Microsoft Surface Duo is a Game Changer

Photo By BulbousSum – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=124764374

While the Microsoft Surface Duo may have some issues, it is a game changer as a phone / tablet / laptop all-in-one and at the incredibly low price of only $100-$300 (for a $1500 phone) refurbished with Ebay or Amazon guarantee and unlocked to work on any carrier. No other phone marries the benefits of being pocketable or chest-mountable, yet folding out to provide two 5″ 1080P+ glass Oled screens OR one 3.2K+ Oled 8.1″+ display while retaining the strength and resilience of Gorilla Glass or Victus. All other phones focus on ultra-wide screen displays making landscape or horizontal use quite limiting, especially when trying to use an onscreen keyboard.

All other foldable phones without a gap between displays necessarily require a plastic scratchable display with scratches at a level 2 and deeper grooves at a level 3 Mohs hardness (Thanks Jerry;) – therefore keys, a grain of sand, anything can scratch the fragile Samsung Fold 4 screens. Even a specialized s-pen stylus is required to avoid scratching the delicate folding Samsung screens. In constrast, the gorilla glass of the Surface Duo holds up to a level 6 or 7 – much more resilient than the Samsung Fold / Flip, Pixel Fold, Oppo N. The Surface Duo, on the other hand, is solid, slim, very light, very thin, great displays, great batteries, and uniquely offers the ability to dual boot into the latest Android 12L and/or Windows 11. Moreover, when paired with the surface pen slim 2 (or the Adonit jot or other stylus) truly facilitates multi-window, multi-tasking, note taking, document creation, markup, sketches, atak/wintak/civtak/winlink or other use on the go even in gloves or rain. The phone is so slim and lightweight, and with the folding, allows some very unique use-cases and modalities. With the constant updates, like clockwork every month, allows good security relative to a CCP device like the Unihertz Atom devices. With dual batteries and OLED screens, the power can last quite a while.

I’ve been looking forever for unique / nonconventional computing platforms for use outside, navigating at night in kayaks or dinghies, sailing, windsurfing, or hiking while actually using my hands or while woodworking, soldering, or cooking and keeping hands clean during the pandemic.

Surface Duo 1 with Seek Thermal infrared camera (left top)

I had previously used the Samsung S22 Ultra and the Unihertz Atom XL (DMR uhf phone) or Atom phone (the smallest android device ever made at only 2.45″ screen and 110grams) which includes a lanyard loop – allowing the phone to serve as a backup device on a neck lanyard hidden under your shirt. The problem for me, other than the obvious Chinese CCP opsec concerns and the utter lack of security updates and deprecated Android version, was that there is only one hardware lanyard connection point so when the phone is on your chest serving as a flashligh or camera, it was prone to rotate- limiting the usefulness of a hands-free camera, flashlight, or PTT comms device in the field. Night use with the light-leak prone LCD killed my night vision.

In contrast, the Surface Duo with it’s unique split-screen OLED with gap design allows the connection of TWO lanyards on opposing lateral sides allowing for a minimally-intrusive chest-mounted hands-free heads-up flashlight, camera, tactical navigation, mapping, night vision, and communications device which doesn’t rotate promiscuously off-sight, but instead keeps the light or lens where you want it.

Advantageously this allows for completely hands-free video recording, flashlight, weather mapping, atak use, thermal night vision display and other unique use-cases. Even as simple as hands-free podcasts while doing dishes, cooking, walking or sailing. No other phone offers these features for $100.

To get something similar for ATAK or Gotenna Pro use requires a plate carrier with molle mounts, a juggernaut phone case ($1000), pivotal connector (big, bulky, expensive, and doesn’t blend well going through customs or operating inconspicuously). In contrast, the Surface duo offers a chest-mounted, concealable, hands-free, heads-up, always on display (OLED without light leakage and truly OFF dark-mode) for $100-$300 with more than enough horsepower to run atak mapping on one screen while on the move and a whole second pivotal screen for typing, swiping, notes, or other applications such as Seek thermal nightvision / thermals with a usb-c thermal infrared camera. No other device allows an operator to point the (visible or infrared) camera or flashlight AND see the screen simultaneously. But with two pivotally connected displays, the camera, flashlight, or thermal camera can be pointed where you want while the other half of the device acts as a live display.

Some issues that may be a game breaker for some are the lack of Mil-Spec 810G or IP68 water-resistance, let alone water proofing – but the lanyard chestmount somewhat mitigates this issue by keeping the phone out of a hip-pocket well-above the water line. Using a hat or hoody keeps the phone protected even in a moderate amount of rain- but waterproofing would definitely help operate better in the rain or for full submersion.

Another issue is the rudimentary stylus support relative, for example, to the very mature Samsung S-pen approach. While the Samsung offers an internal silo for keeping, retrieving, and charging the stylus and ensuring you always have it ready to go, the Microsoft Surface stylus is an additional $100 or so, does not silo into the phone, it barely magnetically attaches, and requires a separate charger (at least on the Surface Duo 1, but the Surface Duo 2 has the option of a charging case to charge on the go). Still, the system integration is nowhere near as robust or intuitive as the Samsung S-pen approach. The full 3d airmouse 6dof features of the spen bluetooth are not replicable by even the Surface Slim Pen 2. This airmouse feature is great on the s22 ultra, Note 10 ultra, or even the Note 9 for discreetly using the the phone without touching it. But, for people who only envision using the stylus at home or in the office and conspicuously, this may not be a deal-breaker. I’ve found that the Adonit Jot line of styluses work sufficiently well, are inexpensive, waterproof, and require no separate charger.

Lastly, the camera is not GREAT, but it’s limitations are greatly exaggerated online. Depending on your use, it may be sufficient. It works decently well in well-light outdoor, sunny environments but your mileage may vary inside, in the dark, and at night time. I will note that the Gcam mod seems to provide much needed HDR and better pictures and is available for free and regularly updates to work with these devices.

If you want a pocketable or chest-mountable, civilian looking hands-free, inexpensive computer that can run the latest Android and/or full-blown Windows 11, with an amazing almost 4k 8″ OLED display (or two great 5″ displays) works with a stylus, bluetooth mouse and/or keyboard, this is the only option on the market. At 200g and only 5″, being only 4mm thick, it beats lugging a laptop and a phone into the field. Even the several years-old Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 (being a previous flagship processor) is more than sufficient to run full 4K video, dual applications without lag, and yet power efficient enough to operate all day or night.

I’ll write a review of the Atom and Atom XL dmr uhf phones shortly and upload some pictures of the chest-mounting options shortly – but wanted to share thoughts on anyone who might need hands-free heads-up computing options.


Love vs Evil

What can we even do?
A lot, actually. We say that love can conquer evil. But there’s fundamentally two different kinds of love. When you say that you love someone, do you really love them and want them to be happy even without you or do you love the way they make you feel? Is it truly love for others or a love of self? When we love ourselves a bit too much, we tend to indulge ourselves with things that bring us happiness, comfort, status, decoration like a Mercedes, a fancy scarf, jewelry, a hot shower, a steak, a mansion….

Most evil, historically, has been done to take things we want from others who have that thing or have the labor to produce, extract, or design things we want. When there’s a desire, someone will find the cheapest way to fulfill that desire. When we pay them and turn a blind eye to how that thing arrives in our hands, we may be paying for evil in our names. Whether it’s conflict diamonds, the latest iphone, veal, pate, trafficking, oil, a cotton dress, rubber… Where did it come from? Who had to be hurt, enslaved, raped, killed to get you that thing cheaply?

The only way to win is to reduce our consumption. Find the simple pleasures that hurt no one. A sunrise, a sunset, your own garden, a fresh tomato, giving, volunteering, singing, making art, mountain climbing, dinghy sailing, a walk in the park…. When you truly love others, and not just yourself, it must occur to you to ask: ‘who am i hurting?’ or ‘am i paying someone to hurt, exploit, enslave, or kill others?’

In the past, we justified great evil because someone else had something we wanted, like oil, land, water, food and it was merely for survival. We empowered corporations, governments, plantations to take what we wanted and sell it to us as cheaply as possible, often times outright stealing it from others, destroying the land to strip mine, enslaving labor to pick cotton, extract rubber, oil, torturing baby cows in a cage to ensure tenderness, forcefeeding an animal to make their liver tastier, genetically modifying chickens to have so much meat it breaks their legs, getting happy endings and not asking yourself if the girl was trafficked, kidnapped, held against her will. There has been much evil done because we love ourselves a bit too much, others a bit too little, a refusal to engage in difficult thoughts, and a willingness to pay for the cheapest commodity without asking how it came to be?

Right now, putin is empowered to steal, rape, kill women, children, bomb schools, kitchens, train stations, because we are addicted to oil. Our own euros, dollars, marks, kroners fund his war machine and it will only get worse as resources become more scarce. Are we complicit? When you buy a $1 cheeseburger, are you not empowering someone else to kill on your behalf? For $1,are they treating the animals, the workers, with love, compassion, fairness, or are they literally making, extracting it as cheaply as possible?

Everything requires energy. Some things require a lot of energy. That energy, presently, comes from oil in the vast majority of cases. You want a hamburger, so someone rapes a cow, separates the baby from the mother, locks them up in the cheapest factory possible, kills the baby, milks the mother until she no longer produces. You want to be comfortable, oil fuels your heater, your ac, your car, your hot water heater… putin, prince mohammed bin salman are empowered. You want lithium, indium tin oxide in the latest iphone or huawei, xiaomi, oppo, you are empowering the ccp to use forced or child labor, to run concentration camps, persecute religious minorities… You are paying them and empowering them.

So, we say we hate evil and that love can win. But it’s only love of others and sacrificing / subordinating our love for self, our comfort, our fashion, our things- that love FOR OTHERS can win.

How can we help? First we must ask ourselves, who am I hurting, who am i paying or empowering to hurt others for my benefit? Only sober, searching introspection can tell you the answers. Am i really helping others or am i helping myself at others’ expense?

Find happiness where you are. Find happiness in simplicity. Maybe you grow your own or pay a little more for local produce grown with love but you shortcut the exploitation, you save transport fuel, you save the earth, you cut off evil from their empowering funding. Maybe you walk, ride a bike, take public transport, kayak, instead of buying a huge suv? Maybe you turn down the ac a little? Or put on a sweater instead of turning on the heat? Maybe you eat plants instead of baby animals? Maybe you get a second hand phone? In aggregate, if some of us do this, we can reduce the evil, reduce the oil, reduce our empowerment of evil men, and reduce our destruction of this earth.

Right now, democracies around the world have imposed sanctions on putin to get him to stop killing innocent women and children, but we still buy his oil. And as oil, gas, energy prices rise, the right will protest. putin is counting on this. The only way to win is to reduce our use. With decreased demand, prices will drop, the right won’t protest or riot, and putin will be forced to the table and the needless killing will stop. It’s the same for the ccp. If we choose not to buy Chinese, we stop empowering concentration camps and autocratic leaders.

So, what are some simple things you can do to stop evil, to save the earth, to be healthier? Everytime you buy an animal product, it’s proof that there’s a market. It’s a conveyer belt. Every burger you buy, another must be made to replace it on the shelf and energy must be used to feed, grow, kill, and move it. Stop buying meat. Maybe pay a little more for local produce instead of produce from afar? Maybe grow your own? Going fast uses exponentially more energy. Slow down a little, drive a little less, walk if you can. Open your windows, use the breeze instead of ac? Turn down the temperature a few degrees on your water heater. Install a solar panel? So much energy is wasted on generation, transformation, distribution. Turn down your heater even just a little. Put on a sweater? If twenty percent of us do these simple things, then less oil, less pollution, less climate change, less autocratic totalitarian leaders, less exploitation.

I don’t judge you by your car, how colorful your clothes, your bling, your bbq, your house; the mark of a good person is their consideration of others and an attempt to minimize the pain of those other people that we create.

Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.


House Bill 32 : Legalizing Cannabis in Maryland in the Maryland General Assembly 2021 MDGA21 HB32

House Bill 32 would effectively legalize Cannabis in Maryland, free incarcerated people, automatically expunge and seal records, protect parolees and those on probation, restore visitation rights, create jobs, create taxable income for the state (and particularly affected communities), provide for the regulation of product quality, prevent diversion to those under 21, and start to address some of the systematically disproportionate impact on certain communities.

HB 32 was introduced by Delegate J. Lewis in January of this year but has stalled in the Judiciary committee with no further movement since February 2021. I would encourage you to reach out to your delegate / senator and the Speaker of the House (410-841-3800 or adrienne.jones@house.state.md.us) / Senate President and tell them that enough is enough. We have more pressing matters than to keep incarcerating Marylanders for a plant.

Below are some highlights of House Bill 32 with minimal commentary:

The personal use amount is increased from 10grams to 2 ounces / 15 grams of concentrate / or 6 plants.

Such legalization would be retroactive in that it would seek to go back and undo some of the harm inflicted on members of our community by freeing them from incarceration, probation, parole, and restoring their visitation / custodial rights as parents. We want strong families. For far too long, we’ve been throwing Americans, Marylanders in cages for a plant.

While HB32 goes a long way on addressing past harms for those in possession of cannabis for use or cultivation, it could be strengthened to help address the harm that was and is being inflicted on those who sold cannabis to support themselves and their families- as HB32 does give the Court quite a bit more discretion to resentence sale-based cannabis offenses rather than the “shall release” language of those in possession.

A criminal record can be disastrous to a young adult’s future in education, college grants, employment, government service, law school admission, character and fitness for the state bar and other endeavors. Surely, we should act immediately to avoid further harm. Kids are kids and they may make mistakes – but should we hold that against them and ruin their futures? HB32 addresses this by removing cannabis-related offenses from the criminal courts and by expunging records.

While 49 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico (53 jurisdictions) have said NO to outright cannabis prohibition in some form (e.g. legalized, decriminalized, medicinal) – all diverging from Federal law and schedule 1 (high abuse potential and no medical use), the Federal government still has a zero tolerance policy, classifying cannabis as more dangerous than cocaine, meth, fentanyl. HB32 recognizes that the Federal position is absurd, dangerous, and unsupportable by the record. Maryland’s HB32 seeks to invoke a Tenth Amendment approach of prohibiting conscription of state and local agents by federal agents in their continued war on cannabis users by disallowing any state or local resources, time, money, or information sharing.

Beyond freeing incarcerated, paroled, or people caught in the probation system, beyond reuniting families with their loved ones and restoring parents to their children, beyond expunging records, beyond creating jobs, allowing for the entrepreneurial spirit, HB32 goes further in acknowledging the very selective enforcement found by the ACLU in 2014 of a 3 to 1 direct disproportionate impact and collateral damage to certain communities of color and seeks to shepherd use of the tax revenues towards restorative justice, social equity, and ameliorating the damage done to those hardest-hit communities.

I hope you will reach out to your Maryland delegates and senators, and the Speaker of the House and demand that she put house bill 32 up for a vote THIS YEAR! We should immediately stop throwing Marylanders in cages for a plant and start addressing the grave damage done to our communities.

If I’ve missed something or you have comments, please feel free to comment below. I am not a parliamentary or legislative expert.


Best Field Tech Q-branch Gear on the cheap 2019-2020 / Offgrid and Outdoor Geek’s Gift Guide

  1. Best Phone: Note 8 water-resistant (or Note 4 w removable battery) – both have stylus, the best, biggest, and brightest screen (OLED 1600P 2500×1600 ish), best processor, and best cameras, for half or less the cost of Note 10.  And you still have 3.5mm headphone jack, Gear VR, IR remote, massive storage, ram, sdhc. 5G is still weaksauce for 2020;
  2. Best Smartwatch: Samsung Gear OG 2014 edition Smartwatch with unlocked SIMcard slot for backup calls and internet on ANY network (doubles likelihood of a connection) has best, biggest, brightest oled screen wide enough to swype type on or watch youtube, respond to email/text;… etc. OR Samsung Galaxy Watch 2019 LTE has much longer battery life, waterproof, rugged milspecish, and louder speakerphone (BUT NO SIM CARD – carrier locked? tiny ass screen, can’t type for shit? must be used on same provider as phone, negating backup / meta signal diversity?; Or Apple Watch if heart condition or prone to falls …
  3. Best Tablet: Note 10.1 (2014 version) has stylus and best display ever made 2500×1600 ish in a tablet … Why won’t Samsung release a badass new, 4K tablet with stylus / Spen and SILO, for art / video / photo editing?
  4. Best Bang For the Buck, reliable Drone: DJI Mavic Pro / Max / Zoom 2 / IR if need long range / sar / any weather 4K OR just a tiny DJI Mavic Mini for tiny, portable, cheaper, 2.7K stuff at about $400.
  5. Best Bang For the Buck, No Contract, CHEAP Global Comms: Garmin InReach Explorer bluetooth satphone gateway paired with any phone to send text via iridium satellite network pretty much anywhere in the world regardless of local comms / grid-down;
  6. Best Local OffGrid Comms: GoTenna Pro X if you are .gov and need ATAK; PRO if you don’t; AND a few GoTenna mesh to handout to nontechnicals / volunteers / community members. Keep an Eye on Sonnet Labs Mesh in Q2 for mesh with voice and text / gps / pictures and long range wifi.

California Throws Caution To The Wind & Shuts Down Ham Radio Repeaters On Public Lands


*Updated 10/16/2019 to include ARRL response* — however this seems to be a developing issue which may be isolated or misinterpreted. This story will be updated as new information becomes available.

When natural disasters, like wildfires, earthquakes, mudslides, and hurricanes, take out centralized power and communications infrastructures, non-profit volunteer radio operators (certified and regulated by the FCC) like ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES), Mars, Races, and others have stepped up countless times in countless jurisdictions to provide the last line of communications when all else fails.  Recent administrative action by Cal Fire threaten that last line of defense.


Ham radio provides for communications *without* centralized maintenance when all else fails and puts communications directly in the hands of the people.  It is a distributed and decentralized lifeline that saves lives and helps first-responders coordinate scarce resources- as recently as the California Camp Fire, Hurricanes in Panama City, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas.  These examples burn fresh in our collective memories.  Without ham radio, countless more lives would have been lost.  Without communications, relief and recovery efforts are paralyzed.

So, fittingly, an un-elected bureaucrat in California has decided that the cost/benefit analysis of Ham radio (which the state doesn’t even pay for) is not worth it and has demanded that ham radio volunteers (who graciously provide repeater equipment and run weekly drills free of charge) must take down their repeaters or pay tens of thousands of dollars a year in state fees.  This strains the bounds of credulity!  Why would you imperil, rather than foster and support effectual efforts to integrate the community in the disaster relief plans?

Here is a letter written by a volunteer first-responder in response to the official California pronouncement. 

More coverage here:

California Officials Declare Ham Radio No Longer A Benefit; Demands Ham Radio Repeater Infrastructure To Be Removed

California Declares Ham Radio No Longer A Benefit: Severs Ties Across The State

If you think it imprudent to turn our backs on the last line of defense, you may want to contact these “officials” below:

E-Mail: Lorina.Pisi@fire.ca.gov Telephone: 916-327-8492 Fax: 916-324-3400

Governor Gavin Newsom: Phone: (916) 445-2841 Fax: (916) 558-3160