Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Picked up another Mini-14

It was cold and windy today so I didn't feel like hitting the range. I did however, go up to Surplus City with a couple of guns which I haven't shot in quite awhile, and did some trading. In exchange for my EMF/Rossi Hartford Model 1892 and my Ruger GP-100, plus some boot, I picked up a used stainless steel Ruger Mini-14 GB. It's a 186-series piece. It came with one Ruger factory mag (stainless, no less) and I bought two more Ruger factory mags, both used. (I figure I should get as many evil high capacity magazines as I can while the getting is still good.)

The GB or Government Model differs from the standard Mini-14 with the addition of a flash suppressor screwed onto the muzzle, and a winged front sight several inches back. The front sight block also has a bayonet lug, and the gun will accept standard M-16 bayonets. (Raspberries to Senator Feinstein and her partners in crime.) The GBs were never intended to be sold directly to the public by Ruger, but a fair number of them have become available as police or prison guard trade-ins, as many departments "upgrade" by replacing their Mini-14s with AR-15s.

I really like Mini-14s. They are not as accurate at AR-15s (at least without serious tuning) but they are very simple, ergonomic, and reliable little rifles. Mini-14s are accurate enough for their intended purposes -- potting varmints around a farm or as a social carbine out to a couple of hundred yards.

Getting back to the reliability aspect -- Mini-14s are much less finicky when it comes to maintenance or quality ammo than AR-15s. For example, Wolf .223 doesn't run well in my Colt AR-15A3, but runs just fine in my 182-series Mini-14. I expect it to work fine in the GB. A couple of features which help the Mini-14's reliability are (a) the fact that it taps more than enough gas from the barrel to work the action, and (b) fouling stays out of the action. IOW, it doesn't have the "shits where it eats" problem of the AR-15. Note that the AR-15's direct-impingement (DI) gas system can be reliable, but it demands more cleaning, and that more recent military rifle designs all use pistons, not DI.

One of my online friends used a stainless Mini-14 in Alaska for many years, taking a large number of deer and other game with it. It stood up to harsh conditions well and he still has the rifle, now that he's retired to WV. .223 isn't really a deer caliber but it will do if you take your time and place the bullets right. Perhaps surprisingly to guys in the lower 48, but the Mini-14 is one of the most popular bush guns in AK. It and it's ammo are light. It's reliable and easy to maintain, and has minimal recoil, so a lot of Alaskan natives like it. A stainless Mini-14 in a plastic stock would be a heck of a good choice as a defensive carbine, especially if you need one to keep on a boat.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Vacation

I hope that you all had a Merry Christmas. I'm on vacation this week.

Being Jewish, I went shooting yesterday along with my dad. I brought along my Ruger Police Service Six and my two inch S&W Model 15 (I also have a four inch Model 15, that was the first good handgun I ever bought). Ammo was a box of Ultramax .38 Special 158 LSWC commercial reloads. It's very dirty but goes bang every time, and shoots well in my experience.

As it turned out, we met a fellow MOT* at the range and joked around a bit about how the only people you'll see at a shooting range on Christmas day are Jews.

Later, we had the traditional Jewish Christmas dinner of Chinese takeout.

Today after making everyone breakfast I went out and ran a few errands. One of them was to ship the Lyman receiver sight I got last week back to Brownell's. In its place, this afternoon I ordered a Williams FP-336 FireSight set from MidwayUSA for my Marlin 336. The set consists of a Williams FoolProof receiver sight which uses the Marlin's scope mounting holes, plus a fiber optic front sight (they actually include two). One of my friends has a Marlin 1894 in .357 so equipped, and the front bead really stands out under field conditions. I should've just gone this route to begin with.

Aside from the sights, I also ordered a tube of Flitz metal polish, a surplus .30 caliber ammo can, and a Pro Mag 20 round steel Mini-14 magazine. Flitz is great for polishing stainless guns or removing rust spots on blued steel. At only $2.99 I couldn't turn down the .30 caliber can. They're just too good for storing things. And I've read good reports about the post-AWB sunset Pro Mag Mini-14 magazines, so decided it was time check them out. If it works as I've been lead to believe, the Pro Mags will be a cheap alternative to the Ruger factory mags, at about half the cost.




* MOT = Member of the Tribe

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Marlin 336 Update

My Brownell's order with things for my Marlin 336 arrived yesterday. I got the sling mounted, the scope mounting holes filled, and the replacement rear sight elevator installed. I also used the Birchwood-Casey cold blue to cover up the scratched areas on the metal -- a spot on the receiver and a fairly large scrape on the magazine tube. It looks like the scrape was caused by the front sling swivel base (which clamps to the tube) got knocked.

I couldn't mount the Lyman Model 66 receiver sight, however. According to the box it's the right unit but the mounting holes in the base do not match the holes drilled and tapped on the left side of the Marlin's action. Grrrr.

I'm debating whether to return it and just get a Williams sight which attaches to the scope mounting holes, or take a drill to the base of the Lyman. No matter which, as long as the weather cooperates I'm taking the 336 to the range next week while I'm on vacation.

MS Vista First Look

Earlier this week I installed Windows Vista Ultimate Edition on one of the Dell Latitude D600s in my lab. I need to test Vista for interoperability with our commercial gateways. I'm not anticipating any major surprises but don't want to be complacent.

The minimum requirements to run Vista are an 800 MHz CPU, 512 MB of RAM, and 15 GB hard disk space. The Dell has a 1.8 GHz Pentium M and a gig of RAM. Unfortunately, the shared video prevents it from running the much-touted Aero interface. Rather, I'm limited to the "basic" interface. I do like the look of the basic interface. It reminds me of recent versions of KDE. The basic UI is sufficiently similar to XP's that most users shouldn't have too much difficulty in adapting. I can't speak to Aero yet, however.

But, it's bloated. Seriously bloated. Aside from the fact that to install the OS you need 15 gigs of space, my first impression is that you don't want to run Vista on a machine with less than a 2 GHz CPU and you better have 2 GB of RAM if you want to get any work done. Just sitting there with no apps running, Vista sucks down anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of the gig of memory. Opening windows in Explorer is not as snappy as it was under XP Pro. IOW, there's a noticeable degradation of performance in the system's file manager.

Internet Explorer 7 seems to run a bit slower than it did under XP. Ditto for Firefox 1.5.

When opening things that access system files, you get prompted for your approval, but the way it's done is more intrusive and less elegant than the way OS X prompts you for your password when modifying system files. E.g., you get an "ARE YOU REALLY SURE" box when you try to run Defrag or Scandisk.

So far, my impression is that unless you're running a powerful machine capable of running Aero, there's no reason to upgrade to Vista. Aside from that, as a new MS operating system, it makes more sense for you to let other people be the guinea pigs and find the nasties lurking underneath the shiny new paint job.

Better yet, get a Mac or run something like Kubuntu Linux on a PC. Either is a far superior OS from the standpoint of security and the features are either comparable to or superior to Windows.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

New-to-me Marlin 336

I made my first post-election rifle purchase today at the Valley Forge gun show, but it wasn't a black rifle. I picked up a used, pre-safety Marlin 336 in .30-30. Sometime recentaly I developed a hankering for one of these, specifically one made before Marlin added the cross bolt safety.

It's in basically good shape with a few dings on the wood and some blueing wear. (So I also bought a bottle of Birchwood Casey cold gun blue.) I may strip and refinish the stock to make it a bit darker. We'll see.

It came with sling swivel studs but no swivels or sling. It also had a Weaver scope rail mounted on the receiver, and a hammer extension for use when a scope is mounted.

After getting it home I field stripped and cleaned it. It's pretty clean inside and the bore looks new.

I got two boxes of Wolf Gold (Prvi Partsan) .30-30 150 grain JSPs since there wasn't a wide variety of .30-30 at the show.

I placed an order with Brownell's for a few things:

* Plug screws for the scope mounting holes in the receiver, since I removed the Weaver rail.
* Replacement elevator for the rear sight. I didn't notice until after I got home that it was MIA.
* Lyman Model 66 receiver sight. I like aperature sights and up until 2000 or so Marlin drilled and tapped their leverguns' receivers for them.
* Uncle Mike's QD swivels with 1-1/4" loops. My plan is to use a Lee-Enfield sling so I need the wider loops.

Hopefully I'll get to shoot a deer with it next year.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Happy Chanukah

Chanukah starts tonight. Here's my relevant post from last year.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Redundant Entries in Finder "Open with" menu

I had the problem where when right clicking on an file in the Finder and then selecting "Open with" gave me a menu with multiple, redundant entries of suitable applications. E.g., if I right clicked on a Word doc, Word and OpenOffice.org appeared multiple times. This was rather annoying.

I couldn't find the fix but I consulted with a coworker who's a Linux and Mac guru and he found the solution here, along with a number of other good Mac tips. Just in case that page disappears I'm reproducing the fix here. You need to open a Terminal and run the following command:

System/Library/Frameworks/ApplicationServices.framework/\
Frameworks/LaunchServices.framework/Support/lsregister \
-kill -r -domain local -domain system -domain user

This forces LaunchServices to rebuild its database.

Meanwhile, check out the link provided for many other good tips.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Mac Word Processors and Text Editors

My main word processor is Word 2004 for Mac. I also have OpenOffice 2.0 installed on my Mac as well. I use OO.o occasionally, but on my G4 iBook, it's pretty pokey.

Other word processors I've tried on the Mac include NeoOffice, Abiword, and Nisus Writer Express.

NeOffice is dog slow. Even though OO.o requires X, it's faster on my hardware than NeoOffice. One of my coworkers runs it on his Macbook and tells me its reasonably fast, so once I get myself an Intel Mac I'll give it another shot.

I've run into significant formatting problems with documents imported from other apps, or exported to other apps with both NeoOffice and OO.o.

Abiword has a decent UI and runs quickly but has constant formatting issues with RTF files generated in other apps, in my experience.

Nisus Writer Express (on which I've previously posted) is quite nice. It's fast with a good UI and the formatting problems seem less significant than with the other WPs. However, it's $69 and I'm cheap.

The only word processor that doesn't give me formatting problems is Word 2004. Word on theMac is nicer than Word for Windows, in my opinion. Since at work I'm in a Microsoft shop, the ability to seemlessly interchange documents, whether word processing, spreadsheets, or presentations is critical. I have neither the time nor the inclination to troubleshoot and fix formatting. So for the most part I just stick with Word.

However, a lot of times there are docs that I know I won't need to forward to others. They'll either be for my own use, or just jotting down notes, or drafting a blog post. So I'll use a text editor. I've been using TextWrangler for some time now but today I installed Vim. Yes, THAT Vim. I'm writing this post in it, AAMOF.

Oh, OS X comes with VIM already installed, but it doesn't include the GVIM graphical mode. But if you go to macvim.org/OSX/index.php, you can download the latest and greatest Vim forMac, including the graphical mode. After you download it, use unzip the archive and copy the vim70 folder into /Applications. To launch it from the Finder, doubleclick the Vim (not the Gvim) icon.

If you've used Gvim on another platform, it's pretty much the same on OS X. I may be using it more instead of TextWrangler. It's light, responsive, and because I can do a lot of stuff without the mouse, can be really fast to use. In fact, what I may start doing is writing long documents it in, then once the content is finished, open them in Word to do the formatting and insert stuff like screenshots.

I feel so geeky. :-)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006

GUI tar for OS X

I just ran across GUI tar on Versiontracker. It's a GUI front end to tar, gzip, bzip, etc. for Mac OS X. I don't have a problem using the CLI versions of these tools, but sometimes a GUI is handy.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Apple Keyboards and Mice

Apple desktop keyboards suck. When I came back into the office yesterday I plugged an G4 keyboard that we had laying around into my iBook. I'd been using the Dell keyboard which I was issued a couple of years ago with my Latitude D600, but wanted an Apple keyboard with the Apple and Option keys in the right place.

I finally gave up on the Apple keyboard after a day and a half of use. The feel is horrible – mushy with poor tactile feedback. The keyboard on my iBook feels better, as does the one on my brother's 12” PowerBook. I found that with the G4 keyboard I was making a lot more typos than normal. The Dell keyboard is back in place.

The keyboards which came with the G5 towers were very similar to the one I just disconnected. I don't know how the board which come with current Macs are, but I suspect they're basically the same.

Mice and keyboards are Apple's biggest weak points. Everything else about their hardware is very well designed. Luckily, Macs Just Work with regular USB keyboards and mice intended for Windows boxen. On a PC keyboard, the Windows key subs for the Apple key, and the ALT key subs for they Option key. Two-button mice work without any special configuration; I've used a Logitech and currently have a Dell mouse plugged into my iBook.

MS Entourage Project Center

Microsoft Entourage for the Mac has a mini-project management module called -- strangely enough -- “Project Center.” It's allows you to keep together various items related to a project , e.g., emails, calendar appointments, tasks, clippings, and notes. The “Overview” screen gives you a place where you can get a quick snapshot of the current status of a project. I've mostly ignored Project Center heretofore, but I'm going to give it a try with a couple of the things I'm currently working on.

If Project Center works well for me, it might be a good fit for a case or practice management solution for my law practice. I use Entourage for my day job only, where I need to connect to an Exchange {spit} server. My personal stuff is handled with Mail.app, iCal, and OS X's Addressbook. Whether it'd be worthwhile to switch to Entourage remains to be seen.

Edit: OK, this is pretty cool. When you set "Watch Folders" for a project, Entourage does two things. First, in the "Files" tab it gives you a file manager with direct access to the contents of the watched folder, without having to go through Finder.




Second, in the lower right corner of Overview tab for the project, you can click on the Entourage icon to bring you to the project's mail folder in Entorage, or the Finder icon to take you to the watched folder in the Finder. Pretty neat.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Back from Thanksgiving, New Ruger Blackhawk

Back from Thanksgiving break. Our holiday went well, hope yours did, too. (As for my non-American readers, hope you at least had a good week.)

Aside from large quantities of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, etc., I picked up a Ruger 50th Anniversary Blackhawk last Wednesday from Surplus City. I traded in my Century G3 (nothing wrong with it but I wasn't shooting it often) and $20. The Ruger is "used" but there was no sign that it had been fired. It looked factory-fresh.

The Ruger is built on a smaller frame than most New Model Blackhawks, which means it's a bit lighter and generally handles better. Much better than NM Blackhawk .357 I had a couple of years ago. The frame is the old "flat top" style which I find aesthetically pleasing. It has a 4-5/8" barrel and is chambered for .357 Magnum. The grip frame is Ruger's original XR-3 type, which is closer to the grip on a Colt SAA than the later grip types. As a special, limited-production model, Ruger paid more attention to fit and finish than regular production guns. The polish and blueing are better and the action smoother. The trigger is light, unlike most Ruger factory triggers.

It shoots really well. Saturday afternoon Dad and I went to the range. I was a bit shakey but it groups well with the Ultramax .38 Special 158 grain LSWCs I was shooting. It'll be interesting to see how it does with better ammo and/or .357s.

Along with the Blackhawk, I took along my Old Model Single Six. It likes the CCI .22 LR Subsonic HPs a lot. Just for kicks I ran a few cylinders full of CCI CB Longs through it, just to see how quiet they were. Without hearing protection they're a bit louder than a pneumatic air rifle, when fired from the Single Six's 5.5" barrel. They should be very quiet when shot from a rifle. They'd be the ticket for short range pest control where you need to keep the noise down.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Online File Storage

I am glad this is going to be a short week. The past couple of weeks have been a bit rough, due to a sinus infection which degenerated into a cold, of which I'm on the very tail end {knock wood}. Awhile ago I tried a saline nasal rinse similar to what Jerry Pournelle has written about, and found that it really helped my allergies by flushing irritants out of my sinuses. I used it after getting the sinus infection and I'm pretty sure that it shortened the duration and helped me avoid the need to take antibiotics. Flushing out the bacteria-laden snot instead of letting it fester up there in my head worked.

At work I've been evaluating a few different online storage services. I have a dot mac account and I've been using it as a yardstick for comparison purposes. I've found that as long as I have a good fat pipe, accessing files remotely over the Internet using WebDAV can be made similar to accessing them via a LAN or a VPN. For example, dot mac includes iDisk, which I primarily access as just another disk in the Finder. (It's also accessible via a Win32 client from Apple or through a browser, but with limited functionality) Some of the services I'm looking at offer similar functionality for Windows, Mac, and Linux boxen.

Dot mac and one of the other services allow me to create a locally cached copy of the online "drive," which allows me to access those files offline. Then, when I'm reconnected, the cached and online copies automatically sync.

Windows XP includes a similar feature called Offline Folders but in my experience, it sucks. On every machine that I've used it I always get errors and sync failures. And that's on a 100BaseT LAN. Forget about using it over a VPN.

The online storage services also allow you to share files, e.g., by allowing other users to open your online folder or you can email someone a link to a specific file.

I'd like to see this sort of thing become more popular because it could take a major load off of mail servers, which are probably the primary way people transfer files across the Internet nowadays. Email was never intended for this and while it works -- mostly -- it still results in inefficiencies. Shared online folders, if impelemented securely, will be a better solution with the ever increasing adoption of broadband Internet access.

If I don't post again before Thursday, have a happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cross-platform encryption

I want to save digital copies of important documents on a USB stick, but want to secure them against unauthorized access if the drive gets into the wrong hands, because it would be an identity thief's wet dream. The stick will be part of my household emergency kit.

Today I discovered jFileCrypt, a cross-platform encryption/decryption tool written in Java, and which can run on any platform with Java 5. Aside from the fact that it's free (GPL) software, being platform-independent is what I really find attactive. JFileCrypt supports Blowfish so the resulting encrypted file should be secure.

Alternatives include Mac OS X's built-in ability to create encrypted disk images and GPG. Unfortunately, an ecrypted Mac disk image isn't cross platform, and GPG can be confusing, although I've been playing around with it and I'm getting a better understanding of it. For Windows and Linux users, TrueCrypt looks like a good alternative.

Ideally, I'd like to have an ~500 MB encrypted file or folder on a 1 GB USB drive. On the unencrypted portion I'll keep a copy of the encryption utility so that if necessary, I can decrypt the information even if I don't have access to one of my computers. The password I'll be using is long, non-obvious, and has zero significance to anyone other than me.

If any of my readers have suggestions for cross-platform encryption software that would be suitable for this application, please post them as a comment.

(This will be crossposted to my Survial & Emergency Preparedness blog, but this blog gets more traffic so I'm posting it here first.)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thoughts on the Aftermath

I am not surprised with how the election turned out. With regard to some local races ...

Ed Rendell beat Lynn Swan for the PA governorship. Maybe next time the Republican Party can pick someone other than a football player as their candidate. Rendell is very popular in Pennsylvania’s metropolitan areas, so the Reps needed somebody with real experience or at least a better-communicated platform to have a shot at winning.

Bob Casey, Jr. beat Rick Santorum for his Senate seat. The intense dislike for Santorum in the blue areas of PA made this no surprise. Casey’s campaign was basically, “I’m not Santorum.” The fact that this was all he needed to unseat Santorum should be a wake up call to the GOP.

Turning to my little part of the state, House District 6 is at Jim Gerlach with 51% of the vote to challenger Lois Murphy’s 49%. This reflects in large measure the increasing Democrat demography of Montgomery County. Formerly solid “R,” as more Dems have moved out of Philadelphia and settled in MontCo the balance is shifting blue. I can see the Dems slowly turning MontCo into a reflection of Philly, in which case it may be time to bail the hell out of Dodge.

In the Connecticut Senate race the message to the Kostards seems to be, “PWNED!”

As of the time I write this, the Montana and Virginia contested Senate seats still hadn’t been decided. If the Dems pick up both they’ll gain a bare majority, while if they pick up one the Reps will keep theirs, since with VP Dick Cheney as President Pro Tempre of the Senate, they’ll still have enough votes to break any deadlocks.

So, on the national level the balance of power has shifted a bit. It looks like we’re going to see two years of gridlock.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Postfix message and mailbox size limits

I learned some more about Postfix today.

This morning I got a call from my client with the new mail server. They were getting an error message when trying to send a file with a 7 MB attachment. Since they send and receive a lot of attachments (of which a 7 meg file would be on the small side) this needed to be fixed. The message they were getting indicated and inability to access a mailbox. I skimmed through /var/log/maillog and found this:


Nov 7 10:48:47 postoffice postfix/local[14046]: 0671D344040: to=, relay=local, delay=33, status=bounced (cannot access mailbox /var/spool/mail/foo for user foo. error writing message: File too large)

I was a bit surprised, since I made sure that /etc/postfix/main.cf did not include any limits on email sizes. After some time searching on Google, it looked like the default value for a mailbox size according to Postfix is 51200000 bytes. I wanted it to be unlimited, so I used postconf to explicitly set the value to 0, for no limit, like so...

% postconf –e mailbox_size_limit=0

... then restarted Postfix.

I then tried to send a 12 MB file from my Gmail account to my test account on the box. I got an SMTP 552 error, “Message too large” back from the box. Again, I skimmed the maillog file and this time came across:

Nov 7 15:51:33 postoffice postfix/postdrop[14200]: warning: uid=48: File too large

Back to Google, whereupon I learnt that the default max message size for Postfix is 10240000 bytes. To fix it I ran:

% postconf –e message_size_limit=0

Again, I restarted Postfix and then resent my test email. This time it went through.

If you want to view the default settings for all the parameters you can configure in main.cf, use postconf –d. The output of postconf –d | grep size looks like:

[root@foo]# postconf -d | grep size
berkeley_db_create_buffer_size = 16777216
berkeley_db_read_buffer_size = 131072
body_checks_size_limit = 51200
bounce_size_limit = 50000
header_size_limit = 102400
mailbox_size_limit = 51200000
message_size_limit = 10240000

As an aside, since Postfix on this box is started by MailScanner, I restarted the MailScanner daemon to restart Postfix, like this:

% /etc/init.d/MailScanner restart

... which stops the inbound and outbound Postfix queus then starts them again.

Election Day 2006

Election day. And a sorry one it is. None of the choices that the political machines have offered up to us are especially appealing. So, do I vote Republican, Democrat, third party, or sit this one out?

As tempting as it might be, I do not regard abstaining as a viable choice. It’s a cop out, and the more people that do sit on their duffs in front of the TV the more my vote is worth.

The third parties don’t appeal to me either. The Libertarian Party may as well be on Mars with their platform on border security and the threat posed by Islamists. The Constitutional Party includes some religious dogma in its platform that I dislike. The Greens are a bunch of socialist Euro-wannabes.

That leaves voting for a Democrat or a Republican. I can’t bring myself to vote for any Democrat and therefore strengthen them one iota. The steering wheel of the Democratic Party has been co-opted by left wing extremists who, should they have their way, would take us down the socio-political road that has lead Europe to socialism and which will eventually let it be accurately known as “Eurabia.”

Expanding on that last point, the Dems show no signs of taking the Islamist threat to Western Civilization seriously. Their calls for immediate withdrawal from Iraq show that. While Iraq may not have been the best choice for taking the fight to the Islamists, it’s the fight we have. The Dems would have us show weakness in the face of a ruthless, implacable enemy with zero respect for any way of life save their own. Furthermore, they would have us abandon those allies we do have in the Muslim world, leaving them to the mercy (hah!) of the Islamists much as anticommunists in South Vietnam were abandoned in Southeast Asia three decades ago.

To me this is the most important issue facing us. Do we cut and run or stand and fight? Do we ensure that our children and grandchildren have the chance to grow up enjoying freedom or grow up under religious despotism?

Sadly, while the Republicans have shown themselves willing to fight, they haven’t proven themselves all that fit to rule, either. On the Federal level they’ve had control over the executive and legislature for six years, and their failures include:

  • Ballooning deficits resulting from a spending spree that any drunken sailor would envy.
  • Utter failure to do anything significant about our reliance on foreign fossil fuels.
  • Failure to address the Social Security time bomb.
  • Failure to secure the Mexican border.
  • Willingness to let port facilities be run by foreigners.
  • The DHS and TSA. Treating our own people as the enemy do not make us more secure.
  • The PATRIOT Act. Bypartisan stupidity.
  • Iraq – Not the right place and mismanaged since Sadaam Hussein was deposed.
  • Saudi Arabia – The Saudi wahabbiasts need to be held accountable for their moral and financial support of Islamist terrorists.
  • Harriet Miers. WTF?

The Republicans have done some things right:

  • Letting the vile, unconstitutional Assault Weapons Ban expire.
  • Passage of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Firearms Act.
  • The recent law prohibiting law enforcement from confiscating firearms from lawful citizens in the aftermath of a disaster, when they’d be needed most.
  • Justices Alito and Roberts.
  • Taking the fight to the Islamists instead of waiting around to get hit again. While the wisdom of attacking specific targets is up for debate the fact is that rather than a passive response or crawling to the UN in response to Islamist aggression, the Republicans struck back, and pretty effectively.
  • On the state level, more states now have CCW and more prohibit junk lawsuits against gun manufacturers.

So, when I go into the voting booth later today I’ll hold my nose and pull the Republican lever, because the only other party with a shot of gaining control wants to (a) stick its head in the sand and pretend the wolf isn’t at the door, and (b) take our society down the European socialist road.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Coleman Outdoor Fireplace

Yesterday I found this Coleman Patio Fireplace on closeout at Dick's Sporting Goods and picked one up. I've been wanting something similar for a little while and at $80, this was a good deal. I then went over to Lowe's and bought a bundle of kindling and two bundles of firewood for about $4 each.

It took about an hour to put together using a screwdriver and pliers to hold nuts, and seems pretty well made. It's a good size, about two feet in diameter. I especially like that you can use it as a BBQ grill by taking off the screen and putting the enclosed grill in the base. We have a propane grill but food does taste better when cooked over charcoal. If the weather is good next weekend maybe I'll cook something on it.

After dinner last night we introduced Alexandra and Amanda to the joy of marshmellows roasted on a stick over an open fire. They loved it.

Mail server migration complete

On Saturday I was able to get my client moved over the new mail server that I'd installed a couple of weeks ago. It went pretty smoothly, although I did have to modify Postfix's main.cf to allow it to accept email to their domain, rather than just to their host.domain.com.

It's amazing how many attempts there are to relay mail through the box. If I login to it and run tail -f /var/log/maillog, and I can sit there and watch relay attempts scroll off the top of my screen. I've done this several times and it just doesn't end.

Theire old box used CommuniGate Pro for mail services. One advantage CGP has is that mail users are different from system users. I.e., you don't need to setup an account on the system for a user to send and receive mail through it (although you can configure it to use system accounts). When using Postfix and Dovecot, and not using virtual domains, mail accounts are system accounts. I wanted to make it more difficult for someone to crack the box. Since my client is using this only for email and system logins aren't needed, I used chsh to change the login shell of each mail user to /sbin/nologin. Now, when someone tries to SSH into the server they get bounced right off.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Frustration

Arrrgggghhhhh!!!

I'm having a frustrating day at work. I have new firmware for two separate cable modem/gateways and our test environment is all fouled up. For some reason RIP isn't working, so if I configure one of the modems to route a RIP subnet I can't get anywhere. The more pressing problem, however, is that our Cisco Broadband Access Controller, which handles provisioning and modem registrator, keeps crashing. Without a reliable BAC the lab is basically non-functional.

The guy who's filling in as our network admin is working on it but for now I'm spinning my wheels.

Side note: This is my 650th post to Blog O'Stuff since I switched over to Blogger in 2004. Wow.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Brother HL-2070N Review

Last Friday I installed a Brother HL-2070N monochrome laser printer in my home office. I ordered it from CDW.com and received it in 3 days.

The 2070N gives you the option of connecting it to a computer using a USB or parallel cable, or directly to your LAN via a 10/100 Ethernet port. It was this ability to connect directly to my LAN that sold me on the printer. I need to be able to print to it from Windows and Mac OS, and I'm sure that eventually Linux and BSD will find their way back onto my LAN, and I didn't want to deal with cross-platform printing issues. (Note: The documentation on the driver CD does include info about Linux compatibility, though I haven't delved into it yet.)

Setup required that I first install the driver on each machine; I started with my PC running Windows XP Professional. Along with the driver there's a printer management utility that's installed. Among other things it allows you to change the printer's IP address from DHCP (the default) to a static IP.

When I first installed the printer on the XP box it was still a DHCP client. The static IP that I specified was different from the dynamic IP, so I had to re-run the installer so that the TCP port was correctly setup. Under XP, the Brother is installed as a network accessed LPR printer.

With printing from the PC working, I moved the driver CD to my iBook. Driver installation required one reboot, after which I opened Applications > Utilities > Printer Setup Utility.app. I told PSU.app to scan the local network for Bonjour-compatible printers and the Brother came right up. It installed the Brother as my default printer, and I then printed a document as a test. It worked perfectly, spooling the job and sending it off to the Brother.

The Brother's paper tray hold 250 sheets, fine for this class of device. It warms up quickly and once it starts printing, spits out pages at a claimed 20 pages per minute. It seems faster than my old Samsung ML-1710, which was rated for 17 PPM. Text quality is good. Image quality is OK, but nothing to rave about. For my needs the output quality is just fine.

Aside from the aforementioned Windows-only management app, the HL-2070N can be managed over the network through a browser. It seems to work fine in Camino. The Brother can also be configured to email alerts to an administrator, or be managed via SNMP using the Windows management application.

I read a few online reviews where people complained that the paper curled on output. I haven't seen that so it may just be the paper that people were using. I suspect this may be an issue with cheap copier paper, but the HP laser printer paper that I'm using doesn't curl.

Based on the ease of setup, multiple platform compatibility, and good output, the Brother HL-2070N is worth strong consideration for use in a small or home office when you need an inexpensive monochrome laser printer.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Slippery Slope

I ran across this comment by "Manedwolf" over on THR, and felt it was worth repeating:

Do you think that one day in, say, 1935, groups of German villagers suddenly just woke up and said "Hey! I know! Let's be EVIL! That'd be cool!"

No. They followed a path from wanting security to giving up civil liberties to scapegoating to blind, nationalistic fervor and mob mentality excusing atrocities. It's a road to hell, and it's the duty of EVERY American to watch that we don't go down it...because it's a slippery slope, and by the time you'd noticed it had happened, most people either don't want to see it, while the others are helpless to stop it.

Figured out my Postfix Problem

The other day I posted about how the new mail server I installed at a client site wasn't listening for SMTP connections on the network. As I'd susprected, it was a little too locked down. I had to go into the /etc/postfix/main.cf config file and change the "inet_interfaces" value to "all".

After doing this I wanted to make damn sure that I hadn't inadvertantly created an open relay. I wasn't too concerned, since the box is setup to require SMTP authentication before allowing a user to send mail via the box, but complacency isn't something I can afford here. I tested this three ways:

  1. Attempted to send mail through the box using my test account, using Mail.app. The unauthenticated SMTP session was rejected, while the authenticated session worked.
  2. While logged into the box via SSH, I telnetted to relay-test.mail-abuse.org, which runs a script that attemtps to relay mail through the box. All attempts to do so failed.
  3. Ran SpamHelp.org's web-based test on the box's IP. It came up negative.

Now all we need to do is schedule a time to migrate them over. It looks like we'll be recyling the old box into a secondary mail server, to be located at their other office. I'll create a clone of the new box on the old one, with appropriate changes such as hostname, etc.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Goodbye, Samsung ML-1710

I've mentioned in the past the aggravation I've had with my Samsun ML-1710 laser printer. Most of the grief stems from the fact that it's a GDI printer, AKA a Winprinter. I had it working under SUSE using a PPD file for the ML-1210; the Samsung Linux driver sucks. After I rebuilt Bagend as an XP box, for a time it worked over the network when I printed to it from my iBook. That mysteriously stopped working awhile ago.

In an effort to see if I could get network printing from my iBook working again, I tried the instructions found here. No dice. Now, not only does it still not print from the Mac, it plain doesn't print. I tried deleting it, reinstalling it, running Crap Cleaner, reinstalling the Samsung drivers, nothing worked.

Arrrrgggghhhh! I have HAD it!

So, tonight I did some searching for low end Macintosh-compatible printers. I don't need much: a basic monochrome laser will suit Judith's and my needs just fine. But, it has to be available over the network, either attached directly, shared from Bagend, or hanging off a print server. We don't print much, less than 100 pages per month, but when we need to print something it's damned inconvenient to have to wrestle with goofy printer problems.

It looks like I found my solution in the form of the Brother HL 2070N. The interesting specs include:

  • Interfaces: Parallel, USB, 10/100 Ethernet
  • System requirements: Windows, Mac OS (Bonjour is supported), Linux (Red Hat, SUSE, Debian)
  • Emulation: PCL6, IBM Proprinter, Epson FX
The MSRP is $149 but I found it for $99 on a limited time offer at CDW. Sweet! After reading the mostly-positive customer reviews at Amazon (who has it for $109) I ordered it from CDW. It should ship tomorrow and I should have it this week. Full report when I do.

CentOS Live CD

I've mentioned in previous posts how I've been favorably impressed with CentOS as a server OS. Last night I decided to take it for a spin as a desktop OS, using their new live CD.

My test box was Bagend, my Althon XP 2200+ system, which normally runs XP Professional. By today's standards it's a modest system -- 1 GB of RAM, an ATI Radeon 9200SE video card, and an 80 GB ATA-133 hard disk. I booted from the CD and let it autodetect everything but when it tried to start X, the screen went black. CTRL-ALT-DEL had no effect so I used the system reset button. Upon reooting, this time I specified that it use the VESA video drive, which worked fine, bringing me to the CentOS graphical logon screen.

Networking came up fine using DHCP.

Unlike Knoppix, the CentOS live CD requires you to set a password for "centos_user," which is the same as the root password. For this kind of a system this is unnecessary, IMO. Once logged in, I was presented with the standard GNOME dekstop. It's surprisingly responsive and includes both Firefox and Konqueror in the Applications menu. Both worked well, but what really shocked me was just how responsive Firefox was. It seemed to run better off the live CD than it does in a hard drive install in XP. Konq was set up nicely and rendered the few pages I went to well. Flash wasn't installed so a couple of pages I went to didn't work, including trying to view a Youtube video.

Gaim is included for IM and worked just as well on the live CD as on any other platform that I've used it.

OpenOffice.org is included, although live CDs are best used for demo systems or recovery CDs, rather than as a regular desktop OS.

GParted is included for partition management, and ClamAV is present for disinfecting Windows partitions. (I didn't try out either, although I may give ClamAV a whirl just to see how usable the CentOS CD would be for a system recovery tool.)

I briefly logged in with KDE and found it similar to most other KDE setups.

The CentOS Live CD is worth trying if you're in the market for a live CD for demonstrating Linux or for use as a recovery disc.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Fun With Servers

I had a heck of a day today at a client's site. I wasn't able to fully complete either goal I'd wanted to get done.

The first thing was installing the new mail server. It's online but the SMTP service isn't listening on the network. I'm sure it's a simple Postfix config item but I obviously need to resolve it before I can migrate them off of their old box. I didn't have time to finish tinkering with it, because of job #2. (I can SSH into it from home and have a test account for myself on it, so I should have it squared away soon.)

The second goal I had was to extend the size of the RAID 5 array on their web server by adding two more disks. This will require breaking the array, adding the disks, and recreating the volume. Obviously, we need a good backup that we can restore from before doing this.

Unfortunately, their Dell PowerVault 124T tape loader decided to go tango uniform last night. So, no current backup. The PowerVault's Remote Management Unit is not recognizing the existence of a tape drive in the box, and the autoloader is stuck at "Initializing." I spent an hour and a half on the phone with Dell Enterprise Support this afternoon troubleshooting the problem. In the end, my client is going to get their money's worth out of their Gold Support plan. Dell is sending out a tech to repair or replace the tape loader. By the time we reached that determination, I'd been there for most of the day.

Note: If you have one of these PowerVaults, connect it to your LAN before calling Dell, so you can access the management web page. The factory default IP is 192.168.20.128/24.

Their main reason for going with a tape autoloader was so that they could do backups of large amounts of data, and easily take tapes offsite. Considering how you can now buy 500 GB USB hard disks, I wonder how long it'll be until you can get a 1 TB USB hard disk. At that point it may make sense to switch over to disks rather than tapes. That's assuming that you don't give anything up in reliability, of course.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Back From Chicago

The SCTE conference wrapped up yesterday morning. Overall, I think it was very worthwhile to attend.

My flight wasn't until 4:10 Chicago time but hotel checkout was noon, so I wound up getting to O'Hare with plenty of time to spare. I made it through the TSA gauntlet without having to submit to the anal probe, then wandered around looking to find somewhere to grab lunch. I would up getting some McDreck and camping out at a relatively quiet gate.

O'Hare doesn't have free wifi but I had enough time to occupy that I deemed it worthwhile to buy access from Boingo; $6.95 for a 24 hour period. I used it for an hour or so, enough to check email and a couple of forums. The speed ranged from OK to dreadful, probably depending upon how many people were trying to use the connection simultaneously. That, or someone was downloading some massive PowerPoint presentation.

After awhile at my gate, I began to wonder if I was at the correct gate. There weren't any updates on the board behind the counter, and I saw that the monitors operated by United showed that my US Air flight was departing from a different gate. After going to that gate I found that the stamp on my boarding pass was correct. I ran into a few other people who did the same thing. I subsequently spoke to a US Air rep, they know about the problem, and United refuses to correct it. This is emblematic of the "customer last" attitude of US airlines. If United won't fix it then someone at US Air needs to go up the food chain at O'Hare and get them to kick United in the butt.

Once in the air things went a lot more smoothly. Even though we were late in boarding and taking off, we had enough of a tailwind that we made up enough time to actually arrive early. Even better, once we debarked I got my bag in about 15 minutes, a record for Philadelphia, where up until know it has usually taken nearly an hour.

Monday, October 16, 2006

TSA Rant

Since I'll be flying out to Chicago for the SCTE conference this afternoon, I had to go through my laptop bag and remove all the contraband. The major items were my Gerber Multiplier and Victorinox CyberTool 41, along with a few other assorted things. And to comply with the new TSA rules regarding bringing fluids on planes, I put my allergy meds, eye drops, etc. into a single one quart Ziploc bag.

I feel so much safer knowing that nobody on the plane will have any knives or unbagged toothpaste. {/sarcasm}

The TSA's rules are fucking bullshit and I will rant about them every time I need to fly. Taking away potential weapons from all the passengers makes nobody safer. The bedwetter's mantra to always cooperate with hijackers netted us the loss of two airliners and the WTC on 9/11/01. Only the heroics of the Flight 93 passengers that grim day saved lives -- obviously not on the plane but on the ground. More recently, that line of "thought" has facilitated gunmen being able to take over schools.

MAKING YOURSELF DEFENSELESS DOES NOT PREVENT VIOLENCE.

Predators are deterred ONLY by knowing that their aggession will be resisted. Why is this so hard for most liberals to understand?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

From servers to sushi

Today started out very frustrating but it got better.

This morning I was down in Wynnewood, PA at a client's office to install a new UPS and fix a misbehaving backup job. His "server" is a PC running Windows XP Pro (plenty for the 3 or 4 people in his office) and we'd been using SyncBack to backup his data partition to a Maxtor USB drive. The problem was that apparently SyncBack would to start recreating ghosts of directories that had been moved. I was baffled by this behavior, so I decided to just zap SyncBack and install Dantz Retrospect Express, which came with the Maxtor drive.
I was able to set it up to do a backup each night at 10:00 PM.

I was planning to get to a second client's office today to add a disk to their RAID 5 storage array, but didn't want to get started in the afternoon. I think I'll need to break and rebuild the array, then restore from backup, so that's something I'd like to start early on a Saturday.

Another project I'm working on for this client is a new mail server. Naturally, I wanted to build it using FreeBSD as described in my TechBuilder article. Unfortunately, trying to install FreeBSD 6.1 on a Dell SC430 is a good way to give yourself an ulcer.

Dell eliminated the PS/2 ports on the SC430, so you must use a USB keyboard. (It would've been nice of them to specify that on their website.) I tried using a PS/2 to USB adapter with my keyboard but the Dell only recognized it intermittently, even when poking around in the BIOS. And unfortunately, while FreeBSD supports USB keyboards, it only does so after you've installed it and made the appropriate entry in rc.conf. Grrrr.

So, I tried adding an Adaptec SATA card to Bagend -- which has PS/2 ports -- so that I could temporarily put the Dell's SATA drive in it, install FreeBSD, then move it back. Windows barfs when you try something like this but BSD and Linux can often handle it.

However, when I tried doing this the FreeBSD install kept hanging, repeatedly.

F*ck it, I give up. I did some googling and it looked like the SC430 is compatible with CentOS Linux, so I downloaded the Server Install CD for CentOS 4.4, burned it to disc in Nero, and installed it on the Dell without any difficulties. Yay. I'd stopped at MicroCenter on the way home from my first client to pick up the SATA controller card, and while there also grabbed a cheap Micro Innovations USB keyboard, which appears to work fine.

I have to say that while I remain a fan of FreeBSD for use on supported hardware, so far I'm quite impressed with CentOS. It's been several years since I last used a Red Hat-derivative and it doesn't seem as crufty as I'd remembered. I'm setting the box up in a manner similar to my FreeBSD article, using Johnny Hughes' guides. I'll still be using Postfix, Dovecot, and Squirrelmail, but may use Mailscanner in lieu of amavisd-new. I haven't decided yet.

A major reason I'm a fan of FreeBSD is the ports/packages system, which allows you to install and update software with a few commands in the shell. Created by Yellow Dog, yum serves an equivalent purpose on the modern Red Hat derivative Linux distros (e.g., Fedora and CentOS). It does a lot to keep you out of dependency hell, assuming that the app you need is in the yum repositories.

I want to get the box finished tomorrow since Monday I'll be flying to Chicago for the SCTE Business Services Symposium, and returning Wednesday evening. My current plan is to install it on site next Saturday.

Finally, I packed it in little after 1700 and went to dinner with Judith, the girls, and my MIL. We went to Minado, a Japanese buffet nearby. Holy moly that place is good. Excellent sushi and udon, along with a good selection of Japanese salads. We'll be back.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Screen Spanning Doctor

This is cool. Apple's older consumer-oriented iBooks and iMacs don't support extended desktops when using more than one monitor. This functionality was restricted to the higher-end PowerBooks and PowerMacs. No more. Screen Spanning Doctor unlocks your PPC Mac's ability to span your desktop, instead of just mirroring the display, and it's free. (Yeah, it's been out for awhile but I just discovered it today.)

Don't forget to check if SSD is compatible with your Mac. The list of supported machines is here.

Note that the currently produced MacBooks enable desktop spanning from the factory.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Eric Clapton Concert Report

Last night Judith and I went to the Eric Clapton concert at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. This is the third time I've seen him live and Clapton still rocks.

The lights went down a few minutes before 7:30 (imagine that, a rock concert starting on time) and the Robert Cray Band came on for the opening set. Robert Cray is a well-known, excellent blues guitarist and singer, and was warmly received by the crowd. Cray has written a couple of songs for Clapton, e.g., Old Love on Journeyman, and played on Journeyman and From the Cradle (he may have played on other Clapton albums but I'm not sure). Cray played about half dozen songs.

After Cray left the stage there was a 10 – 15 minute break while the roadies redid things for Clapton and his band, who came on stage a little before 8:30.

Clapton led off with Pretending and I Shot the Sherriff, then dove into some deep cuts like Got to Get Better in a Little While, and Anyday. He did a few acoustic numbers including Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out, and Living on Faith. Cray joined Clapton's band on stage to play Old Love, something I'd be hoping for. Towards the end of the main set he played Layla and Cocaine. There's a full set list here.

For the encore, Cray again joined Clapton and band on stage for a neat version of Crossroads, in which he sung the first verse.

Throughout the show Clapton's playing was top-notch, starting with his first solo. His singing was good, but the guys handling the sound mixing had everything cranked up so loud that except for the sit-down set he sounded distorted.

Clapton's band was interesting. Overall they were really tight. Aside from him, he had Willie Weeks on bass, Steve Jordan on drums, guitarists Doyle Bramhall II and Derek Trucks, pianist Chris Stainton, Tim Carmon on Keyboards, along with Michelle John and Sharon Weeks singing backup. I was very impressed with Bramhall, Trucks, Weeks and Stainton. Jordan is quite competent but I'm not a fan of his style, and while Carmon's good I thought his solos were a bit over-long.

As a side note, Bramhall is the son of Texas bluesman Doyle Bramhall and previously played with the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Derek Trucks' uncle is Butch Trucks, one of the two drummers in the Allman Brothers Band; the influence of Duane Allman is readily apparent in his playing. Derek has actually played with Allmans on recent albums.

I'd hope to hear more Cream songs, especially Sunshine of Your Love and White Room. One thing I disliked was how loud the show was. It may have been where we sat but last night's show was even louder than The Who a couple of weeks ago in the same venue (and that's saying something). Aside from being uncomfortable sometimes, it distorted the vocals.

Volume aside, I really enjoyed the show.

Monday, October 09, 2006

New Article Online

My latest article for TechBuilder.org, Turn an Old Laptop into a Portable Network Troubleshooting System, is now online.

Further Developments

Work has been a bit slow so I haven't had much to write about lately.

Last week I did become a floor captain, as I'd mentioned in my last post. I'll be getting a Blackberry, which will help me keep apprised of what's going on the next time we have an emergency. I already have the floor captain's emergency kit, which I need to inventory and make suggestions to HR about. It's fairly minimal, which is fine, but there are a few things that should be added, in my opinion. One good change going forward is that batteries for the flashlight and megaphone will be replaced twice a year, when the clocks are changed to go on daylight savings time and back off of it. Just like you should do for your smoke detectors.

I was off on Friday because Amanda had her adenoids removed and new ear tubes put in. Hopefully, this will take care of the recurring sinusitis she's had to endure. She bounced back very well from the surgery and in the hour and a half after waking up from the surgery, she ate 11 Oreos and drank three 8 ounce cups of apple juice. She hasn't needed any painkillers since Saturday night.

Yesterday I managed to throw my back out while playing outside with Amanda. It's still stiff today but the Percocet I took yesterday loosened it up enough that I was able to come to work today. That stuff is some good shit.

Tonight my parents are coming over to babysit while Judith and I go see Eric Clapton at Philly's Wachovia Center. I saw him twice way back in college and I'm really looking forward to the show. The Robert Cray Band is opening, so we'll make sure to get downtown in time to see him as well.

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Couple of Interesting Developments

I received word earlier this week that I got approval to attend SCTE.org's Business Service Symposium outside Chicago next month. Since the attendance fee is about $100 less if you're a member of SCTE, and membership costs $58, I also signed up as a member. I'm looking forward to the conference although not to the flights there and back. Although I'll only be away for a few days, I'll need to check a bag, since the idiots in charge at the TSA have decided it's too dangerous to allow me to carry on my Gerber Multiplier, Swiss Army Cybertool, or my Benchmade Griptilian.

The other interesting development is that it looks like I'll be a floor captain. I made it known that I'd be interested in being one after the clusterf*ck last Thursday. With my background in the Civil Air Patrol in a search & rescue squadron plus my ham license, I figure I'm as qualified as anyone, and more so than most. I'm hoping that by getting involved I'll be more in the loop the next time something happens.

NeoOffice Revisted

In my never-ending quest to find a good alternative to Word 2004, I am giving NeoOffice another shot on my iBook. I've had Nisus Writer Express on here, but while it's nice I don't need it enough to shell out $69 for a license. NeoOffice 2 is the Aqua port of OpenOffice.org to OS X. I've had OO.o 2 on the box for awhile but it requires me to run X11, which increases overhead. Since NO2 doesn't require X11 I'm hoping it's a bit nicer to use. Launching is still slow but we'll have to see how it is when I'm editing an existing long document.

I configured NO2 to save text documents as .RTF files by default, in case I decide to axe it. The out of the box setting is to save them as .ODF (Open Document Format) files. Saving as .RTF means that I can more easily open any new docs that I create with TextEditor.app or Word.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

iPod Video

Oh heck, a new vice.

I recall that when the new Battlestar Galactica show was announced my reaction was along the lines of, “Ughh, that’s gonna suck.” I watched the original when I was a kid and loved it then. But a few years ago SciFi ran it again in syndication and I had to turn it off after about ten minutes before I vomited due to massive ‘70s cheese and crappy acting. So, when I watched the pilot for the new show and saw how good it was I got hooked. The old show was definitely for kids, and trying to ride on the coat tails of Star Wars. The new show, in contrast, is for adults.

I watched the first season and halfway through the second season, then stopped watching pretty much any TV. But today my boss wandered into the lab and told me about the BG “Story To-Date” show he downloaded for free from iTunes, which got him hooked. I decided to give it a try, and downloaded it to watch on my iPod on my train ride home.

Damn thing worked. Video on the iPod screen is surprising watchable, and since I’m listening through ear buds the sound is great. The end result is that I’m downloading all of Season 2 to get back into the show. There are 20 episodes in the season, three of which download at a time. I figure I’ll leave it running overnight and then update my iPod when I get up tomorrow morning, so I can watch on my ride in.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pietta 1858 Remington Revolver

I had a Cabela's discount card that was burning a hole in my wallet, so last week I ordered a 5.5" barreled Pietta 1858 Remington revolver from them. It came on the 13th and I shot it for the first time last night. (In the US, muzzleloading guns using loose powder and ball are not legally considered to be firearms under federal law. Some states do restrict them, but not Pennsylvania. So, I was able to order it online and have it shipped to my door via UPS.)

My first impressions are very favorable. I noticed one small ding from handling on the back of the frame to the left of the rear sight notch. Also, the bottom edge of the trigger has a little roll of metal that appears to be left over from a grinding oepration, but otherwise it looks great. The fit and polish of the brass triggerguard is superb. Wood-to-metal fit of the grips is excellent. The grips themselves are nicely-grained and finished walnut. Overall fit and finish is definitely better than my Euroarms 1858.

The Pietta's action is quite smooth, more like my Uberti 1851 Navy than the Euroarms 1858 Remington, which is rougher. The Euroarms gun seems to have a heavier hammerspring than the Pietta, but the latter still pops the caps just fine.

Two inches less barrel helps the balance quite a bit. My Euroarms hangs well and works great for offhand shooting. The Pietta is less muzzle heavy and in general is faster handling, but still hangs well.

Last night my dad and I shot it. We shot at 7 yards, one handed. Loads were Hornady .457 balls, 28 grain by volume of 3Fg Goex, CCI No.10 caps, and Dixie wads between powder and ball. Except for fliers, our groups were all one ragged hole.

I had a couple of instances where when loading the chamber must not have been perfectly aligned with the rammer, so I couldn't seat the ball flush. I had to remove the cylinder and smack the ball in with a mallet, then replace it and resume loading. I've never experienced this before. I think I'll chamfer the chamber mouths so if the rammer isn't quite aligned it'll be funnelled in.

I popped a cap on each nipple before loading and I experienced no ignition failures.

The gun was lubricated ahead of time with Ballistol. After a few cylinders it was starting to drag, but I'd forgotten to bring a bottle with me. So, I wiped down the base pin and put a couple of drops of FP-10 on it. For BP, FP-10 is definitely inferior to Ballistol.

Cleanup was quick and easy with Windex and hot water. I've come to favor Windex for BP cleaning. I think the surfactants in it do a great job of getting the fouling out.

I give the Pietta two thumbs up.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Arrrrrrrrr!

Avast me hearties! Today's International Talk Like a Pirate Day ye scurvey dogs! Today we be testin' ye Corsair keyboard.

An' beware o' the buccaneers o' ye Linus!



Monday, September 18, 2006

Several Updates to The Shooter's Bar(SM)

I made a few additions to The Shooter's Bar(SM) today. Additions include Chuck Michel of CA, David Strachtman of RI, and Darius Arbabi of MA. As far as I can tell, TSB is the largest free online list of pro-RKBA attorneys. I started it back in 1997 on Fidonet and the Paul Revere Net, and transisitoned it to the Web shortly thereafter.

Getting listed is free although it sometimes takes me awhile to get around to updating it. Attorneys who would like to be included need to email me with their info in the same format as shown on the page. You do not need to be a "gun lawyer," only pro-RKBA.

Back in one piece

We made it back from Arlington in one piece.

The drive down on Saturday wasn’t too bad, although we did run into traffic on I-95 in Delaware due to construction, and on I-495 outside Washington due to an accident in one spot, and then a mattress laying in the middle of the road a few miles down.

We stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn in the Roslyn section of Arlington. They’re doing reconstruction but we were several floors above it. It’s a good place for an extended stay and includes free Internet access via iBahn in the room price. They appear to block outgoing port 25 SMTP traffic, which was a bit of a PITA. I had a few messages to send and had to wait until we got home yesterday. If they’d been really important I would have tried sending them via Gmail’s SMTP server, which uses port 587 and SSL. (Instructions on how to configure Mail.app for POP3 and SMTP access to Gmail are here.)

The party for my grandfather on Saturday was a lot of fun. I don’t see that side of the family too often so it was nice to be able to hang out with them. One cousin in particular I hadn't seen since we were both kids, sometime around 1977. The years have been very kind to her. (!!!)

We got back on the road relatively early yesterday and got home by about 2:00. I crashed for most of the afternoon.

And now, back to the grind ….

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Quick One

This week has gone by rather quickly.

I did some modem testing at work on Monday and Tuesday morning. Tuesday afternoon after a conference call regarding our new WiFi-related efforts I left at 1:30. I wanted to be home so that I wouldn’t be rushed when I later met my friends for dinner and to see The Who at the Wachovia Center in Philly.

This was my third Who concert -- I saw them in 1989 and 2002 -- and they still kick ass. The Philly show was the opener for their 2006 US tour. The band consists of the two remaining original members -- Roger Daltrey on vocals and Pete Townsend on guitar and vocals, plus John “Rabbit” Bundrick on keyboards, Pino Palladino on bass, Simon Townsend on backup guitar and vocals, and Zak Starkey on drums.

Daltrey sounded good although he can’t quite hit the high notes like he used to. Pete sounded good as well, and his guitar playing rocked. He still does his trademark windmill. Palladino is a great bassist (although obviously he’s no John Entwistle) and Zak Starkey, well ...

Zak Starkey may be the best damn drummer in rock today. He’s that good. His playing is very reminiscent of Keith Moon’s.

The Who started the concert with I Can’t Explain and followed with some of their early tunes, The Seeker and Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere, then kicked it up a notch with Baba O’Riley. They also played their new mini-opera Wire and Glass. Pete was rather apologetic to the crowd for making us sit through new stuff, but it was well-received. I liked it. They also played The Relay, which I haven’t heard on the radio in years, and a good selection of tunes from Tommy including a great rendition of Amazing Journey/Sparks. Nothing from Quadrophenia, however.

The one down part of the night was the opening band. Someone thought it would be a good idea to have Peeping Tom -- a rap act -- open for The Who. A real WTF?!? moment there on par with when The Who opened for Herman’s Hermits or Jimi Hendrix opened for The Monkees.

My next concert will be Eric Clapton in October. His opener is going to be the Robert Cray Band, which should be very good. I’m really looking forward to the show, having seen Clapton twice back when I was in college.

Wednesday I was back in the office for a short while before our department picnic. Yesterday I spent hanging out with a guy from Arris who was upgrading a CMTS in our lab. We’re evaluating some of their pre-DOCSIS 3.0 channel bonding technology. Imagine a cable modem which supports download speeds of 150 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 40 Mbps. Cool stuff indeed.

Today I’m doing a bit more testing of one of our modems. I’m also playing around with Nisus Writer Express. I’ve been looking off and on for a lightweight word processor for OS X. Word generally works OK but has a lot of overhead. NWE is definitely lighter and by default saves files in RTF format, but will read .doc files. Complex Word files do not translate perfectly, however. So far I’m mostly liking what I see, so I’ll putz around with it for the rest of the 30 day trial and then decide if I want to pay for a license.

Tomorrow we’re piling into the truck for a trip down to Arlington, VA for a 90th birthday party for my grandfather. I’m expecting the drive to suck but it’ll be worth it to see him and the rest of the family.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years

Five years. It seems like yesterday that I walked into the lunchroom at work and saw the Twin Towers burning and later felt the anxiety of not knowing how my family members in New York and Virginia were doing.

Never forget. Never forgive.

Five years and what have we done? We removed the Taliban from power in Afghanistan and the Baathists from power in Iraq. We haven't done anything about the Wahhabiasts in Saudia Arabia who financed the 9/11/01 attacks, nor have we done much to curb the threat of nuclear terrorism from Iran or North Korea. We have, in the guise of the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration created more overbearing, incompetent Federal agencies whose main goal is to promote the appearance that they are doing something.

We're in a war for our survival against Islam. A religious war whether we like it or not. They started it and we insist on idiotic, PC, feel-good euphemisms like "Global War on Terror" (as if you can declare war on a tactic) and "Religion of Peace" (for a religion that spread by the sword and continues to call for holy war against unbelievers).

We piss away American lives and money in futile nation-building efforts for people who don't want us there and barely understand the concepts of democracy and fundamental human rights. Money and lives that could be better spent on developing energy independence that would allow us to stay out of the Middle East and deprive the barbarians of their source of money, which they use to finance their war against us.

Five years and we still haven't done anything to plug up our leaking southern border. Five years that we've continued to fund the United Nations, a tool for Muslim countries to foment hate against the US and Israel.

Five years of bipartisan pussified idiocy which brings us no closer to dealing with the real problem -- Islam -- than we were before the first plane hit the World Trade Center on 9/11/01.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

McCain-Feingold Reminder

As several other bloggers have mentioned, we are now in the McCain-Feingold Incumbent Protection Period.

I'll refer you to my post from last year on this issue, Regulate This! and the McCain-Feingold Insurrection. A pox on any politician who tries to regulate free speech.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Goodbye Summer

The end of another Labor Day weekend and another summer. Time sure flies.

Saturday night I went to the range with my father, brother Josh, and Judith. This was J.'s second time ever. I let Josh handle instructing J.; he formerly held NRA pistol instruction certification but let it lapse. Anyway, this time she used my dad's 50th Anniversary Ruger Mark II .22 autoloader, which she liked much better than my S&W Model 18. At 21 feet she's able to keep almost all of her shots on a 9" pie plate, which is doing very well for someone just starting out. I'll be picking up a Ruger for her sometime soon.

I brought my Springfield 1911A1 and Browning High Power Practical. I had two new Chip McCormick Shooting Star mags to try in the 1911 and two Mec-Gar 15 rounders for the BHP. The CMC mags worked fine but I found that one of my old CMCs was causing last round failures-to-feed. Rather annoying.

The Mec-Gar mags worked perfectly in the BHP, as expected. They came with some sort of sticky preservative on them though which seemed to persist even after I wiped them down with FP-10. This caused the BHP's trigger to be absolutely awful -- heavy with a lot of creep (the mags affect the trigger pull in the BHP due to the magazine safety). After getting home I wiped the Mec-Gars down with Hoppe's No.9 and using some Flitz, polished the point on where the magazine release bears. This improved the trigger somewhat but I really need to remove the magazine safety.

Sunday I took some time and primed 100 .38 Special cases and set up my loading dies to seat and crimp Speer 148 grain hollow base wadcutters. I used my RCBS hand priming tool to prime the cases and I'm not sure why, but 5 of the primers got mangled in seating. I shot WD-40 into the cases to kill the primers then decapped them. It may be that the Federal primers are towards their maximum acceptable size while the primer pockets in my Winchester brass were a little tight. In the past I've used a Lee Auto Primer and never run into this. I plan to get the cases loaded sometime during the week using a light charge of Bullseye and the aforementioned Speer wadcutters, for nice .38 target loads.

I spend most of yesterday outside doing yard work. We had a small pine tree planted in a half barrel off the back patio, the top of which was getting too close to some wires. Removing it gave me the chance to try out the Gerber Camp axe I bought awhile ago at REI. It worked well. Before chopping down the tree I sharpened it using my belt sander, which I clamped upside-down to a folding workbench. I also used it to sharpen a machete and a tomahawk. Aside from the pine tree I bundled up a number of branches that were laying around so that I can dispose of them, and cleaned up our back patio which was covered with leaves that blew down when Ernesto came through over the weekend.

I still didn't get a chance to test the slimjim antenna I constructed on Friday, but hopefully soon.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Yaesu FT-7800R Remote Mounting

I took today off to make this a four day weekend.

Yaesu sells a kit to allow you to mount the detachable face of their FT-7800R mobile 2M/70cm transceiver on your dashboard, while the rest of the radio is placed out of sight under a seat or in your trunk. The remote mounting kit is basically two cables, one to connect the faceplate to the radio and one speaker wire. Even though I use my FT-7800R as a base radio, I wanted to do something similar to free some desk space. The only problem is that Yaesu wants about $65 for the kit, which IMNSHO is ridiculous.

Thankfully, the Yahoo Groups FT-7800R mailing list to which I subscribe supplied the answer. The cable to connect the faceplate to the radio body is nothing more than a flat 6 conductor telelphone cable terminated with RJ12 plugs. Unlike a phone cord, the Yaesu cable needs to be wired straight through, not crossed. So, today I picked up an appropriate cord and some RJ12 plugs. The cord was already terminated so I had to replace an end. Instead of the $65 I spent about $12, split evenly between the cord and the package of RJ12 plugs, the unused portion of which I added to my network cabling kit.

I moved the radio to the top of my gun cabinet and attached the faceplate which incorporates the controls to Bagend's monitor with some double-sided Velcro tape. The setup is a big improvement. If I buy or make an extension for my headphone cord I'll be able to move the radio a little further over to the other side of the room. The other option I'm considering is putting the radio and power supply on a shelf above and behind the monitor.

Another ham radio related project I did today was to make a 2M Slimjim antenna, based on plans I found at Ham Universe. Rather than the copper pipe construction described at HU, I used the ground wire from some Romex in my electrical parts box. Last year I made a J-Pole from it and it worked great. Since the wire isn't rigid, I taped it to a piece of 5 foot long 3/4" PVC water pipe, with the coax cable fed through the bottom and out through a hole I drilled in the side of the pipe at the feed point. I drilled another hole up near the top and looped a cable tie through it so that I can hang it. I hope to try out the Slimjim with my VX-5RS over the weekend.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Camino

I've been running Camino 1.0.2 for the past few days on my iBook. In the event you're unfamiliar with it, Camino is a native Aqua app but uses Mozilla's Gecko HTML engine.

When I last tried it out over a year ago, Camino was not ready for daily use and I saw no reason to switch from Firefox. That's changed. Although it still doesn't support Firefox extensions (and AFAIK it never will) it's stable and fast. Firefox of late has really become sluggish on any platform, which lead me to start using Opera and Safari more. Both are fine browsers but because Camino uses Gecko, it renders more pages without the little quirks you run into with Opera or Safari.

Camino is worth a try if you're running Mac OS 10.2 or later.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Rally Point 8/25/06 AAR

Yesterday was the latest Rally Point Shoot, held at the Langhorne Rod & Gun Club north of Philadelphia. We had about 35 - 40 folks show up. Thw eather worke dout well -- about 80 degrees and overcast, perfect for shooting.

I brought along my Springfield M1911A1 Loaded, Ruger 10/22, Colt AR-15A3, and Arsenal SA-M5.

The last time I shot the Springfield was back in March and it was giving me failures to eject, with many spent cases getting jammed between the breech face and the barrel hood. I am pleased to say that I fired 82 rounds (50 Rem-UMC and 42 Federal AE) through it yesterday with no malfunctions. I am pretty sure that my March problems were due to the magazines. Then, I used a couple mags which came with the pistol. Yesterday I used two stainless steel Chip McCormick Shooting Star 8 rounders. I'll be getting some more of these.

Accuracy at 50 feet was good, too. Before my hands got tired from the .45 recoil I was able to keep all my shots inside about 3 - 4" offhand. A better shot would get tighter groups but for me that's not bad.

I put 100 - 120 rounds of CCI Subsonic HPs through the Ruger 10/22, through both a factory mag and a Butler Creek Hot Lips 25 rounder. The CCIs are accurate, reliable, and quiet.

Later I moved to the big bore range and took out the Colt and Arsenal. Incidentally, if you show up at one of these shoots you'll get to see a lot of cool toys. I saw many AR-15s (one with a can), several AKs, a few Garands, an M-1903 Springfield, a few FALs, an an M-1944 Mosin-Nagant carbine. There was also a suppressed Savage 110 in .308 which sounded like a .22 when it was fired.

I only ran 40 rounds through the Colt, on which I'd mounted my new Hakko scope. I need to zero it at 50 yards to get it on paper before shooting it at 100 yards again.

The Arsenal SA-M5 got a workout. I put 160 rounds through it -- 120 Wolf 55 grain JHP and 40 Federal American Eagle 55 grain FMJ-BT. It prefers FMJ ammo. I had 3 or 4 instances of the JHPs getting hung up on the breech when trying to feed into the chamber. Pulling back the bolt and releasing it allowed them to feed. The steel cased Wolf gave no problems with extraction or ejection, which is as I expected. AKs are designed to siphon a healthy amount of gas from the barrel to cycle the action under adverse conditions, so ejection was vigorous.

Before shooting the brass cased Amercian Eagle ammo, I cleaned the chamber with some FP-10 on a couple of patches. Steel cased ammo does not obturate as well as brass cased ammo, so it dirties the chamber more quickly. I've found that shooting brass cased ammo after steel cased can cause intermittent extraction problems.

The magazines I used in the AK were Bulgarian 20 rounders. They functioned perfectly and since they don't protrude as much as 30s, are much better for shooting from the bench. I plan on picking up a few more of these.

I was impressed with the K-Var handguards on the rifle. I got the gun good and hot but they stayed cool. The built-in heat shields work.

Before leaving I wanted to run a couple of patches through the bore. Like a dumbshit I put a couple of .35 caliber patches on the loop of my Otis cleaning kit and got it good and stuck in the throat of the bore, which is of course .22 caliber. I couldn't push it out. This morning when cleaning I figured out how to get it unstuck: unscrew the cable from the tip then push the loop back out with a cleaning rod. It popped back out of the chamber with just a little bit of pressure. Whew!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Busy Monday

Yesterday I took off so that I could take my Expedition into the shop. When I had it in for an oil change last month I asked my mechanic to take a look and see why it sounds like there’s a hole in a part of the exhaust system. Well, there was a hole in the left exhaust manifold. Due to the fact that unscrewing a 9 year old manifold may result in broken bolts, which in turn would require removing the engine to get the manifold off, he wouldn’t do it. So, it’s at a local Ford dealer. While there I’m also having them add refridgerant to the AC system, lubricate the drive shaft, and do some front end work.

It’s going to be a big damn bill {sigh}. Unfortunately I can’t afford a new vehicle so I have to sink money into this one. Our next new vehicle will probably be for Judith because her ’99 Nissan Sentra is small. At least the dealer paying for a rental car for the day or two I’m without my truck.

While I was home I worked on my next article for Techbuilder.org. I’m using my old Dell Latitude CPiA as a test bed, so I loaded FreeBSD 6.1 onto it. The install went very smoothly. I did have to go back and install a new X server – the framebuffer server – to get the GUI working.

Since the box is cramped on disk space (5.5 GB) and has a slow processor (P-II/366MHz) without much RAM (128 MB) I’m using FVWM as my window manager. It’s got a few more features than the default TWM but doesn’t kill system performance like KDE or Gnome. The heaviest desktop I’d use on this hardware would be XFCE.

Once the article is available I’ll post a link.

Finally, I received two new antennas that I ordered last week from Gigaparts. The first is a Comet SMA-24 2M/70cm for my Yaesu VX-5RS HT. The MFJ 1720S 2M/70cm/6M that I’d been using worked OK but made the radio really top heavy. I couldn’t just site it down without propping it up on something. I was also worried that it was putting undue strain on the SMA connector.

In contrast to the MFJ, the Comet SMA-24 is a very thin and light whip that allows the radio to sit on a flat surface without tipping over. It doesn’t work for 6M but for an HT that’s not a problem.

The Comet is very whippy. Above the base, the antenna wire seems to be coated with a rubber layer with a small nub on the tip. Once it starts moving it takes awhile to stop. To give it a little more rigidity I put a piece of heat shrink tubing on it down near the base, and to prevent poking out anyone’s eye I added a small flag of orange duct tape to the tip.

I also got a Diamond MR77 mobile antenna for my truck and field ops. The MFJ 1729 I bought last year vibrated into unusability in short order. The MR77 is a mag mount antenna for 2M and 70cm, with a PL-259 (UHF) connector on the end of the coax cable. I have a UHF-to-SMA adapter cable for use with my VX-5; the FT-7800R has an SO-239 on the back. Before I put this on my truck I’ll probably seal the antenna/base junction with liquid electrical tape to keep our moisture. I noticed that water did get into the MFJ mag mount and when I disassembled it I saw some rust.

So far I’ve used the SMA-24 for listening but not transmitting, while the MR77 is still in the packaging. I’ll post reports once I’ve had the chance to use them for a bit.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Truck fun

My '97 Expedition has been in need of a trip to the shop for awhile now. According to my regular mechanic, there's a small hole in the exhaust manifold which is the source of some loud noise while the engine is running. I've also heard a couple of loud clunks which sound like they're coming from the transmission, so this morning I stopped putting off the inevitable and made an appointment to take it in on Monday.

If the bolts securing the manifold to the engine block break while trying to change it, the engine will probably need to be removed to get them out, so he won't do it. I'm going to take the thing into a local Ford dealer, which I'd rather not do but it seems to be the best option right now. Tomorrow I'll try to hose down the bolts with Liquid Wrench to minimize the chance that the break off on Monday.

{sarcasm}I can't wait to see how much this costs.{/sarcasm}

Monday, August 14, 2006

Monday update

Saturday we schlepped up to Nutley, NJ (within sight of Manhattan) for a birthday party for one of Judith's cousins. The most direct route is to take the PA Turnpike to the NJ Turnpike to the Garden State Parkway. We hit traffic on the way up, but big sections of the southbound NJ Turnpike were parking lots. So, we took an alternate route home.

Instead of taking the Garden State to the NJ Turnpike, we got off the former at I-78W and took that west to US-22, across the Delaware into PA, until we got to the Northeast Extension of the PA Turnpike, I-476. Then 476S to the Norristown interchange and home. Mileage-wise it was probably longer but it took us the same amount of time as the trip up and the drive was much nicer.

I'd planned to go to the range yesterday since the weather was beautiful, but instead got the bug to organize/clean up my office. It's gotten extra cluttered of late to the point where it was bugging even me.
I put a lot of old documents -- ATM receipts, charge slips, old pay stubs -- through the shredder, then installed about ten feet worth of shelf space. This allowed me to get the coffee cans holding empty brass, along with other miscellaneous stuff up out of the way.

The shelves are nothing fancy, just 1x8 pine boards held up with braces and screwed into studs. Since my office is also the laundry room I don't worry about cosmetic details in there.

During my Lowe's run to get the shelving, I spied a few items on closeout that I snagged. They had a Nite Ize Multi Pocket belt pouch which should hold my Yaesu VX-5RS radio along with a few other items. Then there was a Lansky-type knife sharpener, and a butane torch with soldering tips. The knife sharpener should help me retouch the edge on my Benchmade Griptilian, which is made from rather hard steel. I worked on it a bit with my Arkansas stone and didn't make much progress. The only soldering iron I have is pretty cheap, so the torch should come in handy the next time I want to make an antenna.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Craigslist

I've been amazed at the amount of interest I've been getting for the ads I placed on Craigslist for the items that didn't sell at our yard sale last Saturday.

Sunday morning I put up an ad for the crib and changing table, tandem stroller, and three balloon strollers. As I mentioned on Monday I got the first reply in less than five minutes. That woman came over shortly thereafter and bought the balloon strollers and a couple of toys.

Sunday afternoon I got a couple of emails expressing interest in the tandem stroller. After emailing pictures I got one "no thanks" and it looks like the other person may come over sometime today to buy it. If she doesn't, yet another woman emailed me this morning requesting pictures.

Lesson learned: Craigslist is a great place to sell baby stuff once you're finished with it. Adding pictures to an ad will help quite a bit. Any future ads I place will incorporate pictures, which I'll host using my free Photobucket account.

When you consider that posting in Craigslist's "For Sale" classifieds doesn't cost a cent, this is an especially good deal.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Productive Weekend

It was a productive weekend.

Saturday morning we had a yard sale. We advertised it as running from 8:00 until Noon, but the early birds came out. I sold my copy of MS Streets & Trips 2004 at 6:45 AM, just as we were putting things out!

Saturday afternoon I had a site visit at a long-time client. She uses Quickbooks to keep her business's books and for invoicing, and just upgraded to QB2006. Since the upgrade it's been running really slow on her PC and another PC in the office.

It looks like QB2006 is a resource hog. Her PC is a 2.53 GHz Pentium IV with a gig of RAM and not too many other programs running. The other PC is similar. Hey, Intuit, this isn't Photoshop, how about not turning your programs into bloated pieces of crap like Symantec does with everything they publish?

Aside from looking over her PC and making sure it wasn't infested with anything that would cause a performance hit, I also updated their W2K3 file and web servers, and their Linux mail server.

The mail server is on SUSE 9.0 Pro running CommuniGate Pro. It's a bit long in the tooth and becoming hard to support due to a lack of updates. I am going to prepare a proposal for a replacment, based on my TechBuilder.org article about building a mail server with FreeBSD, Postfix, Dovecot, and SpamAssassin. It should perform better and be easier to support once it's setup.

Yesterday I put an ad of Craigslist for the crib, changing table, and strollers that didn't sell on Saturday. Within 5 minutes of placing the ad, I got an email from a woman nearby who just found out she'll be raising a niece's 18 month old. She came over a little while later and bought three umbrella strollers and a few toys. Another woman setup a time to come over tomorrow to look at the crib and changing table. Hopefully, she'll buy the set and then we'll only have to get rid of a double stroller.

I wrapped up the weekend by joining in the MARC Sunday night club net.