This month's column is going to be a bit abbreviated in that
as I write this we are in the middle of remodeling our kitchen
and family room. The job has been dragging on for over a month
and I'm getting a bit tired of it all. Both our kitchen and family
room happen to be in the middle of the house so to go most anywhere
within the house you have to go through either one or both rooms.
We are living motel style, cooking what we can using a microwave,
toaster, and coffee pot in my wife's sewing room. Kitchen and
family room contents are placed throughout the house (wherever
we can find a spare corner) including my computer room.
The main problem (which I am sure is not new) is contractors
not showing up when they are supposed to. You get everything
prepared for them to come in and do their job and then sit around
waiting. They don't call. You page them but they don't answer
the pager and another day gets wasted. Meanwhile the next contractor
in line can't get in to do his job because the original did not
show when he said he would. And so the remaining schedule gets
shifted for everyone which causes more scheduling problems. Unfortunately
this project requires the coordinated efforts of a demolition
person, drywall installers, electrician, plumber, painters, tile
installer, carpet installer, and cabinet installers. It seems
the construction industry is so busy here in Florida that the
poor homeowner is at the mercy of the contractors. It took us
almost four months to get enough bids on this job just to feel
comfortable enough to start. These construction guys have so
much business they are working evenings and weekends trying to
fit people like us in. And so us homeowners have to be flexible
enough to roll with the schedule changes or the job does not
get done. I'm willing to roll with the changes but please give
me the courtesy of a phone call saying you can't make it instead
of leaving me hanging.
I'm sure there are contractors out there that do listen to
and consider the customer's concerns. I've been very pleased
in the past and some of the contractors on this job have been
excellent. It's just the few inconsiderate contractors that spoil
it for all of us. So for anyone contemplating a remodeling job
here are a few links you may want to consult: Remodeling Your
Kitchen, Financing & Contracting at http://www.stretcher.com/stories/00/000501j.cfm,
DoItYourself.com a "Community for Household
Hints, Home Repair and Remodeling" at http://DoItYourself.com/,
and Remodeling Online a "Magazine for Home Remodeling
Ideas, Plans, and Help" at http://www.remodeling.hw.net/.
Let us now turn to a new topic. By now you have probably heard
of the FRS radios. FRS stands for Family Radio Service. These
little radios usually come with 14 channels and are about the
size of a cell phone, small enough to fit in your shirt pocket
or clip on your belt. They have up to a 2 mile range and are
basically a walkie-talkie for grown-ups. They are available from
stores like Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Best Buy, Circuit City, etc. Well
I just happened to have had some gift money from my birthday
that was burning a hole in my pocket. Being the gadget freak
that I am, I decided (against my wife's wishes I might add) to
buy a pair. I believe her words were "Now why do you need
that?" My rationale went something like: "Honey, when
we go shopping to the mall or are in stores like a Wal-Mart SuperCenter
we usually each go our separate ways to look at what interests
us personally. Afterwards we spend 10 minutes trying to find
each other. With these nifty radios I can call you and find out
exactly where you are."
And so my search began as to what was a good brand and model
to buy. I tried several Internet Search Engines but all I got
was a bunch of returns for places selling FRS radios. I was looking
for reviews of what is out in the market place and people's personal
experience with them. Do they really work as advertised or was
it just a lot of hype? I turned to my old standby for a source
of knowledge, Deja.com (http://www.deja.com).
Lately Deja has been busy transforming itself into a portal but
they still retain the Usenet Newsgroup history files at
It did not take me long to find the FRS discussion group or forum.
I just searched Discussions for "family radio" and
immediately came up with the forum alt.radio.family at
Reading through the messages soon gave me the Internet link I
had been looking for, Family Radio Service (FRS) Information
This web site has a wealth of useful information. Be sure to
read the FRS Equipment Reviews and Evaluations at http://members.tripod.com/~jwilkers/review.html.
After reading through a number of reviews I finally decided
to purchase a pair of the Kenwood model UBZ-AL14 Family Radio
I consulted SalesCircular.com (http://www.salescircular.com/)
and found Best Buy (http://www.bestbuy.com)
had the Kenwood model I was seeking on sale for $59.95 a pair.
The prices seem to be falling and you can probably purchase another
brand for less. I have seen prices as low as $40 per pair. My
reason for selecting the Kenwood brand was the reviews I read
indicated they were of higher quality than some other brands
plus I liked their very small size and overall look.
So how do my FRS radios work? Very well! The model I purchased
has 14 channels. More expensive models add 38 sub codes for privacy.
This feature is called CTCSS (Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System).
It allows the user to ignore (not hear)transmissions from other
units that are using the same basic channel. You can read more
about CTCSS at CTCSS Privacy Code Explanation (http://members.tripod.com/~jwilkers/myth.htm).
Just the basic 14 channels have proved more then adequate for
my needs. I have heard very few people on the various channels
so no problem with unwanted users getting in on my conversation.
I understand that places like the Theme parks in Orlando have
a high amount of traffic on the various channels so in such a
situation you may find other people on the channel you selected.
I also like that the radios are perfectly quiet until they receive
a transmission. There is no annoying hiss or background noise
while monitoring a channel waiting for a call.
All brands claim a range of up to 2 miles but that is on clear
line-of-sight terrain. In real world situations the range is
probably slightly less than a mile. This is fine for trying to
find my wife in a mall or Wal-Mart SuperCenter. As an experiment
we tried our own personal range test. There is a fast food restaurant
just under a mile from our house. As I was pulling into the drive-thru
line I offered my wife (back at the house) her last chance to
change her order. She said the transmission had background noise
but she could still understand me.
We did find one problem with using these radios in a Wal-Mart
SuperCenter. The radios have a call button which sends a series
of tones letting the receiver know you are calling. My wife had
her FRS radio in her purse. Due to the ambient level of noise
within the SuperCenter she never heard the tones. We found that
in an environment with high ambient noise the radios have to
be basically at shirt pocket level or you will never know you
are being called.
In conclusion I am very happy with my FRS radio purchase.
Now when they get these radios reduced down to wrist watch size
that will really be something.
Note: Web Master Wanderings
articles contain links to external web sites. Web addresses are
constantly changing. There is no guarantee that the information
links provided in this article will remain unbroken or up-to-date
beyond the date that this article is originally published.