Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Out in California

This morning I flew out to La-La land California for work. I flew US Airways and although we left a bit late we got in early. We flew into San Francisco, waited a bit to get my bag (SFO's baggage claim needs some work), picked up a rental car, and then drove down to the Sheraton in Sunnyvale. San Jose airport is closer to Sunnyvale but we couldn't get a direct flight from Philly. If I'm going to be stuck on a plane for close to six hours I don't want the extra hassle of changing planes at an intermediate stop.

I'm here along with another engineer to look over a streaming video system for possible use by my employer. Based on what we've seen so far in demos back home, it's looking good. We'll do some onsite evaluations tomorrow and Thursday, then fly home Friday.

My hotel room has high speed Internet access (for a fee) so I thought I'd have a one-way video iChat session with Judith, so the girls could see Daddy. No dice. Although we were able to do a voice chat without any problems, I couldn't get the video to work. My webcam is a Logitech USB model and I have a plugin for iChatAV to allow it to use such. But even though I could see a preview of the video on my screen, Judith could not. Out of the box, iChatAV only works with Firewire webcams, not USB webcams. Unfortunately, such webcams are few and far between, and expensive to boot. So, I think I'll bag the video chat idea until I get a new MacBook or MacBook Pro sometime next year; they come with a built-in webcam.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

It's Memorial Day here in the USA. We'll have the traditional BBQ and beer drinking, but let's remember the real reason for the holiday. Thank you to all our veterans, past and present who have fought to secure our freedom.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Range report, plus

Last night I went over to Surplus City and snagged a Ruger factory 30 round Mini-14 magazine for an obscenely low price. The factory 20s are pretty easy to come by now but the 30s were discontinued several years ago, so this was a find. It's very lightly used with just a few wear spots on the bluing.

Today's my birthday (yay), so as usual, I went shooting. I brought my Underwood M1 Carbine and Mini-14. I tested the four Ruger 20s which I got shortly after the Assault Weapons Ban sunset and they worked fine. (I did not bring the new 30 rounder.) The ammo I brought was some of the new Wolf Gold M-193 made by Prvi Partizan in Serbia. Compared with Federal/LC XM-193 it seemed a little downloaded, judging by the softer ejection. I had one failure to extract, on the next-to-last round of the 3rd magazine. This rifle has previously digested about 400 rounds of Wolf steel cased .223 without a hitch, so I was a bit surprised by this. The ammo was dated 2004 so more recent production may work better; as I understand it Wolf is working with Prvi Partizan to optimize their M-193 for the American market.

The M1 digested 50 rounds of Remington .30 Carbine 110 grain jacketed soft points and 50 rounds of Magtech JSPs without a bobble. I got two boxes of the Magtech JSPs from MidwayUSA a couple years ago. When I shot the first box I got a couple of malfs so I was pleasantly surprised that it worked fine today. I plan to pick up a few more boxes of the Remington JSPs, though, since they are supposed to perform well and will enhance the social utility of the Carbine.

On the way home from the range I stopped in at Clayton's on PA-611, just South of the Willow Grove Joint Reserve Base. I was in the market for a companion for my Underwood, which I found in the form of a Rock Ola M1 that followed me home. A couple of pictures:

Like most M1 Carbines, it's a mix of WW2 and postwar parts. The barrel appears to be original to the gun, being marked Rock Ola. It has a flat M1 bolt rather than the more common later round type. The rear sight is the middle-period milled unit, it has the flip-type safety, bayonet lug barrel band, and M2 wood. I'm not sure if the wood is GI or aftermarket, since it has no markings. I looked but couldn't find any importer markings, so it's possible this was one of the Carbines released for sale to NRA members back in the 1960s.

Before I cleaned it today I think the last time it was cleaned was sometime around the Korean Armistace, but it cleaned up nicely. The bore looked grungy and I even saw green fouling in the lands just inside the muzzle, but after a good cleaning with Hoppe's No.9 and Sweet's 7.62 it came out looking like a mirror.

I'm thinking about dropping it into one of the repro M1A1 folding stocks, since the wood isn't anything special. I got to shoot another guy's Auto Ordnance Carbine so-equipped today and I liked it a lot.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mozilla Still Shunned in the Enterprise

There's an interesting article here discussing why Mozilla is still shunned in the enterprise. As mentioned in the piece, a lot of it has to do with IE-only intranets, but in my experience, it's mostly on the mail side where there's a problem.

At my employer, our intranet sites require Internet Exploder. However, a lot of people here use Firefox for the rest of their web browsing, and of course it works just fine for non-Intranet sites. For email though, which includes shared calendaring, we need an Exchange client. Thunderbird doesn't cut it, since neither POP nor IMAP are enabled on our Exchange farm. Even if they were, the shared calendaring for setting up meetings wouldn't work without an Exchange client. Even Microsoft's non-Outlook Exchange client (Entourage on the Mac) has its quirks. For example, I find that Entourage doesn't properly update my calendar all the time. I can accept a meeting but then when I go into Outlook on my Dell, an unaccepted invite remains in my Inbox. Even MS can't get its proprietary standards to work properly across platforms.

As long as enterprises remain tied to Windows-centric apps, we're going to be stuck with this.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Upgraded my iBook G4

Since I was stuck at home today again due to this damn poison ivy, I upgraded my iBook G4 with a new hard disk obtained last night from Microcenter.

The OEM 30 GB drive was the biggest bottleneck the machine had. The small size was a problem, since while 30 GB on a Windows or Linux box is a decent amount for my needs, many Mac applications seem to be rather large, compared with their Windows or Linux counterparts. Between apps, data, and iTunes, I was down to under 9 GB free. Also, it's a slow 4200 RPM unit, which hinder performance.

So last night I went out when the poison ivy wasn't bothering me too much and picked up a Fujitsu 80 GB 5400 notebook drive and a Macally Firewire/USB 2.0 2.5" external enclosure. My plan was to put the Fuji drive in the enclosure, clone it using Carbon Copy Cloner, then swap out the OEM drive for the Fujitsu. Simple in theory but not so simple in practice.

The first glitch I ran into was that Carbon Copy Cloner kept hanging on me. After I formatted the Fuji drive as HFS+ using OS-X's Disk Utility, I started the cloning process. The first attempt hung while copying some User Guides installed along with OS-X. The second attempt hung when blessing the drive. Time to take a different approach.

I decided to try SuperDuper. SuperDuper was able to clone the drive. To verify it was bootable I went into System Preferences > Startup Disk, selected the Firewire drive, and restarted the box. It worked!

The next step was to swap the drives. Apple did a hell of a job with the iBook's aesthetics but taking this thing apart is a cast iron beotch. Thankfully, I found an excellent illustrated guide by the fine folks at iFixit, without which I would've been up the creek without a paddle. The hard disk is not accessible until you remove both the top and bottom of the system's case. Around 50 screws, most of which are tiny, need to be removed and reinstalled during the process.

After getting the new drive in the iBook I booted it up and was presented with a black screen. Talk about having an "OH SHIT!" moment. It turned out that I'd forgotten to reconnect a DC power in cable to the mainboard, so while the machine turned on and the fan blew, nothing else happened. After I reconnected it and partially reassembled the machine I tried booting it again, this time successfully. Whew!

Once the iBook was back together, I installed the OEM drive into the Macally enclosure and verified I could access it via the Firewire connection.

Finally, it came time to use the iBook with the new drive. It definitely feels snappier, as I'd expect with a 5400 RPM disk with 8 MB of cache. All my applications appear to run without problems And it's sure nice to have a drive that's not cramped for space.

This upgrade should really extend the useful life of my iBook. It was difficult and time consuming but it looks to be worth it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

And to put things in perspective

As crappy as having poison ivy is, it's nothing compared to losing your son. Fellow Daynoter Rick Hellewell just did.

If you pray, please include the Hellewell family in your thoughts.

More ivy

Well, even after the Zanfel treatment I woke up in the middle of the night ready to jump out of my skin. I got a little relief with another hot shower and Zanfel scrub at 0330, but decided that it was time to stop self-medicating and call the doctor.

This morning I went to the doc and got a steroid shot and prescription for the Methylprednisone Dosepak, which is a six-day regimen of pills.

Aside from missing a day of work this especially sucks because I was enrolled in a company-sponsored CCNA prep class. Now it looks like I'll have to enroll in the next session.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Poison Ivy

Back in 2004 I wrote about my experience with poison ivy. I have it, or poison sumac, again. I know what poison ivy looks like so that's why I'm wondering if it's oak or sumac. It's been about a week and as before, I'm not sure where I picked it up. This time I've tried a couple of different things to alleviate the itching:

  • Hot showers on the afflicted parts; this time it's my arms. Heat apparently stimulates the release of the itch-causing histamines in your skin. If you can stand under hot water for five minutes you can get your skin to release its store of histamines. It then takes several hours for the skin to replenish them. So, plain old hot water can give you relief for a few hours.
  • Today I went out and bought a tube of Zanfel Poison Ivy Wash. This stuff is expensive as hell ($38 for an ounce) but seems to be working. After following the instructions on the tube, I scrubbed the hell out of the areas on my hands and arms where I have the rashes, and they seem to be subsiding. I'll render a final opinion tomorrow but it seems to be worth it.
Since I'm not certain where I'm being exposed to poison ivy/sumac/whatever, I'm going to start wearing a long sleeve shirt while I'm doing yard work, then changing out of it as soon as I'm done and going straight into the shower. The urushiol oil that causes the rash is fucking nasty shit, but it can be removed with soap and water if you can get to it before it binds to your skin. Dawn dishwashing detergent is supposed to be very effective for this.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bush on Ilegals: Not Good Enough

Bush blew it last night in his speech on illegal immigration. KdT details why. IMO, Kim's grade of D- for the speech was overly generous.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A trip to the Apple Store

While the girls were napping this afternoon I paid a visit to the Apple Store in King of Prussia, PA. I'll be taking a business trip to Sunnyvale, CA in a couple of weeks and with the prospect of a couple 5-6 hour flights, I felt that it's time I got myself an iPod.

Before I got the iPod I spent some time drooling over the new Intel powered iMacs and Mac Minis. Aside from the drop dead gorgeous LCD displays that Apple uses, the thing that struck me is how fast these boxes are. I opened up MS Word and Excel on an iMac and a Mini. Keep in mind that the Office 2004 apps are still PPC binaries, not Universal Binaries, so they have to run using Rosetta PPC emulation. They still smoke my G4 iBook. Yep, the next desktop PC in the Markowitz household is going to be an iMac. (Not for awhile, though.)

Since iPods are not just music players but can also be used as external hard drives I decided to splurge and go for the top of the line 60 GB model. Thankfully, my employer participates in a program with Apple that gets me a 6% discount. Unfortunately my iBook can't boot from it, since the iPod USB-only, and the only external drives that G4 iBooks can boot from are Firewire devices. The new Intel-based Macs can boot from USB drives, however.

Now I need to go and rip the rest of my CDs. I'll still have most of the drive empty for awhile even after I load all of my music onto it.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A couple M-1 Carbine items

I've written in the past of my fondness for the M-1 Carbine. Aside from being very fun to shoot due to the low recoil and mild report, I view it as an excellent defensive rifle for civvies or patrol carbine for policemen. I owned an Iver Johnson Carbine back in the 1980s (wish I still had it) and currently have a GI M-1 made by Underwood-Elliot-Fisher in 1943, and imported back into the country from South Korea in the late 80s.

The M-1 is a simple rifle to field strip but I want to ensure that I can keep it running in case something breaks. So, last night, I ordered a copy of The U.S. .30 Caliber Gas Operated Carbines: A Shop Manual Book by Jerry Kuhnhausen from MidwayUSA. (I generally get my books from Amazon or the local Barnes & Noble, but neither had it.) Having seen Kunhausen's shop manuals for the Smith & Wesson and Colt revolvers, I'm sure this will be excellent.

While shopping, I added a couple of boxes of Remington .30 Carbine 110 grain JSPs to my shopping cart. When my dad owned the Underwood he ran a box or two through it with good results. If I can repeat this I'll stock up on a few hundred rounds. Based on ballistic gelatin testing and hunters' reports, the Remington load works very well, greatly improving the .30 Carbine's terminal ballistics. The only JSP I've personally run through the Underwood was a box of Magtech, which seemed underpowered, and caused one failure to feed and one stovepipe.

Assuming my M-1 feeds good JSP loads well, I may handload for it. I've been saving brass. I should be able to duplicate Remington's factory load with their bullets and either IMR-4227 or Alliant 2400. When I had the Iver John Carbine I did a limited amount of handloading, including some loads with 2400 under a Speer 100 grain short jacket "Plinker" bullet. They functioned OK but accuracy was inferior to 110 grain bullets. I think I'm going to have to really get back into handloading as increased fuel and metal costs drive ammo prices ever higher.

Enemy of the State: A Documentary

In the 1998 movie Enemy of the State, when a lawyer (Will Smith) comes into evidence of a major crime, he has to go to a former spook (Gene Hackman) to escape from corrupt politicians and NSA agents. A good part of the movie shows how the NSA can track you anywhere, anytime, and through seemingly innocuous means.

Now it appears that the NSA's spying on American citizens is as bad or worse than what Hollywood dreamed up for the movie. If this story is true then the Federal government, in collusion with most of hte telcos, has created a Big Brother that the Nazis and Communists could only have fantasized about. Per the article, the NSA has created a database encompassing virtually all telephone calls in the United States which took place in the last few years. Bush claims that Americans' privacy rights are being respected and nobody has immediate access to personally identifieable information. I call bullshit on that.

If the database is as all-encompassing as described in the article it is one of the most horrendous threats to liberty every created. No government should ever know this much about its own citizens. Can you imagine what a true tyrant could do to control the citizenry given this information? Even if Bush and company are respecting individual privacy rights, what of a successor administration? Imagine what use megalomaniacs like Hillary Clinton or Charles Schumer would do with a database of this kind.

I'm going to cop a line from Jerry Pournelle: The tree of liberty is THIRSTY.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Next Rally Point Shoot June 10th

As posted by our fearless leader, Jamie Young:

We will be putting our boots on the ground on:

Date: Saturday June 10, 2006
Place: www.lrgc.org in Southeaster Pennyslvania (just North of Philadelphia)
Time: 9am-5pm

Rally Point events and socializing will be going on at the:

Pistol range: 15yds-25yd
Pistol/rifle range: 50yd
Big Bore rifle range 100yd-200yds
2 fields for shooting trap

Food and drinks will be available.
For Directions http://www.lrgc.org/html/location.html
Admission is $15

www.therallypoint.org events tend to be informal, and there will be plenty of time to socialize, but since the www.lrgc.org is very big, we decided to join forces with http://www.rwva.org/ to further our cause. We will be having a Mini-Appleseed MiniAppleseed

Training: NRA Certified Firearms instructors will be available to instruct new shooters. If you have friends or family members that want to learn how to handle a firearm, please help further our cause and invite them to come out. This is a family friendly event which I've even invited my own mother to!


Kalishnikov competition
Scoped Rifle / DMR Competition – to honor Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock.

Theme: Firearms from the Vietnam era. If you got something interesting to bring out please let us know what you're bringing. We will be designating a table at the 100yd-200yd tables for displaying a few pieces of history.

People from all of the most popular gun boards will be there.

p.s. I would appreciate it if people would post that they are coming so we can get an approximate number of people coming for food and event planning. Rain or shine we will be there. Last minute decisions are ok.

If you are coming, please register at The Rally Point and post in the event thread.

Mail servers and file servers

Last night I sent off my next article for TechBuilder.org. It's morphed into a two-part piece, because I couldn't fit everything I needed to give the subject -- how to build a mail server with FreeBSD and other open source software -- into one 1900 word article. Part 2 is due next Monday.

This morning I got a call from a client who cannot access the e-Smith file server I installed in his office a few years ago. He's tried rebooting both the server and the network switch, but can't even ping the box from the PCs on his network. He said there's a link light on the switch. It may be that a power failure over the weekend corrupted a config and I need to go in and reconfigure the NIC. I'm going to look at it in person tonight.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Home today

I'm home today, courtesy of an infection I picked up from Amanda. I cannot wait until the kids are out of daycare. Aside from the cost I hope they'll be bringing home fewer bugs.

I'm not letting the day go to waste. I'm working on my second article for Techbuilder.org, and made several updates to The Shooter's Bar. I did the updates in NoteTab Light, since I don't have a WYSIWYG HTML editor on Bagend. Doing so rubs my face in the utterly craptastic HTML that Mozilla Composer generates. One day if I get really motivated, I'll dump the text out of the TSB page and manually redo it in NoteTab Light or TextWrangler on my iBook.