Sunday, August 31, 2008

NJ vs. PA Match at LRGC

I shot in the NJ vs. PA practical rifle match yesterday at Langhorne Rod & Gun Club. The course of fire included:

1. From 10 yards, two rifle mags, 3 rounds each, followed by a transition to pistol, 2 mags of 3 rounds each. Timed.
2. From 100 yards, three rifle mags, 5 rounds each, standing, kneeling, prone.
3. From 200 yards, three rifle mags of 5 rounds each, rollover prone, prone, weak side prone.
4. From 200 yards, 10 shots on three gongs, the smallest of which is hardly visible w/o magnification.
5. From 200 yards behind a barricade, two mags of 8 rounds each on gongs, plus 15 rounds at the top half of an IPSC target. First 8 rounds on steel kneeling, then switch to a different position, i.e., sitting or prone. Alternatively, you could shoot at the same half IPSC target at 100 yards, but not from prone. 2 minute time limit.

We had a large turnout and to get everyone through took about 6 hours.

I did OK but need more practice, especially from rollover prone and weak side. When I switched to the right shoulder I had a hard time finding the exit pupil of my scope. I also need to break in my holster. I used a new Don Hume rig for my Springfield M1911 and it is still tight, which killed my time during the first evolution. (At least my raw score on that stage was 58/60.)

The rifle I shot was my Colt AR-15A3 with an IOR-Valdada 3x25mm CQB scope. I used 30 round Magpul P-Mags and Federal American Eagle .223 55 grain FMJ loads. No malfs.

Some pics here.

Kudos to the staff at LRGC for putting on a safe, fun shoot.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Range Report

I'm on vacation this week and got to the range today with my Polish Tokarev pistol, Springfield 1911, and Remington 870.

I got the Remington 870 last month and shot it for the first time today. I patterned it at 12 and 25 yards with Remington 00 buck and Federal Low Recoil 00 buck with Flite Control wads. I also put a box of Federal LR Tru Ball slugs through it. The Remington buck stays on a paper plate at 12 yards, but opens up a bit at 25. Most pellets would hit a torso, though. The Federal Flite Control load is impressive. Patterns at 12 yards were about as big as my hand, while at 25 they opened up to about the size of the plate. Assuming it performs as well in my Mossberg 500 Mariner, it'll become my load of choice. Both buckshot loads shoot right to POA at 12 yards, and a bit high at 25.

The Tru Ball slugs shot well. I was able to keep them on the plate at 25 yards once I found the elevation.

I'm happy with both the shotgun and all the ammo I tested today.

I bought the Tokarev last Fall but every time I took it to the range, something happened so today was the first time I've actually fired it. The Tokarev digested 70 rounds of Yugo surplus 7.62x25 Ball without a hitch. It's more pleasant to shoot than my CZ-52, which has some trigger slap. Shooting the Tok feels like shooting a 9mm, but one that's a bit louder. At 12 yards I kept them on the plate, which is about as good as I can do with the Tok's heavy trigger and small sights. I have 70 more rounds of the Yugo ammo, and then it'll be time for me to crack open the spam can of Romanian Ball that I picked up last year.

I've had the Springfield 1911 for several years. For the first 600 rounds or so through the gun it was extremely reliable. After swapping out the FLGR for a GI type setup I started getting stovepipes. After the last time I had it at the range I detail stripped it, paying special attention to ensuring that the extractor channel was clean. That was awhile ago and I finally shot it again today. In 84 rounds, I had one stovepipe with a Springfield brand magazine, one of the two which came with the gun. The other 83 rounds ran fine through 4 Chip McCormick and one other mag marked "NM 45," which came with the gun. I am pretty certain that the stovepipe was magazine induced (it's happened before with that mag), so I junked it. I plan to run more ammo through the Springer before I regard it as reliable, but I'm confident that I've diagnosed what was wrong.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Powerline Ethernet

802.11 WiFi is still the most common means of creating home networks for sharing an Internet connection or files locally. However, WiFi frequently runs into problems due to interference from other devices using the 2.4 GHz wireless spectrum. Also, due to the low power output of WiFi devices, it sometimes has problems with distance and intervening structures.

An alternative is powerline Ethernet. This uses your home's existing electrical wiring to extend Ethernet connections. Typically, it uses wall wart unit that plug into electrical sockets and which have an Ethernet port, working as Layer 2 devices.

I installed a powerline Ethernet system this morning at a client's home. He has three machines: a G4 Mac Mini, and Intel iMac, and a Dell PC. His Internet connection is a Comcast cable modem. A Linksys WRT-54G router is plugged into the modem to share the connection and secure his network from the Internet. The Mini is connected to the router via Ethernet, while the iMac and PC were connected via WiFi.

Unfortunately, the iMac's wireless connection has seriously degraded recently, probalby due to wireless interference from neighbors. We figured that a hard wired solution would be best.

After looking around online and reading reviews, I recommend a Linksys PLK200 kit. The system requirements specify Windows, but that's only to run a setup utility which isn't really required in a typical home environment. I brought along my old Compaq Presario laptop running XP but wound up leaving the default settings on the Linksys units.

Setup was pretty simple and the devices found each other quickly. They have built-in surge protection and for that reason Linksys recommends not plugging them into a surge protector. They are fairly blocky, so they'd take block more than one outlet on a surge protector anyway.

The Linksys kit includes two Ethernet patch cords but they are only about 3 or 4 feet long. I had a hunch this might be the case so I brought a couple of longer cords with me, one of which I needed to use. The iMac's network connection looks like this:

{Cable modem}-{Router}-{Powerline adapter 1}-{House wiring}-{PL adapter 2}-{iMac}

After installing the Linksys units I ran a couple of Internet speed tests from the iMac and saw that they were comparable with tests run from the G4 Mini connected directly to the router.

Powerline Ethernet isn't as common as WiFi but home and small office users who can't use WiFi, and who can't or don't want to run Ethernet should be aware of it as an option.

Lacie 320 GB Quadra Hard Drive

Earlier this week a co-worker brought to my attention a good deal on Lacie 320 GB Quadra Hard Drives at I had prior, good experience with Lacie drives. He's previously bought from At $54 plus shipping and handling it was too good of a deal to pass up. I ordered the drive on Tuesday and received it Thursday via DHL Ground.

The Quadra series of external drives are fanless and have four interfaces for connecting to a PC or Mac:
  1. USB 2.0
  2. eSATA
  3. FireWire 400 (IEEE-1394a)
  4. FireWire 800 (IEEE-1394b)
The case is substantial with the aluminum acting as a heat sink. Cables for all four types of connections were included. The drive can be rack mounted in a little desktop rack sold by Lacie, or it can use the included stand to stand vertically on your desk, which is how mine is setup.

The power switch has three positions:
  1. On
  2. Off
  3. Auto, which automatically turns it on or off when the drive is connected or disconnected to a host, respectively. I left it on auto.
Also included in the box was an AC power adapter. Unlike 2.5" external FireWire drives, typically the 3.5" drives are not bus powered.

I connected the Quadra to Rohan, my MacBook Pro last night using the FireWire 800 port. Heretofore, that port has been unused, since my older backup drive has only USB and FW 400 ports. With 320 GB to work with, I decided to use the Quadra as a Time Machine backup disk.

As soon as I connected the Quadra to Rohan a box popped up, asking me if I want to use it as a Time Machine backup disk. After I clicked yes, it took about an hour or so to backup everything on Rohan's drive, except for my Entourage profile. (I've read that using Time Machine to back up Entourage profiles can lead to corruption, if it's attempted when the program is running. I therefore excluded it from Time Machine.) For the time being I will continue to backup the Entourage database using Chronosync.

FireWire 800 is fast. In my experience, FireWire 400 typically offers better sustained througput than USB 2.0, although the latter has a higher theoretical peak throughput (480 vs. 400 Mbps). FireWire 800 is noticeably fast than 400, but unfortunately never became as popular. It will be interesting to see how USB 3.0 does in the marketplace once it's released.

I haven't used eSATA. To do so would, Rohan would need an ExpressCard adapter. For machines which do support it, eSATA looks like it will be the connection of choice for external disks, with a raw throughput of 3000 Mbps.

As for Time Machine itself, it may be the best consumer level backup application I've seen. On Mac running Leopard, new disks are automatically recognized and the machine offers to setup Time Machine for you. It then performs a full backup, and automatically sets up hourly backups. Accessing your backed up files is virtually the same as accessing your working data in the Finder. By making it so simple Apple really encourages people to backup their data.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dealt With a Real Life Mac Trojan Horse Tonight

We all know that Macs are more secure than Windows PCs by virtue of the design of the operating system. That said, the only computer that cannot be compromised is the one that's powered off, disconnected from any networks, and locked away in a box. Case in point: tonight I helped a colleague with a Mac that was infected with the OSX.RSPlug.A Trojan Horse.

A Trojan Horse is different from a virus. Unlike viruses, Trojans aren't self-replicating, and require some user intervention to install. They frequently are designed so that they trick and unsuspecting user into installing them. For example, going to a website and being prompted to download a video codec from the site to play content.

It started off with this email:

"My brothers DNS on his mac keeps going to for his DNS setting regardless of what is his his DHCP server."

Googling that IP address didn't turn up anything. However, Googling for "mac dns trojan" came up with this gem, which described the symptoms perfectly. Doing a little more searching, this time for "remove mac dns trojan" led me to this.

Lessons to be learned:

  1. Macs are generally very secure. That doesn't mean they are perfectly secure.
  2. Only install software from trusted sites. If you're surfing the web and a site prompts you to install something, take a moment to seriously consider whether you really need to do so, especially if it prompts you for your administrative password.

Firefox for Mac PDF Plugin

I just learned about this plugin for Firefox on Mac OS X, hosted by Google:

It uses OS X's native PDFkit to display PDFs inside of a Firefox tab, much like Safari does. Note that if you have the PDF Download Firefox extension, you'll need to disable or uninstall it for the Google PDF plugin to work.

New Wireless Network at the House

For the past few years I've been using a Netgear 802.11g WAP to provide the wireless portion of my home LAN. Up until recently it had been rock solid, However, it's been acting a bit flaky lately (e.g., dropped connections), requiring reboots to get it to work.

I've been evaluating WiFi routers at work and last week received two SMCWBR14-N2 v2 Draft-N Barricade boxes. So far I've like what I've seen and in doing some tests this morning with one connected to a DOCSIS 3.0 modem, I was seeing good throughput on both the wired and wireless connections. Since I got two units in from SMC, I decided that I'll put one of them to a real world test. IOW, I'll be installing one at home to use for awhile. Currently, my LAN looks like this:

[Internet]--[SMC8014 gateway]--[Netgear switch]--[Netgear WAP]

My Brother HL-2070N is connected to the switch, as is my MacBook Pro when I'm working at my desk.

The new version will look like:

[Internet]--[SMC8014 gateway]--[Barricade]

Note that I needed the switch because it and the WAP are in a different room than the gateway, and I ran only one piece of CAT5e between the two, so the switch built into the gateway doesn't do me a lot of good. The Barricade has four LAN ports, so I'll be able to take out the switch.

One feature the SMC has is to put the WAN port in bridge mode. It will be connected to an SMC8014 cable modem gateway, so I do not need the wireless box to act as a router. (The 8014 has been extremely reliable, BTW. It just sits behind my TV, tossing packets back and forth.)

Unfortunately, I will have to keep the Barricade in 802.11g mode, since Judith's iBook doesn't have an 802.11n adapter, and I'm not sure about her iPod Touch, either. Still, the bulk of data transferred on my LAN is going through my Internet connection, from one local host to another. So, the 802.11g speeds won't be a bottleneck.

I'll post an update once I've pounded on the Barricade some more.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Signed up for Red Hat Training

I haven't taken any professional development training in a little while. I'd tried to get into my employer's Intro to Solaris course a couple time last year, but wasn't successful. In going through the training calendar on our intranet, I saw that we're having RHCT training in October. With my manager's approval, I signed up.

The course is scheduled to run in two sessions, a 5-day and a 3-day. I figure it'll fill in some holes in my personal Linux knowledge base, after which I should be ready to take the certification exam. I haven't picked up any new certs since 2001, so this will be a good thing.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Update to The Shooters' Bar

A couple of updates to The Shooters' Bar(SM):

  1. David Weinberg of Virginia is now also admitted in Maryland.
  2. I fixed Marc Berris of Minnesota's email address.

Friday, August 01, 2008

NRA-ILA on the Bill to Restore 2A Rights in DC

Full press release here.

Fairfax, VA -- Today, in a bi-partisan effort, Congressmen Travis Childers, John Dingell, John Tanner, Mike Ross and Mark Souder, along with 47 of their colleagues, introduced the Second Amendment Enforcement Act (H.R. 6691). This critical legislation overturns D.C.'s recently enacted emergency laws that continue to defy the recent Supreme Court ruling by continuing to restrict District of Columbia residents' right to self-defense. This National Rifle Association-backed bill is needed to enforce the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller.

{H/T Sebastian.}


Both this site and my Survival and Emergency Preparedness blog got caught up in the Blogger fake spam blog fiasco. Google unlocked this one sometime tonight, Survial Preps is still locked.