IS A COMPUTER WITH NO INTERNET VIABLE?
This is one of my favorite subjects. And it kind of goes along with being prepared for the worst. Small devices such as computers can be easily recharged or used on even a small solar set up. So what can you do with a computer when there is no internet? Quite a lot actually.
I’ve done this before in 2018 with a Linux computer but I’m going to do it this time with a Windows laptop. But it is time to update that post a little bit, I suppose.
And as per my previous recommendation you want to probably use an old laptop and preferably something like a ToughBook. If the internet is down, and life is getting harder you don’t need some baby computer that won’t hold up.
Yep, your computer can be a TV with no internet connection. You do need a USB TV Tuner though. I use the Hauppauge 955Q which is probably obsolete since I couldn’t find it anymore on Amazon. This seems to be the latest generation. Despite which tuner you get make sure that it is ATSC and not PAL. ATSC is US and PAL is European. Your tuner combined with software called NextPVR or probably any number of software programs you can download will give you an Electronic Program Guide and allow you to watch Over The Air Live TV. That program guide does come down from the internet though, and you won’t be able to access it if the grid goes down. Still, you know what your local channels are though.
NOTE: I probably should state that my grid down situation is most likely a hurricane and all the local stations are 40 or so (driving) miles away and inland so they will most likely still be operational. Your situation may vary.
Being able to watch TV during a power outage or while you are Sheltering in Place could provide vital, life saving information. Or it could just provide much needed entertainment in a bad situation.
NextPVR (click pics to enlarge)
While you may have a radio in your bug out bag it probably is an AM/FM radio. And that might be great, but what you really want is a SoftWare Defined Radio (RTL-SDR). This is a USB device and with free software such as SDR# you can listen to AM/FM/Shortwave/Fire/EMS/Police/Weather/CB/GMRS, etc. And in fact with the right antenna you can also pull down images from weather satellites such as NOAA or GOES on an RTL-SDR.
I can’t even begin to emphasize how much information an RTL-SDR can provide and what they are capable of doing. Once again, in a bad situation, radio can provide life saving information.
With a GPS Module you’ll always know where you are if you are on the move. GPS also will give you accurate time. In a complete SHTF scenario, knowing the exact time may important to you.
If there is no internet there might not be cell service either. The satellites will probably still be up there doing their thing though. You can get GPS Modules cheap however you may need an additional FTDI and breadboard wires to hook it all up. For a few bucks more you can buy a module that has a USB connector and free software. I recommend this module based on a U-blox NEO-M9N chipset from Sparkfun. Download their U-center software .
You probably want an actual map that shows latitude and longitude as if the internet is down you won’t be pulling down the Google Maps API in U-center. Or you can download Garmin Basecamp and there is a setting to display latitude and longitude. You may have to “old school” find where you are but it can give you precise locations and the ability to navigate to some place specific. Yeah, it might take a little work unlike your phone which shows you where you are and where the traffic jam is………….but it will do in a pinch.
Then again, if you are worried and planning for the worst you might want to buy a handheld Garmin GPS. But that’s a bit outside the scope of this blog. I’m just showing you that your laptop is still pretty remarkable without an internet connection.
I’m one of those guys that buys some gadget and then downloads the manual for it. Imagine having the Maintenance manual for your generator, or every other manual that will help you perform maintenance on your gear. I highly recommend storing manuals and important documents on your bug out computer. Recipes too. Hey, this computer will be offline so it’ll be safe from the hackers.
Some of my “tools/toys” are computer controlled. I have a CNC machine that requires computer control. And a vinyl sign machine. Imagine how useful it could be to make a gigantic orange sign in a SHTF scenario. You will need 110v power to run your machine and I do have a solar controller with an inverter.
We tend to think that a computer that isn’t connected to the internet is worthless. That is in fact anything but true. In a SHTF scenario having access to Radio, TV, local NOAA Weather Radio, and monitoring emergency services can straight up save your life.
On a secondary note having TV and radio or the ability to watch a DVD or read an eBook can brighten your spirits in the event of a catastrophic event and allow your mind to escape for a few moments.
If you are forced to be mobile having a GPS module can also save your life or allow you to pinpoint areas and return to the exact spot later. Your computer is still quite a useful and valuable tool, even when not connected to the internet.