News roundup for Tue, Mar 9, 2021

The Texas agriculture sector is down 600 million dollars after winter storm Uri. These losses could compound already rising food prices. Citrus was hit the hardest. Rooftop solar is a disruptive industry—it could be the nail in the Texas power grid coffin, or it could save it. Texas doesn’t yet have solar incentives like other […]

News roundup for Fri, Mar 5, 2021

Food prices are rising precipitously. Commodities like metal and grains are also getting more expensive. This is being felt the most in developing countries, but just like the pandemic, this problem will quickly spread to the West. Semiconductors and other electronics supplies are in serious bottlenecks. This is something to pay attention to because it’s […]

Why YKK zippers are the brown M&Ms of product design: look at the little details to judge overall gear quality

A ‘pro tip’ for evaluating the quality of a piece of gear is to look at the small details, such as zippers and stitching. Cheap-minded manufacturers will skimp on those details because most people just don’t notice, and even a cheap component will often last past a basic warranty period, so it’s an easy way […]

News roundup for Tue, Mar 2, 2021

The Right to Repair and open-source software movements are growing—John Deere and other companies hold their customers hostage behind software licensing for updates and fixes the lack of which bricks heavy machinery. Farmers must choose between getting nickel and dimed to keep their tractors running or hack their own equipment. Prepping goes mainstream v. 500.0—This […]

What does it mean that Texas was “only minutes from grid collapse and weeks of darkness”?

In the aftermath of Winter Storm Uri, Texans spent a week in darkness, leading to dozens of deaths from freezing cold, hundreds of carbon monoxide poisonings, and multiple second-order effects like water plant failures and communication outages. News headlines have talked about “how Texas was only 4 minutes and 37 seconds away from total grid […]

Best handheld ham radios

Editor’s note: The 2020-21 crises have made ham radios sometimes hard to find. We’ve included multiple options below in case your preferred choice isn’t available. Ham radios are generally split up into “handie-talkies” (HTs) that are easy to carry by hand and foot in the field, “mobile” radios that are meant for vehicles, and larger […]

News roundup for Fri, Feb 26, 2021

When John Kerry starts waxing catastrophic about climate change, maybe some folks should listen… according to him global carbon emissions need to be cut 45% by 2030. We’d need a global space race of sorts to get there. I’m not terribly confident we can achieve this goal–some green-energy-minded countries are dumping nuclear and using coal […]