Monday, April 21, 2014

Interview: Lee Maisel and his custom-made laser-engraved Toughbook badges

custom-made Toughbook badge: "Zombie Outbreak Response Team"

Lee Maisel showing what's under his kilt
Lee Maisel: artist, gentleman
Lee Maisel is a laser engraving artist based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. He makes, among other things, very cool, custom Toughbook badges. If you want to put your company's logo on your computer, or if you want to feel like a S.H.I.E.L.D agent or a member of the Zombie Outbreak Response Team, Lee is the man to talk to. Recently, we sat down for an interview over email. Here's what we talked about.

BJCS: Tell me about laser engraving. How did you get started with it?

Lee Maisel: I was a computer network engineer for 25 years, and kind of burned out with it. A few years ago, I was watching the TV show "The Screen Savers" on TechTV, and they had a small laser engraver machine and were making some great stuff with it! I wanted one! I understand lasers, as I was interested in lasers as a kid and read a lot about them. We decided in 2008 to invest in a machine, and went to some of the manufacturers and looked at their setups, and decided on an Epilog Laser, which is American made in Colorado. Spent a few months learning how to use it, testing on different materials, etc.

BJCS: Is this your full-time gig, or do you do something else?

LM: Full time; wife has medical issues, so working from home helps a lot.

BJCS: Do you own a Toughbook?

LM: I own 2 CF-30 MK2 Toughbooks, and had a CF-28 I gave to my nephew. They are the coolest laptops ever! I also engrave a fair amount of them for government organizations.

Laser-engraved Toughbook badge by Lee Maisel

BJCS: Where did you get the idea for Toughbook badges?

LM: Having the laser, I am constantly customizing my stuff, and figured I could easily replace the badge, and if I get tired of what I made, I can rip it off and make something new!

I didn't even think of selling them, originally. I just made mine and posted it [to a message board], and people were interested (not that I mind selling them!).

BJCS: Which Toughbook models do you make badges for?

LM: Any, as long as someone can provide me with exact dimensions and a photo of the original.

Battlestar Galactica Toughbook badge

BJCS: What kind of materials do you use?

LM: I use wood, acrylic, different plastics, whatever. Depends on what someone wants!

BJCS: How much do you charge for custom Toughbook badges?

LM: $20, including shipping, unless someone wants to buy a bunch of them that are the same, then the price per [badge] goes way down.

BJCS: Do you design the badges yourself, or do people send you artwork?

LM: I design mine, but people can send me what they want, and I will try my best to accommodate them.

BJCS: Where should I direct folks who might want to buy one of your custom badges?

LM: My website is or they can email me at

Friday, April 18, 2014

Boston Firefighters are forced to destroy a brand new BMW, and nothing else cool happens all week - Friday Link Roundup

Best new EMS products

Dan White at EMS1 unveils the top 10 new EMS products of 2014. Seems a little premature for a best-of-the-year list, but maybe the dude has some insider info and knows the rest of the year is going to be a wash. (EMS1)

Police force uses Toughbooks

Panasonic's business blog profiles the Miami-Dade Public Schools Police Department, focusing on their use of Toughbooks. In other news, dog bites man, child does something cute in a video, and you'll never guess which common household item may be killing you. All this and more tonight at eleven. (Panasonic Solutions for Business Blog)

Illegal parking results in more than a ticket

If you park your brand new BMW in front of a hydrant, Firefighters might have to smash the hell out of it. (CBS Boston)

Hand signals can be confusing. Check out these two guides.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Girl Talk uses Panasonic Toughbooks

Every couple of days, I search "Toughbook" on Reddit to see if anyone has any questions I can help with, or if there's any breaking news on rugged laptops. I don't often find anything. That's why so many of the posts here are about non-rugged things. When I do find something, it's usually pretty dry (Toughbooks are awesome, but let's be frank, they aren't always the sexiest thing to read about). Today, however, I found something a little outside the norm: legendary mashup artist Girl Talk uses Panasonic Toughbooks in his performances!

What the heck is a Girl Talk? Mashup???

I suspect that the Venn diagram of hipsters and Toughbook enthusiasts shows very little overlap, so I'll explain. Girl Talk is the stage name of Gregg Michael Gillis, an electronic musician from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He's known for his mashups, which are something like musical collages, combinations of different popular songs to create something new. They have been the subject of some debate over copyright law. Gillis in particular was used as an example during a 2007 Congressional hearing on copyright law.

Here's an example of a Girl Talk mashup, but be forewarned -- 


Here's a safe-for-work example of a mashup, though not by Girl Talk

So, anyway, Girl Talk did an "Ask Me Anything" (or AMA) on Reddit. The format of an AMA, for the uninitiated, is basically a massive, public interview where users can ask a notable person any question they want. AMA participants in the past have included the likes of Harrison Ford, Bill Gates and President Obama.

Way down the page, a user asked Gillis how many computers he's gone through during his time performing as Girl Talk. This was his answer:
"i broke too many computers 2006-2010. not even sure. i havent broke a laptop in a few years. not trying to do a product placement right now, but those panasonic toughbooks are legit!"
Nice! Here are some photos I found online. Looks like he uses a CF-30 and a CF-74.
Photo by Flickr user Zoe, licensed under Creative Commons
Photo by Flickr user Monica D., licensed under Creative Commons
Photo by Flickr user Zoe, licensed under Creative Commons

Toughbooks are hip with the youngsters now! Spread the word!

Friday, April 11, 2014

New York's Finest and Bravest duke it out, burglars get caught in the zaniest way, and medical science keeps on being awesome - Friday Link Roundup

NYPD and FDNY brawl at charity hockey game

What's up with the weird feud between police and firefighters? I asked on Twitter, but no one responded. It's crazy! Anyway, things got crazy during a NYPD vs FDNY charity hockey game. Of course, it was captured on video. My main take away from all this is that the goalies seemed pretty un-involved -- not just in the fight (in the video, you can see them chatting and watching the fight together), but also in the game itself -- the score was 8-5! Did they block a single shot? (Newsday via PoliceOne)

Burglary suspects pocket dial 911 while discussing crimes

This is too ridiculous for even the most lazily written '80s cop TV shows. Two crooks are arrested after one accidentally dials 911 and leaves the line open while he discusses the crime with his partner. What?! (Associated Press via PoliceOne)

Scientists attempt 3D-printed, "bioficial" heart

Scientists in Kentucky are working toward making functional human hearts using 3D printing technology and the patient's own cells ("bioficial" is a portmanteau of "biological" and "artificial"). They are making good progress, and hope to have the technology perfected within a decade. (Associated Press via EMS World)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday Link Roundup: April Fools' Edition

Tuesday was April Fools' day, otherwise known as the day where everything you read is a lie. The Internet is still saturated with the remnants (and consequences) of that, so it seems fitting to give this week's link roundup an April Fools' theme. That said, unless otherwise noted, all these stories are true.

Bob Johnson's Computer Stuff, Inc. wasn't actually sold to a hot sauce review blog

Sorry to disappoint you, but that was just an April Fools' joke. If you missed out, on Tuesday we posted on that we had been purchased by Eat More Heat, a very real hot sauce review blog. We said that we'd stop selling Toughbooks and start selling hot sauce. They made a similar post on their site. It was all a lie, and we were being a bunch of lying liars. We "did it for the laffs," and laughs laffs were had. If you want to see it, and maybe get a few laffs of your own, we archived our April Fools' page so that it may live on throughout the ages.

Cop "pranks" responsible drivers by giving them $100

So zany!

Firefighter in hot water over April Fools' prank

Albuquerque, NM: a firefighter, suffering from an underdeveloped humor lobe in his brain (or something else; I'm not a neuroscientist), is under investigation for a Facebook post about police killing suspects. Hilarious. Seriously, I'm all for the good-natured rivalry between cops and firefighters, but "good-natured" is the key phrase there. I'm all for pranks (as evidenced by our own prank on Tuesday), but jeez. (PoliceOne via Associated Press)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bob cries, Houston FD rocks, and I make an infographic about another infographic - Friday Link Roundup

Wanna see a video of Bob crying at his 12th birthday party? Of course you do

Bob's birthday was yesterday. If you missed the post on our Facebook page, here is a video of him crying at his 12th birthday party because he was unable to blow out the trick candles on his cake.

Houston Fire Department makes an incredible save

Captured on video: a construction worker narrowly escapes the 5-alarm fire that engulfed a Houston apartment complex on Tuesday. He leaps from a top-story balcony to the one beneath it before the rescue ladder reaches him. If not for luck and quick reactions, this story could have had a very different ending. All this was caught on video. (Washington Post)

After the blaze, Houstonians did their best to thank the nearly 200 first responders with free BBQ. (Houston Chronicle)

Panasonic's Olympic Legacy

For 25 years, Panasonic has played a role behind the scenes at the Olympics. They made an infographic about it. No Toughbooks here, though. I think whoever made the graphic might have been a little fixated on statistics about video cameras. Here's an infographic I made about their infographic. (Panasonic for Business blog)

Bob Johnson talks shop at Alliance Mid-Atlantic Small Business Procurement Fair

Left-to-right: Ken Anderson (Moderator), Robert DeGour, Darnyelle A. Jervey, and Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson served as a featured speaker Wednesday, March 19 at the 2014 Alliance Mid-Atlantic Small Business Procurement Fair held in Wilmington, DE. After opening remarks by Governor Jack Markell and Delaware Economic Development Office Cabinet Secretary Alan Levin, Johnson joined two other panelists to discuss proven strategies for small business success in the new economy.

Representing the longest-operating business on the panel, and the only business founded before the 2008 recession, Johnson fielded questions and offered advice about surviving economic downturns, finding a niche market, and adapting business strategies.