Disaster Tech

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Like many of you, I’ve been watching the events in Japan continue to unfold, and perhaps thinking to myself, “I’m glad something that devastating didn’t happen here”.

But what if it did, would you be prepared? I like to think that I am, but sadly, I’m probably not.

Yes, I have a first aid kit, and I’ve got some camping supplies, but it’s not organized nor is it handy. And it’s likely not enough, which is why the Canadian Red Cross created these handy plans.

Getting Prepared
The Canadian Red Cross has this excellent resource for building and maintaining an Emergency Preparedness Kit listing what you need to survive for 72 hours or more.

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Ok, step one is taken care of…or is it.
In my case, I’ve got pets so I need to extend my kit and plans a bit with this Emergency Pet Plan & Kit

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Now I’m set, except for some of the tech. Usually tech is the last thing you want in your kit; it requires power, isn’t easy to fix when it breaks, and doesn’t fare well when wet. Yet there are some exceptions.

Gearing up
These plans and kits all call for a battery or hand-crank flashlight and radio. And I’ve found one that suits my needs perfectly.

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The Etón FR160 self-powered safety radio uses hand crank or solar power to re-charge the internal nickel metal-hydride battery and features AM/FM radio and Environmental Canada weather band channels to provide emergency weather information/public alerts. In addition, the FR160 has an integrated LED flashlight, 3.5 mm headphone output and a USB port for charging cell phones.

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The unit is small, lightweight, and won’t take up valuable space in any emergency kit.

Of course, I tried it out, and yes, it does work well. Radio reception was fine, and the crank, while a bit noisy, did charge well.

And as a bonus, Etón Corporation contributes a portion of every Canadian Red Cross branded unit sold to support the mission of the Canadian Red Cross.

If you’re looking for more information on the FR160, you can check out the manual here (pdf).

And yes, this will find a home in my soon-to-be-complete emergency kit.

But I’m sure you’ve got some tech-thoughts on additions to my kit — what tech would you pack in your kit?

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Looking for a smart phone? Consider the Palm Pre 2. Seriously.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been checking out the Palm Pre 2 — the next generation keyboard / touch screen dataphone from HP. Previously I’d not considered a webOS phone much of a contender against the traditional leaders (Blackberry and iPhone), but this little unit changed my mind.

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In this review, I’ll touch on the things that appealed (or didn’t) to me about the unit. I won’t be going into a long description about each and every feature though, so if you’re interested in that, you can read more here.

For a $99 phone (with 3 year contract) there’s a lot going on inside this little black box. Continue reading “Looking for a smart phone? Consider the Palm Pre 2. Seriously.”

Android, Blackberry or iPhone? Which is right for you.

Earlier today I dropped in to the CityTV’s Breakfast Television set to chat about the three main types of data phones.

Basically we were looking at the data phones, and the types of people who each type of phone is best suited for — or not suited for 🙂




Here’s my notes from the early morning chat:

Blackberry – Research In Motion – RIM
This is the ‘Go To’ business device. It’s the Star Trek communicator for the C suite set. You know you’re a blackberry type if you covet the device for the following reasons:

1) Huge business and government penetration – the key here is that most government departments and divisions, and the organizations that do business with them have similar technology. They speak the same language, look at the same screens and share the same experiences.

2) Security – The Blackberry system is based on a proprietary server technology that routes all communication through a central server system, managed by RIM. BlackBerry is basically a totally integrated package that includes phone, hardware, device software and hosted service, providing you with a complete end-to-end email solution.

3) Keypad – Though more recent models use the touch screen interface similar to the iPhone, the hallmark feature of the Blackberry over the years has been miniature chicklet-style keyboard. This has caused numerous thumb-cramps over the years, yet somehow, the work of government has been done. Go figure.

Google’s Android
This is Google’s contribution to mobile communications. If you remember the old BASF commercial, Google doesn’t make the phone, Google makes the phone better. Google provides the operating system, hardware manufacturers provide the phone tech.

1)  You love the concept of an open and somewhat hackable phone operating system. This lets you configure the device to do exactly what you want, how you want.

2) You accept the risk of an open and somewhat hackable phone operating system. This means that an application you add to your Android based phone could potentially cause you unforseen grief in the future. The Android store is open to anyone with minimal regulation and oversite. This is a good thing, and a bad thing.

3) You enjoy being at the bleeding edge of technology. There is no finer place to be, as long as you really, REALLY, know what you’re doing with this technology. There are different Android devices running slightly different flavours of the operating system. Yet, you know which apps will and won’t work on your phone. Yes, you are an Early Adopter..

Apple’s iPhone
This is the gold standard by which all other data phones are being measured. Apple has basically taken control of this market, and for very many good reasons. Apple has created the telephone appliance.

1) an outgrowth of the iPod — the iPhone is much more than a music player with a phone glued to it. It’s really a full-blown data appliance that you’d expect to see on Star Trek, but not only in the executive suite of corporations — the iPhone is the device for the rest of us.

2) The Apple store enabled a safe environment for developers and consumers to explore the digital application market place for mobile digital devices. Apple ran the store, and had the right to approve applications available in the store. Putting the Apple reputation on the line, applications had to be safe, mainstream-acceptable, and technologically sound. You’d not get porn, viruses, or faulty programs from the store on Apple’s watch.

3) It’s a data appliance. It must work. Every time. All the time. Apple guarantees it. Your mom and dad could use it, and that’s what Apple’s banking on. You don’t need an IT department to support it (like the Blackberry) nor have to deal with esoteric interfaces and commands (ala the Android). It just works.