The Truth About Kwanzaa

I'm back after the holidays. Hopefully things will start picking up again after next weekend.


This is a fascinating look at the true origins of Kwanzaa. I hadn't heard of any references to it before the early 1980s or so, but apparently it goes back to the 70s. The fact that the founder abused women in ways that would make Saddam blush is only the tip of the iceberg.


Bootable CDs for Emergency Computing

You won't hear me arguing that computers and technology are more reliable than good old hard copy any time soon, but they are useful tools. In an emergency situation, a working computer could be the difference between life and death. I'm planning to cover the hardware side of things sometime in the future, but let's look at what we can do today.

Since the late 1990s, pretty much every computer in existence has been capable of booting off of CD. For most, this utility is used for installing your operating system or performing diagnostics. In an environment where every computer is an island and you may not have the parts or software you need to make a computer useful, it can be a lifesaver.

Today, there are several Linux distributions that fit on one CD (or even one DVD). They contain everything you need for general purpose computing: operating system, drivers, office software, communications software, etc. Some of these distributions are Knoppix, Slax, and DSL. There is also one based on Windows XP / Server 2003 called BartPE.

In an emergency, you could boot off of pretty much any computer you can make work (PC, tablet, laptop, thin client) and know exactly where everything is. You can have all of those FAQs, ebooks, engineering references, and medical references that you downloaded, but never bothered to print.

I've been working on composing such a CD for a year or so know. I was intending on using DSL, but I think I'm going to stick with Slax for now. What would you like to see on such a CD? Here's what I have or intend to have:
  • Army Field Manuals for useful topics
  • Firearm maintenance manuals
  • Radio equipment maintenance manuals
  • PSK31 software
  • Office software w/printer drivers (got to have freedom of the press!)
  • Medical documentation
  • Encryption software (GPG)
For the geeks:
  • Server apps (mail server, http server, IRC server, etc)
  • Traffic sniffers
  • War driving software
I certainly wouldn't want to bet my life on finding a computer in an emergency, but a CD such as this could be a useful tool.

12/20: Edited for clarity. I shouldn't post when I'm sleepy.


And there was much rejoicing!

I don't have time to write much tonight, but I had to point this out: The Patriot Act is dead (for now)!

This is where partisan politics really show. In a Democratic White House, the votes would have gone exactly the other way. Thankfully (and I never thought I'd say this), the Democrats won today. In the end, we're probably just delaying the inevitable, but we should be happy for the victories we get.


Steve Roberts' Microship and Shacktopus projects

I've been following Steve Roberts' work on again/off again for a couple years now. Some of his previous projects are the Winnebiko and BEHEMOTH recumbent bicycles. He was on the cutting edge of the information revolution in the '90s (Edit: should be '80s) when he traveled the country talking to hams, typing articles on his Tandy 100 using a custom chorded keyboard, and uploading them to CompuServe.

Lately, he's been working on making small watercraft (microships) with fully integrated radios to allow him to cut the cord and live independently of physical location. To further this goal, he's developing the Shacktopus, a system that will allow the integration of various data and radio devices in one box.

He's been on hiatus lately, attending to family business in Kentucky, but I can't wait to see what new advances come out of the Nomadic Research Labs in the coming months.



Welcome friends and such to my blog. Like most new blogs, my blog will likely be lame for a while until I get into the groove. Let's start with a couple links:

Frugal Squirrels member FerFAL is living in the economically depressed and otherwise challenging nation of Argentina. I suspect that if the dollar fails (which it eventually will, being a fiat currency), the United States will be in similar shape. http://www.buildanark.net/survival_stories.html

hackaday has an article running on using a compact flash drive in a laptop. While this isn't exactly groundbreaking, it is useful for high reliability and low power computing. Coupled with a small linux distro such as Slax or DSL, you have a general purpose computing machine that is pretty close to indestructable. If you have an older system that is passively cooled, then you have no moving parts.

Given the political climate of the past 17 years (and, skipping the Reagan era, decades before that), we really need to make a change. I would like to encourage you, from now on, to vote your conscience, not "lesser of two evils". Although there are many good Republicans (and even a few good Democrats), the time has come for people to start voting for the right person for a smaller government, in all respects. I'd like to challenge you to look at the Libertarian party and Constitution party. Although I have some differences with the Libertarians, they are much, much, better than the Democrats or Republicans.

Until next time: Be smart. Be prepared.