Wednesday, November 30, 2005

United Way Rant

It's that time of year when many large employers try to get their employees to donate to charities through the United Way. Aside from some degree of altruism, there is of course the PR aspect of this as well.

What happens is that employees get inundated with requests from management brass cajoling them to donate. "Even $5 would make a difference. Be a team player." Etc., etc. In reality, what the company is looking for is a certain percentage of its employees to participate, so that for PR purposes it can say, "Seventy percent of BigAssCorp's employees donated to the United Way. Aren't we good people?"

What bullshit. It's a way for companies to boost their public reputations by guilt-tripping their employees into participating. I'll have no truck with it.

Aside from the fact that I contribute to charity on my own, there's also the factor that because the United Way distributes funds to so many different charities, that at least one of them is bound to support something I oppose. And while a donator can specify which end recipient is to get his money, the list is so long that searching for the best designated recipient is an exercise in frustration.

I donate to charity and it's none of my employer's business to know when, how much, and to whom I donate. I am not a public corporation with books open to anyone who's interested in looking at them.

The political aspect of this whole thing stinks. Employees who don't contribute are stigmatized, for declining to participate in what should be a wholly voluntary activity. In some companies failure to participate can adversely affect opportunities for advancement or getting good projects.

This is a perfect example of how good intentions -- get people to engage in philanthropy -- get morphed into an oppressive tool.

Damn this pisses me off.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Yaesu FT-7800R

My little Yaesu VX-5RS handie talkie radio is nice but I've noticed that because it's QRP (only 5W), lately I'm having problems hitting the local repeater from my house. I can recieve fine, but there seems to be enough atmospheric interference to prevent me from being heard. I think it's a seasonal thing. Even when I was able to hit the repeater reliably, people who I spoke to indicated that my signal was a bit weak.

Since a major source of my interest in my ham radio is emergency communications, this situation needed to be rectified. So, today I ordered a Yaesu FT-7800R mobile 2M/70cm rig from Gigaparts. (I previously ordered from them with good results.) With the new rig I'll be able to transmit at up to 50W on 2M and 40W on 70cm, and should have no problem hitting the local repeaters from home. (I bet 10W should suffice to let me get to the MARC repeater in Paoli.) It should also work well for mobile operating in my truck.

I was seriously considering getting an FT-8800, so that I'd get cross-band repeat capability, but that would've added about $100 that I didn't want to spend to the bill. The relative simplicity of operation of the FT-7800 is a bonus, too, as I continue to get my feet wet in ham radio.

Because the FT-7800 uses 13.8V DC power, I needed something to power it with at home (transceivers typically don't come with an AC adapter). So, I ordered a Yaesu 25W power supply as well. In the future I may add a gel cell battery for extended field or emergency ops.

The other accessory I ordered to go along with the new radio is the ADMS programming software and cable, so that I don't need to punch all the frequencies, offsets, and PL tones in by hand, which would be a massive PITA.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

A good day busting caps

We had one of our semi-annual scheutzenfests over at my friend Nick's place today.

I brought my Marlin Camp .45, Ruger 10/22, CZ-52, and Browning High Power, which I wound up not shooting. This was the first time I shot the Marlin since installing a 21 lb. Wolff recoil spring. I'd put a 16 lb. spring in it after I bought it last year, but back in August I shot GeekWithA.45's Camp .45 with the heavier spring and was sold. The gun functions reliably, the already mild recoil is reduced even more, and less gunk blows back in my face from the ejection port. This was also the first time I shot the Camp .45 with the Bushnell red dot sight mounted. The zero will need some fine tuning, which will have to wait until I get it to a real range.

The Ruger ran great with CCI Subsonic HP .22 LRs. These loads are very quiet and I'd mainly bought them for my Savage Mark-II bolt action, but I'm pleased that they work well in the semiauto Ruger. This was the first chance I've had to shoot it with the Nikon 4x32mm scope I picked up a few months ago, and with the Butler Creek Hot Lips 25 round magazine. Both worked well. The nikon scope has nice optics, and I'll have to pick up a couple more of the mags. They are really fun when plinking.

We put about 30 rounds of Yugoslavian surplus 7.62x25 through the CZ-52. Muzzle blast and noise were on par with the CCI Blazer .357 Magnums my friend Rusty was shooting in his S&W Model 19. I made sure to run a few wet patches through the bore before we packed up, because the Yugo ammo has corrosive primers. After getting home I cleaned it well with Ballistol and will double check it tomorrow.

My friend Frank brought along a couple neat toys that I got to shoot: a Vepr-K AK in 7.62x39 and a Berretta Storm CX-4 Storm carbine in 9mm Parabellum. The Vepr is really nice, right up there with my Arsenal, Inc. milled Bulgarian AK. It's even heavier than the milled gun, though, between the RPK-type stamped receiver and the furniture. There is no comparison between a high-end AK like a Vepr or an Arsenal, and one of the cheap Romanian or Egyptian rifles. The latter may shoot and function OK, but the former actually look and feel nice while doing it.

I didn't like the Storm. They are certainly very cool looking (hence their use on the new Battlestar Galactica TV show), but it has one of the worst out of the box triggers I've ever felt. The trigger pull is heavy, long, and I noticed some trigger slap. Pistol caliber carbines -- like my Marlin -- can be really fun to shoot, but that trigger killed it for me. I'll probably get a 9mm carbine at some point, but it'll either be a used Marlin Camp 9, or a Ruger PC-9, probably the latter, because I also want to pick up a Ruger P-89 and they use the same mags.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

R1A1 back

The Big Brown Truck arrived this afternoon and dropped off my R1A1 back from Century, along with the 500 rounds of 9mm that I ordered on Saturday from Natchez. (It's a good thing the office closed early, since I had to sign for the rifle.)

Upon opening the box, I was pleasantly surprised to see the cheap blue sleeve that I'd sent the rifle off to Century in had been returned. I didn't really care if I got it back since it's almost disposable, but it's nice to see that they were paying attention. When I took the rifle out of the box I saw an orange chamber flag sticking out of the ejection port, and after verifying myself that the gun was empty, I removed the gas plug.

The first time I removed the gas plug, a week or so ago, the gas piston stayed stuck in the gas tube due to binding. Today it popped right out, as it should. When I broke open the rifle, removed the bolt carrier and bolt, and receiver cover, what Century had done to fix the binding was obvious. The hole through which the piston hits the bolt carrier had been reamed out. With the gas piston spring removed the piston now drops freely through the receiver. It's a little sticky pushing it back forwards, but as I understand it, this is normal when the gas piston spring isn't in the gun.

Judging by the carbon deposits on the piston, it appears that Century test fired the rifle before shipping it back to me. So, I'm cautiously optimistic that it's fixed. I may shoot it this weekend and see.

The Book of Postfix

I just ordered a copy of The Book of Postfix: State-of-the-Art Message Transport from Amazon. In my search for a relatively easy way to implement a Linux or FreeBSD email server, one thing keeps rearing its head. Namely, something like the Qmail Toaster seems dependent upon a relatively small group of developers. I want to get away from that and use a more widely adopted system, in search of a longer useful life. To do that I'll probably need to dig a bit deeper than I would otherwise have to, were I going with a canned package.

Combining Postfix with ClamAV and Spam Assassin should allow me to create a solid, supportable system with good performance.

Once I've had a chance to look over the book I'll post a brief review.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

WebMail extension for Thunderbird

Last night while looking for something else, I ran across the WebMail extension for Mozilla Thunderbird. It allows you to fetch mail from otherwise POP-disabled webmail accounts, e.g., Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail. Basically, it creates a POP-to-HTTP proxy which allows you to access webmail as if it was a POP3 account.

I installed the WebMail extension and Yahoo! plugin on Bagend and gave it a try. It worked fine. This is in contrast to Yahoo POPs, which I tried awhile ago and couldn't get it to work.

WebMail is a nice example of how Thunderbird can be extended to better serve your needs.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Several Updates to The Shooters' Bar (SM)

I made several updates to The Shooters' Bar (SM), my free online list of pro-RKBA attorneys. Most of the additions today were under Washington.

If you a pro gun rights attorney and want to reach out to other pro-RKBA people, no matter what your area of practice is, send me a request to be added to the list, using the same format as shown on TSB. It won't cost you anything.


You may have noticed a new banner down on the right side of the page. It links to Fred Langa's Langalist, which I've been getting for a couple of years now. It's a good source of technical tips for keeping your Windows boxen running smoothly. Fred Langa publishes both free and for-pay enhanced versions of the list, and I highly recommend subscribing. I've gleaned several tips from the list which have helped me with my own machines and clients' PCs.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ammo Day

I almost forgot, today is Ammo Day -- the national ammo BUYcott. Thanks to the wonder of the Internet, I was able to participate by ordering 500 rounds of CCI Blazer Brass 9mm 115 grain FMJ from Natchez Shooters Supply.

Go order some ammo.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Silly Internet Quiz Results

(Tip o' the hat to Geek With a .45.)

Which soldier type are you?

Which soldier type are you?
created with


What action here are you?

Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with


Busy week

I took off Monday after Judith took Alexandra to the E.R. early that morning. Alexandra appears to have a case of bronchitis but it's much better now, since she went on Zithromax. This is the first time in two years she's had to go on any meds.

Yesterday and today I was over in Mt. Laurel, NJ, attending training on BelAir's wireless mesh networking equipment. This is some really neat gear, using a combination of 802.11a for backhaul, plus 802.11b/g for client access. The units can have multiple SSIDs, which in turn can be matched to different VLANs. I'll be back in the office tomorrow.

I've also been doing some experimenting with FreeBSD 6 and Qmail, setting up a "Mail Toaster" inside a VMWare virtual machine. This is for my private client with the SUSE/CommuniGate Pro mail server. I've been looking into replacing this combination since upgrading and maintaining it has become a royal pain in the ass. E.g., updating ClamAV's engine has become impractical due to dependency hell. Also, it's running SUSE 9, for which support is being dropped next month.

While FreeBSD of course rocks, and the Mail Toaster is rather neat, I don't think it's the right replacement for this client. If it was an entirely new setup I might go with it, but from what I've seen, migrating their existing hardware is going to take too long, due to the necessity of downloading and compiling from source the toaster bits.

What I may do is upgrade the box in steps. First, get them on OpenSUSE 10, then look at moving from CommuniGate Pro to Postfix + Qpopper (since they insist on using POP3 instead of IMAP.) We'll see.

Cracked Iver Johnson .30 Carbine Bolt

I got this email today:

"I had an IJ Carbine in the early-mid '80s. I had to send it back to the factory because the bolt was too soft, and the locking lugs began to peen. It's my understanding that many IJ Carbines had soft parts."

This is a quote from your 17 Sept 2004 post on "THR". I am emailing you because I need some advice.

I bought two former Missouri police dept Iver Johnson Enforcer pistols. I haven't put too many rounds through them, but on one, the bolt cracked. Upon further inspection, I saw some of the peening you described. I could buy a replacement IJ carbine bolt from Numrich, but was their rifle bolt different from their pistol bolt? I'd be better off with a GI or M-1 GI type M-1 carbine bolt, of course (no soft metal in the GI bolts) but upon inspection, the IJ design for my Enforcer was different. Simpler, easier to clean, but different than the GI design.

How did you resolve your soft bolt problem?
And my reply:

I had purchased an extended warranty from the store where I bought my IJ Carbine, so when I noticed the locking lugs starting to peen, I took it back to the store, who shipped it back to IJ. I got it back with a new bolt. Unfortunately, IJ went out of business awhile ago.

What I'd do in your case is to replace the bolt with a USGI M1 or M2 Carbine bolt. I'd prefer the later round style over the earlier flat bolts. The round bolts are stronger, and have more mass. I would not buy an IJ bolt from Numrich, since there's a good chance you'd end up with the cracked bolt problem again.

No matter which bolt you get, I suggest having a gunsmith familiar with M1 Carbines check the headspace. I wouldn't count on it being a drop-in part.

Of the M1 Carbine clones made for the US civilian market after World War II, the Plainfields and Iver Johnson (after they bought Plainfield) were generally the best. Quality deteriorated towards the end of production in 80s, however, as demonstrated with my IJ Carbine, and the two Enforcers mentioned above.

Universal Carbines were generally not too good, and in fact are not true clones. While the Plainfields and IJs will take USGI parts, Universals won't.

More recently IAI made some Carbines down in Texas, but has since gone out of business. From what I've read, they had a lot of problems. The only current manufacturer of M1 Carbines is Auto Ordnance, which is owned by Kahr. I've heard mixed reports about the Kahrbines (pardon the pun) but IMO, they'd be worth a shot (groan) if you are in the market for an M1. I find it neat that the AO Carbines are being produced in WW2 format, i.e., without the bayonet lug and with the "L"-type flip rear sight.

I sure like my original Underwood M1, though. :-)

Monday, November 14, 2005

"WiFi Scoop"

This is neat. Some students down in New Zealand combined USB WiFi adapters and Chinese cooking implements to greatly extend the range of WiFi networks. Huh? Just check out the link.

More network fun

Saturday I went back to my client and did more work on their new webserver. Specifically, I added the SCSI interface card so that I could then hook up their Dell automatic tape loader. Since the special application they are going to run isn't installed yet I (the vendor will be coming tomorrow) the only test backup I could do was of the C:\ drive. I'll check the results on my next site visit.

The other thing I had to do was some troubleshooting of the owner's Thunderbird installation. I wound up removing 1.0.6 and loading 1.0.7, at which point I thought everything was working OK. However, she called me today and told me about some continuing issues. Something is really borked on her system and it looks like I'll have to return and eradicate every trace of Tbird, then reinstall. The other thing that leads me to believe the there's an underlying Windows problem is that all of a sudden her PC isn't seeing the network share where her Quickbooks data gets backed up to. I just love XP Home in a networked office environment. :-|

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Sony sued over its DRM malware

They sure had it coming.

Suit targets Sony BMG anti-piracy technology

By Reuters

Story last modified Thu Nov 10 05:18:00 PST 2005

LOS ANGELES--Record company Sony BMG Music Entertainment has been targeted in a class-action lawsuit in California by consumers claiming their computers have been harmed by anti-piracy software on some Sony BMG CDs.

The claim states that Sony BMG's failed to disclose the true nature of the digital rights management system it uses on its CDs and thousands of computer users have unknowingly infected their computers, according to court documents.

The suit, filed Nov. 1 in Los Angeles Superior Court asks the court to stop Sony BMG from selling additional CDs protected by the anti-piracy software and seeks monetary damages for California consumers who purchased them.

A spokesman for Sony BMG declined to comment.

Full story here.

Google Desktop

One of my favorite features in Mac OS-X Tiger is Spotlight, Apple's killer desktop search tool. It blows away the Find feature in Windows for usability and speed. Earlier this year, Google introduced Google Desktop, which offers similar functionality for Windows users.

After installing Google Desktop, it offers you the opportunity to configure it. You can set it to integrate with your Taskbar, as a floating searchbox, or as a sidebar. I have GD installed on Bagend and my Dell at work, and am currently using it as a sidebar. In the sidebar I have subwindows for Email, News, Web Clips, Scratch Pad, Maps, Quickv View, local weather, and a Todo list.

Following configuration, GD needs some time to index your hard disk. It does this when your PC is idle, so you won't see a performance hit due to GD running in the background.

One advantage of GD over Spotlight is that it will search and index Thunderbird email, even IMAP folders. Spotlight will do this for, but not Thunderbird. GD can also be setup to index a Gmail account. GD will also index your Outlook email, whether it's on an Exchange server and cached locally, or in a .PST file, and adds a plugin for searching from within Outlook. I find this very valuable because Outlook's built-in search is weak, in my opinion.

As with most other things from Google, Desktop is free. Based on my use of it the past couple of days, I definitely recommend it for Windows users with a lot of data.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Armed Citizens and Rioters

In reply to RBT's comments about possible American reaction to French-style rioting, Jerry Pournelle wrote:

Mr. Thompson may find himself facing BATF and Federal Marshals. It is likely that the federal authority will support the rioters, who will only be demanding their rights. ...

... And to jail anyone who defends himself, as a number of Korean shopkeepers found during the last riots here.

I have the greatest respect for Dr. Pournelle, but have to agree with Bob on this issues. In my opinion, the reaction Jerry envisages is more likely in the "Blue" liberal enclaves (IOW, the big cities and states like MA, NJ, NY, MD, CA, or IL). I don't see it happening in the "Red" areas.

After Katrina, a Federal court issued a restraining order in New Orleans to stop the NOPD from disarming civilians who were guarding their own property. While it is apalling that such an order would ever be issued by the chief of police, we do have here a recent example of where the Feds actually came to the defense of citizens' Second Amendment rights against local officals.

For what it's worth, I live in a subdivision in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. I am aware of at least three other well-armed homes on my block within a stone's throw of my house. I have reason to believe that if rioters/looters were to threaten my neighborhood, the amount of firepower they'd meet would give people like Feinstein and Schumer the vapors.

Perhaps mass riots could take hold in urban areas in the US. It's happened before. I can see the politicians who run large cities like Philly trying to disarm their subjects citizens. But neither mass riots nor disarming civilians will fly in the "Red" areas.

Edited to add the following...

Dr. Pournelle replied:

What about Waco, Texas?

The political climate has changed. Waco was what, 1993? That was during the heyday of the most antigun administration in US history. While W's administration is hardly made up of Second Amendment absolutists, it isn't as actively antigun rights as the Clinton administration.

We are now at a point where a majority of states have "shall-issue" carry permit laws, when the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 was allowed to sunset, and a law restricting abusive lawsuits against gun manufacturers was just signed into law by Bush.

There may be isolated incidents of ATF disarming Americans in the wake of French style rioting, but I don't think the current political climate will support widespread civilian disarmament.

Monday, November 07, 2005

RMAed the R1A1

Before I go hacking on the R1A1 FAL I want to give Century Arms the chance to fix it. So, this morning I called them up and got an RMA number, then shipped it out (I'm off today). They should get it Wednesday and hopefully will be able to turn it around fairly quickly.

Assuming all is well when I get it back, I'm looking into a couple of customizations. First, I'll probably replace the R1 gas plug with the grenade launcher sight with a standard metric gas plug. The R1 gas plug is a big PITA to remove for cleaning.

Second, the Century plastic STG-58 style handguards look cool and feel good in my hand, but look like they'll heat up after shooting a couple of magazines. Over on the Fal Files, I've seen several good comments about Tapco's T-48 style handguard, and may spring for one, along with their SAW style grip. I'm debating whether to go for the whole set -- handguard, grip, and SAW style buttstock -- since it's about $100. But one of the guys on the FAL Files pointed out that the SAW style butt has a larger buttplate than other FAL stocks, which spreads recoil out over a larger area. If I go for the whole set I may get it in OD.

I'll post a follow up when I get the rifle back.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Sony's malicious software

You may have heard by now that at least some of Sony's recent audio CDs contain a "rootkit," which can lead to your PC being compromised if you use it to listen to one of their discs.

In his brief Wednesday post, fellow Daynotes Gang member Rick Hellewell addressed the Sony rootkit issue. He gives a good overview of the problem along with some links to follow. Rick defines the problem thusly:

Here's the problem: if the root kit is installed, then any other process similarly named will be invisible to the user or system administrator. Great opportunity for the virus/worm writers. Or the "Rats" (the guys that install keystroke loggers via virus/worm/"drive-by attack" to gather your bank login keystrokes.

Go follow the links from Rick and get yourself edumacated.

This is especially egregious corporate behavior. Malware -- including spyware, viruses, worms, and rootkits -- is one of the major causes of system instability. It appears that it is very diffcult to get rid of the Sony rootkit without reformatting you hard drive and reinstalling Windows and your apps.

Sony has a legitimate interest in protecting its intellectual property rights. This doesn't give them the right to violate your property rights to your system by using underhanded tactics to get you to install malware on your PC. I would love to see Sony and the company which wrote the rootkit get the shit sued out of them. It would seem to me that Sony is setting itself up for liability for trespass to chattel, unfair trade practices, and possibly worse, depending on actual damages.

I can tell you that I sure as hell won't be putting any CDs from Sony in my computers, and the odds of my buying anything from them ever again (I have a Sony digital camera and camcorder) are basically zero.

Friday, November 04, 2005

FAL problems

It figures. I discovered last night that the gas piston on my Century R1A1 FAL is binding in the hole at the front of the receiver. Based on responses gleaned from posts to, THR, and the FAL Files, one of two things is likely the case: 1) the barrel is improperly-timed, i.e., either over- or under-torqued, of 2) the hole in the receiver is off-center. I submitted the following ticket to Century today:

I purchased a new Century R1A1 FAL a couple of weeks ago from Surplus City in Feasterville, PA. I purchased the rifle new, and have not shot it yet.

While doing an initial checkover of the gun last night, I removed the gas plug for the first time and discovered that the gas piston does not move freely through the hole in the front of the receiver. The piston binds in the receiver. When I removed the gas plug, the piston remained in the rifle instead of springing forward. To remove the piston, I had to push it forward, towards the muzzle, using a Lyman gunsmith's punch. I am unable to replace the gas plug with the piston in place, without jamming it back in and binding the piston in the receiver hole.

Based on some research, it looks like the barrel timing is slightly over- or under-torqued or the hole in the receiver through which the piston passes to contact the bolt carrier is off-center. I do not have the tools or expertise to fix the problem myself.

Will Century fix this problem under warranty? If so, please send me shipping instructions.

If Century pushed back I'll look into reaming the hole, but I'd rather have them fix it. Updates as I get 'em.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

SMC switch issue finally resolved

Several months ago I started working with an SMC6752AL2 managed Ethernet switch. Our hospitality team has an upcoming installation with Ethernet in each of the rooms of a very large hotel. One of the requirements we have for any installation is that a host on one port cannot be allowed to see traffic from a host on another port.

SMC includes a "private VLAN" feature in their managed switches which provdes the host-to-host security we want. However, I discovered when I first tried implementing it that the private VLAN feature also cuts off any remote IP connectivity to the switch. With the private VLAN enabled on VLAN2, I couldn't connect via telnet, ssh, or http to VLAN1 for management.

After going back and forth with SMC's engineers for a couple of months, trying umpteen different configs, we determined that having the management and host VLANs separate just flat out won't work. Since the management IP is on a different logical subnet than the IPs that will be handed out to client hosts via DHCP, we decided to ignore VLAN1, make VLAN2 a private VLAN, and assign the management IP to VLAN2 with an ACL allowing IP connections from only the LAN's default gateway.

That's where we ran into another snag. Something was causing the connections to the switch that went through the gateway to time out. If I had my laptop configured with the gateway's IP and connected directly to the uplink port of the switch I could get in, although the time to setup a telnet or http session was s l o w.

Today, SMC sent me some new opcode for the switch. I tftped to the box, rebooted, and FINALLY, I was able to remotely manage the switch. Now I can move on to other things.

What a relief!

Echolink conference

Yesterday I mentioned that I picked up a webcam with a built-in mic on Sunday for use with various IM and ham-related VOIP programs. Last night I participated in my first Echolink conference.

In a nutshell, Echolink is one way to extend the reach of VHF ham radios by connecting them to the Internet. Much ham activity on VHF (e.g., the 2M band) is via local repeaters. Repeater typically receive on one frequency then retransmit on another. I try to get on a MARC net at least once a week.

However, even though a repeater can greatly extend the usable range of VHF communications, VHF cannot compete with the HF bands for true long range commo. Unless, of course, you throw the Internet into the mix.

There are several systems which connect VHF repeaters to the Internet to allow world-wide communication using low power handy talkies, including IRLP, eQSO, Yaesu's WIRES, and Echolink. The access Echolink, even from a PC, requires you to hold a valid amateur radio license. eQSO on the other hand, does permit non-licensed operators to participate in "rooms" with no radio link.

The official Echolink software is for Windows, but there are Macintosh and Linux clients as well. There are two basic ways to access Echolink.

First, if there's an Echolink-capable repeater in your area you can connect to it with your radio, dial up another Echolink node, and talk to people on that node, who may be on a radio or a computer.

The second way to is to use the Echolink client and a computer with a sound card, speakers, and a mic to connect to a node. This is what I did last night.

The organizer of last night's conference scheduled the time and the node, and participants logged in. We had a couple who connected via radio, others used their PCs, while the organizer himself didn't have a mic on his PC, so he used a radio to connect to a repeater while simultaneously logged on at his PC, so he could read text messages and see who was in the conference.

I was impressed with the overall audio quality. Everyone was quite clear, better than some other VOIP programs I've tried AAMOF. The guys connected via radio did breakup sometimes, but those using their PCs and a mic were crystal clear.

Since this was the first time for most of us, last night was largely devoted to figuring the whole system out. Future conferences with this group will probably have a topic list for each meeting.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Firefox 1.5 RC1

The more adventurous among you may be interested in trying out the first release candidate for Firefox 1.5. I loaded it on my iBook this morning and so far haven't run into any major problems. It did break the "downloadthemall" and Bookmarks Sync extensions, so unless I go back to 1.0.7, I'll have to wait until they're updated. Likewise, it broke a Mac-only theme I was using (I disremember the name), so it dumped me back with the default theme. So, I installed the Aquatint theme, which looks nice and makes Firefox look more like a regular OS-X app.

I noticed that the Preferences box is a bit more Mac-like than in previous releases. Also, the delete key now serves as a "Back" button, a feature I've always liked on the Windows ports of Firefox, Mozilla, and Netscape. For some reason this has been absent from prior Mac (and Linux) builds, without a way to implement it.

Logitech webcam

On Sunday I picked up a Logitech QuickCam Communicate STX for use on Bagend with various IM programs as well as ham-related VOIP systems like Echolink and eQSO. Installation was pretty straightforward, although it seemed to hang the box during the initial audio calibration. I've seen this on another XP machine with Logitech's software.

Last night after my Echolink account was validated I connected to the test server, which plays back to you anything you say to it. I had to adjust placement of the webcam so that the built-in mic was able to pickup my voice, but aside from that didn't have to tweak it at all. I'm planning to participate in a 'net tonight with some of the Arfcom SF guys, so we'll see (or hear) how well it works for real.