The UK’s wind power industry is breaking records EVERY MONTH after storms battered Britain this winter.
According to the latest figures, wind energy met 11 per cent of total electricity demand in February, breaking the previous 10 per cent record set in December 2013.
It is the relative supply security offered by renewable energy that the new figures underline, against the backdrop that Russia could respond to sanctions over the Ukraine by restricting gas supplies to Europe. (more…)
Out in the boonies, your net-connected phone or computer can be your best work-mate.
But phones are too small, and computers too power-hungry. The new generation of tablets could be the ideal productivity tool for many off-gridders.
With the right tech choices, you’ll be able to do all the usual – send emails, stream video, run multiple programs, but also edit video, run spreadsheets, work from home AND have a family asset that will let kids do homework while granny searches the family tree and Dad watches Netflix.
So here is what we tested:
Apple iPad Mini Best for content creators
* The 7.9-by-5.3-inch iPad Mini remains a favorite after nearly a year, thanks to the easy-to-use interface, the longest battery life, and the largest selection of quality apps. We loved the preloaded Photo app, which automatically organizes pics in smart groupings and is built for sharing select “streams” with friends and family. Apple’s free iMovie app provides simple tools to edit and build HD movies with cinematic transitions and impressive effects.
* The Mini returned best-in-class battery life, netting 14 hours of nonstop activity from one charge and up to 30 hours of battery life during light use. The Mini’s 5-megapixel iSight camera is superior. Like the Galaxy, it has built-in autofocus and records in 1080p HD video. But it also sports an infrared filter which helps cancel out digital noise and boost image fidelity. The 360 Panorama app,creates an immersive, Google Street View-style image. Then have a custom topo map sent right from the app using MyTopo’s map builder. Cool feature: Apple’s new Maps app for desktop computers syncs with the iPad’s Maps app, which bridges front-and backcountry use. Get directions, 3D views, and satellite imagery.
Ding: The screen resolution lags slightly behind the Samsung. $329/16 GB, $429/32 GB, $529/64 GB (Wi-Fi, non-retina version tested); 10.8 oz.; apple.com
* Lifeproof Fre with portfolio cover
This svelte tablet wrapper is the big cousin to the iPhone case. The snap-together, rubbersealed sleeve is immune to water, the clumsiest thick-thumbed users, and the rowdiest toddlers, but it’s spendy. $100 (case), $40 (cover); 12.1 oz. (case & cover); lifeproof.com
Try 360 Panorama
Use this app to stitch together multiple images into a high-resolution panorama. Just hit record and pan up-down-and-around to capture vistas. $1; occipital.com/3G0/app
If Instagram and Foursquare met at REI and fell in love, this would be their offspring. Yonder uses your location to find nearby adventures and connect like-minded off-gridders, plus lets you upload and geotag images with a range of filters, free; yonder.it
Why we liked it
* For about the cost of a pair of light trainers, score a solar-panel-friendly Android tablet that packs front- and rear-facing cameras (5- and 1-megapixels, respectively), plus a microSD slot that offers flexibility to expand the memory. For a first-time tablet user, the ease of operation and low price make this an ideal entry-level device.
* Despite its discount price, the MeMo isn’t chintzy. And for bulk-conscious tiny home dwellers, the petite size (7.7-by-4.7 inches) is ideal (think cargo pocket). To switch from photo and email to social apps while on the go, the options ring pops up from the home button. Just hold your finger on top of the home icon for a split second, and a set of app and widget shortcuts opens.
Though it has the smallest screen here, with the lowest pixel count (1,240-by-600), you still get great imagery on interactive apps, and you could scrawl handwritten notes (with finger or a stylus) using the preloaded SuperNote app.” Some of the budget-price sacrifices include the 1-megapixel, rear-facing camera, which captures somewhat grainy images, the shortest battery life in this summary (about eight hours while running GPS), and a sluggish processor that loads apps slowly and bogs down while streaming videos. But in the end, this tablet delivers killer performance for the price. $149 (Wi-Fi only; no 3G option); 12.6 oz.; For an extra $100 – get a bigger screen and better resolution
Slim Folio Book
Get a bargain case to go with your bargain tablet. This simple faux-leather hardback case, while basic and not weather-sealed (for cheap waterproofing, grab a zip-top bag), still kept the MeMO secure from low-impact drops and dings. Bonus: A loop on the side holds a slim stylus (included). $13; 3.2 oz.; i-Blason.com
Give your photos a creative boost with more than 40 filters and six effects that style photos with pro-level treatments without the expense of Photoshop software. We liked the fisheye setting for detail shots, free; fxcamera.com
Google Sky Map
Point your tablet skyward and this app finds your location and display stars, planets, and deep-sky objects from the Hubble Space Telescope. The red display preserves night vision, free; google.com/mobile/ skymap
* KML Keyhole Markup Language: This data format allows you to view GPS tracks, waypoints, and multimedia on a Google Earth map. Perfect for enabling visitors to find you easily, or making notes on how to visit your off-grid friends
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Best for map junkies
Why we love it
* A unique, stylus-based text-entry system mimics real handwriting, letting you draw accurate, preplanned routes, create interactive lists and notes, and zoom around with precision. Nav geeks raved over the Note 8′s paperback size (8.3-by-5.4 inches), which offers the most screen real estate in the test.
In the workroom
“The large screen was key – you may be converted from a die-hard GPS navigator to a tablet fan-thanks to the Note 8. Credit the best, most pixel-rich screen (1,280-by-800), which allows for crisper zooming. If you are a compulsive journaler, use the included stylus and the preloaded S Note app for hand-drawn notations .
Google’s My Tracks app logs tracks and drop waypoints, and the tablet runs 12 hours with the GPS enabled before the battery needs a charge. (General runtime ran about 15 hours of light use.) We appreciated Android built-in “widget” system that places small, working versions of apps like mail, social and news sites for at-a-glance viewing and composing without needing to open the full app. The microSD slot offers expandable memory for saving large photos and video. One drawback: The 5-megapixel camera occasionally produced blown-out photos in low light. $399/16 GB (WiFi), $499/16 GB (3G); 12 oz.; samsung.com
Otterbox Defender Galaxy Note 8
* Get relatively light, affordable protection with this hard plastic shell and integrated screen cover. The Defender encases your j tablet in shock-and water- j resistant armor. $70; 8 oz.; otterbox.com
Find the tablet that’s right for you.
Apple iPad Mini
$329-$529 10.8 oz.
Battery life *: 3 Crux: If you’re already an Apple user, this is the one for you.
ASUS MeMo PadHD
$149 12.6 oz.
Battery life: 1 Crux: Solid performance at a bargain hunter’s price
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
$399-$499 12 oz.
Battery life: 2 Crux: Boasts the biggest screen and best custom Android apps
* Based on a 1 to 3 scale: 1=weakest, 3=best in test
Maximize battery life 1) Dim screen brightness; 2) turn off notifications; and 3) shut down apps running in the background.
Juice your tablet anywhere
Mophie Powerstation Pro
For its pocket-friendly size, this rugged, impact- and splash-resistant battery packs a punch, with 6,000 mAh * of juice that powered up an iPad Mini from 10 to 95 percent in three-and-a-half hours. It slides into the smallest of backpacks thanks to its smartphone-size dimensions. Critique: We wished they had two USB ports to charge multiple devices. Great for shorter trips, as it does not recharge in the field. $100; 12.7 oz.; mophie.com
2 [Weekend warrior] Solio Xcellerator + Hub
Solio’s combo of the Xcellerator, a highly packable solar panel, and Hub, a 2,000 mAh lithium-ion battery, can keep any tablet juiced up indefinitely. We plugged the Asus directly into the Xcellerator and went from 30 percent to full in four hours (on a sunny day). The panel collected enough energy to fully recharge the Hub after five hours. $100; 9.5 oz. (both devices); solio.com
3 [Expedition power] Bushnell POWERSYNC SolarBook 850
For the long-workday, this five-solar-panel, 2,200 mAh dual lithium-ion power pack helps reduce clutter by folding up into its own hardshell case, and the four-light display made for easy tracking of power consumption. Two USB ports let you charge two devices during breaks; A four-hour recharge for the power pack in direct sun. Once it was topped off, we were able to juice up our half-full Galaxy Note 8 in three hours, and then we netted two smartphone charges when they were at 25 percent power. Bonus: The case can double as a carrier for your tablet. Ding: price. $357; 24 oz.; bushnell.com
Upgrade any tablet with these smart gadgets
1 [Tablet harness] Otterbox Utility Series Latch II 7-8 inch
Keep your tablet handy for on-the-go and more with this dedicated carrier. Simply lock in your device via four rubberized corner hooks, and then you can choose your carrying method. Affix the strap to sling it over your shoulder for a messenger bag-like carry or clip it to your pack with the included Nite Ize S-Biner. The accessory pouch doubles as a handgrip and stand for viewing when you’re not in motion. One gripe: The corner hook concealed the camera (it has to be removed to take a picture). The Latch II fits around the Otterbox and Lifeproof cases in this test, making it an ideal complement for a rugged case. $40 (with accessory kit); 2.7 oz.; otterbox.com
2 [Cable maintenance] Nite Ize Cable Organizers
Gadgets mean cords, and cords mean tangles. These rubber-coated, bendable wires help corral stray cables and accessories and keep them from knotting while in your pack’s toplid. We found the 3-inch ties best for headphones, the 6-inch ties worked well with tablet chargers and GPS cables, and the 12-inch ties were ideal for laptop cords. 3″ $5 for pack of 4 (.07 oz. each); 6″ $5 for pack of 2 (.11 oz. each); 12″ $5 for pack of 2 (.42 oz. each); niteize.com
3 [Budget sound boost] Amplifiear
This hockey-puck-size plastic dish slides onto the corner of a tablet and directs sound waves forward, boosting sound quality often drowned out by background noise. It’s about as low-f i as it gets for a tech product, but the simplicity is a virtue. Just apply one of the included foam pads to give the concave dish some footing, and your tablet will be amplified up to 10 decibels without any battery drain or Bluetooth connectivity. $25; 3 oz.; theamplifiear.com
4 [Stylus] Cosmonaut
This light-but-sturdy stylus not only helped ease cramped, tap-fatigued hands, but also allowed us to draw freehand in apps like Evernote’s Penultimate and Samsung’s S Note. The soft-tipped pen also aided in swiping through menus and selecting buttons. $25; 2.1 oz; studioneat.com
It’s been a few months since I wrote about living frugally. It’s something I very much favor – not doing without, but being critical about your needs and wants. I have seen the writing on the wall and hard times are coming, perhaps not like the Great Depression, but darn near it.
I peruse several large off-grid and survival websites:
I see lots of people SAYING they are ready to…
I see lots of people SAYING they want to…
I see lots of people SAYING they wish…
I see few people DOING… (more…)
Spring is on its way, we have had some warm days, t-shirt and shorts kind of warm, living in far west Texas, we are pretty spoilt (not spoiled but spoilt). There is a cold front coming through though, a little while ago, just after dark, I could hear PB out by the wood pile giving the chainsaw a short workout.
Living in the high desert, we can have snow in May and have had, a couple of years back we had a blizzard on May 1. I have noticed our oak trees turning colors, our trees don’t lose their leaves in fall, but remain green all winter, they turn color, fall off and grow back in a matter of a few weeks usually just before the rainy season hits. This year it seems to be happening early, that either means our trees are confused, or we are going to have an early wet spring, I am hoping for the latter. (more…)
A British couple who spent five years building their home from scrap by hand have been ordered to tear it down by Torridge Council in Devon.
Matthew Lepley, 34, and Jules Smith, 54, left London five years ago after reading “How to Live Off-Grid” planning to build their dream house in the countryside.
They used railway sleepers, lorry tyres and scrap metal to build up the house, and used no power tools.
Their home has an outdoor compost toilet, no power or running water, and an underground pantry instead of a fridge. (more…)
Barcelona – Telecommunications Weekly reports the launch of a new secure phone for those who do not want the NSA or anyone else spying on their communications. However Silent Circle, the secure communications firm that launched the phone- later said its not immune to NSA-level break-in
And although the aptly-named Blackphone says it “is not just for the tinfoil hat crowd” in fact it is exactly for the technically minded since it requires complicated software to use, which must be operated, and paid for, separately from the phone itself. It relies heavily on a peer to peer sharing network which was founded by Phil Zimmerman, the author of the PGP encryption protocol. (more…)
The “big six” energy firms have been told to hand back more than £400m owed to customers when they switch accounts and forget to reclaim overpayments from regular monthly payments.
Credit left in customer accounts when people and businesses move or switch suppliers has accumulated over the last six years, energy regulator Ofgem said today on BBC Radio.
The energy regulator, which says its estimates are the minimum owed, has called the amount “unacceptably large”. Industry lobby group UK Energy claimed that it can be hard to trace customers who move, but did not deny that they never even try.
Ofgem thinks 3.5 million domestic and 300,000 business accounts are affected. (more…)
While Tesla revolutionises the business model for batteries, the basic product remained the same. Now a small upstart company has come along with a brand new way to store energy, a new chemistry. It will hasten the death spiral of the traditional grid.
The novel battery uses a water-based electrolyte that allowed developer Aquion Energy Inc. (Pittsburgh, Pa.; www.aquionenergy.com) to achieve a low-cost and safe battery with long cycle life, although more suited to stationary energy-storage applications because of large size. The Aquion battery technology, now entering its commercial launch process, employs an aqueous sodium-sulfate electrolyte. (more…)
The North-West of Majorca is one of the most beautiful spots on earth, and that is why I bought a shepherds hut there almost 15 years ago and learned to live off-grid.
I found it was a place where the cares and stresses of modern life would simply vanish – a chance to replenish my spiritual batteries, and think clearly about the problems of work or life confronting me at home.
Since then I bought the neighboring plot of land and houses. Now I want to share the beautiful places that are only available when you spend time off the grid. Its 700 metres above sea level up a tiny mountain road, in the famous Tramuntana range, where walkers and cyclists come from all over the world. Its surrounded by Pines and Olive trees, with views over the Ocean below and the sound of sheep bells jingling the hills. (more…)
Have you decided to go off the grid and looking to make the move?
We can help you find the ideal off-grid community and want to film you as you make the transition.
If you’re interested, submit a short video (3 minutes) .here: http://www.off-grid.net/videos/ - in the video give answers to the questions below:
Can you tell us about yourself - work, home etc?
Where you live now – city and country – and where you want to live? Why you want to make this move now?
What will be hardest to leave behind?
What you most look forward to leaving behind?
Who will be making the move – just you/ friends/ family etc?
What could you offer your off the grid community i.e. special skills/ resources?
If you are already off the grid, would you like to host a family of newbies as we film them beginning their off-grid life? Can you write up your own experiences and contact us? Or can you handle a video camera?Please send us your videos and photos - or feel free to write about yourself for the web site.
Do you rely on your own healing powers when you are ill? Or is there an unqualified nurse in your local community?
We want to hear from people who do their own doctoring - using their own herbs and remedies, setting their own broken bones, dealing with their own bodies.
Why do you do it? How do you do it? Contact email@example.com
Off-Grid.net is investigating the Utility companies --power, water and waste.
Do the water companies conceal their knowledge of the pollution of the water supply? Do the power companies conceal the wasted energy inside the system, and their excessive profits?
We need help to find the smoking guns: memos, SEC filings,confidential legal advice internal emails..... send to firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymity guaranteed
Can you handle a video camera? Or a cellphone camera that can upload to our youtube channel?
We are looking for people who currently live off-grid anywhere in the world, and for people who want to live off-grid and are about to do so. This might be in a community or an individual situation
Please send us your videos and photos - you can upload videos on off-grid.net/videos - or feel free to write about yourself for the web site. Contact email@example.com
An interactive map showing who wants to go off-grid , and where they are, and who has land on offer.
How it works