Covered Topics

Please see the list of the topics I've covered. It's located near the bottom of the page. Thanks for stopping in!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

My First Test Video With Digital Still Camera


I have owned a 5 mega-pixel point and shoot digital camera for several years. Recently, for the first time, I tried it out in the "movie mode" to see how well it works for taking short videos.

While the resolution is underwhelming, it did work. As a cheap way of shooting demonstration videos for posting here or on you-tube, it will be adequate. In view of the memory used, I'll definitely want a larger memory card for the camera.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Homemade PVC Pipe Archery Bow

For thousands of years, the bow and arrow have been used for both sport and survival hunting. Even today it is still used throughout the world. In America, it is primarily a sporting weapon, though occasionally it is still used for more serious purposes. For example, during the Vietnam conflict, American Marines were said to have used bows and arrows for relatively close situations where a quiet, discrete weapon was needed.

Ever since I was a boy, archery has fascinated me. I had never owned a bow nor did I have the opportunity to get instruction from anyone who could properly teach me. As an adult I fortunately was able to take archery at a local college. I did quite well in it and bought my first bow shortly before the end of the course. Since then, life intervened and I haven't shot a bow in years. While I still have my factory-made bow, I wanted to try something a bit different.

My Hardware Store Specials:
One goal of mine was to, as much as possible, stick with materials I could readily buy at any local hardware or home improvement store. When doing a project I try to avoid any hard-to-find or exotic stuff whenever I can.

I am currently doing two archery bow-building projects. Both of these are classified as "long bows", as opposed to a recurve or compound bow.

One is a "board bow" - so named as it is carved from a solid 6' piece of red oak 1" x 2" board. I have the rough shape cut out and am in the process of whittling it to its final shape. This is a painstaking process involving a draw-knife and/or a carpenter's plane. More on this project in a future post. I got the board for under $10 USD from the local Lowes Home Improvement Center.

In the picture above is another experiment I am doing - the PVC pipe bow. While handling some PVC pipe a while back, it occurred to me that given its springiness it should make a crude but effective bow. Some searches of Google and you-tube revealed numerous examples of folks who have made PVC bows. Many of them were of low draw weight and made by kids, but a few are of decent (40# or more) draw weight and made by adults. And so I made the one in the picture above. It consists of a 72" piece of 1.25" schedule 40 PVC pipe. The string is my own crude attempt at a "Flemish bowstring", made from 6 pieces of mason's line. I bought my mason's line from the local Home Depot for about $5 USD.

I haven't fired this bow yet, but I do have some arrows that are suitable for the approximate draw weight involved. In a future post I will give test results, draw weight measurements, ...
Meanwhile I have built a wooden stand for measuring the draw weight accurately and for "tillering" the board bow. "Tillering" is the process of shaping the limbs of the bow and adjusting their tension so that the bow is properly balanced.

A Word (or Two) of Warning:
If you decide to try this, BEWARE that PVC gets extremely brittle in cold temperatures! DO NOT try to use such a weapon at temperatures below 45 degrees F - it could shatter and injure you!!

Secondly, when messing around with unproven materials such as these, use some good, stout eye protection. If the string or the bow fails, you do not want the shrapnel going into your eye.

By the way: PVC pipe is great stuff; I've found all sorts of novel uses for it. PVC performs reasonably well up through VHF frequencies for winding loading coils for amateur radio antennas.
Granted, this has NOTHING to do with archery, but it is another valid re-purpose of a common commodity.

Our Media Looks The Other Way While A Possible Nuke Accident Unfolds In Nebraska

In several of my recent posts I have written about why one needs alternative communications systems for getting news during emergencies - whether they be man-made or natural. I have mentioned shortwave receivers, amateur(ham) radio communications, and most recently - alternative "mesh" computer networks. None of these rely upon power lines, cellular/land telephones, and internet connections - all of which could be out of commission for any number of reasons.

Today, I read about a situation unfolding near Omaha, Nebraska. It has been going on since June 8. Today is June 17. Due to river flooding a nuclear power plant is in danger. The plant already experienced some flooding and an electrical fire involving pump controls for cooling the spent fuel rods stored on site. There is the potential threat of dam breakage on the river that could REALLY cause problems - anyone remember what happened in Japan this past March?

Read about it here:

So while the media distracted us with stories of congress critters tweeting lewd pictures of themselves, we had what could develop into a home-grown Fukushima disaster going on for over a week.

I have to ask: WHY wasn't/isn't this headline news???
Considering that nuclear power plant accidents tend to contaminate thousands of square miles of land, thereby rendering it unsafe or even uninhabitable for the foreseeable future, this SHOULD be PROMINENT on the nightly news until it is resolved.

It is increasingly clear that the media cannot be relied upon to report even on immediate emergencies. Whether it be a situation like this, a tornado, earthquake, terrorist attack, or anything else not enumerated here, it is clear one needs to have other means of getting information and communicating with friends and family.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Wanna BEAT Internet Censorship? Build Your OWN Internet!

We have read recently how the Egyptian, Chinese, and Syrian governments have cut Internet access to their citizens to control the flow of information and keep ordinary citizens from being able to report human rights abuses. In the case of Syria, cell phones have also been affected by government censorship efforts. Since time immemorial governments have treated their citizens "like mushrooms - keeping them in the dark and feeding ..." - well, you know the rest of the saying.

Even as the United States government talks of "needing" the ability to shut down Internet access to US CITIZENS in the event of "cyber terrorism" or "other civil crises", the state Department and Pentagon are spending American tax dollars to develop and provide alternative cyber networks to folks in other countries affected by such censorship.

Here's a link to an article in today's New York Times online edition:

While I think most of what the New York Times produces is best used as bird cage liner or kitty litter, THIS article actually has some VERY GOOD information.

Quoted directly from the article:
"The group’s suitcase project will rely on a version of “mesh network” technology, which can transform devices like cellphones or personal computers to create an invisible wireless web without a centralized hub. In other words, a voice, picture or e-mail message could hop directly between the modified wireless devices — each one acting as a mini cell “tower” and phone — and bypass the official network. "

"mesh networks - information hops directly between cell phones and computers without going through state-controlled networks. They do this with special software."

Given the natural disasters that have hit the US within the past few years, as well as other events that could suddenly cripple the ability of US Citizens to communicate freely by phone or Internet, perhaps we would do well as individual citizens to network with each other and create our own 'free' Wide-Area-Networks (WANs), or community Internets. This would go far in augmenting the services that amateur radio (ham) operators provide in times of need. Amateur radio operators use "packet radio" to transmit digital information. Unfortunately most folks don't have the training or the license to use it. But most of us who own laptops DO have Wi-Fi capability which are readily adaptable for use in mesh or ad-hoc networks.

Something for any concerned citizen to think about.

For those interested in developing this technology, a google search will turn up all the information you need to get started. I've included a couple links here:

"Fab-fi networks" - open-source systems using common, "every-day" materials and readily-available equipment for creating community wireless Ethernet networks.