Author Archives: Britton

Thanks for the Packages!!!


Posted by Britton

Thanks to everyone who sent packages.  If we don’t use everything, we send the items on to those who can.  Much appreciation for the attention and it is amazing how much need there is here.

Post Office
Packing Slips at the PO

Cassie Boxes
Packages back at home

Bored Games
Playing games and passing time together

I just wanted to hop online and tell everyone that everything that was sent will go to good use.  The impact this storm had on the island is amazing.  Lots of people still without power and water.  Deepest thanks.   Packages are still arriving and the Post Office is overwhelmed.  They are however, doing a fantastic job.

Lizard Internet / Mango Wireless


Posted by Britton

Our normal morning routine is to wake up, make some coffee and zone out on the internet for a bit until we start our daily do-ings.  Lately however our internet setup hasn’t been working!!  So my routine started to include walking over to the other side of the property and checking out our wireless bridge.

I can usually check segments of our network from the cabin, but lately the cabin has been completely cut off!
britton-ladder
Climbing the Pole
The higher the wireless router inside this little box on the utility pole, the better signal we get from our neighbor’s router that we share with.

chewed-wires
The Problem

Pretty much every day there is rat poop on top of the box, with some leftover parcha or starfruit.  So I know the rats have been hanging out on top of the box.  But these wires are inside of the cage I built!  They can’t be getting inside?!

iguana-on-the-internet
Another Possible Hacker

I saw this one on top of the goods one day too.  But again, it is waayyyy too large to get into the box and be able to chew the wires up!  So probably not the one I am looking for.

It wasn’t until the other day I finally saw the culprit!

lizard
Ah Ha!!! (click to enlarge)

There has been a small lizard living inside the box and eating the cables every night!  The power cables are pretty chewed up but power cables shock them once they eat all the insulation, so he stops.  With the Ethernet cables however, he just chews right thru them.

I’ve mended the Ethernet cable probably 5 or 6 times now.  I covered it in some really thick waterproofing tape and that seems to be working for the moment.  I also will be hunting this little pest.  He is fast and I found myself chasing him with a stick the other day!  It was really quite humorous.

The other idea I had was to electrify the wire cage so that it isn’t such a nice spot for critters to sit and hang out.  I don’t think it will take much to do, but something I’ll have to figure out!  Maybe in the next revision?!

Swiss Family Jungle Internet


Posted by Britton

Internet is one of those modern conveniences that is just….. so nice to have. Checking in on Facebook, paying bills or looking how to do things on youtube. We haven’t “hooked” up internet service here yet, but we’ve always had some signal of some sort to utilize.  It is probably more of a personal challenge to find alternate ways of connecting than any actual reason.  In the process you can learn all kinds of new things about networking and radios.

When we first arrived the only way to get an open signal was to be on top of the cabana on the corner of the house. Usually this was in the sun or rain! This is what I will consider internet v1.0. It was much easier than packing up and going to a cafe, plus we didn’t have to buy coffee or sit outside some place and look like moochers. We could mooch from our own home!

Rainy Internet
Version 1.0

I then figured out how to setup a repeater bridge by installing a Linux variant DD-WRT on a Linksys router.  The bridge would take the internet signal from yonder and repeat it so that we had wireless access from within the cabana!  It needed to be waterproof so I bought a plastic trashcan from the dollar store, drilled holes for the antennas and hung it upside down.  I had to hang it upside down to keep the rain from draining into the antenna holes.

Painting the cabana
Version 2.0

Version 2.0 worked really well, it was nice to sit inside the cabana and have access.  Of course with both 1.0 and 2.0 the speeds were pretty much dialup.  The Access Point we were using was pretty far away.  Eventually the trees grew tall enough to block our access.  We had to find another source!

We had been talking to our neighbor about the idea of paying for a share of his internet and in return he would put his wireless router in his window nearest our property to get a good line of sight link to our wireless bridge.  Well this worked out really well!  This was version 3.0 and I even made a little wood box for it out of scrap T-111 because the plastic trashcan disintegrated in the sun!!  The speeds were MUCH faster and it worked really well.

Forward to the cabin being built and wanting to have internet over there.  It is easily 500 feet and there is a forest between the router box, so no signal is going to make it over there.  We had already put in an electricity line and I did some research.

Apparently companies have figured out how to make a device that will transmit from an electric outlet to an electric outlet.  This is perfect!  It is called Ethernet over power in case you may want to use it.  One end plugs into the wireless router (Ethernet up-link) and plugs into the power outlet the router is plugged into.   The other end plugs into an outlet at the cabin.  Since they are on the same circuit they can talk.  The device at the cabin also has a wireless router built into it!  So now we have wireless internet at and around the cabin!

cabin-routergoogle-at-cabin
Version 3.0

The only problem I had now was that apparently wires and cables are fun to chew on.  So rats and iguanas have been chewing up the power and Ethernet cables inside the box and it quits working.

So here comes version 4.0 pictured below.  It is waterproof, chew proof relays a wireless signal from our neighbor to our concrete cabana AND sends a signal thru the electric line to the new cabin.  It isn’t pretty, but hey, maybe nobody will want to steal it?

router-v4
4.0 is Ratproof!

It is fun to invent, design, build and test.  That is what we have been doing the entire time we have lived here in Rincón!  What can I say?  I’m a geek.

Construct It: Cabin Floors and Walls


Posted by Britton

I figured it was maybe time to do a little construction update.  One thing nice about doing things at your own pace is that you can take a step back when you start to feel overwhelmed or don’t have an answer to a “how to” and want to take some time to research.  A lot of building this house has required research because I’ve never done it before.  Like what screws to use for drywall and WHY?  What screws to use for cement board and WHY?  How do you construct a shower basin in a wood framed house?

The company that delivered the drywall delivered screws too.  They were black phosphate coated drywall screws BUT they were fine thread.  When I asked about it they claimed of course “It’s fine to use them in wood!” which isn’t really true.  Wood screws use a coarse thread for holding power.  Fine threads are used for metal studs.  Just an example of how a small thing can turn into a small ordeal when you are ready to start a project in the morning.

Using what are considered the “correct” fasteners might not matter to some people, especially if the fasteners are difficult to locate.  I have been called “Mañoso” (picky) a few times which is accurate I guess.

Drywall
Mud, Tape and Ready for Primer/Paint

This past week have been getting the inside ready for paint and flooring.  Since we decided to go with tile, we needed to prep the sub floor.  We got 24 4×8 sheets of 3/4″ thick cement board.  Those weigh 136 pounds each!  It took a whole day just for us to move them over to the house.  It was actually easiest for one person to carry an entire sheet on their back than it was for two people to awkwardly try to move one.  So there was a lot of resting in between trips but we got it done.

While I do a lot of the research myself it is tremendously useful to have Waldemar help with each step. He propels us forward so much more than we can do alone. I really appreciate his help. He brings skills, experience as well as lots of energy and motivation when I just don’t have a whole a lot.

Britton and Waldemar floors
Installing Cement Board

We then cut and installed the cement boards (generically called plycem here).  Those things were ridiculously heavy.  The floors however are SOLID and we shouldn’t have any problems with tiles popping or cracking.  Under the cement boards we used thinset to fill any space between the 3/4″ inch plywood.  There are a few write ups about this online.  The professionals who sold me the cement board told me I didn’t need to use thinset, but again for me it comes down to the “why” and the write ups did a good job of convincing me that it should be done.

Waldemar and Cassie 2
Cassie brings over lunch for us and helps where she can

Our tile is on order and should be here in a week or so.  We wanted to get a natural feel instead of using ceramic printed tiles and went with a red clay tile almost like terracotta.  Again, Mañoso but what can you do?  If you want something, sometimes you have to wait.

Waldermar and Britton
¿Tu quiereme? Waldemar and I work together a lot and have gotten to know each other well, even with the language barrier.

We also used cement board for the shower stall.  Over top of the cement board I used aqua defense, it is a paintable rubber membrane that adheres well to thinset when dry so you can tile over it.  The paintable membrane will keep any moisture from seeping past the grout/tiles and cement board into the wood below.  One thing I have learned is that cement is porous and should be sealed if you want to keep water out.  There is also a 3 piece drain.

Blue bathroom
Green Water-proof Membrane

Soon we should receive some tiles.  Until then we will be painting the walls.
Cassie Painting
Cassie Priming the Drywall for Paint

So as you can see, we haven’t JUST been chinchorreando and having fun…We are making really good progress on the cabin too. Now that we can see the walls and floors taking shape we are super stoked to move in!