2023-05-04 – Gadgetmobile IV

GadgetMobile IV (G4 for short), is the fourth vehicle in a series of customized storm chaser vehicles. Since 1996, the vehicle in the series have implemented progressively more modern technology. For example, network connectivity has gone from none at all, to first generation cell technology, to the current generation of broadband Internet, with many features, and fifth generation (5G) cellular technology.

G1: A 1996 Chevy Venture was the starting point for this vehicle. Onboard were 2 m and citizens ban (CB) radios. A laptop with battery powered GPS (DeLorme) was used to plan travel and record the actual route taken. Delorme Street Atlas was the center of all GPS related activity. No connectivity to the telephone net work. During this era, forecast updates were obtained by visiting public libraries and using their Internet systems. This often meant that a visit to the library, either immediately preceded or followed a lunch, break, and fuel break along the way.

G2: Using a 2007 Chrysler Town and Country, this vehicle was almost identical to G1, except for the addition of broadband Internet. This allowed mobile radar applications such as GR level 3 and GR2Analyst to be used. In addition to more frequent updates from the storm prediction, Center (SPC) on the go.  The GPS was now powered from the 12 V supply on board, illuminating the need to constantly feed the unit batteries.

G3: Starting with a 2018 Chrysler Pacifica, this vehicle had all new radios and broadband Internet, allowing 4G connections for better speed, and limited use of interactive video to link to other chasers.an experimental multi camera system was added, to allow nonstop recording of  views, looking forward, behind, left and right. The experimental system worked for about a year until Sprint was acquired by T-Mobile and changes to the broadband modem. System rendered the cameras inoperative.

G4 dashboard

— Vehicle “fly-around” – IMG_8547.mov

G4: A 2022 Chevy Equinox was the base for this vehicle  except for an upgrade to the multi camera system, most of the equipment from G3 was migrated over to G4 as is. Improvements to the broadband modem system, driven by T-mobile’s OBD-II interface to the vehicle, revived the multi camera system.  The new cameras inherited the improvements that Wise labs put into their version. Three cameras. The older version two cameras stayed with G3, and may be revived at some future point, as these cameras should work with the updated T-Mobile broadband modem system.

2023-05-03 – CHASE2023 – Hacking and Packing

The annual exercise of hacking (setting up all the technology) and packing (getting all the clothing, cameras, memory cards, computing, equipment, and related cables and miscellany organized) is nearly complete.

In years past, I have had everything packed and sitting in the van, nearly a week in advance. This year, however, the preparation‘s have been last minute. They set up of the camera system, for the van was much more difficult than I anticipated. It also was a lot of work extricating, the technology transferred from G3 (the 2018 Pacifica) to G4 (the 2022 Chevy Equinox).

I look forward to next year being a lot less work.

Many aspects of the logistics were completed a week ago: hotel, reservations, travel, plans, coordinating a get together in Springfield, Missouri for a friend’s birthday.

A complicating factor was that my attention was split between preparing for the trip and completing migration from my 10 year old network, attached storage systems to new equipment. The old gear has been a little temperamental, and I have been working desperately to get my files safely on the new equipment before the old equipment dies. The split of my attention and time has driven the timeline for the trip preparation up to the last few days before my actual departure. It has been very stressful. I really can’t wait until I actually start enjoying the idea of vacation. So far, all my time and energy has been spent in the preparation. Compared to previous years, this year has been a bit of a nightmare . It will be so nice to finally be on the road.

GALLERY: “What’s in Your Wallet… er… bags?”

2022-05-02 – Awkward Compatibility

In order to keep up with the latest and greatest technology, I do a different equipment set update each year:

1st year: Computer upgrades
2nd year: communication upgrades
3rd year: photography/videography upgrades

This year, I ended up doing mostly communication upgrades, with a focus on cellular technology. The main driver in this process was the acquisition of sprint buy T-Mobile. A short while after that acquisition, T-Mobile started forcing customers to change equipment, whether they were fully ready to do so or not.

So my planned (computer) and unplanned technology updates for 2012 are as following:

  • New laptop (Dell 5515 touch with Windows 11)
  • Mobile hotspot (T-Mobile MiFi)
  • New phone (Apple iPhone 12 pro)
  • New tablet (Samsung 8 inch android tablet)
  • New vehicle tracker/Wi-Fi (T-Mobile Sync Drive, 2 units).

Upside: save the iPhone, none of the T-Mobile gear cost a nickel — effectively a free upgrade over the next 24 months

Downside: lots of reconfiguration and some compatibility issues between the MiFi and my Wyze cameras. The latter is been particularly annoying. I’ve spent hours and hours trying to solve the problems by downgrading the Wi-Fi security, clearing cache, doing factory reset, and a variety of other things to no avail. All the work I did last season getting a five camera mobile security system running has been totally destroyed by the upgrade process. I am miffed.

This evening I will go through the packing list and make sure I have everything packed and ready to go for the trip. I have had some equipment changes lately, so my 2019 daily checklist will have to be updated. I can pack using the marked up edit copy then print the 2022 version at my local Office Depot. This is all just part of a pre-trip ritual, but sometimes it gets old.

20210508 – Travel Day 2 (Springfield,MO – Oklahoma City,OK)

ROUTE: Springfield, MO – Oklahoma City, OK:

0700 – wake-up call

0825 – Arrive Cracker Barrel, for Lisa M’s (and granddaughter Angelina’s) birthday breakfast

1000 (approx) – Depart Springfield on I-44W
But goof around with a harmonica first!

(insert video later)

1100ish- Enter Oklahoma. Sing the state song (an old ritual of mine).
Pull out a $20 bill for tolls (about $10 between the MO-OK state line and OKC).


1430ish- Refuel at Tulsa


xxxx – Arrive at Avid Hotel, OKC. So glad they have an elevator, as this makes dragging bags much less work.

1730 – Grab dinner at Golden Palace, an excellent Chinese buffet on the Meridian strip.  Unlike Zio’s, the Italian restaurant several blocks south, the Palace had no waiting line (but lots of people dining, just the same). Given that COVID-19 has driven so many restaurants out of business, I’m delight to see that pretty much every restaurant on Meridian (between the airport and I-40) seems to be thriving.

1800 – Do  a little computer and battery maintenance. Charge up the AX53 camcorder batteries that arrived the day before I left of this trip.  Adding these batteries gives me nearly 8 hours camcorder running time between recharges!

2000 – Watched Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 on the room TV. Still a fun flick after a number of viewings. Our generation is very fortunate to enjoy the genius of Stan Lee, creator of the Marvel universe.

2200 – Charge the Fitbit, listen to my bible podcast, and drift off to sleep.

20210507 – Travel Day 1 (Bolingbrook,IL-Springfield,MO)

ROUTE: Bolingbrook, IL – Springfield, MO:

06:00 – wake-up, shower, etc.

07:00-11:00 – work from home, online, that is. (Don’t lots of folks do that now?)

11:00 – Lunch at Charlie’s (Bolingbrook Clow International Airport).
(They have scheduled flights to Canada, so ‘International” is quite real.)

12:12 – Depart Bolingbrook Airport, traveling southwest on I-55S.

14:09 – A brief pit stop in Atlanta, IL. Still good on fuel!

14:22 – Resume southwesterly course on I-55S

15:25 – Oh no. traffic jam!

17:28 – Refuel at St. Clair, MO, just west of Six Flags enough to avoid paying a premium price for gasoline.

2100 – Arrive at Red Roof Inn, Springfield. Check in then eat dinner at Jimm’s Steakhouse and Pub. Had the monstrously generous prime rib dip (like a classic French dip, but using prime rib). Too much food!

2315 – bed time.



20210502 – 2021 Shakedown Cruise #2

After building a fairly long list on shakedown cruise number one, it just makes good sense to do a second shake down and see what remains that list.

1145 – Lunch with Joe and Barb

1400 – Depart for Iowa 80 Truck Stop in Wolcott, Iowa. It was, at one time, the world’s largest truck stop. Supposedly a larger one was being built in Russia, but I’m not sure that ever happened. Needless to say, the place is huge, and technically qualifies as a national landmark.  It also happens to be reasonable distance from home. Depending on conditions such as weather, construction, traffic, the drive can be anything from 2 to 3 hours. (And on this occasion, it was just barely two.)

1559 – Cross the Mississippi river on the interstate 80, entering Iowa. (Upon inspecting my video after returning home, I find out that the crossing was captured on the starboard wyzecam. A nice surprise: the camera system delivered on its promise)

(insert link to crossing video later)

1615 – Arrive at the Iowa 80 Truck Stop. As it turns out, the shakedown cruise is also a test of the driver. I make a hasty run to the bathroom, and discover I am in real need of some Imodium AD. Given that I had a recent battle with “full on” diarrhea, I don’t mess around: I take a large adult dose of this medicine immediately (and do not have a problem with “digestive distress” for the rest of the trip, thankfully). I take a quick moment for some photos at the truckstop. To paraphrase Peewee Herman, “It’ll last longer if you’ll take a picture!”

1645 – Make a brief stop at the National Weather Service, located at Davenport airport. Grab a quick picture of myself in front of Weather radar

1655 – head back across the Mississippi and onward to home

1915 – Arrive at home. Goodness, I made good time driving back. The WyzeCams seem to be dropping out every once in a while, perhaps because the laptop is running low on space on the way back, but I do not stop to investigate. I just want to get home given the delicate state of my digestive tract.

2030 – Time to call it a day. And a good day it was. It seems the afjustments that I made in response to the to do list from the first shakedown cruise have been effective. I did not test the camera mounts but have a pretty good idea that I need to adjust the friction on the I pistol grip for the DSLR camera.

20210425 – Push for Progress

0730 – Wake up; laze about
0900 – Attended online church service
1000 – Now the whittled-down list is like this:

  • Inventory camera/video gear
  • Pack clothing for trip
  • Walk through ‘to do’ list from van shakedown cruise
  1. The camera mounts easily loosened up. Fortunately, the camera “droop” did no damage to the cameras. – tightened these up. Let’s see what a second shakedown cruise yields. Worst case : add bungie cords to hold the mounts in place.
  1. The dashcam needed to be tested beyond seeing it power up and display a video of the road ahead. – checks out OK — appears to have the correct settings
    1. Cabling clean-up has yet to begin – DONENote: The cable housing must be a dark color, to avoid unwanted reflections on the windshield. These are visiually distracting and could even lead to an accident. Color matters. We need them all for their best use.
    2. Luggage space needs to be reclaimed. – DONE
    3. The antenna cluster needs to be road tested. It was ‘indoors’ today. One antenna needs to be glued to its mag-mount. – TESTED! Port side broadband antenna need repair or replacement; it falls frequently, making it unusable. All other antennas are OK.

    4. The GPS puck is seen by Franson GPSgate, but it’s output is not seen by GRlevel3 or other applications – Reran Wizard: COM3 input, COM6-10 output (use as input for applications). GRLevel 3 and DeLorme Stree Atlas — yes, I still use it, as no suitable replacement is available — were tested with COM7 and COM8, respectively.
    5. The iPhone bracket need to have the stabilizer arm glued into place. It came off in my hand! What the heck?? – NON-CRITICAL
    6. The rear seat’s Android tablet needs to be re-installed. – OPTIONAL – it is not needed for this trip.
    • Get another weather reading on Kestrel 5500
    • Ask neighbor if I can borrow long ladder on Tuesday pm
    • Test video cam batteries (after charging)

      1831– At the evening meal break, the list is like this:

      X     Walk through ‘to do’ list from van shakedown cruise
      X     Get another weather reading on Kestrel 5500
      X     Test video cam batteries (after charging)
      X     Inventory camera/video gear
      *     Pack clothing for trip
      *    Ask neighbor if I can borrow long ladder on Tuesday pm

Wow! I made it through the entire TECHNICAL portion of the to-do list.

I’m tired, but I could leave on 30 minutes notice (and that’s for packing clothing and medicines).

I confess : I’m pleased

2141 – Time to call it a day and get some well-earned sleep.

20210424 – Whittling down the pre-launch list

0600 – wake up; laze about

I am not feeling too energetic after working through yesterday‘s post vaccine side effects.

I’m delighted to be fully vaccinated, but the side effects were not very thrilling.

I felt tired and my left arm felt like the neighborhood bully had thoroughly tenderized it. I tried to be productive at work, despite the discomfort my my arm. I at least managed to finish most of an important task and started the next one, so I suppose that is productive enough for any given workday.

0730- head to dentist. ROUGH cleaning! Next time I’ll make less work for the hygienist.

Lisa’s Big Mouth

0930 – fill out HOLD MAIL card (for vacation) at the local post office.

1000 – lie down and relax; plan out the rest of the day

See my to-do list, way below!

1115 – Took a peek at the back yard: Freaking #Dandelions! Time to commit an act of herbicide

1133 – Take a quick test video: walkaround of the van (not posted, see tomorrow’s instead)

1145 – Met friends at Red Lobster for lunch

1315 – Charge first DSLR and video cam batteries. Three sets altogether.
GoPro and external battery packs will get charged later.

1515  – While sorting through AC chargers and USB cables, I found the second charger for my Nikon batteries. DSLR camera battery number two is charging now. I do not believe I ever got a second charger for my 4K camcorder (Sony FDR-AX53). Perhaps it might be wise to purchase an additional battery for the camera; I only have about 200 minutes running time across my three batteries for that device. Another hundred minutes might be beneficial.

1559 – first Nikon battery is fully charged (2 hours! Can that be right?)

I’m going to head to the store and take away the reading while I am there. There is nothing I could do to make these batteries charge any faster, so I’m going to make use of the time.

Also took a quick Kestrel reading and calibrated its internal compass.

Kestrel 5500
Kestrel 5500

1730 – Returned from shopping. Just enough food to make it until a day or two
before vacation.

I can eat out those last few days, as I do not want to make trash that’s going to decay for 2 1/2 weeks in my house while I’m gone.

External batteries are charging, albeit slowly. (Two of them are missing in action, however; I’ll look for those around the house and replace them if necessary). Nikon batteries are fully charged.

2359 – At end-of-day, the list is like this:

X     Charge DSLR and video cam batteries

  • Inventory camera/video gear
  • Pack clothing for trip
  • Walk through ‘to do’ list from van shakedown cruise

X     Get weather reading on Kestrel 5500

  • Ask neighbor if I can borrow long ladder on Tuesday pm

X     Do last grocery run before vacation

X     Test camera batteries

  • Test video cam batteries (after charging)

X     Charge round 2 of batteries

X     Decide which camera/tech gear goes on vacation; pack it:

  • Nikon D7000 plus three batteries
  • Sony AX-53 plus 3 batteries (total 200 minutes runtime)
  • Lots or 32GB SDHC cards and one 4TB HDD




20210418 – VanCam Project – Phase 2 done


Saturday (21/04/17) : All five cameras physically located in the van and secured using Velcro. Of course, I had to “unsecure” them to do the firmware upgrades as the upgrades require insertion of a microSDHC Card in each camera.

Sunday (2021/04/18):

07:00: Woke up, did daily chores
09:00: Attended online church
10: 00: Continued firmware updates on cameras. Downloaded both the Dafang and official Wyze camera firmware updates to enable RTSP.

I struggled a little with these since the tiny SET up button must remain depressed when power is applied to the camera after insertion of the new firmware image on the microSD card. This is what happens when a tiny switch meets a fat finger. It took up to three tries per camera to get the firmware to load, but once loaded, it did not need to be reinstalled each time the camera powers up. Had that been the case, this camera solution would have been rendered useless. I certainly could not be running around resetting five cameras every time I started the van. That would just be intolerable.

1130: Had lunch with friends. After yesterday‘s surf and turf lunch, I went with something simpler: bourbon-glazed salmon.

14:00: Returned home to do a couple quick errands, then took the 20-minute drive over to a local ham radio gathering. Some of the people there were friends I had not seen in several years, so it was good to get reacquainted. I enjoyed exchanging information about our latest projects. Everybody seemed very interested in the van camera project (“Operation VanCam“).

15:30: Headed home from the ham radio operator gathering.
16:00: Unplugged from ongoing tech projects. Caught up on some television viewing. #CouchPotatoTime
21:00: Grabbed a cup of hot peppermint tea to wash down my evening medications. Took those meds and did my insulin injection. Time to get some well earn rest after a busy weekend.

It was great to enjoy the warmer weather, with temperatures in the mid 60s at a light breeze.

This is the kind of spring day I appreciate here in Chicago land. I am not looking forward to Tuesday’s predicted snowfall, Just passed the middle of April. While not unprecedented, the event is unwelcome.

VanCam Project summary:

  • Phase 1: Purchase cameras and USB extension cables. Do rough install of these in the van to determine best placement. Native WyzeCam firmware running with no RTSP (realtime streaming protocol, for the uninitiated) available initially.
  • Phase 2: Upgrade to the latest WyzeCam , Then move to the RTSP-compatible firmware. Test the cameras with the new firmware, using iSpyConnect via the onboard laptop.
  • Phase 3: Testing and tuning. Determine the best combination of parameters (such as disabling security detection) to get the best real time video experience. Experiment with video recording under iSpyConnect; Recording should be written to Dropbox space, so space on the laptop is not exhausted and video is safely backed up in near real-time.

20190520 – Mangum,OK Tornado

The day started with a 6 AM wake up call at our hotel in Amarillo. It is very quiet. Very quiet, indeed.

The morning round of storms has already started to our north.

My first look at the SPC Convective Outlook is very scary:

   An outbreak of strong tornadoes and severe thunderstorms is expected
   today across parts of the southern and central Plains. In addition,
   many of the storms will have very large hail and wind damage. The
   severe threat will be concentrated from west Texas and the Texas
   Panhandle eastward across Oklahoma, Kansas into western Missouri and
   western Arkansas. Additional severe storms with wind damage and hail
   will be possible this afternoon from southeast New York into
   southern and central New England.

   ...Tornado Outbreak Expected Across the Southern Plains Today Into Tonight


Graphically, we see these:

Today appears to be a historic tornado outbreak in the making, and here we are ready to jump into it.

Stopped at Clarendon, Texas for a quick lunch. (See http://m.360.io/f8CMYu)

Continue SW

More updates later!

More updates later!

More updates later!

Tornado videos are here: