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Comment Unicomp (Score 1) 452

The modern direct descendant of the IBM model M is Unicomp (pckeyboard.com). And at $79 it's a good deal. Highly recommended.

Note: their website isn't confidence inspiring, but they're alive and well and usually ship out the same day you order. They're also made in the USA which is kinda cool.

Comment Re:VHF/UHF are mainly line of sight (Score 3, Interesting) 376

I agree. I've used cell phones, VHF/UHF HTs, and satellite phones in the backcountry and if reliable emergency communication is your primary concern a satellite phone like Iridium is your best bet.

You can get portable high frequency ham radios that can talk over the horizon, but they start go get a bit bulky and require an more complex antenna setup for best results.

With an Iridium phone you can get it out, lock onto a satellite and be talking to someone in minutes. You do need to see a sizable portion of the sky, though -- they don't work very well in dense forest. And keep in mind 911 doesn't work on Iridium so have some numbers programmed in. The cell phone revolution seems to have rendered actually remembering someone's phone number a lost art.


Edward Tufte Appointed To Help Track and Explain Stimulus Funds 186

President Obama recently announced several appointments to the Recovery Independent Advisory Panel, including data visualization expert Edward Tufte, author of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. The purpose of the panel is to advise the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, whose aim is "To promote accountability by coordinating and conducting oversight of Recovery funds to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse and to foster transparency on Recovery spending by providing the public with accurate, user-friendly information." Tufte said on his website, "I'm doing this because I like accountability and transparency, and I believe in public service. And it is the complete opposite of everything else I do. Maybe I'll learn something. The practical consequence is that I will probably go to Washington several days each month, in addition to whatever homework and phone meetings are necessary."

Comment Re:Photos of the pollution (Score 5, Interesting) 260

I grew up near this area over the state line in neighboring Joplin Missouri.

Back in the 70s and 80s piles of chat hundreds of feet tall could be seen for miles. Chat is the local term for the mining waste -- in this case mostly limestone that's been pulverized and the lead and zinc removed. But there are trace amounts of lead remaining. Most of the chat has since been removed and used as railroad ballast and road base.

As kids we used to play in these chat piles -- you could find all kinds of interesting minerals and occasionally fossils. Occasionally the ground would collapse around the flooded and abandoned mines.

I was just back to this area several months ago and me and some friends spent the day taking pictures around Picher, OK and nearby Route 66. Picher is essentially a ghost town nowadays, but interestingly you can still drive and walk around the area, even though it's an EPA superfund site.

BTW, there's a geek connection to Picher. One of the companies to survive the mining is Eagle-Picher; they were an early innovator in battery technology and became a major supplier of batteries in aerospace, including the batteries for the Apollo missions. In nearby Quapaw, OK that built a boron enrichment plant producing boron 10 isotopes for the nuclear industry, too.

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