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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tablets For Survival

Introduction


Putting tablets into the larger survival kits has been something I've been thinking about for while. Sure, we all have phones, and in an emergency our phones will always be with us. At the very least you'd want to have the right apps installed, and you'd want some extra micro SD cards with offline maps, survival books, etc.

So I think the way you'd configure your phone and the way you'd configure a survival tablet would be different enough to where I think it's a wise idea to have a dedicated survival tablet and extra micro SD cards with everything you would need for an emergency.

Tablets for Survival: A random assortment of our family's tablets
A random assortment of our family's tablets

Communication


An emergency may be bad enough to put you and your loved ones on foot, and still leave you lucky enough to get 3G/4G or Wi-Fi service on your emergency tablet. And that of course gives you great powers of communication, from weather and news to text messaging.

Some smart phones and tablets even have built in FM radio receivers. Even if all cell communication is knocked out, you still have the ability to receive FM transmissions. Many folks put small radios in their emergency kits, and this is one less thing to carry.

Navigation


Unless all the American and Russian navigation satellites get knocked out of the air at the same time, any emergency you face is going to be with a GPS by your side if you want one. There are no shortage of navigation apps which let you store maps offline, sometimes even on your micro SD card.

Even without maps, there are hiking GPS / compass apps that will let you navigate trails and find your way between stored way points.

Tablets for Survival: GPS Hiking And Compass App

Survival Books


A micro SD card can hold every survival book you would ever need. Books are easy to store offline and there are many free reader apps for Android that can read multiple formats straight off the card.

Backup Power


A tablet can relinquish its own charge to charge other devices and even run a USB light. Below I am charging a couple Sanyo AA Eneloop batteries from my $30 cheapo tablet. Most of the time you will be putting charge into the tablet to use it, but in a dire situation it's another power source to draw from. I believe this tablet has a minuscule 2000 mAh battery in it, that still translates to a fully charged Eneloop AA which could give you a hundred or so hours with an efficient flashlight running on low. Or enough of a charge for your walkie talkies to call for help. Power is power.


Tablets for Survival: Micro USB to Female USB Adapter and USB AA/AAA Charger

Tablets for Survival: Tablet Charging 2 Eneloop AA Batteries

Emergency Light


Not only do most tablets and phones come with an LED for the camera flash that can be co-opted into being a flashlight with a simple app, but the USB port on a tablet can power most USB devices, including a USB "nightlight chip" as shown below.

Tablets for Survival: With LED Nightlight Chip


Entertainment


Any dire emergency with young kids is going to be much more difficult to deal with. Young kids being distracted can allow adults to be more focused, and focus is exactly what you want in that situation. Also, I don't know about you guys, but I'm a prima donna, so even in a dire emergency, I'm going to have something to distract myself, like offline TV shows and music.

Because a micro SD card weighs less than a gram, there's no reason not to have an extra one loaded with movies, TV, books and music. In fact, there's no reason not to have a separate memory card for each if you can afford it. Most players and readers don't have a problem with offline content. If you are resourceful, then you can load up on any kind of media you want for basically no extra weight.

It's A Computer


The primary things you need in an emergency are shelter, food, water, warmth. Having a computing device in dire situations is a luxury in a way, but in a way it's not. From interactive first aid apps to a simple calculator, having a computer in your emergency bag gives you a world of possibilities. 

It's impossible to precisely predict the exact circumstances we will face in an emergency, so I like having options, and a computing device in my bag gives me options I won't even realize I have until the need arises.

Unlimited Use


Since my disaster bag has the ability to charge USB devices with solar panels, I could theoretically run my emergency tablet forever, though in practice it would probably compete with other devices for charge, such as flashlight / walkie talkie batteries.

At the end of the world, I'll be sitting by the camp fire watching re-runs of the Walking Dead on my tablet. Oh, and I'll also know what plants are safe to eat, how to build a makeshift shelter, how to tie knots and make snares and so on...

They say knowledge is power, so I think that carrying a small tablet can multiply the power of my ability to handle an emergency, which makes it worth its weight in the bag.

Tablets for Survival: Solar Panel Charging Phone


Conclusions


I found and purchased what I think is pretty close to the perfect tablet I have been describing in this article, but the problem is that I like it way too much to put in the bag, so I'll eventually have to buy another one. Though I'm pretty sure in an emergency it'll be one of the first things I grab.

It's light, powerful and has a pretty good sized battery. I got one of those cool cases that puts the tablet to sleep when you close it and wakes the tablet when you open it. But the case adds some pretty good weight, so for the survival bag I would probably just tuck it into the bag somewhere where it won't be damaged or get wet. In fact, I would probably put it inside a zip-lock bag. I have a nice cheap tablet that would be great for the bag, but it doesn't have GPS. It's pretty rare to see a tablet anywhere near the $100 range that has both Bluetooth and GPS, so I think Asus nailed it. 



Thursday, October 9, 2014

10 Best EDC Pocket Knives of 2014

Since I wrote my article last year, not a lot has changed as far as EDC knives go. Sure, lots of new models have come out, but none are really game-changers. While some of these new offerings were just plain gimmicky, there's also been quite a bit of innovation. Manufacturers keep devising more exotic locking mechanisms and using more exotic metals such as Titanium.

But for most people, every day carry is not going to be an expensive, high-end, exotic experience. While I'm absolutely in favor of looking good, functionality has to come first, and so does value. I own lots of cool knives that I don't regret buying, but wouldn't think of using every day. My philosophy for EDC knives is that they be easily replaceable if lost, stolen or damaged.

EDC Pocket Knives From Spyderco, Kershaw, Victorinox and SanRenMu


Having said all that, this list isn't much different than last year. There's so many great knives out there, but some are just hype, and some are too new to know how they will perform over time. For me personally, I buy a new knife, I admire it, photograph and review it, and ultimately the infatuation wears off and I give it away or put it into the knife roll or give it away, before putting the Delica back in my pocket.

So mostly the difference in the list expresses gaining knowledge as a collector and handling more and more samples. For example, I now pretty much always have some model Victorinox in my pocket or at least close by. While I usually carry them to augment a dedicated knife, they are awesome in their own rights. There are times when it's not convenient or wise to carry a larger knife, so I carry just an Executive or Rambler.

NOTE: Prices are approximate and will fluctuate over time. Also note that I am a Spyderco fan boy, so I had to resist the urge to give all 10 slots to Spyderco. I've tried to factor my own personal experience in with the consensus of some of the Internet communities along with lots of research.


#MakeModelPriceProsCons
1SpydercoDelica$65- High Quality
- Good Steel
- Lightweight
- Proven Performer
- Less rigid with no liner
- Some say it's too light
- A little expensive

2SpydercoDragonfly$55- High Quality
- Good Steel
- Extremely Lightweight
- Less rigid with no liner
- Some say it's too light
- A little awkward for large hands
3BenchmadeMini Griptilian$90- High Quality
- Great Steel
- Made in USA
- Well Built
- A bit expensive
- A little bulky
4KershawSkyline$45- Good Steel
- Made in USA
- Great Value
- Unassisted
- Inconsistent quality control
- Check local laws regarding flippers
5SanRenMuGB-763$10-$?- Superb Value
- Well Designed
- Solid Performer
- Sometimes impossible to find
- Sometimes sellers gouge you when you do find one
- Cheaper steel
6OntarioRat Folder$30- Great Value
- Well Built
- Solid Performer
- Cheaper steel
- A little heavy
- Grip could be better
7VictorinoxExecutive$30- Swiss Made
- Well Built
- Lots of Mojo For Size
- Orange Peeler Useless For Most People
- Tools Not Laid Out Very Well
- Non-locking
8KershawFreefall$26- Good Value
- Assisted Opening
- Well Built
- Smooth Deployment
- Inconsistent quality control
- Check local laws regarding flippers
9VictorinoxCadet$30- Swiss Made
- Good Quality
- Scratches easily (depending on color)
- Non-locking
10Cold SteelTough Lite$30- Well Designed
- Rugged
- Good Value
- Quality control issues?
- Awkward opening

From Top: Spyderco Delica 4, Spyderdo Native FRN, Spyderco Dragonfly 2
From Top: Spyderco Delica 4, Spyderdo Native FRN, Spyderco Dragonfly 2
Kershaw Freefall
The Kershaw Freefall, a very capable budget knife


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tip: Using Flashlight To Charge Watch Dial

All of my better watches in the $100+ range use the more expensive glow-in-the-dark material on their luminous dials. The problem is that some of my cheaper watches get more wrist time than the more expensive ones, and the cheap ones, big surprise, tend to cheap out on the GITD material.

For example, I'm really fond of my Casio MDV106-1A but the large hands that make it so easy to see with my old eyes in the daytime don't glow very well during normal use. So what I sometimes do is charge my watch dial with a flashlight before I go to bed. This makes even the cheaper watches glow all night!

It's as simple as it looks in the animation below: just put a really powerful flashlight right on the crystal and let it sit there for a minute or so. The material can only hold so much of a charge, so it doesn't need to charge very long if your flashlight has good output.

Casio MDV106-1A Animated Charging of Dial

Below you can see the end result:

Casio MDV106-1A Charged Dial



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Watermark Tool 2.1 Just Released

Early on in blogging, I realized just how many photos I was taking. Over time, I would see my photos crop up on other sites, and I would see other bloggers complaining of the same thing. It's an honor when someone likes my work. I want it to be distributed freely. The problem is that I don't want other people taking credit for my work or earning money from it. So I watermark all of my photos.

When I started looking at tools that could watermark my photos, I couldn't find the one I wanted where I could press a button and generate a huge amount of watermarked images without disturbing the originals.

So I wrote this tool, which I have been using for quite some time now. But it only let me use text watermarks, and it was very rough around the edges. It got hundreds of downloads but nobody pressed the donate button.

...so I totally revamped it from top to bottom, and tested it thoroughly with a high degree of discipline. I added the features I thought it was missing, and putting in a nag screen for the free version, which is still completely free. There is now a pro version which enables some of the more advanced features like using images for watermarks, but its basic functionality that was free before is free now, except much more fine tuned than the original version.

As always, I'm happy to have any feedback on my Watermark Tool.

You can download it here:

 Bulk Watermark Tool



Here's a couple samples I made from playing around with the watermark tool and my own logos:


Friday, September 12, 2014

Review: Kershaw Swerve [EDC Pocket Knife]

Kershaw has a reputation for making solid, well-designed budget pocket knives, especially their "flippers." The Swerve is one of their newer model flippers made with their Speed Speed safe assisted opening technology. They are fun to play with but also practical, as you can easily open these types of knives one-handed. So when I saw this new model Swerve 3850, I couldn't resist, and ordered one from Amazon with our Prime account.

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife: Product Link


Product Description

Price: About 17 bucks online

This is a "flipper" style EDC pocket knife. It's a newer, budget speed safe assist model featuring their latest FRN (fiberglass reinforced nylon) textured handle with all the little K's in it--clever. It's made in China from the typical 8Cr13MoV steel and features a hollow ground, drop point blade with a big belly. It also sits at a very interesting price point.

Official Specs (From Amazon)


  • Speed Safe assisted opening; Liner lock; Flipper and thumb stud; Reversible pocket clip; deep-carry
  • Steel: 8Cr13MoV, stonewashed finish
  • Handle: Glass-filled nylon, K-Texture grip
  • Blade length: 3 Inch (7.6 cm); Closed length: 4 1/4 Inch (10.8 cm); Overall length: 7 1/4 Inch (18.4 cm)
  • Weight: 4.8 ounces

From Left: Kershaw Swerve, Kershaw Skyline, Kershaw Brawler, SanRenMu LB-763, SanRenMu 704, Victorinox Cadet
From Left: Kershaw Swerve, Kershaw Skyline, Kershaw Brawler, SanRenMu LB-763, SanRenMu 704, Victorinox Cadet
Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife: Product View 1

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife: Product View 2

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife: Product View 4


Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife: Product View 6

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife: Product View 7

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife: Product View 8

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife: Product View - Front

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife: Product View - Back
Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife: Product View - Logo

Initial Impressions


The reviews said it was on the heavier/bulky side, but damn, this thing is a beast. Normally I weigh everything I review as just part of a normal review, but the first thing I did after unboxing this review sample was put it on the scale. I had to see what it weighed, and it comes in at 4.8 ounces! That's heavier than two of my favorite knife, the Spyderco Delica. I tend to EDC light, so this knife is probably too heavy for every day carry. But there are definitely times I like to carry a beefier knife, like working in the garage or breaking down cardboard. This knife looks like it's made to work.

The next thing I noticed is that the Swerve is not only beefy, it's on the stylish side. There's nothing wrong with looking good as long as you're taking care of business. From the interesting clip design, to the squiggly jimping on the blade, to all the little textured K's on the handle, this knife just looks good.

Pressing the flipper lever opens my review sample as smooth as silk. Smoother than any of my other assisted Kershaw flippers like the Brawler or the original Cryo, which I pretty much hated. Pushing the thumb stud a little has the same effect: the knife snaps open almost like a switchblade.

Build Quality


Overall, excellent. The steel is decent, but everything else about the way the knife is built is above average. The handle is so rigid that the knife really only needs the steel liners for the liner lock. In fact, they probably could have omitted the liners and made it a back lock.

The machining is way above average and impressive for such a cheap knife. From the stone washed blade to the precision jimping to the perfectly shaped flipper lever, Kershaw clearly knows what it is doing.

Fit and Finish


Overall, good. The blade on my review sample is a quite bit off center to the left. It's actually a little worse than what it looks in the photos. The funny thing is that it came centered, and after about 10 cycles on it, the blade started gradually leaning to the left and finally ended up just short of rubbing on the liner. Just a hair more and I would've had to return it. From what I can see, it looks like one of the washers is warped or maybe a little thinner than the other. I probably won't take it apart as long as it doesn't rub.

Like many things I review, it seems like I get a lot of review samples that are solid in every respect but one, and this is no different. There's not much else that I can find to nit pick about this knife. I can see a couple imperfections in the handle but only magnified in the photos.

The rest of the knife is very good. The texturing on the handle and the lettering on the logos are very crisp, and there was no sign of scratches, nicks or tool marks often found on budget knifes. The swervy jimping is well executed and crisp.  The tolerances on handle are pretty good, and the blade even came with a good edge on it. Though it's plenty sharp, the edge is a little uneven. A couple good drags across a sharpening stone should fix that.

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  Off Center Blade


Handle


I've always been a big fan of the glass-filled-nylon handles on my Spyderco Delica and Dragonfly knives, so it's nice to see this type of material on lower-end budget knives like this one. This FRN material is very light and very strong.

The texturing on the handle is made up of lots of little K's. I'm not sure I'd want to buy Firestone tires that had F's in place of actual tread, or a Stanley hammer with little S's on the handle. But if a company is going to use such a bold vanity design and keep me happy as a customer, it better work.

And it does. I really like the feel of the grip with this model. Put all the K's you want on it when it's this good. However, the handle itself is a little small and awkward in my hand, which is ironic considering it's a pretty big knife for what it is.

Despite the awkward grip for my over-sized man-hands, it is still acceptable for getting work done. I just wish the finger guard (which is the flipper lever) was about half an inch farther down since my index finger is smooshed up against it.

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  View Of Handle 1

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  View Of Handle 2


Blade


In a word, awesome. It's an over-sized, stonewashed, drop point blade made from 8Cr13MoV steel typically found on budget knives made in China. It's a decent steel that I think works great for pocket knives, though I do not prefer it for other tools due to it being a softer steel.

The blade features the typical hollow grind with what I would call a modified drop point. I think the geometry is phenomenal, and again, it reminds me of my beloved Spyderco knives, which feature leaf-shaped blades with a similar shape. I like a lot of belly on a pocket knife. Using the blade to pry isn't something I normally do, but it does happen once in a great while, and I like to be prepared.

There are thumb studs on both sides of the blade. I almost wish these manufacturers would just sell left and right-handed versions of their products and be done with it. That extra thumb stud I don't need probably weighs a gram, and this is a heavy knife for its size.

But wait, there's more: The blade has some really weird "squiggly" jimping on the back. Kershaw claims this new style of jimping is not "so aggressive that your thumb complains." Interesting choice of wording. It's definitely less aggressive, and certainly cooler looking, but is it better? It's hard to say. It seems to lose a little grip and gain a little comfort, so I'll leave it for others to decide. It does seem a little gimmicky. My only issue with the jimping is that about half of it ends up inset, which defeats the whole purpose of having it. What's left is about a good half inch for my thumb to press on, which is only barely acceptable.

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  View Of Blade - Side
Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  View Of Blade - TopKershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  View Of Blade - Tip


Deployment


Perfect. This is the smoothest opening flipper I own. What's even more impressive is that the blade deploys equally well from the thumb stud, though my thumb seems to miss the edge by a hair every time. It's safe, if a little unnerving. I'm just amazed by how smooth this thing deploys. My USA made Skyline isn't assisted, but it is smooth, and this Swerve is smoother.

Lockup


The Swerve features a standard liner lock. The lockup on my sample is solid, and perfectly acceptable. The liners do seem a little thin, but this thing is a beast, so they probably had to make the liners a little thinner than they wanted. The FRN handles are super rigid and contribute to the solidity of the lockup, so my guess is that the lock is plenty strong.

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  Closeup Of Lockup



Clip


I'm sure someone will tell me that Kershaw copied this clip design from someone else, but I've never seen it before. It's certainly innovative, with a screw in the butt of the handle securing the clip long-ways. The reason I like it is because the screw is fairly deeply inset, so it's one less thing to rub in my pocket or on my hands.

Another thing I like about the clip is that it not only comes configured tip-up for enthusiasts like me, but they don't muck up the design by making it configurable for tip-down. The front of the knife is pristine. And all those extra little drilled holes in a knife just collect dirt and pocket lint. Less is more! I've always complained that my Kershaws came configured tip-down which was odd considering most of their customers are cutlery enthusiasts. Looks like they finally listened to the community.

But like other Kershaws I own, the clip is way too tight out of the box. It does loosen a little over time, but ever so slowly. The first time I pulled this Swerve out of my shorts pocket, it just about took my shorts off, flashing a room full of people. Yes, the clip is that tight.

The clip is reversible for left or right-handed carry. And it goes all the way through the handle to where you can just see it on the other side. Stronger, or more weight?

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  View Of Clip 1

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  View Of Clip 2

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  View Of Clip 3

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  Clip Retention Screw

Usability


This is a very usable knife. Being on the larger side works in the Swerve's favor for heavy duty tasks like breaking down cardboard, which I've used it extensively for. The awkward grip even doesn't seem like an issue when I'm actually putting some force on it. The grown up kids like it, too. My son in law owns a Clash, Brawler and Cryo and when I handed him this one, he said "hmmm yeeaaa it's large hmmm". I just have that feeling that he'll be getting a Swerve and I'll be getting the Clash. Collect the whole set, right?

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  In Hand 2

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  In Hand 2

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  In Hand 3

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  Clipped To Pocket
When taking the knife out, grab your shorts first, or flash the whole room--your choice

Disassembly


A Torx T6 and T7 take apart the whole knife. The case screws and clip retention screw are T6, and the pivot screw is T7 on both sides. I use this set of Wiha Torx drivers since the Kershaw Cryo actually stripped a Craftsman Torx driver.

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife With Wiha Torx T6 And T7 Drivers

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife Dissassembly Diagram



Conclusions



The Swerve is a bit heavy for me personally to carry every day, but I know a lot of dudes who prefer the larger, beefier knives like this, and those dudes will probably appreciate it more. For me, this is probably going to be the perfect beater knife for working in the yard or those times I just want to thrash on a knife without worrying about what it cost. At 17 bucks, this is a very decent knife.

Having said all that, I wish they would get their quality control house in order. Lately buying a Kershaw has seemed like a hit an miss experience. There are companies like Buck and Spyderco making perfectly good Chinese models with consistent quality, so it can be done. Just look at the Tenacious. Have you ever heard of anyone getting a bad one? Me neither.

My Swerve is a good knife, but it could be better. I love these Kershaw flippers too much to stop buying them over all their little quality problems, but I will continue to be vocal about it at least.

All things considered, I expect to get many years worth of use from this model, and I think the design is outstanding. I even like the new handles and the weird jimping.


Gallery


Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  With Some Tools
It's almost more at home in the tool box than a pocket. Either way, it's right at home in the tool box.
Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  In Box 1

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  In Box 2

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife:  In Box 3
The instructions are actually pretty helpful

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife: On Scale
Yeah, that's pretty darn heavy

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife: Next To Ruler

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife: Caliper Measurement 1
Almost 1/6 of an inch at its widest

Kershaw Swerve EDC Pocket Knife: Caliper Measurement 2