Thursday, September 30, 2004

Why I'm not enthusiastic about Bush

Since I've recently taken shots at Kerry, I might as well explain why I'm not thrilled with Bush:
  • He said he'd sign an extension to the late Assault Weapons Ban if it reached his desk.
  • Consolidation of a number of Federal agencies into the Dept. of Homeland Security.
  • Federalizing airline security workers into the TSA. WTF?
  • The PATRIOT Act.
  • Signing the McCain-Feingold "Campaign Finance Reform" (AKA Incumbent Protection Act) even after saying that it was probably unconstitutional (passing the buck to SCOTUS, which in turn dropped the ball).
  • Not sacking a bunch of neo-cons after they mismanaged the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
That said, he's still not as bad as Kerry.

Ack!

If you tried to read this blog between about 1430 - 1450 EST today you probably got a bunch of gibberish. I was attempting to add some links in my right pane and something got mangled.

We now return you to your regular programming.

Heinlein said it well

If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for ... but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.

--in "The Notebooks of Lazarus Long," in his masterpiece Time Enough For Love.

This is why, although I am far from pleased with the job W has been doing as president, I will cast my vote for him come November. Really, I'll be voting against Kerry. There is no way in hell I could vote for a man who:
  • Has what, a 20% attendance record at his current job?
  • Despite his recent protests, is an inimitable foe of the Second Amendment.
  • Waffles his position on every issue.
  • While a commissioned officer in the USNR met with enemy officials in war time.
  • Defamed American servicemen wholesale in sworn testimony to Congress.
  • Would make American interests subordinate to those of the UN.

What handgun are you?

Well, according to one source, I'm a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum.

(Image edited out 'cause it FUBARed my formatting.)

"Smith & Wessen .44 Magnum. You are old school. Fat
Sheriff Deputies fancy you. Reliable but not too practical."

What handgun are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Actually, I prefer the K-Frame Model 15 Combat Masterpiece .38 Special, or the Model 625 .45 ACP if an N-Frame. Both are more pleasant to shoot and more practical.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Sad news

Upon checking my email when I got home tonight I heard the sad news that fellow Daynoter Mike Barkman has passed away.

My deepest condolences go out to his family. May he rest in peace.

Lycoris picks up e-Smith SME Server

Long-time readers (all four of you) will know that I run the mail server for Building-Tux.com on e-Smith SME Server. In a nutshell, SME is a Red Hat-derivative that in about 15 minutes lets you take a whitebox PC and turn it into the functional equivalent of a Cobalt Qube, complete with POP/IMAP/SMTP for email, DNS, DHCP, firewalling/router functionality, and file/print services. It's been rock solid for me. The current uptime on mail.building-tux.com is 249 days. Likewise, an e-Smith box that I setup purely as a file server for a client just sits there and runs, with extended power failures being the only cause of downtime.

Last year, Mitel, the company which owned the commercial version of e-Smith spun off the unsupported version, which was hosted at Contribs.org. Not much has happened with the free version of the platform since then.

So, it was good to hear that the moribund e-Smith was bought by Lycoris. Hopefully, this will cause more folks to give it a shot. I hope it takes off.

Powerpoint

Up until today I've avoided ever creating anything in Powerpoint, although I have of course viewed more than my fair share of PPT presentations. I've never cared for PPT, due to the same sorts of things discussed in "Powerpoint Makes You Dumb."

My avoidance of PPT ended this morning, when my boss asked me to create a presentation on (a) why we need to affiliate with a domain registrar, and (b) who I think we should choose. Ah, well.

It took me an hour or so to whip up a draft PPT presentation with about 30 slides. It's easy to use, which is one reason why it's so popular. I'll go back and look at my draft again either later today or tomorrow morning, then send it to my boss for approval.


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Jeanne

It may not be all that much compared with what the folks down in Florida have been dealing with, but starting this afternoon, Jeanne took a big dump on the Philadelphia area. My street was completely submerged for about an hour; asphalt is just peeking through now. We got a fair amount of amusement watching some of the neighborhood kids raft down it.

A few minutes ago I spoke with a friend who picks up the train for his daily commute into center city Philadelphia at SEPTA's Miquon station. I'd offered to come get him in my Expedition, but the station is at a low elevation down near the Schuykill River and apparently it's waist-deep. So, with everyone else, he's getting back on the train and they'll go to another station where somebody will be able to pick him up.

Divorced men...

Whoa.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Zonked

I am still taking Benadryl to cope with the itching from the damn poison ivy, so I'm a bit zonked out today. I took a half day since I wasn't being all that productive anyway. I may or may not post again later today.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Poison Ivy

For the last week or so I've had a case of poison ivy, which has been driving me up the wall. It's on my forearms and ankles/feet. I've been taking Benadryl and using a hydrocortisone cream, both of which help to keep the itching under control most of the time. The Benadryl unfortunately is also causing me to walk around in a haze. Yesterday I started putting witch hazel on the rash a couple of times a day and that helps for a bit, too.

Today I went out to the drug store and bought a tube of Calagel, which included a trial size of tecnu, a cleanser meant for getting out the uroshial oil that causes the rash.

I also found this site, which has a lot of information on poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.

The funny (?) thing is I don't even know where I came into contact with the poison ivy.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Big Bad John

(I'm no Bush fanboy, but this hits the mark WRT to his opponent.)

Every mornin' on the Hill you could see him arrive
Standing six-foot-four, weighing one-twenty-five
Kinda' scrawny at the shoulders and lacking a spine
And when he spoke at all, it was mainly to whine
(Big John, Big John) Big Bad John

Nobody seems to know what's in John's soul
His 'beliefs' are based on the latest poll
'Though he'll say what it takes to get your votes
It's the leftist agenda that he really promotes - Big John.

Some one said he came from Boston town
Where he joined the Navy and gained renown
'Earning' three purple hearts and one bronze star
The home folks said, "This boy will go far"
(Big John, Big John) Big Bad John (Big John)

Then came a day back in '71
When he renounced all the medals that he had won
Then turned against his country and his Navy friends
And sold them out for his own selfish ends (Big John)

He appeared before Congress and on left-wing talk shows
Giving aid and comfort to America's foes
It was clear to see whose side he was on
Some say he helped cause the fall of Saigon - Big John
(Big John, Big John) Big Bad John (Big John)

He claims to be for the working poor
Yet he owns 5 mansions from shore to shore
He never had to work a day in his life
'cause he learned it helps to have a wealthy wife! - Big John

Now he wants to be our next President
and Commander-in-chief of those he resents:
The American soldiers who fight and die
To give him the freedom to tell us his lies
(Big John, Big John) Big Bad John (Big John)

Thousands have sacrificed their young lives
To help ensure that our nation survives
A vote for Kerry is a slap in the face
To all the brave soldiers that he's disgraced
FADE (Big John, Big John) Big Bad John (Big John)

--Unknown

This just doesn't make sense

By now you no doubt are aware that former pop star Yusef Islam, nee Cat Stevens, was denied entry into the US due to alleged links with terrorists. What I want to know is if he indeed has such links, why wasn't he arrested instead of deported???? If he has links he could be a source of intelligence.

The whole affair is just bizarre.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Damn disgrace

Tonight was back to school night in Philly, where my wife teaches 4th grade. Her school is predominately poor, predominatly black, North Philadelphia. She has 32 kids in her class (which in and of itself is a disgrace but not the subject of this rant).

Out of 32 kids, how many of them had their parents attend tonight?

Four.

That is a damn disgrace, but it's pretty much the same story every year.

There is more to being a parent than popping out kids and letting the gummint send you a welfare check. But the dysfunctional culture that has been fostered in areas like where my wife teaches discourages stable families. A large part of this can be laid at the feet of LBJ's "Great Society," which may have been noble in intent but the unintended consequences totally fucked up a large portion of our society. By making mothers ineligble to receive welfare payments if the father was around, the social welfare types broke up a lot of families, and once broken, the odds of the next generation forming stable families was pretty much shot. It's a self-perpetuating cycle, creating more and more wards of the state, even when those wards are adults. This cycle started before the welfare reform of the '90s but hasn't been broken.

Compounding that is popular urban culture, which doesn't hold learning in high regard, the War On (Some) Drugs that incarcerates a huge chunk of black American males, and no wonder the current situation exists.

There is no easy fix, but a good start would be to get rid of the current version of Prohibition. At least that way a lot of these kids' fathers would be in the neighborhood instead of in prison. As for instilling a sense of parental responsibility, that I have no idea how to do.

A horse is not a vehicle in Pennsylvania

...at least according to the PA Supreme Court. However, Justice Michael Eakin dissented, thusly:

"A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
but the Vehicle Code does not divorce
its application from, perforce,
a steed as my colleagues said.

"'It's not vague,' I'll say until I'm hoarse,
and whether a car, a truck or horse
this law applies with equal force,
and I'd reverse instead."

Why the browser should not be part of the OS

From C|Net this morning:

Microsoft this week reiterated that it would keep the new version (more secure - DM) of Microsoft's IE Web browser available only as part of the recently released Windows XP operating system, Service Pack 2. The upgrade to XP from any previous Windows versions is $99 when ordered from Microsoft. Starting from scratch, the OS costs $199.

Microsoft pretty much has its users by the balls if they want to continue using Internet Explorer. It's actually too facile to just say, "Use Mozilla." Even if you run Mozilla -- either the full suite or just Firefox -- on Windows, IE is always present, since it's integrated into the OS. (99%+ of users aren't going to be able to install Win98 Lite.) So, the exploitable code is still there.

Nor is it realistic to say that everyone should upgrade to XP. First, it costs money that many don't have. Many older PCs that run Win 9x or 2K fine don't have enough horsepower to run XP. They may or may not be upgradeable, but if so, that still costs money. Finally, many businesses use applications that will not run properly on XP.

First, Microsoft used its monopoly to get 95%+ of Internet users to run IE, then abandons a huge chunk of them. Nice ethics. This is exactly the kind of conduct which shows why an appplication should not be part of the base OS. It's also a good argument for open source -- if the source was available, it's more than likely that someone would come up with fixes for IE's security flaws, given the size of the installed base.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Windows XP SP2 CD

Today's mail brought the XP SP2 CD that I ordered a couple of weeks ago from Microsoft. MS wants everyone to install SP2 so badly, they're sending out the CDs for free, and encouraging you to share it with your friends.

MS is also suggesting that before you install SP2, you go to http://www.microsoft.com/sp2install "for latest recommendations."

Vendor follies

A big portion of my job involves dealing with outside vendors who are looking to sell us their products or services. The vendors run from being really on the ball to complete idiots, and the area in between.

For example, one rather large web hosting company is interested in having us partner with them for the hosting we outsource for our commercial customers. They were supposed to get me a demo account so I could login and try out their online control panel, site creation wizard, etc. Their VP of Sales called me this morning to see if I'd tried them out yet, and I had to inform him that no, I hadn't received the account info. It's possible that my employer's spam filters blocked the email but I kinda doubt it. Anyway, I had them resend the info to my Gmail address, and finally got it.

Another vendor, this one a domain registrar, called me yesterday to follow up on a conference call we had last week. I was first told to inquire about their solutions a month or so ago, and sent off an email requesting info. I didn't hear anything from them for a few weeks, which is not cool. (I don't normally refer to my employer by name. Hint: it's a BIG cable company and ISP.) When we finally had a conference call with the vendor, they couldn't meet a number of our requirements without bringing in a third party.

I don't know about you, but I'm not interested in having my outsourced vendor outsource something to yet another party in order to meet a requirement for something they should be able to handle itself.

So when this guy called me back yesterday I was not favorably disposed towards his company after having to tell him several times that no, I am not ready for another conference call, and I'll call or email him if I want any more info. High pressure sales tactics do not work with me.

In contrast to this wanker, I had a very pleasant experience dealing with another domain registrar. They responded to my initial email promptly, met 100% of our requirements right off the bat, and set me up with a demo account which includes a web page control center that they already co-branded for me. Instead of trying high pressure sales tactics, they sought to meet and exceed our expectations. That, folks, is how you make a sale, and that's why I've strongly recommended to the PTB here that we go with them.



Jean Luc Picard???

Umm, ok.

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

I do want to point out that I have much better hair.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

AR-15 Ergonomics

One of the best features about the AR-15 rifle is the generally excellent ergonomics. If you are a righty, the ergos are better than pretty much anything else available. If you are left-handed like me, however, there are a couple of things that can be tweaked to improve the ergos.

The stock AR-15 safety/selector switch is perfectly positioned to be operated by the right thumb of a RH shooter. However, there's no corresponding lever for us southpaws, unless you add an aftermarket part. Both ArmaLite and DPMS sell ambidextrous safeties for AR-15s. Since the DPMS unit is about $10 cheaper, I ordered one this afternoon. I was pleasantly surpised to see that UPS Ground shipping is included in the $29.95 price.

The other items that need to be fixed for lefties are the magazine catch and bolt release. However, I find the bolt release easy to release with my left index finger, and I can deal with using my right hand to release the magazine. Buffer Technologies does sell an ambidextrous mag catch, for those who want one, though.

Juror summons

When I got home yesterday and checked my mail I saw a juror summons from Montgomery County in with the latest issue of Network World and my normal junk mail. Most people dread being summoned for jury duty but I'm looking forward to it.

The jury is a keystone of our justice system. If one is charge with a crime, jurors are the (hopefully) impartial authority judging one's guilt in a tripartite system made up of two state elements -- the judge and prosecutor, and one non-state element, the jury. As such, jurors can serve as a valuable check against state abuse of the system.

In civil matters the juror's role is also important, as an impartial (again, hopefully) arbiter between plaintiff and defendant. Personally, I'd rather have my case -- whether as plaintiff or defendant -- decided by a group of my peers than by a single judge, who's mood often depends on what he had for breakfast.

Serving on a jury is one's civic duty. Having educated jurors is essential to the proper functioning of the system and safeguarding the rights of our citizens. Instead of being a burden, jury duty should be regarded as an honor.

If I get on a jury I'll be surprised, though. As long-time readers know, before I became a professional geek I was a practicing attorney, and I've maintained my law license. So, I expect that if I'm called, I'll be excused during voire dire (jury selection).

I would like to serve, though.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Let them eat crow

From Reuters:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - In a blow to its credibility, CBS News said on Monday it had been misled over the authenticity of documents it aired in a story challenging President Bush's military service and announced it was mounting an internal investigation.

"Based on what we now know, CBS News cannot prove that the documents are authentic, which is the only acceptable journalistic standard to justify using them in a report," CBS News said in a statement.

It's about time that CBS fessed up. What a bunch of partisan a-holes.

Not an auspicious start to the day

As I was walking through Suburban Station this morning on my way into the office, I realized that I'd left my access card at home. Crap. So, I had to go to the lobby reception desk and get a visitor's pass for the day, and once I got upstairs, had to wait until someone else got here so that I could get in.

I can tell this Monday is going to be a PITA.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Valley Forge Gun Show

Let me first get this out of my system: ARRRRGGGHHH!!!! Yup, it's National Talk Like a Pirate Day today. :-)

Ok. Yesterday I braved torrential rain leftover from Hurricane Ivan and a huge crowd and hit the gun show in Valley Forge. This was the first show in the area since the sunset of the AWB, so I expected it to be mobbed. It was, despite the foul weather.

I noticed several vendors selling Tapco's AK folding stocks for $50 - $55 each. Regular price from Tapco is $49.99. I also saw some no-ban configured AR-15s from Olympic Arms and Bushmaster in the $750 - $850 range.

No new guns came home with me (the Colt I picked up Tuesday tapped me out for the time being), but I did pick up a few things:
  • One vendor had a very good price on a Butler Creek folding stock for my Mini-14. Aside from folding, it's quite comfortable and the pistol grip includes a storage compartment. I'll be able to stow a small cleaning kit in there.
  • A USGI M-16 silent sling for my AR-15.
  • A SureFire G2 Nitrolon flashlight in OD, again from a vendor with a good price. It's a little bigger than a 2-AA cell penlight but quite a bit brighter than my 4-D cell Maglite. It uses lithium cells, which have about a 10 year shelf life.
  • A .50 caliber ammo can in excellent shape.
  • A couple of NRA stickers.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Holy cabling job

I just sat down and reviewed the marked up floor plan my client sent me showing where they need LAN and telephone drops. The job is about twice as large as we'd been led to believe.

This is a Good Thing. :-D

Nice feedback

Mail like this makes writing this blog worthwhile:

Dave,

If you have any of the gmail invites left over, I would appreciate one.

My daughter (grown lady at this point) and I recently started (in my case restarted) shooting and I'm rediscovering the fun in putting holes in paper with my old S&W 38 Special and newer Colt clone 38 Super. This is largely due to your consistent sharing of your firearms enthusiasm. Thanks!

Frank F.
You're very welcome!

And ofr my other readers, I still have a few Gmail invites left. If you want one, email your request to davemarkowitz [at] gmail.com



Thursday, September 16, 2004

AR-15A3 & AK Range Report

First off, L'Shana Tovah (Happy New Year) to my Jewish readers.

I took today off and went to the Water & Wings range with my Colt AR-15A3 carbine, Saiga AK, and my Ruger Police Service Six. Due to time limitations, I didn't get a chance to shoot the Ruger.

I started off with the AR-15, which I bought Monday night in celebration of the sunset of the Clinton/Feinstein Assault Weapons Ban. It's a police trade-in gun made after 9/14/04, so until 12:01 AM this past Monday, this rifle would've been illegal for me to possess. With the sunset of the AWB, I can now possess a semiautomatic rifle which accepts detachable box magazines, and has a flash hider and collapsable stock.

The AR-15A3 came with a 16.1" heavy barrel, with a 1:9" twist. This will allow it to accurately shoot bullets up to about 65 or 70 grains in weight.

I stapled some paper plates (my favorite cheap target) to the frame at 50 yards. This was the furthest I shot today; longer ranges will need to wait. After loading the 20 round magazine with 5 Winchester .223 55 grain FMJ-BT loads from a 50 round value pack, I shot a group from the bench. It was little off to the left and about 1.25" in diameter. The carbine's short sight radius and somewhat stiff trigger prevented me from getting a smaller group. I'm sure the carbine is capable of MOA accuracy or better.

The Colt digest 100 rounds of the Winchester value pack 55 grainers without a hitch. My brother Josh accompanied me today, and he ran ~40 - 60 Federal American Eagle 55 grain FMJ-BT rounds though the gun, also without any problems. The last load I tried in the gun was Wolf 55 grain JHP. This is the "new" Wolf ammo, with gray polymer coated steel cases. It's considerably cheaper than American .223, so I like it for practice in my Mini-14, which eats it like candy. So, I was hoping that the Colt would like Wolf ammo as well.

Unfortunately, I got about 3 or 4 bolt over base failures to feed with the Wolf. It's loaded noticeably less powerful than the Winchester or Federal rounds, which may have contributed to the malfs. So, Wolf is good only as range ammo in my AR-15, although it did give me a chance to practice malfunction drills.

Overall, I am very happy with the Colt AR-15A3 Carbine. I'll be ordering an ambidextous safety, and looking into mounting a red dot sight.

I put about 80 rounds through the Saiga AK, which had been converted from a Saiga Sporter to an AK-103 clone by Hesse. After the first 140 rounds I put through the gun the fire control parts started to peen and cause malfs, so earlier this year I installed a Tapco G2 fire control group. Function is now 100% with 20 and 30 round mags.

This morning I was able to pick up the Tapco side folding stock I ordered last week, and which was waiting for me at the post office. It took me about 10 minutes to install this morning, including the time it took to remove the old shoulder stock. The folding stock seems well made, out of some kind of plastic, and is clearly marked with a "USA", so it can be used as a 922(r) compliance part. It's comfortable when shouldered. The one glitch I ran into is that the Galil-styled hinge mechanism is on the right side. I'm left handed, and when I shoot it bumps into my nose. Recoil with this rifle is very mild due to an AK-74 style muzzle brake, so it didn't bother me too much.

Today I brought my Romanian 75 round drum out for the first time. I only ran 20 rounds through it and had one bolt over base FTF. I'm not sure if it was ammo or magazine induced. After emptying the drum I switched over to the 20 round Hungarian AMD mag that I normally keep in the gun when it's in my closet. Aside from possible functioning problems, the drum makes the rifle awkward to hold. It's main purpose for me is to spite gun banners. :)

The 7.62x39 ammo I had with me today was Russian-made Sapsan 123 grain JHP. So far, I've shot up about 100 - 120 rounds of the stuff and it works fine. It's similar to Wolf, with lacquer coated steel case, but the powder fumes don't seem to stink as bad.

It was EBR day at Water & Wings, apparently. Aside from my two rifles, Josh had his post-ban Bushmaster XM-15 carbine, and a couple of other guys were there with ARs. In fact, one of them was a (formerly) LEO/military/export-only ArmaLite A2 carbine bought earlier this week at Surplus City, where I got my Colt.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Yahoo! Hotspot Locator

I just noticed that Yahoo! Maps now allows you to search for WiFi hotspots in a particular area. You can also search for other stuff like ATMs, for example.

Nice!

Microsoft e-mail proposal dealt setback

Internet engineers working on a standard for identifying the source of e-mail messages voted down a proposal by Microsoft to make some of the company's intellectual property a mandatory part of the solution.

On Saturday, a co-chair of the technical working group responsible for developing a standard for authenticating the origin of e-mail messages summarized the results of a vote by the group members. The group--part of the Internet Engineering Task Force and more formally known as the MTA Authorization Records in DNS, or MARID, working group--decided that Microsoft's insistence on keeping secret a possible patent application on its proposed technology was unacceptable.

More here.


Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Colt AR-15A3 Tactical Carbine

I went up to Surplus City tonight and picked up a Colt AR-15A3 Tactical carbine.

Apparently, Colt will not be selling any AR-15s in no-ban configuration to Joe Citizen, so this rifle will probably keep or increase its value (not that I plan on selling it).

Mine's a police trade-in but in excellent shape. Rob, the owner, told me that he sold ~20 of these today, along with a number of Colt ARs in 9mm. He also had a bunch of Mini-14 GBs with standard cap mags, and Ruger PC-40 carbines with normal mags.

A couple of really crappy pics of my rifle are at:

http://www.building-tux.com/images/AR15A3.jpg

http://www.building-tux.com/images/AR15A3_LEO_only.jpg

Cost? Maybe too much, but you only live once and I wanted to get one while the getting was good.

I'm taking a day off on Thursday and will post a range report.

Back to Mozilla 1.7

I've gone back to running the full Mozilla Suite, version 1.7.3, on my Dell laptop. It seems more stable and responsive than Firefox/Thunderbird. YMMV.

Gmail invites

I have 6 Gmail invites. First come, first served. If you want one, email me at davemarkowitz @ gmail.com.

Feedback on the gun thing

Not that I'm anti-guns, but I live in a country where we aren't allowed them, with the small exception of hunting type shotguns, underwhich very strict licensing exists (including inspection of where they're kept by an officer of the law).

The biggest difference I can think of, certainly in society here, between cars and guns is that while cars can be misused to cause harm, they are by and large useful things.

Guns however are much much less so. Sure, in certain situations they are useful, but by and large day to day, I don't think to myself "Boy, wish I had a gun".

That said, society over here is different. I've not had a gun, so don't miss it.

The above comment was posted yesterday by an anonymous reader. I'm reposting it here to address his points.

Guns, by and large, are "useful things." Americans use firearms over a million times each year to thwart a crime. The vast majority of the time, the gun isn't even fired. Merely brandishing it at the criminal convinces him that being somewhere else would be more healthy.

Cars are misused in the US much more frequently than guns. Two words: drunk driving.

I may not a need a firearms every day to defend myself, but if I do need it, I need it. Just like fire insurance on my house. Additionally, the fact that a population is armed is a deterrent to tyrannical government and genocide.

Aside from these serious uses for firearms, they have plenty of recreational uses. There are many different kinds of competitive shooting sports, many of which are Olympic events. There's informal target shooting. There is hunting, both for subsistence and recreation. In Pennsylvania alone there are over 1 million deer hunters. Deer hunting is such a part of Pennsylvania's culture that much of the state shuts down on opening day of buck season. (Just think of the impact on the economy if the sales of hunting-related equipment ceased.)

Whole Lotta Moz

The folks over at Mozilla have been working hard and it shows. Today, they released new versions of all three of their major projects, Mozilla 1.7.3, MozillaFirefox 1.0PR, and MozillaThunderbird 0.8.

You know what to do.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Bye bye, Nextel

I finally got rid of my company-issued Nextel phone today. I had the same number since I started on 10/9/00. Since I transferred to my new job, I've used it exactly twice, so my boss was ok with me turning it in. I have a personal Verizon cell phone that I can use during one of my infrequent excursions from the office. I was tired of carrying around two cell phones.

I'll have had the Verizon phone for two years this December, so I've had a good chance to try them and Nextel side-by-side. IMHO, Verizon wins hands-down. They have much better network coverage, at least in my area. I always thought that Nextel's Direct Connect was a stupid gimmick, anyway. The clarity of the walkie-talkie feature was never as good as a regular telephone connection. The walkie-talkie feature's only advantage was that since the calls never left Nextel's own network they gave you unlimited minutes. If Nextel wanted to, it would be easy enough to just give you unlimited in-network phone calls. AAMOF, Verizon started doing just that within the last year or two.

DING DONG THE BAN IS DEAD!

As of September 13, 2004, the provisions of Public Law 103-322, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, covering semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices are no longer in effect. The regulations implementing these provisions also are no longer in effect.

Specifically, there is no longer a Federal prohibition on the manufacture, transfer, and possession of semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices.


Source: http://www.atf.gov/firearms/saw-factsheet.htm

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Three years ago

It was three years ago today that Al Qaeda terrorists attacked the USA. People keep referring to the attack as a "tragedy." No. It would have been a tragedy had an airplane accidentally flown into the WTC or the Pentagon. What happened on 9/11/01 was an atrocity.

We may not have captured OBL but we've got him and his followers on the run (those who aren't worm food yet, anyway). We've gotten rid of one middle eastern despot who aided and abetted terrorists (don't forget Hussein paid $25K to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers), and we've got one other terrorist sponsoring state -- Iran -- surrounded and feeling the heat. Moreover, we're drawing a lot of radical Muslim terrorists from their hidey holes to Iraq and killing them there, rather than in Downtown, USA. We may have a long way to go before we stamp out radical Muslim terrorism, but we've made good progress in only three years. This isn't going to be some quick in and out job, it needs a long term commitment.

Client visit

This morning I did my quarterly visit to one of my clients. While there, I installed the latest Critical Hotfix for their Windows 2003 file server, plus updated versions of imlib and the Linux kernel on their SuSE 9.0 mail server. I wanted to install an updated version of CommuniGate Pro, but ran into dependency problems. So, it looks like I'll be upgrading the box to SuSE 9.1 in the next month or so.

After finishing at their office, I went and did a site survey at the new building they are moving into within the next month. The new office space will be less spread out than their current layout, which will faciliate running new Ethernet and telephone cables. We'll have to punch through one cinder block wall and then run some LAN and phone cabling along the baseboards in part of the new site, however. That part of the building is being converted into workspace from warehouse space, and has a commensurately high ceiling. It'l be a lot easier (not to mention safer for us) to run it near the floor than twenty or so feet up in the rafters.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Jewish Haiku

After the warm rain
the sweet smell of camellias.
Did you wipe your feet?
*****
Her lips near my ear,
Aunt Sadie whispers the name
of her friend's disease.
*****
Looking for pink buds
to prune, the old moyel
wanders among his flowers.
*****
Today I am a man.
Tomorrow I will return
to the seventh grade.
*****
Harsh Scrabble discord--
someone has placed "putzhead" on
a triple word score.
*****
Testing the warm milk
on her wrist, she sighs softly.
But her son is forty.
*****
The sparkling blue sea
reminds me to wait an hour
after my sandwich.
*****
Tea ceremony--
fragrant steam perfumes the air.
Try the cheese Danish.
*****
Lacking fins or tail
the gefilte fish swims with
great difficulty.
*****
Yom Kippur-- Forgive
me, Lord, for the Mercedes
and all that lobster.
*****
My nature journal --
today, I saw some trees and birds.
I should know the names?
*****
Like a bonsai tree,
your terrible posture at
my dinner table.
*****
Beyond Valium
the peace of knowing one's child
is an internist.
*****
Jews on safari --
map, compass, elephant gun,
hard sucking candies.
*****
Coroner's report --
"The deceased, wearing no hat,
caught his death of cold."
*****
The same kimono
the top geishas are wearing:
got it at Loehmann's.
*****
The sparrow brings home
too many worms for her young.
"Force yourself," she chirps.
*****
Jewish triathlon:
gin rummy, then contract bridge,
followed by a nap.
*****
"Can't you just leave it?"
the new Jewish mother asks -
umbilical cord.
*****
The shivah visit:
so sorry about your loss.
Now back to my problems.
*****
Our youngest daughter,
our most precious jewel.
Hence the name, Tiffany.
*****
Mom, please! There is no
need to put that dinner roll
in your pocketbook.
*****
Seven-foot Jews in
the NBA slam-dunking!
My alarm clock rings.
*****
Concert of car horns
as we debate the question
of when to change lanes.
*****
Sorry I'm not home
to take your call. At the tone
please state your bad news
*****
Is one Nobel Prize
so much to ask from a child
after all I've done?
*****
Today, mild shvitzing.
Tomorrow, so hot you'll plotz.
Five-day forecast: feh
*****
Left the door open.
for the Prophet Elijah.
Now our cat is gone.
*****
Yenta. Shmeer. Gevalt.
Shlemiel. Shlimazl. Tochis.
Oy! To be fluent!
*****
Quietly murmured
at Saturday services,
Yanks 5, Red Sox 3.
*****
A lovely nose ring --
excuse me while I put my
head in the oven.
*****
Hard to tell under
the lights--white Yarmulke or
male-pattern baldness

A better approach

Chaska, MN is a city offering wireless broadband Internet access to its residents. Unlike the proposed plan for Philly, in which the service would be free, Chaska.net charges for its service; $15.99/month for residential customer and $24.99/month for businesses. The city is using its access to things like utility polls and their water tower to reduce costs.

Should Philly go ahead with this free plan, it's going to come to be regarded as yet another "entitlement," which is the last thing this cash-strapped city needs.

Chicago Mayor Unveils Surveillance Plan

Chicago Mayor Unveils Surveillance Plan: "Chicago Mayor Unveils Surveillance Plan

By TARA BURGHART Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO (AP) - More than 2,000 surveillance cameras in public places would be tied in to a network that would use sophisticated software to spot emergencies or suspicious behavior under a plan announced Thursday by Mayor Richard Daley.

'Cameras are the equivalent of hundreds of sets of eyes. They are the next best thing to having police officers stationed at every potential trouble spot,' Daley said.

Officials said the bulk of the cameras already are in use at O'Hare International Airport, on the city's transit lines and in public housing, parks and schools, along with 30 police are using to try to curb violent crime. An additional 250 surveillance cameras still to be bought will raise the number available to more than 2,000. Locations for the new cameras have not been determined."


Hello, Big Brother. As Kim duTiot notes, Daley is a turd. Actually, he's worse than that but i'll restrain myself, lest I burst a blood vessel.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

THR is back online!

My main online BBS haunt, The High Road, is back online after being down for a few days due to a Hurricane Frances induced power outage. Woo hoo!

Now, hopefully Ivan won't cause any further grief to the folks down in Florida.

Wireless testing

This afternoon I used the Netgear wireless 802.11g card (in .11b mode) and the NetNearU wireless router for my Internet access. The WAN port was connected to an unrestricted network, separate from our regular corporate LAN. Results were mixed.

Overall, connection speed was fine. I had several times where Thunderbird lost its connection to my mail server, though. I haven't pinned it down to the router, NIC, or XP yet.

I did not stress the connection much at all, rather, I just used it for web surfing and email. So, any of the components should have been able to handle the load without problems. I have the router configured to hand out only 4 IPs, so it's not like I had a bunch of freeloaders on the connection. Nor should signal be a problem, since my laptop and the router are only a couple of feet apart.

More testing to follow.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Foxnews: Congress Will Let AWB Die

Congress to Let Assault Weapons Ban Expire

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

WASHINGTON — Congress will not vote on an assault weapons ban due to expire Monday, Republican leaders said Wednesday, rejecting a last-ditch effort by supporters to renew it.

"I think the will of the American people is consistent with letting it expire, so it will expire," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (search), R-Tenn., told reporters.
Read the whole story here.

It's going to die, finally. I expect that we'll need to fight a renewal after the election, no matter who wins. But in the interim I'm celebrating -- I ordered a folding stock for my AK. :-)

Free Space Optics

I just got out of a meeting in which the topic of "free space optics" came up. We were discussing wireless ways to get from our network to a customer who for whatever reason, we can't run coax to. FSO is apparently one of the options we're looking at. In essence, FSO allows you to transmit high bandwidth via lasers over a range of about 500M to 1Km. It's an alternative to radio, and operates in an unlicensed portion of the EM spectrum.

Pretty neat.

Test

Testing, testing.

Problems

Jeezus. It took about 3 hours for me to be able to get my last post up. I kept getting Blogger errors. I'm going to try the post-by-email feature to see if I can avoid further instances of this.

Laptop updates

I switched over my Dell laptop to Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird from the full Moz suite this morning. The individual apps seem a bit more responsive, but in the event I run into major difficulties I left Moz 1.7.2 onboard.

A neat extension I am trying is the Firefox Toolbar. Think of it as the Google Toolbar but for Firefox instead of IE. There are several variants; I installed the version with tie-ins to Blogger. Since it includes a search box, I need to see if it's possible to hide the Google box that Firefox has by default.

In addition to the software, I was able to get ahold of a Netgear WG511 802.11g (and .11b) network card. Since the wireless routers I'm testing support 802.11g, I needed some way to hook up to them without relying on 802.11b support. Aside from that, the 802.11b card I was using was my personally-owned Linksys, which I'd rather leave at home.

It'll be interesting to see if I can get the Netgear card to speak to my Linksys wireless router at home with WEP enabled.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Five days to go ...

... until the federal "Assault Weapons Ban" fades off into the sunset. It's been a long ten years that Americans have had their rights infringed by this oppressive piece of crap. For those who think that we'll now have machineguns easily available, think again. The AWB as enacted in 1994 banned from further production and importation certain semiautomatic -- not fully-automatic (machineguns) -- firearms. Firearms were classified as AWs by name and/or by certain prohibited, largely cosmetic features.

At the time it was enacted, supported claimed that AWs were the preferred weapons of criminals. This is bullshit. Try hiding an Kalashnikov or AR-15 under your coat before going down to rip off the local quickie mart. Criminals like guns they can conceal easily. AAMOF, according to ATFE, the most-traced firearms used in crimes are Smith & Wesson revolvers, which have been in production in substantially the same form since 1899.

In any event, criminals favor automobiles as their preferred getaway vehicle. Should we ban cars that go faster than 35 MPH? Of course not. Cars are tools used by criminals. Guns are tools used by criminals. Both of them have both good and bad uses but in and of themselves are neither good nor evil. We punish misuse of cars but don't even consider banning them or restricting access to them, except for people who misuse them. And a hell of a lot more people are injured in cars than with firearms.

What the AWB attempted to do was to cut off Americans' access to military-style firearms. In this, it violates the clear intentions of the Framers, who intended the Second Amendment to be a "reset button" for a government run amok. (The "well-regulated militia" referred to in the Second Amendment is not the National Guard, which didn't come into existence until over a century following the ratification of the Bill of rights. "Well regulated" in this context means "properly functioning.")

We talk about checks and balances between the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government. The Second Amendment is the check and balance between the people and the government.

By attempting to reduce Americans' ability to resist a tyrannical government, those legislators who voted for the AWB sought to insulate themselves from culpability for any egregious actions they might take. I regard them as traitors to their constituents and the oath they took upon entering office to uphold and defend the constitution of the United States.

Constitutionality aside, even the radical antigun Violence Policy Center has admitted that the AWB has had no effect on crime. The AWB can't even pass a fairly-applied rational basis analysis test of Constitutionality, much less strict scrutiny.

As someone with more than a passing interest in firearms and ballistics, I know what a misused firearm can do. What we need to do as a society is to keep guns out of the hands of those who misuse them and the best way to do that is to reduce the amount of misuse to begin with. Focusing on the inanimate object to reduce its misuse is dumb. E.g., we don't blame the car when a drunk driver hurts someone. We shouldn't blame guns when someone is shot with one.

Thankfully, in five days the AWB will be history. I expect the antis to try again to come up with a replacement. Unfortunately I am not so sure they will be unsuccessful. So, I do plan to go buy something at my favorite gun shop on 9/14/04. I'll get a nasty, evil assault weapon with all the toppings and metaphorically flip Dianne Feinstein the bird.

Overstock.com running SUSE

Overstock.com has a saying: "It's All About the O." But for Vice President of Technology Shawn Schwegman and his IT staff, it's all about the SUSE.

After closing last year out at $300 million in sales, the company is shooting for $600 million this year. Schwegman says he is prepping for further anticipated growth. "We just want to keep doubling every year for as long as we can," he said. "With that kind of growth, we're trying to stay as far ahead of the curve as we can."

Obviously, Overstock has huge technology needs. How best to keep the Web site running and running without hang-ups?

The company has used Linux in some form since the beginning. At first, it was Red Hat combined with HP-UX, but Schwegman realized early on that with Overstock.com's forecasted growth it would be advantageous to explore more possibilities with Linux. "We made the jump and commitment to be 100% Linux, as much as possible, especially with our production environment," he said.

Schwegman did a heavy bake-off between the different Linux flavors, putting them through the "wringer," looking at support and pricing, and testing load capacities. "We'd emulate our existing load and check the performance and response times."

That, coupled with a "general feel from the administration standpoint" led to a decision for SUSE -- even before Novell bought it.

Full story here.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Labor Day Weekend

I hope my American readers had a great Labor Day weekend. My grandfather was in town and got to see Amanda for the first time. Also, one of my uncles came up from Arlington, VA, so we had a mini reunion for my mom's side of the family.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Floppy accident

Practice safe computing practices, not like these guys.

:-O

Friday, September 03, 2004

XP SP2 slowing down Dell Inspirons?

According to this story from ZD.net.uk, SP2 is slowing XP Home on Dell Inspiron laptops quite a bit, by up to 10x. Good grief.

So far I haven't noticed any adverse affects on my Compaq Presario 710US running XP Pro, but I have to admit I haven't really wrong it out to see if it's broken any apps other than Firefox or Thunderbird. I really ought to do that in my copious (cough, cough) free time.

Firefox Toolbar

I ran across the Firefox Toolbar this morning. It's an analogue to the Google Toolbar for IE, but as you can tell by the name, this is for Mozilla Firefox. I'll have to try it out.

Ruger Police Service Six

Last night I went to Surplus City for the first time since Amanda was born. He had a few neat toys and I came home with a Ruger Police Service Six in .357 Magnum. This is one of a bunch of wheelguns Century Arms has been bringing back into the US from Canada, like the 3" GP-100 I have.

The *Six (Security, Service, and Speed) revolvers were Ruger's first foray into the centerfire double action revolver market, and first became available around 1970, give or take a year. They were fine, rugged, easy to maintain, and accurate wheelguns.

Ruger discontinued the *Sixes in 1988, but a lot of revolver fans still like them. They are a bit more svelte than the GP-100, which replaced them, and handle better, IMO. The *Sixes can have very smooth actions once broken in. Back in the 1980s my dad had a 6" blued Security Six with which he shot in bullseye comptetition. Between thousands of live rounds, God knows how many dry firings, and a Wolff spring kit, the action on it was slick as snot.

The Security Six had adjustable sights while the Service and Speed Sixes had fixed sites. The Speed Six had a round butt grip frame, while the Service Six had a square butt.

My "new" gun is very good shape overall. It's got some cosmetic dings and scratches but since it's made from stainless steel, they should be fairly easy to fix. The action is smooth and will only get better with use. The action locks up nice and tight, with no end shake. It came with a set of Pachymar Presentation rubber grips.

A picture of a Service Six can be just like mine can be found here. A range report will follow after I get it out and shoot it.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Tell 'em Zell!

I missed Sen. Zell Miller's speech last night but read the transcript this morning. Holy moley did he tear into his fellow Dems:

"While young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrat's manic obsession to bring down our commander-in-chief," Miller told convention participants at Madison Square Garden.

"Like you, I ask which leader it is today that has the vision, the willpower and, yes, the backbone to best protect my family? The clear answer to that question has placed me in this hall with you tonight. For my family is more important than my party."


You can read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

One Marine's response to Michael Moore

...here. Hah!

Gmail Labels

I've been using Gmail for a little while now, using it to receive several email lists. One of its features is the lack of folders. Everything is dumped into your inbox. However, you can "Label" messages. After creating a Label, it will appear in a list in the left-hand pane of your Gmail windows. You can then click on a Label name and display only those messages that are labeled appropriately.

The effect is essentially the same as having folders, with one key difference. You can apply more than one Label to a message. While you can always copy messages to more than one folder in a conventional email client, this results in duplication. Gmail's approach lets you sort messages like you can with folders, but allows the same message (not copies of it) to reside in more than one "folder," in effect.

Philly to go wireless?

Today's Metro, a daily free newspaper distributed at train stations and bus stops, has a story reporting a proposed plan to cover Philadelphia with wifi hotspots, apparently to be run by the city. There's a $10M price tag quoted for it. As yet, no word on whether it will be "free"* or if users will have to pay. Should the plan be implemented it would make Philadelphia the world's largest hotspot.

Personally, I have my doubts that the city could pull it off comptently. Governments can sometimes drive innovation by the private sector or academia, with the best example being the Internet. However, government attempts at putting similar programs in place are almost invariably plagued by poor implementation, shoddy work, and cost overrruns.


* In the words of Robert A. Heinlein, TANSTAAFL, or there ain't no such thing as a free lunch. Somebody has to foot the bill, whether subscribers or taxpayers.

Edit: Apparently, AP has picked up this story.