I already had java installed on my ubuntu system, so I was able to run the installer jar with:
java -jar installer.jar
So at this point, we have the Squirrel SQL client installed, and we can launch it. I ran into a problem though, in that I wasn’t able to connect to my database.
I didn’t have any Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) drivers available for my newly installed database client to connect to my database.
I set out to find find my missing SQLLite JDBC driver. It looks like squirrel was configured to pull the missing JDBC driver from a public bitbucket project, but that url was no longer working. I instead found the project had a fork on github (Or maybe the project was relocated to github?) I was able to find the current release of the JDBC driver as a jar file here: https://github.com/xerial/sqlite-jdbc/releases. So I downloaded this file and then copied it into my squirrel sql client’s `lib` directory.
With the JDBC driver in place, I was able to connect to my sqllite db!
With CPU clock speeds and core counts both reaching new highs, everyone seems to want more performance out of their PC. I set out to do the exact opposite today: I want to get bettery battery life by killing off some of the performance. I’m attempting to tune the performance of a gaming laptop so that I can use it while on the go and away from the wall.
For the past 8-ish years I’ve been using Linux distributions on my daily driver laptops for development purposes. I find myself doing less and less directly on my local machine and more in the cloud through command line terminal sessions. There are a bunch of different reasons for this, but I find that my local OS doesn’t matter nearly as much as it used to. On our last trip to Mexico, I did the majority of my work in a terminal on my iPad Pro 11″. I’m looking to cut down on what I carry as we continue our RV travels, so let’s see how we can dial up the battery life on a gaming laptop.
Tweaking Windows performance settings
If you have a Windows laptop, you’ve likely seen the battery icon in the bottom right corner of your screen. If you click it, you can drag a lever back and forth to choose which “Power mode” you want to use.
Inside each of these Power modes is a LOT of settings that you can change to tweak how your machine will behave when A) your machine is configured to use that power mode and B) when your machine is either plugged into the wall or running on battery power.
Navigate there quickly by pasting this into your explorer bar:
Control Panel\Hardware and Sound\Power Options\Edit Plan Settings
Graphics related tweaks
I completely disabled the integrated Intel graphics when I bought this laptop. This means that by default, I’ve used the Nvidia RTX 2070 card for everything. It’s no surprise that my battery life took a hit for this. Changing the “Preferred graphics processor” back to Auto-select will allow me to benefit from the integrated card when I’m away from the wall, and the Nvidia card when I need to crank up some graphics.
My laptop also has the ability to change the refresh rate of the screen. I don’t benefit a great deal from the 240Hz refresh rate while I’m hacking around in terminals, so I can swap that backto 60Hz and save some battery life there as well. I wish Razer’s synapse software could auto-tune this setting by power source detection.
How much does this all really help?
I found a way to determine power draw while on battery power through an app called BatteryBar. This app estimates discharge rate by talking to your battery controller. Before I started tweaking power plan settings, I was somewhere north of 35,600mW (35.6W). After a bit of tuning, I was able to bring my discharge rtate down to ~9.7W – 12.2W, depending on screen brightness settings.
Before making any changes, my battery would only last about 3 hours. If the estimated runtime that BatteryBar is reporting turns out to be accurate, that would be a little over 2.5x my current runtime. We’ll see how it goes!
I’m not a huge fan of Apple gear, but I’m well aware that I’m in the minority. My fiancee practically lives on her Macbook Air though. Recently her email application, the Apple Mail app, stopped logging into her GMail and GSuite accounts.
We heard from a bunch of folks to, “buy too small instead of risking buying too big”. We took this to heart! Our Jayco Jayflight 145RB is 16.5 ft long with just enough room for the essentials.
Our tow vehicle
When we started, we didn’t want to blow our budget to see if this lifestyle was for us. We opted to keep our Jeep Wrangler JKU mainly because our light trailer was within the tow capacity. I installed a hitch to the frame under the bumper and a brake controller easily enough. (A HUGE Thank You! to Kenny for the help here)
This worked really well for hopping from RV Park to RV Park. After 3 months, we became bold enough to start exploring mountains and wanting to boondock at >5,000ft elevation. The Jeep could tow well enough on the highway, but it quickly became a struggle to pull uphill on steep grades. Add in some wind while on a steep uphill grade, and you’re in 2nd gear trying to maintain 40mph. Likewise, engine breaking downhill in 3rd gear would rev the engine to 4000rpm. For the peace of mind and safety factors, we decided to made a significant change to our setup.
RVLifer’s that tow, usually do so with a truck. This is the obvious move for safely towing larger travel trailer RVs. We decided to shop around for a little quarter ton truck after attempting to tow up a dirt and gravel campground trail in the Jeep. (That ended with us backing out carefully.) Not wanting to give up on boondocking off of some “scary” roads, we ended up getting a GMC Sierra with 4×4 AWD and a built-in brake controller.
We were fortunate enough to get a great deal on both the trade-in of the Jeep and our new (to us) truck!
We’re all familiar with the brake pedal for stopping our cars. When you’re pulling something heavy behind your vehicle, it’s very important to have the stopping power to cover both your vehicle and that heavy towed payload. Brake controllers help sync the trailer brakes up with the brakes of your tow vehicle. By pressing the brake pedal, you apply brakes on both your vehicle and the trailer that you’re towing. Some additional features allow you to engage trailer brakes independently of the vehicle brakes (useful in controlling dangerous trailer sway situations).
Our Jeep Wrangler didn’t have a brake controller installed from the manufacturer, so I opted to install our own. We ended up getting a REDARC EBRH-ACCV2 Tow-Pro Elite Controller. Most aftermarket brake controllers are large and blocky gadgets that eat into your dash or leg space under the dash. This unit was largely hidden underneath the dash and I only needed to mount a small button/knob for engaging/tuning the trailer brake power.
As we were shopping for a truck, we made sure that it would come with a brake controller installed from the manufacturer. The GMC brake controllers interface has one nice feature upgrade over the aftermarket solution we had on the Jeep: a lever to engage the trailer brakes as heavily as you push the lever. The REDARC break controller offers a simpler solution: a button that will engage the brakes as long as it’s held.
What is a weight distribution system?
These systems distribute the weight of your tow load across all of the axels of the tow vehicle and trailer.
Folks towing without a weight distribution system, describe their drive as white knuckling it. And after install, they can barely tell they’re towing anything behind their truck.
Why is weight distribution important?
even tire wear
better braking power
stiffer handling: more control through turns
Before I installed our weight distribution hitch, the front of the jeep sat high while the rear sank down. This meant I had a lot of wear on the rear tires, my headlights were pointing high into the faces of oncoming traffic, and it felt like a gust of wind would blow me right over. After this new setup was in place, the drive felt balanced and easier to control.
What is sway?
Have you ever driven down the road on a really windy day and an 18 wheeler passes you and multiplies the wind you’ve been fighting to stay straight on the road? How about that same situation but towing something just as big as your vehicle? Towing an RV before using sway control felt like I was dragging a huge sail behind me…causing a constant battle with the wind, the whole drive. You correct one way and that correction is multiplied, so you correct the other way and the same happens; repeat.
Why is sway control important?
Not all tow situations are the same, and so not all need a weight distribution hitch. As another safety precaution, we picked up Husky’s Centerline 32215 Weight Distribution Hitch.
This hitch is a bit more expensive than some other models you’ll find out there, but covers both weight distribution and sway control in a single system.
If it’s in stock, this hitch is much more affordable on Amazon
As we switched from the Jeep to our GMC truck, I did have to re-configure the distribution system slightly to allow more weight to rest on the rear axel of the truck. YMMV
See you guys on the road!
We’ve learned quite a bit about towing a travel trailer. Some will likely find the truck’s towing ability plus the weight distribution hitch w/ sway control as overkill. I do like that the weight distribution bars keep a force applied on the trailer wheels which keep them pinned to the ground in the case we hit some bumps at higher speed. We at least feel much safer towing on the highway, and I suppose that’s all we’re really chasing after!
I especially liked the refresher on “root cause identification” via the 5 whys. Tracing the exposed problem back to a root cause is something I feel too many teams miss out on. The general idea is to start with the problem and loop to asking why that happened until you get to the root of the issue. (sidenote: It’s incredibly important to separate the issue from the people associated with the issue to maintain a blameless and productive environment.) More background on the 5 whys on wikipedia.
The general idea is that you can use this twist-on valve for 2 main reasons:
an additional safety in case your main gray and/or black tank valves go bad. (no one wants to deal with a broken black tank valve and nasty water)
combine the dump tank storage capacity of both the gray and black tanks for additional gray water storage. This is great if you have a composting toilet and no longer use the black tank. It will allow you to boondock for longer periods of time.
Until we install our composting toilet, we’ll be using this as an additional safety valve to prevent nasty messes!
So what can we do?
We can build our own!
I started digging around on Amazon looking for parts to build my own twist-on valve. I found a few things that looked like they might work, but then I found this YouTube video detailing the parts I needed! A huge thanks to Radio Arizona RV for putting this together!