Cruise To Alaska and Canada Technology Problems

Cruise Line: Princess Cruises
Cruise Ship:
Island Princess
7 Day Alaska – Inside Passage
Cell Phone Service Provider:
Phone: LG-V30
Date: May 1 to May 8, 2019

I do recommend Princess Cruise 7 Day Alaska – Inside Passage.  This blog post only criticizes some external factors that were a surprise to me.

Our cruse ship does offer Internet service for a fee that I think is quite high.  We decided not to pay for that service.

I am a bit of a news and weather interested person.  At home, I check both news and weather frequently.  The trip to Alaska was wonderful in many ways except for receiving news back in the main states and weather around me and for my next destination.  Weather in Alaska can change quickly and it would be nice to plan how to dress for the day before leaving my cabin.

None of my cell phone weather applications would show up to date weather during our stay in Alaska and Canada.  No weather applications worked while in Vancouver Princess Cruises dock, over 4 hours duration at dock.

None of my cell phone news applications would update and store more current news for most of the trip.  Even when arriving at Vancouver and docked better part of a day my news applications failed.

The Weather Underground application would fail to open and update way more frequently than Yahoo Weather even when back home where there is rock solid Internet.

For most of the trip, lousy e-mail into my cell phone. T-Mobile’s coverage map for Alaska and Canada is way less than the main part of the United States but it does show some coverage in places we traveled. Why then this failure?

For some reason, text messages did work at times.  At the end of the trip I traded texts with friends on board ship while in Vancouver.

Odd:  Starbucks cell phone application did work in Vancouver while weather applications failed.

In Vancouver, about a 15 minutes bus drive from boat dock to airport, I got weather application to work but frequent signal dropouts.

At Vancouver Airport Terminal. Weather applications did function.  But, not NEWS!

Our cruse ship TV failed to provide any weather channel. The only option we could find was to watch the BBC because they show the world weather as part of their news but it is a large over view lacking any detail. There was a channel dedicated to the ship’s course on a map including the current outdoor temperature only at the ship’s current location.

The AP News application updated very slowly.  I must keep the application open for AP to receive updates, it seems.  When in the air and no Internet, the full story text is missing.  This application sucks for later reading almost as bad as all the other news applications.  The New York Times would still not updating, a near total waste.

Weather Underground application started showing temperatures for locations but no expanded weather information.

The New York Times cell phone application fails to show last stories but shows white screen.  Once it updated with few days old stories and then removed them for much older stories.  Really weird and stupid.

At the end of our trip and at the Portland Oregon Airport, I was finally able to sync my Fitbit Ionic to my cell phone Fitbit application and then the Ionic now showed the correct time!!!  So for most of the trip, my Fitbit Ionic showed the incorrect time by one hour because we moved into another time zone. Why the Ionic fails to synchronize to the cell phone application time by Bluetooth is really stupid.

Portland Oregon Airport provided good cell phone connectivity.

Note:  The cruse ships are made of thick steel and as such are really shielded from cell tower signals.  The further inside you go into the ship the chance of receiving any cell phone signal is minute.   It is my guess that one may need to go outside those shield confines to increase your chance to get good phone service.  We did, at times, walk on outside decks but it was very, very, cold to do so.

Solution:  Because the weather in Alaska can change and my cell phone weather applications failed me and day trips are away from getting to needed change of clothing, I decided to take along a comfortable, rather small, back pack made by Eagle Creek (no longer made).  It has enough space for a rain jacket or pack able jacket and two side pouches for umbrellas and water bottles and a back pouch for snacks and first aid kit.

Summary: Once home I realized that not much had taken place in the United States for the week we were out of touch with the news. The ship did provide free TV in our rooms with a good selection of news channels. Problem is, I spend so little time in my cabin. I rather read the news in the dinning rooms. As for weather, absolutely no provided information from the ship and my cell phone.  My cell phone, T-Moblie service provider, really was quite awful in Alaska and even in larger cities of Canada, such as Vancouver. It was not until I got into Washington and Oregon that it provided good service.


Posted May 11, 2019

Polaris Pool Sweep 280 Fails To Move, Free Repair

The customer had a Polaris pool sweep that needed a nudge to start moving and begin to clean the pool.  Upon taking the sweep apart and doing a close examination of the parts, I found that one of the drive wheels was flawed.  The nut that attaches the wheel to the unit was found to be loose.  This allowed the wheel to cycle around in other than the correct angle to the drive shaft.  (Incorrect drive wheel engagement to drive shaft might cause this problem too.  See below).  As a result, the metal drive shaft, over time, wore out the wheel gear teeth as seen in the image below.


The easy solution was that there were three wheels all the same in that they could be interchanged.  I needed the two drive wheels to be perfect.  The third wheel was not driven and it’s teeth did not matter.  I just switched out the back wheel with the flawed one and the unit worked.  This repair cost the customer nothing for parts, just labor.

CAUTION:  The lesson here is to make sure that each wheel shaft screw is tight.

The next thing to check is the two rive wheels engagement to the drive shaft.  Each wheel has 2 screws that allow the wheel to slide a bit back and forward closer to or away from the drive shaft.  Make darn sure that the two drive wheels engage the shaft, not tight but close enough for a complete engagement.

The Polaris factory rebuilt kit instructions that describe the wheel to shaft adjustment:

Adjust the wheel so the spline of the driveshaft assembly engages 3/4 of the wheel gear teeth (see drawing). It is easier to see the engagement if you peel back the tire. To test the wheel placement, spin the wheel; it should spin freely. Also, hold the wheel and quickly rotate it back and forth. The gears should not slip or chatter.

My final test is to take the whole sweep unit and put it on a flat surface such as the pool deck and gently try to slide the whole unit back and forth to see if there is any resistance.  The movement should be smooth and easy.  If the unit stops, or you feel a resistance, begin again your troubleshooting.

Note:  I discovered that the pool sweep works darn near perfectly if I remove the small idler wheel that couples the front drive wheel to the rear wheel.


Posted April 25, 2019
Updated: May 22, 2019

Wrong Polaris Debris & Leaf Bag Saved Me About $30

I asked my daughter to buy me a Polaris debris and leaf bag for our model 180.  Well, I thought our model was 180 because the people who we purchased the house included some documents of items included with the purchase of the house.  We were given quite  few documents for the pool equipment.  When the bag arrived, I noticed that it was incorrect. It was missing the quick connect plastic ring clips.  It only had Velcro, no clips.  The Polaris 280, 480 and 3900 use “tear drop” shaped clips to secure the bag to it’s cleaners.

The image shows the “incorrect” bag for our pool sweep. It is missing the quick connect clips and the top bag zipper. Not that that bag has a rather long connection collar. I had to cut my 2 inch PVC pipe long enough to go up the full distance of that collar which is about 4 inches.

The bag shipped to us did not have quick clips to attach the bag to the pool sweep.  It was also missing a zipper at the end of the bag to allow quick removal of the debris and leafs.  I then discovered that my daughter did purchase the correct bag for a 180 model.  We must have had a newer model and the prior home owners failed to include that model in the documents given to us.  This new bag is way cheaper, costing close to $13 while the proper bag for our pool sweep costs just over $45.  I decided to find a way to make this cheaper bag work.  It was easy.  I removed the old ruined bag from the fitting by using screwdrivers to pry out the outside ring.

This image shows the concept for this project. The bag is at the top. Into the bag is a 2 inch PVC pipe cut to 4 inches so it extends up into the bag . I found that the bottom of this pipe did not have to be glued into the bottom parts as it fit very tight. The bottom parts consist of the old bag clips and a 2 inch PVC coupling had been inserted into the bag clip portion. Later, I would use irrigation primer and glue to marry the bag clip to the union.

I discovered that a 2 inch PVC irrigation pipe joint fit rather perfectly into the top of the part that clips to the pool sweep.  It was a bit slack but the irrigation glue should fix it in place.  I wanted to maintain the largest opening for leaves to pass upward into the bag.  I measured the diameter of the bag and it was close to the 2 inch pipe diameter.  I then cut  an irrigation pipe that slips into the 2 inch joint for a distance of 4 inches because the bag has a rather long stiff collar with a long side slit.  I wanted all the debris and leaves to go up into the bag and not slip out of that side collar opening, which is the reason for the rather long, 4 inch pipe length.

This image shows the full complete modification. The new bag slips down from the top, over the top ring and ends at the 2 inch union. The long pipe length was needed to ensure debris would pass completely into the bag. Note that a ring (not seen in this image) has been removed from the bottom clip part so as to not interfere with the new bag. I had to remove the prior ruined bag which was locked in place by a hard to get off ring. If you want to save time, just cut the old bag with a sharp knife or razor saving you form removing the outer ring, which is a pain to get off.

I decided upon 4 inches because the bag has a rather long throat and I wanted the pipe to go up into the bag.  I was worried that the bag just might slip out of the plastic pipe upward.  I needed a solution to that problem.  I found an old 2 inch PVC joint and cut just a little off of it.  I then glued that small ring to the top of the 4 inch pipe to the bag would not slip off.

The above image shows the completed new construction.

This pools sweep modification PVC parts cost less than $5 for new parts.  The correct bag would have cost about $45. The new bag, my daughter purchased cost only about $13.  In just under 2 hours I had created a modification to the pool sweep that saved me just over $30.

The problem with the above bag is when you remove it from the sweeper, the contents of the bag can easily fall out.  Also, the bag does not hold much and fails to collect that much pool debris.  The next option, described next, is recommended.

A much better solution is to buy a really good cheap bag.  I recommend this bag:

SuMile 2 Pack All Purpose Bags Nylon Mesh Zipper Bags Pool Cleaner Bags Replacement Bags for Polaris 280, 480 Pool Cleaner Replacement Parts K13 K16

You get two bags for a very reasonable cost.   I find them to be very good construction and do a perfect job of collecting the pool debris.  This bag holds a lot.  I love the zipper for opening the bag and removing the contents.


Updated: May 30, 2019

Toyota Auto Service Problem

After buying a Toyota RAV4 we needed to take that car in for service when needed.  After calling the dealership prior to each visit I soon discovered that when I call the dealership, I am actually talking to someone in a Texas call center.  This posses a problem for me because after making an appointment and arriving at the dealership, the person who greets me at the dealership has utterly no idea that I have an appointment.  So what is the purpose of the call center?  When you drive into the dealership, there are two dedicated traffic lanes.  One if for no appointment and the other is for appointments.  I always pick the appointment lane.   But, I figure there is utterly no difference in both lanes.

The last week in March, 2019, I tried to call my local dealership at about 10:15 am to see if they could do the service in time for my daughter to get the car at 5 pm. She had work at 6 and I needed the car ahead to make sure she would not get fired from her job.  Problem for me is I could not talk to anyone at the dealership service, only the call center.  The call center would not have the answer to my question.  I requested that someone call me from the dealership so I could ask how long the work would take.  The call center lady took my call back number and told me someone would get in touch with me.  I have yet to get that call!

So, why does Toyota have a call center in Texas which, from my experience, has no communication with the local dealership?  Why not allow the customer call the dealership service department?

Posted March 2019

Windshield Wipers For Hook Arm Type Of Attachment For Automobiles

This review is going to be very short.

Goodyear wipers are simply awful to install.  I had to view a YouTube video to get half the job done which required using a screw driver to force two parts to separate.  I then had a near impossible time sliding on the small plastic part that fits into the hook.  The design of this product is simply awful.  Not Recommended. 

If you are stuck with these Goodyear retarded blades, I recommend you view this YouTube video.  Problem for me is this video is incomplete and only showed half the process.

Michelin wipers are very simple to install.  Strongly Recommended.

There are other wiper blades available.  A review of the best can be found at Best Windshield Blades.

Home Builder Plumber Errors.

We recently had a number of drain pipe problems occurring within a two month period at our two story home.  The three problems seem to be from suspicious causes.

Mike’s (our plumber) observations:

#1  With new home construction, when plumbing pipes fail to line up, some plumbers force joints to come together. This lasts for a while but as the building ages and the plastic becomes less flexible the pipe gives way.  Mike has seen this happen quite a few times.

#2  New home construction typically goes out to the lowest bidder resulting, in some cases, poor workmanship.  Mike started working as a plumber for new home construction when he started his career.  He got to see this aspect of the business.

In our specific case, we had a number of problems that were extremely egregious to the point of being intentional:

The downstairs bathroom sewer drain goes up inside the wall behind the commode and then does a right turn over to a hallway and then up at a second 90 degree union. These pipes are hidden in walls and flooring. The second joint was hit by a hammer resulting in a crack which led to a very small leak that took years to detect. It is simply impossible for anyone to get to that right angle joint so I suspect that this may have been a worker sabotage the home because it was allegedly high end and expensive,

The next problem was in the laundry room ceiling. This room was the location of a sewer line that serviced an upstairs bathroom. The sewer pipe coming out of the cement slab was not properly positioned vertically but came up at a slight angle. The idiot plumbers, compounded the problem by trying to force a rubber joint to marry the two pipes. The pipes were so far out of being matched to vertical that the pipe leaked.

The third incompetent error was the plumber failed to apply enough glue to the mating surfaces of the two pipes as they slid together in two locations. We found out that when the plumber came to fix the second leak the movement of the pipe caused the next leak. Glue was applied to the outside of the joints but apparently rarely to the inside, which caused this. One problem was below the toilet. The second leak was from the bath/shower. This too might have been from a plumber that intended to cause the home owner leak problems in the future.

Image shows a closeup of the junction of a joint (left) with a straight pipe (right). Note the void inside the large opening which indicates insufficient glue was applied.

Mike also became suspicious when he went to cut the old pipes out, the plastic snapped instead of bent when the pipes were almost separated. This told him that the pipe could have been from an inferior source.

Summary:  Our home builder’s plumber was allegedly incompetent or wanted the home owner to be hurt well after the house was sold.

Posted: September 1, 2018

Milwaukee V-Jaw Pliers That Are Way Cool To Use.

I went shopping for a small crescent wrench at Home Depot.  I found a wonderful and rather clever designed pliers that would outperform just about any small wrench I have in my tool kit.  Here is what I like about it:

  • The jaws have a clever design that easily grabs any bolt size up to 1 and 1/2 inches.
  • The jaws can open up to 2 and 1/4 inches for grabbing other items that do not come around to hit the wrench for 3/4 inch to 1 inch.
  • There is a push button on one side that is used to release and quickly allow the jaws to slide open or closed.  This push button extends outward for about 1/2 inch to impede grabbing bolts that come out from a flat surface.  The way around this problem is to flip the wrench over and try to remove the bolt.
  • The grips are comfortable.
  • Only 8 inches in length.
  • Both ends of the wrench can be used to ream or stretch out or ream pipe up to 1 and 1/2 inch pipe.
  • Rust protection.
  • Limited lifetime warranty.

Milwaukee 48-22-6208

Waterway Plastics Offers Substitution For Polaris Booster Pump.

Our family has an in ground back yard pool with two pumps.  One of for moving pool water through a filter so the water is made clean.  The second motor moves pool water from the pool filter exhaust out to a pool sweep.  This second pump is at a high enough force that it propels a pool sweep that picks up debris that might fall to the bottom of the pool.  What this pool sweep picks up is deposited into a mesh bag that requires cleaning from time to time.

There are two different pumps and motor combinations that we have installed for the pool sweep.  They are as follows:

  1. Polaris Halcyon Booster Pump (quiet version) Part #PB4-60Q
  2. Polaris Booster Pump  (not quiet)  Part # PB4-60

August 2017, the PB4-60Q began to make motor bearing noise and I had to replace that pump.  It seemed that the PB4-60Q was not made any more and I could not find any in stock.  I could find the PB4-60 but I really wanted a quiet unit.  By chance, I found another booster pump made by another manufacturer.  It is a Waterway Plastics 3810430-1PDA 38104301Pda 0.75 hp Universal Booster Pump.  I purchased mine at  Backyard Pool Superstore.  The price was quite reasonable, $219.99.  The Internet reviews were quite good.

I received it incredibly fast.  It was packed perfectly.  It came with all the hose accessories and teflon tape.  I timed the process of removing the old pump and putting in this new one and roughly took one hour and a half.  I must have spent at least 15 minutes of that time looking for my tools.  I used a Sharkbite fitting for our cooper input line and I used our existing plastic hose for the output line with a union fitting which made the pump water line exchange go real fast.  The motor comes wired for 220 Volts but we needed 120 Volts.  Just a simple switch under the rear cover is all that is required to make this change.  Wiring was way more easy than the A. O. Smith motors that come with the Polaris pumps.  I think the noise from this motor may be slightly higher than the PB4=60Q.  This motor was so cheap and new that I decided to add 3 years insurance.

Booster Pump For Pool Sweep

You might get the impression that this motor is made in the USA because there is a sticker on the unit that makes this claim.  It is designed and engineered in the USA.  I called to confirm this and was told that actually it is manufactured in Mexico.

Caution: this motor runs really hot.  I recommend you let it cool down before touching it.

As with any new product, time will tell if it lasts.

Installing insinkerator Evolution Prestige Garbage Disposal.

Date of purchase: July 20, 2017

Vendor: Lowe’s.

It was a Thursday, July 20, 2017, when our garbage disposal failed. One of the grinding heads broke loose which caused the garbage disposal to nearly explode with noise and vibration. I dove for the on/off switch and shut the unit down. I fished out the broken piece. The disposal was way out of balance when I applied power again and shut the unit down quickly. I knew then I had to replace the unit. After an hour of conducting Internet search for the best replacement including Consumer Reports I found three units I was willing to buy. The top rated unit was not available the same day. I settled on the insinkerator Evolution Prestige.

Garbage disposal $339.00
Plumbers putty $2.99
Power cord assembly $11.99 This garbage disposal does not come with a wall plug electrical cord which we require.
1 1/4” O.D. by 7/8” I.D by 2 feet hose $4.78 which connects the dishwasher vent to the garbage disposal.

This disposal is very quiet and offers an alleged 7 year in home warranty.

Customer reviews said this disposal was very easy to install. I do not agree. I ran into three difficult portions of the installation.

I had to install this unit with no help from anyone else.

First, getting the C ring out of the assembly was impossible until I reasoned that I should back off the 3 screws so tension on the C ring was removed.

Second, Getting the C ring back in place was impossible. I came up with a trick. I reasoned that the ring would be easy to slide into place if I could keep the ends of the ring separated by about a quarter of an inch. I used a wood wedge. I separated the C ring at the very end corner of the wood and used the rest of the long piece of wood to position the C ring.  All I had to do was use my fingers to slide the ring in place.

Third: placing the rather heavy garbage disposal correctly in place was impossible for me alone to do. I placed a scissor jack under the unit and cranked the garbage disposal up in place. (see picture).  I had to make sure the unit was properly aligned.  The attachment ring on the disposal requires you get all 3 tabs to connect to the sink ring.  I used a lot of lights to illuminate the work area.  I used an inspection mirror to view the back side of the disposal to ensure all the 3 tabs had connected.

insinkerator Evolution Prestigue Gargage Disposal
Garbage disposal held up by scissor jack.

Tip: When aiming the disposal correctly into the sink hardware, view the docking from the the sink top as well as from below.

A major problem for me installing garbage disposal is getting the drain tubes connected. This garbage disposal has a brilliant solution.  The connection from the L tube out of the disposal down into the sewer drain is soft rubber. All I had to do was install all the drain connections leading up to the disposal first and leave the connection to the side of the disposal for last. I then just rotated the L tube into the soft rubber connector and placed the lock ring to finish the connection – utterly brilliant!

Conclusion:  This garbage disposal is very quiet.  My daughter has her bedroom over the kitchen and she could hear the old garbage disposal run.  There is no way she can hear this unit from her bedroom.