Creighton Samuiels

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since Apr 14, 2013
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Recent posts by Creighton Samuiels

Erica Wisner wrote:
(camping, relying on surface water or hand-dug wells, rain harvesting, etc)

I can't come, but I'm interested in learning the best way to drive a wellpoint type well, and what size is best.

Bryant RedHawk wrote:I'm with you Mike, on our land a pair of walkie- talkies work far better than cellphone.

What kind of real use range do you get out of your walkie-talkies, and what band are they using?
1 week ago
Another trick to reduce bandwidth would be to add a stand-alone caching web proxy, give it a large slice of the hard disk; and point all of your internet browsers to use that proxy.  In Linux the most popular such proxy is called Squid.  The way this works is, when you surf to a site or click on a link, your browser no longer goes to the internet to fetch that itself, but requests that from the proxy.  The proxy will fetch the website, and save a copy of everything that is downloaded to disk.  Then the next time that anyone surfs to that same webpage again, from any web browser, the proxy will first check the timestamp of the root HTML file to see if it has been updated since it's last download.  If it has, or if it can't tell, it will download that root HTML file and check.  If it is the same, it will simply draw that webpage and any images, CSS files, etc from it's local copy on your own hard drive.  Regardless, if any of the images remain unchanged, it will still draw those from the disk as well.

This won't lower your bandwidth at first, but we are all creatures of habit and tend to spend most of our data returning to a handful of the same websites; so after a week or two, your net data usage will drop.  It is not unrealistic for this one trick to save 60% or more on website data usage, and if you have a household of teenagers who like to use personal devices over wifi; setting up squid onto and old computer to serve as a firewall/proxy server could save you much more.  But no proxy is going to reduce your update bandwidth, file transfers, gaming data usage or anything that uses a streaming service.

EDIT: The downside to this technique is that squid won't work if you are connecting to a website using secure hypertext transport protocol (HTTPS://).  Only your surfing done in the clear can be copied by Squid. 
1 week ago
If off grid digital communications are the concern, consider getting a ham radio license and see if you can get your social circle to do likewise.  Digital radios in the 70mm band are amazing, and in many ways make your cell phone seem sub-standard.  But such radios are much more expensive than cell phones, and much larger.
1 week ago

That does sound like a good long term plan, Nick.  But as an alternative to his immediate problem of effective communications with local peers, perhaps this would work well if he can get his peers to participate...
1 week ago
I don't really know much about Windows 10, as I spend most of my online time either on Gentoo Linux or an iMac; but in both those cases I can set regular updates to occur a particular times and days of the week.  In Linux this program is called "crond", and I can tell it to do just about anything.  I don't have a limited Internet plan (except on my cell phone) but I do tell my podcatcher to update in the wee hours of the mornings.  If your email client is "local" (i.e. downloads a copy of all your emails upon startup) you can tell it to download at 3 or 4 am, so that when you go to check your emails, you will already have most of your new emails and therefore less daytime data will occur.  If you use a web based email service with a limited data plan, you really should consider a "local" email client; as the standard email protocols are much more data efficient than hypertext web services.

Also, there are many (mostly older) web browsers designed for limited data; but there are also extensions available for modern browsers that enable data stream compression, as well as low-bandwidth data techniques such as "lazy loading"  (where the browser doesn't actually load photos until you scroll down far enough for them to show on the page, which saves data whenever you might surf away from that page before getting to the bottom.)

Or if you are truly looking to get stuff done on minimum data; you can turn off automatic image loading completely or use a non-graphical browser.  (I didn't know that the web had photos until about 1995, because I did almost everything in Lynx)  Such non-graphical browsers include Lynx, Links and Links2 for the GNU/linux and Mac OS X set, and WebIE & ELinks for the Windoze users.

1 week ago
Texting is a not a guaranteed delivery service.  Said another way, there is no real mechanism in the protocol that attempts to deliver texts in a timely manner.  So while your spotty reception may be part of the cause, I have personal examples of texts taking days to arrive wherein both parties are mostly urban and have good reception most of the time.  Often the reasons for the delay can never be identified.  This is also true with email.

However, as a licensed ham, I know a few tricks for improving your reception in the sticks.  What you really need, more than anything, is a radio "line-of-sight" between your phone and a tower.  This seems counter-intuitive, since we think of walls and such as blocking a line-of-sight, but with most radio frequencies walls are semi-transparent, not opaque. Unfortunately, dirt is quite opaque.   But if the place you spend your time is down in a valley (or 'holler' near where I grew up), the best way to get a line-of-sight is to get vertical.  This doesn't make sense with a portable device such as a cell phone, but adding a "passive repeater" to your home might help with reception to a surprising degree.  A passive repeater is simply two antennas of the correct frequency range with a low-resistance connection between them; one antenna *inside* your home (probably the kitchen or living room) and the other antenna high upon a pole.  The way the passive repeater works is that the tower signal will make the high antenna resonate, and so will the lower antenna to a lessor degree; and when your phone transmits, the reverse will also occur.  This won't give you 4 bars when you have none, but may give you one bar where you have none; or one or two bars where you occasionally have one bar.  This works best when the cell phone spends it's time very close to the lower antenna. 

And a long wire antenna will work for this, so really all that is necessary is a single, long, insulated wire stretching from the top of a tower into your home; grounded nowhere.  Try it on a sunny day to see if it works for you, but keep in mind that ham radio operators with permanent radio towers have lightening divertors on their towers.  If your high end needs to be higher than your surrounding trees, consider the risk of lightening strikes.

EDIT:  If you can climb onto your roof with your cellphone, and get a decent signal there, then a passive repeater will work.  Just make sure that the top of the wire is about where your head was when you could get reception.
1 week ago
Oh, I've got to interject here!

The Chinese wheelbarrow is a wonderful piece of appropriate technology, but isn't really as you have described.  First, it only has one, very large, wheel.  Not two.  The reason is that the wide diameter of the large wheel both creates a lower angle of attack upon small obstacles such as rocks as well as provides for a larger surface contact on unimproved roads.  Two wheels, even close together, would negatively affect the ability of the handler to balance heavy loads across the left-right axis.  But it's also a human powered road vehicle, not designed for no road at all.  The Chinese wheelbarrow does not serve the same function as a Western wheelbarrow, but is more like an ancient pickup truck.
3 weeks ago