Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Update on the Mac

I decided to get the G3 running by using only the 20 GB drive, partitioned half for OS X and half for OpenBSD. After partitioning it using Disk Utility, I formatted the front half HFS+ and used Carbon Copy Cloner to clone the original drive to the new partition.

Unfortunately, the cloned partition wasn't usable. Finder kept crashing on me, so I said to hell with it and got ahold of a set of Panther install CDs. So, I should have a functional OS 10.3 box shortly. After that's running and updated I'll install OpenBSD in the second partition.

Update @ 15:25 -- Now I've got the spinning beatchball o'death. Im starting to wonder if this disk is hosed. Argh!


A little while ago I added an old G3 PowerMac to my lab. It's 350MHz box with 768MB RAM, running OS 10.2.8. It's a nice machine, albeit a bit pokey by today's standards. Last week I came up with the idea of adding a second disk and installing FreeBSD on it, so I could run an internal FTP server and apps like Iperf without the overhead of OS X.

I added a 20 GB drive scrounged from an old Cobalt Qube3. It's seutp as a slave on the primary IDE connection.

Unfortunately, FreeBSD refused to install. Doing some googling indicated that the error I saw was someting that what supposed to be fixed in FreeBSD-6, but wasn't. So, I decided to try OpenBSD 3.8 for Mac PPC. I've been wanting to try OpenBSD for a long time anyway.

Setting up the disks in OpenBSD's installer runnign fdisk took me a few tries but I got it figured out. The install went OK after I found an FTP mirror that wasn't already maxed out (OpenBSD doesn't make full ISOs available for download).

At this point I can't get the box to boot into OpenBSD. Much googling has revealed instructions on how to configure Open Firmware to boot a Mac into OpenBSD when you've got only one disk in the machine, but I haven't found anything about booting from a second IDE drive.

I debating whether to wipe the main disk and make the box OpenBSD only, or to wipe the second disk, reformat it HFS+, and just use Iperf and the FTP server from OS X. Suggestions on how to get OpenBSD working in a dual-boot config are welcome.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


I am pleased to announce the opening of a new Second Amendment/shooting forum, TheRallyPoint.org. From the mission statement:

This forum was created to bring a new spirit to discussion forums. By agreeing to the forum rules when registering, we ask that all members acknowledge that they will become Ambassadors for the cause of advancing responsible firearms ownership, and engaged in debates that educate and add to a stronger and stable society. A part of the mission of this site is to foster, in a non partisan manner, the values of self determination and self reliance that have served America admirably throughout its history.

I'm one of the administrators/moderators. We hope you join us.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Deja Feces...

... or, I think I've seen this crap before.

In my prior position with the corporation that I work for, I survived at least four major reorganizations/layoffs unscathed. Now, my current division is doing the reorg thing and I'm aware of at least four or five people who are being "downsized," although they aren't in my department. We won't know how we're going to come out of the reorg for another couple of weeks. I don't think my job is in jeapordy, but you never know.

In the interim, I posted an ad on Craigslist.org for my sideline consulting work to try and drum up a little more business, and worked on my resume tonight.

Oh, the joys of working in corporate America.

A couple good preparedness deals

Yesterday I received some stuff I ordered from Campmor and Cheaper Than Dirt.

Looking through the Campmor catalog I received last week I saw they had 300 weight fleece throws on sale for $8.95 ea., regularly close to $20. So I ordered a couple of charcoal colored ones along with a Century propane conversion kit for my dual fuel Coleman camp stove. So now it's a tri-fuel stove. The throws are a little small to use as a blanket but would be good for keeping in the car.

CTD sent me a case of MREs, a GI-style poncho and liner (AKA "woobie"), both in MARPAT. Quality of the poncho and woobie seem pretty good. I used the liner for a blanket last night and it's like my GI liner -- not real warm, but better than nothing. I added one of the throws in the middle of the night and was able to sleep comfortably in a 60 degree room.

Alexandra thinks MARPAT is cool, really likes the woobie and wants one of her own. So it looks like I'll be able to wean her away from the girly foo-foo stuff. :-)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Revisiting Fink

This morning I installed Fink on my iBook with the aim of loading several open source apps. I've used Fink previously but ran into several difficulties, but it looks like the developers have greatly improved things.

After installing Fink and updating it, I installed Fink Commander, an easy to use GUI interface to Fink's underlying Debian-type system. Then I loaded nmap, my favorite port scanner and the Gimp open source image editing tool. I'd installed Gimp.app shortly after I got the iBook, but a subsequent OS-X update killed it. It seems to be running OK now. For the simple image editing I do (i.e., mainly resizing or removing red eye), the Gimp works great and runs a lot faster than Photoshop.

The final app I installed through Fink was the protocol analyzer Ethereal. Installation appeared to go OK but I'm getting errors when i try to run it. E.g., I'm seeing "Image not loaded." I did a little googling to find a fix but don't have it working yet. If I do find one I'll post it here.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Cross Platform Network Printing Woes

I've ranted in the past about the piss-poor state of printing setup in Linux. But that's not the only thing with printers that needs to be fixed. Specifically, printing to a printer connected to a Mac from a Windows box, and vice-versa.

Saturday morning I went over to a client's house to setup his new Mac Mini. Wonderful box, the Mac Mini. It's tiny, almost silent, and of course runs Mac OS-X. My client has an HP OfficeJet 6110xi connected to it that he'd like to be able to use from the two other computers on his LAN, both of which run XP Home.

Unfortunately, while I was easily able to setup file sharing so the Macs and PCs could share resources, I couldn't get remote printing to work. No matter what I tried, the print jobs would make it to the Mac's qeue from the XP box, but not actually print.

Yesterday, I tried to get Judith's new iBook to print to the Samsung ML-1710 hooked up to Bagend, which runs XP Professional. No dice. The Mac sees the printer but I don't get any output.

Several months ago I was discussing the sucktastic state of *NIX printing with a fellow Linux geek who's also the senior UNIX architect at a major stock exchange. His advice for *NIX printing is to use an HP JetDirect print server. I'd hoped things would be better with Macs, but apparently there are still issues.

So, I'm looking at getting a print server. In particular, Apple's AirPort Express and AirPort Extreme both include a USB port and print server for Windows and Mac clients. I'd replace the Netgear WAP I'm currently using with the AirPort. Some googling indicates that the Samsung should be compatible with the AirPorts.

So, I'd welcome feedback from any users who've use AirPorts as print servers, especially with (a) Windows clients since I have no doubt it'll work flawlessly with a Mac, and (b) with Samsung USB printers.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Another iBook

Yesterday the School District of Philadelphia issued Judith a spankin' new G4 iBook. It's a 12" model with the 1.33 GHz G4, 512 MB of RAM, and a 60 GB hard drive. I think it just has a CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive, not a SuperDrive. It does have Bluetooth, however.

I did the initial setup for her last night including creating her user account, associating the AirPort with my home WLAN, and running Software Update; it came with 10.4.3 and is now on 10.4.4. Although I had to go through the initial OS-X setup, it was obvious that the School District had imaged it. For example, it had a couple of Terminal.app shortcuts in the Dock, and MS Office 2004 was installed and registered. It also had Firefox installed but I upgraded it to 1.5, since the earlier version had some security issues resolved in the new release. McAfee Virex antivirus for Mac was installed, too. I'd generally regard that as being as useful as tits on a boar, but it'll protect her against Office macro viruses.

Along with the iBook they gave her an STM Sport Laptop Backpack, which seems pretty nice. I like the layout and pocket arrangement better than my REI Big Byte's, although my bag has better padded shoulder straps.

I think she'll enjoy using the iBook a lot more than my old Compaq, especially since that old box suffers from intermittent XP wireless schizophrenia.

More About Legislating GPS On Guns

The following email is reposted with the author's permission:

Hi, Dave.....

>Friday, January 13, 2006
>From the CLUELESS IDIOT Department
>This guy isn't just an antigunner, he is technologically clueless:
>Saying gun manufacturers should take steps to track guns, a Boston city
>councilor is proposing that global positioning technology be installed in
>Councilor Rob Consalvo wants to put a tracking device into newly
>manufactured guns and have legal gun owners retrofit their firearms so
>owners and police can locate and retrieve stolen guns the same way police
>use a computer chip to locate stolen cars.
>Just where does Consalvo think you'd be able to fit a GPS unit onto a gun?
>These things aren't the size of postage stamps, you know. Moreover, such
>devices require electricity. I suppose criminals are going to make sure
>that a stolen gun's GPS unit is fully powered.
>How much do you want to bet that if GPS trackers were added to guns, that
>the bad guys won't figure out a way to disable them in less than two minutes?

Assuming he's not a totally clueless idiot (which he may well be), this
would most likely fall under the "if you can't make them outright illegal,
make them so difficult and expensive as to be effectively illegal" train of

Similar to what the insurance industry tried to do (somewhat successfully,
even) with "named" sportbikes 15/20 years ago. The insurance rates on
easily identifiable sportbikes like the Honda Hurricane got so high as to
make the short answer "you can't get insurance for that bike". If you
can't get insurance, you can't ride, and so.... Et Voila! The insurance
industry has banned certain motorcycles. Fortunately, that got fixed

>At 10:54 AM, Anonymous said…
>The technology is already available. It is a small chip that will soon be
>on everything from potato chips to cars. It should be on guns. Not optional
>and retrofitting required.

And this guy is totally overlooking the entire (*impossible*) logistical
problem of getting these thing put on *all* (including criminally-owned)
guns. If you could find the criminals to put these things on their guns,
don't you think it would be simpler to just arrest the criminals right

(Reverse the logic -- Look at how Mark Twain used the soot-covered pig in
"The Prince and the Pauper" as a way to mark things.... It's not bad if it
*has* the mark, it's bad if it *doesn't* have the mark.)

And even if you could put these things on all guns, the bad guys would just
disable them immediately anyway.

Here's the best answer to people who want to put any kind of "technology"
on serious firearms:


Ok, I feel better now. :-)


Mitch Kutzko
Project: http://dast.nlanr.net | Personal: http://hobbes.ncsa.uiuc.edu

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

An Operating System Ready for the Desktop

In the Windows vs. Linux debate we keep hearing that Linux isn't ready for the desktop. Depending upon what you want to do with your PC, this may or may not be the case. For example, you may have applications that you must run, which do not run on Linux. Or, you may want to setup network printing, which remains a bitch and a half on Linux.

The implication of this is that Windows is ready for the desktop. Not necessarily. The main problem running Windows is that while it's generally easy to use, install applications, and setup peripherals -- including printers shared over the LAN -- keeping a Windows box running well and free of viruses, spyware, Trojan horses, and other assorted malware requires a saavy user. But, the vast majority of users are anything but.

This past Saturday I went over to client's house to help get two of the three PCs on his home network squared away. His older daughter's PC was unable to open MS Word or iTunes, and was having intermittent problems accessing his wireless network. It turned out that the box was infected with a Trojan horse which installed mIRC and was phoning home. (I forget which exact Trojan it was, unfortunately.)

After determining what malware was infecting the PC, I got rid of Norton Internet Security, which although up-to-date, hadn't detected it, and replaced it with AVG. AVG detected the infected files and allowed me to delete them. I also installed and ran full scans with Spybot Search & Destroy and Ad-Aware, after replacing the stock HOSTS file with the file from MVPS.org.

Another program I loaded was K9 Web Protection, from Blue Coat Systems. This is a content filtering application made freely available (free as in beer) for home use. By default, it has a fairly restrictive filter set which we modified to only block sites determined to be sources of malware or privacy risks. The logging function will enable my client to better monitor what his daughter is doing on the Internet.

Expecting your average, not-computer-saavy user to keep up with antivirus, antispyware, a hosts files, and content filtering, on top of Windows Update, just isn't realistic.

The second PC I had to look at turned out to have a bad video board. It's a Gateway that's about 4 or 5 years old. I've previously replaced the hard disk in the box and now it's had a second hardware failure. I told my client I could replace this video card, but explained to him in my opinion that sinking any more money into the box was more or less equivalent to putting money into a 1989 car.

With the experience of the other PCs on his LAN in mind, and the fact that his kids uses Macs at school, and my suggestion he consider the option, he ordered a loaded Mac Mini to replace the Gateway. His daughters will be able to do their schoolwork just as easily on the Mac as on a PC, yet he won't have to be concerned that the machine will need an endless stream of antivirus and antispyware updates.

Windows advocates are fond of pointing out that Linux is only free if your time isn't worth anything. The same is true of Windows, which is often perceived as free because it comes loaded on the majority of computers. The initial cost for a Mac is higher than for a Wintel box. But the long-term cost can be much less, especially if you have to pay someone like me to come into your house or office and fix the mess that Windows becomes after a short period of use. This level of support is not needed with Macs. The OS's design, based on BSD UNIX, is much more secure and robust. Right now, the operating system that is the most ready for the desktop is Mac OS-X.

Welcome, Langalist Readers

Fred Langa listed this blog in his "They Loaded The Code" section of his email newsletter yesterday and I can tell that my traffic is up. Thanks, Fred, and thanks to all of you who clicked on my URL. Please poke around a bit and I'm sure you'll find something of interest. My choice of topics is somewhat eclectic:

  • Computing, including Windows, Mac, and Linux.
  • Networking.
  • Shooting and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
  • General politics and law.
  • Some personal reflections.

Friday, January 13, 2006

From the CLUELESS IDIOT Department

This guy isn't just an antigunner, he is technologically clueless:

Saying gun manufacturers should take steps to track guns, a Boston city councilor is proposing that global positioning technology be installed in firearms.

Councilor Rob Consalvo wants to put a tracking device into newly manufactured guns and have legal gun owners retrofit their firearms so owners and police can locate and retrieve stolen guns the same way police use a computer chip to locate stolen cars.

Just where does Consalvo think you'd be able to fit a GPS unit onto a gun? These things aren't the size of postage stamps, you know. Moreover, such devices require electricity. I suppose criminals are going to make sure that a stolen gun's GPS unit is fully powered.

How much do you want to bet that if GPS trackers were added to guns, that the bad guys won't figure out a way to disable them in less than two minutes?

I'm surprised Consalvo remembers to breathe if he really thinks this is a good idea.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

When The Devil Dances

Yesterday I finished When The Devil Dances, the third book in John Ringo's Posleen War series. (I'd thought that The Watch on The Rhine was next, but I was mistaken.)

Anway, WTDD takes place five years after the Posleen invasion of Earth which happened in Gust Front. All three books are fast moving and exhibit a good sense of humor. For example, there were a couple of references to Army of Darnkness in WTDD. The military aspects of the novels seem to be accurate, which only makes sense as Ringo is a vet of the 82nd Airborne. As a gunnut, I appreciate that for the most part the firearms-related content, of which there's a lot, is generally accurate. There's the occasional blooper, as when Ringo notes that one character's Walther PP is chambered for 7.62mm rounds, when it should say 7.65mm. Close enough for fiction. But one thing I really liked was this little missive from his character Wendy Cummings, given to some new shooters:

The most important thing is that; never, ever point a gun, even an "unloaded" gun, at anything you don't want destroyed. For the purposes of safety, every gun is loaded. Guns aren't evil magic; they're just tools for killing something at a distance. Treat them as useful, but dangerous tools, like a circular saw or a chainsaw, and you'll be fine.

That right there is the essence of firearms safety.

I'm enjoying the Human-Posleen War series a lot. Between it and Eric Flint's 1632, I've been devouring scifi like I haven't done since before I started my first term of law school. So, tonight I'll be ordering Hell's Faire, the next Ringo book, 1633, and The Watch on The Rhine.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Google Earth for Mac

w00t! Google Earth is now available for Mac. The system requirements, per Google, are:

Minimum System Configuration
  • OS: Windows 2000, XP, or Mac OS X (10.4)
  • CPU: 600MHz
  • Free Hard Disk Space: 400 MB
  • System RAM: 128 MB
  • Video RAM: 16 MB
  • Screen Resolution: 1024x768, 32-bit color
  • Internet: 128 Kbps ("broadband")
  • For better performance: Recommended Configuration

Which in this day and age aren't unreasonable, especially when you consider the heavy duty graphics Google Earth throws on your screen.

I previously installed Google Earth on Bagend, my Althon box at home, and this morning installed it on my 1.2 GHz G4 iBook with 768 MB of RAM, connected to a cable modem. It ran fine, with Thunderbird, Firefox, and Adium running in the background.

Aside from the general WOW! factor initial impression that Google Earth generates, it has some very practical uses. E.g., you can use it for getting directions. I plan to use it to work out routes and possible destinations in case I need to evacuate due to a disaster, man-made or natural.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

New Macs

There were several interesting announcements at this morning's Macworld keynote speech by Steve Jobs, but the one of most interest to me is the new MacBook Pro (sounds rather Scottish, doesn't it?). The new professionally-oriented Mac laptop starts at $1999 with a 15.4" screen, 1.67 GHz Intel Core Duo CPU, 512 MB of RAM, a 128 MB ATI Radeon video adapter, and 80 GB 5400 RPM hard disk. Sounds pretty damn sweet to me. A 1.83 GHz version is also available with a 256 MB video adapter.

Too bad I can't afford one. Even if I did have the extra money for one, I'd wait awhile to let Apple work out the inevitable bugs resulting from switching to a new platform.

The new Intel based Macs, including the Intel iMacs, start shipping next month.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Another week gone by

Please pardon the lack of posting. I'll try to do more frequent updates.

As mentioned in my last post, I downloaded John Ringo's Gust Front from the Baen Free Library. Like A Hymn Before Battle, it's very good military scifi. The series clearly owes a great deal to Heinlein's Starship Troopers, mainly with the powered battle armor. This is not a bad thing.

Yesterday while out doing errands I checked out the local Borders and Barnes & Noble to see if I could pick up a hard copy of The Watch on the Rhine, but struck out. I think I'll place an order for it and one or two more books in the series from Amazon.

Friday I received an order of some new AR-15 magazines and some spare parts from DSG Arms, down in Texas. This is the second time I've ordered from DSG and both were good experiences. The magazines are the GI-type 30 rounders, but have a black Teflon coating, rather than the GI moly coat. The black color better matches the rest of my AR-15A3 than the GI gray, but more importantly, the Teflon finish is supposed to be more durable than the moly.

The spare parts kit is an ArmaLite M15 Field Repair Kit, which I augmented with a couple each extractor O-rings, firing pin retaining pins, and extractor pins. I.e., little parts that would be easy to lose and without which the rifle won't function.

Last week's eBlast from MidwayUSA pointed me to their sale on Rifle Basix sears, on sale for $15 off. I have two on order, one for my Savage Mark IIGL and 93GL. I like both rifles a lot, as they are accurate and well made. Unfortunately they ship with terrible triggers. The Rifle Basix replacement sears should allow me to lower the trigger pulls down into the 2 lb. range which will enahnce practical accuracy. Reports when I get 'em.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Baen Free Library

Many of my readers no doubt already know about Baen's Free Library, but I'll put in a plug for it anyway. Baen Books, publisher of many fine works of scifi, has seen fit to make available for free download many of their titles. You can choose HTML, RTF, or MS Reader formats. So far I'm favoring RTF and reading the books in Word 2004 on my iBook.

Last night I finished John Ringo's A Hymn Before Battle. It's military scifi based on the premises that an invasion by the alien Posleen is coming in about 5 years. Earth is warned by friendly aliens who are also under attack by the Posleen. The story is reminiscent of both Alan Dean Foster's "A Call To Arms" series, with a bit of RAH's Starship Troopers thrown in.

I downloaded the sequel, Gust Front, which I'll be starting later today. Once I finish that I plan to buy the next book in the series.

Hats off to Baen for doing this.