3 Easy & Cheap RV “Tech Hacks”
Over the past few months hubby has upgraded our RV life with some easy “tech hacks”, and today I figured I would share those with our fine blog readers. Now, we are most definitely tech lovers and nerds, but sometimes we like to do stuff on the cheap either because we don’t really like the tech that’s on offer at the moment or we’re waiting for next-gen releases or…well…just because it’s plain fun to do a cheap hack. None of these are earth-shattering in any way, but they’ve all worked really well for us so perhaps you might like them too. Here you go….
1/ Movie “Screencast” Hack
During the past year we finally made the move to disconnect our Direct TV (something I’ve wanted to do for aaages). Around the same time our DVD+Amp (a cheap, horrible thing that came with the RV) went kaput. So, we’ve had nothing but empty space in our entertainment cabinet for a while. We’ve been playing/streaming movies on our laptop(s) & eyeing an Apple TV so we can “cast” those movies onto our nice, big front LCD TV, but the new Apple TV (which is the one we want) never seems to come out. Also we haven’t really been motivated to replace the dead DVD player & amp (~$500 for the new model we want). What we needed was a cheap and easy hack!
That’s when hubby had the brilliant and ridiculously simple idea of buying an HDMI cable to connect the PC to the TV. For less than $12 we bought the highest-quality 25-foot HDMI Cable we could find, connected one side to the HDMI output on the TV and the other to the HDMI input Paul’s Mac. Voilà….cheap screencast! We can now play movies from our hard drive, backup drives, rental DVDs (e.g. Redbox) or streaming sources (e.g. Amazon Prime, Netflix, HBOnow) directly to our big TV by just connecting a cord. We roll up the cable and hide it behind the TV when traveling or not in use. Not fancy, but it’s cheap and it totally works.
Note/ You can also buy cables that connect your iPhone/iPad to HDMI, but they’re pricier ($44 for the Lightning Adapter) and seem a little more hassle to use so we haven’t tried that route.
2/ Navigation GPS Hack
The current GPS we have is an ooooold Garmin (from 2008) with a screen that’s smaller than my iPhone. I’ve been eyeing the new RV GPS’s for a long time (in fact they even made my 2013 “Big 5” Christmas wishlist), but at >$300 a pop we just haven’t been motivated. Plus over the past few years we’ve found ourselves using our phones for navigation more and more frequently. I really like Google Maps** especially the way it shows traffic blocks and automatically routes you around them, plus it’s free (wheee!).
So, a few months ago we bought two rock-solid iOttie Car Mount Phone Holder (one for car, one for RV) for $25 each, plus two $9 Car Chargers and really haven’t looked back. We loooove these phone holders, especially the easy way the phone “clicks” into place with one hand. They’ve held up incredibly well and we haven’t really felt limited in our navigation. When we’re traveling in the RV we still back-up all our navigation plans with a physical map (which is just plain smart when traveling in a “beast”), but now we have a cheap hack for our GPS.
** The only place Google Maps really fails is when we’re outside our cellphone service area. There are snazzy offline apps such as Co-Pilot (which also offers an “RV Mode”) that come highly recommended. We haven’t tried it yet, but will probably test it out on our next drive East.
3/ Bluetooth Audio-Streaming Hack
For many years we had satellite radio as our main “on the road” (driving) entertainment, but we started to get a little bored with it so last year we decided to cut that cord and replace it with online music streaming and podcasts.
The problem was the audio quality. On the road we could barely hear our little iPad’s speakers and since we have an old-fashioned non-Bluetooth-enabled radio (and no amp, as that went kaput last year) we had no easy way to play the sound through our ceiling (surround sound) speakers. Paul looked at buying a new Bluetooth-enabled amp (~$500) or replacing our radio with a new Bluetooth-enabled radio panel (finding an exact fit was frustrating), but both ideas seemed overkill for what we wanted to do. We needed a cheap hack!
What Paul found was this snazzy Bluetooth Hands-Free Car Kit for $30 which could connect to the auxiliary jack input on our existing radio (we also needed THIS $1.50 stereojack to RCA adapter, but otherwise nothing else), and voilà…we have Bluetooth audio streaming enabled! The device is only ~1 inch in diameter (nice & small) and Paul ran the cable inside the left ridge of our front radio panel and connected to a 12V socket behind the panel so that none of the cables show. We can now play music, podcasts and audio books over our main speakers from our phone/ipad/PC anytime we wish. As an extra bonus the Bluetooth device also acts as a speakerphone so that if we get a call on our phones while on the road we can talk “hands free” and hear the person on the phone through our big speakers.
That’s it for our most recent hacks. Told you these were easy, right?
We’ve started our countdown to being on the road again. Two more weeks and then we’re done with hosting and outta here. I’ll have several more posts before we move on including (hopefully) a few more recipes and some more pics from the beach and the beautiful area around here. In the meantime, nerd on my friends….