Archive for the ‘Gadgets’ Category


Near the end of this month’s Scenic District roundtable meeting I asked the Scouters if many of them had any of the digital copies of the old Boy Scout themed novels written in the early 1900′s. I had noticed that many of the Scouters owned smart phones and tablets and that they used these during meetings, so I thought it was a valid question. I do not think a hand went up in reply. That surprised me a little.

I have collected over 50 of these old books in the open source epub digital book format. They are novels featuring the adventures of Tom Slade, Roy Blakeley, and Pee Wee Harris. You may recognize those names from the Boy’s Life magazine cartoon pages. There are stories of the Banner Boy Scouts and the members of the Eagle Patrol. All of these old novels have fallen into the public domain. I think I have more eBooks than I do actual hardbound books in my collection.

I understand the epub eBook file works well with many current tablets, including the iPad, but does not work with the Amazon Kindle tablets. I guess Amazon would rather sell you a copy in their own format. However, I hear that there are free programs available to reformat epub files to something the Kindle can use. It is just an extra step needed to work on the Kindle.

I asked the Scouters if they would like a digital copy of these books. Most of them said yes. This morning I got busy and started burning cd’s of the 50 Scouting novels for the next roundtable. I will bring 12 cd’s to the meeting. It will be a nice bonus for some of the Scouters who take the time to come to the roundtable. If more than one Scouter from a troop attends I am sure they would be willing to share the cd of books.

How many of these digital novels do you own?

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    Last month I finally broke down and bought an iPad (the newest version). I have been having fun with it. It looks great and works well. I have to admit, playing Angry Birds on an iPad is a lot more fun then playing on an iPod Touch. I have downloaded dozens of books that are in the public domain, especially all the fictional novels I can find written about Boy Scouting during the early years of the movement. Most of the stories about Pee Wee Harris, Roy Blakely, and Tom Slade are waiting on my iPad’s hard drive waiting to be read.

    I have also downloaded a couple of Scouting related apps.The first one was MyBadges, written by Kevin Butler. It is an app which quickly puts the requirements for Boy Scout ranks, merit badges, and other awards on the screen. I have used this app while sitting on a board of review and found it to be quite handy, although one Boy Scout may not agree with me since I found a current requirement that was not listed in his handbook which was about 5 years old. Kevin has been doing a pretty good job of keeping his app current with the latest BSA handbook.

    Which brings me to a problem I found. I was going to download the Boy Scouts of America app of The Boy Scout Handbook. After all, I am still involved with Scouting and thought it should be on my new gizmo. I went to the App Store to download it and stopped dead in my tracks. I have not purchased it, and will not purchase it. Here are the reasons why…

    First of all, The B.S.A. has not updated the Handbook App since November 7, 2009. Yes, you read that correctly. 2009! For an organization that wants its members and volunteers to stay up to date they have really dropped the ball here. Heck, they come out with a new printed handbook every year. Why should I pay $9.99 to download a handbook that does not even contain the latest requirements for ranks and training?

    And the price of $9.99, which just happens to be the same price as a physical handbook, but yet does not let me (or a Boy Scout) write in it and keep track of things like we can in a real physical copy? I think the price should be a couple bucks cheaper but I think I understand the reasoning behind it. After all, I was going to buy it until I started looking closer at it.

    Third, the app is only available as an iPhone App. Really? Come on B.S.A., get with the program. Over 50 million of these devices have been sold. I am sure I am not the only Boy Scout volunteer that owns an iPad. I had thought the B.SA. was trying to be more modern and catch up to current technology. It seems to me they have been dropping the ball in a major way with this app.

    Fourth. And speaking of dropping the ball, have you read the reviews about the latest version of the e-hanbook? (Which, keep in mind, came out in 2009.) They are not glowing, I can tell you that. The main gripe seems to be that it is not much more then a pdf version of the handbook. Excuse me national office, but if I am going to pay for an ebook, I would like it to be an ebook with at least a fair amount of accessible features. The book should be interactive, like the B.SA. says a Scouting program should be for its boy members.

    So, I will not be purchasing the B.SA.’s Boy Scout Handbook app. At least not yet. I would like to, but the national office needs to work on this program and at least update it, if nothing else. Or could it be that this app is not a big enough seller for the B.SA. to care about? That would be a shame.

    I would be interested on hearing from you if you use the Boy Scout Handbook app. Do you think it is useful? What is your general impression of it. Write a comment and share your user experience with us.

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      100 Days of Scouting: Day 60.

      Tuesday night, at the Scenic District Roundtable, a short discussion of iPads, iPods, and cell phones came up. Most of the troops represented stated they have a no-electronics policy on camping trips, similar to my troop. We also agreed, somewhat reluctantly, that these policies may need to be changed in the not-too-distant future. The boys are growing up with these gadgets and are becoming  an important part of their lives. Add to that the growing number of apps available that are Scouting related and I can see Boy Scouts and adult leaders wanting to bring these things along.

      I have been wanting to buy an iPad since version 2 became available. Before the roundtable, I stopped at Best Buy to play with one and look at the accessories. I think I am going to hold off with that purchase for awhile. Here is what the budget looked like:

      iPad 2, 64 GB – $700.00 (Wi-fi only)
      Smart Cover – 40.00
      Digital AV Adapter – 40.00
      Charger        – 40.00
      Misc Apps   – 50.00
      Subtotal  – $870.00
      Tax                 – 60.00
      Grand Total – $930.00

      Wow! The sticker shock got to me a little. Yes, I can use it for apps and games. Yes, I can use it as an e-reader. Yes, I can watch movies and Podcasts (like Melrose Scout Productions Podcast). This gadget would nicely compliment my Mac Pro computer. However, I do not think I would get $900.00 of use out of it. It would be a very expensive toy, one with a very cruddy camera system.

      I still want one though.

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        When I volunteered to become an assistant scoutmaster for my local troop way back in 1980, the main competition we had for boy’s time was the school sport programs. Some boys were just too busy playing football, basketball, or baseball to join the Scout troop. Some boys did join both, learned to juggle their schedules, and had a good time in both programs. I always knew though that if both happened on the same night, the Scouting program would lose participation. That is just the way it was.

        It is still that way today, but there is another thing that is taking up boy’s time: technology. By that I mean video games, the internet, and even cell phones. Some kids are so (shall I say it?) addicted to video games they may not join any other program, be it sports or Scouting. Those that do join Scouting always seem to have a cell phone or some other piece of technology with them wherever they go. Today’s teens have a tough time cutting that chord, and that can sometimes create a problem when a troop has a “No cell phone, video game, or mp3 player on campouts” policy.

        Adults get caught up in the whole thing also. I see a lot of adult leaders at summer camp and camporees with a cell phone attached to their ear. With the new smart phones they no longer leave the internet behind. I bring a cell phone to camp but the only time I ever seem to use it is when the boys call their parents on the way home. I do bring an iPod along when we are going to an outing that is more then several miles from home so that I have something to listen to in the car. The boys usually choose what to listen to on the way.

        Now there is the iPad. I do plan to get one someday. I do plan to put some Scouting related programs on it, like the Scout Handbook and an advancement tracking program. It should come in handy at troop meetings. But do I bring it on camping trips? This would violate our troop’s no electronics policy.

        Some troops have changed their policy to allow electronics after the Scout earns a Technology Chit card, similar to the Totin Chip card. The Boy Scout takes a “course” on how to use technology responsibly during a troop activity. I have heard that a couple troops have used this new policy quite successfully. It may be something Troop 68 has to review sometime in the near future, but I still do not like the idea of Boy Scouts bringing video games and cell phones along on outings. I have seen Scouts in other troop too often paying attention to technology instead of having fun in the wilderness.

        Today and tomorrow’s troops are going to need to find a balance between the two. Tech is here and I do not see it going away anytime in my future. In fact, I think the competition is only going to get worse.

        How does your troop handle cell phone, video games, and iPods?

        By the way, the picture of the robot and the squirrel was the inspiration for this article, so I had to use it.

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          It is a gadget I would like to get, but I do not have one yet. Even my mother would like to have one after playing with the one my sister-in-law owns. I am sure many of you would like one if you do not already own one. What am I talking about? The iPad, of course. It has been available for nearly a year. I decided to see if there were any apps available for it. There are several apps for the iPod Touch after all. (Yes, I realize that iPhone apps also work on the iPad, but I wanted to see apps specially made for the larger format.)

          When I typed “Boy Scout” into the iTunes search box it came up with 21 apps for the iPod Touch and iPhone, but only seven for the iPad. There were only five iPhone apps for “Cub Scout”  and three for the iPad. Type “Scouting” into the search and you get apps for Boy Scouting and sports. When you narrow it down to just Boy Scout or Cub Scout apps we have ten for the iPhone and four for the iPad.

          Two Cub Scout based iPad apps that caught my eye were “Pack Badges” ($3.99) and “Pinewood Derby” ($1.99). The Pack Badges app allows you to track advancement requirements for the Cub Scout awards and several special awards, and it allows you to track multiple Scouts. It has received a 4.5 star rating from its users. The Pinewood Derby game app allows you to build a Pinewood Derby car and then race it. There seems to be some problems with it though. Users only gave it a two star rating and complain about it crashing a lot.

          Two Boy Scout related apps that caught my attention were “Camping Manual” ($2.99) and “Troop Badges” ($5.99). The Camping Manual app is exactly what it says. It is a manual with lots of all season camping tips. It has not yet been rated  enough by its users to earn an average. Troop Badges is similar to Pack Badges in that it allows you to track multiple Boy Scouts through their advancement progress. It has earned a four star rating.

          I have not used any of these apps, yet. I would like to hear from those of you who have. Are they worth the money? Should I download them when I finally purchase an iPad? Do you have a favorite Scouting app that I have not listed? Has the BSA produced any iPad apps yet? Let me know.

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            As scoutmaster I always keep an eye open for the latest camp gadgets. I usually only buy gadgets that I think I would actually use, but once in awhile I will buy something because it has the “cool” factor. Unfortunately, I now own so many gadgets that more stay at home in the garage then go along on a camping trip. But that does not stop me from looking for something new.

            This month I added the Kamp Kadi by Nebo to my collection. I was able to buy it at less then half the MSP retail price. It was cheap enough that I thought it was worth giving it a try on the next Boy Scout troop camping trip.

            This gadget is basically a simple camp kitchen organizer. Everything fits on a single metal pole that can be stuck in the ground or attached to the end of a picnic table. It comes with a bag to for storage. This is for drive-up camping. It is too heavy for a backpacking trip.

            While it is not the most elegant looking of camp gadgets, it does appear to be very functional. The two things that first caught my eye were the trash bag and paper towel holders. I am hoping this will create a more “user friendly” environment so the Boy Scouts keep a cleaner cooking area. The shelf and utensil hooks are a bonus to me. (I think we will find something other than a radio to hang on the other bar.)

            Will this Kamp Kadi be worth my investment? We will find out in the spring when the troop begins its camping season again.

            Does your troop use the Kamp Kadi or something similar? Leave a comment on how it has worked for your troop.

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