Episode 15 – Surface Pro 3 Review

cfor_thumb2In this installment of CFOR, Chris travels to Downtown Memphis on Main Street and gives a review of the Surface Pro 3. Along with that, he explains why it might be great for podcasting.

After the break, Chris talks briefly about a new shortwave station, which more details will be on next week’s show.

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Episode 14 – JOTA & College Radio Day

cfor_thumb2On Episode 14 of the podcast, Chris Freitas talks about the upcoming Jamboree-On-The-Air that gets Scouts talking to other worldwide and helping them learn more about ham radio. He even goes into his experience as a Boy Scout participating in the annual event.

Part 1 is followed by Scott Joplin’s “Ragtime Dance.”

In the second segment, Chris brings listeners up-to-speed on College Radio Day, an event to promotes awareness of collegiate broadcasters, and how WUMR-FM in Memphis got involved in the activity.

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Roketa ES-44/Emmo Urban Electric Bike Review

About a month ago, I purchased an electric bicycle from Scooters Plus here in Memphis. A week later, there was a posting about how some parts broke and how I got into some trouble.

Since then, I am happy to report most of the main problems have been addressed, but there are some things to look out for when purchasing these types of e-bikes.

Before going into the issues, here are the good aspects about the Roketa ES-44 and my experience with it thus far.  It’s important to note that while state laws have varying definitions of motor vehicles, this is NOT a scooter or moped but could easily be interpreted as one.

While it looks like a scooter, the Roketa ES-44, or Emmo Urban in Canada, has some distinct features that set it apart from Vespas or similar motor bikes. One key aspect is a pedal and chain system. Just like any old bicycle, this e-bike can be propelled by human power, in addition to pedal-assist (where the motor turns on after a few repetitions) or throttle (aka twist-n-go).

It’s also significantly slower than a scooter, but much faster than a normal bike. Unless you are Lance Armstrong, someone will be hard-pressed to pedal faster than this bike’s speed.

The Roketa’s top speed is 20 mph, which is the legal limit set about Federal law. Anything beyond that, it’s not considered an e-bike.

It may seem fast but it is actually easy to control once you practice for roughly 10 minutes. When I first got on the e-bike, it was like learning how to ride a normal bike…minus the scrapes and bruises. If you ride bikes (motorized or not) on a regular basis, then you’ll have little to no adjustment riding an electric bike.

Like all bicycles, it has brakes and bike rest so it doesn’t topple over. There are also some pretty neat things like front and rear blinkers, brake light, headlights with high & low beams and flashing lights, horns, speedometer (in metric system) with battery indicator, side mirrors, and a small front storage compartment.

Unlike most scooters and motorcycles that are powered by gas, the Roketa e-bike is powered by a lead battery, and capable by being powered by longer lasting lithium-ion batteries. Replacement batteries will be the biggest expense as getting the needed cells will run up between $200-$400 depending on type (lithium-ion or lead).

On a single charge going full throttle, it will last around an hour and a half of driving or roughly 16-17 miles. You can get upwards of 20 miles on a full charge; however, I recommend recharging it once you get through a 10 mile trip. This is especially true if you’re making a return trip and don’t want to stuck pedaling for the remainder of the journey. Human power will recharge the battery but the juice is not substantial. Also, recharging the battery takes 4 to 5 hours.

In my initial experience, I enjoyed riding this e-bike. It cuts down on travelling and importantly I don’t show up to my destination dripping in sweat. It’s a breeze riding on this thing, despite it being heavy.

Now, here are some things I didn’t like about the bicycle. Aside from the horrible Scooters Plus return policy (which is non-existent), the Roketa ES-44 has some shoddy craftsmanship. To start off, the chain popped off after two days of using it. The rear tire, which was missing the air-cap, suddenly went flat on Day 3. There is also a crack on the battery casing.

I’ll give Scooters Plus some credit in fulfilling its 30-day warranty (seriously only a month) by replacing the tire and chain free of charge. They didn’t repair the cracked battery casing but added some padding between the seat and battery compartment to absorb shocks from bumps.

Since coming home from the repair shop, I’ve noticed the seam on the right side of the bike (between the seat and petals) is slightly exposed. Also, the light indicators below the speedometer are off center and not firmly in place.

Also, the side mirrors, which had to be tightened with proper tools, are perhaps there for show. It’s almost impossible to use them to see who is behind the bike. Oftentimes, I would have to look behind me to see how is riding my tail.

Because of the hastily crafted Chinese design, I am not certain how long this bike will hold up. Whenever it starts to fail (hopefully not too soon), it will be replaced with higher end models like a Jetson e-bike or a Vespa scooter.

The remaining negatives are not necessarily due to the bike, but more on the laws concerning electric bikes in the United States. Federal law considers e-bikes the same way as traditional bicycles. This includes scooter style ones if they max out at 20 mph and weigh less than 170 lbs. A license, insurance, and registration are not required to ride an e-bike in the country.

However, local laws are much different. Most states have clearly defined laws that determine whether or not a driver’s license and/or helmet are required. Some places, like Tennessee, are vague in what they classify these vehicles.

In this state, law says you need a license and helmet for mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles to operate on roads. There are no mentions of electric bikes in the law, but recent opinions tend to suggest that e-bikes like the Roketa ES-44 would require a license. It’s just that it doesn’t fit in the same category as a motorized bike or scooter. Regardless, you’ll need at least a helmet but don’t need to register and get tags for it.

With that said, it would be safe to have a regular driver’s license, but it could be possible to get a specialized Class M license in Tennessee. I plan on contacting the local DMV this week to find out which would be appropriate and schedule a test, if required. It’s an extra layer of protection, since you’ll get glances from police if you’re not wearing a helmet or not following traffic laws.

In summary, I have enjoyed riding the Roketa ES-44 both on the road and bike trails like the Shelby Farms Greenline (which e-bikes are permitted). However, the shoddy construction makes this a less desirable bike.

The price of the Roketa ES-44 ranges around $700-$900, but I bought mine for $825 without tax. It’s a really inexpensive electric bicycle.

As they say, you get what you pay for. As for this e-bike, it’s cheap in price and quality. I can not recommend this bike for anyone wanting a long-term alternate form of transportation.

I am actually selling this for $500 on Craigslist, and hopefully it gets sold. Whenever someone buys it or it craps out, I will invest in a well-built machine like a Jetson e-bike or Vespa. They’re more expensive, but people seem to love them and do not have much quality issues with them.

I have to score the Roketa ES-44 a rating of 2.5/5. It’s a pretty mediocre bike. It runs well, but the construction and failing parts makes me want to invest in something worthwhile.

If you’re looking to buy this e-bike and don’t have a lot of cash, then know what you’re getting into. Make sure to know the laws regarding e-bikes and return policies of the store selling it.

If you have the credit or cash to afford a better, more expensive electric bike or even scooter, STAY AWAY FROM THE ROKETA ES-44.

Here is a video from Global News from Toronto with a story about e-bikes. The Roketa ES-44, called Emmo Urban, is featured in this clip.

Episode 13 – Radio On The Mississippi & Shortwave Returning To WRMI

cfor_thumb2In this episode of CFOR, Chris discovers a new internet radio station in Memphis. He talks with station manager Marky B. They discuss about Mississippi River Radio’s content and future of web radio.

Before the next segment, you’ll listen to The New Mystikal Troubadours and their “Summer Bluffs.”

Part 2 goes into some shortwave broadcasters returning to the HF bands. However, it is WRMI that is carrying programming from these stations.

Chris also have some exciting news about the website and podcasts.

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Memphis: The Mecca Of Podcasting?

I’ve been listening to podcasts since iTunes has been putting them out in the mid-2000s. More recently, internet radio and podcasting have been my default listening activities.

I’m not the only one, as more people are “tuning into” podcasts instead of over-the-air shows. This trend has not went unnoticed…especially in this town.

Memphis has seen a huge explosion of content makers in the podcasting scene in the past year or so. More and more people are not only listening, but CREATING their own shows.

Memphis is historically rich in the arts, so it’s really no surprise that creative individuals are at the epicenter of it all. Visual artists, comedians, radio/TV personalities, filmmakers, journalists, and musicians are helping to shape a “renaissance of podcasting.” I don’t know many other major cities that have a huge podcast-creation scene as Memphis.

What makes these programs unique is that their focus is about Memphis. Their shows are not solely about the city, but looks at different aspects like the citizens, culture, the arts, sports, trends, or simply having a good time in town.

These Memphis podcasts are made by Memphians but they are made for everyone in or outside of the Bluff City to enjoy. Intentional or not, these shows help shed better light on a city portrayed as crime-ridden and ruined.

Last week’s CFOR podcast (made by a Memphian…me), my guest and I talked about some of our favorite podcasts. We mentioned some local shows and here are some that I may have or have not mentioned. These are worth checking out, even if you don’t live in Memphis.

I Love Memphis

It’s a blog and now a podcast. The site’s creator, Holly Whitfield writes about various aspects of Memphis on her site. This year, she has created a monthly podcast to completement it and manages to hold discussions with prominent people in the city. There’s even an interview with WMC anchor Joe Birch.

Creative Memphis

Photog Billy Nation and Designer Andrew Lebowtiz have created a show that highlights the creative side of Memphis. They interview guest musicians, artists, filmmakers, and others who give another look at the city that most media outlets neglect to look at or simply ignore.

The Game Show Podcast

Hosted by Gil Worth & Alan Long, these guys put up a  show besting their guests at trivia and games. Think of NPR’s “Wait…Don’t Tell Me” and you have an idea what this show is somewhat about. There is a small interview component then they play against each other.

Ric Chetter From Radioland

Ric Chetter, former Rock 103 jock and creator of Radio Memphis, has created a unique show. Not only does he talk about the radio business, but he talks about life. Sometimes pleasant, sometimes not-so pleasant and he tells it for how it is. In addition to talking about his experiences, Ric will have fun with other guests and it becomes a smorgasbord of interesting content.

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark

Local comedian Josh McLane has a podcast that is either funny or downright serious. He’ll let you know. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is a show that has just about anything. It’s a bunch of dudes talking about life in Memphis. The stories he tells may make you angry about the city, but more often he’ll make you laugh and forget your troubles.

There are a lot more Memphis podcasts I can recommend but I could spend all day talking and writing about them. This is where you can come in. You can post them here in the comments section and/or check out some more notables at High Ground News.

Episode 12 – Good ‘Ol Country Podcast

cfor_thumb2Episode 12 delves into the recent format change for WKQK-FM in Memphis. The station, 94.1, was once a country music broadcaster and switched to Oldies in 2006. Last Friday, it went back to country, but not without compromises.

In Part 2, Chris and guest Elliot Boyette talk about podcasts and suggest which ones you should listen to for your listening pleasure.

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WKQK 94.1 FM Is Back To Country Music

Memphians might remember “Froggy 94” back in the 90s before the station switched to Top 40 and Oldies in the early 2000s. It played country music and competed with the familiar KIX 106.

As of Friday, September 26th, 2014 the FM frequency will once again play country music. I walked into the Entercom studios just before producing the MUS football game to hear the station switched formats.

If you tune to the radio (or live stream) right now, then you’ll notice that the former oldies format (94.1 KQK) is now “The Wolf.”

What’s even more interesting is there are no DJs and little commercials! It’s strange to say the least, but not totally unexpected given recent trends.

I will give more details about the format change along with my impressions on my upcoming podcast this Wednesday.

A Note About Scooters Plus & Electric Bikes

In Season One of my CFOR podcast, I talked about wanting to do a show about e-bikes, or electric bikes. Since then, scope of the show has been narrowed to be all about radio. However, this blog post is going to detail my recent experience with this form of alternate transportation.

For folks who don’t know anything about e-bikes, they are essentially bikes with electric motors powered by a battery.  The purpose is to assist in one’s pedaling, either to gain a speed boost or perhaps not ride to their destination while dipping in sweat.

Last weekend, I decided to replace an old bike for an e-bike. Instead of ordering on-line, Scooter Plus became my shopping destination.

Long story short: This was a mistake. I will tell the whole story now.

As me and my friend Elliot went inside the shop, we didn’t see anything remotely looking like a traditional bicycle. However, there was scooter-ish looking e-bike hanging on the wall for $825.

On impulse, I bought the Roketa ES-44. After leaving the store, I rode on it and actually enjoyed the experience. With the exception of being pulled over by a cop (who assumed it was a moped) for not wearing a helmet, there was no shame for making this purchase.

The following days tell a different story.

Last Sunday, I prepped up for my trip to work in East Memphis/Bartlett. Before leaving, my bike didn’t power on even though the battery was fully charged. After checking the power connections, I noticed a hairline crack in the battery casing.

Despite that, I rode to work and partially back in the night. Now, the battery wasn’t recharged before the return trip home and died during my trip. For future reference: if you are going to make a 10+ mile trip on an e-bike, always charge the battery completely.

With a dead battery, I proceeded to pedal the Roketa ES-44 like a normal bicycle. It seemed to work until the chain completely broke off. Unfortunately I had to lug a 100 lb. e-bike for 6 miles until getting home.

This story gets even better. Knowing that this equipment will need repairs, I made plans to bring it back to Scooters Plus on my off-day.

However, I still had two more days of work and needed to use the bike. On Monday, the fully-charged bike will have to do on just throttle power.

Everything seemed good until I past the intersection of Central & Highland. Approaching the University of Memphis, the tail end of the bike started to sink. In short, the tire had a flat. Interestingly enough, the air cap was missing, even though it was never removed by myself.

Thus, I couldn’t bear to keep this thing much longer in its current condition. I hoped to return it back to Scooters Plus.

Bad news was I couldn’t get a refund. Despite my issues, the store was unwilling to take it back because of their policy. However they told me  that they could repair it or replace it with the same thing without any costs because of the 90 day warranty.

I wanted my money back, but instead I am stuck with a faulty e-bike and have to wait until a few more days for it to be “fixed.”

The lessons learned from this experience are not buying anything from stores with return policies like Scooters Plus, not buying cheap Chinese e-bikes, and getting e-bikes that don’t look like scooters.

Once the Roketa ES-44 is repaired, it is going to be sold. Despite the initial problems, it should look and run like new but I am sore over this whole experience.

Episode 11 – Reviewing The Old & New

cfor_thumb2In this episode of CFOR, Chris gives a first “retro” review of his first shortwave radio, the Worldstar MG-6100.

During the break, you’ll hear music from The Rope River Blues Band’s “I’m So Over God’s Horizon”

In Part 2, he comes back to the present to give impressions on the ever popular Tecsun PL-660. Also, listeners may hear a bit of news about Radio Exterior de Espana and Clear Channel Communications.

Chris breaks down the fine details about these two amazing radios in this podcast so sit back and enjoy.

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Episode 10 – How I Got Into Radio

cfor_thumbThis 10th episode of CFOR kicks off a brand-new season. In the starting entry into Season 2, Chris explains in depth on how he got interested in radio as a hobby. This extracurricular activity eventually compels him into pursuing it as a career.

Listeners also get a taste of “Sounds of Shortwave,” a cassette tape that cam packaged with a book titled, Listening to Shortwave. This book/tape from Radio Shack is one resource that helped Chris become more involved with shortwave radio.

For a written account, you can click here to learn more about how Chris got into radio.

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