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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tech With Utility

I'm a gadget guy.  I like stuff that buzzes and whoops and flashes bright lights.

Most of the time, the latest-and-greatest has limited utility.  It does one thing, and that's about it.

Occasionally, some of these gadgets can be adapted or re-tasked to broaden their usefulness.  I've got a couple gadgets for you think about for your preps:

Disclosure:  I'm not getting paid one penny for any of this, unless Google Ads picks up on the key words, gives you an ad, and you click it (go on.... click it.... you KNOW you want to.....!)

For Christmas, I got a Barnes and Noble Color Nook.  It's like the more widely known Kindle produced for Amazon. The Kindle may do all of these same things, but I don't own one, so I don't know.

It's primary purpose is to allow you to download books to read.  The Color Nook has a built-in capacity to hold 6,000 books!  What is very cool is that you can also download your own files onto the Nook.

Anyone want to guess where a copy of my Survival Bible now resides?  I simply attached a USB cable and copied my PDF files over to the Nook.  It can take Excel, Word and text files as well.

The files are in the same library structure as was on my PC - meaning they're still in the separate folders (food, water, medical, defense, etc) so I can get to what I need very quickly.

Of course, being an electronic gadget has its downside.  It can be ruined if it gets wet.  The screen can get crushed.  It might run out of battery power.  It could get stolen.

To address these issues, I keep the nook in a gallon zip lock bag in my briefcase (which is almost always with me).  I bought a hard case to protect it from crushing and drops.  I'm buying one of those solar chargers for cell phones to keep it juiced up when I'm not near an electrical outlet or in grid-down scenario (I already have a power inverter for my car as an additional source of power).  I added a password to protect the contents.

My paper survival bible has drawbacks as well.  Fire and water can destroy it.  It's very bulky and not easily portable (I've got mine in a big white binder).  It too, can be stolen.

The Nook is simply part of the PACE planning (Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency).

It can also access the Internet via a wi-fi connection.  I can now go to any Barnes and Noble store in the country, and have free Internet access.  As long as we're not in a grid-down situation, I can get online in 87 places in California, 5 in Nevada and 8 in Oregon.  It gives me some options I didn't have before.

I've got a couple of apps on my smart phone (an Android-powered Motorola Cliq) that have shown themselves to be very useful.

The latest one came after reading an article in Reason Magazine ("How To Record The Cops").  It suggested a couple of apps that are out there that allow you to record video on your smart phone, and have the content automatically and immediately uploaded (live streaming) to the Internet.

The one I chose to use was called  I chose it over the other suggestion simply because it seemed much easier to use.  You load the app, register on the site, and you're up and running.  If you video record with the app, it's streaming in a couple of seconds.

I can see a number of situations where using this would be helpful.  The situation described in the article is one.  If you see police misconduct, and they see you recording it, you might end up on the wrong end of a Wood Shampoo.  By having the information streamed to the Qik website, you have a copy of the evidence, even if your phone goes missing or is mysteriously wiped clean.

If you have time, you can have the recording emailed to whomever you'd like.  You can have it go to your favorite social website like Facebook or Twitter, or go directly to YouTube.

I could see using this if I were in a minor car accident, if I witnessed a crime being committed, or anything where there might be some hot tempers that could result in the smart phone being destroyed.  CYA.

Oh, if you're not in a 3G area, it will cache the recording and send it out when the phone gets into range.  I guess that means that you don't want to be in a "dead zone" when you're recording bad stuff!

Other favorite apps:

Flashlight:  Turns your smart phone into a flashlight of sorts.  It's not going to light up an entire city block, but it's great when you're looking through your briefcase/purse when it's dark.

Compass:  With the GPS enabled, it turns your smart phone into a compass.  Again, think PACE.

ConvertPad:  It has zillions (yes, I counted them all) different measurements it can convert.  I use it mostly with the PM business.  When we weight gold and silver to be melted, we measure in grams or troy ounces.  The refiner uses pennyweights.  I can key in our numbers and see what that translates into pennyweights.  It has converters for weight/mass, area, volume, distance, currency exchange rates, angle, temperature, data storage, fuel consumption, time, velocity, acceleration, density, force, pressure, power, energy, torque, flow, radiation exposure... and many more.  Seriously, stuff I've never heard of!

Keyring:  How many "special customer" cards to you keep in your wallet?  One from the grocery store, one for the office supply place, etc.  With Keyring, your smart phone scans the bar code, and loads them all into the app.  When you go to the store, you just open up the app, and they scan your smart phone!  If you're at Staples, for instance, when you open the app, it will tell you any special promotions that are being held at that store.  Pretty cool.

Some low-tech that makes me feel warm and fuzzy:

In my pockets at all times are a folding knife and a pepper spray (remember, I'm in California).  If I'm in a suit or in shorts, they're with me.  I have to consciously remember to remove them from my pockets when I go to certain locations, like football stadiums, police stations, fire stations and city council meetings.  Verboten locations.

I keep an AR-7 in my car at all times.  My version is the Henry US Survival Rifle.  I've had mine for 5 or 6 years, and I absolutely love it.  The epitome of low tech for rifles.  It's a great "plinker" and is pretty accurate out to around 50 yards with no wind.  Use it inside 25 yards, and it's nearly a tack-driver.  Well, it's really accurate!

When broken down, it is 16 inches long and weighs 2 1/2 pounds.  I leave it - unloaded - in my car at all times, along with a brick of .22LR ammo.  If I need to put it into my Get Home Bag, I can do so without drawing attention to myself.  No rifle slung over my shoulder, just a guy with a backpack.

All things being considered - weight, cost, ammo, accuracy, utility - if I can have only one rifle in my car, and not knowing exactly why I may need it, it's going to be one chambered in .22LR.  My Ruger 10/22 is more accurate out to longer distances, but is much more bulky.  The Survival Rifle's portability makes it the perfect choice for a car trunk.

Accept The Challenge

The nice thing with the high tech stuff is how it can condense what you're carrying.  The Nook, for instance, can help with the Entertainment portion of my preps by allowing me to load literally thousands of books onto a single device.

They've got a number of free books, and they also link in to the Google book archive (  Take a look at this article on how to more easily find the free, public domain books on the Google system.  They also have a number of magazines and newspapers you can get on the Nook. 

I'm not crazy about Nook's current selection of magazines - they seem to be mostly gossip and glamor mags, but there are a couple of practical examples, such as Popular Mechanics and some outdoors mags.  I sent them an email to get things like Backwoods Home Magazine added to their list.

As I noted, these should all be part of your PACE planning.  For my Survival Bible, my PC is Primary, the Nook is now Alternate and the paper version is now the Contingency.  My memory is the Emergency copy ;-)

FYI, I use PrimoPDF to print all of my PDF documents.  It resides as a printer on my PC, so using it is very easy.  If I want to print out a specific web page that has great information, I use Web2PDF to produce the files.  Both are free.

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Copyright 2011 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.


Anonymous said...

One question: You said you could get wi-fi in 87 places in California. did you forget McDonalds and most other fast food outlets? Or is this unit selective on which wi-fi it can connect to?

suek said...

Must read for your info:

My guess is that if cell phones can be searched, so can other electronic devices. Don't know if you consider it relevant.

Chief Instructor said...

Anon, I didn't know most fast food places had wi-fi. I know Starbucks does, but I think you have to have some sort of account as you do with Barnes and Nobel.

Mickey D's has wi-fi? Who'd a-thunk it?

Sue, that is absolutely disgusting. I am stunned, quite honestly, that we could have fallen that far.

I use strong encryption on my work PC so that my client records are protected. I hadn't even considered my smart phone.

I wonder if by them having access to my smart phone, they'd be able to use my email app and go straight into my personal gmail account and do as they wish.

My guess is 'yes'.

Anonymous said...

I use the Wi-Fi at McDonalds everywhere and often just parked in the parking lot. No passwords or memberships required. Typically I can just pull into a strip mall and someone has a public access wi-fi available.