Monday, August 18, 2014

Panasonic releases a zany superhero comic to promote Toughpad FZ-E1

A meek I.T guy (why are I.T. guys always presented as meek weirdos?) saves the day using his Toughphone Toughpad (which is definitely not a phone) when the superhero team he works gets themselves in a pickle. Supposedly this is only the first in a series of Panasonic comic books (Panacomics?)

Yeah, it's an advertisement, but at least it's a fun advertisement.

Read the first issue of "Unbreakable Valor" here.

Be careful with that caps lock key, boys and girls.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Building a better doorstop: The Jammer

Christine, a friend of the Johnson family, comes with us every year to the Police Security Expo in Atlantic City. It's a free trip for her and an extra hand for us. Provided her hands are operational.

Before the show opens, vendors file in and out of the convention center hauling giant display setups like ants carrying picnic scraps ten times their body weight back to the colony. Doors swing open and shut in constant flux at every threshold. The exhibitors are focused on the task at hand, tired and determined to collapse into their hotel rooms. In such an environment, it's easy to lose track of your surroundings, the people around you, someone's hand wrapped around the edge of one double door as you shove the other one open. Mistakes happen.

A few conventions ago, Christine was helping carry our gear into the center, fumbling with three large banners rolled up and stacked like logs. Holding the load between one arm and her chin, she snatched the side of the door with her free hand just before it swung closed behind the tactical flashlight sellers in front of her. If her fingers had been any less slender, she wouldn't have made it. At the same moment, a man from an EMS supply booth was heading out through the opposing door. When he pushed his door open, the gap between doors narrowed and snagged Christine's fingers, crushing them like coffee beans in a burr grinder. The guy felt so awful about it that he stopped by our booth regularly throughout the next two days to check up on her and tend to her injuries. It was sweet, really. Fast forward to today, and now they're married!

OK, that last part isn't true. That would be a good story, though. One for the grand kids.

If only there were some device that could stop a door from closing. Prop it open with a flowerpot full of dirt? That's a mess just waiting to happen. Remove it from its hinges? Too much work, plus we're not paying to heat/cool the outdoors! Wedge it open with a piece of wood on the floor? Oh. I've just described a doorstop.

Though I'm being a bit facetious, let's bear in mind that traditional doorstops suck. People kick them loose, they slide around on tile floors and always seem to disappear, integrating themselves into some child's building blocks. Not every new product has to be some fancy gizmo with a wireless internet connection and a flux capacitor. Sometimes we just need a better solution to a common problem, like that famous Ralph Waldo Emerson quote about building a better mousetrap (to paraphrase): "Someone oughta build a better mousetrap. My house is infested with mice."

Sometimes a solution to a problem is so simple and elegant that it seems obvious in hindsight. "Problem solved," it seems to say. "Next problem, please." Case in point, one of my favorite items from this year's Police Security Expo: the Jammer. It's a candy cane-shaped piece of plastic, available in black or high visibility yellow. Hang it over a door hinge to prevent the door from closing behind you, potentially locking you in or crushing someone's fingers. The bright yellow color makes it easy to mark where you've been, an effective way to communicate that a room has been cleared. You can carry a bunch of them around with you in your pocket, hooked onto a belt loop, dangled from your ears (for fashion), or tucked into your vest. At his booth, Jammer creator Tom Surowiec showed me a chunk of wood with a bent nail sticking out of it, his inspiration. "Firefighters use these," he said. "They're a resourceful bunch."

"That," I said, "is brilliant."

Friday, June 13, 2014

Will Jeff Gordon drive a Panasonic Toughbook-sponsored car in New Hampshire and Sonoma?

It looks like we might soon see Jeff Gordon tearing it up Toughbook style. According to Jayski, an ESPN-affiliated website for all things NASCAR, Panasonic could serve as the primary sponsor for Gordon's #24 car for two upcoming events this season:
Hearing that Panasonic, an associated sponsor / partner of Hendrick Motorsports will be the primary sponsor at Sonoma Raceway in June and/or New Hampshire in July. Supposedly the car will be blue and white and feature the Panasonic Toughbook mobile computers.
Cool beans.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Survivor Truck: How to make it through the apocalypse with Panasonic Toughbooks

Jim DeLozier is a security consultant by trade. We should all be so lucky to have a job that suits us so well. Jim DeLozier is really into safety, security and -- perhaps above all -- survival. His aptly named Survivor Truck, a ruggedized driving machine that combines the best aspects of military and emergency services vehicles with numerous added bells and whistles, pushes the boundaries for catastrophe preparedness. It can drive in virtually any terrain and sustain itself for days on end in the wilderness.

At the Survivor Truck's core is a Panasonic Toughbook CF-31 rugged laptop and a Toughpad FZ-G1 tablet. The CF-31 serves as the central element of the vehicle's command center. "One of the most important things about the Survivor Truck is the mobile technology," says DeLozier, moments before throwing his very expensive Toughpad FZ-G1 on the ground. He uses it for communication and camera operation, remotely keeping tabs on what's going on in and around his truck. "Before we had something like this," he says, "you basically had to be with the equipment. You couldn't operate it remotely, but now ... I can do everything that I can do in there, out there."

Cool. So this is a very practical piece of equipment that's presumably meant for military and disaster relief situations, right? Or maybe it's for one of those people who's getting ready for the apocalypse.

Did he, in passing, mention that it has a sniper platform? A tarp to hide from helicopter surveillance? If I ever find myself in a world where I, personally, need more ammunition on hand than a normal truck is capable of carrying, I'm not sure I want to make it. A long life of fending off mutants and cannibal hoards just ain't for me.

Still, it's a badass truck with badass Toughbooks.

Friday, April 25, 2014

3 of the most gloriously inane news stories from this week - Friday Link Roundup

Dog bites man

Because groundbreaking stories about Toughbooks are few and far between, I sometimes joke about all the non-news items that find their way into my Friday link dump. In journalism, they are called "dog bites man" stories (not to be confused with "man bites dog" stories, the classic aphorism stating that inversions of ordinary events are newsworthy). Anyway, a deputy in Georgia wanted to take a selfie with a police dog, so he crouched down, put his arm around the K-9's neck, and -- per all its training and instincts -- it bit him in the face. I just felt like that story belonged here. (The Daily Citizen via PoliceOne)

WSJ looks at a cop car

Last week I made fun of the Panasonic for Business blog for writing a story that essentially amounted to "Police use Toughbooks." It turns out even the Wall Street Journal sometimes struggles to find a story. In this piece, a Sioux Falls, South Dakota highway patrol officer talks about how he works in a police car and has a Toughbook in the police car and how he spends a lot of time in the police car. The article is scarce on details and includes a photo gallery of a few random aspects of the car. It's the journalistic equivalent of a shrug. It's hilarious. (Wall Street Journal)

Man throws traffic cones at people

On Monday, around 5:00 p.m., a California man left Kaiser Permanente Medical Center after two employees refused to hook him up with some painkillers. Around midnight, he returned, agitated and brandishing two traffic cones, which he proceeded to throw at the hospital workers before making his escape. (Please note that this was seven hours later, which means that throwing some traffic cones was a premeditated attack.) Authorities were called, and a plan was hatched. The wily police would place a phone call to the man and ask him to come to the police station. The man would come in, and they would arrest him. "That's so crazy it just might work," someone undoubtedly said. And you know what? It did work. (The Marin Independent Journal via EMS1)

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 -- 


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.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Better handcuffing method, a Lamborghini, and the answer to an age-old question - Friday Link Roundup

It's been a pretty slow week in Toughbook news (to be honest, most weeks are). Here are some fun, not-necessarily-ruggedized links for your Friday.

The martial art of handcuffing

Retired officer and developer of the L.O.C.K.U.P. system Lt. Kevin Dillon demonstrates a safer method of handcuffing a suspect. (Police Magazine)

The LAPD has a sweet Lambo

Joining the ranks of millionaires going through mid-life crises and the spoiled children of oil magnates, the Los Angeles Police Department now has a Lamborghini Gallardo. The supercar, which was donated by fiber optics industrialists Natalie and Travis Marg and painted in the traditional black and white, has its own Twitter and Instagram accounts. In response to this, our intern will make a Twitter account for his 2004 Dodge Neon. (LAist)

Why are firetrucks red?

If you are unfamiliar with Wolfram Alpha, it is a "computational knowledge engine." It's a bit like Google, but instead of crawling the Web to find relevant pages, it uses math, logic and databases of information to solve queries. Search "Why are firetrucks red?" in Wolfram Alpha and see the amazing result all that science and computational power returns.

I wonder if anyone has ever done a PhD dissertation on the Monty Pythonesque application of the principles of logic and etymology. (Wolfram Alpha)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Would you swap your Toughbook for a Toughpad?

Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1
Panasonic might be getting ready to phase out their line of Toughbook laptops in favor of tablets, exclusively. They might be, but really, I don't know. One news website seems sure of it, but only one, and all but a few sentences of their article is hidden behind a pay wall. Forget that noise. We'll say, for now, that it's a rumor, but supposedly Panasonic's DoD Director of Sales James Poole implied last month at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Associations (AFCEA) West Expo that tablet computers will begin replacing replacing rugged laptops sometime within the next 12 - 18 months. Unable to find any other coverage of Poole's appearance at AFCEA West, I reached out to Panasonic via Twitter for comment, but got no response. For now, we will say that this is not news. This is hypothetical.

Still, hypothetically, what would happen if Toughpads really were to replace Toughbooks? How would people who rely on their rugged laptops for work feel about switching? Curious, I turned to social media to find out, posing the question on the Bob Johnson's Toughbook Stuff Facebook page and on /r/ProtectAndServe, a Reddit community for police officers.

(All the quotes that follow come directly from public online comments. I have performed some minimal editing for spelling and grammar where applicable, but unless otherwise indicated, I have not changed the content of the posts.)

A few Reddit users were in support of switching. A verified State Trooper, using the handle GamecockTrooper, poked fun at his under-performing rugged laptop:
I have a General Dynamics 6000. It's a great little machine when it does work. I'd love to have a Toughpad for the other 95% of the time, though.
Those who spoke from experience seemed happy with the change. "CSOs in my department were recently given Toughpads," said Redditor CR4allthethings. "So far, they're working out great." MagioBiwan, a verified Sheriff Cadet, is also impressed by what he's seen so far out of tablets:
My county is switching to Toughpads as the Toughbooks are getting old. They're actually really nice, and the cars are getting keyboards for them to use still. I've gotten to use one and it's pretty nice. The great thing is you can take it out of the car easily and show it to other deputies/officers if needed, or take it into the office and use it there.
Not everyone has embraced the idea of switching over. Typing, it seems, is a "key" issue in this debate (har har), and the main source of apprehension. When asked if they'd be willing to trade in their Toughbook for a Toughpad, Reddit user CanIhaveGasCash didn't mince words:
No way in hell. I do way too much typing to use a tablet. If I use a tablet with a keyboard what is the advantage over a laptop? I also use excel, which seems like it would be a nightmare to try to use on a tablet.
Echoing that sentiment were Redditors FzzTrooper:
Hellllll no. I need a tactile keyboard of some sort. Real buttons are almost always better than a touchscreen.
and Stlou:
Sure, if it comes with a real keyboard.
"I don't think [Panasonic has] a choice," said Richard, one of our friends on Facebook:
Traditional PC use seems to be dwindling. Their tablet choices have expanded rapidly recently. They seem to be getting ahead of the curve, offering tablets for most uses. It seems to me that the future combines a rugged tablet with a rugged keyboard (something like iKey keyboard when needed). Maybe my CF-31 is the last of the breed.
Richard suggests a kind of modular computing setup, where the tablet serves as the central component. Anything else you might need -- a keyboard or a mouse, for example -- could be added in the form of a peripheral. If a peripheral were to break, replacing it  would become a simple plug-and-play fix. Tablets are also more mobile, freeing up the user to easily carry data around on foot, take pictures on the go, and share information with colleagues without having to lug around the entire setup.

This was all starting to sound like a great idea, until our Facebook friend Bear threw a wrench in the works by asking a very reasonable question:
Do [Toughpads] have serial ports? Gotta have.
In looking over spec sheets to find the answer, I was reminded that Toughpads are not modular computers. They are tablets. Impressively rugged tablets, but still, tablets. In the future, we may well see Toughpads that can function as modular PCs with all the functionality of a Toughbook laptop, but we don't see that in what's currently on the market.

I still haven't answered Bear's question, though. Do Toughpads have serial ports? The answer is ... sort of ... sometimes. The FZ-M1 and FZ-G1 tablets both have a space where you have the option of putting a serial port, but using that space renders it unavailable for anything else. With a G1, for example, having a serial port means you can't have an ethernet jack, SiRFstarIII™ GPS, MicroSD, or a second USB port. A serial port on the M1 might sacrifice a barcode scanner or a bridge batter, among other things. A Toughpad can do many things, but you have to choose just one of them.

Even though tablets can't, as of now, serve as fully-featured modular computer, it certainly seems to be the way things are headed. Will tablets replace laptops within the next few years? I doubt it. Tablets and laptops are different tools for different jobs. For most professional situations, Toughbooks still make more sense, but it will be exciting to see tablets find their place. I would not be at all surprised if, years down the road, rugged mobile computing is dominated by modular computing. When and if that happens, we at Bob Johnson's Computer Stuff, Inc. will be ready. For now, the Toughbook is king.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Small town hjinks, colorful holograms, apps and music videos - Friday Link Roundup

Police Chief Joel F. Shults shares his top 10 signs you're a small town cop, but the article isn't like most lists (or "listicles") you find online. It's a genuine and funny look at the life of a rural police officer with a Jeff Foxworthy-esque list tagged onto the end, almost as an afterthought. (PoliceOne)

Scientists in England are developing a device that uses nanotechnology and colorful holograms to perform medical testing in the field. I understand very little of it, but it sounds amazing. (Fast Company - Co.Exist)

The Chronicle of Higher Education takes a look at how university police are using mobile apps to reshape campus safety. (Via University World News)

Here's a video, which I will post without comment:

Friday, March 7, 2014

Heroes, raw meat and "Game of Thrones" jokes - Friday Link Roundup

Tyler Seddon
Rhode Island youngster Tyler Seddon, who is battling leukemia for the second time, celebrated a very special seventh birthday yesterday with hundreds of police officers, firefighters and EMTs. Back in February, Tyler's mother put out a request to first responders asking for birthday cards. It went viral, and "Tyler's Troops" quickly mobilized to throw him the best birthday party ever.

A St. Paul, MN bouncer received the Police Chief's Award for Valor for fighting off a gunman.

Police officers on social media site Reddit share the weirdest objects they've ever found in someone's pockets during a pat down. Some of the items include raw meat and live animals.

The Philadelphia Police Department has a nerdy sense of humor.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Panasonic Toughphone? - Friday Link Roundup

A former patrol officer shares his list of technologies found on cop TV shows that he wishes real-life cops had. Minority Report-style computers instead of Toughbooks? Come on!

Blogger Jonathan Kozlowski talks about bees, Robocop, and why he hates the word "drone."

The Panasonic for Business blog looks at mobile computing trends for field workers. Will 2014 be the year of the rugged tablet? (Yes. The answer is obviously going to be "yes" coming from Panasonic's official blog. Let's not pretend we can build suspense here. That said, the article does elaborate on why.)

If you want a rugged Panasonic smartphone, you're out of luck! Panasonic doesn't make smartphones! Looks like you'll have to settle for this rugged tablet that just happens to be the size of a phone and just happens to make phone calls.

They're expected to go for around $1,300 and will drop* later this year. For more info on the new Toughpad FZ-E1 and FZ-X1 phones "tablets," check out Engadget's article and CNET's hands-on review.

*[Insert clunky joke here about how the phone won't break when it "drops"]

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Testing a Toughbook's Mettle: the story behind the certifications

Toughbook CF-31 certifications
Somehow I found myself in the middle of an 800-something page government document, reading up on something called "Method 511.5, Procedure I — Explosive Atmosphere." I was investigating the parameters for evaluating the ability of a test item to be operated in a fuel vapor environment without causing ignition, and it was just as exciting as it sounds. I checked out a bunch of other methods and procedures as well, things like "Method 507.5, Procedure II — Humidity" and Method 514.6, Procedure I — Vibration: General Vibration," But I chose to lead with Explosive Atmosphere because it seemed like the sexiest of the testing procedures. That's the one where a test item sits in a room full of gas and, if all goes well, nothing happens. These tests are part of the MIL-STD-810G, a U.S. Military standard developed by the Department of Defense. It's used to make sure equipment is up to snuff for military applications. It's one of the many standards for which Panasonic Toughbooks are tested.

You were probably already aware — or at least you've assumed — that Toughbooks undergo a bunch of testing to make sure that they're, you know, tough. You might have seen a list of certifications they've earned, things like the aforementioned MIL-STD-810G, MIL-STD-461F, IP65, RoHS Compliance, and so on. You might have even seen some vague explanations attached to them: this little emblem means it's rugged, this one means it won't cause deadly explosions, whatever. I was curious. What specifically, did the Toughbook have to go through to get each of those little badges on its spec sheet? I went pretty deep in my research, most of which consisted of reading appropriately dry research reports and documents, but I'll spare you the minutiae and give you the Cliff's Notes version. (If you really need to know the exact conditions under which water droplets should be observed landing on a a test item, or if you just can't move forward without finding out where the guy who signed off on a test went to college, I'll provide the necessary tools you to look it up.)

To learn what all the Toughbook certifications really mean, check out my article at

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Link Roundup

My favorite cop forum on Reddit, /r/ProtectAndServe, likes to do these "reaction GIF" threads. If none of that previous sentence made sense to you, just check out the link. You won't regret it. (Warning: adult language and content.)
Tesla Motors has a section on their website for first responders with various guides about rescues involving their electric vehicles.
Polish firefighter Zbigniew Brodka won the gold medal in men's 1,500 meter speed skating at the Sochi Olympics. He was blazing fast. Get it? Blazing. Ha ha.

Tampa, Florida Police have released audio from some of their more unusual 911 calls. They say that at least half of the calls they get have nothing to do with emergency situations. Come on, citizens of Tampa, get it together.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Link Roundup

Have you seen this webcomic about police work?

Oconee County, Georgia Sheriff cancels Valentine's Day due to snow.

Video captures a man smashing the windows of an LAPD cruiser out in public in broad daylight. Darth Vader and Superman watch on. The man takes a laptop out of the cruiser. It's hard to tell, but the laptop doesn't appear to be a Toughbook. So much insanity in this video.

North Carolina firefighter to use Google Glass on the job.

Why Windows XP Losing Support is a Big Deal

Windows XP shutdown screen
It's time to shut down Windows XP for good.

In the 1976 made-for-TV movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, John Travolta plays Tod Lubitch, a teenager who was born without an immune system. His body unable to defend itself against airborne pathogens, Tod has to wear some kind of hermetically sealed hazmat suit in order to, you know, not die. I haven't seen the movie, but Wikipedia says that in the end he takes off the suit and rides away on a horse. Presumably his character dies shortly after the credits roll.

Now let's take a hard left turn and talk about computers.

We've already talked about upgrading Toughbooks from Windows XP to Windows 7, but we've found that a lot of folks don't really understand why it's important to do it before XP loses support on April 8, 2014.

Computers are like the boy in the plastic bubble. They don't have immune systems, so they need a barrier to protect them from the outside world. Travolta's character used a sterile bubble. Computers use antivirus software, firewalls, security updates. Even though Windows XP has been around for 12 years, they're still discovering new vulnerabilities all the time. When this happens, Microsoft rolls out a security update to fix the problem before a new computer virus takes advantage of it. Think of it as repairing a leak in the plastic bubble. Last year alone, they found 88 new vulnerabilities in XP. After April 8, people will continue to find weak points, but they won't be people working for Microsoft, they'll be hackers trying to infect your system.

Microsoft won't be the only ones abandoning Windows XP. Antivirus developers and third-party security firms will almost certainly follow suit. As you read this, IT guys all over the world are preparing to block computers running XP from accessing their databases and networks. For good reason, too, because XP computers will be malware-riddled equivalents of Typhoid Mary, spreading virtual disease to others.

Considering that an estimated one quarter to a third of computers today run Windows XP, the consequences of Microsoft cutting off support could be massive. This is a story that deserves the same kind of coverage that Y2K had, yet it has received relatively little media exposure. Spread the word: Windows XP will lose its protective bubble on April 8, 2014. Your Toughbook can handle a lot of physical abuse. Don't let some line of malicious code destroy it from the inside. Upgrade to 7.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Link Roundup

The NYPD is testing out Google Glass to see how the device could enhance police work. (VentureBeat)

Panasonic has unveiled a new Toughbook CF-D1 tablet in the UK, and the Toughbook CF-LX3 in Singapore. (WinBeta and CNET Asia, respectively)

"Technology Helps Witnesses Assist Police in Robberies" may be a poorly worded headline. This is a story about how police in Lincoln, Nebraska are hoping that technological advancements in cameras and smartphones will make it easier for witnesses to help them nab criminals. (

Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Link Roundup

Holodeck virtual reality video game designed to train soldiers.

Silicon Valley investors and tech developers hope to revolutionize firearm safety by using smartphone-inspired locking technology to create a weapon that prevents anyone other than the owner from firing it.

Tactical Impulse's Project Illuminate gives free tactical flashlights to officers in need.

Infographic breaks down the latest trends in cybercrime.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Toughbook vs. Snowstorm

Last week, winter storm Janus laid down its fury upon us. We put a Toughbook out in the snow for four hours to see what would happen. Here's the video we made:

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Link Roundup

Sorry the link roundup is a little sparse this week. We use Google's Blogger service, which -- along with most Google services -- was out of commission for a while today. I ended up with a late start, and I have to leave early today. Excuses, excuses, excuses. Here are some links.

Not unlike a Batman gadget, this vehicle-mounted device disables car electronics from up to 50 meters away.

Pennsylvania police "like" a wanted suspect's taunting Facebook post, then arrest him.

The NYPD will be keeping a close eye on fans with high-tech security at the Super Bowl.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Chinese Military Shovel Demonstration

Did you know that you were going to watch a 17 and a half minute long video about a shovel today?

While this may be an old video, it's still a really cool, beautifully low-tech survival tool.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday Link Roundup

Is it just me, or has it been a slow week for EMS, fire and police oddball news and tech? One "weird news" webpage I checked out had horrifying items like a guy who drowned in a river and some kids that drank bleach. Personally, I don't think those stories fit the lighthearted tone of a what a "weird news" site oughta be. But maybe that's just me. Let me know if you heard of anything funny or uplifting that has happened in the last week and I will amend this list. In the meantime, here are a few items I managed to scrape together.

BEAR-iatrics has come out with a stair chair designed to move obese people. It's called the BEAR Stair Chair. I don't know if they came up with the fun, rhyming name first and invented something to fit it or what, but it seems like a real life saver.
I almost forgot! now has a Tech Support section. You may have seen our Toughbook repair videos on YouTube. Now we are working on guides with text and pictures to supplement some of our videos.
Check out how one department used a viral recruit video to find their new police chief.

Edit: Here's a fun story. A man fell asleep while robbing a house. I guess burglary is tired work!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Yes, You Can Load Windows 7 on a Toughbook CF-30

A customer calls us. He's trying to upgrade to Windows 7 on his Toughbook CF-30. He tells us he just got off the phone with Panasonic tech support, who told him it can't be done. We tell him to send it over, because Panasonic tech support is wrong. We put Windows 7 on CF-30s every day.

Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP on April 8th, 2014, so we've been getting a lot of calls like this lately. These are just the folks who thought to get a second opinion. It's safe to assume that many more users took tech support's advice at face value. Who knows how many users have unnecessarily spent thousands on a new machine based on bad information?

Both the CF-30 and CF-19 meet Windows 7's system requirements. Even a maxed-out CF-29 will squeak by. It may not be the simplest install, but it is definitely not impossible. We have the tools and knowledge, so before you take a hunk out of your bank account for a new machine, let us help you out.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday Link Roundup

Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1

Tech Radar reviews the new Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1.

Yellow Jacket stun gun iPhone case

Yellow Jacket is a new iPhone case/stun gun. The Verge's Ben Popper tases himself with it in the name of ... Journalism?

Evidence Mobile smartphone app

Speaking of TASER, the company has released a smartphone app for police that works with to streamline productivity in the field. It's not brand new, but we only just heard about it and it seems useful.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Friday Link Roundup

Ornery goat tries to break into house, police car.


2013 had the fewest police deaths by firearm since 1887.

(Associated Press via Washington Post)

A lot of people shoot guns on New Year's Eve


PoliceOne's Year In Review.


Here's a shameless link to

(Bob Johnson's Computer Stuff)