, I always thought you sould give it to a secretary, have her install it and get it running while carefully capturing every question and every "poorly documented" installation procedure. Nothing against secretaries, but you need to pick someone that does not know the buzz words and such and needs to have everything described very clearly. In fact, the second thing I do for a new product is write the owners manual, before I write one line of code or order the first circuit board. An owners manual usually uncovers "what is important". Then once installed, burn the manual, break stuff, and see if the owner can figure out what is wrong. My stuff has to pass those two sequences; where the secretary is replaced with my wife or my daughter.

On the nav, finding a restaurant you never went to, a customer you never visited, once you used one you will NEVER go back to a map. You may use mapquest to get an address correct, but that's about it. I am trying to find "my nav product" where one may not think they want it, but after they use it, they won't go back.

Everyone keep you complaints, ideas and possible needs coming. I am not saying I will provide all solutions to all problems, but you will see some solutions where you can decide if you want them.

Regards,
Don
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Old 12-01-2008, 09:45 AM   #67
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WARRANTY? Please respond!

OK, well all seem to fear something breaks. Ya, I buy craftsman tools (even though they are getting pretty crappy as I can "twist" a small crafstman straight with a "little help" where they historically would ruin the screw (no heat treat I guess) primarily because I can return them, get a new one, and out the door. The ONLY reason I buy them.

On electronics no one does that for numerous reasons. For example; "I connected the input to 120vac by mistake and it doesn't work any more". I could make it work for that extreme, but few want to pay for that in the purchase price. For something like that, even if not admitted to by customer, I could see a lower cost replacement.

Since initially I don't plan on doing any products that "shut down a trailer" like "load shedding could", until I "learn the market" and typical abuse I would like your input. First an example, as it is happening to me TODAY!

My furnace in my house is cycling on and off;

1) Is it the exhaust air flow switch?
2) Is it the differential pressure switch?
3) Is it the high temp trip?
4) Is the theormostat cycling calling for heat, up to temp, heat?
5) Exhaust blower motor failing, thus air flow switch is causing the cycling?

Yep, I think this CLEARLY falls into your typical life of if I knew what was wrong I could buy the part cheaper, replace the part myself, and I am done. Ya, I know some stuff to watch to "try to eliminate the easy faults" but do I "really know for sure that is the problem"? Sound familiar.

So item 1, our stuff will TELL YOU anthing it can assess. May even request you do something to help it determine the fault. Of course the "furnace guys" don't do this as it would cost probably $10 cost to provide a cheap display or even less for a code flashing LED.
-----------------------------------
So lets say it says you have a bad "left/right" sensor;

1) Ship it to us UPS ground for about let's say $7
2) We fix it for cost, let's say $20
3) We ship it back to you and charge you for a for shipping of say $7
4) Your repair cost is about $35

I forgot to mention, we opened to box and it obviously was "under water" but that doesn't matter, was broken so we fixed it, and the return would say what we found so you can possibly avoid it in the future.

The above is the "ideal vendor situation" where "repairs cost".
-----------------------------------
Then there is the best buy approach, charge you up front for a service contract. Some of you do that, I never do. Let's call this the "service contract" approach.

-----------------------------------------
Then there is the perceived customer ideal situation;

1) You call get an email containing a UPS return label.
2) You ship it to us at our cost, we fix it, return it at our cost.

The problem is, we are really doing a "mandatory service contract" since our price includes this possible overhead, but you probably believe we are the ideal company. Sounds like a lot of trailer vendors take this approach, where some of you say they should just make a better product. Sometimes better means higher price and you buy from the other guy, so they do the "hidden mandatory service contract" as their price is covering this expense.
-------------------------------------
Which does each of you prefer, or do you have another alternative. If you say just don't buy it in the first place, I already know that answer. For those whom actually might buy something electronic please respond. By the way, if our hardware EVER went obsolete and failed, repair would generally provide the "new version" at the "repair cost scenario" thus our stuff would "never be obsolete" for those whom have voiced this concern, and we clearly thank you for that insight.

Please respond to this one.
Regards,
Don
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Old 12-02-2008, 09:46 AM   #68
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Looking back to posts #46-56 and the question of levelling the trailer -- and a question on another thread concerning proper jack points on an A/S -- I asked in yet another thread

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f457...ing-46603.html

if anyone was familiar with the Bair Hydraulic Jack central point leveling system offered by the late, great Streamline Travel Trailer Co. by the late 1960's.

I offer this now as a point of seeing what history offers. It should be noted that Streamline, like Silver Streak and Avion travel trailers were built on separate two or three channel 6" steel frames unlike an A/S.

An interesting thread, C5Don, with stirring arguments (definitions of "correct ways").

My interest in reading is not simply from curiosity, but to see if I someday wish to retrofit my trailer with a device or system that would be labor-saving as I age; thus, potentially, lengthening the time I am physically able to utilize a travel trailer. I'm not yet old in that sense (I see that as being about age 75 where the men of two generations of my family quit towing, but traveled for 5-7 years more on their own before reverting to airlines and trains), but I am interested in reliability first, convenience second as a point of departure.
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Old 01-05-2009, 09:57 AM   #69
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REDNAX,

Reliability shall be very high, where in general our designs "protect themselves" from envisioned faults and then indicate the fault to the user. Our experience in the trailer market is; if you install it properly by following directions, you should be fine. We do things like monitor current flow through high power outputs to make sure "ratings are not exceeded" and if they are, we shut down and indicate the problem. For example, a locked up motor, a short and such we can't fix, we can just tell you it exists so you can fix it. If you connect 120VAC to some DC inputs, some will survive for a while, some would "smoke immediately", so again, you have to install it correctly. We generally detect numerous types of sensor failures and indicate the problems clearly. In one industry I worked in early in my career (process control) some customers were so afraid of autmation we had to put manual backup switches on "all the outputs" just in case things failed. Let's just say today they don't do that any more as it was never worth the expense. I believe if you see a product from us you will see we put the end user first, where a retired person with bad eyes better be able to read the display and better be able to understand and operate the user interfaces, NOT like setting the clock on your VCR or DVD player or getting your flatscreen TV to work in HD! Pathetic excuses for engineering and clearly not KISS.

I too reviewed the existing leveling systems and such and not being from this industry was actually taken back a bit by the control systems offerred, and their prices. I believe in providing "manual control" of stuff, but also believe in KISS and one touch control and let the "brains level the trailer while limiting frame torsion" and only use individual "lift control in unusual circumstances. I believe we will be able to offer the proper "open control" technologies to perform one button leveling using various lifting technlologies based upon the needs of the trailer. There are people out there whom are skilled in the lifting side of the problem where, and like anything else, there are a prolifera of possible solutions depending upon how one "defines the problem being solved". From your experience, how many inches do you have to lift one side of the trailer to make it level?

Relative to my current knowledge on this subject, the lift distances clearly determines the lift technologies that may be used, the installation issues, and the final cost of the systems. As you are probably aware, creation a solution that solves 100% of the worst case requirements is more difficult then solving 80% of the lift scenarios. I would guess that multiple solutions could exist for different users, so my current question to users is; How much lift do you need left to right side, and since people generally drive up on ramps, how many inches of ramp are usually used and what is the maximum lift people generally carry with them?

Since I imagine today people use the tongue jack, is its range up and down of the existing jack generally sufficient, and if not, now many inches of blocks are added below it in general, and worst case?

I do know from 30 years in engineering, copying the competitors assumes they did their homework, which sometimes is not the case. All "lifting situtation" input is greatly appeciated, even if it is as simple as; 10 inches left to right, 30 inches front jack.

Regards,
Don
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Old 01-05-2009, 10:28 AM   #70
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Thumbs up My experience only...

Don,

I have only had to level side/side up to a max of about 5". At times I use one of the orange "blocks" under the tongue to compensate for soft ground conditions. The ramp I made is 3/4" and each of the blocks about 1". The blocks lock together to create a ramp if needed.
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