Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rotten walls and smartphones

We're back at B&B Coach Works in Las Vegas, Nevada (map). They get started early here, at 7am, and when we rolled up at 9:30 yesterday Gary welcomed me with "Good afternoon" and then allowed that he had figured we bailed and headed someplace else. We had actually thought about rolling back over here Sunday night, just so we'd be in position first thing Monday, but we decided against it, on account of the dog.

Opal is very elderly now, and struggles to even make it up and down the stairs. Her bathroom urges are irregular and sometimes urgent. And she can't comfortably walk much further than a dozen yards or so from the bus. Since we are in an entirely paved-over industrial park, there's virtually no place for her to eliminate, and the nearest patch of dirt is a pad surrounding an electrical transformer some 250' away. She gets about a bus length away and then stops, exhausted, and I've been either dragging or carrying her, neither of which she likes, at least twice a day.

At the Orleans there was a patch of pea gravel where I could walk her just ten yards from the bus, and we decided to make things just a bit easier on her and us by staying Sunday at the Orleans, and giving the dog her morning walk while we were still there. None of us moves with great alacrity first thing in the morning, and rather than try to rush her through the morning ritual, which normally happens after 9am, we just decided to have our coffee and get our act together before coming over here -- we knew the shop has nothing else on the books anyway.

After a quick consultation with Gary about how confident we all were that this could be done without tearing half the bus apart, we decided to cut the finish material off at the level of the bottom sill of the window, and just re-do everything from there down to the floor. They can't match the existing finish, which is a Sunbrella fabric installed by a marine fabric professional, but they had some alternatives that would work at the lower level, and we'll just come up with some sort of transition strip between the two. Shortly afterward, Joe got started ripping into the old wall.

For anyone who has not followed this saga from the very beginning, perhaps some explanation here is in order, especially before you see the next photos. What we have here is fully seven years of water damage to the underlying wood of the bathroom wall, caused by water intrusion around the bathroom window. Seven year's worth of damage is a lot, and any sane person might wonder why water was allowed to leak for that long, and/or why the damage was not repaired much earlier.

Those are good questions. The simple answer to the first question was "we didn't know" (twice), and to the second was "because it wasn't bad enough to withstand the pain of fixing it." To elaborate, we naturally assumed when the finished bus was turned over to us back in August of 2004 that it did not have any major leaks, anywhere. Long time readers will know that this was simply not the case, and we were plagued with leaks of various kinds. The vast majority of the leaks are now fixed but some took years and many return visits to the converter to isolate and repair.

I have only a very few complaints about the conversion work we had done at Infinity Coach way back then, and this is one of them -- that they did not properly test for, find, isolate and resolve leaks in the shell system before moving on to interior woodwork and finish. The inside plywood skins were already on and the cabinetry was started when the first leaks appeared, while the bus was parked outside the cabinetmaker's shop in the very wet Puget Sound winter. An over-reliance thereafter on an unproven leakage detection system convinced them they had gotten them all, and only when we were living aboard during our first torrential rains did we discover otherwise.

At that point, with the entire interior complete, we had to rely on visual or audible evidence to find the leaks. Some were obvious -- at one point, the window at the head of our bed was leaking so badly that we would awake at night with water dripping on our heads. Over the ensuing three years we systematically closed in on every little leak to be found anywhere, or so we thought. The bathroom window, it would seem, did not have a problem.

The reality, however, was that water was, indeed, coming in around that window, but the waterproof Sunbrella wall covering did not reveal it to us. Our first indication that there was a problem in there, perhaps four years after the damage had started, was a bit of softness in the wall. It did not seem like a major problem, so we had the window re-sealed and thought we were OK. A year or so later, however, when the floor started getting soft, we knew the problem was most decidedly not resolved.

At our 2010 "dry dock" back at Infinity, we removed the toilet so we could peel back the vinyl flooring and repair the rotted subfloor. We also had the window re-sealed yet again, and with the inside trim removed so we could get a good view, we extensively wet-tested it with a lawn sprinkler and could not see any leaks. We knew at this time that there was some water damage inside the wall, but thumping on it vigorously suggested it was limited to a small section, and we did not want to undergo the major project of ripping out the finish to repair it. We settled for just putting some fungicide on whatever parts we could get to with the trim off, and deferred the repair until some undefined future date when refinishing the bathroom made more sense.

Fast forward to this past hurricane season. We've been through some hellacious rain storms this year, including riding out Irene. And in the past few months, we've noticed a marked deterioration in the wall, and even the floor is starting to develop a soft spot again. We thus knew that we still (or again) had a problem, and now we'd have to deal with it. We've been seriously considering going to Trawler Fest this year in Anacortes, and in the back of my mind I've been thinking we'd just head back to Infinity around the same time for yet another repair around this window, replacing the wall and maybe the floor as well.

Our little episode last week with the rivets letting go just aft of that window, of course, escalated getting into a conversion repair shop to critical priority, and as long as we were already working in that area of the coach, I asked them to pull the window trim off and run a leak test. It turned out we had a fairly major leak, as I described in my post here on Friday.

We knew the damage was bad, but we didn't really know how bad until Joe started really tearing out the rotted wood. As you can see, the area of the damage is extensive; fortunately, it is basically contained to just this one room. It was not long before Joe had most of the rotten section out.

In the photo you can see some vertical grooves in the spray foam insulation. Those are where the firring strips used to be. Before we had the bus spray-foamed, we opted to have this firring installed to give us another half inch of insulation, which has proven to be very worthwhile. In any case, not only has the plywood wall rotted, but most of the firring as well. The black groove in the center is actually a vertical metal tube, which had a firring strip over it. The other strips attached to tubes running at an angle, so there was foam behind them.

Removing the less damaged sections of wood was a bit more work, as well as grinding off the rusted-in fasteners, but by the end of the day Joe had the damaged wall completely removed. You can see in this photo some short sections of new firring strips, which are being test-fit into the old slots.

Today they were supposed to start on replacing the wall. First, though, Joe wanted to paint rust treatment on all the steel tubing, and before that I asked him to do another leak test, now that some of the wood was out of the way, making it easier to see things. The leak test revealed another small leak in a different part of the sealant, and so Joe decided to dig out the old sealant from 2010 and re-seal the whole window. The rust treatment was finished before lunch and they were to start on the woodwork afterward, but Gary had to go on an emergency road call in the afternoon, and we told them we were in no hurry, so they decided to postpone until tomorrow morning.

No big deal to us; yesterday while Joe was running power tools in here I asked Gary for a 15-amp power outlet, and so we now have all the power we need and are quite comfortable, other than the difficulty in walking the dog here. This will also give the new sealant one more night to dry, so we can run another leak test before covering the wall back up. I am figuring we will likely be here tomorrow night as well.

Last night we walked over to Pasta Mia, a local Italian place that was an odd mixture of casual strip-mall location and white tablecloth service. The food was excellent, though. Tonight we'll eat in, and perhaps tomorrow we will walk over to one of the restaurants in the Palms, which we scoped out when we were here last week.

Other than resuscitating an old laptop computer so I can sell it on eBay, I have been reluctant to tackle any of the project list here. In some circles it is considered bad form to bring your vehicle to a shop and then start working on it yourself, and while we are comfortable doing that in some places where we have an established relationship, we're not at that level here.

Instead I have been working on a backlog of personal projects on my computer and cell phone. This latter item was necessitated by the fact that a month ago it started nagging me about a software upgrade. While the average Sprint customer can simply click "OK" when the phone starts complaining about this, and the upgrade will simply happen in a mostly seamless fashion, since I have "rooted" my phone and installed a custom version of the operating software on it, for me it was not that simple.

A number of folks have posted various hacks to just make the nag screen go away, but as long as I had the time, I opted instead to actually upgrade to the latest software release, albeit in a still customized version of the same with lots of the Sprint factory bloatware removed, some speed and battery life improvements, and, of course, root access. That's not as simple as clicking "OK," and I spent quite a few hours installing the new software and then restoring all my applications, data, and settings. I'm quite happy I did, because everything works better now than it did on the last release.

An irony here is that one of the big reasons I have been running a custom software release in the first place was to get rid of the ubiquitous, invasive, and performance-robbing spyware that Sprint had pre-installed on the phone, known as Carrier IQ (CIQ). I've been running with CIQ removed since right after I got the phone, but you may recall hearing about this product just a couple months ago, as the fact that it was surreptitiously spying on Sprint, Verizon, and some other carriers' customers rose from the relatively obscure Android-hacker community and into national attention, prompting even Congress to start looking into it.

In any case, the ironic bit is that mostly what this new software release from Sprint does is ... remove CIQ. I guess all the negative publicity soured them on the idea of installing this kind of invasive root kit on their devices, and they are pedaling backwards as hard as they can. I, for one, am glad, but I still want the performance and other improvements that come with the customized software.

Since I updated my operating software, a whole bunch of applications wanted to update, too, one of which was Facebook. And do you know something? The newest Facebook for Android wants total control of your phone -- it's nearly as bad as CIQ. I'll let you read that article for yourself; I've ditched the Facebook app in favor of just using the mobile web site (m.facebook.com) on my phone whenever I need it, and Seesmic, which I already use for Twitter, to just breeze through routine updates.

I guess you can tell I had a lot of time on my hands, based on the length of this post. Maybe I should instead get cracking on my eBay listings. Anybody want to buy a nice Gateway laptop?


  1. I don't know a lot about the technology that I use. In November, I purchased the iPhone 4s through Sprint. Do you think the iPhone has all of this spying software on it?

  2. I've been wondering what happened to the Facebook app! Thanks! I just deleted it as well.

    Good to see another Sprint user out there. So far I've been very pleased with them -- much better service than Verizon so far.

    Glad to see the Odyssey is getting all fixed up!

  3. Teri, CIQ is android specific. There may be something similar in the iOS but we'll never know since no one else has the source.

  4. @Teri & Lance: Actually, when the CIQ flap hit the media, Apple admitted that it had been working with CIQ to put it into iOS, presumably at the behest of the carriers. But they had issues with it and had broken off the CIQ efforts before the story broke.

    That said, there is no question that iOS has customer-tracking built in, and you may remember a few years ago Apple came under fire for surreptitiously tracking iPhone users' locations, purportedly in the name of improving location-based services using WiFi identification. As Lance correctly points out, Android is open source so there can really be no secrets in the code, whereas iOS is proprietary and you'll never know what it is doing.

    A quick correction, though: CIQ is not Android-specific. As I mentioned above they were working with Apple on integration with IOS, and they also have integration with a number of other mobile platforms.

    We aboard Odyssey have not drunk the Apple Kool-Aid and have no Apple products, perhaps to the dismay of our many friends who work there and/or some of our more creative friends, as Apple is well entrenched in that community.


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