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Peas and mash on the trail

May 30, 2016 — BarryK
I am gradually getting organised for another hike, doing a complete review of the weight, trying to get it down.

Apart from that, I want to experiment with new food recipes. A post by "Eremophila" on the Bushwalk forum inspired me:

His peas and potato mash is basic, but should be appetising. I decided to give it a go. Here are all of the items that a hiker would need:

The stove is an Alocs alcohol burner (methylated spirits) that I bought from Deal Extreme awhile back (
On the left is the fuel, in a Selleys wood-glue plastic bottle -- chosen because the spout has a screw-on cap, so fuel won't leak inside the backpack.
The other items are small scissors to open the packets, bag-closers, a folding scoop (that came with a saucepan-set from DX), water, and a spoon (my all-time favourite, a plastic spoon from Sea to Summit).

The pot is titanium, 700ml, 115mm diameter, 700mm high, 700ml capacity, very light, sold by Toak (USA).

Some means of lighting the stove is required. I have shown a cigarette-lighter in the photo, however matches are better as it is required to reach down into the stove to ignite the fuel.

I put in two scoops of water, one scoop of dehydrated peas. Lit the stove, brought the pot to a boil. Actually, this Alocs stove boils the water quite fast, and that is where this particular alcohol stove has an advantage over some others -- it has a "simmer ring" to adjust the flame down.

Wait several minutes, until the peas look like they have become soft. Take the pot off the stove, and stir in 1 scoop of potato powder, then half-a-scoop of cheese. The result:

It tastes OK. Not gourmet cooking, but passable when on the trail.

Next time, I will probably adjust it to a bit less peas, and maybe a bit more water. The cheese is a problem, as it would have to be consumed fairly quickly after opening the packet. Apparently, there are dehydrated cheese powders available, but I just bought what I found on the shelves at Coles.

After a days hiking, I would probably double the quantities, for a reasonable meal. Note, I don't have a measuring cup, but I think my scoop holds about 70ml.

Just an extra note: I am currently going through the exercise of reducing the weight of everything, and the Alocs stove is likely to be retired. It weighs, with its stand/shelter, 143gm. I have ordered another that is about 1/3 the weight, also has an adjustable flame. I'll write about that another day.


New tent and backpack

March 12, 2016 — BarryK
I have purchased ultra-light tent and backpack, and taken them on an overnighter.

Wrote up a report, with photos:

Not a comprehensive test of the tent, as the weather was perfect. Reached 30 degrees C, 40% humidity, hazy sky.

I left the fly of the tent rolled back all night, so able to watch the bush around me and the sky. Very pleasant, and the mozzies just buzzed around outside the tent!

Tags: light

Solar power testing 2016

February 03, 2016 — BarryK
I did some testing of solar panels and battery-banks, to charge smartphones and other USB-chargeable devices, back in 2014:

I have started another round of tests, this time focusing on ultra-light traveling, using a very small panel charging my smartphone directly, no intermediate battery-bank.

It's a work-in-progress, but good result so far:

I have posted about this to an Australian bushwalking forum:

Tags: light

Hiking test

January 25, 2016 — BarryK
It is mid-summer here in Australia, and the weather has been pleasant. Thunder, lightning, rain early this morning, but the last few days have been mostly sunny, temperatures climbing to mid-30s.

Very nice weather for hiking, though it did get a tad warmish yesterday. I was off on the trails, of which we have many in the hills close to Perth.

January 2015 I did some hiking, but carried too much. This time I have experimented with ultra-light.

Here is a field test of my latest gear:

Lots of fun!

Tags: light

Mobile-friendly static HTML

January 13, 2016 — BarryK
My web pages are all "old school" HTML. I have dabbled in CSS and Javascript, but mostly create web pages with simple static HTML using tables.

My web pages look fine on a desktop screen, but not so good on a mobile phone. Typically, I create a centered table with a fixed width, and all content goes inside that. Basic structure:

<head ... > ... </head>
<table align="center" width="700" ... > ... </table>

On a high resolution mobile phone screen, the table renders very small, with large blank space both sides.

However, I discovered a very simple fix. Just insert this line into the <head> section:

<meta name="viewport" content="width=700">

Remarkable, on my Android phone, my pages scale, both in portrait and landscape orientation, so that the table width fills the screen. Everything, text and images, scale correctly.

See my example page:


...though, I haven't even read most of that. Just took a punt on the "width" parameter, and it worked.

Tags: light

Remix OS Mini PC

July 17, 2015 — BarryK
Longtime Puppy fan and active Forum contributor cthisbear, posted this:

Actually, I had a few months away from Quirky development, and also wasn't reading the Puppy Forum, except for occasional glances. Today though, had a good read, and found the post from cthisbear.

Which linked to here:

And the Kickstarter project:

I'll be in that! $40 plus $15 postage to Australia, for the 2G RAM model. That's a good price.

I really want to play with Remix OS. I like Android, on my phone anyway. Remix promises to give me a desktop experience, and I can use all the Android apps, some of which I have got to like very much -- such as SafeInCloud, that I reported on recently:

I have been experimenting with Bluetooth mice and keyboards with my phone:

...which has been a good experience, and I am excited to find out how much more enhanced the experience will be with Remix OS.


HB-2000 keyboard design fault

June 11, 2015 — BarryK
In my on-going "traveling light" project, I wrote about the tiny Bluetooth HB-2000 keyboard:

I own a couple of other Bluetooth keyboards, that are unwieldy in comparison. The HB-2000 is smaller and considerably lighter than them, eminently suitable where size and weight are important, such as traveling with a backpack or when a "carry on" bag is one's only luggage.

The HB-2000 is also considerably cheaper than the brand-name keyboards. However, I have discovered a design fault, shown in this photo:

At each side at the front, there are rubber feet, that glue to the printed circuit board. See the cutout in the metal frame.
The problem is that the printed circuit board is only glued, with sticky glue, to the metal frame, and the rubber feet are affixed to the board only, not the frame.

Consequently, after using for awhile, the printed circuit board lifts away from the metal frame, and the rubber feet sink into the frame.

I first noticed this when the keyboard started to wobble on a flat surface. At first, I wondered how the frame could have become distorted, then closer examination revealed the cause.
Is this just stupidity, or didn't the designers care?

I fixed it by moving the rubber feet onto the frame, and might look around for bigger feet that will cover up the metal cutout.

I still love this keyboard!

Another thing that I want to do is construct a cover, to protect the keys when packed tightly inside a backpack or whatever. The cover can be opened up, and I envision having a slot in it, into which my phone can be inserted, so it becomes a mounting base for the phone.
...if anyone has this keyboard, or plans to buy one, and wants to design such a cover, I welcome your thoughts on it.


B-Folders password manager review

June 10, 2015 — BarryK
I recently wrote a mini-review of SafeInCloud, a very nice password manager:

These days, a "password manager" holds much more than just usernames and passwords, and can be used to keep a wide variety of information secure. I found SafeInCloud to be one of these modern secure information managers, very customizable, and a delight to use.

However, as I explained in the review, I decided to discontinue its use, due to lack of a virtual keyboard for entering the master password.

Since then, I have been testing more password managers, and finally I have found one that ticks all the boxes: B-Folders.

The developers of B-Folders have put a lot of thought into security, and I cannot see anywhere that might be a potential weakness.

The Android version uses an internal webkit-based browser, to take care of secure auto-filling for login, though external browsers can be used, even the clipboard (which is cleared immediately after use).

B-Folders can use a virtual keyboard for entering the master password, the lack of which worried me with SafeInCloud and many other password managers.

However, the virtual keyboard is only for numeric input. For alpha-numeric entry, the standard Android keyboard is used.
Hmmm, a numeric password will have to be very long to be uncrackable -- see further notes on this at the end of this review.

B-Folders does not support a fingerprint sensor for login. There is probably a good reason for this, as B-Folders does not want to store the master password. Using a fingerprint scanner means that the master password has to be stored locally, encrypted of course, but that is still a potential weakness.

I obtained B-Folders from the Google Play Store:

OK, it is free, but offers an in-app purchase. This is a "Utility pack", that cost me $6.20, with some useful, though not essential, extras.

B-Folders does not have the "bling" of SafeInCloud, and in a few places is less intuitive. So, I had a good read of the online docs. I found that it actually is easy to use, and was soon entering data and testing online logins.

It is the "card" paradigm, in this case with folder hierarchy. There are ready-made cards, which can be customised for each instantiation, and new card templates can be created. Overall, extremely flexible for entering any kind of textual data.

B-Folders is touted as a password manager, notepad, task manager, contact manager, bookmark manager, and journal. Or anything else requiring secure textual storage.

It runs on the desktop also, on Windows, Mac and Linux --for a price of US$30 each. Here is a desktop snapshot:

Running on Android though, the UI is a bit more constrained. Showing the equivalent of the above picture, this first snaphot shows the top-level:

Here are cards inside the "Banking" folder:

This is the content of one of the cards:

Clicking on a URL in a card, there is an offer to open with internal or system browser (or any other browser that is installed) (this is all customizable):

Sync and backup
SafeInCloud uses the Cloud for storage and consider it safe, as the database is a single encrypted file. The very fact of it being in the Cloud may be seen as a security threat, but if the password is uncrackable, all should be OK.

B-Folders takes a different approach, achieving syncing with its own wi-fi direct connection (or USB cable) between two devices. I haven't yet tried this, however, I have read user feedback, and they are positive reports.

Backup creates a copy of the database file. I tested this, and it reported a file "storage/sdcard0/backups.dat/2015-06-10_10-15_56.jrb" has been created.
There is also a restore from backup option.

Perhaps it would be nice to have send-to (share) for backup. Individual cards can be shared (which I think requires the paid Utility pack), and this sends a .vcf (Electronic Business Card) text file.

Master password
This is a snapshot of the virtual keypad for entering the master password:

Yes, it is good to have a virtual keyboard, I am happy about that. Numeric-only though, hmmm. I did some experiments, and yes, I can create a very secure numeric-only password, but it has to be quite long.

Here are some password strength checkers, that also estimate time to crack:

...warning, do not enter your actual proposed master password into these checkers! They could be sneakily collecting passwords. These sites are probably OK, but you never know.

In the case of a numeric-only password, a 18-digit to 24-digit non-repetitive, non-sequential password is very secure, taking centuries to crack. Of course, this depends on the hardware that is thrown at it.

The challenge though, is to create a long numeric password that can be remembered. And it must be remembered, as your entire life is in that file!

I love this app, the best password manager that I have found so far.

I would like to make some recommendations to the developers:

1. A custom folder for "Login list". Just as there already exists "Task list", "Contact list" and "Journal", which are effectively folders in which tasks, contact and journal cards can be created.
2. Send-to or sharing of the database file, as another way to backup or archive.
3. Markup for notes and journal cards.

Number 3 would be a nice enhancement, I think. Currently, the notes field in a card is plain-text only. It would be nice to be able to specify things like bold, italic, list, which can be saved as RTF, BBCODE or something similar.
I already tested entering a URL into a note, and it got recognised and became a link. Well, this principle can be extended, even perhaps to displaying images (img link, perhaps not embedded images).

Developer JointLogic website: