Weather Radios and Shit

Okay, the first Tropical Depression of 2020 is upon us a few weeks early and literally the only place in the US it is going to hit is HERE.  Eastern NC.  Shit.

Probably the best source for emergency weather, even better than your local news station is the National Weather Service (NWS) or NOAA Weather Radio station in your local area.   The frequencies they transmit on are:

162.400
MHz
162.425
MHz
162.450
MHz
162.475
MHz
162.500
MHz
162.525
MHz
162.550
MHz

To receive these broadcasts though you need a specialized radio that covers Very High Frequencies or VHF.  Your FM radio only goes to about 108 MHz.  A hardwire police scanner can probably be programmed, or a marine radio, or definitely an RTL-SDR software defined radio will work.

I have several radios I use for weather and one of my favorites is the CCrane 2E radio which is pretty expensive as far as radios go. I never really gave it much of a thought or a concern but the last major weather event in New Bern, NC was a fast moving storm replete with Tornados.  And for good measure it hit near midnight.

Turns out the storm wasn’t as bad as predicted but there were a couple tornados and a couple of systems producing tornados.  Every time there was movement or an event we’d get an NWS alert (loud tone) followed by voice.  Most of the alerts WERE FROM ADJACENT COUNTIES NOWHERE NEAR US.  Once most of the danger passed we were still getting CONSTANT alerts which were keeping us on edge and keeping us awake.

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Lensatic Compass and Compass Skills

Cammenga 3H Tritium

Yeah, this is a Tech blog but sometimes you just gotta be old school.  Compasses are pretty old school and in fact the first compass known was about 206 BC!  And they were used for navigation first around 1040 AD.

I use a compass to align satellite dishes.  Radio is my hobby and I track satellites such as Inmarsat or NOAA GOES Weather Satellites for fun.

Every phone has a compass but I find them to be wildly off, at least on the iPhone.  However, if you dabble around on the internet other users will tell you they nail satellites with iPhone compasses all the time.   THIS HAS DEFINITELY NOT BEEN MY EXPERIENCE.  They either posses great skills or are lucky as heck.  Or maybe it is geographical.  I dunno.

But I do know a real compass works just fine and a real compass doesn’t need a battery charge or has a screen that’s hard to see in direct sunlight.

And here is the theme of this blog entry:  MOST PEOPLE HAVE NO CLUE HOW TO USE A COMPASS AND THIS IS AS VALUABLE A SKILL AS SWIMMING, RIDING A BIKE, HUNTING, FISHING, ETC.  IF YOU CAN’T USE A COMPASS YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

Yeah, you’re laughing at me.  But you laughed at me before the Hurricanes, and you laughed at me before COVID 19.  This Country Boy™ can survive.

Let’s learn some more about the humble compass……….

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Label Maker Go Kit

Anyone can buy a label maker kit, I tossed one together on the fly that I think is fairly slick with a lot of capabilities.

Inventory consists of:

  • Hard Side Carry Case – This is actually for a Jackery Portable Power Station but it works nicely.
  • Brother PT-D210 – Label Maker
  • Brother Embellish – You could actually only use the Embellish.  I just had a PT-D210 laying around.  The Embellish is special because it allows you to print on ribbon material.
  • AC Adapter– Don’t buy the “official” Brother one.  It is too expensive.  Get this one.  $9 and it works with both label printers.
  • 6 – AAA Batteries.  Only for no power situations.  Both machines EAT BATTERIES.  Also I 3D printed a battery holder for an Altoids tin.  Cool!
  • Your favorite Tapes or Ribbons as needed.  The case will hold maybe 3-5 tapes not counting the ones you can carry inside the label makers.

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Brother PT-D210 Label Maker

Brother PT-D210

In my last couple of posts I’ve discussed some of the world’s best label makers and some of the features that make them the best.

Today I’ve decided to go to the lower end of the spectrum and buy one of those $20 label makers I always see in Walmart or Staples.

This is the Brother PT-D210. This is probably the most purchased label maker in the world because of its low price and availability.  It can he had for about $20 and $30 if you buy a “kit” with a roll of TZE tape.

 

Actually $10 for a roll of TZE tape is darn near the best price you can get.  It’s almost worth it just to buy the cheap label maker for a roll of cheap tape if you own other Brother machines that use TZE tape.   It matches almost none of my “must have” features for a label maker but it is quite useful in many regards.  I hope you’ll read on as I perform a deep dive on this label maker from a hardware standpoint.

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More on the Best Label Makers and the Dymo XTL 300

In my last post I determined that there were several requirements that I needed a label printer to meet.  Essentially any printer that I want to own will have:

  • Ability to do labels up to 1 inch in width.
  • Ability to connect to software for designing labels.
  • Ability to do QR codes.
  • Rechargeable Battery
  • AC adapter included
  • Ability to do print and cut heat shrink tube for wiring.

I had more items on the last list but these are must have’s for me.  To get these features though means you’ll pay more.  A label maker that just spits out simple labels can he had for as cheap as $20 or so.  To get what I have listed above requires an investment of over $250 and even a bit more.

Brother PT-D600

If you are willing to drop the requirement for a rechargeable battery, everything else on my list is available in the Brother PT-D600 making it a heck of a bargain at about $79.99 most places.  To be honest with the first label maker I owned, a K-Sun 2001XLB I never put batteries in it.  I would just plug it into the wall and use it.  Yeah, it was a little more hassle but batteries are expensive, recharging takes time, and a label maker is something I may not use for long periods of time and I might get some battery leakage or corrosion.

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Label Makers – Deep Dive

K-Sun 2001XLB

I  bought my first label maker, a K-Sun 2001XLB sometime in the mid-2000’s.  I believe the main reason I bought it was that I was restoring a Dynaco ST-70 tube amplifier and I wanted to put heat shrink labels on all the point to point wiring connections.

I did.

As an electronics hobbyist having a label maker that printed on heat shrink was a valuable tool, and I still do that to this day on many of my projects.

Most recently I have been using it to build solar power boards which I put in my house and in my camper.

 

Here’s an example of why one would use a heat shrink labeller in electronics or electrical applications:

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Being Prepared On A Small Scale – Altoids Survival Kit

One of the Rites of Passage for being a geek or a nerd is doing things with Altoids Tins.  You can google for hours the things that people do with them.  Since we are in the midst of some kind of crisis (real or imagined) I thought I would slap together a little Altoids Survival Kit.  It’s easy to do, it’s fun, and it might just come in handy some day.  In addition to that there is ALWAYS space for an Altoids tin in the glovebox or purse and they’ll even fit in your jeans pocket.

And of course you can build them up with stuff YOU think is useful but the challenge is to find stuff that will fit and be usable.   Let me show what I came up with.
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Best SHTF Gear Ever

Well it happened.  The Shit Hit The Fan.  How’d you make out?

Here is the best gear to help you through the next one.

Casio Rangeman

Best Wristwatch.  I have a LOT of watches.  This is NOT my favorite watch but it is my favorite SHTF watch.  Casio Rangeman GW9400-1.

This watch is a military favorite.  It has a solar battery that lasts forever and has Multi-Band 6 which syncs with Long Wave Radio stations to keep time with the Atomic Clock.

There are 6 locations worldwide, hence the name Multi-Band 6.

This watch is double tough, legible and can take a beating.

 

More gear:

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How To Improve The Jackery Experience

I’m a huge fan of Jackery Portable Power Stations.  In fact I’m not sure how I ever lived without them.

The pic on the left is the Jackery Explorer 1000 and does it ever pack a punch.  You can look up the specs and how many things it can charge and how many times.   That’s not what this blog is about.

It’s about improving the experience and maybe saving a few dollars along the way.

A device like this lends itself to being used in an outdoor, camping type environment.  There’s not a real need to use one in a home or office that has plenty of outlets unless you are frugal and like to charge your items for free to reduce the electricity bill.  To be frankly honest though, charging your cell phone by portable power station won’t save you that much money but of course every little bit helps.
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Building a DIY Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) Battery for Solar

This project was/is a tiny bit of a mess. But I’m still going to declare it a success but it was fraught with issues.  Issue number one is political.  For some reason the US is not a major supplier, and barely a supplier at all, of high tech Lithium batteries.  They all just about come from China.

I read on a website recently where someone stated that the Chinese had perfected the art form of lying.  That’s a stone cold fact.  Dealing with Chinese companies, manufacturers and shippers and you can expect to wallow in the bullshit at least once.   Enough of that.

So if you want LiFePO4 cells you have to go to China.  I got mine from Alibaba.  They are 3.2v, 200 amp hour batteries.  I bought 4 cells which would equal 12 volts when wired in series.  Total cost with busbars (to connect the cells together) was about $505.  In comparison to buy an off the shelf 12v, 200 amp hour LiFePO4 battery from a supplier would cost nearly $2000.

You also need a Battery Management System.  This cost about $90.

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