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Back from the road trip
July 17, 2011 03:56
Ok, we've actually been back for a week now. The trip was mostly a success. It was a good 2500 mile test of the in-car computer with cam and gps. I also learned that I can make the drive from here to Illinois nonstop (well, excepting bathroom and food breaks of course). Prior to this, the longest I've ever driven has been about 4 hours. The trip up there took 14. The trip BACK took 20, and I ALMOST made that one, although I had to hand over control to Gertie for the last hour as I was getting a little bit loopy on all that caffiene. One thing is for sure, I LOVE driving overnight. The brief portion of the trip spent driving in daylight seemed to take as long as the many more hours I was driving in the dark. No idea why.
As for the live cam, the results were mostly good, although there were some issues. The connection was decent all through oklahoma, but completely died once I hit Missouri, for about the first 5 miles. Then it immediately switched to 3G and stayed there through the rest of the state. The southern end of Illinois was pretty decent as well, but the last 40 miles of the trip I completely lost all cellphone coverage (or at least data coverage). The trip from Illinois to Ohio didn't fare as well. Things were fine until I hit Indiana, but then the coverage got spotty. If I got a connection at all, it was pretty lousy, and it remained that way pretty much all the way to Mt. Gilead, OH. There were, however a few good spots around the decently sized cities. The trip back was actually much better. The connection stayed active, solid, and fast all the way from the moment I hit highway 71 until I passed through Texarkana. The last stretch through northern Texas on 82 was pretty bad though, and I didn't get any decent coverage again until I hit 69.
I've since tweaked the settings a bit so the image size for the car's cam is reduced to about 4k instead of the 8k it was before. That allows for both a faster FPS and a better chance of receiving images, since most images can make it in 3 packets instead of 7, and packetloss is a much larger problem on cellphone wireless networks, especially G or E. While the GPS program which I wrote will automatically reconnect whenever it loses its connection (which happens quite often), the flash webcam streamer I'm using will not, and I've so far been unable to find a code hook to signal an event when the connection dies or times out so I can force a reconnect automatically. I will probably end up writing my own simple webcam streamer for this purpose, eventually.
Went to E's wedding, and that went well, even though it was hot and the bugs thought we were tasty. Then we went to visit some of Gertie's extended family. The truck made the trip with no incidents and it even did pretty good on the gas mileage when I was on the highway. It sure drank up the gas in the cities though.
Now, the next big question... was this a better deal than flying? I know I was personally far more comfortable driving it, but lets weigh all of the factors. First off, for this trip we weren't able to find any reasonably priced flights, so on cost alone, we beat it by driving hands down. Besides, a side trip to Ohio would have complicated matters if we flew up there, and we would have had to rent a car and still drive a significant distance from the airport, as we were more than an hour out of Chicago. Likewise, it's doubtful with a discount flight we would get a straight through trip, and would get at least one layover and we would have to be at the airport early, not to mention time spent driving to the airport in the first place. There are also luggage restrictions, on size, weight, and the specific contents you can take with you. And I don't fit very well into coach seats, as if that's any big surprise. I suspect, when all is said and done, the trip by car wasn't more than 3 hours longer than the trip by plane would have been, and I found the trip far more comfortable and worthwhile.
Re-examining our trip from last year, from Denison to St. Pete beach, FL, it would have taken about 19 hours to drive it. To fly, we left the house about 8 am and arrived at the hotel about 7:30 pm, so it would have taken about 5 hours longer to drive it than to fly. Of course, some of that flight time could have been adjusted. We COULD have shown up later to the airport, but security is always a crapshoot and you never know what you're going to have to deal with. We could have also gotten a straight through flight which would have been a lot faaster than the one we had with a layover, but that would have cost far more. As it stands, the cost to drive it and the cost to fly it would be about the same, so for THAT trip, flying probably made more sense, although I was quite uncomfortable on the flight back, and it would have been nice to not have to worry about the size of my deoderant can.
The site had a few issues while I was gone. The office cam died since the host computer decided to reboot for no apparent reason. The sign's computer also died, somewhat more permanantly, and I'm still working to set up a replacement. It's amazing how many empty shells of computers I have around here that DON'T work. Just... AMAZING.