ELECTRONIC GEAR: Nokia – The AK-47 of Cell Phones

NOKIA
NOKIA

So when 3rd world rebels, bearded High-Speed low drag types, spies and Mercenaries need to make a call what phone do they pick-up? When I get the call to hop on a plane to some 3rd world war zone for a ridiculous amount of money what type of phone do I throw in my bag?

Sony Ericsson? No way, it’ll break in a week. Motorola? It won’t last 3 days before it breaks into two pieces. iPhone? Fuck no [I would rather use two tin cans and a string than anything “I” in the 3rd world.

So what is my and just about every other operator’s choice for a cell phone if we will be working in some of the most hostile and hardest use environments in the world?

Nokia – any model

Yep, just about everyone I tell this too is surprised when I say “I would rather use a pay phone than use any cell phone but Nokia in a War Zone”. But walk around a base in Iraq or around a city in Africa and you will see what I am talking about. Nokia is one of the most prevalent phones in the third world, and for good reason.

Even the cheapest model is bullet proof, and oddly the cheaper the model you buy the tougher it is. One of the reasons why Nokia phones are so tough is Nokia’s main market is Asia, Southeast Asia in particular. Unlike in the US or Europe where people go from their homes to their car to their office - in Asia people jump onto the back of a kerosene and diesel fuming Tuck-Tuck, then to a bus or subway stuffed with 80 people then a 20 minute walk in a pothole covered street.

And Nokia knows if their phones can’t take that then simply people won’t buy their phones. In parts of Asia buying a cell phone is a big investment, so if word got around that Nokia made shit phones that fell apart then no one would buy one. So market pressures have forced them into making even the cheapest model tough as hell.

Nokia-5110
Nokia-5110

And people who work in the 3rd world in jobs that are extremely hard on electronics where communication can be a matter of life or death have learned that no other phone can take abuse and keep calling like a Nokia.

I remember one time I was jumping out of a Blackhawk in Balad, Iraq when my Nokia 9500 communicator [one of the first color screen qwerty keyboard cell phones] fell out of my pocket and smashed into 9 pieces on the ground. After chasing the pieces around the flight deck I snapped it back together right there, turned it on and called for my contact to pick me up.

And that is just one of a hundred stories I have heard and experienced about a Nokia phone taking mad damage and still working. I know guys who used them for years when the screen was cracked, the case held together with duct tape and the antenna cap missing with zero operational issues.

Another good operational aspect of using Nokia phones in the 3rd world is the ease of getting extra batteries, chargers and accessories. I swear every hajji shop in the Middle East has 20 types of Nokia chargers and plastic zippered carry cases. Seriously, you can buy a Nokia and 84 different accessories every two blocks in the 3rd world. That alone is a major reason why choosing a Nokia phone for overseas work is a no-brainer [there is no Golden Connex in the suck].

body-of-lies
body-of-lies

The next time you are watching a newscast during a coup or civil war pay attention, you will see dudes in the background chatting on Nokia phones or with one strapped to the shoulder strap of their LBE [an oddly popular way of carrying a Nokia in Latin America]. Hell, even Hollywood has caught on to the “guys who carry guns use Nokia’s, you will see Leonardo DiCaprio using one of the tougher older models in Body of Lies and tons of other movies. Hell, even James Bond uses a Nokia.

So whenever I pack my bags for a gig in some far off 3rd world hell-hole the first things that come out of storage and into my bag are my Nokia phones and a good pair of boots.

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~James G Founder - Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and spending way too much on the latest models of Nokia's. James G. on FACEBOOK

LIGHTS: The SureFire EL2 AA Outdoorsman Review

SureFire-EL2-AA-Outdoorsman11
SureFire-EL2-AA-Outdoorsman11

I have been waiting for SureFire to come out with a AA mini-light for like 10 years, I have never understood why every single so-called “Tactical Flashlight” uses 123A Lithium Batteries. They are expensive and difficult enough to find that you have to actually pack them in your gear for jobs or missions.

And good luck finding batteries in a local store in some 3rd world country, the only place you will find 123A Lithium Batteries in Shitholeanistan will be at a camera shop for a billion dollars each – and that’s if you can even explain to your taxi driver or the store clerk what type of batteries they are if you forget to bring a dead one as an example.

I once spent 5 hours driving all over Phnom Penh, Cambodia looking for a pack of 123A Lithium Batteries only to end up paying 24 bucks for two – after then I stopped carrying lights that use 123A Lithium Batteries when I am in the 3rd world unless I am working on a Military Base.

And even when I am in the 1st world or I am working on or near a Military base overseas I find myself trying not to use my flashlight because I don’t want to wear down the expensive ass batteries – so it sort of even defeats the purpose of even having a light.

So when I found out that SureFire came out with a light that ran on AA Batteries I almost shit myself - I actually had to re-read the description because I thought I was seeing things. Well, it turned out to be true, so I immediately ordered one up over at LA Police Gear and had it shipped to me here in the box.

The SureFire EL2 AA Outdoorsman is made of Mil-Spec Aluminum like you are already familiar with from other SureFire lights; it has a long pocket clip and feels solid as a mo-fo. The light is an LED with a Dual Output tailcap click switch – this is another major sell for me, I totally dislike the SureFire momentary only tailcaps.

(for those that don’t know: With a Click Switch you click the light on like when you click a pen open and the light stays on. With the non-Click Switch flashlight you have to constantly hold down the tailcap to keep the light on – this is also the reason for unexpected dead batteries)

You click it once for low output (3 Lumens – about as bright as a AA mini-maglight) and a second time for High Output (80 Lumens – about as bright as a Three D-Battery MagLight but with a very focused lens). From my testing run time is around 8/6 Hours on High Output and 50/40 Hours on Low Output depending if you use lithium or alkaline batteries.

Some of you may scoff at the 165 dollar price, but if you use your light on a daily basis like I do then in a few months it will pay for itself in the money you save in batteries (just compare the price for 10 AA batteries VS 10 123A Lithium Batteries).

For the folks here that work, live or travel in the 3rd world you can’t put a price on a light of this output and quality that runs off of simple AA batteries that you can buy from any street vendor or Hajji Shop. For me a light is more than just something I use so I don’t trip in the dark – it is a survival tool that my life may depend on someday, so being able to use commonly available AA batteries in my light increases its versatility thereby incensing my survivability.

The SureFire EL2 AA Outdoorsman is also an excellent choice for stateside folks, besides the money you will save on batteries try finding a pack of 123A Lithium Batteries after a natural disaster, if all else fails you can just take the batteries out of the TV remote and you will have light for 40 hours.

The SureFire EL2 AA Outdoorsman is a fantastic and way overdue light from SureFire that I highly recommend to everyone no matter where you live or work - If you carry a flashlight get one of these.

The SureFire EL2 AA Outdoorsman >>> 130+ Bucks

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~James G Founder - Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and eating sandwiches.

ELECTRONIC GEAR: Color Video and Audio Recorder Spy Pen

The Color Pen Video and Audio Recorder records audio and video in AVI format, the one pictured is a 4 Gig model that will record about 4 ½ hours of video. All you do to record is press the power button on the top (it looks like part of the pen), to stop recording just press it again.

LIGHTS - FIELD TESTED: Surefire Executive Elite E1e Review

The Executive Elite is an incandescent 15-lumen light (about the same output as a 2 cell D flashlight) with a battery life of about 90 Minutes (I have never left it on that long but I change the battery once every month or so) and aluminum body. One of the things I like the most about this light is it has a tailcap click switch (click on and off) instead of the usual screw-in momentary tailcap that is on most of Surefires lights.

ELECTRONIC GEAR: Tough Laptops for Hard Use Environments

laptop on fire
laptop on fire

BURN YOU SONY PIECE OF CRAP! BURN!

One of the most common questions I hear asked (and am asked) is “what laptop is the best for a hostile/tough use environment?”. Well you will first have to consider how rough your laptop will be handled and how much exposure it will have to the environment.

If you are working in a place like Iraq but mostly stay on a base then a regular laptop will be fine even if you have an occasional chopper or Hummer ride. But if you are climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and need a laptop to update your blog then a ruggedized laptop might be a better choice.

And of course your budget will depend on your selection, it may very well be the main deciding factor for you when buying a laptop for hard use.

Below are a few suggestions based on my experience using, issuing and maintaining laptops in hard use environments, both professionally and for personal use (watching certain movies).

Budget: Acer laptops are tough as hell and cheap – I have carried my Acer packed in a backpack surrounded by smelly socks and M-4 mags everywhere from Blackhawk rides in Iraq, in my checked luggage wile flying in the US (probably the roughest handling you laptop will ever get) and even camping in the Indonesian jungle a few times without any problems.

Price: from 350 dollars, up to a couple grand.

Mid Range: Toshiba Laptops are also tough, I knew allot of guys that used them in Iraq and the never had a problem with them. They are a bit more expensive then an Acer, but if you could afford one then splurge.

Price: Starting around 1000 bucks to sky’s the limit.

Expensive: The Panasonic Toughbooks  is sort of the Holy Grail of ruggedized laptop, just about everyone is told “get a Panasonic Toughbook” when they are asking about laptops that can take a beating – I call BS.

Sure they are tough and I would suggest one if you are doing a research project in the Amazon living in a tent for 6 months but outside of that they are not worth the bread.

Even worse they are about a generation behind technology wise, so you will basically be paying 5K for a laptop with last years processer and video card.

I was issued a brand new top of the line Panasonic toughbook in Iraq for a few years, I used it as a beer coaster because of the slow ass processer and lame video card (if a laptop cant run Call of Duty Modern Wars then I don’t use it - period).

Price: 5,000.00+ and damn ridiculous in my opinion, save the scratch and buy something useful like a gold AK-47

Do not use the following Laptops outside of an office:

Dell: I had a kick ass Dell that I bought online, the hard drive went to shit in less than a year and then the laptop itself died completely in under 2 years. It couldn’t take the heat of the desert and sand getting inside.

Sony: I have never seen a Sony product stand up to a harsh environment for more than a year. Also Sony has the worst repair policies, if you buy your laptop in the US but the hard drive dies overseas Sony will not reinstall your operating system, you have to ship it back to the US. Sony can go to hell.

The above selections are based on my personal experiences and not by any means the only choices for laptops used in hard use environments. If you have any other suggestions please feel free to comment below.

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JamesGrey100X100
JamesGrey100X100

~James GJames is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long. He spends his off time in his homes in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns and writing poorly written articles.