Saturday, November 28, 2009

Motorola Droid Phone

Thursday on Thanksgiving my brother came over with his new cell phone, a Motorola Droid on Verizon.  I caught a bad case of geek envy and wound up getting one of my own on Black Friday.

Although I've been happy with my Verizon BlackBerry 8330 I've been interested in something better.  Apple's iPhone was interesting but I have zero desire to switch to AT&T, whose 3G network is not nearly as widespread as Verizon's.  I also don't like the idea of a non-swappable battery.

Aside from a better wireless network, the Android has a slide out QWERTY keyboard which you can use instead of the touchscreen keyboard.  The keys are small but usable, at least for me.  It would be better if the keys weren't flat, i.e., if there was a more pronounced edge or space between adjacent keys.  There's also a square trackpad/scroll thingy on the keyboard for screen navigation.

The 3.7" screen is very nice, clear and sharp.  This is the first phone I've seen with virtual desktops, three total.

Of course, the Droid has a camera.  Resolution is good at 5 MP.  It also takes video.  I haven't done much with either yet but if I plan on taking pics I'll be grabbing my Nikon S560, not my phone.

The hardware seems like it has plenty of power.  When connected to my home WiFi network browsing, checking email, and downloading applications all go very fast.  Browsing on Verizon's 3G network is a bit faster than it was on my BlackBerry; it appears that pages render faster on the Droid.

I've only made a couple phone calls but quality seems fine.

The Droid uses the new Micro USB connector for charging or connections to a computer.  This is good in that it's a new standard across cell phone brands but bad for me in that I had to shell out for a new car charger.  C'est la vie.

Overall, the hardware feels very solid and well made.

So far I've mostly been using the Droid like a pocket computer, at which it is quite a bit more advanced than my BlackBerry.  The applications which I've installed are:

- Dolphin browser.  (Supports multi-touch like an iPhone.)
- Google Finance. (So I can watch my portfolio crater.)
- GPS App. (Gives you a compass and other stuff.)
- My Verizon. (Basically a shortcut to my online VZW account.)
- Weather Channel.
- OneKey Terminator. (Provides one touch killing of all open apps, in case your phone gets sluggish due to having too many open.)
- ScanLife barcode scanner. (Allows you to scan bar codes and look them up online. In the case of books takes you to the Google Books entry.)
- OI File Manager. (File manager for your SD card. The Droid comes with a 16 GB card.)
- Wardrive. (Scans for and detects wifi networks then stores them in a map database.)
- Wifi Toggle Widget. (Adds a one touch widget to the home screen to enable/disable WiFi.  This is handy because leaving WiFi on when you're not using it eats battery life.)
- Star Wars Sounds & Ringtones. (I'm in tech. Being a Star Wars nerd is pretty much required.)
- CIDR Calculator. (For calculating subnets and masks.)
- AK Notepad.
- ConnectBot. (SSH and Telnet client.)
- Tricorder. (Displays gravitation and magnetic field, environmental and geographic information, including a compass.  Also has a WiFi monitoring mode. The GUI is styled after the tricorders in ST:TNG.)

All of the above apps can be found in the Android Market, accessible through on Android phone.

I've also also using the included email, Gmail, Facebook, Google Maps, and YouTube apps, all of which work smoothly.  The Google Maps Navigation feature turns the phone into a car GPS.  If I was Garmin, Magellan, or a similar company I'd be concerned.

Like the iPhone, tethering is not yet supported on the Droid.  As I understand it, Verizon will be supporting tethering sometime in the Spring.  While I occasionally used tethering on my BlackBerry I doubt I'll spring for it with the Droid, saving myself about $15/month.

Since getting the Droid yesterday it's been hard to put down.  For gadget freaks this thing will be like crack.  For computer geeks like myself it's simply amazing.  Jerry Pournelle has said that his iPhone is almost the manifestation of the pocket computers from The Mote in God's Eye.   The Droid is another version of the same thing.

Edit 11/29/09: Thanks to a Facebook friend, I now can tether my Droid to my MacBook Pro or Hobbit (my MSI Wind netbook) using PDANet, even though Verizon does not yet officially support tethering the Droid.   PDANet supports only Bluetooth tethering on Mac and Linux, while Windows users can install a desktop client and use USB tethering.  Speeds on the Mac were slow, around 100k to 300k.  On Hobbit, though, it's around a 1 Mb connection, which is very usable.  Best part?  No monthly fee.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hide the Decline


More Analysis of the Leaked Docs from Hadley

ESR has been digging into the docs leaked from the Hadley CRU.  This in particular is damaging:

From the CRU code file osborn-tree6/ , used to prepare a graph purported to be of Northern Hemisphere temperatures and reconstructions.
; Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!
valadj=[0.,0.,0.,0.,0.,-0.1,-0.25,-0.3,0.,- 0.1,0.3,0.8,1.2,1.7,2.5,2.6,2.6,$
2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor
if n_elements(yrloc) ne n_elements(valadj) then message,’Oooops!’

As Eric notes, this is purely manipulation of data to get the desired result.  This isn't science.  This is propaganda.

Edit: The Geek has some additional thoughts.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Open Sourcing the Climate Change Debate

ESR posts regarding the data leak from the Hadley CRU:

In the open-source software community, we understand about human error and sloppiness and the tendency to get too caught up in a pet theory. We know that the most effective way way to combat these tendencies is transparency of process — letting the code speak for itself, and opening the sources to skeptical peer review by anyone.

There is only one way to cut through all of the conflicting claims and agendas about the CRU’s research: open-source it all. Publish the primary data sets, publish the programs used to interpret them and create graphs like the well-known global-temperature “hockey stick”, publish everything. Let the code and the data speak for itself; let the facts trump speculation and interpretation.

If the AGW advocates are confident in their position they will disclose their data.  When you consider the ramifcations of global warming, including drastic new taxation schemes, there really is no alternative for informed debate and consideration.  If they refuse we can reasonably presume they are being less than forthright with their data, analysis, and agenda.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Democrats Then and Now

A Democrat then (President Grover Cleveland's address to Congress, 12/6/1887):

When we consider that the theory of our institutions guarantees to every citizen the full enjoyment of all the fruits of his industry and enterprise, with only such deduction as may be his share toward the careful and economical maintenance of the Government which protects him, it is plain that the exaction of more than this is indefensible extortion and a culpable betrayal of American fairness and justice ... The public Treasury, which should only exist as a conduit conveying the people's tribute to its legitimate objects of expenditure, becomes a hoarding place for money needlessly withdrawn from trade and the people's use, thus crippling our national energies, suspending our country's development, preventing investment in productive enterprise, threatening financial disturbance, and inviting schemes of public plunder.

A Democrat (Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, 2009) now, when questioned on where the Federal government gets its Constitutional authority for healthcare reform:

Are you serious?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hadley Climate Change Research Unit Hacked

From the Examiner:

The University of East Anglia's Hadley Climatic Research Centre appears to have suffered a security breach earlier today, when an unknown hacker apparently downloaded 1079 e-mails and 72 documents of various types and published them to an anonymous FTP server. These files appear to contain highly sensitive information that, if genuine, could prove extremely embarrassing to the authors of the e-mails involved. Those authors include some of the most celebrated names among proponents of the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

(The original FTP link is down.  The ZIP archive is now on BitTorrent.)

If this turns out to be legit,  it'll be the equivalent of the Pentagon Papers for the Anthropogenic Climate Change swindle.

Edit:  The leaked materials appear to be genuine. More coverage here, here, and here.

Edit 2: Fox has picked up on it.

The Dollar Carry Trade

There's been a lot of buzz in financial news and blogs in the past few months about the dollar carry trade.  The dollar carry trade can be defined as:

...low U.S. interest rates enable investors around the globe to borrow dollars for next to nothing and invest them elsewhere at higher rates.

This bet -- known as the dollar carry trade -- appears to be one of the forces pushing down value of the dollar. Though there are few reliable figures on the size of the carry trade, the dollar's trend has clearly been down since stock and bond markets revived.

Link.   A big problem with having the dollar as a carry trade currency is that while the Fed can pump lots of money into the markets, it has no control over where those dollars go.  Because investors are able to buy dollars cheaply they can invest them in assets denominated in other currencies for a higher return.  Another consequence of this is declining faith in the dollar, further causing its devaluation relative to other currencies.

Google Trends has an interesting graph reflecting a recent uptick in interest in the dollar carry trade:

One thing that's quite interesting is where these queries originated.  In order: India, the USA, and then the UK.   Earlier this month, India bought 200 tons of gold from the IMF, half the amount the latter had planned to sell to raise money to assist poor nations.

It looks to me like a lot of people outside the US are looking at the monetary policy  of the Obama Administration and the Fed and asking, "WTF?!"

Look around your house and see what's made overseas.  Virtually all consumer goods ranging from your PC to your clothes to the gas in your car.  Now ask yourself what will happen if the dollar crashes and you want to buy more.  That's right, the price of imported goods is going to rise.

In our consumer based economy that's a recipe for disaster, especially when it's lumped on top of high unemployment, cratering real estate values, and the tax increases planned by the Democrats.

Have a nice weekend.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

National Ammo Day November 19th

Just a reminder that November 19th is National Ammo Day.  This was started a few years ago by Kim du Toit as a BUYcott.  To wit:

The goal of National Ammo Day is to empty the ammunition from the shelves of your local gun store, sporting goods, or hardware store and put that ammunition in the hands of law-abiding citizens.  Make your support of the Second Amendment known--by voting with your dollars!

Now, this year is a bit unusual in the Americans have been on a guns and ammo purchasing binge since Obama won the election in 2008.  And we certainly did empty the shelves.   As a result, in many places ammo in most popular calibers is still in short supply.  The situation is getting better, however.   Unfortunately, with the economy in the tank and with no recovery in sight, it's more difficult for a lot of folks to buy in.  Participate if you can.

I made my contribution last night in the form of an order for a 1000 round case of Brown Bear 7.62x39 FMJ.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Survivor of Socialism Has Warning for America

{H/T Alphecca}

The South Dakota Family Policy Council sponsored a speech tonight at First Assembly of God in Rapid City by Kitty Werthmann of Eagle Forum in South Dakota.

The presentation was entitled “Socialism vs Freedom” and was a part of the SDFPC “Heritage Under Attack” series.

Werthmann is the head of the South Dakota chapter of Eagle Forum, and was born in Austria. Werthmann lived for seven years under the Nazi rule of Austria, eventually coming to the United States in 1950 to become a naturalized citizen in 1962.


Austria had private health care prior to the Nazis, and the quality was good. But the government took over the health care system, and when health care became “free” the doctors quickly became overloaded by frivolous use of the system.  Surgeries of a more important nature, however, had waiting lists of about 18 months because of all the “hypochondriacs” abusing the system.


Welfare became a “huge apparatus,” said Werthmann. Everyone had access to subsidized housing, food stamps, heating subsidies and many other benefits until everyone–regardless of salary–reached the prescribed standard of living.


Austria also received gun control. Many people in Austria hunted, but the government said there were too many hunting and other types of gun-related accidents, and too much crime. So the people were forced to register their guns. The government then said the accident and crime problem didn’t improve, so the people would have to give up their guns.

“Keep your guns,” said Werthmann. “And buy more guns. And make sure you have plenty of ammunition.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

End the Clinton Military Base Gun Ban

Thanks, Bubba.

Time after time, public murder sprees occur in "gun-free zones" - public places where citizens are not legally able to carry guns. The list is long, including massacres at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School along with many less deadly attacks. Last week's slaughter at Fort Hood Army base in Texas was no different - except that one man bears responsibility for the ugly reality that the men and women charged with defending America were deliberately left defenseless when a terrorist opened fire.

Among President Clinton's first acts upon taking office in 1993 was to disarm U.S. soldiers on military bases. (Emphasis added.) In March 1993, the Army imposed regulations forbidding military personnel from carrying their personal firearms and making it almost impossible for commanders to issue firearms to soldiers in the U.S. for personal protection. For the most part, only military police regularly carry firearms on base, and their presence is stretched thin by high demand for MPs in war zones.

Because of Mr. Clinton, terrorists would face more return fire if they attacked a Texas Wal-Mart than the gunman faced at Fort Hood [where civilians may legally carry a concealed firearm with a permit].

It seems that the hoplophobes need to be reminded that the Army is indeed part of our armed forces.  At a minimum, officers and NCOs should wear loaded sidearms while on duty.  This would enable immediate response to attacks from terrorists or gard variety crazies.

{H/T Alphecca}

Monday, November 09, 2009

Windows 7 on the MSI Wind U100 Netbook

Earlier this week I decided to install Windows 7 on Hobbit, my MSI Wind netbook PC.  Hobbit shipped with Windows XP Home SP3 installed, to which I added Ubuntu Linux in a dual boot configuration.

I have a couple reasons for installing Windows 7.  First, it's a much more up-to-date OS than XP.  In playing around with it at work I've been impressed.  Second, as an IT professional it behooves me to keep up with new technology.

To install Windows 7 on Hobbit, I first needed to acquire a USB optical drive.  I bought an LG Electronics GP08LU10 8X Slim LightScribe DVD+/-RW External Drive. (11/17/09 - Link updated from NewEgg to Amazon.)  Aside from creating the recovery media, booting DBAN from System Rescue CD, and installing W7, it will allow me to access optical media more conveniently on Hobbit.  (Previously, I've copied files from CDs and DVDs to a thumb drive using another computer, or accessed discs over the network.)

I then burned an XP recovery CD.  MSI ships the Wind with an XP recovery partition but no media.  They do include a utility to create a recovery disc. 

For my W7 install I wanted a clean slate, i.e., no OSes on Hobbit's hard drive.  I selected a Custom install, deleted the existing partitions, and created a 50 GB partition for C:\.  (I later formatted the remained of the drive as D:\ after I was up and running.)

The install went smoothly and all my hardware was detected.  After installing the Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus/antimalware suite, Firefox, and a few other apps, I used Hobbit over the weekend.  (My previous favorite AV program was AVG.  The last couple of versions have become increasingly bloated.  I've had good results with MS's offering.)

I am impressed.  Windows 7 runs very nicely on this hardware (1.6 GHz Atom CPU, 2 GB Kingston RAM, Intel 4965agn WiFi card).  In fact, I'd say it runs better on Hobbit than XP Home or Ubuntu 9.04 did.

So far so good.  I'll be using this setup frequently.  But if the initial impressions hold up I think MS has a winner on its hands.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Nice Day at the Range

I had a nice day at the range today.

The weatherman blew it again.  It was supposed to be in the 50s with a better than even chance of rain.  He got the temp right but it stayed overcast for most of the afternoon, then the sun came out at around 3:00 PM.  I have no complaints. :-)

I shot two of my rifles today.  The first was a Century Arms Yugoslavian M-70AB2T underfolder AK, while the second was my Century VZ-2008, a clone of the Czech VZ-58.  Ammo was Wolf Miltary Classic 7.62x39 FMJ, from an older lot with lacquered cases.

I started with the Yugo at 25 yards to get it on paper, since this was my first time shooting it since getting it two weeks ago.  Once that was accomplished I moved over to the 100 yard range to fine tune my zero.

Overall, I put around 100 rounds through the Yugo, mostly using the 30 round Tapco plastic magazine that it came with.  I had no malfunctions.  The front sight is bottomed out for elevation but that shouldn't be a problem.  It's a very pleasant, soft shooting rifle even with the underfolding stock.  I did wrap the right stock strut with 550 cord to make it more comfortable.  I'll probably do the left side as well.

I've had the VZ-58 for about a year.  It's a neat rifle often confused with an AK, since they look similar. However, the only thing they share in common is the cartridge they fire.  No parts are interchangeable, including the magazine, unfortunately.

This VZ-58 has given me problems in past outings, which I am hoping were caused by needing to break it in.  In prior trips to the range, I've had to "mortar" the rifle several times to get it to open after firing a round.  (This involves pulling down on the charging handle while you slam the butt on a hard surface.)  I put about 50 or 60 rounds through it today with no malfs, so I'm hoping its problems are over and done with.

The VZ-58 is lighter than the Yugo and has a different gas system.  The folding stock is not as comfortable as the Yugo's.  Overall, the Czech design jumps around more than the AK and smacks me in the cheek more.  I may swap the stock for the fixed variant to make it more comfortable to shoot.

Accuracy with both rifles is comparable.  Shooting slowly from a bench I can keep them in the black of an SR-1 target at 100 yards.  Shooting offhand or rapidly and my groups go to hell.  Open sights and a short sight radius make for imprecise shooting.  With a dot sight I would no doubt shoot much better, but for close-in work the irons will do.