Automating our Life with Big Sound in Small Places

Travelling in an RV always has it’s challenges and traveling with 6 kids you can imagine multiples those challenges.  One of our biggest challenges is having useful things that don’t take up much space.  I brought an older ipod dock with me to use for my ipod.  I brought it because I already owned it and it had a remote control.  However, not long into our new life in the RV I realized it was too big.  It was always in the way.

A trip to Best Buy up in Anchorage and I found a new solution.  It took me a while to make my decision.  I don’t like to get rid of things that still have use left in them.  We left our old ipod dock outside the office of an RV park with a sign that said FREE.  Hopefully someone with more room in their RV picked it up and gave it new purpose.

What did I find to replace my old ipod dock?  Sony’s SRS-33.  It is a tiny Bluetooth speaker.  You can find them here at Amazon.  I didn’t want to use a Bluetooth speaker.  I already have a larger Bluetooth speaker that is waterproof that we can take to the lake or other outside events but it was too large to leave out all the time.  The little SRS-33 is very small but the sound is very good.  I’m not a sound expert so for all those details you’ll need to look them up but for my ear….it just sounds good.  It’s hard to believe it is such a small unit.

What I didn’t like was giving up my ipod!  I have the old classic ipod so that I could put every song I own on it and use it as my library.  Although I despise Apple products because of their development practices my Classic ipod has worked well.  It has a few issues though.  It doesn’t work well with Windows Media player and whenever I need to update my songs it is always a huge hassle despite having a plugin.  The old Apple ipod doesn’t work well with the Kenwood radio in the RV either.  It works for a while but it seems there is a certain number of songs that it will play and once it hits that mark in any play list it gives the dreaded apple screen and has to reboot.  I have no idea why.  But it seems to happen without fail.  But even with all that I do love the ease of just dropping it into some docking thing and having it work.  So giving up that ease of use was NOT something I wanted to do.  But I did!

I decided to use my Surface Pro 3 windows media player as my primary music device.  I keep all my music synced through the idrive sync utility.  Any time I add a song to one device and have internet available it uploads my changes and then the next time I login with a different device it downloads all those changes.  So far that has worked well.  But what to do about those alarms that ipod had and my old ipod dock also provided?

Windows Task Scheduler to the rescue!  Back at home in our big house we had a Logitech Squeezebox in 3 different rooms.  I had my Squeezebox set up to play different play lists for different reasons.  For instance, in the morning it went off with Christian music to wake everyone up in a good mood.  After 30 minutes of that it changed to some fun old music, I’m talking Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Chubby Checker.  Some really fun old stuff that told the kids that it’s time you should be up, dressed and moving!  I used several different play lists, one for chore time, etc.  This method made things much easier as I get tired of saying repeatedly, “time to get up!”, “time for school”, etc.  By using the music lists it was a constant reminder to the kids and I as not NAGGING them all the time.  Life was just more pleasant that way.  So giving up all that automation has been one thing I regret about moving full time into the RV.  Windows Media player allows me to use the play lists I already used with my Logitech Squeezebox and it’s simple.  Setting up the task manager required a little fine tuning but now it works like a champ.

I set up 2 alarms.  One for our wake up play list and a second one 30 minutes later for the second wakeup list.  But the coolest thing I did was set both of these task schedules to be DEPENDENT on the power!  My Surface sits on a wire file sorter beside the bed.  Again, SPACE is important so the area on the nightstand in the RV is wasted.  I figured I could use an office sorter with 3 shelves meant for sorting papers and then get 3 times as much stuff on my nightstand and it’s organized!  So my surface sits safely on the 2nd shelf where no animals (we have 4 cats in the RV with us) can sit on it and safely protected from other accidents.  Since it’s right beside my bed it makes it very convenient for me to reach the power plug.  The Surface Pro 3 has that magnetic plug so it’s quick to just grab the cord and unplug it.  So at 7:00 am if I don’t want to get up and the music goes off I simply grab the cable and unplug it and the music stops.  If I only want another 30 minutes of sleep I just disconnect it for a second and plug it back in and the 2nd alarm will go off in 30 minutes.  If I wake early in the morning and think that I’d like us to sleep in I go ahead and unplug it so it won’t go off at 7.  So far it has been a sweet little arrangement.  When we get somewhere and park for a while I think we will go back to adding more of our old music schedules to the task scheduler but for now in travel mode it is working great!

I have to say the little Sony SRS-33 has saved us a lot of room and is doing a great job!  Oh and did I mention it has a battery in it?  You can charge it up and then move it.  So on those days when one person doesn’t want to move, I can simply move the little speaker closer to their location and motivate them to get moving!