Monday, May 18, 2020

Microsoft Office 365 for Mac Hung Updates

Last week I started having a problem with Microsoft Office 365 for Mac crashing when I tried to open one of its apps. I kept getting a message indicating that Outlook (or whatever) would open when an update completed. The app never did.

What was happening was that the Microsoft Office AutoUpdate app kept hanging. Here's what I had to do to fix it:

  1. Close any Office app that happened to be still open.
  2. Kill Microsoft AutoUpdate. You can do this with Activity Monitor or like I did, via the terminal.
    1. Open
    2. Do ps ax | grep Auto to find the PID
    3. Do sudo kill -9 <PID>
  3. Download the latest Microsoft AutoUpdate from here and ran it.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

HP Laptop First Impressions

I've been getting back into ham radio lately and have a trip upstate planned for Memorial Day weekend. The two friends I am going with are also hams, so one of the activities we like to do in the evening is off-grid communication practice.

My specific interest is in digital mode communications, which requires either a mobile device or a computer to connect to the radio and run various applications. For field ops in the past I've used an iPad and an MSI Wind netbook. I traded in the iPad a year or two ago and the netbook is ancient at this point (plus has a small 10" screen) so I wanted something better.

My normal computer is an Apple MacBook Pro. However, I am not enthused about bringing a $3,000 laptop into the field, plus it seems like a lot of ham apps are better supported on Windows or Linux.

So, Friday after work I went down to Microcenter and picked up an HP 15-ef1072nr 15.6" laptop running Windows 10 Home for $400. The specs are decent for the price, IMO:

  • Dual-core AMD Ryzen 2.6 GHz CPU
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 256 GB SSD
  • AMD Radeon 3 graphics

As expected, the hardware feels a lot cheaper than my MacBook Pro. The Mac's case is machined from billets of aluminum. The HP's case is plastic. The keyboard is mushy but usable. The screen is nowhere near that of the MacBook Pro. Overall, the HP is much lighter than the MBP, which is nice.

Battery life seems good. It was partially charged when I brought it home. I plugged it in while setting everything up but then rant it down to around 10% over the course of several hours with web browsing, YouTube, and email. I repeated that on Saturday and probably got a good 7 hours before it went into battery saver mode.

The huge trackpad on the current MacBook Pros really spoils you and it is missed on the HP.

The HP's space bar is annoying. Pressing it towards the right end doesn't do anything. I tend to press the space bar with my right hand so this is a PITA and hinders typing.

Of course, one of the things I had to do was get Windows updated. Compared with Apple's macOS updates, Windows Updates remains a major PITA with multiple reboots required. Overall, it takes a lot more time.

It has been quite awhile since I used a Windows PC for desktop computing although I ocassionally have to login to a Windows server at work so the UI isn't totally unfamiliar.

Anyway, after cleaning up some of the factory-installed bloatware I loaded a number of utilites to make life easier:

  • Notepad++ (In which I wrote most of this. On Mac, I use BBEdit.)
  • Piriform CCleaner
  • Piriform Speccy
  • Replaced the pre-loaded Office 365 with Office 2019 Pro Plus
  • Visio 2019
  • Google Chrome
  • iCloud for Windows so I can sync bookmarks with my Mac and iPhone
  • nmap
  • Wireshark
  • Windows Subsystem for Linux with Kali Linux installed
  • Signal
  • ZOC terminal

And these ham radio apps:

  • Fldigi
  • JS8Call
  • WSJT-X
  • Chirp (For programming my Icom 7200, Yaesu FT-817ND, and Baofeng HTs)

The two Apple applications I'll miss most when using the HP are Messages and Facetime, neither of which are supported on Windows.

Incidentally, Microcenter limited the number of people in the store at a time, you had to wear a mask, and before going inside you had your hands sprayed with sanitized by an employee. Also, they are not taking cash, only credit or debit cards.

Testing WSPR and a New Laptop

I picked up a cheap HP laptop at Microcenter on Friday to run ham radio apps on in the field. I'd rather not take my $3,000 MacBook Pro camping, plus it's a fact that a lot of ham radio apps are better supported in Windows. Should something bad happen, it'll be a lot easier to swallow with a $400 laptop.

Anyway, today I was configuring the HP to work with my Icom 7200 using Fldigi, JS8Call, and WSJT-X, and tried out transmitting using the latter in WSPR mode. The antenna was my Hawaii EARCH 40-6M end-fed, strung approximately horizontally out to my back fence. This is far from optimal.

I transmitted on WSPR at 50W a few times and checked propagation using WSPR Watch on my iPhone. Not bad.

Along with a couple friends I'm heaing up to Tioga Country next weekend. We're all hams and off-grid operations are on the list of activities. One thing I want to try is a random-length loop antenna using welding wire, connected to my antenna tuner using an LDG 4:1 balun. My friend did this a couple years ago and it worked great, allowing him to check in on a north PA/south NY 160M net.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

ATF Day 050320

Today I went to the range with the primary goal of zeroing the iron (plastic) sights on my Keltec CMR30 .22 WMR autoloader.

The CMR30 is a neat little rifle that weighs 3.8 lbs. unloaded. It fires .22 Magnum ammunition fed from a 30 round magazine located in the pistol grip. The receiver is an aluminum extrusion with Picatinny rails on top and bottom, in front of the trigger guard. The top rail is fitted by the factory with Magpul MBUS sights.

When Keltec announced it several years ago it immediately piqued my interest as a potential PDW that would be very compact, light, and reasonably effective for recoil-sensitive shooters. I finally picked one up last year in trade.

I've had the CMR30 out to a friend's place a couple times. It was in need of zeroing, which I finally did today at my rod and gun club.

I first put it on paper at 25 yards offhand and the fine tuned the zero at 50 from the bench. It's shooting about an inch high at 50 with either CCI 40 grain Maxi Mag FMJs or Federal 50 grain Game Shock JHPs.

I didn't take any pictures of the groups because, frankly they sucked. I attribute this to my not being able to easily focus on the front sight. When shouldered, the front sight is right at the distance where my almost 52 y/o eyes start to lose their ability to focus.

I did bring a Bushnell Trophy red dot with me and intended to mount it after zeroing the irons. Unfortunately, the Bushnell rings are intended for Weaver mounts and weren't compatible with the M1913 Picatinny rail of the CMR30.

After shooting the rifle the last time I field stripped, cleaned, and lubricated it with FP10. In spite of that, I had some reliability issues.

Specifically, on many magazines the second round down had a bolt-over-base failure to feed. Racking the action fed the round into the chamber and the rest of the cartridges fed OK. Keltec recommends using 40 grain or heavier ammo but I don't think the malfunctions were ammo induced. This didn't start happening until after about 50 rounds were down the pipe so I think it was a fouling or lubrication issue.

Another thing I noticed today (and which I experienced before) is that it spits unburned powder grains out of the ejection port. Right handed shooters may not notice this but as a lefty it's a bit annoying. If you're going to shoot one of these portside, glasses are absolutely required.

Both the reliability issues and spitting from the ejection port mean that until they are remedied, I wouldn't rely on the gun for defense.

I'm going to try and come up with some sort of brass and gas deflector.

All told, I put 150 rounds through the CMR30 today.

Aside from the Keltec I also brought along my Ruger 50th Anniversary Blackhawk .357 Magnum. I put a few cylinders full through it at a 25 yard paper target, and some at 50 yard steel. Once I got the elevation figured out I was able to regularly bang a ~12" gong shooting two hands, offhand at 50 yards.

The ammo I shot in the Blackhawk were some of my .38 Special +P handloads, with a 178 grain Keith SWC on top of 5.2 grains of Unique.

After getting home I relaxed out back with a Yuengling Black and Tan beer and a San Cristobal Quintessen cigar.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Got in some shooting and ham radio today

I was able to get to the range today. My rod and gun club remains open and IMNSHO, an outdoor range is the perfect place to engage in some socially distant outdoors activity.

First up was my Uberti Bisley in .44-40. Uberti has taken to putting extra tall front sights on their single actions which is nice, because it allows you to file it to zero because it will almost certainly shoot low, as mine did.

Before leaving the house I used Dillon's online Sight Correction Calculator. First you need to measure your sight radius, then plug in how far off the point of impact is at a particular range. It will then tell you how far you need to move the sights, or in the case of my gun, how much to remove off the front sight to raise the point of impact so it coincides with the point of aim.

Whenever you're zeroing a gun's sights with a file, take it slow. It's easy to remove metal but hard to put it back.

Anyway, I filed the front sight at home and when I got to the range, found that it shot a little high at 25 yards with my handloads with an AM 43-215C 219 grain bullet on top of 7.0 grains of Universal. However, it was dead on with a 200 grain bullet on top of 7.8 grains of Unique. I'm going to leave it as-is.

Now I just need to hit the top of the front sight with some cold blue, and then the back face of it with high-viz green paint.

After shooting the Bisley I moved to the 50 yard line and shot 50 rounds through my Uberti Yellowboy in .38-40. These were black powder handloads consisting of a 180 grain RNFP from, a dental wax lube cookie, and 1.9cc (~30 grains of Swiss 3Fg), and a CCI large pistol primer in Starline brass.

Unfortunately, it's not an accurate load. At all. Groups were about 6" at 50 yards from the bench, which is terrible. I shot the final 30 shots at the steel gongs at 50 yards, hitting more than I missed. I need to bench the 7.8 grains of Unique load I tried last weekend.

On the bright side, cleanup of the black powder load was quick and easy. The bullets I used don't carry a lot of lube but the dental wax cookie seemed to keep the fouling soft. It only took about 10 wet patches until the bore was clean.

After getting home, smoking a Bacarrat Rothschild cigar and drinking a Yuengling Black & Tan, I hoisted my Hawaii EARCHI 40 - 6M end-fed antenna on my 30' Jackite pole to try and join an Arfcom 40m emergency communications drill.

The net was difficult because of the noise floor. After awhile I decided to change over to 40M JS8Call. Per, I'm getting decent propagation into the East Coast and midwest, and have even been heard as far away as Arizona, Portugal, and France.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Thoughts on Picking a .22 Handgun for the Lady of the House

Over on Bushcraft USA, the topic of picking a .22 LR handgun for a member's wife came up. The member's wife is adamant that she doesn't want anything larger than a .22. He was asking for input so I offered these thoughts:

First off, if at all possible get her to a gun store and let her handle a few different guns, to see which one is most comfortable for her. If you can rent some and shoot them, all the better.

Secondly, compact rimfire double action revolvers have hard trigger pulls which makes shooting them accurately much more difficult. This includes S&W J-Frames and Ruger LCRs in .22. (The one LCR I handled in .38 Special had a nice trigger.)
Thirdly, compact DA revolvers in general are tough to shoot well without proper training and a lot of practice. They are often recommended for women because they are small. But between the heavy triggers on the .22s and their general difficulty to shoot accurately -- which is doubly important with a .22 -- they are most often a very poor choice for the ladies, unless they have greater than normal hand strength and are willing to practice a lot.

Compact .22 autoloaders tend to have better triggers and are in general easier to shoot than .22 snubbies. They usually hold more rounds, as well. A good example is the Ruger SR22. I picked one up a couple years ago. My now-15 y/o daughter took to it immediately and shoots it well. It is a DA/SA semiautomatic pistol that uses 10 round magazines. It's very light and has a rail under the dust cover that allows easy mounting of a weapon light or a laser. Mine has been very reliable.

If relying on a .22 for defense ammo is critical for reliability. In my experience, CCI .22 LR is the most reliable. Bulk pack .22s give the most ignition problems. My choice for .22 LR defensive use would be CCI Mini Mag solids, for best reliability and penetration.
Keep the gun clean and properly lubed with particular attention to the firing pin channel, and feed it high quality ammo, and it will serve well for defense.

He also noted that she might consider a Ruger PCC Charger in 9mm, to which I replied:

If for some reason she won't go for the Charger version of the 9mm carbine, Ruger makes the 10/22 Charger. Setup as you suggested and with a Ruger BX-25, 25-round mag, that would make a formidable defensive weapon.

.22 LR is far from ideal as a defensive round but it beats harsh language and provides people who for whatever reason cannot handle a larger cartridge a means of self defense.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Paul Harrell : Top Tips for Pandemic Gun Buyers Video

This video is a good list of tips for people new to gun ownership.

His first tip in particular is especially valuable: Be skeptical of anyone promoting themself as an authority and giving you advice.

NOTE: The video title says that it's a list of 10 tips. It's really 5 plus a bonus. He acknowledged this in a pinned comment.

For what it's worth, I've recently started watching Paul's videos. He is not tacticool but served 20 years in the USMC and US Army as a marksmanship instructor and light infantryman, and was involved in a defensive gun usage in which he survived and the other guy didn't.